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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation


→ follow your fire.
And by "keep up with the fic," I meant I'd be back three chapters later, apparently. :V


Owen was now able to turn his arm into a large vine. And that was all. He figured he’d build upon it later.
That's all?! Please, Owen, that's better than having your whole body turned into basically one giant leaf and being stuck like that until a timer runs out. :V

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.
I can't tell what'd be more embarrassing to him, this or the dance...

“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.
Lol... being not too motherly, here. She surprises me in the next two chapters, though, by being extremely sympathetic and thoughtful toward others. She pretty much does it for everyone except Owen most of the time. Odd.

“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.”
I like this concept. Poor Alex is probably the most solid looking, alive spirit Owen's ever scene... because he's weak. :p And I like that bit of characterization you've been giving him in these few chapters, especially with him giving up on a battle before it even begins.

“…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?”
Well, this implies he ever had normal days to begin with, ever. xD Oh, Owen, if only you knew the full story... If only I as the reader knew the full story...

“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…
Willow's such a little ****, lol, I love her. It seems a lot of the characters just have a... thing for Owen and treating him differently than others, eh? :p

“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?”
Oh man, she's too innocent and cute. I'm curious as to why she doesn't know what a Divine Promise is, though, as a guardian?

“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.”
Welp, I predict Valle will be either the most useless guardian on the team, or he'll be the first one who bolts when things go to ****. His schtick is hilarious, though, and it's nice that you include him in scenes featuring all or most of the characters (and Nevren, too, who's also kind of lurking in the background). Really, it's grown to be quite a large cast, but you handle giving them all enough a decent amount of screentime nicely, and, even better, most of the time I could tell who's talking without a dialogue tag attached because of how distinct their voices are.

“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.”
Man, I'd be heartbroken for this poor kid if he lost his sense of taste or be unable to eat food just because of guardianship. At least he can enjoy some normal things. The scenes with everyone eating together, guardians or not, is sweet. It's all still something they can use to connect and enjoy together.

“Eh?” Gahi said. “Well, yeah, but…” he trailed off. “Yeah… but… I always… flew off ter… avoid…”
Ugh, I wish they'd just tell Team Alloy what's up already. It can't be any worse than all the changes that have come around so far, can it? And what's the point of hiding it? (I'm sure I'll understand when it's actually revealed, lol - I just feel bad for these guys.) Not knowing is clearly stressing everyone out, at any rate.


Ohh, I like the worldbuilding here with books! Being able to read underwater sounds like a useful skill... well, at least for pokémon. :p And with Rawst paper, now Owen can't accidentally set a whole book on fire. Probably.

I really wonder if Zena knows what's up along with everyone else. I don't think she'd be able to keep a secret that huge from Owen, personally... and I'm not sure why or how she'd know, so my guess is no. Owen trailing off and just... asking if he was crazy really hit hard, by the way, especially with him just trying to enjoy himself with a friend right beforehand. D: Nicely done.

“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.
This paragraph was kinda clunky, and trying to figure out why reminded me that I meant to mention passive voice in my first review. Anyway... how I usually notice passive tense is, searching for "is" and "was" in my chapter, and then, seeing if either an adjective or a verb is attached to it. If it's a verb, you've gone into passive voice territory. "It was red" or whatever adjective doesn't constitute passive voice.


I stand by the above on passive voice, but this chapter in particular was really, really solid in terms of description and tightened prose. :D It had me hooked to see their collecting the guardians plan kinda... backfire, massively. I didn't expect a guardian to straight up die, or for Owen to aim to kill. And the end with them all unevolving... yikes, we're getting closer to that epiphany, eh? My guess is that it has something to do with Owen losing control of his ability to reason and going into "everything must be destroyed" mode during the Feraligatr fight. Amia certainly seemed to recognize Owen's eyes glowing red, and his evolution, meant somethnig terrible was about to happen, so... Perhaps evolving prevents them from becoming heartless killing machines. Or something. I'm not that great at speculating, lol, but I'm here for the ride.

Also, when they both evolved, I asked myself, "Well, how are they going to know who evolved first?" :p And now it doesn't matter, nooooo

Gahi protested being ‘monhandled, but eventually relented and looked at his reflection, too. He started by inspecting his wings. As a Flygon, they were going to get a lot bigger. Demitri was rubbing his tusks, wondering what it would be like once they became full-fledged axes like his evolution’s.
Lol, I like how they just admire their evolved appearances while Rhys is having an internal panic attack nearby about the missing badge. too bad those evolutions didn't last long, huh

“Don’t you dare hurt him more!” Willow said, crackling enough to illuminate the whole cave.
Aww, so Willow does care about him in a "you're not just my slave" sort of way. :V


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 16 – Known Secrets

“Looks like that’s everyone,” Star said, flicking her tail.

A few of Amia’s spirits swept away little pebbles that littered the ground of Hot Spot—much to Valle’s irritation—while Amia herself channeled extra Mystic energy into the mushrooms to brighten the brown rocks. The cyan glow they gave off a light that mixed with the jagged edges of the houses, casting shadows on the wall. Owen sighed at the sight; what nostalgia to have a get-together like this. It’s too bad it had to be over such depressing talk.

“What’s the damage?” Gahi asked, clicking his jaws uncertainly.

Star sighed, sitting down in mid-air. Her tail curled around her legs. “I want you guys to be very, very calm, okay?” she said. “No sudden movements. Be nice and delicate. Talk quietly. Got it?”

“Eh?” Gahi said.

“Just… just promise me, okay?”

Gahi hesitated, clicking his jaws. He glanced at a few of the others—Willow, in particular, who irritably crackled.

“Well, why should I be quiet?!” she said.

“Willow,” Star said slowly. “Please.”

“W-well, I… I’ll…!” Willow looked at the others, and then at Star again. “Okay…” The crackling slowed down, and the Joltik stood still.

Star nodded. She closed her eyes. “Anam, if you can…?”

“Oh, right!” Anam held his arms forward and focused; a little aura flare formed between his hands, and he sent out another spirit. It formed into a winged Lopunny—a solid spirit. She wasn’t very strong, unlike Star, who was still very much see-through. Much easier to summon. But James and the others in Anam’s squad recognized her immediately.

“Cara?” Zena asked.

“Shh,” Star said softly.

Zena flinched, but nodded. Cara was a trembling wreck—shaking, looking to her left and right, and all around her. “Wh-where am I? What is this?”

“Hey… Cara,” Star said softly. The Mew floated closer, but she stopped when Cara shrank away. “Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay. It’s just me. Star. You know me, right? When you were afraid and confused, I popped right in and brought you someplace safe. Remember that?”

“I was… I was floating. My body, I… I couldn’t feel my body…”

“It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“There were lights everywhere, like I was… I was flowing, I—I didn’t know where to go, what to—”

“Shh, shh…” Star advanced, placing a paw in Cara’s. “You’re in a place called Hot Spot Cave. It’s underground, and away from any dangerous Pokémon. You can let your guard down.”

“I—I can? Truly?” Cara looked like she was ready to collapse in front of everyone.

“Look around,” Star said, waving her arm to the small crowd. “Not a harmful soul here, don’t you think?”

Cara scanned the cave square. The four unevolved Pokémon. The lovely Goodra that summoned her. Star, the constant presence that she could speak with, should she ever feel afraid. The others seemed fine, too. “Oh, what an adorable Joltik,” Cara said quietly.

“Adorable?” Willow asked.

“Yes, you’re quite lovely,” Cara nodded.

Willow glowed. “W-well, I guess I might be a little cute…!”

Cara scanned again. “That one, the statue. Quite unnerving, that. Who is…?”

“I am Valle. I am one with the mountain.”

“He’s a little weird in the head, but he means well, I think,” Star said. “Actually—hey, Valle, is there anything dangerous in the caves right now? Like, uh, Pokémon that would be trying to hunt us down?”


“There!” Star said. “See? Valle’s our little security system. He’s like an army of guards! That’s pretty cool, right?”

“Yes. That is quite… cool, yes.” She flapped her ear-wings a bit. “A tad warm here.”

“Yeah, Fire Guardian’s home, so, y’know.” Star srugged. “But it’s a bit cooler in some of the houses—anyway, Cara… you know you died, right?”

“Y-yes… I believe that is it. I was summoned. A spirit. Oh… A spirit…” she sighed, shaking and shivering. But she seemed calm. Perhaps she was in shock.

Owen watched sympathetically. “Hey, I’m sorry that happened. Um, so… that means Rim got to her before we could, huh? How come she still looks like she has the Orb?”

“It’s the form she’s most familiar with,” Star explained. “Kinda like Valle, she prefers a body different from the one she was born with. And for what happened… that’s what I wanted to outline to you guys. And I want Cara to tell me everything she remembers about this, first. Cara? What do you remember?”

Cara grabbed one of her ear-wings and preened the feathers with her paws. “I—I’ve always been a small bit jumpy. Perhaps it is in my nature. But I’m afraid I can’t give much more information than what I’ve told Star, even now. I had been fleeing from strange, mutant Pokémon like them for quite some time. I think the brightness of my abode made it hard for them to strike me, but once I lowered my guard…”

Anam gasped. “Th-then… then when we made Cara feel safe, they just…!”

“How did we not sense them?” Zena asked. “We should have sensed their auras!”

“Rim may have been hiding from afar, waiting for the light to lower to find her,” Rhys said.

Star nodded. “There wasn’t much we could’ve done with what we knew. I’m sorry that it happened, Cara.” She then addressed the others. “Right now, we’ve got seven Orbs on our side. You, your mom, Zena, Willow, Anam, Valle, and ADAM. And Rim stole the Psychic Orb a while ago. Well, she just got two more. Cara, the Flying Guardian, and Forrest, the Ground Guardian. I wanted Forrest to come along, too, but he said that he’s fine. I think he was ready to give up anyway.”

“Wait,” Owen said. “So… not Manny? What happened to him?”

“Guess Rim wasn’t strong enough to handle him yet,” Star said. “Actually, Rim also attacked other areas today, too, but I dunno if Guardians are there or not. It might’ve been a guess, because I just don’t know where all the Guardians are anymore. They either don’t talk to me, or won’t tell me where they are.”

“Won’t tell you?”

“They kinda… don’t trust me,” Star said, biting her lower lip. “Because, you know…”

“Because you recruited the Hunters,” Zena said. She had cooled down from that revelation, but perhaps too much—the Milotic’s voice was icy.

Owen looked uneasily at Zena. Everything felt hazy when he thought about her or any of the others. He must have been hurt pretty badly in that fight against Azu, because he could only vaguely remember details about all of them. They were in a strange state in his mind, both familiar and unfamiliar. He knew them, but for how long? Owen felt another crisis of panic wash over him. Not crazy. Not crazy. Not crazy. Just play along.

“Yeah… but, anyway,” Star said, “Cara and Forrest were the last two weak Guardians, I think. At least, of the ones I know. From here on out, the Guardians are gonna be strong, and they might even be paranoid and hostile if we approach.” Star sighed. “Some of them… don’t trust my word anymore, like I said.” She glanced at Zena. “So, I think… we might need to do this a little forcefully and try to calm them down, or convince them some other way. But either way—we’ll have to… you know.”

“Beat them up to befriend them?” Demitri asked.

“Now yer talking.” Gahi clicked happily.

Cara stiffened with fright. This was enough to quiet Gahi down; he stepped away, mumbling to himself, and hid behind Zena to avoid frightening Cara.

“I would like to go, now,” she said quietly to Star.

“Okay. Thanks anyway, Cara. Forget about all this and enjoy your afterlife.”

Relief washed over Cara and the Lopunny vanished, and Demitri and Gahi both shrank guiltily.

“You don’t have to fight them… not always,” Star said to them. “But, hey, they might put up a fight. So just keep that sorta thing in mind, y’know?”

“Aw, heh, sounds fine to me.” Demitri tittered.

Owen crossed his arms and spoke up. “So, wait, are we just going to send a single team, then?”

“A team of our absolute strongest, maybe,” Star said. “But nothing more than that. If we had two squads head in, that might help us with extra power if we have some big problem… like a run-in with Rim, for example, or…”

“Or those weird Pokémon that follow her,” Anam said.

“But having two teams will make it difficult to coordinate,” Zena pointed out. “We aren’t very good at using our communicators in the heat of battle. Nevren wanted them to be useful, I’m sure, but we found little use for it in our last battles.”

“Wait, hold on,” Owen said. “Weird Pokémon? You mean mutants, or something else? What’d you guys run into?” If they were more of those odd Pokémon, what did they have to do with the Guardians? And, more importantly, why did the others react strangely when he mentioned them?

The group shifted uncomfortably again. Owen sensed it. “Guys, what’s all this about? And—and what happened when I passed out, anyway?! I know I lost, but…”

“We ran into some strange Pokémon while on this outing,” Star said. “Basically, Rim was being followed by one or more… mutated Pokémon. Like, something was just different about them in some way—a Ninjask with Scyther arms, or a Luxray crazy bulked out, with a Raichu’s tail. It was insane! And—they all had this different aura about them, too, is that right?”

“Much like the mutants we typically see around Kilo from time to time,” Rhys said. “Only now they’re fighting alongside the Hunters.”

“The Luxray’s aura felt weird,” Anam nodded.

“Weird?” Mispy asked, wiggling the leaf on her head. “Our auras are weird.”

“Well, yeah, but that’s probably because we’re late evolvers,” Demitri said. “Right?”

“Yes, that’s likely it,” Rhys said.

“See? Even Rhys says so,” Demitri said.

Owen spotted Willow nearby, shivering. “Hey, Willow, are you okay?” he asked the Joltik. “You’re, uh, shaking.”

“Huh?” Willow squeaked. “Yes! I’m fine. I’m just… cold in the mornings!”

“Oh,” Owen said, stepping closer. “Well, I’m a Fire-Type. Want to rest on my head?” he asked, giggling. “I mean, you liked it bef—”

Willow skittered away, hiding behind Anam. Little particles of pink fairy dust scattered around her feet with every step, like she was ready to shrink him down if he got any closer.

Owen blinked. “Uh… okay.” That was not the reaction he was expecting.

A memory flashed in Owen’s eyes. He was rushing toward Azu, the Feraligatr from before. Willow was screaming, and Amia was calling Owen’s name. Azu’s eyes, for just a second, looked… afraid.

Owen held his breath.

James was murmuring to the Joltik, almost like a lecture. Whatever he was saying, Willow wasn’t having any of it, and she hid right behind Anam’s gooey ankles.

“Yeah, weird auras,” Star said. “To be honest, we’ve seen that stuff before, and I’ve seen similar auras running through the aura sea before.” She avoided looking at anybody else. “Basically, these Pokémon, the mutants… I’ve only seen them recently out and about like that, but the reason those auras look strange? Ugh, how do I explain this? Oh, okay. So… You know how, like, berries kinda look like each other if they come from the same plant, or something? Like, Oran berries come from Oran Berry plants… I mean, unless it’s a huge berry tree, then it’s all sorts, but… Ugh, that example sucks…”

“…Genetics, you mean?” Rhys asked. He quickly amended, “Nevren spoke of that before.”

“Yeah! Nevren would know how to describe this, uh, but…” Star spun around. “Okay. Zena… you used to be mortal, right?”

“Yes,” Zena said.

“So, you had parents.”

Zena nodded. “Yes. Their spirits are often ferried to my realm from time to time, in fact. It’s been so long since they’ve last visited, though…”

“Yeah. So, your aura, see, it kinda has traces of both their auras, since you came from them. That make sense?”

“Yes… ancestry, of a sort?”

“Yeah,” Star said. “Really, really good aura readers can trace an ancestry back a few generations, kinda like matching and linking auras to where they came from, and where those auras came from, and so on, okay? Well… the Pokémon we encountered back there? That Luxray and that Ninjask? They… didn’t have that.”

“…They didn’t have… auras?” Owen asked.

“No, no, they had auras,” Star said. “They didn’t have ancestry. No aura traces of parents, or grandparents, or any of that. No history.”

“Wait, what does that mean?” Amia said.

“Rhys has a similar aura,” Star said. “His aura is a little weird because he doesn’t have grandparents—All he has is a single parent, me. Since I created their auras. Same for Nev, and all the Hunters. All that weirdness you sense from them? Sure, some of it is a bit of divine power, but it’s also their weird aura trace.”

“You… created their auras?” Owen said.

Rhys looked off.

“Yeah,” Star said. “I mean, what, you think I’m just gonna pick random folks off the road to get involved in this Orb business?”

Owen rubbed his eyes irritably.

“In other words, since they came right from you,” Amia said, “their auras go just to you, and not some family tree. I get that! But… then, those strange auras from Luxray and Ninjask?” Amia glanced at Owen and the other late-evolvers.

“They don’t have an ancestry at all,” Star said. “They were… created some other way. Without… parents. I at least gave Rhys and the others a little trace from me, just for, you know, symbolism and stuff.”

“No… parents?” Owen asked. “They were created? But—you created Rhys, right? So, what’s the difference?”

“They must’ve been created some other way,” Star said. “Maybe… artificially.”

A confused silence filled the air. Then, murmurs. Anam spoke up. “Artificial? …Like Adam? His aura’s weird, too, now that I’m looking at it…”

“ADAM,” the Porygon-Z specified.

“Uhh… maybe?” Star said evasively. “He’s a weird case, but—Look, not important. But that’s why their auras are strange. No ancestry. They were made some other way—and it seems like they were modified, too, from how their species should be. That’s why they’re called mutants in the first place, y’know? They had some weird abilities. Even other sightings are kinda like that.”

“Pokémon with weird abilities?” Owen asked. He wondered. Should he say this? Yes. He should. Because he wasn’t going to let this go when it already felt so close. It felt like someone tried to tie his memories up and seal them away. But now they were coming back. “You know, no matter how much I try to teach others, I don’t think anybody knows how to do my Fire Trap, but… maybe that’s just because I’m resourceful?”

This time, Owen watched for everyone’s reactions closely. He wasn’t speculating for no reason. The others knew something. And he saw just what he expected. Uncomfortable shuffling where they stood or sat. Some of them didn’t make eye contact. Rhys, in particular, looked like he’d seen death in the face. He looked at Zena next, and the way her serpentine body reacted. He was starting to become more familiar with in terms of body language, if only slightly. He couldn’t identify the emotion she was experiencing based on her muscle movements, but he did know one thing: she had trouble looking at him. For some reason, this one hurt the most.

“…Guys,” Owen said, “what… aren’t you telling me?” He turned his head, looking at them all. “What… am I?”

Owen wobbled where he stood. He felt faint. He saw Rhys’ paw glowing with a strange light.


“Ugh, my back,” Owen muttered, rolling over in bed. “Wh—huh?” he looked up, springing to his feet. “Wait—how long was I…?” He remembered he was planning things out with Star and the others. They were going to try to form a strong team of fighters. Would Owen—no… no, he wouldn’t count. He’s just a Charmander, after all. Just a Charmander…

“Ugh, stop dwelling,” Owen muttered. “I should just ask them about it.”

Owen, seeing the glow of the mushrooms in his room, determined that it was late in the afternoon. Ugh, my whole sleep schedule is done for. He looked outside and saw that everybody was still planning, far ahead in Hot Spot Square. “Oh—good! I didn’t miss too much?” he called.

“Oh, hey, Owen! You kinda passed out while you were talking,” Star said. “Feeling better? Listen, you shouldn’t push yourself. If you’re too tired, just sit back and rest.”

“I must’ve been really tired from that fight.” Owen laughed. “Okay! So, um, who’s going to be going and stuff?”

“We ain’t,” Gahi muttered, looking down. “We passed out just like you.”

“Yeah. We just aren’t strong enough, I guess,” Demitri said. “The stress of all that fighting with Rim really got to us. I feel like I was hit by a Golem’s… everything.”

Mispy sighed.

“But don’t worry!” Star said, “You guys can meditate and spar with Rhys and stuff instead, okay? How’s that sound?” The Mew waved her arms encouragingly. “Right now, those ‘clean aura’ Pokémon aren’t doing anything—they must be regrouping, so we should take that time to do the same thing here, y’know? And to be honest, I think it’d be a good idea if we narrowed our numbers down to maybe… a single strong team to handle just one Guardian at a time. So, if you want my opinion on that… Then we should also go back to the Spire of Trials and try for Manny a second time—but with a stronger team. And we need some of us to also rally up some help in Kilo Village for scouting, since… uh… since I have no idea where the other Guardians could be.”

“Hmm,” Amia said. “Well, I wouldn’t consider myself strong, so why don’t I help with rallying?”

“Wait,” Owen said. “Can we do the Trial place again?”


“I lost against the Feraligatr the last time. Feraligatr Azu. And I want a rematch! I’ll do better this time!”

“Owen,” Amia said.

“Please?” Owen pleaded.

Star sighed. “No,” she said. “You need to train, Owen. I’m sorry.”


“Um, should I stay back, too?” Anam said. The Goodra poked his fingers together; they fused, and then split apart each time. “I know I’m strong, but… you need me to rally up the Hearts, right?”

“I can do that in your place,” James said.

“But what if I’m defeated? You’ll fizzle up, and the whole town will see it!”

“Hrm…” James ruffled his feathers. “I’d rather not imagine a scenario where you die, Anam. Also, I imagine it would be difficult to maintain my form so far away, even for you.”

“Anam, compared to Manny, I don’t think you’ll be defeated like that,” Star said. “But it would be a tough win…”

“Would I be… strong enough?” Zena said.

“Perhaps not,” James said, “but we work as a team together quite well.”

“Yeah, Zena, you seem like you’d be an elegant fighter, if you ask me,” Owen said. “It goes well with how James fights, and maybe it’ll keep Anam calm? And Mom fights like that, too.”

“Elegant?” Zena blushed.

Star giggled. “Okay, let’s form up the team of elites. Rhys, you might not be the strongest Hunter, but you’re the strongest we have. So, I want you to go and fight Manny himself, okay?”

“Rhys is stronger than me?” Anam said.

“Ehh, I dunno. You guys would have to spar it out,” Star said, “but—trust me, Manny will want to fight Rhys. Now, for the other three fighters. Amia, don’t be modest—you’re pretty tough. So, you’re going, too. Okay?”

“Oh, okay,” Amia replied. “Am—am I, really?”

“Yes. You should be able to handle his second-in-command. So as for his third- and fourth-in-command…”

“So, I really can’t go back and fight Azu?” Owen spoke up again.

“Owen, you—you can’t,” Star said. “Train here. Okay?”

Owen crossed his arms, rolling a ball of an ember in his mouth to silence himself. He didn’t bring it up again.

“Next up, uh… Rhys, Amia…” Star mumbled under her breath. “…Anam, are you sure you can’t substitute somebody else to rally the team, like James?”

“I guess I could…” Anam said. “Nevren might be able to help, right?” He nibbled on his slimy fingers, thinking. “I just hope we aren’t bothering him.”

“It’s his duty,” James said firmly. “He should be able to do it easily. We will simply speak with him before we go.”

“Okay, and James, you’re pretty tough all on your own, so you’re member number four!” Star said. “Everyone else should focus on training. I’ll have someone other than Anam summon me so I can probably do some coaching.”

Owen listened, but then decided to concentrate on his memories again. He felt it. They were sealed away. It felt like a plug stuck right in his skull, like he couldn’t breathe through his mental nose. What if he thought back harder? Owen earned a massive headache when he tried, but he pushed through anyway, just for something—anything—to satisfy his curiosity.

More memories. He saw Rhys approach him while at the meeting—right before he had passed out. He was telling him something—to go rest, that he was tired. And then, his paw had glowed… and Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all passed out. And then Owen did right after. And… and that fight. Feraligatr Azu. He wasn’t a Charmander, was he? No. He was too tall.

He wasn’t at thigh-height. He was at belly-height.

I was a Charmeleon.

“Owen?” Rhys asked.

He’d do it again. Rhys would try to make him sleep and forget. “Huh?” Owen asked. “Oh, sorry. I was thinking about a new strategy for that Feraligatr. I think I know how to beat him!” Putting his knowledge of his own body language to use, he tensed his arms, as if readying a punch. His eyes glowed with a competitive fire. “Or, maybe I can beat him. Maybe. I need to think more. Maybe after I do some training, I can have a rematch when he comes here with Manny!”

Rhys sighed. “Of course.”

As long as he played dumb, he could keep his memories. But why were they gone? What else did he forget? Think, Owen, think… What did they want to hide? And how is he back to being a Charmander?

Zena’s reaction in particular bothered him. She was with Anam and the others for Cara’s failed rescue. None of Team Alloy was with them, so they must have told her what happened. So, what did they tell her? What did he—and the rest of Team Alloy—do?

What did they become?
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Winter can't come soon enough
Well then, this was certainly an eerie chapter. I think one of the most amusing things about all of this is that absolutely nobody is questioning Star's strategy. Sure, there's scrutiny of some of the details like who's going to end up where. But no one has objections to the overall plan. And that's... concerning, but in a good way, I suppose? The only way it could've been better for me was if the one character whose head we're in (Owen) grew skeptical, but Owen's got his own problems at the moment, so I can understand it. The blind trust makes sense since all these characters consider Star to be their diety and whatnot. However, her general lack of surprise or feeling of urgency regarding the whole situation makes me have this nagging sense that she might actually be stringing this entire group along. Zena's the only one who's really showed any potential resistance. I feel like this'll be a plot point later, so I'm-a hold onto that.

This was, for the most part, just a lot of talking and strategizing. None of it was boring, since it was interspersed with Owen's confusion whirlwind. You even took the time to (slightly) address a lingering question I had going into this: "How much do the other guardians know about the memory wiping thing? Or were they effected as well?" I say slightly because I couldn't really get a clear picture of exactly what they knew. I know Owen's our POV guy, so I don't feel like it was a case of you purposefully concealing things from the reader just for the sake of it. It builds up the suspense and intrigue well, since it could put a ripple in Owen's developing relationship with Zena.

And then we have the aura and mutant Pokémon stuff. At first it was a bit tricky to follow, but I think the overall explanation made sense. The only thing that struck me as off was just how casually you reveal Star created Rhys. I... don't think that was every brought up until now and the cast collectively shrugs it off. Though, with how ridiculous the fic's been so far, I guess we've made it to the "Seen it all" phase. In any case, I'd like to think the mutants are either the result of some Mystic (a Hunter or Star, most likely) dicking about with the power they have from certain orbs. Alternatively, they're leftovers from some sort of apocalypse that destroyed whatever world existed before the current one with Star and Arceus. That... seems less likely, but it's a possibility. Also I get the feeling Owen and Team Alloy were casually created... again leading me to think they're all Hunters.

Now then...
“Oh, right,” Anam said. He held his arms forward and focused; a little aura flare formed between his hands, and he sent out another spirit. It formed into a winged Lopunny—a solid spirit.
Man, look at all this spirit-channeling! When's Anam gonna ask if anyone wants to grab a burger, huh?

Willow glowed a bit. “W-well, I guess I might be a little cute…!”

“Beat them up to befriend them?” Demitri asked.
Yes, everyone knows that, in the world of Pokémon, the only way to make friends is to inflict violence upon them. <3

He was starting to become a bit more familiar with in terms of body language, if only slightly
Of course he would. He knows her body quite well after all... giggity.

“Yeah, Zena, you seem like you’d be an elegant fighter, if you ask me,” Owen said.
Oh, you flatterer, you. *giggle*

“Okay, let’s form up the team of elites. Rhys, you might not be the strongest Hunter, but you’re the strongest we have. So, I want you to go and fight Manny himself, okay?”
Ah, so he got Worf Effect'd to show Rim can't be trifled with. :p


sometimes i get a deadache, yeah
At last I arrive!

They were standing in the middle of the Hot Spot square.
Sometimes the "square" is capitalized, and sometimes the "the" is missing when this location is mentioned, at least in the last few chapters, I believe. I can kinda get "Hot Spot Square" and "the Hot Spot square" both being used, but "the Hot Spot Square", which it was at the end of the previous chapter, steps on both options' toes.

“Oh, right,” Anam said. He held his arms forward and focused; a little aura flare formed between his hands, and he sent out another spirit. It formed into a winged Lopunny—a solid spirit. She wasn’t very strong, unlike Star, who was still very much see-through. Much easier to summon. But James and the others in Anam’s squad recognized her immediately.
Oh, Guardians can summon spirits of any type and not just their Orb's type? I'm actually not too sure why I got that impression in the first place, but I felt surprised nonetheless.

“Yeah…. But, anyway,” Star said, “the two weak Guardians that were left—Cara and Forrest—means that from here on out, the Guardians we’re gonna face are gonna be strong, and they might even be paranoid and hostile if we approach.”
By removing the addition between dashes, we get "the two weak Guardians that were left means that from here on out", which doesn't really make sense as a sentence, so a word or two may be missing here.

Also, four periods after "yeah" instead of three.

She evaded looking at anybody else.
Hmm, I don't know for sure about this at all, but "evaded" doesn't really sound right in this context. I'd use "avoided" to be sure.

A flash of a memory flashed in Owen’s eyes.
Kinda redundant phrasing.

“Rhys has a similar aura,” Star said, “aura is a little weird because he doesn’t have grandparents—All he has is a single parent, me.
Is a word missing from that second sentence?

Anam spoke up. “Artificial? …Like Adam? His aura’s weird, too, now that I’m looking at it…”

“ADAM,” the Porygon-Z specified.
*visible confusion*

Flashes before his eyes.
Might lack a word, might not, pointing it out just in case.

Anyway, Owen seems to be remembering things faster and faster now. Gonna be fun to see him trying to act ignorant about it.


Dragon Enthusiast
I think one of the most amusing things about all of this is that absolutely nobody is questioning Star's strategy.
You know, this is actually something that I recently got as feedback as well, but not in a really good way. I feel like I haven't actually outlined this aspect of Star well enough, that is, why everybody is going with this plan of hers. I'll try to rectify this in the next chapter, since I have a great spot to actually point it out, but it's not really because they trust Star. It's more like... that's kinda the best option they see, and Star's just helping them along. What else are they gonna do, stay alone and get picked off by the Hunters? Star's kinda their default.

The only thing that struck me as off was just how casually you reveal Star created Rhys. I... don't think that was every brought up until now and the cast collectively shrugs it off.
...Oops. I think during my editing of chapter 10, I lost the part where Star said she created their auras and gave them bodies. She conscripted them, yeah, but that wasn't the only thing. Still, I should probably outline that here, too. And also in the next chapter, certainly. That will be useful.

Oh, Guardians can summon spirits of any type and not just their Orb's type? I'm actually not too sure why I got that impression in the first place, but I felt surprised nonetheless.
I don't really explain the mechanic all that well, do I? I think I can probably make a small note in the narration that while they can summon any Type, it's significantly easier to summon someone of the same Type. But that doesn't matter as much for Anam summoning Cara, because Anam's super strong, and Cara's fairly weak.

*visible confusion*
Ha, I guess I didn't specify it until later, but "ADAM" is pronounced ayy-dee-ayy-emm, while Adam is... Adam. Heh... Well. Anyway. It's not that important.

Okay, guys. I just have a few more edits to make, and then the next chapter will come! It'll be... probably my most dramatic chapter yet, but I'm proud of it.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 17 – Holes in the Mind

Anam, Rhys, James, and Amia all left for Manny’s Spire of Trials. In the meantime, Nevren paid a visit after he was summoned, and left to rally up Kilo Village. That left everybody else to go through some training with Star, who was summoned this time by Zena. Compared to Anam’s strength, Star was barely solid, and for the most part, could only be heard. There were a few instances where Pokémon accidentally passed right through the Mew phantasm because they didn’t see her. And, generally, it was hard to tell the pink cloud of Mew-shaped smoke from everything else.

Owen was sitting at the town square, just below a small bulletin board that went largely unused. He stared at it nostalgically; he knew every corner of that board, the way it was carved from stone and then melted at the edges to look shiny. There was a small bowl of grayish-yellow adhesive to the side of the board that was used to stick papers on; when it was no longer needed, it could just be peeled off. Owen remembered how he once put a notice here. ‘Looking for a new rock, at least two feet in height, polished! Will pay 3000 Poké!’ was what he had posted.

It ended up being a very good rock.

He had bought it with his allowance that he’d saved up from Amia and Alex, after spending most of it on treats and fighting materials. But now, what could he post there? Especially now that he knew all of the other Pokémon that had lived there in town were dead and hiding out in Amia’s Fire Orb to leave room for the newcomers. Owen felt a pang in his chest. How could his parents do that to him? All of the friends he had were spirits. They weren’t even around anymore—they had to make room for all the Guardians and their spirits. What was the point of all that, anyway?

Spirits… It had been a while since Owen thought about the ones he had. Were they watching the whole time? “Wait…” Owen said. He looked around. It seemed that mostly everybody was training in their own corners of Hot Spot Square, focusing on what they felt was most necessary. Zena was nearest to Owen, despite this. Star was also nearby. “Um—Star?”

“Yo.” The Mew in question was watching everybody and their training, giving pointers when necessary. Zena, in particular, was still gathering her energy after expending so much into summoning Star.

“How do I summon spirits?”

“Oh, you wanna learn that? Yeah, I guess you should, especially since everybody else knows how to do it. It actually isn’t that hard, either. Zena, didn’t you accidentally spit someone out when you used Water Gun once?”

“Y-you promised you wouldn’t speak of that!” Zena squeaked.

“O-oh, sorry,” Star said. “But hey, wasn’t a Divine Promise, heh… S-sorry. Really.”

Zena, flushing red, slithered away to compose herself.

“A-anyway, it feels a lot like using an Attack, okay? But instead, it feels like you’re focusing… inward, and then bringing something out… That make sense?”

“I think I understand,” Owen said, closing his eyes. “Inward… inward… Wait—who do I summon?”

“Uhh,” Star said. “Why don’t you try talking to them? It’s kinda like talking to yourself in your head. You’ll get a response. Hey, you might even feel them reaching out. That’ll make it easier to summon them.”

Owen nodded. “Okay, let me try.” He closed his eyes and tried to ignore everything that his five senses were giving him. It was easier than usual; this part of town was quieter, and the heat was nothing to his natural body.

Um… hello? Is anybody there? Owen said. It’s me, um, Owen.

A few voices replied to him—various forms of hello. Owen knew that if they’d done this to him earlier, he would’ve thought he was going crazy.

H-hi! I—I didn’t think that’d… work! Um—have you guys always been there?

Various answers that confirmed.

W-wow, okay… I didn’t expect that, he said. Are you enjoying watching all this? I hope you guys aren’t too bored there.

Various responses, though they seemed mostly positive.

Owen blushed slightly. A-anyway, I wanted to summon one of you guys for practice! Is that okay? Who can I summon and stuff? I just really want to learn this new technique. Everyone else knows it, and I gotta catch up!

Well… I suppose I can, said a voice. Owen got the impression that it was Klent, the Jumpluff—the previous Guardian.

Klent! Right? I’m glad to hear you again! Um… sorry I didn’t talk to you guys until now. It’s kinda been a really rough few days, and then I got distracted…

It’s okay, Owen, Klent replied.

Owen felt something inside his chest. No—not quite. But it felt like it was coming from there. Was that Klent trying to summon himself? But he wasn’t quite there. Owen had to help. “Okay,” Owen said. It felt like meditating. He went deep into himself, into his spirit… and found Klent’s presence. Then, with another thought, he pushed him out. More and more… it felt like something rising out of his body. A gentle warmth, even for his Fiery type. Owen briefly wondered if going Grass would’ve made it easier or harder to summon someone.

A blue ember flew out of Owen’s chest, landing a few feet ahead of him. There, the blue ember shaped itself into four little spheres—Owen recognized this as the base of a Jumpluff’s shape. It then solidified enough to be visible, like Klent was made out of lightly colored glass that was also on fire. “A-are… are you okay?” Owen asked.

“I believe so,” Klent replied, looking at his pom-poms. “Hmm. I feel very… ghostly.”

“Sorry. I guess I’m not strong enough yet.”

“Yeah,” Star said, “your Mysticism is actually a lot higher than when you started off, more than I expected, actually, but you don’t know how to use it yet, is the problem,” Star said. “That’s what I’d call a measure of how adept you are at using your divine power. Mysticism. And since you’re still working on it, don’t worry! You’ll improve fast.”

“Mysticisismum… Mystici…” Owen shook his head. “I’m stronger than expected?”

“Mhm,” Star nodded. “See, being exposed to powerful Mystics… kinda also raises the power faster. Like a feedback loop. So, the training you guys do with each other is gonna benefit you the most, Owen, since you’re the furthest behind. Oh, and not to mention you nearly died during that fight with Azu, that boosts your Mystic power, too!”

“I—I have to nearly die to get stronger?! What kind of system is that?!”

“Just a side-effect,” Star shrugged. “It’s not ideal… but hey, you also nearly drowned with Zena, remember? So that’s another boost! Stress on the aura trying to cling to the body is a real workout for the spirit, you know. Usually doesn’t mean anything, but for a Mystic, you can use that to get more in touch with your spiritual side. Literally.”

Owen crossed his arms and pouted. She had a point, but he didn’t want to admit it. This reckless lifestyle that once endangered him was actually paying off. At least he was more strategic in battle. “What else raises Mysticis—mys—is there a better name for it?”


“Mysticism it is,” Owen grumbled.

Star giggled. “What else raises it? Lots of spiritual and aural stuff that Rhys does,” she said. “Meditation, mental training, grueling endurance, powerful emotions, near-death experiences… the works. Stuff that the body normally wouldn’t want.”

“So… not fighting?”

“That’s for your normal fighting abilities; that tunes your aura with your body,” Star said. “Mysticism tunes your aura to the power that your body draws from, directly. The connection from your aura to your spirit. Subtle difference.”

“I don’t get it.”

“You will. Just practice more.”


They repeated this process a few times. Star left to train the others while Owen practiced under Klent’s instructions. Klent vanished as an ember and reentered Owen’s body.

Zena was eventually unable to maintain Star’s form, and the pink smoke faded in the air. Willow summoned her next, practicing with ADAM and Valle. The Joltik practiced summoning her twisted spirits, all of them preferring to become giant mushrooms of some kind, screaming and laughing at anybody who approached, occasionally exploding. ADAM, meanwhile, focused on summoning the few spirits he had within his Normal Orb. They behaved oddly like ADAM, moving stiffly and erratically, though given how transparent they were, it was clear that this was not a technique that the Porygon-Z was used to.

Valle practiced my meditating. That is, he stood still in the middle of Hot Spot and observed the cave’s walls.

“Is that even a valid way to train?”

“Well, it’s meditating,” Star said. Her smoky form made what Owen could only guess was a shrug. “And I guess since he’s expanding his aura a ton to feel the whole cave, that’s pretty good training. And—”

Willow and a few of her mushrooms screamed at one another. Willow tackled a blue one, which puffed up and exploded, making all of the others scream and hop along the ground, tackling one another.

“Oh, come on,” Star sighed. “I gotta go break them up.” She flew away, leaving Owen and Zena alone.

The Charmander stared uneasily at the exploding mushrooms. “How long have we known her, again?” he said.

“Not very long,” Zena replied. “…Do you… not remember?”

Owen looked at Zena. “I mean,” he said, “I know that we met her recently, but I kinda—I don’t know. To be honest,” he laughed nervously, “I think this Mystic stuff is making my memories a little foggy. Is that normal?”

“I’m sure it’s just shock,” Zena said, strained. “Owen, do you—do you really not remember anything? How much do you remember?”

“I remember I was fighting Azu,” Owen said. “And I remember… I think I remember fighting Willow. And training. I think I remember that. Oh, and I remember fighting that Aerodactyl. I wonder how he’s doing.”

Zena fidgeted with her ribbons. “What about me?” she asked.


“Me. Do you remember anything about me?”

Owen paused. “…Oh! I remember we fought Rhys. Yeah. That was pretty scary, actually. I hope when I get stronger, I can rematch him.” He nodded. “He beat me in one hit.”

“You only remember your fights?” Zena asked.

Owen scratched the back of his head in thought. “Yeah, I think so. But that’s the most important part, in a way, since I can learn from all those fights. Muscle memory! That’s a really important type of memory.”

Zena stared in silence. Her tail coiled around itself in a tight circle.

“Did… did we hang out more often than what I’m remembering?” he asked.

“No, we didn’t,” Zena said curtly. “Your memory is just fine. Like I said, Owen. You’re still in some kind of shock from the fight. Your Mystic power will help you recover in time.”

“Hmm,” Owen said. “I don’t know, Zena.” He eyed her carefully. “Can you at least fill me in on some of the details I’m missing? Maybe it’ll help jog my memory!”

“No. You’re just fine,” Zena said.

She seemed tense, but Owen’s perception was dull. He had the vaguest idea that his senses used to be a lot sharper for these sorts of things. But now? It all felt muddled.

And he knew he used to be a Charmeleon. Zena should have known, too. Why was she hiding it from him? It was like everybody was playing along to keep the secret from him. He could tell that much. Zena knew, too. He saw it in her eyes. But—was it for something important…? Or was it just another lie, like Hot Spot’s villagers?

No. He wasn’t going to live through something like that again. Zena felt too important for him to leave those memories locked away. He didn’t know why. It was just a feeling. Feelings. He could remember those. If only he could also remember the details. He also had a feeling who it was that was behind keeping everyone quiet.

“Zena,” Owen said. “Do you trust Star?”

“Star?” Zena said. “Of course not.”

Owen wasn’t expecting such a forward answer. “O-oh. You don’t?”

“No. I’m only following this group because you—” Zena stopped herself. “…Because… it’s better than being alone. There are others that I can talk to here and I feel safer. I can tell that it’s the same for most of the other Guardians, too. It isn’t that we trust Star. It’s that she’s offering a better alternative than… being alone. And, I suppose in Valle’s case, he’s satisfied with his new cave.” The Milotic rolled her eyes at the thought of the strange statue. “But don’t you remember why I don’t trust… well, no… why I simply can’t forgive her so easily? I’d think at least that would be something you’d remember,” she hissed.

“A-about that,” Owen said, shrinking back. “O-oh, wait. I think I do, I—”

Owen sat in the middle of Anam’s office. Zena was trembling around him, burying her face in her coils. Her body constricted around Owen, her scales grinding against the rocky wall behind her. The Charmeleon desperately held Zena steady, trying to keep her together.

Owen clutched at his head. “OHH, that one hurt,” he grunted. His tiny body would’ve been split in two if she squeezed any harder! But that memory… that confirmed it. Charmeleon. He looked up at the Milotic in his memory.

Zena gasped, slithering backward. “Owen?” She bit at her lower lip uncertainly.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine. I think—I think I should stop thinking for a little bit.” Owen looked up, seeing the Milotic back away like she’d done something she shouldn’t have. Eyes of regret. She was keeping it a secret. Everyone was. It was Hot Spot all over again. “Zena? Listen—tell me again, just—why, with Star and—”

“I need to go,” Zena said abruptly, turning around.

“Uh—Zena!” Owen said. “Wait! I—”

“Practice your summoning,” the Milotic said. “I need to meditate.”

“But…” Owen frowned. “But I just… want to remember…”

Owen… Klent said from within his spirit. Let’s just practice for now. Let her unwind. She’s obviously tense.

Okay, so that wasn’t just me? Owen said. I know I upset her with what I said, but—I just don’t remember, Klent! I—

She understands. She just needs time. Please, let’s keep practicing.

Owen sighed. Fine.

Owen summoned him again, over and over, improving his technique until—finally—the Jumpluff appeared, but instead of being opaque like before, he was solid. The Jumpluff was indistinguishable from others, just like the other spirits that Owen knew all his life. This thought sent another pang through him—of what, he still couldn’t identify. Anger, betrayal, sadness… confusion. He was pretty sure it was confusion. He couldn’t see himself holding a terrible grudge against his own parents, after all. They meant well.

I better not be developing a complex, Owen thought bitterly. But then he addressed Klent with a smile and a presenting motion with his arms.

“Oh, you did it,” Klent said, inspecting his pom-poms with a neutral expression. “Very good.”

“You don’t seem too happy about that,” Owen said, crossing his arms. “I mean, c’mon, aren’t you glad to be alive again? I mean… basically-alive? …Solid?”

“…I suppose I am,” Klent said. “I just didn’t think it would be under these circumstances.”

“Oh—circumstances?” Owen asked. “What do you mean, circumstances?” Owen glanced at Klent and, for half of a second, they locked eyes. Owen saw… something, there, in those eyes. What was it? It put a horrible pit in his stomach, something eating at him from the inside. He gulped. “Klent?”

Klent shook his head. “Sorry. I suppose I’m still bitter about dying, is all.”

Owen nodded. “Yeah, I guess that’s pretty… yeah,” he said, stepping forward. But that look Klent gave him. It was similar to what he saw before when he first entered the Grass Orb. That hesitation to meet him. Why did they all hesitate? Were they shy, or…? And the way Klent looked at him, too.

“…Owen?” Klent asked. His eyes softened. “Are you okay?”

“I—yeah, I’m okay,” Owen said. “Klent… can I ask you something?”

“As… as one of your spirits, I suppose I’ll have to at least listen to your question,” he said.

Owen glanced back. Star was still busy. He looked back at Klent. If there was one person he could put his trust in right now, it’d be the very spirits that were a part of his being. They wouldn’t lie to him. “How come I’m a Charmander again?”

“Pick a different question,” Klent said lowly.

“S-so I really was a Charmeleon,” Owen said softly.

Klent looked at Star. “Owen, stay here, I need to—”

“Please, don’t tell her,” Owen said. “I don’t want to forget. I… it’s messing with my head. I feel like I’m losing my mind—why? What’s happening? Why does it feel like there are huge holes where my past should be? I—I don’t even know how old I am, Klent. Please… What’s… why am… why is everything like this?”

The Jumpluff hesitated again. He looked cornered and eyed Star. He wouldn’t be able to get there in time even if he tried. His eyes were frantic and said it all: Owen wasn’t supposed to be behaving this way, and it was a surprise. Why was he regaining his memories so quickly?

“Why did Star trust me to have this Orb?” Owen asked. “What’s so special about me? How come I’m so strong for a Charmander, a—a late-evolver, too. Like the others. Why… why can I do Fire Trap? Only I know it. Only me.” Owen’s mind was racing. Connecting. He was always good at this—when he was focused on something, he could make connections quickly and easily. He did it in battle all the time, finding just the right tactic to beat an opponent many times stronger than he was. But tactics alone wouldn’t make him that special. James was the same way—tactical—perhaps even better. So why him?

Owen thought again. What other people had strange, special talents? Stronger than usual? Late-evolving? Gahi. A Trapinch that was incredibly fast. He gave off the signs of a Pokémon with Speed Boost, on top of already incredible speed, even for his slowest, larva-like form. Mispy. Her aura reading, for one, not to mention her incredible healing talent. Demitri. He was slow, but nothing held back his attacks. He could take more hits than all of them combined. Owen had a vague memory of him smashing through even his Protect shields of light during a distant sparring match.

Those strange Pokémon. The Ninjask that Star talked about. The Luxray, too. They were strange, just like he was. A Pokémon with no ancestry. A Pokémon that was created by some other way. Who were his parents? The ones he was born from. Amia and Alex never knew. And Rhys—why did he know so much about—

The bed. The Rawst bed. Not only did he have one in his home in Hot Spot Cave, but there was also one in Rhys’ old home. Who would ever need a Rawst bed in that cave? Rhys didn’t take guests. Sure, he tended to gather useless trinkets. But a Rawst bed?

“Klent…” Owen finally said again. The Jumpluff was taking slow steps away, trying to get to Star. “Please, wait! Klent! I… I need to know!” he said.

Klent ran as fast as his light body would allow. Little puffs of dandelion seeds flew from his pom-poms in his frantic dash. Owen didn’t yet know how to forcibly recall a spirit. He had to chase after him.

“Klent, PLEASE!” Owen yelled. “What—what am I?!

Star turned around, ears twitching at the question. She saw Klent running toward him with primal fear in his glassy eyes, and then Owen right behind him. She flicked her hand and created a barrier to stop Owen from advancing; he slammed his fist helplessly against it. Star floated toward him.

“Whoa, whoa, h-hang on, Owen!” Star said. “Just—just breathe, okay? Just breathe…! This’ll only take a second…!”

“NO! DON’T TAKE THEM AWAY!” Owen screamed, clutching his head. Star’s paw glowed, but when he said that, the light flickered. “P-please,” Owen said again, staring at the Mew with wide eyes. “I… I don’t want to forget! I know someone’s messing with my head—taking away my memories…! There’s… they’re missing… I’m missing so much of my past! I—I can see the holes, they’re—they’re all covered up and scooped out of my head…!” Tears bubbled at the sides of his eyes, tracing the ridges of his scales.

“O-okay, Owen, just—just calm down! Look, l-look, no light! It’s gone, no light…!” Star waved her paws in the air; indeed, the light was gone.

Hyperventilating, Owen sat down. He was dizzy. He wanted to throw up.

He sat in the middle of some forest, reading a book with Amia and Alex nearby. They had gone out more often back then. How far back? He was a Charmeleon.

He was playing marbles with a few of the other villagers. He was a Charmander. His tiny hands made it easy to make precise shots. He won every time.

The chest pain returned. Something ran right through his back—a blade from the end of a tail, plunged into him. His mother cried his name.

He was flying—the memory abruptly cut off.

“O-oh… oh, Arceus… h-how old am I…?” Owen said. His head was pounding. He wasn’t sure if it was his breathing or his tears that made his vision so blurry.

“Owen, shh, shh… just… just breathe, okay? Stay with me.” Star said. “Your aura is out of control—just breathe… Owen? Close your eyes… just focus on my voice, okay? Owen, can you hear me? Owen?”

It wasn’t working. Owen’s entire body was shaking; he couldn’t see anymore. It was all dark. It felt like his tail’s flame was covering his whole back.

He heard roaring. It was his voice. He remembered roaring. Such a horrible noise. The roars in his mind translated into desperate whimpers for the others to hear.

“Owen,” Zena said, right beside him. Owen didn’t even realize she had been there. “Breathe.”

Owen choked on his breath, clutching at his chest. It felt like his ribs were splitting apart.

“You’ve got this, Owen,” Star said. “In and out. Breathe easy. Theeere you go…”

Breathe, breathe… Meditate. Rhys always asked that. Rhys—!

He sat next to Gahi. He sank halfway into the sand pit, muttering something. Owen laughed and said, “Just do it, we can fight later!” And then he closed his eyes.

They sat at the table. Rhys gave Owen a little smile. He had his favorite dish today. Gahi groaned, wanting something meatier.

Owen had Rhys’ neck in his giant claws—the memory abruptly stopped.

“Owen, stay with me, c’mon,” Star said softly. By now, everybody was staring at them. Owen didn’t know; his eyes were shut tight.

“Owen, I’m going to put a small block on your memory, okay? I won’t erase anything. I’m just going to stop them from coming for a little while.”

Owen didn’t say anything. He was burning.

He walked through Kilo Village with a spring in his step. As a Charmeleon, he’d surely be accepted into the Association!

There was a frightened little Spinarak with a few injured legs. He offered an Oran Berry. The wild thing ate it, spat a String Shot in his face, and fled. Owen shouted something about being ungrateful.

Owen felt the warm embrace of a fellow Charmander. They were both crying silently. He didn’t want to let go.

“Owen? Owen, are you okay?” Star said.

It felt like there was still a lot more missing. He didn’t know how much was gone—but a lot still was. But the flood was frozen in place. Ready to topple over him at any second, yet frozen for now. Owen breathed slowly.

“Star…” he finally said. Feeling slightly more secure with what he had, and what he didn’t yet have to deal with, he asked, “What’s wrong with me…?”

The Mew nodded and pat his shoulder. She floated to his height—a little, pink puff that tried her best to comfort him with words. “A lot, Owen, a lot,” she said, “but you’re going to be okay, alright? You have me. You have everyone else. We’re here for you, alright?”

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi were all staring, confused. “What’s going on?” Demitri asked. “What’s Owen talking about? Is he…? Is that Orb driving him crazy?”

“C-can it do that…?” Mispy asked. She was hiding her leaf behind her head; it was getting a total sensory overload at the pulsing flare Owen’s aura gave off. His panic made it an inferno; her ability to sense auras was shot like she was hit by three Flash attacks all at once. What was happening to his head?

“Oy, Owen,” Gahi said.

Owen gulped and opened his eyes. “G-Gahi…?”

“Y’alright?” he asked.

“I…” Owen stopped. He felt… grounded, hearing Gahi speak to him. “I’m okay… I think I’m okay.”

He looked at Zena next, and the pain in his chest slowly subsided.

Star sighed, feeling Owen’s aura calm down. It was still flaming—but it was at least no longer like staring at the sun.

“Owen?” Zena spoke up. She was among the many training Guardians that had paused to see if Owen was okay.

“H-hi, Zena,” Owen said. He realized that everybody was staring at him; he lowered his head in shame. “I—I’m sorry. I… I’m making a huge scene over nothing…”

“It’s not nothing,” Zena said. The Milotic could relate. No breakdown was over nothing. There was always a reason—and it felt like this was over something much deeper than a bit of stress. “Star, why don’t we make lunch for him?”

“I—I want to make lunch for Owen, too!” Willow said.

“There is a fresh collection of underground berries,” Valle said, “located in hallway E after a left, right, left, and left turn. They will serve Owen well.”

“Okay. We’ll all take a break for lunch,” Star said.

“Guardians do not require food,” ADAM said.

“Then—train if you like, but take a break if you want,” Star said. “Owen, want to head to, uh, Rhys’ place? We’ll whip up something nice.”

Owen’s mind was still racing, but perhaps now it was at a jog rather than a sprint. He was making connections about his blurry past and what he already knew. With Star putting a block on the remaining memories that were hidden away, he could work with that manageable portion without being overwhelmed by the rest.

He was definitely a Charmeleon during his fight with Azu. But then, something happened. He remembered… an intense heat. And a pressure in his chest. The heat he felt before when he had evolved the first time. And he felt that heat many, many times before. He became a Charmeleon countless times—he evolved, over and over, and then forgot, becoming a Charmander again. It was always Rhys—or… or Amia. They were the ones who somehow brought him back to normal.

Normal. Normal from what?

Owen thought about his strange dreams. He thought they were just fantasies about being a Charizard, but… no. There was no way they were fantasies. That happened. He was a Charizard before. And Gahi was a Flygon—and Demitri, a Haxorus, and Mispy, a Meganium. They all were, before. But something happened… what happened? He can’t remember. That was still locked away. Those times with Team Alloy, fully evolved, felt like incredibly early memories. How far back did it go? How long ago was that? How many evolution cycles…?

“Owen!” Gahi shouted.

“Wh—buh—huh?” Owen said, jolting awake.

“Arceus in the Sky, ‘mon, we’ve been calling yeh ten times!” Gahi said.

“You look lost in thought again,” Demitri said. “Are—are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m… I don’t think I’m okay,” Owen said. “My head’s spinning with all these memories… and you were all in them, too,” he said. “Gahi, do you ever remember—”

“Ah, ah, ah! Owen! Not yet,” Star said.


“Not yet. Please,” Star said carefully.

Owen gulped but nodded. “O-okay…” he said. She had a point. There was no telling what would happen if Gahi had the same sort of panic that he did.

Owen realized, like a punch in the gut, that the reason everyone was keeping him ignorant was because Star, or perhaps Rhys or Amia, had told them what would happen if he got his memories back. And then, against their wishes, he pried too far, and the memories came spilling back. And now, everything hurt.

Owen stared at his claws while they waited for lunch. He focused, turning his scales green, and then orange, and then green again. He was getting better at that.

The previous Grass Guardian, Klent… Owen sighed. What was that look he gave him? It wasn’t the first time. Still, there was something bothering him. He looked to the right, where Klent was sitting at the table, though he requested Star not make anything for him—he didn’t need to eat, after all. He didn’t want to take up resources if he didn’t have to.

“Klent?” Owen said. His heart skipped a beat.

“Yes, Owen?” Klent said. He was speaking respectfully, but Owen could still sense a bit of coldness in his voice. Owen was starting to wonder why, connecting more and more of his fragmented memories together. He couldn’t complete the full picture. He was filling in the blanks with speculation. The more he inferred and guessed, the smaller the gaps felt.

Owen couldn’t remember anything beyond evolving into a Charizard. He didn’t even know if that’s what actually happened. What if he became… something else? The strange auras… The lack of ancestry. A clean history. No history. His strange dreams. His instinct for battle—his abnormal need to fight.

That look. Klent’s eyes. Those eyes.

“Klent,” Owen finally said. “…How did you die?”

Star fumbled by the stove, dropping the berries in too fast. The hot water splashed through her smoky body. The Mew cursed under her breath, turning back.

Klent looked away. He looked at Star, instead. The Mew shook her see-through head frantically, but Klent shook his head back. It was too late. Owen’s memories couldn’t be sealed away anymore. He was a Guardian—that trick wasn’t going to work as easily, or perhaps at all. He was going to find out eventually. Just as the memories of Rhys and the other Hunters couldn’t be sealed—a Guardian was just as immune to that kind of influence.

The Jumpluff nodded at the Charmander. “I’m sorry, Owen,” Klent said. “But… I think I know what you’re thinking. And… you’re right.”

The world stood still.

Owen didn’t want to ask. But his mouth moved on its own. “M-meaning…?”

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all exchanged dumbfounded looks. What was going on? Where was Owen getting all these crazy ideas from? And, more importantly—why was everybody else playing along?! They always felt like everyone else knew something they didn’t. They were quite eager to have Owen tell them the answer.

Klent sighed as if bracing for it as well. “I’m sorry, but… it’s true. You’re right.”

“Th-that the way you died… I…?”

“You killed me,” the former Guardian said, “and my daughter.”
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Winter can't come soon enough
Holes in the Mind
So, this chapter's about Naegleria fowleri? Oh, hell yes, time to watch someone's brain turn to swiss cheese!

... oh, wait, Owen's brain actually did swiss cheese? And he pretty much had the PMD equivalent of a brain-eating amoeba, to boot! Hooray! The scientist in me is pleased by this turn of events. ^^

Let me start by addressing your little addendum to Star, since you brought it up. I do think the explanation is nice but it still feels a bit... lacking. I guess for me the big thing surrounding all this has to do with the fact that Star is essentially privy to everything going on with this group. Like, Zena says she doesn't trust Star... but what's stopping Star from knowing about that? I think it would've helped your explanation if we had a solid handle of exactly how connected Star was to the current group. Because it basically seems like she will always know exactly what this group is up to. Like, what would happen if they all tried to keep her out of the loop, so to speak. I know she's the only with the locations of some of the guardians, but it's still very suspect. I guess this is just one of those things where the more you try to explain it, the more issues pop up. Which is fine, I guess. Like I said, I'm on the bus that says Star's actually a bitch in sheepmew's clothing.

Speaking of things to be on the bus about... it looks like my theory about Owen being a Hunter is looking more and more probable, huh? I think you built up to the revelation about Klent well. As soon as he got hesitant toward the middle of the chapter I found myself thinking "Owen probably killed him." Turns out, that was completely right! And who else would kill a Guardian but a Hunter, huh? As far as other stuff that went down this chapter, I liked Zena getting hurt about Owen's tampered memories just because of the dynamic... though I really was a bit confused about the whole thing because you still haven't made it clear who else had their memories tampered with besides Team Alloy or who was ordered to keep silent. Like, surely Zena's aware of what's happening and is blaming Owen for it anyway? Or were her memories messed with, too? And, for that matter, what about all the spirits? Klent's memories seem completely fine... so you mean to tell me Star's powers only affect the individual despite the fact that they're merged with the orb and that should spill over and— agh, I think I just gave myself a headache.

I liked Owen's panic attack a lot. Felt as realistic as you could get for a pokémon. What I thought was a bit shakier was, well, the overall structure of the chapter, given the gravity of the subject matter. You leaned hard on Owen's internal monologue and prose. It personally didn't do it for me. You had a chance to really fuck with our heads by interspersing Owen's past memories into what was currently happening, but instead you kind of handwave them or just say things like "the memories came pouring in." It didn't help that there were several moments that felt very redundant. For example, twice in, like, three paragraphs you have Klent say "I'm sorry, Owen, but you're right." And there were other moments of redundant words in some paragraphs (pointing out each individual example would take too much time). I do think the dam/river metaphor you used was a nifty visual image and made it somewhat more interesting to read than it could've been.

In summary: good job with the revelations sending Owen into a panic attack but I think some of the impact was softened by the heavy leaning on summary narration. Now then...

It ended up being a very good rock.
Owen once owned a pet rock, confirmed.

How could his parents do that to him? All of the friends he had were spirits.
See, this is the part where I'm supposed to feel for Owen, but given we, y'know, never really see his everyday life in the village, this gets an apathetic shrug from me at best.

Zena, didn’t you accidentally spit someone out when you used Water Gun once?”

“Y-you promised you wouldn’t speak of that!” Zena squeaked.
watch out, owen, your girlfriend's into vore

But instead, it feels like you’re focusing… inward, and then bringing something out….
You've got four periods at the end of this. Also, damn it, Star... phrasing!

W-wow, okay… I didn’t expect that, he said. Are you enjoying watching all this? I hope you guys aren’t too bored there.
The spirit realm comes with free Pay Per View. Not a bad deal, actually...

...wait, wouldn't this mean that all the spirits would be watching him mate? This seems like a glaring design flaw!

“I—I have to nearly die to get stronger?! What kind of system is that?!”
We call it "Saiyan Logic," li'l guy. Embrace it, because your Overworld tormentorcreator certainly has. :V

“No, we didn’t,” Zena said curtly.

“But…” Owen frowned. “But I just… want to remember…”
*presses "F" to pay respects*

Owen had a vague memory of him smashing through even his Protect shields of light during a distant sparring match.
... see, I've watched MHA, so this is a funny mental image. KILO SMAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!

“A lot, Owen, a lot,” she said, “but you’re going to be okay, alright? You have me. You have everyone else. We’re here for you, alright?”
Not particularly reassuring, tbh, considering Star's involved in all this cover-up nonsense. and probably playing everyone for saps.

“I—I want to make lunch for Owen, too!” Willow said.
"... but not because I like him or anything! Sheesh!"
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Yer lucky that your chapters are short and your writing style is light because your posting rate is INSANE. >:T

Chapter 12:

Anyway, I enjoyed the fights with the first two of our Guardians. Though I am wondering why, if the Guardians have been isolated for so long, the Hunters haven’t gotten them yet? I mean yeah, they’re tough, and their domains can be heavily guarded, but Rhys was worried he’d be able to kill Valle so easily, so it seems like a group of Mystics wouldn’t have too much trouble. Or maybe I missed the reason why the Hunters are only just now making a big push

Aaaand this chapter pretty much confirms that Team Alloy got devolved at some point just like Owen has. Looking forward to seeing it stated outright in-story though.

Chapter 13:

I really liked the portrayal of the battle with Willow. The disorienting feeling, the tricky, confusing, nonsensical nature of it. You did a great job really playing up the fairy element. And I like how Owen actually used the loss of his fire-type to his advantage!

The narration itself, on the other hand, felt a bit flat. I think it’s because the majority of the sentences had the exact same structure and were mostly the same length too? Varying the structure and length can help keep things lively.

Also I think you start a few too many sentences with “there was.” Or just in general, you have a lot of consecutive sentences that use is/are/was/were verbs. A few is fine, but too many in close proximity really slows down the description. I’d recommend using ctrl+f to find all of them, as doing that on my fic helped me realize how much I was overusing them, and helped me eventually kick the habit.

I do agree with Walrein that some of the hints were getting a little excessive at this point. Like this one:
“Just a little,” Owen said, shrinking in return. Wrong move. “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.
Like. This isn’t hinting anything new to the reader. We already know that Amia and Alex are hiding things from him. So having these kind of "obvious hint" reactions happening all the time with no one calling them out can be a little annoying.

Chapter 14:

I do enjoy the way you’ve portrayed Owen and Team Alloy doubting their own memories from how thoroughly they’ve all been gaslit! It’s just that at this point it’s really quite obvious they’ve been made to forget their evolutions, so having it get glossed over feels really unconvincing.

Aaaaand looks like things are going downhill at once. I’m actually kinda glad the Hunters showed up at the Flying Guardian’s domain, heh. Otherwise that would’ve felt way too easy. :p Also the moment when they found the Torterra’s tree felt a bit flat for me. I’d have liked to see you play up the somber air a bit more. I mean sure, they didn’t know the guy, so I wasn’t expecting anyone to be too choked up about it. But I was at least expecting a moment where it dawns on them that he’s dead and they were too late. We get a moment of silence from Rhys, but for the other three, the narration focuses on their confusion, and it makes for a weird tone shift imo.
“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!”
Um, Owen??? You gonna pay a little closer attention to this?? Seems relevant to your interests!

Chapter 15:

*Sees title.* I like where this is going…

*reads further* Ohhh my, yes I like where this is going a lot.

So, as the others have said, the Hunter-affiliation of the main quartet has basically been confirmed. So, now that it’s no longer spoilers, I would really love for everyone to mention what first led them to that theory, because I honestly wouldn’t have been expecting that if it weren’t for everyone talking about it since forever. ^^;

What’s most interesting to me, however, is that while Team Alloy’s evolutions were all reversed like they have been before, this time their memories of the larger events were left intact. I imagine this is because it would interfere with their mission too much to do a full-on reversal like they did before. But it still doesn’t explain why the reversal had to happen. There’s also the black flash accompanying their evolutions, which I had been assuming was related to the fact something in it was “wrong” (given that their evolution keeps being suppressed, there’s bound to be side effects) but now I’m thinking it’s related to the reason why they keep getting reversed.

Also that extra was absolutely ridiculous and I have no clue what Star was talking about throughout all of it. xD

Chapter 16:

“Yeah, Fire Guardian’s home, so, y’know,” Star said. “But it’s a bit cooler in some of the houses—anyway, Cara… you know you died, right?”
Pfft, I love how blunt this is. Also Cara is adorable.

I really like the bit where Owen intentionally baits everyone into a lie with that Fire Trap comment, as it’s a lot more interesting than just seeing everyone play the deception straight for the nth time. It’s also intriguing to learn that not only is Fire Trap just a signature technique that he developed, but there’s also something significant about the fact that only he can do it.

And then ARGH RHYS WHAT. Noooooooo. Not again. Argh. We were just getting somewhere!

I was worried it would just right back into playing it straight again, but then Owen realized something was up right away! And the moment he realized he couldn’t tell anyone what he’d figured out because they’d just make him forget again! Yessssss, Owen, you’re finally moving forward!

But why! It’s only Team Alloy! Everyone else is allowed to know! Why can’t they know?! But I do like the implication at the end that it’s not just about keeping them in the dark just for the sake of it. There is absolutely an important reason they can’t know. This reason might even be to their benefit! (Also interesting to note that at the beginning of the fic, Rhys didn’t even want Owen interacting with the other three, but then had to relent on that. So not only is their evolution dangerous, but their team being together is also dangerous.)

But yesss go Owen! Keep remembering!

Chapter 17:

Klent shook his head. “Sorry. I suppose I’m still bitter about dying, is all.”
Oh my. Did Owen kill Klent? (Again, the only reason this thought is occurring to me is because everyone else is pushing the “Owen was a Hunter” angle so hard. I don’t think I would have realized if not for that.)
“Klent,” Owen finally said. “…How did you die?”
Oh my. x2
“You killed me,” the former Guardian said, “and my daughter.”
Oh my. x3

I really, really enjoyed Owen’s panic attack, and that was probably my favorite bit in the last few chapters. Also, quite pleased to see confirmation that Owen has indeed evolved many, many times. I held off on implying that in my earlier theory posts because while I was dead-set that his evolution had been reversed, how many times was something I was still a bit iffy on. But… oh my, this has been going on for a very, very long time.



Dragon Enthusiast
Got ya elsewhere, Canis~

I do think the explanation is nice but it still feels a bit... lacking. I guess for me the big thing surrounding all this has to do with the fact that Star is essentially privy to everything going on with this group. Like, Zena says she doesn't trust Star... but what's stopping Star from knowing about that? I think it would've helped your explanation if we had a solid handle of exactly how connected Star was to the current group. Because it basically seems like she will always know exactly what this group is up to. Like, what would happen if they all tried to keep her out of the loop, so to speak. I know she's the only with the locations of some of the guardians, but it's still very suspect. I guess this is just one of those things where the more you try to explain it, the more issues pop up.
Yeah, the explanation is still incomplete, unfortunately. We're doing things in Owen's perspective, and the guy is obviously still a little chopped up in the head right now. But a good portion of what you're asking about here will get addressed (at least somewhat) in the next chapter, when Owen takes a back seat again.

Like, surely Zena's aware of what's happening and is blaming Owen for it anyway? Or were her memories messed with, too? And, for that matter, what about all the spirits? Klent's memories seem completely fine... so you mean to tell me Star's powers only affect the individual despite the fact that they're merged with the orb and that should spill over and— agh, I think I just gave myself a headache.
Zena is implied to know what's going on, but is upset regardless. I mean, her closest friend doesn't remember anything important about her. Even if it isn't Owen's fault, Zena got a bit upset about that. And as for the last part... I can only say, yeah. And while the spirits are part of Owen's Grass Realm, they aren't him, either. This gets indirectly explained in the next chapter.

You had a chance to really fuck with our heads by interspersing Owen's past memories into what was currently happening, but instead you kind of handwave them or just say things like "the memories came pouring in."
I agree, and that's why in my revisions, I've changed a lot of those summaries with little two-sentence scenes. One of them was even him hugging a fellow Charmander! I'm sure you remember that scene.

Though I am wondering why, if the Guardians have been isolated for so long, the Hunters haven’t gotten them yet?
The running explanation is that the Hunters were unable to find them. Star has access to the spirit realm and a lot of willing information givers. The Hunters, not so much. Apparently the Hunters found a means to track down the Orbs recently, which is what set this all in motion. As for the ones they knew about -- Anam and Rhys -- they were apparently too strong to take.

It's a bit of a shaky explanation, isn't it? ...But it's the best they have.

The narration itself, on the other hand, felt a bit flat.
Yeah, I'll put it on my to-do list to touch the Owen v. Willow scene up one day.

Also I think you start a few too many sentences with “there was.”
Same as above.

I do agree with Walrein that some of the hints were getting a little excessive at this point.
Yeah, we're reaching "I get it" critical mass at this point, but previously, people weren't getting the hints at all. Maybe I overcompensated. I removed this instance on the master file, and maybe I'll get around to cleaning out some of the unnecessary hints for older chapters.

Also the moment when they found the Torterra’s tree felt a bit flat for me. I’d have liked to see you play up the somber air a bit more. I mean sure, they didn’t know the guy, so I wasn’t expecting anyone to be too choked up about it. But I was at least expecting a moment where it dawns on them that he’s dead and they were too late. We get a moment of silence from Rhys, but for the other three, the narration focuses on their confusion, and it makes for a weird tone shift imo.
Once again, it's on my to-do list of edits to see if I can't blue out the tone a little.

I really, really enjoyed Owen’s panic attack, and that was probably my favorite bit in the last few chapters.
I'm glad! I'm very proud of that scene, because it's my first take at just raw panicked emotions, if I remember right. I don't get to do that very often, and I think this is arguably Owen's lowest point in the story so far. I had to do it justice, so I'm glad it paid off.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 18 – Mistakes

Shortly after Klent revealed his cause of death, Owen had left the table, saying that he wanted to think. Nobody stopped him, though they did watch to see where he went. Zena, however, started to slither after him.

“Zena, wait—” Star said.

Zena spun her head back and gave a glare to the Mew so intense that her pink, misty form fizzled halfway out of existence.

Zena resumed her pursuit. “Owen,” she called gently.

The Charmander didn’t stop. He was going straight for his home, to his room. The group collectively sighed in relief, but Zena pressed on. He needed company. Even if he didn’t remember it, he gave her company in her time of need. It was high time she returned the favor.

“Owen,” Zena said again. “Please, look at me.”

“No,” Owen said. “I need to think.”

“Owen,” Zena repeated. “May… may I follow you to your room?”

Owen didn’t object, so Zena took that as an affirmative. She knew it wasn’t the case.

The Charmander went to his room and puffed a small plume of fire at the central fire pit, immediately setting it alight. He dug through his bag next, rummaging for something to calm his nerves. Zena, now closer, noticed that Owen was still trembling. He could barely hold his bag open.

Zena couldn’t find her words. He was only a few feet away, and yet they were a world apart.

“Did you know?” Owen said, not turning his head away from the contents of his bag.

Voice missing, Zena could only tense her jaw.

“Did you know I killed him? Did Star tell you?” Owen kept his gaze fixed on the bag.

The Water Guardian was still unable to speak.

“Does everyone here know what’s wrong with me? And they just aren’t telling me?”

It ate away at Zena. When Owen didn’t say anything further, the silence was unbearable. She had to break it. “I—” Zena choked. “I’m sorry, Owen.”

Thick silence. The fire crackled a few times in the pit.

“Right.” Owen pulled out something from the bag and bit into it. In a blink, he vanished. All that remained of him, for a split-second, were the last few embers of his flame.


“Owen has vanished,” Valle announced to the others, just outside in the square.


Gahi, the fastest, rushed to the home—followed by Willow, the second fastest. “Zena! What happened?!” Gahi said, but then saw Owen’s bag half-open in his room. “…Warp Seed.”

Zena turned around. The mutterings and discussion among the others were blurry murmurs to her. She couldn’t get that image out of her head. The moment before he left, Owen had looked at her. They made eye contact for just a second. Owen’s eyes had never looked so empty and lightless.

“V-Valle! Uh—d-d’you know where he went?” Demitri asked.

“I am searching for him now. The Warp Seed must have brought him somewhere within these caverns.” The motionless Rock Shiftry then went silent. “I have found him. He is deeper inside of the caves. He is heading toward the lava flow.”

“Wh-why?!” Willow said. “He’ll burn up!”

“Doubtful,” ADAM said. “Owen’s species is capable of surviving in the lava. It is their habitat. It is very likely that he is going there to cool his system. The irony is not lost on me.”

The Porygon-Z buzzed to fill the worried silence.

“Additionally,” he continued, “it is likely a place where we cannot approach as easily. He wants to think in an isolated environment.”

“At least he’s not running off somewhere stupid again,” Star said. “That’s a start. And, to be honest, Klent, I don’t blame him this time!”

“If I vanish,” Klent said, “it means Owen’s power is waning. You can use me as an… indicator, if you like.” He rubbed his pom-poms together. “Was I too harsh? He may have… been the one to kill me, but…”

“I still don’t believe that,” Gahi said. “What d’you mean, he killed yeh?”

“It’s just as I said,” replied Klent. “Owen is responsible for my death. His flames are what snuffed out mine.”

Gahi clicked his jaws irritably. “How long were yeh waiting ter break that line out?” he said. “As… as just a Charmander? C’mon, don’t kid us like that.”

“He was not a Charmander,” Klent said. “He was… some sort of Charizard. A very powerful one… very…” He shivered. “It is not a memory I like to revisit. I was not the only one to die. My daughter was also killed. It still affects her, as any death would. She still doesn’t want to see Owen. I… don’t blame her.”

“But… he’s a Charmander,” Demitri said. “He never evolved! He…! He…!”

“Oh boy,” Star mumbled, forming a strange, white light in her paws again.

Zena glared, but did nothing. Demitri was clutching at his head, wobbling where he stood. The other two weren’t doing any better. Star fired—the white light enveloped them dimly, and the three collapsed, asleep before their panic could fully set in.

“So much for that,” Star said, followed by a sigh. “Don’t worry, guys. When they wake up, I think they’ll just assume they got tuckered out after their meal. Just play along like before, okay? They’ll believe you if you fill in the blanks. Let their own heads trick them on the rest. Zena, can you carry them to their beds again?”

Zena stared at the three helpless creatures. They would never know who they were, what they became. They’d live, forever, in ignorance of that, while everyone else acted as if they were totally normal. Lie after lie after lie. Until what?

Klent looked at his pom-poms. “Oh. I’m fading,” he said. “but—Owen feels just fine. Valle?”

“Owen is walking.”

“I think he’s too far away from me,” Klent said. “I won’t be able to…” He faded, returning to Owen’s core as a blue ember.

Star sighed. “Zena?” she said. “C’mon, none of us are good at carrying things. ADAM’s too smooth, Willow’s smaller than Anam’s toe, and Valle’s Valle. Can you help out?”

Zena wasn’t sure what came over her. There was a strange heat on the sides of her head, combined with an accelerating heart rate. Like she was preparing for a fight. She stared at Star. The Milotic’s words came without a filter. “Why should we listen to anything you say?”

Star flinched. “H-huh? What do you mean?”

“All of this,” Zena said, staring at her. “Why are we keeping the truth hidden away from them? What they are. They’re the very same things being sent to kill the other Guardians. And now, Owen knows it. H-he forgot everything. He forgot me. Why can’t he remember? Why should I follow your word, Star?!”

Star floated stiffly, tiny, smoky paws clenched. “Because I’m the one keeping you all alive,” she said. “If I didn’t organize to get you guys, you’d all be dead. Your Orbs would be with Eon, and he’d be halfway to ruling the world by now. Zena, you have to trust—”

“I will never trust you,” Zena hissed, slithering until she was mere inches away from Star’s ill-defined face. “Your sins will never wash away, Creator. You did this. You made the Hunters. You kept the Guardians sealed away. And you,” she used one of her ribbons to push at the Mew’s chest, “are the reason for all of this.” With one firm press, she knocked Star back a few feet.

Willow fidgeted. “S-stop fighting,” she said quietly. “This isn’t fun…”

Nobody listened. Star floated where she had been pushed, staring at Zena. She looked around at the others for support. ADAM and Valle were indifferent. Willow skittered toward Zena, hiding near her coils. Team Alloy was either gone or unconscious. She had nobody. And Zena, realizing this, gave the Mew a twisted, sick grin. If Star was going to kill her then, she could at least feel satisfied that she did it knowing she was right.

But then, the Mew spoke. “You don’t… you think I don’t know that?” Her voice trembled. “I know. I kn-know I ruined everything. I know it’s all my fault. I just… I j-just can’t… do anything on my own. I need you guys to… fix my mistake. Because I can’t.”

This caught her off guard. But she wasn’t going to let up. “And why is that, O Creator?” Zena asked. “You seem to do well enough with modifying my memories to your wishes, let alone Owen’s or the rest of Team Alloy. Why don’t you just do that now, hm? Wipe it all away. Go on. What’s stopping you?” Zena slithered closer, never taking her eyes off of Star, even when the deity looked away.

She finally spoke in a voice so tiny, even Zena struggled to hear it. “I can’t.”

She knew it. Despite this going exactly as she had expected, the Milotic’s sneer faltered. “And why is that?”

“I only wiped those memories away in the spirit world. When you meditated and sank into your Water Realm,” she said. “And even then… it was because I was ready for it. You trusted me. Your mind was open enough for me to… if you reacted badly…” Star shook her head. “I can’t do that anymore. You’ll never let me inside. And… and that’s a good thing. I never should have in the first place. I’m sorry, Zena. I’m… sorry.”

No. Stay strong. She won’t influence her with tears. That was how it worked before. “That isn’t good enough,” Zena hissed. “Sorry won’t make up for my centuries away. For the life I could have lived, simple and happy with petty worries. Sorry,” her voice cracked, “won’t make up for the fact that I’m alone again!” Her echo bounced off of the cavern walls. ADAM buzzed anxiously. Willow nuzzled against Zena, sending a mild, irritable shock through her scales.

“You aren’t alone,” Willow said. “I’m here. And I’m your friend!”

“You have heightened user permissions,” ADAM stated to Zena.

“I tolerate your movement,” Valle said.

Zena puffed a few times through her nose. Her heart was racing and she didn’t know why. She didn’t expect to get this far. She was ready to throw everything away just to get one jab at Star before leaving to the aura sea. She was ready to be made an example of, to experience a Creator’s wrath, just to prove a point. In hindsight, it was completely illogical. But she still did it. In some stupor, she finally laid her heart bare for the others to see its pain, and for Star to finally end it.

But none of that happened. Instead, the pink mist floated there, staring at the four Guardians. She was too ill-defined to see an expression on her, but her voice was clear.

“I’ll fix everything. I—I just need help. I’m helping as much as I can. I’m working as fast as I—and—and I’ll make Owen better,” Star said. “That’s—that’s what I’ve been trying to do this whole time, Zena. I’ll have him remember everything. I—I just need time, Zena. He’s not ready! You saw how he reacted! If I gave it all to him now, he’d—he’d totally lose it. You believe me on that, at least, right?!”

Zena’s body tensed, looking for a fault in the logic. Star wasn’t going to deceive her again. But… she had a point. Owen’s aura was blazing before Star had blocked his memories.

“Owen,” Zena repeated. “You can easily modify his memories, even outside of the spirit world. Yet, you can’t for us?”

Star shook her head. “I’m not modifying them. I’m sealing them. His brain makes up for what’s missing.”

“That does not sound like best-practice,” ADAM said.

“Yet, you still can’t do that to us. I doubt Owen and the others trusted you enough to give you free access to their minds,” Zena said. “Does that mean you’re lying? That you’re—"

“They were designed that way,” Star blurted. “They…” She looked down. “That’s how their minds are supposed to be. They have an intentional vulnerability in their auras to revert them to their lowest forms if needed. If you inspected them up close, you’d see the same thing. Ask Anam or Amia. They’ll say exactly what I said. And that same vulnerability seals away their memories. All you need is the right aura key, and…” She motioned to the three slumbering mutant larvae. “Rhys is an aura expert. He taught it to me, Zena. And then to Amia. If you want to help control Owen and ease him into recovery, have Rhys teach it to you, too.”

Zena’s adrenaline, by now, was gone. “And you want to save him?”

“Of course I do. All of them,” Star said. “That’s the whole point. I just want them to live normal lives. I want everyone to live normal lives. I want the Hunters gone—or at least, for them to give up. So the world can be at peace. So everything can be… fixed. But I… can’t do that on my own.”

“Why not?” Zena said. “What’s stopping you from just coming to the real world and wiping the Hunters out yourself? You’re the Creator!” Zena shouted. “Descend upon the mortal realm and make it so!”

“Wh—” Star shook her head. “What, you think I wouldn’t do that if I could?! I’d’ve done that a long time ago! I can only see the world through you guys if you let me! If you guys block me from your realms, I… I’ll be…” She shook her head. “I can’t, okay? I’m not descending on the world any time soon.”

“Then why not?!” Zena said. “Or are you afraid that if you show your face here, we’ll kill you? Because in the end, you think we’ll turn on you because you were the one who—”

“I’m not afraid that you’re going to kill me!”

“Is that a challenge?!” Zena raised her voice.

“No!” She raised her voice even more. “I’m not afraid because I’M ALREADY DEAD!”

This time, despite her tiny, smoky body, it was Star’s voice that echoed throughout the cave.

“I literally can’t come down. It’s the same way for Arceus. We’re dead, Zena. Dead gods! And neither of us will let the other come back. So, we’re stuck.” Star turned around. “I’ll never let Arceus down again. And he won’t let me, either. And if we can stop the Hunters from upsetting that balance… then that’s all I want.”

“You want… to stay dead?” Zena asked.

Star looked away. “I’m… tired, Zena. I’m… I’m s-so tired…”

Zena’s breathing was completely normal again. He looked at the others.

Willow sparked a few times anxiously, squirting a bit of web beneath her body. “Oops…”

Zena sighed. “We have a common goal. Save Owen, and stop the Hunters. I suppose I can work alongside you until that is completed.” She looked away. “You’ll need to work more for my trust beyond that.”

“Thank you,” Star said. “Can… can I get a hug?”

Zena slithered toward her home. “I am going to wait for Owen.”

Willow hopped—and partially sank—into Star’s arms instead.


Every step the four elite fighters took made soft echoes in the long, winding cave. From the outside, the Spire of Trials looked like a giant spike from the ground. Smooth. It was the perfect monument, and they were sure that Guardian Manny and his spirits had crafted it themselves from a mountain. They must’ve had a lot of spare time.

Amia lit the way forward with a blue flame. The light revealed how well-polished the halls were. “Amazing,” Amia said. “Do you suppose they chiseled it with nothing but punches and, ah, their determined fighting spirit?” Amia winced. “I apologize, Rhys. I’m not familiar with your Typing and their tendencies.”

“I wouldn’t consider myself typical,” Rhys said, but then pointed forward, into the first arena.

And there he was. Feraligatr Azu, posing with his bulging muscles in various stances to show off each one. Every flex felt like it made the air itself bend in shockwaves, the sheer power radiating from him making the atmosphere tremble. It was likely all for show.

“Goodness,” Amia said quietly. “It’s as if his muscles have muscles.” She wondered if she could make Alex look like that with a bit of Mystic work.

“Hm,” Rhys hummed. “From how I understand it, we will be fighting in an order of some kind? From weakest to strongest…”

“Who is weakest of us?”

“Me,” James said, nodding. “I may be strong… but I am still limited by Anam’s power output. It would be best if I attack first, and then Anam follows sometime after.”

“Isn’t Anam… only defensive?”

“He has a kind heart,” James said, “but against spirits, he knows he can’t hurt others. He will be able to fight at his best.”

Rhys nodded. “Then, I am fighting Manny… That leaves you two,” he nodded to Anam and Amia, “to decide who will fight the third and second strongest.”

“I wouldn’t consider myself the greatest of fighters,” Amia said. “Not compared to you, Anam! The Association Head of the Thousand Hearts Association… you’re definitely stronger!”

Anam giggled and blushed a slight purple under his cheeks. “Aww, I’m not that good… but okay, if you say so, I’ll fight after you.”

“Got it,” Amia said.

And with that, James finally called out to the Feraligatr. “Azu! We are ready to battle you with our weakest member, me,” he said. “Do you accept my challenge?”

“I accept!” Azu said, stomping the ground. “Ha! You are familiar!” Azu called out to Amia. “Are these your best?”

“Y-yes!” Amia called back. “We’re the strong four of our group, more or less! Well—so far, at least!”

“Yes,” James said. “So, don’t think this will be as easy as your fight with Owen.”

“Owen?” Azu repeated. “H-ha! The Charmeleon, you mean!”

“Yes. That was Owen—I’m quite a bit stronger than he is. Do not expect this fight to go as well.”

“To go as well?” Azu said. “Ha! I see! You mean to say that you are even more powerful than Owen!”

“Yes. I do mean that,” James said. “Did I not state that outright?”

“I see! Very well!” Azu shouted back, clapping his hands together. “Thank you for informing me!”

There was an odd silence then, where Azu didn’t say anything, and neither did the group. The four expected him to make some sort of statement about taking the first hit or getting ready for a tough fight. At the very least, they expected Azu to perform some sort of Ultimate Pose Technique to dazzle them. But he just stood there, claws tapping one another with his hands together.

“Goodbye!” Azu declared. He exploded in a flurry of blue embers. The way forward lit up with a dim glow on the opposite side of the arena.

“Oh,” Amia said. “That was… an interesting reaction.”

“I did not expect a forfeit,” James stated, removing himself from his battle stance. The feather-arrow tugged back with an ethereal bow disappeared. “Amia, did you understate Owen’s fighting abilities?”

“W-well, he was getting his scales handed to him when he was a Charmeleon.”

“But how was he after he evolved?” Anam asked.

“Um… he was a much more difficult opponent,” Amia said.

“You may have understated his abilities.” Rhys nodded. “Nevertheless, we should advance. Amia, prepare yourself for your battle. True to his Orb, Manny wants to see our strength before joining us.”

“Right… of course,” Amia said. “Hmm… oh, how should I approach this battle? It won’t be too hard, will it?”

“We can’t know the strength of the third-strongest fighter. He could be slightly stronger, or leagues stronger than Azu.”

They passed through the exit and continued up the spiral. It was much like the last passageway, only with a slightly sharper curve: The only indication that they were higher in the spiral. After a few more circles around, they saw another dim glow. This one was slightly green, flickering with movement. “Here we go,” Amia said.


Amia quickly brought up her flames. The blue embers danced around her like tiny Illumise. They saw a Chesnaught posing in the middle of the room. Like Azu, he was bipedal, with a muscular build. What distinguished him, however, was his large, beige shell with four huge spikes on his back. The shell also appeared to have muscles.

“Be careful, Amia,” James said. “Chesnaught are immune to quite a few projectile attacks. Since you specialize in distanced attacking… I would focus on beam-like moves, such as Flamethrower, or field-of-influence moves, like Psychic.”

“Got it,” Amia said.

“Ahh, so you are the ones who have defeated Azu!” Chesnaught said. “I am Verd, the second strongest of Guardian Manny’s summoned spirits! Give me your third strongest fighter!”

“Th-that would be me,” Amia said. The blue Gardevoir waved sheepishly and stepped into the arena. She waved her hand, creating three bright, blue flames above her.

“Ha! Then if you are the third strongest, I accept your challenge! Do not think this—”

One of the flames with Amia turned into a jet of fire that went straight for Verd. He yelped and rolled out of the way.

“W-wait! Wait!”

“H-huh?” Amia asked; it looked like she was about to launch a second one.

“Y-you didn’t let me finish my speech! I need to psyche myself up!”

“Psyche… yourself up?” Amia said.

“I—I need a second. Give me a second! There’s a process to this!”

Amia crossed her arms confusedly and looked back at Anam, James, and Rhys. The Goodra shrugged. The Decidueye and Lucario merely looked down.

“Okay. Take… take the time you need, dear,” Amia said.

“Thank you.” Verd got into his pose again, stomping on the ground, shouting at Amia. “Do not think this battle will be easy! I shall give you a true challenge to see if you are worthy to face Guardian Manny! Now… let the battle begin! Hrrraaaaaaaa!” Verd ran at Amia with as much speed as his legs allowed, reaching Amia in seconds.

At first, Amia didn’t move. She seemed unsure if the battle had started or not. Then, at the last half-second, she deftly moved to the right, sidestepping the initial tackle. He couldn’t redirect in time. He had a lot of momentum, but no agility to redirect. Still, Amia recognized the strength behind his attacks. Just one could do serious damage. She’d have to finish quickly.

Verd ran toward Amia for a second time, winding his fist back. Still, he was a Fighting Type. That wouldn’t do as much damage against her. His Grass Type was likely hidden away, similar to Azu. Amia’s embers blasted out another blue-hot Flamethrower. Verd punched through it, forcing Amia to dodge again.

“Fight me head on, Gardevoir!” Verd said. “Do not think that such tricks will be effective against Manny!”

“Oh, dear, I’m not fighting Manny,” Amia said. “And this is working quite well against you!”

“Nnngh! Don’t think you have the advantage!” Verd shouted. He pushed his hands together and separated them with a foot-long gap in the middle. An orb of his very fighting spirit formed, brimming with life and power. Verd launched the Focus Blast straight at Amia. She countered with a Flamethrower again, rupturing the ball of energy. It exploded in a blinding flash, sending a shockwave that knocked Amia back a few feet, but the flames persisted. Verd shouted in surprise—but that was all. Amia’s fire was simply too powerful and Verd was just another ember by the time the flames settled.

“…That was it?” Anam said.

“I suppose Verd was only slightly stronger than Azu, then,” James said.

“Or they drew straws,” Amia added, dusting off her dress. “That wasn’t so bad! I haven’t had a fight in quite a while! Did I do okay?”

“I think you did great!” Anam said, pumping a gooey fist in the air.

James nodded, deciding not to point out the flaws. “You did well for not fighting in so long. Quite well.”

“We should advance,” Rhys said. “Anam, are you ready for your fight?”


The upward curve through the spiral was getting even sharper. It felt like the inside of the spire was roughly two or three stone’s throws in diameter. The dim glow met them again—red, now—and this time, they saw an Infernape waiting for them at the center of the penultimate arena.

“I,” the Infernape greeted, “am Roh, the strongest of Guardian Manny’s Fighting Spirits! Give me your second strongest fighter to face me in a battle of might and honor!”

Anam giggled and wobbled forward. “That’s me!” he said.

“You, Goodra… shall be my opponent. Do you accept this fight, and not stop until either of us falls?”

“I accept!” Anam said enthusiastically, clapping his hands together. They made wet, slapping noises.

Roh seemed slightly unnerved. “And… you are certainly the second strongest?” he said. Despite his hesitance, his voice was still loud.

“Yes! Well, Rhys and I might be around the same strength, maybe… but Rhys would be good against Manny, don’t you think?”

“The Lucario?” asked Roh. “Yes. Manny would appreciate that. Then, very well!” The Infernape went into his fighting stance, holding his two fists in front. “Do not expect me to go easy on you! Let the battle begin!”

Roh moved perhaps a single inch out of his starting position. Anam opened his mouth and fired an intense, blue blast of dragon might from the back of his throat. The blue suddenly became indigo, and for a fleeting moment, it looked like the blast Anam had fired had grown dragon wings of its own. The wings tucked in, accelerating, twisting toward its target. Roh had no time to dodge. It went straight through his chest, leaving a hole behind. Roh stared in surprise, looking down at the spiritual embers that poured from him. He didn’t have the words to react. Then, delayed, he said, “I—” His body burst into embers, returning to the Guardian above.

Anam giggled, clapping his hands. “That was fun!” he said. “He’s so cheerful! I like Manny’s spirits. They seem really fun to talk to!”

“G-goodness, Anam,” Amia said.

“So, are we gonna go to see Manny, now?” Anam asked.

“I—I suppose so!” the Gardevoir replied. “Um… Anam, did you tap into your Mystic power for that attack?”

“I might have,” Anam said, rubbing his ill-defined chin. “After a while, your Mystic power just naturally enhances your attacks.”

“O-oh, right.” Amia nodded. “Of course. Um… let’s go. Rhys?”

“I am prepared.”

The turns got even sharper, and a strange smell filled the air. The further up they got, the more it became… foul. Rotten. An ominous air filled the atmosphere with every step they took. Cautious, the group walked a bit closer together, and a bit more slowly. Every so often, Amia bumped into Rhys from behind. “S-sorry,” she mumbled.

“What’s that smell?” Anam whined, covering his nose.

Amia nodded. “It’s quite… strong.”

James had his eyes closed, walking with them. “…It’s the smell of decay,” he said. “The decay of… bodies.”


“Yes. I am familiar with this smell. It is death.”

Around the corner, Amia stumbled over something. “Oops—what was…” She brought her flame closer and screamed. She scrambled back and bumped into something else, screaming again. Anam screamed with her. Rhys and James tried to calm them down. Rhys held Anam steady, getting goo all over him; James tried to get near Amia, but his feathers got scorched in the process.

It was the fallen body of a slain Pokémon. There didn’t appear to be any major wounds on it, but it was lying there for quite some time—at least a day. “O-oh, Arceus…!” Amia said.

“We must advance,” James said.

“Did—did Manny do this…?” Amia couldn’t look for long. She walked, looking straight; she only gave flashing glances below her to avoid stepping on anything else. Anam was covering his eyes, guided by James and Rhys; the Goodra was shaking.

“It’s okay, Anam,” James said. “Relax. It’s just a body…”

Anam whimpered. The feelers on his head twitched. “D-d’you hear that?” he asked.

“A-a ghost?” Amia asked.

“H-huh? No, not a ghost,” Anam said.

They stopped walking to listen.

“Hah! Yah! Heh… that all yeh got?!” It was coming from ahead and above.

“…Isn’t that Gahi’s accent?” Amia said.

An aura explosion blasted the wall. Amia yelped and jumped away, slamming into Anam. “O—oops, sorry, dear!” She struggled to break loose of his gooey belly.

“What was it?” Anam asked, clutching Amia from behind in fear.

“J-just an Aura Sphere!” Amia said, unable to move out of Anam’s grip. “Rhys?”

“Yes,” Rhys said. “I’m beginning to understand why they wanted me to fight Manny.”

After only a few more steps, they saw it—another Lucario, a bit taller than Rhys, and significantly more muscular, rather than Rhys’ lean build. And the other Pokémon—a fierce one, Garchomp—but, more importantly, it was like all the other mutant, clean auras. Something was different. She used her arms as legs, and those arms were larger than a normal Garchomp’s. It looked like it was built for quadrupedal movement. She growled and rushed at Manny, and the Lucario laughed and dodged every strike. Fallen Pokémon littered the ground—the Garchomp was the last one standing, aside from the Mystic she was fighting. Was he fighting the entire time, ever since Owen had arrived?

“Watch out!” Amia shouted.

“I got it, I got it!” Manny said, firing another Aura Sphere at the Garchomp.

She screeched and tried to dodge—but it was impossible to avoid the Sphere. She shouted and slammed against the wall, collapsing.

Amia held her hands to her mouth. “Is… is she…?”

The Garchomp abruptly roared and attempted another Dragon Rush toward the Fighting Guardian. In an instant, he countered with another Aura Sphere. Amia recognized those movements of that Pokémon. The desperate lunge, that primal, single-minded need to fight to the very end, against even one’s own body’s physical limits—that Garchomp wasn’t going to quit, no matter what. She looked at the bodies in the arena, and then at the last one standing.

The Garchomp slowly stood up. She growled, wobbling closer to Manny.

“P-please… stop,” Amia said.

Fight and fight and fight—but instead of Azu, who lost once Owen evolved—and lost quite badly, in fact—Manny wasn’t even tired. He was on a completely different level than this Garchomp.

The mutant growled, glaring at Manny.

“Just… stay down,” Amia said.

The Garchomp lunged.

Amia thought, for just a moment, that the Garchomp had transformed. Like it had wings and a flaming tail. Running straight at Manny, straight toward his death, driven by thoughts that were tied to his original purpose.


Manny fired directly at the Garchomp’s head.
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Winter can't come soon enough
Yes, go Zena! You take that bitch down a peg and— oh, huh, guess she's a dead god? Y'know... like King Kai is in Dragon Ball Super. what were you expecting me to say, there?

Well, I do think you managed to weave in some of the necessary explanations with what I'm assuming were the original revelation of this chapter about Star. It does make sense that Team Alloy — being literal Hunter machinations a la the mutants (called it, btw) — would be completely subject to any of the other Mystics' mind shenanigans, I suppose. I'm much shakier on Star's "You need to open your mind to me," bit, though I suppose that could be backed up by her death(?) draining her of some power. Still, conventional psychic wisdom would say it doesn't matter, you can always just overpower your foe and forcibly subject your will onto there's. Her reasoning for mucking with Owen is also pretty sound, though it seems like she really put herself in a hole because she was covering things up for so damn long in the first place that it's impossible to reveal everything properly, now. This, of course, leads me to wonder as to what exactly happened that Owen and Team Alloy need these resets. Are they "creations" that Rhys and Nevren managed to escape with and couldn't bring themselves to kill, so they were instead hoping to turn them against their Hunter colleagues? Would explain things... and make it doubly shocking if, in fact, all our heroes have been misled in some capacity... as I still suspect they have been.

Yeah, so, the part about Star might make her a bit more sympathetic but it certainly gives her a motive to attempt to act as the Chessmaster to our different factions, here. After all, it'd be pretty nice if she were able to, say, use the power of the orbs to descend without having to worry about Arceus whatsoever. It does make me wonder the exact specifics of what happened to her and Arceus to leave them in such a state. But that's for later, I imagine.

I don't have as much to say about the part at the spire. The chapter title seems to act like it's the main focus but, honestly, it kinda feels more fillery compared to the stuff happening back in Hot Spot. It's mostly just some humorous exchanges with Manny's spirits. A healthy dose of mood whiplash following the first scene... for sure! Of course there's the brief creepy ending with Manny, there, which I imagine we'll see the results of. here's to hoping rhys can stay focused with that eye candy in front of him.

“Doubtful,” ADAM said. “Owen’s species is capable of surviving in the lava. It is their habitat. It is very likely that he is going there to cool his system. The irony is not lost on me.”
ADAM is fantastic in a crisis.

Star sighed. “So much for that,” she said. “Don’t worry, guys. When they wake up, I think they’ll just assume they got tuckered out after their meal. Just play along like before, okay? They’ll believe you if you fill in the blanks. Let their own heads trick them on the rest. Zena, can you carry them to their beds again?”
That's a really casual way of going about saying that, lady. Not helping your case.

“Because I’m the one keeping you all alive,” she said. “If I didn’t organize to get you guys, you’d all be dead. Your Orbs would be with Eon, and he’d be halfway to ruling the world by now. Zena, you have to trust—”
Yeah, Eon. Y'know... the guy we still have yet to see in this fic. I'm sure he's a terrifying evil mastermind who'll make Owen & co. quake in their boots and not be a red herring whatsoever.

They’re the very same things being sent to kill the other Guardians.
Suddenly Owen going all ZAMBIE on us makes a lot of sense.

“You have heightened user permissions,” ADAM stated to Zena.
ADAM is fantastic in a crisis.

“I tolerate your movement,” Valle said.
... as is Valle.

Feraligatr Azu, posing with his bulging muscles in various stances to show off each one. Every flex felt like it made the air itself bend in shockwaves, the sheer power radiating from him making the atmosphere tremble. It was likely all for show.
Azu suplexes a huge boulder, just because he can...
Azu suplexes himself, just to prove nothing's impossible.

“Not compared to you, Anam! The Association Head of the Thousand Hearts Association… you’re definitely stronger!”
Wow this line sounds so anime I don't even have a good snarky one-liner for it.

“Goodbye!” Azu declared. He exploded in a flurry of blue embers.
I guess Azu's ability was Run Away this entire time! :V

What distinguished him, however, was his large, beige shell with four huge spikes on his back. The shell also appeared to have muscles.
Were these muscles wearing sunglasses? This is important...

“Y-you didn’t let me finish my speech! I need to psyche myself up!”
"My voice gives me super strength!" did not think i'd be pulling out that reference

Anam giggled, clapping his hands again. “That was fun!” he said. “He’s so cheerful! I like Manny’s spirits. They seem really fun to talk to!”
my god anam really is just fat buu in a dragon onesie what is this fic.


Dragon Enthusiast
Yes, go Zena! You take that bitch down a peg and— oh, huh, guess she's a dead god? Y'know... like King Kai is in Dragon Ball Super. what were you expecting me to say, there?
I give up. I just give up! I'm just going to fully embrace the fact that my story takes inspiration from some of my favorite shows, games, and books, and just accept it because, whatever it is I'm doing, it seems to be entertaining. Go me! I'm gonna go grumble in a corner now.

called it, btw
My betas have been very pleased with pretty much all of your theories--when you get them right, wrong, or--their favorite--almost right.

It does make me wonder the exact specifics of what happened to her and Arceus to leave them in such a state. But that's for later, I imagine.
Indeed, for later.

The chapter title seems to act like it's the main focus but, honestly, it kinda feels more fillery compared to the stuff happening back in Hot Spot.
Okay, full confession: That entire first scene used to not be there. It used to be a lot shorter, the Guardians grumbling to themselves about the circumstances and Zena sulking, but not really standing up to Star directly. After some feedback from others (and how I knew folks would've reacted here considering the feedback I've gotten prior) I changed it up. It doesn't affect the rest of the story, but it still better aligns the reader with the other characters on how they feel about Star. It's as you said -- you feel for her a little... but she's still iffy.

I think I'm actually going to rename this chapter to something else since the Spire has now become less important. Maybe something that ties the two scenes together, hmm... I'll think on it.

Yeah, Eon. Y'know... the guy we still have yet to see in this fic. I'm sure he's a terrifying evil mastermind who'll make Owen & co. quake in their boots and not be a red herring whatsoever.
Like Arceus... for later.

"My voice gives me super strength!"
Oh no, not Abridged! My one weakness...! Now that I think about it, Anam is almost a parody of a few--

my god anam really is just fat buu in a dragon onesie what is this fic.
That. Yep. And a few other things, though that hasn't been revealed yet... What am I doing with my life?

Anyway, next chapter incoming. I got some feedback elsewhere that double line breaks are kinda hard to tell as scene breaks, so I'm gonna experiment with <><><> for now and see where that takes me, since it looks pretty and obvious.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 19 – Synthetic

Amia trembled. She stared at the Garchomp, who was barely breathing on the ground and then at the Lucario still standing. The Aura Sphere had sent the artificial Pokémon flying backward, yet miraculously it was durable enough to remain in one piece. Amia didn’t know what to think about the strange mixture of fear and relief she felt when realizing that the Charizard—no, the Garchomp was still breathing.

“Guardian Manny,” said Rhys. “I think that is enough.”

“Eh?” The Lucario looked up. “Oh, well ain’t that somethin’. Yer aura. Ain’t you Rhys?”

“…I am, but I do not know how you know that. Did Star tell you?”

“Nah,” Manny said. “Well, yeah, heh. But I knew ‘bout yeh befer that. Long time ago, real long time ago, ran across yer student. Good kid. Real firework, got a blazin’ heart.”

“E-excuse me?” Amia said. “You know about Owen?”

Manny got out of his battle stance; he put most of his weight on his left leg, swaying a few inches to the left and right. “Baah, what was his name, eh… Gehi… Gaho… Gahi! Yeah, that was it, heh, Gahi. He kinda was real impressionable, I think. Liked m’ accent, tried ter emulate it, I figure. He still got that?”

“Wh—you… you’re the reason why Gahi talks like that?” Amia said. “…Where is that accent from, anyway?”

Manny shrugged. “Always had it,” he said. “That’s how accents work, I figure. Been alive too long ter remember where I got it. Maybe it’s some ancient accent that’s only lastin’ with me an’ him. Survivors o’ th’ ancient dialect.”

“Dialect, hm,” Rhys said. “Well, I regretfully inform you that he still has that manner of speaking, even if he doesn’t remember he got it from you. And thankfully it is not as thick as yours.” Rhys murmured the last part only to himself.

“Oy, what, he’s still alive?” Manny said. “Well ain’t that somethin’! He became a Guardian too, eh?”

“N-no, he didn’t,” Rhys said. “Actually… Owen did.”

Amia recognized the tension in both Rhys’ stance and his tone. She tried not to point it out, and instead listened for what Manny had to say.

“Owen?” Manny said. “Th’ crazy-lookin’ Charizard with th’ funny techniques? Gahi told me all about’m. Only met yer Flygon student; he told me ‘bout all th’ rest.”

Rhys stared at the ground. “Yes,” he said. “That Owen.”

“Hah! Well, Star didn’t go an’ tell me that! Should talk ter her more often! Which Type he got?”

“The Grass Orb,” Rhys said, but then eyed the Garchomp on the ground. Her leg twitched to life, barely. “Manny… you didn’t have to kill them,” he said.

“Yeah, I did,” Manny said.

“N-no,” Amia said. “You really didn’t. You could have easily just scared them off!”

“They ain’t got fear,” Manny said. “Ain’t capable of it. They’re in a ‘battle mode’ an’ there ain’t no stoppin’um.”

The Garchomp growled groggily. Manny eyed her carefully, yet the left side of his face twisted into a challenging smirk.

“But,” Amia said, “but couldn’t you just tire them out?”

“Don’t tire,” Manny said, shrugging. “If I didn’t kill’m, they woulda done it ter th’mselves from overexertion. If they ain’t fightin’, then they ain’t awake. Never woulda ended. Been through this befer.”

“Y-you have?” Rhys asked. “You’ve been attacked by these mutant Pokémon before?”

“Heh, so that’s what yeh call ‘em?” Manny said. “Call it like it is, ol’ timer. These’re artificial Pokémon. Synthetic.” Manny rubbed two claws together. “I call ‘em Mod Pokémon—short fer modified. ‘Cause that’s what they are, y’know. Modified.” He stared down at the Garchomp. For a moment, his eyes looked serious, defying everything else about his demeanor. “All the way down ter th’ very core. I figure even their souls are artificial.”

“You will not say such things,” Rhys said venomously.

The Garchomp twitched slightly and opened her mouth, about to fire a plume of blue fire, but Manny saw it coming. He leisurely pointed his paw her way and shot one final Aura Sphere at it, but this one enveloped her body. She screeched and struggled against the strange field, flailing her arms and legs, thrashing against the air. But then her movements slowed down like the very life was being drained from her. And then, out of her mouth, came a little, golden light, surrounded by a blue ember—and the Garchomp was dead. The ember moved to Manny’s paw and vanished inside. The Garchomp collapsed to the ground, blending in with the rest of the corpses that lacked fatal wounds.

Amia nearly fainted, but she was held up by Anam. The shock of seeing Manny extract the mutant’s very essence stunned Anam into silence.

“Manny…” Rhys said lowly, his own aura flaring at his paws.

“What?” Manny said. “I’m doin’um a favor.” He fired from his paw an aura; it splashed on the ground and condensed into a solid form again. A Garchomp—the very same one, with the very same mutations. She roared; the whole cave shook, and then she ran at him again, claws kicking up rocks. Manny clenched his paw, and she disintegrated into an ember, returning to her host once more. “See?” he said. “Alive ’n’ well.”

“Th-that’s hardly…!” Amia said.

“They live on in th’ Orb. They can fight fer as long as they want. Th’ old timers from th’ last attack a couple decades ago? Found a way ter calm ‘em down, so now they fight fer me. Yeh met ‘em, didn’t yeh?” he said. “Azu, Verd, Roh… yeah. Those three’re my best from back then. Trained by an old friend that’s too strong fer me ter summon. I gave ‘em new bodies, helped repair their heads.” He tapped a claw against his skull. “Fixed th’ instincts that their master gave ‘em. I figured out how ter give ‘em a proper free will. Too bad they forgot where they came from. Was curious, but I guess that’s a side-effect.”

“I… I see,” Rhys said. He looked down. “…Are they… sapient? Can they speak? Beyond Azu and your best…”

“Eh. They’re gettin’ there,” Manny said. “But hey, way better’n I first met’m.” The Lucario paused for quite some time as if thinking about something. Meanwhile, in the silence, Amia tried to regain her composure; James was inspecting some of the fallen bodies, noticing that most of them didn’t have any severe wounds on them. Anam made sure Amia didn’t collapse again. Rhys was deep in some other part of his mind.

“So,” Manny said. “Yer takin’ care o’ Gahi an’ the other ones? How’re they still alive? Figure Mods also age. What’s keepin’ ‘em from passin’ through the aura sea, eh?”

“They… have been reverted to past selves, so to speak,” Rhys said. “And… Mod Pokémon, as you call them, do not age. They were not built to age and degrade.”

“An’ jus’ who built these guys? Must’ve been some real genius ter come up with that. They’re givin’ me some theories, but their past memories’re real blurry. Somethin’ about bein’ in that battle mode fuzzes it up.”

“Genius, huh?” Amia said. “Well, it was a Hunter, right, Rhys? It… i-it couldn’t have been N-Nevren, right…?”

Rhys sighed. “I thought that without Nevren, the other Hunters wouldn’t have been able to continue the project,” he said. “Clearly, I was wrong. Nevren is going to be very upset about this.”

“I’ve never seen Nevren be upset,” Anam mumbled quietly.

“I have,” Rhys mumbled. “This is precisely the thing that will put him in a mood. He assured himself that the stray mutants we’ve been finding are all there are. Clearly, that is not the case.” Rhys scanned the spire’s chamber. “Eon is making an entire army.”

“Heh,” Manny shook his head, tapping the spikes of his paws together to get their attention. “Well, hey, th’ whole reason yeh came… Yer here fer gettin’ me ter join yeh? That’s what m’ spirits told me. But y’know what that means.” Manny nodded.

“W-wait! Didn’t you already get in a bunch of fighting? Y-you must be tired,” Amia said. “Why don’t you just come with us and rest, and then maybe we’ll do a battle?”

“Maybe? Heh, that ain’t gonna fly,” Manny said, wagging a claw at the blue Gardevoir. “Now er later, yer gonna fight me here an’ nowhere else.”

“Are you not tired?” Rhys asked.

“Feh, I’ll live,” Manny said. “A li’l break an’ I’ll be in top shape, if yeh wanna fight with honor.”

“I suppose that would be my preference,” Rhys said, carefully eying the bodies scattered around them. “What will we do with these?”

“Was gonna haul ‘em out an’ bury ‘em befer they stink up the place, I guess,” Manny said. “Gonna take a while, but with some help, maybe it’ll only take three trips, heh.”

“Hmm…” Rhys said.

“Oh! I bet it would be easier if, um,” Anam said, “we, um, we set a Waypoint here? Then we can warp from here to Kilo Village easily…”

“And they would see us hauling carcasses of Mods,” said Rhys. “We should do this the manual way.”

Manny sighed and hauled the Garchomp’s body over his shoulder first. “Guess we better get goin’, eh?” He summoned multiple spirits; they all burst from his free paw and solidified, grabbing a body or two—whatever their respective sizes could handle—and followed Manny. Amia helped as well. Though a bit too dainty to carry one on her own, Alex was able to help once summoned, and she used a portion of her Mystic powers to levitate another, with effort. Anam did the same, levitating three. Rhys manually carried another. James vanished to give Anam more power.


The lava stung a bit, but after a while, Owen’s body grew used to the hot, dense fluid.

This part of the cave was always glowing orange; the ceiling was high above him, flickering slowly from the ocean of molten rock. The lava flowed gently, and it would eventually reach a point where it became solid, and Owen would no longer be able to follow the current. However, that was a long time away; this particular river was lazy enough to last him a small portion of the day. Normally a lava’s flow was tumultuous and a bit of a danger to stay in, but the Mystic flow of Hot Spot was much easier on his scales.

It gave him time to think. Decompress. Be alone with his thoughts. As much as he didn’t like what those thoughts were, he had to be with them. It was better than not thinking at all, becoming some mindless beast.

Klent… Did he really kill him? He didn’t remember it, but Klent had no reason to lie. Owen didn’t sense any sort of dishonesty in what Klent was saying. Star didn’t object to it, either. And the spirits within him had gone silent—not that he wanted to ask them. He was afraid that there was even more that Klent didn’t tell him. How did he kill him? Who did he kill first? Did the daughter die first? Who is his daughter? How horrible was…?

Owen shook his head and rolled over. Any tears he made boiled into steam before they had a chance to hit the lava.

Owen? Someone called. Owen, are you there…?

Owen didn’t want to reply. But, without thinking about it, he did. Yeah, I’m here. He recognized the voice as Star’s. She must have returned to the spirit world just to talk to him. He could easily block her again… but he was starting to hate his thoughts in silence. He had to drown it out. Star was a great distraction.

Everyone’s worried. They know you’re going to be fine out in the river, but… they’re worried about how you’re feeling. Don’t you want to go back?

River doesn’t run forever, Owen said, rolling onto his back again. I’ll go back when I reach the end.

That’s a while from now, Star said.

Silence. Owen scooped up a bit of the lava and tossed it behind him. The disturbance caused the lava to bubble and splatter, and then it settled back like the impact hadn’t even happened. An insignificant little outburst in the hot, calm flow.

Owen, Star said softly. Would you like to meditate?

Owen was starting to feel annoyed. He knew that she just wanted him to talk to her more, talk about his problems, how he felt. Star was playing therapist; she was trying to lift his spirits. She was just trying to help… The Charmander’s eyes, glaring at the ceiling, softened. Okay, he said.

He steadied his breathing. He shut his eyes and emptied his mind. There was a lot to empty out; even when he was calm, it was never truly without thought. It was even harder this time. Some of it was fear. If he stopped thinking, would he start seeing his past again? He could feel it prodding at the psychic blocks Star had put on his mind. Just one slip, and…

I want you to meditate… inward again, Star said. As deep as you can go, until… until you feel like you’ll pass out. You can go that far, as a Mystic. And when you do, you’ll wake up in the Orb’s realm again—I’ll be waiting for you there, alright?

You want me… to go into the Grass Orb again? Owen said. I don’t think I want them to see me right now…

You won’t have to face them, Owen, Star said. It’s just for me. They’ll leave you alone if you want.

I… Owen opened his eyes, breaking the trance. I’m not ready for that.

More silence. Owen knew that Star was still thinking of what to say. He could feel her presence. He hated it. She wasn’t going to go away until he felt better. Couldn’t he just spend a bit of time brooding? All he wanted was some peace. If the lava swallowed him up forever, so be it…

Owen, you know I can read minds… Star said. Thanks for not blocking me, at least. I know you’re in a lot of—

Go away! Owen finally snapped. Just… just let me think. I… I thought I could handle all this, but I can’t. Just take it all away again…. Just let me forget…

I can’t do that anymore, Owen, Star said softly. Now that you’re Mystic… I just can’t take those memories away. The seal won’t work anymore. Like gluing paper on a wet bulletin board… It just won’t stick, Owen.

Then… Owen said, then just take it away! Take away my power! I don’t want it anymore. I just… I just want to…!

Owen slammed his fist against the lava, making little splashes. The molten rock popped and splattered over him, hardening into little pebbles. They fell off of his scales, into the lava, and become a part of the river once more.

Owen, you… you don’t mean that, Star said. Think of all the people you’d leave behind. Your parents… Rhys… the other late-evolvers… What about Zena, and the other Guardians?

Just shut up… Owen said. His heart skipped a beat from guilt. He could block her at any time, but at the same time, he couldn’t. He was already regretting being alone. His thoughts haunted him. He needed Star to keep him distracted.

It was another long silence. Owen sniffled a few times, rubbing his eyes. If he could just go back and stop all of this from happening, he’d do it in an instant. Klent didn’t deserve to die. And his daughter…

Owen took a deep breath and held it. The hot air cooled him down. He breathed out. I… I know you’re right, he said. He wanted to say he was sorry, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. I just… I don’t want to hear it right now. I know I can’t just…

I know, Star said softly. I know it’s hard. And it’s not fair. None of this is fair… none of it, for any of you. I’m sorry, Owen…

Don’t… don’t say that, Owen said.

More silence. Owen sat up; his legs barely dipped in the lava like this. It was simply too dense to allow his tiny body to sink. The Charmander finally sighed, rubbing his eyes. He didn’t want to talk aloud. He knew he’d break down if he did. Thoughts were easier.

How did I do it? Owen said. How did they die?

It was… it was fast, Star said. In a way. The… time between the first hit and the finishing blow was… very close together. It’s just, before that, it was a lot of… chasing, and stuff.

Owen knew that Star’s temporary seal was still working, and he was thankful for that. He felt memories pressing against that seal. If he pushed too hard, they might come flooding back… But he still had to know.

Who died first? Owen said.

Klent, Star said. He stayed back so Amelia could run. But she only ran away for a few steps. She turned around and… saw you do it. Really fast, Owen. It was really fast…

Owen shivered, and he couldn’t stop. Even with all the heat around him, there was an icy void in his core. Like a spike was being plunged into his chest. But if he stopped now, it would never go away. He had to keep going. The spike had to go deeper.

What did I do to him? Owen said.

Air Slash to get him on the ground… and then a Flamethrower to finish it off, Star said. You were so strong compared to him that… he was unconscious near the beginning. He didn’t… suffer all that much.

And his daughter? What happened to…? Did she run?

No, Star said. She saw you kill him, and… she just stood there. She didn’t run or fight. Just… stood there. And, Owen, you… were in a state of mind where your only action was to fight. So, once Klent was down, you went right for her… Same moves. Air Slash, Flamethrower, and she died from it.

Owen noticed that Star left out a detail. The spike twisted and twisted. And how long did that take? He said.

It was… still quick, Star said.

There it was. That was as deep as the wound was going to get. Owen wanted to vomit. But the pit in his stomach was too heavy to heave out. Does it still hurt her? Is she still…?

She’s… fine, Star said. I helped her out. Klent and I did. She’s great, a really strong Pokémon. But… she isn’t ready to see you yet. That’s all.

N-no, I get that, Owen said. I get that.

Owen let the lava’s flow fill the air again. He killed Amelia painfully. So painfully that even now, she couldn’t bear to see him the way Klent did. He killed his daughter, and he still took the time to train him. How could he possibly deserve that? He didn’t. He didn’t. But that wasn’t going to get him anywhere. The icy pit was subsiding, even if the thoughts didn’t. He felt he had it in him to ask another question.

Star… Owen said. How old am I?

You’re pretty old, Owen, Star said. But since you’re repeating the same sorts of memories over and over, you aren’t as old, too. Mentally speaking, y’know? And since most of those memories are still all scrambled… I guess you are a kid, in a way, huh?

The pang of irritation Owen felt was a relief compared to everything else. I’m starting to feel really old…

Yeah, getting them back will do that to you, Star said.

What’s my actual age? Owen asked.

Ehh… you, uh… well… probably around three, four hundred years?

Th-that long?! Owen audibly gasped, but kept it together, closing his eyes again. Why didn’t I just shrivel up and die yet?

Synthetic Pokémon like you were made to not… do that, Star said. You’re… a genetic wonder, Owen, and it was Nevren and Rhys’ work that made that happen, you know.

Nevren and Rhys… Owen said. They made Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi, too, huh?

Yeah, Star said.

For some reason, Owen got the impression she was nodding, like she was talking right in front of him. The pit in his stomach, while still present, was starting to fade. His breathing was returning to a slow rhythm.

You guys were meant to be the perfect team. Four in a set, she said. To be honest… you guys are as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen, but…

But, what? Owen said. He thought briefly about the team name that the trio had come up with before he joined them. Team Alloy. A team that could work together to combine their strengths to eliminate their weaknesses. Just like a real alloy, he supposed. Were they designed to be that way? Was all of this… predetermined? What do you mean, Owen asked again, that we were meant to be the perfect team? What went wrong?

I… don’t think you should know yet, she said. I can already feel those memory blocks slipping just mentioning it. Can’t you?

He could, and Owen trusted her judgment. The Charmander nodded and stared ahead at the lava. The wall was coming up; soon, he wouldn’t be able to advance in the river. He sighed and got up, carefully waddling his way across the lava to get to solid ground. When should I remember everything? Owen asked.

That block I put will slow it down so you can handle it, Star said, And I put some on the other three proactively, too. So, when their memories start coming back, it’ll be a little easier than that flood you got.

Good, Owen said. I guess I’ll… just wait and talk to you when they start coming back again. He paused, rubbing his little claws together. Star? If I was created by Mystic power, doesn’t that make me Mystic, too, all this time?


I was… created. Doesn’t that mean I’m Mystic? How come you can’t block my memories now compared to before?

Oh, no, Star said. You weren’t Mystic. You were created artificially. Sure, some Mystic stuff contributed, but you were never Mystic. It was… more sciencey stuff for you guys. You can’t just make life that easily, even for powerful Mystics.

Thanks, Star, for… dealing with me, he said.

It’s alright. Owen, I think… I think I owe you an apology, too. And I want to congratulate you for handling this as well as you did.

This counts as well?

It does, Owen. Because even after all this… I still trust you with this power. Because the whole reason you’re behaving this way in the first place is because you hate what you used to be. And with your Mystic power, and with Rhys’ help, and everyone else behind you—you can conquer it! Okay? Are you hearing me?

Yeah. I get that, Owen couldn’t hide his smile. He did have a lot of people rooting for him. And sure, he disappointed them from time to time, but… he felt different, now. His memories were returning. He wasn’t some kid anymore. He had an inkling of what he used to be like. Too bad it wasn’t very different from now. He wondered if he was just young at heart. But Anam was, too. Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing.

Owen continued, And I still haven’t forgotten about what I can do with this power, either. I mean—look at Anam! I bet he wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far in stabilizing the whole world without the help of his Ghost Orb. He founded the Thousand Heart Association. Just think what we can do with even more Orbs!

That’s the spirit, Star said. See, that’s why I want you guys to gather all this up. You all can make a good world, Owen. Make it all better…


Oh, sorry. Just rambling. Godly things. Ask Zena about it…

Owen looked ahead. The cave wall was approaching; he’d have to get out of the lava soon. Thanks again, Star, Owen said. I think I feel better about this power. I still have a lot of questions, but… you know, I’m going to try to answer the ones I have now, first.

Star laughed. Go back to the others—they won’t bother you. They just want to know you’re alright.

Owen nodded. The sealed mutant followed the path back to the hidden village. He still felt heavy, like he was sinking into the ground… but at least he knew the others would hold him up.
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Winter can't come soon enough
Welp, looks like that lucario-on-lucario action will have to wait until a future chapterUh, I mean... nice to have a bit of a more thorough explanation about how these mods are created. Though... it still seems to fall under the blanket "Mystic Power" umbrella, which leaves it very much up to the imagination as to the exact process. I'm totally not imagining FMA-esque transmutation circles... though there might be some bias in adopting that image, aha ha. And it would appear that, technically, Rhys and Nevren were the ones who made Owen, so there goes my theory about him behind Eon's kid. But I'm not fully discounting it, because it sounded like the mod idea was originally something Eon wanted. So, in a sense, I'm counting it as a half-victory. Ditto on the Team Alloy relation to Owen. Guess this means Deca falls under the mod category, too... whenever we see him again, anyway.

I've got less to say about Owen's conversation with Star. She was the only one who could reliably tell him that information, so it's nice that she was able to do it in a way that didn't start more fires, I suppose. I'm still scratching my head at the logic behind the memory block that she's employing, though. It's impossible for it to fully work now that Owen's a Mystic... but it worked perfectly fine before, despite him being a mod and, thus, being made from Mystic Power in some capacity? Err... okay, then. I assume that there's supposed to be something happening behind the scenes with some of these characters freaking out that a mod has taken in one of the orbs and become a Mystic. I guess I'll see if/when that subject pops up, since it is something rather curious.

Liked m’ accent, tried ter emulate it, I figure.
Oh, so it's your fault, is it? Go sit in a corner and think about what you've done!

“Well, I regretfully inform you that he still has that manner of speaking, even if he doesn’t remember he got it from you. And thankfully it is not as thick as yours.”
I dunno... that's debatable. Gahi can be pretty bad sometimes. >.>

These’re artificial Pokémon. Synthetic.

I call ‘em Mod Pokémon
Damn it, Namo, romhack and fangame discussions are banned here! You trying to get yourself a suspension or something?

All the way down ter th’ very core. I figure even their souls are artificial.
I'm now imagining a steampunk heart running on diesel fuel. Thanks for that.

Trained by an old friend that’s too strong fer me ter summon.
Ah, yes, a crotchety old master that may or may not be a turtle pokémon... but definitely should so I can make Master Roshi jokes. :V

“Eon is making an entire army.”
*gasp* That devilish fiend! He shan't get away with this! *pulls out pistol* WE DUEL AT DAWN!

Couldn’t he just spend a bit of time brooding?
Pfffffbt, Owen you're in the wrong fic, buddy. Angst levels aren't nearly high enough here for that kind of attitude.

She killed Amelia painfully.
Owen learned Star's genderbending powers! :V

You guys were meant to be the perfect team.
>Perfect team
>Massive ice weakness
... checks out to me! :p

It does, Owen. Because even after all this… I still trust you with this power. Because the whole reason you’re behaving this way in the first place is because you hate what you used to be. And with your Mystic power, and with Rhys’ help, and everyone else behind you—you can conquer it! Okay? Are you hearing me?
"And I promise that I definitely won't be using your powers for anything malicious whatso—"

See, that’s why I want you guys to gather all this up. You all can make a good world, Owen. Make it all better…
Yes, we're going to make this world perfect... absolutely perfect. *insert laugh that progressively gets more deranged here*


Dragon Enthusiast
Welp, looks like that lucario-on-lucario action will have to wait until a future chapter
You won't have to wait long~

nice to have a bit of a more thorough explanation about how these mods are created. Though... it still seems to fall under the blanket "Mystic Power" umbrella, which leaves it very much up to the imagination as to the exact process.
Hmmm... That's definitely something I should look into. While it is a bit of "mystic power," it's actually less so than all the other stuff we've seen so far, mostly. I can't really find a way to weave that into the narrative of this conversation, at least not thoroughly, but I can probably drop a line that hints at Owen not being magic'd into existence with the rest of Team Alloy.

but it worked perfectly fine before, despite him being a mod and, thus, being made from Mystic Power in some capacity?
This ties in with the above statement, and while I explained it to you in private, this is important for me to address here for others who had similar issues. I'll make a minor edit in the form of an offhand comment to also indicate this, but, Owen, prior to the Orb, was not Mystic. He was created with Mystic techniques, but in the same way Zena's pool isn't enchanted or anything special, Owen had no latent Mystic powers in him, either. Until the Orb, at least.

>Perfect team
>Massive ice weakness
Would you believe me if I said there's an in-universe explanation for this gaping flaw? No? Well damn. I guess we'll just have to wait, and until then, their massive Ice weakness is just a gag.

Okay! Time for chapter 20... once I finish a feeeeew more edits.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 20 – Blade and Fist

Large mounds of dirt moved on their own, floating in the air. Little particles fell to the ground, collecting near the bottom of this forcefield. The evening sun cast long shadows to the trees that surrounded the spire, as well as the mounds of dirt covering the bodies of the mutants. The longest shadow seemed to be from Rhys, staring at the last pit. Unceremonious, thanks to Manny’s careless speed.

“That’ll be enough,” Manny said. “Dunno why you wan’ed ter make individual graves fer ‘em.”

Rhys shook his head. “It was necessary,” he said.

“You could have burned ‘em,” Manny said, looking at Amia.

“O-oh, I wouldn’t…” the Fire Guardian shook her head. “I don’t think that’s… my choice to make.”

“They deserved marked graves,” Rhys said.

“Y’know they’re all still here, right?” Manny said, holding his paw up. A few embers spun furiously around his claws.

“Their lives are still over,” Rhys said. “Just because they are still with us does not mean that a number of doors have closed for them.”

“Not like they had all that many, heh,” Manny said.

“Do not trivialize their lives,” Rhys said, keeping calm. “They had feelings and dreams, just like the rest of us.”

“Yeah, a dream ter fight,” Manny said. “Ain’t got much more than that ‘til y’ fix’m. They’re broken.”

Rhys jerked his head at Manny, eyes firm with light. The other Lucario smirked and held his two paws up as if he intended to avoid an argument he clearly started. For just a moment, Rhys felt his composure wane. Manny showed no respect for the Mods that he controlled. Did he even understand the gravity of the potential that he stole away from them by ending their lives? Or… was it truly not worth it? How much did Manny know about these creatures?

“Hey, c’mon,” he said. “I should know more’n anyone, these guys’re built ter fight an’ nothin’ else. They’re stuck that way, down ter th’ core. Seems like someone made’m that way. Berserk. They’ll fight ‘til they drop. If they weren’t spirits, they’d all be dead anyway.”

“You can turn them back,” Rhys said. “There’s—there’s a key to it if you radiate the proper aura signature. It’s… merely different than the one I know,” he said.

“Oh, yeah?” he said, smirking. “Yeah, yeah, that’s th’ story, ain’t it? Yeh helped design these things. Gahi an’ the rest o’ their lot. They were the originals….”

Amia bit her lower lip and glanced at Anam and James. James was keeping his head down toward the graves in observance; Anam was nibbling nervously on his slimy fingers, gobs of purple slime flowing off of his thighs and onto the ground.

“Rhys…?” Anam said softly. “Does that mean these ones are… even stronger than Owen’s set?”

“Unlikely,” Rhys said. “Even if they are, they are untrained. If we can keep Team Alloy controlled, we still have a chance at outpacing them.”

“Heheh… now yeh got me curious,” Manny said. “Pretty confident in those early models, I take it. Well, if yer their teacher, then yer pretty strong, too.”

“You speak like the other Pokémon you house are lower creatures, yet all you want is a fight, too,” Rhys said, countering with his own smirk.

“Oy, who said I thought they were inferior, eh?” Manny said.

Rhys’ ear twitched irritably. If he didn’t think he was superior, then what was the issue with his attitude?

“They’re fightin’ machines, so they’re perfect fer my whole gimmick! Hah! Jus’ sayin’ it’s a fact that they ain’t set fer living normal lives unless yeh, what was it? Turn ‘em off? Yeah. Ain’t easy without that, an’ I dunno that. So, quit barkin’ at me.”

Indeed, the graves were all filled. Rhys finished placing stones at the top of each one. He looked at Manny, sizing him up, and then snorted. “So, you truly won’t join us without a fight?” Perhaps Manny felt he was the Mods’ teacher, just as he was to Owen and his team. In that sense… perhaps they were more alike than he’d allow himself to admit.

“It’s in my blood, my mind, my soul, Hunter,” Manny said, tapping his claw against the spike on his chest. “You ain’t worth it if I can’t be beaten by yeh. Or at leas’ put up enough o’ a fight ter get a draw er a stalemate, eh? As th’ strongest.”

“Technically, I am not,” Rhys said. “Anam would be the strongest, should he unleash his power to its fullest extent. But it was recommended that I fight you… likely due to my species.”

“Heh, yer coordinators got good taste.” The Fighting Guardian went into a battle stance, one leg forward, one leg back, both arms glowing with aural fire in front of him.

Anam jumped and wobbled to the sidelines with James and Amia. “G-go, Rhys! Beat him!” he said.

“Of course,” Rhys said, mirroring Manny’s battle stance. He looked at the Lucario and shifted awkwardly. This wasn’t a stance he was familiar with; Manny’s guard was completely open. Was it some sort of ruse? Was he taunting him to get up close? The way Manny’s lean muscles tensed against his oddly thin fur, his stance to run straight into battle… Manny was a fighter up close. Rhys could use that to his advantage. He shifted his stance to something more evasive, legs ready to jump back with no delay.

“Oh? Yer gonna go fer that, eh?” Manny said.

Rhys didn’t reply. He was waiting for Manny to make the first move.

Manny stayed still but then vanished from view. Rhys vanished at the very same time. All that they left behind was a small plume of dust where their feet had once been planted.

Anam squeaked and tried to figure out where they went.

James merely closed his eyes. “They’re taunting each other,” the Decidueye said.

“T-taunting?” Amia asked.

They appeared in the middle of the makeshift arena, clashing at each other at high speeds. The impact created a shockwave that blew up even more dirt from all sides; Rhys felt the recently departed spirits within Manny flare up with aggression and fulfillment, entertained by the battle. Rhys felt a bit of their soul in Manny’s eyes. They were watching.

“Heh… so yeh know that move, eh?” he said.

“As do you,” Rhys grunted.

Their fists had hit one another in the same spot, near the base of their ribs. Yet, both of them had tensed enough to resist the blow’s effects.

They jumped away from one another and launched two blue spheres of aura energy in complete sync—the two collided and exploded, sending the two Lucario back even further in the resulting, blue blast. Aura embers swirled and dissipated.

“Peh—” Manny skidded to a stop.

“Ngh—” Rhys stumbled but steadied himself.

“Not bad,” Manny said. “But I figure that’s where our techniques’re gonna stop bein’ th’ same.”

“Oh?” Rhys said. He moved his paws forward, metallic light energy swirling between them.

Anam tilted his head, puzzled. Why would he use such an ineffective attack against Manny?

Manny, meanwhile, rushed toward Rhys at blinding speeds again.

“What—” Rhys had no time to react; he was punched in the gut, but he launched his Flash Cannon at the same time, point-blank. Manny jerked his head sideways and punched Rhys just below the spike on his chest. The blazing light singed the fur on his right cheek, but nothing else.

They both jumped away again, kicked off of the ground, and rushed toward each other again. Rhys formed another ball of steely light in his paws. Manny weaved out of the way and crouched down, flipping his body for a kick in the stomach. Rhys grunted and fired his Flash Cannon on the ground, redirecting himself and his momentum just enough to dodge the kick. Manny’s foot grazed his fur. Rhys immediately formed another Flash Cannon in his paws, aiming it right at Manny’s face again. This time, he didn’t miss, and Manny had to jump back.

“Hah!” Manny said. The fur on his face was singed slightly, but he was ignoring it, or perhaps didn’t notice it. “Bullet Punch versus Flash Cannon! Guess yer a distant attacker! So, what’re you doin’ luggin’ around Extreme Speed?”

“In case I can’t fight from a distance, I suppose,” Rhys growled, pulling away. “I can outpace almost anybody with it. Why would you have Aura Sphere?”

“Aaah, c’mon, what’s a Lucario without Aura Sphere?” Manny said. “Besides, hard ter miss with that one, heh, since it zeroes in on th’ enemy. Heheh… So… what’s yer next technique?” he asked. “Gimme somethin’ good. Yer holdin’ back. I feel it. Who uses Flash Cannon on a Lucario?”

Rhys smirked slightly. “I suppose it was quite obvious. As it was for you, Manny. Bullet Punch? Really?”

James’ feathers abruptly puffed out. “Are we really doing this right now?” he said, raising his wings in exasperation. “Truly, you were toying with one another?! Rhys, I thought better of you.”

Rhys flinched. Perhaps he got carried away. Manny’s fighting spirit was infectious, even for him. And he could feel the many spirits inside of the opposing Lucario roaring for a good fight. He felt a small bit of Team Alloy in that. He had to entertain them, at least in some small way. Tiny joys to satiate their sad lives. Or, that was what Rhys told himself. He worried that perhaps Owen and his ilk were rubbing off on him after all…

“I wasn’t going to do the dishonorable move and fight him at my best when he’s simply grappling,” Rhys said, figuring that was a noble enough excuse.

“Hah, that’s th’ spirit,” Manny said, holding out his paw. “Then let’s shake on it! We’ll go all-out, an’ see who wins, eh?”

Rhys hesitated. “I… cannot fight at my best,” he said. “I made a Promise to not attempt to kill another Guardian. A Divine one.”

“Well, ain’t you confident,” Manny said. “So sure you’ll beat me. Aah, so what’ll happen if yeh try?” he asked. “If y’come close, will yer power get taken away?”

“Not necessarily,” said Rhys. “The last time this happened, before I launched my final strike, my paw glowed with divine power leaving me—as if it was a threat that proceeding would revoke my status as a Hunter, or at least the power that came with it.”

“Well, how ‘bout this, then,” Manny said. “Yer paw glows, that counts as a win. Sound fair teh you?”

“Hmm… Very well,” Rhys said.

“Then let’s go all out,” Manny said, stomping his foot on the ground.

This single motion created a crater in the dirt larger than Manny. He remained floating in place; the ground beneath him vanished, compressing into the earth. The Lucario’s body bulked up, muscles toning his legs and arms, followed by the spikes along his paws and chest vanishing. Rhys recognized this as a subtle change, but an important one—he was now fully Fighting Type, in his Guardian form. Aura Sphere would hold no advantage against him. More worrying was that a single punch would end Rhys. Three, four, perhaps all of his ribs?

“Well?” Manny asked Rhys. “As a Hunter, I know you’ve got somethin’ ter show!”

“Hmph,” Rhys said, slowly entering a neutral stance.

“Eh?” Manny rose up, entering one as well, standing on an invisible platform created by his Mystic power. “What, y’done? Forfeit?”

“Far from it,” Rhys said, looking at the opposing Lucario. “But I believe that if I go, as you call it, all out, this battle won’t last very long at all.” He looked at the spectators. “Anam!”

Manny looked genuinely insulted, face screwed up in a scowl. He crossed his bulging arms.

“Y-yes!” the Goodra said, straightening.

“We have a few Reviver Seeds, do we not?” he said.

“Yer jus’ tryin’ ter get me mad, ain’t yeh?” Manny hissed.

“We do, um…!”

“Give one to Manny. Then I can fight without holding back or worry of losing my power to my Divine Promise.”


“Oy, I take offense ter that!” Manny waved his fist in the air. “What’re you playin’ at?”

“Just take it and if it is used up, it’s the same as being defeated, hm?” Rhys said. “You don’t want me holding back. I have a Promise to keep. This is the compromise.”

Manny glared like he’d been tapped on the nose as a punishment. He snorted. “Ehh… Fine.”

Anam wobbled over and gave the Mystic his Reviver Seed. Manny didn’t seem very pleased with this perceived handicap, but he shrugged it off. Anam gave him a small bag to tie around his neck to keep it safe without encumbering his fighting. “Thanks,” Manny said. “Heh… y’got a strong aura.”

“O-oh, I guess so…!” the slimy Goodra replied. He wobbled back to the sidelines and watched.

“Let’s get it on already!” Manny said. “My muscles’re achin’ fer a good punch!” He slammed his fist toward Rhys; the resultant gust of wind nearly knocked away Rhys’ breath.

“Ngh—Of course.” He closed his eyes and tensed his body for a split-second.

His two paws glowed with a bright, blue flame—and then, with a sudden flurry of power, that flame spread up his arms, over his shoulders, over his head, and then down his torso and legs, ending only when his feet were engulfed in a great fire. Rhys opened his eyes, breathing deeply. He brought his left arm forward and bent, his right arm back and ready to strike, his legs poised to jump back or leap forward as the situation called.

Now we’re talkin’!” Manny said, entering a similar stance. He made the first move again, dashing with an Extreme Speed, but then transitioned into what Rhys could only guess was his opponent’s personal favorite move. With a flurry of punches and kicks, leaving his defenses completely open, the Fighting Guardian traded his defenses for a complete, unmitigated offense. Rhys took every single hit. Every blow cratered the ground beneath him; the shockwaves were deafening. The nearest tree trembled, dropping a few apples onto the ground.

Anam covered his mouth at the onslaught, but the flame of Rhys’ aura made everything obscured. Manny laughed maniacally with every strike, knowing that every single one was connecting. He felt the impact of every punch. His spirits roared, pressing him to fight harder. Rhys could almost sense their restless souls lashing against his fur.

“Haaaaa!” Manny finished it with a punch to the gut that bent the light around them in a ring-shaped pulse; Rhys grunted and bent over by only a few degrees. Manny panted, fist numb. “H-had enough?” he asked; he was completely open. His Close Combat never failed! Rhys was probably passed out upright.

“You expected me to fall from that strike…” Rhys said, strained. “So, you pushed yourself to guarantee your win… But you didn’t expect this… did you?”

The aura flare that surrounded Rhys was dying down. The embers danced and mingled with his blue and black fur, sinking inside like a dying candle. But some of it remained. The fire around Rhys obscured it at first, but now that they died down, it was clear: a thin, cyan layer of solid aura—the same sort that Rhys had used to deflect Zena’s Hydro Pump—coated him from his ears to his toes. Every move Rhys made, the armor followed, bending at the joints just as his bones did.

Manny’s eyes widened. “Armor?”

While the strikes indeed connected, they were dulled by this strange barrier.

“You wanted to know my final technique,” Rhys said.

Manny realized too late what was coming. His legs bent to jump away, but Rhys already struck in return—a single, precise thrust, squarely in Manny’s chest. The strike wasn’t with Rhys’ paw or even an Aura Sphere—no, instead, it was an extension of his paw, made of that same armor, that elongated and tapered off into a single, fine, and flat point. It went right through Manny, splitting his chest open where it sliced. More aura energy rushed through Manny, spreading through his whole body explosively. He couldn’t even grunt.

Then, Rhys jumped away. The Fighting Guardian collapsed to the ground.

Anam stared, wide-eyed. Amia reacted similarly, trembling. They both knew how strong Rhys was, but they thought he wouldn’t actually go all-out. But by some twisted honor of the Fighting Orb, Rhys granted Manny his wish.

The blessed seed inside of Manny’s small bag healed him of his injuries in a wash of golden light. Manny gasped for air and rolled onto his back, huffing with strained breaths. He raised his hand—it was shaking—and held at where he still felt the lingering, yet woundless pain of Rhys’ strike, as if his mind and aura were still adjusting to not being injured.

“S-so that’s yer power…” he said, puffing. “Yer… Mystic desire…”

Rhys nodded. “My specialty is the aura—to the point where I can use what little divine energy I possess to make my flare manifest as a solid object. I… try not to do it too often.” He closed his eyes; the flare became a cloud again, evaporating into nothing. “I hope you are satisfied.”

“Heh… yeah. You win,” Manny said. “Without that Reviver Seed, I’d’ve been down fer a while. Takes a lotta time ter heal from a wound like that. I wouldn’t’a been able ter fight.”

Rhys nodded. “Good. Then you will be coming with us?”

“O’course,” Manny said. “If yer not ev’n th’ strongest… then I gotta see th’ others, an’ how yer students’re doin’.” He held out a paw.

Rhys nodded, smiling with relief. At least Manny had his honor to accept a loss. He held out his paw in return… and then fell backward, straight into the dirt.

“Rh-Rhys?!” Anam said; he and Amia rushed to either side of the Hunter. Amia took the liberty of sitting him up.

Rhys opened his eyes and looked around, ascertaining the time of day. “I—I will be fine,” he said. “What happened? Was I unconscious for only a moment?”

“Yes, dear. Please, don’t strain yourself,” Amia said.

“Ngh… how embarrassing,” Rhys said.

“Oh, sure, no, don’t worry ‘bout me er anythin’,” Manny said, holding his paw in the air to be helped up. James ended up being the one to assist the Guardian to his feet, using his wing as Manny’s anchor.

“That… that technique takes out quite a bit of me,” Rhys said. “I can only use it for a short while before I, well… become unable to fight, too. I prefer to only use it if I know I’ll win quickly.”

“Yeah, sure, rub it in,” Manny muttered, turning away.

Rhys chuckled weakly. He leaned weakly against Amia, dropping any pretenses of dignity. Everything felt numb. “You’re a very strong fighter, Manny,” he said. “But… I may need to be carried back.”

“Aw, I gotcha covered,” Manny said. “But… how ‘bout we jus’ sit an’ rest fer a sec? I think my aura still feels like it’s gotta repair. What’d you do, bust m’ spirit?”

“I may have done some of that,” Rhys admitted. “N-nothing to be alarmed about. You will recover shortly.”

“Feh.” Manny leaned back and then plopped his back against the ground again. The angle seemed awkward, considering he was still partway inside the crater that they’d generated during their fight.

Amia and Anam looked at one another and sat down, too. Amia crossed her legs and adjusted her dress; Anam plopped down with a wet wap and started playing with his little clawless toes, humming quietly to himself. James inspected his feathers, preening where necessary.

“Yeh really managed ter stabilize them?” Manny asked.

“Hm?” Rhys said.

“Gahi seemed fine when I saw’m. But then I saw more like’m, an’ they were all hostile. What’s up with that? Stray mutant Pokémon like’m poppin’ up here an’ there…”

“I’m not sure what caused that to happen,” Rhys said. “I personally would like to know myself. If they’re intentionally being let out to cause chaos… they aren’t doing a very good job. Hmph. But regardless, yes. Team Alloy—the group Gahi is a part of—became unstable after an… incident, and we’ve been repairing the damage ever since. They defaulted to their battle mode, as you call it. And have been in it ever since. They can only stay sane if we suppress their forms in their unevolved states, which haven’t been modified. In a way, it is a means to seal them away in a smaller, safer form.”


“You find that humorous?” Rhys asked, tensing.

“Nah, nah,” Manny said. “Well, that explains it. So, what, yer sayin’ they’re… not at their evolved forms righ’ now?”

“No. If they were, they would be unable to… think beyond their instincts for battle.”

“Well, ain’t that a shame,” Manny said. “Guess yeh’ve got it covered.”

“Mm… I am a bit concerned,” Rhys admitted. “Owen is starting to learn about his past early. When suppressed, their memories are also sealed away. But now that he’s Mystic…”

“Yeah, I spotted that bit when he visited an’ fought Azu, heh,” Manny said. “Y’think he c’n handle it?”

“I think he will,” Amia spoke up. All eyes turned to her, and she shrank down.

“Y-you… you do?” Rhys said.

“It’s different,” she said. “I think the timing is perfect, Rhys. Owen’s having a hard time right now, but… I have faith that he’ll pull through with everyone else by him.”

“Faith…” Rhys said.

“Heh. Faith. That’s a good one,” Manny said, looking away. “Before I got into this Mystic business, I figured all those stories about Mew an’ Arceus were jus’ that. Stories. ‘Cause I work with facts. Solid, tangible facts. Somethin’ I can punch, eh?” He threw his fist weakly in the air. “Even now, I’m gonna work with that.”

Amia gulped, looking down. She didn’t say anything, but James quietly moved closer to try to assure her that Manny was an idiot.

Manny shook his head. “An’ th’ fact is… I agree.” He flashed Amia a genuine grin. “He’s close, th’ way he was fightin’ Azu. A bit o’ him was in there, even when he evolved. Kinda.”

Rhys looked at Amia, then at Manny. “Amia,” he said, “I understand that it was difficult for you to explain what had happened before, but, please, could you tell me what happened?”

The Gardevoir looked at her hands in her lap. “Mm… I suppose it was different than the other times. Closer than ever, Rhys. First, he evolved, yes. But then… ooh… he tore Azu apart.” She shivered.

“L-literally?” Rhys asked.

“Yeah,” Manny said with a dry chuckle. “Heheh… shook Azu up good, that.”

“I find that hardly funny,” Rhys said.

“I dunno, seemed pretty funny,” Manny said.

Rhys rubbed the bridge of his snout. “Amia, please continue. Azu was defeated. Then what?”

“Well,” Amia said, “Owen was, er, he… tried to attack Azu’s spirit next, but that didn’t work out so well. He just fled. Then Willow and I were calling for him to calm down, and, well, that never really worked…” Amia hesitated. “Except, this time, it actually did.”

Rhys blinked. “What do you mean?”

“Owen stopped. He… he stopped. But… but then he turned around, and he walked toward us. Oh—oh, Rhys, his body was shaking. And his eyes… oh, his eyes, I—they were so…”

Anam and James looked at one another. “Angry?” Anam asked.

“Savage, I figure,” Manny said.

Amia shook her head. “Afraid,” she said. “He said… ‘help.’ He said help, Rhys. He was there, Rhys…!” Amia smiled, but then gasped back a sniffle. “He was so close, Rhys…!”

“But… he wasn’t able to be in control,” Rhys said.

“He was hurting,” Amia said. “He said it was in his chest. Like he had to fight, his body was moving like he had to fight, but he wasn’t actually fighting. Too much… energy. I told him to breathe and meditate, and it worked a little, but… oh, if I waited a little longer, maybe he would’ve…!”

“No,” Rhys said. “You did the right thing. I—I had something similar happen to me,” he said. “But rather than continue fighting, after our encounter with Rim, she simply disappeared. Mispy, Demitri, and Gahi all evolved, and then I felt… quite a few vines wrapping around my body. And then I felt energy, and my vision came back, my wounds were healed…” Rhys nodded. “Mispy told me to hurry. Yes. I remember that quite well. So, I returned them to their lowest forms again, but… she was very composed. I honestly think she was just afraid of herself.”

“Composed?” Amia said. “Y-you think—?”

Rhys nodded. “I do,” he said. “It has been centuries, but… I think they’re almost completely healed.”

“Took long enough,” Manny said absently. “Centuries! Hah! That’ll be fun fer them ter sort through.”

Rhys growled to himself. “It isn’t ideal, but it’s better than permanent insanity, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Nah, nah, I get it, I get it,” Manny said.

Rhys was beginning to get second thoughts about inviting this Guardian over. He already demonstrated himself as a bad influence on Gahi. What if they relapse?

“Heh,” Manny went on. “Guess we should head back.”

Manny nodded and stood up, looking refreshed. He held out a paw and released Azu, who happily posed and flexed with a showy shockwave. He leaned forward and hauled Rhys over his shoulder like a log.


“Ha!” Azu declared. “The challenger Lucario won the battle, and yet he is the one who must be carried!”

“Easy, Azu,” Manny shook his head. “I’d be bleedin’ out if it wasn’t fer that Seed. Oy, Goodra.”


“Lead th’ way back!”

“Okay!” Anam fumbled through his bag, still lodged partway into his chest. With a cheerful grin, he raised the slimy, glistening Badge into the air. “To Hot Spot!”
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PMD Writer
Act I Prologue

Damn, that’s quite the intro. I know you mentioned on Discord that poor Owen gets stabbed a few times throughout the story, but I certainly didn’t expect it in the very first scene of the fic. XD

That certainly bodes well for him lol. Plot wise, the premise that gets established here definitely seems interesting. Sounds like there’s a bunch of mutated Pokémon going around and Owen’s parents are trying to shield him from the truth? I feel like there’s definitely more to it given what Amia said, so we’ll see how it goes. First impressions of Owen as a character are quite good and I can already tell he’ll be enjoyable to follow throughout the story.

The only thing I noticed that I don’t like is the way you introduce the names of new characters. Since the way you do it… is by basically not doing it. You write as if you assume the reader already knows these characters, which obviously isn’t the case. If you just start using a name in a description paragraph out of the blue, it’s not clear to me who this is and I have to keep reading in order to guess. I had this with both Amia and Alex, who I didn’t know were the Gardevoir and Magmortar you described earlier until a few paragraphs later. Preferably you don’t want your readers to puzzle out who you’re talking about, especially since it could become an issue later down the line when more side characters get introduced and it becomes hard to keep track of who is who. That said, I’ve only read the prologue at the time I’m writing this, so it may not be an issue in the rest of the story. If you don’t see me talking about this again later on in my review, you should know enough.

Chapter 1

And onto the first chapter! I really like the description at the start of the chapter. It paints a very clear picture to me what Kilo Village is like. Owen continues to be quite likable. It’s funny how he insists he’s an adult, yet acts like a young Pokémon at the same time. That said, these mentions of things seeming familiar to Owen and him having a giant déjà vu definitely catch my interest. Has he already lived through these events before? Are we dealing with a time loop? It’s probably way too early for me to speculate about any of this, but I’ll definitely look forward to how it plays out.

The Snorlax, however, was anything but. A single swing from its mighty fist would turn Owen to a fine, red mist.

“Nope!” Owen said.
Lmao, that’s hilarious.

This scene in the Dungeon was pretty neat. I liked hearing the explanations behind some of the different Dungeon mechanics. Every PMD writer seems to have his own take, so it was interesting to read how things work in this fic. Though judging by this “Fire Trap” Owen used, it seems like HoC has some original moves and not just canon ones? And we end the chapter with an encounter with an outlaw. I wonder if that mutated Snorlax will have any role in shaking him off? Let’s find out, now shall we?

Chapter 2

Alright, the Snorlax didn’t return, but that’s alright. Instead we got a game of cat and mouse between Owen and the Aerodactyl, which was pretty entertaining. Good thing he got saved by his future friends… or should I say past? Very interesting how even Demitri feels like he has met Owen before. Still curious to see what the deal is with that, but I guess it will probably be a while until I find it.

Seems like Team Alloy has a pretty nice place even if it’s supposedly haunted. The mystery with the pink cloud does catch my interest, and I wonder whether or not it’s related to some of the other mysteries we’ve seen so far. I also think Rhys could be fun. He does seem like he’s hiding something given his reaction to seeing Owen for the first time and how he dismisses the “spirits” everyone sees. (Then again, same could be said for other characters. Even that Watchog reacted a little strange when Owen brought up the Snorlax.) Though since Rhys will be walking Owen home next chapter, I’m sure I’ll get to know him more soon.

Chapter 3

Yeah, Rhys is definitely hiding something. Though I will say that Rhys played it cleverly by spinning it into something awkward that would make Owen want to drop the topic. (Which lead to a funny moment too!) I’ll look forward to seeing more of Rhys and find out what his deal is. Especially with that glowing ball he had during the speech. Next chapter should be fun though, with Owen going through the entry exam. I’m definitely rooting for him.

Also a few specifics that stood out to me this chapter:

Demitri, meanwhile, meekly bumped against her with his tusks, flicking his tiny tail against her front legs, which earned a giggle in response.

“Bah, get a room,” Gahi muttered.

“We are,” Mispy teased.
D’aww, I see we got a couple. That’s cute.

“Hot! Spot! Hot! Spot! Open up, Hotspot Cave!” Owen had raised his left arm up, then his right arm, and then brought his left arm down, and then his right arm. This was followed by swaying to the left, and then the right, and then the left and right again; next, he stepped backward, finally advanced forward.

Rhys was rubbing the top of his muzzle, cringing. He wasn’t the only one. Every time Owen did this dance, a tiny part of his Char heart withered away.
I can’t help but wonder what sort of Pokémon came up with this idea and how pitching it to the rest of the village must have been like. XD

“Bahh, these tools ain’t good fer Pokémon like me. Where’s th’ Trapinch-friendly gear?”

“Probably the same place you left half your vocabulary,” Demitri muttered.
Heh, Team Alloy has some wonderful dynamics.

“I would also like,” Anam said, “to take a moment of silence in acknowledgement of the hard work that our departed Hearts have done for Kilo Village, and indeed, the whole world.”
I think the speech tag here is placed rather awkwardly.

“W-wait, you can’t maybe log me as the new score instead?”

“Trust me,” he said, “if either of those scores are right, you’re in. Just take it.”

Owen puffed a little ember into his hands. “Okay, thank you,” he said curtly.
Damn Owen, you should stand up for yourself more. You don’t need to accept that. People might look back at that score years from now!


Winter can't come soon enough
This turned out to be a lot shorter than I was expecting. There are two parts to this. The first being Rhys' and Manny's bizarre sex gameunquestionably DBZ-esque battle. Seriously, when they're making craters in the ground and crashing into each other at speeds to fast for the naked eye, there's nothing else it can be. More consequential to the plot is the continued explanation of the mods that end up following. So, basically, something caused Owen and Team Alloy to go completely savage and what followed was a really long period where they were kept confused for their own safety. Not entirely sure what this event would be (I doubt it's Klent's death), though I feel like it has something to do with the schism among the Hunters that led Rhys and Nevren to split off from Eon and Rim. Whether or not there was another factor at play there (like Star *suspicious glare*) remains to be seen. That's, uh, actually all I really have to say. Chapter was written just fine, if you ask me.

Manny showed no respect for the Mods that he controlled
Ah, so we have our resident forum troll... being annoying, but not breaking the rules enough to get his ass banned.

“There’s—there’s a key to it if you radiate the proper aura signature. It’s… merely different than the one I know,” he said.
Mystic power... aura power... just call it what it is: magic! *enthusiastic jazz hands* Alternatively, we interrupt this PMD fanfic to bring you Furry Kingdom Hearts.

“Unlikely,” Rhys said. “Even if they are, they are untrained. If we can keep Team Alloy control, we still have a chance at outpacing them.”
I think you're missing an "under" in that second sentence. Also, looks like our "heroes" are pretty much just weapons the others want to use against the "evil" Hunters. maybe that's why i still don't have much of an opinion about team alloy

Rhys’ ear twitched irritably. If he didn’t think he was superior, then what was the issue with his attitude?
Manny wants that coveted power top role.

Manny’s guard was completely open.

Rhys didn’t reply. He was waiting for Manny to make the first move.
Notice me, Manny-senpai

They appeared in the middle of the makeshift arena, clashing at each other at high speeds. The impact created a shockwave that blew up even more dirt from all sides
This is literally Goku and Goku Black fighting.

So, what’re you doin’ luggin’ around Extremespeed?
Okay, now I know this fic is running on outdated, Gen I-V move mechanics, because Extreme Speed was made into two words starting with XY. :p

“Aaah, c’mon, what’s a Lucario without Aura Sphere?”
A physical sweeper?

“Gimme somethin’ good. Yer holdin’ back. I feel it. Who uses Flash Cannon on a Lucario?”
oh my god they're really going full saiyan he—

The Lucario’s body bulked up, muscles toning his legs and arms, followed by the spikes along his paws and chest vanishing.
For god's sake, that's just Future Trunks' power-up! >_>

“My muscles’re achin’ fer a good punch!”
Manny really wants to get laid.

His two paws glowed with a bright, blue flame—and then, with a sudden flurry of power, that flame spread up his arms, over his shoulders, over his head, and then down his torso and legs, ending only when his feet were engulfed in a great fire.
At first I thought this was a fancy Counter, but apparently it's just SSJ Blue. XD

But then… ooh… he tore Azu apart.
whoa... that's metalAF.


Dragon Enthusiast
Thanks to Canis for some feedback left in private for a quick little bit in the previous chapter!

First impressions of Owen as a character are quite good and I can already tell he’ll be enjoyable to follow throughout the story.
I'm glad! As the main character, I definitely hope that he's either likable, relatable, or at least entertaining to read about.

I know you mentioned on Discord that poor Owen gets stabbed a few times throughout the story, but I certainly didn’t expect it in the very first scene of the fic.
I do my best not to spoil too many elements of my story in public, at least not the essential things. Stabbing Owen is small potatoes, as you likely already know.

The only thing I noticed that I don’t like is the way you introduce the names of new characters. Since the way you do it… is by basically not doing it.
Yeaaaah I'm gonna go back and touch that up. It seems to be prologue-specific, based on our exchange in private, so I'll look into it next time I work my edits.

I liked hearing the explanations behind some of the different Dungeon mechanics. Every PMD writer seems to have his own take, so it was interesting to read how things work in this fic.
That's actually precisely why I went into some extra detail here. Dungeon mechanics are different for almost every single fic! So I established my own right from the start, just to be sure.

Though judging by this “Fire Trap” Owen used, it seems like HoC has some original moves and not just canon ones?
Yes and no. Owen's weird. Fire Trap is definitely a creative technique, and for the most part, you'll be seeing moves used in their standard or in creative ways. There are other times--as you'll learn why soon--where nonstandard techniques will also come into play.

Seriously, when they're making craters in the ground and crashing into each other at speeds to fast for the naked eye, there's nothing else it can be.
I have nothing to deny and nothing do defend. We're at the midway point of Act I, and the anime is briefly showing itself before we settle back down to our regularly scheduled lowkey anime.

we interrupt this PMD fanfic to bring you Furry Kingdom Hearts.
Isn't that just the Monsters Inc arc?

This is literally Goku and Goku Black fighting.
To be fair, that episode wasn't out yet when this chapter was originally written. I think. Wait. No, it was. But I hadn't watched it at the time.

Okay, now I know this fic is running on outdated, Gen I-V move mechanics, because Extreme Speed was made into two words starting with XY.
Ughhhh you're right. I'm gonna need to go back and fix this and probably Solar Beam as well. Good thing Mispy barely uses it...

At first I thought this was a fancy Counter, but apparently it's just SSJ Blue. XD
I actually foreshadowed this (clumsily) in SE Storm when Rhys managed to get through the fire unscathed despite being a Steel Type and he was awash in solid aura. That's why he was so fatigued when we ran into him afterward in that chapter. Buuut yes. It's basically literally super armor. That rapidly eats away at Rhys' life energy, but hey. It's cool.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Just gonna do some final touch ups and then I'll send the next part out.


Dragon Enthusiast
Chapter 21 – Our Lord

Demitri and Mispy wandered through the inner caverns of Hot Spot. It was odd not having a forest to walk out of from their old cave; the lack of foliage unnerved Mispy in particular. Back at their old home, they would have gone out of the cave, headed into the nearby forest, helped water Rhys’ garden—

“Mispy, do you think Rhys still checks on his berry garden at our old place?” Demitri said. “We kinda just up and left…”

Mispy frowned, thoughtful. That garden always had the best-tasting berries, possibly because of how fresh they were. Could they find a way to grow them in Hot Spot? Maybe if they went outside and then climbed the hills that were above them.

She missed the sun. The Mystic glow of the mushrooms that coated the red rocks blue just weren’t enough. She absently prodded at one with her foreleg, noting the relative firmness of the otherwise soft fungi, and then glanced at Demitri.

“Mispy, what’re you—”

Mispy wrapped a vine around one of the mushrooms and tugged; the rounded cap was about half the size of her head, and the stem was nearly as thick as her leg. She had to pull harder. It broke near the base, but the glow remained, albeit quickly fading.

“Hungry?” Mispy asked, offering the mushroom.

“Is that even edible?”

Mispy shrugged. “We can try.”

That didn’t comfort the Axew very much, but before he could object, the Chikorita took a nibble from the cap. Bland, but with a hint of an earthy, savory flavor. It wasn’t dry, but it wasn’t exactly dripping wet, either; the insides reminded her of mild cheese. When was the last time they’d gone to Tank of Miltank, anyway? Well, dairy didn’t agree very much with Demitri, but Mispy wouldn’t mind trying some again.

“How is it?” Demitri asked, breaking Mispy from her thoughts.

“Mm.” Mispy offered the other side of the cap to Demitri, bobbing her leaf. “Good.”

Demitri took a nibble next, humming uncertainly after a few chews. “It’s okay,” he half-agreed. “I miss Rhys’ berries, though.”

To that, they could both agree.

All around them were empty homes; they were slightly deeper in Hot Spot, not really trying to chase Owen, but still wanting to at least be, in some small way, closer to where he was moping. Any closer and the heat would’ve gotten to Mispy—her Grass instincts were already telling her to go back. Then again, they had been telling her to get out and get some sun, too.

“I hope Owen’s okay,” Demitri said, frowning.

Sensing that their walk was over, Mispy moved near the wall by a patch of mushrooms and planted her rear next to them decisively. Demitri suppressed a laugh and followed her, brushing his hip against hers. She leaned behind his tusk and gave it a playful nibble.

By the time their first mushroom was halfway eaten, Demitri spoke again. “I can’t even imagine it,” he said. “This whole town used to be filled with villagers. Owen mentioned a few of them. Apparently, there was a Fennekin that had given him, like, courtship advice, or something. And an Arcanine that always gave him rides around the village. And then a bunch of other Pokémon, too. But now it’s so awkward now that the secret’s out that they don’t even show up anymore.”

Mispy tore off another strip of the mushroom stem. “All an act.”

Demitri shuddered. “All fake…”

An uncomfortable silence surrounded them and Demitri pulled his legs closer to his body. “Who would’ve thought that a literal ghost town could feel even worse when the ghosts are gone.”

Mispy almost lost her appetite to empathy. Almost. She grabbed another mushroom beside her and started anew. “Owen…”

Why did they care so much about him? They only remembered meeting him about a moon ago; while it was unfortunate that he had to go through this, it shouldn’t bother her this much to think about how much he was hurting. It tugged at some deeper part of her heart, the same way she would’ve felt if Gahi had gone through the same thing.

Mispy noticed that Demitri was staring at her. She held up the mushroom in offering, but he declined with a polite claw shake.

“Mispy,” Demitri said, “when we lost against that Hunter and we lost the Ground Orb, and Forrest… do you remember what happened?”

Mispy shook her head, slowing her eating.

“Me neither. It’s all a fog before that. And then we just passed out during discussions, too. I hope that Espurr didn’t do some kind of Psychic mind tricks on us.”

“No,” Mispy said.

“No?” Demitri asked. “…Oh, yeah. I don’t think so, either. It feels like this fog goes a lot deeper. There’s a lot that’s similar between us and Owen, and I think maybe that’s why I feel so bad about…”

“…No…” Mispy stopped eating this time. “There’s more.”

Demitri unfolded his legs, picking at his tusks. “More, huh?”

The Chikorita nodded. “Fog… in my head.”

“Exactly!” Demitri shouted, startling Mispy. “Sorry.” When she resumed eating, he continued, “I feel like everyone’s keeping a secret from us, but I don’t get why. Because their minds aren’t in a fog, and they act like they’ve known us forever, but I can’t even remember the specifics on how we got here! When did we even get Heart badges?” Demitri rubbed his eyes. “Argh, I can’t even remember Heart of Hearts Anam giving it to me, and there’s no way I’d forget something like that!”

“Something’s wrong,” Mispy agreed. “But…”

“But we don’t know what to do about it, right?”

Mispy’s leaf drooped and she took another, sad bite out of her second mushroom. “They know,” she said.

“But they won’t say.” Demitri looked down. “Seems like Owen knows, too. Maybe that’s why he got so upset that he had to leave…”

Mispy stiffened. “Did they… make us forget?” she whispered.

An icy chill ran down their spines, and for a while, they sat in complete silence. Far, far away, at the entrance to the cave, some jovial voice announced his presence. It was so far that the echo of his call was unintelligible.

“I think that’s the Fighting Guardian,” Demitri said. “Rhys must be back with him. We see how they’re doing, but what do we…”

“Play dumb.” Mispy got onto her feet.

“Play dumb?” Demitri frowned, unsure. “I—I’m not that good at acting.”

“Then be me.” It wasn’t like she could talk all that easily. It was only because she was talking to Demitri, alone, that she wasn’t constantly stumbling over her words. If Demitri just kept quiet and played dumb, maybe they could uncover some memories.

Maybe that’s what Owen was doing, too.


Star, a floating, pink haze, bounced in the air to get the attention of the others. It was hard to tell what gestures the pink cloud was trying to make, but they had the impression she was waving her arms around.

“Guys! He’s coming back now! Just—just keep it cool, alright? Don’t ask him anything, but don’t try to ignore it either, okay? Like, just make sure he feels… like how we all think about him, right?”

“Pretty much,” Gahi said, looking refreshed after his nap. He flicked his huge head in the air. “I mean, c’mon, he’s Owen! Wouldn’t hurt anyone, guy wants even outlaws ter get a second chance and get back on their feet! He’s the ideal Heart!”

The rest of Team Alloy nodded. Demitri, who seemed winded from rushing back to the central caverns, said, “We’ll be there to support him no matter what!”

“Exactly!” Star said. “Yes! Good! Keep that up.”

Gahi clicked his jaws at Demitri. “And what’re you doing all pantin’ like that?” he said. “You an’ Mispy were gone fer a long time. You two weren’t—”

“N-no! No, nothing like that!” Demitri said. “We were just—”

“Yes,” Mispy confessed, lowering her head.

Gahi reeled in faux-disgust.

Owen could hear the tail-end of their conversation, but he didn’t want to admit it. They thought that he was an ideal Heart? He killed someone! No—he killed two Pokémon! At least! But… it was like Star said. He wasn’t truly that person anymore. That was just… how others wanted him to be. Right? Well, not anymore! He puffed out his chest.

“Hello?” Owen called.

“Hey, Owen,” Demitri said. He nodded, though it was a bit shaky. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I just needed to… cool off… in the lava.”

Mispy frowned, disappointed at Owen’s sense of humor.

“That, uh, that’s an interesting way to cool down,” Demitri said.

“I’m… I’m just really tired,” Owen said. It was plainly obvious in his lethargic body language. He looked like he could lose all control and sleep on the ground. “I’m sorry that I ran off like that.”

“It’s okay,” Mispy said. The Chikorita saw his aura—the flare was weak and jittery. Tired after a stressful day. Owen wasn’t going to be in the mood for much.

“Yeah,” Demitri said. “I mean… to be honest, we’re still kinda trying to figure out what’s going on, too. Because… apparently, we have… we have a lot of missing memories, huh?”

Owen hesitated. Did they know more than he did? No. If they did… they would’ve been screaming. He knew it. But they were definitely nervous about what they could find out.

“I just want to sleep,” Owen finally said. “I’ll… I’ll talk about all this later. Tomorrow. Okay?”

“Yeah, totally,” Demitri said. “And then maybe we can train and fight tomorrow?”

Owen’s tail flickered brighter at the offer. But then it waned. That feeling of joy at fighting… Was that his emotion, or was that his instinct? Was that his choice… or was that how he was supposed to react? Who was he, really?

The Charmander shook the thoughts away. He’d never sleep like this.

“Hey, Owen,” Star said. “Don’t forget.”

Owen could’ve broken down right there. Instead, he took a deep breath and nodded. Ideal Heart… If he could give off that impression, then there was still hope.

Mispy’s leaf wiggled. “Hm?” She turned around. “They’re back.”

Taking the lead were the two Lucario; the lithe one they recognized as Rhys and deduced that the bulkier one was Manny. “Wow, that’s pretty interesting,” Demitri said. “Two Lucario, huh?”

“Yeah, kinda cool,” Gahi agreed. “Ehh… the Fighting Guardian…” He stared at the Lucario, clicking his jaws. “He seems real… familiar… doesn’e?”

“Oy, that Gahi an’ th’ others?” Manny said.

Demitri blinked. “Hey, he talks the same way you do, Gahi. Almost exactly the same, actually…”

“Uh, about that…” Star said. “Uh… you remember him at all? Gahi? Guys?”

“I mean, he’s a Lucario, so maybe I have it kinda mixed up with Rhys and stuff,” Demitri said. “Don’t you think? I mean—how would we’ve met him? He’s super old!”

“Aw hey, I ain’t gray-furred yet,” Manny said. “But I guess I’ll jus’ go an’ tell yeh, I remember yeh guys. But back then, yeh guys were fully evolved an’ in yer, eh… modified forms, compared ter how yer species usually looks. Gahi told me ‘bout it, th’ guy looked real shiny.”

“W-wait, you mean…?” Demitri said. “So—it’s really true? We’re like Owen?”

Mispy tensed, glaring at Demitri; what ever happened to keeping quiet about getting wise? Then again, Star was Psychic.

“Yeah,” Star said, gently waving a flash of Mystic energy to keep the memories from spilling over for the three. “I guess now that Owen is a Mystic, it isn’t exactly going to be easy to keep this all hidden forever. And besides—you guys are getting a lot better! But… ugh… fine. Anam?” She spotted the Goodra licking his slimy fingers of the remainder of an Aspear Berry.

“Mgg—Yeah?” he asked, mouth half-full.

“How about you head back to Kilo Village and tell Nevren to head back here? We’re gonna need him and Rhys to… explain everything. Because in a way, they’re the ones that are responsible for… all of this.”

“The Hunters, right?” Owen said. “I mean… I do feel like this should all be out in the open, but…” Owen rubbed his head. “Can it wait? Please? I just… I can’t deal with this right now. I already know what’s going on, mostly, and I don’t know if they can handle it yet. I’m Mystic, and it’s still hard.” He looked at the Chikorita, Axew, and Trapinch.

Team Alloy nodded. “If Owen thinks it’s too much for us,” said Demitri, “then we’ll wait, too.”

“You’re sure?” Star said. The cloud floated closer. “I mean, maybe this will help put you at ease, right?”

Owen smiled slightly. “I think finding out will make it worse,” he said. “Just… tomorrow. Tomorrow morning. Guys? What do you think?”

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi looked at one another.

“Yeah,” Demitri said.

“Eh, sure. Ain’t gonna matter ter me. I don’t get any o’ this yet, heh.”

Mispy nodded. “You’re the smartest,” she said to Owen.

“A-aw, thanks…” Owen scratched behind his head. He still missed his horn.

Manny looked the four over, crossing his arms. He leaned toward Rhys, “Their auras…”

“Quite a bit calmer, hm?” Rhys said.

“Yeah. Whatever yer doin’, it’s workin’. Not quite there yet… eh… but it’s almos’ there. They migh’ ev’n make it next time.” The two Lucario nodded at one another, but after that, they let the group disband. It was a long day of training for them, and recruiting for Rhys’ team. Anam left for Kilo Village—He could at least tell Nevren about the situation.

Owen was about to leave for his home, but he paused on the way. He glanced to his right. This was the same cavern that he would normally use to walk to the lava river. At his usual walking pace as a Charmander, it would take him twenty seconds just to walk across from wall to wall. He saw someone shifting around inside, and some latent, buried part of his memories urged him to move forward.

“Hello?” Owen called, stepping inside. He didn’t see anybody, but he did spot a pool of water in the middle of this tiny home. “Huh. That’s weird.” He figured there was nothing inside and turned around, but the feeling returned. He couldn’t leave. But what was the point? He didn’t like water anyway. He rolled his eyes. His mind was just scrambled. He shouldn’t be trusting his feelings at a time like this. He could barely remember a few days ago. But, still…

Owen glanced back, expecting to see an empty pool again. Instead, he saw a Milotic’s upper half sticking out of the water, her lower half blending in with it. “AUGH!”

Zena jumped. “I—I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to—”

“N-no, no, it’s okay! I—I just thought—”

“I was resting. I didn’t realize you returned. Are—are you okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine,” Owen said, clutching his chest. “I’m sorry I ran off like that. I shouldn’t have blamed you for any of this, either, too. I get it. You guys were just trying to help.”

“More like Star forced us to,” Zena said.

“She was right,” Owen said quickly, earning raised brows from the Milotic. Massive brows. Owen was briefly distracted by how huge they were. He shook the thought away. “If that block wasn’t put in my mind, I think I’d’ve gone insane. I need it. F-for now.”

Zena didn’t respond immediately. She just looked away, nodding.

“Anyway, um, I guess I came here to make sure you were alright. So, you are?”

“I am.”

“Good. That’s good.” Owen stood there. He shifted on his feet. “You’ll be fine?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Okay.” Owen turned around but then hesitated again. As a Charmander, his senses were still dulled. He had a vague idea that they used to be much sharper. He also had a vague idea that Zena was tense. His heart sank. He was the killer of the very Guardian that used to hold the Orb he now possessed. She didn’t want him around. And why would she?

“Okay,” he said again, stepping outside.

Now that he thought about it, he wondered if this was something that he’d gone through time and time again before. His parents raised him for so long. Weren’t they sick of him? Not to mention, what others did he forget about? But still, this was it. He was almost ready, wasn’t he? Maybe next time, he’ll really stay evolved. And he’ll get all his memories back. And then…

And then what?

“Owen,” Zena said.

Owen stopped, halfway out of Zena’s home. He shook his head, forgetting his train of thought.

“No matter what happens,” she said, “I… want to be there for you. Okay?”

Owen turned around, taken aback. His mouth opened just slightly, but no words came.

Zena smiled. “You’re my friend, Owen.”

Light returned to Owen’s eyes.


The sealed Charmander rolled onto his Rawst bed, skipping dinner. He wasn’t hungry. Maybe he didn’t need to eat anymore, as a Mystic? Either way, he wasn’t in much of a mood for a meal. He let out a steady sigh; he felt like the last day was actually ten, and he hadn’t slept for any of it. This seemed like the first instance of a real, calm, quiet moment to himself. Star wasn’t giving him a pep talk—though he’d’ve appreciated another—and it was just him in the darkness and his fire. The chat with Zena lifted his mood somewhat, but now that he was alone with his thoughts, everything still bothered him. He even felt the thoughts of the day leave him for a few blissful instances. The crackle of the embers in the middle of the room lulled him halfway to sleep.

“Owen,” Amia said softly.

A pang of irritation. Owen curled up, but he didn’t say anything.

“Owen, I’m… I’m sorry.”

Owen didn’t reply. Couldn’t he just sleep?

“We shouldn’t have kept this all from you, and… we know that it’s just going to make getting all of those memories back really painful, and confusing, and scary, and… and I’m so sorry. If I could just undo it, I’d… I mean… I don’t know.”

Alex spoke next, just behind Amia. Owen heard the nervous grinding of the Magmortar’s two cannons bumping against each other. “I’m sorry that you had to go through this, but if we didn’t seal your memories, we never would have been able to calm you down. Calm you from… how you were before.”

“Alex,” Amia said quietly.

Owen knew it was right, but it hurt to hear. He was a monster—and he could become one again, couldn’t he? When he evolved—those memories he still couldn’t recall. What happened then? Did he go berserk again? How badly did he defeat Azu—and in what way? It’s all a mystery—and even with Azu, within Manny, a few houses away, he couldn’t bear to ask. All he had to know was that he did it, and it was enough to terrify Willow into not speaking to him.

“Owen, if there’s anything you want me to do that can help,” Amia said.

“I just want—” Owen choked up. He felt like everything was collapsing around him—or that it already did, trapping him under the rubble. There wasn’t a way out, was there? Short of dying, he was stuck in this life for who knows how long. “I just want…” He trailed off again. “I just want to help everyone…!”

Amia sat down next to Owen. The leaves brushed against one another and her dress. Alex stepped over next; his heavy footsteps disturbed the bed. He sat on the opposite side of Owen, looking down at him.

“We’re here for you, Owen,” Amia said, finally placing a hand on his back. Owen flinched but didn’t resist. “It’s okay. Come on, c’mere…”

Owen trembled and sniffled. He uncurled a bit. Amia leaned over and picked him up, pulling him until he was against her chest. He sniffled and pressed his head against her; finally, the tears began to flow, pouring out of his eyes in thin streams. Alex brought his head down, but let Amia handle it for now. Owen could barely keep it together, releasing himself through little tremors and gasps.

“It’s too much,” Owen said. “It’s too much…!”

“I know, Owen, I know,” Amia said. “It’s so much… but you’re so strong, Owen. We’re here, too. Ohh, it’s okay, let it out… let it out…”

Owen blubbered, coughing and shaking. No matter how old he was, he only had a child’s handful of memories to work with. Amia was still his mother, and Alex, his father. He wrapped his arms around Amia, but then glanced at Alex. The Magmortar gave him a little smile with his huge lips.

“M-Mom… did… did I kill anybody else?”

“You didn’t, dear,” Amia said gently. “You were unstable… but Klent and Amelia—those were the only two that died. I promise.”

Owen sniffled. “And what about spirits? Did I hurt any of…?”

“They don’t blame you, Owen,” Amia said. “They all understand what’s going on. They still do. And they’re so proud, Owen… And so am I, and your father.”

Alex nodded. “Keep it up,” he said. “I know you can do this. I’ve known you for so long, and I know you can handle everything the world and beyond throws at you.”

Owen sobbed for quite a while, letting it all out into Amia’s chest. He bumped his head against the flat, fin-like horn in the middle of it—it always comforted him, and Amia gently rubbed at the scales on his shoulders. “You’re just fine, Owen,” she said. “You’re a kind soul, and no instinct will change that with us around. We’ll conquer it. You, Rhys, Star, and us… we’ll handle it together. Because that talent you have, the talents all of Rhys’ students have? Imagine how many others you can help!”

“M-mhm.” Owen sniffed.

“And,” Alex said, “then you’ll be even stronger, don’t you think? Great power and complete control over it.”

“Y-yeah… And you really think I can control it?”

“Owen, that last time you fully evolved, against Azu?”

Owen winced.

“You almost had it. You almost had it, Owen. You’re closer than ever.”

Owen sniffled. Was he really that close, after all this time? How many tries did it take? How many more? The way Amia spoke, it sounded like the very next time would be the last. He was so close.

Amia rubbed his back. “Are you hungry, Owen?”

“No… I don’t think I… need to eat…”

“Oh?” Amia said. “Goodness. I didn’t think you got to that point already.”

Owen laughed through his sniffles, but then said, “Y-yeah. I’m getting strong… maybe getting beat half to death by Azu boosted my Mystic aura again.” He laughed, coughed, and sniffled. The weight felt lighter.

Amia finally pulled away. “Want to sleep in our room, dear?” she said. “It’s okay, just for tonight, if you want.”

Owen hesitated, looking at his bed. “Just tonight…”

Alex leaned forward and wrapped his huge arms over the network of Rawst leaves. He headed over to their room in the other part of the cave; Owen’s tail-fire lit the way in along with his father’s flaming upper half. He stared at the ceiling as it moved past him. He remembered this sight. He used to be afraid of the dark when his tail didn’t quite light the whole way. How long ago was that? It was before the cave had mushrooms—before Amia made them to keep the area well-lit for him. She did that for him…

What was he, a horrible monster, doing being afraid of the dark? What would try to hurt him? If anything, he was the creature in the dark that others feared. Owen sniffed again, looking at the rocky walls and the mushrooms that embedded them. They really did care about him. They all did.

If they weren’t giving up on him, then he’d keep going, too.

Amia and Alex’s room was somewhat larger than Owen’s, but looked similar, with a single, large bed at the back edge of the cave wall. It, too, was made from Rawst berries—mainly due to Alex, and also because, sometimes, Amia had sleep-fights and set herself on fire in the middle of the night. Many beds were lost to this until they decided to get a Rawst one.

Owen… Klent called.

Owen jolted. Amia looked down, concerned, but he shook his head. O-oh, hi, Klent.

Klent was quiet.


...We’re here for you, too. Star wanted me to… remind you about that.

Owen gulped, sniffling again. Thanks, Klent…

Alex pushed Owen’s leaves into their own, and they settled in with the Charmander between them.

Snuggled between his parents, he fell asleep in seconds.


…Charmander Owen… conqueror of instincts…

Uhh, hello?

Owen… follow my voice… reach out to me.

Mom said not to talk to cosmic strangers.

I am hardly a stranger. Come, Owen. I mean you no harm. I also doubt your mother told you that specifically.

Well, I bet she would if I asked.

Silence followed.


You’re not gonna stop bothering me, are you? Is this a dream?

This is hardly a dream. Come, Owen. My name is Arceus.

Owen stood on a black floor in the middle of a void. “Uh—what?” Which direction he looked didn’t matter. The only thing he could see was the flame of his tail. “Is this another one of those weird dreams?”

A blinding light shined in front and above him. Owen shut his eyes and covered them with his right hand. “Ugh—turn that out!” he shouted. Even with cover from his claws and his eyelids, he still saw the light. It slowly faded to a dimmer glow; Owen took the chance to peek. His jaw fell.

It was an incredible sight—one he thought didn’t exist for quite a while, at least until he met Star. A creature with four legs and golden hooves, a grey underbelly, and white fur. Just as the descriptions went, and how the artists had depicted him. He had green eyes and red irises, and a gold, wheel-like decoration around his abdomen, tipped with emerald-green jewels.

“A-A… A… Arceus…?” Owen said, feeling his knees shake. “Oh, Mew, this is the craziest dream yet.”

Arceus, while he didn’t have a mouth, was still able to speak, simply staring at Owen. “This is not a dream, Grass Guardian. I am Arceus. I have summoned your aura to speak with me. Do you not remember my calling your name?”

“Uhh—I think? I was probably, like, half-asleep… Wait. You—you’re the Arceus? Not—not some… figment or fragment or something that you sent down, or anything like that? You’re the…”

“I am.”

Owen’s heart skipped a beat. It had been dawning on him in the back of his mind that if Star was real, then Arceus probably was, too. She mentioned the deity, after all. Apparently, he had a temper, but he looked as serene as ever here. Wait. Arceus—shouldn’t he be showing some form of respect?! As much as he hadn’t believed in him at first, this was pretty clearly proof. He quickly got to his knees. “I—it’s an honor for me to see You!” he said. “Wh-what can I do f-for You?”

“…Grass Guardian Charmander Owen,” Arceus said. “Do you feel that this Mystic power has become overwhelming to you? That you think you cannot uphold the responsibilities that the world is forcing upon you?”

He flinched. Owen wondered if Arceus was watching him this entire time. It was a lot. He would have agreed in the afternoon. But now, tonight? He wasn’t done. It was all going so quickly that he needed a few seconds to process it. Arceus waited, unmoving, unblinking. He remembered to breathe—wait, did he need to breathe here? This felt like some part of the spirit world.

Was he so important that even Arceus was watching him, personally? There was a pang in his gut, even as an aura, that didn’t go away. Owen didn’t consider himself to be at that level of importance yet. Especially now, being among the lower tier of Guardians. He decided to play along, wondering if Arceus could read minds the way Star could, or if he had to allow him that privilege. Just in case, Owen decided to keep his thoughts private, preemptively blocking Arceus’ advance, in case that was what he was doing.

“W-well, I mean, it’s pretty hard,” Owen admitted. “And I’ve been going through a pretty rough patch right now since I found out about… You know… You do know, right?”

“I do.”

“Yeah, that,” Owen said. “So, I guess it’s…”

“Would you like things to go back to normal?”

Owen hesitated. Normally, he would just say, yes, he certainly would. He’d love to live a normal life. But could…? Arceus… could He do that? Just… make it normal?

“What do You mean?” Owen asked. And he still had that pang in his stomach. Even stronger, now.

The temptation of everything going back to normal, even after all that talking from the others? He’d be letting them all down! Klent, Star, his parents, his mentors, the Hearts, Zena…

“If you wish,” Arceus said, “I can undo it all. I can take your power away and wipe your memories of ever acquiring that Mystic power—and then make the others forget you ever did, too. It will be as if this all never happened. Is that not precisely what you wished for?”

Owen’s mouth felt dry. He gulped and looked down. He was still on his knees. It didn’t feel right. “I…”

“I’ll even use some of my power further, to rid you of your tainted instincts. I will fix you.”

Owen’s heart skipped another beat. Or did it stop entirely? As an aura, it probably didn’t even matter.

They wouldn’t be let down if they didn’t know it even happened. And without his instincts to get in the way, he could finally evolve. His dream was always to evolve—and stay that way.

Arceus continued. “You will evolve into a Charizard, pure, unmodified, unmutated. You will live, age, and die as one. Everybody else will accept it. They will think this was how it has always been.” Arceus held out one of his hooves. It glowed slightly. “Let me relieve you of your burden, Owen,” he said, “so that you can enjoy life again.”

The Charmander stared at Arceus—part of him still couldn’t believe it. But the other part… even if it was a dream…

It was Arceus, after all. He could do anything. But did Owen want that? A normal life. What was a normal life? He was never normal. Would he have even gotten into the Thousand Hearts as a normal Charmander? And what about the others?

“What about Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi?” Owen asked. “Can You fix them?”

“Not immediately,” Arceus admitted. “They are too far away from my influence. But after I help you… I believe I will be able to assist them, too, in time.”

“And—and what about the other Mystics?” Owen said. “Their lives are all so hard, too. And some of them are in danger right now! The ones we can’t find. A-and… and some of them were killed already. The Ground and Flying Guardians… Cara was one. She was so scared, even after it was all over. A-and Forrest… Star said that he didn’t even want to show up.” Owen gulped. “Can You help the other Guardians, too?”

“Certainly,” Arceus said. “I will free them of their Mystic responsibilities, too.” He held out his hoof again. “Do you accept, Owen?”

Owen stared at the hoof. His right hand twitched. A small part of him was telling him to just accept it. Abandon this entire mess, put it in the hands of the Creator Himself. This divine power wasn’t meant for him, after all. It came from Arceus! And now it would return to Him, just as it should.

No. They were strong thoughts. They were selfish and shortsighted. Owen knew better. There were other thoughts that whispered to him in his mind. One part was rational; another was instinctual. And as much as he hated his instincts… there were times when even the worst power was useful.

Why was Arceus approaching him now, of all times? Star, his parents, the Guardians, and even his fellow artificial students. All of them were behind him. He had a lot of uncertainty, sure, but between Zena, his parents, and how tantalizingly close he was to stability… And now, Arceus was coming to take that power away? Talk about bad timing. It didn’t make sense to him. Why didn’t Arceus make this offer to Zena and the others, too? He wasn’t anything special compared to them, right? Aside from… Well, perhaps he was a little special.

But there was more to it, too. Something less logical. Something in Owen’s core that hissed savagely. Owen wanted to hiss at the Creator. But he held back. But why would he feel that impulse? That defiance against Him, of all Pokémon? Owen usually only felt this way when he was in front of someone being tense, as if anxious, waiting for some kind of opening in battle. But… Arceus? No. Arceus would be the last Pokémon to behave in such a way. Owen ignored his instincts.

But he couldn’t ignore his mind. He had to ask more questions. It was a big decision, after all.

“I… I don’t know,” he said. “This… this power. I feel like I can do a lot of good with it.”

Perhaps just a day ago, he would have accepted this offer. But this night, he wasn’t so sure. Maybe he could handle it, with everyone else’s help.

“And I don’t know if right now’s a good time anyway, y’know, when all my friends are trying to defend themselves against the Hunters, y’know?”

“Mm,” Arceus said.

Owen tilted his head. Did He have more to say?

Arceus went on. “That’s very noble of you, Owen. You wish to use your power to keep the Orbs out of the Hunters’ hands. And I am aware that you wish to follow in Anam’s footsteps, and make the entire world a better place. If that’s the case… Hmm. I must admit that the Hunters, created by Star, are beyond my influence. I cannot easily stop them. I will happily allow you to retain your power if, instead, you pledge to do it under my command.”

“U-under the command of Arceus himself?!” Owen said, rising to his feet. “I’d—I’d…! That’s awesome!”

Owen spoke before his mind could stop him. Even after he said it, he had a doubt. Arceus still didn’t answer his question. But perhaps he could make an exception? Surely, he had a grand scheme of some kind. It would probably take too long to explain. Arceus was probably a very busy Pokémon. Did he get paperwork?

Arceus beamed with his eyes alone. He even glowed brighter; that warm light made Owen want to just curl up and sleep in His fur. It looked so fluffy!

“Perfect, Owen. I’m proud of you,” He said. “Now, please, hold out your hand.”

Without thinking, Owen obeyed. But then he jerked it back. Bad move—how rude! He glanced up at Arceus.

“There is no need to be shy,” Arceus said.

Owen recognized this pose. It was the same one that Zena and Rhys had made to one another. A Divine Promise--something that made even Nevren flinch. At the very least, Owen could listen to what the terms of this Promise would be. He reached out. Arceus’ hoof felt like solid gold. It was hot, even to his fiery self.

“Owen, do you hereby Promise to use your Mysticism under my orders?”

Owen was lost in his eyes. Instincts paralyzed his throat. His lungs refused to let out a breath. Even his thoughts froze from thinking anything affirmative. He was entranced by the glory of this Pokémon. And yet… And yet, and yet, and yet. What was this doubt? What was this feeling? It almost hurt, how it kept him from saying yes, just entrust himself to Arceus, let Him do the important thinking. Easy! But his mind still didn’t understand the full terms. It was such a broad Promise.

“I… I can’t,” the Charmander said. He let go of his hoof. He lowered his tail with his arms.

“…Excuse me?” The hoof remained.

“I—I need to… Can I think about it?” he said. He was starting to recognize the gut feeling—Arceus… was He…? “What would your commands be, and stuff?”

“To carry out my missions in the mortal realm. To eradicate the Hunters and liberate the Guardians. To restore my power. You trust me with such a thing, don’t you?”

If Arceus needed his power back, what took it away in the first place? Was he not the ultimate being? “A-about that, I had a few questions. I’m very sorry, Your Greatness, but You know how I am as a personality, right? I’m kinda really… curious, about how something isn’t adding up. I used to not even believe you existed, or anything about the spirit world. How come You’re asking me all this stuff now? Did You ask the other Guardians, too? I bet they’d really like to give up their power the same way. Zena was really unhappy for hundreds of years. How come You didn’t help her? That… doesn’t seem right, Arceus. If You’re relieving me of that… how come You didn’t for her?”

The more he vocalized it, the more it didn’t make sense. Why him, and not her? There was more to it. Arceus wouldn’t make these decisions arbitrarily.

“That isn’t really your concern, is it?” Arceus said. “I created this world with my thousand arms. Surely you can trust me to direct your power. I will train you and hone your skills beyond anything you could have imagined. It is all part of my divine plan.”

“Y-yeah, but… what for? What is the divine plan?” Owen said. “I—I mean, you definitely know that I’m kinda nervous about being directed to use my power a certain way, right? You know, being artificial, being designed…”

“I do understand your apprehension,” Arceus said. “I will assure you that my orders will be just, and you will be perfectly content with what I request.”

“Okay,” Owen said, “but how come You’re asking me, then? Oh—and, um, Arceus, Your Greatness, you still didn’t answer my question. Why didn’t You ask Zena the same thing, or the other Guardians? You’d be able to do that, right? Or…? Or can’t You? Is it because—”

Owen nearly choked on his own gasp. If the Hunters were beyond Arceus’ control, what about the other Guardians? Would they be beyond his control, too? What kept him from…


Owen had to test something. And when he spoke next, he made himself very aware of the deity’s body language. If there was one thing his instincts were good for… it’d be this. This was what his instincts were hissing at. They were dull against Zena, so he had to focus a lot harder this time.

“Your... Holiness. Where is Creator Mew Star?”

He saw it. It was an instant. The smallest twitch. It wasn’t his instincts; he didn’t need them after all. It was obvious enough from the little flicker of light that Arceus gave off, that wavering in his expression. Anger. Arceus reacted negatively to Star’s name. He stared into those red pupils.

Arceus had a temper. Star had said as much.

“Is it okay,” Owen said, “if we invite her here?”

“You…” Arceus’ voice deepened, “shall listen to me. Understood?”

“N-no, not understood,” Owen said. Realizing he had just outright said ‘no’ to the topmost being of the universe, he quickly amended himself. But his trust was already gone, and so was any reverence that he may have held. It wasn’t too hard to discard, considering he didn’t believe in him for very long—and since Star already tarnished his idea of what it meant to be a deity. “I—I mean, Arceus, I know that you know everything, but can you maybe give me some of that omniscience? It kinda feels like I don’t have the full picture here…”

With nothing in this black void but the two of them—no visible ground, no rocks, no plants, no movement… the silence that followed felt like an eternity. Owen couldn’t even hear his heart. Maybe it did stop.

“No,” Arceus said. Suddenly, the divine being’s back glowed with a soft, white light. Owen saw tiny, filament-like tendrils, like long bits of thick fur. It radiated an incredible amount of power—Owen felt like he’d collapse just from standing before it. “You will choose, now,” he said, “to either follow me… or be rid of your power completely.”

“Th-that’s… that’s not right!” Owen said.


The tendrils of light floated like seaweed in still water; gently, they pointed toward Owen and glowed brighter. Owen gulped. Star… help…! “What… what happens if I don’t accept?”

“So, you refuse me?”

Owen knew that he’d regret it—but he had no choice. His instincts were screaming at him. Arceus was obviously hiding something, and it wasn’t for his own good. Owen didn’t want to believe it, but every fiber of his deepest being was screaming at him—this was indeed Arceus… and he was indeed lying.

No turning back now. “I refuse.”

And just like that, the many tendrils rushed right for Owen. He shut his eyes tight—this was it, wasn’t it? For a split-second, he wondered if he should have said yes. Because either way, it was going to end. Would this hurt? Would he even remember this? Or was it another stress-induced dream? Oh, please, let it be a dream—he missed worrying about his own sanity. That was much better than facing divine retribution.

But then, he heard a collision—many, many collisions, with strange, ethereal echoes. He didn’t feel anything—no pain from the strike, no loss of power. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes.

“S… Star?”

It was the Mew, but she was glowing—and her back had the same, white filaments from her back, like wings. Each one blocked one or two of Arceus’ filaments, neutralizing his attack.

“You’ve got guts, Owen,” Star said. “But you bit off more than you could chew this time.”

“Star,” Arceus said, staring down.

“Yo, Barky.” Star smirked.

“You shall not use such a name,” Arceus said.

“Trying to pluck away another one?” Star asked. “You didn’t even give your usual compromise this time. You must be real scared, huh?”

The sight of Arceus’ angry expression made Owen want to throw up. What little breath he had left exited his throat. “St-Star…!” Scared? Was that the answer? But he was weak! Anam was a much bigger threat to Arceus if they were going by strength.

The Mew gave a little wink at Owen. Owen realized it then—if he was going to get answers, it was going to be from Star.

“I’m going,” Star said. Facing Arceus, she continued, “Follow me, and you know you’ll be in trouble. C’mon, Owen. Let’s go.”

“Wait, wha—”

And they vanished.

In the silence of the void, Arceus hissed. “Star,” he said. “you really mean it this time… don’t you?” Many seconds of silence filled the void. He closed his eyes, sending a thought her way. I hope you have the resolve to follow through, Star.

And Star replied. Bite me.
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