• Hi all
    Just a notice, we recently discovered that someone got into a moderator account and started hard deleting a load of key and legacy threads...around 150 threads have been lost dating back to 2007 and some weeks ago so we can't roll the forums back.
    Luckily no personal data could be accessed by this moderator, and we've altered the permissions so hard deleting isn't possible in the future
    Sorry for any inconvenience with this and sorry for any lost posts.
  • Hi all. We had a couple of reports of people's signatures getting edited etc. in a bad way. You can rest assured this wasn't done by staff and nobody has compromised any of our databases.

    However, remember to keep your passwords secure. If you use similar passwords to elsewhere which has been accessed, people and even bots may be able to access your account.

    We always recommend using unique passwords, and two-factor authentication if you are able. Make sure you're as secure as possible
  • Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
  • If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks for the reviews, Fobbie! I got to you elsewhere, but I appreciate the reviews as always and am glad this first arc has been shaping up so well!

Next up ,chapter 152... the first chapter in a while to not feature any scene breaks.


Chapter 152 – Battle of the Abyssal Sea

Alexander blasted through the ship’s mast. They hadn’t seen it coming and had no time to maneuver it, but Dhelmise was already shouting at the skeleton crew to get to work pulling the ship away from the next incoming blast.

“Why?! Why is he following us now?! I thought the clash at South Null put him out of commission!” Owen frantically searched for something he could do, but at such an incredible distance, he had no idea. He didn’t have the power to properly deflect those attacks… did he?

No. No, he did! He’d done it before, and that was up close! Maybe…

Another blast soared through the skies. At its trajectory, Owen was sure it would be hitting the mast again, and without that, their remaining travel time was going to double or worse.

He spread his wings and leaped in the way, crossing his arms to form a Protect shield. The golden light shifted and hardened, lined with tinges of dark tendrils. Owen gasped softly but decided to worry about that later as the blast approached.

With the Protect still up, Owen breathed and focused on that energy. Once it struck—much weaker from such a great distance—he squeezed his claws and twisted it around. He felt it, that horrible energy. He could control it. It was so familiar.

The dark tendrils of his Protect surged with power and helped him grasp it completely, and then reflect it all at Alexander.

He easily weaved out of the way. It would be several seconds before it would even get to where it could have hit Alexander. Parrying them to hurt Alexander would be pointless at this distance.

But he could still deflect it.

“Good job!” Demitri cried. “Are you hurt?!”

“No! Just fine,” Owen said. “But it’ll get harder the closer he gets…”

Was there a way he could try to weaken Alexander?

“How far is he?!” Owen called.

“Better question, how soon ‘til he gets here?” Gahi added, flying up. “Ehhh…”

Owen couldn’t rely on Gahi to give a good estimate, but he had a feeling they only had a few minutes before Alexander would start doing melee combat, and at that point, it would be far too dangerous. They had to drive him away before that.

At this point, the crew had rushed out of the deck, about ten strong along with Team Alloy. But really, Owen didn’t think these ten would be able to do much against Alexander himself. Was there any point in them even being out here?

The next blast was incoming, and five of those Pokémon rushed forward. All of them could fly or levitate.

“No!” Owen cried. “Don’t—”

The blast struck something with a horrid, ethereal ringing that deafened Owen. Something splashed, and Owen could only imagine, just outside of his Perceive’s range, a Pokémon being pulled underneath those black depths forever. But when he counted the heads, all five were still there, surrounded by golden spheres in a hexagonal pattern.

“What?” Owen whispered. “They all have Necrozma’s blessing…”

“We brought specialists for just this problem,” explained Dhelmise in another of his ominous whispers. “According to our findings, we are quite resistant to the dark. It seems to be… hereditary.”


Owen gulped hard. These… were his children. His descendants. Did any other person blessed with Necrozma have children? Were all of them descendants of Alexander too, who broke off because they had inherited the light, not the dark?

He couldn’t tell them. It wasn’t even relevant to their lives. He was nothing but a historical note to them, in the end; that connection… was a secret he had to keep to himself for now.

Mispy was staring at him.

“I’m okay,” Owen said to her.

“They can’t last,” Mispy warned.


A third volley came, deflected again, but some of them were wavering and sinking, their stamina wearing down. She was right; this was yet another instance of just buying time.

“I’m gonna help,” Gahi finally said.

“Gahi, you can’t take Alexander on directly! Just one strike and—”

“Maybe I can’t,” Gahi snarled, “But we can! Demitri, Mispy! C’mon, you with me?!”

“I am,” Mispy said, nodding.

“W-wait!” Owen shouted. “We just—fight him at sea? What if we fall?!”

“Carry me with you,” Mhynt ordered. “I will help you resist any Shadow tricks he throws.”

Zena winced; Owen realized that she, without being able to take advantage of the seas, would not be able to do much here except—

“Zena, accelerate the boat from here!” Owen said. “We can get more time that way so we can think of something else.”

“Of course!” Zena nodded.

“Owen,” Trina spoke up next, frowning at him. “I think what we should do now is coordinate with Palkia and the others. This is a crisis; perhaps Arceus or the others may be able to help.”


“I’ll get the communicator. You help deflect more blasts. We cannot let the boat sink!”

Another clang, but this one was a stray shot easily deflected. It seemed Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy—fusing into Migami—were already halfway to Alexander with Mhynt on their back.

Mesprit and Azelf, meanwhile, emboldened the defending crew with valor and extra bursts of courage to keep fighting, while Uxie augmented their defenses directly with psychic barriers.

Once their strength began to waver, Owen swapped in next, trying to distract Alexander with a scattershot repulsion of his next attack. When the Shadow Blast struck the barrier, rather than reflect it exactly, Owen tried to aim it skyward and curve the energy downward. It wasn’t nearly as effective, but it did force Alexander to watch more cautiously as Migami lobbed potshots from afar.

He wanted them to return quickly, though. One wrong move and Migami would…

“Owen!” Trina called, tossing the communicator to him.

“Is something wrong?” Palkia said.

“Palkia!” Owen said. “We have a problem. Alexander found us and he’s flying straight for us!”

“Goodness, that’s soon. I thought he was recovering.”

“Did you ever see actual injuries on him, or was he just turned away?”

“Hmm, our scouts were quite confident he’d been wounded… But there is no telling. Ah, well. A shame, really. So! What is your plan?”

“MY plan?!” Owen sputtered but then jumped in the way to take over for more blasts. They were getting faster; Alexander was starting to fire more wildly, and he was halfway to them. Rapidly closing the distance. And they couldn’t let him get into melee range…

“As much as I want to help, I do not think I can safely use my spatial warping to get to you,” Palkia remarked. “And, really, Alexander would surely trump my powers in that realm, to begin with… I could certainly try if you wish.”

And risk Palkia falling under Alexander’s control again? Or any of the other Legends? That wouldn’t do.

Another rumble. Migami had to fall back; it looked like one of the Shadow Blasts had nearly grazed them. Thankfully, Mispy’s judgment trumped Gahi’s pride, and they were falling back.

Alexander was nearly as fast. This wasn’t going to work! And at this rate, even with Zena’s acceleration, the ship was…

“…Palkia,” Owen said, “Palkia! Can you get me a Dungeon?!”

“A Dungeon? Right where you are? Not really, no. I would need something to tune to, and is Mu there?”

“No. We haven’t found her. She’s—”

“Mu is with us,” Spice reported. “Dunno if she’ll understand to go to you guys, and—”

“No, no, no, don’t put her here. If Alexander sees her—”

A chorus of objections accompanied Owen.

“Alright, alright!” Spice said. “I wasn’t suggesting! But what, Owen, a Dungeon?”

“Yes. If Alexander is too strong in the Voidlands, what if we… just… put him into Kilo and tried to take him out there?”

A beat. Then another chorus of objections. Reshiram’s was the loudest. “Bring him right home?! Are you insane?!”

“We need to get to Necrozma,” Owen said. “And… if you can get to a remote area, it’ll be safer. Get some of the Guardians to suppress him. We might be able to get rid of Alexander and get to Necrozma on this one trip! If he’s going to chase us this aggressively…”

Mhynt hurled a conjured Leaf Blade at Alexander’s chest. For once, it had connected, but the rampaging Dragon kept flying as if he didn’t even feel the blade in his body.

“That still has the problem of not having the means to connect to you, Owen,” Palkia pointed out. “I’d need a part of your body, and you did not donate such things for research.”

“Why would I—” Owen grumbled, rubbing his forehead. “There has to be some way. Maybe some dropped scales from Zena at home? I shed patches of scales, I think, err…”

“That would produce quite a weak signal,” Palkia hummed. “I may not be able to get a substantial enough connection to form much of anything like that.”

Dialga exclaimed. “No! We have just what we need!”

“What? How?” Owen asked.

“When Rhys—when I had taken your horns after sparring with Trina’s doubles of Team Alloy!”

Owen thought back. Yes, he remembered seeing Rhys slip those broken horns into his bag ‘because it might be useful later.’ He was just hoarding.

And for once it was true.


“You still have those?!” Owen blurted.

The crew cried out again, several of them forced to fall back to the deck. They were trembling with fatigue and didn’t have the strength to fly or float any longer. Owen grunted and went back to the skies again. Alexander was getting more distracted by Migami, but that meant he was spending time trying to down them.

“GET BACK!” Owen shouted. Then, to the communicator, “Okay, please, get it quickly! Palkia, how soon can you configure that device to create a Dungeon in front of me?”

“Well, I suppose I can quickly find a free area, get some Guardians, perhaps two minutes?”

“Then go! Don’t hesitate, go!”

No response. Another Shadow Blast carved its way across the water, leaving a fissure down the blackened sea. Owen dove down, mere feet away from the water’s surface, and conjured another Protect to block its path and scatter it back. The countless rays would make it harder for Alexander to dodge, but he could only hope Migami would avoid any friendly fire.

There still was no response from Palkia, but Migami was retreating more, disappearing in flashes of light to get faster. Alexander was hot on the trail.

“Hello?!” Owen called again. “Palkia, answer!”

“Erm, he left,” Dialga said. “When you said don’t hesitate, well, he disappeared into the floor.”

“Oh.” Well, at least his very literal interpretation helped this time around. “Er—good! Hopefully, he’ll be back on time… We’ll hold the line!”

The crew seemed exhausted. Alexander did not. But now that Alexander was closer—he could see the three heads individually, now—it seemed he was switching his rhythm to stronger, mid-range attacks. From his smaller heads, he opened his jaws and blasted into the water, conjuring whirlwinds of darkness. He hurled them in horizontal arcs toward the ship, flanking them on both sides.

“Zena! Give us a push, we need to outpace that storm!”

“I can’t outrun that!” Zena shouted from below.

But she could slow its approach. “Go as fast as you can! I’ll try to dispel them!”

“Dispel?!” cried one of the crewmates—an Illumise who seemed aged enough that her tone alone explained to Owen, ‘You idiot, that isn’t how storms work.’

A lot of things didn’t work properly anymore. Owen had to try what he could.

He veered to the right, going straight to the first storm, and conjured another shield. The storm batted against him while cutting up his back, deafening him to everything else. He’d have no idea if they were calling for him anymore amid the acidic howling. Everything in front of him was a swirl of purples and blacks, but all the same, he could feel that essence. Control it, claim it, all the same, Mimicking that power and then claiming what was in front of him as his own.

Once he became the eye of the storm, Owen whirled around and pointed at the other one, and the storm obeyed. They clashed, opposites in direction, leaving turbulence in the water and nothing to strike the ship itself but a few flecks of water.

“H-ha!” Owen panted. “That… that worked.”

A shadow loomed over the ship.


Alexander had conjured a wave twice the height of the ship.

And Owen had no idea how to counter something like that.

“Zena! Just keep pushing!” Owen sputtered just as Migami appeared beside him, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him to the deck rather than floating above the water.

“Migami! I can’t just sit here—”

“Hold still,” Migami ordered. “Keep this place stable. Save anyone who falls!” And then, they Teleported behind the boat.

Just as Owen got to his feet, the boat lurched forward and knocked him over again. Muttering to himself, Owen focused on his Perceive…

Zena was at the deck’s very edge, practically hanging off the back of the ship while focusing on the water’s currents. Blackened and tainted or otherwise, it was still water, and Zena had control over it.

But what worried him more was Migami flying near the ship’s base, hands only inches away from the ship itself as their wings pumped and pumped. Owen didn’t understand the pose; their hands weren’t touching the ship, and it was like their many tendrils were pushing off of something that wasn’t there, being crushed by an unseen force.

And then he realized it was their Psychic energy. They were creating barriers to gain purchase on thin air. Perhaps they were pushing another barrier on the ship itself, literally using brute strength and the Psychic Orb’s energy to push as far as they could to accelerate.

Migami was roaring just barely louder than the incoming wave that loomed over them like a blackened avalanche. Alexander’s eyes, like red pinpricks behind the water, locked onto Owen’s for a split second and the breath in his chest left him.

“H-hurry,” Owen whispered. “P-please, hurry.”

He had to do something. Anything. But what was he supposed to do?

The ship was decelerating. Migami didn’t have enough power to outrun a ship, even with all their speed and Zena’s assistance.

“Migami!” Owen cried, finally finding his feet.

“I’m tryin’!” Migami whimpered back. On their backs, the Trio of Mind was enhancing their barriers, but they could only do so much, too. They just needed a little more power.

Just a little more.

Owen took a slow breath. He had to stay calm, but he couldn’t think slowly. He was useless here.

He thought back to his nightmare. When he was useless, he had to rely on his friends. He had to lend them his power, even if it was direct, and even if it would leave him with nothing.

While he couldn’t go to that extreme, he could still do something. He could Bestow his power, just like before. Bless his friends, not just objects or the ground. Store his power within them.

He envisioned his friends not as immutable people, but as vessels for more power. Something that can take more than he had given before; entrusting them with himself, in a way. And as they struggled and cried for everything they had, Owen tried to answer.

“Take it,” Owen whispered. “Just one more push!”

The membrane of his wings flashed gold, and he slammed his hands on the ground. The energy shot through the wood, ignoring it completely, and siphoned into Zena. His other hand aimed at Migami, and the same golden energy enveloped them. His Perceive couldn’t see the effects, but his eyes did. A bright gold enveloped them both.

He couldn’t stand. When the boat lurched again, doubling in speed, the most he could accomplish was feebly reaching out to scattered, toppling crewmates so they didn’t hit the deck’s edge as he had.

Somehow, they outpaced the wave, and the wave itself lost its momentum. Distantly, Alexander’s frustrated cursing reached them.

Migami Teleported next to him, setting down a limp Zena.

“G… good job,” Owen said. “How’re you feeling?”

Migami collapsed into a pile of a Haxorus, Meganium, and Flygon.

“Yeah… figured,” Owen said.

“Owen!” Palkia said. “Owen, if you may answer? I have everything set up!”

A nearby crewmate stared at the communicator on the ground. Owen gestured tiredly for it, while Uxie looked through their bags for a spare Oran or Elixir to help return their strength, offering the latter to Owen.

“Good,” Owen said. “When I say now, you need to activate it. Okay? Are you somewhere safe?”

“On such short notice gathering who I can, yes. Near enough that backup can be called, but far enough that immediate threats are not a concern.”

Owen nodded, then remembered Palkia couldn’t see that. “Okay. Just wait for my call. It might be a few.”

Alexander was out of massive storms and waves. Perhaps he was also tired. Or he was just impatient. One way or another, though, he was still surging forward. Without Zena or Migami to accelerate them, he was also so much closer.

“He wants me,” Owen said. “I’ll take him on.”

“What?!” Demitri shouted. “We can’t do that! You’ll—”

“If you hit that water, it’s over, Demitri,” Owen said. “It was risky enough with you taking him on once. We can’t do that again. I just need to… get close to him.”

“Owen, can you explain what your plan is? Please?” Demitri begged.

“Palkia will make a Dungeon and warp him out right on time. Into Kilo, where that place will dissolve him. He’s of Void, so he’ll dissolve. He might even become a Deino again if I’m lucky!” Owen puffed. “Trust me, okay?”

He looked uneasy, but the hasty explanation was enough for Demitri to acquiesce. “Let us help, too. We’re still weak, but…”

“I’ve got a second wind goin’,” Gahi growled.

Mispy ate a pouch of Elixirs and pulled Demitri into her vines. As Gahi taunted the air, she dragged him in next.

The Elixir did its job for Owen, too. His stamina, while temporary, had been restored. With a powerful kick off the deck, Owen flew through the skies and got at the same elevation as Alexander, about twenty feet above the sea.

“Alexander!” Owen shouted. Then, murmuring into the communicator, he said, “On second thought, Palkia, not when I say so. Wait until I roar.”

“Ooh, dramatic.”


Alexander was not one for conversation. By Owen’s estimates, he was about ten seconds away. Owen tried to close the gap, flying forward.

Alexander veered away.

“What?” Owen whispered. “H-hey!”

By the time Owen countered his momentum to chase Alexander again, he’d clashed with Migami. He could only be glad that Migami was fast enough to dodge it.

Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf backed them up. Each psychic blast was tinged with their divine power, trying to siphon away from Alexander’s mind like before.

But this time, he’d been more prepared. Every time Uxie tried to erase Alexander’s memory of his attacks, a puff of darkness splashed off of the Hydreigon’s forehead. Every attempt to demotivate him from Azelf only made a dark, once invisible armor over his chest flash. Mesprit tried to make Alexander apathetic to those same tricks, but that strange dark shield blocked their attempts.

“What is that?” Owen whispered. “Was that what he was preparing?”

He’d seen something like this before. It reminded him of the way Rhys had armor made of solid aura. Could that interfere with psychic waves? He had no time to theorize—only that Alexander had come prepared this time.

He was overpowering Migami and the three. Trina had gone in to hide with Zena, but they were still watching as if to find an opportune moment to strike.

Where was Mhynt?

Just then, a beam from above slammed Alexander into the water. Owen gasped and followed the beam to its source—Mhynt, with a shadowy Lunala looming behind her, fading away just as the beam’s true might ended.

“Nice shot!” Migami shouted.

“He’s coming back!” Mhynt warned.

Of course. Alexander was immune to the water. If anything, it was his domain more than anything else.

Mhynt conjured a Leaf Blade and crouched, but a blast from below caught her off guard. She narrowly dodged out of the way, deflecting the blast over her shoulder.

Cursing, she called, “Don’t let that hit you if you don’t have Shadows!”

“Oh, I never would’ve guessed!” Migami shouted back.

The Hydreigon burst from the water, snarling, wordless. He lunged for Migami again, and this time, he was just fast enough to graze their shoulder. The cut ate away at their flesh by several extra inches, widening the wound before a wave of healing halted its advance.

“Stop!” Owen cried. “Don’t you want me?!”

But Alexander pursued. As Migami tried to blip away to gain more distance, Owen noted their stamina was running low. That graze wasn’t doing them any favors, either. The Trio of Mind tried to halt Alexander, but all that accomplished was earning a few retaliatory blasts from Alexander’s scales, like his body itself was repelling against him.

Alexander was closer. And Owen felt… something. His Perceive clued him in… on a squirming inside Alexander’s body. Void Shadows—how many?—stuffed just beneath his scales, powering him while tearing up his insides at the same time. Owen had no idea how painful it was or how long Alexander could maintain it… but it was augmenting him the same way his Orb was.

He was even stronger than before.

“C’mon!” Migami shouted. “That all y’got?!”

They finally gathered enough light and blasted Alexander with a searing ray of a Solar Beam. It was a direct hit, enough that Owen had to double back and cover his eyes.

But his Perceive showed him the result. Alexander, parts of him ripping off only on the surface level, flew straight through the beam and followed it to its source. Migami couldn’t see it. Too focused on the beam. There was no alarm in their body language.

“RUN!” Owen screamed.

Alexander’s jaws clamped onto their neck. Crunched. And their body went limp, shocked surprise in their expression.

He crunched harder and something tore. Owen’s curse of perception forced him to witness every detail of that chunk of flesh sliding down Alexander’s throat, and then, with a careless push, Migami was thrown into the water.

They were still alive, barely. But that was worse. They were falling into the ocean.

Without thinking, Owen dived toward them. He could barely think. Alexander was flying toward him next. Pest. Demon. Monster.

He had just enough presence of mind to enact the plan. He pressed the communicator and screamed, banking upward and toward Alexander. He caught a glimpse of the blood-soaked mouths of the Hydreigon, and then a distortion appeared in front of him.

Alexander gasped in surprise, but couldn’t halt his momentum. He passed through the portal and it closed.

Owen fell into the water, hard, and dove down six feet. Nine feet. Twelve feet. He Perceived their body in the water and Perceived an overwhelming number of hands, limbs, and barely-formed bodies drifting toward them from all directions. Lost spirits, Void Shadows of the Abyssal Sea, coming to claim another to their fold.

Below, Migami was being split apart. Tendrils dug through their flesh and split the trio into their parts. And then dug further, intending to split them even more. They were barely conscious; Mispy was healing the fastest, but her body was losing its shape at the same time. Demitri and Gahi were barely recognizable anymore, and it had only been a few seconds.

“STOP!” Owen cried. “Give them back! Don’t… don’t take them away! I’m so tired… of losing everything…!” The water tasted foul. The bubbles of his words resonated. His wings were bright, scaring the dark things from grabbing him, but the same couldn’t be said for those around his friends. They were drifting further but had slowed down.

“GIVE THEM BACK!” Owen roared again, pulling his arm back, channeling power from somewhere deeper. Such a strain, a searing pain in the center of his chest. It crept over his shoulder and out his palm, and then snaked back around his arm, forming a lance of light and darkness.

Before he had the chance to use it for anything, though—and he didn’t know what; he was running on instinct—the flow of the sea… stopped.

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi—still bleeding, still melting—were stabilized. Mispy’s eyes fluttered open. Per routine, she glowed, and her wounds began to close. She saw Demitri and Gahi, and she glowed, and their wounds closed next. They all looked at Owen and tilted their heads.

They were fine.

They were… fine?

Owen had stunned them. That was his conclusion. And he wasn’t going to let them come back to their senses and take them again. He gestured for them to follow, and they quickly did, swimming upward. Gahi grabbed Demitri, who grabbed Mispy, and they all ascended to the Sea’s surface. Upon glancing at the ship’s deck, all four of them disappeared and reappeared on the deck.

Owen coughed out mouthfuls of sour, bitter ocean water. He grimaced when he realized some of it was… chunky with Void matter.

“Oh, gross,” he mumbled. “I-is everyone okay?”

Demitri made a gurgling noise and collapsed. Mispy picked him up by the legs and held him upside-down, Abyssal water pouring from his mouth. After a fit of coughing, Demitri smiled and gave a nod to Mispy, who set him down again.

“Been better,” Gahi groaned, rubbing his forehead.

“How in the world…”

At the entrance, some of the crew emerged.

“They’re alive! H-ha! No way!”

Some were cautious, but three of them rushed over to look Team Alloy over. One also approached Owen and offered a hand.

The Charizard smiled gratefully and took the offer. Some Abyssal water still soaked him.

“Oh—sorry,” he said, but the person he’d touched stiffened a little.

There was a look of… horror in his eyes, but then it washed to his simple smile again.

“You okay?” Owen asked.

“Just fine,” he replied.

“Okay.” Owen let go, nodding. “I’m fine. Uh—help the others, they were the ones inj—”

The crewmate walked to Team Alloy to inspect them.

“…Right,” Owen said, looking at the others. “Sorry about that, everyone… I… Actually, can I just… go to my room and cry for a bit?” He tittered, the emotions finally coming back to him as the adrenaline wore off.

“Take all the rest you need,” Mhynt said with a firm nod. Zena and Trina coiled up nearby and nodded the same way, and Owen was glad to see them all unharmed.

“Thank you,” Owen said with a small sigh. “Hey, guys?” He addressed the rest of his team.

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all looked toward him, attentive. It was a little weird.

“Uh… just rest, okay? Don’t strain yourself.”

“You got it,” Gahi said, nodding, as did Demitri and Mispy.

They remained there as the crew looked them over. One was murmuring about being checked in the medical ward a little more thoroughly, just in case.

“Good idea,” Owen said. “How about you guys rest up there and—”

They were already heading down to the lower levels of the ship. No snide remarks, no resistance, simply…

“Wait,” Owen said, and they all looked back at him. Obedience in their eyes.

The coldness that ran through his body was a little faster than the logical realization. They weren’t listening to him. They were obeying him.

“Something wrong, Owen?” Zena asked.

“I—just need a moment,” Owen replied. And it was technically true. “Just a second, sorry, I—I—”

Zena and the others looked at him with concern, but before they could touch him—he had no idea what activated this—he rushed for one of the empty cabins. He closed the door. He found a wooden plank and lodged it on the door. He found another and lodged it further.

Zena was slithering toward the door, concern in all her movements. Owen ripped out his horns.

“Owen?” She knocked against the door. Jiggled the handle and tried to push it. “The door’s stuck, Owen, er…”

“Later,” Owen whispered. “Please, later… I—I’m okay. I’m okay, I promise. I need… to… ch-check on Palkia. I just need to check on Palkia.”

Mhynt spoke next. “Take your rest, Owen, but you’re answering our questions after. Understood?”

Icy dread raced along his back. “Okay,” he croaked.

With a quiet sigh, Owen reached for the communicator again and quietly asked, “Palkia? How’d it go? Did Alexander… dissolve?”



“Palkia, are you okay?” Diyem’s voice came next. “What happened?”

“I heard the plan, what’s going on?” Spice said. “That should’ve worked. He’s the Voidiest of all of us.”

“Ah… h-hello,” Palkia said, sounding strained.

“Palkia!” Owen’s chest tightened. “What happened? What’s going on?”

“Small… problem. Ah, you see. Dissolve, he did not. Some kind of… shield around him? Quite a lot of screams! But not his. I don’t think I can feel my other arm, quite difficult to move right now. But the wound has… stopped spreading…”

“W-what about the others?!” Owen asked, trying to keep his voice down and he didn’t know why.

“Wounded or dazed. Alexander… avoided most of us. We were too alert. Ah… but… alert everyone, please.

“He is flying toward Kilo Village.”


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 153 – The Curse of Power

“Okay,” Owen whispered shakily, “you can wake me up now, Darkrai. This is… just an extended nightmare, right? Please. I give. It’s too much…”

Nothing replied to him. The communicator was murmuring with the others frantically coordinating what was happening on the other side of reality. Palkia gathering his bearings. Xerneas rushing over to treat the rest.

Owen lowered the communicator and tried to ease his breathing. He wasn’t entirely sure what was happening on their side anymore, only that he was powerless to stop any of it.

“Alright, Owen,” Mhynt said. “Zena is too kind to you. Open the door or I’m cutting it down.”

“I—I’ll open it.”

Awkwardly, the Charizard started pushing aside the wood meant to keep anyone from entering, realizing how futile that was against so many of them. He had simply not been thinking. It was all a panic. And his first instinct was to push everyone else away. What did that say about him?

The door creaked open. On the other side, the Trio of Mind, Zena, Trina, and Mhynt were all there, which surprised him until he recalled tossing his horns away.

And they could tell he was without them, too.

“Owen,” Zena said. “What happened?”

Mhynt eyed the horns tossed on the ground. Owen quickly picked them up, snapping them into place.

“I’m sorry if I… scared you, or anything,” he added. “I’m okay. I’m… I’m okay. And I think Palkia and the others are okay, too, just—”

“We heard,” Mhynt said. “It’s okay. We can’t do anything about it right now, but… they’re smart. They’ll figure it out. From where they were to Kilo, how long is it? It could be hours—many kilos for them.” Her eyes narrowed. “But you were distressed even before that, Owen. Speak.”

Zena frowned at Mhynt and amended, “We’re just worried about you. Please—”

When she moved forward to hold him, Owen staggered back and shouted, “No, it’s—!”

She pulled her ribbons back, startled and hurt. That hurt Owen even more. But what was he supposed to say?

“Sorry,” Owen said, deflating, “it’s okay. I can talk.”

“What’s happening?” Zena whispered to him, not moving closer again. “Are you… hurt? You’re so afraid…”

“He fell into the ocean,” Mhynt said. “The rest of Team Alloy was also behaving strangely…”

“Perhaps I should return to them,” Trina hummed. “My hypnosis seemed to keep them from stirring…”

“Of course it would; that’s what Hypnosis does,” Mhynt murmured, earning a brief glare.

Owen found his way to the wall and slid down, staring at his tail flame, which was dimmer than usual. He couldn’t find the effort to disguise his mood. It wouldn’t have been honest to them.

“May we come in?” Zena asked, her voice delicate.

Owen nodded weakly. “But… don’t touch me,” he said, “for your own good…”

Mhynt’s eyes narrowed, and then she glanced at Trina. “Check on them again, actually,” she said.

Trina seemed confused but nodded and slithered out.

The door closed behind Zena, and it was just the three of them in a gently swaying cabin on a boat going deeper into the black oceans.

“Don’t touch you,” Mhynt echoed. “You don’t look Voided. Which isn’t a surprise; none of us are surprised by this. Now, please, Owen. Speak.”

No matter how many times Mhynt demanded it, Owen still felt that horrible feeling in his gut about giving the truth. Maybe, if the currents of the ship were a little friendlier, they would get there sooner. Maybe there wouldn’t be any time to talk. That would make this easier. And delay the inevitable.

So, with a defeated sigh, Owen squeezed his eyes shut. “I… think something killed them down there. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi, I mean. And… a-and the dark power down there awakened something in me, too. I c-can’t control it, I don’t think I can control it.”

Mhynt’s expression was stoic, but there was a hint of grave darkness in her eyes. Zena looked more confused than anything.

“What awakened?” Zena asked. “Why are you… Are you hearing any voices? Of the spirits in the ocean? We—we’ll free them, Owen. That’s the whole point of what we’re doing, right?”

“That isn’t it,” Owen said. “The sea, Zena. It killed them. No, not even killed, it—it Voided them. They aren’t immune like I am. Even Guardians like Gahi aren’t immune. And… I saved them. But when I did that… they’re mine now.”

Owen’s claws went to his head, digging into his scales.

“They’ll follow my every command, Zena. I don’t even have to try. I say it, and… and they listen… no questions… they just do it, Zena.”

Steady breath in, steady breath out. He could feel the horror in their bodies. That cold shock, that tension of trying to say the right thing. In Zena, he sensed… what might have been fear or hesitance. Did she think he would control her next if they reacted badly?

“I know how to work around this,” Mhynt replied.

Owen blinked, pausing, registering the words. “You what?”

“I’ve seen something similar with how Alexander commands Void Shadows,” Mhynt explained. “If you are worried about their free will… until we find a way to revive them—perhaps a trip to Xerneas, or even Diyem—I know how you can get their true desires out of them. It’s a small logic trick that can work around the new rule of obeying you.”

Zena seemed lost in the explanation. “That means they can still… be themselves?”

“I believe so, or close to it,” Mhynt said. “It’s not a clean fix. However, Owen… not being able to touch your allies is going to be a problem.”

“I think I agree,” said Owen. “After all, if I can’t be close to allies in battle, that’d be like having another enemy on the—”

“I meant psychologically,” Mhynt hummed. “You’re a very physical person. I suspect it’s some of your feral instincts, but you prefer to huddle against things at night. The isolation is not going to be good for your mental health.”

“That is true,” Zena added. “And I… do not know how I feel about not being able to so much as hold you, Owen. There must be a way to control it.”

“I think he’s overreacting,” Mhynt stated.


Mhynt held up her hand and Owen simmered down, though his flame sparked.

“You can’t control people with a touch so easily. Here’s my theory: you spoke to someone already weakened by the sea, and you were already damp. Therefore… you are likely safe now.”

“I don’t want to test that,” Owen said flatly. “I’m not testing any of my friends to see if I’m—”

“Would you like to live the rest of your life in fear of basic contact?” Mhynt pressed. “I’m confident you are safe here. And if you aren’t safe, Diyem can help, or Xerneas, or even Necrozma himself. If even they cannot override you, well… that puts you at a great advantage against Alexander. So. Test?”

Looking briefly helpless, he turned to Zena for her opinion. She seemed conflicted, but then gained resolve in her eyes. She held a ribbon forward.

“I trust you,” she said.

“It’s not me you have to trust,” Owen countered. “It’s… my power.”

“I trust you to use it right,” Zena replied. “Even in the past, you only wanted what was best. And you wouldn’t ever impose your will on others, would you? Not after what you did.”

Mhynt only crossed her arms, as if studying Owen.

“You’re afraid of it,” Zena went on. “That’s reason enough for me to think you won’t misuse it. And I don’t want you to be afraid. We’ll accidentally touch anyway, I know it. So let’s just get it over with.”

Owen sighed. That was probably also true if a careless scale brush would be enough. “I’m sorry,” he said in advance, reaching out. Zena showed a flash of fear before he touched her.

The tension remained. Anticipatory.

One second. Two. Five.

“…Does it feel like anything?” Zena asked when Owen let go.

“I don’t know,” Owen replied. “Coil up.”

“What? Why?”

Owen laughed a little; Mhynt smiled wryly, heading for the exit. Just as Owen pulled Zena in for a tighter hug, Mhynt said, “I’ll take care of Team Alloy. Owen, you relax.”

“Thank you,” Owen whispered as Zena wrapped around him.

“Am I under your control?” Zena asked.

“No,” he replied. “No, it’s… it was just a flare-up, maybe. It’s not so bad. We… we can work through this.”

He took more steady breaths, trying to sort through his thoughts. They could save Team Alloy later. And they probably had a workaround for now. That just left…

“Ngh—!” Owen struggled for his communicator, which Zena grabbed for him. “Palkia? Wait, no—Spice? Any news? Is Alexander coming?”

“Not the best time, buddy!” Spice replied over the noise in the background. Explosions and shouts.

“Oh no.” Owen looked at Zena, then back at the communicator. “Light! Shoot light at him!”

“We’ll let you know once that starts working!”

“Just listen for updates, Owen,” Zena said. “Don’t distract them.” Gently, she helped him set the communicator down. Reluctantly, Owen obeyed.

He just didn’t understand. How was he becoming so strong, yet feeling so much weaker?


Spice lost track of how many times she’d cursed.

But every time a new frantic blast of darkness came, a new protector had to block the strike, and ultimately be too tired for the remainder. That forced Spice to get out to the front and block it with her own, black barrier. And each time, that barrier wasn’t enough, and it instead blasted away some part of her body.

Her body was a suggestion. It was a startling revelation, but she’d lost her arm three times, and with a little focus, she had grown them back.

Because she was a Void Shadow. She’d forgotten for so long that those powers had gone dormant, but she had the power to shift and adjust her body as desired. The healing, the scarring, all of it was just to get back to a normal appearance.

She wondered if those blessed items not working, the scarring, all of it was just… her fooling herself. No. Surely her body was solid enough that she’d just been unable to heal it.

She still had that normalcy. She still had a body!

Spice cursed again when a blast struck the side of the crater. Another missed shot. Alexander was firing wide; there was no way she’d be fast enough to block all of them, and Nate was already hiding inside the crater to avoid getting hit too often. He was practically as big a target as the caldera itself.

“He’s coming in!” announced one of the Hearts.

“Fall back!”

“But what do we do?!”

“Defend from inside buildings if you have to!”

Those buildings would be pointless. Alexander was shattering Protect barriers with some of those attacks; the weaker barriers in the buildings wouldn’t hold up nearly as well.

“Get the Guardians!” called another.

“But they’re our backup!”

“And we need that now!”

Another blast drowned out the rest of their deliberations and Spice was left defending again. She’d gotten distracted; a blast was coming straight for her face. Hastily, she brought up a sloppy barrier, but then a blur of gray dove in, bringing up his own.

An ethereal clang followed, and then the shot went high into the clouds, splitting them apart.

“Jerry,” Spice wheezed.

“You good?”


Jerry stood by her side and got into a defensive stance. “You handle the left side. I’ll handle the right. I think our backup’s coming soon.”

With a firm nod, they went in opposite directions and prepared for Alexander’s next assault.


Storms, gales, rain of dark and flashing lights. Nate didn’t know what to make of the return of such terrors, only that he was hurting, and he had to save up his power for another great blast. But he didn’t know if the spirits within him had the power to offer. Not yet, so soon.

But maybe he had to try anyway to slow Alexander down. That shadowy Hydreigon… Nate could sense countless tortured spirits just beyond the surface of his scales, protecting him, insulating him, from the atmosphere. The spirits were being used like an artificial Void atmosphere around him, but the outer surface was evaporating away rapidly, called back to the Voidlands. Soon, the same would happen to Alexander.

But he was coming too fast. Nate had to stop him!

He called upon the spirits within him to help, and of course, they agreed. Energy funneled through his long body, swirling in his chest, and channeling their way to his five heads. Many of his eyes closed as each spirit, each eye, closed in turn, concentrating to donate their power to their host.

Nate opened the palm that made up his face and aimed his five finger-heads toward Alexander. The power of the lost Tree flowed through him, and it would only be poetic that it would be aimed at its destroyer.

But moments before Nate could fire, he realized, to his horror, that he could not. It was not because he lacked the energy, but because of the angle. If he fired at Alexander, and missed—and surely, he would, at least for an instant—then he would hit… Yotta Outskirts.

He simply could not do that. They were innocent, and to strike Alexander, especially if he dodged or survived it… their blood would be on Nate’s hands.

The closer Alexander got, the higher his angle became. It was deliberate. He knew Nate wouldn’t fire…

The leviathan squirmed nervously. What was he supposed to do?

Nate dispelled the charge. He wouldn’t destroy a village just to target Alexander. He had to use weaker, more precise attacks. He aimed upward, firing a shower of similar energy skyward, and then directed them down. In response, the Hydreigon weaved between many of them but shrugged off the few that hit. But each one wore away at his shield.

Nate winced, hearing and feeling their screams. Those poor souls were used as shields and then dragged back to the Voidlands to be used over and over by this dark god’s whims.

Alexander got past Nate’s barrage, and then past Nate himself, even after a desperate swipe and grab to pin him down. Nate was too large and Alexander was too fast, and now, even Nate’s shower of attacks would risk harming the civilians of Kilo Village.

He’d have to instead try to empower others. He shifted his energy again, many eyes opening and searching for fighters who were about to take on Alexander.

At least his barrier was almost gone. They just had to outlast him for a little while longer…

Most of the citizens were hiding, but he sensed many of them with heightened energy. They were going to attack if Alexander got too close, and that was probably a good thing. More slowing down.

He just hoped nobody would die because of this.

Angelo was hiding in his room. Nate could sense his aura shifting around as if trying out different techniques, unable to choose which one to open with.

The strongest auras were emerging from the Heart HQ, including Anam. His powers had been significantly reduced, but he was still the Heart of Hearts. Even without the power of darkness, he was formidable. By his side was ADAM, the strange Porygon Z, as well as Willow, the tiny Joltik. Both of them were so adorable, even if Willow was only a half-soul. She hadn’t wanted to go with the others just yet for Titan hunting—her shrinking powers didn’t work on things that large; she’d tried on Nate—so now, she was trying to shrink Alexander down.

And to Nate’s amazement, as Willow pushed her power over him, he did shrink. Within the pink cloud, Alexander’s body became a small, berry-sized thing unceremoniously. That was it! He was contained!

…Ah, no, he just blasted Willow three streets down and undid the effects.

Nate lobbed a dark spirit toward Willow, who quickly enveloped her and cushioned the impact on the ground. Then, he turned his attention to the remaining Guardians. Anam was trying to score a few hits, but he was too slow. Alexander was avoiding him entirely.

Get him away! Nate urged, holding his attacks. He was tempted, ever so tempted, to fire, but then he imagined all the citizens in the area. Buildings, people… He already felt bad about killing those who wandered too close to the Void across his crater. But the citizens here weren’t corrupted or about to enter a fate worse than death. In fact, their world was just about to turn things around!

“Fire!” Spice cried.

What? Fire? Why would he do that? Down below, the cute little Salazzle-wraith was waving and urging him.

“C’mon, we can treat injuries, but we can’t treat what that guy’ll do!”

She had a strong argument. But he was a big scary monster. If he hurt the citizens, would they exile him? It was why he’d fled at all in the first place…

But she was also a monster to them, and they accepted her even when she was a little rude. Could he be rude?

The Porygon-Z Guardian blared a distressed klaxon before firing a Hyper Beam down the road, melting part of the main street. Alexander endured almost the full hit, but his shield looked significantly depleted. Maybe he was starting to evaporate…

But now, the Guardian was exhausted. He wouldn’t be able to fire again.

Yes! It was time to fire!

Nate shot into the air, and as the energy beams curled downward by his will, it was like a fabled meteor shower had turned hostile.

But Alexander was fast, dodging and weaving. Sometimes he went too close to the fleeing Porygon-Z to fire. He might hurt him instead…

What was Alexander going to do to him, anyway?

That stray thought rattled around in Nate’s mind for a second too late. By the time he realized what it meant, Alexander lunged and finally connected.

He was going to enter his Orb.

Nate charged the most concentrated blast he could, hoping that the lives within the nearby buildings would survive—or forgive him if they did not. He used only one head, aiming not at Alexander, but the Porygon-Z. It had to be done. The air warped around the blast, the smallest vapors in the air sizzling. Alexander pulled the startled, flailing Porygon into the ground.

No! Nate tried to angle his shot toward the ground instead, but it missed. The boulders just beyond where Alexander had been exploded out, molten rock leaving the spot aglow.

Where did he go?

Nate couldn’t sense him anymore. Did he kill him?

No… it was too easy.

“Did you get him?!” Spice called up.

He didn’t, but he also didn’t know how to give a response.

He hesitated for a few seconds too long, because Spice sighed and said into a communicator, “He seems to be gone for now. Not sure what happened. We’ll get back to you after we regroup.”


Mhynt’s blade struck the wall just beside Demitri’s yead. The Haxorus screamed and covered his eyes a split-second after it hit, his reflexes too slow. Mispy snarled and was about to wrap the Treecko in thorns before she hopped back and across the room. The conjured Leaf Blade disappeared, reappearing in her hand.

“Good,” she said. “You still have a sense of self-preservation.”

“Duh?” Mispy said, still looking cautious and annoyed.

Demitri uncovered his eyes. “Wh-why are you saying that?”

“I just wanted to see how far gone you were. But it seems that you’re still mostly yourselves.”

“Hey,” Gahi said. “How’s Owen?”

“Strategizing with Palkia and the others,” Mhynt half-lied. “I wanted to talk to you about something you may not be aware of. Where are your other halves?”

“Helping the crew repair the boat,” Demitri said.

Mhynt nodded, crossing her arms. “Then we can talk in private and you may choose what to do with this information. You’re Void Shadows.”

A beat.

Then, Demitri tilted his head; Mispy’s scaly brow furrowed; Gahi scoffed.

“Yeah, right,” Gahi said, holding out his arms. “I’m green, sleek, scaly, an’ a real good looker.” He flexed, revealing vaguely defined muscles.

Demitri, curious, did the same and looked at his arm. When he flexed, the air around his arm pulsed outward.

Gahi scowled. “Cheater.”

“Did you just flex out a shockwave?” Mhynt narrowed her eyes. “How strong are you?”

“I—I don’t know… That just happens when I channel my strength. You know, aura stuff…”

“Aura stuff.” Mhynt waved it away. “I want you to think back to when Owen told you to go to this room. Did you feel compelled to follow that command?”

“I dunno about compelled,” Gahi said. “Jus’ seemed reasonable, so we did it. What, is listenin’ ter our leader a sign o’ bein’ a Void Shadow?”

“How can we tell?” Mispy asked.

“…Later, I’m going to call for Owen to come this way. And when he does, he will ask you to do a few things, and that will be enough, rationally, for you to realize this. But before we do, I would like to ask a few questions of you, for Owen’s sake.”

“Okay…” Gahi still looked skeptical. He crossed his arms and glared. “I ain’t in anyone’s control. I’m me.”

Mhynt nodded at the mutant super soldier and then looked at Demitri and Mispy. “Now, first question. If Owen told you to die, would you?”

“Um. No?” Demitri poked his claws together. “That doesn’t sound like him at all…”

“Hah!” Gahi pointed at Mhynt. “We disobeyed Owen! We ain’t Void Shadows!”

“Hypoth… thetical,” Mispy chided, gesturing with a vine for Mhynt to continue.

Mhynt nodded. “And if he told you to do anything, would you listen?”

“I mean… he’s our leader,” Demitri said. “And aside from Mispy, he’s usually the best person to go for tactics…”

Mispy shrugged. “Not the smartest… but… tactics.”

“Exactly,” Demitri explained. “I mean, I guess now that he’s got all his memories back, he might have an edge there, too, but—er, I mean—sorry, Mispy.”

The Meganium seemed competitive and indignant. Demitri rubbed her side and she seemed to settle down.

“Hmm. Overall, this is good,” Mhynt said. “Perhaps it’s a credit to Owen’s unconscious desires that you’ve kept your individualities.”

“How can you prove it?” Gahi asked again. “C’mon, just get Owen in here already!”

Mhynt sighed. “Will you have some patience?”

“Feels like we can’t do anythin’ else ‘til that happens! C’mon!”

“Okay. Fine.” Mhynt was getting a headache from the Flygon, and not because of his psionics. “Wait here. Surely you have the patience for that.”

Gahi scoffed and pressed his back against the wall, crossing his arms in a pout. But she saw a few uncomfortable twitches in his claws. It was bothering him.

Perhaps this proof would at least help them come to terms with it, and then they can figure out ways around it.


Mhynt returned only a few minutes later with Owen behind him. The Charizard was a nervous wreck, mumbling about how he could face his team again, and Mhynt offered halfhearted assurances to him while he and Zena walked down the ship to the other room.

Once they were back, Mhynt stood aside and watched how things played out. She didn’t intend to step in unless Owen looked stuck, but as far as she was concerned, this was something for him to figure out. Spotting Zena already looking for ways to step in, she whispered her over.

“Yes?” Zena asked.

“Let him handle this.”

“He seems overwhelmed, Mhynt…”

“Has he done well under pressure before?” Mhynt asked.

“Sometimes,” Zena said.

“How about now that his memories are returned?” Mhynt offered. “He’s quite different now, isn’t he?”

“In a lot of ways, he’s also the same,” Zena said. “Is that necessary?”

But before Zena could object further Owen stepped up to his team.

“Hey,” Owen greeted.

“Hi?” Demitri said. “We’re Void Shadows, apparently.”

“Y… yeah.”

“We don’t feel like it,” Demitri said. “Mhynt said you’d have some proof.”

Owen nodded. “For… for this proof, will you be mad? If it turns out… you are Void Shadows?”

“No,” Demitri said, “that’s—”

“Yeah, I’ll be mad!” Gahi waved his fist at Mhynt. “I ain’t someone ter control!”

Mispy rubbed her forehead with a vine. “Circumstances,” she said.

“She means, she’d be mad at the circumstances,” Demitri explained. “Let’s just do the test. I don’t think any of us will be mad, Owen. A-at you,” he hastily amended when Gahi glared.

The ship rocked gently. Mhynt wondered how much faster they were going now that Owen had, perhaps consciously or subconsciously, encouraged the currents to speed their trip up. Zena picked at a splinter in the wood, trying to repair it with a gentle stream of water and ice. Mhynt quietly informed her this was a bad idea.

“Okay,” Owen said. “Demitri.”

Demitri’s head snapped to attention. Owen glanced at Mispy and Gahi for their reactions; they did look a little unnerved.

“Punch your left arm with your right.”

Demitri raised his right arm, curled his claws in, and slammed it into his left arm. There was a horrible, sickening cracking and squelching sound as the arm bent impossibly in two places. Owen looked ill.

Mispy and Gahi both blinked, staring at the injury, then at Owen.

“What was that fer?” Gahi asked.

“This sort of hurts,” Demitri mumbled.

“You… you aren’t freaking out,” Owen said. “Mispy, heal him!”

Mispy obeyed, almost mechanically wrapping her vines around the injury and pumping healing energy into him. Bones snapped back into place, flesh wrapping and stitching together, wrapped finally in scales. The blood remained on the ship and the wall—now cracked—behind him.

“You know,” Mhynt said, “you should have asked someone without absurd strength to do that.”

“It was the first thing that came to mind,” Owen said. “I didn’t want to get… elaborate on my friends hurting themselves!”

Mhynt sighed, punching her snout. “Please, continue.”

“Well—look, that was weird, right? Guys? Do you agree that was weird that Demitri just listened to that without a care?”

“It was,” Mispy said. “But… you commanded it.”

“Okay—no, no, see, don’t do that. Don’t listen to my commands just because I say them, okay? Because you’re Void Shadows now, and… and I’m the one who controls you. Void Shadows just… do that, and usually it’s Diyem, or Alexander, b-but now it’s me, too. So… I don’t want that. Especially not you. Okay?”

“I don’t want that, either,” Gahi muttered. “But… it ain’t like I can freak out about it.”

There it is. “Good,” Mhynt said. “You’re self-aware of your condition. That’s what we’re looking for. Owen?”

“Right. N-now that… that you’re aware… I want you to answer my questions, as a hypothetical. Okay? A hypothetical where, if I didn’t command you to do something, what would you do in response, okay?”

The three exchanged looks, as if a little confused, but Mispy got it the fastest.

“Okay,” Mispy said.

“Demitri, Gahi, follow her lead. Mispy, if I wasn’t controlling you… what would you want to do right now?”

“Sleep,” Mispy said.

Owen paused. “Oh. Right, it’s… been a while since we had our last sleep.”

“Has it?” Gahi asked. “I ain’t tired.”

“I’m a little tired,” Demitri added. “Maybe it’s because it’s darker below deck.”

“Okay, so Mispy, if you want to sleep, you can sleep after this is over. Is that okay?”

Mispy nodded.

“…If you weren’t under my control, would you say that’s okay?”

Mispy nodded again, after a pause.

“That’s good. She thought about it,” Mhynt said. She offered a smile, “They aren’t all gone, Owen. But until we get a way to free them from your spell, that’s how you need to ask questions, okay?”

“Impract… actical,” Mispy said. “Battle.”

“Oh, Mispy means… like, if in the middle of battle, you had to do that whole thing,” Demitri said, “we won’t be that effective.”

“I… I know, but…”

“I’ll agree,” Mispy said.

“I trust you,” Demitri said. “…Even if I wasn’t under your command, I say I’d trust you!”

Gahi crossed his arms, giving Owen a little glare. Of the three, Gahi seemed to resist this control the most, and for that, he appreciated it. He huffed. “Only fer as long as y’gotta. My will’s mine.”

“I know, Gahi. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“Nah. I know y’didn’t. I’m just sayin’, my will’s mine.”

“It is. And I’ll… respect it. Always. But in battle, if I give a command, I can’t… do it with all the caveats if you’re in danger. Do you trust me to make the right decisions?”

“No,” Gahi growled. “…But if y’gotta, I’ll listen. I ain’t gonna hold it against y’ ‘til this is over.”

Owen’s wings lowered, and Mhynt felt that little tightness in her chest loosen up. “Well,” she said, “it seems you have some loyal allies even without the Voiding. Congratulations.” Mhynt nodded at Zena. “Now, we should get ready. With how fast the ship is going, we’ll probably arrive at the Abyssal Sea far ahead of schedule, perhaps by the time you wake up. You should get an early rest just in case.”

“Right, okay. Um… does everyone want to rest in the same room again?” Owen glanced at Team Alloy but was deliberately avoiding Zena’s gaze.

“Is it safe?” Zena asked Mhynt. “Owen tends to get battle-excited in his sleep. His tail can go from ethereal to burning. Can the same happen with these Voiding powers?”

“As far as I can tell,” Mhynt said, “it wasn’t Owen who did the Voiding, but a splash from the sea augmenting it. As long as Owen stays dry, he is safe.”

“Good.” Zena slithered up to Owen and curled around him. He leaned into it as if he’d been touch-starved. Perhaps he was.

There was that small pang of longing in her chest. Something that she dutifully tried to shove away, mentally, while on this trip. She only closed her eyes and sighed. “Very good,” she said. “I’ll get Trina and the Trio and let them know you’re alright.”

“Thanks for all the help, Mhynt,” Owen added, looking relieved. “I’m… er… sorry if…”

“Don’t,” Mhynt replied tiredly, stepping out.

She’d said she would be strong, but it was admittedly getting harder than she’d anticipated, seeing them together. She really needed to sort through her feelings when this was over.

But on the next awakening, they would finally be on the island. From there… Necrozma awaited.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, this took a bit longer than I initially anticipated to get this together since this chapter is on the chunkier side, but I figured I might as well get things rolling since I do have a couple deadlines to meet, so let's jump right in with:

Chapter 11

Kricketot chirped in the bushes. No moon filled the sky, but tiny white pinpricks, painted on the sky, took its place. Amia, with Alex beside her, led the way home with Owen and Zena. There was a little spring in the Gardevoir’s step. Owen’s tail and his Magmortar father’s shoulders lit the way.

“Uh oh,” Owen suddenly said, stopping.

“What is it, dear?” Amia asked.

“How is Zena gonna get inside if she’s alone?”

For a second, I was going to ask if they literally painted the ceiling of Hot Spot Cave, but I guess it's just a night with a new moon right now.

Zena blinked. “What do you mean? Does it not open to certain individuals?”

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Owen said. “You need to do the password to get in. But you can’t do it, because you don’t have any limbs.”

inb4 she somehow manages to do the M3-esque dance to get in anyways... somehow.

The Kricketot filled the void-like silence that followed.

“What?” Zena said.

Amia giggled. “Oh, Owen, that password is just for non-Guardians. If you’re Mystic, it’s easy to just will the boulder to the side, you know! I just put that switch there because once we had you, well, it wasn’t going to just be me heading in and out of that spot…”

Owen: "... Why are you just telling me about this now?!" >///<
Amia: "In my defense, you've been Mystic for all of a day so far."

“W-wait… so only I was…?” Owen trailed off.

“What is this password?” Zena asked.

“Uhh—” Owen blushed. “It’s not important.”

Zena: "No, really, what is this-?"
Owen: "Completely irrelevant since I'm Mystic myself now! Eh heh heh... let's just go in now, please."

“We’ll have to teach it to Gahi and the others anyway, dear,” Amia said. “But you won’t need it if you’re Mystic, Zena. So, Owen, that means you won’t have to do the dance anymore! Isn’t that nice?”

inb4 Owen gets stuck with teaching Gahi and the others the dance so he still has to keep doing it more anyways.

“A dance,” Zena repeated, staring at Owen. She was clearly envisioning Owen cutting some form of a jig, based on the smile she valiantly suppressed.

Owen wondered if drowning was the better outcome after all.

I can already tell that Owen's going to be flushing beet red through his facial scales a lot in this story. >:V

“Ah, here we are!” Amia flicked her hand at the boulder. It rolled away effortlessly.

Owen looked crushed.

Owen: "Mom, I swear to gods, if you've been hiding other secrets that could've spared me untold embarrassment..." >///<
Alex: "(Remind me, dear, you did tell him that the sand next to the lava pools are made of crushed bones, right?)" ^^;

On their way in, Owen’s fatigue returned to the forefront of his mind. “I can’t wait to get some sleep.”

“I just might sleep, too,” Amia said. “It’s not really something that we need to do, but—”

“Wait,” Owen said exhaustedly, exasperatedly, “you don’t have to sleep?”

Owen: "Wait, huh? Are you sure? Since I feel exhausted right now." ._.;

“When you become strong enough as a Mystic,” Amia said delicately, “a lot of the things that mortals need to perform become optional. Eating, sleeping…”

Amia: "Dying, as I'm sure you've learned from experience..." ^^;
Owen: "Why on earth am I just finding all of these things out now?!" >.<

“But I like both of those things.” Owen frowned. “What’s the point of living if you can’t get a good meal?”

Alex: "It gives you extra time to go and do stuff like read Angelo's comics? Those are always good for a hoot."

Amia: "I mean, you could always do them anyways, just saying. (Preferably not the 'dying' part, since boy would that get creepy fast.)" ^^

“Well, nothing’s stopping you!” Amia laughed. “A meal every now and then is wonderful! Besides, Owen, you just became a Guardian. You still need to eat.”

Huh, so the story actually explicitly acknowledges that. Neat.

Owen shifted uncomfortably. “I slept quite a lot,” Zena admitted. “It gets… boring, down there.”

Zena: "In retrospect, I probably should've brought some reading material or something before shutting myself up in isolation for untold centuries. But oh well, hindsight is 20/20 and all that." -_-;

“I can imagine,” Owen said. But on second thought, he couldn’t.

I'm actually morbidly curious as to how on earth Zena stayed sane down there given how solitary isolation over sufficiently long periods IRL is well-documented to have detrimental effects to mental health for humans. .-.

He eyed the glowing mushrooms. “Mom? Are these mushrooms glowing because of your power?”

“They are, dear,” Amia said. “I thought it made the cave look very pretty.”

Owen nodded. “Do you like them?”

“Yeah!” Owen said. “So—can you keep that, maybe?”

Owen: "... Wait, but isn't that something that I should be able to do as the Grass Guardian? I thought you were the Fire-?" ^^;
Amia: "They're very fiery mushrooms that respond to my powers?"

Amia beamed. “I’d love to. What about you, Zena?”

“They’re much better than my dreary cave.”

They walked through the empty town. The pit in Owen’s stomach returned. He remembered the Arcanine that always greeted him. The kids playing in the main path. All his neighbors. Now it was empty and silent. Their steps echoed across the corridors.

Owen: "... So is everyone else just gone for good now, or...?"
Amia: "Meh, didn't feel like dealing with dozens of spirits while showing company around. Especially since I doubt it'll just be Zena and your new friends from Team Alloy who will be coming in soon enough."

“I think this home in particular, Zena, would do nicely for you,” Amia said. It was right next to their own cavern, though it seemed a lot cooler inside. Within this alcove was a large pit filled with rocks. Amia stepped toward the entryway and held her hand out.

Owen yelped when Amia’s head and dress burst into blue flames. More fire spewed from her arm, colliding with the rocks. The heat was enough to make Zena slither back a few paces. The loose rocks melted and compressed into liquid, creating an even deeper pit. Then, the flames stopped, and Amia’s body extinguished.

Zena: "... I'm sorry, but how is this place supposed to be suitable for me again?" .-.

Owen’s jaw may as well have been on the floor.

Alex approached the lava, jumped in, and shoved his cannons into the molten rock. It looked like he was siphoning the stuff into his body. Then, he lifted his arms—which looked much heavier—and ejected that same molten rock to the far side of the home. Amia did the same thing, using psychic energy to haul more of the molten rock away to the corner of the room.

Alex: "It's a work in progress? Just give us a couple minutes here." ^^;

Amia finished by holding her other hand out, releasing a concentrated beam of ice into the pool. Plumes of steam filled the air and faded, leaving a pit of smooth obsidian behind.

Zena: "Wait, you can do that?! But you're the Fire-!" O_O;
Amia: "Gardevoir can learn Icy Wind by TM. Good enough."

“There!” Amia clapped her hands together. “Just one Hydro Pump, Zena, and you’ll have a lake to rest in!”

... Wait, just how much water does Hydro Pump disgorge in this setting? .-.

Zena slithered tentatively closer. She gently prodded at the cooled obsidian, and then at the depths of the pit. It would fit her comfortably, and then some. She nodded. “It’s wonderful, Amia,” she said. “Thank you.”

Owen: "Wait, that obsidian isn't warm still? Like at all? But how does that-?" .-.
Amia: "Practice? I have been around for quite a while to get good at my moves, Owen." ^^

“We should go to bed, Owen,” Alex said. “You still need to sleep.”

“Oh, yeah, right,” Owen nodded.

Owen: "Wait, am I still getting my same old bed with the Rawst Leaves, or...?" ^^;

Amia and Alex left, but Owen didn’t follow just yet. He turned his attention back to Zena; she was filling the pool with multiple, gentle Hydro Pumps, made from pure, crystal-clear water. It only took three to finish the job, cold water filling it to the very rim. She looked back. “Owen?”

Owen: "Whuh? Huh? Sorry, I just thought you looked pretty gir- I mean, pretty good. Your place that mom made looks pretty good."

Zena: "Uh... huh." ¬_¬

Owen glanced at the missing scales along her body; it occurred to him that Zena would be resting alone for the night. He could never sleep if it wasn’t at home in his bed. Would Zena be the same way, or was she used to it? “Will you be okay?”

“Will I be… okay?”


Zena: "Owen, I've literally slept on my own for hundreds of years. One more night won't hurt."

Owen: "Look, it's just- I... was a bit worried since you got thrown around a bit earlier, alright?"

Zena tilted her head. “How do you mean?”

Owen played with his claws. “You said you were alone for centuries…”

Zena’s expression was oddly neutral. “That’s true.”

Owen: "... I mean, wasn't that lonely at all? Since I've heard stories of Pokémon that went insane being cooped up all on their own for way less time than that." .-.
- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Not that I'm implying you're insane! That's not at all what I was trying to-!"

There was another long silence. He didn’t want to impose anything upon her, but part of the pit in his gut was certainly the thought of Zena being alone again. He’d never get to sleep with thoughts like that plaguing his mind. He glanced at Zena again; her expression was regal, but it felt like a mask. She had been so expressive before; now it was gone and emotionless.

Wow, Owen's falling for his sea noodle even faster than Flame did in Rebirth. I think this must be some sort of world record or something. o<o

He didn’t believe it for a second. So, he spoke. “Do you want—”

“Yes. Please.”

“O-okay.” Owen scampered into his home. “Mom!” he called. “I—oh, thanks.”

Amia handed him a bowl of Tamato soup.

“Keep Zena company, dear, at least for tonight.”

Owen: "Can't tell whether my heart should be aflutter or if I should be keeling over from embarrassment right now." ^///^

“Would you like me to carry over your bed?” Alex asked, peering out from the kitchen corridor.

“Oh, sure, yeah.”

Owen: "Dad, I'm a Charmeleon now. Are you sure that this isn't going to be difficult and awkward for-?" -_-;
Alex: "Nonsense, Owen. You might be a bit bigger now, but you're still my little boy." ^^

Owen returned to Zena’s home and found a spot in the corner to drink his soup. Zena had slipped into the water during his absence, but he could still vaguely sense her presence as part of the water. Steam filled the air and clouded his vision; the soup’s red base was scalding, just how he liked it. The Charmeleon drank in greedy gulps. Alex returned with his bed, setting it down next to him. Owen crawled on top, finished his bowl in one last gulp, and handed it to Alex.

Thanks,” he said, and then eyed before eying the lake.

IMO, enough happens in the paragraph before Owen's line of dialogue here that it might make sense to hack this one bit in two and play around with the verb tense a little bit to facilitate the dialogue and speech tag bit being standalone.

“So, I’m gonna rest here for tonight,” Owen said. “Hope that’s okay.”

The lake didn’t reply. Owen didn’t mind. He curled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around, resting his chin atop them. He then wrapped his tail forward, noticing how the flame lit up the whole room.

“Does my tail bother you?” he asked. “I—I can probably cover it, if you like.”

... Wait, is it possible to air-starve a Char's tail fire in this setting? If so, does that feel painful much like dousing it in water? Or is that its own distinct sensation?

Owen took her silence as indifference. Another glow illuminated the entryway; Alex entered, a book precariously held in the claws within his cannons. “I found this on your bed,” he said. “Looks like you have it bookmarked. Latest edition of,”—he squinted at the cover’s title—“Ho-Oh’s Absurd Escapade, I think?”

Ah yes, the first of Angelo's works in this story, though somehow I didn't realize that in spite of his species, he made text works and not visual ones. Even if I suppose that it helps add a layer of difference from the material being shouted-out.

Also, Monado: Beginning of the World among Angelo's bootleg stories when?

“Oh, right!” Owen’s flame brightened. He looked the cover over—a comic book—and figured if he couldn’t sleep, he could read through a few pages. “Thanks, Dad.”

Oh, I take that back. Guess Angelo's fare are comics after all in this setting.

With a nod and a few hesitant glances back, Alex finally left Owen alone with Zena. His tail was even brighter, now, and he was certain that it would be distracting the Milotic who probably just wanted a good night’s sleep.

They're going to act out your TR signature art in live-time in about 30 seconds, aren't they?

Owen then remembered that Mystics didn’t need to sleep. Was Zena just doing it out of habit? Either way, he knew his endless light would be bothersome.

“Sorry if it’s too bright. I guess I’ll cover it.” Owen looked for a patch of Rawst leaves to hide his tail under. “It wouldn’t be too hard to—”

“It’s okay.”

Owen: "Huh? It... is?"

Owen jolted, not expecting a voice. Zena had her head out of the water, staring at him. Most of the rest of her body remained liquefied.

“O-oh,” he said.

“Leave your tail out,” she said. “Sleep as you want. I’m not bothered by it at all.”

Zena: "Honestly, after sleeping in a dark cave for the better part of a few centuries... it's nice to have a bit of a change." ^^

Owen nodded wordlessly. Zena sank back into the water, blending into it.

The soup’s warmth spread to the rest of his body, and his eyes grew heavy. He wasn’t going to last much longer. He curled up in bed, closed his eyes, and drifted away. Unfamiliar as it was, his bed made the new cave feel like home.

Zena slept soundly for the first time in decades.

A reminder that if your story is sticking to third person limited framing that the last bit probably needs to change in framing a bit since this scene has been written from Owen's perspective, while this is a detail he logically wouldn't know while dozing off. e.x. a passing mention that he found this out the next morning after waking up or something.

Granted, if you're doing omniscient at times, go ahead and disregard that.

“It’s a dance?” Gahi growled, angrily clicking his jaws.

The morning sun accompanied the arrival of Rhys and the rest of Team Alloy, just beyond Hot Spot Cave’s entrance.

Lemme just get the right reaction for this upcoming moment:


“I’m not that good at dancing,” Demitri said, glancing at Mispy, who rolled her eyes.

“Maybe we can simplify it for you!” Amia said. “A phrase, or I can just manually check your auras instead of automating it.”

I can already hear Owen moaning about how it's not fair that he had to do a stupid butt-shaking dance all his life until yesterday and the rules are suddenly getting changed the moment they have company.

Rhys nodded. “Well, in any case, we have about half of our essential supplies with us,” he said, motioning behind him. Demitri was singlehandedly hauling the bulk of it in a gigantic bag that had a color suspiciously similar to Rhys’ fur coat. Owen stared in disgust.

Owen: "... If I see that thing in my room, I'm burning it."

“We have a home just for you!” Amia said. “I set it up overnight while Owen and Zena were sleeping.”

Zena straightened her stance to appear taller. “I—I wasn’t sleeping. I was merely meditating, as I always do.”

Narrator: "She was sleeping. The text literally said so."

Owen was positive he’d heard the lake snore. Or perhaps that was a dream.

Zena: "No, you were just dreaming, Owen. There was no snoring of any sort." >_>;

“Once we haul the rest of our supplies,” Rhys said, “we will return home to get the last of it. Afterward, we will continue with our usual regimen of training, missions, and so on, until Star is ready.”

Zena huffed at the mention of the Creator. Rhys glanced at the Milotic next; they briefly locked gazes, but Zena’s was a cold stare. Rhys looked to the floor next. “Do you need something, Hunter?” she growled. “Now that I think about it, I likely won’t be sleeping for the rest of my nights here.”

Owen: "... Look, Zena, it's been centuries since Rhys was an active Hunter. Are you really going to keep holding a grudge against him like-" ._.;

"He knows what he did, Owen. And I have no reason to believe he won't relapse."

Rhys’ tail lowered, but he had no words.

“N-now, now, we just have to wait,” Amia said. “Owen! While your friends go on their usual missions, why don’t you stay back and train with Zena and I under Rhys? Perhaps we can help you get a better hold of your Mystic powers.”

Zena: "Hey! I never agreed to do anything with that Hunter-" :mad:
Amia: "It's for the good of Owen and the world at large for making him more competent as a Mystic?" ^^;

“Oh, that could work,” Owen said. Though he longed for a normal day, he supposed such a privilege would need defer to his new duties, forced as they were. “What kind of training?”

“Train under him?” Zena asked. “The Lucario can go on missions with the rest of Team Alloy.”

Yeah, I figured that Zena would be an "oh hell no" to the idea of training under Rhys based off her earlier dialogue.

“P-perhaps that is for the best,” Rhys said quickly. “I should supervise them for now, anyway, now that the mutants are at another resurgence. It could be dangerous.”

Zena didn’t smile nor smirk, but there was a bit of relief in her relaxed coils. “When we train, Owen, the first thing you should learn,” she said, “is how to control your ability to harness your Orb. So, becoming Grass.”

Owen: "... Wait, but how are you going to teach me this when you're the Water Guardi-"

Zena: "The process of controlling Mystic power is relatively constant regardless of type? Probably?" ^^;

Owen recalled when he’d been nothing but a torso and vines. “Th-that sounds like a good plan. How do I do that?”

“Practice,” Amia said. “It shouldn’t be more than a few days for something that simple, so the timing works well!”

I can already tell that I'll be needing to break out the popcorn gifs a number of times during the inevitable training montage. >:V

Owen wondered if it was possible to die of boredom as a Guardian. That sounded much more lethal than drowning.

Zena: "Well, actually..."
Owen: "Look, I don't need to know the answer to that question, okay?"

“Heh, good luck, Grassmander,” Gahi said with a mocking churr.

Owen growled, ending it with a defiant chirp. “Don’t forget that Grass trumps Ground.”

Gahi: "Not once I evolve, it doesn't-"
Mispy: "Gahi, enough, seriously. And trust me, even after you evolve I'll be able to trump you just fine." >:|

“Aah, you’ll do fine,” Gahi said, wobbling into the cave. His voice echoed when they entered Rhys’ new abode. “Huh. Place looks almost like home.”

Owen: "It's actually a room-for-room duplicate. I already checked." ^^;
- Blink moment -
Gahi: "... Weird that your parents would just have this lying around for us in advance, but eh. I can't really complain here."

Owen sighed, looking at his paws. He couldn’t get that feeling of his whole body melting into vines out of his mind. The Charmeleon suppressed a shudder, sparing a glance at his tail to make sure it was still alight. He then looked at Zena, following her glare.

She and Rhys were looking at one another from across the cave. The Lucario was the first to break his gaze, shrinking into his home with his tail between his legs.

Owen: "(Yeesh, Rhys. What on earth did you do as a Hunter if you're that ashamed over it?)" ._.

Flames and steam filled Hot Spot’s central road. Jets of water blasted the ground, narrowly avoided by a grassy Charmeleon in the center of the soaked, rocky field. He panted and rolled, frantically looking up; Zena stared, waiting for him to get on his feet. Scalding puddles of water surrounded Owen in small pools from previous attacks. He wanted to stay down, if only to take a few extra seconds to breathe, but he knew that the last time he did that, she just blasted him anyway.

“Don’t stall, dear!” Amia sang, white-hot embers floating around her head. Just behind her, Alex stood with a meek smile, waving at Owen, as if that would somehow encourage him.

Owen: "Oh my gods, when you all said that I'd be training as a Guardian, this was not what I had in mind."

“C-can’t I take a second to rest?” Owen said.

“Just a bit more, dear. You said you wanted to push yourself, right?” Amia flicked her hand.

Owen: "W-Wait, when on earth did I-?!" O_O;
Amia: "Offscreen, dear. Things like that happen in stories like these sometimes."

Owen screeched and closed his eyes, focusing on his leafy feathers. They hardened, turning red, but it was too slow. He jumped out of the way again, but the ember redirected itself toward him. He screamed again, panic redoubling, and spat an ember of his own; that was just enough to cancel the attack in a swirl of orange and white fire.

- Zena winces from the side -
Zena: "Er... Amia? Do you think that we might be overdoing it a tad-?"
Amia: "Nonsense, this is but child's play for a Guardian. Owen's perfectly fine."

Owen’s throat burned—he was still a bit on the grassy side. He coughed smoke, taking in ragged breaths, and fell to his knees. “W-wait—wait.”

“Should we stop?” Zena asked.

“Hmm…” Amia tapped her chin. “Just one more volley.”

Boy, can I call 'em for characters or what? :V

He finally got a break; he wasn’t going to bargain for more.

F-fine, just one more,” Owen said, rubbing his eyes. “When are you gonna—AAAA!”

He ducked, narrowly dodging another beam of water. Owen’s horn carved the bottom of the beam; he felt the torrent tug his whole head backward, but he reacted just barely fast enough to duck further down.

Even as Owen’s scales transitioned to leaves, he couldn’t help but think that the most horrifying part about all this was he knew they were holding back.

Owen: "I... think that I'm ready to train with Rhys for a while, honestly."

Also, IMO the paragraph with Owen's line of dialogue works better as two smaller ones.

Zena leaned her head down, redirecting her blast to hit Owen again. He rolled in response, the blast grazing his leafy arms—but compared to when he had been fiery, it didn’t hurt nearly as much.

The air felt hot, the power imbued within Pokémon techniques cutting through his body’s natural immunity to mundane flames. The Charmeleon dared to glance at Amia, but he couldn’t see her—instead, he only saw orange fire taking up half his vision. He screamed and crossed his arms, finally giving in. There was no way he’d be able to transition back to Fire that quickly. A shield of golden light appeared in front of Owen once he crossed his arms; the flames curved around the shield, splitting and evaporating behind the green Charmeleon.

Wait, was that Protect there? Or are those Mystic powers in action that just saved Owen from becoming a Grassmeleon fritter?

Owen’s Protect dissipated. His arms hung limply beside him.

Ugh…” Owen finally collapsed onto his rear. “D-done. I’m done.”

Whelp, Protect it is. Though this is another paragraph that IMO works better as two.

And this time, Amia and Zena complied.

He sighed, unable to suppress the relieved smile on his face. “Thanks.”

“We didn’t push you too hard, did we?” Zena asked. “I personally thought we went a bit too far near the end, there…”

Owen: "Whuh? Oh, no no, you did pretty girl- I mean, you did pretty good, pretty good. I... just need to get used to this, that's all."

Zena: "(And to make it a bit less obvious when you've got a crush, as well.)" ¬_¬

“No, I—I think you stopped at the right time. Mom knows.” He gave a little smile at the Gardevoir, and then at the Magmortar that stood behind her. Alex held out a cannon for Owen to grab, pulling him to his feet.

I fizzle out sometimes, but I still have some energy left in me. I just have to push a little more than I think I can. That’s part of Mystic training, right? I—I’m way better than I was last session!”

IMO, this should be at least two paragraphs. But 'last session'? Just how far ahead in time are we relative to the last scene?

“That’s definitely true,” Amia agreed, holding her hands together. “It’s only been a few days and you’re already switching so fast!”

Huh, that's definitely more of a jump ahead timewise than I was expecting. Guessing there will be fewer popcorn gifs to throw around than anticipated.

“Not fast enough to just do it on the fly, though,” Owen mumbled. “…I want to train again, and you have to promise to push a little harder, okay?”

“N-now?” Zena asked; even Amia flinched.

Amia: "Owen, I would just like to remind that you yourself were fairly worn out by the end of-"

Owen: "Look, I'm not going to get any tougher just sitting around and waiting. I can handle it, I know I can!" >_>;

Alex tittered, patting Owen’s back. “N-now, why don’t we take a break, first? F-for a bit longer? You may be Mystic, but you still don’t have the same stamina as before. P-perhaps some meditating instead?”

“Aw, but I already meditated this morning.” Owen puffed out a small ember in protest, crossing his arms over his chest. His stomach felt like it was tying knots, but he ignored it.

Which is a sign that this can only end well™️ by ignoring it.

“Well, it’s also almost lunchtime, isn’t it?” Amia said. “Owen, did you eat breakfast?”

“B-breakfast?” Owen repeated. “…O-oh, right. I think I forgot…”

Wew, somebody's been getting into his training if he's been letting bodily needs slip from his mind like this.

The knot loosened, but with it came a fierce growl, deeper than anything Owen could produce with his throat. “E-eheh…”

Amia raised her head to the sound of a boulder moving. “Oh! Looks like Team Alloy’s back, dear.”

Owen perked up, spinning around. “Just in time for lunch!”

- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Wait, is Rhys with them still, since if he is... uh... Zena has been getting used to his presence, right?" ^^;

Amia and Alex both laughed. “We’ll get it ready, dear.”

Rhys, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all entered, though curiously, Nevren was also behind them.
Oh, hey, Nevren,” Owen greeted with a formal bow. “How come you’re here?”

My sus-meter just pinged, since I do not trust Nevren based off what we've seen of him in this story thus far.

“Ahh, I just wanted to inspect the landscape. I’m curious what Rhys’ new home looks like, and I was also promised a heavenly meal.”

Sticker, sceptilisk,

Really, Nevren. That's what you're going with?

“From Rhys or Mom?” Owen poked a claw behind him. “She’s already making something, so you might want to hurry.”

Rhys bristled. “But I asked her to hold off on dinner. I had just the dish in mind.”

inb4 it's something that makes Owen wince just hearing it.

“…Dinner?” Owen leaned to the right; orange light bled through the entryway before the boulder closed it off. Demitri yawned, which made Mispy yawn next. Gahi clicked his jaws and clenched them shut. “How long have I been…”

“Had a really long mission,” Demitri said, picking tiredly at his tusks. “A mutant—some kind of Electivire… thing, they weren’t sure what other features it had—had been on a rampage through a town a little north of the Wooden Wilds. Like… half of the buildings were either collapsed or cracked.”

Oh, well that's a good omen for how the townsfolk fared from that whole rampage that went down.

“Quite impressive, really.” Nevren raised one of his spoons. “I’m certain those buildings were reinforced with Protect insulation. It had hit hard enough to dissipate it, and then continue through. Very impressive, if we want to at least give credit where it’s due.”

Owen: "I'm... just going to not ask what happened to the townsfolk there, since I can already tell that I really don't wanna know."

Team Alloy—Owen included—glared at Nevren. Zena, too, huffed. “What are these mutants? Owen mentioned them to me before, but all I know is that they’re strange Pokémon that seem to just appear.”

“Well, effectively, that is what they are,” Nevren said. “They’re so few and far between that they aren’t necessarily a concern… until a particularly troublesome one appears. And that has been happening more often lately.”

inb4 they're something like Pokémon leaking out from the Spirit World, since it'd explain a thing or two about why all the mutants we've seen thus far seem to be Pokémon with a shift in type-affinity like the Swolax.

Rhys hummed, shaking his head. “If you must know, they have to do with the Hunters. I’m certain of that. We couldn’t find the mutant itself, only its path of destruction. It will take a while for that town to recover… but we did what we could in the immediate sense. Anam and James are arranging for long-term assistance as we speak. We may station a few Hearts there for morale and security in case another mutant happens to appear there. A second attack would wipe them from the map without our help.”

inb4 they station the Hearts there and the town just gets wiped off the map anyways. Since the fact that Nevren is bringing up how precarious that town's situation is feels like a terrible omen for its long-term existence.

Owen shuddered, nodding. “I ran into a Snorlax mutant a while ago. Ugh…” He turned around. “I’m gonna help make dinner.”

I... kinda wonder if this would've had more impact if Owen elaborated on the Swolax encounter and how he can relate to how dangerous they are. Since something about the line that's there feels a bit disconnected from Nevren's point, even if I get that meta-wise this is supposed to be a transition.

“Hey, I’m coming, too,” Demitri said. “I want to see what we’re having! It should almost be ready, right?”

“Not if I have anything to say about it. If they aren’t finished, I will get my dish ready.” Rhys took advantage of his longer strides to cross Hot Spot and enter Amia’s home. “Amia! Amia, don’t forget that it’s dinnertime, and you promised me . . .”

Whelp, guess we're not finding out what Rhys cooked for dinner, even if I'm a little surprised that he doesn't just blurt out what he made tonight.

No longer able to hear Rhys, and with Nevren walking ahead, too, Owen looked back at the rest of Team Alloy. “How’d the mission go? Did Rhys help out a lot?”

“It was a bunch of rebuilding and gathering supplies,” Demitri said.

“Boring.” Mispy’s leaf drooped.

Owen: "... Were the villagers not grateful for the help or something? Since I'm surprised you're not saying anything at all about that." .-.

“Yep, boring,” Gahi clicked. “Barely got a good fight in. Was glad we ran into some territorial ferals on the way, otherwise we’d be all stir-crazy.”

Peanut's got his priorities in order, I see. o<o

“Yeah.” Owen glanced back at the clouds of steam that coated the ceiling, condensing into droplets to rain back to the floor. “I got my fill of fights during my training, at least.”

“Lucky you.” Gahi wobbled past them; the other three had to walk quickly to keep up. “Bah, at least you can actually relate ter us. Nobody gets it, that need ter fight, y’know?”

“Y-yeah, but I think I get weird looks when I try to talk about that.”

I mean, considering your seeming talent for bumbling into accidental innuendoes, I wonder why you're getting those weird looks, Owen. >:V

At the dinner table, Zena struggled to find a place where she would properly fit. In an effort to include her in daily life again—at least, as close to normal daily life as they could manage—they had invited her over for dinner every day. Her size made things a bit awkward, though she eventually figured out to coil near the corner and lean her head toward the table.

... Wait, was it ever mentioned that the gang went to the table? If not, it might have made sense to do a scene cut to basically jump ahead from Team Alloy chatting with each other to "now we are seated for noms".

But Owen noticed that there was a scowl on her face. He had a good idea why, based on where her eyes were glaring.

Amia had graciously allowed him to add his dish to the spread—it seemed to be some sort of spicy rice, speckled with Cheri bits and seasoned with a dark brown sauce. But his fur stood on end; he felt it, too. Perhaps it was her aura, but Zena was making her glare plainly obvious.

Owen: "Zena, I thought you were getting over your thing with Rhys!"

Zena: "Well, I'm not ranting about how he's a waste of space and flesh right now at your dinner table as I rightfully ought to, so I suppose that I am, now aren't I?" >:|

Owen decided not to speak and instead sat next to the Milotic. He flashed a forced smile, and Zena reciprocated with the same.

“How long ‘til it’s done?” Gahi shouted, banging his chin on the table. “That mission took ferever and I’m starved!”

“Very soon, Gahi; be polite.” Rhys tossed the pan’s contents up, slicing Cheri Berries with tiny blades of aura in midair. After a few tosses, he poured the last of the brown sauce in, which Owen realized was the main source of the savory smell.

Owen: "... I don't even want to know what on earth that is, do I?" ^^;

“Rhys is pretty good at cooking, huh?” Owen asked Zena, hoping that she’d at least have some shred of recognition for his talents.

“Mm.” Zena’s scowl softened, but she also looked away from him.

Owen: "... This dinner is going to be really, really awkward, I can already tell." ._.

After what felt like forever, Rhys finally turned around with the spicy rice, as well as Amia’s simpler, but hearty, potato-Tamato stew. Owen wasn’t sure which one to go for first; he just took half of both for himself. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi took after him while Amia placed bowls of water near the middle, warning them that it was a bit spicy.

I take it that Amia doesn't eat a lot of spicy food, since milk is actually a lot more effective at dealing with capsaicin than water is.

“You guys really like yer spice,” Gahi said.

“It’s okay,” Mispy said.

“Feh, you’d eat anything.”

“Say that again.” Owen didn’t have to look to know that Gahi had inched away from the Chikorita.

I mean, considering some snippets of later HoC I've seen floating around on the net... Gahi isn't wrong there. ^^;

Zena didn’t take a bowl for herself, but she stayed for the company. Though, compared to the previous dinners, she was a lot quieter than usual. And the only real difference was that Rhys was eating with them—and Nevren, but Owen knew that it was mostly the ex-Hunter Lucario that she was focused on.

Wait, was Rhys also present for those other dinners? Since if she's quieter than them, that... has some implications for what those other dinners were like.

It was either because nobody else spoke, or because he, too, caught the tension, but even Gahi was quiet during dinner. In an attempt to stuff the thickness of the air away, Owen finished his meal first; almost immediately after he set his bowl down for the final time, Zena moved to speak.

Thank you for the dinner, Amia. It was lovely.”

“Oh, you’re welcome, dear.”

“I will be going.”

Small recommendation to break up this first paragraph here. Though I can already tell this is going to take a turn for the awkward in 3... 2...

Without any further goodbye, she slithered out.

“I—I’ll go, too,” Owen said automatically, stepping away.

Rhys stood up next, which made everyone except Nevren stare in alarm. “Er—Rhys, dear?” Amia asked. “Is something the matter?”

Rhys: "... Amia, are you seriously asking this question when one of your guests was very deliberately ignoring me and trying to make me feel unwelcome during dinner?"

Amia: "... It was worth asking anyways?"

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Nevren said leisurely, taking another spoonful of stew. “Amia, you must tell me how you cook these potatoes. The texture is marvelous.”

“Oh—I’ll tell you about the recipe, dear, but—”

She'd have to kill him afterwards? ^^;

“Would you excuse me?” Nevren stood up with more agency than usual. Rhys had already gone out, following Zena. Owen, watching it all, sped up his pace to make sure nothing particularly insane happened—not that enough had already befallen him the past few days.

“Hey, uh, Zena?” Owen said, stepping inside Zena’s abode nervously. “Er… sorry if I’m bothering you or anything, but…”

You aren’t bothering me at all, Owen.” Zena slipped into the lake and kept her upper body above the water’s surface. While her eyes had a fire that defied her affinities, Owen could only assume she was telling the truth, particularly when her glare was aimed behind him.

Owen: "U-Um... you are trying to get over your thing with Rhys, right?"


Owen: "... R-Right?"

“Ah… yes. Hello, Zena.” Rhys gave a formal bow. “I didn’t mean to intrude, but—”

“Then why are you here?”

Both Owen and Rhys winced. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi caught up to them, Nevren right behind.

Owen: "(I'm... just going to take that as a 'hell no' there.)" ._.;

“I… I wanted to apologize, again, for my actions in chasing you down. It wasn’t right of me, and I regret it—all of it. I want to make things right, and I want all of the Guardians to stop living in isolation and fear because of what the Hunters—myself included—had done.”

While Zena didn’t look convinced, she still replied enough to humor him.

And how do you intend to do that? By approaching the Guardians again, but in peace? Just like that Torkoal tried? I doubt they would believe you.”

That was that same Torkoal that's Rhys' lover, wasn't it?

“That is why I came here,” Rhys said, paws squeezed into little, anxious balls. “I need your help.”

“Rhys, what exactly are you doing?” Nevren said.

“Something I should have done when I first met her,” Rhys said, taking slow, deliberate, and careful steps into Zena’s home.

Owen: "Um, Rhys? Maybe you should ask the 'mon who hates your guts if this is alright before-" o_o;

“Don’t come any closer, Hunter,” Zena hissed. “We may be working toward the same goal, but I refuse to—”

Rhys held out a paw and lowered his head.

Owen: "(Rhys, seriously? What are you doing?!)"

The Mystic flash that came from Zena’s mouth suggested she was about to blast him until his head went down. The light disappeared, replaced by words.

What are you doing?”

Oh hey, I knew I was onto something, even if I didn't get who'd do the wondering right.

“I, Lucario Rhys, Promise to abandon my role as a Hunter. Do you accept?” His paw glowed in a soft, golden light.

While Owen sensed no reaction from the rest of Team Alloy, the way Nevren ended up blinking several times, and how Zena flinched, made the Charmeleon let out a quick, confused chirp.

Doesn’t he already promise that, implicitly?”

Owen: "Rhys, I thought you stopped being a Hunter forever ago-" .-.
Rhys: "I'm making it formal as a gesture of good will?" ^^;

But Zena didn’t answer him; she was completely focused on Rhys.

A Divine Promise, you mean?”

“Yes. I won’t kill another Guardian. My work as a Hunter is done, officially, and by Divine Promise.”

Owen: "... I'm sorry, what's a 'Divine Promise' again and why are you two treating it like it's some sort of blood pact-?" .-.
Rhys: "Owen, please. You're ruining the moment right now." >_>;

“…This is a trick,” Zena said hastily. “You couldn’t simply—abandon your—”

Rhys repeated, more firmly this time, “Zena, I hereby Promise to abandon my role as a Hunter. Do you accept?”

Owen: "... Rhys, just out of morbid curiosity, but what exactly happens if you break a Divine Promise again?" ^^;
Rhys: "I'll explain later, but it's irrelevant, since I won't break this one."

She stared at his paw for a while longer, the significance completely lost to Owen. He could only infer that this was a lot more than Rhys’ word alone…

“Do you accept?”

More silence. While he didn’t know her for long, Owen had never seen Zena’s eyes so wide. Shakily, she held out one of her ribbons, grasping Rhys’ paw.

I… I—I accept.”

... Wait, is the room going to blow up or something in like 5 seconds? Since that sure seemed really tense and heavy for a promise between two Pokémon there.

Nevren looked like he was about to faint. Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy all looked at Owen for an answer, but the Charmeleon only replied with a shrug and wide eyes.

The golden light between Zena’s ribbon and Rhys’ paw flashed, then faded. Rhys stood up, his expression firm, and bowed at her again. Zena, meanwhile, was stunned into complete silence, ribbon still hovering where Rhys’ paw had been. She finally closed her mouth and looked down.

Th-thank you, Rhys. But I’m very tired.”

Owen: "... Rhys? What on earth was that-?" o_o;
Rhys: "Again, I'll explain later, Owen." -_-;

“I understand.”

She doesn’t look tired at all, Owen noted, frowning. Why were serpents so hard to read? “Um, Zena, will you be okay on your own?”

I actually find that hilarious that Owen would have trouble reading a serpentine creature given that snakes and lizards are relatively close to one another on the taxonomic tree.

And to this, Zena gave him a warm smile that Owen hoped was genuine.

I’ll be fine tonight, but thank you. I… need to think.”

Owen: "... Which I suppose given that I'm actively hoping it was genuine, it probably isn't." ._.;

“Do you feel safe, dear?” Amia asked, holding a hand to the fin on her chest.

Alex bumped his cannons together. “If you would like company, we could always stand by your home.”

Owen: "I'll come too!" ^^
Zena: "Um, Owen, as much as I appreciate the thought, but if Rhys doesn't keep his word, I think you're going to be more than a little outmatched-" ._.;

“I believe I will be okay. There will always be others awake, yes?”

“Oh, certainly. Owen, you still need your rest, but we will be awake to keep an eye on things.”

Zena looked at her ribbon. “…I won’t deny that I feel at least slightly safer. But… thank you anyway.”

She turned around. [ ]

I’m going to meditate and converse with my spirits. We’re all a bit… Well. I’ll be seeing you tomorrow morning. Hopefully Star will finally return with news.”

Would recommend splitting and expanding the "she turned around" part of the last paragraph. Though wait, is the "I believe I will be okay" meant to be from Zena, or from Owen? Since I assumed it was from Zena, but Amia's line there is also addressing Owen when he didn't speak up for three lines prior to this one.

The mushrooms were dim compared to the fire in the center of the room. Owen was always fond of the light; if anything, he was glad that the bright flames didn’t bother his parents’ sleeping patterns. Since they lacked one. He wanted to sleep right on top of it, but Amia said it would make him smell of smoke all the next day. Instead, he went for his boring Rawst bed and lazily rolled until his arm dipped into a small alcove in the wall. Out came a book titled The Power and Peril of Seeds and Scarves, with Owen hoping that a bit of nonfiction could take his mind off of things. As interesting as it was, every page made his eyes just a bit heavier, the existential worries of his relatively newfound power and problems washing away.

I suppose that I should be less surprised that a technically-oriented book would help put Owen to sleep. But hey, that's not exactly a rare trait.

Alex knocked his cannons against Owen’s room, the sound echoing hollowly. “Owen?”

“Hey.” Owen placed the book, open-faced, on his chest. “Something wrong?”

I didn't realize that Amia and Alex were right there. While I get that they mentioned that they'd help keep watch over Zena's place, I wonder if there was a more explicit way of saying that they're literally in the room with Owen in the intro paragraph or something.

The Magmortar smiled. “I was about to ask you that.” He sat down near his bed—due to his size, he towered over Owen without any effort. “The past few days must have been really hectic.”

“Yeah, a little,” Owen said, shrugging. “But I’m starting to get used to it.”

Owen: "... Which I should probably be more concerned about given how much of the past few days have been outright traumatic, but it is what it is."

“I can tell.”


Alex chuckled quietly. “Well, this is the first time that you’re still awake after all your training.”

That intensive, huh? Though I guess it makes sense with what we saw of how Owen's latest session went down given that he was visibly winded at the end and that was after improvement from the past days.

Owen blushed, hiding beneath his book, focused on an image depicting a Reviver Seed’s healing light.

Did I really just pass out that fast?”

“It certainly seemed that way.” Alex pressed his cannons together. “Owen, er… is there anything that you’d like to talk about? Anything that might be bothering you, or…?”

Oh, so that little light visual effect from the games literally happens in this setting. Noted, then.

Owen’s expression slowly transitioned from flustered to subdued, though he remained hidden behind the pages. He had been focused so much on training that he never had the time to really reflect on why he was doing it in the first place, or what had happened on that disastrous day. He felt his scales crawl, like they were about to become leaves, and shuddered.

Owen: "I'm... never going to get used to this, am I?"

He felt Alex staring at him. Something had to be said to that, and it felt almost like a disservice to just tell him that everything was okay. Owen sighed, relenting.

I guess there’s one thing that sort of bothered me, but… I just…”

“Yes, Owen? Please, anything. I want to be as open as I can with you, now that, well… this is happening.”

Owen closed his eyes, focused on the dark. It was rare that he’d want to see nothing—especially since his flame kept his species perpetually in the light.

How come you guys wouldn’t show up when I became a Heart?”

Well, this is going to get nice and awkward in short order, I can already tell.


Owen waited. All in all, it was one thing that certainly bothered him, out of everything. Becoming a Heart was monumental… and yet they weren’t even in the crowd.

“Well, we… it was dangerous. What if the Hunters tried to attack us while we were out in the open? We could possibly fight them off on our own, but if there are innocents nearby…”

Owen: "Dad, Anam is a Mystic himself and he was literally right there."

Alex: "... He's Anam so it doesn't count?"

Owen figured that would be the answer. It was only fair. But after those countless attempts, year after year, of trying to join the Hearts—he had no idea how many times he had been rejected—the day he was accepted, they couldn’t just take one risk?

“Why were you able to show up at Anam’s place?”

Owen: "Since, you know, this whole 'Guardians can't gather together for safety from Hunters' thing just seemed to conveniently go out the window the moment that I became one."

“Anam came to get us,” Alex said. “Out of all of us, he’s the one strong enough to be in public… and he’s the only other Guardian we know.”

Kek, I knew I was onto something with that joke about "Anam doesn't count", though yeah. Anam being significantly up there on the power scale tracks and is kinda foreshadowed by the cover art, so...

Though Owen’s claws were still squeezing the book cover, he knew that was a reasonable enough answer. But something still felt wrong.

“Owen, what’s this really about? I think… you already knew those answers.”

Owen: "I mean, we could get into why it suspiciously feels like you're lying to me still, but..." >_>;

Owen snorted a bit of fire; his heart skipped a beat, reflexively trying to put out the flames on the page, but then he remembered he had bought special Rawst editions. The pages remained unaffected. He sighed, finally lowering the book.

Why didn’t you tell me?”

Alex flinched. “T-tell you?”

“About… you. That the whole village is dead. And that Mom’s…”

Can't tell if we're about to get a proper explanation now that Owen's properly Mystic or else if we're going to get more deflection and lying since there had to be a reason why Amia and Alex tried to keep this all hidden from Owen all this time.

“We just wanted you to live a normal life, Owen. That’s really all.”


That's not how this story works, buddy.

“But—that was just a huge lie!”

Owen dared to peek out from behind the book. He regretted it immediately; Alex’s eyes were right on him, accompanied by an apologetic frown. He couldn’t bear to look at it for much longer, yet without thinking placed the book to the side of his nest. The Charmeleon rolled on the leaves, staring at the fire in the center of the room. For some reason, the flames seemed a lot colder tonight.

Wait, is the cold flames supposed to be a sign of regret by spirits / channeling them wavering or something? Or is that just Owen being plagued with feelings of regret right now?

“I’m sorry, Owen.” Alex placed his arm on the Charmeleon’s back, giving it a gentle press between his shoulders. Owen’s body loosened, muscles relaxing. “We just didn’t want you to panic. If you could have just had… the smallest sense of normalcy… where you wouldn’t have to feel afraid, or wouldn’t get scared by anything you saw, or what you knew… I—I didn’t want you to worry.”

I legitimately can't tell if this is earnest or more BSing, but if nothing else, it seems that Amia and Alex at least wanted Owen to not get sucked into life as a shonen protagonist in his most recent memory loop. If not an outright reincarnation cycle given that we've seen that rezzing is on the table in some circumstances in this setting, so…

“Right.” Owen should have expected an answer like that, too. He already knew that the rest of the village spirits—now within Amia so she could spend more power training him—were surely proud. And perhaps, when his training was His eyes softened, finally gathering enough nerve to look at Alex directly. “What’s Mom doing, anyway?”

“Standing guard outside, as always.”


Alex: "Owen, it's been a long day for you. Do you seriously think that I'd lie to your face now of all times?" -_-;

As always. Owen wasn’t sure what his face looked like, but it was apparently insulted enough that Alex looked at the fire next.

“I’m sorry.”

Owen couldn’t stay mad at that face. With a sigh of defeat, he just smiled at his father, “It’s okay. I… I get it. You guys just wanted me to be happy, and… I was.”

Somehow, Alex’s relieved smile spread to Owen’s, too… or perhaps that was because he could barely stay awake. The fatigue was starting to set in again. At least he had some time to chat.

How have… I been doing?” Owen asked. “With my training… Mystic… strong.”

Alex: "... Not terrible, at least?" ^^;
Owen: "Dad, if I wasn't doing good, you can just tell me, you know." >_>;

“You’ve been doing well, Owen. I’m so proud of you for how well you’re taking all this. So is your mother.”

“Mhmm…” Owen’s eyelids fluttered. The flames were a blurry, dancing blotch in front of his eyes, ever-present and cozy. “Guardians… Star, gonna…

Ah yes, her again. Only good things can come from Star coming into the mix here, truly.

“Soon, hopefully,” Alex replied. “Maybe if we can get them together, we can take on the Hunters. If they. . .”

Owen wasn’t sure what Alex said after that. He curled around a clump of leaves, the tip of his tail touching his snout, and faded. He had many nights to rest, but it was the first time that he hadn’t just passed out immediately. Yet, despite this, it was the most restful sleep he’d had since becoming the Grass Guardian.

In his sleep, Owen heard his mother’s voice.

Good night, little ember.

That last line's adorable. Though it makes me wonder if stuff like 'ember' or 'cinder' are common terms of endearment among Fire-types in general in this world (or set of them based off some passing lines of dialogue from Anam and the gang).

Though thanks to Serebii's character limits at the time of posting, the portion of this review covering the final scene was moved into its own post.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Chapter 11 - cont.

“Well… I know for sure that Rim already stole one of the Orbs,” Star said, sitting on Anam’s dark wooden desk. In the morning light, James felt it was appropriate to gather everybody together once Star brought news to Amia that she had gathered all the intelligence she needed. It had been another few days, but the rest was well worth it—at least from Owen’s perspective. While he was never allowed to go on missions with Team Alloy, his meditation and training with Zena and Amia, while excruciating, was also… fun? Perhaps that’s how it felt, finally able to truly exert himself and fight in ways that most civilians felt uncomfortable with.

Ah yes, a Star scene. Time to see how fast things go from 0 to
given that I can already tell that the skeletons are going to be flying out of the closet in live-time.

“She has the Psychic Orb, actually. Appropriate, given she always likes being an Espurr, but…” She shook her head. “That one wasn’t very well-guarded. Some village had it as an artifact, hidden in plain sight, so all she had to do was sneak in and steal it. Didn’t have any power. Folks who tried touching it never woke up again, so, guess they just saw it as too dangerous.”

Likes being an Espurr? Implying that Rim isn't really one? What is she, a Ditto? A Zoroark? Or do Mystic Orbs grant the ability to species-shift akin to the property of Transfer Orbs?

“How about all the other Orbs?” Owen asked.

“As far as I know, they’re all with a Guardian, but most I wouldn’t recommend going to just now,” Star said. “Still, we’re in a good spot. Four Orbs with us, one Orb to them.”

Again, I am not convinced at all that gathering all the guardians in one place isn't just going to result in someone, potentially Star at this rate, just knifing everyone in the back to take all the power for themselves.

“How come you can’t just tell them to come over?” Owen asked.

“For one,” Star held up a nebulous claw, “a lot of them are kinda leery about me since, you know, I told them to stay put and all that, and suddenly changing my tune is gonna throw them off. And two, even if I did tell them that, uh, news flash, Hunters might get them on their way over. We need to go to them as a group in case we run into trouble.”


Star, just saying, you're giving me some really strong Airy vibes right about now, and I know how that turned out since I played Bravely Default back in the day.

Zena, while still flashing glares at Star whenever she could, kept herself professional enough to contribute. “I suppose she has a point. If that’s the case, let’s begin with Orbs you believe are the easiest to access. That means the Hunters would have the easiest time getting them, too.”

“Okay. I’ll put down those dots first,” Star said. “Then you guys can grab the first one. Uhh…”

She looked up at the huge map on the front wall of Anam’s office. The others followed her gaze. It depicted a great, roughly-circle-shaped country that comprised almost all of the world’s dry land. Everything else was just ocean. Owen saw the marking of his home to the north of Kilo Mountain in the center of the map.

- Beat moment -
Owen: "Wait, our entire world is literally one country and a surrounding sea?" .-.
Star: "Well, our setting may or may not have been duct taped together from some odds and ends by Arceus. Kinda a common theory among the readerbase, and hey, it's not that rare a premise among PMD fics, is it?"

“This one’s pretty good. She’s a little weird, but she won’t hurt you, maybe. Willow, the Fairy Guardian. She’s right here, in a hidden garden inside that forest….” She pointed at a pale green patch of land within a northwestern woodland called Fae, Fae Forest.

Demitri shuddered slightly. “Fairy, huh…”

Oh, so we're going to see Demitri have a moment like:


one of these days, huh? :V

“Oh, calm down,” Star hushed him. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

“I—I do!” Demitri said. “I just… won’t try to fight her.”

Narrator: "He absolutely does not want to go."

“How about all the other locations?” Owen asked. “We should try to rescue them all at once!”

“No-go on that,” Star dismissed. “Spread ourselves too thin, the Hunters will beat us down.”

Star: "Seriously, Owen, there's at least a dozen others out there. Words do not begin to describe how bad of an idea sending one or two Pokémon at a time to each would be."

Owen: "... But don't we risk the Hunters just picking off other Orbs and Guardians that are just completely undefended at the moment?" .-.

“Hrm.” James fluffed up his feathers. “At the same time, we risk giving the Hunters even more time than necessary if we all go to them one by one. Perhaps we should follow official Heart protocol—teams of four or fewer. On a practical level, it’s the most optimal size for a mission of this scale.”

And conveniently, it keeps things from being a massive mess for the author and keeps narrow and focused party sizes. :V

Which will probably go out the window in due time given that IIRC this whole orb hunt thing goes off the rails within the span of an Act, but hey. It's nice to have plans.

Owen nodded. “I feel like you’d need someone dedicated to just managing things if you have too many Hearts fighting on one team.”

Nevren chuckled. “A Heart manager. It sounds as if you want a tactician.”

Rhys glared at Nevren. The Alakazam ignored it.

I mean, considering how we've already learned that Nevren casually manages Kilo Village's minds, that comment about being a 'Heart manager'... probably is going feel dramatically less funny in retrospect in like 20 chapters or so.

“What an interesting concept, Owen,” Nevren went on. “Well, I’m not much of a fighter, so perhaps I can play that role,” he said. “Would you care if I gave you all communication devices? I’ve actually been working on this for quite some time, and it may actually be useful in this case, hm.”

“Y-you can do that? How?”

Wait, badges? Or something more advanced than that?

“It’s similar technology to how my Waypoints have been working, but instead of transferring solid material such as Pokémon and their possessions, it transfers energy, such as, in this case, the vibrations of the air made by speaking. Quite useful, yes?”

Nevren pulled from his bag—as if he’d been waiting a while to announce this—what appeared to be three silver Badges.

I only have two at the moment… ah, no, three.”

Yup, I called it. Though wait, how on earth have the Thousand Hearts been coordinating all this time if badges in this world are prototype technology?

“They look… kinda like our Badge,” Owen said.

“Yes, I wanted there to be a resemblance. However, the color is quite different, so I imagine there will not be much confusion.”

Well, never mind then. Though I doubt that the only thing separating these from normal badges is a color scheme, so that's got me wondering...

It was indeed a lot like the Badge, but the design in the center was not a heart, but a diamond. However, it was the silver sheen, compared to the typical gold, was the most immediate difference.

Mispy prodded one of the communicators with a vine. “Mnn… nice.”

Are there others that are spades and clubs as well? :V

“How do you use it?” Owen asked.

“You press the center rhombus and speak into it. So long as the other badge is not pressed, it will reflect what it ‘hears’… to put it simply.”

Gahi pressed the little rhombus with his tiny foot. “Can yeh hear me?”

Can yeh hear me? the other two said at the very same time.

Owen: "Huh... convenient. Though what happens if multiple wearers press the diamond thingy at the same time?"

“Whoa!” Owen said. “That’s… really cool!”

The Trapinch clicked. “That’s how I sound?”

“Sounded normal to me,” Demitri said.

“Mhm.” Mispy nodded.

Ah yes, Gahi discovering that "wait, do I really sound like that?" dynamic that happens since a person's voice as heard with their own ears travels differently than sound coming from an external source. Though it makes me wonder if some species of Pokémon are uniquely prone to "wait, I sound like that?" relative to others.

Gahi grumbled something and pushed the communicator to the others with a flick of his head. “I don’t like it.”


Demitri: "I'm sure you'll get used to it soon enough, Gahi." ^^;

“Aww, you sound fine, Gahi. We’re used to it,” Demitri teased. “Hey, how about we compete for second place on evolving on this mission, huh?”

Almost instantly, their cheerful expressions shifted to challenging glares, and the challenge was on.

- Blinks -
I didn't think that we'd seriously be broaching the topic of evolution for party members this early in the plot, but considering how fast Owen got his first evo and with the implication a couple chapters back that Team Alloy used to be fully evolved, well...

“Hey!” Owen perked up. “How about for this mission, all four of us team u—”

“No!” Rhys and Star said.

Owen jumped.

Owen: "H-Huh? Is... there something wrong with that idea?" ._.;

Rhys shook his head. “That is not a good idea. We need at least one elite with you. Don’t forget, you’re all only at the Entry level. The Hunters… No. I shall accompany them.”

I mean, I suppose that logically makes sense given that Rhys has been apprenticing Team Alloy to begin with. Even if I'm kinda expecting Zena to cut in and throw a fit in short order.

“And your father and I will go with you instead, Owen,” Amia said, smiling.

Owen deflated. He really wanted to fight as a quartet…

Zena: "Ahem."
Owen: "Oh! Wait... are you actually here right now? Or is that a cutaway gag thing-?" ^^;

“So that will be a team with Rhys and his students,” James said, “and a team of Owen, Amia, and I presume Alex. That leaves you, Zena… perhaps to come with myself and Anam. Do you have a spirit to accompany you?”

Zena glanced at Owen, but then sighed and addressed James. “None that I can solidify usefully.”

Owen: "Wait, but Nevren, if she's here, couldn't she come with-?" ^^;

“I can’t go,” Star said. “I’m too strong to solidify completely, and I want Anam to focus that energy on keeping James out. I’ll just cheer for you guys... okay?”

Nevren nodded. “I wish you all luck,” he said. “I will remain behind to manage the Hearts while you are away, yes?”

Owen: "H-Huh?! B-But-!" :<
Star: "Sorry, Owen, but such is life when canon buts up against these gags. It was a cute thought, though."

“Oh! Yeah, thank you, Nevren!” Anam said. “Um… I think that’s everyone! Yeah! So, we’ll have three teams! Star? Where should we go?”

“Hmm, okay. Like I said, Fairy Guardian is one. Rock and Normal are also ones that I’m kinda worried about the Hunters reaching sooner, so let’s do them, too.” Star pointed to the map. “Great Crevice for the statue.”

On the map, a great, rocky gash trailed across an eighth of the land’s diameter, like a great titan had cut across the southeastern part of the map. Then, Star pointed to a spot in a western forest near Kilo Mountain.

And not too far from here, there’s an abandoned temple deep in the woods. Nothing’s really there anymore, but… Anam, you’re familiar with that place, right? You should go there, since you know the way.”

A great titan did cut across the southeastern part of the map, huh? Though Star's paragraph is long enough that it could probably work best cut into three smaller ones, as demonstrated above.

“Why is the Normal Guardian at a temple?” Owen asked.

“He kinda likes modern architecture.”

“What’s a modern?” Gahi asked.

“Uhhh—it means ancient. Sorry, I kinda get my terms mixed up. Generational lingo, y’know? Kinda hard for a god to keep up when you’re cooped up in the spirit world.”

Ah yes, the first hint that HoC's world is descended from a mainline one, which I would suppose would explain the Word of God note of how In Beta ties into this story in spite of it being radically different in premise and setting on its face.

Owen was busy chatting with Zena to notice what else Star was saying. He already had his assignment. “I guess it’s good that I’m not a Dragon Type after all, huh?”

“Oh, you aren’t?” Zena asked. “You know, I always thought the Charmander line was part Dragon.”

Owen: "Haha, not all dragons are Dragon-type Pokémon!" ^^
Gahi: "Feh, that sounds more like a cope if you ask me-"

Owen: "Oi, that's literally canon now! And you're one to talk! You don't even get Dragon-typing until you evolve!" >_>;

“Believe me, I wish that was true,” Owen grumbled. “Dragons are awesome. We even look like one, if you compare us! But I guess someone”—Owen glared at Star—“thought we were better off with things like Pidgey. N-no offense to Pidgey or anything.”

I can already tell that someone's going to have quite the party if and when he ever gets a moment as a Megazard-X.

Zena nodded. “Well, I think you’re just fine, regardless of your Type. Fire… or Grass.”

Owen tittered. “Yeah, I guess Grass isn’t so bad after all.” He lied aloud, if only to keep Mispy from dismembering him in his sleep.

Mispy: "Very smart of you, Owen." >:|
Owen: "Y-Yeah, I know. A-Anyhow, let's just move right along from that, shall we?"

Zena giggled—something that surprised Owen at first, how bright her eyes looked for just a flash—and then she composed herself. “Well, in any case, good luck, Owen, with the Fairy Guardian. I hope we can spend some time reading a book together when we return?”

Wait, scratch that, that's going to be the siggy art moment from TR. I can already tell.

Owen tilted his head. That was an odd set of muscle movements. He wasn’t sure if Zena was tense for the mission, or what. Perhaps she was just nervous, and Milotic expressed that differently. Defaulting to a cheerful smile, Owen said, “Hey, sure. That sounds great! And good luck with the Normal Guardian!”

With the teams prepared and Badges charged, they all dispatched for their respective Waypoints.

Owen: "Whelp, look out world, since we've got Guardians to find! And nobody's gonna stop us!" ^^
Alex: "... (Think we should encourage him to pace himself, Amia? He is still early on in his training.)"
Amia: "(Nah, it'll be fine, I'm sure.)"

Alright, made it to the end, and there's quite a bit to pick over thought-wise, so I'll do my best at trying to keep things coherent in a recap:

This chapter felt a bit more transitional than most that I've seen thus far, but between the sheer amount of cuh-ray-zee that's been going down over the 10-ish chapters before this and the fact that the first SE of the story immediately follows, perhaps that was deliberate. Since even if it was a lower boil than normal, it did feel like we got plenty of direction, since we've left behind the old paradigm for real and Owen and the gang have been given a new goal for now to get pointed off at, which is definitely a nice hook to encourage readers to come back.

As for criticisms of the chapter, I don't have too many of them. The low-hanging fruit is that there seemed to be a few paragraphs here and there that were very long and "dense" that would likely benefit from being broken up into smaller ones. On a more structural side, but part of me wonders if this actually would've benefitted better as being two chapters with each half modestly expanded, since the bit with Owen's training as a Guardian admittedly felt a bit compressed since we essentially fast forward from zero to a few days in, which doesn't quite give the same dynamic as seeing Owen faceplant and get back up and improve "on-screen" and then showing Amia and Alex react to that. But that might just be me, and I fully understand the argument for letting the cards fall where they may on old writing.

But altogether, I think that this chapter turned out pretty good @Namohysip . It felt like a decent arc sendoff leading into SE1 and what I presume will be the next arc of Act I afterwards. Thanks for your patience for these prize reviews, and I'll be looking forward to diving into the last of them sometime in the near future. ^^


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks for the review, Fobbie! Really appreciate it. I got you elsewhere, but it's been fun watching you get through these early chapters.

Now, for a very later chapter...

Chapter 154 – Void Isle

The ship groaned and creaked as it reached the isle and the crew let down the anchors. Owen quietly told the currents to slow down as they made landfall.

It had indeed only been another sleep before they’d arrived, and there was still no update from the team in Kilo Village, only that ADAM had gone missing. That wasn’t good. Hopefully, they would find him after finding Alexander, as morbid as it was. There was nothing Owen could do about it now, as much as his hands shook at the thought of what it could mean.

“So this is the Voidlands’ Zero Isle. Uh, Void Isle, I guess,” Owen said, looking ahead to see a small island of sparse, thin trees with dark purple leaves and even darker trunks. In the center of the island, only a handful of kilos of flight away, there was a great spire of rock as black as obsidian.

Lumbering through the forest and around this rock were Titans. Owen counted at least ten, and some of them vaguely resembled familiar Legends. Several of them he recognized from their dim, glowing, six eyes in peculiar patterns. Though, he never met any of the Regis in person before. They were meant to be guardians.

“We aren’t seriously gonna fight all of those, are we?” Demitri asked, whimpering.

Despite how pathetic he sounded, he was hauling Valle over his back like it was petty luggage. Valle himself was content with being a statue, as always, and nothing convinced him to move otherwise.

“If Owen gives the command, we gotta,” Gahi stated flatly, sounding like he still hated that fact.

Mispy only stared at Owen.

“…Are you waiting for an order?” Owen asked.

“What else?” Mispy stated.

Owen sighed. He supposed she had a point there.

“My order is…” Owen closed his eyes. “Tell me what you think.”

“I think this is somethin’ doable, but I ain’t gonna like it,” Gahi said.

“There’s only a few of us… we’re nearly outnumbered by Titans!” Demitri pointed at them. “And we can tell these are all Titans with a Core, too! Isn’t this, um, isn’t this sort of the job of the other group?”

“I’ll admit,” Mhynt said, “I wasn’t expecting this number. However… we can sneak past them, too. A shame Enet didn’t come with us.”

“Do we have any other ways to hide?” Demitri asked.

“Speed’s another option,” Trina suggested. “And, Owen, is there not that gift Xerneas gave you?”

“Gift?” Owen asked. “He never gave me a gift.”

Trina stared. “No marble with blue in it?”

Owen slowly shook his head. “We were going to get a bunch of blessings, but Alexander’s sudden attack expedited it and I couldn’t get too many. I just have some from Azelf. Besides, Xerneas can’t give blessings; he didn’t get Necrozma’s—”

“This is with Xerneas’ power alone,” Trina said. “Did he really not give it to you? I was speaking to him about my own ‘Team Alloy’ and how well they’d come along. I’m surprised.”

Despite this, the Snivy looked pensive. “I suppose it was a long talk while he was having me evolve… But he mentioned that his power over life also ties into evolution. He can apparently give some sacred power that goes beyond… oh, never mind.” She sighed. “We can ask him why he didn’t give it to you later. I have my suspicions.”

Owen gave Trina a tired look. Picking his battles, he refocused on the mountain, so near, yet so far.

“Let’s just go,” Owen said. “We’ll try to sneak past the normal way. Hide my flame, and…”

Mhynt sighed. “That is our best strategy. We are not equipped to defeat so many Titans at once. One of them is likely Emily, too, and she will be especially powerful, even if it’s only a piece of her.”

The last thing Owen wanted to deal with was an aggressive Emily.

With the danger of being eaten again—to add to the uncomfortable number of times Owen could already recall something similar in the past—looming over him, Owen hid his flame with a simple black veil he’d brought. They checked one another for any glowing they might have forgotten about—now that they knew the Orbs were related to Necrozma, it made sense why it always happened—and they were confidently dim.

“That’s everything,” Owen said.

“Ladies first,” Mhynt said, gesturing for Owen to take the lead.

“…I was a girl in a few rebirths, you know,” Owen muttered, taking the lead.

“I know. You told me before.”

“You were?” Zena asked.

“Did it hurt?” Demitri asked.

Mispy gave Demitri a befuddled look.

Owen rolled his eyes. “Nevren didn’t perfect the Reincarnation Machine for a while,” he explained. “Sometimes, the body my spirit was put into wasn’t the same. To be honest, I don’t think he was able to restore it to how it used to be at all. Too many variables, he said.”

“Fascinating… He really did just grow a new body for you, just like that?” Zena tilted her head.

“More than that,” Owen said. “To be honest… I think one thing Nevren did was give me a sharper mind. I used to be pure feral. I always wondered if…” He trailed off.

“Oh.” Zena glanced away. “I… That seems like something complicated to think about, considering how he is now.”

“Yeah.” And Owen still didn’t know how to wrestle with that thought.

They’d found a favorable patch of gnarled trees to sneak through. The soil was incredibly soft and dampened even Demitri’s heavy footsteps. Eventually, over harder patches of dirt, Demitri elected to ride atop Mispy, who could glide over the ground with her countless vines. Zena was silent along the earth. Mhynt, so small, simply rode atop Mispy’s back. Trina rode on Gahi’s shoulder, occasionally speaking to him about something or another.

Gahi floated, because, according to him, he wanted to show off that he could. Azelf did as well, and Uxie quietly reminded him that he could always do that. It didn’t seem to register. Mesprit nervously stayed close to Mispy.

Owen had tried the same with his conjured gusts, but the soil, while soft, was also loose. His gusts kicked up dirt and would easily give them away.

“Have you considered becoming a Charmander again?” Mhynt offered. “It shouldn’t be hard for you. Being small is probably favorable now.”

“I know,” Owen said. “But… if we do get attacked… it wouldn’t be good, now, would it?”

Mhynt crossed her arms. “I don’t remember you ever devolving intentionally before.”

“Hey, y’know, now that I think about it, yer right,” Gahi said. “Hey, c’n I do that?”

“Anyone with divine power has control over their bodies. Old shapes are easy, just as younger ages are maintained.” Mhynt hummed.

“Well, I ain’t gonna,” Gahi said. “Flygon’s cool.”

“Gahi gets it,” Owen said.

Mhynt squinted. “But it’s much more practical to remain small,” he said. “You out of all of us would be spotted easily, Owen.”

“She has a point,” Zena said. “Owen, can you? Just for a little while, before we get closer to the Titans.”

Owen sighed. “…Fine, fine,” he said. “How do I do it?”

“You haven’t at all?” Uxie asked.

“No,” Owen said shortly. “So just tell me how to do it already.”

Mhynt gave Owen another disapproving look. “You’ve done it before, surely…”

Now, he could feel all their eyes on him, closing in on all sides. Their inquisitive stares, every curious muscle of their bodies.

Except for Trina. “Does it hold bad memories?” she asked.

He flinched. That was absurd. Sure, being a Charmander was humiliating, and being a Charmeleon was awkward and too gangly for his liking. But bad memories? That was… silly.

But Owen couldn’t reply as the words sank in more. Bad memories. “They weren’t bad,” Owen said, more as if he was trying to convince Trina than anything. “But… I mean, well… I don’t know. I doubt that’s it…”

“Owen,” Zena said, her voice a little softer. “It’s okay if… it reminds you of the ‘Reset’ times.”

The rest of Team Alloy flinched and looked away; Trina only bowed her head in understanding.

“…I’ll do it,” Owen said, an odd heaviness in his chest. “I’m not gonna let some… fear of that… get in the way. It’s… irrational.”

Despite this, he didn’t change. It was an act of will, wasn’t it? And he couldn’t find that will. He’d crossed whole oceans of darkness and pushed through all that came before, and yet now he was wavering? What would the others think?

Mhynt suddenly hushed them, and all went quiet. Owen made sure his flame was veiled. The ground rumbled; one of the Titans was nearby. Were they spotted?

Each slow step rumbled the ground. A little louder. Each one a little harder. And then softer. It was leaving… Simply passing by.

“Okay,” Owen finally said. “Give me a second. I’ll… do it. I’ll do it.”

He steadied his breath, envisioning a smaller self. Smaller, smaller. He lost his height; while he wasn’t as bulky as a normal Charizard, he was still bulkier than a Charmeleon, let alone a Charmander. His scales shifted to red. Realizing he could also hide his flame, he shifted to Grass as well and finally sighed. “That’s better,” he said.

Charmeleon was an acceptable middle ground. Long strides, but no bulk. That lankiness it had was an advantage here.

“And you feel okay?” Zena asked, her voice more delicate than usual.

“Yeah. Thanks,” Owen said. “I’m… it’s fine. I was psyching myself out for nothing.”

“Not for nothing,” Mhynt hummed, pointing forward so they could continue. “I’m sure there are some things that I’d hesitate on, too. Like the opposite of your problem… I’d rather not evolve for a time.”

“Eh? How come?” Gahi asked.

“Mm.” The Treecko shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’d rather not talk about it.”

Gahi and Azelf both squinted, but Mispy and Uxie respectively tapped them on the shoulder and shook their heads.

“Let’s sneak by. Keep quiet,” Owen said, and suddenly, Team Alloy went dead silent. Owen sighed. “I mean… you can talk if you want. Just be careful.”

The sooner they could be free from him, the better.


In Kilo Village, an emergency meeting was called after realizing that ADAM was missing. Nate explained what happened from his perspective, and Barky used that to scan for ADAM’s aura. While his Orb didn’t perfectly resonate with his power as they’d believed before Necrozma’s erasure had been lifted, he could still search for it a little.

That was when a scout returned with some news of activity in an old, abandoned temple that had been a small Dungeon. That put all the pieces together—that was the same temple they’d found ADAM almost a year ago. However, it had become shadowy in nature… They had a strong suspicion that Alexander only used ADAM to return to the Voidlands where he would no longer melt in the light. However, in his wake, ADAM had been corrupted. They had to find a way to purify him before he became another Emily.

Based on those findings, it was clear ADAM had fled to his original hiding spot—the little Dungeon that had formed within the abandoned temple southwest of Kilo Village. There was a Waypoint there, but it had been destroyed with Dark Matter’s attack and not restored. It would take a short trip to get there.

“Well, that’s great,” Star said, crossing her arms. She was still nervous around others, but compared to before, her spirits had been lifted. She figured it was because her talk with Owen had helped resolve some of that unspoken guilt. “I guess we could get a small group to Teleport in, but we can only do that to the Dungeon’s edge. Even worse, I’m pretty sure Emily is starting to drift that way, too. If we linger outside, she might get drawn to us.”

Essential team members were hastily gathered in the Heart HQ office. Those who could make it were Anam, Hecto, herself and Barky, Spice’s team, Marshadow Manny, Eon and Jirachi, Willow, and Nate, who was curled outside the caldera and projecting a little Mimikyu wraith to represent him.

“It’s troublesome either way,” Barky said. “We can either send a team forward to navigate while I try to support you from the air with my stored divine energy to keep Emily away, or we warp in swiftly with a smaller team and hope that’s enough to subdue a Shadow Guardian.”

“An’ it ain’t any normal Shadow, either,” Manny added, arms crossed. “This is Alexander we’re dealin’ with. He may not have Hands, but he’s got the primordial power o’ Kilo’s evil forces behind’m. ‘S far ‘s I’m concerned, that’s a match fer you, big guy.” He gestured nonchalantly to Barky.

The god of gods harrumphed and looked down. “I can’t dispute it. I’ve lost hold of my domain, and now I know why.”

Star knew it was largely because of his temper. She could remember some of those scattered memories of Necrozma, now. After he’d lost it and killed Quartz Isle, Necrozma had shown up to investigate the cosmic disturbance as an Overseer. Nothing but a bureaucratic nut who claimed to manage the gods as part of some upper organization. Like they needed their help.

Okay, maybe they did. But she wasn’t going to admit that to someone so haughty. ‘Give me some of your power for regulation; the two of you in a deadlock is not constructive.’ Yeah, that turned out well.

Hecto was fine, though.

Star had zoned out from the logistical discussions and tuned back in.

“. . . attacking directly. Is Alexander still there, for example, or are we only dealing with a remnant?”

“We should probably get someone with blessings to go in,” Barky suggested. “Necrozma’s, specifically. He had tuned himself to counter Dark Matter’s power with his own, and that carries into Alexander’s.”

“He c’n jus’ do that, eh?” Manny said. “Always wondered how that worked.”

“We allowed him to access the tapestry of Kilo itself. Its ‘core,’ you could say, of the world. And when he saw the flaw, he began to research ways to tune his energy the same way. But… we couldn’t remove it directly without breaking everything… and we didn’t want that. Hence, his light became something to counteract the darkness. It was very… symbolic, but I’m not against it.”

“What, yer sayin’ that if he wanted, he could’ve made a special song a counter instead?”

“Well, er, perhaps,” Barky said. “We’re getting distracted.”

“So, someone with blessings,” Star piped up. “That’d be… Owen, who’s out, or any of his… er… descendants.” She glanced at Phol, part of Spice’s team. But he wasn’t especially powerful. One strong Shadow strike could do him in. Spice could help, but she could only guard so much…

“One problem with tuning his energy in such a way,” Barky said, “is that it made him mutually vulnerable. Just as Shadow is weak to Radiance, Radiance is weak to Shadow. That’s why he fought from great distances so his opponents had no chance to get close.”

“The warping and wormholes helped,” Star murmured, recalling scattered memories of trying to fight something that disappeared into odd portals any time she got close. It was slower than her Teleport, but Necrozma could do it to her attacks, too. Reflecting attacks. Annoying.

“Hmm… Who is our most powerful fighter right now with blessings? Any Legends?”

“They’re still in the Voidlands helpin’ out,” Manny said. “Titan huntin’ and all that. Got kinda cut off when the rift over Hot Spot disappeared, so that’s cut most communications back…”

“Well, that just means we remain with our old problem,” Phol said. “Hmm…”

Something was crackling near the entrance of HQ, down the hall. It was getting closer.

“Excuse me! Where is Heart of Hearts Anam?” called a voice, sounding unpleasantly staticky. Star realized moments later that was panting, or simulated panting. Something like that.

In came a Porygon Z, accompanied by a Rotom who had possessed a ball. Did that make him move faster?

“Hi?” Anam called, waving a slimy hand. He sat awkwardly on the far end of the table, so he stood up and waddled across the room.

“We… we heard that it was that strange Porygon Z Guardian who had been in trouble, right?” Porygon Z asked. His eyes flickered and became what looked like six lines meeting in the middle, with each line darkening in a rhythm, one after the other like tracing a circle. “Hang on, hang on… ADAM! Right?” The eyes returned to normal.

“Do you know him?” Spice asked.

“Y-yipes!” Each of his eyes became an exclamation point in a triangle.

Spice growled. “Answer.”

“Yes! We, um, we tried to treat him before with, uh, some bad programming in his operating system, or something, but that didn’t work out. But! But we know the layout! Let me load it up…”

The circling lines reappeared. Meanwhile, Rotom-ball-forme rolled forward.

“Sorry for my partner’s forwardness.”

“Oh!” Anam clapped. “You’re the specialists for all things electrical, right? You’re our lead techs!”

“Oh! Y-you remember us! That’s wonderful!” Rotom fizzled around the ball like he was holding it to fidget. “Th-thank you. Um. Yes. And well, the Porygon line happens to be derived from ancient human technology, or, um, that’s the tale, and so we help with repairing them when they’re hurt, too. Or, er, hurt in ways that Orans and traditional therapy don’t help with.”

Porygon-Z was buzzing a lot. Star’s ear flicked. Annoying. But he was probably just thinking very hard. She had a soft spot for Porygon.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think your kind of help will work here,” Phol said with a hum. “This is more than… technological malfunctions.”

“The same energy that made me look how I do,” Spice said, “is flowing through him. It’s gonna take more than… technology repair to fix something like that.”

“Complete!” Porygon-Z pointed his beak downward and blasted a tiny and oddly-shaped beam into the ground, scorching it. The Hyper Beam pulse had Spice reflexively on guard, but Anam only walked closer to see what the scorch was.

To Star’s surprise, it was a map. Once Phol seemed to realize what this was, he pulled out a notepad and began to copy it down.

“This is what the inside of ADAM’s programming looks like. It is completely unlike anything that I’d ever been to before and resembled a Dungeon in shape, except for one aspect of its behavior. It did not appear to shift or change. All the segments were the same dimensions, perfectly square, and separated in identical distances with hallways of identical width. It was…” Porygon-Z’s eyes became teardrops. “Beautiful.”

“…Right… So…” Spice crawled to the map. “There aren’t any markings except for the start.”

“Ah, yes. We’d been ejected very quickly, but that was the most my scans showed during our brief time inside.”

“Hmm… I think this could still be useful,” Phol said. “If we’re supposed to be navigating through that Dungeon and finding a way to purge him of that darkness, a basic map would be helpful, even if unmarked.”

“He does have dimensions,” Spice said.

“Yep. ADAM’s internal Dungeon is a perfect 32-by-32 two-dimensional array.”

“I’ll pretend I know what that means.”

“I believe I understand,” Phol said. “Thank you. Now, as for our plan…”

That gave Star an idea. “If we’re dealing with a superpowered Guardian, I know one way this might work,” she said. “It’s the same thing that did me in when I tried to possess Owen.”

This earned a few uncomfortable or dirty looks.

“E-eheh, look, we made up. And now that’s useful!” Star shrank back. “We need to attack from both sides. A team on the surface to keep him busy, and a team on the spirit side infiltrating the Dungeon from my realm, the Ethereal Forest.

“Um, we may be… lowly mortals… but, err… could we also help?” Porygon-Z asked.

“Hmm…” Barky spoke up, making himself known by standing taller and glowing.

Star suppressed an eyeroll. “Yes, Barky?”

“I will grant you a temporary boon of protection,” Barky said. “That way, you will have a chance to flee if things become too dangerous.”

“O-oh! Thank you, Original One!”

Barky radiated a little brighter. Star decided to make all of his things in his room slightly askew again later.

“Well,” Barky said. “Let’s get to logistics.


Getting through the entire dead forest of the island had been a fantasy. Especially when they were encumbered with carrying Valle’s statue.

They’d made it so far. Maybe halfway there, slowly and steadily, with only a few spots where they had to crouch and hide in what little cover they could find.

But Demitri had to sneeze.

Owen didn’t resent him for it. Mostly. And in some ways, it was Owen’s fault for hesitating in commanding him to stop. He didn’t even know if that was possible, but perhaps it had been. But he never commanded Demitri to stop—and he also wasn’t sure if his command would have drawn too much attention.

But after that horrible second of silence, wondering if they’d been spotted, they’d all heard the rumbling of two Titans changing directions. Yes, they’d been found.

Owen panted heavily; they’d been running for a few minutes at top speed, with Gahi leading the way.

Massive beams of darkness carved through the forest, once ancient trees now part of the damp void mulch of the island. Diagonal fissures from near-misses became cold ditches for them to hop over before the lingering corruption singed their scales. Occasionally, Gahi had to go back to divert them as Demitri hurled Zena and the others over them—they’d noticed some time ago that something about the island’s atmosphere kept them from going too high.

They were all half-covered in purple soot by the time a straight shot was visible to them. The base of that strange mountain. The sense of ‘north’ to Owen was stronger than ever, and that was enough.

“Almost!” Owen cried. “Keep going! I’ll hold them back and follow after!”

“This is risky!” Mhynt called.

“That’s why I’m only doing it once!”

He skidded to a stop and turned around. He had about ten seconds before two Titans would be within strong firing range. By his estimates, the team had a whole minute before they’d get to the mountain.

“I’m stayin’, too,” Gahi said. “I’ll help y’run an’ catch up.”

Azelf flew by Owen’s side as well, determined.

“C’mon!” Azelf said. “We’ll all hold ‘em off!”

“Azelf, we can’t fuse,” Owen said. “Get back with the others!”

“I’m sick o’ runnin’!” Azelf said, headbutting Gahi. His eyes squeezed shut, but nothing else happened.

The Titan on the left—its angular and bulky shape suggested Regirock—charged up a crackling ball of blackened electricity. Owen held a hand out and prepared to time his Protect. His other hand was ready to grasp the energy and throw it at whatever the second one—Regice, probably—was going to throw.

“How do we fuse?!” Gahi shouted, hugging Azelf, but nothing seemed to work. “Ain’t the same!”

“Why now?!” Owen, befuddled, shouted back.

Regirock fired the Shadowy Zap Cannon. Owen brought up his Protect—a shield of black this time to resist the strange incoming element—and then reached toward the incoming blast with his other hand. First came the impact, the barrier’s force recoiling back against his body as he dug his heels into the ground. Then, he tried to grasp that energy as it crawled around, zapping his scales. His tail thrashed on the ground, kicking up more dust. The burning coursing through him was familiar. Not as bad as Alexander’s. But still painful.

Then, in another breath, he hurled the energy toward the other one just as it fired. The collision left an explosion followed by a vortex of darkness and electricity that singed the forest in a crater, taking out a wide cluster of trees. A jagged crater riddled with black electricity was all that was left behind.

“Azelf,” Owen said. “Start running now. Gahi!”

Gahi’s head flicked to him, attentive.

“Just as they charge up a second blast, fuse with me and run.”


Azelf growled and tried to send some enchantment toward the two Titans. A pink wave washed over them, but they were either too strong or still too far away for it to have much of an effect.

“Don’t die!” Azelf ordered, flying to catch up with the rest.

Owen remained on his guard. The second volley was coming. He didn’t want to risk parrying another one; the first was already harsh.

“I didn’t overstep by ordering you, right?” Owen said, still watching cautiously.


Regirock jolted.


Gahi tackled Owen and melded into him. They fell backward, but then, in a flash of light, they Teleported away.

This fusion felt different. It was like Owen had total access to all of Gahi’s abilities while still feeling like himself. He felt a smidge of confidence, too, but he couldn’t tell if that was because his plan worked, or because of Gahi’s influence. In another Teleport, he disappeared again and flew onward, rapidly gaining some distance.

They’d made it to the others in seconds, the Titans a half-minute away. Only the longest shots would reach them.

“Congratulations,” Mhynt said. Despite her flat tone, her eyes had the light of being at least slightly impressed. “Your calculated risk paid off.”

Owen split away from Gahi, both halves flopping into the dust.

“Gahi, are you okay?” Owen asked.

“Gehhh…” Gahi rubbed his head. “What happened?”

“Do you not… remember?” Owen asked.

“I tackled you, ‘n then…” Gahi shrugged.

Owen gulped. So he’d completely…

“It’s alright,” he said. “We bought some time. Let’s get to that spire.”

Though when Owen looked back, the Titans hadn’t advanced. About three hundred feet from where they stood, the Titans merely resumed their patrol.

It felt brighter, too. Naturally, Owen checked the sky… but it was the same dim red.

Everything was brighter, and not because of the sky—the ground, the trees… Aside from the obsidian spire itself, everything around them was a little brighter.

Mispy, Demitri, and Gahi seemed ill, shaking off lethargy in their own ways. Mispy shook her head; Demitri rubbed his eyes; Gahi beat his wings.

“We’re definitely in the right spot,” Mhynt hummed. She raised a hand, materializing her Leaf Blade. It glowed with golden light. “It’s much easier to draw upon Radiance in this place. Makes sense, being right next to its source.”

“Necrozma’s… somewhere in this mountain?”

“Likely, there’s a cavern to enter. We should go that way. We will be safe here… so let’s take a moment to gather our bearings.”

Trina dusted herself off but then called for Zena to help wash them all down instead. It’d be much easier that way. While they all bathed from light bursts of water, Trina remarked, “I’m glad I was taken for security… but it seems like all of you are handling yourselves well,” Trina said. “I was hardly needed to calm you. Though, I nearly did with you, Owen.”

“It’s… uh… nice to know?” Owen didn’t want to rely on Trina’s hypnosis just to stay calm. Though, if he did panic, maybe…

Thoroughly washed, refreshed, and most importantly no longer in danger of being chased by Regi Titans—Owen wondered where the Lugia one was supposed to be—the team took their final steps to the obsidian spire. Up close, it felt warm, like the sun on a summer afternoon. Trina and Mhynt kept their distance, but Owen appreciated the warmth and went even closer, reaching out to touch the stone.

He could tell it was hot. Scorching, like metal left too long in Hot Spot.

Something called out to him. He recognized it as a psychic pull. It told him to push some of his power into the crystal. Suspecting who it was, Owen obeyed.

That warmth redoubled. A sigil of Necrozma—a lengthened, eight-pointed starburst—appeared in bright gold light where Owen had touched. And then, the wall sank inward, melting into a new hallway for them to enter.

Or, so Owen thought. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi had hissed and backed away all in unison.

“Hmm.” Mhynt closed her eyes. “Trina, you should calm them.”

“Right.” The Snivy walked first to Gahi, the fastest and flightiest, and said, “Gahi… keep calm. What’s wrong?” Even in her diminutive state, her hypnosis was still their asset to keep them steady. Perhaps the small size was useful here, for stealth…

The Flygon’s eyes darted toward the obsidian spire, then at Trina, rapidly. “…Dunno. Don’t like it,” he said. “Prob’ly the light. I’m a Void Shadow now, yeah?”

“You’re well put together for one,” Trina said. “Come. Let’s keep you calm for now…”

Whatever Trina was doing, it was relaxing Gahi’s muscles enough that he collapsed where he stood, slouched over. Owen’s Perceive couldn’t detect energy, so he could only guess it was her specialized Hypnosis.

“Trina,” Mhynt said, “if Owen, Zena, and I enter here, will you be able to handle these three on your own?”

“I believe so,” Trina said, looking next to Mispy, then Demitri.

“Um.” Mesprit raised a hand. “We’ll help, too. Figure we should, you know, stick to our doubles…”

Azelf looked unnerved, perturbed by Gahi’s sudden behavior. “Yeah,” Azelf murmured. “You guys be careful…”

Zena picked up Valle’s statue again, hefting him onto her back. She slithered forward.

“The four of us, then?” she asked, nodding at Mhynt and Owen. Though, just before Owen wanted to go, when he took another glance at the spire, he couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of unease.

“But… are we sure it’s okay?” Owen asked. “There’s something… uneasy about… I don’t know.”

Trina gave Owen a more cautious look. “You aren’t destabilizing, too, are you?” She glanced at the rest of Team Alloy.

“No, no, I—I’m okay,” Owen said. “Just, you know. It’s a little weird.”

“I also have a sense of foreboding,” Valle reported. “I suspect it is because I might cease to exist soon as ‘Valle’ and the weight is beginning to catch up to me.”

The way he said it so nonchalantly didn’t suggest otherwise… Owen didn’t comment.

“I feel fine,” Zena said. “…Which is surprising. Usually, I’d not like any of this, but I don’t sense any… foreboding. No more than when we got on the ship in the first place, at least…”

Mhynt sighed. “Foreboding or not, we’re here. Just stay on your guard. So, Owen… are you ready?”

“Yeah.” Owen folded his wings back. He didn’t like it, but they’d come far enough. And they had no other leads. “Let’s go.”

The quartet approached the passageway of the obsidian spire. Necrozma’s sigil still glowed like a hologram in the middle. Finally, after all this time, they were going to see him.

Once this was done and Necrozma was restored… they would finally be able to take out Alexander. One more step. Just one more step.

Please, just work out for once.


The spire went downward. While on the surface it had been about the same size as the Spire of Trials that Manny had once lived in—and now, Destiny Tower—this place seemed vaster beneath the island’s surface. After a minute of walking, Owen, Zena, and Mhynt could walk side by side with ample room for Owen to stretch his wings.

“So, now that we’re here,” Zena said, “what is Necrozma like? Is he… stern, like Barky? A, er… free… spirit, like Star?”

“He’s a little closer to Barky,” Owen said. “Stern, sure, but he’s not… haughty about it. He’s more businesslike. Sort of how you’d imagine some entity that was powerful and way above mortals, y’know? But still… working to help them.”

“There isn’t a chance he’s still bent on destroying the world once his power is restored?” Zena clarified. “I understand that he is the direct counter to Dark Matter and our best shot at defeating him. But… I don’t really…”

“I think it’s okay,” Owen said. “Necrozma was only trying to look out for us when he sensed Dark Matter… and he’s learned since then. We want to live. He’ll only get his power back if he promises to fight to save Kilo.”

“And the chances of him honoring that?” Zena clarified. “Are you going to ask for a Divine Promise?”

“Would he accept that?” Mhynt hummed. “Gods do not take that very lightly, you know. Divine Promises.”

“Obviously,” Zena agreed. “You wouldn’t want divine power to be siphoned into someone who doesn’t have the aptitude for it. We already see echoes of that problem in some of the Guardians.”

“Yeah…” Owen sighed.

“Not only that,” Mhynt said, earning all three of their quizzical looks. “Necrozma, Star, Barky. All three of them are the gods of this world and are tied to it with that power. Unlike mortals, who can live without that power because they are of that world, gods are only here by that power. They temporarily gain bodily avatars to represent themselves.

“Do not forget: Kilo is only a side project to them. Their true domain is the world beyond. And while I don’t know Necrozma’s relation to all this specifically… I know that for Star and Barky, they would never make a Promise. It would mean the loss of their power, yes… but it would also mean the end of their existence in Kilo. A Lockout.”

“Lockout…” Owen echoed the word. “What we thought happened to Necrozma before, when he was erased from history. When a soul is destroyed so the world can’t recognize it anymore, it can never return. Right?”

Mhynt nodded. “From what Necrozma told me, they will then be ejected into the Overworld and will need to find a new universe to inhabit. But, yes. There is no hope in returning to the universe they’d been destroyed within. It simply does not acknowledge their existence, forever.

“Due to the way Star and Barky set up the Divine Promise system, they are beholden to that flaw. Breaking that Promise would result in a total Lockout. And a god certainly would not want to be removed from their world permanently.”

“That’s… quite a grave flaw,” Zena said. “Why would they design a world like that?”

“It’s intended,” Mhynt said. “Should a god ever lose confidence in themselves, perhaps they must pass that power on. Let the world run without them, and let a new god take their place.”

Owen stopped walking. That… that couldn’t have been Star’s true intentions. No. That…

“But it’s not guaranteed, right?” Owen said.

Mhynt gave him a knowing look. It felt like pity. “I suppose not,” she said. “A Promise is just that. They can choose to keep it. But unless it’s revoked, a god has an eternity to break it. It will, inevitably, happen.”

“Then, when Star gave me that Promise… I wonder if…”

“It’s possible,” Mhynt said.

“If that’s the case, I can’t take a Promise from Necrozma. It’d have to be one of you. It’s… too risky for me to take any more power. Just—just having one is too much. Is there a way to revoke a Promise?”

Owen tried to hide his panic, but near the end, he slipped. The gravity of what Star had done… Maybe it hadn’t fully registered until then, as Mhynt outlined it. Not only would Star cease, but he’d… No. He can’t allow that. His entire purpose, the way he’d built himself up, was to oppose them. He didn’t have the temperament for that kind of power. What if he went berserk? Could he cure himself of that, or was that ingrained within him?

“Calm, Owen,” Mhynt said like she recognized his panic.

“You’ll be okay,” Zena added. “We’ll help you through it, okay? Ideally, Star will learn from this.”

Owen nodded, sighing. Great. Now he was antsy for the talk with Necrozma, and his rehearsed lines all felt out of place and wrong. He’d just have to play it by ear and hope Zena and Mhynt could back him up.

“Valle,” Owen said, “do you have any thoughts on this? You’ve been awfully quiet…”

“I am always quiet.”

Good, he was still alive. The Shiftry statue didn’t give any indicators, since he never moved…

“You know that when we meet Necrozma, we’re going to probably fuse you with him, right? Are you okay with that?”

“Yes. I feel him calling to me. This is correct.”

Owen and Zena exchanged perturbed looks. “Valle,” Owen said, “you haven’t really talked about your feelings about this. Or your feelings at all, actually…”

“Are they relevant?”

“Of course they are,” Zena said. “Please, if you’re afraid at all—”

“I am not.”

“Well… I mean, if you are worried about… no longer being yourself—”

“I am hardly a person.”

“What?” Owen squinted. “What does that mean?”

Valle was quiet.


“I spoke out of turn.”

“Speak your mind, Valle,” Mhynt said. “If you return to Necrozma, it will not be your own mind anymore. This is your final chance to speak purely as yourself.”

“…I am unable to return to normal. This statue I am. It is not by choice. I have learned this.”

“What? But I thought you were the Rock Guardian and just took on that statue form because…” Zena trailed off. “I mean, well, you enjoyed stillness… And it helped bide time like that, right?”

“Yes. But I cannot revert. I cannot feel. I can only barely move. It is not just fear. If this will save me from this fate, so be it. I have been speaking to Necrozma on the boat ride here. I am ready.”

“All this time?” Owen whispered. “I guess that explains your silence…”

“Yes. I will be fine. We share a lot in common. Obviously.”

Valle and Necrozma didn’t seem all that alike to Owen, but he decided not to vocalize it. He seemed content. But being unable to revert… was strange.

“Right…” Owen gave another uneasy glance at the others. “Let’s be more careful here. Talk to Necrozma a little before… doing anything. Something doesn’t feel right.”

Mhynt nodded. “I’m also skeptical. But we can interrogate Necrozma for that.”

“Interrogate?” Zena echoed. “Do we have that kind of leverage?”

Mhynt hummed, eyes closed. “…Yes. I believe we do. Even if we need Necrozma to defeat Dark Matter, we have not tried to explore other options yet. We can leave him here. I don’t want to, but I’m not taking the option off the table.”

It made Owen feel dirty for agreeing, even mentally, but she had a point. Necrozma was the obvious answer, but not necessarily the only one.

This talk would be the decider.

Something entered the edge of Owen’s Perceive and he stopped.

“Hm?” Mhynt looked back.

“That’s him,” he said. “About a hundred feet ahead, around the next turn.”

“Only a hundred? You’re getting rusty,” Mhynt said with an eyeroll, advancing.

“Something around the air is… thick. I can’t see far.”

“It must be a strong atmosphere if it’s interfering with your Perceive,” Zena said, slithering onward. “How far below are we…?”

“I can’t see the surface anymore,” Owen said. “So, at least a hundred feet down, too.”

“Hopefully the structural integrity of this spire is sound.”

“Don’t… don’t jinx it,” Owen murmured, double-checking for cracks and faults around them.

The walls were brighter here. The black had transitioned into veins of dim gold, denser as they turned, up until they could see the source in the back of a small chamber. It was reminiscent of how Gahi had described them finding Valle… An isolated little cave.

Rather than rock, though, it was made of black crystal. Owen thought it was obsidian, but it didn’t smell of lava or sulfur. It was crystal. Necrozma’s…?

“Where is he?” Owen asked. He was expecting to see a great dragon of golden light, like his visions. His Perceive could never see the energy parts of his body, only the crystal skeleton and the odd triangle prism in his forehead. But all his eyes saw was more obsidian.

There was a pile of crystal aheads of them that looked vaguely like a half-complete sculpture. Owen had mistaken it for Necrozma, but it didn’t seem to be moving.

“Hmm…” Mhynt continued ahead.

“Um, wait. There’s no path ahead. I think we must have… missed a turn, or something…” Owen knew that was impossible. But there was no other path forward. And—

“No,” Zena said softly. “He’s… he’s there. That’s him.”

“Don’t rely on your Perceive so much, Owen,” Mhynt warned. “You’re Mystic now. Check for auras.”

“Auras…” Owen saw Rhys in his mind’s eye, followed by a pang of grief. He pushed it away.

The crystal ahead—that half-made sculpture—flickered to life when he checked his aura senses. It… was Necrozma.

“What?” Owen whispered.

Part of the sculpture—the right hand’s fingers—twitched.

“Necrozma… what happened to you?” Owen whispered.

More little twitching. Feeble movements. Owen took the lead this time, kneeling after he was a foot away from him. He heard a hollow rattling.

“You made it,” Necrozma whispered, his voice a harsh scratching that Owen tried his best to not wince over.

“Yeah. We made it. What happened?”

“Oh, this… I… ran out of… power,” Necrozma said. “It comes… and goes… Not much… light… here…”

Owen looked up. There was a straight shot upward from here, at the very top of the spire, where he could see a red dot where the sky was. Could Void Shadows enter through here? Or were they warded off by the natural radiance of this place?

“May I…” Necrozma slowly raised an arm. “May I… borrow… your… light…?”

Necrozma’s hand trembled before Owen, clearly asking for it to be held.

“What do you mean?” Owen asked.

“I need light… to… stop the pain…”


“This form is… like… starvation…”

“Oh.” Owen looked back at the others. “Can we give him light?”

“Your flame could help,” Zena said. “And I naturally glow. Valle, why don’t you glow, too?”

“I may.” Already, he brightened enough to light the room.

Owen noticed that the area around Necrozma was noticeably darker despite this, absorbing the light in the room. But even that, Owen realized, wasn’t everything. His Perceive was significantly dulled around him… and he also felt weaker. The light wasn’t the only thing being drawn in. He already felt like he’d been flying at top speed for several minutes.

“Your generosity… is appreciated,” Necrozma said. “I already feel… a little better. Ha ha…”

He sounded miserable.

Necrozma’s hand still lingered in front of Owen. He interpreted it as an ask to be pulled to his feet. Owen reached forward and grasped it.

“Here,” Owen said.

Necrozma’s crystals were very cold.

“Up, with me, alright?” He pulled, but Necrozma was heavy. His hands were massive, too. His whole hand could only wrap around a finger.

When he tried to pull his hand away, though, he felt… stuck. Crystal had formed around his palm like he’d been suddenly attached. “Uh—”

Something pulled at Owen’s chest. Not physically, yet a tug, like he was about to fall into a great void. And then—

Owen woke up, dazed, staring at the red dot of the sky through the faraway opening. Zena was coiled protectively around him, while Mhynt hadn’t moved from her spot. Valle, of course, hadn’t moved at all.

“Huh?” Owen mumbled. “What happened? Where…”

His head was pounding.

Necrozma was still collapsed on the wall, still pained, but he could speak a little louder.

“I am… sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean… to blast so violently toward you. I… had… a moment… of weakness.”

“Why did you blast him into the wall, then?” Zena snarled. She was glowing brighter, water flowing through the ridges of her scales.

“Zena,” Owen said, “hang on. I’m okay, I think. Just… hit my head, I think…”

“I was trying to draw some of your power into me,” Necrozma said, rattling more. Gathered his strength. “But… I was taking too much. You would have… been… overtaken. I refused… to give in to that. I am sorry. I should have been… transparent.”

“Wh-what would’ve happened to me?” Owen asked.

“My crystals would overtake your body… and I would be in control. I would have… released you afterward. But… I know your history. You would never forgive me…”

He had a point. That sounded terrifying. Was he always capable of that?

“Considering your circumstances,” Mhynt said, “I’m willing to let that one slide, so long as you don’t try it again. Owen?”

“Y-yeah. It’s okay. You, uh, you stopped… yourself…”

Necrozma had no proper face to read, no body language he could recognize. Owen had to rely on his gut. His naturally obedient, super mutant gut.

“Zena?” Owen asked instead.

“…Can you function with just our ambient light?” Zena asked.

“I can, for a time.”

“…Then while we talk, we will talk from a distance. Here.”

With Zena’s help, Owen got to a sitting position, the last of his dizziness leaving him.

“That is fine,” Necrozma said, rising enough that perhaps he was also in… some kind of sitting position. “How do you want to begin?” he asked. “I think I heard echoes in the cavern of… an interrogation.”

Owen winced. Right. Sound probably bounced very well here. “Right,” he said. “Well… Let’s open with the first question, Necrozma.

“Do you still want to destroy this world?”

The acoustics of the room made Owen’s words echo back to him. It made him question whether or not that was a fair question, or if he could hope to get an honest answer. If he said no, could he trust that?

After that silence, nobody speaking at first, Necrozma rattled out what might have been a sigh.

“That is not something I want to do.”

Owen felt relieved, even if it could have been a lie. That was what the interrogation was for.

But then, Necrozma continued.

“It is beyond my power to stop its destruction.”

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Whelp, dunno how well-advised it is to kick up one of these at this hour, but I finally squared away that last prize review you’re due from Union. Kicking things right off with the first of like a dozen Special Episodes in HoC to see what on earth I'm in for…

Special Episode 1

Lightning shattered the sky.

A squadron of Pokémon consisting of a Flareon, Delphox, Salazzle, and Rapidash stopped to avert their eyes. A thunderous blast deafened them, and the ground trembled when a follow-up explosion—this time, one of a tree crashing down—dwarfed any other noise. It was midday, yet the sun did not shine through the thick clouds for even an instant. Even truer to its name than usual, Nightshade Forest was navigable only because of the crackling flames on Rapidash Tee’s back.

I wonder if these faces are going to be recurring or one-offs, since I could've sworn there's actually a prominent Salazzle character in this story later on. Will keep an eye out for namedrops, even if I see Rapidash there's got one, at least.

It was hard to see. Even with the orange glow, the tree trunks were coal-black, and the plants were all the darkest shade of green in all the worlds’ forests. Rainwater glistened against the flames of Tee, but ahead was an even greater glow of a distant, freak inferno that mocked the torrential rainwater.

“LET’S GO!” the Delphox roared. He held his arm up and guided the team with a flame from his palm.

Is that a 'roar' or more of a 'yip' there? Since Delphox are foxes, after all. :V

“Leo, slow down!” the Flareon huffed.

“We can’t,” Leo said. “Faster, Emby! What’s taking you, Tee?!”

And we have two more names there, even if I did a double-take at Delphox being called 'Leo' given its semantic meanings.

“It’s—it’s not very easy to work under these conditions!” the Rapidash replied with a hiss that rivaled the stinging fire on her back. Every drop of rain was like acid against her, and the steam that came off of her body was a constant reminder of the thunderstorm above. “Spice! Pick it up!”

Ah yes, so we will be seeing more of this Salazzle in the future. Since I distinctly recognize that name there.

“Oh, you hush!” the Salazzle replied. “Pick it up?! You’re the one stumbling over your own hooves!”

“Now’s not the time, girls!” Leo grunted. “Emby, what’s going on?”

“Just ahead,” Emby said. Her bushy tail was soaked from the rain, and it doubled her weight. Between her new bulk and lopsidedness, she was barely able to run. “There’s someone there—who is it?!”

Oh? A new face to keep track of for the future-?

Leo saw, just barely, the signature, dancing ember atop a Charmander’s tail. It walked with great labor—hauling something on his back.

Oh, it's Owen, isn't it? If from a memory loop from before his current one.

“Kid!” Leo shouted. “What’s wrong? What—”

He gasped. He was hauling a Bulbasaur that was more ash than plant. Half-dead eyes stared emptily toward the ground.


Leo ran close and wrapped his arms around the charred Pokémon. “This is bad,” he said. “Spice! Oran Berry!”

“I don’t think an Oran’s gonna be enough for this!” Spice said, but she dashed forward anyway, handing Leo the blue fruit.

I mean, you never know considering the way that HoC's power scaling gets reality warping tier at times, but... yeah. From the way Leo and the gang were reacting to the Bulba barbecue, I figured that this would be out of the purview of healing items to deal with.

Leo tried to shove the berry into its mouth, but it didn’t work. Too weak. “C’mon, just a little, get that energy back. This Berry is blessed, you have to eat it!

Wait, so are 'blessed' items the ones that carry their PMD-esque properties versus their mainline ones? e.x. a 'blessed' Oran Berry heals 100 HP while a normal one heals 10?

The Bulbasaur wasn’t even awake.

The Bulbasaur isn't even alive right now, is it?

“Oh, give me that!” Spice said. Her dark claws snatched the berry from Leo and she shoved it in her mouth. Leo’s eyes bulged in protest. He grabbed her arm, but Spice shoved him aside.

“Spice! Stop with that Salazzle gluttony for a second and—”

He tried to grab her again, but Spice whipped Leo with her tail, binding his arms against his body. He writhed to break free, always surprised by her strength.

Leo: "Seriously, Spice! What the hell are you doing?!"

Spice then shoved her mouth against the Bulbasaur’s, promptly stopping the rest of Leo’s retort. Spice forced the mashed berry into the Bulbasaur’s larger mouth and down his throat with an amount of practiced ease that unnerved Leo.

Leo: "Oh gods. Spice! You could've given some warning, you know!"

It indeed wasn’t enough—but the energy was enough of a jolt to get the Bulbasaur awake. He cried out, suddenly aware of the pain that permeated his body, even with some of the wounds healing. He flailed weakly, flinging bits of burned plant and flesh matter that washed away in the rain.

“I need another!” Spice said. “And a Heal Seed! NOW!”

Tee: "Yeah, yeah, coming right up. (Boy I hope we packed the Lum Berries since my stomach's going all sorts of places from seeing that.)"

“R-right,” Leo said, handing the seed, and then the berry. Spice tried to feed it to the Bulbasaur the normal way, but he was too panicked. She cursed under her breath and shoved both in her maw again, chewing quickly, and forcing the food in.

Emby: "... Wait, is there a reason why we're not hitting the obviously injured and panicked Bulbasaur with something like a Sleep Seed to restrain him during this-?"

Spice: "Now now, Emby!" >_>;

Leo motioned for Emby and Tee to run ahead; they nodded and dashed. If this was the Bulbasaur’s condition, there was no telling how many more needed rescue from the inferno ahead.


Ah yes, that's a good omen for what the overall mood of this SE is going to be like. Straight into the deep end of things.

“Backup should be here soon with more supplies,” Leo said, looking back. “Ugh—this rain! Why is there a fire in the rain?!”

It's burning sufficiently hot that the rain can't smother it? I mean, it's not as if this is impossible with the right temperatures in play.

“This is the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen,” Spice said. “Some freak accident must have caused it. The—"

Another bolt split the sky in two. Leo covered his bushy ears. The flame-colored fur that covered the holes shook against the booming sound.

Spice: "... Well that might explain a thing or two about how there's fire in the rain right now."

When the thunder subsided, Spice turned her attention to the one that had brought the Bulbasaur to them. “You! Thank you for your help, kid—now, get out of here!”

“N-no way!” he protested. “And—I’m not a kid! I’m Charmander Owen! Maybe you’ve heard of me?!”

Yeah, I knew it. Though I wonder when relative to the events of the last 12 chapters this is going down.

Though due to site limitations here on Serebii, I'll be moving the rest of this review into its own post.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Special Episode 1 - Cont.

Owen had a strange dream about taking a hot bath in the pit of a white, featureless room. His tail was just above the water’s surface. Then, he saw Deca on the opposite side of the bath, laughing. And Owen laughed, too. He heard footsteps behind him. He turned around, but the fragile dream faded away.

Narrator: "It was not a dream but a subconscious memory."

Then, he felt cold—like ice, to the very core of his body. And then something tingled, and he felt warm again, starting from his belly, and then over his chest, and then his face. It smelled like Oran Berries.

His vision was blurry. Owen could only see the outline of something orange. Was it a mirror? A blurry, wobbly reflection of himself. Flames danced over his face, and Owen sputtered in surprise.

It's Deca again, isn't it?

He blinked the blur away and squinted. Deca? He was saying something, but it was all muffled. There was concern in his eyes, but when Owen gurgled some sort of wordless reply, his double let out a laugh.

“He’s okay!” Deca shouted.

Owen heard cheers from a crowd. His ears rang, but that faded and gave way to more precise noises.

Oh, so the crowd didn't burn to death from the botched firebreak creation at the end. I was starting to get a bit worried there.

He sat up with a start. “What happened?!”

He sat up too quickly. His vision faded, and he held his head, breathing heavily. That, above all else, was the loudest sound—his own breathing unnerved him. He caught a glance at his tail, which was emitting a steady stream of steam, but no flame. Deca breathed a small ember at the tip; it tickled a bit, but then it reignited. This sent a slight jump-start to the rest of Owen’s system, and warmth spread completely after a few seconds of stillness.

Deca: "TL/DR: you got caught up in the flood of water for making the firebreak, your tail went out, and we've been hard at work resuscitating you since then."

Rhys stood in the distance, looking like he hadn’t moved in ages. He was fixated entirely on Owen, fidgeting with his paws, clenching his claws into the pads. He’d never seen a Heart look so guilty. A small crowd of the Pokémon that had been trapped previously were around him, just as others surrounded Owen to get a better look.

These two have a lot of history with each other from before Owen's present memory cycle. I mean, I already knew something like that was in play from the earlier chapters, but this makes me think that it was a lot longer and deeper than I suspected.

It wasn’t raining anymore, but it was incredibly dark. Owen turned his head to the sky and saw stars peeking through the burned treetops.

“Where am I?” he said. “Is this the Dungeon?”

“No,” Deca said. “The Dungeon rejected you when you got hit by the water.”

Ah, so Owen hit 0HP and got yeeted out. He's... fairly fortunate that there wasn't anyone around like a hungry feral waiting to spawn camp him. ^^;

“Water…” Owen recalled trying to take out the fuel in the Dungeon halls. “Wait, Water! The—what happened to the—”

“It worked,” Deca said. “The fire got close, but it couldn’t clear the gap you created on both sides. We waited until the fire died on its own, and after that… We figured it would be safe where the Dungeon sent us out. And it was, so we circled back to the entrance to find you.”

Owen: "... Wait, but wasn't the entrance on fire when we went in? How on earth am I not-?"
Deca: "It was less on fire by the time you were sent there?"

Owen rubbed his fingers together, and then his arms. “Everyone’s okay?”

“Everyone that was with us made it out fine,” Deca said.

Owen breathed a small sigh. “Good,” he said. “I’m just glad that I survived. When the Dungeon rejected me, I thought some stray wild would’ve attacked me while I was down, or something. But—”

Ah yes, the acknowledgement that Owen could've become somebody's lunch. I'm actually a little surprised that wasn't played up more in the earlier chapters, since that would've been a really nasty thing to dangle over Owen back in Jerry's encounter with him, where he was clearly ready and willing to knock him into next week and let the Dungeon deal with him.

“Actually, we scared one of those ferals off!” one of the forest natives piped up. “It was such a weird creature!”

“Don’t be stupid, that wasn’t a feral! That was a guardian spirit, I just know it!” another native retorted.

“You and your ‘guardian spirit’ mumbo-jumbo.”

Narrator: "It was indeed a spirit of some sort."

“No, it’s real! There have been sightings! A four-legged creature with a green and black body—exactly like I keep telling you! I’ve seen it!”

“Green-black and four legs? That sounds like Zygarde.”

Well then. I see that the locals weren't kidding about their "guardian spirit" being in action. Even if I didn't expect Zygarde to already start factoring into the plot.

“Maybe you should lay off the funny berries.”

So... recreational Lansat is a thing in this setting too, huh? Or else something analogous to it. :V

Owen tittered. “So, some weird creature was guarding me?”

Deca nodded, as did the rest of the crowd. “That’s the consensus. But it ran off before we could thank it.”

Which would've been quite a feat had it been in a Forme other than 10%, but being hound-like has its advantages for getting away in a hurry, yes.

Owen paused to silently thank this creature anyway. If it wasn’t Zygarde—which Owen wasn’t sure even existed—then perhaps it was some kind of forest guardian. After all, the trees of this forest were blackish and green. It could have just been camouflage. “And what about the fire?”


Since Legendaries having their own little "pet"/favorite corners of their worlds is a thing across multiple parts of franchise canon, so...

“It’s burning,” he said. “But we got everyone evacuated. All the wilds are… either dead, or ran away.”

“The fire started in multiple places due to some freak thunderstorm,” Rhys spoke up, and Deca refused to remove his eyes from Owen for the entirety of Rhys’ explanation.

This portion of the forest was trapped by a ring of fire, which was what caused us to send in the Fire teams to rescue the trapped Pokémon. We did our best to rescue who we could,” Rhys said, “but… obviously, we will have to perform a search for those who may not have escaped.”

inb4 this all came from some pissing match between the Taos. Though I'd recommend breaking up Rhys' dialogue paragraph into two.

Owen gulped. “What caused this…? This thunderstorm was… it was way too strong.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Deca said. “What matters is we made it out.”

Money is on an Electric Legendary having a normal one. And I can already tell that Deca's dismissal there isn't going to age well.

By now, the bystanders—tired from the stress—were starting to disband. Now that they knew their savior was okay, they refocused on how to recover from the disaster. Despite their burned home, they still knew where to go. Rhys volunteered to help guide those who were less sure of themselves. After a passing glance at Deca and Owen, he grunted and walked.

“Rhys!” Owen shouted.

He stopped.

Owen paused, finding the words. “Thanks for helping! It’s—it’s okay! Everyone’s saved because of you!”

Rhys: "... Hmph, don't mention it. I was just doing my job, and so were you. (Even if I have no idea how you knew about that firebreak trick since I could've sworn that forest management wasn't a component of the Heart entrance exam.)"

Rhys’ paws relaxed slightly. He gave a short nod, not looking back, and then walked away with the rest of the rescued Pokémon.

Owen shook his head. “He seems like the type who’ll beat himself up for a while over dousing me,” he said. “But, I don’t think it would’ve worked without his help.”

“He’ll reconcile,” Deca said. “Trust me. That guy will just turn it into more fire for him to do better next time. It’s not healthy, but as long as he doesn’t burn up from it, right?


Since now that Deca mentions this, I'm convinced that something like that is going to happen. If not necessarily in this SE.

They both laughed. Owen finally found the strength to get on his feet. He eased his way into it. Deca held him by the shoulder and back to keep him steady until he could stand on his own.

“Thanks,” Owen said.

Deca nodded. “Thanks to you, too.”

Owen: "Also... Deca, I know it sounds stupid but... do we know each other?"
- Beat moment -
Deca: "Well, I certainly won't be forgetting you after today, that's for sure..."

Owen noticed that the strain in Deca’s voice was gone now that they were alone.

It’s too bad you’re so tense around others. I hope you can get better at that, huh?”

I could've sworn that that was Rhys specifically he was tense around, Owen. Even if you're not exactly a master at connecting dots for your observations what with that credulity field that seemingly surrounds you constantly.

Deca smiled wryly. “I’ll do my best.”

Owen pulled his tail forward to inspect the flame. It was a healthy orange.



Deca stared for a while. Owen sensed something from his doppelganger—a strange tension of some kind. Like he wanted to do something, yet couldn’t. His paws twitched forward, then pulled themselves back.

Owen: "(Okay, we've totally met sometime before this in the past. But... why don't I remember anything of it?)" .-.

“What’s wrong?” Owen asked. “L-look, if you’re gonna ask me out, I don’t know if I have the time for stuff like that. I’m training to be a Heart. I—I mean, you seem like a really nice ‘mon and all, but we barely know each other!”


Owen: "... Oh my gods, that's not what I meant to say there!" >///<

Deca let out a sound that was a cross between a sigh and a laugh. He shook his head and fell forward, wrapping his arms around Owen. Startled, Owen could only take a step back, but that only made Deca squeeze tighter. He didn’t know what to say, let alone how to react, so he just stood there. Eventually, he brought his hand around Deca and patted his back.

Owen: "(Maybe I should ask Deca how on earth he seems to know me when he's a complete stranger to me...?)"

“Hey,” Owen said, figuring this had to do with Deca’s social anxieties, “it’s alright. I bet it’s hard, but you can overcome it, right? Maybe with some meditation? That’s what helps my aura calm down. I dunno if it’s the same thing, but—"

Owen: "(... Crap. At least it'll put him in a good mood?)"

“They’re so proud of you, Owen.” Deca trembled, the spasms shaking Owen.


I mean, given that you've Word of God-explained that Owen's name is a play off of 'one' and Deca's name semantically means 'ten'... Deca's referring to mutual family right now, isn't he?

Deca kept holding onto Owen. He felt Deca’s hands press flat against his back; something stirred in Owen’s chest, and that advanced to his throat, and then his eyes. His vision felt blurry—tears welled up, and this sent him into a mild panic.


“Don’t forget that,” Deca said. “Okay? Don’t ever forget…”

And then Nevren promptly lazored all of this from Owen's mind like a week later.

Owen blinked, confused. His emotions weren’t matching his thoughts. His mind had no reason to think of anything about Deca other than the fact that he helped with the fire. Yet all he wanted to do was bawl and cry and stay with Deca the whole night. His heart raced, and he held Deca back. He kept his emotions together enough to speak.

Okay. I won’t… forget. I won’t forget.”

This is at once touching and really
knowing that barring memories lingering deep in his subconscious, that Owen does forget this moment by the time of the present day in the story.

Deca kept holding him for what felt like forever, and yet still it wasn’t enough time. Owen wondered if Deca would let go at all. And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t complain. He kept holding on, memorizing the scales on Deca’s back. They were exactly like his own. Curious, Owen felt for the strange patch of scales whose pattern didn’t quite match the surrounding area—a small, natural irregularity of the body, much like a birthmark. And he found it in the same spot.

That's going to become plot/character important later on, I can already tell.

Eventually, Deca let go and pulled away. Owen was startled to see the streams of tears running down Deca’s face—a flow that was even greater than his own.

“What’s—what’s going on?!” Owen said, wiping his eyes. “Deca! Who—who are you? Do you know my parents?”

Deca laughed again. “Oh, Owen… I’m…”

Owen saw Deca’s hand glow with a strange light. Deca sniffled once. The hand that didn’t glow wiped his eyes. Owen mirrored the movement, clearing his vision.

Yeah, these two are totally family if not outright siblings. I would be more surprised if it turned out that they weren't down the line.

“Good night, Owen.”


Deca tapped Owen on the forehead with his glowing hand. Owen’s thoughts grew muddled. In an instant, it all faded to nothingness.

... Wait, so if Deca can do this to Owen, that means that Owen can also make others (or at least other Chars that may-or-may not be intimate family with cosmically important attributes) conk out like this with an appropriate power unlock?

Deca’s ears still rang from the roaring flames. Not only that, but his mind was completely fatigued. He had been doing the mental equivalent of holding his breath for at least half the night, now. The identical Charmander stared down at Owen in his arms, struggling to carry him along—after all, they were completely identical in weight and—more importantly—strength. Owen needed to work out more.

“Mnngg, more apples,” Owen mumbled. His tongue dangled from the side of his mouth, a bit of drool dripping onto Deca’s right arm.

Deca: "... In retrospect, I should've brought a pull-cart for this since it'd have made my life a lot easier." -_-;

Deca sighed, but he couldn’t hide his smile. But his heart sank back down. It wouldn’t be long, now.

He had to admit, it was a peaceful place. Calm, open field. A hot cave for him to live in, even if it was just due to the Fire Guardian’s antics. It seemed nice enough. There weren’t any particularly interesting landmarks this way, either, which made it quite secluded thanks to travelers just using Waypoints to skip over this path entirely.

“You’ve got a good life, Owen,” Deca said. “I’m… not going to lie to myself and say otherwise.”

... Wait, implying there that Deca doesn't have a good life? .-.

“Too sweet,” Owen babbled. “Needs Cheri…”

Deca sighed. He carefully set Owen down, making sure his tail rested against the dirt and not the grass, and then eyed the great boulder ahead of him. His hand glowed with a Mystic power, and he held his hand forward, toward the boulder. He swung his arm to the side.

... Wait, so is Owen's family or however he's related to Deca all Guardians or something? Since if Deca literally rocks all of Owen's power and he's literally using abilities that only Guardians and Hunters have...

Nothing happened.

“Ngh.” Deca tried again. The glow, the swipe. Nothing. “Oh, come on, it can’t be that strong.” And so, he tried again. Not even a wiggle.

Whelp, guess there's one power that Owen has over Deca here.

“How are you supposed to open this thing?!” Deca mumbled. “Password. There’s supposed to be a password, right? Ngh, what’s a…”

He paced, tapping his chin. Every so often, he glanced at Owen, and each time he did so, it was like a breath of fresh air in his mind.

Open… now!” Deca shook his claws toward the unmoving boulder. “Open… Hot Spot Caverns! Open… sesame?”

He knew it wouldn’t work, but he was desperate. After a full fifty seconds of staring, Owen snorted in his sleep. Deca jolted and spun around. But the sleeping Charmander didn’t stir.

... Wait a minute, I just realized. Hunters have Mystic power as well, and Deca met Rhys in the past. And Deca's presently trying to force his way past a password-protected door to where the Fire Guardian presently is...

Though this paragraph here works better cut up. Doesn't necessarily need to be into this many pieces, but it definitely felt like there was enough going on in it that it shouldn't have been one.

And then, Deca watched Owen for a while, entranced by him. He stared at the gentle rise and fall of his back and the flickering, lively flame at the end of his tail. The small, subtle frown while he slept, like he was pensive about something in his dreams. Probably whether he should use Cheri or Tamatos to cut through the sweetness.

Deca took a single step forward, and then another. He was right in front of Owen, now. He leaned forward and picked him up; Owen hummed in response, bumping his head against Deca’s cheek.

And he stayed there. Despite the dead weight, Deca stayed there, wrapping his arms around the Charmander double, memorizing every single scale that he could. He felt hot tears welling up again. They poured slowly onto Owen’s shoulders, and then to the ground. Deca stared with a fierce glare against the air ahead of him. He finally let Owen go, wondering if it would be the last time.

Oh, well... that doesn't bode well for Deca's continued existence there. .-.

With a resolute glint in his eyes, he faced the boulder, sat on the ground, and concentrated. He took a steady breath…

O Holy Creator Mew. Deca projected. I call upon you to hear my prayer.

Deca paused for a bit longer, and then dug his claws against his thighs. It was just a formality, really. Any sort of thought toward her would have been sufficient. But, from what he knew, prayers tended to be louder if he started politely. The same didn’t have to go for the rest of what he had to say, and his thoughts became a few tones harsher.

"Creator Mew", huh? Well that's certainly at odds with the official story of how HoC's world came to be. Is that implying that Deca / Owen / others like him are direct creations of Star, or...?

A few days ago, Owen failed to become a Heart again. Didn’t pass Anam’s final check. Flying colors with the practical exam… yet never past Anam himself. Always the same story, year after year. No wonder he took on this horrible mission, just to prove that he could do a Heart’s job.

Oh, so Deca is an agent of Star. That's... wonderful, really.

Deca looked down, glaring at the dirt. Kricketot were chirping. Deca counted their cries four times in sequence, like a little conversation among the wilds.

Is that your plan? Deca said. When Anam deems Owen worthy of becoming a Heart, he’s ready for the Orb? And do you think he’ll be ready for what comes next, too?

Well, all those cute moments like a scene or two ago suddenly got a lot more ominous now. Since I already know that Star blatantly has ulterior motives and is not trustworthy, which doesn't bode well for what it's going to be like when Owen and Deca cross paths again in the future.

Three chirps. Deca wondered if she was even listening, or if she was just stubbornly sitting in her own little realm, ignoring the world’s problems as usual. She needed an ultimatum.

Star… if we find an Orb first, we’ll figure out how to take the rest. And your defenses won’t be enough once we have the power of one Orb. When that happens… you better be ready. Because I’m done waiting.

Oh, so Deca really is a Hunter. Even if I'm getting some really mixed messages with this connection that he apparently has with Star here.

Deca ended the prayer there. He brought his arm to his eyes and wiped them dry, and then glanced back at Owen. He let out a gentle curse from his breath and stared ahead. He wanted to finish on an awesome one-liner, but now he had a sleeping Charmander out in the cold.

…Also, can… can you tell the Fire Guardian to open her cave? Owen’s asleep and I don’t know how to open it.

Amia clearly did well hiding the "password" to Hot Spot Cave if it's never been reproduced all this time. Though I suppose its knowers being too mortified to ever willingly share it with other souls is handy for keeping it from getting around.

With that final message, Deca stood to his feet and turned around to looked at Owen one last time. He figured he only had a few more seconds. He walked over and gently held Owen’s shoulder. His eyes clouded once more, but he shook it off.

“I’m sorry,” Deca said.

And then, when the boulder behind him rumbled, Deca bolted into the night.

For now, anyways. Since I'm not convinced that he doesn't pop up again a few times in the 140+ chapters following this one.

Alright, and time for the recap:

A bit chunky, but I think that it was a fun special episode, even if I gather that the main point behind it was basically to tease characters that would be appearing later on in the story plus a glimpse of what the "before times" relative to the present "loop" in-story were like. It feels like we at once got to know the characters that were focused on better, while a whole lot of "hold onto that thought"-esque questions were raised. Which I suppose is only to be expected since that's kinda HoC's MO. Also, the firebreak technique drawn off of IRL fire management techniques with a more fantastical skin was particularly clever, especially since I think this is the first time that I've ever seen any story in this fandom do something involving manipulation of fire like that, so kudos there.

As for complaints, it's mostly similar ones to the past couple chapters. Some paragraphs are big and bulky enough that they'd probably merit splitting up, some spots would benefit from slowing down and describing a bit more to be a bit more "visual", and a couple spots had wording that seemed a touch clunky. That said, it's really well put-together on balance, with the only hard structural complaint that I have being that there's at least 2 spots in the first scene that I could find that felt like they could've very well had a hard scene cut dropped in without missing a beat. But altogether, those are relatively minor quibbles, and they didn't really get in the way of the experience as a whole.

And that rounds out the last of my prize reviews from Union's RE5. Hope you had fun with them @Namohysip . It'll probably be slower going in this story for the foreseeable future, but hey, you've left a decent hook for things thus far, and I'm sure that whenever I get back to it, that it'll be an experience to see where things wind up going and what the answers to some of those lingering mysteries are.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, been running a bit late, but I did sign up for a review tag, so I suppose I should stop stalling and get that knocked out of the way. Jumping right in with…

Chapter 12

Anam, and only Anam, heard the deep boom of metal bells.

The Abandoned Temple—the original name lost to the ages—stood four stories high, despite only having a single story inside. The building was made out of marble with intricate designs along the walls in the shape of spirals, flowers, and all sorts of Pokémon. A broken, circular window of colored glass gazed from the top of the temple. Several rounded, tall windows sat along the walls. What the windows depicted, unfortunately, was difficult to decipher, as most of the glass was gone. But Anam remembered. He saw the windows as if they were still new, depicting the Pokémon of legends.

... Wait, why does this remind me so much of that cathedral thing from Hearthome City? Since I swear that that general description lines up with it:


While the temple may have once been a pristine, white marble, it was now reddened with the dusty winds of dirt and time, sitting in the middle of an empty field of brown, dry dirt, like even the grass refused to grow there.

“What a loud bell,” Anam said, a serene grin spreading across his face.

... Wait, so is Anam saying this to himself or in front of an audience, or...?

The boom reverberated through Anam’s mind: a deep metallic echo that shook the ground beneath his feet and the goo in his chest. It rang slowly, once, twice, three times…

Zena and James exchanged glances. The Milotic eyed Anam with concern. “What?”

“Don’t you hear it?” Anam asked.

Aha, so he does have an audience after all.

Zena: "(He's losing it, isn't he?)"
James: "(Hard to tell, honestly. Since Anam has always been... eccentric, to put it lightly.)"

He listened to it chime three more times. His feelers twitched at the vibrations, and Anam pointed his head skyward, toward the topmost tower at the center of the temple. There was no bell there, but Anam could see it. Swinging with the wind and the rope of the bell ringer a room below. The bell ringer that was no longer there. But he used to be. A strong Tyranitar. Anam wondered, would he like to ring it again?

The temple was silent.

Whelp, never mind, it's not a ruined Hearthome cathedral thingy, since it certainly didn't have one of those in DPPt.

Also, I presume that means that the bell ringer is one of the spirits that Anam can conjure?

“No, Anam. This place is completely devoid of noise,” Zena said. “I think we’re the loudest thing on the property.”

Yet, the Goodra stared at the building for a while longer.

It rang three more times. Anam felt something well up from deep in his chest. A strange swelling of warmth. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes with a tranquil smile. And then, he breathed out.

The bell stopped after the ninth ring. Anam put a hand to his chest.

Actually, I'm a bit curious if this is all just nostalgia happening or if this is "something something spirits" in action given that only Anam is hearing these bellchimes.

“Do you like it?” Anam asked to neither Zena nor James, holding a hand to his chest. “It’s okay. It might be fun.”

Confused, Zena slithered a few paces forward. “We should not waste much time. Shall we enter? The Normal Guardian is inside.

“Yes. Come, Anam.”

... Or I suppose it could've been some sort of signal from the resident Guardian, even if I'd be curious as to why Zena didn't also pick up on it if so since she's a Guardian herself.

Anam followed silently, but he walked at a slow, agonizing pace. His slimy hand brushed against the dusty walls of the entrance. There was no door, but it looked like there used to be.

The interior was like night and day, and Anam’s eyes shined so brightly that Zena almost had to avert her own. The marble walls on the interior were cleaned to a blinding shine; the open room was completely clear of debris. At the far end was some kind of altar. It looked like a Pokémon would stand there to address a crowd. Faded murals—so faded that the actual contents were unrecognizable—lined the high walls and broken windows.


Zena: "... Wait, he can do that?"

James: "Fortunately, I those don't do actual damage. ... I think."

“I’ve never seen a building like this before,” Zena said. “This is nothing like Kilo Village. Or even Hot Spot.”

“Hrm,” James hummed. “It is of a time long passed, Zena. A relic. This used to be a place of worship, back when Kilo had a significant interest in such things. While we still have a few ceremonies now and then, we’re quite secular. Kilo Village used to host congregations every moon, and this temple was one of those places of worship."

[ ]

"It may be one of the few ones standing. For why the Normal Guardian would reside within…” James fluffed out his feathers. “I’m not quite sure. Star said he was quirky. Perhaps he’s spiritual.”

IMO, James' line is long enough that it'd probably work better as 2 paragraphs with something interwoven in between. There's multiple points that could work to that end, though the halfway point of his explanation felt the most natural to me assuming that there's a moment to soak in the scenery or something that follows.

Though Kilo used to take an interest in the spiritual, huh? Why am I not convinced that that decline in that interest was organic?

“Aren’t we all technically… spiritual?” Zena repeated, looking at one of her ribbons as it formed a small, aura ember.

“Hm. Good point.”

James: "Technically I'm spiritual and you and Anam are Mystic, though close enough." ^v^;

Anam advanced, and Zena and James followed until they all reached the middle of the room. With a smile on his face, he walked straight toward the altar at the back of the room with an eager spring in his step.


Anam’s foot sank into the tile and he stopped his advance. “…Was that bad?”

That was a trap tile, wasn't it?

“Very,” Decidueye James replied, puffing out his feathers. “Anam, whatever you do, do not lif—”

Anam lifted his foot.

James: "Anam! Why would you even-?!" OvO;

The fiery explosion that followed sent Anam, Zena, and James flying in completely opposite directions. The ground shifted instantly; the floors collapsed in patches and rose in others. Spikes skewered tiles from below, and strange, metal stalactites fell from above. A giant spike shot out from one wall and went straight for—

“Pfwoooh—!” It pinned Anam against the wall; the huge, stone thorn went right through his gooey chest, narrowly missing his heart—if he had one. He brought his slimy hands over it and tried to push it away, but it was jammed in too tight. His paw disintegrated into goo from the strain.

J-James!” Anam called in a gurgle, waving his handless, melting arm. “Help! I’m stuck!”

That one's gonna leave a mark. If only temporarily because Ghost Guardian powers.

James: "This is why you should stop and listen when others are speaking, Anam!" >v<

“Can’t quite help at the moment!” James replied, narrowly dodging a concentrated beam of light that carved the stone ground that it struck. Anam finally pushed the stone spire free and dropped to the ground with a loud splat, his lower half becoming a purple mush on the ground. He needed a few seconds to recreate himself—it seemed that as a Mystic, the goo half of his kind was very pronounced.

Zena: "If you two will just excuse me a moment, I'll just be casually throwing up my breakfast in a corner right now."

“Is this the Guardian’s doing?!” Zena called to James, emerging from the ground. She was hiding in cracks of the temple’s ruined foundation as water, hoping to avoid the Normal Guardian’s strikes. Another Hyper Beam spooked the Milotic enough for her to hide within the cracks again.

Waaaaait, but it was never revealed in the narration from Anam's perspective that "oh, guess that's one way to know the Normal Guardian's here". I wonder if it'd make sense to drop in a throwaway sentence either in this paragraph or the earlier one to that effect, since this feels a bit "by the way" in nature.

“I’m quite certain!” James vanished in a fine, black mist, dodging a second Hyper Beam. Something about these blasts felt dangerous even for his Ghostly nature. “He must feel threatened by this. Perhaps Rim already tried to defeat him. Clearly, she failed!”

Oh, so the Normal Guardian used Foresight, huh? Though does that mean that there's no immediate visual difference in Normal attacks with versus without its effects?

Zena emerged halfway to speak. “We haven’t even seen him yet!” she said. “Where could he be coming from?” Another blast of concentrated light carved a line out of the ground, leaving molten marble in its place. “These beams are coming from every direction! Surely he can’t Teleport and use Hyper Beam at the same time!”

Zena, considering some of the antics other characters get up to in this story, are you really ruling that out so quickly? >:V

“I doubt that is the case,” James said, “but it is possible. But I’ve seen this strategy before… These might be a variant to Owen’s approach when he battles. Traps. Hyper Beam-traps, perhaps stored in empty Wonder Orbs, or—”

James jumped to the right. A passing spike tore off a feather from his face.

Urf—the actual Guardian might be deeper insi—”

Another line of hard light vaporized James where he stood, and he became nothing but an ember that returned to Anam’s body. Even a Ghost Type was not immune to these attacks.

I would recommend hacking this up into smaller paragraphs. The main point of division I think should be James' last bit of dialogue from the narration where he gets poofed, but something about his earlier dialogue also felt a bit jammed-together to me.

“Oops,” Anam said, cupping James’ spirit in his good hand. He dipped him into his chest, where the ember vanished completely. “Um, Z-Zena! Let’s try to keep going!”

Zena: "Oh, you have got to be kidding me."

Anam: "Look, if we just sit around like this, we're eventually going to get lazored from existence, so... yeah, let's keep moving."

Thankfully, it seemed that the traps had exhausted themselves. Aside from the ambient sounds of rubble collapsing in small pieces against the walls, there were no further attacks.

Cue the beam spam kicking up again in 3... 2...

Anam used his hands to piece his lower half back together. So far, he had most of his belly and tail reconstructed, but he couldn’t find any spare material for his legs. He puffed his cheeks and pushed—new little feet popped out from the base of his thighs, followed by the rest of his missing appendages. He sprung to his feet, and Zena marveled at the Guardian’s regenerative abilities. If any of that happened to her, she’d be nothing but a dead puddle.

I'm guessing that that's a perk of being the Ghost Guardian since "something something, can turn incorporeal as needed"? Or is that something that's technically not related to that?

“Of course,” Zena finally said.

She returned to the cracks and advanced further into the temple. They passed the altar and entered a back room. The further they went, the more it appeared to be… less abandoned. The entrance was a crumbling stone palace—mostly due to the traps that had gone off—but further inside, the walls were back to their pristine polish, constantly maintained, like it was an eternal routine.

... Can't tell if those are the ones that they just set off, or if that's a sign that this Guardian has had visitors recently.

Anam panted, tiny arms on the ground. “Th-this is way too much running… Why is this temple so big on the inside? It’s not a Dungeon, is it?”

It's totally a dungeon, isn't it?

“You’re Mystic. Can you not just restore your own stamina?” Zena asked.

“Anam is… typically focused on other aspects of his Mysticism,” James said, summoned again by Anam. “He largely focuses on self-preservation and high defenses rather than… offensive prowess.”

Ah yes, so Anam's fighter class is a Defender Class with some healing Master Arts

Zena stared at Anam with a flash of a memory in her eyes. “That reminds me of an old friend,” she remarked. “Anam, do you happen to know an Emily?”

“Huh?” Anam said. “What did you say? Emily? That sounds…”

Ah yes. Her first mention in this story. Time to see where this conversation winds up going.

“Let’s not get distracted,” James said.

He pointed a wing forward. There was a single Pokémon there, floating at the back of the smaller room. Twitching. Watching. “Are you the Guardian?”

James: "Also, yeah... let's not talk about Emily for a while, okay?" >v>;
Zena: "So you do know her. Though did something happen between you all?"
James: "... Something, yes. That's as far as this conversation needs to go right now." >v<;

It was a strange Pokémon with a smooth surface—one that Zena had never seen before. Anam and James, however, knew of its kind.

The Porygon-Z buzzed with anxiety. “You do not have permission to create a guest account!” he said. His voice was like a buzz in the air, as if he was speaking through the crackle of a Thunder Shock at all times. “403 - Forbidden! Access to the back rooms is not allowed! Those traps should have deleted you!”

Oh, this is that same original Porygon from In Beta, isn't it? Since I remember you mentioning that that story tied into HoC.

“Deleted?” James said. “Strange terminology, Porygon-Z, but we mean you no harm. We have no intention of deleting you, either. Yes?”

“Authentication required.”

If this is indeed the same Porygon from In Beta which responded to Linux-style terminal prompts, I wonder if 'sudo cd "backroom"' would work on forcing him to stand down.

James sighed, glancing at Anam. “The Badge, if you may.”

“Oh!” The Goodra dug through the bag partially submerged in the right side of his chest and pulled out the circular emblem. “This! Yep! That’s my Thousand Heart Association Badge! I’m the leader, and our entire purpose is to make this place safe and peaceful for everyone! Including you!”

Porygon-Z buzzed with uncertainty. “Your data has not been verified and may be corrupt. Checksum required!”

... Wait, those badges carry checksums? As in to verify that each one is uniquely identified to each other? Or is that just Porygon-Z's computerese way of saying that he wants to see its ID number or something like that?

James blinked. “…I do not know what that is,” he said, “but I imagine this has something to do with your species’ strange origins. I can assure you that we are not lying. Anam is a fellow Guardian, as is Zena. Meanwhile, I am a spirit, here solely because of the power of a very kind Mystic.” He pointed a wing at Anam, who blushed and giggled.

Porygon-Z: "Yeah, no. Fork over the badge. Unless if you're a superuser, you're not getting past here without that checksum." òvó
James: "... Dunno what that means either, but..." ^v^;

Porygon-Z stared at the two, and then looked at Zena. “Are you a Guardian?”

“Yes, of Water,” Zena replied. “I am Zena. This is James and Anam. What is your name?”

“Profile data corrupted. Fallback data in use: I was once designated as an Absolutely Deadly Autonomous Machine. Therefore, my name is ADAM.”

Oh, so it has a name, huh? Though with a name like that, I kinda get the vibe that ADAM has been around in HoC's setting for a long, long time. Especially if he is indeed that Porygon from In Beta.

“ADAM, huh?” Anam said. “That’s close to my name! Except you spell yours out. And it’s a D instead of an N. Can we just call you Adam?”

“That is my primary PC title,” ADAM said. “Such a title is reserved only for users with administrative permissions.”

>sentient computer program that predates the creation of the world and is just chilling around with insane powers

Boy is that premise familiar. Next thing you'll tell me that ADAM chills around with resident deities or something like that. :V

James: "Wait, but that's literally just your name with less emphasis."
ADAM: "No, no, the difference in characters is important. 'ADAM' registers completely differently from my primary PC title. Similarly, attempting case variations like 'ADaM' for instance, will be recognized as invalid for both purposes."
James: "... That meant a whole lot of nothing to me, so..." ^v^;

“Oh, okay,” Anam said. “Well, you can use my name whenever you want! I’m Goodra Anam.”

“It seems that the Porygon-Z still has a sense of culture,” James said. “How long have you been here?”

So wait, is ADAM addressed as 'Porygon-Z ADAM' then? Or does he do a clipping of that for the sake of sounding smoother?

“The word ‘here’ must be further defined.”

“In this temple. How long has this been your home?”

I have lived within this temple for approximately 1.5e10 seconds, base ten,” stated ADAM.

Oh, so roughly 475 years and 4 months, huh? I wonder if that means that ADAM was up to things prior to settling down in this temple, since I could've sworn that HoC's setting was mentioned elsewhere on the net as having a history that extended noticeably longer than that.

Though actually, I just realized that if turning up the computerese to max, that there was a missed opportunity to have ADAM speak of his time in 'milliseconds'/'ms'/'msec' since that's the default unit of time used to measure the likes of reads from data storage or receiving data packets.

Anam counted on his gooey fingers.

“I see,” James said. “I imagine this is a very long time? How long does that compare to the lifetime of the average Pokémon?”

“Compared to my time in this temple, the average life of a Pokémon, is not negligible, but is significantly smaller.

Yeah, by like a multiple of 5-6x based off the offsite commentary from the last chapter.

“So, a really long time,” Anam said, nodding. “Um, mister ADAM, does that mean maybe your… brain… head… has been damaged and corrupted?”

“My hardware is incapable of degrading due to Mysticism,” ADAM replied. “…But perhaps my software requires repairing, and my file system, defragmenting. The data may be corrupted. However, I cannot reinstall my own operating system. Those files may have also been corrupted.”

That sounds like a really roundabout way of saying "yeah, I've been damaged and corrupted", just saying, ADAM.

Anam nodded, noticing that ADAM was starting to become easier to understand. Perhaps when he wasn’t so frantic, his instincts didn’t in the way of his behavior.

“Well, would it help if you came with us to… rest… your software?” Anam asked. He leaned toward James, “What’s a software? That sounds like a Nev-Nev thing. Like those screens in the hospital, or those little beep-boops in the new buildings.

I did not realize that HoC's setting flatly had electronics still lying around and usable, though I suppose I should be less surprised given the Digimon drinky bird that's a Guardian in this setting.

James shook his head. “ADAM, we only request that you come with us,” he said. “Such a temple is not suitable to a Pokémon such as yourself.”

“Oh, yeah!” Anam said. “And if more Hunters come by, we can keep you safe!”

“Hunters are not a security threat,” ADAM said. “More persistent are Pokémon that do not appear in my database, but instead appear to be corrupted files.

Those would be mutants, huh? Since that sure sounds like mutants right about now.

“Mutants,” James said. “If I am not mistaken, you are describing mutants. I imagine such a landmark would pique what semblance of curiosity they have.” He nodded. “We can protect you against those, too, ADAM.”

Yeah, I figured. Even if I am fairly
about the idea of accepting this protection even if the gang isn't necessarily cognizant of why they should be suspicious of it.

The Porygon-Z analyzed James carefully, then Zena, then Anam. He then scanned—for the umpteenth time—his polished temple. While Anam could not see an expression on the Pokémon’s face, he did feel his distinct lack of interest in the temple at large.

Very well,” ADAM said.

Huh, that easy, huh? Though I suppose spending close to five centuries in a ruined temple would get old even for a sentient AI.

“Nice!” Anam pumped his fist in the air. A wad of slime flung from his hand and toward ADAM, who drifted to the side to avoid it. The Goodra pulled out their silver Badge, the communicator. “Hey, everyone! We have the first Guardian! He’s okay! He’ll come with us, and he’s super cool! …Guys? Hello?”

They may be occupied,” James said. “Let’s return home.”

inb4 Owen's running around busy trying not to die at the moment or something like that.

The World’s Wound.

That was the other title of the Great Crevice, among many lesser nicknames. Nature’s Scar. The War’s End. All sorts of titles and nicknames for the great fissure that carved out a large portion of the land’s eastern side. On the map—the only place one could truly see its full size without entering the outer atmosphere—its lower, tapered end kissed the southeastern beaches, while the upper end was much like an expanding fan, covering an entire portion of the map in the shape of a jagged, narrow triangle. While swaths of the northern portions of the fissure were clothed in forestry, the narrower portions were still steep and rocky.


Filing that one away as a note about implied events for the backstory of HoC's setting. That war must've been a doozy to leave that behind in its wake.

Rhys and his terrible trio followed the subtle traces of Mystic aura that radiated from a cave near the northern side of the narrow portion of the fissure. Star knew that general detail, but nothing more. They had spent the better part of the afternoon simply finding the cave.

It might have taken less time, had it not been for the fact that Demitri took longer than anyone to go down the rocky trails of the fissure. His legs trembled with almost every step, hugging the wall despite the fact that the path itself was several feet wide. Eventually, Mispy wrapped him up and held him on her back, where he still trembled.

Mispy: "Demitri, do we need to break out a Sleep Seed or something until we get past this part?" -_-;
Demitri: "No, no! I'm fine! T-Totally!"

“Are you okay?” Mispy asked, squeezing her vines around his abdomen.

“Yeah. I’m… I’ll be okay.” He nuzzled the vines a bit.

Mispy: "... Yeah, I'm going to start looking for that Sleep Seed now." :|

“Feh, still scared o’ heights?” Gahi clicked at Demitri in a jeer. “Too bad yeh’ll never grow wings.

“Good!” Demitri squeaked, hugging Mispy’s neck from behind.

inb4 Demitri indeed gets a set of wings as an ability later on in the story as a meta troll. Since hey, the setting is wild enough with its powerups that I won't rule it out. :V

They continued along until Rhys held out his paw. “There.” He pointed at a small alcove in the fissure. “I sense a Mystic aura coming from this general area, and there’s a small cave here. The Guardian of the Rock Orb is somewhere inside, certainly.”

“N-no more cliff-climbing?” Demitri asked. As if to provoke him, a howling gust wind blew over the rocks.

Cue there being a ton of cliffs left to go right around the bend. o<o

“No. Let’s go inside.” Rhys motioned for them to follow, taking the first step into the lightless cave. He held out an Aura Sphere and maintained it several feet in front of him, producing a soft light to lead the way.

“Finally.” Gahi wobbled next to Rhys.

Huh, was expecting you to be a bit more meta-cruel to Demitri there, though I suppose that he needed a bit of a break eventually.

With the cliffsides far enough away to forget, Demitri relaxed his muscles and flopped forward on Mispy’s back. Now, he was just cautious of the cave. Rocks wouldn’t fall on them, right? No, he had to distract himself from this. He stared at the Aura Sphere that lit the way, thinking about how if Owen had been with them, they wouldn’t have needed it. The blue color was more comforting, though. It reminded him of dragon fire.

Huh. I didn't realize that this was a Demitri-POV scene. I blame the first two paragraphs for throwing me since I at first read it from an omniscient perspective.

“Rhys?” Demitri asked. “What’s wrong with having Owen with us for this, anyway? I feel like we’d work really well together.

Ah yes, those residual memories kicking into gear, I see.

Mispy perked up, as did Gahi, for the answer.

“It’s simply not a good idea to have four non-Elites in one team for something such as this,” their mentor stated. “We need to have strong and competent members—both qualities in one Pokémon—on all teams. You three simply aren’t experienced enough yet. The same goes for Owen, who just entered the Thousand Hearts.”

I mean, considering how Owen was still undergoing training the last we saw him... it's kinda hard to argue with Rhys' point here.

Demitri frowned. “I guess…

“Just feels like…” Gahi tilted his head left and right. “I’unno. Fighting with’m feels… right, y’know? The four of us as a team. Yeah…”

Gahi: "Like we've teamed up in the past or somethin' like that."
Rhys: "-ahem- Well, yes I suppose that Owen has displayed good chemistry with you all, but- oh hey, I think we're getting close to the Guardian right now!"

“Well, that simply cannot happen right now,” Rhys said simply. “Let’s focus on the task at hand. That is—the Guardian of the Great Crevice, home of the Rock Guardian.”


Mispy: "Demitri, it'll be fine and you won't get squashed by rocks. Probably. Maybe."

They turned another corner; they finally saw it. It was very faint, but it was a glow visible even to those who couldn’t see auras, like Demitri and Gahi. They continued to walk in total silence.

It only broke when Demitri spoke up. “Rhys?”


“What’s a Divine Promise? Owen was talking about it with us. Something between you and Zena?”

Demitri: "... And why have you never told us anything about this before again?"

“Hmm…” Rhys continued walking. “It is something that only Mystics can do—that is, those with powers related to the Orbs. Simply put… making a Divine Promise is keeping yourself to your word—or face the consequences. In the case of a Promise… breaking it would mean relinquishing your Mystic power to the Pokémon you made the promise with.”

“Y-you mean, if you broke your Promise with Zena, then…!”

“Then I would no longer have any form of Mysticism. I would not have enhanced power. I would be nothing but a simple, mortal Lucario.” Rhys turned to look back at Demitri.

That is why Zena was so surprised when I accepted the agreement," he explained. "Even the cleverest Pokémon in the world cannot break a Divine Promise without also losing their power. I phrased my Promise in such a way that there is no loophole—or, if there is one, I hadn’t thought of it.”

Would recommend splitting up at least the second of Rhys' two exposition paragraphs. Though Rhys is going to get depowered later on in the story as a result of this Divine Promise, I can already tell.

“W-wow… so you really don’t want to be a Hunter any more, huh?”

“I do not,” Rhys said with a bit more firmness than before, making Demitri flinch. His voice softened after. “Long ago, I fought for Star. But some fought harder, I suppose. And Star became disillusioned with her own cause, and asked for us to stop. We thought she was simply losing heart, and we pressed on. But I later realized that some Hunters… simply wanted more power. It had nothing to do with Star.”


Yeah, no. I'll believe it when I see it, since Star has been giving off major "is manipulating the protagonists" vibes, especially with the way she's given them a task that would gather all the Elemental Guardians in one convenient place.

“O-oh, and… and Nevren is the same way?”

Rhys nodded. “It seems that Nevren has quietly distanced himself from the other Hunters, too,” he said. “I haven’t seen him with the others for quite some time, even if we chat with them now and then, in our own pocket of the spirit realm.”

“Wh—wait, when do you visit there?” Demitri asked.

“When I meditate,” Rhys said.


Yeah, feeling good about my prediction in SE1 that Deca is a Hunter, since his interactions with Rhys and that entire outro scene would be consistent with that background given Rhys' comments in the last block.

More walking—the glow was getting abnormally bright, but there was still no sign of the actual Guardian. Demitri felt Mispy’s back tense and her pace stiffen; she must have been trying to formulate her question in the silence. Then, she spoke. “Did you kill… the Grass Guardian?”

Rhys’ steps lost their rhythm, but he regained it quickly. “I have many regrets regarding my past as a Hunter. But I was not the one who killed the Grass Guardian. In fact, I was largely unsuccessful in those efforts. Wholly, actually.”

Why do I get the feeling that this is going to be a "technical truth" behind this story? Since I can see Rhys' moment of hesitation there.

“Y-you mean, even if you’re super strong…?” Demitri asked.

“It wasn’t necessarily strength that stopped me,” Rhys said, “but perhaps… willpower. Mystic power is largely tied to the will. If, so to speak, your ‘heart is not in it’ when you fight, that Mystic power will not help you. In fact, it could hinder you. Meanwhile, a Guardian is fighting to survive. Their willpower could be… significant. In the end,” he said, “My will to gain power was lesser than their will to live.”

The prior Grass Guardian was a companion or a former lover to Rhys or something like that, wasn't it? Since something about this willpower explanation plus his earlier discomfort is kinda giving off those vibes.

“Didn’t stop yeh from beating Owen ter a pulp of Cheri dust,” Gahi clicked.

“D’you think the others might have trouble with that?” Demitri said. “If a Guardian is scared they’re being attacked…”

Rhys shook his head. “We can only hope things work out.”

Demitri: "... Wait, in that case, wouldn't it have been for the best if we approached this Guardian with you disguised-?"

Rhys: "It'd risk an even worse negative reaction if my identity came out afterwards. Guardians have their ways of picking up on Mystic presences. It's better to just be forward and honest about things, really."

Demitri frowned, rubbing at one of his axes awkwardly. “Too bad we didn’t bring Anam. He’d just convince them by being friendly.”

“Yes, well,” Rhys said. “I’m sure I can be friendly.”

None of his students looked convinced.

Gahi: "... We're gonna die, I can already tell."

The light was growing stronger. Rhys held his arm out to stop the other three. Mispy stopped first; Gahi bumped into her rear, which made Demitri topple onto her neck again. They squabbled amongst one another, but Rhys shushed them firmly and they listened.

“The Guardian is just ahead.”

Gahi: "Oh yay me."

They walked uneasily forward. Rhys didn’t feel a particularly powerful aura ahead, but it was distinctly Mystic. And a lot brighter than usual. A bit abnormal, but considering the lack of light, perhaps it had to do with keeping things bright.

Demitri and Gahi were less informed. The Axew leaned to the side to see past Mispy’s leaf. “Wow! Cool statue!”

In the center of the end of the cave—in a cavern large enough to fly in for a short distance—there was the statue of a Shiftry, accurate to the last detail.

That's... not a statue at all, is it?

“Whoever made this must be pretty good at the whole chisel thing,” Gahi said.

The cavern rumbled softly.

Rhys, giving them all an incredulous look, said, “That is the Guardian.”

Yeah, I called it.


The four stiffened. “Wh-uh—what was that?”

“Cease… your movements…”

Rhys: "Yeah, if you want to live, you should do as it says." O_O;

The voice came from nowhere. It sounded masculine and deep, but nothing that they’d expect from a statue.

“What do you mean, cease our movements?” Rhys said.

“All movement must cease… spirits must know stillness…

Oh well that's not ominous-sounding at all there. No sir.

The four looked at one another. Their mission was to befriend the Guardian… Perhaps they could play his game for now. “Very well,” Rhys said. “May we get into a comfortable position before, er… tuning ourselves to the stone?”

The cavern rumbled angrily. “I will allow it.”

inb4 Team Alloy winds up messing this up in like 30 seconds after starting.

“Into your meditative positions, everyone,” Rhys said. “We must comply, as we are mere guests. We can converse later.”

“Meditate?” all three of them whined.

Rhys: "Look, I'd rather that we all not die right now, so just do it." >_>;


The three scrambled to separate spots. Mispy sat down with her rear down, but her front legs propping the rest of her up, and closed her eyes. It wasn’t very different from how she normally sat, but she kept her spine straighter than usual. Demitri sat down and tried to cross his legs, though they were too stubby for that, and it instead became a sort of position where the bottoms of his feet touched. It always tickled, but at least he could tune it out once he got in the zone. Gahi couldn’t do much of anything in terms of contorting his body. The Trapinch rested his head on the ground, splayed his stubs for legs outward, and remained still. Rhys sat, legs crossed, and closed his eyes.

Demitri: "(So... uh... wait, how still do we need to stay for this again-?)"
Mispy: "(Shhh!)"

Rhys watched the chaotic auras of the trio. They were warped things, those auras; the light that they radiated had strange, lopsided sparks now and then that spurt from the edges of their flares. When they meditated, this light stabilized—at least mostly—into the gentle flames that they should appear as. Demitri’s and Mispy’s, in particular, looked quite stable.

Ah yes, the sign that Team Alloy as a whole are cosmically important just like Owen or else not fully as they seem. Even if they're probably so to a much lesser degree than him.

As the late morning bled into noon, Rhys realized that this would be their eternity if they did not try to speak with the Guardian. How could they convince him peacefully to come along? His aura was too weak to fight; if they hit him too hard, he could…

And then, suddenly, the silence broke.

Hey, everyone! We have the first Guardian! He’s okay! He’ll come with us, and he’s super cool! …Guys? Hello?

That's Mispy, isn't it? Though I'm only belatedly realizing that we had a PoV shift a while back between Demitri and Rhys from the part where we got to them entering meditation. Something to keep in mind if you're doing touch-ups on this chapter and making a point of sticking to third person limited narration.

Anam’s voice echoed from Rhys’ bag. The Lucario didn’t even react.

Gahi mumbled aloud out of boredom. “What kind of luck is this?” Gahi muttered. “All this anticipating ter get here and the main Guardian’s as boring as Rhys.”


Gahi: "Huh, wha-? What did I do wrong?" ._.;

“I dunno about that,” Demitri said. “He’s probably even more boring.”

“ALL MOVEMENT SHALL STOP,” the Shiftry boomed. He didn’t move, yet he was clearly the one speaking—through the vibrations of the cave.

Rhys didn’t react. He kept meditating.

Gahi flinched and stayed put. Demitri softly said, “This test is to just not move? For how long…”

Rock Guardian:

Rhys: "(... That's surely just trolling. I hope.)"

Mispy shifted where she sat, sighing.

The ground rumbled again and the Shiftry roared. “ALL MOVEMENT… SHALL STOP!

The cave walls heaved, threatening to collapse around them. Mispy stiffened and shut her eyes, trying to meditate. Demitri and Gahi did the same. Rhys remained motionless.

Mispy: "(What next, are we not allowed to breathe?)" >_>;

A seemingly endless amount of time passed. Rhys watched, worriedly, as the auras of the three members of Team Alloy faded to the gentle undulations that indicated drowsiness. They weren’t meditating at all, now—they were about to fall asleep.

And then, without any sort of stimulation and the overwhelming feeling of boredom, Mispy’s head and leaf drooped slightly—and then, she fell over to her side, asleep.

The Shiftry roared through the mountain, screaming enough to startle Mispy awake. “YOU HAVE RUINED THE ATMOSPHERE OF STONE!” The ground heaved, stones already erupting from below, jostling everybody into a battle position.

Mispy: "Oh for crying out loud!" >.<
Rhys: "... In retrospect, I probably should've brought Stun Seeds for the occasion, huh?"

Rhys cursed and stood up. Their chances of ending this without a fight evaporated completely.

“I wanted to do this peacefully!” He aimed his Aura Sphere at the Shiftry, but just then, he saw his paw glow with a strong, yellow light. Rhys flinched and stopped his attack, as if he’d seen his very soul nearly slip from his body. Was this Guardian so weak that a single blast would kill him? How was he supposed to subdue someone that his weakest techniques would annihilate?

Rhys: "I really should have brought Stun Seeds with me right now." >.<

Gahi hissed. “Rhys?! What’re you doing?!”

The Guardian wasn’t moving. In fact, the Shiftry in general hadn’t moved since they arrived, making it an easy target. It also made its attacks quite slow. There were a few seconds of dead air that they could think about how to approach and, for Rhys’ case, safely subdue this Guardian.

“I—I can’t fight him right now,” Rhys said. “My attacks could kill. I—I can’t do that.”

Rhys: "Well, I mean, I can, but that would be a really, really bad idea for several reasons, so..."

“Wh—nggh, fine!” Gahi said, rushing for the Shiftry. The ground heaved; rocks fell on top of Gahi, burying him.

“No, don’t fight! He’s too weak!” Rhys urged.

Oh boy, this mission's just going swimmingly already, I can see.

“G-Gahi!” Demitri and Mispy yelled. They rushed after him, helping him free of the Rock Slide, but Gahi was already growling from within.

“Guardian! Stop this!” Rhys said, but his words fell on deaf, rocky ears.

The Shiftry roared; more rocks fell from the ceiling. Rhys deftly avoided the attack with precise jumps, readying an Aura Sphere out of reflex. His paw lit up again—his Divine Promise in danger of breaking—and he held off, growling. He had to keep his students safe—but he couldn’t attack the Guardian too much. But he wasn’t going to listen to reason. His mind, like many Guardians who had become isolated for too long, had warped into something else thanks to their isolation.

Oh, so that would've happened to Zena too if she'd just stayed down in that lake without Owen coming to drag her out. Boy is that making my opinion of Star fall in live-time since she just left Zena completely in the dark about it being safe to leave knowing full well that that was a fate that could've befallen her.

Surely the spirits that resided within his mind had conformed in one way or another to the Guardian’s whims, and now he was focused on only one thing—stillness. Any violation of that angered him. Perhaps a friendlier voice like Amia or Anam—or even Star, in person—could help this broken mind. But they had to convince him otherwise—and fighting with their own techniques was too much.

Gahi would be fine; he was stronger than that to let a few rocks subdue him. What worried Rhys was what came after: A great, white light shined from the cracks—Demitri and Mispy stumbled back, covering their eyes.

Wait, is the Rock Guardian dying right now, or...? .-.

“No!” Rhys hissed, watching Gahi’s aura flare and shift, crackling, black lightning coursing through the nearest rocks to the former Trapinch. One of the sparks zapped Mispy, and she was enveloped in that same evolutionary light—followed shortly by Demitri right next to her. Rhys watched anxiously, but then looked at the Shiftry.

Oh hey, I was right about Team Alloy evolving in short order. Even if I wasn't expecting them all to get it at the same time. Guess they were onto something about being late evolvers after all. (Not that getting morph-reset would hurt on that front.)

The white light of evolution sparked black. Rhys glanced worriedly at them, but then it faded away. Emerging from this light was no longer a Trapinch, Chikorita, and Axew. The Vibrava, Bayleef, and Fraxure briefly paused to marvel at their new forms.

“That corrupted light…” Shiftry rumbled the caves again, too soft for the three to hear, though Rhys heard it. “What was that?”

Whatever it was, Rhys noted that Shiftry was stunned enough to stop his attacks.

Wait, so their evolutions weren't supposed to happen? Wonder what wound up triggering it in that case.

Gahi beat his new wings as if he’d had them his whole life. Demitri stared—and gasped in fear, slightly—at his new distance from the ground. Mispy struggled with her longer legs and neck, feeling awkward and lanky. But they adjusted quickly, and they let their instincts take over in the midst of battle. They jumped back into the fray.

Ah yes, only good things can come of this, I'm sure.

Rhys: "I really should've brought Stun Seeds along with me." ._.

“STOP!” Rhys suddenly roared, holding out his arms. Mispy, whose leafy buds glowed with gathering energy, dimmed. Gahi flipped a few times in the air to cut back on his speed. Demitri toppled over himself, landing flat on his face.

Shiftry rumbled again, but the rock slide stopped. Rhys feared that the ceiling would collapse on them if they upset the statue further, but they couldn’t take him on.

He’s too weak,” he said. “We don’t want to hurt him. We’re here to bring him with us, remember?”

Gahi: "Rhys, he literally attacked us first!" >_>;
Rhys: "Yes, I get that, but still. We need a living Rock Guardian and I really, really need to not break that Divine Promise to Zena."

The trio looked at one another incredulously, then at the statue.

“How dare you call me weak,” said the Shiftry. “You fear fighting me because I would smite you with my undeniable power.”

“Undeniable?” Gahi challenged. “I bet I c’n take yeh on!”


“You DARE—”

“N-now, let’s hold for a moment,” Rhys said, raising his paw. “We don’t know want to fight. Who is stronger than the other is irrelevant.”

Even though Rhys was certain that this Guardian could probably fall to any of their unrestrained strikes, and his aura was barely present, it wouldn’t be worth it to bring such a thing up.

“Um, Mister Guardian, er,” Demitri waved at him, but that made the statue growl. He quickly stopped and straightened his spine.

We just want to bring you to our home," he insisted. "We are gathering the Guardians, you see, and it will be safer for you there.”

Some small tweaks I'd suggest since the structure of these last two paragraphs in this block read to me as if they might work better further subdivided.

“Is there movement?”


“I mean, even Rock Types move, don’t you think?” Demitri reasoned, his voice stuttering now and then. “Geodude, Aerodactyl, they’re Rock Types and they move around all the same! And you’re a Shiftry! You can move, too, right?”

“No. I am Rock. I do not move.”

Gahi: "... Can we just dump this guy in a basement or something when we get back to town?" >_>;

“…Literal statue,” Mispy said.

“I am… stillness.” Shiftry hesitated. “I… I won’t move. I refuse to move!”

“But it’s safe to move,” Demitri said. “How about we carry you instead? It’s better than the Hunters finding you, right? And then you’ll just, uh, stay still in our cave next. Stuff moves all the time in the world. In fact, the whole world spins! So you’re always moving!”


The whole ground rumbled at that, toppling Demitri and Mispy off of their feet. Gahi beat his wings and Rhys stood his ground.

N-no! Don’t say that! How DARE you… say such horrible things. The spirit must be still. It must stop movement. Stop thinking. Tranquil.”

Mispy: "Buddy, you realize that even without the world spinning, it's literally hurtling at untold speeds through the cosmos around our sun, right? Your 'stillness' is all relative-"

Rock Guardian: "I said 'don't say that!'" >_>;

“You might be confusing meditation with a total lack of movement,” Rhys said, easing forward with gentle gestures. “You recognize that you are unsafe right? Are you familiar with the Hunters? What about Star?”

“Star approached me. I told her where I was. But her movement irritated me. I do not care for her philosophy of directly interfering with mortals.”

“Well, I suppose I don’t, either, but I imagine you also don’t care about Hunters disturbing your… movement further?”

Rock Guardian:
Rhys: "(... This seriously never occurred to him all this time? Boy his mind really must be warped right now.)" >_>;

“…Then I must choose between being killed, and living in a world of movement?”

“What, that’s a choice?” Gahi growled irritably. “C’mon, Rhys, let’s just carry thus nutcase back.”

“W-wait, not so violent,” Demitri urged.

inb4 they already wound up talking the Rock Guardian into committing suicide. Since I'm kinda getting 'losing will to live' vibes right now.

“Funny comin’ from you!” Gahi said. “Yer the one with the hardest punches!”

“I—I know, but… but be gentle…”

Huh, I'd have pegged Mispy for having the honors there, even if I suppose she'd have her work cut out punching as a quadruped.

Mispy frowned, nudging Demitri. “He’s right,” she agreed, then glared at Gahi.

“Feh…” The Vibrava looked back at Shiftry. “So you coming er what?”

“I… I don’t… I can’t…” The cavern shook. “I haven’t moved in so long. I can’t remember how I came here. And to suddenly leave this place—what if it’s all unfamiliar? What if—”

Gahi: "I swear, if this results in something stupid like having to recreate this cave back in Kilo Village..." >_>;

All the rumbling finally shook something loose. A stone fell from the ceiling and landed nearby; the statue made something akin to a scream, but then went completely silent. Demitri flinched. “Wh—what happened?” he said.

Rhys quickly stepped to Shiftry, barely able to sense his aura, but…

“He’s fine,” Rhys stated, releasing the breath he had been holding. “He must have panicked and passed out from shock. Let’s bring him back before he wakes up. Hopefully he will be… at least slightly more tolerant of it all with exposure; he seemed to just be worrying over the thought of it, even though we have been moving around him the whole time.”

Rhys: "Though if I had known how much of a headache this Guardian would be, I'd have brought a Slumber Orb along."

Demitri nodded, sighing with relief. “Good…” Then, once Mispy and Gahi relaxed their stances, Demitri’s arms trembled from his excitement. “We evolved! We finally did it!”

The energy from Demitri spread to the other two of Team Alloy. Mispy beamed, awkwardly stumbling forward to headbutt Demitri in the chest. Gahi buzzed his wings and rammed into Demitri next. “Heheh, and I evolved first.”

“Barely,” Mispy countered.

“First is first,” Gahi said, flying above them.

Gahi, you still have one more evolution to get through. Don't go tempting fate for the next round.

“And how are you three feeling?” Rhys asked.

“Never better!” Gahi said. Demitri and Mispy nodded.

Rhys could sense the excitement from them, even though it was a bit subdued due to a combination of mental exhaustion from the meditating and physical exhaustion from the battle, easy as it may have been in the end. Rhys suspected, however, that their less than explosive celebration was due to the fact that Owen had already beaten them to it. There was nothing to celebrate in their competitive hearts—only a fire to beat Owen to evolving when it really counted.

Rhys: "(Which I suppose is a sign that Nevren's memory wipes aren't what they used to be if they still remember enough to want to compete with him about that.)" -_-;

Demitri shook his head and leaned down to get a hold of the statue. “Urgh—he’s solid rock!”

“Uh, duh,” Gahi said, descending.

Mispy smacked Gahi behind his head with a vine—as a Bayleef, they were much thicker, and the Vibrava slammed into the ground with a groan. Mispy flinched. “Um, sorry.”

Mispy: "Not that you didn't have that coming, but still."

Gahi just hissed and crawled away.

Demitri managed to balance the fallen Shiftry over his shoulder, using his massive tusk to keep the statue level. With his free hand, he pulled out their Badge—both the silver and gold ones.

Oh! That’s right!” He fumbled with the silver one, pressing a claw on the center button. “Hey, guys! We did fine! Our Guardian is just fine!”

Rhys nodded. “Let’s meet the others at the village.”

Small recommendation for a tweak there. Though huh. A no-Owen chapter, huh? Don't think we've seen one of those in this story yet, though I suppose there's a first time for everything.

Alright, onto the postmortem:

I take it that this is a setup / transitional chapter, since for whatever reason, it felt like there was quite a bit happening in it, and yet the progress was a bit muted. I'm assuming that this isn't the last we've seen of these Guardians, and especially not of ADAM since I know that he appears in later chapters. It does make me wonder if they're going to become prominent in this upcoming arc given the relative focus put on them.

As for issues, there's a few scattered things that I thought could've improved things, though there was actually a structural thing that stood out to me with the chapter. For whatever reason, in spite of knocking out two Guardians from the 14+ outstanding, something felt a bit missing in terms of overall progression. Perhaps there could've been more of a hint as to where things would wind up going in the future? Or else a cluing-in about things going on in the village or a heavier drilling down of "look here, this will be important" (e.x. playing up Rhys quietly freaking out about Team Alloy evolving and what it means for the future if that wasn't supposed to happen)? Dunno really, since it's a bit hard to put my finger on it, and perhaps part of it is an artifact of a late-night reading, but it was the primary X-factor that felt a little off to me about the chapter.

But hey, I know enough about HoC to know that very few things brought up in it are truly superfluous, so I'll be keeping an eye out for where things go from here. Hope the feedback was fun and helpful to read, @Namohysip . I'll be looking forward to seeing where things pick up in this story soon enough.


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks so much for all the reviews, Fobbie! I'm glad you've enjoyed it, and yeah, as I mentioned to you elsewhere, that chapter was a bit "filler"-ish despite being plot relevant, in that it was sort of due to the inherent flaw of the first arc. Gathering a bunch of elemental artifacts or people works well for games, not so much in written stories, in my opinion.

Anyway, onto more recent chapters...

Chapter 155 – Remember, Move On

A Charmeleon of leafy green feathers awoke in a forest, dazed and groggy.

He groaned and rubbed his head, trying to sit up, but the dizziness left him falling forward instead.


Leaning on his hands, he propped himself up, took a few breaths, and sat up again. Steady, steady… He felt oriented enough to try standing.

“What happened?” he murmured. “Hello? Anyone?”

Nothing. Just forest. He looked up—where was the sky?

Just a black void. Not even clouds or stars. Why, then, was the forest so well-lit? Where was his shadow? He tried to find a light source, but nothing made sense. Nothing looked real.

What happened? The last thing he remembered… Necrozma, right? Necrozma had said halting the world’s destruction was beyond his power. And then he was here.

And he was… he was…

Who was he?

No, he remembered. He was the protector of the Grass Spirits—the Guardian, and the one who wound up bringing all the other Guardians together with the help of his friends. He was supposed to save Kilo from the war Eon had started to overthrow Star and Barky.

But now, after everything that happened, and everything he knew now… What did that mean? And why was he here? Did Necrozma do something to his memory…?

Standing around wasn’t going to do anything. With little else to do, the Guardian marched through the forest.

A voice echoed from above.

So that’s it, then? You’re… saying it’s inevitable? That our world is doomed?

Owen knew that voice. It was Zena. Oh, Zena… Of all the Guardians, she was one of the least fortunate to get involved. She had no Legend half, no stake in this. She only happened to befriend Emily long ago, a former Guardian and one of Dark Matter’s underlings.

Why was he hearing this?

He’s not saying that, said his voice. That was surreal to hear. Had he said that?

Was this a conversation… from before?

I’m having trouble interpreting it another way, Zena replied. What could it be?

Maybe he needs more power… Don’t we have that?


He didn’t have the answers now, and standing around wouldn’t do anything. In search of clues, the Guardian marched through the shadowless forest.


A tiny Charmander bravely marched through a clearing. He puffed out his chest, intimidating invisible foes. “Is anyone there?!” he called. “Whose voice is that?!”

It sounded a lot like him but older. Finally evolved. A wonderful aspiration of his, so maybe this was a dream?

But his memory lapses were getting a lot worse. He couldn’t even remember his name. Mom would know, though. Clutching at the Heart badge in his hand, eyes shining with the reminder that he’d done it. He wasn’t a provisional Heart anymore. He was a true Heart.

That’s what he’d go by for now. At least… until he remembered his name.

Dark Matter is someone that is not just an entity plaguing this world. He is, at its core, part of the very fabric of reality.

Heart tilted his head. Dark Matter. Yes, he remembered him. Heart of Hearts Anam had been taking care of him and trying to show him a better world, right? Sure, he had to do some shady things for it, but the world was happier in the end, right? Did that make it okay?

Dark Matter existed at the beginning, during this world’s creation. He began with the inception of its rules. A stray thought from one of its Creators.

So, no way to remove him without removing the world,
said another, small but serious voice. Mhynt, right? She was important.

An entity that was a problem for the world, but was also part of the world. Getting rid of it also got rid of the world, and vice versa. That did sound like a problem.

But then the solution would be to turn the problem into something that wouldn’t be a problem, even if it was there, right?

As he wandered through the bright forest, the Heart pondered a solution…


There weren’t any enemies nearby. No targets to kill. That was boring.

A nameless Charizard crawled over the charred forest—he’d done it himself because the green felt like it was not good terrain for him. The whole air had the smell of what he was supposed to be hunting down. Mystic power, right? And he remembered the source of that voice, too.

It was something that he was supposed to destroy. Well, most things were. All things were aside from his commander and anyone that he wasn’t ordered to destroy.

No targets. That was boring. So he just had to keep looking.

He was the one who hunted down power. Why didn’t matter; it was fun, wasn’t it? Battle was fun. That was the point, that’s what made him feel alive. And unlike so many others that he knew, who didn’t know how to truly fight, he was the only one who had the mettle to take out a target.

That weak little voice that spoke for him didn’t know how to kill. How much easier would it have been if he did?

There’s no way to destroy him at all? his new voice called. That was one of the first wise questions he’d ever asked.

I think even destruction would only result in his slow return. Perhaps not now, but ages later…

That just meant another fight ages later. He didn’t age. He’d be around.

Listening to that was tiring. The Hunter crawled forward on all fours—his lengthened limbs allowed it, and it seemed to intimidate others—in search of a new target.


This was one of Necrozma’s mindscapes. Hmm.

But he didn’t remember agreeing to one, which was worrying. Still, knowing Necrozma, he probably asked, and this was only a temporary stint of memory loss. He still didn’t like it, but… fine. It was a small problem compared to everything that happened after his era.

The great Charizard—a staggering thirteen feet in height, perhaps a bit taller—had a surprisingly light footfall. His wings were already spread, carrying a simple updraft that allowed him to walk with much less weight. The gusts of wind helped to intimidate weaker challengers, not that it mattered when they posed a proper threat.

Necrozma’s pact of destruction didn’t surprise him. First, it was that he must, and now it’s simply that he can’t not. Wishkeeper—he recalled his title, not his name—was wise to Necrozma’s plays.

He wasn’t going to be fooled. It was only when he trusted his friends did he fall. Uxie, Mesprit, Azelf… they’d betrayed him. Turned him into a shell of his old self, left to become… that thing afterward. And that had been his fate, hadn’t it?

Ever since that moment, he’d never returned from that apex. If he still had his whole power from before, all of this would have been behind him now. He would have saved Kilo. Instead, everyone else tried to use him.

He hated what he’d become. What others made him.

Why couldn’t he simply be himself again? Not crafted by what everyone else wanted him to be, but his true, innermost, proper, pure self. That was who he was.

The talking in the sky continued. Zena—she was a kind Milotic. He appreciated how, even when she was overprotective, she tried to give him his autonomy back—was objecting to Necrozma’s evaluations. Good. She was wise. If there was anything he could compliment his future self over, it was choosing her to trust.

Necrozma blathered on about how perhaps he’d changed, and that he wouldn’t have the power to overpower them anyway.

Wait. Would he?

What do you mean? The voice of his future, diminutive self asked.

It’s as I said. With Star and Barky so focused on saving this world, I’m simply overruled. And with Diyem as well… even the counterpower against divinity is against me, hypothetically.

Diyem, the counterpower. Yes. He was woven into the world’s core.

Necrozma seemed to be speaking with hard facts… He recognized that he couldn’t be trusted otherwise.

Maybe he did learn something.

I… suppose I can trust that, Wishkeeper’s future self said. Okay. Well… alright. I’m just… thinking.

You seem conflicted,
Necrozma said.

Well, yeah, I mean—

No, no. I’m sorry… I meant… internally. Conflicted over…
Necrozma rattled a wheeze. Your mind. It’s… fragmented.


Then, it clicked.

Wishkeeper realized what this mindscape was. This false forest with a black sky and phantasmal leaves was just a place where he’d travel to find the rest of him.

What Necrozma had set up, as their pointless prattle continued in the sky, was a place where he could finally be himself.

This was a reconciliation. This was his opportunity to come back.

The time for all of his other ‘selves’ to finally be put in their place.

With a quickened pace, Wishkeeper marched through the empty forest. He could feel it, even without his Perceive. The others, his other selves, were just ahead.


This forest smelled weird.

The leaves didn’t burn. And none of it looked right. Or maybe that was because the sky didn’t have any lights. That was weird. But he liked that it wasn’t dark. His flame could only do so much.

Still, Smallflame wasn’t sure why he was there. He felt lost without his human.

Thinking about that human hurt his chest.

He beat his wings. Folded them back. Didn’t feel right. He puffed out his chest and growled at nothing, making sure anyone who might be spying on him knew he was nothing to trifle with.

The people in the sky were talking, but he didn’t get it. That was for the humans to go on about. Something about saving the world, but that always felt way over his head. The vague feeling he had about what happened after he went to sleep and became someone else… seemed beyond what he should be doing. Like he didn’t have a place in what he was interfering with.

His human… also gave him a name. It was very important to him. Why couldn’t he remember it?

Smallflame sniffed the air. He could sense others of his kind ahead. One smelled a little funny, though. Maybe they would have some answers—or even better, they were the people he’d become! He had a feeling that was this place’s trick. The weird black crystal might have done it.

He suddenly had a vision. Inside a dark cave of black crystals, that Necrozma was reaching toward him. It was for the second time. Zena and so many other new, friendly faces nodded in approval, some more cautious than others. He took Necrozma’s hand, and the crystal grew over his body.

Breathe gently. Just like your meditation.

As the crystal crawled over the rest of his body, Necrozma himself disappearing as more and more of him encased the Charizard’s scales, the vision faded out.

And that was how he’d arrived in this forest.

Suddenly, something roared. Then another roar from something smaller, around his size. It sounded a lot like him.

Trouble. Smallflame spread his wings and flew into the fray.


All five met in the nexus of this forest, where there were no trees and no ground. Instead, it was some flat surface devoid of proper texture, only a vague give any time their heels pressed against it to walk forward.

The first to arrive was a green Charmeleon with leafy feathers. He was surprised to see all the others approaching but was most nervous about a Charizard that prowled on four legs and stared at him with a crazed, hungry look in his eyes.

“H-hi,” Guardian said, waving.

“You smell nice,” Hunter replied, creeping closer.

“Uhh, thanks?” Guardian’s eyes shifted left and right. There, he spotted another, mercifully normal Charizard flying in, though he still had a more feral look to his mannerisms.

The feral Charizard said something in a series of growls and snorts. Vocalizations Guardian didn’t understand, but he came off as intelligent enough. Guardian waved at him, and he waved back.

“Smallflame, right?” Guardian asked.

Smallflame grunted in approval. Hunter sized him up, narrowing his eyes and pupils.

“Hello?” called the tiniest voice yet. On another part of this nexus, a little Charmander hopped into view and waved. “Oh, hi! I think I know you! Or, us, right?”

He sprinted, only skidding to a stop once he was within speaking distance. “You can call me Heart! Do any of you remember our name?”

“Not really,” Guardian said. “Oh, but you can call me Guardian. I guess it fits, since, you know…”

“Right!” Heart’s bright eyes sparkled with wonder. “You’re who I become, right? Wow. Saving the world!”

“Yeah, uh, that’s me…”

Heart grinned anyway, not sensing Guardian’s hesitance.

A spear of black and white energy—a sizzling mixture of Radiance and Shadow—streaked through the air. Hunter, its target, jumped out of the way and avoided it completely.

Flying toward them was a Charizard more than twice the size of any of the others, fury in his eyes and hatred in his javelin of light and dark. He slammed into the ground and stood upright.

“You,” he hissed at Hunter. He brought the javelin back, ready to throw it like Hunter was a fish to spear in the river.

“H-hey! Hang on, what’re you doing?!” Heart cried, but he was of course too small to do anything. Smallflame shouted as well, trying to call off the fight. Hunter took a cautious step back, that crazed look somewhere between excited for a battle and doubtful he’d win.

Wishkeeper wound up, seconds from hurling it through Hunter—and this close, he wouldn’t miss.

“STOP!” cried Guardian.


(art by Chibi Pika)​

He leaped in the way and held up his arms. A golden barrier separated himself and Hunter from Wishkeeper. Smallflame and Heart both stopped their approach, and Wishkeeper, mercifully, only held the crackling spear in place, neither throwing nor withdrawing it.

“What’re you doing?” Guardian dared ask.

“Putting down the blight on our soul,” Wishkeeper said flatly, staring past Guardian and into Hunter, who only hissed and crouched in response.

“He’s still us,” Guardian said. “We need to—”

“He was created after everything that made us was wiped away. When I was wiped away.” Wishkeeper’s claws squeezed the javelin.

“Will hurting him hurt us?” Guardian pressed.

“Y-yeah!” Heart added. “We have no idea what that would do. We’re still the same soul, just… just, you know, different times!”

Smallflame stood beside Hunter and spread his wings protectively, glaring at Wishkeeper next.

Hunter was antsy, ready to strike. But for now, he recognized everyone else as safe… aside from the big one.

“There’s no point in fighting right now,” Guardian said. “Please. Let’s just talk, okay? We’ve got to be here for a reason.”

“The reason is to get rid of what has been holding us back,” Wishkeeper said.

“And you think he’s holding us back?” Guardian asked.

“You don’t?”

Guardian tensed. In many ways, he was. But he couldn’t admit that directly. “There’s still something he can help us with,” he said. “If we just talk, maybe we can all see that.”

The barrier remained, as did the spear, for a tense few moments. Above them, in the black, starless abyss, there were light murmurings of small talk. Was that the present day? Were they all resting after their long trek? That was probably it.

Wishkeeper finally let out a long, weary sigh. The javelin dissipated into nothing and his shoulders sagged. When he collapsed into a sitting position, the malleable ground around them pulsed with the energy of his sheer weight, which Guardian suspected was a literal ton, given his height.

“Fine,” Wishkeeper said. “A talk.”

Heart beamed, about to speak, when Wishkeeper cut him off.

“But I expect this to be useful. I’m… not going to fade away again. And I won’t let anything stop that from happening.”

“I understand,” Guardian said. “I think we all want to… not fade away. We’ll find a way to make this work. Everyone okay with this?”

Heart nodded emphatically. Wishkeeper merely crossed his arms and closed his eyes, submitting to the proposal. Hunter remained guarded, settling next to Smallflame, who took to keeping his wings over his fellow near-feral Charizard.

“Good enough,” Guardian said. “Let’s start with something basic. Does anyone know our name?”

All negative responses.

“Oh, I know!” Heart piped up, raising his hand like he was supposed to be called.

Guardian and Wishkeeper exchanged awkward glances. They both nodded at him.

“How about we introduce ourselves?” Heart suggested. “We’ll tell each other what we know, from our perspective! Then, uh, we’ll… see what happens from there?”

Near the end, he’d lost some steam. But the effort was there, and the idea…

“Hm.” Wishkeeper pondered it aloud. “I like that. We’ll start there. Let’s begin chronologically. I believe that means we start with…” He looked at Smallflame. “Hmm.”

Guardian scratched the top of his horn.

“Oh.” Heart tittered nervously. “That… might be harder than I thought.”


Zena had found a decent place on the edge of the room to sleep. Despite its dim glow, it was more comforting than the old cavern she’d once slept in when she was alone… though with the current circumstances, it was hard to get any rest. Not that she needed to, as a Mystic. But her mind was tired, and some moments of silence and inactivity were still necessary.

Valle was set up in the corner of the room, having said very little during their discussions, though he did remark every so often about vague feelings of familiarity with the things Necrozma spoke about.

Demitri, Mispy, Gahi, their three counterparts, and Trina were all settled in a big seven-person heap in another part of the room, and looking at them eased Zena’s heart just a little. They’d been calmed enough to enter the place, and with Necrozma dormant, the light did not bother them as much.

She especially liked how delicately Trina was settled between Gahi’s two antennae, awake but with her eyes closed in meditation.

Owen’s state unnerved her. The long conversation they had, talking about Necrozma’s role as the third god, the mediator of Kilo, and his true role as an Overseer—which he was frustratingly vague about the details of. How they’d ultimately decided that Necrozma didn’t want to destroy Kilo any longer, and no longer had the capability anyway. Did she truly believe that?

She believed he couldn’t. But she was skeptical he no longer wanted to if given the opportunity. Thankfully, the rest of the divine and ‘anti-divine’ powers were against him. When Necrozma gathered more of his strength and helped sort out Owen, he and Valle would combine.

But his means of gathering that strength…

Hunched over in the edge of the room was a Charizard covered in strange, obsidian-black armor. Necrozma had reached toward Owen, and their hands had clasped together. Owen had evolved, and they spoke some kind of agreement to one another. After several contingencies with Mhynt, and determining Necrozma’s strength, they’d found that Owen was the proper vessel to help reenergize Necrozma.

They’d tried with Mhynt first. Unfortunately, her light had faded from so long in the Voidlands. It did ease Zena’s worries, though. Mhynt described the experience as unpleasant, but not painful, and it was only the former because she lacked the light Necrozma sought. It had only been partly there.

And, more importantly, Zena could sense Owen’s aura mingled with Necrozma’s. He was fine. No more, so far, than an active dream. According to that crystal beast, Owen’s mind was so fragmented that Necrozma was helping to sort it out with him. She wondered what that was like… and it pained her that she couldn’t have been of any help.

“I don’t blame you,” Mhynt said.

Zena jumped, then curled inward defensively. She didn’t make eye contact.

“I’m sure Necrozma doesn’t, either.”

“You’ll wake the others.”

Mhynt settled down a few feet from her. Upon glancing at her, Zena only saw Mhynt offering a little, crooked smile.

“I’ll speak softly. The chamber is large enough.”

The Milotic sighed and coiled a little tighter. “Right.”

More silence followed, though this time, it was because Zena was thinking about what to say. How to say it? Mhynt seemed courteous enough to not interrupt.

“I’m not,” Zena began, “crazy, am I? For… being so oppositional.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well. It started with Star, obviously, for the life she put me through when I had no idea what I was getting into. Then, Barky was no better. And I find out that Necrozma planned to end the world before I was even born. I’m not some Legend. I’m not even descended from someone particularly… noble or powerful. Xerneas checked. There’s nothing standout in my lineage. I’m just a Milotic.”

“And I think for that reason,” Mhynt said, “you would be the most reasonable opinion to seek out, Zena.”

“I have no experience with this. Even though I can’t… shake my feelings, there’s… I’m doubting it, Mhynt. Especially when Owen is…” She gestured at the crystalized Charizard. “Going along with it.”

“I wouldn’t use Owen as your baseline,” Mhynt warned. “He was born as a docile, human-friendly Charmander, remember. Meant to be agreeable to figures of authority. To add, Nevren had a hand in the mind he was given once he was ‘de-feralized,’ so to speak… And of course, there is the mutant body afterward.”

The Treecko shook her head. “I doubt none of that stuck, Zena. He’s going to tend to agree. But in this case… Necrozma’s reasons and logic checked out. He cannot hurt us. The gods would overpower him, especially with Diyem now on our side, too.”

“But what will he do instead?” Zena asked. “He claims he’d save this world, but how? If Diyem is woven into…”

“I think Owen is already doing it,” Mhynt said. “He’s trying to make Diyem something that isn’t a destructive force. We already have a small grain of truth that it’s possible. All we must do now is make sure that’s the dominant part. Necrozma would gladly do that.”

“I… I suppose so,” Zena said. “I can only rely on your judgments at this point. I can’t shake that spiteful feeling, though, and I’m worried it’s going to distract me from the practical answer… sometimes…”

“Don’t worry,” Mhynt said. “We need someone to be spiteful. We need someone to remind us of what they did.” She nodded. “I’m… admittedly desperate to get rid of the darkness of Kilo. But you haven’t seen it as much. Remind us if we lose sight of what it means to be of Kilo.”

That was a heavy weight to place on her. Zena nervously toyed with her ribbons. “I’ll try,” she finally said.

Mhynt seemed satisfied by this because she nodded and took a seat nearby, looking at the opposite wall. Meditating, lost in thought? She couldn’t tell.

The silence ate at her. She could have just rested.

“You’re a lot stronger than I am,” Zena finally said.

“Hm? Well, of course. I’m Lunala.”

“No, that—” Zena sighed. “Emotionally.”

“I’ve been through more,” Mhynt said.

“That’s hardly a reason. People can go through a great deal and come out fragile.” Zena’s ribbons curled and uncurled.

“Well, yes,” she said. “And I have little, fragile cracks because of it. Everyone does if I had to guess… but we can be hardened. The Voidlands made it so.” She leaned her back against the wall. “I don’t think that’s a good thing. People should be able to let their guard down.”

But Zena was no better. She’d just gone over a talk about being on guard with the gods. Mhynt seemed knowledgeable enough to know when to let that guard down.

“Do you mean for normal people?” Zena asked. “Surely you can trust them.”

“The Void erodes people, Zena,” Mhynt said, not looking at her. “It’s a world where death leads to a new life of blissful malice. I’ve seen Class B and C individuals far happier than Class A, deathless citizens. They are people burdened with the knowledge that one day they will die of some painful circumstance and lose who they are.

“You’re a lot happier when you don’t know what you’re missing.”

Zena thought of poor Xypher. He had seemed cheerful, in his weird little way. And then Hakk, his caretaker, so embittered, so broken when Xypher was gone. But where was Xypher now? Would there ever… be a Xypher again?

“What would you prefer?” Zena asked Mhynt.

“…I don’t know,” Mhynt admitted. “To lose who I am now, to throw everything away, and become someone else? That’s a gamble, even if it’s a terrible one. I think… I would prefer to keep all of myself for now. But I do wonder if, at some point… I’m simply too old and burdened. I wonder if there’s merit in…” Her eyes trailed over to Owen. “Forgetting.”

“Don’t let him hear that one from you,” Zena hummed with a slight playfulness to her tone.

“I won’t,” Mhynt replied with a wry smile. “I admire his determination to get everything back. Good and bad. I do wonder what that means for the fragmentation Necrozma was talking about…”

She did, too. A deep part of her wondered if the Owen who woke up would be the same Charizard she knew. The time she shared with him was brief, no more than a year by now, and yet… he was thousands of years old. What was she to someone like that?

“Zena,” Mhynt said. “I know that look.”

“I’m sorry. It’s selfish of me.” She coiled up, pretending to rest.

“Not what I meant,” she said. “…Let me tell you about something. It’s not… completely true, but it is the trend. When it comes to memories of people like us, of Mystics and gods and all the other ageless… recency matters. As we grow older and older, the distant past does feel like an old life, a dream of some other person.

“That is my time with the Owen I knew a thousand years ago. A good, happy dream… but nothing more. That person I was, and the person he was, are gone forever, Zena. It’s a foolish thing to try to rekindle the past when we have something in the present instead. When so much had changed.”

“But you can’t possibly throw it all away,” Zena said. “Memories… they don’t seem to go away for us. Just sealed, or moved, or buried, but you can’t erase them. It’s like a curse.”

“That is the curse of all souls, Zena,” Mhynt replied gravely. “It is only because we are beyond mortal bodies that we bear it earlier. Memories are eternal to a soul. And really, there is no need for a realm like the Voidlands to torment a soul. Regrets will do that well enough.” Mhynt looked down. “A soul is powerless to reverse the regrets of their time alive. It sticks to them like weights. It’s no wonder some desire a new life so their old self can become a distant dream.”

“Old self…” Zena thought about Owen’s personalities. The jabbering he’d talk about in their downtime about his old names, his old languages, and friends. They were always so interesting to her, but she also wondered—and asked—what he thought about those. Were they really ‘him’ still?

Owen never seemed to like that question. She avoided it after a few tries.

But now… he was probably confronting that very problem.

“Recency,” Zena circled back. “Are you saying Owen would be more as I know him, even after this?”

“It’s more likely. Maybe a few changes. For the better, if I want to be optimistic.” Mhynt wobbled her head noncommittally. “But,” the Treecko went on, “I do think he will still care for you more than other friends. Perhaps as much as family. How close are you two, now?”

“Oh, well… we’re fairly close,” Zena said.

There was a beat of silence. Zena shrank back slightly. Her cream scales, she wondered, were they darkening? Owen remarked about how feral Pokémon couldn’t blush like that. Gods, it must have been obvious to Mhynt…

But the Treecko’s expression was softer than she’d expected. “Tell me, Zena,” she said. “Are you ready for the day you two may part?”


“For immortals, forever is a long time. There is no death to part you… Well, unless you’re killed, I suppose. But we’re strong. That’s hard to come by. And, well, death is an inconvenience for us. It won’t be goodbye. Other goodbyes happen instead.

“So, one day, you and Owen… will drift apart. It’s naïve to think you’d be together ‘forever,’ yes?”

Zena felt defensive over it. Like she wanted to battle the concept. But then, she thought about it, her reflexive defensiveness hardening into cold shame.

“Why tell me this?” Zena said, not quite thinking her words through.

“Because it’s something you’ll think about one day,” she said. “I wanted to give you… advice.”

“To be ready for the end? What a horrible way to—”

“To enjoy things as they happen.”

Zena was quiet. It seemed… simple enough. But why that angle?

“Gods, demigods, whatever we are… We lose sight of the ‘now’ when facing forever. But if you know everything will end during your long line of eternity… don’t shy away from everything because of it. Enjoy one thing after the other. Accept them for their fleeting nature. Even your loved ones, as you drift apart, be happy for what you have now, and what you had then. And be ready for something new the day after.”

“Right, I… I think I understand. The now… So I don’t, don’t shy away from…”

Mhynt nodded. “Mortals may get by with one dedication for their life. But forever is too long for that. I think right now, Owen is battling that very same thing. He is battling what it means to remember… and what it means to move on at the same time. To carry that burden of memories. To pay for the privilege of remembering everything he can.

“All things considered… he seems very happy anyway, doesn’t he?”

“Content,” Zena corrected. “I think it’s not that it makes him happy. I think it… satisfies him, to know. Even the parts that are hard.”

“Hm.” Mhynt shook her head, smiling. “You sound confident.”

“That’s one thing I know for sure.” The Milotic uncurled a little, relaxing.

And silence filled the air again, the conversation trailing away. But it wasn’t an awkward, tense silence this time. The now… Maybe she’d drift from Owen one day, sure. But not for decades, maybe centuries? Gods, if they had centuries, at the rate the world was going… No, no. Positive. They had to keep fighting.

“I suppose he’s already changed,” Mhynt said. “You know him more than I do now.” She smirked, closing her eyes. “Good luck. He’s a handful.”

Zena chuckled at that, resting her chin against her coils. “I’ll do my best.”


Something was energizing about guessing what Smallflame was trying to convey when there was such a vast language barrier between him and the rest of his selves. Hunter was one of the best interpreters, but he was a bad speaker. Heart turned out to be good at interpreting Hunter, and while the way Heart talked about it irritated Wishkeeper, Guardian acted as a good mediator between the two.

Slowly, they pieced together Smallflame’s past as Tim’s starter Pokémon in Kanto, the tragic end to their journey to become Champion and their eventual transition to Ranger work in another region. Then, being recruited by Hecto for rescuing Star from some dark organization in Orre, and being obliterated from orbit by Barky, along with the rest of the island.

Smallflame spoke of how he’d suddenly learned how to speak to Tim—though now, he was a Mew—and their ascent up the tower… and, eventually, his death by age, and how Tim, now Jirachi, Palkia, once the scientist Michael, and Xerneas had put their efforts together to make the Reincarnation Machine so Owen could properly come back, even after dying of age.

This led to Wishkeeper, whose diction needed to be dumbed down for Smallflame, thanks to help from Hunter and Heart. Wishkeeper talked about his reincarnations and work with Jirachi, the many times he was killed due to assassins, bad luck, or as Wishkeeper phrased it, “Poor calibration of the Reincarnation Machine.”

He eventually spoke of the thousand years that Quartz had been allowed, and how presumably its name had eventually been changed to Kilo in that honor after his ‘death.’ He glared at Hunter occasionally when he spoke. The largest Charizard ended off with the remark that after his emotions, will, and memories had been wiped, he was left for dead to be Reincarnated once more.

But the damage remained, and he had to be taught all over again. Perhaps Nevren, Eon, or some other twisted machination had turned him into an obedient little soldier instead. Into Hunter.

They didn’t know how Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi had gotten caught up in that one, but obviously, it was after they’d been split from their Trio of Mind, or they would have repaired him a lot earlier. Maybe they could ask them about it later…

Hunter’s story was much shorter. Fighting. Training. They didn’t know why, but it was fun. Over and over until one day, after he killed someone he wasn’t supposed to, Rhys took him away and to Amia. Or, more specifically, when he was killed, he’d been taken as a spirit instead, where they could calm him a lot easier.

It was all blurry. Hunter spoke in broken sentences like he was perpetually in his battle mode rather than his docile state. Heart seemed to calm him with gentle head pats and chin scratches.

Heart took over from there. He only remembered living in Hot Spot for so many lives. He’d made simple friendships in Kilo, only to forget them later when he had to be Reset again. Until one day…

He became Guardian, and his memories started to return. It was all coming back to them all, now. For some, like Smallflame, it was like seeing into the future; for Guardian, it was recovering the past.

By the time Guardian finished talking about gathering their new friends, falling into the Voidlands, and slowly clawing back every bit of power they’d lost or forgotten…

All of them took a collective breath.

And let it out.

Wishkeeper spoke first. “It’s better,” he said. Every time he spoke, he seemed to be keeping up a regal air about himself. No, not quite regal; perhaps it was more formal and important. Much more than any of the others. “Better than it had been before.”

Hunter growled at Wishkeeper but said little more.

“But I’m the rightful continuity,” Wishkeeper went on. “When Smallflame was reborn, I was given a mind. A proper mind that wasn’t simply bred to be docile to humans, and—”

Smallflame growled in protest. His toes dug into the void below him like it had dirt, and he snorted out a little plume of fire. The smoke carried his disapproval.

Wishkeeper rolled his eyes. “I know it’s not bred to be docile; I know it was because it was evolutionarily advantageous to work with humans, but the result is the same. You were friendly. Obedient. Nice. And that got taken advantage of.”

Smallflame’s growls continued, but quieter, like a defiant mumble.

“But you also lost your way,” Heart said gently. Unlike everyone else, Heart had the softest tonalities, and he often had his hands over his chest holding themselves. “You could have talked it out a little more and maybe convinced Necrozma sooner, instead of turning to the very thing he was trying to destroy. Dark Matter…”

“I tried to save him,” Wishkeeper said.

“You made… Voidlands,” Hunter pointed out.

“I didn’t make it,” Wishkeeper growled. “It was a product of the reverse of the Hands made by the gods. As if you’re one to speak about causing suffering.”

“Just fighting,” Hunter said. Then, he brought his forelegs up—he liked prowling on all fours—and made air quotes. “Bred to be obedient.”

“So you do listen,” Wishkeeper said. It was somehow a genuine compliment.

“But Hunter has a point,” Guardian spoke up.

Guardian was not formal nor casual, and spoke more evenly than the others. He was a little grave, and he didn’t quite feel right in his feathers, but he couldn’t change it here for some reason.

“Compared to the four of us, his ability to fight is… kind of the best. If we can control the temper, that’s what we need him for. Strength. Right, Hunter?”

Hunter growled affirmatively. It didn’t seem like he cared much about anything if he could fight. Really, that came naturally to Pokémon. They just had to temper it.

“Hmph. I also have technique,” Wishkeeper said. “…But combined, I can see its strengths. Fine. I’ll… I’m fine with that.”

Guardian frowned. “Wishkeeper… I think it’s also because you’re afraid of being erased again.”

“Tch.” Wishkeeper scowled. “Of course I don’t want that. Who would? I was… betrayed by the people I trusted the most. I was alone. Isolated. And then my final thoughts… were of the last person I trusted taking away my will. Then my emotions. Then my memories. Gone. I was gone.”

He’d been thinking about Gahi initially, but then quickly pivoted to all three of that Trio of Mind… But his mind went back to Gahi again. Azelf. And for the first time, his voice trembled. That told the others everything they needed to know. He was so persistent because out of everyone, he was the one who’d been so thoroughly wiped away. And now he was clawing his way back… only to be in this talk with four others who wanted the same.

“No,” Guardian said. “Sorry. I meant you’re afraid of… that, right? Of becoming something else, not even lesser. Just not ‘you.’ Right?”

Wishkeeper seemed briefly ashamed. He’d let it slip, that insecurity. But… it was true. He knew what it was like. And he saw what he became. “I don’t want to disappear, yes. I have to… I don’t want to go away again. I can’t.”

Guardian spoke gently this time. “So you… try to strike it down. Hunter, I mean. But… isn’t that the opposite of what you tried to do with Dark Matter?”

Wishkeeper squinted, and in a brief silence of contemplation, he seemed to recognize the parallel. “…Then, you’re suggesting I should try to… help Hunter the same way. And it won’t end in disaster this time? I won’t be erased.”

“The only way to get rid of Hunter is to get rid of all of us,” Guardian warned. “Just like Kilo and Dark Matter. So… yeah. We have to help him, too. None of us will be erased this time. We all need to exist, because all of us bring a little bit to our ‘whole.’ Right?”

Hunter snorted. “Don’t need help,” he grumbled.

“Stubborn,” Wishkeeper snorted back.

“You’re both stubborn,” Guardian said.

“Of course we both are. We’re both many things. We’re all the same soul.”

“I dunno if the soul means a whole lot,” Heart said. “It’s memories and feelings, right? And we hardly had either persist between us, just… dispositions, and people… That’s what makes this part so hard.”

Wishkeeper nodded. “Fine. I agree there, too. I’m… afraid of being erased. I said that. Sure. But if I have to help Hunter, you also have to help me be part of…” He gestured around.

“Of course,” Guardian said. “You don’t have to be protective. We’re all here for each other. Okay?”


“You’re also way too intense,” Heart added.

Back on the defensive, Wishkeeper retorted without hesitation, “What? Intense? I’m not intense. I’m serious. I had to manage reality-bending wishes! And then save the world!”

“I mean, so am I?” Guardian said. “Maybe not the wishes part, but the world’s in pretty big danger!”

“Huge danger,” Heart said. “But, uh, Wishkeeper, you’re just, like…” He pinched the air. “Maybe a tiny bit scary?”

Smallflame grumbled something.

“I think he said, ‘he is anything but tiny,’” Guardian guessed.

Smallflame snorted in approval.

“Oh, wow, a size joke. I’ve never heard it before.”

“You’re the one that’s like thirteen feet tall!”

“And four inches.”

“So you do keep track!” Heart pointed at him.

“How did you even eat?” Guardian said.

“My diet was actually… small. Necrozma’s blessing increases your size but it shrinks your appetite.” Wishkeeper shrugged. “I guess it’s like being half-Mystic.”

“Solar power,” Hunter rumbled.


“I can do that,” Guardian added, playing with his feathers.

Heart giggled. “Well, if we’re supposed to, like… try to sort ourselves out, I’ll talk about what I want. I want to be friends with as many people as possible, and to save as many people, too!”

“What about when you need to make tough decisions? Sacrifices? Will you freeze up, shut down?” Wishkeeper pressed.

“W-well… maybe… But!” Heart pointed. “That’s when you come in!”

“…To make the hard decisions,” Wishkeeper said. “…Okay. I’ll agree to that. If… being friendly isn’t enough, or… something. If there’s anything I want to carry on, it’s my knowledge and experience. Compared to all of you, I just… know more. Sorry.”

“But you’ve become timeworn because of it,” Guardian said. “We need to remember being normal, too. Even if it’s a tiny bit. I think… Smallflame and Heart can help there.”

“Perhaps so,” Wishkeeper acquiesced.

Heart beamed. They’d managed to convince Wishkeeper to work with them. That was a lot better than trying to kill Hunter! He didn’t even know what that would mean for him as a personality. Then again… Hunter was hostile.

Guardian, seeing the way Heart glanced at Hunter, carried that along. “Hunter, you’re going to have to behave from now on. Yes, we’re still going to fight. But you don’t want to scare your friends, right?”

“Guess not,” Hunter agreed. “…But use my strength. You’re soft. All of you. One day, an enemy… will need to be killed. Not befriended.”

“We understand,” Heart said, though his tone suggested he wasn’t all in. “As long as we aren’t hurting people who don’t deserve it. And not going too far, either. I’m… sick of having to worry about killing.”

“Does that even matter anymore?” Guardian asked. “We know what death is. So—”

“Do not go down that path,” Wishkeeper said, and Guardian flinched at the sudden harshness of the largest Charizard’s tone.

“Right, sorry,” Guardian replied quickly.

Wishkeeper wasn’t satisfied. This was exactly what he was worried about. “Being a god makes you lose sight of the values of mortals. We aren’t gods, but we have the agelessness of one. Do not discredit death. It’s traumatizing to mortals, and not something to take lightly. Is that clear?”

“It is! I knew that,” Guardian said. “I just meant for me, and stuff… if we had to choose, you know? Between them and us.”

“Mm.” Wishkeeper wasn’t convinced, but it was fine enough that he recognized the error. “I suppose that means we all have decided on, generally, what we want. Except for…”

They all looked at Smallflame, who shifted nervously. This was all so complicated for him. Big words and even bigger concepts. He didn’t care about all that, and they were all ‘older’ than him anyway.

And his old friend… all his old friends were gone, now. Tim’s old team was long gone, lost to the horrible organization that stole them. Who knew what lives they’d lived? Tim’s old friends and allies had become gods, too, and all changed so much.

Smallflame was… the past. He wasn’t supposed to be around anymore. Was that what they were trying to tell him?

“I know it’s hard to talk to us,” Heart said, “but we’re all the same person. We’ll understand you. If there’s anything you want to… keep… about you, what would it be?” He gently reached forward until his tiny hand was on Smallflame’s thigh. “It’s okay. What is it?”

The most frustrating part was Smallflame didn’t have the vocabulary for it. Not for them. And they didn’t have the part of ‘him’ that could understand his words.

But this was a weird, mental place where they could all understand each other, right? Maybe it was like humans and Pokémon. Maybe they would understand his feelings.

“I want,” Smallflame said, “to have friends again.”

He didn’t know if they understood. But the way Wishkeeper glanced away, pensive, and the way Guardian smiled sadly… They did.

“It’ll be okay, Smallflame,” Guardian said. “We have so many people by our side now. You won’t be lonely. Not after all this.”

“Even I had friends,” Hunter pointed out. “…Violent friends. But still friends.”

“Well, you were also violent, so it worked out,” Wishkeeper murmured.

“Says the guy who opened trying to skewer him,” Guardian muttered back.

Heart tittered, but then sighed. “I guess that’s everything,” he said. “What do we do now?”

“We decide on how to go forward,” Wishkeeper said. “And I believe I’ve finally puzzled together what Necrozma wants from us, too. A decision on how ‘we’ come together with a sense of… continuity between our fragmented parts. We did that. Now… we decide what our future is.”

“We already did that, too,” Heart said.

“We did. Guardian,” Wishkeeper said, “I… have reservations about how you did things. But even you, the most recent of ‘us,’ are not the person that was speaking to Necrozma. It was a little bit of all of us. And a little bit of it will remain. I guess… in that sense… we’re all supposed to rise together. As one.”

Guardian nodded. “I agree,” he said. “If that’s the case, how about we all fly together?”

“Uh? Fly?” Heart asked. “I never evolved yet…”

Guardian chuckled. “Well, if that’s the case—”

Hunter crawled over and dipped his nose beneath Heart, flicking him onto his back. He yelped, but landed surprisingly softly in his wings, tumbling to the center of Hunter’s back.

“Hold on tight,” Hunter said.

“Uh—” Heart grasped onto the base of his wings. “Okay! I’m tight!”

“Can you fly as well?” Wishkeeper asked Guardian.


Wishkeeper and Smallflame both spread their wings, conjuring updraft. Gentle psionics and Mystic power raised Guardian from the ground. Hunter crouched; Heart braced.

All five rose toward the abyssal sky as one. Their bodies shimmered with light. For a few fleeting seconds, they could all see through each other’s eyes. And for a few more, their sights became one.
Last edited:


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 156 – First Generation

“Is it just me, or is this a terrible idea?” Phol murmured. “At what point did I get involved in the field again? I’m a doctor now, not a Heart.”

“Probably when we started losing Hearts to who knows where,” Spice said. “The world may have stopped ending, but the damage is done. Maybe once it calms down more, you can be irritated at patients again.”

Phol grumbled and didn’t reply directly.

Before them was a great temple, completely decayed from disrepair and abandonment. Stained glass windows once depicted the figures of Mew and Arceus and all their creations. The blank window that often separated the two was considered a symbol of their distance. But now, with the new revelations at hand, that third window was Necrozma, their mediator.

“According to the plan,” Leo said, looking at the sun’s position, “we wait until the apex of noon and then go in. That should time us for whatever the ‘spirit side’ team tries from within. This all seems very risky…”

“We’re just a distraction. Fight defensively,” Spice said.

“Mrgh. Right. How close is noon?”

Leo was watching his shadow creep along. “Pretty close,” he said. “We can probably head in already and the timing won’t be too off. It’s not like we were given exact kilos to count…”

“Does time even flow the same?” Phol asked as Angelo meekly approached and sketched something on his arm. Phol didn’t question it.

“I don’t know,” Leo said. “But we have to try at least a little bit.”

“They could have at least left one Guardian with us,” Phol mumbled, looking down the field. The scouts were circumnavigating the temple—and among them was Star—but the fact that nothing was exploding meant ADAM was just inside.

Angelo drew something on Leo next before approaching Spice.

“Okay, what are you doing?” Spice asked.

“A-ah! Um.” Angelo nervously poked his tail’s black paint. “I was just giving you some, ah, some good luck before you go in. A simple enchantment. Normally only Alcremie can learn it, er, but…”

“…Right. You know basically every known technique, don’t you?” Spice rolled her eyes. “Well, thanks, I guess. I’m sure it’ll help.”

“I hope so,” Angelo said, sketching out odd squares and hexagons next. Similar symbols appeared all around them in a two-layered barrier.

“Okay!” Angelo said. “We should be ready.”

“Hopefully, the Dungeon doesn’t dispel any of these once we enter,” Phol said. “Ah, there are the scouts.”

Star, a Hecto, and a Nate approached from around the corner. The canid Zygarde and strange wraith representative were quiet, but Star announced, “All clear! The guy must be inside. I think we’re good to go.”

“And my purpose specifically,” Phol said, “is to try to… shape my Protects into a gauntlet and then punch ADAM as hard as I can. And that will somehow work.”

“That will be part of what works. Maybe.” Star nodded. “Radiance seems to counter Shadows, so we do that from both sides. That’s what the other team will be doing with Anam’s Radiance.”

Part of Spice wondered if Anam knew how to fight anymore, with how meek he’d been lately. Hopefully, he’d rise to the occasion. “Alright,” she said. “Lead the way.”

The time for preparation was over. Hopefully, they could clean out whatever ADAM was doing and then try to track where Alexander had fled next. They approached the temple entrance. There was a soapy rainbow film where the door should have been. The Dungeon felt strong.

“One,” Leo said, “two… three!”

They dashed through.

And immediately put up Protect barriers to block incoming Hyper Beams from all sides.

The deafening blasts drowned out Spice’s curse. She couldn’t hear, but that was what nonverbal gestures were for. Phol tapped her shoulder and dashed ahead; the others followed suit while Hecto and Nate took the leads. They were, as they considered themselves, disposable—there were multiples of them, after all, or in the wraith’s case, he would just return to the main body. Spice wasn’t even sure if that was truly Nate, or a spirit acting as his extension.

This was supposed to be a small Dungeon, but it certainly felt a lot larger on the inside. It was just one large chamber with a smaller room in the back, but traps covered every square inch of the place.

But Spice noticed something peculiar about the way it was coming down. It was all regular. Each Hyper Beam exploded from a square, like a grid. It matched how they’d seen the apparent internal Dungeon’s format, but would that be useful?

Another volley came as they were only a fifth of the way across the room. Spice had no time to think about how useful the format of the Hyper Beams was.

“They aren’t firing again behind us,” Phol said. “They may need time to recharge.”

“This guy wasn’t as strong out in Kilo Village!” Leo said, looking winded.

“This is his domain. He’s a lot stronger inside.”

Spice brought up another Protect, as did Phol, and they both blocked the next volley to protect the team. Angelo conjured a much wider barrier to do the same but squealed as his knees buckled from the resonant pressure.

“Well, they could get to protecting us at any time, now!” Angelo cried as Phol picked him up under his arm.

They were going to make it if they could endure the barrage. The beams were fixed. If they took a moment to gather their breath where they’d already fired… perhaps they had a shot.

It was like a dance. A lethal, potentially soul-smashing dance.

“I’m gonna feel this in the morning,” Angelo wheezed.

But despite everything, Spice was proud that Angelo was here at all… even if they had to carry him along for it.

“They’re charged! Advance!” Phol called.

And so the dance began.


According to Star, the path ahead of them would lead to the Ethereal Forest’s exit into the Normal Realm.

Her directions hadn’t been necessary, as it turned out. Marshadow Manny crossed his arms and nodded to himself.

“Yep. Those’re Shadows, alright,” Manny said.

“Mhm… Um, just so you know, my Shadows aren’t super strong anymore,” Anam said. “So, um, I hope I can still help…”

The poor Goodra was still getting used to being weak. Marshadow made it a point to be more expressive around the fella. “Yer doin’ jus’ fine, Anam. Keep it up, eh? How about Radiance?”

“Oh! I’m better with that!” Anam said, the green patches along his neck lighting up to demonstrate.

“Perfect. We’ll need Radiance fer offense and Shadow fer defense.”

“Do you have either!”

“Hah!” Manny faced the dark path with his hands on his hips. “Nope!”

“Oh.” Anam’s horns drooped.

“Aaah, I spent half my lifetime in the Voidlands. I know a thing er two on avoidin’ it. We’ll be fine. It’s you guys I’m a li’l worried about.” His gaze trailed over to Willow, Jirachi, and another Jirachi wearing a blindfold.

Sure, they were powerful, but…

Well. It was a good thing he happened to visit when the rift was cut, since navigating a Cursed Dungeon didn’t seem like something in their résumé.

“Let’s go in,” Marshadow finally said. “Ain’t gonna dispel itself.”

“It might?” Jirachi on the left asked. “After all, we aren’t even sure if Alexander is still in there…”

“He ain’t.” Marshadow gestured to a trail of darkness that seemed obvious to him. Perhaps the others were not aware of how discrete the essences could be. “Seems like he left a while ago, prob’ly ter recoup in darker environments er somethin’. Hopefully, that’ll mean whatever’s inside ain’t so bad.”

This became a recovery mission rather than something more dangerous. Fighting Alexander directly could have resulted in apprehending and exorcizing him, sure, but were they prepared for that kind of damage?

Thankfully, that was for another day. “Ready ter head in?”

“Yes. We just need to find the Core and purify it, yes?” Jirachi asked.

Anam flexed his little arms and horns. Ripples of gold light coursed through his slime.

“Yep. Alright. No breaks. One… two…”

They dashed. The forest transitioned from beautiful blue hues with slightly glowing, dark tree trunks into white marble that was perfectly square. Hallways rose above and around them in that perfect grid pattern that those two digital Pokémon had described. But Marshadow wasn’t prepared for the actual environment that followed. His body felt strange in a way he couldn’t quite describe; his bag of supplies had gotten noticeably heavier, and he was tempted to look why.

But more worrying was how his vision had become blurry. He rubbed his eyes. And then noticed that his hands looked weird and blurry, too.

“What?!” Marshadow shouted. He couldn’t hear his voice. Something buzzed in his ears.

“What’s going on?!” Anam called. “Oh no! I can’t hear my voice! But I know I’m talking… I can hear myself talking!”

“You just said you couldn’t!” Jirachi shouted.

Everyone looked like they were made of little squares. They moved without motion, simply flashing from one pose to the next, Anam’s whole body jittering with fear.

“Is this what ADAM’s head looks like?” Marshadow asked. Whenever he spoke, the odd beeping and buzzing he heard was higher than Anam’s. And then he looked to his left.

He saw a rectangle with the words he’d said printed on them. Then, when Anam spoke, his words vanished, and Anam’s words appeared instead, though they seemed mirrored from Manny’s perspective.

“What’re you looking at, Manny?”

What indeed. In this strange grid, when he looked up and left, past the short wall, there was that big rectangle that captured their words. And behind that rectangle, he saw ADAM, supersized, staring at the words.

“THAT’S him?!” Jirachi shouted. The box his words appeared on shook as if he’d slammed a table.

“Ooh, that’s one for therapy,” Anam murmured, taking an uneasy step backward.

When ADAM spoke, his words appeared all around them in repeating patterns, nearly blinding them. “ABNORMALITY DETECTED INSIDE SECTOR 3-E.”

Marshadow swatted away at the words like bugs. This wasn’t going to work. They had to stop ADAM but he was currently high above them and beyond the Dungeon itself.

Core. Right, Core. They didn’t need to worry about the giant projection that was probably about to Hyper Beam them to death. They just had to worry about finding the Core before it was too late.

“Let’s go!” Marshadow called. He sprinted for the wall and tried to hide in it for some extra stealth, but instead of passing into it, he slammed hard and winced. “Ow,” he wheezed, the box containing his words shivering and crumpled.

“Are you okay?!” Anam asked, rushing to him.

Jirachi eyed Marshadow worriedly, and then tried to create a wave of Psychic energy. It only made a weak little ripple.

“Our powers are disabled here,” he said, “or weaker…”

The other Jirachi tried to conjure a flurry of stars instead, and those seemed to work—very effectively, too, leaving little cracks in the wall.

The Normal Dungeon. Did it somehow ‘Normalize’ them?

This suddenly got more complicated.


The whole floor lit up. Marshadow suddenly realized that if he was Normalized, then these strikes would certainly hurt him, too.

“RUN!” Marshadow commanded, and behind them, the ground erupted in Hyper Beam pillars.


Three Hectos had come in for backup during their navigation through the temple Dungeon, and two of them had been reduced to green vapor by ADAM’s attacks. They were reckless and weak, of course, but Spice could only help but think how that’d look if it hit any of them instead.

“Just a little more!” Angelo squeaked.

“Hey, Angelo! Any bright ideas on moving faster!?”

“Trick Room doesn’t work on Hyper Beams!” Angelo cried. “Wait! That’s it!”

He hastily sketched out gusts of wind and tossed them into the air. Everything seemed to move easier for the team, wind resistance eliminated and Tailwind pushing them onward. A Hyper Beam rained upon them from above, but then they got into one of the halls.

Here, the blasts didn’t reach them. At least, that was Spice’s thought. Why would this place allow ADAM to be so strong, anyway? Was the law of domains that powerful?

No, it wasn’t a question. It was plain in front of them. Without the distraction within ADAM’s realm, Spice wondered if they’d even get this far.

The back of the temple seemed to be a place that had once been for small offices and meeting rooms. The hallways were still abnormally large, though, as if they’d been built for Pokémon twice Anam’s size, and he was already a decently large Goodra.

“I see a light up ahead!” Phol announced.

“Hyper Beam light or end-of-the-Dungeon light?”

“Might be the same!” Angelo squeaked.

It was. Spice and Phol blocked the incoming beam with a dual Protect barrier. When the initial blast faded, they saw a jittering Porygon-Z in the middle of the back chamber. There were no exits except for the one they’d entered, which was typical for these strange Guardian Dungeons. The very center, the ‘core’ of the Dungeon, would be that Guardian.

“He’s recharging,” Phol said. “Attack!”

For a split second, Spice wasn’t sure if they wanted to attack and if that would have hurt ADAM badly or not. But then Phol did the honors of landing the first strike square in ADAM’s forehead, smashing his disconnected head into his hovering torso with a deep sound like two glass spheres knocking into each other.

ADAM’s head bobbled frictionlessly in the air. Spice aimed and bathed ADAM’s body in flames. Angelo conjured little droplets of poison that seeped into the artificial Pokémon’s smooth body. Hecto and Nate were in the back deflecting incoming Hyper Beams, for better or worse, but they were already down on most of their Substitutes, while Star was waiting for a clean shot.

“Something holding you back, dear?!” Spice cried to the Mew.

“I don’t want to overkill!” Star exclaimed.

Phol, who grabbed ADAM’s head and directed it down the hall as another Hyper Beam charged, roared, “Him or us!”

“Fine, fine, him!” Star conjured several little balls of explosive purple energy and lobbed them at ADAM. Phol grappled the Porygon-Z in place, largely unaffected by the bursts, before ADAM suddenly fizzled and went limp. The magnetism that kept his limbs and head in place weakened, and Phol quickly let go.

“…Did that do it?”

Star whimpered a curse. “Did I overdo it?”

Spice crept closer and brought her head close to his head. Star closed her eyes and checked his aura.

They came to the same conclusion: merely unconscious and recovering.

“Then… I guess we’re done for now,” Phol said. “Let’s charge up these Badges. We’ll warp him out of this place where he’ll be weaker again.”

“Right. Then it’s up to the others to clean things up on the inside,” Star said.

“That’s all? Hopefully, this’ll make it easier… He didn’t seem to be at his best against us, huh? He sorta just stared…”

“That’s exactly why we timed it this way,” Star explained. “He was distracted with whatever Marshadow’s team was doing.”

“Huh. Alright. Good job… Guess we’ll see if they’re back soon.”

But whatever was happening in there was probably not as bad as what they’d just gone through. Right?


Jirachi almost got eaten by a glitch.

That was the only way Marshadow could describe what he’d seen.

From across the hall, they’d seen some strange, warping projection of something made of black and white squares. There was no rhyme nor reason to what it was, only that it was hovering toward them rapidly, occasionally disappearing several feet backward before reappearing even more feet ahead.

It nearly descended upon Jirachi had it not been for quick thinking from Eon, who had pulled him away and ran around the corner.

Now they were fleeing from three more of the same things. Marshadow didn’t want to know what a single touch would do to them.

“I’m g-getting kinda tired,” Anam said, his feet slapping wetly on the ground with every labored stride.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get y’ an elixir maybe,” Marshadow said, digging through his bag.

This didn’t make sense. They’d navigated here through a Dungeon from Kilo, thanks to Star’s efforts, but how did that work? Dungeons really were a bridge between the living world and the spirit world, if that was the case, because Guardian realms were exclusively for spirits.

Was he dead? Alive? Or was it all just a blurry illusion?

Like the hundreds of elixirs that were in his bag.

“Wha—?!” Marshadow grabbed one randomly and tossed it to Anam, but then grabbed another few and realized why his bag felt so heavy. It was overstuffed with elixirs. He pulled out another, and another, and then overturned his bag as they ran, leaving a trail of full elixirs in their wake.

“Man, I hate this place!” Marshadow shouted. “Where’s the Core s’posed ter be?!”

“I think if we keep going across this grid, like reading a book, we’ll eventually find it!” Jirachi said, hovering as fast as he could before lunging at Marshadow’s shoulder.


“I’m tired.”

“It ain’t that bad!”

“Sorry, I—propulsion with floating is a lot harder than you think in someone else’s Dungeon,” Jirachi said. “I never even figured out how to make my own…”

“Make yer—oh, yer Eon, not Jirachi. Wait, where’s Jirachi?”

Marshadow looked back and realized that Jirachi was already hitching a ride on Eon’s back the same way.

“Oh, come on!”

“Go right!”

They’d reached another end of the grid. Unlike all the other Dungeons they’d ever explored, this one was indeed so perfectly square that following it like a book was all they needed to do to explore every segment of it. Assuming the exit didn’t somehow warp around. With ADAM constantly looming over them like they were little pieces on a board game, Marshadow wondered if he was moving things around without them realizing.

“Two—things on either side!” Jirachi warned.

Two ‘things’ indeed. Black-and-white, static squares with no pattern approached them in a pincer formation, forcing them to speed ahead and retread old ground.

The chamber rumbled. “Whoa!” Marshadow nearly toppled over but caught his footing just in time. The glitches had stopped following them, stalling. Marshadow glanced at the message box near him, facing ADAM, who was briefly dazed.

“Hey! He’s stunned!” Jirachi said. “That must be the others!”

“…I got an idea!” Marshadow said, reaching toward the message box, but it suddenly disappeared. “Jirachi! Keep talkin’!”

“What? Why?”

Marshadow tried, and it disappeared again.

“O-okay,” Jirachi said. “Um, the entire type matchup chart as taught to us in school starts with the Normal type, which is neutral against all types except for Ghost, which it . . .”

Marshadow smirked, getting a firm grasp of the box that contained Jirachi’s words. With a firm tug, he pulled it out of the air and held it behind him.

Touching the glitches was probably a bad idea, but maybe using some of this Dungeon’s environment against it would be enough. Marshadow pulled back and swung the flat box forward, thwacking the glitch with an ear-splitting staticky noise, like a sizzling pan right up against his head.

But it worked.

“Ha haaa!” Marshadow sprinted ahead in time to see a trail of pixilated slime on the ground. “Found Anam! Don’t stop talking yet!”

Jirachi continued. He’d gotten to eight of the types so far before Marshadow saw Anam up ahead, motes of light swirling around him like he was charging a strike.

And just in front of him, floating in a chamber like all the others, was a void of darkness that siphoned away the colors of the other parts of the blocky chamber. Anam fired a Radiant Dragon Pulse at it. The gold light burned through the black orb, plumes of thick smoke drifting away and revealing a golden sphere beneath.

Some of Anam was darker, too. When Marshadow crept closer to get a better look, he realized that Anam’s left arm was gold, and his right arm was black. The smoke siphoned into the darker one, while the gold drove it out of the sphere.

“Wow, how ‘bout that,” Marshadow said.

“Why is he going over types? Did he make a mistake?” Anam asked.

“Oh, eh. You c’n stop that now,” Marshadow said.

Jirachi sighed, the text box shaking and leaving Marshadow’s grip. “That was weird.”

Marshadow patted Jirachi on the back and then did the same for Eon as he drifted up. “Alright, Anam. What’s it look like?”

“It’s not too bad,” Anam reported. “Alexander must have only passed through… He just left a little behind like a distraction.”

“Feh. So we wouldn’t try ter track’m,” Marshadow concluded. “Geh… yeah. He got us there. Went right ter savin’ ADAM an’ didn’ think ter follow the guy more. Then again…”

“Splitting up more would be a huge risk,” Jirachi concluded.

The sphere was cleaned in a matter of minutes. “Welp,” he said. “That’s one problem solved.”

Jirachi tilted his head. “Anam? Why are you… covered in burns?”

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Anam said like it was some mistake he’d made. “My bag was suddenly super full of Blast Seeds and I set one off. And that set another off, and another one, and, um…”

“Huh. Blasts fer you, eh?”

“Mhm. Just like that one incident Owen had a few decades ago,” Anam said.

“…Ain’t gonna question that, eh, well, we got a ton o’ Elixirs. Weird, huh?”

“Really weird. But I guess it’s fine now,” Anam said. “Should we go find Willow?”

“I thought she was with you,” Marshadow hummed.

Anam shook his head, glancing at the orb, and then back at Marshadow. “Umm… ADAM might be out cold. Let’s just—”

“There you are!” Willow said, but the message box that followed her was a horrifyingly garbled mess. “I was looking everywhere where where where where for you!”

Marshadow… assumed it was Willow. But she was a jumble of yellow and blue with no sense of… It made Marshadow sick. “Don’t touch us,” Marshadow said. “Let’s get you outta here befer that becomes permanent.”

“Permanent nent nent? This is great! You should join join join join—”

“Nope! Let’s go! Outta here!” Marshadow tossed his bag over Willow.

“Wait!” Jirachi shouted. “Don’t—”

Marshadow’s bag suddenly swelled.

“…Aw, f—”

His bag exploded with hundreds of little Joltik.

It was going to be a long day.


Thankfully, Willow was still one person, and the countless Joltik were more like Substitutes than anything. Unfortunately, Willow was stubborn, and now Kilo Village was infested with Joltik. The team eventually gave up on gathering them from the uncooperative Guardian and decided her copies would eventually wither away on their own.

Spice wandered over to Ludicolo Café. As it turned out, quite a few others had the same idea. Anam, a Charmander in a blindfold—presumably Eon—Angelo, Jerry, and a Nate were all there. Lots of awkwardness was in the room, but surprisingly, nobody else was there. Maybe Jerry scared the other customers off, or Anam intimidated them accidentally. Or maybe they knew not to bother them.

“Hey,” Spice greeted with a wave.

“Hey, Spice,” several replied.

“Heard your mission went well,” Jerry hummed, munching on a thick piece of meat in some stew he’d ordered.

“Could’ve gone better, but… sure.” Spice spotted a Joltik skittering around the corner. They were going to see a lot of that in the coming days.

“I’m already nice and healed!” Anam said. “The nurses and healers are super nice. None of my wounds settled!”

Spice unconsciously scratched at her chest. “Yeah,” she mumbled. “Anyway… what’s this? Coincidental get-together?”

“It’s a nice place,” Anam said. “And, um… I don’t have a lot of work to do at the Hearts anymore since some of the others do a lot of it now…”

He likely meant several of the former Elites, their halves, or even Anam’s mother.

Spice knew that the feeling of dread she’d always felt from Anam was because of Dark Matter inside of him, but she also wondered if being the son of Giratina had anything to do with it. And he was their priest for a time, too. Gods, what the world had come to…

“Why aren’t you leader again, anyway?” Jerry asked. “Thought you wanted to ‘unite the world’ or something that mantra always said.” He rolled his eyes, but his words weren’t as venomous as before. If anything, it seemed to only annoy him.

“Oh, um. I’m… I’m not that… good at it anymore.” Anam poked his fingers together. “I sort of… I mean, um, Diyem was the one who… told me when things were wrong or people were being bad or evil. I didn’t really know, so… I can’t tell anymore.”

“Hmph. And Diyem told you I wasn’t worthy because I came from that same darkness, I bet. Just told you who had darkness…” Jerry sighed. “Whatever. I’ll yell at him about it later, been meaning to get around to that…”

Anam looked like he wanted to defend, but shrank away.

“For what it’s worth,” Spice said, “if your goal was to make a good world… it was one, up until the whole Nevren thing. And then Dark Ma—er, Diyem going crazy afterward. You… had good intentions.”

The little blob that was Nate slid to Anam and comforted him by tapping its forehead on his thigh.

“I liked it,” Angelo replied quietly. “I could live a comfortable life just doing art. Before the world almost ended. That was bad. But the world before that was nice.”

“It’s my fault, in a way,” Eon said. “If I didn’t go crazy just… trying to get Owen back, or get that power from Barky and Star—I forgot it was Necrozma I was fighting—it’s all so… stupid. The whole fight was against someone already dead…”

“Yeah, I guess everyone was sort of an idiot for a while,” Jerry muttered.

Suddenly, Anam’s communicator beeped. He reflexively tried to dig into his thigh, but he was mostly solid still and had put things in his bag again. He tittered and pulled it out.


“Oh, Diyem! Um, we’re in public right now, so…”

“That’s fine. This isn’t secret information. We’ve managed to reopen a rift using Hot Spot Dungeon, and it safely connects to South Null.

“That took forever,” Spice said. “What was the holdup?”

“For a while, getting into the Voidlands was difficult in general. Which was worrying, but the seal was not nearly as strong as before. With time we were able to get it undone.”

“Undone? Sealed? Why, how? It was just Alexander attacking, wasn’t it?”

“I’m not sure. This is why I’m heading in soon to investigate if the number of Dark Matter fragments inside has changed, or any other abnormalities. I can only tell that when I properly enter.”

“Alright, well, good luck with that. Everyone else hear that?”

“Yes, clearly,” Palkia reported.

“Does that mean the Titan hunting can resume, too?” Eon asked. “We almost tracked down a few Cores last time…”

“Likely, but be on high alert. Alexander is probably lurking somewhere in the realm. Anyway, I’m leaving soon. I just wanted to give the status update. Ending communications.”

The communicator went dim and Anam put it back.

There was a brief and comfortable silence as Spice went to order herself a Tamato-and-meat salad. By the time she returned, the conversation had shifted.

“So, you and Diyem,” Jerry asked Anam. “You guys still, like… close?”

“Yeah!” Anam said eagerly, lighting up. “We’re still roommates! He, um, I think he tried to help me get back into leadership, but I still dunno…”

“It’s weird that he puts so much effort into you,” Spice remarked. “…Not—as in, that you aren’t worth it. Just that he’d put that kind of effort into anyone. Isn’t he a ball of evil wrapped in Charmander skin?”

“He’s not evil,” Anam said quietly, glancing at his bowl. His food was a plate of various sliced fruits and berries. Mostly sweet fruits populated his plate, with only a few tart ones to break up the flavors. “He was suffering because he felt everyone’s… bad. He just wanted that to stop. But he couldn’t die unless everything else died. It wasn’t fair.”

Spice hummed, displeased. “I guess when you frame it that way, he didn’t have any options.”

“I wanted to find a way to help…”

“Yeah, we get it,” Jerry said. As crass as his words were, his tone was… softer, at least a little. “We’re sorta doing that now.”

“I definitely didn’t help,” Eon muttered. “…There are still mutants roaming around that I need to calm down. Maybe when Trina gets back, I can… get back to that with Jirachi and her.”

“I should get back to drawing,” Angelo said absently. “I haven’t sent out a new issue in a while.”

“I get the feeling most people won’t mind the wait,” Spice said.

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Angelo muttered.

“What’s the matter, can’t handle the fans?”

“They terrify me sometimes, really,” Angelo admitted with a titter. “So glad I go by a pen name. A-ah, please don’t reveal who I truly am, by the way…”

Spice shrugged. It didn’t seem that important to her anyway. Maybe to Owen, it would be.


Spice sighed. “You guys know about… me, right?”

“The whole third-of-a-soul thing? Yeah,” Jerry said. “Sounds pretty rough. Especially when you’re sharing your soul with a feral and a dead plant.”

“That’s… I didn’t want to phrase it that way, Jerry, but… yes. It is rough.”

Jerry sighed. “What else am I supposed to say? Sorry your existence is gonna melt into one-third of a whole? Like, we’ve already seen the process with Dialga… I’m just glad I’m one person. I checked.”

“I’m still sorting it out,” Spice said. “Enet has Amelia in her already, so I think they’re… talking to each other. I don’t know how that’s going.”

“Where is Enet, anyway?” Jerry asked.

“Who knows? She’s invisible most of the time, feral Zoroark things, I guess. She could even be here right now.”

“Now?” Angelo asked, sitting up straighter.

“Yup. Maybe her predator instincts are kicking in, too, and she smells your fear… sneaking up right behind you, and—”

“Stop! Stop! There’s—she wouldn’t do that!” Angelo shivered. “R-right?”

“You seem like prey to me,” Jerry said.

“Zoroark are pranksters,” Anam added, frowning.

“You’re doomed, buddy.”

Nate hugged Angelo’s shins.

Angelo deflated. “Oh, why me…”


“Hi, Diyem!” Anam said, bringing out the communicator again. “How’d it—”

“We have a problem. The number of Dark Matter fragments inside the Voidlands has gone up.”

“Well, of course it’d go up. Alexander came back. So—”

“By two.”

A pause. “What?” Spice asked. “Do you know how many are up on the surface?”

“We assumed three. Alexander is one piece, I am a second. Then there was Emily and two unidentified pieces we’ve yet to track down properly. I’m positive they are intentionally hidden from me, perhaps in something that would blot out their dark aura. But… now I can sense there are three here. Where is Emily?”

“Last Lugia report had her east near War’s End,” Jerry said. “Nothing special. She always goes there.”

“Hmmh… Something is wrong. Very wrong… I can’t contact Owen’s group, either.”

“Ah, I think I know why that is,”
said Palkia. “Their last contact was about entering an obsidian mountain. If that’s of Necrozma’s crystal, it may interfere with signals going inside. They tend to be quite energy-dense despite their appearance.”

“I still don’t like this. From one piece to three… No. We need to contact them immediately. Everyone in the Voidlands, be cautious of abnormalities. Is that clear?

“Something is making its move.”

Various affirmatives came in, and the connection went quiet once more. Anam and the others gave each other uneasy looks. After the brief respite… there was a lingering dread that something was coming all over again.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 157 – Rip Across Realms

It felt like Owen had slept for at least two whole days. Perhaps that was because his mind had split five ways. When the dream ended, he woke up five times.

Regardless, he felt stiff and big and heavy. And everyone else looked like they’d gone down to half their size.

He stretched and tried to wipe the grogginess out of his eyes. He stretched, yawned, popped a few segments of his spine, and then it finally hit him.

“Oh no.”

His voice was deep, and he gasped in surprise.

“Whoa!” Azelf shouted, alerting almost everyone else.

“Owen?” Zena asked, guarded and tense.

The room was still dark, lit by the red glow high above them through the spire’s vertical column, but most came from Owen’s flame. Thankfully his scales were still orange and cream, but he’d grown… again, and this time to his old Wishkeeper form.

“Necrozma!” Owen called. “This was the one thing I didn’t want back!”

“I thought you liked being big,” hummed another light source in the room. To Owen’s left, covered in a thick blanket, was Necrozma. He was so bright that the blanket only partially masked him.

“I do, but—when did you get better?”

“A few hours ago,” Necrozma said. “Once I’d siphoned enough energy stored in you, I was able to jump-start my energy reserves. The divine energy keeps me sustained without the need for external light… A terrible Shadow blast had taken that away from me for some time.”

“And the blanket…”

“Too bright,” Mispy explained, glaring at Necrozma, who lifted his wings from beneath the blanket in apology. Owen noticed that Mispy had also shoved their bag of supplies under two layers of dirt from outside. He wondered if the light crystals were also glowing brighter in reaction to Necrozma’s presence…

“Thankfully, this body only burns voluntarily,” he said. “You may have the blanket back, now.”

“No!” Demitri said. “I—I mean, um… maybe you can take that off… when we’re ready to wake up?”

Mhynt sighed. “I believe we’re as awake as we can, thanks to that scream. Azelf.” She rolled to a sitting position and rubbed her snout. “Honestly, you’ve seen Owen like this before.”

“W-well, yeah, an’ last time I kinda…”

Owen winced. “Good point… Necrozma, can I shrink down now?”

“I believe you have control over your form,” Necrozma said. “That must be your maximum size. A side-effect of too much contact with me. It may also be your default again…”


“You’re huge,” Demitri whispered.

“Is that bad?” Owen asked, nervous.

Zena was staring but then shook her head. “I think it’s… different,” she replied, “but as long as it doesn’t bother you…”

“I think I’ll stick to being… smaller for a while,” Owen said. His Perceive told him that Zena seemed to like it, though. He kept that in mind later.

“…Is it time?”

It was Valle, still in the corner of the room, the statue he always was.

“I have grown weary of… anticipating this. But I do not like how much you move.”

“How much I… move?” Necrozma asked. “I’m made of divine energy, crystal, and concentrated light. Two of my three components are in constant motion.”

“Stillness. Do you value stillness?”

“…Of the spirit, and those at rest,” Necrozma replied. “But the living must move.”

“Hmm. If that is your opinion. I’ll consider it.”

Necrozma nodded but then turned his head to the Team Alloy trio. “As for you,” he said. “Now that Owen is awake… I would like to purify you three, first and foremost.”

“Aw, is it that obvious?” Gahi asked.

“Darkness can hide well,” Necrozma said, “but… yes. Yours is obvious.”

“Feh. Alright, fine.”

Demitri and Mispy got out of their cuddle pile and stepped forward first. Gahi hovered behind them, eyeing Necrozma suspiciously.

“So, um,” Demitri said, nervously swinging his tail before slapping it on the ground. Owen sensed he didn’t want to hurt anyone with the axe at the end. “Does it hurt?”

“It might. I can start by purifying one of you and then doing the rest. As a… test. Everyone else may want to avert their eyes.”

“Oh, great. Is it some horrifying monster form you have?” Gahi asked. “We already saw Nate, I didn’ get too many nightmares from that.”

“No. It’s just very bright.”


Owen probably shouldn’t have looked surprised. Thankfully, his Perceive couldn’t see brightness, so he’d be fine either way. “Well, who wants to go first? If it hurts a little, maybe Mispy can go first since she doesn’t feel pain.”

“She doesn’t?” Necrozma asked. “Isn’t that dangerous? Pain is an indicator of the body being harmed… No pain, and—”

“She out-heals basically anything,” Gahi explained. “No reason ter feel pain.”

“…Ah.” Necrozma dimmed. “So, you have been modified that heavily. Quite… interesting.”

Owen couldn’t Perceive Necrozma’s body very easily, but it was easy to tell there was a hint of judgment in his tone. He supposed it wouldn’t be too surprising that someone made of light would be a bit of a purist.

“Well, let’s not stall. Come, Mispy. I’ll purify you of Shadows first.”

Mispy slid forward and closed her eyes. Owen and most of the others did the same. From Owen’s perspective, he watched the crystal of Necrozma’s body hover over Mispy, and Mispy herself suddenly tensed and winced. Was she actually feeling pain?

“Wait,” Owen said. “What’s going on?”

“I apologize,” Necrozma said. “It seems the pain I inflict is… spiritual. A lack of pain receptors won’t help you there. But I’ll be gentle.”


That meant this would be particularly painful for Mispy, who normally didn’t experience it. Her wincing was pronounced; she was almost going to cry, but she was holding back any vocalizations. Demitri’s muscles were tense, too, like he wanted to attack. Not Necrozma; just a fight or flight.

Owen realized as he focused on Gahi that if he opened his eyes and looked at him, he’d probably look like a huge crystal statue of a Flygon with his natural glimmer. Would he dare?

No. Bad idea. He’d blind himself.

“I’m… sorry,” Necrozma finally said, pulling back and covering himself in the veil.

“What’s wrong?” Owen finally opened his eyes. Dark like before, but he was positive he’d seen the outline of his scales through his eyelids.

“I do not have the necessary concentration of light to purify something this deep,” Necrozma explained. “This kind of corruption is… intense. But you brought my other half here. That will do when we reunite… Valle.”

“Mm,” Valle replied, somewhere between an indifferent sigh and a nervous huff.

“I understand if you’re nervous,” Necrozma said, “but I assure you, this will be fine. With my experience, reunification of a spirit in this way won’t be disastrous. I am an Overseer, after all.”

“Right… Overseer,” Zena said, shifting uncomfortably. “A god above gods? Older than the world itself?”

“Well, not a god,” Necrozma said. “…Er, not normally. I requested to borrow some of their power to perform my duties, yes, but I am not a god by default. I was beholden to this world’s rules all the same, but they allowed me to work with its machinations.

“The Hands of Creation, as they say, from the Thousand Arms of Arceus. When Kilo was created, half of that was given to Star. And when I came into the picture after Hecto returned with his scouting information, I requested a third total, to which they offered a third of each of their halves.”

Demitri was counting on his claws, looking confused. Mispy whispered the mathematics to him, arranging six rocks to demonstrate.

“Can you explain what an Overseer is? And why didn’t you explain it to us before?” Owen asked.

“The existence of Overseers is… something that is usually kept away from worlds such as this one, where new souls are created. It disturbs their societies when they learn about the vastness of the worlds upon worlds beyond their own. And, in many ways, it’s… not relevant. But…”

Necrozma sighed, though Owen realized it was simulated. There was no air or empty cavity in his chest for air to flow.

“This world is already in great need of direct interference, and the current gods have… fallen short. So, more direct assistance and cooperation with the higher mortals is necessary.”

“Higher mortals,” Mhynt hummed. “So, the demigods, or close to it, such as us.”

“Yes. And once we get to that stage, it’d be silly to expect word to not spread. I only ask you do not ‘make a big deal’ out of it.”

“Oh, sure, yeah, no big deal, just some… divine alien from outer space coming to help us out.”

“Far beyond outer space,” Necrozma commented.

“Ultra Space, then,” Mhynt concluded. “I’ve heard of that theoretical plane… from you. Lunala can travel into it.”

“Beyond even that, I’m afraid. You can travel through Ultra Space, physically. But the Overworld—where I am from—is a place devoid of space or matter. It is only the spirit that may travel through, with its memories and intents, to other realities that may grant it a body to inhabit. A body such as this one.” Necrozma gestured to himself.

“That’s not even your real body?” Demitri questioned.

“That’s kind of crazy, even for me,” Mesprit echoed. “And I’m standing next to another me…”

“Do not worry. The important part is, I came here and was granted a body and power by your gods… Star and Barky, I believe, are their informal names still. I am an expert in untangling cosmic struggles of worlds such as these, but this… Dark Matter is new to me. I had intended to return to the Overworld to gather research if other worlds had dealt with similar problems elsewhere. Unfortunately, I was caught up in the Dark War before I could escape. And now, well, it’s a bit too late… At this point, I may be the one providing the research.”

“So this is a new threat…” Owen’s wings drooped. “And… I caused it.”

“You did,” Necrozma said, “but you have also provided me ample information. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud yet. Yes, even if this world is doomed—which it may not be, just yet—we can save other worlds that suffer similar phenomena in the future. That is the purpose of the Overworld.”

The distance that Necrozma spoke about Kilo unnerved him. It was like he was already preparing to abandon the world the moment he had his power back…

“You’ll still help, right?” Owen asked.

“Yes, of course. I’ll honor what you wanted, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to do it. First, Alexander, of course. When Valle and I reunite, I will fly to Alexander while he is still weak and eliminate him. I’ll absorb his spirit so he won’t cause trouble after that, just in case.”

“A-absorb his spirit?” Owen repeated. “You can do that?”

Necrozma gestured to Owen, then at Gahi. “You have been doing that all this time, haven’t you? That is based on my power. When I assisted in this world’s creation, I also became its nexus for spirits. When someone died, their spirits flowed into me, where they would remain dormant until the world’s end. After that, I would ferry them to the Overworld where they may find other lives to live.

“Kilo is… a temporary world, after all. It was not built to last more than a thousand years. That was its intended end… but your other creators were fallible and emotional. They grew attached, and I, under my new physical limitations, lost track of my mission to compassion. I allowed a slow death so the final souls could live out their lives. There’s something special about a soul’s very first life, they told me. And… true, true.” Necrozma sighed. “So long ago, for me…”

Zena shifted uncomfortably again, glancing at Valle. “Does this all make sense to you?” she asked.

“It is familiar,” Valle said. “But I am… hesitant to return to such a vast soul when I am so small, Necrozma. Will I remain at all?”

“Recency is important to a spirit,” Necrozma said. “You will. I doubt either of us will complain about the result. The spirit… tends to work itself out in these circumstances.”

To that, Demitri and Mesprit, Mispy and Uxie, and Azelf and Gahi all glanced at each other.

“Yes,” Necrozma said, “even you. For those fusing, it is rarely difficult. It’s typically those around them who are more affected by the change.”

Owen thought of Dialga and Rhys… That was certainly true. Dialga was completely unbothered, despite holding Rhys’ memories, for a time. Yet Gahi…

“Will I lose my friends?” Owen asked. He’d asked it without thinking, but he thought back to his dream with his five selves. Perhaps that was ‘Smallflame’ asking the simplest question. But he needed to know.

“Team Alloy, yes?” Necrozma asked. “Sorry. I happened to see glimpses of your memories while mending your spirit,” he said. “You were friends with the Trio of Mind as well as Team Alloy. I see no reason why you wouldn’t be friends with a combination of the two.”

Logical and simple. Amid all the vastness of what Necrozma was explaining, that was something the Charizard could grasp and hold in his mind. He breathed a little easier.

“Kilo should still last,” Zena said. “Will you help make Kilo a world meant to last more than a thousand years? Something sustainable?”

“It will require a heavy overhaul,” Necrozma said, bringing a wing to his crystal jaw. “A few hundred years, which is trivial, really, but still a lot of work. It can be done. Once Dark Matter is taken care of, that will be my next project, yes. It’s a promise.”

“A Div—”

“No, none of that,” Necrozma said with a wave of another of his four wings. “I don’t want to navigate Divine Promises amid reconstruction. And what happens to a divine being who breaks such a promise is still unknown; I’d rather not risk a Lockout… Then Kilo would surely be doomed.”

Well, it was worth asking. Owen leaned against the wall behind him again, which was uncomfortably hard even against his scales.

“Well!” Necrozma brightened enough that Owen had to squint. “I suppose that’s enough talking. Valle, are you prepared to merge?”

“Yes. I am ready.”

“Wonderful. This process should be very simple. Hold out your arm, and I will hold out mine. Focus your aura toward me, and I shall do the same toward you.”

“…There is a small complication.”

“…Ah. Of course. Well. I shall… place a wing on your head.”

“That will do.”

Team Alloy, the Trio of Mind, Mhynt, Zena, and Trina all stood away from the group while Owen decided to relax against the wall still to enjoy a few more moments of rest. He still felt mentally exhausted. Maybe he could catch another nap after this was over before they’d head back…

Then again, if Necrozma regained his full power, would he be able to use his powers to travel instantly? So much for getting some rest.

Necrozma and Valle were both glowing. Mhynt was watching with mild interest, head tilted and fingers tapping on her arm. Zena was cautious as always, and Trina murmured something to Gahi, who shrugged.

Valle and Necrozma both looked briefly transparent. Necrozma dissolved into light, even his crystals appearing to do this, while Valle dissolved next, little by little as the lights coalesced in the center. This seemed different than typical merges, perhaps due to Necrozma’s nature.

Mispy’s eyes widened in amazement.

“What’s wrong?” Demitri asked, and Mispy murmured to him. “What? Spirits?”

Zena closed her eyes and gasped. “Oh, goodness… She’s right. They were all within Necrozma, all this time? I can’t count them…”

Gahi scratched his chin and closed his eyes next. Owen followed.

If his ‘aura eyes’ could go blind, they would have. It was like he was staring at the entirety of the aura sea all at once, concentrated in a ball of light. Spirits in numbers that would dwarf all spirits of all Orbs combined flowed before them, every single one having been stored in Necrozma, the prism of death.

Owen remembered, now. Before there was the aura sea and that spirit world beyond, there was Necrozma to house all spirits. So, if Owen’s guess was right… within Necrozma were roughly a thousand years of Kilo’s spirits. Another thousand years was across the aura sea or still living.

They were all in stasis, though. Asleep for all those centuries, undisturbed and patiently waiting for ‘the world’s end,’ as Necrozma put it. At least they didn’t suffer. Owen wondered if the same could be said for the new afterlife Star and Barky had constructed for the spirits across the sea.

It was probably okay, too.

Mhynt narrowed her eyes as the motes of light continued to coalesce into a single entity. So far, this strange fusion process seemed to be going along fine, but… why did Mhynt seem tense?

“Something wrong?” Owen asked.

“I’m not sure. I feel as if something is… off,” she said. “It’s hard to get a close look at the light, though. I think the Shadows in me are making it too bright for me to see anything else.”

“Same,” Mispy said.

“Yeah, I ain’t looking at that.”

Owen could endure it a little easier than the others. He tried to take a closer look, straining past the motes of light and focusing more on the details otherwise. There was nothing important about the spirits at this point, at least nothing he could discern. He narrowed his eyes a little more, his mind’s eye, and noticed that sometimes, parts of the light seemed to disappear and reappear as they moved past something his aura sense couldn’t quite perceive. But he could see it through how the divine light seemed to curve around it…

What was that? It seemed to be coming from Valle, the very center of his aura. There was no way they would have seen it with everything else wrapped around it. Maybe that was the strange Overseer core that Valle had all this time. Did their spirits look different? No, Hecto’s didn’t seem that special…

The lights began to coalesce further. The whole form was nearly solid, but that odd gap in his senses remained. He’d been sensing light to not overwhelm himself, but…

No, that couldn’t…

In a split-second decision, Owen endured and tried to focus on other kinds of senses. Not Radiance, not aura broadly that would be overwhelmed, but Shadow.

He only got a glimpse before the Raciance shocked his senses, but he saw it enough that he gasped.

“Guys!” Owen sprang to his feet. Demitri yelped in surprise and crouched. Mispy and Mhynt glanced at each other and got on guard. “Necrozma! In Valle! There was—Shadows!”

“What? What does that mean?” Demitri asked.

Mhynt cursed, staring at the solidifying figure, now ominous despite its prior serenity. “The piece of Diyem we couldn’t find,” she said. “It was hiding behind the light!”

Everyone was too shocked to act, but Mhynt led the charge by conjuring a Leaf Blade and leaping toward the light. She raised it—and then a beam forced her to use it as a shield instead. It had more than just light behind it as concussive force slammed her into the wall. She cried in pain, but that cry transitioned into an enraged snarl as the beam continued.

Zena acted next, blasting the sphere of light with Hydro Pump. The beam split into eight segments, but the ball of light was corporeal enough to strike. Steam vented through the spire’s opening, rushing hot air forward and outside Voidlands air through the chamber. From the spire droned a long, low whistle like a call to war.

Mhynt was freed enough that she stepped into shadows, reappearing on the other side of the room to kneel. Behind her was the exit. “We need to go,” she said. “We aren’t in a state to fight him right now.”

Indeed, when Zena’s blast faded, the ball of light seemed almost entirely unaffected. “What?” she whispered. “I barely did a thing…!”

“Your powers are Radiant, Zena,” Mhynt said hastily. “You’re striking the very source. You can’t do anything to it with something feeble like that!”

“Oh yeah?” Gahi snarled, crouching. “Well, how about this? Demitri!”


Gahi grabbed Demitri and pulled him over, and then dove into Mispy. The three fused in a matter of seconds, but by then, the sphere had almost completely coalesced, forming limbs and crystals once more.

“No way!” Migami challenged, simultaneously charging a Solar Beam on their neck-petals while ramming forward for one of Demitri’s punches.

That connected, and some of the crystal cracked. With a surprised gasp, Migami pulled back for a second strike, then hurled themselves forward.

The ball of light flashed brighter, and Owen shouted with his eyes closed. He fired at Necrozma and watched with his Perceive as his senses scrambled. He had no idea what he was looking at, like the matter he thought he was observing was suddenly twisting and turning. Mhynt was looking through the bag they’d brought and pulled out one of the light crystals, hopping toward the distortion before squeezing her fingers around it.

Owen couldn’t tell if the energy was reacting or not, but he could see the scales of his eyelids again. The burning feeling was different than normal flames; it stung his scales.

And then, suddenly, Mhynt was blasted backward and into Owen’s chest. Zena fired another Hydro Pump, but to Owen’s great confusion, the water abruptly disappeared the moment it got close to Necrozma. Where was it going?

Trina had no means to fight effectively in this environment. She was searching through the bag for supplies, but none of their typical items were working. Seeds vaporized before they got close to Necrozma; the powers stored within orbs were suppressed by the sheer power Necrozma gave off. And then, when Necrozma formed almost completely, the crystal beast turned his head toward Mhynt and Trina, and they vanished, too, as if pulled backward by some force. The two tiny Grass Pokémon didn’t even have time to react.

And just like that, in a matter of seconds, it was down to just Owen and Zena. The Milotic was already preparing another Hydro Pump, ineffectual as it was, but her eyes were closed the same way. It was certainly still too bright.

“Necrozma!” Owen shouted. He tried to move, but everything was sluggish and felt like jelly. Was it Necrozma’s divine presence, or sheer exhaustion? All he could do was shout, and even that was a strain. “What’s—going on?!”

“That isn’t Necrozma anymore,” Zena said. “Dark Matter… I saw it. He was waiting this whole time… and took over when he was most vulnerable! Did you see it, that darkness? We should have checked harder… How did we not even consider—even if Valle was of Necrozma, the Shadows were—”

“They are not dead,” Necrozma’s body said, a mixture of echoing Radiance and reverberating Shadows. “That is one mercy I will grant you.”

“Where did you put them?” Owen demanded. “Necrozma! You—have to fight this! Dark Matter, please! We’re trying to help!”

“I know you were trying to kill me. It’s too late. Words will do nothing. If only because I know you’ll be trouble if I kill you… I’m going to put you somewhere you won’t be a problem.”

Zena blasted again, but suddenly lurched forward by her own will, avoiding something Owen couldn’t Perceive.

He still saw the outline of his scales, so there was no use opening his eyes to risk it. Zena got closer to Owen as if to guard him.

“Goodbye, Owen.”

And then, with no flourish, Necrozma flicked the crystal part of his body—the only part Owen could see, this skeleton of a dragon—and the same force pulled Owen and Zena backward. Owen knew there was a wall behind them until there wasn’t. He tumbled through the open air and tried to scream, but realized that even screaming was producing no sound. Zena was curling a burned ribbon, wincing.

Finally, when his vision was dark again, he opened his eyes.

He wished he hadn’t. Ahead was a pinprick of light that seemed to share Necrozma’s colors. It had a tinge of darkness in it, too. But it was getting further away. Rapidly. All around him, blends of blues and oranges and purples and whites swirled around him. Occasionally, he saw odd rifts in the shape of squares that formed a tunnel.

He couldn’t move toward or away from them. Necrozma pushed him, even at this distance, to a certain trajectory, and it was toward one specific tunnel just ahead. “Zena!” Owen cried, but he couldn’t hear a sound. Zena could have been saying something—no. His Perceive. He just had to concentrate on his Perceive.

Zena… wasn’t saying anything. Simply bracing. Eyes darting around. Maybe she was looking for an escape. But since she wasn’t doing anything, she found none.

The calm was unnerving after the sudden rush. Owen wondered if the others had been put through this place, too. If they’d fallen into different spots. If they could come back from it. They were ‘safe’ but… what did that mean?

He should have fought harder. Would that have been enough? Should he have detected Valle’s corruption? Was that corruption, or… was Necrozma just biding his time until he was whole?

The tunnel claimed him and Zena, and the air shifted from empty to windy. They were going too fast.

If they hit the ground, would they be weak, like when he’d been claimed in the Voidlands? He couldn’t allow that.

Holding Zena close, Owen conjured the strongest Protect he could muster. The air was fresh and familiar in a way Owen did not know how to describe. He dared open his eyes, but could only see grass and trees rapidly coming closer. He spread his wings and held up his Protect, but it was too slow.

He struck the ground and wheezed, but it didn’t go black immediately. He’d fallen first, and Zena fell on top of him, breaking her fall.

“Ugh… What… what happened?” Zena said. “Owen, are you okay? Owen?”

Owen tried to speak and managed to get out one word. “Mostly…”

Zena wrapped her ribbons around his shoulders. “Can you look at me? Owen?”

Moving was hard. This lethargy felt like it was more than just physical pain. Was it fatigue from his mental exercises with Necrozma? He was fading fast. He just needed to get a little more sleep.

“Owen? Owen!” Zena called.

“I’ll stay awake,” Owen lied, eyes fluttering closed again. He loved the smell of the air. How strange, since it was nothing like the rocks of Hot Spot.

“Who are you?” Zena said suddenly, but that was the last thing Owen heard before the fatigue forced him under.


“Arms. Legs. Tail. I think everything’s still in one piece here,” Mhynt hummed, dusting herself off. “Trina?”

“Being small has its benefits,” the Snivy grunted, flicking her tail of dust and debris.

The ground was a blue-black color. It wasn’t quite rocks and gravel, so it must have been soil. Terrible soil for plants, though. She didn’t know what kind of mineral it was.

“Do you have an explanation?” Trina asked.

“For Necrozma? Yes. Dark Matter used the innate light of Valle to hide completely within him. Whatever this was, it was premeditated at least a thousand years ago when Necrozma was first sealed.” Mhynt shook her head. “I didn’t think that Dark Matter was the patient type, but maybe he had no choice…”

Their surroundings were closed off and would have been impossibly cramped for the larger members of the team. There was only one exit, and Mhynt didn’t like the idea of something coming in to trap them.

“Let’s get out and figure out where we are,” Mhynt said.


Mhynt took the lead, gesturing briefly for Trina to stay behind. Occasionally, the Snivy seemed confused. Mhynt remembered that a lot of her gestures only made sense in Cipher City’s protocol; a lot of it wasn’t going to translate… Hopefully, she could stick to more obvious gestures. And that someone whose arms barely worked could relate to Mhynt’s body language.

The winding cave was mercifully empty, and Mhynt didn’t see any signs of life in it, either. It seemed long abandoned.

But then, Mhynt sensed something nearby and held out her hand. Trina stopped and gave her an inquiring look.

She could sense the aura of… something. But the way it felt was unlike anything she’d sensed before. Was it even alive, or did it throw off her senses somehow?

Mhynt carefully peeked around the corner.

They resembled things that should have been in the depths of the ocean but were floating high in the air. Faceless, white things with tendrils and starlike shapes on their bulbous heads, like cloaks without a wearer.

Mhynt sank back into the cave and took a seat against the wall, pensive. Trina peeked next, then sat next to her.

“This,” Trina said, “isn’t Kilo anymore, is it?”

“I don’t think it’s the Voidlands, either,” Mhynt said. “This… could be bad.”

“Where do we go?” Trina asked.

Mhynt closed her eyes, trying to channel her inner power. If there was anything that could do this, it would be Lunala. But the Shadows had stunted her so badly… Would she have the power anymore?

“I don’t know,” Mhynt said. “But at least we aren’t being attacked. I can only hope… the same is true for the others.”

Trina didn’t like the answer based on her displeased hum. But she said, “I understand. Then… I’ll try to think of something next.”

“Don’t make too much noise,” Mhynt reminded. “They might hear us.”

Trina nodded.

They weren’t even allowed the luxury of shouting out their frustrations. No. All they could do now was sit and fester and, hopefully, find a way back.


Migami flew as fast as they could through the ruins of some old town, fleeing the sole living creature they had the misfortune of meeting. They’d never seen anything like it before. Some kind of monster in the middle of nowhere. Based on how ruined everything was, they could only guess it had to be the one responsible. Even with Mispy’s aura sense, Migami couldn’t sense any further life in the immediate area.

And as much as they wanted to fight it to see who was stronger, they did not want to risk losing themselves to battle when they were the only ones around. They had to keep a calm mind. Trina wasn’t there to direct their thoughts. Owen wasn’t there to command them. And their other halves weren’t even around to stabilize them in the worst case.

They had to avoid fighting at all costs.

It had a massive mouth and tendrils that ended in smaller mouths. It screamed an ear-splitting roar like a cry for the apocalypse. Their only saving grace was that it was incredibly slow, and Migami was incredibly fast.

The problem was they had no shelter. Everything had become some sort of flatland of ruin. It was even more barren than the Voidlands, in some ways, with brown sand covered in darker brown dust. The occasional building peeked out from this sand, looking half-eaten and hollow. If they went there, it would easily see them going.


Wait! Sand! That was it!

Gahi didn’t have the technique prepared, but with some effort, perhaps they could channel it anyway. They flew for a while more, but then circled back and got closer, kicking up a storm around them. It was slow and shoddy, but eventually, they managed to get it flowing again.

Sand kicked up below them in a whirlwind of obscuring grains. Gahi’s lenses helped them see despite it, and more importantly, they pulled back to make sure the behemoth was caught in it, too. Get some sand in its big stupid mouth, too… Though it would probably enjoy it if those chewed-up buildings were anything to go by.

The air was as obscured as it was going to get. To leave no trace at all, Migami flew forward, letting their wings whistle and sing in the sand, and then Teleported at a right angle, out of the storm. That, they hoped, would be enough to buy some time to hide in a building. Then, they could meditate, calm down, and hope to figure out just where they were.

They just hoped there was a way back before they Voided completely.


Mesprit didn’t like surprises.

Ever since he was split from Demitri, Mesprit wondered how much of him was naturally a nervous wreck, and how much was just from his time in the Voidlands.

Life was just one stressful, emotional event after another sometimes. Somehow, his wish to escape from the Voidlands was answered with the most hectic few days of his afterlife. And new life? Was he alive again? Did that count? Was that cheating? He felt guilty for it. Uxie would tell him to stop worrying, and Azelf would say he was overthinking.

But now, he could tell that even they were agitated.

But hey! At least they were back in Kilo Village!

The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and everything seemed peaceful in the caldera. Maybe Necrozma was just having a hissy fit. It seemed like there weren’t any Shadows at all. Maybe they’d gone dormant, and Owen solved everything while they were out? That would be nice…

But Uxie already didn’t trust it. “Something is wrong,” she said. “None of the auras here match. It’s… different. This isn’t Kilo Village.”

“Aw, c’mon! We’re wandering around the same old buildings! How ain’t it?” Azelf asked. The oversized pixie did a flip in the air. “It’s great! Owen musta fixed it!”

“No,” Uxie said quietly. “The people here… are totally different! That’s what’s wrong!”

“You keep track o’ that?” Azelf said. “Kinda obsessive ter check stuff like that if y’ask me…”

“Well, let’s just ask around. That can’t hurt, ri—”


“EEP!” Mesprit hid behind Azelf so fast it would’ve given Gahi competition.

It was a Granbull with a nasty scar that went from his right shoulder to his left thigh.

“H-hi!” Mesprit waved. “How… long have you been there?”

“A while,” he said, which Uxie had telepathically said at the same time. “I’m sorry to say,” he went on, “but you three are… dead.”

“Again?” Azelf complained.

Granbull quirked a brow. “…Yes, sure, again. This is Kilo Village by name. However, it’s across the aura sea. A replica based on everyone’s memories of the era. If you want to see past eras, you can go to—”

“Other side?!” Mesprit squeaked. “But how did we get there? We were in the Voidlands only a little bit ago!”

“Voidlands? Then you escaped that place? It really is open…”

“You know about it here?” Azelf asked.

“Yes. Only recently. It answered a lot of questions we had about why some of our loved ones were missing for so long…” Granbull shook his head. “Sorry. I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Jin. I was a Heart until…” He trailed off. “I don’t know how long it’s been in the living world, but I want to say a year or two. I’ve… sort of taken it upon myself to… stay honed, just in case. I had a feeling something was happening in Kilo, and… well. Maybe I was just being hopeful.”

“Well, you’re right in one way,” Azelf said. “It’s crazy over there! And we gotta get back! See—”

“There isn’t… any going back. Overseer Hecto makes very few exceptions for this sort of thing, and—”

“Yeah, yeah, we figure, but he’s gonna make an exception fer us,” Azelf said quickly.

Jin’s brow raised even more. “You know him.”

“Yes. We’ve known him for a while. Do you recognize us?”

“Should I?” Jin frowned. “Well… I’ve never seen a trio like you before, no.”

“Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf,” explained Mesprit.

“…Oh. You’re real.”

“…That’s it? No… surprised reaction?” Azelf asked, squinting. “C’mon, at least a little start!”

Jin rolled his eyes and turned around. “Come on. Let’s at least get you oriented, and maybe we can find Zygarde on the way there to sort out what ha—”

A sudden cry caught their attention. A shout of surprise? The way Jin was briefly stunned suggested this wasn’t a normal occurrence.

“What’s that?” Mesprit asked.

But eventually, Uxie pointed skyward, where a rip in the sky revealed the all-too-familiar purple wasteland they knew too well. And perpendicular to this rift was another, revealing a mirror of the city they stood in now. Kilo. Perhaps the real Kilo.

“…Is that good er bad?” Azelf asked.

“Bad,” Uxie said. “Very, very bad.”

Mesprit didn’t know for sure, but he had a feeling Uxie was following her gut. And he agreed.

Life and death were starting to break apart.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 158 – Unexpected Return

The rhythmic beeping of life monitors was becoming uncomfortably familiar to Owen. He was a demigod, right? Why was he constantly being put in hospitals? Could they even help?

Well, the last one did, he supposed.

Groggily, he opened one eye to figure out his surroundings without alerting anyone. A white wall of well-made material. Certainly not a hut or some den, but the beeping would have given that much away. Still, it even looked more advanced than what he would see in Kilo Village. Even the Voidlands didn’t seem quite this… modern.

“He’s waking up,” hummed a voice.

“Charizard? Are you okay? Can you hear me?” called another.

“Mhm,” Owen groaned.

He just realized he couldn’t Perceive anything. He tried to stand up but binds restricted him. The fatigue in his body still weakened him—he couldn’t do a thing against these mundane bindings. None of his limbs responded.

“It’s okay, you’re okay. We need you still while we check on you, okay, Charizard? Is that okay?”

“My horns,” Owen said again, trying to calm down. “Please, can you put them back on?”

Three voices gasped—there were three? How many were in the room? He couldn’t move his head easily and his vision was blurry from all the strain.

“He really can talk,” whispered a new voice.

“Just like the Milotic…”


Owen stopped. Why did that surprise—

“Is Zena—Milotic okay?”

“She is, and in much better condition than you. You don’t need to worry about her.”

He… could trust that. He felt that he could trust that. “Where am I?”

“You’re in Pallet Town, in a new Pokémon Center. We’re trying to make sure you’re okay. People said you fell from a hole in the sky, so…”

Pallet Town. Pallet Town. Pallet Town.

“We’ll… get your horns, but they sort of… fell off you. We weren’t sure what to do with them, but…”

“Kanto?” Owen suddenly asked.

“Yes, Kanto. So, about your horns, they can probably be reattached, but we’ve never seen this bone structure before. Are you from a faraway region? Your appearance is different from a normal Charizard, and . . .”

Owen didn’t pay attention. He was in Kanto again. He was…

Oh no.


Humans were so strange. They were tiny, and they radiated no strength, but they acted fearlessly. Maybe they couldn’t sense power the way Pokémon could. That was Zena’s conclusion.

Still, that they were so weak yet fearless was a little charming.

And smart! She couldn’t figure out half of what was going on in this place, and some of them were kind enough to explain a few of the gadgets.

The lead human—Zena had an easier time telling who he was because he usually held a clipboard—entered the waiting room lobby, which had seats that were not suited for a Milotic at all. “Zena?”

She nodded politely. Speaking seemed to startle them, so she kept that to a minimum for now.

“Owen is doing just fine. He’s waking up now, but he’s still very groggy. Would you like to be with him?”

Zena nodded again.

The doctor smiled. “You can talk, you know. It’s okay. It was just… surprising at first. We don’t normally run into Pokémon who can speak like humans so perfectly.”

“Is it that rare?” Zena asked.

“Well… you’re the first two I’ve ever met,” said the doctor, “though, I’ve heard rumors about a Meowth in this region who… Well, it’s just a rumor. Never saw the real deal before.”

“I see… Well, yes. I can talk.”

“Who taught you, if that’s an okay question to ask?”

“Er, my parents.”

“Who were also Milotic?”

“Ah, my father was a Gyarados, actually.”

“Oh, I see… And they could also speak our language?”

Zena nodded. “It’s quite normal. If you didn’t speak in that way, you were usually very young or feral, but they looked different, slightly.”

“You know, you do seem a little different,” commented another human. “Your ribbons are a lot more dexterous than Milotic usually are.”

“Oh, of course. That’s one difference.” Zena hummed. “Oh, I’ve… gotten distracted. I’m sorry. May I see Owen?”

“Of course. Right this way.”

They led her along, and Zena noticed the many looks she was given. But they weren’t the sort that stared at her for being pretty like in the Voidlands. This was more of a fascination. In some ways, she still found it a little bothersome, but they meant well.

A world where all Pokémon were feral. What a strange place. But given what she knew… that meant she had human ancestry, didn’t she? Human ancestry from long ago, her first-generation being humans who’d been turned into Pokémon.

She heard Owen talking but couldn’t quite make out the conversation. Once the door opened, Owen stopped talking and tried to stand again, but the strange bind kept him down.

“Why is he tied down like that?” Zena asked.

“Oh, er… right. Sorry, usually for Pokémon, if they get agitated, we… ah… you can talk. We can just speak about this. Don’t strain yourself, yes?”

Owen frowned a little and grunted in reply. With a few clicks, the bindings against him were loosened and Owen sat up, sighing. He gingerly stretched his wings, careful not to knock anything over.

“Please stay here a while longer,” said the lead human. “We are waiting for your test results.”

“Yeah, okay,” Owen agreed. The doctors all left.

It seemed there were two remaining in the room before some murmurs about different protocols followed between them. Zena heard one say, ‘Treat them like human patients.’ And they seemed unsure how to do that. Did this place specialize in Pokémon?

The two humans left after giving awkward nods to her.

The doors closed.

Owen was probably watching them with his Perceive, given his eyes were closed.

All the appliances here were small. Humans were small, so it made sense that all the tools would be specialized for their dainty hands. The lights were too bright, yet they didn’t have the same warmth as the sun. That was saddening. Zena wasn’t sure why.

“We’re in Kanto,” Owen finally said.

“Kanto?” She remembered that region. “It can’t be. Isn’t that a whole world away?”

“It is,” Owen said, voice trembling slightly. “Does that mean… I’ve… I can’t go back? How do we go back? Where’s Kilo? What happened to…”

“It’s okay,” Zena said, having no idea if it was true. But she could tell he was panicking. His voice was even, but his flame was getting hotter. “We’ll figure something out.”

Knock knock.

Zena turned and tilted her head. “Oh!”

Another human wearing a red cap was at the door with one of the doctors.

“Hello again,” Zena greeted.

“Who’s that?” Owen asked.

“He was the one who guided me here,” Zena said. “It was… a little worrying at first, but…” Now that she thought about it, why did she trust this human so easily? He’d found them in the forest and hadn’t said a word, yet she knew to follow him along. It was as if she knew precisely what he wanted to do, and only had to follow him while carrying Owen to find safety.

“Well, thanks,” Owen said to the red-capped human. “And… sorry if talking Pokémon is weird or anything like that. We’re not from around here… sort of different from the Pokémon around this region.”

The human exhaled through his nose and nodded, tilting his cap forward before leaving. He seemed satisfied to see that they were safe.

“He seemed nice,” Zena hummed. “Quiet, though…”

The doctor nodded and said, “He’s a strange one, but one of the best trainers out there, you know. He was visiting home after another one of his adventures. The way he is, he’ll probably head out again in a week.” The doctor sighed, wistful. “I remember when he was just a kid walking out of town with his very first Pokémon. That was… how long at this point? At least a decade by now…”

Decade. What did that mean to them at this point? Well, explaining that to the doctor probably wouldn’t amount to much. Zena was about to ask Owen something when she noticed the grave expression on the Charizard’s face.

“I… Kanto. This is Kanto, right? What town?”

“Hm? Pallet Town. Goodness, you must have had quite a trip to not even know where—he-hey!”

Owen had suddenly gotten out of his bed and made for the door.

“W-wait! We haven’t gotten your blood results yet!”

“I need to go,” Owen said.

“Owen, wait,” Zena said, “shouldn’t we—”

“I won’t be far. Send my results to the Starter Breeding Facility.”

“Oh? A-are you… from there?”

“It’s still around, right?”

The doctor nodded.

“Is… is there a Charizard named Amber there?”

“That’s the Charmander clan’s main elder. She’s—”

Owen was already gone. Zena could deduce what was so urgent and let him go but then looked back at the doctor. “Is him leaving okay?”

“Not… not really… but… what can you do?” He sighed. “We’ll send the lab work to them. If he’s from there, they might have a record for him. Could you take his Poké Ball with you?”

“Oh, of course.” Those strange capsules they’d put her and Owen in while transporting them. It was strange, and took a lot of convincing, but the strange human with the red cap said it was fine, and she believed him.

And, in the end, it was fine. Cozy, even. She still preferred the air, though. But it kept Owen’s body safe, and that was the important part.

“Could I have more of those?” Zena asked spontaneously as the doctor sent for a nurse to get the capsules.

“More? Do you have friends?”

“In case this one breaks. It… I don’t know. It was nice.”

“Hmmh, well… I’d say you could purchase them, but you don’t exactly have money to buy them at a store.”

“Money. Oh, we have money,” Zena said, promptly realizing that their money might be useless here. Awkwardly, she said, “Er… do you accept these?”

She pulled out her bag and offered some spare coins she’d forgotten to get rid of. The doctor inspected it with a furrowed brow and Zena noted the many wrinkles on his furless forehead, aside from his tiny eyebrows.

“That’s… Some of that is gold, isn’t it?”

“We just call it Poké.” She offered a coin to him.

The doctor inspected it, flipped it over, and felt the material. “What world do you come from where coins of precious metal are abundant like this? Not even as a currency, but the raw material here could be worth quite a lot.”

Zena shrugged her ribbons. “It’s just our currency.”

“I’ll want some of it to be appraised before anything official, but, you can have a few of our spares. We don’t have to use them very often anyway, and if it’s to help and protect Pokémon, I won’t refuse.”

“Thank you. Er, how about I come back after it’s appraised?”

“Oh, that will do fine.”

The nurse returned with two red-white capsules. Zena gently placed them in her bag.

The nurse laughed a little and said, “I never thought I’d meet a Pokémon who qualified as their own trainer. How would that work on the forms?”

“I just listed Zena here as Charizard’s trainer,” the doctor admitted with a grunt.

“We’re mates, actually,” Zena said.

“Oh!” The doctor seemed confused at first. “Oh, mates! As in, married?”

Zena tilted her head. “That’s a bit of an ancient term, but yes, it’s the same. I would be his… wife, right?”


Zena wondered if she’d said too much. She started slithering backward. “Where I’m from, at least. Er—goodbye. I’ll return later.”

After getting lost in the medical facility a few times, Zena finally found her way out and asked a few startled humans where the Starter Breeding Facility was. They shakily pointed her in the right direction and she apologetically thanked them before going on her way.


It was the same as he remembered—just… a lot smaller.

No, he was larger.

The main room was lined with common but educational books about Pokémon. Deeper inside were front-facing labs that would often be shown to prospective trainers—usually younger kids eager to start their adventure with a partner Pokémon. They’d be given some assignment to see as many Pokémon as they could and to report their findings to the professor. Sometimes, they would report new findings. Most of the time… stories and rumors.

It all was starting to come back to him. The little ember within him, Smallflame, felt so much warmer.

Two thousand years. That’s how long it had been.

Yet Kilo flowed faster. It had only been a decade or so at most since then.



Zena rushed up to the Charizard, who had stood nearly dormant at the walkway into the lab. His Perceive was on now that his horns had been returned, but he’d somehow not noticed anything. He’d never been so lost in thought before.

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m… yeah. Sorry. I was thinking. Just… I was in a rush and then it hit me that I’m here again.”

“Here. Here as in…”

Owen nodded. “My first home. Where I was born and raised before I went with… Eon, Tim at the time, for his journey.


“I wish he was here,” Owen admitted without thinking, looking ahead again. “I wonder if…”

If he could have rekindled something, he thought. But it was a fleeting one. Everything was far, far too different between them now. It wouldn’t have been healthy to regress so far.

Yet here he was, seeking someone from even earlier in his life. Because he had to.

“I should keep going,” Owen said.

“You should. They’re staring at you.”


Finally, Owen looked at the humans with clipboards and lab coats staring at him from across the room. He heard a pen drop.

Oh, right. He was speaking their language.


He awkwardly waved at them, folding his wings back.

One of the humans waved back. Something about her was familiar. He struggled to recall, almost but not quite chirping when he tried, and then he realized it—this was the kind lab assistant from long ago. She was so much older now. Wrinkles were starting to form, but not enough for her hair to gray.

“I’d like to see Amber,” Owen said. “The… the matriarch, or something?”

“Oh! Of… course. You must… be…”

She suddenly gasped.

“No way,” she said. “Smallflame?!”

Owen closed his eyes. A thousand little petty memories ran across his mind at once. Scents of the sterile lab and the lingering ash of the fields. Challenging grunts from the rival clans of Bulbasaur and Squirtle that the kids had made a little game over, despite the elders simply enjoying the balance they provided one another.

Gods, he was home again. Back where it all began. He wondered how they could tell; he didn’t look anything like his old self. Was it his demeanor? Had he changed so little? Or… were they expecting one last Charizard to return?

Finally, he opened his eyes. “Yeah,” he replied, switching to his native tongue so it didn’t throw anyone off. No need for those questions. “A lot’s changed.”

“We thought you died!”

I did.

“Well,” Owen said, “I got pulled away for a while and didn’t have a way to return. I’m back now on a visit.”

Hopefully… right?

“And the first thing I want to do is see Mom again. Is she…?”

“Yes, of course. You asked for your mother?” She nodded earnestly. “Hey, let him through, okay? It’s her last kid to come back.”

So he was right. Owen still gave the human a questioning look.

“Amber was adamant that you’d return one day like everyone else,” she said.

Zena blinked. “Return…?” She glanced awkwardly at Owen, who nodded back.

“I think she means to visit. To show her how far I’ve come. And Dad, he’d want to see how strong I’ve gotten, too. He’s older, though…”

“He is, but he also has some vitality left in him. Some of Amber’s old wounds were starting to show a little more in her old age, so she isn’t as mobile now, but… She’s alive. She’s waiting for you. Don’t let me hold you up.

“And, er… when you’re done… mind answering some questions?” She tittered nervously. “Not every day we have a talking Pokémon with us…”

Zena glanced at Owen, then at the human. “This seems… very personal. How about I answer these questions for now, and Owen, you go ahead.”

“I want you to meet her, later, though,” Owen said immediately.

“Of course.” Zena nudged him with her forehead. “But… I think this should be your moment.”

Owen felt conflicted. Yes, it was his moment… but he wasn’t sure if he had the strength to do it. What would he say? After that initial rush, the quiet of the flight to the lab, and all the new scents, took all the wind out of his wings. He was a lost child.

“She wants to see you,” Zena encouraged. “I’ll meet her.”

“Right.” That was enough of a push. If he didn’t know what to do, if things didn’t work out, Zena could be there as backup.

So, with another nervous breath, Owen let the lab assistant lead him to the fields.

He already knew the path.


So little had changed. He recognized some of the little mounds of dirt and ash, somewhat shifted but largely the same structure. It couldn’t have been that long.

There were a few other Charizard here. They were all a lot younger than he was. And the irony struck him like rocks—those were all his ‘older’ siblings. Back from their adventures. Their partnerships with their trainers must have ended, or they retired from their adventuring and decided to return home. Of Mom’s offspring… about a fourth of them had returned, if he had to guess.

He didn’t know all of them too well anymore, but he did remember Bigtail. And he was still a Charmeleon after all this time, having never gone to see a trainer, and therefore struggled to evolve on his own. But he looked happy and content, the way his muscles moved. Maybe not everyone had to gain wings.

They made eye contact. Bigtail’s expression brightened immediately and he sprinted over.

“You’re back!” Bigtail said. It was in the language of ferals, but he understood it perfectly, of course. In fact, at the moment, it felt more natural than how he spoke in Kilo. “What happened?”

“I had a long trip,” Smallflame replied. “I’m only here for a little while, and I brought a friend, but I wanted to see Mom and Dad.”

Bigtail gestured to the other side of the field. “I’ll take you.”

The same large field. It was a lot larger in the past, but now, it seemed cozy to his new size. If he supersized himself again, maybe it would be too cramped. But they wouldn’t need to know that side of him.

They went further than usual. Did Mom and Dad not want to be close to the lab anymore? The humans were always kind to them, so he couldn’t imagine why unless it was some other desire to keep a distance. How old had she become?

Then, his Perceive picked them up. His breath hitched. His father, Marowak Daichi, was well enough. Aged, but still strong. Firm. He probably had a good few years left in him, maybe even a decade if he kept his health up. But his mother…

He could feel her struggling heart. Her labored breaths. Every detail of a truly elderly Pokémon barely hanging on was so vividly known to Owen that he wanted to tear out his horns just to blind himself from it.

But he had to march. No backing down now. He continued walking down the path and finally could see, with his eyes, the state she was in.

Discolored scales. Long, loose skin. She was a lot thinner, but not skeletal. Her eyes were closed, and her tail flame was incredibly dim. But there was a spark that came with every breath.

A once mighty warrior had long passed her prime. Smallflame should have found a way to visit sooner. If he knew it was possible, if he could’ve remembered, could he have seen her again? Sooner? Gave her closure? Would she even know? Could he call out to her, or would that be worse?

“Mom?” Smallflame said anyway.

The flame grew the tiniest amount.

Bigtail said, “You need to speak louder. And closer.”

Daichi stood from his seat and wobbled over. Their eyes met, and Smallflame found himself straightening his back in response. Daichi did the same. They stared at one another, and then Daichi smiled, nodding. Using his bone club, he walked a little closer and gestured with a free hand to the elderly Charizard.

Smallflame crept closer, afraid that he’d startle her. Amber’s eyes flitted open but then squinted. Could she see? Her pupils were cloudy.


“I knew,” Amber whispered, “you would come back.”

Daichi finally made it to them and collapsed oddly gracefully next to Amber, who growled comfortingly.

Smallflame fell to all fours and crept a little closer. Amber sniffed the air and let out a long, satisfied sigh.

“You have been through a lot,” she observed. “Your scent… is of so many places. It’s changed so much.”

“How do you know it’s me?” Smallflame asked.

Amber chuckled weakly, lugging her tail closer until their flames touched. Smallflame’s completely overtook hers. “I’m not gone yet,” she said. “I know. The last one. You are Smallflame. I know.”

He didn’t need to question it. He moved closer for a hug, ever so careful not to hurt her. His cheek rested against her neck, and she did the same. Her delicate arms wrapped over his shoulder, but that proved too strenuous, and she eventually let go with a grunt.


“I am fine,” Amber assured, then laughed once. “As fine as I can. I am… satisfied. I knew… all my children would return. Each one. What more… could I ask?”

Smallflame clenched his jaw, but he understood. She was waiting for him all this time. For her, perhaps it had only been a few years over. But for Smallflame… he had whole lifetimes away from her.

And now he was back.

How could he possibly express that to her? Was there even a point to it? Would she understand? Should she understand?

“I missed you.”

But the answer was so much easier to give. He followed his heart. That was all he had to say.

Amber leaned against him, then Daichi. She let out one last sigh.

“I’m sorry I have so little time left,” Amber admitted.

Smallflame squeezed his eyes shut again, but his Perceive told him the truth. Amber had held on for the sole purpose of seeing him again. Her goal had been achieved. That final goal in her life, at the very end. Her resolve to remain… was fading.

“I’m sure,” Amber said, “you have a lot to talk about. I’ll try to listen… if you want to.”

Smallflame hesitated. She wanted to know. But… how much would she understand? It was absurd. He’d been gone for two thousand years. Sure, most of it was a repeat, or things he couldn’t remember too easily, but… that sort of time scale would be incomprehensible to her.

But she was his mother. He had to answer.

“I’ll try,” he said.

Quietly, he explained what he could, and while Amber seemed to drift off with a smile now and then, Daichi listened intently and with his usual, hardened gaze. The more he spoke, the more other Charizard gathered to listen, curious about his story.

He talked about Tim and their journey through Kanto, and how it came to its abrupt end. Then, he talked about his time helping him as a Ranger in another region entirely, far, far away from here. With hesitance, he explained their final mission and quietly obfuscated the details afterward so he didn’t need to get into all the talk of gods and worlds and resets.

It wasn’t easy, and Amber, despite her age, seemed to recognize that Smallflame was leaving out details. His tail dimmed at the interrogating look she gave him and the way she seemed to pay more attention.

“Wait,” interrupted one of the larger Charizard— Smallflame recognized her voice as Sharpeye. He wondered if she kept the name.

“What?” Smallflame asked.

“So does that mean you’re super strong?”

“I… am, I think,” Smallflame said passively.

He felt weaker here. Maybe it was fatigue from Necrozma. Maybe it was for being in a different world. But his techniques were all there, and he certainly had some strength back.

“Prove it!” Sharpeye said, tail thumping on the ground. “My human and I got to the eighth gym before we had to stop. I’m super strong thanks to her!”

Smallflame suppressed a smile when he asked, “Are you sure you want to fight me? I’m… sort of a lot stronger than someone who’d go through those gyms now.”

“That’s why I want you to prove it,” Sharpeye claimed.

“Go on,” Amber whispered. “My eyes aren’t as good… but I can still feel your battle. Let me see.”

He couldn’t deny that.

“Alright,” Smallflame agreed. “But don’t go overboard, okay?”

“What does that mean?”

“Er… don’t fight too hard. It’s just sparring.”

They cleared the field of onlookers. There seemed to be another neighboring clan nearby of another family of Charmander-line Pokémon also spectating the fights, and Smallflame smiled at them. They would probably be the next generation; he wondered if any of them paired off with Charizard of his family.

“I’m ready!” Sharpeye called.

“So am I,” Smallflame said, spreading his wings to look a little larger. He knew he could literally grow now thanks to his awakened Radiance, but that would… lead to more awe and questions than a good fight.

Daichi stood up and tapped his bone club on the ground. “Ready,” he said. “Fight!”

Sharpeye was fast. With a kick of her legs and a flap of her wings, she disregarded the ground unceremoniously and spiraled toward Smallflame. She fought up close. He already saw countless openings in her reckless fighting style, but the problem was he had to take a hit for that to happen.

He brought a palm forward and blocked her strike with a Protect shield. When she bounced back, Smallflame kicked up dust with his wings and countered with a gout of fire through the debris. He made sure it was weak.

Sharpeye yelped in pain and crouched down to recover. Smallflame could have pressed on from there, but this was just sparring, and this was one of his siblings. Even though her throat was exposed and he knew precisely where to cut, that wasn’t a sparring match.

Sparring, sparring. Remember, it’s sparring.

Fighting in a crowd was a bad idea. He was still on edge from Necrozma. Or, was he always on edge?

Sharpeye didn’t just attack up close. She blasted Smallflame with fire next. The beam was solid and hot enough that Smallflame had to step back, but even when he did, the beam’s aim was true. Her namesake held.

But Smallflame had no trouble blocking it, and then, using this as a time to practice his advanced techniques, he reached toward the energy through the shield. His fingers extended invisibly with his aura, grasping at the incoming flames. In less than a second, they coalesced into a ball at the edge of his barrier, now at his command. He curved the flames back toward Sharpeye, who yelped and stumbled back again.

“What?!” she cried.

He had a good feel for the blast, now. When she tried again, Smallflame didn’t even need his shield. He reached toward the incoming flames and flicked his wrist, curving them toward her again. All of her siblings watched with awe.

“You took my fire!” Sharpeye shouted it like it was an accusation.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. It’s one of my techniques.”

“Can you do that with anything?” asked Bigtail. The Charmeleon crept forward and inspected Smallflame’s hand.

“Kind of,” Smallflame replied.

Sharpeye snorted. “Well, I can’t beat someone who blocks everything I do… and then throws it back at me.” She seemed irritated at first but then grinned. “But you became so strong!”

“Yeah…” Smallflame rubbed at his neck. They didn’t know half of it. If he was weak, or if he’d stayed weak…

No. Enough wondering. Once Zena got back, and he introduced her to his family, they could get back to business and figure things out.

“But I bet you can’t beat ALL of us!” Bigtail declared.

Smallflame blinked.


But Bigtail was already rallying the other siblings. Amber smirked and settled her head against Daichi’s side. It didn’t look like she was going to interfere as the swarm of flames closed in on her final arrival.


Peace was a luxury and Angelo was a starving artist.

Well, not really. He was paid very well for his comics after all the success he’d gained.

But he called himself one anyway in terms of how much relaxation he could earn. The night before, upon rescuing ADAM, he felt accomplished. He did a mission! He felt great! Successful! Maybe his father was watching from the aura sea or whatever Star called it and was proud of him for finally doing some Heart mission! That meant he could retire after saving a demigod, right?

No. Because now he was frantically running down the main roads of Kilo Village with his personal Nate blobbing behind him, staring skyward at yet another rift that had formed.

But this time, it wasn’t the Voidlands—that was good, he hoped—but instead, he was staring at Kilo Village again. Like there was another mountain, upside-down, staring at the sky.

“Oof!” He bumped into something and realized it was slimy, to great horror. He screamed and tried to pull away, only to be staring at a concerned Goodra moments later.

“Are you okay?” Anam asked.

“H-Heart of Hearts!” Angelo scrambled to his feet, wincing at the matted fur the Goodra’s slime had left behind. “I, er… yes. But—the sky, it’s—”

Anam nodded. “We gotta go! Something bad’s happening!”

“Go? M-me?”

Anam nodded. “For protection and planning! It’s okay, no fighting!”

That was a relief… though, he felt a pang of guilt that he was known for that most of all.

They both rushed down the road and to Heart HQ, where they happened upon Star looking around frantically.

“Anam!” she called, wincing a little when they rushed close.

Anam skidded to a stop, his slime carrying him forward a few extra feet.

She shrank away but then steeled herself with a breath. “Where’s Barky?”

“Huh? I thought he was with you at Destiny Tower!” Anam nibbled on his grabbers. “Where is he?”

“Ugh! He’s probably chatting with Ghrelle or Aramé or something.” Star rubbed her eyes. “Okay. That’s fine. But look, we’ve got a big problem.”

“Oh, you don’t say?” Angelo said with a shaky voice, pointing skyward.

Something orange caught his eye and he turned his head, seeing a young Charmander with a black and white flame running past him with curiosity in her eyes. She was chasing a tiny Joltik. And, far down the street, a blue Gardevoir was chasing the Charmander.

“It’s Aether Forest,” Star said. “There’s a rift in there, too! That place is supposed to be safe now!”

“And what’s that rift? It looks like Kilo Village!” Angelo pointed up.

Spice and Jerry were running and flying over next, catching the end of the conversation.

“Don’t tell me there are parallel dimensions like those sci-fi comics,” Spice said.

“That’s not a parallel world,” Star said. “That’s across the aura sea! That’s… the afterlife!”

“What?! Then why does—what’s that mean for here?”

Star opened her mouth to answer, but then the sky erupted with golden light like another sun rose from the earth. It came from Hot Spot.

And that golden light was tainted by tendrils of darkness, creating some kind of dark sun in the middle of the rift. Angelo staggered back, blinded yet unable to look away.

“What is… THAT?” he cried.

The whole world became darker. Light was being siphoned away from Kilo and toward that rift, where a single new sun was formed above the portal.

And then it went flying toward them, everything getting hotter and hotter. Angelo could only hear screams. He curled up and squeezed his eyes shut, his life rushing through his mind.

After all of his struggles, was this how it was going to end?

Hotter and hotter. He could barely feel anything else. And then…

He waited.

His breath halted.

He dared to open one eye.

The great shadow of the leviathan, Nate, loomed over the town. The palm-like head was curled around the sphere, crushing it into a dissipating cloud of reddish energy.

“Wh-what…” Angelo gulped.

The leviathan left Kilo Village and flew toward the rift, as a dragon made of gold-black light emerged from the void.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 159 – Unwelcome Connections

They weren’t about to deal with some unknown number of strange, floating robes that, according to Mhynt, could take over their minds and parasitize their bodies. Instead, they retreated deeper into the caves as Mhynt pooled odd clouds of darkness in her palms, spreading them on the ground. It looked like she was drawing two large wings in the soil.

“Is this supposed to help you conjure your powers?” Trina asked. “Can’t you bring it about on command?”

“For short bursts,” Mhynt said. “This would be some of my strongest abilities. I need time to prepare. Gather my strength.” The Treecko glanced at Trina. “Unless you’d like to risk tumbling aimlessly through Ultra Space again?”

Trina stiffened and stepped back. “Take the time you need.”

Mhynt smirked and continued outlining her shadow. Occasionally, Trina watched outside the cave to make sure nothing would sneak up on them, and thankfully, they had evaded detection for the time being.

“Where will we be going?” Trina asked.

“With luck, back home by retracing our steps. We weren’t tumbling for too long, and thankfully Ultra Space is still, to an extent, space. Therefore, distance matters.”

Trina couldn’t imagine something where distance didn’t matter, but she decided not to question it.

“By the way,” Mhynt said, “why aren’t you changing to Serperior?”


“You seem like the sort of person who would want to look as dignified as possible. Not to offend… Only an impression I had.”

She was a little offended. Trina straightened her back. “Well,” she said, “as much as I would prefer a larger size, I also did not have the time to go to Xerneas while he prioritized others. Triage. I must re-evolve the normal way until he has time.”

“But you’re Radiant—ah, Mystic, hm? The power may not be the same, but it lets you toy with your body as another plaything of the world. You can easily do the same.”

“I… do not have the power to do so,” Trina said.

Mhynt paused her drawing to look back. “Even Owen, who gave up all of his spirits to Enet, can still shift his form if he must.”

“I do not house spirits within me in the same way. They maintained the Dungeon I resided in and, after the Voidlands, were… lost when I evaporated upon leaving. I do not know where they went afterward.”

“Hmm… They should have gravitated back to you,” Mhynt said.

They couldn’t have been… erased, right? Hecto and the others said that wasn’t possible. If so, where had they gone?

“Well,” Mhynt said, “I hope we can find them when this mess is sorted out. Regardless, where did your power go?”

“I gave it to the mutants under my control before,” Trina said. She saw the surprise and concern in Mhynt’s otherwise stoic expression. “It wasn’t to make them dangerous. It was to help them stay in control while I was gone.”

“Ahhh. I see.” Mhynt nodded. “That’s very selfless of you.” She returned to her nearly-complete drawing. “And reckless, of course, by sending yourself into the Voidlands straightaway. At least you maintained enough power to hypnotize Team Alloy in case something went wrong.”

“That was the hope,” Trina said, feeling a pang of guilt. “…I don’t like the power, you know. But it’s necessary. I suppose I grew… used to it.”

“You don’t have to justify anything to me,” Mhynt replied dismissively. “I know all about how power can make you lose perspective. So often, Legends are, despite once being mortal themselves, just as naïve as any other in the world.

“Mm. That’s true.”

Mhynt finished the first crescent of Lunala’s head. “Being able to hold your authority while sacrificing so much… It’s admirable if it pays off. But for others who can see the benefits and disregard the risks…” Mhynt chuckled.

“What?” Trina pressed. “I’m not careless. I’m—”

“No, no.” Mhynt held up a free hand while tracing the final crescent out. “I wasn’t saying it was bad. It could have gone badly, but it didn’t. A lot of plans are like that. I was only thinking about… how similar it is to the one you’ve been hanging around with more.”

“Hanging around with—you mean Gahi.” Trina rolled her eyes. “I don’t see your point.”

Mhynt smiled wryly and completed the drawing. “Alright,” she said, stepping back so her feet were at the bottom tips of the shadow’s wings. “Time to get this working. Trina, could you provide some power as a catalyst for this? My Radiance is not as strong as yours, so I’ll need a boost.”

“Is Radiance what’s needed to awaken it?”

“Of course. Lunala are inherently like that when divine. It’ll help… reawaken me.”

“Well.” Trina sighed and brought her little arms forward. Warmth and light flowed from her shoulders into her fingertips. “I’ll do what I can.”

The Snivy then channeled that power toward the Treecko, and that light went from her shoulders into the ground, flowing into the shadow of Lunala. Light first flowed around it like an outline before bleeding inward, pooling mostly in the eyes and along the crescent of its wings. Trina was certain that it twitched.

At the same time, darkness pooled around Mhynt’s feet, submerging her to her ankles.

“Good work. That will do,” Mhynt said, smiling enough that Trina could barely notice, and then fell as if through a trapdoor.

“Ah!” Trina stepped forward to grab her, but a column of darkness made her recoil on reflex.

The shadow lifted itself from the ground and gained some colors. Cosmic blues and purples accented themselves with bright gold. Glowing eyes stared down at Trina.

“Good work,” Lunala said. A psychic force wrapped around Trina; she flailed for a split-second, but then kept herself dignified and accepted it.

“How long will this last?” Trina asked, trying to distract from her brief panic.

“A few minutes.”

Trina stared, brow furrowed.

“…Less than half a kilo,” Lunala translated.

“That’s not much time. Hurry.” Trina nodded.

Lunala’s gaze shifted to something behind Trina. There, at the cave entrance, three of those odd faceless creatures were approaching…

“Nihilego,” Lunala hummed. “We shouldn’t have to deal with these.”

“We’re a bit cornered,” Trina said. “Why are they coming now?”

“Curiosity with my energy. Let’s not take any risks.” Lunala flew toward the far wall. A rift formed, circular like a tunnel, and they fell inside. Trina held on tight, squeezing her eyes shut, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly bright this time.

All around them were those cosmic swirls from earlier that Trina couldn’t fully understand. Space? Some strange place between? The passive energy in the area tickled her scales. She wondered if it was dangerous to mortals.

“I want you to focus on anything reaching out to you,” Lunala said. “I will focus on flying. Direct me to what your spirit is drawn toward. With luck… you will know.”

“Is this something I would know through instinct?” Trina asked, realizing that she couldn’t hear her voice. The air felt so thin here. Was there even air?

Lunala didn’t reply. Trina followed her ‘spiritual instincts,’ whatever that meant. She looked at the wormholes in the strange rift, each a tunnel to some other realm she wasn’t aware of. Something that would draw her… there was no way something like that was mundane. Perhaps it was a Mystic attribute, then, that could cross realms. And if that was the case…

“There,” Trina said, pointing at a tunnel that, from her perspective, was only a few seconds of flying away. Lunala obeyed.

“Brace yourself,” Lunala warned. Trina pressed herself against Lunala’s back and wrapped her vines around any spot she could find purchase.

It felt like everything compressed around her. A tight, ethereal blanket. She couldn’t let go of Lunala if she wanted to. Then came light, and then a horrible battering of sand. She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath as the sandstorm thickened. Rough grains pelted her in buckets.

Then, she heard whistling… singing. She knew that sound.

“Gahi’s near!” Trina called, then spat out the sand that got in her mouth.

“Of course you’d find him first,” Lunala hummed. “I can’t see very well in this sandstorm, though. Did he create it?”

Something roared in the sandstorm. Lunala suddenly banked upward and then took a hard left. Only thanks to her vines was Trina able to maintain her hold and not fall away.

The sandstorm thinned but not enough for the Snivy to peek. She breathed cautiously. Clear enough. Sand stopped pelting her scales so she dared to open her eyes.

No sand, but the sky was a dreary gray. But at least it was, for the most part, a natural color to expect from the sky.


Trina suddenly looked back—and there he was. The Flygon, shining even in the dim light, sped and Teleported toward them, stopping just as quickly. “How’d y’get ‘ere?”

“You recognize me?” Lunala asked, cocking her head to the side while keeping her wings spread, hovering by some spectral force.

“Nah.” Gahi pointed at Trina. “Anyway, who’re you, Wings?”

“Lunala, but you also know me as Mhynt.”

“Oh.” Gahi narrowed his eyes. “Huh. Prefer y’as a Treecko.”

Lunala chuckled. “Well, like the others, I can choose which form to take… and this one’s time is running out anyway. Is there a safe place to land?”

“Eh, yeah.”

Trina noticed that the strange roaring had stopped. “By the way, when we came in here, there was… something in that storm. What was it?”

“Oh, that? Yeah, that was ol’ Bitey. Met’m here and while we were tryin’ ter figure out a way back, he kept chasin’ us. Got fed up, started fightin’. Was kinda fun, so we sparred fer a while. Demitri ‘n Mispy must’ve tuckered ‘em out.”

“…Bitey,” Lunala said. “That must have been a Guzzlord. And you tired it out. Mm. I don’t know if I should be disappointed or surprised.”

Gahi rolled his eyes and disappeared behind Lunala, holding out a hand for Trina. With a little smile, she hopped onto his arm and then shoulder.

“Well,” Trina said, “Lunala, if you’re running low on time, do we need to rest?”

“Only for a short while, but I would appreciate it.”

They descended to the wasteland’s terrain. Lunala evaporated into a cloud of black smoke, leaving behind a Treecko to dust herself off. She did, noticeably, look much more sluggish than before.

With their bearings gathered and Trina finally taking a breath to relax, they watched the sandstorm subside. Mispy was tending to a few minor wounds that Demitri had suffered, and by some miracle, all three of them were sane, though they all had crazed expressions. Trina offered to calm them, and they, after some reluctance, accepted.

With more normal expressions, the five all enjoyed the quiet, occasionally disturbed by the sounds of deep, rumbling snores by the behemoth buried in the sand a few stone’s throws away.

During that brief break, Mispy whispered something to Demitri, who nodded.

“So, um,” Demitri started, “what happened back there?”

“I wasn’t able to see everything,” Mhynt said, “but I’m pretty sure Necrozma was overtaken by a part of Dark Matter that we hadn’t detected. One that was hidden beneath a veil of light… Necrozma’s weaker half.”

“Valle…” Demitri shook his head. “That’s horrible. Poor Valle…”

“We can pity him after we’ve freed him,” Mhynt said. “Unfortunately, Valle is gone now. Part of Necrozma… who is under Dark Matter’s control. That makes three pieces of Dark Matter accounted for, and one final unknown somewhere on Kilo.”

“Where could that last part be?” Demitri asked. He tapped a claw on the ax on his left cheek, sighing. “We checked practically everywhere…”

“Everywhere except the unthinkable,” Mhynt pointed out, “or otherwise inaccessible. If we can’t trace them otherwise… they are either hiding in a random civilian—which surely Diyem would spot—or he’s hiding behind another established power, waiting for the right opportunity to take control.”

“…So we gotta do a deep dive on every single Guardian,” Gahi concluded.

“Essentially, yes,” Mhynt said. “And a cursory look isn’t enough, either. But… that will be for later.” She sighed. “First, we need to find a way to get back to the others. And for that… we will need to rest and figure out how I can fly all of you at once. Ultra Space is not an easy place to travel…”

“We can’t just fuse?” Demitri asked. “Is it… dangerous?”

“It hardly has air,” Mhynt said. “You have no means to propel yourselves without special powers.”

“I got those,” Gahi said, swirling his claws to create little bubbles of Psychic energy.

“But will that be enough, hmm…” Mhynt looked genuinely contemplative. “We could try. But failure would mean you become lost to Ultra Space, and recovery will not be easy…”

“Oh.” Demitri pulled out an ax, then clicked it back into place. “Um, how bad is Ultra Space?”

“It’s not so bad,” Mhynt said. “You’re strong enough to survive. Maybe. Assuming you find a place with air. But otherwise, the main problem is you won’t be able to find your way back home. Ever, possibly. I’m not sure where your spirit will drift even if you died here; the aura sea and so on are where the spirits of your world are held. For all I know, you’ll drift straight into the Overworld if you die here.”

“Th-then we need to get to the others soon!” Demitri said. “What if they’re already—”

“I know. I agree. But we can’t search blindly if your spiritual resonance doesn’t guide us well enough.”

“Now that we have the time,” Trina spoke up, “I want to ask about that. Spiritual resonance. I don’t believe any sort of emotional bond tied us together when I found Gahi, so what exactly is that?”

“Eh?” Gahi stopped picking at a scale on his cheek to look at Trina.

“It would be very poetic.” Lunala chuckled. “But, no. You’re right. It’s not emotions; it’s the Orbs within you two, even their mere essence, that resonates enough that you are drawn to them. It’s the same force that helped draw you together now, and the force that Star and Barky had tried to counter for so long out of fear of what it would mean if all those powers gathered again.”

“Then that means,” Trina deduced, “we can find Kilo again, since it’s filled with more of those Orbs, and wherever Owen and Zena had gone, too. But as for your other halves…” She offered an apologetic look to team Alloy.

“Oh, they will probably find their other halves on instinct anyway,” Mhynt said. “A soul is a soul. At the very least, we can be confident that if either of their halves dies, they will probably find their way to them, so long as they aren’t sealed like in the Voidlands.”

“Heh… alright.” Gahi nodded. “Guess that means we know exactly where ter go… by instinct alone! See? I knew my gut would go’n the right direction.”

Trina sighed but couldn’t help but smile. He was right… albeit with the wrong thought process. Mhynt gave Trina a coy look and she quickly composed herself.

Right. Soon, they would be going home, where, if they were timely enough, they could warn everyone about what was happening before anything bad happened.


Kilo Village was in complete pandemonium. To the north, Nate was trying to subdue a light dragon with blasts of reddish energy. Every time Nate attacked, Angelo felt his powers completely disappear, and he had no idea why. Was that part of Nate’s powers? Or was this something new?

Spice had picked him up—he was getting tired of being carried around like luggage—and fled to the Waypoints for safety. For many Kiloan citizens, evacuation drills were still fresh in their minds, and getting out was something that happened in an orderly fashion, aside from the panicked shouts.

In a flash, they went from Kilo Village to the recently repaired Milli Town, surrounded by newly made buildings and cobblestone roads. Angelo took a breath, trying to calm down.

He couldn’t see Nate or the rift from here, but he could feel the shockwaves of their clashing. The sheer energy behind the attacks… That was their guardian, all this time. Kilo Village’s protector.

In some ways, he felt guilty for being so afraid and suspicious of him for so long. The fearful glances, the flat statements of how scary he was…

Angelo realized that his Nate hadn’t followed. Perhaps he couldn’t stray far from the host body. He’d apologize later.

“You okay?” Spice asked, holding Angelo’s shoulder.

“Y-yes. I’m fine. Thank you.”

Spice left to check on others. Some seemed to be in shock, perhaps from the energy blasts overwhelming them. Angelo was surprised he wasn’t part of that group.

Skies, his heart was racing in his chest. He could hardly hear. It was getting difficult to see, too. Oh—

Someone bit his shoulder.

“Yeowch!” Angelo stumbled forward and spun around, taking deep breaths. Horrible dizziness forced him onto his back. Warm fur suddenly surrounded him. It smelled of wood and made his fur tingle and rise from static.

“H-help! Help, I’m being hunted!” Angelo cried, struggling uselessly against his assailant.

In moments, he was staring at the wide, curious eyes of a Zoroark. She nipped at his snout.


She turned him around and stuffed him in her mane. Why did he have to be so small? Or was she just abnormally large?

“Enet,” Angelo said, “why are you treating me like a child?”

“Scared,” Enet said. “Make comfortable.”

All around them, Pokémon were walking around and murmuring about the recent development. Some were already electing to go out and gather extra food and supplies for their new town while they acted as refugees. Some refused to be victims and tried to establish themselves as leaders of the hunt.

Angelo just wanted to rest. Maybe being restrained by this feral Zoroark was a good excuse.

“Spice was already looking after me,” Angelo said. “Isn’t… that like being checked on twice by the same person?”

Enet tilted her head. He wondered how many brain cells were operating on that line of questioning.

“Well, it’s more like three times, in a way.”

“AYEEEE!” Angelo flailed again, but Enet’s mane proved too thick to escape.

Occupying the mane with him was a nearly incorporeal Lilligant. She glowed naturally, giving the inside of Enet’s comically spacious mane some illumination.

“Why are you here?” Angelo whispered.

“I’ve kinda always been here,” she said, curling up so her lower half was scrunched up against her chest. “I’ve been trying to help guide Enet more, since… well, we’re the same person. It’s… weird, but the more I’m with her, the more it does feel that way. Even if she’s feral, we’re in sync in a lot of little ways… At least… that’s what I’m trying to tell myself.” She laughed nervously.

“Oh, right, the Remi thing…” Angelo took a breath and leaned against the wall of fur behind him. His legs dangled out of the mane and he tried to find a comfortable, sturdy position.

“Oh, don’t worry. You won’t fall. Enet’s using a bunch of static cling to keep you on her.”

“Wha—oh. Electric. That’s clever.”

“I think she has no idea how it works and discovered it on accident. But hey! That’s how it goes sometimes.”

A distant shockwave shook the air. Angelo couldn’t tell from there if the ground also trembled.

“So, er, with Enet… how is that going, anyway? With all the chaos, I haven’t really… seen much of you around.”

“The hardest part is seeing Dad worry about it,” Amelia admitted.

“Oh, your… father, yes.”

“He adopted me when I was just a little leafling in the woods,” Amelia said, adjusting her orange flower with a sad sigh. “And then, uh, my other cosmic-not-really-but-kinda-sorta dad killed me, so, that’s sort of awkward.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Owen. He killed me a long time ago.”

Angelo didn’t know how to reply to that one. He stared, slack-jawed.

“I got over it.”

“That’s not—something to get over so casually!”

Amelia made a wobbly gesture with her leaves. “It was a few hundred years ago, you know? Time heals all wounds.”

“You—died!? Time heals—”

“It’s a spirit thing.”

“Oh, of course. A spirit thing.” Angelo slumped against the fur again, rubbing his eyes. “I just want to go back home and draw comics. Is that too much to ask?”

“I guess when you’re so talented with other things, people want you to do more than your passion.”

“Yes, well… I… understand that. I’m not going to back down if there are lives I can save easily. A-and the Hearts are respecting my… wish to not risk life and limb.” He crossed his arms. “We’ve reached a point where there’s nowhere safe, so of course I’m going to help.”

“There you go,” Amelia encouraged. “Not everyone’s gotta be a hero. But at least you’re helping where you can.”

Angelo wanted to retort. He’d heard it before with patronizing eyes and a gentle tone like they didn’t want to upset him. But this time, Amelia’s words felt more genuine. Matter-of-fact.

“I suppose so,” Angelo half-conceded. Then, as another distant shockwave put Angelo’s fur on end, he asked, “So, you aren’t scared at all? About… that. I can’t imagine having some… other, totally different person from me that I’m somehow destined to become half of a whole with.”

“Yeaaah…” Amelia sighed. “It’s… a little scary because of… I mean, I have no idea how to comprehend it. I talked with Dialga about it. He said that the part that’s going to be the hardest isn’t yourself and how you feel—that’s going to be fine. It’s how everyone reacts to you being someone different. With me… it’s going to feel natural. I’ll be both at once. Enet and I, and Spice, we’re pretty similar even if we’re also super different. But… the people that might want only one of us—like Dad, with me, or Spice and her family—that’s where it gets complicated.”

“I think I understand. Like… like seeing a childhood friend after ten years, and you’re not the same anymore.”

“Yeah! I think.” Amelia adjusted her flower again. “It just happens way more suddenly.”

Angelo nodded. It wasn’t his problem, but hearing about it, maybe she would do okay. If anything, it was Spice he was worried about. She seemed a lot more bothered.

Enet suddenly stopped walking and growled.

“Y-yes, Enet?” Angelo called.

Amelia frowned and disappeared in a flurry of embers, entering Enet’s back. Angelo, meanwhile, shifted to part Enet’s mane like peeking out of a berry bush.

He wished he hadn’t.

The sky had turned a strange purple-blue patchwork of those horrible void rifts. The landscape was shifting without warning, leaving ripples of Dungeon bubbles that distorted the light. Some of them were only a few blocks away, completely obscuring the homes of some Pokémon in an instant. Cries sounded from them, and suddenly they were gone.

“Do I want to know?” Angelo asked.

Phol managed to evade most of the distortion and ran to them. Spice came from the other direction.

“Alright, new plan,” Spice said, “we take cover and secure what we can before—”

Then came another shriek that was louder than the rest. More shouts—more chaos. Angelo couldn’t focus on it anymore. During a passing glance, a wraith rampaged through. Spice roared something and ran toward it; more cries from the other end of their little pocket of safety pulled Phol away, conjuring his golden Protects.

“Help time!” Enet announced, plucking Angelo out of her mane and plopping him on the ground.

“Oof! And what do I do?!” Angelo asked, half annoyed, half panicked.

“Reflect and Light Screen,” Phol said tersely. “Support us from behind.”

“O-okay. I’ll, uh, and I’ll also try to give you boons in other ways,” Angelo added, already drawing a series of sigils in the air. Squares, hexagons, pulses—he tossed them in a frenzy. He figured Helping Hand would be useful, tossing that where he could. Tailwind, yes! Tailwind will get everyone more mobile. He drew the breeze in the air and pushed them along, hoping his sheer will could tell friend from foe in the chaos.

Okay. Okay, wraiths. They were in a Dungeon now. Suddenly. After decades of new Dungeons not appearing ever.

Right before his eyes, the land shifted even more. Now, only the small street corner he’d happened to be in was its own Dungeon pocket. If he moved past it, would he find himself in a completely different place, or would it be freedom? Would he take that risk?

Of course he wouldn’t. He could barely move his legs. Breathing was hard again; he was in a trance, repeating the same cycle of techniques to help the others, but he was getting sloppy. He saw wraiths where there weren’t any. He heard shouts and he didn’t know if they were imagined or not.

At some point, he collapsed to his knees and curled up, trying to hide in the chaos. He couldn’t attack anymore. His spirit was so drained of energy—he’d expended himself too much, too quickly.

And he was going to die. He wasn’t paying attention and he was going to die. Become a wraith afterward, too, wasn’t he? He couldn’t hear the chaos anymore. His blood was pumping too fast.

Warm fur wrapped around him. Strong claws held him gently.

“It’s okay.”

Right against his ear. He barely heard it. He made out enough details that it was Enet again. Everything ran around them like they were a boulder on the battlefield… Yes. Was it her illusions?

“Shh, shh.”

Angelo had been whimpering. He didn’t even realize it. In shame, he curled up again.

Do you resent them?

“I’m just so tired,” he said. “I’m so tired of fighting. I’m not a hero….”

Do you want peace?

“I’m not some Heart that’s supposed to dive into the fray. I just want to go home. I want things normal again…”

Put them to sleep.

Angelo sniffled again. He opened his eyes, realizing that he didn’t recognize this voice. It was coming from… a Machop. A mere Machop, but there was a dark aura surrounding him. He was standing within Enet’s illusion, but her gaze was focused on the action on the other end. Everything felt slower.

Something about that Machop felt familiar.

Take my power, the Machop said, but his lips didn’t move. Angelo felt something cold run across his forehead, like an idea. A technique he knew, to pull from one’s innate abilities and swap it with—yes! Skill Swap!

He was calmer. His fear was boiling into irritation and resentment. It felt cold, and yet it burned. He was forming his plan while Enet slashed from the darkness at wraiths that happened to get too close.

He drew a sigil and pointed it at Machop. In moments, a ball of light from Angelo and Machop switched places, entering the opposite Pokémon. His mind felt clearer and honed.

Whether or not he was hit also no longer mattered to him. That was probably reckless. Asinine. But Enet was keeping up an illusion, and if he was going to have no guard, that was the best time to do it.

Release it, the Machop said. Put this chaos into a void where it cannot hurt anyone. Plunge them into the depths where they came from.

A small, shrinking, logical side of him recognized these words as concerning, perhaps even dangerous. But he was already frenzied with resentment and bitterness toward everything that was happening around him. He had no control. The world did as it pleased and forced him to flee and survive. Sick, fatigued, afraid. No more. If this outburst would be his first taste of true power…

So be it.


Angelo gladly complied, a vision of a ghoul of nightmares in the back of his mind. He carved a sigil into the air and covered it in a blob of dark paint, and then crushed it in his palm. He didn’t care who it hit. Everyone. Just for some peace and quiet.

That cold bitterness hit its apex when Angelo finally released that power. A blackened ink covered the whole block. The screams all arose at once, shrieks and roars of so many species, and then… silence.

The Machop was gone.

“Wh-what was that?” Spice asked. “Angelo?”

“I… I don’t know,” Angelo replied as Hearts picked off wraiths while they slumbered. Some already began to stir again. Angelo, for all his rage, wasn’t all that strong; it seemed their rest was only brief… but that was all the villagers and Hearts needed. He wobbled forward as if called by something. “I want to be alone… please.”

“What? Angelo, it’s not—”

“Please.” He spoke firmly, coldly, and in a moment of lucidity, he realized this didn’t feel like himself talking. But he was so tired. He let it happen.

“…Just stay in a nearby building, okay?”

“Okay.” He wobbled toward any of them. Didn’t care. Maybe it had a bed. He’d apologize if it was someone who still lived there.

The first one he found was a quaint home that seemed abandoned, like the residents had packed up what they had and left a whole moon ago.

Except for a single occupant.

In the back of the living room, sitting against the wall, was a black-flamed Charmander. Off to the side was what looked like a Machop-themed cloth… before realizing that was a hollowed-out body of some kind, dissolving into a black mist. A disguise? Or… No. The others mentioned that Dark Matter could change his form.

“Hello,” Angelo greeted with a skeptical squint. “Aren’t you…”

“We should talk.” Diyem gestured in front of him. “Why not sit down and rest?”

There was always a catch. But the way he spoke, and that very small hint of brightness in the Charmander’s eyes… This was the Diyem the team knew. The one that had a hint of light inside that dark core. Angelo could trust him at least for a talk—and he’d turned into a Machop to give Angelo the power to put down all those wraiths at once to help the fight.


“Alright,” he said, sighing. “But… I’m not doing any hero work.”

“That won’t be a problem.”


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 160 – Time and Space Asunder

“ . . . And so, in the end, we have a tiny part of Dark Matter on our side, and we have to find the rest.” Mesprit nodded. “That’s… sort of the whole situation.”

“Hmm…” Granbull Jin paced in front of the conference room—a replica of the Heart HQ, but with more subdued colors than its prior pastel reds, pinks, and magentas. “We know of Necrozma. We also know about Dungeons. When the Voidlands was reopened, we put our heads together on this one, and it’s very likely…

“People don’t remember much about Dungeons at all up until several decades after the Dark War.”

“I definitely don’t,” Mesprit said, crossing his little arms. “But… what does that mean?”

“That they didn’t appear until then,” Uxie stated. “Which means something in the Dark War caused it.”

“A place where space itself twists and changes, and where there are gateways into the Voidlands because of it,” Granbull Jin said. “When put in that way, it seems very clear that something caused the barrier between realms to… weaken. Applying Radiance plugs the gateway, but it does not solve the actual problem. Wraiths on one side… the living on the other.”

“And it’s not necessarily Dark Matter trying to escape, either,” Mesprit said. “He was within Anam the whole time, guiding him to run the world. And… not too badly, either.”

“Aside from the whole ‘hostile takeover of all other kingdoms’ thing,” Azelf quipped.

“No different than most nations, I believe,” Uxie hummed.

“That doesn’t make it okay,” Mesprit said, frowning.

Uxie shrugged and nodded.

“Focusing,” Jin said, “it means that Dark Matter might not have been creating these rifts on purpose. More likely… he was taking advantage of them. They seem to be the result of two divine forces clashing, and the aftershocks leaving weaknesses in the fabric that keeps the realms separate. It isn’t just a distortion of space, but the very planes of existence themselves. Dungeons are a gateway between the material and immaterial, the spiritual and physical. It converts one into the other.

“And, if left unchecked…”

“That could mean the end of life as we know it,” Mesprit whispered. “And death as we know it! There… wouldn’t be a difference!”

Uxie cocked her head to the left. “I wonder, how bad is that?”

“It’ll deprive the living of the chance to value life,” Jin replied. “There’s no telling what kind of instability it would cause. I know some of us are skeptical of the gods’ machinations, but something tells me letting life and death mingle will cause a lot of trouble. We should at least stabilize it before we come to any decisions.”

Uxie nodded as if conceding. “This is no time to be making decisions like that. But that leads to another question: if the border between life and death has been shattered, is there anything stopping us from taking advantage of that?”

“How do you mean?” Jin asked.

“Oh!” Mesprit perked up. “As in, if we’re able to just blur those lines, that means we can go from here, to somewhere in Kilo, right? Um, alive-Kilo.”

“Oh.” Jin hummed. “That’s… true. It’s scary that it’s so easy, but… yes. Hopefully, we won’t… dissolve, or something, if we go there, but… you’re right. We could probably find a way to go directly to Kilo if we had a way to fly up to the rift.”

“Which we can.” Azelf puffed out his chest and smirked. “I can fly in my sleep!”

“Hover,” Uxie corrected.

“Yeah, yeah.” Azelf shrugged. “Alright, c’mon! Let’s go!”

“Don’t be so hasty.” Jin sighed, walking to the entrance. “You can go on ahead, but I won’t follow. I need to rally the people on this layer of Kilo and then send word to the lower layers.”

“Lower… layers,” Mesprit repeated. “What do you mean?”

“Every few generations, a new Kilo is made to house them so this place doesn’t get too packed. It goes all the way back to the first one, back when it was still named Quartz. It’s a little chaotic down there since memories have been unsealed, but… well. What’s more chaos to the fire, right?” The Granbull grumbled and ran a claw over his left jaw tooth. “I’m going to have to get Brigid and Angelo. They’ll probably be part of the nearest layer’s forces. Restless souls, those two…”

The rift rumbled again. Something was shifting. By now, it wasn’t alarming. It was part of the new rhythm for the day. This was usually normal with people coming from older eras of Kilo’s afterlife to visit. However, this time, who stumbled through the rift in the sky was not from the Kilos of the lower levels. Instead…

“Wait a sec!” Azelf pointed up. “Look!”

The rift didn’t look like the others. This one was more like a tunnel than a tear, and it bore an odd, checkerboard pattern to it that seemed distinctly unnatural. Two figures were flying through it, though one seemed to be latched onto the other through some kind of vine.

“Hey!” Mesprit said. “That’s Team Alloy! And Lunala and Trina!”

“And I’m guessing they’re also alive,” Jin growled as if it offended him.

“Alive?” repeated the fused Team Alloy—Migami. “What, we’re dead now?”

“Hopefully not!” Azelf said.

“I don’t think so,” Trina said as she dismounted from Lunala, landing lightly on walking soil. “If that was the case, I think the theory from Mhynt was, the dead half would merge into the living. That hasn’t happened.”

“Oh, you mean our counterparts.” Mesprit nodded. “That makes sense. I guess that means we’re both alive.”

“Or both dead,” Jin theorized. “…Anyway, what happened? Why are you here?”

“We got tossed into Ultra Space,” Lunala explained.

“Ultra what.”

Lunala stared. “Ah. Right. That isn’t known by most.”

Her body dissolved into shadows. Streams of the remainder collected beneath the cloud, forming a Treecko again.

“Think of it as a massive network of tunnels and nebulae that connect this world to many others. And, as it turns out, it seems that it can also connect the spirit world to the living world… of Kilo, at least. I have my doubts it works the same way for other realms…”

The Treecko paced over the dirt, occasionally kicking at a few pebbles before making a little gesture with her hands. Pale green grass formed over the dirt in merging patches, which she more comfortably walked over.

“This normally shouldn’t be possible,” Mhynt said. “This makes me suspect something about the nature of Kilo all along…” She shook her head and turned toward them again, smiling. “Well,” she said. “why don’t we gather up? I want to be briefed.”

“I’ll get Brigid and Angelo,” Jin said. “After that, let’s share what we know.”

Team Alloy, after unfusing, and the Trio of Mind stared at one another.

“This is getting pretty serious,” Mesprit said.

“Who knows what’s goin’ on,” Gahi murmured, looking at the sky. “The world’s tearin’ apart…”

And, they could all feel it between them. That strange, looming tension as the world threatened to blend … The energy between the three pairs told them, without words, that their time apart would soon have to end.


Frightened but calmed murmurs drifted through the air of Milli Town. There was no escaping those wayward souls’ mumblings, even as Angelo sought refuge in one of the many abandoned homes, staring at a Charmander with a black flame who had already been waiting for him.

“You were that Machop,” Angelo whispered.

“Mm.” He nodded. “A power I have. Mimicry of anybody. I suppose it’s like a Ditto… though it’s more like putting on false skin. Within, it’s only darkness.”

“That, er, that sounds… like something a young teenager going through their rebellious phase would say,” Angelo had to say.

“Hmph.” Diyem rolled his eyes. “Classify it all you want. It’s what I am inside.”

Angelo wondered if he was intentionally being ironic. “If you’re a being filled with nothing but darkness… why did you help me? I was just born with this paint color, you know. I may not want to be a hero, but don’t expect me to… rebel against the light, or something!”

“…Hm. It’s no wonder Owen is a fan of your work,” Diyem muttered.


The Charmander dismissed the subject like it was flying near his head. “Your… talents. I need them. But I don’t expect you to have the will to fight. I can already sense your fear just from how I’m talking to you now.”

“I—I’m not… afraid. I’m just tired, and—”

“Do not defend yourself against me. I know your fears the same way I can see the color of your fur. You cannot hide your feelings from me.”

Angelo tensed his jaw, trying to think of a way to deny that. He squeezed his tail a little tighter and searched for the words. Maybe Diyem was just messing with him. Breaking him down so he’d… be more obedient. He’d seen that method before.

“You’re right to not trust me,” Diyem said. “I am a fragment of the very thing that sought to take over the whole world. A selfish entity that only wants to preserve itself. I do not know what the rest of myself is capable of, or what it desires, any longer, but it can’t be anything good.”

Angelo let the words sink in and fester. It was true. Diyem had nothing that would prove he could be trusted beyond that he hadn’t done anything terrible yet. But… that was true for anyone, right? And not only that, some of the allies he had were already known for terrible acts! Even Anam, their supposed leader!

“Why me specifically?” Angelo asked. “My talent? What good is that?”

“You underestimate just how capable you are,” Diyem said. “What you lack in raw strength you more than compensate for with versatility. Mew’s Blessing, and an inheritance of ancient techniques lost to the Void.”

“Mew’s Blessing… right…” Angelo shifted his weight nervously. “In school, we’re taught that the aura can only really have four distinct channels on the surface. Everything else is… inside, and harder to draw out quickly. So, we have to focus on ‘drawing out’ those if we want to use them more. But I… don’t… have that problem. And it’s run in my family for generations. Some in my family tree had it fade, but not me, I guess…”

“Hm.” The Charmander nodded again, but there was now a second Charmander next to him and Angelo wasn’t sure when she’d gotten there. Her eyes were wide, and—oh no it was the child.

She reached toward Diyem’s face and grabbed his cheeks.

Diyem paid her no mind as he continued to talk, his words garbled by Mu’s playing. “Do you see that potential?”

“Um… I think I do,” Angelo said. “Is… she supposed to be here?”

Diyem’s black flame rose, then fell, as he reached out and grabbed her hands gingerly, pulling them away. “Hands to yourself,” he explained.

“Hands!” Mu giggled. She then bit Diyem’s hands; it seemed to be a play bite. Angelo hoped. It was either that or Diyem was so stoic that he didn’t care if she broke his scales.

Diyem exhaled through his nose and moved his arms to the right, sliding Mu in that direction while she remained latched.

“Now that I think about it, no. I believe you are very aware of your potential. That is why you have a sense of shame when you deny the call to action. You have the strength to save many lives, but are afraid and want to live quietly despite this talent.”

Angelo already felt himself getting defensive. His fur bristled out. His breathing was shallow. There was a numbness creeping along his upper spine. “You’re asking me to be a hero.”

“No. I’m asking you for a favor.”

Angelo waited, calming down a little. Diyem wasn’t judging him, right? Just… stating facts? He didn’t have the same tone or air that others speaking to him about this did. Maybe it would be okay…

“Interesting. You’ll hear it out,” Diyem hummed. Despite the upper tone he had, his face was just as expressionless. “I have a strong suspicion about where the final unknown piece of myself is hidden. However, giving it away to others will risk that knowledge getting to the source. I want to get to it… from someone unaffiliated and talented.”

“You can’t tell me?” Angelo asked.

“Of course not. If I did, you might tell others and the plan will be ruined. I’ll only tell you after you agree.”

“If I agree, and then back out?” Angelo asked. “How… how binding is this?”

“When it’s over, you can act like I don’t exist for all I care.”

Had it not been for Mu crawling and babbling, it would have been a tense silence. Instead, Mu had migrated to Angelo, scaling his legs. Nervously, he tried to push her away, but the strange black-white-flame Charmander clung to his arms next, eventually finding her way to his shoulder, where she happily perched like a bird.

“Fine,” Angelo said. “What’s the favor?”

“I need the power,” Diyem said without hesitating, “of someone unassuming but strong. Someone they wouldn’t expect to do anything heroic or outgoing, but is capable of it. So, you. And I need someone who has the potential to scale Destiny Tower no matter the guards sent your way. I believe the final piece of Dark Matter is hidden somewhere inside.”

Angelo blinked. Silent. He leaned his head against Mu, who leaned back and started to scale to the top of his hat.

“You want not-a-hero to scale Destiny Tower—the Destiny Tower—and confront a secret fragment of evil.”

“No,” Diyem said as if he already sensed that Angelo was about to vehemently refuse. “I want your body.”

Somehow that was worse. “No?” And it was so surprising that Angelo had wrapped back around to confused denial.

“I will possess you. For you, it can be either watching things play out as a distant passenger or a brief rest. No more disruptive than falling asleep. I will utilize your power, dispel the darkness hidden inside Destiny Tower, and then leave before the others realize what I’ve done.”

“Wouldn’t they praise you for… for dispelling your fragment?”

“Yes, but I doubt they would approve of me hijacking someone again.”


“Of course again. What kind of demon of evil would I be if I didn’t possess someone now and then?” Diyem glared, arms crossed.

“How is this supposed to convince me?!”

“Because I can feel you’re already tempted by this easy job,” Diyem said flatly. “You take a break from all that’s happening. When you wake up, it’s over, the world is a better place, and you get the credit. You even know how it’s too good to be true because they would also find out what you did to achieve it. But that won’t matter. Peace is found. The world is restored. And I”—Diyem paused with emphasis, making sure Angelo paid attention—“will prove that I can be trusted on my own, too.”

“Hands!” Mu declared, standing on top of Angelo’s head. He made his best effort to keep her perfectly balanced.

Angelo held his breath, unsure. On one hand… it was an escape from this while still being productive. On the other, it was Dark Matter.

Yes, he could potentially save the world with this donation, and it wouldn’t even require any work from him, technically! But… it was Dark Matter.

Still… even if he refused, and this failed, wouldn’t the world end anyway? And he’d be in the same terrible position in a world of darkness? But… Dark. Matter.

All the while, Diyem sat there, patient. Mu had crawled down from Angelo and back to Diyem, trying to bite his tail. While Diyem remained still, his tail swished to avoid her.

“Can I have some time to think?” Angelo asked.


“Just… it’s a lot to weigh. Can I… can I ask anyone?”

“Can you do so without compromising this plan?” Diyem asked.

“Er…” Maybe he had a point there. But he couldn’t just make the decision now! Unless…

“Y-you tricked me!” Angelo said. “Now I…”

Diyem rubbed the bridge of his snout. “I didn’t trick you for anything. You asked for the favor. I answered. You knew it was something important that could compromise the mission if it spreads elsewhere. Now, can you keep it a secret while you wait, or not?”

“H-how important is it that I keep it a secret?”

“If Arceus finds out, and he’s got to do with that piece of darkness, I do not know how much of your soul will be left behind to worry about it.”

Angelo continued to nervously fidget where he sat, looking anywhere but at Diyem. Why did it seem so much darker? Maybe even the time of day was starting to change. Where was everyone else? Were they still busy, were they not going to check on him? That would force Diyem’s hand. But…

But he was an ally, right? He helped Owen. He helped Anam before, too. Maybe…

“I need a contingency,” he said. “If… if this goes wrong.”

“Contingency. Explain.”

“A way where I can take control back if… I don’t like what you’re doing.”

“If people notice you’re missing, and you have friends who will, they will save you. I cannot beat them.”

“As you are now. But with my power or more fragments…”

“That’s a big hypothetical and not one I’d rely on,” Diyem replied. And that was convincing enough.

“Am… am I really needed?” Angelo asked. “Why can’t it be someone else?”

“I already explained this to you.”

“I… you did… right…” Angelo deflated, staring at the paint on his tail for a while longer.

Mu was gone again. She must have wandered off somewhere while Angelo wasn’t paying attention.

“F-fine,” Angelo said. “Just know… they like me! I think. And… they won’t stand for it if you took control of me and… and did something I’d regret. So… you won’t…”

Diyem only stared, waiting for him to finish. Politely quiet, yet somehow rude at the same time.

“Good,” Diyem said. “Then let’s not waste any time.”

“How do we… do this? Do you, like, use your Shadow powers on me, or…”

“If I wanted to puppet or manipulate you, yes,” Diyem said, “but this is a more… intensive procedure if I want to get this done properly.”

Diyem flicked his wrist, which suddenly made a horrible, cracking noise. Angelo flinched as the claws dissolved into a black fog, then the fingers and the whole hand into what seemed to be a sharp tendril of dark material. It reminded him of obsidian if it was somehow in liquid form.

“I thought you were… were biological,” Angelo said. “Mostly.”

“I was. Then I ‘evolved,’ as the world fell apart.” Diyem’s voice sounded distorted as black cracks trailed along his arm and over his shoulder. “While inside a Dungeon, I’m closer to the Voidlands. My realm. I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.”

Angelo’s throat tightened. There… wasn’t any backing out of this anymore, was there? Diyem had already shown too much.

“Is this going to hurt?” Angelo asked.


Diyem’s feet relaxed as he levitated off the ground by some dark force that enveloped his body. The sharp tendril of darkness had completely overtaken his arm and shoulder by now and he wound it back. Then, he swung forward, and Angelo couldn’t remember what came next. He’d gone blind, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

It felt like Diyem was splitting his head open like a coconut. He still couldn’t scream. But it was fading. Everything was fading…

Sound left next. Finally, he couldn’t feel anything, either, except for a sick sense of vertigo. Did he even have a stomach anymore?

Sweet silence and painless, weightless bliss followed. He was on the ground. His head still hurt. But maybe it was just a bad dream.

What hit him the most was the intense grogginess. He’d felt something like this before when he’d woken up in the middle of the night after a moldy berry salad. Or, he assumed it was moldy. It had been too dark, but the spiciness had been odd in hindsight.

New problem: Angelo could not move. No matter what he tried to do, his body didn’t respond. Panic set in but his heart didn’t race faster.

And finally, with relief, he opened his eyes, and at the same time, Spice called from outside.

“Angelo? Buddy? You alright?”

Angelo sat up and took a slow breath. “I’m… I’m fine,” he said.

But Angelo hadn’t said that. He didn’t want to say that. His body was moving on its own. This wasn’t him Spice wasn’t talking to him what was happening?

“I heard a thud. Did you fall, or something? I was worried about you…”

The wraith-Salazzle had a concerned look. She leaned against the wall, blocking the way out. Angelo prayed she would see something was wrong.

“I… don’t want to talk about it,” Angelo said. “I just—passed out. From…”

Spice’s expression softened. “Was worried you got attacked,” she said. “It’s alright. Look, just take it easy. We’ve got a little base set up in what seems like a stable building. Might be a stable pocket like in a Dungeon proper.”

“I’ll catch up with you. I need to find someone first,” Angelo explained. “Sorry, it’s—one of those confidential things.”

“Confidential? I’m high-ranking now, you know. What’s going on?”

“Would you… believe me if I said telling anyone was dangerous right now?” Angelo asked.

Spice! You have to know something’s wrong! Look in my eyes! Oh, gods, do my eyes look normal, too?!

Calm down. I told you this would happen.

Spice looked skeptical, but stepped aside anyway.

Angelo nodded and walked out of the building. What’s happening? D-Diyem? What did you do?

I possessed your body, as I said I would.

If the others find out about this, they’ll—

I’m aware. I told you that. Can you stop forgetting things during your panic?

But this was too far. He didn’t have to reason it out, it was too far! He tried again, harder this time, to do something—anything—to get their attention.

You don’t get it, do you? Diyem went on. You have no drive, yet you have potential and power. You aren’t weak; you’re only weak-willed. You can’t even say no. It’s fine to not be a hero… but look at you, being pressured with niceties into the fray regardless. You’re only luck it was someone helpful so far.

And despite all you’ve been through, you didn’t change. You did not grow. This is the result.

Let this be a lesson to you. Aimless power will eventually be driven by someone else. Even if you aim to keep your head in the sand, it’s better than becoming a puppet.

But… but you’re making me a puppet!

And now it’s a valuable lesson once I’m through with you.

It was all a mistake. Nothing of what Diyem was saying made sense. He was strong but weak? Aimless but he was supposed to aim at the ground? What was he talking about?

And just as Spice was leaving, Angelo managed to get out a single whimper. “Help.”

This is why I hate working with people.

Spice turned around, squinting with those terrifying yellow eyes. “Help…?”

“I didn’t say anything,” Angelo replied. “Are you feeling alright?”

Spice watched him a little while longer, but then sighed. “Not really,” she admitted. “It’s been all kinds of stressful lately. I’ve been hearing voices, too. Well… only once, when I was seeing that weird Poison Guardian.”

Wait. Stop screaming. This is important.

“What do you mean? Voices?” Angelo asked.

Angelo humored it if only to gather his mental strength. Spice, hearing voices? That couldn’t be good.

“Not important, just weird voices. Telling me… I can’t even remember. Oh, I think it was about… my fears about combining with Amelia and Enet. Now that I think about it, weird that it knew that… so I thought it was all in my head.”

Angelo nodded. “I don’t know what that means,” he said.

“Yeah. I’d consider therapy, but, well, world’s falling apart. No time for therapy.”

Angelo nodded again and started walking.

“Hey, you’re sure you’re alright?” Spice said. “You can’t tell me anything?”

“No, sorry. I—”

Angelo bumped into something. Fluffy air, a solid obstacle. The illusion disappeared moments later and he was face to face with a huge, crouching Zoroark. She growled and put two claws over Angelo’s shoulders.

“E-Enet? What’s wrong?” Angelo asked.

Enet… it’s not me! Please!

Are we really doing this?

Just confess! We’re in too deep now, right?

This would have been much easier if she didn’t spy on us.

“I trust Enet’s instincts on this one, Angelo. Something’s off.”

Enet bared her teeth.

“You aren’t even trembling,” Spice noted. “…Who… are you?”

…Fine. If you behave, I’ll give you control.


No screaming. Don’t cause a scene. Deal?

No screaming. Okay. I’ll do that.

And suddenly, without any realization, Angelo went from barely any control to full control. His knees promptly gave out and he collapsed to the floor, caught only because Enet still held him.

“Diyem,” Angelo said. “D-Diyem got me, no, he… I made a deal with him, and it wasn’t what I expected. He’s… He’s inside me right now or something, he was controlling me. He—”

Don’t tell the plan.

Angelo halted. At first, he thought it was because Diyem controlled him again, so he made a small noise to make sure. No, he was still in control. But if he spoke too much, would Diyem control him again?

Gods, why did he agree to this? Everything was so hazy…

“Diyem,” Spice said, her voice even, “if you’re silencing him right now… I want you to listen to me real carefully. If you don’t explain every single step to what was going through that head of yours, I’m taking you straight to Arceus, or Anam, or literally anyone to put you away for good.”

Enet cradled Angelo in her arms, though her look was stern. She was looking at Angelo, but he had a feeling it wasn’t toward him

“The only reason we aren’t killing you is because we think you’re an ally. Play with us, and you’re going to be your own demise. That clear?”

Angelo tried and failed to steady his breathing. Diyem wasn’t talking. Maybe he was thinking. His fur bristled at the very thought of Diyem being somewhere in his head, biding his time, and he could barely feel it. Maybe he couldn’t feel it at all, and it was just some phantom sensation. Gods, was this how they all felt?!

This is why I hate people. Go ahead. Just don’t attract too much attention. Surely they’re enough?

That much was reasonable, he hoped.

“Okay,” Angelo said. “Okay. I’ll explain. But… you can’t tell anyone, alright?”

“Wait, who am I talking to right now?”

“A-Angelo, it’s really me this time! Honest! I mean, I wasn’t lying before, that was Diyem, I—”

“Alright, alright, I believe you.” Spice waved her hands as if to clear the air. “What are you doing?”

“Diyem said… he thinks he knows where the final part of his fragment is, you know, since Necrozma is the other one. But he has to go to Destiny Tower to confront Arceus about it.”

“And he thought he could do that with… you?”

“I… have a lot of talent, but no power or drive, or something,” Angelo said. “I just… thought that if he gave me that power, and maybe the drive, it’d…”

Spice’s frown deepened. “Really, Diyem? Taking advantage of that? I thought you were past that.”

I’m past it as a default… but it’s still a skill.

“Um, he says that it’s a skill to use? Um, when… necessary, maybe?”

Enet growled again. “Bad,” she stated.

“Yeah, what she said.”

Emerging from Enet’s mane was Amelia, who had a similar, disapproving glare. But behind that was wary trust. “Diyem, you… know it’s a bad idea to go against us, right? It makes sense to keep working together, so… why not just tell us? You can trust us with this.”

Oh, good, here we go…

“You aren’t going anywhere until you explain,”
Spice stated flatly.

Following her demand, Enet plopped Angelo on the abandoned bed. Dust puffed out all at once before settling down on Angelo’s lap.

“Explain,” she demanded.

Angelo braced, waiting for Diyem to take over. When nothing happened, he glanced left and right. Um… are you going to talk?

Oh, NOW I’m allowed to take over.

And suddenly, Angelo couldn’t control his body again, and he sat up, looking directly at Spice and Enet. He was relaxed and calm in posture, completely unlike Angelo—no need to act this time.

“The hesitation was because I waited, politely, for Angelo to ask me to take over,” he said.

“Don’t get passive-aggressive with me,” Spice said. “Talk.”

By now, someone else had wandered into the area. Angelo’s body stiffened against his will, which was odd. He didn’t feel particularly nervous when seeing that Goodra—their leader—but for some reason, Diyem did. And that Goodra was frowning, like he was disappointed.

Diyem’s whole countenance seemed to change. He deflated, exhaled through his nose, and nodded. “As you wish.”


“I located Owen and the others,” Barky stated, staring into a strange rift at the apex of Destiny Tower. “They are… scattered. Some of them are too far for me to reach at all. Others will take time.”

“Hmmh, well, that’s very unfortunate,” Palkia said, arms crossed. “Space beyond Kilo is outside of my domain. If I leave here, I’ll be much weaker.”

“That’s true for any of us,” Barky said. “Leaving Kilo is a huge risk. I may have granted Necrozma his original dominion, but Dark Matter is an unknown variable. We don’t know how far Necrozma’s domain reaches; if we enter a place where he has an advantage, it’s over.”

“Wait, a few are on the move…” Barky narrowed his eyes. “I believe that is Trina and Mhynt with Team Alloy—aside from Owen. They’re all gathering at… what…?”

“Somewhere close, I hope,” Palkia said.

Just then, a dark blot expanded at the back of the tower summit. Red, glowing eyes appeared in the center of the black vortex. An ink-black dragon slithered out, sprouting legs and a sturdier form as it fully emerged.

“Ah, Giratina! Wonderful, the trio is here.” Palkia greeted. “Oh?”

Atop her back was Madeline, and behind her were many trembling, terrified citizens.

“I rescued who I could on my way here,” Giratina said. “But… it’s too chaotic down there.”

“Mm. I see.” Barky nodded. “Thank you anyway, Giratina.”

There was something nostalgic about seeing those three. If only he could also be sure that the Divine Dragons were also safe. But he only knew of Ghrelle’s safety; Aramé had gone quiet, and Brandon must have still been caught up in Kilo Village.

“Madeline, would you be able to lead them into the lower floors for now? They may take temporary shelter there until we can stabilize things. That goes for all rescues going forward; please spread the word.”

“Of course. And, if you can’t see, Nate and Necrozma have stopped clashing. A distortion separated the two.”

“For better or worse, that’s news,” Barky said. “Thank you.”

As Madeline departed, Barky stared into the portal again.

“They’re across the aura sea,” Barky went on “But… they couldn’t have been killed, could they? That makes no sense. If they died in the Voidlands, in the Voidlands they’d remain…”

“Could they have been shunted out of the Voidlands and then killed?”

“If that was the case, their spirits would not have gone to that specific area. It’s… cut off from the rest of the spirit world.” He lowered his head, thinking. “But that could only mean… they traveled there after being ejected from the Voidlands. From… a living plane?”

“Is that possible?” Palkia asked.

Barky pieced things together, occasionally glancing at Giratina. “Tell me,” he said. “Do you suppose the nature of Kilo… could have led to this?”

“Its… nature?” Giratina repeated, taking residence at the edge of the tower to look over its apex.

Barky followed her gaze. What had once been a beautiful horizon was now a twisted, morphing quilt of colors and distortion bubbles, shuffling and moving around with little pattern. The world was in literal chaos with only pockets of stability remaining. So far, the bubbles were large, some of them enough to encompass entire ecosystems. But Barky had seen a few of them split apart into smaller sections. If they got too small, there would be nothing left of Kilo except a chaotic soup of distorted matter.

“This world has always been… malleable,” Barky explained. “The Pokémon here are, on average, very strong compared to that of other worlds. And the world itself is also resilient, even without divine intervention. Even this…” He gestured with a jerk of his head to the sea of bubbles, “I think can be repaired in short order, once our powers are restored.”

“Are other worlds not the same?” Giratina asked. “Then again… Madeline speaks of a world that was not quite as volatile, but also slower to recover. The world I came from, as a human.”

“What does that mean here?” Dialga asked. “Our world’s general resilience against the Pokémon’s general power. That’s simply another way for the world to exist, yes?”

“It is. I thought nothing of it. But seeing how external powers interact with it… I wonder if Kilo itself has always been a land between life and death.” His gaze went skyward. “That this hollow sphere used to contain my old sins, a world where a whole island’s people were killed and then revived, were… never truly alive again, but somewhere between. Undead, but only by name and technicality…”

Madeline returned from the lower floors. “You mean to say if Kilo is some sort of half-death realm, we’d have access to both the living and dead worlds if allowed traversal.”

“In effect, yes,” Barky said. “But you’d be weaker in either.”

“But on the flip side, the living and the dead would both be weaker in Kilo,” Madeline concluded. “The reason spirits are so weak, for example. Though, we do not have an example of someone alive entering Kilo, do we?”

Barky hesitated, then looked down. “We do,” he said. “I… am technically of the living. And I am very weak here.”

“Your current power is you being weak?” Palkia asked, looking like he wanted to suddenly take abundant notes. “Fascinating.”

“There were other reasons I suspected this was the case. Giving some of that power to Star when the world was created; the blight I knew was somewhere in Kilo; many small factors. But this must have also been a contributing factor. Its… betweenness.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think that’s entirely relevant anyway. But it may be something to keep in mind later when we have more time to think. Now, Dialga.”


“How strong are your powers over this domain’s time?”

“If you’re asking to undo all of this by going back in time, I can’t recommend—”

“No, I know that’s beyond you,” Barky said. “But what about its speed?”

“Its speed… As in, how quickly right here is?”


“I suppose I could dilate things. The part of me that does total pauses is still weakened thanks to the piece Eon has somewhere. Presumably, he misplaced it at the lab…”

“Ah, Nevren likely has it,” Palkia hummed.

Dialga rolled his eyes. “But I can manipulate it. Why?”

“As of now, I am unsure if Owen and Zena will be able to return to us. Their time is flowing very slowly… I recall making Kilo in such a way that it flowed quickly. Its lifetime would have been over in a matter of years to the world they came from, so normalcy would come relatively quickly.”

“Ahh, I remember, now,” Dialga nodded. “A hundred-fold was the extent I was able to do that. A hundred days here is one day there… Oh, I see the problem.”

Barky nodded gravely. “If anyone tries to reach Owen now, they will be stuck in that same time flow. Slowed to the point where they may return to a ruined Kilo or no Kilo at all.”

“I see. Then… I should bring Kilo down to its normal timescale?” Dialga asked.

Kanto… Barky knew about Kanto very well. He knew about that whole world. He’d created it long ago, perhaps with much more grace and autonomy than what he’d put together for Kilo. This planet of guilt stuck in its little pocket between life and death…

Necrozma had been right. This world shouldn’t have existed for as long as it did; it outlasted itself. And now…

“Er, Arceus,” Dialga said.

“Hm? Oh. Right. I’m…”

“Are you all right?” Palkia asked. “You seem distracted.”

“I was thinking about… Kanto. The world Owen is from,” he said. “I wonder why Necrozma sent him there of all places. Perhaps under the assumption we wouldn’t be able to reverse the time dilation. But it still seems… specific. Unless Owen manipulated it himself?” Barky tilted his head. “Hmm…”

“I’m going to just equalize the times,” Dialga said. “That’s probably the safest, and—”

“No,” Barky interrupted. “…Invert it.”

“In… invert?” Dialga said. “That means Owen might be stuck there for months before we can figure out a way to rescue him. You do reali—” Dialga stopped himself and glanced at Giratina and Palkia.

“Ahh, I see,” Palkia said. “How very interesting, Arceus…”

“He’s going to worry,” Giratina said. “He will figure out how much time has passed and therefore the speed of time’s flow. He will spend every day agonizing over—Palkia, what are you doing?”

“One moment,” Palkia said, now crawling on the ground as if searching for something.

Barky grumbled. “Do you really need to be so distractable? What’s going on?”

“Success!” Palkia declared, lifting a tiny Charmander off the ground. Palkia was, mercifully, very delicate in how he picked the tiny thing up.

Giratina groaned. “Palkia, please don’t tell me she was hidden in your bag again.”

“Oh, certainly not; I double-checked. She must have made her way here by accident.”

“Concerning.” Barky drifted forward, narrowing his eyes. Something about this Charmander was… strange. The very way she was created was beyond what the world had been prepared for, so her properties would be volatile. If Barky had his way, he’d try to put her somewhere more controlled so she could develop safely and—if she turned out to be dangerous… Mm, no. Now he was starting to sound like Necrozma.

“Madeline, sorry to send you on more errands, but can you… put her somewhere?”

“She’s just going to disappear again, you know,” Madeline said. “She has a talent for that.”

Barky, growing impatient, said, “Dialga, please… invert the time with Owen’s current location. Completely.”

“Completely? But, Arceus, that will mean if we do not have the means to find Owen, and he has no means of returning here, he could be stuck there for months! Perhaps years! One day here would become a hundred there. A single kilosecond here would be over a day to him. A—”

“I know, Dialga. Do it.” Barky spoke harshly at first, like a proper command, but then softened his gaze. “Please.”

Palkia tilted his head, but Madeline and Giratina shared a knowing glance.

“This is oddly emotional of you, with all respect,” Giratina said.

“Owen will spend every day worrying,” Madeline warned. “If we have a way to tell him not to worry…”

“I… will send a thought to him. I’m sure I can at least do that while we try to establish a more meaningful connection.” Barky nodded. “But he will be… safer there. It would be less risky, and more practical if time passed faster for him than if it did for us. So, Dialga. If you may…”

“…I understand. Please, give me a moment.”

Dialga approached the portal and focused on the tiny dot that Barky highlighted with divine energy. When that seemed to fail—Dialga could not influence that world from Kilo—he resorted to altering Kilo’s region’s flow instead.

“I’ll need your help for this,” Dialga said to Barky, who nodded and sprouted golden filaments from his back. Divine energy radiated off of him, some of the Hands stitching themselves to Dialga’s flank.

To everyone of Kilo, of the Voidlands, even across their aura sea, nothing seemed to change. But Barky had faith that Dialga knew what he was doing, and time’s flow was changing. That was why he entrusted him with that power in the first place.

“…There we are,” Dialga finally said, nodding at Barky.

The Hands detached from him and faded into his divine form again.

“It’s as you wished. You should send that message to him quickly before he gets too worried.

“Ah, of course. I’ll… think of something concise within the next… few seconds.”

He glanced at Giratina, Madeline, and Palkia. The former two both smiled warmly at him as if approving of his gesture in their silent way. Palkia was, as usual, distracted, squeezing the air in front of him as if it perplexed him.


“Palkia, where is Mu?”

“Hm? Oh, she should have been in the lower levels of the tower, last I che—”

“No, no, not—not Mew. Mu, the Charmander child.”

“Ah, funny you should ask.” He squeezed his claws. “She disappeared from my grip while I was distracted, you see. She’s so light I must not have noticed.”

Dialga slumped where he stood as if the weight of Palkia’s stupidity was on his back. “You’re never allowed to babysit.”

“I would hope not! I’m far too busy.”

“She just disappeared again, as I warned,” Madeline said.

“Ah! Wait!” Palkia raised a claw and then dug through a satchel around his neck. “I have just the invention for this!”

He pulled out some kind of compass. “It’s already tuned to her. I’ll just use my powers over space and make sure she’s—oh, interesting.” His eyes followed the needle…

Barky didn’t want to look. His gut already told him all he needed.

The needle pointed into the rift… directly at that faraway Kanto star.


“Welcome to the Fallen Heart HQ.”

In the lobby of the place that looked much like the heart HQ of home, they met two vaguely familiar Pokémon. The first was an Aerodactyl with a firm look in her eyes that, had she not been female, they would have mistaken for Jerry in an instant. The other was someone who physically looked a lot like Angelo—and shared his name—but had none of the meek energy. This Smeargle stood with a wide smile and an excited shine on his expression. He was practically glowing.

“And thank you,” Granbull Jin said, “for coming on such short notice. As you can see…” He eyed Mhynt’s group. She nodded back. “We have some company.”

“Company of the living!” Smeargle said with a beaming smile. “Not a common sight! Perhaps even unprecedented!”

“Yes. But that unprecedented nature comes with a massive crisis of its own: They, of the living, are leaking into this world. Even as we have been waiting for everyone to gather here, Pokémon have been appearing here that were positive they were alive. They simply wandered into here like turning down the wrong street corner.” He crossed his arms, growling. “It’s utter chaos. We don’t know how to feed them. Our spiritual matter has no true substance for their bodies, so they wander to find proper food. If this keeps up, they will be among the dead.”

“And this started happening because the third divine power just got some of that power back,” Mhynt said. “And perhaps something more that’s been dormant, but…”

“Right.” Jin nodded. “That’s why I wanted to gather you all here. We need to go over something important now that we have so much knowledge on the subject. Mhynt? You are a key figure in this, and you will likely be able to fill some of the holes that we’ve had for some time.”

“About… Necrozma,” Mhynt said.

“Not just Necrozma,” Jin said. Then, to the others in the room, Jin walked along the conference room and pulled out a single book from the shelf. It didn’t matter which one; the book flashed with light and changed to the very book he wanted, which he placed on the table.

“I want to tell you about the Dark War… the first war of Quartz, before it became Kilo.”

Author’s Note: Hey, everyone! This marks the final chapter before the semifinal Special Episode. As usual, I’m going to need a full month to get this one done, since it’s more complicated and chunkier than a normal chapter. Thank you for your patience, and thanks for reading!

And that’s right, you read correctly. Incoming is the second-to-last Special Episode of the story. We’re nearing the home stretch. All that remains is another set of chapters, the final Special Episode, and then a final set of chapters and the finale arc.


Dragon Enthusiast
Special Episode 12 – The Dark War

Sometimes, when nothing is left, all I can do is smile and cheer. That’s why I kept smiling, even as the world fell apart around me. Maybe that’s what made me so resistant to those Shadows. Maybe it was just survival.

Maybe I just didn’t want to admit defeat, and smiling was all I could do against it.

I’m somewhere deep inside the life of another person, now. Or another two, or maybe even three people. I’m not “here” anymore. I’m just their memories. Yet, somehow, it feels like they’re talking about me again. Maybe they’re dreaming.

It has me thinking about the past. How it all happened when the first tamer of that dark power—Dark Matter—was taken down.

And how it gave rise to the Dark War.


Dad’s Shadow Fortress was a floating citadel to the south of Quartz Mountain, powered by unknown technology. That’s what Remi called it; obviously, Dad didn’t want it to be named anything like that, no matter how cool and awesome that sounded.

It also helped make sure his ego was in check. That dark force was corroding him; she had to remind him of his innocence as much as possible to keep him sane.

The flying fortress was powered by a mysterious energy that seemed counter to whatever it was that powered Destiny Tower. An Anti-Divine energy. Or was it anti-Radiance? If that’s the case, it was obviously called Shadow Energy, or Dark Energy. But Dark was already related to a subset of Pokémon, and Remi was criticized for calling it Dark Energy. So, instead, she called it Shadow Energy, and it stuck.

At least, to Manny, it stuck. He said something about ‘Dark Energy’ already being the name for something else, but that was just another one of his strange stories.

What mattered was it was a floating spooky castle filled with anti-Radiant energy, and it was cool. And Dad oversaw it. Maybe he was evil, but he was cool, too, and he was still Dad. He was still nice. And maybe one day, if she fought a little harder, she’d be able to get through to him.

Dad always said that Battlehearts like him were just hidden away in the world. Everyone had a small bit of a Battleheart in them, and Dad’s was just more pronounced. And Battlehearts debated and understood one another through battle, and sometimes, the loser of the fight was the winner of the debate. Dad was stronger. But she had heart.

So, she was going to try to beat him again. She wouldn’t win, but the feelings of her heart would flow to him. Maybe she could keep him around. for a little while longer. That was their unspoken routine.

And that was why this lithe Sceptile was hidden inside a supply crate of fruits, curled up and nestled between countless Oran Berries, munching on one to pass the time. She had inherited some of her mother’s powers somehow, maybe from exposure or something divine. She didn’t care.

Inherited didn’t mean it was all that strong, though. But it was just enough to pass through the crate unnoticed with some spectral tunneling.

These berries weren’t fully ripe yet. That was her main tragedy on this trip.

Soon, the crate rumbled and it was hauled onto a heavy-duty flying Pokémon and sent off for the flying fortress.

Then came the hardest part of her infiltrations: waiting to land. She was never the most patient Pokémon. The fliers were so slow! But she guessed she couldn’t blame them if they were carrying her and a load of berries at the same time.

Mercifully, the crate was eventually hauled onto the ground. This was usually when they would open the crate, transport it, or perhaps even scan it for auras again. She’d already evaded it the first time, but while stuck inside, that would be a bad idea. It was time for another warp.

Spectral energy pooled in the Sceptile’s claws like dewdrops, eventually coalescing into a stretchy ball of ectoplasm-like taffy. She wriggled her body and burrowed underneath the berries, making her way to the bottom of the crate. While it was harder to move, she had the strength to push through.

She pasted the plasm-taffy onto the bottom of the crate and held her palm against it. Radiant energy channeled through her arm and into the plasma, lighting it up. The circle expanded, and in an instant, the crate’s floor was gone, and she saw soil in the glow. The artificial terrain of the flying fortress.

She burrowed through and tried to keep most of the berries inside. Once she was completely out of the crate, dust threatening to make her sneeze, the crate itself rumbled as it was lifted off to be hauled somewhere else. Despite this, the portal she’d made did not disappear—though it would soon if it got too far away.

Hastily, she stuck her claw at the portal's edge and peeled it off, instantly dissipating the connection. She balled up the ectoplasm and stuck it in her mouth like a big wad of gum for future use. And because it kinda tasted like Oran Berries now.

She continued to burrow, staying near the surface so she could overhear anyone who spotted her, but not so close that she made any noise. She had this place memorized by now and was confident, based on the footfalls, of where she was.

There! She was safe to emerge.

She wriggled upward and burst out from the soil with a quiet breath, earthen magic closing the burrow behind her once she’d fully emerged.


“Yeep!” Remi leaped backward and drew out a Leaf Blade from her wrist, slicing at the speaker. A golden barrier flecked with darkness parried the blow so she followed up with her other wrist’s blade. That, too, was parried.

Then, a similar barrier appeared around her whole body like a bubble.

“H-hey!” Remi shouted. “Dad, no fair! You said you wouldn’t do that anymore!”

“Remi, why are you invading my base again?”

“’Cuz you keep making it easy, that’s why!” Remi said. “I mean, come on, a supply crate infiltration? Who even gets away with that anymore?!”

The huge Charizard narrowed his eyes with an unimpressed squint. “If it was so impossible to get away with, why did you do it?”

Cornered again. Her father was always impossible to beat.

When Remi didn’t say anything for too long, Dad finally sighed and said, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

“Yeah!” Remi pumped her fists in the air.

“But nowhere that’s important, alright? I don’t want you… involved in all of this, Remi. I just want you to live a happy life. That’s what I’m fighting here for.”

“I know.” Remi nodded. Her real goal was just to make sure he was alright, after all. That was the only ‘important’ thing here. “And so is Necrozma and the others, but…” she nodded again. “I know. I won’t talk about it during our walk. We’ll… just be Dad and me again.”

“Right.” Dad stared at the wall, made from dark stones, and had a strangely suppressive atmosphere about them. “Just… like old times.”


Remi woke up in the middle of the night after a wonderful, bitter dream. She had been enjoying a picnic with Mom and Dad, and she was a little Treecko again, and the sky was bright and there wasn’t anything she had to worry about.

Reality hit her mere seconds after she awoke on that deep, dark night. The cold air, the lack of any flame…

Her claws dug into the soft soil beneath her. She was tempted to dig herself in completely and see if she could ingrain at all with it, just for some strange primal comfort.

The house was completely silent. Living alone was torture. But she couldn’t find it in her to move back in with Mom when… it would mean she’d have picked a side.

Not that it meant anything anymore. Dad was dead.

And Necrozma had given the order.

Knock knock knock.

Sounded like a rock against the wood.

At first, Remi didn’t want to answer. It was the worst time possible. Midnight, probably. But the worst was that nobody visited anymore. She’d broken up with her ex, Mom was too busy being Lunala, and…

Knock. Knock knock.

Remi growled to herself and stood up. In the dark, her night vision helped her navigate in grayscale.

Her home was a cave of vines and leaves that she had constructed herself between two trees as the main foundation. The ceiling was a few inches above her head when standing fully upright, but she habitually crawled. It appealed to her primal instincts.

The cylindrical hall went up a gentle incline before leveling out at the main entrance. She tugged at a vine and the door rolled to the side.

A Shiftry stood there, glowing in the night, with his arms crossed and his head lowered.

Remi released the vine and it closed.


Remi cursed him.

“Please,” Necrozma begged, “I only want to talk.”

His voice was muffled behind the door, but she kept her claws over the vine. He wouldn’t see it. But she always hesitated in saying no.

She pulled on the vine again, reopening the entrance.

“What?” Remi demanded.

Necrozma, in his Shiftry body, closed his eyes and lowered his head. “I’m sorry for what happened,” he said. “I will rectify it when this is over. That is my promise to you.”

“How am I supposed to believe that?” Remi asked. “You’re going to end the world. Everything that I call my home is going to be gone if you win, and I know it! Don’t try to give me vague words that it’ll all be okay. You’re ending the world!

“The force we’re against will do far worse,” Necrozma said sharply.

“What can possibly be worse?!”

The Shiftry opened his mouth as if to counter. He paused and then seemed to deflate.

“You deserve to know,” he said, “the nature of what I’m fighting against, and why Star and Barky ultimately agreed the way they did. I explained this to your father as well, but he was too far gone.”

Remi continued to glare.

“Can we talk?”

“Where’s Mom?”

“She’s just fine. The others are at Destiny Tower preparing a few things. That’s all.” He nodded.

Could she believe that? Did she have any reason to think otherwise? Not really. Necrozma’s side of the war just got a serious upper hand.

“Fine,” Remi said.

It was late, she was tired, but she was too worked up for bed now. If Necrozma could at least explain a thing or two about what was going on, and if he had some kind of assurance for all of this… fine. But if it was anything like the last time, Remi resolved, then she’d kick him right out.

She walked down the leafy hallway and slipped into a small living room fitted with soft leaves for seats and several oversized leaves that blocked the otherwise open windows. She curled up and then stretched on one of those leafy seats to get cozy, while Necrozma simply stood near the other. She suspected he didn’t know it was normal for someone to sit down during conversations, considering he usually floated passively.

“What could possibly be worse than literally the world ending?” Remi opened.

Necrozma hummed but nodded. “I understand your fears of death and Armageddon,” he said. “I can sympathize. A world reaching the end of its lifespan is never a pretty affair. Well, sometimes it is, but in this case, it isn’t.”

“You’re not a good pep talker, you know that?”

“I will work on it.” Necrozma bobbed his strange Shiftry head. “Now, as for what’s worse. I have seen worlds fall to ruin in such a way that even the souls are unable to escape without intervention. A place where death is not a release but turmoil ever after. Aimless suffering for no point but the fault of a failed god.

“Put another way, I am granting Kilo its proper death and release, whereas this strange force is at risk of plunging it into a reality of unknown suffering, divorced from the gods that created it. It is a risk.”

“Unknown suffering… a risk? But you don’t know what it would do. Like, did it choose to be a dark and unknown force? What if it just looks like that?” Remi said.

“What if the dark force of negativity just happens to look dark,” Necrozma repeated.


Necrozma stared. Remi nervously shifted in her seat, curling her toe claws into the leaves.

“You couldn’t have seen so many worlds for this,” Remi murmured.

“I have,” Necrozma said. “That is my job as an Overseer. It is a title that… I do not give out lightly, but due to the state of the world, there is little risk or loss in speaking of it now.”

“Overseer… Like, just someone who watches over things?”

“In essence, though obviously, we also enforce and adjust when things get out of hand. Such as now.”

“So, you aren’t even from this world. You’re in… Mom called it Ultra Space?”

Necrozma chuckled. “Far beyond that,” he said. “But I’m familiar with Ultra Space, too.”

That didn’t make sense to her. Well, it kind of did, but it seemed like too high a concept to be important to her. “So, basically, you… see other worlds that Star and Barky made, and how they went wrong before?”

“No, no.” Necrozma held up his leaves.

Just then, Remi realized he was floating a little. Had he always been? Man, she hated psionics sometimes. Seemed like an unconscious showoff.

“Is something bothering you?” Necrozma asked.

“Uh? Oh, no. So, wait, what worlds, then?”

“Worlds and realities from other gods. Other Creators, entire realms outside of the one you live in now. That’s where I usually reside—the Overworld.”

“Alright… and… I’m supposed to believe that?” Remi asked, but it was an empty threat. It added up nicely for Necrozma’s position and the way Barky and Star regarded him. In some ways, it answered a lot of questions about how Necrozma fit in this at all. He didn’t. He was some… reality-foreigner. No! He was—

“You’re a divine consultant?”

The Shiftry-bodied Necrozma blinked. “…Yes, actually.”

“Who also becomes, like, an outlaw wrangler, or officer, if something really bad happens.”

“I… suppose that’s a way to put it, yes.”

“So, you’re kinda like when Dad used to—” She tried to hide her pause, remembering Dad at all, but she pressed on. “Like how he used to, you know, fly around and help little things around towns. Except instead of little things like finding Mom kidnapped by bandits and stuff, it’s… gods having trouble with their worlds.”

“That is the gist of my work,” Necrozma confirmed. “A divine… world… rescuer.”

“Then…” Remi closed her eyes. “Why are you destroying this world? What’s the big secret?”

“If I can destroy it,” Necrozma said, “I can remove the dark force entirely. It permeates the world—if even a single other soul exists inside, I can’t remove it. Or, rather… the reverse is true. For me to remove this dark entity, I would have to remove everything attached to it… and it was created as part of this world. One of two entities.”

“Two?” Remi asked.

“The second exists within the Tree of Life,” Necrozma said. “They are not very talkative, but compared to this entity of darkness, they seem more… benevolent.”

“Oh. Then… that’s probably the one that only knows all the good stuff about the world. Maybe they’re counterparts?”

“A reasonable guess, and when it comes to entities present as part of the world’s fabric, it’s also a likely one. But we don’t know for sure, and unfortunately, they do not seem to be very helpful against the negative half.”

More information that she didn’t know what to do with. Still… that other half, why wasn’t that one helping? She could ask later. Tree of Life… Wasn’t that the place Pokémon tended to disappear if they ventured too close?

“I apologize if this is all too much information,” Necrozma said.

“You sorta threw a lot at me… Why didn’t you tell the others about this?”

“I did. This is typically for divine ears only. However, the circumstances have changed, and due to your position with… my more direct subordinate, and the state of the world, I felt it would have been wise to inform you next. You may also help us if you wish.”

A small part of Remi wondered if this bombardment of information was meant to calm her down. She was overwhelmed and a little confused, but she didn’t feel as mad at Necrozma anymore. But as the silence settled in, she remembered…

“You still need to fix Dad.”

“I will,” Necrozma said.


“His state of mind can be reversed. It is a psychic matter, and I am, of course, one such Pokémon. Perhaps the strongest and most skilled of the dimension.” Necrozma nodded.

“Then why’d you pick a Shiftry? They’re Dark, aren’t they?”

“Well, that… wasn’t part of my considerations, but you do know this is a fake body, right?”

“What, you’re just a bunch of light inside of that thing?”

The Shiftry’s chest cracked and split open, revealing a blinding fissure of light.

“Gah! Okay, okay, I believe you!” Remi couldn’t see a thing. Even when he withdrew himself, her night vision was shot.

Remi squeezed her fists, thinking. “But you already tricked Dad with the Mind Trio. How am I supposed to trust you, huh?”

“I never held any ill will toward you, and you do not have darkness corrupting your spirit. But if you need a means to trust me…” Necrozma hummed, tapping his foot on the ground. The strange, gourd-like belly of his Shiftry body glowed dimly in the night. “…Hm. I shall give you a piece of my power for… safekeeping.”

“Safekeeping?” Remi squinted. “Safekeeping how?”

Necrozma put his leafy hands together. Light coalesced like dewdrops, becoming a great big ball that forced Remi, once again, to close her eyes as she muttered a curse about the light under her breath.

When she opened them again, Necrozma held a small diamond in his leaves with a small, black symbol in the middle.

“What’s that?”

“This is known as a Z-Crystal in some worlds, but here, people call them light crystals. It is a piece of my true form… and is infused with my divine power. It’s far more than a typical Z-Crystal of other worlds.”

Remi reached out and poked it. The light crystal burst into pale green motes that drifted to Remi. “Ah! What’s happening—”

“Well, I was going to explain,” Necrozma said as she tried to bat the light off her to no effect. “But I suppose simply accepting the power will do. Hm. Interesting that you didn’t drop dead.”


“Temporarily!” Necrozma amended. “I suppose an… only-mostly-dead state. But that didn’t happen, hm. Perhaps it is because you are so strongly tied to light already…”

“I’m gonna pretend I understand,” Remi grumbled, dusting off her scales again. She felt warm. But it was in a weird way like she had a blanket over her, and she didn’t want that. Not when it reminded her of Dad.

But… she also felt something else. This divine power… was very strong indeed. She glanced at her home and suddenly the grass of the house tidied itself up, shrinking in some parts and flourishing in others.

“Ah!” Remi gasped again. “I… I didn’t even put effort into that. I just thought and it happened…”

“I felt that Grass would suit you well,” Necrozma said. “It’s your natural element.”

“Right… And you’re just… giving this to me.”

Necrozma nodded. “As I said, I need your help. And I have crossed you once. The onus was on me to make attempts to repair that bridge.”

And… to his credit, he backed up his words with action.

Remi heaved a sigh. “Okay,” she said. “But I want Dad back as soon as this is over, and this world is going to survive. Okay?”

“If you can find a way to rid this world of that corrosive force without destroying it,” Necrozma said, “I will do everything in my power to achieve that goal. And if you fail… you will be with your father anyway. I promise you that, under my care as an Overseer.”

Ominous way of phrasing it. But she could press on it later when she understood more of this Overseer business.

So, on that quiet night, she held out a hand just as a gentle breeze let the leaves dance in the dark.

“It’s a deal.”

Necrozma looked confused, but then understood and let Remi grasp the leaves of his right hand.

Remi squeezed the leaves tight; Necrozma’s eyes widened with surprise as she pulled him close, clamping her claws onto them.

“But if you try the same trick on me, I’ll side with that force the same way Dad did. Got it?”

“Ng… yes.” Necrozma shook his arm. “I understand.”

Remi grinned and let go. “Good!”

Necrozma nearly fell back had it not been for a helpful vine that spontaneously rose from the ground behind him.

“Now,” she said, “let’s talk strategy.”


Destiny Tower’s fiftieth floor was in a controlled frenzy of murmurs between the dead and living alike. On the fiftieth floor, there was a border that was invisible to most, but Remi had grown just keen enough to sense the change. Just below was the world of the living; just above, spirits manifested freely from the heavens.

Though, in this case, they were powerful warriors that had been resummoned by Necrozma’s light, disturbed from their slumber within the light dragon. All spirits went to Necrozma when their time in the living world was over, where they slept until the end of the world.

Only recently did Remi understand why… It was simply because Necrozma had planned to bring them all to the Overworld for whatever he did with them after. Presumably, the proper afterlife? She certainly hoped so, if this world was just… some temporary place.

But now, to assure that they would all be able to return to Necrozma, he had to release some old warriors to fight among the living again.

Remi got to know a few of them, but the one she got along with the most was a Serperior who seemed to have a mastery over leadership. She was a great leader some five hundred years ago and led a village to great prosperity in a forest to the north, defending against bandits and other encroaching forces before taking them over herself.

That kind of talent… would be a welcome tactician to replace Dad, in some ways. Remi wondered if she was the one responsible for the plan to take down Dad in the first place…

No, no. She was getting distracted again. She was an ally now and Necrozma promised that he’d make things right if they could stop the corruption of the world.

Logically, too. She’d asked Star and Barky and they confirmed as much. And, well, unless all three gods lied to her, it had to be true—and if they did lie… it was a lost cause anyway, right?

There was no point in worrying, then!

The ground rumbled, nearly toppling Remi over.

Okay, there was one thing to worry about.

“Another tremor?” Remi called. “What’s going on?!”

“Status report over in the war room!” called a Corviknight. “Hurry!”

“Thanks, Xypher!”

She leaped into the ceiling, phasing through the stone to appear one floor up. Then, she crouched down and did the same again, puffing by the fifth time—and startling a few Pokémon on the way.

“Hey!” Remi called as she climbed her seventh floor, pushing herself up. “I’m here!”

“We have stairs,” Necrozma hummed, taking on his radiant, true form this time.

“Meh, like you use them,” Remi countered.

“What?” Necrozma’s light flickered. “Never mind. We have some news and we need to act fast. I’ve already sent a squadron to fend things off, but the corruption’s forces have suddenly mobilized, and rapidly. I suspect in the brief power vacuum left behind, someone took over leadership and is now going for an aggressive strike.

“In some ways, this is good. This means they are likely making themselves vulnerable to a counterattack if they’re coordinating themselves so suddenly. The bad news is a reckless assault will mean casualties on our side, too. I fear for the fates of those who have already been sent out, but I will salvage their souls when this is over. Of that, I assure you.”

“Hey!” Star called breathlessly, blipping into the room. Barky, in his boring way, floated from the upper stairway and entered the room next. “So, while I was scouting around, I heard that they’re calling him the Wraith King. How about that, huh?”

“The force?” Necrozma asked.

“Maybe? Anyway, if we need a name—”

“Unimportant, but useful. As for dealing with this ‘Wraith King,’ I believe it is time that we sent our full assault at once toward their main base while sending a weaker force to intercept their main one. A weaker force dedicated to evasion.”

“Guess that’s me,” Star said, raising a paw. “I’m plenty evasive.”

“Then I shall lead the main striking force,” Barky agreed. “And what will you do?”

“I,” Necrozma said, “am going to be dual-backup. With my Ultra Wormholes, I have already created a firm network between the various places of the world that are key to this place, and I can also Teleport freely. Of the three of us, I am the most mobile.”

“Agreed. This seems simple, then. Our troops are already well-categorized for evasion and striking. You should leave the defending specialists here.” Barky scanned the room, eyes finally locking onto Remi, who shrank back.

“Um, hi.”

“Hello.” Barky looked at Necrozma. “Will she be part of the evasive group?”

“Yes. Remi, are you fine with this?”

“Totally. I want to see who’s trying to lead the charge now. Where are they going?”

“The Tree of Life.”

“Oh.” Remi blinked. “That’s uh… Isn’t the Tree dangerous?”

“Somewhat. But just don’t touch the sap and you should be okay,” Necrozma replied. “…Particularly you, Remi. Extended contact may cause your form to mutate and your emotional state to… spike.”

“Wait, that sounds awesome! Does it hurt?”

“Do not, Remi,” Necrozma warned.

Remi pouted but didn’t protest.

“Now then,” Necrozma said, “there’s something else I wanted to discuss, and do spread this to the Legends who have not yet gone to combat the Wraith King so they may see me. I’ve tried to contact those who I could, but some haven’t gotten back to me. Worrying. But I need half of each of your souls.”

Remi nodded along, listening like she understood everything, until Necrozma’s final sentence registered. “Wait—say that last part again?”

“The Wraith King seems to operate by corroding and corrupting the hearts of those who interact with it. Or, put in less symbolic terms, it infiltrates the aura, encapsulates the spirit, and attempts to make the victim assume the King’s thoughts are their own. This corruption can be complete and absolute… unless we take a piece of the spirit to free the imprisoned half. Therefore… as insurance, I would like your spirits. Half of them.”

“Splitting a soul in this way, so casually…” Barky harrumphed in disapproval. “Perhaps I would tolerate it of Hecto due to the nature of his being, but to do it to spirits not capable of such splitting…”

“Won’t that severely weaken us?” Mom asked, having been quiet up until then. As usual, she only spoke up for the most practical questions. As a Lunala, she had a much more commanding presence about it, too…

“It will weaken you,” Necrozma said. “However, this is a calculated risk. He cannot capture any of your absolute powers this way. Even I will be doing this with my mortal vessel.”

“I see…” Remi sighed. “Well, I guess if that’s how it’s gonna be… Like, how much will it weaken us?”

“Not as exactly as half, thankfully,” Necrozma explained. “The drop in strength, while substantial, does not become debilitating until less than a third of you remains or so, from my experience.”

“A third, huh…” Remi squinted. “Hey, wait a second. Then why not just take a third of us, or something?”

“Er… Why?” Necrozma asked.

“Well then two-thirds of us can go into battle and have better odds of not dying!”

“Well, yes, but then you’d have only a third of you here…” Necrozma folded his wings over each other in front of him. “But I suppose in some ways, it’s another angle at weighing our odds…”

“And with half and half, that’s more power that won’t be fighting!”

A shadow under the table rumbled with laughter. Two red eyes stared at Remi. “You really are Owen’s daughter.”

Mom looked away, frowning.

Remi smiled broadly. “See, even Giratina thinks I’m right!”

“I… suppose so, yes,” Necrozma said, sighing.

Remi knew that meant a lot to Necrozma. Giratina was one of the few that Necrozma had chosen as a Radiant disciple, just like Mom and Dad. And Necrozma wouldn’t want to lose another one.

“Very well,” Necrozma said. “Everyone, please gather up and get the others that we can find. I’ll take a third of your soul, Star will craft bodies for them, and Arceus will handle the proper bonding.”

“Hmm…” That Serperior from before hummed.

“Yes, Trina?” asked Necrozma.

“Will this be safe?”

“Not entirely, but it is a mild risk with only mild side effects overall. Nothing permanent,” Necrozma explained.

“No,” Trina clarified. “Will this be safe in the short term for those who can only persist in the upper half of Destiny Tower? What if we must also descend or flee?”

“Ah. Hmm.” Necrozma’s light dimmed, as did his shattered-glass eyes. The equivalent of his eyes closing, if Remi recalled right. “I can imbue you with my divine light, even if it’s only temporary. The energy should be enough to let you go beyond the spirit realm and into the physical realm.”

“Yeah, I totally understand that,” Remi said. “Simple version, please?”

“Power makes you not die,” Necrozma said, his body fizzling.

“But they’re already dead,” Remi pointed out.

Mom hid a smirk behind her wing, though Remi saw it at her angle. “She has you beat there, Necrozma.”

“…Please gather everyone. I’ll give what I can out. And get the human, too.”

“Which human?” Lunala asked.

Remi had no idea what they were talking about.

“The outer human,” Necrozma said with a meaningful flicker of his eyes.

“I see.” Lunala nodded. “Of course.” She already drifted down the hall to get someone.

Whatever. More divine secret plans. She had her mission. Remi was the first in line, eager to see what this whole soul-splitting would be like. “Hey, so,” she said, “how much does having your spirit cut by a third hurt?”

“Oh, immensely,” Necrozma said, raising a wing.

“Wait, what do you—”

He wasn’t kidding.


Remi lounged atop Giratina’s back for most of the trip, agonizing dramatically over how much everything hurt and how lethargic she felt.

“I’m dying,” Remi announced. “Necrozma killed a third of me. Do you know what that usually does to someone? That’s like losing both your legs and your tail, and then, like…”

“Remi, it’s not the same,” Mom chided, flying after Giratina at a leisurely pace.

“You’re one to talk!” Remi said, pointing an accusatory claw at her. “You didn’t even get your soul carved!”

“Necrozma and I are beings native to light. Or, my body was already converted as such. The darkness can’t corrupt and claim us in the same way it can for you and your semi-Radiant spirit.” Her eyes narrowed condescendingly. “Granted, if you actually became a Cosmog and evolved properly, that would have been a different story.”

Remi snorted. “Yeah, well… Necrozma has to earn it if he wants me under him. Not after all his mistakes.”

It was a topic Remi wouldn’t budge on, even if Mom didn’t agree with how Dad did things. There was more to it. She knew it.

“Hm. Well, regardless… I wanted to take a little detour before heading to the battleground proper. Giratina, go on ahead. I need to go on a special assignment from Necrozma.”

“Of course. Be careful,” Giratina said, slithering further through the air.

“Hey, wait!” Remi said. “Can I go with you, Mom?”


“Where are you going?”

Mom paused, glancing at Giratina, and then sighed. “Fine. You shouldn’t be in the heat of battle anyway in your state.” She drifted closer and a dark tendril from Giratina helped roll Remi over to Mom. It was a little weaker than usual; Giratina’s bulkier form couldn’t form tendrils as easily on this side of the world, or something. Remi didn’t pay much attention to the specifics.

“Hold on carefully, Remi,” Mom said.

Mom drifted to the southeast, still speeding through the skies. In the brief transition, the rushing air past their barriers for flight deafened her.

“Wow, it’s cold,” Remi whispered.

“Chilly day,” Mom agreed. Her crescent wings beat a few times and she went back to flying at full speed.

Remi took the time to appreciate the afternoon sun under their flight barrier. It was surreal to think that just past the horizon they were now flying away from, a war was being fought. If she focused, maybe she could feel the ripples of energy as the superpowers clashed.

“How many places do you think they’re fighting?” Remi asked. “Is it mostly in the southern region, or…”

“There’s no telling,” Lunala replied. “Necrozma told us to take this route. The sheer forces involved make travel through my wormholes, or even Hoopa’s powers, unreliable. Not that we can rely on Hoopa to behave anyway…”

Remi scooched up to get in a more comfortable position, her arms aching, and asked, “Where are we going, anyway?”

“…Necrozma requested I track down Azelf. He can feel his power due to being a Radiant soul, and it will likely lead us to where they’d taken… your father.”

All at once, it was like the cold had returned. Her leaves may as well have shriveled up.


“I can bring you back to Giratina if you want,” Mom said gently.

“No. I’ll go,” Remi replied quickly. “He’s… is he okay?”

“I’m going to find out.”

Remi had no idea how Mom always kept such a cool head. This was horrifying. She thought Dad had been… erased, or something, mentally. But what if he was okay? Or…

“It’ll be fine,” Remi said, though it was mostly to herself.

They flew the rest of the way in silence as Remi ran through all the scenarios in her mind, over and over again…

In some ways, she wondered if the anticipation was worse than the truth.


They landed just before a sandy shoreline where the dirt met the sand. Grass somehow managed to grow regardless in this sandy soil, but Remi had no idea why Mom had landed here. It seemed like it was empty.

“Um… so what’s this for?” Remi asked. “I don’t see Dad.”

“Give it a moment,” Mom replied, folding her wings in front of her like a cloak. She looked like an arrow embedded in the ground while she waited.

It occurred to Remi that she’d never seen Mom sleeping upside-down before. Did she, like the other bat Pokémon?

“Hey, Mom?” Remi asked.


“Do you sleep upside-down?”

“I… What?”

“Upside-down. Do you sleep like that? Like other bats.”

“I don’t have feet, Remi.”

“You could, like, I dunno, jam your… tail crescent thing into the ceiling! Or make a hook, totally! Besides, Zubat don’t have feet and they hang off the ceiling!”

“That’s because—” Mom paused. “…How do they do that?”

“Exactly! So, you should, too.”

“Remi, that’s not—”

Something metallic clanged under the sand and they both stopped.

“Ah,” Mom said. “They’re here.”


The sand pushed outward and upward. An underground stairway revealed itself beneath part of an artificially rising ramp large enough to fit even the largest Pokémon of the pantheon. Remi stepped back on reflex due to how much just the opening towered over her.

And then Palkia stuck his head out from below. “Hello!” he greeted.

“What—Palkia!” Remi squinted. “Why are you here?”

“This is my secret laboratory!” Palkia said cheerfully.

“I thought your secret lab was in the northeast,” Mom hummed.

“Ah, that one exploded. Anyway! What brings you here?”

“I’ve come to see the Trio of Mind as well as anyone else that may be here. I suspect Jirachi, for one…”

“And why are they here?” Remi interjected. “They were the ones who… got Dad.” And she, admittedly, wasn’t looking forward to talking to them yet. She wasn’t emotionally ready for that. But if she had to… she’d put on a smile.

As always.

“They apparently had regrets,” Lunala replied cryptically. “And they wanted to ‘fix’ their mistake. Unfortunately, it’s harder to heal than it is to harm.”

“Ah.” Palkia finally nodded. “Well, in terms of seeing them, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to do something quite like that.”

Mom was undeterred. “Necrozma says that we should set aside any differences we have in favor of taking down the much more threatening foe that’s currently advancing to the Tree of Life.”

“Oh, how convenient! We were mobilizing for just the same thing.” Palkia nodded. “However, we considered the fact that it corrodes spirits, so we were just finishing a method to contain some of it for future use that cannot be corrupted in the same way.”

There was a pause.

Remi spoke up, “That’s—”

“A clever idea, but Necrozma can already do just that.”

“Oh, but so can we!” Palkia replied cheerfully. “See you on the battlefield!” He waved as the hatch began to close.

“Wait!” Remi shouted.

“Hmm?” Palkia clicked something, halting the hatch’s close.

“Can… I want to see Dad.”

To this, Palkia said nothing. His expression was inscrutable. Usually, he was cheerful or at least had a quip or two, nonsensical as it was. But this time his expression was like stone. The silence ate at her.

“It isn’t your father anymore, you know,” he said. “I’m afraid the damage to his mind was too much. I’ve had to repair him another way until he can heal.”

The cold chill was back. Part of Remi wanted to believe she’d misheard him. But Palkia was not one to lie or avoid the subject. He meant what he meant. Dad’s mind had been shattered. No… erased.

“It will take centuries,” Palkia said. “I’m afraid by then you’ll be a different person entirely if you’re alive at all. Him as your father figure is… no longer an option. And perhaps it never will be. You will accept this, yes?”

“How can… I accept that?” Remi asked. She didn’t think about the words, only said them from the front of her mind. But afterward, she had nothing more to say.

Even Mom was tense when she nodded. “I still recommend you give part of yourself to Necrozma. Drastic as his actions are, you can’t deny the utility behind being guarded by a being of Radiance.”

“True, true…” Palkia wobbled his head left and right. “Hmm. Well, in all honesty, we already handled the process with the Trio of Mind and some others, so it’s worked well enough as it stands. I was about to start the process with myself and Jirachi, but, ah, well. I’ll tell him.”

“How much of their spirits?” Mom asked.

“Half, of course.”

Remi sighed, disappointed. She thought Palkia was a genius.

“…Don’t be late. And be careful with distorting space. Something about the world’s fabric is fragile.”

“I’ve noticed,” Palkia said with a hint of weight behind his words. “I understand. Do be careful in the battle, Lunala. We will be there shortly.”

“Remi,” Mom said, “if you truly want to see your father… go with Palkia. I will be at the battle. Do not linger.”

It was an odd move. Remi wondered… if this was just Mom trying to keep her daughter from heading into battle. But she had the same sort of blessing! She could do it!

But… she also wanted to see Dad. Just for… closure, maybe. Or something.

“Okay,” she conceded.

Remi followed Palkia into the hatch and Mom flew away. Remi wondered, forebodingly, if she’d see her again.

No! That was a silly thought.

It was all going to be okay.


She had no idea such an elaborate labyrinth could be made underground. She’d already made, like, five turns, and every single turn was after such a long stretch of featureless walls and metal doors.

“All this for an underground lab? Kinda overkill, don’t you think?” Remi asked, her words and steps echoing through the windowless halls.

“Ah, well, so many projects, so many things. And this is also where your father is regularly revived, as you recall. Well, the new location.”

“…Because the old one exploded.”



“Hmm, I can’t quite remember. I’m sure it was after I accidentally became a Dwebble, but before I created that powerful Jigglypuff…”

“Wait, you what?”

“Ah! Nothing to worry about.”

They approached a wall that had the number “1” on it.

“Ten,” Palkia said.

The number changed accordingly. Remi frowned. “What, uh, what’s that for?” she asked.

“We’re on the tenth floor now.”


She whirled around. It was subtle, but some of the doors were in different spots…

“That’s kinda trippy,” Remi murmured. “I didn’t even feel the Teleport…”

“It’s not a Teleport in the psychic sense. It’s a warping of space. Put my divine powers there some time ago. Why, even if I’m killed this should still function! Well, probably. I haven’t been able to test that.”

“Right… Is more of this place the same way?”

“Somewhat. We have some anti-escape warping technology as well, some tricks to make it bigger on the inside…” he shrugged.

“Why do you need all this space?” Remi asked as they resumed their walk.

“Consider it future-proofing,” Palkia said. “Eventually I may need all of it. And, well, as the god of space, it’d be quite blasphemous if I didn’t make a lot for myself, hm?”

“Er, right…” Remi’s mind wandered as the similar sights of the labyrinth bored her. “…Where’s dad?” she said.

“He’s on this floor. Just a few more turns,” Palkia answered. “But I’d like to remind you, he won’t be as you recall. It’s going to be a long healing process for him, Remi. But we will do everything I can.”

Someone else was walking down the halls. The air was charged with conflicting energies like Remi was simultaneously being energized and then drained. She recognized this feeling. “Yveltal and Xerneas are here, too? But why’s it feel so strong…?”

One more turn gave her the answer. The two gods, one of life and one of death, walked side by side with fierce expressions. Remi pressed against the side of the wall to allow them past.

“He, uh, hey?” Remi greeted.

“…Hello, Remi,” Yveltal greeted, her usual, gentle tone missing. “Sorry, we’re in a bit of a hurry.”

“Be careful if you’re joining. Things are dire and not a place for mortals,” Xerneas added.

They didn’t so much as look at Palkia. “Ah, see Necrozma!” Palkia called. “He needed to give you a boon.”

They didn’t acknowledge him.

“…I’m sure they heard,” Palkia concluded.

“What’s up with them?” Remi murmured.

“Oh? Likely they do not approve of my blasphemous treatment of life and death. They were already iffy on the Reincarnation Machine, but I suspect what I did regarding my other research has put them in… a differing opinion, yes.” He nodded. “Either that or it was something Jirachi said. Hm. Well, regardless, let’s go down the hall.”

Just then, something caught Remi’s attention in the corner of her eye. She whirled around, on guard, but then saw Mesprit yelp and dash around the corner.

She rolled her eyes. “Mesprit!”

“Ah! Um, he-hello, Remi…”

“What’re you doing hiding from me? Is it because you betrayed my dad and erased his mind forever?”

“N-not forever! Promise! We’re… working on fixing him, just, you know, Dark War and all that, and, um—”

“Good!” Remi offered Mesprit a toothy grin. “I’d replace him if you didn’t fix your mistake.”

She kept her happy tone. But she was positive the master of emotion would sense the genuine fury she’d unleash otherwise. She wasn’t strong, but she was also the Wishkeeper’s daughter.

She’d find a way.

“R-right… okay…”

Palkia chuckled. “Remi, he’s right this way.”

That felt good. Just a little. But now, without giving Mesprit another glance, she followed Palkia down the hall again.

“Um, sorry,” Mesprit said meekly.

Remi didn’t respond.

One more turn. Finally, something different. It seemed to be a huge chamber with only a few devices in it, though there were signs of more to be constructed later. They were large, green cylinders with odd computerized devices in the middle, a thousand times more advanced than the stuff they had in town.

Jirachi was there, parrying Ember attacks with simple psychic shields. Remi sped up to go around one of the cylinders that was blocking her view of the attacker.

Her heart leaped and sank, somehow at the same time.

It was a Charmander, smiling, happy, young, and blasting fire at Jirachi in a playful spar. The little star Pokémon had a sad smile as he humored the small Charmander, and when that Charmander turned his back to flee, Remi saw the telltale mark of Necrozma on his back.

That… was what he’d been reduced to. Not only that, but he wasn’t even speaking. All he did was produce feral chitters and growls.

Palkia placed a hand on Remi’s shoulder. The Sceptile flinched but then took a long, slow breath. Held it. And then let it slowly out.

“So,” she said, “that’s him, huh?”

“Oh… er… yeah. It is,” Jirachi replied.

Dad perked up and scampered to the newcomer. He growled playfully.

Remi regretted coming here. She didn’t want this to be how she remembered Dad. But… she also knew it’d be even worse if she didn’t come. Right?

Dad always said knowledge was better than ignorance. So, this was better, too. It had to be.

“Hey,” Remi greeted. “My name’s Remi.”

Dad tilted his head, looking at her in wonder. He hissed affectionately and raised his arms. Did he want to be picked up?

She humored him automatically, reaching down. With deft movements, he leaped for her arm and scaled up to her shoulders, then jumped down and grabbed one of the seed pods on her back.

“Wh—hey! I need those!” Remi said, trying to reach back for him. Thankfully, they were still firmly attached, so he only dangled there, giggling.

“C-c’mon, Owen!” Jirachi floated to Remi and helped pick him off. “A-as you can see, Remi, he’s… We’re… helping. I didn’t want this, either. Palkia gave him a, er, a new brain? A whole new body. That should counteract the Trio’s erasure… but it’ll also take away… you know. Everything from before.”

Remi’s throat was tight, but she nodded. But that also meant Dad was gone. She was just playing with a kid right now. A hatchling, even.

“But,” Jirachi said quickly, “the spirit… remembers everything. Necrozma, Barky, and Star all told me the same thing. Deep down is the father you know, and… and the partner I knew. The spirit just… needs time to speak to this new brain. I think that’s how they said it. I don’t know how long that’ll be… it’s usually not possible… but, well, divine power will help. And we’ve got tons of that!”

“Not much to spare, though,” Palkia said. “Unfortunately, our priority right now is stopping whoever took over Owen’s place in the power vacuum. Perhaps it was the dark entity itself, which might have misled Owen all this time.”

“No,” Remi said quickly. “It wasn’t that. It couldn’t be. Dad’s way too perceptive to be misled that way, you know? It had to have been someone else who… took over when he was taken out suddenly. Maybe we’d know who to suspect if Dad was around but…”

Jirachi winced. “Sorry, I… had no idea,” he said.

Remi sighed harshly but nodded. “I know. You cared about him. But… those three were his friends, too. His team, even! And then…”

“We can discuss that later,” Palkia said. “On a practical level, we have a battle to fight. And Lunala recommended we see Necrozma, Jirachi.”


“Necrozma has a more… Radiant version of our soul splitter. It will help resist whatever dark powers come our way.”

“Oh! Well, we sorta already did it for Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf, but…”

“Not a third, either, huh?” Remi said.

“You know, I was thinking about maybe just a third,” Jirachi said.

“I know, right?!” Remi said.

Dad trilled approvingly. He likely had no idea what they were saying.

“Well, anyway, er, sure. We’ll do that.”

“Don’t wait! I’m gonna go on ahead to the battle area. Hopefully. Tree is close to here, so I think I can just sprint the way there.”

“That’s quite a trip,” Palkia hummed. “You may be underestimating the time required on foot. And the battle may change stages from the Tree by the time you arrive.”

“I can Teleport you there,” Jirachi offered.

Remi held up her hands. “Oh, uh, Teleportation is kinda wonky right now, Necrozma said.”

“Oh. Well, if that’s the case… I know. Make a wish for super speed for a little while. That’s an easy wish!”

“You won’t need that power for the fight?”

“I’ll have my stamina back by the time I get to Necrozma,” Jirachi assured.

“Okay. Well… I wish that I could get to the Tree of Life as fast as possible!”

The left tag on Jirachi’s head lit up with runes and letterings as Remi spoke. His whole body glowed, and the great eye in the center of his body opened.

“And bigger seed pods!”

And a few extra runes were added before a beam shot toward Remi. She felt light as air, nimble enough to go across the whole world in less than an hour.

“Fascinating,” Palkia said. “They grew in diameter by two inches.”

“Aw yeah.” Remi pumped her fist in the air. Jirachi, after the great eye closed, stared at her with a disappointed frown.

“I don’t have a lot of spare power, you know,” he said.

“E-eheh, aw, c’mon, bigger pods isn’t that hard, is it?” Remi asked.

“…It’s not,” Jirachi relented. “I’m gonna see Necrozma now. Go before that speed wears off.”

“Oh! Right! Okay, see you!”

And thankfully, the wish also gave Remi better reflexes as she ran back down the hall in seconds.

She heard Dad happily chitter a goodbye.

That would be her fight. The way to get him back. All she had to do was save the world and Dad would be able to heal.

No biggie, right?


(Continued in next post)​


Dragon Enthusiast
This was a much larger biggie than she’d thought.

The Tree of Life was on fire. The flames were not the typical orange colors of a forest fire but a deep, billowing black, even before the smoke. Something great and purple was wrapped around the Tree and at first, she thought it was destroying it, but then she watched as it put out the flames and seemed to consume the corrupt energy entirely. She had no idea what it was supposed to be.

Her speed boost from Jirachi was already halfway worn off, but she was getting close to the fray. Mom was shooting at something in the forest and she seemed to have a good lock on it, but it was something in the sky that had Remi worried.

That outline… just behind the dark clouds, something was flying.


She’d recognize that silhouette anywhere. That was Lugia—Emily!

She was sort of a distant aunt to Remi. Friends with Dad and one of those blessed by Necrozma’s Radiance due to her abundant kindness. If there was anyone who could use their strength to topple this darkness and negative aura, it’d be her.

All that optimism melted the moment the clouds parted to an Aeroblast tinged with shadows. Black whirlwinds split the darkness of the sky only to replace it with a maelstrom of cutting gales. Even where she was, at least a mile away, the rubble that the wind picked up left cuts along her scales. She dove behind a tree to avoid the rest.

When the wind settled, she dared to peek out again.

Emily’s beautiful scales had become a deep purple. When she spread her wings, little whips of darkness followed rather than gusts of natural wind.

Emily was corrupted. That same darkness had taken her. Now she was some kind of… Shadow-Lugia.

Then came Mom, still in her Lunala form, firing from even higher in the sky. A beam of spectral, lunar energy—purple and white and radiant—slammed into Emily from above, sending her into the trees below.

A cloud of dust occupied the space she’d landed… and another Shadow Aeroblast carved a hole through the dust in a shockwave. Stray whips of darkness slashed whole trees in two and Mom weaved out of the way.

She was close! And she had just enough speed that she could probably get to Lugia. She wasn’t strong, but she was evasive and she’d make for a good distraction.

Jirachi’s speed boost was fading rapidly, but she didn’t need its full power anymore. Lugia was in her sights only a few bounds away.

“Hey!” Remi shouted.

Emily didn’t even hesitate. She turned her head and blasted Remi; she leaped to the side and dodged it, but the stray whips cut up her left leg. She winced and stumbled behind a tree, hoping Emily didn’t have a second shot for her.

“Th-that one hurt,” Remi hissed. Her bloody wounds had tinges of darkness to them like she’d been contaminated somehow. What was that?!

It was cold. Colder than a normal wound should’ve felt against the breeze. Her back glowed, absorbing some extra sunlight, and the winds closed… but she could still feel some of the pain.

Did this thing cut her aura, too? Or even deeper? She had to be careful.

Emily was prowling, sniffing the air. She had no idea if she had a good sense of smell, but she wasn’t even talking. This wasn’t Emily, was it? Just some puppet being controlled…

And the force that Dad dealt with didn’t puppet people like that. Or, at least, it didn’t do that to him. So, what was the point? Who was controlling her? If she could figure that out…

A massive beam of energy deafened Remi just as the ground rumbled under her claws. She knelt, using her arms to keep herself from going prone.

She knew that blast. It was Mom’s, just up close. And at full power, not her cute sparring blasts that a little Synthesis patched up.


She faintly heard it. Mom’s voice.

“Get out of here! Go!”

If she had time to talk, she had time to fight back. Maybe it was okay. She’d done her job and she was outclassed. Wordlessly, she ran through the ruined forest, sparing only one glance behind her. Lugia was back on her feet, but her attention was completely locked on Mom in the sky. She had the advantage here. There was a golden light on the horizon.

Necrozma was coming. Oh, thank the skies, they finally had the upper—

Why was it cold?

Her instincts were faster than her conscious mind. She jumped to the left. Even then, she was too slow. A cold beam glued her arm to a tree trunk, freezing it completely. She tried to pull but yelped when the pain forced her to stop.

Two yellow eyes stared at her through the deep darkness of the forest. This wasn’t normal. It was a bright and beautiful afternoon! And yet…

Then came another beam of energy, this one a Dragon Pulse, that smashed through the tree—taking her arm with it.

She wailed as she fell, clutching at the frozen pieces of flesh that were left on her broken shoulder. She caught a glimpse of Kyurem lumbering through the forest, a similar darkness radiating from her body. Even her?! When did that happen?! What was happening in this war?

Had Dad… been holding this kind of darkness back the entire time?

The sky was alight again. Remi channeled another Synthesis. This blast from Kyurem… wasn’t the same dark blast that Emily had made. Already, Synthesis was helping her get that arm back. If she did that repeatedly before the day was up, the wound wouldn’t settle. She could get the arm back.

She could still fight in the meantime. Easy!

Remi collapsed and threw up from the pain, rolling until she was on her side against a tree. She stuck one of her arms into a brighter patch in the forest, absorbing that light to channel another Synthesis. Her arm came back just a little more. She didn’t want to look to know for sure how much, but she couldn’t feel her elbow moving yet. She probably didn’t have one.

More trees fell nearby. Mercifully, the one she was next to didn’t fall.

Lunala had blasted Emily deeper into the forest, just barely where Remi could see it. As Emily got to her feet, a javelin of light pierced her through the chest, pinning her to a tree. That only made the Lugia uproot the tree as she stood up again, roaring in defiance.

But Remi knew it was already too late for her. With confidence, she forced herself into a sitting position just in time to witness Necrozma personally stabbing Lugia with another javelin made from his wings, then pulling from her chest two things. The first seemed to be an orb of indigo light, the same color Remi associated with dragonfire. The other was a Vaporeon, curled up innocently.

“I must make it so you may never harm again,” Necrozma whispered. “I’m sorry it had to come to this, Emily. But you were too close to this darkness to be allowed to be whole.”

Emily fired mindlessly; Necrozma deflected it with ease, and then the light was too much for Remi to see. Emily screamed, and then everything went quiet.

And then it got cold again.

“Move!” Remi cried.

Necrozma grunted and might have moved. The Ice Beam followed. Necrozma hissed, but he was still making noise. He dodged!

With her good arm, she clutched at the tree trunk and pulled, molding the bark until it became a protective dome. Yelling might have given her away.

And for a short while, it seemed like Kyurem was only searching for where Necrozma had gone. The ground shook from distant explosions of other Legends clashing with some other force, meaning even aside from Lugia and Kyurem, whoever was controlling the darkness now had even more forces at his disposal.

Even without Necrozma’s will, it seemed like the world was ending.

That cold, horrible realization crawled through Remi’s mind, and perhaps to anyone else, it would have been enough to curl up and cry and hope it was all over by the time she got up.

But not for her. Dad wanted to save the world. Mom did, too. She still had to do her part—and not just hide.

Something was walking toward the dome. It found her. But that didn’t matter.

She balled up her claws and conjured a wad of spectral energy, pasting it against the tree. She fell into it, reappearing behind the tree. Then, she dug underground and let the earth seal itself. Even with one arm, she could burrow with ease.

Every few seconds there was another tremor, another blast, as the whole world cried out in pain. Even if the war was won, Remi wondered if not having a child had been a blessing. They would not grow up in a prosperous world. It would be generations before they would recover from any of it.

Those dark thoughts were all that accompanied her as she dug through more soil. Finally, she surfaced with a gasp for air…

Only to see that Emily wasn’t done. They were clashing in the sky. Mom and Necrozma together were only barely fending her off; Emily’s body, meanwhile, looked like it was melting. She was halfway charged with an attack that was stronger than all the others, creating shockwaves just from its charge. Loose earth around Remi lifted into the sky.

And then she fired. Necrozma and Mom did the same. Emily’s strike missed—and it also missed the Tree of Life, carving a great gash through the ground instead. Remi didn’t know where. That direction reminded Remi of… where Dad was.

Emily missed. She had to have missed.

A coffin of ice surrounded Lunala moments later, but Necrozma had already gone ahead to strike Emily down.

“Mom!” Remi cried. She was too far to do anything. Remi turned instead to the Tree, where that huge wyrm-like creature had spiraled around it protectively. Bright purple energy coursed below deep, dark chitin. As scary as it was, Remi could at least take solace that someone was protecting the Tree.

From this angle, Remi realized that there was a huge hole in the Tree, but it wasn’t an inward one. Something had crawled out of it. Conveniently the same diameter as that monster wrapped around it.

That’s what was in the Tree? Remi said. That… thing? Lives in it?

She slowed down to catch her breath. Her arm stung with intense, dull pain as the Synthesis worked its magic. Still couldn’t feel much, but the healing numbed most of the pain. This was probably the worst wound she’d had in a long time aside from the rockfall incident. And that was her fault anyway.

Just had to keep going. Keep pushing.

How many Legends had already fallen to this corruption? What would happen if any of them were killed? Ideally, they’d go to the third-souls that were left behind in Destiny Tower. Or Barky was already hiding it underground or something to keep the darkness from finding it. Being a gigantic tower in the world was an obvious target.

Necrozma roared in pain. Remi whirled around in time to see a glimmering star of ice plummeting to the ground, followed by Mom speeding ahead to strike something on the ground. Kyurem roared back, but this seemed to be a defeated shriek. Remi laughed. Yes! Kyurem down! And Emily was dispatched, too!

Then came another javelin, this time of a deep black and outlined with purple light. It pierced Mom through the front before she could even turn. The aim was scarily precise. Remi could only stare in paralyzed shock, taking in every detail, when Mom fell into the forest below.

“Mom?” Remi whispered.

Necrozma shot into the sky, the last of his icy prison melting off his scorching, bright body. She could feel his warmth from where she stood practically a quarter mile away.

He looked to where Mom had fallen and let out another cry, this one a shrieking mixture of mourning and fury.

Everything was getting dark and Remi worried she was losing sight from blood loss. But even when she focused, the light didn’t return, except for an orb of light collecting above Necrozma’s body.

She’d never seen that kind of attack before. The energy it was giving off overstimulated her leaves, forcing her to curl up to find shelter.

Too bad most of the trees in the area had already fallen.

And then, Necrozma fired this ball of light that took from the world the rest of its light, if only temporarily. It hurtled into the ground toward something that sent a beam of darkness directly at it. At first, it was small and feeble, unable to fend off the light, but then its diameter doubled, then doubled again, and suddenly it was getting pushed back.

Necrozma was losing?

Remi thought about her options. Run? Probably safer? Fight? Distract? She’d die.


She had none of Jirachi’s speed left, but she wished to the skies anyway to grant her strength. A quarter mile was only a short sprint away.

She huffed and puffed with every leap, but she could already see the source of the shadowy blast. Some kind of Pokémon much smaller than Necrozma… looking like they were under a lot of strain. The Pokémon… a Hydreigon? He floated in the middle of a small crater formed by the sheer force he was pumping out with a sustained beam of darkness. Cracks ran along his scales that seeped with dark energy.

Yep, that seemed pretty evil. Why did he seem familiar?

She didn’t have time to think. Instead, she recalled the last blessing Jirachi had given her.

“Hey, ugly!” Remi called, reaching back with her one good arm to pluck off an oversized seed pod. She infused it with some light energy, feeble as it was. “Catch!”

Remi hurled it at Hydreigon, who didn’t pay her any mind.

And then it exploded in a flashbang of power. The blast was disrupted for only a second, and that was all Necrozma needed to completely overpower Hydreigon. There was alarm, fury, and then a horrible glare aimed at Remi.

She only smiled. Mission accomplished.

Everything went white; her body burned in the intense energy of Necrozma’s final attack. She was ready to accept that, too exhausted to do more. She had a hint of regret, wondering if she could have run afterward, had she any energy left. Maybe she could try just a little more.

She could fight a little longer, right?

Something grabbed her good arm.


She saw a dark tendril with several eyes staring at her. She tried to scream and it pulled her before she could, dragging her away, away, away from the blast zone.

By the time it impacted the earth, she was far from the core of the blast, but the shockwave shook her body like a ragdoll despite whatever was pulling her. Several bones broke against the ground and the tendril let her go, instead catching her in some dark cushion made of a substance she couldn’t recognize. Soft. Cold. And… Those were more eyes.

“Gross,” she wheezed, the last of her strength channeled into disgust.

She couldn’t hear well. Sight, though, was returning with the sky’s light.

Above her was the Tree of Life. Crawling around it was a corrupted entity, that reddish-purple wyrm, which had five triangular heads. It was a lot darker now. Eyes covered parts of its body, each one a different shape and size. Several stared at her and Remi heard whispers. By some instinct, she knew it was coming from the eyes. They sounded concerned, asking if she was okay.

“Not really,” Remi answered weakly.

Shadowy creatures surrounded her. The smallest hint of healing energy radiated off them, soothing her wounds.

“Aw… ugly-cute,” she complimented.

This pleased the blobs, who jiggled happily.

“Who… are you?” Remi asked.

The blobs looked at one another, then at the great entity above them.

When it spoke, it didn’t talk with words. It was like it resonated with her very aura; she knew what it was saying, but had no idea how.

I woke up here after traveling through space… I knew nothing, and then I heard everything for a long time. Now… I’m everyone.

“Oh, okay,” Remi said, convinced this was a dream.

Something evil twisted how I looked… but I resisted it. The people that I learned from would not want to fall under it, so I didn’t. They always fight to survive.

“So, you… look evil, but aren’t?” Remi said.

I suppose so. Please, rest. We will all help you survive. You saved this world. I heard it in your spirit. You have a strong will.

“Aw, you’re gonna make me blush,” Remi said. “Some Pokémon do that, you know… Dad didn’t, for some reason…”

Did the creature laugh? Remi didn’t hear it. In a way, it looked… sad, now.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

I’m sorry about your father.

“Oh…” Oh, he literally meant everyone. That meant… “Yeah…”

I wish I could help. But the gods are… above me. I cannot.

“Someone like you, protecting this Tree?” Remi said, tilting her head. “You should be on the top if you want my opinion …”

Now, Remi knew how it laughed. A gentle yet all-encompassing rumble that put her at ease instantly. She closed her eyes, her heart rate steadying.

I appreciate it, he said.

Remi was about to speak again when a blast of darkness erupted from the crater, catching a weakly flying Necrozma’s attention. Necrozma spun around and parried a full-body tackle from a frenzied Hydreigon, bleeding tar-colored blood.

“How—” Remi whimpered.

The dark creatures around Remi closed in protectively, dragging her near the Tree.

Remi wanted to fight. She had to fight. But… her body didn’t respond. She simply couldn’t, even as Necrozma and that Hydreigon wrestled in the skies, stray blasts carving the earth. A few struck the Tree, making all the cute blobs tremble in pain.

“Can’t you do… something?” Remi begged. “Help Necrozma!”


The Hydreigon was winning. Where Necrozma had strength, Hydreigon had fury. Barky and Star weren’t around. Were they occupied in another part of the fight? How many were still attacking? How much of the world was in ruins?

I’ll do what I can. But I can only do this… once before it gets dangerous. Will you… lend me a piece of your spirit as a conduit?

“Yes,” Remi said, holding her hand out like that was part of the gesture.

Instead, the entity brought one of its heads down and opened it, revealing a sharp, pink ‘tongue’ needle.

Remi suddenly regretted her answer. “What’s that going to—”

It fired a beam of red energy into her chest. She screamed, but it was in surprise. There was no pain. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes to see the beam drilling into her chest, making her feel tingly and hollow. She felt like she was bloodletting, life coldly leaving her body. For a moment, she thought she was seeing double—part of her rising into the sky, and another part of her still stuck on the ground.

And then it stopped, with her still on the ground, too exhausted to do anything else.


And then it stopped, with her rising into the sky, leaving her body behind.

She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t do anything but watch and listen. In a panic, she tried to speak but had no mouth.

What’s happening? She cried.

I will return you soon, the voice said. Lend me your power. I need someone alive to channel this… and your inherited light. It will pierce through that Hydreigon’s corrupted spirit and seal his powers for good.

Okay. Okay, just… just walk me through that, okay?

But like magic, the instincts were funneled into her. Every subtle pulse of energy she had to make, the rhythm of the dark protector’s energy waves, all of it was perfectly understandable to her. She followed it like a dance.

She focused on Hydreigon, still battling Necrozma in the air. They were moving so fast… would they even have a chance to stop him?

Have faith. Keep your will, and do not doubt. I need you for this.

Okay. Okay, I’ll do that. Sorry, just… kind of new to me here… being a… spirit? Am I a spirit right now?

Mostly. Get ready…

The dance picked up its rhythm. It felt like holding her breath.

Necrozma and Hydreigon were in a deadlock in the sky.

Remi didn’t need the order. She stopped the dance and surged forward, catapulting a single red beam of energy that perfectly struck Hydreigon in the side. It stuck there like a harpoon and the dark protector pulled back.

Hydreigon stiffened, mouths wide with surprise. Necrozma glanced at them for only a fleeting instant before seizing the opportunity. He wrapped his wings around Hydreigon and illuminated himself like a star, spiraling far, far away from the Tree of Life. Over the forest, over the horizon, at speeds incomprehensible to Remi, and then…

An explosion more intense than any before rocked the earth. The shockwave that followed spattered the dark protector against the tree, leaving it seemingly unconscious. With it, Remi’s consciousness faded next, tied to its energy.

Necrozma… did he do it? That explosion left behind a column of light and darkness in a spiral that made holes through the clouds. It must have been halfway across the world for all she knew, but it was tall. Taller than Destiny Tower. The crater it must have left behind could have taken out mountain ranges…

Another scar on Quartz. A reminder of this fight…

She was fading. As everything went dark, her last hope was that she’d wake up to a world repaired…


This was the worst day of Remi’s life. First, she saw her father as a feral Charmander, then she lost her arm, and she was pretty sure her improved seed pods were back to normal, too.

The dark protector of the Tree extracted something from her, leaving her barely conscious in the dirt. Then came a shockwave that knocked her completely out for… it must have been an hour, the way the sun’s position had moved.

It was colder, too. That must have been what woke her up. She groaned and rolled until she was on her front. Everything ached. Her seed pods felt numb from being slept on so harshly. And she was pretty sure her tail was bent in a few odd angles on some of the harder pine needles.

It was still cold. But not in an icy or cool night kind of way. Something else was—

She gasped and struggled to her feet. She only managed it by resting a hand on her knee at the same time.

That shadowy force, or maybe a remnant, was still around.

“Hello?” Remi called. “Where—”

First, the blade went through her back and out her chest. Then came the cold, searing pain.

She couldn’t even scream.

Strange, black creatures were feebly latching onto the Hydreigon that had pierced her back. He shook them off and flew with Remi still stuck to his blade. It was getting cold. Something was pulling her inward.

He survived. Necrozma didn’t kill him. But how? What did this thing do to survive? Was this dark power so much stronger in someone evil, compared to Dad? Or did he use a shield?

He was dripping with dark blood and it almost looked like fire had erupted from his body in places—or was still erupting. Was this horrible creature… still alive? Was it even a Pokémon anymore? She sensed more than just that dark power in him. It was faded, but there was Radiance, too. Mom’s…

Terror and anguish overwhelmed any physical pain. That was how he survived. He used Mom’s power as a shield. At least Necrozma nearly finished things.

It was up to her now. She had no choice but to fight back.

She channeled the last of her power into her fist. A single Radiant Energy Ball. If she could just get away…

Swinging her fist back, she opened her palm but met with strange resistance.

His head crunched onto her hand, tearing it clean off. And she still couldn’t scream. His head curled over her shoulder, bloody teeth exposed from a horrible, victorious, exhausted, evil grin. The last thing she’d see as the world closed around her into a tiny tunnel.

He lunged at her face, and that was all.





Wow, that was itchy.

Remi groaned and rolled onto her front, rubbing her eyes. She scratched at her shoulder, then her chest, feeling a horrible itch that didn’t go away. Had she gotten a rash on her scales somehow? Oh, skies, hopefully, it wasn’t some kind of leaf rot.


Someone was in the other room—and Remi realized she was in a bed, somewhere in an underground cave. She saw the exit just down a tunnel of dirt or clay. How did she…

A Hydreigon drifted into the room, covered in bandages and dripping with dark blood. Terror gripped Remi, but then confusion. Why was she scared?

“Are you okay?” Hydreigon asked sweetly.

“…I was gonna ask you the same thing,” Remi said. “You’re a mess! What happened to you?”

“Oh, no.” Hydreigon frowned with all three heads. “You must have been hurt so badly. I found you in front of the Tree of Life.”

“Oh.” Remi tilted her head. “Sorry, I… don’t remember. But… you seem… familiar.”

Hydreigon nodded. “Your father, Owen,” he said. “I was his second in command. When he was defeated, I took up the mantle and sealed the darkness that had plagued the world. I’m… lying low, now, so the remnants don’t track me down.

“And, unfortunately… an unknown number of Legendary Pokémon were lost to the war, completely. It’s as if the world itself forgot them… I only know because my wounds are teeming with the remnants of their corrupted, divine power.

“You see, during a great clash, I… suffered horrible injuries. It may take several lifetimes to recover from it, and obviously, I don’t have that kind of time. But…” He smiled warmly. “I’m satisfied anyway.”

This Hydreigon… knew Dad? And… and… and who was Mom? Why couldn’t she…

“Mom must have been a Legend, then,” she said. “I can’t… remember her…”

“I’m so sorry, Remi,” Hydreigon said.

“I…” Remi’s claws shook. She sat on her leafy bed, staring at her thighs. She was covered in little blemishes that suggested so many battle wounds. How badly had she fought? “Why am I crying… What’s…”

Hydreigon wrapped his arms around her. She leaned into him, instantly comforted by his touch. She let it out in silent, weeping tremors, and he gently patted her back.

“It’s okay,” Hydreigon said. “I’ll be there for you, alright? Always.”

Always… Something about that comforted her. Like she wanted to always be with him… Yes, she did. That felt ‘right.’

“Thank you,” she said. Even if she couldn’t remember Mom, this Hydreigon was a small comfort. She could feel his kindness.

“My name is Alexander,” he said, staring into her eyes. His were deep and dark, but within that battle-hardened stare, she saw someone that she could trust unconditionally. It was like love at first sight.

“Hi,” Remi replied, scaly brow furrowing. For a fleeting moment, something seemed… off. But when Alexander gently touched her shoulder again, her doubts were erased. No, this was right.

He would protect her.

“Will you be okay?” Alexander asked, still holding her.

Remi’s doubts melted like snow. She smiled, lost in his eyes. “Yeah,” she finally replied. “I’ll be fine… as long as I’m with you.”


No eyes to cry with, no body to tremble with, and yet Remi could only watch as her body was carried away. The Tree of Life was crumbling, the corruption wilting its leaves and depleting what little power it had left. If this kept up, what would it mean for the world?

What now? Remi asked. I… I can’t just be a ball of light forever, can I? What’s he going to do to… other me? Where did… what happened…

I’m sorry. I don’t know. I tried to fend him off but I’m out of power…


He was already gone. Landed somewhere in a faraway part of the forest, well beyond the reach the dark protector could hope to extend toward. There was no telling what happened then. If he was dying, or even stronger, or…

But even worse, Remi felt… faint. Like she was already fading away. I can’t stay like this. I’m… something’s…

You’re being absorbed into the Tree. You’ll… fall asleep. Like spirits Necrozma harvests. Until the world’s end, you will sleep. It… it will be like nothing to you, a good, long rest, I promise. But…

But I can’t! Not when I’m still alive! What then?!

And besides that, the Tree was starting to fall apart. If she fell asleep while inside it, as it crumbled… what then? Were spirits even meant to be within this thing, or was that just what this wyrm sustained?

The Tree is… deteriorating. The corruption is too deep. I’m… sorry.

It occurred to Remi that the wyrm wasn’t speaking to her.

I will save you.


Everything rumbled. The Tree was collapsing into itself, melting, blackening… but the spirits inside didn’t appear at all disturbed. The spirits… those strange dark blobs that were part of the wyrm, must have understood what it was saying.

Low, low, low. The leaves withdrew into the branches, and the blackened bark became part of the wyrm, dissolving. The tree’s base became a crater, a soup of darkness that Remi bobbed in as a loose, evaporating spirit. Even now, the wyrm sank ever deeper, yet she…

I can’t rest, Remi begged. I’m still not even dead! But… but if I go back to her now… and I don’t even know what happened to the part Necrozma split off… Please! Is there any way I can’t… I can still stick around? I need to help. I need to help Dad, and Mom, and… the whole world! It’s not over! This war isn’t over, he’s still out there, please!

This was such a new feeling, desperation without a body. All her feelings felt more pronounced and desperate, with no flesh to squeeze or claws to scrape. It was all pure feeling. Did the wyrm even feel it back?

By sheer will, Remi couldn’t rest. Perhaps most other spirits would have drifted away by now. The dark protector was surprised when Remi stayed there, floating.

You… really won’t rest, he said. And that light in you… maybe you are stronger after all…

I don’t care what it is that keeps me here. But I won’t give up. If you know a way…

To this, he shifted uncomfortably again.

The protector did know. There was a way. Just tell me. I deserve to know, don’t I? What do you have to lose?

More uncomfortable silence, but then it finally relented when Remi’s strength was certainly not giving out.

I can send you back. I can… give you a new life. I can keep giving you life until the time comes when you can help again, somehow. Some way, perhaps… your calling will come back. I don’t know. But if you still want to help the world, even in little ways, until you can rise to action again… you can reincarnate.

Re… reincarnate. As in…

A new life with your small, powerful soul fragment. But… you won’t remember a thing. You won’t be divine, tapping into your old memories of your old life—this life. You’ll just… be another person. I’ll… I’ll try to make it so you’re similar. That maybe little echoes of who you were can… manifest. But that would be all.

And… that’s the only way.

I’m sorry. It is. And even now, I don’t think you can endure the time it would take to get your body back. There is no winning here… I’m sorry.

…But will I recognize Dad? And Mom? Can I still help them?

I… don’t know. Maybe. Normally… no. But that light… maybe it will resonate. Maybe it will call out. But I just don’t know. I don’t know if ‘you’ will ever return, either. Reincarnation is a new life on top of the old. Your new life can easily be more important to ‘you’ than the ‘you’ that you are now.

That went right over her nonexistent head.

But, with patience, the protector elaborated. Your new life isn’t just temporary. It will be all the same to your spirit. You will have to accept that. Your name…


‘Remi’ will be the past. And who you become… all those new lives will layer on top of this one, until you’re awakened again. And when that happens… are you ready to accept that you may not be ‘Remi’ anymore? That you might prefer being that new person? Or even several persons, and not Remi?

…Will I still remember everyone, one day? Can I still help them?

The soul… never forgets. It only seals those memories for a time. But what it does with new memories… might invalidate the old.

Nothing’s gonna make this invalid. Not until it’s all over… I know I won’t abandon what happened to Dad. I’ll protect him! I’ll see him, and I won’t even recognize him, but I’ll take care of him! I… owe that much to him… And then I’ll save Mom, too. I’ll pull her from whatever happened by that Hydreigon, and I’ll make sure he pays, too!

The wyrm rumbled in the expanding pool of darkness. Your will to survive… is incredible, Remi. I’ll do everything I can to help.

But it may be lifetimes. And… you may live most of them, maybe all of them, as different feral creatures.

Yeah, well… I’m called feral a lot anyway since I inherited Dad’s Battleheart. I’ll be fine being one.

Another little chuckle. Then you have nothing to fear. If you’re ready…

I am.

Then… goodbye, Remi. I’ll see you later.

She sank into the dark. She had no eyes, and yet it felt like they were closing. Enveloped in something warm and hard. And then, fleetingly, she tried her hardest, her absolute hardest, to remember her goal. This wasn’t giving up.

This was waiting.

And one day, she and all her other selves would wake up.

Then, she would finally save the world… with her whole family by her side.


I lost my body. I lost my mind. I even lost my past. But even when the world took everything from me, I still had one thing left: a plan. People call me naïve and childish. And sure, maybe I am. But that comes with resilience.

The same resilience that my family had to keep fighting. The resilience that Mom had to survive because I know she did. Somehow, I know she’s out there. The resilience that Dad had to tame that dark power, all to save my home. And now I need to return the favor.

All is not lost. I can still do a little more when the time comes.

My spirit will live on.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 161 – Time Has Passed

“This information,” Granbull Jin said, “was the synthesis of spirits from the one you call ‘Nate,’ and other observations we’ve been able to gather from spirit fragments. Augmented by your accounts, Mhynt, I think we have a much clearer picture of what happened during the Dark War.”

“Mhynt… I’m so sorry,” Demitri said. “That must be awful to learn…”

“I knew,” Mhynt replied. The Treecko turned her head away, feigning nonchalance, but everyone could tell that her mood had dampened. It didn’t take an empath to see it. “All the more reason to put Alexander in the ground… and then some.”

“Nobody disagrees with that,” Jin said. “However, actually pulling that off is another matter.”

Angelo—the bright-eyed Smeargle, and the father of another Angelo the team knew—stood straight and as tall as his short body allowed. “Well! Considering this is the first action we’ve seen in quite some time, perhaps it is about time we mobilized the spirits! We’re already dead, so there’s far less for us to worry about losing! Ha!”

“You can still be pulled into the Voidlands,” Mhynt warned. “And, believe me, that is much worse than being dead and buried.”

“Ahh, no, I perfectly understand! My own father… may have fallen into such a place.” And for a short instant, Angelo’s light had dimmed. But then the smile was back, this time with deeper determination. “All the more reason to liberate the Voidlands.”

Mhynt nodded. “Good attitude. And what of you?” She turned her attention to the Aerodactyl, who also seemed to have a peculiar determination.

“I have… a personal investment in getting rid of these ‘Shadows,’ as you call them,” Brigid said. “I have some experience with commanding armies. Most of the spirits here have become docile and… inactive. They’ll need someone to command them, and I’m one of the few spirits who have not faded to inactivity. They will need someone rousing to get back to their living energy.”

Mhynt nodded. “Any help will do,” she said. “Just be sure they do not fall under Alexander’s forces in return. That is a real risk with his corruption.”

“Do we have any update on his status?” Jin asked.

“We got word from Hecto, actually,” Brigid said.

“Huh? Hecto?” Demitri asked. “He’s here?”

“He’s this place’s guardian,” Brigid said. “…For better or worse, he keeps the spirits on this side and the living on the other side, as a matter of policy.”

Demitri sensed a hint of bitterness in the way she said that, but chose not to prod.

“What did he update us with?” Jin asked.

“Alexander had nearly dissolved in the living world before invading a Guardian’s aura. He used their realm as a means to escape back to somewhere else, presumably the Voidlands to recover. He is likely severely injured.”

“In other words, the perfect time ter strike back!” Gahi declared.

“And,” Jin cautioned, “the exact time when he would be the most fortified, defense-wise.”

“We can’t let this opportunity pass us by,” Mhynt pointed out. “We should send scouts immediately to determine where he is. Even if they’re spotted, it isn’t as if they can raise their defenses more than we already expect.”

“That will do,” Jin said. “If that’s everything… let’s split off for now and regroup tomorrow.”

Almost everyone nodded, but Demitri raised a hand. “Um, how long are days here?”

He glanced worriedly at Mispy, wondering if she already knew, but to his relief, there was a slight surprise in her eyes like she hadn’t considered it either.

“Thankfully, the same as yours,” Jin said, “assuming the sun still operates the same way in our realm. Which it should. Hopefully.”

“Hm.” Mhynt nodded. “Let’s regroup. We have a lot of information to disseminate and the world falling apart a little more each second.”

They had their tasks. They had the first echoes of a plan. And, hopefully, that meant they would have an answer for the greatest crisis the world and afterworld had seen yet.


Humans were such strange creatures. Zena thought the questions would never end. Their little eyes were so wide with wonder whenever she spoke, and yet it didn’t feel like they had been ogling at her as Pokémon would have. They seemed fascinated instead. It was more like they’d never seen a Pokémon like her in the first place.

But she’d asked. They knew a lot about her species. A little disturbing, but these humans had professions dedicated to studying Pokémon. That made sense. Perhaps these humans published books like the editions of Pokémon species that Owen had in his room.

After finally answering enough of their questions, the professor relieved her of answering even more by saying that she probably wanted to see her partner. Thankful, she bid them farewell and slithered into the fields behind the lab. It was easy to guess where Owen had gone since it was split into a lush forest, a gentle lake, and an ashen field. The smell of smoke reminded her just slightly of the natural smell Owen had.

Several Charmander, Charmeleon, and even some Charizard lived there. They all had a feral look to them, but only a few resembled Owen in any meaningful way. Others seemed like they were from a different mother, perhaps. They all stared at her with wonder and wide eyes. Unlike the humans, she was certainly the first of her kind that they’d seen. A few younger Charmander sprinted over to look at their reflection in her scales, chittering to one another in a language she didn’t recognize. Owen would’ve understood.

As she went deeper into the fiery field, two Charizard stood up, looking guarded. The path was open, and yet it felt like she was being restricted from advancing down the natural path that had formed where no grass grew, cleaving the grayish field in two.

Owen had gone this way. She could sense his aura near others. But if she couldn’t go past… then his mother must have been on the other side.

“I’m with… Smallflame,” Zena explained. “Did he mention me?”

The two Charizard—both resembling Owen, yet subtly different—glanced at one another in surprise, then at Zena again. The left Charizard asked something.

“I… I’m sorry, I don’t know what you said,” Zena said. “I’m from a land where Pokémon speak… like humans do.”

It wasn’t entirely the truth, but it was close enough and practical.

They looked guarded, but one growled something at her that sounded like a question. Zena shifted awkwardly in response. How terrible to not know a single word of Owen’s native language…

“Um… grr?”

Whatever she said must have confused or offended them. The left one grunted and said something to the other, who spread his wings once. At first, Zena thought it was a warding gesture, but then he stood aside and turned away.

“Oh, um. Thank you.” Zena nodded, slithering past them both.

Perhaps when she had time later, she would ask Owen for lessons. Surely this was something that could be taught.

The field property of the laboratory was deceptively large. Zena had been slithering for what felt like almost a whole kilo by now—but it was probably less, realistically—by the time she’d spotted Owen’s upward-spiked horns ahead. In front of him was a small clan of Charmander-line Pokémon and a Marowak. The way the others gathered around the Marowak made it easy for Zena to tell this was their father.

Owen’s father… He seemed like a proud Pokémon. Sturdy and unwavering. Perhaps, even after all the changes he’d gone through both in body and mind, some of that was passed on to Owen’s soul.

They were all gathered around the largest, oldest Charizard of them all. Even in Owen’s current size, he seemed dwarfed, if the matriarch thought to stand.

However, Zena had a feeling her time of standing had passed long ago. She was old. Very old. Loose, half-shed scales and a much skinnier body coupled with sluggish movements and—most telling of all—her dim flame meant this Charizard was barely hanging on.

“Owen,” Zena said quietly. “Or, er… Smallflame, correct?”

The Charizard gestured for her to come forward. “Calling me Owen’s fine. I explained some things to Mom and Dad already. I’ll translate for you if you want.”

“Oh, ah, of course.”

Zena turned her attention to the Marowak next. The way he was staring at her behind his natural helmet was intimidating. She was several times his size yet felt so dwarfed.

“This is my dad. He’s called Daichi by the humans, but his native name translates to Earthclub. My Mom’s human name is Amber, and her native name is Scarflame.”

“Scarflame and Earthclub,” Zena repeated. “I’m happy to have met your son, Smallflame.”

Owen translated, and then she heard her name in some of those words. He must have introduced her.

Amber growled something and offered a weak nod to Zena.

Daichi asked Owen something and Owen paused, then shook his head. Daichi bowed his head, thoughtful, and then approached Zena as if sizing her up.

“Hello,” Zena greeted again.

Daichi said nothing, still studying her. Then, he grunted something.

Owen laughed and nodded. “He wants to name you,” he said.

“Oh! A… name of your culture? Of course. That could be useful.”

Daichi’s eyes glimmered even if the rest of his face remained unchanged. He paced around her twice, clearly deep in thought. He used his bone club to support him occasionally, but he stubbornly tried to walk on his own for more than half of the trek.

Looking a little winded, he completed his second lap and grunted something to Owen.

“Brightscale,” Owen concluded. “Makes sense, with the natural glow you have from, er, all that Mystic power.”

They were a very straightforward culture. “Did that mean your flame was abnormally small?” Zena asked.

“A little,” Owen said while avoiding her eyes. “But I was just as healthy. I just… didn’t have a big flame. I was still strong.”

“I see… Flames are important to your line like our scale’s shimmer is to mine. I understand.” She nodded. “Though, why would their parents name you something if you didn’t like that aspect?”

“Dad believed that if a Pokémon had a bad attribute, you’d name them after it to ward away vengeful ancestors.”

Zena blinked. It sounded absurd, but… she had to be respectful. “How do you mean?”

Owen walked over to Daichi and took a seat, offering the earth beside him to Zena. Settled in a semicircle, Zena and Amber on opposite ends, Owen continued to talk.

“He believed that ancestors that were satisfied would rest beneath the earth, but unsatisfied ancestors would jeer and curse their living descendants. But they often meddled with the strongest ones, dragging them down. A bad name was supposed to ward those spirits, who wouldn’t envy someone with a bad name. And since they were already not, uh, not in the best bodily condition, they needed all the help they could get.”

“So, a bad name… was meant to be a good luck charm?” Zena asked.

Owen didn’t exactly have the best luck…

“That’s what Dad believed,” Owen said. “Mom liked straightforward names. Most wild Pokémon do; they don’t think at an extremely high level like we do. I mean, I used to be the same, but I was still smart, you know. But I was… kind of an exception. My whole species is.”

“That isn’t too surprising. Even on Kilo, the feral Charmander line is on the upper levels of intelligence. I don’t think they’re even on the hunting list.”

“Well, that’s more because feral Charmander are critically endangered,” Owen admitted with a nervous titter. “Not a lot of favorable environments for Fire Pokémon on Kilo, so most of those ferals died out and only the intelligent ones are left. Take out Mom—er, Amia’s place, and all you have are the depths of Kilo Mountain and Pyrock… and both of those are very rocky, which we aren’t good with.”

Zena nodded. That made sense. She’d brushed up on some of the ecology books Owen had in his room, but she didn’t read them too thoroughly. Maybe she should…

“And,” Owen rambled on, “now that we know about the whole Quartz Isle thing, I don’t think Charmander were native there in the first place… so the feral lines were probably only a few small species at first.”

“I see…” Zena nodded again. “Goodness. I wouldn’t have expected the starting population of Kilo to be a creation story, but… it is.”

Amber and Daichi seemed confused, so Owen apologized in feral and translated for a few minutes. Zena watched Owen’s flame while he talked. It was much calmer without a hint of a spark. He was relaxed here.

Amber seemed confused and tired, but eventually smiled and said something to Owen that made his flame glow a little brighter. She had a good guess. She was proud of how strong Owen had become, and how smart. Someone of this world to become as smart as the humans that cared for them must have been a legendary or unthinkable feat. They were… not quite feral, not the way Zena knew them. But their mannerisms were familiar, and apparently, these Pokémon were highly intelligent for this world.

How bizarre… to have no intelligent Pokémon otherwise. No “human” intelligence.

But they seemed plenty smart already. That meant something.

Daichi was staring at her. “Oh, ah… yes?” she asked.

Daichi tapped his bone club on the ground, then took on a defensive stance, club forward as if to block an incoming attack.

For the first time, Zena understood the look in his eyes. It was the same look Owen had—a challenge for a spar.

She didn’t feel as strong as she should have been. The spirits within her were so much quieter, almost dormant, in this realm. Her powers were muted. But she was still strong.

And he was… old.

When she hesitated, the Marowak’s tail lashed on the ground, kicking up dirt.

“You should listen,” Owen advised. “He’s, uh, a little stubborn like that. He wants to make sure you’re strong.”

“…Is this a… cultural thing?” Zena asked, hoping she hadn’t offended him.

“It’s a Battleheart thing,” Owen answered.

Zena nodded back and decided that she wouldn’t use her strongest against him. She could channel physical attacks instead; she was worse at those, and he seemed much more oriented toward those kinds of attacks. She slithered into a small battle ring that seemed to be made from countless spars. Charmander and above started gathering with interest to see the battle.

Standing ten feet apart, Daichi tapped his bone club on the ground twice. Something stirred in Zena and she tapped the feathers of her tail on the ground twice in return. That must have been the signal because Daichi dashed forward, closing the gap halfway with only a few short bounds. Then, he swung his arm back and hurled the bone club her way.

She brought her tail up and fanned out her feathers, blocking it. The attack was solid, but it was from a mortal old Pokémon. With a push, she bounced the club away and slammed the ground with the same motion. Water spouts formed where she’d struck; by some instinct, the crowd reeled back while Daichi sidestepped the splash zone.

He reached for his bone club, which answered his call by gravitating back to his hand. He whirled around and swung it again. Zena went for another block, but the hit never came. She ducked on instinct; it barely grazed her horn.

Old meant wise, it seemed. He was sharp. After just one blow, he’d figured out how to outmaneuver her initial defense.

The bone club was coming back for another strike. She thought quickly and spat a small glob of water onto the club, but held her focus on it even as it whipped past her. Zena raised her tail to slam next to Daichi again, creating more water spouts that settled and softened the ground.

Daichi made his move again, reaching for the club. That was when Zena focused on the water she’d left in a layer around the club. It flew to his hand—and then burst in a plume of thick fog. Daichi shouted in surprise—it had also made a small concussive blast—and Zena swung her body ahead, wrapping around him in a tight coil. But not too tight.

He struggled to pull out; he slammed his club onto Zena’s side, but it did nothing. He couldn’t get a purchase nor a good angle to swing. After a few seconds of flailing, he grew tired and huffed, tapping her scales three times.

She released him. Daichi fell to the floor with a grunt, turning his head away.

When he growled at her, she thought she understood his words. ‘You fight kindly.’

“Oh.” Zena nodded. “Thank you. I… didn’t want to hurt you, but I didn’t want to deny you a battle, either.”

Owen perked up. “Zena, you understood him?”

“I… I don’t know,” Zena said. “I thought he said I fought kindly. But it was only a feeling.”

“No, that’s exactly right,” Owen explained, eyes glimmering with wonder. “Pokémon speak with a lot of feeling. A lot of us are born with the language from listening to it in our eggs. That’s… it was lost to Pokémon descended from humans in Kilo, but that’s how it’s supposed to be for us.”

“Oh, how interesting…” And this was more interesting than anything she’d heard before about them, now that she felt it for herself. Maybe lessons wouldn’t be so hard after all…

When Daichi spoke again, Zena got the gist, but not any of the subtleties of his wizened way of speaking. ‘Smallflame is very lucky,’ seemed to be the gist.

“I feel lucky, too,” Zena said. “Er, thank you.”

Daichi’s eyes glimmered the same way Owen’s did. Even if they were only here to visit and gather their bearings, it was nice. She only hoped that Owen would be okay once they left… but he certainly wouldn’t have been able to leave without seeing them one last time. This, she understood. Perhaps if she’d been separated from her parents suddenly in the same way, she would have also been distraught.

At least Star had given her that mercy.

Owen had a concerned look. Zena was about to ask if something was wrong—perhaps she seemed upset on accident for thinking about Star—but then Owen abruptly turned around where he sat.

Amber seemed fine, but Owen was looking right at her. There was a vacant expression that didn’t match Owen’s sudden moves…

And then, Amber seized up, and other Charmander chittered in alarm and called for help, confused at what was going on.

“Zena,” Owen said quickly, descending upon Amber, “call the humans!”


Even as Amber convulsed, Zena made use of her water propulsion to slither even faster to the main building, swimming through the air. The peaceful field had suddenly fallen to panic.


“The worst of it’s over,” said a human doctor. Despite not being a Pokémon, Owen was confident she’d know exactly what to do. Her red hair and Chansey assistant were already looking Amber over. By the time she’d arrived, Amber had already stabilized visually, though his Perceive told him a much graver picture.

Owen overheard some of the others of the clan murmuring to one another. This hadn’t been the first time, and it was becoming more frequent. This had been the worst one yet. It wasn’t any new disease or terrible curse, though. She was just… old. Owen could point out three issues at a simple Perceive-powered glance that would measure Amber’s life in days at most.

Had he taken just a little longer to come here… Or, no, had he simply not been sent at all… she would have died and he’d never have been able to see her.

“Take it easy, alright?” the doctor said to Amber, who replied with a soft grunt. Then, she turned to several of the other humans that had gathered around. Some were in tears, comforted by others.

“How is she?” asked the professor. He was also very old at this point, but lively. Not like Amber. It wasn’t his time yet. Owen’s Perceive was geared to those kinds of checks more than usual.

The doctor sighed sadly and nodded at Chansey, withdrawing her into her Poké Ball. Their work was done.

Zena was startled at first, but when nobody else reacted, she played along. He’d explain later.

“Well,” she said, “it’s… not going to improve, I’m afraid. Amber is an old, old Charizard.”

“She was at her peak only a few years ago,” the professor said. “Ah, but that is how it goes for her kind. Their flames are beautiful during their last years, but then the fuel runs out, and… well.” He bowed his head, adjusting his white lab coat. “Amber… I do hope you’re not too uncomfortable.”

Amber was in pain. Owen knew that. Should he say so to the others? Would Amber not want anyone to know?

Daichi’s knuckles were tense. He held his bone club tightly. While he wasn’t as interested in understanding humans, they were using simpler language, and their feelings were conveyed obviously. It was clear to Owen that Daichi knew what was discussed.

“I’m afraid that she’s already suffering,” the doctor said again, putting Chansey’s Poké Ball gently in her pocket. “And even if she lived for… I want to say a day at most, it will not be any better. It will get worse.”

The professor’s eyes darkened, but he nodded knowingly. “Are you suggesting… we end this early so she does not need to go through that suffering?”

Cold waves ran across Owen’s scales even before the doctor nodded.

The others in the clan were murmuring in confusion with one another, but the older ones—Charmeleon and up—had more solemn expressions. They must have known about this. Perhaps some of them knew of past matriarchs or others who had their suffering cut short.

“What do you mean?” Zena asked quietly.

She’d already talked when the doctor had arrived, so her intelligence wasn’t much of a secret.

The doctor bowed politely to Zena. “When a Pokémon is suffering a great deal, to the point where they may not understand what is going on, or they have no chance of recovery—such as if they’re very old, or very hurt—where not even healing can help them… we help them pass on. I can get the paperwork done quickly and get the solution, and we can help her rest.”

Zena was horrified, but after the initial shock, she appeared to understand, sparing Amber a guilty look.

“I refuse,” growled Amber.

The humans all looked at her. Even though it was feral—Owen had to take a moment to realize this—they seemed to understand what she meant.

“My last son… finally came home,” she replied. “I don’t care… how painful… this last moment will be. I will stay. I will… hear his stories… for as long as I can.”

Guilt and gratitude, all at once, squeezed Owen’s heart. His breath hitched when he tried to sigh, but he nodded and let the others do the talking.

The professor crossed his arms and nodded, firm and decisive. “She may be weak, but her mind is still there. I don’t think she’s ready to go.”

“I understand,” the doctor said with a bow. “I’ll come every day to make sure. But it’s her choice.”

Owen wondered if she’d even have the night.

Someone entered Owen’s Perceive range. It seemed to be another human with several Poké Balls and equipment. He had the aura of someone who was equipped to travel wherever he wanted…

He was holding a Charmander in his arms. Perhaps it was another one who wanted to visit the old matriarch. But why did this Charmander feel so familiar…

“Ah, I’m glad you could make it,” the professor said, smiling sadly. “I—eh? Oh, did your Charizard have a child? Congratulations!”




Mu held her arms to Owen, and she suddenly disappeared in a strange warping of light. A moment later, she reappeared a few feet above Owen, landing perfectly on top of his head.

The professor laughed. “A teleporting Charmander! Now, I’ve seen Arcanine with that technique, but never a Charmander! I’ll need to write that one down.”

Even Amber smiled, tilting her head. “A daughter? Then my granddaughter…”

“Y-yes!” The actual answer would be way too complicated. Maybe if Amber could hear the whole story…

The human in the red cap nodded, wordless yet calm. He seemed relieved to return the Charmander to where she was supposed to be.

“I suppose if he already rescued a pair of talking Pokémon,” the professor said, “he had a good idea where the third one was supposed to be!”

Though, he then brought his hand to his head, looking concerned.

“Where are you from, again? This seems like a serious issue if there are now three of you suddenly landing right here.”

The red-capped human knelt beside Amber. She relaxed in his presence and murmured something in greeting to him.

“We’re… from a land called Kilo,” Owen said. “I think while I’m here, I need to find a way to get back. Because—”

Owen stopped, glancing skyward. He felt the presence of an incoming message from above—telepathy from Barky? He recognized this energy…

I hope you are safe. We will manage here until we find a way to bring you back. Take your time finding your own; we gave you a lot of it. Also please find Mu. I don’t know how she got there.

Well, that answered one question. At least he already got Mu… who somehow came here. Did her ability to warp also cross whole realms? It couldn’t be that strong. Something else was wrong…

“Owen?” Zena asked.

“I heard, uh, a certain friend of ours from the other world sending a message through… very strong telepathy. He said we can try to find our way back and they’re going to try on their end, too. That they hope we’re alright, and that we can take our time because they ‘gave us a lot of it.’ What does that… mean?”

“Hmm… This sounds like a very powerful friend,” the professor said. “Gave you a lot of time. Did they fend something off?”

“I don’t think they would’ve done that very easily…” Owen shook his head. “I’ll… think about it later. But if he’s telling us to relax…”

His eyes trailed over to his mother, but then he glanced at Zena.

“Owen, please,” she said. “Spend time with family. You haven’t seen them in so long. I’ll handle whatever we need to do for now.”

He still felt guilty, but it was what he wanted, too. “Thank you, Zena…”

Red-cap summoned a Charizard from one of the capsules in his bag. They looked at one another and, without a word, seemed to understand what the other was thinking. Red-cap nodded at Charizard, who took a seat next to Amber. Then, the human left as soon as he came, not a single word was said. What a strange one, but… Owen felt a pang of envy at the bond Charizard and his trainer shared.

If he had just been a little luckier, could they have turned out the same way? That bond? If those criminals hadn’t kidnapped the rest of his team… or if they’d rescued them… anything, would he have lived a happy life? Would Kilo, Quartz, or any of that ever happened?

Mu tapped on his forehead while sitting between his horns. “Papa?” she asked.

“When did you learn that word?” Owen asked, reaching up to grab her, but there was only empty air. She was on his shoulder now.

“Why… sad?”

“Oh, Mu…” Zena slithered closer. “Papa is… losing someone special to him. He has to say goodbye, and… well, it’s going to be okay. Right, Owen?”

He paused for a second too long and he knew Zena suspected there was more. But he nodded anyway and said, “Yeah. It’ll… be okay.”

Even Mu looked concerned. The things this little child could see… He still had a lot to learn about her.

But as he turned his head back to Amber, to Daichi, and all the others of his old, old family, what was important to him, now, returned to him.

“Mom?” Owen said. “When you’re ready… I can tell you about where I’ve been.”

Daichi tapped his bone club on the ground. “I want to hear this, too.”

“While you do that,” Zena said, “I’ll give the humans information about how we got here. They might be able to help.”

“Thanks, Zena. I’ll be here.”

It was surprising, but he had Barky to thank for it. The gods, after all they’d taken away from him, gave him this opportunity. This freedom to come and stay home for… He’d have to do the math.

Staring at this field from thousands of years ago, the very beginning of his long, long life… Kanto was no longer his home. He had to return to Kilo, even if he didn’t know how yet. It had to be done.

But for now… he wanted to be with his family.

One last time.