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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation

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

  1. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    lol it's me again hope you didn't forget about me

    This is... mostly a reactive post, in hindsight now. Took me a long time to review but it was fun re-reading my notes and re-reading a lot of my favorite parts again. Not much to criticize, which I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, but I tried to go more in depth where I could!

    CHAPTER 19

    Heh, not only does Gahi take on Manny's style of speaking, but also some of his personality, methinks. They're both pretty outspoken and loud. I like seeing a connection between two rather minor characters.

    "Mutant" implies a much worse connotation, in my opinion... like, an intense biological flaw, which I don't think Owen and them are if they've directly been modified. Indeed I'd side with Manny on this one lol.

    Manny strikes me as the type to be able to handle the modified 'mons better than anyone... though I'd be afraid he'd just kill them and have no remorse for it, if the way he trained Owen is anything to go by. :p I get it's necessary, but he just seems to be harsh mostly for the fun of it, haha.

    OKAY BUT after chapter 28's ending... WAS THIS SERIOUSLY a sign that Nevren's still involved??? goddamn it I should've known. Too much delicious secrecy and drama in this fic I love it.

    Hasn't she been stripping his memories while he's been mystic so far, though?

    CHAPTER 20

    I liked this scene a lot to highlight the differences between Manny and the others. I've also never thought about using fire-types for cremation purposes, but... that's a morbid worldbuilding idea I can get behind.

    I never took Rhys for the daredevil type. :p

    Oh dear, I'd kinda argue that Rhys glowed here and lost, what with the brightness of his paw...

    Love this bit of dialogue tbh. Flows so smoothly and it's so... Mannylike, lmao. Which says nothing except that his character's shining through for what little screen time he's had already.

    Mm, it might've been cool to see this scene, but I understand why you omitted it, what with the lack of answers at that point in time.

    CHAPTER 21

    It takes a remarkable amount of patience and trust to be able to wait over an existential crises like theirs... Really speaks to their characters tbh.

    I've been happy to see more of Amia, really. I think she's kind of the glue for the entire growing cast, even if Owen's the main character. That's what motherly people are for, I guess. And she's definitely acting more motherly than before, now that some of the secrets are out.

    I lol'd. Wow, Owen. Just wow.

    This is... quite a shift from how Owen treated Star during their first meeting. Hmm...

    Arceus drives a hard bargain. :p And you can tell it hurts Owen, wanting to help his friends and knowing how lonely Zena and them have been as Guardians, but. I think he makes the smart choice here, even if I don't think he should totally trust Star, either.

    Also, Star's Barky nickname for Arceus = amazing.

    PAPERWORK?! Owen, you're killing me.

    Oh, I'm sure he's busy, Owen. Star is, too. But even she takes time to listen and talk things out when she deems them necessary. Anyway, I wonder how a more religious character would've acted in his place...

    CHAPTER 22

    HMMMMMM

    Weird to think of Hec and Star as an item. But uh, of course there's something special about Owen. At any rate, you've been handling pretty well spacing out all these secret reveals, IMO... and, even better, there's still more to come, re: possible Nevren betrayal! Knowing how reactive Owen can be to everything, I do wonder whether he'll end up being able to trust the group he's traveling with. He may love them, but... those he loves have been hiding things from him left and right, and now, even Rhys seems to be hiding things from Zena (not 100% new) and Amia (to my knowledge, 100% new). It makes me, as a reader, kind of question the legitimacy of what I'm reading - not in a bad way, but I do wonder if what I'm reading will be upended a few chapters down the road with new information. It's an interesting rollercoaster.

    why you tryna break my heart

    I hope this fic ends (a long way off, I know) with Owen permanently being a Charizard. ;o; He deserves it.

    Well, gathering the Guardians in one location seems dangerously close to breaking that divine promise, if something goes wrong. I'm surprised no one's mentioned Owen possibly meeting up with Arceus before. Or maybe they thought nothing of it because, well, it's Arceus, and why distrust Arceus, right?

    Yo Star I hope you're counting yourself in that statement. That is all.

    All right, the "or anyone" part got me here. Everyone's got their secrets, and it sounds like Star's got some particularly burdensome ones. It must be hard.

    Star's been meddling around for a while, though, right? So this bit doesn't quite make sense to me, though the message on its own is sound.

    I'm really glad Star didn't properly ask for a Divine Promise here. Indeed it'd have been terrible timing. I may not like her, but really, you're doing a good job with her character. She's very transparent in a lot of ways and mysterious in others - a balance that takes skill, in my opinion. As for Owen, I don't blame him one bit for being skeptical about all this.

    Oh, Owen, you put it perfectly. D: Anam's a good leader, and a powerful one at that, but knowing his personality... this is what he'd want the Hearts to believe, I'm sure.

    Ohhh, interesting use of a ghost-type. I wonder if it has anything to do with Anam's strange ghostly powers shown in the recent chapter?

    CHAPTER 23

    In theory, that's likely, since spirits have forever and then some to dwell on it. :p

    I give Owen a lot of credit here, and Amelia, too, of course. It's not every day that you're forced to face someone you killed but don't remember killing... and it's not every day you face your killer. Yet both are determined to fulfill their respective roles, and I think it turned out well. Seems to be bring some peace of mind to Owen, a little, too. <3

    Probably because she has to remember and feel all the pain while he lives blissfully unaware like he has been for god-knows-how-long.

    I'm glad to see Rhys finally be a little more open with Owen... He's been reserved for far too long. And on the flip side, I'm glad a lot of the group are relieved to not have to maintain a facade anymore. It's made for an interesting shift in character dynamics.

    Knowing now that Nevren is kinda suspicious of things... and seeing the weird ghostly powers with James coming and going from Anam... I can't help but wonder if they're taking advantage of Anam's kindness and childishness. Ugh.

    Hey, he'd probably have a harder time not lighting the store on fire as a bigger charmeleon/charizard. :V

    Ohh, I love this use of smeargle! Definitely an underused 'mon in fics. <3

    All right, Deca is ****ing weird, man. What's his deal? But at the same time, I love seeing the two charmanders marvel over being, well, two charmanders. So give moar Deca, pls&&ty.

    CHAPTER 24

    My best guess is that Deca's basically Owen in another lifetime, with all his memories intact. Basically, what Owen would've been like without all the modified 'mon nonsense screwing up his life in the present.

    As Owen's mother, I'm sure she's been wondering and battling these thoughts for a long time. To have Willow, a seemingly childish and naive lil joltik ask such profound questions... Well, doesn't seem that anyone has the answer, because there's no simple answer. Poor Owen.

    Sheesh, Azu. I'm glad you explain that Mystics can take a little better of a beating than normal 'mon, kinda like in Bleach with their Soul Reapers taking more to die than a regular human. But this seems pretty brutal in particular, not even letting the poor charmander celebrate for two seconds.

    I'm with Yen here. :V I wonder what would happen if Owen or some other modified 'mon switched places with a spirit...?

    He says, as Owen's power has to be contained. :V But really, I appreciate this lesson as a reader, too. A group like the Guardians is bound to be complicated, but you as the writer also help it make sense rather easily.

    Man, that's gotta be terrifying, lmaoo. But it builds mental fortitude, I'm sure. Does this have any effect on Owen still being a charmander being reversed from a charizard over and over, though? Like, is his body more susceptible to death because of all the severe biological changes over 493943 years?

    Sounds like an official quote. I dig it.

    Don't blame Amia here. Willow's a Guardian, but she acts just like a kid and is the size of one... A lot of them are eclectic and seemingly fragile like that, really, especially Enet most recently.

    Oh NOOOO this is so sweet. <3 I'm sorry I called you a kid, Willow. You're wise beyond your years.

    CHAPTER 25

    Okay, but now I want to see a muk character that's also Anam's best friend. I will pay to see this happen pls.

    Like Nevren's and Rim's powers and more? Cough.

    ;_;

    I wonder if this is why Owen and Enet take such a liking to each other right off the bat.

    Well, I hope the leader of the Hearts has a heart...

    But ice-types are already the weakest type and need something to keep them up in status! Nah, but seriously, I like the idea of an inventor pokémon, even if Nevren's inventions aren't quite done in everyone's best interests after all. He's always been kinda aloof and quirky, but I never would've thought he'd end up siding with Rim or any of them after having sworn off the Hunters with Rhys.

    Yikes. This... really highlights Owen's distrust of others, doesn't it? And who can blame him after everything? Klent's never seemed outraged or particularly grudging toward Owen, but still, he thought this anyway. I'm glad it turned out to be an illusion. Overall, the use of a zoroark is really clever here. With a feral especially, she seems dangerous and liable to be a burden to the group in the future... but then again, the language barrier being broken down piece by piece, trying to decipher what she understands and what doesn't, makes for a fascinating read.

    SPECIAL EPISODE 2

    Ugh, you really pull out all the emotional punches for this special. Meditating indeed is no substitute for interpersonal connections.

    A fire from the last special episode, I assume... It's interesting, getting a whole different POV on it. Owen and Deca and them were risking their lives out there while, meanwhile, Ra just watches from his pedestal and can't bring himself to care.

    A+ pun brought from the human to the 'mon world.

    I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT DECAAAAA

    You tell her, Ra! ...Even though she's trying to stop you and provoking her probably isn't the smartest idea. But seriously, it's practical advice. Star may be a god... but trying to fix others? A near impossible feat, 100% of the time. Not speaking from experience or anything...

    Most of the Guardians have focused on loneliness so far over (im)mortality, surprisingly, so it's nice to get yet another POV on this point. Ra seems the type to take that Divine Promise to Arceus to free all the Guardians of their duties, not Owen. :p

    It seems an unnecessarily cruel fate to inflict upon Enet out of nowhere, but. Well. You clearly portray just how desperate and done Ra is. And it may or may not say a lot that so many people have actively worked against and hated Star throughout the years.

    His family backstory is depressing, isn't it? D: Everyone he loved turned away from him, and what did he have left in the end? Just his immortality and his grudge against said immortality, really. Even if his family were still alive, well, he didn't get along with them even then.

    Oh snap, another dementia-featuring fic. I don't feel so alone anymore. :p

    CHAPTER 26

    Just like Enet doesn't like people insinuating she can't understand language intelligently, she doesn't like people insinuating she's not capable of possessing the Orb, probably.

    Lol, too bad Owen isn't a charizard since they're pretty big. It's cute how he tries to appeal to her, though, to get her to come with him. You can tell how flustered he is, but he doesn't have much of a choice without Anam and Amia around to help.

    OH NOOO, FERAL INSTINCTS

    I'm dying

    Oh snap, foreshadowing I missed the first time around. It doesn't help clear the suspicion from Nevren when he lied about what the Everstone was...

    Discrimination in the pokémon world...? Interesting, but I can see it. Like humans are separated by racial categories, so, too, are pokémon separated into type categories. Anyway, I agree with Sugar that Rim's absolutely creepy here, lol. Forgot Rim being a psychic and that's why. She's just creepy overall... and insanely powerful to boot.

    Am I right in that this is the same salazzle from special episode 1 and she just doesn't remember...? How many memories are being tampered with?!

    Ohh, Amia's so popular and/or powerful she has a legend told about her? :p

    CHAPTER 27

    Just when you didn't think it was possible...

    I'm surprised Anam doesn't panic more often, though. Maybe it's a constant, internal panic, because he's always conscious enough to not use his powers much for fear of hurting others beyond repair.

    Fire-types gotta take baths, too, yo.

    I like how you've been able to consistently bring up Owen's progress or not-progress in his Guardian powers, though, amidst everything else happening. Not much else to say about this chapter, aside from WTF ANAM. If the Hearts all saw his powers... Well, I don't think he'd be the leader anymore, or at least, he wouldn't have a functioning association...

    CHAPTER 28

    I'm not sure I understood the logic that caused Owen to throw the Everstone away. The Eviolite, he thought, was supposed to boost his powers, right? He wasn't intentionally trying to evolve and get stronger, it seems, at any rate... Though I also get the feeling the point is that Owen doesn't know why it worked; he just tried it based on a hunch.

    Perfect image. <3

    As if stealing Owen's memories time and time again wasn't bad enough... Now Zena can't remember a friend when she's been lonely for so long? I'm sure Rhys and co. have a reason for it. They always do. But is it justifiable? Pretty subjective moral stuff going on here. I like it.
     
  2. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the feedback, dp! I got to you elsewhere, but it's a joy as always to read your bulk-reviews!

    Chapter 29 – Honor and Loyalty

    The more Owen thought about it, the stranger it all became. Nevren’s actions seemed friendly, but the peculiar things that he did from time to time, specifically with Owen, made him suspicious. The gift that he was given to suppress his evolution, right before he became Mystic? Right before the traditional suppression methods wouldn’t have been enough? Then there was Nevren’s entire past in creating them.

    And then, most of all—and what made Owen still scratch his scaly head—what exactly was that vision he had on the mountain, during his trial to become a Heart? Nevren tried to attack him back then, but it was all a dream. It was, right? He wasn’t hurting at all when it was over, and he knew he dealt a horrible blow onto Nevren, too. So, what was that all about? Was it really the altitude? Or was it a Psychic vision that Nevren gave him, perhaps to test out his battle? That could have been it.

    Owen tried to explain this to Zena, Amia, and Alex, and while Zena nodded at every word, Amia and Alex seemed less sure.

    “Are you sure that you aren’t just a little worn out?” Amia said. “To be honest, all I want to do is rest for the night. Don’t you? Nevren may have not told you that the stone would keep you from evolving because then you’d try to evolve—and that’s just not a good idea right now… right? Why don’t you just rest?”

    “But it seems suspicious, don’t you think?” Zena pushed.

    “Nevren’s gift is the only reason Owen is still with us,” Alex said with a frown. “For that alone, I think we owe him quite a bit.”

    “He could have been honest with Owen,” Zena growled. “Star is still not telling us everything, and to be honest, if Star ever tells us to do something questionable, I won’t follow.”

    “None of us will, dear,” Amia said. “But think of it this way, Zena. If Nevren told Owen that it was an Everstone… and that he wasn’t supposed to evolve… how do you suppose he would react? Owen, who wanted nothing more than to evolve?”

    Both Zena and Owen flinched. The Charmeleon gulped, turning his head to focus on his stash of books in the back alcove of the room. “I guess I could be a little tired,” Owen said. “But… I don’t know. I still don’t know.”

    “Just… just don’t throw away that stone, okay?” Alex said. “Getting too far away from it just might evolve you, and we can’t have that. Not yet.”

    “Because I’ll go crazy?” Owen said.

    “W-well… yes?” Amia said delicately. “I think we all agree that we might not be ready for that. You still need some time to meditate.”

    Owen fiddled with his claws again. Then, he looked up at Zena, and then Amia and Alex. The first thing they asked him when he almost evolved was what he was thinking, and if he felt angry. Or perhaps if he felt violent? But he didn’t feel either of those things. He felt afraid. He thought about nothing but those he knew. He didn’t feel some sort of insanity creeping in on him, did he? Sure, there was a pressure, but that wasn’t the same. Right?

    “But do I?” he said. “What if I’ve been ready this whole time, and this stone is holding me back?”

    “N-now, Owen, let’s not…”

    “What if I got rid of it and evolved when I was calmer? I bet I’d be fine after that,” Owen said. “Then I could take on Rim and the other Hunters, no problem. It’d all be over. I bet I’d even rescue all of the other Guardians that are lost and afraid… I could’ve saved Cara and Forrest.” Owen still remembered how terrified the Lopunny in particular looked. That could’ve been any of them. That could’ve been Zena if the Hunters got to her first. With a fire in his chest, Owen glanced at the Milotic, then at his parents. “So why don’t I try it?”

    “B-Because, dear,” Amia said in a slow, yet frantic tone, “don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusions? The last time you evolved, you still went—”

    “I went crazy, but I was stressed! Attacked by Azu! What happened after that? When I won? Was I still angry?”

    “I… I mean…” Amia said. “Not… not really, but… but you were shaking, and shivering—and I know that you were trying your hardest to keep it together. You weren’t ready, even after the fight was over. I… it’s just not good yet, okay? Even if Nevren might not be totally honest with us—maybe you evolving isn’t good for either of us.”

    Owen flinched. “I… I mean…” He turned away. “I guess that’s a possible answer….”

    “I don’t want to risk it yet,” Amia said. “Can you just wait a little while longer? We—we’ll try evolving you later. When we can be sure we’ll turn you back… if it doesn’t work out.”

    The Charmeleon huffed. “Okay,” he said. “…But I get to stay as a Charizard for a little while, okay? If I’m not attacking anybody, then it should be just fine, right?”

    “Y-yes… okay, Owen… I know you want to do it, and we can’t force you to not evolve, so… let’s just schedule a time for it to happen, alright? Will that be okay?”

    “…Two days,” Owen said. “I want to try evolving in two days. And this counts as the first day.”

    Amia sighed, but Owen held firm. She really trapped herself with that one. “Not… three days?” she asked.

    “Two days,” Owen said, prodding at his remaining food. He dumped the rest into his mouth and stood up to put the bowl away. Zena frowned.

    “Can’t you wait a little longer, Owen?” the Water Guardian asked. “We still don’t know for sure. And I don’t want to lose you.”

    Some of the wind under Owen’s nonexistent wings faded, but he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he said, “If I feel like I can handle it, then I’m going to try.”

    Alex watched his son go, and then shook his head. “…He’s certainly going through that rebellious phase… again… isn’t he?”

    Amia rubbed her head. “He’s probably remembering all the other times he went through it,” she said. “Ohh, why does he need to be so clever… He trapped me in my own argument!”

    “You could have just said three days,” Alex said.

    “Then he would have just tossed his stone today,” Amia said, pouting. “But… I can’t blame him. You have to look at it from his perspective—he doesn’t even know who he really is, in a way. And now he wants to claim it.”

    Zena nodded. “I can’t imagine what that must feel like,” she told them. “Owen doesn’t know if who he is right now is real. Can you imagine? The idea that who you are is just… false. That the real you is sealed inside.” Zena tensed. “Owen… he’s… he’s not someone completely different, is he?”

    “He might lose himself completely…” Alex said.

    “We’ll fix it if that happens,” Amia said, glancing at her hands. “Just like always…”

    “…But… but will it work?” Alex said.

    Amia hesitated. “…I’m going to train,” she said. “Just that attack. Just the Suppression Aura. To make sure I can do it right, and do it strong, to buy us some extra time.”

    “Strong,” Alex said. “I think we’re all going to have to be strong for this—including Owen.”

    Zena looked at Owen’s collection of books. “Amia,” she said. “Teach me the Suppression Aura, too.”

    <><><> ​

    Outside, Owen stepped through the caves again, admiring the mushroom light. He looked at his pouch, and then took the stone out of it. He stared for a while. Rolled it in his claws. Dug a claw gently into a small imperfection in the amalgam. Eviolite… why was he so gullible? Why did he just accept what Nevren said as the truth? He always seemed so trustworthy to him.

    Was that just part of his latent instincts? Did his instincts naturally trust him, his creator? Or was he built to be a follower?

    Owen stared at the stone again, holding it in a crushing grip. It was too strong to destroy that way. Owen wondered, what would happen if he just tossed it into the lava? If he headed down to the flaming river and… just got rid of it? Would he evolve right there? Would he feel perfectly normal? Would he remember everything, and take down the Hunters, just like that? Was it that easy? Could Nevren be holding him back this entire time, just with this gift? Cara and Forrest were dead because they were too weak and too slow. Rim ran away when he threatened to evolve. And Rim attacked Rhys before, but when the others of Team Alloy evolved, she ran away, too!

    They could have beaten her!

    Owen clutched the stone a bit harder. His arm muscles felt hot. Hotter than the lava he bathed in.

    The sound of something metallic tumbling to the ground echoed out of the cave. It startled Owen so much that he nearly dropped the amalgam. He faltered with it in the air and slipped it into the bag out of reflex.

    Rhys cursed from his room in the cavern to the right.

    For the briefest moment, Owen eyed the home with suspicion. He was a Hunter, too. But then, Owen recalled that Rhys had made a Promise to Zena that he’d abandon that position. He couldn’t kill another Guardian, let alone betray them. If anything… he could trust Rhys.

    Hesitating, Owen walked into the ex-Hunter’s home and tapped the back of his claw against the wall. He passed the kitchen area, went through the familiar hall, and turned to the right on the first entryway.

    “Ah, hello, Owen,” Rhys said, a tinge of irritation in his voice, which Owen interpreted as toward the mess in front of him, rather than the Charmeleon’s approach. It seemed that one of the shelves broke under the weight of another memento that Rhys had apparently found on the ground. It appeared to be a Dusk Stone from Nightshade Forest. What use would he ever have for that? Owen rolled his eyes. He probably thought it’d be ‘useful someday.’ Even with his clouded memories, that phrase associated with Rhys was very familiar. He had thousands of those moments. Some of them seemed more useless than the others, like the odd, metallic bracelet near the corner of the fallen shelves. One of Nevren’s prototype inventions. Nevren…

    Owen dug through his bag and set down the Everstone-Eviolite. “Rhys?” he said. “Did you always know Nevren gave me this to keep me from evolving?”

    Rhys dropped the Fire Stone he’d been holding.

    Owen growled, tail flashing yellow. “You did.”

    Rhys sighed. “You were evolving very quickly, Owen. It was an emotional strain on your mother. That goes double after you wound up becoming the Grass Guardian. It makes suppressing your true form… difficult.”

    “Hm,” Owen said, nodding. That much made sense. He could only imagine how hard it was for Amia and Alex to keep up with him, constantly worrying that he’d evolve in the wrong place at the wrong time…

    Owen rubbed his head. “The sooner my memories are totally back, the better.” He paused, remembering why he’d approached in the first place. “Rhys, er—about Nevren, actually. I…” He hesitated, realizing that, if Rhys knew about it, and Rhys was no longer a Hunter, then the likelihood of Nevren still being a Hunter was slim to none.

    He asked anyway, just to be sure. “Why do you trust Nevren? He’s so… blank. I can never get a read from him. And he used to be a Hunter, just like you. What makes you trust him?” Owen had reminded himself of yet another reason to be wary of the Alakazam. His unreadable expressions. His lack of muscle movement. The only thing that had ever phased him in a meaningful way was when Rhys made that Promise—and only then, because of how significant it was to make it. If Nevren lied to him, Owen’s strange Perception ability would not work.

    Another thought crossed his mind. What if it simply didn’t work on Nevren, specifically? How deep did his instincts go? Paranoia creeping in, he refocused on Rhys. His pause didn’t bode well.

    Rhys looked at Owen, humming thoughtfully. Then, he sighed, and continued to arrange his items on the repaired shelf. “I promised Nevren that I would not tell him about the moment we shared.”

    “Uhh—” Owen blushed.

    “Not in that way,” Rhys hissed.

    Owen waited for an alternative explanation.

    Rhys sighed irritably. “A very long time ago, Nevren behaved as Anam’s strategist. A tactician, so to speak, during… an event. He was working in a mutual interest between the Hunters and the Association to stabilize the world during a chaotic era, before the Thousand Heart Association established its roots across all of Kilo.”

    Owen listened intently. A time when the Association wasn’t around? How long ago could that have been?

    “One day,” he said, “near the end of this chaos, Nevren approached me. And… he confessed to me that while he had been aligned with the Hunters for quite some time, something… changed in his worldview. It was when I was… gravely injured, resting in a hospital—this was before Anam’s blessings were widespread—and Anam saved my life by bringing me there. Nevren approached me then, while I was resting, and told me that he had an epiphany.”

    “An epiphany?” Owen said. “Wait—so Nevren was still a Hunter?”

    “We didn’t necessarily call ourselves that at the time,” Rhys admitted. “It was a different time. The Divine Dragons, we called ourselves. Frankly, I can’t recall why…. Few of us were actually Dragons. I believe Eon came up with the term because it sounded cool…” Rhys rolled his eyes.

    Calling oneself a Dragon, despite not being one, was something Owen felt he could relate to all too strongly.

    Rhys went on. “But yes. And it was on that day of his epiphany… that I saw Nevren as the most emotional Pokémon I’d ever seen him. Now, it was nothing dramatic. He did not cry. He did not shout. Frankly, he did not do much than he usually did. But his eyes, Owen.” Rhys looked down at a small bag of marbles. “His eyes were alive with light. The light of a Heart. He said that the Association deserves the world.” Rhys pulled out a marble from the bag. A blue one, with a single, green circle on one side. “Ever since that day, I noticed that, while working with Anam, he seemed… somehow happier. Content. That’s the word. As if he knew what he wished to do with himself. Someone who knew his purpose.” Rhys chuckled. “I envy a Pokémon who knows such peace.”

    Owen listened, but then hung his head in shame. He knew none of what Rhys was saying. Those memories were locked away so firmly that he knew it was tied to a point in time that Star had sealed for his own safety. Owen could feel it, even now. The blocks that Star put on his mind—the memories that were pressed up against them. It was a dull headache. But if Owen knew what Rhys had known, he wouldn’t have been suspicious of Nevren at all.

    “He really just wants to help,” Owen said. “Oh, Mew. I feel bad just for thinking he was sabotaging us.”

    “Sabotaging?” Rhys said.

    Owen nodded. “Rim’s been catching up to us every time we talk with the communicators. Or, that’s kinda how I noticed it.”

    “Rim is also the Psychic Guardian, unfortunately,” Rhys said. “And while I doubt that grants her the ability to see into the future, I suspect it heightens her perceptive range—and aura senses—significantly. We also know that they likely have a means of tracking Guardians as well.”

    “Oh,” Owen said. “Right… I… forgot about that.”

    The evidence fell apart in Owen’s mind. It was all circumstantial. Nevren was just trying to help with all of his inventions. He thought about how he had advanced the whole world with his technological marvels. Waypoints. Badges. Even those X-Ray Specs that Owen was grounded for life from using. He, along with James, managed almost everything to do with the Association’s inner organization, keeping all of Kilo safe from Kilo Mountain’s village.

    He gave his whole life to the Association. And just because he gave him an evolution-suppressing stone, he thought he was a liar. When in the end, it was just so he could stay sane, and to help his parents cope.

    “Hey, Owen!” Gahi shouted.

    This broke the Charmeleon’s chain of thought. “Wh—what?”

    “Let’s train! I wanna evolve like yeh got to!”

    The levity was just what he needed. “Oh—okay,” Owen said. “Sure! Yeah…” He couldn’t deny the joy in battles, even if it was an instinct that he was born with. Perhaps he could forget about that for at least a little while.

    “Thanks, Rhys,” Owen said.

    Rhys smiled. “I would trust Nevren with my life, Owen. I’m sorry that we lied to you.”

    Owen shook his head. “I get it,” he said, and then left.

    In the hall, before meeting up with Gahi and the others, he looked down at the stone again. Just carrying it around, hoping it would keep him sane, wasn’t going to cut it after a while. Maybe Amia had a point. Maybe evolving should wait until he was definitely, totally ready for it. But how else would he be able to ensure he’d have it with him? A dull headache pulsed through him, and he recalled in a previous life, an Aerodactyl stealing his bag, including the stone. It seemed a lot more believable that he’d lose it when it was the least convenient.

    But how was he supposed to keep that from happening again? Owen pondered, tail-fire dimming to his deep concentration. And then, an idea came.

    <><><> ​

    “Please… leave me be,” Valle said.

    Enet tilted her head, sniffing at the feet of the stone Shiftry.

    True to form, the Rock Guardian did not move.

    “This is not something that I am used to,” Valle said. “Enet, Guardian of Electricity, this is too close.”

    Enet tilted her head to the other side, pacing around Valle. “Not move?” she asked.

    “I do not move. All is stillness,” Valle said.

    “But… I move,” Enet said.

    “I am the Guardian of Rock,” Valle said. “It is not my place to do such…” he trailed off.

    “Can’t move?” Enet asked.

    “I can, but I choose not to.”

    “Why?”

    Valle was silent. “It… is simply something that I have grown accustomed to.”

    “But other Rock move,” Enet said, using her claw to pull at her lower right lip. She reached down and picked up a pebble, tossing it from one paw to the other.

    Valle rumbled.

    Enet stopped. “Not you? Because you crazy?”

    “I—did not go crazy, as you call it,” Valle said. “I… built a tolerance to the solitude.”

    “Solitude?” Enet repeated.

    “…Being alone,” Valle said.

    “Oh,” Enet nodded, sitting down. “Being alone… hurts,” she said.

    Valle took a few seconds to reply. “It… does. Yes. It did. But I grew used to it.”

    Enet frowned and made her way back to the front of Valle. “But… not alone! So… move again!”

    “Move, again?”

    By now, a few others passing by were listening in on the conversation, wondering what Enet was trying. Most just let Valle do as he wanted, but now…

    ADAM buzzed curiously. “Valle, do you wish to change your protocol?”

    “I… am unsure,” Valle said. “I don’t know if I know how to move.”

    “Move!” Enet said, waving her arms around. “Easy!”

    “Easy,” Valle said uncertainly.

    A distant explosion shook the caves, though the walls were too strong to risk the area collapsing. It was likely reinforced by Amia’s power.

    “That must be the modified Pokémon fighting,” Valle said.

    “Modi…?” Enet puffed out her cheeks. “Use easy words!”

    “The Pokémon that become something strange when they evolve,” Valle said.

    “Strange?” Enet asked. “Oh! Owen!” she said. “And the other four…?”

    “…Three,” ADAM said.

    Enet blinked and counted her claws, but then huffed and turned around. “Numbers dumb,” she said.

    “Numbers are everything,” ADAM replied.

    Enet growled again. “Dumb,” she said.

    Valle was still as always, but he appeared to be observing their movements carefully. The unmoving Guardian spoke, “Are you… sure?” he said.

    “Sure?” Enet asked. “Huh?”

    “About… movement,” Valle said. “Is it… safe to do?”

    “Yes?” Enet asked, wiggling her arms. “Easy!”

    Valle was silent again. “I can float… and I can slide,” he said. “But… I have not moved in a mountain’s age.”

    Enet tilted her head. She clearly didn’t understand the analogy. “Age?”

    “Do you plan to move, Valle? Are you certain that is the best choice?” ADAM asked.

    “I don’t know,” Valle said. “…Stillness… I need stillness.”

    “How come?” Enet asked.

    Valle couldn’t answer.

    “Move!” Enet encouraged, jumping once in the air. “Easy! Try… arm! Move arm!” She wiggled her right arm.

    “My arm… yes. My arm. I could move my arm,” Valle said. “That doesn’t sound very hard. The stillness… doesn’t need to be forever. Even other Rock Pokémon move. Mountains move, rarely… slowly… I can move. Can’t I?”

    “Yeah,” Enet said. “I think so. Right?”

    There was a long silence again. Enet shifted awkwardly, eventually losing interest, though ADAM remained, watching Valle closely.

    “Do you intend to move?” ADAM asked.

    “I… yes. I will.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly, one of Valle’s arms twitched. And then moved again, and then, by roughly a mere ten degrees, the arm changed its angle. And then it stopped. The nearby cavern walls trembled, like the skipping of a heartbeat. “That… is enough movement for a while,” he said.

    “Huh?” Enet looked back. “Oh! You moved! I think…?” Enet said, tilting her head at the rocky Guardian.

    “I did,” said Valle. “Thank you.”

    “Yeah!” Enet said. But then, the Zoroark addressed ADAM. “You. Talk weird.”

    ADAM buzzed in response. “Weird?”

    “Yeah! Zzzz! What’s that?”

    Adam twitched. “Zzzz? I am processing.”

    “Processing?” Enet asked.

    “Yes. I think. I must think. Sometimes things… puzzle me, and I require extra time to think.”

    “Thinking, you zzz?” Enet asked.

    ADAM buzzed again.

    “That! What’s that?”

    ADAM buzzed louder. “That is me thinking. I am annoyed.”

    “Are you broken?” Enet asked.

    “Far from broken! I am—optimal!” ADAM twitched furiously.

    Enet giggled. “Funny words!”

    “Aaaaaaa,” ADAM said, followed by flying into a nearby building, perhaps to cool off his core units.

    “Enet,” Valle said. “Why do you think ADAM is broken?”

    “Huh?” Enet asked. “Not broken?”

    “Well… he is certainly odd,” Valle replied. “But I attributed that to his species. Porygon-Z tend to behave… oddly, sometimes. It is a wonder where they even came from. The rumor is they came from an ancient time of the mythical human.”

    “Oh,” Enet said. None of this meant anything to her. “He… smelled funny.” She sniffed the air. “Smell … of his, this,” she said, patting her chest.

    “His… chest, had an odd smell.” Valle repeated.

    “No,” Enet said. “The… this,” she said, pressing her claws deeper into her fur.

    “His heart? …Does he have one?” Valle asked. “Ohh,” he said, recognizing the frustrated look on her face. “You mean his aura. All of our auras are strange. I’m surprised that you perceive auras by smell, Enet.”

    “You don’t?”

    “No,” said Valle. “I see it with sight.”

    This was foreign to the Zoroark.

    “Well, in any case, perhaps he is just odd,” said Valle. “Now… Enet. Why don’t you see the others? I… must… be still, here.”

    “You won’t move more?”

    “Tch… I shall move in the future,” Valle said. “I promise.”

    This was enough for the wild creature. “Okay,” she said. And so, she bounded off.

    <><><> ​

    Nevren sat in the middle of Anam’s office, sorting through records and papers. Anam was in another room of the Heart Headquarters, performing blessings on another batch of seeds, which required the withdrawal of all his spirits—including James—to perform with the most power and efficiency. That left the Alakazam alone to manage the paperwork.

    “Hmm, interesting…” he said. “There are quite a few false alarms… a good handful of sightings in the Southern Ocean, but that’s likely due to the glowing moss that comes with the transition of summer to autumn. Still, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to investigate further…”

    “More reports, Elite Nevren!”

    “Ah, thank you, put it on the desk!” Nevren called back, not even looking up. He sorted through more of the papers. “Ahh, I simply don’t have the time to look through every single one of these, do I? If only I could—hm, wait a moment. Why don’t I just—” Nevren paused, looking at a small, silver badge next to him. Unlike the communicator, this one had a blue, glowing gem in the middle. He reached toward it, but then stopped when the blue gem abruptly dimmed to a dead gray. “…How long have you been there?”

    “Eep—!”

    Nevren sighed and turned around. “Rim, you know it’s rude to eavesdrop. Come on, show yourself.”

    The Espurr appeared in a warping bend of light.

    “Well, I take it you know where the next few Orbs are, do you? I imagine you’ll be sending Elder to do his negotiating first. A futile effort, you know. They’re very unlikely to agree to anything of the sort, simply giving up their power willingly like that…”

    Rim glanced away.

    “Yes, yes, I suppose you always have a bit of hope that you won’t have to take it away violently, but, hrm…” Nevren sighed. “Well. I suppose I can’t stop you. I’ve already tried convincing you quite a few times, you know.” Nevren looked at the gray gem again. “Ah, speaking of which, could you vanish for a moment?”

    Rim stared at Nevren curiously.

    “Just for a moment.”

    Rim obeyed, disappearing. A few seconds later, a Golem stepped into the office. “We have another report,” he said.

    “Ah, good. You were sent to the Arachno Forest?”

    “Yes, er—we were, but… we don’t think anybody should go there anymore.”

    “Oh? Is it that dangerous?”

    “Y-yes. Actually, about that, I’d… like to set up a mission for it.”

    Nevren tilted his head. “A rescue mission? …Where is the rest of your team?”

    The Golem winced.

    “I see. I will set one up immediately.”

    “Th-thank you.”

    He left. Rim appeared shortly after.

    “Rim, if it’s not a bother,” he said, “are the Synthetics responsible for that?”

    Rim shook her head immediately.

    “But did we not send quite a few of them there in the past? None returned. But their spirits never went into the aura sea, either—so it wasn’t as if they were killed. Hecto informed Eon as much, regardless of how uncooperative those Zygarde has been lately. Are you sure they don’t simply get lost in their battle modes there?”

    Rim shook her head. “But… I can’t…” she said.

    “Hmm… well. Please, set up a team anyway in an attempt to rescue his Pokémon, Rim. Moderately strong Synthetics should do. Team of three? Be sure to set them to Scouting and not Battling.”

    Rim nodded.

    “Ah, and Rim,” Nevren said.

    “Mm?”

    “How many Orbs do you have at the moment? Which ones, between yourself and Eon?”

    “…Psychic…” Rim said. “Flying, Ground…” She paused, but then nodded.

    “Only three, hm?” he said. “You’re falling behind. At this rate, Owen will have you beaten for sure.”

    Rim winced.

    “No need to worry.” Nevren sighed. “After all, he didn’t align with Barky. Did you hear of that?”

    “N-no…! What?” Rim asked.

    “Yes! Quite surprising. Perhaps Rhys was right after all,” Nevren nodded, almost beaming. “Incredible, really. I’d go easy on him for that. Well, in any case, Frozen Oceanside may be a bit dangerous for them to handle, so I’d recommend gathering that Orb next. Ice Type, so be wary of being frozen. The Pokémon there is quite hostile toward Hunters. And Star. And Barky. Frankly everyone, quite cold in spirit.”

    “Elder…” Rim said.

    “Elder?” Nevren said. “I’d honestly rather not. Regardless of his Typing, he may become encased in ice immediately if he doesn’t convince her to side with us or relinquish her power. It isn’t as if that strategy worked before.”

    “Eon said to…” Rim said.

    “Yes, but Eon is far from logical,” Nevren said. “It may be a gesture of good faith, but sending Elder is a waste of time and a risk to the poor Torkoal’s life. Let him rest.”

    Rim stared with her big eyes.

    Nevren shook his head.

    Rim stared harder.

    The Alakazam sighed. “Very well,” he said. “Elder first. Remember, I don’t want to send Owen on risky missions. He isn’t strong enough yet. He and his friends need to live. A shame he already befriended the Zoroark, but I suppose it cannot be helped. I was hoping you’d kill her before that happened, like with Cara or Forrest.”

    “Mm.” Rim nodded, but then eyed the Alakazam carefully. “Owen…” she said.

    “Hm? Owen?”

    “Tried… to evolve…”

    “Evolve…” Nevren said. “Yes, I heard. Is he ready?”

    Rim bit at her lower lip.

    “Hmm… Perhaps I should talk to him.”

    “He might not… trust you…” Rim said.

    “Ah,” Nevren nodded. “I suppose he would be the first to worry. Well, aside from Rhys. I don’t think he fully trusts me, even now. He wouldn’t understand. Just like Eon and his emotions, Rhys lets his honor get in the way. Time is running out, hm? Third war or not, we must keep going. Still. Regarding Owen. What do you recommend?”

    Rim tensed, shaking her head.

    “Ah, sorry, sorry,” Nevren said. “I apologize. I’ll think it over myself—no need to be put on the spot, hm? Just ask Elder to speak to the Ice Guardian, and we can proceed from there. I believe her name is Ladder, but you might want to double-check. It has been a while since I heard the name. I will send Owen’s group to the Steel Guardian.”

    Rim flinched. “S-Steel…? But that’s…!”

    “I believe it is time,” Nevren said. “They will fail, but I think now is a good time for them to know about the Trinity. Besides, he is the least dangerous of the three. I won’t be sending them to Zero Isle, for one, or Dark Mist Swamp.” Nevren sorted through the papers a bit. “…Thank you, Rim. That will be all. Ah, but do send a team to Arachno Forest on a rescue. Perhaps we’ll find another Guardian there.”

    Rim nodded and vanished. Nevren looked down at the papers. The Badge on his desk had become blue during the middle of their conversation.

    He briefly thought about Owen and how quickly he had befriended Guardians for nearly half of the Orbs. Fast friends with even the unruliest of them. The Fighter, the Fairy, and the feral in particular. Perhaps it was charisma or perhaps it was his unintimidating disposition. Or perhaps it was, despite everything, the hidden strength he possessed. The potential that surpassed even Nevren’s base design expectations. No, Nevren knew that this strength Owen possessed—perhaps not physical strength, but the strength of spirit, or the light he possessed. That wasn’t his design. That was how he was raised.

    “Owen,” Nevren said to himself, shaking his head. “You’re just like your father.”
     
  3. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Here is your ketchup delivery, good sir.

    SE2
    Didn't take me long to realize we were looking at the cause of the events of SE1, in some respects. I do think labeling Ra's "target" as simply a feral is... being vague for the sake of being vague. Given Ra has lightning powers and the feral is female, I can workout that we're looking at Enet and by the time you get to the "She's just what Star deserves," it's evident that we're seeing how Enet wound up with the electric orb in her posession. That said, I think you'd have been wiser at least noting something about Enet's appearance, especially since Ra knows she's a zoroark and has been watching her.

    That nitpick out of the way, let's tackle the meat of this whole thing, shall we? I'm... of two minds about it, quite frankly. On the whole, I think it's an interesting structure you've got here, interspersing the flashbacks of Ra's, uh, relationship into his present state. On the whole, the stuff in the present was quite visceral and I think this is easily the best action sequence that's been in the fic so far. The parts inside the orb, in particular, gave me Inception vibes with how twisty and topsy-turvy the landscape was getting. I doubt that was the inspiration, but the parallels are there for me with the whole dream-like state of this. As far as the flashbacks go, I think they hit the biggest high points as far as showcasing what happened to him. But... uh... this is where my big issue with the whole special comes into play.

    tl;dr version is that I personally think you got a bit too ambitious with this one. On its surface, about the only thing I come away from this special feeling is more paranoia with Star and having more a concrete sense that, no, she is not benevolent and doesn't have the world's best interests truly at heart (heh). But as far as Ra goes... while I think there's a lot of evocative writing thrown in there, it just drew a collective shrug from me. It does tie back into the current part of the story via Enet, which is nice, but since she's a feral we don't get a sense of how any of this effects her, which is a shame. Now, I'm no hypocrite. I have plenty of bonus parts that focus on people outside the main cast, but I generally try to make it that they're focused on characters who readers already know. Ra... is not really that. He's basically introduced solely for this special and you try to get through the entirety of his backstory in it.

    The end result is that, as bad as this is to say, it didn't hit the emotional tones I assume you were going for. Because you're trying to cover his entire backstory, there were gaps that left me scratching my head. I understand the immortality element was the key, but I don't personally think you showed me enough of his time with Step to leave me heartbroken over their falling out. We didn't get enough flashbacks after his daughters died to establish his mind slipping and his rage toward Star building so the logic of him blaming everything on her makes sense (at least to me). Normally, this wouldn't be that bothersome. But because Ra isn't part of the story until now, it all adds up to me feeling like I'm not given any real reason why I should care about Ra. Hell, the stuff in the "present" starts with him causing a fire and wishing death upon Owen and Deca. And that's not the worst of it. Despite the many flashbacks, we never really see him genuinely apologize for what appears to be behavior tantamount to abusing his kid! I get that pokémon customs aren't the same as ours, but given you don't show us what his training was like and don't get inside his head-space to show his fear of losing his daughters, those were the messages you sent with Step and his daughters leaving him. Yet, by the end, they're all together... in a manner of speaking. Yet, still no apology. Unless I missed something, this raises some alarm bells for me, personally, in that it could be sending a bad message to people who read it, especially if they've witnessed or been subject to abuse. I know Ra's "dragon pride" is brought up, but we never see what that means. It's only given via exposition. So, again, an instant of a gap that just leaves me scratching my head.

    I'm sorry if this wasn't what you were hoping to hear. I know we talked about this, but you present a lot of interesting ideas (immortals committing taboo by having kids, the effects on the psyche, a Parkinsonian-like illness) yet none of them are really given any depth. Hence why my gut reaction is that this all feels too ambitious in scope but the scale (i.e. the fact that it's only one chapter) does not match the scope you're going for.

    Well, that's totally not ominous at all!

    C H A O S C H A O S ! S T A R C A N D O A N Y T H I N G !

    Exhibits A-D that Star is definitely a bitch.


    26
    Man, it would've been nice if we had a primer to feral culture. Like, why does Enet even have a name, anyway? At least it's nice to get her, erm, "perspective" on the events we witnessed from Ra's POV. Even if, y'know, it's not exactly articulate and doesn't offer much. I get the feeling Owen's making everything worse by being such an apologetic door mat in this entire scene. At least Enet can talk... in basically the 'mon equivalent of caveman speak, but I'll take it! It's also interesting to see Star's (warped, lying) perspective on what happened to Ra. Though she clearly chose to work with the hand he dealt her by training Enet. Makes me wonder how much time has passed since the events of the storm. It can't be that long if Spice is still alive, but the way Star talks, it seems like it's been decades.

    Huh. So Owen's Eviolte was a bit of a Chekhov's Gun, after all. Clever girl, Nevren. Clever girl.

    Not much to say about the Sugar and Spice scene. It was nice to actually have info relayed about what's happening in the world beyond what our heroes are doing. Also a possible tease at Aerodactyl's return? Could be intriuging, since Owen's in a different place physically than he was when last they met. Rim mostly sticks to the creepy espurr meme schtick, but at long last we hear Eon! ... for all of two lines. Oh well, looks like there'll be a confrontation.

    Z-Zoroark have tails? Since when? Or is that what you call her mane?

    Easily the most riveting conversation to take place in this whole story.

    Guildmaster Wigglytuff is a feral by this world's logic. Wow.

    This harem fic's getting spicy, I see. go for it owen! turn to the furry side!

    Pfffffffffffbt.

    This is just a G-rated dick joke!

    *the audience collectively groans*


    27
    Is it bad I don't think James talks with big words? *nervous laugh*

    I, uh, actually don't have much to say with this chapter. I've written countless scenes of Shane getting covered in gunge, so seeing it happen to Owen is funny and entertaining. Really the only other part of note is one of Anam's spirits rising up to seize control of his powers. So, he's got an element of decay to him, huh? That's... uh... well, I can't make a DBZ joke... but I can make a My Hero Academica joke! Anam is just the fusion of Fat Buu and Tomura Shigaraki! Brilliant! In all seriousness, having Owen's flesh rot away like that was metal AF. And that's, uh, all I've got to say, really.

    Enet is a precious doggo and if you hurt her I will kill at least a few charmanders before my fic is— oh, wait, I already killed a charizard. Eh, that's okay, I can always add a few lizards to the mix.

    WELP. Good thing I have the perfect way to fry some fire lizards!

    Where's the vore content warning?! My sweet virgin eyes!

    Uh... giggity?

    Oh god, he's entering his edgy emo phase! Stop! Abort! Turn back! Everyone stop playing Nickleback and Linkin Park on the speakers, for god's sake!

    The dangers of using epithets. Alternatively, Enet's such irresistable furbait, we need to have extra attention drawn to that fact.

    Don't forget, I'm with you in the daaaaark!


    28
    ... Owen is fucking Broly. Guess we can add that to the list. Think about it. He has an incredibly unstable super form that causes him to go completely berserk and turn into a battle-hungry monster. It's kept under control by some sort of bizarre power limiter and attempts to contain said super form tend to cost Owen most of his memories. Heck, as Grass Guardian he can have a green aura if he wanted it. It occurred to me because Owen's gambit pretty much involves using his super saiyan form as a deterrant to get Rim to flee. It, uh, works a little bit too well. Not even any comedic reaction from Rim. She's just all "Fuck this shit I'm out!" Good on Enet being smart enough to get him the Eviolite before things went completely south.

    I will admit that the conversation with Zena about her friend was... odd. I couldn't follow it, becuase it was like no one was listening to anyone else, but since it's just a stream of dialogue, it got my brain twisted around. I assume the mention of a lugia is meant to raise flags just like Ra's mention of Yveltal which, uh, basically came out of nowhere in the special and served no real purpose other than to tease something down the road. This, at least, felt better, since Zena's friend was brought up in the previous chapter.

    Also, it seems my early assumptions about there being more to Nevren might be right!

    What a goody-goody.

    Are we sure this fic's rated T? Because there's a lot of metal AF stuff going on here. Alternatively, Owen's channeling his inner Piccolo. What? The guy can turn green and shoot out strentchy stuff, what'd you think I would say?

    How does a waveform beam char your skin?

    D'aww, look at this budding couple! Eat your heart out, Zena. wait, that's probably something you'd actually do to her...

    This is why Enet is precious and must be protected!

    Ehh, maybe this is just me, but we're almost 30 chapters in I think the narrator doesn't need to point out how awesome Owen's tactical mind or perceive ability is. We get it. Just let it happen.

    I can feel the sexual tension in the air already!


    29
    So, Nevren is Paragus, then, am I right? *laugh track*

    In all honesty, I think this is a nice (and somewhat overdue) bit of development for Owen. So far, it feels like he's just reacted to everything, but no matter how crazy the reaction is, he's accepted his "fate" and gone alone with things. In that respects, I'm glad he's finally taking a bit of a stand and trying to get something that he actually wants. Like, I get being selfless, but Owen's alternated between door mat and punching bag so far. I'm glad he thinks that needs to change and can even come up with reasons that still have a selfless element ("I want to stop Rim and I might be able to if I wasn't in this loop").

    Jesus... so, they're basically the "Defiant Dragons," then! Which makes Eon a Dhurke expy. It all makes perfect sense since, y'know, Owen is a discount Apollo. And that could make Deca a Nahyuta expy with all his blind mysticism voodoo and whatnot. It all makes sense, now. This isn't a PMD fic... it's an Ace Attorney fic! No wonder it's so anime! XD

    Jokes aside, I do think that, with all the paranoia Owen had, he gave up on his train of thought very quickly. I suppose that comes down trusting Rhys but, ech, it felt like an unfulfilling end... unless, of course, you're lulling us into a false sense of security for what's to come. Which I could see being the case. In which case, it's a good anti-clim—

    *scene with Nevren happens*

    Huh. Well, hot damn. Unlike canis, I'm not exactly tempted to call him a mole more than a chessmaster of sorts, trying to play both sides so that he can achieve the outcome that he believes is best. That outcome might be more in line with what the Hunters want, but I'm not entirely sure it's 100 percent the same, as evidenced by Nevren's apparent dislike of Eon's attitude and seeming dislike of the effect it might've had on Owen. Still, interesting to know that Torkoal Elder (really? that's his name?) is actually alive after some vague allusions to his existence before. And Rim does, uh, some emoting of a sort. Good to know there's something inside of her. Also, Zero Isle apparently exists in this world. Huh. Wonder why. And how.

    The stuff with the other guardians was nice comedic filler... and it also means they've gotten more attention than Team Alloy. Remind me why you consider them to be main characters, again? Cause I don't see it...

    "Mwa ha ha ha! Guess what, Guardian Heroes? I've finally developed the ultimate evolutionary technique! In three days, I'll conquer the world! Think you can stop me?"

    "I am too a dragon, Mom! You just don't understand me! Nobody understands me!" (Crawling in My Scaaaaaaales)

    Ah, there's the more obvious confirmation Rhys is gay... like practically every male lucario on the internet, from what it seems.

    Good thing I already unceremoniously killed off a certain alakazam, because this transgression would not be able to go unpunished!

    I see what you did there. This IS an Ace Attorney fanfic! Good grief.


    Okay, that's everything. Honestly, with how much deceit and behind-the-scenes scheming there is... just about the only major player I actually trust is (and this will sound terrible) Arceus. He may be angry and a bit of a ranter, but at least he's upfront in all of it. Everyone else is playing PMD-friendly Game of Thrones at this point.
     
  4. pbugle

    pbugle Member

    Hey Namo! I apologize for my tardiness on this review, but it seemed that fortune smiled upon me when the story I was to review was chosen. It certainly was an experience reading the backstory for the Owen I've been roleplaying with over discord. Anyway, onto the review, I'll be doing a free-write up to chapter five.

    A Fragile Identity
    As all prologues should, this one does a great job at capturing the reader's attention. There is a genuine sense of mystery throughout the chapter: What are the weird hybrid-pokemon attacking? Who are they, why are they here? The sentence structure is also kept varied throughout the fight scenes, conveying a sense of urgency and desperation. The style of narration also does a good job at conveying what Owen is thinking without having to directly show him thinking it. If there is one trait that Owen especially shows in his conversation with his parents, it's his complete sense of honesty and openness. It's a shame that Alex and Amia couldn't reciprocate this, but I suspect they're too likable of characters to not have good reason for this. The chapter as a whole kind of plays with the whole 'protagonist looses their memory' pmd plot line, with Owen chalking stuff up to dreams things his parents know seem to have actually happened. Overall, a great start.

    Kilo Village

    You do a great job with the setting descriptions in this chapter, they really help to visualize how the scenes play out in the reader's head when Owen navigates through the village. The common theme of everything feeling the slightest bit...off is continued for poor Owen. Even more questions are raised as to why all of Owen's friends seem to be hiding their knowledge of him, but still guiding him down the path of an explorer nonetheless. Again, it's a good mystery, and I look forward to literally and metaphorically reading further into it. During the actual first mission, it was also pretty interesting how you had mystery dungeons be in different sections without having to deal with the whole 'staircase in the middle of the room' situation. Even when the mechanics of mystery dungeons are explained, you still show the inherent, well...mystery to them. They twist, they turn, they play with your sight, and I bet being in one only exasperated Owen's questioning of his own sanity.

    Trouble in the Woods

    I have a belief that how a character fights tells something about their personality, and this chapter definitely shows it. Because Owen doesn't have the advantage of a non-kid like charizard body, he's forced to rely much more on cunning and items usage, especially against a foe he would be so seemingly outmatched against. You spare no details on the inherit danger of dungeoneering, and having Owen be defeated despite his best efforts definitely gives the character something to grow toward and outlines what he is, and isn't capable of. If there is one thing that I'm a little apprehensive about, it's that Demitri stated that they went in because the Aerodactyl was stated to have been in that dungeon. If that's the case, then why wasn't Owen informed of this when he choose to go in? I could very likely be missing something, but that was one of the few things that made me pause.

    Ceremony of Advancement
    The first thing that really got my attention this chapter was the mention of the pink cloud. The fact that Rhys wasn't surprised by the mere mention of the cloud, but the fact that it was pink gives me the feeling that they've all been through something like this before, only now something is different, and that something is why they have to keep Owen in the dark. You sort of see an extension of Owen's parent's protective demeanor with the fact that they live in a secret village with comedic password protection, and it shows the inherent danger that this world contains, and why the association exists to combat it. Anam has his fair share of foreshadowing in the previous chapters, and with an organization as large and important as the Thousand Hearts, he definitely seems to embody the typical traits that such a ruler would require. He has charisma, he listens to those below him, and as the organization implies, he cares...maybe a bit too much.

    Strange Meditation
    Once again, I must compliment the exemplary setting descriptions. Eternal Whistler Cave painted a clear picture in my mind of both their unique setting, and the challenges they had to overcome. We definitely get more character development for Owen, specifically his willingness to defend himself. Owen showed that he had the simultaneous willpower to continue, and the instincts that would force him to the offensive, even when attacked by someone he idolized. It definitely seems that the high ranking members, Nevren and Rhys, are more secretive and dismissive about the many strange happenings, while Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy are almost as curious and confused as Owen is. This suggests that, whatever is happening: the strange glow, the mutated pokemon, the lost memories, it is directly related to the, pardon my pun, to the heart of the organization.

    Final Thoughts
    Overall, I found Hands of Creation to be an engaging read. The characters are defined, realistic, and work off of each other. I apologize for not offering more recommendations on how to improve the story. As I am just starting off as a writer, I just believe I wouldn't be the most qualified to do so. Overall, at the end of those chapters, I can say I feel much like Owen, brimming with questions, and desperate to find any answers. I look forward to seeing Owen again, in one way or another.
     
  5. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Yeahhhh I'm not falling behind again already.

    CHAPTER 29

    I'd... forgotten about this, but. Something did seem really off even then, so in hindsight, this Nevren revelation isn't surprising.

    The psychologist in me immensely appreciates the consideration put into the depth of characterization in this fic. Here's a good example, especially when Nevren gave the stone to Owen when he was 100% in the dark about things. He had no reason at that point to think evolving was a bad thing, just some weird late bloomer issue, if I remember right.

    This went to super cute to super sad in such a short span. D:

    Lmao, these two are amazing together. To have Enet, with her limited vocabulary, convince Valle to try to move, just a little, so quickly... In short, I love this scene.

    UMMMMMMMMMMM This is the most I've ever seen Nevren talk, and all of it is unnerving. I want my reader innocence back, please.

    And now I wish I was behind so I'd have all this Trinity failure insanity to read. :V See ya next time~
     
  6. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Yoo good to see you back, Amby! Hope all's well. I talked to you in private about the SE2 issues in particular, but they've all been very constructive. Some things I simply can't fix due to a key design flaw, but I can at least mitigate it eventually. To the todos with it!

    Thanks to dp and Bugle--I replied to you guys elsewhere, but it's been a great start to the New Year, hasn't it?

    I'm super glad about this. I'd be lying if I didn't say the whole sequence was inspired by something, actually, at least in part. The twisty-turny landscape is actually just me doing whatever, but the actual feel of all the spirits ganging up on Star to help Ra advance and win is inspired by a certain battle sequence at the very end of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. You'd know the one.

    Yep, I think I could've expanded the flashback scenes a bit in particular.

    Nothing I can do about this one beyond when he becomes a bit relevant later (we're meeting the Ice Guardian eventually, after all, right?) so yeah. Thankfully, I don't think the main character of any other Special Episode is someone making their debut in it.

    I'll definitely expand on this a little in future edits.

    Ditto to this, but to clarify for other readers: I flubbed Ra's depiction in the flashbacks here by not making it clear that the kids were in their teens at this point, and Ra was stepping up his training and sorta losing himself in trying to get them stronger too quickly. And he does apologize... a ton during flashbacks, at least I thought so, but I think it wouldn't hurt to make them more thorough, either.

    I'll have to look into this one. He says sorry a lot, and the family knows he means it, but circumstances kept them separate afterward due to the Hunters' increased activity. I suppose I should make that more clear.

    Y'know, I don't think I ever said it explicitly, but... Star gave her that name!

    Since Namo got fooled by concept art.

    This is actually something that I intended to be weird, but I was hoping that Rhys' interruption would clue in the audience that, yes, that was weird. It was as if they were forgetting about Lugia mid-conversation, which alarmed Rhys because of how, well... surreal it is for two people to just forget something like that.

    I mean, DBZ was rated PG14. Bleach is rated PG14 or whatever. I figure by opening with stabbing Owen, I pave the way for some metal stuff happening when things get desperate. Owen's gonna use everything at his disposal when he's really put to the test. And that includes lopping off parts of his body, apparently... Huh. Guess that is a little Piccolo-like.

    Theeere it is.
     
  7. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Chapter 30 – Remnants

    The evening transitioned into the night. Owen felt like he didn’t quite need to sleep. Perhaps he finally became strong enough to no longer require it. Still, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi did. When their training ended, Owen wandered the caverns.

    Zena was training with Amia. She seemed awkward about it, simply telling Owen that she wanted to get better with aura-based powers. It took very little pressing for her to reveal that she, too, was learning the Suppression Aura that reset Owen countless times.

    Owen just smiled. “You know, better safe than sorry.” Not like he intended to be reset again anyway if he could help it.

    But that also meant Owen couldn’t stay near them while they trained without risking getting reset, and he had to wander the caverns again. Should he sleep? He could. But he was too restless. He couldn’t get the look of Rim’s eyes out of his head, and, in hindsight, the feeling he had when he saw her. How in the world did he become so bold as to taunt his very sanity to scare off Rim? Was he even strong enough to take her on in that state? He somehow doubted it. Rim commanded mutants.

    So why did she run?

    “You are in motion far too much.”

    Owen, startled, looked to his right. He forgot about Valle. The Shiftry statue was right next to him, so still that he had mistaken it for part of the cave. “Sorry,” Owen finally said. “Just restless.”

    Valle rumbled angrily. “Cease your movement. The night is when I can know peace.”

    “O-okay. I’ll just find somewhere else to rest. I should meditate.”

    “Yes. You should.”

    Owen sighed. He headed further along the giant cavern until he spotted more Guardians.

    Earlier in the day, Willow and ADAM had assisted Enet in finding a home in the caverns. She took a liking to the one a few homes down from Rhys’ side. It was easy to spot Enet’s abode because of the perpetual darkness that veiled the insides. Only her eyes—glowing—were visible when looking inside.

    “Enet?” Owen whispered, but the glowing eyes said it all.

    “Small,” Enet greeted.

    “M-my name’s Owen.”

    “Owen… Small Owen.” Enet said.

    “Are you okay?” He could sense her tense muscles.

    “Okay.”

    “You aren’t scared or anything?” Owen asked.

    Enet didn’t answer.

    “Hey, it’s alright,” Owen said. “Friends. All friends.”

    Enet let out a strange growl. It didn’t sound aggressive, but it wasn’t one of comfort, either.

    Owen felt someone knocking inside his mind. Hello? Is someone calling me?

    Yo, Star greeted. Are you checking on Enet?

    Yeah. Is she alright?

    She’s just antsy. New den and all that, and it’s not like it was totally up to her.

    Oh, Owen said. Well, I guess I don’t wanna bother her.

    No, no, actually, I think she trusts you more than anyone else here. Since Amia’s training Zena the Suppression Aura stuff, can you do me a favor and spend the night keeping her company? She’s not all that strong, so she’ll be asleep for most of it.

    Owen nodded. It was better than irritating Valle, at least. Okay, he said.

    Great. While you do that, I’m gonna check up on some Guardians. I want to see if the Bug or Ice Guardians are up for anything. I think I know where the Ice Guardian is, but she’s a little cold toward me. Sorta a long story.

    Like all the others. Owen rolled his eyes. I bet the Electric Guardian didn’t give up peacefully, either. I’m starting to think back, and there was a huge thunderstorm in Nightshade, like, a year or two ago. That wasn’t a normal storm, was it?

    A-anyway, I gotta head off! Star said. I’m gonna hang up now.

    Hang… up?

    But she didn’t reply. So distracted by the conversation, Owen didn’t realize that Enet was mere inches from his face. He stifled a gasp and fell backward; Enet lunged forward and grabbed him just in time. Her paws were almost as big as his head.

    “Okay?” Enet asked.

    “Y-yes. I’m okay,” Owen said, pulling himself up. “Enet… would you like me to rest with you?”

    Even in the dark, Owen was able to Perceive her muzzle scrunching up. “Better father.”

    Owen tried not to sound exasperated. “Not like that. As… a pack. Friend.”

    “Small pack.”

    Why me?

    But despite this, Enet turned around and curled up in the darkness. Owen sighed, shifting his body into his Grassy state. He had a habit of fighting in his dreams, and that always made the ethereal flame on his tail heat up. At least as a plant, he wouldn’t accidentally burn Enet.

    While he didn’t rest, Owen spent the rest of the night meditating and calming his aura.

    Owen’s thoughts returned to Star. Hey, Klent? he called.

    Hm? There was a pause, and then Klent answered, Oh, Owen. Are you feeling okay?

    Star just left, if you’re looking for her, Amelia spoke up. When are you gonna come visit again?

    Owen grinned. Sorry, I’m looking after Enet tonight. I was just thinking about… everything.

    That’s quite a lot, Klent said. Owen… you know we’re a bit in-tune with your feelings, right? Being within your spirit, that is. We understand. We’ve been trying to get Star to tell us more, but she’s obviously bothered by it. And she knows if she tells us, we’ll tell you. And I suppose we don’t want to trigger anything.

    I think I’ll evolve just fine, Owen said. I bet I can handle it now. Last time, I almost had it. And this time, I didn’t feel like I was going crazy at all. I was just scared. So… what if I—

    You promised, two days, Klent said.

    Owen rolled his eyes. Fine, fine, he said. But when I evolve… and I’m normal… I want her to tell me what made me go crazy in the first place.

    I’ll hold her to it, Klent said.

    <><><>​

    Gahi’s kinda cute when he’s a Trapinch, Owen thought to himself. He had Gahi ensnared in a simple vine around his torso where his tiny legs and massive head couldn’t reach. He flailed and hissed and screamed in anger, but there was nothing the stubby Pokémon could do to break free from the relatively effortless hold.

    “Lemme go!” Gahi shouted.

    “Not until you say I win,” Owen said.

    “It ain’t fair! Yer Mystic, yer evolved, nuh-uh!”

    “To be fair, Gahi,” Demitri said from the sidelines, “you were the one who wanted to fight Owen one on one.”

    Mispy nodded, nursing a cut on one of her vines. Demitri had clawed her pretty hard and her healing was taking a bit of time to repair the damage.

    “I kinda remember always losing to you, Gahi,” Owen said. “At least, that’s sorta the feeling I get when I think about other times we’ve sparred. So, I dunno what to tell you. This feels like a great change. So, are you gonna give up yet?”

    “Not ‘til I’m passed out an’ broken!” Gahi replied defiantly.

    The vines squeezed a bit tighter around his body.

    “Just give up,” Mispy said, sighing.

    “Yeah, Mispy’s sick of healing you. Maybe this time she won’t do it,” Demitri teased. He tittered, glancing at Mispy. “Y-you’ll still heal him, right?” he whispered.

    Mispy shrugged. “Can’t heal stupid.”

    “I ain’t stupid! I’m determined! Rhys said so!”

    “Hey, Rhys called me determined, too…” Owen mumbled.

    Mispy glanced at Demitri, who just shrugged.

    “Yeah, if Owen’s determined, then I’m not dumb!” Gahi said. “Now lemme down!”

    “Not until you say you give up,” Owen said. “The win doesn’t even feel good if I knock you out, Gahi, You won’t be able to dodge anything I throw at you.”

    “Mehh… fine.”

    Owen sighed, dropping Gahi to the ground.

    He immediately rushed for Owen. “I never said I gav—”

    A Vine Trap erupted beneath Gahi, tearing through rocks to ensnare Gahi for a second time. The crush was so intense that Gahi squeaked and cracked like wood, tiny legs flailing weakly.

    “I know,” Owen said, smirking.

    Gahi hissed but finally relented. “Okay, fine, fine… ya mrmff…”

    “What was that?” Owen asked with a teasing lilt in his voice.

    Mispy smacked Owen on the back of his head. He winced, expecting the blow, but still yelped at how hard she hit. “H-hey, I was just joking around!” he said.

    Owen helped free Gahi from the vines and Mispy patched him up with a gentle wave of healing energy. Demitri sighed and stretched, scratching at a nick in his tusks with a frown. “I messed up my tusk again,” he said. “I need to be more careful. These things don’t grow back, you know.”

    “They do with Orans,” Owen said.

    “I mean, yeah, but I don’t wanna waste resources,” Demitri said. “I’ll just wait a while.”

    “Well, don’t wait too long,” Owen said. “If you let a wound settle in for too long, Orans don’t heal it. There’s this Salazzle, you know Spice? She got badly hurt during some outing and even though she took an Oran to heal the major stuff, it still left a scar behind because she didn’t take a second one to heal it completely. Guess they had run out since it was a rough mission…”

    “You mean from Sugar ‘n Spice?” Demitri asked, unconsciously picking at the dent in his tusk again. Mispy wrapped a vine around his claw to pull it away, knowing he’d only make it worse.

    “Yeah.”

    Demitri flinched. “W-well, I still don’t want to waste it on a little chip. Maybe if we went on a Dungeon mission, I’ll use one along the way? Then I won’t feel so bad.”

    “Oh, sure,” Owen said. “You guys can head on one if you like.”

    Demitri and Mispy exchanged looks. “Well,” Demitri said, “we were actually thinking, and, um…”

    “What?” Owen asked, returning to his Fiery form. He felt something in the back of his throat and coughed out a stray Bullet Seed.

    “Can’t you come with us?” Demitri asked.

    “With you guys?” Owen said.

    “Yeah. I mean—we’re Team Alloy, right? And now that you know how you evolve, it should be totally safe for you to come with us. We’re still in our lowest forms. No way we’ll evolve all the way up on one mission.”

    Owen sighed. “It’s still dangerous to go out,” he said. “Rim could try to kill me.”

    “What, like she did back in Nightshade?” Gahi said. “C’mon, she ran off when you just threatened ter evolve!”

    “W-well, yeah, but—”

    “It’s safe,” Mispy nodded.

    “I’m still not sure, guys,” Owen said apologetically. “Rhys and Mom would kill me. And Dad would probably explode again.”

    “Bah, he’s a spirit, he’ll come back,” Gahi said. “We’ll jus’ say we kidnapped ya.”

    “Okay, first of all, I don’t think I want you guys getting in that much trouble—and two, you didn’t kidnap me!”

    “How do you know?” Mispy asked.

    As if on cue, Demitri and Gahi approached Owen on both sides. Mispy’s vines emerged from behind her shoulders.

    “W-wait, wait, wait, wait!” Owen said, raising his arms.

    They all lunged at him. Owen crossed his arms, forming a shield of light that bumped them all away. He grunted when Demitri hit it particularly hard, and for just a moment, he feared that the Axew would somehow break his Protect barrier.

    “Okay,” Owen said, taking advantage of their brief dizziness. Mispy, who could have easily grabbed Owen after the barrier dropped, was patient enough to let him speak. “How about,” he continued, “after I fully evolve—which will be tomorrow, by the way, that’s when I plan to do this—we go out then. I bet if I can keep it together, we’ll go on a mission then. How about that? Huh?”

    “So tomorrow, we’re gonna go on a mission together,” Demitri said.

    “If, uh, if they let me,” Owen said.

    “If yer a Charizard, they ain’t gonna stop you,” Gahi said.

    Owen twisted his mouth into a pensive frown. “I guess, but I’d feel kinda bad about taking advantage of my power like that,” he said. “I guess as a last resort.”

    “We’re sorta on the verge of evolving anyway,” Demitri said. “I guess we should be careful, too.”

    “Mmh,” Mispy said. “Fine.”

    Rhys emerged from his home. “Ah, Owen!” he called.

    “Huh?” Owen spun around. “What? Something happen?”

    “Nevren just called via the communicator,” he said. “Come. I’m going to gather the others. Apparently, a Guardian’s location has been found… but it is a strange location.”

    <><><>​

    “So, what’s so weird about it? Where on the map is it?” Owen asked.

    Everybody had been gathered together in the center of town to speak to Nevren through his communication badge.

    “It’s far off the coast,” Nevren said. “Far, far south, on an old island, in fact. Quite difficult to get to normally. Only Mystics can approach it—it’s protected by a special barrier set up by the guardian within.”

    “Factory…” Amia said. “I’ve heard that term before, but—what is it, again?”

    “A facility that is built for the purpose of mass-producing something,” Nevren said. “We have something similar here, though not quite to the same level.” The communication device was quiet for a while after that. “…Hello?”

    “Oh! Sorry, I thought you would say something,” Amia said. “I was just trying to figure out what this factory would be. But, um… What Type is this Guardian?”

    “Well, it’s a factory, so, Steel,” Nevren said. “He’s quite at home there, from what I’ve gathered.”

    “How’d you gather that?” Owen asked suspiciously. “Did you visit there yourself?”

    “I have,” Nevren said. “Though, not to any success. It was quite a long time ago, though I feel now is an appropriate time as any to try our luck with this one. I recommend… someone with a more effective set of techniques, yes?”

    “Steel,” Owen repeated to himself, looking at the red scales on his arms.

    “I can go,” Gahi shrugged. “Ground, eh? That’s real good against Steel.”

    “I can, too,” Owen said. “Um… I guess Demitri and Mispy should stay back for this one, huh?”

    The Axew and Chikorita wanted to protest, but they backed down shortly after. Owen figured they knew he had a point. “Okay,” Demitri said, “but what should we do while you’re gone?”

    “Spar!” Owen said, nodding. “Actually, y’know what? When I come back, I want to see you two as a Fraxure and Bayleef, okay?”

    “D-d’you think we can get there so soon?” Demitri said.

    “Definitely,” Owen nodded. “I can feel it. I’m a Charmeleon already, after all, right?”

    “Yeah, but you’re Mystic,” Demitri said.

    “Well… either way, I think you’ll do it. Maybe spar with the other Mystics? The weaker ones, like Willow, or—”

    “Weaker?!” Willow charged up for a Moonblast.

    “I—I mean, th-th… the nicer ones! The nicer ones, who can go easy on them! R-right?”

    “That’s better,” Willow huffed. The lunar sphere dissipated in a white-pink mist.

    Owen sighed, holding his chest. At the very least, she was acting normal toward him. He thought she wouldn’t talk back to him again after that incident with Azu…

    “If you’re going, Owen, then I should go, too,” Amia said. “And as the Fire Guardian, maybe I can help in fighting, too? I may not be the best fighter, but I’m still strong…”

    “Okay, so that’s me, Mom, Gahi…” Owen said. “If I go crazy, d’you think that’ll be enough, Mom? If you make me a Charmander again?”

    Amia flinched. “Y-you’re okay with that?” she asked.

    Owen nodded. “I… I don’t want it, but it’s better than being crazy forever. But… if I evolve… can you make sure I’m crazy first?”

    Amia nodded. “Of course! That’s what we were building toward this whole time!”

    Rhys hummed worriedly. “Just in case,” he said, “I would like to accompany you as well. A team of four. My Fighting attacks will be effective.”

    “That should be enough,” Nevren confirmed. “Now, hold out your maps. Do you see where Zero Isle Spiral is located?”

    “No, um, is that…?” Amia said, unraveling their map.

    “Start from Kilo Village, at the center of the map. Go south until you reach the ocean.”

    “Oh, I know that spot!” Owen said. “Zena and I washed up there after we, uh, you know.”

    “Hm, so we have a reference point,” Rhys said. “What then, Nevren?”

    “You have to fly from there and head further south until you can see the archipelago with Zero Isle at the center. From that direction, you should head diagonally to the left—that is, southeast. You should see another landmass. That will be your location; if you search by aura, you will sense a powerful barrier blocking the way. Anybody too weak in the spiritual sense will be turned around in the opposite direction without realizing it. Mystics, by default, should be strong enough to pass through.”

    “Eh, so what about me?” Gahi said, clicking his jaws. “I ain’t spiritual Mystic sparkly.”

    “Your proximity should be enough. Perhaps ride on Owen’s back.”

    “Wh-why me?” Owen said.

    “I can do that.”

    Owen sighed. “Okay, fine,” he said. “But, can I fly yet?”

    “If you can’t fly, you can ride on me, dear,” Amia said.

    “…Wait. Rhys? Can you fly for a long time?”

    “To an extent,” Rhys said. “It may deplete my stamina a bit after some time, but, ah… I’m sure I will have time to rest once we arrive.”

    “If you’re tired, you can always ride on me, dear,” Amia giggled. “I don’t mind.”

    “I… shall… consider it,” Rhys said, turning his head away. “Though I would prefer not. I am not used to riding on the backs of others. They’re always too soft.”

    “Soft?” Amia said. “You prefer… hard backs?”

    “Er—yes. I suppose I do.”

    “Yer weird,” Gahi said.

    Zena quickly slithered over to Owen and gave him a reassuring nod. “Good luck, Owen.”

    Owen smiled, returning the gesture. “Hey, how’s the Suppression Aura going?”

    Zena winced. “Er, well—I’m getting better at it,” she said. “I’m sorry that I’m training at all for it…”

    “I said it was fine,” Owen said, shaking his head. “Okay. You guys ready?” He looked at Amia, Gahi, and Rhys. When they all nodded, they set off toward the exit of Hot Spot Cave.

    <><><>​

    It was only a few quick warps from Hot Spot to Kilo Village to the south. They wound up taking the Waypoint to the Void Forest, though they were sure to steer clear of the Dungeon itself.

    Void Forest seemed quite… normal, considering the name. Tall trees dotted the landscape, leaving ample room to walk around. While the ground was a bit grayish, and it was mostly dirt and fungus, it wasn’t something Owen would have labeled as void-like.

    The lack of proper foliage was a bit unnerving, though.

    “Usually don’t like taking trips or missions to the south…” Owen mumbled aloud.

    “Don’t worry, dear. We’re flying right now,” Amia said. “Oh, that’s right. I suppose we should start giving you flying lessons. That shouldn’t be too hard.”

    Owen’s heart fluttered in some trick-of-the-mind instinct. “F-fly?” he said, his mind trying to flex wings he did not yet have.

    “Aww, Owen, I’m sorry,” Amia said, patting his shoulder. “I meant with your Mystic power. You remember us doing it before, right? Just try to mimic it. It’s a lot easier than you think, once you get started.”

    “Okay, sure. Let me guess. It’s sorta like when I think to switch from Fire to Grass, except this time for flying?”

    “Kind of! I think? The way Star taught it to me was like this. You feel gravity pulling at you… feel your own weight. And then, well… defy it! Sort of.” Amia levitated slightly in the air. “I suppose it’s not too different from Psychic kinesis after that. Push yourself in the direction you want.”

    “I think I know how to describe that,” Owen said. “I had a lot of dreams like this. Where I was flying as a Charmander, just going over town and looking down.” A dumb smile spread across his face. He shook it off. “Uh—right. So, I guess like a dream, huh? Let me think…”

    Owen felt weightless. He flailed his arms out of reflex; Rhys quickly held his back. “Now, now, hold still,” he said.

    “Whoa,” Gahi said, churring. “His feet’re off the ground!”

    Owen looked down. He was a foot in the air. “I—I’m doing it!”

    “I’m going to let go, now,” Rhys said.

    Once he did, Owen spun forward, upside-down after a few seconds. “Uh—wait—I’ve got this,” Owen said, righting himself. He overcompensated, shooting several more feet in the air. “W-wait! Wait—oh—this is really—uh—sudden!” He kicked in the air, but he was laughing at the same time. “I—I’m actually flying! Mom! I’m flying!”

    “Yes, you are, dear,” Amia said. “Honestly, if I knew it’d make you this happy, I would’ve trained you with this earlier! But at least now you’re strong enough it’s not even hard to do. …Owen?”

    He was flying in circles through the air, ember a blazing blue.

    “…Should we calm him down?” Rhys asked.

    “Ohh, let him have his moment,” Amia said.

    Gahi watched enviously.

    Owen suddenly stopped his flying when he got high enough to see over the forest trees. He gulped, not realizing how close they were to the Chasm of the Void. It was always depicted as a big, black dot on the map, and was typically only restricted to Hearts to go near due to its ominous appearance. It was undoubtedly home to another Guardian, based on how anomalous it was, even by Dungeon standards. But it was also hard to approach, let alone enter.

    It looked exactly as it did on the map. Black dot on the paper, a great, black crater in person. He couldn’t even see the crater’s walls. It was like a vat of pure, inky blackness. It vaguely reminded him of Enet’s home the night before. Hidden in plain sight. The fact that it was still around suggested that not even the Hunters could approach easily.

    Owen landed. “Sorry about that,” he said, tittering. “Okay. Rhys, do you know how to fly?”

    “Of course,” Rhys said. “Though, not in the traditional sense, as I said before. Let me make sure I still have the technique in me, so to speak…” Rhys held his arms firmly to his side. Then from both paws, aura energy burst downward in a steady stream. Wind blew in all directions away from the Lucario and he flew right into the air. “I seem to have it covered!” he shouted down, secondary blasts coming from his feet.

    “Oh,” Owen said, staring. “…He can do that.”

    “It’s not very useful in Dungeons where you can’t fly,” Amia said, “and I imagine with his limbs occupied, he can’t fight in that state, either. And with Waypoints for quick travel to most places, well…”

    Owen shrugged. “Let’s go.”

    “Oy! Don’t go fergeting me!” Gahi chirped.

    <><><>​

    The horizon seemed to go on forever. It was an endless expanse of the blue ocean along a pale sky, speckled with white clouds. The only real detail they could see from this height was that of the clouds’ shadows cascading along the water below. Gahi clicked his jaws worriedly. “If y’drop me, I’m gonna kill yeh,” he said, clinging onto Owen’s back with the help of a few vines.

    “Not if the fall kills you first,” Owen murmured, adjusting his arm-vines carefully. “Rhys, are you sure that isn’t too hard for you?”

    The steady stream of aura energy made Owen think about Golurk and their propulsive abilities.

    “I should be fine for quite a while,” Rhys said. “This aura energy is produced as quickly as I spend it with simple flight.”

    “Oh, don’t lie, dear,” Amia said. “I can feel it depleting a tiny bit. Otherwise, you’d be flying like this all the time!”

    “Ngh—perhaps by a negligible amount,” Rhys said.

    Amia looked at their map, and then ahead. “I think that’s Zero Isle,” she said.

    Rhys nodded.

    “Goodness…” Amia said. Their flying slowed down slightly, and they veered away from the archipelago—which appeared to be a spiral of beige sand in the middle of sky-colored saltwater. “Do you feel that?” she asked.

    Owen felt a horrible tightness in his chest, like the sheer radiation of power was stopping his heart. “What is that? It’s… coming from…”

    “Feel what?” Gahi asked.

    “I guess only Mystics can feel it,” Amia said. “Rhys?”

    “…We should keep clear of Zero Isle for a while,” said Rhys. “A powerful Guardian is there, and we are simply not ready.”

    “W-wait! A powerful Guardian? A friendly one?”

    Rhys shook his head. “Not to us, no,” he said. “…Frankly, I’m not sure if the Steel one will be friendly, either.”

    “How do you know?” Owen asked. “Did… did you try to attack the Zero Isle Guardian before? When you were a…?”

    Rhys shook his head. “No,” he said. “But I fought her predecessor, who was…” he shivered slightly. “It’s not something that I like to think about.”

    Owen nodded. “Okay. But, what Orb is it of? Do you know anything about her?”

    “Dragon, and yes, she’s very hostile. We’ll talk about this later,” Rhys said, pointing ahead. “That’s the island we’re looking for, is it not?”

    At the horizon was a grayish structure sitting atop a black ground. The water nearby had a dark residue around it as well. Owen wasn’t sure what to think about the odd color—he certainly wouldn’t drink it.

    “That’s… a factory?” Owen said.

    “Hm, it appears to be one, yes,” Rhys said. They lowered their altitude, heading for a firm trajectory right for the shore of this island, just beyond the dark water.

    “What’s the weird… black stuff?”

    “It may be remnants of decay,” Rhys said. “Factories tend to produce waste products like trash quite a bit. If it’s been here for such a long time, perhaps some of that product is simply leaking into the water…”

    “That can’t be good…” Owen said.

    “Well, it is a small factory in a large ocean. It shouldn’t be too bad… I imagine…” Rhys trailed off. “Hrm. Well, regardless, it doesn’t seem to be spreading beyond this point. Perhaps we can look into cleaning it up later.”

    They landed in the sand. There was something that felt… dirty about it. Owen winced at the ground, lifting his foot. “That’s a weird feeling. It’s… heavy. No, not heavy, but…”

    “It feels like it’s more than just dirt and rock,” Amia nodded.

    “We should wash in cleaner water when we return home,” said Rhys. “Particularly you, Gahi, since you aren’t Mystic.”

    Gahi tilted his head down. “Ehh, I’ll stay on yer back fer now,” he said.

    “W-wait, what?” Owen said; he was already lugging the giant Ground and bug-like Pokémon on his back, holding his hands behind him. “G-Gahi! You’re a little bulky to be carried around like that!”

    “I ain’t walkin’ on tainted ground! Carry me!”

    “Nngh… okay,” Owen sighed. “But give me a second to….” He carefully pulled Gahi around his body until the bug was in front of him; Owen had his arms around Gahi’s abdomen, holding him gently against his chest.

    Gahi leaned his head back, bumping it against the bottom of Owen’s neck. “Don’t squish me.”

    “I won’t,” Owen said. “Let’s go. I’m gonna set you down once we’re on that solid ground, the… that’s a steel floor or something?”

    “It appears to be a special kind of stone,” Rhys said. “It’s called concrete.”

    “Concrete…” Owen said. “I thought that was just a word that meant ‘really solid’?”

    “Yes. The word came from that material, I believe. Or the other way around… hmm. Now I’m not sure,” he said.

    “Concrete… Like a Conceldurr?”

    “Somewhat, yes,” said Rhys. Their steps began to have sound; Owen looked down, puzzled at the new noise. So familiar… The feeling of claws on concrete. He then looked up at the factory—less familiar. In fact, he’d never seen such a structure before. It was many stories high, taller than the giant heart in the southern point of Kilo Village. Owen nearly fell backward from craning his neck so far; eventually, he had to stop to look into the entrance.

    It was too dark from the outside to tell what it was; there were only a few windows at the top of the large room, and they were small. He saw many strange structures inside of the factory; horizontal platforms that had little wheels and cylinders embedded into them, contraptions that looked like strange, new Steel Pokémon. It vaguely reminded him of Kilo Village’s more advanced technology that Nevren made. Owen had a vague, blurry memory of once visting a priting press. Perhaps that’s what these contraptions reminded him of. Some of it looked quite shiny like it was being sustained and washed—not dusty. It must’ve been the Guardian.

    “What… is this?” Amia said.

    On solid ground, Owen set Gahi down. The Trapinch tapped his head on the concrete. “This place ain’t too bad,” he said. “Good echo. I can tell where everything is here, heh…”

    A metallic clinking noise echoed in the depths of the factory. A quick check revealed that there was a single, powerful aura in the building, aside from themselves. “Guess that’s the Guardian,” Owen said. “But hey, on the bright side, we don’t have to deal with crazy Mods anymore! Oh, wait.” He felt another aura—it was weaker, but he also recognized it. “I think Hecto’s here, too…” he mumbled.

    “What was that, dear?” Amia asked.

    “Do you guys know Hecto? Star’s, uh…?”

    “Ah, yes, Hecto,” Rhys nodded. “If he’s here, then I imagine this will be a safer area, in a sense. Hecto is not very strong on his own. Perhaps we won’t have to fight, either. Let’s keep going.”

    They walked through a narrower portion of the factory, next to some of the odd platforms nearby. Owen saw strange objects on top of these platforms, but he was too short to see what they were at a good angle. “What’re those?” Owen asked.

    “What are what, dear?” Amia asked. “Oh! Those… things?” she asked, reaching out.

    “Don’t touch them,” Rhys said quickly.

    “O-oh?” Amia asked, flinching her hand away. “Okay. Are they… traps, or volatile Dungeon Orbs…?”

    “Yes, in a sense,” Rhys said. “Now, let’s keep going. Don’t touch anything that doesn’t look familiar; this is a remnant from another realm, and we can’t be sure how it will react to us.”

    “That’s… a weird way of phrasing it, Rhys,” Owen said. “But—okay.”

    “Eh?” Gahi looked up. “What’re yeh all talking about anyway? Weird li’l…” he trailed off. “What’s this orb yer talking? What’s it look like?”

    “It kinda looks… I dunno. It’s kinda pretty, though. But it doesn’t look natural.” Owen shrugged.

    “’Sup.” This voice wasn’t familiar.

    Owen looked ahead to see a bipedal figure with muscled arms and a shiny body. Metallic, indicative of the Steel Orb’s influence. His voice had a ringing tinge to it, too.

    “H-hey, uh…” Owen hesitated. He wasn’t really sure how to acknowledge it. He said without thinking, “A Machoke, the Steel Guardian?”

    “Not as dumb as you being the Grass Guardian.”

    That one stung.

    “A-ah, um,” Amia quickly held up her hands, “H-hello! Um… what’s your name? I’m Gardevoir Amia, this is Charmeleon Owen, that’s Lu—”

    “Brandon Rezz,” the metal Machoke replied. “I know who you guys are. Don’t worry.”

    Owen blinked as if he was trying to piece together something in his head. “Rezz?” he asked. “What Pokémon is a Rezz? I thought you were a Machoke. And you said your name backward.”

    “No, I’m a Machoke, sure,” Brandon said. “But my last name is Rezz.”

    “…I don’t get it,” Owen said. “Brandon and Rezz both aren’t a species.”

    “Where I’m from,” Brandon said, “everyone that talked was the same species. …Mostly. So, kinda stupid if we all had the same first name. So instead, we had unique last names that followed our family line. So, the same way you guys take the first names of your mother, the same species, I got my last name from my dad.”

    “O-oh…” Amia said. “That’s interesting! But—you came from a realm that was all Machoke? I don’t know which part of your story I want to ask about first!”

    Brandon gave off the smallest smirk. “No,” he said. “Not Machoke.” He turned around, staring at the dull ceiling. “I only have this form because it’s close to what I used to be. I’m from the human world.”

    “Oh! So… a Machoke… wait…” Amia said.

    “While I gave it up a long time ago,” Brandon said, “I used to be human.”
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  8. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Actually, I've never watched any FMA. :V

    Minor nitpick to start out, here. And it's what canis mentioned. After Owen Enet-sits for a night you say "the next few days pass by unceremoniously," only for the conversation with Klent to bring up the promise Owen made about waiting two days to evolve. That... uh... doesn't line up. Did you mean to say "The next day passed by unceremoniously"? Because that's the only way this'll make sense.

    I'm-a be honest here, as far as your "explore place, find guardian" chapters go, this one fell a bit short of the potential for me. I think it was because of the cast's general indifference toward the factory setting, which was clearly setting up for the reveal of Brandon, our resident human. Like, I expected Owen to be a bit enthusiastic at the prospect of exploring a remnant of human society (with it possibly giving way to genuine fear at how mechanical the abandoned factory was and what humans might be like), but he mostly seems pretty apathetic. And then the general pattern this seems to follow is that they see something, acknowledge it in a relatively stoic manner, Rhys exposits, and then they move on. I know you said before you're not a fan of writing dungeon-crawling stuff, but I think this premise should've put everyone (except Rhys, I guess) very on-edge, especially when it turns out there are toxins around the factory. But I didn't get a real sense of unease or nervousness or anything. It just kind of felt like the group was going through the motions.

    This could just be a pitfall of having a cast that is, essentially, all-powerful. In true shonen fashion, they need to face threats that have the same level of power to get any sort of surprise out of them. But even then, the surprise is mostly limited to Owen and Amia so far over the course of the story. I don't know, I guess it's a personal taste thing, but this had the potential to actually be threatening toward our heroes — for example, the factory's poisons could've been corrosive like a Salazzle's and been a threat to even Rhys or the toxins could've interfered with their Mystic auras, rendering them mortal — but instead you devote a large amount of time to showing that Mystics can fly, which I admit made me a bit glass-eyed and bored.

    Okay, I don't like being this negative. Positive stuff! Zero Isle's teases continue to pique my interest. I hope it can live up to the "hype." And aside from Brandon raising a few possiblities, I found it interesting that Star (likely unintentionally) brought up a human idiom while telepathing with Owen. I might be getting wires crossed, but I seem to remember you saying something on Discord that leads me to wonder if, perhaps, Star (and Arceus) were, say, human at one point in time... only to stumble into this world and have godly power thrust upon them. Would make for an interesting exploration of gods and whatnot.

    Also, Brandon Rezz. That name is so... so stereotypically frat boy that it's just... just... *chef's kiss gesture* Mwah! Is beautiful! 10/10.

    (But, yeah, I don't know how many more of these dungeon crawling things you've got, but I'd really advise that, if at all possible, future revisions try to find some way — anything, really — to actually threaten the heroes, Mystic status and all. Otherwise, I imagine I'll be singing a similar tune in the future. Sorry. You might've "buffed" Owen a bit too early.)

    D'aww, look, she's working up the courage to ask him out. Shame she's not his type... in more ways than one. :V

    Star, I'm disappointed in you. ¬_¬

    Are we sure she ain't a fire-type cause that was a sick burn!

    Gahi! Stay determined! You are the future of Pocket Monsters!

    Oh, come on! He really is just a saiyan! >_>

    Uh... Rhys doesn't swing that way, Amia.

    Rhys is a power bottom, apparently. and a scalie

    Someone call in Kirby!
     
  9. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Okay, so despite being biased towards Pokemon centric works, I usually don’t read PMD fics. I don’t have any preference against it, I’m just not as familiar with the side games like I am with the main series. From the snippets you shared in Discord, you had me intrigued with your character interactions, so I thought I’d eventually give this a go, and 12 chapters in, including a special episode, this story has been really rewarding and engrossing so far. Where do I start? There are lots of great moments chapter by chapter, so I will get into some of that, but I would like to touch base with the general aspects first.

    First, the prose. You have a great mix of dialogue and description. The dialogue between characters feels unique, as each have their own voices and dialects, and the chemistry between them is entertaining as all hell. The description has a lot of detail, from internal monologues to physical locations, but it never bogs the story down, but rather, enhances the setting, which has inspired me to try and do the same with my works, as mine are often dialogue heavy.

    And speaking of chemistry between characters, the actual characters themselves are fleshed out and have a lot of depth, or at the very least, have a great presence in the story. I thought I’d start with Owen, seeing how he’s the main protagonist.

    He’s likeable from the start, being determined, but also disadvantaged by his position as a late-evolver, which added some good drama in the initial chapters. His introspection as well as his sense of optimism really made me feel for the guy, and when crap eventually hits the fan at around Chapter 8, which was filled with big revelations about the story, increased that tenfold. By the end of Chapter 11, I just wanted to hug him. He went through a lot, and he eventually recovered from those bombshells, but it’s obviously impacted his character in a major way and also made him mature a bit.

    I mean, if I found out I was implanted with false memories, my adoptive mother was secretly raising spirits from the afterlife to make up inhabitants of my village, including my adoptive father, and that the associations I was hoping to join was part of a conspiracy, on top of becoming a Grass guardian, I would’ve flipped as well.

    Some of the other major players in the story were also great. Rhys developed nicely, as he starts off as the aloof leader and starts getting more depth when some of his past is revealed. Although Zena has only just been revealed, I love her design as a Milotic that can turn her form into water and also use that to power her attacks, as well as some of her awkwardness. Her relationship with Owen is great and serves to make the two even more sympathetic. Mew Star is such a treat as well. She feels like an anomaly in the story (well of course, she is The Creator, after all), but her presence is needed as her light-hearted dialogue gives her a lot of personality and adds even more flair to your extensive list of characters.

    The side characters as well were a treat to read about; Gahi and Anam in particular being my favourites. With the former, I love his brash attitude combined with his appearance as a Trappinch and a roughly-accented one at that. With the latter, I just loved the idea of the leader of the Thousand Hearts Association being a complete manchild, which contrasts well with the rest of the cast, without losing his ability to take his role seriously.

    And lastly, the story. So far, this has been one hell of a ride, in more ways than one. Admittedly, while I still found the early chapters interesting, I wasn’t fully invested in the story since I didn’t know where the story was headed in the grand scheme of things and what the stakes would be aside from Owen wanting to join the Hearts Association, but throughout, you did a great job of developing the characters as well as foreshadowing the big revelations it built up to at the climax of this arc, and when it finally hit at the end of Chapter 8, really, you just feel for everyone involved, especially Owen. By the end of Chapter 11 when the Hearts are sent on their quests to find the Guardians, as well as the introduction of the Orb Guardians plot in general, the dynamic of the story has completely changed, and all for the better, really.

    There’s a lot to unpack, so this is where I’ll get into some of the chapter specifics:

    Chapters 1 & 2

    The prologue was intense and attention-grabbing, and going back to this after finding out what Owen’s parents were referring to, specifically
    Alex evaporating and either being brought back from the dead due to Amia’s spirit powers/still being dead all along and brought back by Amia yet again, what Amia is hiding from and the nature of Owen’s memories being altered)
    , there were a lot of details I picked up on that I really appreciated.

    The rest flowed easily from there and did a good enough job at establishing Owen’s insecurities as a late-evolver and how dangerous the dungeons are with those mutants. It was a lot to take in at first, especially since so many names were being thrown around, but I got used to it after getting to properly know those characters after a while.

    Chapters 3 & 4

    And hey, little pink cloud! Rhys was definitely acting suspicious in the chapter, and as we find out later, he has a good reason why, and his attempts at diverting Owen from the subject were really funny. It was quite surprising to hear such a stoic Lucario of all things tell a Charmander that “I do not believe in love at first sight.” in the same stone-faced manner.

    I love Anam’s introduction here. I said I loved the design of him before, but that scene where he’s crying over the lost Hearts Members and everyone else trying to avoid his gooey tears was both hilarious and endearing.

    Owen’s meditation dream also surprised me, and did a great job at making me feel I was trapped in a nightmare.

    Chapters 5 & 6

    I still love Anam, even though his actions are kind of questionable as it’s shown he plays some part in pulling Rhys’/Owen’s strings. I can’t be made at a man-baby-dragon that calls his assistant ‘Jam Jam’.

    The Espurr Rim was creepy throughout, from her trying to steal the orb off Owen to her confronting Rhys later, which also did a good job at foreshadowing Rhys’ role in all of this.

    And after all this egging on from a certain inner voice as well as Team Alloy, Owen finally touched the orb, and for his efforts, dies. Huh. I didn’t think this story would be ending so quickly. Of course, this wasn’t permanent, and your diversion into Rhys’ narration did a good job at sustaining that tension until we got back to Owen’s narration at the end. Although the lead up to him meeting Mew was quite suspenseful, I laughed at some of Owen’s catastrophizing here, especially with this line

    Oh Owen, you are a paranoid little ball of fire, yes you are.

    Chapter 7

    ...And this is where the tables of the story start turning for real. I love the introduction of Mew Star and as I said, her cheery personality makes her stand out amongst the rest of the cast, where she has a lot of great lines here while still being able to maintain that mentor role. This line in particular, I loved:

    Now all we need is a spin-off with Mew Star confronting her darker half.

    The reveal of the orb’s nature was shocking, as it hinted at some massive changes in Owen’s character as well as revealing more about the bigger plot with the Orb Guardians.

    Holy crap. That was a significant makeover for Owen.

    Chapter 8

    Hoo boy, this is where all the big reveals come in. The previously chapters had me curious to see how the story would progress, but after reading through that, this chapter was such a great payoff for everything that happened before. It was the perfect mix of worldbuilding, meaningful character drama and exposition, which altogether, made for a really shocking and sad chapter. It’s not without its light-hearted moments as well, which I appreciated.

    Nintendo, please make Grassmander a thing.

    I guess I didn’t find this too weird from a human perspective, but if I was wearing someone else’s skin, I probably would be freaked out as well.

    Smooth, Amia. Real smooth.

    Because that’s how you react when looking at an affront to nature.

    The fight between Owen and Rhys/Nevren was tense, and the fallout from that was my favourite moment from this chapter. There was something cathartic about him slipping out of their grasp, however necessary it was for them to catch him, and the imagery of his transformation as he’s struggling to keep his new form under control was both horrifying and heartbreaking. This line in particular stuck out to me.

    ‘Owen was nothing but a head and torso amid a tapestry of plant life.’

    While it isn’t graphic, there’s still a lot of body horror at work here.

    After all that was said and done, I just wanted to give Owen a hug at the end of this chapter.

    Chapter 9

    Owen’s monologue, or should I say, dialogue to that Guardian of the lake gave a much needed breather after everything that happened, for both him and the reader. And when it turned out that Guardian was Zena, I warmed up to her instantly. The whole conversation between them was great. It was interesting to meet yet another Guardian so soon, but what made their dialogue stick out to me was their mutual awkwardness throughout it. Zena seems like a fish out of water (hehe) talking with Owen, and Owen’s attraction to her was cute.


    What a tweest!

    Chapter 10

    The obvious highlight was the fight between Zena and Rhys. The lead up to that was great, as Owen questions whether or not to trust his Lucario mentor
    who had just been revealed as an Orb Hunter
    , and when the confrontation eventually happens, it’s awesome. Zena holds her own in battle, proving to be a formidable opponent, but Rhys is just as crafty, dispelling her and Owen’s attacks in some well-telegraphed combat. The end of it was also quite sad with Owen trying to prove himself as a Guardian even though he’s too physically weak to hold himself up.

    I was a bit scared when I found out Rhys was a Hunter, but I was also glad to find out he was just a former Hunter, and he obviously regretted it, so it was nice to see him and Zena reach some sort of ceasefire.

    Chapter 11

    While this is a good chapter in the grand scheme of things, I also felt it was a bit too much. Not because of anything bad happening, but because of how much exposition there was and how little breathing room there was for the characters before going on their quest to find the Guardians. It was all necessary for the story to fully transition into the Guardians plot, but in order for that to happen, as a compromise, you had to use a lot of set up with the dialogue, which resulted in this chapter having uneven pacing. I would’ve like a bit more reprieve from the consecutive chapters of fast-paced action and heartbreak, but I’m also pleased with this as it’s a massive game changer for the rest of the story.

    It almost feels as if the chapters before it were all building up to this moment. I never would’ve expected to get to this part in the story just from reading the first chapter alone, which is great. At this point, I’m definitely invested in the rest of the story, and can’t wait to see more of the characters in the present, so kudos to you.

    Aside from that, Owen’s relationship with Zena continued to be sweet here. I can’t quite tell where it’s going (I’m fine with them just staying good friends, but romance might be possible as well), but the dynamic is strange, yet endearing. Despite their size and the obvious disadvantage it poses for Owen as he has quite a few close calls with her coils, he’s still willing to stick with her, which shows how big of a heart he has.

    Special Episode 1

    This took a bit of a left turn. I didn’t know what to expect from a special episode, but I was really surprised to see a flashback (???) chapter of all things, with Owen making an appearance before he joins the Hearts Association and gains his Guardian powers. It took me a little while to get invested in this chapter, but once I reached the point with Deca, the other Charmander, that’s where things started getting interesting.

    I don’t know exactly who Deca is, still. At first, I leaned towards him being Owen’s real father, especially with this line of dialogue: ‘“They’re so proud of you, Owen,” Deca said. He was shaking’. However, I am quite early into this story still, and judging from what I’ve read of other people’s theories, he’s could also be a spirit or a remnant of Owen’s future self. I’ve yet to see which direction this story will take from here, but this Special Episode added yet another layer to that and has left it open for all sorts of theories, possibly to be answered later.

    In any case, this was an intense and exciting chapter with Rhys and all that trying to put out the fire caused by the storm, and it was great to see Owen act like such a badass even as he’s at a disadvantage and without his Guardian powers.

    Overall:

    So far, this has been excellent. I love the characters, their dynamics, and the arcs they go through, I love the way the story has developed since its beginning, and despite not being familiar with much of PMD, the world was interesting as well, as it seems to merge the game logic of the dungeons and its items/rules with some sort of inter-dimensional stuff happening behind the scenes.

    There’s very little to complain about here so far, as they’re only minor. The only consistent complaint I have, which even in the grand scheme of things, is a nitpick and doesn’t impact my enjoyment of the story, is that it can be a bit too fast paced for my liking. With how interesting this Pokemon society you’ve crafted is and how good the character interactions are, I feel like the pacing would’ve benefited from slowing down at times just to give our characters more room to breathe or blow off some steam. That might be because of my preference for slice of life stories, so take that with a grain of salt.

    Great job with all the work you’ve presented so far, and I’d love to read more of it in the future.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  10. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    All things considered, I honestly think everything from Special Epsiode 1 and earlier were the fastest paced sequence of events of the whole work, and that includes everything I have planned in the future. And that's specifically because I needed to get that information drip out quick. Here's something I learned about fanfiction readers--and readers in general--most of them are impatient. There is a megaton of free content out there. If I'm not catching their attention and holding it, they're going to move on to the next thing. So, by design, I made sure to sprinkle and pack as much foreshadowing and "it gets better, I promise" nods as possible, especially up to the point where Owen touches the Orb. After that, I had to set up everything so the reader gets a feel for what's going on next. Set the tone. Grab the reader. And finally, to top it all off, leave a Special Episode that'll add a final flavor of mystery to the story as the plot advances.

    It's not ideal... but it was my answer to the reader that wants to know what they're getting into, now.

    I didn't realize this at first, but Owen really does get put through the ringer a lot in these early chapters, doesn't he? I mean, his entire life was turned upside-down. His friends, family, and idols were all not what they seemed. His life was a lie. Yet the light in his eyes doesn't go away...

    I as well. Well, I'd probably just sit down and give up for a few days, really. Where would I even go from there? But I guess Owen's fire kept him moving forward. Or his... leaves? I don't know.

    Anam's Wigglytuff-like role at the beginning of the story has been polarizing, but it's such an integral part to the plot that even if I wanted to, I can't change. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Yes. Chapter 8 is the first big "turning point" of the story, and it comes to a head and finish at chapter 11. When will the next turning point be...? It may be sooner than you think.

    This is a side-effect of both my fast pace for the beginning and my naaasty habit of making use of large casts where everyone has their long-term role and importance. I'm glad you're able to catch on to all the names and characters, because the flow won't stop for a little while. Thankfully, it does eventually slow down...

    That was actually intentional! Similar to the Rhys "love at first sight" scene, I wanted a bit of humor to help defuse the moment and transition to the next tone, which was, well, Star's introduction.

    You know, this is odd. This is one of those chapters where I get opposite feedback. Scythe just read through this chapter a while ago, and he actually thought chapter 11 was a drag compared to everything else. Like it was too slow. He mentioned that the info dump in particular was too strong near the beginning and end of the chapter. Sigh so I have some saying it's too fast, and some saying it's too slow. But regardless, I'm going to be reworking chapter 11 a little, because I do agree that some scenes can be expanded, and others... cut down. It's on the todo.

    I'm glad! Super happy to know you're invested and more or less "hooked" on the plot. I eagerly await when you're able to get back to this~

    I think a few others have made this theory? But I believe this is the first time someone has made it their main choice. I've had some people go with "Owen from the future," and others saying "another spirit" or even "Owen's other half of his soul," or even "he's a Ditto," or something along those lines. There's a lot. And I refuse to confirm or deny any of that for where you're currently reading.

    As mentioned above, that was part of my design, even though I absolutely agree with you. Pacing, attention-grabbing, and information management was the #1, 2, and 3 priorities of this first Act's "section." I actually have plans to pad out some things a little with extra scenes with the (horribly neglected) Team Alloy trio since Owen and the big players have all the spotlight. That might help with the fast pace. But if you like slice of life, there's definitely a bit of that here and there. I like it too. Slice of life, but with a hint of "we're all freaks" mixed in.

    Thanks for the review--really appreciated it. And as for Amby and Canis, I took care of you guys elsewhere.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  11. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Chapter 31 – Ancient Tradition

    Mispy flew high into the air and slammed hard against the rocks. “Ugh!” She tumbled and rolled, eventually coming to a stop on her side. Her vines twitched weakly.

    Demitri puffed, scratching his tusks with pride. “That’s a win for me,” he said, walking toward the fallen Chikorita. “Mispy? You alright?”

    Mispy didn’t move.

    “Aw, c’mon, Mispy, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. The powerful Axew gulped. “R-right? Mispy?”

    Still no response.

    He quickened his pace, clenching his fists. He didn’t hit too hard, did he? “Mispy, I—”

    She suddenly jumped to her feet, firing her pent-up Solar Beam toward him. It was so fast and so sudden that Demitri had no time to dodge. He screamed in surprise and covered his face. The beam burned his scales and sent him flying several feet backwards, tumbling to the ground in the same way. The Axew coughed a plume of smoke when he finally stopped.

    “Th-that’s enough, now!” Zena shouted, slithering toward the dueling pair. “Please—I don’t want you two going all-out!”

    “What’re you talking about?” Demitri asked, staggering to his feet. “If anything goes wrong, our Tiny Reviver Seeds will activate…”

    “That’s—yes, but—that’s quite wasteful!”

    “Anam makes tons of them,” Demitri said. “They’re not like regular Revivers. All they do is help you get enough energy to move again and restore the body a little bit, you know?”

    “Did one activate just now?”

    “No. Which means we didn’t push ourselves hard enough,” Demitri said, frowning.

    “I—I think you push yourselves just fine!”

    Mispy wobbled toward Demitri and wrapped her vines around him, channeling healing energy through him. She then rubbed along his body, scraping the ash off, exposing new, fresh scales. He smiled and nuzzled her when she got close.

    “It’s just how we fight, Zena,” Demitri said calmly. “It’s okay. I think… that’s just part of how we are, I guess. That’s not so bad, right?” He tittered, but caught the Milotic’s worried eyes. “Look… if we can keep it under control, it’s okay, right? But we haven’t had a good fight in a while, and that sparring match we had with Owen left me feeling antsy.”

    “Me, too,” Mispy said, prodding the ground with her right foreleg. She hesitated, but then looked up at Zena—her towering form compared to her Chikorita self was at least slightly intimidating. She gulped. “Um,” she said, “are we…?”

    Zena sighed, looking away. “Well, I suppose if you enjoy yourselves. Rhys told me to keep an eye on you two while the others trained, since I know the Suppression Aura, too, just in case…”

    “Yeah…”

    “Is something bothering you?” asked Zena.

    Mispy prodded the rocks again, finding a loose pebble to toy with. “Are we… monsters?”

    Zena hesitated for a bit too long.

    Mispy turned around.

    “N-no, you aren’t,” Zena said. “You aren’t. You aren’t monsters, because creatures like those… wouldn’t be worried about something like that in the first place, don’t you think?”

    Mispy didn’t seem convinced, but she sighed, conceding. “I guess,” she said.

    “Hey,” Demitri said, patting her on the back. He huddled a bit closer to her, “Rhys left us alone with Zena who barely knows the Suppression whatever. So…” He gently rubbed her back, just below the buds along her neck. “Don’t worry about it. We might’ve been created, but we’re still us.”

    “Yeah…” Mispy smiled, brushing her leaf against his head. “Thanks.”

    A white light enveloped her.

    “M-Mispy?” Demitri squeaked, staggering away.

    Even though it was only her middle stage, Zena readied a bit of the strange aura just in case, holding it between her ribbons. When the black sparks shot out, Demitri quickly dodged one of them, shivering at the residual feeling it gave off, like electricity. “What even is that stuff?” he mumbled.

    “Rhys said that it’s anti-evolution energy,” Zena said. “Apparently the Suppression Aura… is a key that makes your own auras synthesize the material, reversing your evolutions. The act of evolving shakes off that aura.”

    The light faded. Mispy, a Bayleef, opened one eye, looking down. She lifted her legs tentatively, then looked at Demitri.

    “How do you feel?” Demitri said.

    Mispy considered her answer. “Mm… normal,” she said.

    “Incorrect,” ADAM said, quietly observing from his home nearby. “Grass Type detected.”

    Mispy giggled, as did Zena. Then, the newly evolved Bayleef wrapped her vines around Demitri. “Let’s evolve you next,” she said.

    <><><> ​

    “Humans…?” Owen repeated, still trying to grasp the concept. “What do you mean, the human world? So, you used to be human?! But—but I thought humans were just mythical creatures!”

    He had so many questions to ask. Was it true? Was Brandon the Steel Guardian because humans really were made of metal? Did they eat metal, too? Or did they eat stone? There were so many rumors about humans—there was no telling which ones were true. They were even more unknown than Mew and Arceus themselves—if Owen ignored the past moon or so.

    Brandon laughed. “No, they’re far from mythical,” he said. “If anything, they’re less impressive than Pokémon. They don’t know moves, and they can’t really stand up to a Pokémon in a fight unless they’re very highly trained. They cheat and use special tools instead. Tools like these.” He reached over to the platform and picked up one of the strange, red-white orbs.

    Rhys quickly went on his guard.

    The very fact that Rhys, of all of them, was on his guard put Owen on edge.

    “Don’t worry, this one doesn’t work,” Brandon said. “This factory hasn’t been used in ages. The stuff on this assembly line is basically useless.” He dropped the orb to the ground, where it split into multiple fragments.

    Owen slowly relaxed, but couldn’t help but focus on his peculiar wording. The ones on the assembly line didn’t work? Then which ones did?

    “So,” the Machoke went on. “I take it you’re here to have me join in your little games? Star’s little underlings against Arceus’ Trinity against Eon’s subjects.”

    “Uh—hang on, what? To all of those things,” Owen said, holding a claw to his chest. “I’m not Star’s underling, and what’s this about a Trinity? And Eon, uh…”

    Brandon eyed Owen curiously. “You mean you aren’t aligned with Star or Barky?” he said. “Or Eon?”

    “Aligned? What?” Owen squinted at Brandon, but then remembered the Promise that Barky had asked of him, and the one that Star nearly did, too. He shook his head. “I’m just… I’m just trying to make things right,” he said. “I want to stop the Hunters from killing the Guardians so we can just relax. It’s too hard to live alone like they’ve been… I don’t want that. For anyone.”

    This caught Brandon’s interest. The Machoke stopped surveying the walls and stared directly at Owen. He approached, his metallic feet making loud, clanging echoes across the abandoned factory. When Owen took a few steps back—and Amia took a warning step forward—Brandon raised his arms with a smirk. He settled for where he stood, about five paces away from Owen’s group.

    Brandon hummed thoughtfully. “…You… you’re still a Charmeleon.”

    “Y-yeah,” Owen said, holding his position with tensed muscles.

    “Which means you can’t handle your true form yet. Like an awkward cocoon.”

    “U-uh, I guess you could put it like that,” Owen said.

    Brandon looked at Gahi next, kneeling down. “And you. You must’ve gone back to being a Trapinch, so you can’t handle it, either.”

    “Yeah, what of it? I’m workin’ on it. Lay off.” Gahi clicked his jaws at Brandon. “I can evolve any time I want!”

    “Oh?” Brandon said.

    “Y-yeah, eh… just gimme a second and I bet I could.”

    “So, if I have you evolve right now, you can handle being a Vibrava?”

    “Y-yeah! Totally! …Yeah, Owen?” Gahi asked. “I ain’t crazy as a Vibrava?”

    “What? You were fine,” Owen said. “Were—were we crazy as that before, too?”

    He looked at Amia and Rhys; they both looked away. “Ngh—so you didn’t even tell me that? How come this guy knows more about me than I do?”

    “Well, Arceus told me about it, mostly,” said Brandon. “We chat. You know, he can be a real gossip if you know how to ask questions the right way. I’m part of the Trinity. Steel, Poison, and Dragon Orbs happen to be under Arceus’ loyalty. And we’re all too strong for you, so I’d recommend you just head on back. Not even Rim wants to take me on.”

    “You don’t feel all that strong,” Owen muttered.

    “How about you come up to my face and say that?” Brandon asked.

    “Maybe I will,” Owen said, flame brightening a bit.

    “Ohh, look! You’re growing a spine!” Brandon clapped his hands together, creating a loud clang. “Aw, hey, I’m just kidding around. I get it, you’re still sealed away. Still. Don’t think you can take me on. I’m keeping you around because I like the chat and I haven’t had a good fight in decades. Do you know how boring it is meditating for years at a time? Very.”

    “W-wait,” Amia said, “we didn’t come here to fight if we didn’t have to.”

    “Oh?” Brandon said. “Then how come you brought two Fire Types, a Ground Type, and a Fighting Type to the Steel Guardian’s place?” he asked. “C’mon, I’m not stupid.”

    Rhys flinched. “We were—just being careful, in case you were hostile.”

    “Aside from the pretty one, you brought a Hunter and two Synthetics to meet me. You’re lucky I didn’t kill you guys on the spot.”

    “P-pretty?” Amia said. “Oh, dear…”

    “We’re sorry if our arrangement was suspicious. I should have considered that,” Rhys said formally. “But we truly do want to do this peacefully, and it’s only for the benefit of the Guardians. I would like to point out that I made a Promise to one of the other Guardians to never kill one of your kind again. I can assure you that I am, by divine contract, safe. Will you come with us?”

    “No deal,” Brandon said, holding up his hand. “I’m with Arceus on this one. Gathering the Orbs together is just asking for trouble, and I’d rather not stir the pot.”

    “Did you make a Divine Promise to not come with us?” Owen asked.

    “I made a Promise to keep myself away from the other Guardians,” he said. “It’s not a violation to allow them to approach me like this, but I’m not about to come with you guys. Got it?”

    “But… but it’s not safe!” Owen said. “What if Rim gets even stronger? The Hunters already have three Orbs. What happens if they get more…? At some point, won’t you be overpowered?”

    “Maybe,” said Brandon, “but I think Arceus has a better chance at handling them than I would, if that happens.”

    Owen thought about this. Arceus could handle an overwhelming power—he believed that much. He was the Creator, after all. He witnessed his power firsthand; only Star could counter something like that. But if that was the case… “Then why doesn’t he just do that now?” Owen asked.

    “What do you mean? They aren’t a threat to him yet, so why bother?”

    “Yeah, but why bother letting even a minor threat grow? They could eventually take him down. Shouldn’t he just… I dunno… smite the people who are trying to overthrow him?”

    “Well… maybe,” Brandon said. “Maybe he’s showing them mercy by giving them an opportunity to take it all back, or something.” He shrugged. “Or maybe Star gets in his way if he tries. She’s pretty shady, you know.”

    Owen grumbled. He refused to admit he had a point, so he just snorted flames out his nostrils.

    “Look,” Brandon said, “it’s not like I care all that much. I agree with him, so I’m gonna sit right here and keep things the way they are. It’s… the best thing to do.”

    “The best…? What’s that even mean?” Owen said.

    “Ahem.”

    Amia jumped in surprise and spun around. “Wh-who—?”

    “Hi, Hecto!” Owen waved. “I thought I sensed you. Uh… how come you’re here?”

    The canid Zygarde made a soldier-like trot toward the group and gave a nod in greeting to Amia. He addressed the group, “I am stationed here to keep a close watch on the factory and Brandon. The artifacts that are here cannot be tampered with. Destroying this place would risk releasing these objects into the ocean, which could then spread them essentially anywhere that has a shore. Therefore, it must simply be contained.”

    “Okay, I get that,” Owen said, “but what is this? And why doesn’t Arceus just annihilate the factory? Like, he totally could do that if he wanted, right?”

    Brandon shrugged. “Maybe,” he said. “Or maybe he’s saving it for a rainy day.”

    “You’re the least helpful Guardian we’ve ever talked to,” Owen said.

    “What, is being helpful my job?” Brandon said. “Then where’s my pay? Besides, I’m far from the least helpful. Didn’t the Fairy try to crush you?”

    “Y-yeah, but she’s friendly now,” Owen said.

    “She probably just thinks you’re a big toy, y’know,” Brandon said.

    Owen twitched. “What’s your point?!”

    “I dunno.” Brandon shrugged. “I haven’t been able to chat with folks that aren’t my spirits for a while. Talking with them gets kinda samey. Maybe I like chatting after all? Hah. If me a thousand years ago could say that…” He shook his head.

    Hecto watched the exchange without changing his expression. When the idle chat died down, he said, “Brandon, perhaps you should explain to them what these mechanical spheres are.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” he said. The metal Machoke looked at the orbs on the production line and shook his head. “That’s the legacy of humans. Their ambition to be the strongest species in the world by doing nothing more than manipulating your kind. By capturing, controlling, and indoctrinating Pokémon to do their bidding. Their battles. Their wars…” Brandon tapped a finger on his crossed arm. “All of it in the name of human ego.”

    He snorted. “I’ve been there. I’ve been a human. I know exactly what it’s like to be on top, how it feels to be in control—but I’ve also seen what it means to be on the bottom. And I’m not about to put this world through that by leaving this place unguarded.”

    Owen stared. “How can… what’s made in this factory be able to do something like that? How can any single species be that powerful? Everything has a counter, doesn’t it? Like, if there was ever, uh, maybe a Rock Type uprising, I’d be in pretty big trouble…”

    Brandon looked at Rhys. “Should I show him?”

    “Ngh… I suppose Owen’s curiosity won’t let me say no,” Rhys said. “Amia, Gahi, Owen, I need one of you to go forward as a volunteer.”

    “A—A volunteer?” Owen said.

    “I’ll do it,” Gahi said. He wobbled forward and looked up. “Okay, what’s this gonna be fer?”

    Brandon looked up and waved his hand gently in the air; something fell down. It was another one of those orbs, though this one shined brighter, and looked a lot newer. “I kept these ones safe, but I guess it’d be good to get rid of one for this,” he said.

    “That one’s a different color,” Amia said. Instead of being red and white, this one was white on the bottom and black on the top, with yellow lines.

    “Yeah, this one’s stronger. Just in case this guy puts up a fight. Trapinch…” Brandon hummed. “I’d say since he’s at his best, catching him would be a fifty-fifty shot with this. Maybe a little better. It’s been a while. You ready?”

    “Sure. Go fer it. What’re yeh gonna do wi—”

    Brandon tossed the ball; it hit Gahi on the head.

    “Oy, what was tha—!?” The ball opened, and a light enveloped Gahi. In less than a second, the Trapinch was gone, and the ball fell to the ground, wiggling.

    “Gahi?!” Owen and Amia said. Rhys lowered his head.

    It shook a few times, almost violently, like someone was struggling inside. And then, the wiggling stopped, and there was a quiet click noise. Owen’s heart sank. “Wh-what… what happened?” he said, taking an uneasy step forward. “Gahi? A-are… are you in there?”

    “He is,” Brandon said, approaching the sphere. “He’s probably disoriented right now. But he’s in there. It’s not easy to get out once it seals them. That’s what the click was.” He leaned down and picked the ball up. “Humans would capture Pokémon in these capsules. We called them Poké Balls for that reason. This one is an Ultra Ball—about twice as strong as the average Poké Ball, those red ones.” Brandon looked down at the little button, but didn’t press it. “Hey, Gahi? You hear me? Why don’t you try escaping, huh?” He held the ball flat on his palm. “I’d send you out the traditional way, but I want to show how hard it is for a new ‘wild Pokémon’ to escape these things.”

    “Wild? But Gahi isn’t wild!” Owen said. “He’s a little weird, but that’s because he’s a Modified Pokémon, not wild!”

    “Same difference. Any Pokémon not under the control of a human is considered wild,” Brandon said. The ball wiggled weakly. “That’s how the culture of humanity went. Sure, there were exceptions among them, but for the most part, you had to be under the dominion of a trainer to be considered not wild.”

    The ball wiggled helplessly again.

    “Guess Gahi can’t figure it out. Alright, Trapinch. Come on out!” Brandon tossed the ball; at the apex of its throw, it opened. A white light emerged, poured onto the ground, and solidified into Gahi.

    Gahi wobbled a few steps and turned around. “Wh-what was that?” he mumbled. “Was… was weird. Felt real weird.”

    “Weird, huh?” Brandon said. “To be honest, I dunno what it’s like.”

    “It was kinda like I was just… floatin’ in there,” Gahi said. “Didn’t have a body. Felt… I dunno, weird. But I guess it was okay… felt kinda relaxed, eh…” He looked off. “I guess it was fine.”

    “Yeah, it’s not bad, in itself,” Brandon said, but then looked at Gahi. “D’you wanna go back in?”

    Gahi looked tempted.

    “W-wait! Gahi, maybe don’t?” Owen said. “We don’t know why that happened, but you shouldn’t just jump back into that thing! You disappeared! That’s—that’s crazy!”

    Brandon nodded. “This is how wild Pokémon are tamed. They’re put in a stress-free, cozy environment. It’s not like we mistreat them. I’ll give humans credit for that much; the vast majority of trainers treat their Pokémon with respect and kindness, one way or another. And living in those Poké Balls, it’s like a little bliss to them, compared to having to tough it out in the wild. When they’re captured, they realize this. They’re pretty smart, even if they’re wild. They put it together that humans can take care of them. In return, they serve the human. In itself, it’s not a bad system.”

    Brandon looked down. “I was a trainer. I had lots of Pokémon, all loyal to me, and I took care of them. They were my partners. …No. They are my Partners.” He gently tapped his metallic had on his chest, making another clang. “My Pokémon are still with me, as my Steel spirits. So, I’m not going to deny that this technology made our lives better. But you know what? It can make lives a whole lot worse, too.”

    Brandon crushed the Ultra Ball in his hand. It shattered and fell to the floor. Gahi flinched, as if his home had been destroyed right in front of him—but the feeling was fleeting. The Trapinch sank to the back of the group, wordless.

    “Are you okay?” Owen asked quietly.

    “Y-yeh, I’m fine,” Gahi said. “Jus’… weird, is all. That whole thing. But I dunno. I guess I prefer walking around normally.”

    Owen watched Gahi for a bit longer, but then reached down. He picked him up; to Owen’s surprise, Gahi didn’t resist. In fact, he pressed his head against Owen’s chest again.

    Brandon continued. “I don’t want someone taking advantage of this technology here, either.”

    “Then… why not destroy the factory carefully?” Amia said. “If you don’t like this technology, why don’t you just…?”

    “Again, I dunno,” Brandon said. “Arceus said to guard it, not destroy it, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ll trust him on that one.” Brandon tapped his chin. “Well, no. That wasn’t the whole story. I had him slip one day that he wanted to save it for a crisis. Apparently, it’s been used before?” He shrugged. “Wasn’t around when that happened. Or it’s just been so long that I forgot. What year is it?”

    Owen frowned. “But… our mission is to bring you with us,” he said. “If—if we can beat you, would you come with us?”

    “Mmmm…” Brandon tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I Promised Arceus. That being said, I bet if I sweet-talked him enough, we can revoke it together. You just have to prove yourself. You’re on good terms with the guy, right?”

    Owen’s shoulders fell.

    “Yeah, I figured,” Brandon said. “But I’m not gonna make it hopeless. If you impress me enough, I’ll maybe think about coming along with you guys eventually. But with all that said, I’ll fight you anyway. It’s in your blood, and you’ll feel like trash if you didn’t get some fighting in, right?”

    Owen winced.

    “Yeah!” Gahi said. His spirits were already back to normal. He squirmed until Owen let go, landing on the ground with a little thud. “That’s right, yeh got it! So, at leas’ fight us, eh?!” He looked up at Owen, bumping his massive head against the bottom of his knee. “Oy, you gonna fight?”

    “H-huh?” Owen asked. “Y-yeah! Of—of course!” he said. Even if they weren’t going to bring him back, a fight sounded like fun regardless. “Fighting… battling… it’s the best!” he said. “Even if it’s in my instincts… it’s not like I’m hurting anyone!”

    “Well, you kinda are.” Brandon shrugged. “But I know what you mean. But if I fought you, this wouldn’t be fair. And my Pokémon… they feel the same way you do, in a way. Even if they know, now, that they were raised to like battling… it doesn’t really leave you. And I guess if it’s okay, it doesn’t hurt to have a proper fight now and then. Heheh…” Brandon created an orb of aura energy from his palm. “I’ll teach you a tradition of the human world. It’s about our Pokémon battles when we aren’t fighting in wars or other pointless things like that. Okay?”

    “A traditional human-world Pokémon battle?” Owen said. “Sure! Okay!”

    There was a little glint in Brandon’s steely eyes. “Heh… alright.”

    “Now, hold on,” Rhys said. “There’s no need for any of this.”

    “H-huh?” Owen looked back. “What do you mean? It’s fine to do this, right? We can win him over!”

    Rhys glared at Brandon. The Machoke smirked back.

    “Right…?”

    “We can’t leave, can we?” Rhys asked.

    “You could try,” Brandon said.

    The levity drained from the room like blood from an open wound. “Wait,” Owen said. “We can’t… leave?”

    “Not until I get my fight,” Brandon said, nodding. “Besides, that’s what you wanted, right? C’mon, your instincts are screaming to fight me, aren’t they?”

    “Nuh-no,” Owen said. “I’m in control of myself. I don’t feel a thing.”

    “You know, for someone with Perceive, you’re a bad liar,” Brandon said. “Look, I’m not gonna be coy with you. Fight me and I’ll let you go.”

    “Oh,” Owen said. “Okay. I—I guess I can work with that.” It wasn’t as if they had a choice. He had a sinking feeling they didn’t want to fight Brandon seriously on his own turf.

    Brandon nodded. “Arceus is telling me he wants to see you in action, and that’s all. Human’s honor, I won’t do anything more than that.”

    “Human’s honor,” Rhys said with a bitter snort. “That hardly means anything.”

    “What, and you have more, Hunter?” Brandon asked.

    “N-now, let’s not escalate things,” Amia said quickly.

    Brandon rolled his metal eyes. “Whatever.” He then tossed the aura energy; it formed into four Pokémon that mirrored their appearances. “My Pokémon used to have forms of their own, but they’ve gotten used to other bodies. So, I think it’d be appropriate if they mimicked you guys, huh?”

    “Oh, okay!” Amia said, quick to attempt to steer the tone of the factory in a positive direction. “I think that’s fair, but… you know, I think I’ll sit out, if you don’t plan to come with us. Why don’t we just have a battle between Gahi and Owen and their mirrors?”

    The two Pokémon mimicking Rhys and Amia seemed disappointed at this, slumping their shoulders. “No fair!” the double of Rhys said.

    Rhys flinched. It even sounded like him. And that childish tone…

    Gahi opened his mouth, amused. “Heh. Wish our Rhys was fun like that.”

    “I heard that.”

    “Hey, hey,” Brandon defused, “y’know what, if that’s how you’re gonna be, why don’t you guys just fuse three-three on them, huh?” Brandon tossed two more spirits out; rather than form into steely bodies, they went into the backs of Owen and Gahi’s metallic doubles.

    Owen blinked. “Fuse?” he said. “That’s… that’s possible?”

    Brandon stared at Owen, but then glanced at Rhys and Amia. They both looked away. “Uh, yeah,” Brandon said. “I mean—yeah, it’s uncommon, weird actually, but it’s definitely possible for Mystics, spirits—Just hold on.” Brandon gave a nod to the metal Lucario and Gardevoir. They melted into a puddle of metal. Then, the Owen and Gahi doppelgangers stepped onto one of the puddles each. The metal wrapped around them and clung tight, sinking into their bodies. Owen felt a wave of power radiate from the two that remained. He took a reflexive step back. “W-wow…” he said. “That… that feels so… strong.”

    “Fusion of this kind amplifies the aura, and therefore the power that is output by the Pokémon battling. So, to keep it fair,” Brandon held his hand parallel to the ground and lowered it; a strange field enveloped the metallic fighters, “I’m gonna suppress their power as if they’re just a single Pokémon each.”

    Owen looked at Gahi, and then at his opponents. “Okay. So, we’ll fight on even terms. That’s fine. Gahi, you think you can take them on?”

    “Heh, nobody’s better at being me than me. I’ll beat ‘em.”

    “Hmph, we’ll see,” said Brandon. “You’ll see the true strength behind Pokémon and their trainers.” The Machoke swung his arm forward, “Alright, guys! I’m gonna call you guys by what species you are, so don’t get confused!”

    “Right!” the two—six, technically—of them said. They both entered a battle stance.

    Owen briefly wondered why Brandon was agreeing to this fight. He sounded like the least committed Guardian ever for joining them. Even if he won, what would come of it? Not to mention Rhys and Amia simply sitting back for this. Were they conserving their energy in case Brandon attacked? That had to be it.

    How thoughtful of them. That meant Owen wouldn’t have to worry as much. Besides, the fight was tempting. He just had to keep on his guard. Gahi was antsy, anyway. He deserved to blow off some steam.

    “G-good luck, dear,” Amia said, stepping away with Rhys. She said quietly to him, “What does he mean by the true strength?” she said.

    “Hm… I believe I know what he is referring to,” Rhys said. “But we will have to see.”

    Brandon eyed Rhys again. “So, you wanna be the referee for this?” he said. “Maybe the… Referhys?”

    “Never say that again,” Rhys said.

    Brandon shrugged. “Suit yourself. Alright. Guess I’ll call the start. Ready… begin!”

    Owen and Gahi both opened with their usual moves—Owen with a plume of fire, and Gahi with a zig-zag dash shrouded in shadows.

    “Trapinch, counter with Feint Attack! Charmeleon, Dragon Claw!”

    The Steel Pokémon obeyed, rushing right for their respective opponents. Gahi landed his Feint Attack with a powerful tackle, but his mirror did the exact same thing, knocking them both away from each other. Despite being made of metal, he seemed just as durable as Gahi; Brandon must have adjusted them to mimic their exact battle capabilities.

    Owen’s Flamethrower hit its mark, but it didn’t leave a burn as Owen would have hoped. The Dragon Claw hit with full force, leaving a light gash along his chest. “Ngh—!” Owen tried to rush back, thinking about his next move. He didn’t hear Brandon’s next order in the rush of battle, but he had said something.

    “W-wait! Hello?” Owen saw his opponent running to the side, away from him. He fired a Flamethrower to get his attention, but he missed; instead, they both went after Gahi, striking him from both sides.

    “Ngah—!” Gahi rolled on the hard concrete and struggled to stand up. Owen breathed another beam of dense flames toward them. Charmeleon countered with an orb of white light, softening the blow. Trapinch, meanwhile, formed a wad of mud in his mouth and fired at Owen, partially obscuring his vision. “W-wait! That’s not—”

    Coordinated, Charmeleon pushed Owen back with another claw coated in dragon embers. Trapinch followed up with another Mud Slap, almost completely blocking Owen’s vision, now.

    “Alright, he’s weak enough. Watch out for Gahi!” Brandon yelled. “Charmeleon, use Flash Cannon! Trapinch, Iron Head!”

    “Of course they’d know those.” Amia sighed. “Ohh, why is he losing?! Is Brandon cheating? They should be at a disadvantage by Type, shouldn’t they?”

    “No,” Rhys said. “They are at a disadvantage… but Brandon isn’t cheating. Their powers are equal.”

    Gahi groaned, rolling across the ground. He was done—he could barely get off from his back. Owen was trying to get the mud off of his face.

    “No matter how good you are at having a strategy,” Rhys said, “when you are in the heat of battle, it can be difficult to make the right decision. Owen, in his current state, isn’t able to strategize and battle at the same time without distance; he can buy time to do so… but Brandon needs no time. As an observer—as a trainer—he is able to guide his weapons, his partners, with a much clearer head. Fewer mistakes, and more knowledge of the field, augments his Pokémon’s power in immeasurable.”

    “Just being commanded makes them stronger?” Amia said.

    “Not in and of itself,” Rhys said. “But it allows them to focus entirely on execution. There is no need to think about what to do next—if the bond with your trainer is at its best… you can put all of your trust into his commands and focus entirely on your next move, thinking in the present, and let your trainer think in the future. You stop thinking about what to do next, and you start thinking about what to do now. The focus it provides is, well… You see the results.”

    Owen knelt to one knee after the third Dragon Claw, clutching at his chest. “Th-that’s not fair,” he said, hearing the explanation. “That’s three on two!” Owen shouted.

    “Hey, nothing’s stopping them from giving you commands,” Brandon teased. “Alright, guys! Finish ‘em off!”

    A white light enveloped Gahi. Both of Brandon’s Pokémon flinched in surprise.

    “Oh…?” said Brandon. “Well, would you look at that…. Hey, Trapinch. Mirror Gahi’s new bod’.”

    The light faded just in time for Gahi to see his new, mirrored Vibrava opponent. His antennae twitched a few times, and he beat his wings tentatively. “Heh… finally,” he said, but it was less celebratory than Owen remembered. He knew why. Gahi probably figured he’d gone through this scene countless times before. Perhaps he was even remembering those moments. But that wasn’t important now—it looked like Gahi still had some fight left in him.

    “Hah!” Gahi said. “C’mon, round two, let’s go!”

    Brandon couldn’t help but laugh at Gahi’s enthusiasm. He then eyed Owen carefully. “…You know what,” Brandon said. “You’ve got even more power flowing through you, yet you aren’t evolving. What’s up with that?”

    “I, uh, that, uh,” Owen clutched at the bag strapped to the side of his body. “That’s because of that stone I have. The Everstone? Oh, and it’s kinda an Eviolite amalgam, too, so I’m not too disadvantaged while I’m not evolved. That’s what Nevren said.”

    “Oh, so that’s what’s keeping it down?” Brandon said. “Everstone… huh. Nevren…” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That clever old geezer. Guess that thing is pretty good. I take it if that ever parts with you, you’ll evolve right away?”

    “Yeah. So, I’d appreciate it if—”

    “Charmeleon, Vibrava. Steal the bag.”
     
  12. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Huh. Interesting. So, it was a Poké Ball factory... like the one in Kalos. Or fanon ones people tend to associate with Silph Co. I guess this means Brandon came from a world of humans and pokémon, then. The big question, of course, is just what happened to that world. Maybe it's tied into why Star and Arceus are the way they are right now... unless, as I postulated before, those aren't their originals forms and they were either humans or regular old 'mons given a healthy dose of godly powers somehow. But, yeah, something dramatic must've happened to change the world from a prototypical one of trainers and 'mons to what we have right now. (*loud cough*)

    As far as the actual chapter itself, well... I suppose the Team Alloy non-sequitur is, erm, I guess "harmless" would be the best way to describe it. I'm certainly no strange to writing non-sequiturs like that, so I can't fault you or anything. But — and this might have to do with seeing your thoughts on Discord — it does have this general feeling of being shoved into the chapter just for the sake of giving Demitri and Mispy some focus. And I say that because the strokes you're hitting — their worry about their sense of control and remarking on their innate desire to fight — are all subjects that have been tackled in far more detail from Owen's perspective. It all feels like a rehash, with nothing particularly distinctive to make Mispy's and Demitri's situations feel unique. I think that might be why I've kept harping on Team Alloy. It's just a product of the way you structured the story. Sure, Owen has the Guardian/Mystic stuff to be concerned about... but that's interwoven with the fact that he, like Team Alloy, is a mod. They share that circumstance, but because you introduced the whole concept while focusing solely on Owen and had most of the aftermath of that revelation deal only with Owen while Team Alloy were relegated to the background for, like, a solid dozen or more chapters, I, as the reader, can't help but shrug. I don't feel much about their worries about their mod status, because I've already read through this whole cycle from Owen's perspective and he's got a lot more shit to deal with, so I'm, at best, apathetic to their plight at the moment.

    But that's not the meat of this chapter, is it? No, that really comes from Brandon. And, really, all I can say is that I feel like this isn't the last we're going to see of the stuff Brandon brought up with the whole trainer/pokémon dynamic. I'm not going to delve into the whole philosophical side of things. I know trying to write out a justification for why the relationship is a positive one is bound to piss someone off. I think your explanation worked well in my book. Like I said, I want to see if there's more to it beyond this "trainer" battle... because otherwise it seems like a bit of an anime exposition dump. Y'know, one that's meant to explain certain mechanics for one battle, only to get left alone. It did strike me as strange that Rhys understood the dynamic that well. Maybe he's got a bit of a past where Brandon is concerned?

    I'm interested that he's allied with Arceus, at least. The fact that Arceus didn't give him solid reasons for keeping the factory alive is, of course, meant to arouse suspicion... but it sounds less inherently malicious than some of Star's reasoning and more a case of Arceus not thinking straight... likely because he's lost his damn mind. Interesting that the Trinity have some shared weaknesses going to them, while also offering some coverage.

    (shouting in the distance) Damn it, stop making them sound like saiyans!

    Pretty sure Owen said this exact same line while reflecting on his mod status before, because I'm 90% sure I saw this quote and made the same snarky response I'm going to make now: "Yes, you're pocket monsters. D'oh ho ho ho ho!"

    Thank you ADAM, you're a big help, as usual.

    Game of ThronesOrbs, by Nam O.H. Ysip.

    Fusion is just a cheap tactic to make weak pokémon stronger!

    No, keep saying it. I demand more Rhys puns.

    Somewhere, in the far reaches of Ultra Space, Nebby cheers enthusiastically.
     

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