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Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 165 – Leak

Owen had never felt such intense fire from a mortal in his life.

White-hot flames snapped wood in half, superheating the sap within and exploding the whole tree into splinters.

“Zena!” Owen called.

“I’m fine!” Zena popped out of the soil as a puddle of water. She aimed a beam of water at Hardscale. This time, she struck true. A direct hit!

Owen grasped at that watery energy and pointed at him next. From his fingers came a secondary beam of water—not nearly as strong as Zena’s, but it would do as a follow-up against the rival Charizard.

“Down!” Owen called to Zena.

She followed on command, Diving underwater and dodging a Hydro Pump from Blastoise. Was his Perceive cheating? Maybe, but this trainer’s Pokémon were absurdly strong. Yes, Owen was weaker here, but still! He’d completely wiped his other grown siblings back at the lab. Hardscale was on a whole other level.

Zena emerged near one of the trees and blasted Blastoise with Ice Beam instead. The cold air snapped and solidified the grass below, leaving a trail of ice that struck Blastoise’s leg, pinning him to the ground. It wasn’t effective, but they were naturally trying to fight against their matchups for an even playing field.

Owen took a deep breath and retaliated with flames at Blastoise’s face. He considered switching to Grass… but Hardscale’s pressure got in the way of finding a good time to switch. Hardscale was faster, diving in the way. But just as he did, a blinding light forced Owen to rely on his Perceive entirely. Zena dived under the ground again as water, weaving past trails of ice Blastoise had shot into the ground.

Hardscale’s body was changing. Wings lengthened. His body slimmed down. The heat redoubled from the sun’s abrupt brightness. A prismatic shell surrounded Hardscale’s body, rainbow flames leaking through the cracks of the brief egg that had appeared.

It shattered, revealing a Charizard Owen had never seen before with a large, third horn jutting out the center of his head and small wing fins on his wrists. An orange marble glimmered on Hardscale’s left wrist—something Owen thought was simply decorative before. But now that he had a closer look… He had something similar in his bag, too!

Hardscale’s body language was frenzied. But with a few simple gestures and a grunt from the red-capped human, he was in total control.

Zena popped up and blasted Blastoise with a potshot Ice Beam, freezing him over completely. Hardscale retaliated with a quick-charge Solar Beam from the sky. Zena looked up—


Owen reached out and formed a Protect—and then attempted an old technique Necrozma had given him. The shield disappeared… and reappeared over Zena, deflecting the beam to form yet another crater.

The spikey-haired human whistled. “Never saw that move before,” he said. In his lap was Mu, watching the spectacle with wide eyes.

The red-capped human also looked surprised. He brought out a Poké Ball and withdrew Blastoise, who could no longer battle.

It had been a two-on-two fight. Now, Owen had the upper hand. What Owen found unreal was that there were technically four other Pokémon this trainer chose not to use in the name of fairness…

“It’s not over yet,” Owen warned. The heat would make Zena’s attacks a lot weaker. The elemental energy in the air dampened her best strikes while strengthening Hardscale’s. But it also strengthened Owen’s.

A shame Solar Beam wouldn’t be of any use here.

Hardscale lunged forward and feinted. Owen saw it coming, easily parrying a jet of compressed air from Hardscale’s right wing. Air Slash… Owen knew what to do with that. “Zena! Put pressure on him from behind me!” Owen called.


Zena slithered back, gaining ground, and kept her distance from Hardscale. He tried to pursue him, but Owen got in his way. Indigo flames rose from the back of Hardscale’s throat. It was going to be aimed at him, the way his eyes trailed despite his head facing Zena.

Zena flinched and covered her face with her tail-fan. Owen put up a golden barrier with one hand while holding the other back. The Dragon Pulse bled over the shield; Owen grasped at the energy and tugged it into a tight blue sphere.

The two humans leaned forward to observe.

Owen slammed his hand into the ground, shoving the sphere into the soil, and then jumped back. He had to keep up the pressure and taunt him forward. Owen caught a lucky break—Hardscale took the bait before the human could command otherwise.

Blue fire—Hardscale’s own, claimed and reflected—exploded from below. A direct hit and Hardscale didn’t expect it.

Owen also didn’t expect Hardscale to power through it anyway.


Zena got a potshot Hydro Pump in from the side. Even that didn’t redirect the frenzied pursuit of Hardscale’s fire. Owen was too slow to put up another shield. In moments, his vision was clouded by dragon fire. A moment later, Owen was on his back, even more blue flames pelting his face and burning up his scales. He roared, euphoric fervor kicking in, and lunged for Hardscale’s throat. He couldn’t gain purchase and Hardscale twirled around and thwacked him with his tail.

Zena came in with another Hydro Pump. While it wasn’t strong, it was enough to knock Hardscale off him. Owen followed up with another Dragon Pulse, blowing Hardscale into a tree. He crumpled to the ground, having no strength left to stand.

A few seconds passed. Owen waited for a second wind to come. When light mist drifted off Hardscale, returning his form to normal, Owen knew the battle was over and collapsed onto his rear.

“Good fight,” he growled.

Hardscale snorted back. Owen caught a competitive smile before his form dissolved into the capsule that stored him away.

The spikey-haired human clapped. “Great job!” he called. “I could tell you were all going full force. You’re a cut above the rest to stand toe to toe against Charizard and Blastoise like that.”

“Thanks,” Owen replied, glancing at Red Cap.

He smiled and brought two fingers to his hat, tilting it and his head forward in an acknowledging nod. He then glanced at the other human.

“Yeah, go ahead and heal them up,” he replied as if Red Cap had said something.

Soon, he departed, and Owen rested his back against a tree. Mu ran to Zena and hugged her, resting in her coils while she recovered next to Owen.

“That… was great. I’m glad Hardscale got to be so strong,” Owen said.

“Hardscale?” the human asked. “How’d you know his name? Don’t think he ever told you…”

“Oh, sorry. That’s his ‘feral name,’ so I don’t think you’d understand it.”

“Feral, huh?” Something about that seemed to bother the human, the way he reacted. “I guess it’s just how Pokémon talk here. But y’know, Red calls him Hardscale, too. Thought it was a nickname.”

Owen nodded but then paused. “Wait, that’s right! I never introduced myself…”

“Ah, don’t worry. He’s kinda like that.” He shrugged. “The name’s Blue, by the way.”

“Oh, I see. Because of your clothing?” Zena asked.

“Ehh, sure.” Blue laughed and shook his head. “Red’s my rival and my best friend. We’ve been all over the place. It all started when he took out Team Rocket and became Champion… riiight after I became Champion. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to fight alongside him—and maybe one day surpass him, heh.”

But as Blue rambled, Owen tensed. That organization…

“Something wrong?” Blue asked.

“Sorry,” Owen said. “A long time ago, I… had a run-in with Team Rocket myself. I used to be with a human trainer when I was a normal Pokémon. And… our team was stolen by them.”

Blue’s expression darkened. A hint of fury. “Really? Stolen, huh? How long ago?”

“It’s been decades now,” Owen said. “We had to run away. We got too involved in their organization. We were in danger in Kanto. So… we just couldn’t reunite.”

“Well,” Blue said, digging into his pocket, “let’s help you with that.”


He pulled out a phone. “It’s an old database at this point, but we’ve got a list of all Pokémon that have ever been stolen by Team Rocket. You know, to try to reunite them with their original trainers. So, if you know your trainer’s identity…”

“I—I do! I mean, I can try…!”

This changed everything. Mu, perhaps sensing Owen’s brightening flame, peered at him and crawled onto his shoulder next. She scaled his cheek and landed belly-down on the top of his head, her chin just above his eyes.

“Alright. Let’s start with a name,” Blue said.

Owen tried to recall everything he could and Blue punched in a few letters in a text box. Technology was amazing—in the palm of his hand, he could look up exactly whose Pokémon might have been lost?

“By the way, uh, your human trainer… He in that other world?”

“Y-yeah.” Owen avoided Zena’s gaze but could Perceive her staring at him. “…He’s… different now. But I think it would give him closure to know that they’re okay, and we’re okay, even if we’ve been apart so long.”

“Nah, I get it. Lots of trainers are like that. You’re not alone.” Blue waited for something to load. “…Well, look at that. We’ve got a match.” He faced the screen at Owen.

The memories slammed into Owen’s heart. Duos, now a Pidgeot, was under the care of someone… just one town over. Trident, now a mighty Nidoking, was cared for in a whole other region. And the rest of Tim’s team, too. All… fine, but elsewhere.

“I’m gonna get Red,” Blue said, standing up. “Looks like we’ve got someone only a short flight away.”

He tossed a Poké Ball into the air, revealing another Pidgeot. Owen suppressed a pang of guilt.

“Meet us in town!” he called, hopping onto Pidgeot’s back

And as he flew away, Zena slithered up to Owen and transferred Mu from his shoulder to her head.

“Will you be okay?” she asked gently.

Owen nodded. “Yeah. In fact… maybe I need this.”


Adrenaline and anxiety still ran through everyone’s systems in the ruined upper floors of Destiny Tower. Diyem could feel it all, like how Star was resting against Hecto’s titanic, full-form body’s shoulders. Arceus remained on his side, partially propped up by his golden wheel and some rubble he used as a pillow. Migami looked twitchy and anxious, but perhaps the one thing keeping them from losing their minds completely was the Trio of Mind tending to them with Trina’s expert hypnosis.

Diyem sat down on a larger piece of rubble, elbows on his thighs, and sighed.

When he exhaled, black smoke thickly pooled on the ground from his mouth. And little by little, that calm exhale became panicked, gasping coughs. The pool of darkness congealed as Angelo collapsed into a shivering heap.

“N-never… a-again…” Angelo whimpered. “I can’t believe I did all of that. I could have died! I could have died from the wrath of God Himself!”

“Yeah, gonna be honest, Angelo, no way you had the mettle to do that without Diyem helping ya.” Zoroark hopped over to the trembling Smeargle and patted him on the back. “Good job, though! You were a nice vessel!”

“Who… who are you?” Angelo wheezed.

“I’m—” She paused. “Er… huh. Three and a half names popped up… couldn’t decide which one to say.”

“…And a half?”

Zoroark nodded. “I’m… Amelia, Enet, and Spice. And before that, I was Remi, but that one’s more… distant. So, half.”

“Wonderful. I have to deal with you again.”

Diyem’s form slowly rose from the dark mass, taking on the shape of a diminutive Charmander with a black flame.

“I don’t think Remi ever met you in person before,” Zoroark said. “Just… you know, secondhand.”

Mhynt, a Treecko, crossed her arms. “And despite knowing me secondhand you’re speaking about yourself in third person.” She paced toward Zoroark nervously. “Are you… Remi?”

“I am,” she replied. “But, uh… I mean…” There was a flash of realization in her eyes. “Oh, that’s right. You’re my original mom, right?”

Mhynt flinched.

Diyem felt a spike of negativity from her. Betrayal? No, not quite betrayal. But it was a sudden and deep sadness. When Mhynt’s eyes trailed to Diyem, that feeling disappeared. Masked. How clever; she knew how to hide her aura.

“I am,” Mhynt said. “To Remi. You… remember being Remi?”

She nodded and then looked at her paws. “…Huh. Hang on.” She twirled and closed her eyes. A wave of light enveloped Zoroark, and suddenly…

There was another flash of negativity, and Diyem recognized it more clearly this time—desperate longing.

Standing before them was a Sceptile with no particularly outstanding features beyond the slight glow her body gave off. She smiled and stood tall. “How’s it look? Just like you remember, right? Just an Illusion, sure, but…”

“Hmph. If you’re part Void Shadow, you could probably make that illusion the real thing,” Diyem finally said after forming enough of his body to talk properly. Charmander… why always Charmander when at his weakest? Owen truly was the gift that kept on giving.

“Oh, can I?” Sceptile asked. “…Oh! Anyway, uh…” She nodded at Mhynt. “This is who I used to be. But… I’ve lived a lot of lives since then. So, you know… times change.”

“…Right. Of course.” Mhynt nodded. “I’ve… also changed, I’m sure.”

“Yeah, no kidding. You’re tiny!”

“No, that’s not—”

“I know, I know.” Sceptile nodded. “…I know. It’s okay.”

Barky groaned, finally waking up. Sceptile dropped her illusion and became a spectral Zoroark again. “Talk later?” she asked Mhynt, who nodded.

“Are you sane?” Diyem asked, carefully approaching Barky.

Angelo was already trembling in the corner of the rubble, hiding behind Hecto’s titanic legs.

Diyem knew the answer. He could no longer sense any deep darkness within Barky.

“Why… was I like that?” Barky whispered.

“A shadow tried to consume you from the inside,” Diyem said. “But it was recent… and not complete. We were able to dispel it without taking dramatic measures. But it also seems like much of your power was stolen, too.”

Angelo sputtered, pointing at the five stories of rubble above them. “THAT wasn’t dramatic?!”

“Well, we’ve got…” Zoroark squinted. “…Ninety-five or so floors more, so we could’ve done more.”

“Ninety-four. We went through five floors and Destiny Tower has ninety-nine,” Diyem said.

He saw a flash of Enet’s hatred of numbers in Zoroark’s eyes.

Barky rested his head on the pure marble floor. “It happened so easily… me, the Alpha, the protector of Kilo, the—”

“Darkness consumes everything,” Diyem said coldly, the black flame on his tail crackling. “Even gods. Do not dwell on this fundamental aspect of the world you created. Let’s figure out how it happened.” Diyem approached, leaning forward with his hands behind his back.

“Figure out…” Barky grumbled and turned his head away. Then he stiffened and said, “Where is Ghrelle? I attacked… I attacked Ghrelle…”

“She was here?” Diyem said. “Hmm…”

“Do you think it was her?” Zoroark asked.

“It’s a possibility. Who else was in contact with you today?”

“Madeline, with Giratina, reporting in…”

Diyem shook his head. “Unlikely, I’ve already handled the darkness in her.”


“He’s terrible for other reasons.”


“We took care of his darkness; that one’s my fault.” Diyem nodded. “And Star, I presume.”

“And can’t be me!” Star said quickly. “You, uh, you can sense that in me, and stuff, right? I’ve… been trying to lay low and relax. I can’t stand Shadow stuff anymore…”

“Mm.” Diyem nodded. “Dialga’s Shadows were also agitated while we were speaking to him and you went on ahead… Spice.” Diyem just guessed. “I can’t be sure if that was a coincidence or an activation from someone else—another of my fragments. Signs point to Ghrelle… Where did she go?”

“I thought she was tricking me. I attacked her with a Judgment… sent her off the Tower, and—Gravity sent her downward. Gods, how could I have…”

“I didn’t arrive in time to see it,” Mhynt said. “Gahi?”

Migami was still fused, arms crossed and tendrils writhing. They were deeply concentrating. “I can’t remember,” they said. “Don’t think I saw Ghrelle’s aura… but I haven’t seen her aura a whole lot. She’s usually off in her swamp. Which is creepy, by the way, all the melting and stuff we heard…”

Diyem hummed again, arms crossed. Yes. This added up. But he just needed to know…

“Is Ghrelle Kyurem or Zekrom?”

“What do you mean?” Zoroark asked.

“We know that Brandon is Reshiram. We also know that the Trinity made up the components of the Divine Dragon. Therefore, Aramé and Ghrelle were the other two components. Their ability to fuse is based on an old legend in the human world, and three auras fusing into one being was supposed to rise near the upper gods. That is why Nevren attempted to invent a four-way fusion to surpass the gods before the instability forced them to separate.”

Barky sighed. “It’s… foggy. But… considering the way they behave, I could only assume that Aramé was Kyurem and Ghrelle was Zekrom.”

“…No. I don’t believe that’s the case,” Diyem said. “And the fact that you aren’t sure means those memories, despite everything, are still sealed and obscured. Could there be a more powerful, rogue piece than I’d expected?”

“Oh!” Zoroark nodded. “I remember. Back when I was… still Remi, I was attacked by Kyurem, but Zekrom wasn’t anywhere.”

“Zekrom was captured, but not corrupted in the same way Kyurem was. Zekrom is likely a Void Titan to be freed by Brandon’s group today. Kyurem, however… Describe Ghrelle to me.”

“Ghrelle?” Barky said. “She… sings in worship. She only allows those of pure heart to enter her domain. Anyone with impurities in their heart would be killed. She’s crafted her domain so masterfully that it’s a great defense for any Hunter, for one…”

“And her appearance?”

“Usually, an Altaria. At her strongest, she would use her Poison powers and liquefy, becoming—”

“She’s Kyurem.”


“Poison isn’t evil, you know,” Zoroark said, arms crossed.

“No. The liquefying. The malleable form. That, combined with her abnormally strong domain, and her appearance here, is enough for me to be confident that not only is Ghrelle alive, but she likely coordinated your retaliation so we’d never see her by the time you went berserk. A carefully crafted plan that could have pointed us at Aramé instead, or just you… had it not been for my existence. A variable another fragment of mine could not have predicted.”

“…So, what’s liquefying have to do with that?” Zoroark asked again.

Diyem held up a hand and let it darken and soften like wet clay. “Anam, Emily. Two people who have more Shadow than Radiance in them. At greater concentrations, Divine Shadows cause your body to take on Void-like properties—in other words, you melt.”

“Oh.” Zoroark hummed. “What’s that mean for Owen? Or… you?” She looked at Mhynt.

Diyem thought about it and then nodded. “Mhynt was infused with Radiance first as a primary blessing, directly from Necrozma. Then she was corrupted by Alexander, a secondary source. While it snuffed out her light, it wasn’t enough to overpower that primary-source blessing in her core.”

“Ugh, primary, secondary…” Zoroark rubbed her head. “Okay. So Anam and Emily were in direct contact with you. But didn’t Emily also take on Necrozma’s blessing?”

“Yes… I suppose by that logic, we’ve seen what happens if someone took both blessings directly and then rejected one down the line. The Shadows dominated Emily. With Necrozma banished, the light faded more… though she kept her size.”

“Owen never liquefied,” Zoroark pointed out. She migrated to Star and Hecto, leaning against the latter’s leg before sliding down into a squatting position, looking pensive.

“Owen may have fought against Necrozma, but I do not think he ever lost his light. He was trying to save everyone. When it comes to compatibility with divine power, that’s meaningful. Divine power operates on a level that transcends the fabric of reality; it allows your will to manipulate the world around you on a scale far greater than a mortal, powerful Pokémon. Therefore, if it bends to your will, then a weak will, or a conflicted will, dampens and destabilizes that power.”

“Guess that explains why Barky’s always got the edge on me half the time,” Star mumbled, rubbing her arm. “He’s too stubborn to falter.”

“Except when you get really mad,” Zoroark pointed out to Star. “Then you trump him.”

Migami, finally relaxing, split into their components. Gahi grumbled to himself and rubbed his arms. “Alright, so… what, Spice-Enet over there ain’t that, either?”

“I’m part Amelia, too,” Zoroark mumbled.

“I noticed that your power was… closer,” Diyem said, “but not a perfect match.”

“Well, let’s trace your aura history, huh?” Star said, disappearing and reappearing in Zoroark’s mane. “Amelia… she was somehow born under Klent’s family, right? How’s that story go?”

“Klent adopted me. I was an egg that he found one day, no parents anywhere. Even though he was a Guardian at the time, he wanted to protect me… He did a great job.”

“Do you remember how that happened?” Star asked. “The… Dark War. That’s when you disappeared, I think…”

Zoroark nodded. “Spice was taken by Alexander. That part’s… still a little hazy. I get serious… dread when I try to think back to it, so, um, I don’t… think I want to talk about that yet.”

“That’s alright. I think we have enough pieces there.” Star glanced at Diyem, who nodded. “How about Enet?”

“Oh, I have tons of memories from Enet… and all the other Pokémon she used to be. I don’t know how Nate did it… but I was put through reincarnation a lot, over and over until I’d eventually get drawn to Owen and the others again to help. That was the plan.” She grinned, showing pointy teeth. “Paid off, huh?”

Angelo gawked. “Reincarnated… you… you’re how many lives? How many times did you…”

“It wasn’t that long. I only remember living… I mean, I’d have to think about it. But it was feral, all of them. Really simple lives. In retrospect… not bad. Brutal ways to die, though.”

Angelo winced. “D-don’t elaborate. Please.”

“Well, there’s one thing you have in common with Owen,” Diyem muttered.

Zoroark rolled her eyes. “So, Enet was pretty simple. Aside from taking on the Radiant blessings from the Electric Orb, she didn’t acquire any special powers. Spice obviously had Shadows going on—”

“From Alexander,” Star said. “So, a secondary blessing. And Amelia… Necrozma must have somehow coordinated for you to have Radiance from there. And you also inherited it, right?”

“You know, how come Alexander doesn’t melt?” Zoroark asked.

“His convictions must be even stronger than the amount of power he took in,” Diyem said. “So strong he does not melt to its negative energy.”

Zoroark stared blankly.

Diyem groaned. “He was evil before taking Shadows. So rather than melt to it, he seized it.”

“Oh. So he’s like. Always been bad?”

“Some Pokémon are not good,” Diyem said plainly. “I won’t be poetic about the whys and hows. Alexander is evil, and he took and harnessed an evil power. This is why he is the most dangerous foe we must deal with.”

“Wonder what he’s doing,” Zoroark remarked, leaning back and using her mane as a cushion. “Big bad evil guy must be on a coffee break.”

“From what I understand, Owen tossed him into the living world. So, assuming he didn’t evaporate and it was only an echo of his corruption in the broken Porygon, he’s recovering again. Even someone as powerful as Alexander cannot last long in the living realm.”

“Right… Okay, well, back to supernatural science. You melt if you have too much Shadow. What happens if you can’t handle Radiance, then?” Zoroark asked. “Like, do you melt?”

“You explode,” Diyem said. “Violently.”


“Radiance is an excitation factor. Where Shadows tend to pronounce your fears and negative emotions, Radiance tends to pronounce your front-facing emotions. Haywire Radiance leads to explosive personalities as their aura feeds into itself. More and more energy leads to an explosion when it can no longer be contained.”

“So too much Shadows means you melt, and too much Radiance means you explode?” asked Zoroark. “Is it at least a cool explosion?”

“Do not explode.” Diyem glared.

“Hmm.” Trina, still a tiny Snivy sitting atop Gahi’s head, raised a small hand. “I should note, then, that I’m sensing… instability in Zoroark’s aura right now.”

“Oh, come on, why does everyone sense aura?” Zoroark complained. “Isn’t that supposed to be rare and cool?”

“It comes with divinity. Your peers happen to all be divine,” Diyem deadpanned. “Congratulations.”

Zoroark rolled her eyes.

Trina went on, “Perhaps it’s more psychological, but it reminds me of how fused mutants can become frenzied from conflicting thoughts. Her Radiance might be exasperating it.”

“Understandable. She’s still sorting out her three headspaces, yes?” Diyem eyed Zoroark.

“A little… I think I’m excited. I’ll try to stay calm. So… if I’m being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and positive thoughts at the same time, do I make a goopy explosion instead?” Zoroark asked.

“…Sure.” Diyem didn’t want to bother with this battle. “Can we get back on topic?”

“Oh. Right.” Zoroark nodded. “Well… back to me… I guess when you frame it that way, I’m a lot more Radiance than Shadows, even with Spice.”

“That’s why it’s not perfectly balanced for you, either,” Star said, nodding.

“Ugh, whatever!” Zoroark held up her arms. “Why are we talking about balance, anyway?! What’s it matter if I’m a little too Radiant?”

“As it stands,” Diyem said, “we are facing foes that have an abundance of Shadows and Radiance. They are unstable, and they can more or less obliterate anyone with the opposite element. Rhys was very vulnerable to my Shadows because he, as a ‘Mystic,’ was inherently Radiant. Meanwhile, someone like Alexander would utterly dissolve against someone like Necrozma… had he not been corrupted, weakening that pure Radiance.

“The balance is important because it allows you to control your Shadows and Radiance. Remi… or whatever you wish to call yourself… You did that exact thing against Barky.”


“…Please tell me that was intentional.”

“It was intentional.”

Diyem stared at her. Others looked between them. Zoroark didn’t speak.

“And what was intentional?” Diyem tested.

“…Throwing stuff back?” Zoroark said. “I definitely didn’t have the power to beat the guy. But Arceus had the power to beat himself! So…”

“Oh, good. That wasn’t just dumb luck.” Diyem had a feeling she’d conjured that on the spot. But it had to have come from somewhere—perhaps a teaching from Owen or Necrozma in the past. “If you have perfectly balanced blessings of Shadows and Radiance, you can also perfectly control either incoming element. Too much Shadow, and you can be countered by Radiance, and the reverse. But with both in harmony…”

“Ohh!” Zoroark nodded. “All the benefits, none of the weaknesses.”

“And we need every benefit possible with what we’re against. Even I cannot stand up to Necrozma at this point, and none of us can take Alexander when most of our powers are sourced from weak Radiance fragments. Owen may be weak… but he has the one tool available to us that can overcome the tilted scales. Unless…” Diyem sighed through his nose. “We can think of someone else with that same balance to train. But I’m not coming up with anything.”

“Right…” Zoroark brought her claws to her chin. The others also went back to staring at the ground, ruins, walls, to think.

“What about Emily?” Barky asked. “Her disposition is strange, but if we can rescue her from the piece of Dark Matter within her, will she—”

“It will likely be Anam’s case again,” Diyem answered. “Emily did not accept a full blessing. It overtook her. She was not able to handle it the same way Owen can; you can tell because she melts.”

“And melting is when you’re too Shadowy,” Zoroark recalled.

“Divine Shadows, but yes,” Diyem confirmed. “You become half Void Shadow. It taints your spirit and seeps into the rest of your body. If you do not have the mental, spiritual, and physical fortitude to endure this, even during moments of weakness, you erode until you are a shapeless blob that you call ‘wraiths’ in the living world.”

“That’s terrifying,” Angelo said. “A-am I going to melt?”

“You’re fine. I made sure not to turn you into a blob.”

“Now that I think about it, even Anam is a little more blobby than a normal Goodra.”

“It isn’t as bad as before,” Diyem said, “…but yes. The effects are permanent, barring divine intervention.” He eyed Barky. “Seems we’ve had a lot of that lately. But you know what I mean.”

Zoroark sighed and flopped onto her back, using her mane as a cushion. “Then if Emily has too much Shadows, I have too much Radiance, and everyone else is off balance some other way… that means Owen’s the best bet after all, huh?”

“Yes. Mhynt comes close.” Diyem nodded at her. “But her Shadow blessing is secondary from Alexander. You also come close, but for the same reason, it’s not a perfect balance. Owen… is the only person to directly take on a Shadow and Radiant blessing from the primary source. The only person who took blessings directly from myself and Necrozma, and could maintain both positive and negative.”

“Without goosplosions,” Zoroark clarified.

“…I miss Spice,” Diyem murmured.

Zoroark sighed, leaning back and grabbing Star to rub between her ears. “And Owen’s in the middle of this all because he can’t stop helping people.” She let Star go, who floated over to comfort Barky. “Why can’t you give that blessing now, huh?” She eyed Diyem.

“Unfortunately, as I am, I do not have that magnitude of power. Otherwise, we would have had many ‘Owen’-level blessed people to solve this already.”

“Great.” Zoroark huffed, narrowing her eyes in thought.

“Yes. The same person who got us into this mess is the only person who can take us out the most effectively. And… I cannot sense him in this realm anymore.”

“He’s in the human world. His home world,” Barky said. “I… do not have the power to recall him. Time is also flowing much faster there, which is the inverse of how it used to be relative to Kilo. Dialga, what about him? Where is he now?”

Diyem held still, showing no expression.

“…What did you do to Dialga?”

A few more seconds. Then, he replied stoically, “He’s alive.”

“Did you eat him?” Zoroark asked.

“What? No. I can’t do that when I’m possessing someone.”

“Y-you can eat people?!” Angelo squeaked.

“Everyone can.”

Zoroark patted Angelo on the head. “It’s alright, buddy. Well… okay. So, Dialga’s out of commission…”

Star held onto Barky’s golden wheel like a playground gym. “What’s the time dilation for Owen again?”

“One to a hundred.”

“Oh, wow. Isn’t that the max we set things?” she mumbled. “Okay, cool. So… Owen gets a vacation? How long until we can get him back?”

“I don’t know how to get him back,” Arceus said. “But we can at least get the flow of time back to normal when Dialga’s back to his old self again.”

“That may take a few days,” Diyem said.

“So, a year for Owen,” Star said. “We’re sure he’s fine?”

“With his luck,” Diyem said, “…No.”

“Can always rely on you for optimism,” Zoroark said, patting him on the head. The Charmander’s black flame crackled. He was not a child.

He ducked and evaded further touch. “We’ve done enough for now. Let’s gather our strength, descend the tower, and report to the others in Kilo Village.”

“Good plan,” Star said. “I wish we could let them know sooner, but that’s a long climb down…”

Then came a tiny voice. “Oh! I can help!”

“Uh?” Zoroark fished around her fur and pulled out a little Joltik. “Another one?”

“Willow,” Diyem greeted with a frown.

“I’m even better than Hecto now!” Willow claimed.

The titanic Hecto turned his head in her direction. Diyem thought he’d felt a flash of competitive annoyance from him.

“I can communicate with all two hundred and thirty-seven of me!”

“Two thirty-seven?” Trina said. “I thought you counted a few more than that last time.”

“Got squished.” Willow giggled. “Those hurt. But the rest of me can tell the others!”

“That’s great, Willow,” Star said. “Thanks. That’ll let us not have to rush it and Dialga can gather his strength faster. He’s further below, right?”

“Yes,” Hecto said. “I recall running past him only three floors down.”

“Awesome.” Star lifted herself higher. “Alright, let’s regroup, everyone. We’ve got some answers on that missing fragment! Now we just have to figure out how to catch it…”

Diyem noticed that Star was oddly peaceful lately. He rarely felt the same intense negative waves from her when she’d been pulled from the Voidlands. More confident than before. There was still a deep fear from the trauma that she was masking—he always sensed that—but it was… lesser.

He’d have to figure out why later.

As the team meandered down the partially damaged tower, Zoroark hummed thoughtfully to herself.

“I need to figure out a name.”

And if she came from Owen, her name was probably going to be horrible.


The next town over—Viridian City—was only a handful of minutes away by wing. They landed all at once and nobody seemed to pay them any mind.

Blue warned them to avoid talking if they could so they didn’t draw too much attention. News of them hadn’t spread too far yet, surely.

Then again, with how quickly Blue was able to get that information about Duos…

“Let’s see…” Blue wandered the streets, his shoes making rhythmic tapping on the pavement that fascinated Owen. Zena, too, watched all the new technology that this world had to offer. She occasionally, quietly, asked their escorts what everything was. She learned what traffic lights were, what cars were, street lights, and all other things that Owen took for granted on his return.

Knock knock knock.

And before they knew it, they were standing in front of a small apartment on the third floor. Zena struggled through the stairs, remarking about how uncomfortable the stone was on her scales, and settled along the wall so she didn’t block the walkway. Owen had similar troubles and kept his wings folded behind him.

The door opened. Owen already knew who was on the other side, though with the door open, he now also knew that the human had pink hair and brown eyes.

“Oh, hello,” she greeted. “Wait… I know you!”

Red smiled and offered a small nod.

“Hey! Sorry to bother you,” Blue said with a wave. “We wanted to see your Pidgeot. An old friend of his is here.” He gestured to Owen.

Her eyes brightened. “Oh, that’s wonderful! From…?”

Blue nodded.

“I’ll be right back!” She stepped away and ran into another room. While everyone else waited, Owen curiously watched with Perceive as she moved through her home and picked up one of the Poké Balls, whispering for whoever was inside to wake up.

And that’s when it hit Owen that this was happening. Duos was right there. After all this time, everything that happened, he was… right here.

She returned and tossed the ball in the air just out her doorway. It popped open, spilling light onto the floor.

A Pidgeot spread his wings and flicked off remnant lights from his body. He looked left and right and settled on Owen.

There wasn’t any recognition at first. Understandable; it had been so long and it wasn’t like his mother or father.

But Duos opened his beak in disbelief. “Smallflame?” he asked. “You look so different, but… your eyes…”

“Greatwing…” Involuntary or not, Owen had already switched to his native tongue.

Something about the situation must have entertained Blue. With a warm yet amused smirk, he glanced at Red, who seemed transfixed. Mu, resting on Zena’s coils, let out a whine of discomfort. Zena gently rocked her in her ribbons to calm her down.

“Where have you been?” Duos asked. He hopped forward.

Finally, Owen stepped closer, too, collapsing over Duos’ body in an embrace. He was so soft. He chirped and cooed gently back to Owen, who couldn’t stop shaking.

“It’s been a long, long time,” Owen said with a trembling voice. “Too long, so… so long. I’m glad you’re okay. I’m glad you were saved.”


The pink-haired human wiped a few tears from her eyes. “I’ll—get some food prepared. Please, come in,” she said.

“Not gonna deny a meal!” Blue declared with a smile.

Owen pulled away, sniffling as the weight of an old, old burden seemed to evaporate from his shoulders. His vision was blurry, even after wiping his eyes a few times. A patch of buildings in the distance was just a rippling mess.

“Yeah,” Owen whispered. “Just a day, though. We have… things to do.”

Duos nodded. “Tell me all about it. You feel so strong now…”

Owen sobbed a laugh and nodded. “Yeah! Yeah…”

Zena’s gaze was fixed on something behind Duos, past the streets. The wind blew and metal bird chimes sang. It just occurred to Owen that several cars had stopped by the sides of the street, people getting out to look at something.

Mu’s whining didn’t stop no matter how much Zena tried to comfort her.

Blue and Red exchanged looks, then followed where those drivers were staring.

The warmth of his reunion was doused with icy water. Tears hadn’t blurred that patch of buildings. It was a distortion of light.

One he and Zena knew all too well.

A Dungeon had formed in Viridian City.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 166 – Other Guardians

Dungeons were supposed to be a Kiloan problem. What was it doing in another reality?!

Owen was far more alarmed than any of the humans. When they caught his gaze, some of their worries mirrored his, but he and Zena were the only ones who understood the magnitude of how bad this was.

“You know this?” Blue asked.

“Yeah. It’s… We need to investigate it right now. It’s—dangerous, depending on what’s in there.”

“How big of a problem is this?” Blue clarified.

“…Big? Very big? Huge. Just, huge.”

Blue nodded, his jovial, lighthearted expression completely gone. All business. He stared at Red. “Go with them. I’m gonna make some calls.”

Red nodded, then tossed a Poké Ball in the air, summoning Hardscale again.

“Um,” said the pink-haired human, “did Charizard just talk?”

“Oh, s-sorry, I’m Owen! But I need to go now, um, bye, Duos!”

Duos looked dumbfounded.

Owen sped onward, following Hardscale as they passed several buildings at once. They heard a siren down below chirp once, quickly, as if to get their attention.

“Don’t go that way!” called a human dressed in blue standing near a car that Owen guessed was with the police. “It’s dangerous!”

“We know!” Zena called.

The human said nothing in reply, staring.

“Um, Zena, I think you’re not supposed to talk to humans,” Owen said.

“Didn’t you a few seconds ago?”

“…We’re bad at this.”

They left the officer behind, passing over more buildings. The distortion was clearer now and about the size of a ‘small’ Dungeon by Owen’s perspective, no more than a district wide. But for a place so densely populated, that was as if a Dungeon had swallowed up Kilo Village.

“What do we do?” Zena asked. “Go in, rescue anyone inside, and have Blue call some authorities so we can inform them?”

“I think so,” Owen said. “First is trying to see if that Dungeon can be sealed. Then we can figure out damage control, and why it’s showing up in the first place. It shouldn’t have been more than a few kilos back home right now—did something happen? I haven’t heard anything from Barky since last time…”

“It’s not like he’ll check in more than once every few moons from our perspective,” Zena pointed out.


They were getting close. “Land here!” Owen called to Red, diving to the streets. Zena landed next to them and he double-checked that Mu was still doing alright. Heading into the Dungeon was dangerous for her, but leaving her with Blue, she might wander off…

Red landed and tossed a ball, forming a Pikachu with a powerful aura that Owen instantly recognized. That was no normal Pikachu…

“Inside, things are going to be twisted around and changed in strange ways,” Owen explained to Red. “It might be like a maze. What we need to do is go through each section and try to rescue as many people as we can. I don’t… have my Badge with me that usually helps with this, but maybe I can replicate its power. I have the same thing that was used to make them, so…”

Red nodded and walked into the distortion without fear.

“He doesn’t even hesitate,” Zena murmured.

“Something tells me this isn’t the first time he’s been through… things.” Owen held Mu a little tighter. “Listen, Mu. You need to behave and don’t wander off, okay? It’s going to be a little dangerous, but we’ll keep you safe.”

Mu stared at him with wide eyes, craning her neck faaaar back to look up.

“I’ll do the fighting,” Zena offered. “Hopefully this Dungeon isn’t too dangerous. Come, Red’s waiting.”

They pushed through the rippling barrier…

The buildings had been twisted and warped at impossible angles. A simple three-story building had twisted into a corkscrew. A human dangled from a second-story window, aiming to drop into a bush below. Ahead, water pipes were contorted into something that reminded Owen of pasta in the central street. The street itself became more like an oblong checkerboard of grass and pavement. Several buildings lined up like soldiers shoulder to shoulder, closing in on once spacious alleyways with only a foot or so of leeway.

“So this is what a Dungeon would do to human architecture,” Zena murmured.

Hardscale roared ahead, just around the corner. A black blob flew past their view and evaporated.

“No! How?” Owen whispered. “Wraiths?! But that can only mean…!”

“This is bad, Owen,” Zena said. “Red isn’t experienced with this sort of thing! His Pokémon can’t handle wraiths!”

Owen flew forward and took a deep breath, preparing the best Flamethrower he could muster. With his Perceive, he detected four wraiths. No more seemed to be pouring in, so at least it wasn’t a huge onslaught.

Three wraiths. One had dematerialized.

No, two. That was another. Owen couldn’t Perceive what was doing that, but their bodies sizzled as if hit by a massive amount of energy all at once.

They rounded the corner just in time to see a bolt of lightning spearing the third wraith, dispelling it instantly. Its ominous fog seeped into the ground; Owen wasn’t sure if it was returning to the Voidlands or lying dormant…

Owen fired at the final wraith. This one was sneaking behind a streetlight that had been curled into a spiral. Just one strike was enough to dispatch it.

“…Any more?” Zena asked, but then gasped and shot at the air. The Hydro Pump left Owen’s Perceive range. When he turned to let his eyes do the watching, he saw a faraway, flying wraith plummeting down, dissolving before it could strike the ground.

“Nice shot,” Owen remarked.

“Yaay!” Mu flailed her arms. “All gone!”

“All gone?” Zena asked.

Aside from distant shouts for help or rescue from citizens—not panicked, but alert—the twisted district was quiet. Calmer.

This was a weak Dungeon. Normal Pokémon could probably deal with them if the wraiths were few. A blessing in disguise, Owen figured.

“Do you think Mu knows they’re gone innately?” Zena asked. “She is part Dark Matter…”

“Maybe,” Owen said. “Mu? Are there no more monsters?”

Mu tilted her head, blinking. Her blue eyes scanned the streets. “Ah!” She pointed down the road and into one of the buildings. Mu wriggled out of Owen’s grasp and landed on the ground. Owen reached for her and passed right through.


Mu had disappeared. Some afterimage was all Owen could see. Maybe it was psychological but even his Perceive had been fooled for a split second.

“Oh, not again,” Zena said.

Red grunted and pointed at the far building’s window.

Mu was at the windowsill, staring inside. They hurried along and once Owen was halfway there, his Perceive pinged a human lying on the ground. He spread his wings and sped the rest of the way, landing heavily by the building. It seemed to be an apartment complex that had been twisted into an upside-down U shape. This was either the top floor or the bottom floor.

The building was filled with about five humans in various rooms. All but this one seemed unharmed, just trapped. This human was an elderly male pinned under a dresser, mercifully mostly empty. He was balding with only flecks of gray hair, lying on the former ceiling of the complex. He was trying to pull on a light fixture in the new floor to get out, but his clothes were caught on one of the dresser’s knobs.

“Ah… ah, is someone there?” the man called, hoarse. “Ah, a Pokémon! Please, if… if you can, lift this. I can’t take it off. It’s hard to breathe…”

Owen was going to answer before remembering his species. He nodded and crept through the windows. They creaked and cracked—and one popped off. He winced. Too large, but he had to save this man first. The property was probably ruined anyway.

He put his claws beneath the bookshelf and gently lifted it. Mu crawled to the clothes and pulled the caught portion off the knob, which impressed Owen. Did she know, somehow?

This was a dense shelf. The wood was dark and had metal keeping it all together. No wonder it was so heavy. The elderly man had a few broken bones but it wasn’t severe… still, he was old. Those could be big trouble for him.

After righting the shelf, he gently helped the man up. He had his full weight against Owen, and after figuring out the best position to carry him without aggravating any injuries, he picked him up and cradled him in his arms, turning back to the window. And paused.

Right. How was he supposed to get out? If only he had a working Badge for this sort of thing, but even his communicator wouldn’t…

Would it?

He’d never thought to try.

Zena was at the window, though. He smiled gratefully and handed the old man over; Zena’s ribbons helped with the transfer, and soon he was out.

“Oh, so beautiful,” the man said, smiling at her. “Milotic, what a privilege to be rescued by one…”

Zena smiled awkwardly.

“There are a lot more we need to rescue, but the wraiths are gone,” Owen said in feral to Zena.

She stared at him.

He’d forgotten. Zena didn’t. know the language yet. He glanced nervously at the old man, then nodded at her and headed into the building.

The first order of business after this was settled: language lessons for Zena.


Blue flopped onto the couch and sank into the cushions. “Phew!” he declared. “I’m beat.”

After Blue made his calls, he had come in to help with the distortion and rescue efforts. Between Owen, Zena, Red, Blue, and the local authorities, everyone had been safely evacuated, and with minor injuries at worst. They called it a miracle, but Owen knew it was luck from only having to worry about a young Dungeon. It might get worse. They would have to investigate again to find, perhaps, its core, or some way to seal and dispel it… but with the rescue effort alone, they could afford to wait it out and talk with the others.

Duos perched on the armrest, staring down at Owen, who took a seat next to the couch. He was glad this apartment was spacious enough to accommodate his wings. Perhaps it was for Duos.

“So, you talk human now?” Duos asked.

“I, er, I picked it up,” he lied. The truth was… a bit much. This was easier.

“Cool. Human seemed boring and complicated.”

“It is. But when you’re working with human things a lot, you need more things to say. Human has that.”

“Oh.” Duos looked disinterested already.

Duos then stared at Zena. “Are you his mate?”

“Hm?” Zena offered another smile. She was coiled next to Owen, near a black mini fridge.

“She is,” Owen said, “but she only speaks human.”

“Whaa?” Duos leaned forward. “How? All Pokémon can speak to each other!”

Owen shook his head. “Where I’ve been, Pokémon lost that native communication in exchange for being a lot stronger on average. They’re part-human. They don’t need humans to help them be stronger; they’re just stronger naturally.”

“That’s crazy… But how do they understand each other?”

Owen shrugged. “The same way humans do.”

“Do they have Pokémon that talk like me?” Duos asked.

“Oh, yeah. I can speak to them, too, but normally we can’t. They’re like wild Pokémon here, without any human influence.”

“Ohh… like, wild wild,” Duos said. “Away from routes, where they stay away from humans?”


“They’re scary.”

“They can be. But we’re stronger.”

Red was looking at his phone, frowning pensively. He flicked something in Blue’s general direction and Blue’s phone buzzed.


Blue sat up just as Duos’ caretaker entered the room with some green tea and snacks. Blue’s expression went from tired to grave.

“You’re kidding,” he said.

“What’s wrong?” Owen asked.

“Viridian was a bit of a fluke. These distortions are appearing in Alola and Orre, too, and in way bigger numbers!”

Owen blinked. “What? Orre—”

That wasn’t a coincidence. But Alola…

“Why Alola?” he asked. “That’s, uhh… those are those islands way off in the middle of the ocean, right?”

“Yeah. People are theorizing it’s a new kind of Ultra Wormhole,” Blue said, flicking through something on his phone. “But Orre, that’s a weird one. Ever since they took care of that whole ‘Shadow Pokémon’ thing it’s been pretty peaceful over there.”

“Shadow… Pokémon…”

Blue quirked an eyebrow. “That familiar?”

Owen took a slow, steady breath, and then held his hand forward. He tried to draw deep, deep into what he used to have. What he knew he still had. Afraid to draw it, once, but now, with better control, maybe he could try to dig it out again.

Now that all the seals were broken… maybe he would be okay. Power never left the spirit. It should still be there…

A dark flame emerged from Owen’s palm, flickering with light-absorbing embers and purplish smoke.

Duos flinched, feathers puffing out. The humans stared in fascination.

“Usually, Shadows are invisible unless they’re using a move,” Blue said. “How about that? Is that what raw Shadow Aura looks like?”

“I think so,” Owen replied, bringing his tail forward. “Charizard flames are heat and light, but they’re also ethereal. They reflect the state of their aura, too.”

The once orange flame shifted to a similar, dark color.

“We’re dealing with something like this right now. I don’t know if it has the same effects or behaves the same way here, but if there is knowledge about this in Orre…” Owen looked at Zena. “We need to go there next.”

“If you’re gonna go there,” Blue said, “you oughta take a look at Alola along the way. The flight from Kanto to Orre is brutal, but Alola’s practically right at the midway point if you go that route.”

“Alola,” Zena repeated. “That’s where…?”

“Most research into Ultra Wormholes is in Alola,” explained Blue. “If anywhere can get you guys back home, it’s that way. I already made a call or two. They can hear you out.”

“That’d… be great, actually,” Owen said. “How soon can we get a flight?”

“With the money you have? Probably tomorrow,” Blue said. “Especially if you just go in the cargo.”

“Huh? Cargo?”

Blue tapped on one of his Poké Balls.


Right. That was pretty convenient.

“Only problem is, usually they’d have a trainer to return you,” Blue said, “and Zena, you said you’re registered as the trainer?”

“That’s how they did it,” Zena confirmed. “It’s a little odd, but I guess they never expected a Pokémon to be at human levels of autonomy like this.”

“Ehh…” Blue shrugged. “I think once you start talking, people will make exceptions. Especially if we send word for it!”

“Oh, you… aren’t coming with us?” Zena asked, curling slightly.

Owen could understand her apprehension. They were an anchor in an unfamiliar world. They’d be on their own again without Red and Blue helping. But…

“They need to stay here,” Owen said. “There might be other Dungeons forming, and they need to be able to help the people where they form. Which reminds me…” He sighed. “I think… I’d like to go back to the Dungeon before we go to bed. Can you arrange a flight for us, Blue?”

“No problem.”

“Red…” Owen nodded his head as if to bow. “Come with us? If this works, maybe I can get you something to help with future Dungeons, too.”

Red nodded back and stood up.

“Duos,” Owen said. “It was great meeting you again. I’m going to try to find the others on our team while I’m here if we have time… just to make sure they’re okay.”

“Oh, yeah!” Duos chirped back. “How’s Tim?”

“He’s doing fine. I’ll tell him all about you.” Owen smiled. “He’ll be relieved. But he’s… in another world.”

“Oh.” Duos’ feathers fluffed down again. “Does he remember me? You sound like it’s been a long time…”

“He’ll never forget you.” Owen nodded. “But he wants you to live a happy life here. Okay?”

“Then I will,” Duos said.

That… that was enough. Owen took a slow breath, then let it out.

He’d return to spend the night if offered. He’d swap stories with Duos. But this… Yes. Even if he couldn’t return, he was satisfied here.

With another weight off his shoulders, Owen squeezed through the doorway.

Time for another visit to the Dungeon.


“There it is,” Owen said, spotting an even darker rift at the epicenter of the Dungeon. The pavement that had once been a street was darkened like burned canvas. Streaks of black crawled along the pavement in a starburst. At the center, two feet off the ground, was a rift—like a blanket had been torn open—leaking a reddish-black fog from the other side.

“I’ve never seen a Dungeon Core before,” Owen said. “Anam usually sealed them, or at least… tried to.”

“Is it usually hidden?” Zena asked.

Owen nodded. “Usually nobody can get to it. But with the right power, we can. And this Dungeon is also new. It probably didn’t have time to form any barriers.”

“You talk like it’s alive,” Zena said. “…Is it?”

“I don’t know. It could just be chemistry but on a… distortion level. Over time, it puts up barriers, but since it’s new, nothing’s built yet.” Owen approached the barrier and glanced at Red, who kept his distance and observed quietly. He’d summoned Pikachu and Hardscale to observe by his side.

“We seal it with Radiance, right?” Zena asked.

“Right. I can do that,” Owen said. His hand curled and golden sparks shot from his claws erratically. He flexed his fingers again. The sparks became more controlled. Stronger, concentrated… They connected along his palm. He grasped at the newly formed rod. It extended into a spear that sizzled in his hand.

He aimed it into the rift. The darkness around it sizzled and sputtered violently, lashing out at them; Owen spread his wings and kept the others behind him. He held his free hand forward and put up a Protect shield, a brilliant gold color.

The rift stopped sputtering. Owen released the energy and relaxed his stance.

The air… was less oppressive. Wraiths probably wouldn’t be able to come through. However, that distortive feeling the Dungeon left behind, the Shadows that had twisted reality with its negative energy, was still there.

Anam never tried to harness Shadows in that way. He feared that dark power. And perhaps, in some ways, Diyem did not want to fully cut off his connections to the living world.

But Kanto had nothing to do with their struggles. Owen wondered if he could command this Dungeon to close for good.

“Well,” Zena said, “I think that’s all we can do for now. I’m sorry that this town is distorted as it is, but…”

“Can I try something?” Owen asked.


“It can’t make it any worse. But if I’m right, I might be able to fix this.”

Mu, struggling out of Zena’s left ribbon, reached out to Owen and appeared to want, as Blue called it, “uppies.”

“Later, Mu,” Owen said. “One second. I just need to concentrate…”

Moments later, his other hand conjured a dark spear, this one cold to the touch and sapping the light.

He pointed it at the inert rift. It felt like a lock and key. Perhaps if he manipulated the energy in just the right way…

Zena and Blue were looking around like something was changing. Owen was too concentrated on the rift to look. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“The distortion. It’s… shrinking,” Zena said.

But as Owen did it, the rift was becoming active again. Shadows seeped from the rift, awakened by the same power Owen channeled into it. His hand was getting cold. The distortions of the buildings receded at the outer perimeters. Some of it was damaged, even after they contorted back to their normal shapes, but it was much better than the twisted lands they’d dealt with before.

But the shrinking slowed the closer it got to the center. By the time the distortion was about a hundred meters out, it had slowed completely, countered by the reawakened rift. If left alone, it would expand again…

“It’s not closing,” Zena said. “But you shrank it, Owen. That’s good enough… It’ll be a big help to the town this way.”

“Not yet,” Owen said. “This is where I need to try something.”

He wasn’t strained yet. This was just Shadows. Before, it was just Radiance. Shadows controlled the distortion, but also fed into the rift; Radiance ate away at the rift, rendering it inert.

What if he did both at once?

Owen used his other hand, channeling Radiance a second time. His scales brightened at the wrist onward like yellow magma beneath orange rocks. It tingled and burned. Nothing he hadn’t dealt with before.

The light fed into the rift, dissolving the Shadows with a ghastly hiss. And the distortion receded even more. Faster and faster. Fifty meters, twenty meters. As the minutes ticked by, Zena reminded Owen to breathe. Each pause made the rift grow a little more but it also restored his strength. Ten meters, five meters. Red stepped out of the distortion, followed by Zena with Mu.

“Bye-bye,” Mu said, waving at the sky.

A strange feeling washed over Owen’s back as the distortion passed over him next.


The distortion was coalesced into a tiny bubble. A whole Dungeon no larger than an Oran berry. Zena and Blue observed from either side behind him.

Owen grasped the sphere with both hands and crushed it like a glass ball. It warped and compressed like a balloon and the dark and light energies swirled around it like ink in water. Owen’s hands trembled against the chaotic world he created in his palms. He pressed harder and harder, and then—

With a great whistle, then an ethereal POP! that stunned Owen’s aura senses, the solid distortion shattered completely. Nothing at all was left behind, not even a trace of a portal.

It was gone.

The Dungeon was gone.


“Chaos in Viridian City as a strange distortion-like field appears right on the eastern side of the district!

“Shown before you now is what the strange bubble looked like from onlookers all around the city. This odd, water-like rippling atmosphere was filled with strange, dark creatures that were hostile to everyone who approached. Within the distortion itself, the buildings were twisted topsy-turvy, residents trapped within their own homes to defend themselves!

“Miraculously, the distortion disappeared in a matter of hours. Exiting the district after rescuing everyone inside was Legendary Trainer Red and some companions that we had not seen this cryptic traveler partnering with before! Some claim that the Charizard could be Hardscale after undergoing a completely new transformation!

“Red did not respond for comment.”

The news went on and on, covering different angles of the distortion and all the speculation. Blue had pulled off a few evasive tricks to avoid the press, and they’d somehow managed to get back to Duos’ place for one last night.

Owen had slept heavily and saw the reiteration of the news the following morning from his Poké Ball. It was a little muffled, but he heard the gist of what he wanted.

Even Zena experimented with her ball. When their spheres were close together, Owen felt like she was wrapped around him, and they were resting right next to each other. Was that technology of the ball, or something more innate? Owen wasn’t sure.

“Thanks for letting us stay the night. It would’ve been brutal out there after what happened,” Blue said.

“Oh, it wasn’t a problem,” said Duos’ caretaker. “It’s not every day I’m visited by someone my Pokémon had been missing for so long! Oh, I hope they get some good rest. It was such a busy day for them…”

Busy? After everything else, that was a great day. Owen hoped he could get more of those.

Mu, who had elected to rest near Red for the night, crawled over to Zena’s ball and tilted her head. She crouched down and sniffed at it. The ball wiggled in response. Zena must have been listening in, too.

Owen was starting to feel the need to get out and stretch. He wasn’t sure how long it had been. For all he knew, it could have been a whole day in the Poké Ball. But that might have been refreshing.

But no, the news meant it was just the night. His ball wiggled and he expanded his energy against the edge of the ball. It wiggled a little more, enough to get their attention, and he finally released himself.

His vision whitened and then returned to normal. Weight returned to his senses. He stretched his wings and tail, careful to avoid the furniture, and glanced down at Zena’s ball. She still didn’t emerge, but he’d sensed she was awake. Maybe she was just cozy.

With an entertained smile, he gently picked up the ball and tucked it under a wing. The ball wobbled gently and settled.

Mu crawled onto his thigh and under his other wing.

“Good morning,” Duos’ caretaker said.

“Morning,” Owen said. “I think Zena still wants to—” Right he wasn’t supposed to talk. Did he speak in feral or human?

The woman tittered nervously.

Yep, human.

“I’ve never met a talking Pokémon before, let alone three.”


“Your daughter!”

“Oh! Was she… talking more?”

“Only simple words, but that’s more than I’ve seen in any other Pokémon!”

Owen rubbed Mu on the head, nodding. “She’s a fast learner. I think it’s because… the Pokémon in my world were, uh…” Surely, he could think of an excuse mid-sentence. “Blessed with knowledge many generations ago. That just carried over ever since.”

“How interesting…”

“Tsk. Well, sorry to say,” Blue said, “but it doesn’t look like we can get you a flight too early. This whole Dungeon business disrupted a few things at some airports. The ripple effect caused a bunch of delays. It’s chaos over there!”

Duos’ caretaker shook her head disapprovingly. “Oh, it can’t be that bad…”

“Then…” Owen nodded. “That means Dungeons are forming in other places, too?”

“Mostly Orre and the nearby Unova areas,” Blue said. “Makes it pretty complicated, though, with all the flights they do…”

“Right…” Owen nodded. Dungeons and wraiths were appearing in this world. That meant that somehow, there was a connection from the Voidlands to here. If they found another Dungeon… maybe they could return home that way.

But now they couldn’t. If they did, this world would be in danger. At a much faster speed, too! And the opportunity Arceus gave them… They needed to use it to research, recover, train, and prepare with their extra time.

“I… think I know what I need to do,” Owen said.

“You can’t seriously think about going around the world to dispel every single Dungeon, can you?” Blue asked. “There are way too many!”

“I know. That’s why… I want to find people like you two. Like you and Red. And… I need to test something.”

“Eh?” Blue leaned forward. “Test what?”

Red also seemed interested, listening attentively.

“That… special transformation, that stone you had,” he said. “I have something similar. It was given to me by Xerneas to ‘awaken latent potential’ in my species. I never used it yet, was caught off guard the one time I could have, but…”

“You think its power can dispel Dungeons?” Blue asked.

“No,” Owen said, “but… we were chatting about it, right? Its side-effect is that it can make the Pokémon go berserk with that power. A human’s spirit helps to keep them calm.”

“That’s true. Mega Stones aren’t an easy thing to handle. To untrained Pokémon, they could seriously hurt someone. You need a lot of skill as a trainer to use one.”

“Then that’s where I’ll put my power.”

Red’s eyes glinted with his interest.

“One of my powers is the ability to… confer it. To give it to other things like an enchantment. If you already have Pokémon that are capable of controlling a berserk state like I can, then you can handle this power. And it’s exactly what can be done to dispel Dungeons and get this world back to normal.”

“Ahhh, I see!” Blue smirked. “You aren’t taking on this problem on your own at all. You’re getting a team to handle it on their home turf!”

“Exactly.” Owen nodded. “But I’ll need to do some training. And I want a list of as many trusted trainers who have mastered Mega Stones.”

“That’ll be easy. Guess I’ll be Mister Bookkeeper again, but I want my Pokémon to get some of that training, too. Red’s not the only ‘Mega Stone Master’ in this room.”

Red produced the large, orange marble from his bag and offered it to Owen. When he held it, Owen recognized a similar power within it. Not quite divine and self-sufficient like the one Owen had—this one needed a human catalyst to set off—but it would do. It could hold this power the same way.

Owen steadied his breath and let the Shadows and Radiance flow from his chest outward. Into his shoulders, wings, arms, and finally into the stone itself. The process was slow, careful, and took several minutes. The marble darkened, brightened, and mixed with a swirl of golds and purples.

The lights seeped into the marble and stayed there, glimmering and waiting to be drawn from. That was good enough. He handed the Mega Stone back to Red.

“If you do that transformation with him now,” Owen said, “Hardscale can do what I did. Or, he has the potential for it. I’m… going to try to train him a little. Then I want to train others who can do the same thing.”

“You’re sure about that?” Blue said. “Seemed like you were in a rush last time…”

He smiled faintly. “Barky gave us a hundred days to a single day there,” he said. “I’m going to try to relax, but… I want to be ready. And now that things are leaking here, too, somehow… all the more reason to defend my old homeworld, too. Right?”

Something about what he said must have resonated with Zena. The Poké Ball wiggled a little, nudging against Owen. He felt her support.

“Sounds like Zena wouldn’t mind helping, either,” Owen said. “Hope you don’t mind the detour, Red.”

But Owen could already see the glint in his eyes. Red understood his role in all this. Hardscale must have, too.

Owen still envied Hardscale for how lucky he was to get such a good trainer. But he had to push those thoughts aside for now. This was a blessing.

Kanto had its own protectors and its own stories. Owen’s place to them now was to give them a boon to defend themselves.