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?”
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—”
“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.
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…?”
“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.