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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation

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

  1. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 35 – The Hunters’ Leader

    Upon returning home, Owen felt exhausted. Despite not needing sleep, he wanted it. Zena offered for him to rest near the pond inside her home again, and he happily agreed, though he realized soon after that his bed might not be big enough for him. That gave him an idea. He was planning on visiting the Grass Realm while he slept—or was that technically meditating?—so he felt it’d only be appropriate if he switched to his Grassy form for the night. His tail curled around his body and his limbs slowly dissolved into a tapestry of vines. He then focused on his wings; they went from green and leafy to actual, thick leaves, which he used as blankets.

    Then, his limb-vines twisted around the leaves of his tiny bed. He curled around his self-made nest and closed his eyes, though he could still sense Zena staring at him.

    “Uh, is something wrong?” Owen asked.

    “N-no, nothing,” Zena looked away. “I was just… interested in how you decided to sleep,” she said.

    “Oh. Uh, is it weird?” Owen looked up, simultaneously part and on top of his bed.

    “…Yes. That’s a bit strange, Owen.”

    “I mean, it’s no weirder than you becoming water and sleeping as the lake, right?”

    “I… I suppose so,” Zena said. “You aren’t going to turn into a giant flower next, are you?”

    “I don’t think I’ll try,” Owen said. He curled around again, readjusting his vines. Something about resting against a thick bed of vines felt familiar.

    Slowly, he drifted off to sleep.

    <><><> ​

    Nevren returned to Hot Spot Cave under the cover of darkness. Lit only by the mushroom glow, he tilted his head to the side and narrowly dodged a Moonblast.

    “Sorry!” Willow said.

    “Quite alright,” Nevren replied.

    Willow skittered toward him; Nevren held out one of his spoons for her to land on. “Are you back from your boring paperwork?” she asked.

    “Yes, though I fear there is still quite a backlog remaining,” Nevren said. “Is Anam resting in his home?”

    “Yep! He was talking to himself.”

    “Talking… to himself? Ah, you mean to his spirits.”

    “Yeah. But I dunno what he was saying.”

    “Well, thank you, Willow.” He lowered his spoon and she hopped off. “What are the others doing?”

    “Mostly meditating. I saw Manny trying to summon someone, but he was too blurry to see. Everyone else is just being boring so the mortals can sleep.”

    “Mortals. What a funny word for the Synthetics,” Nevren said. “Well, I will be going to Anam now.”

    “You sleep with Anam?” Willow gasped. “I knew it!”

    “Pardon?”

    “Rhys is gonna be sooo upset!”

    “…Pardon?”

    “You two are mates, right?” Willow asked. “You and Rhys? I thought you two were. But it’s you and Anam instead, huh? I didn’t think you’d be like that.”

    Nevren stared at Willow.

    “Are you the one that keeps sending Rhys love letters and Pecha berries? That’s what Demitri told me. He keeps getting them and sometimes he hugs a huuge pile of letters when he thinks nobody’s watching. You seem like you’d write a ton of letters!”

    Nevren walked on. “I do not send Rhys letters. That is from an old, close friend of Rhys. They speak through telepathy, but I suppose they also enjoy physical correspondence.”

    “Are they mates?” Willow asked, sparking. “Are you mad that Rhys is still in love with him? A secret admirer?”

    “It’s hardly a secre—we are not mates. We never were. Rhys is with Elder.”

    “Elder? That’s his name? Is he really old?” Willow hopped onto the bottom of Nevren’s mustache. “How come we never see him? Did they have a falling out? Do they have kids?”

    “Two males cannot have children.”

    “Not with that attitude!”

    Before Nevren had a chance to reply, his bag suddenly beeped.

    “What was that?” Willow asked.

    “A message from the Association. I must take this. Please, some privacy.”

    “Oh. Okay.” Willow hopped from his mustache and scuttled toward Enet’s home next. Upon hearing a low growl, she redirected herself to ADAM’s polished abode.

    Nevren spun around and glanced at Valle in the center of town. He then turned back and went for the exit of Hot Spot, blinking once. With a simple Teleport, he was at the entrance again.

    “Eon,” Nevren said into his communicator, “it is very late.”

    “Actually, it’s very early.”

    Nevren looked at the sky. Dark blue. “My word.”

    “Nevren,” he said. “Do you still have that Waypoint set up in the Chasm?”

    “That’s an ancient Waypoint, Eon, but yes, I do have it in my Badge, and it has been transferred into theirs. Do you intend to visit the Dark Guardian next with their help?”

    “Later. I’m coming over first.”

    “…Pardon?” Nevren said. “Was the plan not to use the Guardian’s own shroud to mask your presence while taking it down? That was the plan.”

    “Owen evolved, right?” Eon asked.

    “Yes, he has. But—”

    “Then I’m coming over.”

    “Now, Eon, I warned you that it may happen early. He’s not ready for—”

    “I’m coming over.”

    “Eon, no. Patience. The rest of the Alloy has not evolved. Owen’s memories are still sealed, as are theirs. And, frankly, I’m not sure if—”

    “I’ll just unleash them. It’ll work out!”

    “Now, Eon, the likelihood that it will ‘work out’ is—”

    The communicator buzzed.

    “Eon? …Eon?”

    No reply.

    Nevren lowered his hand, sighing. “Eon…” he grumbled, pulling out his bag to stare at a little Badge with a blue, glowing diamond in the middle. “…No. It isn’t worth it,” he muttered, closing the bag. He then looked into Hot Spot. “I suppose I should warn them.” He reentered the caves.

    <><><> ​

    The forest within Owen’s spirit was bright as ever, and the Charizard was happy to revisit the former Grass Guardian at night. While still ‘daytime’ within this realm, Owen was mentally exhausted and wanted a break. Owen looked at his hands. Orange. He hoped he was still Grassy in the real world or he’d be waking up with some serious neck pain.

    “Klent?” Owen called. “Hey, Klent! How do I look, huh?” he said.

    The spirits witnessed the transformation from within, but they didn’t see him in person until just then. They recognized the form instantly—but were unnerved at how calm he was compared to their first encounter, so long ago.

    “Owen,” Klent said. “You’re so… calm.” He floated a bit closer and prodded at his leg tentatively, nervously. The way Owen reacted was nothing like he’d imagined just days before.

    “Calm, huh? I mean—I guess compared to how I used to be…” He rubbed his left horn nervously. “I’m sorry if me being here is bringing back any memories. I mean…”

    The deceased Jumpluff shook his head. “If anything, it’s helping,” he said gently. “That was a long time ago. It’s good to see the same thing, in a different way. Amelia is a bit nervous, of course, but…”

    Owen felt her presence in the bushes and nodded. “It’s alright. I figure it’s gonna be the hardest for her. I’m gonna be leaving anyway—I wanted to see Star and Hecto. Have a few questions to ask.”

    “Oh? About what?”

    “Just some things I saw at the factory. And maybe whatever that was that happened down south.”

    “Ahh.” Klent nodded. “Well. I’ll be seeing you.”

    Owen nodded and walked straight ahead, following the rules of the spirit world. The bright forest he knew transitioned into trees with a blue, ethereal glow. Owen thought back to his last time there—he was a Charizard then, too, wasn’t he? But a normal one. He knocked a claw against the sharp tip of his horns. He wasn’t quite normal this time, but… he preferred it this way.

    He felt someone nearby. From the walking pattern and softness of the steps, it was pretty obvious who it was. “Hecto? Are you there?”

    “Yes.”

    Owen sighed. “You’re pretty much everywhere, aren’t you?”

    “Not precisely everywhere,” Hecto replied. “Are you here to see Star?”

    “Yeah, actually. Um, is she in her cave and stuff? I can just walk that way if you want.”

    “That will be fine. I imagine you are here to discuss our encounter in the abandoned factory. About Brandon, the humans, trainers, and their culture?”

    “I mean—more or less, yeah,” Owen said. “Like, why Barky wants to keep that factory there when he can just destroy it whenever he wants through Brandon?”

    “Brandon likely doesn’t have the power necessary to destroy the factory in its entirety,” Hecto said. “I also imagine he wants to use it as leverage.”

    “Leverage?” Owen said.

    “It is more advantageous to have the ability to use those items rather than nobody use them at all, risky as it is,” Hecto said.

    “Do you know why Brandon was sent from the human world?” Owen asked. “It seems crazy to think of a human that became a Pokémon at all. I mean—it’s crazy! I thought humans were just scary stories that Mom made up to keep me behaved. They’re real?”

    “They are, though they are not very strong,” Hecto said. “You have little to fear of them. A Pokémon with the same equipment would be significantly more dangerous. Additionally, there are no humans in this world anyway.”

    Just like before, a short walk was all that was needed to reach their destination. Where the trees began to clear out, Owen saw the rocky mountainside of the cave through which he had first entered Star’s domain. “What’s that mountain called, anyway?”

    “Star Mountain.”

    “…Oh.”

    He walked for a few more seconds when Hecto said nothing else.

    “So, uh, you’re saying that there’s a whole other universe with humans in it?” Owen said. He ducked under a particularly low tree branch; his tipped horns grazed against the dark wood, surrounding them both in little blue lights.

    “Hmm… yes,” Hecto said.

    “Wow…” Owen nodded, entranced by the shimmering shower. “That’s pretty cool. Millions of humans, all in one place?”

    Hecto didn’t say anything. Instead, he pointed out, “Ah, I believe Star is coming down now.”

    “He-ey, Owen!” Star waved from the mouth of the cave. She hopped out and floated until she was in front of the Charizard, bumping his chest. “Ha ha—look at you! All evolved and sane at the same time! Took long enough, right?”

    “No kidding.” Owen laughed. “Actually, I was a little worried for a few seconds, but I’m glad that it turned out okay after all. Um—Star, do you know if I can go insane again?”

    “On your own? Probably not, maybe—okay, possibly? But, let’s play it safe, yeah? You might still lose it temporarily, and that might slip into another reset, so keep it steady. And… just keep an eye out for Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy, still. They might make you go crazy again, but don’t think too much about it yet.”

    “That’s the second time someone told me that,” Owen said. “Just thinking about what they used to be could send me over the edge, just like that?”

    “I mean… maybe?” Star said. “Just try not to think too hard, okay? Besides, it’s probably still too blurry. I wouldn’t risk it.”

    “Ugh, okay,” Owen muttered. He didn’t want to risk everything for a little curiosity. But maybe if he did a little peek?

    “Hey, I know that look,” Star growled. “You already almost jumped into the Abyss like an idiot, so—”

    “Okay, that’s not fair! I didn’t even realize it!”

    “Well, be careful next time! We can’t afford to have you blacking out for a day or whatever that guy does.” She sighed. “Anyway, whatever, I’m actually glad you came. Look at you, all grown up! I mean, you’ve been a grown up forever, but, I mean it more in a literal sense. I mean, even then, you were kinda like a confused teenager or maybe a young adult most of your life, but—”

    Owen’s amused stare slowly turned into a glare.

    “What I mean is, uh—you’re a little above average in height for a ‘Zard, huh?”

    Owen took it with a resigned sigh. “Yeah, and good thing, too,” he said. “Last thing I wanted was to still be shorter than Enet after all that trouble she gave me for being small.”

    The most minute of smirks appeared for a split-second on Hecto’s face.

    “Man, Owen,” Star said. “I didn’t think you’d be the sort to care about height! But you’re right. You’d think Charizard would be bigger in general, huh? But no, they’re a little on the small side for pseudo dragons.”

    “Ngk—you take that back!”

    Star bumped her tiny fist on Owen’s chest. “Hey, let’s go someplace! What do you want to do, Owen? We should totally celebrate!”

    “C-Celebrate? Where? How?”

    Star flicked her tail; a dark blue portal appeared behind her. “C’mon! I wanna show you someplace fun. But I wanna invite the others. Zena’s sleeping, right? We should totally get her, too!”

    Star tugged at Owen’s claw, and he followed. But Hecto didn’t move. “Uh, Hecto?” Star said. “You’re invited, too, y’know!”

    “We may need to reschedule,” Hecto said.

    Star stopped tugging. “What do you mean?”

    “Owen should wake up.”

    “Huh?” Owen asked. He felt a sort of phantom sensation of someone pushing at his shoulder. He swatted gently at it, but then his whole body shook. “What’s…?” Little bubbles of golden light floated out of his body.

    <><><> ​

    “Owen, you must wake up. Owen!” Rhys said.

    “Muh—huh? What?”

    “Owen, get up! We need to leave.”

    “Uhh—”

    Rhys tried to lift the Charizard up. Owen dumbly stumbled around until finally shaking himself awake. He tripped over his own vines on the way, forgetting that he didn’t have proper legs to stand on. “What’s going on?” he said in a moan. “Is it morning? Just five more blinks…”

    “Follow me. I don’t have time, just follow me.”

    “Mrgh…” Owen sluggishly reformed his limbs, returned to his Fiery state, and walked behind him. Rhys urged Owen to go faster; grudgingly, he did.

    Almost everybody was in the middle of town; Demitri and Mispy were being carried out by Azu and Roh, while Gahi sped over to Owen.

    “Oy, Owen! Wake up!” he said. “We gotta run! Yer holdin’ us back!”

    “What do you mean?! What’s going on?” Owen rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

    Anam was fiddling around for his Badge; many others were doing the same. It looked like there was enough Badge power to bring everybody somewhere else. Owen felt something approaching, too. Now that he was more awake, he took the time to tune his aura to it. What was that…? It was an intense power, a bit away from the entrance to the cave. He couldn’t tell if it was stronger or weaker than that he’d felt from Zero Isle, but it was, at the very least, a lot closer—and a lot stronger than any other aura he’d felt before. He gulped. Why did it also feel familiar? And he sensed someone else, too. “Wait—I think I feel Rim,” he said.

    “Yes, you do,” Rhys said. “But don’t you also feel Eon?”

    “Th-that’s Eon!?” Now he remembered. The leader of the Hunters—the one who told Rim where to go, told Nevren what to research, Rhys who to fight. He was here? Now? “Why?” Owen asked. “Why’s he—”

    “I don’t intend to find out,” Rhys said. “Let’s go! We have to move!”

    Anam and the others raised their Badges.

    <><><> ​

    If it wasn’t for Owen’s tail or Rhys’ aura, they’d be blind in their destination.

    “Oh—goodness, how dark!” Amia said. She waved her hand in front of her, but even her blue flames seemed inhibited by the thick atmosphere.

    “This isn’t a normal sort of darkness,” Rhys said. “It feels like something more. Like our light is being… drawn away. I can barely see.”

    “Oooh… I don’t like the dark all that much…” Anam said, shivering. “Especially the kind where even the light doesn’t help…”

    Amia felt the ground. It was oddly soft, and had a lot of give, like thick grass. “What a strange material,” she said, standing back up. “I don’t know how to describe it, but… it doesn’t feel that good.”

    “Feels fine ter me,” Gahi said, rubbing at the ground with one of his feet. “Dunno what it is, though.”

    “It might not be a normal material,” said Rhys. “I’m sensing the presence of an Orb nearby. Anam—where did the Badges take us?”

    “Ah, I can explain,” Nevren said through the communicator. “We may as well multitask. I instructed Anam to take you to where there were sightings of a strange aura in a cavern deep within the ground, far to the south. You’re in the depths of a place known as the Chasm of the Void. We set up a registry here quite some time ago but found nothing the first time.”

    “Oh, no.” Owen looked around, but even his enhanced eyesight saw nothing. He had to work with his feelings instead; he sensed that they were in someplace quite expansive. He could fly quite a few body lengths into the air without any trouble. He also sensed that there was somebody watching them—but he had no idea where. It felt like everywhere… Perhaps that was literal.

    He remembered the swirling things in the inky blackness, and the eyes that stared at him when he Perceived them for too long. But he didn’t sense any of that this time. Nothing was moving. The darkness felt frozen and tense.

    Also frozen and tense was Anam, who was hastily looking left and right for something. Owen couldn’t tell what else he was doing, but he assumed it was because of Anam’s natural fear of all things dark and spooky.

    Owen could relate. There was some primal fear bubbling inside of him at not being able to see light, not even the fire of his tail. True darkness to the Charmander family line was practically a foreign concept. To be plunged into a place that he could not even see the light of his tail? Owen gulped, keeping it together for the sake of the others. Even in this complete darkness, he could still see with his Perception. And he could still sense that there was a lot hidden away in this darkness, staring at them from all sides. Silent.

    “Um—hello?” Owen called.

    “Owen, what’s wrong?” Amia asked.

    “I feel like… someone’s here, but I don’t know where, or… anything else.”

    “So, just that they’re here,” Rhys said. “Hmm. That’s concerning. Excuse me—Guardian! Please reveal yourself! We mean you no harm—in fact, we would like to help you! So, if you could just come with us…”

    They were answered with silence.

    “…A bit shy, don’t you think?” Amia said.

    “Maybe… nervous,” Enet said, looking around. She could relate—after all, with a party this large suddenly invading her home, she’d be afraid, too. And with how strong she knew they were, well—for all she knew, this Guardian was plotting to run away. “We’re… too big.”

    “Too big, hmm…” Rhys said.

    “Too big? Oh! Then I can just shrink us down!” Willow said.

    “N-no, no! We don’t need to do that, uhh—” Owen couldn’t tell where anybody was unless he concentrated on his Perception. They had to work with just voices. “How about we just… have one of us move forward, and maybe try to interact with this Guardian, or something? I know they’re still watching—I can feel it, y’know? So, if something bad happens, I’ll know, but I think they’re just nervous. So… uh… I guess I’ll go.”

    “Oh, I can go, dear,” Amia said, moving forward.

    “Ngh—”

    “S-sorry, Manny!”

    “Eh?”

    “Oh, you’re there? Then this must be Rhys.”

    “Y-yes,” Rhys said. “Can you not see my aura?”

    “No, I can’t. Can you see mine?”

    “…No. I can’t.”

    “Great, so even our aura senses are being blocked. That’s kinda powerful,” Owen said.

    “What is… aura again?” Enet asked.

    “Uh, the… I’ll explain later,” Owen said. “Guys? How far is everyone from everyone? Do we know? Uh—spread out your wings, or arms, or whatever, let’s try to figure out.”

    After a lot of fumbling, Owen got an idea of how close everybody was. They were scattered randomly within their range of warping, perhaps a stone’s throw in diameter.

    “Okay, uh… Zena, how about you slither forward a little, and try to talk to the Guardian?”

    “Mm, okay. Is this forward?”

    “No, uh—no, turn, turn, turn… okay, now go forward…”

    Owen ‘watched’ Zena’s advance, and once she was ten paces away, he said, “Okay, stop! That should be fine enough, uhh… okay. Guardian? Are you there? Is it okay if you come out now?”

    It was still quiet.

    Owen sighed. “He must be really shy…” he said. “Or…” He still felt threatened, Owen theorized. He looked around, but no matter how much he did, he wouldn’t see. Swiveling his head around was just useless muscle memory. “Well, uh…” But then, he did sense something else. But he didn’t like what it was. “Oh, no.”

    “What is it, dear?” Amia said.

    “Y-you can’t feel it?” he asked.

    “The darkness is dulling even our aura senses, Owen. Only you can sense what is here,” Rhys said. “What is it?”

    “Hi.”

    The voice was like ice on their spines. It was familiar and foreign; the sound was almost exactly like Rhys, but the tone was unmistakably unlike him.

    “Who—who’s that?!” Anam said.

    “Oh, me? I think you know who I am,” said a voice that sounded like Anam.

    “Th-that’s not funny!” Anam said. He pulled his tail around his body and gave it a tight squeeze, oozing fearful goo on the darkness below.

    “Eon…” Rhys hissed. “Why are you here?”

    Eon mimicked the sound of the last person he spoke to. “I’m here simply to say hello, perhaps investigate why you’re gathering the Orbs conveniently at the same time I am. Trying to stop me, I take it…”

    In the dark, none of the group dared start a fight. They didn’t know where anybody was—and if Eon was mimicking voices, he could easily make them hit each other. Perhaps they could take him on if they were all grouped against him—he wasn’t that powerful, right?

    “But… but why?” Amia said. “You’re the leader of the Hunters, r-right? So why are you doing this? Any of it, I mean? We just—want to live peacefully!”

    “You can’t live peacefully and live together at the same time,” Eon said. The careless tone combined with Amia’s voice made Owen want to vomit.

    In an effort to have Eon sound like anybody but his mother, Owen spoke up. “What do you mean, can’t have peace? Pokémon live in peace all the time together!”

    “But not as a Guardian,” said Eon. “Not with the power we all have in play. Not with the powers that are playing with us.”

    “Eh?” Manny said.

    “Do you really think you’re fighting for yourselves and for your peace?” Eon said hastily. It almost sounded rehearsed.

    “Uh—” Owen said.

    “That you really think that gathering everyone together so you’ll be happy is what Star really wants? You never thought that perhaps she has another motive?”

    “I mean—”

    “She had centuries to bring you all together, and only now, when I make my move, does she try to gather you together. Isn’t that odd?”

    “Wait!” Owen quickly said. “Star said that she made you guys, but then had a change of heart when you went crazy!”

    “Oh, went crazy!” Eon said. “What a story! Truly, I’m the crazy one for trying to do precisely what I was asked to do. By the way, made us? No. She conscripted us. I was supposed to gather the Orbs for her, but then she gets a change of heart and wants to stop it all.”

    “Yeah, because you killed them.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Wh—yes? You killed us! I mean—no, not us, the Flying and Ground Guardians!”

    “I did,” Eon said. “Or, I sent others to kill them, to take their Orbs. But I sent Elder first.”

    “Elder…” Rhys said. “You still believe in that?”

    “Of course,” Eon said.

    “Who’s Elder?” Owen asked.

    “Sounds old,” Gahi said.

    “We’re all old,” Demitri mumbled. “Rhys? Who’s Elder?”

    “He’s a Torkoal…” Rhys said. “He used to be the first person we’d send to a Guardian to negotiate whether we’d take the Orb or not from them. But… I thought you did away with that part of the plan.”

    “Oh, no, I still try,” Eon said. “The Guardians just don’t listen when he speaks to them. I just sent him on a mission to the Frozen Oceanside, actually. I wouldn’t bother going there at this point—we might have a new Guardian on our side, after all.”

    “Yer bluffing,” Gahi said.

    “Nrgh…” Rhys said. “You should leave, Eon. None of us can see anybody, and Owen can. You wouldn’t win in a fight here.”

    “Oh, I’m sure I’ll put up a good fight… but I’m not here for that.”

    Owen sensed Eon looking up. His body seemed almost impatient, like something—some aspect of his plan, that rehearsed speech, wasn’t going as he had hoped. Or perhaps he was waiting for something else to happen? Eon was tense about something. Owen struggled to figure out what sort of body he had, but his Perception wasn’t strong enough yet.

    “It looks like this Guardian is docile after all. Given how foreboding the Abyss was, I was thinking we’d have to fight him together, you know.”

    “Fight with you?” Zena said. “I’d sooner kill you with me.”

    Eon huffed. “Guardian of the Dark Orb!” he said in Zena’s voice. “If you wish to speak with Elder, I will be sending him over in a few days. I’d suggest you don’t make any decisions until he comes, so you can hear all sides of the story.”

    “All sides?” Owen asked. He felt Eon’s presence turn around. “W-wait! I’m—not gonna let you go! You’re going to answer my questions, and—”

    “Do you… still not remember me?” Eon asked. “You… you evolved.”

    “Star put a block on my memories so I didn’t go insane,” Owen said.

    “What?” Eon said.

    Owen felt Eon’s body shaking. The Charizard smirked, putting it together. Eon was here to try to control him now that his memories were back. Was that what Rim was trying to do? No—that couldn’t be it. Rim… seemed genuinely happy that he was at peace during that chess game. But now, with Eon, learning that he was fully evolved, he was upset. This reaction wasn’t at all like the Espurr’s. Was Rim working with Eon anymore? Did she defect from him, too, just like Nevren and Rhys?

    But that didn’t matter. All Owen knew was that he was fully evolved, and Eon was mad about it. It seemed pretty clear what that meant. “Yeah. So, you can’t control me, Eon.”

    Fists clenched. Eon’s body took a slow step forward, trembling. Owen could see only the darkness, yet he felt the intense, mad stare. “Owen,” Eon said lowly. “Come here.”

    “Yeah, sure!” Owen opened his mouth and blasted Eon with a Flamethrower; everybody ducked, feeling the heat, but Owen knew just where to aim. Eon couldn’t dodge well in the darkness; he bumped into somebody. They retaliated with an angry bite on his hand.

    “Ngh—! You little feral!” he shook his hand and knocked Enet away. She yelped.

    “D-don’t you hurt her!” Owen shouted. He swung his claws through the air, sending an Air Slash at Eon, suspecting that he was mimicking his form, based on the sound of his voice. He fired again; Eon didn’t feel like he was getting hurt at all. But he was being a nuisance—maybe he could buy some time for the others to escape. “E-Everyone! Try to get him! Maybe we can take his Orbs, or—something!”

    Several attacks slammed into Eon from all sides, though most of them missed or only grazed him. Eon’s low, impatient growl in Owen’s voice shook the air. “You can certainly try,” he said. “But I would be more worried about—your—friends!” Owen felt a strange aura pulse radiate off of Eon. He recognized this aura—and he clutched at his head, feeling his senses slip away. He had to focus to keep calm. Breathe. Easy. Slow. It felt like the exact opposite of Rhys’ Suppression Aura. The radiant blast went right past Owen, but it hit someone else. It had stopped prematurely against someone who had been flying blindly in the air. But that meant—

    “Nggg…. Rrrr….”

    Owen knew that growl. “G-Gahi! Gahi, stay calm! Stay—”

    A white light coupled with black sparks illuminated the room, briefly cutting through the darkness.

    “No!” Rhys fired a Suppression Aura, but it did nothing.

    “There’s no resetting it this time, Rhys!” Eon shouted. “You can’t torture them anymore! I’ve fixed your mistakes; thank me later!”

    The light faded; in a confined place like this, if Gahi lost it in a stressful situation… No, they might never get him back. “H-hang on!” Owen shouted. He grabbed a Badge and ran toward the light. He thrust the Badge in the air—and the two of them, just himself and Gahi, vanished from the void.
     
  2. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    This entire exchange is just... *kisses fingertips*

    Torkoil and Lucario... now that's a pairing I haven't seen yet. And all I can wonder is who tops.

    Is it bad that this gif is literally the first thing that came to mind

    This is... ADVANCED DARKNESS and obvious meme... check

    wtf owen you dont remember me im literally cryin and shaking rn this cant be happening

    ---

    Wow, Eon's a real smug bastard. It's all the worse when you know just how much power he has. Dying of curiosity to know what he actually looks like.

    This was a really suspenseful chapter, and it looks like only more is coming up! Excited to see how this continues, keep up the good work.
     
  3. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    34
    tl;dr version: quiet chapter is quiet.

    As far as deeper thoughts go, the banter was my favorite part about the chapter. There were a lot of great one-liners tossed around between the cast and some fun little dynamics such as super-stoic James delivering an "order" for Owen to take Team Alloy on a mission all with Mispy showing some little tsundere moments ("I'm not jealous of your evolution, you baka!"). I'm interested in the potential foreshadowing going on with Emily, here, but that's mainly because I like Lugia. It's a good birb. Needs pets. With that said, there was a bit of an "as you know" element going on to the first part of this chapter, where it felt you fell into that anime trope of reminding the reader of things they already know like how Zena can perform the Suppression Aura.

    Bringing up the dark guardian as the source of the Chasm of the Void is interesting and it sounds like they could even be a distaff counterpart of sorts to Anam just by the way Star's describing them... even down the whole dark vs. ghost dynamic as far as typings go. Interesting potential, there, especially with the slightly creepy Perceive stuff. What was less exciting was the actual Void Forest exploration bit. I know, you don't like writing the dungeon crawling stuff and it does show, but as far as an introduction to cursed dungeons go it falls flat for me. There isn't really any urgency and the potential creep factor is killed off when Demitri basically becomes a discount Shaggy for the sake of a laugh.

    One thing I did notice about this chapter (and a lot of 35 until THE DARKNESS) is that you had a strong tendency to structure your dialogue-containing paragraphs the exact same way. That being:
    "This is a sentence," X said. "And now I'm staying other stuff, too."

    I don't really thing there's anything inherently wrong with this, but you might want to consider trying to vary up your sentence structure a little bit so things don't go stale. Only bringing it up because someone pointed it out to me (possibly kintsugi, can't remember) and now I'm sort of hyperaware of coming across it in writing. You can check this chapter again if you don't believe me but, I can assure you, 90+% of your dialogue follows that same structure.

    That fox ain't right, I'll tell ya what. [cue Shane shouting angrily from the distance, "Do I look like a hick to you?!"]

    Well, someone's certainly happy, aren't they? [Lenny face]

    Poor Owen, doesn't understand he has shonen protagonist syndrome. He'll never get a normal day again. Also, why is mission randomly capitalized here? It's jarring...

    That's... speciesist? I'm sorry, you called me out on it, so I'm gonna do the same. :V

    Zena is Hydrate Bot from Twitch?! What a tweeeeeest!

    "... tch. Nothing personal, kid."

    Damn it, Anam, kids are reading this!

    You know your cast is large when the narrator lampshades missing characters.

    [​IMG]
    I like where this is going

    [​IMG]
    "Something wrong with spirit-nibblers, runt?


    35
    Willow has been reduced to the group gossip. So much for being a godly Guardian or whatever. I'm sure there's some sort of interesting dichotomy or whatever between Rhys and Elde, but I'm not gonna lie a lucario/torkoal pair is pretty far out there. It's also hard for me to poke fun at, because aside from saying Rhys is one of those guys who only cares about character, not appearance so good on him, I guess? Just makes him even more of a stoic goody-goody in my eyes. Someone needs a stern talking to, clearly.

    So, Eon's introduction. One of the issues with this scene in general is that, with the whole darkness thing going on, you have a lot of exhanges where you don't identify a clear speaker and it honestly got a bit confusing to tell who was saying what at some points. That's mostly before Eon showed up, since he apparently begin immitating everyone. Could he be a ditto? Who better to carry out Star's original will then, essentially, a knockoff. Or maybe it's Mewtwo or something. Whoever it was had to be able to teleport incredibly quickly, though given this fic just doles out powers at a breakneck pace, it could just be Eon's Mysticism or whatever. Perhaps his spiel was prepared but, at this point, considering he doesn't try to attack until Owen uses a Flamethrower (#OwenShotFirst), I'm not so sure he's really here to be malevolent so much as see what Owen's deal is. I still maintain Owen used to see Eon as his true dad or something, hence why he'd be very upset Star put a memory block on the guy.

    At least she's being honest. [lenny face]

    You tell him, Willow! Alternatively, if you want to jump universes, we've got an opening.

    oh my god she's inviting him to an orgy... I KNEW HE IT. He has a harem.

    Canis didn't post the pic, so I sure will...
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Thanks for the feedback, guys! I replied to you elsewhere, very valuable as always.

    Chapter 36 – Team Alloy

    Owen squinted at the morning light. After being in the pitch-dark Chasm of the Void, anywhere else in the world was a strain on the eyes. He saw the brightest light in front of him, shining with the last remnants of black sparks of anti-evolution energy. “G-Gahi?”

    The Badge had warped them to the outside of the Chasm in an emergency exit, though it was further away and further south than their previous visit. They were in a big, lime-green field of grass. He smelled ocean water—they must have also been close to the shore, though he couldn’t tell which direction it was.

    Owen felt lighter. Reflexively, he clutched at the bag by his side, gasping. While the bag itself came with him, it felt as if the rapid exit had jostled most of his supplies onto the ground when he warped out. What did he even have left?

    Even while he was checking his supplies, Gahi said nothing to him. Owen’s eyes finally adjusted to the light of the morning sun. Gahi, a Synthetic Flygon, was similarly slim as Owen was, but had scales with a blinding sheen. Even after the light of evolution completely faded, Gahi’s body reflected the sun well enough to make it hard to stare directly at him. It made sense—if Gahi’s entire specialty was agility and evasion, being hard to look at would add to the latter.

    “Are you… are you okay?” Owen asked. But he knew the answer. He could feel it radiating from his the explosively turbulent aura.

    Gahi growled, arms shaking. His tail flicked to the left, and then the right. The little fan at the tip of his tail cut through the grass with ease. He had a crazed look behind the red goggle-like, natural headgear on his face. His wings stretched wide and angled themselves to the light, blinding Owen.

    Owen squinted, realizing that Gahi’s instincts were taking over. He couldn’t let that happen. If he lost himself here, and he ran off, how would he catch him? What sort of havoc would he—no, what if he got mistaken for a mutant? It wouldn’t even be mistaken. He is a mutant. They could kill him. No, he had to deescalate.

    “Gahi, take a breath. Can you do that? Can you… can you meditate, Gahi?”

    Gahi huffed, bringing his trembling arms forward to stare at them. He clenched his fists the same way Owen did; the Charizard recognized this stance. He was trying to contain himself. He was still there. There was still a bit of him fighting to stay stable.

    “Gahi, it’s okay. Everything’s okay. Can you talk? Can you hear me?”

    He was still trembling, but there was a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. The mutated Flygon gave a shaky nod. He breathed, eyes closed, in and out. Owen watched Gahi’s aura nervously, but it looked like it wasn’t improving. It wasn’t completely unstable, but it wasn’t calm, either.

    “G-Gahi?”

    “Owen…” Gahi grunted, staring at Owen. It was hard to tell what was going through his head, but his eyes had a mixture of fleeting sanity and increasing fear.

    But he spoke, so Owen replied. “Gahi! Good! You’re still—”

    “Kill me…”

    Owen felt the color drain from his scales. “What?”

    Gahi staggered forward, glaring at him. “I can’t… think…” he said between breaths. His claws clenched, digging deep into his palms. “Hurry.”

    “I’m not—I can’t—that’s—”

    Owen saw the desperation in Gahi’s eyes. He could barely talk, yet those frantic, slit-pupils said it all. He wasn’t ready. Gahi wasn’t ready to be fully evolved, was he? It happened in such a stressful environment, by Eon’s hands, that he lost himself completely. His consciousness dangled precariously over a void larger than the Chasm itself.

    But to kill him?

    “Like Manny,” Gahi begged, taking another stumbling step. His wings suddenly jolted out, but then he flattened them against his back, grunting.

    “Manny?” Owen repeated, but then thought about Azu and the others. Owen could seal Gahi there and calm him down. But that would mean—Owen’s stomach lurched at the idea.

    “No, Gahi. I—”

    His mind raced. What could he do? He staggered back, his bag bumping against his chest.

    His bag!

    “Wait! I have something,” Owen said frantically, looking down. An emergency exit was always an imperfect jump from whatever place he had been to—in fact, it was such an emergency that he hadn’t gone far from his starting position at all. If he could just stall, the others would be here in no time.

    Why weren’t they already here?

    Owen frantically dug through his supplies. He had seconds. He brushed his claws against each and every one, feeling the residual effects of the blessings. He was looking for one that tingled his claws. A Stun Seed, or a Petrify Orb. Either of those would do wonders.

    But he didn’t feel a single one. He felt a great deal of soothing items, Heal Seeds and so on, but nothing to stop Gahi in his tracks. He didn’t take the time to identify the seeds specifically, but that’s all that was left inside. Seeds, and none of them useful for Gahi. No way to restrain him.

    No. He couldn’t kill Gahi. Even if he’d be in the spirit world—he’d still be dead. There wasn’t coming back from that. Even Star, Creator, was stuck there.

    “If you don’t kill me…” Gahi suddenly said, breaking through Owen’s thoughts. How much time had passed? It felt like an eternity, but Owen just realized it may have only been a few seconds.

    “I can’t,” Owen said. “Just—"

    Gahi suddenly lunged toward him. He had no guard. Owen saw three different ways that he could have killed Gahi right then. Air Slash on the throat. Flames to his face? Just cut off his air supply with nothing but fire. He could even let him come toward him and crush his neck with his claws. Did he have that kind of strength? Gahi was frail up close. Perhaps he did.

    But Owen refused to do any of them, yet his instincts made him attempt all three in some sick reflex. Fire erupted from his throat, blasting Gahi in the face. Cutting air circled around his claws. He reached toward Gahi’s no-guard approach and grabbed his throat with both hands. He watched the air slice through some of his scales, little green flecks dancing in the wind.

    The burns weren’t the most effective against Gahi. He still stared at Owen through mad, wide eyes. When he was in Owen’s clutches, he instantly stopped, muscles tense.

    Gahi was lucid. The insanity left his eyes, replaced by fear and tears. The Flygon’s arms twitched weakly, but Owen could sense from those muscles how badly he wanted to strike Owen back. It took everything in Gahi’s power to stay limp, waiting instead for Owen to end it.

    Nevren’s voice echoed.

    “If we couldn’t suppress you, and you were berserk, we’d have to kill you.”

    Owen shook his head, vision blurred with tears.

    “I wanna be… me…” Gahi begged. “P-please… hurry… I can’t… think…”

    Klent’s voice called out to Owen, but he couldn’t hear what he was saying. His thoughts were too muddled, too panicked. As far as Owen was concerned, it was just himself and Gahi. Someone that he barely knew, yet knew so much. Endless potential of memories that were only now returning to him, bit by bit.

    The fire in his throat faded away. His tail dimmed to a somber, small ember. The cutting air around his claws dissipated slowly.

    “I can’t, Gahi,” he said.

    No matter how Owen tried to rationalize it, killing Gahi wasn’t on the table for him. Even if he became a Grass spirit, Owen would be responsible for cutting off many opportunities for Gahi in the living world. He’d be tied to his Orb if he ever wanted to see the others. And a small worry in the back of his mind said that one day he won’t have access to that Orb anymore, or one day Gahi would resent him for taking away his autonomy as a living creature.

    He’d find a way. There had to be some way to fix Gahi. Even now, he was restrained against him. He had him where he wanted. If a Stun Seed didn’t work, he’d just hold Gahi in place like this.

    Maybe with Rhys, Zena, and Amia, it would be enough. He’d be a Trapinch again. Sure, he’d be a bit upset about it, since Owen would remain a Charizard—hopefully—but it was better than this.

    Owen realized too late that Gahi’s sanity had slipped away again.

    The Flygon roared, plunging his claws into Owen’s sides. His fighting spirit—some deep part of Owen’s instincts—flared up. Involuntarily, the fading wind around his claws intensified and then doubled. A flash of fierce, fiery rage welled up in Owen. And that was all that was needed. In that second of lost control, the wind cut through Gahi’s neck, across his face, over his protected eyes, and down his shoulders. Owen let go, but the wind blasted Gahi backwards. The Flygon’s claws left deep gashes along Owen’s sides, but Owen’s own grip on Gahi’s neck hadn’t faded, either, further slicing into his flesh.

    The Flygon crumbled, motionless at the end of his tumble.

    The Charizard’s fire faded after the seconds’ long slip. He watched Gahi blindly clutch at his neck, blood pouring mercilessly.

    Owen screamed. His roar shook the ground even more than his stomps did; he ran toward Gahi, eyes wide. “Gahi, n-no! GAHI! H-hang on. Just hang on! The others will be here soon, they—”

    Gahi reached up to Owen, claws digging into his shoulder. He dug a bit deeper, making Owen wince. “J-just like that,” Owen said. “Just like that, Gahi. Keep fighting and it’ll be okay. I promise.”

    The Flygon stared at Owen. He didn’t smile, but his eyes, behind the red lenses, looked almost peaceful. Like some simple plan formed by what was left of his mind had worked.

    “You… you did that on purpose,” Owen said. “You knew I’d—if you just set my instincts off, I’d—you—why’d you have to be smart?!” Owen roared. “You’re supposed to be an idiot! I’m the clever one! I’m supposed to be the one who thinks of every option! I’m supposed to see the way out! If you just let me think, I could’ve… I could’ve…”

    Gahi smirked through it all.

    Owen fell to his knees, reaching over to Gahi. “Why… of all the times to be smart… you actually chose now, to make the dumbest decision… you idiot… you idiot…!” He pulled Gahi closer, uncaring of the crimson that stained his orange scales. “Just wait. Wait for the others. Mispy can heal you, okay?”

    Gahi kept his grip firm on Owen. Whether it was his battle instincts or Gahi’s remnants telling him that he’d hang on, Owen didn’t know.

    The pain Owen felt was just a reminder that Gahi was alive. He tried to cover his wounds with his hands, feeling the blood push against his scales with each beat of his heart. Even if he was fragile, a Synthetic wouldn’t die so easily.

    “S-stay strong, Gahi. You’ve got this. Gahi?”

    His grip was weakening.

    “No, no no, not yet,” Owen said, holding him firmly. “Not yet. Hang on, okay?”

    Gahi’s grip strengthened, but not fully. They locked eyes again, and Gahi gave him a confident little smile. Owen coughed out a sobbing laugh.

    “Exactly,” he said. “Exactly…”

    But Gahi’s smile vanished when a golden light poured out of Owen’s bag and onto Gahi. The Flygon’s confidence and peace rapidly transitioned into panic and anger.

    Owen looked at his bag again. Reviver Seed. Was that his last one? He rummaged through his equipment again, but didn’t feel a Reviver. But he did feel one that lacked any sort of blessing. One whose magic had been used up. And then he looked back at Gahi again. He wished he hadn’t.

    He didn’t see Gahi die. But he saw all sense of self leave the Flygon’s eyes like a fading ember.

    “Gahi?” Owen choked.

    The Flygon stood up, staring at Owen. He mirrored the motion, yet had to step back from the shock. He was almost fully restored.

    “Gahi, are you okay?” Finding his courage, Owen stepped forward again. “Are you calm? It’s okay. The others will be here soon. Medi—meditate! Meditate, Gahi!” Owen grasped onto that hope. “Remember that? Breathe in, breathe out. Close your eyes. Try it. Please…”

    Owen saw a flash of recognition in those red eyes. And then they closed.

    Just in case, Owen pressed his foot a bit deeper into the ground, setting a Fire Trap. Then, he stepped away. Some strange dance of caution and trust. “You’re okay,” Owen said. “You’re just fine.”

    “Just fine…” Gahi repeated.

    Owen let out a mixture of a sob and a laugh. “Yes! Yes, Gahi! Exactly!”

    Gahi’s aura calmed. Owen sensed the flare die down to normal levels, but it stirred. He held his breath. He could hold it forever. The longer he could stall, the more likely it would be that the others would find them.

    The aura suddenly erupted like a flame disturbed by a drop of water. The Flygon made a sort of short roar, almost like a grunt or a bark. Then, in an instant, Gahi went from standing away from Owen to being mere inches from him. Reflexively, the Charizard stumbled away, saved only because Gahi had stopped directly on top of a Fire Trap, potent enough to leave Gahi with a burn.

    “G-Gahi! Calm down! You almost had it!” His words weren’t going through. Given how fast he was, there was no way Owen could run away. He was out of options. Gahi couldn’t run off, and he couldn’t let himself get killed, either.

    He’d have to calm him down the old-fashioned way. “Okay, so if that’s what you want—then—fine!” He’d have to beat him down instead. He already did it once. How hard could it be to do it again? But he couldn’t deal with striking him lethally. His stomach twisted at the mere thought, so he already decided that this would be a sparring match.

    He moved too quickly for Owen to keep track of. His Perception struggled to pinpoint Gahi’s rapidly changing location, and he briefly wondered why Gahi was attacking him in the first place. Weren’t they supposed to work together as Guardian killers?

    That’s it! Gahi just wanted to train! That had to be it. And training he would get. A small grin crept at the sides of the optimistic Charizard’s mouth, wings flaring outward.

    Owen opened with a Flamethrower in a wide semicircle, sweeping his head across the lime grass. Gahi jumped and beat his wings once, going high into the air while embers and burned blades scattered below him. Some deep part of Owen, the Grassy part, flinched at the sight.

    But Owen already planted his trap; the larger embers that floated above the grass sank into the ground, becoming Fire Traps. The entire field was covered in them. He hoped the remaining grass was lush enough to withstand the flames. There was no other way for Gahi to attack while on the ground, and as long as he stayed down there, too, he’d be just fine.

    Wait. As a Flygon, didn’t Gahi know Earth Power?

    The ground erupted beneath him, triggering the Fire Traps that he planted. “Oh, come on!” Owen shouted over the explosions. He beat his wings; the Ground attack was easy to avoid, but the exploding Fire Traps were another story. Inconvenienced by his own traps—in the back of his mind, Owen had an inkling that there was a better way for him to use them.

    Perhaps he could try something aerial instead; he had a few techniques in mind. He beat his wings again, at the same altitude as Gahi. Then, he loosened more embers from his wings, creating little, glowing orbs of fire in the air—floating Fire Traps. The little balls of light almost reminded him of the aura sea, but rather than cyan-silvery embers, they were a bright yellow. The technique came to him easily now that he was fully unleashed. It was perfect! There was no way—

    Gahi sped through the traps and tackled Owen; he hit him with such velocity and moved through the air so quickly that the traps exploded too late. Flashes of fire burst behind him while Owen felt as if a few bones in his body broke from the impact.

    Gahi growled and dug his claws into Owen’s shoulders.

    “Gahi—stop!” Owen wheezed. The maneuver felt foreign. Gahi didn’t have the strength to grapple, usually, and he’d normally avoid it in combat.

    Owen shook himself free, pushed away, and launched an Air Slash from his right arm, compressed air shrinking and expanding to force the Flygon out of the way. Gahi hissed back, finally taking a hit, but Owen was still at a disadvantage. He couldn’t take many more of those strikes. Now that Gahi was completely submerged in his battle mode, he wasn’t nearly as frail or prone to attacks.

    And he was so fast—his traps didn’t have the time to activate. He moved unpredictably; he had no pattern to read, no way to guess where he’d go next. And even if he did have a plan, Gahi would take him out by then. Even with foresight, even with his Perception, he didn’t have the speed to keep up with him.

    That’s when a memory returned. Gahi and Owen had sparred like this all the time. He sparred with everyone—but except for a small handful of flukes… Owen lost against Gahi almost every time. He was just too fast. And the way this battle was going—

    “Gahi! I g-give up!” Owen said. “You win! Okay? You win! Training over!”

    Gahi halted in midair. His eyes were crazed, but the fact that he stopped—did that mean he got through? Is that all he wanted, just to win?

    “Gahi?” Owen said.

    The Flygon took another wingbeat forward. It was calmer than before, but with intent. Owen didn’t like it. He took an equivalent wingbeat back. “Hey, let’s talk, first, okay? Gahi? Can you hear me?”

    Gahi puffed softly. “I win…”

    “Y-yes! Yes, you win! You win, win, win—so, we can stop fighting, right? Is that okay?”

    Every step that Owen took backwards was matched by an advance from Gahi. What was going on? Why was Gahi behaving so strangely? Why did he grab him? That wasn’t part of his normal strategy. In fact, now that he thought about it—when Gahi tried to grab him back then, it felt as if—

    Gahi dashed right at Owen, grappling against him by the shoulders. And he felt it again—he knew what was going on, now. Memories rushed back, but he had no time to make heads or tails of it. Flashes of old images—Gahi right next to him, and then vanishing—intense power washing through his whole being—and then—and then… nothing.

    “Gahi, STOP!” Owen pushed him away with an explosion of wind. Something strong tugged at his shoulder blade—he looked at the left one and saw that Gahi’s claws were inside of him, some strange light pouring out where they made contact. But when he pushed away, Gahi broke loose—and his body, to his horror, meshed itself back into a solid form, like he was made of some kind of loose clay.

    Nevren—what twisted design did he create? And then Star’s words echoed.

    “If you ever see Demitri, Mispy, or Gahi evolve to their synthetic forms… Run.”

    Gahi had flinched; Owen took advantage of this and fired another Air Slash, landing a direct blow. Gahi, dazed, was spun around, clutching at his head. Owen’s best plan of action was to fly away right then—as far away as he could. But he couldn’t go straight into town—not when Gahi was like this. And he couldn’t go back into the Chasm, either; Gahi could rampage in the dark and hurt himself. He needed someplace open. Somewhere that he could possibly tire himself out. They were both Synthetic, after all—they had similar amounts of stamina.

    The salty smell in the air gave him the clue he needed. The ocean! Owen beat his wings, muscles burning even more than his flames, and rapidly gained altitude. He saw the ocean once he was high enough and accelerated desperately. His heart raced; he could hear the beat over the wind. The adrenaline fogged his thoughts; that feeling of power from Gahi was addicting. A tiny, tiny part of him wanted to go back and let Gahi approach. And this made him beat his wings even faster, trying to outfly his own thoughts. Horror and defiance overtook his mind in a futile attempt to snuff out his instincts.

    He was above the ocean. He had only seconds to relax; his Perception was at its maximum from the stress coupled with his Mystic power. He could sense every single creature below him in the water; every bystander and curious feral, and something else, too—something big, deep below. The dizzying, overwhelming amount of stuff in the open area made him falter. Yet he couldn’t turn it off.

    He also felt a powerful presence behind him—Gahi—and several more emerging from the Chasm. They saw him—Rhys and the others were chasing after him right then. Finally! But he had to last until they caught up.

    Owen looked back. Gahi was hot on his tail—even at maximum speed, Gahi was going to catch up to him in seconds. “No…! I…! There has to be a way…!” Owen slashed at the air behind him, sending another shockwave. Gahi dodged with ease, twisting in the air.

    Five seconds away. Owen planted his Fire Traps in the air again and then an Air Slash to stop Gahi, but he flew all around the whole trap and barely lost even a second of time to it.

    Three seconds. Owen, desperate, dove down, halving his distance from the water.

    One second left. A thousand possibilities filled Owen’s mind. He sorted through countless possible scenarios and maneuvers with his one, precious second. Everything above and below, ahead and behind. An opening, a weakness, an exploit, an opportunity.

    He found no way out but to beg. “Gahi, PLEASE!”

    They collided; Gahi grabbed Owen’s shoulders again, and they were face to face, in a tailspin toward the ocean’s surface. “Gahi—we’ll go crazy—we can’t…! We can’t…!”

    Gahi stared at Owen, and that’s when the Charizard realized it. He saw his eyes. A struggling light of sapience in pupils narrowed into slits. Wide, frightened eyes. Gahi didn’t want to, either. Yet it was also like staring into the eyes of a starved feral. He didn’t want to do it—but he had to. It was a compulsion—an instinct, a core need of his being. There was no logic. Gahi knew he couldn’t handle it. But his design was too strong—he wasn’t Mystic like Owen. He had no special power to fight his instincts. His mind was all he had, and that mind was the problem.

    A memory of one of his old lives washed over him, as just a Charmander, chatting with Demitri and the others.

    “Team Alloy. That’s a pretty cool name.”

    And then he heard Demitri’s cheerful voice.

    “Alakazam Nevren helped us come up with it! It’s really cool. Something about how stronger metals are made from weaker metals working together. It’s awesome!”

    And so, Gahi shoved his head into Owen’s neck. Owen gasped, like the wind was knocked out of him; a hug and a squeeze that went straight to his core. Gahi’s head vanished into him, followed by his neck, and then the shoulders. The Flygon’s body was halfway inside of Owen’s chest. He helplessly grabbed Gahi’s sides and tried to pull him out, but it was like his body became quicksand. His vision blurred. And the worst part of it all, what made Owen more terrified and helpless than anything else—was that he loved it.

    Gahi sank deeper and deeper until nothing was left. Owen’s body shifted and twisted into something new—a second set of wings, angular like a Flygon’s, and a shiny, green body. The single flame at the end of his tail became three embers that resembled a Flygon’s fan. Owen’s head was filled with the crazed thoughts of a Synthetic. Gahi’s mind bumped against Owen’s, and that last, remaining part of the Charizard begged for Gahi to back out. But it was too late.

    A new memory emerged, one that wasn’t Owen’s.

    “Gahi,” Demitri said. “Do you think we’ll ever see Owen again? He seemed so sure, but…”

    “’Course we will!” Gahi cheerfully said, clicking his jaws. “If Owen says so, he’s right. That’s just how he is. I’m gonna trust him. Maybe it ain’t gonna be fer a while, but y’know what? We’ll be together again one day.”

    Demitri and Mispy smiled, just slightly. If only out of faith, they nodded.

    “Then even if we forget,” Mispy said, “we’ll wait.”

    Owen felt something below him in the ocean. It was watching, but it was too far below the surface for him to tell what it was. A new memory—this one felt familiar, and Owen hoped it was his own—floated to the front of his thoughts.

    “Is the monster gone?” Owen squeaked, peeking out from under his Rawst bed.

    “All gone, dear,” Amia said, sighing. “Owen, come on out. See?”

    A Magmortar stepped in.

    “There’s no monster! This is just Alex, remember him? Your Dad?”

    “No… It was a monster… I saw it! For real!”

    Alex fidgeted, bumping his cannons together.

    “Well, the monster is gone,” Amia said, gently holding Alex’s shoulder. She flinched at the fire, but then pushed through, as if she got used to it.

    “Where’re my real parents?” Owen asked, puffing an ember in their general direction. “My Mom’s supposed to be a Charizard, right? Where’s my awesome Dragon mom?!”

    “Owen, dear, they… first of all, Charizard isn’t… We found your egg out in the woods, remember? Ohh, you must have hit your head pretty hard to forget all this.”

    “NO!” Owen shouted, pointing an accusatory claw at them. “I… I know what happened! You… took me away from them! You—” Owen suddenly stopped talking, eyes wide. “W-wait… wait, I… I remember, they… Gahi… and…”

    Amia and Alex exchanged looks. A white aura enveloped Amia’s hands.

    “Wait, no—I’ll stay quiet! I’ll—Please—! I don’t wanna forget! I wanna be me! Don’t make…”

    He was fading. The memories were vivid, and then scrambled, and then gone. Frantic thoughts exploded through his and Gahi’s fused minds. He didn’t know what thoughts were his, Gahi’s, or both of theirs. Soon after, they didn’t think of much at all.

    <><><> ​

    “There!” Rhys shouted. “I see them! But…! N-no…! It… how did it happen so quickly?! Owen—He should have—!” Rhys shook his head. “We were only within the Chasm for seconds at most! How are they so far away?!”

    Amia took in a sharp breath to steady herself. “We—we can still help! We just have to—we just need to…!”

    Demitri groaned, tugging at his tusks anxiously. “How can we keep up?! They’re so far away! We can’t fly! Even if I evolved, I can’t fly!”

    Amia shook her head, looking around. “Oh, I’ll just—” Amia hesitated by some internal conflict, but then pushed her arms forward, summoning a single spirit. A Hydreigon. “Some of you get on him,” she instructed the others.

    “H-hello,” Hydreigon said timidly, bumping his head-hands together. “I can carry two of you.”

    Rhys helped to guide Enet onto him, hopping on right after. He couldn’t fight if he flew on his own and would have to use Amia’s spirit instead.

    Zena slithered toward Demitri and Mispy and urged her to get into her back next. “Let’s try to get close,” she said. “Maybe we can calm Owen down that way, the three of us.”

    “Right,” Demitri said.

    With everything arranged, all of the Guardians, Rhys, Demitri, and Mispy lifted to the skies. Nevren wasn’t present, but a quick talk in the communicator indicated that he was at Kilo Village, coordinating with other Hearts to set up possible rescue operations.

    Demitri pointed ahead from atop Zena’s back. “They’re falling. Are they…? Did they stop fighting?”

    “There’s just one…” Mispy said. But her leaf quivered at the power she felt radiating from the frantic aura.

    “They fused together,” Rhys stated lowly. He saw the pair, now one, land in the water. “We don’t have a lot of time—we have to get there quickly and see what we can do. Try to split them apart—they must be adjusting, but if we take too long…!”

    “Let’s speed up,” Anam said. “I’ll try to help as much as I can! Even if I need to…!” He gulped.

    “What should we expect?” Manny said. “I’ve seen fusion befer with spirits, but I dunno what these guys’re gonna be like. They’re at the edge o’ stability, right? All my spirits’re going crazy right now, Yen’s trying ter keep ‘em in check. I think this stuff is triggering some memories they lost.”

    “They were pushed to their very limit,” Rhys said. “And a fusion of all four—I don’t know how we’d be able to handle it. Demitri, Mispy, I need you to be very careful—do you feel yourselves evolving?”

    “I felt the Unleashing Aura a little, but…” Demitri shook his head. “I think—I’ll be okay.”

    Mispy nodded. “But Gahi and…”

    “We need to watch out for that. Owen’s Perception and Gahi’s speed means that they will both be fully aware of any of our advances, and fast enough to dodge them.”

    “What—then how do you hit him? How can we stop him!?” Amia said.

    “Simple,” Rhys said. “We have to generate an attack that they simply can’t avoid. Aura Sphere from two sides, or something that will overwhelm their lacking offenses. Focus on unavoidable strategies that overwhelm. Understood?!”

    “Right!” They all said.

    Zena looked down at a dark spot in the water, deep below. It moved oddly. “Hm?” she said. “Is that…?”

    “Um—what do we call them?” Willow asked, sitting atop Rhys’ head. “Gahi and Owen—what do we call them if they’re fused? Do they answer to something?”

    “They’d probably answer to either name,” Rhys said.

    “Gawen! Calm down!” Willow yelled. “Meditate!”

    “I don’t think that’s something they’d pick,” Rhys muttered, readying a powerful Suppression Aura. “I wish it wouldn’t have to come to this—but they have to return to their lowest forms. We’ll have to start again. But hopefully it will be faster this time.” He fired while the fused Pokémon was still trying to get out of the water. It was a direct hit; Amia followed up with her own blast, which also hit.

    Zena hesitated. “I’m sorry, Owen. Please don’t forget this time…” She ultimately joined the blast, combining her Suppressing force with the others.

    All three blasts pierced, permeated, and enveloped the fused pair, but when it faded…

    Nothing happened. The Flygon-Charizard amalgam stared up at the group.

    “This…” Rhys said. “This is… the worst-case scenario.”

    “Worst-case…?” Anam repeated worriedly, a swirl of inky blackness forming on his cheek. He slapped it, clutching at the slime of his face, and the darkness faded.

    Gawen, for a split second, vanished from view, leaving only a high trail of water where he was once swimming.

    “Behind us!” Rhys said, knowing this pattern. And indeed, he was there, high above and preparing a strike—a Flamethrower. Mispy immediately created a barrier of energy. Zena fired a Hydro Pump through the barrier to neutralize the blast, creating a wave of steam. This forced Gawen to fly to the right to dodge the plume.

    “To the right!” Rhys said, but then they vanished again. “Where did—” this wasn’t part of a pattern he was familiar with. He turned around and saw a flash of Gawen’s body, but that was it. Little pinpricks of light surrounded them, difficult to see under the rising sun. That’s when he realized— “We’re surrounded by his traps! Be careful!”

    “H-how surrounded is surrounded?” Amia asked.

    Manny spotted little pinpricks of energy scattered on all sides. “Pretty surrounded.” He clicked his tongue in thought. “I’ll fix it. Oy, Rhys. I want yeh ter just… throw as many Aura Spheres as yeh can, yeah?”

    “Y-yes, of course. But the traps…”

    “We’ll shield against it. Mispy!”

    “Yes!”

    “Keep yer Light Screen up!”

    “Okay!”

    Manny hopped over to Rhys and took his bag. “Yeh picked up what Owen dropped when he escaped, yeah?” he said.

    “Of course,” Rhys said.

    Manny held out his paw; Rhys hastily tossed the bag over.

    “Knowing him, he planned fer this.” Manny rummaged through the bag. “Somehow. He’s gotta… hah! He totally did!”

    “H-he did?” Rhys asked. He didn’t have time to be surprised. “What did he bring?”

    Manny grabbed something from the bag—a Dungeon Orb of some kind. He thrust it in the air; Gawen hissed and blasted another plume of fire, but the Orb took effect right after. A shocking energy radiated out and the Charizard-Flygon fusion stopped in his place, frozen. Zena reflexively created an invisible platform just beneath Gawen to keep him from plummeting to the ground.

    “Hah! It worked!” Manny said. “Well lookit that, can’t fight against a Petrify Orb, can yeh?!”

    The fusion’s body twitched, small muscle movements indicating that they didn’t have much time. “Uhh—I don’t think that’s working,” Anam said. “Owen’s Mystic power is undoing my blessings! He’ll move soon! I—” He gulped, suddenly clutching at his head. “No, please…” he begged to nobody in particular.

    “Okay, what else did he pack… eh… Oran Berry, some Elixirs, eh… hah!” Manny tossed another item toward Gawen, encasing it in a small sphere of aura—it landed right in front of him and exploded in a fine, gray mist. The petrification ended, but Gawen retched and clutched at his throat, roaring in anguish.

    “Wh-what did you do?!” Amia said.

    “Vile Seed,” Manny said. “We stand a chance! C’mon—we gotta get ‘im now, while his defenses’re shot!”

    Rhys hesitated, but agreed. “I will do my best,” he said, and then aimed a paw right for Gawen.

    The fusion spat a Flamethrower at the group, dodging nearly every attack that they threw toward him. Willow learned that Gawen was at least partially Ground Type, as her Electric attacks did next to nothing; she transitioned to Moonblasts, but they were too slow to hit the speed from Gahi’s half. Zena’s Hydro Pumps missed completely; Anam’s halfhearted Dragon Pulses grazed him once, but that was all. It looked like Anam would have fired more, but a fleck of darkness mixed in with one of them made the Goodra clam up completely.

    ADAM, thinking he was clever, fired a Hyper Beam right when Gawen dodged another strike, but the Flygon-Charizard brought his wings together and blocked it completely with Protect. ADAM screeched, flailing in the air.

    Valle had little that he could do in the air. Desperately, he made his second motion in centuries and threw his own arm like a rocket. It exploded, and a few of the rocks grazed Gawen enough to slow him down.

    Rhys and Manny both fired Aura Spheres in an alternating rhythm. Impossible to evade, the spheres tracked him down, destroyed only if they collided with one of the many aerial traps; however, with the two Lucario firing, the fusion couldn’t get close without risking a hit from the harder attackers of the team. At first, it seemed like a stalemate, yet with nothing to do but dodge, it became clear that Gawen was at a disadvantage. Fatigue set in. Moves became sloppy and muscles responded less efficiently.

    “He’s getting tired!” Amia said. “We should get close to—to stop him!”

    “Working on it!” Manny said. But the fusion refused to stop fighting; getting close would just get them both hurt.

    Rhys looked at his paws—they were glowing a faint gold. “Ngh—” He suddenly stopped attacking.

    “Eh?! Rhys? What’re yeh doing?” Manny said. “I need yeh ter attack!”

    “I—I can’t,” he said. “If I go any further, I’ll risk losing my power. It’s as I said—I Promised not to kill another Guardian!”

    “W-wait! Then that means Owen and Gahi—”

    She turned to get a closer look. During the flurry, blood dripped toward the sea; every wingbeat Gawen made dropped a little bit more. Yet he kept fighting. “N-no…! E-everyone! We need to stop!”

    “Owen,” Zena breathed. She looked down again, spotting a great shadow in the ocean, exposed by the rising sun. Her eyes widened and recollection flashed in her eyes. “…We need to defeat him!” Zena announced. “Make sure that he hits the water!”

    “Wh-what?” Amia said, spinning around, betrayed.

    “Just do it—he won’t calm down otherwise! Make him hit the water!”

    “Why would—”

    Willow squeaked angrily. “Do you think we have time to talk?!”

    “We have to stop—before he dies!” Amia said. “He’s bleeding! Any more and there won’t be an Owen or Gahi to talk to!”

    “If we stop, he’s gonna attack, and there ain’t gonna be those two left in their heads anyway!” Manny said. “He’ll attack everyone! The whole town! Anybody—and he’ll be too fast ter catch up ter, too!”

    “Hyper Beam charged at twenty five percent,” ADAM announced.

    “W-wait! Not yet!” Amia said. “We can find another way!”

    “We don’t have another way, Amia. Just trust me!” Zena said. “I think if we just shoot him down—”

    Gawen dashed toward them but was beaten back by the shockwave of a neutralized Aura Sphere.

    “But he’ll die in the water!” Amia said. “He’s still part Charizard, and—and if he becomes too weak, and he lands in water, the water shock will—”

    “Hyper Beam at fifty percent.”

    Gawen roared. In a last stand, he powered through Manny’s barrage of small Aura Spheres and slashed at Manny, exploding the air right in front of his face. The Lucario coughed and fell back into Anam, cushioned in the slime, but was unconscious. Anam’s paws were black.

    “Please, no,” Anam said, pushing Manny away and onto Zena’s back. “Stop… go away…” The black fog around Anam’s paws intensified, but then shrank back, sinking into Anam’s body as a swirl of black ooze just below the surface.

    Rhys winced. “Amia, we… have to. He won’t stop.” He fired an Aura Sphere to keep Gawen slowed; his paws flashed dangerously. He couldn’t do another one.

    “B-but…! But there has to be…!”

    “Seventy five percent.”

    “Wait—no! It’s—” Amia could find her words. Nevren’s remarks echoed in his mind.

    Zena unleashed another beam of water. Gawen dodged it but stumbled afterward. An opening.

    “Fully charged.”

    Amia stared at Owen and Gahi’s fused form with wide eyes, like she wanted to take every detail of them that she could. There was nothing she could do to stop it. She had a mind to fly forward and take the blast herself—but the time for that had passed.

    ADAM fired. This time, Gawen was too tired to dodge; the Beam hit him directly, frying the scales on his front, splitting around to burn his sides. Smoke from his cooked body rose in small streams. He fell straight toward the ocean. Amia immediately dove down; Demitri and Mispy urged Zena to do the same, and she complied. Her slender form made it easy to catch up to Gawen; the closer they got to the water, the stronger a new presence felt, and the darker the water became. Amia didn’t notice it; she was too focused on her son.

    “Owen!” Amia shouted. “I’ve got you—M-Mispy! Mispy, please—heal him!”

    He was still falling. The fall would kill him—Amia knew it. The water landing would be too harsh on his already broken body. He was seconds from hitting it. Amia accelerated to dangerous levels just to catch up; she got below Gawen and held her arms up, using her Mystic powers to slow his fall. Hydreigon burst into a cloud of blue embers, moving toward Amia even faster than before. That left Rhys and Enet free-falling, saved only by another platform created by Anam. Willow jumped off of Rhys’ head and sprouted her pixie wings, speeding after the falling family.

    “I’ll shrink them!” she said. “That’ll slow the fall, right?!” But she was too far away to use her Mystic power. She tried to fire anyway, but it dissipated long before it reached them.

    Shortly after Hydreigon returned to Amia, a Magmortar emerged. Amia and Alex caught a look at Gawen’s face, burned as it was. For a second, Alex made eye contact with the fusion. He tried desperately to see even a small iota of Owen left in them. “Owen—” Alex said.

    Gawen let out a weak whimper.

    Alex smiled and wheezed with a strange mixture of a laugh of relief and a cry of sorrow. “Owen, it’s okay! It’s okay!” They were falling fast, but it was slowing. Maybe he’d survive after all, but they couldn’t avoid the water at their speeds. Alex pressed his body against the frightened amalgamation. Amia was too focused on slowing their fall without breaking Gawen’s body.

    Zena’s slender form allowed her descent to be much faster. She glanced back at Demitri and Mispy. Without any time to explain, she just said, “You’re going to hit the water. Get ready.”

    The Fraxure and Bayleef stared, wide-eyed, but had just as much time as Zena did to protest.

    She didn’t bother trying to slow down; instead, she liquefied her body and slammed into the water. In seconds, the water turned rough and white, swirling upward, softened with bubbles and foam. Demitri and Mispy screamed, slamming into it next; they fell limbs-first, arms and legs bending in odd directions. The shock knocked them both unconscious.

    “Owen, just hang on,” Alex begged. “We’ll get Mispy to heal you, and then we’ll find a way to calm you down. And then—“

    They slammed into the foamy water, which wrapped around and cushioned the broken, bloodied amalgam. The three flames along his body extinguished in the water, emitting a steady stream of hot bubbles instead, though that stream was weakening rapidly. The currents that Zena became pushed them back to the surface.

    “Are they okay?!” Willow screamed, landing on top of Amia’s head. “W-wait! Demitri, Mispy!”

    “I have them!” Zena shouted, briefly materializing her head to communicate.

    While broken, Zena could still sense their auras were strong, and their bodies breathing—if only because she used her own power to empty their lungs. Zena’s gentle currents kept their heads above the water. Alex had dissolved from the strike, returning to Amia’s spirit realm. But with Mispy unconscious, she wasn’t going to be able to heal Gawen.

    The Fire Guardian coughed out saltwater. She frantically held Owen in place. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her side; the source was a set of claws digging into her. She followed it to Gawen, one eye open, tearful and frightened and fading.

    “Owen—it’s okay. It’s okay,” Amia said, but it sounded more like she was begging. She looked up. The rest of the group were still dots in the air struggling to catch up.

    Zena rematerialized next to them, her body partway out of the ocean. “H-how is he?”

    Amia shook her head. “He’s—he’s fading. His aura, it’s…”

    Zena could feel it, too. Gawen’s aura was fading fast. The water and the stress and the blood—not to mention the sting of salt all over—was proving to be too much, even for them, or him, or it. Amia didn’t know what to call her son anymore, or what was left of him. Hot tears mixed with the ocean.

    The Milotic coiled around Gawen’s body. It felt cold. The blood gave her prismatic scales a red tinge. She pressed her head against his, wrapping her ribbons around his shoulders and neck to feel his pulse. Weak.

    Amia finally came to her senses. She held her hands against Owen’s chest, shutting her eyes. “Just… just a little… just a little…” she said desperately. Healing energy channeled pink light from her arms into Gawen.

    “Owen? Gahi?” Amia said. “Do you feel that? Are you… okay?”

    Gawen stared at Amia with a flickering light of recognition, red lenses obscured by droplets of reddening water. He tried to reach out to her. Amia immediately returned the favor—his grip was strong and savage, digging into her hands with intent to kill. And yet his eyes said something entirely different. The Gardevoir winced. She refused to let go.

    The others were almost there. Just a little longer. They could keep him under control. Perhaps tie him up, wait for him to calm down—would he ever calm down? Was he like this forever? No—Amia refused to believe that possibility. She could still see Owen and Gahi inside the beast. They both had to be there.

    Gawen refused to let go of Amia, either. But she was starting to wonder if it was because he wanted to kill her, or because he didn’t want to see her go away.

    Amia looked back at Demitri and Mispy, still floating with Zena supporting them with her tail as a makeshift raft. The Fire Guardian held her free hand toward them, blasting another Heal Pulse toward each unconscious mutant. Mispy was the first to blink awake, dizzy, followed by Demitri seconds later. They groaned in pain. The Pulse wasn’t enough to repair their broken bones. Amia readied another, feeling weak from how much energy she had used. “Just a little… more…”

    And then Gawen suddenly looked down, eyes wide. Amia and Zena followed his gaze, Willow struggling to stay atop Amia’s head.

    A dark figure was just below them, approaching fast. Glowing, blue eyes locked on, unblinking. As big as the Heart Headquarters, no—even bigger. The closer it got, the bigger it seemed.

    “Emily!” Zena shouted.

    The water bulged beneath them. Something rose from the surface—something big. A head, first, white in color with blue markings near the eyes. This was followed by a long, white neck and shoulders; everything else was submerged within the water, but Zena knew exactly what it was: a Lugia.

    The Lugia had appeared for only a few seconds. Amia had no time to react than to just widen her eyes as its great mouth closed around their entire, huddled group. Willow screamed, but in that final, unceremonious instant, the great behemoth’s jaws closed around them.

    Zena, Gawen, Amia, Willow, Demitri, and Mispy, in that final moment, were gone, taken by the Lugia to the depths of the sea.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  5. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 37 – Body, Mind, and Spirit

    The Grass Orb was silent.

    Nobody dared move. The spirits didn’t even speak—they could only stare, petrified, at what they thought would be the end of their cozy corner of eternity. He was laying there—Gahi and Owen, fused together as one entity.

    The only one moving was Star. The Mew floated over his unconscious body, inspecting every part of it. “They’re fused to the core,” Star mumbled to herself. “I don’t know if I can pull them apart without destroying everything we worked toward. It’d be from zero again…”

    Gawen was unconscious. The battle itself was a strain on their body, the stress of the encounter on the mind, and the strain of their powers on the spirit. To be passed out in even the spirit world meant that they had fought to the very limit. To their fortune, that gave Star the opportunity to theorize on what she could do.

    “What do you mean,” Klent finally said, “by fused to the core? From zero?”

    “This happened before,” Star said, looking back. “When Demitri, Mispy, Gahi, and Owen all fused together for the first time, something went wrong. Nevren said they weren’t ready—or something just wasn’t calculated right. What do you expect? Four minds merging into one, seamlessly and without error? In your dreams. Even I would need a few tries…”

    “So… something went wrong to make them go berserk?” Klent said.

    “Yeah. And I’m trying to figure out why now. It’s probably something really small that propagates throughout the system. Like an illness that spreads through the body. Ngh… The way Nevren had me solve it before was by forcing them apart. But that’s like untying a knot by slicing it in half – you’re going to have damaged rope afterward. To do it right… you need a way to untie them and still have their minds intact afterward. Then, they don’t have to heal the broken pieces of their selves…”

    “I think I follow…” Klent said. “But, how would you do it?”

    Star hesitated, looking the fused aura over. She shook her head. “Just give me a second,” she said.

    “He’s eventually going to wake up, isn’t he?” Klent said worriedly.

    “I know, I know—just—give me a second. I need to think.” She rubbed her head, squeezing her temple. “I have to see what their spirits look like.”

    “Spirits? But we’re already—”

    “No,” Star said. “Their literal spirit. Right now, this is a world of aura. But I have to… t-to open that up further.”

    Klent’s eyes widened slightly. “But that’s… Star, doesn’t that only happen beyond the aura sea? You don’t just pull a spirit from—”

    “I have to,” Star said. “I just have to be careful.” She breathed in, then out, and brought a tiny paw forward, glowing with golden light. It trembled, but she inched it closer to the scaly Pokémon’s chest. The shaking intensified and she jerked her hand away. “I—I can do this! Stop staring at me!”

    Klent flinched, as did the other spirits. They quickly looked down, shuffling where they stood.

    “This isn’t hard at all,” Star said. “It’s trivial, even. What’s a single—I mean, what’re two souls to a Creator? This is child’s play.” She held her paw against his chest again, trying to keep it from shaking. “Just draw the spirit out. Just draw it out a little.”

    A golden sphere emerged partway—just the top of the orb—from Gawen’s rising and falling chest. It swirled a bit, two currents twisting and turning around themselves to make up the single, unstable ball of light. Star winced—almost gagged—and took another steady breath. But then she felt something almost break loose and gasped, shoving it back into him. His whole body jolted, but remained unconscious, and Star pulled her hand away.

    “I—I can’t do it,” she said, hand trembling. “I c-can’t keep it together. Oh, God, why can’t I—this is supposed to be easy! I’m s-supposed to be a Creator! Why can’t I pull myself together when it actually matters?!” She shoved her hands to her sides, hitting the air. Nearby rocks and trees split apart, startling Klent and the others. She slammed her hands over her eyes next, breathing in sharply.

    Zygarde Hecto cleared his throat behind her. “Star.”

    “Not now,” Star said, sniffling.

    “This is important.”

    “I can’t do anything right now,” Star said, shaking her head. “I have to fix Gahi and Owen. That’s all I can think about now, okay?”

    Hecto nodded. “I understand.”

    Klent, Amelia, and all of the other spirits all stared at something behind Star, eyes wide. The Mew eyed them all incredulously, but then spun around. “Ng—!”

    Arceus stood before her, significantly smaller than usual. He was no larger than Gawen.

    Countless tendrils of light emerged from Star’s back, but Arceus held up his right hoof, lowering his head. “I know I cannot fight here,” he said.

    “Y-yeah, that’s right,” Star growled. “Leave.”

    “I would like to help.”

    Star’s tendrils wavered. She did nothing when the other Creator stepped around her and toward Gawen. He gently placed his hoof on Gawen’s chest, the same as Star, and pulled back. The sphere emerged halfway from the aura, a semicircle atop his scales. Two tendrils of light emerged from Arceus’ back next, slowly moving toward the fused spirit. Star watched closely, ready to push him away if he tried anything out of the ordinary.

    The unstable swirling slowed down. One spirit collected against the first tendril and the other half of the current spiraled around the other. Then, slowly, the two tendrils retracted. The two smaller spheres slid toward one another again, spinning together in a gentle, steady vortex. Arceus pressed his hoof forward, pushing the fused orb back into Gawen. The glowing subsided and Arceus stepped away.

    He looked at Star, who quickly turned her head away and down, glaring at a boulder that she had shattered.

    “The rest is up to you,” he said. He tapped his left hind leg on the ground, creating a portal. “I know you do not want me around.” He spun and walked through, the circle disappearing moments later.

    Star’s fist clenched, watching him go. “I could’ve…” she said, but wasn’t able to find the words to finish. Star’s shoulders relaxed, though Klent and the other spirits were still tense.

    “Star?” Klent asked. “What did he do?”

    Star shook her head. “Barky’s just being a showoff,” she said, forcing a smile. “I could’ve done the same thing if I tried again.”

    Klent frowned, rubbing his pom-poms together. Maybe Owen’s Perception was rubbing off on him, but it didn’t take a lot of effort to tell that Star didn’t want to admit how much she’d been bested with that single gesture.

    Amelia adjusted the flower atop her head. “What’s left?” the Lilligant asked. “It looked like their spirits were fused together the… right way this time. But how do you separate them now? Is there… a trick?”

    Star steadied her breaths one last time, nodding. She went back to inspecting Gawen. “Everything about them has to do with their aura,” Star said. “Bodily fusions are easy to fix for me. It’s the aura and the spirit that’s hard to do. It’s like trying to separate red and blue from purple…”

    Klent nodded. “Mm. Or salt from the sea. Something like that?”

    “Kinda, but it’s equal parts salt and water,” Star said.

    The Jumpluff shook his body in understanding, the top dandelion puff bobbing. “Well… what if you had a way to attract out one part, but not the other? If you make water evaporate, it’ll leave salt behind. I think that’s what Arceus did with their spirits, if what I saw was right. Would there be a way to… get Owen out, and leave Gahi behind, or the other way around?”

    “I don’t… really know. That’s one thing we could do… or try…”

    Hecto cleared his throat. “He’s awake.”

    Gawen’s eyes opened, staring at the sky.

    Star clenched her jaw. “Nobody move,” she said calmly.

    It was a moment of serenity, but it was fleeting. Gawen’s eyes locked onto Star.

    “Hey,” Star said. “You feeling alright…?”

    “He’s not moving…” Klent said.

    “Oh, he’s trying,” Star said. “I have him immobilized with Psychic. He’s pretty weak, so it’s easy to keep him down, uh, gently.” She floated closer. “Gahi, Owen… it’s okay. Take a breath. Meditate, alright? Just a little…” Star waved a glowing paw near Gawen’s cheek. He let out a slow growl, and then a huff.

    “Gahi, this is the Grass Orb—a part of the spirit realm. Can you see it, in Owen’s memories? It’s safe here. Nice and calm.”

    “Can you reason with him?”

    “I think so,” Star said. “It’s different… this isn’t like the last time. I think because it’s just two of them, and the meditation—you know, the stuff Rhys did—I think that’s making it easier. They aren’t totally broken this time. That’s probably why Barks was able to fix him so easily, too. Maybe if we’re careful…”

    There was another long, tense silence. Star was working on Gawen while he was still awake, prodding at his aura, searching for anything she could untangle. Every so often, she sighed, mumbling to herself. They weren’t sure what she meant for most of it. But eventually, she said something a bit more audibly. “This should help…”

    A small spark of white energy pulsed through the fused creature. Star floated away and released her Psychic hold. A small shockwave warped the light around Gawen upon release. The forest spirits flinched. He was unsealed and free to move.

    “Hey,” Star said. “On a scale of one to ten… how badly do you want to fight right now?”

    The Flygon-Charizard amalgamation stared at Star, and then at all the others. He looked at the trees. “…Nine,” he said. “…Just ‘cause I know what… ten feels like.”

    “S-Star…! How did you…?”

    “Keep your voice down,” Star said serenely. “I couldn’t remove his instincts and I couldn’t tamper with his head at all… but I was able to lower his stress levels and the mechanisms that contribute to being in battle mode all the time. I helped him feel less aggressive. The aura mimics the body, and I did some brain stuff. As Creator, you kinda have to know that sorta thing. But he could easily slip back into it, so no sudden movements.”

    Gawen looked down shamefully. “I’m… I’m just a monster…” he said. “I’ve always been one. I’ve just been… sealed away. ‘Til now.”

    “Pretty much,” Star said. “But you’re my monster, okay?”

    Gawen winced. “Y-yeah…”

    “May I touch your shoulder?”

    Gawen nodded.

    Star gently floated toward him and did just as she had asked. It was a tiny paw compared to the dragon. “I can see my reflection,” Star said with a smile, looking at his scales. “The Gahi half of you really shines, huh?”

    Gawen smiled slightly.

    “…I’m really proud of how far you’ve come, Owen. Gahi. You never would have been this controlled in the past.”

    “It’s so hard…”

    “I know. I know. But it’s okay, and you’re doing it anyway. Just keep going, you two…”

    “Two,” Gawen said. He rubbed at his head. “I… I don’t know… who I am…!” His claws dug into scales, voice rising.

    “Shh, shh, it’s okay,” Star said in a whisper. “Let me help. Gahi… Gahi, is that name familiar to you?”

    “Yeah… that’s… that’s me… that’s me, and also someone I know…”

    “Mhm, that’s true. Part of you is Gahi. You were a Trapinch, and you always wanted to be the first one to evolve. Do you remember that?”

    “I… I do. I was always jealous… because… because Owen…. He was always faster. And I hate… when people are faster. But… but Owen’s me, too… I didn’t know that Gahi was jealous… But I… but I liked me, too. Because we were family.”

    Star nodded. She gently moved until she was sitting on their shoulder. “Owen, did you enjoy training with Gahi?”

    “Yeah… I did. I liked training with me… with Gahi—Owen and Gahi, us, me…” He rubbed his forehead. “It… it hurts…”

    “Shh, shh,” Star said. She didn’t give the fusion time to take it all in. The gentle onslaught continued uninterrupted. “Owen… Amia raised you all on her own. Do you remember that?”

    Gawen was quiet. He looked like he had a splitting headache. His eyes were shut tight, creases forming along his muzzle. Scales ground against one another with every fold of skin. Star rubbed his shoulders.

    “I… I remember,” he finally said.

    “Gahi, did you miss Owen?” Star said.

    “I… I did… missed him a lot… missed‘m all the time…”

    “Gahi, do you remember how you coped? What did you do?”

    “…Slept in his bed… the Rawst Leaves… they smell a certain way… Owen smelled like Rawst Leaves all the time, ‘cause he slept in it fer… I slept in them, and Gahi was always annoyed at how they smelled… But then I started missing it, ‘cause even if it was annoying… I guess Gahi really liked it…” Gawen gulped, trying to hold down his nausea. “S-Star… m-my head… I… I can’t think about this.”

    “It’s okay. Gahi, Owen, it’s okay. Keep thinking, okay?”

    “It hurts…”

    Star rubbed his shoulders more. “This is good, you two. Keep holding it through. You’ve got this. I’m going to keep going, and I’m not stopping. Owen, did Gahi ever win against you in chess?”

    “Star… p-please, stop…”

    “Gahi, did Owen ever beat you in a race?”

    “Yer killing my head…!” He was clutching his head so tightly that his claws were piercing his scales.

    “Owen, do you remember when you tried to sleep like Gahi, underground?”

    I hated it…!”

    “Gahi, have you ever read a single paper in your life?”

    “I totally read a few…! But Owen, he reads… everything he can…! I…” His grip wavered; his whole body had tensed, and then relaxed.

    Star blinked. “…Owen? Gahi? Hello?”

    Their eyes were closed, but gently. There were no crease marks of stress; his aura felt… more serene. The gashes in his skull vanished away.

    Klent, confused that Star was confused, stepped forward. “S-Star?”

    “Star,” Hecto said, “is this not part of the procedure?”

    “It, uh, no,” Star said. “Owen? Gahi?”

    The fusion went half-limp, falling forward. Star had to really push to keep the creature from collapsing on top of her. “Ng—guys, c’mon…!”

    Gawen came to his senses, shaking his head. “S-sorry.” He sat up, but he looked dizzy. “I… I feel better…” he said. “I’m… I’m Owen, right now. Gahi’s resting.”

    “E-excuse me?” Star said. “That’s not—supposed to happen yet. Hello? Gahi?”

    Owen was quiet, eyes closed. Gahi opened his eyes. “Yeah, what? I’m… feeling a li’l better.”

    Gahi closed his eyes. The same body opened them again. “Star, I think… I think I’m feeling better. I think if we switch… it hurts less. I still… really… really want to fight… but at least I know who I am.”

    Closed, opened. “I never saw yeh fight befer, Star. So, what, yeh think yer any good? Can you fight?”

    “I—uh—I mean…”

    “Star, perhaps your methods were simply more effective than expected,” Hecto said.

    “No, I’m pretty sure they had to go through a few more steps before finding a way like this. But maybe Owen’s just—smarter and figured it out on his own.”

    “N-no, I don’t think I did. Star, I think you helped me. Heh, yeah, I figure yer real good and just didn’t think yeh could do it so easy. I—I mean, maybe that, because I didn’t get any ideas. It hurt a lot, so it was… y’know, was hard ter do the thinking, ‘specially when I was messing with Owen’s good thinking parts.”

    “Ugh, now my head’s starting to hurt,” Star said. “Okay, new rule. Pause before you switch control so I’m not listening to one voice two ways.”

    “O-oh, um…” A pause. “Sorry fer that.” Another pause. “It came a little naturally.” Then, the fusion, with Owen in control, looked at his claws. “Actually, Star, um—I wanted to ask… a-and I don’t know if I want to know the answer, but… a-are… are we dead?”

    “Uhh…” Star rubbed her ear. Her tail flicked as if she wasn’t completely sure. The three flames on Gawen’s tail flickered anxiously. Then, Star nodded. “No, you’re alive. But that’s actually making me wonder something…” Star observed the fusion making strange motions, such as brushing his tail pensively on the ground or pushing at a wall that wasn’t there. “…You okay there?”

    “Everything feels… soft.”

    “Uhh—”

    Little specks of light leaked from the fusion’s body. “The air feels… soft. Does that make sense?”

    “Not rea—”

    The fusion vanished.

    Klent blinked. “D… did they wake up?”

    “Yeah. So at least they’re alive,” Star said.

    “Will… what happened carry over to the real world?”

    Star sighed. “Boy, I hope so. Let’s just watch and see.”

    “Mm…” Klent nodded. He, along with the other spirits, closed their eyes to tune into what their host was experiencing.

    <><><> ​

    At first, he thought he was back in Hot Spot Cave. Everything around them had a dim, cyan glow, just like the mushrooms, or the ethereal forest, or the aura sea. But everything felt too close—and too soft—to be the caverns. Owen tried to turn but was met with great resistance from a soft, solid wall. He felt like he was in some sort of crawl space; there was light ahead of him, so he pulled himself out of what he imagined was an alcove in the wall.

    He heard the murmurs of a quiet conversation. “Ngh… ugh!” He was out and in an open area, though it was still very dim. “Finally!” he said. “Arceus, it felt like Anam in there…”

    He turned around, realizing that this was a very strange way to describe something, and inspected his surroundings. It looked like some sort of shiny, red wall with a cyan glow. He came from a crease in the wall, like dough that was folded over itself. The whole place was like this.

    And then he recalled his previous moments of being conscious. Amia staring at him, the ocean rapidly advancing—and that Lugia, and the great void of her maw. And then darkness, perhaps from the impact of where he had landed, but perhaps also because—

    “Oh… oh, no. Nooo, no, no.” The fusion paced. Every step he made was squishy against the ground. “N-no, no, no, that’s not it,” he said. “Absolutely not. I ain’t gonna accept that. Ain’t no way I got ate. Th-that just isn’t how it works—this is—this is just a strange dream! ‘Cause this ain’t how bodies work—I’d be dead! Long dead! Some sea monster woulda made me lunch by now! Ain’t no way that… maybe I just escaped and…”

    Owen’s half realized that there was an easy way to determine where he was. With great apprehension, he turned his attention to his Perception.

    He was in the center of something large. It had a giant, central chamber, and six offshoots that appeared to be moving. The one at the front of this chamber swiveled to the left and right subtly; the one in the rear twisted with the currents—he realized that this thing was underwater. And there were four more structures attached to the central chamber—two were shorter, and near the rear offshoot, and two were longer and beating hard against the water, propelling the entire structure forward. They were wing-like, yet also flipper-like.

    It was a Lugia without anything inside. No heart. No lungs. No real organs of any kind. “I… oh.” He wanted to collapse but didn’t want to know what the ground felt like. What his feet felt was enough. Realizing that he’d been sleeping in the fleshy insides of another creature, the fusion gagged and covered his mouth. “Why…?”

    The murmuring returned. Gahi and Owen tried to gather themselves and turned toward the sound. At first, they were unfamiliar—and with newfound worry, he wondered how much his memories may have been shuffled by this incident—but soon, he could put a few of the voices to names. “…That’s… Zena,” he said. “And Willow, and… is that—Demitri and Mispy? That is!” Pushing aside the circumstances, Gawen rushed toward the only familiar thing he had left. “H-hey, guys!”

    Zena perked up. They were all gathered nearby, opposite of the great chamber. “O-Owen? Er—Gahi? Both…?”

    Amia recognized the tone. “Owen! Y-you’re… you’re okay! Oh, thank Arceus, I—” She sniffled; it seemed like she had it together until she finally saw him awake and sane. She ran toward him and tripped over her own feet; the fusion caught her.

    “H-hey, Mom, it’s—it’s alright,” Owen said, rubbing her back. He realized how tall he was, now—even larger than he was as a Charizard. “I think Star helped us in the spirit world.”

    “Us—so Gahi’s still…?”

    “Yeah, I’m still here,” Gahi nodded. “It kinda hurts our head ter fight fer control at the same time, but if we swap like this, it ain’t so bad, and if we merge our heads, it ain’t too bad, either. Still weird, though, eh, so we’ll try’n keep it separate.”

    “Oh, that’s… that’s interesting!” Amia said delicately. “But…”

    “Interesting? That’s cool!” Willow piped up, hopping from Amia’s hair onto Gawen’s snout. She skittered forward until she was between his horns.

    Owen grinned. “I think we can get better at being ‘as one’ too, but…” He looked at his claws. “I’d like it if we were two bodies again. I like being close to Gahi, but—maybe not this close…” Gahi sighed. “Yeah, ain’t that something yeh’d expect outta Demitri an’ Mispy? But not us, I figure.”

    Mispy huffed; Demitri rubbed at one of his tusks, avoiding eye contact.

    “Oh, that’s… quite odd to hear two kinds of people from the same voice,” Amia said. “It’s almost like when Eon mimicked my voice—oooh, I still get shivers from that…”

    “Eon seems really familiar, but…” Demitri frowned. “He’s a lot less friendly than I thought he’d be.”

    “Don’t remind me,” Owen said. “Um, so… I really, really don’t want to know… but I have to… Where are we?”

    “We’re being carried by an old friend of mine,” Zena said. “Her name is Emily—she’s a Lugia. I didn’t think she’d still be alive, but… this is definitely her. I remember it all now.”

    Gawen crossed his arms incredulously. “Your friend?” he said. “She… eats people.”

    “Well, it’s not eating if you aren’t food, don’t you think?” Zena suggested.

    “No, this is pretty strongly like eating,” Owen said, eying the walls suspiciously. “How does this even work? My awareness is telling me Emily doesn’t have anything going on inside her. I don’t even know if she has blood. It’s like a Drifblim shaped itself into a Lugia. And how big is she, anyway?!”

    “She’s really, really big,” Willow said. “I tried to shrink Emily so we could try to escape, but it just bounced off the walls and shrank us a little instead…”

    Owen looked up at the fleshy ceiling with a grimace. This place reminded him of the Hot Spot training grounds in terms of size, though the ceilings were closer and it generally felt more claustrophobic. He had the vaguest of recollections of how big Emily was, and somehow she seemed bigger on the inside even after considering Willow’s power.

    Zena hummed. “I don’t know why she’s like this, either. But she has a certain power about her. Can’t you feel it?”

    “Yeah, but—it’s subtle. I felt it when I was—nghk… when I was lodged somewhere in the walls. Up against it I definitely felt something strong, but now that I’m just standing here? Not really… But her aura is strong. I can’t see anything outside.”

    Owen scanned the group again and felt the presence of somebody hiding behind Zena’s tail. “Um? Who’s that?”

    “Eep—!”

    “Oh,” Zena lifted her tail, revealing—nothing. “That was Tanneth. She lives, er… with Emily. She’s a Vaporeon, but I think she’s still a little nervous about you, Owen, Gahi.”

    “She is? How come?” Owen asked, feeling stupid seconds later.

    “It’s okay, Tanneth,” Amia said. “This one’s friendly. A friend of ours, Star, must have helped them!”

    “A-are you sure?” someone said beneath Mispy.

    Owen and Gahi got a good look at Tanneth; it was indeed a Vaporeon, though she seemed to be partway inside the floor. Once again, it reminded them of Anam.

    “Actually, um, Emily was the one who helped you,” Tanneth said. “She said that she felt your aura was in a lot of pain, so she healed you with a lot of her power.”

    “My aura was in… pain?” Gawen said. “How? Y’mean like, I was ripping apart?”

    Tanneth nodded. “Emily doesn’t like when Pokémon are hurt, but she can only heal others if they’re very, very close to her body. But she can heal anything!”

    “Anything…” Owen said. “But—but what if I went crazy? I’d’ve really hurt Emily, all the way in here!”

    Tanneth shook her head. “Emily can’t get hurt. She’s really, really strong! …Defensively!”

    “Defensively? So, she can’t attack? But Lugia are supposed to be really strong—I read that they know Aeroblast! That could rip anything to shreds!”

    “Emily…. Now that I think about it, I don’t think she ever was that powerful,” Zena said. “She should be strong, but her Aeroblast… I think the worst it ever did was make little whirlpools for us to play in.” She looked up. “But maybe when she gets back to wherever her home is, we can talk more.”

    “Still strange,” Owen said, crossing his arms thoughtfully. “But yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Actually, while we’re waiting, I… want to try something. Can you guys give me a little bit? I want to de-fuse…”

    “You can do that?” Willow asked, tapping her leg on his left goggle.

    “I think so,” Owen said. “We better,” Gahi said. “We’ll try,” Gawen said.

    Reluctantly, Gawen sat down to meditate. Demitri and Mispy crept closer to get a better look at their sparring partner. Demitri tapped at his right tusk thoughtfully. “Wow… So that’s what it’s like to fuse together… And you’re sane, too! Who would’ve thought that a little healing energy would’ve helped, huh?”

    “Star was helping, too,” Gawen said. “I think it was the healing that made it feel better, but… Star was the one that helped us actually separate. We just have to finish it off.”

    Mispy inspected the flame at the end of Gawen’s tail—the three blade-like spires of fire. “What if you… went Grass Type?” Mispy theorized.

    Owen’s half was intensely curious and distracted by the remark; Gahi’s half was just annoyed that they couldn’t concentrate in peace. The two conflicting thoughts were too much for the fusion and, in an instant, one head split off from the main one, turning irritably, “Shaddap, I’m trying ter concentrate!”

    “W-wah! T-two heads!” Tanneth squeaked.

    “Eh?” Gahi looked down. He could move the right arm, but not the left. “Oy, lookit that!”

    “G-Gahi! I can’t feel my right side!”

    “Well, I can’t feel my left! C’mon, let’s just keep going!”

    “Um—” Mispy, in an effort to help, wrapped her vines around their arms and pulled.

    The two heads grunted in strain, but, thankfully, this was the correct approach. With a little tug and some concentration, the dragon and the pseudodragon split apart, their respective halves regenerating in a dim light. They tumbled to the ground with a series of plops and damp splashes.

    “Ugh! Finally!” Owen said. He shook himself off and tried to ignore the empty feeling in his chest. “Glad to be me again. No offense or anything, Gahi, but I think you dumbed me down a few pegs…”

    “Feh,” Gahi stuck his nose in the air. He paused as if something had dawned on him. “Hey, I ain’t crazy!” He looked at his claws. “How ‘bout that, eh?”

    “I think we’re going to go a little crazy when we evolve,” Demitri said, looking at Mispy worriedly. “Um—when that happens, do you think you’ll be able to…?”

    “We’ll help,” Owen said. “We just have to beat you and then, um… help you straighten out after that. Maybe Emily can help!”

    Just then, the ground shifted. “E-earthquake?” Owen said. “W-wait, we’re not on—”

    The ground heaved, throwing them all backward. The entire area turned sideways, floors becoming walls. Owen and Gahi hit the new ground; Amia and Willow landed on top of Owen, followed by Demitri and Mispy atop Gahi, and lastly Zena, whose lengthy body pinned them all down.

    They all groaned. “Everyone okay?” Owen wheezed.

    “I think I squished my webbers,” Willow whined.

    Tanneth’s head stuck out of a nearby wall, giggling. “Hey, everyone! Emily’s gonna let you guys out, now!”

    Owen’s expression darkened. “Please tell me she has a better way to—”

    A giant wing-arm burst violently through the walls of the Lugia, presumably through her belly, fishing around her own insides like one would search for a snack in the dark. The wing was big enough to grab them all in one go. Without thinking, Owen shrieked, and they were pulled back to the outside world.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  6. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    36
    FUSION IS JUST A CHEAP TACTIC TO MAKE WEAK SYNTHETICS STRONGER!

    [ahem]

    I'd be wary of your fic getting too popular, because you run the risk of getting buried under a mountain of Steven Universe comparisons for what you did to Owen and Gahi here. I say that having never watched the show, but I know that the main characters fusing with people is a central gimmick of the show. Hey, at least it's not a DBZ comparison this time. Y'know, aside from the fact that this whole chapter was one extended Broly rage sequence. Oops. Ain't I a stinker? :p

    I enjoyed the extended action sequence. I'm well aware by now that long action scenes are bad and older, more sophisticated readers don't like them to drag for too long. [sigh] But, like, this fic, despite it's premise being rooted in how over-the-top it claims to be, has actually been softer on the action side. Aside from Ra's special episode, the closest we've had to a long action sequence was with Willow and, well, the stakes were never particularly high there and it event had a bit of a gag element to it. This fight, much like Ra's, does have a lot higher stakes. Though said stakes are better because you've firmly established up to this point the risks of allowing your synths to run about unchecked. Even if death is a slap on the risk in this world, you do try to correct for that with the whole "If they're spirits they won't have the freedom to move about entirely on their own," which is, I guess, an all right substitute given the way your world works.

    The fight itself is initially very slow when it's just Owen and Gahi. It follows the whole "I know you're in there somewhere!" bit to a tee, but it's not like it was bad or anything. Things got really interesting when they finally fused. Though that opening bit about how good Owen thought it felt when Gahi was burrowing into him reads a lot different when one knows you're into vore. I liked how everyone really had to pitch in in order to put a stop to things. Gives a great sense of the threat level posed and also shows how serious the situation was. What I didn't like was how it ended. I mean, my climactic battle had an eleventh hour superpower moment, but it came from a main character. This lugia ex machina left me feeling cheated. Badass way to introduce Emily, I suppose, but a really unfulfilling way to end things off. But that's just my take. [shrug]


    37
    So, this Lugia is basically Monstro? Y'know, from Pinocchio? Only she can also seemingly liquify itself like Zena and her insides are basically a glorified healing chamber? Uh-huh. I see, I see. [scribbles on clipboard.]

    Well, as far as debrief chapters go, I don't have all that much to say. I would've liked to have gotten a better of sense of who Emily actually is, but that mostly stems from, again, how unsatisfying I thought her popping up right at the end of the last chapter was. But what can you do? In any case, Mew and Arceus get to perform aura surgery. I say that with a straight face because, like, surgery is the first thing that came to mind in addressing the whole Gawen issue. Not real surgery. The dramatized variation you see on TV, complete with Mew having a freakout and Arceus having to show up to make sure they don't lose their "patient." Which, yeah, maybe Arceus didn't have the friendliest introduction to the story, but I still like him more than Star and this only adds to that. Didn't even take the opportunity to gloat or demean Star in any way. Came in, untangled the auras, and left without stirring anything up. Good for him.

    I have a similar issue with Gawen as I did with the Chasm of the Void. The way you tried to handle switching back and forth between Owen and Gahi as speaker... messed with my head and took me out of things. Not enough dialogue attributions and, to make matters worse, you were swapping speakers within the same paragraph. Yes, they're one entity and, double yes, Gahi has the accent. But since, dialogue-wise, you're treating them separately they should get separate paragraphs. It makes matters worse when you switch from labeling them Gawen in the process to Gahi and Owen in the next scene, even though they haven't defused. It doesn't help that Star actually lampshaded this confusion. I don't know how prevalent the fusion thing will be going forward. But something tells me it'll be popping up again. If it does, I strongly suggest you keep the separate spirits' dialogue in separate paragraphs and find a way (beyond speech quirks) to make it clear who's speaking.
     
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Looks like I'm finally getting off my lazy arse and reviewing, huh?

    So, it's been awhile since my last post, and I've been reading off and on since then. I think I've technically been caught up since sometime around New Years? I've been reading the chapters as the come out, but wanted the chance to comment on all the chapters before that, but the longer I put it off, the more chapters there were, and you see my problem.

    So this is by no means a thorough review, just me trying to remember all the stuff that jumped out at me over the past few months. I'm sure I'm forgetting things. Oh well no sense putting it off any longer~

    This probably feels like ancient history at this point, but I loved the reveal that Mew and Arceus are dead. I remember it packed a lot of punch way back when I first read it. And it explains a lot, like why they have to manipulate all these Mystics rather than just doing things themselves. They have a lot of power and influence, but they really can't do much on the physical plane, can they?

    I likes the extra with Ra well enough, though I do have to echo some of the criticism that it was a bit hard to feel for the guy. I'm not opposed to the whole "introduce a tragic character and make the reader feel for them in the span of a single chapter" deal. It was mostly just hard to feel for Ra in general since it felt like a lot of his misery was self-inflicted and he was just blaming others for his problems. :P Also it was a bit amusing that his grand plan to strike back against Star... ultimately just boiled down to saddling her with an extremely inconvenient Electric Guardian. :P The chapter did have a ton of cool imagery though, and the action scenes inside the Orb were nice and tense.

    And Enet is one of my favorite guardians. :V It's great that having a feral Guardian allowed you to explore the oft-confusing divide between feral and civil Pokemon in PMD. And it's interesting to see her learn more and become more aware of what's going on.

    I will say that for a while the fic felt a bit routine, what with all the quests to pick up the Guardians and such, and the chapters did get repetitive for a bit. But you didn't dwell on that for too long, and there's been a lot of variety since then. I guess the Steel Orb chapters did feel a bit underwhelming, aside from that "oh sh*t" moment when Owen's bag was stolen, but you've implied that the Pokeball factory has some significance beyond just what we've seen, plus there's been that looming question of why it hasn't been destroyed. Would've been cool to see you play up just how bizarre a factory setting felt to the characters. I did quite like Brandon though. He was fun.

    Let's see, what else... oh, how about Eon. I've been somewhat torn on him for a while. He keeps getting brought up as if he's supposed to be intimidating, yet we've seen no evidence that he is, so for a reader it just feels like one of those "sure, Jan" kind of things. But then we finally have his onscreen arrival. And in a way, my favorite part of it is how completely understated it was. No "big bad dramatic entrance moment." He was just there. To the point that we don't even get to see him, and we don't even hear him either. I loved the whole idea of him copying the last speaker, and boy howdy was it unnerving. We still literally know nothing about the guy. I know it's a popular theory that Owen is related to him, but I don't even know where that came from because there's just so little to go off! Or maybe I'm just dense.

    In any case, Gahi's sudden evolution, and the resulting fusion was definitely a great way to ramp up the tension to 11. It's already been said that the fic does suffer somewhat for having a god-mode cast, it's hard to fear for their safety. But the confrontation between Owen and Gahi was genuinely chilling, and actually got me to fear that they'd crossed a line that couldn't be uncrossed, and that they really were in danger of being lost. Sure gave some meaning to that whole "keep Team Alloy apart at all costs" thing we've been hearing about for almost the entire fic, huh?

    I really enjoyed the portrayal of their combined metal states too. The flitting between different pronouns, the narration struggling to think of the other person as both "him" but also "me." All kinds of deliciously mixed up mental trauma while still being easy to follow as a reader. Great stuff.

    I think that's everything I've got for now. I'm sure I'll think of like thirty things I missed the moment I hit post. Ah well. Until next time~

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
  8. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Thanks for the feedback, Amby! I got to you elsewhere, good stuff. I'll definitely look into that issue with Emily's deus ex mawchina to help it be a little less of a cheat by delaying it by a few seconds to give Gawen time for a resolution to the battle.

    Thank you! That was actually a somewhat recent addition that was introduced when I started uploading to the forums, and I'm so glad I spelled it out here rather than later. Adding that to Zena standing up for herself (and Owen) was something the early chapters really needed. And it helped to contextualize just what was behind the scenes on why this was happening in the first place. Sure, not all the questions are answered yet, but it's also only Act I.

    So, this is actually probably a dumb decision on my part, but... the whole "hard to feel for him because he did this to himself" thing is actually what I was going for. He's a tragic character because he's literally a textbook tragic character--he even died because of his fatal flaw, wrath! Kinda. Technically.

    What I'm trying to say is, yeah, you're right. And I sorta intended it to be that way. But I'll jot down in the todo list, related to Amby's criticisms, that I should also point out that Ra isn't a total dirtbag.

    Enet is a super big reader favorite, and I'm glad. I don't really have much else to say about this, since you said it all for me--she's fun to write, and she lets me explore things that no other character can.

    Yeah, that's a bit of a weakness of Act I and a bit of Act II when they're still gathering Orbs. I think I'll try to make it clear later on how soon that's going to no longer be a thing, since, well, there are only 18 of them. And, uh... mm... I think... 15 of them are--no, 14 of them are accounted for, one way or another. Only a few left to go before apparently something else happens to stir the pot. Or during. Who knows, right? Okay at this point I'm just being needlessly coy.

    Yeah, I'll have to look into this. I sorta meant for the Steel Orb to be a weird mixture of a breather episode, a lore episode (slightly), and a prelude to Owen finally evolving. Unfortunately, that also means it's a bit low-stakes for the time being. Just something to consider when I get to my todo list.

    This will be added to the todo list.

    Similar to Enet, Brandon is fun to write. I hope to get more of him jotted down. I'm sorta kicking myself for having him be the guy who has to be holed up at the factory. Sure, it makes sense since he's the "openly human" character, but man, it's fun to actually be able to write "a human" after so many chapters.

    Hohoho, yeah. Eon. The most enigmatic character of Act I... mostly because we never see the guy. It's a bit tricky to get the guy written out this way. Funny thing, though, I didn't really aim for him to come off as intimidating after a while. Not explicitly, at least. I prefer to leave that to just the thought in the back of your mind that he's definitively among the strongest in the room.

    A lot of theories are going to be jossed or confirmed by the end of Act I, and it's fast approaching.

    As I mentioned to Amby elsewhere, you've got a good point here. And part of that handicap is simply because half of my plot centralizes on spirits, the spirit world, and pretty much things that most stories avoid because it takes away the impact of death. So my big challenge here is, how can I raise the stakes when death is off the table as the be all-end all of consequences? In this case, I've succeeded. Loss of mind, loss of self, loss of control? Those, too, are very adult fears. Some argue it's worse than death.

    Between this and Amby's feedback, I'm going to have to think long and hard about balancing readability with stylistic playfulness. That's pretty much all I have on this part, since I know both of you guys are making good points. I'm sure I can find a happy compromise that makes both sides content. Buuut until then, I've got editing to do for the next chapter.

    Only two more chapters (and a finale special episode) to go for Act I!
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  9. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 38 – The Enigmatic Healer

    Manny crossed his arms with doubt, flying through the air with his body parallel to the ocean. “Yer gonna have ter explain that one a second time, Rhys,” he said. “Run that by me again—they all got ate, but they’re just fine?”

    “Y-yes, I promise, they are perfectly safe. More than safe; if anything, they might be getting healed right now.”

    Anam felt someone knocking on his spiritual doors. He held his hand out and Star emerged, looking a bit shaken.

    “Anam, you need to keep your spirits in check,” she mumbled. “I thought they were supposed to take on a smidge of your personality, what the heck?”

    “I apologize,” James said. “They get very unruly when Anam becomes stressed. He doesn’t summon them as often as they’d like, too. Only I and a few others can keep them under control.”

    The Mew sighed, shaking her head. “Whatever. Not like they like talking to me anyway. Okay, so.” She addressed the others. “It’s true. That was Emily. She’s a wonderful Pokémon, but—well, I don’t know if any of you are going to remember her in a little while. Y’see… well…” Star hesitated. “Actually… I’m a little surprised you’re remembering her at all. Maybe because you guys are all together, it’s starting to…” The Mew trailed off. “…Guys. Do you remember seeing the Lugia at all?”

    “Wh—of course! It only took up like half our view!” Manny said.

    “Huh,” Star said. “Well… I guess we’ll see how much I can explain, then. See… Lugia Emily… ahh… she’s really kind. So kind that Arceus gifted her a tiny, tiny portion of divine energy—enough to make her a true legend, but not enough to expand that influence beyond her body. She had it on the condition that she’d only be able to use that power to help others—and so, she trained to become the ultimate healer.”

    “The healer that… eats people,” Anam said, nibbling his paw. “Does it hurt?”

    “If you ask me, it’s pretty cozy,” Star crossed her arms. “And it’s pretty spacious in there, too. Emily’s basically a dense balloon filled with air. Dense enough to still dive underwater, but with all that air in the middle, it’s really easy to live in. Her aura is strongest within her, so… anything that’s inside of her basically can’t get hurt.”

    “It’s also quite difficult to escape,” Rhys muttered.

    “Oh, yeah!” Star giggled. “Back when you were a real Hunter going after divine energy, Emily was one of your targets!” The Mew laughed, shoving Rhys by the shoulder. “She ate you and refused to let you go unless you promised not to fight her!”

    “I’m surprised she didn’t force me to make a Divine Promise,” Rhys muttered. “But I suppose we did… chat for a while. Her and that Vaporeon within her.”

    “You mean, even your ultimate moves didn’t work on Emily?” Anam said. “Would… would mine?”

    “Maybe?” Star said. “I dunno. I mean, Ghost has an advantage over her type, but Em’s pretty exceptional. But I don’t think she’d beat you in a fight, either. Like I said—she’s an ultimate healer. Like, on a scale of one to ten, her capacity to harm is… negative one, I guess? Or close to it. Maybe if she rolled on you it’d do some damage, but…”

    “I’d rather not envision this,” Rhys said.

    “So, they’re definitely okay,” Anam said.

    “Yeah,” Star said. “I promise—if they’re in Emily’s guts, they’re as safe as you can get.”

    “Quite counterintuitive,” James said.

    “Hrm.” Rhys didn’t like the situation, but he couldn’t deny that Owen and the others, for now, would be in good hands. He focused his attention ahead, toward the expanse of ocean.

    “Where are we going?” Anam asked.

    “We’re following Emily back to her home base,” Star said. “With any luck, we’ll be able to find her pretty easily. She’s on the other side of the world, so she’s equidistant from all parts of the shoreline. Makes it useful to go to anywhere she can sense trouble. It shouldn’t be long from now. It’s a tiny island that gets flooded pretty often, but it should be okay for now.”

    “Water is not still,” Valle said.

    “Oh, get over it, you already broke your own vow when Enet made you move your arms. Why don’t you stop being a literal statue, anyway?”

    “I cannot.” Valle rumbled angrily.

    <><><>​

    “Solid ground! Thank Arceus!” Owen had half a mind to kiss it after all that time spent in the flesh of another creature, but he kept himself calm. “Wait—where are we?”

    It was a small beach of white sand. Ahead of them sat a small cavern dug into the only landmark in the whole island, a large rock tall enough to fly in at the entrance, though considering the size of the island, they couldn’t fly in very far, and it quickly tapered off into a smaller alcove near the back. The height of the cavern was reminiscent of the Hot Spot training grounds, while the depth was more like a humble home.

    Most odd was that aside from the cave, there was perhaps only a stone’s throw’s worth of sand from the entrance to the sea, and that circumnavigating the tiny island on foot would take about the same amount of time as it would to eat a nice bowl of stew. Maybe one with a good set of Tamato base, some potatoes and onions…

    Was Rhys going to make dinner?

    “This is my home!”

    The sheer volume of the voice shook Owen’s chest and tossed him out of his thoughts; he worried that his heart would stop either from the percussive impact or the surprise after such a long, pensive silence. He briefly wondered if he and Gahi, when they had fused, had two hearts.

    He spun around. “W-wow, Emily, you’re… big!”

    Emily seemed smaller on the outside, but she still dwarfed them all by comparison. Legends often depicted Lugia as a creature at least three times the size of a Charizard, but Emily was much more than that. Five, six times? Owen couldn’t tell. He only knew that he was noticeably smaller than her head and she had to angle her head sharply downward to make eye contact with them. Her voice was deep and booming, but it fit for someone of her stature. He felt the innocent kindness it had, though, just like their Association Head. Perhaps that was why Zena was reminded of her through Anam.

    Still, he couldn’t get over the fact that there was a gaping hole in her belly where she had pulled them out. “Emily, are you okay?”

    “Okay about what?” Emily asked.

    “Um, Emily, dear,” Amia said, pointing at where her ribcage would have been, “is it normal for you to… just have that wound?”

    She didn’t have any bones or blood; in fact, it seemed like the red flesh within was just for show.

    “Oh, oops!” Emily said, bringing her wing-arms to her chest. She rubbed at the edges and the hole closed up, like she was shaping clay to patch a wet sculpture. “Sorry! I need to remember to keep that in one piece or people freak out…”

    Demitri looked at Emily worriedly. “That doesn’t hurt, does it?”

    Mispy’s vines twitched, ready to heal her if there were any residual injures, yet the Lugia’s body was back to normal. Whatever normal was.

    “Hurt?” Emily asked, but then something moved up her neck, became a lump on her shoulder, and popped toward the ground.

    The Vaporeon, Tanneth, landed with surprising grace for such a drop. “Emily doesn’t feel a lot of things that she should,” she said. “She doesn’t need to eat, or sleep, or… any of that! I dunno why. She’s always been that way. Maybe she’s a deity.”

    Emily giggled, rubbing the back of her head. “I dunno about that….”

    “It’s… certainly nothing like other Lugia that I’ve heard of,” Amia said. “Oh, wait, but are there other Lugia?”

    “There should be,” Owen said. “Pretty sure I saw one flying way away in the air once, when I was a Charmander.”

    “Which time?” Gahi quipped.

    Owen jabbed Gahi with his elbow. “Em’s definitely not a normal Lugia. But… is she a Guardian?”

    “A what?” Emily asked. “Yeah, I’m totally a Guardian! I’m the guardian of the seas! I keep all the salty water safe!”

    “So, the Guardian of…” Zena paused. “The former Guardian of Water?”

    “Huh? I mean, I don’t guard all water…” Emily frowned. “I mostly just keep the ocean safer. Not rivers and stuff… Just oceans. But I can try to cover the land, but that’s a lot of land… and I’m slower on land, so it’s harder to help Pokémon in time.”

    Owen looked in the air pensively. “…I think we’re working with two different definitions of Guardian.”

    Amia nodded. “Um, Emily, do you know what the spirit world is?”

    “Spirit… world?” Emily asked. “Like, where Ghost Pokémon go? Oh, no, no!” She bopped herself on the head. “Ghosts aren’t dead. It’s where spirits of the dead go! Right?”

    Zena hummed. “I don’t think she’s a Guardian. She’s just… a normal guardian. Er, a non-Orb… protector… of sorts.”

    “Hmm…” Owen churred uncertainly. Something wasn’t adding up. But he didn’t have any extra information to work with yet, so he settled with what he had. “I guess we should take some time to recover. Do we have a communicator with us?”

    The Charizard sat down against the cave’s rocky walls; the ground had soft bedding to it that was covered in a thin layer of dried kelp. Emily must have taken the time to make it, somehow, or find it some other way to craft something of this size—it was very cozy.

    The cold pit in his stomach suggested that this bedding could easily be more of Emily’s flesh fashioned into a soft cushion, but he avoided using his Perception to find out for sure. Some things were best left unknown.

    This sentiment lasted for a few fleeting seconds. Owen checked and, indeed, it seemed to be more of Emily, like she lopped off a part of her belly and turned it into a soft cushion. He elected to not inform the others and festered in his own disgust in silence.

    “We do,” Amia said, pulling out her communicator. “But it didn’t work inside of Emily—maybe now it will?”

    “Doesn’t work inside Emily? That’s weird. Maybe it’s aura-based,” Tanneth said. “Or some other kind of technique. A lot of stuff gets blocked off by Emily… You can’t even use Teleport to get in or out of her.”

    “Oh, goodness, that’s… How do you know that?” Amia said.

    “Someone tried to use Teleport once,” Tanneth said. “I don’t remember who, though. I think it was an Alakazam.”

    “You don’t say,” Owen said. He sat down, curling his tail around his hips and legs. He finally had time to decompress someplace that wasn’t from his nightmares, aside from the bedding. And in that moment of silence with just his thoughts, it finally occurred to him—this was the first time in centuries that he was himself, at least mostly. His head still felt like a great fog if he tried to think back too far, but his body… He fused, and he survived it; he knew what he was capable of, and all his power. And when he was fused with Gahi, when he finally regained his sanity in that state…

    “Heh…” Gahi said, leaning back. “I guess I c’n deal with second place.”

    “H-huh?” Owen came out of his thoughts. “What? Were you guys talking?”

    Demitri nodded. “Yeah, we were just talking about how you won the race to evolve first. And Gahi’s second. So now it’s just between the two of us.”

    “Oh, you guys are racing to evolve? That’s so cool!” Emily said. “I wish I evolved…”

    “You… don’t need to get any bigger,” Owen said.

    “I forget being an Eevee!” Tanneth said cheerfully. “It was too long ago. Maybe I was always a Vaporeon!”

    “Doubt that one, too,” Owen said. “But, uh—about that… Demitri, Mispy, are you guys sure you’re ready to evolve? Gahi went crazy. And when we fused, we both went totally nuts. It took a near-death experience to get us out of—oh, I wonder if my Mysticism is stronger from that…”

    “What’s that, dear?” Amia asked.

    “Uh—nothing. Anyway, what I mean is, if you evolve, you might get hurt if we don’t keep it totally safe. Because what if, you know…”

    “Safe?” Emily said. “Well… if they want to evolve, why don’t they just do it in me?”

    Owen wished his Perception extended to the future; that way, he would’ve seen the trap he’d put himself in. “B-back… in you?”

    “Yeah! If you need a place where you can’t get hurt, then I’m definitely that!”

    “I’ve never quite seen someone describe themselves as a place before, Emily.” Zena chuckled. “I don’t think you were quite this large when I knew you before!”

    Emily giggled. “I missed you, Zena!” she said. “I wondered what happened to you! I can’t believe I forgot!”

    “I feel the same way,” Zena said. “It’s so odd, isn’t it? But—that’s not important right now. Let’s talk about them evolving. Demitri, from how I understand it, you have the strength of the team, right?”

    “Yeah, I think,” Demitri said. “I know that it’s really hard to stop my attacks…. With anything. I think I even break through Protect a little. But I’m pretty slow.”

    Mispy nodded. “And I’m…”

    “Our defense,” Owen said. “And that includes healing. And there’s also that technique Rhys taught you about passively charging your Solar Beam… It takes twice as long, but you can do other attacks in between. I dunno if normal Pokémon can do stuff like that. Imagine combining you two…” Owen paused. “What’s with your aura sensing, anyway?”

    Amia nodded. “Rhys told me about this a long time ago, dear. Apparently, they tried to give that to you during the design phase, but there’s only so much that you can cram into a single aura at once, if that makes any sense. That was the whole purpose of fusion to begin with—to bypass that natural limit with multiple auras at the same time. So, you got Perception of the physical world and Mispy got Perception of the ethereal world…

    “Imagine combining all four of you,” Amia said gravely. “An unstoppable, self-healing, agile, and totally aware creature…”

    Owen winced; something between a bruise and a sharp headache knocked at part of his head. “I think… that’s something Star warned me not to think about,” he said. “I still can’t believe Eon did that… We could’ve been killed! Why would he unleash us like that? I definitely don’t think he intended to help us!”

    “Yeah, he seemed like a real jerk,” Gahi said. “Hmph. Well, I’ll show him. I’m gonna be stronger’n ever, and I’ll be normal in the head when I do it! Think he’s gonna make me fer a crazy thing…”

    Owen laughed. “Yeah! And we’ll make sure that Demitri and Mispy can evolve and stay sane, too. Um… so, Emily, you mentioned that…?”

    “Yeah!” She slammed her wing on her belly—the shockwave alone startled Amia, who had been inspecting a mossy rock. “If you guys train and evolve in my body, you’ll be as safe as possible!”

    “Hmm… Well… okay. What do you guys think? Do you want to… ugh… I mean…”

    “I’m fine with it,” Demitri said. “Mispy?”

    The Bayleef nodded. “We can go all-out?”

    “Totally!” Emily said.

    Owen felt the presence of someone else—no, quite a few others. “Oh,” he said. “I think the others caught up to us.”

    “Others? Oh! Your friends?” Emily asked.

    “You mean Rhys and Anam and everyone?” Demitri asked.

    “Oh, good! We’ll all meet up so we can—um—regroup?” Amia stepped past Emily, who was nearly as tall as the cave on the island.

    “Rhys! Anam! We’re over here!” The Gardevoir waved them over, sending a plume of blue fire in the sky to get their attention.

    Rhys, the nearest to them, winced with recognition.

    Emily waved a huge arm at them. “Hey! Everyone! Over here!”

    “I really don’t think you need to wave to get their attention,” Owen mumbled, startled at how large Emily seemed when her wing was above her head.

    Rhys landed gingerly and looked down, hands to his sides in respect. He bowed. “Hello, Lugia Emily.”

    “Hi!”

    “I am Lucario Rhys. I hope… that our past encounter doesn’t leave any sour feelings.”

    “…Huh?” Emily asked, tilting her massive head. “What do you mean?” She reached down; Rhys flinched, tensing, but didn’t move otherwise. Her massive wing-arm wrapped around Rhys, two of the finger-like ends holding him like a long pastry. She brought her other wing forward and held it level, setting him on the flat of it. Then, the Lugia squinted at him. “…I met a lot of Lucario… but you do look familiar… Do you taste the same?”

    “I’d—No, thank you, I’m, I—there’s no need for that. I was the one who… attempted to strike you down, long ago, to take your power.”

    “Uhh—Rhys?” Owen said. “Emily isn’t a Guardian. Were you trying to harvest her power just because she had a lot of it? How do you even… harvest that sort of power?”

    “It’s difficult to explain,” Rhys said. “I can’t explain it, without you all forgetting again. You see, Emily isn’t just powerful for no reason, she’s . . .”

    “…She’s what, dear?” Amia said.

    Rhys grumbled, but repeated himself uselessly. “I just said, she’s . . .”

    Amia looked at the others; they all shrugged.

    Rhys ran his claws through the fur of his head. “There is something about Emily that, if I say it, you will forget. It’s as if I didn’t say it at all. It’s because Arceus has made it so—a Divine Decree that no normal person can remember. The Hunters… were personally involved in what became of Emily. We’re able to remember. The Decree was not strong enough to eliminate that from our lives, for how major it was. But if your Mystic power becomes strong enough to defy it, just as you defy some of the other laws of reality, perhaps one day we can tell you.”

    Owen paused, glancing at Anam. “Do you remember?” he asked.

    Anam frowned. “A little,” he said. “I thought she was just a nice Lugia…”

    Owen frowned. “Wait, so does that mean Nevren also remembers who Emily is?”

    “Yes,” Rhys said.

    “And if we become strong enough, we’ll be able to remember what you told us?” Owen asked. “Hmm…”

    Rhys nodded. “Perhaps with some help from Star, you’ll remember, too. But as of now? I doubt it.”

    “Try again,” Owen said, staring up at Rhys. “Say it again! Who is Emily?”

    Calm waves washed over the sand.

    “…You… you said something, didn’t you?” Owen asked.

    “I did,” Rhys sighed.

    “Guess now isn’t the time,” Star shrugged.

    Emily giggled. “You’re silly! You just stood there!” she said. “Can I pet you?”

    It seemed that Emily didn’t remember, either, Owen noticed. He hummed, puzzled.

    “Y-you… I would prefer if you did not,” Rhys said, looking away.

    “Aww…” Emily sadly set the Lucario down.

    “You must be super important, Mister Rhys!” Tanneth said. “I bet you’re a super strong hero, just like Emily!”

    Rhys glanced down. “I have to disagree.”

    “Huh? How come?” Emily said. “You seem like a nice Pokémon!”

    “Hmm…” Owen said. “We probably have to become really strong,” he said. “How strong do you think? Do we have to… be stronger than Arceus himself?”

    Rhys shook his head “I certainly hope not. Only a small fraction of his power should be needed to override it. This is especially true for those aligned with Star.”

    “…Oh,” Owen said.

    “Ohh, that’s right,” Amia said, tapping her ill-defined chin. “Owen, you never aligned with Star or Arceus. You’re… your own alliance right now, aren’t you?”

    “I wouldn’t call it an alliance,” Owen said. “I just want to keep my options open. Maybe it’s just my instincts.”

    “What?” Demitri said.

    “I feel like I don’t know the full story,” Owen said. “Who makes decisions without as much information as they can get?”

    “I mean, figure what I see’s enough.” Gahi shrugged. “Eh. But yer real thorough. I’ll trust ya. I ain’t gonna side with either a’them, then, if yer gonna do the same.”

    Demitri and Mispy exchanged looks, but then nodded at Owen.

    “You know best,” Mispy said.

    “A-aw, gee, guys…” Owen blushed.

    “…Oh, no!” Emily said, straightening. “I have to go! A Pokémon is in trouble.”

    Tanneth hopped onto Emily’s shoulder and burrowed into it, melting away.

    The Lugia addressed them hastily. “Umm—can I come back later?”

    “We should probably get going, too,” Rhys said. “Perhaps another time. Er… Would you mind if we set a Waypoint to this cave, so we can visit later without the travel time? It’s all the way across the world, after all….”

    “Oh! Sure! That sounds cool,” Emily said.

    “Perfect. I will set up—you can rescue that Pokémon, now.”

    “Okay. See you!” Emily didn’t hesitate and jumped into the ocean, creating a wave that washed all the way into the caves. Owen grumbled and raised his tail so his flames didn’t get doused by the sea.

    And then the waters calmed, the massive sea guardian sinking into its depths.

    “She seemed nice,” Demitri said. “Weird, but nice.”

    While everyone else nodded in agreement, Owen glanced at Anam again. All this time, his gooey body felt tense. His Perception gave him another piece of information: It felt almost like Anam was listening to somebody. “Association Head?” Owen asked.

    Anam jolted upright. “H-huh? Hi! Hello, Owen. Are you feeling okay?”

    “Are you?” Owen asked.

    Anam grinned. “Totally! Congratulations on evolving, Owen! That’s super cool!” He clapped his slimy hands together, bowing with so much enthusiasm, combined with his incessant giggling, that it fooled everyone else in the room. “I was just thinking, now that you can fly, and fight at your best, think of all the people you’re gonna be able to help! You and Gahi! Fused as the mighty Gawen—you need to come up with a cool name for all the other fusions, too!”

    He looked happy as ever. And the others all grinned, too—even Rhys, suggesting that he sensed no strangeness from Anam’s aura. Owen smiled, too, if only because the Goodra’s was contagious.

    “Okay, everyone!” Anam said, raising his arms to get their attention. “Let’s go home!”

    Deflating with relief after the morning’s chaos, they all agreed.

    Owen spared one last glance at Anam before they warped back to Hot Spot. Anam’s aura looked normal, and his smile was wide as ever. But now that he was fully evolved, he realized that perhaps Anam could mask his aura from the others.

    Anam’s aura was stable and calm, but Owen’s Perception revealed that his body was telling a completely different story.

    Zena nudged Owen’s side.

    “Oh—hey, uh, Zena,” the Charizard greeted uncertainly. “Are you okay?”

    While Anam’s body type was familiar to him, Zena’s felt foreign all over again. With a pang of frustration, he wondered if it used to be familiar before.

    “Hello, Owen,” she said. “I didn’t get to congratulate you directly until now.”

    “Oh, yeah!” Owen said, grinning—genuine, this time. “I forgot how much I missed wings. I mean, I guess I never missed them, since I didn’t know I had… you know what I mean.”

    Zena giggled. “I think so,” she said.

    Owen grinned awkwardly. What else did she want him to say? “Are you tired?”

    “What? Oh, I suppose so,” Zena said.

    “Oh, that explains it,” Owen said.

    Yet she didn’t leave to converse with the others. “…Owen, how are your memories doing?”

    “Oh.” Owen rubbed the back of his head. “Er, to be honest, I feel really muddled. I think fusing with Gahi messed with it again. But it’s okay! I think they’ll come back eventually. How come? Did I forget something important?”

    Zena glanced away.

    “Zena?” He fiddled with his claws nervously. “I didn’t forget your hatch day or something, did I? I’m—really sorry if I did. And what a day for it to happen on, too…”

    “No, no,” Zena said. “Sorry. I’m just very sorry that you’ve lost your memories again. Hopefully we can recover them. Then it’ll all make sense, right?”

    Owen nodded. “Yeah. Then maybe I’ll remember a bit more about you, too!” He laughed.

    Zena didn’t return his laugh.

    “Zena?”

    “Set to go!” Anam said, raising the Badge in the air. Rhys and Demitri did the same, making sure they had enough Badge power to warp everyone out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  10. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapters 12-28 including Special Episode 2

    Okay, I thought it was high time I read more of HoC again. I decided to do a binge-read like last time and initially, I was going to stop at Special Episode 2, but one character before then hooked me so much that I read a little further, so this will cover chapters 12-28, including the special episode.

    So basically, this second part of Act 1 gave me more of what I loved before and amplified it, and even more importantly, we get a bigger picture of the story to come with yet even more revelations. I didn’t think the story could get any more intense after that bombshell in chapter 8, but then it just kamikaze’s you with ‘wait, dere’s more!!!’ and keeps building from there.

    I mean, holy crap, I was sold on this story before, but now it’s starting to reveal more of its true colours this has become one of my new favourite fics. The best part is that you obviously haven’t revealed everything yet, so thing can only go up from here.

    I do have two minor problems with the sprawling nature of this fic. Sometimes, it can get pretty exposition heavy, especially with how the Mysticism power works. It makes the reading experience rather cluttered at times. As well as that, because of how much the cast expands with the Guardian hunt plot, sometimes, quite a few characters like Mispy and ADAM get overshadowed by the rest of the cast. Although perhaps they’re more minor in the grand scheme of things, so some compromises have to be made.

    But anyway. Onto the chapter by chapter reviews:

    Chapter 12

    Dayum. Anam can certainly take a beating.

    Is there a webmaster we can contact? Or would that just be the pink or white god in this world?

    O O F

    So this chapter pretty much picks up from Chapter 11, which is good, but I still got the feeling that this could’ve slowed down a bit, though I understand the situation is urgent. Nevertheless, I can’t complain about well written action scenes, and the dual narratives you have going on with Anam’s and Rhys’ team grabbed my attention throughout. ADAM in particular was a fun addition to the cast, and added to the Schizo Tech feel of the world.

    But how’s our scalie boi Owen doing here?

    Chapter 13

    Oh, speak of the devil.

    And the first thing Owen does in this chapter is hallucinate. The description of this was really entertaining. I think you could’ve banked on the psychedelic imagery a bit more, at least from his perspective, but that probably would’ve dragged the pacing down, so I’m fine with that.

    And the award for biggest cosmic plaything goes to…

    Coming from Willow, I don’t know if that’s a question or a request.

    This was a great scene. After my complaints about wanting the story to slow down a bit to give our characters respite, this was well earned. It wouldn’t be an epic fantasy story without a hearty stew dinner shared between our cast.

    cough cough

    OOOOOOOF

    Out of the Guardian hunt chapters so far, I really liked this one. The Fae Forest was a great setting to have a fight, and you took great advantage of the Fairy type’s powers. Willow was especially entertaining, with her very unpredictable personality. Well gee, kinda reminds me of another wildcard in my fic. And after that, we get some well earned rest for our characters, before the whole thing starts falling apart with Gahi’s slip up. Make sure to never invite him as a dinner guest in the future.

    Chapter 14

    I know it’s a small moment, but I enjoyed this scene in particular, since we get to see more of what the characters do in their downtime and how they apply their powers to it. Of course, there is that underlying tension, but it’s still nice.

    Slime, excretions. Tomatoe, tomato.

    ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THAT?

    Well. Crap.

    ‘Rhys’ assassination attempt on Team Alloy (20XX, colorized)’

    Interesting to see the Hunters come into play again. I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but I guess it’s about time things start going hairy for our main heroes in their search for the Guardians. I got the feeling this was just a prelude to the next chapter, seeing as how the big fights have just started, but it’s still good.

    Chapter 15

    I don’t have much to say. I just love the setting for this scene.

    Oh.

    So, Chapter 15, AKA, ‘Owen goes SICKO MODE’. So this was another exciting chapter, which served as the logical conclusion for the last chapter’s set up. The gap in between scenes is a little jarring, but I got the feeling that this was another lapse in memory, so I let it slide.

    Chapter 16

    I don’t really have much to comment on quote-wise, but overall, this was a tense chapter, even if nothing much happened in the grand scheme of things. The heroes were just sort of licking their wounds and recapping what happened for the most part. It was well needed, as it went into more detail about what the weird Luxray was doing.

    Then things take a turn for the sinister when Rhys wipes Owen’s memories again. I just love the way you handle the memory aspect in the story, with the gaps the protagonist has to fill and how it creates this lingering sense of dread. Especially with Zena and Willow’s reaction before. They’re obviously unnerved by him, but of course, the reason for that hasn’t been revealed yet.

    Chapter 17

    Wow, didn’t know the rock collecting industry was so ubiquitous in Kilo.

    Ouch. This hurt. Even if they still have a ways to go in developing their relationship, it tugged at the heartstrings here. You get that sense that it hurts Zena as much as it does Owen, and that she probably doesn’t have a choice in the matter, but still.

    Holy crap. What a line to end the chapter on. No wonder they’ve been locking memories from him.

    But yeah, this chapter slowly built in intensity throughout, from Zena’s secret-keeping to Klent’s slowly devolving lesson with Owen. The emotional core of this chapter was Owen’s panic attack, especially with Star trying to calm him down, but to no avail. I loved the way you wrote that scene, with the way he rapidly cycled through his memories as well as his dialogue. And wow, that last line really hit me. I jumped from my bed and kept pacing the room in disbelief when I read that line. What a revelation.

    Things can only go up from here, right? RIGHT?

    Chapter 18

    Xxscalie.boixX has left the server.

    Ooh. Literal cat fight incoming.

    So, Zena’s confrontation with Star. This really doesn’t pull any punches. On the one one hand, it’s logical for Zena to be pissed off at Star for everything that happened, and I feel her outburst was a long time coming. On the other hand, I can see Star is trying to make the best out of a bad situation; justifying her actions while not fully redeeming herself. In the end, she still has to live with the fact that she was partly the one that set the story’s events in motion, which had a huge impact on Zena’s life. While the outcome isn’t satisfactory for either of them, it’s the best option they have.

    ~Brave sir Azu ran away~

    Oh crap, they’re multiplying.

    So, while this chapter was strong, I thought it took a bit of diversion with Amia revisiting Manny’s tower. It was a bit jarring after that big bombshell with Owen last chapter, as it built a lot of momentum with his panic attack and Zena’s confrontation, then cut to a different segment of the story. It was still entertaining, but it was a little distracting. Then again, in hindsight, if it wasn’t for that cut into Manny’s story, we wouldn’t have much context for what happens on Owen side next chapter. So it could just be nitpicking.

    Chapter 19

    Ah yes, the ancient dialect of FREEDOM! bagpipe noises

    Oh. So not only is Owen’s village a lie, his entire existence is a manufactured lie as well. He really is the cosmos’ biggest punching bag.

    Oh yeah, you might be three or four hundred years old. It’s just splitting hairs at this point.

    But yeah, while this was a comparatively brief chapter, it was still solid. After all that heartbreak, it’s nice to see Owen calming down and having a peaceful talk with Star about his own nature. It shows how far he’s come in all of this.

    Chapter 20

    Rhys’ fight with Manny was one of my favourites in this fic. It’s interesting to have a duel with two Lucario, but the way they bounce off each other’s personalities and keep trying to one up themselves is very entertaining. Granted, it waffles on a bit when Rhys is discussing his handicaps with the Reviver seed, but I quickly forgot about that after the fight started again. The conclusion to this was awesome, as Rhys manages to outsmart Manny and curb stomp him. The rest is just sort of a cooldown after that, but an earned one. I also have to admire Manny’s philosophy about the ‘Solid, tangible facts’ thing.

    Chapter 21

    That chapter title definitely isn’t foreboding…

    Aw, this was sweet.

    Awwwwwwwwwwwww. T_T Now this scene really tugged at the heartstrings. Even with all the stuff he’s been through, mentally, he’s still a kid, which makes it all the more tragic.

    Best blasphemer in the f**king game.

    This chapter was fantastic. After everything that happened, I thought you wrapped up the Synthetic revelation beautifully. It shows that even though he is burdened by his past actions as well as his design (now I see why it’s named Hands of Creation, although we were so close to a title drop, and yet so far), he still has his friends beside him, and so the scenes with Zena and Amia were really heartfelt.

    And if that wasn’t enough, we have Owen standing before His White Badness himself, Arceus. How interesting that the freaking Creator turns out to be a complete jackass. While the exact motivations aren’t really clear yet, perhaps the next chapter will elaborate more.

    Chapter 22

    Hmm. I’m a bit conflicted with this chapter. On the one hand, the imagery of the aura sea was great, and it was also interesting to see that Mew has an admirer in the form of Hecto. On the other hand, however, I don’t think this answers a lot of questions I had from the previous chapter, which could be by design, but still. I don’t really have a firm grasp on Arceus’ motivation for what he does (whether or not he has lost his marbles, or is doing this out of his rivalry for Mew, or is truly malicious). Maybe I missed something from the previous chapters, or am just being impatient...

    One answer I was sort of satisfied with is Owen’s involvement in all of this. The fact that he hasn’t made the Divine Promise yet does give him an edge over the other guardians if he’s standing by himself to make a difference in the world.

    But oh well. We’re in the grass orb again next chapter.

    Chapter 23

    And on this episode of Maury…

    Guess who's back (ack ack), back again.

    Deca's back (ack ack), tell Owen!

    Alright, it’s nice to see Owen finally apologising for his past actions, and was understandably tense. Props to Klent for handling this situation like a pro, despite the baggage that he has between him for obvious reasons.

    One thing I found odd with this whole situation was Amelia’s reaction to Owen. Considering how Klent built her up as being afraid of Owen, I thought she would’ve been more hostile towards him, which would’ve hammered in the consequences of his actions more. Granted, she is still scared of him, so it’s not as if she’s fully accepted her situation, but still.

    And of course, Owen’s (kinda-sorta) doppleganger Deca is back! Before, I had a theory that he was his long last father, but with all the revelations, I can throw that theory out the window. Special Episode 1 must've been a flashback if Owen's gone through lots of resets before throughout his 400 years, as well as Rhys making an appearance. Sugar and Spice make a reappearance as well, so I guess it’s fairly recent.

    Chapter 24

    Well gee, a Moddist tutoring a Mod. This is gonna go splendidly.

    After staying with Gahi for so long, I’m surprised he doesn’t understand Manny’s Scottish-ese.

    Oh, Willow. As masochistic as ever.

    So, I wasn’t exactly sold on how exposition heavy this chapter was. It was probably important to establish the limitations of Owen’s Mysticism and the distinction between that soul and the aura, but the bulk of this chapter is sort of an info-dump, which had me glazing it over half the time. Still, it was fun seeing Owen getting his ass handed to him on a plate, over and over and over and over and over…

    Chapter 25

    Star, the Typist. Granted, she is Psychic, but still.

    Goodra Anam everybody, possessing all of the style and grace of a Disney dragon.

    Huh, so Alakazam invented the fridge-freezer. The More You Know™. Next, you’ll be telling me the earth is flat!

    Well, I wasn’t expecting that! I was always curious as to when ferals in this fic would be expanded on, but I’m glad to finally get answers on it!

    Special Episode 2

    And here’s another special episode, and one that directly ties in with the other episode with the cameo of the two Charmander! So, I was surprised to see another perspective shift, and one that went into one of the other guardians, Ra. Not only that, just as Enet’s introduced in the previous chapter, we get a chapter mostly devoted to how she got her powers, and the two factions that are playing tug of war with the feral guardian.

    I really appreciate how multi-faceted you made Mew’s character in this. She is a tragic God, and one who’s trying her best to make things right for the Guardian’s, but also doesn’t have Enet’s best interests in mind when she accidentally snatched the orb. I can see why Star is sceptical, considering it would probably be dangerous to let a feral Pokemon take control of one of the orbs. Still though, damn, that was an extreme reaction.

    I do have a major issue with this one. I sadly have to echo Amby’s thoughts and say Ra’s story didn’t quite pack the emotional punch you were going for. Even though this chapter is perhaps the longest out of all of them so far, parts of it felt rushed, particularly with Ra’s relationship to his daughters and how that causes drama from him with his ‘throw the weak cubs off the cliff’ mentality. We didn’t really know anything about him prior to the episode for his behaviour to be fully justified, or much about his daughters for me to care about them being abused in such a way.

    It sort of makes sense considering how sick he is with his immortality and his strong resentment against Star. But it feels like I’m being expected to care about someone who’s just reached the end of their story, without a beginning or a middle to tie it all together. Since the prose is so dense in this one, taking a third person limited approach to it all, it makes his story all the more hard to follow.

    But still, Star was the high point for me, as well as the fight to prevent her from killing Enet. That’s what kept me engaged throughout. And considering what I think about Enet in hindsight, that made things all the sweeter in that regard. But we’ll get to her next chapter!

    Chapter 26

    Smoooooooooth.

    Adding to Owen’s increasingly big list of size difference love interests, I see.

    Press X to Doubt.

    Huh. I kind of find it amusing to see one of the main villains of the series casually getting groceries, while still managing to creep everybody out.

    Oh hey, look, a Smeargle! Glad to see those guys getting more exposure (and yes, I’m extremely biased). Though I’m really intrigued to see how Rim’s going to use these paintings in the future.

    I really enjoyed this chapter, even though not a lot happened. It is sort of the calm before the storm for Owen, as the meat of this chapter is his interactions with the feral Enet. I have to say, I love how you handled her character. She obviously displays intelligence of some sort, but that’s contrasted with her lack of understanding of Owen’s world as well as her limited communication skills. That made her really endearing in this chapter, and I hope to see more of her later.

    Star’s role in this chapter was interesting as well, especially with the knowledge of Special Episode 2. It appears she’s taken a heel-face turn on the whole feral issue and has tried to educate Enet to some extent, but it’s hard to ignore her past actions even if Owen doesn’t fully realise it.

    Chapter 27

    Well, it was about time Anam vored Owen.

    Huh. I didn’t think a Zoroark’s ponytail could’ve been adjusted before. That gives me an idea…

    If you didn’t convince me to put Enet in the top tier list of favourite HoC characters before, you have now.

    Amia. I don’t feel so good…

    This gave me more of what I loved about the last chapter, with more of Enet’s cute interactions and the start of the next battle. That got pretty intense quickly. Anam really doesn’t screw around when his Ghost Guardian powers are unleashed. I can definitely see why he’d be reluctant to use them, given his childish and friendly demeanour.

    Chapter 28

    Such deplorable language, Amia!

    Can’t. Handle. Cuteness.

    Please make this a thing, Namo. I need Melon Owen in my life.

    Alright, so this marks the end of the fight with Rim, and I have to admire Owen’s brass balls here. Good on him for thinking so quickly on his feet, even if his plan was crazy. If Enet had died this early, I doubt I would’ve forgiven him, or you. The rest was good as a cooldown from the fight, and it was amusing to see Enet react to the rest of the cast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love her. She’s quickly becoming one of my favourite characters in this fic, amongst an ever-growing cast of memorable characters.

    So that’s all for now! I really enjoyed blitzing through these chapters, and I hope to catch up with the Serebii release schedule one day!
     
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  11. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Ah yes, the Tetris Effect has manifested just a tiny bit in you. I'm so proud.

    Well, it's an honor to hear! And you're right, we're still only in Act I, so there's quite a lot left to reveal and go over.

    Yeah, that's something that I got a little clumsy with at times. Part of this stemmed from the fact that I've gotten a few complaints in the past that Mysticism as a whole didn't seem to be outlined very well, or that the limits were not clear--so it basically seemed like Mysticism was just a lesser form of godhood. Which is... kinda true, within the in-universe context, but what that actually means hadn't been properly elaborated upon. I still need to find a good balance between the two.

    Another challenge is indeed exactly this. With an ensemble cast, and without a clear direction on who's important and who's 'less important,' it seems like characters that have a lot of personality are put to the side in favor of plot. It's... tricky. But hopefully by the end, most of them will have their time to shine.

    It's a new memory, yeah. I'll look into formatting it a bit better like I did in other areas, probably italicizing them or something. I talked to you in private to get specifics on what you meant here, and yeah, it was the micro-flashback.

    Yes, I'm glad! It was a challenge to manage the information of what Owen knows, what the reader knows, and what everyone else knows, because all three streams are not identical most of the time. I'm glad I was able to at least convey that well enough.

    Thanks, I put a loooot of thought into this scene in particular just to get that raw... sheer overwhelmed panic. This was definitely Owen's low point of Act I, at least in terms of how confused he is about himself and who he is, even more so than the revelations earlier about his whole village being dead.

    Yeah, seems like you're going in the camp of "she's just trying to do her best," in terms of how Star is, which is the other, though less vocal, camp in terms of what Star's role is in the story. It's nice to see a bit of perspective on both sides.

    Manny's interlude was somewhat intended to be a breather. It's still a little heavy, but compared to Owen's whole deal, I wanted this to also be a bit of a moment of reprieve for the reader. Mood wise, it's a little jarring, though... but ahh, I don't think I can quite change it around without restructuring the entire set of chapters around the local area.

    Oh, good! I was a little worried that this scene would come off as filler since it seems to be a bit irrelevant, aside from the talk about Owen near the end. But at least it was entertaining and showed off a bit of the two Lucario and their power.

    Mm, this was an intentional gamble on my part. Star isn't going to tell Owen the whole story, and she made that much quite clear, though she's at least clear that she doesn't like how Barky is being. That being said... the same can be said on the flip-side, which is why Owen isn't making any Promises to either.

    This was another tricky spot. Amelia was... yeah, she was killed by Owen. But at the same time, that was centuries ago, she saw Owen for how he "really is" when he's not a monster (who the true Owen is would be a philosophical debate) and, more importantly, because she's part of the Grass Realm, she also has a bit of extra empathy for Owen, since they're kinda-sorta part of him for now, in a roundabout way. So while she still has that lingering fear, she knows at least on a rational level and empathetic level that it's not the same Owen. And I tried to allude to it, but seeing Owen as a normal Charizard helped, too, rather than his as-of-yet unseen mutant form.

    Same as above, information management and info-dump balance. This is probably the worst example of it in the fic, to be honest. I'm probably going to revisit it again to make it even less of a dump while still conveying the same information.

    And I'm gonna echo the same thoughts I had with the others -- I'll definitely look into what I can do to smooth it out a little more. I can probably trim out unnecessary combat in present day, or at least tighten up the prose some, to make room for one or two more flashback scenes that build up to the moment Ra and Step decide to split up to show that Ra isn't just outright abusive.

    Enet's a fan favorite for sure. I don't blame anybody. And she's a blast to write, too, just because of her unique perspective and mannerisms. A feral Guardian! The premise alone is interesting.

    Anyway, thanks for reading through all this! If you plan on dropping another review by the end of Special Episode 3, you won't have to wait long for that one to show up. In about... two weeks or so, that chapter will be dropping, which in itself will be the end of Act I.
     
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  12. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    namo, yer not helping us not think of this as the vore fic

    A bit of a breather chapter! Which, honestly is well-deserved after some of the high-octane energy we had recently. I think they all deserve it. ^^;

    Okay, I had to go back and double check, but Rhys is not present in this scene! He shouldn't have dialogue here. xD

    I was a bit surprised that Owen lost more memories! Obviously it's not like, an entire time period of his life like it used to be, but it still caught me off guard. I assume it happened because of the loss of self from fusing? I don't think I caught where it was mentioned, though. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, of course)

    also I expect actual calculations for how big this planet's diameter is and how far the guardians had to fly to meet up with Owen and how fast they can travel as a result. :V If we get into too high of machs, I'm calling bs. (hey, if I have to do it, so do you) ;P

    ~Chibi~
     
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  13. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Falling action for Act I, I guess. And boy do they need it. And the reader. Just let everyone rest! They need some time to realize how psychologically damaged they're going to be when this is all over.

    Big oops from me! I did a hotfix to this one a while ago. Messed up some continuity while shuffling around the scenes for better writing, among other things. (Though after some feedback I've gotten before, I already know a few ways to try to make it even better... so the editing cycle continues forever...) But anyway, this has been fixed. I think I switched it so Amia does the talking in her manner of speech instead.

    I left this one to implicit changes, but yeah. Even though Barky helped out, and Star was able to separate them, they still got scrambled again for a little while, and therefore lost a bit of themselves again. Hopefully they'll be able to get it back easier next time.

    WARNING: MATH INCOMING. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

    Okay so I know you're half-joking with this, and we talked about this in private, but hey! This is actually worth mentioning since there's no real good place to put it in the fic without it being a stupid and unnecessary info dump. Here's my reasoning behind this:

    It was mentioned a few chapters ago by Nevren that if you're "fast enough," you can outpace the sun, i.e. the planet's rotation. Since days are the normal 24 hours here (I never indicated otherwise, so I guess it's a matter of the "like earth unless otherwise specified" rule) and Nevren generally isn't someone to work with hyperbole, I'd say it's reasonable to assume that he meant something like "swift flying." I think a reasonable speed for that sort of flight would be a ballpark of 50 kilometers per hour (that's 30 miles per hour in freedom units). That means, assuming that's the pace of rotation, that Kilo is around 720 miles around, which would give it a surface area of approximately 165,000 square miles (about 425,000 square kilometers)

    Assuming Earth-like ratios of land to water, that means abouuut 55,000 square miles (130,000 square kilometers) makes up Kilo's land surface, approximately the same size as the state of Iowa or the country of Greece. Kilo as a whole is around the same area as the state of New Mexico or the country of Finland.

    Note, this is the minimum size of Kilo. I haven't officially decided how big the planet really is, only that it's very, very, very small. All of these numbers change depending on what Nevren meant by "outpacing" the sun, and just how much distance is covered per hour when the planet rotates. 30 miles per hour isn't all that fast by Pokemon standards, especially souped up Mystics. I'd almost call it leisurely.

    Hmm, anyway. Your original question. The Chasm of the Void is near the southern area of Kilo. Not too far from the ocean. Emily is on the other side of the planet (and she's obviously very fast underwater to be able to travel all around the place as she does to rescue folks.)

    So... someone correct me here or in private if I'm wrong, because I don't remember this part of advanced geometry: If Kilo is a "cap" around a sphere that's approximately a third of the size of the sphere, how far is the distance between the edge of the cap to the side of the sphere opposite to the cap's center? My stupid brain is telling me "A third of the circumference" because it's a third of the surface area, but I feel like the square-cube law applies here, but I don't know the formula to make it work.

    But I do know that it's no greater than going halfway around the planet, because that would be what happens if you go from Kilo Village (the epicenter of Kilo) to Emily's world, as they're literally opposite of one another. So I'm going to just say it takes ~two fifths of the planet's circumference as a compromise. That's approximately 300 miles of travel (assuming minimum size) which is about 500 kilometers. Since Eon's encounter happened early in the morning as the sun's rising, and this cooldown is taking place in the afternoon, I think it's reasonable to assume about 6 hours passed (Gawen was out for a while). Therefore, they had to travel about 60 miles per hour / 100 kilometers per hour in the air to arrive in a timely manner. As far as Mystics are concerned for cruise control flying, that's not unspeakable. (How are they talking while flying? Cone-shaped barrier to deflect most of the air so it's not howling over them all the time, is always my go-to guess. Yeah, yeah, Wonder Woman invisible plane joke, I know.)

    SO IN SHORT, TL;DR: They were traveling at about highway speeds through the air for 6 hours, possibly faster if the planet is larger than the minimum provided above. Kilo is tiny, and it was mentioned previously (albeit maybe too subtly.) If you're wondering why gravity is normal despite this, go ask Arceus. Either the planet has an ultra-dense core, or Arceus made G stronger in this universe than in ours.
     
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  14. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Chapter 39 – Correct

    “Sooo, can we evolve now?” Demitri balled up his fists, shaking them enthusiastically. Mispy listened, but spent her time prodding at one of the Hot Spot mushrooms with a vine to feign a lack of interest.

    “Not until we’re sure we can get you in a safe environment,” Rhys said.

    Demitri frowned, tapping into some unused Dragon pride. “Aw, c’mon! I mean—if something bad happens, you can just warp us to Emily’s place, right? It’s not like we can fly off like those two!” He pointed at the fully-evolved Flygon and Charizard, both of whom smirked at Demitri in almost the same manner.

    “How’s it feel competing fer third place?” Gahi taunted.

    Owen quickly suppressed the smirk. “You know, Gahi, if they evolve fine, they’ll be the only ones to do it without some kind of assistance to stay calm.”

    “Feh, whatever helps’m sleep at night.” Gahi stuck his nose in the air triumphantly, his shining body gleaming against the mushroom glow.

    “Well… that much is true…” Rhys considered their reasoning but knew to think cautiously. After all, they were strongly biased toward recovering their true forms and memories. For all he knew, even with Gahi and Owen stable, the couple could make it all fall apart with a single misstep.

    Demitri frowned, looking down. Maybe Rhys was—Mispy prodded Demitri hard on the back with her other vine. “I mean—we’re way better at meditating, compared to Gahi,” he said. “So, since we’re all behaved and all that, that means we’ll stay sane easier, right?”

    Gahi’s right eye twitched. “Oy, that ain’t my fault, Eon made me nuts!”

    “It’s likely a bit of both, Gahi,” Rhys said, earning an indignant flinch, then a snort, from the mutant. “Hmm… but I suppose if we have enough containment procedures in place, we should be able to evolve you without waiting for another opportunity where Emily is available. How does that sound?”

    Demitri lit up. “That sounds great!”

    Mispy nodded eagerly.

    “How does that sound to everyone else?” Rhys clarified, turning to face the remainder of the crowd.

    Owen rumbled uncertainly, startling himself with how deep the growl sounded. He had to get used to that. The much larger pseudo-dragon cleared his throat.. “We’ll have to make sure they can’t escape. And that if we get in trouble, we can warp them right to Emily’s place. But since we sorta… warped to the Chasm place, and then again to get out of it, I think the Badge is depleted for now. And—oh! The Dark Guardian! Is he—?”

    “I don’t think we should go there for now.” Rhys shook his head. “If we return now, he might feel threatened, after how Eon behaved. We should wait at least a day. Until then… Why don’t we have some breakfast? A… late… very late breakfast.” His shoulders slouched. It was a good thing he didn’t have to eat.

    Demitri and Mispy’s stomachs suddenly growled. Mispy’s especially, droning on for several seconds after Demitri’s settled.

    “W-wow, that’s right—we totally forgot to eat…”

    “Food…” Mispy mumbled.

    Amia giggled. “Rhys, dear, why don’t we make something special for them?”

    “That will give the Badges time to recharge,” Rhys agreed. “Very well. We will make something energizing. That will give me some time to prepare my training for them…. I think we will be able to unlock their potential quickly.”

    Demitri perked up. “Ooh—is it a secret technique? How come you never showed it to us before?”

    “Is it dangerous?” Mispy asked.

    “No, not necessarily,” Rhys said, holding up a paw. “I simply… cannot use it very often. But for this case, I think it will be worth our time. I can prepare while I am cooking with Amia.” He absently rubbed along the spike on his wrist, as if polishing it to think.

    “Oh!” Anam perked up. “Um—well, while you guys are doing that, is it okay if I go back to Kilo Village to do some checking up?”

    “Oh, of course, dear!” Amia said. “Going to help out Nevren?”

    “Mhm!” He clapped his slimy hands together. “Also, I wanna do some extra blessings. It helps to calm the mind, you know?”

    “Mind bringing over some extra Orans when you do?” Owen asked. “I think someone ate all of mine when I was asleep.”

    Mispy shifted her weight subtly. Owen’s fire flashed an angry yellow, but then settled to a resigned orange. “Good luck with training, you two.”

    <><><> ​

    It was later in the afternoon, but Owen was desperate for a nap. Breakfast—at this point, lunch—was still cooking, so Owen took the opportunity to retreat to his room. Zena had briefly followed him, but then saw Gahi speed along to catch up to him. She watched the pair pensively, but then sighed, deciding that she should remain behind with Demitri and Mispy in case they had to be Suppressed.

    Most of the others shuffled away to their usual routines. Manny went to train with his spirits again; ADAM returned to his home to “normalize” more perceived imperfections; Valle did as he always did; Enet returned to her abode, instantly darkening the entire inside.

    Content at the normalcy, Owen’s pace slowed to a leisurely wobble, wondering how comfortable the rocks would feel if he decided to collapse right there. Gahi was hanging around many paces behind him, leaning against walls or otherwise prodding at mushrooms with his feet, similar to Mispy. His walking pace was almost as fast as Owen when he ran, which made him wait for agonizingly long periods of time just to stay inconspicuously behind Owen.

    Between Gahi’s lack of subtlety and Owen’s Perception, Owen was simply waiting for Gahi to actually speak up.

    Once he was at the entryway to his home, his patience finally ran out. “Need something, Gahi?”

    “Eh—hey.” Gahi flinched, tail wrapping around himself.

    “You tired?”

    “…A li’l.”

    The Flygon stood awkwardly by the entrance to his room. Owen, not sure where to go, sat by his bed and left half of it for him to sit on. He noticed that it was bigger than when he had first left it; did Amia take the time to gather more Rawst leaves for his new body?

    Gahi sat next to Owen and curled his tail around himself. He played with the fan at the tip, tracing the angular decorations with the back of his claws.

    For a while, the silence ate at both of them. The gravity of the morning caught up. Casual air slowly condensed into a thick tension.

    Owen glanced at Gahi only once, but he spared him any intense stares. Still, he could feel it; Gahi was trembling. He mimicked Gahi’s body language, wrapping his tail around to play with the fire, sustaining a few embers at the tips of his claws like little candles. “…That was… scary, huh?”

    Gahi gulped and nodded. He didn’t break eye contact with his tail. “Yeah.”

    Owen reached for a Rawst leaf and grabbed one; it was still soft. “I should probably get a cover for these to wrap them up. Lasts longer.”

    “Not like sand,” Gahi said. “Stuff lasts ferever.”

    “Heh… yeah.” Owen shifted where he sat.

    Gahi scooted himself forward and leaned toward the ground. Not comfortable, he leaned back instead, stretching his slender body. Eventually, the svelte-bodied Flygon settled, belly facing the ceiling. “I just…” he said. “I feel like…”

    Owen mirrored Gahi again, laying down next to him until they were both staring at the ceiling. Gahi’s tail twitched away from Owen’s, not used to the dull heat of his idle flame.

    “Like you weren’t in control?”

    “Tch… yeah.”

    “Yeah…”

    More silence.

    “…I’m beat.” Gahi rolled until he was on his side, facing Owen; he closed his eyes. “I’m just… gonna go fer an afternoon nap.”

    Owen nodded. “That’s fine. I guess my bed is softer than the sand you’re used to and stuff.” He glanced at Gahi. It seemed like he was already drifting off. Smiling, the Charizard pushed himself into a sitting position. “I’m gonna—”

    “Can you…” Gahi said quickly; one eye opened.

    Owen stopped.

    “Can you… just stick around a li’l while…?”

    The Charizard’s gaze softened further, breathing a small sigh that produced no flame. “Sure, Gahi. I’ll be right here.” He laid back down, staring at the ceiling again. His eyes focused on a small clutch of mushrooms in the corner. He always liked staring at that patch. He’d feel out of place if those ever fell; he’d need to find a new patch to call his favorite.

    He wondered if it would help Gahi if he read a book or two. Perhaps played a game of marbles? Now that he actually had hands, it might be a little easier. But Owen couldn’t find his voice. They continued to fester in their silence a while longer.

    “Am I me?” Gahi asked.

    Owen glanced at the Flygon. Both of the shiny dragon’s eyes were open, staring at nothing in particular, just straight to the rocks above them.

    “…Feels like… I’m going through what you were going through…” Gahi’s voice got quieter and quieter. “When y’were all…”

    “The way you are now,” Owen said, “is who you are. Back there… That wasn’t you. That was just… something Eon wanted you to be a long time ago.”

    Gahi didn’t react much. He just kept staring. Owen glanced at him every so often out of the corner of his eye, but Gahi didn’t even notice. Owen wondered what it was like to have such little awareness. Even when he was tired, he knew where everything around him was.

    Owen continued. “I think you’re you, right now.”

    Gahi’s claws dug into the scales of his palms. “I couldn’t stop it… I just… wanted ter do it… ter fuse… so badly. I wanted ter fight… just… just fight… wasn’t the same… was like I’d die if I didn’t fight… Knew I wouldn’t… but I had ter fight…”

    Owen kept his voice steady and soft. “I was the same way, Gahi. I remember what happened when I fought Azu the first time. I was the same way—I just went… crazy. I kept attacking, even when he was an ember. And then I tried to attack his ember. Then I started to attack Mom… but I stopped really fast there… I remember that part. I remember stopping…”

    “That’s pro’ly ‘cause yer Mystic. But I’m just… normal. If I go crazy again… I ain’t gonna stop it with that li’l… li’l privilege yeh got.”

    “I don’t think you’ll go crazy again. Not on your own. Your aura’s better now. It’s fixed.” He made another uneasy glance at Gahi, but it wasn’t returned.

    Gahi didn’t say anything, and the silence filled the air again.

    Owen sighed. He could feel Gahi’s anxiety. He didn’t know how he could help. He went through the same thing—and in the end, Gahi was right. If he did lose himself again… he wouldn’t be able to stop it. That was part of his design.

    “I don’t… I don’t wanna live like this,” Gahi said. “I j-just don’t… don’t like any o’ this…!” His voice was trembling.

    “Gahi…”

    He rolled over, sniffled, and buried his head against the leaves. “It’s gonna happen. I’m gonna lose it… I’m not gonna be me… This isn’t me! I ain’t this! I’m—I’m just some kinda—thing! A weapon!” Gahi gripped his claws on the bed. “I ain’t got a will—I’m just some weapon! All I wanted was ter fight! That’s all I am… just like he wanted, all this time… just… just…!”

    Owen moved toward Gahi and wrapped his arms around him, and then his wings. Gahi trembled, reflexively leaning against Owen.

    “It’s okay, Gahi,” Owen said. “You’re okay. You’re fine now, right?”

    Gahi sniffed and nodded.

    “You’re you, right now. And that’s all that matters. If you got to this state once, you can do it again. But losing your mind again…. I won’t let that happen, okay? I’m the smart guy, right? I’ll figure it out.”

    “Y-you better…”

    “I will.” Owen nodded, making sure that Gahi saw his smile this time.

    Gahi coughed, then sniffed, and then wiped his nostrils. “Ngg…”

    Owen was ready to let go, but Gahi didn’t let him. His arms held him a little tighter. Owen complied, gently rubbing at the Flygon’s back. “You’re alright, Gahi,” he said. “I think between me and the others, we’ve got it all under control.”

    “Mn…” Gahi’s eyes blinked a bit more slowly this time.

    Another long silence followed, broken intermittently by the Flygon’s sniffling. But this silence was cozier. Gahi’s body relaxed more, deflating against the soft layers of leaves. The sniffles became less and less frequent.

    Eventually, Owen’s eyes grew heavy, and finally, his eyes closed. Gahi had drifted off long before then.

    Some time later, Amia quietly stepped into the room and whispered, “Owen, Gahi, are you ready for—” But she saw neither of them in bed. Instead, there was a single being, curled up with a peaceful smile. Amia didn’t have to read their auras to see that they were okay. With a smile, she nodded to herself and stepped back, nodding to Alex just behind her.

    “Is he okay?” he asked.

    “They’re just fine.”

    <><><> ​

    Amia brushed off an invisible amount of dust from her dress, approaching the others in the Hot Spot training grounds. “They’re sleeping for now. I think they’re tuckered out from the, um… everything. Rhys—is it safe if they’re fused?”

    “They fused again?” Demitri said.

    Mispy closed her eyes to scan for their auras. “Mmm… Mhm.” The Bayleef nodded. “But… stable.”

    “Yes, I sensed it as well,” Rhys said, eyes closed and head down. “They’re fused together, but their auras are stable. We needn’t worry.”

    “Oh, good,” Amia said. She clapped her hands together, grinning. “They had the cutest little smile! I figured they were fine, but I wanted to make sure.”

    Alex bumped his cannons together, envisioning that smile of theirs. “I’m glad that Owen can at least accept that part of him. Gahi, too.”

    Rhys nodded, lifting his head to address the others. He had been focused for so long that he almost looked strained. The cyan of his aura coursed along his undercoat. “Well, in any case, we should get to training. Demitri, Mispy, I hope you didn’t eat too much. I’m prepared for your training session.”

    “Are you sure…?” Mispy asked. “Your aura…”

    Amia nodded, frowning. “Yes, dear. Why is your aura so…?”

    “I have been… building it up. I’m not very used to it, so it may seem a bit… volatile. But, please—allow me to start. Give me a moment. This is a very advanced Mystic technique.”

    His aura flared even more and then concentrated at his paws. He put them together, like he was forming a giant Aura Sphere, and then aimed it at the ground just in front of him. His entire body glowed with aura power, and then, finally, he fired—it was a continuous blast of aura energy that piled up in front of him, taking the shape of something. Rhys grunted; he stopped and staggered backwards.

    “Rhys—?” Amia asked.

    “I—I am fine,” Rhys said. “I was… a bit reckless. But I am fine. Give it a moment…”

    The aural mass finished shaping itself.

    “Whoa…” Demitri said.

    “That’s…!” Mispy added.

    It looked just like Rhys in shape and size, but was cyan like the Aura Spheres he attacked with, as well as slightly transparent.

    Rhys wobbled his way to the side of the arena and sat down to stay conscious. “There… Aura Substitute, I call it. Now, you may fight.”

    “Fight… this thing?”

    The aura entered a battle stance, awaiting the first move. It seemed to behave on its own in some autonomous fashion.

    “How will that help?” Demitri said. “And why’d you go through all that trouble? I wanna fight the real thing!”

    “This will be significantly faster, if we wish to evolve you as soon as possible.” He didn’t speak again for a while, catching his breath. “The… hah… the aura you see there,” he continued, “is based on my theories on a Pokémon’s power, and their aura efficiency—their power and the channel that connects them to that divine energy. The aura matter that can widen and strengthen that connection… what you see before you is a manifestation of that in an almost pure form.

    “It takes more and more energy to reach greater amounts of power. However, conversely, it takes relatively little energy to go from a low aura efficiency to that of a higher one. Since you are suppressed… this will be an easy way to unleash your powers again, safely.”

    “…Mm… I think I understand,” Amia said. “But, for the people who don’t… could you explain that more simply, dear?”

    “Yeah!” Willow said, popping up from behind Mispy’s neck. She sprouted her fairy wings and landed on Demitri’s right tusk. “That was too many words! Say it again! But easy!”

    Rhys sighed. “I took from myself a bit of my great aura matter and am going to give it to them, should they…”—Rhys panted—“should they defeat it.”

    “Okay, dear. You rest,” Amia said. “Demitri, Mispy! Do you understand that?”

    They both stared.

    Demitri spoke, “So we… beat it up? He can’t just give it to us?”

    “I could,” Rhys said, “but that would waste a lot of the energy. You have to be using your aura—both offense and defense, giving and receiving—to get the most from it. No, er, no pain, no gain.”

    “Yes,” Amia said.

    Mispy shrugged. “Makes sense. Easy.”

    Some small amount of pride made Rhys snort. “Are you sure? I wouldn’t underestimate my Aura Substitute.”

    “Oh, yeah?” Demitri said. “I’d like to see you—uh, it try.”

    Rhys shrugged weakly. “Enjoy yourselves.” He motioned to the cyan double. “It will act when you do.”

    Demitri stomped on the ground, accidentally cracking a bit of the rocks below. “Uh—Go!” He rushed at the aura as quickly as he could—in other words, at a speed that Rhys could outpace by walking. Mispy sighed, shaking her head; she took the free moment to charge her Solar Beam a quarter way, wiggling her leaf at the same time to form a Light Screen barrier around the two of them.

    Rhys’ aura automaton fired an Aura Sphere directly at Demitri; It smashed against his face, yet he took the hit and kept going, closer until he was able to land the first hit, slashing with Fighting energy in his fists, hoping that this aura was still Fighting-Steel like the source material.

    The aura sizzled at the attack, jumping away. It looked blurry for a few seconds and then solidified. Demitri looked at his claws, feeling an intense heat course through where his hand had connected until the warmth spread to his chest, and then out to the rest of his body. “Did—did you feel that?” he said. “That was… strong! I wanna do that again!”

    “Keep going!” Mispy shouted, halfway charged. She blasted Demitri with a wave of healing energy, easily repairing the damage Rhys’ double had inflicted on his nose.

    “R-right!” Demitri followed up with the same pattern as before; this aura copy wasn’t as intelligent as Rhys and didn’t think very dynamically. It also seemed to only know one technique, Aura Sphere, and kept using it against Demitri. It was raw power—but between Mispy’s healing and Demitri powering through any strike, they would surely win.

    Zena watched silently, mind preoccupied. Only when Mispy’s neck leaves started to glow did she snap back to the battle at hand. “I’m impressed at their teamwork. Were they trained that way, or were they designed with that cooperation?”

    “I’m not sure,” Amia said, “but I think at some point you need to learn how to cooperate, don’t you think?”

    Rhys hummed. “They could have had the base instilled in their instincts, but we had to train them the natural way for real teamwork.”

    Amia watched Rhys’ labored breathing. “How are you feeling, dear? Does it… hurt you, when they attack that aura?”

    “Not at all. It isn’t me—it’s just my power in a shell, working off my basic fighting reflexes. It’s a tiny piece of me, just enough to let it fight at the simplest level. Nothing more.”

    “…You seem to use Aura Sphere a lot,” Amia said.

    “W-well, it’s very reliable,” Rhys said. “It isn’t as if I’m fighting Ghosts very often.”

    “Hmm… I suppose Owen will have an easier time against you, if that’s the case,” Amia hummed. “After all, one of his Types can handle Aura Sphere quite well. And the other one has an advantage over Steel!”

    “Ngh—well, he doesn’t need this training,” Rhys said. “…Amia, get ready to bring them to Emily if this does not go well. The moment that aura shell is destroyed, they will evolve. I know how much power I put and how much they need.”

    “Mm, of course,” Amia said. “Zena? Can you help?”

    “I will. Emily should be back at her cave by now. Unless she had to rescue someone else… We only need one Badge, right? We should still have one more with energy for a warp there. I just hope we won’t have to restrain them.” Zena wondered what a fusion of Demitri and Mispy would bring about. Something that was unstoppably strong, yet also able to rapidly heal from any of their strikes? That wasn’t a battle of containment. That was a battle of stalling for time.

    Amia nodded. “We’ll just have to hope. If anything, it’s on the other side of the world, right? It should be safe. They aren’t fast like Gawen. And they can’t fly.” The Gardevoir paused. “Rhys, they can’t fly, when fused, right?”

    “No, a Demitri-Mispy fusion shouldn’t be able to fly. They won’t have wings.”

    “Good, good…” Briefly, Amia had envisioned them flying using vines for wings, somehow.

    “Now!” Mispy yelled.

    Demitri dove out of the way and the Bayleef fired her Solar Beam straight at their shell of an opponent. It disintegrated immediately and the Beam left a bright, smoldering spot on the wall for Amia to repair later. Cyan particles rose and evaporated and Demitri and Mispy felt the power contained within rush through them.

    “Ooh, I think I felt a bit of that, myself,” Amia said, rubbing her arms. “Rhys, just how strong are you?”

    “A bit on the strong side,” Rhys said. “Shouldn’t you be observing them?”

    “A-ah, sorry.”

    Just then, a white light enveloped them both. The group watched with tension; if they had to deal with a fusion that was slow yet unstoppable, perhaps they could focus more on blowing them back with distanced techniques. Hydro Pump—that wouldn’t hurt them much, but would it push them back?

    More worrisome—combining that with Gawen. Hopefully they kept the same slowness that Demitri had so they could outpace them to their bed.

    The usual white light was tarnished by black sparks. Their forms grew and morphed. And then it faded…

    Demitri didn’t change very much compared to the normal Haxorus form. A bit taller, a bit bulkier, with defined muscles along his limbs. His tail had an additional ax-like appendage on either side, and the axes on his head were somewhat longer. It looked like they were detached slightly on his cheeks, too, removable like a self-grown weapon.

    Mispy, however, was dramatically different. While she still had a Meganium’s head and body, her limbs and tail were replaced instead by vines that transitioned from the pale green of her body into a deeper green at the end. The vines writhed constantly and it was hard to tell what else was hidden away there. Likely, more vines, each one as thick as what her legs would have been.

    “W-wow…” Demitri said. “That’s… that’s so… powerful! I feel like I can lift a mountain! …C… can I lift a mountain?”

    Demitri and Mispy both looked toward one another, then at Rhys, Amia, and Zena, all of them with a Suppressive Aura ready. It seemed that, briefly, the pair worried that they would lose themselves even more than the Suppressors were anticipating. Yet they felt normal. All of Rhys’ meditation had paid off after all—at least for them.

    Finally, Rhys answered Demitri. “Not quite at that level, Demitri. Mispy, how are you feeling?”

    The monstrous Meganium’s eyes closed, but the flower petals around her neck, a vibrant pink with a white trim, swayed serenely on their own. She looked at Rhys and smiled. “I feel… correct.”

    Amia and Willow cheered, the latter jumping from Rhys’ head to Zena’s and finally to Amia’s.

    “You’re both okay!” Amia said. “I can’t believe it! We didn’t have to fight you or anything!”

    “Can we still do that?” Demitri asked.

    Amia held her arms up quickly. “A-ah, let’s wait for a moment. Um, Rhys?”

    The Lucario finally let loose a laugh. “I’m not surprised. Compared to Gahi, Demitri and Mispy were much more disciplined in their meditation. I expected them to stabilize first.”

    “Does that mean we beat Gahi and Owen?” Demitri said. “We stabilized first?”

    “Well… you evolved last,” Rhys said. “But Owen stabilized first anyway.”

    “But that’s cheating, right? Because he’s Mystic. So that means that we won, because we got to stabilize all on our own.” Demitri crossed his arms defiantly. Mispy nodded sagely. If Demitri was the muscle, and the brain was a muscle, then that meant he must have said the smartest thing in the room just then. They won, and that’s what mattered.

    Rhys rubbed his forehead. “Yes, I suppose if you go by those rules, you two were the only ones to stabilize through training and effort alone. Congratulations. You win by default.”

    Amia giggled. Zena puffed her cheeks defiantly but let them have their moment.

    “Great!” Demitri said, pumping his fist in the air. “We won, Mispy!” Giddy, the monstrous Haxorus held his arms against his chest, hugging himself in triumph, admiring the toughness of his new set of scales.

    Mispy nudged Demitri on the side playfully with her head. A few of her vines twisted around his abdomen. “What now?” Mispy asked

    “Let’s wait for Gahi and Owen to wake up,” Rhys said. “After that, we can plan our next steps. With the Dark Orb in… uncertain conditions, our options are a bit narrow. The only confirmed sighting we have is the Frozen Oceanside, and we may have already lost that one…”

    “But it’s worth checking anyway, just in case,” Amia said.

    Zena hummed. “Of course. And the other, is…”

    “Dark Mist Swamp,” Rhys said. “Oh, and Arachna Forest. I’m certain there is a Guardian there of some kind, from my discussions with Star.”

    “And then there’s the Orb at Zero Isle,” Amia said, counting using tiny embers. “That, counting the ones we know Eon already has, and then the ones that we have…. Oh! Rhys! Isn’t that everything? Aside from Brandon at the factory… that’s all of the Orbs!”

    “It is.” Rhys hummed worriedly. “We’re nearly there. If we can gain an edge against Eon, this may very well work out…”

    Willow hopped onto Rhys’ head, nibbling on a tuft of his fur. “And then?”

    “And then…” Rhys said.

    “…We beat the bad guy up?” Willow asked.

    “…I suppose we do.”

    <><><> ​

    Gawen woke up with a sharp gasp, eyes opening instantly. Memories flooded his mind and his hand reflexively grabbed at his chest, clutching at an invisible heart. He grunted and doubled over, panting, shaking. He covered his mouth next, gagging. The phantom pain of the old memory was overwhelming. He gagged again, nausea taking over, and for a moment it felt like he had been ripped asunder. He trembled, roaring softly into the bed beneath him, flashing his tail against the wall. He scorched one of his books—thankfully, made of Rawst leaves, it did not burn.

    The pain slowly passed enough for him to move again. Dizzy. By the color of the mushrooms, it was late in the morning. Had he slept the whole day and night away?

    He sluggishly got out of bed and stepped outside, spotting a few of the Guardians milling about in town, passing the time as they pleased. It looked like Enet was playing a game of chase with Willow. ADAM was polishing Valle’s position in the center of town, transforming it into some kind of altar. Valle appreciated the reverent feeling it gave him. Manny, meanwhile, was sparring against Azu, Roh, and Verd all at once, shouting something about Yen being much harder to fire them up. It seemed that Anam, James, and Nevren were still in Kilo, likely pulling another all-nighter to catch up on paperwork.

    “Oh! Owen—er, Gawen, I mean,” Amia approached them. “Um… look! Demitri and Mispy evolved, and they’re just fine!”

    Gawen stared at the evolved pair emptily. They waved. Demitri was hefting Mispy’s entire body in the air as part of testing his strength, though she proved to be too light. Mispy, meanwhile, was re-learning how to walk when she had no legs, yet at the same time, had a hundred legs.

    But they stopped when they realized how pale the other half of Team Alloy seemed. Demitri set Mispy down; the Meganium wrapped her vines around the Haxorus, setting him on her back. Clumsily, she slithered to Gawen.

    “Are you okay?” Demitri asked.

    “You look…” Mispy said.

    “Did you have a nightmare, dear?” Amia asked. “It must have been so frightful, for you to look so… ghostly.”

    Gawen looked at Amia, then at the others. He felt sick from that final memory. And sick from it all finally piecing together. There was a glimmer of relief that it was finally all there. No—not all there. There were still swaths of memories between then and now that were a scrambled blur. But the beginning—his first life—it was all there. But these memories…

    Gawen tried to steady his breathing, tried to meditate, but that incessant shaking was back again. It took a long, tense silence for him to suppress it enough to speak coherently. “I… remember.”

    Amia’s eyes flashed in surprise. “You… do, dear?” she asked delicately.

    Gawen nodded. He stared at his hands, and then stared intensely at Demitri and Mispy. With Owen’s next words, the same memories came flooding back.

    “I remember… Quartz.”
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  15. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Alright, I admit it. Everything about the scene with Owen and Gahi was friggin adorable. Gah. I think you've finally reached the point where I (as a reader) can get a strong impression of their bond. It was cool to see that they were able to fuse completely on accident (while asleep even!) and remain perfectly calm. That really shows how far they've come.

    I think I would've liked to have seen more detail into Demitri and Mispy's mental states during the evolution. The fact that they resisted the madness on pure willpower and meditation alone is cool! But it sort of just looked like "ok time to evolve and see if we go mad, hey we didn't, neat." I know that at this point, the hard work was basically already done for them, but it wouldn't been cool to see them drawing on that experience to endure the evolution. Then it would feel more like a real triumph.

    No! Not Pokemon Quartz! Spare us from the Corna monstrosities!

    Nah, but in all seriousness, methinks we're about to get quite the bombshell of a revelations soon.

    You know, it has seemed a little weird that Owen still needed to have blocks held on certain parts of his memory in order to sort through his trauma piecemeal, even after all that's been revealed. After the revelation that he murdered people, it was hard to imagine what worse things he could possibly need more time to adjust to! xD But I'm assuming this is it, we're finally about to learn it. Something more extreme that was so important to block, even after he learned all those truths.

    I do think it's a little weird that you chose to end the arc at this point. Not just on a cliffhanger, but a cliffhanger in the middle of a convo? I mean, it's certainly intriguing! And in retrospect, it kind of makes the previous encounter with Eon and the Gawen freakout basically the climax of the arc (but just with an oddly long denouement afterward.) It's just doesn't quite feel like a conclusion, so to speak, because we could just immediately jump into the next chapter with no real separation between this arc and the next, if that makes sense. I'm assuming the fact that you're designating separate arcs means that the aim of the characters is going to shift in a different direction very soon?

    And I know we'd already sorted through a lot of it through DM, but thanks for the math wall. ;P

    ~Chibi~
     
  16. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I'm glad you enjoyed it~ It's definitely a scene that I put some extra thought into, since it was more or less the "cooldown" climax, in a way. I'm not really sure how else to describe it. Can something simultaneously be a falling action and a climax?

    This is a good point. I think I'll jot down some notes about this later, so when I revisit it, I'll be able to properly pronounce the fact that Demitri and Mispy were actually diligent in their meditation to be able to, well, properly do what Rhys had aimed for all this time, while also not making it come off as so mundane or easy, compared to the horrible mishap that was Gahi's.

    The main focus of Act I was Owen's self-- who he was, who he is, and who he wants to be. Hence the title of the Act, "A Fragile Identity" -- Owen literally did not truly know who he was, where he came from, what his context is, or what he was supposed to do with himself. Most of these questions--at least the burning ones--have been or will be answered by the Act's end.

    Act II, meanwhile, will be focusing less on Owen's identity--since that arc is more or less over, aside from the obligatory loose ends since it's just the first act--and focusing on something else.

    You bring up a good question about what blocks were put on Owen's memories. It was hinted at a bit in Owen's first major memory freakout and the cooldown that followed. Despite learning he killed a family, there was still something that Star didn't want Owen to remember. She said it might make him lose it all over again and require a reset, despite being sane otherwise. It generally seemed to happen any time Star mentioned "that thing that happened" to them so long ago that made them go mad in the first place.

    I'm spending the rest of today doing a final touch up of the finale to Act I! I have no idea when specifically I'll put it out, but my deadline is tonight.
     
  17. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Special Episode 3 - When the World Was Small

    Bright lights lined narrow hallways of concrete and metal. White walls surrounded polished floors of marble tile. Every sound echoed for ages across the labyrinth. A youthful, albeit deep, voice echoed from the inside of one of the many rooms that lined these halls. It was monotone, growing more and more bored with each number said.

    “253.”

    “Next.”

    “…812.”

    “Next.”

    “439.”

    “Next.”

    “…Uncle Hecto?”

    The Charizard looked up, eyes half-closed. The canid Zygarde in front of him stared in his usual, unblinking expression. Between the big, empty room that surrounded them—a pure white cube that would take a full minute to traverse at a leisurely walk—and the only thing of note being the two individuals and the jars between them, Owen had nothing meaningful to focus on. The lack of anything was overwhelmingly underwhelming to his Perception.

    “Are you unable to determine the value of this collection?” he asked.

    Owen shook his head. “No, it’s… it’s just 170 pebbles, but… this is boring, Uncle. I feel my tail-fire dimming. I think I’m actually dying of boredom.”

    Between them was an assortment of glass jars of varying sizes and contents. Each jar was filled with many tiny objects. Pebbles, seeds, leaves… Owen counted the number of them in seconds.

    “Hm. I see. You wish to end this test?”

    “Can we just skip to the hardest one and work backward?”

    Hecto looked at the many jars—about fifty in total. Then, he looked at Owen’s bored, yet pleading eyes. “Very well. Three tests. If you pass them all, we can end the exam prematurely. Do you have any objections, Nevren?”

    A voice echoed from the ceiling in response, out of some sort of device that emitted the sound accompanied by a static buzz that obscured the clarity of his tone. “No, that will be just fine.”

    “Good.” The flame on Owen’s tail brightened significantly.

    Hecto pawed at the largest jar and slid it over. “Next.”

    Owen stared at the jar, filled with countless little marbles, all of the same indistinguishable color. “Exactly a thousand.”

    Hecto nodded and then slid the second jar over. “Next,” he said. But there was a twist to this one; the jar was completely black. It was impossible to see inside.

    Owen didn’t take very long. “Fifty, exactly.”

    Hecto nodded. “Next.”

    Owen frowned, looking left and right. “You didn’t move anything.”

    “There is a jar outside of this room, where you have never gone. How many items are inside, and what are they?”

    Owen blinked, but then he nodded and closed his eyes. He navigated the emptiness around him, trying to focus on the presumed jar outside of the test chamber. He saw something. It felt like a container, certainly had the shape of one, but it seemed emptier than any of the others he’d dealt with. “Two Cheri Berries.”

    Hecto paused. He and Owen shared stares. When Owen didn’t amend his response, Hecto said, “That is… incorrect.”

    “What? But that’s all I see.”

    “The correct answer was two Cheri Berries, seven Oran Berries, and a Pecha Berry. Ten objects.”

    “But I only see two Cheri Berries,” Owen said firmly. “Go check.” He flicked his tail irritably.

    Hecto stared, but then stood up and trotted out of the room. Owen rubbed at his arms and stretched his legs, bending his spine inward until he felt the tension release. He heaved a sigh and stretched forward next, beating his wings twice. Then he curved his neck and rolled on the cold ground, spewing a gentle plume of fire just over the jars.

    He felt numb. He sat down on his left side for too long and everything felt tingly. But he couldn’t strike at the numbness; that would be unbearable. He’d be incapacitated and on the ground for ages. Just rolling around was starting to hurt, transitioning from a lack of sensation to the feeling of infinite needles under his scales.

    “Oh, no,” Owen muttered, stiffening his whole body. “Oh no. Bad…” He was stuck. The needles took over completely. Any little muscle twitch and his whole world would shatter. No! He moved. His little toe claws twitched. Oh, it was starting to spread. Now his foot was feeling it. It squeezed along every part of his leg, needles prodding every bit of his body. Mercifully, it stopped there. Owen shut his eyes tight, praying that it would go away soon. But this was it. This was the end.

    Hecto returned, staring at Owen prone on the ground. “Are you dying?”

    Owen grunted. “I might be.”

    “Hm. We should consider five-minute breaks for extended tests like these.” Hecto then looked up toward the speakers. “Owen is correct.”

    “What? Where did the other berries go?” Nevren said. “I was going to have those as part of my lunch!”

    Still on the ground, Owen grumbled his explanation. “There are little bits of Auntie Rim’s fur near the jar.”

    Hecto left to inspect Owen’s claim. In the meantime, Owen tentatively flexed his toes again. Less pain. The needles gave way to a gentle cold. He breathed a sigh of relief, accidentally spitting up a Fire Trap sphere. He caught it before it’d hit the jars, squeezing it in his hands until it popped in a plume of fire in his face.

    Hecto returned in time to see the blast, but did not comment on it. Instead, he looked up. “Owen is correct.”

    “Well,” Nevren growled. “In any case, Owen has finished all of his tests. I will not need the extra data, considering what I have already obtained. This will do for now. Thank you, Owen. You may return to the recreational room.”

    “Um—actually, how are the others doing?” Owen finally found it safe enough to stand, swishing his tail behind him to rid the last of the tingly numbness brought upon him by the accursed test.

    “They are nearly finished,” Nevren said. “But you must remember, Owen, that their training is much more taxing on their physical bodies than yours. Your core ability isn’t quite as tangible.”

    “Yeah, well, I’m starting to get a headache…” Owen said.

    “Ah, let me note that down,” Nevren said. After a pause, the voice resumed, “Well, do as you like, Owen. Just don’t interfere with the testing.”

    “I’m gonna see Gahi first. I know the way, and he’s closest, right?”

    “Hmm… Let me see the map… Yes, at the moment, he is the closest, followed by Demitri, and then Mispy.”

    “Thought so. Okay. Thanks, Dad!”

    <><><>​

    In another room with even more white tile, a green blur flashed across the field. This open area would take a normal person at a walking pace five minutes to cross; this blur, however, was doing laps in just under five seconds—the bulk of that time being the beginning and end, where he reversed directions.

    A loud buzzer sounded; the mutated Flygon stopped in the middle of the field, collapsing on all fours, panting. “Peh… peh… beh…” He rolled onto his back next, chest rising and falling rapidly. “Yeh went… way too long…”

    “That was very good, Gahi,” Nevren said. “I gained a great deal of data from observations and vital readings. That is your final test for the day.”

    “Good,” Gahi wheezed out. His wings fell to his sides lazily on the ground. “Was gonna just melt away if that kept up…”

    “Gahi!” Owen called

    The Flygon tiredly turned his head. “Oy, how’re yeh doing?”

    “Fine! I just finished my tests. D’you wanna go see the others? I’m gonna see Demitri next.”

    “Sure,” Gahi said. He was still on the ground and showed no signs of movement. If it wasn’t for his quick breathing, he’d look long dead.

    Owen stepped closer worriedly, tapping his chin. “Are… you gonna stand up?”

    Gahi’s left leg twitched weakly. “Too tired.”

    Owen sighed, stepping over the Flygon with an amused smile. “I’ll help,” he said. “Just roll over so I can carry you on my back, alright?”

    He approached and got Gahi’s right arm first, hauling him over his shoulders; then, on his back, Gahi wrapped his arms around Owen, and then his tail coiled around the Charizard for security.

    “Thanks; I can barely move…”

    They walked through the halls in silence for half of the trip. Then, a thought crossed Owen’s mind. “Gahi?”

    “Eh?”

    “Tell me about the outside world again.”

    “Heh…” Gahi bumped his head against the side of Owen’s neck. “It’s big, and there’s a huge light in the sky that makes up fer all the lights that we’ve got down here. Yeh saw that befer, when we were let outside. But it’s different when yer flying all around in that sky… knowing yeh don’t gotta go back until y’wanna. Yer free.”

    “Sky…” Owen repeated. “That sounds amazing. You can just… go, as far as you want, and there’s no wall that keeps you enclosed.”

    “Yeah. No walls. No Quarts HQ ter keep us holed up in. And up there, in the sky… space. Outer space. Ain’t any air, though. That’s what Manny said.”

    “The crazy guy you met when you ran off?”

    “Yeah.”

    “What was he like? How come you talk like him?”

    “’Cause he’s cool. He’s like Uncle Rhys ’cept better.”

    “Aww, but Uncle Rhys is great,” Owen said. “But this Manny guy sounds pretty cool. Maybe we’ll meet him sometime. If we ever get let out again… Why’d you have to run away like that? Now we’re grounded forever! Rhys said so!”

    “’Cause it looked fun.” Gahi shrugged, his tail squeezing a bit tighter around Owen’s. “I came back!”

    “After, like, a week!” Owen said. “Uncle Hecto had to search high and low for you! All of his Zygarde, too! Well, most of them…”

    “Feh.” Gahi rolled his eyes.

    They finally reached the exit of the massive running room, entering a small, square hallway lit by lights a uniform distance away from each other. Owen suddenly smiled, as if he saw someone that Gahi couldn’t. Seconds later, a tiny shadow came down from a hall to the right.

    “There you guys are!”

    “Auntie Star!” Gahi and Owen said.

    The Mew happily floated over to greet them, bumping against Owen’s chest. “How far did Nev push you this time, Gahi? Or are you just faking so Owen can carry you?”

    “I ain’t faking!” Gahi said. “I, eh, I was running fer a while, is all. Felt like my legs’re jelly. And my wings. I tried alternating but it still got tired, all that.”

    “Wow, must’ve been for a while.” She flicked her tail, forming a purple bubble beneath her. She landed on top, bouncing a few times. The ball followed them through the hallway while she ran her paws along its malleable surface.

    “What’re you doing back here, Star? I thought you were busy touring the world again.”

    “Today’s a big day,” Star said. “We’re gonna put your final ability to the test.”

    “Our final ability? W-wait! Do you mean that thing that Uncle Nevren told us never to do?”

    “The melty thing?” Gahi asked.

    “Yeah. But now, we’re gonna do it! He thinks we’re ready, and I think so, too. Or, as ready as we’ll ever be. If things go wrong, we’ll just split you guys apart again, but—yeah! Isn’t that cool? C’mon!” She pressed down on the Psychic bubble, accelerating it forward. It made an ethereal whirring noise when it sped up. “Rhys and Elder are making us some lunch, and then we can go.”

    “Sweet!” Owen pumped his fists toward himself, practically shaking with excitement, and picked up the pace. “Oh, but we have to get Demitri and Mispy first.”

    “Yeah, of course. Demitri just finished up, but Mispy’s taking a little longer.”

    “How much did Demitri lift this time?” Owen asked.

    “Well, he broke the presser, uh, again.” Star rubbed her forehead. “So, I guess Nevren has to find a way to double the pressure… again. But that’s for another test! D’s pretty pumped about breaking Nev’s things.”

    Star floated for a while longer, her tail curling around the bubble. She pressed her right paw a bit harder on the bubble, causing it to turn around to face them. “Walking all that way is boring. Can I just teleport you guys there?”

    “You have a Badge?”

    “No, silly! Nev’s still testing that. I meant with Teleport. C’mon!” She tapped their shoulders, and then they all vanished in a flash of light.

    <><><>​

    Demitri’s test chamber was much smaller than the others, mostly because Demitri didn’t have to move very much. It was only ten feet across with a metallic pillar lodged in the ceiling, though the pillar was bent at an odd angle, jammed against its slot with no way to be pushed out or retracted inward. The ceiling also had a worrisome crack running all the way toward the wall.

    “Sorry about breaking your things again, Uncle Nev…” Demitri rubbed the back of his head. “I dunno what got into me.”

    “Ah, but what do you mean by that?” the voice in the ceiling said.

    “I felt like I was at my limit, but then I just… felt more power well up! But I think if I went any further, I’d’ve collapsed.”

    “Ahh, thank you, Demitri. That is just the information I was seeking. Perhaps we can actually move on to different another type of strength testing again. Perhaps we can revisit throwing? We’ve repaired the walls since the last time.”

    “That sounds fun! Yeah!” Demitri nodded, flicking his tail against the wall, accidentally carving into the concrete with one of his tail-axes. He jumped, looking back. “Oops—s-so, uh… What do I do about that?” he asked, pointing at the metallic pillar lodged in the ceiling.

    “I will handle it later. I believe Star and the others are heading to the dining room.”

    “Oh, okay. But can I see Mispy first?” Demitri asked. “I want to see how she’s doing with her training.”

    “Demitri!” Owen called, walking down the hall after having appeared in a flash of light.

    “Oh, guys! Did you see Mispy yet?” Demitri tugged his tail out of the wall and followed after them.

    “No, not yet,” Owen said, leaning to the side. “You, uh… really need to be careful about that tail of yours, Demitri. Didn’t you cut off Mispy’s vines a few times?”

    “I mean—yeah, but…” Demitri fidgeted. “If it gets dull, I feel all gross and stuff. I need it sharp. Maybe you should put out your tail, huh?”

    Owen grabbed his tail protectively. “Th-that’s totally different! That hurts! Also, I think it kills me!”

    “Just a myth,” Nevren sounded. “It emits steam otherwise. Though you are correct, it does hurt. The water-shock involved may also cause you to pass out, hence the myth that it spells death.”

    Owen shuddered. “Please don’t say water shock. I’d rather die than deal with that.”

    “Well, considering that drowning often happens afterward, you’ll likely experience both.”

    “Hey, um,” Demitri held up a claw nervously, “can we see Mispy?”

    Star spun until she was upside-down on her Psychic bubble. “Aww, what, worried about your girlfriend?”

    “Sh-she’s not my girlfriend!” Demitri flicked his tail, startled, accidentally leaving another mark in the wall. He reached over and yanked it back out. “I—I mean, is she still doing her tests?”

    “She’s nearly finished,” Nevren said. “I’ll have to talk to her shortly for the final phase. Feel free to go to her observation room. Star?”

    “You got it, Nev,” Star said.

    <><><>​

    “Well… congratulations, Mispy,” Nevren said. “You’ve outlasted the Beammaker at its full sustainable capacity.”

    “Good!” Mispy said. Her countless vines writhed with pride, sitting atop a pile of burned mulch mixed with a strange, greenish, burned liquid mixed together with it. The mutant Meganium looked up. “I win?”

    “Yes, you win,” Nevren said. “Now, for the, ah, bonus fight.”

    “Bonus?” Mispy’s eyes lit up. The modified Meganium bounced on the ruined ground—of all the training areas, Mispy’s was the most in need of repairs. The concrete floor was riddled with craters and cracks; the metallic walls were warped and bent in some areas. Thankfully, this particular room was reinforced with a secondary wall beyond the first one, specifically because of Mispy’s training.

    “Yes. Ah, but we should wait. I recently got off of a talk with Demitri and the others—they’ve come to wait for you.”

    A flash of light caught Mispy’s eyes.

    The source of light was Owen’s tail, the Charizard waving to get her attention. “Hey, Mispy! How’s the Beammaker going?”

    “I beat it!” Mispy said.

    “Y-you did?”

    Mispy nodded. “And now… the bonus fight.”

    Star sighed. “Wow, Mispy. That kinda blows me away, actually. For Nevren to be able to create someone so, uh… you!”

    The creature giggled, covering her head with three vines.

    “You mean she withstood that giant blaster?” Demitri asked. “Mispy, doesn’t that hurt?”

    “Nope!” Mispy said.

    “Don’t forget, Demitri,” Star said, “Mispy doesn’t register pain the way normal people do. She knows she’s getting hurt, but… it doesn’t hurt hurt, you know?”

    “Not really,” Demitri said. “Maybe if we fuse I’d understand!”

    “We-e-ell, let’s wait a while, huh?” Star teased. “It’s scheduled first thing tomorrow morning, okay?”

    “Mm.” Mispy nodded, but then shooed them away with her vines. It was time for the bonus fight, after all.

    “Oh, right,” Star said. “Everyone! To the other room! Let’s wait until Mispy gets her test done, okay? We can watch with Nevren!”

    “Ahh, of course. Please head into the other room so you don’t get hurt by the shockwaves or thermal energy. Be sure to put on your UBGs, too, yes?”

    They shuffled out of the area and into another, smaller room. There, a thick, clear window separated them from Mispy’s area. A weak buzz vibrated the ground.

    “Nevren must be charging up,” Owen said.

    “Protective gear, everyone!” Star announced, popping her Psychic bubble. She flew over to a small chest in the corner of the room with a label on the front: Ultra Black Glasses. Opening it with a little Psychic wave, she passed along the nearly totally black lenses for the others to wear.

    “Is that really necessary?” Owen said.

    “No, if you don’t mind going blind,” Star said. “I can’t heal you every time, y’know!”

    “…But you can.”

    “Well, maybe I don't want to.” Star winked.

    Just then, Rim appeared behind them.

    “Oh, hey Rim!” Star greeted.

    The Espurr smiled.

    Owen’s tail fire briefly enlarged. “Rim, did you eat those berries during my test?”

    The Espurr’s eyes widened. “H-huh…?”

    “The berries out in the hall.” Owen narrowed his eyes, watching every telltale muscle of a little thief that got caught.

    Rim’s eyes widened even more. Owen worried that they’d pop right out of her head.

    Owen snorted a small jet of flame through his nostrils. “Yeah, those were part of one of my tests.”

    “S… S… S-sorry…!” She looked down, shivering.

    Owen’s demeanor immediately softened, his once irritated attitude replaced with an urge to pet her. “Aww, it’s alright. I got to prove Hecto wrong because of it! That must be, like, bonus points or something.” Owen helped Rim with her pair—extra-large lenses for her body size. “Let’s watch Mispy, huh? How about you rest on my head to watch better?”

    Rim grinned, floating in the air until she was sitting on top of Owen’s head, using his horns as support for her arms.

    The vibrating got louder. The ground shook with power. “Uhh, what’s Nevren doing…?”

    “He’s charging the Beammaker 3.0 to its fullest output,” Star said. “To the point where, well, it’s not gonna be operational afterward. But seeing as Mispy can withstand the non-breaking blast, I guess he’s gonna have to make 4.0 anyway…” Star hummed. “We’re starting to run out of power sources. You can only get so much from solar energy. We might need to look for different options soon…”

    “Wow… she’s so strong…!” Demitri said; Owen practically saw the Haxorus’ happy eyes through the glasses. Though that was probably just his Perception.

    “Of course she is,” Owen said. “I mean, she has to be! She’s our defender component!”

    “Keep ‘em on!” Star announced.

    In an instant, a giant blast of light, heat, and forceful energy hit the ground where Mispy stood—it was a constant, rumbling stream that shook the very ground beneath them, not unlike a Hyper Beam. The building withstood the shaking, but Owen wondered if Mispy would be able to do the same thing. She always carried a Reviver Seed with her when this happened, hidden within the many tendrils beneath her. The Beammaker would stop prematurely if it was ever activated. But Owen still worried.

    The Charizard saw many of Mispy’s vines disintegrate away; at the same time, parts of her body burned and reformed at the same rate that her vines vanished. Indeed, that was the secret of Mispy’s power source—by using all of that extra mass below her, she could recover constantly for quite a while. Just how long was still being determined by Nevren. Owen figured that’s what the tests were for.

    The Beammaker finally stopped with a stuttering blast, and Mispy, less than half her original weight and surrounded by the ash of what had been destroyed, shook her head and coughed out even more of the black, burned mass. “Ugh…” she said.

    “Mispy!” Demitri called. He took off his glasses and ran into the main room, tripping over the mounds of damp ash the closer he got to Mispy. “Ugh—gross—Mispy, did it hurt?”

    “No,” Mispy said. “But I feel… weak.”

    “You feel weak?” Nevren said. “That’s good to know. Thank you.” He paused to log down his findings and the results in his notes. “You may eat as much as you like, Mispy. The food is ready.”

    “Great!” Star cheered. “Man, that’s perfect! Okay, let’s go! Mispy! Need help walking?”

    “I’m fine,” Mispy said; she was already latched onto Demitri, riding on his back with her cheek pressed against the back of the Haxorus’ head. Gahi and Owen smirked at the dragon; he blushed but did nothing to push Mispy away.

    <><><>​

    The mess hall was the first room that Owen had seen all day—other than his own room—to have any sort of color to it. Reddish-brown paint colored the walls. A long table of polished, dark wood acted as the centerpiece of the room, with three quartz chandeliers uniformly hanging on the ceiling, glimmering like diamonds.

    The long table was filled end to end with food and dishes made by a team of five Hectos. Star hopped onto the back of one of them. “You’re such a good cook, Hec.” She planted a kiss on his cheek.

    The expressionless Zygarde’s ears rose imperceptibly. “Thank you.” The other four stared at the lucky Hecto, but then resumed their work.

    Star tilted her head. “Are you sure about having five of you here? Even though Nevren helped you bypass your cell limit, five is pretty big out of a hundred.”

    “Five is adequate for here without weakening my observational abilities for the rest of the world,” Hecto said. “Hmm… I should also point out,” he said, “that I believe the Ghost Orb is stirring… A Goodra wandered into its location, and the Ghost spirits attempted to kill him. Or, well, absorb his aura to become part of their brood. However, it appears that he is too strong… They may have found a vessel.”

    “A Goodra?” Star said. “You don’t mean…”

    “Yes, Madeline’s child.”

    An uncomfortable silence washed over the group of Divine Dragons, mutants, and Star. “Madeline…” The Mew rubbed at her left arm.

    “And the Ghost Orb, you say?” Nevren repeated—this time, his voice came from himself, and not from the ceiling. The Alakazam walked toward the table and made for himself a modest plate of food. “Hidden in plain sight, yet too strong for us to approach safely… It’s unfortunate that the Ghost Orb was the first one we could locate.”

    “Yeah… those guys are just beyond mean, too,” Star said, looking off. “They like to play pranks on me. Not even I have an easy time getting close to them.”

    Owen lifted his plate, bringing the flame of his tail underneath it. “I mean, they’re Ghost Types, right? Don’t they sorta play with life and death, and you’re kinda… y’know… a Creator?” He focused on the ethereal flame to make it hot enough to sizzle the dish.

    The Creator,” Star corrected.

    “What about—”

    “Arceus didn’t do the creation of life part,” Star said. “That’s all me. He did the physics and all that… And maybe a few on the pantheon, but, y’know.”

    “O-okay, okay.” Owen nodded. He tested his food with his claw, now satisfied with the temperature. “But maybe they just toy with you because they kinda break your rules?”

    “Pbb, rules, I didn’t make any rules. W—wait! I made their species too, you know! I think they just do that because they have an advantage over my natural Type. And I guess I’m a little spooked by Ghost Types…” The last part was said too quietly for them to hear. “I should switch to Fairy…”

    Owen scanned the room and spotted Rhys picking from the berry salad plate, getting a heaping pile for himself. “Uncle Rhys!” he said. “Are you good against Ghost Types? No, right?”

    “Not particularly,” Rhys said. “Two of my best techniques are completely ineffective.”

    “Isn’t that awesome aura-armor thing also Fighting?”

    “It’s without an attribute,” Rhys said. “It affects all Pokémon equally.”

    “Wow…” Owen said. “That’s kinda cool!”

    “Heh, too bad yeh pass out after usin’ it,” Gahi said.

    “Ngh, I’m working on it,” he said in a growl, angrily eating a Pecha in one bite. He scanned the room between bites, finally speaking when he downed the sweet berry. “…Where’s Eon?”

    “He’s inspecting the lab,” said Nevren. “You know how he is.”

    “Oh! You mean our new siblings that you’re making?” Demitri asked.

    “Yes! Precisely,” Nevren said.

    Gahi glanced off uncomfortably. Owen glanced at him, gently bumping his tail on his side. Gahi just grunted and nibbled on a piece of bread.

    Nevren went on. “They’re coming along very well. It won’t be long before they’re ready to be activated. Though, they may not be as strong as you all. Perhaps future creations… Ah, that reminds me.” Nevren tapped his spoon on his chin. “When you’re done eating, perhaps we should attempt the full-fusion first thing in the morning, when you’re rested and refreshed from today’s tests. If the Ghost Orb found a vessel… we may want to nip that in the bud now.”

    Mispy flinched, face stuffed full of a whole plate of sliced fish.

    “Figure of speech, Mispy,” Nevren said. “Hecto, how is the vessel faring?”

    “He is…” Hecto said. “Befriending them.”

    “B-befriending?” said another, shaky voice.

    “Elder!” Rhys stood up with a second plate in his hands. “I made your plate, Elder. Please, enjoy.”

    “Ahh, Rhys… Thank you.”

    The giant Torkoal—at least twice the size of the average of his kind—gave Rhys a grateful smile. He was also twice as slow; he may have been on the way to lunch all morning, for all they knew.

    Elder chuckled. “It seems that Mispy is having her fill.”

    The behemoth’s vines had morphed into mouths, chomping away at entire piles of food; the food channeled directly into her body, forming more vines to eat away. It was horrifying, but Owen and the others were so used to it that it was a comforting, if not slightly disturbing, sight to see her so content.

    “She’s got the right idea,” Owen said.

    The family settled down to eat in a brief, comfortable silence. Elder went for mostly greens and fruits, while Demitri focused on many of the meats instead. Gahi and Owen had a more balanced diet; Mispy ate whatever was placed in front of her, including one of the plates. Rhys, concerned, asked if Mispy was feeling okay. She responded with a nod, mouth too full to speak.

    Star asked Elder, “Didn’t you try to negotiate with the Ghost Spirits a while back?”

    “I did,” Elder said. “One of the first to show up before me, at least. But those spirits…” He shivered. “It’s no wonder they’re not hidden – even with the knowledge of where they are, approaching it is simply too difficult. Assuming you aren’t killed by the feather-arrows of their commander from afar, the…” Elder shivered again.

    “It’s okay, Elder. Perhaps this is for the best,” Rhys said. “If someone has befriended the hostile spirits, then perhaps we can then befriend the vessel. Hecto, how is…?”

    “The vessel has fully assimilated the Orb. However, I was unable to determine anything more, as the copy I used to keep track of it has perished.”

    “O-oh.” Owen gulped, fire dimming. “Did it… hurt?”

    “It was surprisingly painless. Mostly. A dull ache, followed by a metallic taste in my mouth. Silent killer.” Hecto nodded. “However, my final observation indicated that the Goodra was completely dormant. We should wait until tomorrow so I can scout the area again, just in case.”

    “Astonishing. What an incredible Pokémon,” Nevren said. “I have full confidence that Madeline’s son would be able to finish what she could not. Perhaps I should contact him later… He would be a substantially useful ally in gathering the Orbs, wouldn’t you agree?”

    “Totally,” Star said, nodding. “But anyway, that’s for tomorrow. I don’t think you guys should be fusing after your training, so we’ll do it first thing in the morning! Let’s break for now. How’s that?”

    “Alright,” Owen said, rolling his shoulders. “Urgh, yeah. I think I’m gonna take a nap or something…”

    “Yep,” Gahi said.

    “Me, too,” Demitri said.

    Mispy swallowed multiple piles of food with her vines and her normal mouth. “I guess,” she finally said.

    Owen blinked. “Uh, Mispy? What happened to the table?”

    “Mm?” Mispy looked down. There were whole chunks of wood missing in front of her. “I dunno.”

    “We should really move to stone tables,” Nevren mumbled.

    <><><>​

    Owen threw himself onto a large, white couch, rubbing his face along the soft, cotton mattress with a low rumble from his throat. “So sooooft,” he mumbled, rolling until he was on his back. He squirmed, getting that cushiony feeling all along his scales and his wings, flicking his tail against the fabric—thankfully, fire-resistant.

    He watched Gahi with one eye. The Flygon prodded at one of Owen’s books, reading it aloud. “Charizard and You: Best Care for Your Favorite Fiery Pokémon.” Gahi stared at Owen, squinting.

    “It’s informative,” Owen said, shrugging.

    Gahi turned the book over, flipping through the pages. “How come a bunch of these’re blank?” he asked, staring at one particular page that had absolutely nothing on it.

    “I think it’s a misprinted version or something, but a lot of the books are like that. Dad says it’s because the printing technology is still sort of developing, so sometimes the words get printed funny.”

    Gahi shrugged. “Hey, at least yer getting knowledge outta it.” He shoved the book back in its shelf, picking out another. “…There’s no cover on this one,” he said, squinting. “Wait, y’know, if I look at it just right…” He tilted the book.

    “Oh, that might be the one with a bunch of advanced battle techniques,” Owen said. “Super useful when you’re fighting in pairs, too!”

    “Heh.” Gahi returned the book. “Y’know, I wouldn’t mind a fight. Never had one in a while.” He flexed his wings. “Too bad I feel like jelly.”

    “I could use a fight,” Owen admitted. “You guys did all your physical tests, but mine were all mental. I need to get some energy out there.” Owen paused, thoughts lingering on his conversation with Gahi before lunch. “Hey,” he said. “I know what we can do. Everyone’s busy with fusion prep and stuff, right?”

    “Mhm,” Mispy said.

    “How about… we sneak out?”

    Gahi, Mispy, and Demitri all flinched. “Sneak out?” Demitri squeaked, tail flicking worriedly. “B-but that might just get us in trouble…”

    “Yeah, but what’re they gonna do? They need us to fuse tomorrow! C’mon, it’ll just be for a little while.” Owen squeezed his fists, almost mimicking a battle stance. “Just so we can see the sky again!”

    “But how?” Mispy asked.

    “Aw, c’mon,” Owen said, tapping his head. “I’ve got Perceive. This’ll be easy.”

    “There’s, like, five Hectos patrolling the halls.”

    “Doesn’t matter. Nevren isn’t watching right now, I don’t think, right? Let’s go.” Owen nodded. “It’ll be easy!”

    The three looked at one another uncertainly. Eventually, Mispy nodded. She pointed a vine at him. “It’s your idea.”

    Owen tittered. “O-okay.”

    He stepped toward the door and pressed his hand against the metallic door. In response to the pressure, the door slid into the walls. Owen immediately led the way; Gahi sped on after him. Mispy picked Demitri up, placed him on her back, and squeezed through the door last, vines spilling into and out of the doorway that was just barely wide enough for her to squish through.

    “This way,” Owen said in a whisper, rounding the corner of the grid-like arrangement of hallways. Forward, forward, left, forward, right, right.

    “What’re you doing?” Gahi said impatiently.

    “Shh,” Owen hissed. He looked ahead again and made another left, but then stopped.

    Gahi crossed his arms, grumbling. Owen was thankful that Gahi was at least patient enough, or faithful enough, to keep with Owen’s lead. “Okay,” Owen said. “Almost!”

    A few more turns and they saw a number at the end of the hall—the number three, painted in red and outlined in yellow. Owen rushed for it and waited for the others. Once they were all squeezed near the end of the hall, Owen whispered to the wall, “One.”

    The “3” became a “1” in a blink. They all spun around and went down a new hallway. Left, forward, right, forward, right, forward, forward, forward—“I see it,” Demitri said excitedly, leaning closer.

    There was a great door at the end of the grid by the western exit of Quartz HQ made of metal. Owen quickly approached the door and pressed a hand on it, hoping it would work.

    By some miracle, it did. The huge doors parted, sliding into the walls, revealing—more hallways, the same as behind them. “…What?” Owen said. “No, that’s not right. I know I felt the exit on the other side a little bit ago!” He rushed through. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi followed.

    “What?!” Owen said again, staring up.

    “Is something wrong?” Demitri asked.

    “We’re not on the top floor anymore,” Owen said. “This isn’t floor one. We’re, like, three floors down again! And—” Owen spun around. “Uh oh.”

    “Hello.” Nevren greeted, waving a spoon. “Going somewhere?”

    “How did—when did—” Owen backed away, flustered.

    Mispy jabbed Owen in the back, shoving him forward. “His idea!”

    “Now, you know you aren’t supposed to go outside,” Nevren warned, shaking a spoon. “Last time that happened, we lost Gahi for a week.”

    Gahi pouted. “Aw, I promise I won’t do that again.”

    “That’s what you said last time.” Nevren sighed. “How about this. After the fusion, we will begin arranging for taking you all out on individual trips, perhaps while we go on missions to find Orbs and whatnot. Does that sound acceptable? It may be dangerous, but we could use your talents anyway. Mispy, I plan on bringing you to see that Ghost vessel, for example.”

    “You promise?” Mispy growled.

    “I do.” Nevren gave her a formal bow. “In any case, if you’re looking for entertainment, why don’t you see Eon? If you have any excess energy, you can ask him for a sparring match.”

    Owen’s tail fired up. “Sparring with Dad?” he said. “Y-yeah! Sure! Where is he?”

    “Floor eight.”

    <><><>​

    On the eighth floor, Owen navigated through the halls with the rest of the Alloy and finally reached another door. Owen gently pressed his hand against it; they slid open, revealing a large, open arena in the shape of a dome. The ground was marble-white, but the walls had simplistic, linear designs of blue that zig-zagged toward the top of the dome in a jagged spiral. A Greninja stood in the center of the arena, slicing the air with ease. Droplets of water surrounded him, forming small, explosive bubbles.

    Then, from his hands, he blasted water into the floor, propelling him up and into the air. He landed on the ground again, then hopped higher, shooting water below him again for an even greater jump at the apex of his leap. The Greninja flipped in the air and landed gracefully on his feet. “Perfect,” he said to himself.

    He spun around, pleased, and took a few steps forward—promptly stepping on his own tongue. The Greninja yelped and fell forward, slipping in a spectacular front-flip that ended with his face meeting the ground. His head burst into a pile of pink slime, followed by the rest of his body, becoming nothing but a puddle.

    Owen and the others giggled. “H-hey, Dad,” Owen said, waving at the bubbling ooze.

    “Mrrngh.” The puddle re-formed into an orange mass with a flaming rear. A few seconds later, it solidified into an exact copy of Owen. “And I maintained that form for so long, too…” He rubbed his forehead, staring up at the other Charizard. “And how are you, kids?”

    “Just fine,” Owen said. “Hey, can we spar? The other three are tired, but I didn’t get to do anything exciting all day. Just a quick fight! Please?”

    While Owen spoke, Eon sighed and glanced at the other three, transforming into someone when he glanced at them. “Okay, okay,” he said. “Just give me a second to get my lucky scarf.”

    Eon looked at Owen again, becoming a Charizard. “Want to see a magic trick?” he said. “And just like that… presto!” He flicked his hand, revealing a simple, pink scarf. “Bet you didn’t Perceive how I grabbed that one.”

    Owen did not, and that made it all the more impressive. “W-wow! Where’d you get it?!”

    Eon pointed at the small bag at the very corner of the room. “Magic.” Then, he wrapped the scarf around his eyes, tying it around the back of his head. “There. Now I won’t transform randomly. I want you three to stay quiet, alright?”

    The rest of the Alloy knew the routine. With Eon’s overactive Impostor ability, he couldn’t help his transformations—anybody in the forefront of his mind would be the form he took. He usually had to stare at someone very intensely to maintain a single body for long, though the blindfold certainly helped keep things stable. For a time.

    Eon grinned “Come on! I haven’t got all day. Well, I do. But you need to rest.”

    “Okay, okay,” Owen said, following the blindfolded Charizard to the center of the arena. “How about this, if you’re in such a rush. The first person to land a single hit wins.”

    “Sure,” Eon said casually. “I’ll give you the first ten shots.”

    Owen’s tail burned bright, pupils narrowing dangerously.

    “I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Eon raised his hands, not even having to look to sense Owen’s glare. “Two shots.”

    “You’re gonna regret that. I know your tricks this time!” Owen stomped on the ground. “I have just the plan to get you this time!”

    “Mhm, mhm.” Eon tilted his head leisurely. He turned around. “Let’s go, Owen. I’m waiting.”

    A tense silence festered between the two. Owen made careful steps around Eon, strafing the Charizard in a slow circle, looking for an opening. He watched his flame. When it flared up, Owen knew that an attack would be coming, right? Compressed air danced around Owen’s claws, swirling in a spiral that collected at the very tips. His wings lit up with little specks of light, drifting away from him. The Fire Traps remained where he stood, floating delicately. It wouldn’t be much, and Eon would certainly not let him make a full circle—last time he tried, Eon struck early, claiming that his extended Trap counted as two moves.

    Eon’s flame flashed blue.

    Owen jumped to the right to avoid some invisible maneuver, yet Eon didn’t move. Instead, he turned his blind eyes toward him, smirking. “Made you flinch.”

    Owen blinked, then snarled. “Oh yeah?!” He rushed forward, blasting Eon with an Air Slash that had been charged on his right claws. Then, he sent a beam of fire ahead of Eon, cornering him in a V-shape. The left was solid air; the right was searing flames. Still spewing fire, Owen smirked and turned his head, closing the gap.

    And then Eon vanished.

    And then Owen realized he’d used up his two strikes.

    Eon was behind him. He sensed it. Owen spun around and closed his wings, forming a golden barrier to block him.

    Eon wasn’t there.

    “Wh—”

    Eon flicked Owen on the back of his head, between his horns. “Got you.”

    Owen spun around for a second time. Embers still floated in the air behind Eon, where Owen had last fired. The true Charizard stared with wide eyes. “But I—you—that—”

    Eon grinned. “Hey, you almost got me that time,” he said, chuckling.

    “H-how’d you do that?!” Owen said, pointing at him. “You were behind me! I felt it! And then you—blipped in front of me! That’s no fair!”

    Eon shrugged. “Magic,” he said. “I’m super-fast.”

    Gahi’s tail flicked challengingly.

    “Anyway, did you at least get a bit of your aggression out, Owen? You put your all into those attacks. I felt the heat.” He tapped at his cheek.

    Owen grumbled.

    Eon pat Owen’s shoulder. “I’ll give you a proper fight tomorrow. I just don’t want you to ache when you evolve.” He motioned for him to follow. “Why don’t I take you to your beds?”

    Owen’s wings drooped in defeat. “Okay…”

    <><><>​

    Metal doors parted and they were back in their room again, Eon escorting the four of them back to the couch, still blind. Along the way, they rambled to Eon about their training, how they managed to exceed Nevren’s expectations yet again, and how Rim stole Nevren’s berries. Eon laughed. “I guess she couldn’t resist. You know how much she loves them. Just like Rhys and his Pechas.”

    “Or Elder and his Orans,” Demitri said. “Or Owen and his Tamatos.”

    “H-hey, those are amazing and you know it.” Owen stuck his nose in the air, snorting a small cloud of embers.

    Mispy shrugged, while Gahi and Demitri both shuddered.

    “I don’t get you Fire Types,” Gahi said.

    “Well, to be fair, I think that’s more an Owen thing than a Fire thing,” Eon explained. With everyone inside, Eon walked toward the shelves and opened a small case. “Let’s see…” He lowered his voice while struggling with the case, clearly not used to the three claws a Charizard had per hand.

    The clicking of the chest opening was enough to make Mispy, Demitri, and Gahi all yawn at the same time. Even Owen was starting to feel a bit tired, longing for a good night’s sleep.

    Eon tossed four colorful spheres toward them. Owen caught two; Mispy caught the other half. She inspected the stickers on the top. One had a little flame symbol; Mispy handed that one to Owen. Meanwhile, Owen passed a leaf-sticker sphere to Mispy in return. Demitri’s ball had a little purple claw mark sticker, leaving Gahi’s as one with a small sand dune.

    Demitri and Mispy stared at one another and exchanged balls such that they were holding one another’s. Then, then squeezed it, thrusting them forward at one another; a beam of light enveloped them at the same time. The balls opened, splitting in half, as the Meganium and Haxorus washed away in that same, red light.

    Gahi tossed his ball in the air, bumping it with his nose. It cracked open and enveloped Gahi next, the sphere falling to the ground with a dull clatter.

    Owen grinned at Eon. “Hey, so,” he said, “tomorrow, after the fusion… what if we sparred as the full Alloy, huh?”

    “The full Alloy? I dunno if I’ll win against that,” Eon said, mirroring Owen’s expression. “I’ll wake you guys up if you oversleep.” He nodded toward Owen.

    Owen nodded back. “Night.” Owen tilted the ball toward him and squeezed, firing the beam toward himself. Owen’s vision went dark, his body felt weightless, and then he felt a rough rumble around him. His mind breathed a sigh that his body could not emulate. In this cozy darkness, he felt someone pick him up.

    “Good night, you four,” Eon said.

    Owen felt Eon’s claws wrap around the ball. His consciousness sank deeper, a grin forming where he had no face. Despite not feeling much, he felt warm in his bed.

    Eon set them all on the couch and left the room.

    Owen’s Perceive didn’t work within this space, yet despite this, he still had a subconscious idea of what was around him. He felt Gahi’s bed wiggling as he settled down for bed, eternally restless. Mispy’s was completely motionless. Demitri’s shifted every so often until it finally rolled to the back of the couch, balanced in the corner.

    The coziness was too much. Already in darkness, Owen’s mind drifted away completely.

    <><><>​

    The Alloy components walked through the halls and eventually went to another training room. The four excitedly bounced with each step; Mispy nuzzled at Demitri’s back and Gahi elbowed Owen, remarking that they’d finally get to put all this work to the test. And finally, they entered the training room—a somewhat smaller area, more like a waiting room than anything, and stepped into the very center of the chamber. The echoes were strongest here, as if the past was reminding them of its existence. Nevren, Elder, and the others stood at the edges of the room to observe and prepare for any potential mishaps. Rhys stood closer to keep watch on how their auras interacted.

    The four components of the Alloy faced one another.

    “Where’s Eon?” Demitri asked.

    “Right here!” Heavy footsteps—the voice came from someone that sounded exactly like Demitri. And, indeed, a doppelganger of Demitri entered the room, holding his knees. “Sorry for the wait—I lost track of time…”

    “Eon, did you eat at all?” Nevren asked. “You didn’t show up for lunch, or dinner, or breakfast…”

    “No, I’ll eat later. This is more important,” Eon said, transforming into Nevren.

    Nevren nodded. “Very well. Okay. Are we ready?” He turned his attention to the four synthetic Pokémon.

    “Ready!” they all said.

    “Use Mispy as the central figure,” said Nevren. “Given her size, it will be the easiest. Good, a bit closer… Now, you must all close your eyes and focus. Relax your minds, and then your bodies. Try to tune in with the auras of one another…”

    Owen breathed slowly, and he indeed could feel their presence. He breathed a bit faster when he felt his body lose its shape, enveloped in the many vines in front of him. Gahi was next to him, and his side was melting into his. He didn’t know how to describe it. This happened now and then in the past, but they always woke up before they totally fused. It was such a warm, tingling feeling, as if their very nerves were being attached and intertwined with one another. But they’d always pull away. It wasn’t too hard to do that. But now—was this…? He didn’t want to stop. This was deeper than they’d ever gone—and he couldn’t get enough. Just a little more…

    “Keep going…” Nevren said slowly, glancing at something in his hands. Some sort of blue emblem in the shape of a badge.

    Eon watched, tense, still taking on the form of Owen. Countless tense seconds passed, their first fusion as an Alloy done slowly and steadily. Perhaps it had been minutes. None of them could tell, especially the Alloy components themselves.

    Rhys winced with unease. “Their auras are starting to link,” he said. “It’s… incredible, but… it feels wrong, somehow.”

    “It seems fine so far,” Star said. “Their auras are merging fine, but it’s just getting started.”

    Despite this, Star was playing with her pawpads anxiously.

    More silent seconds passed. The auras mingled together, but the closer they got, the more their flares lashed out wildly. Nevren’s blue emblem abruptly dimmed to a gray color.

    Rhys’ expression darkened. “Nevren. I don’t think we should keep going. We should separate them.”

    “What’s wrong?” Star asked.

    “I agree,” Nevren said immediately.

    “Their auras aren’t attaching properly. Something isn’t right with it. They aren’t ready—perhaps some more training, or—”

    “We need to separate them.” Nevren looked at his gray emblem, snorting. He shoved it in his bag. “Reverse the fusion process!”

    “Guys!” Star interrupted Rhys, shouting at the four.

    Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy were all too involved in the fusion to sense anything else. Owen, however, heard them. “What’s… what’s wrong?” he said in a slur. “Wait… I need to go… further…”

    “Owen!” Rhys said. “Back away! Stop the fusion!” Rhys’ paws burned with aura and he rushed toward them.

    “I… I can’t…! It’s… too…” The fusion accelerated rapidly by Mispy’s own defiance. Vines wrapped around Owen’s head, and his body was lost to the amalgamation. He felt Rhys pulling at his body, but he was already attached to Mispy, part of her—just as she was part of him, and the others a part of the whole. He let out a final breath; he could hear the thoughts of his components plague his own. And his thoughts plagued theirs. He couldn’t feel his arms any longer. His wings went next, and then the rest of him. His mind was the last to go.

    The rest of the memories, while there, felt blurry and rushed. With his mind not fully intact, he only felt raw emotions and instincts, reflexive actions. Without any mirrors, he didn’t even know what he looked like in this final, monstrous, whole form. Fading images filled his mind—fragments of memories that pieced together to show, finally, the full picture. He remembered roaring—feeling an overwhelming power that forced out all other thoughts.

    He remembered Star floating in front of him with great, white wings made from long, glowing tendrils. She had tears in her eyes. Of what, he didn’t know. Horror, sadness, regret? It could be any of them, or all of them. He remembered feeling blood between his claws and his vines, the squished form of one of the many Zygarde that had accompanied them torn to bloody shreds beneath him.

    He remembered all of them firing tirelessly against him. Aura Sphere, Flamethrower—even Eon, who tried to mimic his body, couldn’t properly copy a creature that was composed of four auras. Nevren had shouted something to Star, and then the Mew shook her head. And then she floated above them, the tiny Creator’s tearful expression the last thing Owen remembered seeing.

    “I’m sorry,” Star said.

    And then those wings… The light stabbed into his—no, their body. Light coursed through them like magma. They roared, flailing in all directions. Flamethrowers and Solar Beams scorched the walls; tremors cracked the ground; countless vines carved into the room. The pain only got worse. The twisted minds of the Alloy, combined with the exponential, excruciating, soul-splitting pain of the filaments burrowing into them became the only thing they knew.

    This was the memory that had been blocked—the pain, the insanity, the creeping shockwave of madness that came back even after so many centuries sealed away. The memory that required a reset just to stay sane. But they couldn’t let that happen. Not again. Never again. They had to see this memory through. They couldn’t let it take them. This was all the past.

    Whose memories were these? They were Owen’s, but they were also from the others. Pieces of conversations from both sides flitted through the singular mind.

    They all watched the same set of memories unfold. They all, now separate again, had to relive being the Alloy, as if it had just happened. Owen knew that they were seeing the same memories. And he, with Gahi, helped him deal with them, unable to handle it on his own. He guided him along, holding his hand for every step. He felt Gahi’s fear, but Gahi felt Owen’s confidence. And that saved him.

    As the Alloy, Demitri could only think about Mispy. He wanted to hold her. He wanted to tell her that everything was okay. That nothing could go wrong, if only to assure himself that the pain would subside.

    Mispy couldn’t stand it. She had forgotten what pain felt like. She was the one that felt them all attach to her. She felt Demitri’s fear. She wrapped her vines around him in her mind, agreeing with him. It was going to be okay. She had lost her mind first to the Alloy.

    Gahi writhed from within, screaming to regain what sense of self he had. But it was all lost that day, stolen from him and melted into the rest of the Alloy. Gahi was gone. The others were all gone. Yet they were all together. He felt Owen’s warmth, and that kept him anchored to the present. He felt his assuring thoughts, his calm words, and he followed that like the one light in a dark void.

    Just a little longer. They had to remember just a little longer.

    The wings, made from hundreds of filaments of light, parted. Still, they were pierced through their body. The light tore them apart, ripping their merged essences into quarters. Four bloodied pieces fell to the ground, indistinguishable masses of flesh.

    Owen recognized his memories for his own, but he also understood the new memories that were forced into him. Foreign pasts that he would never be able to get rid of, because now, they were his, just as they were also theirs. He remembered two sides of the same conversation. He remembered winning and losing the same battle.

    There were even memories where he was not present. The gentle caress of a tapestry of vines around his body and a huge head gently nuzzling against his tough scales. The feeling of air rushing past him through the air, free and in the sky, flying toward a great spire in the ground.

    But now, he knew which memories were his, and which were theirs. And he accepted them all.

    The pain stopped.

    After countless lives repeated, the four souls breathed a sigh of relief.

    End of Act I
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  18. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    aaallllllright. I rescind what I said about Act 1 not having a proper conclusion. When you said there'd be a special episode, I'd been assuming it was like the previous two, where it was something totally removed from the current narrative, there for supplementary info but not required. But this--this relates 100% to the current narrative and was absolutely needed to bring this subplot to a satisfying end.

    Just... dammit augh why'd you have to make everyone such a big happy family?! >:'[ I wanna read more about them bein' all happy together! Why did everything go wrooooong. Dx

    *Implying I don't love stories with broken people trying to put their broken lives back together.*

    In any case, I am genuinely really curious to see how everything went wrong (probably later, I imagine.) We all know that Star later came to regret the decision to gather the Orbs (only to then pick up that goal again in order to beat Eon to the punch) but the exact circumstances of that have not yet come to light, and I think the motivation there will answer a lot of questions.

    ~Chibi~
     
  19. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Don't get excited: Act II won't be starting for another few days. I'm just finally getting around to replying to some things. I'm going to be uploading a oneshot separate from this thread in a few days, and after that, we'll get back to your regularly scheduled programming.

    Good! Sorry for being a bit misleading--wasn't what I meant at all. I absolutely wanted to wrap up Act I in a nice little bow, even if there are some threads that still need exploring in Act II and III.

    I can't resist! Owen had a wonderful upbringing for the most part, even if it was speckled with a few secrets and a few things going on under the hood that are less than nice to think about. What's that? Which family am I talking about? Eon or Amia? The answer is yes.

    Some of it was implied (Star losing heart, Eon not) but you're right, precisely how and why that happened is less clear. It wasn't really something I wanted to leave totally ambiguous, so I'll see what that means for the next few chapters of Act II, where I can at least give some clarity.

    Anyway, expect the prelude to Act II to drop in a few days! Probably during the week, and at the latest, Friday night / Saturday early morning, depending on your timezone.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  20. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    ACT II – A Stubborn Ego

    The Hall of Origin was made of pure, white, shining tile. Light shined from above, radiating off of tall ceilings. The light bounced off the walls and illuminated the floor. The passageways were so wide that an entire squad of Owens could march, wing to wing, and have room to spare. The ceilings were tall enough to even more flying far overhead. The hall led into a chamber at least four times as large. It was here that Arceus stood, staring at a great spherical projection in the air.

    To the naked eye, nothing was happening. But to Arceus, he could see every event of the world through mortals’ eyes. He couldn’t focus on it all. He no longer had the power to do that—he lacked it for a very long time. Instead, he had his focus on one thing at a time. And right now, his attention was tuned to something that was not even a part of his own design…

    The screen projection shifted until it was looking over Hot Spot Cave. It couldn’t go much closer. He could only see blurry images of Owen and the others conversing with one another, looking through the eyes of the Pokémon inside. But their Mystic power made maintaining a connection too difficult. The projection suddenly fizzled out, going back into a great sphere of the world by default.

    “Yo, Barky.” In a flash of light, Star appeared and landed on his back. She was so small that his fur was like a field of white, tall grass. The Mew’s tail flicked with an air of innocence, but the larger deity knew all too well that she was taunting him.

    Barky growled. What an irritating imp.

    “Still watching Owen, are you?”

    Barky stared at the sphere. The projection expanded; its outer edges faded, and a thin view of Hot Spot Cave’s interior came into focus, though Valle’s eyes. He was particularly useful for how aware he was of the caverns and how weak his aura was. His eyes were always watching—irritably, Barky imagined—at the various motions in the cave. It showed everyone—aside from Anam and Nevren—sitting in the middle of the square. They seemed to be calming Demitri and Mispy down. But the vision was quite faded. The high concentration of divine energy between all of the Guardians made it difficult to observe them. Anywhere Anam was in particular made observation next to impossible.

    “His aura stabilized,” Barky said. And while Demitri and Mispy were distressed, they appeared to be in no danger of losing themselves to those old instincts. Rhys’ plan worked. It took centuries… but it worked.

    “Yep. Guess I won that bet after all, huh?”

    Barky snorted. “I do not gamble. That is a mortal’s vice.”

    “Being wrathful is a mortal’s vice, and look where you are.”

    That one stung. Barky’s left hoof scraped against the floor, leaving a hollow-sounding echo through the hall. Star, looking down at the hoof from atop his back, shook her head. He could never quite control his anger. Her tail flicked again. She tilted her head and arched her back, stretching every part of her body while lounging on top of him, even her little claws.

    “What do you want?” Barky finally asked.

    “Oh, nothing,” Star said in a sing-song tone. “I’m just popping by.” She twirled a lock of his fur between her tiny claws.

    Barky didn’t say anything in return. He went back to watching the mutated Charizard.

    Star gently tugged at the fur, pulling off a few loose strands. “It’s pretty impressive that science can create something that I couldn’t.” She looked at the blurry image of Owen and Gahi, “Look at them. Fused together into something that probably shouldn’t even exist. I mean, by my standards, at least. But, y’know, I don’t think I really mind that anymore. Owen’s nice. And Gahi, I like his attitude. The two of them together is kinda the best of both worlds.

    “Between Nevren’s knowledge over genetics and Rhys’ knowledge over the aura, they managed to make the perfect fighter out of four pieces. Aside from a few flaws. But… I’m glad he’s finding himself. He didn’t deserve that fate—none of them did.”

    Barky growled. “And yet, so many more have been created since then.” He turned his head so his right eye stared directly at Star. The piercing, unblinking, green-red gaze made Star shrink, just slightly. “Are you proud of that?”

    Star bit her lip.

    If Barky had a mouth, he’d smirk with it, but he figured his eyes would say enough. He knew she hated when he was right. Sure, Owen and his team were under their own control. Independent, even if they were still a bit subservient to authority figures like Anam or Rhys and—in Owen’s case—Amia. But the others? What of them? Would they be slaves to the remaining Hunters forever? Was that her fault? She probably wouldn’t think so. She didn’t have that kind of power, after all. The Hunters carried on after she made the mistake of trusting them. Now it was the mortals’ turn to fix it, not her.

    “They’ll work it out,” Star said. “I have faith in them.”

    Predictable. Barky scoffed. “Faith is for the lower creatures, not gods. We are their faith, Star. You cannot fall back on it as they do, for we are where it all ends. There is no higher authority.”

    Star’s tail flicked irritably. Barky watched her tiny fist clench; she wanted to punch him in the back, but that would just show him her weakness. Go on, Star. Show it again.

    Star relaxed, but her glare didn’t subside. “You say faith is something for mortals to do, but so is bickering, but we’ve been doing that for the age of the universe. So, what then, huh?”

    Barky had no response. He returned to watching the sphere.

    Star huffed through her nose. Her toes clenched on the fur, prodding between two vertebrae on his spine. She kicked off and leaned forward, hanging her arms over part of the golden wheel attached to his back.

    “Hey, Barky,” Star said. “You know they’re eventually going to gather them all. Someone is. And none of the Promises they made can keep that from happening. You can’t wait it out. So…”

    He waited, but Star didn’t continue for a while. That must have been all that had to be said. And Arceus didn’t have much to say back, either. He made his point. But he could tell that her talking with him just made her feel worse. Still, he had no idea what she was thinking; they couldn’t read each other’s minds. He’d like that, but she refused. And if she refused, then so would he.

    Star cleared her throat again. “Barky…”

    “Unless you plan to step down, I have nothing more to say.”

    After a few seconds to stare, she floated off of him. Arceus eyed her closely; he knew her for so long that it didn’t take Owen’s Perceive to know how she was feeling. Perhaps a heavy heart, but a stubborn attitude to deflect any guilt away from her. Maybe she wanted it to all be over. And, really, he wanted it to be the same. If only she listened to what he had to say. Was she thinking the same thing toward him? No, of course she was. Because she was a fixer. She had to help. And apparently she knew how it had to be done.

    Arceus stared at those determined eyes of Mew. Fists clenched again, she spoke, “Once I have them all… you’re done.”

    She disappeared as quickly as she came.

    There was no wind in the Hall of Origin. Complete silence accompanied the tension Star left behind. The Creator broke it with a gentle tap on the ground. It echoed, on and on. Arceus wondered if he spoke too harshly toward her. Because she was right. He did get angry. But Star was no better. Star was too immature for that sort of power. She mingled with the spirits of mortals as if they were at her level. They simply weren’t. Yet now, she behaved like one. And then, in the end, it always got her hurt.

    “How did it come to this…?”

    But he didn’t like the answer.

    ___

    Author's note: This tiny piece is just the prelude, just like Act I's prelude. Expect the first real chapter to be coming in only a few days, at the end of the weekend at the latest~
     
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