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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Yo, jumping right back into this while the night is still relatively young. Let's pick up right where we left off with…

Chapter 5

Watery Dungeons simultaneously fascinated and unnerved Owen. Due to his nature, they would be perhaps the last sort of Dungeon that he’d want to explore. Not only would getting his tail doused be perhaps the most excruciating pain imaginable—aside from being impaled—the terrain also made his Fire Traps useless. Calm Water Lake was no exception.

We're... gonna see Owen get soaked to the point of at least a near-death experience on at least one occasion in this story, aren't we? Though I see he's still got lingering memories of the Prologue swirling around in his mind.

The lake—a clear, blue expanse surrounded by yellow-green grass—disappeared the moment they passed through the distortion. It was replaced by blue, rocky walls made from amalgamated sand, rough and perpetually damp to the touch. The ground was covered in a thin layer of water that went just past Owen’s tiny ankles. This was a challenge for Gahi, who was even lower to the ground. His massive, orange head was constantly tilted upward to prevent his lower jaw from dipping underwater.

Oh, so that's how this story handles the "(under)water dungeons" from canon. I wonder if there are any Pokémon in particular that would just be flatly hosed if they tried to go through a dungeon like this.

Calm Water Lake is kinda boring.” Owen had his hands behind his head, staring at the wispy clouds. Despite how much he didn’t like the Dungeon itself, it was still better than the cave before. “Hey, do we have any warps left?”

Five words spoken seconds from disaster.

“I do,” Demitri said. “Mispy used her Badge to get our group back, but mine still has a charge left for the day. Once we’re done exploring this Dungeon, we’ll head right back to Kilo.”

Oh, so TH badges can only be used a finite number of times in a day, huh? I suppose that means that you can't load up on like a dozen requests all at once like you can in PMDX?

Though that does make me curious as to what the nitty-gritty of these rules are, and if it might have made sense to hint at them earlier on in a moment like Owen's exam sequence since that feels like it'd have been a perfect opportunity to bring up some mechanical particulars about how dungeoneering works without having to have someone play exposition fairy that would be well-known by the cast as part and parcel of their world but not the readers.

“Yeah. I hope it goes by soon,” Owen said. “I’m sick of walking through water. Nothing’s happening.” He had been hoping to find mysterious, pink mist to lead the way. Nothing of the sort was around.

“I mean, it’s called Calm Water Lake,” Demitri said. “Isn’t that kinda what you’d expect? Even its title is boring.”

Owen: "That... sounds less boring and more like 'I really, really don't wanna be here', really."

Demitri: "It's boring for the rest of us, anyways."

“All of the wild Pokémon are asleep. They won’t even bother with you unless you aggravate them first. Where’s the fun in that?” Owen blinked. That was an odd comment from himself. Was he getting antsy again? Did he skip his meditation this morning? The one in Eternal Whistler didn’t count. Not after that dream.

Gahi: "You find getting mobbed by snarling ferals fun?"

Owen: "... That came out wrong? But hey, I'm entitled to like having a bit of a challenge with my missions! Getting ones that I could do with my eyes closed all the time does get a bit boring after a while." ^^;

“I know what y’mean,” Gahi said. “I don’t wanna go ter this place either, ‘cause the wilds’re all weak.”

Oh, well then. Sounds like Gahi and Owen are more kindred spirits when it comes to dungeoneering than I expected.

“All this teaching hasn’t given me a good fight the whole day,” Demitri said.

Mispy sighed deeply. Her leaf bobbed and brushed against Demitri’s tusk.

“You guys like to battle a bunch, too, huh?” Owen said.

Such an attitude was incredibly rare among bystander and civilian Pokémon. There was no need to fight, usually. Some Pokémon went their entire lives not evolving simply because their auras never became efficient enough to trigger it. Most only trained enough to evolve and simply stopped after that.

Oh, so you can't just curry or harem life your way to evolution like in mainline, huh? Though I suppose such a mindset would be handy for characters that are going to need to go through 150+ chapters of shenanigans.

I'd also recommend splitting off Owen's dialogue from the rest of the attached paragraph, since it likely would help the rest stand out a bit more.

That was just another layer of kinship he felt with these three. Fellow battle-hearts!

Demitri: "I mean, there's also that weird sense that we've somehow met each other before." ^^;
Owen: "Yeah, but that's just a feeling. It's not like we really met each other sometime in the past... right?"

“I know what that’s like,” Owen continued. “If I don’t get a good fight in for the day, I can’t sleep at night. I’m all restless! And I need to fight something! My parents gave me a rock that I can beat up if I ever get like that. But if that isn’t enough, I need to meditate and stuff.”

I am pretty sure that that's not supposed to happen normally, but Owen is already fairly obviously not a normal Pokémon. I guess we'll see if the rest of Team Alloy is in his same boat or not shortly.

“Baah,” Gahi shook his head. “Don’t even say the word. I hate when Rhys makes us do that.”

“It calms the mind, though.” Demitri rubbed his tusks, finding a little nick to scrape dirt off. “And we know it makes our attacks more efficient, so it isn’t all bad!”

Gahi: "... How on earth does that work anyways?"

Mispy: "Yeah, I don't think we're getting away with that in this story. Or at least not for the long run. But still, let's focus on bailing out those Hearts that got lost in here for now."

“Tune the aura,” Mispy said.

“Ha, it’s like we get the same lectures!” Owen said. “I wonder if my parents and Rhys went to the same classes.”

Narrator: "They did, and that's not the only things they went to together."

“Feh, wouldn’t doubt it.” Gahi fell into a dip in the watery ground, struggling and gurgling in the sudden increase in water. Mispy fished him out, placing him a few paces ahead. “Bah, stupid water… Say, how come we never saw yer parents, anyway? Figure they’d’ve supported you fer the Ceremony, at least.”

- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Now that you mention it, that is kinda weird. I haven't failed that many times in the past to the point where they just weren't expecting me to make it... have I?"

“I think they’re busy at home,” Owen said dismissively, though his tail dimmed. “My parents have been really hesitant about going out lately. I’m not really sure why. I hope they aren’t afraid of the light or something.”

"Or something".

An entire segment of the Dungeon passed in complete silence. It didn’t feel awkward to Owen. In fact, it was serene. For perhaps the first time all day, his heart was at ease, traveling with these three like old friends. Without realizing it, a dumb, subtle smile grew on Owen’s face.

Narrator: "That's because you are old friends and just don't realize it yet."

“Y’know, that thing y’mentioned,” Gahi suddenly said. “About us seeming familiar? I’m starting ter feel it, too.”

“Huh?” Owen asked.

Demitri tapped his claws against his scales. “Yeah, I’m with Gahi, for once.”

“Mm.” Mispy nodded.

Owen stared. “Yeah… it’s weird. But, I don’t know why, either. You guys?”

Owen: "... This isn't going to turn out where one of us is some sort of time traveller trying to save the others through repeated time loops, right?"
Gahi: "... What, have you been reading Druddigon Cube lately or something like that?"

Owen: "I mean, I have, but no it wasn't from that. It was from some other comic involving magical transformations or something along those lines... bah, the name's right on the tip of my tongue!"
Mispy: "Oi, can we stay focused on the mission right now?" >_>;

They all shook their head.

Owen shrugged. “I decided that I should just stop dwelling on it. Maybe we’ll figure it out later. Oh, right. Are we at…?” He pulled the mission statement from his bag, and then at his surroundings. They said section three.

I was joking about the 'let's stay focused on the mission right now' comment, even if it wasn't Mispy that did the honors.

“This way,” Mispy said, suddenly turning. She walked with purpose, but it didn’t appear to be in a particularly interesting direction.

“How come?” Owen asked, running after her.

Mispy can see auras, too, just like Rhys,” Gahi said. “That’s why she thinks ghosts are everywhere. I think her senses are just outta whack.”

Owen: "... Wait, since when do Chikorita do that again?"

Demitri: "Since Mispy. It's not that unusual of an ability, right? Why, I'm pretty sure there's an Umbreon back in Kilo Village that does it on a regular basis!" ^^
Mispy: "(I'm pretty sure you need to stop poking your head in other stories, Demitri.) But look, the point is that I can see auras. So just let me do my thing here and stick close." -_-;

Mispy puffed her cheeks; a vine threatened to bludgeon Gahi, but she restrained herself.

“A Chikorita? How?” Owen asked. “Does she secretly have aura sensors, too?”

Owen knew that Gahi was particularly fast for his species, too. Demitri was an Axew, and they were historically strong… but those strikes he dealt to Aerodactyl were something else. Did Rhys recruit them because they were particularly talented?

Yeah, I kinda figured that Owen would find that weird. Though Team Alloy getting gathered together because of some sort of weirdness magnet X-Factor wouldn't be that surprising, honestly. Since they're rather transparently being set up to be the "protagonist team" of this story, even if I'm not sure if they'll stay that way given HoC's reputation for having a cast herd.

“I dunno. Maybe it’s in her leaf,” Demitri said. “It’s pretty cool. I don’t know how it works. But it’s helped us a lot when we have to chase down clever outlaws. And now, uh, Mispy? What d’you see?”

Owen: "And you've never thought of going to a library or something to see if this is some sort of documented phenomenon or something?" .-.
Gahi: "Owen, have you seen our schedules with Rhys? We're too busy for that sort of stuff! Why I'm not sure if us poring over books in a library would get anything to stick with us."

Demitri: "... Yeah, I've got the weirdest feeling that we've actually tried that before, but I don't remember anything we learned from it. Guess that whole meditation schedule must not be good for self-studies." ^^;

“Weird,” Mispy mumbled.

“She sees a weird aura,” Demitri translated. “I guess it’s a good lead for—oh. Uh, Mispy? I don’t think we need an aura sensor for the rest of this.”

There was a wall ahead, to their right, that looked like it was easy to break. A dim light shined from the inside, going through the tiny cracks that made this part of the wall more obvious.


Owen: "Should we worried about this right now, or...?"
Demitri: "Dunno, really. What do you say, Mispy? Does it feel safe to proceed?"

Owen nodded, readying his claws. “Just give me a second to reset my aura for Metal Cl—

Actually, wait, what does that entail anyways? Is this basically the in-universe equivalent of reshuffling a moveset a la PLA/SV?

“I can do this,” Demitri said to the others.

The Axew backed up and steeled himself, tensing his muscles. He ran forward, slamming his head on the wall; it easily collapsed, falling around him.

“D-Demitri!” Owen said.

“I’m okay!” Demitri called back, climbing out of the rocks; he had a few scratches—as well as a bad wound on his head—but he was conscious.

Well this mission is going well™️ at the moment.

“Don’t do that!” Owen said; Mispy was already healing him with waves of light. “Next time, let me do it! Metal Claw would’ve done the same thing.”

“Feh, he’s an idiot.” Gahi wobbled ahead of them and over the rubble.

Missed an opportunity for Gahi to throw in a quip about Demitri being hard-headed there, since hey, it'd have worked on a couple levels at this moment. :V

They all looked inside. The walls of the cavern beyond the false wall glowed dimly; it reminded Owen of the mushrooms in Hotspot Cave. And, of course, the orb that Rhys possessed. He took the lead, and the rest followed. The passageway was only a few paces wide—and those were tiny paces, considering the size of their bodies. Every sound echoed endlessly.

Not more than twenty paces in, Gahi remarked, “This place is giving me the creeps. Think there’re Ghost Types wandering around?”

Owen: "... I'm sorry, if we're all obviously getting the creeps right now, why aren't we calling in backup and just waiting at the moment?"
Gahi: "Because if we do that, the backup team will get the rank points or whatever we call 'em and we get bupkis?"
Owen: "B-But Demitri literally just picked up a head wound 30 seconds ago!"

Demitri: "... I got better? Mispy is an effective healer. Besides, I'm sure whatever's out there is nothing we can't handle."

Demitri shuddered. “H-hopefully n-not.” He looked at the walls uneasily. Mispy wrapped a vine around his torso, squeezing him just slightly. He loosened in response. “I don’t think so, but this weird glow is what I’m kinda worried about. It’s the same as the glow in Rhys’ place, y’know, that weird orb?”

Well, scratch that for Demitri being unfazed. Though I see you're already telegraphing that he and Mispy are going to get close™️ from that little bit of reassurance she gives him there.

“Yeah,” Owen said. “You mean that thing he brought with him to the ceremony, right?”

“Yeah, that one,” Demitri said. “Think it’s related?”

Owen: "On one level, I feel as if there should logically be a ton of things that carry weird glows in this world, but that orb did seem kinda important, so..."

“Maybe,” Owen said, “but a lot of things glow. There are these mushrooms in my home, um, I can’t say where, but at my home, they glow kinda like this. So, it could just be, like, moss, or a tiny fungus or mold that grows on the rocks.”

Owen wanted to believe it was actually related, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. The past few days have been filled with confusing disappointments.

Wow, I actually wasn't that far off with Owen's train of thought, except he went the less genre-savvy route for a conclusion.

Go back… go back!

Turn away… leave!

Owen: "Oh well that's not ominous at all right now."

All four explorers stopped walking. Demitri’s knees knocked against one another. Gahi churred a rapid, growling noise. The little buds on Mispy’s neck started to glow.

Mispy closed her eyes. “I see… something.”

Owen: "Um, Mispy? If you could give us a bit more detail to work with than that-"

Mispy: "I'm working on it, alright?!"

Owen noticed a pulsing light in the bottom corner of his eye. It came from his bag. “Uh, why is my Badge blinking?”

“What?” Demitri checked his; it, too, was blinking. “Oh, that’s… that means we just completed a Dungeon.”


Owen: "... Wait, but then why are we being told to go back if we've completed a dungeon? Isn't all the weird stuff supposed to happen inside of it?" .-.

“We aren’t in a Dungeon anymore,” Demitri said. “This cave ahead of us isn’t part of Calm Water Lake’s Dungeon. Which means—” He glanced around uneasily. “—if we get hurt here, or worse, we won’t be warped out. They might just keep attacking us, or…!”

[ ]

Owen gulped. “M-maybe we should go back.”

I kinda wonder if it'd have made more sense to show the gears turning in Owen's head a bit more, since I'm actually not sure why this time around he's going full "nope nope nope" instead of "it's fine, we can do this™️" like he did post-encounter with the Swolax. His thought process and getting a sense of why things are different here might have helped ground this moment a bit better.

“What, and miss a real fight?” Gahi asked, stomping his tiny foot on the ground. “Let’s feel it out!”


I feel as if I should be less surprised by Gahi being the most combative / eager for battle of the four given that he gives off a "tries to position himself as the team leader" vibe, but I'll file that one away for the future.

“I do want a fight,” Demitri mumbled, unconsciously sharpening his left tusk with his claws. “But this could be dangerous.”

“Mmn.” Mispy seemed unsure, but she advanced. The others followed her lead.

I'm surprised at how much is coming through between the lines from the way these three are reacting to a potentially dangerous situation and how they contrast with one another, even if I suspect that Mispy would out-aggro Gahi if she were in a bad mood at the moment.

Leave, leave!

Or become one of us!

Owen: "Oooookay, I think that's our cue to get out of here!"

Demitri let out a squeaking noise that defied his Dragon pride. Mispy had to prod him on the back to keep him walking.

“Okay, enough whispering!” Gahi said. “Just show yerself and get it over with!”

Wow, I really was onto something with that remark on another server that Demitri reminded me of Pladur. Next thing, you'll tell me he's an accomplished cook. :V

Surprisingly, they complied. Ahead of them, right where the glowing cave had a turn to the right, a creature rose from the ground. Houndour. But the colors were a bit odd—instead of the usual orange-red on black, it was ocean-blue on black.

“Heh, Houndour, eh?” Gahi said, wobbling forward. “Y’look weird, but I’ll take yeh on!”

Owen: "Um, Gahi? I'm pretty sure that Houndour's a mutant."

Gahi: "Yeah? And? It's one Houndour against four of us. Mutant or not, we can handle one Houndour!"

Owen’s fire grew a bit. “Uh, Gahi, I dunno if—”

Gahi dashed in an orange blur, wiggling his head and jaws; mud formed in the back of his throat, ready to fling. The Houndour opened its mouth and fired a concentrated jet of—water directly at Gahi. Surprised by the blast, Gahi jumped out of the way, hitting the wall next to him. While successful in avoiding the water, he sustained a small blow to his side from the rocks.

Kr—beh! What’s that supposed ter be?! What kinda game’re you playing?!”

Demitri: "M-Maybe it's his Tera Type?"

Gahi: "One, that didn't exist at the time this chapter was written. Two, he doesn't have a giant crystal... thing sprouting out of his head, so it's not a Tera Type, alright?!" >_>;
Owen: "Gahi, it was blatantly obvious that we were dealing with a mutant!" >.<
Mispy: "... Wait, if this Houndour's Water-type, doesn't this mean that this guy should just keel over if I hit him with Solar Beam?" :?

Gahi threw some of his mud at the Houndour; Mispy, whose buds were glowing bright, fired an intense beam of light at the Houndour next.

“W-wait! Mispy!” Demitri said, but it was too late.

Oh, so Mispy already figured out the plot, huh? Though from Demitri's reaction, I'm not sure if that's going to work out terribly well.

The Houndour was completely incinerated; in its place was a small ember that floated in the air. It vaguely resembled Owen’s tail flame, only cyan like Rhys’ aura energy. It fled into the wall.

Owen + Gahi + Demitri:

Mispy: "Whelp, problem solved."

“Mispy, that’s too much!” Demitri said. “You just obliterated some poor—”

“It’s a ghost,” Mispy said.


Mispy: "Demitri, I have aura sensitivity, remember?" >_>;
Demitri: "... Right. But still, you could've told us this first!" ._.;

Whispers filled the air. It was impossible to tell where it was coming from, or how many were even whispering. Multiple. That’s all they knew. And, perhaps, from everywhere.

“Why is there a Water Houndoom here? How does that even work? A gh-ghost that’s a Water Houndoom?” Owen squeaked the last part, taking a worried step back. He bumped into Demitri, who was practically a statue.

Demitri: "Is... Is it too late to use our badges and bail from here? Since I really think it would be a good idea to use our badges and bail from here."

Mispy: "Demitri, get ahold of yourself already!"

Three blue-themed Pokémon—even if they weren’t supposed to be blue—rose from the ground. A Nincada, Morelull, and Venipede, rippling like a lake. They all advanced forward, Watery techniques ready.

Owen, realizing that there was too much risk involved, with perhaps tens or more others like them ready to close in, shouted to the others, “Let’s go back!”

Gahi: "Feh, that's what you're worried about? We can take 'em-"

Demitri: "No! No! I'm with Owen on this one here!" O.O;
Mispy: "Uh... it would probably be wise to not just stand here surrounded by a bunch of ghosts when I just used a move that has a recharge turn, Gahi..." ^^;

This time, they agreed. Demitri grabbed their Badge and held it in the air; thankfully, now that they were outside of the strange effects of a Dungeon, they could use it to warp back to Kilo Village without the Dungeon interfering. Still, it needed a few seconds to gather its charge. The ghosts fired another set of water jets at them—Owen countered with a plume of fire, hoping to soften the blasts. Mispy shot her vines forward and blocked the rest. That bought them just enough time. In a flash of light, they were gone.

Gahi: "I still say we could've taken 'em-"
Mispy: "Gahi, shut up." >_>;

They wanted to tell Rhys about what they found before reporting back, but they also realized upon returning that it was close to the evening. Clouds painted the orange sky with lumpy, purple blotches.

Oh, Mew, we almost didn’t make it!” Demitri said. “Look! That crowd!”

Note to self: Mew is probably particularly important in the local cosmology along with Arceus given that it's a reflexive figure in minced oaths.

“Wait, so do we report first, or—”

“No time!” Demitri took heavy steps forward, his speed betraying his mental fatigue. “C’mon, Owen! You go ahead to the front! You’re probably gonna get accepted!”

Owen: "... Wait, we're really just gonna go on like we didn't almost get murdered out of existence by watery ghosts?" ._.;
Gahi + Mispy + Demitri:

Owen: "... Well. If you insist..."

The ceremony was a rush and then a wait. Owen took the long way around when the immediate path required traversing around a Muk, and instead settled for weaving between the legs of an antsy Rapidash mother waiting for her son’s results. He scrambled between Pokémon tall and small, apologizing to each one, until he spotted a Decidueye.

There you are,” James said, green-and-brown feathers puffed out. Under his glare, Owen shrank to nearly three quarters of his height. “I imagine you just became aware of the results. Stand there, please.”

Owen failed again, didn't he?

Owen stood at the front row, to the far right, with his eyes fixed on the ground. After gathering enough courage, he leaned forward and counted off the Pokémon to his left. There were fifteen others here, but more importantly, they were all candidates that were practically beaming. He really did make it in! After countless applications—Owen couldn’t even remember how many times he’d tried—he was here, standing in the front row!

... Can't tell if Owen actually passed, or if it's gonna turn out that he got his spot mixed up with some literal who and will promptly get his soul crushed in about 30 seconds.

“Ahem,” James began, “Goodra Anam is currently occupied with… processing the retiring Hearts. In his place, I would like to make official the advancement of these sixteen Provisionary Hearts into the fold of Entry-Level Hearts. To commemorate this, they will relinquish their Provisionary Badges, and in return be given their official Thousand Hearts Badge. I shall begin from the leftmost member.”

James walked away from Owen. His tail lowered at the realization that he was the last to arrive. Talk about a first impression.

Owen: "I swear, it's like the universe is trying to burn a hole in my stomach from suspense and stress right now." >_>;

Owen took the wait as an opportunity to size up the other fifteen members. Nervous shuffling, eyes filled with more ambition than their bodies could handle. They were all weak. He could feel it. What was he doing, taking so long to just enter, if he was already breezing past the easiest Dungeons? Owen refused to accept anything but the idea that it was a mistake—an oversight. “Hmph, well, I’ll show them…”
This... is building up to a rug pull moment, isn't it? Since this distinctly feels like the setup to a rug pull moment.

Each Pokémon gave up their Badge in exchange for an official one, all the way up to Owen. It was right there. The gravity of the ceremony hit him just then. He was going to do it! Become a Heart! And yet, before James could give him the Badge, before he’d truly become a member of this grand, worldwide organization—


All eyes turned to the main building. Anam was running out as fast as he could. A trail of purplish, transparent slime littered the ground behind him. “Am I late?!”

Owen: "Oh thank Mew, I thought it was gonna turn out that I'd gotten my place mixed up with someone else for a second!"

“Yes,” James replied. “I have already started the ceremony. There is only one left.”

“Who? I’ll—I’ll do that one!” He sniffled. “I’m sorry, Jam-Jam! I didn’t mean to, but I was just so sad! So many good Hearts!”

Owen: "Wait. Jam-Jam?" .-.
Demitri: "Yeah, and? Anam gives pet names to everyone he knows." ^^;
Owen: "But 'Jam-Jam' doesn't even sound like 'James'!" ._.;
James: "Trust me, if that was enough to stop Anam, it'd have spared me a lot of embarrassment."

James sighed, shaking his head, while the audience gave James amused smiles. “Very well,” Jam-Jam said, holding out the final badge. “I can’t be angry at you, Anam. Please, give Owen his Badge.”

“Owen? Oh, right, Owen! Of course! I’m so happy Owen could get in this time!”

Wow, so Owen actually did get in after all. Part of me wasn't expecting that.

James’ glare was so intense that, for a second, Owen thought Anam’s slime bubbled.

Owen’s heart skipped a beat, and his flame flashed white for an instant. He was about to be given his Badge by Anam himself.

The others in line noticed, too. They all stared at Owen with mixtures of surprise, confusion, and envy. What’s this upstart doing here? That’s probably what they were thinking. Or maybe they were irritated that being late was suddenly being rewarded.

There's... something else going on with Owen in full view of everyone present, isn't there?

Goodra sniffled and wiped his eyes. “Owen—I mean, Charmander Owen, I give you this Badge in commemoration of your advancement into the Thousand Hearts.”

He handed Owen the lightweight, golden emblem. It was covered in slime; Owen politely took it and, when Anam turned away, wiped it with the cloth of his bag. He then admired the clean, heart-shaped insignia on the front, using his tail to better see the shining details.

Owen: "... Anam won't take offense to me doing that, right?" ^^;
Mispy: "Nah, he's used to it."

“And now, of course, we must accept you into the Thousand Hearts more formally. I’m sure you all remember the motto?”

Owen’s tail grew to twice its size. “Yes!” he said, just a bit too eagerly. A few of the newcomers gave him an amused smile, but they nodded, too. Suddenly, the atmosphere felt charged.

Okay, now I'm curious as to what this motto is like myself.

“Then by my lead.” James looked ahead; with him, the Entry Hearts—and even the many behind him—recited the Thousand Hearts’ mantra. At first, it was a gentle chant, but the final lines transitioned into a rallying cry.

“A thousand hands
A single heart
Working and beating as one.

Unite the lands
From worlds apart
Until our battles are done.

We serve Kilo and all its parts
Under one name: The Thousand Hearts!”

... Why does this motto sound like it'd be scarily appropriate for Rainbow Rocket given a couple names being changed around right now? Like it's one of those cutesy mottos that feels like it would very easily wrap around to take on decidedly less cutesy undertones depending on the context it was used in.

Though Kilo and its other parts are officially pieces of other worlds duct-taped together. Or at least they are if that motto can be taken at face value, filing that one away as a note to self.

Stomps, roars, and cheers deafened Owen, but he didn’t care—his flame was three times its normal size and his chest felt just as swollen with pride. He screamed with them, straining his throat, blasting little embers into the air. Losing all sense of self, Owen hopped from foot to foot, pumping his tiny fist in the air.

Owen: "I should probably be a bit more worried about accidentally burning someone, but screw it, I finally made it!" ^^

After some time, the crowd calmed down, and James raised his wing to signal for them all to fall into silence. There was a little, happy gleam in his eye, but that was all he showed. “This concludes the ceremony of advancement. You are all dismissed.”

Owen spun around to avoid any of the onlookers. His heart was still racing, but on his way down, even with the immovable grin on his face, the pressing issue of what they found in the lake returned to the forefront of his mind. After backtracking through the evening crowd, he spotted the silhouette of Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi in the twilight.

Gahi: "You were really going to town up there. Feeling good?"
Owen: "Just a bit, yeah." ^^;

Demitri had a similar smile. “Okay, I can’t deny that yelling that last part is something I never get tired of.”

This line isn't going to age well like 90 chapters in, is it?

“I know, right?!” Owen said, beaming. “Oh! But—where’s Rhys? We should talk to him about what we found first, right? And then we can report it later. Then, I’m gonna go back to my parents’ place and tell them about what happened.” He glanced at the Waypoint lines and saw a Torkoal enter Calm Water Lake. “Uh—"

Owen: "... Right, that was why I wanted to tell someone about what was going on in that place first!"

“There.” Mispy pointed her leaf forward. Rhys was walking toward them from the main building.

“Where have you been?” Rhys asked. His voice sounded suspiciously strained. He cleared his throat in an attempt to get it to sound normal again, but it was no help. “The entire ceremony was almost delayed to find Owen.”

Owen: "U-Um... shouldn't we do something about the Torkoal-?"

Gahi: "(Not now, Owen!)"

“We were doing a quick mission,” Gahi said. “How ‘bout we talk about it over dinner? I’m starved. Owen’s coming with!”

Owen’s stomach growled loudly at the mention of food, his mind suddenly filled with the thoughts of a fine, hearty stew.

Owen: "(... Wait, we're really just letting that rando Torkoal go out into the Mystery Dungeon infested with water-mutant ghosts?)" ._.;
Gahi + Mispy + Demitri:

Mispy: "He didn't exactly look like a pushover, Owen. I'm sure he'll be fine."

Dinner was a savory rice dish. While the food was wonderful, mealtime itself felt tense. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi seemed antsy from not getting a good fight in—and, after getting one, being forced to flee.

I presume that the three didn't see the same Torkoal enter the MD that Owen did, since that turtle's just completely absent from their thought process right now.

Rhys—his voice recovered—finally broke the silence. “Well, now that you’re here, why don’t you speak about that mission of yours? Did it not go well?”

“No,” Gahi mumbled. “Hated it. Nearly got killed.”

[ ]


Probably would've worked better to show Rhys having a moment of
there to sell the sense that his mood's abruptly swinging over to worry about what on earth went down at CWL.

Demitri nodded, poking at a stray grain of rice. “We were attacked when we were investigating a weird glowing at Calm Water Lake. But that glowing led us outside the Dungeon early, somehow, which is where we got attacked. By a weird… water-typed Houndour, or something.”

Rhys scanned the four of them, as if expecting them to say it was a joke. When none came, he said, “I see.”

Owen: "... Wait, you mean there were supposed to be water-ghost things out there?!"

Silence accompanied the five while they ate.

“That’s it?” Gahi asked. “Y’usually have something ter say ‘bout us being reckless, or maybe some theory on why it’s like that.”

“H-hm? I do? Well. I don’t this time. I’ll speak to Goodra Anam about it tomorrow. Yes, I’ll do that…”

Owen: "... Rhys, should we be concerned right now? Since you're really giving me the sense that we should be concerned right now." ._.;
Rhys: "Look, just... focus on eating and calming down right now. You four have had a long day."

Owen looked at the others expectantly. He wanted to ask about the Orb again, but after that encounter in the lake, he was too jittery to do it alone. He’d stumble over his words. And what was he going to do? Sneak into Rhys’ room and steal it? That’d just make him an outlaw! There was no point. He could ask politely, when there was less tension. He didn’t see that pink cloud this time, anyway.

I mean, you could try hiring Jerry to do it assuming that he didn't instantly try to Rock Slide you into next week over getting him stuck as a Broken Heart.

“Um. Well, if that’s all, when I finish dinner, I think I’ll just head home,” he said. “Thanks, by the way! I-it’s really good.”

“No,” Rhys said. “Just for tonight, I want you to stay here. I will explain to your parents about it later.”

Owen: "... Are you going to explain why I need to do this, or...?" ._.;

The Charmander reflexively nodded, but then the words actually registered. Owen felt even more trapped than when they were in that glowing cave.

Y-you? But I can’t, um, they don’t know.” Owen looked like he was going to stand up. “They’ll freak out if I don’t get home by nighttime, and it’s almost that already! So, um, I just… I can’t just stay here without telling them.”

“They will understand.”

- Owen blinks -
Owen: "Wait, are you able to talk with mom psychically or something? Since how on earth would you even begin to explain-?" .-.
Rhys: "Owen, they will understand. Just trust me on this one."

“Rhys, yer being weird,” Gahi said. “What’s going on?”

“It’s too dangerous to go out,” Rhys said flatly. “The path to your home, Owen, is dangerous tonight. It will be safer tomorrow. Not tonight.”

Owen: "Rhys, if you're trying to calm me down right now, this is more or less the textbook example of how not to do it."

“B-but—” Owen stopped himself, but he couldn’t ignore that serious aura Rhys was giving off. Would him leaving, now, be that dangerous? Or was it bad for some other reason? He didn’t sense any malice from Rhys, but to suddenly make such a request…

“This is final,” Rhys said. “I’m sure they will just think you need to do overnight training and orientation.”

Owen: "And what makes you so sure about this again?"

Rhys: "... Past experience. Just, please listen to me about this, Owen. It's for your own good."

Owen looked at Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi, but they were equally confused. Rhys wasn’t explaining anything. But, in the back of his mind, Owen trusted what he was saying. He didn’t know why he trusted Rhys, but his gut feelings hadn’t been wrong before, not when he felt so sure of himself. If Rhys said it was dangerous, then it was.

Rhys, um. I’ll stay here. But can you explain why it’s so dangerous?”

They have been disastrously wrong before in the past and Owen just can't remember them, haven't they? Since that really feels like one of those statements that isn't going to age well at some point in the future.

Rhys looked at his rice and ate. The others ate, too, in a silence so thick that Owen felt he was eating some of it with each bite.

“We are all going to need to be careful for a time,” Rhys said. “There may be Pokémon in search of objects like the one in my room. Anything that gives off that glow may be a target, and I don’t want to risk anything right now.”

Anything? Owen thought about Hot Spot Cave.

Owen: "U-Um... Rh-Rhys? When you say 'anything that gives off that glow', does that mean-"
Rhys: "Anything, Owen. Which is why you're staying here tonight."

Demitri swallowed his most recent bite quickly. “S-so, Calm Water Lake might have another of those orb things?”

“Possibly. But we can’t do anything about it today.” Rhys motioned to the black sky outside the cave, a chilling wind knocking a few ripened Oran Berries from the treetops. “We can explore this further tomorrow, after I see Goodra Anam. He may be able to help.”

The plot isn't going to let them get away with waiting until tomorrow, is it?

Owen sighed, figuring that was the most they were going to get. “Okay,” he conceded.

“You will stay in Gahi’s room,” Rhys said. “Demitri and Mispy share a room. We have an extra bed in storage.”

“Oh! That’s convenient.”

“Yeah, I kinda always wondered why we had that,” Gahi said. “Ain’t like we get guests.”

Owen: "(Okay, seriously, have we met before in the past? Since how on earth does Rhys just conveniently have a fourth bed in your room lying around?!)"
Demitri: "(I... kinda get that vibe myself, but how come Rhys hasn't said anything like that on his end? Could it have been some sort of dream thing? The Dream World has been a thing for over a decade in this franchise...)"
- Owen shakes his head -
Owen: "(No, we've met before in the past somehow, I just know it. I just... don't understand how to prove it, or why none of us can remember anything about it.)

Owen finished his meal; despite the tension, he was satisfied with even the leftover grains of rice and veggies.

Aah, that was good.” He rubbed at an imperfection in his scales. “I, er, I guess I’ll get familiar with—oh! I don’t think I can sleep in your bed, though.” Owen tittered. “See, my tail-flame kinda burns most beds. I know Charmander fire isn’t usually that hot when we’re calm, but I get really worked up when I sleep, or something, so…”

It's going to be a bed specifically suited for Owen, isn't it?

“There’s no need to worry,” Rhys said. “They’re made from Rawst leaves, so they are flame-resistant.”


Rhys: "... Is there something wrong with a Rawst leaf bed? I wouldn't have expected you of all Pokémon to complain about it."

Owen: "(That's literally the same thing my bed's made out of at home! How on earth does Rhys just have-?!) Er... no, that's perfect, really. I was just a little surprised at how perfect it was."

“Oh! Oh, wow!” Owen nodded. “That’s kinda… really convenient, but I guess I’ll take it!” He fiddled with his claws. At this point, he was sick of inquiring.

Owen: "(Okay, you know what, screw it, I'm just gonna flop over and tell myself that I'm not going crazy right now and that Rhys doesn't secretly know me from way back and is keeping me in the dark about it for... reasons.)" ._.;
Rhys: "That would be wise, yes. Though do be mindful that you're speaking around two aura-sensitives and a 'mon with hearing well outside your own range at the moment."

[ ] Rhys set up the spare bed; Gahi led the way down the hall, past the first pair of rooms, and into the left of the second set.

“Here’s m’place,” Gahi said.

I kinda feel that this paragraph should be expanded a bit, since there's no mention of Rhys leaving the kitchen at all at the moment when it'd require only a very brief sentence to pull off.

It didn’t look different from the others; a simple, rocky room with two beds in the middle. One seemed quite sandy, ideal for Gahi’s species, like a pit in the ground. The new bed was a soft set of Rawst leaves; Owen gently ran his hand across the pile. They were just like the ones at home. This wouldn’t be bad at all!

Owen: "... I think it even has the same arrangement as the ones at home, actually." ._.
Rhys: "Is there something wrong with the bed, Owen? I can change things around if you'd like."
Owen: "No, no. It's fine really. (Seriously, Rhys. Who are you? And why does it feel like you know me like the back of your paw when I can't even remember seeing you outside of passing glimpses before three days ago?)"

He happily hopped on his bed and looked at Gahi. “I hope my tail doesn’t bother you at night.”

“Nah, I don’t think I’ll notice.” He shook his entire body, vibrating into the sandy pit, and he was gone.

“Oh.” He wasn’t sure what he had expected.

Every so often, Owen heard the muffled clicks of Gahi’s massive jaws. He sighed, closing his eyes. Something about that sound relaxed him, but it also kept him up for a while longer than he was used to. Every so often, Gahi’s sleep-churring startled him awake.

Owen: "... Even if I just don't question things, I'm not going to be able to sleep a wink tonight, am I?"

Owen was half asleep, somewhere between dream and reality. Something ethereal reached out.

Owen. Owen? Owen! Hello?!

Owen: "... This is a dream right now, right?" .-.

That’s a pretty voice…

Owen! Wake up!

Five more blinks…

Ugh, stupid, flaming scale-bag—wake up! HURRY!

Owen: "Okay, never mind! Waking up now!" O_O;

Owen thought he was dreaming, but it felt too real, and too normal. Too groggy. He rubbed his eyes and sat up, squinting outside their room. Something was glowing. That same, strange glow. But it wasn’t like that last time. The old glow was softer and constant. This one was wider; it and spilled almost into Gahi’s room.

Owen blinked again; the light was getting brighter. Owen hid his tail under the leaves to make sure it wasn’t him. Without the flame, it was clear as day—that light was moving. Was it the cloud again?

Owen: "... Wait, is everyone else awake and seeing the same thing that I am, or...?"

So, this is my night, huh? Owen thought.

The blur from his eyes completely gone, he spotted something in the corner of his eye. He immediately turned, his heart skipping a beat. The mist. It was right there, like a trick of the eye—just barely visible. Owen thought it was just a splotch on his pupil. It didn’t say anything, but it was very anxiously moving toward the hall, then back to Owen, and then back to the hall again.

Owen: "Um... Demitri? Mispy? Gahi? You are awake and seeing this right now, right? You're the ones whose voices I was hearing 10 seconds ago, right?" o_o;

Why me? Owen thought. He slowly got out of bed and wrapped some leaves around his flame. Still holding his tail, he stepped outside. The source of the light was a Pokémon floating in the air. A small one—an Espurr. Floating. High in the air.

Owen: "Ooookay then, I'm just going to assume that everyone else is asleep then. Probably not a good sign right now." .-.

She didn’t notice Owen; she was facing into Rhys’ room, moving inside.


“Um—hey!” Against common sense, Owen shouted. “S-stop!”

Cue things going seriously sideways in 3... 2...

His legs moved on their own until he was at the entrance to Rhys’ home. There, he saw the Espurr going toward the orb—she was about to touch it.

Y-you aren’t supposed to—!”

He saw that Rhys was still asleep. The pink mist followed. It pushed futilely against the Espurr, defending the orb to no effect.

I get the feeling that this is not going to end well for that Espurr. Though would recommend cutting this one paragraph up a bit.

Then, the Espurr and Charmander locked eyes. He couldn’t get a read for her expression, but she didn’t maintain eye contact for long. He only knew that her eyes shined more than anything else. The atmosphere around him changed—he recognized this feeling. It was an incoming Psychic attack, just like Nevren. He jumped out of the way just in time to evade the twisting energy that chopped the wind behind where he had been. The power behind it was incredible—yet Owen had a sinking feeling she could do a lot more.

Owen: "Oh sweet mother of Mew... Rhys, how are you just sleeping through this right now?!" O.O;

The Espurr readied another strike, but a ball of bright, blue energy hit her on the side instead. She yelped and fumbled in the air. Rhys was awake, sitting up in his bed of leaves; he stared directly at the Espurr, who squeaked even louder at the glare. And then, she vanished in thin air—as if she wasn’t there to begin with.

“Wh-what… what?” Owen breathed.

Teleport, son. Part and parcel of Psychic-types.

Rhys stood up. The silence that followed—with Rhys staring at the pink mist, and then at Owen, and then at the orb—was long enough for Owen to absorb what had just happened. Some Espurr with the same sort of glow as the orb tried to steal it, or something.

“You should get to sleep, Owen.”

“Wait, but what—”

Owen: "Rhys, there was literally a random Pokémon sneaking around your house! She was in your room five seconds ago and you saw her!"

“Sleep.” Rhys held his right paw in Owen’s direction. It glowed an eerie white. Rhys fired, and Owen felt a hot buzz course through him. His vision concentrated into a tunnel and then faded to black. Owen’s consciousness quickly followed.

Well that's not creepy and concerning at all coming from a guy who's deliberately been hiding knowledge of past encounters with Owen from Owen and his pupils.

So. You’re asleep again.

Hello, pretty voice…

Owen. Listen. This is super, ultra-important. The orb. Touch. ASAP.

Owen: "That's... gonna be kinda hard since I'm pretty sure that Rhys just used Hypnosis on me... somehow. And I'm sorry, but who are you, again?" .-.

But, Rhys said…

And sometimes, Rhys is an idiot. We’re running out of options and time. Just touch it, okay?

Owen: "You realize that you didn't answer the question about who you were, right-?"
Disembodied Voice: "Look, just touch the orb, dammit! We really don't have time for this!"

I’m so tired…

S-stay with me, Owen. There are lots of bad ‘mon out there trying to get those things, and the more we ha—

The rest was lost.

So there really are multiples of those mysterious glowy orbs floating around. Though it looks like there will be no orb-fondling this chapter. Something to look forward to in the future.

And this seems like as good a place as any to recap things:

I mean, it's kinda being held together by duct tape and some willful suspension of disbelief on Owen's part, but I'm honestly surprised that the masquerade of "normal life" is (just barely) holding up still in this story at the moment. Even if I kinda get the feeling that next chapter is the one where things finally become untenable. We got a number of hints as to things that might lie on the other side of the curtain, since we've got mutant ghosts prowling around, multiple orbs of power and/or doom, and mysterious powers of obviously Bad News™️ that are after them. Oh and Rhys very obviously knowing about Owen through prior memory cycles like his parents but having reasons for trying to keep him in the dark about it which I can tell is going to have quite the story behind it.

The critiques I have for this chapter are basically the same as the ones that I had for Chapter 4. Some paragraphs felt like they needed to be cut into smaller ones, and some parts of the story were a bit light on description. The sequences between Owen talking with that voice™️ in his sleep might have benefitted a bit with a bit more extra clarity as to which lines were Owen's and which were the voice's, but it wasn't that hard to figure out after looking a bit closer. And in the end, I think the chapter was strong enough to not really have those flaws detract from the experience.

Nice work with the chapter, @Namohysip . Dunno if you're planning on giving your earlier chapters a once-over at some point, but even if you don't, I've been having fun with them so far. And I can already tell the next time I cross paths with this story is going to be a trip.


Dragon Enthusiast
Very happy to see how much you enjoyed these earlier chapters, Fobbie! I like to think it only gets better from here. I responded a bit more thoroughly to you elsewhere, but thanks again!


Chapter 144 – Triple Luck

There was no way Star had given Qitlan the Reset Key. The very aura that would send Owen back to an amnesiac Charmander. The key that would make him forget everything, erase his current self, and start anew all over again. Under Alexander. A shadowy soldier. The perfect killer.

But there Qitlan stood, the Key in an orb, and the most confident smile on his face. It wasn’t a bluff.

“Now, I understand how much you value being yourself,” Qitlan said, taking a step forward.

Owen took one back, sensing guards at the other end of the hall. But with Qitlan there, they didn’t advance just yet.

“Surrender,” Qitlan said, “and we won’t have to use this. It would be inconvenient, I admit, to have you down to Charmander, building you up. It’s simply better if you were yourself, as you are now, all your strength, under Alexander. You’ll be with Mhynt, too. I’m sure she would be happy to… share her time with you. A happy soldier is a loyal soldier.”

“You led me down here on purpose,” Owen said. “But you didn’t do it to my other half yet, did you?”

“Not just yet. You were… the larger threat.” Qitlan nodded. “So, come quietly, will you? I can just make another for your other half, if you’re warning him right now.”

Owen hid a wince, but his heart was hammering in his chest. Key. The Key. He was going to be Reset. He was going to…

His heart rate was slowing down. The flame on his tail dimmed to something a little calmer. Mesprit had his hand on his shoulder. While the red sprite was trembling, he seemed to be trying to dull Owen’s emotions. Uxie had her hand on his other shoulder.

“Stay calm,” she said. “Think this through…”

Calm. But this was bad. The Reset Key would undo all of his progress. He could try to flee, but then he would make more from Star, and then what? That wasn’t a good option, as far as Owen was concerned.

If he did lose himself… he would just become helpless again. But his other self wouldn’t. But would he want to sacrifice his wings just to give the other Owen the chance to flee? Would he then fight… himself? How quickly would he be strengthened? How damaging would that be to himself?

He’d already witnessed one ‘recombination’ nearly completely erase someone. Rhys wasn’t even there anymore, not the same at all.

Qitlan approached and the Reset Key was a little brighter. That confidence in his strut told Owen that he knew he’d won. But it still didn’t make any sense. Why was he so confident, why wasn’t the other Owen under his control?

He had to take a chance. Reset and lose everything, and put his faith into the other Owen, or flee and leave Star behind. Star, who had caved and provided that Key, despite telling her to hang on a little longer. Did she think granting this would have been better? Or was she trying to stop her torment? Star was selfish enough to do that, but why now? Why had she held out for so long, only to give him a trump card at the very end?

It wasn’t adding up.

But Qitlan’s confidence. Why? He knew it was real. It…

Owen glanced at Uxie. He thought about all those times he had been genuinely happy, despite living a lie. Despite his memories being modified. To someone with Perceive like him, he would have looked genuinely normal, all those false lives.

What if…

Could that be the answer?

How many seconds had passed? Everything felt slow, and his emotions were starting to run high again, pushing past Mesprit’s suppression. He looked strained. Uxie looked like she was trying to get a good shot, but would Qitlan resist it? He was much stronger than any of the guards; there was no telling. He couldn’t gamble with that.

Qitlan took one more step forward and raised the orb skyward. The guards seemed ready to attack. This was it. It all boiled down to one decision.

Could he trust Star to hang on just a little more? To not give in and produce the Reset Key? Was this a perfect bluff?

And could he trust the other Owen to pick up where he’d left off if this all failed?

To both… He had his answer.

Owen grabbed a sphere of his own, this one of platinum glass. He crushed it and grabbed Mesprit and Uxie by the waist.

At the same time, Qitlan crushed the orb and let a shockwave of strange energy overtake the hall. Owen jumped to the side, plunging himself into the wall like it was just another doorway.

The aura still hit him, though, and for a horrifying, sinking moment, he wondered if he would be stuck in the wall, reset, dormant, confused, and he’d just doomed Mesprit and Uxie to the same fate.

Everything went dark; Owen couldn’t see. But his Perceive gave him all the answers he needed as he held his breath—he couldn’t breathe anymore, either—and kept Uxie and Mesprit against his chest.

Another second passed. And then another. Nothing was happening.

He could also tell if they were strained or not. The blessing would last about as long as Rayquaza’s, so he only had a minute or so.

“Owen, we can’t breathe. Hurry!” Uxie urged. “Take us somewhere!”

The shockwave didn’t feel at all like a Reset Key. Was it fake after all? Did Star trick him? But he was too keen for that…

Didn’t matter. Now he could rescue the others. Owen ascended to the higher floors, hoping Qitlan would scatter with the others to clear the way to Star.


South Null Village was under siege by a two-person army. One was Aster, who blipped wherever he pleased, taking down defending guards in one hit each time before disappearing to the next part of the street. His mobility disrupted any attempts at the guards from keeping a tight formation.

That made Leph’s job a lot easier. Compared to Aster, who was just there to cause a ruckus, Alexander had given Leph very specific instructions: Get to the Tree and extract the spirits inside.

From high above, Leph wasn’t sure how to interpret it all. The aerial guards were being knocked to the ground at once. Some of them seemed to be more powerful than the rest by huge margins. In particular, a Milotic partnered with a Zoroark kept Aster from going anywhere near the Tree. The Zoroark’s mane crackled with electricity, while the Milotic swam through the ground like it was water.

A Marshadow and a Lucario battled with their backs facing each other, giving Aster no way to break their coverage. They fought in sync so well that even Leph couldn’t see an easy opening. Strange. Something about that Lucario was familiar to her…

That wasn’t important. Her next Judgement was fully charged. From her back, filaments of light exploded out, curved through the air, and rained upon the streets. The explosions drowned out the screams, but Leph had a feeling she hadn’t hit anyone badly.

A part of her wondered if the small casualties would set off Alexander. Maybe she should kill a few just so he wouldn’t bother her…

No. Her main goal was the Tree of Life. That meant if she did just that, it would show her focus and loyal discipline.

Below, Aster was being pushed away by an onslaught of attacks that had caught him off guard. That Milotic was troublesome… Why was she so determined? She considered taking her out so Aster could have more even footing.

Leph directed a few of the filaments of light toward Milotic. They weren’t even paying attention to the blast.

The first filament lanced her through the chest harmlessly. Her whole body distorted and faded away…

Zoroark. Of course.

Perhaps that was also why Aster was having so much trouble. Fine. She just had to be fast. With a cold, calculated movement, she disappeared and reappeared next to the tree; a reaction of countless guards bombarded her with weak, quick strikes. She tapped her foot and rocked the ground in an Earthquake, and then blasted more light in a cone over her back. Leph winced slightly. She’d killed a few of the weaker ones. She could feel their lives disappear, reclaimed by the Voidlands.

“OWEN!” cried a deep, feminine voice. The Milotic, and perhaps this time real. Leph was about to conjure another Judgement, but Aster appeared between them.

“I’ve got them, Leph!”

“Right.” No time to think. She just had to follow orders. Follow orders, and she’d live another day as herself. She shoved a hoof into the bark of the tree—

And everything went white.

She stumbled back, the tree’s bark disappearing. The blinding sunlight disoriented her. Her rear touched another tree and she leapt back, but it was perfectly normal. Just a healthy oak tree.

Healthy… oak tree.

Leph stopped to admire it. It called to her in some deep, wistful way.

The sunlight felt so real. The warmth from the blue sky. They had flashes of that under South Null, but she had to destroy it. That was her assignment. Where did—

She felt a presence behind her. She whirled around and fired a single beam of light.


An ethereal ring shook the ground. The light bounced off of a golden barrier and careened into another tree, which toppled over. Behind the shield was a huge, towering Charizard. Taller than she was. Up close, she’d have to crane her neck.

“Y… you…”

The Charizard smiled, nodding. “It’s just me, Leph.” His voice was just like she remembered. Deep, powerful, scary… but it was a scary voice that would ward off others. A voice she had trusted, once, before it had all gone wrong. And… this manipulator knew that, so he assumed this form.

“Don’t try to—”

“I can’t do anything here.” He bowed his head. “This is all just a vision, Leph. A second in the Voidlands… it’s probably minutes in here. You have time to take me away.”

“You…” Leph hesitated. It was the same voice, but… “You aren’t acting like… him. Who are you?!”

“The memories of… Wishkeeper are with another Owen,” he said. “But I know bits and pieces. And I know who you are; the other Owen told me.”

“Did he tell you that you led an army to kill Necrozma?”

“He did.” Owen nodded. “But I would have avoided it, if he agreed to spare Kilo. You know that.”

“You… you were the one who caused all this,” Leph said. “The whole reason I’m in the Voidlands… It’s because—”

“—Alexander took my place, and succumbed to Dark Matter’s power. And then, when it consumed him, he became… too powerful, even for Dark Matter to fight against. I’m not going to deflect blame entirely, but… don’t forget, things only became worse when I was taken out.”

“If you just accepted Kilo’s end… none of this would have happened,” Leph said. “I still blame you.”

The mockery of Wishkeeper nodded. His flame dimmed.

“And what are you doing now?” Leph asked. “Trying to fix your mistakes? Trying to atone? You… you deserve to be Voided the same as any of Alexander’s victims. You try living a life where you’re nothing but a shell!”

She fired another beam of energy, which was deflected without him even moving.

Leph went on. “All the pain I went through under that Hydreigon’s tyranny, all because you couldn’t trust Necrozma! Now I’m—” She choked up, wincing. Her vision was blurry with tears. “Now I’m…”

Owen gestured behind him. “There’s a place I like to meditate,” he said. “Before you take me away, would you like me to show you?”

“Why?” Leph accused.

“It helps clear your head. And… I don’t think anything I say here will make you feel better. Just that I’m sorry. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I could have done better, what I’d tell people if I could. But what happened, happened. Even with Dialga on my side, I know I can’t go back and undo it. Not without making things a whole lot worse.”

He led her down the clearing, filled with healthy trees with a foreign, green color for their leaves. Everything was so bright. It unnerved her.

The Charizard eventually settled against a tree a little wider than he was, and tall enough to rival the Castle. She leaned back a little to see the top. It, too, was empty, filled only with leaves.

She sat next to him, on edge, waiting for some kind of attack. None came.

“How’s Aster been?” Owen asked. “Seems he’s a good fighter. But when he learned it was me, there was… a lot of hurt in his eyes.”

“He’s confused. That’s all,” Leph said. “He tries to turn everything into a game to cope.”

“I don’t blame him. At least he was happy for most of it… even if… Well. He’s probably killed a lot of people, hasn’t he?”

No reply. Leph didn’t want to follow this thinking. She didn’t need reminders. She had to survive; it wasn’t like she was actually killing them anyway. They still lived. They still stayed in the Voidlands. She killed nobody.

A huge wing draped over Leph.

“I know you can dispel that,” Owen said, gesturing to the ring around her abdomen.

She shrank away, but that warmth was… nostalgic. Had she been cared for by him like this in the past? She couldn’t remember anymore. Did Alexander take that memory away? Or was she tricking herself?

Alexander promised that as long as she obeyed, she would keep her memories. She was still herself. She still had all of herself. She had to.

Had to.

“I can,” Leph replied. “But I don’t trust you like that.”

Owen tilted his head a little, but the wing started to pull away.

“It’s cold here,” Leph murmured.

The wing stopped. Her Arceus ring of gold and emerald prodded at the membrane. It was probably uncomfortable to hold it over her like that.

“Well, alright,” Owen said, holding his position. “Sorry that I evacuated all the spirits here. It’s just me. But I think that’s the one Alexander wanted the most, isn’t it?”


“I’m not mad at you for it. I’ll come with you quietly.”

“Well, it’s not like you have a choice. I’m… going to take you back. That’s what you deserve.”

“But could you do something for me?” Owen asked. “I think it will free you.”

“You won’t trick me.”

“Why would I trick you, Leph?” Owen asked. “You… you do remember, right? I remember enough that I want to help you. My enemy is Alexander, not you… so…”

And Leph also knew that perhaps even here, Owen could read her body’s tells. Was this even her body, though? This was all some sort of spiritual vision. Maybe Owen’s Perceive didn’t work here. But did he still have the power to read her past? Mhynt did. Owen had the same blessing, the ability to read a spirit’s path.

But… there wasn’t really anything to be seen there. Nothing that he could use against her. It would just be more reasons why she hated him for all he’d caused.

“Leph?” Owen asked.


“The favor. Would you hear me out?”

“Say what you want, but then I’m taking you.”

“The me in Cipher City can free you from Alexander,” Owen said. “If you fly north and see him, will you stop and help?”

“What if you’re lying?”

“Then take him back to Alexander, too. You can’t lose here.” Owen leaned a wing over Leph, nodding. “I want you to be free. That’s always what I’ve been fighting for, and… I’ve learned from my mistakes. Right now, that’s all that matters. Being free from the Voidlands. It’s possible, Leph. Don’t forget that. Okay?”

Leph sighed and placed a hoof on his thigh. His body dissolved into nothing but a cyan bubble with a gold center, which she placed in her chest.

“Don’t forget,” she mumbled, the environment around her dissolving. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do this whole time…”


Owen and Swampert had underestimated just how much they could resolve at once.

They had split up. Owen sent Swampert to the higher floors, making sure he tapped on every coin that had been set down the day prior, as well as tip over every vase that he’d put down, even doubling back if he had the opportunity. It was all just a diversion. Owen hadn’t put anything in those vases—no resources—so it was just a distraction to get them paranoid.

The problem was getting to the dungeons. All the stairs were heavily guarded and Owen lacked the brute strength to pierce through. His Perceive didn’t give him any proper hints, either. He could only sense, far below him, that the other, Charizard Owen was being held up by some other mishap. He wasn’t communicating, so he could only guess what the standoff was.

The Charizard had remarked that he knew where the Charmeleon was, but couldn’t properly sense him. That was strange, but Owen also couldn’t sense himself well. Something was blocking his Perceive, but only for his own body. He didn’t know what interference that was, but the pain in his chest made him hope it wasn’t some disruptor they’d lodged in him somehow. Was that even possible?

Qitlan was holding something, but it was invisible to his Perceive.

“Stop!” called a guard once again, and Owen sidestepped on his way down the hall to dodge a rock the guard had conjured and tossed his way. He instead turned around the corner and sprinted to the stairway. For once, it didn’t seem to be occupied.

Tumbling down from the upper stairway, weaving past a few other guards, was Swampert, covered in welts and cuts from narrowly dodged attacks.

“Swampert?!” Owen called.

“Kid, you really got me in hot water this time!” Swampert grabbed him by the shoulders and throttled him. “Why?! Why did you make me tilt all those vases?! What was your plan?!”

“D-diversion?!” Owen said with a nervous titter. “Hey, by the way, I’m also being chased!”

Both sets of guards closed in on them. Swampert grabbed Owen and held him up.

“I—I got him!”

“Hey! Let me go, let me go!” Owen cried, kicking his legs and swinging his tail. He could feel Swampert’s uncertainty, his brief, furtive glances. He was desperate for Owen to think of a plan.

What was he supposed to come up with?! They were cornered!

The guards, however, seemed confused. “What?” said the leading Blaziken.

“I got him!” Swampert said again, holding Owen up like a prize. “Where do I take him?”

“Uh… To King Alexander, I think,” Blaziken said. “He should be around here, right? Take him upstairs!”

Swampert offered a wobbly grin and nodded.

“…Hang on a second, that’s Servant!” cried a Beheeyem in the back. “He’s working for Owen! They’re in cahoots!”

So much for that, Owen thought, wincing. “Agk—squeezing, you’re squeezing me!” Owen hissed.

“…I guess I’m done for now,” Swampert said as the guards murmured loudly with one another. “You really trapped me, huh?”

“Th-that’s not what I wanted,” Owen mumbled, genuine. They were trapped and he was hoping they would spare him if this had gone wrong, but…

“You said you’re going to free everyone eventually,” Swampert said. “…Is that true?”

“If I get out of here…” Owen’s shoulders sagged. They were closing in, taking careful paces, like they were expecting him to pull something. But Owen was out of ideas.

“Then I have nothing to lose.” Swampert tucked Owen under his arm like luggage.


“HAAAAAAA!” Swampert charged down the hall and raised his free arm high. He conjured a massive wave of water behind him, towering over him and all the other guards, who immediately opened fire. Owen squeaked and held his hands forward, creating a Protect.

With oddly quick thinking, Swampert positioned Owen just in time to block most of the hits before charging forward again, surfing on his own wave to gain extra distance.

Why is using me as a shield intuitive?!

But it was working, for whatever few seconds they’d needed to press forward. As Swampert dashed past the break in the crowd he’d made, putting all of that exercise to good use, he dug through a pouch on his side. It wasn’t filled with much, but it did have that little pebble that Owen had gifted him. He squeezed it tight and a strange, golden energy coursed through his arm.

Owen wasn’t sure what went through Swampert’s mind just then. All he knew was that everything the guards were now throwing at him did nothing. Even as he fled through and took every hit, even as Owen’s Protect shattered.

“You told the truth!” Swampert roared, tears rolling from his eyes. Flames, ice, and blades conjured of the elements cut through Swampert, but he took all of it and powered on. Step by step, unimpeded. “I remember!” Swampert roared. “I remember my name!

Owen gasped, narrowly blocking a stray blast as the brief energy faded from Swampert’s system.

“My name… is Artur! Born in Pyrock… in the outskirts! And I remember!

He slammed into the wall and conjured more waves of water to push him down the hall to another set of stairs.

“Well,” said an icy, familiar voice, “I’m so happy you could remember… before losing it again!”

“Watch out!” Owen shouted.

Artur held Owen forward and Owen erected a shield, narrowly parrying a concentrated beam of darkness. It sizzled, stinging his scales even past the Protect, which dissolved by the time it was over. The walls around him had been perfectly burned in a circle where the blast had sprayed.

And far ahead was Alexander, flying toward them. On his back was Mhynt, who hopped off and dashed ahead even faster.

“W-wait!” Artur shouted. “I’m—”

Mhynt drew her Honedge from the darkness and leapt. Owen crossed his arms to gamble on another Protect in time, but he was too slow. The blade nicked him on the cheek and plunged into Artur’s heart.

The Swampert opened his mouth in surprise and terror. It didn’t seem like pain. Perhaps it never had the chance to catch up to him, because seconds later, Artur turned to dust. Embers of life siphoned into the blade, giving the once-dull eye a very dim glow.

Owen hit the ground and lost his breath. “Uff—”

Mhynt pointed the blade at him next, just as Alexander drifted closer with a devilish grin on all three heads.

“And here we are,” he said. “Thought you could escape with this little trick? Qitlan already trapped the ‘other you’ here… and Leph and Aster are burning down that Tree of Life as we speak. You will soon be nowhere but in my clutches, whelp… And for what you’ve done… you certainly exhausted all of your privileges here. It’ll be back to the dungeons with you.”

Mhynt grabbed Owen by the arm and forced him to stand, using her blade to coax him up to make up for her height.

“Come, Mhynt,” Alexander said, spinning around. “Let’s reunite him with his old cell.”

“Of course,” Mhynt replied.

Owen glanced down at Mhynt, betrayed. He couldn’t get a read on her. As far as he could tell… she was genuinely going to take him over. She had no tell, none at all.

No. He had to believe in her. He had nothing left but faith in others to pull through. Maybe Mhynt had an idea after all. Maybe—

There was a hand coming out of the floor. That was weird.

Mhynt stifled a startled chirp when it grabbed her legs. Another hand grabbed Owen’s tail.

And suddenly, they were pulled under.


Qitlan marched toward Beheeyem and grabbed him by the neck.


“Why did you lie to me?” Qitlan said, holding a finger to his temple. “Choose wisely or I’ll give your brother your skull.”

“Y-y-yikes!” Beheeyem wriggled a little. “Y-y-you said t-t-to make you think we got it! For a bluff! To fool his Perceive! Please don’t kill me!”

“What?” Qitlan hissed.

Beheeyem hastily clicked two fingers together, and a bind against Qitlan’s mind suddenly split open, and the true memories resurfaced in a rush. The hasty steps down the dungeon. The quick thinking, the gamble, the false orb of light energy.

Qitlan released Beheeyem and sprinted down the hall. “Secure Mew,” he ordered. “Where is she located now?!”

He addressed the first guard he saw—a Golduck who still looked dazed by something that had happened before.

“WHERE IS SHE?” Qitlan roared, shooting Golduck in the arm.

He quacked in pain and crumpled to the side. “I don’t know! They didn’t tell me! H-hey, do you know what Hydro Pump is?”

“Useless.” Qitlan sprinted down the halls again, but skidded to a stop when he heard a commotion down a different hall. Green lights and purple smoke…

He saw a wraith skittering down the hall just as he turned, but it was all the way on the opposite side. He saw several guards crumpled on the ground, but no Owen. He didn’t produce green flames, did he? No, the Grass Orb… what if—No. They’d flame-proofed those chains; he wouldn’t have been able to break Mew loose so easily, and he didn’t have much physical strength.

“What happened?” Qitlan asked, catching the smell of the purple gas. It muddled his mind. He shook it off, but saw that all of the guards seemed both dazed and wounded. Some kind of toxin…

One seemed to be in better shape because he was giggling. “Speak to me, what happened?”

“Pretty lady…” The dazed Weavile giggled.

Qitlan shoved him away and checked the room. The door had a hole melted through it, but it also looked like it had been blasted by some other kind of energy, too. Green scales littered the ground, oddly hexagonal in shape. Deeper inside, past the two-door chamber, was an empty cell.

Empty cell. Empty cell. And the chains looked like they’d been rusted away and then chopped by incredible force.

The whole room had that intoxicating smell in the air. Qitlan didn’t wait any longer, knowing that it was the wraith.

Down several more halls, but the Void Shadow was fast. Whose Void Shadow was it? Dark Matter was dead, or at least useless; the only other one who could control Void Shadows was Alexander. Who?

Qitlan recognized this area. The center of the basement of Cipher Castle, the connection to Kilo through a great crater. Nobody could pass through, but sometimes wanderers found their way inside to be converted to guards. Easy, strong labor.

But a Void Shadow couldn’t escape through there. Smirking, Qitlan continued forward, knowing it was cornered.

The door creaked open, heavy but accessible—because what could possibly escape through here?—but he noticed the unused lock had been melted through anyway by some corrosive liquid.

And the Void Shadow was nowhere to be seen.


So, naturally, it had survived up ahead. Qitlan sprinted through the door and into the large, empty room, but he never reached the other side. Instead, the world around him shifted from a dark, blue-black dungeon to a brown, arid field.

And suddenly it felt like his whole body was on fire. He hissed, blinded by the light, and staggered back to safety until the burning stopped.

“Qitlan, sir!” cried a few guards.

“By the Void, why did he go through?!”

“Someone, get a medic!”

“Qitlan, are you okay?!”

Qitlan groaned, looking at his hands. All the skin was gone. He could only imagine what the rest of him must have looked like. He whispered, “Star… Star is here, somewhere. Somewhere in the outskirts is her Void Shadow. Get her… She went through. She must have been reclaimed. Get her… get her…!”

His vision was darkening. The pain was too much, even for him. As the medics descended upon him, he could only hope that Alexander would not be disappointed… Qitlan imagined falling into Alexander’s embrace, feeling his tough scales. That he didn’t fail. And that they would get them again.

With a little smile, he allowed himself to fall unconscious.


Owen really was carrying them out like groceries.

Mesprit and Azelf were in his left arm. Cipher Owen and Mhynt were in his right. Conjuring an updraft for himself, Owen glided through the main floor of Cipher Castle, making a straight shot toward the grand entrance.

“Wait!” Mesprit cried. “We forgot Mew!”

“Taken care of,” Charizard Owen said.

“What? I can’t sense her!” Charmeleon Owen yelped.

“I sensed someone fleeing with her while rescuing you. Don’t know who, but they fled through some spot in the dungeons and then vanished. I think they’re safe. Star felt relieved.”

“But what if it’s all a ploy?” Mesprit cried.

“We’re out of tricks, I—I need to have faith.” He faltered a little. “I’m sorry, this plan didn’t go as well as I thought. I couldn’t get to Star in time and I sensed you were cornered, too. I messed up.”

“Don’t beat yourself up yet.” Uxie focused ahead. “Mesprit and I are out of power. You only have Azelf’s blessing left. And a whole fleet of guards are about to pursue us.”

“I—I think I’ll figure out a way to get past the guards. I just need a little more timing. Hey, by the way, question. Those… powers you had on emotion and knowledge. Do they affect Dark Pokémon, too?”

“Well, yes. Those are divine powers, not Psychic powers. Though, strong Pokémon can resist it, if you’re thinking of trying that on Alexander…”

“Would it work for at least a little while?”

“If a ‘little while’ means seconds, then perhaps so. But right now, we aren’t at our best. Our other halves are not part of us. Don’t expect it to work for more than a few instances.”

“Good enough,” Owen growled to himself.

Charmeleon Owen, meanwhile, was holding Mhynt’s shoulder. “Hey,” he said. “Can Alexander control you if he figures out what happened?”

“It’s possible,” Mhynt said.

“Then now’s the time for me to try to free you.”

“So you really can do that?” Charizard Owen asked.

Charmeleon Owen nodded. “I think I reawakened some of Diyem’s blessings in me. Mhynt, are you…?”

“…And you won’t control me next?”

Both Owens looked betrayed, but Charmeleon Owen recovered faster. “I don’t know how, and I don’t want to find out.”

“Decide fast! They’re closing in!”

By now, the city lights were below them, beautiful crystals amid a black sea of stone. From all four sides, winged guards were already catching up. Even the ground guards were taking aim, and Owen just remembered the sentry spire would also be firing at him. But this time, he didn’t have Rayquaza’s blessing to get him through. He only had one last blessing.

“Fine, do it,” Mhynt hissed.

The Charmeleon grabbed Mhynt with one arm over her shoulder. He tensed, but Charizard Owen still couldn’t get a read for what was in his counterpart’s body, which unnerved him. Why was his Perceive acting up like that? It was like something was blocking his senses, absorbing it from the inside.

Shadowy energy raced along the smaller Owen’s shoulders and into his arms, seeping into Mhynt’s. Then, he tugged, and an even greater shadow tore its way out of Mhynt, who was suddenly gasping for air and squeezing her little fingers over Charizard Owen’s arms.

“I can’t… breathe…” Mhynt whimpered.

“A little more,” Owen begged as he pulled. “Skies, there’s a lot of Alexander in here…”

That made Mhynt wince even more, so Charizard Owen held her a little more firmly as he dodged between stray blasts from below. “You’re fine, Mhynt,” he said gently. That relaxed her muscles a little. “Not long now.”

“Got it!” The other Owen finally yanked something free from Mhynt, which burst from her shoulder yet left no wound. Mhynt screamed and tucked her head against her carrier’s chest, pounding her fist against his arm. Despite her size, the strikes nearly knocked Owen off balance, but it also helped him dodge the first blast from the sentinel spire.

“Gah! It’s really firing already?!” Mesprit said.

Then came an explosion up ahead. The missed shot had hit a building instead, and it was collapsing in front of them.

“Oh, gods…”

Owen wished his Perceive wasn’t active, but as he flew over the building, he couldn’t help but count how many were trapped inside the rubble.

“Don’t slow down,” Uxie said.

“I wasn’t going to—” Owen wasn’t sure if he was lying. Maybe he would have tried to help. But Uxie reminded him that he couldn’t. But… “But they’re trapped—”

“Save them by saving the Voidlands. If you go down, the guards will—OWEN!”

Owen descended toward the building. The guards were fifteen seconds away from him at most. Alexander was speeding towards them at the same time. At the rate this was going, they would meet him at the same time Alexander would.

Uxie was shouting various curses into his mind, commanding him to fly away. But he knew the timing of the sentry tower now. He had a bit. And this was just what he needed for the final stretch out of the city.

Landing on the ground, Owen released Mhynt. “How good are your powers as Lunala?” Owen asked immediately.


“You can change into her, right? You’re whole?”

“I… I haven’t used that light in a very long time, Owen. The darkness corroded it into—” Her eyes widened with realization.

“Please, try.” Owen loosened his hold, and then glanced at the cloud of guards coming in, parting ways for Alexander himself to approach. “You need to use that light and get us far south. Maybe… halfway. That should be enough.”

“I can’t be precise like that… I’ll…”

He lunged forward and held his arms out, crafting a Protect just in time to parry a shadowy lance. It deflected into the ground where it turned the stone to shadowy dust.

“What if I fail?” Mhynt asked, the smallest hint of helplessness in her voice.

“Then I have another backup. Try, don’t be afraid, Mhynt! Anything is enough!”

The Treecko winced again and nodded. Then, she tensed herself, and her expression grew firm. Uxie and Mesprit floated just behind Owen, still tapped out. Charmeleon Owen was pushing a few pieces of rubble aside by conjuring some vines. Some Pokémon under the surface pushed their way through the rubble. At least most of the buried Pokémon were hardy; being able to breathe was the concern, not the weight of the debris.

“I’m sensing a strong power in the way,” Mhynt said. “I don’t know how to do warp travel in the Voidlands, not… not right now, I can’t get past—”

“Go in front of it,” Owen said. “That’s Leph and Aster. Has to be.”

“Don’t we want to avoid—”

“Other-me has it covered. Do it!”

The guards wouldn’t wait, so Owen bought some precious seconds. He grabbed the final blessing and smashed it. From the orb of light, blue energy enveloped everything within at least hundreds of feet in all directions. And suddenly, all of the guards stopped advancing. Even Alexander faltered.

Their will to fight had been sapped. For how long, Owen wouldn’t risk. But with their empty wills… maybe he could try to get into their heads. Alexander was a lost cause, but the guards…

“Look at what your so-called leader has done just to get me.” Owen spread his wings to look bigger. “Sacrificing innocent civilians, not even caring how many he destroys, just because he’s afraid of my power!”

“Don’t listen to him,” Alexander hissed, trying to conjure some of his Shadows again. One of his heads looked much darker than the rest of him again, like he was struggling to maintain its shape. “You… what trick is this…”

“If you want to defect, if you’re tired of living in the Voidlands,” Owen roared, “come to South Null. Defect! Come with your head low, surrender, and you will find a new home away from Alexander.”

“Your words fall on deaf ears!” Alexander spat. “Now FALL!”

At first, Owen thought Mhynt’s body had torn apart. It horrified him. But then, wings replaced where her back had blown away. Where her legs and limbs had shriveled, a great body of cosmic colors came into being, complete with the head of an upward crescent moon. She was strained, but she raised her wings and blasted over Owen’s shoulder, striking Alexander directly when he was focused on his own strike. Alexander tried to throw what he had, a faded lance of darkness.

On reflex, Owen reached toward it and pulled at that same aura. He tried to trace it—it was so slow compared to Alexander’s other attacks—but it was too strange. He couldn’t figure out how to copy it.

Charmeleon Owen rushed forward next, grasping at the energy with his claws in the same way. Filaments of dark strings traced through the air and into his claws like he was toying with a puppet, and then the Charmeleon pulled. The lance was in his hands. Then, like it burned him, he hurled it back at Alexander, who was too disoriented to defend. It struck him in the chest, sending him careening past all of the guards with a frustrated roar.

Mhynt’s wings stretched as far as they could. There was a great light behind him that was expanding outward. Mhynt’s wings collapsed around them all. Everything was too bright, then too dark, and then too bright again. It burned, then it was cold, and then…


South Null was burning, and Leph flew away from it with Aster on her back and one more spirit within her chest.

“…Leph…” Aster tapped on the wheel over her abdomen. “If we’re doing bad things for someone who’s bad, because if we didn’t, we’d die… are we bad?”

Leph sighed. Why now, after so many centuries, was he now thinking about the philosophy behind all this playing? Owen must have reminded him of times gone by.

Because of course Owen would do that. He had practically raised them, even if it was here and there. Unlike the Legends, he knew how to interact with mortals. He remembered how to think the way a mortal did, and now so was Aster. Was that better? Worse?

“It’s just how things are,” Leph said quietly. “We don’t have a choice. Worrying about it won’t help anything. It’ll just… make you feel worse.”

But that was probably how Aster had coped all this time. It had finally caught up to him. Now, Leph only wished she could be as carefree as he had been…

A bright light assaulted her vision and her flight path. She yelped and abruptly halted her flight; Aster slammed into the back of her neck. When the stars faded from Leph’s vision, she saw a Charizard, a Charmeleon, several small Pokémon, and a huge pile of rubble. She could sense many lives underneath the rubble.

“What in the world…” Leph descended. “Aster! Lift those stones. There are Pokémon inside!”

“Okay!” Aster hopped off of Leph and focused, his whole body radiating violet light. Stones glowed with the same color, arranging themselves into neat stacks and freeing many injured and battered Pokémon underneath.

Leph heard a light chuckle in her mind.

There he is.

Leph, startled, looked around. “Who’s there?”

Sorry. I was just watching. It’s me, Owen. In here.

She looked down toward her chest. Then at the sky.

Up ahead. That’s the rest of me. Mind… handing me over?

Leph stared uneasily at the downed Charizard. Azelf, Mesprit, she recognized those two, as well as a Charmeleon under his wings. There was even…

“Mhynt!” Leph trotted over. “Mhynt, you look awful!”

The Treecko was withered like a leaf. Her back looked torn apart by something, and her arms and legs bent at odd angles. Leph tried to focus some healing energy toward her, which helped a little…

“Leph…” Mhynt wheezed, reaching up. “Get… get Owen… to… free you.”


“I’m… I’m free, Leph…” Mhynt limply squeezed Leph’s golden hooves. “I’ve never felt… so…”

“Save your strength,” Leph whispered.

The Charizard was stirring, but the Charmeleon got up first, groaning. “Don’t remember that being part of the travel…” He wobbled to his feet. “…Leph?”



“Rescue complete!” Aster said cheerfully, holding about twenty Pokémon in a lazy cloud above his head.

“Set them down,” Owen and Leph requested.


Leph turned her attention back to Owen. “There… are two of you.”

Three, actually.

“Er, yeah, long story.”

Mesprit and Azelf helped Mhynt stand, but then realized they were better off carrying her. She could barely stay conscious. Charizard Owen, meanwhile, took her in his arms and nodded firmly, assuring them she would be okay.

“You… you really can do it?” Leph asked. “You can… just do it like that? Undo what Alexander did to me?”

“It’s why he’s afraid of me,” Owen said. “I take it other-me told you everything?”

“…How… how did you plan all of this?” Leph asked. “I can’t believe it.”

“Alexander used to work under me. Between the notes all of my selves shared, I knew some of his strategies. And… I didn’t know for sure. But if he sent you two to South Null, I knew how it would go. I’m… glad I was right.” He held out his hands. “May I be whole? Then I think I’ll have the strength to free you.”

But if she disobeyed, Alexander would Void her. That would be the end. She’d be gone. She’d be nothing.

Remember what I said, Leph. Alexander doesn’t matter anymore. Please… trust me one last time. Isn’t this exactly what you said you’d do?

It was. It really was.

But after so many centuries… it seemed too good to be true. Getting this change… facing everything she’d done, after being free from that darkness…

You can do it, Leph. Do it for Aster.


The Mewtwo was chatting happily with the confused civilians, who seemed varying degrees between startled and scared. His happy laughs. Were they fake? Could they be real again?

“Okay.” Filaments of light emerged from Leph’s back, and then, from between the back of her shoulders, they drew out a single golden orb. Gingerly, she let it drift toward Owen, but the moment she let go, it zapped into the Charizard’s chest.

“Guh—” He staggered back and nearly squished Mesprit when he landed on his rear, squeezing his head.

“…Um… Owen—”

He held up a hand and then resumed squeezing his head.

They stood there, awkwardly, for a few seconds.

Then, “Wasn’t expecting it to be that fast…” Owen shook his head. “Sorry. Was sorting through some… memory-shock? Yeah, let’s call it that…” He breathed a deep sigh. “How far are we from South Null?”

“By wing, only a few minutes,” Leph said. “Not long at all if Aster Teleports us there.”

“Everyone here?” Owen asked, concerned.

“At such a short distance, he can handle it.”

“Right… okay. Let’s get that done. The sooner we can get out of here the better.”


Zena was a nervous wreck. Even while she was in the hospital, her trivial wounds getting looked at, she couldn’t stop thinking about if Owen’s absurd plan was actually going to work. Doubts that maybe he’d planned too much and too many cascading things were about to go horribly wrong. That maybe Owen shouldn’t have pushed himself so far just to get an edge on Qitlan’s infinite planning. He’d exchanged careful strategy in favor of doing something unexpected and spontaneous, but wouldn’t that result in losing and sacrificing too much?

“Yer lost in thought again.”

She gasped, glancing at the door. “Don’t scare me like that,” she murmured at Marshadow, who closed the door behind him and offered an apologetic smile.

“Nah, sorry. Kinda comes with the bod’.” He hopped onto the hospital bed and asked with his eyes if that was acceptable. Zena didn’t object. “Anyway, just checkin’ on everyone. You got a lotta bad hits, y’know. Worse than most.”

“I suppose I’m a larger target,” Zena admitted. “Any news about Owen?”

“Well, the scouts saw Leph stop her movements,” Marshadow remarked. “Was pretty weird. Saw a lot of random building rubble suddenly appear in the air, too. Double weird. Not sure what that’s all about, heh.”

“Oi, oi, y’left me behind!” someone called as the door burst open again, revealing a bulky Lucario.

“Manny,” greeted Zena with a small sigh. Gods, she was listening to him in stereo.

“Hey Zeeny,” Manny greeted, earning a slight twinge of perplexed annoyance from the Milotic. “How’s my double talkin’?”

“Well, he told me about the scouts…”

“Cool, yeah, since ol’ Marshadow’s hastier, he didn’ get the latest,” Manny said with a smirk.

“Now c’mon, I ain’t gonna have a pretty lady waitin’!” Marshadow said.

Manny held up his arms, but then smiled at Zena. “Owen’s comin’ back. Looks like he pulled off a real miracle this time.”

“What?! How many—er, how much of Owen? All of him?”

“Yeppers, all three, if y’ask me. Dunno how that one got pulled off. Missin’ Star, though…”

Zena’s first thought was that it didn’t matter, but then she remembered how important that actually was… She winced, now a little guilty for the thought. “Let’s go. I want to see him.”


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 145 – Unexpected Life

The doctors had insisted Zena stay in bed and recover from those wounds, which were still bleeding mildly despite her Mystic healing. Being struck by the Judgement of Arceus, as it turned out, was more difficult to heal. But Zena insisted a little harder that she go and see Owen; she would be fine. The pain meant little to her anyway.

It was easy to tell where they were. The Radiant Tree of Life, which had gone dark when Leph fled, was brightening. It seemed like it was trying to form a portal into the living world again, since their convenient one had gone out with the Tree’s light.

She had made it just in time to see Owen, two of the Trio of Mind, their former assailants, and another Owen standing by the tree. Owen had pulled something vile and shadowy out of Leph’s chest, which left her collapsed on the ground from the shock. By the time Zena had gotten within speaking distance, Aster had collapsed next, trembling and incapacitated.

“Um… I do hope I am not interrupting anything,” Zena said.

Charmeleon and Charizard both looked at her with relieved smiles. Only then did Zena notice Mhynt also there, frowning pensively, but saying nothing.

“…Oh. Right,” Mhynt suddenly said, holding out her palm before forming that empty Honedge.

Zena was immediately on guard, but when Owen and Owen only looked perplexed, she did nothing further.

Mhynt pointed the blade at the ground and fired something red. Zena watched in disgusted awe as a skeleton formed, stuffed and covered itself in living organs and red flesh, and finally covered properly in skin that went over the body in a fine mist before solidifying.

A Swampert now stood there, dazed, and returning to his senses. “Buh—huh?” He blinked. “What? Where?” He spun around, but then yelped when Mhynt tossed the Honedge husk toward him.

“Keep it as an apology,” Mhynt said with a hum. “I don’t need it anymore.”

“Oh. Um. Thanks?” Swampert gave Charizard Owen a panicked look, but he only nodded, as if that would mean something.

“Anyway,” Charmeleon Owen finally said, “I think… it’s about time we do our own return to form, huh?”

Charizard Owen nodded. “Right. Let’s get together again.”

They stood awkwardly. Zena awaited whatever strange process they were going to go through. She wondered if she would be allowed to watch, or if it was something stranger and… No, no, she shouldn’t fantasize.

“Um, Owen?” Zena spoke up.

“Yeah, hang on,” they both said, staring at each other.

More silence.

“…Okay,” Charizard Owen said, clearing his throat. “So… we have no idea how to recombine.”

Zena gaped. “What?!”

“We didn’t think about this part!” Charmeleon Owen squeaked. “We uhh, I mean, I figured one of us would die and we’d combine that way! I wasn’t counting on being rescued from all angles…”

“Wait, so should I kill you?” Charizard Owen asked.

“I—maybe? You’re the one with wings, so I don’t think I should take you.”

“Wait, can’t you evolve yourself?”

“I kinda tried that during the raid and it didn’t work…”

“So that’s another strange thing along with not being able to Perceive part of you…”

The two Owens continued to talk to each other, theorizing and contemplating with sentences too fast that Zena stopped following along.

“Hey, ehh…” Manny spoke up. “How about a dance?”

“What? A dance?” they asked. “Why?”

“I dunno. How about the Hot Spot dance?” Manny suggested.

They suddenly looked horrified. “No!” they exclaimed. Charizard Owen continued, “How is a dance going to get us together?! How do you know about that dance, anyway?”

“Ehh, well, I was the one who suggested it ter Star, an’ I guess she told it ter Amia, an’—”

You put me through that?!” Charmeleon Owen said. Both their tails flashed a strangely furious blue.

“Y’know, ferget I said anything!” Manny took a few careful steps back, holding up his paws.

“Alright! Alright. How about… we try it like a fusion?” Charmeleon Owen said. “We do that all the time.”

“So, like, a special hug?” Charizard Owen asked.

Mhynt squinted.

“Yeah! Alright, you’re pretty big, so how about you just hold me?”

“Sure, uh, like this…?”

Mhynt inched toward Zena. “So, he still does that.”

Zena glanced down, still keeping one eye on the odd ritual. “…Wait. That’s on purpose?”

“Oh, that’s cute.” Mhynt chuckled to herself.

“What does that mean?”

“Wait! It’s working!” Charmeleon Owen said, and just as he started to sink a little, both Owens flashed a white light. Two became one, but for a blink’s worth of time, something dark emerged from Charmeleon Owen’s chest.

Zena recalled that had been where Owen had been stabbed through Diyem before being kidnapped…

What was that?

But it happened so quickly that she had no time to react to any of it. It was over already, the full, whole Charizard standing before them. He took a long, deep breath, then exhaled, wincing a little as he rubbed his chest.

“Not the smoothest transition,” Owen mumbled. “Give me a second… Just sorting out memories again…”

“Take your time,” Zena said, slithering a little closer. “…Owen… Are you feeling okay?”

The Charizard took a few minutes to stretch his wings and arms, shifting his weight like it was a little uncomfortable. The delay in reply put Zena a little on edge. It didn’t feel right, but she couldn’t place why. Maybe his movements were off. She gave uncertain glances to the others as Owen rubbed at his chest again.

“Yeah! Just was a… a, uh, just a rough…” He trailed off, then shrugged unevenly.

By now, the others were growing quiet from their buzzing banter in the crowd. “Eh, Owen?” Manny asked.

“Yeah?” Owen asked. “Yeah, I’m… fine, just… with, fus, that’s…”

“Did the fusion go wrong?” Zena asked, but she couldn’t find anything amiss with his aura. None of that fragmented mess that it had been during a Reset, or just before when he had mutant problems. It did seem a little weaker, though, and something seemed…

Owen said a few more words, but they were incoherent. There was a startled look in his eyes as he gestured to himself, confused… He squinted, but it looked more like a wink.

And then he collapsed against Zena.

“Owen!” Zena wrapped ribbons over him.

Everyone shouted, but Manny was quick to spring away, saying something about a doctor. Mhynt looked like she was staring death in the face.

“I—I’ll stay here,” Zena said helplessly. “Get help! Anywhere!”

While Manny ran to the doctors and others left to find specific people, Zena called Mhynt over to try to see what was wrong. But even Mhynt was out of her element here.

“Just—just be with him,” Mhynt said shakily. “He’s divine, isn’t he? Shouldn’t this not happen?”

“I don’t know,” Zena said. “Owen, Owen, can you hear me?”

Mhynt felt around his chest, but then flinched.

“Careful, Charizard have massive body heat,” Zena warned. “The stress might—”

“It’s cold.”

Zena’s heart sank into her gut. She felt Owen’s body. Warm. But when she felt where Mhynt touched—right near his heart—all she could feel was the cold of a void.


Once again, Zena was in a hospital. This time, it was in a waiting room. There was a strange, helpless feeling wrapped around her heart. Even after healing attempts by the others, even a bleary Arceus herself, it wasn’t enough to undo whatever strange damage Owen had taken from the reunion with himself.

They’d hauled him into a room immediately, triaging him. It was apparently high priority because he was already whisked away into one of the operating rooms. Zena wondered if Owen would have approved of that, or if he would think about how many others would be waiting a little longer for their treatments because of him.

As far as Zena was concerned, this was a little more pertinent. Owen had gods and usurpers to fight.

She’d lost track of the time. A few employees occasionally emerged, coming and going to check on Zena, but all the while, she assured them with little nods and not much else. She wasn’t well. Everyone knew she wasn’t well. But they couldn’t do anything about it, nor could she herself.

Heaving a sigh, she curled up in the corner of the waiting room and contemplated closing her eyes.

Then, a Carnivine came floating into the room, holding a small box of chocolates. They made eye contact and Zena immediately recognized him as her former boss. She hid a scowl as he floated over.

“I, er, I… heard what happened,” he said. “You’re… Zena, right?”

“I am.” So he remembered her name.

“I just wanted to apologize for… things.” No eye contact. “The spa isn’t doing so well after being, uh… destroyed. But we’ll bounce back. I had no idea how important you were, see…” He placed the box on the table next to Zena, as if it would mean something.

“Well.” She wondered how the others would have handled this. That softened her gaze some. “Thank you. I hope the spa improves, but I hope we can rescue everyone before then.”

“That’d sure be something,” Carnivine remarked with a little laugh. “Uh, really, though, thanks. And sorry. I don’t know what that battle was, but by the time I was awake again… it was all over. I must have already been saved by someone, maybe one of your group.”

“And how about the others?” Zena asked.

“Most, er, they’re still being… searched for. But we ran into a few. They aren’t interested in working again. Poor Vaporeon is an Eevee again, too, so her old job won’t really… work now.”

“Right… some had been killed.”

Carnivine nodded solemnly.

“I’m glad they’re still around,” Zena said. “Thank you for the update.”

“How’s Charizard?”

She hid her apprehension. “Well… I don’t know. But I know he’ll pull through. This is just a… bump on the path.”

“Or a shift in the current, right?” Carnivine asked lightheartedly.

She found herself smiling a little. “Yes, or a shift,” she said. “And we will swim through.”

“Heh. Yeah. You know, when I saw you guys, like, in just little glimpses, you seemed like a good couple. I hope he’s good to you.”

“He is.” An image of Mhynt holding Owen’s chest flashed in her mind. She frowned and surveyed the room. She wasn’t there; she had gone on a walk, a ‘short’ walk.

“Something bothering you?” Carnivine asked.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just waiting.”

“Ah. Well… I hope that goes well.”

Zena nodded. “Thank you.”

And as he left, he floated over a Treecko walking in through the same door.

“No news?” Mhynt asked.


Mhynt leapt onto a chair and took a seat, sniffing the air before snapping her fingers. There was a pulse of aura from where she’d clicked, which bounced off something invisible on the seat on the other side of Zena.

“Hello, Enet,” Mhynt greeted.

“Enet!” Zena prodded at the empty air with her ribbons, feeling thick fur. “I could have known I had company, you know.”

The illusion dissolved, revealing the Zoroark with completely frazzled fur, her bangle completely missing. There was a worried expression in her eyes, too, and she looked afraid that Zena was going to scold her.

Zena sighed and said, “It’s okay, Enet. Just rest with us, okay?”

She took this as an invitation, apparently, and leapt into Zena’s coils and curled up. She was… warm, so Zena didn’t try to move her.

“I can tell you’re worried,” Mhynt said. “Don’t be. If anything, just be impatient.”


“Owen’s taking longer than usual to come back from this, but I know he will.”

“Too strong,” Enet agreed.

“I know that,” Zena lied. “…But, thank you. It’s good to have assurances. And… well… from you in particular. You knew him well.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Mhynt said. “I know who he used to be. But… he’s changed. A lot. I wonder if losing his memories allowed him to be… happier again. Funny how that works.”

And then, a door opened down the hall. A Scyther covered in blood emerged and waved at them.

“He’s gonna be just fine,” Scyther said with a little grin.

Zena looked him over.

“Oh, sorry. We just got finished. It was a little trickier than a trivial surgery, but he’s a strong one. He’s stable and in recovery. Though… we aren’t sure what it was in him.”

“What?” Mhynt asked.

“He insisted he hang onto it,” Scyther went on. “If you wait a few minutes, we can have him in a recovery room…”

“We’ll see him, then,” Mhynt agreed.

As Scyther left, Zena exchanged an uncertain look with Mhynt. In the end, things could never be simple.


The recovery room they’d kept Owen in was a large, sterile room with a single bed that was extra soft and comfy-looking. Compared to stone, at least. Had it not been for the sorry state of the Charizard in it, Zena would have been envious.

He was on his back, tail dimmer than usual but stable. Zena wondered if the surgeons had an easy way to tell how healthy he was just from the flame alone. There was a curious glow around his body, as if he’d been blasted with countless Heal Pulses over the course of whatever procedure they’d gone through. His scales seemed damp from Life Dew. The air was humid; maybe it was in the air.

Zena didn’t recognize most of the other devices in the room. A few of them made occasional, soft beep. Others had screens with numbers and lines on them. None of it made sense, but they reminded her of more sophisticated versions of what Kilo’s hospital had.

On a small table next to Owen’s bed was a strange, black orb about the size of a small pumpkin. Staring at it unnerved Zena, and she assumed it was some other Void technology. Maybe a good luck charm to the place’s denizens…

“Um, Owen,” Zena whispered.

Owen’s eyes shot toward her. Okay, so he was alert. A good sign.

Then he smiled a wide, wide smile and reached toward her, grasping the air dumbly. “Zenaaaa Mhynnnnnt…”

“Oh no.” Mhynt pinched her snout.

“What’s wrong with him?” Zena asked, alarmed, as Owen giggled and tried to crawl toward her, only for him to fall back onto his bed.

“They had to use a special medicine to operate on him,” Mhynt explained to Zena. “The downside is for a few hours afterward, it leaves you a little… drunk.”

“That’s not how I imagined Owen drunk would be.”

“Not exactly drunk. Loopy. Silly.”

“What a strange side effect…”

“Guys,” Owen said, whispering loudly and with wide eyes. His reptilian pupils focused on them individually. “I’m a daddy.”

“That’s nice, Owen. Now go to sleep,” Mhynt said.

“Y-yes, Owen, you are,” Zena said. “You remember, Spice, Enet, and one of the spirits, don’t you?”

“No, no, no, no,” Owen explained, shaking his head. “I’m a new daddy…”

Zena and Mhynt squinted.

“Excuse me?” Mhynt asked.

“I had an egg.” Owen tapped his chest and closed his eyes, looking falsely serene. Zena was almost fooled, had it not been for his wobbly movements as he tried to sit up. She took the opportunity to gently press him back into bed.

“Owen, dear,” Zena said patiently, “males can’t have eggs.”

“Not with that attitude!” He pointed at the dark orb on the table.

“…Hm.” Mhynt nodded to herself. “I see.”

Don’t act like you understand! Zena glared at her. “Owen,” she pivoted, “was that responsible for you… passing out?”

“It was in my here,” Owen explained, tapping his chest and wincing. He kept tapping until Zena used a ribbon to gently, but firmly, stop him. “Right by my heart. I guess that was bad. It was in the me that was in Cipher Castle… uh-huh, and that was messing with my Perceive, too! It was all that! And he she is gonna hatch to be a beautiful baby them.”

“Interesting…” Mhynt hopped onto the table and knelt down to inspect the egg, which was larger than she was. “It’s certainly not a normal egg. The shell is made of some kind of… darkness.” She glanced seriously at Zena, then at Owen. “Alexander didn’t perform any strange experiments on you, did he?”

“Nope. I didn’t sleep. I was clever and faked sleeping. Even when I slept with Swampert.”

“You what?” they both asked.

Owen went back to tapping on his chest, so Zena gently placed his hands by his side. The Charizard, taking advantage of a long neck, lurched forward and licked her on the cheek. “Got youuu.” His tongue was still slightly out of his mouth.

Zena flushed and decided to let it slide. “…Mhynt, er, do you… know what it might be?”

“I know what Alexander’s energy feels like,” Mhynt said, “and it’s not his. The only other darkness we know about is ‘Diyem,’ so our best bet would be to ask him about it.”

“What do we do?” Zena asked.

Mhynt crossed her arms, staring it down like it would somehow give her the answer. Zena figured that they should ask Owen, too, when he was of… sound mind.

The Treecko sighed through her nostrils. “Stay here with him. I’ll fetch Diyem. What did you use to escape to Kilo?”

“Well, the rift in the sky… which is closed until Owen can restore the Tree…”

“Then a Dungeon rift is our next option,” Mhynt said. “…It would be faster to wait for Owen to recover. Hmhh. Fine. I’m going on some errands. Would you like anything to eat?”

“Oh, no, thank you. But… get something for Owen, just in case. I think the lack of spirits in his Guardian Orb is making him almost mortal again, not to mention whatever that dark egg did to him…”

“I’ll get something after asking the doctors.” Mhynt left a little hastily, and Zena could imagine a thousand reasons why.

She also knew she was the last person Mhynt would answer if she asked.

“…Is she gonna be okay?” Owen asked.

Zena wasn’t sure if he was lucid or if it was that obvious. “I think so. She just needs time. And… maybe someone else, who isn’t us, to talk to about it.”


The warmth of the sun was bittersweet. Spice felt just a tiny bit at home in those dark tunnels, but she also knew that she had a home on the surface. A proper home, and according to what Owen had said…

No. Not important right now. Instead, in her arms, she carried the tiny, delicate form of a Pokémon she’d only read about in stories. Mew, the Creator of the Common. The original progenitor of all mortals. Where Arceus was the god who had given rise to the pantheon, it was Mew who gave the pantheon its worshippers.

Was that same exact person in her arms, trembling, right now? What in the world happened to make this ultimate creator reduce herself to this?

Strangest of all, though, was the calm warmth that came from her gem. That urgent feeling of having to go, go, go and get her was finally gone. That Zygarde must have been very focused on saving her if it had managed to influence her thoughts in that way, but… it worked out.

The crater was steep near the end, but Spice managed to climb it. Brandon was waiting a fair distance from the crater’s edge, legs crossed and chatting with six other metallic figures. One of them, a Blaziken, pointed at her, and the other five disappeared into fire that returned to the Machoke’s metal body. The Blaziken lingered a little longer, but then disappeared, too.

“Hey,” Brandon greeted. “So, uh…”

“We need to see Xerneas, immediately.” Spice held the Mew forward, but then quickly pulled her back to her chest when Mew shifted in discomfort and seemed to sizzle. “I don’t know why but if she gets too far away from me, she starts… burning.”

“Yeah, that’s bad.” Brandon kicked up a huge metal board. They both climbed on and started flying away, Spice securing Mew against her chest once again. It felt like she was whispering something to the gem in her chest.

“Hey, you feeling alright?” Spice asked.

She said something again, but it was too soft.

“Mew?” Spice leaned her head down.

“I’m… sorry…”

Gods, her voice was so soft. What was she apologizing for?

Mew curled up even tighter and Spice decided not to press it for now.

Brandon had been flashing a few concerned looks.

“Do you know her?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Brandon replied. “You know how I worked directly under Arceus for a little bit?”


“Mew is his partner. Think of them like cosmic roommates. I was chosen a long time ago for some reason to be a protector of a piece of their power. Steel, in this case.”


“I guess I kinda see the point in both of their philosophies, but right now things sorta got turned sideways after this Dark Matter stuff. Before, the main issue was… a disagreement on what to do with this power, I guess. They couldn’t trust themselves with it, and it got scattered so nobody would risk having a majority of the divine power. Is… my guess.”

“Seems kind of strange,” Spice remarked.

“I mean, yeah. Life can be like that sometimes. But the more I think about it, now that this near-apocalypse happened, the more I wonder if there’s more to it after all… I think I’d want to know the truth when we get the chance.”

“The truth, huh?” Spice asked.

“Yeah. There’s been… a lot of secrecy floating around. Impacts the whole world. But…” Brandon glanced at Mew, whose eyes were closed. But her ears twitched now and then, suggesting she was listening. “I think that can wait.”

The rest of the flight went quietly, Spice occasionally looking down to inspect Mew, but finding no change in her state for better or worse. Once they flew over the caldera and into Kilo Village, they stopped by the Thousand Hearts to check where Xerneas was.

Apparently, he had taken up temporary residence in Yotta Outskirts, leading them to take another quick flight down the mountain and to Leo’s home village. Most of the area had been repaired since the random mutant attacks, and even the fields were starting to regrow some of their crops. It must have been a relief to Leo that the settlement had endured, unlike several others that still had refugees in Kilo Village.

“So, where do you think Xerneas will be?” Brandon asked as they went over the fields.

“That’s a joke, right?”

“Man, play along at least a little…”

It was obvious. One field was literally brighter than the others. Under the late afternoon sun, the plants glowed softly with prismatic light, and a small tree had sprouted overnight. Basking under it was the rainbow-horned Legend himself… though it was a little strange to see the god of death right next to him, preening feathers of ice. Also curious were two Kommo-o statues. No, not statues. They were moving.

“Xerneas!” Brandon shouted. “Urgent heal over here!”

“How urgent?” Xerneas said with a hint of annoyance, not even moving from his resting spot.

“It’s Mew! We got her from the Voidlands!”

But when Brandon simply said ‘Mew,’ Xerneas was already on his feet. It was the most responsive Spice had ever seen the grumpy god.

“Take Her here,” Xerneas said, horns aglow. Yveltal stumbled away and folded her wings, nodding.

“You rescued Her? How?” Yveltal asked. “I thought Owen was…”

“I just had to. Something was telling me to,” Spice said, holding the Mew out. “She starts dissolving if she stays away from me for long. You need to be fast.”

“This could hurt you,” Xerneas said, horns getting brighter. “I’ll… be careful at first.”

“Whatever, just heal her!”

Spice shut her eyes like it would help mask the pain. Even through her scaly eyelids, she could see the bright, prismatic lights being charged. Was that going to blast her away completely?

She braced even harder but refused to lower Mew. It had to be done to revive her. Maybe she could keep Mew at her feet instead, and then step away? No, that was… was that disrespectful? What were the customs that Mew put forth to follow? She never really read either Book…

On the other hand, if she was blasted away, maybe she’d awaken as who she was ‘supposed’ to be. That Charizard’s daughter. Maybe that would make things easier.

No, no. She couldn’t do that—she’d leave Leo behind, and Sugar, the whole family she’d become part of. Sure, by some Dungeon magic to warp their minds, but it wasn’t like she had hurt them—

“That should do,” Xerneas stated breathlessly.

“Eh?” Spice dared to open one eye.

Xerneas looked a little fatigued, but was putting up a front by staying upright. Meanwhile, Yveltal crept closer and tilted her head, inspecting the Mew in Spice’s hands.

Spice brought her close. “Mew?” She held her further away and she didn’t sizzle.

“I’ve revived Her,” Xerneas said. “I made Her compatible with the world of the living. A body to suit the spirit. But… that is all.” He shook her head. “I… cannot do more. She needs time on Her own to recover. At least a day, maybe even five.”

“Yeah, makes sense to me,” Brandon said, kicking a rock idly. “That was, uh… good work you did there, Xerneas. Thanks. She’s gonna be alright?”

“In time,” Xerneas confirmed. “You were wise to bring Her to me.”

“Yeah, good thinking, Spice,” Brandon said. “But that doesn’t answer how she got there in the first place… Was she kidnapped or something? And like, how?”

“Questions for when She is recovered,” Xerneas said, taking a seat next to Yveltal again. Apparently no longer able to keep up the façade, he slumped against Yveltal and closed his eyes.

Spice wondered if that was uncomfortably cold or not.

“…So… we’ll… take her to my place, I guess,” Brandon said. “See you. Spice?”

“Yeah. Ready to go. Take care.” The gods of life and death, lounging under a tree in the outskirts of civilization. The world really was coming to an end. She wondered what Arceus was doing. She scanned the horizon, but couldn’t see Destiny Tower.

“Hey, Brandon,” Spice said, “if I hand Mew off to you, can you drop me off in eastern Kilo?”

“Uh, the planet or the town?” Brandon asked.

“Kilo Village.”

“Sure. Why?”

“I want to track someone down.”


This was all kinds of wrong. A strange, twisting feeling was building in Spice’s chest. The gemstone lodged there was much cooler, now, after Mew had been rescued. After Brandon had dropped her off, she asked around for a few temporary addresses. Along the way, she found Leo, who had been waiting for her return. She tried to wave him off, but eventually apologized and explained everything to him. It didn’t seem to help a whole lot, but it did at least assuage his fears that she wouldn’t do it again. Presumably. Hopefully.

Then she explained why she’d come back so late in the day. “Owen said I need to find someone called Diyem. He apparently… has my memories, or something.”

“Oh… yes, I actually have the information about that, too. I know where to go.” Leo stared at her, gravely. “But do you want this?”

“I don’t know!” Spice blurted. “But… it’s gonna bug me for the rest of my life if I don’t at least… find out, right? There’s no harm in hearing about ‘who I used to be’ if I don’t actually lose who I am now, right?”

Leo had a strange look between concerned and bewildered. And Spice couldn’t blame him. In some ways, she was bewildered with herself, too. All her life, as much as she tried to ignore it, that empty feeling of not knowing who she really was had eaten away at her. Now, with the opportunity to find out, she was shying away—not because she was worried about it at all, because she was sure a daughter of a Heart wouldn’t be someone terrible if Owen wanted to see her again—but because she wondered how she’d compare.

These thoughts raced through her mind as they walked down the streets, following a scribbled set of directions to a temporary housing district. They were all hastily built structures that were made solely to house the total deluge of refugees, and most lacked basic facilities. There were communal buildings just down the road to take care of the rest until they could find their feet.

Would she fade? Forget about Sugar, Leo, her mother Anise, her father Whystle, would they all become meaningless if she remembered her old bonds?

Leo put a hand on her shoulder, startling her. The Delphox gave her a concerned look.

“I’m fine,” Spice said. “Just… anxious.”

“I would be,” Leo replied. “Are you sure you want to do this? You made a life for yourself. What if…”

“But it’s bugging me. I spent all my life, well, my current life living like this and wondering what I was trying to cover up. So, I need to do this.”

She said this mostly to herself, trying to keep steady on the path. The path that she’d forgotten about. The one that drove her to conjure a false life for herself with the Void’s energy. Brainwashing her own, new family to think they’d always had her around.

Sugar still didn’t know. Would she ever know? Could she ever ask her about it… ever tell her mother? No. No no no she couldn’t do that, she couldn’t expose the lie. In fact, it wasn’t a lie. She was real. Spice. Spice was all real.

Spice swore when Leo held her shoulder again, this time firmer. “What?” she spat.

But then she realized that Leo had a new flavor of concern in his eyes.

“If you aren’t ready, it’s okay,” Leo said. “If you’re scared… I doubt Owen would force it out of you. And if he tries, well, I’ll fight to keep you away.”

“He has an air of someone a lot stronger than you,” Spice said.

“Hmph, well, I was stronger when we were dating,” Leo muttered. “I’m sure I kept up.”

“You keep telling yourself that.”

Spice could remember that crazy look in the Charizard’s eyes. He was restraining himself from begging, but Spice saw it in how he spoke and behaved. He longed so badly to see his daughter again, and it was her, yet not her. If she refused this, would it be forced out of her anyway?

Or was it just inevitable?

Was there someone, right that moment, trying to claw themselves out of Spice’s body? Tear her mind apart to replace her with what had been sealed away? What would happen to “her” when that emerged? Or would she just… be gone? Like none of it ever mattered?

What happened to a Void Shadow when they were purified?

“You don’t have to,” Leo said. “When he left… I could tell that, for some reason, he wouldn’t force anything on you.”


“If… you’re scared. It’s for a reason, right?”


“Spice… this is a very big decision. Bigger than most people could ever dream of. If you aren’t ready…”

“Yeah… I… No. No, please… maybe, er…” She couldn’t stop thinking about this Charizard she barely knew.

“May I help you?”

Spice stiffened and searched for the voice’s source, not thinking to look down until he spoke again.


“Another one?” Spice mumbled.

“Diyem,” greeted the Charmander. Spice noticed the black flame and tensed. “So, you must be Remi…”


“Mm.” Diyem nodded. “A new identity for yourself to replace the one you lost, then. The fact that you were able to do this at all and retain your sanity… yes. You would be able to do that, wouldn’t you? Perhaps it takes all of your inner light to do so… but you have.”

“No riddles. Tell me exactly what that means, now.” Spice kept a strong tone in her voice, but at this point it felt like she was staring death in the face.

“Your ‘light’ is a blessing passed down by Owen and your former life’s mother, Mhynt. It is the light of Necrozma, which can counteract the powers I possess, which include turning people into Void Shadows and sealing their memories. I believe the part about replacing your old identity is… something you are already familiar with.”

Spice tensed, nodding. “…Fine. But since you’re the one who took my memories away… you can also give them back. Right?”

Diyem nodded. “But you’re afraid.”

“What will happen to me?”

“You will be fine,” Diyem replied. “Your current memories are just as weighty as your old ones. Owen has a lot of experience with this sort of thing.

To that, Leo hummed loudly. “I don’t know if fine is correct. He seems very different from before, but there are similarities, and, to be honest, when I talked with him just a little bit after… it all seemed scattered. Calling it fine is a little hard for me to agree with. But, er, Spice, you only have… the two lives to worry about, so that shouldn’t be so bad. Right? From what I’d gathered with Owen, he… had more.”

His uncertainty did Spice no favors. “Just a little,” she finally said. “It’s gonna drive me crazy not knowing anything. But you’ll be around, right? For more?”

“Fine,” Diyem said, clearly annoyed. The little Charmander approached and gestured for Spice to get down. She kneeled and lowered her head, figuring if it had to do with her mind then it would need him to touch her head.

She saw his feet, and he reached out, only a few inches from the top of her head. He was deep in concentration. His toe claws curled. She didn’t like the smell he had, like stale brimstone. She wasn’t even sure if that was possible.

“I need you to work with me, here,” Diyem murmured.


“Focus… relax. You’re going to feel something on your forehead. Conceptually, try to let it in. Like answering someone’s telepathic call.”

That was a little too abstract for her liking, but she tried. At first, it felt like she was coming down with a slight fever, but that subsided in favor of a dull pressure on her forehead. She tried to answer this call, like sending a thought to a Psychic.

And suddenly, Spice was not standing in front of them. She was on her side, and her body was much smaller. It was nighttime. The dark scared her, but there was a gentle orange glow in the room, coming from a warm body to her left. A Charizard. To her right was a strange creature with huge wings colored like the stars. There was a simple comfort in the air, but a lingering, longing, wistfulness, too. It was a distant sadness, like it wasn’t truly there, only implanted in the memory because she was thinking back.

And then the memory ended. Spice gasped and stumbled back. Diyem, too, winced, and was holding his hand like it had been bitten.

“Sorry, did—did I do that?” Spice asked.

“No,” Diyem muttered. “I should be the one to apologize. I gave you false hope; I am not able to unlock any of your memories.” Diyem grumbled to himself, rubbing his wrist. “It was not me who sealed them after all.”

“What?” Leo whispered.

“Just add it to another thing to deal with Alexander over,” Diyem said.

“Alexander?” Spice repeated, that single name bothering her. She couldn’t place why, once again. A frustrating itch in her mind.

“…Spice,” Leo said, holding her shoulder. “Why are you crying?”

“What?” Spice touched her cheeks and was stunned at the wetness. “I…”

“Did… did you remember something?”

“Impossible,” Diyem dismissed. “In any case, I’m leaving. Between Spice and Enet, it seems neither of them had their memories sealed due to me.” He wandered off. “We can figure out more of this later when the actual threat has been dealt with.”

As he left, though, Leo looked at her again. “Spice? Did you remember something?”

“No, just… some stress, maybe,” Spice replied. “…I’ll tell you later. And… probably Owen, too.”

She could already imagine Owen’s look with strange clarity, like a feral begging for scraps.

“You’ll be okay?” Leo asked.

She tried to answer but her throat locked up.

She must have had a panicked look because he held her shoulders with bold hands. “Hey, hey.”

“I’m—I’m fine.” Spice waved him off. “I’m gonna stay at Sugar’s tonight. You just… go. Alright?”

“Spice…” Leo didn’t let go, so Spice pulled away.

Regretting it seconds later, she leaned against him. “…Sorry,” Spice murmured. “I have a lot of thinking to do. When you’re done with work… come to Sugar’s. I’ll be there.”


Spice had one more thing she wanted to do first. Wandering and lost, she sucked in a breath and resolved to go someplace she’d been avoiding ever since her return. Ever since the world had ended.

So, with only a few kilos of daylight left in the day, Spice approached Sugar’s work. Sugar and Spice, named after the sisters they had never actually been.

Gods, what would she say? How could she say it? It would all be so… much.

But she worked up the courage to finally enter. And at the counter was Sugar, offering a friendly but nervous smile.

“Spice,” she greeted. “Hey! You made back from Heart stuff?”

“Yeah. Heart stuff. Sorry I haven’t… come here all that often.”

“Oh, it’s fine. How have you been? Get any… sleep… yet?”

“Still don’t need to,” Spice replied. “Thanks, though. I’m feeling better. Hey, you’re about to close, right?”

“Well, I am… yes…”

“Can we… talk?”

“Sure. Not too long before closing… Nobody’s here… Let’s talk!” The Salazzle gestured to one of the tables, taking a seat.

Spice followed and brought her claws together. She was still so self-conscious of how she appeared, despite how normal it looked in her eyes. She was a monster to them. And soon, when she confessed… she would look like a monster in many more ways.

“I have a confession,” Spice said. “It’s about… my place in the family.”

“Your place,” Sugar said nervously. “What do you mean?”

“…About… being your sister.” Spice could already see how tense she’d become. Completely silent, holding her breath. Spice had to get it over with. Rip off all bandages and bindings at once. It would hurt but then it would be over. “‘Spice’ never existed. You never had a sister, I… made it up.”

And to this, Sugar looked surprised. Spice wasn’t sure why. Obviously, she was expecting something, right? Yet she was surprised?

“What?” Spice asked.

“That’s… silly. Spice and I grew up—I mean, you and I grew up together!”

“Y-yeah, we did. You did. But I… I was… just being a sister. That’s all. I mean… what I mean is, er, no, that’s not right.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Sugar said. “You grew up with us. How are you not ‘real?’”

“It… it was luck. Back when Mom lived in the South, back before Anam annexed everything. Back before Dungeons were blessed and made safer. I was… a wraith. A very special wraith that could leave Dungeons, and… had a few other little perks. Dungeons that aren’t blessed can mess with mortal minds if they aren’t careful, and if someone knows how to do it. Which… I did.”

“Mess with minds?” Sugar whispered.

“I can’t do it now! Not—I mean, not without a Dungeon where… Look, I can’t do it anymore. I only did it for one specific thing. Your family… wandered into a Dungeon for some reason. I think to escape from bandits. And I… took the opportunity. I saw a mother, a father, and a daughter, and… and I wanted in.”

At this point, Sugar was so stunned that she only watched her in agape silence.

“So, I… messed with their heads a little. Made them think they had twins. And… that was it. That’s what I did.”

More silence. A few Pokémon had walked past the entrance, but weren’t paying attention to their conversation. They only got a few side-eyes from bystanders seeing a wraith chatting it up in a shop.

Spice looked at her claws again. “I’m sorry I kept it up for so long,” she said. “I… don’t know why I did it either. I don’t remember my past. Just that I wanted a family. And I…”

“Why didn’t you kill me?”

“What?” Spice squinted, looking up. Sugar had a mixture of bewilderment and skepticism in her eyes.

“Killed me,” Sugar said. “Just took me out of the picture and replaced me. We were twins… You could have gotten away with it.”

“Sugar, that’s awful!” Spice chided.

“A-and aren’t wraiths awful?” Sugar countered shakily. “I don’t understand! Why are you telling me this?!”

“I just… had to… I wanted to be in a family, I didn’t want to take it away from others!”

“Then—then this doesn’t change anything!” Sugar defended. “Even if it was by some trick, you still lived as my sister for… for all those years, and you obviously cared, right? You cared?”

“I did—and I do! Just… things are coming up now, and I had to… tell you.”

“What came up?” Sugar asked.

“My—” And just then, Spice locked up. So many tiny little thoughts and doubts paralyzed her. Her past life. She’d already told Sugar that ‘Spice’ wasn’t real, and now she was going to finalize why. This whole conjuration of a family to fill the void of her forgotten past. The illusion was going to evaporate right in front of Sugar’s eyes.

No. No, she couldn’t do that.

“My conscience,” Spice said hollowly. “When Dark Matter was defeated, a… small part of my conscience returned. The part that felt bad about what I did. I just had to get it out.”

“Oh…” Sugar winced. “Well, I… that…”

The wind blew. The final traces of twilight crawled across town.

“I’m sorry,” Sugar said. “This is an awful lot…”

“Yeah…” And she hadn’t even told the whole story.

“But you’re still my sister,” Sugar said. “Does Mom know? Dad?”

“You’re the first. Er, aside from Leo…”

“Of course you’d tell him first,” Sugar said with a forced, teasing smile. But then her expression grew solemn. “…I… need time. But, I love you, Spice. That hasn’t changed, okay? It just… is something I need time to digest.”

“Can’t blame you there.” Spice sighed. “Alright. Thank you. Sorry for dropping that… Oh, and… can I stay at your place tonight? Need to sort my head and…”

“Of course, of course.”

“Um, hello?”

A Hydreigon floated at the front. He nervously brought up his left head in a wave. Spice felt a horrid pang of something in her gut and she wasn’t able to discern the full emotion.

“Oh! Welcome!” Sugar sprang up from the table.

“I hope I’m not too late…”

“Not at all! Please, did you want to order anything?”

As the Hydreigon made his orders, Spice took some time to calm her nerves. She couldn’t find it in her to tell Sugar the whole truth. It gnawed at her. It would continue to gnaw at her. Maybe if she remembered everything, she wouldn’t care anymore. But then… would ‘she’ ever get the chance to say goodbye?

She had to work up the courage some other time.

Hydreigon was stealing a few nervous glances her way. Spice waved, just as awkward.

“Oh, that’s my sister, Spice!” Sugar explained. “She’s one of the Thousand Hearts.”

“Oh, dear! I’m sorry if I was staring.” Hydreigon shook his heads in unison.

“It’s alright. Used to it. Not every day you see a wraith in town. Or ever.”

“Y-yes. I’m sorry, again, truly. If you’re a Heart, you must be good.”

“Mmh.” She was beginning to wonder why Anam spared her. Maybe he knew, somehow…

“Y-you know, my son is actually in the Hearts as well,” Hydreigon said.

“Oh, really?” Sugar asked as she bagged his picks.

“Yes! Yes, actually, ah, that’s why I’m here. He loves this place. A bit of a regular, always drawn to it, so I had to get some of the treats for when he returned.”

“Aw, returned? Off on a mission?”

Spice frowned, thoughtful.

“Yes,” Hydreigon said. “A-actually, he’s likely in the Voidlands now. Ah, but not in danger! I’m sure. He’s… he’s certainly going to return safely…”

“Excuse m—” By the gods it was his father.

Did that mean this was her grandfather?

Why did she have the feeling that she recognized that Hydreigon from somewhere?

“Huh. That’s interesting—hey, actually. Have we met before? You seem familiar.”

Hydreigon shook his head. “Sorry, but I’m certain I’d remember someone like you. Oh, dear, was that offensive?”

“Your son… is Owen, right?”

“Oh! So, you know him?” Like a switch, Hydreigon was beaming. He suddenly looked so much more comfortable. “Yes, my son is Owen. The most recent Heart, I think, actually. He’s so happy to be one, even if his recent work has been quite, err, out of scope. Surely, they’ll give him a break one day…”

“Yeah… I was on a mission with him once to a big forest fire, actually. You know, Fire crew.”

“Ohh, I think I remember something like that a year or so ago…”

“That’s the one.” How small the world was. “What’s your name?”

“Ah, Alex.”

Spice felt like she’d been dunked in ice. It ran down her spine and all the way to the tip of her tail.

“Er… are you okay?” Alex asked.

“Oh, uh, sorry. Just thinking. Southern name, huh?”

Alex bobbed his head nervously. “Quite a long time ago.”

“Hey, it’s alright. I’m Southern, too. And besides, the culture spread around a little, last few generations. Who knows who’s really Southern anymore, y’know?”

“A-aha, yes… yes…” Alex continued to drift nervously.

“And here you are,” Sugar said, handing over Alex’s sweets.

“Oh, thank you so much.” Alex graciously tucked it away in a large satchel around his neck.

“Hey, one last question?”


She gathered up the last of her nerve. “Do you… know the name Remi?”

It was for only a flash, but there was a deep, deep terror in Alex’s eyes. Spice had no idea why, but it disappeared a moment later, and he shook his head. “Sorry, er, no. Anyway, I don’t want to hold up closing time, ah, goodbye.” He bobbed again and flew out.

“…Well, that was an odd question,” Sugar said, frowning at Spice. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” Spice said. “Sorry. Was just rolling with a hunch.” She stood up. “Here, I’ll help you close out…”

That look of terror etched itself in Spice’s mind. He knew who she was. He had to.

What bothered her was how frightened he looked for it. As her eyes trailed to the exit, where Alex had flown high into the sky, Spice wondered what secrets he might have known about her past…

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, saw that HoC was up for offsite Review Tag on Thousand Roads, so Imma just take the opportunity to just slide right in and belt out a speedy review. Since hey, it's not as if I'd run out of material if I came back to this story during that site's Review Blitz:

Chapter 6

“Ugh, what a weird dream,” Owen mumbled. He rubbed his eyes; he still ached. He must have jumped improperly to avoid that Psychic attack and bruised himself. Wait. If he ached, then that wasn’t a dream, was it? Owen chanted to himself, “Not crazy. Not crazy. Not crazy.”

Owen you have bruises on your body. You can admit that that all happened already.

Owen: "I-I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this! I was... uh... sleepwalking! Y-Yes, that must've been it!"

“Eh?” Gahi said, peeking out from his sand pit. “What’re yeh mumblin’?”

“N-nothing,” Owen said. “I think I just had a weird dream. That’s all.”

I like how Owen from his tone of voice doesn't really believe this himself. I kinda wonder if this particular moment would've benefitted from Owen wrestling a bit in his mind in the narration before answering Gahi though since something about his line feels like it was meant to come after a pause, but the back to back dialogue gives off a very "prompt" vibe.

“Well, have ‘em some other night,” Gahi said. The Trapinch clicked his jaws. “…I don’t smell breakfast.”

“Does Rhys usually make it?”

“Yeah. Unless he made something cold that doesn’t smell. Usually if we’re running behind er something…”

Owen: "Does Rhys normally do this, or...?" .-.
Gahi: "Would you have expected me to point this out if it was normal?"

The kitchen had food on the table—a simple fruit salad—and a note from Rhys saying that he had gone to speak with Anam, and to stay at home until he returned. “That glowing stuff must be real urgent…”

[ ]

“Wait!” Owen said. “That’s right! There was an Espurr that was trying to take the orb last night! I remember!”


I kinda wonder if this would've been better served by getting into Owen's head and showing the almonds activating internally over "... Wait a minute, that wasn't a dream!" before he pipes up.

Dunno, maybe I'm overthinking things a bit there, but this is another one of those moments where things weirdly read faster than I think they're intended to.

“What’s going on?” Demitri said. “Are you talking about last night? I think I had a dream of Rhys whisper-yelling. He sounded really angry.”

Yeah, another benefit of slowing down and dropping in "gears turning in Owen's head" moments is that you can establish what the state of Team Alloy's members are when Owen wakes up in description, since at first, I thought it was just him and Gahi awake, but the text doesn't explicitly say one way or another.

Owen nodded incessantly, the memories of the night before flooding back, replaying in his head multiple times. “Last night, while you guys were asleep, I think I woke up and saw a weird Pokémon enter Rhys’ room. She tried to, like, get the glowing orb while Rhys was asleep!”

[ ]

“Did she?”

“No, but she nearly twisted me to shreds with a crazy-strong Psychic attack. I think it was even stronger than Nevren’s!”

Can't really get a feel for how Demitri is meant to react right here to Owen's statement and if he's supposed to be "wait, huh?", something more alarmed, or something else. Also, if Demitri is underreacting relative to Owen's expectations, it's a handy way to lean into that "I'm not crazy, I'm not crazy, I know what I saw, okay?!" thing he had going on towards the beginning of this scene.

“How d’you know how strong Nevren’s is?” Gahi said.

[ ]

“Oh, um—” Owen rubbed the back of his head. “Well, it was really strong in my dream…”

And here would be a decent spot for a brief "beat" moment. Since this is technically two separate incidents of "wait, did that actually happen?" for Owen and the "oh right" moment would likely fluster him a bit, enough so that it might make sense to explicitly depict that and whatever's going on in his head as a third-person limited perspective story.

“Wait, back up,” Demitri said. “An Espurr? That isn’t even fully evolved. Why is it so strong?”

Owen: "... It was a late evolver like us? Look, the point is that there really was an Espurr trying to steal that freaky orb, okay?!"

“The weird thing about that is that she kinda glowed, too. The same way the orb did, and the cave did.” And the mushrooms did…

A sudden silence filled the kitchen. Realization washed over them.

He left the orb alone!” Owen said. “Right? Did he?”

... Wait, is the 'He' supposed to be Rhys or the Espurr? Since I'm tripping up a bit as to who the pronoun is meant to refer to.

Forgetting about breakfast, the quartet rushed into Rhys’ room. It was the first time that Owen got a good look at it in the sunlight that bled into the shallow cave. There was a simple bed of leaves to the left corner of the room, and a solid stone desk to the right. There was a strange stash of Pecha Berries under the desk. Owen saw a small piece of parchment lodged inside the pile of berries in the shape of a heart. At first, Owen thought it was from Anam and his saccharine taste in themed shapes, but somehow, that didn’t feel correct.

I mean, even if it's not from Anam, I suspect that it's a standardized TH letterhead fit to specs Anam designed. Since... yeah, heart-shaped parchment is a really specific design for a letterhead that feels very "Anam" to settle on.

The shelves were lined with artifacts both shiny and dusty. Owen saw a number of strange items on the three shelves that lined the cave’s far wall in a half-circle. He only recognized a few of them: an Everstone in the far right, which Owen subconsciously inched away from; something that looked like a prototype Badge, lumpy and bronze; something that looked like one of Nevren’s zany inventions, some metallic bracelet; and what looked like an old, faded edition of the Book of Mew.

Wait, is Owen supposed to know what a 'prototype Badge' looks like? Since I actually don't recall if the story ever mentioned what those were or what they did.

Though 'Book of Mew', huh? Guessing that's a religious text in this setting since Mew does have that whole "progenitor of Pokémon" lore from Gen 1 to it.

The final item gave Owen pause. “Huh. Didn’t peg Rhys as a Mew sort of person,” he mumbled under his breath. “Seemed more like the Arceus type.” His eyes continued to trail along the other books lining the shelves. There was even a book that didn’t seem to have text on it at all.

Those two get into pissing matches in this setting, don't they? Since if they're being mentioned in distinct breaths where Pokémon are expected to hold one or the other as patrons specifically...

Owen: "... Wait a minute? Aren't Mew normally wildcards in stories like ours? For a guy who was all gung ho on discipline and meditation like Rhys seemed to be, that... makes me wonder if I should be worried right now."

And there it was—perhaps he had forgotten about the orb in his rush to see Anam. For whatever reason, the orb was there, its glow significantly fainter against the morning sun peering through the cave’s entrance.

Considering how Rhys was dead set on keeping you from even being in the same room as this thing normally, I'm pretty sure that you should be a lot more uneasy at the moment, Owen.

Owen squinted, suspicious. Rhys wasn’t the sort to be careless. Demitri mentioned an argument, perhaps after he had been put to sleep. Arguing with who? The mist? The orb itself? Maybe Owen wasn’t the only crazy one in the family.

Wow, and here I thought Flame from Rebirth was credulous as a Char. Owen's definitely going out of his way to set a new benchmark, even if I suspect that some of this is conscious resistance to accepting that the crazy-sounding things going on are really happening.

This orb must have been there intentionally. That voice—was it the mist?—told Owen to touch the orb. But should he listen to that mist, or to Rhys?

I mean, I'm pretty sure I know who he's going to listen to, and I'm pretty sure it's not Rhys.

And sometimes, Rhys is an idiot, Owen recalled.

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi wandered the room, looking for a way up. Mispy’s vines were too short to reach on their own, and it was hard to pick someone like her up to begin with. She always did seem heavier, or perhaps denser, than the average Chikorita—though, Owen had a feeling if he said that aloud, he’d face the wrath of her Solar Beam.

Mispy's part-Steel or something like that, isn't she? Though I'd recommend hacking this paragraph up into two, since Owen's recollection of what he was told in his """dream""" feels pretty distinct from the rest.

“But it’s still so high…” Demitri finally said. Vines wrapped around his abdomen. “N-no way! I can’t do it!” he protested, legs shaking.

“Aw, c’mon, it’s barely that high,” Gahi said.

“I just can’t do it. Demitri shook his head, little feet trembling in the air. “I—I mean, it’s… it’s just too high up!”

Now I'm morbidly curious as to what would happen if Demitri managed to get himself stuck in a tree. Since I know that that looks like with a male Axew of my own, and somehow I get the vibe from Demitri that while he'd probably be a bit more dignified, it wouldn't be that different.

Mispy sighed. Even if she tried, her Chikorita-strength vines weren’t quite enough to lift an Axew like Demitri. But, Owen… Mispy eyed Owen, sizing him up.

“What?” the Charmander asked.

Mispy brought two vines forward, wrapping around him.

“U-uhh—personal space, please?”


Mispy lifted Owen up. “Hmm. Half.” She glanced at Demitri. She had a much easier time lifting Owen in the air. This just might work. He was even lighter than Gahi—and easier to hold, too.

“Well, ain’t that something,” Gahi said. “Owen, you were the piece we needed, eh? Okay. Let’s go and lift ‘im up!”

I actually did a double-take at this since I wasn't sure what was going on, though I'm guessing Team Alloy is on the "check out the Orb" train there. I kinda wonder if it could've been beaten over the reader's heads harder since I didn't realize that they also saw the orb and wanted to see it themselves since they never explicitly say anything to the effect to express interest in it and the one thing that does that at the moment is a single sentence saying that they looked for a way up.

Mispy nodded, but then nodded at Demitri. He went up to the wall and held his tiny arms against it; Gahi got behind Mispy and pushed his head beneath her. Using Gahi’s front as a platform, she climbed onto Demitri’s back, awkwardly maneuvering until her chest wrapped around his head.

Oh hey, they're making an Adventure Squad-style tower. :V

[ ]

“W-w-wait!” Owen said. “Wait! What are we doing? M-move slower!”

Was this it? He didn’t expect his wish to touch the sphere would be granted in this way. He had been mapping the room in his head, looking for shelves to hop and Rhys’ various knickknacks and books to use as footholds. Owen normally wouldn’t disrespect a book by using it as a stepping stone, but perhaps this time would have been a necessary evil.

I didn't get the vibe that Owen was moving at all, it might've made sense to either drop in an additional paragraph mentioning Mispy is moving him around, or add it as an extension to the last paragraph of the prior block.

Though would recommend hacking Owen's dialogue off from the rest of the paragraph here.

“We’re gonna grab that orb and take a look at it!” Gahi said.


[ ]

“O-oh, okay. But—but it wasn’t my idea, okay?! I need to make a good first impression with Rhys, and I don’t want him thinking I’m some—some delinquent!”

“With a vocabulary like that, I ain’t gonna feel too worried ‘bout that,” Gahi said.

“And with a vocabulary like yours,” Demitri said, “Rhys will probably think it was your idea.”

Another bit where showing some description of this moment / the stuff in Owen's head probably would've been a nice addition. Especially since this is basically a "whelp, no turning back now" moment for him that he seems to be getting cold feet over from his dialogue.

Gahi: "How's that not the definition of stereotyping?!" >.<
Demitri: "Look, it's not our fault that your dialogue reads like Huck Finn sometimes, and he wasn't exactly Mr. Straight and Narrow in his book."
Owen: "... Are we supposed to know about that book? Though uh... right, I was supposed to touch the orb, huh?" ^^;

Owen hoped that his parents wouldn’t be upset if they found out. But then again—they didn’t even show up for his acceptance of the Heart position! Maybe a little rebellion was warranted. Yeah, that was a good excuse.

Oh yeah, somebody sounds totally convinced right about now.

Owen was at eye-level with the orb. Up close, it seemed bigger—he wouldn’t be able to hold it with just one of his tiny hands. He’d need to grab it by both sides; it was almost half the size of his head. He saw little, flowing lights swirling inside the pale, green sphere.

Just a little more, Mispy!” Owen said. “I can totally get it!”

Rhys is going to walk in on them in 5 seconds, isn't he?

Mispy obliged, straining her vines. “Almost?!” She adjusted her vines lower to push him just a bit higher.

“N-not too low, Mispy!” Owen squeaked. “S-sorry!”

[ ]

“Almost… got it…!”

Owen took a break to let Mispy drift him closer, relaxing his arms. Then, he reached out one last time, feeling that Mispy was at her limit. He knew it, now—he could grab the orb! Owen reached out.

Okay, I—”


Feels like something is kinda missing before the "Almost... got it...!" moment, but maybe that's just my bias for scenes that are visualization-friendly speaking. Since it feels like it'd be a relatively easy way to build up some suspense about what's going to happen.

Though speaking of which, let's go ahead and see how much of a disaster this is going to be, huh?

The Charmander went completely limp; his arms fell forward, the orb still in his hands. Mispy stumbled from the dead weight.

“O-Owen? Is it heavy?” Demitri asked, unable to look up.

The flame on Owen’s tail went out.
Well then. I mean, I was expecting it to blow up the room, but I see the orb didn't disappoint there.

“Hrrmmnnn, what a mess,” Rhys muttered, walking through town at a brisk pace.

His bag hung around his shoulder, the bottom bumping against the spike on his chest. He glanced down inside; he had a few items, along with a cloth wrapped around a large sphere, glowing faintly. He scanned the immediate area. Business as usual for most of the Hearts. Missions, missions, and more missions. He spotted an Aerodactyl grumbling while posting mission statements on the bulletin board.

Ohai, Jerry. How's Community Service life as a Broken Heart treating you?

“Ahh, Rhys!” Nevren called.

The fur on Rhys’ body bristled. He walked without acknowledging the Alakazam.

“Now, Rhys, that’s no way to greet me,” Nevren said. “What are you doing here? You don’t often come to Kilo Village unless there is a ceremony.”

He looked at the bag. [ ]

…It’s not exactly a good idea,” he said, “ to be carrying that around right now, don’t you think?”
IMO, Nevren's line here would likely read more organic if you hacked it up into pieces and showed him
at Rhys with his bag in a bit more detail or something like that.

“I will take my chances.”

“Are you sure?” Nevren tilted his head. “Rim might try to take it from you in broad daylight. Do not think a crowd will discourage her. The Hunters have been getting antsy lately.”

Oh, so Rim is that Espurr from the end of last chapter, huh?

“And what will she do if she sees me? Glare angrily at my feet?”

“Now, Rhys, that was uncalled for.” Rhys clutched at the bag.

“…She entered our home yesterday.”



[ ]

“I do not want her to endanger my students,” he said. “I would rather take it with me while speaking with Anam.”

Yeah, funny story about that, Rhys. Though this might've benefitted from dropping in a moment of "Nevren, sod off" body language from Rhys here. Especially if this scene is meant to be written from his perspective.


“Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Rhys made a motion to walk past Nevren, hesitating briefly, as if knowing that Nevren would say something. Yet, when he didn’t, he continued past him.

Nevren watched Rhys walk. “Has Elder talked with you about any of this?”

Wait, Elder is a name of a person and not a title in this story? Though looks like Rhys was correct in his anticipation, just slightly delayed.

Rhys hesitated, looking down at his bag. “Of course we talk.”


“…Where are you going, anyway?” Rhys said, looking back.

... That's a good question, honestly. And what on earth is in your bag right now such that you think that the Orb on your shelf at home is in it?

“Ah, well. I was sent on a mission to where Owen had gone the day prior. I need to take care of one of the mutant sightings there before anybody else gets hurt; it was already designated as a restricted zone until further notice. Well, I plan to give that further notice.”

Oh, so those ghost things were mutants after all. Probably. Maybe. Assuming that Rhys isn't talking about where Nevren almost murdered Owen out of existence.

“Ah.” Rhys hummed, glancing down at his bag, then at Nevren. “Will you need help?”

[ ]

“Not at all. This will be trivial. Carry on with your duties so you may return home with that Orb, yes?”

[ ]

“Mrm. Very well.” Rhys continued into the office, and Nevren headed out of the Heart HQ.

This also seems like a spot where some more description would've probably been warranted, especially if you're trying to give any hints or red herrings about Rhys and Nevren to your readers.

Though I just realized that for a scene written from Rhys' PoV, we're not seeing an awful lot of what's going on in his head. Is that a deliberate choice by virtue of Rhys' inner workings being a spoiler minefield? Or is that an artifact of early installment weirdness?

The entryway, past the main, heart-shaped exterior, was a building of stone and wood, painted in various shades of pink, red, and purple. Pathways on the ground were painted in a dark violet to indicate which way to go in the main lobby; the walls were a soft, invigorating red, with white stripes separating the red from the purple and other colors. The ceiling was pink, and the upper half of the walls shared the same color. They were all solid colors with no real pattern, except for some floral designs lining where the colors changed.

The color scheme disgusted Rhys, but he didn’t have the heart to berate Anam for his taste in décor.

Not least of all, since I'm pretty sure that doesn't end well for the Pokémon that do from what I vaguely remember of Anam's portrayal in the GL crossover.

To Rhys’ left was a stairway into the in-house dorms, where Pokémon that preferred to live directly inside of Kilo Village slept. To the right was where official business took place, such as meetings, private assemblies, and administrative work. Rhys entered the right stairway. There were very few Pokémon in the Heart during this time of day. With the morning missions taken and afternoon missions still unprocessed, the boards were being cleared off by the disgruntled Aerodactyl, muttering something about Solar Beams.

... Wait, didn't Rhys see Jerry working outside earlier? Or was the earlier description meant to indicate that Rhys had been at Heart HQ earlier in the day, left, and now he's back?

It was dark in the hall, and then brighter at the exit. The colors were the same, and Rhys generally didn’t care for Anam’s style. But he was the boss. The Lucario sighed to himself, fidgeting with his bag.

... Wait, so how many decisions does Anam get to make in and around Kilo Village by fiat anyways? Since if Rhys' opinion here isn't exactly rare, that has some implications for how on earth KV is being run such that nobody's able to do anything about redecorating the HQ that by their standards is really gaudy and tacky.

A Decidueye emerged from the floor in a black mist—not a normal entrance for his kind, but something that the Lucario was accustomed to, specifically for the second-in-command. “Rhys,” James said. “Is this about the recent sighting?”

“Calm Water Lake? Somewhat. Where is Anam?”

Oh, so it was about the ghosts they ran into.

“He is in his quarters.” He motioned behind him with a wing. “I will see you there.” He sank into the ground again in a cloud of ominous, black smoke.

Totally normal thing for a Decidueye to do there. /s

Goodra Anam’s quarters was at the very edge of the building, at the back and center of the Heart. He was staring at a large map of the world on the front wall, above the entryway. Due to Anam’s size, it wasn’t easy to see the rest of his room. However, the gentle, strange, sweet smell associated with the Goodra permeated the atmosphere. It was like he bathed in Pecha juice.

inb4 Rhys has to fight back gagging every time he comes to this place.

“Oh, hi, Rhys!” Anam said, waving. “I was just looking at the map.”

Rhys entered and turned around, looking with him. The map was ancient and hand-drawn. Much better copies existed of the world, but this was Anam’s personal copy. The original copy, apparently, complete with dried slime and illegible scribbles in the empty spaces. Kilo Village, and by extension Kilo Mountain, was at the center of this map, displaying a largely circular country in the middle of an ocean on all sides.

I see that KV follows the Cradle and Etherium's school of world design of "stuff in the middle and a whole lot of functional bupkis all around it". Even if I suspect that there's still more floating around out there since I remember the Heart motto distinctly mentioning worlds plural.

“…Calm Water Lake,” Rhys said, pointing to the northeastern river that fed into the reservoir. “We always suspected an orb would be hidden there. But we didn’t find one, last we checked.”

“We assumed it was a false lead,” James said. “Previous signs lasted only for a short while, after all. But it happened again, and this time we have actual witnesses to prove it.”

“Not good.” Rhys sighed. “They might be taken by the Hunters… But perhaps we should also investigate.”

Filing that one away since: A: Pretty sure that's not slang for Rescue/Exploration Team members in this setting, B: Pretty sure we're going to be hearing that term a lot in the coming chapters.

“There were sightings of a Torkoal entering the lake,” James said. “I assume you know him, Rhys?”

Rhys looked away from the map and toward the ground.

Yes, I’m sure that Elder attempted to speak with whoever held the orb. Anam… I actually wanted to tell you about some extra information.”

He paused to make sure he had their attention. [ ]

It’s very likely that it is the Water Orb—my students explored it, unannounced.”

I would explode Rhys' line there into a few separate chunks there, though while it was kinda obvious in short order, this basically confirms that Rhys is managing to keep (at least some of) his memories across Team Alloy's mind wipes. Since this is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that exactly nobody among their number, and I suspect KV at large, knows about.

[ ]

“W-wait, your students?” Anam said. “You mean… all four of them… together? Wouldn’t that spook the Guardian?”

IMO, another spot that would probably benefit from explicit body language / description, since up until this point Anam has been pretty goofy and happy-go-lucky while here he kinda vibes as if he's meant to be spooked. Might make sense to dwell on it, especially if there's anything about him you'd like to call attention to for readers.

“Yes,” Rhys said. “They are fine. Owen is, too. The Water Guardian may not have realized it, thanks to their current state.”

James’ feathers puffed out considerably. “Those four are not supposed to be together, ever, Rhys.”

Oh, so Anam and James are in on whatever it is that Nevren's got going on with Owen's (and probably TA at large's memories). And likely Rhys too at this rate given that these two are bluntly telling him that he's doing things wrong with the way things are going between those four.

James: "Seriously, Rhys. All you had to do was tutor one of those four and keep him or her away from the others in some secluded forest-" >v>;
Rhys: "We have Waypoints, remember?"
James: "... Right, that's a thing. But my point still stands!" >v<

“I understand,” Rhys said, “but a… series of circumstances caused them to be together, recently. But that will be the end of it. Once I get home”—Rhys let out a defeated sigh—"I will… set things right. Owen will return home. The rest of Team Alloy will forget him again. He will train and meditate, and… things will remain as they have always been.

Somehow, I wasn't expecting hard confirmation that Rhys was in on resetting TA's memories to come out right here and now in this scene, though I guess this really is the chapter where we're just going to smash the seeming normalcy around KV into a million pieces, huh?

“…You’re lying,” Anam said, nibbling on his slimy fingers. The feelers on his head twitched uncomfortably.

“Ngh.” Rhys’ head went lower. “Anam, don’t start talking about any silly ‘dark emotions’ you may feel from me. I get enough of that from Owen’s Perception.”

... He can do that? Are these off-spec powers coming from those orbs or something? Since since when were Goodra aura sensitive in any branch of canon?

[ ]

“S-sorry,” Anam said, looking down. “But… it was just so obvious.”

[ ]

“We can’t allow this,” James said. “I understand your feelings on the matter, Rhys. But it’s still too dangerous. Perhaps later. But not now.”

Yada yada, you know the drill. Especially since this is a golden opportunity to draw contrast to Anam and James' personalities, especially when they're under a stressful situation where things aren't "going to plan™️" for them.

“It has been that way for quite a while, hasn’t it? Perhaps later. Perhaps later…” Rhys smiled bitterly at James. “That is all I wanted to say. Thank you, Anam. Be careful.”

“Rhys…” Anam sniffed. “I… I don’t want you to be upset!” He wiped gooey tears from his face. “Can I do anything to help?!”

Yeah, this is why more description earlier would've helped for getting a read on Anam, since I didn't realize he was supposed to be crying/tearing up right now.

Rhys closed his eyes. [ ]

Anam. A long time ago, you told me that you saw great potential in the bond that my students shared. That if they could train their spirits to overcome their… weaknesses… they could perhaps tip this teetering scale in our favor. But to you, Anam,” he said, turning around, “what is that favor? What then, if we win?”

inb4 it turns out that they're the living keys needed to stave off a multiversal collision- oh wait, wrong story for that. But I'm interested in where this is going, too. Since I gathered that TA was going to turn out to be cosmically important, but even so, I still haven't been able to suss out the "why" just yet.


Rhys crossed his arms. “How do you plan to use my students, Anam?”

“I… I just, um…” Anam hesitated. “I don’t know. But together, they’re really, really strong.”

Narrator: "He knows and is being deliberately obtuse."

“I see,” Rhys said. His eyes were closed again. “Anam.” He stared at Anam, right in his glistening, green eyes. “I’m sorry to hear that you don’t know what to do with that power. But the world will not wait for your decision. And neither will they.”

“What?” Anam asked. “What’s that mean? Rhys…?”

... Rhys sensed Owen touching the orb in his study, didn't he?

The Elite Heart said nothing else and turned to exit. James, glaring from behind, assured Anam that Rhys was merely upset at his circumstances, and he just had to blow off some steam. While this was normally true, James was worried at how affected Anam was, this time.

“Anam,” James said, “is he not always like this, when he has that tone?”

Anam gulped, but then shook his head.

This time… he feels different.” The feeler-horns behind his head twitched. “He’s telling the truth… b-but what’s that mean? I dunno… I dunno…”

... Wait a minute, did Rhys leave out the Orb for TA on purpose? Since this is giving off the vibe that he left the Orb out for them on purpose right now. .-.

“Goodness. You’re an angry one.”

Nevren tilted his head to the right and stepped away, narrowly dodging a brutal swing from the muscular Snorlax mutant. In the close quarters of the wooden Dungeon labyrinth, it wasn’t the easiest maneuver, but it seemed like Nevren knew exactly where to move before the strikes even began. The air that followed made the Alakazam’s mustache dance with the flow. The strange creature made another brutal swing, trying to punch him in the torso next, but Nevren vanished in thin air.

Ah yes, the return of Swolax. So it was going to come back in this story.

The Snorlax stared at his hand, squeezing his claws dumbly.

“So unhinged. Is there even any reason within you?” Nevren asked, though the question was rhetorical.

He floated just above Snorlax’s shoulders. He tapped a spoon on the behemoth’s head, squinting at some invisible spot on his skull.

Yes, very disturbed. There may not be any coming back from this one. You’re simply too berserk.”

This scene will be going places shortly, won't it? Since I saw how Rhys talked about how mutants were handled earlier on.

Snorlax roared and swung behind him; Nevren hopped on air, easily avoiding his arm, and then formed a small ball of light in his hands.

“It’s a shame, really. I don’t know how to dispatch of someone like you most of the time. You’re a danger to all life, you know. Yes, a true shame…”

Whelp, time to see how chunky salsa these cleanup operations get.

Snorlax opened his mouth, orange energy concentrating at the back of his throat. The sphere emerged, aimed at Nevren.

“Ah. Hyper Beam. I should have—”

The blast cut through the ground and into the forest behind him; the Wooden Wilds’ trees splintered near the top, and one of the labyrinthine walls of the Dungeon incinerated completely, leaving a scorched hole into another hallway. Embers and smoke filled the air.

Well then. That would explain why these things are getting put down with extreme prejudice.

Also boy did Owen luck out in Chapter 1 way back when.

Wordlessly, Snorlax turned around and lumbered through the Dungeon, growling. His arms twitched and swung, and the Snorlax himself was breathing heavily and angrily. For no particular reason, he roared and slammed his fist into the wall, leaving a crater as big as he was in it. Then, he continued forward.

“Yes. Too far gone.”


Snorlax spun around, blasting another Hyper Beam through the smoke. This time, it didn’t hit anything for a while. It struck the end of the hall with an explosion that rocked his chest. Glowing eyes of an Alakazam shined through the smoke.

“Oh? You can blast them repeatedly? What drawback does that give you, hmm? Perhaps it takes up too much energy.”

Well, for one, he's no longer sapient- oh right, ferals exist so that's not a guarantee.

Uh... that's a good question, really. But I'm guessing that it'll be "something something Psychic-type weakness".

Snorlax fired again, this time directly at the glowing eyes, but they disappeared a split second before the blast could connect. He sniffed the air, trying to find the Alakazam’s scent, but the smoke made that too difficult. He opened his mouth again, but then Nevren reappeared right in front of Snorlax, tapping a single, glowing finger to his forehead.

Snorlax stopped his blast; the energy that had been gathered dissipated harmlessly in all directions. But his mouth didn’t close; instead, it hung open. His legs wobbled, but he didn’t quite fall down, so much as he leaned against the wall that hadn’t been destroyed.

Actually, wait. Why is Nevren not just chunky salsa-ing this thing anyways?

Nevren sighed, looking at the entranced mutant. “I apologize in advance.” His eyes glowed brightly. Nevren placed his palm on the Snorlax’s chest; the glow of his eyes channeled rapidly down his neck, into his arm, and into his palm, and then into Snorlax.

After a brief spasm, the Snorlax disappeared from the Dungeon.

... Wait, where on earth did he send that thing? .-.

Nevren dug through the bag over his shoulder and pulled out his Badge. He tapped on the Heart symbol in the center twice and held it in the air. After several seconds of waiting for the safe extraction to be established, he disappeared from the Dungeon, reappearing near the entrance. While he fully expected to see the unconscious, or perhaps dead, Snorlax nearby, nothing waited for him at the entrance to the distortion.

Oh, well that's not ominous at all there. Guess that's not the last we've seen of Swolax in this story.

“Hm.” Nevren inspected the area halfheartedly, but then shrugged. He supposed it was already taken care of, then. Efficient. Knowing there was nothing else to worry about, and his mission was accomplished, Nevren walked toward the Waypoint back to Kilo Village.


I can already tell this is going to cause problems later.

Rhys’ walk back home was a quiet one. He heard wild Pidgey singing in the trees. Rattata scampered in the bushes. Auras were wild or calm, rushing or resting. They were all weak, really. Wild Pokémon in this area weren’t anything to worry about. That was one reason he enjoyed living in the forest to the side of Kilo Village’s outskirts. The auras didn’t overwhelm his senses. It also meant that if a powerful aura was around, he could spot it instantly.

“Hello, Rim,” Rhys said.

He stopped walking and lifted his head. To his left was the black, rocky Kilo Mountainside. To the right was the surrounding Kilo Forest, comprised of thin trees with thick, lumpy tops. And ahead and behind him, the thin, grassy field that connected the two.

... Wait, he just knows the 'mon who tried to break into his house last night? .-.

An Espurr appeared in front of Rhys, ten paces away. She was floating at eye-level to Rhys, but she didn’t look directly at him. She stared at his feet instead.

“H-hello…” Her voice was like a whisper, barely audible over the wind. Rhys had to strain his sensitive ears just to hear her.

“I didn’t appreciate your antics last night.”


Okay, Rim. What is your game here?

[ ]

“Will you stop, then?” Rim didn’t reply. [ ]

“I see,” Rhys said. “So, it’s begun again. Do not think that I am unprepared, Rim. Send that message to the others.”

Having a bit of trouble visualizing how Rhys and Rim are meant to be reacting right now, a little bit of body language would go a long way for both of them, especially for selling the sort of dynamic these two have with each other since they very clearly have history.

“The… orb… p-please…”

“The orb?” Rhys grabbed at the strap, pulling his bag up. “You intend to take the orb?”

[ ]


[ ]

“I will not allow it.”

I can't tell if Rim is meant to be coming off more as a pleading child or a junkie going through withdrawal right now, but either way, this is more than a little concerning.

The wind died down. For five seconds, the atmosphere was without sound. Then, it picked up again. The leaves on bushes rustled; wild Pokémon, sensing the tension, fled. The wind stopped again. Rim’s fur, however, continued to blow, energy swirling around her.

Yeah, I'm guessing "junkie going through withdrawal", since this is giving me strong "End of AKIRA Book 1" vibes right about now.

Rhys felt the air twist around him; in a deft movement, he jumped back, dodging Rim’s first Psychic blow. The dirt where he stood warped into an oblong, spiral spike of grass and mud. Rhys countered with a bright ball of concentrated light from his paws, aimed at Rim. It was weakened by an odd, invisible barrier, but still passed through, making the Espurr squeak. She countered with another bout of twisting energy. Rhys dodged it again, but felt the fur at the edge of his tail spiral into a corkscrew.

Rhys fired another Flash Cannon at her, its brilliance scaring off all spectating wild Pokémon. Rim vanished. Rhys cursed and glanced behind him; he felt a powerful presence in front of him instead, but it was too late. The twisting energy surrounded Rhys, and the attack connected. He lost the wind from his chest; his bones were strained. He jumped away, but dropped his bag in the process.


Rhys: "Oh, that's not good..."

Rim was readying another wave. Rhys ran in the opposite direction, and then redirected himself. He fired another ball of steely light one last time; Rim dodged, but had to close her eyes against the bright detonation. When she opened them again, he was gone, but the bag remained. Based on the dim glow it emitted, the orb was still inside.

... Wait, how many orbs does Rhys even keep at his house? .-.

She hastily floated down and pulled the cloth out. The orb fell out of the bag, knocking against the dirt with a dull thud. She smiled in relief and hastily grabbed the orb with both hands.

Nothing happened. Her smile transitioned into a confused frown.

This is going to be one of those moments where at first the consumer of forbidden power thinks it's a dud and then they blow up, isn't it?

In another second, her big, purple eyes bulged with panic. She pulled her hands away, and then touched it again. Nothing. She touched it yet again. Still, nothing. She whimpered and knocked her claws against the side. It made a hollow tink.

The glow inside was just a latent Aura Sphere; Rhys had mimicked the Mystic radiance perfectly, yet it was all a fabrication. It was simply colored glass.

Well, that would explain why Rhys was so unbothered by Rim getting at the thing. Though I have to wonder how difficult it was for him to make this decoy in the first place and what his game is holding secrets from the rest of the "not getting our minds wiped" gang. Since he definitely did not tell Anam or James about this.

“Got it, guys!” Owen said. “Ha ha, that was… what?” The orb wasn’t in his hands anymore.

Owen: "Oh thank gods, I am still alive right now. That last scene was scaring me."

He was standing in a clearing within a forest that was vaguely similar to the one outside Rhys’ home. Sunlight poured through the treetops above, creating dazzling patterns on the ground. A large, open field sat to his right, beyond tree trunks wider than he was tall. To his left—and in all other directions, really—was more and more forest. Tanned wood topped with bright green. There was no mountain and no nearby cave; Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi were nowhere to be seen.

Owen: "... Or I could be dead after all, since Rhys' house didn't look like this when I came to it."

“Okay. I’m crazy,” Owen finally conceded, looking at his hands. He was certain that he was holding the orb, or that he at least grabbed it. But then, in an instant, it was gone, and then… What happened after that? He did feel a bit strange. He had blacked out for at most half a blink. And then, he was here. It still felt like Mispy was holding him, but it was some sort of phantom sensation. He saw no vines wrapped around his abdomen.

... Am I reading Owen astral projecting right about now or something? Since I'm kinda getting those vibes right about now.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped breakfast.” But then again, he didn’t feel hungry.

Something rustled behind him.

Owen: "... Oh great, just what I needed right now."

“U-uh—h-h-hello?” The flame on his tail brightened. Fire danced in the back of his throat. His heart was racing with onset panic at being thrown into a completely unfamiliar place.

More rustling behind him again, where he had once been facing—and to his left, and his right, and above him. Eyes everywhere, little dots in the shadows of bushes and branches. He caught sight of one of them.

H-hey!” he said, pointing. “I saw that! C-come out! And—and do it in a… slow and non-threatening way! P-please!”

Oh yeah, that's really gonna stop them there. Though let's see what on earth we're dealing with right now.

After a few seconds, a Leafeon emerged. Owen deflated with his sigh.

A few other Pokémon revealed themselves, including a large Jumpluff. Another was a Murkrow—but instead of its iconic, black feathers, it was covered in sharp leaves. Another emerged—this one was a Cubone, holding a solid, wooden stick instead of a bone. Its helmet was made of the same material. The Jumpluff—an actual, normal Pokémon—helped him relax the same way seeing the Leafeon did. If there was anywhere for him to be placed randomly, a place of Grass-Types wasn’t too bad.

... Wait a minute, is this the moment where Owen gets that Grassmeleon form he shows up in some art pieces as? Since everyone else here has something similar going on at the moment.

“Hey,” Owen said, lowering his guard. “S-sorry. I’m just a little… confused. Um. Where am I?”

He nervously nibbled on his tongue. [ ]

I’m sorry if I’m, um, intruding, or anything like that. I think I got here on accident, somehow. I’ll go right home! When… I know where that is.”

One of those "blow up and expand" paragraphs here. Though that makes me wonder how badly the rest of Team Alloy are freaking out right about now back in normal reality.

The Pokémon all looked at one another. They seemed to understand Owen, and were murmuring to one another. Owen’s breathing steadied. At least they weren’t wild. Another ideal circumstance. He listened in on the words being said, sensing that quite a few of these Pokémon were tense and ready to fight or flee. He gulped. Was he about to become a Carnivine’s lunch? Some Grass cult’s sacrifice? Even if he had an advantage, he didn’t think he’d be able to take on all of them. It would be the most humiliating way to die, really—a Charmander, eaten by a bunch of Grass-Types.

Could be worse, I've seen a Charmeleon almost die to Paras before. Pretty sure that's a level of humiliation above what you're worrying about, Owen.

The mumbling slowly subsided; more and more of their eyes focused on something behind Owen. The Charmander almost didn’t want to look back. He could feel it. A presence—a powerful, incredible, radiant presence. Perhaps it was the cult’s leader, ready to cook him up. Charmander stew! With only the finest herbs and berries. It cooked itself.

Ah yes, the "self-cooking Fire-type" joke, even if I tend to see this one more about Tepig.

He couldn’t move; his flame burned brighter, ready to run and torch anything that stopped him.

“Yo,” said a feminine, yet casual voice. “Took you long enough.”

... This is the voice who reached out to Owen in his dreams, isn't it?

By some miracle, Owen heard this voice over the blood pounding in his head. This voice sounded familiar. Recent. Wait! It was the pretty voice!


He spun around.

His jaw nearly detached from the rest of his head. “M-M-M… Muh—Muh—”

“Nice to meet you in spirit, Owen,” the Mew said, smiling wryly. “How’s life?”

Oh, so that's who encouraged him to ignore Rhys.

Alright, so admittedly I'm a bit spoiled secondhand that this character is bad news even if I don't know the specifics behind why. But I suspect that that won't become apparent for a good while into the story for here. And with how credulous Owen is, I'm not sure she'd need to work all that hard to pull a fast one over him and the readers.

Though I suppose the shakeout from the Orbening will need to wait for another day. Not that this was exactly a bad note to leave off on to keep the audience in suspense.

Aaaaand it's recap time:

Okay, so the obvious strength of this chapter was how it just smashed the status quo into a million pieces and set things up such that things can just go from 0-60 in the next chapter. Since I seriously doubt that Owen's just going to be able to sweep things under the rug once he comes to post-Orbening, and it looks like Rhys engineered this to happen under the noses of his colleagues. All of that more or less screams "nothing is going to be the same again" once the dust settles from this.

I thought that the chapter also did a good job at hinting that there's still wheels within wheels to go for the full story behind things that are going on, since I saw what happened with the Swolax there. And mechanically, it's not a half-bad structure to get readers interested in the "hey wait, that's weird" and want to come back to see where it will go in the future. It's been a bit of a constant of the story thus far, so it's good to see that it didn't let up since it primes the audience to look forward to what the aftermath of all of this will be.

As for criticisms, the number one criticism that I have is that there is a dearth of description in some scenes that makes it kinda hard to get a bead on characters or stuff that's going down at times, with it being especially noticeable in the opening scene in the chapter. At about 5000 words long, you have a bit of wiggle room to address that before things start getting into "long and plodding" territory.

The whole thing about "paragraphs that read like they'd be smoother as smaller paragraphs" also reared its head here and there, but by and large, those: A: are subjective to an extent thanks to differences in narrative style, B: aren't terribly hard to address if you decide "no, no, he's got a point" on a few of them since it's just punching the return key a couple times and occasionally adding a sentence or two.

On the whole, I thought the chapter was pretty fun @Namohysip . Since even if I had a few bones to pick with some of the detailing, it did what I suspect was its intended meta job pretty well and made a decent sales pitch for coming back to this story in the next month or so.

Hope the feedback helped, and till next time!

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
[Glances at date of last review] Hmm... hmm... yes I see... let's all ignore that.


Really funny to see Star as just this regular legend caught by humans, after all the world-scale god-tier crises. But I suppose it fits with the whole "gods are weaker in physical form" thing. Even weirder that it's Cypher that caught her and not like, Team Rocket.

Funny that Hecto's name was that well before he went and became the legendary known for splitting into increments of 100. :p (Or, well, maybe he already is a Zygarde in this world, and Dusknoir is just a guise.) Granting the boss the ability to use Thunder is the funniest way to prove your legendary status.

So here we meet, well, most of the characters I'd been assuming were human for ages. Along with a few that I don't quite recognize. Utano is presumably related to Rui? I thought maybe she'd be Rui's older sister, but if Michael is an adult, I'd assume the events of Colo/XD already happened... maybe the timeline is completely different. There was no mention of Michael fighting Cypher, after all, he just became a researcher here. Speaking of Michael, it's so wild to meet a canon character after all this time.

"Then, he made the mistake of looking down. He wondered if he would ever forget what that attack had done to his body… There wasn’t a hint of cream-colored scales on his front anymore. It was all crimson."
This is what I mean when I say 'less is more' when describing gore.

Sooo the obvious implication is that Quartz island... became Kilo. Hecto said something about Arceus smiting the island if he found out, and here were are. It's kind of amazing that something so small led to... all this. Obviously there's a lot still missing--I definitely had a bit of a "where's the rest of it" moment when I got to the end, lol.


Really love Angelo just remarking on all the spirit bullshit and how weird all of it is. It's so easy to forget that there are people in this world that are actually normal. And he isn't even really all that normal himself, all things considered!

"It wasn’t ever his choice, was it?" Ouch. Some real LC vibes here.

"Further down the road, that Fairy Joltik was chasing down a tiny, terrified Manectric and Crobat with a frantic Porygon-Z just behind her. Perhaps trying to stop her."
Is that Koa and Echo. :p

Right, so that description of Nate was obviously reminiscent of Eternatus, but... *squints* Nate was introduced into HoC in June of 2019, but SwSh didn't come out until November. Something's up... Eternatus isn't the full truth of his nature. I'm guessing you had an idea for an eldtichy character and Eternatus ended up being a perfect fit. (Considering that BLC had multiple eldritchy characters who weren't Pokemon at all, I can see this happening.)

The other thing is that the shades that come from Nate are referred to as "wraiths" which is also what void shadows have been called, so that makes me wonder if Nate got... corrupted somehow? We haven't actually seen much Void-y stuff from the Chasm vs the Basin, so that would explain a few things.

The reveal that Nate killed Angelo Sr... it's just so absurd in its mudanity compared to everything else going on.

And we return to Owen being extremely comfy cosy confined in no remarkable way whatsoever. Definitely not reminiscent of anyth--*shot*

Tbh I am all here for floofy Owen


I love how this whole plot-important convo is taking place in the shower.

I was going to make a "namo likes big pokemon" joke but all of the precedent is right there in canon, so Game Freak is in fact responsible for Pokemon becoming lorge.

> “You can’t just fight them to keep them from staring?” Owen asked
idk I'm with Owen I think Zena should fight them

The Amia stuff is genuinely pretty heartbreaking. Good to see things that can't just get fixed immediately--I was a little worried that they'd find a fix too soon, or at least get reassured that a fix was possible. A lot of the high stakes Bad Things that sort of occupy the same 'slot' as death so to speak just sort of inherently feel more reversible, even the memory loss.

Wild to think that Owen was hoping to return home someday after gaining his wings, and that life is now so far gone it barely exists.

So... I'm wondering if the implication here is that shadows leaked into the human world, were used by Cipher, and then had to be expelled by force? I don't think DM was ever in the human world. I also don't think some random criminals managed to invent reality cancer wholecloth, so... maybe Shadows weren't as cancerous in the human world, but because of the unstable way Kilo was created, there's been a kind of snowball effect.

DM seemed considerably more agreeable in that flashback. He even talked about the world was ending as if it were... something regrettable? Sure doesn't seem like that was his goal back then, like it is now. Unless DM back then was too weak to do anything and needed to deceive Owen in order to gather the strength to then make his true colors known? Mm, that doesn't seem your style. Leaning more toward the two of them trying to find an alternative, and then that failed, and DM gave up.


Ohoho, so DM told Anam not to let Owen into the hearts.

It's really funny to see Anam reading DM like a book and DM being all "nuh uh it's totally coincidence >:[" even though he's fooling nobody.

Owen just sitting there with Hakk like, "Hey I guess you tried to betray me but we can't talk about it. Okay."

> “Oh, so she’s part of the VPN of your world.”
get out

Zena doesn't know anything about the shadow war and she doesn't have any kind of ~agenda~. She objectively isn't hiding the truth from Owen because she doesn't know the truth either! She wasn't even there! Taking the advice of a friend is not the same thing as following orders! :screm:

DM is also obviously holding back on saying why Owen sided with him. If you just say that with no context, it sounds like Owen was in on the whole "destroy the world and kill everyone" thing but that's obviously not true. So then DM, why won't you say what Owen was really going for, hm? It'd mess with your narrative, wouldn't it?


Re: Marshadow. "Yeah, you're possessed by DM and might try to backstab us, but we can't do anything about it so hang with us" will never not be hilarious to me. I don't think I've ever seen this type of posession in media ever, where the person still acts exactly the same but just will occasionally follow their progra--okay, actually, it's very similar to when AI characters get possessed.

All this talk about "following orders," but to be honest... no one is really ordering Owen around at this point? I mean sure, he has to follow the rules in the village, just like anyone, but all the people who had goals for him in the past are busy with other things right now.

Anyway, glad that Owen and Zena managed to quickly figure out that Owen was never trying to doom everyone by siding with DM. And I like how she trusts him to keep a secret and doesn't angst about it.

Everyone and their mom wants to save the world but no one can agree on what's wrong with it lmao. In fact, I don't know if we've learned what was wrong with it by anyone's perspective! Aside from Anam, amusingly enough.

Still unclear on if Alexander taking over the voidlands would have any effect on Kilo, if DM were gone. As far as I'm concerned, let him be all "look upon my works and despair" surrounded by a bunch of red sand and void shadows. :V

Ohh, Star is in Cipher castle. I'd forgotten that we lost track of her ages ago. That's a really long time for her to be absent! Her original slapfight with Arceus is sorta irrelevant now lol.

I keep going back and forth on Mhynt's angle through all this. Leaning toward her playing a very veerrry long con, maybe? The thing is, I feel like almost anyone would have that suspicion in-universe, so there must be a very good reason why she's so trusted in Cipher's ranks. There's also the problem of what was her goal before all these Kilo folks showed up and shook up the status quo. Anyway, I enjoy how she just dunked on the loyalty test without missing a beat.


I liked the conversation with Klent and Amelia--taking opinions from others doesn't mean your decisions aren't your own! It just leads to better decisions!

So, Spice has Void power of course, but the question still remains: what was strange about her beforehand, which caused her to gain Void power from the basin as opposed to just... going mad or becoming a void shadow or whatever? It's either there was something unique about her before, or something unique about her situation that gave her a very different takeaway than everyone else.

Very interesting how one of the zygarde got pulled into the voidlands. And he obviously wasn't supposed to be there, because Mhynt didn't hesitate to send him back with Spice. So the basin being a portal to the voidlands would certainly explain why shadows keep leaking out of it and why people go mad next to it, but it doesn't explain why no one in the voidlands can get out that same way. Or maybe it's the same deal as dungeons--they can, but they'll burn in Kilo. So I'm wondering if it's only because of Spice's already-existing unique attributes that it's a two-way road for her. Also makes me wonder if it'd be the same for Jerry, although despite his Void power, he doesn't have all the same attributes as her.


Jeez, really chilling that just being vaguely near the basin screwed Leo up so much.

Look, I know it would be really creepy to see in person, so I can't really fault the others on their reaction, but I think Xypher's collection is sweet, ok. :T And so was his conversation with Owen. He cares so much. Best birb.


DM's speech was missing the bold in the beginning of the chapter, is that an error?

> Would he have let Tim go with Ayame and Ire, and would he return to the lab to live a quiet life? Deep in his heart, he knew he wouldn’t have, no matter who told him.
That vibe of not wanting any of those things to have happened, but not wanting to change them either... Jade can relate.

All right, I'm sure you've been waiting for my reaction to this one in particular. :p And, well... Owen's callout is pretty good, yeah Hits pretty much all the buttons I would have wanted to see out of it. And it's fair that Eon can't really be blamed for the original memory loss, the fusion going wrong... that was just a tragic accident. There's still a whole heck of a lot of other problems, of course--it wasn't all just for getting Owen back. I mean, plenty of the stuff he was doing was pretty messed-up before he ever lost Owen. :V But in a way, being cut off from all his goals back in Kilo is helpful for him. Being stripped of his power, too. There's still just so much everything for him make up for, but... it's a start. So long as he drops the entitlement thing.

Nevren was Michael?? As in, the canon XD Michael? The character everyone else wants to stab is a canon character, amazing. No idea what would be different about Eon and Nevren that made them take up new names without really deciding to when no one else did...

> “Well,” Trina went on, “I think I’m far better at keeping the land safe compared to what Eon does with them.”
She's right and she should say it. :V

Really good talk between Zena and Owen, and how it's not about whether or not someone deserves forgiveness, but that if they're gone, they can't ever fix what they did.

> Knock. Knock. Knock.
Dammit I was only going to read ONE chapter tonight, who gave you the right to end it there. :screm:


tbh I'm pretty sure Anam is fine. :V

> “I’ll admit the first building was entirely my fault,” Dark Matter said, shrugging, “but I only struck the second one because you did not believe me.”
This is amusingly defensive from him. I was expecting just a flat "I don't care."

DM's posturing here is interesting because he's obviously a very real threat, and yet... if he is able to do all that now, what does he gain from their surrender? Why not just kill everyone now?

We're being given a lot of reason to doubt Necrozma or think that Necrozma is the real enemy here, but tbh I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that. Like yeah, "Necrozma wants to destroy the world" sounds bad on paper, but so does "Owen helped Dark Matter."

Aaaaand there we have it. Getting all the hands. The power to rewrite reality, and fix DM. That tracks perfectly for Owen, mind, but plenty of other people have also been after the hands! And not necessarily to eliminate DM either, since half the important players didn't even remember that DM was a thing. Actually... I think I'm unclear on why Eon was out collecting orbs (hands) in the first place. Nevren of course was trying to deduce their original goals through the memory trick.

Actually... a lot of the original info about the motivations behind orb/hand hunting feels weird now. Presumably Necrozma got erased from history before Star tried to overthrow Arceus, and then Star came to regret forming the Hunters, hid the orbs, Eon tried to get them... It's almost like after Necrozma got erased, they all got confused on what they even wanted the hands for (ironically, save for Nevren, who was always trying to figure out the original plan.) Owen was the first person to try to get them all, but no one after him was trying for the same reason as him. Were they trying to break the Decree that erased all the important stuff? (And Arceus... didn't want that...?)

I have realized that I've completely lost track of who still remembered DM was a thing before DM's return. Halp.


I have, of course, read further than this, as you know, so all of this was cobbled together from notes. Which means I already know the answers to some of the speculation in here, lmao.


Dragon Enthusiast
Covered you elsewhere, Chibi and Fobbie, but wow, I do love how you always have new theories every chapter that passes. I don't blame you. I live for it.

Next up, the long-anticipated Special Episode...

Special Episode 11 – Dark Radiance

Every night, as he drew nearer and nearer to evolution, Alex dreamed of the strange blade made from dragon scales and spells. It was the one destined to cut through his neck.

Each time, in that dim haze of a nightmare, his other half would grasp the blade in his mouth, twist his head, and Alex would go tumbling down, down, down.

And then, every night, he woke up first, with a start, as Xander yawned, content and safe, as the head who would win.


Summer was Alex and Xander’s favorite season, and it was one of the few things they could agree on. The two heads of the Zweilous—Alex on their left, Xander on their right—naturally opposed one another. They were two halves of the same Deino, split down the middle and destined to recombine when they evolved once more. Xander, naturally, was going to be the one that would win out.

So, Alex once again sighed to himself when he caught the scent of blood on the table. Dinner. And the beautiful humming of his mother, who drifted soundlessly across the room and tap, tap, tapped on the cutting board with her head-hands.

“Want to have another tug to see who gets the bigger half?” Xander taunted, growling into Alex’s ear as usual.

“It goes to the same stomach,” Alex grumbled back, commanding the body to march forward. They took a seat once they were on softer ground, their bed.

“But it’s the meaning behind it that matters,” Xander replied. “We’re evolving soon, aren’t we? Well. I’m evolving. You… get to fade away.”

Alex’s chest hurt, but he wondered if Xander felt it the same way. He didn’t want to be cruel like Xander. Callous and brutish. As a Deino, he had wondered if being that way was necessary; he supposed their split was taking on that persona or not. That conflict of being so strong, like his father, or being so gentle, like his mother, was what had led to his split. He was sure of it.

All Zweilous ‘split’ in this way. And according to Father, the stronger one would win, and the weaker one would be a feeble voice in the back of their heads, until eventually it would submit to the stronger one’s way of thinking, and truly become whole.

But Mother had a different attitude. She claimed that only through compromise and mutual understanding would they evolve. It was naïve; Hydreigon came about from strength alone. Their heads would be forced together by then, no matter how it happened.

Xander headbutted him.

Alex yelped. “Excuse me!”

“Stop going quiet and thinking,” Xander demanded. “It’s… annoying. It makes our muscles tense. We don’t need that after all the training today. It’ll ache.”

“Ugh, now I can’t even think? My thoughts are the only thing I’m allowed to have to myself anymore.”

“Generosity is what Mother believes in, isn’t it?” Xander mocked. “Maybe one day I’ll have those, too.”

As Xander chuckled to himself, Alex only shrank away.

“Hey, hey! Don’t do that, either! I don’t want to feel your terror. Keep it in your head!”

“Now, boys.”

They both tensed and straightened their necks upward.

Mother went on, “What did I tell you about fighting?”

Xander sighed. “That it’s something for the ferals, and we can do better.”

“That we should speak kindly and take care of our mutual body.” Alex nodded. “But I’ve been doing that!”

You want to laze about,” Xander countered. “I am the one striving to actually get stronger.”

“Well, you overeat,” Alex said. “We need moderation, too… We certainly eat more than our bodies use up from training…”

“If only because you have to get some of it.”

“It goes to the same—”

“Ah, ah,” Mother went on, gently patting both of them on the head. The Hydreigon continued, “How about we avoid fighting for the rest of the day, hm? Speak gently to each other.”

“Yes, Mother,” Alex said.

“Fine,” Xander relented.

And once again, through Mother’s peace talks, the two heads set up a truce until morning.


But they had one last thing to do before allowing their day to end. When they were certain that Mother and Father were asleep, Alex and Xander carefully and silently tiptoed their way outside, following lifelong, known paths through their abode and out the door. The wind blew gently and the leaves rustled, masking their steps perfectly. They knew this path well.

Once they were far enough away, they sniffed the air. It was yet another miniature competition to determine where she was.

This time, Alex won. “My side,” he said, taking control of their legs to march onward.

“I smelled her, too,” Xander protested, wresting control to march the same way and through a few branches. “Hey, psst… You there?”

She giggled in response, and once they broke through the bushes, they entered a clearing and tackled the source. Her skin was soft and her dress was elegantly smooth as ever. A Gardevoir.

“Found me again,” she said, running a hand along both their cheeks.

“Hey, Evelyn,” they both said dreamily, leaning into her hands.

“Want to go to the hill?” Evelyn asked.


They happily ran through the clearing and past a few bushes. Evelyn occasionally stumbled over bushes, so they let her ride on their back again.

Once they reached the apex of a hill in an open patch of land, Alex and Xander crouched down and let Evelyn dismount. The air always smelled fresher here, just beyond the forest where everything sounded clear and distant.

Evelyn flattened herself against the grass and rolled next to the Zweilous, who lay belly-down.

“It’s such a beautiful night,” Evelyn said.

“Yeah…” They leaned against her. Xander tried to wrap his head around Evelyn’s shoulders, while Alex nuzzled her cheek. She giggled either way, scratching both of them under their chins.

Xander nudged her. “Not as beautiful as you, though.”

“Oh, stop!” Evelyn giggled.

“It’s the only reason we come out,” Alex added.

Evelyn signed, content, between their two heads.

“So?” Xander asked in a little whisper. “Want to do something else tonight?”

Alex felt their heart fluttering. And Evelyn seemed just as receptive, her touch against their heads a little slower.

“I don’t think there’s anything stopping us,” she whispered back.

For the Zweilous and Gardevoir, the night went on for a while longer.


The warmth of morning felt nice against Alex’s scales. He was sure Xander thought the same. Even with that anxious feeling in his stomach, the sun helped to lighten his mood.

The bruises still hurt, though.


“Quit screaming!” Xander spat. “Bite! Keep biting!”

They nipped at Mother’s shoulders, trying to force her to let go, but they were already ascending. When they let go to get a firmer grip, she abruptly released them, and they were free-falling toward the ground, ocean air drowning out all other sounds and smells.

They were running out of time to steady their descent. Suddenly, though, they were caught by Mother again, and their crash instead became a harsh stop. Then, their paws touched sandy soil, and Alex heaved a sigh of relief.

“Ugh… lost again,” muttered Xander.

“You did very well that time,” Mother said gently. “Come, let’s recuperate over some lunch.”

“We’ve only been training for a few hours, though,” Xander said. “At this rate, we aren’t gonna evolve until we’re, like, thirty…”

“Oh, don’t say that. You’re so close!” Mother giggled, patting them both on the head. “Besides, you shouldn’t be in such a rush to evolve. You two need to reconcile first.”

Alex huffed. “You speak as if it’s so easy…”

“Well… I’m sure it isn’t. That’s true… But all the more reason to spend more time, yes? Compared to being a Deino, you don’t have as much time as a Zweilous to get your heads in order. That much I know.”

They both sighed. “Yes, Mother…”

“Now, let’s get breakfast! I want to check on the egg, anyway.”

“Right…” They started walking back, Mother drifting near them with a little humming tune.

It was still going to be a long walk.

“You seem lost in thought,” Mother said.

“Huh?” they both replied.

“My comment about evolving didn’t bother you, did it?”

“Nah,” Xander said.

“A little,” Alex said.

Alex felt their body shifting as Xander readied to headbutt him, but he’d been stopped by Mother.

“Now, don’t do that,” Mother said. “We can’t have feuding. Not when you’re so close. You don’t want to have a turbulent psyche, do you?”

They’d never really talked much about evolving. Father only said that he should evolve as fast as possible, for some reason, and that it was part of some great tradition… He still didn’t really understand.

“Father didn’t tell us much,” Alex said. “And Hydreigon are pretty rare out there… We’ve never met a single other one… You aren’t even a true one, so… o-oh, I’m sorry. If that’s terrible to say.”

“Just the truth,” Xander replied with a hint of indignation. “But… you know, I still love you, and stuff. You just don’t get what it means to be stuck with him, though.”

“I’m sure it’s difficult for both of you,” Mother said. “But I think you’ll still do fine in the end. Don’t forget that, okay?”

“I’ll try…” Alex dipped his head down. “I don’t get it, though. I’ve talked to other Pokémon sometimes, and they say that you can’t become a Hydreigon without being a Zweilous first. But you say you’ve always been a Hydreigon?”

“Well…” Mother trailed off. “No. That’s not exactly it. Your father has special abilities that only he does. It’s a power he had acquired from the gods after saving the world from the Dark War.”

More foreign things that Alex only heard tell of and little else. Xander was probably just as stumped, the way he wasn’t saying anything.

“What was the Dark War?” Alex asked. “Everyone talks about it like it’s ancient history, but…”

“Well, in some ways, it is,” Mother explained. “I don’t really know the details myself. But… your father saved me from it a long, long time ago. His noble acts were what saved the world, so he was given a lot of privilege from the Legends for it. You could say he’s blessed.”

“I’m not a kid anymore, you know,” Xander said. “You don’t need to hit me with those fairy tales.”

“Oh, they’re hardly tales! I know for sure I was there… just in a different body, from a different time. It had to have been centuries by now…”

Alex tilted his head at that, like he was trying to hear her a little better. “Excuse me?” he asked. “Mom, Hydreigon don’t live that long…”

Did they? He didn’t really know.

“Well…” Mother sighed. “Your father told me that it’s about time that you know the truth about things. I’m sure you figured it out already…

“Not really…”

“I had a hunch.” Xander nodded. “Dad’s super strong and basically the leader down in Pyrock, right?”

“That’s exactly right.”

It wasn’t totally registering with Alex what that meant. Maybe only having half a mind was messing with his ability to comprehend it, but he always knew Father was strong. But how strong?

“Why are you telling this now?” Alex asked. “I kind of… find it hard to believe. I thought it was just a story.”

“Well, it’s just a story now,” Mother said. “But it used to be present day. Does that make sense?”

They didn’t reply. Xander was being awfully quiet.

Once at home, Alex and Xander settled on their bed for a little afternoon nap. Mother prepared a simple meal for them, but they could still talk since they were in adjacent, small rooms. It smelled like Mother was cooking some kind of meat dish with a lot of seasonings. It tickled Alex’s nose.

“So how about you?” Xander spoke up. “Did you get turned into a Hydreigon with that same divine power?”

“Yep! That’s exactly right! That’s what we meant by not being a Zweilous before becoming a Hydreigon. I do wish I could have, though, but your father wasn’t very interested… He can be so impatient sometimes.”

“He can just change species of others? How come you became a Hydreigon?”

“I think, well, I think he’s very proud of carrying on the Hydreigon line. It’s a bit rare, so he’s keen on preserving it… And, well, when you’re male, it’s not as often that your family line will carry on as your species. Not nearly as often and I don’t think he wanted to keep trying until I had a Deino.”

“So he wanted to guarantee we’d be a Deino. Huh.” Xander shrugged. “Well, hey, if he was blessed with that power, they clearly don’t mind him using it for that.”

“What were you before?” Alex asked.

“That was so long ago!” Mother laughed, sighing, like she was trying to recall. “Let’s see… I had legs, I remember that. And a green body. Ah! Sceptile, that was it. It’s been so long; I hardly remember anymore.”

“Well, that’s kinda scary…” Alex shifted his side of the body. “Being someone for so long that you forget what you used to be? What in the world is that like?”

“I guess only I know!” Mother laughed a little, scraping something onto the plates in the other room. “Anyway, come on! Lunch is ready!”

Xander led the body this time, but Alex was happy to be at their usual seat.

“So, how is the egg?” Alex asked.

“Oh, wonderful,” Mother replied. “You’ll be having a baby brother or sister so soon! I’ve always wanted to have another child, but for some reason, it’s the one thing your father seemed to be patient about. So peculiar, wanting to raise you entirely on focus, and only then would he want another child…”

“Maybe he knew it’d be a handful to just have one,” Xander said.

“It’s thoughtful of him,” Alex concluded.

Mother giggled and the smell of freshly cooked meat and spices took over their senses. For once, they shared their meal equally, because Mother was watching. Alex savored every bit.


“You’re kidding,” Evelyn whispered in the cold of night. “So, it’s true, the rumors? Hydreigon Alexander is an immortal blessed by the gods?”

“I mean, if Mom didn’t lie or anything… yeah,” Xander said.

“It seems absurd if you ask me,” Alex said. “My father, immortal? My mother, blessed by his powers of transformation? Why had we not learned something like this before?”

“Maybe you did and he made us forget,” Xander said with a spooky groan, nearly headbutting him had they not been in front of Evelyn.

“Oh, don’t talk like that,” Evelyn said. “There’s no way to modify memories that way. Not even the most powerful psychic can do something like that; those are just rumors!”

“I hope you’re right,” Alex said. “But yeah, that’s basically what we were told. But… he might also know that we go out all the time. I don’t think he followed us this time, but… I think we should lay low for a little while, if that’s alright.”

“What?” Evelyn sounded a little hurt and uncertain. “You mean…”

“Yeah, we didn’t tell him. And you know he’s gonna be mad.” Alex winced.

“But I’ve never gone against the Shadow Clan at all! That’s all Mother’s focus! I even have a proper southern name, it was, you know, to denounce the fragmented nature of things! Does he not care?”

“He doesn’t.” Alex sighed. “Not until your mother officially surrenders.”

“Well, with all due respect, we have quite an advantage,” Evelyn hummed. “Fairy is his total bane. Honestly, I’m not sure how he’d held an advantage for so long to begin with, the way he’d be so weak to us. Almost like it used to be different, the way the stories go with how he’d dominated before…”

“Well,” Xander interjected, “unless we suddenly became weak to Fairies one day, seems more like there was a change in management since your mom took over. Anyway, I’m bored of talking about this stuff. Wanna just go to the usual spot?”

Evelyn sighed and rubbed them both on the head. “Sure. Oh, but actually, if you have time… Mother wanted to talk to you.”

“Eh?” Xander asked.

“Um, that’s peculiar timing…” Alex didn’t want to imply, but Evelyn was the daughter of an important figure. There was always that tiny layer of uncertainty with doing anything unexpected with her.

“It’ll be okay,” Evelyn said. “Trust me, like, they wouldn’t dare hurt you if you’re with me, for one. And they know you’re innocent in all this, too. You don’t want to hurt me, right?”

“Duh,” Xander replied.

“We’d never. We want this feud to end…” If there was anything Xander and Alex agreed on, it was that Evelyn didn’t deserve any of this trouble.

“Exactly. Now, come on! Let’s go to her and we can talk it out there. I think it’ll help end the feud once and for all.”

“Also ominous,” Xander muttered.

But Alex drove them forward, walking along for a few minutes through the forest and in the cold night, down unfamiliar routes and past slightly different, unfamiliar scents.

They’d never gone this far down the forest before. And finally, far ahead, they could hear murmuring of unfamiliar voices.

“It’s okay,” Evelyn said, placing a hand on their back. “Just smile and walk, okay?”

So, they continued walking through the forest, and now a small settlement. A colony, probably an extended family, all the way until a deeper voice called out to them.

“Evelyn. You’ve arrived.”

“Mother! Yes! I have! This is him!”

“I see.”

This was an imposing, cold voice that directly contrasted Evelyn’s warm cheer. Yet, they could hear the vocal resemblance, even if the tone was completely foreign. It put Alex and Xander on edge.

“Welcome to our side of the forest, Alex and Xander, is it?”


“My name is Gardevoir Amia. I am the proper leader of Pyrock, before it had been taken from us generations ago.”

“Yeah, we know the story,” Xander said. “We were told it a little different but, you know.”

“Wh-wh-what Xander means,” Alex said, “is that our father told us our side of history, even if it may conflict with… with, um, with yours.”

“I’m not offended. It is only natural that you were told things the way they had been.” Amia still spoke evenly, regal. It was kind of like Father with its coldness, but not nearly as cruel.

“So, Mother,” Evelyn said, “why did you want to bring him here?”

“You are in love, correct? You’ve confessed as much?”

“Yes, I have,” Evelyn declared. “And… that’s just how things happened to be. We’d met by chance, and we’d matched nicely. I do not think it is some kind of ploy.”

“And you’re certain of this?” Amia asked. “Do you have any proof?”

And suddenly, Alex realized this might have been a mistake after all. There was no proof. How did they prove he wasn’t a spy?

“Well, um,” Alex interjected, “I don’t know how to prove that.”

“Look, if that’s what this is about, how about we just leave?” Xander said. “We, uh, we’ll… not bother your kid again and stuff, and, uh…”

“That won’t be necessary,” Amia said. “On the contrary, I actually brought you here to save you.”

“Well, you’ll have to beat me f—wait, save?”

Xander had been reeling up for a fight, and yet they’d both been thrown off their game with the reversal.

“Save us,” Alex repeated. “Are you sure? Wait—from what?”

“From your deaths.” Amia paced closer to them. Her steps were elegantly soft against packed soil. “What I’m going to tell you is something you must keep a secret for as long as you can. But you are nearing your evolution, are you not?”

“What’s with everyone obsessing over my evolution?” Xander asked.

“We are,” Alex answered Amia directly. “Why do you ask?”

“I will lay it out to you flatly, and answer your questions afterward. Alexander is going to kill you and use your soul to further strengthen him. He has done this for generations, and we have uncovered the… obvious, in hindsight, pattern.”

“Is part of being Psychic also seeing the future? Because you’re right, I have a LOT of questions!” Xander said before Alex even had the chance to process what Amia said. “Kill us? Use our spirits for—are you insane?! Why? How would that even fly with Mom?”

“Your mother has no knowledge of this. She is just a puppet of your father’s, and has been for a long time. A plaything. A means to produce offspring and little more.”

“Okay, you’re taking that back,” Xander warned. “I’m gonna torch you otherwise. You hear me?”

“W-with all due respect,” Alex said, “this is an incredible thing to tell us. How… how can you prove this?”

“We don’t need to,” Amia said. “Instead, I would like to give you a gift. A protective charm that you must hide from your father until it is necessary to use to save yourself. Is that fair? It won’t activate on its own. You must be the one to use it.”

“Specifically saying it won’t activate is suspicious,” Xander growled.

“Oh, don’t be so worried!” Evelyn said, patting them on the back. “I promise, it’ll be just fine. Mother, is he in danger right now?”

“No. That, I am certain. He only kills his son or daughter when they have evolved into a Hydreigon. Then, he will challenge them to a duel, and of course he will win. That is when your life will be in danger, and then your afterlife as well. You will be cursed into eternal servitude to his phantom army, just like all of the siblings before you that you never knew.”

“I have never once,” Alex said, “seen Father with a… a ‘phantom army.’ But thank you for the protection. I’m sure you care for your daughter and wouldn’t want to hurt me.”

“I’m glad you two share such a bond,” Amia replied. “That is precisely why I am taking action now. In some ways, Evelyn defying my orders to grow a bond with you has become a happy accident. A risky opportunity. I hope you do not think less of me for taking advantage of it.”

Alex and Xander were both quiet in response. Something was tingling in the air and they reflexively flinched away.

“Please accept this into your chest,” Amia said, putting something strange in front of them that stung a little.

“What is it?” Xander asked.

“Think of it like a stored bit of power. Fairy power, specifically, and some… divine trickery of my own. When the time comes, focus on it, and you will be able to expel a breath with the same element. It should be enough to ward away your father.”

“What about Mother?” Alex asked.

A hesitating pause followed. Then, with a regretful tone, Amia said, “She is already lost. I’m sorry.”

Alex shook his head slowly in disbelief, but Xander was more aggressive.

“As if I’m gonna believe that!” Xander shouted. “Mom, already lost? No. Not gonna happen!”

They got silence in reply, and then a gentle hand on their back.

“Will you at least take this power?” Amia asked.

Murmurs surrounded them from many onlookers. A crowd had gathered. If they made a scene, it would only make them look bad—at best.

“Xander, we should accept it and go for now. Clear our heads…”

“Whatever.” Xander stomped his foot. “Fine. Give it here. How’s it work?”

“You need only hold still. I will embed it invisibly within your chest.”

Alex hummed. “That sounds a bit painful. Will it—”

“Yeah, fine.”

“No, wait, do I need to brace for something, or—YGAAAAAH!”

The pain was immense and sudden. Alex passed out.


The next thing Alex knew, he was bobbing along as Xander walked one-headed. Evelyn was on their back. “O-oh. Huh? Hm?”

“Finally,” Xander muttered. “It’s all lopsided without you awake. C’mon, help me walk.”

“Where are we?” Alex asked breathlessly.

“Almost to our little clearing, dear,” Evelyn said. “I decided to go with you for a little while until you came to. Now that you’re back… I think I should get going in case we get spotted. It’s already so late…”

“We got in trouble a few days ago for the same thing,” Alex said. “But at least he won’t kill us like how your mother said.”

“I think that’s fake,” Xander said. “We should just ask.”

“N-no! We certainly shouldn’t!” Alex whispered.

“Remember, it still needs to be a secret,” Evelyn said. “Stay quiet for now, okay? For me?”

That quieted Xander down. He fumbled over his words, but then nodded. “Fine,” he said, bumping his head against Alex. “C’mon. Let’s go home.”

And with another air of unease, they split off.


One of the favored places that Alex and Xander preferred was a small cave further north of their usual meeting spot. They were sure that Father knew nothing about it, and it was by a river that helped mask their sounds.

The past few days had been tense with his father and mother. They were surely getting suspicious with their behavior. At some point, they arranged to meet with Evelyn in a more secluded spot to finally make a decision.

They… had to trust Evelyn enough to ask a little more. Maybe some proof. If they just had a little proof…

“Evelyn?” Alex whispered.

“I’m here,” Evelyn replied. “Did you… come to any decisions?”

“No,” Xander said flatly. “It just doesn’t add up. Dad just wants me to grow up dominant so I’ll be strong like him.”

“I don’t know,” Alex admitted. “It… it’s hard to believe, but at the same time, I do not know why your mother would lie to us if she values your feelings so much, too. What has your father said about this?”

“He doesn’t say much,” Evelyn admitted. “He’s practically a servant to Mom. Always defers to her. But… I think he also agrees. He’s worried for me… and therefore you. Our kind are pretty tuned to emotions, so it’s hard to fake things with each other.”

“Well… I’m worried, too,” Alex said. “Father can be so cruel. I wouldn’t put it entirely past him, even if it seems completely unreasonable alone. Still… you wouldn’t lie to us. She told us the same thing, Xander.”

“Y-yeah, well…”

Evelyn was awfully quiet, but then someone rumbled behind them.

A familiar rumble. No no no.

“So,” Father said, his voice a great hiss, “this is what it has come to.”

Metal clanged against stone. Father was dragging something with him—the blade. The blade encrusted with dragon scales that could cleave through his neck.

“I was wise to bring this with me,” Father said with venom in his voice. “Alex… how much poison would you be for the proper head’s mind otherwise, I wonder?”

“F-Father, what do you mean?” Alex said. “Is it true? Is that really what we are to you?”

“Just say it isn’t,” Xander said. “It’s obviously some mistake.”

“Who told you this?” Father asked, his voice now closer. “No matter. I’ll just force the evolution now. It’s a waste of energy, but this has gone on long enough. I’ll learn the truth and kill whoever told you!”

The air was charged with an acidic feeling. It became harder to breathe as Father radiated a power he rarely displayed. And then came an intense heat, and then a spike going into their chest. Power surged through them like electricity, and at the same time, the wind whistled as Father flew closer. The metal blade screeched against the cave walls and then whistled through the air for a swing.

For a moment, Alex resigned himself. He almost felt relief. All the worry about this moment, and it was finally happening, and it was so fast. He had no way to defend against it… Did it matter? Did any of it matter?

At least now he would be strong like Xander.

The swing should have come by now. It hadn’t. At first, Alex wondered if, somehow, Xander had been slain, but surely he would have felt some of the pain.

“Gnkhh—what… what did you… d-do to…” Father was in pain.

Their body moved. Xander was driving the body, and Alex was too stunned to do anything but listen to Father running back. There was a tingling in his chest that lingered, and Xander’s breath stung when he happened to turn his head to look back.

“Gah! Xander, don’t breathe flames on me!”

“WHAT?” Xander cried—but Xander was on the wrong side.

“X-Xander?! When did you get there?! How?!”

“I was gonna ask you the same!” Xander cried. “Did we swap heads?! What?!”

“What—what did you breathe on me?”

“Not flames. I think that’s fairy power. That thing Evelyn’s mom gave us. Ugh! It’s awful! But it stopped him. L-let’s go. We’re out! We’ll figure out the head thing later!”

“What?!” Alex yelped. “But Xander, he’s… y-you were going to evolve, just like you wanted!”

Xander didn’t answer. He kept running. “Evelyn!” Xander cried. “EVELYN!”

“This way!” called her voice. They leapt over boulders and stumbled over roots. This wasn’t a familiar path and Alex felt like a Deino again, helplessly bumbling through in unfamiliar lands, weak and pathetic.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Evelyn whispered, holding both their heads. “Alex, are you okay?”

“Uh, wrong head,” Xander said.

“What?” Evelyn whispered.

“H-hi, Evelyn. Um, something strange happened.”

“Mother must have…” Evelyn pulled them ahead. “Please, come, quickly. He must be trying to find you. Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” they both said.

“I’m going to Teleport again, but with you this time. But you can resist it very easily, so I need you to trust me completely.”

“We do.”

She embraced them, and while disoriented at the positioning, Alex adjusted and leaned his cheek against her back. Gods, this was strange. Evelyn always rested between them, and now the wrong side of his head was feeling it.

They felt weightless for an instant, and then they were somewhere else.

“Moooom!” Evelyn cried. “You were right! You were right, he’s coming, oh, Skies, what do we do?!”

“Calm, calm!” called an unfamiliar voice from someone who smelled like they had fur.

“Whoa, wait, what’s up?” called another wholly unfamiliar voice. “Yo, Rhys, fill me in?”

“Later, Star.”

Their voices were becoming muffled. There was a tightness in their chest. Alex had only felt this once before. He gasped. “Xander—”

“I know,” he replied back, grave. “We’re evolving. R-right now.”

“We… we are…”

He was having trouble speaking. The heat was rushing over and his mind felt fuzzy. It was happening again. Once, it happened when his conflicted mind had split in two. Now, it was time to reunite.

This was it for him.

“Xander… I…”

Xander said nothing, and the dizziness overtook him.


Alex felt like nothing. No weight, no sound, no scent. Floating somewhere. At first, he wondered idly if this was what happened if he was the mind that lost. But that would be silly; he would simply awaken as ‘Xander,’ and never be any the wiser of what he used to be. Who he was, his dreams would all become afterthoughts in an instant. Meaningless.

Maybe this was a middle ground, and he would eventually stop thinking altogether, and let Xander replace him. Become Xander. Was that it?


Alex hadn’t said it. But it sounded like him, aside from the assertive tone. Which meant…

“Xander?” Alex called back.

“Are we dreaming?” Xander asked.

Silence. He wondered if that was true. But he didn’t know how to answer. It felt like they were drifting a little bit closer. Inch by inch. They were only a few feet away from each other, though. So strange to hear him not right up against his ear.

“Maybe this is a vision,” Alex concluded. “The… the last time we’ll ever get to talk to one another. Do you think all Hydreigon went through this?”

“Maybe.” Xander dismissed it, though, like he didn’t care. But it was more halfhearted than usual. “Fine. Not gonna waste time with this. Alex, look… He… he wanted me to be… how I was.”


“Father. He wanted me to take over. Because I’d be like him. I’d… be…”


“It was true, wasn’t it?” Xander asked, laughing. “It really was true…”

Two feet away. It felt like they were already only two feet away, but that was still so much further than as a Zweilous.

“Don’t think like that,” Alex encouraged. Because he knew where this was going and suddenly he couldn’t accept it.

“No, I should! He wanted me to be a monster! Just to kill me, or whatever. He gave himself away. It all would’ve been over if I believed him!”

“Yet you had the power to fight back! I just stood there, accepting my fate. You fought! Xander, you fought!”

“Who cares! You knew! You were right, you… were like Mom, okay? You win.”

“No, I don’t win! It isn’t a competition!” Alex pleaded. “I never wanted it to be a competition between us; why can’t you get that?!”

“Because that’s all I know!” Xander cried. “That was our difference! That was what split us, that’s how I am!”

Alex had never heard him so broken before. It hurt.

Xander continued, “And now, at the last second, I realized it was all because I was… shaped and favored to be just how he wanted, not how I wanted, everything was just one big lie! Mom was… Mom might already be…”

“Xander… I need your strength,” Alex whispered. “Please, please don’t give up. Please persist, I need you, I need your strength! We need… we need to compromise. We need to work together; I don’t want you to disappear! I never wanted that!”

“Don’t you lie to me,” Xander spat. “That’s not at all how this is. I wanted you gone. It would’ve been so easy. Don’t tell me you wanted me to stay despite that; it’s a lie!”

“I…” Maybe some of that was true. “But only fleetingly. When I truly thought about it, about you, about how I’d feel, no! I wouldn’t want you gone! You… are the one who gets things done. You had the courage to rebel and seek Evelyn at all. You had the strength to keep training as hard as we did. I’m…”

“The only one that’s kind. The one Evelyn actually likes. I know she wishes you dominated.” His voice cracked. “It’s all for nothing. All of it’s nothing! Just let me go! LET ME GO AWAY!”

They touched. They had no body; they were just wisps in a void. Electricity bubbled through them, but Alex felt empowered. And Xander was fading.

“No! No, please, Xander. I need you, I need… that strength. If Father made you into a monster, then be a monster toward him! Be a monster that defends against other monsters. Monsters prey on weaklings like me, Xander, please, I need… to know how to be strong. And that’s you, I shouldn’t be… alone…”

Xander wasn’t saying anything. He was still there. But his whole world had collapsed around him in seconds. All that bluster, all that confidence, gone like dust to a gale. And as their essences dissolved against each other, he could feel some of those thoughts. How thoroughly everything Xander did was just to wall himself off. The very same, exact fears Alex had felt, Xander had, too.

And he had no idea, all this time. How afraid Xander truly was of every single day.

“I’m not strong,” Xander whispered.

“But you’re defiant,” Alex said. “You are strong. You have the courage to stand up to that fear… Gods, Xander… you were so strong despite feeling as afraid as me?”

“You were so nice… despite feeling all that fear?” Xander countered.

Alex didn’t have a counter for that. In that stunned silence, Xander shrank even more.

“Heh… at least… Evelyn will be happy…”

“Please,” Alex begged. “Mother wanted compromise. We can still follow her. Please, a deal… Just one little deal.”

“…Fine… what.” He could barely hear Xander now.

“When things are dire… when I truly need strength, when everything else fails… You must emerge.”

Alex couldn’t feel Xander anymore. He’d been totally pulled into his essence.

“Xander?” Alex whispered. “Please… I want to hear you one more time… please…”

But Xander was already gone. Instead, he felt a slight warmth at his very core. A presence. Himself, now. A bubbling little piece of courage was what remained of Xander… and then a strange defiance.

“F-fine,” Alex said. “If you refuse to get out, then… I’ll just force you when it’s needed. How does that sound?!” He felt silly, talking in the void. But it had to be said.

Everything was fading again. Time accelerated from its standstill.

And suddenly… he was there again. High above the others. Weightless, still, but now because he was floating with spectral power.

“Alex… Xander?” Evelyn whispered.

And in front of him, in a small room, was Evelyn. She had kind red eyes, a thin frame, a beautiful white dress that made up part of her body, and stunning blue hair.

Alex opened his new mouth for the first time to breathe, and then leaned down to kiss her without a second thought. A bold move he never would have considered in the past, but now it came so easily to him. And Evelyn was stunned, yet leaned into it, closing her eyes.

Instincts filled Alex’s mind with all the new sensory information he was now capable of. The new aspects of his body and power, the way his forelegs had become diminutive heads, his hind legs nothing but drifting things behind him… Floating was as natural as standing. And his wings

But most of all… This new sense he’d finally earned, that so many were simply born with, simply handed upon hatching.

But now, that reward was something he could truly savor: sight.

“Evelyn,” Alex whispered. “You’re beautiful.”


Alex had always been told about ‘sight’ before, a way to tell where things were without scent or sound. That it was very precise, and that they could turn their heads in a direction and know where everything was that way, just by ‘looking.’ For a Deino, their lives were without it; for a Zweilous, it was much the same, as far as Alex knew. But they finally gained eyes upon evolving to their final form, after great struggle and constant training.

With it came the instincts to understand what he was seeing. But it was all still overwhelming, even with that. So many people and their ‘visual’ appearances were being instantly paired up with their scent and sound profiles. A whole new dimension was being added to everything and everyone that Alex had known.

He had no idea that so many of the higher voices that came from below him also came from bodies so small. They ‘looked’ small to him, now. A Charmander had the ‘appearance’ of something so small and dainty. The walls were ‘brown,’ as Evelyn had explained to him. Brown and black rocks. He saw the sky and the ocean from high above once on a test flight, and the sensory overload of flying by his own power, combined with the light—he could have died right there and have been satisfied.

And all of it was earned. He’s finally earned his eyes. Six of them, even if the four on his smaller heads were not as good.

He was sad he couldn’t see his mother first, but this would have to do.

There were other very unfamiliar Pokémon in the rocky cavern. He had no idea what any of them were until they spoke up and he recognized their voices. That furry-smelling Pokémon was actually someone called Lucario Rhys. There was also a Charmander named Owen with him, and he smelled like brimstone despite assuring them he’d washed up. Surrounding the Charmander were three other Pokémon of similar sizes. Over the Lucario’s shoulder was a floating, tiny thing with a very long tail.

Apparently, it was this Lucario and those associated with him who had been collaborating with Amia and her clan to uncover information about Father. And after what just happened… maybe it was true after all.

In some ways, Alex already missed being blind.

Then there was Evelyn, the blue-haired Gardevoir, and Amia, a bit taller than Evelyn, but with emerald hair instead. They were all talking about some war, but Alex still felt too dazed to understand what it meant.

Occasionally, Pokémon he didn’t recognize asked him trivial questions like his name, what he remembered, how he felt. They seemed silly, but he answered to be polite.

Eventually, Rhys approached him, and it was startling to see how clearly Alex could now tell that without waiting for the scent or sound to get more intense first.

“Your chosen name is Alex?” Rhys asked. “Is ‘Xander’ there?”

Alex winced. “I… want to hope so,” he said. “But he did not wish to dominate. I was surprised as well, to learn that…”

“As am I,” Rhys admitted. “But your aura is not turbulent. I believe you have found peace in your evolution. You are lucky, considering how you were raised.”

“My mother helped guide me down a proper path.”

“Your mother, right. Her name is… Remi?”

Alex nodded.

“Hmm… It sounds familiar. Unfortunately, I don’t believe she is relevant to any of this beyond…” He spoke carefully. “Beyond her relation to your father.”

“It’s… Is it true? Warlord? A soul eater of some kind, how does—Please, you must explain. I have no intention of returning to his side, but if we can save my mother…”

Rhys closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Alex. Your mother has already been reclaimed. It was the first thing your father did upon returning home. Our scouts confirmed that she is… withdrawn into Alexander. She is not dead, not in the sense you would imagine. But I’m afraid you cannot see her. She seemed to have a blessing of some kind that allowed her to persist beyond Alexander’s typical range, but she was still under his domain.”

None of that made sense. Gone, withdrawn, reclaimed? What does that mean?

“You seem confused,” Rhys said.

“Of course I seem confused. I have no idea what you mean,” Alex replied breathlessly. “I…”

His levitation faltered, and Rhys swiftly moved in and propped him up. He leaned against the surprisingly strong Lucario for his petite size.

A new voice called into the room. “Apologies for being late.”

Formal, remarkably neutral. It was a voice that wasn’t appealing nor unappealing. In some ways, it felt almost bland in tone. Entering the cavern, lit only by dim orbs embedded into the ceiling, was a strange canine with black scales and green hexagons along his body. Strangely enough, sometimes the green hexagons lit up in a slow rhythm.

“Who are you?” Alex asked.

“You may call me Zygarde Hecto. Overseer.”

“Oh. Overseer of…”

“Kilo, for now.”

The small, pink thing giggled and landed on Hecto’s back. “So formal! He and I are sorta dating, but long story short, he’s basically someone who’s helping out with a little trouble happening in this place. He’s the scout Rhys sent to look around for what’s going on.”

“Oh, you, a scout?” Alex asked. “I suppose you look like you might be a good scout… stealthy…”

“Kilo is in danger due to Alexander’s movements and actions. He intends to resurrect some great power that had been sealed away. Unfortunately, a strange force is causing me to forget what it is.”

“Causing you to forget,” Alex repeated. “What does that mean, causing you to forget?”

“The fabric of this world that permeates every living creature can be manipulated by powerful entities. Sometimes, the rules to what can and can’t be remembered and perceived can be imposed upon mortals and weaker immortals, like I am right now. Even at my greatest power… I am limited by my domain while within here. Which can lead to frustrating circumstances of remembering while outside of it, yet helpless once within.”

Alex decided to pretend he understood all of that. “Your point is, as this Overseer, you are stepping in to… stop my father?”

“In essence, yes. That is the ideal outcome. If your father can be defeated, and then I may observe the end result for a few centuries, that will save this world from destruction.”

World destruction?” Alex laughed in disbelief. “My father raised me to train and become strong. If he plans to destroy the world, why would… I—I mean, why would my younger sibling be incubating, then?”

“His claim over the world will not be the end of all life. Only all free life,” Hecto said. “All will be under his dominion. Conquest. But in the process, the world itself will fall to ruin due to the nature of his power over Shadow. That is why I have stepped in, specifically. His dark powers are a cosmic threat, and therefore beyond the simple domain of mortals, or the local gods.” He gestured to the pink creature.

“Oh, yeah, never introduced myself, huh?” The pink creature held out a paw, but then realized who she was doing it to and patted Alex’s left head instead. “My name is Mew Star.”

“M-Mew Star? Local god? Wait… so not simply a rare creature, but the Mew?”

“Yeah, that’s the one!” Star replied cheerily. “Don’t worry, though. I’m not here for godly worship or whatever. I just want to make sure the world doesn’t end. I’m an asset to stopping Alex right now. Even got special permission from B—Arceus to descend and help directly.”

Alex lowered himself again, sighing. “This is all… a lot.”

“I imagine so,” Rhys said. “The good thing is, you do not have to take action. Your best choice in the matter is staying away from the fighting. In fact, I would go so far as to recommend you flee entirely from this battle.”

Alex flinched. What? Flee entirely? After all this time…

“I must, err, respectfully disagree,” Alex said. Then, when he realized how pathetic that sounded, he straightened and said, “I’m fighting. If he wants me, then I’ll be at least a distraction while you take him out. I know my father. I’ll be able to avoid him.”

“You’re just barely getting used to a new sense,” Rhys countered. “You will be disoriented.”

“I’m not running from him!”

That startled him, yet also didn’t surprise him. His voice was deeper and firmer, resolute. He’d never spoken like that before. But under this stress, there was a warmth in his chest…

Xander. He’d called upon him. Or, he became him, for just a little. So seamless…

He let the momentum carry him. “If I’m part of a long line of sons and daughters created from him and some twisted relationship with my mother, then let me be the one to also break it. I still have an unhatched sibling that I can fight for, too. I won’t run away from them. Please… You have to accept this.”

Even as Alex spoke, he could see his words having an effect. It was so strange to witness the way they moved, the sounds that corresponded with weight shifting, little grunts, body movements once invisible to him. That must have meant they were agitated.

For some reason, the Charmander was sniffling. “That’s so cool,” he said. “Rhys, we gotta let him fight!”

Rhys rubbed his forehead.

“He’s got you beat there,” Star remarked, shrugging.

“Oh, not you too,” Rhys muttered. “Fine. But it will be anything but the front lines. If he gets a hold of you, that’s another lost to his cycle. Is that a fair compromise?”

Alex nodded. “I’ll support. I just won’t run.”

“Oh, Alex…” Evelyn strode up to him and embraced his neck. “If that’s how it’s going to be… we need to train up.”

“Train?” Alex asked. “With… Fairies?”

“Hmph. Afraid?” Amia taunted, crossing her arms.

“N-no, I… Alright. Training. Let’s see what we can do!”

He was going to regret this.


(Continued in next post)


Dragon Enthusiast
The following days had become a whirlwind of activity as he was trained, debriefed, and warned about everything Alexander had actually been doing. Each revelation felt more unreal than the last, but most worrying was the fact that everyone he spoke to lacked the full picture, and acknowledged as much.

Rhys worked with Star, one of the Creators. Rhys was part of an organization that was dedicated to the study of life and spirits, but had recently pivoted to fighting Alexander in the middle of something they were calling the ‘Second Dark War.’

The first Dark War was shrouded in mystery, lost to time and perhaps divine intervention. Star suspected that Arceus was responsible for its erasure from history, and also suspected that, after Alexander, perhaps Arceus would be the next on their list of people to question and stop. That alone seemed farfetched, and even Rhys seemed skeptical, but perhaps it was true. Who else would have the power to erase such things from history?

Owen and his three friends were apparently a secret weapon of some kind, though Rhys was cagey about talking in detail about what they were capable of. Only that, if there was a need, he would be able to “unleash” their full power if it meant stalling Alexander for a finishing blow.

But Alex sensed a great conflict in the way Rhys spoke of it, and Evelyn’s keen sense of emotions confirmed it. While they were an “ultimate weapon,” Rhys was also treating it as a “last resort.”

It was probably fine.

And then, one day, Hecto returned from another scouting mission, but this time with some company and terrible injuries.

“Ah! Um, ummm, Evelyn! Amia!”

Alex happened to be the one to see him first, training outside the caves many miles away from his old home, where it was safer. Hecto, the canine Zygarde at the moment, was missing almost his entire lower half, bleeding a green fluid and one of the Cells that comprised his body dangling.

“Hello,” Hecto grunted. “Please relieve me of what I am carrying. That is all that matters.”

“But—but you’re hurt! I’ll get a healer—”

“These wounds are far too grave and settled to heal,” Hecto said. “The egg. Please.”


Alex gasped. He knew that egg, its speckled blue and black exterior… Hesitantly, he picked it up. “This is… my brother, or sister, isn’t it?”

“Yes. You seemed… to value them greatly. I did what I could. It is safe…” He rested his head on the ground, eyes dimming. “Good. The mission is accomplished.”

And right before Alex’s eyes, the Zygarde degraded into oozing cells, about seven total. The worst was how his head had split into two lopsided blobs…

“H-Hecto…” Alex sniffed. He set the egg down nearby, very gingerly. The shell felt like it was beginning to thin out—a sign that it was hatching time soon. “I’ll… I’ll avenge you, Hecto. Putting your life on the line just to try to get my sibling back… I had no idea you’d go so far. And—”

“I recommend getting the egg somewhere safe first.”

Alex shrieked and spun around, seeing another Hecto standing there, looking up.

“Wh—but—but you, that’s, sacrifice…”

“…Mm. I realize that I did not explicitly tell you that I have spare bodies. My apologies.” He then looked at the egg. “The sun is harsher in this region. It’s better inside.”

“I… y-yes. Okay.” Every day was a shock. He could feel his lifespan shrinking.

He picked up the egg and dusted off some of the sand, and then drifted toward the small encampment they’d made for themselves. The trees here were a lot thinner and the sun was indeed much warmer. It no longer smelled of the ocean, but the scent still lingered from the south. It was very dry, too. Alex found himself needing water more often, even with his scales. Maybe it was the training, or the fact that he was so much larger, or that he was now conscious of three mouths doing the drinking instead of just one.

“Err, what about those?” Alex asked, gesturing at the remains of the dead Hecto.

“I will harvest him,” Hecto said. “You may go on ahead.”

Alex decided he didn’t need to see that and agreed.

After some navigation through the forest, he made it to a spot where it was dimmer and the thin trees were just a little denser. It was where they’d built an underground base. ‘Not their real one,’ Rhys had said, ‘but a good outpost.’

Underground, packed dirt and reinforced clay formed most of the makeshift base. The walls were thankfully tall enough to allow Alex decent movement even while flying. “Um, excuse me! Hecto gave me an egg?”

“Wow, didn’t know he swung that way,” Star said.

“No! Not what I meant! And um, males can’t have eggs,” Alex said.

“Bah, I’ll find a way.” Star smiled at him and gestured to the right. “Put them in there. I set up an incubation area. Aww, he’s gonna be a boy. Healthy!”

“Y-you can tell, just like that?”

“Sort of my role,” Star pointed out. “Think of it like a sixth sense.” The Mew floated to the top of Alex’s head and sat down. “You know, I just wanted to say to you… you’re really kind, you know that?”

“Oh… um, that’s good… That’s good, right?”

“Yeah. I think I get why Alexander wanted to focus on just one head or something, because trying to get both of you to be like him would’ve taken too long. Weird… You didn’t inherit much of his nature at all. Remi must have had a stronger influence…”

Her paw traced his scales and scratched under his chin. He suppressed a pleasured growl.

“Well,” he said, gently shaking her off. She floated a few inches above him. “We’re both glad. I wanted to be strong, but I didn’t want to be a monster. Mother was right after all. Compromise…”

“It’s probably why Evelyn loves you so much. Anyway, we were about to have a strategy meeting. We want you in it if you’re going to go for the assault. Things are going kind of fast right now, but if we can get this done, we might be able to take Alexander out here and now.”

“Just like that?” Alex asked in a whisper. “I… I don’t know how. He seems so strong…”

“He’s also just one person. Sure, he has a phantom army but he’s still the core of it all, and that’s his weakness. If we can take him out, that’ll be it. Take out the lich, and all the minions fall! Just like one of those fantasy books!”

“I see…” Still too surreal for him to fully comprehend. But he was starting to get the gist of what this all meant. “Will this be everyone, then? Do you have an army of your own?”

“They’re all still fighting their own fights. We’re the ones tasked with taking out Alexander directly,” Star explained. “But we do have a little more backup coming. A few old friends of mine, and the leader of the Hearts.”

The way Star said it, the term sounded important, but Alex didn’t know what it meant. He just nodded.

“And what can I do?” Alex asked. “Who will I go with?”

“If you’re going to be the distraction,” Star said, humming, “I want you to go with Rhys’ group.”

The little Charmander straightened his back and puffed out his chest. “When you see me tomorrow, I’m gonna be evolved and way stronger!”

“Mm. All in preparation,” Rhys said. “We’ll be doing intensive training for it. I know a special technique that will help them grow faster.”

“You speak like evolution is something that happens on the regular,” Alex mumbled. “When I first evolved, it was a celebration…”

Star gave him a sad smile. “Well,” she said, “it’s all for the world. Are we ready, everyone?”

Many nodded.

“Then it’s a good night’s rest, and then the final assault!”


After a heavy dinner, Alex curled up in bed. It was nice to be able to totally relax himself, completely disabling even his spectral floatation. He allowed gravity to pull him into his nest, nuzzled into the grass and curled around the Gardevoir right next to him.

It was strange. When he closed his eyes, it was a lot like when they’d known each other. But now, with sight, there was a new dimension to basically everything that he did. In some ways it was a little tiring.

It was convenient being able to see and know things from so far away, though. He understood how useful that was for battle against silent foes, or how, perhaps, his father had followed him so easily in the past. With no footfalls, there was only scent that he could rely on, and that wasn’t always reliable depending on the direction of the wind.

“Evelyn,” Alex said. “Your mother. She’s the strongest of your… clan. Correct?”

“It’s hardly a clan anymore, but yes,” she said. “She’s trained for a long time to take a power that your father has. It’s been misused for quite some time. But she has a plan… Perhaps we can save everyone.”

“Ev—even Mother?”

“Yes. You see, Mom, she… inherited a power from someone. She’s also blessed by the gods in her own way. Unlike Alexander, though, she doesn’t kill her children. They all live happy lives and, er, well, move off and die of age. She doesn’t. But she has a power, a very special power…”

“What is it?”

“You’ve seen it already.”

“The Fairy thing?”

“No, that was a little trap she set for you. I meant when your heads switched. She has Manaphy’s blessing.”

“Oh, goodness…” A beat. “I don’t know what that is.”

“You’ve never heard about it?”

“Not really. And it’s not like I know how to read…”

“Don’t they have books for the blind?”

“That’s not why I don’t know how…”


Another awkward silence. Evelyn gently rubbed his cheek, as if in understanding.

She continued, “Manaphy is the god of, er, changing places. I don’t really remember the exact term. But she can swap the very spirits of two people, have them live in the body of another, just like that. And, in cases like you, she can also swap the minds of the same spirit, if there are multiple.”

“Oh. Well. A bit pointless on me, isn’t it?” Alex asked.

“Maybe for you,” Evelyn said. “But… your father.”

Alex’s mouth opened slightly in disbelief. “Y-you mean… no! Is that possible? Could my father have… once been kind? One of his heads? And…”

“Think of how he spoke about you, or, er, the Alex half.”

“Xander’s still in here, too,” Alex said, only mildly offended.

“Yes, I’m sorry. But imagine if she switched the father you know… for the father that ‘lost’ that battle? He didn’t win by compromise, did he? So, what if…”

“That’s brilliant!” Alex laughed. “It’s no wonder you’re so confident. All you have to do is turn this Alexander into the dormant one… Oh, I hope that works…”

“We don’t really know what the losing head was like,” Evelyn said, “but considering how he talks about it… we can be confident he wouldn’t want it. And therefore, we do. Right? Does that make sense?”

“At the very least,” Alex said, “we can disorient him. You’re right. Oh, now I’m excited!” Alex shook his smaller heads.

Evelyn giggled, nuzzling him. “Alright,” she said, wrapping her hands around the back of his head. “Let’s get some good rest. We’ll get it all done in the morning.”

“Right… rest first.” He sighed, trying to calm down.

The prospect of saving his mother was what kept him awake the most.


It was cold that morning. When Alex opened his eyes, he assumed he was blind again. But it was just dark. And… airy. And he felt weighed down, too.

Why did his head hurt?

“Thank God you’re awake,” Star whispered, slapping Alex on the cheek.

“Ow! Excuse me?” Alex grunted, trying to get up, but then he yelped as a twisting shock ran through his body. Only then did he realize that most of the cave had collapsed onto him.

“Hold still. I’ll get you out of there,” Star said. Psychic energy enveloped the stones and rocks, releasing Alex, but he wished he hadn’t been staring when he was released. He couldn’t recognize his lower half.

“Don’t panic, don’t panic!” Star assured him. “I got this. It’s not even that bad, it’s just some crushing. You’ve had worse, right?” She patted him on the shoulder, but Alex had been stunned into silence. Or shock. He wasn’t sure anymore; everything was blurry.

“E-Evelyn,” Alex managed. “Where is—”

“She’s safe. But we have to get out of here. Alexander got the jump on us.”

Warmth spread through parts of Alex’s body that had been totally crushed, followed by a brief agony of tingling and featureless pain. He screamed but a psychic hold wrapped around his muzzle, though it fizzled a second later.

“Ugh! Right, Dark. Just shh!” Star said, physically clamping his jaws tight with her tiny arms. She was surprisingly strong.

“Sorry,” Alex said through a closed mouth. The feeling in his lower half returned; a little crushing never killed anybody, right?

Why did he think that? Had a thought from Star channeled into him with her healing?

“We might get spotted,” Star said before he could test his healed body. “I’m gonna Teleport the both of us out. Don’t resist, alright?”

Alex nodded. Star wrapped her body around his neck and started glowing white.

Something cut his cheek. Cold, a deeper cold than ice, and a burn like acid. When Alex opened his eyes again, he was not in a new location. It was still dark and it was still the collapsed caverns of their old hideout. Star was pinned to the wall with a spear made of a strange, shadowy material rammed through her chest. Her eyes were wide with fear and surprise.

He knew that power, the feeling alone. Instead of turning back, he rushed for Star and grasped at the javelin, pulling it out. Star’s mouth opened with pain, but he grasped her tiny body in one of his smaller jaws and curled her under his chest, flying away as quickly as he could.

That sizzle approached again and he weaved left, dodging it. Then he weaved right and dodged another, just from the sounds in the air.

The cave below him was a blur of ruins. The whole place had been savagely leveled overnight. How did he sleep through it? Or had he been knocked unconscious before he could wake?


Two small jaws grasped Alex by the tail, and then he was yanked backwards. He saw his father’s crazed eyes, his jaws that seeped with a black fluid. Then they were upon him, and a horrible, tearing pain cracked his snout and forehead—

And then it stopped.


He could still hear, he could still think, but only barely from the pain that was suddenly all-encompassing. He wasn’t even sure if he was screaming or not. All he thought to do was flail dumbly, not knowing anything else, until that same warmth from before restored his eyes.

That blindness had been a small comfort, but now he could see again.

Even better, he could see Evelyn, whose eyes were wet with tears. Her delicate blue hands covered her mouth.

“That guy’s beyond help,” Alex heard Star mutter while he was still in a daze. “He ate his own son’s face! Who does that?!”

“Shh, he might be waking up,” Evelyn said. “Don’t frighten him. Oh, Alex… h-he’ll be fine, right?”

“You’re lucky his son’s resistant to Shadows, or I wouldn’t be able to heal this,” Star said. “But yes. Look, it’s already closing up.”

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” called an unfamiliar voice. Alex eventually tied it to a Fraxure, who looked somehow pale in the face despite his scales.

“Cool,” said a nearby Bayleef, her eyes focused on Alex for some reason.

Alex gasped to indicate his presence. “I—I’m okay,” he said. “I’m okay…”

“Oh, thank the skies… Alex! I—I thought the first onslaught had taken you…” Evelyn rushed to his side, embracing his main head and neck. Alex wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. She was trembling and there was blood—his blood—on her shoulder.

“What happened?” Alex asked. “Please, tell me. Where are we?”

It was another cave. He could still smell the ocean, so it hadn’t been very far. Father could be upon them at any moment…

“Alexander grew wise to our plans and made a preemptive strike. Most of our initial plans have been completely overturned,” Amia said, stepping closer and out from a deeper part of the caverns. “But this also simplifies matters. Alexander is coming after you, Alex. So, we will defend you with our lives so he may not become stronger. We will end his cycle here, permanently. No matter the cost.”

Alex took a shaky breath. Just one exchange with his father, when he was truly fierce, truly ferocious… He didn’t want to face him anymore. He did not have the fighting spirit to do so. Even Xander would have been completely overwhelmed by this. Even that half of him saw sense to flee. And the overwhelming shame that burned into his stomach was enough to make him sink and sniffle.

Evelyn embracing him was the only true comfort he had. His mother was dead. His father had killed her. And now he was next. His little world, blind to everything else, overturned in a matter of days. He was falling and tumbling and all he had were a bunch of strangers to defend him… and Evelyn.

Alex ran everything through his head again and then suddenly looked at Star. “Y-you were impaled!”

“Yeah, that one… still hurts. But I’m sort of divine, so it’s pretty easy to heal that. But I’m not doing too well, actually.”

And when Alex took a closer look at her chest, he could indeed still see some darkness swirling over her fur where the spear had pierced.

“Look, don’t worry! We still have to take him down, right?” Her eyes were desperate again.

But he couldn’t do the fighting.

Deeper in the cave, an Alakazam emerged. He seemed composed, in the same way someone was trying to stay calm after a great outburst. Everyone had gone quiet when he emerged.

“…Hello,” he replied with false cheer.

“Hey, Nev. Is Rhys…?”

“He will recover,” Alakazam replied tersely, eyes closed. “I will be taking the four, now.”

“Wait, you’re what?” Star asked, rising, but then winced and clutched her chest.

“Yes. Alexander is far too great a threat. It is time to employ our desperation tactics.”

“Hold,” Amia said. The Gardevoir with emerald hair stared coldly toward Nevren. “We still have other measures. We do not need to endanger them with… whatever those drawbacks were that you’d warned us about.”

The quartet of Pokémon looked confusedly between them. Alex had the sneaking suspicion they didn’t know what they were talking about. Frankly, neither did he. What were those four middle-evolution Pokémon supposed to accomplish? Father rivaled the gods themselves.

“I’m going,” Nevren said with another grave nod. “Owen. Demitri, Mispy. Gahi. Come, now. It’s time to fight.”

“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” a Vibrava replied, flitting over Alakazam’s head. The other three ran after him, and soon they were leaving.

Heavy, wet footfalls echoed from deeper in the cave, and then a Goodra covered in blood ran past them, calling ‘Nevren’ as the five left. The blood didn’t smell like it was from a dragon. The strange Mew went next, floating shakily after them before hitching a ride on the Goodra’s shoulder.

Soon, only three remained. Alex, Amia, and Evelyn. He was lost in a war so far out of his vision that now that he could see its ramifications, he felt blind all over again.

And then, Amia marched out.

“Mother,” Evelyn said desperately. “What are you doing?”

“If Nevren intends to use his trump card,” Amia said, “I shall use mine. It’s time we end this once and for all and put an end to the Shadows’ cycle.”

“Then let—”

“You,” Amia said, “will guard Rhys and Alex. Rhys in particular is extremely vulnerable, and if Alexander claims his soul, we will be just as vulnerable regardless. Every soul he claims adds to his power. It does not need to simply be of his lineage; that is only what allows him the greatest growth… had he not been facing gods and those blessed by them alike in our gamble.”

As she spoke, she walked further out of the cave.

“I do not know how many of our clan he has already claimed or killed. Your father is still out there, fighting. I must join him.” She glanced back at Evelyn out of the corner of her eye, nodding. “Be strong for me here. I will return.”

In a flash of light, she was gone.

At first, perhaps Alex would have listened. But he took one glance at Evelyn, and he knew even with his limited knowledge on sight that she was in anguish. She knew something he didn’t, or maybe it was just a feeling.

Were they all going to die? If they didn’t go, right now, would they never see any of them again?

A warmth bubbled in his chest. He didn’t feel very much like ‘Alex’ anymore.

“Let’s go,” the Hydreigon said.


He lunged for her and pulled her onto his back; she followed out of pure surprise. He flew, despite his pain, but just as he did, another green canine appeared.

“Good, you’re here,” Alex said, or maybe right now he was Xander. He didn’t know and didn’t care. “Rhys needs to be guarded. We’re coming along.”

“Is that what was ordered?” Hecto asked.

“Yes. Guard Rhys.” The lie came easier than usual. Once Hecto was out of earshot, he asked, “Evelyn, can you get a sense for where your mother went?”

“The Teleport is still fresh,” she said. “I… I can tell. I know the direction.”

With a firm nod, Alex held Evelyn’s shoulders and waited for that disorienting flash to take him away. A moment later, the smell of the ocean was stronger, but the darkness of early morning allowed more detail.

“Where is everyone?” Alex asked.

“I can’t Teleport as far as Mom,” Evelyn admitted. “Give me a second…”

Alex worriedly scanned the horizon, rising higher after getting Evelyn on his back. Maybe he could fly while she focused on her next Teleportation. That would be a fast mode of transport, right? The chilly air helped him be more alert as they raced over fallen trees.

A shame he was still trying to get used to more advanced flying maneuvers. Evelyn, too, was struggling with it, based on how tightly she was holding onto his shoulders.

But they didn’t need to fly very far. In the dawn’s long shadows, the smallest pulses of energy stood out against the dark. Therefore, the clash between god and usurper bathed that darkness in light as if by a second sun.

Flames of orange and indigo tore a whole section of the forest away in an instant. A beam of concentrated sunlight carved another fissure into the earth, leaving glowing spots of melted rubble in its half-cylinder mark. Then came a retaliatory meteor of darkness, the skies themselves raining with a strange, deep purple water. Crackles of blackened lightning came from those clouds, smiting what remained of the ruined battleground, which had become a wasteland in a matter of seconds. And all of those attacks were dwarfed by the sheer crater beneath them that would have taken a good part of the morning to fly around. It radiated a horrible malice.

From the explosions, a tiny figure trailed out in a ragdoll’s arc. Friend or foe? Alex couldn’t see yet, so he flew closer. Then came another figure, one he’d easily recognize as his father. He smashed into the arcing comet, jaws locking onto his prey.

Alex now could see who it was. “Star!”

In a flash of light, the Mew disappeared, yet there still seemed to be something in Father’s mouth, like some part of Mew couldn’t escape. Evelyn pointed to the ground. “She went there!” she whispered, and Alex started to fly that way, evading Father’s notice.

The dust and debris still falling from the last explosion battered him, sometimes pieces of wood the size of whole fruits slamming onto his back. He coughed through the smoke and flew over four figures. Three of them were down, so he descended and whispered, “Can you heal them?”

“I—I’ll try.”

Alex had no idea what they were supposed to be. He couldn’t even comprehend what he was seeing. Was it horrifying, confusing? All he saw were four vague shapes that looked like they were meant to be fitted together into a single, whole, but parts were torn away.

And then, to his horror, he realized that he recognized those four—but for their lower forms. It only clicked when he saw one of those misshapen… things emit a flame on one of its appendages.

“What happened to them?” Evelyn whispered, voice trembling.

“Heal them,” Alex urged.

“I’m t-trying,” Evelyn said, but her hands were trembling. She pointed at them, managing to get the melted Charizard. It didn’t seem to do anything, but he did glance at Alex and Evelyn.

And all Alex could see in those eyes was bloodlust. Empty-headed bloodlust, even lower than the most mindless feral.

He knew in that moment he had to get away. He ascended, thankful that Charizard’s wings hadn’t properly reformed yet, and followed the destruction in time to see Father chasing down someone else. “There!” Alex said, suddenly wondering what he was even thinking to do. Were they losing? Did he come here just to feed his soul to his father?

A small part of him was tempted to go back. The rest of him, and Evelyn, urged him forward.

“Mom!” Evelyn whispered loudly to Alex, pointing.

An emerald-haired Gardevoir was standing against a boulder, hiding. Meanwhile, Father was pinning Star to the ground with one paw over her chest, squeezing it.

“No…” Alex went forward on autopilot, but still had no idea what to do. “He’s got Mew. He’s got the Creator in his jaws, how, what—”

“We have to save her. S-somehow!”

Star was seconds away from being killed and possibly even claimed. A divine being, claimed by the monster he’d called a father only days earlier. As the morning sun rose higher into the sky, the long shadows getting cut by new light, Alex mustered the last of his courage for one final cry.


And suddenly, the Hydreigon of Shadow turned all three heads his way.

There you are,” Father said with a great smile. There was a chilling echo to every word. “Giving yourself up?”

Star wasn’t moving. Was she already…

“I-if I do… will you end this war?”

“War… This isn’t a war,” Father shrugged. “I’m only taking back what was meant for me in the first place. My natural, divine right, as the proper savior of this world.”

“And yet you’re killing the very Creator Herself!” Alex countered.

“A Creator would not descend to a state where She could be killed,” Father countered. “Really, I’m doing this world a favor by taking Her place. I will at least honor that much of her responsibilities…” He leaned closer. “Are you ready to die, Creator? Lend me your power. I will make it… painless.”

“I-if you take her, then… you’ll never have me,” Alex said. “I’ll run. A-and you’ll never find me. I’ll…”

Father tilted his head again, that grin morphing from a challenging smirk to an entertained smile.

“Oh,” he said, “that is… adorable. You think you matter.”

Why wasn’t Star Teleporting? Was that disabled somehow? She couldn’t be dead. Couldn’t be. Not yet. The way Father was sparing a few extra glances suggested he was still watching. She was still alive. It wasn’t too late!

“Do you know how many souls I control?” Father asked, drifting toward Alex. As he did, Star was dragged by a near-invisible thread of darkness that had been tied around her chest. “How many are already part of my personal army? You are nothing to what I already have. I do not want you for power. I want you for pride. To keep my own blood with me forever. My empire, by my own essence, growing to rule over everything else.

“Why? Because I can. I clawed my way to this power and I will use it. Every ounce of this power, I earned. This forsaken world, corrupted by darkness, must be tamed by that very same darkness. And I have conquered it long ago, dear blood. This is just the ending act.

“Now is the time for me to take the final step into ascension. Every spirit inside of me, working in-step to usurp the very Creators that granted me life. Like one thousand little hearts all beating as one. As my heart. The gods’ own pride, their own folly, led them to this perfect, vulnerable moment.”

He raised his smaller left head, and Star followed, dangling limply. Blood pooled beneath her. She was so pale.

There went Alex’s last idea, using himself as a gambling chip. Maybe it was a bluff. Maybe Father really did still need him. But right then, at that moment, Alex wondered if the best option was to just give up. He was so… tired. It was all too much. And staring at the ruins around them, it felt like there was nothing left to be saved.

The crater seemed so horribly large. It would take most of the day for the average person to walk around its perimeter. And they were just at its center, where Father’s most recent blast had started. He could feel the Shadowy energy radiating from it, and perhaps even more, the way it had clashed with Star. The little shelter that had survived faded into rotten ash. Evelyn, on her back, felt like she was struggling to breathe. Alex felt fine. Almost invigorated, despite everything.

Amia was visible again. Her body looked a little darkened, but not terribly. And she was trying to aim at Father’s head with something, from a blind spot behind him. Alex tried to ignore it, a flicker of hope in his heart again.

How long had they been at a tense stare down?

“Do you feel it?” Father asked. “This place… it’s mixing the energies together. Radiance and Shadow, together. It’s… intoxicating. I could bask in it forever. And maybe soon, I will… I’ll give you one more chance, blood.”

He held his free head forward.

“Join voluntarily with all of your kin.”

Over his shoulder, featureless phantoms, all of them Hydreigon, floated like a miasma, glowing eyes staring at him. He could only guess that his mother was the one that was so much brighter than the rest. It stood out like the sun in the sky.

She really had been claimed.

Like so, so many others.

“Or be dragged in, pathetic to your last breath.”

Evelyn’s grip was getting weak. The atmosphere was killing her. He had to run. He couldn’t fight. But then, Star…

And then, Amia fired.

And by some miracle, Father didn’t notice when it struck him clean on the head. There were no wounds, no changes, not even a noise. It was just a flash of light, and suddenly Father seemed completely stunned. His eyes were wide and his jaw was agape.

“Now!” Evelyn slammed on Alex’s shoulders, and he rushed into action. He flew under Father and grabbed Star—cold and limp, but she responded with a whimper—and felt the acidic thread that connected her to the tyrant Hydreigon. On instinct, he clamped his main jaws onto the thread and pulled. There was feedback into his teeth that felt like ice, cutting into his gums, but the thread snapped, and he started to fly away, spinning only to see if anything had changed.

Amia’s power would have allowed Father’s mind to swap with the other Zweilous head. That was the theory, right? Perhaps they should have tested it on him first. ‘Xander’ would be present for a little while. That was fine. Maybe having some of that bravery would have been nice. He could feel his own frustration bubbling at that, but then he refocused on Father, whose flying had slowed.

“Did we do it?” Alex held his breath. “Is… is the other mind active?”

“Yes! It must be!” Evelyn said. “Yes! Mom did it! It’s over! I can feel his emotional waves… It’s different. There was horror, and then, hang on, I almost have a feel for it…”

Alex slumped over, relieved. It was finally over. He didn’t like the way they had to do it. In some ways, he pitied the Father he knew, because now he would likely be in that same dark oblivion he’d tossed aside his other self to become. A mere afterthought of what he had once been like.

But… he would never truly be gone. They were still the same ‘Alexander.’ So, they would still need to be careful, in case temptation brought about that old self.

It was going to be okay.

Evelyn fell off of Alex’s back.

“Eve—” Alex choked.

Evelyn’s eyes were wide with shock, a javelin of shadows piercing her chest. It had been so fast. Dark tendrils were pulsing from the impact site, dissolving her skin and flesh like fire on cotton.

Alex turned his head to face Father again. He only caught a glimpse of the emptiest, most savage, soulless grin he’d seen. An image he knew would burn into his mind forever, for what little time he had left to think.

Three spears pierced through Alex’s chest, and one each pierced through the heads of his arms. It was so cold he couldn’t even register the pain. He only tasted the acidic metal in his mouth, blood tinged with darkness.

He fell for at least two seconds, getting faster the whole time, until he slammed on boulders and stopped next to Evelyn, who was already barely conscious. Weakly, she tried to reach out to him, but then he realized she was pointing at something.

Agonizingly, he turned his head. First, he saw Star’s body, crumpled and torn and motionless. She’d fallen with them. And… while she had been alive before, she was alive no longer. He couldn’t feel that gentle aura of power coming from her. The god had been slain, completely. It was just a husk of dead flesh now.

Then, he saw that Father hadn’t properly gotten to him afterward. The residuals of a stinging blast of Fairy energy had stalled him. This Hydreigon wasn’t fighting with nearly as much grace, but he made up for it in total ferocity. Amia would have gone down next, had it not been for the final interloper Alex could see. It seemed to be the Charizard from earlier, fighting with blind fury. Flames shrouded his slender body and Father couldn’t properly land a blow on him. Strange golden barriers precisely blocked every hit.

The ground was shaking. Everything was getting so much darker. Was that because his vision was finally failing him? It had been a lovely few days of sight. It was a shame he couldn’t enjoy it for longer.

But he felt oddly peaceful about returning to that comfortable darkness. Things were less complicated back then. When he was blind to the world. When his only worry was not getting caught by his strict father and doting mother. When he could enjoy the quiet nights. He could hear the water now, rumbling the rocks.

Evelyn… was she also going to die? They’d die together. So morbid. There was a small, stray thought that wondered if one should live, and if it should be her. He focused as much as he could, willing himself to see one last time. See her one last time.

Some time had passed and Alex didn’t even realize it. There was a Charizard on the ground near him, crumpled with limbs in wrong directions, struggling backwards. And… it was boiling. The sky had erupted in flames.

He agonizingly turned his head again, and was certain he’d seen a true demon. His Father had become shrouded in nothing but flames. The spectral wings had burst into fire; his scales rippled with the colors of magma. Flames poured from his mouth, mixing with dark clouds like a whole forest’s life burned at once within him. It smelled of brimstone.

The Charizard screamed a mindless scream, no longer fierce but afraid, as the demon fell upon him. Alex couldn’t see anymore, but he could hear, and he felt another psychic wave that his body resisted. He recognized it as Amia’s strange swapping powers.

Father grunted. “What… what was that?” he said. “That trickery… what did you make me do?!”

“Then even at your core, you were a monster,” Amia screamed, her voice shaking.

Silence for a moment, and then he chuckled. “So that is your trick… I see. Yes… my other self. Pathetic, primal, monstrous. He sees a single goal and takes the straightforward, naïve path. A fool. He was a slave to his urges. I was the calculating one. But we both agreed on what we wanted, in the end. All Hydreigon are like this. We always agree… we only differ on the methods to get to what we want. Of course, the superior head always wins… But now I see why my most recent blood had been such a failure. You must have swapped him around, too.”

Alex tried to speak. The swap had nothing to do with it. And he knew, in his heart of hearts, this was the truth. But why did he even care to prove himself to such a monster anymore?

No words came.

“But you brought to me a wonderful gift,” Father went on. “Owen… what sick joke it is that you’ve come to get in my way again. But that doesn’t matter, does it?”

The Charizard whimpered helplessly. There was a dragging noise and the whimpering got louder.

“Reduced to a mindless weapon. Even your body has been corrupted. You’re barely worth my effort. But that soul of Radiance and Shadow… that is the prize, even if I need to break you down to get to it. Maybe I’ll do it slow. Show you how helpless you truly are to me…”

More mindless cries and whimpers were his only reply. Alex heard sizzling. The Charizard was doomed.

The ground rumbled even more. Father didn’t notice, floating in the air. But then it was audible enough that rocks started to rumble.

At the same time, a gentle warmth coursed through him. He could see again. Barely. Just barely.

Gods, it was much darker. A miasma of shadows thickened the air.

“What?” Father turned toward something Alex couldn’t see, behind him.


The party of demons had grown from one to two. A new voice. It was many voices, speaking in unison.

“Stay away from him…”

Father floated backwards. “I killed you!” He lunged for Charizard anyway, but that set off an ear-splitting roar. Suddenly, Father was blown into the sky by a tendril of darkness. Five more sprouted from it, enveloping him, clawing at him. Alex struggled to keep watching as Father tried to fly higher and higher, only to be dragged down, down, down…

He was persistent. He flew as hard as he could, but in Alex’s blurry vision, he saw… pieces of Father getting pulled in. The more Father flew, the more of him was torn down, passing into a dark portal. By the time he was halfway disassembled, he abruptly spun around and roared, flying directly into the portal.

There were more tendrils reaching toward Evelyn and Alex. But Evelyn was reaching toward Charizard, sending a him pulse of energy—a familiar one, the same one that had tried to heal Alex.

And the dark tendrils stopped. They retreated back to the portal…

Father fell completely into it, but something had fallen out of his decaying body just before entering. It looked like an orange, glowing orb.

It bounced on the ground, emitting an ethereal ring. All fell into silence.

His dark wounds reopened. His vision was fading again.

He heard steps.

Someone sobbed. Sounded like Evelyn, but deeper. Amia.

Evelyn tried to move. She was reaching for someone.

“I’m so sorry,” Amia said. She was right next to him.

“M… Mom…” Evelyn was barely audible. Only from the silence of the crater could Alex hear.

But that was all Alex could muster. Amid this family and not a single one of blood to call his own, Alex finally drifted away. The last thing he heard was Amia’s voice.

“I won’t let you die.”

And he felt her psychic swap’s pulse one last time.


He remembered… floating. A weightlessness that was even more ethereal. Something warm had drawn him in, and, mindlessly, he had followed it.

Some unknown amount of time passed. To Alex, it felt like a second, yet he had a suspicion it could have been days.

He emerged from a sphere of light and thought nothing of it, too dazed to process what had happened. Had that all been a dream? Or was this the dream? What was… anything, anymore?

The cavern around him flowed with veins of lava, and it glowed with unnatural brightness. It was comfortably lit and warm, but he was suspicious that it should have been much hotter. Most alarming were his arms, which were now coated with fire. He didn’t know why that terrified him so much. He screamed without realizing it and fell against the wall, squeezing his eyes shut.

No, no! Not a monster, I’m not, I’m—I’m—


Alex gasped, jolting up. That was—Amia? But her tone was so upward. That didn’t match her at all.

He dashed out the cave in time to see a blue-haired Gardevoir running to him. Behind her, there was a typical-looking Dusknoir, a slumbering Charmander in one arm, and a strange, diminished blob of darkness in another.

“Evelyn! You’ve… grown up… quickly!”

Evelyn winced, looking away. “Please,” she said, “you must… call me Amia for now.”

“I’m sorry? Is that not…” He trailed off. “Is that not your mother’s name?”

“It is,” she said. “She… I must honor it. If I keep anything of hers, it must be her name… for a little while.”

Alex thought back to those hazy final moments. That pulse…

Cold horror snaked down his spine. “She swapped with—”

“She sacrificed everything to save me,” she said. “I… I don’t know why. It’s all so meaningless! And to make matters worse… she won’t even come here. She’s searching for Father…”

“I don’t follow. What do you—”

Dusknoir drifted closer, nodding respectfully, and Alex stopped his questions.

“If I may take over.”

Alex recognized that voice. It was deeper and hollow, but the way he spoke…


Dusknoir bobbed again. “This is my form in the spirit world when guiding those across the aura sea. Or, in this case, in an outpost near the coast of the living. I would like to explain a few matters to you. Do not be alarmed. You are dead.”

“D-dead?!” Alex chirped, alarmed.


“But that can’t—but I’m here, I’m speaking, I’m—”

“A dead spirit. I am sorry if this is inconvenient for you. But your soul now rests within part of the source of power once held by a great evil. It is, thankfully, in proper hands now, in your mate, Evelyn, now Amia.”

“That’s… going to take some getting used to,” Alex admitted, though he wasn’t sure if it was the name swap or the part where he was no longer alive.

“Your bodies were unsalvageable. Thankfully, I was able to get to the scene and show the sole survivor how to harvest spirits from the dying using the Orb’s power. The only one who could not be saved was Star. She is recovering in the aether. As a god, she will be greatly inconvenienced, but may still run things from outposts such as these if she must.”

Alex nodded dumbly. “P-point is, I’m… dead? This is… beyond?”

“This is a place between. If you would like to leave for the afterlife proper, you may. However, I am afraid that your mate is bound to the Fire Orb and may not leave until she is slain. Even a visit to the afterlife will be fleeting, and will require ferrying by me.”

“Then I will stay,” Alex replied.

“I understand.” Hecto bobbed again. “Thank you for taking this so well. We will—”

A horrible scream came from the Charmander. He clawed up Hecto’s shoulder and was stilled by his massive hand. But he tried to run anyway, taking fleeting glances back at Alex.

Alex realized why quickly. It was, surely, the same reason he was terrified of his own appearance. His eyes darted around the field of lava for a place to hide, but the fields were too open.

“Calm. Calm,” Hecto said, patting Charmander on the shoulder, but he kicked away and ran down the lava.

“Wait!” Alex cried, but Hecto held him on the shoulder. His hand burned and yet he didn’t seem to react.

“This realm is completely safe to him. Let him flee. We can sort out your appearance later.”

“Of… of course.” What did that mean?

“M… mmggh…”

Alex blinked. In the world of familiar voices, this was the one that he would never truly be able to forget. “Mother!”

“Ah… who is there? Such a deep voice, but it can’t be…”

It was the blob in Hecto’s arms.

“It’s me! A-Alex. And Xander. Your son, not—er, not…”

“Where am I? It’s… very warm. I’m… was I…”

“You were claimed by a great evil a long time ago. I’m afraid I do not know the circumstances of your current condition.”

“Oh… don’t worry about that. I think I can see you now… but I’m fading fast.”

“What?” Alex whispered. “Mother, what happened to you?”

“Can’t I do anything?” Evelyn—no, Amia—asked. “Please, there must be!”

Hecto’s one red eye dimmed. “No. There is nothing that can be done. This is a dying soul… I can already feel her presence fading away. And I cannot sense where it is going. That typically means it is evaporating into nothing.”

“Don’t worry! This is okay! I made a deal with someone a long time ago… I know where I’m going. Chances are, you won’t remember me. I need to…” She trailed off, and her body was losing its shape even more. “Is Owen here?”

“Owen?” Alex asked.

“He is here. I’m afraid he perished and died in this realm.”

“I figured. Thank you. Please, watch over him. Repeat that! Say it out loud!”


“Say it now! Take care of Owen!”

“T-take care of Owen. I need to take care of Owen?” Alex looked confusedly at Amia and Hecto.

“I’ll take care of Owen,” Amia agreed. “But why?”

“He’s going to be needed for the world later. The person I’m trying to stop… I know he’ll try to return. And Owen’s the only one left who can do it.”

“Who is this evil person?” Hecto asked.

“Sorry… I don’t know anymore. He was sealed away, and memories of him disappeared when that happened. Just like me. Ah… sorry… I…”

Perhaps she wanted to say more, but she was just a haze in Hecto’s arms now. She murmured something. She sounded happy when she did. Alex leaned closer to hear a little more.

“Mother…” Alex said. “Mother, don’t go! Where are you going?!”

“So… proud of you…”


And then, Alex looked at Hecto, rubbing his eyes. He had a serious case of the sniffles. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I think I’m… overwhelmed with being dead.”

“Mm.” Hecto bobbed. “My apologies.” His red eye looked down at his arm, which had been positioned as if he’d been holding something, but nothing was there. He lowered it without a thought.

Amia seemed contemplative. “I feel like someone just exited this domain,” she said.

“You would naturally be very aware of such things,” Hecto said. “Who left?”

“I don’t know. It’s like I had miscounted this whole time…”

Hecto looked at his arm again, and then noticed that there seemed to be markings in his hands. “Hm. There’s a message on my hand.”

“Oh, goodness! Are you injured?”

“It is not a bother. It says, ‘Remi.’”

Alex’s heart fluttered. “Remi… Is that a name?” He held his chest. “Why do I… feel…”

“…Mm. I understand what happened,” Hecto replied. “Someone… must have had their soul destroyed in front of us. They were too injured from the previous battle. Unfortunate.”

“De… destroyed…” Alex shuddered. “That can’t be. How could something…”

“Do not worry. I will dedicate resources into finding them. I will try to deliver the news to you when they are found.”

“I’m sorry?” Amia asked, taking a seat. “You said they were… destroyed. How can you find them?”

“Apologies. The terminology must be confusing to you. I come from… a place beyond here. Do not speak openly about this with others, but you have little incentive to do so anyway. It is irrelevant to your reality. But it is likely this person is now in the Overworld.”

Alex tilted his head. “I’m not familiar with that at all. A world that’s over us?”

“In a sense,” Hecto agreed. “When a soul is destroyed in one reality, they are ejected completely and utterly from it, and float in the Overworld. Then it is part of my job to recover them. However, they will never be able to return here. The reality itself… no longer acknowledges their existence. They are utterly gone from this world. Sometimes, realities are so prudent of this that those still dwelling within it lose their ability to acknowledge that person as well. Sometimes in the form of forgetting them; other times, in making as if they are completely invisible. Though, not all realities are this way… but it appears this one is. Strange. I do not recall Star mentioning this detail to me.”

“W-well, could there be another reason? What if… what if we were attacked by a Psychic?” Alex asked. “Er, I may be Dark, but there are techniques to go past that, surely…”

“That is a much less likely reason,” Hecto dismissed. “But the chances are not zero. If that is the case, then you may recover memories of them when the seal is undone, somehow. But if it is, it is above my power. I do not detect anything of the sort.”

His red eye flashed a shade of green.

“And I am quite powerful.”

That probably ruled it out, then… He couldn’t remember who it was, though.

“Protect… Owen,” Amia whispered.


“Do messages from them remain?” Amia asked.

“I do not know for this world.”

“Well, I remember saying that, as if repeating it. Maybe this person knew what was about to happen. But whatever it was, I remember urgently saying to protect Owen.” She looked down the lava road, where a small crowd of Pokémon had stared down the path to the screaming Charmander.

“Hm. Perhaps it would be wise to follow that. His spirit has special properties that may be useful in the future. I’m afraid whoever created this power also had their soul destroyed, but their remnant power remains within him and others. That power, from what I have analyzed, will allow you to materialize him in the living world again, Amia. Not only that… but I believe he will be able to sustain himself no matter his distance from you, too.”

“I… I see. I’m still getting used to that power,” Amia admitted. “But thank you for letting me know. Still, I don’t understand why he’s here at all. Owen said that if he ever died, he would… be recalled somewhere. Why here, then?”

“That is a question for Rhys to answer. It seems he wanted his spirit to be tied elsewhere. It is no longer my place to intervene on this matter.”

Hecto bobbed one last time and drifted backwards. “That will be all. It seems that whatever evil we had to battle, it has been vanquished. While frustrating that we cannot recall specifics, its erasure from our minds suggests it will no longer be a problem. I will conduct research into what it was to prevent any resurgences, and inquire with Star about the properties of erasure in this world. I will be very busy while tracking them down in the Overworld. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Oh, er, of course…” Amia waved, and then Hecto disappeared in a mist.

It was just the two of them, now.

“…Well!” Amia said with a nervous smile. “I’m… sorry about this. But this is your home, now, if you’ll have me…”

Alex smiled nervously, nodding. “I didn’t quite expect this sort of arrangement,” he said, “but… it will be okay. No, it… would be wonderful, actually. I want to get away from home. I have nothing but bad feelings about being alone in that house.” He sighed. “Then… if I’m dead, who are all these people?” He gestured out.

“Those are… all the people that had been claimed by that evil force. When I took its power, I also took everyone they claimed. All Hydreigon like you, actually. But over a few days, they’ve decided they all looked a little too similar, so they picked new forms.”

“New… forms.”

“It terrified Owen anyway. We felt bad.”

“A-ah. Right. Well. I suppose I’ll think about that.” Alex hesitated, feeling like he was forgetting something. Alone in that house… He grew up alone? Surely he had parents. And—

“THE EGG!” Alex screamed, gasping, but then he recalled Hecto had… Yes, Hecto had taken it somewhere. Perhaps… Yes, he could ask—

“The egg is fine, Alex!” Amia assured him, grasping his shoulders. “Hecto delivered it to Pyrock. It will be well taken care of. I… can’t go there, but I’m sure they will hatch and grow up to be happy and healthy. Okay?”

Alex deflated. “But I was going to have a sibling… wasn’t I? Or…” Even that felt hazy. Was that egg in some kind of peril?

It was all so confusing… Maybe he should stop thinking about it. Maybe he’d simply found the egg.

Alex recalled the strange, defeated sadness he’d felt only moments ago, before Hecto had left.

“Were my parents… destroyed?” he wondered.

“Hm? Did you say something?” Amia looked back. She was already walking down the path to find Owen.

“Er… nothing. You go on and find Owen. I’m going to decide on a form that won’t frighten him.”

“Of course.” Amia smiled, and then walked further along.

Only a handful of days had passed, and Alex had gone from Zweilous to deceased Hydreigon. What a sad, lonely life he’d lived. Maybe… abandoning this form would have been better after all. Symbolic of trying to find for himself a new start.

As Alex’s eyes followed a magma river, he happened to see a Magmortar sitting by the rocks, before shifting to the form of a fiery Machamp, like he was testing out bodies.

“…That would do,” Alex finally decided.

With some concentration, he shed his scales for a body of flame and fire powder. And with it, he shed the past he no longer wanted to keep, feeling at one with Amia, the only constant left in his mind.

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Alrighty, here we go with 120-128:


So Manny and Marshadow are like, two halves of the same whole... I suppose that would explain why they're so similar, yes. :p I can't recall how Marshadow reacted when the Kilo folks who knew Manny first showed up and inevitably compared them. Guessing he was probably ignorant of the split? As for this flashback... did Owen split them apart here? I didn't notice the first time I read it, but Manny looked at his paws in surprise, like he wasn't expecting to see that.

Owennnn.... it is okay to listen to other people's advice and opinions and that does not equate to being controlled. Blindly rejecting everyone's input is not cool or based--especially when they don't know any better and aren't trying to mislead you.

Honestly, throughout this entire arc of DM's attack on Kilo and Arceus helping everyone fend him off, Arceus has been pretty cool. Perfectly agreeable and sensible. I guess he's mellowed out a bunch since the old days? I still don't know what everyone's beef with him was. (Okay, destroying Quartz Isle wasn't cool, but no one even remembers that anyway, so that can't be the reason they wanna depose him. :V) Sure, there's the decrees, but were those even his fault?

re: Valle sitting in Hot Spot--if anyone's patient enough to stand there for a month doing nothing, it's him, lol

Marshadow is invited to keep quiet because somehow his heckling is more frustrating than the "trying to capture Owen" part. :p It's so weird to see someone being controlled by a villain, still having their normal personality, but not... acting like they don't want to do any of those things. It's like he's still himself, but also not?? Gah! Pretty satisfying when Owen bit him, I gotta say. :p


> Necrozma… He’s just another god sealing my memories.
I mean, I don't think that Necrozma erased himself from history and everyone's memory. :V And he's been letting the memories back slowly to not overwhelm Owen.

That is very interesting how the revisor only rewinds Kilo and there's a vacuum left if anyone goes into the voidlands. And man, Lugia breaking into the HQ was a real oh **** moment.

> He’d been imprisoned. Horrible memories.
I continue to marvel at how the understated lines are the best ones.

God the way that the damage is just instantaneous lethality--definitely makes Shadow Lugia feel like one of the most overwhelming threats so far. I mean sure, DM is strong, but most of the fights with him have involved characters managing to evade and counterattack at least a little, even if they're outmatched (see: Rhys). But with Lugia it's just, no. do not attempt. Insta-fail.

Speaking of Rhys, all the Rhys whump sure was something~ It's wild that he felt the effect of the revisor going off clear on the other end of Kilo. I don't think he's normally been aware of that in the past, since he's been with Nevren for ages and Nevren uses it all the time. Maybe it's specifically because of the wonkiness with people going through the Voidlands, and the two realms getting de-synced. Which... actually makes me wonder if the two are just de-synced from now on, or if each time a portal connects the two, it's automatically re-synced.


Eyy, we finally get to see Remi after meeting her at spirit's edge so long ago. I do wonder where she is. We haven't seen her in the Voidlands. Actually, thinking about it now... for all the people that didn't end up in the Voidlands, I'm curious how exactly they avoided it. It sure seems like there was nothing stopping DM from winning back then... but on the other had, Owen obviously didn't get all the hands and fix DM, because, well... *gestures to the state of things.*

Really nice to get an Alex and Owen reunion after all this time. Throughout all the memories, all the history, it's nice to return to something that's familiar. It's more nostalgic than everything that came before, if that makes sense.

That flashback with Dialga and Ray sure seems to imply that Necrozma was responsible for the legends falling into the Voidlands, but...

Oh yeah, two dark wars. Genuinely no clue what happened in the second one if that was after Necrozma got erased and DM got sealed and everyone forgot everything. Maybe that one was Alexander's fault? Since Void power leaks in through the chasm, I guess that would explain how another dark war could happen even in DM's absense.

iirc the stuff with Emily getting corrupted happened in the second war, right? Because the second war was after the orb guardians started to be a thing, and she used to be one...

Man, what the heck was DM even doing in the Ghost Orb. I wonder if like, Madeline put him there (smth smth ghost giratina?) I still can't let go of the fact that Nevren knew the ghost orb was important for Reasons, but he didn't know why. Maybe it was a shred of info he gleaned with the memory trick?

> How long do you think you existed as Dialga, compared to anything else?”
I mean, Kilo's only been around for a few milennia at most, right? Not exactly like merging with a Dialga that's been around for billions of years. :V

> Even as he took his last breath, Rhys had won.
Yes good. Everything about this scene was good. Characters going to their death with a smile


Well, three guesses who Nevren was split from lmao.

> The rumbling of battle, elements and darkness sailing over them, felt quiet and insignificant for the briefest moment. A thousand jumbled thoughts raced through Nevren’s mind as his expression remained stoic. Several times, he opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. He couldn’t recall several of his thoughts. He only saw Rhys laughing across the table at a little joke he’d once said. He couldn’t remember what it was.
This is a really great moment.

Starr Phol - Radiant Incineroar

And hey, they figured out that Radiance is UE against Shadow! Unfortunately, the reverse is also true...


> After all, nobody really knew the Voidlands existed. Not even Star or Barky, apparently…
Right, that's right... but then who... maybe Necrozma did erase himself idk. But then why on earth wouldn't Star or Barky want the decrees broken? Or is is that breaking the decree would only break it for the person who got all the hands, and neither of them could let that be the other? It's either that or Barky put the decress on everyone including himself and then scattered the hands to prevent anyone from breaking it which... good job.


Yeah, okay, well done with that one, damn... The way the fic is set up makes it really hard to get gut punches like that, but this was the rare opportunity where the loss is real, and man does it hurt.

> I know, in the end, you will make the right choice…
This makes it sound like Necrozma is expecting owen to spare DM. The narrative has been set up in such a way to make Necrozma into the embodiement of all of Owen's fixations on control and obedience. But it would be really anticlimactic to have Necrozma fully believe Owen will destroy DM and then be all pikashock when he doesn't do it. There's no way that he actually still wants Owen to do that.


So Nate has light, if I'm understanding that memory of Necrozma correctly. And, oh, he's a Voice of Life. Which makes me wonder if he's a Voice who took the shape of an Eternatus, or an Eternatus who gained the power of a Voice. But he also has bolded Void speech... does he have all five energies?

Hah, using the revisor to launch multiple Judgments is pretty great. That's pretty much it for DM if they can just keep soft resetting it over and over...

(I haven't really stopped to wonder how Leph is a thing, lol. Either Arceus just... decided to make a daughter, some time back in the legend era, or someone ascended to become an Arceus and was basically adopted by him as a result, or what.)

> He was going to do it. He was going to kill Dark Matter.
no he ain't. :V

It's kind of fascinating that DM wanted to die at first, and now he's far more determined to end everything else rather than just quietly accepting his own end. Owen was the one who refused to just let him die. And like, I get that it was noble and well-intentioned of him, and that in the end, it's probably better for them to fix DM, but man, the Suffering Ratio for that decision was sorta... not great. :V Maaaaaybe stop to think about just how many thousands of people you're making suffer all to help your new friend? (This is of course directed at Wishkeeper, as current!Owen is absolutely correct that having DM on their side would be a big improvement over the current situation.)

ALEXANDER YOU ****ER :screm: :screm: :screm:


Huh, I hadn't thought about it before, but--can Alexander can use Radiance? That's what it seems like he did when he impaled DM, but for some reason I thought that only Mhynt and Owen had Blacklight. Especially since the light does burn him, unlike the BL users, so I don't think it's innate.

Aaaaaand, Necrozma wanted Owen to spare DM, yep, there we go, that's what I was waiting for. Honestly Necrozma has seemed perfectly reasonable throughout all this. And maybe he didn't make the right call with pressuring Owen against using the hands to fix things way back when, but he's had a lot of time to reflect since then.


Soo, Amia. Having her stick around this long as a Void Shadow set up an obvious expectation that her subplot would go somewhere. And yet, voiding has been a crucial stand-in for death to give some much-needed permanent consequences. So having her revived, but as a blank slate stating from scratch with no memories, a different person needing to learn how to exist again... I suppose I can accept that as a compromise.

> “…Diyem.” Owen tilted his head, considering it. “You know… Now you made it your own.”
I can't believe that what we thought was a play on "Dungeon Master" turned out to actually be a play on "Dark Matter" turned out to actually be a play on freaking carpe diem.

And HOO BOY HERE WE GO. The rumor finally come out: Does BLC is HoC sequel. So while this seems obvious in retrospect, there were a couple of reasons that I'd been assuming this wasn't the case (because of course it was impossible to not at least consider it.)

1. "The Charizard that accepted him." You just. Always used that wording, so we naturally assumed that was another Charizard because BLC already had 12, what was one more? I think we even listed them as a separate character in the zard lists. Why wouldn't Owen or Diyem just say that they had history?

And yet... Owen had a lot of memory loss in the campaign thanks to Soda. And Diyem isn't the oversharing type. And once Owen got his memories back, well... he was a lot more zen about everything at that point, and it would be weird to suddenly bring it up out of nowhere when we'd already known Diyem for so long.

2. Diyem said that he won. He absorbed the world and everyone in it into his voidlands. But in HoC, we can clearly see that Kilo exists, and people still live there. Of course, the end of the world could always be something that's yet to come, but that would be kind of weird now when we're like 5% of the way into his redemption.

And then I remembered how the fic has just. Never even mentioned why Quartz and Kilo are always talked about like different places. It's easy to just autofill that Kilo must be the new name for Quartz--so much stuff got forgotten, why not a name? But I think it's not. Diyem did win, Quartz and almost everyone in it was absorbed, and Kilo was born in its place with only a small handful of legend-halves being the only people left from the old world. That's why there's a decree. The world did end, and it was supposed to stay forgotten.

Except here is the part where I lose my mind, because what you actually said was:

It was the species of the reincarnated Mew that defeated him.

And okay, so our brains didn't autofill that Diyem must have come from a PSMD-like world, it was literally stated outright.

So this... isn't the same Diyem? But it was so perfect, nnnnnnnnn


In other news, Diyem's first positive emotion was feeling very comfy cozy, and I stand by my HC that he and Eien--*shot*


Really enjoyed the Spice panic attack, just completely shutting down, desperately trying to work through any other thing she could have done even though it's too late, wondering if she is who she is (and tbh, know how Namocore goes, I wouldn't be surprised if this weren't Spice, although I personally do prefer if it is her, and she's just always had void attributes that only recent intensified.)

The Diyem and Zena was pretty interesting, but tbh I'm with Zena in that, if you look at it in terms out outcomes, Anam really did make the world a better place. And Diyem could feel it too, it just obviously couldn't ever be enough to dwarf his hatred.


Alright, that's probably a good place to end it off, since the special episodes are so long, I should bounce to other things for the rest of the Blitz.


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks for the reactions, Chibi! I replied to you elsewhere, but always glad to see your theories. Onto the next chapter...

Chapter 146 – Four Teams

It was deep into winter. The world had nearly ended during the harvest season, and there was a massive shortage of supplies for all the refugees. Emily, the Shadow Lugia, was still blindly rampaging throughout the world, but due to her complete aimlessness, she was treated more like a weather phenomenon or natural disaster than something to actively flee.

Thanks to advice from Owen, as well as the Charizard himself leading some of the charge, they learned that Pokémon with gold Protects held a particular advantage when it came to diverting her to harass somewhere else. Due to a silver lining of Dungeons still expanding and Anam in perpetual recovery, Kilo Village had become the last bastion of civilization. Tiny pockets of villages remained to be gathered back, but not many dared leave the mountain. Word from Pyrock confirmed that they would be in need of supplies there as well, but it had fallen into local villages self-ruling.

Wild Pokémon had grown hostile, due either to residual effects of Dungeons becoming more spiritually corrosive than before, or simply from the worsening environment without more intelligent Pokémon controlling the landscape. Civilized Pokémon had, in a way, become their own keystone species to the environment. Now that it was disrupted, wild populations were in danger of outpacing the dwindling winter resources, should that persist into spring.

So many factors led experts to determine one thing: While they would narrowly survive winter, they would not survive the next season without serious losses and an even greater permanent blow to world stability.

To Owen, that was a timer. By his hand, only a few seasons prior, he had grasped the Grass Orb and put the careful stasis set up by the world’s Elite Hearts into total upheaval. Now, they had nowhere to go but forward. If they failed, the world would collapse one way or another, and Alexander would rise again to reclaim the ruined lands.

If Kilo degraded too far, Alexander would catch wind of it and try to make his move. South Null and North Null Village were the main strongholds and connections into the living world. They also knew that Cipher Castle held a direct connection through Void Basin for an invasion at any time. Surely, by now, Alexander’s forces had discovered the uses of the light crystals to escape the Voidlands, now that the Dungeons were totally unsealed.

Owen wasn’t really sure when it happened. But with Anam’s general absence, Nevren missing, Rhys united with Dialga, and James tending to Anam, all of the Elite Hearts had suddenly… disappeared. Owen had filled that vacuum with the help of Elder and Rayquaza, still yet to unite, and others who pitched in where they could.

To many who knew Owen, his countenance had changed significantly during his work managing the Hearts. He acted formal; he had a serious but attentive expression any time someone spoke to him. Not once did he stumble over his words or openly second-guess himself. He was like a completely different person.

But really, Owen was one and the same, screaming in his mind about how he was supposed to handle the next hour. He was just scrambling to figure out what it meant, at night, in the quiet with Zena.

This was one such night, back to the ground in a field in Yotta Outskirts. Leo apparently helped take care of his parents here, and Spice visited often, so it seemed like an idea place not too far from Kilo Mountain. Distantly, Leo’s parents were shouting over some board game they were playing with their son and Spice’s family.

The wind blew, but mercifully it was not snowy. No ice coated the fields, so the two of them were simply enjoying the bare land.

“Stars. I still can’t get used to them again,” Zena said. No snow and no clouds made a clear night sky.

“Yeah,” Owen replied with a relaxed smile. “Not having to worry about all that… even for a little while, is nice.” But he always felt a pang of guilt knowing that as they enjoyed this, there were still countless souls suffering in the Voidlands. Every day resting felt like a day wasted, even if he knew, on a practical level, they couldn’t feasibly do anything yet.

The scouts had determined that Cipher City was crippled from the onslaught, at least for its leading forces. Without Leph, Mhynt, and Aster at Alexander’s disposal, he must have been plotting for some other assault. But the Kiloan forces making any moves now, when Kilo Village was still recovering and Legendary halves were still fusing, would be a blunder.

Zena curled around him, but gingerly avoided the black sphere resting under Owen’s wing.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m restless, too. Maybe not as much as you, but… you need rest. You’re still completely on edge. That can’t be good for a tactician, can it?”

“It can’t,” Owen relented, rolling so he rested against her.

She encircled him one more time and focused on the dark egg under his wing. Owen lifted it so she could see it easier.

“How is it?” she asked.

“No idea. But it’s wiggling and getting a little bigger, so I think it’ll hatch soon. Perceive still can’t see what’s inside… which is weird, because I don’t usually have that problem.”

“Could it be absorbing whatever mechanism you use to see inside things?”

“It was the same way when it was lodged in my chest, so maybe,” Owen agreed. “Still, whatever hatches, it came from when Diyem defended my life. I don’t think it’s evil, and… I want to give it a chance.”

Paws on grass in a familiar rhythm caught their attention. Owen’s Perceive caught the body shortly after—Manny.

That was unusual. “Manny?” Owen asked, not turning his head.

“What about Manny?” Zena asked.


“Gh—skies, Manny,” Zena said with a sigh. “Don’t sneak up on us like that…”

“Ain’t no sneakin’ with Owen.” Manny somersaulted through the air and landing a foot away from the couple. He collapsed on his rear and leaned backwards. “Aaah, that’s the ticket. Nice ‘n relaxin’ nighttime.”

“We were just about to go to sleep,” Owen said. “Is something wrong?”

“Just checkin’ up on ya,” Manny said. “Sorta became nocturnal in a little ways.” He raised a paw, which suddenly shifted a spectral black before going back to normal.

“O-oh. Oh, goodness, you…”

“Yeppers. I’m united. That’s what we’re callin’ it, yeah?”

Owen slowly sat up to give the subject the respect it deserved. “You mean… you’re Marshadow right now?”

“Eh, half. Maybe two thirds. I ain’t good at measurin’ that out.” Manny smirked. “Just call me Manny. All m’ spirits still do that, an’ Yen prefers it, so I ain’t gonna object.”

“Oh, gods, that’s right, Yen…” Zena winced. “That must have been a difficult discussion.”

Owen’s flame dimmed. That Drampa within Manny had essentially been his mate, right? They must have spent a lot of time quietly talking when nobody else would know. “Was he okay?”

“Oh, totally,” Manny said. “Turns out Marshadow ‘n Manny didn’t diverge all that much. Yen clicked real easy. So, when we fused, zero issues. I think Madeline an’ Giratina’re the same, but they ain’t fusin’ yet ter give Xerneas a hard time.”

Zena sighed. “I can’t believe someone as agreeable as Anam came from someone so… um, dedicated to proving a point.”

“How many curse words did yeh jus’ cycle through in yer head?” Manny asked.

The Milotic quickly looked away, ribbons curling.

“Heh.” Manny let up, staring at the sky with his paws behind his head. “Nah. They’re alright. Get the feeling they’re just a little afraid themselves. Madeline met James when she was already split. Giratina ain’t got any feelings fer ‘im yet, I bet. Maybe they’re tryn’a foster somethin’ fer Anam’s sake. Y’know, since…”

Since Anam still refused to make public appearances after all this time.

“Right,” Owen said. “I can’t blame them. Imagine if I split in two Owens and spent too much time apart. I wonder if Hecto as contingencies for that, since there are literally a hundred of him wandering around…”

Manny shrugged and kicked his feet in the air.

“Alright,” Owen said, sighing. “What’s bothering you?”

“Nothin’ gets past you, eh?” Manny said.

“It was pretty obvious,” Zena said, “when you came here so suddenly.”

“…Yeah,” Manny finally admitted. “Restless. And you kinda became the lead tactician fer our whole… whatever we’re calling ourselves. Team Alloy Extended?”

“Restless. Right.” Owen nodded. “Tomorrow, I was actually planning to get everyone together for a talk. I wanted to tell everyone what’s been on my mind, in case there’s any information missing. Then give it another few days to process, and then we’ll start mobilizing again, at least some of our teams.”

“Already breakin’ it down into teams,” Manny said in an almost mockingly impressed tone. But Owen knew Manny; he was just giving him a hard time to be fun. “Look at you. Ain’t no rest fer the endlessly dyin’ Charizard.”

“Right, well,” Owen pushed on, “point is, when I go over the four goals we need to achieve, you can pick the one you’ll be a part of. Knowing you, it’ll probably be… Legend recovery. But we’ll see.”

“Sounds about right.” Manny rubbed a pawpad under his nose. “Wouldn’t mind gettin’ all those old friends back.”

“Are any of them particularly different?” Zena asked. “Do you know which ones are paired off?”

“Been askin’ around. Pretty sure Brandon’s Reshiram, fer one. Kyurem and Zekrom, they’re the others of the Trinity. Ain’t sure which one’s which though. Aramé seems like th’ sort ter be Kyurem with how nihilistic she is, but y’know, who knows?”

“Aramé never seemed like the nihilistic type,” Owen said. “Back in Kanto, she was the one who helped me and Eon, you know, become stronger, back when we were just a pair getting stronger for the League. That sounds more like a Zekrom ideal.”

“Yeah, no clue what any o’ that stuff is,” Manny replied flatly. “But sure. Anyway, aside from that, ADAM’s got a weird spirit but he ain’t a half. Willow’s a half—yeah, terrified o’ that one too—an’ so is Valle.”

“And Valle, we know, is Necrozma’s half,” Owen added. “From… my memories of that.”

“Yep. Guess that explains why his glow is way brighter than other Mystics.”

“Um.” Zena cleared her throat. “Are we sure Willow was a Legend? That’s… disturbing to think about.”

“Hopefully her half was sane an’ they balance out,” Manny said. “Eh, alright. I’ll get outta yer hair.” He hopped to his feet and paced toward the main village of Yotta Outskirts. “Strategy meeting t’morrow, yeah?”

“Yep. See you then.” Owen sighed, feeling something rumble against his wing. He lifted it to see the egg still shaking. But not yet. It would be any time at this point, though…

“You’ve taken a real shine to that. I hope you aren’t growing too attached,” Zena said, curling around him again. “It’ll be fine, right? If it turns out to be something evil, we, er…”

“Diyem said it was fine, and I trust him,” Owen said. “He had no way of knowing this would have happened.”

“Mm…” Zena rested her chin against part of her long body.

“I know it’s hard to trust him,” he went on.

“Oh, don’t use your Perceive like that,” Zena murmured.

“N-no, I wasn’t!” He might have, subconsciously. “Just… I figure it’s only natural to not trust him. I have a history with the guy, y’know? That’s all.”

She seemed tense. He quickly reached for his horns so he wouldn’t have to read her more. But then, she quickly grabbed his arms—like she knew it was coming—and kept her ribbons firmly around them.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I… understand, too.”

He let go of his horns and nodded. “I guess another reason I try to sleep in fields lately is because I think my Perceive has people nervous. Ever since I told Jerry that he should try eating less fatty foods during lunch, he’s been giving me weird looks.”

“Well, yes, Owen, but that’s usually because people don’t like others seeing their internal organs,” Zena explained gently, rubbing his shoulders.

“It’s just practical, though, isn’t it?”

Zena gave him that pitying smile. “Well… it is,” she admitted. “Maybe we can think of ways to get that across without reminding them of how much you can see.”

They settled down against the ground again, eyes to the sky.

“Mispy loves it,” Owen remarked. “She’s fascinated by… organs, and how everything works together. Maybe it comes with being a healer. I think it’s a little weird, but I get the feeling she wouldn’t mind fusing with me now and then.”

“Oh, so that sense transfers?” Zena asked.

Owen nodded. “And I get her aura sense, too,” he said.

“Perceive and aura sense?” Zena repeated. “That basically means you can detect anything.”

“I think that’s the point. Giving Mispy something to sense auras was a major thing Nevren had…” He winced. Right. Nevren. That was still a sore subject for a lot of them; they still weren’t sure where exactly he was hiding.

Perhaps sensing this, Zena gently held his shoulder again and leaned into him.

“Well, it’s just useful,” Owen concluded. “Sorry. Talking a lot and it’s already so late… You aren’t too cold?”

“I’m never cold with you,” Zena pointed out.

“Oh, that’s right. I’m hot.” He stretched his wings and pulled her in. After making sure the egg was in its usual, secure spot, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off, letting the comforts of Zena’s rhythmic breathing coax him to slumber.


They’d repurposed an old room in the Thousand Hearts HQ into a main conference room. It had once been used as a gathering place for data, reports, bounties, and other immediate request to be processed and disseminated. Now, it had a central table, many seats or all-purpose nest-bags for any body type. The newest addition was a straight-from-Void digital board that Owen had spent several days on-and-off wrestling with the interface to get working.

Cutting-edge technology from that decrepit place had been migrated to the living world. With it came huge developments in all kinds of technologies that Owen didn’t know the start of. But now, it was just another asset in this new phase of the Third Dark War.

Owen stood at the front. And in front of him in this room held the most important people in the world. He knew every single one of them.

Only then did he realize how massive this could be. How this really was going to be their last shot at stopping Alexander and the remnants of Dark Matter from destroying the world, or worse.

It was one thing to think about it. To have the memories of what had happened, to finally escape that cycle of repeats. But it was another to see so many of his friends in the context of their positions in the world’s balance. And then he had to wonder, how had it fallen down from so high up to land in his hands?

The person standing before them should not have been Owen. The only reason he was there was because of the properties of his spirit. Some kind of divine right. How hypocritical was it that such blessings had been the sole reason for him standing there instead of someone like Anam, who—well, he’d lost his powers and morale. But there was of course Barky, who—well, his ego had rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Marshadow could have—well, he was with Manny now, and neither of them were particularly interested in major leading… Trina? No, that was mostly hypnosis…

Gods, was he really there by default? Barky was standing near the back—he refused to be shrunk down—and Star was resting on his back. It seemed so wrong, even if he’d been irreverent of them for a while.

The last of them were starting to gather up. Nearest to him, at the front of the table, were some of his closest friends. Team Alloy, back during his final life as Wishkeeper, brought to him simply because of Jirachi’s generosity. A little toying with coincidences, somehow, made them happen to meet him, starting everything.

Next to them was Zena, whose eyes always calmed him. They’d started off unhealthily obsessed with each other because they were their only sense of normalcy; everyone else lied, or was caught up in it. But they were able to be truthful to each other. But then, the Voidlands took away her memories. It helped them see things for how it truly had been, and they’d rebuilt from scratch, even after those memories returned.

The Voidlands had been a blessing in disguise for them, hadn’t it? Selfish as it was to look at it that way.

Rhys—or, Dialga, taking the form of a Lucario—watched over them. ‘Rhys’ was gone, but maybe some echoes of his personality compelled Dialga to watch over Team Alloy anyway. Palkia was standing next to him with a cheery smile, but without Nevren, he could not revert to an Alakazam. Instead, he was uncharacteristically… small, almost Rhys’ height. In fact, a lot of them were abnormally small to fit here.

That was thanks to Willow. While her powers could be dispelled by a stiff breeze, it was useful in a conference room. The Joltik was proud and openly bragging to how useful she was to the others, using Valle as a stone pedestal to be seen. ADAM buzzed and was apparently recording the meeting. Somehow. Owen wasn’t sure how that Porygon-Z worked.

Next of their currently allied Legends were Yveltal, Xerneas, and Giratina. While the first two had united with Ra and Step, Madeline stood beside her Giratina half. Next to her was James, and—oh, Anam had made it. Good. He was even smiling today, and it looked at least half-genuine. Owen tried to ignore both Jirachi and Eon staring at him, the latter taking the form of a Charizard, of course.

The surviving Guardians were all there, too. The one that stood out the most was Trina, with Har and his own Team Alloy duplicate as representatives of their small squadron of what was left of them. Most of other mutants had been lost to the Voidlands.

There was also Amia—she was getting used to the name again, even if Evelyn seemed distantly familiar—and her mate and his father, Alex. Perhaps to keep Owen’s nerves calm, he still assumed the form of a Magmortar, now that Amia’s Fire powers were back from recovering a gemstone in Amia’s old body’s statue. Owen wondered if Alex had grown used to that form anyway.

“I think that’s everyone who’s coming,” called a meek voice from the far back of the room, who closed the door behind him. This was a Smeargle that Owen didn’t immediately recognize, but he was probably with the part of Team Alight who had gotten involved with this whole mess. Leo, whom Owen had vague memories of, and Spice, who was…

And there was also Jerry, murmuring to Diyem about something. Diyem, still a Charmander, refused to use anyone as a booster, and simply sat on a high seat. He gave Owen a little nod and stared, looking bored.

He’d probably paused long enough. He felt like a few people were still missing, but hopefully they would be caught up later on essentials.

Seeing every single one of his friends in one room, staring at him, former foes and new allies alike, left him feeling paralyzed.

Seconds passed. They stared, patient, perhaps thinking that he was waiting for something. He wasn’t. His mind had just gone blank.

But he couldn’t call for another meeting. That’d just be silly.

The door opened.

“Sorry, late,” Hakk muttered. “So bright out. Couldn’t see a thing… Brought these guys with me.”

And behind him was a smaller Arceus, a Mewtwo, and… Mhynt. All freed from the Void, but now that they were up against everyone else, they still seemed, somehow, relatively darker.

But Hakk, a simple glance at that icy Sandslash, brought a new fire in Owen’s chest. His gaze hardened.

And finally, he found his momentum.

“You’re right on time,” Owen greeted. “Thank you, everyone, for coming. For anyone who misses this meeting, please convey the news to them if they are relevant. None of this information is necessarily confidential, but don’t share it freely if you can afford it.

“This is going to be a strategy meeting on what needs to be done about Diyem’s four remaining fragments. For those unaware, Diyem is the remnant of Dark Matter that had been given some of my light. With it, he can feel things that… he simply was unable to feel before—positive emotions—without it harming him. If we can defeat the other four fragments, extract them, and siphon them into Diyem, then he will be the dominant force… thus saving him. Any other way, and he will return to the Voidlands and cause trouble for us in the future… and we will lose Diyem himself. Everyone following so far?”

Jerry raised a wing, and Owen nodded for him to speak. “What is Diyem?” the Aerodactyl asked. “Not trying to offend, but, c’mon. On a cosmic level, what is he?”

“Diyem is something that was born when the world was created. A stray thought from the Creators had gave him awareness, and… that resulted in the dark forces that permeate this world. We can’t really get rid of that. It’s baked into reality. But we can give it to the best of the Diyems and hope that’s enough.”

The black-flamed Charmander nodded. “I’m sorry if my existence is inconvenient for you. To be frank, if I could die properly, I’d allow it. But that is something the gods currently cannot do.”

“Mm.” Jerry sat down again and nodded. “And that’s where my dark powers come from. Or, what my lineage is, before it was taken from me. For better or worse.” He glanced at Anam, who stared at the ground.

“Yes,” Diyem said. “That is something that can be explored later. Owen, there are four fragments aside from myself. Continue.”

“Right. We know where two of them are. One is in Lugia Emily; her body is still wandering around Kilo, but we’ve figured out how to drive her away thanks to some help from Gold Aura Pokémon, and Nate.”

A gurgling sound came from some black, shadowy thing near Smeargle.

“Y-yeah, him,” Owen went on. “Treat him like a protector of Kilo.”

“That’s literally what he is,” Diyem murmured. “The term he came up for himself was a ‘Voice of Kilo.’ He was born at the same time as I was. From what I can tell, he seems to embody this world’s will to live. And I am its will to die.”

Demitri rubbed his head, looking confused. Mispy comforted him with a few pats with her vines.

“The next fragment,” Owen said, “is Alexander himself. He stole a part of Dark Matter. He might have several fragments, but they’re all ‘one’ piece that we need to recover by defeating him and extracting the piece. We aren’t ready to take him on directly, but that’s related to the first team, led by me.

“I will be leading the charge to Necrozma. According to Darkrai and Cresselia of North Null Village, he is across an ocean of black water, but they have a ship that can take us across. Flying would be too risky, even for Mystics.”

Owen pointed at a collection of names on the screen. “Team Alloy will be going. We obviously make a good team for this, and we’re strong enough to defend against whatever comes our way. That will also include Eon, Zena, Rh—Dialga, and Mhynt.”

“Sea can’t be that far,” Jerry said. “Can’t Aster just Teleport there?”

“Um, I wish I could, but the sea is huge,” Aster said. “It feels even bigger if you try to Teleport… I don’t know why…”

“Sounds like some kind of psychic field,” Barky hummed. “Are you sure Necrozma wants to be found?”

“He wanted me to go that way,” Owen said. “Oh, and also, we will leave Valle here, but… we will be bringing him with us directly after we set up one of Palkia’s Teleporters there. I think, for the same reason Aster can’t Teleport, Palkia can’t go there, either. But if we bring one of his pearls inside, that should bypass it.”

“I’m quite confident that will be sufficient,” Palkia said. “Even if it isn’t, that only means bringing Necrozma back with you the old-fashioned way. Inefficient, but it gets the job done.”

Owen sighed, then moved on. “The second team will handle something else that is essential: Voidlands scouting and Titan slaying. We’re going to be using the power of light and Legends to take down as many as we can. The strongest ones have Legends at their center, and we’ll be gathering them up because some are halves of people here with us. And, hopefully, that will help bolster our forces when we make a final assault against Alexander and Emily.

“Leading this will be Manny, who has fused with Marshadow. He knows the Voidlands very well and has the strength to fight Titans alone now that he’s merged, but backup is what he’ll need if Alexander tries to strike. All Legends we have will be fighting alongside him, aside from Star and Barky, who will remain Kilo-side.”

“Yep, I’m ready fer that,” Manny confirmed with a wave of his arm, leaning back. “I’ve got Necrozma’s light in th’ form o’ th’ Fightin’ Orb, lots o’ spirits, an’ all that. Channelin’ that light ter empower other Pokémon, I’m pretty talented at that, too, y’know. I’ll be great fer this.”

“Thanks, Manny. And to all the Legends—I know you just got out of the Voidlands, but you’ll be needed to get all your friends out, too.” Owen faced the crowd as a whole again. “Our third team is going to be Kiloan scouts. They’ll be scouring all of Kilo to find straggling mutants, settlements, and possible leads on the two missing Dark Matter fragments. Diyem is pretty sure that only Alexander is wholly within the Voidlands as a fragment; the other three have their piece either partly or fully on Kilo. And we only know of Emily. There are two more lurking around, and they would have to be powerful.”

“Well, I hate to point fingers, but,” Brandon said, “doesn’t that mean it’d have to be a Guardian, Hunter, or some immortal person we’ve lost track of?”

“You’re right,” Owen replied. “That’s possible. But Diyem has checked everyone here already, and there wasn’t a reaction.”

“Any way to hide it?” Brandon pressed.

“Possibly, yes,” Diyem said. “Those with Necrozma’s light could possibly hide it. But it wouldn’t be easy. I also want to check Ghrelle, Aramé, and potentially the fallen Guardians. There is a chance my fragments are not on Kilo, either, but across the aura sea.”

“No,” Hecto said. “I am certain that there are no fragments of you across the aura sea. The true afterlife is safe of your blight.”

“You’re certain?” Diyem asked, eyes narrowing at the green canine across the table.

“Yes. I have specific checks in place. I did not know what they were for until recently when memories of it were resurfaced, but they did not go off. You are exclusively on Kilo or the Voidlands.”

“Well. That simplifies things,” Diyem said. “Good.”

“Is this a recent development?” Owen asked, slightly annoyed.

“Apologies. I only got this news in the morning.”

“Well, alright. Let’s talk after about details,” Owen said. “Anyway, third team, the Kiloan scouts, are going to be led by Team Alight and those close to them. They’ve proven themselves for a while at being good at traveling Kilo, and going by wing alone will miss a lot of ground. Palkia has also set up Waypoints to start simplifying travel again. While scouting around, they will also be re-blessing Dungeons to seal them off. We’ll only keep strategic Dungeons open for Voidlands travel.”

“All handled here,” Spice said. “Void Shadows won’t attack as long as I’m around.”

Various eyes uneasily turned toward her, and she scowled.

“Everyone, please trust Spice,” Owen said. “I don’t know if it’s been told to everyone yet, but she is… a reincarnation of someone I trust. Or, part of her is.”

“And me!” called a Zoroark that suddenly appeared next to Leo. “I’m also me!”

Smeargle had nearly passed out from fright.

“And do not forget the third,” Xerneas pointed out. “Have you discerned who that is yet?”

“I gave my spirits to Zena, who then gave them to Enet. Eventually, that final piece will show up, and… hopefully things will work out.” Owen shifted uncomfortably. He still felt conflicted about it all. Spice, Enet, and the third piece… If they became Remi again, what would happen to ‘them’ afterward? He supposed, after seeing Rhys or Manny… he knew the answer.

Somehow, it felt different for Remi…

“And finally,” Owen said, “our fourth team will be defense and communications. Barky, Star, and everyone else will remain here in Kilo Village or South Null Village. We have a lot of refugees, rebuilding, and defense to do in case Alexander or another fragment launches an attack to destabilize us. Even if we need to win against Alexander, we can’t lose what we have. It’s not as glamorous, but I hope you’ll all give it everything to defend what we have while we rebuild.”

“Hmph, not glamorous.” Barky shook his head. “Defending your home is of utmost importance. It’s why I will be leading things for it and communication between all parties. My telepathy is unparalleled. You only need to pray my name and I will be able to answer.”

“Hopefully, we can also establish a cross into the Voidlands, too,” Owen said, “but right now, that isn’t working.”

Murmurs of agreement and contemplation rippled over his team. Most of them seemed to understand. He could sense the usual pangs of uncertainty in their body language, but he knew he hit all the right notes. He didn’t think there would be a way to assuage all of their fears when, frankly, everything was so uncertain to begin with. The fear was justified.

“This is the point where we can ask any overarching questions,” Owen said. “Does anything come to mind?”

Jerry raised his wing again. Owen nodded, and Jerry said, “Say we defeat all the Dark Matters and Diyem is the dominant fragment. What then?”

“Then… we will have Dark Matter in one place. We can evaluate him, and…” Owen trailed off. “Save him.”

“I have a piece of light within me,” Diyem said. “That alone is more than enough to not only dampen my powers from what they used to be, but is also a weakness that, if fostered, can kill me like a poison from within. So, if you’re worried about my rebellion… I will not be able to rebel at nearly the magnitude I had in the past. Additionally, I have spoken to Hecto on this.” Diyem closed his eyes. “…When this all comes to an end, the Hands of Creation will be used to destroy my soul.”

Ice gripped Owen’s chest. It had caught him so off guard that he couldn’t mask his flame dimming by half.

“That—” Owen searched for the words in the split-second he had. “That’s not part of the agenda,” he dumbly finished.

“I apologize. I should have saved it for after everything, not after the overview.” Diyem’s eyes were closed. Everyone else was staring in stunned silence, one way or the other. Some had gaped at Diyem, like Mesprit and Demitri. Others seemed contemplative, like Uxie and Mispy. Others looked insulted, as if the idea of considering it was an affront to them specifically, like Azelf and Gahi.

But some also looked right at Owen, like Zena. And there was no hiding how badly he wished to protest.

“Is there any other way?” Zena asked.

“Perhaps,” Diyem said. “We can find an alternative. But that is the safe default, and I accept it.”

“I should explain,” Hecto said, “that the destruction of a soul is not precisely what one would assume, in the grand scheme of things. The act of destroying someone utterly in a world will eject them from that reality. They will never, under any circumstance whatsoever, be able to return to that same plane of existence. ‘Dimension,’ to use simpler terms. So do not mourn him. This will be what he wants.” Hecto’s eyes dimmed. “He will then be under my care and out of your hands.”

“This also means even if I die,” Diyem said, “you still have a means to erasing a more evil Diyem the same way. No matter what state I leave the world in, the result is the same for you.”

“But…” Demitri couldn’t finish. He lowered his claws and stared at the table.

“You should be thankful,” Diyem said. “It isn’t often that the least ideal victory can still leave all parties intact.”

“How is that intact?!” Owen exclaimed, but then winced at his voice echoing back to him. He wasn’t conducting himself well. “I—we can strategize about this later.”

“Of course.” Diyem bowed his little head, claws intertwined.

“…If I may ask,” Mhynt spoke up, leaning forward on her incredibly high seat, “Hecto, shouldn’t you answer just who you are in relation to all of this? I believe it went over the heads of some of us listening, but your talk about a soul’s rejection from a realm implies the existence of realms beyond.”

“Well, yeah, there’s across the aura sea, right?” Demitri asked.

“That,” Hecto said, “is still within this dimension. I am… from a place beyond. I am a scout for a force that is not relevant to your current struggles. I was partnered with the one you know as Necrozma. The two of us were a team of Overseers, from a place called the Overworld. It is beyond even the network of Ultra Space that connects this world to others within the same dimension, such as the world it splintered from, the one of humans.”

Demitri and Gahi both looked confused by that, while Owen noted that Smeargle and Jerry’s eyes had nearly completely glazed over.

“The point being,” Mhynt clarified, “you are not even native to Star and Barky’s creations. You are… the most otherworldly beings in this room, even more alien than the divine, the humans, and even those from the world of humans like Owen.”

“That is correct.”

“And the conflict in this world is so troubling that it required outsiders such as you to intervene?”


“I believe that is relevant,” Mhynt said.

“I suppose in the context of the magnitude of the problem, yes, it is. An entity such as Dark Matter has a risk of spreading to other parts of this reality and, if it permeates strongly enough, may even try to expand into dimensions beyond this one. As it stands, that threat is far and away. However, the risk existing at all is cause for concern. If Dark Matter’s primal, chaotic power goes to someone fully sapient such as Alexander, it is very likely that the Overseers will take decisive measures to put an end to it.”

“H-how decisive are we talking?” Demitri squeaked.

“…Some diseases leave certain parts of the body in such a state that there is nothing to do but remove it and hope the rest of the body may persist. In that way, all of Kilo, and all that it has touched, will be… removed. Erased. Destroyed utterly, as I mentioned prior. It is not cruel. I will assist your destroyed selves in recovery. But your home will be gone. It must be, in this hypothetical.”

Owen thought back to Necrozma’s approach to ending Kilo’s population. Was that… the same? Was this the more direct approach they’d told Necrozma not to do?

Then it would just be another failure state.

Mhynt snorted in disapproval. “As guardians of all realities, I suppose I see your point. I could say a few things about how impassively you convey it to the natives, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you think we can handle the facts without sugar-coating.”

“Then in the end,” Spice said, her black embers flaring a little, “that just means if we want to avoid Alexander winning and Hecto’s little Overworld club killing everything… we just have to win.” Her yellow eyes seemed to focus on Owen. She gave him a wry smile. “So, none of this affects your plans. No pressure.”

Owen stiffened. “I—I guess it doesn’t.” In fact, I guess it’s a little comforting. Even if we lose… at least it won’t be more of the Voidlands… right?

But it would still mean his world would be gone. It’d… just fail. Nothing.

And he’d have to live with that failure forever. Well, ‘live.’

“I apologize if this puts a damper on your morale,” Hecto said. “It was not my intent.”

“You did your best, dear,” Amia replied. “It must be so hard to relate to us mortals.”

“Barely anyone here is mortal,” Jerry muttered just barely enough to be heard.

“Will we be getting any resources from the Overseers to assist in this?” Mhynt asked. “We could use all the help we can get.”

“As it stands, myself and Necrozma are the best you can get. Others are likely in other corners of your reality rallying assistance in other ways. I do hope it becomes useful, but I have lost communication with them for some time, and do not know their current status.”

“How long?” Demitri asked.

“Since Kilo was created.”


“It did not help that for a time, I forgot my duties. The first Dark War’s end resulted in much of my self being forgotten for some time, along with any memory of Necrozma. That is the pitfall of directly entering the domain of someone’s world. I am subject to their rules. At first, I thought it was because someone was destroyed, but it seems this world either has no mechanism to properly destroy someone as I described, or it has not been discovered yet.”

“Just like when Star or Barky become physical,” Owen guessed. “They aren’t really at their strongest here, but they also can’t do a whole lot without descending, right?”

“Yes. It follows similar principles.”

“At least that means we’re on even footing,” Owen hummed. “Or… closer to even footing.”

“Yes. I suggest you try to work around that when trying to defeat Alexander and the others,” Hecto said. “Just like the Overworld, the world of Kilo operates on domains. So long as you are battling the ruler of a domain within their realm, you are at an inherent disadvantage.”

“Easier said than done to get someone out of their domain,” Jerry remarked. “That means you need to pull Alexander kicking and screaming out of the Voidlands.”

“That is correct,” Hecto said. “Even battling him in a Dungeon, rather than the Voidlands proper, could be sufficient to weaken him. But within the Voidlands, he naturally, perhaps even subconsciously, draws from the power that permeates the atmosphere there. That corrosive power that makes spirits within unable to survive outside… and the same power that draws their spirits back into the Voidlands. A prison that makes them not only dependent on its energy to survive, but turns them into more of the same energy with time.”

“He probably knows this better than we do,” Owen said. “It’d have to be a trick and then forcing him out. But… that is a possibility. We’ll strategize about that once we have more strength and resources.”

“Of course.” Hecto nodded. “I will assist you however I can.”

Owen took a steady breath. Some unexpected developments during a meeting of all times, but Owen maintained most of his composure. And despite the shift in context, there wasn’t a lot that actually changed for their immediate goals. They could continue.

“Now that we have the overview taken care of,” Owen said, “let’s get into some logistics. . .”


They’d started the meeting in the morning. It went on up until Jerry noticed that Angelo was looking exhausted and uncomfortable. That was when Spice reminded the other ninety percent of the room that there were still some people who were mortal and needed basic things like food and breaks.

Had it really gone past noon?

A little embarrassed, Owen called for a break for two kilos. He translated for Hakk that meant a little more than half an hour.

Owen took the time to get some sunlight near the back of HQ, at the edge of the crater, flying with Zena to enjoy the view. Once they landed, she coiled next to him and raised her head to the breeze.

“I feel bad,” Owen admitted. “I totally lost track of time during the meeting and forgot about the others again. And they were all sitting on the far end of the table. Must have been out of my Perceive range. That room is big…”

Zena smiled, but it was in a way that she was trying to humor him. “You were very passionate about… planning,” she said. “Combine that with Mystic stamina and you can get nonstop days of planning. I think that would be enviable to a lot of people… though I do still like to sleep.”

“I, er, I’ll… I mean… planning is fun.”

Zena rubbed a ribbon between his eyes. “One of us needs to have fun with it,” she said. “I have no idea how you kept all that in your head. Surely your spirits helped take notes.”

“Oh, I… actually gave them all to Enet.”

“What—still? I thought that was only for Alexander.”

Owen shook his head. “Enet’s still sorting through all of them to figure out who the final third of Remi is.”


“It’s not as easy when they’re all spirits in the Orb. Klent, Amelia, all the Grass Spirits are Electric Spirits now until they can sort that out. Then I guess, anyone who was friends with that part of Remi can stay with Enet, and the rest can return to the Grass Orb. At least, that’s the plan. I’d be fine if it was just me again.”

“Won’t that make you nearly mortal without them?” Zena asked.

“Mutant. I think I’m already immortal without that kind of power. But… I do need that extra power, too, I guess. I just don’t know how I feel about using spirits for that…”

“It isn’t like they mind,” Zena said. “Many spirits just want to rest. They don’t mind if their power us being used for a good cause in the meantime. That’s how almost all of my spirits are at this point.”

Owen shifted uncomfortably, turning his head away. “I guess so,” he said. But there was more to it. The way Zena continued to stare, he had to elaborate. “I just don’t know if my own personal feelings are leaking into theirs, influencing them. There’s no way Klent would have forgiven me for killing him and his daughter if it wasn’t for the fact that I was influencing them.”

“Were you?”

“Not intentionally, just… that’s obviously why they forgave me,” Owen said. “You don’t… forgive someone for that. I know I wouldn’t.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Zena said. “Are you sure it isn’t simply a result of feeling how you had felt?”

“I mean, they’d have to do that… right?”

“Exactly. But not in that you’re forcing them.” She wrapped her ribbons around his shoulders. “If they’re part of you, then they also know exactly how you feel. They know your honest feelings. And you’d know theirs, if you peeked, right?”

“I’d never do that to them.”

Zena wrapped once around him. “All the more reason for them to trust you,” she said. “You can’t hide your feelings from them. That they remained with you means they know you care. Isn’t that better?”

“…I’ll ask,” Owen said. “Right now, they’re with Enet. If they all return to me willingly, then…”

“Exactly.” Zena nuzzled him. “You’ll know for sure.”

Owen sighed, wrapping his wings around her and staring at the sky. “Yeah. Thanks.”

Something invisible entered Owen’s range. He turned his head back. “Oh, hey, Enet.”

“Oh? Enet’s here?”

The illusion dropped, and the Zoroark landed next to Owen, affectionately nipping at his arm.

“Finally taking up flight, are you?” Owen asked. “Hope the meeting wasn’t too boring.”

“Very boring,” Enet replied honestly.

Owen tittered. “Yeah, sorry… I think the rest of the meetings will involve just the key strategists and leaders. It probably wasn’t that helpful to have everyone there in the first place.”

Enet dug through her mane, feeling around for something Owen couldn’t quite Perceive. That meant it was the egg she’d been caring for while Owen was at his meeting. With a pang of guilt, he realized it had slipped his mind.

“Oh, Enet, I’m sorry—I was supposed to pick that up after—”

“Hatching!” Enet declared, pulling it out.

The black sphere had a darker crack in it. The color of the crack made him feel like he was going blind.

“Oh!” Zena whispered.

The egg wobbled and the crack widened.

“Uhh, put it down, just in case, Enet,” Owen said uneasily. “We have no idea what’s inside, so…”

They found a nice spot on stable, flat ground near the crater’s edge where it wasn’t in danger of rolling or tumbling away, and they waited silently. Owen told Enet to go and let the others know, but she refused, far too interested in watching the egg hatch.

Then, with one final CRACK! the shell broke apart. Each piece of that blackened outer layer dissolved into smoke, and then nothing at all. Inside, a black blob coalesced into solid material. A head. Arms. Legs. A tail.

Zena gasped, leaning forward. “It’s…”

Color came next. Orange scales and a cream belly. Big, blue eyes, just like Owen’s. They even had that more feral, reptilian face shape to them compared to others of his kind. But, most of all, the flame that ignited a moment later was not orange or even dark like Diyem’s, but a strange mixture of white and black, like two kinds of material burning under the same flame.

Enet crawled toward the confused Charmander, the last of her black egg dissolving from the scales. She sniffed her, nuzzling her, but Charmander was focused more on Owen and Zena, the first two they’d made eye contact with.

She grasped Charmander and raised them skyward. “Healthy girl!” she declared.

Charmander squealed and kicked her legs, spitting little flames the same black-white color as her tail’s ember. At first, Owen was worried that Enet was scaring her, but then he noticed something else. Something that almost confirmed she couldn’t be the same as Diyem…

She was laughing.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 147 – Spirit Lineage

The last thing Owen was expecting to throw several plans into question was a child hatching. It had slipped his mind completely, that egg. But now, he was balancing a little Charmander between his horns while sitting at the table of the conference room. Zena tended to the Charmander to make sure she didn’t fall.

Slowly, others trickled in. The first was Mhynt, who saw the Charmander and sighed, hopping onto her stool and staring at Owen. She said nothing.

“…Okay, yes, this was what hatched from the egg,” Owen finally said. “I’m still thinking about names.”

“She has your eyes,” Mhynt said, and somehow, despite his Perceive and knowledge of the Treecko, he had no idea if she was mocking him or not. “Certainly not your flame, though…”

“Yeah, I’m not sure what kind of energy it is,” Owen said. “It feels like Shadow, but it’s also… not? It almost reminds me of the energy I can channel in my Protects, or when I Bestow something.”

“It might be both,” Mhynt said, her expression hardening. “Which is surprising. We should think about precisely how it was born.”

“She, actually.”

Mhynt nodded. “How did her egg come to be?”

“Well… I don’t really remember too well. Or why. But…”

Mhynt sighed. “I do hope you’re careful about this,” she said, “but… she doesn’t seem to be evil. Inherently, at least. Her aura is… strange, though. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I believe I know what it is,” Xerneas said, standing at the entrance. Yveltal bowed her head to slip inside next, reminding Xerneas to do the same so his antlers didn’t get caught in the doorway.

Owen’s scaly brow furrowed. “What? So it’s something to do with her life energy?”

Xerneas nodded. “And I believe we are incredibly lucky that you were able to escape before Alexander could discover it… That is the very thing he had been striving for.”

His father, followed by his mother, entered his Perceive range.

“Oh!” Amia called, waving. Her movements were still foreign to how Owen remembered her. Little subtleties that constantly reminded him that she wasn’t all there yet, and perhaps never will. Not the Amia he knew. “Congratulations, Owen!”

“Uh.” Awkwardly, Owen shifted his weight and gestured to the Charmander. “Just so you know, that wasn’t… from Zena and me. That was something else.”

“Oh, I think I remember that,” she said. “Yes… You two were a couple! But, only just beginning. Sorry, I’m still sorting through all those memories…”

“Yeah, that’s okay,” Owen replied, throat tightening. When Zena held his arm with her ribbon, he relaxed.

“Bring Charmander to me,” Xerneas said. “I can have a closer look at her spirit.”

Diyem entered the room next, wearing a cautious frown. “Will this harm her?”

Zena slithered to Xerneas, gently holding Charmander in her ribbons. The little Pokémon made a cooing sound as she was carried closer to Xerneas.

“It will not,” Xerneas said. “This is… a new life brought into the world.”

Zena set her on the table and she plopped onto her rear, staring at Xerneas. She held her arms up and grasped the air.

“It is against everything I am to harm a healthy child.” Xerneas brought his head down until he was eye-level with Charmander.

She continued reaching up, wobbling until she was on her legs.

Amia breathed in. “Goodness, already standing up on her own, so bold.”

“You have your hands full with this one,” Mhynt commented. She was smiling, but Owen shared her sad nostalgia.

“Perceive will help, while I’m around,” Owen said. When he said it, he realized that he couldn’t possibly bring her to the boat. He’d need to find someone else to take care of her for a little while.


Charmander grasped at one of Xerneas’ antlers, stepping on his snout to get closer.

Slowly, he lifted his head. Dauntless, Charmander continued to climb.

“Yes, I can feel it,” Xerneas said. “It is clear in her flame as well. Down to her very core, she is a being of light and darkness. A blend even more perfect than you two, Owen, Mhynt. Though, because of that… it seems she is a different breed.”

“Then, she isn’t a vessel for me,” Diyem said, looking disappointed.

“What does that mean?” Zena asked. “You didn’t plan on possessing her, did you?”

“The opposite,” Diyem said. “One alternative plan was to find an incarnation of myself that had… no proper memories. To seal all of my other selves within, to be replaced by a more dominant life for a time to learn what proper happiness was like. It’s not unlike how Owen had been overwritten for a time.”

“Hopefully in a less traumatizing way,” Owen muttered. “But you’re saying that’s not the case?”

“Yes,” Xerneas confirmed. “Whatever brought about her egg, the process created a new soul. She is not Diyem, and she is not Owen. However, her aura… I can trace its ancestry back to you, Owen. As well as… Diyem.”

“Just like that?” Zena asked. “You can tell someone’s parentage?”

“I remember Star mentioned something like this a long time ago,” Owen hummed, thinking back to how his ancestry had been scrubbed clean.

“…Owen and Diyem had a child together?” Mhynt asked, bemused. She leaned back against her chair, smiling wryly. “And you didn’t even invite me.”

“I can trace parentage, yes,” Xerneas said. “For most Pokémon, the creation of a new life is a biological and spiritual process. In the spiritual portion, both parents’ essences are used to spark a new essence entirely, placed within that new and developing body in the egg. This process is permanent on the spirit, but can be cleansed from the aura.” Xerneas glanced at Owen. “As is what happened to you when you were placed in the Reincarnation Machine. Your ancestry by aura was washed away, and you became artificially recycled. Something similar happens to souls that choose to reincarnate through the normal process, which removes their memories, too. That way, the old soul may live a new life without the burdens of their memories, for a time. Long enough to experience everything anew before all lives reemerge upon death.

“But you, Owen, were always burdened by your memories. They returned stubbornly and quickly, because you were always, on a cosmic level, dead. A spirit in an artificial shell. Memories are enteral in a spirit; without a proper body to be your active ‘mind,’ your spirit would resurface all it knew.” Xerneas closed his eyes. “But you, of course, took that to your advantage, and became a threat to all of us.”

“You can save the lecture,” Diyem muttered. “What of her, then? Her ancestry traces to us. What of her spirit? Is she reincarnated?”

“No. I can tell, too, that her spirit holds no ancestry but to you two. A reincarnated spirit would have more strands tracing to previous parents that had touched its previous life’s first spark.” Xerneas tried to get a good look at her, but she was already trying to leap from his left antler to his right. He kept still.

Yveltal giggled quietly and kept her distance. “It’s nice to see you enjoying some company for a change,” she said. “I do miss that.”

“How have you been doing?” Owen asked Yveltal. “You know, with… being Step.”

Her countenance became more solemn. “Sobering. But I’m happier now. And I’m together with my mate of both lives. In many ways, that is ideal, isn’t it?”

“I’d go so far as to call it poetic,” Mhynt remarked. “Different lives usually mean different friendships. It’s lucky that you have the same.”

Owen wasn’t sure why he couldn’t feel any tension from Mhynt with those words. Because he certainly felt some in his chest, and even Zena’s. He was tempted to remove his horns.

“In any case,” Mhynt said, leaning forward on the table again, “Xerneas, explain the significance of this Charmander and her black-white flame.”

“She is Alexander’s goal of trying to create someone that is a proper blend of Shadow and Radiance, down to the core. The darkness of Diyem, and the light of Necrozma. There are some who have something akin to this, such as you. Ones that have their blessings. However, even if those blessings were granted to you, brought into your auras and then your spirits… you yourselves were not of those blessings.”

“Hmm… I think I understand,” Mhynt said. “Alexander was someone who had Shadows, and so his offspring were also of Shadow. Just as Mew’s blessing can also be carried, I believe?”

“Jerry has that,” Owen said.

“Mew’s blessing as well as Shadows, hmm.” Xerneas nodded. “There is not much that we understand about how the passing of blessings from parent to child operates, only that it happens. I’d go so far as to say it was an unforeseen consequence of other things Star and Arceus had done when crafting this world. It must be a side effect of the spiritual aspect of offspring.”

“This mate of Alexander’s that we’ve heard about,” Mhynt said. “Do we know anything about her?”

“It’s foggy, but she was also a Hydreigon,” Xerneas said. “I was not around at the time, so all I can tell you is what I’ve been told from Star… but she is in no state to recollect anything about Alexander at the moment. I will not press her.”

“Is there anyone else who might know?” Owen asked.

“Well.” Xerneas hummed. “You will want to speak to your father, Owen. If anyone knows, it would be him.”

“R… right…”

“…Why?” Zena asked. “I’m sorry. I think I forgot this part.”

“My dad is Alexander’s kid,” Owen said. “Which… makes Alexander my grandfather, at least, adoptively. Technically. I don’t think that really matters.”

“Oh.” Zena stared awkwardly. “Right. I think I heard something like that.”

“It’s a very… disturbing family tree,” Xerneas said. “And for some reason, I have a sinking feeling it’s far worse once we piece it together.”

“Don’t say that,” Owen mumbled.

“My instincts tell me so, and so I must say that,” Xerneas countered.

“It is an expression, Xerny,” Yveltal whispered. “Ah, Owen. If you are not sure you want to talk to your father about this, perhaps one of us will instead?”

Gods, it was weird to hear Step’s accent leaking through in that kind voice, on top of that deathly form. “Uh—no, I’ll do it,” Owen said. “Meeting is soon, right? I’ll do it after. I don’t think he’ll be coming to the meeting.”

Xerneas lowered Charmander back down. “In any case, it seems that Charmander is the first of her kind. Someone who not only inherited the blessings of both sides, but was born with them. Owen… not to bring up painful memories, but you had Remi before acquiring blessings of Shadow, correct?”

“Not too long before in the grand scheme of things,” Owen said, “but yes. After all, nobody could have children at all when I started… you know.”

Zena winced. “How awful…”

“Perhaps if Remi had somehow been born later, she would have this property instead,” Xerneas remarked. “What is curious… is that perhaps Diyem, too, had light’s blessing. But that…”

“Destabilized me,” Diyem said, “but I do have it in some small way. I do not know if that was a catalyst, or if she merely inherited Owen’s spiritual properties more.”

“Mm. Well, that’s enough talking.” And just as Xerneas spoke, the door opened again, the main flood of others coming back from their break.

It was time for more logistics.


Evening cast long shadows from the caldera’s edge into Kilo Village. The meeting had gone until everyone but him seemed mentally fatigued from all the planning. After he had asked Arceus for his opinion on certain tactics, and the god himself apologizing because he had been focusing on worldwide prayers, that was the signal that it was time to call the meeting to an end. They could do more planning tomorrow.

Owen took the road this time, looking for the Yotta Outskirts Waypoint that Palkia had so graciously set up for them. The fact that Nevren had developed the previous Waypoint system, and the irony behind that, bothered him a little, but hey, at least Palkia was nice. As long as the others kept him from performing experiments again.

Eventually, it was just Zena and Owen while walking away from HQ.

“Sorry that ran for so long,” Owen finally said.

“It was important,” Zena replied.

“I think I even bored the hatchling,” Owen remarked. “But, you know, I think she helped, too.” He could still sense her balanced atop his head, staring at the sky. The way her muscles were so relaxed suggested she was entranced by the stars. It was a clear night.

“Oh, easily,” Zena said. “People rotating out to keep an eye on her during parts of the meeting they aren’t needed for… helped with stamina. We probably covered more ground that way.”

“Owen! Zena!”

Just down the road, Alex ran after them, still awkward in his Magmortar form. Owen wondered if he kept it after remembering Owen’s fear, or…

“Hey, Dad,” Owen greeted.

“Diyem, ah, oh, one moment…” Alex puffed, cannon-arms against his belly as he wheezed. “Sorry. So far from your mother, I get tired quite quickly…”

“It’s alright… Diyem said something?” Owen asked.

“He said you wanted to speak to me,” Alex said. “I thought I’d see you going down the other street, but I saw your flame this way…”

“Oh, yeah, sorry. Zena and I decided to take a longer walk around. I did want to talk, though.” Owen glanced at the Milotic, then back at Alex. “Let’s go to Mom’s. Where’d you go?”

“We were actually at Sugar ‘n Spice,” Alex said. “They were about to close for the day.”

Owen tried to keep his flame calm. “Oh. Well… sure. We can talk there.”

He didn’t walk, and Alex didn’t start walking, either. A wind blew, chilly, carrying a little evening frost with it.

“It won’t be too hard on you, will it?” Alex asked nervously. “With… with Spice, and…”

“No, er, no, it’s fine,” Owen said. “Yeah. I’ll go.”

“This seems private,” Zena said quietly. “Should I take Charmander back to our home for now?”

“If you want,” Owen said. “You can come with us, though.”

“You don’t mind?”

“I’d… I’d like it, actually. If you’re fine with it.”

Zena glanced at Charmander atop Owen’s head, seeming torn. “It won’t upset her, you think?”

“I don’t think she can understand what we’re saying yet,” Owen said. “It’ll be okay.”

“She’s adorable, you know,” Alex said with a smile. “So well-behaved, too.”

Charmander blinked at Alex, tilting her head. She plopped atop Owen’s head and tapped her tiny fists on his snout.

Owen smiled. “Well, okay. Let’s go.”


“Just so you know, we’re technically closed,” Spice reminded. “If you planned on getting any goodies, we’ve packed up for the night.”

“Oh, no, er, sorry, so sorry,” Alex said. “Oh, dear, we really are keeping you, aren’t—”

“I was joking,” Spice said. “We’re just doing cleanup. You guys relax here.”

Amia giggled. “Unorthodox meeting place, but I wanted to know my supposed step-granddaughter a little more.” The Gardevoir adjusted her green hair and sighed.

“Well… it’s not like we’ve met before,” Spice said. “Or, I don’t remember it. Yet. Or ever.”

“That makes both of us!” Amia replied with a laugh. “I hardly remember anything myself!”

Spice and Alex shared a look. Alex gave a wobbly, nervous smile; Spice, despite her lack of pupils, stared at him with pity.

“Dad,” Owen said, “can I ask you about… your father?”

“Ah.” Alex fidgeted. “A difficult question. I, er…”

“I know it’s probably hard for you,” he said. “I mean, you even abandoned your old species for it… And I’ve seen what he’s done. But I need to know because it might tie into what he’s doing now. It could even give ideas on how we could trick him, or learn more about how he… thinks.”

“Are you sure?” Alex still looked apprehensive. “I don’t… know if…”

“We won’t know for sure until we find out,” Zena said. “Is it that painful?”

“Of course it’s painful,” Alex said, “but that isn’t why I’m hesitant. I’ll admit, I… oh, fine. I know how you are by now, Owen.” He smiled feebly. “Nothing will stop you from wanting to learn the truth.”

“Thanks.” As painful as it was, they had to know. It was better than not knowing.


“Should I be here for this, or…?” Spice glanced at Sugar, who had just emerged from the back room from organizing their inventory.

“If you want to,” Alex said, but then, a moment later, seemed to realize something. “Actually… yes. I think you should be here.”

“Not ominous at all.” Spice took a seat and tapped her claws rhythmically against the table. “Sugar?”

“I hope you don’t mind if I listen in, too,” the normal Salazzle said, taking a seat on the other table.

“That’s okay, too.” Alex took a breath. “Right. I’ll get right to it. Ah, oh, dear, how do I even begin…” Alex sighed.

Charmander complained by slapping Owen harmlessly on the top of his head; confused, Owen grabbed and set her down. She wobbled to Zena and tried to wrestle with one of her tail feathers.

“…Oh, I know,” Alex said. “My father, Alexander… was obsessed with growing his own power. Truly and utterly obsessed. He had children in a… a twisted pattern where, as one would evolve into a Hydreigon after intense training, he would… he would kill and put them into the Fire Orb.”

Owen gaped. “He what—what do you—what?”

“Spirits within an Orb seem to be what make him stronger,” Alex said. “You draw from their power. More spirits, more power. And Alexander wanted… the most compatible spirits possible. Spirits that had his own essence. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, Owen, but—I couldn’t remember. When Alexander was pulled into the Voidlands, all memory of him followed. Only when the Voidlands became totally unsealed did the memories come back again. Like a balance of power had been upset.”

“Wait. H-hold on.” Owen held up his hands. “But the Fire Orb didn’t have any Hydreigon. They were all Hot Spot villagers. Auntie Arcanine, and the kids I played with, they were—it was all an act, sure, but…”

“All Hydreigon originally,” Alex said. “They took on different forms because it upset you.”

“Upset me… I…” Owen shuddered, flashes of memories coming back to him. He had been trying, perhaps subconsciously, to not think about those moments. They were fleeting, but he remembered a fiery Hydreigon… ripping him apart. He remembered feeling so helpless, his Perceive telling him that Alexander planned to do so much worse to him, if he had his way.

“Owen,” Zena whispered, ribbons wrapping around him. Owen flinched, and she pulled back, giving him room.

“Zena, I—sorry. Sorry.” He gestured for her to come closer again, and she wrapped around his arms, gingerly this time. Then she leaned against him. She was cold, but that was a small comfort. “Thanks,” he whispered. “Can you ask questions?”

“If you want,” Zena said. “Alex, you all chose different forms. Was that to comfort Owen?”

“We thought it was a strange coincidence that we were all Hydreigon. We had no memory of sharing a father nor any memory of having siblings, since he had them in sequence, not all at once. We figured we might have been… creations of some kind, or a colony of Hydreigon. Those memories returning made things very awkward…”

“How did Amia come to acquire the Fire Orb?” Zena asked.

“Oh, I remember that one,” Amia said. Her usual smile was subdued. “It was actually my mother who was named Amia. She had the blessings of Manaphy and could swap things around readily—it wasn’t limited to spirits, but even minds or thoughts could be swapped if it was the same person split in two. I never saw her using it much, since tampering with such things is… not the greatest thing to trifle with, but she’d used it to… save me. Alexander had injured me horribly… She wanted me to live. But those injuries… couldn’t heal.”

“Shadow energy seems to cut more than flesh,” Zena said. “Maybe that’s why it couldn’t heal so easily.”

“That’s my guess,” Amia agreed. “But to honor her… I took her name. Though, I did miss my hair. It’s very rare, you know. I used simple Mystic power to alter it. But… my real name is Evelyn. Ah, but… I’ve been using ‘Amia’ for most of my life, haven’t I? So, I guess… technically, my name has been Amia for much longer than it had been Evelyn.”

“It must have been hard to keep that up for her. Where is she now?” Zena asked.

“I think… she eventually found her way across the aura sea, or something,” Amia said. “She was searching for my father, but he might have been claimed by Alexander. Perhaps pulled into the Voidlands. I feel terrible, but… I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know where she is anymore.”

Owen couldn’t imagine that kind of pain. In some ways, maybe Owen was lucky he’d spent so much time ignorant of his own past…

“Diyem mentioned,” Zena said, “that Alexander was searching for more than just power when he had so many offspring.”

Alex hummed. “Right, he was trying for something else. And he was obsessed with it. Trying to find someone who had the power of Radiance and Shadow, at the same time. Like Owen, as we’ve learned, even if the Shadow aspect had been rendered dormant.”

“Well, he’d obviously need a source of Radiance for that, then. Power of light,” Zena said. “But Necrozma was selective of who he blessed, wasn’t he?”

Owen felt cold. He’d nearly tuned out of the conversation with a thought that occurred to him—a cold, horrible thought—but he listened in silence. Numbness crawled along his cheeks.

“He… was,” Alex said. “Very few Pokémon passed their bloodline of that same Radiance on, presumably, but… there was one bloodline that reawakened. You see, some of Alexander’s children were not of Shadow. They fled with powers of Radiance, or the powers were too weak to manifest at all, like with me. Those with light sometimes escaped him because they could counter his power more easily… and they went on to make families of their own.”

“So, his mate had Radiance,” Zena said. “…But… who would…”

What followed was a long, terrible silence. Owen had already pieced it together. He could only hear his heart. Muffled words from Alex, Amia, and Zena encircled him, and he had a sense that they were all looking at him. Spice said something next, reaching for him.

And suddenly, Owen was staring at the ceiling, dazed and nauseous with Amia and Zena in his immediate view.

“What? What… I’m on… ground, ceiling, sorry, I think…”

“Take it easy, take it easy,” Zena whispered. “You fainted, Owen. Are you okay?”

It had been so sudden. He wasn’t sure what happened. Maybe it was an aftereffect of the egg in his chest.

No. No, he knew what it was. The memories came back, but the shock was a little less this time. He couldn’t stop shaking. When Zena got a little closer, he clung to her, squeezing hard. He could still Perceive them all staring and couldn’t take it. With one hand, he ripped off both horns and placed them nearby, then went back to holding Zena. Sweet relief—he couldn’t see anything.

Charmander poked his cheek, tilting her head.

“Hi,” Owen said gently, reaching toward her and rubbing her forehead. She nipped at his claws harmlessly.

Zena helped him to a sitting position. Sugar had what seemed to be a few healing berries, like it would have helped, but put them on the table for now.

“I’m fine,” Owen said breathily. “Sorry. It was… it just hit me at once.”

“…Yeah. No, I get it,” Spice said. “Don’t blame you. Can’t blame you.” She rubbed her arm. “That’s… pretty awful to hear. It almost makes me scared to want to get those memories back. Like, I’m getting them back one way or the other eventually, right? Because… if I had a choice, I don’t really know, Owen. It sounds to me like Remi had a pretty awful life. Would I really want that back?”

They were like stabs to his heart, but Owen nodded anyway. “I know,” he said. “But… you said you wanted to, right? So maybe… deep down, Remi still wanted to—”

“I know, I know. You don’t need to preach it. Just… doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the easiest set of memories to get back anymore.” She shuddered. “If I see that Alexander person, maybe I’ll have some revenge myself, using me like some… some egg factory. Ugh!” Her tail whipped on the ground, cracking it. She muttered a curse. “Ah, sorry, Sugar…”

“I, um, I don’t blame you, either. I’ll fix that up tomorrow.”

“…Excuse me,” Amia said. “I think I missed a detail, but, if Owen is Remi’s father… and Remi was the one who had given life to all of those Hydreigon… Does that mean all that time in Hot Spot, he’s been raised by his own grandchildren?”

Spice sighed loudly and stood up from the table. “And that,” she said, “is where I think I’m going to call it a night.”

“It actually is a little more than that,” Alex said. “I think everyone of the Shadow lineage inherited it from my father, too. I believe… that also means Jerry is a distant descendant of yours, Owen. And all the Southern rulers who had been blessed by Shadow.”

“Oh, wonderful. Really glad I learned my childhood friend is actually my great grandson. Sugar!”


“We’re going home and I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear any of this.”

“Do you mean that for real, or…”

“I don’t even know anymore.” Spice pinched her snout. “It’s… a lot. A lot a lot. I need… a quiet place to just think. Away from it all.”

“Sorry for all this,” Owen murmured.

“Don’t apologize,” Spice said, claws pressing into her palm. “All of this is because of Alexander, not you. Don’t tell yourself otherwise. And don’t give me that look.” Spice snarled at Owen. “I heard all about it from the others, the Wishkeeper stuff. Don’t care if you made it possible for Alexander to do what he did, he still was the one who did it.”

Owen flinched, feeling a coldness run down his skull. She’d read him so easily.

“Don’t give me any of that martyr blame-catching for him, got it? He’ll only use it against you.”

“Right,” Owen replied automatically. “I’ll… I won’t, then…”

Spice snorted, then nodded at Sugar. “Shop’s closed. You can get home alright, Owen?”

“Yeah, I—can walk.” He slowly got to his feet. No dizziness.

Zena picked up Charmander and cradled her in her ribbons. “We’ll make sure everything is going fine tomorrow. Check in at HQ?” she asked Spice, when Owen had forgotten to ask.

“Yep, same as today.”

Zena guided Owen out, Alex and Amia following next.

“Owen, ah, would you like to come home today?” Alex asked. “Hot Spot is nearly cleaned up. We can get back to normal again…”

That did sound nice… “We have some of my stuff and supplies I’d want to move back first,” Owen said, “And, I’m… too tired tonight. Sorry, Dad. But—I promise, that’s the only reason. How about tomorrow?”

“I understand,” Alex said. “We’ll have your room ready!”

“Ohh, you look so happy,” Amia said, clasping her hands together. “We’ll see you soon, Owen. Take care!”

Amia and Alex departed next, leaving Zena and Owen alone with Charmander. Owen glanced at his horns, still in his hands and not on his head. He decided to keep them off for now. The mental break was liberating.


They decided to make use of their humble temporary home for one more night without packing anything up. It was late, they were tired, and even if sleep was optional for them, it certainly wouldn’t be for the child. Presumably. They actually weren’t sure about that yet.

Zena curled around a huge bag stuffed with soft cotton and rested her head on the center, and Owen looked for the best way to place the hatchling.

The Charizard’s tail flicked. “Do you think it would be better to have her between, or… No, I don’t want to accidentally roll over her or something, especially if I get into a battle-dream. What if we…”

“I think we’ll take shifts keeping an eye on her,” Zena said. “You rest first. I’ll be fine.”

Owen rubbed the back of his head. It had been a thousand years since he’d raised a child. It all felt foreign to him again. “Have you ever looked after kids?”

“Not really… Maybe a few friends back at sea, but the ocean life isn’t as complicated as the way things are on the surface. Find a cave or a burrow, rest under some kelp, everything drifts along…”

“Guess we’re both rusty at this, then,” Owen said.

Charmander struggled and kicked, and eventually Owen set her down.

“Yes?” he asked.

She started to wobble toward the doorway. Casually, Owen brushed his tail along the ground, blocking her from leaving.

“A real adventurer,” Zena said, giggling. “She’ll eventually tire herself out.”

“I’m already tired,” Owen murmured, wings drooping.

“I suppose this is where I’d say, welcome to parenthood, but I’m not sure if it’s normal or not myself…”

“We’re… not equipped to raise a kid, are we?”

The Milotic smiled awkwardly. “Well… in some ways, I’d hoped for one. It’s an odd way for a wish to be granted, but…”

“You did?” Owen asked, genuinely surprised. “But… I don’t think mutant bodies can have kids. We just die and reincarnate.”

To this, Zena seemed surprised. “Oh. I had no idea…”

“Did I never mention that? Sorry.” Owen winced. “That’s… probably a big detail.”

“No, it’s fine,” Zena said. “After all… perhaps when this is all over… Oh, I’m sorry. I’m moving too fast again.”

Owen must have made a face because Zena amended herself quickly.

She leaned forward. “Please, don’t think too much into it. Especially after what came up today. You’ve been through so much and we’re still not sure of our futures… I had actually been considering if I’d even bring it up. I’m sorry. It slipped out.”

“Don’t worry.” As Zena spoke, Owen had relaxed, picking Charmander up and sitting beside the Milotic. “…Are you really sure, though? About… all of this? I know I keep asking, but…”

Zena nodded. “All of my memories are back now. And even though the ‘Zena’ of the past feels… like a distant dream, I was able to meet you all over again. These past few months with you… combined with before… Well, I—it would have been a much more miserable experience in the Voidlands without you.”

Owen smirked. “Would you rather be here in Kilo without me, or in the Voidlands with me?” he asked.

“Oh, Kilo, absolutely,” Zena replied, earning a laugh from Owen. “—Ah, but! Would that mean you’re stuck in the Voidlands?”

“Err, didn’t think that far. Let’s say I was… I don’t know, back in Kanto.”

“Oh. Then… I’d miss you, but, that way we’d both be out of that horrible place.”

“Good answer.” Owen leaned back, letting Charmander settle in his arms.

She was still protesting a little, but her energy was running out. He could tell by her flame that she indeed required sleep.

“Kanto,” Zena repeated. “What’s it like?”

“Not all that different from Kilo in some ways, aside from the humans,” Owen said. “Think of them like… Pokémon, but without the elemental techniques. Well, some humans have them, but they’re pretty rare, and usually from hanging around Pokémon too much.”

“So, they can adapt to the Pokémon they’re with?” Zena asked. “How interesting. They’re like Normals, but… different.”

“Sure, sort of like that. They rely on technology a lot more than we do, since they can’t channel techniques as easily. In fact, most humans go their whole lives without using a single elemental attack.”

“That sounds so hard,” Zena whispered.

“Yeah. The strangest thing about them is how they—you know how some Pokémon have enchanted battle scarves and other equipment? Imagine that, but all over their bodies, and it isn’t even enchanted.”

Zena squinted. “I don’t understand. They put on full-body armor, but it isn’t enchanted? Isn’t that… cumbersome with none of the benefits?”

“I never really asked why. I think it’s cultural, or protection. Like a Cubone’s helmet.”

“Oh, that could be it. Perhaps humans have a special ability that lets unenchanted armor work like it’s enchanted?”

“Huh, maybe. You know, next time I see Brandon, I’ll ask him. Or maybe Eon, or the other humans. I think Rhys—er, Dialga might be too faded to know the answer anymore, though.” He fidgeted with his claws. “Yeah…”

Gentle ribbons wrapped over his shoulder, rubbing them. Owen relaxed again. Had he been tense?

“Do you miss that world?” Zena asked.

“Not the world, no,” Owen said. “It’s okay. I liked it there. But I think I like here more. And… I mean, I have more bad memories than good memories back home, when I think about it.”

“Did you?” Zena asked. “I thought you enjoyed your time with, err…”

“…I did. Huh.” Owen shifted again. “I really did… I guess it was… clouded until now. Since that all became… what happened to Eon. And how that all led to me.”

“I see…” Zena looked down. “But… you did enjoy your time with him. Even if he became… how he is now.”

“He’s trying to do better,” Owen said. “I can tell he’s giving me space. And it’s probably eating him up inside. I don’t know if I can ever…” He saw that helpless, desperate look in his eyes. “Sorry. I don’t know if I want to talk about this right now.”

“It’s okay.” Zena leaned her forehead on his cheek. “You don’t have to.”

More silence. Charmander had finally drifted off in his arms. Just outside, through an open window, a chilling wind blew, but conveniently, the window closed to keep the cold out. Owen assumed Zena used some Mystic energy to close it.

“I just don’t know who to blame anymore,” Owen said. “He was Jirachi and then just wanted me to be happy. I agreed with him. And then… Uxie, Azelf, and Mesprit took away everything that made me… me. And Jirachi tried to bring me back. The Dark War happened, somehow Jirachi got pulled into the Voidlands, and all that was left was… the mortal half, somehow. His memories were shattered; he probably didn’t even know what went wrong with me at that point. To him I’d just suddenly gone and lost myself, and… and it probably drove him insane. Was that his fault, in the end? Or… was it just how things ended up because of Diyem, or Necrozma, or…”

His heart was racing. His vision was blurry. Realizing something was wrong, he rubbed his eyes and realized there were tears.

“Oh, Owen…” Zena shifted her weight and wrapped a coil around him, careful not to squeeze Charmander. “When you put it like that, I see why you’d hesitate.”

“You hate him, though, right?” Owen asked.

Zena looked away, as if conflicted, or perhaps to find a way to dampen her next phrasing.

“It’s okay if you do,” Owen said. “I… just want to know. What does it look like to you?”

“I don’t think I can judge anymore,” Zena said. “I only know him as the Hunters’ leader. You knew him as your partner. And then there’s a… a disconnect, where things changed, and he’s no longer that same person you know. He’s changed forever, just like you changed. Him trying to fight, over and over, to get you back to how things used to be… Isn’t that what led him to becoming so deranged as a Hunter to begin with? What… drove him to madness?”

“…I… yeah. It is.”

“And then… trying to go back to that for you… Will that help anything? Or is it… just trying to piece together an illusion, just trying to simulate a time that’s already gone away?”

Charmander curled up a little, content. Her black and white flame dimmed and grew rhythmically with her breaths. Owen’s was a deeper hum, warming the room as he tried to calm his nerves.

“Tim’s really gone,” Owen finally whispered. This time, he leaned against her. “I’d… probably, if I do anything, I’d have to start over with him. As… but then, it’d just be forcing it. I’d have to let him… make the choice, too.”

Zena looked guilty, turning her head away. Conflict in her posture, even with his horns removed. She wanted to say something.

“Zena?” Owen asked.


“What’s wrong?”

After a brief silence, she seemed to give in. “I suppose that’s what Eon did for you. He’s letting you choose what to do with him. I… do have to give him credit for that. He’s walked away to let you decide. As shattered and broken as everything is… and how your dynamic can never be the same again—human and Pokémon, or Legend and Wishkeeper—that’s all gone now. Instead, it’s… something new.”

“New… right…”

“Nuu,” Charmander mumbled in her sleep.

That warmed his heart a little.

“If you’re so torn up about it,” Zena said, “you should talk to him when you’re ready. If you want me to be there…”

“I will,” Owen said. “When I’m ready. But… he’s going to be battling Titans soon. I’m on another team…”

“Can you wait?” Zena asked.

Another pause. He didn’t know. But it wouldn’t be long until everyone was back at full strength and ready to depart. And he certainly couldn’t stall for his personal feelings.

“I’ll decide tomorrow. I need to sleep on it,” Owen said. “I don’t want to make any decisions while I’m all… bothered.”

Zena nodded. “Then get some rest.”

“Thanks, Zena,” Owen murmured. He reached around for his horns clumsily, feeling himself drifting.

“Really?” Zena asked, concerned. “Doesn’t that make you more awake?”

“I get kinda paranoid without being able to Perceive what’s around,” Owen admitted. “I had my mental break. Now I just want to sleep.”

“I’m not going to be able to understand that,” Zena said. “But, if it helps…”

Owen snapped the horns in, taking a moment to scan his environment—

“Wh—” He nearly shouted, but then remembered Charmander. He whispered loudly, “Enet?!”

Zena held back a gasp and looked around; moments later, an illusion dropped, and there was a Zoroark curled up in the corner of the room, looking half-asleep.

“How long have you been there?!” Owen whispered.

Enet blinked a little and curled up again.

Sighing in defeat, Owen leaned back and accepted her presence. “Another long day tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll take the next shift when I wake up.”

“That’s fine,” Zena replied. “I’ll keep an eye on things. It’s… nice, actually. It’s like being in the quiet caves again, but with company. Proper company. Not spirits that start to feel more like more of yourself.”

“Good,” Owen said. “I’d feel bad if you were getting bored.”

Zena only smiled and curled around him. Owen sensed… something, but decided not to comment tonight. Instead, he leaned against her and finally drifted off into the night.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 148 – How Things Change

For Eon, it was just another night. He was surrounded by friends and family he’d found or helped create, and yet he felt like something was missing. Well, no. He knew what was missing. But he tried not to think about it.

In the corner of the room was a perpetually enhanced Houndoom, a variant of some mutant experiment that Nevren had come up with. It kept a Pokémon in something called a ‘Mega’ form from the human world. Resting atop his warm, black fur was a Cherrim, still weak but strong enough to stand up on her own.

And curled up in the other corner was an amalgamation of different, perfect parts, engineered based on schematics found in the human world, a Silvally as they were called. Much better than Type:Full at least.

This was his family now. In some ways, it was cozy and comfy. But in others, so late at night, Eon always wondered if…

Something shifted outside. A Milotic was slithering, hesitating at the doorway. Eon wondered to himself, was the door locked? Did Kilo Village even have locked doors? He had no idea. He’d never bothered. Gods, that meant he didn’t lock it. If it had locks.

But she never entered. Perhaps she was thinking, or waiting. It was obviously Zena—he could feel her powerful aura through the door—but she didn’t seem angry. Perhaps anxious. And then, she turned, leaving down the road.

Eon wasn’t tired anymore. And maybe…

He knew he’d regret it, but he got up anyway, carefully tiptoeing out of the door. His body nearly shifted to Milotic a few times, but he suppressed it, keeping to Charmander for now. Memories of good times gone by.


The Milotic stopped and straightened. Then, she sighed and turned around.

“Eon. Sorry for disturbing you.”

“Do you want to talk?” Eon asked, losing his form again and quickly reaching for his blindfold—he’d forgotten it in his room. He kept his eyes to the ground instead.

“…Allow me to see your eyes. I don’t mind if they are my own, Eon. I understand your… problem.”

She didn’t mind? But it would make a mockery of her form, wouldn’t it? He’d done the same thing once with Amia, and that went… badly. Practically ruined Emily’s cave.

But this was different, right? That felt so far away from what he’d do today.

“Alright,” Eon said, facing her. Even if he wanted to, there was no way for him to maintain his form after that. His limbs merged into his body, his tail thickened and extended, and soon he was a much larger Milotic, an exact double of Zena. He sighed and said in her voice, “What did… you want to speak about?”

There was a flash of disdain in her eyes. It was a common reaction to seeing oneself, for one reason or another. Eon paid it little mind and nervously waited for her answer, but so far, she was silent.

He filled it with more words. “I’m open for whatever you want to talk to me about,” he said. “Please… I’ll answer. If… if this is about the mutants, I’m going to help round them up. Put… maybe try to stabilize them. That’s the right thing to do, right?”

“It is,” Zena said.

Her body language relaxed a little, or, he thought that was what she was doing. Even sharing her body, he wasn’t really sure what anything meant.

She continued, “I wanted to ask what you thought about Owen.”

Eon tried not to flinch, so he only hummed and nodded. “Owen, right. He’s… He means a lot to me, obviously, but…”

He hoped Zena could complete for him so he could agree, but she didn’t. She was waiting for his words.


But it wouldn’t happen again? But he couldn’t get any of what he envisioned Owen as again? But he was horrible to him?

“But it’s his choice,” Eon finally said. “And if he… wants to stay away from me forever… I’d understand. I’d hate it, but I’d understand. And that’s his right.”

He decided to speak from the heart. As much as he wanted Owen back, he’d already come to the decision that the ‘Owen’ he wanted so much was already gone. Long gone. Lost to time and buried in so many new memories that didn’t have Eon in them.

“I’m glad you understand,” Zena said. “I… wanted to tell you that… I am not sure what Owen would choose to do, either. But I do recognize you’ve improved. I hope it stays that way.”

Eon nodded. “I understand. Sorry I don’t have anything better to say, I, err…” He really had no idea how to carry this on. “How… is he, anyway?”

“Owen? Better.”

“I heard he’d fainted today.” He said it suddenly, but it had been on his mind.

“Oh. Yes, he…” Zena trailed off. “I don’t know if it’s my place to explain for him.”

“Th-that’s okay, you don’t need to. But he’s better now—if he has support from you?”

“Yes. That I can say, certainly.”

“Good. Good.” Eon shifted his weight. He wanted to say that if Owen needed more support, he’d be there. But he couldn’t. That went against what he was trying to do.

“I will let Owen know you wish him well,” Zena said, “if he seems in the mood. Perhaps he will be.”

Her tone was tentative, like she was trying to mask how Owen really felt. But that could have meant anything. Unable to contain his morbid curiosity, he asked, “Does he hate me?”

“N… no. He doesn’t.” Zena said it like she’d been trapped.

Eon backed off again. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that sort of question…”

“I think you at least deserve to know that much,” Zena admitted. “But he’s wrestling with his feelings.”

“I won’t approach him until he initiates,” Eon confirmed. “Even if… that’s never.”

Zena sighed. Eon didn’t know what that meant. But then, she looked almost defeated when she said, “I see a little of him in you. So, knowing that, neither of you are going to let this go until you talk. It won’t be ‘never.’ That isn’t how either of you are, is it?”

There wasn’t anything Eon could say there. He only swallowed and looked away. That’s when his eyes caught the glint of Lavender’s eyes staring out the window. The Silvally tilted his head. Zena must have noticed, too, at some point.

“I guess so,” Eon said. “We go back a lot, but, when you math it out, we’ve actually probably spent more time away from each other than together at this point. I, er, I think. My memory of all that is still foggy without Jirachi…”

“That… is not quite true, I think,” Zena said. “Owen spent his first life with you, yes. And then a thousand years with Jirachi. After that, another five hundred or so with you that is still a blur for him—”

“Oh, he was… That was when we were recouping from the first Dark War. We don’t really know the details of it… but, that must have been when we settled in Quartz HQ…”

Zena nodded. “And then… another five hundred or so years with Amia. Only last year did things begin to change again.”

“That’s how much you’ve been able to piece together.” Eon nodded. “That’s good. I’m glad he’s starting to sort that all out. Maybe it’ll help me, too, since Jirachi and I are having trouble getting details sorted. We’re scrambled if we think too far back.”

“You aren’t going to merge yet?” Zena asked.

“I’m… sort of a mess. Jirachi’s evasive.”


She didn’t disagree. Somehow that hurt a little.

“Jirachi’s fun!” Lavender called from the outside, pulling his head through the window before exiting like a normal person through the door. The Silvally trotted closer and bobbed his head. “I bet when he gets his full power back, he can grant the best wishes!”

Zena smiled a little at that, and Eon mirrored it.

“I don’t think I’ve introduced myself properly to you before,” she said. “My name is Milotic Zena. No… Legendary background from me. I used to be friends with Emily, I suppose, but that’s all.”

“Nice to meet you, Zena! I’m Silvally Lavender. I’m a monster!”

“A-ah, yeah. He, er, one of the… experiments of Nevren, along with Lucas, the Houndoom. Mega Houndoom, actually…”

“Mega… is that… does that mean powerful?”

“It’s apparently an official term used in the human world. Nevren took inspiration there when trying to replicate that power.”

The heavy-set Houndoom peeked out next, growling at first before Eon shushed him.

“She’s a friend, Lucas. Nothing bad is happening.”

The Houndoom stopped growling and instead wagged his tail, prancing to her next. A purple-petal Cherrim tiredly wobbled out next.

“…That’s your family, is it?” asked Zena. “The… new family you’d formed.”

“Yeah. They’re my family.”

A chilly wind finally blew, and it was harsh against Eon’s scales. He winced and curled up. “It’s very late and cold. Sorry, Zena, if I’ve been short with you or, uh, or anything.”

“I shouldn’t have come so late in the night,” she said. “I don’t really know what drove me to this in the first place. I just…” She sighed. “…You did truly awful things, Eon. But you’re also trying to change and make up for your crimes.”

“And I’ll need to keep doing that for lifetimes,” Eon said. “Even then I don’t know if it will be enough. But I’m ready to try. Maybe one day, I’ll… be able to bury this. N-no, I… that’s not the right word…”

“Atone,” Zena suggested.

“Atone,” Eon agreed, sighing. “That’s… a good word.”

Zena turned around. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Eon. And… I think I appreciated this talk. Sorry for bothering you.”

“I did, too,” Eon added, his form melting back to Charmander when she’d gotten far enough away. “…I… think I did, too.”

Lucas and Lavender approached either side of him, dipping their heads down in unison to get to eye-level. Eon smiled and rubbed both of them on the beak or snout.

Nothing could replace Owen. Nevren tried, and it failed miserably. But at least he had others to lean on.


The next morning, Owen went on his usual rounds to make sure things were in order and nothing urgent had come up. Nothing ever really did after the world had been given a brief respite, but he checked anyway.

Most had gone into their own fleeting routines before they’d all set off for their separate missions. It was, all in all, a slow day of wrapping up final obligations. Zena seemed to be in better spirits, too.

One of his last stops was checking on Angelo’s little shop. He still hadn’t looked into much about him. He only knew that he was apparently the son of a very talented Smeargle who had inherited Mew’s Blessing. A Smeargle with a malleable aura, vulnerable to strange shifts in energy, but in exchange so readily able to call upon techniques without latency. Owen envied that kind of power, but he’d never taken Mew’s Blessing. He didn’t think there was any need. And asking now felt… dirty with how delicate Star seemed.

“Hello?” Owen called, knocking on the side of the entrance before stepping inside. He could sense Angelo in the other room, drawing. He seemed calm.

“Be right there!” Angelo called with a tinge of new nervousness. Owen wondered why.

The Smeargle emerged shortly after, looking even more nervous.

“Ah, er…” Angelo nodded. “I’m doing fine today. Thank you, Owen.”

“Oh, that’s good. Sorry, just doing some final rounds. Last day before we set off.”

“Oh, gods, already?”

“Yeah. But I’ve been so restless, so… But you don’t have to worry. You’ll be helping with safer traveling on Kilo.”

“Right. And thanks to Palkia, I’ll have a familiar bed to sleep in at night, too…”

“Convenient, right? Restoring Waypoints will be so important to Kilo. So don’t let anyone shame you into thinking you took the safe route. It’s important, and not everyone needs to be at the front of the worst.”

“Thank you,” Angelo said. He seemed distracted by something, maybe a new thought, when he tilted his head, fingers curling subtly. “Have you talked to Jerry yet, by chance?”

“No, not yet. He’s close to next.”

“Right, right…” Angelo held up a paw and went into the other room, shuffling through his mess of a room that gave Owen a mild headache mentally sorting through it all. He returned later with a small portrait.

“Could you deliver this to him?” Angelo asked. “It was something that your Espeon friend had commissioned me to draw before, er, the world almost ended.”

“Espeon friend… We don’t know any Espeon by name, actually,” Owen said. “Er, sorry. Could it have just been…” Well, it couldn’t have been a fan. Jerry was just an outlaw to most of Kilo Village, at worst, and simply not known prior.

Knowing he used to be a prince was unreal. How thoroughly had the southern history been wiped from the public eye in only a few decades?

“…It must have been Star,” Owen said. “That feels like so long ago… Er—thank you, Angelo. It’s very nice art, too. It kind of reminds me of the style in Druddigon Cube Ultra, the way you drew it, but… portrait quality instead of a comic page.” Owen laughed. “It practically looks like cover art!”

“Oh! Well, thank you,” Angelo said. “Sorry if that may not be his preferred art style. I did my best, er… For saving the world, it’s the least I can do. Oh, and, er, yes, I’m glad my style is… appealing.”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s one of my favorite comics!” Owen grinned. “Might be the favorite. A story about a little Druddigon trying to gather all the wish cubes… Well, actually, it’s gone way past that at the point where it’s left off!”

“Ah! I… I see, you’re a fan of…” Angelo nodded quickly. How odd, he seemed tense, but in a different way. Angelo’s heart fluttered like he was excited. Maybe he was a fan, too.

But he was getting distracted. With a small smile, Owen said, “Anyway, I should get going. Thanks for the art. Maybe I’ll ask for something from you one day, too, if you can replicate its style so well!”

“S-sure! That would… be… nice!”

Such a nervous Smeargle. Owen nodded and left the shop, trying to be polite by not overanalyzing the Smeargle’s body language. Maybe he could ask later why he reacted so strangely. He knew what Angelo looked like when he was terrified; this was completely different. If anything, he seemed… emboldened.

Oh, of course! Because he complimented his art!

“Hmm,” Owen hummed, spreading his wings to fly and get to Jerry. Conjuring an updraft, Kilo Village quickly became far below him. “A little compliment can take someone far sometimes… I wonder…”


Jerry had been given temporary housing in Yotta Outskirts, too. It was small and, from what Owen could tell, he preferred roosting on the rooftop instead.

“Jerry!” he called.

“What?” Jerry shouted back.

Owen leapt into the sky, updraft carrying him higher, until he landed on the sturdy rooftop. First gingerly, then fully once he was confident in the roof’s structure.

“I wanted to give you this,” Owen said, handing it over. “From Angelo. He drew it?”

“Eh?” The Aerodactyl looked incredulous, but then recognition flashed in his eyes. “Oh, that was… before everything fell to—right, uh, thanks. Sure.” He inspected the picture, and Owen finally got a good look at it. Angelo’s painting was so delicate that his Perceive didn’t get any details of the painting—he couldn’t properly see color with it, after all.

Getting a finer look with it, Owen saw a thin Aerodactyl, much daintier than the one on the roof with him, sitting up against a tree. The colors were light and cheerful. Beside her was a much smaller Aerodactyl, leaning against her wings. Owen recognized some of the subtle details. That was a young Jerry. Angelo really was talented…

Jerry’s heartrate had slowed, Owen noticed. More than that, his muscles relaxed, and his posture slackened.

“Star sent this image into his mind,” Jerry recalled. “Told me it was gonna be a surprise.”

“Do you like it?” Owen asked.

Jerry gave him a sour look. “You don’t just ask someone that.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“…It’s nostalgic.” He tilted the picture. “It’s been a while. I feel like I forgot Mom’s face. But this…” Jerry trailed off.

“…Sorry, I’ll leave you alone,” Owen said, creeping away.

“Tch. Don’t act like I’m some… fragile thing.” Jerry seemed more vulnerable than before, body language closing off. His jaw quivered, barely. Owen wouldn’t have seen it with his eyes.

Owen was tempted to ask if Jerry wanted to talk about it, but of course he wouldn’t. Instead, he nodded and said, “You can’t be fragile after everything you went through. Still standing, I mean. Thanks for holding out after everything about us and how… you know, weird we are.”

“Yeah, whatever…” Jerry sighed. “And… what, do I say thanks back for something?”

“Do you want to?”

Jerry brought his head back like he’d been offered old meat. But then he exhaled. “Sure. Thanks for… I don’t know, saving my wings a while back. With the…” He gestured toward his neck.

“Oh, back at Ghrelle’s… poison bog. Right. It’s a good thing that seemed to wear off once you got to the Voidlands…”

“Your mom gave me the scarf, actually,” Jerry said, slipping his wing claws into a satchel to pull out the same scarf. “Was near my statue.”

“In case it comes back?”

“With how crazy you guys are, I’m not taking any chances.” Jerry winced. “If I ever see that Ghrelle or her freak Gastrodon spirit-mate, I’m flying the other way full speed.”

“Can’t blame you there.” Even Owen as a little nervous about her.

“Anyway… thanks. I mean it this time.” He held the picture a little tighter, but then slipped it gingerly into his satchel, wrapped along with the scarf. “Guess Star isn’t all bad. No idea why a god of all creation would be bothering with trying to help just one person, though. When you think about it, they should be doing crazy broad stuff up in… wherever they operate.”

“Destiny Tower,” Owen said. “I was going to head there next.”

“Where the Spire of Trials used to be, yeah?” Jerry asked. “Who would’ve thought that it was Destiny Tower all that time…” He waved Owen off. “Yeah. Go do that. I’ll do my part here at home. Just… get back safe, alright?”

“I will. Thanks. Take care, too, Jerry.”

Before Owen left, he had a lingering question on if he should tell Jerry about his ancestry.

He decided to keep this as a good moment for Jerry instead and left.


Owen stared skyward at the impossibly tall tower as a normally-sized Charizard. At the top was the realm of gods, the ascent that could only be attempted once before the true reward would be locked from them forever.

Owen had climbed this tower once and succeeded with his partner. But today, it seemed it did not behave as a realm for spirits to fight back against intruders. Now, it was just the home of Star and Barky.

The first floor had been turned into some kind of welcoming lobby. Nobody waited there except for a simple signpost with instructions on where to leave mail and how to place it. It was oddly firmly worded. Owen, however, was more interested in the central sigil on the ground, normally inert. But when he approached, that sigil—resembling Arceus’ wheel—lit up.

“So, it still remembers me,” Owen said with a little smile. He stepped on the center platform and focused, expanding his aura into the sigil and thinking about the top floor, but only for a moment.

He considered something else. He thought about another room. Not quite the top, but close to it.

White overtook his vision, and for an instant his Perceive was scrambled, and then the vertigo disappeared. He stood at the end of a hallway that led to several other rooms, and the altitude felt higher. The air, just a little thinner. Thankfully, the tower itself helped to regulate some of that pressure, or he’d feel a lot worse than a little dizzy.

Out of respect for privacy, Owen removed his horns and kept them in his bag as he walked down the hall. He wasn’t sure who was inside at this time, but he wondered…

One door, two, three, fourth door, on his left. He turned and stared at the unremarkable entrance, then held his palm forward. A sigil of flames appeared, and the door slid aside.

Gods, it was just like he’d left it.

Oversized furniture lined the large room, about twenty paces from the door to the farthest table, which was taller than he was. He walked through the recently dusted and polished wooden desk, the shelf whose highest levels were too far for his arms to reach, and then opened one of the lower drawers to find an old notebook of faded paper. It looked like it had been restored, possibly by divine means. He flipped through the pages, memories flooding back to him from the touch.

So many reports, so many logs of wishes approved and denied. Energy expenditure, findings of which wishes had the greatest impact for the least work. He’d made it a pet project to help Jirachi’s wish granting have a wider reach, sifting high-effort wishes with low impact from the others. Worked with Xerneas, Yveltal, and sometimes—with hesitance—Palkia to offload that power with more manual work. It wasn’t like they did a whole lot on their own. They were emergency gods. They could afford to spare a little power in their off-years.

World went fine without them anyway. Mostly.

Owen put the notebook back for now and opened the drawer opposite to it. Something clanged and clattered inside. He tilted his head, pulling out the first thing that caught his eye—a little glass sphere that had glittery orbs floating inside through some idle energy. When Owen focused, they spun a little faster, like bubbles in a current.

Someone stepped a little loudly down the hall. A calm stepping that was deliberate to get his attention.

Walking past and then turning to the entrance was Arceus’ daughter, Leph. Smaller, a little thinner, and with kinder eyes. But she inherited his sternness, even if it wasn’t a true bloodline.

“Hi,” Leph said.

Owen nodded, and then the connection finally reestablished itself. “You made this,” he said, holding up the little cosmic trinket.

“Oh, y-yeah.” Leph looked down. “I sort of… just like to make little things with divine power. Even if they’re useless. It’s nice to look at.”

“Yeah. I liked it. The way it spun… I like how it interacts with my Perceive. Helped me practice not getting overwhelmed.”

“Is that why you, er, don’t have your horns right now? Were you cursed?”

“Oh, uh—No, I just took them off. I can’t turn them off, so that’s the next best thing.”

Leph looked taken aback. “That’s a bit brutal, isn’t it?”

“Uh? I can just snap them back on.”


As if to demonstrate, Owen removed them from his back and put one back on with a little click.

“…Palkia experimented on you.”

“Y-you could say that.”

“Can you not turn it off?” Leph asked.

“It’s kind of stuck on.”

“Perhaps I could help…”

“M-maybe later. This works for now.” Owen held up a hand. “Anyway… Er, did you want to talk about something?”

Leph only stared. With his half-Perceive, he had a vague sense that she was tense. “Do you remember anything?”

Owen put his other horn on and looked through the rest of the shelves with his Perceive. So many little baubles and trinkets that he kept…

“Some of it is coming back to me. But it’s a lot to sort through. I do remember helping to raise you. I remember you were born as a proper god of this world. That when your father and Star created this place, two gods in their likeness had also been born under the Tree of Life to lead things once the world reached its maturity, or something. And that maturity was only a few years after it had been created. Star and Barky seemed happy and surprised to raise you…”

“You were my uncle,” Leph said. “Sure, you were busy with Jirachi and being Wishkeeper all the time, but…”

“You spent your days with all the Legends, didn’t you? Getting to know them…”

Leph nodded. “So, you remember?”

“I remember… some of the facts,” Owen said, his heart sinking at the hope in her eyes. He wasn’t really sure if he could truly feel how she wanted him to feel right now. He’d lived too many lives, made too many new connections, for these old ones to… settle.

Was this how he felt about Rhys? About Amia?

Was this how Eon had felt about Owen before?

“How’s Aster?” Owen asked awkwardly.

“He’s fine. Tired. Recovering. Kind of… scared.”


He couldn’t ask to see him, could he?

“Um, good luck finding Necrozma,” Leph added. “…You’ll… need it. It’s bad down there, and I don’t… want to go back.”

“That’s fine. You need to help here on the surface.”

But Owen didn’t need Perceive to sense her shame.

“Really, Leph,” Owen urged. “You’ve been through enough. You need strength from Kilo, not the Voidlands. Let some people who have more light in them handle it down there.”


“And tell Aster the same, alright?”


She stood aside as Owen walked past her, but he gingerly placed a hand on the base of her neck. She didn’t flinch. In fact, she leaned against him.

“You’re smaller,” Owen remarked.

“I kind of like it that way. In here. Too cramped at full size.”

Owen nodded, but then looked back. “I guess my oversized room helps, huh?”

You were huge,” Leph muttered. “Really, why do Pokémon react that way to divine power?”

“Big energy, big body?” Owen asked with a nervous smile.

She giggled and walked down the hall; Owen went the other way, but he’d forgotten to take out his horns. He could sense someone in another room focused on the hall, listening, attentive, but too nervous to speak out. But he knew the body language to tell she was conflicted.

And so was he. With a sigh, he decided to break the ice, and once Leph headed into her room again, Owen approached another door and quietly tapped his claw three times against it.

The person on the other side watched, staring, paralyzed. Didn’t want to get up. Instead, she only stared again, trying to decide. Owen didn’t do anything; he didn’t want to pressure her.

Then, he Perceived her gesture for him to come in. Was the door unlocked?

Owen pressed his palm against it and focused. The door reacted, forming a sigil of some kind of double-helix, and slid aside.

Star’s room was brightly colored and had countless old drawings from mortals plastered on the wall. Eighteen bowls adorned the walls on individual shelves, each one filled with symbols of the elements. Eternal woods in one bowl, candle wax and kindling in another, dragon scales and incense that burned blue in a third, and so on. In the very back was a large bed with a tiny god curled up in the middle, staring at him, silent, trembling.

“Hey, Star,” Owen said, keeping his voice gentle. “How are you feeling?”

She looked exhausted. She’d been just fine during the meeting, but he knew she’d been struggling to keep it together. This must have been one of her bad days. Bad hours. Maybe even a bad moment. A part of him wondered if he should wait to see her again, but he knew he may not have that opportunity for a while. The Abyssal Sea waited for him tomorrow.

He decided to take it as far as he could without scaring her. “May I come in?”

She nodded, curling a little more. That wasn’t a good sign. But he couldn’t back out now; she’d take offense. He stepped over, but didn’t close the door. She wouldn’t be trapped with him. He made sure she could clearly see the exit as he walked, following the walls and not directly to her, sitting near the bed and never taking a direct route to where she rested. All of those things at least didn’t make her more nervous.

“I just wanted to pay a visit to see how everyone was doing,” Owen explained to Star, who didn’t nod, but she was attentive. “Just get some words in before leaving for the next part of our mission. We’re all ready, physically. I just wanted to say goodbye in case it would be a while.”

To that, she nodded in understanding and opened her mouth, but the words couldn’t come. She seemed trapped and confounded by herself.

“I wanted to thank you. And to apologize for what you went through in there.”

She winced, looking pained, and Owen silently chided himself. Bad move. He couldn’t remind her of there.

“Sorry. Just, thanks for being so strong,” Owen said. “It’s okay. You don’t… need to think about it, Star. I understand.”

Again, she felt like she wanted to say something.


But the words couldn’t come.

So small and vulnerable. Tiny and helpless. Small parts of Owen’s primal, mutated psyche conceptualized what that would mean if they were opponents, but he was all too practiced in pushing those thoughts aside.

“Are you cold?” Owen asked.

He wasn’t really sure. He couldn’t quite sense temperature with Perceive, but he could tell how her body reacted to things. She was probably cold.

She flinched a little at the question, but in surprise rather than horror. She nodded, glancing at a blanket she’d tossed aside. She could easily retrieve it with some psionics, but didn’t.

“…Would you like me to hold you?” Owen offered, perplexing Star more. She didn’t object, but something kept her from nodding. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

Now puzzled, and maybe curious, the Mew reached out. Owen did the rest of the work, gently reaching a single palm over so she could grasp him and curl around his palm. Then, he slowly, slowly moved her to his chest, folding his wings over her.

She leaned against his scales, and then closed her eyes. Owen wondered where Hecto was in all this, or if he was busy with everything. Could he even spare one copy for her?

That seemed like a bad question to ask. “That’s better,” Owen said. “It’s alright, Star. You… are just having a bad day. It’ll get better.”

Owen didn’t know the full details of what they’d done to Star, and he wasn’t about to ask out of respect to her. He only could guess, from how Spice described her room as littered with empty seeds and a horrible smell that had lingered in the air.

At least she was relaxing. Owen decided he had a little extra time to spare, knowing his conversation with Barky was probably going to be a lot faster anyway.

“I’m sorry,” Star whispered.

Finally, she’d talked. Her voice was frail, but Owen could tell it wasn’t an act, as suspicious as he had been for many days. But now, holding her, sensing her energy, hearing her voice, there was simply no sign, even from his Perceive, that it was an act. And while he felt justified in having doubted her, he also felt guilty in that moment that he had.

“Sorry?” Owen asked.

Star curled up more. “Everything. The world. I… made Dark Matter accidentally. It was me, wasn’t it? He wasn’t lying…”

Those strange machines in Orre had corrupted Star to the point where even after she was freed, her lingering fears had created Dark Matter in the new world that had been formed. That was the most likely reason for all of this, the whole reason Kilo had Dark Matter at all.

Her face was wet.

“You couldn’t have known,” Owen said. “But… you should be careful with it next time, if… you do. Which maybe don’t. No new worlds.”

Another long silence. It was a little less tense. Owen didn’t say he forgave her, but maybe the way he worded things helped anyway.

“For controlling you,” Star went on. “For using you. For the Guardians. For the Hunters…”

That was… harder to forgive. But he couldn’t allow himself to hesitate. “You won’t do it again?”

“I pr…” Star trailed off, and her body had tensed with… Owen wasn’t sure. Fear? It wasn’t quite fear. Some of the muscles weren’t reacting the same way as fear.

Star raised her little paw up to Owen. Her big eyes had a determined look, but it was fake. The gesture, though, was very real. Golden lights trailed around her paw.

“I… I Promise,” Star whispered. “I Promise I’ll never control you again.”

But she never did Promises. Star… didn’t. She feared those, for what it might do to her.

“Star… don’t do this just for forgiveness,” Owen whispered.


She held her paw forward again, trembling, like she wanted to pull it away. Owen thought about what that meant; the Promise would only go through if they were truly on the same page. That Star wouldn’t Reset him. Wouldn’t manipulate anyone else into Resetting him. Wouldn’t try to overtake his body. He would be free from her authority.

Owen thought he would be taking advantage of her by agreeing. But despite this straightforward Promise, how clearly it only benefited Owen, he sensed a strengthening resolve as Star’s impulsive offer lingered in the air. She wanted it, too. It felt like she had more than one reason, and he didn’t fully know.

But there was absolutely no drawback to it for him. If Star was so sure…

Owen held a claw forward, half-expecting the Promise to fail because they weren’t thinking of the same conditions.

“I accept.”

Divine light flared between them and a shock ran up Owen’s arm, sinking into a gentle warmth in his chest.

Star rested her head against Owen and laughed a little. Her eyes fluttered closed, and then she whispered, “Thank you…”

Owen still felt guilty. But when Star finally fell asleep, she seemed oddly peaceful. Like she’d repented. Owen wanted to say it wasn’t that easy, but… was it?

He now existed beyond Star’s control. A whole third of the proper pantheon could no longer touch him.

Had Star been on his side all along… and simply was going about it the wrong way? How many others were like that?

After gingerly setting Star back into her bed, making sure she was warm and comfortable, he left the room. The door slid closed when he did.

Nobody else was there. For the best. It was time to see Arceus himself…


But nothing was really simple anymore. When Owen emerged on the top floor of Destiny Tower, a cold high-altitude wind whipping against his scales, he saw not only Arceus, but a Treecko standing and overlooking the horizon. Having half a mind to turn back to leave, Owen instead braved the encounter with a heavy step to announce his presence.

“Owen,” Mhynt greeted. “Welcome. We were just enjoying the view.”

“Bar—er, Arceus let you up here?” Owen asked.

“She fought her way through in the morning,” Barky explained. “As it turns out, already possessing blessings and having your spiritual forces depleted makes for a fairly easy climb.”

“In the end, it’s basically cheating anyway,” Mhynt hummed. “Here to do your final rounds before departing for the Abyssal Sea?”

Owen nodded. “Just wanted to ask if you needed anything.”

“I am fine. Good luck in the Abyssal Sea, Owen.” Barky glanced down at Mhynt.

“I will be coming with you,” Mhynt said, tapping her foot. “I feel that I should meet Necrozma myself as well. We have a lot to talk about. And I simply cannot stand a second without you.” Mhynt rolled her palm toward the sky and smirked at Owen.

“A-aha… right… er… Zena’s going to be there, too…”

“Oh, I know,” Mhynt replied. “I plan to give her some competition.”

“That’s not—”

“And frankly, you need my protection. Even without powers of Shadow working properly anymore, I’m still more than capable.” She flicked her wrist, and a new blade formed, this one of light with a dark core that traced along the sharp edge.

“Well… Right. Thanks, Mhynt. And thanks, too, Arceus. I checked on Star. She’s doing… better.”

“I sense her energy within you,” Arceus said. “She’s been afraid to talk to you. But I’m glad it went well.”

Owen nodded. “By the way, where’s Hecto? I thought that he’d be around to support her by now.”

“Hmm. You must have missed him,” Arceus said. “His pieces visit daily, but he has been utilizing all of his resources to search for Dark Matter’s fragments. So far, nothing. We’re confident it will be nothing, but we must be sure of such things. He has also been behaving… differently lately. I do wonder if it has to do with his memories of Necrozma returning; they were once partners. He’d forgotten him until recently.”

Owen nodded, but he felt that was beyond his scope for now. “Right. Well, I’m glad he’s keeping an eye on her. She’s still very vulnerable.” Owen tried not to look at Mhynt, who had probably been in the same building while Star had been tortured.

“Mm. Which reminds me, Owen,” Arceus said. “Before you go, I would… like to assist you in my own way.”


“You’ve been bestowed power by others before, correct?”

“Oh, yeah. Like Rayquaza, or Azelf, when they gave part of their power for me to use against Alexander.”

“No. As in… the way you’d acquired power from Dark Matter—sorry, Diyem, and Necrozma. I believe it is suitable for now that I offer a piece of my own to you as well. It may be necessary if you will be fighting Alexander.”

“Uhh, maybe can we… wait on that?” Owen asked.

Arceus relaxed. “No Promises this time, Owen. It will help you resist any influencers, perhaps even the Reset Key. You’ll—”

“No, because, er… the energy you sense within me. Star… sort of beat you to the punch.”

Barky flinched. Then he looked offended. After that prideful reflex, he tilted his head in genuine puzzlement. “Just now?”

“I was surprised, too. But she insisted.” He almost said that she also shared a Promise with him, but… Arceus would not take that well. Would he? Or would this be okay to share?

No. They were allies.

“She also made a Promise to me. I—I didn’t force her. In fact, I told her no, but she insisted!”

But Barky didn’t seem as startled that time. His eyes almost looked… sad.

“I see.” He hummed. “Thank you for telling me, Owen. I will take care of her while you are gone, just as others are. But after she gave you that Promise… did she seem better?”

“Yeah…? Why?”

Barky shook his head. “It is nothing. I can only speculate that she wanted to force the temptation away from herself, should it ever come again. Drastic. Spontaneous. She hasn’t changed…”

“Hmph. You’re obviously feeling guilty for accepting,” Mhynt said. “Don’t be. Instead, promise you won’t abuse that position of yours, hm?”

“Y-yeah. I won’t. Promise.” Owen nodded. “…I guess… see you tomorrow?”

Mhynt nodded, dispelling the blade and looking out at the horizon again.

“Go and rest, Owen. I’m sure Zena’s waiting for you.”

Owen winced. “You know if… you ever want to get out there, I could… vouch for you?”

“Vouch for me.” Mhynt laughed, half-cringing. “I appreciate the offer, Owen. But really. I don’t think you understand how awkward that is.”

“Is it?” Owen asked.

Barky had cringed a little, too, but tried to hide it. Futile against Owen.

“Best of luck to Zena, then,” Mhynt said with a dry chuckle, waving him off. Deciding to cut things off while he was only slightly behind, Owen stepped back and tripped his way down the stairs.


A spiraling flight down Destiny Tower helped clear Owen’s head and cool off his minor bruises from the accidental fall. The extra altitude made the flight back home a lot easier as well, surprised in retrospect at how much faster he was compared to summertime. Being properly unleashed and able to fly with wings and Mystic power… He was at least twice as fast as before.

By the time it was late afternoon near Kilo Village, he landed in front of his temporary home in Yotta Outskirts. Nobody but Zena was around, not even Enet, and the Milotic had packed their few supplies into a small bag and set it off to the side.

“Everything is ready,” Zena said with a satisfied sigh. “How did everything go?”

“Really well,” Owen replied vaguely. “I can tell you all about it later, when it’s more private. We should get moving, huh? They’re probably waiting for—”

“We’re actually early,” Zena explained. “We don’t have to go just yet.”

“Oh. But we’re all pa—wait…” Owen tilted his head. “Oh, well, the bed is still there. I can carry that, don’t worry. It’s a nice bed; we should bring it with us. Bought it ourselves, right?”

Zena smiled a little awkwardly. “Owen… I left the bed out for a reason.”

Owen squinted. “…You needed a nap? Were you training?”

“Use your Perceive, please.”

Owen tilted his head the other way. “…Oh. Oh!”

Zena’s ribbons wrapped around Owen’s arms, guiding him inside. The door closed behind him, and did not reopen for quite a while.


“Oi! They’re here!” Gahi announced, disappearing into the mostly restored Hot Spot Cave. Owen wasn’t sure if he’d simply moved very quickly or Teleported at this point. On his back was the bag of their household supplies, a recently cleaned bed, and Enet and Charmander, whom they had picked up at Leo’s.

“Hey!” Owen greeted with a wave. “Sorry if we took a while.”

“Oh, you’re actually almost right on time!” Amia called back, emerging next and adjusting her hair. Still blue. But her mannerisms were just a bit different as usual. “You can put your things in Zena’s old home, if you like, dear. Will you two be…?”

“Y-yes, actually,” Owen said. “How’d you guess?”

“I suppose it would be a mother’s intuition,” Amia said, smiling. “See, I’ve still got it!”

Owen laughed nervously and gestured for Zena to come along. As he moved past, though, Amia said a bit more seriously, “I’m… trying to get things back to normal. I remember most of what happened, dear. It may feel like another time, but it still happened. I still remember… taking care of you for so long. Soothing your spirit, helping you have a happy life with all the other Fire spirits…”

Zena was looking at Owen with some concern, and he wondered if his expression was too obvious or not. Or if they simply knew.

“It’s alright,” Owen said. “I… I mean, I always wanted to talk about it to you. I don’t know if you remember… when I talked to you when you were a Void Shadow about what I wanted to ask you about. Your life, and all that. But I learned a little from Dad. Just a little. And…”

“I don’t remember it too well,” Amia said, advancing a few tentative steps. Owen didn’t move away. “But… if you want to talk, we can, dear. About whatever you like.”

Owen couldn’t find the words. He only stared, mind racing, realizing the opportunity was suddenly in front of him. Zena wrapped her ribbons around his nearer arm. It helped just enough.

“Do you… regret it? Anything with me?” Owen asked.

“Regret… Goodness, no. I loved taking care of you. You were like the child Alex and I couldn’t have.”

“And… the Resets. That was… that was because you had to. Otherwise…”

“That’s how I saw it. I’m… I’m sorry if—”

“No, no, it’s okay. I understand, I’m over that part—”

“But it still wasn’t right,” Amia interjected firmly. By now, a few heads were poking out from nearby buildings, including Alex, who was back to looking like a Hydreigon. He yipped upon seeing Owen and disappeared inside.

“Dad, it’s fine,” Owen called. “Just… don’t go on fire.”

While Alex continued to hesitate, Amia continued. “I wish I was more assertive about finding another way. Instead, I subjected you to… five hundred years of that, Owen. So many times you found out, had to be Reset, or died, tried to run away, only to have your ember come right back to me. Do you remember any of that yet? I… it was horrible. Always worrying what would happen when those memories came back. Or worse, if they could come back in… I don’t know what would be more terrible to put you through.”

And as Amia spoke, Owen felt that she was… more familiar. Like maybe he was talking to an echo of who she used to be, the more she talked about those regrets. That maybe ‘she’ was finally back, even if it was fleeting.

He had to seize that opportunity. “It’s okay,” Owen said. “I understand. Like I said, I get it—don’t think about it too much for now, alright? We have… we’re going to have a lot of time to make up for it later. After we save Kilo… how about we try to be a family for real this time? And…” Owen pulled Zena a little closer, wrapping a wing over her neck. “Maybe with… someone else in the family, too?”

Zena’s cream-prism scales reddened. “O-oh. Ah, yes, we… I suppose, we’ve… taken things more seriously between ourselves.”

Owen grinned. “We’re mates now!”

“Owen, that’s—” Zena sighed, then smiled, defeated, toward Amia.

She only laughed. “Congratulations, you two. But don’t get distracted on the Abyssal Sea! It’s dangerous!”

“We won’t,” Owen assured.

“I’ll go and set up our room before we go,” Zena said. “Why don’t you have dinner with your parents, Owen? I’ll join you later.”

“Sure.” Owen nodded. “If that’s the case, how about we have an old classic?” he grinned. “Tamato soup.”

Amia clasped her hands together and grinned, about to reply.

The sky rumbled; they all turned toward the now open air of Hot Spot’s former caverns and into the rift that connected them to the Voidlands. Someone was falling from it.

Manny landed on his feet in a kneel, leaving a small crater in the rocks. He dusted himself off, looked around, locked eyes with Owen and pointed. “You gotta go.”


Demitri and the others emerged from the other room. Mispy whispered something to Gahi, who disappeared into their home and started gathering supplies.

“Is something wrong?” Mhynt asked, emerging next from Team Alloy’s abode, along with Trina.

“Good, yer all here,” Manny said. “Everyone goin’ ter the Abyssal Sea. Owen’s team. Gotta go now.” He gestured skyward. “Alexander’s spotted. He’s a kilo away.”

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, dusting this off since it's a goal of mine to reciprocally review everyone who was kind enough to shoot me a review during Union's ongoing review event. So without further ado, let's jump back into the story and pick up where we left things off last time:

Chapter 7

“You’re… you’re Mew.” Despite the being he was speaking to, he pointed an accusatory claw toward the pink god. “Mew!”


Owen: "How on earth are you just being this nonchalant right now?"

Star: "You get used to it, really."

“And—and you’re… you’re talking to me. You know my name.”


Which should instantly trip major red flags here given that we already know that Owen and a number of other characters are stuck in a loop of imperfect mind-wipes. Implying that Star knows Owen from some loop in the past.

Owen’s throat sealed itself. He swallowed, but it didn’t help. It was like his face was stuffed with Oran Berries. “You… y-you… you, you… you…”

What does it feel like to have your face stuffed with Oran Berries anyways? Is that meant to just feel "clogged" there? Or more burn-y / citrus-y?

“Aww, you’re shy! I like the shy types.” She gave Owen a little wink.

... Which is probably not a good sign there given that we've seen Owen pick up subconscious cues from other characters in the past that didn't bode well for the sorts of people they are (*cough cough* Nevren)...

Owen knew that if he wasn’t in this strange place, he would’ve passed out by now. Instead, he stared in shock. It took a full ten seconds for him to return to his senses. “Mew! Why are you looking at—at me? No, wait, I mean—talking to me? I’m—Did you want to see Rhys, instead? He’s way more important!”

Star: "I mean, is Rhys the one explicitly mentioned in the story summary...?"
Owen: "... No? But he's a lot more experienced and knowledgeable than me, isn't he?" ^^;

The Mew giggled. “Oh, call me Star. My name’s Mew Star.”

inb4 she's gone around as 'Felis' as an alias at some point. Since hey, it's one of those very "Cat Star" names.

“S-S-Star? Y-you—! But you’re important! A-aren’t you supposed to not have a name aside from your species?”

Oh, so Legendaries don't have given names by default in this setting, huh? Or at least, they're presumed to not have given names.

Though that makes me wonder if Star is really alone in terms of being a Mew in HoC's setting.

“What, just because I’m Mew means I can’t have a name to go along with it? C’mon, that’s no fun.” Star puffed her cheeks. “What happens if I run into a lesser Mew? Then we’ll be all kinds of confused!"

[ ]

"My name is Star, got it? Besides, it’d be confusing if I did this, right?” Suddenly, Star’s body shifted and twisted, starting from a mesh of pink into orange, and she fell to the ground on her feet—a Charmander.

Unless if Star is very deliberately meant to be a motor mouth type, it might make sense to chop this line of dialogue into two halves since you can do something like showing Owen react to things.

Though 'lesser Mew' huh? So Star really isn't alone as a Mew in this setting. Though does that mean that for Legendaries here, there's always one that has the game-breaking powers while the rest are effectively spec'ed to whatever their game representations are?

She gave a little bow. “Eh? Eh?” She followed up with a little spin, wagging her tail to loosen a few embers.

“Wh—uh—that—” Owen gulped. “D-don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?” Star asked, flicking her tail again.

That. Please—stop.”

Why, is this some sort of immodest gesture among Chars or something? Since boy is Owen reading as extremely flustered right now from getting a few embers on him. :V

Star: "What's that? Flick my tail some more-?"
Owen: "Look, for goodness' sake, stop. Please."

Star eyed Owen, as if getting a read for him, but then shrugged. “Fine,” she relented, and she melted back to her floating, Mew self.

Yeah, I stand by my read that Chars passing flecks of their tail fire to each other is 'blushy-crushy'-tier for them, since I was getting all sorts of "stop hitting on me" vibes from this exchange.

Owen felt the heat slowly leave his face. “Okay. Okay, that’s better. It’s n-nice to meet you, um, Star. I’m—I’m Charmander Owen! And—”

“Oh, please, I already know all about you.” She waved a paw dismissively in the air. “I’m Mew! Well, not a Mew. The Mew, yeah? I’m pretty high up in the pantheon or whatever.”

Not sure if I should trust this explanation or not right about now. Though I suppose that confirms that Legendaries operate off a "one guy with all the cutscene powers and a bunch of game-spec others". Though it makes me wonder if those "lesser" Legendaries can ever be promoted into the "The" Legendary of the pantheon or not.

“O-oh, so, you’re—”

“Creator of common life, yes,” Star said, nodding. “Pretty nifty, huh? I have a few perks, too. Reading minds, shape-shifting, you know.”

Oh, so this fic rolls with the "Mew as the mother of normies" tack. Can't say I disagree with that take too much, but noted.

“Th-that’s… But…!”

[ ]

“So! I hate to be the one to tell you this”—She clapped her paws together—“but by touching that orb in Rhys’ room, you kinda more or less closed off your fate to three options. Okay? Mind if I tell you those?”

It might just be me, but it might have made sense to put in some description before Star's line here, even if it was something as simple as pulling her mention of clapping her paws forward as a "Hey, listen!" sort of moment. Pls no, since I can only imagine what a Mew taking after Navi would be like

“Wait—the Orb? The Orb? Was I supposed to—I mean, was I really not supposed to touch it?”

Owen, if you have to ask these things...

“No way, definitely not.” Star shook her head, though she didn’t hide her playful smile. “I mean, you’re fine, probably, but you probably also shouldn’t have gone against what the old Lucario told you. But hey, that’s karma, right?”

Owen: "Mew, you're scaring me right now."

Star: "You'll be fine... probably."

The many spectating Pokémon said nothing. They all listened silently. Owen noticed that none of them were really bowing to Star, or doing anything of that nature. He, too, refrained from kneeling before her. It didn’t feel right, anyway. Not after what she just said. The little connections in his mind clicked together. The pink mist, the voice, and now, this Creator before him telling him that he shouldn’t have done everything that voice told him to do.


Star: "Never said that you were supposed to listen to me."


“Did I?” Star asked innocently, holding her right hand to her cheek, mouth agape. “Oh, no! Maybe it was my evil twin, Rats Wem!”

I can already tell that these two are going to get along just fine™️ given that Star tricked Owen into doing something that gives him a limited set of choices of how to move forward in life and is just casually informing him of that after the fact.

That earned another long, thoughtful, existential silence from the Charmander. Even his tail dimmed. Owen had no idea the Creator could be so juvenile. His worldview was melting by the second. Entire perspectives shattered. Whole outlooks upturned. He didn’t even think Creator Mew was real. Now, not only was she real, but she was some sort of—

No, Mew being childlike and juvenile is really common in Pokémon fanfiction, Owen. I remember people writing Mews from molds like this over a decade ago. Even if Star has some shades of Maoh from Char Cole to her.

“Okay, okay, fine.” Star bowed her head in what Owen knew was a false apology. “I’ll admit it. I may have egged you on to touching it, and maybe I convinced Rhys to leave the Orb for you to finally grab. A lot of people didn’t want you to touch that thing. Including Rhys, until this morning, and until—”

“So it was intentional!”

I'm starting to understand how it is that Star isn't exactly popular in HoC's fanbase. Somebody's certainly a manipulative one there.

“And,” Star went on, “it’s still something that’s probably a bad idea. But it just happened to be the least bad idea. Kinda like choosing between cutting off your head and cutting off your arm.”

Owen winced. “Okay. Fine. Good. Good to hear. Very good. Just… tell me where I am, first.”


Yeah, I'm not convinced that that's the full story there since Star basically made a game out of getting to this point. Like if she casually admitted she manipulated you into touching the orb and Rhys into even setting the orb out in the first place... can you really take it for granted that you can trust her?

Though then again, this is Owen we're talking about, who's kinda in a class of his own for credulous Chars, so...

“Huh. Okay, that’s a good transition.” She floated higher, motioning to the bright forest. The dazzling patterns still mesmerized Owen. Now that he had a better look at the branches—which covered the sky like thick Spinarak webs—he spotted a few Grassy Pidgey nesting in the bunches of teardrop-shaped leaves.

Owen: "So... uh... is there a reason why everyone here is part-Grass again?" .-.
Star: "Getting to that one in a little bit, give it some time."

“You touched what’s known as the Grass Orb.” She then motioned to the tall, bright treetops above her. “And this here is the Grass Realm. It’s an offshoot of the spirit world, somewhere between the world of the living and the dead, where Grass Pokémon of times current and old come to socialize and help keep this Orb safe from intruders. Y’know, people like you.”

Oh, so it's basically purgatory, but with Grass-types. So then is there one of these for every type out there (meaning 17+ others floating around)?

Owen: "... Wait, am I missing something here? Since I saw Grass Pidgey and Cubone just a bit earlier, and-"

Star: "No, no, you weren't seeing things there. Those were actual Grass Pidgey and Cubone."

Owen stiffened. “O-oh, I’m… I’m an intruder?”

“Yeah, but we wouldn’t call you hostile,” Star dismissed, “which is why you’re still standing here. Though, I’ll be honest, I did have to warn some of these guys in advance.”

Owen: "Then why am I here in the first place?! I'm a Fire-type!" >.<
Star: "(For now, anyways.) Funny story, I was in the process of getting to that..."

A shiver ran up Owen’s spine. Some of these Pokémon, even if they were Grass Types, seemed incredibly powerful. He briefly envisioned the Pidgey in the trees all swarming him at once, plucking away at him scale by scale.

Owen: "I really could've done without that imagine spot there, thanks."

“Okay. So, tell me this. What can I do? What are my options th-that you said I’d have to pick from?”

The Mew nodded. “I’ll start with the option that can get you back home.” She waited for Owen to say something, but when he didn’t, she continued. “Right now, you’re in the spirit world, Owen. Okay?”

“Yeah. So that means…?”

Wait, is this basically the equivalent of getting stuck in the Qliphoth in PoV where once you get stuck in once by dying or whatever, you can't safely leave it without some sort of weirdness helping out?

“It means, in the real world, your body is kinda… not alive. But it’s being sustained on a basic level by the power of the Orb you touched—for a while, at least.”

A blink’s time passed in silence. Then, “Wh—I’m DEAD?!”


"It's more along the lines of you ought to be dead, but aren't thanks to active outside intervention. Oh, and you'll die if that outside intervention stops. Actually, you know wha? Have you ever played a Xenoblade game? Since this is probably easiest for you to imagine by thinking of how this works in Xenob-"

“Now—calm down for a sec!” Star held him by the shoulders, though her light body didn’t keep him from trembling.

Owen was already panicking, heart rate increasing; he was breathing faster than his body could handle.

Star: "If it makes you feel better, we could consider getting the Orb to give you some sort of shiny jewel on your chest to soothe you? That's all the rage for not-quite dead protagonists these days, right-?"

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXpuRIZzJog


“Not yet! You’re super-almost-dead, but not dead-dead, okay?”

If you ever write some sort of XB-themed spoof fic, you totally need to reuse this line there since it’s some prime black comedy.


Star: "By getting you to look on the bright side of almost-life?" ^^

Owen stabilized enough to speak, though his eyes remained wide. “O-okay… okay…” He steadied his breath, but he was still shaken. “So—so how do I become not-super-almost-dead?”

>imagine expecting the 'mon who baited you into becoming "super-almost-dead" into giving you a trustworthy answer for fixing your present condition

I have to wonder if Owen ever gets ribbed on by his parents and acquaintances for being a naïf at times considering how he's being more than a little trusting of someone that he really, really should not be at the moment.

Star let him go. “Inside this realm, there’s a Dungeon. At the center, there’s something called a Core. The Core is going to have to accept or reject you, depending on whether I like you or not—or, I guess if you can force your way through, but,”—she flapped her lips with a puff of air—“no way that’s happening."

[ ]

"But don’t worry, Owen, you’ll pass that test. But… if you take it… you also have to want it. And to want that, you need to know what grabbing that Orb… entails.”

Another spot where IMO, it probably makes sense to divide Star's dialogue up and drop something in between if she's not meant to be a motor mouth type.

Owen nodded silently.

“It, uh… the Grass Orb, uh… it’s… it’s going to give you a lot of power. Power that won’t really show itself at first, but the more you hone it, the stronger you’ll become.”

Oh, this is the chapter where Owen becomes a Grassmeleon, isn't it? Since there's already a bunch of Pokémon with a similar shtick chilling around in the background and being granted immense powers unnaturally does sound like it'd be prone to bringing on side effects...

Owen blinked. “What’s the downside?” he asked. “I’ll be able to help way more people if I’m stronger, right? Does it shorten my lifespan or something?”

“I mean, indirectly. People may want to hunt you down for that power to have it for themselves.”

Owen: "... I'm sorry, is there any other way of becoming not-super-almost-dead?"


Someone spoke from behind them. “It’s what happened to me.”

Owen turned around, looking at a Jumpluff.

Owen: "Wait, just a Jumpluff? He doesn't look so strange-"

“I was the… previous holder of the Grass Orb, long ago.” He stared uneasily at Owen. “And I was slain. From my body emerged the Orb—but before it could be claimed, Rhys took it, protecting the power from being acquired by someone with… less benevolent intentions.”

“The Espurr?” Owen asked.

Not that I don't doubt that it probably wouldn't have been a good thing for the Orb to have gotten snatched a couple chapters ago, but it sure does feel weird for that Espurr to have wanted a Grass Orb, especially with said Espurr's reaction basically vibing kinda like an addict having drug cravings.

“Look,” Star said, “a lot of people are after the Orb—and that Espurr is one of them, yeah. Jumpluff Klent”—she motioned to him—“decided to stay back here in order to protect the Grass Orb from the inside, and do anything he could to keep someone from getting to the Core.”

Klent, huh? Given HoC's shtick of nominal importance, I'm guessing we'll be seeing this guy a few more times in the future.

Klent sighed. “I protected the Orb for five hundred years,” he said, “but I just wasn’t strong enough against that sort of power…”

Wait, does this Orb give biological immortality or something? Since I wouldn't have expected a Jumpluff to live for 500 years in the absence of some serious weirdness being afoot.

Star nodded. “Owen,” she said, “it’s a huge obligation. You’ll be, eh… you’ll be throwing a normal life away. And if you’re scared, you’ll have to go into hiding, like a lot of other holders did. It’s… it’s not fun, Owen, if you aren’t strong. And you aren’t strong. Not yet. But Rhys could help you, and maybe…”

Sure is a good thing you baited Owen into doing something that would force him to make this choice, huh Star?

Owen caught onto something. “Wait.” His flame flickered anxiously. “So, if I get trained, I’ll be strong enough to guard the Orb, right? Sure. But… why me? Why do I pass so easily?”

“Uhh—” Star fidgeted. Her tail twitched. “You have a lot of… potential! That’s all.”

Sticker, sceptilisk,

I see that reaction there. Though I suppose there have been quite a few things in this story thus far that have hinted towards Owen not being "just another Charmander". Guess that's something to keep an eye on as the train of reveals in this story chugs along.

Owen crossed his arms. “How come, for real?”

“No, that’s really it—you have a lot of potential. You can definitely keep the Orb safe. And if you do, maybe, I dunno, maybe things can work out?”

Gee Star, why don't you just go ahead and make Kyubey faces while you're at it with how much you're screaming "don't take a single word that comes out my mouth at face value"?

“Things can work out,” Owen repeated. He figured that Star was aware of his perceptiveness. Yet, she planned to be evasive anyway? “What things?” he asked. “I mean—you aren’t telling me everything. What are my other two options?”

inb4 they're "die for real" and "die for real, but in agony"

Star hummed, creating a small, purple bubble of Psychic energy to lounge on. “Right, the other two. Okay. One is, you can stay here, like Klent, and protect the Orb. The other is, you come with me to the aura sea, and pass on.”

I see that I wasn't that far off in the end. So wait, does that mean that everyone here is someone who has touched the Grass Orb? Or are there other ways of getting in and out of this place that Star is just conveniently withholding from Owen right now?

One of the Pidgey let out a soft chirping noise, nuzzling against the other. Jumpluff Klent quietly rubbed his pom-poms together.

“Wh—what choice is that?!” Owen blurted. “So, I either take this power, die, or super die?!”


Owen: "I'm starting to understand why our readers apparently don't like you very much."

“I mean, uh… Yes.”

Snerk, boy was that last cutaway gag prescient, even if Owen's probably going to be a bit less testy and stay on his end of the fourth wall given the way he's interacted the entire chapter thus far.

“Well then, I don’t really have a choice, do I?!” Owen growled. The amount of information was too much for him to fully comprehend; for once, he was able to focus on just one thing. If he didn’t accept, he would never return to the living world again. Nothing else mattered.

Well I'll be, Owen really was testy in canon, too. Though surely he'll know better than to trust Star after all of this, right?

... Right? ^^;

“Take… just take me to the Core.” This temptress had led him right into this divine trap.

“Right,” Star said.

Owen: "What next, are you going to ask me to sign my soul away in some sort of contract or something?" >_>;
- Beat moment -
Owen: "... This Grass Orb isn't going to take my soul away, is it?"

Star: "Well, that's not particularly relevant to whether or not you get home in one piece, now is it?"

Owen walked with his arms crossed, head down. The power seemed good. He’d be able to use it for so many rescue missions! But he’d also be hunted down. But if he trained with Rhys, he’ll be able to defend himself! Oh, but then he’ll have to tell his parents.

Owen: "Wait, why am I even thinking about being able to use this power when for all I know there's going to be some other horrible catch attached to it from the way that Star tricked me into coming here in the first place?" >_>;

Owen gulped. All throughout their walk, Pokémon watched him from the bushes, from the shadows, from the branches above—there was even a wooden Ekans nestled inside one of the trunks, eying him silently.

Oh, so:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KS7OclbyGI

is going to kick up in like 5 seconds, huh?

“Um, Star?” the Charmander—perhaps the only Charmander who’d ever set foot in this realm—said. “Does this mean, if I live for a long time, that I’ll outlive everybody? Klent said five hundred years…”

“D’aw, you’re fine,” Star said. “Remember, the Orb taps into the spirit world. They’ll be around.”

... Will they even be in a recognizable state when they eventually come around and not just some sort of soul glop swirling around in the aura sea or something like that?

For some reason, this lifted a weight off his shoulders. Star looked down at him, bumping up against the tough scales on his ill-defined shoulders. “Aw, you think I’d put you through that? Don’t worry, I’ll help you out. I try to help everyone out, if I can.”

Yes. Yes I do think you'd put Owen through that given that you basically tricked him into killing himself earlier.

“I’d hope so!” Owen said. “You made life!”


This kid just does not learn. Or at least not remotely quickly.

Star giggled. “I do my best.” She then stopped and pointed ahead. There was a distortion of light that was wider than one he’d ever seen before, expanding all the way up, left, and right, like a giant, vertical lake. It only became visible then they approached; prior to that final step, it was unnoticeable.

“That’s the Dungeon that leads to the Core. It’s a single-segment, giant Dungeon. All you need to do is get to the center.”

Wait, they have Mystery Dungeons in the spirit world, too? That sure feels like a curious parallel there. Makes me wonder if KV and the "normal world" wound up getting influenced by the spirit world or vice versa at some point in the past.

“…Is it hard?”

Star hesitated before she answered, which did nothing good for Owen’s nerves. “It’s not my place to decide. This is the domain of Grass—it’s not my territory.”

She motioned to the distortion again, the ripples of which suddenly felt a lot more ominous.

Normally, you’ll have spirits protecting it, but seeing as I already gave you the okay, they’ll let you pass without a fuss, hopefully. Maybe some of them might be a little leery, you know, but… Aw, hey! It’ll probably be just fine!”

Would suggest dividing this one up into a few pieces. Also, translation: it's going to be a hard dungeon.

The Mew’s confident smile was enough to brighten his tail. “Thanks, Star.”

Despite his circumstances, she was still Mew. Maybe she knew something he didn’t, and couldn’t tell him for important reasons. What did he know? She seemed nice enough. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. Some sort of divine surprise party. Owen used to not even believe Star existed, let alone that the Books were real, but here she was.

He was probably in too much of a mental shock for the implications of all that to settle in, but he didn’t want to dwell long enough to let that happen.

I… I don’t know what this is all going to turn out like, but it’s… I’m glad that I got to talk to you.”

Another spot where it probably makes sense to divide the paragraph up. Also, just saying Owen, but given that I'm pretty sure that the Book of Mew didn't say anything about Mew being a manipulative, conniving type, you might not want to assume all those myths are true so reflexively.

Though I find it weirdly hilarious that I've read two, and possibly three depending on counting, stories with extremely credulous Chars as protagonists. Probably just a cosmic accident that's causing it, but it's still funny to think about.

“D’aw, don’t worry about it,” Star said, scratching her left ear. “…Owen.”


“Remember. A lot of people aren’t going to be happy that you took this Orb. To them, you just aren’t fit to be a Guardian," Star said. "I know you’re a lot older than you look, and I can see into your heart, and I know you’re a good ‘mon and all that. But not everyone else sees it the same way."

[ ]

"So, once you get this power… I want you to take it slow, yeah? Don’t get too creative with it, don’t try to make moves to take on more than you did before," the Mew insisted. "Follow what Rhys says. Nevren’s good, too. And Anam. Use your judgement and think conservatively to earn their trust.”

Another big "blocky" chunk of dialogue that I would recommend chopping up a bit. Though:

>Nevren's good, too.

Translation: Disregard everything that comes out of this cat's mouth in the future. It's likely about as accurate as Wailord's dex stats.

It was uncharacteristically serious of her—making it a bit difficult for Owen to take this seriously. What if it was all just a big joke? Still, he’d get nowhere by doubting her. What she said sounded reasonable so far.

Owen, she tricked you into killing yourself. You're kinda worrying me with how quickly you're trusting Star again after she openly admitted that she did that to you.

“I get it.” Owen sighed. “Everybody keeps calling me a kid because I’m so small. I mean, who ever heard of an adult Charmander, right?”

PokéAni? I mean, they did give 'old man Treecko' to the world like 15 years ago.

“It’s more common than you think,” Star admitted. “Civilized, non-Heart Pokémon don’t exactly fight that often. Wouldn’t be surprised if most folks just didn’t evolve. I’d call it lost potential, but hey, a life of peace doesn’t sound too bad.”

Oh, so you can't just binge on curry / Joy Seeds / Exp Candy in order to evolve in HoC's setting, huh? Noted for the future.

“Well—you know what I mean. And I get what you mean, too. I’ll… take it slow. And train. I… I mean, I always try to take things carefully, right?”

“Owen,” Star said with an amused smile, “if you took everything carefully, you wouldn’t be here.”


I mean, Star kinda engineered this outcome to begin with, but...

Owen’s face felt hot. “F-from here on out, I’ll be more careful.”

“Good!” She clapped her tiny paws together. “And if you ever have any doubts, you can ask me, or even your spirits. We’re here for you. Now, get outta here.” She shooed him away with her tail. “Grab that Core.”

So says the Mew that promptly runs Owen off not even 5 seconds after speaking there.

And with that, the Charmander passed through the distortion.


Let's find out!

Big indeed. Owen lost track of time during his adventure through the single-section Dungeon. Every turn through these bright, narrow halls led to a new room, and every so often, he ran into a spirit that helped him on his way. The walls were made entirely of twisted bark, like a frozen ocean of wood that sprouted entire trees on either side. He’d never seen something so surreal in any Dungeon before.

Nah, that's just some parts of Noctilum from XBX. It helps when you get a chance to get around to some other worlds some time. :V

During his walk, Owen did his best to try to look polite and proper; if he didn’t want to provoke some sort of divine wrath from these spirits of a Type that would naturally fear him, he’d have to be on his best behavior. Every so often, he’d run into a spirit or two that fled at the very sight of him. Other times, he’d see a spirit that just watched him nervously. When he had to pass by one in a smaller corridor, he’d give a polite nod and try to make some sort of casual conversation with them, especially if they were going in the same direction.

They always watched him with an uneasy leer when he did that. Did Owen confuse them, somehow? It wasn’t that unheard of for a Fire to chitchat with a Grass, was it? Or perhaps they were just from a different era. After all, times had changed; Kilo Village fostered a society of inclusiveness and mutual understanding across all kinds of life, all sorts of Pokémon. He had explained that to the other spirits, and a few of them asked what he did for a living; Owen replied that he was a Heart, and beforehand, a Provisionary Heart—that he rescued Pokémon and helped out all across Kilo.

Owen, this is literally the equivalent of strutting around as a Fairy in a Dragon-typed realm. You are going to turn heads and make some of the locals uneasy since you fundamentally don't belong here.

They asked if by ‘Kilo’ he meant the central city or the world, and Owen happily replied, “Both!”

Small world indeed, though I take it that that implies that there are worlds plural in HoC's setting. Even if I have no idea how on earth they interlink with one another.

But eventually—inevitably—Owen ran out of things to talk to with these awkward spirits that, no matter what he said, always gave him puzzled or fascinated looks, gawking at him like he was some kind of anomaly. But while he had grown used to that, he was starting to get sick of actually navigating this strange maze, even with the spirits guiding him in the right direction.

Once again, Owen. You are an anomaly here. One that's a bit more threatening than say... a Water-type bumbling into this place on accident.

“H-hang on,” Owen said to the tenth spirit: a tea-flavored Slurpuff. “Is this really the fastest way there?”

“It is,” said the spirit. “Having trouble? You can always take a break.”

“N-no, no, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just… so big for a Dungeon. A single section, too!”

Owen: "Seriously, would it have killed someone to set up some waypoints in here? It'd make life so much easier!"

“Well, it’s the spirit world, so some things are a little different. But you’re really close, now. Just a few hundred more rooms.



Whelp, Star wasn't kidding about it taking strength to make it through this dungeon. Since even if there isn't some sort of nasty boss lingering towards the end, just the sheer length of this run is bound to grind just about anyone down.

But, eventually, he did find his way. He made the final turn and saw a long, dark hallway. The forest was quite dim here, and the trees were overgrown, blotting out the sun—or, whatever it was that simulated a sun in this realm. The only light source was a dim glow at the end of the hall. Owen walked toward it. His shadow loomed threateningly behind him the closer he got. The glow came from higher up. He entered a small clearing lined with a wall of more twisted wood, arching into a giant dome.

Oh hey, it's like that one chunk of river near the waterfalls in Noctilum, except it forms more of a "ball" shape and less of a natural trellis.

“There it is,” Star said.

Owen yelped and spun around. “W-were you following me?!”

Star: "Yes? And?" ^^;
Owen: "Okay, seriously! Would it kill you to just be upfront with me for once?!"

“No, I just teleported here,” Star said. “Say, are you ready? All you need to do is reach out to the light, and let it go into your chest. That’ll be enough.”

“O-okay,” Owen said. “And… will it hurt?”

“Might feel a little hot.”

It's going to hurt like hell, isn't it? Since this feels an awful lot like a moment that's going to ultimately turn out to be "Well, it just felt a little hot for me" in about 30 seconds.

“Well, I like hot,” Owen said, perking up. Star’s left brow raised slightly, and he immediately grumbled and faced the Core again. He squinted at the light and held his small arms out. “Okay, um, Core! I’ll take care of you from now on!”

Whelp, time to see how much Owen will come to regret this.

The core got brighter. It was getting closer to him. He shut his eyes and felt an intense heat emanate from his chest. “Ngh—!” He gasped and opened his eyes. The center of his chest was glowing. It slowly faded, and the clearing became dark except for the flicker of the flame on his tail.

Wow…” he said.

Missing a newline here on your TR version. Though wait, is Owen actually going to get some sort of freaky chest jewel out of all of this?

“Nice!” Star said.

“What now?” he asked.

“Just wait a bit,” Star said. “Takes a little time for the spirit to assimilate and stuff. Say, how was the walk?”

Owen: "I'm sorry, what did I just put into my body back there?"

“Hated it.”

“Well, at least you weren’t fighting spirits the whole way.”

Owen snorted.

I mean, not that Owen wouldn't have likely died a painful, horrible, super-death if he had tried that, but it'd probably have been less boring than a long walk like the one he went through.

A few seconds of awkward silence passed. Star looked aimlessly to the left and right, as if searching for a conversation starter. “So,” the Mew said, “what d’you wanna do? Maybe I could turn into a Charmander again.”


I dunno. I’m bored. Maybe we can—”

That's literally Star's motivation for doing half the things she does, isn't it?

Something bright caught Owen’s eye. He looked at his arms; lights were coming from his feet, rising like bubbles. “Wh-what’s happening?!”

“Hey, you finished absorbing the power! Nice. You’re waking up,” Star said. “Oh, right, I forgot. Uh—when you wake up, don’t panic, but you might look a little—”

Oh, so this is going to be the chapter where Owen becomes a Grassmeleon, huh?

But the lights were too much, and Owen evaporated in front of her. Star stared at where Owen once was and sighed.

“Eh. He’ll be fine.”

Huh. Didn't realize that HoC had sequences that were written with an in-scene shift of narration since I was under the impression it was a Third Person Limited narration story, but noted.

Star: "Well, fine enough, anyways."

Star shrugged and spun around. She saw a silhouette.

“Star,” Klent said, standing at the entrance.

“Oh, hey.”

Wait, he's also been quietly stalking Owen too?

The Mew tried to look casual, but the quiet flicking of her ears and tail suggested that she knew why Klent was there. She didn’t break the silence—didn’t know how to—but she concentrated on the pom-pom on the top of Klent’s head, if only to give the illusion of looking at him in the eyes.

“…Owen. Why do you trust him?” he asked. “I agreed to go along with it, and I held my tongue while he was here, but… I still don’t exactly want to help him right now.”

'Him', huh? Dunno if that's Rhys, Nevren, or someone completely different, but noted in that case.

“Oh, come on, it’s been so long,” Star said. “It’s not like—"

“And yet—”

Oh, Klent's talking about Owen there. Maybe it's just the hour I was reading things at, but it took me a bit to realize that.

“Don’t ‘and yet’ me, you know this is our last shot!” Star said. “And Owen is the best one to do it. You know that. He’s stable now. Mostly. And if we wait any longer, Eon will get all the Orbs instead. No more procrastinating. We need to get Owen, and those other three, nice and ready. With Team Alloy or whatever they call themselves together, and with them in control, it’ll work out.”

Yeah, even before picking up meta via osmosis, I knew that Star had ulterior motives going on. Guess we'll find out just how much of a problem they come to be for Owen and the gang in future chapters.

Klent ruffled his pom-poms together irritably. “I won’t go against him,” the Jumpluff said, “but I’m not ready to help him, either. The other spirits will. But I’ll… just watch, for now.” He turned around. “I’m going to see Amelia. She’s still shaken by all this.”

Oh? Someone we'll meet in the future? Though I wonder what on earth happened recently from the way that Klent is talking about things here.

Star flinched. “O-oh… right, yeah, okay,” Star said softly. “Um, Okay. Take care? It’s—it’s not as bad as it seems. Amia and Alex are doing a great job, and so is Rhys with the other three. I promise, this’ll work out.”

Oh, so Owen's parents and Rhys are all handlers on behalf of Star for Team Alloy. That's... more than a little concerning there.

Klent stopped at this, head lowering. His pom-pom bobbed idly in the air, and then he looked back. “Will you make that a Divine Promise?”

Star bit her lower lip.

Oh yeah, that's a good omen for how this is all going to turn out. Not.

Klent gave Star an angry smile. “I’m going to see Amelia.”


The Jumpluff spirit vanished; shortly after, so did the Mew.

Star: "Whelp, at least I didn't have to give that Divine Promise."

“HE’S COMING BACK!” Demitri yelled into the cave. At the entrance to the kitchen, he saw Rhys returning from his meeting, walking past his little berry garden. The Lucario was distracted by a particularly ripe Pecha Berry, picking it from the branches. But even with those few extra seconds, they simply didn’t have enough time to cover up what had happened.

So wait, did they just bury Owen's biologically dead body under their bedding or something, or...? ^^;

“Is—is he awake yet?!” The Axew rushed past the kitchen table, through the rocky halls, and into Gahi’s room, nearly falling into his sand pit.

“I dunno, scale-bag, the guy’s tail isn’t even lit up!” Gahi said, churring angrily next to Owen in his Rawst bed. The Trapinch slammed his head against the dead Charmander’s side, expecting that to be enough to rouse him from an eternal slumber.

... Wait, is there flat-out rezzing in HoC's world? Since if not, you'd think that everyone would be panicking and maybe a bit more emotional at the idea of Owen just flatly being dead. Since something about this all feels a touch understated right now if they do think that he's dead.

“B-but he’s breathing, right? Barely?!” Demitri asked. He was hyperventilating, on the edge of fainting, at risk of becoming the second casualty of the morning.

Oh, well nevermind. There's that panic in action, even if I suppose I should be less surprised that it'd be Demitri who'd be the member of Team Alloy most affected by it.

Mispy, on the other side of the Charmander, shot another Heal Pulse at his body, but to no effect. As far as his body was concerned, he was in top shape. No bruises, no abnormalities, no ailments—he just happened to be dead.

Wait, so she can just flatly sense that Owen is a husk at the moment. If so, wouldn't Mispy logically know that Heal Pulse shouldn't be able to do anything?

... Unless it can do something in such circumstances in this setting, but that was never really mentioned before.

Gahi paced in a fast, small circle in the room, into the hall, and then back into the room again, thinking of a way that they could get Owen awake. “We—we ain’t gonna wake’m in time, are we?”

Mispy: "Gahi, Owen's dead! On what planet was he ever going to wake up?!" >.<
Gahi: "I-I don't know! [ispolier]Angelo[/ispoiler]'s got a bunch of different comics of his where it happens often, so I thought it'd be worth a shot-!"

“Is he even… alive?” Mispy brought her leaf to his chest, feeling for a pulse. He had been breathing shallowly before, and her leaf had felt the warm breath from his nose. But it had been fading quickly.

She noticed that Owen’s body was turning a sickly green, and his scales felt disturbingly soft, like he was already decomposing in front of them.

Oh, so there's the hard confirmation that this is that Grassmeleon chapter.

“I’m home,” Rhys said, entering the mouth of the cave.

“H-heyyy, Rhys!” Demitri greeted, running up to him in the kitchen. He bowed a bit too deeply toward the Lucario. “H-how are you doing?”

Rhys: "... Okay Demitri, what did you do?"

Demitri: "Nothing, I swear!" O_O;

“I am doing well,” Rhys said, staring suspiciously. “And what are you doing? Where is Owen?”

Mispy and Gahi stepped out of the bedroom.

“H-he… eh, he’s… resting,” Gahi said, glancing at Mispy. “Yeah? Just having a nap? M-Mispy?”

Rhys: "... I think that I want to go and check up on him. It's not like him to be napping at this hour-" :|
Gahi: "N-No wait! You need to hear what Mispy hadta say first!" o_o;

The Chikorita was incredibly pale.

Rhys entered his own room and inspected the shelf. Mostly everything appeared to be in its proper place. He saw his Pecha stash was untouched. His artifacts and mementos pristine. The Book of Mew lay undisturbed. Yet, the Grass Orb was missing. The trio knew, immediately, that Rhys figured it out.

Demitri: "Rhys, I swear! It wasn't our fault!"

“Students,” he said, slowly turning, “I want you to show me Owen.”

“H-he’s… he’s sleeping,” Demitri said.

“Y-yeah, maybe we shouldn’t bother’m,” Gahi said.


Gahi: "O-On second thought, m-maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world if-?"

Mispy was on the verge of tears. Demitri knocked his claws against one another, eyes wide. Owen was dead. They let him die. All because they didn’t listen to—

Owen groaned from the bedroom. “Ugh, my head…”

Team Alloy:

Rhys: "Yeah, I'm going into the room now." >:|

“Th-there!” Demitri said. “He’s awake!”

Mispy’s leaf twitched in surprise. She turned, still in shocked disbelief, and trotted after Demitri. Rhys followed them with Gahi.

“W-wait,” Demitri said, “I… Owen?”

Demitri: "O-Owen? You are doing okay at the moment, right?"

Gahi stared. “How the…”

Rhys crossed his arms in resignation. “Hello, Owen.”

Mispy: "Wait, Rhys? How are you just this unfazed by all this?" ._.;
Rhys: "Because I have an idea of what you all were up to while I was out and what happened because of it." >_>;

Owen rubbed his head. Something about it felt… different. He felt—what was the word—fuzzy? No, that wasn’t right. It was as if his entire body was covered in a soft, flexible layer of scales. Not his usual, firm plating. He ran his right hand on his left arm. He recognized the feeling. Vaguely, just barely reminiscent of feathers. It reminded him of his bed.

I'm assuming that this story is written from an omniscient narration perspective, since otherwise you'd think there'd be a scene break before we saw things from Owen's PoV there.

“L-leaves…?” He looked down. His front, once a pale brown, was the same color as pale grass; what were once orange scales along his back and arms were now sea-green. “What?”

Yup, it's the Grassmeleon chapter.

Owen took in a sharp breath in panic. What sort of joke was this?! He felt something welling up inside his gut. Normally, it would feel like a heat building in the back of his throat. Ember—a bad habit of a reflex if he ever felt in trouble, perhaps a fragment of his primal instincts. But this time, he felt something solid choking him from the inside of his neck. His eyes bulged in surprise—out from his mouth came a single, fat vine that narrowly missed Demitri’s shoulder. It snapped against the wall with a loud crack! and fell limply on the floor, twitching.

And then there was much screaming inside Rhys' house.

Owen: "Note to self: never trust Star about anything ever again!" O.O

Owen choked on his own vine. He flailed helplessly against it, trying to pull it out of him, but it was attached somewhere deep inside his stomach. He tried to breathe in. It writhed like a struggling Wurmple, and then retracted rapidly into his mouth. Owen gasped for air.

Cue the other members of Team Alloy
-ing in the background during all of this.

“Ugh—! Th-that’s not right!” he said. “Wait—leaves… everything became… The Grass Orb.” He rubbed his head, looking at his leafy paws. “W-wait… that means…!” Panicking, he grabbed his tail, pulling it around to look for his fire. Just one thing to keep him sane, just one remnant of his Fiery pride. It couldn’t have all changed. He was a Charmander! If he lost the one thing—

At the tip of his tail was not a flame, but a flower: a small, white daffodil.


Rhys: "For the record, Owen. This is why you're not supposed to touch the Orb."

Owen: "Oh gods, I thought that I was just going to get my Tera Type changed at worst from things, not this!"

Gahi: "I think you mean
. It fits you a bit better now given that you've got leaves sprouting on you."
Demitri: "... Wait, do Tera Types even exist in this setting? Since I thought that they just got introduced to the franchise like 5 months ago."

Owen: "Look, can we worry about that sometime when I don't have a flower growing from where my tail flame is supposed to be?!"

Mispy: "Oh boo hoo for you, some of us were just born that way. We manage fine." >_>;

Alright, and made it to the end. I see that things are picking up nice and fast given that we just finished crossing the first big point of no return in this story. And there was definitely a lot of hints towards there being some sort of big picture conflict going on between Star and this Eon that Owen and Team Alloy have inadvertently gotten sucked up into. It does a good job at keeping the audience invested and wanting to find out more even if much of the chapter was effectively a hike to get back home plus some body horror at the very end.

As for criticisms, I don't have too many. Most of them are minor mechanical quibbles such as there being a few paragraphs that felt too "big, continuous block" in nature, especially a few of Star's lines. I wonder if there should've been a bit more attention to Team Alloy's emotional state to freaking out about Owen, since it kinda felt like we didn't get a solid read as to how badly (or not) they were panicking at first, ditto Owen and the rationalizations that he was doing to keep himself trusting Star. (I mean, considering his thought process in the six chapters before this, the destination is pretty natural, the journey was just a little lacking so it felt almost as if Owen was just reflexively trusting Star at times.

Though glad to be getting back into things @Namohysip , and thanks again for checking out my writing during RE. Hopefully this repays the favor a bit during this last week of it. ^^


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks for the feedback, Fobbie! Got your reply elsewhere, but it was nice to see you enjoying your way through the plot getting started finally.

And now, the next chapter...


Chapter 149 – Nightmare

Hot Spot went from calm to chaos in seconds, because seconds were all they had left. If Alexander got to South Null Village as quickly as Manny said he would, then there was a risk their Waypoints—precarious as they were—would be destroyed. And while they could potentially head to Fae Fae Forest again to go directly to the North, there was no telling if its exit point had shifted since then.

“Gahi!” Mhynt shouted. “How quickly can you get to Kilo from here?”

“With the new Waypoint? Ehhh ten seconds?”

Mhynt leaped several feet into the air and slapped a note on Gahi’s forehead. “Get those items and come back in three hundred.”

“Eh—sure!” And he vanished, flying out of the cave post-Teleport.

“Can he count t’ three hundred?” Manny wondered aloud.

“Someone carry Valle!” Owen shouted, pointing at the statue.

“O-on it!” Demitri said. “Wait! What about our other halves? They’re supposed to come with us, right?”

“I put them on the notes,” Mhynt said. “Gahi can at least read, right?”

“Hopefully,” Mispy said.

“He hasn’t picked up a book in a while,” Demitri said worriedly.

“Come on, guys, he’s not stupid,” Owen said, feeling oddly defensive.

“C-can we help with anything?” Alex asked desperately. “Er, more supplies, or…”

“Thankfully, we’ve prepared for this,” Zena said. “We’re packed. We have a special bag for our supplies in the main one. I’ll get that.”

“Good luck, dear,” Amia said, nodding. “When you return, we’ll have that dinner.”

“Right.” Owen nodded firmly.

They gathered the rest of their supplies, double-checked what they had on a timer that Uxie personally counted down from, and then had some time to spare while waiting for Gahi. Tension coursed through everyone, leaving Owen feeling sympathy pains in his chest. It felt like everyone’s hearts were beating at the same rhythm, and Owen’s was part of that same chorus.

Then came Gahi, who was also carrying a few curious badges with him. “Palkia gave these,” he said. “Somethin’ about better Communicators?”

“Oh! Nevren made…” Owen nodded. “Right. We can use those. Come on, let’s go!”

“Partner up, everyone,” Mhynt said. “We’re flying!”

Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy all got together and fused into Migami, bolting to the sky. Zena flew on her own; Trina, not as adept at flying, wrapped around Migami’s body and was carried along that way.

“Owen!” someone cried.

Rushing to the entrance were two Jirachi, waving him down. He winced—there was no time for this. He couldn’t—

“Good luck!” one called.

“Hurry! Do your best, okay?!”

He was stunned until Mhynt kicked his shin to get his attention.

“R-right.” Owen spat a plume of fire in the air toward Eon and Jirachi in affirmative. He’d know what that meant.

Both of them beamed as Owen flew skyward with Mhynt.

“We’ll do our part!” Eon cried, or maybe it was Jirachi.

“Don’t give up! Keep fighting!” Jirachi added, but it could have been Eon.

Owen got his last glimpse of Kilo’s light before flying up and into the Voidlands’ rift. Then, he had to adjust quickly—up became down, and gravity flipped. He tumbled and righted himself with a blast of updraft, then made sure Mhynt was still firmly on his back. The others landed nicely.

“I see him,” Mhynt said grimly. “Down!”

“What?!” He obeyed automatically, narrowly dodging a corrosive beam of Shadows that careened far into the horizon, distantly exploding and darkening the sky. “S-someone got better aim!”

“He’s locked onto you after last time,” Mhynt said. “We don’t have time for this. He could have prepared anything…”

Fear was already clutching at his heart. Fear, and a new fire as he remembered Spice. Remi. What Alexander did to them.

Mhynt smacked Owen on the back of his head. “Waypoint, Owen! Waypoint! We don’t have time to stare!”

The explosions were still distant. Stray shots and guesses where they landed. But they knew where to go; fleeing was an easy ordeal. Owen could only hope that the others would be able to defend South Null Village once they were gone.

A small part of him wanted to stay. To fight. Surely them at their best, after so many days of downtime, would be enough, right?

But then again, Alexander had time to heal, too, and there was no telling what he’d done to prepare. Did they want to afford to risk it all in a confrontation with him at South Null?

He had to stick to the plan. He couldn’t let his emotions, his Battleheart, his fears get the better of him after one setback. Large setback. Catastrophic setback, actually, if Alexander managed to destroy anything valuable.

Down the streets, into the town hall, and then the basement. That was where they’d placed the Waypoint. Owen saw a trail of Shadows careen over the rooftops once, but it was so wide that he was confident Alexander had no idea where they’d gone.

But then Owen heaved and collapsed down, a horrible, searing cramp wracking his whole body.

“Owen!” Zena shouted.

“What happened?!” Mhynt called back. Everyone else stopped.

Owen tried to stand again, but another Shadow Blast raced over the sky. After another explosion, Owen wailed, the pain doubling.

Their heads turned to something Owen didn’t have the strength to see. It was like Alexander was pulling out his living guts where he stood.

“The Tree,” Zena whispered.

“Demitri, carry Owen!” Mhynt ordered.


“They’re linked,” Mhynt hissed. “Owen, why?! Why did you leave part of yourself in the Tree?!”

“Needed t-to… because… the rift…”

“You were sustaining it?!” Mhynt asked. “I thought it… sustained itself!”


Demitri heaved Owen and continued to run. Mispy helped with her vines, stabilizing him, as they raced into the building. There was another boom, another horrid pain that resonated past his mind and into his spirit. The reaction flowed through his body, bile dripping down Demitri’s back.

“Sorry,” Owen wheezed.

“Hang in there,” Mispy said, looking so helpless. She couldn’t heal this. It was all in his head.

“Withdraw your spirit, Owen,” Mhynt ordered. “You can’t handle this. Let the rift close, we’re already inside!”

“Can’t…” Owen braced. “I can’t. Not until… the team makes it. That’s when… I—”

Another rumble, but this time, there was no pain. He braced for it, but none had hit him.

Someone roared. Owen wasn’t sure who; he couldn’t recognize the distantly familiar sound. He sifted through his memories one by one as the temperature of the air raised. Outside, everything was a bright blue.


Manny must have gotten started on his squad early. Or maybe they had been opportunistic.

But it saved the Tree from a few blasts. Bought them all precious seconds. As Owen’s mind drifted off, too fatigued from that onslaught of pain and primally desperate for a reprieve, he smiled.

It was going to be alright, at least for a little while longer.


“Sorry I’m late,” Reshiram grunted, blue fire dancing around his wings as the turbine of his tail whirred.

“So, you’re me, huh?” Brandon remarked, balanced atop his back. “Gah!” He pointed ahead.

Reshiram blasted the incoming Shadow Blast with his Fire energy, deflecting it downward and into a random building. He winced. “Sorry about that!” he called. “This place was evacuated, right? I sort of just woke up.”

“And you don’t feel like you’re at your full strength,” Brandon said.

“Obviously not. You’re still here.” Reshiram smirked, but then he glanced back to the rift. Every strike against the Radiant Tree had distorted it to the point where it seemed like another strike or two would close it completely—and destroy the Tree.

Brandon sighed. “Things sure are dire,” he said as Reshiram deflected another Shadow Blast, but he was getting slower. Tired.

Brandon felt within himself, his team of six that watched from within the Steel Core. Little whispers of encouragement and apprehension. He knew them well.

“Hey, look, just tell it to be straight,” Brandon said. “Will I still be… me?”

“Quite the opportune time,” Reshiram hummed. “If I had to guess, we’ll be us. I don’t think either of us will complain about it when it’s over.”

“How about our bonds?” Brandon asked.

“Bonds.” Reshiram studied Alexander as he got closer. A few hundred seconds now. “Oh. Your team, from the human world." He shook his head. “It sounds like that’s stronger than anything I formed if you ask me. And I vaguely remember them, too. They’ll be fine.”

“Heh.” Brandon brought a gently closed fist to his chest, then nodded. “Alright. No more wasting time. Let’s—”

Reshiram deflected one last blast, and at that, he grunted with strain.

“Hurry, please,” Reshiram wheezed.

“A-alright, alright!”


“So how do we—”

Brandon suddenly erupted in light, as did Reshiram, and halves became whole.


By the time Owen was aware of his surroundings again, he’d been laid in a bed and covered with heavy blankets. He could hardly breathe, but he heard muffled talking coming from the other room. He tried to feel around for his horns, knowing his Perceive was off, but couldn’t find them. Panic settled in—it was too dark to see—and he groaned a little louder before finally grasping at his horns again. They’d been on the table.

“Ah! Not yet,” Zena said, suddenly bringing a ribbon over his hands.

Owen yelped in reply and rolled out of bed, landing hard on the carpeting beneath and onto his arm. “Ow—Z-Zena, are we… where are we?”

“It’s okay, everything’s okay,” Zena assured him.

“What happened? Null Village—”

“—is fine,” Zena said. “We’re in North Null Village. We put you in a room in Darkrai and Cresselia’s home until you woke up. We had to, err… clean you up. But something must have happened in South Null to save the Tree.”

“Something must have… Right, I think it was… Reshiram, that fire and light I recognize…” Owen tried to grab his horns again, but Zena held firm and shook her head.

“You’re still feeling weak. Don’t use your horns for now, okay?”

Reluctantly, Owen pulled away and relented. “…What did I miss?”

“Nothing too much. We’ve just been preparing for the trip,” Zena said. “We got word from the others about what happened. The Tree of Life is fine. You’ve… been asleep for a little while, and…”

“Asleep?!” Owen shot up, but was slammed with another wave of nausea and wobbled back. Zena swiftly circled Owen and caught him.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “We have it all handled. We aren’t behind schedule.”

“We… we aren’t?” Owen asked.

Zena giggled. “We didn’t need you for most of it!”

Owen winced, glancing away.

“Oh, I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way,” Zena said. “Anyway, er, come. Let’s go see the others. We’re going to be training soon.”

“Training? What?” Owen squinted. “We’re training? I thought we were going to the Abyssal Sea.”

“We are, but to do that, we need to be strong enough to withstand the monsters within the black waters. Otherwise… well, we’ll become one of them.”


Zena nodded. “I already did some training myself. You should get a round in.”

“But, without my Perceive…”

“It’s just raw strength,” Zena said. “You’ll be fine. You’re stronger than me, right?”

“I don’t know,” Owen admitted.

Zena gave him an odd look. It almost seemed disappointed.


“Why would you think you’re weak?” Zena pressed.

“No, I mean… it’s just been a while, you know?”

Her expression twisted a little in puzzlement at first, but then she offered him an encouraging smile and gestured for him to follow.

Soon, Owen found himself in another room, past a hall, through a street he couldn’t quite remember the details of, and then into an open field. Dusty, light purple, and the sky was its usual red, and it finally dawned on him that he had subjected himself to entering the Voidlands once more.

“Losing heart?” Zena asked.

“No, of course not,” Owen replied. “It’s just… always a little tough to look up and not see the sun.”

“Hm.” Zena had that disapproving look again and she continued to slither forward. There, on the opposite side of the field surrounded by gnarled black trees, Demitri and Mispy stood. Gahi must have been away doing scouting with Mhynt, or something.

“Where’s Darkrai and Cresselia?” Owen asked.

“They’re scouting. They helped to train us, but I think for now, we’ll just have to train you ourselves. You’re a little behind, but you’re a fast learner, aren’t you?”

“I, uh, I think so,” Owen said. “Zena, is everything alright? You seem tense…”

Zena sighed. “Sorry. I’ve been restless, waiting.”

“O-oh.” A pang of guilt coiled around his gut. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“You couldn’t help it. Not your fault.”

“Hey,” Demitri called over, waving. “So, I think it’s time we got to training, huh?! Zena, you should start. Oh, and avoid using your Water against him, yeah?”

“Of course,” Zena said.

“I can handle that,” Owen said, frowning. “I can just shift to Grass and deal with it.”

“Let’s start with ice. It isn’t augmented by my Orb and is neutral against your base form,” Zena said. “We’ve had some training for this; can you trust us?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure.”

Zena nodded and slithered to the other side of the field. Only then, as Owen focused on his aura, did he realize how feeble it felt. Was he still recovering?

“Something wrong?” Zena asked.

Mispy’s eyes were closed and she had a pensive frown.

“I think I’m still a little out of it,” Owen said.

“Hm.” She sighed. “Well, if you are, maybe we shouldn’t train.”

“No, I—we can still train! Just… let’s see first?”

“Hmm. Okay, Owen. Attack me with…” She raised her ribbons in a shrug. “Anything.”

“Okay. I’ll, uh…” She could handle a Flamethrower easily. “Okay. Let’s go!”

He crouched and flared his wings, then surged forward. Fire erupted from his throat as he aimed for her chest, but Zena didn’t even move. She stared at the flames and concentrated; a small barrier split the flames effortlessly and Owen had to veer to the side before he could do anything to her.

“Wh—” Owen shook his head. “Wow! Zena, that was amazing!”

“…What was that? Was that your best?” Zena asked. “Owen, was that all?”

“Y—uh, well, I… huh?”

“Let’s… try that again,” Zena said tentatively, gesturing for him to come at her again.

He tried again, this time going for a Flame Burst instead, startled at how easily he’d conjured it up from before. He realized that he had no idea which of his techniques were tuned to his aura anymore. They were all just floating around in his mind freely…

But the Flame Burst bounced harmlessly off of Zena’s simple deflection barrier, and she wiped the rest of the embers from her scales nonchalantly. Demitri and Mispy, on the sidelines, tilted their heads in unison.

“Let’s try it the other way,” Zena said, water energy collecting in front of her mouth. Owen flew backward and crossed his arms, conjuring a shield of light.

What Owen didn’t expect was the sheer force behind it. Zena’s Hydro Pump slammed into his shield and sent him flying far, far, far back, into one of the buildings. The barrier shattered and everything went dark.

The next thing Owen knew, he was staring at the red sky on a dusty field. Mispy withdrew her vines and nodded at the others, who seemed relieved.

“Owen,” Zena said, “I’m sorry. I had no idea you were that weakened.”

“How did… how did that happen?” he croaked. “I can’t even… protect against… That was just a warning shot, wasn’t it?”

“It was, Owen,” Zena said. “I think that attack on the Tree, or something, made you a lot weaker. You… can’t really do anything anymore.”

“What’re we supposed to do about that?” Demitri asked worriedly. “If Owen’s this weak, he won’t be able to last against the Abyssal Sea. No way!”

“This is just temporary!” Owen said. “I’m sure I’ll get my strength back! By the time we’re there, it’ll be just fine, definitely!”

But Zena and Mispy, as they exchanged a look, seemed much less confident.


Zena sighed, ribbons curling around themselves. “Owen… I think we need to confess something.”

“Wait, Zena,” Demitri said, “maybe we don’t have to worry about it. We can—”

“This is exactly what they warned us about,” Zena said.

Mispy nodded. “He can’t come,” she concluded.

Owen’s heart sank, chest feeling cold. “What?”

“Owen… This little test,” she said, “it’s… just to find out if you actually lost your strength or not. And you did. We’re going to have to go to the Abyssal Sea without you, and…”

Whatever else Zena had to say was a strange blur. Owen reached toward her, but then he found himself sitting at a table in Darkrai and Cresselia’s room, realizing that they’d been brought to lunch. At first, Owen was startled, but then he remembered they’d just walked him back. He’d gone into some kind of mental shock at losing all of his power.

He took a few bites of the tasteless plate of rice and meat in front of him.

Zena and Demitri passed by and gave apologetic nods; Mispy had already gone ahead. Last was Gahi, who sped by before Teleporting backward to float next to Owen.

“Hey, see yeh,” he said, tapping Owen on the shoulder before disappearing again.

“W-wait! What?” Owen sprang up. “I thought this was just a lunch break?”

“Forgot already?” Demitri asked, looking concerned. “Get some rest, Owen. We told you we were heading out, remember?”

“No, I don’t—we were just—weren’t we just training? What?”

“That was yesterday, Owen,” Zena said. “Oh, he’s slipping again…”

“Slipping? What do you mean?” Owen muttered. “We only trained for a little while! …R… right?”

“We’ve been training for a while, Owen,” Demitri said, wincing a moment later. “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to say that…”

“A… a while?” Owen asked. “What are you talking about? My strength definitely should have… come back by now, then…”

The sad looks continued, and eventually, they all turned and continued to walk away, out of the home and into the forest. Owen shambled after them, feeling heavier and weaker with every step. “This… isn’t right,” he said. “Let me come with you. I… I may not… remember things… or have my strength… but I still need to be there. For Necrozma, for… everyone! This isn’t right… none of this is right!”

They weren’t listening. They only looked back at him again with those cold, tired, pitying stares.

What was going on? Ever since he’d woken up in North Null Village, everything had spiraled completely out of control, after all his planning. None of it added up, it was all…

The realization struck him all at once. Owen squeezed his fists and thumped his tail. “Wait!” he roared, his voice finding new strength. “Zena. Hello?”

The first step was the heaviest and got lighter after each push forward. “Even if I’m reduced to just a shell, this was my plan to march forward. I can’t fall back anymore. So, if… if I’m too weak to be at the front, then at least let me give you my strength before I go back. My advice! I may not remember the past few days… but I remember the past! I remember everything else! And that knowledge is what… will help. A communicator, I can still talk to Necrozma through that!”

They all turned in unison, staring him down, cold gazes. Owen didn’t falter. A fire drove him. “Accept what I can give, please. I’m going to give everything if…”

“You really will keep fighting, even if you can’t follow us?” Zena asked.

“Even when you’re weak and helpless…” Demitri frowned.

“Stubborn,” Mispy remarked.

“Hmph. You were so much stronger before,” Mhynt said. “Well… physically.”

“I’m a Heart. It’s all about having strength—and not just physical strength. Internal strength, too.” Owen balled up his claws and formed a golden light. “Take this, then. It’s as much as I can give. Okay?”

He held the light forward, but all of them suddenly recoiled at that, hissing like it was some plague.

“Uh—guys?” Owen asked. Their forms were hardly recognizable… His vision clouded like a haze had always been there. He squinted and tried to wave it away, but then he realized it wasn’t his vision. It was the world around him.

“What’s… happening…” Owen looked at the light in his hands, then at the apparitions. He was ready to give everything to empower those who could still fight. That had been his resolve. But in the process, what did he do? What… broke? Why was the world falling apart?

In a surge of primal desperation, he ripped at the air with claws of light, and indeed, he caught something. Reality bent to his will, and he clawed forward, Zena and everything else of the illusory world dissolving into swirls of watery color. He heaved through the distortions, his arms growing heavy as he clawed his way out, puffing fire, growling, snarling…

And then, Owen found himself on his back, smothered in a blanket. He groaned and sat up, pupils dilating and narrowing until he focused on a phantom reading a book in the corner of the room. Still half-feral, he snarled and sprang from his bed, rushing blindly toward him.

“Hm?” Darkrai glanced up. He dropped the book. “AYEEEE! NO! WAIT! MERCY!”

The ear-splitting cry was enough to startle Owen into three-quarters sensible. “What?” he growled, puffing more fire on the ground. Some of the embers licked at Darkrai’s arms.

“Ah—sorry, please! It was… part of your plans! Remember? Owen? Test of resolve? Mental fortitude? Owen? H-hello?”

The Charizard snorted again, trying to recall. He had no memory of this… but it did add up. The King of Nightmares had been born to help Pokémon face their fears, and against someone like Alexander, a crash course of confronting that would be useful.

“Oh, wait, that wasn’t you,” Darkrai murmured. “It was… a-ah, it was that Mhynt Treecko…”

That explained it.

Owen let out another irritated growl. It finally registered to him that he couldn’t Perceive anything. He felt for his horns—missing.

“Oh, ah, table.”

There they were, gently in place next to where he’d been resting. And next to the table was Zena, brow furrowed in discomfort, still deep asleep. The same went for Demitri, Mispy, their counterparts, Trina, and even Mhynt.

“Did you see what I was dreaming about?” Owen asked.

“No. And you don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Darkrai said. “You woke up. You fought through it; that’s enough. If the others aren’t able to… well, I won’t stop them from going to the Abyssal Sea, but it will be harder for them.”

“They will,” Owen said.

“Such confidence,” called a new voice. Cresselia drifted into the room, her demeanor stern, though she was deliberately keeping her distance from the slumbering Pokémon. “Is that from somewhere, or are you just puffing out your chest?”

“Somewhere,” Owen asserted, still riding the high of his conquered nightmare. “We’ve been through more than enough to handle a little bad dream.”

Cresselia’s intense gaze didn’t falter, but she did nod. “We’ll see how much that follows through. But, Owen, I’m surprised you were the third to wake up.”


Owen counted the heads again and realized Gahi and Azelf were missing. Of course.

“Yes, ah, Gahi and Azelf were… defiant right from the start. I suppose we shouldn’t have expected any different in their dreams… They went on a stroll to shake off the negative thoughts. Would you like the same?”

“I’m fine.” Owen crossed his arms, mildly curious about what Gahi and Azelf dreamed about. But that seemed too private to ask. He’d let them talk about it when they were ready if they ever wanted to.

“Are you sure?” Darkrai asked. “Mhynt said to use the worst I had, and I don’t know how that… would manifest.”

“Your worst wasn’t terrible,” Owen replied. “I’ve already had worse in Alexander’s castle.” With a slight, encouraging smile, he said, “I think you’re too nice to give a true nightmare, Darkrai. You’re meant to give something… conquerable. Not oppressive.”

“Oh.” Darkrai dipped his head, the wisp that drifted off of him slowing.

“It was a compliment, honey,” Cresselia cooed, rubbing his shoulder before nodding. “Well, if you’re awake, would you like an update from South Null?”

“Oh. Right, uh—how long have we been out, actually?” Owen asked nervously. He wondered how much truth there was in his nightmare.

“Only a few hours,” Cresselia said. “To stay on schedule, you’ll want the team to be up and ready by our next sleep. You have time.”

Perhaps he should have been less obvious with his sigh of relief, but at that moment he had to let it out. “…What happened at South Null?”

“Well… they’re fine, mostly. They drove Alexander off,” Cresselia said.

“Okay, that’s good… Mostly?”

“Alexander… likely got what he wanted.”


Reshiram nursed the scorch mark on his left wing with a strange mixture of dust and berries of the Voidlands, glancing skyward with a scowl. “So much for full power,” he grunted, thumping his back against the wall.

“Don’t say that.” Marshadow casually strode by Reshiram and sat next to him against the ruined town hall, its rooftop caved in and sparking with residual Shadow energy. “Yeh saved lives. That’s important, too.”

“Yeah, well…” Reshiram glanced at the tree. It was still on fire, and it had been long dead. Above it, the rift that connected the Voidlands to Kilo Village was completely closed. Just as it had been before.

Traces of Owen’s spirit within the Tree had also disappeared. He could only hope that Owen was whole and at full strength all the way across the forest.

“Guess there’s no going back for us,” Reshiram said.

“Hey,” Marshadow added. “What’s yer name?”

“Uh? Brandon?”

“Heh.” Marshadow smirked. “Nice. Marshadow Manny.”

“Oh, we’re doing this conversation.” Reshiram rolled his eyes. “Look, just because my immortal Machoke half and my immortal Legend half became the same person again doesn’t mean I’m gonna just toss aside my name again. I had good memories tied to that name!”

“Nah, nah, I get yeh.”

“…And my team’s pretty pleased, too,” he said. “I’m probably gonna miss, you know, having them around if we have to return this power to Necrozma. Turn him into the proper spirit repository again.”

“Ehh, somethin’ tells me that’s not gonna happen,” Marshadow said. “The new afterlife formed across the aura sea works well, I heard. Maybe it doesn’t gotta be a forever nap in the lightbulb’s body.”

“He’s pretty traditional,” Brandon warned. “Think he’d be interested in that?”

“Not like he’s been doin’ it fer all that long,” Marshadow pointed out. “Eh, whatever. We’ll figure it out. Ah, yeh! That reminds me. Fergot. Jirachi made it in, an’ he’s gettin’ everyone set, too. We’re gonna head out fer some Titan hunting… jus’ like we did fer you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Brandon groaned and stretched his back. “Alright. Let’s get going. One Titan at a time…”

Marshadow hopped onto his back, which earned an annoyed grunt from Brandon, though he didn’t object. The Dragon of Truth made one last glance at the burned Tree of Life. “…You guys better keep up your part, too,” he said. “Don’t fall back now…”

Part of him wondered who really heard his murmurs.


Mispy was next to rise, looking shaken but stable. After keeping her from blasting Darkrai with a Solar Beam, they filled her in on what had happened, and her hostility toward Darkrai was reduced from blasting to simply glaring. Then came Mhynt, Trina, Zena, and lastly Demitri, who awoke screaming about falling from the sky.

Their counterparts, perhaps not by coincidence, woke up at the same time, with Mesprit hugging Uxie tightly and saying something about falling. Uxie reminded him that he could float.

“I’m sorry for all of this,” Darkrai finally said as he set down a tray of freshly baked cookies for Team Alloy. “But it was just to make sure you wouldn’t give in to despair. The Abyssal Sea’s fumes amplify that sort of thing, and if you couldn’t handle a basic Nightmare, the fumes would surely turn you into more of them.”

“M-more of them?” Demitri asked.

Cresselia nodded gravely. “The endgame of most Void Shadows is to eventually seep into the Abyssal Sea, where they, as a collective, try to drag more and more into themselves. It’s a sea of madness, surrounding and separating Necrozma from the rest of us. Even if you managed to get on the small isle that is his prison, he’s guarded by Titans.”

“Well… if you wanted to make sure we were all okay, why didn’t you test Valle?” Owen asked.

“Hm?” Cresselia tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

Owen gestured to the Shiftry statue.

“…Oh, Owen,” Cresselia said apologetically. “Yes, we tested Valle. He did very well.”

Owen’s flame sparked. “He’s not my imaginary friend! He’s literally Necrozma!”

“Hello,” the Shiftry statue said.

“KYAAAA!” Darkrai flew behind Cresselia, who also flinched. “Wh-why didn’t you talk?!”

“I wasn’t addressed.”

“W-well…” Cresselia sighed. “Valle will be fine if he’s Necrozma. He’d be immune to the fumes’ effects.”

“Wouldn’t that mean I’d also be fine? I have his direct blessings,” Owen said.

Cresselia nodded. “Your presence, and Valle’s, will be a boon for everyone. But it doesn’t hurt to be too careful. But… well, now that Valle knows about the Nightmare trick, that won’t work out.”

Valle continued to not move. “If Radiance is the antidote to the Abyssal Sea, I will be fine.”

Owen sighed. “Alright. Then let’s leave after a good rest. How long is it from here to the Sea?”

“Unfortunately,” Darkrai said, “you’ll probably only get there just after your next sleep if you go straightaway.”

“Oh.” That was a lot of traveling. The sheer size of the Voidlands was always startling after spending centuries in Kilo.

“Aah, it’ll be fine,” Gahi dismissed, crossing his arms and spreading his wings confidently. “We’ve got speed. You already have the boat ready?”

“Yes! That, we do,” Darkrai said. “It was constructed and hidden, but once you go on your way, we’ll reveal it right at your destination. Just make sure you follow ‘north’ that way.”

“Can do,” Owen said. “Right. If that’s the case… One last question. How’s Tanneth?”

“Tanneth? Oh! The Vaporeon. She’s… mostly recovered, but not nearly at her full strength.” Darkrai sighed. “She has her own place here, and while it isn’t the… best place to live, it’s safer than Kilo where Lugia might try to get her. Would you like to see her?”

“Yes, please.”

“Owen?” Mhynt asked. “Is something the matter?”

“…She and I go back,” Owen said. “I have scattered memories of it, but she was… a friend of mine during the Dark Matter days. I just wanted to try to catch up and see if that would jog any of those old memories back. That’s all.”

“I’d like to see her, too,” Zena said. “She and I were friends, too. But, that sounds like it was after her memories were wiped of that time…”

“Well, that’s all fine,” Cresselia said. “I’ll give you her address. . .”


Tanneth’s temporary abode was very close. One floor, only three rooms or so, and sparsely populated with essential furniture. Tanneth herself was reading a book, so she wasn’t busy. Owen gently rapped his claw against the door and waited.

“Tell me about her,” Zena said while Tanneth got out of her seat.

“Emily? I happened to convince her about Dark Matter during the first war,” Owen explained. “That’s probably how she wound up having those powers—and a piece of Dark Matter—to begin with. Diyem must have gotten desperate once I was taken out of the picture because I don’t remember a whole lot beyond that.”

The door opened, the little Vaporeon reflexively stepping back upon seeing the much larger Charizard and Milotic on the other side.

“Hey,” Owen greeted with a nervous wave.

“Hi…?” Tanneth stared, but then her eyes bugged out. “Owen! Zena!”


She looked mournful. “You’re… back.”

“Oh, it’s not like that!” Owen said. “We’re here on purpose! Off to rescue Necrozma soon.”

“Oh.” Tanneth sighed, brightening afterward. “Okay, that’s way better than what I was thinking. I thought my… my other half ate the world.”

“No. She’s sort of been aimlessly wandering around and stays away from places with too much of Necrozma’s light, so she’s… under control. Er, we just wanted to talk and catch up. May we come in?”

“Yeah—um, sure. I don’t… have any seats except for my own, so—”

“That’s fine. We can just settle by the wall.”

Tanneth treated them to some tea made of strange plants of the Voidlands and a surprisingly sweet fruit, though a little overpowering. Owen offered to heat the kettle faster, and soon they were all relaxing with cups of a steaming, sweet-tart brew.

“Um, if it’s not a problem, can you call me Emily?” the Vaporeon asked.

“Oh… that’s right.” Zena curled her ribbons loosely. “You’re…”

“Yeah. I… There was something that happened… during the war. The longer I stay in the Voidlands, the more I remember what happened.”

“I wasn’t around for it,” Owen said. “Can you give me the rundown?”

Emily glanced at Zena, then at Owen.

“She can hear, too,” Owen said. “We’re all in this together. Anything I know, I’m going to summarize to everyone.”

“Oh.” That made Emily less enthused, like she was looking for different words to say than before.

“T—Emily, they already know all about Wishkeeper and what I did, and they forgave me.” Mostly. “We’re working to right wrongs for good. We need to know what happened.”

This Vaporeon was so different from the one they’d met only a few months ago. The Voidlands had dampened her spirits even more than she’d already been. Then again, with how they’d found her… maybe she wasn’t recovered.

Would she ever, after this? How deep did the damage to ‘Emily’ go, even after she was saved?

“Dark Matter,” Emily began, “wanted me to… save the world in your place. As Lugia, I was one of the few Legends—along with Rayquaza, Giratina, and Azelf—to receive Necrozma’s blessing. But of the four of us, I was the only one who directly, you know, went against, uh, against Necrozma’s plan to… uh…”

“End the world,” Owen finished.


“Why in the world would everyone else agree?” Zena asked. “I still can’t understand it. Why end everything, end all life?”

“It wasn’t all life,” Emily answered ruefully. “We’re just a teeny tiny ‘pocket world’ that’s only a little bit away from the ‘main world.’”

“And… we were here in the first place,” Owen said, “because Mew had been possessed by some weird technology in the human world, and Arceus found out and… in a fit of rage, smote the whole island. The first lives of Pokémon that could speak and have societies like you guys… Those were all originally humans. And the feral Pokémon were all the wild Pokémon on that island. But this tiny world was meant to be temporary. Arceus only planned to make it for a few decades or something, but then Star felt bad? I think? And… just let the world live on because suddenly the first generation had kids, and they had kids, so on so on.”

“Well, of course,” Zena murmured. “That’s part of life, isn’t it?”

“And that’s the problem,” Owen said. “Necrozma’s answer was to stop new life from being born, so the last generation would just fade out, and Legends could handle the gaps a small population could no longer cover, with their greater powers. Then once every soul was dead… that’s it. The world would end, and they’d be able to focus on the ‘main’ world again.” He sighed. “Instead… the people who were born in Kilo wanted to keep living. I became their figurehead.”

“…Was it all a mistake?” Emily asked. “Should we have just… let it end? Look at all the suffering it’s caused…”

“I… don’t know,” Owen said. “But I do know that I want to make things right and at least rescue everyone from here. What happens after… we can talk about with Necrozma and the other gods. But I think everyone—even Diyem—agrees that we need to empty the Voidlands.”

It wasn’t the perfect answer, but it at least relaxed the Vaporeon in front of him, who nodded.

“Anyway,” Owen said, “I want to catch up a little, too. So… you and Zena, huh?”

“Oh! Um. Right…” Emily smiled nervously at Zena. “It was just a coincidence, practically. Running into her, I mean. I don’t even remember how we met specifically anymore. We just started hanging out near one of the undersea villages. After the dark war, something… defeated me and split me in half. But unlike all the other Legends, my Lugia half didn’t get sucked into the Voidlands. Maybe I was lucky, being the strongest one with Diyem’s power.”

“At least the most defensive,” Owen agreed.

“I guess with amnesia, we were just taken care of down there.”

“None of the Legends had amnesia, though,” Owen remarked. “Why did Emily—Lugia forget?”

The Vaporeon sighed. “No idea. But if the memories were sealed into the Voidlands by some crazy Decree, then that means they would’ve left my halves and gone straight here. No half here, neither half remembers. Until I spent time in here, at least…” She curled up a little in her bed. “…And… I’m going to have to recombine with her, too. Even though I was trying to run away, she almost pulled me in…”

“Yeah. Rhys rescued you,” Owen said.

“How is Rhys?” she added.

Cold gripped his chest. Gods, did nobody tell her?! “He’s alright,” Owen half-lied. “He and Dialga merged, so he’s a little different now. But you know, that’s how it goes.”

“Then… it’ll be okay when I combine with the other me. After… you find a way to purify her, right?”

“It’s a deep darkness, but that’s the plan,” Owen said. “Necrozma could help.”

“Thanks…” She still was uncertain, but the smile she gave was at least a little more genuine.

It was just another reason for him to go and take this risk and cross the sea. He only hoped the rest of his team would have the same resolve.

“We should get ready,” Owen finally concluded. “Let’s check with the others using the communicator.”

“Take care, Emily,” Zena said. “You’ll get to see sunlight again in no time.”

“Be careful,” Emily said. “And… thank you.”

A warm tightness filled Owen’s chest as he left, knowing that he was responsible, indirectly, for Emily’s mess all the same. But just as much, it was another reason he had to keep going.

Just a little longer. That was the hope.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, it took a while to get this together between the past week being a bit hectic and this chapter being a bit chunky, but you gave me the honor of being selected as a prize reviewer from Union's latest Review Event, so I decided that I'd get that rolling sooner rather than later. Picking up with…

Chapter 8

“I’m a PLANT!” Owen screeched, grabbing his chest and tugging gently at the feather-like arrangement of leaves that covered his body. He yelped when he realized that it was a lot easier to pull them away than he had expected. One of the leaves fell to the ground; a tiny splotch of green blood remained where the leaf had been plucked.

Mispy: "Technically, you're more of a planimal. Part plant and part ani-" ^^;
Owen: "NOT. HELPING. MISPY!" >.<

“Ow.” He at the small hole left behind. The bleeding stopped quickly. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with being a plant,” he said to Mispy, who was glaring at him. “J-just—I’m a Charmander! Charmander! Like fire! Not a—a—”

If you wind up patching in Tera types into this setting, you totally need to give Owen a Grass one as a meta troll.

And yeah, I suppose that I should've seen Mispy getting crabby about Owen's freaking out about his newfound floralness coming, since she is the most short-tempered member of Team Alloy.

“Grassmander?” Demitri said.

Demitri’s remark sent Gahi over the edge. The Trapinch laughed, rolling his huge head and round body on the ground. “GRASSMANDER!” he shouted to the heavens. “Oh, Arceus may’s well kill me now; there ain’t nothing gonna top this!”

Cue the "blaze it" jokes in 3... 2...


Gahi: "I mean... er... uh... it's surprisingly distinctive? I mean, at least you're not a Fire Grovyle-"

Demitri: "... Isn't there someone in town who's one of those?"
Mispy: "Probably not unless our author left the cameo machine on lately. And the point is that there is nothing wrong with being a plant!" >_>;
Owen: "Can we skip to the part where I keel over and die of embarrassment yet?" X_X

“It’s—it’s not funny!” Owen’s feathers fanned out, making him look much larger and puffier than before. “I’m not ready for this!”

He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Gahi had a point to laugh at the situation, for one reason or another. And perhaps, in a few days, Owen would laugh, too. But for now, at the front of Owen’s mind, the Grassmander was thinking about the most effective way to crack an exoskeleton.

Live look at Owen rn:

But with more flowers and less cat ears involved.

“Now, Owen, close your eyes,” Rhys said carefully. “Try to meditate, yes? Can you do that?”

Owen: "Rhys, I just got turned into a PLANT! In what world am I going to be able to meditate like this?!" >.<
Mispy: "Rhys, can I smack him? Please tell me I can smack him." >_>;

“I…! I… I’ll try.” Owen felt the vine in the back of his throat well up. He was used to embers billowing from his mouth when he did that. Instead, he felt that same, horrible tendril prodding at the back of his throat. He gulped to keep it down. It writhed in his gut like a giant parasite. Owen clutched his belly. “I guess it’s—is this permanent?”

IIRC from what I've heard through the grapevine, it's not, but it sticks around long enough for you to become a Charmeleon that's still Grass-type, so get used to the weed jokes for a while, Owen.

“Likely not,” Rhys said. “Owen… you absorbed the Grass Orb into your being. The Grass Type, in other words, is manifesting itself in you. But soon, your body will properly assimilate it, and you will return to your Fiery self—and, perhaps after a bit of training, you’ll be able to transform from one form to the other at will. That can be quite useful.”

Owen: "Oh thank gods. So... uh... is there any way of speeding that up, or...?"

Rhys: "... Owen, start with the meditation first. Baby steps here." -_-;

“O-okay… okay, I think that makes sense…” His breathing steadied. “So, I just have to wait for now? Rhys—how do you know about all this?”

Cue the pin drop moment.


Owen: "We don't have that in our world, so really. How do you know this?" >_>;

“I’ve studied it before,” he said dismissively, “And, hrm… Owen, could you come with me? I would like to take you to town.”

I can already see Owen screaming internally at the idea of being seen in his present state by all of Kilo Village.

“H-hey, can we come, too?” Demitri said.

Gahi raised his head, finally calm enough to not chitter his laughs between words. “Yeah, I wanna hear what this is all about.”

“Please?” Mispy asked.

I'm honestly surprised that Owen's immediate reaction to getting drug along into public isn't the first thing that we're seeing after Rhys' question, though I suppose that could always be coming up in about 5 seconds.

“Ngh… I’m not sure,” Rhys said. “We will see.”

“We’re gonna follow,” Gahi said.

Rhys growled, “Are you going to disobey me?”

Huh. Is Owen meant to be in a state of blank shock right now or something? Since it's a little hard to get a read for how he's feeling right now in spite of this scene being written from his perspective.

Gahi: "Wait, but yeh didn't say we couldn't follow ya, so how would we be disobeyin' anythi-?"

Rhys: "Gahi, take a hint already."

Mispy shrugged with her vines. “Owen will just tell us.”

The Lucario growled. He knew they were right. “You will come,” he said, “but you will be silent unless addressed. Understood?”

Narrator: "They will not stay silent."

“Silent, eh?”

“Gahi.” Rhys glared.

“Okay, okay.” Gahi flicked his head in what was his species’ equivalent of an eyeroll. “Silent.”

I feel pretty good about that prediction earlier given how flippant Gahi is being right now. Though I'm honestly surprised that Owen has had nothing at all to say during all of this. Not even a grudging "okay, if it'll help..." or something like that.

Owen nervously shifted his stance. He thought Rhys would be extraordinarily upset at him for touching the Orb, and he remembered Star’s words to behave conservatively for now. Perhaps she was right about convincing him; he didn’t feel that tension from Rhys. At all. In fact, Owen sensed… relief. Rhys was relieved that Owen grabbed the Orb.

Wait, is Rhys broadcasting that to Owen there through something something Lucario feeling sharing, is he getting that from his body language, or is he sitting on aura sensitivity like Mispy is?

Somehow, this made the Grassy Charmander—he refused to adopt the term “Grassmander”—feel even worse.

Would he prefer "Hitokusa" or "Salaplante" instead? :V

Rhys retreated into the storage room and returned with what appeared to be a cloth three times the size of Owen. “Wear this.”

“Wear?” Owen asked. “What’s…?”

Rhys: "Owen, do you seriously want all of Kilo Village to see you in your present state?"

Owen: "... Right. Didn't think about that one."

“This is a cloak. We can’t let you be visible in public. You may be mistaken for a mutant.”

>"""mistaken""" for a mutant.

Why am I getting the sneaking suspicion that those other mutants prowling around aren't so unrelated from those other type orbs floating around right now?

Owen gulped, reaching for the cloak. It was heavy. It felt like it was made from some sort of fur and silk. It was a wonderful shade of blue, with hints of black and cream-colored fur as well. Owen brought it a bit closer, sniffing the disguise curiously. It felt quite natural and soft. A strange sense of nostalgia washed over him—something about the smell made him want to nestle into it for a nice, long—

... Rhys made this from his sheddings, didn't he?

“AUGH!” Owen hurled the cloak against the wall. “GROSS!”

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all flinched.

Demitri in particular hid behind Mispy, clutching at his tusks as if they would keep him grounded. “Wh-what’s wrong?!”

Yeah, it's made from Rhys' sheddings, I can already tell. But it might make sense to throw in a brief sentence where Owen freezes or has his eyes widen in disgust or something like that, since there's no real transition between him in nostalgia mode and his
mode right afterwards at the moment.

“What’re you panicking fer?” Gahi said, clicking his jaws.

Owen pointed an accusatory claw at Rhys, and his vine shot from his mouth halfway. He chomped down to keep it from fully emerging, and he swallowed it back. After a fit of coughing, he said raggedly, “That’s your FUR!"

Rhys: "Yes? And? Look, nobody cares when cloaks are made from Mareep wool, why should my fur be any different?"

Though I suppose that that's one way of telling that Owen really does go way back with Rhys beyond what he can remember.

“Of—of course it is! I happen to shed quite a bit during the summer!” Rhys raised his muzzle indignantly. “I wasn’t going to put it all to waste! I made it into a cloak. I wove it with some Wurmple silk for a foundation, let it dry, and—


Rhys: "Look, Owen. You need something to keep you from being spotted in town and this cloak is perfectly suited for the purpose. Quit whining and put it on already."

“I’m wearing YOU!” Owen squeezed his eyes shut. “Who hoards their own fur?! You don’t see me making a—making a bag out of my discarded scales! I think I’m going to throw up—”

I take it that Owen doesn't hang around a lot of sheepmons, huh? Or would they similarly get repulsed by the idea of wearing things made of their own wool?

Though that makes me wonder if there's indeed a moment where Owen has a bag made from his shed scales later on as a brick joke thing.

Owen belched a volley of claw-sized seeds from his mouth. Rhys ducked to avoid the high-velocity projectiles, which instead clattered loudly against the rocky wall behind him.

“Bullet Seed,” Mispy said with wide, fascinated eyes.

Demitri: "Well, that's certainly a new spin on 'projectile vomiting' there." .-.
Owen: "Everyone. Stop. Talking!"

Owen groaned. Rhys stepped to his pelt and picked it up, dusting off a few of the bullets. He put it back in Owen’s arms.

“You will wear this,” he said. “We cannot go in public otherwise. Understood?”


Mispy: "For the love of the gods, Owen, just put on the cloak." >_>;
Gahi: "Just saying, I'm never letting you forget about this moment."

Owen stared at the cloak of Rhys. The mixture of disgust and comfort he got from holding it in his arms was enough to make the vine in his belly writhe. “Unghh.” He finally slipped it on. It was very warm.

Owen: "So are any number of disgusting things that I don't want rubbing up against me, but I'm just going to not think about that so that way I don't vomit up another Bullet Seed."

Owen walked in total silence on their way to Kilo Village. He didn’t know what he looked like; he only knew that the cloak covered him quite well. He felt a lot like a Mimikyu, or a Tangela, hidden away in a veil of darkness. He wondered, briefly, if this was going to be how he’d have to live forever. Even if he would eventually return to his Fiery self… that Espurr was going to hunt him down. He didn’t feel much stronger. If she was out for blood, the fight would be over in one misstep.

Demitri: "I mean, at least it beats dwelling on the fact that you're wearing Rhys' sheddings right now?" ^^;
Owen: "Oh gods, Demitri, why would you remind me of that?"

Owen briefly lifted his cloak to catch a glance at the sky. It looked like it was just before noon. He spotted another Heart passing by—a Tyranitar. He stared at Owen curiously; the transformed Charmander quickly hid beneath his cloak again. The Heart paid them no mind for one reason or another; perhaps, with Rhys, he didn’t want to interfere.

inb4 said Tyranitar was having his own "I'm just seeing things, there's not really a Grassmander right there" moment sort of like Owen's emphatic denial of the weirdness around him in the first 6-ish chapters.

A nagging feeling tugged in the back of his mind. He felt bare, despite the cloak. He realized shortly after that there was a distinct lack of weight on his left shoulder. He’d forgotten his bag at Rhys’ home. Too late now, he thought.

I mean, do you really want to be hitting the mission grind like this right away, Owen? Maybe that's for the best.

“How long was I out…?”

“It was not very long,” Rhys said. “I left to speak with the Hearts, and then I returned home after a… small errand. Then, well, I arrived. Apparently, you immediately went for the Orb once I was gone, is that right?”

Owen: "It wasn't that immediate, was it?" ^^;
Rhys: "I'll just take that as a 'yes'." -_-;

“M-maybe.” Yes. “But… I feel like I’ve been gone for days. That Dungeon in the Orb was huge!”

“Time passes differently in the spirit world,” Rhys said. “It can go as fast or as slow as it wishes, depending on the environment, whoever commands it, and other conditions.”

I actually didn't get that vibe last chapter, but that's not really a fault of this chapter in particular so I won't harp on it too much.

Owen navigated up the stairway, tripping over the cloak—it was too long for him. There were a few instances where his legs and tail were exposed to the world. Rhys was quick to shove Owen back underneath.

Owen: "You just had to leave the cloak undyed so that way I could constantly remember that this came off your body, didn't you Rhys?" >_>;
Rhys: "I thought about dying it green since I saw it work well on another Pokémon of your species here in Kilo Village... but meh, dye's expensive and it's not as if the cloak needed regular use anyways."

On the way up the stairs, Owen wondered—bitterly—why he had to get caught up in this in the first place. What were these Orbs even for, anyway? Why did they exist at all? He wanted to ask, but he had a feeling that there were more pressing answers he wanted to learn, first. For example, how someone would react to seeing a Grass Charmander. If he was mistaken for a mutant, he’d be mulch in seconds, wouldn’t he?

Owen: "... Starting to get a bit worried about the way that that Tyranitar spotted me back there a little earlier. Th-That's not going to wind up being a problem later on, is it?"

All the while, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi—even Gahi—were quietly following behind, though it seemed that they were just as curious about where this was all going. He heard the pitter-patter of their feet despite not seeing them. Small comforts.

Gahi's audibly snerking and trying not to laugh during all of this, isn't he? :V

They walked through the halls of the large, heart-shaped building, going straight for Anam’s quarters. Owen, recognizing the turns being made and following the purple path painted on the ground, realized where they were going. Straight to Goodra Anam.

W-wait, how big is this Orb stuff?”

“Bigger than you will expect.”

Would suggest splitting Owen's dialogue off from that description, but no kidding there. Even if I suppose we already got a glimpse of how this stuff's SRS BSNS a bit earlier on from that scene where Rhys reported before Anam and Nevren.


“M-mom?!” Owen threw his cloak off with an enthusiasm that insulted Rhys—thankfully, nobody else was around. He pointed at the blue Gardevoir. “G-guys! It’s—why’s my mom here?”

They couldn’t show up for his promotion into the Hearts, yet suddenly they’re here on such short notice? If he still had a flame, it would’ve been blazing irritably.

Owen: "... Is this going to result in me finding out that you and dad have been holding secrets from me that are going to make me upset to no end?"

Amia: "... Hopefully not?" ^^;

Amia ran and picked him up, holding him close to her chest. Owen murmured something about not being handled that way, and that he wasn’t some kid to pick up, but his protests were weak and halfhearted. Being embraced by his mother was something he really needed.

Translation, Owen's a kid. Or at least at heart.

“Oh, Owen, I was so worried! I thought something had happened, and…! Oh, your father has been completely distraught!”

Owen: "... Wait, how are you just not reacting at all to the fact that I'm a plant right now?"

The Magmortar emerged from Anam’s office next and nodded. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to hold him, too. But he held back, considering Owen’s new Type. “Owen! What happened?” he said with an odd delay. “Why are you…?”

“…Amia,” Rhys said, nodding at her.

Owen: "Okay, I guess mom was just trying to be polite and not make me feel bad for being like... this." >_>;

“O-oh, Rhys.” Amia’s shoulders sagged slightly. “Um… hello. How have you been?”

Owen blinked. “Wait,” he said. “What’s going on? You—you know my mom? Mom? You know… Rhys? H-he’s an Elite!”

Alex: "Wait, you mean that all this time you didn't put two and two together-?" ^^;
Amia: "Dear!" >.<
Alex: "What? We didn't hide it that hard from him, did we?"

Owen took it all in. Amia and Alex, his adoptive parents, were both there. They knew Rhys. And now, they were all going to see the Head, Anam… “Why’d you come here?”

“Wait, hang on.” Gahi tilted his huge head. “Yer mom’s a Gardevoir? How’s that work? I may not be much of a reader, but ain’t the mom usually the same species?!

Wait, it's biologically possible for parent species to not be the same as the mother outside of edge cases like Ditto breeding in this setting? Or is the idea that Owen's adopted?

Mispy bopped Gahi on the head with a vine. “Don’t ask that.”

“I was adopted,” Owen replied routinely.

Whelp, I suppose that answers that. Probably. Maybe. With how much of Owen's life is questionable as to how much is real, I suppose I shouldn't reflexively assume that the story of how he became Alex and Amia's child is fully accurate either.

Demitri sighed, rubbing his right tusk. “Sorry about Gahi.” After an awkward two seconds of silence, he added, “If it’s any help, er, we don’t know our real parents, either!”

- Owen blinks and does a double-take -
Owen: "Wait. All of us are adopted? What on earth are the odds of-?" .-.
Rhys: "Ahem. I believe that we had a meeting to get to right about now?"

“You don’t say.” He would normally be suspicious of them sharing that aspect with him, too, but there were bigger issues to deal with in his head. It was a struggle to triage all of the incoming questions he had swirling around his head.

Owen: "Like how on earth I'm going to get my tail flame back. That one's definitely front and center right now."

“Er, actually,” Amia said, addressing Owen’s question, “we came here because James came for us. He said that you’d be here soon, and we’d… want to see you. I think he was right.

Owen: "Okay, seriously. Does everyone from the Thousand Hearts know you two?! What next? Is Nevren just going to waltz in through the door-?"

Rhys: "Actually, now that you mention it..."
Owen: "Rhys, don't answer that, please. My head's spinning enough from everything I'm learning right now!" @.@

“Owen,” Alex said, “why did you touch the Orb? Why didn’t you tell us that—”

“Wait, you know about the Orb?” Owen asked.

Owen: "Okay, seriously, can we all take a step back and talk about how all of you apparently know what's going on right now-?"
Everyone Minus Team Alloy:

Demitri: "I mean, we'll get there eventually, right? Since this is really starting to weird me out, too." .-.

“You may stop your questions, Owen.” A silhouette of a Decidueye rose from the ground in the form of a black fog, the rest of his colors arriving seconds later. “Anam is ready to see you. Rhys, keep a close eye on the entrance while we talk, yes?

“Of course.”

Oh, well that's not ominous at all there.

[ ]

“Is—is nobody going to point out that James just rose from the ground like s-some sort of phantom?” Owen asked. “H-he’s a Ghost Type, but he’s not…!” He followed them, but at this point, Owen wondered if he was still dead.

It might have made sense to drop in a paragraph of Owen freaking out about James taking a page from Giratina there, since I actually didn't get the vibe that he found that weird until he spoke up, and explicitly mentioning it might have teed that up a bit more.

... Now that I think about it, I kinda wonder if there should be a couple paragraphs to a similar effect interspersed here and there in this scene to better sell the idea of Owen being overwhelmed by a flood of new revelations and reeling from them a bit more.

They all entered Anam’s room. Rhys stayed at the back with his eyes closed, standing guard. He was constantly watching for auras. Owen, uneasy, thought about the Espurr from before. Was that what Rhys was looking for?

inb4 it's not, since Star did hint that Owen would have no shortage of enemies after touching the orb and going home.

Anam’s office was only about seven of the Goodra’s paces across. Upon entering, the left side was riddled with books covered in a permanent, hard layer of dry slime. It flaked off to the touch, but it had a net gain every time the Goodra contacted them. Owen spotted, at the far end of the shelf, an ancient-looking edition of the Book of Arceus, with a white cover that was faded and worn by time. Perhaps it was preserved only because of the layer of dried slime that encrusted it. He even spotted on an upper shelf a thick book titled The Unabridged Encyclopedia of Pokémon Abilities and Techniques, Seventh Edition.

Oh, since this story kicked off in 7th Gen, huh? Cute nod there. Though it makes me wonder if there's been an "Eighth" and "Ninth" Edition of this encyclopedia also written in this setting.

Owen, realizing that he was only familiar with the sixth edition, stared enviously at it. For a precious few seconds, he’d forgotten about his troubles, replaced by the petty thought of how much it would cost to buy one. Unfortunately, the feeling of leaves on his arm brought his current issue back to the forefront of his mind.

Yeah, feeling pretty good about there being an Eighth and Ninth edition of that Encyclopedia floating around somewhere in this setting.

The right side of the office had a giant board with many papers pinned all over. It seemed to be for the sake of planning and organizing. It looked incredibly chaotic; Owen couldn’t make out any pattern to where everything was placed.

It looks like the Pepe Silva meme right about now, doesn't it?

The middle of the room had a desk made of dark wood, polished either by a craftsperson or by Anam’s general moistness. It was covered in a stack of paper a quarter as tall as Owen’s head, with a small bottle of Bluk Berry concentrate to the side for ink. Behind the desk, to the back of the office, was a pool of water that Anam likely used to stay hydrated. It had its own current—the inflow came from the left, with the outflow going to the back.

Owen: "I'm just going to assume that it's not Anam's moistness that keeps the desk polished since it's not visibly rotting and also, I'd really rather not barf up another Bullet Seed right now." X(

Anam sat in this pool of water, nibbling at his fingers nervously. “Owen,” the Goodra said, frowning at the Grass-Charmander. “Rhys… is this what you wanted to happen?” When he got no reply, he continued. “Why? This might…”

“Hold on,” Owen said. “What’s going on? How come you guys are all… do you guys all know something I don’t?”

Alex: "Didn't we already acknowledge this like 10 cutaways ago?" ^^;
Owen: "That wasn't canon, okay?" >_>;

Of course they did.

“Hey, we’ve got the same problem,” Gahi said. “What’s going on?”

Mispy wrapped a vine around Gahi’s huge jaws to keep him quiet. Demitri remained silent. Perhaps if they just let them speak, all would become clear—or, as clear as they could make it, at least.

Gahi: "... Right, wasn't supposed to speak-" ._.;
Mispy: "(Gahi, you're doing it again...)" >.<

“Owen,” Rhys said, “There is something that you should know about… the Orbs, and their history."

[ ]

"For a long while, they have been guarded by Pokémon like you—those who have taken hold of the Orb, claiming its Core as their own," he explained. "These Pokémon are known as Guardians—ideally, there would be one for each Type. A Guardian of Grass, in other words, would be you.”

I kinda wonder if Rhys' line here would've been more effective in two parts. Since something about the structure of his dialogue already feels as if it's meant to have a natural pause that doesn't quite come through with all his dialogue together in one block.

Owen: "But I'm supposed to be a Fire-type-"
Rhys: "Not anymore, you're not."

“I’m… I’m the Grass Guardian.”

“Well, you are now, after taking the Orb.”

Kek. I see that that last cutaway gag wasn't far off from the truth.

[ ]

“Recently,” James said, “there has been an… increase in Orb-related activity. A Pokémon has figured out how to find them, somehow, and is now trying to gather them up."

[ ]

"We do not know how many she has, but she has at least one, due to the glow she gives off in the darkness," the Decidueye explained. "The Espurr, known as Rim. Is that correct, Rhys?”

Another spot where IMO adding a couple snippets of description would help transition things a bit more, especially by teeing up other characters getting involved through little bits of body language or just showing Owen reacting to the explanations he's receiving a bit more.

Also, James' dialogue is long enough that it merits mulling whether or not to break it up into two.

“Yes,” Rhys said. “I have tracked her for quite some time. We used to be familiar with one another, until our motivations… diverged. Now, she has an Orb within her, likely taken from a slain Guardian.”

Owen: "... I'm sorry, did you just say 'slain Guardian'? As in she's going to try and kill me, too?"

Rhys: "Potentially, yes. You were warned about something like this on the other side, were you not?"

“S-slain?” Owen squeaked, his head feeling oddly icy with anxiety. “Wait, motivations? Wait, but what’s the point? Why does she want them? To be a little stronger?”

I love it when I anticipate where characters go with their reactions. Even if Owen wasn't quite as panicky as in the prior joke.

James shook his head. “Each extra Orb amplifies one’s power. To gather them all within one being? You could become something far greater than some of the highest Legendary Pokémon known to us. You could rival Arceus himself. At least… that is what you have gathered, Rhys, from your research?”

Okay, what on earth are those orbs anyways? Arceus plates in a modified form factor or something? Since being able to get souped-up and effectively become a new god sounds like quite the perk related to them.

“Yes,” Rhys said. “Gathering all of the Orbs will grant you… considerable power. You could distort reality itself. That’s already possible with one Orb and enough training—but every single Orb, gathered together, will exponentiate its range of influence to, quite possibly, the entire world. Perhaps further. This is why we need the Orbs to remain apart. Separate, and as far away as possible.”

Wait, is this going to turn out to be like Ether from XB2 all over again where it turns out that the best of the best wielders of it are effectively bringing the things they imagine into existence? Since I'm kinda getting those vibes when Rhys talks about the powers of these Orbs being able to distort reality right about now.

“In other words, dear,” Amia said, “we don’t want someone who wants that power… to actually have it. It could end, um… everything, dear.

My sus-o-meter for Star just shot up by several notches. Since why would she withhold this information from Owen if she didn't have ulterior motives?

“E-everything?” Owen said. “but… but if…! I mean… St—Star! Star, the Mew! Can’t she stop this?”

“She is of the spirit world,” Rhys said. “Something is holding them back from interfering with matters of the Orb in the world of the living. So, we are on our own.”

And casual revelation there that Rhys knows Star. Even if we got some strong hints that something like that was the case from the last chapter.

“Oh, great,” Owen mumbled, wondering what could possibly be holding her back.

I'm not convinced that removing that block would be a good thing, Owen...

Owen wasn’t sure if he was fully absorbing this information. All he knew that the vine writhing in his stomach was replaced by a cold lump. Why did Star trick him into touching this thing? Suddenly, worrying about getting mugged in a Dungeon felt a lot more desirable.

- An Aerodactyl struts by the door with a sour expression -
Jerry: "I'm right here, you know!" >_>;
Rhys: "Yeah, yeah, now get lost and go back to your duties as a Broken Heart. This doesn't concern you."

“Okay,” Owen said. “So, the Orbs, and their Guardians—all this time, they’ve been kept separate, right? So,”—Owen briefly wondered if he should ask, but he had to, for his curiosity was not satiated—“what’s this have to do with all you guys?”

inb4 they're not all that separated anymore at the moment.

Owen didn’t like the amount of silence that filled the room then. He eyed them all. Anam, James, Rhys—his friends, and his parents. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi seemed totally lost. But everyone else in the room looked tense, the answer pressing against their lips or beak.

It was the Lucario who finally broke that silence. “There are three Guardians within this room.”

Yeah, I knew it. My money is on James being one of them because of his Giratina antics-

Wait, it's the other members of Team Alloy, isn't it? Since I distinctly remember that they were mentioned as having peculiar traits that shouldn't have been possible for their species and typings like Mispy's aura sensitivity.

Rhys was about to speak his next sentence—he didn’t even breathe between them. Yet, to Owen, there was an eternity’s worth of between that one and the next. Three guardians. He was one. His parents were here. Why were they here? He knew why.

“Owen, you are one of them. Heart Head Anam is the second. And the third…”

Oh, well never mind. Guess it is James who's the last guardian after all. Probably. Maybe.

No. No, no, no.

Amia lowered her head and clasped her hands together. “I’m sorry, Owen, but… so am I, dear. I’ve been the Fire Guardian for a very long time.”

... Didn't see that one coming. Though I wonder if there should've been more description to prime the audience towards the direction that Amia specifically was the third Guardian. Since I admittedly didn't connect the dots as to "... oh, the last guardian is mom or dad"

Perhaps I'm overthinking it, but something subtle like having him linger looking at them before having that flash of realization might have hammered it home a bit harder.

“M… Mom? But—but then what about… what about Dad?”

James sighed. “It is true. Guardians do not die of age. Unless they somehow lose their power, or are slain, they live forever. Therefore, they are sure to outlast all of their loved ones, who pass on to the spirit world.”

Oh, so it's "live until killed" immortality, huh? Though I wouldn't be so sure about "sure to outlast all their loved ones" unless they are heavily handicapped on coming back on things they ought to die from. Since... yeah, I don't think that Owen's exactly built like a tank right now in the present day.

Alex nodded. “The spirit world. That’s where I truly reside, Owen. I’ve… been dead, technically, for quite some time.”

Oh, so that's why he poofed in the prologue and then just magically came back.

Though that makes me wonder if there's some sort of cost or side effect to Pokémon from the Spirit World coming out into the mortal realm. Especially if most Pokémon from there are being held back by something.

Owen’s head spun, that icy feeling becoming a tingling buzz. He sat down in the middle of the room, covering his eyes. “H-hang on… y-you’re… but you’re right here! You’re right in front of me! You aren’t a spirit! You’re… alive! You’re alive!

inb4 Alex is "only mostly dead" all over again.

The Magmortar glanced at the Gardevoir, who nodded. Amia held her hand up; Alex suddenly disintegrated, becoming nothing more than a small, blue ember. It entered her hand. Gone.

Owen: "Oh my gods. Mom, what else have you been keeping from me?!"

“Guardians can summon spirits, dear,” Amia said. “It’s one of the very first techniques you will learn. And while those spirits are weak at first… they will eventually become solid, and mimic the living.”

Oh hey, it's like Yuna with her Soul Dew from PoV, except with less limitations. So do you two share the same patch of collective consciousness or something? :V

“I, too,” James said, “am a spirit. I suppose, in a sense, I have been by Anam’s side for longer than he has been a Guardian.”

... I suppose that explains his Giratina antics. Though wait, does that mean that Anam's the Ghost guardian, then? Since that would certainly explain a few of the party tricks I remember him doing in the GL crossover.

Owen was close to tears. His whole world was collapsing around him. His dad was a ghost. His mom was immortal. What’s next?

“Th-then,” Owen said, “what’s… going to happen to me?” he said. “If the Guardians have to be s-separated… th-then what’s…?”

A sign that you're going off on a grand adventure, kid. Whether or not you want to.

We will no longer be following that policy,” Rhys said before James could answer. “It would be cruel to separate you from your own mother. Additionally,” he paused, “now that it is apparent that Rim—the Espurr—has a means of tracking down Guardians, it is now a bad idea to keep the powers isolated for her to pick away one at a time. We should beat her at her own game—and gather the Guardians ourselves.”

Was about to post that Bubsy macro, but given that Amia and Anam are both competent enough fighters that Rim isn't reflexively targeting them for their orbs... yeah, probably a smart idea to not yeet Owen off to fend for himself in the boonies given that he's got a ways to go to climb the power scale ladder at this point in time.

I also kinda wonder if this paragraph really ought to be 2 + description in between, but that might be a stylistic nitpick on my end.

“We can use our cave!” Amia perked up. “Since the entire village is just my spirits, I could easily have the houses be more… vacant… for other Guardians!”


I... didn't see that one coming, though I suppose I ought to be less surprised since of course Amia wouldn't want any properly living neighbors who could be extorted into giving away how to get into Hot Spot Cave.

The villagers, too?!” Owen cried. “B-but what about the Granny Arcanine down the road? O-or—or the Infernape that’s always repairing houses? Those kids that played by the—! They’re… they’re all dead?”

Amia: "... They're only mostly dead?"

Owen: "Oh my gods. Mom, why would you just not tell me any of this?!"

“Their status doesn’t change the way they live,” Amia hastily soothed, trying to assure Owen. “They just… happen to be spirits. That’s all!”

Oh, so Amia's basically doing the rhetorical equivalent of:


“Is that why I never see anybody eating?” Owen said. “Because… they don’t need to? D-Dad, you said you ate breakfast! You… you said so!” He realized that his father was no longer around. In some primal, irrational reflex, his eyes darted around to find him. His mother made another motion, summoning a blue ember. It materialized into his father. In a second wave of realization, Owen stumbled to his feet and staggered back.

Can't tell if the implication is that the food just got thrown out / eaten by someone else or if Alex needed "food" of a different sort. Guess we'll find out fast.

“I’m sorry that this is so much, Owen,” Alex said. “But. I promise, even though everything is different—it isn’t very different—if you… just look at it a certain way, it isn’t so bad! Don’t you think?”


Gahi: "(Yeesh, someone's not taking this well...)"

Owen’s mind was processing it all, yet processing none of it. Thoughts whirled so rapidly that nothing stuck. The cacophony in his head made everyone sound like distant echoes.

It was all fake. Fabrications. His mother. His father. All of Hot Spot Cave. It was all one great illusion. His whole past was built on an elaborate lie.

Oh, so Owen really is BSODing in live time right now, huh?

“I—I need to go,” Owen said. “I just—I need some air.”

It might have made sense to drop in a passing mention of Owen's general demeanor in the paragraph prior to this. I assume he's meant to be shaken right now, but the dialogue is ambiguous enough for it to be interpretable as frustration / anger.

“Owen, wait!” Anam said. The Charmander was trying to get out, weaving past the others. Mispy was the closet to him, but she didn’t get in the way. Rhys leaned forward to stop him, but Owen was too fast. The second Rhys’ muscles made the twitch to advance, Owen ran out, but skidded to halt only a few paces later.

Wew, someone's a slippery one. Though I suppose that the others aren't trying to stop Owen that aggressively right now. Which I suppose is probably for the best given that I can't imagine he'd react well to being forcibly restrained at the moment.

“Ah,” Alakazam Nevren greeted at the entryway. “Hello, Owen. That is an interesting fashion statement.”

Oh, well that would explain why Owen abruptly stopped.

Owen: "W-Wait, is Nevren just seeing me uncovered as a Grassy Charmander right now, or do I still have Rhys' gross cloak right now?"

Owen was quiet. “You… y-you know, too.”

“Hm? Oh, was I late?” Nevren said.

“Very,” Rhys said. “Why were you not here?

Because he was messing around with Swolax and doing heavens-knows-what with it that probably wasn't anything good.

“Well, unfortunately,” Nevren said, “I was busy handling the memories of all the townsfolk you recklessly rushed past with a Grass-Type Charmander, Rhys. Whatever disguise you used exposed his tail and legs quite a few times.”


Just how many people's memories does this guy nuke on a daily basis? And yeah, he totally has wiped Owen and the rest of Team Alloy before. On multiple occasions. I can already tell.

Demitri: "... I'm sorry, did he just say out loud that he wiped townsfolk's memories?"

Mispy: "No, I... definitely heard that myself." ._.
Gahi: "Great, now I'm gonna be paranoid every time I'm having trouble remembering something."

“Ngh… was it truly that many?”

“Yes, quite that many,” Nevren nodded.

“Wait—what?” Owen said. “What do you mean?”

“I had to, ah, slightly modify the memories of those who saw you.”

>"""slightly modify"""

Sticker, sceptilisk,

Okay, Nevren.

“You can do that?” Owen asked.

“Not on my own, no,” Nevren said. “It was just an… invention of mine, thanks to some of Rhys’ help. We needed it in order to maintain Anam’s position, lest people realize that a Goodra has been the Hearts’ Head for centuries, let alone my existence alongside Rhys.”

Geez, Anam. Just how many skeletons do you have in that slimy closet of yours? .-.

“Hang on, you two are immortal, too? How is—”

inb4 those two are dead like Alex. Since in the absence of Orb weirdness or them somehow getting Guardian powers passed onto them by a third party, that would be the most straightforward explanation based off what we've seen thus far.

“Oy, what’s all that about?” Gahi spoke up.

“Ahh…” Nevren nodded. “We are. But for a different, but related, reason, so to speak.”

“Boy, that’s useful.”

Yeah, feeling pretty good about that prediction that they're from the Spirit World / undead like Alex.

Suddenly, his head was too full, and he didn’t want to ask more. He was done. He didn’t care anymore. His curiosity was satiated, and then bloated, and then force-fed. “I’m going.”

“Going?” Nevren said. “I’d recommend against it. That Espurr could appear at any moment, actually, and we wouldn’t want you to be—” Nevren touched Owen’s shoulder.


Amia: "Owen? Dear? Not to be a nag, but you should really strongly reconsider-"
Owen: "I. WANT. TO. GO!"

Rhys reached out to grab him, but Owen turned his head and spat a well-aimed flurry of seeds in his face. Some got in his eyes.

I can already hear the wincing reactions from Team Alloy there given that Owen spewed those up in an equivalent of blowing chunks a bit earlier.

Owen broke off in a sprint. Nevren immediately attempted to restrain him with a well-placed twist of the air—but the new Guardian was too clever and dodged in time, predicting the strike. He had too much experience with Psychic by now to let one connect so easily.

“Ahh…” Nevren watched him go. “Perhaps we should chase him.”

Rhys: "You can. I'm going to wash my eyes out and hope that I'll somehow feel clean again after this."

Rhys was already on it, a blur of blue and white with the help of an Extreme Speed. With his vision slightly impaired, he was slower than usual. Gahi ran, too, barely keeping up. Once they both got to the exit of the Heart, they were abruptly ensnared by vines that sprouted from the ground, completely blocking the entryway.

Agh—he used—what is this—a Grass variant of his Trap technique—” Rhys kicked through the first layer, but two more tangles blocked their way.

Whelp, scratch that for Rhys. Though Owen's techniques carry over to his new typing, huh? I'll admit that I hadn't expected that, much less for Owen to be able to wield it in its new form as seamlessly as he's doing here, but I'm guessing the Grass Orb is helping with that.

Nevren’s eyes glowed. He vanished from the office and appeared ahead, right by the stairs to the southern road, blocking Owen’s way. “Stop!” Nevren held a hand up. A clear barrier formed from his palm.

Okay, so I'm technically just realizing it now, but if you're coming down hard on Third Person Limited PoV, which IIRC your later chapters do, this and the bits up to Nevren seeing Owen bolt should either be done in their own scene or have their framing changed. Something to keep in mind if you do an eventual rewrite.

Owen ran straight into it, baring his fangs at Nevren. “Let me out!” he said, slamming his fist against the barrier. His heart was beating against the sides of his head.

“I can’t allow that, Owen,” Nevren said. “You will stay here while we sort things out.”

I mean, at least it's marginally more polite than just chucking a Sleep Seed at Owen and dragging him back in while dozing off? ^^;

“I said…” Owen’s vision was reddening again red. He pounded against the barrier. Nevren briefly glanced into his pocket, where something dim and gray shined. Meanwhile, the Charmander’s growls became deeper, defying his small stature. “Let… me… OUT!”

Ah yes, totally normal and not worrisome at all there.

And then, a bright, white light enveloped Owen. It was a brilliant glow—one that surrounded all Pokémon that were in the process of ascending to their next stage in life. But for a brief instant during that evolution, there was a tinge of something else—a strange, blackish bolt. Owen roared from within the light, slamming his fist on the barrier once again. He didn’t have time to fully process his new height or more defined shoulders, or his new, lanky appearance as a Charmeleon. He only knew to attack again. His mouth opened wide and a thick vine slammed against Nevren’s barrier with an ethereal thud.

Oh wow, so he's already becoming a Grassmeleon in this chapter, huh? Somehow I was expecting things to take a bit longer, but I suppose that would explain the amount of art of it that we see.

“Ngh—” The feedback caused Nevren to fall backwards. The grassy Charmeleon—leaves for scales, and an even larger flower on his tail—ran past the Elite.

Rhys broke through the vines by the entrance, rushing past Nevren. A second set of vines erupted from the ground beneath him, ensnaring the Lucario yet again.

Nevren!” he hissed. “Why did you not pursue him?”

Nevren: "Look, let's see you do better with a splitting headache, alright?" >_>;

The Alakazam glanced down at his bag again, inspecting the gray badge. He shrugged. “Ah, he’s well beyond my scope,” Nevren said flatly, sitting up. “I suggest you chase him instead. I need to remain behind and modify the memories of the Pokémon he runs past again.”

I like how nonchalant this guy is about the idea of mind-wiping randos around Kilo Village. Totally a good sign of what sort of person he is.

Rhys cursed Star’s name and advanced. He saw the green Charmeleon enter one of the many Waypoints in the long rows. Which one was it? He ran to where it was and read it to himself. “Calm Water Lake…” He cursed Arceus’ name next. “Why must he behave so childishly…?”

He supposed the revelations could have been done a bit more gradually… but he didn’t have to flee. Rhys stepped onto the Waypoint—and a flurry of vines wrapped around the metallic tile, blocking it completely.

Oh, we're going to find out what was going on with those freaky water ghosts in a bit, huh? (Though in light of what went down with this reveal, sounds like it's very likely the Water Orb.)

Though yeeting the rest of this review into its own post since character limits be like that here.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Chapter 8 - cont.

Owen didn’t know how long he had been running. He just kept going. From the building, to the Waypoint, to the Dungeon. Water splashed all over; the fact that he partially enjoyed the feeling of water on his leaves was so unsettling that he had to slow down. Snoozing Pokémon stared dumbly at Owen when he passed. A particularly irritable Krabby pinched Owen’s leg, but when it did, the limb burst into an angry, writing pair of vines. The sight alone frightened the Krabby enough to scuttle away, bubbling in terror. Owen tripped over his one working leg, staring in a new mixture of emotions—annoyance and terror.

Well that must be a sight to behold there. Though can all of Owen's limbs do that in his present state? .-.

“Normal—back to normal, you stupid—” He tried to focus, but his leg kept flailing, the vines splashing in protest against the watery Dungeon. He got onto his one working foot and hobbled forward, using his hands to drag himself along the walls. His right arm disintegrated next. He fell into the water.

Whelp, guess that confirms that there.

“P-please, please!” he cried, using his left hand to cover his eyes. But his claws were no longer there. His hands were no longer there. He gasped and stared at what they’d become—writhing tendrils covered in thorns, all the way up to his shoulders.

I mean, at least he's not barfing up more Bullet Seeds out of stress and horrified revulsion? ^^;

Owen screamed. He screamed and rolled onto his back, swinging his split arms against the rocks, creating small gashes in the sandstone. His tail and legs were gone. They, too, were ingraining themselves into the ground, into the walls, and Owen had no control over it. “Stop, stop, STOP!” Owen wailed. “PLEASE, STOP!”

Oh, he's rooting into the soil right now, huh? Though this is some quality body horror going on even without the consideration that Owen's flatly had a type change.

Meditate, a voice said softly.

He kept swinging, trying to pull his arms together. He started by trying to get some feeling—some semblance of a feeling—of lifting his arms toward himself, to his chest. But the thorns and the vines just kept writhing and twisting ineffectually in the water like a dying insect. Meditate, Owen. Breathe.

Whelp, guess that's one way to tell that Rhys caught up with Owen there. I'm assuming that's going on through aura at the moment.

“H-help… someone…” Owen was nothing but a head and torso amid a tapestry of plant life.

Owen: "Oh my gods..."

Voice: "Owen, listen to me. Deep breaths, deep breaths."

Close your eyes and breathe.

Owen whimpered, but he obeyed. He could hear the gurgling of the vines sloshing in the loose ground beneath him. Chaotic ripples of water brushed against his feathery leaves. It slowed down. His vines stopped moving.

Well, it's a start, at least. I guess we'll see how effective this is at unexploding Owen's tail and limbs pretty quick.

He took a slow, deep breath. His heart was still frantically beating away. His right arm involuntarily twitched; his eyes shot there, staring. It was back to normal. He panted, looking at the rest of him. The final few vines twisted themselves into a spiral, solidifying into a leg. He tentatively clenched his toes.

“Oh, Mew.” He covered his eyes, shaking. His breathing was uneven and trembling. He found the strength to stand back up. And he remained standing for a while, not advancing.

Owen: "Actually, wait. Why am I even saying this when it's literally Mew's fault that I'm like this right now?" >_>;

He was in the Dungeon already; there was no turning back. He had to keep going. And so, with step after careful step, the Charmeleon continued.

In the third segment, he spotted it: that same, strange wall, into the glowing labyrinth. It wasn’t repaired. He didn’t really know for sure if he was beyond the Dungeon’s influence yet. He’d left behind his bag, and therefore his Badge, at Rhys’ home. He was a bit glad for it, though. If he had his bag when he evolved, he might have ruined its contents from whatever happened in the Dungeon. He already had it ruined once in the fight with Aerodactyl. To ruin his spare one, too? Maybe that time, he would’ve lost all his precious items, like the Eviolite given to him by—

Ah yes, time for Owen to go full
about Nevren in live-time right about now.

“Nevren…” He thought about that gift. It would still be useful to him as a Charmeleon, with one more evolutionary step to take. He stared at his claws, pressing them together. It was inconvenient to go from four fingers to three. At least his hands were bigger. The horn on the back of his head was an odd addition, though. He felt like he could sense things even more thoroughly. He was sure he could even tell what was around the corner.

Oh, so Charmeleon's head horns have sonar/echolocative properties in this setting, huh? Don't think I've seen that one before, but it's an interesting touch and could potentially lead to neat moments.

He should’ve been ecstatic. He evolved. He finally evolved.

He just wished that his evolution was a bit happier than how it happened.

Owen: "I-I'm supposed to have red scales and a hearty flame on my tail. Not... this."

Someone knocked at Owen’s mental door. What an odd feeling—a thought that wasn’t his, calling for him to listen.

Owen? Owen, hello? It was the same voice that told him to meditate.



Well, that's not Rhys there.

Star: "So? How's life outside the Spirit World, been holding up well?"


Star: "... That good, huh?" ^^;

What’s WRONG with you?! Star said, exasperated. You did the one thing I told you not to do!


C-c’mon, give me a break, they… they all just… everyone lied to me! Every single one! Mom’s immortal, Dad’s dead, turns out the leader of the world is part of some giant conspiracy, and two of my idols are in on it! And—and YOU! You forced me to do this! I didn’t even believe you existed, and now I find out you’re a LIAR!

Ah, so Owen is capable of getting angry at Star. Or at least for now.

E-excuse me?!

Owen raised his arms, mouthing his thoughts like a lunatic. He mimicked Star’s tone. Oh, Owen, it’s no big deal, just take this Orb or die! Not that hard a choice! Go on, be happy, turn your tail into a flower!

Owen slammed his hand against the wall and yelped. It exploded into more vines. After a second of panic, he closed his eyes, breathed slowly, and waited for it to go back to normal. He sighed, and a few seeds spilled from his throat; he choked for a few seconds and had to stop walking to clear his chest. At least that meditation turned out to be useful for keeping his body from falling apart.

Owen: "Seriously, why are you even talking to me right now?!" >_>;

Don’t talk to me, Owen finally growled. I need to cool off.

Owen could feel Star about to protest, but then she stopped herself. Relieved, he sighed. But now he just felt guilty.

Thanks, Owen said. I’ll… I’ll talk to you later, okay? Just… not now. I need to…

... Whatever mind juju Star is using to make Owen more controllable, it must be some seriously strong stuff given how quickly he wraps around from livid to "w-well, we could talk later". And he doesn't have the excuse of crushing on her unlike the last Char I saw with a comparable emotional turnaround.

Just be careful.

Owen left it at that. But his time alone with his thoughts lasted only seconds.

Turn back, turn back…!

Owen: "Whuh? Star? Is that you right now-?"

A pang of irritation hit Owen. He quietly advanced, head down.

Go away… run…!

Or become one of us…!

Owen: "... Right, that freaky place with all the water ghosts is here too. Almost forgot about that-"
- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Hey wait a minute... water ghosts? You don't think...?"

Owen said nothing. He kept walking. His claws pressed into his palms.

Do you have a death wish?

We’ll kill you!

Owen: "Honestly, considering how this day has been going, I'll take my chances." >_>;

Owen didn’t even feel afraid. Not after all this. Even if they were spirits, he could still sense their intentions in how they spoke. They wouldn’t try to hurt him. They were just trying to scare him away. And he was in no mood to be spooked by even more dead Pokémon.

After all, Owen thought bitterly, I’ve been with them all my life.

This isn’t a Dungeon anymo—

Oh, he's wandering into the Spirit World right about now, isn't he?

“I know!” Owen yelled. His voice echoed through the halls and returned to him. He shouted again. “I know!” He stomped his foot on the ground. “I know this isn’t a Dungeon, and I know you guys are spirits! I get it!” He turned around, addressing the glowing walls.

“The Water Guardian is here! I don’t care WHAT you are, okay?! I’m not here to fight! I can’t even be bothered to fight! You have no idea how rare that is with me! I’m a Guardian, too, and this was all kinda just thrown at me this morning! I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m tired, I’m confused, I’m just—”

His voice cracked. [ ]

I hate… everything right now, and I just want to talk to… to someone I don’t know, who’s… who’s in my situation, okay!?”


And thus begins the grand tradition of this story using Owen as a chew toy... well, harder than he has been already. Even if I'm not fully sure how he reflexively knows that this is a good place to start looking for the Water Guardian since you'd think that based off Anam and Amia that Owen would need to consider the possibility that the Water Guardian isn't by the freaky spirit fountain thingy.

Though IMO, Owen's second paragraph probably works a bit better hacked up in pieces with the "His voice cracked." expanded a bit beyond what's there.

Owen sniffed, shaking his head. He stomped his foot again, much weaker this time. It was practically only a gentle step in place. “So just—shut up, quit the haunted caves act, and let me through! O… okay?”

His voice echoed, the only living thing in the room.

Owen: "I-Is that a maybe?"

When nobody responded, he gathered what energy he had left and shouted one last time. “Are you done?!”

The spirits only replied with silence, and then more silence when Owen spun to address the other half of his invisible crowd. Owen huffed and continued onward. The catharsis of finally screaming at something forced hot tears to well up, but he blinked them away. He refused to cry.

I mean, if you're blinking away tears, you're kinda crying already, but close enough. Also, Owen probably doesn't want to think too hard about "wait, my tears weren't like that before I became a Grassy Charmander".

For the rest of the long walk, not a single spirit bothered him, let alone attacked. His only encounter with one of the Watery spirits was a Swampert on the far end of the cavern’s many turns. Upon seeing Owen, the spirit meekly dove into the wall to avoid confrontation.

The Grass-Typed Charmeleon went through the rest of the cave without resistance. Slowly, his thoughts transitioned from hatred of the present to fear of the future.

Well, sounds like we're going to be meeting that Water Guardian pretty fast at this rate. Can't say I was expecting us to be here already.

Alright, I see that this is the chapter of the story that lives up to the (current) story summary on FFN since Owen basically had his entire life come down in the span of about 2 hours, tops and is understandably reeling from the shock of everything. I'm not sure how fast the story is going to pick up from here, but it's definitely a good shake-up moment since it more or less blows up the entire status quo of what we've seen in and around Kilo Village and gets the audience to wonder what else has been kept from the cast members.

In terms of criticisms, a fuller summary is in the line-by-lines. In general, I think it was pretty well put together, though I noticed a few paragraphs that struck me as likely working better if they were formatted as multiple ones since they were a bit long-winded to get through in their present formatting. I also felt that this chapter in particular, the description was a bit light, especially at times relating to character reactions. Like you can still kinda piece together their moods and stuff through their dialogue, but there were some moments here or there where stopping to show the emotional gears turning a bit more (which to their credits, other parts of the chapter like Owen's moment of internal crisis in the last scene have and use to strong effect) might make things stick a bit more.

I also wonder if the middle scene might have worked better as two since functionally it's an exposition and a pursuit scene, but meh. It's not that long in the grand scheme of things, and potential perspective quibbles aside, I thought it got what it needed to done.

Though I had fun with this chapter @Namohysip , even if a part of me is unsure just how hard and fast the story is going to pick up from here. I suppose that's something for me to look forward to next time, since after posting this review, there will be 4 more for me to knock out as part of your RE5 prize. And hey, this story already went to some places in the span of 8 numbered chapters, might as well see how much farther it goes in 3 and a Special Episode. :V


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks for the review, Fobbie! I got you elsewhere, but I'm glad you're enjoying the first "rush" phase of the story's plot structure!

Chapter 150 – Into Thirds

“. . . and with that, we’ll be heading to the Abyssal Sea now.”

“Wonderful. Good luck, Team Alloy.” Dialga nodded firmly and looked at Palkia. “Well, it seems that Team Alloy is making good time. They’re about two days ahead of schedule. Darkrai’s nightmares weren’t an obstacle for them at all.”

“Perhaps he’s gone soft,” Palkia said. “Ah, well. I’m sure they’re fine. Now then!” Palkia cheerily turned around. “Let’s inform the others and—hm, just where did my prototype Dungeon Gun go?”

“Your what?”

“Well, in the cosmic sense, it’s mine, though I suppose, technically, it’s not mine,” Palkia said. “You see, my Alakazam half, before he fled, had left behind schemati—”

“I don’t care what half made it, why does it exist?!”

Palkia raised a claw to answer, but when none came, he tapped his chin thoughtfully.


Palkia perked up. “Hm?”

The source of the little noise was a tiny Charmander with a black and white flame. She held a device with strange crystals on the top containers and a small opening on the front.

“Ah.” Palkia dipped his paw into the air. It emerged from a small portal by the gun, plucking it from her grasp. She yelped in surprise and grasped where it had been, tearing up.

A second later, a squeaking toy of a tiny Rattata landed in front of her. She giggled, biting and squeezing it several times.

“Found it!” Palkia said cheerily to Dialga, who looked utterly horrified.

“Why in the world did they leave her under YOUR care?!”

“Oh, she isn’t under my care,” Palkia said. “Frankly I’m not sure how she got here.”

“And you didn’t think to tell anyone?!”

“I’m far too busy with my research, Dialga, you know this!”

“Did you not have a child in the human world?” Dialga chided. “How can you be so… so…”

“Now, that was thousands of years ago!” Palkia said. “Apparently. Memory of that era fuzzy. And my time as a Legend is still so very young! I’m not the god of child-rearing, I’m the god of space!”

“And yet here you are, wasting your time with… with…”

“Oh, this is hardly a waste,” Palkia said. “I tried to think of a satisfying answer for you, Dialga, but I suppose I’ll just give mine instead. This Dungeon Gun will save us, I assure you. With it, we can freely connect to the Voidlands, just as my other half can. And connect out all the same, without any risk of Void Shadows mucking up the passageway! Well, at first. We will need to close and reopen it, too.”

“I still don’t see the merit in this,” Dialga said. “I’m… going to take Charmander home. Who is supposed to be watching her?” He paused. “I’ll just ask. Yes, hello”—He activated the communicator—"Do you know who is taking care of Charmander today?”

“What’s wrong?” Owen’s voice came immediately.

“Ah—nothing’s wrong! We were just… wondering.”

“Charmander?” Brandon called next. “Oh, the new girl. That’s supposed to be Spice.”

“Excuse me? I haven’t seen her all day. I thought Anam was looking after her.”

“Anam is still resting, I think,” Leo called. “Didn’t Madeline take over?”

“How do you guys not know who is supposed to have Charmander?!”
Owen squeaked. “Haven’t even… come up with a name yet. Did she like any of the names suggested?”

“Not yet,”
Brandon said. “You know you can just pick one, right? Not like she cares.”

Barky interrupted. “Charmander was given to Madeline, who was busy, and gave her to Palkia to deliver back to Spice.”

“…Why would you give Palkia a child?”
Brandon asked.

“Don’t—make me come back there,” Owen said.

“Owen, calm down, she can handle herself.”

“She’s two! Days!”

“Ahh, now I remember!” Palkia exclaimed. “Madeline did hand her off to me to deliver to Spice! But then my test results chimed that they were done processing, so I looked them over. It must have slipped my mind!”


“Please,” Owen said, “Please, just… bring her to Hot Spot. Mom can look after her. Don’t just… move her around everywhere, she’s too young for that.”

“I—I will. I’m sorry, Owen,” Dialga said hastily.

“Now, now. This is my responsibility,” Palkia said. “I’m feeling generous.” Palkia tilted his head, confused about the sudden concern. Really, was it that much of a problem? This strange Charmander was probably more powerful than they imagined. “Well, goodbye, for now, Dialga,” he said. “I have a baby to deliver.”


“Again, I’m very sorry,” Dialga’s voice echoed in the room.

“Oh, it’s not a problem, just me slowly realizing gods shouldn’t raise kids,” Spice echoed back. And as the communicators slowly quieted out into inactivity, Star leaned back against her bed and sighed.

She’d napped through the whole thing. Only through Barky did she realize what had happened to Owen, and what nearly had made everything go wrong.

Star turned her gaze to the space next to her bed, where Hecto wasn’t. A hundred bodies and he couldn’t spare even one for her. He’d become more and more distant ever since the rift between the Voidlands and Kilo had widened. He had said it was because his memories of that time had returned, or were returning.

They’d returned for her, too, of course. Hecto wasn’t of this world; he wasn’t of Barky’s creation at all. He’d been visiting to watch over something, and things had become… complicated afterward. After her rescue.

Star rolled in her bed for timeless moments until someone knocked on her door.

“Yeah?” Star called, sending a pulse of aura to read who it was. She had trouble recognizing the aura distinctly, which could only mean…

“Hey,” called Charmander Owen’s voice, though it was Eon. The door slid closed behind him, though he didn’t approach further.

“Eon?” Star asked, tilting her head. She crawled to the very edge of her cushions and frowned. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you supposed to be fighting with the Titan crowd?”

“The rift closed before I could get through,” Eon said ruefully. “I’m kinda lost. I had been sent over to message everyone and help Teleport them back, but I was too slow to get through myself. Turns out, Teleporting into the rift doesn’t work. I just appeared behind it.”

“Oh. Yeah, common mistake with Teleporting into a portal,” Star said. “Well, they have enough backup… If they can restore the rift or do something else to get you in… you’ll be fine.”

“Yeah…” Eon continued to stand awkwardly by the entrance.

“…So, you want to take a seat, or?”

“Oh—okay. Sorry. I didn’t really know if I was…”

“It’s okay,” Star said with an annoyed sigh. “Why does everyone treat me like I’m some…”

“It’s just, the way we saw you, and…”

“I’m fine,” Star lied. “Just find somewhere to sit. I’m feeling a little better. Had a nap, and I made amends with Owen.”

“You did?” Eon said. “So that actually—so you’re fine now? Or, no, not fine, but, just, between you two, I mean—”

“I don’t… want to talk about it too much. But it’s okay. We’re okay.” Star sighed. “Are you asking because you still want to talk to him?”

“I think… we’re okay. But I want to talk to him for real, and not over those communicator things. Everyone can hear it, and that’s awkward…”


Eon had finally settled against the wall, crossing his arms. And for a little while, they didn’t say anything to each other. It was a quiet moment where they both awkwardly stared at the walls. Star occasionally stole a glance at Eon, who happened to glance away when she did. He’d also transformed into another Mew, and Star flicked her ear.

“Hey,” she said, “do you remember being a Mew before?”

“Yeah, a little,” Eon said.

“I can’t remember what changed to turn you into a Ditto.”

“Oh.” Eon rubbed the back of his head. “The details are sort of foggy for me still, but I think it happened at the split.”

“Split. I wasn’t there for that… I might’ve been fighting somewhere else. First Dark War, right?”

Eon nodded. “I was fighting Emily.”

“Emily? Oh, geez, that’s, uh…”

“I took a Shadow Blast directly while transformed. I couldn’t replicate the sheer power, and ever since then, I think… it just broke my aura.”

Star winced. “Shadows tend to do that,” she said.

Eon sighed, curling his paws up. It was weird to hear her own voice, but the tone was always Eon’s. She knew how Eon spoke, and while they’d picked up a few vocal habits from each other, he was still distinct. People like Barky or Hecto or Owen would tell them apart.

“I don’t want to talk about it too much. Is that okay?” Eon asked.

“Oh—yeah, sure. Yeah.” Star mumbled a curse to herself. “Not like I can’t relate to that…”

Another silence settled in, but this one felt a little less awkward. It was relaxing to have that sort of company again.

“Can I ask you something?” Star asked.


“Are you mad at me for bringing you here at all?” she asked.

His ear flicked and he rolled to face her. “…Like… two thousand years ago, you mean?”

“Or maybe even when I evolved Owen way back when to help you guys get free. That’s what put the targets on your back in the first place.”

That vacant stare from Eon suggested he had to think back to recall what she was talking about.

He smiled a little and rolled so he was facing the ceiling.

“That was too many lifetimes ago for me to dwell on it that way, Star. But… you let Owen and I stay together. You gave him that power, and we used it to stay together. And we owed it to you to save you from whatever that organization was doing to you after. If anything, I’d… be pretty upset at the way Barky decided to get his retribution for it, since that got us in the crossfire.

“You just felt bad afterward and tried to give us a second chance.”

“But… I was the careless one,” Star said, playing with her paws. “If I didn’t go into the land of mortals, making myself vulnerable, none of this would have happened.”

“Blaming yourself for getting caught?” Eon asked. “Barky was the one who actively decided to destroy an entire island for what a small group of people on it did. I still would resent him for that above everything. He’s the sort of wrathful Legend they talk about in stories meant to demonize them. You? You just wanted to help people more directly.”

“But that’s not how we’re supposed to act,” Star said.

“Who told you that?”

Star sighed. “It’s just… Look at what happens?” she evaded. “I don’t know. It’s just been on my mind. How, if we didn’t interfere at all, it would’ve—” She exhaled sharply. “Sorry. I’m dwelling. I’ve been dwelling for moons now, feels like. I… had nothing to do but dwell and be spiteful to Alexander’s cronies.” Her paws were shaking a little. She tried to hide it by pressing them against her sides.


Star sighed. “…How do you deal with it?” she finally asked. “With all that regret. You messed up, too, right?”

“Don’t give me a loaded question like that,” Eon said with a wince. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to… atone.”

She laughed genuinely at that. “Atone? How in the world can a god atone? Who do I atone to?”

Eon tilted his head. “…Your people,” he said. “I thought that was obvious.”

“W-well, yeah, totally,” Star mumbled back.

Eon stared at her, skeptical.

“It’s just, what I mean is, I thought that… like, you’d look for forgiveness from someone… but like, who are we held accountable to?” Star paused. “Well, I guess that’d be an Overseer, but—like, they don’t really step in unless things get super bad.”

Eon squinted. “Wait, but isn’t Hecto an Overseer thing?”

“…Things got bad.”

The false Mew winced and shook his head. “Okay,” he said. “Either way… I think it’s the same way a Pokémon Trainer would have to atone to their Pokémon if, you know, they messed up. In the human world, sure, humans had more authority, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still… you know, obligated to be good to their Pokémon. Otherwise, the Pokémon would rise against them. They’re stronger, even if humans are smarter.”

“So what, in this analogy, a Pokémon Trainer is like what I am to you all?”

“It’s not perfect, but, ehh…” Eon shrugged nervously. “Look, I’m just looking at it like how I’m looking at Owen. And I really… messed up being his Trainer. That’s all.”

“Yeah, Messed Up with a capital MU,” Star said.

Despite that, though, she did feel a little better about herself. She wasn’t alone in trying to ‘atone’ despite being the one people usually atoned toward. In the Books, at least… which she had yet to read.

She wondered how those Books depicted her…

“Alright,” Star finally sighed, sitting up. “I’m tired of staring at the ceiling feeling like garbage. Want to go somewhere?”

“Wh—uh?” Eon blinked. “What’re you talking about?”

“I dunno,” Star said. “I’m… tired of sitting around. I want to get moving.”

Always spontaneous, aren’t you? Star heard an echo of Barky. Something he’d told her a long time ago. Her tail flicked in defiance. Her spontaneity was what got her into trouble, but this time it was to help her.

“Okay. Um, what did you want to do?” Eon asked, floating a little higher from the ground.

“No idea. Nothing high pressure since I’m apparently ‘in a fragile state’ or whatever, but I dunno. Pick something!”

“…Seeing how Owen’s parents are doing?”

“Something else!”

“What’s wrong with that?” Eon asked. “…Oh, right.”

“Yeah, kinda on their naughty list,” Star said.


“Never mind, how about—you know what?” Star balled up her fists and nodded. “Sure! Hot Spot. Wanna go now?”

“You’re really spontaneous, aren’t you?” Eon tittered.

Star suppressed the urge to contest that. Sure, it was true. But maybe some socializing was what she needed.


“All in favor of never letting Charmander near Palkia again?” Spice asked, raising her hand.

“Yeah!” Enet cheered, raising a paw. She didn’t seem to know what they were talking about.

“I… wouldn’t want her near any experiments, no,” Alex added, putting one of his smaller heads to his chin.

Hot Spot was a calming place for Spice. The heated caverns reminded her of Pyrock.

Crawling around where Owen used to sleep was that black-white flamed Charmander, who took a liking to the bedding. And since Owen wasn’t around, they figured he wouldn’t mind if she used it for the time being.

Though, Spice had more on her mind.

“Tomorrow we’ll be doing rounds of Kilo. Whole planet, just to find oddities and Dungeons to seal with Anam, except the useful ones we already have,” Spice said. “But I’m a little more worried about… us.”

Enet tilted her head, left ear twitching. “Us?” she asked.

“Yeah. The fact that we’re the same person. And apparently, one of the spirits in your Electric Orb right now is also the final third.”

“Mmmm.” Enet’s other ear twitched, and then the Zoroark snorted and paced into the other room.

Spice sighed. “What, did I bore you again?”

“She’s just wandering and exploring her old environment,” Alex said. “Zoroark often have whole territories that they guard. I heard stories that the strongest ones conjure illusions to protect their space, just like that. Amazing, don’t you think?”

“And probably just scary stories,” Spice dismissed. “I hope she’s focusing on finding that last fragment of… me. Otherwise… I don’t know.”

“Otherwise what, dear?” Amia slipped into the room. “Oh, you mean… being ‘whole’ again, like all the Legends?”

“I feel whole already,” Spice defended. “I would be a whole lot happier if I could just live my new life with Sugar and be done with all this. But according to Arceus Himself, that’s not how this works.”

Amia only frowned. “Just like everyone else… The same soul can’t stay apart forever. Eventually, you’ll reunite, right?”

“Yeah, by whose command? Didn’t sound like He was gonna force it…”

“Also true,” Alex said nervously. “I don’t know. But maybe—”

Heads turned to the entrance as everyone felt a powerful force approaching. “What’s that?” Amia whispered, her hair glowing with blue flames bubbling to the surface of her skin.

“Hold on, Amia,” Alex said. “It could be a friend.”

“I have bad memories of this power… who is this?” Amia said.

“He-ey!” Star called. “Sorry for the surprise visit!”

“Oh.” Alex sighed. “Amia, it’s just Star. You remember Star, don’t you?”

Amia was quiet and the flames didn’t die away. “I remember how she killed me, yes.”

“A-ah…” Alex nodded. “I’ll… talk to her.”

“Hold on. What if she’s here for some ulterior motive?” Amia asked. “Dear… I think you should withdraw for now.”

Alex winced, but obeyed, disappearing as a flurry of embers that returned to Amia.

“Hello?” Star called.

“Wait, did I miss something? I thought she was, like, one of the good gods,” Spice said.

Enet returned with armfuls of berries, which she set in front of Spice.


“Food!” Enet said. “Feel better.”

“I feel fine.”

“Lie!” Enet accused.

“Enet, you should probably take Charmander and hide somewhere,” Amia said.

Enet tilted her head and picked up the food again, placing it in front of Amia this time. When the nearest berries to the Gardevoir began to sizzle, Enet crawled away and plucked Charmander from the bed, stuffing her in her mane. She waited in the corner of the room with a confused, anxious expression.

And Spice was in the middle of an awkward reunion. Wonderful.

“Star,” Amia greeted. “Why are you here?”

But then, she tensed even more, and that fire atop her head got a little hotter. The Gardevoir took a breath and nodded. “Eon, too. You’re both here?”

“Yeah, uh, I sort of… didn’t want to mope in my room anymore and I’m trying to seize the opportunity to just say hi,” Star said. “I know we’ve already been, like, around here and there for the meetings, but…”

“Yes, I remember that.”

There was an odd weight in Amia’s tone.

“I… just wanted to try to apologize. I’m sorry,” Star said. “…For everything that you remember, and everything you might not yet. I figured you’d react this way, so—if you want me to go, I will.”

Perhaps Amia would have agreed that she wanted Star gone. She never had the opportunity to reply, because Enet blurted, “Hi, Star!”

“Saaaa!” Charmander added, poking out of the fur just behind Enet’s head.

Amia’s hair was still on fire as the two Mew floated closer. Spice tried to figure out which was which. The more nervous one was probably Eon. The one taking the lead seemed more like how Star was trying to present herself.

Spice wasn’t sure what convinced Amia to relent, but the fire finally went out. “Just to talk?” she asked.

“Yeah. Again, I’m just… trying to take action. By talking, this time, instead of doing something totally stupid. And hasty. And probably put us all in this mess in the first place… I’m trying to do better. I don’t know what I can do to start, though. Do you, like… have any suggestions?”

“Suggestions?” Amia repeated, her cold tone melting a little. “Well… How are things with Owen? He left recently, and…”

“We’re doing better. We talked just before he left,” Star said. “I gave him my blessing. Literally and figuratively.”

“Oh, goodness—is that something you can take back?” Amia asked.

“Nope.” Star tapped her chin. “Once a god gives a blessing to someone, that’s it. It’s theirs. Means you have to be pretty selective about it, but Necrozma was like that.”

“Doesn’t Angelo have the same blessing from his parents?” Amia questioned.

“I, uh, I wasn’t as careful. Back then! I think Owen is a good choice! Right?”

“Of course he is!” Amia said with a laugh. “I have nothing but good thoughts about Owen!”