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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 I'm just here

    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 descent without breaking Gawen’s body.

    “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—“

    The water bulged outward beneath them. Something was rising 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.

    “Emily!” Zena cried.

    The Lugia had appeared for only a few seconds. From just above the surface, she looked at the falling fusion. That was the first instant. In the next, the Lugia opened her mouth; Amia had no time to react than to just widen her eyes. Willow screamed—they were too close. And in the final instant above the surface, the Lugia lunged forward with her mouth open.

    Zena, Gawen, Amia, Alex, Willow, Demitri, and Mispy, in that final moment, were gone, taken by the Lugia to the depths of the sea.
     
    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.
     

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