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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Namohysip, Aug 19, 2018.

  1. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Family, eh? An awfully loaded word there you're using, Owen :thinking:

    more like thiccorita aahhahhhahhahhhhahahha i'll see myself out.

    Ehh, I'm not sure on the "this just might work" in the middle. I don't know how that sentence should be in past tense, or whether it can work at all.

    Missing word in this sentence?

    oh geez

    i can't believe owen's f*cking dead

    Not a native, but isn't it at a pace? Dunno, but that sounds better to me...

    I like how Anam still retains his personality in this spooky threatening conspiracy stuff. Too often do characters who lie about themselves turn out to act in serious and "evil" manners when the spotlight is out.

    Ooh, love these variants! Much more to them than the water-type mon in Calm Water Lake just being blue.

    Carnivine is the name, unless Owen's specifically remembering the name wrong.

    well isn't this an aMEWsing turn of events i'm not sorry.

    The plot's certainly thickened. We're finally introduced to the concepts given in the story summary. The interaction between Rhys and the Espurr is odd, clearly more complex than a good vs. evil or even side A vs. side B deal. It awakens a lot of intrigue.

    I still stand by what I said before about the semicolons, even more so now that it seems like there are more of them (or maybe I'm just more perceptive now?). I just don't see their function.

    Finally, I'm sort of upset about something totally out of your control - the fact that my own PMD story idea is getting dangerously close to this one, with type-related macguffins with great power and mutants around ;p I mean I guess it shouldn't matter if other aspects are clearly different? Just really don't want to get accused of copying though.
     
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Drowning sorrows with Regice & Latios

    Bringing this over for the game, natch. And this was... certainly something alright. You did it Owen! You touched the orb! That's totally not a euphemism or anything. :V

    The chapter pretty much confirms my theory that Rhys and Nevren had something to do with mucking up both Owen's and Team Alloy's memories. It makes sense that it apparently happened multiple times, to boot. I didn't necessarily expect Anam to be in on this whole thing... though his demeanor about the situation suggests he's either subscribed to the Ampharos school of "crouching moron, hidden badass," or he just becomes really frightening if you push his buttons the wrong way. I'm going with the former. Not to say his personality is an act or anything. It's just... how he is in public, I guess.

    These Hunters sound like our rival organization in what likely appears to be a MacGuffin quest of sorts for these orbs. Remi so far ticks the standard boxes off in the creepy Espurr stereotype, so I'm going to reserve judgment until I see a bit more of her in action. I think the description of Mew's freaky forst world was find. It seems like a pretty bare bones place for a grass shrine, but who am I to judge? I appreciate we got scattered details about Rhys' room, even if it's just that the room is very plain. Sometimes that's all you need. The Association HQ felt lacking, but I assume we'll be back there later and can have more stuff shown off as is necessary. I also think Team Alloy's respective personalities showed through a bit more this time around. Demitri's fear of heights, Gahi's more troublemaking nature, and Mispy just generally being quiet and going with the team. The part where they were getting the orb made them stand a bit more... though I will concede I still get Demitri and Gahi backwards in my head, even with the occassional reminder about their species. I guess I really just need to see more of them doing stuff. Even with scenes like the dungeon crawl last time, it felt like they were there to take a backseat to Owen, our POV guy. But here they're all working as a quartet, and so they stood out better as a result.

    I look forward to seeing what laissez-faire Mew is like in the next chapter. Onto snark!

    Welp, great story! I thoroughly enjoyed it! 10/10... thanks for sharing. <3

    Looks like Rim got bamboozled! Maybe one of Rhys' ancestors is a Zoroark?

    *monotone* Yeah, you go, Owen, that oughta show them.

    I'd like to see what Owen's like after a night of partying. "N-No, officer, I have... um... I don't know where that Dragonair came from."

    But can it do my taxes? Or keep me company on a lonely Friday night? Do I get free shipping and processing?

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Special shoutout to @Ambyssin for making me snort-laugh at work while reading that last part of his review.

    Also, hello to @lucarioknight56 for your first review of my work! Thanks for the lengthy feedback; I appreciate it all, and I agree, in terms of my facets of writing, environments are my weakness. I've been making a conscious effort to flesh out and improve those as I port over and revise these chapters from FFN/AO3, so expect to see some better descriptions... hopefully!

    I actually was. I think I know which line of dialogue you're referring to. I believe it was the exchange:

    " . . . And, um, you can only get in if you say the passcode, and do the pose.” Owen said the last part at such a soft tone that Rhys only heard it thanks to his keen hearing.

    “Pose,” he said, blinking.

    . . .

    In which case, yes, that was meant to be a sort of "deadpan" repeat of what Owen had said. A sort of disbelieving, incredulous parroting of the absurd statement he'd heard prior.

    Thank you! That's actually something that I tried to avoid, because the biggest flaw in a lot of storylines, particularly RPGs or long-form stories, is that it takes forever to "get to the good part." These early chapters are riddled with little plot nuggets to get things rolling, and enough excitement to keep the reader interested while setting up the necessary pieces for the "turning point" to roll around without any reader impatience. Thankfully, that "turning point" just happened, now that Owen's, uh, whatever he is right now. Physically incapacitated?

    That's an interesting statement, that first part. I've gotten very polarizing feedback about Owen. As far as these early chapters are concerned, some people have said that he's a little too boyish for them to sympathize with, and they're more interested in the mystery around him. But it seems that you're quite the opposite--more interested in how Owen reacts to it all! So, I guess the silver lining is that I have a little something for everyone.

    Yeah, I've been rethinking that myself. Particularly because of my large cast of characters. Epithets might be useful, especially for the ones that have less page time. I'll keep that in mind, though when I can, I'll do more unique distinguishes as you said, like tusk-fiddling. No, Amby, that's not a euphemism.

    Yep, I'll look into that, as I said above.

    Ahh, yeah, that's one gripe I have with these early chapters, too. I want to show off these characters more, but I can't quite find a good way to do it in these particular scenes without bogging down the pace. Still, with every opportunity that I have, I'll try to make 'em stand out more! Particularly Demitri. He's a challenge. His personality is really mild, so it's hard to make someone like that "stand apart."

    Yep, another gripe I have with myself. I'll be looking for more opportunities. Amby pointed out that my description of the Heart's insides were a little bare, and yeah. I might go back and patch those up a little, and then, for the upcoming chapter, give a better and more thorough description of where Owen currently is. That might help.

    I'm glad you like it! I'll be sure to get better at describing these environments as we go on.

    Eh, it happens. Between the prologue, Aerodactyl, that weird dream with Nevren, and this, I feel like Owen just has bad juju.

    Yeah, that'd be way too obvious and on-the-nose, in my opinion. I wouldn't want to outright reveal Anam's side when he's already so mysterious! Despite the fact that he's such an open Goodra, it seems that we have the least information about him, so far.

    Glad you picked up on that.

    Hey man, don't fret. This stuff is the tip of the iceberg. Y'think this three-act story is gonna drop all the big stuff in chapter six? Hah! Do what you want. There's no way our implementations of the same basic gimmicks will turn out identical.

    Similar to what canisaries said, I like the little intrigue that Anam is getting from you guys.

    Rim is a fun one.

    Ahhh yeah, looking at it now, the description was pretty weak. I should revisit it.

    That's so fitting, isn't it? Only by bringing Team Alloy together can they let their strengths and uniqueness stand out. But yes, I hope I can have these guys stand out a little more. Managing all these characters can be a real challenge, but it's all worth it~!

    This got me.
     
    canisaries and lucarioknight56 like this.
  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 7 – Not Quite Dead

    “You’re… you’re Mew.” Despite the being he was speaking to, he pointed an accusatory claw toward the pink god. “Mew!”

    “Yep!”

    “And—and you’re… you’re talking to me. You know my name.”

    “Uh-huh!”

    Owen’s throat sealed itself. He swallowed, but it didn’t help. It was like his face was stuffed with Oran Berries. “You… y-you… you, you… you…”

    “Aww, you’re shy! I like the shy types.” She gave Owen a little wink.

    Owen knew that if he wasn’t in this strange place, he would’ve passed out by now. Instead, he stared in shock. It took a full ten seconds for him to return to his senses. “Mew! Why are you looking at—at me? No, wait, I mean—talking to me? I’m—Did you want to see Rhys, instead? He’s way more important!”

    The Mew giggled. “Oh, call me Star. My name’s Mew Star.”

    “S-S-Star? Y-you—! But you’re important! A-aren’t you supposed to not have a name aside from your species?”

    “What, just because I’m Mew means I can’t have a name to go along with it? C’mon, that’s no fun.” Star puffed her cheeks. “What happens if I run into a lesser Mew? Then we’ll be all kinds of confused! My name is Star, got it? Besides, it’d be confusing if I did this, right?” Suddenly, Star’s body shifted and twisted, starting from a mesh of pink into orange, and she fell to the ground on her feet—a Charmander.

    She gave a little bow. “Eh? Eh?” She followed up with a little spin, wagging her tail to loosen a few embers.

    “Wh—uh—that—” Owen gulped. “D-don’t do that.”

    “Don’t do what?” Star asked, flicking her tail again.

    That. Please—stop.”

    Star eyed Owen, as if getting a read for him, but then shrugged. “Fine,” she relented, and she melted back to her floating, Mew self.

    Owen felt the heat slowly leave his face. “Okay. Okay, that’s better. It’s n-nice to meet you, um, Star. I’m—I’m Charmander Owen! And—”

    “Oh, please, I already know all about you.” She waved a paw dismissively in the air. “I’m Mew! Well, not a Mew. The Mew, yeah? I’m pretty high up in the pantheon or whatever.”

    “O-oh, so, you’re—”

    “Creator of common life, yes,” Star said, nodding. “Pretty nifty, huh? I have a few perks, too. Reading minds, shape-shifting, you know.”

    “Th-that’s… But…!”

    “So! I hate to be the one to tell you this”—She clapped her paws together—“but by touching that orb in Rhys’ room, you kinda more or less closed off your fate to three options. Okay? Mind if I tell you those?”

    “Wait—the Orb? The Orb? Was I supposed to—I mean, was I really not supposed to touch it?”

    “No way, definitely not.” Star shook her head, though she didn’t hide her playful smile. “I mean, you’re fine, probably, but you probably also shouldn’t have gone against what the old Lucario told you. But hey, that’s karma, right?”

    The many spectating Pokémon said nothing. They all listened silently. Owen noticed that none of them were really bowing to Star, or doing anything of that nature. He, too, refrained from kneeling before her. It didn’t feel right, anyway. Not after what she just said. The little connections in his mind clicked together. The pink mist, the voice, and now, this Creator before him telling him that he shouldn’t have done everything that voice told him to do.

    “…YOU TOLD ME TO TOUCH IT!”

    “Did I?” Star asked innocently, holding her right hand to her cheek, mouth agape. “Oh, no! Maybe it was my evil twin, Rats Wem!”

    That earned another long, thoughtful, existential silence from the Charmander. Even his tail dimmed. Owen had no idea the Creator could be so juvenile. His worldview was melting by the second. Entire perspectives shattered. Whole outlooks upturned. He didn’t even think Creator Mew was real. Now, not only was she real, but she was some sort of—

    “Okay, okay, fine.” Star bowed her head in what Owen knew was a false apology. “I’ll admit it. I may have egged you on to touching it, and maybe I convinced Rhys to leave the Orb for you to finally grab. A lot of people didn’t want you to touch that thing. Including Rhys, until this morning, and until—”

    “So it was intentional!”

    “And,” Star went on, “it’s still something that’s probably a bad idea. But it just happened to be the least bad idea. Kinda like choosing between cutting off your head and cutting off your arm.”

    Owen winced. “Okay. Fine. Good. Good to hear. Very good. Just… tell me where I am, first.”

    “Huh. Okay, that’s a good transition.” She floated higher, motioning to the bright forest. The dazzling patterns still mesmerized Owen. Now that he had a better look at the branches—which covered the sky like thick Spinarak webs—he spotted a few Grassy Pidgey nesting in the bunches of teardrop-shaped leaves.

    “You touched what’s known as the Grass Orb.” She then motioned to the tall, bright treetops above her. “And this here is the Grass Realm. It’s an offshoot of the spirit world, somewhere between the world of the living and the dead, where Grass Pokémon of times current and old come to socialize and help keep this Orb safe from intruders. Y’know, people like you.”

    Owen stiffened. “O-oh, I’m… I’m an intruder?”

    “Yeah, but we wouldn’t call you hostile,” Star dismissed, “which is why you’re still standing here. Though, I’ll be honest, I did have to warn some of these guys in advance.”

    A shiver ran up Owen’s spine. Some of these Pokémon, even if they were Grass Types, seemed incredibly powerful. He briefly envisioned the Pidgey in the trees all swarming him at once, plucking away at him scale by scale.

    “Okay. So, tell me this. What can I do? What are my options th-that you said I’d have to pick from?”

    The Mew nodded. “I’ll start with the option that can get you back home.” She waited for Owen to say something, but when he didn’t, she continued. “Right now, you’re in the spirit world, Owen. Okay?”

    “Yeah. So that means…?”

    “It means, in the real world, your body is kinda… not alive. But it’s being sustained on a basic level by the power of the Orb you touched—for a while, at least.”

    A blink’s time passed in silence. Then, “Wh—I’m DEAD?!”

    “Now—calm down for a sec!” Star held him by the shoulders, though her light body didn’t keep him from trembling.

    Owen was already panicking, heart rate increasing; he was breathing faster than his body could handle.

    “Not yet! You’re super-almost-dead, but not dead-dead, okay?”

    Owen stabilized enough to speak, though his eyes remained wide. “O-okay… okay…” He steadied his breath, but he was still shaken. “So—so how do I become not-super-almost-dead?”

    Star let him go. “Inside this realm, there’s a Dungeon. At the center, there’s something called a Core. The Core is going to have to accept or reject you, depending on whether I like you or not—or, I guess if you can force your way through, but,”—she flapped her lips with a puff of air—“no way that’s happening. But don’t worry, Owen, you’ll pass that test. But… if you take it… you also have to want it. And to want that, you need to know what grabbing that Orb… entails.”

    Owen nodded silently.

    “It, uh… the Grass Orb, uh… it’s… it’s going to give you a lot of power. Power that won’t really show itself at first, but the more you hone it, the stronger you’ll become.”

    Owen blinked. “What’s the downside?” he asked. “I’ll be able to help way more people if I’m stronger, right? Does it shorten my lifespan or something?”

    “I mean, indirectly. People may want to hunt you down for that power to have it for themselves.”

    Someone spoke from behind them. “It’s what happened to me.”

    Owen turned around, looking at a Jumpluff.

    “I was the… previous holder of the Grass Orb, long ago.” He stared uneasily at Owen. “And I was slain. From my body emerged the Orb—but before it could be claimed, Rhys took it, protecting the power from being acquired by someone with… less benevolent intentions.”

    “The Espurr?” Owen asked.

    “Look,” Star said, “a lot of people are after the Orb—and that Espurr is one of them, yeah. Jumpluff Klent”—she motioned to him—“decided to stay back here in order to protect the Grass Orb from the inside, and do anything he could to keep someone from getting to the Core.”

    Klent sighed. “I protected the Orb for five hundred years,” he said, “but I just wasn’t strong enough against that sort of power…”

    Star nodded. “Owen,” she said, “it’s a huge obligation. You’ll be, eh… you’ll be throwing a normal life away. And if you’re scared, you’ll have to go into hiding, like a lot of other holders did. It’s… it’s not fun, Owen, if you aren’t strong. And you aren’t strong. Not yet. But Rhys could help you, and maybe…”

    Owen caught onto something. “Wait.” His flame flickered anxiously. “So, if I get trained, I’ll be strong enough to guard the Orb, right? Sure. But… why me? Why do I pass so easily?”

    “Uhh—” Star fidgeted. Her tail twitched. “You have a lot of… potential! That’s all.”

    Owen crossed his arms. “How come, for real?”

    “No, that’s really it—you have a lot of potential. You can definitely keep the Orb safe. And if you do, maybe, I dunno, maybe things can work out?”

    “Things can work out,” Owen repeated. He figured that Star was aware of his perceptiveness. Yet, she planned to be evasive anyway? “What things?” he asked. “I mean—you aren’t telling me everything. What are my other two options?”

    Star hummed, creating a small, purple bubble of Psychic energy to lounge on. “Right, the other two. Okay. One is, you can stay here, like Klent, and protect the Orb. The other is, you come with me to the aura sea, and pass on.”

    One of the Pidgey let out a soft chirping noise, nuzzling against the other. Jumpluff Klent quietly rubbed his pom-poms together.

    “Wh—what choice is that?!” Owen blurted. “So, I either take this power, die, or super die?!”

    “I mean, uh… Yes.”

    “Well then, I don’t really have a choice, do I?!” Owen growled. The amount of information was too much for him to fully comprehend; for once, he was able to focus on just one thing. If he didn’t accept, he would never return to the living world again. Nothing else mattered.

    “Take… just take me to the Core.” This temptress had led him right into this divine trap.

    “Right,” Star said.

    <><><> ​

    Owen walked with his arms crossed, head down. The power seemed good. He’d be able to use it for so many rescue missions! But he’d also be hunted down. But if he trained with Rhys, he’ll be able to defend himself! Oh, but then he’ll have to tell his parents.

    Owen gulped. All throughout their walk, Pokémon watched him from the bushes, from the shadows, from the branches above—there was even a wooden Ekans nestled inside one of the trunks, eying him silently.

    “Um, Star?” the Charmander—perhaps the only Charmander who’d ever set foot in this realm—said. “Does this mean, if I live for a long time, that I’ll outlive everybody? Klent said five hundred years…”

    “D’aw, you’re fine,” Star said. “Remember, the Orb taps into the spirit world. They’ll be around.”

    For some reason, this lifted a weight off his shoulders. Star looked down at him, bumping up against the tough scales on his ill-defined shoulders. “Aw, you think I’d put you through that? Don’t worry, I’ll help you out. I try to help everyone out, if I can.”

    “I’d hope so!” Owen said. “You made life!”

    Star giggled. “I do my best.” She then stopped and pointed ahead. There was a distortion of light that was wider than one he’d ever seen before, expanding all the way up, left, and right, like a giant, vertical lake. It only became visible then they approached; prior to that final step, it was unnoticeable.

    “That’s the Dungeon that leads to the Core. It’s a single-segment, giant Dungeon. All you need to do is get to the center.”

    “…Is it hard?”

    Star hesitated before she answered, which did nothing good for Owen’s nerves. “It’s not my place to decide. This is the domain of Grass—it’s not my territory.” She motioned to the distortion again, the ripples of which suddenly felt a lot more ominous. “Normally, you’ll have spirits protecting it, but seeing as I already gave you the okay, they’ll let you pass without a fuss, hopefully. Maybe some of them might be a little leery, you know, but… Aw, hey! It’ll probably be just fine!”

    The Mew’s confident smile was enough to brighten his tail. “Thanks, Star.” Despite his circumstances, she was still Mew. Maybe she knew something he didn’t, and couldn’t tell him for important reasons. What did he know? She seemed nice enough. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. Some sort of divine surprise party. Owen used to not even believe Star existed, let alone that the Books were real, but here she was. He was probably in too much of a mental shock for the implications of all that to settle in, but he didn’t want to dwell long enough to let that happen. “I… I don’t know what this is all going to turn out like, but it’s… I’m glad that I got to talk to you.”

    “D’aw, don’t worry about it,” Star said, scratching her left ear. “…Owen.”

    “Yeah?”

    “Remember. A lot of people aren’t going to be happy that you took this Orb. To them, you just aren’t fit to be a Guardian. I know you’re a lot older than you look, and I can see into your heart, and I know you’re a good ‘mon and all that. But not everyone else sees it the same way. So, once you get this power… I want you to take it slow, yeah? Don’t get too creative with it, don’t try to make moves to take on more than you did before. Follow what Rhys says. Nevren’s good, too. And Anam. Use your judgement and think conservatively to earn their trust.”

    It was uncharacteristically serious of her—making it a bit difficult for Owen to take this seriously. What if it was all just a big joke? Still, he’d get nowhere by doubting her. What she said sounded reasonable so far.

    “I get it.” Owen sighed. “Everybody keeps calling me a kid because I’m so small. I mean, who ever heard of an adult Charmander, right?”

    “It’s more common than you think,” Star admitted. “Civilized, non-Heart Pokémon don’t exactly fight that often. Wouldn’t be surprised if most folks just didn’t evolve. I’d call it lost potential, but hey, a life of peace doesn’t sound too bad.”

    “Well—you know what I mean. And I get what you mean, too. I’ll… take it slow. And train. I… I mean, I always try to take things carefully, right?”

    “Owen,” Star said with an amused smile, “if you took everything carefully, you wouldn’t be here.”

    Owen’s face felt hot. “F-from here on out, I’ll be more careful.”

    “Good!” She clapped her tiny paws together. “And if you ever have any doubts, you can ask me, or even your spirits. We’re here for you. Now, get outta here.” She shooed him away with her tail. “Grab that Core.”

    And with that, the Charmander passed through the distortion.

    <><><> ​

    Big indeed. Owen lost track of time during his adventure through the single-section Dungeon. Every turn through these bright, narrow halls led to a new room, and every so often, he ran into a spirit that helped him on his way. The walls were made entirely of twisted bark, like a frozen ocean of wood that sprouted entire trees on either side. He’d never seen something so surreal in any Dungeon before.

    During his walk, Owen did his best to try to look polite and proper; if he didn’t want to provoke some sort of divine wrath from these spirits of a Type that would naturally fear him, he’d have to be on his best behavior. Every so often, he’d run into a spirit or two that fled at the very sight of him. Other times, he’d see a spirit that just watched him nervously. When he had to pass by one in a smaller corridor, he’d give a polite nod and try to make some sort of casual conversation with them, especially if they were going in the same direction.

    They always watched him with an uneasy leer when he did that. Did Owen confuse them, somehow? It wasn’t that unheard of for a Fire to chitchat with a Grass, was it? Or perhaps they were just from a different era. After all, times had changed; Kilo Village fostered a society of inclusiveness and mutual understanding across all kinds of life, all sorts of Pokémon. He had explained that to the other spirits, and a few of them asked what he did for a living; Owen replied that he was a Heart, and beforehand, a Provisionary Heart—that he rescued Pokémon and helped out all across Kilo.

    They asked if by ‘Kilo’ he meant the central city or the world, and Owen happily replied, “Both!”

    But eventually—inevitably—Owen ran out of things to talk to with these awkward spirits that, no matter what he said, always gave him puzzled or fascinated looks, gawking at him like he was some kind of anomaly. But while he had grown used to that, he was starting to get sick of actually navigating this strange maze, even with the spirits guiding him in the right direction.

    “H-hang on,” Owen said to the tenth spirit: a tea-flavored Slurpuff. “Is this really the fastest way there?”

    “It is,” said the spirit. “Having trouble? You can always take a break.”

    “N-no, no, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just… so big for a Dungeon. A single section, too!”

    “Well, it’s the spirit world, so some things are a little different. But you’re really close, now. Just a few hundred more rooms.”

    “Aaaagh…”

    But, eventually, he did find his way. He made the final turn and saw a long, dark hallway. The forest was quite dim here, and the trees were overgrown, blotting out the sun—or, whatever it was that simulated a sun in this realm. The only light source was a dim glow at the end of the hall. Owen walked toward it. His shadow loomed threateningly behind him the closer he got. The glow came from higher up. He entered a small clearing lined with a wall of more twisted wood, arching into a giant dome.

    “There it is,” Star said.

    Owen yelped and spun around. “W-were you following me?!”

    “No, I just teleported here,” Star said. “Say, are you ready? All you need to do is reach out to the light, and let it go into your chest. That’ll be enough.”

    “O-okay,” Owen said. “And… will it hurt?”

    “Might feel a little hot.”

    “Well, I like hot,” Owen said, perking up. Star’s left brow raised slightly, and he immediately grumbled and faced the Core again. He squinted at the light and held his small arms out. “Okay, um, Core! I’ll take care of you from now on!”

    The core got brighter. It was getting closer to him. He shut his eyes and felt an intense heat emanate from his chest. “Ngh—!” He gasped and opened his eyes. The center of his chest was glowing. It slowly faded, and the clearing became dark except for the flicker of the flame on his tail. “Wow…” he said.

    “Nice!” Star said.

    “What now?” he asked.

    “Just wait a bit,” Star said. “Takes a little time for the spirit to assimilate and stuff. Say, how was the walk?”

    “Hated it.”

    “Well, at least you weren’t fighting spirits the whole way.”

    Owen snorted.

    A few seconds of awkward silence passed. Star looked aimlessly to the left and right, as if searching for a conversation starter. “So,” the Mew said, “what d’you wanna do? Maybe I could turn into a Charmander again.”

    “Why?”

    “I dunno. I’m bored. Maybe we can—”

    Something bright caught Owen’s eye. He looked at his arms; lights were coming from his feet, rising like bubbles. “Wh-what’s happening?!”

    “Hey, you finished absorbing the power! Nice. You’re waking up,” Star said. “Oh, right, I forgot. Uh—when you wake up, don’t panic, but you might look a little—”

    But the lights were too much, and Owen evaporated in front of her. Star stared at where Owen once was and sighed.

    “Eh. He’ll be fine.”

    Star shrugged and spun around. She saw a silhouette.

    “Star,” Klent said, standing at the entrance.

    “Oh, hey.”

    The Mew tried to look casual, but the quiet flicking of her ears and tail suggested that she knew why Klent was there. She didn’t break the silence—didn’t know how to—but she concentrated on the pom-pom on the top of Klent’s head, if only to give the illusion of looking at him in the eyes.

    “…Owen. Why do you trust him?” he asked. “I agreed to go along with it, and I held my tongue while he was here, but… I still don’t exactly want to help him right now.”

    “Oh, come on, it’s been so long,” Star said. “It’s not like—"

    “And yet—”

    “Don’t ‘and yet’ me, you know this is our last shot!” Star said. “And Owen is the best one to do it. You know that. He’s stable now. Mostly. And if we wait any longer, Eon will get all the Orbs instead. No more procrastinating. We need to get Owen, and those other three, nice and ready. With Team Alloy or whatever they call themselves together, and with them in control, it’ll work out.”

    Klent ruffled his pom-poms together irritably. “I won’t go against him,” the Jumpluff said, “but I’m not ready to help him, either. The other spirits will. But I’ll… just watch, for now.” He turned around. “I’m going to see Amelia. She’s still shaken by all this.”

    Star flinched. “O-oh… right, yeah, okay,” Star said softly. “Um, Okay. Take care? It’s—it’s not as bad as it seems. Amia and Alex are doing a great job, and so is Rhys with the other three. I promise, this’ll work out.”

    Klent stopped at this, head lowering. His pom-pom bobbed idly in the air, and then he looked back. “Will you make that a Divine Promise?”

    Star bit her lower lip.

    Klent gave Star an angry smile. “I’m going to see Amelia.”

    “Yeah…”

    The Jumpluff spirit vanished; shortly after, so did the Mew.

    <><><> ​

    “HE’S COMING BACK!” Demitri yelled into the cave. At the entrance to the kitchen, he saw Rhys returning from his meeting, walking past his little berry garden. The Lucario was distracted by a particularly ripe Pecha Berry, picking it from the branches. But even with those few extra seconds, they simply didn’t have enough time to cover up what had happened.

    “Is—is he awake yet?!” The Axew rushed past the kitchen table, through the rocky halls, and into Gahi’s room, nearly falling into his sand pit.

    “I dunno, scale-bag, the guy’s tail isn’t even lit up!” Gahi said, churring angrily next to Owen in his Rawst bed. The Trapinch slammed his head against the dead Charmander’s side, expecting that to be enough to rouse him from an eternal slumber.

    “B-but he’s breathing, right? Barely?!” Demitri asked. He was hyperventilating, on the edge of fainting, at risk of becoming the second casualty of the morning.

    Mispy, on the other side of the Charmander, shot another Heal Pulse at his body, but to no effect. As far as his body was concerned, he was in top shape. No bruises, no abnormalities, no ailments—he just happened to be dead.

    Gahi paced in a fast, small circle in the room, into the hall, and then back into the room again, thinking of a way that they could get Owen awake. “We—we ain’t gonna wake’m in time, are we?”

    “Is he even… alive?” Mispy brought her leaf to his chest, feeling for a pulse. He had been breathing shallowly before, and her leaf had felt the warm breath from his nose. But it had been fading quickly.

    She noticed that Owen’s body was turning a sickly green, and his scales felt disturbingly soft, like he was already decomposing in front of them.

    “I’m home,” Rhys said, entering the mouth of the cave.

    “H-heyyy, Rhys!” Demitri greeted, running up to him in the kitchen. He bowed a bit too deeply toward the Lucario. “H-how are you doing?”

    “I am doing well,” Rhys said, staring suspiciously. “And what are you doing? Where is Owen?”

    Mispy and Gahi step out of the bedroom.

    “H-he… eh, he’s… resting,” Gahi said, glancing at Mispy. “Yeah? Just having a nap? M-Mispy?”

    The Chikorita was incredibly pale.

    Rhys entered his own room and inspected the shelf. Mostly everything appeared to be in its proper place. He saw his Pecha stash was untouched. His artifacts and mementos pristine. The Book of Mew lay undisturbed. Yet, the Grass Orb was missing. The trio knew, immediately, that Rhys figured it out.

    “Students,” he said, slowly turning, “I want you to show me Owen.”

    “H-he’s… he’s sleeping,” Demitri said.

    “Y-yeah, maybe we shouldn’t bother’m,” Gahi said.

    Mispy was on the verge of tears. Demitri knocked his claws against one another, eyes wide. Owen was dead. They let him die. All because they didn’t listen to—

    Owen groaned from the bedroom. “Ugh, my head…”

    “Th-there!” Demitri said. “He’s awake!”

    Mispy’s leaf twitched in surprise. She turned, still in shocked disbelief, and trotted after Demitri. Rhys followed them with Gahi.

    “W-wait,” Demitri said, “I… Owen?”

    Gahi stared. “How the…”

    Rhys crossed his arms in resignation. “Hello, Owen.”

    Owen rubbed his head. Something about it felt… different. He felt—what was the word—fuzzy? No, that wasn’t right. It was as if his entire body was covered in a soft, flexible layer of scales. Not his usual, firm plating. He ran his right hand on his left arm. He recognized the feeling. Vaguely, just barely reminiscent of feathers. It reminded him of his bed.

    “L-leaves…?” He looked down. His front, once a pale brown, was the same color as pale grass; what were once orange scales along his back and arms were now sea-green. “What?”

    Owen took in a sharp breath in panic. What sort of joke was this?! He felt something welling up inside his gut. Normally, it would feel like a heat building in the back of his throat. Ember—a bad habit of a reflex if he ever felt in trouble, perhaps a fragment of his primal instincts. But this time, he felt something solid choking him from the inside of his neck. His eyes bulged in surprise—out from his mouth came a single, fat vine that narrowly missed Demitri’s shoulder. It snapped against the wall with a loud crack! and fell limply on the floor, twitching.

    Owen choked on his own vine. He flailed helplessly against it, trying to pull it out of him, but it was attached somewhere deep inside his stomach. He tried to breathe in. It writhed like a struggling Wurmple, and then retracted rapidly into his mouth. Owen gasped for air.

    “Ugh—! Th-that’s not right!” he said. “Wait—leaves… everything became… The Grass Orb.” He rubbed his head, looking at his leafy paws. “W-wait… that means…!” Panicking, he grabbed his tail, pulling it around to look for his fire. Just one thing to keep him sane, just one remnant of his Fiery pride. It couldn’t have all changed. He was a Charmander! If he lost the one thing—

    At the tip of his tail was not a flame, but a flower: a small, white daffodil.

    “AAAAAUUUUUUUUGH!”
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
    Umbramatic and canisaries like this.
  5. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    GONNA GET A LIL WEIRD
    GONNA GET A LIL WILD

    Lesser Mew, huh? Interesting concept, there.

    Mew oh my gods control your flatulence.

    [CREEPY STARING, HEAVY BREATHING]

    Can I just say that I love everything about this interaction.

    Missing a word here?

    WE PRANKED A CHARMANDER INTO THINKING HE WAS THE GUARDIAN OF THE GRASS ORB [GONE WRONG]

    Cooool. I hope we get to see some other Orbs' Dungeons too.

    >mfw the light-toned PMD fic has a scene straight out of my own horror fic

    General Comments

    I loved this chapter. It's definitely the funniest one so far, you got me smiling the whole way through.

    And of course I now had to sketch grass!Owen:

    [​IMG]

    Looking forward to the next chapter!
     
  6. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Drowning sorrows with Regice & Latios

    Owen is here to kick some grass! All joking aside, while the idea of the big, important guardian actually being rather childlike and not serious isn't terribly original, I think you pull it off well. I know playful Mews are the more common interpretation in the fandom (I've done it once), I've only gotten to read a couple and I quite like what you did with Star, here. Hope we get to see more or her or, potentially, other gods being glorified kids, as I happen to like Legends acting really silly instead of like big, destructive kaiju.

    Given the way you set up the grass orb dungeon, I don't fault you for basically glossing over everything about it. The brief description brought the Great Deku Tree to mind for me so I can't unsee that in the slightest. Then we have the actual description of Owen's transformation with a suitably creeped out narrator. The idea of his flame-based attacks now being replaced by a vine whip that acts kind of like a frog's tongue (but also chokes him b/c he doesn't know how to make it work) is sure to cause some problems and I'm interested to see how you plan on handling that. If I had to fault anything, the stuff leading up to Owen waking up, with Team Alloy panicking, is kind of difficult to follow. You don't really follow any one perspective and I don't get a clear sense of where everyone is in Rhys' house and what they're doing. It also seems like it cuts to Rhys entering a bit abrupty, but maybe that's just me. Otherwise, this is a nifty, unusal chapter and I'm interested in seeing how things pan out from here.

    Also, lots of good material here...
    Mew is a flirt, confirmed. Then again, if I could transform into anything I wanted... I imagine I'd take a chance with anything, too. :V

    Oh my god you even gave her a prostitute name... you are reaaaaaally not helping your case here, bud. XP

    You mean a ditto?

    And also humility! /s

    Star is also Maya Fey, apparently.

    We interrupt this Pokémon Mystery Dungeon story to bring you... The Princess Bride

    Yeah, I still don't buy this. Rhys is clearly a former outlaw of sorts. You're setting someone up to pull a Dusknoir. James, perhaps?

    So, the villain is that one guy with a kickass beard from Skylanders? Aww... I actually liked him.
     
  7. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    The interactions between Star and Owen in this chapter really make it. Playing off some poor Char and Literally God (well, one of them) and watching his worldview slowly crumble makes for an interesting blend of existential crisis and humor. Expect more.

    Orb Dungeons are a surreal thing. I don't know if we'll see one directly for a while, though I certainly have plans to show them off!

    It's amazing how a little tonal shift can turn something from horror to horribly funny! Expect more of this as well. I really like subverting horror tropes into humor.

    I blame Star. What's technically happening was a life-changing event, and Owen's properly shellshocked. Yet the way it's all going on, you can't help but smile at how crazy it is. I feel like once the hilarity wears off, though, things will get more... sobering.

    I am... so pumped that I was able to inspire someone to draw something--anything, really--of my work. You have no idea how humbling and yet how heartening at the same time to have someone do something like this for me. I thought I'd never really be able to relate to those feelings that other creators have expressed before about stuff like that, but you know what? I get it now. Thank you.

    I won't spoil much, but I will say that Star isn't the only high-tier being who has some issues with elegance.

    Yeah, it was a little hectic, so I can see how that'd be hard to follow. I could go with the cop-out answer of "Well, it was a really chaotic situation, and I intentionally made it as such," but that'd be a lie. I can probably spruce it up to make it a little more coherent. I kinda have to follow all their perspectives, since each one is doing something in a different place in the house (Mispy trying to revive a carcass in the bedroom, Gahi pacing with anxiety in the everywhere, Demitri hyperventilating in the kitchen) but I can at least make it more explicit what's going on where. I don't want to bog down the pacing, though. This scene is tricky. Hmm. I'll feel it out in the coming days.

    I'll take a double-check just in case to see if I see what you mean. And if I do, I'll make the transition a bit more natural.

    I obviously can't confirm or deny, but I'm glad that you're suspicious of the folks that are being so secretive. You should be, since that's only the reasonable thing to expect.

    Hopefully in the next chapter, you'll get at least a few answers! (And either expand or shrink your list of suspected betrayers.)
     
    canisaries likes this.
  8. Phoenixsong

    Phoenixsong you taste like fear

    Hi there! A belated welcome to the fic section, first of all. This is actually going to be the first PMD fic I've read (outside of a few one-shots), so I'm excited. Let's get started with this prologue, shall we?

    We've certainly got an exciting beginning here! Given that Owen's the main character and this is a pretty violent sequence, I assume this is some kind of dream--but certainly it's going to mean something in the future. A vicious tyranitar-seviper fusion, a family fighting for their lives... definitely intriguing, I'll give you that.

    "Screamed for him"... wow. I like that a lot. The punctuation there is a little unsual, though; a dash would imply a sudden cutting off, and you don't normally use a longer dash (em-dash) for that purpose. I'm not sure you need any kind of punctuation there at all, really, but maybe a period or ellipsis to indicate a pause or emphasis would look a little less jarring.

    Hm. I'm not sure whether to read the gardevoir's words as an actual attempt to soothe Owen and unrelated to what happens next, or as more... ominous. Interesting.

    I don't know that I'd use a phrase like "flame-themed" in neutral third-person narration. It sounds more like commentary on a pokémon's "design" (as a fictional monster) rather than talking about an actual creature's actual appearance, which comes across as artificial in a setting where pokémon are real, living beings and in fact sapient characters. Even something like "flame-patterned" or "with fiery markings" would sound less stilted, I think.

    Generally "tittered" implies a giggle or light laughter; I don't get the impression that that's what you meant here, though.

    Interesting to see that Owen remembers his dream as "good" and "exciting". And by "interesting" I mean "probably not a good sign", heh. One assumes most of his dreams have been/will be like this, especially if his parents are nervous. Presumably Owen is adopted if his parents are a gardevoir and a magmortar, which means maybe they know something unfortunate about whatever Owen's deal was before they took him in.

    What made Amia ask that, out of curiosity? You didn't say anything about Alex nodding off or looking/sounding tired, which this implies.

    Going with a fairly direct interpretation of the game mechanics, are we? Always interesting to see how people handle things like this in fic! Why do they warp back? How? Does that mechanism appear elsewhere in the world, or have other uses? Fun questions.

    Although, hm... I'm wondering how much of what Alex describes is just him being a worrywart, and how much of it is actually likely. I'm inclined to believe the former (or, at least, that everyone thinks it's nothing to worry about, this is a fanfic and of course things are going to go spectacularly off-course :p) given that Owen is so cavalier about this and Amia is at least trying to pretend that she's okay with him leaving, but Alex is going on about Owen potentially losing his life. I wonder who's right?

    Hm... I'm not sure if this is what you intended, but that last sentence sounds like a threat? Like "oooh, you got in trouble, I'm gonna tell the Association on you, ooooh, you're gonna get it", like maybe Owen getting in trouble means the Association won't let him in. I'm assuming Alex is trying to be reassuring and let Owen know that they'll get help from the authorities if something goes wrong? But then again, he also clearly doesn't want Owen to leave, and Owen joining this Association is basically why he's leaving, so maybe telling them that he can't handle a dungeon is meant to ensure that Owen can't get in and has to stay home where it's safe. Either way, the dialogue comes across as kind of "tattle-tale"-ish rather than something a concerned father would say to his adult son, so I do wonder if it can be reworded to be a little clearer or more direct. (Does get me wondering exactly what the Association is, though!)

    Oh, wow. Not a dream after all, eh? Certainly not a normal one, at least; presumably if Alex is worried that Owen might die, it isn't normal for pokémon to "evaporate" and then be totally fine the next morning, so maybe this is an exceptional situation. And these "mutants" are a real thing, too. And what does that mean about what Amia did at the end of the "dream sequence", or whatever else was happening there? Obviously something was up given the parents' nervousness and apparent knowledge about Owen's dreams (or "dreams"), but I wasn't expecting that sort of reveal this soon. Now I've definitely got to know what's up with that, haha.

    As a general note, I do notice that your characters tend to stammer an awful lot when they're nervous; it gets a little repetitive to read, almost silly. There are other ways to imply nervousness, such as body language, facial expressions, etc.; maybe play with those a little more rather than relying on the same dialogue tic over and over again.

    But yes! We're definitely off to an exciting start here! What was that whole opening sequence, and what actually happened? (I appreciate this taking a different tack than most prologues with "dreams" in them, that's for sure.) Why are there mutant fusion things, and why are they after Amia? Who is the Association? Lots of questions, and that's just the prologue. It's a bit late at the moment so I'm going to stop here, but I'm definitely going to be back to check out the rest!
     
  9. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Well, that's a very thorough review of what's basically just 1.5k words, but I'll take it! Thanks for the feedback, @Phoenixsong ! I'm glad you're interested already! Hope you can catch up to the rest of it soon!

    Well hey, I'm glad you decided to take the plunge! You're in for a wild ride.

    Heh. Well, you find out in a few more paragraphs.

    Yeah, that's a good point, a bit of awkward phrasing. If I ever get around to re-uploading edits across the versions I have around, I'll change it to "flaming," which I did in the master file. Thankfully this one's a bit minor.

    I decided to look up the definition again. It used to say "a suppressed, nervous laugh" but now it's just a suppressed laugh. Great. The definition changed on me! A few years ago, it implied nervousness. I guess I can add in "nervously" and leave it at that.

    Alex being a worrywart and staying up at night fretting.

    Believe it or not, every one of those questions has an answer, though that's to be answered later, for plot. Much later, unfortunately--thankfully, just being accepted as the way the world works is surprisingly useful!

    That's it. I'll probably see if there's a way to gracefully add in that clarification without disrupting flow.
     
  10. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Kay, so after reading about Owen's shenanigans in the Mod Madness, I generally just wanted to know more about the guy. (Like... he's adorable, but don't tell him I said that.) And I'm really glad I did because this? This has been a damn enjoyable read so far!

    For starters, the pacing has been phenomenal. You know how there's that thing with a lot adventure epics (and the PMD games themselves!) where the beginning area before The Plot starts is boring and even if fun stuff happens, you're still like "ok but where's the plot." But here, you've saturated the opening with so many constant little reminders of strange events that I practically felt like I was reading a mystery and honestly kinda forgot that the adventure hadn't even started yet. The most obvious, of course being the opening scene and the "dreams" of things that didn't quite happen (but also kind of did?) And for a while I was torn on what exactly they were. Were they things that happened in the past, that he's just lost his memory about? Or were they things that could have happened in another timeline, leaking over into his perceptions? I felt like the latter was more likely, simply because it would take a lot of characters lying to him to hide something like the first option. Unless everyone's been made to forget. Aaaaand, turns out that yeah! Everyone's been made to forget, including Team Alloy. But... that still doesn't explain things like the vision of Nevren attacking him. There's more to it than we've seen so far, that much is clear. (Nevren sure does a better job of hiding it that Rhys though.)

    I like the fact that Owen actually really is a late evolver, as too often something like that would usually just be an obvious lie that a character tells to feel better about themselves. And yet, it makes perfect sense that an adult Pokemon could just happen to have not evolved yet. It's an interesting way to make him stronger than a Charmander should without it feeling cheap.

    I can kinda see where some other readers are coming from, regarding Demitri and Gahi not being distinct enough, but I can tell you're already making steps to make them more distinct, so I won't complain. Also I'm digging Mispy so far. And then Mew. Oh my god, Mew. I was not ready. xD; She's hilarious, but manages to still come across as believably involved in this big epic plot that Owen just found himself fallen into, so good job there.

    Also, I love the line: “So, I either take this power, die, or super die?!” I'm with you there, buddy, not much of a choice, is it? xD

    So yeah, definitely gonna follow this to see where it goes!

    ~Chibi~
     
  11. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    W-wow, a sweeping review with so much praise! You flatter me! And I'm honored that I could get someone to enjoy my work so much, especially after checking it out after just a little bit of curiosity from seeing him out and about.


    I figured I'd get the attention of a few folks with Owen being a nerd!

    Like I said before, this is a hugely validating thing for me, and I'm so glad that you're enjoying yourself while reading my work.

    THANK YOU. This is absolutely something that I have been balancing for a while now. Early iterations of this work (particularly chapters 1~3) suffered from "Where plot" for a while. I added in more explicit foreshadowing in narration, among other things, to start the information drip right from the start to keep the reader's attention until the "real plot" begins -- as in, the last few ones, and in the chapter I'm going to post in an hour or two from now. I'm very glad that I was able to get some semblance of "distracting the reader" long enough to really hook 'em with the main story.

    Absolutely. "There's more to it" is going to be a common theme for a while, especially Act I.

    Ahh, yeah, I'm working on that. I hope I can differentiate them more as the scenes involving them become more prominent. It's going to be a little Owen-central for a little while due to... well, what just happened. But later! I'll be sure to show them more distinctly.

    Yeah, he's legitimately just a really strong Charmander--just as Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi are all oddly really strong Axew, Chikorita, and Trapinch! Odd, though, that all four of them are like that.

    I'm glad I was able to strike a balance with that. Star is definitely a very casual deity, but a deity nonetheless--and, therefore, a major player in this whole mess. You can't just include someone of her status for no reason, after all.

    Again, thank you-thank you for reading and dropping the review! Always glad to know I've attracted another new reader!

    Now then, time to get to my finishing touches...
     
  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 8 – A Thousand-Heart Secret

    “I’m a PLANT!” Owen screeched, grabbing his chest and tugging gently at the feather-like arrangement of leaves that covered his body. He yelped when he realized that it was a lot easier to pull them away than he had expected. One of the leaves fell to the ground; a tiny splotch of green blood remained where the leaf had been plucked.

    “Ow.” He at the small hole left behind. The bleeding stopped quickly. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with being a plant,” he said to Mispy, who was glaring at him. “J-just—I’m a Charmander! Charmander! Like fire! Not a—a—”

    “Grassmander?” Demitri said.

    Demitri’s remark sent Gahi over the edge. The Trapinch laughed, rolling his huge head and round body on the ground. “GRASSMANDER!” he shouted to the heavens. “Oh, Arceus may’s well kill me now; there ain’t nothing gonna top this!”

    “It’s—it’s not funny!” Owen’s feathers fanned out, making him look much larger and puffier than before. “I’m not ready for this!” He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Gahi had a point to laugh at the situation, for one reason or another. And perhaps, in a few days, Owen would laugh, too. But for now, at the front of Owen’s mind, the Grassmander was thinking about the most effective way to crack an exoskeleton.

    “Now, Owen, close your eyes,” Rhys said carefully. “Try to meditate, yes? Can you do that?”

    “I…! I… I’ll try.” Owen felt the vine in the back of his throat well up. He was used to embers billowing from his mouth when he did that. Instead, he felt that same, horrible tendril prodding at the back of his throat. He gulped to keep it down. It writhed in his gut like a giant parasite. Owen clutched his belly. “I guess it’s—is this permanent?”

    “Likely not,” Rhys said. “Owen… you absorbed the Grass Orb into your being. The Grass Type, in other words, is manifesting itself in you. But soon, your body will properly assimilate it, and you will return to your Fiery self—and, perhaps after a bit of training, you’ll be able to transform from one form to the other at will. That can be quite useful.”

    “O-okay… okay, I think that makes sense…” His breathing steadied. “So, I just have to wait for now? Rhys—how do you know about all this?”

    “I’ve studied it before,” he said dismissively, “And, hrm… Owen, could you come with me? I would like to take you to town.”

    “H-hey, can we come, too?” Demitri said.

    Gahi raised his head, finally calm enough to not chitter his laughs between words. “Yeah, I wanna hear what this is all about.”

    “Please?” Mispy asked.

    “Ngh… I’m not sure,” Rhys said. “We will see.”

    “We’re gonna follow,” Gahi said.

    Rhys growled, “Are you going to disobey me?”

    Mispy shrugged with her vines. “Owen will just tell us.”

    The Lucario growled. He knew they were right. “You will come,” he said, “but you will be silent unless addressed. Understood?”

    “Silent, eh?”

    “Gahi.” Rhys glared.

    “Okay, okay.” Gahi flicked his head in what was his species’ equivalent of an eyeroll. “Silent.”

    Owen nervously shifted his stance. He thought Rhys would be extraordinarily upset at him for touching the Orb, and he remembered Star’s words to behave conservatively for now. Perhaps she was right about convincing him; he didn’t feel that tension from Rhys. At all. In fact, Owen sensed… relief. Rhys was relieved that Owen grabbed the Orb.

    Somehow, this made the Grassy Charmander—he refused to adopt the term “Grassmander”—feel even worse.

    Rhys retreated into the storage room and returned with what appeared to be a cloth three times the size of Owen. “Wear this.”

    “Wear?” Owen asked. “What’s…?”

    “This is a cloak. We can’t let you be visible in public. You may be mistaken for a mutant.”

    Owen gulped, reaching for the cloak. It was heavy. It felt like it was made from some sort of fur and silk. It was a wonderful shade of blue, with hints of black and cream-colored fur as well. Owen brought it a bit closer, sniffing the disguise curiously. It felt quite natural and soft. A strange sense of nostalgia washed over him—something about the smell made him want to nestle into it for a nice, long—

    “AUGH!” Owen hurled the cloak against the wall. “GROSS!”

    Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all flinched.

    Demitri in particular hid behind Mispy, clutching at his tusks as if they would keep him grounded. “Wh-what’s wrong?!”

    “What’re you panicking fer?” Gahi said, clicking his jaws.

    Owen pointed an accusatory claw at Rhys, and his vine shot from his mouth halfway. He chomped down to keep it from fully emerging, and he swallowed it back. After a fit of coughing, he said raggedly, “That’s your FUR!”

    “Of—of course it is! I happen to shed quite a bit during the summer!” Rhys raised his muzzle indignantly. “I wasn’t going to put it all to waste! I made it into a cloak. I wove it with some Wurmple silk for a foundation, let it dry, and—”

    “I’m wearing YOU!” Owen squeezed his eyes shut. “Who hoards their own fur?! You don’t see me making a—making a bag out of my discarded scales! I think I’m going to throw up—”

    Owen belched a volley of claw-sized seeds from his mouth. Rhys ducked to avoid the high-velocity projectiles, which instead clattered loudly against the rocky wall behind him.

    “Bullet Seed,” Mispy said with wide, fascinated eyes.

    Owen groaned. Rhys stepped to his pelt and picked it up, dusting off a few of the bullets. He put it back in Owen’s arms.

    “You will wear this,” he said. “We cannot go in public otherwise. Understood?”

    Owen stared at the cloak of Rhys. The mixture of disgust and comfort he got from holding it in his arms was enough to make the vine in his belly writhe. “Unghh.” He finally slipped it on.

    It was very warm.

    <><><> ​

    Owen walked in total silence on their way to Kilo Village. He didn’t know what he looked like; he only knew that the cloak covered him quite well. He felt a lot like a Mimikyu, or a Tangela, hidden away in a veil of darkness. He wondered, briefly, if this was going to be how he’d have to live forever. Even if he would eventually return to his Fiery self… that Espurr was going to hunt him down. He didn’t feel much stronger. If she was out for blood, the fight would be over in one misstep.

    Owen briefly lifted his cloak to catch a glance at the sky. It looked like it was just before noon. He spotted another Heart passing by—a Tyranitar. He stared at Owen curiously; the transformed Charmander quickly hid beneath his cloak again. The Heart paid them no mind for one reason or another; perhaps, with Rhys, he didn’t want to interfere.

    A nagging feeling tugged in the back of his mind. He felt bare, despite the cloak. He realized shortly after that there was a distinct lack of weight on his left shoulder. He’d forgotten his bag at Rhys’ home. Too late now, he thought.

    “How long was I out…?”

    “It was not very long,” Rhys said. “I left to speak with the Hearts, and then I returned home after a… small errand. Then, well, I arrived. Apparently, you immediately went for the Orb once I was gone, is that right?”

    “M-maybe.” Yes. “But… I feel like I’ve been gone for days. That Dungeon in the Orb was huge!”

    “Time passes differently in the spirit world,” Rhys said. “It can go as fast or as slow as it wishes, depending on the environment, whoever commands it, and other conditions.”

    Owen navigated up the stairway, tripping over the cloak—it was too long for him. There were a few instances where his legs and tail were exposed to the world. Rhys was quick to shove Owen back underneath.

    On the way up the stairs, Owen wondered—bitterly—why he had to get caught up in this in the first place. What were these Orbs even for, anyway? Why did they exist at all? He wanted to ask, but he had a feeling that there were more pressing answers he wanted to learn, first. For example, how someone would react to seeing a Grass Charmander. If he was mistaken for a mutant, he’d be mulch in seconds, wouldn’t he?

    All the while, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi—even Gahi—were quietly following behind, though it seemed that they were just as curious about where this was all going. He heard the pitter-patter of their feet despite not seeing them. Small comforts.

    They walked through the halls of the large, heart-shaped building, going straight for Anam’s quarters. Owen, recognizing the turns being made and following the purple path painted on the ground, realized where they were going. Straight to Goodra Anam. “W-wait, how big is this Orb stuff?”

    “Bigger than you will expect.”

    “Owen!”

    “M-mom?!” Owen threw his cloak off with an enthusiasm that insulted Rhys—thankfully, nobody else was around. He pointed at the blue Gardevoir. “G-guys! It’s—why’s my mom here?” They couldn’t show up for his promotion into the Hearts, yet suddenly they’re here on such short notice? If he still had a flame, it would’ve been blazing irritably.

    Amia ran and picked him up, holding him close to her chest. Owen murmured something about not being handled that way, and that he wasn’t some kid to pick up, but his protests were weak and halfhearted. Being embraced by his mother was something he really needed.

    “Oh, Owen, I was so worried! I thought something had happened, and…! Oh, your father has been completely distraught!”

    The Magmortar emerged from Anam’s office next and nodded. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to hold him, too. But he held back, considering Owen’s new Type. “Owen! What happened?” he said with an odd delay. “Why are you…?”

    “…Amia,” Rhys said, nodding at her.

    “O-oh, Rhys.” Amia’s shoulders sagged slightly. “Um… hello. How have you been?”

    Owen blinked. “Wait,” he said. “What’s going on? You—you know my mom? Mom? You know… Rhys? H-he’s an Elite!”

    Owen took it all in. Amia and Alex, his adoptive parents, were both there. They knew Rhys. And now, they were all going to see the Head, Anam… “Why’d you come here?”

    “Wait, hang on.” Gahi tilted his huge head. “Yer mom’s a Gardevoir? How’s that work? I may not be much of a reader, but ain’t the mom usually the same species?!”

    Mispy bopped Gahi on the head with a vine. “Don’t ask that.”

    “I was adopted,” Owen replied routinely.

    Demitri sighed, rubbing his right tusk. “Sorry about Gahi.” After an awkward two seconds of silence, he added, “If it’s any help, er, we don’t know our real parents, either!”

    “You don’t say.” He would normally be suspicious of them sharing that aspect with him, too, but there were bigger issues to deal with in his head. It was a struggle to triage all of the incoming questions he had swirling around his head.

    “Er, actually,” Amia said, addressing Owen’s question, “we came here because James came for us. He said that you’d be here soon, and we’d… want to see you. I think he was right.”

    “Owen,” Alex said, “why did you touch the Orb? Why didn’t you tell us that—”

    “Wait, you know about the Orb?” Owen asked.

    “You may stop your questions, Owen.” A silhouette of a Decidueye rose from the ground in the form of a black fog, the rest of his colors arriving seconds later. “Anam is ready to see you. Rhys, keep a close eye on the entrance while we talk, yes?”

    “Of course.”

    “Is—is nobody going to point out that James just rose from the ground like s-some sort of phantom?” Owen asked. “H-he’s a Ghost Type, but he’s not…!” He followed them, but at this point, Owen wondered if he was still dead.

    They all entered Anam’s room. Rhys stayed at the back with his eyes closed, standing guard. He was constantly watching for auras. Owen, uneasy, thought about the Espurr from before. Is that what Rhys was looking for?

    Anam’s office was only about seven of the Goodra’s paces across. Upon entering, the left side was riddled with books covered in a permanent, hard layer of dry slime. It flaked off to the touch, but it had a net gain every time the Goodra contacted them. Owen spotted, at the far end of the shelf, an ancient-looking edition of the Book of Arceus, with a white cover that was faded and worn by time. Perhaps it was preserved only because of the layer of dried slime that encrusted it. He even spotted on an upper shelf a thick book titled The Unabridged Encyclopedia of Pokémon Abilities and Techniques, Seventh Edition.

    Owen, realizing that he was only familiar with the sixth edition, stared enviously at it. For a precious few seconds, he’d forgotten about his troubles, replaced by the petty thought of how much it would cost to buy one. Unfortunately, the feeling of leaves on his arm brought his current issue back to the forefront of his mind.

    The right side of the office had a giant board with many papers pinned all over. It seemed to be for the sake of planning and organizing. It looked incredibly chaotic; Owen couldn’t make out any pattern to where everything was placed.

    The middle of the room had a desk made of dark wood, polished either by a craftsperson or by Anam’s general moistness. It was covered in a stack of paper a quarter as tall as Owen’s head, with a small bottle of Bluk Berry concentrate to the side for ink. Behind the desk, to the back of the office, was a pool of water that Anam likely used to stay hydrated. It had its own current—the inflow came from the left, with the outflow going to the back.

    Anam sat in this pool of water, nibbling at his fingers nervously. “Owen,” the Goodra said, frowning at the Grass-Charmander. “Rhys… is this what you wanted to happen?” When he got no reply, he continued. “Why? This might…”

    “Hold on,” Owen said. “What’s going on? How come you guys are all… do you guys all know something I don’t?”

    Of course they did.

    “Hey, we’ve got the same problem,” Gahi said. “What’s going on?”

    Mispy wrapped a vine around Gahi’s huge jaws to keep him quiet. Demitri remained silent. Perhaps if they just let them speak, all would become clear—or, as clear as they could make it, at least.

    “Owen,” Rhys said, “There is something that you should know about… the Orbs, and their history. For a long while, they have been guarded by Pokémon like you—those who have taken hold of the Orb, claiming its Core as their own. These Pokémon are known as Guardians—ideally, there would be one for each Type. A Guardian of Grass, in other words, would be you.”

    “I’m… I’m the Grass Guardian.”

    “Well, you are now, after taking the Orb.”

    “Recently,” James said, “there has been an… increase in Orb-related activity. A Pokémon has figured out how to find them, somehow, and is now trying to gather them up. We do not know how many she has, but she has at least one, due to the glow she gives off in the darkness. The Espurr, known as Rim. Is that correct, Rhys?”

    “Yes,” Rhys said. “I have tracked her for quite some time. We used to be familiar with one another, until our motivations… diverged. Now, she has an Orb within her, likely taken from a slain Guardian.”

    “S-slain?” Owen squeaked, his head feeling oddly icy with anxiety. “Wait, motivations? Wait, but what’s the point? Why does she want them? To be a little stronger?”

    James shook his head. “Each extra Orb amplifies one’s power. To gather them all within one being? You could become something far greater than some of the highest Legendary Pokémon known to us. You could rival Arceus himself. At least… that is what you have gathered, Rhys, from your research?”

    “Yes,” Rhys said. “Gathering all of the Orbs will grant you… considerable power. You could distort reality itself. That’s already possible with one Orb and enough training—but every single Orb, gathered together, will exponentiate its range of influence to, quite possibly, the entire world. Perhaps further. This is why we need the Orbs to remain apart. Separate, and as far away as possible.”

    “In other words, dear,” Amia said, “we don’t want someone who wants that power… to actually have it. It could end, um… everything, dear.”

    “E-everything?” Owen said. “but… but if…! I mean… St—Star! Star, the Mew! Can’t she stop this?”

    “She is of the spirit world,” Rhys said. “Something is holding them back from interfering with matters of the Orb in the world of the living. So, we are on our own.”

    “Oh, great,” Owen mumbled, wondering what could possibly be holding her back.

    Owen wasn’t sure if he was fully absorbing this information. All he knew that the vine writhing in his stomach was replaced by a cold lump. Why did Star trick him into touching this thing? Suddenly, worrying about getting mugged in a Dungeon felt a lot more desirable.

    “Okay,” Owen said. “So, the Orbs, and their Guardians—all this time, they’ve been kept separate, right? So,”—Owen briefly wondered if he should ask, but he had to, for his curiosity was not satiated—“what’s this have to do with all you guys?”

    Owen didn’t like the amount of silence that filled the room then. He eyed them all. Anam, James, Rhys—his friends, and his parents. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi seemed totally lost. But everyone else in the room looked tense, the answer pressing against their lips or beak.

    It was the Lucario who finally broke that silence. “There are three Guardians within this room.”

    Rhys was about to speak his next sentence—he didn’t even breathe between them. Yet, to Owen, there was an eternity’s worth of between that one and the next. Three guardians. He was one. His parents were here. Why were they here? He knew why.

    “Owen, you are one of them. Heart Head Anam is the second. And the third…”

    No. No, no, no.

    Amia lowered her head and clasped her hands together. “I’m sorry, Owen, but… so am I, dear. I’ve been the Fire Guardian for a very long time.”

    “M… Mom? But—but then what about… what about Dad?”

    James sighed. “It is true. Guardians do not die of age. Unless they somehow lose their power, or are slain, they live forever. Therefore, they are sure to outlast all of their loved ones, who pass on to the spirit world.”

    Alex nodded. “The spirit world. That’s where I truly reside, Owen. I’ve… been dead, technically, for quite some time.”

    Owen’s head spun, that icy feeling becoming a tingling buzz. He sat down in the middle of the room, covering his eyes. “H-hang on… y-you’re… but you’re right here! You’re right in front of me! You aren’t a spirit! You’re… alive! You’re alive!”

    The Magmortar glanced at the Gardevoir, who nodded. Amia held her hand up; Alex suddenly disintegrated, becoming nothing more than a small, blue ember. It entered her hand. Gone.

    “Guardians can summon spirits, dear,” Amia said. “It’s one of the very first techniques you will learn. And while those spirits are weak at first… they will eventually become solid, and mimic the living.”

    “I, too,” James said, “am a spirit. I suppose, in a sense, I have been by Anam’s side for longer than he has been a Guardian.”

    Owen was close to tears. His whole world was collapsing around him. His dad was a ghost. His mom was immortal. What’s next?

    “Th-then,” Owen said, “what’s… going to happen to me?” he said. “If the Guardians have to be s-separated… th-then what’s…?”

    “We will no longer be following that policy,” Rhys said before James could answer. “It would be cruel to separate you from your own mother. Additionally,” he paused, “now that it is apparent that Rim—the Espurr—has a means of tracking down Guardians, it is now a bad idea to keep the powers isolated for her to pick away one at a time. We should beat her at her own game—and gather the Guardians ourselves.”

    “We can use our cave!” Amia perked up. “Since the entire village is just my spirits, I could easily have the houses be more… vacant… for other Guardians!”

    The villagers, too?!” Owen cried. “B-but what about the Granny Arcanine down the road? O-or—or the Infernape that’s always repairing houses? Those kids that played by the—! They’re… they’re all dead?”

    “Their status doesn’t change the way they live,” Amia hastily soothed, trying to assure Owen. “They just… happen to be spirits. That’s all!”

    “Is that why I never see anybody eating?” Owen said. “Because… they don’t need to? D-Dad, you said you ate breakfast! You… you said so!” He realized that his father was no longer around. In some primal, irrational reflex, his eyes darted around to find him. His mother made another motion, summoning a blue ember. It materialized into his father. In a second wave of realization, Owen stumbled to his feet and staggered back.

    “I’m sorry that this is so much, Owen,” Alex said. “But. I promise, even though everything is different—it isn’t very different—if you… just look at it a certain way, it isn’t so bad! Don’t you think?”

    Owen’s mind was processing it all, yet processing none of it. Thoughts whirled so rapidly that nothing stuck. The cacophony in his head made everyone sound like distant echoes.

    It was all fake. Fabrications. His mother. His father. All of Hot Spot Cave. It was all one great illusion. His whole past was built on an elaborate lie.

    “I—I need to go,” Owen said. “I just—I need some air.”

    “Owen, wait!” Anam said. The Charmander was trying to get out, weaving past the others. Mispy was the closet to him, but she didn’t get in the way. Rhys leaned forward to stop him, but Owen was too fast. The second Rhys’ muscles made the twitch to advance, Owen ran out, but skidded to halt only a few paces later.

    “Ah,” Alakazam Nevren greeted at the entryway. “Hello, Owen. That is an interesting fashion statement.”

    Owen was quiet. “You… y-you know, too.”

    “Hm? Oh, was I late?” Nevren said.

    “Very,” Rhys said. “Why were you not here?”

    “Well, unfortunately,” Nevren said, “I was busy handling the memories of all the townsfolk you recklessly rushed past with a Grass-Type Charmander, Rhys. Whatever disguise you used exposed his tail and legs quite a few times.”

    “Ngh… was it truly that many?”

    “Yes, quite that many,” Nevren nodded.

    “Wait—what?” Owen said. “What do you mean?”

    “I had to, ah, slightly modify the memories of those who saw you.”

    “You can do that?” Owen asked.

    “Not on my own, no,” Nevren said. “It was just an… invention of mine, thanks to some of Rhys’ help. We needed it in order to maintain Anam’s position, lest people realize that a Goodra has been the Hearts’ Head for centuries, let alone my existence alongside Rhys.”

    “Hang on, you two are immortal, too? How is—”

    “Oy, what’s all that about?” Gahi spoke up.

    “Ahh…” Nevren nodded. “We are. But for a different, but related, reason, so to speak.”

    “Boy, that’s useful.”

    Suddenly, his head was too full, and he didn’t want to ask more. He was done. He didn’t care anymore. His curiosity was satiated, and then bloated, and then force-fed. “I’m going.”

    “Going?” Nevren said. “I’d recommend against it. That Espurr could appear at any moment, actually, and we wouldn’t want you to be—” Nevren touched Owen’s shoulder.

    “I WANT TO GO!”

    Rhys reached out to grab him, but Owen turned his head and spat a well-aimed flurry of seeds in his face. Some got in his eyes.

    Owen broke off in a sprint. Nevren immediately attempted to restrain him with a well-placed twist of the air—but the new Guardian was too clever and dodged in time, predicting the strike. He had too much experience with Psychic by now to let one connect so easily.

    “Ahh…” Nevren watched him go. “Perhaps we should chase him.”

    Rhys was already on it, a blur of blue and white with the help of an Extreme Speed. With his vision slightly impaired, he was slower than usual. Gahi ran, too, barely keeping up. Once they both got to the exit of the Heart, they were abruptly ensnared by vines that sprouted from the ground, completely blocking the entryway. “Agh—he used—what is this—a Grass variant of his Trap technique—” Rhys kicked through the first layer, but two more tangles blocked their way.

    Nevren’s eyes glowed. He vanished from the office and appeared ahead, right by the stairs to the southern road, blocking Owen’s way. “Stop!” Nevren held a hand up. A clear barrier formed from his palm.

    Owen ran straight into it, baring his fangs at Nevren. “Let me out!” he said, slamming his fist against the barrier. His heart was beating against the sides of his head.

    “I can’t allow that, Owen,” Nevren said. “You will stay here while we sort things out.”

    “I said…” Owen’s vision was reddening again red. He pounded against the barrier. Nevren briefly glanced into his pocket, where something dim and gray shined. Meanwhile, the Charmander’s growls became deeper, defying his small stature. “Let… me… OUT!”

    And then, a bright, white light enveloped Owen. It was a brilliant glow—one that surrounded all Pokémon that were in the process of ascending to their next stage in life. But for a brief instant during that evolution, there was a tinge of something else—a strange, blackish bolt. Owen roared from within the light, slamming his fist on the barrier once again. He didn’t have time to fully process his new height or more defined shoulders, or his new, lanky appearance as a Charmeleon. He only knew to attack again. His mouth opened wide and a thick vine slammed against Nevren’s barrier with an ethereal thud.

    “Ngh—” The feedback caused Nevren to fall backwards. The grassy Charmeleon—leaves for scales, and an even larger flower on his tail—ran past the Elite.

    Rhys broke through the vines by the entrance, rushing past Nevren. A second set of vines erupted from the ground beneath him, ensnaring the Lucario yet again. “Nevren!” he hissed. “Why did you not pursue him?”

    The Alakazam glanced down at his bag again, inspecting the gray badge. He shrugged. “Ah, he’s well beyond my scope,” Nevren said flatly, sitting up. “I suggest you chase him instead. I need to remain behind and modify the memories of the Pokémon he runs past again.”

    Rhys cursed Star’s name and advanced. He saw the green Charmeleon enter one of the many Waypoints in the long rows. Which one was it? He ran to where it was and read it to himself. “Calm Water Lake…” He cursed Arceus’ name next. “Why must he behave so childishly…?” He supposed the revelations could have been done a bit more gradually… but he didn’t have to flee. Rhys stepped onto the Waypoint—and a flurry of vines wrapped around the metallic tile, blocking it completely.

    <><><> ​

    Owen didn’t know how long he had been running. He just kept going. From the building, to the Waypoint, to the Dungeon. Water splashed all over; the fact that he partially enjoyed the feeling of water on his leaves was so unsettling that he had to slow down. Snoozing Pokémon stared dumbly at Owen when he passed. A particularly irritable Krabby pinched Owen’s leg, but when it did, the limb burst into an angry, writing pair of vines. The sight alone frightened the Krabby enough to scuttle away, bubbling in terror. Owen tripped over his one working leg, staring in a new mixture of emotions—annoyance and terror.

    “Normal—back to normal, you stupid—” He tried to focus, but his leg kept flailing, the vines splashing in protest against the watery Dungeon. He got onto his one working foot and hobbled forward, using his hands to drag himself along the walls. His right arm disintegrated next. He fell into the water.

    “P-please, please!” he cried, using his left hand to cover his eyes. But his claws were no longer there. His hands were no longer there. He gasped and stared at what they’d become—writhing tendrils covered in thorns, all the way up to his shoulders.

    Owen screamed. He screamed and rolled onto his back, swinging his split arms against the rocks, creating small gashes in the sandstone. His tail and legs were gone. They, too, were ingraining themselves into the ground, into the walls, and Owen had no control over it. “Stop, stop, STOP!” Owen wailed. “PLEASE, STOP!”

    Meditate, a voice said softly.

    He kept swinging, trying to pull his arms together. He started by trying to get some feeling—some semblance of a feeling—of lifting his arms toward himself, to his chest. But the thorns and the vines just kept writhing and twisting ineffectually in the water like a dying insect.

    Meditate, Owen. Breathe.

    “H-help… someone…” Owen was nothing but a head and torso amid a tapestry of plant life.

    Close your eyes and breathe.

    Owen whimpered, but he obeyed. He could hear the gurgling of the vines sloshing in the loose ground beneath him. Chaotic ripples of water brushed against his feathery leaves. It slowed down. His vines stopped moving.

    He took a slow, deep breath. His heart was still frantically beating away. His right arm involuntarily twitched; his eyes shot there, staring. It was back to normal. He panted, looking at the rest of him. The final few vines twisted themselves into a spiral, solidifying into a leg. He tentatively clenched his toes.

    “Oh, Mew.” He covered his eyes, shaking. His breathing was uneven and trembling. He found the strength to stand back up. And he remained standing for a while, not advancing.

    He was in the Dungeon already; there was no turning back. He had to keep going. And so, with step after careful step, the Charmeleon continued.

    In the third segment, he spotted it: that same, strange wall, into the glowing labyrinth. It wasn’t repaired. He didn’t really know for sure if he was beyond the Dungeon’s influence yet. He’d left behind his bag, and therefore his Badge, at Rhys’ home. He was a bit glad for it, though. If he had his bag when he evolved, he might have ruined its contents from whatever happened in the Dungeon. He already had it ruined once in the fight with Aerodactyl. To ruin his spare one, too? Maybe that time, he would’ve lost all his precious items, like the Eviolite given to him by—

    “Nevren…” He thought about that gift. It would still be useful to him as a Charmeleon, with one more evolutionary step to take. He stared at his claws, pressing them together. It was inconvenient to go from four fingers to three. At least his hands were bigger. The horn on the back of his head was an odd addition, though. He felt like he could sense things even more thoroughly. He was sure he could even tell what was around the corner.

    He should’ve been ecstatic. He evolved. He finally evolved.

    He just wished that his evolution was a bit happier than how it happened.

    Someone knocked at Owen’s mental door. What an odd feeling—a thought that wasn’t his, calling for him to listen.

    Owen? Owen, hello? It was the same voice that told him to meditate.

    …Star?

    What’s WRONG with you?! Star said, exasperated. You did the one thing I told you not to do!

    C-c’mon, give me a break, they… they all just… everyone lied to me! Every single one! Mom’s immortal, Dad’s dead, turns out the leader of the world is part of some giant conspiracy, and two of my idols are in on it! And—and YOU! You forced me to do this! I didn’t even believe you existed, and now I find out you’re a LIAR!

    E-excuse me?!

    Owen raised his arms, mouthing his thoughts like a lunatic. He mimicked Star’s tone. Oh, Owen, it’s no big deal, just take this Orb or die! Not that hard a choice! Go on, be happy, turn your tail into a flower! Owen slammed his hand against the wall and yelped. It exploded into more vines. After a second of panic, he closed his eyes, breathed slowly, and waited for it to go back to normal. He sighed, and a few seeds spilled from his throat; he choked for a few seconds and had to stop walking to clear his chest. At least that meditation turned out to be useful for keeping his body from falling apart.

    Don’t talk to me, Owen finally growled. I need to cool off.

    Owen could feel Star about to protest, but then she stopped herself. Relieved, he sighed. But now he just felt guilty.

    Thanks, Owen said. I’ll… I’ll talk to you later, okay? Just… not now. I need to…

    Just be careful.

    Owen left it at that. But his time alone with his thoughts lasted only seconds.

    Turn back, turn back…!

    A pang of irritation hit Owen. He quietly advanced, head down.

    Go away… run…!

    Or become one of us…!

    Owen said nothing. He kept walking. His claws pressed into his palms.

    Do you have a death wish?

    We’ll kill you!

    Owen didn’t even feel afraid. Not after all this. Even if they were spirits, he could still sense their intentions in how they spoke. They wouldn’t try to hurt him. They were just trying to scare him away. And he was in no mood to be spooked by even more dead Pokémon. After all, Owen thought bitterly, I’ve been with them all my life.

    This isn’t a Dungeon anymo—

    “I know!” Owen yelled. His voice echoed through the halls and returned to him. He shouted again. “I know!” He stomped his foot on the ground. “I know this isn’t a Dungeon, and I know you guys are spirits! I get it!” He turned around, addressing the glowing walls.

    “The Water Guardian is here! I don’t care WHAT you are, okay?! I’m not here to fight! I can’t even be bothered to fight! You have no idea how rare that is with me! I’m a Guardian, too, and this was all kinda just thrown at me this morning! I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m tired, I’m confused, I’m just—” His voice cracked. “I hate… everything right now, and I just want to talk to… to someone I don’t know, who’s… who’s in my situation, okay!?”

    Owen sniffed, shaking his head. He stomped his foot again, much weaker this time. It was practically only a gentle step in place. “So just—shut up, quit the haunted caves act, and let me through! O… okay?”

    His voice echoed, the only living thing in the room.

    When nobody responded, he gathered what energy he had left and shouted one last time. “Are you done?!”

    The spirits only replied with silence, and then more silence when Owen spun to address the other half of his invisible crowd. Owen huffed and continued onward. The catharsis of finally screaming at something forced hot tears to well up, but he blinked them away. He refused to cry.

    For the rest of the long walk, not a single spirit bothered him, let alone attacked. His only encounter with one of the Watery spirits was a Swampert on the far end of the cavern’s many turns. Upon seeing Owen, the spirit meekly dove into the wall to avoid confrontation.

    The Grass-Typed Charmeleon went through the rest of the cave without resistance. Slowly, his thoughts transitioned from hatred of the present to fear of the future.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  13. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Drowning sorrows with Regice & Latios

    I've got to hand it to Rhys by stepping in and immediately defusing the situation by saying the effects may only be temporary. Even if the fact that he's not surprised is a bit suspicious, I still think it's a good display of acting calm in the face of something unexpected... and I like that. I suppose I should really focus on the whole conversation thing, though. Liked the decor in Anam's office and the description had a bit of personality to it, which is always a plus in my book though others may disagree. The first part with the orbs pretty much brings Arceus' plates to mind. I think one thing this explanation is missing at the very start is why the heck these orbs exist and what the point of them is. They're powerful MacGuffins, clearly, but I have no idea why this world even has them. Even a theory would've helped build up your world a bit more. And it would've made a good lead in to the domino chain of revelations going on.

    Hoo boy, let's talk about all that stuff shall we? Technically, this is an exposition dump, but framing it in a way where everything Owen knew is a lie makes it much more pleasurable to read than your typical exposition dump. I suppose the very subtle foreshadowing was there regarding Amia and Anam. She tolerated heat far too well (fire guardian) and I think Anam's coloration was slightly different? Alex being dead was likely foreshadowed in the dream sequence during the prologue when he's positively gutted. And James does a whole bunch of spoopy ghost stuff in his brief time on screen. The village bit I don't think I spotted the foreshadowing for so that definitely comes out of left field. Glad to see I was (somewhat) right about Nevren having messed with a lot of folks' memories. I gotta give credit(?) to you for just having Owen totally flip out at the revelations. That's... kind of the only expected response besides passing out, even if it is cheesy. Where you make it unique is that he runs into a dungeon as opposed to some quiet thinking place and that his freakout episode leads to an evolution. I suppose that's my biggest critique with the whole part. The body horror was intriguing... but since everything was mostly described as wriggling vines, I didn't have a clue you were writing an evolution until you flat out used "the Charmeleon" in the prose. Maybe I'm just dense, but there isn't a lot there to signify Owen's changing size and shape and you don't seem to describe the reflection he stares at in the water at all. I think it might've helped... or it's just something to keep in mind when you write his inevitable evolution into a Charizard or Grasszard or whatever.

    I do still expect someone in our main cast to pull some sort of stunt that screws over the "heroes." Perhaps spirits have a way of dissociating from their guardian or maybe Nevren or Rhys will get tempted by whatever "different ideals" our Espurr friend had and act accordingly.

    tl;dr: they're watching me, man. All of them are watching me! And I'm gonna get them before they get me with their mind-controlling drones!

    I see Demitri's ready to make some fakemon.

    Rhys ought to quit exploring and pursue his true calling... as a fashion designer: Gianni Rhysace, anyone? I'm sure we can find an Ultra Wormhole leading to the PMD equivalent of Universe 2 from Dragonball Super. :V

    Discount Hyperbolic Time ChamberHooray! Non-liner passage of time! I'm not alone in doing that. *sniffle*

    I get the intention, but something about this feels... out of place. Like I'm supposed to sympathize, but given the overall context, it comes off as more of a goofy/comedic moment than anything else. XP

    Damn, they've got discount Serebii/Bulbapedia here, too!

    Hot damn... you turned Owen into the spaghetti monster!

    Damn it, Owen, you had one job!
     
  14. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Wow, talk about projectile vomiting.

    *Tangela

    Period instead of comma.

    Oh my Star Gahi you can't just ask someone why they're not a Ralts.

    Bluk?

    You're gonna be the star of a hot new sitcom, clearly!

    Missing period.

    I call it the Bleuralizer! Because copyrights.

    It's true what you said on Discord, it really is possible to write something like this as both comedy and drama depending on how one does it. This melting-into-vines part felt far more intense and dangerous than the vine in the throat, even though the potential for being horrifying and hilarious is about equal for both. And boy was it intense! Poor Owen.

    General Comments

    Wasn't expecting Owen to evolve, but considering what's been revealed and the mysterious "late evolver" thing, I don't expect it to be permanent.

    A lot has been revealed here and explained - we now know what was up with Alex exploding in the very intro, why Anam was described as 'glowing' while giving the speech, and probably a few other things I may have forgotten about. There's still a lot of mystery left, though, such as what caused Owen's vision of evolving and fighting Nevren that one time and what exactly is the plan of the Hunters. I was worried about how the mystery would be handled some chapters ago, but so far you've handled it awesomely imo.

    One thing that felt kinda off was Gahi's reaction to Grass-Owen at the start of the chapter. It's true I don't know Gahi that well so far, but it did feel a little weird for him to just unsympathetically laugh at Owen's panic when just moments ago Owen had almost choked on a vine growing out of himself uncontrollably. Laughter is a coping mechanism, but this reaction feels like a bit too much and rather instant of a change on Gahi's part to me.

    But yeah, great chapter as always! Looking forward to the next one.
     
  15. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I'm glad the "revelations" chapter went well! This chapter's challenge was absolutely the balance of information. How much is too much? How little is unsatisfactory? It seems like I struck an okay enough balance here, so I'm glad with that. That's my takeaway from the initial feedback I've gotten~

    This was a new addition compared to what I have on FFN, and I definitely like it better than barely describing the office at all. Really puts his quarters to life.

    Okay, full disclosure: Unpublished drafts of this chapter had this planned, but I felt that it was way too much information at once. Instead, this is revealed/explained in a later chapter, while we still have time to digest all the other stuff Owen learned.

    That being said, I agree with you here too. Perhaps I can at least add in some mental speculation on the walk to Anam's office, just Owen wondering why this "stupid leafy business" had to happen to him, and what the point of it all was. At the very least, it gives a little nod to the reader that, yes, it will be explained later, and the author is aware.

    This is 100% what I was trying to balance it out with. Just giving the information is boring. But give it to the panicked Charmander while his life crumbles around him? Perfect!

    I'm glad that you think it's an expected response. Older drafts of this chapter didn't delve into Owen's thoughts as deeply, and I feel that his reaction came off as a tad unjustified/unmeasured. Now? Looks like I was able to properly illustrate why Owen would react so dramatically, outlining that literally every authority figure he trusted has lied to him, including his family. Also that they're dead, but, you know. That's beside the point.

    Hmm, I hadn't considered that. The vines back in Kilo were actually just his Vine Trap technique, not actually Owen transforming. He only destabilizes once he gets snipped by that Krabby while under stress. I'll be more explicit about it when he's still breaking through Nevren's barrier.

    It's sad because Rhys is actually pretty good with fabrics.

    Hmm, actually, I didn't intend for this to be a "poor things" moment for them. I wanted it to just be Team Alloy trying to help Owen feel better, since the three have demonstrated no grief about not knowing their parents up to this point in the story. If anything, the secondary intention was to point out that this was yet another similarity that Team Alloy shared among one another.

    The key is how they react. The initial reaction had Gahi laughing, Owen being surprised, but not particularly horrified--well, no. He was horrified. But it was an exasperated sort of horror, a humiliation kind of deal, with focus on a flower tail, and a vine "tongue." But the second time it happens? The surprise is faded, because it happened before, and Owen is now "melting" without any control. He's actively crying for it to stop, and he's showing genuine fear this time, and not surprise.

    ...At least, that's my interpretation. I dunno what effect it has on others.

    Oh my yes.

    Oh my yes. And get ready for both of these two quotes to be a common trend. Information management is something that I really like to do, and it's particularly strong in Act I.

    Hmm, yeah. I can see that. Gahi's demonstrated that he's a teensy bit rude and crass, but never downright insensitive because he wasn't in a truly stressful situation before. I'll look through this scene again and feel out what I can do to better demonstrate this aspect of Gahi, either by softening it, better contextualizing it, or having the others react in such a way that they're familiar with Gahi behaving this way.
     
    canisaries likes this.
  16. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    After seeing Owen in Mod Madness, I can't resist trying this out.

    Prologue


    This is a very interesting start. You're thrown into the danger of it all straight away, pulled in and wondering if they characters will even pull through. For a prologue, that was very intense! I found myself wondering after that battle if it was really a dream or if it had actually happened and Amia had done something to Owen so he'd forget about it. I'm curious as to how she brought Alex back, though.

    I'm afraid I'm running out of reading stamina today, but I'll try to read chapter one in the near future =)
     
  17. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Hot damn that chapter was just dropping all the plot bombs, wasn't it? I really like how this exposition-heavy chapter really didn't feel like an info dump (and I agree with Amby that it's probably because the emphasis was on how it affected Owen and how everything he knew was a lie, not just the infodump itself.) His mom being a fire guardian and his dad being a spirit makes perfect sense with all the weird things we've seen in the fic thus far. Curious what the deal is with Rhys and Nevren then, since they're immortal, but not Orb guardians. Oh, and of course, why the Orbs even exist in the first place!

    I really love how visceral you got with how the grass element was affecting him! From the horrible vine wriggling in his stomach to the loss of his comforting inner flame, to coughing up seeds, you brought in a lot of great physical descriptors there. I do think the evolution was a it lacking though, and I almost missed it. I get that the focus was on, y'know... his flesh dissolving into vines. But you could also tie the evolution into that! Like how he was evolving, but this wasn't how it was supposed to be! This wasn't what he'd been looking forward to. You could have the evolution involve the vines making up his body literally twisting and stretching and sprouting into the new Charmeleon shape, which would be rather horrifying compared to what he'd been looking forward to all this time.

    Really liked how Owen got the chance to call out Star for luring him into this. And I also loved just how done he was by the end that he's just shouting down all these water spirits and... actually kinda getting through to them? Curious what will happen if he actually makes it to the Water Guardian itself...

    Until next time!

    ~Chibi~
     
  18. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I'm noticing a bit of a trend here. Love it!

    Absolutely! One thing that I definitely needed to have done in the prologue was a strong hook. And boy, did I try to make a strong one... Thanks for reading, and I hope you can continue soon!

    Oh my yes. Owen's learning quite a bit about himself, and while I don't plan on making such "revelation" chapters common, there will be moments like these from time to time. I don't want to have the reader frustrated with too many questions and not enough answers, so this is the first chapter that really eases the load... before that load regains some pressure. Information management is going to be a staple of Act I in particular.

    I'm glad! I decided to really have some "fun" with Owen's transformation, being unable to adapt to what was happening to him so suddenly. After all, going from Fire to Grass must be a really jarring experience.

    I'm a little worried myself, because Owen evolved while escaping from Nevren! I made that a little more obvious, repeating the species name a few extra times...

    Between learning that his life was a life (hey, the hook in the opening post!) becoming the Guardian (hey, the other hook in the opening post!) Owen is pretty done. It seems that the spirits were just trying to keep visitors away. Now that Owen's going through, indeed, what will happen...?

    Heh. Well. The next chapter is coming shortly. Just need to do a few finishing touches. Then, we'll finally get to meet a new character. Bit of a shorter chapter this time around, but we've still got just as much going on.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
  19. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 9 – Lonely Waters

    No wild Pokémon resided within these glowing caves. Unsurprising. There wasn’t much food, and it was on a strange offshoot of a Dungeon. Not the easiest place to find, let alone inhabit. Even if they showed up, perhaps the spirits would frighten them away.

    Owen walked the rest of the way through the cave in silence, brooding over the morning’s events, dwelling on how his life—everything from his parents to his idols to his home—had been turned inside-out. He saw his father evaporate into nothing but a little blue ember, and then be recreated like it was nothing. How old were they? Why did they decide to adopt him? Why did they decide to adopt anyone? What if everybody in Amia’s Orb were all past kids? Was there a secret graveyard of Amia’s countless dead children?

    Owen shivered. No, that was ridiculous. He’d’ve found something like that. Unless they burned the bodies in the lava river. Wait! But I play in that river all the time! Was I playing in dead bodies?! Owen shook his head furiously. No. No! Mom’s not like that. Maybe they really are just villagers from an ancient time. Why would Amia lie with another lie? Owen’s pace wavered. If I was bathing in dead Pokémon, I’m running away.

    You already did that, Star quipped.

    Owen jolted. H-hey! Don’t do that!

    Hey, c’mon, I’m bros with your spirits. They’ll let me eavesdrop if they want me to.

    Ugh, eavesdrop silently, please, Owen said. You know what? Can I block you?

    I’m not telling.

    So I can, Owen said, squeezing his eyes tight.

    H-hey, wait! Owen, no fair, I was just—

    Silence. Owen deflated, relieved.

    Something was shining ahead. Latching onto anything to distract himself, he quickened his pace.

    While the cave rocks in general were still a soft blue even in otherwise complete darkness, this shining was a smidge brighter than the rest. That must’ve been where the Guardian was waiting for him. Still, the darkness unnerved him. Owen wasn’t sure why. His tail swished nervously, and that’s when he realized why. This was the first time in all his life that he was in truly in the dark. His flame was gone, replaced by a useless flower. The Charmeleon pulled his tail around to inspect it. He resented the fact that they were even bigger than before. The daffodil was large enough that he could stick his snout in it.

    I wish it could glow a little or something, Owen thought.

    The flower suddenly lit up. “Yeek—!” Owen threw his tail, but the light persisted. He swung it back around. It wasn’t quite as bright as his flame, but it would do. It was, perhaps, the first good thing to happen to him that day.

    He then eyed the glow at the end of the tunnel, reminded of why he was there. He was starting to get second thoughts about all this. After enough time walking in silence, and all that walking in the gentle darkness, he wondered if running away was really the best idea. No, of course it wasn’t. Still, they all lied to him! His flower brightened with a flicker of rage, but then dimmed.

    No. He got this far. He may as well see it through. Star didn’t protest him actually seeing the Guardian, after all. Perhaps this one was friendly, too, just like Amia and Anam. The Water holder was mere steps away; the Grass-Typed Charmeleon advanced.

    It was a large chamber with a rough, rocky floor. If Owen had to make a judgement on the size, it was around the same diameter as Hot Spot Square—at a full sprint, it would take Owen thirty seconds to go all the way across. Now that he thought about it, it might take less time, now that his leg span was so much longer.

    Every sound Owen made echoed for what felt like eternity. Self-conscious of his own noises, he tried to walk as carefully as he could. Despite this, the gentle ticking of his claws on rock remained. He gulped, and even that noise echoed for a little while. The silence made his head feel full. There was a pressure about it.

    And in this silence, he noticed that one of his steps felt different from the rest. He looked down, letting out a soft churr in curiosity. He inspected the underside of his foot and picked out what appeared to be a large, cream-colored scale. It wasn’t whole; it appeared that it had been ripped off prematurely, with a little strip of skin still attached to one side. Owen wrinkled his snout and tossed it away.

    There was a circle of water in the middle of this chamber. If Owen threw hard enough, perhaps he’d be able to toss a rock in the middle of it. The water itself was completely still, like a perfect pane of glass. He hesitantly walked forward; he couldn’t see the bottom. He couldn’t find any loose rocks to figure out if it just happened to have a dark base. He was left staring into the void that was this lake.

    Where was the Guardian? “Hello…?” Owen called.

    Hello, hello, hello. It echoed in all directions, and then faded.

    He sat down at the water’s edge. As a Grass Type, he didn’t feel as afraid of the water. It would normally sting quite a bit to get the flame on his tail wet—and there had been a few times when he accidentally extinguished it in the rain, though then his tail just emitted steam. Painfully. But he certainly tried to avoid it—his Fire attacks were next to useless in that sort of weather. But Grass…. How would he do with that? He sighed, but relented. If he was going to become a Fire Type again, he may as well enjoy the novelty of taking a dip in cool water for once. He squatted down and dipped his right leg first, wincing at the chill. He eased his way in until his knees were submerged, but couldn’t go further. The lake’s edge was too steep, and he had no idea how swimming worked.

    Owen saw the water ripple near the middle, just once. Nothing had gone inside to disturb the surface other than himself. What was that? “U-uh… is someone there?” he said.

    No reply. Owen figured it was just an aftereffect of dipping his legs inside, like the echoes of his voice were ripples in the air. He looked into the black water. He figured the Guardian was watching him from the very bottom. And he knew the spirits were listening in from the walls.

    “…I just wanted to talk to someone in my situation,” Owen said softly, closing his eyes. “I just got this… this job, kinda. I touched an Orb that I shouldn’t have, and now I look like this, and I’m being told all these things about being a Guardian, and being involved in this long conspiracy to keep them all protected or whatever. And I just don’t get it.”

    His claws gently grasped at the leaves on his knees. He was careful not to tug at them this time.

    “And—and turns out, my Mom is the same way. She’s the Fire Guardian… and I dunno what that’s gonna mean, either. The way James—he’s, um, he’s the person who helps run the Thousand Heart Association—and, um, and that’s, like, this group of Pokémon that help rescue others around the world. Yeah… the way James was looking at me—it was like he wanted to send me away.” He winced.

    “James wanted me to be like my Mom, who lived in that cave with just her spirits. I… I didn’t know that’s how it was for her. I think that’s why she almost never goes out. I had this dream—turns out, wasn’t a dream—where we went for a walk in the woods, and we got attacked, just like that. I almost died. But Mom healed me, and I passed out. But is that what it’s like to be a Guardian? To just be… sealed off?”

    Owen leaned back, using his hands to prop himself up. He happened to land his right hand on another one of the discarded scales—he felt a soft, fleshy bit on one of the sides and winced, quickly pulling his hand up. Losing support, he fell down, knocking his horn against the rock. “Nggk—!” The ringing in his ears didn’t stop for quite a while. He clutched his forehead with his left hand while inspecting the scale with his right. It had another strip of skin on the edges that had come off with the scale. He tossed it away, but then breathed.

    He continued to talk to the air. Even if nobody was listening—and he was sure at least the spirits were listening—it was therapeutic to actually unload his thoughts. There were simply too many to keep inside.

    “She’s just alone in that cave. I mean… not alone alone, but her spirits, y’know? And just them… forever, maybe. I can’t imagine what that’d feel like.” He kicked his feet in the water, making more ripples like the one before. “I guess you kinda know what that feels like. If you’re listening, or your spirits. I don’t know if I want that kind of life. But wh-what’s the alternative? I… I could get killed! I didn’t even get to be a Charizard yet…! B-but maybe I never will…” Owen glanced at the flower on his tail. He wondered if it’d hurt to pluck at the petals. He didn’t want to find out.

    That thought made another dawn on him. “If you’re the Water Guardian… that must mean you can become your Type, too, right? I got all grassy because of touching the Orb, so maybe that means… you’re all Watery.”

    A wave of cold realization struck Owen. He jerked his legs out of the water and pulled himself back with his arms, scrambling to his feet. Water dripped from his lower half. “I’m so sorry!” he said to the lake.

    The water rippled. It didn’t stop this time. Instead, it got stronger—most definitely in the middle, now—until something rose out from it. Water, but something that took a shape of its own, something serpentine. It thrust itself from the lake’s center, quickly approaching Owen, who was too surprised to move. The water landed near Owen, coiling around itself, taking a solid form. Its form transitioned from something that was entirely transparent into the normal colors of its species.

    The Milotic stared down at Owen with a soft blush. Owen stared back in awe, mouth agape just enough to reveal his lower teeth. She was at least three times’ Owen’s height, even in her current stance.

    “H-hello,” Owen greeted.

    “Hello,” she said.

    There was a silence that lasted seven seconds.

    “I—”

    “My—”

    They had interrupted one another.

    “N-no, you go—”

    “Please, introduce—”

    They both stopped talking again.

    Owen fidgeted with his claws; the Milotic’s tail twitched. Her blush had faded.

    Owen took a breath; the Water Guardian did not.

    “I’m Owen,” the Charmeleon said.

    “My name is Zena,” she said. “It is nice to meet you. I am sorry for keeping you waiting.”

    “O-oh, no, it’s okay, I—I was kinda just talking to myself anyway, but if you heard that, I mean… that’s good, so I don’t have to repeat myself. Sorry for stepping in you.” He said the last part in a mumble.

    Zena nodded. “You do not,” she said. “I’m very… sorry for your fate,” she said, “but you’re right. We have to remain separated in order to keep the power from combining.”

    “S-so, as in, it’s dangerous for us to even touch?”

    “No—no, nothing like that,” Zena said. “But, should we fight, perhaps, and then the winner extracts the power from the loser, well… we can’t have that.”

    “O-oh, okay,” Owen said. “…But… I heard that it’s starting to be dangerous to stay away. W-wait! Um—yesterday, I saw a Torkoal come this way, I think. Is that, um, is that someone you know?”

    “He was not,” Zena said. “I dispatched of him.”

    “D-dispatched?”

    “He was a Hunter,” Zena replied. “They are the ones that we hide from. A Pokémon that intends to find us… and take our power. By any means necessary.”

    Owen didn’t ask further. Instead, he looked down at the water, and then at Zena again. “Um… how… how long have you been here?” he asked.

    Zena hesitated. “I do not know.”

    “H-how long, um—before that Torkoal came, how long has it been since… someone came here? At all?”

    She shook her head again.

    “Do you at least know Star?”

    “I… I do,” she said. “And we talk from time to time, just as I talk with my spirits, I suppose.”

    “…But it’s not enough,” he said.

    Zena glanced away. “I suppose it isn’t,” she said. “But it’s… it’s still dangerous for us to converse with one another, isn’t it? If a Hunter finds us… they could potentially get two Orbs, not just the one.”

    “A-actually, we were thinking, um, that it’s kinda dangerous to be separated, now, because, like, there’s this thing, um, it’s this theory,” Owen trailed off. “Like they can detect us now. They’d pick us off one by one. So instead, maybe strength in numbers?”

    “Strength in numbers,” Zena said. “You mentioned that your mother is the Fire Guardian. Is there anybody else?”

    “Association Head Anam—he’s another Guardian. I don’t think I caught what Type.”

    “I see,” Zena said slowly. She was quiet, mulling over Owen’s words. The Grass Guardian, meanwhile, took the time to look over Zena again. The way her scales reflected the dim light—and in particular, the way she glowed in the same way the Hot Spot mushrooms did. Bitterly, Owen realized that the glow he’d been so accustomed to was no doubt a reflection of his mother’s Guardianship. But he couldn’t deny how comforting the light was, so he gazed a while longer at Zena’s scales.

    “…Why are you looking at me in that way?” Zena asked.

    “Sorry!” Owen’s entire body stiffened upright; even his tail stood alert.

    She glared at him, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. “Hmph!” Zena turned her head away.

    “N-no, it’s not like that!” Owen waved his claws in front of him. “I didn’t think you were pretty! I—I mean, wait, wait, you are pretty! But—but I—”

    “You’d best choose your next words carefully,” Zena hissed.

    “I like your glow!” Owen blurted.

    Zena flinched.

    Owen covered his mouth. “I—I mean… you…” he hesitated, bringing his arms down. “C’mon, I mean, you’re a Milotic. You guys are just naturally really pretty. And that whole Guardian glow you have going on in these caves really makes it look nice, and stuff.”

    Five seconds passed with just Owen’s echoing voice filling the void.

    “W-well,” Zena said, looking at the wall. “Thank you.”

    Owen shifted awkwardly, looking at Zena again. This time, he looked her tail over, how the creamy, prismatic scales transitioned into stained glass that Owen would have expected from a temple for Arceus. Owen sensed another glare and immediately brought his head down. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I only saw your kind in books before.”

    “Books?” Zena repeated. Her eyes narrowed again. “What kind of—" But then, suddenly, the Milotic jerked her head up, startling Owen with the sudden movement. “Another Hunter is coming,” she said.

    “Wh-what?”

    “Yes. We need to go,” she said.

    “Go?”

    “If you want strength in numbers, then—then I’ll humor you,” she said. “But we need to hide. The tunnel,” she pointed with one of her eyebrows at the dark lake. “It leads to a river outside. Can you swim?”

    “I kinda used to be a Fire Type.”

    “Then I will be the current that guides you,” she said. “Please, get in.”

    She slithered into the lake and vanished, melting into the water. Owen’s old instincts were telling him to stay as far away from the water as possible—especially for a swim—but he knew he’d be fine in this current, Grassy form. His tail glowed brightly.

    “If you say so,” Owen said. He jumped in, expecting a frightening sting, but instead, it merely felt cold. He held his breath and felt the water rush around him. It was pushing him down, deeper into the tunnel; the water pressure wasn’t that bad, either. It seemed like Zena was pushing against the rest of the water, making it a little easier on his body.

    At first, it seemed like he’d have an easy time going through. His lungs felt a bit of strain—he’d never held his breath for very long in the past—but hopefully Zena would keep him going.

    But then, Owen felt a rush of heat in his chest. He glanced down; his green, leafy scales were solidifying, becoming yellower. His arms were turning red.

    Rhys said he’d go back to normal eventually.

    Why now?! He looked behind him; the flower on his tail was wilting. Bubbles of steam were coming out from the burning bud. The water was starting to feel less pleasant. And it wasn’t getting any easier to hold his breath, either. No, no! Just a little longer…! C’mon!

    He couldn’t hold his breath for much longer. He couldn’t see anything in these tunnels—it was too dark. His flower wasn’t glowing anymore, and his flame was slowly coming back.

    Pressure built in his chest. The need to breathe was too strong. In an effort to relieve some of that pressure, Owen puffed out, releasing some of the air. That only made him want to breathe in again. He flailed his arms and legs, trying to warn Zena that he wasn’t going to last much longer. Zena, the water, could not respond, but the water did rush faster. Owen had to close his eyes—the pressure against his face was too much.

    He felt it. He was a Fire Type again. He felt the horrible sting of near-freezing water around his whole body, like acid, particularly against his tail. He also felt his lungs give way—and in a sharp intake, water filled his chest. The shock made Owen pass out.


    Owen was floating in a black void, on his back. His lungs felt… tight. Like he couldn’t move them. Voices filled his head. They felt like memories from long ago. Forgotten.

    “Who’re you gonna fight, Owen?”

    Owen’s mouth moved in the darkness. He spoke, despite his lungs being filled with water. “Gonna fight… Demitri….”

    “Baah, always Demitri. How about Mispy?”

    “No way…” Owen said. “She’ll kill me…”

    “But she’s a Grass Type, c’mon!”

    “Gahi, she’ll kill me. That Solarbeam… is insane…”

    “Feh, then why don’t yeh fly and make it easier ter dodge?”


    Owen gasped and opened his eyes. “Solarbeam,” he mumbled.

    “Hm?” Zena turned back. “Oh, you’re finally awake.”

    The sun was setting. It was starting to get colder. They were near a river, but closer to the ocean. There was a beach further down, where the grass transitioned into sand, with Wingull circling over the shore line. The air was salty. Owen sat up—his entire body ached.

    “Ugh… what happened?”

    “You drowned,” Zena said. “I was waiting for your body to recover.”

    “D-drowned?!” Owen said. “Why didn’t you—w-wait, did you—” his face flushed.

    “Did I what?” Zena asked. “I waited for your body to fix itself.”

    “Th-the body doesn’t fix drowning!” Owen said.

    “For a Guardian, it does,” Zena said. “I set you down once we escaped, and waited for your heart to start beating again—”

    “MY HEART STOPPED?!”

    Zena, annoyed, said, “Yes. Is this truly that new to you?”

    “K-kinda! I feel like I should be dead right about now!”

    “So long as their body remains mostly intact,” Zena said, “Guardians can live and recover from any injury. It’s known as being Mystic.”

    “Mystic,” Owen slowly repeated. “So, all Guardians are Mystic?”

    “Yes,” Zena said.

    “But, that’s the same thing, then. What other things are Mystic?”

    “Well, I imagine Star is Mystic, even if she guards no particular Orb. The Hunters are also Mystic, though I wouldn’t consider them Guardians.”

    “O-oh,” Owen said. “Okay. So, just people who have power related to the Orbs.” He looked at his claws. He still felt… soggy. But at least he could breathe again. Something felt different, too. He felt stronger. Maybe that was just how his flame burned a bit hotter as a Charmeleon.

    “You mentioned… Solarbeam,” Zena said.

    “Huh? Solarbeam?” he asked.

    “When you woke up. Were you trying to learn Solarbeam? After all, you’re the Grass Guardian.”

    “Oh, uh, no, I…” He rubbed his head. “I can’t remember. I must’ve been having some kind of weird dream from bad oxygen. It happened before. I was climbing a mountain with one of the Elite Hearts, and when I meditated there, I had a crazy dream, too. Ugh, that’s two times that I got a weird dream. I need a break.”

    Zena smiled slightly. “Today has had the most talking I’ve ever heard from a stranger in a very long time,” she said. “You’re quite chatty.”

    Owen looked down. “Sorry.”

    Zena tilted her head. “I meant I enjoy it. You apologize quite often, too.”

    “Oh.” Owen tried to think of something else to talk about, but his mind drew a blank. He considered talking about the weather, but decided against it.

    “Owen… do you know where we are?”

    “Um, well… the sun’s setting that way… so I think we’re at a southern beach, right?” He turned around. “So that means… the Thousand Heart Association is—there! Look, d’you see that mountain with the flat top?” he said, pointing up. It was hard to see past the southern forest, but the distinct, black rocks of Kilo Mountain were clearly visible through the gaps.

    “Yes. That was there even before I began my hiding…. Has anything changed about it?”

    “That’s Kilo Village at the top, in the crater. The volcano is extinct and, uh… yeah. That’s where I go for rescue missions and things like that. I bet Anam will know what to do!”

    “Anam…” Zena said. “He’s another Guardian? Star mentioned him before. But she doesn’t talk a lot about the other Guardians—I think it’s to… keep us from wanting to meet them in person. But, Owen, I’m… not sure. I don’t know.”

    “You don’t know? Don’t know what?” Owen asked.

    “If it’s a good idea to go there,” she said. “The Orbs. They’re supposed to….”

    “Not anymore. C’mon, let’s just go!” Owen said.

    “I…. But what would I say? How much has changed?”

    Owen hesitated. “I dunno, but it should be fine! C’mon, I can show you around.”

    Zena hesitated, looking at the Charmeleon. “How are you so sure?” she said. The Milotic curled her long body, tensing her muscles. She waited for a response that would assure her.

    “Because,” he trailed off. “I mean, well…”

    “Did you not just rant about how everything you know has been a great lie?” Zena asked. “I believe you used similar terminology.”

    “Y-yeah, but, only some, not everything….”

    “But didn’t some of that everything happen to be your own parents, and your idols?” Zena said.

    “…Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi didn’t know, either,” Owen said. “I trust them. And… and Rhys is the one who wants the Guardians to stay together, too.”

    Zena blinked. “What was his name? Rhys?” he said.

    “Yeah, Rhys,” Owen said. “What?”

    “Lucario Rhys?” Zena said.

    “H-huh? Yeah.”

    “We are not going to Kilo Village,” Zena said.

    “W-wait, but why—”

    “Rhys is one of the Hunters.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  20. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Drowning sorrows with Regice & Latios

    Man, what is it with the PMD stories I read having upset Charmeleons lost in their own angry thoughts or just saying them out loud like they're losing their minds? I'm starting to sense a pattern here. Not that I think there's anything wrong with how you approached Owen's continuing mental breakdown. It's not even all that melodramatic, likely because when he's just talking out loud he's tripping so much over his own words that it almost doesn't sound coherent. It's a wonder Zena is even able to gleam anything from that, since if it wasn't for the accompanying internal monologue it likely wouldn't have made all that much sense. Basically, Owen needs a Snickers right about now.

    Then we actually get to Zena's introduction and she is a precious cinnamon roll who needs protection. So help me if you kill her off or something bad like that I'm-a definitely rage-quit the story. that one was a joke, pls don't hurt me ;~; In all seriousness, I think Zena's the first shy Milotic I've come across in a fic... not that I've come across very many Milotics in fics. *cough* Still, I like the chemistry with Owen and the incredibly awkward ship teasing. Seriously, when the girl can turn herself into water and she carries Owen away as a big current... well, how else am I supposed to look at it as anything other than a giant innuendo? He's technically inside her and things like pain and struggling to breath can happen during sex. You brought this one on yourself, buddy. :V

    I do think that it's odd that Owen basically dies again... for, like, the third time in the first 10 parts. I'm okay with it, since I think the transition back into a fire-type while stuck underwater was cool, but I do caution that you risk burning out readers' suspensions of disbelief when characters can bounce back from stuff like this more frequently than the cast of Dragon Ball Z/Super. I suppose this is a bit mitigated by the fact that the Hunters have similar levels of immortality, meaning the good guys will have to come up with something clever to win and I'm curious as to what, exactly, that will be. And don't think I don't have anything to say about Owen's little memory. Despite all the revelations, I don't think Owen's and Team Alloy's memory tampering specifically was addressed yet. This memory seems to suggest that, not only were their memories tampered with, they all might've even been devolved from the final evolutions somehow. After all, how else can Owen fly away from a Solar Beam? Is it possible Nevren invented a device that could do that? Magitek is a hell of a drug, I suppose. :p

    And how many times has she started her turn by playing Pot of Greed, allowing her to draw TWO MORE CARDS?

    Owen's orb-brain works like Discord, apparently.

    Congratulations! Your OWEN learned TAIL GLOW! ... ****ing hacker.

    [​IMG]

    Everything about this exchange is just... *chef kissing gesture* Owen x Zena OTP.

    PMD world confirmed to have lewd magazines. I'm not even sure how that would work. XD

    Owen is now Discount Goku.
     

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