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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

    True! Nice touch.

    This sentence cuts in half, and unfortunately it seemed kind of like an important one as I got confused about the environment. There was a cave small enough to run across in thirty seconds (though it was still described as large?), then there was a rather big pond Owen somehow didn't see before.

    ow

    Hmm, so I'm not 100% sure - is Zena a normally colored Milotic or a water-colored (aka, well, blue) one? She's mentioned taking a solid form, but I didn't catch any mention of a change in color.

    nice job on facing the WATER guardian as a FIRE type bud, guess someone got too confident about their Mysticism

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    this is definitely a sex

    *Milotic

    BROOOOOOOOOO

    Well, it does shed some light on him having a connection to the Espurr from before. I'm speculating he's a heel-face? Zena's been in that pond for quite some time, guessing she doesn't have the most up-to-date information - apparent from her way of speaking as well.

    Looking forward to the next chap!
     
  2. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I'm not really sure what phase of grief this is, but whatever phase involves rambling to the spirits that follow him, it's that. Without any context, Owen's a total nutjob. Even with context, he's a little nutty at this point.

    I'm glad that Zena's introduction was so effective~

    I... will be perfectly honest, this was not what I had in mind when writing this out. But it's also completely accurate now that I read it back. What have I done.

    I know you go on to say that the Hunters are similarly powerful and that balances things out, but I get what you mean here regardless. Information management is one thing, but power management is going to be another big challenge for this fic in its entirety as we start looking at Mystic powers. It's one of those things that I think will be hit or miss depending on taste... but hopefully the presence of danger is still obvious. I definitely had to "balance" Mysticism during the planning phase, both against Hunters and mortals. After all, I imagine the Guardians wouldn't be in hiding if they had no threats. Aside from Anam.

    And so it begins.

    Well, it's already confirmed they have books, so maybe it comes from a similar technology? Oh Nevren, enabling the transfer of ideas across society...

    If you ever see Owen firing energy beams from his hands, you have permission to throttle me.

    WHY? Oh, man, I had a lot of problems editing this chapter prior to uploading. My word processor hard-crashed on me and lost a bit of my recent changes, and I think this was one of them that I hadn't noticed. Ugh! Because of that, below is what the paragraph now says, so you don't have to go looking for 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."

    Hm, I didn't make it very obvious, did I? So, while it's never depicted properly in most media, flavor text for Milotic indicates that the cream-colored part of their scales are prismatic depending on the angle you look at them. So that's where that comes from. As for Zena specifically, I added a line to make it clear that she was transparent, and then transitioned into a normal Milotic form shortly after emerging.

    Thanks for the feedback, guys!
     
    canisaries likes this.
  3. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Well then, Zena is adorable and I already love her. :3 Also her interactions with Owen were delightfully awkward. I am rather curious about the effects of a Pokémon becoming guardian of a Type that they already have. In this case, it seems like Zena just became more one with her type, which seems a far cry more pleasant than what poor Owen has had to deal with.

    Speaking of Owen, poor guy had to go and LITERALLY DIE. I love how Zena was like “oh yeah you died, but it’s fine cause you’re a guardian” meanwhile he is still very much not used to this idea. But at the same time, I can see how it could be really easy to lose the stakes as a result of this, so just something to keep in mind (though I’m sure you already have, as you’re much further into the story than this.)
    OH SNAP. Now there’s a bombshell.. But then… could this be outdated info? Zena hasn’t spoken to the outside world in such a long time… Rhys even mentioned that he knew Rim, but then they went separate ways. We’d assume that meant that she left his side, but maybe it was the other way around? They were both hunters, but he left her? Either way, I think we need a little more evidence to write him off as a villain just yet.

    ~Chibi~
     
  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Yeah, I did notice that this was a common concern by Amby as well, in terms of feedback about this new aspect of Mysticism. Due to that, I've added a few passages to the incoming chapter to help illustrate that the perk, while nifty, is not all it's cut out to be in actual life-and-death situations that Owen will have to deal with in the near future, and even in the past, such as with Aerodactyl.

    Heh, well, I think you'll get plenty of evidence one way or the other in the next chapter. Stay tuned~ The next part will be up shortly.



    I'm almost done, folks! Just a touch here, a word there...
     
  5. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 10 – The Hunters’ Mission

    “But… but Rhys is cool,” Owen said.

    The Charmeleon had stopped walking the moment Zena told him that Rhys was a Hunter. It simply didn’t make sense. No… no, it did. It added up. But it didn’t make sense to Owen anyway. Rhys was too noble. He was an Elite Heart. How could he be a murderer, too?

    “That Lucario is the one who nearly killed me.” Zena’s tail twitched, flexing the fan at the tip. “He is the reason I spent lifetimes sealed away.”

    “But… but he gave me the Orb! I mean, he didn’t—I mean, he was holding the Orb, but he never claimed it, and, um, and also, like—when I took it, he didn’t want to hurt me at all! M-maybe you’re thinking of his great grandfather or something? Like, Rhys is just a really strong Lucario. He’s not a Guardian or anything. He doesn’t glow! So, he can’t be, um, un-aging and stuff like us.” Nevren had said that they didn’t age for another reason. Was that because—

    “Hunters don’t age. He could easily be the same Lucario.” She coiled around herself a bit tighter, staring intensely at Owen. “Tell me. Did he specialize in aura attacks?”

    “I—I mean, what Lucario doesn’t, right?” Owen tittered nervously. He shrank before the serpent. He knew that Zena could see the helpless defiance in his eyes.

    The Milotic did not break her stare. “Are you sure? Do you truly believe that Rhys won’t harm you, should you appear before him now?”

    Owen gulped, looking at his chest. He was glad to be back to his fiery self again. It felt right. But would Rhys try to kill him? That Lucario…. He was stern, certainly. And perhaps he’d punish him with more meditation, or something like that. Perhaps, as well, he was a bit too harsh with his training regimen. But… he simply couldn’t imagine Rhys wanting to hurt him. Something at the very core of his being was telling him that he could trust Rhys. But at the same time, why did he feel that way? He just met him, didn’t he?

    “I don’t know.” The words tumbled out of him, but they were the truth. “I feel like I can trust him! But at the same time, he could… if he wanted, he could easily… couldn’t he? Well, I feel like he’d just force me to meditate, like he always di—” Owen blinked a few times. What? When did Rhys ever force him to meditate? That never happened. That was Demitri and the others. He grew up with Amia and Alex—his adoptive parents. They were the ones who—

    “Owen? Are you okay?” Zena asked, tilting her head.

    “H-huh? Oh. I’m fine. Um… b-but I really… I don’t know! If you’re with me, maybe he’ll hear me out, and not attack you? If he’s still like that? No… I—he’s too nice. If he wanted to, he could’ve killed me right at the beginning, when I first got the Orb!”

    “Regardless of his actions before,” Zena said, “he may have second thoughts. He is still a Hunter, and it is their very purpose to track down and gather the Orbs at all costs. And right now, we are two Guardians, possessing two Orbs. That may be an opportunity too tempting to ignore.”

    Owen played with the scales at the base of his claws. Zena had a point. Why would Rhys be chasing after them in the first place? Why Rhys specifically, if he knew that this would be the Water Guardian? But Owen’s gut still told him that Rhys was safe. He never sensed any ounce of malice in his body language. He was good at spotting those things, for as long as he could remember! But… what if Zena was right? What if he got tempted? What if that malice… came back?

    Owen’s legs felt weak. He walked to a nearby, sandy rock and sat against it. Waves washed upon the shoreline two times before he spoke again. “Rhys… could kill me…”

    “He very well could,” Zena said. She slithered a bit closer, but hesitated to get within arm’s reach of him. “And you aren’t nearly strong enough to defend yourself against him.”

    “But… b-but he’s my… I trusted him,” Owen said. “There’s no way he’d....!”

    “Are you willing to risk your life to see if you are correct?” Zena said.

    The ocean brushed against the sand. Owen smelled the salt in the air. Wingull squawked at one another, bickering over a carcass. He clenched the claws of his feet a few times in the sandy grass. He felt hot. His face, especially. His chest hurt. Something in the back of his eyes burned. His vision blurred. The Charmeleon trembled, clawing at his knees. “Everyone I knew…”

    “Owen…” Zena said softly. She finally broke past her hesitation and slithered even closer. She used a brow to rub his head. “It’s okay. It’s… okay. Even if Rhys is dangerous, the others are still your friends. And your mother, Owen. What Charizard would harm their own child?”

    “Um, a-actually, my Mom’s a Gardevoir… I don’t know my real parents.”

    “Oh, I’m—”

    Owen shook his head. “But either way, it’s… it’s all the same. You’re right. There’s no way she’d want to hurt me. She raised me! She—” Owen’s heart skipped a beat. “Mom! She’s with Rhys…! And she’s a Guardian!” He sprung to his feet, as if that action would somehow give him an idea on what to do next.

    He felt a strange tingling on the scales on his back. The air felt… sharp, like it cut into his lungs, and a sinking feeling twisted his stomach into a knot. What was this power that he could feel? He’d never had such a sensation before. He was used to having a vague sense of what was around the corner, or even in the other room. But this? This was new.

    At the same time, Zena stared toward Kilo Mountain. “He’s coming,” she said. “How did he know we were here? Who could have…?”

    Owen realized that what he was sensing was something Zena sensed, too. He closed his eyes. He heard the rapid footsteps of something bipedal. He recognized the pattern--it was Rhys, without a doubt. He also heard another sound, a lot more rapid, with smaller legs. Hard knocking on sandy dirt. Angry chittering. That pattern was equally familiar. It was a Trapinch, going much faster than it should for its species. “Gahi, too.”

    Zena coiled around herself, preparing to launch everything she had at the incoming duo.

    “D-don’t hurt Gahi. He’s a Trapinch, and he’s—he’s not involved in any of this!”

    Zena said nothing, but she was clearly aiming for Rhys. Owen turned toward the source of the sound again. Louder. He only had a few seconds to react. Was this really Rhys attempting to kill them? Why would he chase them all the way down here? Why couldn’t he hear his mother’s running pattern? Because she wasn’t there. It was just Rhys and Gahi.

    “Owen!” Rhys shouted, jumping between two trees, into plain view.

    Zena fired. The beam of water was simultaneously wide and dense, and it was a perfect shot. Rhys held his paws forward with an Aura Sphere-like shield to deflect the blast. Gahi, trailing behind, dove behind a tree to avoid the scattered beams of water, shouting something angrily. When the Hydro Pump stopped, and the mist faded, Rhys remained. Zena’s attack was completely neutralized by the shield.

    Gahi stared in horror at the gaping hole left in the tree that he’d been hiding behind. The deflected beams had missed him by only a head’s length.

    For that one instant, the world stood still for Owen. It all clicked in his mind at once. He felt Zena’s coils wind in defensive terror beside him. Almost out of empathy, his muscles tensed in a similar way. His heart was pounding against his neck. Rhys had deflected one of the most powerful attacks Owen had ever seen.

    He had been ready for that attack. He was expecting it. He knew. Owen’s claws dug into his palms; his tail blazed with a shining, green flame.

    The last of the mist faded. Zena’s words echoed in his thoughts.

    Rhys is one of the Hunters.

    The Lucario let out a pant. “Owen, I—”

    The Charmeleon opened with a plume of fire. It was easily blocked, but Owen followed up by lunging forward. He wasn’t using words anymore, just roars and grunts. Rhys deftly blocked every hit with little pulses of aura from his paws, stepping backwards with each lunge Owen made.

    “Owen, enough!” Rhys said.

    “You—what did you do—what did you do to Mom?!” Owen shouted.

    “Your mother?! What in the world do you mean?!”

    Owen roared and blasted Rhys with fire, point-blank. He couldn’t deflect this one, and his upper body was briefly alight. This was too much for Rhys to tolerate. With a single blow and a grunt of anger, Rhys swiped his paw toward Owen and created a small sphere on his side. It exploded, and blasted Owen with a shockwave of aura force. He slammed into a tree and cried in pain when his left shoulder dislocated itself, and his left leg broke in two places. A few ribs probably got fractured, too. There was a large welt on his right side where the aura had exploded, and some scales had been blasted off, too. He crumpled to the ground; it hurt too much to move.

    Zena spewed another beam of water at Rhys, but the Hunter jumped to the right in a blue blur. Zena blinked and lost track of him. She turned toward Owen and saw Rhys there instead, kneeling down. Rhys’ eyes were narrowed with concern.

    “You won’t!” Zena shouted. “Get away from him! Or I’ll fire again! I won’t miss!”

    “If you do miss, you will hit Owen,” Rhys said calmly. He didn’t even react to her.

    “It’s… it’s a risk I’ll take to stop you, you—murderer!”

    “Murderer,” Rhys repeated softly. He inspected Owen, who only glared. Flames danced out of his mouth. “Your mother is worried about you, Owen. Your father, too.”

    “You’re a Hunter,” Owen said. “Zena… Zena told me! You… you killed Guardians like me!”

    “Owen.” Rhys closed his eyes. “If I wanted to kill, then you two would already be dead.”

    “N-no way!” Owen said. “I’d totally beat you if… if I wanted to! I’m a Guardian! I survived drowning!”

    “Drowning,” Rhys said with a snort. “You took a quarter of the day, I imagine, just to recover from that. Do you really think a Hunter would kill a Guardian by drowning them?”

    Owen gulped. “Y-yeah, well, I bet I could survive… a lot of things, now.” His eyes darted to the left and right, searching for some sort of opening. Owen focused on a tree behind Rhys. The Lucario followed his gaze—just what Owen wanted. He spewed a wad of fire at Rhys the moment he looked away. In a single, deft motion, Rhys brought his arm up and blocked the blast with another aura shield.

    Owen flinched, and Rhys looked at him with a knowing glare. Owen had no escape.

    “You cannot survive much,” Rhys said. “Divine energy from the Orb sustains you, even if your very heart stops. However, great injury to your body disrupts that flow. If someone wished to kill you… they would. And they can. Just because you are Mystic does not mean you are invincible. Look at you, Owen.” He shook his head. “A body half broken already. If I aimed for your head,” he pointed out, “the Grass Orb would be without a host once more.”

    Owen envisioned Rhys doing just that. Moving his paw just a bit further up. He would’ve been headless. Just like that. He thought back to the Aerodactyl. He still would have been paralyzed from the waist down from his strikes. And if he was rejected from the Dungeon, some opportunistic wild Pokémon still could have feasted on his unconscious body.

    Owen’s sense of mortality returned to him. When that happened, the Charmeleon thought his heart had stopped again.

    “You can’t even stand.”

    “I can totally stand!” Owen used his good arm and clawed at the air in front of Rhys.

    Rhys waited.

    He kept clawing and tried to sit. In the end, he couldn’t. The most he could do was prop himself up. His arm trembled, and he fell again.

    Gahi waddled out from the tree he’d been hiding in. “Lighten up, Firebutt,” Gahi said. “Yer beat. And you! Pretty lady! You calm down, too! Rhys ain’t gonna hurt anybody.”

    “P-pretty lady?” Zena flushed red.

    “Can you stand, Owen?” Rhys asked again. Despite his neutral tone, Owen sensed that he was mocking him.

    “Nrgh.” Owen’s tail twitched. “I don’t feel like it.” He exhaled a defeated plume of smoke. It tasted like roasted seeds.

    Rhys sighed and looked up at the trees. He inspected the tops, and then looked at Zena. She didn’t take her eyes off of him, waiting for any sudden movements. Rhys, recognizing this, moved slowly, gently, raising his arm to point up. Zena didn’t change her focus. Right at Rhys.

    “There is a ripe Oran Berry in the trees. I intend to harvest it for Owen. Milotic Zena, will you allow me to do this?”

    “You will move slowly,” Zena said.

    Rhys obeyed. Every step was deliberate, and he pointed the pad of his paw toward the berry. The tiniest of Aura Spheres appeared there, and he fired, knocking it off of the tree. It landed nearby. Rhys took step after deliberate step toward the berry, and then leaned down to pick it up.

    At this point, Gahi was shaking with impatience, pacing in a rapid circle nearby. He mumbled something about being able to do this seven times by the time he finished once.

    Finally, Rhys returned to Owen and handed him the berry.

    “How can a berry help him?” Zena said. “They’re a pick-me-up. They only provide energy, as all food would. Oran Berries are useless for injuries like that.”

    Owen glanced at Zena confusedly.

    “Is—is it not?” Zena asked.

    Owen grabbed the berry and took a bite, chewing awkwardly while lying on the ground. A soft glow flowed from Owen’s throat to the rest of his body, barely visible if it wasn’t for the darkness of twilight.

    “Hold still,” Rhys said. With a firm push, he snapped Owen’s arm back into its socket, eliciting a loud, suppressed grunt from the Charmeleon. He then moved to his broken leg. “Are you ready, Owen?”

    Owen whimpered.

    “I’ll do it on three. One—” Rhys snapped them in place. Owen didn’t cry out that time; his eyes watered, and he gritted his teeth, but the most noise that came was from the air rapidly moving through his nostrils.

    “Thank you,” he said in a high-pitched voice.

    “Eat your berry.”

    Owen awkwardly ate at the berry using his good arm, still lying on the ground. A glow emanated from his throat that was only visible due to the darkness of twilight. It pulsed throughout the rest of his body—while bruised, Owen felt much better. Bones repaired themselves; he felt like he could breathe deeply again. He sighed and deflated after the final bite, idly licking at his claws.

    “Oran Berries have been greatly enhanced since your time, Zena,” Rhys said. “They have been blessed by Goodra Anam, leader of the Hearts, who doubles as a sort of… priest, if you will. Most Oran Berries you see in the world today carry that blessing. This is especially true for content found in Dungeons, which have, too, been blessed. Prior, they were much less welcoming.”

    “Blessing,” Zena repeated. “Priest. What sort of cult do you run?”

    “It’s not much of a cult if you can see actual results, now is it?” Rhys asked, motioning to the fiery Grass Guardian. “For smaller Pokémon like Owen, a single berry is enough to fully restore them to fighting health.”

    Owen grunted and stood up. He didn’t know what to think anymore. He’d gone past the panic and despair and slipped into frustration and anger again. The same anger that made him yell at Zena’s spirits. Even if he was healed, his older thoughts returned to him, now that he no longer feared for his life. He glared at Rhys. “Who are you?”

    “...I am Lucario Rhys, Elite Heart of Kilo Village. I am a former Hunter of the Guardians.” Rhys looked to Zena. “Owen is very good at detecting lies and malevolence. He is very in-tune with body language, and he knows if I intend to strike him, even if it is as a surprise. Owen, do you sense anything from me that suggests I would want to hurt you?”

    Owen looked up. He could feel it, yes. He didn’t know it was some sort of talent of his, but he was always very aware of his surroundings, including those close to him. And he could sense Rhys’ paw twitching irritably. His muscles were tense from the battle. His brow was furrowed with hidden impatience, invisible thanks to his fur, but the tension was there.

    Rhys did want to hurt him… but not in the way Zena thinks. No. Rhys was holding himself back from smacking him on the head. He could imagine Rhys telling him to stop acting so immaturely, so rashly, so childishly. He wanted him to be a proper Heart. He could hear the lecture about how, had this been done on a mission, innocents could get hurt, or worse.

    Owen finally straightened, but then brought his head down. He rubbed his nose with his arm.

    Zena’s eyes softened, just barely. “Very well. But do not think you’ve convinced me, Hunter.”

    “Great, great, that’s all nice and good,” Gahi said, clicking his jaws to get their attention. “But as yeh may’ve noticed, it’s pretty much twilight at this point, and I’m tired, and I haven’t had dinner yet, and maybe we can get this rolling along? Oy, Rhys, y’got yer Badge? I wanna go back ter Kilo. I hate rivers, and I hate oceans. I’d rather get eaten than drown someplace like this. We gonna go?”

    “Why did you even come, then?” Rhys said in a hiss that was only half-controlled.

    “Well, yeh had that story about Mystics an’ all that ter tell me on the way,” Gahi said. “Was the first story yeh ever told that wasn’t boring.”

    Owen sensed Rhys wanted to hit Gahi, too. The left half of his lips twitched upward, and he couldn’t hide his brightening flame. He shook his head to keep composed and looked to the Water Guardian.

    “Zena,” Owen said. “Even if Rhys is a Hunter… I mean, there’s no way Goodra Anam would allow him to do anything. If we go to Kilo Village, we’ll be safe. And I think Anam is way stronger than Rhys is.”

    “Perhaps not way stronger,” Rhys growled. He looked at Gahi. “Very well. I have the Badge. If Zena will allow me to look through my supplies, I will get it.”

    “You may,” Zena said slowly. “But if I am to follow, expect me to be ten paces behind you. I refuse to walk beside the likes of you.”

    Rhys winced. But Owen also sensed a tension in Rhys’ throat, too. Owen gently rubbed at his own, trying to get an idea of what the feeling was supposed to be. The Charmeleon realized then that Rhys had a figurative lump in his throat.

    “...What’s a pace fer you?” Gahi said, observing her lack of limbs.

    The Milotic glared.

    “Feh.” Gahi shuffled behind Owen. He tried to be casual, but Owen noticed his tremble.

    Rhys pulled out the Association Badge.

    “And that will help us home, how?” Zena asked.

    “It’ll bring us back to town,” Owen said. “It can only really bring back four people at a time or so. We usually bring more Badges in case we have to rescue a bunch at once, so then we can still get back ourselves.” Owen recalled what he’d read about the Badges functionality and limits. “You can key it in to other locations to warp to if you configure it while you’re there, but by default, if you just tap the little heart button in the middle once, you’ll go to the Central Waypoint. Easy. I’d’ve set my new Badge to go to Hot Spot Cave, but… it’s been a really hectic few days lately…”

    “Oh?” Zena tilted her head. “What’s a Waypoint?”

    “Oh, wow,” Owen said. “You have been gone for a while. Um… it’s… this thing where you have to stand on it, and then once you do, it will activate, and then you’ll go to its corresponding tile somewhere else in the world—so, in this case, the one in Kilo Village. Nevren invented it.” Owen looked at the Badge. “This Badge has the same sort of energy. It’s weaker, and it has to recharge… but it is tied to the Waypoints or other areas you register with it.”

    “I see… Waypoints can be used as much as we want, but they’re stuck at two specific locations. But these Badges can be used anywhere, but require energy. What an interesting system. Very well. If you are confident in this… thing, I will put my faith in you, Owen.”

    Owen caught a twitch of irritation from Rhys, but he figured he deserved that one.

    “Owen,” Rhys said, “why don’t you use it?”

    Owen nodded, took the Badge, and thrust it in the air. He clicked the button once. In a split-second, they reappeared in Kilo Village, just in time to see a small team, led by Anam, heading for Calm Water Lake’s Waypoint. The others accompanying him were Decidueye James and Alakazam Nevren.

    “Whoa, wait! L-look!” Anam said, pointing.

    “H-hi, guys!” Owen hesitated. In the rush of events, he finally remembered what had happened. Wasn’t he supposed to be angry at them? But, now that he had time to think… “I’m… I’m sorry for running off,” he said. “I just—I wanted to clear my head, and—”

    Zena stared, wide-eyed, at the countless buildings that surrounded her. Owen was glad they came when there weren’t any Pokémon passing by, or the isolated Milotic would have been completely overwhelmed.

    “A-and this is Zena! She’s, um, she’s the Water Guardian.”

    Zena tensed and looked away. “H-h-hel…”

    “Hi, Zena!” Anam waved. “It’s good to meet you!”

    “Ahh, the Water Guardian, I see,” Nevren said. He stepped forward and held out a hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Zena. I am sorry if this is beyond your favored conditions.”

    “Y-yes, thank…” Zena held out an eyebrow for him to shake.

    “Zena, are you okay?” Owen asked.

    “Give her time, Owen,” Nevren said. “She has not spoken to so many strangers in a very long while, I imagine. This will take time to adjust.”

    “She spoke just fine with Rhys…” But he wondered if it was easier for her to yell at someone she hated than to talk to someone new. Didn’t explain why she spoke so easily with him, however. Owen figured it was because he was just one little Charmeleon, and this was a gang of elites and Gahi.

    “Owen!” Demitri shouted from the top of the Heart stairway. “H-hey! You’re back to normal!”

    Mispy was next to Demitri, and both of them rushed down to meet with the rest of their team.

    “Yeah, so much fer being funny ter look at,” Gahi said. “How’s it feel ter be Fire again, anyway?”

    Good,” Owen said immediately.

    Mispy glared.

    “S-so.” Owen avoided Mispy’s eyes. “How did… Rhys find us?”

    “He ran ahead ter get yeh,” Gahi said. “Said he knew where yeh’d be. Maybe he sensed yer Mystic aura, y’know?”

    “I am familiar with the underwater channel that Zena used,” Rhys said. “Once I figured out where you had gone, I decided to follow you there. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Waypoint designated to that part of the southern shoreline, as no Dungeon had ever formed in that location. I had to go on foot. Gahi was the only one who could realistically keep up.”

    “O-oh.” Owen thought about what Zena had said. A Hunter had been chasing after them. Did Rhys chase her through those channels before? What stopped him from…?

    Zena looked at Anam. By his species name, she knew he was the leader. “You… I’d… like to introduce myself,” she said. “And… to your spirit.”

    “Oh!” Anam said. “Yeah! I’m Anam, and this is James! He worked with me for a long time, but when he eventually got too old, I brought him back as a spirit assistant!”

    Owen squinted slightly. Anam sounded odd when he said that. Did anybody else notice? He glanced at Rhys. He noticed. But he didn’t say anything. It must have been nothing. Anam wasn’t the sort to lie, after all.

    “Yes,” James said, nodding. “Ah, and Owen, your parents are very worried about you. I will fetch them.” He sank into the ground.

    A brief, awkward silence filled the air. It was only broken when Anam said, “Wait! So… so that means right now, in this town… we have four of the Guardians in one place!”

    “F-four…” Zena said, realizing this. “Water, Grass, and…?”

    “Fire’s my Mom,” Owen said.

    “And I’m the Ghost Guardian!” Anam said.

    “Four of us, all in one place,” Zena remarked. “Isn’t that a bit worrying?”

    “Not anymore,” Anam said. “I think we’re going to be changing strategies.”

    Nevren nodded. “Yes. It appears that the remaining Hunters have discovered a means of tracking the auras of Guardians with great precision, so we must now dedicate ourselves to gathering, rather than separating, the power before the Hunters do the same.”

    “Hmm.” Zena looked at Nevren carefully. “You… give off a strange aura as well.”

    “Y-yes, well… that is…”

    “Nevren,” Owen said, crossing his arms. “I’m really sensitive to secrets right now, and I just… I just don’t want to deal with it. Just tell me now so we can get it over with. And I think this Mystic power is making my perception go on overdrive, and I think I hate it? Because I’m feeling all the lies pouring from you guys. It’s disgusting. Just… tell the truth.”

    Anam nibbled nervously on his fingers.

    Nevren shook his head, eyes closed. “Very well,” he said. “It’s not much of a secret to others, but I used to be an active Hunter as well, yes. A… researcher; I was not much for fighting.”

    Owen expected this, the way Rhys was so familiar with him. “Are there any other Elites or, like… anybody else here in the Hearts that are former Hunters?”

    Nevren shook his head. “Of the Hearts, only Rhys and I are affiliated,” he said.

    “Okay, just—what’s the point?” Owen said. “What’s the whole point of the Hunters? Why are you guys around for so long if you don’t have any Orbs to keep you alive? How many of you are there, and…?”

    “Perhaps,” Rhys said, “this is something that we should discuss in private.”

    Anam nodded. “Mhm. The night crowd is gonna come soon, and I don’t want them to overhear anything. Let’s go to my office!”

    Everyone agreed, though Zena trailed behind, as promised. Ten paces. In this case, those were ten intervals of Zena’s weaving, slithering motions. The walk was a long one—it felt longer than usual. And Owen sensed it again. Rhys’ tension. But this was a different tension… Owen shook his head. He hated feeling these things. He tried to dull it, but he still had the vaguest feeling of what the others were doing around him.

    Rhys glanced back at Zena. Owen did his best to ignore it, but those glances were becoming very frequent. He wasn’t getting tempted, was he? Was Nevren stronger than Rhys? No, he said he wasn’t a fighter. And what about Anam? Surely he could handle Rhys. Then again, Owen never actually saw the Goodra fight before. In fact, if the rumors were true, he usually just hugged outlaws into submission.

    Suddenly, Rhys stopped walking; Owen nearly bumped into him had it not been for how abrupt he had stopped. “Rhys?” Owen asked, leaning to the side.

    Zena tensed, Mystic energy silently flowing beneath the surface of her scales, making the once creamy color glow iridescently against the setting sun.

    “I… I wish to apologize,” Rhys said, head down. “For what I put you through. I didn’t intend for you to live in fear. And… for that, I’m sorry.”

    Zena’s guard faltered, but then her glare redoubled. “Intentions don’t mean very much, Hunter.”

    Owen and Rhys both winced, but neither had a counter. Zena had every right. Anam nervously nibbled at the tips of his fingers; Gahi clicked his jaws irritably, but it seemed that even he knew not to speak up. Demitri and Mispy, largely uninformed, only exchanged confused glances.

    “I understand,” Rhys finally said, cutting through the silence, but more agonizing emptiness took its place seconds later. Rhys’ paws twitched, and that lump—Owen sensed it in his throat again. But no words came.

    In the dying lights of evening, the group quietly shuffled into Anam’s office. Demitri tripped and fell onto Mispy, who wrapped her vines around him and set the Axew atop her back. Nevren tapped his spoons twice; Luminous Orbs lit the corridors. “Could’ve done that in the first place,” Demitri mumbled.

    The Goodra sat in the pond in the back of the room; all of the others sat in simple nests of hay that James had materialized from the shadows, except for Zena, who coiled around herself, next to Owen. On Owen’s other side was his mother—who refused to keep her hand off of the Charmeleon’s arm, holding firmly—and next to her, Alex.

    Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi jealously eyed Owen’s new, Charmeleon form. Owen, noticing this, gave a teasing little smirk—he won that little game and, surely, he’ll hit his final form first, too. The Elites were near Anam, though not too close; the gooey world leader tended to get in a grabby, cuddly mood at night, and the last thing they needed was to get covered in his slime.

    “Well,” James said. “Rhys, perhaps it is appropriate for you to explain… yourself to those who are not aware.”

    “Yes,” Rhys said. “I… believe it is appropriate.” He looked at the others—particularly at Zena, and then Owen, and finally, his students. “Nevren and I… are two of the five Hunters. Our purpose was to gather all of the Orbs into one being. We were meant to use this power to challenge Arceus, as we deemed him an improper god.”

    It took nearly ten seconds for Owen to fully process those three sentences; he didn’t even react when Zena spoke first.

    “Wh-what do you mean, challenge Arceus? Is that the power that these Orbs possess?” Zena asked. “Why in the world would Arceus allow such a thing to exist?”

    “Because he created it in the first place,” Rhys said, “and is powerless to stop it by his own design. At least, that is the story we are told; that Arceus used to be omnipotent, when the world was first created. But then, fearing his own power and temper, he delegated some of it to others that he could trust. Star was one; he gave her a third of his power. Another third became imbued into artifacts that represented Arceus’ power; those became the Orbs. The remaining third is still with him.”

    “Okay…” Owen rubbed his head. “But… hang on. Arceus didn’t like His own temper? Arceus has a temper?”

    Rhys nodded. “Arceus does indeed become wrathful at times, and with absolute power, the results can be… devastating.”

    It seemed too simple. Why would someone with ultimate power give it up at all?

    Owen pressed on. “So… so He basically… tried to save the world from Him, retroactively?” Even as Owen said it, there was a hint of skepticism in his tone.

    “It seems so.”

    Owen grumbled. “But what about you? The Hunters? You want to challenge Him? Like, as in, usurp Him? Even though He did something so selfless?” Owen briefly paused, feeling a brief tinge of reverence in the way he spoke of the Creator. Just yesterday, he didn’t believe in the existence of one at all. Now…?

    The shock of it all left him feeling numb enough that he could focus on the conversation and nothing else.

    Rhys closed his eyes. “We were… conscripted,” he said, “by Star, to usurp him.”

    “Oh.” Owen said. He blinked twice. “Wait—"

    “You’re lying,” Zena said immediately.

    “Do I look like I’m lying?” Rhys said just as quickly.

    “That Torkoal said the same exact thing,” Zena said. “You’re lying, just as he was! Star would never—”

    “Hm?” Amia looked up. “Oh, hold on, dear.”

    Owen glanced curiously at his mother; she held her hand forward, pushing out a blue ember. It coalesced and turned into a pink cloud, and then further solidified into a very faint, yet clearly visible, Mew.

    “H-h-hi, Star!” Owen greeted.

    “Hey, Owen!” Star waved. “Hey, good to see you got your old Type back. Maybe you can practice switching between the two later, huh?”

    Amia sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make you any more solid, Star, but your spirit’s just too much to manifest.”

    “Nah, it’s fine. This works.”

    Owen gulped, knowing why Star wanted to be summoned in the first place. “Um—about… about what Rhys said.”

    “Star, are you here to disprove what that Hunter is saying?” Zena said. “Smite him.”

    Star held her arms up, waving her paws quickly. “N-no, no, I don’t do the whole smite thing. I, uh, I mean, I’m kinda here to… back Rhys up.”

    Zena’s coils tightened.

    “I was listening in, and… he’s right. I… did kinda… create the Hunters, in a sense.” She fiddled with her paws.

    The Milotic looked like she’d been stabbed in the chest. “Y-you… created them?” She expected Star to laugh and say it was a joke, another one of her pranks. But the Mew’s downcast eyes said it all. “The very people that—that ruined my life—that ruined everything I had?!” Zena said.

    Star kept her head down.

    The lack of response was perhaps the worst reaction Zena could have received. The painful silence lasted for—Owen wasn’t sure how many seconds. Too long. Even Gahi stayed quiet, his huge mouth slightly open in disbelief. Owen wondered if it was because the trio was witnessing Mew Herself, or because Star was behind something so horrible.

    Silent through it all, Anam nibbled on his fingers and shrank back, eyes focused on nothing. It was like he was listening to a voice only he could hear, even while Zena spoke.

    “I could have lived a normal life!” Zena whispered loudly. She was trembling. Her voice slowly grew in volume. “I… I could have lived as a normal Milotic, perhaps found myself a fine partner to have an egg with, to raise a child together, to become a family, to die of age like—like any other Pokémon! But instead…! Instead I lived… centuries… in isolation… with nothing but spirits that taunt me with their deaths, their ability to freely leave and pass on…! And I’m… I’m just stuck here with this Orb, some piece of our so-called all-mighty Creator’s rejected power! And… and all for what?! All for you to take it back?!”

    Star opened her mouth to speak.

    I don’t want to hear another word from you! Leave my sight!”

    Star bit her lower lip. She lingered, but when Zena’s piercing, fiery eyes persisted—enough to rival Owen’s tail—she disintegrated into a blue ember and returned to Amia.

    Zena threw her head onto her coils, shivering and sniffling. Owen quietly looked around and saw that nobody was comfortable enough to approach her. He took initiative and quietly stepped closer to Zena and put a hand to her neck. She jerked her head away, but didn’t resist when Owen tried a second time.

    “Why?” Owen finally asked. “What’s… what’s it all for? Why does—or, did, why did Star want that power?”

    Rhys shook his head. “I don’t… I don’t know,” he said. “What she told us is the extent of her motivations behind trying to usurp Arceus. That he is an improper god; that the world is stagnating; that to save it, she would need the power. And… while I agreed with her at the time, the way the Hunters worked to do this…” He glanced at Zena. “It shook me. And I could not continue, and Star felt the same. Yet… well, as you can see, some of them still continue.”

    Zena pressed her eyes against her scales. She was well beyond anger at this point; it seemed like she was just closing herself off again, like she was hiding away in the base of her caverns all over again. The way she coiled against the rocks made her scales bend roughly against the jagged portions. Owen stared worriedly at this. Did Zena even realize it?

    “Star was my friend,” she said. “How could she lie to me? For so long?”

    Owen held Zena’s side, trying to prevent her from damaging her scales too much. It was enough to stop her, and she resorted instead to brushing against his side instead. She needed something to press against, and Owen recognized that much, even if he couldn’t understand why. Her sheer size made it hard for the Charmeleon to remain stable; he gripped his claws onto the nest for some leverage. It wasn’t very effective.

    “She may have told you many times before,” Rhys said, “and then erased your memory of it when the reaction was… less than favorable. Star can do that—it’s what inspired, and helped, Nevren do the same to Kilo Village to maintain Anam’s leadership without anybody realizing he never dies. But with all of us present, I doubt she can erase your memories again. Not effectively.”

    Zena sniffed. Her tail wrapped around Owen next; he was too slow to react, and he became enveloped somewhere along her abdomen. She curled around him, just to have something to hold. “I remember… oh, I certainly remember now…!”

    “Y-you do?” Owen said. “How many times did She tell you?”

    Zena shook her head. Her voice was only slightly louder than a whisper. “A number of times. Every few decades. I reacted badly. I threatened to leave, and she couldn’t have that—I would get hurt.” She shrugged her head and rolled her watering eyes. Owen sensed Zena’s muscles make the same contraction pattern as before, threatening to brush against the walls again. He held her firmly, and her scales flinched away from the rocks.

    The Milotic continued, “So, she had to undo it… and make me forget. She didn’t want me to get hurt…. That’s what she always told me. But…” Zena sniffled. She suddenly raised her voice, and it cracked. “But I’d rather die than live like this!”

    “You don’t have to live like that any longer,” Rhys said firmly. “We will stay together as our own community. We will live among the mortals. And… we will gather the Orbs before the remaining Hunters can.”

    It didn’t look like it was getting through to Zena, but she was at least silent. Her coils tightened further around Owen.

    The Charmeleon squeaked, air escaping his chest. His bones creaked. “Can’t… can’t breathe…!”

    Zena released him and he gasped for air. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. She stared at Rhys, now, recalling his recent actions. “Yet, here you are, now. Claiming to be an ex-Hunter… Why? When that was what you were given that power for?”

    “Because I don’t believe it is helping anybody to keep the Orbs scattered in this way,” he said. “Even Star agrees, I’m sure, that having us live together is much better than keeping us apart. It’s unfortunate that we had to wait this long for that decision… but here we are.”

    “And she doesn’t agree with the other Hunters, either?” Owen asked. “Like that Espurr?”

    “Certainly not,” Nevren spoke up. “The remaining Hunters are acting on their own, for their own gain.”

    Anam finally perked up, even if his usual, happy demeanor was completely missing, replaced instead by pained concern. “I—I trust Nevren. He’s my friend.”

    Owen sank down, satisfied at least with this answer. While it was hard, even for Owen, to get a read on Nevren, what he said was reasonable. And if Anam trusted him, that was good enough.

    “So that’s it, then,” James said, nodding. “We race the Hunters to gathering the Guardians. With Star’s cooperation, perhaps we can find more of them.”

    Zena curled a bit tighter around Owen again; the Charmeleon tensed, readying for another crushing grip. “You can plan with her,” she said, “I’m not ready to speak.”

    “Of course,” James said. “Amia? If you can summon her, please.”

    “Oh—yes, dear.”

    Star appeared again, this time a bit more solid—but Star was too powerful for Amia to fully materialize, and she was still very see-through. “H-hey, everyone…”

    Her head was on fire.

    “Uh, Star, er…” Owen pointed.

    “What?” Star tried to look up. “Oh, come on.” She licked her paw and dabbed it on her forehead, putting out the flame. “Honestly, Amia. Fire realm’s way too hot.”

    Amia tittered softly, but then fell back into a tense silence.

    “Star…” Owen wanted to speak carefully, if only so he didn’t get crushed like a Cheri Berry. “I—I don’t get how you could create the Hunters and…” He glanced at Zena,.“And let something like that happen, but… You seem like a good Pokémon! S-so, you’re gonna help us, right?”

    Star nodded. “I’ll do what I can. But, the thing is… a lot of the Guardians don’t talk to me anymore. They’re doing their own thing, hiding away and making sure they don’t, you know, get into any trouble. I’ll need some time to prepare. And I think you all need some rest.”

    “O-oh.” Owen nodded. “Right…”

    Just then, the pure exhaustion of the day hit him. This day began with him dying while touching the Grass Orb. It ended with him dying again when he turned back to a Fire Type. And now this?

    “Rest up for a few days,” Star said. “I need to… gather everything I know. Alright?”

    Rhys nodded. “That’s fair enough. Demitri, Mispy, Gahi. Let’s return home for dinner. Owen, I imagine you would like to go home with Amia.”

    “Y-yeah,” Owen said. “Definitely. I’ll—” He tried to get out of Zena’s coils, but the Milotic held onto him tighter.

    “Where will I go?” she asked.

    “Oh, um, well.” Owen considered this. Zena probably wouldn’t be very comfortable in a slimy pool of water with Anam. And Rhys—that was certainly out of the question.

    “You can come home with us, dear,” Amia said. “Hot Spot Cave, despite the name, is quite cool if I’m not using my power. I’ll make sure the central part of the cave is tolerable!”

    Zena nodded. “Then, I will go there.”

    Rhys nodded. “I believe we should also move in,” he said. “While Star prepares, we will gather our supplies and go to Hot Spot Cave.”

    “E-eh? Just like that?” Gahi asked.

    “I have a responsibility to protect the Guardians. If they are going to live in Hot Spot, then I shall go there as penance.”

    “Oh! You know,” Owen perked up, “there’s actually building a lot like yours in Hot Spot! It even has a little sand pit from one of the other—” Owen winced, remembering that his entire village was dead. “You know, where one of the spirits used to fake-live.”

    “A sand pit? Fer me?” Gahi said. “Hah! Well, I ain’t gonna complain. Figure we’ll accidentally go ter our old home a lot in the next few days, though.”

    “We will be sure to register our Badges with Hot Spot Cave as its new personal Waypoint,” Rhys said. “Come, you three. Let’s go.”

    Owen rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Hey, um, am I part of Team Alloy, now?” he asked. “We never made it official.”

    “Eh? Oh, sure,” Gahi said. “Figured we already were. Sure. It’s official now.”

    Vines slowly wrapped around Gahi, lifting him off the ground. His tiny legs wiggled uselessly. Mispy turned the Trapinch around, staring at him with narrowed, red eyes. The Chikorita spoke with her whisper of a voice, yet it was firmer than anybody else on the team. “I’m leader.”

    “E-ehh…” Gahi’s jaws shut tight. He nodded.

    Mispy dropped Gahi and nodded at Owen. “You may.”

    Owen brightened. “Great! Then, um—I’ll see you guys soon!”

    With those parting words, Team Alloy departed again. Rhys glanced behind just once to meet eyes with Zena, only to be met with an icy glare. He bristled and hastily exited with the others.

    Owen’s tail dimmed, but Amia held his shoulder. She smiled and said, softly, “Give it time.” She followed the others out.

    Owen frowned, but couldn’t find it in himself to argue. But the thought was there…

    Wasn’t giving it time what ruined Zena’s life to begin with?

    The Charmeleon realized, upon descending the stairway, that his flame was a lot more noticeable. The evening’s final light disappeared behind the horizon.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
    git-it likes this.
  6. RocketKnight66

    RocketKnight66 404: Consistent Schedule not Found

    Alright, I'm back to read more Hands of Creation!

    Chapter 2

    Picking up right where the last chapter left off, Owen's got an outlaw to deal with. Well, less "deal with" and more "get his tail handed to him by." Yeah, going up against a big Aerodactyl was never gonna end well for him. But then Team Alloy comes in and saves the day! It's a bit touch and go, but they've got some good teamwork and beat the outlaw. Demitri blocking him with his tusks and Mispy blasting him with what I presume is Solarbeam were pretty cool to see in particular.

    It seems Owen's not sure that dream was a dream anymore. And I'm inclined to feel the same way, especially after a particular line in the next chapter. And then he finally tells Team Alloy that he feels like he remembers them, with Demitri feeling similarly. I think I've mentioned this before, but it's strange he feels such familiarity with all these Pokémon... makes me wonder just what is lurking in his memory.

    After that, Owen goes to where Demitri, Gabi, and Mispy live, and we finally get to meet Rhys. He seems alright, although I can't help but feel a bit weird about him. If his reaction to seeing Owen wasn't enough, there's some strange stuff going on in his room, which apparently includes a pink cloud that went in there. He'll be going with Owen on the way home however, so we may get some answers on that.

    Actually, I think Hypnosis can control a sleeping Pokémon in PSMD, but I may be remembering wrong. I do recall however that the control is pretty brief, so even if I'm right it's not at all to the degree that Aerodactyl was talking about.

    Yeah, that ain't happening anytime soon. :p

    Chapter 3

    Right away, Demitri and Mispy were messing around a bit before going to their rooms, which was pretty cute. Meanwhile, it didn't take long for the pink cloud to be addressed with Rhys, but all he said was that he would investigate it, so I'm still left wondering what that was.

    On the way home, we've got Owen asking Rhys if he knows him, which I'm not surprised by. And neither was Rhys, apparently... and what eventually followed was priceless.
    This has to be the funniest thing I've read all night. xD

    Owen having to say a passcode and do an, uh, pose was pretty funny as well, especially with some of the text and Rhys' reaction.
    Perfect.

    Of course Rhys leaves after that and Owen goes to see his parents again. It's nice and all, when suddenly this bombshell drops.
    "We just turned him back." What?!
    ...Yeah, I had to do a double take on this one, and now I'm left asking myself what that could possibly mean. I'm sure I'll find out eventually, but... hoo boy.

    Moving on to the next morning, it's time for that announcement. We got some more silly interactions between Team Alloy, which gave me a good chuckle. Seriously, the more I see of them, the more I like them.

    And then we have Rhys with a bag, hiding some kind of glowing ball that he won't let anyone touch. I have a feeling I know what that is, and if I'm right, then it begs the question; why does he have it? Rhys is getting more curious by the second...

    Once the announcement ceremony begins, we finally get to see Goodra Anam, and he's pretty soft-hearted, what with him crying away during the speech. He's a good boy. ^_^

    Finally, Owen tests with that performance analyzer... and gets an insane score for a Charmander. Can't say I'm surprised considering he's such a late evolver. He's doing well so far, and I'll be looking forward to seeing if he can get in!

    *Mario Party voice* Newww recoorrd!
     
  7. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I love how this has been the universal reaction to him early on. I mean, I guess with how he is, it's only understandable, but I didn't expect it to be so consistent.

    Huh, maybe? From what I can tell, it just causes Sleep, but perhaps in the anime, or in some other canon, or some cutscene, it did something more? Either way, the Aero was lying through his desperate teeth.

    I do my best. Story can't be serious all the time. Let's get some comedy! All the emotions!

    I'd say that this is one of the biggest mysteries of Act I, at least until it gets unraveled.

    Gotta love that wad of living slime.

    Thanks for reading, I'm glad you've continued~
     
  8. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    I'll be honest, I was initially expecting just a quiet chapter with Owen and Zena... again. Probably because I'm much used to longer fics being slower paced while yours is... not. But you've clearly used to that your advantage in racking up all the popularity, so it's working. I guess I'll quickly go over some of the explanation stuff. I think I bought Owen's perceptiveness getting thrown into overdrive a lot more than the brief bit that Rhys gives about how you can successfully kill a Guardian. That... really doesn't answer much. Is some sort of traumatic head injury the only way because I'd like to think drowning is equally as horrendous, in which case Owen should've been super dead already. I'm sure you (in your head/notes/whatever) have an idea of where the line is between what a Guardian can/can't bounce back from, but it still isn't clear for me, so I'm not as quick as Owen to jump onto the "Guess I'm mortal after all" bit. You're playing with a difficult subject, so of course there are gonna be some kinks to work out.

    Anyway... I'm surprised that all it took was a little talking from Zena to goad Owen into attacking Rhys after had had spent the entierty of the story fanboying over the guy. he must really have fallen head over heels for her, huh? Wasn't expecting Rhys to actually snap poor Owen like a toothpick with his attacks, though. Looks like Owen's got a very long way to go, it would seem. I admit I kind of glazed over the whole waypoint explanation bit because we've already heard it and you probably could've just gotten around with it an "Owen explained the Badge/Waypoint system to Zena" or something along those lines. And then we're back to the main hub and we have this introduction of the whole Divine Promise thing... which I'm assuming will get explained soon-ish? Along with the Hunters actual motivations? Also, I just want to say I called it on Nevren being not the most upstanding fellow. Point for me!

    Okay, so I promised I was gonna have a ridiculous theory to drop... and it's time to make good on that. I believe that Owen is related to the Hunters. And not in the sense that "hurr durr well they're after him b/c he's the grass guardian." No, I mean I think he was, technically speaking, part of their ranks himself. I'd even go so far as to think he's directly related to their leader in some capacity. This was a random thought during a workout, but it seems to make sense. Let's run through it. He has this nagging sense he used to know Rhys and Nevren from somewhere, including memories of meditating with the former and getting attacked by the latter. If they're both former Hunters and Owen was one of them, those memories could be from training with the Hunters, but were then erased by Nevren. It's possible that when Rhys and/or Nevren defected, they decided to take Owen away from his real family in the hopes that Owen could cause problems for the Hunters down the line. Then Anam, Nevren, and Rhys worked to conceal Owen's memories (possibly even devolve him as well) and hide him away with Amia. Hence why all of them are particularly alarmed that he became the Grass Guardian. Whatever conspiracy/plan they had for Owen with regards to the Hunters pretty much fell through and now they're forced to reevaluate. Not entirely sure how Team Alloy fits into this. Either they might've unknowingly switched sides, too, or they saw too much and had to get the same treatment as Owen. Is this crazy? Undeniably! But I will wear that tinfoil hat with pride.

    Owen, sweetie, do we need to discuss how typings work again? It sure sounds like we do. Unless Rhys knows Ice Punch.
    Alternatively, Owen's been spending too much time on FurAffinity.

    Alright, Rhys officially confirmed for worst character. How dare he try to harm this precious angel! Damn Lucarios and their Wolverine popularity...

    You are really not helping your case here, buster. Plus, it seems to be PMD tradition to ship a Charmander species with a serpent, if Rebirth is anything to go by.

    Ah, so this is one of those fics where aura just works like ki. Rhys must be the discount Vegeta to Owen's Goku, then. you brought this on yourself, bub.

    Boom... headshot?

    I'm honestly surprised Rhys didn't turn to Gahi and just say, "Why did I bring you along, again?"

    D'aww, see, their relationship is advancing already!

    Gee, I wonder if this'll be important down the road...

    Anam is apparently Barry from that one wrestling episode of American Dad. TIMBER!
     
  9. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Man someone really needs to give Owen a lollipop for how much pain he's going through in this fic.

    PLEASE, LAWD! BLESS THESE BERRIES, FATHA! BLESS THE TREE THAT HAD THESE BERRIES, FATHA!

    Is it zero meters, or infinity meters? It's questions like these that keep me up at night. EDIT: Well nevermind then.

    I do love how the eyebrows are used like arms, forgot to mention it before.

    Mispy wasn't established to be present before this sudden part in this scene. Demitri's shown to be at the top of the stairs, but nothing was mentioned about Mispy.

    Was Gahi ever told about Mysticism? He was present when Rhys spoke to Owen about how being Mystic didn't mean you were invincible, but I never took Gahi to be the type to absorb and deduce knowledge from snippets like that. Did Rhys fill him in on it on the way there?

    Also, while I was searching, I saw that Chapter 5 was named Mystic Glow. Clever thing, you are. ;P

    yea he killed him

    Don't have much else on my mind to say this time... or at least be elaborate about. The concept and mechanics of a Divine Promise intrigue me. Rhys apologizing to someone he used to hunt (Hunt?) was pretty sweet to see and gave us more knowledge of his character. Don't have any theories of my own cause I'm a dull little pupper ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ well, see ya later.
     
  10. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Again I don't read PMD fics that often, but you've talked this one up in the Discord server for me to get... curious.

    I like how this fic starts off as a fairly normal if light-hearted PMD fic with some mildly concerning elements before the concerning elements get more and more prominent and convoluted to the point of holy [BLEEP]. And yet! It manages to maintain a distinct sense of humor throughout, which I always love in a story.

    Owen's a precious creature, but so far my favorite is Star for being outright hillarious. Also Rhys for his convoluted yet intresting role and backstory and also he's a lucario and i'm a fanboy

    Speaking of him I am super-intrigued by the Bad Things that he and especially Owen did in the past, especially since the latter's Bad Things have only been implied. They sound very juicy. :3

    As for complaints, uhhhh, it all feels like it's happening kinda fast if you want this fic to be a sprawling epic like you've implied on Discord. We're ten chapters in and already have set up most of the main plot, so I'm guessing this is just the first arc otherwise this might be shorter than you're estimating. I trust you have a Plan though.

    But yeah this is a really fun fic that captures the spirit of the PMD games yet manages to go in its own direction. Nice job.
     
  11. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Amazing comeback, Owen. 10/10, I'm sure she's convinced.

    That said, I was a little surprised how quickly she convinced him! I wasn't expecting him to jump straight to attacking Rhys. Certainly being suspicious/apprehensive, but not hostile. But then, he's in quite the volatile emotional state at the moment.

    I think I understand how his immortality works too. It's not that there's just arbitrary tiers of damage. It's literally just "is there anything there to get repaired?" That's why broken bones and death by drowning can be patched up, but death by... y'know, literal decapitation can't. Though that makes me wonder if a lost limb would heal or not. Hmm...

    Also, I can't quite remember where, but there was a line that made me fairly certain that Owen has evolved before, and then had his form forcibly reversed, which fits nicely with his power level being too high for a Charmander. I'll keep an eye out for more hints later.

    ~Chibi~
     
  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I got Canis and Amby elsewhere, but as for you two reviews... Umbramatic, you in particular have a ton of quotable segments in this review. I gotta address all of them!

    So my evil plan is working, then. *rubbing hands*

    Yeah, that's roughly the thought process I want my readers to go through from chapters 1~6 or so. Pick up the pace really quickly! Hook 'em early! Stab Owen's heart right at the beginning to hook the hearts of my readers!

    Good! I definitely like to go to that action-adventure sort of theme with a little comedy and levity. No matter how serious the plot gets (and that WILL happen), I don't want to lose that spark of humor now and then, when appropriate.

    Oof, convoluted? Hopefully it clears up as time goes on! I imagine it's pretty complex. The next chapter will answer a few questions, even though it will give rise to many more.

    Ahh, yes, it certainly is a lot of information. And the pace is quite fast near the beginning. It'll slow down a little so the reader doesn't feel totally rushed and frantic the whole time, but there's still a lot more to go. I do, as you say, have a plan~

    Main plot? I suppose this counts as a facet of the main plot. But this is far from "most" of the main plot. It's a little cliche to say, "We haven't even scratched the surface," but... we haven't. We'll start chipping away at said surface starting on the next chapter, though!

    Thank you! That was 100% what I intended to go for. A plot a little more mature than the games, but not one that abandons the original spirit that we played through and enjoyed.

    Ahh, yes. I plan on actually uploading some edits in a few hours to address this concern, actually. It doesn't make Owen hesitate or anything, but I've added some lines on why Owen behaved this way. And, indeed, it is because his emotions are running high, he feels Zena's terror since his "awareness" is on overdrive, and so on and so forth. He isn't thinking rationally; he's at his emotional limit.

    That's about right. This, too, is something I've added a bit of clarity for. Basically, as of now, Owen just has an extra "health bar" or two, but it's nothing someone can't just push through if they really want to kill him. If Rhys fired a full-powered Aura Sphere or two at Owen, even that probably would've been enough to put him in mortal peril / into the arms of Star, depending on where they landed.

    Thanks for all the feedback, guys! I've decided to publish the next chapter soon. Probably in the dead of night.
     
  13. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 11 – Moving In

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

    “Uh oh,” Owen suddenly said, stopping.

    “What is it, dear?” Amia asked.

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

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

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

    The Kricketot filled the void-like silence that followed.

    “What?” Zena said.

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

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

    “What is this password?” Zena asked.

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

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

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

    Owen wondered if drowning was the better outcome after all.

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

    Owen looked crushed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Owen shifted uncomfortably.

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

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

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

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

    Owen nodded.

    “Do you like them?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Oh, yeah, right,” Owen nodded.

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

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

    “Will I be… okay?”

    “Yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes. Please.”

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

    Amia handed him a bowl of Tamato soup.

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

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

    “Oh, sure, yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “It’s okay.”

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

    “O-oh,” he said.

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

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

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

    Zena slept soundly for the first time in decades.

    <><><> ​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rhys’ tail lowered, but he had no words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    <><><> ​

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Should we stop?” Zena asked.

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

    He finally got a break; he wasn’t going to bargain for more. “F-fine, just one more,” Owen said, rubbing his eyes. “When are you gonna—AAAA!”

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

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

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

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

    Owen’s Protect dissipated. His arms hung limply beside him. “Ugh…” Owen finally collapsed onto his rear. “D-done. I’m done.”

    And this time, Amia and Zena complied.

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

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

    “No, I—I think you stopped at the right time. Mom knows.” He gave a little smile at the Gardevoir, and then at the Magmortar that stood behind her. Alex held out a cannon for Owen to grab, pulling him to his feet. “I fizzle out sometimes, but I still have some energy left in me. I just have to push a little more than I think I can. That’s part of Mystic training, right? I—I’m way better than I was last session!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Boring.” Mispy’s leaf drooped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “It’s okay,” Mispy said.

    “Feh, you’d eat anything.”

    “Say that again.”

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

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

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

    “Oh, you’re welcome, dear.”

    “I will be going.”

    Without any further goodbye, she slithered out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Then why are you here?”

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

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

    While Zena didn’t look convinced, she still replied enough to humor him. “And how do you intend to do that? By approaching the Guardians again, but in peace? Just like that Torkoal tried? I doubt they would believe you.”

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

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

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

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

    Rhys held out a paw and lowered his head.

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

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

    While Owen sensed no reaction from the rest of Team Alloy, the way Nevren ended up blinking several times, and how Zena flinched, made the Charmeleon let out a quick, confused chirp. “Doesn’t he already promise that, implicitly?”

    But Zena didn’t answer him; she was completely focused on Rhys. “A Divine Promise, you mean?”

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

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

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

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

    Do you accept?”

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

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

    The golden light between Zena’s ribbon and Rhys’ paw flashed, then faded. Rhys stood up, his expression firm, and bowed at her again. Zena, meanwhile, was stunned into complete silence, ribbon still hovering where Rhys’ paw had been. She finally closed her mouth and looked down. “Th-thank you, Rhys. But I’m very tired.”

    “I understand.”

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

    And to this, Zena gave him a warm smile that Owen hoped was genuine. “I’ll be fine tonight, but thank you. I… need to think.”

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

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

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

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

    Zena looked at her ribbon. “…I won’t deny that I feel at least slightly safer. But… thank you anyway.” She turned around. “I’m going to meditate and converse with my spirits. We’re all a bit… Well. I’ll be seeing you tomorrow morning. Hopefully Star will finally return with news.”

    <><><> ​

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

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

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

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

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

    “I can tell.”

    “Eh?”

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

    Owen blushed, hiding beneath his book, focused on an image depicting a Reviver Seed’s healing light. “Did I really just pass out that fast?”

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

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

    He felt Alex staring at him. Something had to be said to that, and it felt almost like a disservice to just tell him that everything was okay. Owen sighed, relenting. “I guess there’s one thing that sort of bothered me, but… I just…”

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

    Owen closed his eyes, focused on the dark. It was rare that he’d want to see nothing—especially since his flame kept his species perpetually in the light. “How come you guys wouldn’t show up when I became a Heart?”

    “A-ah…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Owen snorted a bit of fire; his heart skipped a beat, reflexively trying to put out the flames on the page, but then he remembered he had bought special Rawst editions. The pages remained unaffected. He sighed, finally lowering the book. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

    Alex flinched. “T-tell you?”

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

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

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

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

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

    “Standing guard outside, as always.”

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

    “I’m sorry.”

    Owen couldn’t stay mad at that face. With a sigh of defeat, he just smiled at his father, “It’s okay. I… I get it. You guys just wanted me to be happy, and… I was.” Somehow, Alex’s relieved smile spread to Owen’s, too… or perhaps that was because he could barely stay awake. The fatigue was starting to set in again. At least he had some time to chat. “How have… I been doing?” Owen asked. “With my training… Mystic… strong.”

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

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

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

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

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

    Good night, little ember.

    <><><> ​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Okay. I’ll put down those dots first,” Star said. “Then you guys can grab the first one. Uhh…” She looked up at the huge map on the front wall of Anam’s office. The others followed her gaze. It depicted a great, roughly-circle-shaped country that comprised almost all of the world’s dry land. Everything else was just ocean. Owen saw the marking of his home to the north of Kilo Mountain in the center of the map.

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

    Demitri shuddered slightly. “Fairy, huh…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rhys glared at Nevren. The Alakazam ignored it.

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

    “Y-you can do that? How?”

    “It’s similar technology to how my Waypoints have been working, but instead of transferring solid material such as Pokémon and their possessions, it transfers energy, such as, in this case, the vibrations of the air made by speaking. Quite useful, yes?” Nevren pulled from his bag—as if he’d been waiting a while to announce this—what appeared to be three silver Badges. “I only have two at the moment… ah, no, three.”

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

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

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

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

    “How do you use it?” Owen asked.

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

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

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

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

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

    “Sounded normal to me,” Demitri said.

    “Mhm.” Mispy nodded.

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

    “Aww, you sound fine, Gahi. We’re used to it,” Demitri teased. “Hey, how about we compete for second place on evolving on this mission, huh?” Almost instantly, their cheerful expressions shifted to challenging glares, and the challenge was on.

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

    “No!” Rhys and Star said.

    Owen jumped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Hmm, okay. Like I said, Fairy Guardian is one. Rock and Normal are also ones that I’m kinda worried about the Hunters reaching sooner, so let’s do them, too.” Star pointed to the map. “Great Crevice for the statue.” On the map, a great, rocky gash trailed across an eighth of the land’s diameter, like a great titan had cut across the southeastern part of the map. Then, Star pointed to a spot in a western forest near Kilo Mountain. “And not too far from here, there’s an abandoned temple deep in the woods. Nothing’s really there anymore, but… Anam, you’re familiar with that place, right? You should go there, since you know the way.”

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

    “He kinda likes modern architecture.”

    “What’s a modern?” Gahi asked.

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

    Owen was busy chatting with Zena to notice what else Star was saying. He already had his assignment. “I guess it’s good that I’m not a Dragon Type after all, huh?”

    “Oh, you aren’t?” Zena asked. “You know, I always thought the Charmander line was part Dragon.”

    “Believe me, I wish that was true,” Owen grumbled. “Dragons are awesome. We even look like one, if you compare us! But I guess someone”—Owen glared at Star—“thought we were better off with things like Pidgey. N-no offense to Pidgey or anything.”

    Zena nodded. “Well, I think you’re just fine, regardless of your Type. Fire… or Grass.”

    Owen tittered. “Yeah, I guess Grass isn’t so bad after all.” He lied aloud, if only to keep Mispy from dismembering him in his sleep.

    Zena giggled—something that surprised Owen at first, how bright her eyes looked for just a flash—and then she composed herself. “Well, in any case, good luck, Owen, with the Fairy Guardian. I hope we can spend some time reading a book together when we return?”

    Owen tilted his head. That was an odd set of muscle movements. He wasn’t sure if Zena was tense for the mission, or what. Perhaps she was just nervous, and Milotic expressed that differently. Defaulting to a cheerful smile, Owen said, “Hey, sure. That sounds great! And good luck with the Normal Guardian!”

    With the teams prepared and Badges charged, they all dispatched for their respective Waypoints.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  14. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    mOOOOm not in front of my friends

    Huh, as about to correct this to "eyeing", but apparently "eying" is also correct. TIL. Does look pretty weird to me, still.

    b-bad touch

    Only five? Huh, expected there to be more. Although a lower count does make sense given how powerful they are and how they seem to have been individually created. Unless there were a lot more, but only five remain now.

    *grumbles and checks another mark off the "ideas I planned that have appeared in other PMD fics"*

    ah sorry guys literally GOD is calling me i gotta take this - oh well you know what i'll just put her on speaker

    HAHAHA PRANKED

    I know that Hydro Pump is probably like, summoning water rather than using your own, but... still sounds kinda gross to sleep in your own water :T

    Rhys is going to make a his own Lucario line of clothing one of these days. At least the fursuits will be really good

    ...Oh! That felt... really quick, not gonna lie. Was kind of waiting for at least a snapshot of what it was like.

    Hmm, so she can transform, huh? Wonder if that's specific to her or Hunters actually have transformational powers...

    Just now I realized how many characters the cast actually has. Yet I haven't mixed any together since, like, the first chapter. Shows you've done a good job with characterization and the pace of new introductions. Although, I will admit that the team-planning section had me doing some rereading to follow just how it was unfolding and who was going where.

    Arceus's pronoun keeps changing between capitalized and non-capitalized. Being someone who writes with three different tiers of capitalization, I'm especially perceptive to this ;p

    What Zena's gone through is really heartbreaking, but I can't lie that I also found it darkly amusing just on how it was revealed and how horrible it was. For the self-harm part, I couldn't really personally connect because of how different it was to my own experiences, but I could get it well enough on a character level as I know everyone's experiences are different. I do like the relationship developing between Owen and Zena. Promises something better for the poor girl's future.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Congratulations to me for finally managing to respond before Amby <(ツ)´ (that's a dab emote) (a bad one)
     
  15. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    So, Arceus was all-powerful and completely afraid of his own power, eh? Well, you're certainly not the first fic to feature baddies trying to usurp Arceus (in fact, lucarioknight's stuff is entirely about that). But having a god stripping himself of his own powers out of fear he's going to get too strong and destructive seems like a unique enough take. It makes me wonder if Arceus will actually be showing up at some point... perhaps late into the story. Maybe there will even be a disagreement, spat, or fight with Star since the two clearly seem to be at odds about the power that Arceus dispelled back in the day. Wasn't especting Star to be the force behind the Hunters, though it sounds like there was a schism amongst the... five of them. Those five being Rhys, Nevren, Rim, Eon (who's only been mentioned) and, presumably, Owen. I'm still a bit confused about all the memory erasing that Star's apparently doing and Nevren picked up on, since we still have yet to hear why Owen's and Team Alloy's memories have been altered. The risk you run in introducing so many twits and plot points quickly is that, if some get left to fester, it may irk readers. Just my two cents.

    Owen and Zena continue to be the most adorable accidental couple. It shows how much of a proverbial nice guy Owen is that he would stick around and keep Zena company just because she asks. While I get Zena's loneliness, I do think the self-harm bit of her response to Star's revelation was a bit... melodramatic. And not the kind of melodrama I can wave off because she's, say, a teenager or something. I'd have expected something more like Owen where she gives Star a piece of her mind and slithers out the room. Then, maybe, she starts considering that all this stuff isn't worth it. Again, my two cents. I think you freaked out a bit over something that you might not have even needed to have here in the first place, if you catch my drift.

    Lastly the "plan of attack" the team has. It's got all the makings of MacGuffin quest, except we're having multiple groups going after what I'm presumbing will be some colorful characters. I don't anticipate the smoothest of sailing given how long you claim this story will be. If I had to speculate, I'd say Owen's group will likely encounter the most trouble because, well, he's the hero and that's kind of a requirement. Anam's group will have an easier time and Rhys' team will also have some difficulties that lead to one of (or all of) Team Alloy evolving.

    Always nice to start off a chapter with the Pokémon equivalent of measuring dick sizes. You're better than that, Owen!

    Two paragraphs in and I already need an adult. ;~;

    BAD TOUCH, ZENA. BAD TOUCH!

    Hot damn one day together and Owen's already taking her to his home. Talk about fast-tracking a relationship!

    Excuse me, Zena. Owen is a 'mon of taste. He dances the Charleston. Also, you are really not doing yourself favors here, buddy. At this rate, they're gonna kiss by chapter thir–

    NEVER MIND, THEN. Sleeping together after just a day? What a very... human thing to do. I guess we interrupt this Pokémon Mystery Dungeon story to bring you every young adult romance movie ever.

    I don't think that's all you were doing, girl.

    Rhys is a hoarder confirmed.

    I see Arceus is about as good at names as ASGORE.

    Discount Expedition Gadget Get!

    Owen putting the fire-type to use with them sick burns. Also... doth I detect some typing bias?

    Yup, they've definitely banged and you can't convince me otherwise.
     
    git-it likes this.
  16. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    I'm gonna start this off by saying I love the revelation about the Orbs' origin. The idea of Arceus shedding his power out of fear of his own capabilities is just really neat, and it adds a nice solid reason for the Orbs' existence that instantly solidifies them as much more than just a macguffin that exists somehow because the plot. Also I love that Star is behind the Hunters. >:3 Mew Makes Bad Decisions Club aside, it shakes up the dynamic in a satisfying way and lend more depth to the Hunters than just a group of bad guys out to get the Orbs. And I'm sure there's so much more that we don't know yet...

    Some line-by-line reactions:

    Oh man., this... this was heartbreaking. Great job hitting us with the feels for Zena. Man... D':
    I love how the mushrooms were his way of clinging to sanity when things started to unravel a couple chapters back, and it turns out the mushrooms were part of this weirdness the whole time. xD
    That was quite the alarming way to make a swimming pool here! xD
    D'awwww. :3
    *Squints* I have suspision. The fact that they don't want Owen around Team Alloy too much is important. Also we haven't yet gotten into why Owen's memory was erased, and that's also important!

    That's all I got for now. Until next time!

    ~Chibi~
     
  17. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I got you two elsewhere, Amby, Canis, but as for you, Chibi~

    Thanks! Yes, it's a little late in my opinion, but I couldn't quite find any better spot to add in some depth to the Orbs. There's already so much going on for Owen that getting even more information after the 'revelations' chapter would've been too much. Now that he's back, the last of the information has arrived--at least, the last that Star and co. are willing to reveal. As you mentioned, it's pretty clear that there's more to it that they aren't saying, for one reason or another.

    Another thing that I'm glad you're picking up on! While simplicity can be good in some instances, I feel that this is one thing that I don't want to keep simple. There will be complexity in this whole Orb conflict.

    Yeaaah Zena had it rough. I'm glad I was able to demonstrate that with her dialogue. Despite everything, the line you quoted was actually in the earliest drafts, and just... didn't really need that much changing up to this point! There are a few "speeches" that are like that. It's rare for a speech to be realistic, since people often interrupt. This was a rare instance where nobody knew what to say until she was done.

    This irony was not intentional. Now that you bring it up, I think it's hilarious. The thing that kept him grounded is just more of the very thing making him lose it!

    ___

    Now then! Here goes! You're all in for a treat this time -- this will be possibly the only instance, or one of two instances, where the forums get something before FFN/AO3 does! Here it comes... Special Episode 1: Storm.
     
  18. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Special Episode 1 – Storm

    Lightning shattered the sky.

    A squadron of Pokémon consisting of a Flareon, Delphox, Salazzle, and Rapidash stopped to avert their eyes. A thunderous blast deafened them, and the ground trembled when a follow-up explosion—this time, one of a tree crashing down—dwarfed any other noise. It was midday, yet the sun did not shine through the thick clouds for even an instant. Even truer to its name than usual, Nightshade Forest was navigable only because of the crackling flames on Rapidash Tee’s back.

    It was hard to see. Even with the orange glow, the tree trunks were coal-black, and the plants were all the darkest shade of green in all the worlds’ forests. Rainwater glistened against the flames of Tee, but ahead was an even greater glow of a distant, freak inferno that mocked the torrential rainwater.

    “LET’S GO!” the Delphox roared. He held his arm up and guided the team with a flame from his palm.

    “Leo, slow down!” the Flareon huffed.

    “We can’t,” Leo said. “Faster, Emby! What’s taking you, Tee?!”

    “It’s—it’s not very easy to work under these conditions!” the Rapidash replied with a hiss that rivaled the stinging fire on her back. Every drop of rain was like acid against her, and the steam that came off of her body was a constant reminder of the thunderstorm above. “Spice! Pick it up!”

    “Oh, you hush!” the Salazzle replied. “Pick it up?! You’re the one stumbling over your own hooves!”

    “Now’s not the time, girls!” Leo grunted. “Emby, what’s going on?”

    “Just ahead,” Emby said. Her bushy tail was soaked from the rain, and it doubled her weight. Between her new bulk and lopsidedness, she was barely able to run. “There’s someone there—who is it?!”

    Leo saw, just barely, the signature, dancing ember atop a Charmander’s tail. It walked with great labor—hauling something on his back.

    “Kid!” Leo shouted. “What’s wrong? What—” He gasped.

    He was hauling a Bulbasaur that was more ash than plant. Half-dead eyes stared emptily toward the ground.

    Leo ran close and wrapped his arms around the charred Pokémon. “This is bad,” he said. “Spice! Oran Berry!”

    “I don’t think an Oran’s gonna be enough for this!” Spice said, but she dashed forward anyway, handing Leo the blue fruit.

    Leo tried to shove the berry into its mouth, but it didn’t work. Too weak. “C’mon, just a little, get that energy back. This Berry is blessed, you have to eat it!”

    The Bulbasaur wasn’t even awake.

    “Oh, give me that!” Spice said. Her dark claws snatched the berry from Leo and she shoved it in her mouth. Leo’s eyes bulged in protest. He grabbed her arm, but Spice shoved him aside.

    “Spice! Stop with that Salazzle gluttony for a second and—”

    He tried to grab her again, but Spice whipped Leo with her tail, binding his arms against his body. He writhed to break free, always surprised by her strength.

    Spice then shoved her mouth against the Bulbasaur’s, promptly stopping the rest of Leo’s retort. Spice forced the mashed berry into the Bulbasaur’s larger mouth and down his throat with an amount of practiced ease that unnerved Leo.

    It indeed wasn’t enough—but the energy was enough of a jolt to get the Bulbasaur awake. He cried out, suddenly aware of the pain that permeated his body, even with some of the wounds healing. He flailed weakly, flinging bits of burned plant and flesh matter that washed away in the rain.

    “I need another!” Spice said. “And a Heal Seed! NOW!”

    “R-right,” Leo said, handing the seed, and then the berry. Spice tried to feed it to the Bulbasaur the normal way, but he was too panicked. She cursed under her breath and shoved both in her maw again, chewing quickly, and forcing the food in.

    Leo motioned for Emby and Tee to run ahead; they nodded and dashed. If this was the Bulbasaur’s condition, there was no telling how many more needed rescue from the inferno ahead.

    “Backup should be here soon with more supplies,” Leo said, looking back. “Ugh—this rain! Why is there a fire in the rain?!”

    “This is the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen,” Spice said. “Some freak accident must have caused it. The—"

    Another bolt split the sky in two. Leo covered his bushy ears. The flame-colored fur that covered the holes shook against the booming sound.

    When the thunder subsided, Spice turned her attention to the one that had brought the Bulbasaur to them. “You! Thank you for your help, kid—now, get out of here!”

    “N-no way!” he protested. “And—I’m not a kid! I’m Charmander Owen! Maybe you’ve heard of me?!”

    “Aren’t you that upstart who got his Provisionary Badge? Look, kid, you’re not even one of the Hearts yet—I know your eyes are toward the stars right now, but this is way too dangerous for someone like you!”

    “They need Fire Types to rescue the Pokémon that got lost in the forest. I can handle the fire!”

    “But not the falling trees or lightning strikes,” Leo said. “Get out of here! Your flame is already halfway gone. I know how it’s supposed to look.”

    The Bulbasaur whimpered. The wounds were fading, but the pain remained. He shivered in the mixture of cold rain and hot burns.

    “We can’t leave him here,” Spice said. “Leo! Take this guy back and catch up. I’m gonna run ahead with Tee and Emby.”

    “But, Spice—”

    “Just go, Leo. You can’t run in that robe-fur of yours anyway. You’re soaking!”

    Leo stammered disconnected, single syllables of protest.

    Spice shoved the Bulbasaur into Leo’s arms and ran forward.

    “Wait!” Owen ran after her. Leo, hanging onto the Bulbasaur, was in no position to stop him.

    “Kid!” Leo said. “You idiot! You—Tauros-headed—” He grunted, but then ran away with the Bulbasaur. Better to save one Pokémon than chase another.

    Ahead, Owen struggled to catch up with Spice. They had passed by Tee first, who fell back to assist with a pair of lost Paras. Next, they ran across Emby, guiding a Skiddo, Bellossom, and Shroomish away from the fire. “Any deeper and you won’t find anyone,” Emby warned. “It’s too hot for anybody that isn’t Fire to survive!”

    But they pressed on, just in case. Spice was quick in the rain, and she wasn’t quite as bothered by it as the other Fire Types in the area. For the most part, Owen felt the same way—except when the water dripped against the flame of his tail. Every one felt like a thorn stuck inside the very tip, lodging itself like an electric shock that traveled through his spine and into his forehead.

    He pushed through it all. His tiny legs were no match for Spice’s lithe, lanky stride. He had to admire being able to move so quickly—he fantasized about when he’d be able to evolve into a Charizard. He heard that sometimes, they could glide across the air by just outstretching their wings, using the updraft of their own heat to stay afloat. That’d be amazing!

    “Are you seriously still following me?!” Spice said, looking back.

    “M-maybe!” Owen puffed. “The fire’s this way!”

    “You don’t say?!” Deeper into the woods, there was dying fire all around them, though the current path of the inferno was much further ahead. A hot spot—indicated by a brighter glow in the corner of their vision—was to the right.

    “Just go back, kid. This is way too dangerous for someone like you!”

    “I’m an adult! And I can handle myself! This fire’s nothing to me! Th-the rain’s kinda bad, but I can deal with the heat!”

    “Ugh! Stubborn. Males are all the same,” Spice hissed. “Fine! Be a hero. But don’t cry to me when you wake up half-dead!”

    Owen grumbled something under his breath and rubbed at his arms. He appreciated the intensifying heat. The flames licked at his scales, and Owen sighed. “At least it’s warmer here.”

    “Speak for yourself,” Spice muttered, slowing down.

    Owen, relieved, also slowed. “What do you mean?”

    “Look, you Char-line ‘mons and other Fire-primaries have an easy time with fires, but me? I need to be a little more careful. You’re also lower to the ground, so the smoke can be a problem.”

    “Aren’t you part Poison?”

    “Still need air,” Spice said. “So, when you go running into the fire, don’t breathe it in, alright? Hold your breath and try to rescue as many Pokémon as you can. There might not even be any more.”

    “B-but there are tons of Pokémon in Nightshade Forest! And Fires like me can breathe flames! And I mean—the wild ones probably ran off by now, but we need to be sure, right? We don’t want to find any corpses that we could’ve saved in the aftermath.”

    “And that’s why we’re here.” Spice turned. She and Owen scanned the area; Owen demonstrated a strong awareness for the presence of others in hiding, but so far, there was nothing that either of them could detect. The burned forest was largely abandoned.

    On their third advance, Spice remarked, “You know, you’re not too bad, Charm. Maybe I should invite you to my place.”

    “E-excuse me?” Owen said.

    Lightning struck a tree nearby, but not in the immediate area. Owen gasped and held his chest, feeling the boom rock him to his core. “What’s with this lightning?”

    Lightning struck for a second time, and then a third, in rapid succession.

    “I—I don’t think storms work this way!” Owen shouted.

    “Let’s go! Before—”

    A deafening explosion was accompanied by a bright light. Then, there was a wave of heat that Owen welcomed for only a split-second. A tree right behind Spice exploded from the blast, sending splinters and branches in all directions. Spice narrowly dodged one of them, but a heavy branch struck her on the shoulder. She grunted and fell back. Owen stared at the splinters with wide eyes and weaved through all of them, only getting hit by smaller ones that bounced away from his scales.

    “S-Spice!” Owen rushed for her.

    “Ungh, that’s not good,” Spice grunted. She couldn’t move her arm—it was dislocated. “Kid—you go on ahead. I need to fall back.” She used her good arm to position herself, and then she stood up.

    Lightning struck yet again, and another tree exploded far in the darkness. “It’s getting worse,” Owen said, wincing when the rain intensified. His tail felt like it was being sawed off. He reflexively reached back and grabbed it, holding it beneath his chin to shield the flame from the downpour.

    “H-h-help!”

    Owen and Spice both turned. “Did you hear that?”

    “Let’s go!”

    With her good arm, Spice shifted her bag to a more convenient position on the other side of her chest and ran after him. Owen ran awkwardly with his tail under his chin, but he was careful not to actually make contact—by now, water was running down every inch of his body. Yet, the fire of the forest continued to rage; it was too hot and too extensive for the rain to put out quickly.

    The smoke was thick here, and it mixed with hot water vapor. That would be a problem if Owen got too close. They must have been near the center of the inferno. Steam mixed with smoke and embers, rising in thick clouds that only contributed to more of the blotted sky. Spice was a lot lower to the ground, shambling through to get as much fresh air as she could. It was almost a crawl, albeit awkward with only one arm working.

    Owen, shorter, kept up with his normal running pace.

    Lightning struck again, and another tree shattered. This one was ahead, and Owen feared the worst.

    A head-splitting, growling rumble shook the forest. Each vibration shook the water droplets on Owen’s scales. A tree tilted to the right. Spice was running straight toward it, wincing from a plume of smoke that caught her off guard.

    “Spice!” Owen yelled. He grabbed her by the tail and yanked—his strength was miniscule, but it was just enough to save Spice from the trunk that had crashed mere inches in front of her face.

    She flicked her tail away out of reflex, nearly whipping Owen with it, but then let out a little puff. “Thank you.”

    Just ahead, Owen saw a Jolteon cowering in the middle of a clearing, as far from the fire as it could get.

    “Aw, Mew, this isn’t any good—”

    “Ugh, curse Mew, more like!” Spice said. “How long has he been there?” She rushed closer. “Hey! Hey, can you hear me?”

    “H-help…” That was all he could say.

    He was hot to the touch. His fur hurt to even get near—electricity arced from spike to spike. “You need to calm down.”

    The Jolteon didn’t hear them.

    Spice grunted and reached forward, clutching the Jolteon anyway. Electricity coursed through her in a painful pulse. “Nngh, listen here, you…!” she said. “Charmander!”

    “Y-yes!”

    “Oran Berry! Bag! Now!”

    “O-okay!” Owen rummaged through his bag and grabbed one. He was about to pass it over to Spice, but another bolt of lightning crashed down, drawn straight to the Jolteon. It passed through Spice instead.

    “SPICE!”

    She could barely stand; a sharp, jagged pattern marked her back and an even worse pattern wrapped around her front. The Jolteon screamed in a panic, electricity from the bolt of lightning coursing through him next. He reacted with a countering jolt, shooting white arcs of electricity in all directions. Much of the blast went toward Owen who, still dripping wet from the rain, felt pain across his entire body. He could only moan in response and crumpled to the ground, seizing from the aftershocks through his muscles.

    “S-Sp-Spice!” Owen wheezed.

    Spice didn’t respond.

    Another explosion. Somewhere far away, a tree collapsed. A second explosion followed, and another tree fell. A third explosion—this one was much louder. Owen struggled to stand, but nothing his mind desired was answered by his body. Rain pounded on his back, and the fire closed in. It was all too much. He just wanted to sleep. Owen’s eyelids fluttered, and his body stopped seizing.

    Tiny hands grabbed Owen’s arm and rolled him over. “Hey. Hey. Wake up.”

    Owen’s vision was too blurry. Scaly hands tried to peel his eyelids open. He grunted and turned his head. The visitor shoved an Oran Berry in Owen’s mouth, and then his hands maneuvered Owen’s jaw, forcing him to chew. Bits of the juice leaked down his throat—that was enough to give Owen the energy to keep eating.

    Owen saw a Charmander in front of him. “H-hi?” he mumbled, delirious.

    “Hey.” It sounded, and looked, exactly like him.

    “Hey, me… Am I dead? Are you my dark side?”

    “Nice greeting,” the other Owen said. “No. Can you stand?” He pulled Owen to a sitting position.

    “No.”

    “Try.”

    “I can’t move my legs.”

    “Right.” The second Owen let go, and Owen fell back with a grunt. The doppelganger rummaged through his bag.

    “That’s mine, though,” Owen protested. “Oh, but you’re…” A brief moment of lucidity passed through him. “Spice!”

    “Berry isn’t doing much, but I helped her already.”

    “The Jolteon?”

    Lightning, crash, fall. Lightning again, another crash.

    “I’m working on it,” the duplicate said.

    Owen watched his double sort through his supplies.

    “Are you from the future?”

    “No.”

    The Charmander spun around and closed his eyes. Owen tilted his head, watching the odd maneuver. Was he suddenly blind? The second Owen groped the ground with one hand and held an Oran Berry in the other. He felt the Jolteon’s paw, and then immediately turned and faced Owen, staring at him while he shoved the berry in the Jolteon’s mouth, forcing more chewing.

    Owen, unnerved, said, “Shouldn’t you be looking at him? Stop… stop staring at me. That’s weird.”

    “Can’t.”

    Lightning flashed. The downpour was intensifying; Owen could barely hear over it and the angry inferno around them.

    “Where’s your Badge?”

    “In my bag,” Owen said.

    “Good.” He turned to the bag and rummaged through it again, pulling it out. He then walked backwards, staring at Owen the whole time, while he searched for the Jolteon again. Then, he tapped the Badge on the Jolteon’s forehead; it blinked, and a light enveloped him. In a flash, he was gone.

    “Th-that was my warp!” Owen said. “Now we can’t get out! That was just Provisionary! It doesn’t have the juice for full-on rescue warps!”

    “Better him than us.” He returned the now-useless Badge into Owen’s supply bag.

    The harshest bolt yet crashed down right next to them, splitting another tree apart down to its roots. Flaming splinters scattered in all directions, and Spice, finally coming to, was struck by a few of them.

    “Ugh—!” She rolled onto her front, wincing in pain. “What? Who are—?” She could barely speak; her scars weren’t healing from the Oran Berry that his copy had given her.

    Owen’s double grabbed Spice’s bag, grabbed her Badge from it, and tossed the bag itself to her without looking. She snatched it from the air.

    “Get out of here,” he said. “You’ve exhausted your supplies. Owen and I are going to keep going.”

    “Owen and—what are you, twins?”

    “No.”

    “I’m not leaving until my mission is complete. And that mission is to—”

    The mirror image tapped the Badge’s center and immediately threw it at Spice. She caught it with one hand. “Hey, you rude little thing, I’m the Heart here, and—” The Badge activated, and she was gone.

    Owen stared. After a pause of disbelief, he blurted, “THAT WAS OUR OTHER WARP!”

    Owen-two sighed, visibly relaxing. He looked at Owen. “There’s a Dungeon nearby that has Pokémon trapped inside. We need to get in there and help them get out. That’s where an Elite was sent, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough. Are you coming?”

    Owen replied with self-interrupted protests, but then he grunted out a small ember. Lightning rapidly struck four times in random areas. After the strikes stopped, and Owen took his hands off his head, he grunted. “Let’s go.”

    Owen followed his double; they ran at the exact same pace, had nearly the same gait, and were only slightly out of sync in their steps. “So, Owen! What’s—”

    “My name isn’t Owen.”

    “O-oh—um—Charmander?”

    He hesitated. “Call me Deca.”

    “Wait, how’d you know my name if you aren’t—?”

    “I heard about you getting a provisionary Badge.”

    “Oh.” Owen nodded. “So, wait, there’s a Dungeon in Nightshade Forest?”

    “Small one. Showed up recently.”

    “Showed up recently? How do Dungeons show up?”

    “It’s some kind of flux of divine energy, and it lingers, creating the distortion. It’s like its own little world.”

    “What causes it?”

    “Working on that.”

    Owen tripped on a flaming branch. “Ugh—”

    Deca stopped and helped him up, tugging him over the branch.

    “A-ahh!” Owen desperately pat his bag, but it had caught fire. The heat was outpacing the rain, and his bag was dry in some spots, and that was enough for it to burst into flames.

    Impatient, Deca grabbed the bag, pulled out the Badge, and threw the rest away. “We need to go.”

    “B-but that was expensive!”

    “Do you want Pokémon to die?”

    “N-no, but—”

    Deca ran ahead with his eyes shut. Owen hesitated for only a fraction of a second, and then he was right after him, panting from all the running. He hoped Deca didn’t trip from running blind.

    “Deca!” he shouted. “A-are you mad or something?! I’m sorry!”

    “I’m not mad.”

    “Then how come you’re talking so—”

    “I’m concentrating.”

    “What—”

    “Dungeon ahead.”

    They passed through a distortion of light, and the ground around Owen raised into its typical labyrinth, this time coated in burning wood, charred dirt, and glowing rocks. Water ran down the distorted labyrinth’s walls in small streams, which in turn filled the halls with a thick layer of steam. “The Dungeon’s on fire, too!?”

    “Must have passed through the distortion,” Deca said, looking back. “The fire’s old.” Their feet sank into ashen mud.

    The rain was still pouring, putting out the largest of the embers. The fire had been here for a while; the first segment had long since exhausted its fuel. But that meant the fire was more intense further in and—even worse—any Pokémon potentially trapped inside would be struggling to outpace it.

    Deca rummaged through his own bag and pulled out a scarf, wrapping it around his eyes.

    “Uh—”

    “Guide me.”

    “Excuse me?”

    Deca had blindfolded himself. “Guide me.”

    “O-okay, if you say so…”

    He walked forward and took the lead through the Dungeon, but Deca suddenly slapped his tail.

    “Excuse me!” Owen protested, blushing.

    “Faster. I’m not slow.”

    “Ugh!” Hot in the face, Owen sprinted forward—and, to Owen’s surprise, Deca kept up. Every time Deca fell forward, he brought his arms out and flipped in a sort of somersault, landing on his feet just behind Owen. So impressed by this, Owen didn’t realize the wall in front of him and he ran straight into it. His tail stiffened, then he slumped down with a groan.

    “Don’t get distracted,” Deca said.

    “Stop distracting me with those crazy moves,” Owen countered, rubbing his nose. He was bleeding from that one, but he ignored it. “What do you know, Acrobatics?”

    “I know what you know.”

    The fires intensified for every segment they went through. “How short is short?” Owen called over the roaring fire. The only thing good about the Dungeon was that lightning didn’t strike here. The deeper they went, the softer the explosions that echoed from the Dungeon entrance felt.

    “No idea. It’s a new Dungeon, so it’s going to be smaller. No more than six distortion gateways.”

    “G-got it.”

    Owen counted four that they had gone through. The flames covered the ground for entire corridors; he had to hold his breath so he didn’t breathe in the smoke. The heat made it difficult to tell where the next distortion of light was, since essentially everything seemed distorted by the heat.

    “We’re going in circles,” Deca said.

    “I—I know, I’m trying to find a way out!” Owen said.

    “They’ll die if we take too long.”

    “I know!”

    Owen took a spontaneous right. They got out of the fire, and Owen gasped for air. “Finally!” he said. “W-wait—no fire?”

    “We caught up,” Deca said, adjusting the scarf around his head.

    “That means the survivors are ahead, right?” Owen asked.

    “Or this is a dead end.”

    Something bright rushed past them, illuminating the halls that weren’t ablaze; Owen felt hot wind follow. “H-huh?” Owen looked back. “W-wait, that was—”

    It was in the shape of a Lucario, but it was coated in some sort of blue light. Once he was far away from the heat, the light vanished.

    “Th-that’s Lucario Rhys!” Owen said. “But he’s a Steel Type! How’d he even get down here?”

    “He knows the way!” Deca shouted, pulling off his blindfold to stare at Owen. “Follow him!” He put the blindfold back on.

    “O-okay!” Owen said. He briefly worried whether Deca would be able to follow him or not, but he had to move ahead anyway.

    Thankfully, Deca kept up. Without the flames and the smoke, Owen finally had a clear enough head to think about this strange doppelganger. He’d met other Charmander before—mostly feral ones in the Hot Spot Dungeon, whose mannerisms constantly unnerved him. It was incredibly surreal to see someone that was the same species, and yet with a different capacity. It was one of the great mysteries of the world, in Owen’s mind—what the difference was between him, and a wild Charmander. Upbringing? No, even then, they were different. Their minds simply didn’t operate the same way.

    Deca bumped up against Owen’s tail.

    “S-sorry,” Owen said.

    “Stop getting distracted.”

    “Okay, okay.”

    They continued to walk in silence, picking up the pace just slightly. The fire wasn’t moving quickly, to their fortune. They had time to find the survivors at the end of the Dungeon.

    “What were you thinking about?” Deca asked.

    “Wild Charmander.”

    “Oh.”

    “It’s just weird to think about,” he said. “I never saw another Charmander in a while that was like you.”

    “Like me?”

    “Not wild.”

    “Oh. It’s different.”

    “Yeah.”

    Owen pulled his tail closer to inspect it. “Where are you from, Deca?”

    “Southeast.”

    “Oh, that’s not too far from here, I think,” he said. “Did you hear about trouble and came?”

    “Yes. My friends and I wanted to help. Is there anybody around?”

    “No, why?”

    Deca took off his blindfolds and sighed, watching Owen’s back.

    “Uh… okay,” Owen said. “And how come you have that? What’s keeping it from burning away?”

    “It’s made from Rawst Leaves.”

    “Oh! Mom has that for my bed.”

    “Mom?”

    “Y-yeah. She isn’t a Charizard, though. She’s a Gardevoir that took me in. Dad’s a Magmortar, though. I learned a lot of my Fire techniques from him.”

    “Oh. I’m sorry.”

    “It’s okay. They’re just as good, and I never knew my real parents.”

    Deca nodded, but then flashed a smile. “I’m sure they’re very proud of you.”

    The confidence that Deca had said that made Owen hold his chest. “Y’think so?”

    “I’m positive. You would make them very proud.”

    Owen laughed slightly. He didn’t know why he believed Deca. Wishful thinking.

    “How about your parents, Deca?” Owen asked.

    “Dead.”

    “O-oh. Sorry.”

    “Of age. It’s okay.”

    “Open with that next time!” Owen puffed an ember. “I thought it was something tragic, or, you know…”

    Deca shook his head; the smile returned. “Well, you’re an adult, and you’re still a Charmander.”

    “Don’t remind me,” Owen mumbled. “I’m a late evolver.”

    “Late evolver?”

    “Yeah. Do you think that’s real? Because it’s the only reason I think I’ve never evolved…”

    “I guess it has to be real.”

    A distortion of light was ahead of their next corridor. “That has to be the last section,” Owen said, “right?”

    Deca nodded, putting his blindfold back on.

    “Deca, why do you do that? With the blindfold.”

    “Helps me concentrate. I can’t look at others that aren’t my kind without…” He shook his head. “It’s a disorder.”

    “Oh, okay,” Owen said, deciding not to prod. The longer they stalled, the less time they would have before the fire caught up.

    Once they passed through the distortion, a cool breeze welcomed them. With the Dungeon’s final section untouched by the flames, it seemed a lot safer than before. During their run, Owen had been speculating about who Deca was. But perhaps Spice had a point about the smoke and fire. And also, he supposed, being fried by a number of panicked Jolteon-born thunderbolts. All he could come up with were crazy theories, when perhaps the answer was something simpler, or just something else, if he only had the time to think about it calmly. But there was no such thing as calm tonight. He could only focus on one thing—the fire, and how to save the Pokémon inside the Dungeon from it.

    “Wild Pokémon,” Owen repeated. “I hope they’re okay. They aren’t smart enough to go through Dungeons normally, right? So how would they escape the fire?”

    “They may not have,” said Deca. “But if they got to the exit before the fire did, they’ll be okay.”

    Just then, a cyan sphere went straight to Owen, stopping at a mere claw’s width away from his face. His eyes bulged and he let out the smallest squeak.

    “I—I apologize,” Rhys said, flicking his paw backward. The sphere exploded against a far wall.

    Owen’s legs turned to jelly; he sat down, rubbing where the Aura Sphere would have hit.

    “I thought you were another agitated feral. We’re somewhat overwhelmed.”

    “Y-yeah.”

    Deca took a steady breath, holding the side of his head. “H-hello.” He stepped toward Owen and held his hand, helping him up.

    Rhys stared silently at Owen’s double.

    “H-hello, um, Lucario,” Owen said. “I—I’m Charmander Owen, i-if y-you heard of me. I—I tried o-out for the Hearts, but I didn’t make it y-yet…”

    “It’s good to meet you, Owen,” Rhys said. “Continue trying. And you…”

    “My name is Deca.”

    “…It’s nice to meet you,” Rhys said, “Deca.”

    “Do you need any help?” Deca asked.

    “No.”

    “You said you were overwhelmed.” Deca held Owen’s hand a bit harder. Owen glanced at his blindfold, and then back at Rhys. Deca’s forehead was creased with a hidden glare.

    “We can help!” Owen said. “What do you need?”

    “The fire is closing in,” Deca said. “The Dungeon might shift if we remain on this section for too long. The fire is running out of fuel outside.”

    “It is? That’s good to hear,” Rhys said. “We may be able to wait it out, if we find a way to stop the fire.”

    “Take us to everyone else,” Deca said.

    Rhys stared at Owen, then at Deca. His paws clenched, the blue flames of aura seeping through the cracks. Owen noticed, though it was hard at first, that Rhys’ body seemed very fatigued. There were little bits of… some strange sort of blue plating flaking off from parts of his fur, like armor. But the armor dissolved in the air when it chipped off. Was that some sort of technique Rhys used to get past the fire? It would explain how a Steel Type like him even made it through… Owen also noticed that Rhys’ legs and arms shook with fatigue, and his breathing was deep.

    “What’s wrong?” Owen asked.

    “Is now really the time, Rhys?” Deca asked. “Let us help. You can’t do this alone.”

    Rhys snorted and turned around. “Let’s go.” He walked stiffly; the aura from his paws didn’t let up.

    Owen followed next, and Deca, still holding Owen’s hand, followed after him. Owen tried to pull away, feeling awkward, but Deca just held on harder. “S-so, do you know Rhys?” Owen asked in a whisper.

    “We’re familiar.”

    “In, uh, in a good way? Bad way?”

    “Bit of a rut.”

    “O-oh.”

    Rhys led them to a large room, perhaps the largest of the section, housing at least thirty other Pokémon, most of them native forest-dwellers, such as a Beautifly, Fomantis, Ariados, and Mightyena.

    The Fomantis whined and hid under the Beautifly’s wings. The Ariados spoke softly, “How close is the fire?”

    “I can smell it,” the Mightyena reported.

    “One section away,” Deca said. “Does anybody know Water or Ground techniques?”

    “It’s too strong for that,” the Fomantis said. “We can’t stop a fire that strong!”

    “Who knows those techniques? Mud Slap? Mud Shot? Water Gun? Anything.” Deca held Owen’s hand a bit harder, and he jerked away. Deca aggressively pulled Owen closer.

    “H-hey, what’re you doing?” Owen said in a whisper. “Personal space!”

    Nobody answered Deca. None of the Pokémon knew anything to put out the fire.

    “None of you, at all, know attacks that can put fires out?!” Deca shouted.

    Still no answer.

    Owen gently pressed his hand against Deca’s, but this time to feel the pulse in Deca’s wrist. It was increasing. He seemed to be constantly under some kind of strain, and the additional stress wasn’t doing him any favors. It must have been the rain. Even now, it stung their tails.

    Rain.

    Suddenly, Owen turned around, walking with Deca. He followed, blind. Owen closed his eyes, taking a slow breath. He brought his tail forward and hid it under his chin again, keeping it away from his chest so it didn’t get even more water.

    Water collected on him. It could put his tail out if he wasn’t careful.

    Owen scanned the group, counting all of the Pokémon. He breathed deeply, and then double-checked what sort of Pokémon he had to work with. Grass Types. Bug Types. And a few Dark Types, too. Nightshade Forest was a mysterious place—the techniques learned here were stranger and more strategic, accompanying their usual offensive attacks.

    Could that work?

    Would that—

    Owen pointed at a Dustox. “Do you know Reflect or Light Screen?”

    “H-huh? Of course! W-well, just the one. Light Screen.”

    “I know Reflect!” a Ledian spoke up.

    Owen nodded. “Who knows Sunny Day?”

    At least half of the Grass Types raised their hands, paws, leaves, or tendrils.

    “O-oh, okay.”

    “S-Sunny Day?!” Rhys said. “Why would you—”

    “Let him speak,” Deca said.

    Rhys flinched.

    “Barrier. Does anybody know Barrier?” Owen asked.

    No answer.

    “Nngh, not the best. H-how about Psychic?”

    No answer.

    Owen nibbled at his right hand’s claws. “Okay, okay…” The Charmander paced left and right, eyes darting in microscopic directions. Pieces snapped together in his mind.

    He turned around, and then looked at the sky. “Everyone who knows it—try to use Light Screen or Reflect, but not on yourselves. Focus it on the sky. Try to shape it like a big bowl.

    Owen scanned the room’s walls. Their little shelter was connected to two other areas by corridors. That wasn’t too bad. He watched the other Pokémon awkwardly try to use their techniques in this unintuitive way, like turning it upside-down. Almost instantly, the effects became apparent; rainwater collected above their heads. Realization washed over the group, and Owen saw a glimmer of hope in their eyes.

    “Okay,” Owen said, trying to keep his voice steady from the excitement. “Try moving that barrier toward the halls! The left one, first, okay? N-no, other left! My left! Okay, keep going…”

    Owen walked with the barrier, easing it closer. Rhys held up his hand and fired a strange Aura Sphere toward it. Suddenly, the Reflect-Light Screen was enhanced by solid aura at the base. It was a barrier of its own—the same sort of barrier that had surrounded Rhys when he ran through the flames. But the way Rhys was breathing heavily, and his tense muscles, suggested that it put a lot of strain on him. Owen knew to work quickly.

    “Sunny Day! Now!”

    “Wh-what?!”

    “Just do it!”

    At least one of the Pokémon obeyed. Localized only to this section of the Dungeon, the clouds temporarily parted, and intense, enhanced afternoon sunlight pierced through from the sky. Energy returned to Owen almost instantly, and he looked to Deca. “Help me light this hallway on fire.”

    Deca staggered back. “What?”

    “If we take out the grass now,” Owen said, “and put out the small fire we started, the big fire won’t have fuel to get to us! Hurry!”

    The clouds were starting to close in again.

    Deca nodded. “Okay.”

    He and Owen both spat flames on the grassy terrain of the halls, starting from a farther end, and moving backwards and back into the room. The wet grass was hard to spark, but their combined flames overwhelmed the residual water enough to set the hall alight. The trapped Pokémon all watched, and Rhys let out a small grunt. The aura barrier he provided was fading.

    The fire grew quickly under the intense sunlight. Too quickly for the comfort of the others. A few of the younger Pokémon shrieked and hid behind the older ones. The clouds returned shortly after, and Owen looked up. He pulled Deca back. “Drop the barrier!”

    The water fell on top of the crackling flames; plumes of steam rose up, but it was just enough to put out the dying embers that were closest to them. The rest of the water flooded through the hall, thoroughly soaking the ground. Owen scrambled forward and slashed at the soil nearest to them with sharpened claws, hardened like metal. The water and mud splashed against his scales. Then, Owen plunged his paws into the dirt and pushed forward, huffing.

    “Hey,” someone said from behind, moving Owen aside. It was the Mightyena. “I’ve got this.”

    Owen panted, staring, but he nodded and stepped away.

    With powerful paws, the Mightyena faced his rear against the hall and dug into the ground, creating a trench that quickly filled with water, and a mound of mud behind him. There was no way the fire could get past it.

    “What’s happening?” Deca said.

    “The fire’s out, and there’s a wall of mud blocking the way,” Owen said. “Let’s do it again! Other side! Reflect, Light Screen!”

    “Right!”

    And so, the barrier collected water for a second time. Rhys fired another Aura Sphere toward it to reinforce its strength.

    “Nrgh…”

    “Rhys?” Deca asked, but suddenly held onto Owen’s hand again.

    “I’m fine.”

    “Okay. Sunny Day!” Owen said.

    The clouds parted once more, drenching them in warmth.

    And they repeated the process again. Owen and Deca washed the hall with fire; the flames cleaned the ground of floral fuel. The barrier above Owen and Deca flickered. Rhys lowered himself to one knee.

    “Hurry!” Rhys said. The Dustox and Ledian maintaining the dual-barrier looked equally strained; they had taken on too much water this time, and the weight was wearing away at the transparent bowl above them.

    Deca stepped away and into the room. “The fire’s too close,” he said. “Owen! Let’s put it out!”

    “Okay,” Owen said. “But hang on, it’s still too short. The fire could jump over the gap. Let it burn a little longer!”

    Rhys had both his paws up, and he was on both knees, head down. His arms were trembling. By now, both Reflect and Light Screens had faded away; Rhys alone was holding up the water.

    The clouds returned. Rain filled the bowl. Owen was standing in the flames, trying to accelerate the burning with extra plumes. This side was filled with much more grass; it needed more time to burn. He heaved another wad of embers.

    Then, Rhys’ concentration slipped. The aura barrier vanished, and all of the water poured onto the fire—and Owen.

    <><><> ​

    Owen had a strange dream about taking a hot bath in the pit of a white, featureless room. His tail was just above the water’s surface. Then, he saw Deca on the opposite side of the bath, laughing. And Owen laughed, too. He heard footsteps behind him. He turned around, but the fragile dream faded away.

    Then, he felt cold—like ice, to the very core of his body. And then something tingled, and he felt warm again, starting from his belly, and then over his chest, and then his face. It smelled like Oran Berries.

    His vision was blurry. Owen could only see the outline of something orange. Was it a mirror? A blurry, wobbly reflection of himself. Flames danced over his face, and Owen sputtered in surprise.

    He blinked the blur away and squinted. Deca? He was saying something, but it was all muffled. There was concern in his eyes, but when Owen gurgled some sort of wordless reply, his double let out a laugh.

    “He’s okay!” Deca shouted.

    Owen heard cheers from a crowd. His ears rang, but that faded and gave way to more precise noises.

    He sat up with a start. “What happened?!”

    He sat up too quickly. His vision faded, and he held his head, breathing heavily. That, above all else, was the loudest sound—his own breathing unnerved him. He caught a glance at his tail, which was emitting a steady stream of steam, but no flame. Deca breathed a small ember at the tip; it tickled a bit, but then it reignited. This sent a slight jump-start to the rest of Owen’s system, and warmth spread completely after a few seconds of stillness.

    Rhys stood in the distance, looking like he hadn’t moved in ages. He was fixated entirely on Owen, fidgeting with his paws, clenching his claws into the pads. He’d never seen a Heart look so guilty. A small crowd of the Pokémon that had been trapped previously were around him, just as others surrounded Owen to get a better look.

    It wasn’t raining anymore, but it was incredibly dark. Owen turned his head to the sky and saw stars peeking through the burned treetops.

    “Where am I?” he said. “Is this the Dungeon?”

    “No,” Deca said. “The Dungeon rejected you when you got hit by the water.”

    “Water…” Owen recalled trying to take out the fuel in the Dungeon halls. “Wait, Water! The—what happened to the—”

    “It worked,” Deca said. “The fire got close, but it couldn’t clear the gap you created on both sides. We waited until the fire died on its own, and after that… We figured it would be safe where the Dungeon sent us out. And it was, so we circled back to the entrance to find you.”

    Owen rubbed his fingers together, and then his arms. “Everyone’s okay?”

    “Everyone that was with us made it out fine,” Deca said.

    Owen breathed a small sigh. “Good,” he said. “I’m just glad that I survived. When the Dungeon rejected me, I thought some stray wild would’ve attacked me while I was down, or something. But—”

    “Actually, we scared one of those ferals off!” one of the forest natives piped up. “It was such a weird creature!”

    “Don’t be stupid, that wasn’t a feral! That was a guardian spirit, I just know it!” another native retorted.

    “You and your ‘guardian spirit’ mumbo-jumbo.”

    “No, it’s real! There have been sightings! A four-legged creature with a green and black body—exactly like I keep telling you! I’ve seen it!”

    “Green-black and four legs? That sounds like Zygarde.”

    “Maybe you should lay off the funny berries.”

    Owen tittered. “So, some weird creature was guarding me?”

    Deca nodded, as did the rest of the crowd. “That’s the consensus. But it ran off before we could thank it.”

    Owen paused to silently thank this creature anyway. If it wasn’t Zygarde—which Owen wasn’t sure even existed—then perhaps it was some kind of forest guardian. After all, the trees of this forest were blackish and green. It could have just been camouflage. “And what about the fire?”

    “It’s burning,” he said. “But we got everyone evacuated. All the wilds are… either dead, or ran away.”

    “The fire started in multiple places due to some freak thunderstorm,” Rhys spoke up, and Deca refused to remove his eyes from Owen for the entirety of Rhys’ explanation. “This portion of the forest was trapped by a ring of fire, which was what caused us to send in the Fire teams to rescue the trapped Pokémon. We did our best to rescue who we could,” Rhys said, “but… obviously, we will have to perform a search for those who may not have escaped.”

    Owen gulped. “What caused this…? This thunderstorm was… it was way too strong.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Deca said. “What matters is we made it out.”

    By now, the bystanders—tired from the stress—were starting to disband. Now that they knew their savior was okay, they refocused on how to recover from the disaster. Despite their burned home, they still knew where to go. Rhys volunteered to help guide those who were less sure of themselves. After a passing glance at Deca and Owen, he grunted and walked.

    “Rhys!” Owen shouted.

    He stopped.

    Owen paused, finding the words. “Thanks for helping! It’s—it’s okay! Everyone’s saved because of you!”

    Rhys’ paws relaxed slightly. He gave a short nod, not looking back, and then walked away with the rest of the rescued Pokémon.

    Owen shook his head. “He seems like the type who’ll beat himself up for a while over dousing me,” he said. “But, I don’t think it would’ve worked without his help.”

    “He’ll reconcile,” Deca said. “Trust me. That guy will just turn it into more fire for him to do better next time. It’s not healthy, but as long as he doesn’t burn up from it, right?”

    They both laughed. Owen finally found the strength to get on his feet. He eased his way into it. Deca held him by the shoulder and back to keep him steady until he could stand on his own.

    “Thanks,” Owen said.

    Deca nodded. “Thanks to you, too.”

    Owen noticed that the strain in Deca’s voice was gone now that they were alone. “It’s too bad you’re so tense around others. I hope you can get better at that, huh?”

    Deca smiled wryly. “I’ll do my best.”

    Owen pulled his tail forward to inspect the flame. It was a healthy orange.

    “Owen.”

    “Yeah?”

    Deca stared for a while. Owen sensed something from his doppelganger—a strange tension of some kind. Like he wanted to do something, yet couldn’t. His paws twitched forward, then pulled themselves back.

    “What’s wrong?” Owen asked. “L-look, if you’re gonna ask me out, I don’t know if I have the time for stuff like that. I’m training to be a Heart. I—I mean, you seem like a really nice ‘mon and all, but we barely know each other!”

    Deca let out a sound that was a cross between a sigh and a laugh. He shook his head and fell forward, wrapping his arms around Owen. Startled, Owen could only take a step back, but that only made Deca squeeze tighter. He didn’t know what to say, let alone how to react, so he just stood there. Eventually, he brought his hand around Deca and patted his back.

    “Hey,” Owen said, figuring this had to do with Deca’s social anxieties, “it’s alright. I bet it’s hard, but you can overcome it, right? Maybe with some meditation? That’s what helps my aura calm down. I dunno if it’s the same thing, but—"

    “They’re so proud of you, Owen.” Deca trembled, the spasms shaking Owen.

    “They—what?”

    Deca kept holding onto Owen. He felt Deca’s hands press flat against his back; something stirred in Owen’s chest, and that advanced to his throat, and then his eyes. His vision felt blurry—tears welled up, and this sent him into a mild panic. “D-Deca?”

    “Don’t forget that,” Deca said. “Okay? Don’t ever forget…”

    Owen blinked, confused. His emotions weren’t matching his thoughts. His mind had no reason to think of anything about Deca other than the fact that he helped with the fire. Yet all he wanted to do was bawl and cry and stay with Deca the whole night. His heart raced, and he held Deca back. He kept his emotions together enough to speak. “Okay. I won’t… forget. I won’t forget.”

    Deca kept holding him for what felt like forever, and yet still it wasn’t enough time. Owen wondered if Deca would let go at all. And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t complain. He kept holding on, memorizing the scales on Deca’s back. They were exactly like his own. Curious, Owen felt for the strange patch of scales whose pattern didn’t quite match the surrounding area—a small, natural irregularity of the body, much like a birthmark. And he found it in the same spot.

    Eventually, Deca let go and pulled away. Owen was startled to see the streams of tears running down Deca’s face—a flow that was even greater than his own.

    “What’s—what’s going on?!” Owen said, wiping his eyes. “Deca! Who—who are you? Do you know my parents?”

    Deca laughed again. “Oh, Owen… I’m…”

    Owen saw Deca’s hand glow with a strange light. Deca sniffled once. The hand that didn’t glow wiped his eyes. Owen mirrored the movement, clearing his vision.

    “Good night, Owen.”

    “Wh—”

    Deca tapped Owen on the forehead with his glowing hand. Owen’s thoughts grew muddled. In an instant, it all faded to nothingness.

    <><><> ​

    Deca’s ears still rang from the roaring flames. Not only that, but his mind was completely fatigued. He had been doing the mental equivalent of holding his breath for at least half the night, now. The identical Charmander stared down at Owen in his arms, struggling to carry him along—after all, they were completely identical in weight and—more importantly—strength. Owen needed to work out more.

    “Mnngg, more apples,” Owen mumbled. His tongue dangled from the side of his mouth, a bit of drool dripping onto Deca’s right arm.

    Deca sighed, but he couldn’t hide his smile. But his heart sank back down. It wouldn’t be long, now.

    He had to admit, it was a peaceful place. Calm, open field. A hot cave for him to live in, even if it was just due to the Fire Guardian’s antics. It seemed nice enough. There weren’t any particularly interesting landmarks this way, either, which made it quite secluded thanks to travelers just using Waypoints to skip over this path entirely.

    “You’ve got a good life, Owen,” Deca said. “I’m… not going to lie to myself and say otherwise.”

    “Too sweet,” Owen babbled. “Needs Cheri…”

    Deca sighed. He carefully set Owen down, making sure his tail rested against the dirt and not the grass, and then eyed the great boulder ahead of him. His hand glowed with a Mystic power, and he held his hand forward, toward the boulder. He swung his arm to the side.

    Nothing happened.

    “Ngh.” Deca tried again. The glow, the swipe. Nothing. “Oh, come on, it can’t be that strong.” And so, he tried again. Not even a wiggle.

    “How are you supposed to open this thing?!” Deca mumbled. “Password. There’s supposed to be a password, right? Ngh, what’s a…” He paced, tapping his chin. Every so often, he glanced at Owen, and each time he did so, it was like a breath of fresh air in his mind. “Open… now!” Deca shook his claws toward the unmoving boulder. “Open… Hot Spot Caverns! Open… sesame?” He knew it wouldn’t work, but he was desperate. After a full fifty seconds of staring, Owen snorted in his sleep. Deca jolted and spun around. But the sleeping Charmander didn’t stir.

    And then, Deca watched Owen for a while, entranced by him. He stared at the gentle rise and fall of his back and the flickering, lively flame at the end of his tail. The small, subtle frown while he slept, like he was pensive about something in his dreams. Probably whether he should use Cheri or Tamatos to cut through the sweetness.

    Deca took a single step forward, and then another. He was right in front of Owen, now. He leaned forward and picked him up; Owen hummed in response, bumping his head against Deca’s cheek.

    And he stayed there. Despite the dead weight, Deca stayed there, wrapping his arms around the Charmander double, memorizing every single scale that he could. He felt hot tears welling up again. They poured slowly onto Owen’s shoulders, and then to the ground. Deca stared with a fierce glare against the air ahead of him. He finally let Owen go, wondering if it would be the last time.

    With a resolute glint in his eyes, he faced the boulder, sat on the ground, and concentrated. He took a steady breath…

    O Holy Creator Mew. Deca projected. I call upon you to hear my prayer. Deca paused for a bit longer, and then dug his claws against his thighs. It was just a formality, really. Any sort of thought toward her would have been sufficient. But, from what he knew, prayers tended to be louder if he started politely. The same didn’t have to go for the rest of what he had to say, and his thoughts became a few tones harsher.

    A few days ago, Owen failed to become a Heart again. Didn’t pass Anam’s final check. Flying colors with the practical exam… yet never past Anam himself. Always the same story, year after year. No wonder he took on this horrible mission, just to prove that he could do a Heart’s job.

    Deca looked down, glaring at the dirt. Kricketot were chirping. Deca counted their cries four times in sequence, like a little conversation among the wilds.

    Is that your plan? Deca said. When Anam deems Owen worthy of becoming a Heart, he’s ready for the Orb? And do you think he’ll be ready for what comes next, too?

    Three chirps. Deca wondered if she was even listening, or if she was just stubbornly sitting in her own little realm, ignoring the world’s problems as usual. She needed an ultimatum.

    Star… if we find an Orb first, we’ll figure out how to take the rest. And your defenses won’t be enough once we have the power of one Orb. When that happens… you better be ready. Because I’m done waiting.

    Deca ended the prayer there. He brought his arm to his eyes and wiped them dry, and then glanced back at Owen. He let out a gentle curse from his breath and stared ahead. He wanted to finish on an awesome one-liner, but now he had a sleeping Charmander out in the cold.

    …Also, can… can you tell the Fire Guardian to open her cave? Owen’s asleep and I don’t know how to open it.

    With that final message, Deca stood to his feet and turned around to looked at Owen one last time. He figured he only had a few more seconds. He walked over and gently held Owen’s shoulder. His eyes clouded once more, but he shook it off.

    “I’m sorry,” Deca said.

    And then, when the boulder behind him rumbled, Deca bolted into the night.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
    git-it likes this.
  19. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    So, Deca's a spirit, I take it. One like James or Alex that can fully manifest and go about doing whatever the heck it wants to. That... seems like the conclusion I could draw from all of this. I don't really think Deca is Owen unless Star has some sort of power split spirits/consciousnesses. Perhaps, when alive, Deca was, like, Owen's identical twin or something? He's still a fire-charmander, which means Amia had to be the one who manifested him. Perhaps Deca died and Owen's memories of the whole thing were wiped as a result of either Star or Nevren. Amia might've manifested him to help with the fire, but he discovered Owen and, in the process, things went a bit off the rails. Perhaps it's Deca's cryptic way of saying Owen should consider Amia and Alex to be his real parents? I still think Owen's parents are Hunters... with at least one being Eon. Maybe the other parent got upset and tried to run off with both kids, but only succeeded in getting Deca? But I suppose it's possible that his parents died at some point and he and Deca were split up, with Owen falling under the Hunters' care and Deca ending up somewhere else until he eventually becomes one of Amia's spirits. Considering Rhys seems to know Deca, I'm willing to bet it's got something to do with all of that. It's hard to say considering that this special episode has nothing to really tie it into the main story. Not even a brief scene to bridge things over.

    And that is my primary thought about the special episode as a whole. Writing-wise, you did a fine job. The descriptions of the fire are pretty snappy. The dialogue from the Hearts(?) is suitably panicked. And I thought the little makeshift wildfire trench was a neat idea. It's just... outside of the end with Deca, I'm really not sure what the point of this was supposed to be. When I look at a bonus part or a "special episode" in a PMD fic, I'm generally looking for it to feature characters from the story who are aren't the main protagonists and/or bridge together with the main story, either by showing something that took place concurrently with events we've already seen or, for a flashback, using at least one scene to connect it to the present. If it's not going to do either one of those then my personal preference is that the part be used to further build up the world you've created. This part... doesn't really do any of those things. It stars Owen, just as the rest of the story has, and features Rhys. It's not adding to the worldbuilding since it's focused on an action set piece. And, as you noted when advertising it on Serebii, it's almost entirely self-contained. There are a couple of bits that reading the story will give a deeper meaning to, but it's not huge. I mean, you positioned this at a good time, since it's right before the part in the story where the different factions will hunt for other guardians. Still, I can't help but wonder if there was a better way to go about this?

    I think the thing that rubbed me the wrong way about this is that we, the readers, have absolutely no idea if Owen even remembers these events. It's been pretty well-established that Owen's memories have been tampered with a lot. But, like, you'd think going through a raging wildfire with someone who looks like your identical twin and then disappears after a cryptic conversation would stick with Owen. But we're 11 chapters in and we've never seen mention of these events, leading me to believe Owen doesn't remember them. So, that really ups the degree of self-containment of this part. Do I think that Deca will eventually factor into the story proper? I'd say so, yeah. But given the lack of foreshadowing about this, I can't help but feel like this is very disjointed.

    Sorry if that sounded negative. Like I said, as a standalone, one-off, I think it's a nice little action romp. I think what this ultimately is a good way to "promo" your fic, so to speak. You ever hear of Free Comic Book Day? Where comic publishers print free, one-off stories designed to entice new readers by showing off the world and characters? This is what the special feels like to me. Something that could get you more readers and, for those already following, extra content that doesn't add all that much, but is still fun to read. I hope that makes sense. <.<;

    Look at this furry bait team... oh, and Rapidsash.

    What is it with you and giving your ladies names that sound like prostitues? Star the Mew, Spice the Salazzle... good grief!

    Kinky. How very in-character for a Salazzle. Hey, don't like at me, you're the guy who's writing this stuff.

    Oh come on, are we serious, here? e_e

    Salazzle? More like... Sasslazzle, m i rite? :V

    Owen has his way with all the lizard ladies, apparently. What would his mother think about this?

    "Ohhhh... Mom's gonna kill me when she finds out I got split in half by Dark Meta Knight."
    Alternatively...
    [​IMG]

    GREAT SCOTT! ... oh, wait, he said no.

    "Damn it, me! You need to learn to consult me before making reckless decisions!"

    This line's gonna be hella harsh in hindsight if Owen turns out to be Eon's kid like I'm thinking.

    C'mon, Deca. A fire rescue is not the time for impromptu experimentation.

    Huh. Uh... we interrupt this interruption to our Pokémon Mystery Dungeon story to bring you the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, apparently.

    Owen confirmed bi, I guess.
     
  20. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Alright. So you’re gonna play that game are you, Namo? Well. It seems clear that the purpose of this extra is speculation fuel and foreshadowing for future events, so you’re gonna get speculation whether you like it or not. :p

    I’m just gonna spitball a bit and throw out all of the ideas that have crossed my mind, even if none of them has really taken root as my “prime” theory yet, so to speak. So let’s talk Deca. Yes, obviously he’s Owen, but the real mystery is how exactly, and what flavor of Owen he is. It’s a real shame you had to go and immediately rule out him being a future Owen. I’d still like that to be the case even now! Buuuut, I can’t really see “yeah he is too from the future but he just lied,” as being a very good twist, so that’s probably not it.

    What jumps out at me the most is Rhys’s reaction to Deca. Or rather, his lack of. He didn’t react to seeing Owen and Deca together like someone faced with something wildly impossible (or even something that really shouldn’t happen, like if Deca were from the future, and Rhys knew that was possible, I’d still expect more of a “!!!” reaction, just a different sort.) So sadly, I think we can solidly rule that out. No, Rhys’s reaction was one of someone who knows what’s going on and isn’t too pleased with it, but isn’t necessarily shocked by it.

    Deca described their relationship as a “bit of a rut.” I’m still of course fond of the idea of alternate versions of events bleeding together, even though there’s not really been any evidence of that being a thing in this fic’s universe. I’d of course love for Rhys to be aware of alternate versions of how things went down (and maybe attempting to undo/redo some things perhaps?) Something clearly Happened between Owen and Rhys in the past, and the latter’s reaction to Deca seems to strengthen that.

    I don’t know. I just… really feel like it’s not just memories that are being erased. It’s events too. I just can’t point to any one thing that gives me that feeling, so I can’t support it with evidence. Well, ok, I do have one thing. Owen’s evolution being undone. I don’t think that’s strictly biological.

    Oh, speaking of memories. I am 99% sure that Owen in the fic’s main continuity has no memory of any of these events. Which leads me to the interesting musing of whether or not this could be a dream. Oh, don’t get me wrong--I don’t think that automatically discounts the events as “not real” and therefore “meaningless” like a lot of “it was all a dream” twists might. For starters, it would recontextualize all of this as his subconscious struggling to process all the different memories that are buried deep within his subconscious. One could easily think of those buried events as shifts in his personality, fighting to break free and make his main consciousness aware of them. However, that’s IF it was a dream, which I don’t necessarily believe it was.

    Long story short, this extra really had one job, and it did it damn well. All about the speculation train choo choo.

    ~Chibi~

    EDIT: Well, we've got a new scene added, and I'm sure the majority of my speculation now looks VERY silly, but I'm gonna leave it up there intact for all to see. At least this does seem to prove that the events in this chapter are part of the main continuity of the fic and not whatever convoluted nonsense I was going for. I like Walrein's musing about Deca specifically being a copy of Owen, as that was something that hadn't quite occurred to me, and with this added scene, there's a bit of evidence that it could be true. Deca knows a great deal about Owen, but clearly does not have his memories. Deca is Mystic, which I think most of us were assuming, but I'm still not sure which flavor of Mystic I think he is. Not strong enough Mystic to get past the seal, which it was established last chapter that Mystics can do. Maybe Amby was onto something with the spirit thing?
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018

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