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The Origin of Storms

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Hey there. This here's the latest version of a fic I wrote back between '03 and '04. It's already completed, so look for updates every couple of weeks or so.

Content advisory: This fic contains strong violence, blood, gore, body horror, depictions of sexual harrassment, character death, misgendering, and a mention of attempted suicide. There's also infrequent, mild swearing. Rating-wise, I'd give it a hard T or a soft M.

Right then. Let's get on with it, shall we?


Chapter 1 – The Haven

He lay down upon a cold, wet patch of grass, though it may as well have been a bed fit for a queen. It was soft and enveloping, like the sudden drowse that was pleasantly consuming him. He yawned, covering his mouth with his hand—her hand, pale-skinned and branching out into five separate fingers.

This was not his hand. This was not his point of view.

Something sky-blue appeared over the pale hand—his own, much simpler, fused hand, surrounded by a soft, multicolored glow. He looked into her eyes, though he knew he didn’t need to. He knew they were closed, knew that their owner slept. On some level, so did he, yet he remained awake. After all, it was only
her sleep, which he happened to be experiencing vicariously. A second-hand sensation.

Her last.

He recoiled from the sudden, stark vacuum where her lifeforce had been. Part of his own went with it, and the torn edges burned white-hot with pain. Disarray exploded in his mind—his cumbersome nervous system hadn’t unsynched in time, and now he couldn’t tell for certain whether he was living or dead, whether he was himself or the lifeless figure lying before him. Overwhelmed, he staggered backward until something caught under one of his pods and nearly tripped him.

His perception, all of his many senses, abruptly froze. For a moment, reality returned. Then he saw the object he’d just stepped on—red, white, and round—and the distinction between himself and the friend he’d just lost blurred even further. This poké ball was his—but also

The poké ball rattled as he lifted it in his shaking hands. The vestigial joints at his knuckles constricted around it, and with a final, caterwauling scream tearing its way through his throat, both the poké ball and his psyche broke into shards…

* * *​

The crack of the poké ball’s implosion blasted him out of the dream, just as it had every time before. He groaned feebly, wishing it had done so sooner. An ordinary nightmare was bad enough. He didn’t need to suffer it from two different perspectives at the same time.

But now, at least, the dreams really were only dreams, no matter how twisted. The pain wasn’t really present; it was only a shadow of the feeling, somewhere between remembered and imagined, and it was finally confined to those nightmares. For too long, it had followed him into his waking life, too.

Peace had been hard-won through the efforts of many over years in the Haven. Lazily, still yet to fully awaken, he opened his eyes and let their inner membranes slide back for one last view of his room there. It was a simple, small space, shut away from the outside world and its rude sun, perpetually shadowed in his preferred darkness.

He flexed his spine and his limbs, detaching his jaws in a massive yawn. There was a series of faint snaps as his joints relocated, followed by another sound: the trilling of the door alarm.

As he got to his feet, the lights came on slowly, gently, a feature for which he was quite grateful. It allowed eyes like his, accustomed to near-total darkness, to more gracefully adjust to the brightness on the other side of the door, which would only open once the light-adjustment process was finished.

He’d have personally preferred for the lights to not come on at all, but most of the Haven’s staff were chansey. Their kind had nothing like the night-vision of his own; they required light to be active and able to perform their sometimes critical work. He’d often wondered why they didn’t just employ some nocturnal species to tend to the dark-sighted, but he’d always let the matter slide.

At any rate, he could tolerate light rather well for one of his kind, for he was used to it. Living with humans (and the hours those humans kept) for part of his life had caused him to develop diurnal habits. He suspected that he’d probably end up half-blind before his first century and wholly so halfway through his second, but it would be worth it. He’d loved those years he’d spent with the humans, and outside of the occasional nightmare, he could now recall them with more joy than sorrow.

The door slid open, and in stepped a chansey, beaming proudly. A nametag clipped to her fur identified her as Teresa. She carried a form attached to a clipboard; somewhat awkwardly, she turned it around so that the paper faced him.

Wobbuffet, male, the form read in unown-script. Designation: Esaax Evergray. He’d been denying that name and the history that came with it ever since his new life among the humans had begun. But now, in his “second new life”, he embraced it once more.

After all, once one gets over a thing like a spontaneous extinction, a little adolescent heartbreak is nothing…

He shook his head clear of such thoughts, determined to stay in the present, and returned his attention to the form. His eyes scanned its surface quickly, skimming over several more lines of personal data until he found he was looking for: 4/15/14…

“Well, this is it!” Teresa said cheerfully, matching Esaax’s thoughts at the moment almost word-for-word. Today, he would leave. Today, at last, he could. “Are you ready for your final tests?” the chansey asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Esaax answered, careful as always to prevent the automatic door from closing on his tail as he followed the chansey out of the room.

“Now, you do realize this means you’ll have to go see Adn just one last time.”

“I’m not scared of Adn,” the wobbuffet said, and for the most part he wasn’t. A measure of dread snuck into his voice all the same.

“Never said you were, but still, I know his method isn’t the most comfortable…”

“…But it’s what it takes and you’re gonna do it anyway, so…” Esaax shrugged in mock surrender.

“Right. Anyway,” Teresa said as she led Esaax down the hall, “we’ll be saving him for last, which is fine since we have other things to take care of anyway. We’ll just get you in when he’s finished; he’s with another patient at the moment.”

Another door opened to admit the two of them. Therein were all the necessary resources for a basic physical exam, including a living resource: a pokémon who served as Teresa’s assistant—or, more precisely, as her hands. Specifically, this was a mr. mime by the name of Madeline. Her large and agile hands were well-suited for tools and equipment made for the very similar hands of humans, the sort of things for which the tiny, nearly-featureless paws of a chansey tended to be inadequate.

“Why, look at you!” Madeline said. “We don’t really need to look him over, do we, Terry? He’s the very incarnation of health right here, I’d say.”

She came up to stand before him and studied him with an eyebrow raised and a finger resting on her lips in a way that one might gaze at a work of art. Then she smiled and said, “Still working out, I see. Bet we’ll fill this place twice over after you get out with all the women you’ll drive crazy, you handsome blue devil.”

Esaax averted his gaze. Flirting and teasing from Madeline wasn’t exactly anything new, but it put an unpleasant taste in his mouth regardless. He sincerely hoped she was just joking around, but if she wasn’t… Esaax tried very, very hard not to think about that possibility.

At any rate, her observation was correct—or the part about him working out was, anyway. Esaax had indeed been on a devout physical training regimen for quite some time now. Though Madeline liked to make him out to be some kind of beefcake, such wasn’t the case at all. The effects of his training, though visible, weren’t dramatic. Esaax was no bodybuilder; the point of his training was simply to help him harness and become aware of the strength that he already possessed.

The idea to start him on such a program had originally arisen from the poké ball incident that had inspired so many nightmares. As was common among his kind, Esaax hadn’t known the full magnitude of his own physical strength on account of being unable to use it against another living creature. As such, Esaax had been told that it might do him some good to become conscious of his “idle power”, lest anything else fall victim to it.

He’d agreed to this instantly. All his life, he’d broken things by accident; the chance to learn how to leave his klutzy side in the past was irresistible. On top of that, he’d soon discovered that the workouts also had the benefit of keeping his mind as busy and strong as the rest of him.

While he no longer needed the exercise in the therapeutic sense, he still enjoyed it as a hobby. He’d often wondered where he might train once he was released and had ultimately decided on the old human gym down the street, which fighting-types frequented.

He imagined that if he did go there, some machamp or maybe a hitmon of some kind might pick a fight with him—he figured they’d be unable to resist the allure of a psychic they could whale on without fear of eating psybeam. One or another of them would just let loose with the mega punches and seismic tosses, only to have those attacks thrown right back in their face, doubled in power…

The thought of such a thing was just too funny. Esaax started chuckling aloud, but stopped when something cold pressed itself against his chest. He looked down at the stethoscope for a moment, then met the gaze of the mr. mime who’d put it there.

“Uh… Teresa? Are you okay?” Esaax asked. “You’ve never had to have her do this part before.”

“She insisted,” said the chansey.

Madeline just stood there with a smile suggesting that she had more on her mind than anything Esaax’s heart was doing.

“In fact,” Teresa went on, “Madeline asked if she could handle the entire examination herself. And I told her she could.”

Esaax’s mouth opened to protest, but something made his voice die in his throat. All he managed was a sigh. Just get it over with…

* * *​

Minutes later, Esaax left the room alongside Teresa, trying not to think about what had just transpired. More than ever, he was grateful that his time at the Haven was nearing an end.

“…So now what?” he asked, hoping the answer was something other than just waiting around. A distraction sounded like a very good idea right about now.

“Well, you could have your RE test now, or would you rather have something to eat first?”

An easy question. “I think you know.”

“I do,” Teresa said with a chuckle.

The two stopped in their tracks as another chansey stepped into their path from around the corner. “He’s here,” the newcomer said.

“Oh good,” Teresa responded. “Tell him to wait in the cafeteria, okay?” She turned to Esaax. “I forgot to tell you, Esaax. A friend of yours has come to pick you up. You can chat with him over breakfast.”

The news took a second to click. “Wait, really? Who?”

“Go and find out for yourself! I’m going to check up on Adn again and see if he’s anywhere near ready. See you later!”

Esaax watched Teresa waddle off, then made his way to the cafeteria, feeling awfully puzzled for someone who was supposed to have achieved clarity at last.
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The Ghost Lord

As a guy who avidly read this entire fic back when it was first posted, I am very glad to see it back!

I'm very curious as to what you've changed from last time, and I'm looking forward to finding out! (I won't spoil anything for new readers, honest! XD)

Only problem with this chapter was weird no-capitalization of Pokemon names- is that an artifact of last time?

Looking forward to next chapter!

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
InsaneTyranitar: It's an artifact of an earlier revision. To explain, let's go a little further back, to the time when I not only capitalized pokémon species names but the names of every other sapient race in my stories, humans included. It was a symmetry thing, I guess. It read "unevenly" to me, having all those other species capitalized when "human" was not.

Fast forward some distance, to when I started taking a shining to treating pokémon species names as plain ol' common nouns, on the premise that hey, if it's good enough for humans and whatnot, it's good enough for these critters, too. And so symmetry was maintained, in a way that not only looks nice and tidy but allows me to lay off the shift and capslock keys a bit more. X3

Thanks for reading! Neat to see an old fan here in the new thread. Don't worry--waits between chapters ain't gonna be anywhere near what they were last time. :D

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 2 – Just a Little Favor

With a large amount of food in tow, Esaax scanned the cafeteria for the mystery visitor but found no sign of him. So he opted to stop at a table, set his tray down, and let this friend—whoever he was—come to him.

Before long, he spotted an arbok entering the room, at which his mouth fell open in surprise. Is that… he wondered—only to realize just as quickly that yes, his visitor was exactly who he appeared to be. For the first time that day, Esaax smiled.

The arbok had noticed Esaax in the same instant and rushed to greet him without hesitation, failing to notice both the skiploom he ran over in the process and the sound of her squeaky voice cursing him out immediately afterward.

“Syr? What in the world are you doing way out here?” Esaax rose and gave his old friend a massive hug as the arbok came to a stop beside the table. A bowl of oatmeal seemed to fall out of thin air, spilling all over Syr’s chest. Esaax had been balancing it on his head and had forgotten about it. “Oops…”

“That’s okay,” Syr said through gritted teeth, shaking off the hot oatmeal (which thankfully didn’t land on anyone else).

“Man, I haven’t seen you in years,” Esaax said before taking his seat once more and devouring an entire watmel berry in one bite. “Thought I’d never see you again—what are you even doing all the way out here?” he asked again.

“I live here now,” the arbok replied. “I found a pretty decent place. In fact, you can stay there for a while if you’d like. Would you?”

“Don’t really have anywhere else to go, so yeah, sure. Hey, I’ll even move in with you. Wouldn’t want you to be all alone, after all…”

“But I’m not alone. I adopted a son.”

Somehow Esaax hadn’t seen that one coming. He nearly choked on a brownie. “Okay… so I’m gonna be sharing a house with a giant, venomous serpent and his bitey little snakeling?” he joked.

Syr gave him an odd look. “He’s not a snakeling, he’s a snorunt. His name is Jeneth, but we just call him Jen. And yes, he knows bite, but he doesn’t just randomly use that on people.”

“Snorunt? This is the wrong climate for those.”

“Tell his kind that. Supposedly, a bunch of glalie decided to settle in these parts, though I can’t imagine why they would’ve wanted to, and most of the people I know say that they’ve seen at least one around, too.” He shuddered. “Brrr. I get the creeps just thinking about them…”

“Huh. So where is he?”

“Waiting in the car.”

“You left a baby outside in a car?”

“He’s not a baby. He’s a young man,” Syr said.

“Whatever. You still shouldn’t have left an ice-type out there under the sun.”

“He’s in the shade, Esaax. It’s his car; he drives it, and he gets to decide where to park it.”

A snorunt driving a car. No, nothing funny about that image… With a faint snicker, Esaax turned away from the topic of Jen and back to his gluttony.

“You still haven’t explained how someone your size could possibly need to eat a third of his own weight every day,” Syr teased.

“You still haven’t explained how someone your size can only need to eat once a month,” Esaax retorted. “But who cares? What I really wanna know about is—” Esaax saw Teresa heading their way. “Whoops, looks like we’ll have to talk about it later.” He shoved the remainder of his breakfast down his throat at once and waved at the chansey.

“What’s going on?” Syr asked.

“RE test. It’s just this exercise to make sure that some of my more… uh, complicated systems are working all right. They might let you watch if you want.”

“You can do more than just watch,” said a voice from beside Syr.

Syr hadn’t bothered to look and see whom Esaax had waved at; as such, Teresa’s unexpected voice nearly scared him right out of his skin. “Waaugh!” he shouted.

“Daria could seriously use a break,” Teresa told Esaax, unfazed by the arbok’s outburst. “You could participate in her place,” she then added to Syr.

Syr gained a somewhat worried expression, still unsure what the chansey and wobbuffet were actually talking about, let alone if it was anything he should want to have any part of.

“It’s pretty easy,” Esaax said. “And it doesn’t take long.” He hoped Syr would agree to help out. Otherwise there was no telling who might end up substituting for Daria instead.

If there was any chance Madeline might get called in…

Syr sighed. “Well…”

* * *​

Next thing Syr knew, they’d brought him into a very large and entirely empty room. It didn’t look at all equipped for any sort of medical testing. “I still don’t get it,” he admitted to Teresa. “What are we going to be doing here, exactly?”

“We need to make sure his retaliatory abilities are in good shape. To do this, they must be triggered. That’s where you’ll come in,” the chansey said.

Syr blinked nervously, nearly certain now that he knew what was being asked of him and hoping he was wrong. Reluctantly, he reached for confirmation. “Esaax, what do I have to do to trigger these… abilities?”

“Attack me.”

“Oh no.” The arbok looked to Teresa with a hint of desperation in his eyes. “…Are sure there’s no one else who could do this?”

Teresa sighed. “I’m afraid not,” she told him. She then ushered Syr aside, motioning for him to lean in toward her. “It will smart, yes,” she said, her voice lowered. “But it’s crucial that we do this. It’s to make sure his tail’s all right. He’s sustained some kind of trauma to it before, and very serious complications can arise from a tail injury in his species—and already have, in his case. We do not want him going into crisis again… do you know what that is?”

Syr shook his head.

“Autoempathic crisis is a vicious cycle caused by damage to a wobbuffet’s tail—or more specifically, to the pseudobrain in the tail, which is the source of their ability to use retaliatory attacks,” Teresa began to explain. “In crisis, the pseudobrain fails to distinguish pain with an internal cause from pain caused by an attacking enemy. It retaliates, involuntarily, by inflicting twice the pain on its source as usual—but with the source being the wobbuffet itself, it only creates a new, greater pain that it must also counter. The cycle continues repeating, doubling the pain again and again, until the agony reaches a level that the wobbuffet’s body just can’t bear any longer.

“I was there when he suffered his last crisis—it was awful. The convulsions, the screaming… God, how he screamed…” she whispered, sounding lost in the memory for a moment. “He was almost too far gone by the time we managed to stabilize him, and the dosage of painkillers it took to break the cycle nearly killed him in and of itself.”

“My God…” Syr said almost voicelessly, both amazed and alarmed. “You know… just for the record, I think the ‘trauma’ to his tail you mentioned was someone stepping on it,” he said, not naming that someone out of respect for the dearly departed. “More than once. Accidentally,” he added quickly.

“Yikes,” Teresa said, grimacing. “Well, anyway… the damage to his RE centers can never be fully repaired. He’ll never be entirely out of the woods. We may be forced to… well, to remove his tail if it gets out of hand again. So hopefully you see why it’s important that we’re made aware of any continuing problems he might have—we need to be able to take care of them before they get a chance to blow up in his face again. Will you help us?”

“Of course,” Syr said. “Still, I don’t really want to hurt him too much…”

“Just one acid and one bite,” Teresa said. “One special attack and one physical attack so we can gauge both responses.”

“You’re not testing his destiny bond?”

“Luckily for both of you, no.”

“Okay… okay, I can do that.” Syr turned toward Esaax and slithered somewhat closer to him, still nervous but knowing that he had to go through with this for Esaax’s sake. He called upon his acid technique, trying to keep it relatively weak so as not to hurt his friend—and by extension, himself—more than was necessary. The acid swiftly filled his mouth, and he spat it in a forceful spray toward Esaax.

Esaax was ready. His tail rose, its oculons collecting a broad spectrum of data about his opponent and any incoming attacks. Focusing hard, he opened the pathways to his retaliatory empathy centers. Doing this so consciously and deliberately was difficult for any wobbuffet, but years of practice had finally allowed him to master this ability. A bright pink aura flared around him as the acid hit its mark and seared the skin of his left arm, sending an amplified echo of the pain that the poison-type attack had caused back unto the arbok.

Syr shouted in pain and recoiled, surprised by the force of Esaax’s mirror coat—it seemed he hadn’t weakened his acid attack as much as he’d intended. “Sorry…” he said, at which Esaax made a dismissive gesture despite the pain in his expression.

“Very good,” Teresa said to Esaax. “Now this time, try to suppress it. Hit him a little harder, Syr,” she added, earning a rather uneasy look from the arbok.

This time, Esaax braced himself. His efforts to develop his abilities had enhanced them to a point where it took very little to set them off. As he took Syr’s second acid attack in the other arm, he had to fight hard to suppress his body’s urge to retaliate. Luckily for Syr, Esaax succeeded.

“Excellent! Syr, change attacks,” Teresa commanded.

Syr lunged forward in a bite attack, his fangs taking on the violet-black glow of dark-type energy as they connected with Esaax’s side—but he made a very conscious effort not to let them sink in too deeply. An orange flash heralded what was nonetheless a very strong counter attack, and the arbok was sent reeling back with a cry.

“What the…” Syr’s voice faltered as he struggled somewhat to pick himself back up off of the ground, panting slightly. “I’m holding back. I swear I’m holding back.”

“I’m sure you are, but you’re still hittting a psychic pokémon with a dark attack,” Teresa said. “Now bite him again.”

Syr opened his mouth… but then closed it. His brows were drawn together with worry.

“He’ll suppress it this time. You ought to be fine,” Teresa assured him.

Syr hesitated for another moment, then gave a quick nod and approached the wobbuffet again. He stopped in front of him, then gave one of his hands a very weak little nibble, with a negligible amount of dark energy accompanying the attack.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” Esaax said.

Syr bit him harder. Barely harder.

“That one didn’t really count, either.”

“Do it, Syr,” Teresa said rather sternly.

“Okay, okay!” In his haste, Syr’s jaws snapped shut on their target with full force. Esaax cried out, and the sound echoed in the room for several seconds. The arbok quickly let go of him and cringed, but there was no orange flash and no painful retaliation.

There was, however, an irregular semicircle of deep punctures around Esaax’s chest and left shoulder. The wobbuffet panted as he stared, quite astonished, at the wounds. Syr stared at the damage as well, looking equally surprised and deeply apologetic.

Teresa managed a proud smile at Esaax. “Congratulations,” she said. “If your tail can resist that, it can probably resist anything.” Her frown swiftly returned as she watched the rivulets of cobalt-colored blood now seeping from Esaax’s wounds. “Looks like your prize for passing the test is going to be a healthy dose of hyper potion…”
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 3 – In Review

Esaax’s wounds were cleaned and repaired, leaving only a faint series of scars where the stronger bite had connected and nothing at all of his lesser injuries. Soon afterward, Teresa informed him that Adn was ready for him. Esaax told Syr to find somewhere comfortable to wait, then headed for Adn’s office. With a deep, steadying breath, he walked in of his own accord where once he’d have had to be pushed.

Behind that door stood a blue-haired gardevoir, who served as the Haven’s psychic regression therapist. His method was to make patients relive various moments in their pasts and gauge their present states of mind by their conscious and subconscious emotional reactions to their induced recollections.

As always, not a word was spoken and no signal was made as Adn and his patient took their places. The scene of the office blurred and warped, swiftly replaced by very different surroundings. Once again, Esaax found himself thrust into a perfectly vivid replica of a scene from his memory. Now standing in this bygone time and place like a tourist in his own past, his regression began…

* * *​

Esaax was born fifty-four years ago to the Evergray clan of the caves south of Blackthorn. His childhood was quiet and uneventful; not much changed from night to night until Esaax reached his mid-thirties. It was there and then, at the dawn of his adult life, that one evening brought something new—something that would alter the course of his life forever.

From faraway Hoenn, a nomadic branch of a clan called the Fade somehow journeyed across the sea and into Evergray territory. The foreigners were readily welcomed and allowed to stay as honorary members of the community while in the area.

Among the visitors was a wobbuffet by the name of Ntairow. She and Esaax began spending time together and soon bonded, first as friends, then as lovers.

Then, only a few months after arriving, the Fade moved on. Though Ntairow demanded to stay, and Esaax offered up his own pleas for her to remain with the Evergray clan, the elders of the Fade wouldn’t allow it. Ntairow was forced to depart with the rest of her clan, held and carried away in the arms of her people, leaving Esaax behind.

Esaax refused to accept this. He left the caves and tried to follow the Fade through the mountains, but he failed to catch up with them. The nomads were relatively swift, hardy, and used to traveling, whereas Esaax was out of shape. He collapsed there on the mountain trail under his very first sunrise.

He lay there for hours, breathless, heartsick, hungry, sunburned, and alone. Then some peculiar creatures came up the mountain trail and discovered him. They were humans, and they’d come in search of unusual and uncommon pokémon to give away as prizes at the Goldenrod Game Corner. Drained as he was, Esaax could do nothing to resist the red beam that pulled him into a very strange state of not-quite-being.

Week after week went by, spent largely in the confines of what the humans called a “poké ball”. He was let out only to be fed, and the portions given to him were much too small and too infrequent for his liking. As time passed, he began to lose hope of ever finding Ntairow again. Learning that he was the first and only wobbuffet acquired thus far by the Game Corner, with a price in game tokens no one was likely to win, made him all the more certain he wouldn’t.

Then one day, quite literally against the odds, a man from Palmpona cashed in enough tokens to take him home. Esaax was more than a little surprised to materialize not in the Game Corner’s back room but rather in the midst of a birthday party as a present for the man’s son, Benny.

Now in the hands of different humans, Esaax lived a very different life. Benny liked his new pokémon a great deal, and a strong friendship between the two formed quickly. Wherever the human boy went, Esaax went with him, and Esaax never had to go back into the poké ball once he’d made it clear that he disliked it.

Esaax lived this way for three years, and he loved it. He would’ve liked things to remain just as they were forever. But in Palmpona, it was inevitable for every pokémon to ultimately become fodder for the town’s trading obsession. Though Esaax didn’t understand Benny’s desire to trade him, he agreed to respect the young human’s wishes, allowing himself to be put up for trade out of gratitude for the kindness Benny had shown him.

As it so happened, the year Esaax was involved in the trade expo was the first year in its history in which things went awry. Thus it was that he accidentally became a member of Team Rocket. His partners consisted of two humans and four pokémon, one of the latter of which was able to speak the humans’ language. Though the Team Rocket way of existence was riddled with misadventures, Esaax came to find it amusing in a strange way. Fun, even.

Esaax’s new owner, Jessie, didn’t really understand much of anything about him, though—not his language, his needs, or his proper use in battle. She also failed to understand his feelings about being kept in a poké ball, but by that time he’d learned how to break out of one, much to her vexation.

While in her possession, the problems with his tail first began to rear their heads. One day found him going into autoempathic crisis and very nearly dying from it. Nearly losing him awakened a much greater appreciation for him in Jessie, and she soon became the best human friend that he’d ever had.

Unfortunately, not long after they’d finally connected in earnest, the world changed for pokémon—and ended for humans. A plague of fatal sleep mysteriously struck the entire human population all over the globe, bringing extinction to the species in just a matter of hours.

With Jessie gone and something of himself lost with her, Esaax fled the scene of her demise and wandered for days in shock. Sometime later, once his spirit had begun to mend itself, he began seeking out old friends, hoping they’d provide a foundation on which to rebuild his life. In particular, he sought his pokémon partners from Team Rocket. Ultimately, his quest yielded six no-shows, one rejection, and one successful reunion. That reunion was very promising in the beginning, but ultimately led to tragedy.

That was the last straw—Esaax’s stability was dealt the killing blow. Once again, he tried to run from his sorrow. Eventually, he found himself in the city of Convergence. It had once been a fully-integrated community, in which pokémon had lived, worked, and learned in many of the same ways the humans did. Following the Extinction, many of the pokémon there continued to live the lifestyles the humans had taught them, perhaps as an act of remembrance.

But Esaax had no more luck in finding serenity there than he’d had in any of the other places he’d searched. He fell into a spiral of sickness and despair that finally culminated with him trying to provoke a mightyena into killing him. She instead took pity on Esaax, delivering him to the Haven and thus to salvation…

* * *​

With a quick yet gentle severing of mental connections, the session ended. It was still hard to believe that over half of a century could be compressed into less than five minutes. As far as Esaax was concerned, though, how it was possible wasn’t important. It was what it determined that mattered.

Usually, Adn would dismiss Esaax with a simple, psychic signal, not saying a single word. This time, much to Esaax’s surprise, was different.

“I see that the sorrows of your past can still evoke pain in you, Esaax,” the gardevoir said.

Esaax pondered that for a moment. Then he wilted. “You mean I failed the test?”

Adn burst into laughter so suddenly and unexpectedly that Esaax flinched. “No, no!” the gardevoir said warmly. “You’ve passed! If the memories of your grief and despair hadn’t hurt, then you would have failed. You ache where it is appropriate, and you rejoice where that is appropriate. For you, that’s what’s healthy. Numbness is not.”

“…So I can go, then?”

“Yes, you certainly may,” the gardevoir said, smiling proudly. “Farewell, and good luck to you!”

* * *​

The time to return to the world at large had finally come. As Esaax stood before the exit next to Syr, he bade farewell to the people who’d taken such good care of him. Teresa made him smile, Madeline made him feel slightly ill, and a skiploom he didn’t even know just baffled him by doing something very rude with her tiny arms (which Esaax didn’t realize wasn’t intended for him). Adn was absent, apparently already engrossed in another session, but he sent his kind regards with Teresa.

On the verge of tears, yet beaming like the sun, Esaax thanked everyone for their support and waved one last goodbye. Then he passed through the doors as they opened, emerging into the outside world for what felt like the first time in eons.
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The Ghost Lord
I see you updated the physical/specialness of Syr's moves. :p


-Hugs Essax tightly-

-hugs even tighter knowing what's going to happen-

I've always loved your take on his story and am gonna enjoy seeing it unfold again!

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
InsaneTyranitar: I bet hugging a wobbuffet feels like hugging a giant stress ball. A giant, rather loud stress ball.

Just, for the love of all that's holy and some of what ain't, make sure and mind that tail. :B

AND YEAH UPDATES ALL UP IN THIS establishment. I haven't gotten around to making it 100% 6th-gen compliant, but it's partway there. You'll see what I mean later on.

Thanks for reading! :)


The Ghost Lord
AND YEAH UPDATES ALL UP IN THIS establishment. I haven't gotten around to making it 100% 6th-gen compliant, but it's partway there. You'll see what I mean later on.

[Intrigue intensifies]

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 4 – The Messenger

The nearest place to park in the shade was five blocks away from the Haven. Five blocks to walk under the harsh midday sun, which Esaax hadn’t been under for years. He certainly wasn’t enjoying it, and he continued to wonder how in the world a snorunt could tolerate it at all, shade or no shade. He still halfway expected to find a little gray-and-yellow corpse sitting behind the wheel—or perhaps just a puddle…

Breaking away from that train of thought and the rather morbid turn it had decided to take, Esaax tried to distract himself from the light and the heat. “Hey Syr. Think Jan’d let me drive? It’s been a while.”

“It’s ‘Jen’, Esaax, not ‘Jon’,” Syr corrected.

“I said ‘Jan’.”

“Well, whatever you said, it was wrong. Anyway, no, you can’t drive this car.”

“Yes I can,” Esaax said a bit crossly. “Just tell him to point the way.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s just not gonna happen. Besides which… well… I haven’t forgotten your record with vehicles. Every time you tried to drive something, anything, you’d break it or wreck it, or else you’d just—”

“But they fixed that at the Haven,” Esaax interrupted. “They made me stronger so I can be more careful and less likely to break things.”

The arbok at his side raised a scaly eyebrow at him. “…Somehow that doesn’t sound quite right.”

“I’m not gonna wreck it! Just let me drive the stupid thing!”

“I’ll only say this one more time. Listen very carefully. You can’t drive this car,” Syr said.

Esaax was about to argue some more, but then he actually saw the car—a copper convertible—for himself and knew at first sight that Syr was absolutely right. The wobbuffet couldn’t drive it, no matter how much he wanted to or how carefully he thought he could. The driver’s seat had been modified, reshaped expressly for small species to put everything within their reach. The space was so small and everything in it crammed so closely together that it would have been awkward to the point of impossibility for someone Esaax’s size to occupy and use.

And there was indeed a snorunt behind the wheel. Despite Esaax’s concerns, the ice-type was very much alive and well. Jen scrutinized Esaax through beady little eyes, nibbling every few seconds at a tropical snow cone as he stared. “That’s him?” he asked.

“Yes, this is Esaax. Esaax, this is my son, Jen,” Syr said.

“Uh… hi,” Esaax greeted him with an awkward little wave.

“Hi,” Jen responded, continuing to stare at Esaax. Then he smiled at the wobbuffet, further baring teeth that looked more than capable of taking off an arm. “I’m very happy to meet you, Esaax. You can ride up front with me if you want.”

Esaax shivered, finding that smile more than a little unnerving. But it looked as though he didn’t really have much choice with regards to the seating arrangements; Syr was really too big to ride anywhere but in the back, and it’d be more than a little cramped if Esaax joined him. Most of his body could handle the compression just fine, but his tail gave him pause.

So Esaax took his place next to the snorunt, albeit reluctantly. The arbok got in after him, coiling loosely across the back seats, and within seconds they were all on their way.

“So uh…” Esaax said to Jen shortly after they’d headed off, chatting more out of nervousness than actual interest, “how do you plan on driving this thing once you evolve and don’t have hands anymore?”

“He’s not evolving,” Syr said.

“Now that’s not fair,” said Esaax. “You can’t forbid him to evolve just because you’re scared of—”

“No, it’s all right,” Jen assured him. “I don’t want to become a glalie. If he said ‘do it’, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do it for anyone.”

“Huh. I always thought it’d be kind of neat to evolve,” Esaax said.

“You never have?” Jen asked.

“Well, yeah, I have, before I was born. But that doesn’t really count.”

“Huh… Anyway, it isn’t just ‘kind of neat’. It’s major. It’s not just your shape that changes—your whole life changes. Especially when it comes to changing into a glalie…”

Jen gave a small shudder and went dead silent, apparently not wanting to proceed any further with that topic. Luckily they arrived at their destination just then, preventing things from getting much more awkward.

The three of them entered the house, and the interior caught Esaax by surprise. This had once been a home for humans, and outwardly it still looked like one. But on the inside, only a scattered few furnishings, such as a television and a large, gray sofa, still spoke of its former residents. In the place of human décor, the home had largely taken on a more natural appearance, fashioned into a curious amalgam of a woodland burrow and a cave.

Esaax tossed himself onto the sofa like a bean bag and stared up at the ceiling and the artificial stalactites that hung there. Their points hung a lot closer to the ground than the ones he remembered from Evergray territory; he had to shoo away an sudden, unbidden mental image of one of them breaking off and falling on him. “How long did it take to put all this together?” he asked as he turned his gaze back toward the arbok, indicating his surroundings with a wave of his hand.

“Couple of months,” Syr answered. “We started right after I got Jen. We actually had a pretty small team working together on it; I’m surprised the work went by so fast.”

“I think it’s cool,” Esaax said. “You guys did a good job.”

“Nomel cookie?”

That wasn’t Syr. Esaax looked over to his right and found Jen offering him some dainty-looking little cookies on a tray. There was that disturbing smile again—was that a smile? Man, that kid’s creepy, Esaax thought. He took two of the cookies and thanked Jen so as not to risk offending the snorunt’s feelings—he didn’t want to find out the hard way just what those teeth could do.

Esaax popped a couple of the cookies into his mouth, but a weird twinge prickling across the back of his mind in the next moment distracted him from their flavor at once. Someone, and something, were coming his way. He had no time at all to figure out how or why he knew this; just as soon as the notion had hit him, that someone was knocking at the door.

“I’ll get it,” Syr said as he went to answer the door. He opened it and found a xatu standing on the other side.

“Misters Esaax Evergray and Syr. Someone wishes to speak with you,” the xatu said.

“How’d you find us?” asked Esaax as he rose to join Syr.

“And who wants to speak with us?” Syr added.

“I foresaw myself arriving at this destination prior to leaving,” the xatu said in response to the first question. To the latter, “You are summoned by one Faurur ursh Nanku.”

Both Esaax’s and Syr’s eyes widened dramatically at this. Syr’s mouth fell slightly open, but he remained silent.

“I shall wait for you outside until you’re ready to leave.” Without even touching it, the xatu closed the door on the bewildered recipients of his message.

Esaax and Syr looked at each other for a few moments, neither saying a word. Finally, “Jen?” Syr spoke up, turning toward where Jen still stood with his cookie tray. “Esaax and I need to have a talk in private,” the arbok said. Jen nodded and planted himself on the sofa while the others left the room.

Syr led Esaax into the bathroom and shut the door. Esaax noticed that unlike the other rooms he’d seen, the bathroom was almost completely human-style. All the fixtures were still intact—including the toilet. Unbidden curiosities made it to the surface of his mind, even in spite of the much heavier thoughts already there.

Fortunately, Syr brought Esaax back into focus before he couldn’t help asking as well as wondering. “I’m not so sure about this,” the arbok said. “You’re the psychic. Tell me: can we really believe this guy?”

“I’m psychic, but I’m no mind-reader. Still, I’m pretty sure he’s for real. I got this… this feeling about him just before he showed up. I knew he was coming and that his arrival was very important somehow.”

“A premonition?”

“I guess so. I can still feel the weight of that, plus… something else. I’ve just got this instinct about him, and it just feels really, really… big.” He shrugged. “It’s enough for me to vouch for him, anyway.”

The wobbuffet noticed that he was pacing and realized he’d been doing so ever since he’d entered the bathroom. He’d overestimated his nerves yet again. He managed to get his legs to stop moving, but his tail kept on anxiously switching back and forth. Though he tried, he couldn’t calm it.

Sighing in surrender to his unrest, Esaax said, “You know, that’s actually what I wanted to discuss with you back at the Haven—not the xatu, obviously. I mean, you know, what all you two did after you left T—” He felt his voice catch in his throat. “What you guys did after you left us, and how Faurur’s been lately…”

“I actually haven’t talked with him in a long time,” Syr said, sounding a bit troubled.

“Her,” Esaax corrected.


“You really haven’t seen Faurur in a long time…” Esaax remarked. “What’s been keeping you two out of touch? I always thought you were like the ultimate best friends and all…”

“Hey, it’s not like it was my fault!” Syr blurted out. His outburst surprised even himself. He took a moment to stop and breathe; then, “Sorry… sorry, it’s not like it was really Faurur’s fault, either. Something happened—something really strange. It was almost right after Faurur and I parted ways with you. These strange lights appeared and moved across the sky one night. The next day, the koffing were all saying that their ‘gods’ had arrived. They demanded that my people swear loyalty to these gods, too.

“We had no clue what they were talking about, and we weren’t about to just give ourselves and our faith to total strangers. So the koffing drove us all away—you wouldn’t believe how strong they can be in a group…” He shook his head. “Anyway… since you’ve seen her more recently than I have… how was she?”

Esaax hesitated. He didn’t really want to go on about what had happened between himself and Faurur; the memory still pained him to no small degree. But at the same time, he couldn’t help feeling like he owed it to Syr, seeing as the arbok and weezing had known each other and been close friends long before he’d come into the picture.

As Esaax began to tell his story, his voice underwent a marked transformation. His words were strained; it was all too clear that he was forcing them out.

“After the Extinction,” Esaax began, “I tried to get back together with some of the old crew. No luck finding anybody other than Basath, but… well, she kind of hates me… You never got to meet her, though, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” Syr confirmed.

Relief washed over Esaax’s features; maybe he could put off discussing that incident, then. Deciding he needed to get back on topic as quickly as he could, “Eventually, I managed to find Faurur,” he said. “Now, as for these ‘gods’ you were talking about, she didn’t mention any such thing. And when I asked her where you were, the answer she gave me was really ambiguous. She told me that you and the ekans just decided to go off on your own somewhere, and that you gave no explanation as to why.

“What she said didn’t seem suspicious at the time. I don’t remember that anything about the situation did. But now that I think about it, I’m not surprised that I missed the signs. I was… kind of in another mind at the time…

“Anyway…” Esaax’s voice started to tremble and crack. “…Anyway, something went wrong—nothing to do with gods or sky-lights or any such crap. Faurur wanted to know, of course, what had become of her poor, precious ‘Master’. She actually, honestly didn’t know; that’s how far-removed her life had become. I had to break that news to her. I had to deliver that message—it was awful.

“You can just imagine her reaction, right?” But before Syr could answer, “Wrong. You have no idea. I mean, the level of adoration she had for him… it was much greater than we ever thought. I told her, and it was like I’d just ripped her right open…”

Once again, Esaax caught himself pacing and stopped himself, albeit with difficulty. But this time, rather than standing, he sank to the floor, sliding down the wall until his spine bent at a sharp angle.

“It was awful,” he repeated. “I just felt like a monster for making her feel that way. And so I swore that, no matter what, I would do anything to help her. I gave her that pain, so I had to be the one to take it away. I had to be there for her so she could recover.”

His voice changed yet again; it was now barely more than an exhalation. “We became very, very close…”

Syr’d had his head lowered in the somberness his friend was casting over the room. He finally looked back up at Esaax and found the wobbuffet staring at nothing.

“We became very close,” Esaax said, “and then… and then we…” He swallowed very hard. “We had an egg.”

For a moment, Syr was too surprised to say anything. Even once he found his voice and his wits again, “Oh… oh wow…” was all he managed.

“We had a little girl,” the wobbuffet continued. “A koffing, of course, but a little more blue than purple because of me. When she hatched, she was so tiny I could hold her in one hand…” He gave a wistful and very shaky smile. “She was named Drasigon, and I really liked that name. Faurur told me that it means ‘never ignored’, and I agreed on it instantly.”

Startlingly, his gaze locked back into focus in a single moment. With a stare like a homing missile straight into Syr’s eyes, Esaax said, “Guess how long she lasted.”


“Come on, guess.”

What kind of a thing is that to say? Syr wondered. “…How long?” he finally asked.

There was no response.

“How long?” Syr asked again, more gingerly this time.

Four days,” Esaax answered abruptly, harshly. “Four days. That’s all. Four days, and then she just burst into flames. And then she was gone, Syr, like some evil magic hit her. For no reason!”

Esaax was shaking so hard at this point that it looked like he could just fall apart. His eyes closed, overflowing with tears. As Syr stared at him in shock and sorrow, feeling tears gathering at the corners of his eyes, he thought that he saw something strange, something troubling: for just a second, there seemed to be a faint, multicolored aura around Esaax.

“And Faurur was there when it happened, too,” Esaax went on. “We were just frozen there for a little while. I looked her right in the eyes, and… and I just didn’t know what to do, so I… so I just ran…”

Silently weeping, Syr gathered up the wobbuffet in his coils and embraced him tightly as if trying to hold him together. Though Syr certainly wanted to reunite with Faurur, he wasn’t sure it was such a good idea for Esaax to revisit that aspect of his past face-to-faces, regardless of whether or not the wobbuffet wished to do so. In fact, Syr began to wonder if maybe the only place Esaax ought to be going was right back to the Haven…

Before he could say anything to that effect, however, Esaax took a very deep breath, stood once more, and then effortlessly removed himself from the arbok’s coils. “I have to go back to her,” the wobbuffet said. “Right now.”

“Are… are you sure that’s such a good idea?” Syr asked quietly.

“She needs us,” Esaax responded, wiping the tears from his face as well as he could. “Both of us. She wouldn’t have called for us both if she didn’t. If something happened to her because I couldn’t be there for her…” He swallowed hard again. “…I don’t think I could forgive myself, Syr.”

Syr frowned at Esaax for a moment, still unsure about the situation. Esaax lowered his gaze, then turned toward the door. Sighing, Syr followed him out of the room and back to where the xatu was waiting, hoping that this was indeed the safer course of action for his friend to take.
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Lost but Seeking
Hey, it's great to see you back again. The forums haven't been the same without you around.

I was actually just meaning to re-read this 'fic, so the revision getting posted up is wonderfully convenient for me. Unfortunately it's been so long since I read the last version that I won't be able to make any meaningful comparisons between the two, but it'll be nice to experience the story (almost) anew. It is kind of weird how it's starting to come back to me now that I've read the first few chapters again; I remember, vaguely, the extinction, the major characters, and some of the future events. And yet there's some pretty big stuff that I'd completely forgotten about, like the fact that Esaax and Syr are Team Rocket's wobbuffet and arbok.

I also admit that I forgot how funny this story is. It might just be my impressions being colored by stuff that goes on down the line, but I remember this as a very dark story, and while there have been hints of that already, so far humor has really been its biggest characteristic. Esaax's discomfort with Jen and his car in particular was a nice lighthearted interlude. Syr's personality, too, is great; he's funny in a sweet way, and it's easy to imagine him doing ridiculous puppy-dog eyes the way he sometimes does in the anime. The cutest giant stranglesnake.

I have to admit, though, that one thing I found funny that I really wasn't supposed to was Esaax's description of his daughter's death. It was obviously horrible and traumatic for him, but "then she just burst into flames" cracked me up a bit. If I recall correctly we eventually get some more insight into what went on there, but as it is spontaneous baby combustion was just so out of left field that I had to laugh.

Anyway, I've enjoyed reading over these chapters again, and I look forward to seeing the rest go up in time. It's also great that you managed to get Communication finished after all this time--congratulations! It's great to see you posting here again!

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Negrek: You should've seen the original version of the babysplosion conversation. All the laughs of the current version, plus a nice "Poof!", said aloud, to further liken the event to an evil spell.

It wasn't quite "wobbuffet busts into obnoxious nu-metal"-tier (yes, that was in an early draft, too--20-year-old me was kind of baffling), but my cousin and I could both assure you it was pretty gosh darned hilarious. XD

Now, on the subject of intentional humor... There was pretty much no way it wasn't going to find its way into this, heh. I think I've actually written more comedy than anything else, really. (Most of it... doesn't really belong on this board. XD) But even if that weren't the case, I doubt I could have resisted throwing some silliness in here, especially given who this whole thing is ultimately about.

Also: GIANT STRANGLESNAKES. Okay, that is officially the best description of an arbok I've ever seen. So glad said stranglesnake's sweetness is coming through, too! He really is a big purple softie, ain't he.

I'm glad to be back, and it's awesome to see another familiar face pop up in this thread. (Or, well, familiar name, at least. Unless the shiny slugma counts as a familiar face.) Thanks a bunchs for reading! :D

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 5 – The Fire and the Air

A golden light swelled around Syr, Esaax, and the xatu. When it faded, the xatu bowed and bade them farewell, saying that he knew when to return for them. With that, he teleported away, leaving Esaax and Syr alone and somewhat confused.

Where the bird had brought them was not where either had expected to go. They were in a very long and narrow alleyway. Two tall, rather plain buildings loomed up on either side, and a huge cement wall created a dead end. The structures cast dreary, gray shadows into the alley that made it seem later in the day than it actually was.

“Look at this place,” Esaax said. “This could be any city… there’s no telling where we are.” He kicked at an old, dented soda can. “You know… I think it’s kinda strange that Faurur had us brought to meet her here when she could have had that xatu bring her to us.”

“I’m not surprised, actually,” Syr said, then shook his head as if trying to clear something out of it. “Poison-folk don’t tolerate being exposed to psychic energy very well. I know I didn’t particularly enjoy the trip, but I don’t think we really went very far. Otherwise, I’d really be feeling it. Faurur, however, doesn’t live anywhere near Convergence. Or didn’t the last time I saw her, anyway. It wouldn’t have been good for her to teleport that whole distance,” Syr explained.

“Right, of course… That makes sense.”

Syr nodded. “So where is she?”

“She’s here. I can totally feel it.”

“Oh, I know. I’m aware of her, too; she’s got to be nearby,” Syr said. “I’ll just keep looking over here, and you—” He fell silent.


“Esaax, come here,” the arbok said softly.

Esaax heeded the arbok, feeling an awful, compelling sort of dread about what he was going to see. What did he find? he wondered. Dear Night… she’s not dead, is she?

It turned out she wasn’t, but her current state suggested that might not be the case for much longer. She was reduced to lying deflated on the asphalt, pale and shapeless.

Esaax leaned forward as close to her as he could, but he couldn’t have reached eye level with her at this point without melting into the earth. Tears stung his eyes as he took in the sight before him. He could barely breathe, feeling as though he could just cave in on himself at any moment, just like she had.

But why had she? What had happened to her? Esaax had only seen Faurur this way once before: one time (out of countless many), when their meowth-head balloon had been shot down by that particular pikachu, she’d landed very ungracefully upon the rocks below. Her mantle had torn, leaving her deflated and unable to get up off the ground until she was given the necessary medical attention.

Esaax could see no sign of a breach this time, but still… “What did this to you?” he asked hoarsely.

“Nothing,” Faurur replied, her twin voices sounding very weak. “Nothing but the seasons. One hundred and thirteen seasons… too many…”

“What? Oh no, that’s right…” Esaax said as he remembered. It was a statistic that Faurur had mentioned to him while they’d been waiting for their egg to hatch. About a hundred seasons, or twenty-five years, was generally as long as any weezing could expect to live. Most didn’t make it anywhere near that far, and yet Faurur had managed to surpass that mark.

Thus Faurur was very, very old. Esaax explained these details to Syr while Faurur silently gathered her strength for more crucial words. The two gazed upon her with immense sorrow as the apparent truth sunk in: she hadn’t called them there to help her. She’d called them to say goodbye.

“Listen,” Faurur spoke up again. “I came here to warn you. Beware the strangers from the sky!”

“From the sky…” Syr’s mind, reluctant to process this situation further, didn’t know what to do with Faurur’s unexpected warning at first. “…Do you mean the sky-lights? I thought those were your gods,” Syr said.

Faurur emitted a sound of loathing, a deep groan that was alarmingly loud given her condition. “Gods?” she scoffed. “Deranics aren’t gods. Worms, maybe. But not gods. They tricked us. They promised us happiness. But they brought only slavery. My whole colony—my family, all of them, never to be free again. And after we fought so hard for them!” She stared up at Syr with anguish in all four of her eyes.

“I know,” the arbok said, his voice constrained. “It’s okay. Your people didn’t really mean to drive mine away, did they?”

“No. The deranics controlled us with their lies. But listen, they won’t stop with us. More will come and spread their worm-lies through all lands. They’ll seem so nice at first, but don’t trust them—that’s how they started with us.”

Faurur lowered her voices even more then, as if afraid of someone overhearing. “This is very important. Pay attention and never forget: their work has already begun. Already something huge has been done to the world by them. I know because I heard it from them myself. They think we’re too stupid to remember what they say… Anyway, they call it…”

She had to stop to catch her breath, but she was also working through a minor frustration. Finally, she forced herself to continue. “They call it ‘Seterhath Zulo-Denvenda’.” And then she literally spat, the sludge arcing weakly and splattering on the ground before her. “Filthy worm-language! We all know some of their words, but these…”

Faurur winced, revealing her pain for the first time. “I have no time,” she said, half-panting. “You must figure it out. Don’t forget: beware the deranics. And don’t forget ‘Seterhath Zulo-Denvenda’. Figure it out and warn the world, please!”

“We will,” Syr said, his voice shaking. “We will. Don’t worry.” Esaax nodded in agreement.

Faurur smiled at them. But then she cried out in agony.

Esaax cringed at the horrid noise—and just as it erupted from the dying weezing, a shard of burning pain sliced deep into his chest. In that moment, suspicions he’d had about himself for a long time grew stronger than ever before.

“Faurur… I think I can help you,” he said then, his voice sounding very fragile. He leaned forward and laid his hand upon her as he spoke—just as he’d done once before, with someone else…

Her body was still save for the vague fluttering of her mantle as she breathed. Esaax, meanwhile, was shaking so hard that he could barely stand as he struggled to accomplish something he still only suspected he could actually do. Even as the first hints of a multicolored aura began to blink into existence around him, he feared his efforts would prove to be in vain. Still, he kept trying. He owed her greatly, and for reasons beyond the fact that she’d been his friend and lover.

“I’m so sorry,” he managed in barely more than a whisper.

Faurur no longer howled or screamed. She seemed to have moved beyond pain at this point. She only made a small, puzzled noise at Esaax, as if she didn’t understand what he was saying.

“For running away,” Esaax elaborated. “For abandoning you all those years ago. First… first, Drasigon left you, and then I…”

Faurur actually gave a little chuckle of surprise. “Is that all? It’s fine! Don’t cry, I’m not angry at you. You just didn’t understand. Drasigon never left. She just changed into the air. You see? You just didn’t understand then, so you ran away. But now maybe you do understand.”

She must be delirious… Esaax thought. “I still shouldn’t have just taken off on you like that.”

It’s fine,” Faurur repeated. “Why do you fret? You’re here now, right? And Drasigon…” Both of her mouths curved into weak but earnest smiles. “Drasigon is here, too, in the air. Can’t you feel her?”

So that’s what she’s saying. Esaax kept his hand upon Faurur despite how unnervingly warm she suddenly became. “I was always told that we become part of the earth after… you know.”

“Maybe,” Faurur said softly. “All I know is the fire and the air…”

And then, as if on cue, flames blossomed from within her. She gazed up at Esaax and Syr, her expression showing nothing but pure and serene adoration even as the fire raged. Within mere seconds, the flames had consumed her completely.

Esaax had involuntarily pulled his hand away just in time, but how close he’d come to being burned couldn’t have been further from his mind. He hadn’t had enough time to completely form the psychic link by which he’d hoped to help Faurur. A sense of failure grew within him, and it felt as if it were hollowing him out inside.

As Esaax watched Faurur’s ashes and embers float away, he felt Syr gently lay his tail-tip upon his shoulder.

“Esaax… I think there’s someplace you really need to be right now,” the arbok said very quietly.

Then, just as the xatu had promised, the golden light of teleportation bloomed once more to bring them home.
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 6 – Hope

Jen opened the door for Syr and Esaax upon their arrival. The arbok slithered into the house with all the liveliness of a zombie, practically carrying Esaax.

Syr placed the listless wobbuffet on the sofa and made his way into the kitchen, realizing a beat later that Jen had followed him. Without turning, he said, “I’m about to need you and your car again. Esaax is going right back to the Haven.”

“Going back?” There was a constant clicking as Jen’s tiny, gray feet hopped and skittered across the linoleum. He was apparently having a very hard time holding still.

Syr sighed heavily. “We’ve just experienced… something difficult. I’m worried that Esaax might not be well enough to handle it.”

Syr told Jen about what had happened in the alley with Faurur. He also told him about the strange aura that had appeared around Esaax before they’d gone to see her.

“They must have made some kind of mistake at the Haven. I think he’s still suffering from some kind of psychic disturbance,” he said.

Jen remained silent for a few moments after Syr had finished speaking. “…I think I might have an idea,” he then said.

The snorunt was still pacing, meanwhile. His eyelight was unsteady. Something was clearly gnawing at him. “Are you all right?” Syr asked.

Jen gave Syr a quick glance with preoccupied eyes and swallowed hard. “I’m fine,” he answered. “I think I am, anyway.”

“I hope you are; I’d hate for you to get sick, too.” Something else Jen had said finally clicked. “ You said you had an idea?”

“About Esaax? I was thinking it might be a good idea for him to come to Hope with me tonight. I mean, that place was originally established to help people handle loss,” Jen said. “Maybe the Haven alone just isn’t enough.”

It made sense, Syr thought. At the very least, it seemed like it was worth a try. “I think you might be on to something,” he said.

Jen nodded, insofar as he could. “Maybe you should go, too. I couldn’t help noticing the tears…”

Syr hadn’t noticed them. He quickly turned his head. “I’d… really rather not.” He forced himself to meet Jen’s gaze once more. “But don’t worry. I think all I need is some quiet time alone to remember. Then I’ll be fine.”

“Okay. I’m going to try and talk to him, if that’s all right.”

“Of course it is. Go ahead.”

Jen fetched the nomel cookies and a cup of water and carried them to the living room and the spiritless wobbuffet therein.

Esaax was still lying on the sofa. Mentally, he couldn’t have been further away. He didn’t seem to notice or care that his head and arms had come to dangle over the armrest, his face steadily turning a much deeper shade of blue.

Jen placed the cookies and water on the little coffee table in front of Esaax. Esaax paid no mind.

“I brought you some refreshments,” the snorunt said, but he may as well have spoken to a big, blue brick. He frowned concernedly at the wobbuffet. “You probably shouldn’t be hanging upside-down like that. You might get a head rush.”

He tried pushing Esaax’s head back up over the armrest, but it was too large and heavy for him to hoist up. So Jen decided to take a different approach. He hopped up onto the other end of the sofa and grabbed Esaax by the pods. With a tremendous effort, Jen managed to pull the wobbuffet back up into a more proper resting position.

Jen sat down on the armrest opposite Esaax, panting as he did so. Once he caught his breath, “I heard about what happened today,” he said. “I’m really sorry. I wish there was more I could do, but…”

If Esaax was listening, if he was even hearing Jen’s words, he gave no indication of it.

Jen’s frown deepened, but he carried on regardless. “Anyway… I was wondering if you’d like to come to the Hope Institute with me later on. The people there are very knowledgeable about the kinds of things you’ve been through. If you want to talk about it with them, you can. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, too. I think even just being there might help. I know it’s helped me. So… do you want to come along with me tonight?”

The snorunt might as well have said nothing at all. Esaax just continued his zombielike stare into nothingness with glazed eyes and sagging lips, completely unresponsive.

Jen sighed. How in the world can I get through to him? he wondered. He stared like a bird of prey at the untouched cup of water as he mulled over this problem. As he did, the liquid began a curious transformation. It shimmered and gave a slight quiver, and then with a tiny crack, it instantly froze solid. It then began sprouting up and out of the cup, spreading out into intricate, crystalline branches as it rose.

Strangely, this tree made of ice seemed to be just what it took to coax Esaax back into the present. The moment it caught his eye, he was enthralled by it; the shapes the enchanted ice was forming were soothing and mesmerizing in an odd way.

Esaax noticed the snorunt out of the corner of his eye. Is he doing this? he wondered. Wait… is he glowing? Esaax turned his sights fully toward Jen… but it seemed that there was no glow about him after all.

Huh. Must’ve imagined that, Esaax thought idly. Back to the tree… pretty… Still spellbound by the moving ice, “Where’d you say this was?” he asked in a voice that was devoid of inflection.

The wobbuffet’s voice snapped Jen out of his own altered state. Only then did he notice the ice tree, and he gasped in shock as he realized what had been happening. I almost let it go that time… It was getting harder and harder for him to resist the urges of a body that desperately wanted to evolve.

“Oh, um, it’s called the Hope Institute. It’s just on the other side of town,” he said. “Are you saying you want to go?”

Esaax was wearing a smile that looked both contented and intoxicated. “Yeah,” he answered, “sure…”

“All right,” Jen said. “I'll go tell my dad, then.” He hopped off the sofa and left the room, leaving Esaax to stare at his accidental creation. Jen wasn’t so fond of that tree, given what it signified, but at least some good seemed to be coming out of it. If anyone needed a nice distraction, it was certainly Esaax.

* * *​

Mid-evening, Jen’s convertible pulled up to the curb across the street from the sprawling, single-story structure that was the Hope Institute. It had no identifying characteristics other than a simple wooden sign on which the word “HOPE” was painted in black unown-characters. The sign was crudely lit from beneath with a single lightbulb.

As Jen led Esaax (who was once again independently mobile, albeit still seeming a bit distracted) through the entrance, a sceptile at the door stopped and bowed in front of them.

“Blessings,” she said, her tone very warm and inviting.

“Blessings to you, too,” Jen replied, bowing in turn.

“Is the wobbuffet new here?” the sceptile asked.

“Yes, ma’am. He’ll be welcomed, right?”

“Of course.” The sceptile turned to Esaax. “Blessings,” she repeated, bowing to him and offering her clawed hands, which Esaax took as he returned what seemed to be the ritual greeting in this place.

“May your spirit be ever light,” the sceptile said in farewell, as Jen and Esaax left her behind and headed indoors.

Esaax followed Jen into an assembly space of some sort: a large, well-lit room whose walls were plastered with posters bearing various uplifting slogans in unown-script. Looking around, he saw a diverse collection of pokémon species gathering in this place. A few of the attendees were milling about, while others were conversing with one another in small cliques. Most of them, however, were already forming a nice and orderly audience. Standing, sitting, coiled, grounded, or perched in semi-loose rows, they all had their eyes or equivalent sensory organs trained straight forward at a presently unoccupied, scarlet-curtained stage.

Clearly something was about to take place there, and so Esaax turned his attention forward, too. It wasn’t long before the stage was no longer empty.

A hitmonlee stepped out from behind the curtain, carrying a microphone and a clipboard. He scanned the audience briefly, and for a moment he looked like he was ready to speak. But then he glanced at his clipboard and gave the mouthless equivalent of a frown.

The hitmonlee turned and shouted something to someone offstage, though Esaax was too far away to hear exactly what was said. At the hitmonlee’s call, an especially large glalie drifted across the stage toward him.

“Hey, Jen,” Esaax said, continuing to sound only partially present. “That glalie up there… is that someone you know?”

“No,” Jen said, and he sounded distinctly uneasy. “No, I don’t.”

“You’re sure you don’t? Cause he’s acting like he knows you. He’s looking this way right now.”

Indeed he was. He’d apparently become fixated on Jen and Esaax’s general location.

“…Why is he staring at us like that?” Esaax asked, nervousness beginning to break through his previously dazed tone.

The glalie hesitantly broke eye contact with Esaax and Jen as he finished his conversation with the hitmonlee. Then he went right back to giving the two of them the laser-eye. With his stare unbreaking, the glalie descended from the stage and started making his way into the audience.

“Why is he coming this way?” Esaax asked in a small, slightly panicked voice.

Jen didn’t answer. He only watched the glalie approach, standing stock still all the while.

The glalie came to a halt before the two of them. “Blessings,” he said.

“Blessings,” Esaax and Jen returned in unison. If Jen was still uneasy around the glalie, he did an admirable job concealing it.

The glalie’s gaze shifted more toward Esaax. “Pardon me,” he said, “but could you come with me, please?”

“…What for?” Esaax asked uneasily. He found himself starting to shiver and wished he could stop, but his steadily building unease wouldn’t let him. He was beginning to realize in earnest that he didn’t really have any idea what was going on here, and the current face of his uncertainty was just too large and too close for comfort.

“I’m sorry, but this is the youth assembly,” the glalie answered. “You’ll want our adult group.”

Esaax took another look around and finally recognized that the audience was indeed comprised entirely of children and adolescents. He looked to Jen, but the snorunt made no move to contradict the glalie.

With a nod and a vaguely affirmative noise, Esaax agreed to follow the glalie to this “adult group”. But just as they were about to leave, the glalie hesitated and turned back around. He was staring again, but only at Jen this time, and the glalie looked distinctly conflicted as he did so.

However, the action terminated without explanation, the same way it had begun. The glalie abandoned whatever that pause might have led to in something of a hurry, leaving Esaax scrambling to catch up.

Esaax followed behind the glalie through corridor after corridor. He might have been more fascinated by how swiftly such a creature was able to move in spite of having no legs and looking to be very heavy if it weren’t for the fact that he was growing more confused and anxious by the second.

What is this place… and why did I come here? He honestly couldn’t remember. His mind offered only blankness whenever he tried to present it with those questions.

He had other questions, too: Where are we going, exactly? How big is this place, anyway? The youth assembly looked like it was about to start when we left; wouldn’t the adult meeting have started by now, too? Shouldn’t we already be there?

Unless that’s not really where we’re going…
That thought was truly unsettling. What if I really am in some kind of trouble… Oh crap, am I?

Esaax almost tried seeing if the glalie would shed some light on things, but he found that asking questions to his back wasn’t much easier than asking them to his face. He couldn’t just stay quiet, though; as it ever did, his nervousness forbade it. Esaax finally opted to start out with small talk, hoping it would help him to bring out the more important questions and their answers more easily.

“Excuse me, uh, sir?” Esaax began tentatively.


“What’s your name?” Esaax asked.

“Solonn,” the glalie answered, “and you?”

“I’m Esaax.”

“Ah, all right, then. Pleasure to meet you, Esaax,” Solonn said.

The glalie’s last few words didn’t quite reach Esaax. Whatever the ice tree had done to the wobbuffet’s mind was continuing to dissolve at an increasing rate, replaced just as quickly by a growing, unrelenting feeling that he’d forgotten something crucially important, the sort of thing that should be utterly impossible to forget.

“I’m afraid we’re already a little late,” Solonn then said, “but the good news is that I know a shortcut through the building that’ll keep you from missing too much more of the assembly. We’ll just go right around here, and—”

Solonn halted all of a sudden, neither executing his turn nor finishing his sentence. A pair of doors to his right had just slid open unexpectedly. A second later, there emerged the most peculiar creature…
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 7 – One on One

Esaax stared at the creature who’d just stepped out into the corridor. The newcomer stood on two legs and had chin-length, reddish-brown hair. He wore human clothing, which in and of itself wasn’t terribly remarkable; Esaax had seen the occasional pokémon wear human-style clothing before, both before and after the Extinction. He’d even worn some himself. What had taken such a strong hold of Esaax’s attention was the fact that it really looked as though this wasn’t just another pokémon dressing like a human…

Esaax shook his head, dismissing that possibility as well as he could. There’s no way, he told himself silently. It has to be a trick of some kind. Like a disguise or something…

“Sir… don’t you have a client to tend to at the moment?” Solonn asked of the newcomer.

“He didn’t show,” DeLeo responded. “And I suspect he’s not gonna. He was doing an awful lot of sniffling last time. So I thought I’d take it easy and grab a bite to eat instead,” the newcomer replied. There was something strange about his voice; it almost sounded as though he were performing a less-than-perfect impression of another person.

It was then that he noticed Esaax. His eyes widened, and he smiled broadly. “Hey, there! Haven’t seen you around here before!” He offered his hand to the wobbuffet; Esaax took it after a moment’s hesitation, and was given a vigorous handshake with a surprisingly strong grip. “The name’s Sylvester DeLeo, and I’m the president and founder of this fine establishment. And you are…?”

“…Esaax” the wobbuffet replied.

“Glad to make your acquaintance, Esaax,” DeLeo said, still smiling. “Say… do you mind if I ask you a quick question?”

“Uh… No, I guess not,” Esaax responded.

“Okay, then. Tell me, what clan are you from?” DeLeo asked.

“Evergray,” Esaax answered, vaguely wondering why DeLeo wanted to know such a thing.

“Ah.” DeLeo straightened his posture. “All right, Esaax, if you’ll just follow me, I’ll take you to my private counseling office,” he said, gesturing toward the room he’d just left.

Esaax stared at the doors in uncertainty for a moment. He looked toward where Solonn had been hovering and found that the glalie had excused himself, taking his knowledge of how to get to the adult assembly with him. “Could I still go to the assembly?” he asked of DeLeo.

“Well, you could,” DeLeo said, “but you’ve already missed a good chunk of it. If you come with me we can take it from the top. Not only that, but your concerns—what you need—could be addressed more directly this way. Seeing as how you’re a first-timer here, I think you’d definitely benefit more from that than from walking in on a meeting that’s not only half-over but is also really geared more toward helping people out with more generalized problems.”

That seemed to make enough sense, at least as far as Esaax was concerned. The idea of going to a meeting and possibly not being able to understand what in the world the people there were talking about didn’t appeal to him at all; he was dealing with enough confusion as it was. “Okay,” Esaax said, allowing DeLeo to lead him into the private counseling office.

DeLeo took a seat behind a desk at the far end of the rather small room, then gestured toward a trio of chairs in differing styles and sizes that were lined up against the wall to Esaax’s right. Esaax regarded them for a couple of moments but then shook his head, indicating that he’d rather just stand.

Esaax had now fully emerged from the tranquilizing haze that had enveloped him, but his amnesia still remained. He was so preoccupied in his search for his missing memories that it was hard to pay unbroken attention to anything going on externally; as such, he didn’t notice right away when the office became significantly darker. He cast a glance up at the dim lights above him, then turned his sights back toward DeLeo.

“Thought you’d be a bit more comfortable this way,” DeLeo explained. “I know wobbuffet aren’t too keen on bright light.” He folded his hands on the desk before him. “So. Before we begin, I’m curious: how’d you discover us, Esaax?” he asked. “Did a friend tell you about us?”

A friend? Esaax didn’t know Jen particularly well, but he nonetheless responded with, “Yeah.”

“Well, I’m glad you took your friend’s advice. You did the right thing coming here, Esaax. I promise you: we’re gonna help you out, no matter what it takes, okay? Now, the first thing you’ve gotta do, though, is you need to tell me exactly what’s wrong.”

That’s what I wanna know! Esaax thought desperately, still struggling to regain his memory and perhaps thereby figure out what he was even doing in this strange place. He remained silent, staring at DeLeo with a very troubled look.

“It’s okay, Esaax,” DeLeo assured him. “You can trust me. Anything you tell me will remain strictly confidential. So you can just go right on ahead and let me know what’s troubling you.”

Esaax would have gladly let it all out if only he’d known what “it” was. Once again, he strained his mind for the answer, doubting his efforts would yield any success.

But then DeLeo provided the answer for him: “You’ve lost someone who meant a lot to you, haven’t you?”

Esaax felt his heart seem to stop for a moment, his breath catching halfway up his throat, as the last remnants of his trance shattered. His full memory returned suddenly, brutally, the sorrows that it carried revealed anew. Such stark lucidity following such a thick mental fog was painful, and he couldn’t help crying out.

“That’s right,” DeLeo said soothingly. “Just let it all out.” He noticed that Esaax was beginning to pitch and sway on the spot as if his spine were turning to rubber. DeLeo stood and managed to pull up a chair for Esaax just in time for the wobbuffet to collapse into it.

DeLeo then returned to his seat. “You’ve got something in common with just about everyone who’s come here, you know. Just like you, they’re also mourning people they loved—particularly their lost human friends. I know you’re gonna have no problem finding people here who can relate to your suffering.”

“No one can do that,” Esaax croaked, his eyes suddenly overflowing with tears. “They can’t possibly understand how I let her—how I let both of them down. How I failed them.” He turned away in shame. “They died because of me,” he whispered.

“Oh, Esaax, no. You know better than that,” DeLeo tried to console him. “It wasn’t your fault that—”

“But maybe it was!” Esaax interrupted. “I… I don’t know. Look, there’s something you don’t know about me. I know it’s gonna sound crazy, but… there’s something strange inside me. I don’t know what it is, but… it can heal people. I just know it can. It could even stop them from dying, but I just don’t understand it enough to know how…”

As Esaax spoke, he stared into the “eyes” of his own tail, gazing into their reddish-black blankness as if he could find the long-sought understanding of his own internal mysteries there. He finally closed both his eyes and his oculons in despair.

“Both times, I didn’t really think very much about doing it, if at all,” Esaax said in a low, cracking voice. “I just tried, and I failed. First Jessie, all those years ago. And then Faurur, just today! If I’m still not good enough to save the people I care about after all this time, then I never will be…”

Esaax fell silent then, but DeLeo gave no immediate response to what he’d said. DeLeo’s face had taken on a somewhat somber expression, his gaze cast downward.

“You know,” DeLeo said quietly after a couple of moments, meeting Esaax’s gaze once more, “you really shouldn’t give up on your talents just yet. And that’s not the only thing you shouldn’t give up on, either. You probably believe, like most people do, that humans are totally extinct. Just gone from the world forever. But what if I were to tell you—” He leaned over the desk toward Esaax for effect. “—that we’re not?”

“…‘We’?” The voice of one of the Evergray elders, reciting one of her favorite sayings, rang out in his memory: “A fool fears he is wrong—a wise man fears he is right.” Esaax had been skeptical about what his eyes had been telling him about DeLeo, but now all those doubts were falling away. DeLeo’s last three words had been spoken in a human language.

Pointing a shaking hand at DeLeo and sounding much more accusatory than he’d intended, he blurted, “You’re—”

“Human,” DeLeo finished, continuing to use that human language. “Yep, that’s right. One hundred percent, honest-to-goodness human. But I’ll bet you suspected it right from the start, though, didn’t you?”

Esaax was almost completely overwhelmed by what the situation was giving him. There had to be some flaw about this creature, Esaax’s mind insisted, something to prove that he wasn’t human, because he couldn’t be—especially not when certain other humans hadn’t been allowed to survive…

When Esaax managed to come up with potential evidence that DeLeo wasn’t what he claimed, he pursued it right away. “You can understand me,” he said. “And the glalie. Humans can’t do that.” Something else dawned on him, as well. “And you’ve been speaking our languages!” He wondered how in the world he hadn’t realized it sooner. “How? You can’t…” he spluttered.

“It’s true,” DeLeo said. “All my life, I’ve been able to talk to pokémon just like they do amongst themselves. Now I’m using that gift to help pokémon deal with their loss.” Even now, speaking in the language of his own kind, there was a definite, unplaceable strangeness about DeLeo’s voice. “I think that might just be the reason why I was spared,” he said solemnly, “though I still don’t have any idea as to how I was spared. Still… the fact that I was gives me hope—hope that I’m not the only one and that maybe… well, maybe those who were lost don’t have to stay lost.”

DeLeo opened a drawer in his desk then, and he began rummaging through its contents. “That’s the real reason why I founded the Hope Institute,” he said. “Not just for the pokémon who were left behind by the plague but for the humans, too. We’re trying to find other survivors so we can help protect them and any future generations of humanity… and we’re also trying to find ways to bring back the ones who didn’t survive.

“And that’s why I’m offering you this.” DeLeo pulled a small, white box out from the drawer. From within it, he brought out a syringe, which he proceeded to fill with a pale blue fluid.

Esaax swallowed against the anxiety that built up in his throat at the sight of the needle. “What’s that?” he asked nervously.

“It’s a serum we’ve developed for pokémon who have abilities or powers that have been compromised or are just plain missing altogether due to birth defects, illness, elemental disruption, or any of a whole slew of other causes. It restores those abilities and powers.”

Esaax’s eyes widened. “Then… you mean, it could strengthen me… and my power… so that it’s not too weak anymore? So that it could be there for me when I need it, and… and I could finally, really help people? And never let anyone down again?”

“Maybe,” DeLeo responded. “I’ve gotta warn you, though: the serum is untested…”

“Then you can test it on me,” Esaax said hoarsely but firmly.

DeLeo nodded and took Esaax’s arm. Seconds later, the serum was coursing through Esaax’s veins, while a single, silent vow repeated again and again behind the wobbuffet’s eyes: Never let anyone down again…
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 8 – Phasing Forward, Looking Back

The doors to DeLeo’s office opened, and Esaax let the human usher him out. The wobbuffet found it slightly harder to move than he was used to. His muscles were oddly tense, his tail flicking about restlessly, but his bones almost felt as if they could just melt away. Ah crap, don’t tell me I’m getting sick…


The voice from down the corridor drew Esaax’s attention. He looked and found Jen skittering his way.

“It’s time to go,” Jen said once he came to a stop. His eyes widened. “Wait… did you get to talk to Mr. DeLeo in private?”

Esaax was too distracted by his increasing unwellness to respond at first. “Oh .Yeah,” he finally managed.

DeLeo smiled down at the snorunt. “It was great to meet your friend, Jen. And I think I managed to make a real breakthrough for his benefit. Thanks very much for bringing him.”

“Oh, uh, no problem,” Jen said, still sounding slightly bewildered. “Thanks for helping him,” he added. He then bade DeLeo farewell and led an increasingly pale Esaax away.

DeLeo watched them leave, working his tie between his fingers with something of a faraway look in his mahogany eyes. It’s gonna be all right, Esaax, he thought. Soon you’ll have your old life back. Both of us will…

* * *​

Esaax was riding back to Syr’s house with Jen, and he was now genuinely sick. It felt like someone was rearranging his insides, and clumsily at that.

Jen noticed Esaax’s condition at the next red light. “You don’t look so good,” he said.

“Nnnnrrrrrrr…” was Esaax’s reply, and it was the last thing out of his mouth until he and Jen were a block away from Syr’s house, when Esaax threw up over the side of the car.

“Oh…” Jen said as he pulled into the driveway, then stepped out to inspect the mess. “Guess you’ll need to have that checked out… ewww…”

“Haven…” Esaax managed to croak out, “now…” He’d hoped to never return there, but he couldn’t think of anywhere else to turn to. Something was very, very wrong with him; he wasn’t sure any other place had the resources to help him.

“Okay, okay, don’t worry…” Jen said. He was about to get back into the car when the front door of the house opened. Syr slithered out and looked about ready to say something, but before the arbok could say a word, Esaax was violently sick again.

Syr shot a distressed look at the wobbuffet, and then at Jen. “What… what’s going on? When’d he get so sick?”

“Just a few minutes ago,” the snorunt answered. “It just hit him out of nowhere.”

“Haven…” Esaax groaned again.

Syr nodded. “Don’t worry,” he said, as much for his own benefit as for Esaax’s, “we’ll get you there right away.” He leapt into the backseat, while Jen got back behind the wheel. “Hurry!” Syr said.

The three of them made a beeline for the Haven, with Esaax vomiting twice more and developing tremors along the way.

* * *​

Forty-five minutes had passed since arriving at the Haven. Syr was coiled up in a waiting room, anxiously awaiting an update on Esaax’s condition.

He heard footsteps and steeled himself for whatever news might be coming his way, but it was only Jen approaching, having just returned from getting the car washed.

“Is he going to be all right?” the snorunt asked.

“I don’t know yet,” Syr answered. “I’m still waiting for the nurse to come back.” The end of his tail curled and flexed fretfully.

At last, Teresa entered the waiting room, and Syr met her gaze in a near-instant with hope and dread surging through him all at once. “How is he?” he asked, struggling a bit to keep his voice from cracking.

“He’s stable, for now,” Teresa responded. “He actually came right out of that fit almost as soon as we’d gotten a hold of him. He might still relapse, though; we’ll need to keep him here until we can be sure of exactly what he’s experiencing. He’s in no hurry to leave anyway, trust me. He’s almost too weak to move at all.”

“So… you still don’t know what’s wrong with him?” Syr asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Teresa replied. “We still have some tests to run through, the results of which will hopefully give us the answers we’re looking for. Unfortunately, that will take time.”

Syr’s head lowered, his hope extinguished. The wait for answers wasn’t over after all. “Maybe it really was too soon to let him out,” he said. “That psychic sickness, the one he was in here for to begin with… I think it’s still there. I saw this strange, multicolored aura around him just hours ago, and he’s been like the living dead ever since…”

Teresa’s expression turned troubled. “No such aura ever appeared while he was here, not even once. Adn’s methods should have triggered it if it were still possible for it to be triggered.”

“Is Adn here?” Syr asked. His eyes and his tone begged for the answer to be yes.

“Not at the moment, I’m afraid,” Teresa said, and she sounded genuinely sorry about it. “But I’ll speak with him as soon as he gets back, all right?”

There was a moment’s delay, but then Syr sighed. “Okay,” he said, sounding defeated. “Just… please, take care of him. Please,” he said, looking imploringly into Teresa’s eyes.

“We’ll do everything we can,” Teresa tried to assure him, then turned and left.

As Syr watched her go, he dearly hoped that everything that the Haven’s staff could do would be enough.

* * *​

Esaax lay in bed with his eyes closed, still suffering the aches and nausea of his mystery illness. Though miserable, he was about to fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

As such, he almost failed to notice the presence that entered his midst then, emerging from the wall just above his bed. A dark bluish-gray gengar now hovered over him, clutching a flat, black stone whose edges had a silvery sheen.

By the time Esaax’s presently-compromised psychic senses realized there was a potentially dangerous, partly ghost-type creature nearby, the gengar had already vanished from the scene. The stone, however, had not—Esaax opened his eyes in a delayed and imperfect state of primal alarm just in time to see it drop from the air and land right on his face.

He would have shouted in pain and surprise, but the moment the stone made contact with his skin, a massive jolt fired through his body that took his breath away. An instant later, it was gone and replaced by an especially unpleasant feeling in his bones—a stretching feeling, as if someone had seized each one of his limbs and both ends of his spine and were pulling on them as hard as they could. It genuinely felt as though every part of him were being stretched out of shape, as if his entire body were being forcibly and dramatically elongated.

There came a second shock, much greater than the first, when Esaax realized that it was.

* * *​

Not far away, in a large puddle of recent rain, the reflection of a long, blue face gazed up at its owner: none other than Ntairow Fade, who was finally near the end of a very long search.

She’d been forced by her clan’s leadership to leave Esaax behind with the rest of the Evergray, but she’d never truly accepted the choice they’d made for her. Ultimately, she’d broken free from her clan, aided by a few fellow Fade she’d successfully convinced of the injustice that she’d been dealt.

Soon after she’d escaped, something new came into the picture. Something that had made her all the more glad that she was free to return to the Evergray and reunite with Esaax. That something appeared at her side now, another blue reflection in the water, resting on his long arms as he peered into the puddle with a large, perpetual smile.

“They’re ready, Mother,” the wynaut said.

He was her son, named Zerzekai. Tonight he was going to take part in the ritual of evolution—for about the fortieth time. Zerzekai seemed to fear evolving despite how earnestly he wanted to evolve; as such, every single one of his “transforming” battles thus far had ended the same way: cold feet and only two of them.

“The question is, are you ready?” Ntairow asked.

“Of course I’m ready! I know you’re gonna be proud of me if I do this, and I bet Father will be, too!”

“We’ll be proud of you no matter what,” Ntairow assured him. “And your father’s going to be absolutely delighted to finally meet you, no matter what form you’re in.”

When she’d made it back to Evergray territory, she’d been told that Esaax had left and was nowhere to be found. Upon learning this, she’d set out with her child in order to find him and bring him back to what she’d thought of as her new clan ever since she’d first spent time with them.

“But we already met! …Oh. No, we didn’t. Not really…” Zerzekai reminded himself, sounding crestfallen.

The wynaut and his mother had made numerous return trips to the Blackthorn area in search of Esaax. On one occasion, while exploring and playing alone, Zerzekai had actually found him. He’d realized almost as soon as he’d laid eyes and oculon upon Esaax that he was looking at his father, but he’d lost track of Esaax after running to tell Ntairow about his discovery.

“He should have recognized me,” Zerzekai said, and not for the first time.

Ntairow shook her head. “Different people’s senses don’t always work in the same ways. You know that.”

Differences in the way senses worked was a subject Ntairow’d had a very personal sort of experience with herself. Having already experienced a change in her own, she’d chosen to subject them to another set of enhancing alterations in order to ultimately track Esaax down. She remembered that at the time, she’d found it oddly funny that she’d managed to find the fairly obscure thing that was required to provoke those changes so much faster and easier than she’d found Esaax, and she wondered if he would find that similarly amusing.

She also wondered how much it was going to take to convince him that she was indeed the same person he’d known and loved before. Ntairow wanted to believe it would be easy enough, but…

She loved the Evergray. She really did. Their laws were nowhere near as strict as those of the Fade. But there was a lot about not only the world outside their caverns but also about the secrets of their own kind that they had yet to learn. If, in his time outside of Evergray territory, Esaax hadn’t learned that the course of action she’d taken in order to find him was even an option, she would have to enlighten him about it.

“We’re ready whenever you are!” a voice called out from not too far away then. Its source was a linoone, with a zigzagoon standing at her side.

“Go on, then, if you’re ready,” Ntairow told Zerzekai. “And remember: no matter how this turns out, we will both be proud of you.”

With a smile that was huge, even for a wynaut, Zerzekai rushed over to the linoone and zigzagoon and followed them to a larger clearing. The latter would be the one whom Zerzekai would fight (and defeat—the two normal-types had agreed to Ntairow’s request for the zigzagoon to throw the fight after having been paid handsomely in berries).

And after the battle, regardless of the outcome, they would go to reunite with Esaax. As a shout from the linoone signaled the start of the match, Ntairow found herself reminiscing about the last night she’d spent with him…


Ntairow’s reverie was abruptly shattered by something that seemed to explode inside her head, something that tore through the image of Esaax that she held within her mind and caused that picture to warp and twist.

Ntairow’s heart froze. “No… it’s not possible,” she whispered.

A horrid scream stabbed into her mind then—a psychic scream. It rose up, but then faltered and changed, distorted and corrupted in a way that could only have been achieved by…

“Dear Night, no!” Ntairow stood, reeling as she fought against the harsh brain-noise of the psybane that had suddenly and impossibly blossomed into being. “Don’t follow!” she called out to Zerzekai. But she could only hope and pray that her son had heard her and would obey, for she was already running full tilt toward Esaax and the horror that was befalling him. She suffered all the while as she ran, trying but failing to bite back cries of pain and clutching her head in her hands—in all four of them.
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 9 – Altered States

Esaax refused to believe it at first. Wake up, wake up, wake up! he screamed silently, again and again. But in truth, he knew better. This wasn’t a dream. There was no denying this new reality.

He’d shut his eyes to the sight of what was befalling him, wishing he could just pretend it away. Now that he was fully convinced that he couldn’t, a sort of morbid curiosity arose in him and compelled him to look again.

When he did, he saw the same thing his eyes had last shown him before he’d closed them in horror: his body was stretching itself out of shape, giving off a somewhat dim white glow as it did so. He was now longer than the bed on which he lay rather than the other way around—and he was still growing.

This surreal warping of his body had confused and terrified him more than it had actually hurt him up to this point, but now it made the shift from mere discomfort to sheer pain, starting when his head suddenly tore away from his shoulders in a single, violent jerk that threw him from the bed and onto the floor.

Esaax lay there in stunned bewilderment. His mind was almost frozen with fear, but his body was writhing and flailing in panic and agony. He vaguely wondered how he could possibly still be alive when it had genuinely felt like he’d just been beheaded.

The answer was that his head was still attached, though distantly now; he’d grown a very long neck. Its curvature gave him a clear, complete view of his transformation from a distance, as if he were watching it happening to someone else.

Still, the sight of his changes wasn’t anywhere near as awful as the way they felt—or the way they sounded. There was an audible creaking and crunching as his face bulged outward into an almost saurian shape. There were snaps and pops as his tail gained new vertebrae. There was a ripping sound as a meager coating of flesh raced to keep up with the rapidly elongating bones in his legs. There was the wet, sickening churning of altering organs, all the while accompanied by the violent pounding of his heart, every beat like brass knuckles to his sternum.

Pain exploded in his mouth as his original teeth were shattered by the sudden eruption of a new, more dangerous set: one row above and two below of curved, serrated teeth. At the same time, something searing-hot stabbed straight through his eyes to his brain, changing his vision.

His hands then seemed to tear themselves apart from within. Esaax watched in horrified revulsion as each of them split wide open, first at the knuckles and then off to one side, near the wrists. From the gashes, spindly, blood-soaked fingers began to emerge, four to each hand.

He wanted to scream. He’d been trying to all the while. But he was nearly breathless, and his voice wouldn’t come to his summons anyway. It was too consumed by its own changes to obey his involuntary commands.

Finally, there came the worst feeling of all, one that slowly spread up his now nearly eight-foot-long tail from the newly-formed bulb at its end that contained his pseudobrain. It wasn’t a pain but rather an impossible lack thereof. The part of him that should have been suffering the most instead felt nothing at all.

And furthermore, as he noted in fearful bewilderment, his new tail appeared to be eyeless… only to prove it wasn’t, right before his eyes. One by one, his new oculons opened in a ring around the bulb at the end of his tail, four in total.

Esaax’s tail twitched suddenly, and slowly, involuntarily, the multisensory organ curled inward. It brought itself to bear before his eyes, locking on to the center of his forehead. In that moment, in the dead stare of his own tail, Esaax’s heart seemed to stop, and he became as numb and still as a corpse. Then his tail and all of its senses came back to life, and with those senses, Esaax discovered an aspect of his new form that terrified him more than any other.

Right on cue, his voice returned. An unearthly roar tore its way out of him that was almost like two voices in one, simultaneously deep and piercing.

The weak light that had surrounded him finally gave out altogether, and the moment it did, the gengar who’d entered the room earlier appeared once more, rising up through the floor on the opposite side of the bed from Esaax. No sooner had she fully emerged than she seemed to melt back into the floor, her body losing definition as it rapidly dwindled, but she stopped shrinking once she was in her true form: that of a ditto by the name of Anomaly.

Anomaly flattened themself against the floor. As they did so, they extended part of their shapeless body in the form of two long, bright blue tendrils that were each as thin as a hair at the end. One of the tendrils reached out to grab the now spent evolutionary stone that lay a couple of feet away, while the other lashed out toward Esaax, who was now panicking, seemingly crazed.

Esaax’s tail noticed the swiftly-approaching tendril and flicked toward it. But Esaax, too absorbed in the fear and pain that still gripped him, gave no further reaction even as its end darted swiftly into the skin of one of his ankles.

The ditto withdrew both tendrils just as quickly, letting the stone rest on the floor right in front of their face for a moment as they hurriedly transformed again. As soon as a pair of white hands emerged from their changing form, they scooped it back up.

The shape Anomaly was taking was so familiar that they achieved it in no time. Where the ditto had sat mere seconds ago, the gardevoir known as Adn now crouched, but only for a moment before disappearing in a burst of golden light, leaving the Haven behind with no intentions of ever returning.

Almost immediately afterward, a small group of chansey nurses, drawn by Esaax’s screams, arrived at the scene to find the result of his unexpected evolution but nothing at all of its cause.

* * *​

Esaax floated, suspended in some strange, viscous medium. Though smotheringly hot, the gel that was wrapped around him was also comforting. He knew it protected him as it held him fast.

There were tubes entering his body from all sides. They fed substances into him that burned like the worst of all acids and brought pain to every part of him, but they also nourished him and gave him life. Despite the hurt they caused, he was grateful for them.

Something appeared in the murky distance, moving toward Esaax with incredible speed and grace. Esaax distantly wondered how it could cut through the gel so effortlessly when he was held so firmly in place by the viscous substance. When the thing drew close enough, Esaax saw that it had the form of a huge, disembodied, four-fingered hand—or rather the shadow of such a hand.

It closed around Esaax the moment he was within range of its long, thin fingers. Its grip felt like being enveloped in icy water. The contrasting cold was sudden yet not terribly harsh. It soon registered as a pleasant and soothing change after having been in such sweltering heat for so long. As the chill sank in deeper, it even started to dull the acidic pain that had been flowing through him.

The hand was snuffing out Esaax’s suffering. It was also snuffing out his life. Little by little, he felt less and less. The coldness filled him completely, consuming his every feeling. And Esaax found himself thinking it was fine to let this chill flush out his soul and leave him hollow, so long as the pain was purged along with it.

The dark hand began to carry Esaax away, and Esaax was perfectly willing to let it. This new void that the shadow-hand offered was comforting. It was good, and it was right. It was where he belonged.

Dragged ever further into the darkness, Esaax felt his nourishing lifelines start to break and pull out of him. Each one lost left him more unfeeling. It was good. It was right. It was…

Wrong! Suddenly panicked, Esaax fought against the tow of the dark hand, straining and thrashing in vain to escape the nothingness—

—and succeeding instead in escaping his unconsciousness. His eyes opened, and he was instantly aware that he’d been moved to another location. There was no bed here, and there was no door, either. There was barely any space at all, just enough to comfortably hold his large, spidery form. This room was nothing more than a place to contain him. It was just a box—or rather a cage, Esaax couldn’t help but think: a cage with soft, padded walls rather than metal bars.

“Nicer than being in a poké ball, anyway,” he thought aloud, and he was immediately surprised by the voice he’d just produced. It was a rasping, guttural kind of voice, sounding somewhere between a hiss and a groan.

I don’t sound like that! Esaax thought fearfully, but the fact was he now did. And oddly enough, he became bored of the new voice just as quickly as he’d been shocked by it. All at once, he felt as if the new voice and all his other changes had always been there.

A movement to his right caught his attention. His tail immediately focused on the source of the motion. A window that had been well-concealed opened there, and a familiar chansey’s face was visible through its thick, reinforced glass.

Esaax pushed his torso up from the floor and got up onto his feet, standing at more than eight feet tall. His neck naturally curved forward and downward, preventing him from having to duck more than just a little to avoid the ceiling.

Teresa watched him stand up, her expression unchanging as he aimed his gaze directly into hers. Her view of the large, blue pokémon was blurred every few seconds by the fog of his breath clouding the glass, giving Esaax an almost miragelike appearance.

“Esaax Evergray,” Teresa addressed him.

Esaax turned his head. The room, he realized, was soundproof. Teresa was speaking into a microphone, and her voice was reaching him through an unseen speaker somewhere behind him. Meanwhile, she listened through a speaker outside.

He turned back toward Teresa. “What?” he responded.

“You’ve evolved,” Teresa said.

“Good eye,” Esaax said blandly. He folded his arms and cocked his head at Teresa. The senses of his tail told him that she wasn’t happy with him, but he found that he didn’t really care. “So what of it?”

“I wasn’t aware that multiple-stage evolution was possible for your species,” Teresa said. “Do you know what you’ve evolved into?”

Esaax only stared at her in response. He hadn’t been aware that wobbuffet could evolve, either. For a moment, he wondered just what he’d become, vaguely annoyed at the fact that he didn’t know. But soon he decided that something else about his current situation was much more important.

“Why did you imprison me?” he demanded.

“Are you honestly saying you don’t remember? Or are you just being a wiseguy again?” Teresa had a hard time disliking anyone, but this creature Esaax had become—or more specifically, the attitude that apparently went along with the change—was threatening to push it. “You exhibited threatening behavior. The nurses who found you following your evolution told me you tried to kick and bite them, so we sedated you and put you here.”

At those words, Esaax wondered how long he’d been unconscious, but that moment of curiosity was as short-lived as the one that had preceded it. He gave an annoyed sigh. “I seriously don’t remember doing any such thing,” he said, “but if you insist that I did, well… sorry. Now how about letting me out of here?”

“I don’t think so,” Teresa said. “You see, wobbuffet are incapable of direct violence. We don’t know what else evolution might have made you capable of. So we’re going to have to keep you in there until we’ve managed to figure you out. Oh, and by the way: if you’ve learned to use any beams or projectile attacks to compliment your new physical advantages, and you’re considering using them to break out, don’t bother. The room is elementproof.”

“Huh. Well, could you at least get me something to eat? I’m starving in here.” The cell that held Esaax blocked sounds but not scents. It wasn’t until he smelled the chansey and tasted her scent of warmth and life and flesh on the air that he realized just how hungry he was.

“All right. Just give us a few minutes, and we’ll bring you something,” Teresa assured him, her tone and expression softening somewhat.

“No,” Esaax said. “I can’t wait that long.” He took a step back, then suddenly lunged forward, trying but failing to kick down the door. His jaws snapped against the window, the sharp teeth scraping the glass again and again with a harsh screeching sound.

Teresa jumped back from Esaax’s futile but nonetheless startling strike. She uncapped a hidden button on her microphone unit and pressed it. With a loud hiss, sleep powder sprayed forcefully into Esaax’s cell from all directions. In a near-instant, the cell was filled with obscuring, bluish-white powder. Seconds later, vents and fans siphoned away the dust, and Esaax was visible once more. He was completely subdued now, curled up and sleeping on the floor.

Teresa sighed, gazing at him with pity. I’ll find a way to get through to you. I swear it, she said silently.

She made her way to the waiting room and the arbok and snorunt therein. Once there, she explained the current situation to them. She then brought them to Esaax’s cell and allowed them both to have a look at him.

“You honestly have no idea what he’s become?” Syr quietly asked Teresa as he held a troubled stare upon Esaax.

“Not at the moment, no,” Teresa answered. As she spoke, she flicked a switch on the microphone unit. The cell’s small window and its view to the pokémon within were closed off once more. With a determined expression, Teresa turned to the others. “Come with me,” she said. “We may be able to find out yet.”
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 10 – Embracing the Predator​

“Can’t you do this any faster?” Syr urged.

“Do you want this done in a hurry or do you want it done right?” Madeline asked crossly.


“Just keep your skin on, purple man!” the mr. mime snapped.

Teresa, Syr, and Jen had fetched Madeline, and after briefing her on what had happened to Esaax, they’d gone with her to access the Haven’s pokémon database. In addition to being the first hospital designed to admit and treat both humans and pokémon, the Haven had also been a very active center of pokémon research. Here, an immense volume of pokémon-related data from all over the world was compiled.

Therefore it was odd, not to mention very frustrating for Madeline and those who were gathered there with her, when minute after minute of the mr. mime’s work (which, Syr’s impatience aside, was truthfully very speedy) continued to yield nothing on the subject of wobbuffet evolution.

“There’s something in here,” Madeline said, her fingers continuing to fly over the keys. “There’s gotta be…”

She paused in her work, if only fleetingly, to give an involuntary shiver. “Brrr. Is it just me or did it just get really cold in here all of a sudden?”

“Yes, it is getting colder…” Teresa was well-insulated against the elements, but she’d noticed the chill, too. She cast a questioning glance at Jen. The snorunt caught her eye and suddenly looked as though he’d been caught robbing the cookie jar. With a small, embarrassed noise, Jen made a hasty exit.

“He didn’t have to leave…” said Madeline, who was too busy to sound as sorry for Jen as she felt. She continued her search, her brow knitted in hard focus. Finally, “Argh.”

“‘Argh’?” Syr echoed, puzzled.

“Yes, argh. That’s everything,” Madeline said. “Nothing in here at all about wobbuffet’s evolution.”

“Maybe he’s become an entirely new form of pokémon,” said Syr.

“I don’t think so,” Teresa said. “It just seems too unlikely that this is the first time this has happened. There’s got to be a precedent.”

“Well, then it should be in here. But it’s not,” said Madeline. “We’ve got loads of information here, some of which is very obscure and unusual. History extending back thousands of years. So I seriously doubt the absence of evolved wobbuffet in here is just an oversight.”

Obscure and unusual…

Thousands of years old…

“Karo,” Syr all but whispered, wondering why he hadn’t thought of this sooner. The arbok made for the door, rushing past the other two pokémon in the room.

“What are you doing?” Teresa asked, startled by Syr’s sudden action.

“Plan B,” Syr said. “Stay put; I’ll be right back.” With no further explanation, he left the Haven and set off down the street.

* * *​

After traveling a short distance southward, Syr came to a three-story house in the part of town where the more expensive homes stood. This was the home of Ekunasic Karo.

Karo was a nosepass, aged 6,731 years, which among his kind was still fairly young. He’d once belonged to the gym leader Ren Bridges of the Apex League: the gyms open only to elite trainers. Following the Extinction, Karo was no longer bound by his gym duties and left with little to do apart from looking after his trainer’s house. He thereby had the time to acquire a few new friends, whom he’d occasionally invite over to admire his trainer’s collection of the rare, the unique, and the obscure.

Syr was included among those few. However, he hadn’t spoken to or even seen Karo in over a year. Somewhat recently, he’d asked one of Karo’s other friends what the nosepass might be up to, and the answer he’d gotten was that Karo had decided to go to sleep.

Therein lay the potential problem with Syr’s idea: nosepass could sleep indefinitely and were profoundly difficult to wake. If Karo was still sleeping…

Syr knew he’d just have to find out whether or not that was the case and deal with the situation as it unfolded. He slithered up the walkway and immediately found something amiss: the door was unlocked and ajar. He knew that Karo would’ve had someone coming over periodically to take care of things while he slept, but he doubted any of Karo’s housesitters would’ve so carelessly left the door open.

Cautiously, Syr slipped through the door, not knowing for certain what he’d find. He leaned in and nudged the lightswitch with his nose. In spite of the suspicious front the situation had already presented, Syr was nonetheless shocked by what he saw.

A number of hanging lights illuminated a scene of chaos. Trinkets and artifacts were scattered and broken all about. Furniture was upended, disarrayed, ruined. On top of that, the walls, floor, ceiling, and every other surface in sight was covered in three different colors of what was unmistakably smeargle graffiti—as was the nosepass in the middle of the room, who was just obliviously sitting there like the big rock he was.

Syr slithered over to Karo. The nosepass obviously hadn’t been up and around during the invasion of his home. Even now, he remained more still and inanimate than seemed possible, even for a rock-type. It made Syr wonder if Karo was more than just very deeply asleep.

Concerned now, Syr pressed his head against Karo’s back. He was able to hear something going on in there, working out an undeniable rhythm, albeit a very slow one. Syr let out the breath he’d been unwittingly holding, immensely relieved that the nosepass was still alive.

He glanced toward a nearby closet. I really need to memorize that pattern, he thought ruefully. He could’ve let Karo sleep if he’d already known it by heart. As it stood, he was now faced with the daunting task of waking him.

He tried shouting at Karo. He tried pushing and prodding at him. He even poked Karo in the eye, but still the nosepass kept snoozing on.

Syr was getting desperate at this point. He was on the verge of finding out whether or not Karo would respond to having something shoved up his huge, honking nose. Then he spotted something potentially useful in the corner.

It was a mace, which had caught Syr’s eye when light had glinted off of its surface. It was the only metal object in the entire room, though clearly not a kind of metal that was attracted by Karo’s magnetism; otherwise, the “up-the-nose” question might’ve answered itself.

Syr went over and lifted the mace with his tail. The weapon was good and heavy. Karo, meanwhile, was good and durable, enough so to avoid taking any serious injury from the thing. So Syr hoped, anyhow, as he returned to Karo and swung the mace into the side of the nosepass’s face.

Nothing happened.

Syr tried striking Karo just a little bit harder, this time hitting him just below his massive nose, but Karo still wouldn’t awaken.

Syr’s desperation peaked. He gathered all his strength and then some, raising the mace as high as he could. With a yell, Syr brought it crashing down one last time, dead center into Karo’s forehead.


There was a small explosion of gray dust. When it cleared, Syr saw that he had opened a long, shallow fissure in Karo’s head, splitting it like a melon.

Syr stared horrorstruck at the damage for a moment, terrified that he might have just killed one of his best friends. Then a groan issued from the nosepass. Karo rocked back and forth on his short legs a couple of times, then tilted backward and held that position, gazing up unsteadily at Syr.

Then, without warning, the nosepass lunged forward. Syr flung himself out of the way just as Karo’s pointed nose punched a large hole in the floor right where the arbok had been seconds before.

Syr kept himself at a distance as Karo righted himself once more. “Karo, it’s me!” he shouted, but it was no use. The nosepass was still fast asleep, with his cognitive faculties possibly compromised further by the blow to his head.

Worried that Karo might charge at him again, Syr tried to move out of the way. Much to his alarm, he found himself completely immobilized as if he were caught in an invisible vice. When’d he use block? Syr wondered, bewildered. He could do nothing but stare as Karo followed up with lock-on, his huge nose glowing as it brought itself to bear upon the arbok.

Syr knew what was coming next, and he wasn’t looking forward to it at all. He knew he had to get Karo back to his senses… but if cracking the nosepass’s head open couldn’t awaken him completely, then what could?

At any rate, Syr wasn’t keen on being on the receiving end of an electric blast if he could help it. With most of his options locked down at the moment, he prepared to use acid, but found to his shock that he couldn’t even get his jaws open. Damn, that’s a good block! Syr remarked silently as he was forced to swallow his own acid attack, leaving a sickening, burning sensation in his stomach.

An ominous hum resonated through the room, and the air tingled with electricity—Karo was about to unleash a zap cannon. Knowing he couldn’t escape, Syr shut his eyes in dread and braced himself…


When stars stopped exploding in Syr’s brain, he found himself lying on his side; the block that had been holding him in position had apparently been diverted to something else, though to what or why, Syr couldn’t imagine.

Meanwhile, one of Karo’s big, stumpy feet was filling almost his entire field of view.

Syr tried to bolt away, but the zap cannon attack had rendered him almost completely paralyzed, his body devoid of sensation and largely unresponsive. He was utterly helpless if Karo opted to crush his skull with that stone foot in his not-quite-conscious rampage.

Instead of attacking again, however, Karo spoke up. He seemed to be much more awake now, but he still sounded rather dazed. “Hey, Syr. Man, I don’t know what’s been going on… was I sleepwalking?”

“No, you were sleep-zapping,” Syr said, struggling slightly to speak due to his numbed mouth.

“What?” Karo was apparently still coming to some of his senses and not having a particularly easy time doing so. “Aw… dude, I am so sorry… did I really?”

“Yes, you did.”

“I am so sorry,” Karo said again. He slowly became aware of his surroundings. “Aw no, I didn’t do all this, did I?”

“No, it was some smeargle. They came in and trashed the place, marked all over everything. Including you.”

“When?” Karo demanded.

“I have no clue,” Syr responded.

“Hmmph. Yeah, it was smeargle, all right. Look at this mess…” The nosepass meandered around the house, surveying the vandalism and groaning ever louder as he stumbled upon more and more damage. At some point, he apparently came across his own reflection somewhere; “Aw crap, they did mark me!” he shouted. “…How’d they put this crack in my head, though?”

“They didn’t. I did,” Syr admitted. “I was trying to wake you up… Does it hurt?” Syr asked, hoping the answer was “no”.

“No, not really,” Karo replied. He came back into the room where Syr still lay immobilized. The hole he’d made in the floor caught and held his attention. “Who did this?”

“That would be you and your massive nose.”

“Huh.” Karo actually sounded as if he were impressed with himself.

Syr was not impressed. “Haven’t you noticed that I’m paralyzed here?” he hissed.

“Whoa… Yeah, you are, aren’t you? But that’s okay. Ren always keeps a good supply of dried cheri berries around—”

“Gee, I wonder why?” Syr muttered.

“That’s assuming those idiot mammals didn’t get into them,” Karo finished, ignoring Syr’s comment. “I’ll go get… oh. I forgot—they’re in the kitchen,” he groaned. “I can’t go in there…”

“And why can’t you go in there, exactly?” Syr demanded.


It took a moment for Syr to make sense of that. The arbok then noticed that Karo was heading for the front door. “Wait, where are you going?”

“I’m gonna get help from across the street,” Karo answered as he opened the door and began to step out. “Don’t move.” He stopped in his tracks as he realized he’d just said that to someone who was almost completely paralyzed at the moment. Then he burst out into loud, honking laughter, which was still audible long after he’d shut the door and left.

Syr just lay there on the floor, seething with annoyance and worry at how much time this misadventure was costing him and Esaax.

* * *​

Teresa leaned against the office door, the tip of her tail flicking about restlessly. Whatever Syr had gone to do, she hadn’t expected him to take this long about it. It was beginning to look as though Syr’s search for answers would prove as fruitless as Madeline’s had.

“Might as well look in on Esaax again,” the chansey said wearily. “I imagine he’s still asleep in there, though…”

Madeline turned in her seat to face Teresa. “Do you think maybe I could…?” she asked, fluttering her fingers.

Before Teresa could say anything in response, someone flung the door open. The chansey was catapulted onto the floor, where she rolled for a short distance before she could pick herself back up again.

Regarding the sticky remnants of the now shattered egg in her belly pouch with severe annoyance, she readied an angry glare for whomever was making their entrance. As it turned out, it was Jen. But before Teresa could chew him out, words came tumbling out of his mouth, loud and completely unintelligible.

“Say that again. And breathe this time,” Teresa said, seizing the snorunt by his shoulders.

“There’s-someone-at-the-front-door-and-I-don’t-know-who-or-what-she-is-but-she’s-here-to-see-Esaax-and-she’s-really-freaked-out-and—” Jen very nearly passed out right then and there.

Teresa sighed. “I thought I told you to breathe,” she said. “Thank you for letting me know about that, Jen. Now please go sit down and relax somewhere. Please.”

Teresa went over to the desk where she’d set down the microphone unit for Esaax’s cell, retrieved the device, and handed it to Madeline. “If he’s up, you can tell him he has another visitor. But if he’s not, don’t wake him.”

The chansey left the room, with Jen tottering woozily behind her. Madeline watched them go, then set out herself in a bit of a rush.

Esaax was currently housed in a part of the Haven that was rarely used, usually deserted, and far removed from the greater population of the hospital. This meant a bit of a walk for Madeline, but it was more than worth it as far as she was concerned.

Eventually, she found herself standing before Esaax’s cell. She hit the switch on the microphone unit controlling the window, and once the window had opened, she peered through it eagerly. The dim light fed into the room at all times revealed that Esaax was still sleeping, his slender, spidery body curled up on the floor.

Madeline marveled at the sight before her, impressed with Esaax’s new form beyond even her own expectations. If only he were awake, she wished silently, then I could see him in action

The mr. mime began to turn away, sighing in disappointment. Then she thought she spotted something moving out of the corner of her eye. Turning back, she saw something long, black, and ringed with eyes appear in the window, searching about like a periscope. Esaax’s new, saurian face rose up from the floor after it.

Madeline switched on the microphone and speaker in a hurry. “Aww, did you wake up just for me?” she asked.

“No,” Esaax croaked, at which Madeline wilted in mock embarrassment. “I wasn’t asleep,” he added.

“You weren’t?”

“I was faking it the whole time.”

“Faking it, huh?” Madeline echoed skeptically. “What about the sleep powder Teresa blasted in there?”

Esaax smirked. A lime green aura briefly shimmered around him.

Safeguard… Madeline just stared at him, her mouth hanging slightly open. She wondered how he’d managed to use it without Teresa noticing.

She continued to watch Esaax through the window, and he gazed right back at her almost… longingly… Madeline felt her mouth go dry. Could it be… does he really…? she wondered. “You… you really do understand the way I feel about you, don’t you?” she asked, her pulse quickening.

Esaax merely blinked at her, pressing his vaguely smiling muzzle against the glass.

Whether that was a “yes”, a “no”, or anything in between was utterly irrelevant; Madeline had already made up her mind. She threw a glance over her shoulder at the security camera that looked down upon them. It, like the rest of the Haven’s cameras, had gone out of order a couple of days prior and still hadn’t been repaired, but she still had an odd, fleeting notion that she ought to disable it.

She decided against tampering with the camera, however, and instead turned her attention back toward the device in her hand. She uncapped a tiny green button on the microphone unit and let her finger hover over it for a moment before pushing it. There was a faint tone. Then, smoothly and almost silently, the door to Esaax’s cell slid open.

The gangly shape within stirred, framed in soft light and looking ghostly. Esaax lurched forward and emerged from his cell, bowing his already low-slung head even further as he passed through the doorway. Now that he was no longer contained, he seemed much larger than he’d appeared to be while within his cell, and there was something about him that affected Madeline in a way she hadn’t anticipated. Something her psychic centers were beginning to react to in a primal and increasingly uneasy way.

Esaax moved toward Madeline with slow, graceful steps. He loomed over her, twice her height. He drew an incredibly long, deep breath, his broad chest swelling immensely. A long, red tongue flitted quickly across his lips.

Madeline looked up at Esaax with awe, struggling to breathe more calmly and to stop trembling so much. With a smile that was unusually hesitant to form, she reached for one of his massive hands.

The spidery, blue fingers closed over Madeline’s own with an iron grip. It was all she could do not to yelp in pain.

Esaax moved even closer and lowered his head, his face just inches from Madeline’s. His lips drew back, baring his jagged teeth. He began caressing her face with his muzzle, drawing short, panting breaths, taking in her scent.

Madeline felt a wave of revulsion wash over her. This was not the experience with Esaax she’d fantasized about so many times. He was starting to scare her, and not only with his behavior alone—the discomfort in her psychic centers that his mere presence seemed to cause was still growing, and it was strong and distinct enough now that she recognized its warning for what it was: He’s a dark-type now.

Nonetheless, she forced herself to look at him directly, trying as hard as she could not to appear as unsettled as she felt. She thought, or at least hoped, that if she could continue to treat him with affection, he’d snap out of this disturbing phase. Maybe he’d even start returning the favor.

She reached up with her other hand to touch Esaax’s face, caressing it with fingers that shook in spite of her efforts to calm them. His skin was rubbery and quite smooth, pleasant to the touch. She tried to focus on how nice it felt rather than on the fear that was steadily overtaking her. It began to work, too. But then Esaax’s head moved with alarming speed, the jaws snapping harshly. His serrated teeth sank deeply into the meager flesh of her arm.

Madeline screamed in pain. All the love she’d had for Esaax was gone now, replaced by pure, primal terror. Knowing she currently had access to no attacks that could do him any harm, and aware that she’d likely just get them thrown right back at her at twice the power if she did have any, she tried desperately to free herself from him, but to no avail. Her escape was foiled soundly, not only by Esaax’s sheer physical strength but also by the dark gray aura that flared into being around both pokémon at her attempt to escape. Esaax had retained his shadow tag ability.

He worried Madeline’s arm in his jaws with shredding teeth and sharp, jerking movements of his neck until the appendage was torn away at the elbow, gruesomely freeing one side of her, drawing more cries of agony. His left hand clutched her right hand even more tightly, and there were several sickening cracks as the bones in his grip yielded to the pressure. His other hand shot forward and slammed into her chest, pinning her to the wall.

Now struggling to breathe, Madeline stared through eyes blurred with tears at the empty space where half of her arm had once been. Then, fearfully, she looked up at Esaax once more. His head was already raised for another strike. Her blood dripped slowly and thickly from his jaws, and she glimpsed a couple of her own fingers protruding from between his teeth before they, along with the rest of her severed limb, disappeared into his mouth and down his very long throat.

It was then that Esaax became aware of something new. He’d just discovered the presence of a power he hadn’t tapped into thus far. He summoned it forth, and it rose up through his spine, radiated out through one arm, and gathered in his hand.

Esaax went ahead and released Madeline, letting her slump to the floor in her wavering consciousness, knowing she couldn’t escape anyway. Curious, he gazed at his own hand. Energy in a shade of black he’d never seen before danced in a slow vortex around it with a glow that was intensifying by the second.

He drew that arm back as if he were working an invisible bow. All of his senses focused fully on the bleeding, shaking mr. mime before him. His concentration became heightened to its fullest. At this range, it was virtually unnecessary to take aim, but he instinctively sought out the most lethal trajectory for his new weapon.

His arm thrust forward. With a loud, hollow sound, a glowing black beam of incredible intensity exploded from his hand, blasting Madeline point-blank.

At that exact moment, a horrible, sudden pain hit Esaax like a wrecking ball, taking his breath away. Red light exploded in his vision. His nerves burned for what felt like innumerable seconds, and his head felt as though it were blowing itself apart.

In his suffering, Esaax staggered and fell to the floor. When he rose once more, his mind surfaced from the altered state it had been in for nearly the entire duration of the time since he’d evolved.

His vision returned in the next moment. He saw blood before him, as well as something mangled and twisted—a corpse. Something—someone—who, mere moments ago, had been alive—until he’d killed her.

Esaax recoiled with a scream, suddenly frantic to be as far away from the scene as possible. His stomach violently expelled its contents. His renewed clarity wouldn’t let him believe that this was just a nightmare or a hallucination. The scene before his eyes unflinchingly spoke the truth: he’d murdered this pokémon. He’d tasted her blood. He’d eaten her flesh…

A howl of anguish and horror tore its way out through his throat. With fear, confusion, and disgust like none he’d ever known, all directed straight toward himself, Esaax brought his newfound technique to bear on the wall. He let it linger there until a large area of the wall had turned black and disintegrated, and then he fled into the night.
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Chapter 11 – The Vault

Karo returned just a short while after he’d left. He was accompanied by Breanna, a granbull from across the street, who fetched the dried cheri berries from Karo’s kitchen and administered them to Syr. She also provided a couple of sitrus berries from her own cupboard for the nosepass’s injury.

Syr had never watched Karo eat before. After finally doing so, the arbok decided he’d never watch it again if he could help it.

The granbull also tried to get the grafitti off of Karo. She was only partly successful.

After Breanna left, Syr explained what had happened to Esaax at the Haven. He then asked Karo if he knew anything about the evolved form of wobbuffet.

Karo gave Syr an odd, sly look. He beckoned the arbok to a closet that, when opened, appeared to contain nothing other than an obscene message scrawled in yellow smeargle ink. Karo brushed his nose against the back wall a few times, drawing an invisible pattern, and the wall slid aside to reveal another, larger room.

“After you,” Karo said, ushering Syr into the hidden room before entering it himself.

Syr wasn’t surprised by the secret room; this wasn’t the first time Karo had shown it to him. He also wasn’t surprised when he felt the room begin to descend; he’d taken this elevator a couple of times before.

“I take it this means you know something about what wobbuffet evolve into?” he asked.

“You could say that.” The elevator came to a stop. “Now, you’re not gonna find one hair of smeargle in here,” Karo said, snorting grumpily. “Stupid furballs, scribbling their filth—I’d like to show them who likes to eat their own…”

Syr and Karo exited the elevator and entered what Ren had dubbed the Vault. It was a large room that housed all of Ren’s most valued possessions. Just as Karo had predicted, there were no signs of intrusion by smeargle.

The Vault contained more books than anything else, arranged on towering bookcases that lined the wall directly in front of Syr as well as those off to either side. Syr’s gaze swept over the vast book collection. “Which of these has what we want?” he asked.

“Never mind them,” Karo said, making his way further into the room. “I kinda got the impression that you’re in a hurry—” Syr made an exasperated noise at this, with the face to match. “—so, for the sake of time, just watch the screen.”

The screen Karo was referring to was mounted on the opposite wall to the elevator doors, covering a large portion of it. Syr slithered over to Karo, who produced a deep and very resonant sound. The overhead lights went out, and the screen before Syr and Karo flicked on.

“Number thirty-nine,” Karo said. Words and symbols flashed briefly on the screen, and then a film began to play…

A pokémon battle was about to begin in a gym lit by glowing, pale green crystals. The walls were decorated with carved figures of pokémon over a softly glowing background of shifting colors. The floor was covered by an equally colorful mosaic depicting planets, comets, and stars.

Ren sat on one side of the arena in a dark-colored, metal chair. The strange lighting and the camera angle didn’t allow for a very detailed examination of his appearance, revealing only that he was slight of build, completely bald, and dressed in simple, entirely black attire.

Opposite him, his challenger was seated in a chair like his own. The camera revealed somewhat more of her appearance than Ren’s. Like him, she wore dark clothing, deep blue denim for her jacket and pants and black for the rest of her outfit. Unlike him, she had hair: dark, unkempt, and reaching down past her shoulders.

“You’re sure you want to do this the old-fashioned way?” the gym leader asked. “The special features of my gym do exist solely out of consideration for the challenger.”

“Thanks, but I came here to battle a gym leader, not a gentleman,” the challenger responded.

Ren gave a quiet laugh. “Very well, then. Who’s it going to be?”

The challenger produced a nest ball. “Go, Alain!”

With a burst of light, an alakazam appeared. Alain gazed intensely at the gym leader, holding both of his spoons in one hand while thoughtfully stroking his long whiskers with the other.

“I see,” Ren said. “Acheron? Could you step forward, please?”

There was no poké ball of any kind thrown, no flash or sparkle of light to herald the entrance of Ren’s pokémon. Instead, the summoned creature emerged from the shadows at Ren’s side. Rays of pale green light fell upon Acheron, revealing…

“All right, is that what you saw?” Karo asked.

“Yes. Yes, it is,” Syr answered almost breathlessly. The arbok could barely believe his eyes, but the sight they presented told the truth: whatever Esaax had become, Acheron was the exact same thing. “They’re desperate for information about these things back at the Haven. To think there’s been one here this whole time…”

“Eh, not really,” Karo said. “We didn’t spend a whole lot of time at home back during the gym days. Afterward, the big guy ended up wherever Ren did.”

“Right…” For a moment, Syr worried that the conversation was about to take a sad and awkward turn, but thankfully it did nothing of the sort. He returned his attention to the footage, watching the battle begin in earnest…

In the gyms of the Apex League, the trainers weren’t allowed to issue commands to their pokémon. Ren and his challenger had to sit back and watch their pokémon carry out the battle on their own terms.

Sensing the presence of the dark element within his opponent, Alain knew his psychic attacks were useless in this match. He furthermore identified Acheron by sight as a former wobbuffet; as such, Alain knew the rest of his attacks risked doing more harm to himself than to Acheron.

Alain quickly formulated a plan to get around that, however. He transferred one of his spoons to the other hand, then summoned one of the techniques he’d inherited from his medicham father. The air around the alakazam crackled with electricity, and miniature bolts of lightning began a frenzied dance around one of his hands.

Meanwhile Acheron stood calmly on the other side of the arena, his long tail waving as he watched his opponent with a faint smirk. Alain surged forward and leapt high into the air, his psychic power letting him hover over the head of his eight-foot-tall opponent for a moment before slamming a thunder punch into the back of Acheron’s neck.

Small tremors rippled through Acheron’s body as electricity briefly coursed through him, but he kept silent and showed no visible signs that the thunder punch had caused him any actual pain—until an orange aura blazed around him, sending the alakazam flying with the force of his counter attack.

Grunting in pain, Alain telekinetically righted himself in midair and looked intently at Acheron, hoping to see evidence that he’d successfully paralyzed him—the less pain Acheron could feel, the less he could inflict. But Acheron’s tail was waving just as fluidly as it had been before he’d taken the thunder punch, and his legs stayed steady beneath him.

Accepting this, Alain lowered himself back down to the ground and implemented the other aspect of his plan, hoping that it, at least,
would work on the first try. He transferred his other spoon back into his empty hand, and then a dull red glow filled his eyes. A ball of energy in the same color gathered between his spoons and then fired at Acheron, bursting into jagged red streaks that snaked over his entire body on impact. The streaks gave a single red flash, then turned black and vanished into Acheron’s skin. Alain smiled—Acheron’s counter technique had been successfully disabled.

Acheron regarded this new development without any concern; he hadn’t planned to rely solely on that technique, and knew he could do just fine without it. He shut his eyes, letting his mind sink into a deep meditation.

Alain wasted no time in launching more attempts to paralyze his opponent, hoping to succeed before the effects of his disable technique wore off. The gym was filled with the crackling sounds of electric power as he delivered three more thunder punches in quick succession. Acheron reacted to none of them.

Alain moved back from him, once again checking to see if Acheron was showing any signs of paralysis. Acheron’s skin was blistered and raw at the site of each thunder punch’s impact, and he reeked of charred flesh and trembled on the spot.

Those tremors subsided very quickly, however, and the moment they did, Acheron’s body suddenly took on a bright red glow. The light expanded outward in a bide attack, forming a shockwave that knocked Alain off his feet and blasted him clear across the arena—he almost went flying right into his trainer’s face.

Acheron grinned as he watched the alakazam on the other side of the arena struggle to catch his breath and get back onto his feet. This, Acheron decided, was a good time to bring out the big guns—as weak as his opponent had become, he might only have to do it once. Besides which, he figured he’d played around with him long enough.

He let a dark-type charge build around one hand, seeing a faint, off-white glow surround Alain as he did so. The alakazam was trying to heal himself—but too late. No sooner had his injuries begun to mend themselves than a black beam came roaring forth from Acheron’s hand and struck him. Alain screamed in agony—and curiously, so did Acheron.

The attack ceased. Alain, covered from head to toe in black scorch marks, twitched briefly before falling unconscious and still. Acheron fell to his knees, still gasping in pain in the wake of his own attack, but he stayed conscious. The match was over. The challenger had lost.

“So that’s it, then,” Syr said, knowing that Apex gyms allowed only one pokémon to each competitor.

“Yep,” Karo confirmed. He produced the same low sound that he’d used to activate the video screen, and it shut off once more.

“That pokémon fighting the alakazam… what was that?” Syr asked.

“That,” Karo said, “was a kwazai.”

“Kwazai…” Syr echoed. “And that last attack he used…” Syr had never seen anything like it before, especially not from anything like a wobbuffet. This was no retaliatory technique—Acheron had attacked proactively, something wobbuffet were unable to do. Apparently evolution freed them from that restriction. “What in the world was that?”

“That would be reflux,” Karo said. “It’s a dark-type attack, and it’s one of the nastiest ones there is, too.”

“So kwazai are dark-types?” Syr guessed aloud.

“Psychic/dark, to be specific. Or, uh, that form is, anyway.”


“Yeah, there’s a pure psychic form, too,” Karo explained.

“…Just how much do you know about kwazai?” Syr asked.

“Meh… pretty good amount, I guess,” Karo replied nonchalantly.

“Okay,” Syr said. “Okay then. I’ve gotta get back to the Haven. And you need to come with me.”

* * *​

Syr and Karo arrived shortly thereafter at the Haven. Once through the doors, they were immediately greeted by a scene that neither had expected to find.

Teresa was unloading a small bundle of assorted medicines onto the nearest counter when she noticed the arbok and the nosepass. “Oh good, you’re finally back!” she said.

But neither Syr nor Karo really heard her, particularly not Syr. This was because they’d noticed the tall, blue figure lying on a bench near where Teresa stood sifting through her portable remedies.

Syr moved closer to the unknown being. He was almost completely certain that this pokémon, with their blue skin and their black tail that held a presently-closed oculon in each of its four branches, had something in common with Esaax. He turned to Karo. “Is that…?”

“Yep, that’s the other form,” Karo confirmed.

Teresa joined them by the bench, carrying a spray-bottle of potion and a faintly glowing revive crystal. “Karo, I presume?” she asked of the nosepass. Karo responded affirmatively with a small grunt and an action that would’ve been a nod if he’d had a neck.

“What happened here?” Syr asked Teresa.

“Well, she showed up here and managed to let me know she was looking for Esaax, but something was driving her madder by the second. There seemed to be no calming her. And when we tried to restrain her, she started psywaving everything in sight before screaming bloody murder and passing out. Unfortunately, one of those psywaves hit Jen…”

What?” Syr said, instantly worried.

“He’s not hurt,” Teresa assured him. “The poor kid’s just had his brain scrambled a little. He got so dizzy that he just tipped right over and hasn’t been able to get back onto his feet yet. But other than that, no damage done. He’ll be just fine before you know it.

“I put him right over there,” she added, pointing. “You can see for yourself.”

She was indicating a chair off in the corner, where the snorunt was lying with his eyes half-closed. Syr, distracted by the kwazai, hadn’t even seen him there. “How are you feeling?” he asked as he slithered over to Jen. Jen only groaned softly, rolled over, and turned his back on Syr in response.

“Best not to stimulate him too much right now if you’d rather he didn’t throw up,” Teresa said.

She took the revive and held it against the kwazai’s forehead. Its glow intensified for a moment, then went out entirely, leaving the spent crystal darkened like a burned-out lightbulb. The kwazai stirred slightly and gave a soft moan, her consciousness returning. Teresa then began spraying potion over the scrapes and bruises covering the kwazai’s arms; the wounds began fading away at once. “Poor thing. She must have taken a nasty spill on the way here,” the chansey said.

“Who is she?” Syr wondered aloud as he gazed down at the kwazai. “Did you manage to get any personal information out of her before she passed out?”

“I tried to get her name,” Teresa said, “and I think I succeeded. It sounded like ‘Intro’…”


Everyone’s attention turned to the kwazai. “What?” Teresa said.

“It’s N-tair-row.” The kwazai’s voice was breathy and lilting. She also sounded rather groggy at the moment—she was still in the process of waking up. “Is that all you want to know?”

Teresa opened her mouth to answer, but before she could get a single word out, she was interrupted by another chansey, one who was bawling her eyes out as she came barreling in. The new arrival just barely managed to come to a stop in time to avoid colliding with Teresa.

“Rebecca? What’s the matter?” Teresa asked, clearly alarmed.

Rebecca tried to speak, but then froze, her mouth quivering as she stood paralyzed by some unknown horror. Finally, she burst into hoarse, violent sobs.

The noise abruptly brought Ntairow to her senses. She got up onto her single pair of long, stiltlike legs with a suddenness more befitting teleportation than standing. She held her tail high, its branches fanning out.

“What is it, Rebecca?” Teresa asked again, more slowly this time. She took Rebecca’s paws in her own and gave her an imploring stare.

“It’s… just…horrible,” Rebecca managed to gasp out. She then backed away from Teresa and cast a fearful glance into the hallway she’d emerged from just moments before. Returning her tearful gaze to the others, “Here. It’s over here,” she said breathlessly, then took off down the hallway.

Teresa rushed after her as fast as her short legs would allow, accompanied by Syr, Karo, and Ntairow. Ultimately, Rebecca came to a halt, and once all of the others had arrived at their apparent destination, she wasted no time in fleeing the scene. She had not wanted to come back to that place and the sight that it presented, and upon seeing it with their own eyes, no one she’d brought there had to wonder why.

There was Madeline, lifeless and mangled. There was her blood, cast all over the floor and walls. And there was the door to Esaax’s cell, left wide open, with a hole burned through the far wall that was more than big enough to admit an escaping kwazai.

Cries of shock, sorrow and revulsion filled the air. Karo immediately looked away from the slain mr. mime. Syr turned and retched, though nothing came up. Ntairow cried out and buried her face in one of her left hands while reaching out with both of her right hands to prop herself against the wall.

“My God… no…” Teresa’s voice sounded very fragile. She leaned over the corpse, reaching for Madeline’s remaining hand. The fingers, broken and burnt black, crumbled into dust at her touch. Teresa immediately began sobbing.

Shakily, Syr turned to Ntairow. The kwazai swayed slightly where she stood, as if she were about to pass out again. She was clutching her head and chest simultaneously, and the tension in her face told Syr that she was in very real pain.

“The darkness…” Ntairow said almost voicelessly. “The residue of it still hangs in the air. But he’s not here.”

She pushed herself away from the wall and began striding determinedly toward the exit Esaax had made, avoiding the blood on the ground with sure, graceful steps. But then she found the end of a long, purple tail coiled around one of her arms as if to try and stop her.

“Wait!” Syr called out, struggling not to be dragged along as she kept walking.

The kwazai finally stopped and turned her long, flat face toward him, wearing the glare to end all glares.

“…Listen,” Syr said. “Esaax is my friend, too. If you’re going after him, I’m going with you.”

Karo approached Ntairow and Syr. The expression on his stone face was unreadable. “And if he’s going, then I’m going,” he said. “I’ll look after you, buddy, don’t worry,” he told Syr.

Ntairow didn’t feel as though she had the luxury of time or patience enough to argue with them. The urge to seek out the terribly troubled creature that Esaax had become and rush to his aid was hardwired into her brain—she couldn’t easily resist the demands of her highly developed powers of empathy, and she flat-out wouldn’t resist them when it was the suffering of someone she loved that spurred them into action. She nodded to Syr and Karo, and Syr released his hold on her.

The arbok looked back at Teresa. Tears fell silently from his gray eyes. “Take care of Jen,” he told her. Then Syr turned away, and he and Karo followed Ntairow out of the Haven in silence.
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Lost but Seeking
Aww yiss, now this is the kind of stuff I was remembering. >:D

That transformation scene definitely makes an impression; it's pretty rare that you get to see a pokemon evolution from the point of the pokemon that's portrayed as anything more than a few seconds of glowing and maybe some mild discomfort before things skip to them enjoying their new digs. In particular I like the use of sound; for a lot of unpleasant medical procedures it seems to me that the noises various body parts make when they get bothered are some of the grossest/most unsettling bits of the process, pain aside, so they made the evolution scene particularly vivid for me. I also thought you did a good job of Esaax's mindset after evolution, where his psychology has changed as well as his body, but he retains just enough of his old self to be horrified by what's happened.

Karo's a great character, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in future chapters. In general you do really well keeping your secondary characters varied and interesting, even if they don't have a large role to play in the story. I also particularly liked the bit about Zerzekai and his evolution ritual; there's a lot of interesting stuff in there about how pokemon society works that's condensed into a pretty small, simple scene, and it's great for character work as well. Zerzekai's evolution anxiety and the way Ntairow paid off the zigzagoon are just adorable.

Syr had never watched Karo eat before. After finally doing so, the arbok decided that he would never watch it happen again if he could help it.
He totally just snorted all the berries, didn't he?

I did find Esaax's conversation with Faurur a little odd. Her talk about the deranics sounded like a major plot hook, but that was back in chapter five and they haven't been mentioned since then. Obviously Faurur dying set off a whole bunch of other events and Esaax hasn't really had time to think about what she actually said, but from a narrative standpoint, since iirc the deranics are actually important to the resolution of the plot, it's kind of weird to have them brought up and then forgotten about for so long. I think it might be better to reference them now and again in more recent chapters so that readers remember that they need to look out for something to do with them in the future, or perhaps find some way to bring them up a little closer to when they're actually directly introduced, so the plot thread doesn't

Anyway, at this point I think we're... about halfway through the story? I don't recall the final chapter count being much over twenty, although I don't know how that might have changed with the revision. Looking forward to the rest of it, anyway. I don't remember too much about the resolution, so I can enjoy the reveals all over again. :p

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
or perhaps find some way to bring them up a little closer to when they're actually directly introduced, so the plot thread doesn't

That is easily the single most clever bit of humor I've ever come across in a review.

Anyway! Deranics. Wormy things. Yes. I thhhhhhink they might come up again at least once more in this story. But yeah as far as any meaningful resolution wrt them goes, that's still quite a ways off. What we're looking at with their introduction is a hamfisted attempt at garnering curiosity about future events that came out as less of a "ooh, now what could this be?" and more of a "you wanna know more about this well TOUGH NUGGETS YOU'RE JUST GONNA HAVE TO READ MORE OF MY ****", pfffff.

I can't even begin to put into words how much fun it is to write Karo. :D I'm glad he ended up having as much of a role in the story as he does.

And yeah, he's totally a berry snorter until proven otherwise. Exactly what Syr took so much exception to about that, I'll leave (somewhat) up to the imagination.

Transformation scenes = love. The less graceful and more traumatic, the better. :D I think Animorphs is probably mostly to blame for my attention to detail there, particularly with regards to the noises involved. Iirc that series frequently liked to make a point of describing how morphing sounded.

Final chapter count is... wow, I actually had to think about that for a moment for some reason. XD; Anyway, it's 17, so yes. More or less the halfway point.

Thanks x arbitrarily large number for the read 'n' reply; it made my night. :D