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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant (Complete)

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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    The first story, PMD: Legends Unraveled*
    The sequel, PMD: The Forgotten Isles*

    *(Neither are needed to understand the context of this story, as they are now considered non-canon. Both are posted on Bulbagarden.net.)

    In a devastated world, a young Gardevoir and her guardian Golurk must go amongst the darkness and preach to Pokemon about Arceus, all while an evil Zoroark pursue to stop their cause. In their journey, they encounter a Lucario, believed to be the last of his kind…but there’s a catch: he’s a human! Sent from a Unovan facility, he is left without a way home in a bizarre twist of events, so must travel with the Gardevoir. In their journey, he will learn that Pokemon are not what science dictates; it is determined by one’s soul.

    Welcome to the culmination of the series I have made for myself here on Bulbagarden. I realize that my previous work has had a myriad of issues within it, but with this story, I plan on addressing them. In particular, I want to address the issues with my previous story, PMD: The Forgotten Isles.

    Let’s start with PMD: Legends Unraveled, my first Pokemon fan-fiction. I had no plan for how to progress, making some awkward plot points and rather lengthy wait times for chapters. There was also no planning involving the development of my characters.

    In PMDUE, I plan in seven-chapter portions, labelled as Acts. I followed a similar procedure for PMDFI, and have received some praise for how my plot turned out.

    The issues in PMDFI, however, are what I mainly try to resolve. In PMDFI, I had no beta reader, frequent updates, poor character development, and awkward dialogue for certain characters. While I did fine in the plot and general narration, I failed at what is probably the most important aspect of any story: the characters.

    PMDUE will hopefully have none of those issues. I plan on posting one 6000-word chapter every two weeks, with one of those weeks devoted to core composition, then the second on revising it, as well as making my daily rounds on the Written Word. I also plan on having three main characters, with one being the focal point for the entire work. That, combined with the beta reading, should resolve the two glaring issues with PMDFI.

    While PMDUE is the third in a series of stories, I don’t think it is necessary to read them to fully enjoy this one. I will of course reference events and characters that were introduced in those previous stories, but they are not needed to fully understand what is happening in this time period. Everything takes place over 2000 years after PMDLU, and over 1700 years after PMDFI. This is meant to be a standalone work.

    I’ve gone on for too long about this, so I’ll just stop here. If you’ve read my previous work and weren’t happy with it, I encourage you to try again. I am responsive to whatever criticism you have to give, and I have tried to the best of my ability to change my methods. Enjoy.

    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.
    • I will update every Saturday, and am planning to finish writing June 9th, 2018.
    • 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!
    • I encourage and accept any reviews that come about, and will try my best to implement suggested changes.
    • Keep in mind that I also have regular reviewers on Bulbagarden that will also make suggestions.
    • Chapters until 'Chapter 22' will be posted every four days so that I can catch up with what is currently on Fanfiction and Bulbagarden. After that point, the thread will be updated every Saturday.
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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

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    Cassia Zoroark

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    Act 1: The Usurper
    Chapter 01: Prologue (Feb. 19) Originally Posted 11/18/17

    Chapter 02: Lawrence (Feb. 23) Originally Posted 12/2/17

    Act 2: The Priestess
    Chapter 03: Cassia (Feb. 27) Originally Posted 12/15/17

    Chapter 04: Equivos (Mar. 3) Originally Posted 12/30/17

    Chapter 05: Vigilante (Mar. 7) Originally Posted 1/6/18

    Chapter 06: Mythos (Mar. 11) Originally Posted 1/13/18

    Chapter 07: Contention (Mar. 15) Originally Posted 1/20/18

    Chapter 08: Conciliation (Mar. 19) Originally Posted 1/27/18

    Chapter 09: Revelation (Mar. 23) Originally Posted 2/3/18

    Act X: Special Episode
    Chapter 10: Growth (Mar. 27) Originally Posted 2/10/18

    Chapter 11: Calling (Mar. 31) Originally Posted 2/17/18

    Chapter 12: Precept (Apr. 4) Originally Posted 2/25/18

    Act 3: The Guildmaster
    Chapter 13: Clearance (Apr. 8) Originally Posted 3/3/18

    Chapter 14: Xilo (Apr. 12) Originally Posted 3/10/18

    Chapter 15: Assault (Apr. 16) Originally Posted 3/17/18

    Chapter 16: Breaking (Apr. 20) Originally Posted 3/24/18

    Chapter 17: Retaliation (Apr. 24) Originally Posted 3/31/18

    Chapter 18: Discovery (Apr. 28) Originally Posted 4/7/18

    Chapter 19: Ascendance (May 2) Originally Posted 4/14/18

    Chapter 20: Desolation (May 6) Originally Posted 4/21/18

    Act 4: The Legend
    Chapter 21: Loss (May 10) Originally Posted 4/28/18

    Chapter 22: Change (May 14) Originally Posted 5/5/18

    Chapter 23: Fate (May 18) Originally Posted 5/12/18

    Chapter 24: Escape (May 22) Originally Posted 5/19/18

    Chapter 25: Reunion (May 27)

    Chapter 26: Salvation (Jun. 4) Originally Posted 6/3/18

    Act 5: The Keeper
    Chapter 27: Aftermath (Jun. 11) Originally Posted 6/10/18

    Chapter 28: Infiltration (Jun. 17)

    Chapter 29: Realization (Jun. 25)

    Chapter 30: Exodus (Jul. 6)

    Chapter 31: Epilogue (Jul. 16)
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018 at 1:42 PM
  2. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Act 1: The Usurper
    Chapter 01: Prologue


    2,000 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 to emerged from the soil and floated into the sky, free of Pokemon 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 Pokemon, careened upward to the heights of the world.

    From the rubble that surrounded what remained of the mountain, a silent chuckle permeated through the air, 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.

    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 Pokemon, 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 have 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 came to warn you about something! I’ve had a vision!”

    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,” Zaman replied coldly.

    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 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 padded silently into the next room, a small smile creeping across his face. 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 grin widening. “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. Rhianna 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 furball 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 Pokemon 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 Lucario Guild, the aged Guildmaster looked out the window of his domain, the Master’s Tower. His Pokemon 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, I’ve heard from Elsa that this storm has a dark meaning behind it.”

    “Really 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 coot went batty right when the storm hit, and she’s been going on 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’?” he hissed.

    “It means that I have, Guildmaster.”

    The two looked down the stairs as a cloaked 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. “What an honor to be noticed by the most important Pokemon in Serenita. It seems that I was forgotten, after two-thousand years of wasting away in eternal darkness.” 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. “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.

    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 Pokemon.” 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 can 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, it’s 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.

    Arthus twisted his head from the Master’s Tower, the former home of Calem Lucario. For the first time in two-thousand years, he felt content, the bloodlust of his initial rage finally relinquished. All reminders of the Lucario had vanished, and now, his dreams would be free of Matheus, his traitorous companion.

    He felt a bump against his head, then turned around to see a Duskull floating confidently in front of him. “We’ve started work on making the armbands you requested, master. Soon, all of Equivos will know of your Guildmastership.”

    Arthus set a claw on top of the Duskull, grinning. “Oh, I hold no interest in having the world know that I’m back.”

    “You…don’t?” the Duskull inquired in disbelief.

    Arthus paced around him. “Why of course! The last time I took control, I made no attempt to hide the news that the beloved Matheus was no longer in power and look what happened!” He spun the Duskull, making him face him. “This time, I must remain in the background if I expect to get anything done.” He held up the Seal of Creation and shoved it in front of the Duskull’s face. “This Seal won’t fix itself, and I can’t be bothered with those responsibilities.”

    “Then who will be our leader? You’re the perfect choice!”

    Arthus narrowed his eyes and stroked his chin. “You’re a confident one, aren’t you? Tell me, have you always praised me like this?”

    The Duskull nodded. “Yes, master! I’ve always admired your power, and wished to follow you, that way I can destroy my fellow Ghosts!” He shook violently. “I was always last to feed on the Life they found; no one ever respected me!” He circled Arthus’ head. “But I know that you always respected your servants! You promised them a world without evil, one where none would feel pain!” He made a hoarse laugh. “I kept that belief hidden from the others of course; no one else appreciated your genius.”

    Arthus reached behind the Duskull, clamping his claws on his head. “I take it that that means you will obey my every order, and see that you will make everyone forget Arceus’ name?”

    The Duskull nodded, staring at the claws uncomfortably. “Yes, Sire, but…why do you want everyone to forget Arceus?”

    Arthus’ eyes emanated scarlet mist. “To show them that my perfect world is the only one!” Red tendrils surrounded the Duskull, and he began to moan.

    The Zoroark let go of the Ghost, allowing him to fall to the ground. The tendrils became a crimson cocoon around him, and it began to grow. “With this act on my part, I now make you Guildmaster of this Guild.”

    The cocoon swelled, then cracked open, revealing a single, glowing eye. Two grey fists punched out of it, and pulled away the cocoon, revealing a Dusknoir.

    He looked down at his changed form, then clenched his fists. “Thank you, master. You have granted my greatest wish.”

    Arthus snapped his fingers and wrapped an arm around the Dusknoir’s neck. A black and red gem appeared in his claws. He held it out to the Dusknoir and asked, “What is your name, Guildmaster Dusknoir?”

    The Dusknoir took the gem greedily, then pressed it into his chest.

    “Gardner. Gardner Dusknoir.”

    ~~~~

    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! I have good news! It took months, but--”

    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 stuttered, “M-Milord! We have found all the Tomes across Serenita and burned them!”

    Arthus’ face remained unchanged. “All of them? Burned?”

    Gardner sighed. “Well, all but two, give or take, but—”

    Arthus beamed, patting Gardner on the back. “Good! Now just bring them here, and—”

    “What? I thought you wanted them all destroyed!” Gardner exclaimed, slowly floating out.

    Arthus pushed him forward, snapping his fingers. He looked back at the Zorua and waved to it. “I changed my mind.” He closed the door, then stepped in front of Gardner in the open courtyard of Dusknoir Guild. “You see, the best way to defeat your enemy is to learn about them!” He gripped the Seal under his chin. “Just think! The answer to repairing the Seal could lie in the pages!”

    Gardner eyed him curiously. “I am not one for reading. I can’t help you with that.”

    Arthus guided Gardner across the pathway, strutting toward the Master’s Tower. “Neither am I, Guildmaster. I plan on reading it in my spare time, but I’ve found someone else who would be more fitting for this purpose. He should be here in the coming weeks.”

    He pulled Gardner next to the wall and shook a claw at him. “You’ve done marvelously so far, Gardner, but you aren’t finished yet!” He walked away and paced in front of him. “Getting rid of the Tome is a good start, but you must do more! Memories are strong amongst Pokémon, and we cannot have them remembering Arceus and his accursed ‘blessings’.” He faced Gardner and grinned. “I need you to torture them. Don’t kill them or anything, just make their life miserable. We want them productive, but rid them of that spirit that Arceus loves so dearly!” He clenched his fist. “The sooner we make them realize that his arms are no longer in the world, the sooner that they will accept my plans!”

    Gardner nodded, making a slow chuckle. “Yes, Lord Arthus. That will be…” He circled his hands in front of him, collecting shadows and compacting them into a ball.

    “A pleasure.”

    ~~~~

    Darkness set over Dusknoir 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.

    Arthus took a glance behind him, his 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. “On top of stopping my cause. They all deserved to die.” He leapt down from the spire and toward a shimmering box near the wall of Dusknoir Guild.

    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 say what lies Arceus has come up with, 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. “How delightful! Words from a poet, if I ever heard one!” 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: Jun 28, 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 Chimera Puppy

    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

    I have now posted the changes made to Chapter 1, and the schedule has been redone. All chapters will now be posted every four days until Chapter 22 is posted, which by some miracle coincides with when I would post 22 elsewhere. Enjoy the end of act 1!

    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 Pokedex-- a slender black rectangle with a touch-screen surface and several buttons at the side—and avoided a large book labelled ‘Pokemon 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. The morning train had just left. He needed to get ready to go.

    He turned off the Pokedex 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 Pokedex from the top of the bed, looking at its clock: 6:50. He still had 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, resolving to make toast. “That’s right Wallace, so please, make sure you visit the Plasma Memorial to remember those who were lost to their acts of villainy.” Melinda 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 Pokedex 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 labelled, ‘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 Pokedex 1.0, provided everyday people with the portable encyclopedia originally left to those selected by Pokemon Professors.

    “Three years later, they released the Pokedex 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 Pokemon.” 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 Pokemon 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.

    He wondered what sort of Pokemon they would be, then checked the time on his Pokedex: 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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex, putting the headphones over his ears. He turned it on and tapped on ‘Music, then set it to ‘Random’, listening to his selection of game soundtracks.

    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 Pokemon that walked alongside them, 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 hated being in such crowds, but with the peace brought with his music, it was at least bearable.

    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 potentially-delicious products.

    Lawrence avoided them, knowing full well the mediocrity of these salesmen’s products—except one. He drifted toward a large man wearing a stained apron and holding up a rolled pancake in the air.

    “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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex 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. He always enjoyed making a deal that left both parties happy; a Sinnohan trait that few others in Unova had.

    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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon.

    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, not wanting to insult her. “Hello, Erica. I thought you came to advertise around eight?” He checked his Pokedex: 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 didn’t think so.

    He pushed open the doors, halting to watch the bustling lab coats and Pokemon whiz through the lobby. People and Pokemon 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 Pokedex 2.0 were featured, ranging from an incubation check for eggs, to a nutrition planner for Pokemon. People behind tables explained the Pokedex to new customers, with Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 sighed, opening a drawer underneath the table. A dark-skinned man wearing glasses looked over, noticing Lawrence’s brochure. “So, Erica finally got you to take one,” he noted.

    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 Pokemon 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 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 exactly?”

    Marcus groomed the Eevee, shrugging. “He came looking for you on his way to the shipping department; he works for Valence too, you know.”

    Lawrence 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 Pokemon, and they aren’t all that sophisticated.”

    “I’m not sure I agree with you there; Pokemon are pretty sophisticated creatures.”

    “I know what I’m talking about.”

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

    “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 Pokedex. “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 Pokemon to be if I had to choose,” Lawrence replied. 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 Pokemon? Do you battle at all?”

    “No, but I know how to. I used to be part of the Senior Pokemon 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 were they 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?” he thought.

    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 Pokemon, although not how he was used to: the Pokemon 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 thought, horrified.

    Hanson continued, undeterred. “This is Facility D, where all the real science happens. We are two-thousand 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 Pokedexes for them to use with their Pokemon. 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon could talk?” Lawrence remained silent, still astonished by the environment.

    Hanson turned around. “Many people think that Pokemon 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 Pokemon speak, we could create ultimate cohesion with trainers, making a force that could communicate perfectly, with no drawbacks.

    “Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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—

    “Pokemon! A dimension full of Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon and what they did there, and how all of this concluded to having Pokemon 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 Pokedex 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.”

    He cursed himself for doing such a good job, but he had to admit, something about Hanson’s plan seemed…appealing. Fear aside, he wondered what an entirely new world would be like to live in, and just how different it was from his own. Who knows? It could even be fun.

    Then the fear set in. Whatever way Valence invented to go to this ‘Equivos’, it couldn’t be guaranteed to be safe. He wouldn’t see his parents until he came back, and there were surely dangerous Pokemon that inhabited the region. Then these ‘tests’.

    Lawrence shivered again. “Will the Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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 was a powerful man, and if he wanted to silence someone, he had the ability. Now the choice was between the chance of danger in Equivos or guaranteed danger in Valence.

    “I should just go along with Hanson,” Lawrence thought. “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 Pokedex from a computer. Lawrence fidgeted in his seat, finding it hard to believe that he was going to a different dimension—populated exclusively with Pokemon, at that. And who knew how dangerous it was?

    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 Pokemon, and activate the beacon on your Pokedex, which will be shown to you once its 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 Pokemon to capture with: Bisharp, Gyarados, Infernape—you get the picture. They, along with food and supplies, will be sent with you in a capsule. Its designed to be wormhole-proof, much like the upgrades to your Pokedex 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 Pokedex. “

    Lawrence forced himself to nod, hoping that was true.

    ~~~~

    Two Hours Later…

    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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon 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 his experience in Sinnoh, despite his want to see Pokemon in a different light, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread.

    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 was not sure that that would be the case; he just wanted to stop prolonging the inevitable.

    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 he thinking, agreeing to this insanity? He shouldn’t be here!

    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.

    Another man standing at the side 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. None of the things beyond the clouds looked remotely…earthly. What dimension did they spawn from to incite such terror?

    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, relieved that the travail was at an end. He disappeared into the light, expecting to land on the ground.

    He began to fall.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 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 Pokedex 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 Dusknoir Guild guys?”

    Lawrence didn’t answer since couldn’t stop looking at himself, panicking. He couldn’t believe he’d become a Lucario. How was it possible?

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

    Lawrence flinched. His Pokedex.

    The Machoke rubbed his chin, eyeing the Pokedex. “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 shown 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 fact with, then lifted him to his feet. Lawrence looked at him with a mixture of perplexity and terror, wondering why he wasn’t being pulverized by the weighted fists.

    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 bulging brown sack hung over her shoulder. 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 Pokemon. Do you need help?”

    Lawrence wanted to say yes, but stopped himself. How did he know he could trust her? She could be like that Machoke and Electabuzz, wanting to...do whatever they wanted with him. He never got to see what they had in mind, and he hoped he wouldn’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 didn’t know if he could trust her. Then again, he didn’t know anything about Equivos; Hanson and his research group didn’t seem to know much either. He’d 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...travelled here with it, and I’m not sure where it went.”

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

    To be frank, Lawrence didn’t know if it even made it with him. He looked up, seeing the hole in the leaves that he had made on his entry into Equivos. The box with his supplies, and more importantly, with his Poke Balls, should have been nearby.

    “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 could use that to his advantage, pulling the ‘I’m not from here’ card.

    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 Pokedex. He needed to get back to Facility D, and fast. It’d be better if Cassia was gone when he sent the signal.

    “Yeah, I should be fine. You go on with whatever you were doing,” Lawrence stated waving a paw. 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 Pokedex 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, and tapped 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. The sun was setting, which meant it couldn’t be morning. It had been twelve-and-a-half hours since he arrived. He missed the window of return!

    Lawrence looked out into space, paling. What would he do now? He didn’t have food or water, he didn’t have Pokemon to use, he didn’t have a way back...he was on his own.

    And worse, he was a Pokemon, a Lucario. The irony of the words he had said hours before arriving sunk into his mind. Then, thoughts of Marcus came. His family.

    He fell to the ground, dropping his head. How would he get back to them? He was stuck here in Equivos until he can find a dimensional weakness, and who knew where another one would be?

    He looked down the path. The best thing to do was to stick with someone who knew the area, until he can find a way out. He’d have to live like a Lucario until then. He couldn’t risk living on his own, considering that Pokemon like the Electabuzz and Machoke are likely not alone.

    He put the Pokedex back in its storage case, considering what he’d say. He could claim he was a human from another dimension; they’d think he was crazy. He had to come up with a better explanation as to why he knew nothing about the area.

    He stood up, rising unsteadily. His sense of balance was thrown off by his narrow paws and long tail.

    He took a step forward, groaning. He could tell that it was 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 Pokemon 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?” he asked.

    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 looked over, seeing Lawrence flopped on the ground. He smacked the dirt with his fist, then pushed 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. He wasn’t used to lying like this, but he knew he needed to for Cassia’s help.

    “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. He felt relieved that he could start telling the truth. “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.

    “Right, right, sorry. Don’t remember things quite right, you know?” Lawrence smiled, clenching his paw.

    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 what he was familiar with; he would have to get used to them.

    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, amazed at how sweet his apple was.

    “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, confused.

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

    Lawrence wondered what happened to make Equivos so dangerous, but he decided to let the matter slide.

    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 travelling.”

    “Why are you travelling?”

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

    "It can't be that bad," Lawrence grinned. He didn't think it could be any worse than him 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. He recognized that symbol well. "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. He had to get stuck with an Arceist, like Erica. How did they even exist in this parallel dimension? It didn'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 had a hard time believing what she said. How could a non-existent Pokemon make such prophecies?

    He restrained the urge to say it wasn’t true; that would just break the illusion that he had amnesia. Thinking he might as well learn more about the beliefs of this world, he pointed to the being within the red energy. "Who was the Usurper?"

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

    Lawrence shook his head in disbelief. "You're saying that some Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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." He had to be careful with his choice of words to keep his amnesiac illusion.

    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 Pokemon, 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 a Pokemon be like this? They never exhibited any behavior besides that of animals; they had no sense of right and wrong. This civilized nature must be coming through, but still…it was rather hard to believe.

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 thought this was ridiculous. The Pokemon here were a lot like the humans of his world, and would obviously have stories to go with them, even if they were false. Maybe some Zoroark came along and took Arthus’ name, using the fear behind it to get what he wanted? That seemed more plausible then someone who was imprisoned within a cocooned legendary Pokemon.

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

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

    “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?”

    “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 travelling. 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 Pokedex from its pouch. He thought he might as well take notes on what he heard today. 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. He hadn’t tried typing with his paws yet. How would he accomplish that?

    He set it between what would have been fingers, and painstakingly typed letters, wishing for his regular body back. When that was done, he tapped on the search function, making another vain attempt to find an access point.

    Upon seeing the denial, he grunted and shoved the Pokedex 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 travelling companions. Cassia seemed nice enough, but her belief in the Arceist Tome unsettled him. He didn’t want to get involved in the spiritual aspect of Equivos, if there was one. He already had one version of Arceism proven false; he’d rather not get involved with another.

    Then there was Grom. If it wasn’t for his surprise he would have run away from the ungainly golem. How did Cassia ever obtain such a monstrous thing? At least he seemed gentle enough, despite his appearance.

    He sighed, staring at the canopy. What was he going to do? By now, everyone would be worried about what happened to him. If he managed to get back, what would he tell them? If he managed to get back…would he still be a Lucario?

    He grimaced at the thought. He never liked Lucario to begin with, and being one just made matters worse. He certainly wouldn’t be able to live like a normal person if he was stuck like this. He hoped that the portal back home would turn him back.

    Yawning, he turned onto his side. Until he could find some way back to Unova, he’d have to live as a Pokemon. 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 with it unearthly voices.

    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 Pokemon 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, wondering how far they went.

    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. He may be stuck here, but he wanted to study the Pokemon in the towns they created. This would be his only chance after all.

    “Yes. We need to pick up some more supplies, and I haven’t taught about the Tome there yet.” Cassia pointed at Lawrence’s Pokedex. “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. He couldn’t draw like her no matter how hard he’d try. “Do you do this often?” he whispered.

    “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 flittered 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 pounded in front of Lawrence, looking up.

    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, although disturbed by Grom’s protectiveness of Cassia, did agree that Grom was rather gentle at heart...even if he was terrifying when he first met him.

    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 Pokemon 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.”

    Despite the recent nightmare, Lawrence still had doubts about Arthus being this Pokemon who destroyed the world as they knew it. Zoroarks had strong illusory abilities, but not so much combat skills, or for that matter, 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 travelling 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. He wanted to learn more about the geography, that way he could blend in with the Pokemon better.

    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 Pokemon who live on them.”

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

    “Deitae, home of the Legends. Mortal Pokemon 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. He was never fond of Erica’s attempts to convert him, and certainly wouldn’t be amused now.

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon here?” Grom shrugged.

    “Guild Pokemon?” 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 didn’t like the direction this discussion was headed.

    “Well, those guys are nothing compared to Guild Pokemon. They don’t hesitate to kill, steal, or cheat when they feel like it.” 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. He wondered what was so special about an ordinary rock.

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

    He growled and put it away. He hoped to find a way back soon, especially considering the nature of his companions. They were nice to him, sure...but he didn’t want to have anything to do with their religion.

    He walked down the hill, running to catch up with Cassia and Grom.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
  9. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 04: Equivos

    Upon reaching the town, Lawrence stood astonished, taking in the scene before him. Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 thought that these interactions were genius, if predictable. A market driven by Pokemon’s select talents, all having to work together in order to get respective products. In Unova, your skills were determined by living situation and training, but here? It was all on your species.

    A Mr. Mime held his hands up, appearing as if he was stuck in a box. Young Pokemon 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 the streets of 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.

    He figured it must be the Illusion Stone doing its work. He cleared his throat and leaned toward 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 felt that he was a strong guy; he carried things for others all the time to squeeze a little deal for shopping, under the table or not. He could 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. He remembered completing a similar feat before he moved to Unova, but it took him the better part of an hour to pull, dig and force the stubborn piece of wood out from the ground.

    He threw away the stump, watching his paw swing it to the ground. He blinked, realizing what made the difference in performance: he was a Lucario, not a person. He was far stronger than he once was and could easily pull out a measly stump.

    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. “I just remember seeing that Kecleon before. He goes out and sells his stuff in a tent sometimes, and from what I remember, he does not like making deals. He only does it if he’s desperate for something.”

    “How do you know so much? I mean, he didn’t seem so desperate right then,” Lawrence said, adjusting the bag. He wanted to know more about Cassia however he could, even if it meant pouncing this sort of question at her.

    She ignored the question, pointing 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 stood by Cassia’s side as he wondered about her past. He didn’t expect to remain with her long, nor to really care considering her species. He at least wanted to know what sort of Pokemon he would be dealing with in his time in Equivos.

    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?” he asked.

    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. He knew that most would have been tired by keeping it stretched for more than a few moments, but he felt he 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 Pokemon 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 hated bringing that up, but he didn’t want to leave Cassia mulling over herself. It wasn’t good for anyone, Pokemon or not.

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

    “What do they do?” Lawrence asked.

    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. Where 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 Pokemon 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 wasn’t going to let these Pokemon bully George.

    Lawrence 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 Dusknoir Guild!”

    Cassia stepped in front of Lawrence. “He doesn’t know any better! He’s got memory loss!” Lawrence clenched his teeth and wondered how Cassia can be so helpful to him but not to George.

    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.” It was time to get out of here.

    He ran through the open door, disoriented from Derak’s blow. The Guild Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon followed him, roaring out threats to the fleeing Lucario.

    A burst of flame blazed over Lawrence’s shoulder, singing 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon. He had used this trick many times in the woods in Sinnoh, winning many games of hide-and-seek by running from the catcher and hiding under a ledge.

    He turned around and crawled back over the fence, thinking he lost them. He turned around, and his paws were suddenly engulfed by Derak and Valder’s clutches.

    “The Guildmaster’s always lookin’ for Pokemon to kill. He’ll love rippin’ your arms out,” Valder sneered.

    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. “We can’t let that Lucario go free, 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 at the streaks of light, watching them fade away completely.

    “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.

    He wanted to gain his answers, but knew that if he pressed too hard, he wouldn’t get them. “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.

    “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 Pokemon.”

    “Why do they want you? They seemed pretty angry once they realized who you were.” Lawrence wanted to know who she was, especially since it could put him at risk if he didn’t figure out.

    Cassia sighed and pulled the Arceist Tome out from the bag. “It’s because of this. Dusknoir Guild’s been trying to convince Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 travelled over all Serenita, trying to bring Pokemon 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!” He thought that all of this was ridiculous and that protecting a religion shouldn’t be worth a life, but he decided that this was not a good time to bring it up.

    Cassia rose 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 wasn’t used to receiving praise for his skills. He hadn’t gotten anything of the sort since leaving Sinnoh three years ago. And that was mostly from his parents, a lonely, if predictable, source for him.

    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.”

    “But how can I trust you if you don’t tell me more?” Lawrence thought. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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.

    The dark figure gazed with a single red eye, his face unrevealing of his emotions. Cobwebs and bat Pokemon huddled in the rafters, avoiding the malevolent gaze. The splintered remains of furniture scattered across the stairs and floor—victim to many rages—lay coated in dust. The vault beneath the ground yawned open, deprived of its treasures years ago.

    A gaseous arm fingered a gaping hole in the window, coming into corporeality. The jagged mouth in his chest remained closed, its duty of consuming souls a forgotten dream.

    The dust-covered glass reflected the staring eye of its cruel caretaker. It reflected the antenna attached to its head, receiving the silent pleas of lost souls, only to be ignored by the master. The massive hands crushed the pebbles littering the eaves, throwing it down to his wispy tail.

    He watched as a Gallade below stole blankets from a huddling family of Pikachu. He almost laughed. The duty assigned to him by the crimson band across his arm, however, restrained him. He must never show weakness, as dictated by the one who gave him his responsibility…his glory.

    The eye shifted to the sky, tracking a shadowy shape in the approaching gloom. It came to the hole in the window, revealing itself to be a Staravia. The Staravia dropped a letter from its beak, then promptly flew away, avoiding the gargantuan hand behind the glass. He tore open the letter, and read its contents:

    To: Guildmaster Gardner Dusknoir

    From: Captain Valder Rhyperior of Saunte

    Subject: Lucario Sighting

    Gardner restrained a groan. He thought that Arthus had killed all of them. Why was this subject being brought up?

    He read the rest of the letter, his eye remaining still. He crumpled it and threw it at a sleeping flock of Zubat, causing them to scatter through the various holes in the window.

    He descended the stairs, clenching his fist. He would not allow a rebellious Lucario remain on his continent.

    Gardner passed through the door, then noticed a Torracat snoring on the ground. “Mange!”

    The Torracat leapt to his feet and saluted shakily. “Awatin’ orders, s-sir!”

    Gardner stooped to Mange’s level, glowering. “I’ve noticed plenty of inactivity amongst the Guild. Am I going…soft, on you?”

    Mange crept back. “Uh, no, of c-course not! Why would you think that! You’re all spooky and—” Gardner pressed closer. “—stuff,” Mange croaked.

    The Dusknoir grabbed Mange’s tail and held him high in the air, ignoring the protests of pain. “Tell the Houndoom that we’re going on a little sleigh ride through Serenita. Be at the entrance in fifteen minutes, and I might let you keep your tail. Understood?”

    “U-U-Understood,” Mange stammered, nodding his head vigorously.

    Gardner released his tail, causing him to fall with a thud. Mange ran off to the buildings calling out for the members of Gardner’s sled team.

    The Dusknoir spotted two soldiers sitting on the ground and moving pieces on a board. He faded from sight, and a deathly chill overcame the two Nuzleaf.

    “Whew, do you feel that? It’s like it just turned winter!” one said.

    “You won’t live to see it unless you get back to work.”

    They looked up and saw Gardner holding his hands over their heads. They cried out fearfully and ran away, searching for some task they neglected to complete.

    Gardner lowered his hands. He relished instilling fear into his subordinates. It showed that they respected him, respected his power. Control was the greatest indicator of power. Nothing else mattered.

    He gazed over his domain, thinking of the day Arthus had entrusted him with it. After that, he no longer had to fear. He resolved to punish those who had mistreated him in his youth and had kept true to his word.

    He felt as sickening presence within his chest. Grunting, he reached into himself, and yanked out a blackened ruby, rough-cut and ribbons of black entrenched within. The ribbons morphed into a vulpine shape, its features unable to be seen.

    “What is the status of your guild, Gardner?” a voice demanded within.

    “Ever since you rid us of Guildmaster Calem, the population has done nothing but cower in fear. There is occasional disobedience, but that is quickly put down by my subordinates.”

    “Very good. Have you found any trace of that traitor, Cassia?” the voice sneered.

    Gardner’s brow furrowed. “…Not until recently. She has been spotted in the center of the continent, along with…” Gardner closed his eye. “…a Lucario.”

    The ruby suddenly surged with crimson light, burning Gardner’s hand and forcing him to drop it. “What. Did. You. Say?”

    Gardner held his hand away from the gem. “I said, Cassia is with a Lucario.”

    The ruby exploded with light, and red bolts of lightning arced from the surface. “I killed them all! All of them! All of Matheus’ wretched, traitorous kind! And now one just shows up?” The sparking receded, and the voice calmed his outrage. “Are you on your way to take care of it?”

    Gardner picked up the gem. “Yes, Lord Arthus. I will leave in just a few minutes.”

    “Good. Don’t fail me, Gardner. I didn’t give you your position for nothing...or your resistance.”

    “I understand that sir. Your gift will make taking Cassia easier than popping a Drifloon.”

    The ribbons of darkness unraveled, and Arthus’ presence left.

    Gardner thrust the gem back into his chest, allowing it settle into his ethereal frame. He noticed a pair of Machop carrying stacks of books, headed toward one of the few buildings untouched by the Guild’s activity: a large stone structure labelled ‘Research Center’.

    He restrained himself from groaning. His compatriot, Martre Metagross, irritated him to no end. His demands for more materials, more books, more time, all felt like a waste for Arthus’ reason of enlisting his service. Of the twenty years he spent studying everything he could about the Legends of Equivos, nothing has come about involving the reparation of the Seal of Creation. Yet despite this, Arthus keeps him alive, despite others dying for far less.

    Gardner cracked his knuckles. If there were to be any more betrayals in his Guild, he hoped that Martre would be the one, that way he could have an excuse to extinguish that ill-begotten blight of intelligence.

    When the ruby finally settled, he hovered to the entrance of his Guild, where a team of five Houndoom waited. The Houndoom stood in front of a large metal sled, bound to it with chains. The sled had a platform and handle at the back, and in its bowl, supplies of all sorts were secured with rope. The base of the sled was beaten and worn, but sturdy still.

    Mange appeared from behind it, crouching at the sight of Gardner. “I-I got it all ready, sir.”

    Gardner gripped the handle and grunted. “Don’t be sleeping when I get back, or I’ll make your hide a dishrag.” He clanged the rod with his fist and exclaimed, “Move!”

    The doors to the Guild creaked open, and Gardner’s sled team rushed through the deadened canyon, leaving a plume of dust in their wake. They passed the stone head of a Lucario, cracked and worn with age. They passed fallen trees, many chopped in half to provide room for transport. The setting sun illuminated the worn path, revealing the bones of those who came in Arthus’ way.

    Gardner looked back and watched the gates of his guild shut. The business of his Guild mattered little to him; these menial matters were ultimately distracting to what he truly wanted:

    Respect and power.

    ~~~~

    Sitting on the remains of a once-magnificent mountain, Arthus kicked away rubble and blasted a boulder with a burst of red light. “I swear I killed them all. None could have escaped my wrath!”

    He held up the pendant around his neck, considering the flawed gem at its center. “It won’t matter anyway. The Guild is destroyed, all but two Tomes should be gone, and I have the Seal of Creation.” He dropped it and clenched his teeth. “But I have yet to find anything on how to repair it! There must be something within this ruined relic.”

    Arthus sifted through the rubble, clawing through fractured images of the Legends and Myths. “Zekrom, Xerneas, Groudon...all powerful beings, but unable to fix a simple gem!” He took one in his claws and crushed it to powder. “Why did I ever desire their power? Only Arceus matters!” He continued to pulverize the stones, eliminating the visages of the age-old Pokemon.

    He destroyed Manaphy, Mewtwo, Terrakion, every image he came across--until one. He paused, studying the curious picture: a round figure holding aloft two golden rings. Behind him, a violet creature extended its six arms, staring back at Arthus with emerald eyes.

    Arthus brushed over the giant, a cruel smile creeping across his face. “That’s right...I forgot about you.” He crushed the picture, leaving only the staring eyes.

    “Time to fetch a bottle.”

    ~~~~

    Lawrence lay on the grass away from Cassia, who slept behind Grom’s enormity. He typed away on the Pokedex his adventure within the town, growing more used to typing with paws with each word. He figured that this would make a fantastic story to tell when he got back--if he got 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 Pokedex back into its case, and gazed at the stars of Equivos.

    Sighing, he attempted to trace any constellations. None of the ones he knew from Sinnoh appeared. Another indication that he was in an alien world. This reminded him of when he had first moved from Sinnoh three years ago, away from the familiar rural home he was raised in.

    Unova was Sinnoh’s opposite in every way Lawrence could think of: population, development, Pokemon, even personality. Unova fostered unity through technology, while Sinnoh called to ancient times, ranging from ancient monuments to the religion most prevalent there, Arceism. He fled not only the small towns and protective parents, but also the illogical beliefs that drew everyone but himself inside. Equivos was the same.

    Worse, he himself was a Pokemon. How could he explain this transformation? Why did it happen to him? Was some higher being responsible? He hated to think like this—pinning divine intervention to indescribable circumstances—but there was nothing else for it.

    Lawrence sighed and closed his eyes. Then there was the whole business with Arthus. Cassia loathed him, but for what reason? How did she come to embrace Arceism? How did such a religion come to be here, in all unlikelihood? There were so many things different from what he was expecting from this world. He thought he would see civilized Pokemon yes but not have them act so…human.

    He opened his eyes again and studied his paws. He was a Pokemon himself, and one that the world hadn’t seen since Arthus supposedly killed them all. Did that mean that he was unique in two ways in this world? That he was both a human in mind and a rarity in body?

    He gave up asking these questions and decided to fall asleep. He felt tired from all the walking even if his exhaustion would have been greater if he was still human. Lucario were resilient creatures after all. Thoughts of him insulting the species came to mind as he drifted out of consciousness.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 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 enjoyed such a scene, reminding him of how simple, yet human, they were. Just as Arceus taught.

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon, like those on his world, 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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon, then finally selected a Lucario.

    Reading through the information on his current species, the events with Derak and Valder came to mind. He realized that he knew nothing about how to fight as a Pokemon and knew that if he didn’t want to rely on Cassia and Grom for protection, he’d need to study.

    The page in the main Pokedex 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. This was most likely because Lucario learned from elder Pokemon, not from humans.

    He turned off the Pokedex and put it away, considering what he’d do. He was a prime target without Cassia’s ‘Illusion Stone’, what with him being the last of his species. He didn’t want to necessarily leave her, but in the event that they became separated--like in Saunte--he wanted to be able to do more than run. Especially if another Pokemon like George would be at risk.

    He shook his head and pressed his paws against his face. The memory returned. His experience on Mount Coronet, along with what happened in the future, had proven to him that Pokemon were nothing like humans. Yet here he was, in a world where Pokemon acted like humans.

    He hadn’t expected Arceism to be so prevalent here. He hadn’t expected to be caught without a way back. If all had gone well, he would be normal, with a captured Pokemon, sitting in Facility D and waiting for whatever Valence would compensate him with. But now, how could he be sure that capturing these Pokemon was right?

    “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 every time you move!”

    The giant cocked his head, then pointed at Lawrence’s Pokedex. “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.” If he told Grom about where he and the Pokedex came from, he’d most likely tell Cassia all about it, then leave him behind because of the sheer insanity of the tale. He couldn’t let that happen, not with him this vulnerable.

    “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 Pokedex 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 hated that they were pressing this on him. He should be allowed to keep his secrets, just as they keep theirs.

    “I just don’t want Grom to get the wrong idea about you.” Her smile faded. “Neither do I.”

    Keeping his paw on the case, Lawrence thought about her statement. He sighed, and reluctantly pulled out the Pokedex, 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.” He couldn’t keep lying like this forever. It just didn’t come naturally to him.

    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, grateful that he could remain with them, but at the same time, dreading the day he would have to tell them the truth.

    They travelled 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’s hostile behavior disturbed him, and he felt sure that in the coming days, Grom would eventually snap.

    Lawrence tried to figure out what could have made Grom different. Maybe it was his talks with Cassia at night. He was away both times, and given her mood after they were over, Grom maybe felt that he was hurting her verbally. Considering that Cassia said that he was her guardian, this seemed like the most likely choice.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon about the Tome.”

    Lawrence’s stomach churned. He didn’t want to hear about the fictional stories that lay inside. He’d rather stay behind 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 suddenly wanted to stick close to Cassia.

    ~~~~

    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?” Lawrence asked. He felt grateful that the Illusion Stone was hiding his appearance--he hoped, at least.

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

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

    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 Pokemon 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 you don’t know how to fight!”

    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: Pokemon. Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 I know he did.”

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

    “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. She glared at him and growled, “Get away from me.”

    Lawrence stared wide-eyed at her for a moment, holding his cheek, then hardening his gaze, shouted, “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, dwelling on Cassia’s harsh accusation of him being a Guild Pokemon, then her humiliating slap.

    He whipped the Pokedex off his shoulder and checked for a weakness. No luck.

    He silently cursed and stashed it away again. He didn’t need Cassia or Grom; he just needed a way back home, where he didn’t have to be so concerned about the feelings or opinions of a bunch of Pokemon…where he could be himself.

    He sat down and leaned against the sickened tree, waiting for nightfall, reasoning with himself as he did. Why did he even seek out Cassia’s help in the first place? He knew how to take care of himself in the wild, if his childhood in Sinnoh had anything to show for it.

    The Electabuzz and Machoke came to mind, and their statement about him. All the other Lucario were dead, and given the Machoke’s offer to take him to a Guild Pokemon for ‘help’, there was sure to be a prize for his death. He’d surely encounter other Pokemon while he wandered for a random anomaly in space-time, and they wouldn’t hesitate to turn him in for a reward. Cassia’s Illusion Stone would only help until he got attacked--which, given the Guild’s influence, might not be long.

    Then there was this Arthus character. While he might exist, he didn’t believe in the powers that surrounded him. Despite this, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread at the mention of his name, like he was someone to be feared, someone who lurked in the background waiting for an opportunity to strike.

    Lawrence yawned. He wished he didn’t have to leave Cassia, but now, it seemed like the best option to head for the coast, that way he could hopefully find a way back.

    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.

    “Did I hear the thoughts of someone who doesn’t believe in the Usurper’s abilities?” The figure turned toward Lawrence, his eyes covered by a vague shadow. “Then I suppose I must teach you.” 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. “You ask who I am, despite the fact that you know me, strange one?” Lawrence felt a prick at his shoulder, and upon looking down, saw the sharpened claws of a Zoroark.

    “I am the Master of Life and Death.” An arm appeared from the claws. “I am the killer of Matheus Lucario, the Betrayer!” The rest of the Zoroark appeared, his eyes still covered. “I am he who tried to steal the Legends themselves!” Sharp pain radiated through Lawrence’s shoulder, forcing him to crouch.

    The Zoroark stooped low, and swiped a claw over his eyes. “How can you say you don’t know me?” Lawrence gasped. He trembled at the sight of the Zoroark’s ice-blue eyes, crushing him with a gaze of hatred.

    The Zoroark reached back, and his claws emanated a ruddy mist. “I am Arthus Zoroark, called the Usurper by those who fear my purpose.”

    He cracked a half-mad grin. “For this lesson, the price will be the life of one faithless soul.” He swung his claw toward Lawrence’s chest.

    “You.”

    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. Arthus was no longer a threat to him.

    He studied the ground, then leapt up at the sight of receding tendrils of rust-colored mist. He must have slept on top of a Life deposit, like his first day in this strange place.

    Boom!

    He whipped his head toward the town. Bright orange light poured over the ruined walls, and the shouts of Pokemon carried through the air. The darkness of night only made the light even bolder.

    From what Lawrence could see, it was an accident, or some sort of attack. The Guild must have been up to it, and the townsfolk would need help.

    He turned away, closing his eyes. He wanted to help, but Grom’s threat loomed in his mind. The Golurk would surely not hesitate to strike him if he crossed his path. Besides, wouldn’t they be helping as well?

    He looked back, screams resonating through the night. Did it matter what threats Grom and Cassia made? There were Pokemon in danger, and he could help them just as Grom and Cassia would.

    A jet of flame rose from the center of Barash, and Lawrence made his decision: he ran toward Barash. He sprinted across the sand, not caring if Grom would attack him; it would be wrong to leave them behind.

    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 Pokemon 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 and a jeweled bead on its mane.

    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 silvery mask reflecting the golden flames back toward him.

    He froze, the recent horror of Arthus returning to him. This Zoroark reminded him of the Usurper in the sheer lack of restraint in its attacks; there was no hesitance in its blows against all that stood in its way. What did it stand to gain from attacking this place?

    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 was unsure of how he could. The timbers were too large, and even then, they were on fire. What could he do?

    Regardless of his ability, he ran toward the window, hoping to dig a way out from there.

    “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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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, blurrily 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 out of this place.” He cringed when another innocent screamed. “How in the world did this happen?”

    “This strange guy showed up and said that those Guild Pokemon 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 felt relieved that the Zoroark didn’t attack the city, but why would he choose to liberate this place?

    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 Pokemon stood around the smoking husk, nursing their wounds and caring for their young. Grom marched through the city, gathering the remaining Guild Pokemon 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 regretted not being more careful in those homes. All the Pokemon were safe, and that was what mattered to him.

    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 Pokemon 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 his paw against his head, groaning.

    Pokemon shifted as one made their way through the center, saying, “Let me through, please, he’s my friend!” The Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 thought he might as well hear her story. The last one involving Arthus and Matheus helped him gather a better picture of Equivos, so why not listen to more?

    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 Dusknoir 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 Pokemon’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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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. The words from the Tome, the tone of voice...it sounded too familiar. It reminded him of his life before Unova, before he had moved to escape the traditions of his family, those he thought nonsensical. It reminded him of the life he left behind.

    The Minccino at his feet smiled wide, while the Krookodile to his right began to tear up. All around him, Pokemon listened and accepted Cassia’s message from Arceus. Lawrence agreed with what it taught--all should be treated fairly--but the source disturbed him. Nothing had proven that Arceus exists, and he expected that nothing would.

    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 travelling: never explore without checking for signs of wild Pokemon.

    “In his time, wild Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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. Being around such Pokemon reminded him further of the congregations he used to be part of in his younger years, before he left Arceism. Saving them hurt him enough; he didn’t want to seem like he was embracing Arceism further.

    Cassia laughed weakly as she parted from the crowd, waving to all the Pokemon. “Thank you so much, but I really must be going! There’s other Pokemon 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…Pokemon, 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.” Cassia stared at him, wide-eyed. He continued, “He looked like he was going to kill me with it. 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 Arthus to serve Arceus. He comes around sometimes to get rid of the Guild, but other than that—"

    “Graw!” Grom moaned, pointing ahead. Vicious barking and a hateful voice coursed through the air. Although dull and quiet, Lawrence felt a pang of fear.

    Cassia paled, keeping a hand inside a bag. “That’s around where Saunte is. There...there must be someone coming for me.” 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 guys who want 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, right?”

    Grom nodded, growling.

    “Wait...haunted? With Ghosts?” Lawrence asked, curious. He hadn’t met any Ghost-type Pokemon outside of Grom since he came here, and he now wondered how they came to be without human interaction.

    “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: Jun 18, 2018
  11. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    I am terribly sorry for not posting or the last three scheduled posting times. It was difficult converting my word documents into BBCode, so I found it hard to drive myself to do it. But now that I found a Word-to-BBCode converter, I should hopefully be able to keep up with it. My posting schedule was perfect when I created it, but it now isn't so nice since I will have to post more. For now, I will post two chapter today, then post one every two days until Bonus Chapter 1. I know that it is not recommended to do so, but I really must catch up so that my original alignment plan can be met.

    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. 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, its food and little else, with maybe the occasional power being fueled by it.” She drew away from a sickly tree littered with dark holes. “It wasn’t until Arthus that anyone could really use it.”

    “How did he do it? Zoroark don’t naturally have it, 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 getting stopping those Guild Pokemon, 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. There was also the fact that he was a Lucario now--they were known for their sensory abilities. Could he sense Aura if he could feel Life?

    With Aura in mind, he wondered I there was some sort of connection with Life. 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 he wanted to fight any Pokemon on his own, he would be 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 needs help.”

    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 Pokemon 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; even if they were Pokemon, they were sentient like him. They didn’t deserve to die.

    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 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 Pokemon 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?” He couldn’t call someone like this by what they looked like; doing that didn’t feel right.

    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 was no sign.

    Lawrence stepped toward the Lopunny. She no longer breathed. “Who would take care of her Buneary now?” he thought. He remembered what happened to young Pokemon in the wild—they tended to be captured by trainers, or, if they were unlucky, eaten by predators. In this somewhat civilized world, who knows what would happen to them.

    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. He wished he could do more for the Lopunny, but at this point, it was more important to ensure the safety of the Buneary.

    This spike of charity nagged the back of his mind. In Unova, Pokemon were animals, yet here he was, helping child-like Pokemon. Sure, they were sentient, but the thought still unsettled him considering the commitment he made to himself to reject Arceism

    He shoved aside that thought. Regardless of what viewpoint he needed to take, he had to help them.

    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.

    They soon reached a glade, where 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 a little Ralts. 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 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 Wood, 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 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.

    “A creator of tales

    In shape and form.

    A shadow of truth

    Lies in your own.

    A betrayal usurped

    From he who took care

    Made from Creator’s Call

    To save all deemed fair.

    A second calling lies in wait

    For one within the claws of fate.

    A betrayal may foster

    If shadow is lightened.

    Unless light is shed

    And a truth corrected,

    The bottle will shut,

    The living remain dead.”

    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 openmouthed, 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.

    What did the Ancient mean by those words? He used to be a Keeper? Why did he have to awaken Aleron, the Zoroark? Did he mean someone else? What was this price of mind? What war did he have to fight?

    He held his head and moaned. With this revelation from an old Trevenant, he felt he was becoming even more a part of Equivos. He wanted to think that these words were just ramblings, but the calmness that overcame him after they ended, including the stark and forceful tone of the words, made him feel that he should follow them. But to what end?

    He lifted his head the same time Cassia lifted hers. “I wrote what he said down, to make sure we won’t forget.” 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.”

    He 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 died somewhere with no one around.”

    Lawrence thought about her words. Maybe the prophecy wanted him to bring Aleron back from the dead? For what purpose, and how? It just didn’t make sense.

    He watched Cassia stare at the dormant Trevenant, with Phantump floating around and Buneary chasing them. “I don’t want to forget this.” She began sketching in her pad, drawing the Trevenant, the house, and all the other Pokemon with great detail.

    Lawrence continued to consider the prophecies. Who was this Keeper that the Ancient referred to, and what did he mean by ‘treader of realms and deceiver of self’? Who were these people? Who were any of them?

    Then there was Cassia’s portion. ‘A creator of tales in shape and in form’. She told plenty of stories, yes, but is that what it meant? What about this Creator’s Call?

    He groaned. Too many questions had arisen for him to think, and even then, did it matter? He wanted to leave Equivos at the first opportunity. There was a conflict happening between Cassia and an entire Guild of Pokemon that he did not want to be part of.

    But then, what would happen to those who lived in Equivos? He saved many in Barash, and if he stayed, who knows how many more he could save, especially if he managed to learn the abilities of a Lucario?

    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. Grom’s appearance and talk of corruption made him wonder about Grom’s old master. Who was he, and how did Cassia manage to free him?

    “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 was a tall, lanky shape, curved to the right. A tail extended from the left, and an arm seemed to be raised. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokedex. “No…nothing yet.” Considering how honest Cassia has been so far with her actions and beliefs, he felt that he should maybe reveal what he really was…the real reason for him being here.

    He looked down at his paws. No, he couldn’t tell her. He was a Pokemon; no one had ever heard of humans. She would leave him as soon as he told the truth. It was better for her not to know.

    ~~~~

    Night fell across Serenita, and the Usurper scrabbled across the Luminescent Woods of Deitae. Dots of light rose from the ground surrounding the birch trees, rising into the air in a dance. In the center of the woods and of the continent, a golden tree with multi-colored leaves shed light through the darkness, a beacon for all who believed in Arceus.

    Arthus gagged, turning away from the light. “Cursed legend and his obsession with light. What is it with him and all of it?” Dots of light popped from the ground beneath him as he ran, sticking to his fur and seeping into his skin.

    He scratched at his fur, feeling a prickling sensation where the dots landed. “I will admit that they are an effective poison—on other Pokémon, that is. As long as the Seal is with me, I can never be harmed by any of those Legends’ powers.” He hawed, exclaiming, “I must be mad, talking to myself like this!”

    He stopped in front of a single dead tree, covered with mold and emanating dozens of lights. The ground beneath it was a sickly black hue, bubbling more lights than any area before it.

    Arthus cringed, stepping on top of the soil. “What a despicable mess. Traveling is so much harder when he pulls off tricks like this.” Red-veined tendrils pulled him into the soil with a squelch, disappearing into the Life well below.

    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…aha, the Guild!” He centered on a particularly large point, flying through the wisps of Life that lay beneath the soil of Equivos.

    He emerged from a ruddy soil, pushing through with the support of the same veined tendrils. After they receded, he sniffed his fur, then bared his teeth.

    “What a foul stench. Now I’ll have to take a bath.” He lowered his arm and studied the massive canyon walls he now stood in. He stood behind a spindly dead tree, and in front of him, the massive gates of Dusknoir Guild warned everything away.

    Arthus clenched his fist, then opened it, revealing a tiny crimson crystal in his palm. Stepping toward the gate, he chuckled. “Time to chat with my favorite Guildmaster.”

    ~~~~

    Skidding to a halt on his sled, Gardner clutched the iron handle, nearly bending it. In the plains surrounding Saunte, he roared, “Slow down, slow down! You’re going to crash!”

    The five dog Pokemon clawed the earth beneath them, pushed up against the front of the sled. “We’re trying!” a Houndoom shouted.

    Gardner glared up ahead. The walls of Saunte grew closer with every second.

    He let go of the sled and floated harmlessly behind his subservient Pokemon, watching as they ultimately crashed into the wall. The Houndoom whimpered and barked as the sled squeezed them between iron and stone.

    Gardner scarcely restrained from laughing. He approached them, then pulled the sled back, allowing the Houndoom to release themselves and soothe their aching legs. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t get too comfortable.” He faded to invisibility, then entered Saunte.

    He passed through Pokemon as he made his way to the imposing structure in the center. Those he passed shivered and felt unusually cold, as if winter had come early. Gardner reveled in this power, giving him greater pride in what Arthus had granted him.

    He entered the stone building in the center of town, passing through the wall, then stopped. Scattered across the floor were gold coins and discarded food, surrounding the dimly-lit thrones of Valder Rhyperior and Derak Feraligatr, snoring loudly. The candles above them scarcely lit, the Pokemon sat with their legs across the arm of their throne, and their heads hanging haphazardly across the other.

    Gardner came between them and grabbed Derak’s crest and Valder’s horn. He pounded their heads together, receiving grunts and groans of pain, and the waking of his two captains.

    Rubbing the side of his head, Derak eyed Valder angrily. “What you do that for? I did nothin’ to you!”

    Valder spat, rubbing his own head. “Says you! Who’s the guy that gave me a clout?”

    “That would be me, soon-to-be-former Captains.”

    They turned their heads, and their glares turned into stares as Gardner reappeared.

    Valder and Derak fell to their knees and pounded their fists on their chests in salute “M-Master Gardner! We didn’t know you were there!” Valder exclaimed.

    “Y-Yeah! We were just takin’ a little snooze!” Derak chimed. Gardner’s face pressed closer, and Derak stammered, “Y-You didn’t mean what you said, right?”

    Gardner groaned, turning away. “I was sent by our true leader to hunt down Cassia...and that Lucario.” He turned around and held up his fist. “I want you to tell me where they went. I heard that a giant black Golurk took the Lucario in his arms and carried him away. It wasn’t hard to miss.”

    Valder nudged Derak with his elbow. “Er, yeah, about that...who told you?”

    Gardner grabbed Valder’s arm, then squeezed. Creeping shadows enveloped the Rhyperior’s arm, sapping the heat from his outstretched limb. While Valder whimpered, Gardner growled, “I have no time for this. I want to know exactly where the Lucario went, or I’ll make sure you are killed in the dead of night and stuffed into a grave before anyone notices!”

    “Okay, okay! I’ll tell you! Let go of my arm!” Valder cried. Gardner released him, and the Rhyperior rubbed it hurtfully. “They went toward the desert. Don’t know where they went past that.” He sat on his throne and crossed his arms. “I woulda told ya if you hadn’t started threatenin’ me like that!”

    Gardner remained motionless. “Consider it a gift to keep your life.” He disappeared in a puff of black smoke.

    Valder and Derak felt finger brush down their back, sending chills down their spines. “I’ll keep in touch.” With that, Gardner left the room.

    ~~~~

    Just outside the gate, Dusknoir felt a tugging at his chest. He reached inside and pulled out his blackened ruby, and the ribbons formed into Arthus’ face. “What is it, Lord Arthus?”

    “So good to see that you’re hunting for that Lucario and...Cassia.” Several sparks jumped out of the gem. “Tell me...how far do you think they are from your current position?”

    “They most likely headed toward Barash, the town in the desert nearby to Saunte.” Gardner groaned. “They are at least a day ahead of us. I pushed the Houndoom hard to get here, and I’m not sure how fast they will be--”

    “Oh, that’s all fine. You travel on twenty feet, while they travel on six. You’ll catch up in no time.”

    Gardner eyed the gem suspiciously. “You’re in a charitable mood. Did something happen?” He was used to receiving stark comments from the Usurper, not praise or apathy.

    “Haven’t I told you before? ‘Living life without a good attitude is a sad life indeed.’ One of the lines I live by.” The ribbons curled toward Gardner. “Of course, that’s beside the point. Just get going on what you need to do! You haven’t failed me yet!” Arthus’ face dissolved, and the ruby fell silent.

    Gardner shoved the gem back into his chest, allowing to settle into his corporeal form. He moved toward the resting Houndoom, towering over them.

    The leader looked up and sighed. “We ran all night to get here. Can’t we sleep a little more?”

    Gardner grabbed a horn and brought the head close to his face. “Don’t think that you’re the master here, Volno. Arthus selected me to be Guildmaster, so I say when we leave.” He threw him to the ground. “We leave now.”

    Volno growled and bared his teeth, then barked to his fellow Houndoom. They stirred themselves and stood upright, complaining about their sore legs.

    Gardner grabbed onto the sled and slammed the handle, sending a cold chill through the metal and into the chains. “Silence! You will rest once we capture Cassia and that Lucario!” The Houndoom quieted to but a whimper, the ghostly cold stabbing into their hides.

    Gardner slammed the handle again, and they sped to the west, where the destroyed town of Barash waited.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
  12. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 07: Contention

    Arthus waltzed between his subordinates, dangling claws over their faces in invisible mischievousness. He preferred to let everyone but Gardner, his captains, and select others see him; he had to keep the public believing that he still lay imprisoned on Deitae, so that meant no public showings—not yet.

    He hummed to himself, bursting through a heavy wooden door and shutting it behind him. “Martre, my dear scientist!”

    Amidst the dust-covered books and numerous instruments, a rusted Metagross tromped from the corner, his eyes glowing in the dim light. Rust shook from his joints with every step, the once-sturdy metal creaking and bending under every strain. Stacked on top of his head, thick books caused Martre to sag even more.

    “What do you want, Lord Arthus? Can’t you see that I can’t take much more?” the Metagross croaked, the books floating in the air and settling on the table.

    Arthus leaned on a bookcase, stretching his arms. “Oh, nothing much. You remember when I asked you about a…special item, yes?”

    Martre shuddered, nodding. “How could I forget? You wanted to make sure no one could use it against you.” He gave Arthus a glare. “You’re not planning on using it, are you?”

    Arthus cackled, standing upright. “No no no, of course not! Not until I find the little creep.”

    Martre groaned, stamping away from Arthus and toward a heavily-scribbled map, showing cities under their control with circles and those that are not with ‘X’s. “I can’t convince you otherwise, even if I tried. The Djinn is very elusive, just like—” He cut himself short, taking a quick glance at Arthus. “Nothing else. He happens to be one of the few Legends that travel outside Deitae, taking routine trips to ensure that his alternate self remains imprisoned.”

    “So where does he usually go? Where has he been for the last twenty years?” Arthus demanded, pushing against Martre’s head.

    Martre leaned away, shaking off loosened rust. “His powers of teleportation make it impossible to tell, and unlike the other Legends, he does not have a location of power.” He shuddered again, coughing. “However, he may be called, using the Bottle. The presence inside can only be released in Hoopa’s presence, but it wishes to be reunited with him, and will assist you in whatever way it can be done.”

    “And, by the by, what can this ‘presence’ do once he’s released?” Arthus inquired, grinning.

    “His power is enormous. Alongside teleportation, he can grant essentially any wish, with a price. From the ancient texts, he tries to bargain for freedom from the Bottle, but obviously, he has never succeeded.” Martre’s eyes widened. “You want to use him to repair the Seal.”

    “Precisely!” Arthus exclaimed, clapping his hands together. “The Seal of Creation is an ancient device, run solely by the gem in its center. Without Arceus’ powers, it would be impossible to fix.” Arthus held the Seal aloft. “But Hoopa, in his Unbound state, can do the same thing. All we have to do is find him.”

    “And how do you plan on doing that? His sightings are fragmented across different time periods, and even if you did find him, and use it, how do you plan on avoiding him becoming released? He is imprisoned for a good reason.”

    Arthus cackled, edging to the door. “Oh, leave that to me. I have my ways.” He opened the door, then asked, “Do you know if the bottle is with any Pokemon in particular?”

    “Ye—No, it isn’t.”

    Arthus shut the door, continuing to stare at the wood. He slowly twisted toward Martre, a grin plastered across his face. “Excuse me, I must have misheard. I thought you were going to say, ‘Yes’.”

    Martre shifted uncomfortably, and a book floated from the shelf toward the table. The cover flipped open, and Martre explained, “There are records of the bottle with another Pokemon, for protection. The Pokemon often calls Hoopa for his rings, but never for granting such a wish.”

    Arthus drew closer, studying the pages. “Who is it with?”

    “It isn’t to be taken—”

    “Who is it with?”

    Arthus jabbed a claw under Martre’s jaw, scouring the metal with a ball of flame. He made a wicked grin, the light glinting in his blue eyes. “Don’t keep anything from me, Martre. I must know everything I can about the Bottle’s location if I expect to get the Seal repaired.”

    Martre remained still for a moment, then gestured to the book on the counter. “There is an artist’s depiction of Hoopa travelling alongside a Legend known only as the Guildmaster Pokemon.” Arthus took a passing glance at the picture and froze. “As unlikely as it is, it appears to be—”

    Arthus slammed the book closed, his free hand shaking. Mist escaped from it in fading wisps. “He’s dead…he’s dead…I made sure of it, all those years ago,” he snarled. He whipped away from the book, opening the door once more. “I will find the Bottle, whether or not this ‘Guildmaster Pokemon’ exists or not!” He slammed the door behind him, leaving Martre to shakily put the book back on its shelf.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokemon crushing the fallen leaves, the crisp crunch reminding them of the sweet flesh of the fruit.

    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 Pokedex. “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 Pokedex 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 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. Aleron seemed to have a strange connection with Cassia, what with him miraculously appearing in Barash when she waited for something to happen and his appearance in dealing with the Scyther gang. What did they know about each other?

    And Grom, with his persistent protection against Lawrence learning anything about Cassia. Why was he so protective? Surely it couldn’t hurt to know more about someone he had been travelling with for the last few days?

    Then thoughts of Grom’s attitude on the day they escaped from Barash’s Guild Pokemon came back. He didn’t trust Lawrence then, partially because of his ‘amnesia’. He initially thought it to be a ruse, a scheme by Dusknoir Guild to capture Cassia. He was half-right: it was a ruse, but a completely different truth lay behind it.

    Maybe Grom sensed he still wasn’t being completely forthright. Maybe because of Lawrence’s dishonesty, he wanted to ensure that Cassia didn’t reveal anything sensitive. Travelling with a Pokemon who knew little about his past did seem risky, considering that he may have cooperated with the Guild.

    Lawrence rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. He held off Grom from killing him before, what with him saving the Pokemon in Barash. It appears, however, that he still didn’t completely trust him. What would it take? A full confession, saying how he was an alien from a different universe that came here to kidnap a Pokemon for lab experiments? They’d leave him faster than a Ninjask after honey.

    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 Pokemon 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.’ No way home. No way to Unova. No way to an escape from this alien world. No way to escape from Arceism and the lies it holds. 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.

    ~~~~

    Steel skidded against sand near Barash. Grinding to a halt, Gardner Dusknoir stared at the ruined husk of the town.

    He clamped his hands on the sled, considering where his targets may be. They didn’t go back the way they came; he would have crossed him on his way to Barash. They wouldn’t have gone any other way, however, as there was a hazardous swamp to the south, and the Guild to the north and east. Neither made sense.

    He studied the forest, noting the dead trees to the right of it. He could sense the vast pools of untapped Life energy, undoubtedly a feeding ground for his fellow Ghosts. They possibly went through there, as it was still away from him, yet in a direction that could be reasonably safe—could be.

    He leaned down to a Houndoom and growled, “Can you sniff out Cassia and her Lucario friend?”

    The Houndoom sniffed the ground briefly, then shook his head. “Nope, been caught by the wind and fire.”

    Gardner stood back up. “Useless.” He thrummed his fingers across the sled handle, glowering. The haunted part of the forest seemed to be the best option, despite what may be inside. He was far worse than any of the lesser Ghosts.

    “Move!” he shouted, forcing his chilling aura into the chains. The Houndoom yipped, coming to their feet and pounding toward the woods, leaving behind the remains of Barash.

    Gardner didn’t care much for his soldiers; they were expendable. The traitor’s presence, however, concerned him. No matter what, that traitor would be captured, and, preferably, killed.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex.

    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 Pokedex. “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 Pokedex, 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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon, and technology. He told them about President Hanson’s plan to give their dimension’s Pokemon 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 Pokedex.

    He brought out the Pokedex and turned it on, showing the many icons on its screen. “This is a Pokedex 2.0. They’re everywhere in Unova. They help us with everything whether it be checking on what our Pokemon 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 Pokedex to Cassia. “See? There’s me.” She took the Pokedex 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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex 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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon, 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. Could it be that they and the Arceists of Equivos…

    Were the same?

    ~~~~

    Arthus stood in front of a ruin, set at the wall of Dusknoir Guild. No Kricketot sang—only the rushing wind provided solace. No scent of apples soothed the soul—only the coarse dust of ages past, reminding of old friends and enemies. The ash of the ruin had long been swept away, but at its edge, a small vase filled with water sat.

    The Usurper set a bundle of pink flowers inside it, pressing his claws against his head. A golden thread emerged, entangled in his claws. He threw it into the air, and it landed in the ruin, revealing a bright room with a Zoroark couple, playing with a rambunctious Zorua in the center. No fear, no anger, no jealousy…none of the feelings that would prevent this scene.

    He fell to his knees, lowering his head. Tears dropped into the vase, rippling the water inside. The image faded, leaving the burned ruin in its stead.

    ~~~~

    Gardner and the Houndoom approached the haunted woods, dust and sand billowing behind them as they rushed to the supposed location of Cassia and her Lucario companion. Moonlight shone overhead, giving the trees a pale, ethereal quality, aglow with white light.

    Gardner grunted, holding his head. Images passed through his mind: Gengar towering over him, warding him away from a plump Life deposit; Cofagrigus guarding their subservient Yamask from the other Ghosts, shunning his lack of guardianship; other Duskull hovering near Dusclops and Dusknoir, feeding on Life while he had to remain on the fringe, powerless and subsiding on the barest scraps.

    He slammed his hands on the sled, freezing the iron to a frost. “Halt!”

    The Houndoom scrabbled for traction on the sandy soil, pushing against the sled and whining pitifully, the chill of the iron burning against their hides. The sled finally stopped, and the lead Houndoom, Volno, looked toward Gardner furiously. “What’d you do that for? We were goin’ full speed!”

    Gardner covered his eye, making a shuddering sigh. “Go around.”

    “What?” Volno asked, hardly believing his ears.

    Gardner slammed against the sled. “Go around!” He pointed to the left, where leaves still hung from the branches. “I refuse to lay my eye on the weaker beings that surely inhabit these woods!”

    “Alright, alright…Guildmaster,” Volno growled. He barked to his pack, tugging the sled to the other trees.

    The wind soon rushed past Gardner’s head again, whizzing past the autumnal trees. He looked back at the haunted wood, then at his fists.

    “I am no longer the Duskull I was, yet here I am, afraid of a haunted wood.” He held up his hand, remembering the day he received Arthus’ gift. “True power and respect comes from following Arthus, not Arceus. I tried following his way and look what happened to me.”

    He clamped onto the sled once more, his eye glowing maliciously. “Power is all that matters in this world. I have no need for anything else.” He grabbed a passing leaf, incinerating it with ghostly flame, the ashes fluttering behind him as they passed the fringe of the Revenant Forest.

    ~~~~

    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 pulled out his Pokedex, not caring if anyone saw him. He tapped the trash can icon, then tapped on the picture of Cassia. “Guess I should have told her I have to clean out the recycle bin first,” he thought.

    He saw her surprised face, brightly illuminated by the flash. A slight shimmer hung around her, but Lawrence thought it was just the smoke of the campfire.

    He went ahead and deleted it, permanently—just like his lie. He could be free in his interactions with Cassia now, no longer worrying about an amnesiac façade. He could tell stories from his life, what differences lay in their cultures—all sorts of subjects restricted in the past.

    He fell asleep with this comforting thought, pleased to be himself once more.

    ~~~~

    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. He and Cassia needed to get moving soon; he wanted to get to Cretea as soon as he could.

    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 feeling 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.

    ~~~~

    At Dusknoir Guild, Arthus burst from the Master’s Tower, cackling and spinning out onto the walkway. “Time to hunt for a Legend!” He snapped his fingers, making a gem materialize in his claws.

    Red mist flowed into it, causing it to glow slightly. Arthus arched over it, tapping the side of the crimson stone. “Come on, Gardner, come on…pick up now…”

    The gem stopped glowing, and inside it showed a silhouette of the Guildmaster. “What is it now, Lord Arthus?”

    Arthus smirked, looking at him slyly. “Don’t care for the tone, Gardner. Would you mind changing it a bit?”

    The Dusknoir sighed, shaking his head. “You want an update on my pursuit, I assume?”

    Arthus nodded, tossing the gem in the air and catching it in his other hand. “Indeed, I do. Have you found Cassia yet?”

    “Not yet, I had…a small detour. I will quickly—”

    “Hold on, what’d you have a detour for?”

    “It is nothing of your—”

    “I’m waiting.”

    Arthus’ lighthearted smile clashed with the warning glare alongside it, his intentions clearly revealed to the receiving end.

    Gardner paused, then muttered, “Personal reasons.”

    “Be specific,” Arthus warned.

    “Bad memories, that is all. Would you please stop pressing this matter?”

    “Of course, of course, trivial things I’m sure. Where exactly did you have your ‘detour’?”

    “Near Barash, inside the woods. Why—”

    “Ah, I know that place!”

    “…You do?”

    “Yes, it’s near the former home of my most hated Riolu. I believe it was taken over by a massive Trevenant in the past hundred years or so, that and its hundreds of Phantump children. Hardly another ghost in there.”

    “…I wasn’t aware of that. How powerful is this Trevenant?”

    “Oh, shockingly powerful! When I was checking around for life deposits, I purposefully steered clear of that wood because of the might of that Trevenant. He’d be a worthy opponent, I’m sure.” Arthus shook his head. “But that’s beside the point. How much longer before you catch up with her?”

    “Around two days, but—”

    “That’s all I wanted to know. Good luck on catching her for me!”

    Arthus crushed the gem, watching the shards clatter against the cracked stone. He shook his hand free of the remaining, then proceeded out of the gate, laughing to himself.

    “Oh, how I love getting on my servants’ nerves!” he cried, shutting the gate behind him.

    ~~~~

    The Dusknoir shoved his ruby back into his chest, shaking his fist. Weaklings there may have been in the haunted woods, but also a mighty one, one that he could have used his superior might against! But because of his illogical fear, he ran away from the chance!

    He looked behind him, the deadened trees receding into the live ones. He was too far away to conceivably change his course, and that would only slow his chase of Cassia—even if he defeated the Trevenant with little issue.

    The sled suddenly slowed its pace, the Houndoom in front of it gradually stopping. Gardner pounded his fist on the sled and exclaimed, “Why are you stopping? We have to catch up with our targets as soon as possible!” None replied, only giving him scornful looks.

    Gardner clamped onto the handle, surging it with his ethereal cold. “Answer me!”

    The Houndoom howled, grabbing the chain harnesses from their bodies and throwing them off. They ran away from the sled, its course headed right for a massive oak.

    Gardner leapt off the sled, flying through the air awkwardly and landing on his back. The sled slammed into the oak tree with a clang, forcing more leaves to fall from its boughs.

    The Dusknoir shook his head, pushing himself up. The Houndoom gathered together, with the largest of them—Volno—standing in front of them.

    “What is the meaning of this? Why did you unharness yourselves and let the sled crash?”

    Volno growled. “You’ve burned welts into our skin, forced us to pull with little more than a few minutes’ break between hours of running…” He stamped his front paw. “Not to mention your abrupt stops injuring our hinds! We’ve had it with pulling this sled and chasing this Lucario!”

    Gardner spread his arms, glowering at the Houndoom. “Mutiny, is it? You don’t respect the power that Lord Arthus has given me? You would disobey direct orders from him and me?”

    “Yes, I would,” Volno snarled. The other Houndoom barked their agreement.

    Gardner remained still, then faded, the sunrise doing nothing to reveal his trail.

    Volno looked around him warily, searching for the invisible Ghost. In a distant voice, Gardner said, “I take this as a challenge to my leadership; you have made a grave mistake in disobeying me. I will ensure your death is a painful one.” A purple fist swept toward Volno’s jaw.

    The Houndoom leapt out of the way, snapping at the fist. “I’m a Dark Pokemon; I’m resistant to your tricks!” He clamped onto the hand, digging his teeth into it. The Dusknoir appeared, holding his arm up, doing nothing to loosen Volno’s grip.

    Undeterred, Volno let go and bit him once more, his fangs coated with black mist. “You’re weak against me!”

    Gardner lifted Volno higher, bringing Volno’s eye level to his. Hanging above the ground, the Houndoom’s vicious assault slowed as he noticed that he was doing nothing to the Dusknoir.

    Gardner reared back a fist, which crackled with arcing electricity. “You have made a fatal error.” He punched the Houndoom’s side, sending him into a tree with a sickening thud.

    The other Houndoom stepped back unsteadily as Volno struggled to his feet, while Gardner towered over his victim. He placed a hand on his back, pressing him down to the ground.

    His hand glowed with light-blue light, and the Houndoom howled in agony. “Arthus freed me from the Ghost’s primary weakness, or your ‘Essence Degradation’. My spirit is immune to your power.”

    Volno scratched at the ground, the sheer cold deadening his inner flame. “I’m sorry, Guildmaster! Please forgive me! I shouldn’t have disobeyed you!”

    Gardner placed a hand over his snout, forcing it closed. “Your time for forgiveness is over.” His arm glowed with red energy, and large veins pulsed from Volno’s body into Gardner’s. “I will meet you again…at the Tree of Life.” The restrained screams and howls finally stopped, and Volno was no more.

    Gardner turned to the other Houndoom, who stood low to the ground, whimpering. “Return to your harnesses. Consider your leader’s death a lesson to you all.”

    Within minutes, Gardner was back in the sled, rushing past the trees, the Houndoom pounding with renewed vigor. They knew now to never disobey their Guildmaster.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  13. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    With this new forum format, uploading chapters will be a snap! Here we go!

    Chapter 08: Conciliation

    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. He had only been to a coast once before, when he went to Sunyshore to leave for Castelia. He didn’t care for the experience, as everything tasted like salt.

    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. As large as Serenita was, it was nothing compared to his world.

    “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 Pokemon too.”

    “Are they like wild Pokemon?”

    “In a way.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, we have these little balls called Poke Balls. We can capture these wild Pokemon and domesticate them. You know, not hunt other Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon?” Cassia asked, concerned.

    “Well, yeah. We have Pokemon Contests, where trainers perform in front of a crowd with Pokemon.”

    “Really?”

    “Yeah...so?”

    Cassia turned away, shaking her head. “Sorry, I just...have a hard time believing it. There’s hardly any wild Pokemon around here, so I don’t have a very good perspective.”

    Lawrence nodded, seeing her point. Living in a world where Pokemon talk was just as strange for him.

    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 Pokemon.”

    “Are there others like you?”

    “Yeah, just like there’s people who battle in the league.”

    “What do you study?”

    “Pokemon 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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon, or know what they need. I help with that by figuring out what Pokemon do in certain situations, then send the data to someone who can compile that into the Pokedex.”

    “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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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. He didn’t feel tired--his species’ endurance made sure of that--but he regretted his earlier reaction. It was reckless to run from his guide and protector in this world, regardless of what she said.

    He smacked the back of the tree, grunting in irritation. Cassia and Grom would catch up and she’d surely ask to know why he hated Arceism so much. He wouldn’t reply, because the reasons are ridiculous to everyone but himself. In Sinnoh, it was blasphemy to say that Pokemon were savage and wild—even if it was the truth. It would make even less sense to the Pokemon here.

    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. The illusions they created were much like the ‘amnesia’ he had before Cassia had come across him--believable and deceptive, but one strike, and they dissipated.

    “Much like how she’d see my beliefs if I told her,” he thought. Why did she feel the need to convert him? He already knew what Arceus had to offer, even if it was within a different world.

    Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

    Lawrence twisted his head, his scowl dissipating. Cassia was 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. “Unless you read at least part of it, I don’t want to be with you.” 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. Whether he liked it or not, he had to read it if he wanted to continue travelling with Cassia.

    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 Pokedex.

    Lawrence stopped once more, looking up curiously. The words just popped into his head like any other thought, but they felt…unlike him.

    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, wondering why this thought kept coming to him. Why would he ‘capture’ the Tome? He could read it whenever he wanted--if he ever did--thanks to Cassia being around.

    He turned back to Cassia. He remembered how hesitant she was in letting him have the Tome, and how…trusting, in fact. She didn’t want to give it up, despite her wanting him to learn more about it.

    He couldn’t turn the page without ‘capture it’ returning to his mind, let alone focus on whatever lay beyond. He might as well follow it, but for what reason would he have the idea?

    He pulled out his Pokedex, bringing up the camera function. Cassia’s unwillingness to lend him the book may have had something to do with it. Maybe he should take pictures of the pages of the Tome to read it when she wants him to, yet not have to give up her most precious belonging.

    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. He knew, at some point, she would ask him to read this book again.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokedex 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 Pokemon 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. He felt glad that he took the pictures, even if he did not entirely understand why. Still, he was sure that Cassia would be pleased.

    He began walking toward her, studying a page on his Pokedex:

    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 Pokedex and awkwardly set it back in its case. The words rang true for what he remembered of the Arceists. It wasn’t...bad, per say. In fact, it felt rather nice to read such words.

    He shook his head, frowning. He may have not acted in the right way before, but that doesn’t mean he would listen. Become more tolerant, yes, but not more convinced.

    Looking down at the book, he sighed. Despite Arceus not existing, there were some valid truths that Aleron--the writer--had made. It would be worth listening to, just not as words of a god; words of wisdom from wise men, or Pokemon, were what he would accept them as.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokedex 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--Pokemon--should be like.” He took back the Pokedex, 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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. He didn’t want to remember the Arceists, as they never treated him the same after he renounced Arceism. The last time he even formally went to a meeting when he was sixteen; since then, he was able to get away with academic excuses and obligations to friends—and, eventually, by 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 wasn’t as good as the one he usually had at home, given its gritty appearance. Still, it looked delicious, especially with the Cheri juice leaking out.

    He took a bite out of it, then nodded his head. It wasn’t as sweet as he was used to, most likely because of the lack of sugar. Still, the Cheri was pleasantly tart, and the rough texture of the cake went surprisingly well with it.

    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. He didn’t even take the time to say a proper goodbye to them on the Pokedex.

    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.”

    ~~~~

    The Houndoom pounded down the trail, saliva dripping from their mouths and their breathing haggard and worn. Their chains clattered against their bodies, trailing back to the massive sled with scarce supplies on its bed. Hanging on to the handle, Gardner grumbled his disapproval, shaking his head and curling his fingers.

    Finally, he clanged the handle and exclaimed, “Enough! Rest for the night!” The Houndoom immediately slowed their pace, dragging the sled off the path, eventually halting the mighty frame.

    The Houndoom unfettered themselves with their jaws, while Gardner drifted away from the sled and scrutinized the vast expanse ahead of him. Barely-perceptible lights shone past the sand, past the plains that had thinned from the woods.

    He searched for other lights, but with no success. Growling, he curled his fist, thinking to himself, “Cassia is surely headed for that port town, Hydren. She’ll be going to Cretea, and I have no control there.”

    He pulled the ruby out of his chest, sighing. “Not that anyone has lived there for the past twenty years.” He closed his hands around the gem, enclosing it in red light.

    ~~~~

    Arthus snored on a patch of moss on a large plateau, avoiding the bothersome pebbles and depressions for his rest. Clouds covered the stars, blowing fine dust across the Usurper’s fur.

    A plume of sand blew onto Arthus’ snout. He wrinkled his nose and snorted, sitting upright and rubbing his eyes. “Poor choice of location for a good night’s sleep.” He scratched the back of his neck, feeling his fur prickle. He yanked a lump, then widened his eyes as he discovered it was a writhing Joltik.

    He groaned, piercing the shell of the Joltik and draining its Life, then throwing the carcass behind him. “Bothersome creatures. I must make sure to forget about them when I recreate Equivos.” His ear twitched, hearing a distinct buzzing noise.

    He chuckled, snapping his fingers and causing a gem to materialize. “Hope the old Ghost has some good news for me.” He peered into the ruby, and Gardner’s silhouette appeared.

    “Gardner! How goes the search for Cassia and the Lucario?”

    “It goes well, Lord Arthus. They appear to be heading to the coastal town called Hydren. As you know--”

    “It’s the last port that would dare go to Cretea after the everyone was wiped out by the storms that heralded my return,” Arthus finished, rolling his eyes. “Yes, yes, I know that whole spiel. You don’t think I went there to find Pokemon who’d flee?” He shook his head, his mane waving in the wind. “I assure you, while that may have been the case a few years ago, few still offer such services.” He tapped his chin, a smirk appearing on his face. “Come to think of it, only one individual actually cared to act as a ferry last I checked--an old Lapras named Charles. He had a little place out on the pier, if I remember correctly.”

    “And how do you know this?”

    “Oh, you know me: I have to keep myself informed on what’s happening in the world. I have to determine the best time to start spreading my own message.” He laughed, shaking his head. “It’s quite easy when no one can tell who you really are.” He spat on the ground, pointing at his blue eyes. “Except for these. They are like no one else’s, and no matter what form I take, they always come.”

    “But the traitor also has them, yes?”

    Arthus paused, then slowly nodded, rubbing his temple. “Indeed. Should be fairly easy to spot, yes?”

    Gardner nodded. “No one else has them, as you said.”

    “Good. Watch out for surprise attacks; I wouldn’t want my favorite Guildmaster to be lost to my descendant.” He sighed, closing his eyes. “I will be there tomorrow. There are no deposits near Hydren, surprisingly enough, so expect me to be there by the end of the day. I expect to have the Lucario waiting for me.” He crushed the ruby, his hands quaking.

    He lay down on the moss once more, covering his eyes. “I refuse to have any reminders of that traitor. He was wrong, in all ways!” He smacked the ground, causing it to crack.

    ~~~~

    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 their journey to dreamland.

    Pulling out his Pokedex, he checked for a dimensional weakness, like he had done many times before, to no avail. For the first time, he didn’t feel worried. He knew he’d eventually find one.

    He put the Pokedex away, wondering why he had such comfort in that thought. His family surely missed him, and Valence was probably assuring them that he was on an extended leave of some sort. His coworkers would probably understand, and Erica probably thought so too.

    Erica? It’s the first time he had thought of her for over a week. Why did he suddenly think of her?

    Lawrence closed his eyes, completing the connection: Cassia. She seemed remarkably similar to the Unovan priestess. Come to think of it, he had spent more time with Cassia than he had with any person in Unova. He was friends with his coworker, Marcus, but it was more a professional relationship; they never talked about themselves very often. He had never really talked with others, as he never felt there was any connection with their interests. Really, the only people he missed were his parents, and he had already gotten used to a life without them.

    Lawrence held up a paw, gazing at it sadly. He would rather have his old body back than stay here. He still hadn’t grown used to the anatomy of a Lucario, even if he could maneuver just fine. Despite it feeling natural to now have a tail, he’d rather have none.

    But did he want to leave Cassia? Sure, she could take care of herself, but so far, she is the only one that he could truly express himself to, ever since he left the Arceists. He’d have to find someone else in Unova to have such a relationship, and he’d be unlikely to find someone like Cassia—religious beliefs aside.

    He yawned, setting aside these thoughts. There would be time to worry about these things when he eventually found a way back.

    ~~~~

    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.

    Lawrence mumbled about wanting to sleep more, finally turning onto his back and opening his eyes—staring 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 afterwards, but I came right when he woke up, then made me his master. He helped me stop the captain he served before, and helped me 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon live there now. Twenty years is a long time, and its 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.”
     
  14. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    Chapter 09: Revelation

    In the plains on the eastern coast of Serenita, red claws penetrated the ground from below, groaning and shaking free of the soil. At last, Arthus freed himself, then looked out on the vast expanse of grass and trees.

    He scratched behind his ear, looking toward the sky. “Hmm…. should be able to make it by nightfall, if I am where I think I am.” He walked through the grass, plucking off the heads of the daisies he passed. “Of course, I could make it there a whole lot faster if I ran there, but Gardner will surely have no need for me to be there so early.” He laughed and took a daisy, considering it. He twisted the stem, watching it go up in a puff of red flame. “He knows that I like to take my time.” He threw down the ashes and continued to walk through the field.

    “For most things.”

    ~~~~

    Drafty towers of wood rose into the air, shaking slightly in the brisk, salty wind. Wild Wingull soared overhead, above the throngs of Pokemon 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, holding 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, labelled ‘The Greasy Feebas’ advertised gourmet meals. They were caught fresh daily, which Lawrence thought was strange for berry-based products.

    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.

    Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon are pretty scarce on land, but the ocean’s full of them. I remember reading that Arceus considers it wise to eat wild Pokemon since it is no different than them eating Pokemon.”

    Lawrence nodded slowly, making sense of it. Eating Pokemon in Unova was generally discouraged, but there were some restaurants that ran such a business. He remembered trying a poached Barboach once when he was young, and it wasn’t too bad.

    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 the 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 onto 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 ‘cause 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 an egg waitin’ to hatch 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 not very strong, 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 Miss Blue-Eyes 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 an egg.

    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 chuckled, shuffling 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 Pokemon 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. “Once 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 Pokemon 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.” He didn’t get into situations like this too often in Unova, but in the few times he got challenged by supply movers, he tended to win, thanks to his training out in the wilderness.

    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. The Machamp was far stronger than he anticipated, and his newfound might wasn’t quite enough.

    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. He couldn’t let this thug prove he’s right. He couldn’t let him say that he was better. Not when he knew that the Guild was little better than Team Rocket years ago: common thugs who wanted everyone to see them as better than they were.

    He felt a spike of warmth and shouted, “I’m right!” 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.

    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 Pokemon 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 egg’s hatching!” 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.

    ~~~~

    “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. He remembered feeling like that—energized, exhilarated—in that way when Aleron had used his Life to heal his burns. But how could he have been in the room? Was he invisible? A different appearance?

    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. “I don’t mean harm to you, Cassia, or Lawrence. In fact, I wish to help them.”

    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 Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 four shapes exiting the nearby boats and entering the house.

    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 Pokemon.

    Lawrence inspected a picture showing a Lapras tugging a raft loaded with a group of Pokemon, looking back at them with a smile. Standing amongst the Pokemon 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?” A low growl came from behind him and Cassia.

    “Lawrence!”

    Lawrence turned, seeing Cassia backing away from four ragged Houndoom, growling and snapping their teeth at the Gardevoir.

    “Get away from her!” Lawrence roared, running toward the Houndoom and giving one a savage punch.

    The Houndoom snarled, glaring at Lawrence. It turned away from its comrades and bared its teeth at Lawrence. He leapt toward him, fire coating his fangs.

    Lawrence hastily stepped aside, causing the Houndoom to run into the opposing wall with a thud. The Lucario ran into the other Houndoom, pushing them into the water trough. Steam rose from it as the Houndoom yowled in pain, struggling to escape the pool.

    Lawrence grabbed Cassia’s hand and pulled her to the open door. “Come on, let’s get out of here!” Cassia looked back, her eyes widening when she noticed the black bands on the Houndoom’s front legs.

    The door abruptly slammed shut, a low chuckle coming from it. Lawrence continued advancing toward it, but flew backward with a crack, his Watchog illusion fading as he knocked into the shelves.

    Cassia ran to Lawrence and helped him up. “Are you alright?”

    The Lucario rubbed his chin, wincing. “Yeah…but…what did that?”

    “Not what. Who.”

    A black mass materialized in front of the door, a single red eye appearing at its top. The black faded to grey, and jagged yellow stripes melted through the thick frame. Lawrence realized it was a Dusknoir—and by the red band on its arm, from the Guild.

    Lawrence turned to Cassia, expecting her to be afraid. Instead, she lowered her head and scowled. “Gardner.”

    The Dusknoir nodded, unfolding his arms. “You put up quite a chase, you and Grom. Now, however, it is time for you, and that Lucario, to be brought back to my Guild.”

    “Wait, you know this guy?” Lawrence asked incredulously, pointing at Gardner.

    Gardner cocked his head, lowering his eye. “What do you mean ‘know me’? Of course, she does!” He drew nearer, his fists tightening. “We know each other very well.”

    Lawrence ran forward and threw a punch, gritting his teeth. “Get away from us!”

    The Dusknoir caught the Lucario’s punch, looking down at his caught paw. Lawrence struggled to get free, causing Gardner to chuckle. “And here I thought Lucario were expert fighters.” He twisted Lawrence’s arm, causing him to stand on one knee and groan.

    “Lawrence!” Cassia exclaimed, running toward him. A Houndoom pounced in front of her, snapping his teeth. His three comrades soon joined him, soaking and less energetic in their threats. She looked at the Houndoom and at Lawrence, her blue eyes darting between them, indecisive.

    Gardner continued holding Lawrence’s paw, ignoring his attempts to escape. “Why are you hesitating? Surely these wastes of sled-dogs are no match for you.”

    “What are you talking about?” Lawrence suddenly yanked his arm back and held it, glaring at the Dusknoir.!”

    Gardner chuckled, holding up a hand. “Oh, you haven’t told him?” He held up his hand. “Let’s change that.” He snapped his fingers, and the Houndoom lunged for Cassia.

    She swept out of the way, batting one over the head with her bag. She continued stepping away as the Houndoom drew closer, each wishing to strike a blow against the Gardevoir.

    “Cassia!” Lawrence leapt between her and the Houndoom, punching one away and preparing for more. The Houndoom snarled, attacking all at once.

    Lawrence felt something brush his tail, and felt a sudden surge of energy. He roared, blowing the Houndoom back to the walls with a sickening crack. He ran toward one and smashed its head against the floor, then threw one into another, both falling unconscious.

    Lawrence breathed furiously, then crumpled as the energy left him, leaving him weak and disoriented. Cassia attempted to run toward him, but a Houndoom stood in her path, its head low and tail stiff.

    “Oh, no you don’t.” Lawrence turned back and grabbed the Houndoom’s back legs, causing the Pokemon to look back and snap at Lawrence, gouging his paws with his fangs.

    Cassia took her bag and thwacked the Houndoom across its head, knocking it back into the wall. It shook its head, then shakily stood up, weaker, but still fighting.

    Lawrence did the same, meeting the Houndoom with his fists and throwing punches in the moments it failed to bite. Cassia stood back, watching the Houndoom so she could prepare to dodge if needed, completely forgetting Gardner.

    The Dusknoir growled, then disappeared, becoming a thick puce mist. It trailed over toward Lawrence, a low chuckle emanating from it.

    Cassia looked up and gasped, running forward. “Lawrence, get out of the way!” The Lucario looked away from the Houndoom and noticed a glowing fist materialize from the fog, rearing back to strike.

    The Gardevoir pushed him and the Houndoom out of the way, only to be struck by the fist. She flew back into the dusty shelves, the items inside falling with a crash, a thick cloud rising to obscure what lay within. Her bag fell away from her, now sitting in the center of the hallway. A small sack fell out of the bag and spilled its contents: a pearly-white mask with dark slits for eyes.

    “Cassia!” Lawrence gave the Houndoom one final punch, and he ran for the alcove to search for her, while Gardner rematerialized, a sneer appearing on his chest.

    He reached down for the bag and pulled out the Tome, cackling. “Finally, I can be rid of this cursed book!”

    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. Gardner looked on, intrigued by this chain of events.

    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 Arthus!” He breathed in sharply. “Your eyes…they look exactly like his!” He had never made the connection before, but now that he thought about it, the Gardevoir’s eyes had always looked suspicious.

    Cassia came closer, pulling back her limbs. “Please, believe me! I--I had to keep it a secret, for safety, for--”

    “While I love seeing this little bit of cruelty, I must interrupt you.”

    They both turned, watching Gardner open the cover of the Arceist Tome. “Thank you, Cassia, for providing the distraction I needed to take this from you.” The pages sparked against the Dusknoir’s fingers, causing him to cry out as he yanked them back. He held it up and roared, “I’ll burn this book like I should have years ago!”

    “No!” Cassia Zoroark cried, throwing herself onto Gardner. The Ghost had only managed to send a spark to the Tome, but as it fell, the spark grew into a small flame, licking the pages.

    Gardner grabbed Cassia’s claws, pulling her close. “Now you’ve only made it easier to destroy it.” She looked back at it and gasped, watching smoke billow from the edges.

    She pushed against Gardner’s chest with her legs, struggling to escape. “You can’t! You can’t let it burn! I need it!”

    Gardner cackled, letting go of one claw and clouting Cassia over the head. “You might, but I don’t. You have ruined my control of Serenita over these past two years, but all of that will change once Arthus takes care of you.”

    The Zoroark groggily stood up, swinging her claw at Gardner’s other hand. “Let me go!” She looked back at Lawrence. “Please, save it!”

    The Lucario stared at Cassia, then at the Tome, ashes fluttering above it. He turned his gaze back to Cassia. “I’m doing this for the real Cassia.” He dove for the book, only for him to fall to the floor as a battered Houndoom clamped on his leg, digging its teeth into his flesh. Lawrence cried out in agony, kicking at the Houndoom while reaching for the still-burning Tome, just out of reach.

    Cassia swung a claw at Gardner’s eye, meeting it with a swish. Gardner groaned, releasing his grip and pulling up his fists to guard his eye. The Zoroark thudded to the ground, crawling for the Tome.

    Gardner reluctantly uncovered his eye and wrapped his arms around Cassia, squinting away the purple mist that trailed from his scratch. “I will not let you save that book.” Cassia struggled to get free, her mane covering Gardner’s face and irritating the scratch.

    The Ghost carefully raised a hand, then clenched his fist, staring at the Tome. “It is done!” The flames immediately surged across the leather and paper, engulfing it entirely. Ashes exploded outward, the wisps of flame carrying the remains of the Tome over their heads.

    Cassia gasped, slumping in Gardner’s grip. “No…”

    Lawrence finally bludgeoned the Houndoom, knocking it away and forcing it to faint. The Lucario stood up, wincing as he straightened his wounded leg. He looked around at the ashes, paling. “The Tome…”

    Gardner chuckled, releasing Cassia, allowing her to drop to the floor and stare at the wood. “Finally...your spirit is broken.” He gazed at Lawrence, his scratch already sealing. “As for you…” He swept underneath Lawrence’s legs with his fist, causing him to fall and grab his wounded limb.

    The Guildmaster towered over him, rubbing his knuckles. “You may have defeated my Houndoom, but they were hardly trained fighters; they were instinctive at best.” He picked up Lawrence by the fur at his neck, ignoring Cassia’s gentle crying behind him. “I, on the other hand, am a master of combat. I can tell that you are primitive in your fighting, and, most notably, do not use Aura.” He pressed Lawrence’s face close to his. “You are, by far, the most idiotic, reckless Lucario I have met. You should have seen me coming a mile away, yet you only noticed me after you fell into my trap.” He held him over Cassia, pointing at the pitiful Zoroark. “You couldn’t even see she was a Zoroark! How does it feel to know that she has betrayed her identity to you? How does it feel,” he threw Lawrence to the ground, “to be lied to?”

    Lawrence shakily pushed himself up, watching Cassia catch ashes in her claws and cradle them. He never expected this from her: to hide her identity, to hide her actions, to hide her origins--everything that he himself had done. But he had told her eventually, and even said that he trusted her. If she lied about this, how much more did she lie about? Could she even be trusted anymore?

    A knock came at the door, and Gardner grinned. “Well, there he is now.” He hovered to the door, turning the handle. “I hope you enjoy your demise. Arthus--”

    “Doesn’t knock.” A black paw thrust out the door and sent Gardner flying into the alcove with a sickening crack, the Ghost falling with a moan.

    A cloaked figure stepped into the room, brushing off his paws. “You should’ve been ready for more visitors, Guildmaster.”

    Gardner pushed himself up, staring at him in astonishment. “Who are you? Where’s Arthus?”

    The figure took off his hat, revealing a Lucario with silver fur and hard, crimson eyes. “Arthus is only minutes away. As for me…” He held up a paw, the palm igniting with azure flame. “I am Matheus Lucario.” He reared back his arm. “Tell that traitor that I’m alive.” He threw the flame at the Dusknoir, causing him to burst through the wall and fly into the water just beyond with a splash.

    Cassia and Lawrence looked up as Matheus stepped forward, gathering Cassia’s belongings into the bag, including the mask. He strapped it over his shoulder, then helped Lawrence to his feet. “Can you walk?” He nodded dazedly, shocked by the sight of another Lucario.

    He let go of Lawrence and picked up Cassia, the Zoroark staring in amazement. “Our ride will be here any minute now.”

    A dull roar echoed from the right wall, then it suddenly burst apart, an onyx Golurk bursting through. He looked up and grumbled, “Graw-hawm?”

    “Yes, you came here on time.” He stepped over the remains of the wall, pushing Grom back. “Now come on, get ready to leave!” The Golurk stood up and stepped on a large, square raft with a small hut in the center.

    Grom waved his arm for Lawrence, stomping back toward the hut. “Gro-hawm!”

    Lawrence blinked, shaking his head. Dazed, he stepped onto the wreckage of the wall and stepped onto the raft, the many revelations stunning him.

    Matheus shepherded both Cassia and Lawrence into the hut, shouting to Grom, “Alright, get us out of here!” He slammed the door, and Grom clambered onto the roof, gripping the sides tightly. 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.

    ~~~~

    Minutes later, a furious Dusknoir burst from the water and slammed onto the pier, sputtering water from his maw. “Blasted Legend! I would have had them if it wasn’t for him!”

    “Indeed, you would have, Guildmaster.”

    He turned around and stifled a groan of dread. Arthus stood on the pier, holding a portrait in his claws. He studied it with malice, his eyes glaring at the silver Lucario atop the Lapras.

    He looked down at Gardner, holding up the mask. “Just one simple task. That’s all I asked for. And what did you do?” He threw the portrait down and roared, “You ruined it!” The glass shattered against the pier, the shards scattering.

    He whisked behind Gardner, and the Dusknoir’s eye shut. “It wasn’t my fault. That Lucario—”

    I know, and I don’t care. Matheus is back from the grave, and now that traitor has escaped,” the Usurper seethed. He pulled Gardner into Charles’ shack and toward the remains of the Houndoom, snapping his fingers. Red tendrils poked up around them, wrapping around them with a squelch.

    “You’re lucky I didn’t kill you like these fools. We’re going to have a little talk back at the Guild. Don’t expect it to end well.” Arthus snapped his fingers again, and they sank into the floorboards, leaving the remains of their failed ambush.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 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 Pokemon 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 after my most precious companion…and my most hurtful loss.” 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 flying from their nests in search of shiny belongings. Rust-colored dust swept around it, 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.

    Pokemon of all sorts carried sacks onto large carts, while others carried them over their backs and shoulders. Another group of Pokemon dug holes, helping the others throw the sacks inside. Rising high above the Pokemon, a marvelous tower stretched above, a solitary Dusknoir 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. “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 have the Life sucked out of her!”

    “As you said moments before, ‘when did you grow a heart?’ You’re the same Pokemon 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. You seemed like an obedient and eager servant just a night ago, yet you’re already becoming a dour and mutinous one.”

    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 Pokemon carrying ‘sacks’. “This is nearly taken care of. What would you have me do next?”

    Arthus tapped his chin. “Back at a…certain place, I noticed this book called the Arceist Tome. What is it exactly?”

    “It is supposedly a book written by the prophets of Arceus, meant to guide Pokemon closer to him. I never believed it myself, but—”

    “Burn them. Burn all but a few, so that I may see what the old Legend wants for his creations.” He restrained a growl, lowering Cassia. “Imprisoning me for two-thousand years is hardly a way to show your love, is it? We can’t have Pokemon believing this nonsense.” Arthus’ face curled into a sneer. “Do whatever you need to get rid of those books.”

    Gardner nodded, a smirk appearing across his chest. “Understood, Lord Arthus.” He hovered away, gathering Guild Pokemon 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 Pokemon.” 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon, there is this force called Life. Most are unable to use this life, outside of the Ghosts, who feed on it, and the Lucario, who are able to derive another force called Aura from it. 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 Gengar, 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 Pokemon, he stamped up the steps of the tower and sat at a table where Gardner, Martre, and 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, or you’d be dead.” He gestured to the entire council, stepping away from the shivering Wigglytuff. “I haven’t been very forthright with you, have I? I’ve been in my own little world, letting Martre fix the Seal, Gardner be the hunter,” he fluttered his claws toward the Hypno, Wigglytuff and Bibarel, “and 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-Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 twelve-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 will never 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 Pokemon, 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. It said that he was one of the cruelest Pokemon to live, and that he would steal Arceus’ power. But how could he have done such things when he was so nice to her? It just didn’t make sense.

    She closed the book, shaking her head. Arthus couldn’t be the Usurper, even if everyone else thought he was.

    ~~~~

    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 Cassia could see this…”

    “But I’m Cassia,” she replied.

    Arthus’ smile dissipated. “Not you. 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. 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 with excitement.

    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.”

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon staying away from the Usurper.

    She noticed many of the Pokemon give him fearful looks. They avoided meeting his gaze. “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. “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 metal 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.

    Declaration 17--

    And I, Baeryn, write this account 1500 years after the creation of the Legends, in a time of peace across Equivos. Pokemon obeyed the word of Arceus, and prosperity came to them.

    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 Pokemon. This was met with great praise, and upon returning to Deitae, Mewtwo became prideful of his powers.

    He descended upon the wild Pokemon 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 Pokemon he protected. He feared that the Pokemon he defeated would conspire against him, and so he dealt harsh punishments to the Pokemon 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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. He mentioned years ago that he was the Usurper, so did that mean he had done these horrible things? Killing Pokemon, destroying the Tomes, even trying to use the Seal?

    There would only be 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. “Seriously, where do you hear about these things?” 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 research hut.

    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 Pokemon! 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. She knew that Arthus had made a long-lasting illusion to help her practice in peace, even if it didn’t feel natural. She hardly interacted with the other Guild Pokemon, and wondered how they saw her and Arthus.

    She clenched her claws, then 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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. Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Gardner 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—”

    “And those filthy commoners are kept in line!” Searle slammed the table. “That’s what it’s been all about since Arthus got rid of that old Lucario, Calem. 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 canyon, 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 Pokemon! 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, and less eccentric than he usually was. 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 Pokemon 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. She had never seen Arthus act as they described, but the nagging thought kept returning: What they had said was true.

    She sniffed, wiping her nose. Now she knew why Arthus refused to let her be seen, to let her see the outside world: it was to prevent her from seeing who he truly was. But why?

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon.” 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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, heaving, attempting to disbelieve the fact that Arthus is not who she thought he was.

    She considered his actions. Everything she remembered was good, but what she heard was wrong. Arthus never refused it when confronted, and even the Tome proclaims that he is one of the most vicious individuals to come. After that experience years ago, where the light confirmed to her the truth of the Tome, she knew it was true.

    She sniffed, wishing that she could read its comforting words. 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.

    She forced herself to calm, taking in deep breaths and standing up. She couldn’t remain in this life any more, one of ignorance and pleasantry; the truth had become known to her, and could never be forgotten. What could she do?

    She could stay with Arthus. Considering Arthus’ morals, it wouldn’t be long before he tries to have her kill someone, just as he had done himself. She refused to kill, as the Tome said it was not justifiable unless done in defense of the innocent or yourself. Even if she relented, she could never be happy here—not with knowing Arthus’ true self.

    But what else could she do? Run away? She knew nothing about taking care of herself outside the Guild. She knew how to protect herself, but for food and shelter, she had no experience. Would it even be safe for her to go on her own? If Arthus was a cruel as the Tome said he was, she had to leave.

    She gasped, putting a hand over her mouth; a dreadful thought came into her mind. If Arthus’ wife had died two-thousand years ago, where did she come from? Arthus couldn’t have been her father.

    “He left one of you alive!” she remembered Searle Sawk saying. Did that mean that Arthus had killed the other Zoroark?

    She sobbed, realizing now what Arthus had done: he adopted her after killing her true parents. Wearily, she took a bag from the counter, and pulled supplies into it. She couldn’t stay with him. She had to leave 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, I see. 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 sizeable 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. “I don’t care what sort of feelings Lord Arthus has for you; you are staying here.”

    Cassia rubbed her lip, baring her teeth. “Let. Me. Go.”

    Gardner cackled, 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. He glowered at them, then pounded forward, rearing back his fist.

    Gardner dropped Cassia and covered his face, shouting, “Grom, stop this at—”

    A gargantuan punch sent him flying into the roof of the tower, bursting 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 exited Martre’s research center, shaking his head. “Still no luck!” He held up the Seal, tracing the flawed jewel in its center. “No point in leaving you with that accursed scientist.” He turned to Cassia’s house, then began to walk to it.

    “I need to apologize.”

    ~~~~

    Gardner moaned on his chair, broken pieces of wood and slate underneath him. “Curse that Golurk.” He rolled off the heap, coughing and rubbing the gaseous ooze under his chin.

    He gazed at the hole in the ceiling, pounding his fist against the floor. “I will make you pay for this, Cassia.”

    ~~~~

    Arthus opened the door, muttering, “Grom must’ve gone off to recharge. Hopefully he hasn’t been gone for too long.” He studied the room, noticing nothing out of place.

    “Cassia? I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have snapped at you earlier.” He closed the door, twisting his head. “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 Pokemon, one who showed others the same kindness you showed me. I know now that you are nothing like that. You kill and torture Pokemon, 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.” He threw down the letter, the flame spreading across the floor.

    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 charge 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: Jun 18, 2018
  16. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

    If I really am posting too fast, please let me know. I really don't want to overwhelm people over here, even if I'm just trying to catch up to where my other postings are.

    Chapter 11: Calling

    2018 AU

    In a clearing far to the east of Dusknoir 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. Kricketot chirruped around them, and the lights of Illumise and Volbeat danced 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 betrayal; 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 an Egg at 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 Pokemon do what’s right, and that the Seal of Creation would let him do that. I found out that his wife 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 Cassia 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 is 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 Pokemon?”

    Matheus halfheartedly smiled. “Oh, he was the best. We created the Guild together, years ago, all so Pokemon would be safe. He was happy, charismatic,” he laughed for a moment and said, “and little off in the head. Even in our youth, he had the wildest ideas.” 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 Pokemon 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 days 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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, lay 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 Pokemon 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. There are things that must be changed.” Mist flowed from the tips of his claws as he pressed them against her head. “Just a few bothersome memories. Just…” 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 thought of all the wonderful lessons he had taught her, about drawing and illusion, and how he seemed truly happy to be with her. And then his sorrow whenever he thought of Cassia, his wife. He seemed so devoted to have a perfect family, yet according to the Tome, he was the one who destroyed it. He blamed Matheus and Arceus for everything that happened to him, but in reality, it was himself.

    “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 stand 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 was going to be like this every morning…

    She shivered. She didn’t want to be 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 Pokemon.

    “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 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 Pokemon.

    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 Pokemon 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’ Pokemon to attack us, but they had already been taken care of by Ferrick Zoroark, Arthus’ brother, by the time we got there.” 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 and Ferrick, 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 his wife.”

    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 Cassia. 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 and Ferrick, who he 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 to 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 ten 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 footpaw. “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 it.”

    “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 came out right after and 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 Pokemon about my story if I wanted to…but that’s not how Arceus works. He wants Pokemon 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!”

    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 its 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.”

    Cassia 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.

    ~~~~

    Later, as Cassia put away her blanket, Matheus padded to her, holding his chin. “Do you know why his brace had to be secured?”

    “Why?” Cassia asked, closing her bag.

    “Because his energy gets out of control. The brace is essentially a safety mechanism in case he comes to a point that he can no longer fight, or needs extra support.” He closed his eyes. “The cost of it being that he would self-destruct soon after. The energy becomes too much for his body to handle.” He sighed, shaking his head. “It’s a devastating effect, and can cause serious damage if used. If he ever comes to a point of having his brace removed, try your best to replace it.”

    Cassia nodded, standing up. “I will.”

    ~~~~

    Six days passed with few things of interest. Cassia learned more of how to support herself in the wild, including how to track Pokemon if needed. They reached the Hymos Plain, 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, then perked up. “Oh, I nearly forgot.” He reached into his cloak and pulled out a leather drawstring bag. He offered it to Cassia, who accepted it. “It belonged to Ferrick Zoroark, Arthus’ brother. I need to tell you his story with my sister sometime.” He nodded toward it, then waved again. “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 slipped the contents of the bag into her claws, revealing a pearlescent mask with a black gauze behind the eyes, hiding whatever lay behind them. She held it over her eyes for a moment, finding that she could see perfectly through it—and that it fit perfectly as well. She felt a lump rise in her throat, saddened by the farewell of Matheus Lucario.

    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: Jun 16, 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 Pokemon 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 Arianne could have gotten away with such a thing with the Guild was beyond belief.

    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 hung from the ceiling, unlit, but with large candles inside. Along the walls, elaborate portraits showing a variety of Pokemon 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 her gaze 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. Dusknoir 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. It’s more difficult for Dark Pokemon like yourself, but it can be managed.” She sat on the chair with a groan, then set the cane at its edge. “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, 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 Pokemon?”

    Cassia looked up in thought. He loved talking to Cassia when he could, and judging from his cooking skills, often made meals for others, as he likely wouldn’t have the care for himself. He also seemed to spar pretty well, implying that he had some experience doing so.

    “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 Pokemon 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. “Pokemon 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 will not deny that berries are delicious and nutritious. I just feel that so much focus is put on them that Pokemon 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, Pokemon 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon, a figure slunk in the shadows. Its mane crept into a home, and in a flash of red light, slayed the Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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. “When the time comes, I’ll have her strike down the rest of the Arceists! Yes, destroy them and all their lies!” He suppressed a laugh, then ran to the entrance of the cave, slightly winded from the laugh.

    “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 Dusknoir 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon in the village and how his father affected them. He trained because he wanted to protect those Pokemon, because he loved them.” She tapped the pad with her cane. “Draw for your love of the world, for the Pokemon, 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon in danger. He used to work for Lucario Guild before he died; he was the captain of the outpost down in Hereb, the village close by.”

    “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, Gardner came to Hereb, and he came to Samuel and demanded him to swear loyalty to Arthus.” 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. His wife had died over two-thousand years ago; Arthus is still dwelling over her death. How did he feel after so long? How badly did he 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. Such a work must have taken hours of labor, something that she could only dream of creating. What was most admirable was their faces, a sense of wonder and bliss of simply gazing at the moon.

    “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. She wouldn’t have gone to sleep anywhere else, and she would have seen a light if she was still inside. She reasoned that Arianne must have gone outside, but for what reason?

    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? It’s a ghost!”

    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.”

    “He?” Cassia asked.

    Arianne held the Lampent’s arm, sighing. “Yes, he. 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 Pokemon 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 it 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.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokemon 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. Pokemon 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 Pokemon desperate to avoid their touch as to keep her disguise. She couldn’t help but feel the same fear she did back in Dusknoir guild, of what the Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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 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 Pokemon.” 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon with a newfound air of confidence, Arianne’s words encouraging her to be herself even with a different appearance. Her abilities could be used for good, in teaching the Pokemon of the world.

    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. She wondered when she would have to leave Arianne. She knew that someday she would have to go out in the world and teach more about Arceus, and she couldn’t live with Arianne forever.

    She studied the grass rushing underneath them. She didn’t want to leave her. She helped her find her true self, no longer an extension of Arthus’ will and teaching. She was her best guide in this world, more than Matheus was in her brief time with him. He was a good Pokemon, yes, but she could connect with Arianne so much better—like a daughter to her mother.

    Cassia gazed up at the stars. Arianne was the mother she never had. She wanted to be with her until the day she truly needed to leave, and no sooner.

    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 calls, 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. She wanted to make them pay for Arianne’s death, make them suffer just as she did. She wanted to make them sorry for what they did and would ensure they would never hurt another Pokemon.

    She halted upon entering the woods, their silent dominance holding the excited chatter of several Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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 lines 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, regretting ever breaking Arianne’s view.

    ~~~~

    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 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, then his wife, son, 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. She knew what to do.

    ~~~~

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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. Cassia climbed the edge the wall surrounding it, finding that dozens of Pokemon from Dusknoir Guild patrolled it, ordering the citizens around and torturing them in subtle ways.

    She gritted her teeth, shaking her head. “We can’t go out with them around.” She reached into her bag, pulling out the mask that Matheus had given her. She smirked. “But I know how we can.”

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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 Pokemon.”

    “Hawm.”

    “And had a lot of Pokemon 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: Jun 16, 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


    In the just-settled darkness of Dusknoir Guild, just outside the gates, Gardner shot out from the ground in a cloud of dirt, skidding against the ground with a grunt. Arthus leapt from beneath a withered tree, then slashed it, causing it to collapse in a pile of splinters. The massive gate remained shut mere feet in front of them.

    Arthus dusted himself off with a sneer. “Open the door, fool.”

    Gardner coughed, dusting his chest and hovering toward the door. “Is this really necessary? I understand—”

    “No, you don’t! Until now, you had served me perfectly, but then…this!” Arthus’ claws temporarily glowed with red light as he pressed them against his head and sighed with a shudder. “It is simply…aggravating, that you bungled it.”

    Gardner pushed open the gate, noticing the two Midday Lycanroc on duty sleeping fitfully on the ground. “You can hardly blame me sire; that silver—”

    Arthus dashed over and clutched Gardner’s head, pulling him down to where his eye was level with Arthus’. “Don’t mention him. I am well aware of his resurrection.” He released his grip, stomping past Gardner. “Now.”

    He looked down at one Lycanroc, his legs twitching. He shook furiously, grabbing the ruff of the Lycanroc’s neck and pulling him up, his other claw held out dangerously. The Lycanroc snorted awake, blurting out, “I’m awake, I’m awake!”

    “No, you most certainly were not! Tell me, are you a traitor, giving someone the perfect opportunity to waltz in here and make a sneak attack?”

    “N-No, sir!” the Lycanroc stammered.

    “Liar!” Arthus roared, stabbing the Lycanroc and throwing him aside. He turned to the other Lycanroc and punted him away, the wolf rolling onto his back.

    The Zoroark placed a foot on the awakened Lycanroc and exclaimed, “What about you? Are you a traitor?”

    The Lycanroc croaked, “Yes—No—Whatever you think! Please don’t kill me!”

    Arthus cackled, picking up the Lycanroc and throwing him aside, “Good, but not good enough! Get out of my sight!” The Lycanroc whimpered and crawled behind a building, avoiding the wrath of his lord.

    Arthus took a deep breath, rolling his shoulder, making a loud pop. “Ach, I need to get myself back in shape; spent too long just walking around, searching for a solution for this blasted Seal!” He pushed Gardner forward and exclaimed, “Go to the tower, you dolt! I have a lot to discuss with you in private!” Gardner complied, choosing not to reply and risk the Usurper’s fury.

    They entered the tower, and after ascending the stairs, Arthus pushed Gardner to a wall, pulling out the crystal embedded in his chest. “I gave this to you as proof of my trust. I trusted you to gather those Tomes; you succeeded. I trusted you to convert this Guild to my cause, with quite a few losses in the process; you succeeded. I trust you with capturing my granddaughter and that Lucario…” He let the crystal drop, his face unchanging as the ruby clattered against the floor. “You fail.” He hissed, stomping away and leaning against the wall, twisting a length of his mane anxiously and glowering at Gardner.

    The Guildmaster picked up the gem, his eye losing its fearsome luster. “Lord, how was I to expect…you know who! He burst in and took Cassia and Lawrence—”

    “Lawrence? So, that’s his—” Arthus interrupted, cutting himself short. He closed his eyes for a moment, then grinned, snapping his fingers. “Yes…this is beginning to make sense.”

    “…What?” Gardner asked, daring to draw closer.

    Arthus stood back up, starting to pace. “Well, this is interesting. On one of my little spying expeditions, I encountered some strange creature resting on a life deposit.” He cocked his head, snarling. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to glean much off his mind when I encountered him; his species was completely unfamiliar to me. But I was able to learn his name—Lawrence.”

    “And, what does that have to do with the Lucario?”

    Arthus clamped on Gardner’s shoulders, receiving a painful grunt. “It has everything to do with it! A name like that is hardly common around Equivos, and for that being to have the same name? There must be something!” He let go of Gardner, and the ghost proceeded to rub his shoulder. “Of course, I’ll have to confirm this theory by finding where he and—” he shuddered. “Matheus, went, with Cassia and Grom, of course.”

    Gardner nodded, starting to go down the stairs. “Very well, I’ll check on—”

    Arthus grabbed his arm, sinking his claws slightly into his form. “You’re not off the hook yet, Guildmaster.” He pulled Gardner in front of him and grabbed the Dusknoir’s antenna, sneering. “I’m going to search for Cassia and the others, while you stay here, waiting for my return. You did well tracking them, but this time, a more subtle approach is in order.” He twisted the antenna and added, “When I come back, I expect you to follow my instructions. If you fail, I’ll make sure that old Martre is made Guildmaster after I snuff you out. Understood?”

    Gardner grunted, twisting his head. “Y-Yes, Lord Arthus.”

    Arthus released him and started down the stairs. “Good. Now, rest up; I don’t expect this to take more than a few days.” The door creaked open, and Arthus paused slightly. “I wouldn’t want you…weak, or anything.” With a chuckle, the Usurper slammed it shut.

    Gardner growled, then roared as he punched the wall, shaking the tower and the objects within. He pulled back his hand, huffing as he covered his eye.

    “I cannot fail again. Not after this,” he said to himself.

    He thinks you’re weak.

    Gardner uncovered his eye, glaring at the window. “Who said that?” He searched the dark nooks and crannies of the ruined room, but there was no sign of another Pokemon.

    He shook his head, continuing to sit on a chair.

    Why is it that the one who gave you strength now sees you as a detriment?

    Gardner sat up, searching for the small, quiet voice. “Who’s there? I’m warning you!” Again, no response.

    He paused, then shook his head; he must have been going mad, hearing voices like that. Slumping on the chair, he considered what he would do to regain Arthus’ favor, tapping his fingers together as he stared through the ruined window of the Master’s Tower.

    ~~~~

    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. He held the Pokedex 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 most evil Pokemon 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 Pokedex 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 is 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 wretched Gardner 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 Pokemon. 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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. He hated what Cassia had done, but did that justify his treatment of her? He ought to make things right, but what would she think of him at this point, snapping in such a way?

    The Lucario stood up, then entered the hut, closing the door, hoping to make matters right.

    ~~~~

    Moonlight peeked through the gaps in the roof of the Master’s Tower, granting the barest of illumination to the sole inhabitant. On the ruined chair, Gardner Dusknoir--gripping the arms--stirred, his eye closed in a bout of fitful sleep, one of few that the Guildmaster had.

    A moonbeam shone on face, and in the center, a silvery tendril wormed its way into the Dusknoir’s head, entering his dreams.

    ~~~~

    A Duskull hovered above a pool of water, surrounded by bleak darkness. A pair of cold, blue eyes appeared, and a pair of claws appeared behind it.

    “Serve me well, and I will grant you great power!” a voice exclaimed. The claws clamped onto the Duskull, and when they parted, a Dusknoir stood in its place, a red gem hovering behind it.

    Scenes of destruction passed by the Dusknoir, the eyes watching them unfold, tampering them with its claws. Families fleeing their homes from black-banded Pokemon; white-banded Guild Pokemon dying at the hands of the Dusknoir; dozens of books erupting in purple flame; stone structures collapsing at the Dusknoir’s whim.

    The Dusknoir looked on without a passing thought, unaware of the blue eyes retreating from them. The claws encroached him as a Zoroark fled from him, two Lucario guiding her to a scene of light.

    “Serve me well, and I will grant you great power,” the voice repeated. The claws wrapped around the Dusknoir’s arms, crushing them with its grip. “But fail me, and suffer my wrath.” The claws released their hold, and the red gem behind the Dusknoir burned more brightly, its influence crushing the Dusknoir’s spirit.

    The claws returned, pricking the Dusknoir’s essence, all while the eyes cackled. “Why do you waver? Do you fear the one who gave you meaning?” Black tendrils came from all sides, approaching the Dusknoir and wrapping around his chest.

    The Dusknoir struggled to come free, all while the eyes cackled. “Life without a positive attitude is a sad life indeed. Sadness is a result of pain brought by yourself or others; I intend to prevent such things. Thus, I must be an example to the world in how one must be--free of evil, and therefore, free of sadness.”

    The tendrils covered the Dusknoir’s eye, and the ghost began to fear. “I have spent two millennia dwelling on how to solve pain, both brought by others and yourself. You cannot trust Pokemon to make the best decision; Arceus has failed to make them good. Therefore, there must be one to make the decision for them, and so, one must usurp Arceus as creator, and become that one.”

    The eyes became narrow slits. “Whatever the creator does is right, and thus, what the would-be creator does is right as well. The ends justify the means--all will be saved, and no more pain will come to those I control.”

    The tendrils began crushing the Dusknoir, and an unearthly wail erupted from the ghost. “Betrayal to my cause is the greatest evil one can commit. Those who do will die, and have no opportunity to live a life free of evil.”

    The claws swept back, preparing to strike the Dusknoir one final time. “Serve me well, and I will grant you great power.” The eyes opened wide. “Fail me, and suffer my wrath.” The claws sped toward Gardner.

    “Failure is betrayal.” The claws crushed the Dusknoir.

    “Betrayal is death!”

    Clang!

    ~~~~

    Gardner gasped, his eye wide with fright. Clouds covered the moon, preventing the beam from meeting with the Guildmaster.

    The Dusknoir rubbed his face, forcing himself to calm. It was all a dream, but it had felt so real. What did it mean? Did his sole failure prevent redemption from the Usurper?

    He shook his head, curling his fist. If Arthus saw him as a failure, then by the dream’s logic, he would be a traitor, and therefore, dead.

    Still, the message disturbed him, particularly of Arthus’ reasoning. Being trapped for two millennia was sure to have deteriorated the Zoroark’s mind. Little is known about what he had done before his incarceration either; an event may have set him on the path of insanity for all Gardner knew.

    Clang!

    Gardner stared outside, watching two Timburr banging their timbers onto a large metal pin, driving it into the ground. He had forgotten why they were doing that, but it didn’t matter to him; he had more pressing concerns.

    The door knocked, and Gardner gruffly shouted, “Enter!” It creaked open, and Martre Metagross stomped inside, his rust coming off in flakes and bunches as he clambered up the stairs.

    “Sorry for my lateness, Guildmaster, but I felt I had to speak to you.”

    Gardner arced his eyebrow. “Really?” He found it odd that the Metagross would come just after his strange dream.

    Martre nodded. “Yes. Tell me, are you aware of Arthus’ current plan to restore the Seal?”

    “What of it? I don’t ask questions, I follow orders.”

    “Obedient as ever, I see. Regardless, Arthus plans on finding the Prison Bottle and—”

    “Using Hoopa to fix it,” Gardner finished, crossing his arms. “The thought crossed my mind, what with having to search for a fix myself. What of it?”

    Martre groaned irritably. “If you had let me finish, I would have told you.” He sighed shaking his head. “Anyway, the Prison Bottle has been notoriously hard to find; there have been no reports of the Unbound Hoopa awakening. There have, however, been reports of the bottle itself.”

    “Get to the point.”

    “It has been on the move for well over several decades. All the reports have described it being the possession of a silver Lucario.”

    Gardner’s eye widened. “That explains how he found me so quickly. The cursed cheat must use the bottle to teleport at will.” He turned, his dour expression returning. “And now I see why Arthus would want to find him. Cassia and that Lucario, Lawrence, are only side projects for him. That Legend is the real goal.” He nodded his head, lowering his arms. “Is there anything else you wish to talk about?”

    Martre shook his head. “No, nothing at all.” He leered at Gardner. “Just leave me with my studies. It’s the only thing that gives me meaning now.” He stomped down the stairs.

    Gardner’s chest smirked. “Yes, especially after Arthus refused your request for a leadership position.”

    Martre paused, then turned his head slightly. “That was years ago, Gardner. He would much rather have a loyal pet than a free-willed mind at the helm.” He exited the tower and shut the door with his psychic power.

    Gardner glared at the door, his sneer fading into a scowl. “Says the decrepit old fool.” He fell onto his chair with a thud, then tapped his fingers, brooding over the unknown meaning of his dream.

    ~~~~

    Inside the raft hut, 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.

    Lawrence studied the bowl of reddish soup in his paws, chunks of Tamato berry floating within it. He, Cassia, and Matheus each sat on a bed, with the silver Lucario gazing at Lawrence, and the Zoroark staring into her own bowl, dwelling on her thoughts.

    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 spoonful. 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. Gardner 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 Pokedex. 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, then reached into a pocket in his cloak. “Well, it’s a bit complicated. You see, there’s a certain Pokemon who wanted me to keep an eye on something for him.” From the depths of his cloak, he pulled an intricate white bottle, decorated with golden rings and an elaborate magenta cap.

    Cassia veered away from him, holding out her claws. “The Prison Bottle!”

    Matheus nodded sagely. “Yes. The prison for Hoopa’s alternate self.” He rubbed the top, shaking it slightly. “He wanted me to ensure it didn’t fall into the wrong hands. In exchange, he promised me that he would transport me anywhere I desire. That’s how I was able to meet with you after you fled from Arthus.”

    Cassia lowered her hand, daring to look at it. “Doesn’t he…speak?”

    “Quite regularly in fact. He wants me to release him, but I wouldn’t do that. However, he continually offers to call Hoopa for me, which I take advantage of whenever I need him.” Matheus put it back into his pocket, leaning back. “Of course, it has its downsides. I have to be careful where I sleep, or I might just end up with it in the hands of a thief.”

    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 Cassia back to life once he took Arceus.” He shook his head. “He might seem like a mad-Pokemon, 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 about her namesake, 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 Pokemon 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. “From the Tree, I’ve been keeping track of your progress.”

    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. While yes, we can have him bring us to the Xilo Mountains, we can’t have him take us around everywhere. Hoopa has become more reclusive thanks to the Guild and would rather stay in the Tree of Life when he can, thanks to its ability to repel the bottle’s call. He promised he’d remain outside for me to bring us to the Xilo, but after that, only to get food for himself.” He tapped the side of his leg, shifting the bottle in his cloak.

    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, “me and you 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. The Unovan could hardly believe what had happened today, what with Cassia’s identity, and Matheus’ sudden appearance—another Lucario to help him.

    He studied his paws, thinking of aura surrounding them. He always discounted that ability when he was in Unova, but now he saw the possibilities of having it. He could better protect himself by detecting Guild Pokemon before he could see them, or use spheres to drive them off. He could be more than someone following Cassia.

    He looked away, remembering his real goal. He pulled off the Pokedex and tried seeking an access point once more. No luck.

    He groaned, slipping it back into the case. While he enjoyed being somewhere like home, he had to get back to his real life. Equivos reminded him too much of Arceism, what with their central belief of treating Pokemon like people. It disturbed him how much he has had to break his commitment to never follow the Arceists.

    With that in his mind, he fell asleep.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 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 Pokemon 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 dream—the memory—had almost been forgotten; he wished he had. The start of a long road of persecution, he had left it behind when he went to Unova. Now it returned to haunt him.

    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 Pokemon 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 Pokedex, 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 Pokedex 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 stuttered, “I-It’s not like that, really—”

    “Haw-haw-haw-haw!” Grom bellowed, holding his heaving chest.

    Matheus made a small chuckle himself, pulling out the Prison Bottle. “Guess I might be making assumptions that aren’t quite there.” His smile dissipated, and he held the bottle close to his lips. “Come.”

    Purple mist suddenly erupted from the top, and Grom’s laughter halted. The mist 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 everyday 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 pointed at the cloak, his hand trembling. “I don’t care what you say Matheus: that bottle should be buried somewhere and never seen again.”

    “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 our business 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 Pokedex. “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 Pokedex. He shook his head n 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 southwest, toward the Guild.

    ~~~~

    Gardner looked out from the window of the Master’s Tower, crossing his arms. Guild Pokemon rushed back and forth, carrying looted goods, taxed coins, and arrested Pokemon. All went according to his rule, ensuring that Arthus’ last true directive—to make the Pokemon of Serenita miserable—was at least accomplished.

    A knock came at the door. He looked down, expecting it to be Martre—or worse, Arthus—to charge up and bring news. But no Metagross or Zoroark came, only the dull chatter of Pokemon outside.

    His brow rose curiously, then he descended the stairs. He pulled the door open and growled, “Who is it?” He blinked, seeing no one in front of him.

    “D-Down here.”

    He looked down and grunted in surprise, finding a tiny, battered Duskull hovering mere inches above the ground. Its grey folds were ragged and dirty, and its skull had chips taken from its teeth and eyes. The tiny spherical eye inside glowed dimly, shaking at the sight of the Guildmaster.

    Gardner took a glance around, then scooped the Duskull inside, slamming the door. He pushed the Duskull up to eye-level and said, “What do you want?”

    The Duskull jittered nervously, floating around the room curiously. “Wow…th-they said I would have th-the door slammed in my face…”

    What do you want?” Gardner repeated, crossing his arms and momentarily glancing at the door.

    The Duskull eeped, and he brought himself back to Gardner. “S-Sorry, Guildmaster, sir. I-I’ve been meaning to ask for a while, but, s-seeing that you’ve been gone—”

    “Get to the point,” Gardner said, lowering his arms.

    The Duskull lowered himself to Gardner’s chest… “I-I was wondering if, if you were alright with it, that you could—” his gaze met Gardner’s, and he froze.

    Gardner flinched, then, forcing himself to look away, said, “Continue.”

    The Duskull shivered, then said, “I was wondering if I-I could have a little Life. With Lord Arthus around, it's been hard for me and my brothers to find any.”

    Gardner shifted uneasily, rubbing his chest. “What about your guardians? Shouldn’t they be feeding you Life?”

    The Duskull shrunk further. “L-Lord Arthus didn’t like what they had to say a few weeks ago. We haven’t seen them since.”

    Gardner’s eye widened, then he covered it. His fist shook, then he opened it--tendril-like mist flowed from it.

    The Duskull gazed at it in awe. He looked up at Gardner, who waved his hand and exclaimed, “Hurry it up!”

    The Duskull shivered in excitement, greedily taking the mist in through his skull. After a minute, Gardner halted the flow and grabbed the Duskull, holding him up. He stormed up the stairs and shoved the Duskull through a gap in the window.

    He let him go, then jabbed a finger at him from behind the glass. “This is a one-time thing. Don't you tell anyone about this.” His gaze faltered, then he said, “What’s your name?”

    “Carlin, sir,” the Duskull replied.

    Gardner nodded. “Be careful.”

    Carlin nodded back vigorously. “Thank you Guildmaster, sir! My brothers are going to love it!” He zoomed through the air, making a cork screw as he went out of sight.

    Gardner stood still, then sighed, slumping his shoulders. He looked up sadly, then studied his palms.

    He traced his palm, closing his eye. “He was so much like…me,” he thought. He saw himself as a Duskull, roving from place to place, seeking the barest scraps of Life to survive. No guardian to protect him, no compassion to be had. His entire life, an unfulfilled dream—until the storms came, and with them, Arthus.

    Why do you not show compassion to others like Carlin?

    Gardner grunted, spinning around. “You’ve returned. Where are you?”

    How do live with yourself, making a small act of charity in light of your greed?

    Gardner’s eye glowed, and he raised his fist, lightning sparking from it. “You dare talk to your Guildmaster like this?”

    The door flew open, and a swath of black and red fur bounded up them. “I’ve found them!” Arthus threw aside the carcass of the unlucky Murkrow, fuming. “Those Murkrow proved to be more useful than I thought!”

    Gardner reared back, Arthus’ claws dangerously close to his neck. “You’ve found Math—”

    Don’t speak his name!” Arthus bellowed, pushing Gardner away. He put a hand over his face and seethed, baring his teeth. “It is simply unbearable to see Cassia with that—that—”

    “Traitor?”

    Arthus erupted into laughter, his eyes shifting from left to right. “Yes, a traitor, one I killed all those years ago!” He tiptoed the air with his claws, laughing with their steps. “But up he comes, waltzing away with my daughter just as he did with my son!” His palm ignited in fire, then he threw the ball at Gardner’s armchair, enveloping it in flames.

    Gardner gazed at the burning heap sadly. “That was my only chair…”

    Arthus whipped around and latched onto Gardner’s antenna, dragging him closer. “You’re going to the mountains and tracking down Matheus and his little band of misfits! Meet me by the gates within an hour, or I’ll have your eye for a candle!” Arthus fled down the stairs, the door swinging wildly.

    Gardner rubbed his antenna, cocking his head. “My eye for a candle?” He shook his head, removing his hand. “He’s losing his mind.”

    Just above him, Arthus now sat on the spire of the Master’s Tower, holding the Seal of Creation in front of him. He traced the crack set in the deep blue jewel, his reflection shattered by it. He considered the details he overheard from that chance encounter in Xilo, struggling to shove aside the betrayals of Cassia, Matheus and Grom as he thought of a plan to fulfill his goal. Holding it together, was a single, precious detail:

    “That Lucario wants to get home…to another dimension…”

    ~~~~

    “The Ancient Trevenant really said all 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 words of the massive Tree Pokemon. “Really! It was weird how he predicted all that! The first half of what he said to me was right!”

    Matthews traced his paw over the words, nodding his head. “Uh-huh…creator of tales in shape and in forma betrayal usurped from he who took care…sounds pretty accurate to me.” He pointed to the lower half. “A second calling lies in wait. Rather strange to say that, considering that you’re already responsible to teach Pokemon about the Tome.”

    “Maybe it has to do with this one within the claws of fate? Who do you think it is?”

    “I’m not sure…”

    As they mused about Cassia’s prophecy, Lawrence thought of his own. 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. He could understand the second one; he had crossed into a different realm thanks to Valence Tech. But how could he be a deceiver of self? Did the lines even refer to him? Or was it someone else?

    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 could Aleron be awakened if he was 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, “We saw his signature in our copy of the Tome. 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 Arceus doesn’t exist!”

    “I have lived for two thousand years!”

    Matheus sprang in front of Lawrence, pressing his paw against his chest. “Don’t deny what is 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 was simply a descendant that took the Legend’s name. Maybe he remained in a sort of hibernation, like Arthus. He couldn’t have been revived 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 poked in an out of the developments, Rock and Water Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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, eliminate, 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 seen 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon behavior. I know how Pokemon 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 Pokemon 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 Pokemon?”

    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 Pokemon turned to look at them, the Water Pokemon 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 Pokemon, 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 Pokemon. Rock Pokemon 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 hmphed 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. “Pokemon 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 Gaea 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 Pokemon. 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; Pokemon 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. “That’ll make things a bit complicated. Good thing we’ll be gone before he comes.”

    “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: May 10, 2018

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