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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant (Complete, Please Archive)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by lucarioknight56, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    This is a story originally posted over at Bulbagarden and Fanfiction, and I'm wanting this to become more accessible to the main fanbase. This will not be the PMD universe that you are familiar with; it is one of my own invention, and I hope you will enjoy it.

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    Lawrence Stephenson is sent to a region populated solely by Pokemon to capture one for a new project. Only things go wrong! He mysteriously changes to a Lucario, and has no way back! Now he must travel with a mysterious Gardevoir and her guardian Golurk to bring light to a region under the grip of an insane Zoroark and his Dusknoir lieutenant-all while trying to return home.

    Let's get to what you need to know:
    • This is set in a universe of my own invention. The PMD games will in no way be referenced, while events from the core Pokemon series may be.
    • This is rated Teen for drama and intense action. Language and description will be kept at an Everyone level, as well as any thematic elements.
    • Any character sketches created over the course of the story will now be posted below. Spoilers for those who have not read past Chapter 9!
    • This story is considered complete, so any comments about changing the plot or characters will not be considered. Odd phrasing or spelling will be changed upon review, however.
    • If you have questions involving the world of Equivos, feel free to go to the thread The Region of Equivos--A PMD Universe.
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    _ _ _ : Lawrence's Path (Act 2)
    x x x : Gardner's Path (Act 2)
    _ . _ : Cassia's Path (Act X)
    . . . : Lawrence's Path (Act 3)

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    Grom Golurk by @canisaries

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    Cassia Zoroark

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    Arthus Zoroark by @canisaries

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    As of October 9, 2018, all chapters have been revised significantly. Changes include:
    • Narration of characters' thoughts have been changed to internal dialogue.
    • The entire antagonist side of the plotline has been rewritten to better fit characters, but still follows the same general plot of the story.
    • Arthus now has a literal split personality throughout his arc.
    • Gardner now has a significantly reduced role through the story.
    • Zacheus Torracat and Carlin Duskull are no longer present.
    • Arthus and Matheus' backstory has been adjusted to better prepare for the prequel stories, PMD: Twilit Destinies and PMD: Legends Awakened.
    • Cassia now obtains her mask from Arianne as a gift rather than from Matheus.
    Every chapter has been affected by these revisions, but some had more minor changes than others. The chapters affected little by this revision include Chapter 02, 03, 21, and 22.

    These changes are final.
    Act 1: The Usurper
    Chapter 01: Prologue

    Chapter 02: Lawrence

    Act 2: The Priestess
    Chapter 03: Cassia

    Chapter 04: Equivos

    Chapter 05: Vigilante

    Chapter 06: Mythos

    Chapter 07: Contention

    Chapter 08: Conciliation

    Chapter 09: Revelation

    Act X: Special Episode
    Chapter 10: Growth

    Chapter 11: Calling

    Chapter 12: Precept

    Act 3: The Legend
    Chapter 13: Clearance

    Chapter 14: Xilo

    Chapter 15: Assault

    Chapter 16: Breaking

    Chapter 17: Retaliation

    Chapter 18: Discovery

    Chapter 19: Ascendance

    Chapter 20: Desolation

    Act 4: The Keeper
    Chapter 21: Loss

    Chapter 22: Change

    Chapter 23: Fate

    Chapter 24: Escape

    Chapter 25: Reunion

    Chapter 26: Salvation

    Act 5: The Aftermath
    Chapter 27: Turning

    Chapter 28: Infiltration

    Chapter 29: Realization

    Chapter 30: Exodus
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018 at 7:28 PM
  2. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Act 1: The Usurper
    Chapter 01: Prologue


    2000 AU (After the Usurper)

    To the far east of the region of Equivos, across the vast ocean, the continent of Deitae remained at peace. A forest rose in the center of the numerous domains of the Legends: The Luminescent Woods. Golden lights emerged from the soil and floated into the sky, free of Pokémon to disturb them. Trees lay still, the oceans remained at rest, and the Legends slumbered. The miniature continent lay free of turmoil, and the blanket of stars shined down on the creators of Equivos and their home.

    A jagged mountain crowned with snow suddenly lurched. The peak sent up a plume of snow, and the sky clouded over. The peak shook again, a large rupture cracking down the middle. A creature roared through the night--awakened by a silent call--and crashed through the inside of the Mountain of Rebirth. Two massive wings beat through the air, sending arcing bolts of lightning into the clouds. The storm broiled, and Yveltal, the Destruction Pokémon, careened upward to the heights of the world.

    From the rubble that surrounded what remained of the mountain, a figure crawled out, looking up at the enormous Legend. A silent chuckle permeated through the air, and a materializing claw reached for the gathering storm. The owner solidified, his fangs glinting in the fading moonlight, and his mane taking on its natural crimson hue.

    He opened his eyes, the ice-colored irises focusing on the blackening clouds. His claws remained as sharp as when he first entered the Cocoon of Destruction. His sturdy limbs were still strong, and his fur remained a luxurious gray, stricken with streaks of white throughout the coat. The bead that tied his mane together shined bright, swaying in the growing breeze.

    The Zoroark took a deep breath, a sensation he hadn’t experienced for millennia. He exhaled, relishing the rush of air out of his nose. He cherished the smell of the fresh air. He enjoyed the forces of nature heralding his return.

    He chuckled, walking out from the rubble and onto the soft soil beyond. He came to a spot next to a tree, feeling the succulent presence of energy. He dug his claws into the ground, absorbing the Life that lay deep beneath the surface. The golden bracelet that hung from his wrist grazed against the soil.

    As he siphoned the power, the Usurper looked up at the glowing tree that stood in the center of Deitae.

    He grinned.

    Arthus had returned.

    ~~~~

    The storm’s intensity grew across Serenita, Deitae’s neighboring continent. The rolling plains and forests blew back in the fierce winds as Pokémon, both wild and civilized, took shelter. Above a cluster of homes, near a secluded cave atop a hill, a cloaked figure trudged toward a flickering light.

    It came to a door set in a cluster of rock and pounded it with a black fist. “Open up, please! I bear terrible news!”

    A slit in the door slid open, revealing a glaring pair of ice-blue eyes. “What are you doing here? You should be inside!” The rain started to fall, pelting the cloaked figure.

    “I’ve come to warn you about something!”

    The eyes squinted, studying the figure with his hood drawn. They could make out a plume of red fur at the bottom, with a streak of white fur reaching up to the chest, and yellow surrounding it. Poking underneath the hood was more red fur, and they could see a small snout sticking out. The eyes remained unseen.

    “Zaman Delphox? Why can’t this wait?” the one behind the door said, his eyes weakening their resolve.

    “It has to do with your ancestor.”

    The slit closed, and the door flew open. A young Zoroark stood behind it, wide-eyed with fear. “What about him?”

    Zaman beckoned for him to come closer, his paw forming a crook. The Zoroark complied, moving toward him until their heads were nearly touching.

    Zaman jabbed the Zoroark in the chest, driving it deep. The Zoroark gasped, falling to his knees. He looked up and stared in horror. Deep blue eyes shone from under the hood.

    The Delphox yanked back his paw and stepped over the lifeless Zoroark. He sneered and tossed his head around. “Traitor…” He stopped, studying the humble abode his recent victim lived in.

    A pair of chairs sat in the corner, warm and inviting next to the low-burning fireplace. In front of them was a small table, with a collection of berries set inside a basket in the center. A set of shelves between them held a collection of books. Moss covered the rock walls curving around the adjacent hallway. The wind rushed through a shuttered window to his right, the rushing air making a musty scent.

    Zaman spotted a picture above the fireplace, showing a pair of Zoroark with an elder Lucario in a desert scene. He padded silently into the next room, frowning. Within, another Zoroark sat on a chair, fondling her mane as she read from a book emblazoned with a flame surrounded by an arc. A pillow lay next to her, and on the other side was a length of rope, a ball, and a wooden doll in a rough, humanoid shape. A candle burned on the table next to her, illuminating the text within her book.

    She looked up and cocked her head. “Zaman? What are you doing here?” She tried to look around him. “Where’s Ryon?”

    Zaman gestured to the room behind him, his brow furrowing. “I’m afraid he’s no longer here.”

    She studied him suspiciously. “You don’t…sound right.” She looked outside, glancing at the beating rains. “You never go out in a storm. You told me yourself the last time we were in town. You even said you were going to close since one was coming soon.”

    She turned back around, and Zaman stood in front of her, his paws parted and his eyes visible. She gasped at the light-blue eyes that stared back at her, a mirror image of the eyes that belonged to her late husband—only cold, tortured…murderous.

    She froze, shaking. “R-Ryon?”

    The Delphox’s eyes glinted. “No.” His paws cut into her chest, causing her to rear back and struggle for breath.

    In her final moments, the Delphox hovered over her. “Arthus has returned.” The Delphox melted away, revealing a large Zoroark with white streaks in his fur, his limbs thick and strong.

    He pulled away from his victim, allowing her to fall against the ground, still. He stared down at her, then took a cloth from the table, wiping his claws clean. “My lineage is now clean of—” He shuddered. “Lucario.” He looked up and considered the ceiling. “A few too many friendships in my family tree leads to it needing to be chopped down.” He tapped the side of his head, shifting his blue eyes. “All too easy when they all have my signature feature.”

    He dropped the cloth and moved into the other room--careful to step over Rhianna’s body--and stopped next to the side-table. “What else did my descendants do wrong?” He picked up the decorated book, cracking it open and glossing over its contents. “Hmm…’The Arceist Tome: A History of Equivos and the Teachings of Arceus’.”

    The cushion next to the side table shifted slightly, and a black-and-grey ball of fur stepped out, sniffing. It drew near to the female Zoroark, nudging her face and whimpering.

    Arthus raised his head, his eyes wide. He looked down at the Pokémon and gasped. “A Zorua!” he hoarsely whispered. He set the Tome back on the table, biting his lip.

    The Zorua whimpered more, pushing against her back with her paws, her eyes staring blankly across the room. It finally fell on top of her, crying out for its mother.

    Arthus looked left and right, biting the end of his claws. He studied the Zorua watching it weep into her mother’s fur.

    He reached down to it, then began to rub its back. “I’m…I’m sorry…that I made you suffer.” He inched his fingers underneath the Zorua, eventually lifting it, much to its disdain.

    It tried scrambling out of Arthus’ grip to rejoin its mother, but Arthus’ claws kept it locked. He put one hand over its head, and it briefly flashed crimson. The Zorua fell still, closing its eyes and breathing gently.

    Arthus sighed, setting it back on its pillow, turning back to the Tome. He picked it up, then quaked with fury. “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have to do this!” He took it by the spine and ripped it in half, the pages billowing behind him.

    He heaved, forcing himself to calm. He looked down at his victim, then at the Zorua. “You’re on your own now…without your parents…like I was.” He rubbed his chin, his lips curling into a smile. “I won’t let that happen.” He picked up a page of the Tome, then snapped his fingers, creating a scarlet spark. He threw it to the other pages, and they quickly set light, a sizeable flame growing.

    He scooped up the Zorua, cushion and all, then rushed out of the house, meeting with the torrential rains. He covered the Zorua with his cloak, stopping near a deadened tree and sinking into the ground, carrying with him the last of his kind.

    ~~~~

    In another part of Serenita, in the solitude of the Guild within the Iren Desert, the aged Guildmaster looked out the window of his domain, the Master’s Tower. His Pokémon were in their homes, whether it be the Azure Inn or the Expedition Hall, safe from the weather.

    The Lucario was dressed in a brown cloak, covering his shoulders, chest, and legs in leather folds. On his head was a brimmed hat, with his ears sticking out, and in his paw, a decorated staff, stiff and smooth with age. Around his neck was an intricate pendant, with the Arc of Arceus embroidered within. The cracked jewel in the center pulsed with a soft azure light, a remnant of its former power.

    He studied the room he stood in, still amazed by the fact that it was from the time of the founder of the guild. A staircase descended from the opposite wall, down to the base of the tower. To his right, an aged bed with the covers folded neatly over it, and to his left, a cabinet with artifacts from all the Guildmasters before him. A large table stood in the center, with a set of seven chairs surrounding it.

    “I’m sure this place has gone through worse than this,” he sighed, looking out the window once more. Rain beat upon the cracked glass, and wind rushed through the open corners, bringing in a slight draft.

    The door below him creaked open, causing him to turn. With the padding of wet paws, a voice echoed, “Guildmaster Calem, I’ve heard from Elsa that this storm has a dark meaning behind it.”

    “Kaiser, aren’t you being a little dramatic? We’ve seen worse storms, and none of them had any sort of special meaning,” he argued, stamping his staff on the stone floor.

    An Electivire pounded up the stairs, closing his eyes and shaking his head. “It’s different this time.” He leaned against the railing, the wood creaking under his weight. “The old bat went batty right when the storm hit, and she kept saying, ‘the Usurper has returned’, over and over again.” He growled, pounding his fists together. “Honestly, it makes me want to punch something.”

    The Guildmaster sped toward his friend and pulled on his arm. “What did she mean when she said, ‘the Usurper has returned’?”

    “It means that I have, Guildmaster.”

    The two looked down the stairs as a Zoroark gradually ascended the steps, looking up at the leaders of Lucario Guild. “A marvelous place Laryon made, isn’t it? A fancy restaurant, a little school…” He sighed, shaking his head. “I hate it all.”

    Kaiser clenched his teeth while Calem bared them. “Who are you?” they said simultaneously.

    Arthus stopped, aghast. “Astonishing. You’ve forgotten about, after I spent two-thousand years of wasting away in that infernal cocoon.” He added the last few words with a sneer, glowering.

    Calem stepped back, flinching. “You’re Arthus, aren’t you? No wonder Elsa said, ‘the Usurper has returned.’”

    Arthus punched the wall, the stone cracking. “I don’t deserve that title.” He bared his teeth. “I merely tried to do what Arceus should have done himself!”

    Kaiser slammed his fist, discharging several volts from his tails. “Well, aren’t you a smug little punk? I’d love to knock your lights out.”

    Arthus made a mocking chuckle. “And I’d like to see a dolt like you land a punch on me.”

    “Graah!” Kaiser roared, bounding down the stairs and rearing back his fist. Arthus leapt over the Electivire, allowing him to burst through the door at the base of the tower.

    Arthus padded closer, taking light, graceful steps. “It shouldn’t be much trouble to reverse the damage my hated Riolu made.”

    Calem clapped his paws together, a blue aura beginning to surround them. “You can’t tear down the legacy Laryon made. Not while there’s a Lucario alive.” He held up a paw and made a blue sphere of energy, throwing it at Arthus.

    Arthus slid to the left and stepped toward Calem confidently. “That’s precisely why I have to kill you. You and all the other Lucario in Equivos.”

    Kaiser burst through the ruined door and fired a bolt of lightning from his tails. Arthus looked back and ducked. Calem rolled away from impact, firing another Aura Sphere at Arthus.

    Arthus held his claws together and gathered an erratic, crimson ball of light. He threw it at the Aura, causing an explosion of purple light when the two met. Calem was thrown back into the cabinet, causing the glass to shatter.

    Kaiser bounded up the stairs and reared back his fist. Arthus wove around Kaiser and raked his claws across his back. The Electivire grunted, turning around and throwing another punch.

    Arthus avoided all the blows Kaiser attempted to strike with, all the while clawing at his attacker. With each strike, a sliver of Kaiser’s Life Energy drained into Arthus. His punching slowed, his breathing grew heavy, and soon, his body was crisscrossed with scarlet streaks, a thin mist trailing into Arthus’ claws.

    Kaiser glared at Arthus, covered with scratches and wobbling forward and back. “You’re a coward…fight me…” He fell forward, at which Arthus stepped to the side. “Like a Pokémon.” Kaiser slid down the stairs, stopping with a thud at the bottom.

    Arthus looked back, sneered, then progressed to the top of the stairs. Calem was struggling to reach a crystal with a multi-colored leaf inside, unable to stand up.

    Arthus grabbed his paw, then with his other claw held up the crystal. He studied it closer, then grinned. “You really think Arceus will save you now? That old fool stays holed up in a tree, oblivious to the world around him!” He crushed the crystal, then drove his claws into Calem’s paw, causing him to cringe.

    Arthus came to Calem’s ear and whispered, “Your Guild is now mine.” He drew Calem’s life from the paw, causing him to wither. Within moments, he lay lifeless on the floor.

    After the deed was done, Arthus removed his claw, wiped it across his fur, then gingerly took the pendant from around Calem’s neck. The crystal within glowed a dark crimson, its imperfect jewel leaking white light from the crack.

    Muttering to himself, Arthus put the necklace over his neck. “It looks like my plans will have to wait. Curse Laryon and his kin.” He looked out the window, considering what to do with his newfound responsibility.

    He brushed his claws against the base of the window, creating a long gash. “Time to form a new Guild.” He dashed down the tower and toward the houses of the Guild, screams filling the air as he culled the traitorous from the loyal.

    ~~~~

    The storms that heralded Arthus’ arrival finally subsided, fading to a disastrous drone retreating to the horizon. Dead Pokémon littered the streets of Lucario Guild, hauled off by the few Pokémon that claimed allegiance to the Usurper. Far off, toward the south, the isles of Cretea lay deserted of life, flooded by the storm. All throughout the continent, no Lucario remained alive—as Arthus had sworn.

    Within the Master’s Tower—with Kaiser and Calem’s bodies cleared away—Arthus took a deep breath in the center of the room. In his claws was a simple urn engraved with runes. His hand was clamped over the lid as he studied it with a smile.

    He held it up to his face and said, “I think you’ve been in there for long enough.” He pulled at the lid with all his might to no avail. He tried once more, then finally smashed the urn against the ground, shattering it and releasing a foul violet gas. It swirled and grew in front of Arthus, then condensed and darkened into a dark grey figure with a jagged maw and a single, crimson eye: a Dusknoir, laced with faint scars across its body.

    The Dusknoir looked around briefly, taking in his environment. “The…the Master’s Tower…where is Calem? How long have I been in there? How was I released?”

    “It is me you should thank, Gardner,” Arthus said, holding a hand to his chest.

    Gardner noticed Arthus, then his eye widened. “You…you reek of death.” He held up his fists and growled, “Who are you and why did you release me?”

    Arthus waved a dismissive hand and paced around him, “Oh, don’t bother with that; I have no interest in harming you—now, at least.” Arthus came around Gardner’s back and asked, “After my recent…purge, shall we say, I took the liberty of searching through the vault, and I found an urn with a certain Dusknoir trapped inside it. I was about to leave it there, but after reading your profile…well, I became interested.”

    Gardner lowered his arms but continued to glare at Arthus. “And what interested you so much, Zoroark?”

    “Please, call me Arthus.” He held up a claw to stop Gardner’s inquiry, then added, “From what I read, you used to be the late Calem Lucario’s assistant Guildmaster, but given your cruel tactics in capturing and disposing of outlaws—along with an incident with a team of cadets—you were incarcerated and replaced with Kaiser Electivire? Am I correct?”

    Gardner crossed his arms and nodded his head slightly. “Yes. And why would you want me? If memory serves right, you founded the Guild, so obviously you have experience in running it—and I doubt you need an errand-mon.”

    Arthus wrapped an arm around Gardner, causing him to stiffen. “I’ll fill you in on the details, but Calem is gone, and so are many others you likely knew.” He sighed and shook his head. “As much as I’d like to manage this Guild and use it to fulfill my goals, I’d rather not have a repeat of my failures—in this case, allowing the world to know that I’m back.” His eyes flashed, and he held a claw under Gardner’s chin. “You know what I mean, don’t you?”

    Gardner gently pushed away the claw and replied, “Yes. It’s basic history.” He looked down and noticed the necklace around Arthus’ neck. “Using the Seal again, I see? And how do you expect that to work with it broken?”

    Arthus seethed and tapped against his head. “Exactly why I can’t run the Guild! The Seal of Creation is the only way for me to take Arceus’ place!” He grabbed a ruff along Gardner’s neck and said, “I want you to become the new Guildmaster. Organize the Pokemon, handle the paperwork, all that; I simply don’t have time for it.”

    Gardner yanked back and rubbed his neck. “And what makes you think I’ll do that? You are one of the most dangerous Pokemon in Equivos; my life is at risk at every moment. What would I receive in exchange?”

    Arthus considered for a moment, looking up. “Well, you’d have a place in my world free from evil.”

    Gardner crossed his arms and huffed. “As tempting as it is, that’s not very assuring.”

    “I released you from the urn.”

    “A welcome act but releasing a criminal doesn’t cut it.”

    Arthus smirked and rubbed his fingers together. “I also read that you loathe Arceists and all they do. Is that correct?”

    Gardner hovered away and shuddered. “…Yes. What of it?”

    “Under my command, I would order you to exterminate all the Arceists and burn all of their ‘Arceist Tomes’; can’t have anyone believing in Arceus’ false teachings. I would ask for one or two be saved for research but do whatever you please in killing that religion.”

    Gardner paused, then turned around. “And I’d be free to manage the Guild as I see fit?”

    “Provided that they don’t go against my directives—which will be few and far between.”

    Gardner stood for a moment longer, then turned back around. The maw on his chest tilted in a slight grin. “When do I begin?”

    Arthus grinned, holding out his hand. “Immediately.”

    Gardner accepted the hand and shook it once. Arthus broke from the shake and wagged a finger at Gardner. “I have the feeling we will get along very well.”

    ~~~~

    2003 AU

    In a brightly lit room, covered with stuffed Pokémon and toys of all sorts, Arthus curled on the floor next to a Zorua. He held a book out in front of it and pointed at the pictures, laughing. “And the Psyduck still couldn’t get rid of his headache, so then he—”

    The door creaked. Arthus snapped the book shut, then snapped his fingers. A rush of wind flapped the curtains, and the cheery playroom turned into a forbidding stone mausoleum, desks covered in the artifacts at the sides and a flickering crimson flame hovering in the air.

    Gardner entered the room, pressing his hand against his chest in salute. “Lord Arthus—”

    Arthus stepped closer with a dour expression. “I thought I told you not to interrupt me at this time.” He passed through Gardner and held open the door. “Can’t this wait until later?”

    Gardner exited, giving the illusionary room a studious look. I only wanted to inform you about your last order.”

    Arthus waved inside the room with a smile, then shut the door with a frown. “What of it?”

    “The Arceists have been ‘managed’, and as far as I know, only two copies of the Arceist Tome exist; all the others were burned.”

    Arthus smiled, giving Gardner’s hand a vigorous shake. “Well done, well done! Now all you have to do is keep the population in check while we search for a way to repair the Seal.”

    Gardner yanked his hand away and scowled. “You mean you haven’t done it yet? I thought you said—”

    “I know what I said!” Arthus shouted. His claws emanated red mist, causing Gardner to back away. The Zoroark closed his eyes and made a shuddering breath. “It is simply taking longer than I thought. That’s why I need you to search through the library to find something, anything, that could repair the Seal, while I search abroad. Does that sound reasonable?”

    Gardner held his chin, looking down, then nodded. “Indeed.” He looked up and crossed his arms. “I hope that your little…project won’t take too much time. I would rather not delay your perfect world for too long.”

    Arthus pushed Gardner away from the house, rolling his eyes. “I am just as devoted to fixing the world as I am to my child—you have no need to worry!” He waved him off and said, “Now go; I have important things to finish.”

    Gardner narrowed his eye as he floated back into the Master’s Tower while Arthus returned to the hut, restoring the previous, lighter atmosphere and continuing to read the story to the Zorua.

    ~~~~

    Darkness set over the Guild. The buildings lay just as they had before, but the brightness that surrounded them previously had faded to a dullness. The Pokémon in the houses no longer looked to the Master’s Tower as a place of strength and protection; fear and oppression whirled in the minds of the Pokémon forced to comply with Arthus’ dictated rule, all for a belief that would supposedly end with them living alongside the Usurper.

    Arthus sat atop the spire of the Master’s Tower, balancing perfectly on its tip. He did not care about their views toward him; he no longer cared about respect or prestige. As long as they obeyed his command, he was content.

    He held the Seal aloft, and gasped. Reflected in the imperfect stone at the center was a silver Lucario, staring back at him with a vengeance. “You may hold Equivos in your grip, Arthus, but mark my words: you will never set foot in the Tree of Life while the Seal remains broken,” he said in echoed tones.

    Arthus took a glance behind him, eyes wide. He sneered, covering the gem with his claws. “Your ghost continues to haunt me, Matheus, even outside of that wretched Cocoon.”

    The thought of Matheus caused more memories to be remembered. He saw two Lucario and a Riolu, just before his imprisonment, with a Zorua in their arms. He saw the fear in the Zorua’s eyes and remembered how much he longed to be with him.

    He clenched his fist. “Erik…stolen from me all those years ago…by Matheus and his kind.” He looked down at the Seal once more. “And then he imprisoned me—for two thousand years.” He leapt down from the spire and toward a shimmering box near the wall of the Guild. “They all deserved to die.”

    He entered the invisible door and held his hands out. “Come to father!” A Zorua appeared from behind the couch and yipped, running toward Arthus.

    He shut the door and took the Zorua in his arms, ruffling its fur and playing with its ear. He flopped onto the couch and sighed, taking a book from a nearby stack. He stared at its cover and laughed. “Well, well, the Arceist Tome. Let’s see what Arceus has to offer, hmm?” The Zorua yipped in reply, nestling into Arthus’ lap as he cracked open the ancient covers.

    Arthus cleared his throat, then began to read:

    Origin 1—

    Before the Arms of the Creator spread across his creation, Equivos, there was an Egg. From this Egg came forth the Creator, Arceus. From his birth, Arceus created the Legends.

    First came the Order: Palkia, Space; Dialga, Time; and Giratina, Distortion. They stabilized the raging emptiness, so that the first worlds may come to pass.

    Next came the Lightbringers: Solgaleo, the Sun, and Lunala, the Moon. The light they shed would illuminate His great creations.

    Then came the Makers: Kyogre, the Seas; Groudon, the Land; and Rayquaza, the Skies. They created the World, Equivos, and with their might, protect the Followers of Arceus—Pokémon.

    Then, the Lifebringers: Xerneas, Life; Yveltal, Death; and Zygarde, Safety. The Followers of Arceus were born, and as with all of Arceus’ creations, will end. Whether it be by Time or Destruction, all will be Judged at the Day of Destruction, and only those who prove worthy will follow Arceus to the Realm of The Keeper.

    Arthus cackled. “The origin of the world! What nonsensical drabble!” He looked down at the Zorua and grinned. “A wonderful read isn’t it, my dear?”

    The Zorua said nothing. It stared at the vast illustration set on the page, depicting Arceus in the center of all the Legends of Equivos. Their eyes seemed to stare back, beckoning to the Zorua.

    Arthus closed the book, and the Zorua looked up at him and whimpered. Arthus put a claw over his heart, closing his eyes. “Oh, I know you want to hear more stories, but it's time for sleep.” He set the Tome on the stack, then picked up the Zorua.

    He set it on a puffy cushion, then snapped his fingers. The fire above them dimmed to a low glow, and Arthus opened the exit. “Good night…my little Zorua.” He left the room and shut the door behind him.

    The Zorua continued to stare at the book, and finally, leapt off the cushion, then knocked over the pile of books. The book flipped to the page depicting Arceus and the Legends, toppling from the pile and landing open.

    The Zorua continued to gaze at the picture and saw them move. Arceus seemed to draw closer; a wisp of light glowed from his arc and hovered in front of the Zorua’s nose.

    It played with the wisp of light, giggling. The light wrapped gently around its paw, then suddenly faded. The picture stopped moving.

    The Zorua yawned and fell asleep on the open pages. Images of Arceus and a silver Lucario danced through its dreams, bringing hope and kindness outside of what it knew.

    ~~~~

    2018 AU

    Scraps of paper floated in the air, alongside rusted ashes and bits of flame. Giant gashes swept through the walls and splintered remnants of furniture lay scattered across the floor. In the center of the darkness, Arthus huddled on the ground, his chest heaving.

    The charred door cracked open. Arthus glared at it and threw a ball of crimson flame, shutting it immediately.

    “Leave me be!” He pressed his hand on his forehead and grunted. He pulled a golden thread from his head, and a faint image appeared in the air surrounding it. Two Zoroark hugged each other with smiles on their faces, holding a young Zorua in between them.

    He bit his lip, then turned away. He held a shaking hand over the image, around the left Zoroark; she wore a golden necklace. “Every time…every time I trust someone…” The image faded.

    Arthus closed his claws. “They…betray me.” He stood up, holding the Seal of Creation in front of him, the flawed gem taunting him still.

    He jabbed a claw at it and roared, “I will not let her die in vain! I will rid evil from this world!” He stomped the ground and held out his arms. “I have suffered too much by your hand to fail now!” The entire room was enveloped in a harsh red light, incinerating everything within.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  3. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Hey, welcome to the forums! We have quite a few PMD fans here, so I imagine you'll fit right in.

    And from what I can see you have a cool setting going on here! Ancient forces stirring, societies being overturned, evil rising again in the world, etc. There's definitely a high-fanasy feel going on here.

    I was a little confused about what was going on in the first section of the prologue. Obviously Arthus was waking up, but also Yveltal? Apparently Arthus was inside the Cocoon of Destruction, so... he'd been trapped in there along with Yveltal? I'm at least guessing Yveltal wasn't actively trying to free him, and was also being released from dormancy at the same time. I take it Arthus is a pretty bad dude, but it seemed a little odd to me that the emphasis was on him waking up rather than giant death-bird.

    I'm having some trouble believing the zorua would go out into the open like that when the pokémon that it just saw/heard kill its mother is still right there. It's clearly supposed to be very young, but this seems like a bit much to me.

    I do really like Arthus' reaction to seeing the zorua, though. He seems legitimately surprised and unsure of what to do, which isn't something you see often in a villain of his archetype. Up until this point he's pretty much been a typical, "Bwa ha ha, my imprisonment has ended! Now at last I can have my REVENGE!!!" sort of dude, who usually don't waver or have moments of doubt like this. Sometimes these kinds of villains have actual plans to kill off a person's parents and then raise the offspring themselves (so the kid will turn eeeevil, naturally), but the way things are set up here it seems like a spontaneous thing, like Arthus is genuinely caught off-guard and ends up taking the zorua with him because he doesn't want to leave it as an orphan like he was. It adds an interesting dimension to his character.

    This seems like a real "as you know, Bob," sort of moment. Like, that's a weirdly specific thing for the guy to be thinking about and doesn't really have any relation to anything. Just straight-up saying "The room dated back to the time of the guild's founding" or similar would be more natural, I think, rather than trying to make it a POV spot.

    tbh it is pretty weird that people are able to just immediately recognize this guy who's been sealed away for 2,000 years, and that nobody seems to question whether it really is him. And how does Arthus know everybody's names, relationships, etc.? Earlier in the chapter he implies that he's been scouting around the village, but the way he interacts with people throughout the chapter it's like they all know him personally, and vice versa, somehow.

    Normally you can't just dodge an aura sphere, no?

    I gotta agree with Hoopa in the scene between him and Matheus. Just because Arceus said to kill the guy before he got Calem doesn't mean you should let him go on his merry way because you ended up being late, I don't think!

    Arthus' life-draining ability is pretty cool. It definitely lets him stand out from other zoroark and gives him a more dangerous feel. I wonder if he always had that ability, or whether he only gained it as part of his plan to rid the world of all life.

    Not sure why this little scene is in here? Just to show how powerful Arthus is? There doesn't seem to be much point to it, it's just an odd four-paragraph detour.

    Uh-oh, looks like old Arceus has agents on the inside. :p

    As before, this part where Arthus is playing with the young zorua is particularly good. I especially thought it was cute when he has to really quick hide the plush, colorful playroom with a "bleak gray manor" illusion, because heaven forbid his lackeys know that he doesn't spend 100% of his time being the most evil of evil in a totally bleak and evil castle. Again, the genuine affection Arthus shows the zorua is what's interesting to me about his character--as is that little scene at the end about his memories. Now, "My loved one died and now I have some crazy world-destroying scheme I've somehow decided reflects their wishes!" is a pretty well-trodden villain archetype, but I think you do a decent job of selling it here... Arthus' softer side feels more than just pasted on for sympathy points.

    So a lot went on in this prologue! I'm kind of of two minds about that. On the one hand, it's nice to dive right into the action and have a lot of stuff happening at the beginning of the story. On the other, it kind of felt like I was flitting from place to place but not getting a ton of meat out of a lot of the scenes. This is a pretty standard "rise to power of genocidal overlord" sequence, so I could get a gist of what was going on with only just a series of brief scenes to give a sketch of what was happening. Still, I wonder if it would have been more effective to cut this down to like three or four scenes and try to convey some of the information talked about in the others some other way. I called out one of the scenes that I definitely wasn't sure why it was in there, but there were others, like Arthus killing the lucario family, that seem a bit extraneous to me as well. That might be a byproduct of this being a sequel, perhaps those were familiar characters that people who'd read the rest would be familiar with. But for me, it was just Arthus killing some random lucario... nothing to see there, really. Focusing on a few, bigger scenes would allow you to go more in depth and make the prologue seem less all over the place.

    Your prose feels a bit rough to me in places. Part of this, I think, is your word choice; you go for kind of grandiose vocabulary, which I think backfires sometimes because you use words that sound impressive but maybe don't mean quite what you want. Like describing golden lights popping from the ground "wistfully." How does something pop wistfully? Or when you talk about a platform "within the ruined history of Equivos." Ruined history? I'm guessing you mean the ruined cocoon, which is part of Equivos history in a metaphorical sense, but it's kind of a weird leap to go from that to "within ruined history." Or that one line about a "gentle" forest... In general, it's more important to get across what you mean than to try and say what you mean in a fancy way.

    Some of the awkwardness comes from grammar or syntax problems. Here's one particular construction that came up a couple times:

    In the second sentence, "he" refers to the eyes, which doesn't make sense because eyes don't have gender. You could fix this by changing the pronouns in the second and following sentences to "they," which works correctly with "eyes," or reword the first sentence so it's a person doing the squinting, which "he" could refer to properly.

    Same dealio here. The antecedent for "he" in the second sentence is "a [...] claw," which also doesn't work.

    And in the last scene, you got a bit wonky with your verbs:

    "Scattered" in the second part of this sentence is weird because the way you've phrased is that the furniture scattered itself, like, it was running around the room. You want something like "was scattered" or "lay scattered" instead.

    Rooms can't "envelop;" this should be "was enveloped."

    It might help to try and find a beta reader to help you go through and identify weird sentences before posting.

    Overall, though, you have a nice, distinct style--a very visual one, which gives this opening prologue an anime feel. Lots of dramatic lighting and roaring thunder! Judging by the blurb in your sig I'm guessing we're not going to be following Arthus himself for most of this, so I'm curious to see whether you keep the same tone, or if it's going to change a bit once we see our human-turned pokémon. The prologue definitely sets up a dramatic backdrop for that person's adventure. Oh, but I guess he's going to end up as a lucario, which is going to be awkward if they've supposedly all been wiped out, isn't it? Sounds like it should be fun!

    Welcome again to the forums! I hope you have a good time here. I'm sure you can find lots of other PMD fics to check out based on the titles, but you might also enjoy Astral Genealogy, which is just starting... Also pokémon-centric fantasy-flavor adventure.
     
  4. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Thank you for the review! I figure I may as well clarify a few things you were confused about, ahead of my update tomorrow.

    Well, it was asleep when the entire thing happened, then awoke from all the commotion. I guess I should have made that a little more clear.

    I can agree, especially since the detail about the founder will be mentioned later on in the story.

    Well, with the Zoroark, they know a descendant of Arthus thanks to his eyes, and is thus the first thing they think of. Plus, he had to hang around the village for a little while to know how to get close to the couple.

    At the Guild, though, I can understand your point. I'll revise it to be more natural.

    I think I'll change or remove that scene entirely, as it doesn't make too much sense now that I'm writing with Matheus more majorly where I am now (Chapter 11).

    It was intended to show the desolation of the islands, caused by the massive storms. I guess it is rather unneeded, as you will likely forget when it becomes a major point.

    The scene with the Lucario family is meant to reveal another characteristic of Arthus, in particular the loss of his son to some Lucario in the past. I do agree that it doesn't quite do the trick, and I can instead have Arthus reflect on that before his scene with the Zorua.

    I've got to go now, but I'll try to have the suggested changes all done by tomorrow, most likely after I post Chapter 2.
     
  5. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    I know you've already heard my thoughts on the opening, but I just wanted to pop in and say that hindsight's totally 20-20 here, and a few of the scenes take on a much different meaning for me now compared to the first time I had looked this over. Which is totally a good thing, I'll have you know. Not going to spoil anything in any regards, just going to say that I have a new appreciation in particular for the tome passage and all of the stuff that follows, especially that last scene with Arthus. ^^

    At the same time, I'm going to caution you against uploading every two days to try and catch up with what you've posted. I can't speak for everyone on the site, but we all lead busy lives and not everyone can review regularly or keep up with stories that have faster update rates. So, I feel like rapid-fire updating over the next couple of weeks is more than likely going to intimidate anyone who might potentially want to give this story a read. Which would be a real shame, because you've been setting up such a vivid, dramatic narrative. Ultimately it's your decision how much you upload, but just some food for thought.
     
  6. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    I can understand that, given how I did something similar for my previous stories and the reviewing suffered as a result. I'll figure out the number of days needed between chapters to best connect my posting times while still leaving enough to let people review.
     
  7. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 02: Lawrence

    2020 AU

    Castelia City, Unova Region

    Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, bee--!

    His hand tapped the screen and stopped the alarm. A face peeked out of the covers, blearily gazing at the time: 6:30 AM. He sat upright and stretched, then grabbed his Pokédex-- a slender black rectangle with a touch-screen surface and several buttons at the side—and avoided a large book labelled ‘Pokémon and Evolution: A Scientific Study’. He scrolled through his notifications and swiped them away.

    Reminder: Call family at 7:00.

    Reminder: Be at work by 8:00.

    Reminder: Pick up milk on the way home.

    A keypad came up, and he typed his password. The words ‘Hello, Lawrence’ flashed, then faded to reveal a collection of icons, ranging from a magnifying glass, a camera, and others.

    A high-pitched whistle blew beyond the window. Lawrence opened his eyes and squinted them, noticing the sunlight. ‘Better get ready to go,’ he thought.

    He turned off the Pokédex and flipped the red-and-black cover over it, leaving only a small square visible at the top. Setting it down, he got out of bed and took out clothes from the dresser, then exited the bedroom into the bathroom connected to it. He took a shower, dressed, and combed his hair, then went out of the bathroom. He took the Pokédex from the top of the bed, looking at its clock: 6:50. ‘I still have time.’

    Lawrence walked back into the kitchen, considering what to eat. He looked down at his Pokédex and clicked a remote icon, then the "Power" button that appeared. The TV turned on with the morning news.

    He dug through the fridge, settling to make cereal for breakfast, as the anchors went on with their morning drone. The female anchor with a little too much make-up said, “Welcome to UNN, Unova News Network! I’m your co-host, Melinda Meyers!”

    The smug looking man beside her flashed a smirk and added, “And I’m Wallace Walsh. Today marks the ten-year anniversary of Team Plasma’s defeat, after the Kyurem debacle that afflicted all of Unova with a deep freeze.”

    Lawrence glared at the empty gallon that he held. ‘Guess I’ll make toast.’

    Melinda nodded curtly and said, “That’s right Wallace, so please, make sure you visit the Plasma Memorial to remember those who were lost to their acts of villainy.” She brushed back her hair and continued. “In other news, Valence Tech has announced a brand-new program, which they have labelled ‘Project Babel’. Experts speculate that it may refer to a language translation feature for their Pokédex 2.0 devices. Until more comes out involving their latest service, we are left with that.”

    Lawrence slathered butter on a steaming slice of toast, then opened his email and opened one labeled, ‘Valence Employee Newsletter: 28th Issue—Behavioral Research Team.’

    Wallace nodded and said, “For viewers who may not know, Valence Tech was formed seven years ago by Aaron Hanson, founder of the now-defunct Poketch Company. Valence’s first product, the Pokédex 1.0, provided everyday people with the portable encyclopedia originally left to those selected by Pokémon Professors.

    “Three years later, they released the Pokédex 2.0, which added features such as calling, texting, and Internet capabilities, as well as a constantly-updating line of applications, with their development team constantly creating new ways to interact with our beloved Pokémon.” Wallace pointed off-screen and said, “And now for the weather…”

    Lawrence took a bite out of the toast, half-listening. He read the announcement:

    Project Babel Update!

    You will soon have a new collection of Pokémon to study! They will be from a foreign location and have special qualities, so please look forward to it! More details will be given within a week by your director.

    Lawrence looked up thoughtfully. ‘Wonder what type of Pokémon they are?’ He checked the time on his Pokédex: 6:55. ‘Better finish up.’

    He gulped down the rest of his toast, turned off the TV, then sat down on the couch. He tapped on the video chat function, and several pictures showed up with names underneath them, all with the words ‘Call/Other’ underneath them.

    A bright blue cloud rung, showing a scruffy man and thin woman came up, labelled ‘Mom and Dad’. He accepted the call, and the portrait began to move.

    The large man with a scruffy chin exclaimed, “Morning, Lawrence! Did you wake up alright?”

    Lawrence opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the thin woman with a wide smile. “Oh, hush Gerald. If he picked up, he’d be awake, right?”

    “I woke up alright, Dad. How’s it going back in Sinnoh?” Lawrence explained.

    Gerald sighed, scratching the back of his head. “Farm’s still goin’ smoothly, but uh…” He sighed, letting his arm drop. “I could use a bit of help getting the fence up. You know the Tauros don’t like being holed up for long. Could you take some time off work and come over?”

    Lawrence looked at the corner: 7:02. “I don’t know if I can do that right now. Have you heard? Valence is working on something big, and they’re going to need as many people as they can get.”

    His mom came closer to the screen and said, “But we haven’t seen you for months! They’d understand for family reasons, right?”

    “This is Valence, Mom. They’re a big company. I don’t have much say.”

    Her face drooped. “You’ve been so busy lately. You’ve been going to the little church branch down there, right? You can’t be too busy for that!

    A notification rolled across the screen, warning Lawrence to leave for work. He stood up and walked to the door. “Can we talk about this later? I have to get to work.”

    “But Honey, you said you would!” his mom said before being cut off by the ‘Call Ended’ screen.

    Lawrence pocketed the Pokédex and sped toward the door. He put on his jacket and shoes and slipped a pair of headphones over his neck. He opened the door and closed it, making sure to take his wallet with him.

    He hurried down the hallway and entered the elevator. He pulled out his Pokédex, putting the headphones over his ears. He turned it on and tapped on ‘Music, then set it to ‘Random’, listening to his selection of somber piano music.

    After going down the elevator and breezing past the exit, Lawrence stopped. Skyscrapers rose all around him, shrinking the people rushing to and fro along the sidewalks. Cars whizzed by the Pokémon that walked alongside the pedestrians, whether they be Machoke carrying packages, or styled Furfrou on their daily walks, or Sawks getting a jog alongside their masters. The skinny trees in the median and sidewalk rustled in the wind, their autumnal leaves breaking off into the breeze. The cold light above complemented the smog that filled the air, ranging in smell from cheap hot dogs to car exhaust, and everything in between.

    Lawrence waited for a gap to form in the crowd, then dove inside, shuffling toward the crosswalk. He brushed past people, scarcely restraining a scowl. ‘At least I have my music.’

    He crossed from the residential district to the dining, and the smell changed from dirty smog to succulent meals, with sweet pretzels and cakes mixing with savory kebabs and sidewalk steaks as the different vendors vouched for their products.

    Lawrence veered away from the stands, wrinkling his nose. ‘I can’t believe people eat this stuff.’ He suddenly smiled, drifting toward a large man wearing a stained apron and holding up a rolled pancake in the air. ‘But I know why he’s in business.’

    The man tossed the pancake between his hands and called out, “Crepes! Crepes a plenty over here, with plenty of flavors to choose! Only two bucks!”

    Lawrence slipped off his headphones and reached for his back pocket. The man laughed, lowering his crepe and leaning on the stand. “Hi there, Lawrence. Your usual?”

    Lawrence pulled out two bills, keeping them to himself. He made a small grin. “Yeah…how ‘bout we make a deal?”

    The man chuckled, leaning in closer. “When haven’t you thought of that?”

    Lawrence pulled out his Pokédex and tapped on a card icon. “Sell me two Cheri crepes for a dollar, and I’ll give you this.” He held the screen out to him, showing a card depicting a Sylveon in a flowery background.

    The man gasped and began to spread Cheri sauce over a steaming pancake. “Sold!” he exclaimed. He finished one crepe then another and handed them to Lawrence, receiving a dollar in exchange.

    The man pulled out his own Pokédex and typed his password, tapping on the same icon. He brought up a Rockruff card and tapped ‘Trade’. After several moments, the man had his Sylveon.

    He laughed, slipping his Pokédex back into his pocket. “Thanks for that; I’ve been looking for that one for ages. Good luck at work!”

    Lawrence walked away, looking back and giving the man a warm smile. ‘“Talk for a moment and there’s a deal to make everyone happy,’ as they say in Sinnoh.”’ He looked around, noting the glum, emotionless expressions. He turned back around, his smile fading. ‘Shame that’s not how it is here in Unova.’

    He put his headphones back on and went to chomp his crepe, until he noticed a glum figure sitting in the alley next to him. The filthy man wore drab clothing and petted his Herdier sadly, sighing.

    Lawrence looked down at his crepes, then back at the man. He stooped, holding out one of them to him. The man looked up.

    “Here. One’s enough for me,” Lawrence explained. The man took the crepe hesitantly, and after ensuring there was no catch, gave Lawrence a slight nod. Lawrence stood up, and walked away, while the man broke his crepe in half, sharing it with his Herdier companion.

    Lawrence continued walking on the sidewalk, taking a right turn at the intersection. Fewer and fewer people walked alongside him. Turning another corner, a magnificent tower rose into the air, a sign in front of it proclaiming in bold letters, “Valence Tech: Bringing Unity to All.” The plaza held a statue of their signature product, the Pokédex 2.0, tipped on its corner. Individuals wearing lab coats and business dress stood around it, talking about daily affairs, work responsibilities, and the goings of their favorite Pokémon.

    Lawrence stopped, groaning at the sight of one woman standing at the base of the statue. She wore a simple white dress, with a golden medal in the shape of Arceus’ arc on her shoulder. Her red hair fell loosely around her shoulders, and her eyes kept darting around to people passing her by. In her hand was a stack of brochures, emblazoned with the same symbol as her medal.

    Handing the brochure to a man in a suit, she said, “Please come to our church at 255 Reshiram Boulevard. We’ll be waiting!” As the man left, her eyes trailed over Lawrence.

    He tried to walk away but was stopped by the woman’s grip on his arm. “Lawrence! I was wondering when I’d see you here!”

    Lawrence groaned inwardly. “Hello, Erica. I thought you came to advertise around eight?” He checked his Pokédex: 7:20.

    Erica sighed, rolling her eyes. “It’s not ‘advertising’; it’s trying to bring people closer to their spirits.” She slowly pulled a brochure off the stack, adding, “I know you avoid me by getting here before I do, so I came early.” She held out the brochure. “Can you come at least once? You’d fit right in with the Arceists; you help so many people already!”

    He pushed aside the brochure, pulling free of her grip. “I’ve already told you, I don’t believe in that sort of thing. There’s never been any proof that Arceus or these ‘spirits’ exist. “

    Erica frowned, running ahead of Lawrence and standing in front of him. “Can you at least read it? You’ve never taken one.” Lawrence looked down at the brochure, then back at Erica.

    After several moments, he took the brochure. “If this will make you stop bothering me, yes.”

    Erica continued to frown, adjusting the brochures in her arm. “If you decide to change your mind, just come to 255 Reshiram Boulevard. Anyone’s welcome.” She returned to the base of the statue, her initial zeal lost as she announced her cause.

    Lawrence walked to the entrance, looking down at the brochure. ‘Arceism: A Belief Fit for All!’ it advertised. He looked up and huffed. ‘I don’t think so.’

    He pushed open the doors, halting to watch the bustling lab coats and Pokémon whiz through the lobby. People and Pokémon of all sorts entered elevators and crossed stairways in the pristine whiteness. On screens lining the edges of the massive room, the latest applications for the Pokédex 2.0 were featured, ranging from an incubation check for eggs, to a nutrition planner for Pokémon. People behind tables explained the Pokédex to new customers, with Pokémon at their owners’ sides.

    Lawrence moved toward the elevator, pulling out his wallet. On reaching the door, he scanned the ID inside across a black bar with a red light. The light changed to green, and doors split apart.

    He entered the elevator with a clammy man holding a box and a middle-aged woman holding a tray of Poke Balls. Lawrence turned around, and the door shut. He clicked a button labelled ‘4’, and they went up.

    They stopped at the second floor, where people studying various machines on tables could be seen. The woman went out and began speaking with another man as the doors closed. After a few more moments of ascension, the door opened again, revealing dozens of cubicles, all with people clicking away at their keyboards. Aside from that and the occasional cry from a Pokémon, no other sound could be heard in the beige environment. The clammy man rushed out of the elevator, several papers flying out from behind him. The doors closed.

    The doors opened again, and Pokémon standing on tables lined the aisleways. The people standing next to the tables studied screens beneath them, pointing out strange phenomena and details associated with the many species. The larger Pokémon stood at the sides, where scanners constantly fed information to the nearby monitors. Various cries of complaint and joy echoed throughout, receiving treats, scolding, or nothing as their researchers spoke with their companions.

    Lawrence breezed past them, making way to the only empty table—only it wasn’t quite empty. Sitting on top of it was a burly man wearing a black trench coat and white hat, looking up at the ceiling. His beard was gray and matted, and his teeth were slightly yellow. At his belt was a collection of Poke Balls, covered with salt and grime.

    The seaman noticed Lawrence and grinned. “Ahoy, Stephenson!” he announced, coming to his feet. He embraced the retreating Lawrence and squeezed him tightly. “I can’t thank ye enough for helpin’ out me little Debbie; I can’t imagine livin’ without the old gal.”

    Lawrence wriggled out of his grip, pulling off his headphones. “You’re…welcome…Sheffield,” he wheezed. “Aren’t you…supposed to be…down at the docks?”

    Sheffield combed through his beard, nodding. “I just wanted to let ya know that if ya need my services, I’ll be willin’ to bring whateva ya need.”

    Lawrence regained his composure, looking up at the sea captain. “Why would I need a cargo ship? I’m a Behavior Specialist!”

    “I’m just holdin’ the offer out to ya is all. Here.” He shoved a paper onto Lawrence’s chest.

    Lawrence grabbed it, and Sheffield said, “That’s my number if ye ever need it. I’ll be a’waitin’!” He pounded past him and toward the elevator, greeting those he passed with a hearty ‘ahoy’.

    Lawrence set his papers down and sniffed, noticing a layer of salt on the table. “You help out a sailor with a Chatot’s mood swings once, and they love you for life. How did he find me, Marcus?”

    The dark-skinned man next to him groomed an Eevee on the table. He shrugged and said. “He came looking for you on his way to the shipping department; he works for Valence too, you know.”

    Lawrence opened a drawer and pulled out a cloth, wiping it across the table. “Well, I don’t really want to meet him again; his interest in Chatot concerns me. They aren’t any smarter than other Pokémon, and they aren’t all that sophisticated.”

    Marcus stopped and leaned against his table. “I’m not sure I agree with you there; Pokémon are pretty sophisticated creatures.”

    Lawrence looked to him and gave a knowing look. “I know what I’m talking about.”

    “Let’s see you prove it then. Pop quiz: why do Lucario gather in packs?”

    “It’s because they feel comfortable around Auras from their peers and use them to communicate with each other. They’re able to coordinate better with each other in such setups,” Lawrence replied, closing the drawer. He shook his head, leaning on the desk. “Why’d you ask a question about Lucario? They aren’t all that complex behaviorally.”

    Marcus shrugged. “I dunno, they’re cool I guess.”

    Lawrence turned around and took out his Pokédex. “Despite what people think, they aren’t. They might be strong fighters, but they don’t have much else going for them. From all the times I’ve studied them, they don’t do much more than stare at people and occasionally bark.” He checked the time: 7:30.

    “Well, they’re at least smart, right?”

    “As if. Hardly the ideal Pokémon to be if I had to choose,” Lawrence replied.

    Marcus humphed, then noticed the brochure on Lawrence’s table. He smirked. “So, Erica finally got you to take one.”

    Lawrence shoved Sheffield’s number and Erica’s brochure into the drawer, slamming it afterward. “Why does she think I’d be perfect with her ‘Arceists’, Marcus? I mean, she hasn’t seen what I do here!”

    Marcus shrugged, returning to his patient Eevee. “I dunno, maybe because Arceists believe Pokémon should be treated like people, and you study how they act? I guess she just wants scientific proof, that’s all.” He looked up, chuckling. “Plus, I think she has a thing for you.”

    Lawrence elbowed him playfully, opening another drawer and setting his headphones inside. “You and your ideas.” He looked around, concerned. “I should be working by now. Where’s the Pichu I’m supposed to study?”

    “I’ve left her under another employee, Mister Stephenson.”

    An elderly man wearing a gray suit walked up to them, holding his arms behind his back. His shoes shone brightly, complementing the small ruby inset on a button near his neck. His short-cropped hair was tidily swept to the left.

    Lawrence stood up straight and bowed respectfully. “President Hanson! I, uh, wasn’t expecting to see you.”

    He waved dismissively. “Understandably, considering that I was making this a surprise visit. I have a special assignment for you.” He turned around, casually walking past his other employees. “Follow me.”

    Lawrence looked back at Marcus, then back at Hanson. “Guess I better go. I’ll see you later.” He took large steps toward the elevator, where Hanson stood waiting.

    Lawrence entered, and the doors closed behind him. He turned to face the door as Hanson reached inside his jacket. He pulled out a silver keycard, much like Lawrence’s. “Remind me, where are you from? You have an accent I don’t usually hear.”

    “I come from Sinnoh. I moved here to go to the College of Unova for their Behavior Science course.”

    Hanson swiped the card in front of a black screen, causing a series of blue buttons with numbers to appear. “I see. Do you have family there? Friends, perhaps?”

    “I have my mom and dad, but I haven’t seen them for a while. I don’t have too many friends outside of those I see around here.”

    Hanson clicked ‘17’. “Do you have any pet Pokémon? Do you battle at all?”

    “No, but I know how to. I used to be part of the Senior Pokémon League back in college,” Lawrence replied, unsettled by a jerk in their motion. The elevator went down swiftly, faster than he was used to. ‘Where are we going?’

    Hanson nodded sagely. “Good, good.” He remained silent until the elevator stopped. “Before we go out, I must warn you: anything you see from here on out is to remain private between you and me. These are company secrets and are not something you’ll see on the ground floors.”

    Lawrence looked at him dubiously. ‘Ground floors?’

    Hanson clicked a button, smiling. “I’ll take your silence as a yes.” The doors slid open, and Lawrence gasped.

    The light and beige of the building he knew was gone from the air, replaced with a stark black in a vast cavern of machines and vehicles. Men darted about in forklifts and trolleys, carrying equipment and Poke Balls wherever they went. Low-hanging lights provided the barest of illumination, giving slight hints of the activities surrounding a narrow walkway to a massive geodesic dome.

    Hanson stepped forward, motioning for Lawrence to follow. He complied, twisting his head around to see what took place. Two workers argued with each other about where to put large cages, while others were huddled behind a table, where sparks belched into the air. In glass rooms to the side, scientists studied Pokémon, although not how Lawrence was used to: the Pokémon in question stood in tubes and had various wires connected to their brains, while the connected machines spat out results from their various tests. From behind a darkened room, pitiful shrieks wailed through the air.

    Lawrence stared around the room, eyes wide. “What is this place?” he asked, horrified.

    Hanson continued, undeterred. “This is Facility D, where all the real science happens. We are two hundred feet underground, away from the prying eyes of the Unovan League.” He pointed up. “Everything that happens up there is what the public thinks we are: a humble company providing quality Pokédexes for them to use with their Pokémon. But that was what Poketch was. We’re not Poketch.”

    He gestured to a cluster of scientists pushing a Magmar in a sideways containment unit, sleeping soundly. “Down here in Facility D, however, we strive to find meaning behind Pokémon. We want to know how they came to be, and how we can use them at their peak capacity.

    “You see, I wasn’t content with simply providing a service; anyone can do that. No, I wanted to change the world as we knew it, and while the Pokédex 2.0 is a step in the right direction, it is not what I envision.”

    He abruptly stepped in front of Lawrence, continuing to gaze at him with his squinting eyes. “So, here’s the big picture: what if Pokémon could talk?” Lawrence remained silent, still astonished by the environment.

    Hanson turned around. “Many people think that Pokémon are loving companions that will stick with you to the end. That is not the case. Unlike humans, they don’t strive for the greater goals of life; they eat, sleep, mate…everything programmed into us by nature!” He lifted a finger. “But, that doesn’t mean that speech would be useless. If we could somehow make Pokémon speak, we could create ultimate cohesion with trainers, making a force that could communicate perfectly, with no drawbacks.

    “Pokémon may be simple, but consumers don’t see it that way; they want to talk with them just as they would their sister or brother, regardless of what they might say. Sure, there is already technology that can supposedly translate what they say, but it is expensive, and how are we to know it’s accurate? It would be far more profitable to develop some machine or serum that will give these Pokémon this ability.”

    Lawrence only half-listened to Hanson as he forced himself to focus. “What’s your point? Have you found a way to make them talk?”

    Hanson sighed, massaging his temples. “Unfortunately, there’s no way you can give them speech with our current resources; all experiments have resulted in failure.”

    Lawrence shivered when he said ‘experiments. “So, what’s the point in trying to do it if it can’t be done?”

    Hanson grinned, showing perfectly white teeth. “I never said it couldn’t.” They finally stopped walking, standing in front of the black geodesic dome.

    The doors slid open, revealing a series of tubes punching into the walls of a hallway. Men in lab coats carried papers and bits of machinery, studying them and applying them to their proper places. Various doors connected to the hallway, the end of which had a massive metallic ring.

    Hanson walked amongst the scientists, ignoring their actions. Lawrence couldn’t help but be fascinated with what they were doing, still perplexed as to what was happening here.

    “Eight years ago, the Aether Foundation of Alola reported that other dimensions exist, the most notable being Ultra Space. But ever since the accidental release of the Ultra Beasts, no efforts have been made to discover other dimensions.” He looked back at Lawrence, his eyes now fully open. “We, however, have.”

    He turned into a small room with numerous screens, all showing various environments: forests, mountains, oceans, and other sorts. A table with scattered papers lay in the center, showing images of Pokémon from an overhead view.

    Hanson picked up one image, showing a bundle of small buildings in the middle of a grassland. “We obtained the Aether Foundation’s dimensional technology and began to search for other dimensions ourselves. Most were empty and black, remnants of what they once were. Several yielded interesting results, but unfortunately lacked what we sought.” He handed the picture to Lawrence. “Until we found dimension 3-9-1-V-0-S: Equivos.”

    Lawrence studied the picture, squinting to see the details. The buildings were made from stone and wood, rather primitive resources. Multi-colored figures walked in the aisleways, carrying carts, with some wearing leather clothing. The figures were of various shapes, reminding Lawrence of—

    “Pokémon! A dimension full of Pokémon, with no people!” Lawrence exclaimed, the experiments temporarily leaving his mind.

    Hanson grinned, nodding. “Precisely! From what we can tell, they’re exactly the same as our own, even down to genetics—except for one small detail. Listen.” He tapped a button on the counter, and a scattered, static-y sound emanated all around them.

    In the midst of the static, a tiny voice whispered, “I…Draena…Marill…”

    Hanson revealed his gleaming teeth once more. “They can speak. Our language, at that!”

    Lawrence stepped away from the speaker, averted by the sheer…strangeness, of hearing a supposed Pokémon speak. His eyes narrowed as he put pieces together. “Wait…what do you need me for? You want me to study them from here?”

    Hanson shook his head, chuckling. “No, no, nothing of the sort. I want you to study them out there.” His normally-gentle expression suddenly hardened as he glowered at Lawrence. “We’ve recently developed a new machine, one that can allow us to send objects across dimensions…or people, like you.”

    Lawrence thought for a moment, then realized what he meant. “You want to send me there?” he exclaimed. He combed his fingers through his hair and sharply exhaled. “But why? Surely there’s another way, or someone else who can do it.”

    Hanson’s gentleness returned as he sat on a chair. “I’ve done some extensive research on you, and you’re the best choice. Most everyone here is a city slicker, having no experience with the great outdoors. Those that have had some fresh air tend to be…” He tapped his chin for a moment. “…stupid. They are unsuited for research work like what you do, considering your extensive time studying Pokémon on Mount Coronet.” He held up a portfolio and tapped it. “Your application was very helpful.” He set it on the desk and flipped through the papers inside. He held up a newspaper clipping and said, “Let’s see… ‘accomplished survivalist Lawrence Stephenson completes study of Pokémon indigenous to Mount Coronet of the Sinnoh region. Two years previously, he earned his wilderness guide license after living off the land for over a week.” Hanson chuckled, setting down the clipping. “A veteran of the wild, at such a young age! Whatever made you want to come here?”

    Memories of the desolate peaks flashed back to Lawrence, and of his detailed thesis all about it. He wrote about the Pokémon and what they did there, and how all of this concluded to having Pokémon be on inferior ground to humans.

    “I…wanted to expand my horizons…and escape from certain influences.”

    Hanson nodded, gesturing to himself. “Reminds me of myself when I sold off Poketch; I wanted to develop other technologies like the Pokédex 2.0, but the investors insisted that I continue making the Poketch.” He waved dismissively. “Regardless, you have proven yourself qualified for such a…harrowing mission. No one else under my employ could fit the job, what with your field experience, your education, and your slight interest in different cultures.” He smirked. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed your comparison of regions you made your sophomore year of college.”

    Lawrence cringed. “Why’d I even do that paper?” He held his chin for a moment. ‘This is all so…strange. It does sound interesting to go to this place. I mean, it’s only got Pokémon there. It might be rather fun to see how it is.’

    Then the fear set in. ‘Whatever they made to get me there, it can’t be safe. I wouldn’t be able to see anybody until I get back, and where there’s Pokémon, there’s danger.” He shuddered. “Then there’s Hanson’s “tests”.’

    Lawrence shivered again. “Will the Pokémon be treated humanely? They are more civilized, right?”

    Hanson sighed, massaging his head. “Until we have one here to study, we can’t determine how civilized they are. Sure, they can speak, and yes, they can produce.” He opened his eyes. “Whether or not they are civilized is unimportant at the moment. If we want to bring the world talking Pokémon, and we have the chance, let’s take it!” He grinned. “Besides, how different can they be? Outside of the ability to speak, they appear to be exactly the same as our world’s.”

    Hanson closed the portfolio, smirking. “Another thing to keep in mind, Mister Stephenson: You’ve seen and heard some rather…conflicting things about my company. If you decline, then I’ll have to make sure you don’t say a word, no matter the means. I’d rather not get my hands dirty, but I have to keep a good public image.” He grinned once more. “Tell me, Mister Stephenson…do we have a deal?”

    Lawrence paled, suddenly fearing the consequences. ‘Hanson’s one of the most powerful men in the world. If he wanted to make sure I don’t talk, he could do that.’ He stood straighter. ‘I guess it’s a choice between a chance of danger in Equivos or guaranteed danger here.’

    He sighed in defeat. ‘I should just go along with Hanson. At least I can avoid his bad side.’

    “When do I leave?”

    Hanson made a low chuckle. “Two hours.”

    ~~~~

    An hour later, Lawrence sat in a small room in front of a table, listening to Hanson as he listed precautions, while to the side, two men tweaked with Lawrence’s Pokédex from a computer.

    Lawrence fidgeted in his seat, his mind buzzing to the point he was having difficulty following Hanson. ‘I still can’t believe I’m going to a different dimension—with only Pokémon!’ kept going through his mind.

    Hanson pointed at a blurry map, around the center of the green mass. “We’ve spent months preparing for this, so don’t think we haven’t thought this through. You’ll land around here, based on what images we’ve gathered from the air. From this location, just catch a single Pokémon, and activate the beacon on your Pokédex, which will be shown to you once it’s ready.”

    Lawrence wanted to sigh with relief but found his throat too tight. “What will I have with me?”

    “We’re giving you several powerful Pokémon to capture with: Bisharp, Gyarados, Infernape—you get the picture. They, along with food and supplies, will be sent with you in a capsule. It’s designed to be wormhole-proof, much like the upgrades to your Pokédex will make it as well.”

    Lawrence’s heart beat faster as his eyes widened. “Wait, wormhole?”

    Hanson nodded. “Yes, a wormhole. It’s perfectly safe, I assure you. All our surveillance craft have survived the trip.” He rubbed his chin, looking up. “However, for some reason they go dead after a few months, so I can’t say they weren’t affected…maybe.” He shrugged. “Still, the suit we’ve designed for you should make you immune to the effects of the wormhole, along with the case we’ve designed for your Pokédex. “

    Lawrence forced himself to nod. ‘I hope that’s true.’

    ~~~~

    Scientists bustled about, making last-minute preparations for the journey to Equivos. Laborers carried supplies and placed them into containers, while two dozen individuals sat in front of computers, typing away algorithms and coordinates. All the while, the giant, golden ring in the center hummed loudly.

    Lawrence swallowed fearfully, looking up at the giant ring. He was inside a glass room with it, to keep the other workers from slipping inside. He wore a tight white suit, as well as a white helmet. His Pokédex was tucked in a case attached to his arm. A black panel covered the red and black cover, protecting the surface with solar panels.

    A monitor behind him flickered on, revealing Hanson’s face. Scientists scurried behind him, while he remained perfectly calm. “We’ve updated your Pokédex to act as both a signal beacon and tracker. It will alert you when there’s a weakness in the fabric of the dimension, where we can extract you and your captured specimens. We’ll send the Pokémon to use for their capture, as well as other supplies, after you’re through the portal.” He clicked a button proffered by a gangly man. “The weakness we are sending you through should last for nine-and-a-half hours. After that, the fabric will shift, and you’ll have to locate another before you can return. Any questions?”

    “Is it…safe, getting there?” Lawrence asked. ‘Despite my experience in Sinnoh, and how much I want to see this world, I can’t help but dread it.’

    Hanson turned aside for a moment, said something unintelligible, then turned back and replied, “The designers have assured me that it’s perfectly safe—provided that you have that suit.” He furrowed his brow. “Do you feel like you need more time to prepare? It has been at least five years since your time in Sinnoh.”

    Lawrence shook his head, swallowing uncomfortably. “It should come back to me once I’m there.” He turned back to the ring and stared. ‘At least, I think it should.’

    Hanson clapped his hands together. “Very well, on with the show!” The monitor turned off, and Lawrence began to regret his decision.

    A man shouted, Initiating wormhole generation! The ring began to glow an unearthly red and hummed louder. It vibrated, slowly at first, but soon appeared like a failing illusion as it grew more vigorous. Another minute passed by, and electricity arced from the rim into the center. A swirl of grey vapor centered on the stricken point, beginning to pull on Lawrence.

    Lawrence began to skid against the ground, the vortex pulling him in. The glass around him began to bend inward, cracking slightly. The monitor swung toward the vortex, the screws coming loose.

    Lawrence hesitated, struggling to step back. ‘What was I thinking agreeing to this insanity?’

    Red lights flashed, an alarm following it. Hanson’s face appeared on the monitor again, distressed. “Go through, now!” The monitor was yanked from the wall, disappearing into the void.

    The vortex pulled at Lawrence’s legs, causing him to fall backward. He steadily progressed toward it, covering his eyes as the glass around him shattered. It swirled into the void as well, but it wasn’t enough; the vortex demanded more.

    Lawrence was now mere feet from the vortex. He reached behind him to prevent its victory, but it was futile; the concrete would not yield grip to him.

    It abruptly yanked his head forward, throwing him into the void headfirst. He screamed helplessly as he entered the tunnel beyond.

    A man that held Lawrence’s supplies suddenly refused to go forward. Tubes were loosened from their sockets, and coattails flapped as the vortex threatened to take the entirety of the dome.

    Another monitor flew inside, and Hanson pulled at a scientist’s coat. “Shut it down, now! It’ll take everything!”

    “But what about Lawrence?”

    Hanson pushed him away, slamming on a massive red button. “He’ll come back, you’ll see!” The vortex screamed as it shrank into nothingness, releasing its hold on the objects around it. Lawrence was beyond their help.

    ~~~~

    A yawning tunnel of cloud and dust circled around Lawrence, pitch-black and impossible to see through. He hyperventilated, having no control of his movement through the tunnel. Lightning flashed around him, giving him a fleeting glimpse of the horrors that lay beyond the fog. He floated in a rush of wind, dragging him to where he would, presumably, end up in Equivos.

    An earsplitting screech echoed past him, causing him to grimace and press his hands over his ears. A black mass inched beyond the clouds, far more massive than Lawrence. It split apart, revealing jagged rows of teeth and a snaking tongue. Another mass rammed into it, pushing it over the tunnel with a rumbling roar. Whip-like tendrils wrapped around it with a clicking scream.

    Lawrence’s heart pounded in his chest, and the hair on his neck raised. ‘Those…those aren’t from my world. Where did they come from, and why are they here?’ he thought, struggling to understand this bizarre series of events.

    Through his travail, he heard disembodied voices, whispering unintelligible statements to him. Miniscule volts of lightning struck him, causing his body to go numb. With each strike, however, he felt…different. His body began to shrink, to change, to warp…but he couldn’t see any of it. He wanted to scream with each unnatural motion, wishing that they would cease.

    After what felt like hours of continual fear and panic, Lawrence saw a light. He sighed gratefully. ‘Finally…it’s over.’ He disappeared into the light, expecting to land on the ground.

    He began to fall.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  8. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Act 2: The Priestess
    Chapter 03: Cassia


    Equivos, Serenita

    A bolt of lightning struck the sky, igniting a swirling mist of cloud and vapor high above a sea of trees. It yawned over the orange and gold leaves, threatening to consume them all with its immense size. A black speck fell from the interior, screaming as it fell. Just as soon as it came, the vortex disappeared into a harmless cloud, as if it had never come.

    Lawrence couldn’t stop his screams as the trees came closer and closer to him. He felt unusually warm, and the breeze reached areas it shouldn’t have. He felt denser, smaller, and his rear felt…longer, somehow. He could smell the approaching leaves far better than he could remember, and the rushing wind sounded far stronger than it felt.

    He crashed through the branches, covering his face. A stray branch struck the Pokédex case, making a sharp snap as it did. He burst through the canopy and pounding onto the ground, landing with a plume of tan dust.

    He craned his head upward, the impact leaving his vision blurry and his chest in agony. He reached forward to push himself up—he flinched. His hand wasn’t there—a small, black paw with a spike above it was there instead.

    He felt his face, feeling short, soft fur and a pointed nose. He looked behind him, seeing the vague shape of a blue tail. His legs were long and black, turning large and blue at the top. His chest had long, yellow fur, with a sharp spike set at the top.

    His head fell to the ground as he stared in disbelief. His vision went black, and his hearing dulled. He lost consciousness.

    ~~~~

    Muffled voices pounded Lawrence’s head; light leaked into his eyes. The voices became clearer, as did a poking sensation.

    “Ya think he’s dead?”

    “Nah, he’s breathin’. Haven’t seen one a his like before.”

    “Can we eat ‘im?”

    “Only if he tries to eat us first.”

    Lawrence groaned, holding a paw to his head. “What...happened?” he croaked. He remembered everything until he came out of the tunnel. After that, nothing.

    “Yech, it talks! No eatin’ him then.”

    Lawrence, despite his body’s protests, opened his eyes, seeing an imposing purple blob, and another yellow. His vision cleared, revealing the black stripes lining the yellow’s rotund frame, and the bulging muscles of the purple.

    The purple blob leaned forward, sniffing. “Hmm, no scent. No smoke, no food, no nothin’. What are you?” Lawrence finally saw that it was a Machoke talking to him, giving him a studious look, while behind him, an Electabuzz made a half-crazed grin.

    Lawrence--lost for words--scrambled back, holding up his paws. “H-How are you doing that?” He gasped, noticing the spikes set on the backs of his paws.

    The moments just after he landed came back to him. The fall through the air. The crashing through the trees. The moment he realized--

    “I’m a Lucario!” he screamed, falling onto his back.

    The Electabuzz giggled, tapping the Machoke on the shoulder. “Hey boss, he’s a Lucario! Didn’t that Guild guy back in town say they were dead?”

    The Machoke shoved him away, glaring at him. “He don’t know that!” He made a warm grin toward Lawrence, but his eyes revealed a hidden maliciousness. “Ya look like ya need help. How’s about we take ya to one a those Guild guys?”

    Lawrence didn’t answer since couldn’t stop looking at himself, panicking. ‘I-I’m a Lucario! How is this possible?’

    The Electabuzz pointed at the loose-fitting case around Lawrence’s arm. “Hey, what’s that doohickey? Look’s interestin’.”

    Lawrence flinched. ‘My Pokédex.’

    The Machoke rubbed his chin, eyeing the Pokédex. “Would ya mind if I see what ya have there? Haven’t seen anythin’ like that black box before either.”

    Lawrence stood up unsteadily, unused to the balance of his new body. He put a paw over his left arm, attempting to cover the case. “Uh, no, I-I can’t let you--”

    The Electabuzz stomped forward, electricity sparking from his head. “When da boss says he wants to see somethin’ he sees it!”

    Lawrence fell to the ground, tripping on his changed feet. He hid the case under him, hoping to keep the technology safe from their hands.

    The Machoke punched the Electabuzz away, towering over Lawrence. “Lemme see it!”

    “Graaaaaaw!”

    The Machoke and Electabuzz looked behind them, their eyes widening. “Did you hear that?” the Machoke demanded.

    The Electabuzz nodded nervously. “Yeah boss...w-what was it?”

    “Grrrroomm!”

    In the dark gloom created by the twilight, an ethereal red light shined from the trees behind them. It appeared in a jagged pattern, some parts brighter than others. Above the crack-shaped patterns, two red bars stared down.

    A giant stepped forward, shaking the ground and shifting the light. The Machoke and Electabuzz instinctively stepped back, shivering.

    The massive stone limbs took another step, quaking the area round it. The enormous arms pounded together, sounding like two boulders crashing down a mountain. A jagged crack across the creature’s chest glowed with a fierce crimson. Part of the light was covered with a large metal brace, preventing the crack from widening.

    Lawrence, still from terror, whispered one word: “Golurk.”

    In response, the black Golurk reared back and roared, “Graaaaawm!” He hefted his leg upward and slammed the ground, causing the Electabuzz and Machoke to fall.

    They stared terrified at the Golurk, scrambling to their feet. “Run!” the Machoke screamed, leaving a plume of dust in his wake. The Electabuzz followed, screaming as he went.

    Lawrence could do nothing but stare as the Golurk approached, the reddened cracks and mossy frame invoking an ancient and powerful presence. The head of the Golurk had a chunk missing at the back, revealing crimson circuits coursing within.

    The Golurk stopped mere feet from Lawrence, staring down at him, emotionless. Lawrence covered his face, expecting the worst.

    The Golurk cocked his head and extended an arm to him. He grabbed the arm that Lawrence covered his face with, then lifted him to his feet. Lawrence looked at him with a mixture of perplexity and terror. ‘It’s…it’s not attacking me?’

    Turning his head, the Golurk said, “Grawwm.” Two blue eyes appeared in the woods behind him, approaching them.

    A graceful white figure with green hair walked out of the woods. A large brown sack hung over her shoulder, bulging with materials. The Gardevoir’s eyes had an almost ethereal quality to them, being blue instead of the red usual of her species.

    She walked forward with her hands in front of her, holding them up to her chest nervously. She cautiously studied Lawrence, her steps slowing as she drew closer.

    The Golurk looked down and pointed at Lawrence. “Graawm.”

    She looked up and nodded. “I can see that he’s a Lucario, Grom. Is he hurt?” Grom shook his head slowly.

    Lawrence stepped back, jabbing a paw at Grom. “Wha...how? Where did you come from?” His sudden transformation and the events that had just transpired left him feeling faint and erratic.

    The Gardevoir held her hands out, careful to keep them from Lawrence’s reach. “We noticed that you were in trouble with those other Pokémon. Do you need help?”

    Lawrence wanted to say yes but stopped himself. ‘How do I know I can trust her? She could be like that Machoke and Electabuzz, wanting to…do whatever they wanted to do with me. I never got to see, but I hope I don’t.’

    The Gardevoir breathed in sharply, shaking her head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you my name. I’m Cassia.” She kept her hands close, keeping a close eye on Lawrence’s paws.

    Lawrence felt a little more relieved, but he still kept alert. ‘That’s better, but that doesn’t mean I can trust her. Then again, I don’t know anything about Equivos. I’ll just have to blend in.’

    He looked around, searching for the box that should have been sent with him. “Um...would you know where I can find a little box? I...traveled here with it, and I’m not sure where it went.”

    Cassia cocked her head curiously. “You lost it?”

    ‘I’m not even sure it made it here with me,’ Lawrence thought. He looked up, seeing the hole in the leaves that he had made on his entry into Equivos. “I was...climbing a tree, and I fell off. See?” Lawrence pointed up. Grom and Cassia studied the hole in the canopy, with Grom cocking his head.

    They looked back at Lawrence. “I haven’t really seen a Lucario around, you know,” Cassia said.

    Lawrence restrained a smile. ‘I can use that; I can act like a foreigner, giving me the perfect excuse to ask where I am and to learn more about this place.’

    Before he could reply, Grom pointed down the path and groaned, “Graw…”

    Cassia sighed, turning to where he pointed. “Yeah, I know. We should be able to make it there by sunset.” She turned back to Lawrence and said, “Do you need anything else?”

    Lawrence lifted a paw, covering the Pokédex. ‘I need to get back to Facility D, fast. It’d be better if Cassia was gone when I send the signal.’ He waved his other paw and said, “Yeah, I should be fine. You go on with whatever you were doing.” He turned around, falling onto his chest.

    While he got up, Cassia and Grom looked at each other curiously, turning around. “Alright, well...if you need anything else, we’ll be at the clearing down the path until morning.” She and Grom walked away, with the Golurk letting out a questioning moan.

    When they were out of earshot, Lawrence hastily popped the cover of the Pokédex and pulled it out, his paw gripping it awkwardly. He studied the casing, noticing a large dent on the side of it.

    He looked at the sky and shook his head sadly. “Why’d I have to end up in the air?” he asked himself. He tapped the power button, then typed his password on the screen. He then selected the swirling icon, causing the words ‘Vortex Signal’ to flash by.

    A dark green circle appeared at the top, with a light purple one at the bottom. He tapped the purple, making it say, ‘Sending Signal’. A red exclamation suddenly flashed, and in red text, the screen said, “No access point in range.”

    Lawrence’s heart skipped a beat.

    He tried again, receiving the same message. The green circle—the radar—showed no points of interest; there were no dimensional weaknesses nearby.

    His eyes whisked toward the time: 8:30. He looked to the sky and saw the sun setting. ‘It can’t be morning…which means…’ His eyes widened, then he smacked a palm across his head. ‘It’s been twelve-and-a-half hours since I got here! I’m too late!’

    Lawrence looked out into space, paling. ‘What am I going to do now? I’m stranded here without supplies or a way back.’ He stared at his paw and narrowed his eyes. ‘And worse, I’m a Lucario.’ The irony of the words he had said hours before arriving came into mind.

    Then thoughts of his parents came, and their unanswered calls.

    He fell to the ground, dropping his head. ‘How am I going to get back? They’ll be worried sick about me.’

    He looked down the path. ‘Until I find another weakness, I ought to stick with someone who knows the place—like that Gardevoir, Cassia.’ He stood up, balancing on his paws. ‘And I’ll have to live like a Lucario until then.’

    He put the Pokédex back in its storage case, considering what he’d say to her. ‘I can’t just say I’m a human from another dimension; they’d instantly think I’m crazy and leave me alone.’ He groaned and thought, ‘And I’ll have to give a reason why I don’t know about this place.’ He took an uneasy step forward, then another. He staggered back and landed on his rear.

    He glared at the tail behind him and shakily stood up again, cursing his small paws. He took another step forward and said under his breath, “This is going to be a long day.”

    ~~~~

    The autumnal air rushed through the trees, whisking away the red and gold leaves. Sunset richened their colors, and the wind deepened their crisp, as they whirled away into the sky. A worn path wove between the trunks, an ancient relic from a time long past. In the vast sea of yellow and orange, a small clearing poked through, an island amongst the waves. The crackle of snapped twigs and crushed leaves emanated through the air, and the smell and taste of sap alongside it. Bird Pokémon tweedled their melodies, chirping alongside the autumnal foliage.

    In the clearing, Grom hefted a log with little effort, then tossed it into the woods, grunting. “Gra-am?”

    Toward the center of the clearing, Cassia dug through her sack, glancing at Grom. “Go on and recharge; I’ll be alright.”

    The Golurk grunted agreeably, stomping toward the recently-tossed log. He stepped on it—turning it to splinters—then disappeared amongst the wood.

    Cassia sighed, finally pulling a blanket out from the sack. “I really pack too much in here.” She started to spread it over the ground but stopped when a shout of frustration echoed from the path.

    She finished spreading the blanket and stood up, looking toward the path. She saw Lawrence flop to the ground, smack the dirt with his fist, then push himself up, grumbling.

    He brushed himself off while he muttered, “Stupid paws, can’t walk around—" He stopped himself, noticing Cassia. “H-Hi there! Uh…how long have you been standing there?”

    “Long enough to see you fall,” Cassia replied. “Do you need help with something?”

    Lawrence scratched back of his head, looking up casually. “Yeah, well…I can’t remember anything. I must’ve hit my head pretty bad when I fell outta that tree.”

    Cassia hesitantly stepped closer. “How come you didn’t tell me before?”

    “I thought I could remember on my own, but that didn’t work,” Lawrence replied. His heart beat rapidly.

    “Do you…remember your name?” Cassia held her arms at her side, the fear in her eyes turning to care.

    The lump in Lawrence’s chest lowered. “It’s Lawrence. Lawrence Stephenson.”

    Cassia cocked her head curiously. “Stephenson? Don’t you mean ‘Lucario’?”

    Lawrence’s eyes widened as he realized his mistake. ‘They must use their species as their last name in Equivos.’ Lawrence smiled, clenching his paw. “Right, right, sorry. Don’t remember things quite right, you know?”

    Cassia smiled slightly, then walked back to the clearing. “Come on over. You can stay with me.”

    Lawrence grinned and jogged to her. He stumbled slightly, causing his grin to fade. He avoided falling, much to his relief, and entered the glade.

    Cassia sat on the blanket, pulling off her bag. She opened it up and began to dig through it. “Are you hungry?”

    In response, Lawrence’s stomach grumbled. He laughed nervously and sat down on the blanket. “I guess I am.”

    She pulled out two bright red apples and handed one to Lawrence. He took a large bite out of it, crunching on the apple awkwardly. His teeth were more pointed than he was used to, but he soon managed.

    Cassia took small bites of her apple, holding it with both hands. Between morsels, she asked, “I guess you don’t remember where you are, do you?” Lawrence nodded, eating his apple more eagerly as his hunger set in.

    Cassia waved around her to the trees. “You’re in Serenita, in a place called the Kaena Woods. We’re miles away from any towns, so you’re lucky that me and Grom found you.” Cassia looked past the trees. “Things have been dangerous ever since the Guild turned for the worse.” She trailed off, setting down her apple.

    “Ever since what?” Lawrence asked, cocking his head.

    Cassia cringed, shoving a hand into her bag. “I don’t want to talk about that right now.”

    Lawrence looked up for a moment, wondering about her statement. As Cassia turned back around, he lowered his head. He searched the trees and asked, “So where’s the Golurk? His name’s Grom, right?”

    Cassia pointed behind him. “He’s over there. He doesn’t like leaving me alone like this, but he needs to recharge every so often.”

    “Is he a bodyguard or something?”

    “Yes…in a way. I helped him escape from his old master. Ever since, he’s been protecting me while I’ve been traveling.”

    “Why are you traveling?”

    Cassia looked away, studying the ground. “You'd think it's silly."

    "It can't be that bad," Lawrence grinned. ‘Can’t be any worse than me turning into a Lucario.’

    She threw away the core of her apple and pulled a book out from the bag. "I guess you don't remember Arceus, do you?" Imprinted on the cover of the book, the Arc of Arceus shone with gold paint.

    Lawrence's grin faded. ‘I recognize that.’ He pointed at the book and said, "What’s that?"

    She opened it, revealing faded lines of text with pictures scattered between them. "It's called the Arceist Tome. It's a history of Equivos, and it tells us Arceus' teachings."

    Lawrence's stomach churned. ‘I had to get stuck with an Arceist, like Erica.’ He threw away the core of his apple and dourly thought, ‘How do they even exist in this parallel dimension? It doesn't make sense! First the language similarity, then this!’

    She flipped to a page depicting a blast of red and blue energies, with the almighty myth, Arceus, standing between them. Within the blasts were two figures, each wielding the respective colors.

    "He predicted events long before they happened. This shows the battle that Laryon Lucario and the Usurper had two thousand years ago," she explained, pointing to the figures.

    Lawrence furrowed his brow. ‘How could a non-existent Pokémon make such prophecies?’ He opened his mouth to comment but stopped. ‘I can’t say it isn’t true; she thinks I have amnesia, so I shouldn’t have any firm beliefs.’ Disgruntled, he thought, ‘Might as well see what else there is in this tome.’ He pointed to the being within the red energy depicted. "Who was the Usurper?"

    Cassia frowned, closing the book. "Not was: is."

    Lawrence shook his head in disbelief. "You're saying that some Pokémon who fought some great battle two-thousand years ago is still alive?"

    "That's exactly what I'm saying." Cassia set the book aside. Her eyes narrowed, and her fingers wrapped around the book’s binding. "The Usurper is called Arthus Zoroark,” she spat, “and it’s thanks to him that the Guilds have turned on the very Pokémon they promised to protect.” She traced the arc on the book, her hands quivering. “What he did—” She shut her eyes. “--is unforgiveable.” She turned her gaze to Lawrence. “He is real.”

    Lawrence, not expecting her reaction, leaned away from her. "Sorry, I just don't...remember, any of this."

    She took a deep breath, combing back her hair. "Right. You don't know any better." She pulled the Arceist Tome onto her lap, flipping to a page showing a Riolu and Zorua in a village setting. “Years before Arthus’ battle with Laryon, he was friends with a Riolu named Matheus. The two grew up together, becoming explorers here in Serenita.”

    She turned the page, depicting a Lucario and Zoroark standing in front of a walled fortress. “They went on to create the Guild, a system that was meant to rescue those in need, and capture those who hurt others. For a time, there was peace in Equivos.”

    The next page showed Arthus studying a scroll with a twisted version of the Arc. “But Arthus wasn’t satisfied with curing some of the evil in Equivos; he wanted all of it gone. He discovered the Prophecy of Life and Death, which said that an individual would come and take the Seal of Creation—a tool capable of taking the powers of the Legends—to rid the world of evil. The cost: all life in existence.”

    Arthus now stood in front of a hoard of Pokémon, pointing his claw in front of him. “He corrupted the Guild, turning them away from assisting those in need, unlike what Matheus wanted. He searched for the Seal of Creation. He planned to take Arceus’ power, then kill everyone in Equivos, and replace them with his own version of life.”

    Lawrence studied the picture skeptically. ‘How could he take Arceus’ power if he doesn’t exist? This all sounds like a myth, yet she says it’s true.’

    Cassia flipped the page, revealing a Lucario taking a golden pendant from a hill, running toward a village. “Matheus found the Seal and gave it to his nephew, Laryon, in their hometown, so that Arthus couldn’t claim it. When Arthus found out, he attacked the Pokémon within, along with the rest of the Guild. Matheus came in and saved his sister, Azure, and Laryon but couldn’t save anyone else. He brought Laryon and Azure to a hidden glade, where he thought that they couldn’t be discovered. He then went away to drive the Guild from the location, and later worked to destroy their influence in other areas across Equivos.

    “Years after, Arthus discovered Laryon’s hiding place and attempted to take the Seal. This happened when Matheus was making his yearly visit; he managed to rescue Laryon and the Seal, but Azure got captured and taken to their headquarters. Matheus took care of Laryon and taught him the ways of an explorer while they went to save Azure, as well as to protect the Seal.” An aged Lucario walked alongside a Riolu wearing a golden pendant, directing his gaze to the ocean.

    “Arthus tricked them, however. He knew they would come rescue her, and with his illusions, tricked them into giving the Seal. While they recovered, Arthus went to the Tree of Life, and stole Arceus’ power.”

    The bursts of red and blue appeared, showing Arthus and Laryon in the midst of their mighty conflict. “Arthus returned to the Guild to reclaim a precious gift before he used the power within the Seal. Matheus rescued Azure and waited for him, and ultimately died fighting him. Laryon then went on to fight Arthus, and despite the odds, destroyed the Seal; Arthus never managed to use Arceus’ power. For his crimes against the Legends, Arthus was sealed within the Cocoon alongside Yveltal, until the final days of Equivos would come.”

    She closed the book. “Laryon went on to reclaim the Guild, and all was well. That is, until Arthus returned.”

    Lawrence gave her a suspicious look. “Wait, what?”

    “You remind me of the Pokémon I try to teach,” Cassia sighed. “Twenty years ago, Yveltal broke out of the Mountain of Rebirth. Arthus escaped and changed the world for the worse.” She slid the book back into her bag. “He took over the Guild, and worse, he stole back the Seal of Creation.”

    “But didn’t you say—”

    “Its power was only destroyed. If he finds a way to bring it back…” She shivered. “I plan on doing something before that happens.”

    Lawrence slowly shook his head. ‘She reminds me of home: believing in myths like Arceus and trying to spread it. Some other Zoroark probably took Arthus’ name and used the fear behind him to control others.’ He stared at the book, huffing. ‘More believable than someone being trapped with a legendary Pokémon for a couple thousand years.’

    A coarse moan emanated behind him, causing him to jerk. Dark red eyes drew closer with pounding footsteps.

    Cassia looked over and inquired, “You’re done already, Grom? I thought it took you longer to drain one.”

    “Grooo…” the giant replied, shrugging slowly.

    Lawrence pointed at Grom and asked, “How do you understand what he says? He just says ‘Grom’ all the time.”

    Grom stepped to Lawrence’s left, then tipped backward. He slammed against the ground, landing on his rear. “Gro-om.”

    Cassia smiled, nodding “Yeah, I know it’s hard for you to sit down.” She turned to Lawrence and said, “Grom and I have been together for a long time. We just…understand each other.” She looked behind her; the sun had sunk below the horizon. “We better get to sleep. We have a lot of ground to cover tomorrow.” She stood up and breathed in sharply. “Um…Lawrence?”

    He shakily stood up. “Yeah?”

    Cassia fidgeted with her fingers and said, “Could you maybe…sleep somewhere else? I like my privacy.” Grom turned his head, his crimson eyes burrowing into Lawrence’s mind.

    Taking the cue, Lawrence nodded. “Sure, sure. I can leave.” He turned around and headed toward the trees. He stopped suddenly and turned. “You didn’t tell me why you’re traveling. Where are you going?”

    Cassia laid down on the blanket, wrapping herself in it. “I’m going to towns and telling them stories, like the one about Laryon and Arthus.” She yawned. “It’s so…everyone…can be…saved.” She breathed slowly, lulled to the realm of dreams.

    Grom continued to stare at Lawrence, until the Lucario finally turned away again. He marched toward another nearby clearing, shivering. “Why did he look at me like that?” he whispered to himself.

    Soon he could only see Grom’s imposing figure in the approaching darkness. He sat down and took the Pokédex from its pouch. ‘Might as well write down what happened today so people don’t think I’ve gone crazy when I get back.’ He tapped on a notepad icon, causing a blank white screen to show. A small keyboard appeared on top of it.

    Lawrence looked down at his paw and scowled. ‘I haven’t tried typing with paws yet.’ He looked back at the Pokédex. ‘How am I going to do this?’

    He set it between what would have been fingers, and painstakingly typed letters. He looked to the sky and thought, ‘I can’t wait till I get my real body back.’ When he finished, he tapped on the search function, making another vain attempt to find an access point.

    Upon seeing the denial, he grunted and shoved the Pokédex back into its case. “Guess I’ll be stuck here a while,” he muttered. He lay on his back, setting his paws behind his head.

    Lawrence considered his traveling companions. ‘Cassia seems nice enough, but her belief in the Arceist Tome unsettles me. I don’t want to get involved in the spiritual aspect of Equivos, if there is one. I’ve already had one version of Arceism proven false; I’d rather not get involved with another.’

    Then there was Grom. He grimaced and thought. ‘I would’ve run away if I wasn’t so scared. How did Cassia ever obtain such a monstrous thing?’ He took a glance back to Cassia, where Grom calmly stood watch. ‘He seems gentle enough, though, despite his appearance.’

    He sighed, staring at the canopy. ‘What am I going to do? By now, everyone will be wondering what happened to me. If I manage to get back, what would I tell them? Would I still be a Lucario?’

    He grimaced at the thought. ‘I’ve never liked Lucario, and being one just makes things worse. I hoped that the way home will turn me back.’

    Yawning, he turned onto his side. ‘Until I can find some way back to Unova, I’ll have to live as a Pokémon.’ He furrowed his brow. ‘With a priest, at that.’ The thought lingered as he drifted to sleep.

    ~~~~

    Lawrence stood in a plain of blackness. All around him, dark clouds swirled, bringing unearthly voices with it.

    A cruel chuckle echoed through the air. A vague shape stepped in front of him, holding a crimson flame. “What is this I see? You aren’t like any Pokémon I’ve seen before.”

    Lawrence looked down at himself, seeing that he was back to his human form. He studied the shape, seeing from the flame glinting fangs and a hooded snout.

    The being started to pull back the hood. “You’re in my domain now, whoever you are. I advise that the next time you sleep, make sure that no one else rests here.”

    Before Lawrence could see its face, the being grabbed Lawrence’s throat and began to choke him. His vision faded while voices shouted around him.

    ~~~~

    “Wake up!”

    Lawrence shot upright, breathing heavily. He clutched at his throat and looked around him. Grom stood over him, covered with tendrils of crimson light, while Cassia sat at his side, her eyes wide with fright.

    “What…what happened? I saw this…thing, say that I was…in his domain,” Lawrence wheezed.

    Cassia put her hand to her head, moaning. She directed her gaze to Grom and shouted, “I knew you didn’t drain everything out!” Grom put his hands up defensively, making a sad moan.

    She sighed, removing her hand. “Sorry. I know you’re doing your best.” She turned back to Lawrence and explained, “Grom collects what’s called Life Energy from the ground. It’s what’s left behind after someone dies.” She pointed at the ground beneath Grom, where a low-pitched hiss protested. “Arthus uses these spots to spy on others, and, if there’s enough, to move through them to other wells of Life.” She pulled Lawrence up. “He hates having people block his vision, so he haunts them in their dreams.”

    Lawrence couldn’t help shaking his head. “A Zoroark can’t do that. They can make illusions and use Dark moves, but they can’t teleport in any way.”

    Cassia stamped her foot. “This is Arthus! He’s like no one else!” She groaned and walked toward the clearing. “Look, I don’t like talking about this. I’ve said too much as it is.” In the morning light, she faded into the glade.

    Lawrence looked up at Grom, who gave him a disapproving grunt. Lawrence threw his arms up and exclaimed, “How was I supposed to know?” He kicked the ground, then walked toward Cassia.

    She folded the blanket neatly and stuffed it into her sack. She sat on a stump, crossed her arms, and looked out to the path.

    Lawrence stopped behind her. “You alright?” he asked.

    She nodded. “I’m fine.” She looked up. “Have any of your memories come back?”

    Lawrence, expecting such a question, shook his head. “No, not yet. I’ll let you know if any come up.” He studied the trees that wound around the path. “I wonder how far these go.”

    Grom thudded forward and pointed ahead. “Gro-o-om.”

    Cassia stood up, pulling the sack over her neck. “You’re right. We need to get going if we expect to get to the town today.”

    “There’s a town near here?” Lawrence asked, his interest piqued. ‘I’m stuck here anyway, so might as well see what these Pokémon have made.’

    “Yes. We need to pick up some more supplies, and I haven’t taught about the Tome there yet.” Cassia pointed at Lawrence’s Pokédex. “What’s that around your arm? I didn’t notice it before.”

    Lawrence slapped a paw over it, wishing that it was more discreet. “It’s nothing. Nothing at all.”

    Cassia eyed him curiously. “If it's nothing, then why can’t I see it?”

    He marched toward the path, shouting, “How about we get moving? I wanna see this town.”

    Cassia looked up at Grom, who looked down. She followed Lawrence and shook her head. “He’ll show us eventually.” She looked back briefly. “He seems trustworthy so far, right?”

    “Gro-hom,” Grom grumbled, stomping after her.

    They kept a leisurely pace along the path, with Grom’s speed being the biggest hindrance. Golden leaves fell, passing in front of the morning haze with each of their steps. The smell of sap filled their nostrils, and birdsong echoed through the air, the Starly journeying to the Archipelago of Cretea for the coming winter.

    Sometime after they started, Grom stopped, and looked to his left. “Mm-hmm,” he hummed, walking off the path.

    Cassia grinned, putting her fingers against her lips. “Grom found something!” she whispered excitedly. She followed Grom.

    Lawrence trotted over, finally getting used to his paws. He saw Grom standing in a small clearing, holding his right arm out. “What’s he—"

    Cassia glared at him, repeating her hush. She directed her gaze back at Grom, looking up expectantly.

    A Fletchling flitted over Grom’s head, then landed gracefully onto his arm. The Fletchling chirped contentedly, sat on his finger, and tucked its head under its wing. The Golurk sighed peacefully.

    Cassia silently opened her bag and took out a string-bound notebook, with a pencil attached to it by a string. She opened to a blank page, and steadily drew the scene that lay before her.

    Lawrence looked down at her drawing, admiring her detail. ‘I couldn’t draw like this in my life.’ He leaned over and whispered, “Do you do this often?”

    “I usually draw landscapes, but this is too cute to pass by!” she whispered back.

    Grom turned his head, pointing at the Fletchling with his other hand.

    Cassia nodded. “You’re doing great!”

    The Golurk chuckled, his booming voice radiating through the air.

    Within minutes, Cassia had drawn a perfect sketch of Grom holding the Fletchling on his finger. She held it up for him to see. “What do you think?”

    Grom nodded, looking down at the Fletchling. It woke up, yawned, and fluttered away, chirruping its thanks to the giant.

    Grom waved to it, sighing. “Gro…” he moaned.

    Cassia closed her book, walking back to the path. “You’ll see another one, I’m sure. At least it came to you, right?”

    Grom grunted and pounded in front of Lawrence, looking up.

    Leery of the Golurk, Lawrence ran to Cassia, then began to walk alongside her. “How often do you do that? I mean...that looked pretty good!”

    Cassia blushed. “Thanks. I draw whenever we get to somewhere new. A valley, a forest like this one.” She gestured to Grom, who hummed merrily to himself. “Every so often, Grom gets into a moment where he doesn’t look like a big monster, like what everyone thinks he is.” She shook her head. “He does look rather scary, but he’s not so bad, right?”

    Lawrence nodded his head in agreement. ‘He might be overprotective, but he is a rather gentle guy.’ He glanced at Grom, watching him kick a log in boredom. As it splintered against a tree, Lawrence cautiously looked away. ‘But he is terrifying at times.’

    They continued to walk through the woods, seeing no wildlife like the Fletchling. No rustling in the bushes, no twitter in the air. Not even the scattering of leaves by a running Bunnelby. Cassia, Grom and Lawrence seemed to be the only forms of life.

    Unnerved by this fact, Lawrence asked, “Aren’t there any other wild Pokémon around here?”

    Cassia’s head drooped. “No, sadly. They used to be everywhere, but given how dangerous many are, they’ve been practically killed off.” She looked up fiercely. “I think that Arthus might be to blame, considering his want for order and goodness.”

    Lawrence coughed into his paw, looking up. ‘Despite that nightmare, I don’t think this Arthus guy is the one who supposedly destroyed the region. Zoroark are good illusionists, but they’re weak fighters…and certainly have no magical powers.’

    The path wound out of the forest into a small plain, dividing the Kaena Woods from a nearby pine forest. The wind rushed rapidly through the grass, scattering leaves from Kaena across the plain.

    Grom swiped playfully at the leaves, catching them and crushing them in his grip. Cassia waved her hand through the air, the leaves brushing past the tips of her fingers. “Last fall wasn’t as fun for me and Grom. The snow came before all the leaves had come off the branches.”

    “How long have you been traveling together?” Lawrence asked.

    Cassia looked back at Grom. “For around two years now. We’ve been going to as many towns as we can before we go to Cretea.”

    “Cretea?” Lawrence inquired.

    Cassia reached a hand into her bag. “It’s across the sea. It’s not at all like Serenita.” She unfolded a bundle of paper, revealing a map showing two vast continents with a scattering of islands beneath them.

    She pointed to the left continent. “We’re in the middle of Serenita right now, around the east side.” She pointed to the islands. “And here’s Cretea. There’s lots of islands with many Pokémon who live on them.”

    Lawrence pointed at the right continent. “What’s that one called?”

    “Deitae, home of the Legends. Mortal Pokémon like us can’t go there, so you don’t need to worry much about that.” She folded the map, smiling. “I plan on going to Cretea once I go to the last few towns here in Serenita though. I have to teach everyone I can about the Arceist Tome.”

    “Why do you want to do that? I mean, will this make their lives better?” Lawrence asked, annoyance in his tone. ‘I don’t like Erica trying to convert me, let alone her.’

    Cassia’s smile faded. “Yes...but for another reason too.”

    Grom suddenly quickened his pace, pointing ahead. “Graw-hom!”

    A little way ahead, a town sprawled out in the center of the plain, with Pokémon rushing out of the walls and going about their business. The little buildings rose no more than a few stories high, with little chimneys poking out of their roofs. In the center of the town, a vast marketplace roared.

    Cassia stopped, gripping her bag. She looked up at Grom, who stood just behind her. “Do you think there’s any Guild Pokémon here?” Grom shrugged.

    “Guild Pokémon?” Lawrence asked.

    Cassia slapped her forehead, groaning. “Right...we can’t let you be seen.” She dug through her bag, riffling through papers. “Um...you remember that Electabuzz and Machoke from before?”

    “Yeah. What about them?” Lawrence asked uneasily. ‘I don’t like where this is going…’

    “Well, those guys are nothing compared to Guild Pokémon. Those thugs are more bark than bite, but Guild Pokémon won’t hesitate to rob you or kill you.” She stopped looking into the bag. She took a quick glance at Grom, then pulled out a dull black rock, tied with a length of string. It had a series of random engravings, covered with a red powder.

    She held it out to Lawrence. “Here. This is an...Illusion Stone.”

    Lawrence cocked his head curiously, accepting the rock. “An...Illusion Stone?”

    “Put it around your neck...with your eyes closed. That’s when it’ll start working,” Cassia directed. Lawrence, confused, did as she said. As soon as he felt the clink of the stone against his chest-spike, he felt a strong breeze blow against him.

    He opened his eyes and studied himself. He didn’t appear any different. “What was that supposed to do?”

    Cassia walked down the hill toward the town. “You’ll see. Just come down with me.” Grom followed, staring at the Illusion Stone.

    Lawrence held the stone up, eyeing it curiously. ‘What’s so special about this rock?’

    He took the Pokédex out from its case, checking for a dimensional weakness. No luck.

    He growled and put it away. ‘Hopefully I’ll find a way home soon…especially considering the religious nature of these Pokémon.’ He watched them hurry down the hill and toward the town. ‘They’re nice enough, sure…but I don’t want to be involved in what they believe.’

    He walked down the hill, running to catch up with Cassia and Grom.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  9. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 04: Equivos

    Upon reaching the town, Lawrence stood astonished, taking in the scene before him. Pokémon of all sorts trudged across the cobble roads, carrying food, materials, even children to the various buildings that cropped up. A dull haze hovered above the stalls and carts, generated by the belching chimneys above.

    Grom crouched behind the edge of the exterior wall. “Growm.”

    Cassia nodded and moved next to Lawrence. “We’ll be careful. We’ll meet you at the edge of the woods.” Grom stomped away, giving Lawrence a parting glare.

    Cassia walked forward and prompted Lawrence to follow. He complied, studying the Pokémon around him. A Buizel family carried sacks of green berries, while a trio of Timburr hauled bricks behind them. Bibarel lugged cords of wood, and Spritzee hovered near a bowl and sprinkled powder into it; an Ambipom near the bowl scooped the pink water into bottles and stopped it with a cork.

    He held one up and exclaimed, “Fresh Spritzee perfume for sale!”

    Lawrence spun around, marveling this society. ‘This is incredible! I never thought Pokémon would be able to do something like this: a market driven by Pokémon abilities, all working together to make products!’

    A Mr. Mime held his hands up, appearing as if he was stuck in a box. Young Pokémon surrounded him, tossing an occasional coin into a hat at his feet.

    Seeing the interaction, Lawrence asked, “You use money?”

    Cassia pulled a tiny sack from the bag, shaking it. It clinked, and Cassia replied, “Yes, but I don’t have much.” She pulled away the lip of the bag, revealing eight simple gold chips. “I don’t think I can get everything I need with just this,” she sighed.

    A shout of excitement erupted behind them, causing Lawrence to turn. A Flareon slapped down a pawful of coins and yanked a bag from a disgruntled Kecleon. “Thanks!”

    The Kecleon grumbled as he watched the Flareon wander off. “Me being the generous guy I am…”

    Lawrence eyed him and smiled. ‘Bartering here can’t be any worse than Castelia.’ He pointed at the Kecleon and said to Cassia, “Do we need anything from him?”

    Cassia looked up for a moment. “Yeah, but—”

    “Let’s go then!” Lawrence rushed toward him, leaving Cassia to hurriedly follow.

    He stood in front of the counter, looking down at the Kecleon confidently. Cassia hovered behind him, looking behind her.

    The Kecleon yawned, staring at Lawrence tiredly. “Whatcha want, Mister Watchog?”

    Perplexed, Lawrence studied a polished pot sitting on the counter. The distorted reflection showed a beady-eyed Watchog with chubby cheeks.

    ‘Must be the Illusion Stone at work,’ he thought, staring at the reflection for a moment longer. He cleared his throat and leaned over to Cassia. “What do we need exactly?”

    She pointed at a bundle of apples, a sack of flour, and a basket of berries. “We need those, but I can—”

    “I’d like the apples, berries and flour, please,” Lawrence requested.

    The Kecleon plucked the items from their sections and shuffled back to the counter. He studied them closely and said, “That’ll be eight coins.”

    Lawrence leaned on the counter with a smile. “Any chance we could lower that a bit?”

    “Great, a haggler,” the Kecleon moaned. “Look, I’m not makin’ any discounts. You better give me somethin’ if you don’t got the cash.”

    Lawrence looked behind the Kecleon and saw a large crate next to a step stool. “I’m a pretty strong guy. Need any help moving something?”

    The Kecleon looked back at the crate, then back at Lawrence. He made a smirk and said, “Hmm…well, if you can budge somethin’ a mine, I’ll sell the goods to you for four coins.”

    “Deal!” Lawrence exclaimed.

    The Kecleon lifted the table blocking the entrance, then stepped out of the way. “It’s just ‘round back.” They walked through an open doorway into a small alcove. Crates and bags of all sorts crowded the tiny space, the only bare spot occupied by a tiny stump in the center.

    The Kecleon pointed at it and scowled. “That stump’s what’s left of an old sapling that managed to poke its way in a while back. I cut it down to size, but the darn thing manages to grow back every time!” His smirk returned. “But if you pull it out, roots and all, four coins is all it’ll cost ya.”

    Lawrence looked back at Cassia and said, ‘Might as well try, right?” He studied his arms and thought, “I’m a pretty strong guy; I carry things all the time for others to get a little deal , even if it wasn’t official. I can pull out a little stump.’

    He stooped over the bit of wood and yanked it upward. It shuddered slightly. He yanked it again, making an inch of bark appear at the bottom.

    He took a deep breath and crouched low. He pulled it one last time, and a network of sturdy roots burst from the ground, spraying dirt over the Kecleon’s goods. Lawrence fell back, staring confusedly at the stump.

    The Kecleon blanched and held out a shaking paw. “Th-That’ll be four coins, s-sir.”

    Cassia gave the Kecleon payment while Lawrence figured out how he pulled the stump out so fast. ‘I remember pulling out a stump before, but I had to really pull and dig at it for a good while. This came out easily.’

    He threw away the stump, watching his paw swing it to the ground. He blinked, realizing what made the difference in performance: ‘I’m a Lucario, not a person. That measly stump was nothing.’

    He exited alongside Cassia, carrying the sack of food over his shoulder. “I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?”

    They reentered the crowds and began searching for the next shop. “Yeah, I guess,” Cassia replied. “Just keep quiet about it. Watchog aren’t supposed to be strong like that.”

    “I’m not the one who chose to be a Watchog,” Lawrence said, adjusting the bag.

    “I don’t choose what the Illusion Stone makes you look like,” Cassia hissed. She pointed at a Leavanny standing in front of various fabric products. “I need another bag to keep things in; I have a hard time finding anything in this mess.”

    Lawrence’s train of thought drifted to what Cassia had done before he encountered her. ‘I don’t expect to be with her for long, but I might as well figure out what type of Pokémon I’m dealing with.’

    They came to the stand, and the Leavanny’s soft voice pierced his thoughts: “Five coins for the bag.”

    “Could you bring that down to three if we did something for you?” Lawrence asked, cutting in front of Cassia.

    The Leavanny set a claw to her mouth. “Well…I don’t normally do this, but I do need a little help right now.” She pointed to a length of leather scrunched on a counter. “I need this stretched while I sew it, but my assistant is gone for the day. If you help me with that, then we can talk.”

    The thoughts of the stump fresh in his mind, Lawrence nodded. He went through the now-open counter and pulled the leather apart, making it taut.

    The Leavanny punched the leather with a blade and threaded a string through it, and carefully wove it into a small bag. Lawrence felt the leather want to snap back to its original shape, but his sheer strength refused its desire. ‘Normally, I’d be tired out after a few seconds, but now I could hold it forever.’

    The Leavanny snipped a thread and hummed happily. “Thank you for the help. I’ll take your money now.”

    After giving her the coins, Cassia and Lawrence walked amongst the crowd again, moving toward an empty table next to the entrance of a pastry shop.

    They sat down, and Cassia set her bags on the table. She pulled out the materials from one and began transferring some into the recently-bought one. “Thanks for helping me get this.” She covered the Arceist Tome as she pulled it out. “You got along with those Pokémon better than I ever could.” She gloomily snapped the bag shut, leaning on it with her elbow.

    Lawrence leaned forward and cocked his head. “What’s wrong?”

    She sighed, gesturing to the crowd bustling behind them. “I don’t…get along so well with others. I can do fine one-on-one, like with you, but…” She patted the bag containing the Tome. “I’m not so outgoing in places like this.”

    “Don’t you teach about…you know, the book?” Lawrence suggested, struggling with the words. ‘I hate bringing that up, but she shouldn’t be so down on herself.’

    Cassia nodded languidly. “Yeah, well I usually go to the Pokémon who aren’t as well off as here. Arceus is just a myth to practically everybody, considering what the Guild does.”

    “What do they do?”

    Cassia sprung upward, her eyes widening. “Not now!” She reached for Lawrence’s paw, then took her hand back, searching around her hastily. “Come inside, hurry!” she explained, entering the shop next to them.

    Lawrence walked to Cassia’s previous seat and studied her view. He noticed a Feraligatr and Rhyperior trudging through the crowd, towering over the rabble and looking down on them. A black band emblazoned with a red arc of Arceus was strapped to their arms.

    Lawrence walked into the shop, eyeing them suspiciously. ‘Were they what caused Cassia to be so worried?’

    Inside, Cassia hovered in the corner, remaining as far from the window as possible. A grinning Simisear stood behind a glass counter, which showed a menagerie of different cakes, pies, and other baked goods.

    “Welcome to the Burnt Biscuit, how may I help you today?” the keeper asked.

    Lawrence looked over to Cassia. She gestured to him, holding their last coin out toward Lawrence.

    Lawrence took the coin, stepped up to the counter and said, “Got anything for a coin?”

    The Simisear looked up, hawing. “Indeed, I do! Would you be interested in—oh!” He fell silent and pointed at the door. “I…I wasn’t expecting you…”

    Lawrence looked behind him and restrained a groan. The Feraligatr and Rhyperior from before had thrown open the door and trudged toward the Simisear, scowling.

    The Feraligatr stood next to Lawrence and exclaimed, “Yer rent’s past due, George. Where’s the money?”

    George twiddled his fingers and made a nervous chuckle. “I-I don’t have it yet. Weren’t you supposed to come next month?”

    The Rhyperior leaned on the wall, making it creak. “The Guildmaster thinks we’ve been too lenient on you. He demands payment today.” He snorted, brushing his knuckles on his chest. “Pay up, or we’ll be yer wreckin’ crew.”

    George frantically rushed around the counter and fell to his knees in front of the Feraligatr. “Please, anything but that! This is all I have!”

    The Feraligatr jabbed a claw at him and laughed uproariously. “Ya hear that Valder? He’s beggin’ us!”

    Valder laughed himself, smacking the wall and making the entire structure shake. “He’s a funny one, ain’t he Derak?”

    As George pleaded and the Guild Pokémon mocked his plight, Lawrence’s gaze grew harder. He noticed Cassia pointing to the door, mouthing, “Let’s go.”

    He shook his head and pointed behind him. He clenched his fist, then turned around and tapped Derak on the shoulder. “Hey.” Cassia rushed toward him as the giant turned.

    “What you want?” Derak grumbled.

    “Leave the guy alone. He’s done nothing to you,” Lawrence explained. The Simisear shrunk back, gazing at Lawrence gratefully.

    Derak growled and glared at Lawrence. “Yer tellin’ us what to do, chubby cheeks? What you gonna do, little Watchog? We’re part of the Guild!”

    Cassia stepped in front of Lawrence. “He doesn’t know any better! He’s got memory loss!”

    Lawrence clenched his teeth, restraining the urge to push her away. ‘How is she so helpful to me but not to George?’ he thought in aggravation.

    Valder the Rhyperior eyed Cassia and stepped forward. “Hey…don’t we recognize you? Those eyes…”

    Derak stopped him and rubbed his chin. “Hmm…maybe on to somethin’ there.” Cassia averted her eyes and shivered.

    Valder pounded his fists together and growled. “Wait a minute, yer Cassia! Connivin’—”

    Cassia gasped and suddenly disappeared from view. All looked around for where she had gone, but the Gardevoir left no trace.

    The Feraligatr slammed the table and roared, “Blast it! She got away!” He glared at Lawrence and bared his teeth. “You! You’re with her, aren’t ya?” Lawrence moved toward the door cautiously.

    Valder raised an arm and aimed it at Lawrence. “Better hold still unless ya wanna hole through yer skull.”

    Lawrence looked back, wishing more than ever to know about Cassia’s origins. “How in the world did she get on this Guild’s bad side, and how did she disappear like that?” He held up his paws and strained a stern face. “I’m not going with you,” he stuttered.

    Derak cackled and raised a fist. “I hate the mouthy ones. Let’s shut ya up a bit.” He threw a punch at Lawrence's stomach. He flew into the wall, and felt a tingling sensation cover his body.

    Valder and Derak’s jaws dropped. The Feraligatr raised a shaking claw and whispered, “Y-Yer a Lucario...yer supposed to be dead!”

    Lawrence got up, groaning. “Yeah, well...I’m not.” He shakily came to his feet and ran through the open door, disoriented from Derak’s blow.

    The Guild Pokémon stood dazed for a moment, then Valder slugged Derak on the arm and roared, “The boss’ll have our necks if he gets away!” They ran out the door, leaving George to huddle on the floor and hold his arms high.

    “Thank Arceus...the Lucario have returned!”

    ~~~~

    Lawrence ignored all the amazed faces he passed by, focused on reaching the forest, Grom’s waiting point. He heard a high-pitched whistle, then saw Pokémon pop out from the shadows, all wearing black armbands.

    “You have to be kidding me,” Lawrence muttered as he turned into an alleyway. The Guild Pokémon followed him, roaring out threats to the fleeing Lucario.

    A burst of flame blazed over Lawrence’s shoulder, singeing his fur. He looked back and saw a Growlithe shout, “Missed him!”

    Lawrence took a passing crate and threw it at the Growlithe, knocking it underneath other Guild Pokémon. Many tripped over themselves, but a Weavile and Dodrio hopped over the heap and continued their chase.

    He looked back again, noticing the remaining chasers. He looked to his sides, determined to lose them. He turned the corner, and the Weavile and Dodrio did the same.

    They stopped at the tiny alcove and saw no trace of Lawrence. The Dodrio squawked, looking into the corners with its three heads. “Where’d he go?”

    “He must’ve jumped the wall. Come on!” the Weavile shouted. They hopped over the nearby fence, much to the dismay of the Lopunny owner. They ran through the patch and continued through the alley, expecting to see Lawrence within several paces.

    The Lucario rose up from the edge of the fence and looked toward the receding Guild Pokémon. He chuckled and thought, ‘Works every time, just like in Sinnoh.’ He turned around and crawled back over the fence, glancing back to ensure he lost them. He faced forward, and his paws were suddenly engulfed by Derak and Valder’s clutches.

    Tightening his grip, the Rhyperior sneered and said, “The Guildmaster’s always lookin’ for someone new to beat up. I wonder how you’ll end up?”

    Derak bared his teeth. “Ya think we can do some of the job for him?”

    Valder raised his other arm and aimed it at Lawrence’s head. “I’m sure he’ll treat a half-dead Lucario the same as any other!” Lawrence struggled to release their grip, cringing at his expected fate.

    “Graaaawm!”

    Black fists suddenly slammed Valder and Derak to the ground, pinning them underneath the weight. The cracks throughout Grom’s body glowed fiercely, pouring crimson light across the ground.

    He hovered just above the ground, with red jets of flame appearing at his feet. He raised his arms and held one out to Lawrence. “Ha-hawm!”

    Lawrence hopped onto his arm and rubbed his wrists. “Thanks for the help.” They rose into the sky, and with a burst of light, rocketed toward the forest.

    Moments after, Derak moaned and clawed the wall, pulling himself upright. Valder pounded a fist and pushed, standing up and rubbing his head afterward.

    Valder spotted the fading red streak of light left behind by Grom. He punched the wall and shouted, “You idiot! You should’ve seen that coming a mile off!”

    “How was I supposed to know that some...thing, was gonna clobber us?” Derak retorted. He rubbed his eyes and growled. “But we can’t just leave town either. Guildmaster’s rules, ya know?”

    They considered their options, then, at the same time, raised their heads. They looked at each other, smiling maliciously.

    “He’s off our land, so he’s not our problem,” Valder mused.

    “He’s the Guildmaster’s problem,” Derak chuckled.

    A Weavile and Dodrio jumped over the fence, with the Weavile muttering, “Can’t believe we lost--ack!” He shrunk back at the sight of the two commanders. “Captain! I-I didn’t know you were there.”

    “W-We lost sight of the Lucario,” the Dodrio stammered.

    Derak held the Weavile by his neck and grinned. “Get a bird over to the Guild. Tell ole Gardner that there’s a Lucario round here!”

    “W-Will do b-boss! Would you...put me down?”

    He dropped the Weavile and watched him scamper off, calling out for a messenger bird. The Dodrio fled from the captains, avoiding any further orders.

    Valder chuckled and scratched his arm. “I’d love to see the look on that Lucario’s face when Gardner catches him.”

    Derak looked up, a wicked grin spread across his face.

    “For the glory of Arthus.”

    ~~~~

    Grom descended into a clearing opposite of where they had come from, his rocket-powered legs decreasing in thrust. Cassia sat beneath a tree in front of them, her bags behind her. She kept her head lowered, hiding her eyes.

    Lawrence hopped down from Grom’s arm and marched toward Cassia. “We have a lot to talk about! What happened back there, why’d those thugs want you, and how--”

    Cassia raised her head, revealing a tear-stained face. Lawrence cut himself short, realizing how offensive he sounded.

    He looked at Grom, who only made a tired moan, then stomped into the trees.

    Cassia lowered her head again. “He needs to recharge after that flight.”

    Lawrence stood still for a few moments, then sat next to Cassia. She scooted away, but still leaned back on the tree.

    Lawrence came closer, then stared at the ground and said, “I didn’t know Grom could fly.”

    Cassia shrugged. “It takes a lot out of him, so he prefers to walk,” she said with a slight croak.

    Lawrence nodded his head slightly, then sighed and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you back at the shop. I...I wanted to help that Simisear.”

    Cassia looked up and rubbed her eyes. “I know. I would’ve done the same...if it wasn’t for those other Pokémon.”

    Lawrence turned toward her and asked, “Why do they want you? They seemed pretty angry once they realized who you were.”

    Cassia sighed and pulled the Arceist Tome out from the bag. “It’s because of this. The Guild’s been trying to convince Pokémon that Arceus doesn’t exist, that his laws are nonexistent, and that they wield true power.” She tightened her grip. “All because of Arthus.”

    “Is it really worth the risk then? You said you wanted to teach Pokémon about the Tome, but if you’d die--”

    “I won’t die doing what’s right!”

    She stood up vehemently, throwing her arms back. “I’ve traveled over all Serenita, trying to bring Pokémon closer to Arceus, and I’ve had to deal with them at every turn! You don’t think I know what would happen to me if they caught me?”

    Lawrence held his paws up defensively. “I didn’t mean to offend you! I’m just telling you what I think!”

    Cassia raised her hand and opened her mouth, but promptly turned away. She breathed in deeply, then exhaled slowly. “Sorry...I didn’t mean to shout.” She slumped against the tree again. “I’ve done this for too long to just give up.”

    Lawrence didn’t want to linger on the subject, so after waiting a minute, he said, “How’d you disappear like that?”

    “Gardevoir can teleport. I guess you don’t remember, because of your amnesia.”

    Lawrence nodded, remembering his protective lie. “Those thugs noticed I was a Lucario after I got punched into the wall. Why?”

    “It’s...complicated. To put it simply, the Illusion Stone doesn’t work after you have hard contact. You can grab things and be touched, but once you have something like a punch, or you’re thrown into something,” Cassia waved her arm. “It’s done.”

    Her explanation sounded familiar to Lawrence, but before he could focus his thoughts, Cassia said, “I like what you did for me back at those shops. I really needed a new bag, and I couldn’t have done that if you didn’t make a deal with that Kecleon.”

    “You’re...you’re welcome.” Lawrence blinked and returned to staring at the ground.

    Cassia stood up and picked up her bags. “Look, I know you don’t know much about me, but I hardly know you either. Today you helped me out, but if you want to know more about me, you have to prove that I can trust you.”

    Lawrence wanted to comment out on his own ability to trust her, but instead he said, “I understand. I can’t tell you much about me either. You know...memory loss?”

    Cassia smiled. “Right.” She held a bag out to him. “If you’re going to be with me, can you at least carry the supplies?” She narrowed her eyes. “I’m going to need more than a guy who gets me discounts.”

    Lawrence smiled, restraining a laugh. A sobering thought came into his mind, and his smile faded. He put the bag over his shoulder and said, “Those Guild Pokémon said that I should be dead, since I’m a Lucario. What happened to them?”

    Cassia gazed at the ground. “They’re all dead. Thanks to Arthus.”

    ~~~~

    Far away from Lawrence, Cassia and Grom, along the western side of Serenita, a shadow watched from atop a tower. The canyon around the tower lay coated in lifeless brown grass, and the statues at its entrance reduced to rubble. The once-grand buildings that surrounded the tower—rotted to shambles. Miniscule shacks and huts cropped around the ruins, both Guild Pokémon and lowly citizens fighting for space in the desecrated plaza. Dust and decay permeated through the air, and only a low whistle of wind provided any sound but the silent cries of those who passed.

    At the top of the tower, a Dusknoir sat in a chair in front of a desk, poring over a book. All around him on the walls of the room were shelves lined with various artifacts and other books, all covered in dust. The window provided the barest of light, but Gardner’s eye sent a menacing glow across the pages. Cobwebs and Bat Pokemon hung in the rafters, careful not to irritate the Guildmaster.

    He turned the page, then rubbed the three jagged scars across his face with a grunt. One stretched across his eye, creating a silvery-white pupil across it. His free hand stretched and slammed the table. “When Arthus finds that traitorous wretch…”

    Tap—tap—tap!

    He looked up, spotting a Staravia sitting behind the window, a letter clutched in its beak. He closed the book and said, “Enter.” The Staravia pushed the window open and hurriedly flapped to Gardner, set down the letter on the book, then flew away, shutting the window behind it.

    Gardner inspected the envelope, seeing his name in crude letters. He ripped it open and tore out the letter itself, his eye flitting across the sheet:

    To: Guildmaster Gardner Dusknoir

    From: Captain Valder Rhyperior of Saunte

    Subject: Lucario Sighting

    Gardner made a curious grunt. “A Lucario? Arthus killed them all years ago.”

    He read the rest of the letter, the scar across his eye flitting across the page. He crumpled it and threw it at a sleeping flock of Zubat, causing them to scatter through the various holes in the window. After their flaps dissipated, he sighed, continuing to read his book. ‘Arthus will be back before long…I’d rather delay the inevitable.’

    An hour passed, and Gardner found nothing of interest in ‘Legends of Equivos: Their Powers and Tales’. He was about to give up reading it—until he saw a certain entry.

    He clutched the book and held it up, his eye wide. “Yes…yes! This is exactly what we need!”

    “What is exactly what we need?”

    Gardner spun around and saw Arthus leaning against the wall near the stairs, studying his claws. The Zoroark brushed back his mane and said, “I came inside a few minutes ago, but you seemed deep in thought; I didn’t want to interrupt you.”

    Gardner leapt off his chair and brought the book to Arthus. “I’ve found it! I’ve found someone who can fix the Seal!”

    Arthus took the book and read the pages he left open. They depicted a round figure holding aloft two golden rings. Behind him, a violet creature extended its six arms, staring back at Arthus with emerald eyes. Around them, at the sides of the pages, it described their abilities.

    As Arthus read, his smile grew wider and wider. At the end of his reading, he slammed the book closed and laughed, “Excellent work! Hoopa will do very nicely!” His face suddenly fell. “But there’s the matter of actually finding him. Even if I could go to Deitae—which I can’t with the Seal as it is—he won’t work with me.”

    Gardner opened the book again and pointed out a passage. “Not if we follow this: ‘Hoopa was a mighty being in the distant past, granting wishes with hoops and his ability to mimic the gods. One day, he grew too prideful and challenged the Legends to numerous duels and succeeded, nearly killing them. As punishment, Arceus bound the majority of his power into the Prison Bottle, and left a calmer, humble form in his place. But his great power strives to rejoin him and is willing to grant a single wish to whoever releases him.’”

    Arthus tapped his chin with a smirk. “So, if I find the Prison Bottle, I can repair the Seal and take Arceus.”

    “That seems to be correct. I’ll search in the records for more details, but—”

    “All well and good!” Arthus interrupted, tossing the book back to Gardner. “If there’s nothing else, I’ll be going.”

    As Arthus started toward the stairs, Gardner reached out to him. “Wait, Lord Arthus!” The Zoroark twisted his head to him.

    Gardner tapped his fingers against the book, then said, “A letter came from Saunte today. Captain Valder said he spotted Cassia there.”

    Arthus leapt in front of Gardner and grabbed his shoulders. “He did? Why didn’t you say so earlier? I have to go there immediately!”

    Gardner gently pushed Arthus away with the book. “There’s more. He said that after she disappeared, they found someone accompanying her.”

    Arthus crossed his arms and held his head up “I am well aware that that accursed Golurk, Grom, travels with her. Don’t think I don’t remember.”

    Gardner cringed. “No, there was someone else. More specifically…a…Lucario.”

    The Zoroark suddenly punched the wall, his eyes wide and breathing quickening. “A what?”

    Gardner tossed the book on the desk, holding up his hands. “A Lucario, but—”

    Arthus roared, slashing the wall with Life-infused claws, leaving jagged burns across the stone. “I killed them! I killed them all! And now one just shows up!” His last statement finished with him slamming a wooden shelf, instantly breaking it and spreading its contents across the floor.

    He forced himself to take deep breaths, closing his eyes and clutching his head. He soon calmed, holding himself up in a dignified manner. “Did Captain Valder say where they were going?”

    Gardner let out his saved breath in relief. “No, since the Lucario managed to flee with Cassia. He had apparently been knocked down by Grom before he could determine their direction.”

    Arthus sighed, rubbing his face. “I guess I’ll have to figure it out myself then.” He continued down the stairs, then stopped, looking up at Gardner. “Search for the Prison Bottle’s location. I’ll…I’ll see if I can take care of Cassia before then. I’ll be getting ready.” He exited, the door closing with a click.

    Gardner sat down on his chair again, then took a thicker, aged book labeled, ‘Guild Index’ and scanned through it. As he passed through titles of other books, he thought, “At least now his attention won’t be divided…hopefully.’

    ~~~~

    Lawrence lay on the grass away from Cassia, who slept behind Grom’s enormity. He typed away on the Pokédex his adventure within the town, growing more used to typing with paws with each word. ‘This would make a fantastic story when I get back—if I get back.’

    He tapped out of the notepad and searched for an access point again, receiving the taunting sign of failure, just like his previous attempts. Discouraged, he slid the Pokédex back into its case, and gazed at the stars of Equivos.

    Sighing, he attempted to trace any constellations. He gave up and thought, ‘Can’t see any from Sinnoh. Yet another sign that this isn’t my world.’ He stared at the sky. ‘Reminds me of my move from Unova from Sinnoh, three years ago.’ He grimaced. ‘From small towns and false beliefs to big cities and closed-off people.’ Sighing, he looked up. ‘And now I’m back.’

    Worse, he himself was a Pokémon. ‘How did I change? Why? Did some higher being do this?’ Lawrence groaned. ‘Look at me, blaming some god.’

    He sighed and closed his eyes. ‘Then there’s this whole business with Arthus. Cassia loathes him, but why? How did she come to preach Arceism? How does such a religion exist here, despite the odds?’ He rubbed his face and groaned. ‘This place just wasn’t what I was expecting. All the Pokémon talk, but they also act so…human.’

    He opened his eyes again and studied his paws. ‘I’m a Pokémon now, one that Equivos hasn’t seen since Arthus supposedly killed them all.’ He lowered his paws. ‘Does that mean that I’m unique in two ways in this world?’

    He gave up asking these questions and decided to fall asleep. ‘Despite being a Lucario, I’m just…tired out.’ Thoughts of him insulting the species came to mind as he drifted out of consciousness.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  10. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 05: Vigilante

    Lawrence stood on a desolate peak, crouching behind a series of rocks. He watched a family of Furret huddle around one of the few berry bushes in the area, greedily taking the berries. He smiled. ‘I love this place. I can see just how Arceus made Pokémon: to be like us.’

    The ground rumbled, and Lawrence looked up. The Furret scurried away as a Gabite and Nidoking burst into the area, wrestling each other with vicious claws, each attempting to get the edge over the other.

    Lawrence backed away, then tripped on a rock, falling onto his back. The roaring Pokémon drew closer, the Gabite landing a vicious slash on the Nidoking.

    Lawrence scrambled to his feet, running from the scene. The Nidoking stomped the ground and punched the Gabite, the rocks wavering under his might. Lawrence wobbled unsteadily and fell once more.

    The Nidoking swept the Gabite’s chest with his tail, sending it flying over Lawrence. Dust and gravel ballooned around the impact, and Lawrence restrained a cough as to not be discovered.

    The dust settled, and Lawrence gazed directly at the eye of the Gabite. He expected to see some sort of human emotion—anger, fear, pain—but nothing was there except a blank, staring abyss of black and gold. Nothing remotely human lay in this Gabite.

    It hissed and leapt on top of the Nidoking, clamping onto its back with its claws. It stumbled away, and Lawrence finally ran from the scene, rushing down the mountain and returning to the alcove he had discovered only minutes ago.

    He kept his hands close, almost praying to Arceus to thank him for saving him. The memory of the Gabite returned to him, however. The eyes—they defied Arceus’ teachings of Pokémon. They were supposed to be creatures that felt just as he felt, but instead they were inhuman beings that held no emotion.

    ~~~~

    He opened his eyes, realizing once more that he was a Lucario. A Pokémon, only with humanity. That dream, a memory from years ago, was the start of his separation from Arceism.

    Leaving that thought he pulled out his Pokédex and tapped a Poke Ball icon, checking Grom and Cassia’s location to ensure they were asleep. When certain, he scrolled through the numerous pictures of Pokémon, then finally selected a Lucario.

    Reading through the information on his current species, the events with Derak and Valder came to mind. ‘I have no idea how to fight like this, and I can’t rely on Cassia and Grom to save me forever.’

    The page in the main Pokédex function, however, gave little detail on Lucario fighting styles. There was plenty on behavior, common locations and type advantages, but there was no mention of common Lucario tactics.

    Lawrence turned off the Pokédex and put it away, considering what he’d do. ‘I’m a prime target without Cassia’s ‘Illusion Stone’, what with me being the last Lucario. I don’t want to leave her—right now, at least—but if we get separated—like before—I want to do more than run.’ He frowned and stood up. ‘Especially if another Pokémon’s in danger.’

    He shook his head and pressed his paws against his face. The memory returned. ‘That day on Mount Coronet.’ He removed his paw and shook his head. ‘Arceus isn’t real. How could a benevolent god make such savage Pokémon?’

    He removed his paws and scowled. ‘How was I to know that Arceism was here? That I couldn’t get back? I’d be back home by now if it wasn’t for that wormhole.’ He cringed, remembering the experiments the Pokémon in Facility D were forced to go through. ‘Then again, maybe bringing a Pokémon back wasn’t the best idea…especially after meeting them myself.’

    “Grraawwm?”

    Lawrence flinched and spun around, then saw Grom standing several inches from him. “Gah!” He fell back and watched Grom chuckle in amusement. “How did you do that? You shake the ground whenever you move!”

    The giant cocked his head, then pointed at Lawrence’s Pokédex. “Gro-ho-hawm?”

    Lawrence looked down at it, then covered it with his paw. “It’s nothing. Just something I carry with me, that’s all.” As Grom studied him, Lawrence thought, ‘If I tell Grom about where I and the Pokédex came from, he’ll surely tell Cassia, then leave me because I’ll sound insane. I can’t let that happen, not when I can’t protect myself!’

    “Graw-hawm!” Grom shouted, reaching his hand toward it.

    Lawrence stepped away. “No!”

    “What’s going on?”

    Grom and Lawrence turned and saw Cassia holding the two bags, cocking her head curiously. “We won’t be able to make it to Barash in the afternoon unless we get going now.”

    Grom pointed at the Pokédex and stamped his foot. “Grom-gro-graw!”

    “That black thing? Why do you want to know what it is?”

    “Owm-gro,” Grom stated, his eyes turning a shade darker.

    Cassia stiffened, then forced a slight smile, holding her hand out to Lawrence. “Grom has some…concerns. Can you…let us see the box?”

    “Why do you want to know? It’s just something I keep with me is all,” Lawrence replied, crossing his arms.

    “I just don’t want Grom to get the wrong idea about you,” Cassia replied. Her smile faded. “I don’t either.”

    Keeping his paw on the case, Lawrence thought about her statement. He sighed, and reluctantly pulled out the Pokédex, and set it in Cassia’s hand, the screen black. “It’s nothing. How many times do I have to tell you?”

    The Gardevoir inspected it thoroughly, pulling open the case and pressing the buttons, all with no effect. “Hmph.” She looked up at Grom. “See? There’s nothing from the Guild on this.” She gave it back to Lawrence and crossed her arms. “Where’d you get it? I haven’t seen anything like it.”

    Lawrence sighed, grateful that he had turned it off. “I don’t really remember. I’ve had it with me since I hit my head on that tree.”

    “Don’t you mean when you fell out of a tree?”

    Cursing inwardly, Lawrence laughed and nodded. “Yeah, that’s right. See, my memory isn’t all that great.”

    Cassia looked up at Grom, who stared blankly back. She looked back at Lawrence, then held out a bag. “Tell us when you start remembering things. You seem like a good guy, but…” She sighed. “Grom brings up some valid points.”

    Lawrence accepted the bag and swung it over his shoulder. ‘I held them off that time, but I can’t keep this up forever; they’ll find out unless I’m careful.’

    They traveled along the well-worn path, the mood grimmer than the previous morning. Grom didn’t hum, and Cassia led with no zeal. The cheer of a new companion had faded, and now Lawrence felt that they were suspicious of him.

    He took a glance back at Grom, who lowered his head and growled. Lawrence grimaced and faced forward, his first meeting coming back to haunt him. ‘Grom doesn’t seem to be trust me…if anything, he’s going to hurt me sooner or later if I do the wrong thing at the wrong time.’

    As they ambled along, Lawrence studied the onyx Golurk. ‘He seemed nice enough before, so what’s changed between us?’ He shifted his gaze to the Gardevoir. ‘Maybe it’s when I spoke with Cassia the past few nights? She wasn’t in the best mood afterward, so he might think I’m attacking her verbally. He’s her guardian, so of course he’d be concerned.’ Lawrence held a paw over his neck. ‘I don’t want to find out what happens to Pokémon he thinks are a danger to Cassia.’

    ~~~~

    The autumn breeze turned warm as the falling leaves turned to fine grains. Grass shifted to bare ground, coated with a thin layer of sand. Cacti sprouted in place of maple and pine, and the thick scent of sap was replaced with a dry, earthy smell.

    A series of ridges sprouted up in the horizon. Lawrence continued walking forward, eventually seeing that it was a series of low-roofed buildings, colored a dull brown.

    “Is that the town? Barash, right?” Lawrence asked. It didn’t appear as developed as Saunte; the crumbled bricks of walls and the disheveled remnants of homes dotted the surrounding landscape, and the sand whipped wildly through the air. No Pokémon could be seen from his vantage point.

    Cassia looked back, her expression unrevealing of her emotions. “Yes. We’ll go inside, but this time, we’re going to teach Pokémon about the Tome.”

    Lawrence’s stomach churned. ‘If I’m going to hear more stories from that book, I’d rather stay with Grom.’

    The Golurk grumbled irritably to himself, glaring at Lawrence. Cassia pursed her lips and exclaimed. “No, he may not stay with you! You might not trust him, but I do.” She turned away. “For now. I don’t want you scaring him off.”

    Lawrence edged away from Grom and toward Cassia. ‘On the other hand, stories are safer than Golurk.’

    ~~~~

    Deathly silence prevailed through Barash. Dust whipped through open windows, and shutters flapped in the wind. Underneath Cassia’s and Lawrence’s feet, bare remains of wood and stone crunched. The pale brown buildings stood strong against the warm gale, protecting a mere shell of what it once was.

    Cassia studied the structures warily, keeping her arms at her waist. “Strange...last I heard, Barash was a busy city with no Guild influence.”

    A sharp crack came from the roof of a building. They whipped their heads in its direction, seeing the fleeing remnant of a black garment.

    “When did you hear that?”

    Padded footsteps darted across another rooftop, and several figures rushed past.

    “A few weeks ago,” Cassia replied, taking steps back. “Where’s all the Pokémon?”

    A tiny brown-furred head suddenly popped up from behind a wall. “Get away from here!” she hoarsely cried.

    Silver barbs and streaks of lightning suddenly erupted from the rooftops, all aimed toward Lawrence and Cassia. The Gardevoir elegantly dodged all the projectiles--circling her way to the entrance--while Lawrence ran away, struck by several of the thorns and bolts.

    They hid behind the wall and waited for the assault to end. When stray electricity could no longer be seen, Lawrence wheezed and rubbed his back. “What just happened?”

    Cassia craned her head, studying the retreating Pokémon above. “Cacturne and Galvantula. They must have taken over.” She looked back at the home of the one that had tried to warn them. “That Eevee is probably one of the few that survive here.” She turned back to Lawrence, determined. “We have to help them.”

    Lawrence shook his head and crossed his arms. “We have no way to attack them! I don’t kno--remember, anything a Lucario can do, and there’s obviously too many to fight single-handedly.”

    Cassia gave him a cold look, then sighed, shaking her head. “You’re...you’re right. We can’t help them.” She walked toward a black pillar in the distance—Grom—looking back at Barash.

    Lawrence followed, feeling that they had made the right choice.

    ~~~~

    They reached Grom, and Lawrence thought they would simply turn back on the trail and go to the coastline, where they’d hopefully go to their next destination, Cretea--where he hoped there would be a dimensional weakness.

    Cassia sat on the sand and explained, “We’ll be sleeping here for the night.”

    Lawrence’s jaw dropped. “But it’s not even sunset! We can still cover a lot of ground!”

    Cassia calmly pulled out her blanket and said, “We’re staying here, and that’s final. Right Grom?”

    “Grawm,” the Golurk replied, nodding his head. He tramped toward a patch of dark soil, then planted his feet under the sand. Red tendrils extended from beneath, and Life energy began to seep into Grom’s frame.

    Lawrence stepped away and let Cassia set up the blanket beneath them. “But what about getting to the coast? There’s nothing left here!”

    “Yes, there is: Pokémon. Pokémon controlled by Arthus and his followers, with no one left to protect them.” Cassia pulled out the Arceist Tome and opened it, searching its pages. “We’re not leaving until all those Guild Pokémon taken care of.”

    “How? There must be hundreds of those guys back there! We can’t do that,” Lawrence refuted.

    Cassia looked up and stated. “Arceus will help them. He’s done it before.”

    Lawrence restrained a sarcastic ‘ha’. “How?”

    She looked up with a puzzled expression. “Sending someone, of course.”

    “Do you really believe that?” he replied.

    “I know it. Why are you so negative all of a sudden?” Cassia asked, standing up.

    Lawrence struggled for a reasonable explanation, saying, “Because…because…”

    “Because what?”

    Lawrence stood still. “Because what he supposedly said isn’t true.” He tapped his head. “I remember an experience I had. He doesn’t lie, yet he did.”

    Cassia’s eyes widened, and she tightened her grip on the Tome. “You sound like a Guild Pokémon.”

    “Graw, graw!” Grom shouted from his viewpoint.

    Lawrence stepped back, realizing his mistake. “No, that’s not what I—”

    “No. It makes sense now.” She stepped forward, setting the Tome on the ground. Furrowing her brow, she said, “You were sent by those Captains in Saunte. You thought you could earn my trust, then lead me in so they could capture me. When you failed, you kept on following me, that way the same thing could happen in Barash.” She nodded to Grom. “He’s been suspicious of you since we met, but I wanted to trust you, since you were a Lucario.” She turned back to Lawrence, scowling. “But now I see that even Lucario can be loyal to Arthus.”

    Lawrence shook his head vigorously, stepping closer. “No, that’s not true! I’m not—”

    Cassia slapped his face, so quickly he could only feel the stinging left behind. As he reeled back, she glared at him and growled, “Get away from me.”

    Lawrence stared wide-eyed at her for a moment, holding his cheek, then hardened his gaze. “Fine! I’ll go!” He turned away and snorted. “And here I thought we were friends.” Cassia inhaled sharply, then Lawrence ran for the trees, dust billowing behind him.

    Grom pounded closer, setting a hand on Cassia’s shoulder. “Gro-grawm. Hawm.”

    The Gardevoir slumped against Grom, closing her eyes. “I know…it’s for the best,” she sighed. “Keep watch for him. I don’t think he’ll come back, but…just in case.”

    Grom raised his head, his eyes glowing more brightly.

    “Graawm.”

    ~~~~

    Lawrence halted near the fringe, when dusk fell on the desert. He punched a nearby tree in frustration, making it shake vigorously and his fist scream in pain. He shook it wildly and seethed. ‘Me? A Guild Pokémon? I’m not a bully like that Feraligatr and Rhyperior were!’ He rubbed his cheek again. ‘And then that slap…’

    He whipped the Pokédex off his shoulder and checked for a weakness. No luck.

    He silently cursed and stashed it away again. ‘I don’t need Cassia or Grom; I just need a way home, where I don’t have to be worried about being a Pokémon or paired with zealots…where I can be myself.’

    He sat down and leaned against the sickened tree, waiting for nightfall. ‘Why’d I even go with Cassia in the first place? I know how to take care of myself; I survived a week alone around Mount Coronet in high school!’

    The Electabuzz and Machoke came to mind, and their statement about him. ‘They said the Lucario are all dead.’ He looked down at the Illusion Stone, studying the black rock’s numerous cracks. ‘Even with this, I’m still a target. I can’t avoid everyone while I try to find a way back. A Watchog isn’t much a threat, so they could jump me and discover who I am—then send me to the Guild.’

    He cringed, then thought, ‘Then there’s this Arthus character. Cassia treats him like a threat, someone to avoid even speaking of. I don’t necessarily agree, but there’s definitely something…malevolent surrounding him.’ He held a paw over his chest. ‘Like an Ariados waiting to strike.’

    Lawrence yawned. ‘I wish I could stay with Cassia, but it’s probably better like this. For now, I should head for the coast. There might be a way back around there.’

    He soon fell asleep, falling into murky shadows.

    ~~~~

    Darkness surrounded Lawrence on all sides. He was his human self again, looking toward a hooded figure. Red claws hung from its arms, and a red mane swished down its back.

    “You’ve done it again, strange one. And this time, you were so daring to say that I’m not a threat.” The figure turned toward Lawrence, his eyes covered by a vague shadow. “Let’s discuss, shall we?” It faded, then fiery red spheres surrounded Lawrence.

    Lawrence jerked in surprise, keeping his arms away from the burning crimson lights. “Who are you?”

    A sharp cackle emanated through the air. “Who are you?Lawrence felt a prick at his shoulder, and upon looking down, saw the sharpened claws of a Zoroark.

    The figure spun around him, and the crimson flames circled as well. “A faithless coward. A lying fraud.” The figure stopped, revealing a Zoroark, his eyes still dark. His hands clamped around Lawrence’s head in the blink of an eye. “…Lawrence is it?” Lawrence shook, wishing desperately to bat away the hands, but found himself frozen with fear.

    The Zoroark bored into his mind, until suddenly flinching and bellowing, “You’ve seen Cassia! And that Golurk as well!” He kicked Lawrence to the ground and loomed over him. His eyes came into view—cold, pale blue eyes, flickering left and right as he studied the man. “But they’re not with you.” He held his claws underneath Lawrence’s chin. “Where are they?”

    Lawrence backed away, but the circling flames stopped him. “W-Who are you?”

    The Zoroark paused, then grinned. I thought it would have been obvious by now, Lawrence.” A ball of red fire grew in his palm. “I am Arthus Zoroark. Many call me the Usurper.” He aimed the sphere toward Lawrence. “And I very much exist.” The sphere rocketed from his palm toward Lawrence’s chest.

    Boom!

    ~~~~

    Lawrence cried out and opened his eyes, then held a paw against his heart, ensuring that Arthus hadn’t dealt the killing blow. When this fear finally fled, he sighed waveringly. ‘It was just a dream.’

    He studied the ground, then leapt up at the sight of receding tendrils of rust-colored mist. As they sunk beneath the ground, Lawrence thought, ‘I must have slept on top of another Life Deposit.’

    Boom!

    He whipped his head toward Barash. Bright orange light poured over the ruined walls, and the shouts of Pokémon carried through the air. The darkness of night only made the light even bolder.

    Lawrence hastily came to his feet. ‘There must’ve been an accident…or an attack! They need help!’

    He turned away, closing his eyes. ‘But Grom is keeping watch. He’d surely attack me if I went close to Cassia again, if he isn’t already in Barash. And if he’s there, he might think I’m helping the Guild.’

    He looked back, screams resonating through the night. ‘But does that matter?’

    A jet of flame rose from the center of Barash, and Lawrence ran toward the town. As he sprinted across the sand, he thought, ‘Who cares what Grom thinks; I’m just doing what’s right!’

    He ran past a black pillar, ignoring it. Two sharp-cornered lights sparked in them, and the mighty limbs shook. “Hawwm.” Two jets of crimson fire suddenly threw it into the air. It leaned forward, following Lawrence.

    Lawrence ran through the gate and stopped, taking in the fiery tragedy surrounding him. The thatched roofs of the buildings were aflame, weakening the already-brittle walls of the town. Galvantula and Cacturne surrounded a black-furred Pokémon whipping around in the center, striking down all who came near.

    It stopped momentarily, slowing down enough for Lawrence to see what it was: a Zoroark wearing a white mask, the eyes glowing red.

    The Zoroark turned toward Lawrence and lowered its head, stabbing a Galvantula’s leg. The spider moaned and fell to the ground, weakened by the red light siphoned from it. the Zoroark pointed at Lawrence, its white mask reflecting the golden flames back toward him.

    He froze, the recent horror of Arthus returning to him. ‘He…he looks like Arthus. He doesn’t hesitate, and he’s attacking all the Guild Pokémon. Why?’

    A scream pierced through the air, and Lawrence turned to its direction. He ran into the alleyways, dodging the flames and running toward a cracked building.

    The rough stone, surrounded by rising fire from the wood and thatch, began to crumble under the heat. The entire front side lay covered with burning timbers, knocked down from the house just in front of it.

    “Help! Someone, please! We’re trapped!” a desperate voice called from within.

    Lawrence sized up the building and scowled. ‘How? The timbers are too large, and they’re on fire! What can I do?’ He ran to the window. ‘I’ll try from here!’

    “Graaww!”

    A black fist slammed the ground in front of Lawrence, then another slammed him into the wall, cracking it. The jagged openings in Grom’s body poured with crimson light, and the eyes trailed with rusted mist. “Graw-hawm!”

    Lawrence groaned and came to his feet. “Someone’s trapped in there! You have to help them!”

    Grom threw another punch, which Lawrence ducked under. “Gro-hum! Graw!”

    Lawrence ran around the giant, but abruptly stopped when his tail was suddenly yanked. He fell back, then looked at Grom’s fist clamped around his tail.

    Grom raised a fist over Lawrence, then shook his head. “Grooh…”

    Lawrence looked at the house and shouted, "But let me help those Pokémon stuck in there! You can't leave them to die!" Searching for another reason, Lawrence added, "You can hit me all you want after that. You can say that I'm a Guild Pokémon all you want and make me go on my own! Just let me help them!"

    Coughing echoed from the building, and Grom’s eyes suddenly faded to a dull glow. After a moment of stillness, he released Lawrence’s tail, then helped him onto his feet. Lawrence faced him, then the giant knelt down, lowering his head. “Grawm…” he moaned.

    A sickening crack emanated from the roof, followed by a scream. Lawrence ran toward the timbers and exclaimed, “I know, you’re sorry, but please, help!” He reached toward the blazing wood but yanked his paws back from the heat.

    Grom stood up and pounded his fists, making a slight bow. He stepped in front of the wood, pried his fingers underneath, then lifted them up, grunting.

    Lawrence ran through the entry, his eyes watering in the streaming smoke. Huddled in the corner were two Minccino and a Cinccino. The Minccino hugged each other and looked up at Lawrence, frightened, while the Cinccino lay on the floor, her head bleeding.

    Pieces of straw and wood fell from the ceiling, disintegrating from the heat. The timbers cracked and popped, sagging further as the stone deteriorated.

    Lawrence studied the room swiftly and exclaimed, “Get out, now! There’s no time!”

    “But, Mom’s not waking up!” the larger Minccino replied.

    “Lucario…” the smaller gasped.

    Lawrence slung the Cinccino over his shoulders and shouted, “I’ve got her, just get out of here!”

    The two Minccino rushed out of the room, and Lawrence did as well. The roof finally collapsed, the sudden impact forcing Lawrence to the ground. The walls imploded, sending a plume of dust into the surrounding area.

    Coughing, Lawrence stood up, blearily searching for the Minccino. “Is everyone alright?”

    “Grawwm!”

    Grom emerged from the cloud, the Minccino sitting in his hands.

    The smaller Minccino leapt from his hand and exclaimed, “Mama!” She ran underneath Lawrence and hopped up and down, reaching futilely for her mother.

    The larger Minccino leaned out, studying her mother with concern. “Is she alright?”

    Lawrence set the Cinccino on the ground, noticing her staggered breathing. “She’s alive, but we need to get away from here.” He cringed when another innocent screamed. “How in the world did this happen?”

    “This strange Pokémon showed up and said that those Guild Pokémon needed to leave. When they didn’t, he beat them up, and that mean old Toka Turtonator--the Guild’s boss--made everything on fire!” the older Minccino exclaimed.

    Lawrence sighed in relief. ‘He was only trying to help everyone here…but still, why?’

    Grom leaned forward and set the Minccino down. “Gro-howm.” He pointed to the other houses.

    Lawrence nodded. “Right, you go see if there’s anyone else, I’ll get them out.” He picked up the Cinccino and ran toward the exit. “Follow me!” The Minccino followed, gazing at the flames around them fearfully.

    Sitting on the wall, the masked Zoroark watched Lawrence run from the town, the Cinccino family in paw. A slight smile appeared, then he leapt from the wall and toward a Turtonator spouting a flamethrower from his snout.

    Toka stamped his foot and snorted. “You can’t defeat me, traitor!”

    The Zoroark’s smile faded. He held his arm out, causing a growing orb of Life Energy to appear.

    He slung it at Toka, who rolled out of the way. Toka charged toward the Zoroark, spitting a giant flame ball from his snout.

    The Zoroark slid underneath the flame ball and Toka, slashing the legs of the Turtonator. He then whipped around and threw a Life Sphere toward Toka’s back. The Turtonator erupted in a burst of flame, throwing back the Zoroark.

    The Zoroark slid against the ground, the particles making up his shield disintegrating in the air. Toka flopped against the ground face-first, moaning in pain. The Zoroark flipped him onto his back, then stood on his chest.

    Despite Toka’s groans, the Zoroark leaned in close and lifted his mask.

    “For Arceus.”

    ~~~~

    The flames across Barash faded, and the collapsing structures halted their descent. Little more than forty Pokémon stood around the smoking husk, nursing their wounds and caring for their young. Grom marched through the city, gathering the remaining Guild Pokémon and restraining them.

    Lawrence fell to the ground, clutching his arm. Blackened fur surrounded his paw, and patches of red cropped around his body. A smoky scent hovered around him, and his eyes struggled to stay open.

    He coughed and looked back to Barash, his vision fading. ‘I…I should have been more careful.’ He struggled to see the Pokémon he saved. ‘But at least…everyone’s safe.’

    He fell flat on the ground, falling unconscious.

    ~~~~

    Mumbling voices and excited whispers floated in Lawrence’s mind, stirring him to wakefulness. He opened his eyes and rubbed his head, feeling a peculiar roughness under his paw. He looked at his arm and noticed lengths of blue-stained fabric wrapped around it. His legs and side had the same gauze, soothing the harsh burns.

    The Pokémon from Barash surrounded Grom, with many huddling around his legs and looking up. Lawrence stood up, then started to stretch. His burns protested the movement with a sharp spike of pain, and he pulled his arms close to avoid further harm.

    The Minccino from before, who stood at the rear of the crowd, looked back and gasped. “The Lucario’s awake!” The crowd turned their gaze to Lawrence, studying him with a cross of wonder and awe.

    He smiled weakly and waved a paw. “H-Hello.” He pushed a paw against his head, groaning.

    Pokémon shifted as one made their way through the center, saying, “Let me through, please, he’s my friend!” The Pokémon around her parted, revealing Cassia, her Tome held in front of her chest.

    She came close to Lawrence, checking the bandages. “You were badly burned when we found you out here. I thankfully had some Rawst berries, so I was able to make a healing gauze for you.” She looked back at the crowd momentarily. “I was...wrong about you. You helped everyone get out of the town while that Zoroark handled all the Guild Pokémon, including their captain, Toka Turtonator.” She shook her head sadly. “They’re all tied up now. They had their Life drained from them, so they’ll be too weak to do anything for a long time.”

    Lawrence laughed with her, reaching out for her hand. “Thanks for...understanding, I guess. I didn’t act the way I should after you said those things, so…”

    Cassia pulled back her hand, nodding. “It’s alright.” She turned back to the town Pokémon and said, “Do you want to learn about the Tome? I was just teaching them about it while you were sleeping.”

    The two Minccino ran over and tugged on Lawrence’s arms, with the elder one exclaiming, “Come on, it’ll be fun!”

    Despite his feelings toward Arceism, he shrugged and followed the Minccino. ‘Why not? At the least, it’ll help me know more about Equivos.’

    He carefully stepped through the crowd and sat on a rock, wincing as he moved. A Helioptile leaned toward him and asked, “How’d you hide from the Guild? I thought they killed all the Lucario.”

    Lawrence didn’t know how to answer, but before he could attempt to explain, Grom clanged a fist against his chest, catching the Pokémon’s attention.

    Cassia cleared her throat, then opened the Tome. “Today I’m here to tell you about a Legend that the Guild today tried to hide from you, by destroying the other copies of the Tome, and silencing any who dare talk about him. His name is Arceus, and he created Equivos and all the Pokémon that live here.” She hesitated, turning to the wizened Grumpig to her right. “I must warn you that the Guild is trying to erase Arceus’ name, including by killing those who teach about him. Are you willing to suffer whatever may happen if they find out I was here?”

    The Grumpig hawed. “They burned down our homes and took everything we had. As former mayor of Barash, I think I speak for everyone in saying, ‘What else can they do to us?’” The other town Pokémon nodded in agreement, with several calling out for Cassia to teach.

    Cassia nodded, turning her gaze to the Tome. “Very well. I have two lessons for you today: one for the adults, and one for the children.”

    “First, I will read a passage from Dictations 4, from roughly 1700 years ago:”

    I, Arceus, creator of Equivos, declare that all Life is precious unto me, and that all who possess it must respect it in all ways to return to the Tree of Life.

    All must treat the other like thyself, whether it be through dealings, relations, conversation, or discussion.

    For I say that unless this be done alongside my other commandments, they shall not be saved upon the Day of Destruction, in the final days of my greatest creation.

    However, those who do follow my commands will be taken to the Tree of Life, home of all who have borne Life and have fallen by Time or Destruction. Then, shall they be taken to the Realm of the Keeper, before the Final Desolation.

    Cassia continued teaching the adults, but Lawrence shut her out. ‘Those words…they sound like they’re from Sinnoh’s book, the Arcean Texts.’ He sighed and set his chin against his paw, leaning on his leg. ‘Why’d I think this was a good idea?’

    Despite his reaction, the Minccino at his feet smiled wide, while the Krookodile to his right began to tear up. All around him, Pokémon listened and accepted Cassia’s message from Arceus. Lawrence agreed with Cassia’s thoughts, but thought, ‘All good words, but they can’t be from Arceus. That’s what’s wrong with them.’

    Cassia stopped reading Dictations and held the book out to the audience. Grom lowered her to the ground, and the children drew closer.

    She pointed at the picture in the pages: a Riolu walking alongside a Lucario in a set of leather clothing, in a dense forest. “I’ll now tell you a story of a young Riolu named Laryon, and his uncle, Matheus Lucario.

    “Laryon was an obedient Riolu, but one day, he forgot to follow one of Matheus’ rules while traveling: never explore without checking for signs of wild Pokémon.

    “In his time, wild Pokémon were everywhere, and many were dangerous.” Cassia turned the page, showing Laryon standing in front of a large cave. “He entered a cave, ignoring the bones and smell that came from it. Inside, he discovered…” She flipped the page.

    “A den of Charizard!” she exclaimed, forcing eeps of shock from her audience. Over a dozen Charizard lounged on massive boulders, spitting flames in their sleep and clutching bones in their claws. Laryon stood at the entrance with a face of shock.

    “He didn’t know what to do after that; the Charizard would have heard him if he walked out, and he couldn’t fight them on his own. He was trapped.”

    Cries of fear and anticipation erupted amongst the children, all wanting to hear what Laryon did.

    Cassia smiled, flipping the page. “Matheus felt his aura nearby and realized that he was in trouble. He ran to the cave where Laryon was--just as the Charizard woke up.” Matheus ran across the forest, moving toward the distant cave.

    The page turned, and Matheus was shown standing in front of Laryon, enclosed in blue light as the Charizard dove in for their attack. “Matheus was a master of Aura, and the founder of Lucario Guild, the Pokémon that protected us before it was taken over by Arthus Zoroark. He was a champion of many battles and was not afraid of the flight of Charizard.”

    Astounded ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ came as she flipped between pictures of Matheus fighting the Charizard with spheres of blue light, his fists, or glowing poles, all without taking a hit.

    She stopped on the last page, showing Matheus holding Laryon on his shoulders, walking away from the cave, where Charizard lay on the ground, defeated. “Matheus saved Laryon that day and reminded him to always remember the commands given to him by his elders.”

    She closed the Tome. “As you all know, Laryon would grow up to be a wonderful Lucario, saving many from wild Pokémon, Outlaws, and natural disasters--all because Matheus taught him the ways of Arceus.” She stood up, holding the Tome to her side. “Remember, Arceus’ word is law. Like Laryon, we must remember what he says to avoid calamity, like the Charizard. Some can save us from our mistakes, like Matheus, but on the last day, we must be obedient to him.”

    Dozens of questions sprung upon her, whether they be about menial areas of life, to the biggest questions one could offer. She struggled to answer them all, even with Grom gently pushing them away.

    Lawrence walked out of the crowd and toward the woods, slowly as to avoid hurting himself. ‘They’re so much like the congregations back home.’ He looked back briefly, then shook his head. ‘If I stay, they’ll just ask more about me—like if I’m an Arceist.’ He shuffled forward and sighed. ‘But I’m not, so why stay around?’

    Cassia laughed weakly as she parted from the crowd, waving to all the Pokémon. “Thank you so much, but I really must be going! There’s other Pokémon who need me!”

    Grom pushed through, carefully shaking off a Minccino clinging to his arm. “Gro-howm…” he scolded, wagging a finger at her.

    “Big…” she replied.

    Grom chuckled, pushing it back toward her brother. “Gra-ham!” He stomped toward Cassia, looking over her shoulder.

    Cassia pulled out a small book from her bag and, with a bit of charcoal, wrote ‘Barash’ in a page covered with other names. “Just one more left until we go to Cretea.” She put the book away, noticing Lawrence walking on his own.

    She looked up to Grom, then back to Lawrence. “Let’s catch up to him.”

    “Gro-gro!” He picked up Cassia and burst into the air, rocketing toward Lawrence.

    He abruptly stopped just in front of him, quaking the ground when he fell. Cassia hopped down from his hand and sighed, wiping her brow. “I haven’t had such an enthusiastic crowd before! Kind of tired me out, really.” She noticed his dark expression, then her smile dissipated. “What’s wrong?”

    Lawrence crossed his arms and sighed. “Sorry that I left. I just…I just don’t like crowds.” He thought carefully, then said, “I didn’t have a very popular belief where I came from.”

    “You remember more.” Cassia bit her lip, then said, “I should’ve been more considerate before. You really have amnesia, don’t you?”

    Lawrence felt a pang of guilt, then nodded his head. “Yes. Yes, I do.” He rubbed his side, scratching at the itchy bandage. “Not being an Arceist made me a target. The other…Pokémon, told me that I was crazy, that I hated them, that I was…” He cringed. “That I was on my own.”

    Cassia looked up at Grom with a surprised expression, then back at Lawrence. “I…wasn’t expecting that. I’ve heard about Arceists being driven out, considering what the Guild’s done, but never a non-believer having that happen.”

    “I…lived somewhere where that was the case,” Lawrence replied. Not wanting to blow his cover, he said, “So, that Zoroark back there…back in town. Is he related to Arthus?”

    Cassia flinched, then held her shoulder. “What makes you say that?”

    “It’s that red light he used. I…I had another dream about Arthus. He somehow read my mind, and he wanted to know where you were” Cassia stared at him, wide-eyed. He continued, “He looked like he was going to kill me with red fire. It looked like what Grom takes from the ground…Life. Not all Zoroark can use it, right?”

    Cassia blew her breath out slowly, then said, “Yes…he’s related to Arthus. From what I’ve heard, he ran away from him to serve Arceus. He comes around sometimes to get rid of the Guild, but other than that—"

    “Graw!” Grom moaned, pointing ahead. A streak of crimson light shot across the desert from a stone landmark in the distance, coursing toward the forest. Lawrence felt a pang of fear.

    Cassia paled, keeping a hand inside a bag. “He’s going to Saunte. Arthus…Arthus is tracking us.” She took a deep breath, then marched toward a section of deadened forest to their right.

    Lawrence stepped in front of her, careful with his bandages. “Whoa, wait a minute. You’re going toward the guy who wants to catch you?”

    “I’m not going to Saunte,” Cassia explained, stepping around him. “We’re going somewhere that...I’d really rather not be, to be honest.” She twisted her head and said, “Grom, you remember that haunted part of the woods we wandered into one time, right?”

    Grom nodded, growling.

    “Wait...haunted? With Ghosts?” Lawrence asked, curious.

    “What else? Now, come on, let’s get going; it’s rather far away,” Cassia replied, throwing the supply bag back to Lawrence.

    He caught it with a grunt, then followed her.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  11. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 06: Mythos

    The trees, devoid of leaves and covered with webs, seemed to creep toward Lawrence as he followed Cassia through the haunted woods, moving hastily to avoid their pursuer. Silence dominated the air; no wind, no rustle of branches--nothing except the padding and stomping of footsteps. Dark shapes danced behind the trees, occasionally moaning and making puffs of purple light. Cobwebs shook when they drew near, vibrating with the same energy as what belonged to the natives.

    Grom swiveled his head, studying the trees around him. “Gro-grom…”

    Cassia nodded, brushing past a tree covered with black goo. “I feel it too. There’s an awful lot of Life energy around here.”

    “What’s so special about this Life anyway? I hear you talk about it, but I don’t really understand what it is,” Lawrence said.

    “Life is what makes us all live, to put it simply. It’s the energy behind why our hearts beat, why our minds think. Without it, you’re dead.” Cassia studied her hands. “No one knows what it really is. It is a powerful energy, and many have tried to find uses for it.” She closed her hands. “Unfortunately, there’s only two sources: from the living and from the dead. Life energy doesn’t just disappear when someone dies; it remains in the ground, waiting to be claimed by a Ghost.”

    “So, that’s how Ghosts come about? From this excess Life energy?”

    “Yes, and the shadow of their former life.” She shook her head. “Anyway, up until two-thousand years ago, only Ghosts were thought to use Life energy, but even then, their use was limited; for them, it’s food and little else, with occasionally powering something with it.” She drew away from a sickly tree littered with dark holes. “It wasn’t until Arthus that anyone could really use it.”

    “How come? Zoroark don’t naturally have the ability, right?”

    “It’s never really been revealed, and the Tome doesn’t go into his life. There’s an old legend that a dark prophet named Gregorius gave Arthus a blade capable of giving this control, but it never mentions how.”

    “You said that that Zoroark from Barash was related to Arthus. Did he inherit this control over Life?” Lawrence thought the red light that Zoroark used was remarkably similar to the energy that Arthus used in his last visitation. Considering its destructive power, no wonder Arthus was imprisoned.

    Cassia nodded, looking around her suspiciously. “Yes. It’s proven useful in stopping those Guild Pokémon, that way I can go in and teach about Arceus.” She slowed, waiting for Grom. “I don’t like the feel of this place. Let’s get through as fast as we can, so we can avoid whatever lives here.” She turned to Lawrence. “Let’s not talk anymore until we get through. Something might already be following us.

    Shapes scrabbled through the trees, red wisps of light in their wake. A light-hearted cackle erupted from the ground, then faded as a purple shape flitted to the background. Dead branches and leaves lay underfoot, crunching with every step.

    Lawrence bristled, feeling watched. He felt vulnerable at his core, where he felt a strange, burning sensation, as if he was reacting to whatever may be in the air.

    ‘Is that Life? Can I sense it like Cassia can?’ Lawrence felt that that had to be the case. ‘Probably because I’m a Lucario…can I sense Aura then?’

    He blinked. ‘Is there a connection between them?’ Based on studies—which were theoretical at best—he knew that it was based on relationships with individuals, growing stronger based on the intensity of the strongest one. It wasn’t exact, but it at least explained why it can’t be manipulated by Riolu until they evolved through friendship.

    He felt his arm flare up in pain, causing him to grab it and seethe. The burns were healing thanks to the Rawst berries, but their healing juices stung just the same. ‘Even if I wanted to fight, I’m at an immediate disadvantage.’

    A flash of green whizzed past him, disappearing into the fog. More green shapes flitted over them, and a red hovered faster than the rest. All moved in to the right, in what appeared to be an empty section of the woods.

    “Hawm. Grr,” Grom stated, pounding his fists.

    Cassia nodded, adjusting the bag over her shoulder. “You’re right; those don’t look like Ghosts.”

    A high-pitched scream echoed through the air, suddenly cut off by a distinct hum. The Ghosts that lurked in the woods suddenly quieted, alerted by a new spill of Life.

    Lawrence’s paws trembled, and his eyes narrowed toward the direction of the scream. “Someone got hurt.”

    Cassia’s lip pursed, and she took a step forward. Her eyes went wide, and she looked to Lawrence. “You’re hurt. You can’t do much against whoever did that. Let Grom take care of it.” Grom nodded, then broke into a trot, throbbing the ground around him with his sluggish gait.

    Lawrence shook his head, stretching his limbs. “He won’t be fast enough, even if he flies; you saw how fast those Pokémon were. I can take care of them before Grom gets there.” He stretched his legs briefly, ignored the burning sensation of healing skin, then ran toward the scream, nearly limping on his right leg.

    “Lawrence, wait!” Cassia called, reaching toward him. She soon lowered her arm and sighed, the Lucario too far away to listen.

    Lawrence ran ahead of Grom with no effort. Branches and leaves cracked underneath his feet, surely alerting the attackers just ahead. He didn’t care.

    He stopped at the fringe of a small glade, clutching a wrapped portion of his leg. Between suppressed grunts of pain, he saw a group of battered Scyther band behind a Scizor with an eye missing, marching toward a trio of Buneary huddling behind a Lopunny with a large cut across her chest.

    “You’re gonna give us all the gold ya got, and any food too! We don’t wanna hurt ya!” the Scizor warned, clapping his claws in front of the Buneary.

    The tallest of them exclaimed, “We don’t have any! We were going to town to find a job!”

    The Scyther surrounding the Scizor chittered angrily, with one stepping closer and exclaiming, “No food or gold? Yore mum must’ve been mad!”

    The Scizor bludgeoned him back and roared, “I’m the one doin’ the talkin’ ‘ere! Get back in line!” His wings flitted spontaneously, and he turned back to the Buneary. “I’m gonna ask you one more time: give us your goods, or y’all gonna die for wastin’ our time!”

    “We told you, we don’t have any!” the younger brother exclaimed.

    The Scizor clamped the smallest Buneary’s ear, lifting her above her siblings. He held her out to a Scyther, who held back his blades. “I’m gonna chop her little ears off at the count a’ three unless ya cough up! One.” The Scyther raised a blade. “Two.” He reared back.

    “No!”

    Lawrence leapt past the trees and landed behind the Scyther, then punched him across the head, sending him to the ground. He whirled around and punched another in the chest, causing him to stagger back in surprise.

    He reached back to punch one more time, but doubled over, clutching the bandage around his chest. Pain screamed throughout his body, demanding for him to stop.

    A Scyther zipped over and batted Lawrence away with the flat of his blade. He collapsed on the ground, and all present gasped as his illusion failed.

    The Scizor soon laughed, dropping the Buneary and allowing her to return to her brother and sister. “Well now, look what we have here! A Lucario who thought he was tough enough to handle us, the Butcher Squadron!” He reached down and clamped Lawrence’s ears, pulling him up to eye level. “We work with the Guild as assassins for ole Gardner. We don’t handle jobs like this, but I’m sure he’d give us a nice bonus if we bring ya to him!” He grabbed his tail and exclaimed, “Hey Johnny, let’s make ourselves a little souvenir from his tail!”

    A Scyther with nicks in his blades raised one and chuckled maliciously. The Buneary looked on in horror, while Lawrence braced for the consequences of his rash mistake.

    Johnny abruptly stopped, then fell over without another sound. The shouts and jeers of the Butcher Squadron halted.

    Another Scyther leaned over Johnny, then exclaimed, “Somethin’ knocked him cold!” Immediately after, he froze and fell on top of Johnny.

    One by one, the other Scyther fell by this mysterious hand. They swiped blindly in the air, grazing Lawrence’s fur and their teammates wings in the process. All but the Scizor fell unconscious.

    The Scizor let go of Lawrence and fumed. “Come out and fight, ya coward! I know who ya really are!” He lurched backward and slammed into a tree, looking around wildly for the mysterious force that grabbed his neck.

    In a shimmer, a white-masked Zoroark appeared, holding the Scizor up with one hand, and holding the other outward. In a deep, warping voice, he stated, “Wounded Lucario and widowed Lopunny are prime targets for Arthus’ assassins, hmm?” The Scizor raised a trembling claw, reaching for the Zoroark’s arm.

    The Zoroark swiftly grabbed it and pierced the shell with his claws. Amidst the Scizor’s groans of pain, the Zoroark said, “The Usurper must have lost more of his sanity to have you be assassins.” He studied the arm he held, snorting. “You don’t have a Guild band. You’re just common thieves, picking away at those worse off than you.” The blackened eyes of the mask flared up with red light. “It is thanks to Pokémon like you that Arthus returned.” Cracks of crimson light flowed from the Scizor’s shell and into the Zoroark’s claws.

    Gasping, the Scizor collapsed, wheezing and clutching at his chest. He drew his limbs closer, shivering, seemingly devoid of heat. His wings fluttered weakly, and he whispered to himself, conceiving how this could have happened.

    The crimson in the Zoroark’s eyes faded. He approached the Buneary siblings, who pressed against a tree, hugging each other and trembling.

    The Zoroark made a slight smile. “I’m not here to hurt you. Only those,” He gestured to the muttering Scizor, “that harm others for no reason.” He pointed to the sky, where Grom briefly zoomed overhead. “That black Golurk carries a priestess with him. Follow him, and she will take care of you.” The Buneary settled, now looking up hopefully at the Zoroark.

    He turned to Lawrence, then grabbed his arm and pulled him up. He pressed a hand against his chest, and his eyes glowed red once more. “You are a brave Lucario, if a rash one. You have helped those in need, and in return, I will heal your wounds.” Lawrence felt vibrations radiate through his body, focusing on the burned portions. Red veins coursed from the Zoroark’s claws to the bandages, soothing the skin and restoring its vitality.

    He stepped away, his mask dimming. Lawrence pulled away the bandages and found that no evidence remained that burns were there.

    He looked up. “What’s your name?”

    The Zoroark stepped away, adjusting his mask. “You may call me…Aleron.” He smiled once more, then faded in a shimmer. Lawrence and the Buneary looked around wildly for Aleron, but just as he came, there were no signs.

    Lawrence stepped toward the Lopunny. She no longer breathed. ‘Who’ll take care of her Buneary now?’ he thought.

    The oldest Buneary sniffed, tearing up. “Momma…” Her brother and sister followed suit, weeping over their dead mother.

    Aleron’s words rang in Lawrence’s mind. He ushered the Buneary away from the Lopunny and said, “Come on; let’s go to Cassia.” He remembered Grom’s direction, and, with Cassia’s help, hoped to assist the orphans.

    The Buneary obeyed and shuffled behind Lawrence as he headed toward Cassia. ‘I wish I could give the Lopunny a proper burial…but her Buneary have to be brought somewhere safe first,’ he thought.

    Low moans came from behind the trees, and Lawrence realized that they came from tiny Phantump, their whiny faces full of sympathy for the life recently lost. Several floated toward where they came from—presumably to take the Life just spilled—while others floated ahead of them, bobbing in the air and leaving wispy trails of black mist behind them.

    The dark and gloomy atmosphere of the dead forest gave way to a lush and green glade, filled with bushes full of berries and dozens of Phantump floating throughout, eeping constantly. Cassia sat on a stump with the Tome in her arms, and Grom towered over her with his hands at his sides. Behind them, a decaying-yet-stable hut with dozens of Phantump surrounding it stood, creaking with each touch on its dilapidated frame.

    A Phantump squeezed through a hole in the roof, then rushed toward Cassia. It hovered around her, wailing as it went. She laughed, stopping it gently. “There’s no need to be afraid. I follow Arceus.”

    The Phantump’s face remained unchanged. It whisked off behind Lawrence and the Buneary, retreating to the dark reaches.

    Cassia opened the pages of the Tome, then motioned for them to come closer. “Grom told me what happened.” She made a sympathetic smile. “Let me comfort you.” She traced her finger on the pages as the Buneary drew near.

    Compassion 5-

    [A message to Clorina Arcanine for the loss of her husband]

    The Creator understands all pain. Just as his many arms create blessings for his creations, he in turn realizes their feelings, and sorrows with them.

    All of this is to comfort them further, for none know better how to care than those who have suffered the same as yourself.

    She reached down to the oldest Buneary and lifted her head. Tears stained her fur. “I promise you that Arceus knows what you are going through.” She looked away and closed her eyes. “I lost my mother when I was little. I don’t remember her well, but I know that she loved me, and would want me to stay strong.”

    She removed her hand and gestured to the hut. “This house used to be the home of Laryon Lucario and his aunt, Azure. It is old, and needs repaired, but I’m sure that it would be a lovely place to live.”

    “But what about the Ghosts? They’ll scare us!” the little brother Buneary exclaimed.

    “My children told me your plight.”

    They all looked above the house and froze. Towering above the ancient structure, dwarfing Grom and the trees of the forest, stood a giant Trevenant, bare-branched and covered with moss. His limbs stretched outward and his mouth hanged open, the single eye stared at them heavily.

    Creaking, the Trevenant moved his arm in front of him, and Phantump swarmed around it, wishing to have the gaseous scarlet mist emanating from it. “I am the Ancient. I am the first of the Ghosts, the Lifefeeders. From Arceus’ strength I gather mine, expanding my domain, the Revenant Forest, to protect Life from those who wish ill.” He shifted his gaze to the Buneary, then to the house.

    He pointed at the house, and Phantump wildly swirled into it, bringing branches, stumps, leaves—all sorts of discarded remnants of wood. “Your loss is great, children of Arceus. I had no bringer but Arceus, yet I sorrow for you still.” He closed his eye. “My children will bring the home of the ancient Guardian to its former glory, and you shall be under my guardianship until the day you become Lifefeeders yourselves.” He opened his eye, and his mouth extended to a lopsided grin. “You will have nothing to fear as long as you remain in my domain. Those under my protection will provide for and protect you until their Life runs dry.”

    A Phantump separated from the core group and ran into the Buneary, whirling around their heads and wailing cheerfully. The Buneary gradually smiled, laughing when more Phantump encircled them.

    Grom lowered his gaze, kneeling before the almighty Ancient. “Gro…grawm…”

    The Ancient nodded, lowering an arm and enclosing Grom with his hand. “You have been changed, child. A dark force corrupted you, yet here you stand, serving a Teacher of Arceus.” He fingered the gap in Grom’s head. “Your memories from your past have been taken, and your speech as well.” The Ancient sighed, lifting his hand. “I have not the power to restore either. Your missing self lies in the hands of another, waiting to be reunited. Be warned: while your speech would return with the joining, so would your memories. Your previous master will have control over you once more, and only your current master could bring you back to Arceus’ light.” Grom looked up and made a shuddering groan, nodding.

    He turned to Cassia, pointing at the Tome. “You carry one of the last books of Arceus. Only through you can Arceus complete his great work.” He began to hum, a purple light emanating from his eye. Dozens of Phantump swirled from the wood and encircled his head, creating a purple ring around the Ancient.

    The Ancient’s eye shifted to Lawrence. It lowered with a growl.

    “A Keeper once was,

    But now he becomes

    A treader of realms

    And deceiver of self.

    The truth once held

    Must take once more

    In order for the Keeper

    To be awakened for war.

    Awaken Aleron

    As well as the Keeper

    And Equivos may be

    Reborn to live on.

    A price of mind

    Must fully be paid,

    Or the Realm of the Keeper

    Will forever make slaves.”

    The Phantump stopped their dance, returning to the darkness of the wood. The Ancient shook, his limbs extending outward. “I must restore my Life, to protect my children. Heed my words, for they come from Arceus himself. Do so, and the children of Arceus may be saved.” The eye’s glare faded to a dim glow, then extinguished. The Trevenant, the tallest of the Revenant Wood, made a sickening groan, then fell still.

    Cassia stood open-mouthed, then hurriedly pulled out her sketchbook. “I have to write this down!” She scribbled inside with a charcoal pencil, leaving Lawrence to think to himself.

    He furrowed his brow in thought. ‘What did the Ancient mean by those words? I used to be a Keeper? Why do I have to awaken Aleron, the Zoroark? Did he mean someone else? What was this price of mind? What war do I have to fight?’

    He held his head and moaned. ‘With this, it almost seems like I was meant to come here. Is he even right?’ He looked up briefly and sighed. ‘There’s really no point in him lying…’

    He lifted his head the same time Cassia lifted hers. “I wrote what he said down, to make sure we won’t forget,” she said. She watched the Buneary run into the home, cheering on the racing Phantump and quickly forgetting their troubles. “I’m glad we went here. Those Pokémon going to Saunte were a blessing in disguise.”

    Lawrence nodded, crossing his arms. “Does the name ‘Aleron’ mean anything to you?”

    Cassia looked up thoughtfully. “Well...I know that it’s the name that Zoroark takes, but there is something more significant behind it.” She opened the Tome to the front page, showing an elaborate symbol signed with an ornate signature: Aleron.

    “He was the compiler of the Arceist Tome. The books within are accounts from various time periods, and they used to be scattered across Serenita. Aleron took them and brought them together, then copied them all so that everyone could read them.” She traced her finger across the spidery signature. “He kept himself hidden after it was published. No one knows where he is, or even what species he is. All that is known is that he wrote many passages in the Tome and made it accessible to everyone.” She sighed, closing the cover and pulling her sketchbook onto her lap. “I would have loved to meet him though. The Tome was published over two-hundred years ago now; he must’ve passed away where no one would find him.”

    Lawrence thought about her words. ‘Maybe the Ancient Trevenant wanted me to bring Aleron back from the dead?’ He shook his head in disbelief. ‘But how, and why?’

    He watched Cassia stare at the dormant Trevenant, with Phantump floating around and Buneary chasing them. She held up her charcoal and said, “I don’t want to forget this.” She began sketching in her pad, drawing the Trevenant, the house, and all the other Pokémon with great detail.

    Lawrence continued to consider the the Trevenant’s words. ‘Who was this Keeper that the Ancient referred to, and what did he mean by “treader of realms and deceiver of self”? Who were they? Who were any of them?’

    He groaned. ‘There’s just too many questions. Does it matter anyway?’ He closed his eyes, resting his head on his paw. ‘I want to leave Equivos, so will his words even matter? Do I have to be part of this ‘war’?’

    His attention shifted to Grom, who held out his arms and emitted a wispy red mist, chuckling. Phantump surrounded him, then fought over his arms, packing in tightly to absorb the Life leaking from the Golurk. So many crammed under and above him that he began to float upward.

    He rose several feet in the air, then the red mist abruptly dissipated. The Phantump all made a wail of confusion, then flew away from Grom. He hovered in the air for a moment, then dropped.

    Earth flew into the air around the point of impact, shaking so much that Lawrence fell off his seat. The Buneary and the Phantump did not even notice Grom’s booming laughter or the red sparks jumping from his head.

    Cassia looked over to him and clicked her tongue. “I’m trying to draw something, Grom! Try not to shake things up so much.”

    Grom nodded, then proceeded to chase Phantump alongside the Buneary, his fingers touching their wispy tails.

    Lawrence’s train of thought went to Grom and the Ancient’s brief words with him. ‘Is Grom’s appearance and what the Trevenant said about his corruption linked with his old master? Who was he?’

    “And…done!” Cassia exclaimed. She held her sketchbook in front of Lawrence. “What do you think?”

    Lawrence gaped at the picture. The Trevenant and the woods surrounding him appeared exactly as they did in reality, while the shambled shack looked pristine and new, ready for three little Buneary to live inside. Grom and herself stood together to the three Buneary’s right, while Lawrence stood to their left, standing over them protectively.

    “It…looks amazing! I don’t think I’ve seen anything so great!” Lawrence replied. He was about to say something more, but noticed something strange: a vague, erased outline around Cassia. “What happened here?”

    Cassia looked at it and frowned. “Oh, it was just something else. No need to worry about it; I can fix it.” She took a bit of clay from her bag and rubbed at the smudges, her fingers shaking.

    Lawrence slid closer, staring at her trembling fingers. “Is everything alright?”

    Cassia drew away and brought the book to her chest. “I’m fine! Never been better!” She turned away and walked to Grom, busily wearing away the smudges on the paper.

    Lawrence frowned and took a stick from the ground. He traced in the coarse dirt the shape he remembered from the picture. He dropped the stick and peered at the drawing for details. It almost looked like—

    “Gro-graawawm!”

    Lawrence’s head shot up at Grom’s call. He saw Cassia standing next to him, holding the bag around her tightly.

    “We need to get going! We don’t want to lead those Pokémon here!” Cassia exclaimed.

    Lawrence nodded and left the drawing. He felt sure that it was unimportant anyway.

    He caught up with Cassia, continuing to walk as they crossed by the Ancient Trevenant. Cassia turned to him with a smile. “Do you remember anything yet? About where you came from, or what that box is?”

    Lawrence’s paw subconsciously covered the Pokédex. “No…nothing yet.” As she turned back around, he lowered his paw. ‘She’s been honest with me so far…mostly. Maybe I should do the same…just to show that she can trust me.’

    He looked down at his paws. ‘No….I can’t. She’s never even heard of a human before. She’d leave as soon as he told her.’ He pressed onward, shoving aside his guilt.

    ‘It’s better for her not to know.’

    ~~~~

    Inky blackness surrounded Arthus on all sides, with spidery lines of crimson light spreading across the emptiness. He travelled through one such line, zooming from a pinprick of light to another in the massive web. Interconnected between all the dots, the lines all centered on a massive red orb, pumping like a massive heart to the spidery cracks, above, below, and around.

    Arthus travelled along the channels of Life, darting his head at each point. “Let’s see, over there’s the Xilo Mountains, the Kreon Abyss…there!” He centered on a particularly large point, flying through the wisps of Life that lay beneath the soil of Equivos.

    Around the outskirts of Saunte, a plot of soil plumed outward. A crimson tendril erupted from it, emanating red mist, then sank back beneath the ground, depositing Arthus. He had a satchel over his shoulder, filled with food and supplies for his hunt.

    He studied his surroundings, his eyes landing on Saunte. He shuddered, turning away. ‘My birthplace…as horrible as ever.’ He shook himself briefly, then fell on all-fours, carefully inspecting the ground. He set a claw against the side of his head, and his blue eyes glowed red. He saw numerous trails of red footprints, all different sizes and shapes: The Life trails of the Pokemon who had entered or left Saunte.

    He crossed over the dimmest ones for their age and continued around the perimeter. After searching for an hour, he finally saw two sets of footprints entering the city. “One Lucario…and one, Cassia.”

    He stood up briefly and looked up. “Valder had said that Cassia had disappeared, and that Grom had knocked him down. I’d imagine that he helped fly them out when they were spotted.” He closed his eyes and twisted a length of his mane. “But where? Where would they go?” He thought of his mental map of Serenita, remembering locations Cassia was previously. “Not Respit—thank goodness—not Cambeta, not the swamps…”

    He heard a high-pitched ringing and groaned, twisting his arm in the air and causing a red-and-black banded gem to appear in his claws. He stared at it and growled, “I’m in the middle of tracking Cassia since your stooge couldn’t be bothered to find them, so this had better be important!”

    The silhouette of a Dusknoir appeared inside the gem, formed by the black bands. “Lord Arthus,” Gardner’s crackling voice said, “I’ve found more information about Hoopa. Apparently, his ability to grant wishes is based on his location. Depending on where he is, he can take the attributes of certain Legends. If he’s in deep seas, he can imitate Kyogre, or if in stormy weather, a being like Zekrom. For him to copy someone like Arceus—whose powers would arguably be necessary here—you need to find a place that has his presence and summon Hoopa there.”

    Arthus muttered to himself, then said, “Nowhere comes to mind at the moment. You go ahead and keep searching; I’ll focus on hunting Cassia and the Lucario.” He crushed the gem and bared his teeth, smacking ah and against his forehead. “There must be some clue!” He froze. He lifted his head and smiled. “That’s right: the strange creature, Lawrence. If I remember right, he was near a deposit in the desert. He had memories of Cassia and Grom. If I go there, I should be able to find another clue.” He slammed a fist into the ground and caused several tendrils to surround him and drag him into the ground. A streak of crimson light coursed toward the Iren Desert—where Lawrence and Cassia had only just left.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  12. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 07: Contention

    Back in the Guild, Gardner now sat inside a room with rows upon rows of tall shelves, each filled with hundreds of books. In the center of the room was a series of low desks, each with a small Litwick stuck in a glass jar, barely illuminating the books. No other Pokemon remained inside, allowing no noise save for the muffled cacophony of the Guild’s activity outside.

    Piled around Gardner were other books, each with some reference to Hoopa or the Prison Bottle. As Gardner read from one, the Litwick on his table whispered, “Do I really need to be here? Can’t you just use a regular old candle?”

    Gardner glared at him, his scarred eye flashing a cross of piercing white and red. “You Litwick are far safer than any candle, considering you can control your flames. There’s a good reason I wanted you to be here.” He returned to his reading.

    The Litwick propped his arms against his sides and muttered, “Guildmaster Calem didn’t think so.”

    Gardner gave a cursory glance back. “And Calem is dead, so deal with it.” He read for a moment longer and paused, reading a passage in the book. Giratina’s 22nd Day, 1400 Years After the Usurper; Cryus, Xilo Mountains.” He continued reading, then upon seeing a picture and its caption, his ethereal heart skipped a beat. There, standing with Fire and Ice Pokemon, was a silver Lucario wearing leather clothing holding an intricate bottle aloft.

    His hand strayed to the gem on the table, but he yanked it back. “No…no, it’d be best to talk about this when he gets back.” He winced, covering his eye. “He will not be pleased.” He set a strip of paper on the page and closed it, remembering the picture’s caption well:

    Matheus Lucario with the residents he saved from an avalanche. He holds Hoopa’s Prison Bottle just before it is hidden.

    ~~~

    On the other side of Serenita, the gnarled and empty trees thinned, and orange and gold leaves dominated the sky. Yellowed grass poked up beneath the fallen leaves, receiving the fading remnants of evening’s light. Luscious red apples hung above them, ready for harvest after a season of growing. Their sweet scent filled the air, their taste longed for by the Pokémon crushing the fallen leaves, the crisp crunch reminding them of the sweet flesh of the fruit.

    As he, Cassia and Grom walked along the path, Lawrence’s stomach growled. He chuckled, pointing up to the apples. “Do you think we can grab those for dinner?”

    Cassia nodded, looking at Grom. “Would you please?”

    Grom reached up, gingerly picking apples and setting them in his palm. After picking a dozen, he held them out to Cassia, who nodded appreciatively, saying, “You’re so nice to have around, Grom!” Grom chuckled, the apples bouncing in his hand.

    Cassia gasped, hastily taking the bag off her shoulder. “They’re going to bruise!” She leaned forward, catching them in the sack.

    The last apple thumped inside, and Cassia leaned precariously. “Wh-whoa!” With a thud, she landed on her chest, spilling its contents across the trail. Books tumbled, and papers flew, alongside other small articles that bounced on the compacted dirt.

    Lawrence leaned down, holding out a paw. “Are you alright?”

    Cassia waved away his paw, instead taking Grom’s outstretched hand. “I’m fine.” She brushed herself off, moping. “Can you get my things?”

    Lawrence nodded, picking up a collection of books and charcoal sticks. He carefully stashed them in the bag, then checked around the trail for anything else. He noticed a small sack and reached for it. “Just one more thing!”

    Cassia’s face dropped, then she rushed toward him. “Wait, no, I’ll—”

    He lifted the sack and tested its weight. “What’s in here?” He began to undo the drawstring.

    Cassia ripped the sack from Lawrence’s paws and held it to her chest. “That’s private!” She stuffed it back into her bag, shaking.

    Lawrence gave her a suspicious look, narrowing his eyes. “But why? I mean, I’m sure that—”

    “Graw.” Grom stamped in front of Cassia, his eyes flashing as he stared at Lawrence. “Gro-rawm.”

    Lawrence backed away, taking the bag and holding it out. “Alright, alright! I get it!” Grom took the bag, and Lawrence turned away, giving Grom a dark look. “Shouldn’t talk about Cassia’s personal life,” he muttered.

    Cassia sighed, putting the bag over her shoulder. “It’s alright, I’m just…not ready to talk about it yet.” She turned back to the path. “It’ll be dark soon. We better make camp.”

    Lawrence nodded begrudgingly, putting a paw over the Pokédex. “Alright, I’ll just be taking care of some…business, if you know what I mean.”

    Cassia cocked her head and looked to the sky for a moment, then cringed when she realized. “Oh…right.” She shooed Lawrence away, exclaiming, “Go take care of it then. I don’t want to know about it.”

    Lawrence walked away from Cassia, who took a different direction off the path. “I’m going to need your bag as soon as I’m done with everything here, so don’t take too long!” she added.

    Lawrence waved to her absent-mindedly, taking out the Pokédex when he was out of sight. He opened the notebook application, then hastily typed out what had happened in Barash, in the Revenant Forest, and what had just happened with the sack.

    He drummed out the words, watching the black text appear on the screen as he focused his thoughts. He thought of the events that had happened yesterday. ‘Now that I think about it, both times I’ve met Aleron have been near where Cassia was. Is there some connection between them? Do they know each other?’

    His mind drifted to Grom’s terse reaction toward the leather sack. ‘And what about Grom, being so protective about Cassia, to the point I can’t learn anything about her. Why? It wouldn’t hurt to learn some more about someone I’ve been with for a couple days?’

    Then thoughts of Grom’s attitude on the day they escaped from Barash’s Guild Pokémon came back. ‘Maybe it’s because of my ‘amnesia’. He thought it was trick to capture Cassia, and maybe he still doesn’t entirely trust me, so he doesn’t want anything about Cassia being known.’

    Lawrence rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. ‘I held off Grom before, and maybe helped my standing with him by helping the Pokémon in Barash. But what else do I need to do? Spill the beans and tell him everything? About Valence and the fact I was human? They’d run faster than a Deerling from Houndour.’

    He stopped typing, staring at the words he just created:

    I can’t tell Cassia or Grom. They think they can’t trust me until I tell them the truth, but they won’t believe it once they hear it. I’m in a bad spot, one where I can’t learn anything else about the Pokémon I want to know most.

    He cringed, swiping out of the notepad and into the dimensional detector. He tapped the button and received the same error: ‘No access point in range.’

    He shook, holding the Pokédex tighter. ‘No way home. No way to Unova. No way to an escape from this world. No way to escape from Arceism and its lies. No way to return to a place that he can understand—or at least attempt to. No way to—’

    “What are you doing?”

    Lawrence froze.

    ~~~~

    Arthus walked through the streets of Barash, considering the burned remains of homes. Collapsed bricks and shattered earthenware littered the streets, along with charred food and ash. Deathly silence hung over the air, a haunting reminder of what happened there.

    He stopped at the largest building in the center, where Captain Toka had made his command center—and where the former mayor held counsel. He stepped on top of a shattered wall and entered the room beyond it, finding chests thrown open around a large, stone table.

    He passed a hand over the table, closing his hand. “We…we made the Guild here. The charter was signed, and he…he was made Guildmaster.” He tightened his fist and slammed it against the table. “Until he left.” He released a shuddering breath, then ran out of the room and into the ruined streets.

    A shimmer surrounded him. He gasped, clutching his head. “No...no, not now.” Shimmering light exploded around him, and the city of Barash was bright and filled with energy. Ground and Grass Pokemon filled the streets, passing by various shops and stands. Other Pokemon types from across Equivos came to trade their wares, adding to the bustle of the city. All throughout, there was cooking, trading, and bartering abound—complete peace amidst the chaos.

    Arthus twitched, recognizing this place well. “My…my first day here. Why?”

    “You doing alright?”

    He froze. “No.”

    “You look worse than a wet Sudowoodo.”

    Arthus slowly turned around, coming face to face with a young Lucario with a wide smile. Despite the simulated warmth, Arthus felt chills down his spine.

    The Lucario set a paw on Arthus’ shoulder, leaving no contact. “Don’t be afraid. I’ll always be with you.”

    “Always?” a different, younger voice replied.

    The Lucario nodded. “Always.” He faded out of existence, and the activity of Barash in the distant past faded with him, leaving the ruined city in its stead.

    Arthus breathed haggardly, looking down at his claws. “Always…” He hardened his gaze and clenched his fist. “A ghost that haunts me…traitor.” He sprinted out of the ruins and toward the haunted section of the forest, where Lawrence and Cassia’s Life Trails winded toward.

    ~~~~

    Lawrence turned around slowly, frozen with astonishment and fear. Cassia stood in front of him, giving him a look of concern and puzzlement, a bag in her hands.

    She held it up, then pointed at the bag around Lawrence’s shoulder. “I need yours to finish the camp, and you were taking a while, so—”

    “How much did you see?” Lawrence blurted, hiding the Pokédex behind his back.

    Cassia came closer, trying to look behind his back. “I saw the box glowing. What’s going on?”

    “It’s nothing, just, go—”

    “No, tell me what’s happening.”

    “I can’t tell—”

    “Why not?”

    “Because…because…” Lawrence stuttered, struggling for a reason.

    Cassia crossed her arms. “Does it have to do with the Guild?”

    Lawrence shook his head immediately. “No, no, nothing to do with them!” He looked left and right, attempting to come up with a reasonable explanation behind an otherworldly light coming from a black Pokédex.

    Cassia continued to scrutinize him, taking a step back. “You better tell me right now. I let it slide before since you lost your memory and didn’t know anything, but now it’s pretty obvious that you know what it is—and who you are.” She uncrossed her arms. “Who are you?”

    Silence hung between them for minutes, simply staring at each other as Lawrence struggled for answers and Cassia waited for them. The sun set behind the horizon as Grom sat at the proposed campsite, waiting for Cassia and Lawrence to return, while they stood in their verbal struggle.

    Finally, Lawrence sighed, dropping his arms, revealing the still-lit Pokédex. “I’ll…I’ll tell you. Can we…go back first? I’d…I’d rather have Grom hear this too.”

    Cassia stood still, then nodded. She turned away, marching toward the camp, her dress flowing past the grass.

    Lawrence looked down at the Pokédex, seeing its taunting message: ‘No access point in range.’ His paw shook, and he reared back. ‘It’s thanks to this piece of junk and the company that made it that I’m even in this mess!’ he thought. He wanted to throw it, crushing the screen and destroying any evidence of his life in Unova, just so he could avoid telling the truth.

    He blinked, lowering his arm. But what would that solve? He would have no way back, and they’d still ask questions. It would solve nothing, only make things worse.

    He put the Pokédex back in the case, walking to Cassia, considering the best way to make him not seem like a maniac.

    ~~~~

    Blackness stretched across the sky, sparks drifting upward from the low fire of the three travelers. Kricketot chirruped, sitting in the trees and watching them sit around the blaze. The sweet scent of apples hovered in the air, and leaves continued to fall with gentle rhythm, occasionally burning to cinders by the heat of the flame.

    Lawrence held a stick with an apple stabbed through the tip, leaning forward and watching the juices leak from the splitting skin. Cassia did the same, only watching Lawrence’s fearful expression instead. Grom towered over Lawrence, his arms fanned apart, maintaining a constant vigil over the path.

    Lawrence took a deep breath, pulling back the apple and inspecting it. “I guess it’s time to tell you the truth now—who I am, where I’m from, what the…box, is.” Cassia nodded.

    Lawrence sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m going to warn you now: it’s going to seem crazy. I have hard time believing it myself.”

    “I’m sure I’ve heard worse,” Cassia replied, pulling out her own apple, then shoving it back into the fire.

    Lawrence sighed once more, then started telling them about Unova, with numerous towers, humans, pet Pokémon, and technology. He told them about President Hanson’s plan to give their dimension’s Pokémon sentience. He told them how he accepted their offer, and the means of how he came to Equivos, and how he had kept record of their actions throughout Equivos on his Pokédex.

    He brought out the Pokédex and turned it on, showing the many icons on its screen. “This is a Pokédex 2.0. They’re everywhere in Unova. They help us with everything whether it be checking on what our Pokémon need, or where we should pick up food.” He held it out in front of him, forcing a smile. “We can even take pictures with them.” It flashed briefly, and Grom grumbled in surprise, while Cassia blinked, astounded.

    Lawrence rubbed his eyes, unused to the sudden flash, and held out the Pokédex to Cassia. “See? There’s me.” She took the Pokédex cautiously, studying the image and moving her fingers across the glass surface, rearing back when the smiling Lucario within moved slightly.

    Lawrence reached over and tapped the photo button. “Want to see yourself?” The Pokédex flashed, and Cassia blinked, averting her eyes from the strange technology. Soon after, the screen showed, and Cassia hurriedly covered it.

    “H-How do you…get rid of them?”

    Lawrence cocked his head curiously. “Just…tap the little red can at the bottom. Why?”

    Cassia did so hastily, sighing in relief. “I just…don’t know what to think.” She held the Pokédex out to Lawrence, her hand shaking.

    Lawrence took it gratefully, putting it back in his case. “Sorry, I guess it’s a little much.” He looked at the core of his baked apple, throwing it behind him. “So…what do you think?”

    Cassia studied the fire, her blue eyes reflecting the orange flames. “You say you were changed when you came here. You used to be…human.” She looked up. “What did you look like?”

    Lawrence’s eyes widened, and he took the Pokédex out of its case once more. He swiped to the photos, then went through his collection, pausing. He saw a picture of himself, in his pre-changed state, sitting with his mom and dad, smiling for a family portrait.

    He shakily handed it to Cassia, nodding. She studied the picture, and Lawrence croaked, “I haven’t seen myself like that ever since I came here. I didn’t know I would be changed into…” He looked at his paws. “…this.” He clenched them. “I…miss my family. I miss my home. I miss…” He closed his eyes, tearing up.

    “Me.” He covered his face, heaving. All the memories of Sinnoh returned to him in a flood, reminding him of where he belonged and that he would most likely never see those who knew him for who he really was.

    He felt a hand set across his shoulder, causing him to look up. Cassia looked down sympathetically, her hand running through his fur in a strangely soothing way.

    She closed her eyes. “I ran away from… my father, two years ago. He wasn’t the best Pokémon, but he loved me, and tried to make me as happy as I could be. For a time, I was.”

    She sat down next to Lawrence, removing her hand then rubbing her fingers. “But then I found the Arceist Tome. I wanted to follow Arceus and help bring others to him. My father didn’t want me to leave him, so he kept it away. I knew that I wouldn’t be truly happy until I ran from him, bringing the word of Arceus to everybody I could.”

    She sniffed, wiping her face. “It might not seem like it, but we’re pretty alike. We’re both away from what we know, we’re trying to fit in with those around us, and we just can’t know who to trust with our true selves.”

    “Gro…gro…” Grom patted Lawrence as softly as he could, thudding him gently with his massive stone gauntlets. His eyes lowered to a dull glow, sparking abruptly with brief flashes of light—the closest he could get to tears.

    Lawrence sniffed, shaking with tears in his eyes. “Thank you…thank you, so much.”

    The Kricketot continued to chirrup their lunar song, moving alongside the gentle swaying of Grom as he hummed his own tune, gently stamping his feet to a dull beat.

    Soon, Cassia hummed, then began to sing:

    “Child of Creation,

    Of Arceus Dear,

    Of warmth and love,

    Hold no fear.

    His arms enfold you,

    As they always have,

    So, hold back your tears,

    And remember your home.

    Creator’s son,

    Hold your head high,

    Creator’s daughter,

    You mustn’t sigh.

    Remember your place of birth,

    Remember the parents that held you,

    Remember where you now are,

    And how Arceus will return you.”

    Lawrence blinked back his tears. He felt he knew this song. Once, long ago, he remembered his mother singing this very song when they moved to Celestic Town from Jubilife, and how it soothed his upset, eight-year-old self. This same song had come back—alongside the same beliefs.

    The humming stopped, and Grom stopped his beating. Cassia stood up, keeping her hands crossed in front of her. “I don’t know about your world, or how to get you back. I don’t know how such a place can exist, just as you don’t know how this one can be.” She held out her hand. “But I know that everyone is loved by Arceus, even those from a different world. You have no need to fear me or Grom; we believe you and want to help however we can.”

    Lawrence remained staring at the ground, remembering the Arceists of Sinnoh. ‘Are they and the Arceists of Equivos…

    ‘The same?’

    ~~~~

    Arthus stopped at the fringe of the Revenant Forest, where dead, spindly trees met with the coarse sand of the desert. To the north, fresh green trees grew, marking the dividing line of the haunted and the free.

    He went to take a step inside. He looked up and saw a crown of leaves atop an enormous tree, its single eye trained on him.

    Arthus clutched his head again as a deep, reverberating voice echoed in his mind. “A crossroads in wait shall soon be trod, and in the wrong, you strive to be god.”

    The Zoroark held up a defiant fist and roared, “I am not in the wrong! I am doing what should have been done from the beginning!” He breathed quickly, looking back at the pale grey mass to the south. “To think that he’s here rather than there.”

    Arthus shook his head, running toward the live trees to the north. “I won’t be tortured by a Trevenant again. Not after that wretched experience.”

    He entered the quiet wood and strove to drive away the voice. But it kept repeating in his mind, warning him, taunting him. All the while, the somber tone made him drowsier and drowsier.

    Finally, Arthus’ eyes drooped, and he leaned against a tree, yawning. He fought against it, shaking his head. “No…must find her…must…” He slid to the ground with his back against the tree, and he fell into a deep, deep sleep.

    ~~~~

    Lawrence slept on a pile of gathered leaves, studying the stars. Grom and Cassia remained at the smoldering remains of the campfire, preparing for sleep. The Kricketot continued to chirrup, slowing their pace and drifting to rest themselves.

    He sighed contentedly. ‘I can talk about all sorts of things with Cassia now. About our lives, our worlds, even about other Pokémon. I don’t have to be so closed off any more.’

    He fell asleep with this comforting thought, pleased to be himself once more.

    ~~~~

    Blackness. All that surrounded him was blackness. The Zoroark stood in what seemed to be the center, still. No sound, no wind, no existence.

    A Zangoose materialized in front of him, a large red gash across his chest. “Why did you do this to me? Why?” he cried.

    An Audino joined him, holding a hand up to her cut throat. “We trusted you! You were our friend! Our leader!”

    The Zoroark involuntarily stepped back, holding his hands up defensively. “I…I didn’t want to! I never did!”

    Hundreds of other Pokemon joined the Audino and Zangoose, surrounding him on all sides.

    “Why did you do this?”

    “We trusted you!”

    “You killed us all, and for what?”

    “Was there really no other choice?”

    The Zoroark fell to the ground and clamped his hands over his eyes. “Stop it, stop it, stop it!”

    The voices hushed. The Pokemon all disappeared. The Zoroark uncovered his eyes and stood up, then turned around, finding no one.

    He turned back around and came face-to-face with a female Zoroark wearing a gold pendant, holding a black, rune-covered blade. She held it up with a pained expression.

    “Was it worth it?”

    ~~~~

    Arthus bolted upright, struggling for breath. He hugged himself and muttered repeatedly, “I’m sorry…I’m bringing you back…I won’t leave you…”

    After several minutes, he looked up and squinted his eyes, the harsh sunlight shining into his pupils. “I’ve been asleep for too long.” He looked to the north, studying the sea of trees. “The only development that I know Cassia hasn’t gone to in that direction is Hydren. There’s little point in following her now.” He stood up and snapped his fingers, causing a small flame to ignite on the end of one. He turned back and forth, and the flame grew stronger or weaker based on his direction. He walked toward where it was strongest and eventually found a large fallen tree, dead for many years.

    He dug his hand into the ground and stopped. He closed his eyes and said, “I’ll bring you all back…once I am finished.” As tendrils took him back into the soil, he looked down at the golden bracelet on his wrist.

    “Especially you, Corrina.”

    ~~~~

    The sun rose over the apple trees, awakening the Fletchling and Taillow that slumbered in the boughs. They warbled their songs, pecking at apples and flitting between the falling leaves.

    Lawrence sniffed, rubbing his eyes. ‘Better get going. We need to get to Cretea if I want to get home.’

    He walked toward the camp, watching Cassia stand up from a distance, folding the blanket she slept on. Grom stepped in, stomping the ashes of their fire and extinguishing the remains of their camp.

    Lawrence stepped into view, and Cassia looked over with a smile. “Had a good night’s sleep?”

    He nodded. “Better than I’ve had for a long time.”

    Cassia stuffed the blanket into the bag, her smile disappearing. “Um…about yesterday…with the sack.” Lawrence narrowed his eyes, intrigued.

    Cassia sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I overreacted. I’d like to show you what’s inside it, but…just not now.” She forced a smile. “Okay?”

    Lawrence nodded his head slowly. “Alright.” Cassia let out her breath in relief, then went over to Grom.

    Inwardly, Lawrence added, ‘Doesn’t help me understand why it’s so secret.’

    Grom finished crushing the ashes and the rocks that surrounded them, then pointed behind him—the direction they came from. “Gro-hawm. Hawm.”

    Cassia nodded, finishing packing her supplies. “I know, we need to get going.” She tossed a bag to Lawrence, who caught it casually and slung it over his shoulder. “You feel alright, Lawrence…Stephenson?”

    The Lucario nodded, grinning. “Feeling great.”

    “Good,” Cassia replied.

    They trod across the beaten path, toward the port city of Hydren, to the archipelago of Cretea.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  13. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 08: Conciliation

    Along the eastern coast of Serenita, few trees remained, instead replaced with sparse shrubbery and tossed driftwood. To the right of the path, coarse white sand stretched toward the gently foaming sea, grains flying in the brisk breeze. Salt hung in the wind, stinging Lawrence’s and Cassia’s eyes and nose. Grom, lacking a nose and organics in general, didn’t notice.

    Lawrence sneezed, taking a deep breath while walking along the path. ‘I’ve only been to the sea when I was leaving Sinnoh. Everything tastes like salt—even the air.”

    Cassia breathed in, undisturbed by the scent. “It’s been so long since I’ve been in this part of Serenita. Even after two years, I haven’t gone everywhere; the mountains, the swamps…” She shivered. “Places I’d like to go but are simply too dangerous.” She turned to Lawrence. “How large is your world? Bigger than Equivos?”

    “I can remember at least seven regions, and there’s sure to be more,” Lawrence replied.

    “Wow, so seven continents? Around the size of Serenita?”

    “Well, yes, but one of them is more like a few islands. Still, they’re big.”

    “And there’s...humans, on all of them?”

    “Yep, all living with Pokémon too.”

    “Are they like wild Pokémon?”

    “In a way.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, we have these little balls called Poke Balls. We can capture these wild Pokémon and domesticate them. You know, not hunt other Pokémon, do tricks, and, of course, battle.”

    “You train them to battle?”

    “Yeah, it’s actually pretty popular. We even have this thing called the Gym Challenge where a bunch of ten-year-olds get a team of Pokémon together and challenge eight people called Gym Leaders. After that, they go to the League and challenge four super powerful trainers called the Elite Four, then the Champion himself!”

    Cassia stared at him, horrified. “That...sounds dreadful! Why would they force Pokémon to fight like that! Ten-year-olds too! Laryon was no older than that when he had to go with Matheus Lucario!”

    Lawrence cringed, not realizing how sacrilegious it seemed. “They aren’t killed or anything...most of the time. We have gotten really good at helping them recover after a battle.”

    “Is there anything else you do with these Pokémon?” Cassia asked, concerned.

    “Well, yeah. We have Pokémon Contests, where trainers perform in front of a crowd with Pokémon.”

    “Really?”

    “Yeah...so?”

    Cassia turned away, shaking her head. “Sorry, I just...have a hard time believing it. There’s hardly any wild Pokémon around here, so I don’t have a very good perspective.”

    Lawrence nodded, seeing her point. ‘About as strange as me being here.”

    Cassia blew a sigh, turning back to him. “So, that’s how your world is like? Full of children battling each other for fun?”

    Lawrence scratched the back of his head. “That’s really what it revolves around. I never took the challenge myself, since I was more interested in learning more about Pokémon.”

    “Are there others like you?”

    “Yeah, just like there’s people who battle in the league.”

    “What do you study?”

    “Pokémon behavior. The company I work for--”

    “Company?”

    “Right, you don’t know. A company’s basically a bunch of people who get together to do something, like selling something.”

    “Like the Guild.”

    “Yeah, but not so humanitarian. The company I work for makes the Pokédex and many…” he struggled for the right word, knowing that she wasn’t familiar with many of the terms his world invented. “Things it can do, I guess. People want things to play with their Pokémon or know what they need. I help with that by figuring out what Pokémon do in certain situations, then send the data to someone who can compile that into the Pokédex.”

    “Unova’s very strange,” Cassia said, shaking her head.

    Lawrence laughed. “I could say the same about Equivos.”

    They both laughed together, with Grom adding in his own throaty chuckle. Wingull flew overhead, searching for little morsels to eat, while Sealeo lounged on the beach, resting under the noonday sun.

    Cassia put a hand in her bag, still smiling. “Do humans have a religion?”

    Lawrence shrugged. “If you consider Pokémon a religion. Most people just devote their lives to them, whether it be making the best team, putting on the best show, or helping people do just that.”

    Cassia frowned. “So, nothing like what I teach then?”

    Lawrence’s humor fled. “Well, there is something like yours…”

    Cassia beamed, coming closer. “Really? What?”

    Lawrence forced a smile. “Well, it’s...Arceism.”

    Cassia cocked her head. “What? Arceism?”

    “I know, it’s crazy. Back home, there’s this girl who keeps on wanting me to go to her church, thinking that it’ll be good for me.”

    “Do you ever go?”

    Lawrence paused, seeing where this was going. “If you want me to learn more about it, I don’t want to hear it.”

    “I was just asking—”

    “No. I don’t want anything to do with them.”

    Cassia stopped in front of Lawrence. “What is it about Arceus’ teachings that you hate?”

    Lawrence shook briefly but stopped himself. “He…doesn’t exist. Back home, the Arceists think that Pokémon should be treated just like humans…like they are on our same level.” He weakly laughed. “I’ve seen it for myself out there. It isn’t true.”

    Cassia’s eyes widened. “But…it is true! All of it! What could possibly—”

    “I don’t want to talk about it.” Lawrence gave her a warning stare.

    She frowned, her hair failing in front of her eyes. “But…why?” Grom continued to stare, cocking his head.

    Lawrence sighed, then said, “I need to think. Alone.” He ran ahead, running from the Arceists, just as he had done years before.

    ~~~~

    Hours later, Lawrence slumped against a tree, his arms around his chest and his legs drawn up. The sun began to set, the waves of the sea lapping against its bottom. Wingull called for their brethren, returning to their nests for the coming night.

    Lawrence covered his face, contemplating. ‘I shouldn’t have run from Cassia…even if I didn’t like what she said.’

    He smacked the back of the tree, grunting in irritation. ‘They’ll catch up with me soon, and she’ll ask why I hate Arceism so much.’ He sighed, putting a paw over his eye. ‘But they wouldn’t understand…just like before.”

    Leaves drifted off the tree he sat under, falling onto his pointed ears. He brushed them away, then picked up a leaf that had managed to get underneath his chin. He noticed the blackened stone that Cassia had given him, cracked and dull, just as he had received it.

    He held it in his other paw, studying the spidery cracks so intricately spread throughout the work. ‘This thing’s illusions are a lot like my “amnesia”—believable and deceptive, but one strike, and they dissipated.’

    “Much like how she’d see my beliefs if I told her,” he thought, letting go of the stone. ‘Why does she need to convert me? I’ve already seen what Arceus has to offer, and it’s nothing I want.’

    Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

    Lawrence twisted his head, his scowl dissipating. ‘She’s here.’

    He looked up and saw Cassia standing over him, her face expressionless. In her arms, the Arceist Tome’s pages ruffled, while her dress swayed slightly in the wind. Grom towered over her, the light from the cracks scattered about his frame dim.

    Lawrence and Cassia stared each other for a moment, then Cassia held the Tome out toward him. He made no move to grab it.

    She set the book down in front of him, hesitantly taking back her hand. She stepped away, her eyes focused on the Tome. “I know you don’t like me talking about your beliefs, but…” She brushed back her hair, turning away from him. “My life is devoted to Arceus. I have to talk about him. Even if you don’t believe in him, I have to be able to say my thoughts, regardless of what they are.” She brushed her hair, forcing herself to look away.

    “I don’t care if you believe. Really. I’ve become good friends with those who didn’t.” She swallowed, gazing at Lawrence once more. “But they at least listened to me. I can’t have you running away every time I choose to talk about my beliefs.” She sighed, crossing her arms and walking away. “Just…try to read it. Even one page. If you can show me you’re willing to be around what I love most, then you can stay.” Grom followed her, his head swiveling to keep his gaze on the Lucario. They stopped at the edge of the beach, watching the tides sink into the sand.

    Lawrence looked at them, then at the book. He knelt down, carefully opening the cover of the Tome. ‘I guess I’ll have to read it, whether I like it or not.’

    He let the cover fall, and he felt a slight tremor. He touched the cover page, tracing Aleron’s scrawling signature. He felt a jolt of pain in his paw and yanked it back, staring at the book in surprise.

    Cautiously, he touched the page again, but nothing happened. He furrowed his brow, wondering what could have caused the shock.

    He turned the page, the thought leaving his mind. Line upon line of text stretched in front of him, small images littered throughout the prose. Notes and arrows drawn with charcoal crisscrossed between the white space, referring to other passages and underlining important messages. In between the pages, tags marked the different books, the one on top reading, ‘Origin’.

    Lawrence reached a paw toward the tags, preparing to flip to random section and get the reading over with.

    Capture it.

    He paused, retracting his paw. He looked around for a moment, then reached for the tabs once more.

    Capture it. With the Pokédex.

    Lawrence stopped once more, looking up curiously. ‘Where’d that voice come from? It’s not mine…’

    He looked to Cassia and Grom. The Gardevoir sat on a decayed log, sketching the sunset, while Grom stood in the waves, holding his arms out. Wingull perched on him, squawking their amusement.

    Lawrence looked back at the book, lifting the pages.

    Capture it.

    He stopped. ‘Why? What do you mean ‘capture it’? Like taking a picture? I can read it whenever I want with Cassia around—if I ever wanted to.’

    He turned back to Cassia. ‘Actually, she seemed rather…reluctant, to let me see the Tome. I guess she doesn’t trust others with it.’

    He looked down at the book. ‘I can’t even open it without “capture it” going again, and who knows if it’ll just repeat. But why do I need to do this?’

    He pulled out his Pokédex, bringing up the camera function. ‘Maybe Cassia has something to do with it; she doesn’t want to be away from the Tome after all.” He held the Pokédex over the book. ‘I can just take pictures of it, so she doesn’t have to give it to me to read—if she wants me to, that is. Anything to keep on her good side.’

    He took a picture, studying the result on his screen. He smiled, unsure of why he felt so great about taking it. He took a picture of the next page, and the pages after.

    ~~~~

    Cassia sighed, comparing her drawing to what lay on the horizon. On the paper, the sun had just started its twilight descent; now, it had long sunk beneath.

    Grom sat next to her, looking back at Lawrence, who busily swept through the pages, holding his Pokédex over them as he went. “Gro-haw…hawm.”

    Cassia nodded, closing her sketchbook. “Yes, he’s taking a while. Maybe he’s actually interested in it?” Grom gave her a blank look.

    She made a nervous laugh, putting the book in her bag. “Yeah...he wouldn’t be.” She hung her head, watching the wind blow sand beneath her feet. “Do you think he’ll listen? I don’t want him to leave…not yet, anyway.” She looked back at Lawrence. “I just feel…connected to him, somehow.”

    Grom picked up a pile of sand, letting it fall from his fingers with a shake of his head. “Gro?”

    “I know, it’s silly. We barely know each other, and even then, he’s a human.” She brushed back her hair, pinching a length of it and twisting it around her finger. “But he got turned into a Lucario. Why would he turn into the Pokémon that Arthus hates more than anything else?”

    “Hawm.” Grom threw sand above him, the grains colliding onto his body with a rush of clinks.

    “It could be a coincidence, I know.” She looked up at the sky, staring at the single star that peeped behind a cloud. “But with Arceus, everything has a purpose behind it.”

    “Gro-gro-hawm,” Grom added, brushing the sand from his shoulder.

    “I know, I know, ‘don’t associate with anyone but your Guardian.’” She stood up in front of Grom, putting a hand under her chin. “But he needs our help. He knows nothing about Equivos, and he’ll probably never find a way home unless we let him be with us.” The sky darkened further, and Lawrence finally closed the back cover of the Tome.

    “I just hope he’ll change.”

    ~~~~

    Lawrence hefted the thick book, surprised by its weight. ‘Taking those pictures was a good idea—even if I don’t really know why. At least Cassia will be glad.’

    He began walking toward her, studying a page on his Pokédex:

    Through diverse means do I complete my work. The smallest of thorns proves more effective than the largest of fists against the mightiest of foes.

    Quiet whispers ring louder than the loudest shouts; declare my word through persuasion and encouragement, not by force and compulsion, and great shall be your reward.

    He shut off the Pokédex and awkwardly set it back in its case. ‘Sounds a lot like what Arceists believe. It’s…actually pretty nice, in retrospect.’

    He shook his head, frowning. ‘Maybe I’m a bit too harsh toward Arceists. There are some good things about them, even if they’re wrong about Arceus. I should at least give them that.”

    Looking down at the book, he sighed. ‘Even if he doesn’t exist, there are many things the Arceists here believe that are worthwhile listening to.’

    ~~~~

    He stood in front of Cassia, setting the Tome in her hands. She sat on the log, with Grom standing behind her, staring down at the Lucario.

    She looked up at him, then looked down at the Tome sadly. “Well...what do you think?”

    Lawrence set his Pokédex on top of the Tome, turning on the screen, revealing the dozens of images from the Tome. He smirked, saying, “I figured that you should keep it for yourself.”

    Cassia studied the screen, cautiously tapping an image. It expanded, the words and markings suddenly becoming clear, all of her notes and clarifications visible.

    She beamed, opening her mouth to say something. Lawrence held up his paw, stopping her. “I’ll listen to you, but not because it’s from Arceus. I’ll listen, because it says how people--Pokémon--should be like.” He took back the Pokédex, exiting the camera. “If you want me to read, you don’t have to give it up anymore; I can just read from here.” He tucked it back into its case. “So…” He held out his paw. “Are you alright with that?”

    Cassia smiled, standing up, holding the Tome to her chest. “Yes, I am.”

    ~~~~

    They continued their journey along the coast until the moon rose, illuminating the rushing seas with pale white beams. Zubat flew overhead, screeing as they searched for victims. The wind faded to a dull breeze, no longer lifting the sand from their dunes.

    Lawrence squinted his eyes, seeing light ahead. “Is that Hydren?”

    “Yes, but we’ll have to wait till tomorrow before we can go in and get to Cretea,” Cassia replied. She walked toward a patch of dirt in the lush grass that grew to their left. “We better camp until then.”

    Grom swiveled his head, looking behind them. “Groawm—hawm,” he growled, his eyes flashing.

    Cassia dug through her bag, nodding to Grom. “Right, you keep watch; I almost forgot about that Pokémon tracking us.” She gasped, pulling out a small sack, beaten and threadbare. “I forgot all about the flour! I hope it isn’t spoiled…” she said, inspecting it.

    Lawrence kicked some twigs into a pile of rocks, one paw over the bag at his waist. “Better use it then. What will you make?”

    Cassia tapped the side of her face, sighing. “I was hoping to try something new with it, but I sort of bought it without thinking.” She pointed to Lawrence’s bag. “There should be a bowl in there somewhere; be careful with the water bottle.” She propped her head on her lap, moping. “It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked anything though. What do I make?”

    Lawrence opened the bag, sifting through the contents. Something squelched as he grabbed the bowl, and upon pulling it out, found the splattered remains of a Chesto berry, the skin sticking to the wooden edge.

    Lawrence looked at the flour, the berries, the sticks, the stones, and the bottle. He looked up with a smirk.

    “I know what to do.”

    ~~~~

    Minutes later, Lawrence scraped a piece of flint against the spike on his paw, sending sparks into the air. He knelt on the ground, aiming the flint at a structure of small rocks supporting a large, flat stone, with a bundle of dry twigs and broken branches underneath it. Striking the flint once more, the twigs immediately caught flame, beginning to heat the stone above it.

    Turning aside, Lawrence nodded to Cassia, who stirred a sticky mixture in the bowl.

    She handed the bowl to Lawrence, then asked, “Pretty clever with the rocks, but we can’t make bread with that. What are you doing?”

    Lawrence blew the fire, increasing its intensity. “You’ll find out.” He took the spoon out of the bowl, grateful that Cassia had such a tool with her.

    “Won’t the fire let that tracker know where we are?” Cassia asked.

    “Not with the way I’ve got it. It’s low, for one, and it’s covered by the rock. It’ll brighten up the area around it and nothing else really.”

    Cassia laughed. “You certainly know what you’re doing. Have you been in a place like this before?”

    Lawrence chuckled, spooning out a portion of the batter. “Well, I lived on my own in the woods for a week when I was sixteen. I had to get pretty creative to make food and survive.” He poured the batter, which started to sizzle upon contacting the stone. “This warmed up faster than I thought it would, so we’ll be eating crepes before we know it.”

    Cassia gave him a curious look. “Crepes?”

    Lawrence grinned, ladling another portion onto the stone. “You’ll find out.” He set down the bowl and grabbed a handful of berries from his bag. “What’s your favorite berry?”

    Cassia shrugged, taking a glance upward. “Cheri, I guess? Why?”

    Lawrence picked out the Cheri berries and tossed the others back into the bag. “Like I told you, you’ll find out.”

    While the batter cooked, Lawrence said, “You know, I had very different thoughts about this place before I came here.”

    “Like what?” Cassia asked, stretching.

    “Well, I didn’t expect much different from the Pokémon back home. Sure, I knew that you could build things and talk, but…” He flipped the cakes, sighing. “I turned out to be wrong. Equivos is actually a lot like my home region, Sinnoh. Lots of trees, few towns…” He chuckled. “There’s even Arceists. They’re all around the world, but Sinnoh’s sort of like a center for them. It’s always been a spiritual place for them, what with myths of Arceus first being discovered there.”

    “What are your Arceists like? I haven’t met anyone outside of myself who knows much about Arceus,” Cassia asked.

    “They’re done!” Lawrence exclaimed, scraping underneath the cakes with a spoon and setting them on a cloth. He ducked his head out of Cassia’s sight, then wheezed a sigh as he squished the Cheri berries across them.

    He rolled the cakes, grateful that he could avoid Cassia’s last question. ‘Close call. The Arceists back home never treated me right after I fell away. I was lucky to get away with things like my wilderness trips—and moving away.’

    He held up the cloth, offering one of the crepes to Cassia. She studied them for a moment, then carefully lifted one, inspecting it.

    Lawrence took the other crepe, checking his handiwork. ‘It’s not exactly a crepe; it’s really a gritty pancake with squashed berries, but she won’t know the difference.’ He took a bite out of it, then nodded his head. ‘Yep, gritty pancake. Not as sweet either, but it’s nice and tart still.’ He held it up and said, “It’s good! Try it!”

    Cassia closed her eyes, then took a small bite from the crepe. She chewed, a smile coming to her face. She opened her eyes and said, “I like it. Does this come from your world?”

    Lawrence nodded, continuing to eat his crepe. “Yep, it does. I eat them all the time for breakfast.” He paused, staring at the crepe. “That last time I had one was on the day I left.” Memories of his parents returned to him, how they had made crepes regularly themselves and had them for breakfast, sharing them with their pet Growlithe. ‘I didn’t even take the time to say goodbye.’

    Cassia leaned forward, cocking her head. “Are you alright?”

    Lawrence briefly nodded his head, biting into the crepe quickly. A spurt of Cheri juice spurted around his lips, staining his fur red.

    He chewed the bite of crepe while Cassia gazed at him with an amused smile, miming washing her cheek. Lawrence gave a her a curious look, reaching up to his face. He dabbed at the side of his lips, his paw becoming sticky.

    He chuckled, licking his lips and enjoying the juices. “Happens sometimes,” he said with a grin.

    Cassia laughed, covering her mouth. She swallowed her bite, then said “I like you more now that you’re not pretending that you’ve lost your memory.” She ate some more.

    Lawrence took another bite, then after swallowing, said, “And I’m glad you’ve been so honest with me.”

    Cassia coughed, her eyes bulging as she covered her mouth once more. She cleared her throat, then said, “Sorry, I just choked on a bit.” She smiled again and nodded. “Thanks.”

    ~~~~

    Within the Guild, Arthus walked invisibly along the paths, crossing by the few guards that remained at the hour. The lanterns that hung from the posts glowed low, and the desert chill set heavily on the Pokemon. Most had returned to their dormitories, or in the case of a few, to the ruins that made the northern district—a place filled with life, twenty years ago.

    Arthus glanced at the ashen remains of a home in the corner, then turned away, toward the Master’s Tower. “I shouldn’t dwell on such things…not now.”

    ‘What have you done?’

    Arthus flinched. “You.”

    ‘You tried to erase me—the real me.’

    “It was for our own good!” Arthus hissed. “If you stayed in control, we would be nowhere close to throwing Arceus out of the Tree—just like before.”

    ‘I don’t care. I’ve done enough horrible things to last eternity; I don’t need anything else to haunt me!’

    Arthus gasped and clutched his head, doubling over. “N-No! Not yet!” His head snapped the other way and he cried, “I have to make things right!”

    He hurriedly snapped a hand against his head and sent a blast of Life into it, causing him to jerk. He paused for a moment, then sighed, lowering his hand. “While I might be your shadow, I still regret all of this. But unlike you, I know that all of this can be reversed once Arceus’ power is ours.”

    He continued down the path into the Master’s Tower, then stormed up the stairs to see Gardner resting on his chair, his fingers interlocked on his chest. His maw opened and closed with every breath, sending chilly air into the room.

    Arthus pushed the chair forward and sent Gardner to the floor, waking him with a snort. “Wake up, sleepyhead!”

    Gardner groaned, pushing himself up and dusting off his chest. “What was that for? Do you have any idea how late it is?” He took a glance out the window and added, “The moon’s not even halfway across the sky!”

    Arthus grabbed Gardner’s collar and yanked him closer. “Have you found anything on the Prison Bottle’s whereabouts? Cassia will be in Hydren in the next few days, so I can afford to search for it.”

    Gardner pulled himself away, readjusting his ruff. “Yes, I have. I don’t need to be pushed around like some underling.” He took a book from the table next to his chair and opened the page at the bookmark. His eye flashed, then he closed it, holding his hand over the cover.

    He slowly turned to face Arthus, who folded his arms and leaned against the wall. “I’m waiting.”

    Gardner cleared his throat and said, “There was a report made roughly six hundred years ago in Cryus. It said that a certain Pokemon had taken the Bottle and hidden it within the Xilo Mountains, likely near the town. Outside of that it is unclear; I haven’t found anything else more recent.”

    “And who, pray tell, was the Pokemon that hid it? It had to have been someone very humble to give up Hoopa’s power like that,” Arthus asked, studying his claws.

    Gardner reached toward the chair to set the book on it. “Nobody important. Nobody at all.” Arthus gave him a harsh look and saw the Dusknoir’s scarred eye flitting back and forth.

    Arthus stood upright and marched toward him. “Liar.” He ripped the book from his hands and turned to the marked page. “It can’t be so bad that—” He took one look at the picture and dropped the book instantly, rearing back from it. He lowered to all fours and drew closer, his eyes wide. “No…it can’t be…I killed him myself…I saw him die!”

    He studied the picture again and saw the silver Lucario holding the Prison Bottle, recognizing the smile and build well. The caption only confirmed his fear: “He’s alive.”

    Gardner hovered back, holding his hands in front of him. “L-Lord Arthus, there’s surely a reasonable explanation. Someone was likely named after him, or—”

    Arthus leapt on top of Gardner and pinned him to the ground, holding his claws inches from his neck with a crazed look. “No! He’s alive! No one else looks like that!” His features softened, and he loosened his grip. “No one…no one else has his…positivity.” He stood up and shook his head, twirling a length of his mane. “Arceus must have brought him back….and considering that he hid the bottle 1400 years after his supposed death, he must be immortal—a Legend.” He groaned and clutched his head. “I knew that he gained something from being Deity Elect!”

    Gardner pushed himself up and cocked his head. “Pardon?”

    Arthus glared at him once more, but turned away, shuffling to the stairs. “I’ll head to Hydren to get ready for Cassia and that Lucario. See if you can find a good location to summon Hoopa—along with somewhere more specific to search for the bottle.”

    Gardner fingered his scar for a moment, then said, “You know she’s not going to listen to you.” Arthus stopped, remaining still. “She didn’t when she ran away.”

    Arthus turned to face him, his shoulders slumped. “I…I can’t just leave her.” He continued down the stairs and exited, leaving Gardner to shake his head and sigh.

    ~~~~

    Lawrence placed his paws behind his head, lying on the lush grass. He slept several yards away from Cassia, who slept rolled up in her blanket. The sounds of the sea soothed their minds, making them prepared for sleep.

    Pulling out his Pokédex, he checked for a dimensional weakness, like he had done many times before, to no avail.

    He put the Pokédex away, feeling strangely calm. ‘I’ll find one soon, I’m sure. Mom and Dad are probably wondering where I am, and Valence is probably trying to get me back. But I’ll make it home—soon, hopefully.” He yawned, stretching. ‘Erica’ll probably be wondering why she can’t find me.’ He paused, furrowing his brow. ‘Erica? Why her?’ He considered the thought, closing his eyes. “Cassia’s sort of like her, actually. They’re Arceists, they “wear” white, and they’re wanting me to change.’ He breathed out quickly. ‘But unlike Erica, Cassia isn’t irritating—most of the time. She’s rather nice, actually, especially compared to other Arceists. And she’s been the only person—Pokemon, I’ve felt like I could talk to in a while.’

    He opened his eyes and stared at the sky. ‘I guess that’s something I’ll miss when I get back home: talking with Cassia. I doubt I’d find anyone else like her in Unova—even if they’re an Arceist.’

    Lawrence held up a paw, gazing at it sadly. ‘But I wish I had my real body back. I’ve gotten used to moving around, but it still doesn’t feel…right.’ He shifted a bit and thought, ‘And I’d rather not have a tail.’

    He yawned, setting aside these thoughts. ‘Hopefully I’ll change back when I find a way home.’

    ~~~~

    Sunlight stretched across the beach once more, the Wingull rising from their nests to search for sustenance once more. The clear waters stretched to a thin plot of land dominated by wooden docks and buildings, a thin haze obscuring it from view.

    Curled up on the ground some ways away, Lawrence mumbled about wanting to sleep more. He turned onto his back and opened his eyes—and stared right into Grom’s.

    “Grom.”

    “Gah!” Lawrence shouted, scrambling back. The Golurk made a halting chuckle, standing straight.

    Lawrence stood up and exclaimed, “Again, you sneak up on me! I don’t get it!”

    The Golurk lifted a finger to where his mouth would be. “Graw-hawm,” he stated, an eye’s light going out and turning on again, like a wink.

    Lawrence gave him a studious look. “Cassia never told me how you got that break in your head. Do you remember how?”

    Grom fingered the socket, sparking the revealed circuits. “Graw-awm,” he said, shaking his head.

    Lawrence wondered why he bothered asking him these questions when all he could say were variations of his name, but he persisted still. “What’s the first thing you remember then?”

    Grom thought for a moment, staring at Lawrence, then pointed at the blue-eyed Gardevoir drawing closer. “Gro-o-om.”

    Cassia came between them, the supply bags in her arms. “What are you talking about?” she said, offering a bag to Lawrence.

    Lawrence took the bag, noting how light it was. “Grom said the first thing he remembers is you. Can you maybe explain why?”

    Grom and Cassia looked at each other for a moment, then Cassia grabbed Grom’s hand and said, “I found him serving a Guild captain north of here. He was essentially his bodyguard, and thanks to Arthus, became extremely powerful, so much that everyone in the town was frightened of him.” She pointed to the crack on Grom’s head. “Aleron came and bashed his head with a rock, causing part of it to come loose. He shut down afterward, but I came right when he woke up, then made me his master. He helped me stop the captain he served before and teach everyone there.” She laughed slightly, letting go of Grom’s hand. “He hasn’t been able to speak since then or remember anything either. He only remembers serving me.” She slapped him playfully, adding, “And you’ve done a great job of it for the past two years.”

    Grom clapped his hands together, chortling. “Graw-haw-haw!” He leaned down and gave Cassia a slight hug, who hugged him back.

    They straightened, and Cassia pointed to the buildings beyond. “We’ll pick up some supplies over in Hydren, then find someone who’ll ferry us to Cretea. There’s sure to be Pokémon there since the storms hit.” She turned to the town and began walking toward it, Grom following her.

    Lawrence started as well and asked, “Wait, what happened? Storms?”

    Cassia nodded. “Twenty years ago, when Arthus returned, a massive storm came. It created waves so large that they flooded entire islands, drowning everyone who lived on them.” She stared at the ground, tightening her grip on the strap of her bag. “I hope that Pokémon live there now. Twenty years is a long time, and it’s one of the few places that Arthus and the Guild don’t have control over. We’ll be safe from them once we’re there.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  14. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 09: Revelation

    Drafty towers of wood rose into the air, shaking slightly in the brisk, salty wind. Wild Wingull soared overhead, above the throngs of Pokémon crossing back and forth, carrying nets and wagons full of assorted food and supplies. The walkways, dark and filthy with mud, were filled with clamor and shouts, a dull haze of smoke hanging overhead.

    Lawrence wrinkled his nose, covering it. “Salt. You just can’t get away from it.”

    “It's good for Grom’s joints. He’s going to have a fun time in the sand while we get ready,” Cassia replied, pulling out her sketchbook. “Let’s see...we need to get supplies before we leave, but I’m not sure how we’ll do that without any money…”

    She flipped back to a previous page, glancing at a picture. Lawrence set his paw in front of it and said, “I have an idea.”

    ~~~~

    Cassia scraped the finishing touches onto the paper with her charcoal, then held it out for an aged Ninetales to see. “What do you think?”

    The Ninetales scrutinized it, then nodded her head happily. “It looks lovely! Here, I’ll give you something for the trouble.” She craned back toward a sack that hung around her back while Cassia carefully tore the paper free of the binding.

    The Ninetales held the sack out to Cassia, allowing the drawing to be carefully slipped into a pouch at her side. She walked off, and Cassia returned to Lawrence, who leaned against a wall with his arms crossed, a smirk across his face.

    “I told you it would work,” he commented.

    Cassia picked through the coins inside, giving him a knowing look. “You don’t have to rub it in.” She looked back to the bench she sat on before, saying, “I don’t normally sell my drawings, since I don’t think they look much good.”

    “Who’re you kidding? They look amazing!” Lawrence exclaimed. “Back when I was in school, I saw plenty of people draw, but none of them were as great as you!”

    Cassia blushed, pushing back her hair. “You really think so?”

    “Hey, I’m done telling lies.” Lawrence took the sack and peeked inside, his eyes widening. “Yikes, I wasn’t expecting that much. You think this is enough?”

    Cassia nodded her head, putting the book back and accepting the coins. “I think it should be. We probably have enough to even eat somewhere, if we wanted to.”

    Lawrence surveyed the many buildings, pointing at one with an enormous fish-shaped sign. “Why not there? It looks like they have good stuff to eat.” The sign, labeled ‘The Greasy Feebas’ advertised gourmet meals—caught fresh daily, in fact. ‘Rather odd for berries,’ Lawrence thought.

    Cassia leaned away a bit, leering at the doorway. A Machoke burst out of the doors and threw a Raichu out, the unfortunate rodent landing in a pile of mud. “And don’ come back!” the Machoke harrumphed, stomping back inside.

    The Raichu carelessly popped out of the mud and staggered up, hiccupping and giggling. “It was only a teensy shock. Heh.” He bumbled between Cassia and Lawrence, the Gardevoir careful not to get mud on her dress.

    Lawrence cringed, shrugging. “You might get some opportunities?” He lowered his arms, sweeping the area once more. “Besides, it doesn’t look like there’s anywhere else around.”

    Cassia groaned, stepping ahead of him. “I’m starving, so let’s just go in and get some food. Better make it quick, as I really prefer to stay out of places like this.” Lawrence followed, and they pushed into the chaos.

    Pokémon of all shapes and sizes crowded around tables, talking loudly amongst each other with food and drinks sitting in front of them. Low-hanging lanterns provided dim illumination, the orange reflected in the many bottles that lay tucked behind the barkeep Ambipom, who glumly rubbed glasses with a dirty rag. Sitting next to the counter in front of the barkeep were several Pokémon swigging from bottles, while in the back of the establishment, a Machamp was swamped by his Machoke cronies, cackling as he boasted of his feats.

    Cassia remained close to Lawrence, looking about the room with a fearful expression. Shoulders tensed, Lawrence walked up to the counter, and the Ambipom shuffled over.

    The Ambipom set aside the glass and crossed his tails. “Welcome to the Greasy Feebas, best Cheri Juice this side o’ the Xilo Mountains. Name’s Lonny; what can I do ya for?”

    Lawrence veered away from a Sableye snoring to his right. “What do you have?”

    Lonny sighed, rolling his eyes. “Great, a newbie.” He leaned on the counter, staring at Lawrence. “See here, Watchog. Here at the Greasy Feebas, we don’ serve just the usual bread and berry stuff. Nah, we serve yah fish, caught from the deep just this mornin’. If you got a problem with that, beat it.”

    Lawrence blanched, turning away and glancing at Cassia. He came closer and whispered, “Is that a usual thing around here?”

    Cassia nodded, then whispered back, “Wild Pokémon are pretty scarce on land, but the ocean’s full of them. I remember reading that Arceus considers it wise to eat wild Pokémon since it is no different than them eating Pokémon.”

    Lawrence nodded slowly, making sense of it. ‘Not a usual thing back home. Tried a fish once, though, and it tasted pretty good.’ He turned back to Lonny and said, “I’ll take the catch of the day, whatever it is.”

    Lonny held out a tail, flexing his fingers. “Four coins for you and Miss Blue-Eyes.” Cassia averted her eyes, turning away.

    Lawrence took the sack from her fleeting grip and slapped the coins into the Ambipom’s tail. Lonny pulled it back and stuffed it into a jar. “Lucille, double fish-fry, mediums!”

    There was a rousing crash from the window behind him, and a scowling Ambipom peered through. “Alright, alright, I got it! Not like I need anything else to do!” She pounded the wall again, muttering something unintelligible.

    Lonny gestured to the window, shaking his head. “She cooks, I take care a’ the business…it’s a workin’ agreement.” He gestured to two empty seats. “The tables are all full, so you’ll just have to deal with my ugly mug till yer food’s ready.” Lawrence and Cassia took their seats, the Sableye next to them snorting.

    Lonny reached back to the bottles with a tail, continuing to stare at Lawrence, disinterested. “Drinks are on the house, thanks to that big galoot over there.” He pointed at the raucous Machamp, the heavyweight lifting a table with a single finger.

    Lonny slapped the counter and roared, “Oi, hands off the furniture!” The Machamp and his cronies laughed as he slammed the table on the floor, lounging back into his seat.

    Frowning, Lonny turned back to Lawrence. “Those boys are Guild guys lookin’ to have a little fun ‘fore they head north for Cambeta. Don’t see their sort around here otherwise.” He grabbed a glass and began polishing it with a rag, sighing. “Have to treat ‘em like Legends when they’re around. I’d throw ‘em out, but I’d rather not get on ole Gardner’s bad side.”

    “That’s ‘because you haven’t got a spine!” Lucille spat from the kitchen.

    Lonny flinched, shaking his head. “Ach, she’s in a bad mood. Doesn’t help that we have bouncin’ baby Aipom either.” He grabbed a bottle, studying the contents. “Want some Cheri Juice? Oran Pulp? I got the whole caboodle.”

    Cassia tapped Lawrence’s shoulder and whispered. “Careful what you pick. Try and pick something that’s less…potent, or you’ll end up loopier than that Raichu.”

    Lawrence nodded, glancing at the many drinks the Ambipom had to offer. He pointed at a dull yellow bottle. “What’s that one?”

    Lonny plucked it from a shelf and sneered. “This? We keep it for the kids, since they can’t handle the adult stuff.” He shook it, watching the air bubble out of it. “Pinap juice. So sweet, one sniff’ll give you a cavity.” He held it up and shook it again. “You really want it?”

    “Considering I’d prefer to keep my head, yes,” Lawrence replied, gritting his teeth.

    Lonny shrugged, taking his freshly-polished glass and pouring a draught of the sickly-sweet substance. He set it down in front of Lawrence, giving Cassia a sly nod. “And what will you be havin’ today?”

    “Nothing, thank you,” she replied, eyeing Lonny warily.

    Lucille peeked through the window again, harrumphing. “You ain’t talkin’ to another girl again, are ya?”

    Lonny backed away from Cassia, turning his head toward Lucille. “I’m not, I’m not. Don’t think I didn’t learn last time.”

    His wife shoved two plates out the window and dinged a small bell next to it. “Fish fry ready, come and get it!” She stomped off, muttering about checking on the baby.

    Lonny took the plates with his tails and placed them in front of Cassia and Lawrence. Lawrence stared at the singed Basculin, which stared back with dull eyes.

    Lonny smirked and shuffled to the corner of the counter. “Enjoy.”

    Cassia picked up the Basculin, studying it. “I’ve eaten fish before, but not for a while.”

    Lawrence picked up his own Basculin, saying, “We try it at the same time. That’s fair, right?”

    They nodded, and bit into the softened flesh. It was slightly sweet and buttery, along with a heavy salty flavor. Overall, not too bad.

    Lawrence took another bite eagerly, relishing it. Lonny stepped back over, grinning. “I’ll give your compliments to the chef. The missus always likes that.”

    “Hey Two-Tail!”

    The barkeep ducked as a bottle flew toward him, shattering against the open wall. He glared at the direction it came from, where the Machamp impatiently crossed his arms.

    “Me and my buddies need some drinks. The good stuff,” the Machamp growled, his black armband stretched thin over his top-left arm. His Machoke companions agreed, making hearty cheers for their leader.

    “A pleasure serving you, Mored, as always,” Lonny sighed, turning to Lawrence and mouthing, “Not really.” He took a tray and loaded it with five bottles, one of them the dull yellow from before.

    He walked to the edge and lifted the counter, moving toward Mored and his Machoke. Lawrence and Cassia enjoyed their meals and had nearly finished eating the Basculin.

    “Blech!”

    The Machamp threw the yellow bottle at Lonny, who narrowly ducked again, allowing it to smash against the wall, the liquid dribbling down.

    Mored stamped toward the heavy-eyed Ambipom and spat, “That stuff tasted like you stuffed a Spritzee in a bottle. What’s the big idea?”

    Lonny shrugged, continuing his walk back to the counter. “You never said what strong stuff you liked. I thought you meant sweet.”

    Mored grabbed his tails, yanking back the Ambipom. Cringing, Lonny stared at the infuriated eyes of the Machamp. The Guild Pokémon jabbed a finger at him and said, “You’re going to regret that. Maybe it’s time I threw somebody out for a change, eh boys?” The Machoke behind him cackled, slapping each other’s backs hysterically.

    Lawrence pounded the counter, catching the Machamp’s attention. The Lucario twisted and leaned against it, while Cassia stood up, stepping away.

    “How often are you around, Mored?” Lawrence asked.

    The Machamp released Lonny’s tails and scowled at the Lucario. “Every few months. Why you askin’, punk?”

    Lawrence nodded sagely, turning his gaze to Lonny, who twisted his tails fearfully. “And do you treat your host like this every time?”

    “None a’ your business. I treat him how I like, and he don’t complain.” Mored raised fist toward Lonny. “Ain’t that right?”

    “Well…” Lawrence swirled his Pinap juice and took a sip, pausing to prevent a wry face from overcoming him, the overpowering sweetness proving too strong for his tastes. “I know a friend who doesn’t like Pokémon like you. He likes to make sure that bullies like you don’t hurt others.” He set down his glass and smirked. “I think I’ll take a page from his book today, and this time, I won’t mess up.”

    The Machamp stared for a moment, then grinned. “And what are you gonna do? Slap me with those tiny paws of yours, Watchog?”

    Lawrence shook his head. “Arm wrestle.”

    Mored broke into uproarious laughter, his comrades following him. After a minute, Mored wiped a faux tear from his eye and wheezed, “Oi, yer a funny one alright. Tell ya what: You win, I’ll let myself get thrown out, and if I win, well…” He cracked his knuckles. “I’ll have some fun with you as a new training dummy. I’ll give ya ten seconds to back out since you made me laugh.”

    Cassia rushed to Lawrence and hissed, “Are you crazy? He’s a Machamp. He’ll break your arm faster than you can blink!”

    Lawrence sat in front of a now-empty table, around which the other patrons stood waiting for the match. “I’m sure I can beat him. Besides, we can’t let him be around; the Guild’s sure to send someone like this guy to stop us from leaving,” he whispered back.

    “Isn’t there something else you could do?”

    “If there’s one thing I know about Machamp, they only listen to force.” Lawrence remembered watching two Machamp duel each other to settle an argument. Up until that point, they refused to budge on their viewpoints, but once one stood victorious, the other complied. Strength talked in Machamp society.

    Mored held up his hands. “Take your pick. You’ll lose either way.”

    Lawrence pointed at his top-right arm. “Good luck with the bad angle.”

    Mored grimaced, leaning down and holding out the arm. “Got a smart mouth, dontcha?”

    Lawrence accepted the hand, tightening his grip. “It helps when I’m surrounded by guys like you all the time.” As they got into position, Lawrence thought, ‘Can’t be worse than those supply movers I beat back in Unova—at least, now that I’m a Lucario.’

    Lonny came over and held a rag over their arms. “Alright boys, don’t think this isn’t the first time this happened. Mored, you know the rules: no breakin’ arms, poppin’ shoulders…none of your funny business; I’ve talked with yer captain before, and he don’t appreciate it.” Mored gave him a slight nod, then grinned at Lawrence.

    Lonny cleared his throat and waved the rag. “Have at it.” Lawrence and Mored pushed against each other, the Machamp’s muscles rippling as they fought for control.

    Mored’s arm began pushing Lawrence’s down, and the Machoke whooped in his favor. The Lucario clenched his teeth, pushing it back up. ‘Nope…nope, this guy’s worse!’

    He felt something brush against his leg, but he didn’t care; he had to focus on pushing Mored back, especially since his own arm was beginning to be pushed down again.

    It now stood centimeters away from the table, and Mored grunted, “Yer strong alright…but not like me…”

    “No…” Lawrence grunted, feeling warmth flow up from his leg into his arm. His arm wavered near the edge of the table, nearly sealing his fate. ‘This…this thug…I can’t…let him win. He’s no better…than Team Rocket…a giant bully…exactly what I dealt with…back in Sinnoh!’

    He felt a spike of warmth and shouted, “No!” His arm shot upward and slammed Mored’s down, flipping the Machamp onto his side and upending the table. Stunned silence followed.

    Mored gave Lawrence an astonished look, then growled, rubbing his losing arm. “You cheated. I had it in the bag.”

    Lawrence rolled his shoulder, amazed that he ended up winning. “Well, that goes to show that the Guild isn’t as tough as I thought it’d be.”

    The Machamp came to his feet and reared back his arms. “Why you sly little—gurk!”

    He suddenly flopped to the floor with Lonny’s tails around his legs, the Ambipom now glaring at him. “Hey, you had a deal: he wins, you get thrown out.” He lifted the Machamp with a grunt, then with a whirl, threw Mored out the door, the Machamp landing with a splat in the mud.

    The Machoke rushed toward their leader, while Lonny came up to Lawrence and shook his paw with his arms. “You finally gave me an excuse to do that. Thanks for getting rid of him.”

    Lawrence nodded, catching Cassia’s hand move from his leg as he glanced down. “Don’t mention it. I just want to make sure everyone gets treated fairly is all.”

    Lonny laughed, nodding his head. “Yeah, well, you did good at that. Those Guild Pokémon have been getting a little too pushy lately.” He walked behind the counter and waved a tail. “I think you ought to get goin’ now; ole Mored will come to his senses sooner or later you know.”

    Cassia nodded her head briefly and lead Lawrence out the door. “Thanks for the food!”

    As Lawrence and Cassia left, the Sableye suddenly perked up and moaned, “I’m gonna get tha’ ole Rhydon. You’ll see.” His head banged against the table.

    Lonny leaned down to him with a smirk. “Hey, Jerry.” The Sableye twisted his head, revealing a single cracked eye. “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but ole Mored don’t like yer story.”

    Jerry shot up and screeched, holding up a claw. “I’m gonna kill you!” He darted out the door and screeched again.

    Amongst shouts of pain and astonishment, Mored cried out, “What’d I do to you?”

    Lonny chuckled to himself, straightening chairs and cleaning a table. “Glad to see those bozos gone.”

    “Landon, get in here! The baby needs feeding!” Lucille roared, a spoon flying out the window and banging into the back of Lonny’s head.

    The Ambipom sighed, shaking his head as he pushed into the kitchen, his tails drooping. “And just like that, moment’s gone.”

    The door burst open and a shrieking Sableye flew towards Lonny. He ducked, watching the unfortunate ghost crash into a table and groan. Lonny shook his head and entered the kitchen.

    ~~~~

    “And then I just started feeling really strong, like I had some sort of battery! It was weird!” Lawrence exclaimed, walking with Cassia through the market area.

    Cassia nodded absentmindedly, searching the stalls for what they would need. “Yeah, real weird. Want to help out?”

    “Sure, why not?” Lawrence replied. They moved toward a Bibarel’s food stall, while Lawrence tried to pinpoint how that surge of energy could have come about. ‘I felt like that before when Aleron used his Life on me.’ He considered the possibilities. ‘Was he in the room? Invisible? Maybe a different look? I couldn’t tell.’

    He left these thoughts to barter with the old Bibarel, hoping to catch her goods for a decent price.

    ~~~~

    Grom sat on the coastline across Hydren, scooping handfuls of sand and pouring them over his shoulders, relishing the gritty smoothness that his joints received afterward. Chuckling, he threw a huge plume of sand above him, listening to the clinks of the grains across his metallic frame. The sunset reflected across several of the grains, flashing in the sun.

    “Having a good time?”

    He swiveled his head behind him, noticing a cloaked figure watching from the top of a small hill. The cloak covered everything but the black legs beneath.

    “I hope you have. I will need your help.”

    Grom stood up, stomping his feet. “Gro-graw-hawm?”

    The figure stepped back slightly. “Come on, you know me. I’m back to help you and Cassia.”

    Grom’s eyes glowed more fiercely, as well as the cracks along his body. “Hawm…”

    “You need proof. Very well.” The figure held out a black paw, and a burst of blue flame erupted from it, causing the Golurk to flinch.

    Grom’s light dulled, and the giant stared dumbfoundedly at who stood before him. The figure began walking away, and Grom followed.

    Looking back slightly, the figure nodded. “Good, I’ve made my point. I’ll need you farther up, so just keep following me.” His silver tail swished back and forth, continuing to reflect in the evening light.

    ~~~~

    Lawrence hefted his bag, now completely full of supplies needed for their overseas trip to Cretea. No Guild Pokémon, not even Mored Machamp, had come to stop them. It looked like that they would be able to go without worrying about any sort of interference.

    Cassia walked ahead of him, exclaiming, “I’ve asked around and found out that the only ferry left is owned by Charles Lapras. He hasn’t come out for a while, but they say that he always works for a reasonable price.”

    “Good thing too; we’re nearly out of the money that Ninetales gave us.”

    “I still find it hard to believe that she gave us so much.”

    “Well, it’s a good thing she did. Do you think Grom will fit?”

    “Ferries are supposed to be pretty large. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

    They stepped onto the pier, the sun below the horizon, providing the briefest rays of light across the ocean. The aged wooden planks stood on narrow poles rising from the water, coated with algae and relatively stable on the rocks below. All wind had stopped blowing the boats bobbing in the waves, along with the boathouses protecting both Pokémon and their crafts within.

    They came to one such boathouse with a large sign emblazoned with a Lapras head, smiling above the name ‘Charles’ in faded letters. The structure was attached to the pier with large beams, a single, low-roofed dwelling that looked to have several rooms. Parts of the wall sunk into the water, with the back having a small tunnel leading into it.

    Cassia knocked on the door, causing it to swing in with a creak. She and Lawrence looked at each other, bewildered.

    “I guess he’s not able to close it himself,” Lawrence noted, going inside without another thought. Cassia looked around suspiciously, then entered, failing to notice the shadow slipping inside after them.

    Lawrence studied Charles’ home. Aged relics from beneath the sea—ranging from ship instruments to unique shells—covered the shelves, difficult to see thanks to the low light. Along the walkway, a channel of water wound, leading into the different rooms, each with a light curtain blocking two entrances—one on the dock, and one in the water. The channels had a thick wooden bottom beneath them, deep enough for a sizeable Pokémon.

    Lawrence inspected a picture showing a Lapras tugging a raft loaded with a group of Pokémon, looking back at them with a smile. Standing amongst the Pokémon was a Lucario, only with strange, silver fur.

    Before Lawrence could ask, a sharp snap came from a different room. He drew his paws close and exclaimed, “Hello? Is anyone home?”

    Cassia stood behind him, holding her bag tightly. “Lawrence, something isn’t right.” The door slammed closed, making them jump. The handle fell against the floor, broken.

    A shape whooshed around; a low chuckle accompanied it. Lawrence searched wildly, pacing around the room. “Who’s there? Where are you hiding?”

    “Oh, I’m not hiding, Lucario.” Lawrence shot back into the wall, and his Watchog illusion dissipated.

    “Lawrence!” Cassia cried, running to his side.

    “Ah, so that’s his name. Would he have anything to do with this strange creature that’s been following you?” the voice asked.

    Cassia paled as she helped Lawrence to his feet. “No…”

    A graying Zoroark materialized in front of them, holding up his braceleted arm with a smirk. “Yes, my dear. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, have we?”

    “Wait, what?” Lawrence exclaimed. He turned to Cassia and said, “You know him?”

    Arthus cocked his head in confusion. “Why of course she does! I mean, don’t you see—” He cut himself short, then smiled. “Oh…she hasn’t told you…or shown you either.” He laughed, wiping a faux tear from his eye. “Oh, this is rich! You have to be the densest Lucario I’ve met!”

    A vein throbbed in Lawrence’s head. “And you’ve got to be the most unhinged Zoroark I’ve met, Arthus.”

    He stopped, holding his chin. “Ah, so she told you about me. Have you actually met any other Zoroark?” Cassia shrunk away, searching desperately for an exit—but all the doors had their knobs broken.

    Lawrence thrust a paw out at him and shouted, “Yeah, Aleron, your descendant! He’s been helping the Pokemon you’ve been killing off!”

    Arthus laughed once more, and Cassia drew closer to Lawrence, whispering, “We have to leave, now. He’s going to kill you!”

    “Yes, despite my amusement, you have to come out of the picture,” Arthus added. He turned to Cassia with a half-hearted smile. “Despite hiding from me for all these years, my door is still open to you.”

    Cassia scowled and held her arms out. “There’s a reason I’ve run from murderers like you, Arthus.”

    Arthus sighed, holding up a hand and causing a sphere of erratic, crimson Life to gather. “We’ll see about that.” He grinned and aimed the sphere at Lawrence. “Regardless, all Lucario must die.The Life Sphere shot from his palm toward Lawrence’s chest.

    Lawrence rolled to the ground, narrowly dodging the sphere. As it shot through the wall to the outside, he scrambled to his feet and ran for Arthus with a yell, his paws curled into fists. He threw a punch at the Zoroark’s face, but he deftly dodged it and circled around him. Lawrence threw a fist again, only Arthus caught it and twisted his arm, forcing him to his knees with a scream. Arthus leaned down and gouged his claws into Lawrence’s leg.

    The Lucario gasped and clutched the wound, gritting his teeth. Arthus cackled, grabbing Lawrence’s dreadlocks and yanking him up. “Is this really what I’m up against? Not even a glimpse of Aura?”

    Cassia ran around Arthus, digging into her bag. “Lawrence, I’m trying to help, but—”

    Arthus twisted his head and tutted disapprovingly. “What’s the matter? Too frightened to attack your teacher?”

    Lawrence cried out, pulling at Arthus’ claws. “What?”

    Arthus turned to Lawrence and held his ear next to his lips. “Why yes. She happens to be—auck!”

    Cassia swung her bag into Arthus’ head, sending him to the ground and releasing Lawrence from his grip. He clutched his bleeding leg, calling out, “Cassia, help me!”

    The Gardevoir ran to him and hesitantly held her hand out. “Quick, before he—”

    Arthus grabbed Cassia and pushed her aside, sending her against the wall. “I can’t have you taking him away; as much as I hate doing this with you here, I have to!” He held his claws high over Lawrence, red mist flowing from them. The Lucario struggled to stand, but the searing pain in his leg prevented him from moving more than a few inches.

    Cassia grabbed his arm and pulled it down, crying out, “No! No, you’re better than this!”

    Arthus tried to shake her off, saying, “You don’t understand! You never will!”

    Cassia grabbed Arthus’ other arm and pinned it behind him. “I do understand, and it’s all thanks to you!”

    Arthus yowled and pried himself from Cassia’s grip, then threw him off his other arm into the shelves set in the center of the room. She crashed into them and caused them to collapse, creating a thick cloud of dust and knocking her bag from her shoulder. It landed in the center of the room, spilling its contents onto the floor—including a leather bag with a white mask set within.

    Arthus froze, putting a hand over his mouth. Lawrence, however, crawled into the dust cloud and cried, “Cassia!” He grunted as he came to his feet, limping over the fallen decorations to find her.

    Lawrence coughed in the dust cloud, pawing for Cassia. “Where are you?”

    Something grabbed his paw, and Cassia’s voice replied, “I’m here! Take us out!”

    Lawrence complied, steadily going back through the dust cloud as to avoid hitting anything. He made it to the clear air, then looked down at his enclosed paw.

    Red claws covered it.

    “Gah!” Lawrence threw away the claws, watching them retreat into the dust. Arthus looked on, a smile creeping across his face.

    Lawrence stepped closer warily. “Who are you? Where’s Cassia?”

    The dust settled, and a Zoroark stood in front of Lawrence, claws held up in astonishment. Covered in dust, sleek grey fur covered its body, with a puff of black on its chest. The red mane hung off its head like a great crimson cloud, a jeweled bead keeping it tied at the end. The claws—fine daggers—partially covered the bright-blue eyes—which looked remarkably like Cassia’s.

    Lawrence squinted his eyes, then said in surprise, “Aleron?”

    The Zoroark looked up sadly. “Lawrence...it’s me.”

    The Lucario’s eyes widened, recognizing the bright-blue eyes of the Zoroark. “Cassia?” She nodded shamefully.

    He shook his head, stepping back. “No. That can’t be right. She’s a Gardevoir, you’re...a Zoroark! You’re like—him!” He turned briefly to Arthus and snapped back. He breathed in sharply. “Your eyes…they look exactly like his!”

    Cassia came closer, pulling back her limbs. “Please, believe me! I--I had to keep it a secret, for safety, for--”

    “While it’s nice to see my little girl being honest, I’m afraid I have other plans.” Arthus held up the Arceist Tome with one hand and held a Life-fueled fire underneath it. He started lowering it down. “Oh, how I’ve wanted to do this.”

    Cassia leapt past the stunned Lawrence and grabbed hold of the tome. “No! You can’t!”

    Arthus grimaced, pulling back the book. “This book’s affected you worse than I imagined!” He focused the fire in his free hand toward the tome. “There’s only one way to set you right!”

    Cassia grabbed Arthus’ other hand with her own covered in red mist, extinguishing the flame. “You’re just too twisted to see the truth!”

    As they fought for the book, Lawrence stood still, astonished. ‘How…how could she do this? She hid everything from me—even after I told her about me! How much more did she lie about? How can I even trust her?’

    Arthus roared and kicked back Cassia, sending her to the ground. “You’ve forced my hand!” He ignited another fire in his palm and threw it against the Tome, instantly incinerating the book.

    Cassia reached out for the ashes futilely, weakening. “No!” She caught some in her palms and held them close, closing her eyes as her throat grew tight. “No…”

    Arthus grimaced, brushing past her and toward Lawrence. “It’s…it’s for your own good.” He grabbed Lawrence’s neck and set him against the opposite corner, leaving Cassia to cry over the burned Arceist Tome.

    Lawrence struggled against Arthus’ grip, prying at his hands. Arthus tightened his claws around Lawrence’s throat, making him gasp and struggle harder. Arthus shook his head in disappointment. “This is pathetic. I expected far more from you, and you can’t even use Aura. You should’ve been able to spot me outside, or even counter my Life.” He reared back his claws, his eyes glowing red. “At least it makes finishing you off even easier.”

    A dull roar thrummed in the air, causing him to stop. His ears twitched as he attempted to source the sound, eventually turning to the wall on his left. “What in Equivos—”

    CRASH!!

    An onyx Golurk burst through the wall and threw Arthus away from Lawrence and through the opposite wall. He flew into the water with a cry and sank beneath the surface.

    Lawrence pressed himself into the corner, inches away from the Golurk. The automaton turned to him and his eyes flashed. “Grawm?”

    Lawrence’s eyes widened. “Grom? How in the world did you get here?”

    “Thanks to me, and thank Arceus I intervened.”

    Lawrence turned to the door and his mouth hung open. A Lucario with silver fur stood in the doorway, wearing leather clothing and a broad-brimmed hat. He tipped it to Lawrence and nodded his head. “I’ll save the introductions for later; Arthus won’t be stopped by a bit of water.” He knelt next to Cassia the Zoroark and gathered her remaining belongings into her bag. She didn’t seem to notice, still staring at the remains of the Tome.

    Grom pulled himself inside the house and revealed a large wooden raft outside, complete with a hut set in the center. He held Lawrence in his arms and carried him outside, ignoring the Lucario’s lack of response.

    The silver Lucario tapped Cassia’s shoulder, stirring her from her trance and causing her to look at him. Her eyes grew wide as she dropped the ashes. “Matheus?”

    The Lucario nodded his head. “Good to see you again.” He pulled her up and hurriedly dragged her to the raft. “Now come on! I don’t want to be here when he comes back?” He leapt through the hole in the wall and entered the open hut, where Lawrence sat on a cot. He tossed Cassia’s bag to the floor and shouted, “Hit it!”

    Grom shuffled to the roof and grabbed the sides. His feet sputtered slightly, then erupted with bursting red flame, jetting them across the water and to the south, hugging the coastline as they made way to the archipelago of Cretea.

    Seconds after they rocketed away, Arthus erupted from the water and landed on the pier, coughing and sputtering. He fell on his back and seethed, “Curse that Golurk!” He caught movement toward the south and saw a raft speeding away, with Grom thrusting it forward. Barely visible was a silver-furred figure within the doorway of the hut.

    Water dribbled down Arthus’ grimace as he stood up. “Matheus.” He held up a crimson flame ,causing the water on his palm to steam. “You want to taunt me further, Arceus? Fine.” He threw the ball of fire into the house, causing an ever-growing fire to consume it. He stomped off the pier as the fire spread, his ice-blue eyes glowing red.

    “I’ll just take him with the Seal first.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  15. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Act X: Special Episode
    Chapter 10: Growth


    2000 AU

    The storms of Arthus’ coming had long since quieted, the raging rains finally stilled. Moonlight peeked through the clouds, and the wild Pokémon dared to venture from their homes, confident that the Usurper had sated his fury. The forests of Serenita spread across the center of the continent, enclosing a low boulder, the jagged entrance housing a single individual.

    In the low-roofed cave, the entrance dark and the air musty, a Zorua slept on a pillow, blinking awake and yawning. She looked about, then froze, recalling the events from before she somehow slept. She whimpered, then began to cry.

    Footsteps echoed into the cave, and the Zorua looked up. She saw a Zoroark with graying fur charge in, wheezing, holding his chest. She first thought it was a stranger, but saw the distinctive blue eyes, the eyes that looked so much like her father’s.

    “I’m here! I’m here!” he wheezed. His eyes softened upon seeing the Zorua, his rage hours ago gone.

    The Zorua ran for Arthus pressing her head against his legs and weeping. Arthus stared at her, perplexed, then smiled, picking her up and cradling her. “You think I’m your dad, don’t you? My eyes…” He looked up, forcing a laugh. “I thought he looked a little like me.” He petted the Zorua, saying, “I am sorry for what had to happen. I never wanted a child like you to cry because of me.”

    He sat in the center of the cave, pulling up the cushion. “Do you know your name?” The Zorua cocked her head, sniffing. Arthus shook his head. “Right, how could I forget; you’re too young. They wouldn’t have named you until you cast your first illusion.” He set her on the cushion, then set his claws on her head, red light flashing beneath them. She fell asleep, but the light continued. “Considering the circumstances, however, I think that we can make an exception.”

    Arthus thought for a moment, then made a small smile. “I know your name.” He lifted his claw, ensuring that she had no memory of her true parents. “I’ll name you what Corrina had considered for a name for a daughter…if we ever had one…” He lay on the floor, curling around the Zorua, then closed his eyes for sleep.

    “Cassia.”

    ~~~~

    At the gate of a massive fortress, set in the center of a vast canyon, the morning had only just broken over the horizon. Murkrow already flew from their nests in search of shiny belongings. Rust-colored dust swept around the structure, coating the desolate scene with a metallic scent.

    Cassia sat on the pillow, curled up into a terrified ball. Arthus held her aloft as he knocked on the gate. Afterward, he patted her head and said, “It’s alright Cassia; I think you will enjoy living here with me.” The door creaked open, and Arthus snapped his fingers, a rush of wind blowing past them.

    Pokémon of all sorts carried sacks onto large carts, while others carried them over their backs and shoulders. Another group of Pokémon dug holes, helping the others throw the sacks inside. Rising high above the Pokémon, a marvelous tower stretched above, and perched atop it was a solitary Dusknoir—his eye a perfect red sphere--looking across the scene with a grim face.

    Arthus waved his free hand and exclaimed, “Guildmaster Gardner!” The Dusknoir twisted his head with a dull glance, then his eye widened when he noticed Cassia.

    The ghost leapt off the top of the Tower and drew close to Arthus and Cassia. “What are you thinking, bringing a child here! Do you see all—this!” He waved to the sacks, at which Cassia cocked her head, bewildered.

    Arthus leaned close and jerked the Guildmaster toward his face. “Since when did you grow a heart? I made sure to disguise…you-know-what, before I entered. All she sees are sacks of berries.”

    Gardner nodded his head slowly. “So, no blood, no—”

    “No nothing! Keep it down!” the Usurper hissed. He looked down at Cassia and whispered. “I’d rather not have her discover my…admittedly, weaker side.”

    Gardner grunted, then said, “Whatever you wish, even if I don’t entirely understand.” He leaned over Cassia, scrutinizing her. The Zorua crept back to Arthus, menaced by the crimson eye.

    Arthus bared his teeth and swatted the Dusknoir away, leaving him to rub his chin. The Usurper crooned over Cassia and exclaimed, “I want her to feel safe in this place, not like she’ll ambushed in her sleep!”

    “As you said moments before, ‘when did you grow a heart?’ You’re the same Pokémon that—” he gave a glance to Cassia, “disposed of all these sacks, and took back the Seal of Creation! And now you want to raise that?”

    Arthus pushed a claw into Gardner’s chest. “Her name is Cassia, and I don’t care for your tone. I didn’t release you only to chastise me.”

    Gardner held up his hands defensively, backing away. “I only have concerns about how it could affect you. Have you ever raised a child? Will this hinder your plans?”

    Arthus’ claw shook, then fell, his eyes losing their luster. “I had the chance, years ago. And I ruined it. Before all is done,” he clenched his fist, then with loose restraint, growled, “I want to prove that I can still be a father to someone, no matter what Matheus said.”

    Gardner stared for a moment, then shrugged. “Whatever you wish, Lord Arthus. I have no say in your actions.” He gestured to the Pokémon carrying ‘sacks’. “This is nearly taken care of. What would you have me do next?”

    Arthus tapped his chin. “You remember my previous offer, yes? Involving the Arceists?”

    Gardner’s perfect eye glowed brighter. “Yes. Is it time?”

    Arthus grabbed Gardner’s arm with a smile. “Go have your revenge.” Arthus’ face curled into a sneer. “Do whatever you need to get rid of those liars.”

    Gardner nodded, chuckling. “Understood, Lord Arthus.” He hovered away, gathering Guild Pokémon to him.

    Cassia looked up to Arthus, who patted her back, sighing. “I don’t enjoy talking about these things with you here. We must get a room where we can be by ourselves.” He pulled at a passing Jumpluff and said, “Can you gather up any toys and children’s books you can find? I want to ensure that Cassia is well taken care of.”

    The Jumpluff nodded, then went off to do as he said. Arthus sighed, walking toward a small abandoned house in the corner of the wall. “It feels good to be respected again.”

    ~~~~

    2004 AU

    Arthus sat on a chair in a brightly colored room, Cassia curled up on his lap. Toys of all sorts were gathered in the corner, tucked away for the coming night, while a pile of books lay stacked next to the chair.

    The Usurper closed a book with a satisfied sigh. “Well, I think that is all the reading we’ll do tonight.” Cassia leapt off his lap and pointed to an aged book sitting midway through the stack.

    Arthus studied it, his eyes widening with surprise. “You want to read that? Why on Equivos would you want to read about Arceus?” He shook his head, setting aside the book in his claws and picking up Cassia. “Even if I wanted to read that to you, it is time to sleep. We’ll be starting your training tomorrow; we can’t have a Zorua that can’t fool Pokémon.” He set her on her pillow and tapped her nose playfully, while she looked up sadly. “Good night.” Arthus walked out of the room, shutting the door with a gentle click.

    The Zorua opened her eyes again, looking longingly at the Tome. Her eyes soon grew heavy, then she fell asleep.

    ~~~~

    Cassia now stood behind the house in a fenced enclosure, the heat of the afternoon seeping into her body. She and Arthus stood facing each other, with Arthus on all fours to better demonstrate to the Zorua.

    “Listen closely, Cassia; I want you make yourself look like an Eevee. Do you know how an Eevee looks like?”

    “What’s an Eevee?” Cassia asked, still getting used to speaking.

    Arthus grinned. “An Eevee looks like this.” He snapped his fingers, and a brown-furred Pokémon appeared in front of Cassia, her ears wavering slightly in the wind.

    Cassia came closer to it, then tried to touch it, her paw passing through the illusion. “But it isn’t there!”

    “That’s what illusions are! They are only appearances. If we could actually create things like that, we’d be like Arceus!” He pushed Cassia gently away. “Now, look at where you want an Eevee to appear, then make a gesture to focus it. Myself, I snap my fingers, but given that you currently have none, you’ll have to make do with something else.” The Eevee faded, and Arthus stepped back, allowing his student more room.

    Cassia studied the space in front of her, imagining Arthus’ Eevee standing there. She then waved her paw to the right, and the wind rushed, and a somewhat-fuzzy Eevee appeared in front of her, patches occasionally phasing out of the conjuring.

    Arthus stood up and laughed, clapping his hands. “Bravo, bravo! Well done for your first try!” Cassia beamed, looking away from the spot. The Eevee quickly dissipated.

    Cassia’s ears drooped. “It’s gone…”

    Arthus tutted, coming next to Cassia and stroking her head. “Oh, it’s not your fault; it takes time, that’s all.”

    “Lord Arthus!”

    Arthus whipped his head to the fence, giving it an evil look. “Excuse me for a second.” He stood up and marched to the fence, where the head of a Dusknoir poked through the seemingly-empty scene.

    Arthus shoved him back and crossed over the fence, leaving Cassia by herself. The Zorua focused her thoughts on the empty grass once more, saying to herself, “I want to make an Eevee…like Dad’s…” The fuzzy Eevee appeared once more, patches and all.

    Cassia drooped once more. “No, like Dad’s!” The Eevee focused itself slightly.

    She stamped her foot, red mist suddenly trailing out of the ground. “Look like Dad’s, please!” The red mist swirled around the Eevee, and all the detail of the Usurper’s handiwork appeared, complete with a warm smile.

    “How do you do, Cassia?” the Eevee asked.

    Arthus burst out from the fence, and asked, “Who said that!” His jaw hung as he noticed the red mist underneath Cassia’s feet, wrapping around the Eevee in an ethereal manner.

    “How—when—” He held his head, muttering to himself as he thought. “Yes…he was in the room…that explains…” He looked up and grinned. “This changes things.” He stooped to Cassia’s level and grabbed her forelimbs. “Do you know what you just did?”

    “Did I do something wrong?” she asked, shrinking slightly.

    Arthus laughed, shaking his head. “No! In fact, you’ve done something better than I could have imagined: you used Life! I always thought there was a deposit around here, but it was so small that I didn’t bother with it!”

    “What do you mean?”

    “It means I can teach you not only what it means to be a Zorua, but also what it means to be a descendant of Arthus Zoroark.”

    ~~~~

    Arthus sat cross-legged in front of Cassia, his eyes closed, and his fingers interlocked. Cassia sat on her haunches expectantly, wondering what he was going to do.

    Arthus opened his eyes and said, “In all Pokémon, there is this force called Life. Most are unable to use it, outside of the Ghosts, who feed on it, and the Lucario, who are able to derive another force called Aura from it. In the distant past, a civilization used it to power machines and even bring things to life but could never use it themselves. None were able to use Life until I made the sacrifice necessary to claim it. And now, this power has passed on to you.” He held up and outstretched claw, red flame suddenly erupting from his palm. Cassia leapt back in surprise, never before seeing such power.

    Arthus grinned. “This is a powerful energy, one that only you and I can use. I learned from my mentor, Gregorius, how to use it, and now you shall learn from me. It will take years of work, but you can become a master of it around when you master your illusions, if you practice.”

    “What can Life do?” Cassia asked.

    “Many things. It can be used to heal the sick and wounded, to travel across Serenita in a blink of an eye, and to augment your natural powers.” His face turned darker. “But there is more. Used in its raw shape, Life can be used to attack your enemies, as well as to take their own Life.” He shook his head. “But let’s not dwell on such things. That can wait for when I train you in combat, when you evolve. You’re around three now, so expect that to come ten years from now.” He dimmed the flame. “Until then, we will focus on how to draw it from the ground, and how to empower your illusions through it.”

    “Where does it come from?”

    Arthus paused for a moment, then quietly said, “The remains of those who have died—and, sometimes, the living.”

    ~~~~

    2006 AU

    Arthus nodded his head at the Eevee that stood before him, applauding. “Bravo, bravo! You’ve come so far!”

    The Eevee faded, revealing it to be Cassia, grinning. “You really think so?”

    Arthus scooped her up and laughed, “Of course! Why would I lie to you?” He suddenly stopped and twitched his head. He set her down, then sighed. “The Guild Council needs me again.” He pointed at a straw dummy and explained, “Practice your scratches on that while I’m gone. It’ll hopefully be short.” The young Zorua nodded sadly, then went on to scratch at the dummy methodically with her claws.

    Arthus leapt over the fence and beyond the barrier, holding his arms behind his back as he muttered to himself. Crossing various Pokémon, he stamped up the steps of the tower and sat at a table where Gardner, a Bibarel, Hypno, and Wigglytuff all sat waiting.

    “I have important business I want to take care of, so let’s make this quick,” Arthus muttered.

    “We’ll certainly try; we don’t like taking your time either,” Gardner replied. He pointed at a map spread across the table, moving to various locations. “All ties with Calem Lucario have been eliminated; all Guild Outposts are loyal only to you. Cretea is without Guild resources, but none have returned since the storms came six years ago. Therefore, we see it unnecessary to form a new outpost there.”

    “Agreed. Why do you need me here exactly?” Arthus sighed. All eyes turned to the Wigglytuff.

    His ears drooped, and he cleared his throat. “Well, sir—Lord, we’re just curious if you have any other motives outside of the good of the world.” Arthus rose, his eyes growing wild. He stepped closer, and the Wigglytuff stuttered, “I-It’s not that we’re questioning your leadership, i-it’s just that Calem was a little more…” Arthus eyes pressed right against his. “Direct?”

    Arthus backed away, scratching his cheek. “You’re lucky I want to keep a good appearance.” He gestured to the entire council, stepping away from the shivering Wigglytuff. “I haven’t been very forthright with you, have I? I’ve just been off in my own little world, letting Gardner take care of the Guild and allowing you to,” he fluttered his claws toward the Hypno, Wigglytuff and Bibarel, “do whatever you do around this place.”

    The Zoroark shook his head, sighing. “You may think I’m not all there. Maybe I’m just a mad-Pokémon, doing things just because I can. You might even think that I don’t believe in the good of the world, and just want to watch it burn.” He swept to the Wigglytuff and grabbed his ears. “But I will tell you right now: I want the world to no longer suffer anger, fear, or sadness. I do have another motive, but I will let that secret die with Matheus!” He released the Wigglytuff and huffed, brushing back his mane. “If there is nothing else, I’ll be leaving.”

    The Council made no move to stop him from descending the steps.

    ~~~~

    The Usurper sat on his favorite chair, holding a pad of paper and a stick of charcoal. He gently drew lines, creating a graceful figure and shading it.

    Cassia hopped onto the top of the chair, peering at the handiwork. “Are you drawing?”

    Arthus nodded his head, keeping his gaze on the paper. “Yes.”

    “Why are you doing that? I thought you liked illusions more?”

    Arthus held up the sketch, showing a slight, female Zoroark with a simple necklace around her neck. Cassia gazed at it in awe.

    He pulled it back, then continued adding the finishing touches. “Illusions may be a wonderful thing, but their purpose is to trick the mind, to make Pokémon believe something is what it isn’t.” He took a blob of clay from the corner, rubbing away a mistake. “But drawing is a way to show your emotions, to show what you think of something or someone. Illusions are powerful, yes,” he closed the pad, patting the cover, “but are no way to show your true feelings.”

    Cassia leapt onto Arthus’ lap. “Can you teach me how to draw?”

    Arthus looked down at her, patting her head with a smile. “When you evolve, I would love to.”

    ~~~~

    “’And so, the Mightyena ran into the sunset, never to be seen again.’” Arthus closed the book, setting it on the stack. He rubbed his throat, clearing it. “These books are getting a tad long for me to be reading like this every night,” he croaked.

    Cassia hopped onto her bed, exclaiming, “Maybe I can start reading them!”

    Arthus laughed, putting his claw to his head. “Of course, you’re old enough now! May as well; being able to read is important after all.” He opened the door, then said, “We’ll start tomorrow, alongside your other studies.” He shut the door, and Cassia directed her gaze to the aged book toward the bottom of the stack.

    “Then I can read you again…” she thought.

    ~~~~

    2014 AU

    In Cassia’s room, by a flickering red flame on a candle, the Zorua read from the Arceist Tome, the words calling to her as they did when she was younger.

    And the Usurper shall come and attempt to take my Life but shall ultimately fail at the hands of the Guardian. The Usurper, through his actions, shall lose all that he held dear, and will strive to reclaim them. From him, learn that my creations are free to make choices, but cannot choose, or change, their consequences.

    A knock came at the door. “Cassia, I’m coming in!”

    The Zorua hurriedly closed the Tome and shoved it underneath a shelf, then pulled down another book.

    Arthus opened the door, laughing slightly. “Still have to get used to that; I haven’t had a little thirteen-year-old before.” He closed the door, then craned over Cassia, studying the pages. “Reading ‘The Pikachu and his Travelling Joltik’, hmm?”

    Cassia nodded quickly, saying, “Yep, been wanting to for a while.”

    Arthus nodded as well, sitting at his usual seat. “Lovely story. Anyway, how are you feeling about your birthday coming up? Ready to evolve?”

    Cassia shifted uncomfortably, looking at her paws. “I don’t know. I like me right now; what if I don’t like being a Zoroark?”

    Arthus pet her head, sighing, “Well, I won’t be able to pet you like this once you evolve, so I’m not looking forward to that.”

    Cassia pulled away, giggling. “You know I don’t like that.”

    Arthus gazed at her in mock surprise. “Really?” He made a small chuckle, then said, “I remember when I evolved. Me and my…best friend, evolved on the same day. We both had to get used to our new bodies together.” His cheerful demeanor vanished. “It was especially hard for me, since my parents had been gone for years. I didn’t know how to get used to my body, or what things would change.” He shook his head, looking down to Cassia. “But I’m here to help you. I’ll make sure you won’t feel afraid when it happens.”

    “You promise?”

    Arthus nodded. “Promise.” He studied his claws, watching mist course between them. “After you get adjusted, we’ll start with your training. You can’t stay under my watch forever; the world’s still a dark place, and until I find a solution, I have to make sure that you’re safe.”

    “What will we do?”

    “Well, we’ll start with basic attacks, then upgrade to what you can do with Life.” He held Cassia’s paw, giving her a hard look. “I want you to promise me that you won’t question what I ask you to do. I am a very busy Pokémon, what with a Guild to run. Will you do that for me?”

    Unsure of what he intended with that, Cassia nodded her head.

    Arthus nodded back, then stood up. “I’ll let you get to sleep now.” He stood up, then opened the door.

    “Wait, Dad?” Cassia asked. Arthus stopped, turning his head. “Do you know who the Usurper is?”

    Arthus’ eye twitched, then he rubbed it, growling. “When did you hear that name?”

    “I just…came across it while reading. I was wondering if you knew.”

    Arthus gave her a suspicious look, then sighed. “That was a title given to me, years ago. I’m a lot older than you think, Cassia. I’d rather not speak of such things right now.” He exited the room and closed the door.

    Cassia pondered on what he said, thinking of the Tome. ‘He’s supposed to be one of the cruelest Pokemon alive…he’d even bring Arceus down.’ She closed the book, shaking her head. ‘But he’s only even been nice to me. He just couldn’t be the Usurper.’

    She curled up on her cushion and closed eyes. After a few moments, she looked up fearfully.

    ‘Right?’

    ~~~~

    Days later, Arthus stood in front of Cassia in the center of the room, the furniture pushed to the corners to make room.

    “Any moment now, your name will change from Cassia Zorua to Cassia Zoroark. How do you feel?” he asked.

    Cassia smiled nervously, standing in front of him. “Excited, but scared. What will it feel like?”

    The Usurper sighed wistfully. “Ah, like nothing else. It’s been so long since I evolved, so I can’t really say.” He looked out the window, seeing the sky turn from orange to purple. “Any moment now.”

    Cassia began to shake. “I feel…light, like there’s nothing wrong with anything.” White light suddenly enveloped her, her shape becoming indistinct. The light morphed taller, leaner, and brighter, while Arthus looked on, feeling happier than he had ever felt in millennia.

    The light faded, and a graceful young Zoroark stood in Cassia’s place. She gasped as she noticed her arms, no longer the paws she had been used to all her life. She reached for her luxurious mane, free of the bead that her adoptive father had for his own.

    She looked toward him and stepped forward. “Look at—wah!” She tripped on her feet, unused to walking on two limbs.

    Arthus dove forward and caught Cassia, holding her up. She looked up, and Arthus smiled. “If only Corrina could see this…”

    “Who’s Corrina?”

    Arthus’ smile dissipated. “My…wife.” He helped her stand up, then held her face, cringing. “You look so much like her.” He pointed to her eyes. “Except your eyes. They’re mine, of course.” He pointed to his own, quivering. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen her. I only want her at my side again.” He covered his eyes, a tear trailing out from under his hand.

    Cassia looked down at her arms, then embraced Arthus, the Usurper falling onto her. He sniffed, then said, “I haven’t been hugged since before she died.” He continued to grieve, his chest shaking.

    Cassia patted him, then quietly asked, “You never talk about her. Why?”

    “…It is too hard for me to remember how, and why, she died.”

    ~~~~

    Several days later, Arthus and Cassia stood opposite each other in the training yard, crouching with their claws extended.

    “Alright, day one. Come at me with what you’ve got,” Arthus stated.

    Cassia hesitated, then with a yell, charged toward him, her claws ready to strike. Arthus deftly dodged, then pushed her to the ground, shaking his head with disapproval. “We Zoroark don’t make direct attacks…not like that, at least,” he chided. “Come in from the side and use your illusions to hide your direction. We have the element of surprise no matter what we do, if done right.”

    “Lord Arthus, I bear good news!” Gardner appeared from behind the barrier, his eye wide.

    Arthus leaned to Cassia, who had since picked herself up. “Watch me.” He disappeared, and both she and Gardner looked around, searching for him.

    Gardner suddenly arced back with a grunt, his head pulled back. Arthus appeared behind him, chuckling, his arm pinned behind the Ghost. “That is how a Zoroark strikes.”

    “Would you please let me go? I have news about your search for a bodyguard,” Gardner hissed, looking left and right.

    Arthus promptly released him and whipped around to face him. “Ah, that is something I’ve been waiting to hear! Bring me to him!” Gardner exited the barrier, and Arthus motioned for Cassia to follow. “Come! It’s high time I showed you the rest of my Guild!” He leapt over the fence, the barrier of sky rippling as he disappeared through it.

    Cassia blinked, following him hesitantly. She crawled over the top of the fence and gasped at what she saw: Black-banded Pokémon rushed to and from various buildings, all talking and carrying goods with them. All the activity surrounded an ancient tower, the bricks cracked and the height astounding.

    A troupe of Gurdurr pounded past Cassia, and she eeped, running toward Arthus and hiding behind his back. He forced a smile, patting her hand. “I guess I should have taken you out more often. Still, no time like the present to socialize.” He guided her across the grounds, all other Pokémon staying away from the Usurper.

    She noticed many of the Pokémon give him fearful looks; they avoided meeting his gaze. All except an elderly Alakazam avoided looking at them. He stroked his mustache thoughtfully, narrowing his eyes.

    Cassia drew closer to Arthus and said, “Why do they seem afraid of you?”

    Arthus waved a nonchalant hand. “No reason in particular. Can’t expect everyone to be brave around their leader, can you?” He gasped, grabbing Cassia’s hand and running ahead. “Oh, Gardner has outdone himself this time. Just look at this!”

    They came to the corner of the canyon, and Cassia stood in awe at the massive automaton leaning against the wall. A hulking Golurk, covered in moss and cracks, stood as if sleeping, its light out.

    Gardner patted its leg and exclaimed, “As you know, there’s few of them left due to the high amount of Life needed to keep them going. I figure that you, with your control of it, can make him work again. Few would be able to challenge him and succeed.”

    Arthus chuckled, holding up a hand. “Perfect. I can take care of myself pretty well, but one can always do with another protection. Besides, he will make an excellent training dummy for Cassia; claws will hardly hurt him, and we can siphon his life without fear of killing someone.”

    Gardner huffed and rolled his eye. “Huh, ironic.”

    Arthus grabbed his neck and shook him. “Quiet.” He turned to the Golurk, then pressed his hand against it. “Awaken!” Red mist coursed down his arm into the giant frame, the light within beginning to flicker.

    Arthus pressed harder as Cassia stepped back. “Awaken!” Red tendrils erupted from the ground, feeding more into the giant. The cyan stone slowly turned black and grey, and the yellow light turned orange, then red. He began to shake, then stood upright, rolling his shoulders as more Life surged into him.

    Finally, he roared, shaking free of Arthus’ grip. He fell back, and the tendrils sank back into the ground, the weakened Usurper no longer having his previous strength.

    The Golurk stood still, studying his surroundings. Cassia stared at him fearfully, her eyes wide as the giant turned.

    It fell to one knee, leaning forward and bowing his head. “Prepared for service, master. What are your orders?” it said in metallic tones.

    Arthus coughed, standing up with a grin. “Ah, it works!” He covered his mouth and coughed again, stepping toward him. “What is your name, servant?”

    “Designation: Gorson Rensil Orma Moccin.”

    Arthus cringed. “That’s strange. Why do you have four names instead of one?”

    “It was customary—4000 years ago—to receive more names as indication of prowess,” the Golurk replied.

    Arthus rubbed his chin, thinking. “Well, I can’t be calling you Gorsonrensil-whatever-whatever all the time. How about a contraction, like…Grom?”

    The Golurk’s eyes blinked, then he nodded. “Nickname confirmed. I will respond to ‘Grom’ until you so choose to change it.”

    “Excellent!” He pulled Cassia closer. “Meet your new sparring partner! He will be extremely useful in training I’m sure!” Cassia looked up at the Golurk, frozen.

    Grom stood straight, offering his hand to her. “Designation: Grom. What is yours?”

    Cassia looked down at the hand, then cautiously shook it. “Cassia.”

    The eyes blinked, then he nodded. “Good morning—Cassia. It will be a pleasure to serve both you and the master.”

    ~~~~

    2018 AU

    Cassia sat on a stump, drawing on a pad of paper. Arthus hovered behind her, catching glimpses of her handiwork.

    “You have gotten quite good. I’m amazed how well you can draw.”

    Cassia held up her drawing of the Guild’s gate proudly. “You really think so?”

    Arthus nodded. “I know so.” He looked up, noticing the sky turning orange. “Best be going to sleep now. I won’t be able to visit tonight; important Guild business and all that.”

    Cassia closed the pad and stood up, hurriedly walking for the house. “No worries, I’ll be fine!” She entered the room, Arthus giving her a curious look.

    She set the sketchpad on the counter and pulled the Arceist Tome from underneath. She sat on the center chair, then opened the covers, pulling out a length of leather for a bookmark.

    Origin 4--

    After the Starfall, peace reigned throughout the land. However, 1000 years after the creation, wild Pokemon grew more dangerous and many of the Enlightened wished worse for others.

    However, this time of peace soon turned for the worse. In a time of great need, Arceus sent the Legend Mewtwo to save the village of Vaures from a horde of wild Pokémon. This was met with great praise, and upon returning to Deitae, Mewtwo became prideful of his powers.

    He descended upon the wild Pokémon of Equivos and those who challenged Arceus with a fury, so much that he became the hero of Serenita and Cretea. Lavish gifts were given to him, and many began to worship the Legend instead of Arceus.

    Mewtwo grew fearful of the very Pokémon he protected. He feared that the Pokémon he defeated would conspire against him, and so he dealt harsh punishments to the Pokémon of Deitae. Factions guided even by the other Legends of Deitae rose up against Mewtwo, while others more stood alongside the Rogue. Wars followed, and the land was devastated by their might.

    In the mightiest of these skirmishes, Arceus exited the Tree of Life and punished Mewtwo for intervening in the lives of mortal Pokémon. He then proclaimed that Legends shall only come out of Deitae once every full moon, and only under his direction after that.

    As punishment for if a Legend were to enter the mortal continents, Arceus crafted the Seal of Creation, a device designed to absorb Legends, and grant the user full protection from their might, even granting the abilities of those lost to its touch.

    Mewtwo was banished to the Isle of Regrets for his crimes, and the Seal was hidden deep within Serenita, to avoid the Legends from using it themselves. Only one mortal will prove able to circumvent the price of its use: The Usurper, the Pokémon who will lay waste to the followers of Arceus, destroy his word, and even attempt to take Arceus himself.

    She turned to the door, thinking of Arthus. ‘Dad mentioned that he was the Usurper…did that mean he had done these horrible things? Killing Pokémon, destroying the Tomes, even trying to use the Seal?’

    She set her bookmark in the Tome and promptly closed it. ‘There’s only one way to find out.’

    ~~~~

    “Again!” the Usurper bellowed.

    Cassia nodded, rushing toward Grom with her claws extended, red mist enveloping them. She gouged the sides with one swipe, then spun to strike another, then did so again, circling the Golurk and preventing him from striking back. All the while, the red light in his eyes began to fade.

    When it was at its dimmest, Arthus exclaimed, “Enough! We can’t have you draining him completely!”

    Cassia complied, breathing fast and panting. Arthus stood up from his seat and touched the Golurk, holding his other hand out toward Cassia. She took it, siphoning her collected Life into Arthus, which then trailed into Grom.

    Cassia averted her eyes and said, “Hey Dad, I was…wondering.”

    “Ask away,” Arthus absentmindedly said, focused on Grom.

    “Do you know about the Seal of Creation?”

    Arthus’ grip suddenly tightened. “How do you know?” He sighed, loosening it once more. “Yes, I know it well. Part of my role in the Guild is to use it to its full potential; only those with control over Life, or some form of it, can use it.”

    “So, it’s here?”

    “Of course, it is! Who do you think—” he stopped himself, gritting his teeth. “It doesn’t matter how I got it. The point is, Martre is studying it to find out how to fix it after my last escapade with it.”

    “Which was when?”

    “Is that really important?”

    “To me it is.”

    Arthus gave her a harsh look, then said, “Two-thousand years ago, when I nearly succeeded with defeating Arceus.” He let go of Cassia’s hand, leaping over the fence and running toward the Master’s Tower.

    Cassia stared wide-eyed at him, then turned to Grom. “Do you know about any of this?”

    He buzzed for a moment, then said, “Lord Arthus often talks to himself, possibly a side-effect from being alone for an extended period of time. He speaks of Matheus Lucario--an individual who died two-thousand years ago—often ranting about their failed friendship. He also speaks—” He fizzed, shaking his head. “He has restrained me from revealing more about another individual.”

    Cassia bit her lip, then said, “Is he the Usurper?”

    Grom buzzed, his lights blinking. “Texts from my time period, known as the Gregorian Scrolls, describe a future disciple of the dark prophet Gregorius. Another text from a prophet known as Klaym also foretold this Usurper, predicting that he would rise from the shadows, then fall into them once more, deeper than ever before. He would slay thousands in his desire for not just revenge, but out of grief. His most distinct feature would be him following the Gregorian Texts, which, with the dark prophet’s assistance, would allow him to become a master of Life.” He held up a hand. “Given that Arthus is a master of Life, and that he has previously mentioned being Gregorius’ student, he must, therefore, be the Usurper.”

    Cassia brushed back her mane, sighing. “That…that can’t be right! He’s a good Pokémon! He’s done so much for me!”

    “It is not my place to say who he is. All I say are predictions,” Grom warned.

    Cassia shook her head. “I remember him telling me before that he was called the Usurper, and that he didn’t want to talk about it.” She clutched her fingers. “The To—I mean, a book I read, said that the Usurper would stand against everything Arceus teaches, and try to stop the world from believing in him. Along the way, he’d…kill thousands.” She shivered.

    Grom buzzed, then said, “I am merely a guardian; I am to hold no position or feeling about my master or other individuals.” He lowered his head, his light dimming. “Until Lord Arthus returns, I will remain in sleep.”

    Cassia looked past the fence, which appeared to have nothing but buildings beyond. ‘Dad said I wasn’t supposed to go outside—he even made it look like there’s nothing out there.’ She looked away. ‘But I know that there’s other Pokemon.’ She looked up, closing her fist. ‘And I’m going to find out the truth.’ She waved her fingers, a rush of wind blowing by her. She appeared as a Lopunny, then, satisfied with her appearance, clambered over the fence.

    Dozens of Pokémon crossed by her, ranging from Tauros lugging wagons, Mr. Mimes carrying papers, or Swellow with parcels swooping low. All activity surrounded the Master’s Tower, where they remained distant to avoid the Guildmaster’s gaze.

    Cassia dodged between the Pokémon, making way to a round, low-roofed building with blue and purple stripes. The sign over the door said, ‘Wenstrel Café: In Memoriam”, but was marred by deep scratches.

    She entered, covering her nose upon breathing in the foul air inside. Pokémon surrounded dozens of filthy tables, all jabbering about one thing or another, meals and drinks in front of them. A wall at the back opened into a cafeteria, where Pokémon rushed to prepare the meals throughout the day.

    She studied the tables, then walked to one with a wizened Alakazam sitting with a Sawk with a sling over his arm. They talked with each other quietly but stopped once Cassia came by.

    “What you looking at, Lopunny? Got a problem with us being here?” the Sawk seethed.

    The Alakazam grabbed the Sawk’s uninjured hand and admonished, “Now Searle, remember what the Guildmaster said?”

    Searle muttered, “Yes, Trias…”

    The Alakazam nodded, then turned back to Cassia. “What can we help you with?”

    “I was wondering if you could tell me more about how the Guild works. I’m…new here, and haven’t learned much yet,” Cassia replied.

    “Ah, a new recruit! That explains why you don’t have an armband yet,” Trias remarked, pointing at Cassia’s arm. “Well, we’re quite busy, ensuring that criminals are caught, taxes are collected—” He stopped himself, lowering his hand. “That’s what I’d like to say, but…well, the Guild isn’t quite like it was when old Calem was alive.”

    “Yeah, it’s better than ever!” Searle slammed the table. “Beating up Pokemon and taking what we want! That’s what it’s been all about since Arthus got rid of that old Lucario. He’s been sending teams to find out how to repair that little pendant, and he told us that he wants everyone to feel like the world is horrible! It's the perfect excuse to beat them up every once in a while.”

    Cassia’s throat tightened. “W-What do you know about Arthus?”

    Searle went to reply but was stopped by Trias’ hand. The old Alakazam’s eyes narrowed, then he hissed, “We don’t speak of such things. He’d have our necks if we spread rumors.”

    “He’s not around right now, so it should be fine,” Searle replied, taking a glance behind him. Trias groaned, then Searle said, “He spends most of his time in that little house in the corner of the Guild, telling us to stay away, or he’d kill us. Only the Guildmaster has dared to go near.”

    Trias grabbed his arm, warning him to stop. “He is a ruthless combatant. He knows how to make everyone fear and obey him and wants nothing more than to end the world as we know it. He has made many claims, but is…honestly, thankfully unable to do that, for he has yet to repair the Seal.”

    “Is he…nice?”

    Searle sneered. “Nice? He doesn’t know the meaning of the word! He treats everyone like dirt, and only cares about that old Seal and his personal time in that house. He’d kill somebody for delivering a letter he didn’t like!” he hoarsely replied.

    Cassia’s claws shook as Trias patted Searle’s arm. “Careful Searle; if he caught wind of what you said, you’d be drained before you know it.” He forced a smile. “Besides, he’s rather respectful as long as you listen to him. He even promised us a place in his perfect world, where no wrong can be done!” He gave Cassia a concerned look. “Are you…alright?”

    “I’m…fine. What do you think goes on…in that house?” Cassia croaked.

    Trias blew his breath out slowly. “It’s rather dangerous to be asking such things, but I feel I must explain. No one really knows outside of Arthus himself and the Guildmaster. Some years back, I remember Arthus bringing a young Zoroark with him to revive his bodyguard, Grom, but she hasn’t appeared since. I thought it may have had something to do with her, but after the recent rumors, I thought different.”

    “W-What rumors?”

    Searle leaned in close and whispered, “That it’s a torture chamber for those fools who believe in Arceus.”

    Cassia gasped, then broke into tears, falling against the table. Trias’ eyes widened, and he stepped over and touched Cassia’s back. “What’s wrong? Was it something we said?” He looked down at his hand, which passed through the Lopunny slightly. “Hmm?” Cassia continued to cry, and the illusion faded, revealing her to be a Zoroark.

    Searle raised a shaking finger, pointing at her. “Y-You’re a spy! F-For Arthus! He left one of you alive, that way he could weed us out and kill us! I knew—”

    “Stop saying that!” Blinking away tears, Cassia leapt on top of the table and took Searle by the injured arm, twisting it back. Searle cried out as Cassia held her sharpened claws inches from his throat. “You’re wrong! He’d never kill anyone! He’s a nice, kind Pokémon! I’ve lived with him all my life!”

    Trias cautiously stepped closer to them, holding his hands out defensively. “I saw you four years ago; Arthus was unusually kind that day. Have you ever thought that he never wanted you to see his true self? So that you would not be repulsed by him?”

    Cassia gazed at him in shock, continuing to hold Searle. After several moments, she released the Sawk, then disappeared, the doors flying open as she fled.

    Searle clutched his injured arm as Trias slipped it back into its sling. “Where did she come from? Why was she here?”

    Trias watched the doors swing, the other Guild Pokémon staring at the evidence of Cassia’s visit.

    “To know the truth.”

    ~~~~

    The Zoroark continued to weep on her bed, finding it impossible to believe that her father was a killer as those two had said. ‘He can’t be like that…he just can’t!’ But the nagging thought kept returning: ‘What they had said was true.’

    She sniffed, wiping her nose. ‘He never wanted me outside…because he didn’t want me to see who he really is.’

    The door creaked open, and Cassia twisted back. Arthus walked in with a grin. “Let’s get back to that combat practice; soon you’ll be tougher than—” He saw Cassia’s tear-stained face, and her sad, conflicted expression. “Me.” He shut the door, then approached her, concerned. “What’s wrong?” He made to sit next to her, but she scooted away, crossing her arms and leaning on her lap.

    “I…I went out today. I went out into the Guild.”

    “You what?”

    “I talked with some Pokémon after Grom told me about you,” Cassia said flatly.

    Arthus growled, clenching his claws under the bed. “Whatever that ridiculous Golurk or those goons said—”

    “They told me you’re cruel to them. They told me you’ve killed Pokémon.” She hit her hand against the bedpost. “They told me you’re trying to kill Arceus!”

    Arthus said while trying to embrace her, “Why do you—”

    Cassia shoved him away, bolting to her feet. “I’ve read about you. You’re the Usurper, aren’t you? The one who tried to kill everyone in Equivos, the one who took Arceus, the one that killed the Lucario!”

    Arthus stood up and spat, “How do you know these things? I never told you about them, and for good reason!” His eyes swiveled to the corner, focusing under the counter. “I know…”

    He stormed to the counter, and Cassia paled. The Usurper reached underneath, yanking out the Arceist Tome and holding it up. “It’s this, isn’t it? I accidentally left it here, and you’ve been reading it, haven’t you? Reading its lies!”

    “There are no lies! It said that you would kill everyone! The Lucario, the Guild, even your wife!”

    Silence!”

    Arthus threw the book down, making deep, shuddering breaths. He held up a shaking claw, then hissed, “I admit it: I have killed Pokémon. I have killed so many that I can’t remember. All of it, because I hate Arceus and what he teaches.”

    The Usurper lifted the Tome, tapping its cover. “I kept that from you, because I hate myself for it. I never like death; it is a necessary evil. Think about it: I want Pokémon to do only good. To do that, everyone must die, then be resurrected by me, without the choice to do wrong. It pains me every time I steal their life, but I believe…” He shook his head, holding a flame in his other claw. “No, I know it is the only solution to end sorrow!” He held the book over the fire.

    “No!” Cassia ran to Arthus, pulling at the Tome.

    Arthus kept his grip, glaring at his adopted daughter. He released the Tome, allowing both it and Cassia to fall to the floor. Cassia held her head, groaning, while he took the book back, extinguishing the flame.

    He stepped silently to the door, then opened it. “You’re not in your right mind. This book has obviously affected you.” He inspected it, sneering. “Knowing how you’ll react if I destroy it, I’ll give it to Gardner for safe keeping.” He turned back to Cassia. “I have tried my best not to be angry at you, Cassia, but this time you’ve pushed me too far. I’ll have Grom keep you inside as you think about your mistake.” He stepped outside. “I’ll be back later.” He slammed the door, the floor shaking from the force.

    Cassia shook her head, her heart beating rapidly. She ran for the back door and opened it, then gasped when she saw Grom standing against the doorframe.

    “Lord Arthus is not pleased. I am to refuse all communication with you until he directs otherwise.” He pounded his knuckles together. “As for my directive, he allowed me to do no more than break bones to keep you from trying to steal the Tome. It is nothing but lies, and—”

    She slammed the door, falling against it with a sob. She covered her face and heaved, struggling to breathe. ‘No…please, no…don’t be like this!’

    She considered his actions. ‘He was only ever kind to me…yet he’s murdered Pokemon. He didn’t even deny it.” She let her head fall back on the door. ‘The Tome was right…it was always right.’ She sniffed, wiping her eyes. ‘I wish I could read it again…’ One passage came to mind, one of the few she had chosen to memorize:

    Just as gladness comes, sorrow shall follow. Behind lies and deceit, lives are lost, whether it be through death of body, or death of heart. This is all to my plan.

    For without sorrow, how can one realize joy? All shall pass, so long as one puts their trust in their creator.

    After a few minutes of repeating this phrase and coming to terms with the truth, she forced herself to calm, taking in deep breaths and standing up. ‘I can’t stay here anymore…not now that I know who Arthus really is.’ She looked around the room, uncertain. ‘But…can I really do that?’

    Cassia considered her options. ‘I…I could stay here…with Arthus. But he wouldn’t let me read the Tome again…and he’d surely try to make me like him…a murderer.’ She shook her head vigorously. ‘No. The Tome said you shouldn’t kill unless defending yourself or others. I can never be happy here with Arthus like this…not now that I know.’

    She leaned against the wall, crossing her arms and bowing her head. ‘But what else can I do? Run away? I know nothing about the outside! I can protect myself, sure, but how am I going to eat? Sleep? It’s a dangerous place out there…if what Arthus said is true.’

    She gasped, putting a hand over her mouth; a dreadful thought came into her mind. ‘Corrina died two thousand years ago…Arthus can’t be my real father.’

    “He left one of you alive!” she remembered Searle Sawk saying. She stood straight, eyes wide. ‘What…what happened to my real parents?’

    She considered it for a moment, then sobbed. ‘He…he killed them…just like everyone else…then adopted me.’ In the midst of her tears, she wearily took a bag from the counter and pulled supplies and belongings into it.

    ‘I’m leaving…tonight.’

    ~~~~

    The front door creaked open, and Cassia poked her head out. She slowly stepped out, holding a large sack over her shoulder, loaded with what supplies were within reach. She looked around, then stepped toward the tower.

    A boom echoed from the backyard, then Grom thrust from it, his feet blowing away dust and grass. The scarlet cracks scattered throughout his body shone even brighter in the night air, the blackness hiding all but that.

    He cracked his knuckles, cocking his head. “You have come out. Lord Arthus’ directive is to keep you in the house. Comply now, and there will be no need for violence.”

    Cassia crouched, tightening her grip on the bag. “Never.”

    His eyes flashed, and mist trailed up from the cracks. “Reserves accessed. You will be unable to drain my Life to force me into hibernation. Prepare for conflict.” His arms reared back.

    Cassia ran around him, throwing the bag behind her. The Golurk swiveled his torso, his legs remaining in place. He slammed his arms, the Zoroark leaping away from the impact.

    Grom rushed forward, coursing ahead with his thrusters. Cassia leapt away, scratching his back, creating a trail of mist into her body. A ball of red flame appeared in her hand, and she threw it at Grom.

    He lifted his arm and blocked the impact, shuddering. He knelt down, then held his arm out, a dark sphere growing at the palm.

    Cassia ran toward him, and Grom fired the sphere. She jumped over it, then landed on Grom’s shoulders, grabbing hold of his neck. The Golurk stood up and swung his arms back, reaching for the Zoroark. She tucked her legs back, pounding Grom’s head to no effect.

    Grom suddenly stopped, then fell backwards, expecting to crush Cassia. She let go of Grom and scrambled out of the way, taking a sizable rock from the ground.

    The Golurk pushed himself up, then searched for Cassia, who was nowhere in sight. He scrutinized the surroundings, knowing that she couldn’t have escaped so quickly. He noticed a slight shimmer in front of him, then reared back his arms for a punch.

    The shimmer broke as Cassia leapt from it with a yell. She swung the rock against Grom’s head, knocking a spherical chunk from the top, the sparking stone rolling on the ground.

    Grom’s lights flickered and his head sparked. He wobbled drunkenly, then fell forward with a slam, dust ballooning around him. His eyes fell dark.

    Cassia breathed quickly, picking up the stone that rolled from his head. The light within it faded as she took the bag and stuffed the stone inside, ensuring that Grom couldn’t be repaired so easily.

    A light snapped on in the Master’s Tower, and a silhouette descended the stairs. Cassia breathed in sharply, disappearing.

    Soon after, Gardner burst from the door, looking around wildly. “Who did that? I demand to know!” His eye came to Grom. It widened.

    The door slammed behind him, and he turned back with a grunt. “What?” He pulled at the handle, but the door was locked. He slammed it and roared, “Open this instant! Don’t you know who I am?”

    Moments later, the door burst open, batting Gardner to the ground. Cassia rushed out, the Arceist Tome poking out of her bag.

    Gardner hovered upward, rubbing his chin. He noticed Cassia and growled. “You’re not getting away that easily.” He burst into puce fog, the vapor rapidly approaching the Zoroark.

    It enveloped her, and Cassia tried to wave it away, coughing. Gardner chuckled. “You haven’t met a Ghost before, have you?” A glowing purple fist appeared in the fog and punched Cassia, knocking her to the ground.

    The Dusknoir rematerialized over her, crossing his arms. “As much as I’d love to see you disappear from my life, Arthus wouldn’t appreciate it.”

    Cassia rubbed her lip, baring her teeth. “Let. Me. Go.”

    Gardner growled, grabbing her arm. “What makes you think I’ll do that? I listen only to Arthus!”

    Grom’s lights flickered.

    Cassia scratched his arm, causing Gardner to grunt and grab her other arm. He pushed her down and shouted, “You don’t think I am ready for such tricks? Your natural abilities are useless against me!”

    Grom’s eyes burst with flame.

    Cassia pulled against Gardner, exclaiming, “I can’t stay here! Not with him!”

    “But he’s your father. That precious Tome of yours must have something about being obedient to your parents.”

    Grom’s inner workings whirred.

    Cassia eyes drew close to Gardner’s. “He killed them.”

    “Graaww!”

    They both looked up, freezing in place as Grom stood up, his head sparking with red electricity.

    Cassia forced herself to look away and pulled her arm out from Gardner’s grip and scratched across his face, causing him to scream and cover it, dampening the violet mist flowing from the wounds.

    Grom pounded forward, rearing back his fist. Cassia leapt out of the way as Grom threw a gargantuan punch at Gardner, sending him flying into the roof of the tower and through the tiles with a crash. The light inside went out.

    Cassia looked up at Grom, her heart pounding as she shook. The Golurk—his face appearing upside-down to her—cocked his head. “Graw-hawm?”

    Cassia cocked her head as well. “What did you say?”

    His arm moved, causing Cassia to flinch. He lowered it, then held it out to Cassia. “Gro?”

    Unsure of what to think, Cassia accepted the hand, then allowed herself to be pulled upright. She studied Grom, then said, “Can you…talk?”

    “Gro-hawm?”

    “Can you…remember anything?”

    He fingered the gap in his head. “Gro?”

    Lights came on in the other houses, and doors started to open. Sensing danger, Grom grabbed Cassia’s sides and lifted her up. She eeped, holding on to Grom as he crouched. “Wait, wait! What are you doing? I want to—”

    Bo-o-o-o-m!

    Grom burst from the canyon into the open air, the Master’s Tower rapidly shrinking as they fled.

    The night wind rushed by Cassia’s ears as she looked back despairingly. She remembered memories of her life with Arthus, and her tears returned.

    “I’m sorry.”

    ~~~~

    Arthus stood outside the gates, holding the Seal of Creation in front of his face. “She’ll…she’ll get over it…she’s only a child.” He sighed and dropped it, pushing open the door. “I should go apologize.”

    A boom echoed from inside the Guild, and Arthus burst inside, watching Grom thrust out of the walls and into the distance, his crimson flare barely visible.

    Arthus ran to his launching point and shouted, “Where do you think you’re going?” He growled and threw his arm in the air. “Oh, forget it. He’ll be back before long.” He stepped toward his house and muttered, “I’ll just have to watch her myself.” He stopped, noticing the door open. He cocked his head and pushed it open. “What?” He entered, studying the room; nothing was out of place—except Cassia wasn’t there.

    He paced around the furniture, eyes narrowed. “Cassia? I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have snapped at you earlier.” He twisted his head, scowling. “Are you invisible? Why are you refusing to talk to me?” He came to the counter, picking up a leaf of paper with his name in curved letters.

    “Hmm?” He sat on his chair, his eyes flitting as he read its contents.

    Dad, or more accurately, Arthus:

    You have lied to me. All my life, I believed you were a good Pokémon, one who showed others the same kindness you showed me. I know now that you are nothing like that. You kill and torture Pokémon, claiming it is for the better, when in reality you just want to vent your anger on them.

    I’ve read from the Arceist Tome ever since I could. It teaches only truth, unlike what you have said. I’ve had it confirmed to me when I was young. Everything in its pages defies your ideology, and I refuse to live in it anymore. No, this is not my fault.

    It is only yours.

    Cassia

    Arthus’ claws quaked, the letter rippling. His eyes widened in sheer astonishment and rage. Red flames crackled against the letter, putting it alight.

    “She…she left me.” He bared his teeth. “She betrayed me.”

    Arthus rose, his limbs continuing to shake. “Are you happy now, Arceus? You have taken her from me.” His eyes glowed red, and his claws emitted mist. “Just like Matheus!”

    He roared and crushed his chair. “I showed her love!” He pulled down the shelves. “I cried with her!” He ripped off the cabinets. “And this is what I get!” He flipped over the bed. “All of that, wasted!” He crushed and destroyed everything he could lay hands on, his blind rage encompassing all, just like the ever-growing flame.

    It grew to consume the entire house, and Arthus charged through the wall out into the open. He stared at the bonfire he had created, then shaking his fist, roared, “Why do you have to torture me!” He fell to his knees and wept for the loss of his daughter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  16. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 11: Calling

    2018 AU

    In a clearing far to the east of the Guild, Grom slowly landed, his flames dying down and his feet thudding against the ground. The night was only illuminated by the stars, the new moon providing nothing. Deep within the forest, most creatures slept, despite the Kricketot chirruping around them, and the lights of Illumise and Volbeat dancing in the distance.

    The Golurk set Cassia down, allowing her to step forward, astounded by the view before her. “I…never knew there was anything like this.” Her feet brushed against the soft grass, luxurious compared to the rough stone and weeds of the Guild.

    She crouched down and brushed it with her claws, smiling slightly. “Why didn’t Da—er, Arthus, ever bring me here?”

    “Because he was afraid.”

    Cassia turned to see a pair of red eyes gazing from a tree, the owner a shadow leaning against it. “Ever since he lost his son, Erik, he’s wanted to have a family of his own—one done right. He killed your parents but didn’t realize you were there. He kept you out of guilt and expected you to love him without question—as well as obey him.”

    Cassia furrowed her brow, stepping closer. “Who are you? How do you know all that?

    The shadow stood straight, the moon revealing silver fur. “You are right to be skeptical, considering where you just came from. I’ve been watching you for some time from the Tree of Life, waiting for the time you would eventually leave.”

    “Tree of Life? You’re a Legend?” Cassia asked, her eyes widening. The shadow stepped closer, and Cassia saw in the dim light that he was a silver Lucario wearing leather clothing.

    The Lucario bowed, taking off his hat. “You may call me—”

    “Matheus, the Guildmaster!” Cassia gasped.

    Matheus shrugged. “Well, just Matheus will do, but—"

    “No one’s seen you for thousands of years!” she interjected.

    He tapped his head. “Not quite. I’ve had a few adventures out and about and made a few friends along the way.” He sighed, replacing his hat. “Still, I’ve had to be more private than I like to be for the past few years.” He looked up at Grom. “That wound you made in his head,” he pointed to the recess, “it disabled some of his major circuitry. He won’t be able to speak, or remember his previous life, without that stone in your bag.”

    Cassia pulled out the cracked stone, holding it up. “So, this will make him change back?” Matheus nodded. She stuffed it back into the bag, driving it deep. “He’ll just go back to Arthus. It’s better for him to stay with me.”

    Matheus nodded again. “He can act as a protector. You are certainly skilled, and from what I’ve seen, rival Arthus.” Before she could ask, he held up a paw. “We can talk more in the morning. Arthus will still be reeling over your departure; we won’t have to worry about the Guild for at least a few days.” He lay down next to a tree, propping his head on a root. “Make sure you choose somewhere nice and flat; you’ll have a hard night otherwise.” With that, he closed his eyes.

    “Wait, you’re staying with me?” Cassia exclaimed in disbelief.

    “In the morning,” Matheus repeated, grumbling.

    Cassia stood still for a moment, then turned to Grom. He leaned slightly, his previous robotic nature seeming to have gone. “I never really paid attention to you outside of—” She cut herself short. “Never mind. What I mean is, do you…sleep?”

    The Golurk cocked his head. “Grawm?”

    Cassia held her chin in thought. “Do you do anything on your own?”

    Grom’s eyes stared blankly. “…Gro?”

    Matheus opened an eye and said, “You won’t get anything out of him. Not anymore.” He closed it again.

    The Zoroark studied Grom’s hand, then held it in her claws. “Arthus made you come back to life. I guess it’s possible with Golurk, but knowing now what he does, he probably changed you. Changed you to be a better slave. You didn’t want to do anything on your own and didn’t care if you did. You weren’t what Arceus would have wanted.” Grom continued to stare.

    Cassia rubbed Grom’s hand, feeling the coarse conglomeration of stone and metal that made it. “I don’t want someone to order around; I want someone that I can talk to. I want someone who will help me not because they have to, but because they want to.” She closed her eyes, and without realizing, red tendrils extended from her claws into Grom’s arm. “I want…a friend.”

    Grom’s eyes blinked rapidly, then suddenly flashed. He looked down at his arm, noticing tears falling.

    She fell to her knees, letting go of his arm. “I don’t know anyone except you and Arthus, and he’s gone and you’re not the same. I’m alone out here. I’ve run away from everything.” She covered her eyes, unaware of Matheus’ gaze.

    Grom held up his arm, fingering the gap in his head. “Gro…” He crouched and wrapped his arm around Cassia, gently hugging her. “Graw-howm.”

    Cassia sniffed, then looked up at him. “What did you say?”

    “Graw-howm,” he repeated.

    Cassia paused for a moment, then laughed, holding Grom’s arm. “I…know what you’re saying.” She closed her eyes and shifted in Grom’s embrace. “You want a friend too.” She closed her eyes, the Kricketot lulling her to sleep. “I’ll be your friend.”

    Matheus made a slight smile, nodding his head. He closed his eyes again, knowing now that he did the right thing.

    ~~~~

    The dim forest turned bright, and the birdsong of Fletchling filled the air. They flitted through birch trees and pecked bright yellow berries from bushes, their sour scent filling the air. A slight wind ruffled their feathers and disturbed their flight—as well as the slumber of a young Zoroark.

    She snapped awake and shivered, unused to having the wind awaken her. She noticed that Grom still had his arm around her, and that her bag was no longer at her side.

    “Choose a good spot?”

    She looked to her left and saw Matheus sitting at a fire, pulling charred berries from a sharpened stick and tossing them into his mouth. Her bag sat at his feet.

    He took more yellow berries from a pile at his other side, then stabbed the stick through them. “Better come get some before I eat them myself; I don’t like wasting food,” he said with a smile.

    Cassia realized that she hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner the previous day. She ran to his side to take some berries. Grom stirred—his eyes dim—then went off into the woods, shuffling away.

    Cassia went to take some berries but was promptly rapped on her hand by Matheus’ paw. She rubbed it as he said, “Roast them first; Wacan berries are too sour otherwise.” He took a stick from behind him and held it out to her. “Plus, it also teaches a lesson in patience.” He pulled out his own stick, then shoved it back into the flames. “Out here, you can’t be hasty to do things.”

    The Zoroark accepted the stick and pushed berries onto it, then allowed the flames to lick their skins. “Where’d Grom go off to?”

    “To gather Life, I’d expect. Golurk like him have to do that often, or else they go into hibernation.” Matheus gave her a suspicious look. “I’d never have thought that one of Arthus’ descendants would be able to control it like him.”

    “Hmm?” Cassia asked, inspecting the berries she roasted.

    Matheus scooted closer. “He had to do some awful things to use Life, and there was never any mention in those scrolls that it could be inherited.” He pulled off the berries, tossing one into his mouth. Cringing, he said, “Especially considering that Erik was already born by that point.”

    Cassia turned to him and asked, “Do you know why Arthus turned against you? Why he wanted to…kill everyone?” She still found this truth difficult to believe.

    Matheus sighed, rolling a berry in his paw. “As you may know, he had a difficult childhood, among other things. He wasn’t quite the same after his parents left, but he was still intact until I left to complete the Trials. When I came back months later, he had changed. He kept going on and on about how he’d make Pokémon do what’s right, and that the Seal of Creation would let him do that. I found out that his wife, Corrina, had died—because of him, no less.” He pinched the berry, the juices squirting onto the ground. “Anyone who knew what caused him to murder her or want the Seal are either dead or refusing to talk. Even Arceus refused to tell me. Outside of that, I don’t know much. Arthus distanced himself from me thanks to that cursed ghost, Gregorius, and I had to run away days later.” He closed his eyes and grimaced. “It still astonishes me still that he’d be willing to massacre thousands just to make everyone do good.”

    Cassia plucked the berries from her stick, gazing at them sadly. “Was he a good Pokémon?”

    Matheus halfheartedly smiled. “Oh, he was the best. We created the Guild together, years ago, all so Pokémon would be safe. He was happy, charismatic,” he laughed for a moment and said, “and the one who kept me in line. I was a rather reckless fellow in my youth.” His face darkened as he stabbed the stick into the ground. “But after I returned, he wasn’t happy. He was charismatic, but in a dark way. He was bearable before, but he turned into something far worse.” He grabbed the end and crushed it in his grip, closing his eyes. “His imprisonment certainly didn’t help matters.”

    Cassia popped one of the berries into her mouth, puckering at the spike of sour. She cleared her throat, then, holding away the other berries, said, “What were those Trials anyway? The Tome didn’t reference them anywhere.”

    Matheus blew out his breath slowly. “Well, that’s for good reason: only one Pokémon can complete them, so the directions to start them weren’t saved.” He tapped his hat and continued, “Basically, the Trials were a way to gain permission to enter Deitae, and earn a ‘great reward’, which ended up being my Legendhood. I was tested in three strengths—Mind, Body and Spirit, or Wisdom, Power and Courage. Call it what you will.” He sighed. “I’d rather not go into what I had to go through, but the important part was that I succeeded. Of course, what felt like several hours ended up being several months. I left Arthus on his own for that long, letting him be influenced by Gregorius.”

    Matheus growled. “I don’t like dwelling on the past. I’ve had two thousand years to try and forget it, yet still, it hurts.” He took Cassia’s berries and ate them in one bite, swallowing hard. He spit at the ground, wiping his lips. “Bah, I’ve never liked Wacan.”

    Thuds echoed in front of them, and Grom returned, his lights bright and his arms swinging powerfully. “Grawm!”

    Shaking free of the despairing story, Cassia waved her claws in hello. “I like that you’re more awake too!”

    Matheus crossed his arms and gave her a curious look. “You changed him last night.”

    Grom towered behind them as Cassia twisted her head in confusion. “What? I didn’t do anything. I just talked to him is all.”

    Matheus stood up, tapping Grom’s arm. “You did it without realizing it. Life is more erratic than you think; it’ll do things without you realizing.” He pointed at Grom’s head. “Arthus could block memories, so it's not too far-fetched to say he could change minds either. He’s not acting like a robot anymore; he’s acting more like a Pokémon. Even the Fletchling have noticed.”

    Cassia looked up and her eyes widened. Grom held out his arms and craned his neck up, and Fletchling hopped around him, tapping his body and chirruping gladly. He made a contented chuckle, his voice shaking the earth.

    Cassia looked back with a smile. “That’s never happened before.”

    “Graaaw…” Grom replied, the Fletchling flittering away.

    Matheus held his paw out to Cassia and said, “We were given knowledge, emotion, and willpower by the Enlightenment Legends, but Arthus changed him so he would be the perfect servant by taking away his emotion and willpower. You gave it back.”

    Cassia accepted the paw, then reached around Matheus and retrieved her bag. “That reminds me of something I read in the Tome.” She opened the bag and began to pull it out.

    Matheus stepped back and said, “‘And so the servants of Arceus bestowed a number of his creations with knowledge, emotion, and willpower. Knowledge to know his word, emotion to understand his word, and willpower to follow his word.’”

    Cassia beamed, removing her hand. “You’ve read the Tome?”

    Matheus grinned. “It’d be ridiculous for a Legend of Arceus not to read it, wouldn’t it?” He craned his neck, his ears twitching. “I think there’s a river near here.” He started walking away. “Leave your things; we’d rather not have anything get wet.”

    The Zoroark held up the bag, then reluctantly set it down. She followed Matheus along the path, while Grom stood watch over their miniature camp.

    She looked around her, amazed by all the life surrounding her. The trees rustled in the wind, and the birds chirruped. Pachirisu jumped amongst the branches, carrying berries with them to their homes. Farther away, Sawsbuck with pink flowers on their antlers grazed on the soft grass.

    Matheus looked back at her. “You haven’t seen anything outside the Guild, have you?” She shook her head.

    Matheus sighed despairingly. “We chose that spot for its defensive nature, not for its appearance. I’d feel sorry for any Pokémon who was raised there. Dust and shrubbery don’t make for a pretty place to live.” He looked back at Cassia, then turned away. “I take it you haven’t eaten fish then.”

    ~~~~

    At the edge of the gently flowing creek, Matheus pulled off his leather coverings, his silver fur reflecting brightly in the sun, contrasting sharply with the yellow and black elsewhere. He knelt next to the water, hovering over a school of red Basculin, the wild Pokémon staring back.

    “About the only fish I see outside the ocean. A bit bland, but a few berries do them wonders,” Matheus stated, scrutinizing the fish.

    Cassia sat on a stump, peering down at the Basculin. Her mane hung down into the water, and a Basculin drew close to it, its mouth opening.

    She yanked back her mane, pulling it close. “You really want to…eat them?”

    “Why not? It says in that Tome that Arceus allows it. Just read Dictations 23, then you’ll see.” Matheus snapped his paw into the water and pulled out a Basculin by the tail. It wriggled and flopped helplessly to return to the water, but Matheus gave it a punch to the head. It fell still.

    Cassia cringed, leaning away. “I…haven’t really seen a wild Pokémon before, let alone eaten one.”

    Matheus shrugged, setting the fish aside. “I tried my first fish when I was younger than you. Ain’t that bad once you get around the fact that your meal’s staring at you.” He grinned, returning to his catching.

    Wanting to leave the subject, she asked, “What do you know about Life?”

    Matheus gave her a sideways glance. “I know a lot about life, considering how long I’ve been around.”

    Cassia shook her head, laughing slightly. “No, not that life. I mean Life, you know, like what me and Arthus can use.”

    Chuckling, Matheus looked away. “Couldn’t help myself. Anyway, I actually know quite a bit, as I wanted to be prepared for when Arthus returned.” He pulled out another Basculin and gave it a quick blow. “From what I’ve found out, it is capable of many things: it can be used much like Aura can, in that it can be formed into explosive spheres. You can also enhance other Pokémon by touching them or drain them the same way. It can also be used to alter memories and change minds, but it usually takes a lot more effort to do so. It can even be used to travel to other Life deposits scattered throughout Equivos.”

    He set aside the Basculin and focused on another. “It does have its limits though. You can’t give life to a dead object—except Grom, who uses it more like a battery. You also require a supply of Life stored within the body, or you’ll just use your own.” He stopped for a moment, holding up a paw. “Unlike Aura.” His paw ignited in blue light, contrasting sharply with the red of Life.

    He stood up, stepping closer to Cassia. “Aura is a calm energy compared to Life. Life is erratic and powerful, and it can’t really be contained once it’s out of control. Plus, Arceus never intended Life to be used in this way, and thus, is unpredictable.” He pressed his paws together, enveloping them in the light. “Aura, however, is different. It is fluid, soothing. It allows you to see the emotions of others, and to see their thoughts. It doesn’t require you to take energy from the living or dead, only needing a strong connection with another.” He opened his paws, revealing a tightly packed, azure sphere. “And, when needed, it can be used as a weapon.” He twisted to the creek and fired the sphere at a Basculin. It struck it on the side, driving away the others as the target floated to the top.

    He took out the Basculin and held it up to Cassia. “Aura and Life are inseparably connected and are related to each other.” He threw the fish to her. “But they are not the same.”

    Cassia stared in amazement as she caught the fish. Matheus smirked, then pulled on his cloak, taking the other two Basculin. He started walking back from where they came and said, “It’s been a while since I’ve shown off.”

    She looked down at the Basculin, noting that the aura sphere left an impression in the Basculin’s scales. She traced it, astonished that Matheus could be so accurate with his shot.

    “Aren’t you coming?” Matheus called.

    Cassia blinked, then held the Basculin away from her, pulling a face. She stood up and ran after him, exclaiming, “Why’d you even give me this?”

    ~~~~

    The Basculin, now stabbed through with sticks, lay planted in the ground, sizzling by the fire. Matheus carefully squelched Wacan berries on their scales, the juices seeping into the soft skin and spreading through the tender meat inside.

    He leaned back and took a long sniff, then sighed contentedly. “Ah, perfect. Looks like those Wacan berries were some good after all.”

    Cassia sat across from him, with Grom sitting between them, crouching and keeping his arms close. The Zoroark’s mouth watered, while Grom simply scratched his head, stone grinding against stone.

    Matheus glanced at Cassia and smirked. “You know you want it.”

    Cassia groaned then laughed. “It does smell pretty good.”

    The Lucario pulled up a stick and inspected the Basculin, then nodded his head. “Looks ready to me.” He tossed it to Cassia, who caught it and froze, the eyes staring back at her.

    Matheus took another Basculin and bit into it, ripping free a chunk of flesh. “Told ya you had to get used to it.”

    Cassia cautiously took a bite, trying to push away the fact that she was eating a Pokémon. She chewed doubtfully, then gradually chewed faster as the sweet and sour flavor sunk in.

    She took another ravenous bite, her hunger from yesterday striking in full force. Matheus grinned, waving his Basculin. “Good, ain’t it?”

    Cassia nodded emphatically, turning to Grom. “You really have to try this!”

    “Hawm?” Grom pointed to his head, where his mouth would be if he had one.

    “Oh.” Cassia paused, then shrugged. “Forgot about that.” She continued eating her Basculin.

    Matheus took another bite and swallowed. “Nice to see that you’re willing to try new things. Starting today, I’ll be teaching you more on how to live out of the comfort of the Guild. You won’t have to worry about Pokémon bothering you with Grom around, but he can’t help so much in making fires, gathering food, and finding places to sleep.”

    He handed the other Basculin to Cassia, who had since thrown away the skeleton of her previous meal. “After that, I’ll hand you off to a good friend of mine to teach you more about the Tome.”

    Cassia stopped and looked up, flecks of meat stuck to her lips. “Wait, you’re not staying with me?” she said, disheartened.

    Matheus shrugged, taking a quick snap at his Basculin. “While I love keeping you company, I have other business to take care of. Arceus has to come first, and he’s given me assignments that I have to do on Deitae, which mortals like you can’t enter.” He set aside the Basculin and leaned forward. “Don’t think you won’t see me again though; you’re the first Pokémon I’ve really talked to in years, and I wouldn’t mind seeing you every so often.” He held out his paw, stretching over Grom’s legs. “Do we have a deal then?”

    Cassia studied his paw for a moment, then accepted it, giving it a good shake. “Deal.”

    ~~~~

    That night, Matheus opened Cassia’s bag and pulled out a thick blanket. “How’d you fit this in there?”

    Cassia curled her fur around her claw, smiling sheepishly. “I, uh, packed well.”

    Matheus laughed, spreading it on the ground. “Well, you’ve managed to do something better than me then.” He stood back up, his fur reflecting in the moonlight. “Now, lie down on it.” She did so, noticing how comfortable it was compared to sleeping on the bare ground.

    “Now roll.”

    “What?”

    “Roll. In the blanket,” Matheus repeated.

    Unsure of why he’d ask such a thing, she rolled, wrapping herself in the blanket. The warmth inside contained, the brisk night air did nothing to affect her anymore.

    Matheus leaned down. “See why I asked you to roll?” He turned to Grom and patted his arm. “You’re on guard duty. Make sure you charge up.”

    Grom saluted, then stomped off to find a life deposit. “Graow-howm!”

    Cassia soon fell asleep in the blanket, resolving to use it from then on to sleep.

    ~~~~

    Cassia was back in her room in the Guild, sitting on her bed. The chair in the center remained still, a red claw resting on its arm. Arthus sat in it, resting his head on his arm, his eyes dark.

    “So…this is how you repay my love,” he calmly said. The eyes gleamed with cold blue light, then he bared his teeth. “Running away…running away from the only Pokémon who cared for you.” Dark tendrils encircled Cassia, pinning her to the bed.

    Arthus stood up and slowly stepped toward her, his claws extended outward. “I still love you, however. But I can’t trust you. Not like before.” Mist flowed from the tips of his claws as he pressed them against her head. “Forget one thing…one thing only…” He pierced Cassia’s skin.

    “Arceus.”

    She screamed.

    ~~~~

    Cassia bolted upright, breathing heavily and clutching her head. Ensuring that Arthus was away from her, she pulled away the blanket and crossed her arms around her legs, forcing herself to calm.

    Grom turned his head, his eyes gleaming in the early morning light. “Graw?”

    She sniffed, glancing at Grom. “It’s nothing. I…I just had a bad dream.” She shivered, feeling her head once more.

    Grom twisted his body and trudged to her, then rubbed her back. “Haw-hawm. Gro.” Matheus continued to sleep on a tree, not noticing her plight.

    Cassia looked up at him, smiling slightly. “Thanks.” Her smile faded as she remembered Arthus. “Do you think I’ll see him again? I want to stay away, but at the same time…” She considered all the wonderful times they had together. “He taught me to draw…to read…everything, really. He was always happy around me…and always sad when thought of Corrina.” She took a deep breath, then said, “He wanted to have a perfect family, yet he destroyed it. He blamed Matheus and Arceus…but he is the only one to blame.”

    “Grawm,” the Golurk replied, shrugging. “Graw-grawm.”

    “Yeah…it’s probably for the best.” Cassia rested against Grom’s body, the warmth of his inner workings heating him. “You’re surprisingly comfortable despite being made of rock.”

    Grom looked at her curiously, then tapped at his frame, receiving clinks in reply. “Graw?”

    Cassia chuckled, the warmth causing her to be drowsy. “Sorry…I forgot…” She dozed off, and Grom stood on his own.

    ~~~~

    Cassia felt a poke to her nose and brushed it away, mumbling. She felt the poke again, then drove it away more furiously. It happened again, and she languidly opened an eye, seeing Matheus standing in front of her, holding a stick.

    “Rise and shine. Day one’s waiting,” Matheus said, throwing away the stick.

    Cassia moaned, forcing herself to stand up. Arthus let her sleep in most days, mostly because he was too busy with his Guild agenda to wake her early. ‘If Matheus is going to be like this every morning…’

    She shivered. ‘I’m not a morning Pokemon.’

    ~~~~

    “You can tell what direction you’re going by looking at the sky. The sun’ll always rise in the east, and set in the west,” Matheus explained. He and Cassia walked through the woods, with Grom lagging behind and looking around him for danger.

    “How long will it take for me to learn everything?” Cassia asked, turning her head toward rustling leaves.

    Matheus picked up a stick and scraped it against a spike on his paw, creating a long, curling shaving. “Well, I can’t stick around for long, so it’ll be more of a crash course. Mostly what to avoid, how to get from place to place, and how to root around for edibles. There’s more to it, like shelters and tools and such, but given that you’ll likely be going to towns in the future, I doubt there’s much a need for it.”

    “Wait, I’ll need to go into towns? Like the Guild?” Cassia shrunk, remembering her last experience with other Pokémon.

    “It’s a fact of life. I go into town every so often so I don’t have to survive on berries alone, and so I can have a proper place to sleep.” Matheus looked back at her. “Besides, with what Arianne’s got in mind for you, you’ll want to go to town.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Matheus made a sly smile, then turned back. “I’d say it’ll take about a week. That’s about how far away Arianne is anyway.”

    Sensing that Matheus wasn’t going to tell her what Arianne was going to have her do, Cassia chose not to continue with the subject.

    They continued walking for several more hours, then Matheus abruptly exclaimed, “Pop quiz: what do you do when you’re in a surprise attack?”

    Cassia cocked her head. “Why?”

    Matheus suddenly swung his paw back, aiming for Cassia. She eeped and leapt back, narrowly avoiding the Lucario’s blow.

    She brushed back her mane and shook her head in surprise. Matheus crouched, going low to the ground. He made a slight smile and said, “Because you’re in one. Time to see how well old Arthus taught you.” He pumped his arms and dashed toward Cassia.

    The Zoroark faded in a shimmer, and Matheus stopped. His ears twitched, and he smirked. He snapped his paw to his ear, catching an invisible limb. “He’s taught you well.” He pulled her arm and swung her to the ground, her illusion dissipating.

    “Graowm!” Grom thudded toward Matheus, pounding his fists and causing his eyes to glow.

    The Lucario released Cassia as she held up her arms in defense. “He’s not really going to hurt me!” she exclaimed. The Golurk calmed, his limbs lowering. He muttered to himself, then ventured off the trail, watching from the sidelines.

    Matheus laughed, stepping back. “Should’ve remembered that; I wouldn’t want to tangle with him unless I had to.” He twisted back and grunted with a grin. “Now, let’s try that again. Rule number one out in the wilderness: fight well to eat well.”

    Cassia stared at him for a moment, then flourished her claws, stooping. “I don’t think I’m better than you.”

    Matheus nodded. “Right, I could beat you easily. How about this: you draw blood, I make my specialty soup tonight, and if I pin you down, you’ll get nothing but Wacan berries for dinner.”

    Cassia grimaced, stamping her foot. “But that’s hardly fair!”

    Matheus shrugged. “Well, when you’re hungry, you can’t be picky. You can’t always have what you like out here.” He held up a paw. “No using Life or Aura this time; they don’t react well on contact, and I’d rather not overwhelm you.” He cracked his knuckles. “Ready?”

    Cassia nodded, then disappeared, sweeping toward the Lucario.

    Matheus waited a moment, then punched to his right, receiving a grunt of surprise and a reappeared Zoroark. “Don’t go with the same tactic twice!” he exclaimed. He took Cassia’s arms and pulled them back.

    She threw up her legs and kicked him away, releasing his grip and freeing her arms. She dove underneath Matheus and held out her claws.

    The Lucario leapt upward, rising several feet in the air. Cassia stood up and gawked as he fell and landed gracefully on his paws.

    “You’re making this too easy,” Matheus complained, running forward. He swung out his paw, but Cassia deflected it with her own strike, then went to slash again.

    Matheus halted and thudded the claw with his paw, proceeding to hit with another. The two parried each other through various strikes, Matheus pacing forward and Cassia back. The Lucario couldn’t get a grip on Cassia, while she couldn’t land a strike on the Legend.

    Matheus suddenly swept a leg under Cassia’s, making her fall back. He dove forward as she clawed the air in front of her and cried out, landing in the dirt. Matheus pinned her arms to the ground and splayed her legs, ensuring that she couldn’t get up.

    Matheus remained in that position, smiling. “Looks like you’ll be eating Wacan for dinner.” A razor-thin line of red appeared on his face, contrasting with the bright silver fur.

    Cassia grinned. “No, you’ll be making your ‘specialty soup’.”

    Matheus faltered and dabbed at his face, staring in surprise at the smear of blood that appeared. He remained still for a moment, then laughed, standing up and offering his other paw to Cassia. She pulled herself up as Matheus exclaimed, “Good show, good show! You really had me for a moment.” He wiped his paws clean, then said, “Tonight, we’re having Tamato.”

    ~~~~

    Over a steaming pot sitting over a roaring fire, Matheus crushed a spiny red berry in his paw, the juices and flesh dropping into the vat of similar color. He and Cassia sat on two sizeable rocks surrounding the fire, some distance away from a beaten trail. A burbling creek rushed behind them, while bushes with gleaming red berries surrounded them, avoiding an abrupt pile of loose dirt in the middle of the grass. The fire underneath the pot illuminated the area, providing a gentle glow for the three Pokémon.

    A bandage now across his face and his paws washed, Matheus sniffed the concoction. “Ah, good thing I planned for this. That river we came across yesterday winded down over here, and I hid a pot near a bush just in case.”

    Cassia hovered over the pot, her eyes reflecting the fire in the dark night. She took a sniff, then reared away. “It smells…hot.”

    Grom, who had previously been throwing a cloud of dirt from the nearby pile, turned his head. “Hrawmm?”

    Cassia laughed, shaking her head. “No, not like that.”

    Matheus dipped his paw into the soup and took a drop, letting it fall onto his tongue. He blew his breath out slowly and exclaimed, “Hoo yeah, it’s ready to eat.” He reached behind him and took out two bowls, scooping a portion of soup out and setting them on another rock. He patted his leg and said. “Take your pick.”

    Cassia took the one with the smaller portion and held it up to her mouth. Bits of berry flesh floated on top, the heat causing them to break apart and become one with the juice.

    Matheus took his bowl and blew across its top, then took a sip from the edge. He sighed contentedly, leaning his head back. “Ah, it’s been ages since I’ve had Tamato soup.” He lightly shook his bowl at Cassia. “Go on, try it. It won’t kill ya.”

    Cassia blew across the top and took a small sip. Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth and fanned her hand across it. “Hot, hot!” she panted, setting down the bowl.

    “Graw-haw-haw!” Grom chortled, holding his sides.

    Cassia glared at him and said, “Oh, what do you know?”

    Matheus chuckled, taking another sip. “It’s an acquired taste, I’ll admit. Still, once you get past the spiciness, it warms you to the core.” He looked up. “Sort of like Arceus, in a way. He admonishes you, but he loves you all the same.”

    “How’s he like?” Cassia asked, intrigued.

    Matheus thought for a moment, then said, “I’m not sure it's my place to say. Technically, I’m not really supposed to be telling you that I serve Arceus; that’s for you to decide.”

    “Why’s that?”

    Matheus set aside his bowl. “Well, think about it like this. You know from the Tome that Arceus resurrected me after Arthus killed me. You also know that I am sworn to serve him until the Day of Desolation, which no one but him knows the day of.” He leaned forward. “Suppose I told everyone about that, including those who haven’t read the Tome. Arceus wanted Pokémon to base their belief in him on that book and his teachings, not the physical evidence of his work.” He pointed at his chest and slid a paw across his side. “Right there is the killing blow. It was a nasty piece of work, one that you wouldn’t live to tell the tale. It goes from my stomach, all the way to my back.”

    Cassia grimaced, taking a closer look. Indeed, right where Matheus traced, a thick scar raised the fur above it, clearly visible. “Could you tell me how you got it?” she asked.

    Matheus looked up briefly, then leaned back. “Don’t see why not. You ought to know anyway, as it also has to do with how Arthus ended up imprisoned with Yveltal anyway.”

    Matheus leaned forward and clasped his paws. “A bit of background, to start. I had been with Laryon for several weeks, heading to the Guild to rescue my sister, Azure; she raised him after his parents died. We made it there expecting for Arthus’ Pokémon to attack us, but they had all gone—deserted, apparently.” He narrowed his eyes. “Little did I know that Arthus had already managed to go to Deitae and absorb Arceus.” Cassia’s eyes widened. “He had taken the Seal only a few days before. I had expected him to use it right when he captured Arceus.”

    “Yet he didn’t. Laryon and I had ascended the keep of the Guild and met with Azure along with Erik Zorua—Arthus’ son. Not long after, Arthus came, and demanded that he be with Erik. He seemed to want to use the Seal with Erik at his side because he was his last reminder of Corrina.”

    Cassia’s face fell. “I…never knew that. I always knew about her, but he never talked about Erik.”

    Matheus nodded slowly. “Arthus loved Erik as much as he loved Corrina. He wanted to create a perfect world with him—which ended up being his downfall.”

    He sat straight. “Anyway, back to the action. He wanted Erik so badly that he went for Azure, who Erik ended up growing closer to in Arthus’ absence. Laryon at first guarded him, but I took over, and we fought for ages.

    “We traded blows, him trying to push past me to Erik, while I was trying to get the Seal from him.” He furrowed his brow. “I don’t know why he didn’t use it. He could’ve taken Erik after he made his ‘perfect world’, but he never saw it like that. He almost seemed…hesitant.

    “He knocked me down and ran for Erik. Laryon came in again and tried to fight Arthus, but he proved too strong. Arthus finally held out his claws and prepared to kill Laryon.”

    Cassia gasped. “Why? He was only a Riolu!”

    Matheus shrugged. “Pure anger, I’d say. Laryon had kept the Seal from him for years, and that combined with him protecting Erik finally made him do what he did to so many others.”

    He leaned forward again, grim. “I couldn’t let that happen. I loved him like my own son and would have done anything for him. So, I took the killing blow.” He pointed at his scar. “Right here.”

    He sighed, tapping his foot paw. “There was no way I was going to survive it. Arthus was stunned by my move, and in his confusion, Laryon took the Seal and activated it—just as I died.”

    He remained quiet, dwelling. Cassia crouched forward. “What happened?”

    Matheus shrugged slightly. “Can’t say I know, since I was dead. Laryon told me he was given Arceus’ power, and that he had a choice to change the world, just like Arthus wanted. Instead, he destroyed the Seal and released Arceus.”

    “Must have been a hard choice,” Cassia commented.

    Matheus waved a paw. “Not for him. I taught him after all.” He leaned back and said, “Arceus supposedly stopped Arthus in his tracks. He banished Arthus into Yveltal’s cocoon for causing irreparable damage to his creations, yet still found the sympathy to keep him alive. There he’d stay until the final years of Equivos.”

    Cassia held a hand on her cheek. “That’s a lot different than I thought it’d be. It was so…personal.”

    Matheus leaned back, “I think that I could convince a few Pokémon about my story if I wanted to…but that’s not how Arceus works. He wants Pokémon to have faith in him and his teachings, not to have a perfect knowledge. Otherwise, it ruins his purpose in creating us.”

    “And what’s that?”

    Matheus tapped his snout. “Read, and you’ll find out.” He smiled, then took back his bowl, taking another sip. “It’ll be rather chilly tonight, so eat up.”

    Cassia gazed at her bowl, then hesitantly picked it up. “You know, you’re not what I thought you’d be. You’re more…fun, and not serious all the time.”

    Matheus laughed. “Well, I am when I need to be.” He held up his bowl. “To Arceus, for granting us this world, and letting me meet you.”

    Cassia held up her own. “Same here. I’m glad you’re here, Matheus.” She winked. “Thanks for telling me about yourself.” The Lucario winked back.

    They both took a slurp, and Cassia tried her best not to cough from the heat.

    ~~~~

    Long after they fell asleep, Grom stood in the center of the camp, near the smoldering embers of flame and the scant remnants of Tamato soup. Cassia slept in her bedroll to his right, while Matheus slept on a tree, snorting occasionally.

    The Golurk looked about, noticing nothing unusual. His eyes began to dim, and he slouched forward, drifting into sleep after days of wakefulness.

    ~~~~

    The Golurk stood in a vast desert, in his pristine, cyan self. He stood with hundreds of others like him, standing in rank and file. He turned to the other Golurk, expecting to see some sign of life. They stood still, not even lifting a finger.

    One by one, they crumbled to dust, their powder blowing away in the wind. The crumbling tumbled toward Grom, daring to destroy him.

    He groaned in dread and ran from his fallen comrades, the dust billowing in ballooning clouds. The earth cracked behind him, surging for his limbs. His feet ignited in yellow flames, jetting him upward. The cracks followed, creating onyx shafts in the air, all shifting toward him.

    The cracks licked his feet, and his body began to rumble, focusing on his chest brace. He held it in place, moaning as he felt himself pulled apart. The black cracks enveloped the sky, creating a never-ending expanse of darkness. He crumbled further, and resolved to lose himself to the emptiness, his light dimming.

    Red chains enveloped him, driving away the cracks. They tightened his limbs and held them in place, and Grom sighed in relief. The chains hung in the air, held by a pair of gleaming red claws. One handed an end of the chain to the other, then lowered toward Grom’s head.

    The claw enveloped the top of his head, and spidery crimson threads arced from its ends. They weaved between the cracks and sewed them together, then glowed with fierce red light. The cyan darkened into blue, then to gray, then to black, the yellow light remaining the same.

    Grom groaned, attempting to move. The chains restricted him, keeping his arms and legs in place. He tried to tear free, but they refused to let him go, despite him being saved from darkness.

    He looked up at the claws and saw the threads wrap around his eyes. He roared, reaching for the gauze and trying to wrench it free. The threads glowed, and his light changed to orange. He felt his limbs become restricted in their movement, not by chains, but by some unknown force.

    The web flashed again, and Grom froze. The orange had become crimson, and he felt a chilling emptiness in his core. His limbs refused to move, and he felt nothing. The chains fell away, and the claws removed the gauze, then hovered in front of Grom.

    Grom wanted to tremble. He wanted to crumble with his comrades. They received their rest, yet he was torn from his fate, then warped and transfigured by an abominable creature. But now he had to serve some unknown master, free of will and of feeling.

    The claws pointed to the right, and Grom lifted his arm. Beneath him was a Golett, his past. The claw pointed down, and Grom threw his fist down, shattering the Golett, the spirit inside screaming.

    Grom screamed with it.

    ~~~~

    The Golurk wailed, his eyes dim and his limbs shaking. The brace on his chest shook, jiggling loose of the screws that bound it. His light began to rise, but his eyes remained out.

    Cassia opened her eyes slowly, awoken by Grom. She gasped when she noticed the Golurk, then pulled free of her roll. “Matheus wake up!”

    The Lucario lifted an eyelid, then snapped awake. “He’s having a nightmare!” He leapt to his feet and ran toward him.

    The clasp rattled against Grom’s chest, and his limbs began to whip around. Matheus ducked underneath him and exclaimed, “He’s going wild! We have to secure his brace, or he’ll overcharge and explode!”

    Cassia nodded, running toward the Golurk, ducking underneath his arms. She leapt on top of his chest and grabbed the brace, pressing it against him. She hurriedly spun one screw back into him, then the other. The limbs stopped spinning, and the Golurk’s eyes sparked open.

    He looked down, his chest shaking. “G-g-grawm. R-raw-hawm.”

    Cassia slid off his chest, her ears tilting down. “Grom? Are…are you alright?”

    The Golurk shook his head, then fell to his knees, clutching his head. “Rawm! Raw, rawm!” His entire body shook, appearing as if he wanted to express his grief in some other way, but was impossible.

    Matheus stared at him, aghast. He held up his paw and watched it envelop in blue light, then pressed it against Grom’s arm. He gasped, then lowered his head. “I…I feel it. His…sorrow. His pain. What in Arceus’ name did he do to you?”

    “Graw-graw-grawm! Hra-hrawm!”

    Cassia breathed in sharply. “Matheus, remember what you said about me giving back his willpower and emotion?”

    “Yes, what of it?”

    Cassia held his arm, leaning her head against it. “He says he remembered what happened to him. He saw Arthus taking it away. He was dying like all the rest of the Golurk, but then Arthus brought him back, then changed him. He…he was forced to serve him and feel nothing. Nothing but…cold.”

    Grom moaned piteously, shaking his head. “Gr-aw-aw-aw-m.” He lifted a handful of dirt, then let it drop from his fingers. “H-h-h-haaaaaaw.”

    Cassia closed her eyes and cringed. “He…he wanted to die. He wanted to die like the rest of his friends, so that he could be free.”

    Matheus gazed at him, wide-eyed. He removed his paw, then solemnly said, “So…Arthus tested his ideas on you.” He put a paw to his brow, baring his teeth. “He took your will to ensure you did as he said, and your emotion so that you wouldn’t feel tempted to rebel. He let you keep your memory, and therefore, your spirit, so that you can realize that you are doing what is right.” He clenched his paw. “To experience that…is indescribable. It’s exactly what Arthus wants: a world where you are forced to do good.”

    ~~~~

    The morning after they forced themselves to sleep, Cassia awoke, noticing Grom no longer in his spot.

    She looked around for a moment, then noticed the Golurk on his knees at the bank of the creek. He made no movement, simply looking into the water.

    Cassia pulled herself out, then walked to him. She looked at his face, seeing his eyes dim, then she studied his reflection, noting how clear it was.

    Grom turned his head slightly and said, “Gra-gra-grawm. Haw-gram.” He pointed to the reflection, then himself. “H-H-haw.”

    Cassia rubbed his arm, leaning against him. “I know…what Arthus did was wrong. He should never have done that to you.” She looked at his reflection again. “And seeing yourself changed doesn’t help either.”

    “G-Grawm,” he replied, nodding his head. He paused, then said, “Ho-hawm. Hawm.” He wrapped his arm around Cassia, gently hugging her.

    Cassia nodded, then replied, “I’ll be here for you. We’ve both been hurt by Arthus. We’ll go through it together.”

    They remained still for a moment, then Cassia held out a little black sphere to Grom. He stared at it, the crack in his head fizzling.

    She rubbed it sadly. “I wanted to keep this from you, since it’s what let you be with me…” She continued to hold it out, watching Grom stare. “But it also took away your speech.” Her hand shook. “I don’t want to give it to you, but if you want to be whole again…I won’t stop you.”

    Grom’s hand hovered over it momentarily, then retreated. He closed Cassia’s claws over it, then shook his head. “Graow-graw. Graw-haw-graow.”

    Cassia held it out for a moment longer, cocking her head. “You…you think it will make you forget me? You don’t want to be stuck with Arthus.” Grom nodded his head.

    Cassia thought for a moment, then beamed and hugged the Golurk. “Thanks. I didn’t want you to go.”

    They remained sitting at the bank, the sun rising over the trees and illuminating their new day.

    ~~~~

    Six days passed with few things of interest. Cassia learned more of how to support herself in the wild, including how to track Pokémon if needed. They reached the Minute Plains, where Cassia saw a small house in the distance.

    The wind rushed past their fur, and the sun hung bright overhead. The long grass rushed underneath their feet, and Skitty ran through it, their tails poking above the thrashing green blades. Matheus trekked ahead of Grom and Cassia, who walked alongside each other.

    The Lucario suddenly stopped, the house in view. He turned to face Cassia and Grom. “This is where we part ways.” He pointed to the house. “You’ll find someone named Arianne Gardevoir in there. Tell her that I sent you, and she’ll take care of the rest.”

    Cassia looked toward him sadly. “Do you really have to go?”

    Matheus shrugged, forcing a smile. “It’s just the way it has to be. She’d do a much better job than I ever could helping you teach from the Tome.”

    “Wait, teach from it?” Cassia asked incredulously.

    Matheus nodded. “That’s the calling of any who possess it. Read Proclamation 18; you’ll see it right there.”

    Cassia pulled out the Tome and quickly flipped through its pages, coming to the mentioned line.

    Proclamation 18—

    And I do this work for the benefit of all, to help my creations come closer to me. This work shall be brought forth to the world and shall reach its culmination when the Teacher shall come forth. All who possess this work shall teach of me, so that my word is not forgotten.

    Cassia looked up. “But I don’t know anyone out there!”

    “Arianne will help you out with that. I’m not exactly a social Beautifly either.” Matheus waved his paw. “I will see you in the future. So long.” He turned around and sprinted across the plains, leaving Cassia and Grom on their own.

    Cassia felt a lump rise in her throat. She leaned against Grom and waved back.

    Grom patted her shoulder, shaking his head. “Gra-grawm.”

    Cassia sniffed, nodding in reply. “Yeah…” She turned to the house. “Let’s go see Arianne.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  17. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 12: Precept

    Cassia gazed up at the intricate arc set within the door of the cabin. The heavy oaken door guarded the humble building, black slate making the sloping tiles, with a brick chimney puffing smoke form its top. Cassia’s feet stood atop a low wooden porch, where firewood lay stacked under a shrouded window. The sunlight reflected off of it, nearly into Cassia’s eyes with the bright noonday sun.

    Grom stood behind her, thinking it best not to stand on the porch. “Haw-grawm.” He nudged Cassia, waving his hand toward the door.

    Cassia adjusted her bag, nodding her head impatiently. “I know, I know!” She sighed, looking at her feet. “I just…don’t know. Do you think she’ll care that I’m a Zoroark?” Given her ancestor’s reputation and the reaction of those Pokémon at the Guild, she figured that Equivos didn’t view her species too highly.

    Grom shrugged. “Graw, graw grawm.” He pounded his chest, then pointed at the arc on the door. “Gro-hawm.”

    Cassia studied the arc more closely, then realized it was an intricate circle in the shape of the Arc of Arceus. ‘How did she get away with something like that?’

    Knowing that she couldn’t stand there forever, she rapped the door. After a minute or so, there was still no response.

    Cassia knocked again, then exclaimed, “Hello? Is anyone here? I was sent by Matheus Lucario!”

    Again, no response. Cassia slowly turned away and stepped toward the edge of the porch. “I guess she’s out.”

    The door suddenly creaked open, seemingly inviting her in. She turned back around, disconcerted by what had just happened.

    “Come in, come in! I’ve been expecting you,” an elderly voice said.

    Cautiously, Cassia stepped back onto the porch, then peeked her head inside. The cabin was a single large room with two doors to one side, separating them. A small table with two chairs stood in the center, in front of a series of cabinets, a stove, and a bucket filled with water. To the right were two cushioned chairs, with a shelf of books between them, and a small wooden board with a sack on top. A series of lanterns with large candles inside hung from the ceiling, unlit. Along the walls, elaborate portraits showing a variety of Pokémon and scenes hung, freshly dusted and polished.

    The Zoroark treaded into the dim atmosphere, feeling a sense of peace going inside. She heard a massive creak behind her and saw Grom dare take a step onto the porch, the wood sagging under his weight.

    “I’m afraid that your large friend will have to stay outside; my old house wasn’t built for the likes of him.”

    Cassia looked back at him and sympathetically said, “Sorry Grom; you just wait outside.”

    Grom stepped off the porch and crossed his arms. “Hrm.” He trudged to a large oak next to the cabin and leaned on it, the trunk bending upon contact. “Gaw!” he pouted, slamming his fist against it, causing several leaves to fall.

    Cassia turned back to the house and stepped forward, studying the home. The door closed with a prolonged squeak, and darkness shrouded her vision.

    She squinted up at the lanterns, noticing that the doors to the candles lay open. She held up her hand, causing a tiny crimson flame to come into it. She steadily threw sparks onto the candles, causing them to light with a somber orange light.

    Satisfied with the light level, she peered at the portraits, noticing a young Gardevoir predominantly among them. Amongst her, many other species posed alongside her in a variety of landscapes, and in one picture, she embraced a Gallade.

    “So, you’re Arthus’ kin.”

    Cassia whipped around her and eeped, meeting the gaze of an elderly Gardevoir. Her once-vibrant hair was striped with silver, and her face was lined with wrinkles. Her dress hung limply around her legs, and she stood with a slight hunch, supported by a wooden cane she held in her hand. Despite these infirmities, her eyes were still a bright scarlet, gazing at Cassia lightheartedly.

    “Thank you for lighting my lanterns, but I’d rather wait for when I need them,” she croaked. She focused on the velvet curtains covering the large windows of the cabin. They parted, coating the inside with vibrant yellow light.

    Cassia stared in amazement as the Gardevoir turned back to her. “You’re Psychic.”

    She gave her a curious look. “You haven’t met a Gardevoir before?” she smiled softly, shuffling to one of the cushioned chairs. “Well, I wouldn’t blame you, given your upbringing. The Guild is a wretched place to be raised.”

    Cassia gasped, pointing at her. “How do you know that? I haven’t met you before.”

    The Gardevoir made a coughing laugh. “Us Gardevoir primarily use our psychic abilities for reading minds and seeing emotions. I can’t read Dark Pokemon like you very well, but I can manage. ” She sat on the chair with a groan, then set the cane at its edge. “Plus, Matheus came by here over a week ago as he was going to the Guild; he filled me on the details.” She clasped her hands together. “As you said, we haven’t met, so I believe introductions are in order. I’m Arianne Gardevoir, and given your little greeting, you’re Cassia.”

    Cassia nodded, adjusting the bag over her shoulder again. “That’s right. I came here with a Golurk named Grom. He, uh, doesn’t talk much.”

    Arianne nodded sagely. “Well, all the better. Golurk don’t usually have much useful to say.” She held a hand to the side of her mouth and whispered, “To be honest, they’re rather dense.” She leaned back, acting as if nothing happened. “So, old Matheus sent you here. Wish he could’ve said a proper hello before he dropped you off, but I guess you’ll do.” She patted the chair next to her and exclaimed, “No need to stand there, I have room enough for you. Just mind the fur.”

    Cassia, assured that Arianne meant well, sat in the other chair, pulling off her bag and setting it at her side. It suddenly floated in the air, and Cassia reached out for it.

    Adrianne reached over and grabbed her claw, saying, “No need to worry.” It floated to a peg and hung from it. The lip opened, and the Arceist Tome hovered out of it, easing into Cassia’s lap. Arianne added, “Just want to make sure you have the tome is all.”

    Cassia traced her claws over the cover, like she had done many times before. “I noticed that you had the Arc of Arceus on your door. Why is that?”

    Arianne sighed, waving her hand. “I’m not in much a mood for telling stories at the moment. You happened to wake me up from my nap.” She leaned forward. “However, I’m interested in hearing yours. It's a long way from the Guild, and old Matheus certainly wouldn’t let things be boring.”

    “How do you know Matheus anyway? He told me he kept himself private.”

    Arianne laughed, holding her chest. “Is that what he told you? My, he had you good. You met him, so tell me, do you really think he’s the hermit-y type? Living all alone and avoiding Pokémon?”

    Cassia looked up in thought. ‘Well, he certainly likes talking. He likes making food and training with others too.’

    “Don’t keep it all in your head; I may be a mind reader, but I can’t do it so well with the likes of you,” Arianne added.

    Cassia looked back down and laughed slightly. “Yeah, I don’t see him living on his own for long.” She cocked her head and frowned. “But why didn’t I hear about him until I left?”

    Arianne waved a dismissive hand. “Arthus believed he killed him way back when, so do you really think he’d believe anyone that told him he came back from the dead?” She shook her head. “He’d likely run ‘em through if they even breathed a word about Matheus, so they just kept quiet about the whole thing if they knew.”

    Cassia considered her thought, thinking it made sense. She went to say more, but Arianne held up her hand. “Before we talk about anything else, there are some ground rules we have to set. While I trust you because Matheus sent you, we can’t just have you doing whatever you please.” She held up a finger. “One: unless I say so, you aren’t to go out of sight of the house. If you see anyone coming, come straight here; your status as a Zoroark would make you a prime target.”

    She held up a second finger. “Two: read the Tome every day. I know you probably won’t have issue with that, but by ‘read’, I mean mark and annotate it, so you can make connections between the verses. Your job as a teacher will be far easier if you do.”

    Cassia tried to interject, but Arianne stopped her. “Three: you are not to leave your bedroom when night comes. I’ve been taking steps to ensure Pokémon don’t find this place, and that’s part of my routine.”

    She lowered her hand. “And four: your big galoot of a Golurk has to help out with chores, just as you will. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m rather old, so I shouldn’t be doing things by myself if there are younger and stronger folks around.” She clasped her fingers, tapping patiently against them. “Any questions?”

    “Yes,” Cassia blurted out. “What do mean I have to mark the Tome? It’s too valuable for me to do that!”

    “Really?” Arianne patted her lap. “Let me see. I have an eye for this sort of thing.”

    Cassia hesitantly obeyed, the leather cover scraping against her claws. Arianne bent over it and opened the cover, then chuckled. “Well…I didn’t know you’d be bringing this copy.”

    “What do you mean?” Cassia asked, coming around the chair and staring at the Tome. Arianne’s finger lay just under a faded, scrawling signature, the letters barely reading out to be ‘Aleron’.

    “Like many Gardevoir, I can see glimpses of the future. I saw you coming here and bringing the Tome and made sure to prepare for such. What I was not expecting, was the very first Arceist Tome to be in your possession.” Arianne tapped the signature. “This was likely Aleron’s final writing, as none of the others were signed this way.” She reached for the shelf and pulled an identical book from it, except it appeared to be far newer. The pages were white, and the cover was smooth, the Arc of Arceus with the burning blaze still shining. She cracked it open over Cassia’s copy and showed the front cover. Beneath the title, Aleron’s signature was absent.

    Cassia gaped at the connection. “I definitely shouldn’t write in it.”

    “What gave you the thought?” Arianne slapped her playfully, flipping past the title page. Beyond it, various lines and circles scattered the page, connecting the verses together in what seemed to be a haphazard way.

    “Listen to what you can do if you connect them,” she added. She opened to a random page, then after scanning it for a moment, pointed to a verse.

    Dictations 10-

    And my work is to have my creations return to me by the hand of my prophets, my priests, and my teachers.

    She traced her finger across a curving line, meeting with a reference to another verse. She turned to it, then said:

    Proclamation 4-

    For the world obeys me and shall return to me. My Legends came forth, and returned to the Tree of Life, as should my mortal creations do.

    Cassia gazed at the words, astounded. “That was…amazing.”

    Arianne smiled, tapping her head. “There’s only so much you can keep up here.” She pointed to the tome. “So, write it down here.” She looked out the window, noticing Grom leaning against the oak. “How about you tell Grom that he can come by the back window and have a talk with me; he looks so grumpy out there.”

    ~~~~

    At the kitchen counter, Arianne offered a handful of walnuts through the window to Grom, who crushed them in his grip. He dropped the remains into Arianne’s hand, chuckling.

    Arianne put them into a bowl, then set to cutting lettuce with a knife. “Pokémon always seem to forget that other foods than berries exist in this world: bread, apples, cucumber, the whole like. I have some sent daily by a trusted Unfezant, along with plenty of berries.”

    Cassia watched from behind, sitting at the table. “Most everything I’ve eaten involved berries in some way. I even had some Basculin when I was with Matheus.”

    “Did you now? I’ve always wondered how one tastes,” Arianne mused. She set the lettuce aside and started chopping Pecha berries, cutting their pink flesh cleanly. “I won’t deny that berries are delicious and nutritious. I just feel that so much focus is put on them that Pokémon don’t seem to notice the other good things in life.” She set the knife down putting the chopped berries into a bowl.

    “So, are there a lot of…farmers, I guess?” Cassia asked.

    “Not as many as you’d think. Berry bushes are very productive, so many just start up a field near a town and make that their main food source.” She opened a cupboard and took out a loaf of bread with a white cloth under it. “Berries also happen to be very travel-resistant compared to other foods, so it’s little wonder that they’re grown the most.” She set the bread on the table, then placed the berries and lettuce with it. “Still, Pokémon appreciate having more than the powerful flavors of berries, so we thankfully still have them.” She carried two plates and another knife to the center, then sat down with a sigh.

    Cassia reached out to take a berry, but Arianne swatted it, giving her a scornful look. “Always thank Arceus for the food. We might grow it, but he’s the one who created it in the first place.” She clasped her hands and closed her eyes. Cassia followed.

    “Great Arceus, let us be able to serve you in all your ways. We give thanks for your gift to us and wish to receive more until the final days.” Arianne opened her eyes, then took a plate, putting a handful of lettuce on top of it.

    Cassia took the other plate and took a handful of berries. “I didn’t know you had to do that.”

    Arianne shook her head, cutting into the bread with the knife. “Well, I wouldn’t blame you, given your upbringing. Even then, it isn’t necessary; it’s just a nice thing to do for the one who gave it to us.” She took the slice of bread and placed several berries on top of it. “The Usurper is the one who raised you, yes?” Cassia nodded, memories returning to her of his care.

    Arianne sighed, pulling lettuce from the bowl. “He could’ve been a great Pokémon. He did so much good before that dreadful Gregorius came into the picture.”

    “What do you know about Arthus?” Cassia asked, taking a leaf and nibbling it.

    “Not much, but I don’t desire to know more. He suffered plenty of grief in his youth, starting with his parents, then to his own wife, even with Matheus. It went on to his son, Erik, then to you, I’m sure. He is such a sad thing.” She shook her head. “But I don’t sympathize with him. Parents aside, he caused his own misery, but he blames Arceus for all of them, claiming that his decision to let Pokémon have the choice to do evil brought them away from him. He is terribly misguided.”

    “He was so nice to me though. I just…haven’t seen anything for myself. I’ve only heard about what he did.” Cassia set down the leaf, twirling a length of her mane around her claw.

    Arianne looked away for a moment, then looked back at Cassia. “You’ve only seen his good side. You’re unsure of his true identity.” She massaged her temple. “I was hoping to avoid this, but it appears I will have to show you what he’s done to be the Usurper.”

    After finishing their lunch, Cassia sat on a chair, now situated in between the table and the bookshelf. Arianne stood behind her, closing her eyes and hovering her hands over Cassia’s head.

    “I can give you a brief vision of what he did when he returned eighteen years ago. I’m warning you now: given your experience with him, it may come as a shock. Are you sure you want to continue?”

    Cassia nodded. “I’m sure.” She felt Arianne’s hands set on her head, and blackness overcame her sight.

    ~~~~

    Bodies of Pokémon littered the streets of Lucario Guild, the buildings streaked with blood and what inhabitants remained shivering in their homes. Darkness overcame the Guild, the marvelous tower a beacon of a gruesome victory.

    Between the hovels of the Pokémon, a figure slunk in the shadows. Its mane crept into a home, and in a flash of red light, slayed the Pokémon inside. It crept back out with a cackle, its claws scraping against the stone.

    Something cracked, and it turned, revealing the pale, blue eyes of the Usurper. “I said no one leaves,” he seethed, sprinting toward the source. He found a Tangrowth ambling toward the gate of the guild, alongside a gathering of Tangela, wailing at the sight of Arthus.

    Arthus held up a claw, crimson flame enveloping it. “Traitors!” He threw it at the Tangrowth, and the vine Pokémon erupted in flames, shrieking and rolling in an attempt to be rid of it. The Tangela scattered, only to be struck by the Usurper with the same deadly weapon.

    Moments after, he walked amongst the ashes of his victims, tsking. “What a shame. I had to waste my Life on fools like you.” He looked up at the raging clouds, the rain halted hours ago.

    “Now to kill those traitorous Lucario…just like Matheus.” He stabbed the ground, tendrils enveloping him and dragging him underneath.

    The scenes blurred together, and Arthus now stood outside a cave, breathing heavily and looking up to the sky. His claws were still covered with blood, his Life still pulsing into the air.

    He slowed his breathing, then searched the area around him. “I can’t let her see me like this.” He dove to a nearby stream and splashed his claws into it, rubbing them free of the crimson marks of murder.

    He held them up, satisfied with his work, then proceeded to wipe away the rest of the remains on his fur. Rubbing a particularly large stain, he muttered, “I will make sure she loves me, no matter what it takes. Arceus took Erik from me; I won’t let him do the same with her.” He looked up, washing his claws in the stream once more. “She won’t need to see any of this. She can live a perfect life, free from all the pains of the world—even if I’m part of it.” He looked down for a moment, then ran to the entrance of the cave, winded from the sudden burst of speed.

    “I’m here! I’m here!”

    ~~~~

    Cassia gasped, standing up from her chair. She turned to Arianne, who closed her eyes and grimaced.

    “I…I know now,” Cassia croaked. She imagined all the other atrocities Arthus had committed, from the death of all the Lucario, to him standing up to Arceus and absorbing him into the Seal. The fond memories of her past were crowded out by these vicious thoughts. Tears fell from her face.

    Arianne hobbled over and embraced her, patting her mane. “I shouldn’t have shown you that. It was too much.”

    “No,” Cassia sniffed, “I needed to see it. I know that now.”

    After an afternoon of silence and reflection, Cassia sat on the bed in her room, her bag at her side. She stared at a blank page in her sketchpad, the lessons from Arthus returning to her. The sparse furnishings in the room reminded her of the many belongings she had in the Guild, never to be seen again. The fresh air throughout smelled nothing like the iron-filled dust of the canyon, and the morning light shined over the plains instead of a vast wall. She was in foreign territory, away from what she had known all her life, and only now did she feel pangs of homesickness.

    She took a black-smudged sack from the bag, a length of charcoal poking out of it. She reached to take it, but pulled away, setting down the bag. “Arthus drew all the time. I don’t want anything to do with him.” She lay the sketchpad over it, closing the cover. “Not after all he’s done.”

    A knock came at the door, and Arianne stepped in, taking a brief look at her surroundings. “I meant to put more in here, but—” She stopped herself, noticing the drawing supplies. “I didn’t know you were an artist.”

    Cassia shook her head. “Not anymore. Arthus taught me everything about it, and he’s a horrible Pokémon. Why should I do what he did?”

    Arianne sat on a chair next to the bed, leaning over her cane. “Is that what you think? That because an evil Pokémon drew pictures, that you shouldn’t?” She looked down at her cane. “My husband, Samuel, was raised by a neglectful father. He often beat him as a Ralts, and forced him to work, claiming that he needed to be disciplined. At night, his father often went to town and fought the local Guild Pokémon while in a stupor. He rarely lost.” She stared back at Cassia. “What do you think my Samuel did?”

    “Ran away? Promised to never fight like his dad?”

    “No. He became even better!” She stamped the cane. “When he finally evolved to a Gallade, he snuck out at night to train with the guards, then returned before his father ever noticed. He finally grew strong enough to restrain him and get him into prison. He saved many Pokémon who regularly suffered at his hand!” She gave Arianne a stern look. “Do you think his father would have been stopped unless Samuel decided to train himself?”

    Cassia shook her head reluctantly. “No, but what does that have to do with me?”

    “It has everything to do with you! Tell me, in all your lessons, what did you learn?”

    Cassia struggled to remember, the memories of Arthus difficult to remain with. “He always said for me to put my full feeling in my drawing, so that it can make others who look at it feel the same.”

    Arianne nodded, then said, “And tell me, why do you think Samuel fought his father?”

    Cassia made no reply, only cocking her head curiously.

    Finally, Arianne finished: “Love. He saw the Pokémon in the village and how his father affected them. He trained because he wanted to protect those Pokémon, because he loved them.” She tapped the pad with her cane. “Draw for your love of the world, for the Pokémon, and for Arceus.”

    Cassia smiled, closing the pad. “I like that. I just…I just don’t want to be the same as Arthus.”

    “You use Life, don’t you? As well as Arthus? Does that make you the same as him?”

    “No, of course not!” Cassia exclaimed. “He uses Life to kill and control! I just want to help Pokémon with it!”

    Arianne pointed at her with a grin. “There’s your answer. Just because someone bad shares a trait with you, it doesn’t mean you’ll end up like them.” Arianne lifted the charcoal sack with her telekinesis and held it in front of Cassia. “Now how about you draw something for me; I couldn’t make a tree for the life of me.”

    ~~~~

    The wind rushed through Arianne’s pale green hair as she stood, looking to the right. Cassia sat on a chair, scribbling carefully on her pad. Grom remained near the house, taking logs and prying them apart, splitting them perfectly.

    Arianne sighed, looking at a large depression in the plains. “Samuel and I often had picnics down there, on days like this. I haven’t done anything like that since he passed.”

    Cassia rubbed away a line, taking a glance at Arianne. “What was he like?”

    “He was like no one else. He was…smart. Strong, brave. Everything you’d want in a husband.” She held up her cane, rubbing the aged surface. “He gave me gifts. He saved Pokémon in danger. He used to work for the Guild before he died; he was the captain of the outpost down in Hereb, a village not far from here.”

    “Really?” Cassia asked, holding up the drawing and comparing it to her subject.

    Arianne sighed deeply. “Yes…before Arthus returned. After he murdered the Lucario, he sent Gardner to handle the Outposts, to ensure they were loyal to him. One day, Arthus came to Hereb disguised as a captain; that’s how he’s managed to avoid having others find out about his return. He came to Samuel and demanded him to swear loyalty to him.” She cringed, closing her eyes. “That night, the villagers returned with his body.”

    Cassia covered her mouth. “I’m so sorry!”

    Arianne waved her hand, shaking her head. “No need. They buried him on the hill behind the house. I go visit him, of course, but…” She took a deep breath, leaning on her cane. “I just wish I could see him again. Eighteen years is a long time to be without the one you love.”

    Cassia stopped drawing, thinking of Arthus. ‘Corrina died over two thousand years ago, and Arthus is still pained by her death. He…he must want to see her again.’

    The Zoroark thought for a moment, then said, “I…I could maybe look at your memories, then make—”

    “No. I…I couldn’t bear it.” Arianne cleared her throat, then said, “Are you done?”

    Cassia nodded her head, then Arianne steadily walked to the house, leaving Cassia on the chair.

    She entered the doorway, and Grom halted his chopping and stepped toward his master. “Gra-hawm?”

    Cassia closed her sketchpad, looking up at the sky. “An illusion’s purpose is to trick the mind…” she muttered. She looked back to the pad.

    “But drawing is a way to show what you think of someone…”

    ~~~~

    Cassia peered over Arianne’s shoulder, watching the Gardevoir cut carrots. The sun sank over the horizon, the lanterns now lit to provide their light.

    After several moments of gazing, Arianne finally turned and said, “Despite my age, I am fully capable of making dinner. Why don’t you read the Tome, or…something of the sort, while I finish up?”

    Cassia backed away and said, “Sorry.” She began looking at the many pictures that lined the walls, taking in the scenes that lay within.

    Most of the pictures showed a young Gardevoir with a handsome Gallade, standing in front of some exotic location: a coastline, mountain, ravine, even a jungle. Some showed them sitting together, while others with them dancing.

    Cassia came to what seemed to be the central picture, framed above the bookshelf. It showed Samuel Gallade looking up at the moon at a starry night sky, with Arianne sitting at his feet. Surrounding the moon, the Arc of Arceus appeared in silvery traces.

    She continued to study it, amazed by the artistry. ‘That must have taken hours to make…I don’t think I could ever do something like it.’ She studied their faces in particular. ‘They’re so…detailed. I can see their wonder and happiness, like it’s really there.’

    “Dinner’s ready!”

    Cassia blinked, shaking her head. She went to the dinner table, thinking of how she could help Arianne.

    Later that evening, after dinner, they took to reading the Tome, finishing with Arianne reading a verse:

    And so, we learn that through my gifts to my creations, my works are brought forth. Let them be used for the benefit of all.

    Cassia carefully underlined the verse in her tome, while Arianne closed her own. The Gardevoir nodded appreciatively and said, “That should do for tonight.” She stood up, placing the tome back in the bookshelf. “I expect that you’ll take care of the lanterns?”

    “Uh-huh,” Cassia said, flicking her wrist. The lanterns extinguished, their Life-borne light drowned by their master.

    Arianne yawned, then shuffled to her bed. “I’ll see you in the morning.” She entered her bedroom, then closed the door.

    Cassia smiled, then dashed to her own room, gently closing the door and hopping to her bed. She lit the candle on the nightstand, then pulled out her sketchpad, taking a length of charcoal from the bag and scraping across a fresh page.

    At the window, Grom’s eyes shined through. He pushed it up with a finger, then craned his head inside. “Graw?”

    “Not now, Grom, I’m busy,” Cassia replied, her eyes darting across the page.

    The Golurk hmphed, then took a look at the page. “Hawm?”

    “I’m making something for Arianne. Just watch and listen, okay?” Cassia grumbled, erasing a portion of the drawing with a bit of clay.

    Grom hmphed again, closing the window and tromping off.

    Hours later, Cassia crept out of her room, her sketchpad in tow. The moon half-full, it barely illuminated the floorboards as she opened the door to Arianne’s room. She peeked her head inside, finding that her bed was made, with her nowhere in sight.

    She shut the door, bewildered. ‘That’s strange. She wouldn’t go to sleep elsewhere, and there’s no lights on.’ She looked out the nearby window. ‘Did she go outside?’ She stared out of it, but found nothing but bare, grassy fields.

    She went to the kitchen window and studied the hill behind it. A gentle blue light shone at the top, the source blocked from view.

    Her curiosity piqued, Cassia exited the house, disregarding Arianne’s third rule. She walked carefully through the grass, the blustery gales of before now no more than a gentle breeze. It held a peculiar air to it, however, causing her to shudder occasionally.

    She began climbing up the hill, passing Grom, who peacefully slept standing up. As she climbed the hill, the chilling wind grew colder, while the ethereal blue light grew brighter.

    Cassia cocked her head, hearing a voice emanating from the top, and fighting the growing cold, heard the words clearly: “You worry too much; no one has come to hurt me for years.”

    Another voice whispered in low tones, and Cassia shivered, feeling that somehow, she was being referred to.

    “No, that can’t be right. No one knows about this spot except you and me,” the other said, the grass whishing as they stepped closer to Cassia.

    The low whisper came again, and Cassia froze, reaching for her chest. She choked for breath, stunned by the sheer cold surrounding her. She felt the heat seem to drain from her body and flow to some other place, leaving her to freeze in the wind’s grip.

    The whishing stopped, and Cassia heard a gasp. She looked up and saw Arianne holding her hand to her chest. She turned back and cried, “Samuel, stop! She’s a friend!”

    Cassia gasped, the chill suddenly disappearing. She saw a blue ball of flame encompassed by a black frame, then passed out.

    ~~~~

    Cassia awoke in her bed, under her cover. She shifted her gaze to the left, finding her sketchpad on the side table, and Arianne sitting on a chair, her head lowered.

    She looked up, and her eyes widened. “Oh, thank Arceus you’re alive!” She embraced Cassia momentarily, then pulled back, shaking her finger at her. “I thought I told you not to leave your room at night!”

    Cassia sighed, nodding her head. “I know, I know. I just…I just wanted to see you.”

    Arianne stared for a moment, then groaned, massaging her temple. “It was partially my fault that this happened. I should have introduced Samuel to you sooner.”

    “Samuel? Your husband?” Cassia asked, confused.

    Arianne nodded. She turned to the door and called, “You can come in now!”

    The door swung open, and a Lampent hovered inside, low whispers emanating from its flame. Its frame dull and metallic, it swung as it drifted toward them, the cyan flame burning low and the golden eyes mere slits. The glass encasing the fire radiated the light, filling the darkened room.

    Cassia shuffled to the headboard, cringing. “W-Why is that in here?”

    The window shot open, and Grom shoved his head inside. “Graowm!” he bellowed, his light growing brighter upon seeing the Lampent.

    Arianne stepped in front of it, holding her arms out. “He won’t hurt you, I promise!”

    The Lampent whispered, drawing close to Arianne’s head. She nodded and said, “He didn’t know who you were, and started draining your Life when you came near. You lasted longer than usual because of your ability, so I was able to warn him.”

    “Him?” Cassia asked.

    Arianne held the Lampent’s arm, sighing. “Yes, him. Cassia, meet Samuel.” The Lampent nodded his head, waving his other arm.

    Cassia stepped out of her bed, giving Samuel a suspicious look. “How did this happen? How do you know?”

    Arianne looked back to Samuel. He whistled in a warbling tone, then wafted back, waving his arms. She sighed, then said, “I was hoping to keep him a secret, but I may as well tell you now.”

    She sat on the chair and continued: “After Samuel died, I was miserable. I couldn’t be comforted by anyone, and I blamed Arceus for my loss, wondering why he’d take my Samuel from me. Well, soon after that, at night, I noticed a strange light outside my window. I went out to check, and I discovered a little Lampent—at Samuel’s grave.

    “Naturally, I assumed he was just there to take the rest of Samuel’s Life. But when I went to leave, the Lampent followed me. I couldn’t shake him off, even when I entered the house. I was ready to fight him if need be, as I didn’t want him waiting for me to die. But then he stopped in front of the portrait above the bookcase.

    “He seemed…distressed. I was confused by this reaction, and it got me thinking: what if he was Samuel as a ghost? It wasn’t unheard of for Pokémon who died to become one, even if it generally happens at Life deposits. Maybe this Lampent was?”

    She caressed the Lampent, stroking his top. “I began to talk with him, and found that he remembered his previous life, including me. He wanted to stay with me and protect me, as he did when he was alive. Since then, he drove off any travelers that come by here, and when needed, took their Life. I didn’t want you going out at night because he might think you’re a threat. I should have introduced you sooner so this could’ve been avoided. Forgive me.”

    They remained silent for a moment, Samuel's flame remaining dim, and Grom’s eyes continually staring. Cassia held her claws together, closing her eyes, while Arianne bowed her head.

    Cassia turned to Arianne, then look the sketchpad from the table, turning it to a page. “I can see why you didn’t want to tell me; I really should’ve listened to you about going out at night.” Arianne remained still.

    Cassia folded back the cover, holding the pad out to Arianne. “I wanted to show you something I made tonight. I didn’t want to wait till morning.” Arianne accepted it, put a hand over her heart.

    The drawing showed a Gallade standing with a Gardevoir, holding their hands and looking toward Arianne with a smile. Every detail, down to the folds of the Gardevoir’s dress, to the nicks in the Gallade’s blades, were captured perfectly.

    Arianne turned to Samuel, then back to Cassia. “I…I can’t thank you enough for this. I have many pictures of him but,” she stroked the picture, “I have nothing like this.”

    Samuel looked over Arianne’s shoulder, making impressed, and sorrowful whispers. Arianne held his arm, lowering her head. “I know…you miss being alive. We’ll be truly together again when I pass.”

    Cassia turned to Grom, who made a romantic sigh. She smiled, leaving Samuel and Arianne to share their moment together.

    ~~~~

    A week later as Cassia drew in her room, a knock came at her door. She closed her sketchpad and called out, “Come in!”

    Arianne entered, holding a small leather bag. She sat down next to Cassia and said, “I have something for you.” Cassia watched as she undone the drawstring on the bag, then slipped out a pure white, wooden mask. Its surface was completely smooth, and the eyes had a black gauze, allowing no light to seep through.

    Arianne held it out to Cassia. “Try it on.”

    She did so, in awe of the handiwork. It fit perfectly over her face, and only slightly hindered her vision. She turned to Arianne and asked, “Why are you giving this to me?”

    Arianne frowned, setting aside the bag. “Before you were born, I had that mask made for your father.”

    Cassia pulled off the mask and exclaimed, “You knew my dad?”

    “Yes. Ryon Zoroark, and his wife, Rhianna. They lived in a little cave around the other side of Hereb. They enjoyed doing service to everyone there, especially to old Zaman Delphox. He was an excellent fortuneteller.” She waved her hand. “But I digress. I had the mask made for Ryon as a late wedding gift. Unfortunately, after Zaman told him his future, he refused to let anyone in his home—even for me to deliver it.” She clasped her hands and closed her eyes. “That went on for several months, until one day, Zaman came to me and told me to go to Ryon, despite the severe storm. I went with Samuel as a light, and saw smoke coming out of their cave.” Cassia held the mask tighter, looking down at it.

    “I discovered that everything inside had caught fire…and that Ryon and Rhianna had been in the blaze.” A tear rolled down Cassia’s cheek.

    Arianne made a shuddering sigh. “After I returned, I learned that Zaman had caught pneumonia from being out in the rain. I came to him to help him recover, but he said it was his time to leave. He warned me that Arthus had returned, and that he had killed his descendants as punishment for their friendship with the Lucario. He even told me that Arthus had taken Ryon’s child to raise it as his own.” She swallowed and said, “I was distraught to hear that, but Zaman comforted me and said that she would grow strong in her belief in Arceus—just like her parents.” Cassia smiled, still crying. Arianne smiled back and said, “You’re more like your parents than you’ll ever know.”

    Cassia embraced Arianne, whispering, “Thank you….thank you…” Arianne hugged her back and closed her eyes.

    ~~~~

    After several weeks of learning about the Arceist Tome and Arianne’s life, Cassia now had her tome full of annotations, most suggested by Arianne, but all valuable for her next test.

    She and Arianne packed a bag full of food, the morning light barely shining through the windows. “Laisha Unfezant didn’t come today, so we’ll have to go down to Hereb to pick up some supplies. We can also teach a few Pokémon down there as well.”

    Cassia gave a nervous smile. “You sure that’s the best idea?”

    Arianne nodded, placing a sack of coins in the bag. “Of course, it is. We have tomes, so it is our responsibility to teach them.” She hefted the bag over her shoulder, then shuffled to the door. “Get your things; it’ll be a long walk, and I don’t plan on riding Grom there.”

    After an hour of walking across the plains, they came to a collection of low wooden buildings, surrounded by a wall made of timbers. Pokémon walked through the streets, crossing to stalls and huts to sell or buy goods. The air remained clear despite several chimneys poking in the air, smelling as fresh as it did out in the open plain.

    Arianne stopped Cassia and pulled her to the wall. She looked back to Grom, he poked up his head behind a nearby hill, avoiding the gaze of the villagers.

    Arianne took a glance to the entrance and said, “We can’t have you going in looking like a Zoroark; you’ll need to disguise yourself. Any ideas?”

    Cassia thought for a moment, then nodded. She stepped away and waved her hand, and a Gardevoir with bright blue eyes appeared in her place.

    Arianne stared for a moment, then laughed. “You could pass off as my granddaughter!”

    Cassia chuckled, holding her hands behind her back. “Well…you’re someone I’d like to have as a grandmother.”

    Arianne stopped, then held a hand to her cheek. “That’s high praise for an old hermit like me.” She headed through the gate, motioning for Cassia to follow. “Thank you for that.”

    Cassia followed her into the crowd, beaming. Her smile soon faded when she crossed by several Pokémon desperate to avoid their touch as to keep her disguise. She couldn’t help but feel the same fear she did back in the Guild, of what the Pokémon would do to her, of how they share this reasonable fear of her species.

    Arianne, however, acted nothing like this. She gracefully passed between groups of Pokémon, greeting them and offering to buy goods from them. Some complied, while others simply thanked and moved on. Not once did she falter in her movement or voice, completely confident in being in town.

    Later, they stopped and ate at an outdoor diner, eating a small berry stir fry. Arianne calmly ate hers, while Cassia sat hunched over her food, still nervous about those around her.

    Arianne gave her a bewildered look, then took a glance behind her. She returned her gaze and said, “You’re shivering more than a soggy Meowth. What are you so worried about?”

    Cassia looked down at her hand, seeing it shake. She grabbed it and said, “I just…didn’t have the best experience back in the Guild. I never went out of the house because Arthus said so, and the one time I did, I found out he was an evil Pokémon.” She cringed, remembering her time with Trias Alakazam and Searle Sawk. “I let my appearance show, and they were frightened of me. I never did anything to them, but because of Arthus, they thought I was going to kill them.” She held her head up with her hand, sighing. “I wanted to stay away from Pokémon after that. Why would they listen to me if they’re so scared of me?”

    Arianne grabbed her hand and said, “You’re Cassia, not Arthus. You’re the sweetest young lady I’ve ever met, and anyone who doesn’t see that is a fool.” She smiled. “As for you being a Zoroark, that shouldn’t matter. You can appear as you like, and no one will ever know the difference.”

    Cassia stood still for a moment, then smiled, standing straight. “Thank you.”

    They continued with their day, and soon, evening came down, and the village Pokémon settled into their homes, the restlessness of the alleyways before fading to a dull whisper.

    In a disheveled home, Cassia and Arianne sat in front of a family of Gurdurr, their Timburr children resting peacefully at their feet. Arianne smiled proudly as Cassia read from the Tome clearly and passionately:

    Let your strength and mind be used for the benefit of all, all while remembering the lessons I have given through my prophets. Remember your fellow creations, and cherish them, so that they may help you just as you help them.

    Cassia closed the Tome, her eyes shining back the bright lantern light. “If you follow Arceus’ word, you will receive many blessings from him, and will be promised a place with him at the Tree of Life.” The Gurdurr couple nodded their heads and smiled, while the children began to snooze.

    Arianne drew close to Cassia’s ear and said, “I must leave now, but you stay and answer their questions; you’re doing great!” She stood up and said, “I’ll leave my student to teach you now; I have important business to take care of.” She opened the door and stepped out, her staff clinking against the wood with each step.

    Cassia continued the discussion for over an hour, until at last the Gurdurr had heard what they needed to and allowed her to leave. She went out amongst the other Pokémon with a newfound air of confidence, Arianne’s words encouraging her to be herself even with a different appearance.

    She went to Grom, adjusting her bag over her shoulder. “Let’s get back to the house; Arianne will be waiting for us.”

    She clambered onto his back, and Grom said, “Gro-gro, haowm.”

    “It’s good that you offered to take her back, but you know she likes doing things herself. At least you’ll make it easier to get back,” Cassia replied.

    Grom trusted toward the house, the wind rushing past Cassia’s ears. She let her Gardevoir guise fade. ‘I love being with her; she’s made a brand-new home for me.’ She looked up at the sky, her smile waning. ‘But…I’ll have to leave…soon. As Arianne said, Pokemon that have the Tome have to teach; I’ll need to go do that.’ She shook herself free of the thought and smiled. ‘But until then, I can have wonderful times with her. She can teach me, and I can give her company.’

    She studied the grass rushing underneath them, then gazed up at the stars. ‘She’s the mother I never had. I want to stay with her for as long as I can.’

    Minutes later, Grom landed away from the house, and Cassia slid down his back. She turned to him and said, “You go find a place to recharge; I’ll see you in the morning.” He went off to do so, while Cassia went up to the house.

    She reached the foot of the porch and cocked her head. The door hung open, the wind whistling through the gap. Shattered bits of glass lay between it and the frame.

    She gently pushed it open, and hoarsely gasped. Glass was scattered everywhere, Arianne’s many portraits thrown against the ground. Her cupboards hung from their hinges, their goods gone, and the bookshelf sat smashed and empty, the books ripped apart, including the precious Arceist Tome. The mighty portrait that hung above it lay in shreds. The furniture and lanterns smashed to pieces; nothing remained of her home.

    Fearing for the worst, Cassia called out, “Arianne? Are you here?” She turned to the door to Arianne’s room, which lay in splinters beneath the frame.

    She entered and put a hand to her mouth. All of the furniture lay demolished, from the dresser with its upturned drawers, to the bed, the bedding slashed and frame crushed. Underneath the remains of wardrobe, a pale white hand hung over two halves of a cane.

    “Arianne!” Cassia cried. She ran to the wardrobe and pried her claws underneath it. She struggled to lift it, barely heaving it an inch over the ground. Red light enveloped her, and with a roar, she threw it aside, uncovering the elderly Gardevoir with a crash.

    She fell over her, turned her onto her back. She lay still, her eyes closed and skin pale. No warmth radiated from her, no evidence of life. Dead.

    Cassia cringed, bowing her head over Arianne’s body. “No…not this.” She cried over her, heaving with sorrow over the remains of her mentor. Memories of her discussion with her about Arceus, Samuel, and Matheus came to her, and the fact that she would never have them again. She thought of them preparing dinner together, drawing together, and everything that Cassia had ever imagined a mother to do, gone.

    She looked up, her breaths heavy. Paw prints threaded across the ground, erratically fleeing through the open window. Beyond, a trail of coins and prints lead across the plains to a solitary forest.

    Cassia shook. She set Arianne down, and stood up, tears continuing to stream. Red flame erupted from her claws, and she bared her teeth. With a yowl, she leapt through the window and ran across the plain, following the trail to who she knew were the murderers of her mother.

    She bolted across the plains, all the peace and tranquility of Hereb gone from her mind. ‘They killed her! They killed her! They’re never going to hurt anyone else, not as long as I live!’

    She halted upon entering the woods, their silent dominance holding the excited chatter of several Pokémon. Growling, she turned invisible and crept toward their location, finding a duo of Weavile huddling over a pile of looted belongings.

    A Weavile with a missing tooth sniffed, rubbing his nose. “You think that doin’ this was a good idea? You know a lot of Pokémon liked that old Gardevoir.

    The other Weavile held up a golden picture frame, grimacing. “We had to do it, Tyron. We haven’t had a proper bite to eat for weeks!” She lowered the frame, staring at the ground. “Wasn’t expecting her to come home early. Now—"

    “You killed her!” Cassia screamed, throwing herself onto the Weavile. The other leapt away, astonished by the assault, while the other dug his claws into Cassia’s arms, scrambling to pulled her away from his neck.

    The free Weavile leapt onto Cassia’s back, rearing back to strike. Cassia released the other Weavile and grabbed hold of the one across her back, her eyes wild and glowing red.

    The Weavile froze, realizing now what he was dealing with. “Y-You’re Arthus—t-the Usurper!”

    Cassia vigorously shook her head. “No! I’m Cassia, and you’re going to pay for killing Arianne!” She reared back her claw, and the Weavile closed his eyes and cringed.

    “Raul!”

    Cassia snapped her head to the right, seeing two other Weavile carrying a bowl of berries. The two females gaped at her, with three Sneasel hiding behind their legs.

    Cassia lowered her claws, their crimson fury fading. The Weavile’s words repeated in her mind: “You’re Arthus!” Then one of Arianne’s last words followed: “You’re Cassia, not Arthus. You’re the sweetest young lady I’ve ever met.

    She dropped Raul, letting him and Tyron run to their wives and children. She stood still for a moment, then disappeared, running back to Arianne’s home, tears streaming down her face.

    ~~~~

    Two hours later, Cassia sat at the foot of the remains of Arianne’s home, now nothing more than ash and dust. Smoke continued to rise in the night sky, invisible to all but her. Grom stood behind her, stamping down the earth of Arianne’s grave.

    He finished his work, then returned to Cassia, placing a hand on her back. “H-Hawm. Gro.”

    Cassia sniffed, wiping her eyes. “I know…but I couldn’t live here anymore. Not with her gone.” She turned to the patch of brown soil. “I…I shouldn’t have attacked like that. I was…furious. Uncontrolled. I couldn’t control myself once I saw the tracks.” She looked down at her claws, closing their grip. “I think I know how Arthus felt after losing them…his parents…Corrina…Erik…even Matheus and…” She closed her eyes. “Me.” She held up her claws, allowing mist to trail from them. “I don’t want to be like him. I can’t kill someone, no matter what they’ve done.” She opened her eyes again. “But I can’t let Arianne go like this.”

    Grom’s light blinked, then he pointed at Cassia’s bag. She opened it, then Grom gently pulled out the Arceist Tome and set it on her lap. She looked up at him, watching him nod.

    She stood up, holding the Tome to her chest. “I know what to do.”

    ~~~~

    Within the forest, Raul Weavile coughed, his wife handing him an Oran berry. “That Zoroark came out of nowhere. About killed us too.” He turned to his Weavile companion. “Why do you think, Tyron?”

    He coughed, rubbing his throat. “Can’t say for sure. Maybe it had somethin’ to do with that last job we did, with that Gardevoir? Wasn’t she named Arianne?”

    His wife sat with the Sneasel, embracing and comforting them to recover from their fear. “That Zoroark might’ve been friends with her.” She reached over and punched Raul’s shoulder. “I knew going there was a bad idea!”

    Raul rubbed his shoulder, shrinking away. “If it was, I hope we never see her again.”

    Tyron tapped his shoulder, fearful. “L-Look over there.” Raul turned and froze.

    A Gardevoir stood at the edge of the clearing, her eyes closed and a large book in her hands. She opened her eyes, revealing blue irises, still shining with tears. “I want to help,” she said in a wavering voice.

    Tyron hissed and exclaimed, “Who are you? How’d you find us?”

    The Gardevoir stood her ground. “My name is Cassia. I’m a priestess of Arceus and a teacher. I want to tell you about him.”

    Raul eyed her and gasped. “Those eyes! She’s that Zoroark!” He backed away, pointing a shaking claw at her. “S-Stay away! We’re sorry about what happened to that Gardevoir!”

    Cassia sighed, and the Gardevoir faded, a Zoroark standing in her place. The Weavile and Sneasel backed away, fearful of her retribution. She simply held up the Tome and said, “I want to talk to you. I shouldn’t have hurt you.”

    Tyron gave her a bewildered look. “Wait, what? A-Aren’t you mad at us?”

    Cassia took a slow step forward, causing them to jitter. “I—I was out of control. I didn’t know what I was doing.” She lowered the Tome, her voice cracking. “I nearly turned into him—into Arthus, killing Pokémon when they do something I hate. I promised myself never to do anything like that, but I was going to do it to you.”

    She fell to her knees, the Tome falling to her side. “She meant the world to me, and you killed her. I couldn’t forgive you for that.” She hunched over and said, “But I remember now that she wanted to be with Samuel again. She’ll…she’ll be happy now. Thank you.”

    Tyron and Raul looked at each other, then back at their wives. They sorrowfully gestured to the pile of loot, then to Cassia.

    Raul sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. Cautiously, he approached Cassia, then said, “Look…I’m…I’m sorry for what happened. Me and my brother shouldn’t have taken your stuff. We just needed money to feed our kids. It’s hard for Dark Pokémon like us to get jobs, so we have to take what we can get.” He stepped away, gesturing to the pile. “We were just gonna take it and leave, but then she came back earlier than we thought. She attacked us, so we hit her back. We just wanted to stop her from following us, not…kill her.”

    After a moment, Cassia stood up and stared at the pile. “You did it to help your families? Not yourselves?”

    Raul nodded. “We don’t like it, but we had to.”

    The Zoroark remained silent, then shook her head. “Give the money to everyone else who needs help. It won’t do me any good, and you don’t deserve it.”

    Tyron ran around the pile and joined Raul. “But what’ll we do for money, or food? Nobody trusts us!”

    Cassia thought for a moment, then took out her sketchpad and wrote on it. She carefully tore the page from its binding, then held it out to the Weavile. “Hereb trusts me. I’ll give you this, so you can show everyone that I trust you if you promise to not steal or kill again. Promise?”

    Tyron and Raul looked at each other for a moment, astonished. They looked back at Cassia, then Tyron solemnly accepted the note. “Thank you. We promise to not do it anymore.” Raul nodded in agreement, and their wives smiled and held their children tighter.

    Cassia retracted her hand and smiled. “You’re welcome.” She slipped her sketchpad back into her sack, then disappeared and ran out of the clearing, comforted by what she felt to be Arceus’ grace.

    ~~~~

    Cassia and Grom stood at the foot of Arianne’s hill, getting ready to leave. She looked up at Grom and said, “We can’t stay here anymore. It’s time for us to go.”

    “Gro-gram?” he replied, shrugging.

    Cassia pulled a folded piece of paper from her bag and opened it, revealing a detailed map of Equivos. She traced a finger from their current location to another town. “We’ll do what Arianne taught me to do: bring Pokémon closer to Arceus.” She showed the town to Grom. “Can you go there?”

    He studied it for a moment, then nodded. She put away the map and climbed onto Grom’s back. With a boom, he rocketed across the sky, away from Arianne’s grave and Hereb.

    Hours later, Grom stopped at the edge of a ramshackle town in a barren plain, littered with stray rock and trees of all sorts. Cassia climbed the edge the wall surrounding it, finding that dozens of Pokémon from the Guild patrolled it, ordering the citizens around and torturing them in subtle ways.

    Cassia reached into her bag and took out the mask given to her by Arianna. ‘Let’s see how well this works…’

    Later that night, she stood at the edge of the wall, wearing the mask. She cleared her throat and waved her hand.

    “Testing…testing,” she said in a deep warbling voice. She nodded. It would work to ensure that Pokémon wouldn’t recognize her by voice, and thanks to the mask, not recognize her by her eyes as well. She stormed into the town and struck down the guards, draining their Life enough to make them faint. She went on to confront the rest of the Guild Pokémon, until all were incapacitated. Once that task was finished, she fled to Grom, where she would hide until morning.

    When she woke, she waved her hand and made herself appear as a Gardevoir. She pulled a mirror from her bag and looked into it, memories of her time with Arianne returning to her.

    “Graw-hawm?”

    She turned, watching Grom carry a rock away from its rest in the ground and into the water, rolling in with a splash. She laughed, then said, “I want to remember her for all she’s done for me. So why not look like her?”

    She went into the town and taught them about Arceus, then when her job was finished, she wrote its name into an empty journal, then went on to the next. She continued this process hundreds of times across Equivos, keeping in mind the lessons she learned from Arthus, Matheus, and Arianne.

    ~~~~

    2020 AU

    Cassia lay down on a plain, studying the sky. Grom did the same, crossing his hands behind his head. Below them, the town of Saunte stretched, waiting for her to free them of Guild control and have the message of Arceus spread to them.

    “We’ve done a lot together…haven’t we?” Cassia mused.

    “Graw-graw.”

    “We’ve taught a lot of Pokémon.”

    “Hawm.”

    “And had a lot of Pokémon say we’re liars.”

    “Haw-hawm.”

    She sat up. “At least we tried, right?”

    Grom sat up as well. “Gro-haw!” he said with a salute.

    Cassia chuckled, pulling out her drawing of Arianne from her bag. “I wish she was still here.”

    Grom patted her back, shaking his head. “Gro-gram.”

    Cassia nodded her head, putting the drawing back. “I know…she’s happier now.” She looked up and cocked her head. The clouds seemed to circle around a forest in the distance, what she knew to be the Kaena Woods.

    The clouds funneled together, and lightning suddenly shot out from it with a boom. She fell onto her back, breathing quickly. She saw a black dot rocket from the center of the funnel into the woods with a crash, then the funnel swirled into nothingness, as if it had never appeared.

    Cassia stood up again, turning to Grom. He gave her a blank look, pointing to the woods.

    Cassia turned to them, furrowing her brow. “Let’s see what it is.” She and Grom walked toward the woods, passing by Saunte, unknowingly beginning another journey.

    ~~~~

    Over the remains of Arianne’s home, a Lampent hung over it, swaying gently. Soon after another Lampent joined him. They linked arms, and faded in a puff of blue flame, returning to their almighty creator.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  18. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    I really do hope I'm posting too fast for you to keep up. I'm not sure how the review system works here, but I'll try to be proactive in my posting when I can; writing this story takes up plenty o time, and while I certainly don't mind, it doesn't leave time for much else, including reviewing.

    Act 3: The Guildmaster
    Chapter 13: Clearance


    Mud pits and hollows steamed, belching out noxious gases. Sickened willow trees sprouted up amid the foul concoction, struggling to remain upright in the mess. Around the perimeter, Litwick and Lampent lurked, providing lights for the living Pokémon outside—only to lead them into the center, feeding their Life to the massive deposits scattered within. No life dared remain with the Ghosts.

    A solitary Duskull wove between the willows, his eye trembling. Gastly soaked up the gases, growing their already-bloated forms, while Gengar hovered behind them, ensuring that opposing guardianships stayed away. Misdreavus cackled through the night, practicing their charms and spells for when they go to harvest Life themselves, their Mismagius training them for the coming day. All the while, Phantump whined, watching the Ghost guardianships with careful eyes.

    The Duskull stared at the sodden ground that whizzed past him. He stopped and jittered. One of the gas pockets belched out crimson particles—a sign of sustenance.

    He looked around briefly, then dove in for the pocket. He greedily absorbed the Life, his limp and fluttering body beginning to plump up.

    “Mine!”

    The Duskull shot up and shrieked: a Banette scrambled toward him, skating across the bog, his three Shuppet flapping behind it.

    The Banette swatted away the Duskull, hissing a laugh. “Where’s your guardian, Lifewaste?” It reached up for the Shuppet, carefully lowering them to the pocket. “Eat up now—I want you to be big and strong before you go sapping away the living!” The Shuppet laughed as the pocket tickled his sheets, while the Duskull crestfallenly limped away.

    A Phantump hovered alongside him, whining softly. The Duskull didn’t acknowledge it. It whined higher, and other Phantump surrounded the pitiful Ghost, herding him from his course. The Duskull whipped and whimpered, fearing the worst.

    The Phantump stopped in a surrounded copse of the bog, with no gas pockets or other Ghosts in sight—save the Trevenant rooted in the center, as tall as the willows that made the surrounding wall.

    The Duskull swiveled away, shivering. “If you’re going to drain me, just do it now. I don’t have much…”

    The Trevenant’s eye shimmered, and the Phantump drifted away. The massive wooden limb encompassed the Duskull, trapping him in its splintering and creaking grip. From its fingers, red mist flowed.

    The Duskull stopped shivering, spinning around. It jittered and soaked up the mist, scarcely suppressing a laugh as it did. The Trevenant’s mouth cracked into a grin.

    When the Duskull was full, the grip fell away, and the Duskull hopped in the air happily. It stopped suddenly, then drew close to the Trevenant’s eye. “Why’d you do that? I’m not your charge. I…I don’t even have a guardian!”

    The Trevenant chuckled lowly. “I…in my many years…gave Life to those…who need it more…than me…” He gestured to his Phantump children, who now floated into the night sky, their whining echoing into the air. “My children…now go to search…for other forests…full of Life…to guard their borders…and inspirit trees…making more children.” The Trevenant’s arm’s lowered, stiffening. “It is now my time…I may have lived…generations more…had I not…so freely gave…my Life.”

    The Duskull hovered around wildly. “Then why did you give so much? The only way I can survive is if I keep it to myself!”

    The Trevenant smiled sadly, holding up its hand again. “Because…Life is only worth…what you give. Those…who take Life…end up dying…in grief…” His hand lowered again, and his eye began to dim. “While those…who give Life…die…in joy…” It sighed one final time, and the eye went dark. The leaves on its crown flew away one by one in the breeze, leaving behind the barren husk of the Trevenant. Gardner Duskull remained still, gazing up at the leaves fluttering in the wind.

    A purple shape suddenly snatched him out of the air with a cackle, dragging him to the ground. The ragged Haunter opened its mouth wide and said, “A little munchie does the tummy nicely!”

    Gardner struggled against the Haunter, pulling against his hands. A blob of black mist gathered in front of him and fired into the Haunter’s face. It screeched and let go, attempting to wipe away the mist.

    Gardner’s eye glowed, then he puffed into gas and charged into the Haunter in a flash of light. The Haunter screeched once more and fell to the swampy earth, disfigured from the Shadow Ball.

    Gardner reappeared, and the Haunter panted, his breath weakening. “Don’t…don’t eat me…please…” it pleaded.

    The Duskull considered the Haunter’s cry, then his eye glowed brighter. “No…I’ve been weak for too long.” He sat on top of the Haunter and buried himself in its body. “It’s time I had my fair share.” He sucked away the Haunter’s wasted body, consuming what little Life it had and killing it.

    Gardner huffed, then turned back to the remains of the Ancient Trevenant. He turned away and continued through the swamps.

    The scenes melted together, and now a Dusclops stood in the Master’s Tower, where a Lucario wearing a broken Seal of Creation paced around him.

    Calem eyed him warily, looking up and down. “Are you sure you’re up to the task? I know you’ve made yourself a life here in the Guild after leaving the swamps, but being an Assistant Guildmaster will be demanding.”

    Gardner folded his arms, furrowing his brow. “I want to do more than simply be on a bounty team; I want to organize them and make them more effective—along with cracking down on criminals.”

    Calem sighed, rubbing his neck. “Right now, you’re my only good choice. Kaiser is a bit too hot-headed to serve well, and you have plenty of experience in the Guild. I don’t see why not.” He held his paw out. “Welcome to my council, Gardner Dusclops.”

    Gardner accepted the paw and shook it gladly.

    The scene faded again, and now a Dusknoir sat at a table within the Tower, poring over crossed-out notices and posters. He checked off a list and hummed to himself, saying, “Soon, there will be no more outlaws, and I can focus my efforts on the wretched ghosts in the swamps.”

    The door flew open and Calem Lucario stormed up the stairs, fuming. “Gardner! You have a lot to answer for!”

    Gardner spun around and met the irate Lucario’s gaze. “What did I do wrong?”

    Calem thrust a bundle of papers into Gardner’s face and shouted, “You ordered for the execution of petty thieves?”

    Gardner huffed, rolling his eye. “The best way to stop crime is to deter it. The thieves would grow worse anyway.”

    Calem seethed and ripped up the paper, shaking a paw in front of him. “I’ve been lenient on your methods up to now, Gardner, but this is where I draw the line. One more stunt like this, and I’ll see to it that Kaiser takes your place!” He stomped down the stairs and slammed the door closed, leaving Gardner to glower.

    The scene transitioned again, and Gardner now stood in front of a raised platform, where Calem Lucario and Kaiser Electivire, along with an assortment of other Pokemon, sat. Calem clacked a gavel and solemnly said, “After killing an entire team of newly-recruited Ghost Pokemon—along with numerous warnings and punishments for cruel treatment against outlaws—you are sentenced to be imprisoned within an Ethereal Urn for thirty years. All in favor?”

    “Aye!” Kaiser and the other Pokemon said.

    A Gothitelle came into the room bearing a rune-covered grey urn, and Gardner backed away, his eye flitting between the urn and Calem. “I won’t do it again, I swear! Don’t put me in there! Anything but that!”

    Calem slowly shook his head. “I am sorry, but this is the only way I see fit to change your ways.”

    The Gothitelle opened the urn, and dust swirled into the azure void within. She aimed the void at Gardner, where it sucked his very essence inside. In his final moments outside the urn, he bellowed, “I’ll come back and finish you all!” He disappeared inside, and the Gothitelle twisted the lid, sealing it.

    ~~~~

    Gardner gasped, his eye wide with fright. He woke in his chair atop the Master’s Tower, in the dead of night. Clouds covered the moon, preventing the beam from meeting with the Guildmaster.

    The Dusknoir rubbed his face, forcing himself to calm. ‘Just a dream…just a dream…yet it was real.’

    He shook his head, curling his fist. ‘A shame I couldn’t kill Calem myself.’ He looked up, watching the moon. ‘I just hope Arthus isn’t as unreliable as he appears.’

    The tower’s door flew open, and Gardner heard damp footsteps scramble up. He stood up and came face to face with the matted and salty fur of Arthus Zoroark.

    Arthus breathed haggardly, glaring at him as he brushed back his frenzied mane. “Don’t. Say. A. Word.”

    Gardner at first complied, but slowly looked away and said, “Why exactly are you here?”

    Arthus sat in Gardner’s chair and tapped his claws together, a ruddy aura steaming around him. “I had Cassia and that Lucario, Lawrence, right where I wanted them—then Grom comes in and scoops them up—” He gouged his claws into the padding of the chair. “And Matheus of all Pokemon is riding with him!”

    “Hands off my seat!” Gardner shouted, prying away Arthus’ claws.

    Arthus whipped around and grabbed Gardner’s antenna, his hand drawing dangerously near his scarred eye. “Don’t make me rip it right out of your skull!”

    Gardner immediately pulled away and held up his hands defensively. “Understood! But please…respect my property.”

    Arthus simmered, then sighed, massaging his head. “Cassia hates me more than ever now that I destroyed her Arceist Tome.” He leaned against the wall and bowed his head. “And after I attempted to slay Lawrence.”

    Gardner rolled his eye and crossed his arms. “Priorities, Lord Arthus. Does this half-baked family matter really take precedence over the Seal?”

    Arthus held up the Seal of Creation and groaned. “I know, I know—what do you think I’ve been doing for the past twenty years?”

    “Doting on Cassia and eventually having to hunt her down?”

    “Shut up.” Arthus dropped the necklace and closed his eyes. “I’ve got no idea where to go find the Prison Bottle, and there’s no good location to summon Hoopa.” He turned to Gardner and pointed at him. “Just keep searching for clues—especially for a place where Arceus’ presence is strong. If you want a world where evil is nonexistent, then that has to be done.” He drew back his hand and fiddled with a length of his fur. “In the meantime, I’ll see if I can pinpoint Matheus’ location; while Cassia might be lost to me, I can make a new plan to bring her back, if only to keep her close.” He descended the stairs, holding his head and shaking it.

    Gardner huffed, sitting down on his chair and fingering the gash Arthus had made. “Sentimental fool. It’s almost as if there’s two of him in the same body—one sane and one not.”

    ~~~~

    The full moon hung high overhead, the beams reflecting off the gentle tides. In the ocean south of Serenita, tiny islands cropped up, some harboring palm trees, others a collection of bushes, and others nothing more than a bank of sand. None of these islets had more than plants, as it had been for the past twenty years.

    The raft floated near a small island, where Grom stood with red mist coursing from the sand, replenishing his depleted reserves. The window of the hut in the middle of the raft glowed with bright yellow light, and the small chimney on its roof puffed a steady stream of smoke into the air.

    Lawrence sat in front of the wall of the hut, his legs drawn up and his head lowered. His injured leg was now perfect, healed by Cassia’s control over life—but before she could say ‘finished’, he had stormed out of the hut and held the Pokédex in his paws, staring at the taunting notification: ‘No access point in range.’ He simply stared, deep in thought.

    The door of the hut creaked open, and a blue-eyed Gardevoir crept out, stepping around the corner and stopping next to Lawrence. She cleared her throat, and Lawrence’s eyes snapped to hers.

    “I know you aren’t a Gardevoir. Don’t hide it,” he growled.

    She sighed, and the Gardevoir faded, a Zoroark standing in her place. She squeezed her hands, shifting uncomfortably. “I really meant to tell you.”

    Lawrence raised his head. “Tell me what? That you’ve lied to me the entire time I’ve known you, that you’re a descendant of the evilest Pokémon alive, that you’re the biggest hypocrite for making me tell the truth while you wouldn’t?” He waved his paw, shaking his head. “Why did I ever trust you?”

    Cassia stepped forward, holding out her hand. “I had to do it to protect myself and you! If anyone found out—"

    “Just leave me alone!” Lawrence shouted, slamming his fist against the wall.

    The Zoroark flinched, then, closing her eyes, shuffled back into the hut, then gently closed the door.

    Lawrence took a deep breath, tucking the Pokédex back into its case, then lowered his head once more, closing his eyes.

    The door opened again, and footsteps padded out to the raft. Without opening his eyes, Lawrence exclaimed, “I said I wanted to be alone!”

    “No, you told her to leave you alone.”

    Lawrence looked up, his eyes widening. The silver Lucario stood in front of him, no longer with his leather cloak and hat. Thick scars shone through the pristine fur, and his muscles were thick and corded. His eyes glared at Lawrence as his tail swished impatiently.

    “I don’t believe we’ve had a proper meeting, Lawrence Stephenson,” he stated, crossing his arms.

    Lawrence scrambled to his feet. “Y-You know my name? My real one?”

    “Cassia told me. Tell me, what makes you think you can treat a young lady like that?” The silver Lucario turned his head, studying Grom. “The name’s Matheus, by the way.”

    Lawrence gave him a cold stare, pointing a paw at him. “Look Matheus, I have no idea why you’re here, but—”

    “Oh, for Arceus’ sake!” Matheus brushed aside the paw. “I wasn’t called by our creator to save your hide for nothing. Now that that Arthus forced Cassia to drop her act, I’m the one who has to step in and make things right!”

    “You knew about it too?” Lawrence said, blinking in surprise.

    “Can you stop asking questions and start answering them?” Matheus snapped. “Why did you treat Cassia like that? That was completely uncalled for!”

    “Wouldn’t you be angry if you found out your only friend was someone completely different!” Lawrence exclaimed, breathing heavily.

    Matheus flinched, then closed his eyes. “Yes. Yes, I would be.” He leaned against the wall, crossing his arms.

    “Why are you so protective of her? I…I know I should have treated her better, but still…” Lawrence trailed off.

    “Who do you think taught her after she ran away? Arthus couldn’t be expected to teach her about that.” He turned away, scowling. “Not after what he did.” He turned back, closing his eyes. “Look, I don’t know anything about you except for what Cassia told me—and I don’t expect that it’s a good view, considering how she is at the moment.” He opened them again, his hardness gone. “But I know Cassia. She hates lying as much as any right-minded Pokémon. Let’s look at your little ‘amnesia’ story for example. Did you like it?”

    “No, but—”

    “Did you feel it necessary?”

    “Yes, but what does that have to do—”

    “It has everything to do with her!” Matheus stood up, growling. “She can’t have anyone know her identity! Do you think that anyone would trust a Zoroark teaching about Arceus, when the Usurper himself is trying to tear him down? They would never listen!” He sighed, then rubbed his eyes. “Plus, it is rather hypocritical to have her forgive you for lying when you refuse to do the same for her.”

    Lawrence paused, then sighed shaking his head. “I…understand that.” He paced away, holding his arms out. “I just don’t like how she kept me in the dark. I wouldn’t have hurt her or anything.”

    Matheus raised an eyebrow. “You’re sure? Even if you knew that Arthus was her ancestor?”

    “I have a hard-enough time around here as it is. Why would I hurt the only person who actually cares about me?” The Lucario sat at the edge of the raft, looking into the water. “I don’t want to be angry at her. It just…came out like that.”

    Matheus looked away for a moment, then stepped toward Lawrence, sitting next to him. “Looks like you’re a better Pokémon than I thought.” He held out his paw. “Sorry for my earlier behavior.”

    Lawrence studied it for a moment, then accepted it. “I was being a jerk.”

    Matheus grunted in agreement. “As we all are at times. I wasn’t the most reasonable Pokémon when I was your age either.”

    They remained silent for a moment, then Lawrence said, “How did you find us? How did you get Grom?"

    Matheus groaned slightly, rubbing his shoulder. “Not very difficult when you have Arceus helping you out. As for Grom, he knew who I was as soon as I showed him this.” He held out a paw, then an azure flame erupted around it, coating his fur.

    “Whoa!” Lawrence exclaimed, shifting back.

    Matheus nodded, extinguishing the flame. “About how he reacted. He thought I was a Guild Pokémon in disguise until I did it.” He gave Lawrence a studious look. “Most Lucario are able to use Aura soon after they evolve, but given your unique circumstances, I can see why you might not have it.” He leaned forward, swirling his paw in the water. “It is a powerful gift and would be wise to learn.” He shook his paw free of the water and said, “Well, Cassia will be expecting me to come back in, as well as you. I made some soup for dinner.” He gave Lawrence a warning look. “Treat her well, or I’ll have you out for a midnight swim.” He stood up and walked into the hut, leaving the door open.

    Lawrence remained seated on the edge of the raft, considering what best to do. ‘I hate what she did, but is it right for me to treat her like this?’ He sighed, rubbing his eyes. ‘I need to make things right…but the way I snapped at her…would she forgive me?’

    The Lucario stood up, then entered the hut, closing the door. Inside, the floorboards creaked with the gentle swaying of the craft. Five chests sat on the floor, along with a collection of beds, surrounding a small stone firepit, the fire within isolated from the wood. Several lanterns hung overhead, lighting the room with coarse yellow light.

    Matheus and Cassia sat on two of the four beds against the walls, each with a bowl of bright red soup from the pot hanging over the fire. The Zoroark stared into her bowl, dwelling on her thoughts, while Matheus poured a third helping into a bowl with a ladle, holding it out to Lawrence. “Hungry?”

    Lawrence shrugged and accepted it, taking a seat on one of the remaining mattresses. He studied the bowl of reddish soup in his paws, chunks of Tamato berry floating within it.

    They remained in their positions for a minute or so, then Matheus exclaimed, “I didn’t make that Tamato soup for nothing. Eat.”

    Lawrence nodded, then slowly took a sip. He regretted it.

    He put the bowl aside, fanning his mouth and panting. “Hot! Hot!”

    Matheus lifted the bowl and took a sip, then sighed contentedly. “You got a weak mouth. Hardly a kick to this one.” He turned to Cassia. “You ought to eat too, you know.” She remained still, a lock of her mane hanging in front of her face.

    The Legend gave Lawrence a glance. “I think that Lawrence has something he ought to say to you. Right?”

    After a moment, Lawrence nodded, then went to speak. Cassia held up a hand and said, “No. I understand why you’d be angry at me. I don’t want any apology. Not yet, at least.” She sighed, setting aside her bowl. “You should know more about me…my past. And I think it's time that I showed you.” She stood up and sat next to Lawrence, the Lucario unused to her proximity.

    She pressed two claws against her forehead. “You know that Zoroark like me are able to make illusions.” She pulled away, a golden thread appearing between her head and claws. “Arthus is able to do more. He can bring memories to life, far better than any illusion could, thanks to his control of Life.” The thread separated and fell limp, the golden light wavering in the air. “I’m able to do the same thing.”

    She held the thread out to Lawrence. “It’s hard for me to talk about myself. I’d rather have you see it for yourself.”

    Lawrence studied the thread anxiously, never seeing such a thing before. He looked to Matheus, who simply nodded, then at Cassia, who gazed expectantly. Hesitantly, he took the thread, and the ethereal matter surged into his arm. He felt lightheaded, then fell backward, fainting.

    Cassia sighed, putting her hand into her hands. “I shouldn’t have gone into that shop; I should’ve known someone was waiting for me.”

    Matheus set his bowl down and scooted to her. “It wasn’t your fault, Cassia. Arthus would have found you sooner or later anyway.”

    “But he burned the Tome! Everything I live for is gone!” Cassia cried, throwing her arms into the air.

    Matheus pushed them down and replied, “Are you sure? Arceus wouldn’t let his word be destroyed so easily.”

    Cassia’s eyes came to Lawrence, then her eyes widened. “Lawrence saved the Tome with his Pokédex. He has everything I wrote!”

    Matheus gave her a suspicious look. “Are you sure? It took months to write one, and he’s hardly been here for more than a week.”

    “He showed me a picture of a page. He wanted to be able to read it without me having to give it away.” Her ears drooped. “Although, with what’s happened, I’m not sure that he’ll let me.”

    Matheus clapped a paw on her back. “Nonsense! After seeing your memories, he’ll be all too happy to help.” He cracked his knuckles. “If he isn’t, well, I’m here.”

    Cassia furrowed her brow. “Speaking of that, how did you get here? Where’d you get this raft?”

    Matheus blew his breath out slowly. “Well, it’s a bit complicated. You see, there’s a certain Pokémon who wanted me to keep an eye on something for him. After I checked on it for him, he brought me here with his rings.”

    Cassia furrowed her brow, then her eyes widened. “Wait, Hoopa helped you get here?”

    Matheus nodded sagely. “Yes. He’s been a valuable friend throughout my years and has often helped me get to places. He’s been rather reclusive for the past few decades, though, so I rarely see him.”

    “Must be nice being able to go anywhere you want when you want.”

    “Bah.” Matheus waved a dismissive paw. “Walking till your paws get sore is part of the experience. Isn’t the journey just as important as the destination?”

    They remained silent for a moment, then Matheus put his paws together and asked, “So how did you end up leaving Arianne? I figured you’d stay there for around a year, but then I heard about a Zoroark driving out the Guild from towns a few months after I dropped you off.”

    Cassia looked up. “It…it was very sudden.” She stared at the floor. “She died after a bunch of Weavile looted her home.”

    “What?” Matheus stood up, stamping his feet. “She was killed? I thought she had died of old age, not that!” He growled, pounding his fists together. “When I get my paws on them—”

    “I forgave them! They were only doing it for their families!”

    “Is that so?” Matheus huffed, crossing his arms. “Have you ever thought about why Arthus does what he does? He doesn’t want to stop evil just because he can; he’s doing it for the family he lost!”

    He sat down, and Cassia cocked her head, bewildered. “What do you mean?”

    Matheus took off his hat, groaning. “It took me ages to figure out, but once I did, I knew that fool was beyond hope. After I returned, he told me that his wife had died, and how he had new plans to ensure that nothing like that would happen again. I found out that he intended to bring Corinna back to life once he took Arceus.” He shook his head. “He might seem like a mad-Pokémon, but he’s just a guy trying to correct his mistakes—to reverse his consequences, really.”

    Cassia held her sides, staring at the floor. “If he’s so dangerous, then why don’t we do something about him? He has the Seal, and—“

    “The Seal is broken beyond repair; Laryon made sure of that. Arthus can never take Arceus again.” Matheus huffed, looking away. “He might be insane, but he’s not the worst of our worries. There are other things we must be focused on.”

    Lawrence moaned, and his eyelid flickered. Matheus pulled on his hat and said, “Better get ready. Dealing with a bunch of memories that aren’t his own will make him feel disoriented.”

    Before Cassia could ask more, Lawrence snapped awake.

    He shot up, breathing heavily. He felt lightheaded, the remnants of the memories dancing in his vision. He held his head, groggily turning toward Cassia, seeing a vague, blackish shape.

    Matheus, in a muffled voice, said, “You didn’t show him all of them, did you?”

    He saw Cassia shift slightly. “Only the important ones…”

    Matheus stepped over, holding up a pale blue paw. “Better clear your head before you pass out again.” He pressed the paw against Lawrence’s head, and he immediately felt better his vision crisp and his hearing clear.

    Matheus stepped away, the blue glow fading from his paw. He nodded his head, then said, “Good thing Aura has a calming effect compared to Life. You feel better?”

    Lawrence nodded. “Yeah…how’d you do that?”

    “This?” Matheus held up his paw, causing Aura to appear once more. “Comes naturally, really.” He shook his head, lowering his paw. “But now’s not the time for that. What did you see?”

    Lawrence closed his eyes, struggling to remember. He saw Cassia fleeing the Guild, soothing Grom’s fear, and grieving over Arianne. Briefly, he saw the troubles Cassia experienced through her teaching of Arceus, all thanks to her lineage—a descendant of Arthus.

    Cassia scooted closer, enclosing Lawrence’s paw with her hand. “Do you…do you know why I hid from you? Why I appeared as a Gardevoir?”

    He remained silent. The wood under the pot crackled, the sparks flitting up the chimney and out into the air. The waves beat against ship, gently rocking them. Grom’s contented chuckle reverberated through the air, for reasons unknown.

    Finally, Lawrence said, “I’ve had to go through a lot. I had to hide because I’m from Unova; I couldn’t trust anyone because they’d think I was crazy, saying that I came in a vortex and got turned into a Lucario. I was afraid of losing what help I had—you.”

    He clenched his free paw. “But then, you found out. You saw what made me different, saw right through my lies. I knew you were going to leave me—yet you didn’t. You understood. You wanted to help me.”

    He lifted Cassia’s claw, looking into her eyes. “I found you out, and you thought I was going to leave you, because you’re related to the Pokémon who wants to kill me, kill everyone. You even thought I was going to leave because you believe in Arceus and I don’t. Is that right?” Cassia looked away, then sheepishly nodded her head.

    Lawrence smiled. “Well…I won’t.” He released Cassia’s claw, studying her astonished expression. “I’ve seen your life. You’ve had it so much harder than me. I never had to run away from my parents. I never had someone I love die.” His smile faded, and he lowered his head. “But I have had to hide myself. Not just here, but back home, in Sinnoh. Everyone there hated that I didn’t believe in Arceus, so I had to hide that, and worry about anyone finding out. That’s why I left as soon as I could.” He looked up. “I know how you feel. I’m not angry anymore. I’m just…glad that someone else has felt what I felt.”

    Cassia sighed with relief, holding a hand to her head. She suddenly hugged Lawrence, causing him to flinch and widen his eyes. He gave an astonished look to Matheus, who simply shrugged with a grin.

    Lawrence cleared his throat awkwardly, then said, “Um…didn’t you have a ‘relationship’ with ‘Aleron’?”

    Cassia pushed him away and scowled. “You heard that from Grom, didn’t you?”

    After a moment of silence, they erupted with laughter, until Grom peeked his head in through the window. “Graow?”

    Cassia waved a dismissive hand, straining to keep back her laughter. “N-No, we weren’t just talking about you.”

    “Grm.” Grom shrugged, then pulled his head out.

    They laughed once more, and after a while, they finally calmed to sniffles, then to sighs.

    Matheus wiped a tear from his eye, the last trails of a laugh leaving his lips. “Whoo, nothing like a tense mood to make a good punchline.” He rubbed his snout, then said, “So, now that all is forgiven, I should probably explain why else I came here.”

    From his cloak, he pulled out a ragged piece of paper, then unfolded it, spreading it across his legs. Cassia and Lawrence hovered over it, seeing it marked extensively by rough charcoal sketches, particularly in Deitae.

    Matheus pointed toward the northern section of Serenita. “I’ve been keeping track of your progress from the Tree of Life.”

    Lawrence blinked and waved his paws, “Whoa, wait a minute. What do you mean you were watching us at the Tree of Life?”

    “I’ll explain later,” Matheus replied. He continued, “You’ve done quite well, but there’s one key section of Serenita that I know will need the Tome.” He tapped three different locations along the top. “Here.” He then pointed back towards the center. “And a little around here.”

    Cassia studied them, shaking her head. “But those are in hard-to-reach areas. I haven’t had any experience there.” She wrinkled her nose. “And I’ll have to go back to Saunte. They’ll recognize me there, even with my disguise.”

    Matheus pointed at himself. “That’s why I’m here. Two thousand years of going across Serenita, and you’re bound to know something.” He quickly circled the rest of the map. “Far as I can tell, they’re the only places you haven’t gone to. That’s important, given what will be happening soon.”

    “What will be happening soon?” Lawrence asked.

    Matheus tapped the side of his head with a smirk. “Read the Tome, then you’ll know.”

    Lawrence groaned, then turned to Cassia. “Do you know?”

    Cassia shrugged. “I might read it all the time, but I don’t know everything about it.”

    Matheus waved a paw. “Ach, you’ll know soon enough.” He carefully folded the map again, stuffing it back into his cloak. “Regardless, we’ll first be going to the Xilo Mountains. Then we’ll go up around the peak, then to the Faylen Jungle. Then we’ll go around Mount Furnek and finish off with Saunte.”

    “It should be easy with Hoopa around,” Cassia mentioned.

    “You have Hoopa?” Lawrence asked, astounded.

    Matheus shook his head, sighing. “Unfortunately, no. I convinced him to bring us to the Xilo Mountains, but he’s refusing to be outside for any longer. He loathes meeting any mortal Pokémon to their desire to have some…less desirable wishes.” Matheus shook his head and continued, “Either way, we’ll be hiking in the mountains for a while.”

    Lawrence sat back on his bed, groaning. “Augh, I hate climbing mountains. Mount Coronet was horrible!”

    “Where?” Cassia and Matheus asked.

    Remembering their origin, Lawrence sighed. “It's a large mountain over where I come from.”

    Matheus nodded his head slowly. “Yeah…so we’ll leave tomorrow for the mountains, and it will hopefully take no more than a few days to get to Jareth. It’s supposed to have Guild influence, so Lawrence,” he pointed at him, “you and I will be training together to have you be a proper Lucario.”

    Later that night, Cassia slept peacefully for the first time in over a week, while Matheus snored away, an arm hanging languidly over his bed. The lanterns extinguished and the pot of Tamato soup empty, the raft lay soundly asleep.

    Except for Lawrence. He stared at the window, watching Grom play in the sandbar he sat in. ‘So much happened today. Cassia’s a Zoroark, and there’s still a Lucario alive!’.

    He studied his paws, thinking of aura surrounding them. ‘Maybe he can teach me to use Aura. I never thought it would be useful—until Arthus insulted me.’ He growled and clenched his fist. ‘I’ll get back at him.’

    He looked away, remembering his real goal. He pulled off the Pokédex and tried seeking an access point once more. No luck.

    He groaned, slipping it back into the case. ‘Equivos is a wonderful place, but I have a life to get back to. And Arceism…’ He sighed and shook his head. ‘Arceus said we needed to treat Pokemon like people in my world—yet they obviously aren’t. He doesn’t exist, and nothing will change that.’

    With that in his mind, he fell asleep.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  19. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    While I was busy writing, I got into a little bit of writer's block. But while I pushed through it, I made a map of Equivos!

    [​IMG]




    [​IMG]


    _ _ _ : Lawrence's Path (Act 2)

    x x x : Gardner's Path (Act 2)

    _ . _ : Cassia's Path (Act X)

    . . . : Lawrence's Path (Act 3)



    It will also be on the first post for your enjoyment!
     
  20. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 11: Xilo

    Lawrence sat at a desk in a suit and tie, listening to the instructor at the front of the room. Around him, other students sat at desks, some listening, others sleeping, and a few playing small games with each other. The room was brightly lit and covered with pictures of the various Legends, Arceus the most prominent of them all.

    After the instructor finished his lesson, Lawrence stood up and walked through the doorway, entering the throng of other people. Other teens from his class caught up with him, gabbing about their life and who the best trainer in the league was.

    “Hey Stephenson!”

    Lawrence winced, then he turned, seeing the smug face of a particularly well-dressed boy, standing over him by a good few inches. His outfit was cleaner, smoother, and flashier than his.

    He pulled a Luxury Ball from his belt and tossed it in the air. “I don’t hear you talkin’ in class anymore. What’s your deal?”

    Lawrence turned around, attempting to join the crowd again. “Not now, Josh.”

    Josh grabbed his shoulder, turning him around. “I’m just wondering! You haven’t been the same since you came back from that wilderness trip.” He looked up for a moment, then said, “What happened anyway?”

    Memories of the vicious battle between the Nidoking and Gabite came to mind, and Lawrence suppressed a shiver. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    “Have you talked to Brother Morgan about it? He’s helped me out plenty.”

    “It’s different.” Lawrence looked around him, noticing that the crowd had thinned. Most everyone was to their next meeting, leaving him and Josh behind.

    Josh stepped back, putting the Luxury ball back on his belt. “What’s different about it? He’s an Arceist, like you and me. He knows how we feel.”

    Lawrence shook his head, turning away. “Not anymore.” He stared at the ceiling, then said, “How does your Monferno act?”

    “Manny? What about him?” Josh asked, taking back his ball.

    Lawrence turned around and pointed at it. “You believe that you’re supposed to treat him like a person. How do you know that he cares?”

    Josh furrowed his brow, tightening his grip on Manny’s ball. “What are you talkin’ about? Of course, he cares! I feed him, play with him, even brush his fur every once in a while!”

    “Does he remember any of that? Does he remember that you do all these nice things for him, or that you’re just the guy who takes care of him?”

    “What’s your point? Why are you so talkative all of a sudden?” Josh asked, furrowing his brow.

    Lawrence stood straight, giving him a cold stare. “I know how Pokémon really act, Josh. Manny just sees you as a source of food and comfort; he doesn’t love you. He only does things for you to get what you give him. He doesn’t remember all your times together, only that you’re his caretaker. He’s no friend; he’s just a pet!”

    “Shut it!” Josh pressed the button on his ball, expanding it. “I’ve had enough of you talkin’ about Manny like that! Let’s go out and fight!”

    Lawrence stood still for a moment, then gestured to his waist: no Poke Balls hung from it. “Never have, never will.” He calmly turned around, and walked away from Josh.

    Josh growled, pressing the button again, causing the ball to shrink. “You’re not an Arceist! You’d never say things like that if you were!”

    Lawrence lowered his head, curling his fingers.

    “Not anymore.”

    ~~~~

    Lawrence opened his eyes, the early morning shining across the floor. Cassia and Matheus were gone from their beds, leaving him to sleep. The lanterns swung above him, and the fire pit contained the embers of last night’s fire. From outside, the cawing of Wingull echoed, the salty sea breeze rushing through the slightly-open door.

    He sat up and swung his legs onto the floor, rubbing his face. ‘The day…the day I said how I really felt…” He closed his eyes and rested his head against his paw. ‘I shouldn’t have.’

    Something whooshed outside, followed by a duo of groans and shouts. Lawrence stood up and peered out the window, finding Matheus and Cassia standing outside next to Grom. The two furred Pokémon shook their heads and brushed their arms, sweeping off plumes of dust.

    “Seriously Grom? When we’re right here?” Cassia exclaimed, combing through her mane and brushing off the sacks hanging from her arms.

    Matheus took off his hat and blew it free of sand, kicking Grom’s leg. “Hardly a time to give yourself a dust bath.”

    “Gra-ha-ha…” Grom chuckled, rolling his shoulders and relishing the coarse, grainy feeling throughout.

    Matheus turned toward the raft and noticed Lawrence. “You’re awake! Come on outside; we’re about ready to leave!”

    Lawrence nodded, then proceeded out the door, hopping onto the sandbank, and joining with them.

    He turned to Cassia, who continued to brush sand off herself. She noticed his gaze, then stopped, turning away and rubbing her shoulder.

    After a moment, he cleared his throat, then said, “Are you…still upset over the Tome?” She nodded.

    Lawrence took out the Pokédex, typing in his password. “You can read from here anytime you like. I wouldn't mind. Really.” He held it out to her, the first page of the Tome visible on its screen.

    Cassia cautiously accepted it, still wary of the foreign technology. Her claws grazed Lawrence’s paw as she took the Pokédex from his grasp. He looked down at his paw, then said, “Still have to get used to you being, well, you.”

    Cassia swiped at the screen, forcing her stare of amazement away. “And I’m going to have to get used to this.” She looked up, concerned. “Did you like me better as a Gardevoir?” Matheus and Grom turned toward Lawrence.

    Lawrence stood still, then, considering his words, said, “I like you no matter what you look like. What you are shouldn’t matter, right?”

    Cassia sighed with relief and hugged Lawrence, exclaiming, “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!”

    Lawrence remained still, unsure of how to handle this sudden turn of events. He looked to Grom and Matheus, the latter with a grin plastered across his face, while Grom simply stood, his arms crossed.

    “Hraw hraw…” Grom chuckled, putting a hand over his eyes.

    Cassia lifted her head, then pushed herself away from Lawrence, tapping her fingers sheepishly. She stepped away, then, clearing her throat, said, “Isn’t it time we get going?”

    Matheus nodded, still grinning. “Yes indeed.” He reached into his cloak, then gave her a wink. “Reminds me of another couple I once knew…”

    Lawrence and Cassia took glance at each other and backed away.

    “Haw-haw-haw-haw!” Grom bellowed, holding his heaving chest.

    Matheus made a small chuckle himself. “Guess I might be making assumptions that aren’t quite there.” His smile dissipated, and he held his paw up to his lips. “Come,” he whispered, a wisp of yellow light shooting into the sky.

    A ring zoomed from the light’s trajectory, and Grom’s laughter halted. The golden rings topped in front of them, swirling mist within its center. The mist funneled out of it and swirled overhead, gathering together into a tightly-packed blob, then exploded with a pop. In place of the blob, a small purple figure hung limply in the air. Two tarnished, golden hoops hung from its horns, as well as around its chest and hands. Its lavender body was coated with grayish rust, and the eyes were dark and tired.

    The figure lowered to eye-level, and his eyes opened, exposing bright-yellow eyes with green pupils, still sharp, yet exhausted. “You finally call me, Matheus.”

    Matheus closed his eyes and sighed. “You’ve let yourself go. You used to look magnificent, but now…”

    Hoopa waved a hand, shaking his head. “I don’t care to be seen anymore, so I find that appearances don’t matter.” He looked behind Matheus. “Where’d you get the raft?”

    Matheus took a glance behind him and explained, “Well, old Charles decided he wanted to go on vacation, so he let me borrow his ferry. I was just going to leave it here for him to find on his way back.”

    Hoopa gave Matheus a stern look, then turned toward the others. “And I take it that they are who you want me to bring?”

    “Yes. Do you have any issues?” Matheus replied pushing the bottle back into his pocket.

    Hoopa hovered to Grom, studying him with a careful eye. “Well, he’s unique. Size won’t be an issue, but are you sure you want to bring him along?”

    “Graow!” Grom protested, stamping his foot.

    Matheus held out a paw. “Easy there; he didn’t mean anything by that.” He wrapped an arm around the djinn and whispered something to him.

    Lawrence strained to hear, but Matheus stood back straight, and the other Legend continued to scrutinize Cassia.

    Cassia looked down at him then after a moment, exclaimed excitedly, “I can’t believe we’ll be having Hoopa take us somewhere!”

    Hoopa shrugged. “Not every day I take a Zoroark either. From what I’ve heard, you’re a pretty good girl, so no concerns here.” He went on to Lawrence, then stopped his eyes widening. He turned to Matheus and hissed, “I thought all the Lucario were gone!”

    “He’s not from around here, Hoopa; not even from this world.” He nodded to Lawrence, then said, “He’s trustworthy, if a bit ridiculous. He claims to not believe in Arceus.”

    “Hey!” Lawrence shouted, offended that Matheus would so freely tell such things to a stranger.

    Hoopa furrowed his brow, his hand raising to a hoop. “It’s unfortunately not my place to say what you should believe in; that’s the Tomebearer’s job.” Taking his other hoop, he looked back to Cassia. “You better convince him that Arceus is real.” He threw one hoop to the north, and it zoomed past the horizon with amazing speed. He set the other hoop down in front of him, and moments after, an image of a rough, mountainous landscape appeared.

    Hoopa lifted his arm, and the hoop went upright. “Just step inside when you’re ready. Once all of you are through, don’t expect me to give you any more rides; I don’t want anyone releasing that…that thing.” He hugged himself, trembling. “He…he talks to me…he never stops.”

    “Hoopa…” Matheus said, reaching a paw toward him.

    Hoopa pushed it away, closing his eyes. “Just go.”

    Steadily, they complied, Matheus stepping first into the hoop, then Grom, Cassia, and finally Lawrence.

    As Lawrence crossed through, Hoopa turned to him and said, “Arceus exists…and you know it.”

    Lawrence remained still, then stepped through the hoop the rest of the way, not turning back. Hoopa grunted, then held up his hand. The connection between the Hoopa closed, and the hoop in Xilo zoomed back to its master.

    The travelers watched the hoop disappear past the horizon, then studied their whereabouts. They stood midway up a towering mountain, its brothers all parallel to each other, adjacent to a gravelly wasteland beneath them. Rough grass grew in the clumps of coarse, red earth, and very occasionally a tree or bush. Staraptor cawed above them, alongside their rivals, the Braviary, as they hunted the Togedemaru and Emolga that dared to run out in the day, hunting for the sparse berries and grasses that remained. Above all of them, the snowy peaks gradually melted to streams, trickling down the rough landscape.

    Matheus stepped back and made a wide, sweeping gesture. “Welcome to the greatest range in all of Equivos, the Xilo Mountains. Plenty of rock and little else, so I suggest you get used to it.”

    Lawrence stepped forward and seethed, kicking away a rather sharp pebble. “Consider it done. Reminds me of Mount Coronet, rocks and all.”

    Cassia hovered near Grom, peering down at the seemingly-endless ridges of rock beneath them. “I-I’ve never been this high before.”

    “Graow?” Grom said, cocking his head.

    Cassia made a way face and slugged his arm. “That was when we were flying, not when we were on the ground!

    Matheus stepped between them, holding his hat as a gale breezed through. “All the better to get used to it then!” He looked around for a moment, then held his paw out toward the sun, studying it carefully.

    He directed his gaze back to the mountain, then said, “We appear to be a few hours away from Jareth. With luck, we’ll be able to cross this mountain and get to the next in that time.”

    “Wait, the next? How big is this place?” Lawrence asked.

    “There’s ten main mountains, and we happen to be on the farthest one to the east.” He pulled out his map, pointing out their location. Moving slightly to the left, he said, “And here’s where Jareth is.” He made a winding trail to the west end of the range. “Then we’ll take care of things here in Cryus…” He then circled the green next to it. “Then take care of Virona in the jungle and be off to our next spot: Mount Furnek.” He tapped a solitary peak farther south.

    A thought suddenly came to Lawrence’s mind. “Do you think there'd be any place I could call home from?”

    “Call? What, like yell to them?” Matheus asked with a bewildered expression.

    Cassia stepped closer, pointing to Lawrence’s Pokédex. “You mean using that, don’t you?”

    Lawrence pulled it from its case, bringing up the beacon application. Struggling to find words the Equivosians would best understand, he said, “My...boss, Hanson, said I needed to find a ‘dimensional weakness’ that leads to home. If we find one, I can…talk with them.” He tapped the button that appeared, and moments after, saw the taunting ‘No access point in range.’

    Matheus stepped around Cassia to take a better look at the Pokédex. He shook his head in disbelief. “Amazing what you ‘humans’ came up with.” He scratched his chin. “Well, I don’t know much about this dimensional business, but I’m sure there’s a Legend who does. Palkia, maybe, but like Giratina and Dialga, he rarely remains in Equivos because of all the disturbances he has to fix.”

    Lawrence’s face fell. “You mean Palkia might be making it so I can’t get home?” He had no idea how he could beat a Legend in returning home.

    Matheus shrugged, stepping forward. “Not sure what else to tell you; it's not like I can just go to Deitae and see if I can talk with them. You’ll just have to wait until we’re finished with what I’m here for.” He motioned for them to follow. “Come on then! Let’s talk while we walk, hmm?”

    They began their trek along the rough trail set in the side of the mountain, and on a cleft above them, a Murkrow nodded its head. It flitted away, joining a troupe of other Murkrow headed southwest, toward the Guild.

    ~~~~

    Arthus perched atop the spire of the Master’s Tower, tapping his fingers against his leg impatiently. “Why did I use Murkrow for this? Life Deposits are far more reliable.” He groaned and leaned his head against his hand. “Because Cassia and that bumbling Golurk can suck them right up.”

    A cacophony of caws erupted overhead, and Arthus looked up expectantly. “Finally.” The flock swooped down and landed gracefully on top of the roof, all the Murkrow bobbing their heads, staring blankly.

    Arthus held up a threatening claw. “I’ve dealt with the likes of you before, so I’m going to say it right now: one at a time, or I’ll skewer you faster than an Escavalier!” The Murkrow bobbed their heads excitedly, and Arthus pointed at one and said, “Report.”

    “Nothin’ in the jungle, not one peep!” it cawed. Arthus pointed to the one on its right.

    “All silent ‘round the desert!” Arthus continued to the next.

    “The swamps are spooky as ever, but no Lucario!”

    “Coast is clear, literally!”

    “Nearly got roasted in Furnek, but nothin there!”

    “Both east and west woods are free.”

    “Even the plains are clean as a whistle!”

    “And Cretea is boringer than—”

    Arthus pinched the Murkrow’s beak shut, his eyes glowing red. “Enough.” He took a deep breath and smoothed back his mane, granting a desperate look at the final Murkrow. “And what about the mountains? Did you see anyone there?”

    The Murkrow tapped its foot and clacked its beak in thought, then perked up and squawked, “Yep yep, saw a big ole Golurk, a couple Lucario, even a Zoroark, like you!”

    Arthus snatched the Murkrow’s neck and roared, “Why didn’t you tell me in the first place?"

    The Murkrow gurgled, struggling to breathe. Arthus cringed and set it down, then after catching its breath, the Murkrow said, “I would’ve, but you wanted us to talk one at a time, and I didn’t get picked till the end!”

    Arthus narrowed his eyes and muttered, “Of course.”

    The Murkrow squawked and said, “Anyhoo, found them all, took a peep and heard some stuff. They apparently are goin’ around Jareth and Cryus, takin’ a break in Virona and stopping off in Furnek, then going back ‘round to Saunte, all so they can talk about what’s in this black boxy-thingy.”

    Arthus furrowed his brow. “A what?”

    The Murkrow flapped his wings and shrieked, “I dunno, I’m just telling ya what I saw!”

    Arthus pressed a hand against its head, calming it. “Alright, I get it! They’re going around the north part of Serenita. Is there anything else?”

    He raised his hand and the Murkrow looked up a moment longer. “Well, that one Lucario said he wanted to ‘call home’, and it involved somethin’ called ‘dimensions’ or whatever.”

    Arthus perked up and leaned closer. “Was it the silver one?”

    “No, the boring old blue one.”

    Arthus leaned back and tapped his head. “Hmm…dimensions. I read about Arceus apparently creating multiple worlds, and that he’s able to cross between them at will.” His eyes widened, and he slammed his hand into his palm. “And that strange creature from the desert was named Lawrence! Do you know what that means?”

    “Nope,” the Murkrow replied, preening itself.

    Arthus rolled his eyes and grabbed the Murkrow’s legs, holding him upside down. “I have no idea how traveling between worlds works, but Lawrence must have come from another one—and his spirit retained his normal form!” He tapped his chin. “I don’t know how he changed, but at least that explains how a Lucario slipped from my fingers.”

    “Cool and all, but can you put me down?”

    Arthus held up the Murkrow and said, “Go let the captain of Jareth know that I’ll be visiting. Make it there before nightfall and I’ll give you a whole bushel of berries.”

    All the Murkrow suddenly began shouting, “Berries! Berries! Berries!” over and over again, flapping repeatedly and sending feathers everywhere.

    Arthus growled and kicked all of them save the one in his hands off the roof. “Idiots!” He held up the Murkrow again and said, “Understood?”

    The Murkrow nodded vigorously, it’s eyes unfocused. “Yep yep, deliverin’ message!” Arthus let him free, and the Murkrow flitted to the north.

    Arthus wheezed a sigh of relief and leaned against the tower’s spire. “Now…what to do with Lawrence…” He thought for a moment, then a wicked grin split across his face.

    “Oh…I know exactly what to do.”

    ~~~~

    “The Ancient Trevenant really did that?”

    Matheus looked up in bewilderment, walking between Cassia and Lawrence as they trekked across the mountains. Grom tromped just behind them, chipping away pieces of rock as he passed jutting boulders.

    Cassia held her sketchpad in front of Matheus, revealing the picture she had drawn over a week before. “Really! Look, see, here’s the Buneary he adopted”

    Matthews traced his paw over the picture, nodding his head. “Huh. I thought it was strange going there instead of in the Ythereal Swamps like he usually does, but…”

    As he continued on, Lawrence thought of the Trevenant’s prophecy. The words came back to him clearly, despite it being nearly a well since he heard them: A Keeper once was…a treader of realms…a deceiver of self. ‘What did he mean by that?’

    He massaged his head, thinking instead of the last half of the poem. Awaken Aleron as well as the Keeper and Equivos may be reborn to live on. ‘How can Aleron be awakened if he’s dead. How could Equivos be “reborn”?’

    A gap came in Cassia and Matheus’ conversation. Lawrence hastily jutted in and said, “Matheus, what do you know about Aleron?”

    Matheus stepped away, turning his head. “Where’d you hear that name?”

    Cassia replied, “The Ancient Trevenant talked about him. Why?”

    Matheus grunted, pulling his cloak over his shoulder. “Never mind.” He stopped, his eyes taking a far-off look. “I…I haven’t heard that name in a long time. I…I knew him well.”

    Lawrence stopped alongside him, “Who was he? He seems to be important from what the Trevenant said to me.”

    “What?” Matheus exclaimed. He pulled Cassia’s sketchpad close and rapidly scanned through Lawrence’s prophecy. His eyes widened, and he let go of the pad. “Awaken Aleron…” He shook his head, hiking once more. “He’s dead and can never return!”

    Cassia stepped in front of him, holding her claws out. “But you came back to life!”

    Matheus crossly stepped around her. “He didn’t just die physically.” He lowered his head, keeping his pace faster than his companions.

    Lawrence turned to Cassia, bewildered. “He came back to life?”

    Cassia cocked her head. “Don’t you remember the story I told you when we met?”

    Lawrence remembered. Matheus protected Laryon and helped him stop Arthus in the past—two thousand years ago. He died but was brought back to life by the very legend Lawrence did not believe in: Arceus.

    “That can’t be right. I can understand Arthus surviving with Yveltal—even if it is a bit of a stretch—but a Lucario living for two thousand years is too much,” Lawrence said in hushed tones.

    “But he has lived for that long!”

    “But that’s not--”

    “I have lived for two thousand years!”

    Matheus sprang in front of Lawrence, pressing his paw against his chest. “Don’t deny the truth! I’ve seen hundreds die of old age, and dozens of cities built and destroyed in a matter of centuries!” He stepped away, glaring at Lawrence. “Believe what you will, I won’t have anyone saying that I’m a fraud. I am the same Lucario that protected Laryon all those years ago—and suffered Arthus’ betrayal.” He clenched his paw, then strode faster. “Don’t talk any more about my past.”

    Lawrence remained still, shaken by Matheus’ outburst. Cassia gave him a disappointed look, then continued past him. Grom also crossed, shaking his head sadly and dragging his feet.

    Lawrence thought of all the different possibilities for Matheus’ extended life. ‘Maybe he’s…a descendant that took his name? Maybe hibernation?” He shook his head. “He simply couldn’t be resurrected by Arceus.’

    “He doesn’t exist…he can’t.” He looked up, watching a Braviary soar overhead. “I’ve seen it for myself.”

    He ran to catch up with the Arceists.

    ~~~~

    Hours later, after a long silence between them, they finally reached the one of the few settlements in the Xilo mountains: Jareth. A mighty river rushed down the peak, coursing right through the center of the town. Low-roofer buildings made of chiseled brick cropped around it, bridges extending over the river. Drilled through the side of the mountain, various tunnels wove in an out of the developments, Rock and Water Pokémon weaving in and out of them. Pillars made of the same stone rose at the outskirts, the burning Arc of Arceus waving on their flags.

    They stopped several yards from the gate, with Matheus leading them. He looked up at the flags and bared his teeth. “Those used to stand for the light of Arceus protecting Pokémon, always shining to save them from whatever they faced.” He lowered his head. “Now they’re only a symbol of Arthus’ tyranny.” His paw shook briefly, then subsided. He looked to Cassia and said, “It will be just as you’ve done before: investigate, dominate, educate.”

    Cassia held her chin. “I never thought of it like that before—or made it rhyme.”

    Matheus shrugged, motioning for her to hurry. “I’ve dabbled at writing for a time, but can you hurry? I don’t like the looks of those Golduck down there.” The two Golduck with armbands stood at the entrance, taking occasionally glances in their direction.

    Cassia waved her claws over Lawrence, making his Watchog illusion return. She waved over herself, and her Gardevoir form appeared. She was going to do the same over Matheus but stopped. “Um…do you have any preference about how you look like?”

    Lawrence scowled. “Why do I get stuck as a Watchog when he gets to choose? They’re paranoid little brats!”

    Before Cassia could reply, Matheus said, “I’ll have you know that I’ve met plenty of respectable Watchog, and they are not ‘brats’.” He looked up momentarily. “Although I agree, they are rather paranoid.”

    Cassia ran her fingers through what appeared to be green hair and explained, “I couldn’t very well ask you what you wanted to be earlier, considering that I was hiding!”

    Lawrence cringed, stepping back. “Sorry. I should have remembered.” He made a sympathetic smile. “Can I still change?”

    Cassia groaned, rolling her eyes. “It’s not that simple. It’s easier to work with an illusion I’ve made before since I’m already familiar with it; making new ones on the fly is tiring, and actually makes them rather blurry. I had to use my Life to get yours right the first time, and I really prefer not to do that.” She sighed, turning to Matheus. “Anyway, what do you want to be?”

    Matheus thought for a moment and said, “Hmm…how about a dashing Gallade, rugged and adventurous. Older, of course; wouldn’t want to be confused for your brother.”

    Cassia gave him a curious look. “You seem to have an awfully clear idea of what you want.”

    Matheus shrugged. “I’ve had plenty of time to think about it.”

    Cassia smiled, then waved her hand. In Matheus’ place, a Gallade stood, his arms at his sides and a large grin across his face. Various nicks were scattered across his blades, and his body was covered in faded scars.

    He stood still for a moment, then his smile faded. “The last time I had a disguise was when Arthus and I had to infiltrate a camp of bandits in the Kaena forest, years ago.” He put a hand to his forehead. “To think that I still remember that.” After a moment he shook his head, then pointed onward. “Come on, let’s not waste time.” He stepped behind the rocky outcropping toward the own.

    Cassia and Lawrence followed. The Gardevoir turned toward Grom and said, “We’ll be back before long!”

    “Gra-grawm…” he sighed, waving his arm languidly. He leaned on the wall, crossing his arms with a sigh.

    Lawrence took a glance back toward Grom and said, “Does he ever go with you?”

    “I can’t have Pokémon figuring out who I am; they’d know if they saw him with me.”

    “But he went into Barash for you.”

    “That was only because you decided to go in.”

    “He’s just so lonely. Most Golurk tend to have constant training by their trainers to prevent them from overloading on energy; he must be bored out of his mind.”

    Cassia stopped. “How do you know so much about Golurk?”

    Lawrence remained silent for a moment, then said, “I’m a specialist in Pokémon behavior. I know how Pokémon act, and how intelligent they are, so I can better understand them.”

    Cassia stared at him, then back toward Grom. “So…you know how Zoroark like me would act then? You know how everyone in Equivos would act?”

    Lawrence continued forward, shaking his head. “No, I don’t. You have personality, thoughts. You’re nothing like the Pokémon in my world.”

    Cassia furrowed her brow, following Lawrence. “You sounded like you did. Why did you want to want to be a ‘specialist’?”

    Lawrence closed his eyes, clenching his paw. “To…to know how to protect myself from them.”

    Cassia’s eyes widened. “Do you hate Pokémon?”

    Lawrence halted and turned to face her. “No! No, I don’t!” He stared for a moment, then sighed, turning away. “I just…I just…” He cringed. “Feared them.” He stiffened, then turned away, running to meet Matheus, leaving Cassia to stare.

    ~~~~

    Floatzel and Azumarill patrolled the streets of Jareth, keeping a watchful eye on the Graveler, Boldore and Dugtrio that lumbered through, carrying ore and food to the massive stone building at the forefront of all. Buizel and Azurill played in the outcroppings of the river, laughing merrily with their mothers holding berries in trays. Nearby, in the tiny caves of the Rock Pokémon, battered Roggenrola and Diglett huddled close, striving to remain free of the water.

    Lawrence, Matheus and Cassia crossed through the gates. The Golduck gave them sideways glance, not sensing any danger from the troupe. Few Pokémon turned to look at them, the Water Pokémon too concerned with their business, while the Rock and Ground feared what would happen if they did.

    Cassia paled at the sight of the Rock Pokémon, their surfaces rounded and scratched, and their eyes tired and limbs thin. The Gardevoir drew close to Matheus and hissed, “What is happening here?”

    Matheus whispered gravely, “The Water Pokémon. Rock Pokémon fear water because it weakens their bodies and hurts their eyes, so naturally, the Guild took advantage of that.” He pointed to a large Azumarill standing at the entrance to the storehouse, who wore a red armband.

    The Azumarill’s fur clean and immaculate, he held himself higher than the Graveler and Boldore that surrounded him. “All supplies have been brought to storage, yes?”

    A thick and scarred Aerodactyl with bloodshot eyes sat on one Boldore, growling, “You know we need some for our families. How are we supposed to survive when you take all we have?”

    The Azumarill glared at the Aerodactyl. “You’ll get what you need in a couple days; that’s when all the Guild members get their share.”

    “But they get so much more than us, and we’ve been doing all the work,” a Graveler replied, holding his arms close.

    The Azumarill opened his mouth and shot a jet of water at the Graveler, forcing him onto his back. In his moaning, the Azumarill clambered on top and sneered at the Graveler. “If you have a problem with it, talk to the Guildmaster about it; he’ll be coming around tomorrow for inspections. I’m sure he’d love to hear about it.”

    The Graveler closed his eyes, holding a hand over the crumbling section of his chest. The Azumarill humphed in satisfaction, then leapt off, letting the other Graveler help their comrade to his feet and throw dust on the wound to dry it.

    The Azumarill turned toward Lawrence and shouted, “Who’re you?”

    Lawrence—caught off-guard—stuttered, “We’re—we’re just, passing through.”

    The Azumarill studied him suspiciously, walking toward him and the others. “Pokémon hardly ‘pass through’ around here. Where’d you and your partners come from, Watchog?”

    Matheus cut in and replied, “We’re just making our way to an old friend that lives past your town. We came from the Minute Plains to get up here.”

    The Azumarill continued to scrutinize him. “A visit, hmm?” The Gallade nodded.

    Cassia then said, “We’ll be on our way; we’d rather not bother you with our business.” She walked around the Azumarill and across the bridge, passing by the deprived Rock Pokémon. The aged Aerodactyl focused his gaze on Cassia, squinting his eyes.

    Matheus and Lawrence followed, while the Azumarill waved toward a tall Floatzel. He walked to him and said, “Orders, Captain Loran?”

    Loran pulled him close and whispered, “Watch those guys; Pokémon don’t just come up here for visits.” He pointed to the Aerodactyl. “Double the guard on the storehouse tonight. Old Aerav is getting too big for his wings.”

    Matheus, Cassia and Lawrence calmly crossed the other gate, then when out of sight, rushed behind a series of rocks. Cassia dropped their guises and exclaimed, “He said Gardner will be coming tomorrow!”

    Matheus groaned, massaging his head. “No, worse. Gardner never leaves the Guild. Likely they’re talking about Arthus and making sure he isn’t brought up to cause a scare.” He firmed his gaze and clenched his paw. “We’ll have to attack tonight and teach them in the morning, then be off before he can notice.”

    “Are you sure that’s the best idea? What if he comes while we’re teaching?” Cassia said.

    Matheus shrugged, gesturing behind him. “We can figure out what time exactly with a little of your expertise. Once done, we’ll just go beforehand. Would you mind?” Cassia realized what he meant, then disappeared, her footsteps barely heard as she ran back toward Jareth.

    Matheus nodded approvingly, then took a glance at Lawrence. “While we’re waiting, how about we see if you have what it takes to be a real Lucario.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018

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