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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation

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

  1. The Walrein

    The Walrein Well-Known Member

    Well, I guess I'm going to try and do a little theorycrafting myself! Here are the facts about Deca (which is almost certainly not his (or her, or their) real name):

    -He was conveniently there when Owen needed him.
    -Deca knew Owen's name without having been told it. Owen never remarks on this.
    -He can use the same sleep touch ability that Rhys used at the end of chapter 5. This might be the same as the sleep touch Amia used on Owen in chapter 1, which was described as feeling awful, and draining energy from his core.
    -When pressed to come up with a fake name, he chooses one meaning the number ten.
    -He claims to have seen his parents die of old age, suggesting he's lived for quite a while.
    -He claims to be 'working on' figuring out what causes Dungeons to form.
    -He either naturally is or can assume a form that looks, feels, and moves the same as Owen, including replicating the birthmark. This may be the result of using the move Transform.
    -For some reason, he has to either have his eyes be closed or be constantly looking at Owen. Possibly to maintain his Owen-clone form?
    -Deca seems to have known Rhys for a while, and appears to have a strained relationship with him.
    -Owen has an emotional response to Deca he can't explain, as if they had a strong positive relationship in the past.
    -Deca claims to know some people (Owen's parents?) who would be 'so proud' of Owen.
    -Deca is amused by the suggestion that he knows Owen's parents.

    The only thing I can think of right now is that Deca is a Hunter. It's been implied that Hunters can transform based on what Star said about Rim preferring to be in an Espurr form, and that sleep-touch ability is pretty suggestive. This would also explain where he knows Rhys from. And if Ambyssin's theory about Owen having been a Hunter is correct, it would explain where he knows Owen from.

    I'm not sure this fits all the facts, though. Why would the transformation ability require Deca to either have their eyes closed or be constantly looking at Owen? I still have no idea what's up with that, actually. At first I thought that Deca was trying to hide the use of some ability that caused his eyes to glow, but that wouldn't require him to only look at Owen when he's not using it.

    Also, why choose a name meaning ten if there are only five hunters?

    Anyways, this was a pretty fun chapter. The use of the various pokemon abilities to create and manage an escape fire was pretty cool, and it does a good job of showing Owen's bravery and creativity. I do have to agree with Ambyssin though that it feels rather disconnected from the main narrative - I'm guessing we're not going to get any concrete explanations of what's going on for quite a while, and I do have to agree with the assumption that his memory of these events were erased, so it feels like telling us all this right now is a little pointless.

    One other thing: Why does Owen never guess that Deca is a Ditto when he first meets him? I can see overlooking it when he's still disoriented, but even later the thought never crosses his mind. Wouldn't that be the default assumption upon seeing your doppleganger in the Pokemon world?

    B-b-b-b-BONUS THEORY: All the frequent forced-sleep touches and memory erasing has given Owen minor brain damage (or the spiritual equivalent of such), causing him to be more impulsive.
     
  2. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Amby, I got ya elsewhere, and thanks for that feedback because it led to the addition of the new bridging scene at the end of the SE!

    Guys, I'm seriously so overwhelmed -- in a good way, mind -- at the amount of interest this SE has generated. Already, three very different theories back to back about this one character! I hope I can continue to maintain this sort of interest as the fic continues, because this won't be the first time that we'll be getting lots of questions asked and answered. Seems to be a general theme.

    Don't worry, I love it.

    Heheh, to be honest, a lot of your theories sound really interesting anyway! And, if only because I'm being charitable, while the theories regarding Owen and Deca were a bit out there and too abstract for my tastes, some of the things you said do graze upon plot points down the line... in a roundabout way.

    Ah yes, please, add to the pool of Wild Mass Guessing / Inferring.

    Okay this actually is a minor error on my part. There's no reason for Owen to not be surprised by this except for him to just assume Deca heard about him -- after all, Owen has a tendency to introduce himself. (Plus, I'll be honest, I don't get surprised when people know my name and I never met them, either. Maybe that was myself leaking a bit.)

    I am genuinely surprised nobody else pointed this out with their Hunter theories. Or Deca's name in general. Or maybe it was just so obvious that it wasn't worth pointing out.

    Yeah, hence the new scene at the end!

    Thaaat's another minor error on my part to not outline this. I've added a small passage during their time through the Dungeon to explain why -- basically, Owen's still disoriented before, and during the Dungeon, it's too frantic to think of much else clearly. Owen was only able to think of crazy ideas, and the 'Ditto' theory didn't come up. Plus, Deca could easily just say no again, for whatever motive Deca has for not telling Owen what his deal is.

    Heh, well, I mean... Owen's memory is a bit weird, considering all those deja vu moments in the beginning of the fic.

    Thanks for the responses, everyone! I plan to release the next chapter either tonight or tomorrow. We'll be going back to the main plot!
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  3. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Chapter 12 - Twisted Minds

    Anam heard the deep boom of metal bells.

    The Abandoned Temple—the original name lost to the ages—stood four stories high, despite only having a single story inside. The building was made out of marble with intricate designs along the walls in the shape of spirals, flowers, and all sorts of Pokémon. There was a broken, circular window of colored glass on the top of the temple, as well as a few other, rounded, rectangular windows along the walls. What the windows depicted, unfortunately, was difficult to decipher, as most of the glass was gone.

    While the temple may have once been a pristine, white marble, it was now reddened with the dusty winds of dirt and time.

    “What a loud bell,” Anam said.

    The boom reverberated through Anam’s mind: a deep metallic echo that shook the ground beneath his feet and the goo in his chest. It rang slowly, once, twice, three times…

    Zena and James exchanged glances. The Milotic eyed Anam with concern. “What?” she said.

    “Don’t you hear it?” Anam asked.

    He listened to it chime three more times. His feelers twitched at the vibrations, and Anam pointed his head skyward, toward the topmost tower at the center of the temple. There was no bell there, but Anam could see it.

    The temple was silent.

    “No, Anam. This place is completely devoid of noise,” Zena said. “I think we’re the loudest thing on the property.”

    Yet, the Goodra stared at the building for a while longer.

    It rang three more times. Anam felt something well up from deep in his chest. A strange swelling of warmth. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes with a tranquil smile. And then, he breathed out.

    The bell stopped after the ninth ring. Anam put a hand to his chest.

    Confused, Zena slithered a few paces forward. “We should not waste much time. Shall we enter? The Normal Guardian is inside.”

    “Yes. Come, Anam.”

    Anam followed silently, but he walked at a slow, agonizing pace. His slimy hand brushed against the dusty walls of the entrance. There was no door, but it looked like there used to be.

    The interior was like night and day, and Anam’s eyes shined so brightly that Zena almost had to avert her own. The marble walls on the interior were cleaned to a blinding shine; the open room was completely clear of debris. At the far end was some kind of altar. It looked like a Pokémon would stand there to address a crowd. Faded murals—so faded that the actual contents were unrecognizable—lined the high walls and broken windows.

    “I’ve never seen a building like this before,” Zena said. “This is nothing like Kilo Village. Or even Hot Spot.”

    “Hrm,” James hummed. “It is of a time long passed, Zena. A relic.”

    Anam advanced, and Zena and James followed until they all reached the middle of the room. Anam had a smile on his face, walking straight toward the altar at the back of the room with an eager spring in his step.

    Click.

    Anam’s foot sank into the tile, and he stopped his advance. “…Was that bad?” he asked.

    “Very,” Decidueye James replied, puffing out his feathers. “Anam, whatever you do, do not l—”

    Anam lifted his foot.

    The fiery explosion that followed sent Anam, Zena, and James flying in completely opposite directions. The ground shifted instantly; the floors collapsed in patches and rose in others. Spikes skewered tiles from below, and strange, metal stalactites fell from above. A giant spike shot out from one wall and went straight for—

    “Pfwoooh—!” It pinned Anam against the wall; the huge, stone thorn went right through his gooey chest, narrowly missing his heart—if he had one. He brought his slimy hands over it and tried to push it away, but it was jammed in too tight. His paw disintegrated into goo from the strain. “J-James!” Anam called in a gurgle, waving his handless, melting arm. “Help! I’m stuck!”

    “Can’t quite help at the moment!” James replied, narrowly dodging a concentrated beam of light that carved the stone ground that it struck. Anam finally pushed the stone spire free and dropped to the ground with a loud splat, his lower half becoming a purple mush on the ground. He needed a few seconds to recreate himself—it seemed that as a Mystic, the goo half of his kind was very pronounced.

    “Is this the Guardian’s doing?!” Zena called to James, emerging from the ground. She was hiding in cracks of the temple’s ruined foundation as water, hoping to avoid the Normal Guardian’s strikes.

    “I’m quite certain!” James replied. He vanished in a fine, black mist, dodging a second Hyper Beam. Something about these blasts felt dangerous even for his Ghostly nature. “He must feel threatened by this. Perhaps Rim already tried to defeat him. Clearly, she failed!”

    “We haven’t even seen him yet!” Zena said. “Where could he be coming from?” Another blast of concentrated light carved a line out of the ground, leaving molten marble in its place. These beams are coming from every direction! Surely he can’t Teleport and use Hyper Beam at the same time!”

    “I doubt that is the case,” James said, “but it is possible. But I’ve seen this strategy before…. These might be a variant to Owen’s approach when he battles. Traps. Hyper Beam-traps, perhaps stored in empty Wonder Orbs, or—” James jumped to the right. A passing spike tore off a feather from his face. “Urf—The actual Guardian might be deeper insi—” Another line of hard light vaporized James where he stood, and he became nothing but an ember that returned to Anam’s body. Even a Ghost Type was not immune to these attacks.

    “Oops…!” Anam said, cupping James’ spirit in his good hand. He dipped him into his chest, where the ember vanished completely. “Um…! Z-Zena! Let’s try to keep going!”

    Thankfully, it seemed that the traps had exhausted themselves. Aside from the ambient sounds of rubble collapsing in small pieces against the walls, there were no further attacks.

    Anam used his hands to piece his lower half back together. So far, he had most of his belly and tail reconstructed, but he couldn’t find any spare material for his legs. He puffed his cheeks and pushed—new little feet popped out from the base of his thighs, followed by the rest of his missing appendages. He sprung to his feet, and Zena marveled at the Guardian’s regenerative abilities. If any of that happened to her, she’d be nothing but a dead puddle.

    “Of course,” Zena finally said. She returned to the cracks and advanced further into the temple. They passed the altar and entered a back room. The further they went, the more it appeared to be… less abandoned. The entrance was a crumbling stone palace

    Anam panted, tiny arms on the ground. “Th-this is way too much running… Why is this Temple so big on the inside? It’s not a Dungeon, is it?”

    “You’re Mystic. Can you not just restore your own stamina?” Zena asked.

    “Anam is… typically focused on other aspects of his Mysticism,” James said, summoned again by Anam. “He largely focuses on self-preservation and high defenses rather than… offensive prowess.”

    Zena stared at Anam with a flash of a memory in her eyes. “That reminds me of an old friend,” she remarked. “Anam, do you happen to know an Emily?”

    “Huh?” Anam said. “What did you say? Emily? That sounds…”

    The flash was gone. Zena tilted her head. “Did I say what?” she asked.

    “Let’s not get distracted,” James said. He pointed a wing forward. There was a single Pokémon there, floating at the back of the smaller room. Twitching. Watching. “Are you the Guardian?” James called.

    It was a strange Pokémon with a smooth surface—one that Zena had never seen before. Anam and James, however, knew of its kind.

    The Porygon-Z buzzed with anxiety. “You do not have permission to create a guest account!” he said. His voice was like a buzz in the air, as if he was speaking through the crackle of a Thundershock at all times. “403 - Forbidden! Access to the back rooms is not allowed! Those traps should have deleted you!”

    “Deleted?” James said. “Strange terminology, Porygon-Z, but we mean you no harm. We have no intention of deleting you, either. Yes?”

    “Authentication required.”

    James sighed, glancing at Anam. “The Badge, if you may.”

    “Oh!” The Goodra dug through the bag partially submerged in the right side of his chest and pulled out the circular emblem. “This! Yep! That’s my Thousand Heart Association Badge! I’m the leader, and our entire purpose is to make this place safe and peaceful for everyone! Including you!”

    Porygon-Z buzzed with uncertainty. “Your data has not been verified and may be corrupt. Checksum required!”

    James blinked. “…I do not know what that is,” he said, “but I imagine this has something to do with your species’ strange origins. I can assure you that we are not lying. Anam is a fellow Guardian, as is Zena. Meanwhile, I am a spirit, here solely because of the power of a very kind Mystic.” He pointed a wing at Anam, who bushed and giggled.

    “Hmmm…” Porygon-Z stared at the two, and then looked at Zena. “Are you a Guardian?”

    “Yes, of Water,” Zena replied. “I am Zena. This is James and Anam. What is your name?”

    “I was once designated as an Absolutely Deadly Autonomous Machine. Therefore, my name is ADAM,” Porygon-Z said.

    “ADAM, huh?” Anam said. “That’s close to my name! Except you spell yours out. And it’s a D instead of an N. Can we just call you Adam?”

    “That is my primary PC title,” ADAM said. “…Such a title is reserved only for users with administrative permissions.”

    “Oh, okay,” Anam said. “Well, you can use my name whenever you want! I’m Goodra Anam.”

    “It seems that the Porygon-Z still has a sense of culture,” James said. “How long have you been here?”

    “The word ‘here’ must be further defined.”

    “In this temple. How long has this been your home?”

    “I have lived within this temple for approximately 1.5e10 seconds, base ten,” stated ADAM.

    Anam counted on his gooey fingers.

    “I see,” James said. “I imagine this is a very long time? How long does that compare to the lifetime of the average Pokémon?”

    “Compared to my time in this temple, the average life of a Pokémon, is not negligible, but is significantly smaller.”

    “So, a really long time,” Anam said, nodding. “Um, mister ADAM, does that mean maybe your… brain… head… has been damaged and corrupted?”

    “My hardware is incapable of degrading due to Mysticism,” ADAM replied. “…But perhaps my software requires repairing, and my file system, defragmenting. The data may be corrupted. However, I cannot reinstall my own operating system. Those files may have also been corrupted.”

    Anam nodded, noticing that ADAM was starting to become easier to understand. Perhaps when he wasn’t so frantic, his instincts didn’t in the way of his behavior.

    “Well, would it help if you came with us to… rest… your software?” Anam asked. He leaned toward James, “What’s software? That sounds like a Nev-Nev thing.”

    James shrugged. “ADAM, we only request that you come with us,” he said. “Such a temple is not suitable to a Pokémon such as yourself.”

    “Oh, yeah!” Anam said. “And if more Hunters come by, we can keep you safe!”

    “Hunters are not a security threat,” ADAM said. “More persistent are Pokémon that do not appear in my database, but instead appear to be corrupted files.”

    “Mutants,” James said. “If I am not mistaken, you are describing mutants. I imagine such a landmark would pique what semblance of curiosity they have.” He nodded. “We can protect you against those, too, ADAM.”

    The Porygon-Z analyzed James carefully, then Zena, then Anam. He then scanned—for the umpteenth time—his polished temple. While Anam could not see an expression on the Pokémon’s face, he did feel his distinct lack of interest in the temple at large. “Very well,” ADAM said.

    “Nice!” Anam pumped his fist in the air. A wad of slime flung from his hand and toward ADAM, who drifted to the side to avoid it. The Goodra pulled out their silver Badge, the communicator. “Hey, everyone! We have the first Guardian! He’s okay! He’ll come with us, and he’s super cool! …Guys? Hello?”

    “They may be occupied,” James said. “Let’s return home.”


    The World’s Wound.

    That was the other title of the Great Crevice, among many. Nature’s Scar. The War’s End. All sorts of titles and nicknames for the great fissure that carved out a large portion of the land’s eastern side. On the map—the only place one could truly see its full size without entering the outer atmosphere—its lower, tapered end kissed the southeastern beaches, while the upper end was much like an expanding fan, covering an entire portion of the map in the shape of a jagged, narrow triangle. While swaths of the northern portions of the fissure were clothed in forestry, the narrower portions were still steep and rocky.

    Rhys and his terrible trio followed the subtle traces of Mystic aura that radiated from a cave near the northern side of the narrow portion of the fissure. Star knew that general detail, but knew nothing more. They had spent the better part of the afternoon simply finding the cave. Thankfully, once they caught a trace of the Rock Guardian’s aura, going into the abode was trivial.

    “Rhys? What’s wrong with having Owen with us for this? We’d be super strong together!” Demitri said.

    “It’s simply not a good idea to have four non-Elites in one team for something such as this,” Rhys stated. “We need to have strong and competent members—both qualities in one Pokémon—on all teams. You three simply aren’t experienced enough yet. The same goes for Owen, who just entered the Thousand Hearts Society.”

    “I guess…” Demitri said.

    “Jus’ feels like…” Gahi said. “I’unno. Fighting with’m feels… right, y’know? Th’ four o’ us as a team. Yeah….”

    “Well, that simply cannot happen right now,” Rhys said simply. “Let’s focus on the task at hand. That is—the Guardian of the Great Crevice, home of the Rock Guardian.”

    The cave was thankfully more level than the fissure itself had been. Countless times, Gahi had to be rescued from teetering off the edge; Demitri had outright fainted from looking down, and had to be hauled along by Mispy’s vines. Rhys, much more adept, only advanced slowly for their sake.

    The bottom was visible thanks to the angle of the sun, but it was still very far down. Rhys, however, could sense the Guardian’s aura, now that they were near.

    Rhys held up his paw and created a small, luminous Aura Sphere to light the rest of the way. “Let’s go,” he said.

    “Ngh, this isn’t gonna be very fun,” Demitri said, looking at the cave walls. “Rock Types. I guess I’m fine against them, and so is Mispy and Gahi, but…”

    “Heh, yer the only one that’s neutral against’m,” Gahi said. “Sure, yeh know Brick Break, but it ain’t yer own Type. Not gonna be as strong, eh? Yer body ain’t adapted ter that.”

    “Yeah…” Demitri looked away.” I guess—if we have to fight, then maybe… you know… I’ll stay back for now.”

    They turned another corner; they finally saw it. It was very faint, but it was a glow visible even to those who couldn’t see auras, like Demitri and Gahi. They continued to walk in total silence.

    It only broke when Demitri spoke up. “Rhys?” he said.

    “Hm?”

    “What’s a Divine Promise?”

    “Hmm…” Rhys continued walking. “It is something that only Mystics can do—that is, those with powers related to the Orbs. Simply put… making a Divine Promise is keeping yourself to your word—or face the consequences. In the case of a Promise… breaking it would mean relinquishing your Mystic power to the Pokémon you made the promise with.”

    “Y-you mean, if you broke your Promise with Zena, then…!”

    “Then I would no longer have any form of Mysticism. I would not have enhanced power. It would be nothing but a simple, mortal Lucario.” Rhys turned to look back at Demitri. “That is why Zena was so surprised when I accepted the agreement. Even the cleverest Pokémon in the world cannot break a Divine Promise without also losing their power,” he said. “I phrased my Promise in such a way that there is no loophole—or, if there is one, I hadn’t thought of it.”

    “W-wow… so you really don’t want to be a Hunter any more, huh?”

    “I do not,” Rhys said. “Long ago, I fought for Star. But some fought harder, I suppose. And Star became disillusioned with her own cause, and asked for us to stop. We thought she was simply losing heart, and we pressed on. But I later realized that some Hunters… simply wanted more power. It had nothing to do with Star.”

    “O-oh, and… and Nevren is the same way?” Demitri asked.

    Rhys nodded. “It seems that Nevren has quietly distanced himself from the other Hunters, too,” he said. “I haven’t seen him with the others for quite some time, even if we chat with them now and then, in our own pocket of the spirit realm.”

    “Wh—wait, when do you visit there?” Demitri asked.

    “When I meditate,” Rhys said.

    “Oh.”

    “Did you kill… the Grass Guardian?” Mispy asked.

    Rhys’ steps lost their rhythm, but he regained it quickly.

    “I have many regrets,” Rhys said, “regarding my past as a Hunter. But I was not the one who killed the Grass Guardian. In fact, I was largely unsuccessful in those efforts. Wholly, actually.”

    “Y-you mean, even if you’re super strong…?” Demitri asked.

    “It wasn’t necessarily strength that stopped me,” Rhys said, “but perhaps… willpower. Mystic power is largely tied to the will. If, so to speak, your ‘heart is not in it’ when you fight, that Mystic power will not help you. In fact, it could hinder you. Meanwhile, a Guardian is fighting to survive. Their willpower could be… significant. In the end,” he said, “My will to gain power was lesser than their will to live.”

    “Didn’t stop yeh from beating Owen ter a pulp of Cheri dust,” Gahi clicked.

    “D’you think the others might have trouble with that?” Demitri said. “If a Guardian is scared they’re being attacked….”

    Rhys shook his head. “We can only hope things work out,” he said.

    “Too bad we didn’t bring Anam. He’d just convince them by being friendly,” Demitri said.

    “Yes, well,” Rhys said. “I’m sure I can be friendly.”

    None of his students looked convinced.

    The light was growing stronger. Rhys held his arm out to stop the other three. Mispy stopped first; Gahi bumped into her rear, and Demitri tripped over Gahi. They squabbled amongst one another, but Rhys shushed them firmly, and they listened.

    “The Guardian is just ahead.”

    They walked uneasily forward. Rhys didn’t feel a particularly powerful aura ahead, but it was distinctly Mystic. He was very familiar with that general radiance. The cave was hidden simply due to the vastness of the fissure, but now that they were inside, it was plain who the Guardian was to the aura readers.

    Demitri and Gahi were less informed. “Wow! Cool statue!”

    In the center of the end of the cave—in a cavern large enough to fly in for a short distance—there was the statue of a Shiftry, accurate to the last detail.

    “Whoever made this must be pretty good at the whole chisel thing,” Gahi said.

    The cavern rumbled softly.

    Rhys, baffled at how dense they were, said, “That is the Guardian.”

    “Cease…”

    The four stiffened. “Wh-uh—what was that?” Demitri said.

    “Cease… your movements…”

    The voice came from nowhere. It sounded masculine and deep, but nothing that they’d expect from a statue.

    “What do you mean, cease our movements?” Rhys said.

    “All movement must cease… to be one with the stone…”

    The four looked at one another. Their mission was to befriend the Guardian…. Perhaps they could play his game for now. “Very well,” Rhys said. “May we get into a comfortable position before tuning ourselves to the stone?”

    The cavern rumbled angrily. “I will allow it.”

    “Into your meditative positions, everyone,” Rhys said. “We must comply, as we are mere guests. We can converse later,” he said.

    “Meditate?” all three of them whined.

    “CEASE.”

    The three scrambled to separate spots Mispy sat down with her rear down, but her front legs propping the rest of her up, and closed her eyes. Demitri sat down and tried to cross his legs, though they were too stubby for that, and it instead because a sort of position where the bottoms of his feet touched. It always tickled, but at least he could tune it out once he got in the zone. Gahi couldn’t do much of anything in terms of contorting his body. The Trapinch rested his head on the ground, splayed his stubs for legs outward, and remained still. Rhys sat, legs crossed, and closed his eyes.

    Rhys watched the chaotic auras of the trio. They were warped things, those auras; the light that they radiated had strange, lopsided sparks now and then that spurt from the edges of their flares. When they meditated, this light stabilized—at least mostly—into the gentle flames that they should appear as. Demitri’s and Mispy’s, in particular, looked quite stable.

    As the late morning bled into noon, Rhys realized that this would be their eternity if they did not try to speak with the Guardian.

    And then, suddenly, the silence broke.

    Hey, everyone! We have the first Guardian! He’s okay! He’ll come with us, and he’s super cool! …Guys? Hello?

    Anam’s voice echoed from Rhys’ bag. The Lucario didn’t even react.

    Gahi mumbled aloud out of boredom. “What kind of luck is this?” Gahi muttered. “All this fightin’ ter get here and the main Guardian’s as boring as Rhys.”

    “I dunno about that,” Demitri said. “He’s probably even more boring.”

    “ALL MOVEMENT SHALL STOP,” the Shiftry boomed. He didn’t move, yet it was clearly the one speaking—through the vibrations of the cave.

    Rhys didn’t react. He kept meditating.

    Gahi flinched and stayed put. Demitri softly said, “This test is to just not move…? For how long…?”

    Mispy shifted where she sat, sighing.

    The ground rumbled again and the Shiftry roared. “ALL MOVEMENT… SHALL STOP!”

    The cave walls heaved, threatening to collapse around them. Mispy stiffened and shut her eyes, trying to meditate. Demitri and Gahi did the same. Rhys remained motionless.

    A seemingly endless amount of time passed. Rhys watched, worriedly, as the auras of the three members of Team Alloy faded to the gentle undulations that indicated drowsiness. They weren’t meditating at all, now—they were about to fall asleep.

    And then, without any sort of stimulation and the overwhelming feeling of boredom, Mispy’s head and leaf drooped slightly—and then, she fell over to her side, asleep.

    The Shiftry roared through the mountain, screaming enough to startle Mispy awake. “YOU HAVE RUINED THE ATMOSPHERE OF STONE!” he roared.

    Rhys cursed and stood up. Their chances of ending this without a fight evaporated completely.

    “I wanted to do this peacefully!” he said. He aimed his Aura Sphere at the Shiftry, but just then, he saw his paw glow with a strong, yellow light. Rhys flinched and stopped his attack, as if he’d seen his very soul nearly slip from his body.

    “Rhys?! What’re you doing?!” Gahi said.

    “I—I can’t fight him right now,” Rhys said. “My attacks could kill. I—I can’t do that.”

    “Wh—nggh, fine!” Gahi said, rushing for the Shiftry. The ground heaved; rocks fell on top of Gahi, burying him.

    “G-Gahi!” Demitri and Mispy yelled. They rushed after him, helping him free of the Rock Slide, but Gahi was already growling from within.

    “Guardian! Stop this!” Rhys said, but his words fell on deaf, rocky ears.

    A great, white light shined from the cracks—Demitri and Mispy stumbled back, covering their eyes.

    “No—!” Rhys hissed, watching Gahi’s aura flare and shift, crackling, black lightning coursing through the nearest rocks to the former Trapinch. One of the sparks zapped Mispy, and she was enveloped in that same light—followed shortly by Demitri right next to her. Rhys watched anxiously, but then looked at the Shiftry. If Aura Sphere was too much, then perhaps he could do something weaker. The Lucario rushed toward the rocky Shiftry at great speeds, ramming against him, using the spikes of his paw to do some damage during the swift strike. Extremespeed would surely do less damage.

    The Shiftry roared; more rocks fell from the ceiling. Rhys deftly avoided the attack with precise jumps, readying an Aura Sphere out of reflex. His paw lit up again—his Divine Promise in danger of breaking—and he held off, growling. He had to keep his students safe—but he couldn’t attack the Guardian too much. But he wasn’t going to listen to reason. His mind, like many Guardians who had become isolated for too long, had warped into something else thanks to their isolation. Surely the spirits that resided within his mind had conformed in one way or another to the Guardian’s whims, and now he was focused on only one thing—stillness. Any violation of that angered him—but they couldn’t stay still for long. They had to subdue him. They could handle him after that. Perhaps a friendlier voice like Amia or Anam—or even Star, in person—could help this broken mind.

    The white light of evolution sparked black. Rhys glanced worriedly at them, but then it faded away. Emerging from this light was no longer a Trapinch, Chikorita, and Axew—but three new creatures. The Vibrava, Bayleef, and Fraxure took only a few seconds to marvel at their new forms. Gahi beat his new wings as if he’d had them his whole life. Demitri marveled—and gasped in fear, slightly—at his new distance from the ground. Mispy struggled with her longer legs and neck, feeling awkward and lanky. But they adjusted quickly, and they let their instincts take over in the midst of battle. They jumped back into the fray.

    Demitri ran toward the Shiftry and tensed his arms, slashing at the Rock Guardian with the best Brick Break he could muster; Gahi distracted the Shiftry by taking all of its attacks—and dodging them. The Vibrava was even faster than the already unnaturally speedy Trapinch he once was; his angular wings and slim body made for a very difficult target to hit. Mispy created protective, physical barriers around the whole team, blocking quite a few of the Shiftry’s attacks.

    “Hah!” Gahi said.

    Demitri landed another blow, wincing at the hardness of the Guardian’s body. His paw felt bruished, and he may have chipped a claw or two. However, it seemed that was enough to bring the Guardian down. He roared, but the strike silenced him—the statue of a Shiftry fell back. It was quite easy to hit a still target, and this Guardian was surprisingly weak anyway.

    “I-is he… is he alive?” Demitri asked. “I—I didn’t think I’d…!”

    Mispy quickly walked over, stumbling over her feet. With her eyes closed, she could sense that the Guardian’s aura was weak—but present.

    “He’s fine,” Rhys stated, standing up. “Let’s bring him back before he wakes up.”

    Demitri nodded, sighing with relief. Then, a new sensation flooded through him, and his arms trembled with excitement. “We evolved! We finally did it!” he shouted.

    Mispy beamed, awkwardly stumbling forward to headbutt Demitri in the chest. Gahi buzzed his wings and rammed into Demitri next, “Heheh, and I evolved first,” he said.

    “Barely,” Mispy countered.

    “First is first,” Gahi said, flying above their heads.

    Demitri shook his head and leaned down to get a hold of the statue. “Urgh—he’s solid rock!” he said.

    “Uh, duh,” Gahi said, descending.

    Mispy smacked Gahi behind his head with a vine—as a Bayleef, they were much thicker, and the Vibrava slammed into the ground with a groan.

    Demitri managed to balance the fallen Shiftry over his shoulder, using his massive tusk to keep the statue level. With his free hand, he pulled out their Badge—both the silver and gold ones. “Oh! That’s right!” he said. He fumbled with the silver one, pressing a claw on the center button. “Hey, guys! We did fine! Our Guardian is just fine!”

    Rhys nodded. “Let’s meet the others at the village,” he said.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
  4. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    And so the Guardian hunt beings and, predictably, hilarity ensues. That's all folks!

    *musical fanfare*

    ... okay, fine, fine, I'll be serious. Serious about the lack of serious vibes I got from the chapter as a whole. It might just be a me thing, but it was really hard for me to take either team's situation seriously with the interactions they were having. I'm guessing that's what you were going for. But even when Anam's team is dodging the Indiana Jones-esque traps in the temple, I never got this sense of danger and urgency. Possibly because you were focusing on Anam who is just not someone who's meant to be taken seriously right about now. But that was also the case with the other team, even when they actually had to fight Shiftry. Again, the set-up to the battle was very slapsticky... which I was fine with. But I don't quite think you pivoted to high-stakes with Rhys' divine promise as well as you were hoping. Part of that may just be the fight's choreography. There wasn't too much dialogue, per se, but Rhys takes a lot of lines to think out all his actions when, presumably, he needs to be making split-second decisions. It also might have something to do with the fact that, compared to Owen, Team Alloy's evolutions were just kind of... there. No serious fanfare and they start joking about it after. ^^;

    As far as the Guardians go, Shiftry is big angry rock guy who use Hulk-Speak, which is fine. ADAM was the star, so to speak. I'm no programmer, so I full on thought of the 1337 H4mm3r Br0s. from Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time when he showed up. Pairing him with Anam was the perfect comedic choice... though maybe Owen's nice guy schtick could've worked, too. I can't say much more than that. I've done something pretty similar with Magearna, after all, so this all felt very familiar. That's about all I've really got for this chapter. Blame the chemo-brain, cause it's definitely lingering.

    Let's be real, the original name was probably just as lame. :p

    Makes you wonder if this world used to be something completely different than it currently is.

    Man, this Legends of the Hidden Temple reboot sure is weird.

    Oh, ****, I didn't take Anam to be an Organization member. DAMN IT, XEHANORT!

    Okay, you can't get made at me for calling Owen Discount Goku when you've got Discount Majinn Buu sitting right in front of me. e_e

    James: "Damn it, which one of you assholes booted up Windows in Safe Mode?"
    Anam: "Not me. Though I maaaay have taken out the USB Drive without clicking 'Safely Remove Hardware' first. <3"

    [​IMG]

    James: "We've got no choice, sir... we're going to have to factory reset him back to Vista."
    Zena: "NO! NOT VISTA! YOU ANIMALS!"

    Everybody wants a piece of Owen... *insert Lenny face here*

    Unless Star is secretly STILL EVIIIIIIIL and just a giant ***** in sheep's clothing. Hey, anything's possible.

    I imagine Rhys is one of those characters who looks demonic when he attempts to smile. y'know, like zero-two...

    Okay, try reading this sentence out of context and then tell me how I'm not supposed to interpret this as a drug reference.

    You get an evolution... and you get an evolution... and you get an evolution! EVERYONE GETS AN EVOLUTION!
     
  5. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Missing quote in here.

    Four periods instead of three.

    Sentence, possibly paragraph, cut off.

    you better drop that attitude, pardner *cracks knuckles* or that's gonna turn into a 503

    wait none of them have knuckles tho

    *Blushed, unless Anam "spread out into a thick clump". Which... is possible, to be fair.

    three thousand nine hundred and seventy-six, three thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven, three thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight,

    pffft

    Gahi, here's ten bucks. Go buy yourself some vowels.

    Missing period? Also, how Mispy sits is pretty much how I'd imagine a quadruped would sit by default, not sure if the description is needed.

    s p l o o t

    Dunno if it's just an after effect of reading the Special Episode or the large amount of dialogue, but this chapter felt pretty short. It's not a bad thing, just felt somewhat odd. Hm.

    Anyway, evolutions! I suppose it won't be that big a change for Demitri and Mispy as their body stays roughly the same they just get bigger, but I'm expecting Gahi to get some rather new experiences with those wings, a head that isn't literally bigger than the rest of his body and a dragon type for some reason
     
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Okay, finally reviewing, lol. The style I'm trying to implement these days in reviews is chapter by chapter, but general fic comments/tangents inevitably slip in there, since I type everything up from notes after I'm done reading. Let me know if you have any questions or want elaboration, etc! :3

    PROLOGUE

    Well, talk about a hook, huh? And it's not even just the action, though that does greatly set the tone for all the mysteries to come in future chapters. It's the little details that bring your world to life right off the bat (one of my favorites being the Rawst Leaf bed for fire-types) and the exceptional use of body language from pokémon species. Even though it's a PMD setting and everyone's just as sentient as humans, I'm still reminded what kind of creatures these really are all the time, and it's never jarring.

    I also like the involvement of Owen's parents throughout the fic. Too often, characters in fanfiction just meet new people, but there's not a lot of reflection on old friends or family unless they're going to be established, recurring characters. Them keeping so many secrets from Owen is... very parent-like, but these kinds of secrets are on a larger scale and clearly have an earth shattering effect on Owen's worldview. My only complaint is that they feel shoved to the background very, very quickly after chapter 1. Like, it makes sense for Owen not to return home because it's too late and dangerous one night, but there's been other opportunities for them to have an impact where they don't. For example, Owen's simply moved on to training in chapter 11. The only impact Alex, his magmortar father, has made since chapter 1 is having revealed he's been kept alive by Amia and is a spirit. They don't talk about it. His presence is mentioned once, maybe twice? Amia tries to console Owen and explain the guardian orb stuff a little, but otherwise, Owen's learning about it all through Rhys and Zena. I hardly consider her a mother figure after chapter 1.

    I do like the idea of adopted 'mon, though. I'm sure the story of how he ended up with Amia and Alex is intertwined with his confusing past, and i'll be interested in learning more about it. Plus, there's some recurring gags in there that remind Owen (and me as the reader) of hs old life, like the dance he had to perform (which he didn't really have to perform, omg poor Owen lol) to get to his home and how the location of his home was supposed to be a secret. Another thing I like is the balance between Owen's old life and his new one as a guardian spirit. You spend just enough time in the first few chapters offering details to Owen's life, offering hints as to how his life just... doesn't feel right, and diving into turning his life upside down, and I can appreciate how these details are flawlessly weaved into the narrative at some point almost every chapter.

    Right... in the prologue section, I covered parts of the entire fic. This is what I mean. xD Let's move on now, heh.

    CHAPTER 1

    I noticed a habit of Owen's already, namely that he shrugs off things that feel off, presumably partly because he doesn't want to appear crazy and partly because he wants to live a normal sort of life (an idea that contrasts nicely when he gets to live anything but a normal life). He at least notices these things, though. Coupled with that and his tendency to be able to read others' body language is a nice touch, though I also notice that sometimes he's just blissfully unaware of social cues, or guesses them entirely wrongly (like when he has no idea why Zena's staring at him lol) - also a nice touch for character depth and roundness, in my opinion.

    I like the explanation here for why the protagonist doesn't evolve in PMD games. :p I do have to wonder how old Owen truly is, though, or at least, how old he thinks he is. I get the feeling he's already extremely old; perhaps he was immortal before he even became a spirit guardian. At the very least, his memories keep getting tampered with over and over (is that u nevren). Anyway, he outright claims to be an adult, but he still acquiesces like a child to trying to meet his parents' curfew demands? He also has a very childish air about him, with how enthusiastic and naive he can get sometimes over the littlest things.

    Oh man, this is too adorable an image. OWENNN <3

    CHAPTER 2

    All the while, Owen's real fate is 100x more crazy than just being a berry farmer! I'm sure Owen would be content with being a berry farmer now. ;P

    The fight with Aerodactyl gives a good sense of what Owen's limits are at this point in his life, and there's some neat concepts like being ejected from a mystery dungeon if your "HP" gets too low. There's a huge flaw in that concept, one that's even explored in-fic, and that's, well, that being ejected doesn't ensure safety beyond the ejection. It doesn't call for help back to the Hearts? To the Elites? Nothing else? Like the fic has said, a wild 'mon could come by and finish Owen or whoever off before he wakes up or before he gets proper help. Maybe I missed something, but it doesn't seem as fleshed out as it could - and should - be.

    Team Alloy is interesting. A little, quiet chikorita with a killer glare is fun, and Gahi's accept and quips are a treat to read. Demitri's far less nuanced, and most of the time, I forget he's even there, really. I think there's some hints that he and Mispy are an item? I'm not sure if that's intentional, though. Anyway, they complement Owen very well, and I hope to see them get to be a proper team despite Rhys and co. being dead set against it.

    CHAPTER 3

    I'd argue you handle Owen's reactions and emotions to everything that's happened so far flawlessly, except for this one bit. It strikes me as way too melodramatic. Nothing of this level happens with anyone else that strikes him as "familiar," nor does anything remotely similar happen when he finds out the truth of things.

    I suppose that, however old Owen really is, his positivity and enthusiasm is a coping mechanism for the stress and confusion around him. I think you portray that kind of anxiety really well, and it's nice to see a character that's actively trying to help actively help themselves stay sane and look ahead to the goals/path in front of them.

    I'm unsure of what to make of the town being, for the most part, religious. After learning they're all spirits, it puts a new, odd spin on things. I like it.

    I love the scenes about the Heart entrance exam. :3 I quoted this particular part because I'm taking a class about psychological testing & assessment right now, which includes aptitude tests, and I found it amusing comparing this to a real life rendition... albeit this rendition has some fantasy elements added in, of course. :p In general, I like Nevren's little inventions being sprinkled throughout the story. Anyway, the entrance exam definitely feels like an official thing that's taken seriously and builds some rapport between the Heart Association and the readers.

    Except that rapport kind of dies when Owen turns into the guardian spirit, something I'm torn on. I think that, if you'd added any more exposition chapters, I'd be thinking it was time to move on from the very, very obvious hints that Owen's life is Very Strange (TM). But this entire entrance exam chapter feels like filler once Owen's acceptance into the Hearts stops mattering almost immediately. He's waited a long time for this, but he doesn't mourn not getting to participate normally that much... I don't know if I'm making sense about this, but yeah. I'll also note it's been a couple weeks now since I read, so I may have forgotten something.

    CHAPTER 4

    Lol, I get record holding doesn't quite matter as much when everyone's dead. This is a really cool idea, though. Like, what could the record be for hottest Flamethrower attack, or hottest Charmander tail flame? Hmm. :p

    Have I mentioned yet I love Mispy? Because I do. I imagine she's very fun to write.

    Hmm, I'm sure this has to do a lot with Owen's life being controlled by his missing memories and those around him who know about said missing memories. Basically, Anam and co. probably just disqualified him for the sake of it.

    I marked here in my notes that your description can get repetitive at times. Here in particular because Owen already internally panics about falling off the mountain not long before this, but there's quite a few places scattered throughout the prose that could be cut down. Also, occasionally you use both showing and telling in your descriptions, when you only need the showing part. Doing both just adds unnecessary words and slows down the scene.

    And it's here I now realize that Nevren is very terrible at expressing reactions at what Owen says about feeling crazy. xD He almost appears too calm, but this does seem to be his constant state... so maybe it makes more sense to say I'm surprised Owen wasn't suspicious of Nevren's calmness.

    Oh my god, Nevren, stop. Now that I know a lot more context, this sounds way more ominous than it did before. XD

    CHAPTER 5

    I'd argue that if this is so rare, then the Hearts probably aren't very strategically located in terms of recruitment opportunities. :p Anyway, equating evolution to level of aura mixed with age is an interesting one. What about wild 'mon? They probably fight to survive, but does the process work the same for them? And if it does... doesn't that mean that civilized 'mon would be kind of screwed if wild 'mon ever came to attack?

    Something like that. They're in cahoots about every secret ever surrounding your life, Owen. No big deal.

    I like the idea of his parents not being there, and the reasoning eventually revealed for it, though I think I'd have liked to see more of a reaction from Owen about it. It fits in with my overall "Owen's parents are present but not really present in how they interact with him in the story" complaint I mentioned earlier.

    And underneath Owen's childish and enthusiastic demeanor is a competitive 'mon and a 'mon who's determined in any goals he's set. I like that bit of depth added to his character; it's very believable and well written throughout the events of the story that are here so far.

    Ohh, I like this. Now I want fanart of all the kinds of flame colors a Charmander can have...

    Anddd related to the determination I just mentioned, he's not reckless. He's observant and knows when to scale back a bit, and while he doesn't give up on things, per se, he doesn't have that cliched shounen anime feel about him where he just runs into the thick of things blindly, the prospect of danger be damned.

    CHAPTER 6

    Poor Owen, always on guard and paranoid. D: He could've just slept funny, here.

    Anyway, there's been a lot of insinuation that Owen shouldn't interact with Team Alloy. I find it interesting that it's really only that Mispy/Demitri/Gahi should be away from Owen, and not necessarily each other. I wonder if interacting with Owen puts them in extreme danger somehow, given his guardian spirit status? Or maybe they lead him down a bad path he shouldn't (which I'd be surprised, but it's possible, I suppose)? I'm looking forward to seeing how their friendship evolves (is that a pun?) from here. I do like, too, that you make a continued effort to keep them separate from what's in the fic so far. It's obviously not Rhys and co.'s priority - gather the remaining guardian spirits is - but they do make it clear that it's important.

    There's some damn good tension, here. You know it's serious when happy-go-lucky Anam is shaking in his boots, heh.

    Having Owen touching the real orb coinciding with Rhys fighting Espurr over a fake orb was a nice touch for tension, too. Quoting this part because the Charmander stew bit made me laugh. xD

    CHAPTER 7

    Hmm, so Star is behind... a lot of things. I'm not really sure what I make of her super bouncy dialogue, but that goes for any legendary pokémon portrayed in any fic, so I'll chalk it up to a personal dislike. Still, I wanted to comment on how her speaking so informally and silly-like seems to be a cover for her devious acts to me? Like, it could give characters a "how could a 'mon like that act so selfishly," as is the case of Zena. I do like that dynamic. I anticipate seeing a lot of growing tension between her and the others as either more of her selfish actions are revealed or until she screws someone over, hard.

    The above may or may not play into how... demanding Owen is of Mew, lol. He shows very little "proper" respect, but I guess he's not religious, and there's a lot overwhelming him at once. I was just surprised he kept blatantly saying "tell me what's going on" so adamantly, I guess. xD

    I think there was a missed opportuntiy around this transition. I expected introspective monologue from Owen, which he does a lot, and there's certainly a lot to reflect on here.

    Yeah, Star doesn't strike me as the type to be able to consistently keep promises, no matter how small.

    I saw canis's fanart because I read the fic, and it was wonderful. xD And so is this chapter ending. Poor Owen. Switching between grass- and fire-typing sounds really useful... and, really, it has a lot of body horror implications, which is pretty evident with how uncomfortable Owen is until he reverts back to normal. Random thought, but I'm really surprised this isn't a concept utilized in more fics... Hmm... or maybe I just don't see them.

    CHAPTER 8

    Ohh, I like this detail a lot. Well written and deliciously vivid.

    I find it amusing that an animalistic trait like this is viewed as super weird by another 'mon. xD But hey, it's a good use of resources. And wouldn't Charmander also shed as a reptile?

    Huh... even in the human world, I'm sure they'd have something like this, right? Another original idea in your fic I'm surprised isn't taken advantage of more. I like it.

    Why do I get the distinct feeling that Owen's gonna be tempted to just... give up his powers? And I wonder if Team Alloy is going to be, like, Owen's spirits that are attached to him, like Alex is to Amia?

    By the way... I'd really be careful about having so many similar character names. Amia, Alex, and Anam all start with A and have four letters, so it breaks the flow when I'm reading because often I read a different name than what's actually there. ADAM is slightly different with all caps, but same deal.

    Yikes, and I don't even think this is all of it. I wonder what Owen's true breaking point will be and how he'll react...

    Love this. It has such a surreal, relatable feel to it.

    And suddenly, being attuned to others' body language doesn't feel like a skill anymore... What he was really in tune with were spirits. Creepy.

    CHAPTER 9

    It's heartbreaking to think they just adopted him because of his guardian spirit potential, or something related to it. I mean, I think they love him genuinely and care about him, but yeah. I don't blame Owen for being spooked and so untrusting about all this.

    Maybe she and Owen should switch guardian types so Owen doesn't have to be a grass-type. :p

    Anyway, it's curious that Anam doesn't have to live as isolated as everyone else. I wonder why that is? I don't think there's been a lot of info on him, though. It could be the Heart Society's HQ is his isolated place, and that he rarely goes elsewhere, lol.

    Oh, dear. I didn't see that coming. There must be more nuances to Hunters, since even after his Divine Promise to Zena, he doesn't seem to lose his lifespan or regenerative powers or anything, even though guardian spirits won't live forever all of a sudden if they give up their powers.

    CHAPTER 10

    You portray Owen's confusion well about the Rhys revelation. Without all the gaps in his past and all the guardian spirit secrets, I'm sure he'd be more adamant about Rhys being innocent, but... even Owen's optimism can't deny that Rhys's actions have been rather suspect for a while.

    Yup, and now his reactions to Rhys are way different. Well done. Also, lol, roasted seeds. Maybe he'll get used to being a grass-type, eventually... :p

    Ohh, it'll be fun to see Zena compare old technology and stuff she knows to all the changes that have happened during her isolation. I hope she learns to grow comfortable out of isolation and learns to trust others again, even Rhys... His Divine Promise was a good start.

    Ever since Amby's comment about having Anam all figured out, I do wonder if there's more to him. :V Priest?! Does that have some meaning?! idk.

    Anyway, Zena/Owen shipping hints abound??? Maybe??? I'm probably looking too much into it. It's undeniable, though, that Zena takes an instant liking to Owen, and feels comfortable around him. And that's amazing, given her wariness around others and for having been locked up for so long. Something about Owen just... clicks for her, I think. He listened to her, and he's sympathetic to her, and he wants to help as best he can. That would do it. I love their dynamic. :3

    CHAPTER 11

    Finally, he gets to be happy about evolving! Hehe. He deserves it. <3 Demitri/Mispy/Gahi shouldn't be jealous of the guardian spirit stuff, though, lmao. It's hard to say what they think since they don't react much at all in between Owen touching the orb and the fight against the Shiftry.

    I like the Arceus + Star + Orb history story you've got going on here. A god feeling overpowered and burdened is a believable enough concept forme, and it makes the legendaries feel like they're on a level of normal 'mon. Owen being shocked about giving up power isn't surprising, but I have a feeling he'll relate Very Soon (TM).

    I'm wondering, though, why he gave the power to Star? What's up with the other legendaries, if there are any?

    Also, yikes, Zena has every reason and then some to be angry at Star. Her only friend, and that friend's a fraud in every sense of the word. And Star has no defense. At least she has enough tact to walk away and not make the situation worse with excuses and justification and other such nonsense that implicitly invalidate Zena's emotions.

    I guess Owen can't escape the reality versus dream confusion that easily, eh?

    I don't know, I think one day to reflect and think about everything that's happened isn't too much to ask for. They wouldn't want him to get overwhelmed again and freak out like before, right? And with how badly Owen did freak out, it's not really that believable he'd dive right into training with no qualms about it. I'm sure you just want to move the story along here, but... I'd still suggest adding a small break, somehow.

    This bit is a strange mixture of creepy and sad and cute. Hum.

    Clearly, Owen should've been the Dragon guardian. :V

    SPECIAL EPISODE 1


    ...This is a special episode indeed. It raises a lot more questions that I need to know the answers to, damnit! Owen's interactions with the Salazzle are a treat to read. He just met her here, but his determination to help and her trying to move the mission along without anyone getting hurt is a good dynamic. The bits of explanation about poison-types surviving without being suffocated in a fire are a nice touch, too.

    And so, Owen's met other Charmander before. At some point. Wild, feral ones, apparently, which sounds like an... odd experience for him, understandably so. Deca seems to be the first non-feral Charmander he meets, but Deca also seems to be Owen himself? Or at least, very, very closely related to Owen. Deca's anxiety is portrayed well and is appropriately sensitive. You can tell Owen's unnerved by it, a little, but he wants Deca to feel okay, so he manages. And the scene at the end with Deca crying... that hit hard. I hope we get to see the lil guy again, ahh.

    The way the 'mons worked together with barriers to put out of the fire was a super creative one. I loved it! Rhys fudging it up and almost killing Owen was really tense, and you can tell just how bad the guy feels about it. Seems he has a lot of regrets in life in general. :V And Owen, of course, forgives him and understands. Such a sweetie.

    CHAPTER 12

    You can't trick me! >:O Or maybe you can, because my memory sucks. But I don't think Owen's used any of this stuff in the present day, has he? More and more questions keep popping up, lmao. But you balance it well enough with some answers being given and with the plot moving along at a solid pace.

    Sounds just like Anam. He'd rather be friendly whenever possible. This part also makes me wonder if all guardian spirits have their memories screwed up somehow, and I don't mean in a "so much time has passed and I'm old so I can't remember" kind of way. :p

    Lots of other good stuff in this chapter, particularly the introduction of ADAM and the Shiftry. They're both quirky, but not overly so in terms of dialogue and such. Can't wait to see Owen's reactions to his friends evolving! It's kinda cheesy, but also sweet, that all 3 of them evolved at the same time, heh. But they really were in danger, given how Rhys's hands were tied, so it makes sense. Also, if the Shiftry becomes a recurring character, I bet he's gonna wanna destroy everyone and everything because no way is anyone gonna adhere to being quiet and still till the end of time, lmao.

    And with that, I'm caught up. Not for long, I'm sure, but I'll try to stay updated as best I can. :)
     
  7. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the incredible reviews, guys! I replied to all of you elsewhere, but man, that was a real treat from another one of my "silent readers." I love getting those--surprise reviews of the latest chapter when hearing nothing from you guys prior. Anyway! It's about time I actually get to the next chapter, eh? Heh. We had a good run. Some levity after all that emotion before. And this chapter will be fun, too! And then... Well. Let's get to it.


    Chapter 13 – A Place to Call Home

    Fae, Fae Forest was a calming experience, for the most part. The wild Pokémon were no match for Amia’s flames, and Owen managed to take on a few as well. He used the aggressors as practice for his vines. He had learned a new technique this way, though he couldn’t find a practical use for it yet, as it took too long. Owen was now able to turn his arm into a large vine. And that was all. He figured he’d build upon it later.

    While the wilds themselves were not a problem, their pranks were. Everything within the Dungeon was a sea of bizarre, Pecha-pink leaves and beige wood. It smelled like candy. Wild cries of many Fairy and Bug Pokémon faintly sounded in all directions like ethereal, haunting cackles.

    The seeds that appeared in this Dungeon were also something that some of the more intelligent wild Pokémon took advantage of. Near the middle of their exploration, a Whimsicott tossed with precise aim a strange seed that exploded right in front of Owen’s face. The strange mist that followed made the Charmeleon’s reptilian pupils dilate into saucers, and he had to be carried by Amia and Alex for two whole segments while he babbled about the leaves teasing him. This slowly transitioned into him laughing about how everybody looked like giant, rainbow Goodra, and how he could taste the light with his ears.

    When Owen came back to his senses, he had no memory of the past two sections. Amia and Alex spared him the details, and instead told him that it was a Sleep Seed.

    Thankfully, aside from a few thrown seeds, the Dungeon itself wasn’t any problem for them. The forest’s twisted dimensions melted away with the passage of the seventh segment. They emerged in a field that was—in stark contrast of the pink foliage that surrounded it—one of normal, green blades of grass that went up to Amia’s knees. But the tall grass hid subtle details beneath it. There were large, multicolored mushrooms dotting the pasture, and the rocks were colored like rainbows.

    This place was unexplored and untouched by most Pokémon affiliated with Kilo Village. Few wild Pokémon made this place their home, since it did not possess a Dungeon’s eternal, maze-like qualities to keep such Pokémon trapped inside its own warped ecosystem. This made the garden’s foliage move only to the wind.

    “I feel like I shouldn’t be here,” Owen mumbled, looking around. “Don’t you kinda get that feeling…? Like… like this just isn’t a place where Pokémon like us should be walking?”

    “I see your point,” Alex mumbled, rubbing his cannons together anxiously.

    “Hmm, let’s just keep going,” Amia said, “and see where it takes us! It can’t be that bad, can it?” she giggled.

    “M-maybe,” Owen replied. “Mom? How come… you never told me about all this? Just, you know, about being a Guardian, or that awesome Fire power!”

    “W-well, it’s simply because, that is, er, Owen…” She sighed. “We just wanted you to live a normal life. We’d tell you eventually, but… don’t you think you deserved to just live like a normal Pokémon, at least for a little while?”

    “I guess,” Owen said. “It’s just, it’s hard because I still know they’re dead.”

    “Oh, but they’re hardly dead, dear,” Amia said.

    Owen sighed. There was no winning with that argument. He conceded, “I’m glad I at least had a sense of a community… Can they hear me now?”

    “They can, dear,” Amia said. “And they’re so proud of you for taking this so well.”

    “…What I did counted as taking it well?” he asked, thinking about how he’d toppled Nevren over and had to get one of the Waypoints freed up thanks to his Vine Trap.

    “Well, compared to how it could have gone,” Amia said.

    They walked some more. He saw a blue mushroom along the immediate path. Bored of the foliage, he kicked at it carelessly.

    “Ooo!”

    Owen stopped walking. That voice did not sound like anybody he knew. In fact, it didn’t even sound like a voice. More like a cry, or some sort of primal, sing-song grunt. Amia and Alex, too, stopped, and they all looked down.

    The blue mushroom’s top grew a mouth. It then screeched at him. Owen jumped and held his arms up, as if to apologize. The mushroom grew to twice its size—almost to Owen’s knees, now—and then exploded with a loud POP! It spattered fungal bits harmlessly in all directions. A bit got in Owen’s mouth; it tasted like old cheese. He spat, rubbing his tongue with his claws desperately.

    “I don’t think I like this place,” Owen finally said, looking back. Alex was hiding his gargantuan, flaming body behind Amia, who only looked mildly startled. They continued onward.

    Owen thought about what was said previously—about only being able to summon solid copies if enough energy was put into them, some sort of divine energy from the Orbs, or spiritual energy. He hadn’t tried that technique yet. His mother, however, could.

    “Mom?” Owen said.

    “Yes, dear?”

    “How come you were able to make the whole village solid if it takes so much energy to do it?”

    “Oh, Owen, they aren’t very strong,” Amia said. “We used to live in a very hidden-away, very peaceful village. The Pokémon there didn’t fight—and so, their spirits were hardly trained to the same degree that you are in combat. The weaker a Pokémon is, the easier it is to make them solid. That’s probably why even Anam, as strong as he is, couldn’t fully materialize Star.”

    “Oh,” Owen said. He paused, making connections. “Does that mean Dad is weak, too?”

    “W-well, I…! I mean…!” Alex protested. “I’m fairly strong! I’m the strongest of the village—er, before Amia.”

    “So, if I fought you, I’d lose? Or win?” Owen asked.

    “You… would have a challenge,” Alex said. “A-again, I’m strong, for my village.”

    “For your village of non-fighters,” Owen clarified. “Is that why I never got to spar with you?”

    Alex rumbled nervously.

    Owen sighed. “Maybe you should have mentioned that when we were making teams.”

    Just then, something shuffled in the grass ahead of them. Little flowers rose up from the grass—at first, Owen though they were pretty, but upon closer inspection, the petals were wilted and sticky. They’d been on the grass for a while.

    Someone giggled—it was a high-pitched noise and came from three directions at once.

    A chill ran up the Charmeleon’s spine.

    “Heeheeheeheehee…”

    “N-n-nggh, th-that just gives me a bad feeling,” Owen said.

    “Hmm, perhaps that’s the Guardian,” Amia said. “I’m certainly… sensing a different presence here.”

    “A Mystic aura, for sure,” Alex said, nodding to Owen. “That’s what we call that special atmosphere given off by people like us—Mystic auras.”

    “It’s what Star called it, at least,” Amia said. “I think she just liked how it sounded.”

    “Oooh, and who are you?” The voice giggled again. Childish. Feminine. Jittery. “I can’t believe it. People are here to see me! That’s so cool! It’s been so long since I had new toys to play with.”

    “Toys?” Owen repeated. He saw something yellow with pink wings fly past him.

    “We aren’t here to play,” Alex said. “We are here to bring you with us. To bring you someplace with other Guardians. Did Star warn you about this?”

    “I stopped talking to Star a long time ago. She’s no fun!”

    “Can you at least show yourself?” Owen squeaked. “Where are you?”

    “Where am I? I’m right here! And here, and here, and now I’m here, and now here!”

    Owen heard voices from all over—she was moving so quickly, the wind picking up with each new voice. Was this her—or was it spirits acting like her, or some kind of Double Team? Owen carefully tapped his foot on the ground, preparing a Fire Trap, just in case—Wait. No. Owen glanced down and did his best to concentrate. Slowly, his foot turned green and leafy. He tapped his foot again. Vine Trap. That won’t burn the fields. Then, he returned to his red, scaly self.

    “What’re you doing?” Owen called out. “I don’t want to fight! I—can’t you just come with us?”

    “This is my home!” the Fairy Guardian replied. Every sentence came from a new location. “If you want me to come with you, then you’re just going to have to find me!”

    Suddenly, the world around them flooded with a strange, pink, glittery fog. Owen reflexively held his breath and shut his eyes, trying to fan the fog away. It felt thick and it made his tail crackle.

    “O-Owen!” Amia yelled.

    “M-mom?” Owen opened his eyes—but she was gone. So was Alex—in fact… everybody was gone and, once again, he found that he was alone in a strange world. Blades of grass were as tall as trees; the little bits of dirt on the ground were like boulders. One of the mushrooms—a yellow one, this time—grew two slits for eyes and another slit for a mouth and jeered at him. It was ten times Owen’s height.

    “…I shrank,” Owen said. He looked around, as if verifying what he’d just said. “Oh, good. Can’t have a normal day anymore, can I?”

    Laughter filled the air.

    Amia screamed. She was far away, from Owen’s perspective. “Mom!” Owen shouted.

    He ran, but then realized that the yellow mushroom was gone. He spun around, sensing something—it was right behind him. It opened its mouth, revealing countless tiny teeth, and dragged its body forward with an unknown force.

    Owen ran as fast as he could, looking back to see the mushroom hot on his tail. He turned around and heaved a plume of fire toward the mushroom. It shrieked and flailed its huge tiny body, disintegrating into a pile of ash at a rate that startled Owen. He saw a little, blue ember rise from these ashes. It went right for him; Owen ducked, then spun to watch where it was going.

    “Oh, come on,” Owen said.

    Right in front of him was the largest Joltik he’d ever seen. Its tiny, blue claws were as tall as Owen was.

    “Huhuhu…” the Joltik—Star had called her Willow, didn’t she?—said. “You look tasty.”

    Owen blasted Willow with another plume of fire. He turned around immediately after, using the distorted light and smoky aftereffect as a distraction to run away. He tripped over a grain of dirt and twisted so he’d land on his back—wincing when he crunched on his tail instead.

    He saw a huge, blue claw crashing down on him. He had no way to escape it. He quickly brought his arms up in a cross-formation and focused—

    He felt an immense pressure on his back, sinking deeper into the dirt, but no claw pierced through his body. Instead, a shield of swirling, greenish light surrounded Owen in a protective, albeit fleeting, barrier.

    “Ehh?” Joltik said. She poked at Owen’s Protect barrier. “No fair! Stop hiding!”

    It wasn’t as if Owen had a choice. The light was already fading, and it would be too much of a strain to use the barrier twice in a row. How useless—he couldn’t do anything while Protecting himself. All he could do was stall for time, and now he was—by his perspective—trapped many feet underground.

    Hey, everyone! We have the first Guardian! He’s okay! He’ll come with us, and he’s super cool! …Guys? Hello?

    That voice—Anam? They found their Guardian. But why did they hear him? The communicator! Was it still normally sized? Owen just realized that he didn’t have his bag with him, but he could still feel the subtle presence of the Eviolite nearby. He must be close. If they could just get to the Badge, perhaps they could escape and get backup.

    Owen, a voice rang in his mind. Focus on the dirt!

    That voice sounded familiar. The Jumpluff who had guarded the Grass Orb previously. Klent?

    Listen to me! Focus on the dirt! Become Grass! Sink into it!

    Uhh—

    “Owen!” someone else called. It was Amia, but from where he was, he couldn’t tell what direction it came from. Was it behind? Or in front?

    Willow stomped again, but this time it actually hit. Owen wheezed—thankfully, he was so small that the claws lost their piercing capabilities. He couldn’t focus on the transformation. But he had another idea. Heat welled up in his chest again, and he scorched the Joltik’s claw.

    “YOW!”

    That was his chance. When she jerked away, Owen scrambled out of the hole of dirt, getting to the top just in time to spin around and cross his arms. The resulting force sent Owen flying back unharmed, and he used that to his advantage, taking the momentum to run away as fast as he—

    Willow sprouted pink wings and rammed straight into Owen. Her wings then evaporated, and she resumed the chase, stomping on the ground just behind Owen any time she could.

    “Please! Stop stomping on us!” Owen yelled.

    “No!” said a gigantic creature said. “This is too fun! Just wait until I nibble on you!”

    “We just want to—” Owen narrowly dodged one of the claws of the giant Joltik. “PLEASE! Just turn us back to normal! We’re here to help!”

    He didn’t know where his parents were, but he knew he heard Amia calling somewhere ahead.

    Anam’s voice had to have come from somewhere nearby. Owen hoped that would be enough to guide the others back to the same place, too. He tripped over bits of dirt and had to walk all the way around individual blades of grass. Weeds were like trees, pebbles like mountains. Surely this wouldn’t last forever, right?

    The Joltik giggled and continued to pursue Owen. He’d lost his way. In this part of the world, the sun was setting, and the oversized garden looked more and more like shifting monsters of the night. Willow was probably only chasing him because of the flame on his—wait! Maybe if he focused enough…!

    Owen shut his eyes and focused. He tried to meditate—hard as it was, while running—and felt his body change and cool. The flame went out, and that same daffodil sprouted. He didn’t like it, but it was necessary. His red scales became leafy green, and all of his Fire attributes vanished—along with the light.

    “H-hey! No fair! I just wanna play!” she said. “Where’d you go?!”

    Good. Willow must not be good at seeing auras. If he could just keep that up…

    Hey, guys! We did fine! Our Guardian is just fine!

    “YOW!” Owen yelped, holding the sides of his head. “Demitri! Why so loud?!”

    He turned to his right and saw a Badge almost as big as a house. His heart skipped a beat. He was there! He made it!

    Now what?!

    “Mom? Dad?!”

    “Right here, dear!” Amia called, rushing over.

    “I found you!” Willow said.

    Amia fired a jet of flames at her, but despite the Type advantage, she brushed it off with a laugh. The flames evaporated too quickly when fired from a distance.

    “Is that all you have?” she teased. “You’re a hundred times weaker like that! You can’t do anything to me! Now c’mere…”

    “Oh, dear,” Amia said. “O-Owen, d-do you happen to have an idea…?”

    Alex blasted Willow with a wave of fire next, sending two jets from his cannons, but it had a similar effect. Owen gulped and looked down. What did he do before? He’d stomped on the ground, preparing a Vine Trap. He did! And if the Badge was here, that meant it was probably right where they were standing. Maybe, with a little bit of good timing— “Mom, Dad, stay behind me, okay?” he said.

    “Owen?” Amia said, but listened.

    Willow laughed. “Are you gonna be my toy first?” she cooed.

    Owen wordlessly stomped. This triggered the ground to lurch upward; Willow screeched and struggled, but it was too late. The dying sunlight instantly became blotted out by the rising vines. They entangled the Joltik’s body, twisting around her many limbs, immobilizing her. She screamed and flailed, but nothing came of it; the vines were still normal-sized, and she was too tiny to break free.

    “N-no! L-let me go!” Willow screamed. “That’s not fair!”

    “You shrank us!” Owen said. “Who are you to talk about fair?!”

    “Let me go!”

    “Turn us back to normal!” Owen said.

    “LET ME GO!”

    “TURN US—”

    “Owen, dear,” Amia held his shoulder. “May I?”

    “Y-yeah, okay,” Owen said, shrinking behind her.

    Amia stepped forward. The Joltik was still struggling, but the Gardevoir waved to get her attention. “Um… Willow, dear,” she said, looking up. The Joltik’s right front leg weakly twitched against the vines. “We wanted to bring you home with us,” she said. “I’m Amia, the Fire Guardian, and this is my son, Owen, Grass Guardian. Alex, his father, is a spirit of mine. Star sent us here to see you. Your name is Willow, right? Hunters are trying to pick us off one by one, since they might know how to track us down. Sensing us, somehow, you know, dear? So, it’s better if we stay together!”

    “…Will you squish me?” Willow asked.

    “You have my word that I won’t,” Amia said. “I’ll even make a Divine Promise out of it.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Um… Gardevoir’s Honor?”

    The Joltik stared. “Y’mean it?”

    “I do. Please, Willow. There are so many friendly Pokémon waiting to meet you!”

    “Mnnn… okay,” she said. “Hang on.”

    She focused, and a white light surrounded the three of them. In another instant, they were back to their normal size, and Owen was staring at a three-foot-tall wad of vines. He was standing in the middle of it, trapped. Amia and Alex were behind him, out of the plant life.

    “Uh—I’m stuck,” Owen said.

    “H-help!” a tiny voice cried. She was near Owen’s foot, still caught in his trap. She was tiny, even for a Joltik—no wonder they didn’t notice her before. She could stand on the top of his horn!

    “C’mon, Willow,” Owen said, bending down to carefully unravel her from the trap. “Let’s show you Kilo Village.”

    Willow sniffled and zapped Owen’s hand.

    “O-ow!”

    Willow hopped off and stood on top of the vines. “That’s for burning my claw! I can walk on my own!”

    “O-okay, okay…” Owen sighed. Her body was barely a handful, but her personality was much more than that.

    With everything in order, Alex helped pull Owen out of his own trap. The family and Willow warped back to Hot Spot Cave to rendezvous with the others.


    “The location you describe does not sound normal,” ADAM said. He twitched a few times. “The structure is not to code.”

    “It’s a cave, dear,” Amia said.

    “Does it have little nooks and crannies to explore?” Willow asked.

    “Certainly, dear,” Amia said.

    “Is it of stone?” the Rock Guardian asked.

    “Yes! Oh… Mister Shiftry, what would you like us to call you?”

    “You may call me Valle,” the Shiftry said. “I wish not to move for much longer. I must be one with the cave so I can familiarize myself with its form. If it is not to my satisfaction, perhaps I shall return.”

    “Well, if it’s not, why don’t we help you later, huh?” Amia asked. “But the cave definitely stays still!” she laughed.

    Valle’s stone face cracked into the tiniest of smiles.

    “…How are you moving?” Demitri asked.

    This entire time, Valle was standing like a statue, yet his entire form was dragging across the ground, creating an uninterrupted line in the dirt. James took the liberty of dusting that dirt path away in case some unsuspecting traveler tried to follow it toward the boulder.

    “I move with Mystic power,” Valle replied.

    “He’s just using some energy to push him forward invisibly,” Amia explained. “The same energy I use if I need to fly!”

    Owen’s eyes almost popped out of his skull. “Y-you can FLY?!”

    Amia jumped in the air and floated there. “Yep! It’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it!”

    “Mm,” Zena nodded, floating a few feet in the air next. Anam stepped on an invisible staircase while they headed into the cave. Willow skittered through the air. ADAM—he always floated, and had little to demonstrate.

    Owen’s tail drooped with his shoulders. “That’s crazy. How come you guys never flew before?”

    “Well, did we ever need to? That hidden garden was inside a Dungeon. You can’t fly into it without getting caught in the distortion.”

    “Yeah, but, it seems really cool to do. How long until I learn?”

    “Well, why don’t we teach you?” Amia asked. “That’ll be part of our training! To learn how to ignore gravity, and move with your own willpower!” She giggled.

    Owen snorted, but agreed.

    The mushrooms didn’t glow until Amia returned to the cave. The Gardevoir sighed happily. “Home, sweet home. I haven’t left this cave for that long in a while!”

    “I was starting to feel homesick,” Alex said. “How about you, Owen?”

    “Yeah,” Owen admitted. “I mean… I guess the Thousand Heart Association is nice, and so was Rhys’ old place, but I kinda like it here the most.”

    Mispy prodded at one of the mushrooms. To each touch, it glowed a bit brighter.

    “I like the mushrooms,” Willow said, landing on a particularly large one. “What makes it glow?”

    “Oh, just a bit of Mystic energy,” Amia said. “I thought the cave was a bit bare without them, so I wanted to give a little lighting! If I didn’t, the only glow we’d get was from the lava rivers deeper inside.”

    “Lava rivers?” Valle repeated. “Stone in movement. I do not know if I am comfortable with being near such rivers.”

    “Everything’s about not moving with you, isn’t it?” Owen said.

    “Movement is not necessary.”

    “Yeah, speak fer yerself,” Gahi said, rapidly beating his wings without any effort.

    Owen smiled at Gahi. He couldn’t believe that all three of them had evolved! Still, he beat them to it, and he wasn’t going to let that tiny victory go. He’d certainly be the first one to evolve into a Charizard, too. He probably already had the power for it. He just needed a spark to trigger it.

    “And here,” Amia said, “is the main square!”

    Owen had seen it many times before, but after the adventures of the day, it was such a relief to see the town as he remembered it—particularly after running for his life from a twisted, giant Joltik.

    “Mine!” the Joltik in question said, hopping into a nook that likely once belonged to a tiny spirit.

    “I shall check out this file for editing,” ADAM stated, floating into the one next door.

    “This is adequate,” Valle said, standing in the middle of town.

    “Are… are you sure?” Amia asked.

    “Yes.”

    They all stared. Given that Valle didn’t move much, it should probably be fine. He was just going to be like a statue, then. Literally.

    “Well, let’s go to our home, next,” Rhys said. “Anam, James, that reminds me. Now that our numbers are growing, will you be taking up residence here as well?”

    “No, I’m going to stay in the Heart,” Anam said. “I should be okay with all the other Hearts that live there, right?”

    “Anam, as much as that is appealing,” James said, “I have given it some thought, and I do not think that is a good idea. We can’t endanger Kilo Village any longer—we should stay here, with the others.”

    “B-but…” Anam hesitated.

    “Anam, do you want the mortals to be killed because of your carelessness?” James said.

    “N-no! I… I don’t!”

    “Then we will live here. Is that understood?”

    Anam sniffed, but nodded. “What will I tell the others…?”

    “They won’t miss you if you’re there during the day,” James said. “It’s only at night, when most Pokémon have their guard down, that we must be careful.”

    “You guys still sleep?” Willow asked, peeking out her tiny window. “That’s so boring! Can’t you just play at night?”

    “I can’t believe you guys skip sleeping,” Demitri said. “Sleeping is great! And so is eating!”

    “We certainly can do those things,” Zena said. “There’s simply no need to.”

    “Can I still eat and sleep?” Owen asked. “Once I start getting more Mystical, can I still do that stuff? I want to feel normal a little while longer. I dunno. I’m still feeling kinda hungry.”

    “You’re still new,” Zena said. “You need time to strengthen your Mystic power. Then you will make those mortal needs… optional.” She gave Owen a small smile, if only to encourage him. Their training together showed how much Owen was dwarfed by all the other Mystics, but he was quick to catch up. That was the natural response, according to Star, for a weaker Mystic among titans of the same nature.

    Owen shifted where he stood. “Yeah…” he mumbled, rubbing his left arm with his hand.

    Amia gently pat Owen’s back. “Why don’t I make you some dinner? How about for you all, too?” she asked, looking at Rhys and his students.

    “Rhys, d’you need to eat?” Demitri said.

    “Yeah, now that I think about it…” Gahi said. “You eat, but y’don’t eat all that much. And yer Mystic, too. An old Mystic.”

    Rhys nodded. “I eat a small amount, if only to… appear normal,” he said. “But I suppose with this all in the open, I can drop the façade and focus on my training.”

    “How come yer so good at cooking, then?” Gahi said.

    The Lucario shrugged. “If eating is not a necessity,” he said, “then when I do eat, I’d like to make it worthwhile.”


    Worthwhile indeed. Once everybody was settled into their new homes, and Amia filled the vacancies with her old spirits, she called for a small get-together in the town square, gathered around Valle. Before Owen and the others who had to sleep got tired, she wanted to sit around to get to know everyone. Rhys, with the assistance of Mispy and Demitri, hauled out a large pot of stew for everyone—Mystic or not—to enjoy. Around the time that the food was fresh and ready, Nevren conveniently arrived to get his bowl, and then ate quietly from the sidelines. He was always an observer. Owen could relate.

    Rhys and Amia helped to pass around stone bowls for everyone to eat another hearty stew—Rhys’ celebratory specialty. Large helpings were given to those who actually had to eat—Owen and Demitri were given bowls, while Gahi was given a flatter plate to accommodate for his bug-like head type. They gave a large bowl to Mispy, knowing that her appetite was beyond comparison, and made sure to set aside enough for when she’d inevitably ask for seconds, and then thirds.

    Anam got himself a small bowl to at least appreciate the taste, and shared some of it with James. Amia elected for a similarly tiny bowl and ate with Rhys and Alex. She fed Alex by hand, if only so the Magmortar didn’t have to struggle with his cannon-arms. Owen elected to sit between Alex and Zena during the meal, if only so he could avoid the passive-aggressive nudges that Mispy gave him, perhaps as spite for evolving first. No, definitely because of that. From what Owen knew, Mispy’s species evolved fairly early to its final stage. She was the greatest contender to beat him in this silly race. Which he would definitely win.

    They weren’t really sure what to do about Valle. Amia offered a bowl to the Shiftry statue, going so far as to place the bowl in front of Valle’s face to let him smell it. The bowl trembled in Amia’s hands—with a squeak of surprise, the stone bowl went straight toward Valle, vanishing into his face. The stew, too, was gone.

    “Thank you for the offering,” Valle said.

    Owen didn’t even know where to begin with that display. Did he just absorb the stew? Did he have a mouth, or was it just there, now? Did he taste? Did he even have a sense of smell? How does he see? Did he feel? This simple gesture made Owen’s mind swirl with questions long enough that even his keen awareness was dulled. He didn’t realize Mispy stealing from his bowl from afar using her vines. He resumed eating without realizing that half his food had been transferred into her bowl.

    ADAM said that he required no food. Despite this, when presented with some, he leaned his beak into the bowl and, as far as Owen could tell, sucked the stew out of the bowl. But that gave Owen another thought, and he stared at ADAM for a bit longer. He didn’t have a neck. Porygon-Z had a head, and then a body, but no neck to attach them. How did he—?

    “Optimal,” he stated.

    Owen decided not to ask. Instead, he watched Amia hand Willow the smallest bowl they had, which ended up being three times her size. She countered by blasting it with a swirl of pink mist, shrinking it down until she could grasp it with her tiny claws. She then zapped the ground, forming a tiny, red mushroom that looked up curiously. She then grabbed this mushroom and tore it apart—it screamed a little, yet it laughed at the same time—and dropped its remains into the bowl. Owen noticed an ember returning to the Joltik’s tiny body. That mushroom was one of her spirits. And she just ate its temporary body. And the spirit got a kick out of it.

    At least I’m not the only crazy one, Owen thought worriedly. Does being a Guardian make you go nuts?

    I think it’s just the isolation, Star said.

    C-can you not do that?!

    Whoops! My bad. Sorry, I’m just watching. You mind if I sit in your head for a while?

    Ugh. Owen resumed eating. Why don’t you just come out?

    I don’t wanna upset Zena. I’m gonna lay low for a while. Besides, I need to start looking for the next Guardians for you guys to get.

    “Owen, are you okay?” Alex asked, looking down.

    “Huh? Oh—yeah! I’m just fine,” Owen said. “Sorry. I got kinda distracted.”

    “This must be a lot for you to take in,” the Magmortar said, gently patting Owen on the back. “I’m really sorry for all this.”

    “It’s okay,” Owen said. “I mean, it’s still crazy, and I didn’t expect my time as a Heart would be like this, but, you know, it’s not… bad. I mean, look at everyone here, right?” He looked up at his father. “Lots of new friends, and Team Alloy is all here, and everything. So it’s not a total loss.” He looked at the flames on Alex’s shoulders. “I do kinda wish it was normal, but, I think that’s just a little panic, you know? Or… something.”

    Alex smiled sadly. “I understand,” he said. “Believe me, I didn’t expect to live with Amia in quite this way, either. But I choose to stay here for her, and for you.”

    Owen blushed slightly and resumed eating.

    Amia eventually tried to break the ice by having everyone introduce themselves. Anam was happy to oblige, talking about the Association and how James was such a great help managing everything. He then pointed to Nevren, who looked almost startled at being acknowledged. Owen was surprised, too. He’d almost forgotten the Alakazam was there. Anam declared Nevren to be the most helpful at managing the other Hearts. “He’s my favorite tactician!” Anam said, which earned an unpleasant cough from James and Rhys. Anam tittered nervously.

    “Hm, but now that I have the attention of everyone,” Nevren said, looking up, “I feel I should point something out. With the Hunters seemingly increasing their movements, and with so many Guardians here, it may be wise to stay together. That includes you, Anam. James was right. You may have been strong enough to survive out in the open without the Hunters approaching you directly, but now, that may no longer be the case. You should live here, in Hot Spot, with the others. I’m sure Amia can build you a hot spring just as they built a lake for Zena.”

    “Mnn… but I get to be in Kilo during the day, right?” he clarified.

    “Of course,” Nevren said. “That way, you can just be here at night, when you feel the need to rest. I know how much you enjoy naps, even though you don’t need them.”

    Anam’s cheeks blushed purple.

    “I didn’t expect this place to become so… full, so quickly,” Zena admitted, looking around with an air of nervousness. “I—I haven’t talked to so many new people in… in ages, really. Lifetimes. But—I’m quite happy here, now.” She glanced at Owen, but then flinched when their eyes met. She turned her attention back to the others.

    I wonder why she keeps doing that, Owen thought to himself, frowning. I guess me being the Grass Guardian scares her a little. That’s why her muscles seem so tense.

    “We’ll help you take it slow, dear,” Amia said. “Is there somebody in particular that you enjoy talking to?”

    Zena gulped. She stared at the ground and nodded. Owen smiled slightly, feeling slightly reassured. That had to have been him. Maybe she was just intimidated now that his training was showing results. He wasn’t scary! After all, she was still many times his size. He wasn’t going to deny that—aside from when the air was squeezed out of him—it felt good to be wrapped up in her coils.

    That was a weird thought, Owen said. Wonder where that came from.

    “Well, talk to them, then!” Amia said. “It’s great to have a close friend.”

    Zena nodded silently.

    “Hey, you know, Zena,” Owen said, quickly trying to think of something that she might enjoy, “if you want, you can train with me!”

    “Train?” Zena perked up. “Like, meditate together?”

    “No, we can spar!” Owen said.

    “Oh.” Zena shrank slightly. “You certainly like to fight, don’t you?”

    “Just a little,” Owen said, shrinking. “I mean, I trained all the time to become a Heart, so I guess maybe that’s where I get it from? Fighting’s in my blood.”

    Amia and Alex laughed nervously.

    “Yeah,” Demitri nodded. “I think Rhys raised us that way, too, huh? As long as we meditated, we got to fight as much as we wanted! Just like eating vegetables. But for your head? Kinda cool, having him as a dad and a teacher at the same time.”

    “I think we can say that,” Gahi said. “Yeah, I remember training with you guys fer as long as I can remember. You guys could never get me, though, ‘cause I was always flying way outta yer range! Hah!”

    Demitri, Mispy, and Owen all laughed, but Owen caught on that the others were laughing a bit less, or differently. The jovial atmosphere bled away. Willow was laughing obliviously; Valle and ADAM didn’t seem like the sort to ever laugh; Rhys and Amia chuckled with strained force; Anam tittered nervously; Zena didn’t make a sound and looked at the Charmeleon with concern. Owen tilted his head back at Zena, wondering what was wrong.

    This made Owen think back—did they say something wrong? Something in that last sentence felt wrong. Did Gahi make an insensitive joke? Perhaps they just didn’t understand the joys of fighting, getting the blood pumping. They were a lot more peaceful, after all. The thrill of the chase, especially when Gahi flew around and they had to catch him on foot. Owen was never able to catch Gahi when he—

    No. Wait.

    Flying?

    “Gahi, didn’t you just evolve?” Owen asked.

    “Eh?” Gahi said. “Well, yeah, but…” he trailed off. “Yeah… but… I always… flew off ter… avoid…”

    Gahi fell into silence, his big eyes staring at nothing. Demitri and Mispy glanced at each other uneasily. Owen looked at Amia and Alex. They both looked away. He then looked at Anam. He jumped and looked at the ground. He looked at James, but he was already analyzing a mushroom on the ceiling.

    A slow silence filled the air. Nobody knew what to say next—and all Owen wanted was for someone to say something. Anything! But, nobody did. Even the new Guardians, who knew nothing about their situation, sensed that something was deeply wrong.

    “Flying…” Owen mumbled.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018 at 5:34 AM
  8. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Four periods instead of three.

    are we sure that "Sleep Seed" actually wore off

    Hmm, now I did manage to remember who Klent was, but I don't think he was mentioned once for several chapters nor did he have that great a role in the story to begin with, so it might be useful to put a subtle reminder of who he was again to jog readers' memory.

    are we SURE that "Sleep Seed" actually wore off

    Had seen it, perhaps?

    Missing comma?

    I can vividly picture the sad puppy eyes Anam is making.

    Think there's an extra comma here.

    Ha, nice nod to the Drinking Bird origin.

    This exchange was kind of already had before in the chapter? Around where I had the puppy-eyes comment.

    O W O
    W
    O

    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Reads a bit awkwardly to me, maybe "you guys could never get me"?

    ooohh the dream is collapsinggg

    The entire Fairy Guardian segment at the start really read like a fever dream, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Willow shrinking others to sadistically play with them is creepy as hell even after it's shown how small and scared she actually is.

    Finally, we're teased some explanations on the "late evolver" phenomenon, and possibly on why the four kids-but-not-kids are considered so special to begin with. Shows how we're still far from having all the answers. Can't wait to see where that goes!
     
  9. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Well, I first reviewed this as a Missing Mod Madness entry and now I'm reviewing it again as a MMM prize that gave me a delightful excuse to catch up.

    I am very glad the plot continues to thicken in increasingly elaborate fashion - One of my favorite revelations was:

    Star: we need to get all the orbs

    Hunters: -attempt to get all the orbs-

    Star: no not like that

    That said poor Zena. That girl needs some snake-eel-whatever hugs.

    Also let's talk about the Special Episode because boy howdy that raised a shitton of questions. Who is this mysterious doppelganger of Owen? He seems to be a family member. A long-dead one. Or something along the lines. And with the revelation that some of Owen's companions have evolved before adds to my theory that Owen did SOMETHING horrible before he had everything... Reset. Mabye he was a Hunter, or aligned with them, or mabye something even WORSE. Who knows until you reveal it man.

    Also! The new guardians you've introduced are great. I like Willow the most - troll fairy Joltik is a good combo.
     
  10. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Gotcha covered elsewhere, Canis. As for you, Umbra...

    I think Milotic are based off of the oarfish, or something. They're less pretty. Regardless, it seems that she's quite comfortable squeezing Owen for all the hugs she can get.

    And reveal I shall! ...Eventually. Actually, some of that will be coming pretty soon, so that's something to look forward to~

    Willow by far has the most personality, just because of how much of a firecracker she is. She's fun to write, whenever I get to write her prominently.
     
  11. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Chapter 14 – Too Late

    Owen barely slept last night—nobody answered his questions when he asked. They always said, what are you talking about? Maybe it was a lapse in memory. Sometimes evolution can change the mind slightly. Gahi is just confused. He’ll sort it out. Don’t worry, Owen. You evolved, too. Maybe you need to settle a bit?

    But Owen knew that wasn’t some trick of the mind. It felt too… real to be a trick. But then—how could he know? If his mind thought it was real, but it wasn’t… he wouldn’t know. But then, why did he have that thought? Gahi did fly before. He was fast

    Days passed while Star went searching for more information about the Guardians. That left them with time to decompress. Willow made herself a little mushroom village in her abode, where she happily conversed with her screaming, playful spirits. ADAM spent his time obsessively polishing every corner of his abode until it was a smooth cube inside. Afterward, he dedicated his time to “defragmenting,” whatever that meant. Valle… did his thing in the town square.

    The new normal was settling in. Every day, Anam would leave with Nevren to manage the Association. Rhys would leave with his students to take a mission or two after their usual meditation.

    “I’m not crazy. Not crazy. Not…” Owen shook his head. “I know it happened. I—I can’t just make that up, can I?”

    “I’m sure you can’t, Owen,” Zena said. “But you have to admit, it’s a little strange, don’t you think?”

    She was coiled up in the corner of her room, staring at a set of little marbles on the ground. Rhys apparently had a bag of them in his room, and Owen knew the rules to a game they could play with them. He flicked one of two large marbles into the pile, knocking two out with a careful claw flick. Zena, opposite to Owen, clumsily rolled her marble along her pink ribbon. It fell a few times, but a gentle, Mystic force kept it from hitting the ground.

    “Mom’s not telling me a thing. I tried pressing Dad, but he got so flustered that he exploded and hid in Mom’s Fire Realm or whatever.” He snorted. He eyed the marble floating above Zena’s ribbon-eyebrow. “Is that thing you’re doing the same force you use to fly?”

    “Hm? Oh, yes. It is.” Zena fired the marble into the circle, freeing four from the perimeter in one shot.

    “Good one,” Owen said. The four marbles floated to Zena’s side. “But, yeah. That’s pretty cool. Maybe if I…” Owen focused on his marble. It wobbled in his claws, floating just a bit above his hand. It fell right after. “That’s weird.”

    “It is,” Zena said. “I think it’s the same force that keeps some Pokémon afloat. Mm, Castform, Claydol, off the top of my head…”

    “Levitation powers?” Owen said. “Yeah, I didn’t think about it that way.”

    “Hmph. Star said it was ignoring gravity, but that doesn’t explain it all. We also choose which direction we want to float.”

    “Ignoring gravity,” Owen repeated. He stared at the remaining marbles in the circle. There were just ten. But he saw a good angle, and he flicked the orb in. With one flick, the marble bounced against six of the smaller ones, pushing them all out.

    “How did you do that?” Zena said.

    “Do what?” Owen asked, picking up the six that fell out of the ring. “It’s just a bunch of spheres. It’s easy to predict which way they’ll all go.”

    Zena stared curiously. “Yes, but,” she said, “you predicted all of that?”

    “Well, the last one was a little luck,” Owen admitted. “Your turn.”

    Zena counted her marbles, then Owen’s. “I can’t win,” she said.

    “Huh?” Owen looked at his marbles, then at Zena’s. “Oh. You’re right. Even if you got ‘em all, I’d be two ahead…” He rubbed the back of his head, gripping his horn. “H-ha, sorry. Maybe I should’ve gone easier.”

    Zena flushed. “You were going easy?”

    “No!” Owen said quickly. “I was just—I mean—”

    “Don’t go easy,” Zena growled.

    “Okay.” Owen lowered his head. “Well—why don’t you pick the next game?”

    “Hmm…” Zena said, looking at the marbles. Owen helped to gather them into the small sack Rhys kept them in. She then eyed Owen. “I think I’m going to meditate. Would you care to join me?”

    “Oh, sure,” Owen said. “Um, can I meditate while reading something?”

    Zena blinked. “I do not believe that is how meditation works.”

    “Well, I haven’t been able to read for a while,” Owen said, bumping the claws from each hand together. “I feel like my mind’s getting rusty.”

    “Well, what do you read?” Zena asked.

    “Books,” Owen said. “I usually like nonfiction.”

    “Books,” Zena repeated. “You’ve said that word before. But I’m not sure what they are.”

    “Uhh—remember those weird, rectangle things in Anam’s office?”

    “You mean the one that was encrusted with his… excretions?”

    “Please don’t call it that.” Owen winced, nodding. “Those, yeah. Well, you can actually open them on one side. It’s actually filled with really, really thin sheets, called paper. And the paper has words on them. You can spend days reading one book, depending on how thick it is, and how small the letters are.”

    “Goodness, that sounds like incredibly detailed craft. It must be expensive.”

    “Not really,” Owen said. “We’ve got these things that can print them really easily. Nevren invented them with the help of some of the other Pokémon. You can make a bunch of copies of the same book really quickly—you could send it all across Kilo!”

    “Kilo,” Zena repeated, nodding. “The world, right?”

    “Yeah. Wait, back then, you didn’t even have a name for the world?”

    “No, we did,” Zena said. “But I don’t think it was Kilo. In fact, I don’t think Kilo Mountain was called that, either.”

    “Oh. What was it called before?”

    Zena paused, looking down. “I can’t remember. Perhaps I haven’t used it in so long, I forgot. Q… Qu… Hm. I’m not sure.” She sighed. “It’s not important. Names change all the time.”

    Owen nodded. “Well, how about we get something to read, huh?” he said.

    Owen headed back to his home and slipped to his room, and then into a little alcove in the back where he kept his books. He had to buy special editions of them, printed on Rawst paper. “If we ever get you any books, Zena, I think we’ll need to find some books made of Passho paper.”

    “Passho paper? Is that not a berry?”

    “Yeah. It protects against water damage, so you can even read it underwater!”

    “I’ve never heard of paper being able to do that,” Zena said. “Let me guess. This is another one of those Dungeon items, or perhaps one of those odd blessings by Anam?”

    “Yeah. Blessed berries and seeds and scarves really enhance their power. I heard that one blessed Aspear Berry can let you pull an all nighter easily!” Owen pulled out a book that was bigger than his head. “Here! Let’s read this one together.”

    Zena blinked. “I’m reading with you?”

    “I mean, this might be interesting to read, don’t you think?” He showed her the cover: Scarves and Seeds: Basic and Obscure Dungeon Equipment, Third Edition.

    Zena looked tired just reading the title.

    “Here, let’s go to the Scarves section, huh?” Owen said enthusiastically, walking to his bed. His flame was bright, lighting up Zena’s eyes. She followed. He opened the book to the middle and started pointing and reading out a few of the standard Scarves, all of their effects, where they were found, and even their rarity when found in the wild.

    Somehow, Zena became interested, coiling near Owen to read with him. The pages turned slower and slower; by the time they were reading about Pecha Scarves, Owen had paused for so long that Zena spent a good amount of time simply re-reading. “Owen?” Zena asked, nudging his shoulder with one of her brows.

    “Zena, am I crazy?”

    Zena blinked. “I certainly don’t think so,” she said. “Owen, it was just a lapse in memory, was it not? Gahi just evolved. It’s simply not possible for him to have flown around before, and the evolution has everyone slightly confused.”

    “It feels so real, though,” Owen said. “I… I don’t get it. I know he—”

    “Owen,” Zena said softly, “don’t get so worked up over it. Okay?”

    The Charmeleon hesitated, but then turned the page. “Okay,” he said. “Thanks. I guess I’m just getting worked up over nothing. Lapse of memory from evolving. That makes sense. I guess the brain changes a little when you evolve, so maybe that’s why.”

    Zena nodded. And so, they resumed their reading.

    “So, I’m not crazy?”

    “No, Owen. You’re just fine.”


    “This one here is the Spire of Trials,” Star said. “Fighting Guardian Manny lives here—he’s pretty cool. I’d go there, definitely.” She pointed at the map they had brought in to Hot Spot’s main square. The Spire of Trials was that odd, narrow triangle on the map to the east, just below Nightshade Forest. “Hmm, I guess the Sunshine Highlands is also a good one, that’s the Flying Guardian, Cara.” She pointed to the far west, where white hills dominated the landscape. “Uhh… Oh! And why don’t we also try Forrest, the Ground Guardian in the Endless Expanse?” She headed southwest, to an odd, gray-colored portion of the map that looked like a place the map artist forgot to finish.

    The group agreed and started shuffling around to divide up their numbers. With three new Guardians, they could have a full team for everyone and then some. After the fiasco that was Alex’s fighting abilities, he quietly retired to be replaced by someone else.

    “I shall not go,” said Valle.

    “Let me guess,” Star said, crossing her arms. “This place is your new mountain, and you’re gonna keep watch of any abnormal movements here instead? One with the stone?”

    “Yes.”

    Star sighed. “Okay, okay. So, who else is going, then? We’ve got Anam, James, Zena and… ADAM, yeah, that’s pretty balanced… that seems like a pretty solid group, right?”

    Zena glanced at Owen again, but didn’t protest.

    “And then there’s Rhys, and his three students… Okay, group two. Who’s left? Willow, Owen, and Amia—oh, hey, Alex, you can come with us again! …Owen?”

    “H-huh?” Owen straightened his spine.

    “Owen, are you… okay?”

    “Y-yeah,” Owen replied weakly.

    The group shuffled uncomfortably. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi were a bit unfocused, too. It had been quite a few days since their odd lapse of memory, but it obviously lingered in all of Team Alloy’s heads. Everyone knew it, but most didn’t want to acknowledge it.

    “Hey… don’t sweat it, alright?” Star said softly. “It’ll be okay. How about we just get to fighting, huh? Fighting is always fun! Right?”

    This lifted their spirits slightly. “Y-yeah, I guess so,” Demitri smiled. “Yeah… um—which one do you think would be the best fight? Of those three?”

    “Well, Forrest will probably give you a lot of obstacles to go through. And I’m pretty sure Manny will be the same. Cara’s more of a run-and-hide ‘mon, so… maybe Anam should do that one, since he’s the most outwardly friendly of us, y’know? And isn’t on fire,” she added, nodding at Amia.

    “Oh, okay,” Anam said. “So, we’ll handle Cara. What about Forrest?”

    “Ground, right?” Gahi said. “I can avoid all those attacks now that I’m flying. Levitate’s a pretty nifty move fer all those techniques. I say we do that one.”

    “But Rhys is weak to Ground,” Demitri said. The Fraxure worriedly glanced at his teacher.

    “I will survive,” the Lucario said.

    “Guess that leaves us with Manny,” Amia sighed. “I’m not much of a fighter, but… I will try.”

    “Excuse me?” Owen mumbled, recalling the time she melted the ground for Zena’s new lake.

    “And I will, too!” Willow said, hopping onto Owen’s head. “You! Carry me when we go. Understood? You are my servant for the day.”

    “E-excuse me?” Owen said again.

    “Now, Willow, at least ask permission,” Amia said.

    Willow growled. “You don’t mind if you are my riding-Pokémon, do you, Charmeleon?”

    “I—I guess I will,” Owen said, looking away.

    “Cool,” Star said. “Then let’s split up. If you guys run into any trouble, use those communicators like before. It might be useful!”

    “Of course,” Amia said, looking around. “Owen! Let’s go. Willow, won’t you lead Owen with us to Kilo Village?”

    “Of course! Servant, you will move!”

    “Okay…”

    Amia giggled. “Oh, be a good sport, Owen. I’m sure Willow is just playing.”

    “I sure hope so,” Owen said, looking up in an attempt to see the Joltik. He felt her balanced on the top of her horn.

    “See you guys!” Demitri said, waving.

    “Be careful!” Anam said. They all vanished, set to rescue the three Guardians.


    The rocks of Sunshine Highlands glimmered like cut diamonds. There was no escape from the sunlight here, and the further along the highlands they went, the rockier it became. Everything was either white or prismatic; turning to the left risked seeing a rapid rainbow of colors, and turning to the right risked a whiteness that would rival the sun.

    “I hope she’s okay,” Anam said, looking around through squinted eyes. “Cara, right? The Flying Guardian…”

    “I guess that means she’s got quite the… hrm.” James said. “Well, perhaps her tendencies will be to flee rather than to battle.”

    “Yeah,” Anam said. “But I’ll take the lead, if that’s how it’s gonna be.” He squinted, holding his slimy arm over his eyes. “It’s so bright!”

    “Indeed,” James replied. “Part of the hazard here is how the rocks reflect the sunlight. We should have come here later in the day.”

    Eventually, Anam had to cover his eyes completely. “I can’t see…” he mumbled.

    “It’s… quite difficult, yes,” Zena admitted. She’d been slithering blind for quite a while, and had a splotch of slime on her neck and face from bumping into Anam so much. James kept his head down, using his natural hood to protect against most of the sunlight.

    “We must advance,” ADAM said. “My light sensors have been shut down due to overload. However, my other senses indicate that there is a Mystic aura further ahead, and is currently hiding. Would you like to continue? Options: Yes, cancel.”

    “Yes,” Anam said. “I guess… I guess we should keep going. How much longer?”

    “We are approximately 98% to the hiding spot.”

    “Oh, that’s close!” Anam said. “So, we should be finished soon?”

    “We are approximately 98% to the hiding spot.”

    “Um… yeah, so…”

    “S-stop right there!” a shaky voice called out.

    Anam stopped and tried to look ahead. She saw a flash of something flying toward them. Zena narrowly dodged the blast, but the strong gusts of wind left small cuts on her back. “Ah—ngh—that’s not very friendly,” she said.

    Anam squinted and saw a bird flying high in the—no, that wasn’t a bird. It had wings, yes, but… it also had arms. And—something about the wings didn’t quite fit, either. What was wrong with…?

    Anam saw flashes of brown when the light didn’t fight against him, and he realized that this fuzzy Pokémon was a winged Lopunny, its ears transformed into sky-blue, feathery wings. She flew through the air with an agility that Anam could only dream of.

    “There! That’s definitely the Flying Guardian!” Anam pointed.

    “Wh-what do you want with me?!” Cara yelled back. “I don’t want to fight! Please, leave me alone!”

    “We aren’t here to fight!”

    “How can I know that?! You already came here once before! You—your kind—!”

    “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Anam said.

    “Cara! Whoever came here before, we aren’t them!” James said. “This is our first time here! Look!” He vanished into the ground in a black fog, and then reappeared. “Anam is the Ghost Guardian, and I am his spirit, yes? Did Star not tell you about us?”

    Cara stopped her flying, but it was still too hard to see. “Wh-what do you mean?” she asked. She stopped flying away, and instead looked down at them. The way the sun was positioned, she was directly in front of it. “The Ghost Guardian, yes, I… I think Star mentioned you before. Yes. O-oh, I’m sorry. Hold on.”

    The lights of the crystalline field dimmed enough for them to see. They still sparkled white, but it wasn’t blinding. Was she somehow controlling the intensity of the light?

    Zena sighed. “Thank goodness,” she said.

    “Yeah! I could barely open my eyes!” Anam said. “That’s not fair, you know, fighting your opponents when they can’t even see!”

    “It was very difficult to see. My visual sensors were completely shut down,” ADAM said.

    Cara beat her wings-ears a few more times. “I’m—I’m so sorry,” she said, slowly descending. “I didn’t mean—”

    Anam suddenly went blind to a white flash of light. An instant later, the boom of thunder deafened him, leaving nothing but a loud ringing in his ears. Zena and the others shut their eyes again. ADAM blared an alert signal, but nobody heard it. The ringing faded. Anam tried to open his eyes, but everything hurt when he did, and he shut it again. Something heavy thumped dully a few feet ahead of him. He smelled something burning.

    Anam felt James grab his arm and tug him back; he fell down and heard another thunderous explosion. If he wasn’t so slimy, his body might have caught on fire. Anam knew not to open his eyes for a while, but when he finally did, through his blurry vision, he saw something black a few paces ahead. There was something glowing in this blackness. A pale, whitish light. It reminded him of the clouds that the bird Pokémon flew above.

    Heavy paws walked toward the black thing and the glowing orb. A tiny, gray creature floated toward it next, wrapping it in some sort of cloth. The light vanished. A forceful, invisible blast blew the blackness away like dust. And finally, Anam’s vision—as well as the others’—returned. Standing before them was Espurr Rim—and some… other creature.

    Long, black fur along its head, chest, and rear; short, blue fur everywhere else. Bits of yellow in the ears and behind its forelegs, and a four-pointed star at the end of its black tail. But there was something different, too, from how Anam was familiar with the Luxray species. It was bulkier, with intense, sharp eyes and a slightly more elongated muzzle. Its fur stood even more on-end than usual, constantly sparkling with electricity, more like a Jolteon’s fur style. Every so often, they saw black flashes—some kind of dark light, if he had to describe it—accompany this electricity. Its tail was long, and whip-like, like a Raichu.

    Anam couldn’t move. He just realized what happened. That Luxray was the one who attacked—and the Flying Guardian, Cara, was—

    Rim vanished with the strange Luxray, taking the Flying Orb with her.


    The Endless Expanse was named as such because, upon entering the field, it was hard to determine where the horizon was. It was a great flatland that had a perpetual, thin layer of water over a field of salt. The water perfectly reflected the sky, blending into the horizon an eternity ahead of them. Every step that Rhys, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi took into this flatland sent small ripples ahead of them, disturbing the salt on the ground.

    Gahi’s wings beat rapidly, making the most, but smallest, ripples. Demitri walked beside Mispy, and their steps, with Rhys’, made the most impact. There was no Dungeon here. Instead, the challenge of finding the Ground Guardian came from actually locating him in the completely uniform mirror. It was too large for Mispy to detect a Mystic aura for the whole area, and the same went for Rhys.

    Gahi flew ahead multiple times to get a better visual of the fields for any abnormalities. Each time, he returned with no news, and they advanced forward to continue their scan. Around noon, Mispy started to complain about food, and Rhys sighed and dug through his bag for their rations. Rhys winced when he realized that he also had brought some of the food he planned to use for later.

    “GROSS!” Demitri shouted. “What is that?!”

    “It’s—it’s leftovers,” Rhys said, holding out what appeared to be a purple lump of… something. “I wasn’t going to throw it away. That would be wasteful.”

    “I think it’s moving!” Demitri said.

    “I’m not eating that,” Mispy said.

    “I didn’t intend for it to be for you,” Rhys said, holding the grimy-looking food in his paws. “This will be my meal, then. It’s not as bad as you make it out to be. You may have these instead,” he said, offering Mispy two large apples. Demitri and Gahi took an apple each, but they stared at Rhys. “What?”

    “You’re gonna eat that?” Demitri said.

    “Of course,” Rhys said. He then opened his mouth and—to their horror—he downed the purple lump in one gulp. They watched the lump descend into his chest. He cleared his throat. “It’s not very difficult if you know the proper way to eat it.”

    “I thought you didn’t need to eat,” Demitri said.

    “If I’m performing some strenuous effort, I do,” Rhys said, looking ahead. “These past few days have been taxing, particularly after you decided to take on that high-ranking mission into the Southern Abyssal Forest.”

    “Bah, scariest thing about that place is the rumors, nothing else,” Gahi said. “Okay, I’m gonna fly ahead and scan fer more weirdness, see if we can spot the Guardian, eh?” He flew ahead, having finished his apple.

    Mispy finished her two by the time Demitri had finished half of his only apple. She wrapped a few vines around his body and pulled him onto her back, where she happily carried him across the salt flats.

    Gahi flew back prematurely, and his zigzag in the air suggested he actually found something. “Let’s hurry,” Rhys said.

    Gahi descended to their level. Once they all caught up, Rhys stopped, eyes wide.

    There were claw marks in the ground that Gahi flew above. The ground was filled with huge fissures from some Pokémon’s attack. There was also a pit left behind in the ground where the Guardian of the Ground Orb likely once was. Some of the pits were still filling, slowly, with water, suggesting that the clash was recent. But for a battle with a Guardian, the struggle didn’t seem to be very intense, all things considered. Even their clash with Valle, while underwhelming on a relative scale, left quite a bit of damage.

    “What is all this…?” Demitri said, looking at the ground. The Fraxure couldn’t help but admire his reflection, picking at a smudge on his left tusk.

    “Good thing I c’n fly,” Gahi muttered, looking at his reflection.

    “I don’t… sense anything,” Mispy said. The Bayleef had her eyes closed, worriedly scanning for any sort of Mystic aura. If the clash was here, surely the Ground Guardian would be here, too.

    “But it looks like something just got here. There,” Demitri said, pointing at a particularly huge gash in the ground where water was still pouring inside. It was deep, but the bottom was clearly visible and the water level was slowly rising.

    They saw something lying in the flat ahead. “What’s that?” Mispy said.

    “Let’s look,” Rhys said, running forward. Gahi was the only one able to keep up.

    It seemed to be a small tree lying on the ground, cut near the base of the trunk. “What’s a tree doing here?” Gahi asked. “There ain’t a tree er a plant here fer… I mean, where’d it even come from?”

    “This is a Torterra’s tree,” Rhys said. “It grows on their back, Gahi. But for it to be severed like this…” Rhys looked around. The water was covering most of it, but he saw heavy footsteps and multiple, converging imprints of other, attacking Pokémon. Rhys walked along and followed the path. He saw a particularly large pit in the ground—and at the bottom, he saw the victim. “Ngh,” Rhys said. “We’re too late.”

    Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy followed Rhys. “What d’you mean?” Demitri asked. Rhys was staring down at the bottom of this pit that was slowly filling with water. He sighed, but sensed no aura there, let alone the Orb that Forrest would have kept.

    Rhys fired a few weak Aura Spheres at the ground around the large pit; salt and sand burst and shifted into the flooded pit, burying the bottom completely. Rhys closed his eyes and lowered his head for a few seconds, waiting for the body to be buried completely.

    Then, he said, “It seems that the Hunters have arrived here shortly before we did. Unfortunately, they extracted the Ground Orb,” he said.

    “E-extracted?” Demitri said. “Y-you mean…” He stared at the pit. “Rhys, what… what was down there?”

    Mispy gulped, watching the salt slowly sink into the water. “A Torterra…?” she asked.

    Rhys nodded. “There’s nothing we can do here,” he said. “Let’s return home and report to the others.”

    “Should we use our Communicator?” Demitri asked.

    “No,” Rhys said. “We shouldn’t lower anybody’s morale. We’re already going as fast as we can; they won’t be able to go any faster than they already are.”

    “Okay,” Demitri said. “If that’s the case, let’s just… I mean… yeah. Let’s go back.”

    They didn’t want to admit it, but Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi were all still itching for a battle. But in the solemn atmosphere of this lifeless salt flat, there was nothing to fight anyway.

    Rhys dug through his bag, searching for their Badge. He dug a bit more. And then more.

    “Rhys?” Gahi said.

    Rhys looked up. “Where are our Badges?”


    “Oooh… this place is a bit creepy,” Amia said, hugging herself. There was very little light in this mountain’s cave; only by her flames and Owen’s could they see the path. The spire itself wasn’t much to look at from outside. It merely appeared to be a giant spike in the ground, perfectly conical with an entrance on the southern side. Internally, it was a great, winding spiral of polished rock.

    “I certainly didn’t expect the Spire of Trials to be some sort of ascending spiral inside,” Alex said. “Just where are we going?”

    “From the outside it looked pretty big. Just a giant spike sticking out of the ground. So maybe we’re heading near the top?” Owen said.

    “That’s likely it,” Alex agreed.

    “Well, I don’t like it!” Willow said, stomping on Owen’s head with her tiny feet. “Owen! You’re going to turn around immediately!”

    “I—I can’t just turn around! We’re already inside!”

    “Then make it prettier! I need fresh air for my fur! And good smells, too! And light! Make it brighter!”

    Owen growled. “Mom, help!”

    “Willow, dear, why don’t I help make it brighter with my fire?” Amia offered. “I usually do blue light, but would you prefer something like green, or red?”

    “Ooo! Make it green!” Willow said, hopping on Owen. “Green reminds me of the fields!”

    “Green it is.” Amia smiled. She created a small fire bubble in front of them to light the way. This, it seemed, pleased Willow enough to keep her from complaining the rest of the way.

    They walked quickly, but slow enough that they didn’t trip on anything. By the time they were a quarter of the way up the spire—going in a sort of inward spiral—they suddenly turned to the right and saw a large chamber. Echoes of explosions and shouts and roars radiated from the opposite side. Owen had to concentrate to get a better sense for what the sounds were—it was… something else. Who was that? Those roars didn’t sound normal. They were intense. Too intense for a normal Pokémon.

    The chamber was at least a hundred of Owen’s Charmeleon paces across. The walls were looked like they had been buffered a thousand times over many centuries to get that perfect smoothness, and the same could be said for the floor. But there were imperfections. Cracks and faults, like battling had taken place there before. Still, the arena was empty. They could easily advance. The team of four stepped into the chamber and made it a quarter of the way across.

    “Ha HAAA!” Someone suddenly shouted. After being so quiet to hear the others, the shout made Owen double over in panic, clutching his chest. Alex made the exact same gesture as Owen. Was it possible to die of shock? Perhaps not as a Mystic, or a spirit.

    A spirit rose from the rocks in the center of the arena-like chamber. The Feraligatr pumped his fists in the air. His scaly arms were thicker than Owen’s body, and the same could be said for the bulk of just about every other part of him.

    “I am the First Guardian Spirit, Feraligatr Azu!” he shouted. “I am one of three that you must defeat in order to see the Fighting Guardian, the greatest and strongest fighter of the Dungeon!”

    His voice boomed through the air—Owen wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear him for much longer.

    “You, a team of four!” said the Fighting Guardian Spirit. “What a perfect number! There are three of us in all, three Guardian Spirits! As the first… you are to give to me your weakest fighter, and we shall battle! If you lose… then that will be it! And you must turn away!”

    “W-weakest?” Alex said.

    “Wait,” Owen said, tilting his head, “doesn’t that mean you’re the weakest of the three Fighting Spirits?”

    “I—eh—” For a fraction of a second, his enthusiasm wavered. “I am the third in line of the strongest spirits within Guardian Manny! I am truly formidable…! And so—you shall NOT get to the higher levels without beating me!”

    “B-but I’m not that good of a f-fighter, you see…” Alex admitted. “I—I wouldn’t want to…”

    “We don’t want to fight Manny. We want to talk to him!” Amia said. “And… what’s that fighting I hear from the rooms above us? It’s coming from ahead.”

    “Manny is dealing with a number of guests at the moment. To be another, you must get past me!”

    “So, they all got past you, too?” Owen asked. “How many times did you already get beaten?”

    “My little Charmeleon!” Azu said, thumping his tail on the ground with a laugh. A few rocks flew in the air, and a few cracks formed on the ground with each scaly thud. “You say such INCREDIBLE things!”

    “I—I think what Owen means,” Amia said, “is… if we don’t want to fight Manny, that means we’ll only be doing three battles. So why don’t we start with the second weakest in our group?” she asked. “And then the second strongest, and then the strongest.”

    “Ha! Then very well. Which of you is the second weakest?”

    “I think that’s Willow,” Owen said without thinking.

    Willow exploded with electricity atop his head, screeching and biting his horn. She tore off a few scales in the process.

    “Y-yow! Ow! No, NO, bad Joltik—!” Owen said, trying to grab her, but she was too fast. She hopped off of him and landed on the ground, skittering around the rocks.

    “You’re the weakest! You, you!” Willow said. “You have a clever mind but in raw power, you’re NOTHING to me!”

    “But Willow, you’re smaller than my feet!” Owen said.

    Willow send another volley of thunderbolts at Owen. The Charmeleon hopped in some sort of frantic dance, going from foot to foot on the cold, polished floor. Amia, sighing, rummaged through their bag for an Oran Berry. Willow prepared a great, shining ball of lunar energy above her head—but Owen quickly said, “O-okay, okay! I’ll—I’ll fight first! I’ll fight!”

    Willow let the charging Moonblast dissipate. “That’s better,” the Fairy Guardian said.

    Owen sighed. “Why aren’t you bigger, anyway?” she asked. “Can’t you evolve?”

    “I look cuter as a Joltik,” Willow said, raising her tiny body upward. “And going forward and backward in evolution is easy for a Mystic. It’s not in one direction with a little divine power!”

    “O-oh, okay,” Owen said.

    “Stall no longer, challengers!” the Feraligatr said, thumping his tail one last time. “Approach me, witty Charmeleon! I shall show you the superior power of muscle!”

    “Good luck, Owen.” Amia smiled apologetically, giving him an Oran Berry to fight in top form.

    Owen gulped, nodding. “O-okay,” he said. “I… I’ll do my best!”

    With a puffed-out chest and a blazing, red tail, the Charmeleon was ready. But then, upon coming face-to-face with this Fighting-Type Feraligatr, feeling the sheer power that radiated from him—despite his bluster, and despite the silly disposition of this spirit… he knew. He knew when he was standing face-to-belly with the behemoth of a spirit. Seeing every detail of his disturbingly chiseled body, his toughened scales, and his impeccable jawline…

    Owen didn’t stand a chance.
     

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