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Pokémon Drowning

Chapter 28

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Hey everyone! Here's the next chapter. I'm travelling next weekend so chapter 29 might be a few days late. Enjoy!

Chapter 28

Heat radiated from the cavern walls. Derek tugged at his shirt, trying to vent himself. Even though he wasn’t wearing his old Team Magma uniform with thick fabric, the volcanic heat made him sweat. He held his left arm gingerly—it was no longer in a sleeve, but his shoulder was still bandaged.

“You doing okay, Claydol?”


“Still haven’t detected anyone?”


After he accompanied Steven to explain the situation to Maressa’s parents, Derek led the Pokemon League in clearing out the Team Magma bases—the ones he knew of, at least. As some of the League members helped Derek, Phoebe researched the golems, and a few others explored the southern seas of Hoenn for Rayquaza in case Kyogre or Groudon woke up.

Derek reached into his pocket and felt the Magma Emblem—it was a coin-shaped object marked with Team Magma’s insignia and was used as key to gain access to certain bases, including the one within Mt. Chimney.

But so far, their Mt. Chimney base was empty. He and Claydol investigated the corridors, and unless Dark-type Pokemon were there, the base was devoid of life.

Static crackled in Derek’s earpiece.

“Find anything?” Sidney’s voice buzzed.

“Nope,” Derek replied. “Some drilling and mining equipment, but nothing useful.”

“We’ve found some computers over on the east end,” Sidney said. “They’re password-protected. I’m sure we could hack our way in, but if you happen to know the passwords, that would make it easier.”

“Hmm… I might. I’ll be there in a bit. I just wanna finish checking this section out.”

“All right, but don’t lollygag too much.” With one last crackle of static, Sidney’s voice faded.

Derek trotted through the earthen hallways of the base, remembering when he used to patrol them in his Team Magma uniform. He wasn’t on patrol duty for very long; the admins wanted to make use of his medical skills. But they had him do it for a short period of time for the sake of discipline, if nothing else. He could easily envision Team Magma grunts marching past him, not looking at him, not talking to him, all keeping their faces straight and attentive to make a good impression on the higher-ups.

Derek sighed. It was so weird to return to the base when it was totally empty. It wasn’t that he missed patrol duty or seeing all of the other Team Magma members. But after going through the corridors while they bustled with people, it felt unnatural to be back and find them abandoned.

Derek and Claydol reached the end of the hallway; a closed metal door stood before them. If his memory served him correctly, that was where they kept trainer supplies—spare Pokeballs, antidotes, potions, and the like.

Claydol groaned. It was not trainer supplies. It was spare computer parts.

Derek didn’t feel like arguing.

“Yeah, well, either way, what’s in this room will be useful to us.” He placed his hand on the door handle—which was oddly cold in the warm hallway—and opened the door.

It was pitch black inside. Derek flicked the light switch, and a lightbulb in the ceiling briefly illuminated a small room filled with crates—but after a second it went out. The air in the room was chilly. Derek reached into his pocket to pull out a flashlight but paused. Something was wrong.

Claydol’s presence left his mind.

Derek spun around so he was facing the hallway—which was now totally dark. He squinted, trying to make out something, anything—but the blackness was impenetrable. He could see nothing—no ceiling, floor, or doorways.

“Claydol?” he called out, his voice echoing down the empty hall.

His heart pounded fiercely within his chest; he started panting, his breathing the only sound he could hear.

“Claydol?” he called out again.

But there was no response, only the unnatural emptiness pressing in around him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his flashlight and flicked it on—but it was wrenched out of his hand and shut off.

Derek didn’t have time to register what happened before something grabbed him by the wrist and hauled him forward. A fist collided with his gut and he let out a choking cough. Then someone grabbed his hair and punched him in the face—then his body was lifted and his face slammed into a wall. A hand grabbed a fistful of his shirt—and then he was floating, floating in nothingness, with blackness pressing in all around him, free from gravity…

The weight of his body suddenly returned to him and he was slammed down onto his back, the air whooshing out of him. He tried to breathe in, but the effort sent sharp pain through his abdomen. His face and head throbbed—lances shot through his torso—and he was lifted up again and his back slammed into solid rock.

Blinking, Derek realized that he was no longer in pure darkness—silver moonlight illuminated a hillscape with forested crags. After the blackness of the base, the moonlit scene seemed as bright as day to him. The distant sounds of fighting—squealing, roaring, and shouting—could be heard. He was back outside the base—and glaring at him, holding a fistful of Derek’s shirt, was Tabitha.


Derek started to speak but was cut off when the commander kneed him in the lower abdomen.

“You decided to come back,” Tabitha said, “after betraying our team, releasing two prisoners and a Pokemon, and getting our teammates killed.”

He threw Derek to the ground and sent a kick to Derek’s side. The medic grunted and curled into a ball.

“And as soon as you were exposed, you left—didn’t even bother to help the Team Aqua traitor.”

When Tabitha mentioned Maressa, Derek’s face burned and he tried to push himself up off the ground—but Tabitha quickly lifted him and slammed him face-first into the rock. Derek groaned as the hard surface bruised his face.

“Maressa released her Pokemon to keep them safe. She stood up for what she did. You took off and let her take the blame for your actions.”

Tabitha gripped Derek by the scalp, grinding his face into the rock. Derek couldn’t speak, only grunt—his face stung as skin was sheared away and dirt entered his wounds. He flailed, trying to get some sort of footing, some sort of leverage to get out of Tabitha’s grip—but the commander stood his ground and kept Derek pressed into the rock.

“And now, because of you, Maressa is paying the price.”

He released pressure from Derek’s head only to throw him back to the ground and deliver a stomp on Derek’s chest. Derek let out a choking cry—he felt like his chest would cave in.

The distant sounds of howling and fighting grew louder.

“But I’ll let you in on a secret.”

Tabitha got down on one knee, his black eyes boring into Derek, keeping pressure on his chest.

“Maressa’s back with Team Aqua now. I take it that you know her Pokemon have the Orbs. Team Aqua is searching for them, out in the Hoenn sea. If you find them—" the pitch of Tabitha’s voice dropped and suddenly became urgent “—don’t return them to Team Aqua. They’ll kill Maressa as soon as they get the Orbs. Hand them to me, and I’ll save her.”

The sounds of fighting were very close now. Derek inhaled deeply as the pressure of Tabitha’s foot disappeared from his chest and the Magma Commander stood up.

Derek lay on the ground, sore and throbbing everywhere. He glared up at Tabitha, who stared calmly back. Shaking, the medic tried to push himself up—but the pain in his chest was too much. He inhaled—and the pain almost made it too difficult to speak.

“How can I believe you?” he spat.

Mightyena ran up to Tabitha, nuzzling his owner’s hand. He looked around and yipped. Keeping his eyes on Derek, Tabitha gripped a fistful of thick fur on the Dark-type’s back.

“You don’t have a choice.”

Mightyena leapt, and the two of them disappeared into the shadows.

Derek lay where he was. His entire body throbbed and ached—even just breathing was difficult, as though solid weights were sitting on his chest. He heard padded footprints and saw Sidney’s Absol walk up to him. She looked down at Derek, her face unreadable. Turning her head to the side, she gave a high-pitched cry. Sidney ran over.

“What is it, girl—whoa, what happened to you? I thought you were down in the base! How’d you get so beat up? What happened to your face?”

Derek tried to speak, but the pain was only getting worse. All he could do was let out a choking cough.

“Hold tight,” Sidney told him. “I’ll get you to the Pokemon League’s hospital.”


A single, bare lightbulb on the ceiling cast a harsh, white light in the small metal room. The smell of sea salt inebriated the air. Water occasionally dripped from the ceiling. Grime plastered the metal panels. In the back half of the room, the floor gave way to water. The room connected to a tank where team members could release their Pokemon and allow them to swim around freely.

The cold metal made Maressa’s knees throb. But after kneeling for at least half an hour, she found that shifting made it all worse. She didn’t dare get up.

She kept her eyes on the ground. She might have been able to glare back at Shelly, to handle the disappointment and disgust on her face—but she couldn’t bear to look up at Matt. The utter hatred in his eyes made always sent Maressa’s heart racing and made her skin crawl.

She licked her lips. Her mouth was dry. Her heart had been pounding heavily for several hours. Her gut twisted itself into knots. There was a lump in the back of her throat. She felt nauseous.

She jumped as the door opened, and her heart pounded even harder. Sweat beaded on her forehead from terror. She didn’t look up. She knew who it was.

“So,” Archie’s voice met her ears. “Maressa, Maressa, Maressa…”

He chuckled.

“All that effort we put into rescuing you, and you had betrayed us all along!” He spoke nonchalantly, as if discussing the surprising outcome of a football game. “You had a friend in Team Magma, you attacked your commander, and you kept the Orbs from us.”

There was a pause.


Maressa jumped and, shaking, raised her eyes to see Archie staring down at her. His eyes bulged and he breathed heavily. Veins stuck out on his neck and forehead. He regained his composure and chuckled.

“You know, I’m just so baffled by all this that I don’t even know what to do with you.” He turned around and took a few steps. “When Maxie told me of your betrayal, relayed everything… Well, I didn’t know what to think. Of course, I didn’t want to think that one of my beloved, trusted team members would have betrayed us after she came so far.”

The pitch of his voice dropped.

“But it does make sense.”

Maressa’s heart pounded, her stomach sinking ever further.

“Now, as for the matter of what to do with you—but I know Team Magma already took some liberties, or they wouldn’t have chosen to hang on to you until dawn.”

He turned back around and looked down at Maressa. Her blood chilled as their eyes met.

“But the most pressing matter is to get those Orbs back from your Pokemon. And what will make them come? What would draw them more than hearing their master screaming in pain?”

Maressa could only stare up at him.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself, Maressa?”

Maressa couldn’t think of anything to say—and even if she could, her throat didn’t seem to be working. All she could do was sit in numb silence.

He raised his eyebrows.

“No? Well, then, I’ll see you on the other side.”

Maressa didn’t have any time to wonder what this meant before she heard a splash behind her. She whipped her head around to see a Tentacruel emerge from the water. It was at least as large as the one she rode on from Mossdeep to Lilycove—perhaps even larger. Beneath its mushroom-shaped bell, two slanted eyes glared at her. It raised its brown tentacles out of the water, each one as thick as a branch. Panic set in to Maressa as she saw the tentacles snake out towards her.

“No—no—AAAH!” she screamed as the tentacles wrapped around her arms and legs.

Maressa had experienced Tentacool stings in the ocean several times growing up. The slightest touch from one tentacle had been enough to turn her skin red and lumpy and send her running out of the water, crying. But a Tentacruel’s sting turned out to be much, much more severe than a Tentacool’s, and its tentacles weren’t just brushing against her accidentally—they were wrapping around and gripping her, the cnidocytes sending lances of pain everywhere they touched.

Maressa screamed ever louder as more tentacles bound her legs, arms, and body. “NO no no no no—please—no—stop!

She gasped as her legs became wet—the Tentacruel was pulling her into the tank. She raised her eyes and saw Archie, Shelly and Matt all staring at her, apparently indifferent.

“Don’t worry about holding your breath,” Archie called as the Tentacruel pulled her down, “you’ll be able to breathe inside Tentacruel’s bell—for a time.”

Maressa’s pleas gave way to pure screams as the pain became more severe and her body was pulled into the tank. She only stopped when water flooded her mouth and she could make no more noise, enveloped in a jungle of stinging tentacles.


Phoebe closed the large book and sat back in her chair. She rubbed her temples, staring at a Pokeball lying on the desk a few feet away from her.

Matt’s Crawdaunt was still in there; it hadn’t come out since she and Matt had first exchanged Pokemon. And Banette was still with Matt…

But where? She closed her eyes, remembering a recent conversation with Steven.

“Steven, please!” she sobbed. “Banette is already injured, and I don’t know what Team Aqua will do to her! I have their Crawdaunt. Please, just let me go and get her back!” Her voice broke on the last word and she dissolved into muffled sobs. Steven’s grey eyes looked at her with pity.

“I hear you, Phoebe,” he said gently. “And we will get Banette back. But rushing into it won’t do her any good. We have to take this more slowly—and I am working to get Banette back. I haven’t forgotten about her.”

Phoebe dissolved further into tears and only pleaded harder—she could rescue Banette all on her own, she wasn’t asking for help. She would be quick, and she wasn’t scared of getting caught. But Steven had made up his mind, and reminded her—more firmly this time—that Phoebe working on her own would only cause more trouble. And that was the end of it.

Through the translucent lid of the Pokeball, Phoebe could just make out Crawdaunt with its claws folded over its cephalothorax. It appeared to be sleeping. How was Banette doing? Was Team Aqua torturing her out of some twisted desire for revenge? They couldn’t be happy about losing the Orbs…

She put her elbows on the desk with her head in her hands, her eyes scanning the large book in front of her. Steven had asked her to do research for him, but her thoughts were consumed by worry for Banette. She had taken in minimal information.

But what she did take in perturbed her.

Because the dust-covered shelves of her grandparents’ library absorbed all noise, she didn’t hear Steven Stone walk in.

“Have you had any luck?” he asked.

She jumped, knocking over her tea. Letting out a shaky breath, she picked up her mug and tried to mop up the spilled tea with her skirt.

“On the golems’ whereabouts? I can still only find the general locations. On the tablet…” She hesitated. “Yes, I found out more about it. And what you need to do to activate it.”

Steven nodded. “Good. Write it in an e-mail and send it to me, please. Thank you.”

He turned to go, but only walked a few steps before Phoebe called after him.

“And I know what the tablet will do to you.”

Steven halted in the doorway.

Phoebe straightened up, holding the sopping edge of her skirt in her hand.

“You’ve known all along, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” he said quietly.

“And that’s why you’d rather find Rayquaza, isn’t it?”

He said nothing.

“Then don’t bother with the tablet and golems, Steven! We have the Orbs. Teams Magma and Aqua aren’t a threat now! We have all the cards in our hand—there’s no point in preparing yourself for sacrifice when we know we won’t need it!”

“We don’t know, Phoebe,” Steven said tensely. “Yes, we have the Orbs. But the Teams are on the offensive now as much as they ever were—and we’re currently interrogating and purging our entire police force from any potential Team members! It’s a slow process, and until it’s finished, we barely have anyone in the law enforcement we can work with. The Teams are attacking more openly because they know they can get away with it. They’re trying to pressure us into giving them the Orbs. Meanwhile, we’re trying to find their leaders but have been making no headway whatsoever in their whereabouts—even with Derek’s help, it seems the majority of the Teams have made themselves undetectable—carrying around Dark-types to stop themselves from being spotted…” He stopped and sighed. He stood in the doorway, still facing away from Phoebe. “Yes, we have the Orbs. But Team Magma and Team Aqua are still fighting.”

“Then why not just focus all of our efforts into finding and stopping them? Why am I still here? Why can’t I at least try to rescue Banette?”

“Considering your recent actions, Phoebe,” Steven said coldly, “I’d rather have you doing research than be involved with direct confrontation.”

Guilt flooded Phoebe’s heart. She closed her mouth and cast her eyes downward as tears welled up in them.

There was a pause. Steven turned around—he didn’t look mad at all. He gave her a small smile.

“You’re doing good work, Phoebe. Thank you.” Without another word, he turned and left.

Phoebe sat down, still feeling guilty and a little offended that he ended their conversation so abruptly. She looked at the large books spread out before her.

Her grandparents’ library was deep inside Mt. Pyre. The walls were all windowless, covered completely with bookcases bearing large, dusty tomes. Occasionally, Ghost-type Pokemon flitted through the shelves around Phoebe. She looked up at a Shuppet that glided over her and managed to give it a small smile before it passed through a bookcase. Her eyes glazed over as she watched Ghost-type Pokemon swirl in the air above her, her mind wandering to matters other than her assigned research.

When the Pokemon League received the news a few days ago that they had the Orbs, Phoebe was immensely relieved. Others shared her relief—the twins, Flannery, and Brawley were open about it. She could tell that even the more stoic ones, such as Norman and Winona, were happy, too. But when Phoebe saw Steven, he still seemed troubled and tense.

He was right—the Teams were creating as much chaos as ever, and what with Derek letting them know that their police had been infiltrated, stopping them was no easier than it had ever been before.

She closed her eyes as she thought of Derek.

The League received news of Sidney’s and Derek’s ambush in Team Magma’s base just a day before. Sidney was all right, but Derek was found covered in bruises, his nose and mouth bleeding, and with several broken ribs. She shuddered—yes, Team Magma was definitely still dangerous.

But why did Steven feel the need to prepare with the golems and Rayquaza? He had sent out Wallace, Juan and Winona to find the Sky Pillar, and he was having her seek out the golems. And though she knew he was a “better safe than sorry,” type of person, it didn’t seem possible that they would lose the Orbs at this point.

She shook her head and turned back to the books in front of her. She began reading but couldn’t get very far before her thoughts once more grew distracted.

She was in her usual favorite reading spot—how many times had she sat at this desk, drinking tea and reading books, to see Banette’s head pop up through the wood and give her a smile? How many times did Banette make books levitate off the shelves and dance around her?

With the memories fresh in her mind, she couldn’t get them out—she couldn’t alleviate her heartache. Clenching her eyes, she set her head on the desk and quietly cried.


The salty wind whipped Wallace’s smiling face. He couldn’t help it; in spite of the urgency of their situation, he loved being at sea—he loved seeing the shimmering surface, the rolling waves, hearing the call of the wild Wingulls. It was all so glamorous. Beneath him, Wailord cruised effortlessly through the waters.

They were somewhere south of Route 123 and west of Sootopolis City. With all the research being done on the whereabouts of Rayquaza’s resting place, the only indicators they could find was that it lay somewhere in the southern region of the Hoenn sea.

Wallace, Juan and Winona all teamed up and sent their Pokemon to scout as far as they could. As more of their police force were interrogated and proven trustworthy, they would soon be able to enlist in help from them as well.

Wallace looked down at his PokeNav. No messages from Winona or Juan. He checked Winona’s location: still several miles south of him. His heart panged; it wasn’t that he was worried about her—she was the strongest, most capable woman he had ever met. But he didn’t like being away from her for such long stretches of time. It was difficult enough as it was, working in different cities. He hoped she might at least have tried to call him or leave him a message by now… But it had only been a few hours. She left messages infrequently and often felt that Wallace was overbearing. Resisting his temptation to contact her, Wallace pocketed his PokeNav and sat back as Wailord cruised onward.

Before long, Wailord rumbled uneasily.

“Hm? What is it, Wailord?” Wallace asked him. Wailord rumbled again—he could hear a human in distress nearby.

“ ‘A human in distress’? Probably a trainer who needs help—let’s go find them!” At Wallace’s prompting, Wailord set forth, swimming much more swiftly than before.

Before long, Wallace heard it too—screams, bloodcurling screams. Whoever it was, they definitely weren’t drowning. No, it sounded like they were in constant pain. The screams rose and died, and rose and died again… They didn’t pick back up. Wallace’s heart pounded. What was going on?

Pretty soon, a small ship came in to sight; two figures stood atop it. He saw a large Huntail break the surface of the water, holding a third figure limply in its jaws. It spat the person onto the deck of the ship before it noticed Wallace and Wailord. It growled, baring fangs each as large as Wallace’s head. The two humans on board turned around—Wallace breathed in sharply as he realized they were Team Aqua members. One was dressed all in black, and the other wore blue pants with an open blue vest. At their feet, a woman with long blonde hair wearing a grey tank top and matching skirt lay—it looked like the Team Magma uniform, but without the red pullover.

“Are you looking for this?” asked the man wearing black as he pulled the woman to her feet. She hung limply in his arms, unconscious.

Wallace’s mind ran a mile a minute. He had no interest in Team Magma prisoners, but he wasn’t sure what to do with the situation. He could hardly let the leaders of Team Aqua leave, but he wasn’t confident that he could take them on with just Wailord—he wished he had his other Pokemon with him. Could he fight? Or would he have to retreat?

He made up his mind quickly.

“Wailord, use Water Spout!”

Wailord inhaled deeply; Wallace felt the Pokemon rumble beneath him before a geyser of white water shot out of the Pokemon’s blowhole. The water skyrocketed into the air, leaving loud smacks and splashes wherever it fell. The Team Aqua leader threw the woman to the deck of the ship and jumped into the water along with his lackey. Huntail was slammed by the attack, and cried in pain as the water left red welts wherever it hit.

“Wailord, bring me to the ship!”

Seeing the woman lie unconscious made Wallace’s heart trip with pity, and so he quickly hopped off Wailord, picked the woman up, and awkwardly climbed back on. He jerked his head around as he heard more loud splashing—Huntail resurfaced, accompanied by a Walrein.

“Walrein!” Wallace turned his head to see the Team Aqua leaders standing on the deck of their boat again, dripping wet. “Use Sheer Cold!”

“Huntail, use Whirlpool!”

“Wailord, counter with Whirlpool!”

Huntail swam in a large circle, creating a circular current in the water. Wailord swam in the opposite direction, trying to form a countercurrent more powerful than Huntail’s. Wallace glanced at the Walrein, whose fangs were frosting over. If that Sheer Cold attack hit Wailord, he would be done for.

“Wailord, Dive!”

Wailord stopped creating his whirlpool and dove deep into the sea, forming a bubble through its blowhole that enveloped Wallace and the woman. Wallace breathed in the air bubble; the pressure within it was equalized, so he and the woman weren’t crushed by the surrounding waters. He looked up to see the light quickly dim—and a dark, swimming silhouette following. Bright, white spots lit up along the swimming form—it was Huntail, following them into the depths.

Wallace pounded his fist on Wailord’s back, and the Pokemon quickly changed direction and shot to the surface. Huntail’s eyes opened wide with shock just before Wailord slammed into it and shot it out of the water, sending it flying through the air like a cork out of a bottle. The deep sea Pokemon’s body hit the surface with a loud smack! and lay there for a few moments—stunned or unconscious, Wallace wasn’t sure.

Wailord let out a cry of surprise. Wallace whipped around—the Team Aqua leader had hopped from his ship onto Walrein and then onto Wailord’s back. The man glared at Wallace and spoke with his deep, gravelly voice.

“Your Pokemon might be a skilled fighter, but I doubt you are!”

Wallace could only stare in shock as the Team Aqua leader launched himself forward. He let the woman fall out of his arms as his opponent grabbed him by the shirt, lifted him bodily and slammed him onto Wailord’s blubbery back before delivering the worst beating Wallace had ever received. Wallace let out coughing chokes every time a punch landed on his abdomen. He couldn’t do anything—his hands were trying to pry the leader’s hold off of his shirt, but it was useless. Wailord was busy trying to fight Walrein without knocking the people off his back—all Wallace could do was lie there.

Wailord was rocking around so fiercely that Wallace came close to falling off his back—but after a few seconds the Pokemon plunged into the depths. Wallace, the woman, and the Team Aqua leader submerged with him. Once the water enveloped them, the Team Aqua leader let go of Wallace. Wallace floated in the water and soon rose to the surface, too weak to swim. He couldn’t stop coughing—water was getting in his mouth—he couldn’t stop swallowing it—

He felt his body rise with a wave—an enormous wave—and he saw Wailord launch himself out of the water. The cetacean’s colossal form seemed to fill the whole sky, leaving a cascading trail of raining water in its wake. Sunlight caught in the water, creating rainbows, looking like a trail of shimmering sea glass scattered in the sky. The three humans could only stare in awe as all 100,000 pounds of Wailord’s enormous form slammed down into the sea, creating tidal waves that pushed the Team Aqua boat, Pokemon, and humans all in different directions.

A wall of seawater rushed onto Wallace, sucking him under and tossing his body about as if he was no more than a rag doll. But he only tumbled for a second or so before he felt himself sucked in to what seemed to be a small, dark cave. His body hung in the water until it all drained out and he lay on the familiar surface of Wailord’s rough, slimy tongue.

He lay there, choking. His body hurt horribly—he could hardly move. He didn’t know where Wailord was taking him, but he trusted his Pokemon.

Thank you, he thought as they traversed the ocean depths.
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Chapter 29

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
I was without my personal computer last week, so it's a week late, but here is chapter 29!

Chapter 29

Spires of ocean rock rose up all around him, covered with aquatic plants and coral. They eventually gave way to craggy cliffs covered with crustose coralline algae that formed underwater avenues. Herds of Sealeo, schools of Goldeen, and smacks of Tentacool floated by with the water currents while shoals of Relicanth and groups of Chinchou sat amidst the grasses and weeds on the sea floor. He swam onwards, looking up at the sunlight filtering through the water.


It was all blue, all the time, except at night when it became black. He had seen it every day for several weeks—he hadn’t been inside his Pokeball for so long. He had forgotten how tiring it was to be out in the wild, always on the alert, aware that someone might try to attack you—and that you had to be faster and smarter than your prey, or else you would go hungry. It was exhausting, but it was bearable.

What was not bearable was how much he missed everyone. Lanturn, Sharpedo, Golduck, and Maressa… Where did they all go? He fought with Maressa, but panicked when he got caught in that Leech Seed attack and swam away. The vines eventually died and fell away from him, but he had left Maressa behind. When he went back to look for her, he couldn’t find her—or anyone.

Where did she go?

She hadn’t been alone; she was with a Team Aqua submarine and a Team Magma ship. But Seaking lost sight of both of them, too.

Where was everyone?

He knew he shouldn’t have left. He was so scared and so sad and so lonely when he realized they were gone. He looked everywhere for days, but only got so lost that he didn’t recognize his surroundings anymore.

Where was he?

And he eventually decided to ask some other Pokemon if they saw human ships. But wild Pokemon were so much different than those who stayed with humans—the wild ones didn’t like to be disturbed, and only minded their own business. And he was so scared. When he did pluck up the courage to speak to some Pokemon, even other Seaking, they often ignored him and went on their way.

He floated in the water. The surface was so far up, and the bottom was so far down. There was so much life in the ocean, but it felt so empty—so lonely.

He was lost.

But he couldn’t just give up! Maressa and the others had done everything for him. He at least had to try and find them. And what if they were lost, too? He had to find them and make sure they were safe. It was his duty.

So he swam. He swam for a long time, and got really tired again. But then he noticed something long, and dark—it wasn’t a Pokemon, it was an underwater ship! Did it belong to Team Aqua? He decided to get a closer look.

As he swam closer, he got scared again—several Tentacruel floated idly outside the ship, their narrow eyes leering from their beneath their bulging bells. They had so many tentacles—Seaking thought he saw something stuck in one’s grasp. He shuddered; these Tentacruel didn’t look friendly at all.

But what if they did belong to Team Aqua? There was the possibility. So Seaking stayed nearby and floated after them, hoping that, soon, he could be courageous enough to talk to them.


Walrein pushed Archie out of the seawater and back onto the deck of their ship. When Wailord used body slam, he, Matt and their Pokemon had all been sucked beneath the water. It was a miracle the ship was still all right…

He vomited a mouthful of saltwater and gasped heavily. Snorting, the familiar sting of saltwater filled his nostrils. After blinking water away from his eyes, he looked around—the Wailord and that Gym Leader were nowhere in sight. He grit his teeth. They would have to move their location, and quickly, or else the Pokemon League would be hot on their tail.

He looked over as he heard splashing and saw Matt clamber out of the water, holding something in his hand. Archie’s subordinate pushed himself to his feet, resting his hands on his knees and coughing up seawater.

“Get below deck,” Archie ordered. “They got away, which means we’ve got to move fast.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where’s the traitor?”

As if on cue, Huntail popped its head above the waters, holding Maressa’s unmoving body in its jaws.

“She still alive?”

Huntail spat her on to deck. Archie checked his watch and turned to go inside while Matt grabbed her wrist, feeling for a pulse.

“Yeah, she’s still alive.”

“Make sure she’s breathing, and then bring her inside.”

He looked over to see Matt place the object he was holding on the ground while he started chest compressions on Maressa. At the first one, she expelled a lot of water from her mouth and coughed heavily before lying still again.

“What is that?” Archie asked, gesturing to the object next to Matt.

Matt smiled as he held it up for Archie to see. It was a PokeNav closed in a water-protective case.

Archie frowned. “Where did you get that?”

“Took it off of that Gym Leader. You can find locations of contacts in this, and he has a pretty public relationship with one of the other League Members.”

Archie’s eyes widened. “Can you find her location through that?”

Matt nodded, still smiling. He flicked the top open and turned on the screen, scrolling through the contacts and stopping at one labeled “WINONA.” He tapped it; the image of a pretty woman with long, purple hair appeared on screen, along with an options that read “CALL,” “MESSAGES,” and “LOCATION.” Matt tapped the last one, and a map of Hoenn appeared—with a blinking dot just a few miles south of them.

Archie smiled.

“Time to move.”


Steven rushed into the hospital room to see Wallace lying propped up on a bed. His torso and arms were covered in bandages; bits of bruised flesh peeked out from the wrappings. He wasn’t in as bad of a condition as Derek, but he still looked nasty.

Steven walked over to him, a feeling a mix of emotions. He was guilty and worried, but also angrier at Team Aqua than ever before. He paused as his eyes rested on Wallace’s bandages.

“How are you doing?” Steven asked.

Wallace half-shrugged.

“I’ll be okay. It’s painful, and the nurse said I have bruised ribs, and that I shouldn’t be up and about for a bit… But it isn’t permanent.” He looked pretty despondent about it.

“I heard you met Team Aqua’s leaders when it was just you and Wailord. Where are the rest of your Pokemon?”

“We had agreed to meet up at a certain point after a period of time. Wailord took me back to you guys sooner than we had planned, but as far as I know, the rest of my team still met up. Wailord told me he would catch up with them after dropping me off. I expect they’re hanging in the waters around here somewhere.”

Wallace glanced out the window, and Steven followed his gaze. The window gave a view of Ever Grande City’s lush, green cliffsides leading down to a shimmering ocean. If Wallace believed his Pokemon were in those waters, then Steven figured he was right.

Steven looked back at Wallace. He sighed.

“I’m sorry this happened to you. We won’t be sending out individuals anymore—I should’ve thought you guys might come across Team Aqua. Until we have things under control, everyone will be scouting in groups.”

Wallace nodded. “It’s all right; I knew things like this would happen, working for the League.” He looked up at Steven. “Has anyone contacted Winona or Juan yet?”

“We contacted Juan. He showed up here a few hours after Wailord brought you back. And we’ve been trying to get a hold of Winona, but she won’t answer her PokeNav.”

Wallace’s eyes widened.

“She won’t even answer a call from you? While she’s on duty? That’s not like her—she doesn’t normally instigate conversations, but she always responds quickly.”

Steven paused, blinking several times. A tense silence hung between them.

But he changed the subject.

“When you came across Team Aqua’s leaders, what were they doing? Could you tell?”

Wallace closed his eyes.

“They had a woman with them, dressed in a Team Magma uniform—at least, I think she was. She didn’t have their red jacket, so I couldn’t tell, but the rest of it looked like a Team Magma outfit. Wailord actually first heard her—screaming,” he said slowly. “When he told me he could hear someone in pain, we followed the sound and wound up with Team Aqua.”

“Did you see what this woman looked like? Did she say anything?”

“She didn’t say anything, she was unconscious the entire time. As far as what she looked like…” His eyes roved about as he thought. “Let’s see… She had long hair—I think it was blonde, or maybe a light brown—hard to tell since she was wet. Her skin was damaged and scarred, but I think she was kinda pale.”

He looked over at Steven; the Champion rested his chin in his hand, his eyebrows were furrowed.

“That sounds like it could be the woman Derek was worried about… But he left her with Team Magma. How could she be with Team Aqua?”

Steven stood there for a few moments, his thoughts wandering. After a bit, he snapped away from his train of thought and looked at Wallace.

“Anyway, I mainly wanted to check in with you. I’m glad you’re not hurt.”

When he finished the sentence, he paused, and Wallace felt the uncomfortable tension hang thickly in the air again.

“Also, when Wailord returned with you, we didn’t find any of your personal belongings with you—no wallet, Pokeballs, or PokeNav.”

“They must have been washed away when I fought them.”

“Are you sure? Do you know for a fact that Team Aqua didn’t get a hold of any of it? Because, if they did,” Steven slowly enunciated his words, and he could see the realization of them dawn on Wallace’s face, “then that means they have access to the locations of everyone in your contact list. That means all of the Elite Four members, all of the Gym Leaders—including Winona.”

Wallace immediately spoke up.

“But—I don’t see how—they wouldn’t have recovered it from the sea—and they might not know what it is—or how it works—”

Steven’s PokeNav buzzed. He took it out of his pocket and looked at the screen. It was a message from Winona.

“Hello!” the screen read.

Steven looked at Wallace to see him watching expectantly.

“It’s a message from Winona,” Steven said.

Wallace breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, good! Can you call her? I want to talk to her—what has she been doing out for so long?”

Steven stared at the screen. Something wasn’t right. Why was Winona only trying to contact him now? She should have reported hours ago. And why didn’t she try to call him? As he stared at the screen and ignored Wallace’s urgings, the unsettled feeling in his heart grew stronger.

“I’m going to give her a call,” he said suddenly. Without looking at Wallace, he walked out of the room and into the hallway.

“Hey!” Wallace shouted. “Where are you going? Can I talk to her, too?”

Steven didn’t answer. He kept walking through the hospital and past several rooms until he reached the lobby. Spotting a single-room bathroom, he walked into it and locked the door behind him.

He looked back at the PokeNav screen. There were a few more messages from Winona.

“Heyyyyy! Steven!”

“Steven! Are you there?”

“I have something important to tell you!”

Steven stared at the screen as his heart pounded in his chest. This wasn’t like Winona at all.

Choosing to bite the bullet, he hit the “CALL” button next to Winona’s name.

The screen changed as the PokeNav rang. After a few seconds, a woman’s high-pitched cheerful voice sounded out.

“Hey! Steven? Steven Stone?”

Steven’s hand shook slightly—that was not Winona’s voice. Taking a deep breath, he asked, “Who is this? Where’s Winona?”

“Wha—aw, found me out, did you? I thought I could imitate her voice pretty well! Darn, I guess I need more work. Anyway, I suppose you’re calling because you want them back, don’t you?”

“Who is this?” he asked more forcefully, though he already had a strong guess.

“Oh come on, do you really need me to spell it out for you? That’s not much fun.”

“I know it’s you, Team Aqua,” he said quietly. “And I promise—”


Steven held the receiver at arm’s length away as the voice shrieked into his ear.

“How DARE you confuse us with those ocean-kissing scum?! We are SO much better than that! Have you even seen what they wear? WHY do all of their women feel the need to show off their midriffs? Can’t they just wear a normal shirt—“

“Let’s get to the point,” Steven cut across. “Where is Winona?”

The woman over the PokeNav sighed.

“You’re no fun. Fine. We have them with us, split between our base and Team Aqua’s.” She let out a high-pitched giggle. “You know, they’ve been a lot of fun to have around. They weren’t too keen on letting us in when we showed up, and that young boy wasn’t having it at all—he still isn’t having it—“

“What? Young boy? Who are you talking about?”

“What do you mean? I’ve said ‘them’ like five times—who do you think I’m talking about?”

“I thought you were talking about Winona and the Team Aqua traitor.”

“Oh! So you haven’t—you haven’t noticed?”

Steven didn’t know what to say. The woman sounded genuinely surprised. Was there something he didn’t know?

But it might just be a ruse. Deciding to continue on, he said, “Tell us where Winona and the Team Aqua traitor are.”

“What, is this some game to you? If you think that us going to 766 Moss Landing Way, Mossdeep City, 83266, and inviting the inhabitants to come with us, and then being a bit—shall we say—assertive about it when they initially said ‘no’ is a game to you, then sure!”

Once the woman said the address, Steven’s heart plummeted.

That was where his brother and parents lived.

How did they know?

When he said nothing, the woman continued, “It’s been so convenient having such a strong hold on Hoenn’s police force—we have access to all kinds of information we never thought we’d need! And—yes, Maxie?”

Steven stood, staring at the bathroom floor, unable to do anything. He supposed he heard one half of a conversation, for the woman was still speaking periodically, but not to him.

“What? Why do you—oh, but this was fun! … Well, I—no, not really—but I told him about his family! … Oh, okay. I’m not sure if I know how—let me fiddle with it…”

Steven heard several random beeps as the woman on the other side messed around with Winona’s PokeNav. He tried to formulate a plan—if Team Magma knew his parents’ address, then they almost certainly had his family. And if they got a hold of his family—

Steven didn’t know what to do.

How could he have been do distracted? Why didn’t he think to send people back to look after and protect them? Why didn’t he think to keep a close eye on them? And now, how could he possibly allow them to take the punishment for his actions—for his failures?

The PokeNav screen flickered and he saw the face of a woman with short, dark hair wearing a red hoodie. When she saw Steven, her face lit up.

“Oh, hey! I got it to work! Here, now I think we can all talk to him at once.”

The woman held the PokeNav at arm’s length and Steven saw a man with a thin, pallid face and bright red hair standing next to her. His red eyes stared coldly at Steven, and his face had a sort of perpetual sneer, as if he was always disgusted at something. On the woman’s other side was a man with short purple hair; he wore the same hoodie the woman wore, complete with grey horns on top. His dark eyes gazed blankly at Steven—Steven couldn’t read his face.

“Hey!” the woman went on. “So, now you can see that it’s us, your friendly neighborhood Team Magma! I don’t think I’ve seen you before, have I? Anyway, I’m—“

“Enough, Courtney,” the man with red hair said coldly. The woman looked upset at being cut off, but obediently stayed silent.

“So,” the man continued, “you’re the Pokemon Champion.”

Steven said nothing. His heart pounded in his chest; his knuckles were white from clenching the PokeNav so hard.

“I am Maxie; I lead Team Magma. Now, I believe that your Pokemon League has something of great value and great interest to us. And, Courtney told you, we have something of great interest to you.

“What do you want for my family?”

“Let’s not play a game. Give us the Red and Blue Orbs if you want to see them again.”

Steven decided to lie—there was no way Team Magma could know that the Pokemon League had the Orbs.

“We don’t have those—nobody knows where they are.”

Maxie gazed back at Steven unblinkingly for a minute.

“From what I gather, the Team Aqua traitor gave them to her Pokemon and released them into the ocean. Now, Team Aqua is searching for them. Is your precious League searching for them as well? I haven’t heard anything about it. If you’re not looking for them, you must already have them.”

“Didn’t you just capture one of my Gym Leaders? We’re looking for those Orbs, just like you are.”

“Oh, really? I know you have scouts all throughout the south Hoenn sea—but they’re nowhere near where the Team Aqua woman released her Pokemon. You’re looking for something else, aren’t you? Are you perhaps looking for the Sky Pillar, where the legendary Rayquaza lives?”

Steven’s blood ran cold—he couldn’t think of anything to say as he stared back at Maxie.

“Yes, I am very familiar with Hoenn’s legends and mythical Pokemon,” Maxie continued. “Anyway, back to our deal. If you want your family, you’ll give us the Orbs.”

“We don’t have them,” Steven said forcefully.

Maxie raised an eyebrow.

“No? If that’s the case, then your family is useless to us. And I don’t like to hold on to anything for too long.” He turned to the other Team Magma members. “Get rid of Steven’s family.”

“Wait—wait—wait—wait—wait,” Steven said quickly as the man with purple hair disappeared from the screen. “What are you going to do with them?”

“If you don’t have the Orbs, then there’s no use in us holding on to your family. But neither can I let them go. So, to encourage you and your League to search harder for those Orbs, we’ll keep capturing people important to you and disposing of them until you bring them to us.”

“Do not hurt my family,” Steven said quietly, the blood in his veins boiling. “If you do, I will find you and do the same to all of you.”

“Do you really think you can? I know your Pokemon are strong, and you have many of them. But there are many of us—and even if you did take on all of us and succeed, that wouldn’t change the fact that, at the end of the day, your family is gone.”

Steven stared at Maxie and knew he was right. When it was only the Team Aqua traitor on the line, Steven had been willing to lie and hide the Orbs for as long as they needed to prevent the destruction Team Magma and Team Aqua would cause. But this was his family—how could he throw their lives away? And he had the slab and the three golems—he could guarantee at least a modicum of protection for a time.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll—I’ll get you the Orbs—somehow.”

Maxie smiled, and his red eyes lit up with excitement.

“You do have them. Very well. Meet us at Monsu Island tomorrow night at 10 p.m.”

But,” Steven said aggressively. Maxie and the commanders looked at him curiously. “I want my family, Winona, and the Team Aqua traitor. Or the deal is off.”

“Hmm,” Courtney hummed thoughtfully. “What if we don’t hand over all of them? What if we decide to keep Winona for ourselves but still hand you back your family? What will you do then?”

“Enough, Courtney,” her boss said. “I’m not interested in playing speculative games.” He looked at Steven. “Agreed. Your family, the Gym Leader, and the traitor for the Orbs.”

“Hey,” Courtney suddenly cut across, “is Derek with you?”

Steven pursed his lips. “Why?”

“Can we speak with him? Wait, I can’t ask that—I demand you let us speak to him!”

“Why should I?”

“Oh, you know, just for old friends to catch up and see what’s going on. I bet he wants to talk to us, too—wait!” Her eyes suddenly lit up and she smiled. “Have him be the one to meet us at Monsu Island and give us the Orbs!”

Maxie tapped his chin thoughtfully as he considered Courtney’s words.

“I think that’s a better idea—send Derek to meet us instead.”

“OH! And he has to agree to hand himself over to us and be our prisoner.”

No,” Maxie said firmly. “I’m done dealing with prisoners. This conversation is over.”

“Can’t we just speak with Derek? I want to taunt him! And, realistically, we need to make plans for him to meet us.”

Maxie sighed. He looked at Steven.

“Fine. Let us speak to Derek.”

Steven felt like his conversation with them was finished. Unable to think of anything else to do, he turned off the camera in the PokeNav, and exited the bathroom.


Derek lay on his back, looking over the edge of the bed to where Golduck lay curled up. The Water-type spent a lot of time visiting Derek in the hospital, though he didn’t attempt to communicate much. Derek couldn’t understand Golduck like he understood his own Pokemon, but he could tell that Golduck was upset about not being taken along to raid the Team Magma base. When Derek was wheeled in, covered in bruises and blood, Golduck had flown into a rage of loud quacking and slapping his tail. Derek got the message: whenever they were doing anything that could potentially save Maressa, Golduck wanted in.

Even though Golduck remained fairly silent, he made good company. Derek wasn’t sure why Golduck chose to stay with him; perhaps he didn’t know of anywhere else to go, or didn’t have anyone else to spend time with. Maybe staying with Derek was some way for him to stay connected with Maressa, as Derek was the only other one who knew her.

At the thought of Maressa, Derek’s heart clenched with guilt and horror. How she could have been left behind, what she was going through…

He clenched his eyes then turned to look at Golduck, who was staring up at him curiously—and sadly? Derek wasn’t sure. The Pokemon’s expression was difficult for him to read.

“She talked about you a lot,” Derek mentioned. Golduck perked up, lifting his head from the ground. “She mentioned how you two made a great team—that you fought a lot with each other, but always stuck through your disagreements.”

Golduck kept staring eagerly at Derek, wanting to hear more about Maressa. Derek went on.

“She told me about the time you two fought a trainer with a Persian—how she told you to attack from a distance with water attacks, and you wanted to fight physically. You ended up getting clobbered and slashed to pieces by the Persian, but no one expected you to get back up and finish him off anyway.” Derek smiled. “She said you were better about listening to her battle orders after that, and she learned more about how strong you really are.”

At the mention of his strength, Golduck’s gaze fell, and he placed his head on the floor, looking mournful. Derek’s heart panged—

“Don’t feel bad.”

Golduck glanced up at him.

“Maressa told me what happened, and it was not your fault that she got captured—it was no one’s fault. No one thought Jirachi would be there. No one is powerful enough to fight off Jirachi—that thing is a god, it’s stronger than all other Pokemon. And she released you—not the other way around. Maressa knew… knew what she was getting in to.”

The last part was a lie; Maressa did not know what she was getting in to, and definitely was not ready to handle it. Her tear-stained, hysterical face flashed before Derek’s eyes, and his gut clenched.

But he remembered Claydol’s advice: Tabitha was just, and wouldn’t have any unfair punishment dished out to Maressa. But what if it wasn’t Tabitha who decided her fate—what if it was Maxie? Or Courtney? And what if what Tabitha said was true, and Maressa was now with Team Aqua? What were their admins like—would they show her any mercy?

And in his heart, Derek knew that the answer was no—they would have no mercy for her. He knew that treatment for traitors was ruthless, even by the teams’ standards.

The two of them lay in the silence, processing guilt and grief, until they were snapped out of their thoughts by the sound of approaching footsteps. They looked up to see Steven Stone walk in.

Steven held up the PokeNav.

“They want to talk to you.”

He turned the camera back on and Derek saw Maxie, Courtney, and Tabitha. His gaze hardened and his nostrils flared slightly—his anger sent a rush of blood through his veins.

“Derek!” Courtney said excitedly with a big smile. “Long time, no see! I’ve missed having you around here—it’s been a lot less exciting! Also—” She moved closer to the PokeNav’s camera “—are you in a hospital bed? HA! Tabitha, look what you did to him!”

“Where’s Maressa?” Derek asked.

Her eyebrows furrowed.

“Am I supposed to know who that is?”

Her head turned to the side and Derek vaguely heard some chatter. Courtney turned back to the PokeNav, her face lit up.

“Oh, that woman you left after you threw a door on me, told us you were a traitor, knocked out my Ninetales, and tried to set her free again? You know, it’s a real good thing your family is all the way in Johto, or else I would have gone after them and taken them as hostages instead.”

“Courtney, stop,” Maxie said. He looked at Derek. “Your Pokemon Champion has agreed to exchange the Orbs for our prisoners. We want you to meet us tomorrow at 10 p.m. at the south shore of Monsu Island. You, and you alone.

Derek looked up at Steven, who merely nodded back.

“Who am I meeting?”

“Me, Archie, and whatever commanders we decide to bring. I strongly advise you to not attempt any tricks.”

“Then you’ll bring us Winona and Maressa alive and unharmed.”

Maxie stared at Derek, his red eyes narrowed.

“Do you honestly believe that neither Maressa nor Winona are harmed at this point? Both have been held prisoner by Team Aqua. Winona was captured in the middle of the ocean when out with her flying Pokemon. You abandoned Maressa when she found a traitor. How can you possibly expect them to be unharmed? You’ll be lucky to get them back alive. We’ll see you tomorrow at 10.”

With a final beep, the PokeNav screen turned black. Derek looked up at Steven in disbelief.

“You’re really giving them the Orbs?”

Steven nodded.

“We have the slab to control the golems and we’ve discovered their locations. They can at least protect us until we find Rayquaza and finally put a stop to this insanity. We’ll—we’ll manage.”

“You’re doing this for Winona, aren’t you?”

Steven didn’t look up. He turned his face away.

“Team Magma has my family. I would normally think they’re lying, but they read out the address.”

“Because of the members in the police force?”

Steven nodded again. He exhaled deeply and looked up at Derek. His grey eyes were partially closed, and Derek noticed how tired he was.

“I’m sorry you have to be the one to do this. It—it wasn’t my intention.”

“No, don’t worry about it. I think it’ll work out better this way, anyway—I’m more familiar with their tricks. I’ll know what to do if they try anything.”

“Will you be well enough to go?”

“Sure. I mean, at this point, I have to be, don’t I?”

Putting his hands next to him, he pushed himself up into a sitting position, gritting his teeth and wincing. He looked at Golduck, who watched him expectantly.

“You wanna come with me tomorrow and get Maressa?”

Golduck quacked immediately—they could only assume it was an eager “yes.”

“Hold on,” Steven said. “They told you to come alone. How are you going to bring Golduck with you? He doesn’t even have a Pokeball.”

Derek pondered that for a moment.

“I think they were vague enough about what ‘alone’ means to give me some leeway. For some people, they would expect me to include Pokemon. But with Maxie…” He shrugged. “I think his main concern at this point is getting the Orbs. He probably wasn’t mentally separating the Pokemon from their trainers when he told me to come alone, anyway.”

The two of them stayed silent for a bit. Golduck got up off the bed and restlessly paced on the floor. Steven looked at Derek; the former Team Magma member leaned back against the bedrest, his eyes staring straight ahead as though he didn’t take in anything he saw.

“Are you feeling okay?” Steven asked him. “I mean—emotionally prepared for this.”

Derek’s eyes dropped.

“I never was.”

“Me, neither.”
Chapter 30

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Hi all, here's chapter 30! Fun fact: it's the shortest chapter in the fic! I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 30

Derek took in a deep, shaky breath.

The waves of the ocean raced up the sandy shore. To his right, the sand gave way to rocky jetties and cliffs. The waters raged as they dashed against the rocks, painting their sides white with foam. Above Derek, stars twinkled from a cloudless sky, the brilliant arms of the galaxy twisting as silent spectators over the roaring waves.

Claydol floated nearby, out of Derek’s eyesight but near enough so Derek could communicate with him over their mental link. Golbat soared in circles overhead while Breloom hopped on the rocks along the shore. Golduck stood in the sand several meters in front of Derek, his eyes fixed on the distant horizon.

Monsu Island was a tiny little outcrop of rock—maybe some members of the Pokemon League would have been able to hide somewhere around it, but Steven quickly decided that trying to orchestrate an ambush with the small amount of bare land would be too difficult in the amount of time they had.

The Pokeball of Wallace’s Wailord sat in Derek’s pocket. Wallace willingly lent him to Derek so he could get to Monsu Island. The Water-type would also be large enough to hold everyone they rescued and bring them all back to Ever Grande City. Derek held two cloth sacks loosely in his hand, each bulging with unseen contents.

White water splashed around Derek’s feet. It was weird to think that, a few short months ago, he was mending wounds on a Team Magma ship. His only concerns were how to stay financially stable, and whether he wanted to go back to medical school. Disobeying his superiors had never crossed his mind—let alone releasing a Team Aqua traitor, a child, and working with the Pokemon League to actively take Team Magma down.

And now, he was waiting for the two teams to appear, to deliver the stolen Orbs to rescue the person who instigated everything.


He heard a distant hum—and it quickly grew into a loud, vibrant beat, echoing the violent pounding of his heart. Looking up, he saw a small helicopter descend from the sky and land on the rocks near Derek. The door opened. Derek winced against the bright light shining from inside and saw the silhouette of Maxie.

“We brought the ones you want, Derek.” He spat the last word with disgust.

Maxie shuffled aside and Derek saw silhouettes of other people march out of the helicopter. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw Team Magma grunts holding a few unfamiliar people—whom he assumed were members of Steven’s family—and Winona.

Where is Maressa?

Derek was about to ask when he heard loud splashing. Turning his head, he saw a large metal body break the surface of the waves, a black silhouette against the galactic sky. It floated ever closer towards him until it was almost grounded on the sand. The hatch opened, and out stepped a man whose black clothes blended in with the night. A woman with copious amounts of bushy red hair emerged after him, her pale arms and bared midriff sticking out in stark contrast to the dark sky.

Derek’s heart leapt to his throat as he saw three large, bell-shaped heads adorned with red crystals break through the salty waters. Beneath each bell, a set of eyes glared maliciously at Derek. The sight of two Team Aqua leaders and their Pokemon emerging from the sea before Derek was intimidating—his hands shook slightly. Clenching his fists, his fear gave way to a fresh wave of anger.

“Where is she?” he shouted over the waves.

At his words, one of the Tentacruel lifted several of its brown stingers out of the water. Golduck let out an alarmingly loud, screechy quack and Derek’s heart plummeted as they realized what it held.

Entangled in the slimy appendages, Maressa’s pale form hung limply. Her clothes were torn and mangled. Her blonde hair was a tangled nest. Nearly all of her skin was discolored.

Quaking with anger, Derek began to think of a command to give Claydol when the Tentacruel wrapped one tentacle firmly around Maressa’s waist and another around her head.

“I know what you’re thinking.”

Derek snapped his head back as the Aqua Leader spoke.

“If you think you can save her by commanding your Claydol to immobilize my Tentacruel, then go ahead. But do you really think it can take on three Tentacruel at once? And even then, I have my Sharpedo on me—no amount of Psychic energy will be able to stop him. I’ll give you ten seconds to toss me those Orbs. If you do anything else, or if they turn out to be fake, then Tentacruel will snap her neck.”

“I’m not interested in playing games!” Maxie shouted from the helicopter. “Give us the Orbs, and you get the prisoners. Do that, and we won’t fight.”

Derek looked back and forth between the team leaders. He wanted to think of something, find a way out—

Ten seconds until Tentacruel snaps her neck.

Only one thing mattered.

Bringing his arm back, he flung one sack into the air towards the Team Magma grunts. One man immediately dropped Winona and rushed forward to catch it. He brought the sack to Maxie, who peered inside. The Magma Leader’s eyes widened and he froze for a moment as he merely stared at the contents of the bag. Closing it, he looked at his grunts.

“Let them go. We have what we need.”

The other Team Magma grunts let go of Steven’s family and dropped them to the ground where they lay unmoving. Maxie and his team retreated inside the helicopter and closed the door behind them. The blades of the helicopter whirred and it lifted into the sky. Within a few minutes, the helicopter was out of sight and out of earshot.

Derek flung the other sack into the air and it landed in Archie’s outstretched arms. The Aqua Leader untied the sack, peered in, and his face was lit with manic joy. The hungry look on his face grew, and an almost-inhuman light danced in his eyes. But a second later, he closed the bag, and returned his cold, callous gaze to Derek.

“Thank you,” he called as he held the bag up. He sounded strained, as though he was trying to hold in laughter. Lowering the bag, he looked back to the Tentacruel holding Maressa. His smile faded.

“But it’s not enough to save her.”


As soon as the final words left Archie’s mouth, Derek’s fear flooded Claydol, and the earthen doll immobilized the Tentacruel holding Maressa. The other two Tentacruel shot Claydol with powerful streams of water, sending him flying. Breloom sprang forward and landed on top of the bell of one Tentacruel where he began scattering spores and pounding the Water-type’s head with rapid-fire punches.

Golduck jumped in the water and re-surfaced directly in front of the other Tentacruel and shot it point-blank with a beam of psychic energy. Golbat beat his wings furiously, sending blades of air at all three Tentacruel from above.

Lastly—and what Derek never foresaw happening—an orange-and-white blur flew through the air before colliding with the Tentacruel holding Maressa. The Tentacruel let out a terrible screech as a horn shattered one of the large crystals on its head, and it immediately let go of the human body as it wrapped stingers around its new foe.

Derek stood in shock for a moment, trying to take it all in. But once Maressa’s body dropped, he sprinted forward, plunging into the water, running until he held her mangled form in his hands.

“Oh, Maressa…”

She was hardly recognizable. Her body was covered in large, purple-and-black bruises with several gashes and scrapes. What skin wasn’t broken or beaten was red and rough, as though covered in pieces of rope. He dragged her out of the water as he quickly as he could, trying to keep her away from the chaos, begging in his heart that she wasn’t—

A high-pitched chirrup shrilled in his ears, and he looked up in time to see Breloom fly past him and slam into the sand. Derek looked at the Team Aqua leaders, both of whom looked furious.

Taking out three Pokeballs, Archie withdrew the Tentacruel and glared at Derek, his nostrils flared and the corners of his mouth pulled back. But it passed after a moment, and he smiled.

“Take the girl if you want. I have this—” he held up the Orb “—now. You had your chance to stop me. You sacrificed it for the lives of people who’ll soon be dead anyway!”

With these last words, he leaped back into the vessel, closely followed by the red-headed woman. The hatch shut, and the seacraft departed.

Derek breathed heavily. He only had eyes for Maressa, and he couldn’t think about anything else. He put two fingers to Maressa’s neck, finding the carotid artery just under her jaw, his anticipation and anxiety eating at him. He breathed a huge sigh of relief as he felt a pulse—

She was alive.

He placed fingers under her nostrils—she was breathing, too. But for how long? He didn’t know what the extent of her injuries were—he only knew she needed help.


Derek looked up and saw a Seaking floating in the water before them, almost grounded on the sand. Some of his scales were a bright, irritated red, but the color was quickly fading, and he seemed otherwise unharmed.

As he saw the Water-type gazing at Maressa with concern, something clicked in Derek’s brain.

“You’re Maressa’s, aren’t you? You were with her when she and other Team Aqua members were exploring the sea near Mossdeep, right?”

The Seaking nodded.


Derek turned and saw Golduck race over. The Water-type looked different than Derek had ever seen him—once he saw Maressa, Golduck’s eyes opened wide and his normally-expressionless face looked utterly heartbroken. He reached out a shaking hand, as if he wanted to touch Maressa but was afraid to.

“It’s okay, Golduck. She’s still alive—all thanks to Seaking, here.”

Golduck looked at Seaking as if he hadn’t noticed him before. Golduck immediately leapt into the water and wrapped his blue arms around his friend—as much as he could, at least. Seaking joyfully swam in a circle as he and Golduck communicated through a series of noises.

But Derek couldn’t allow their happy to reunion to last.

“I’m grateful to you both for helping, but—we don’t have time. Seaking, I don’t know how you found us, or came here, but… Well, thank you. If it wasn’t for you, Maressa—" He suddenly broke off, and said, “She needs medical care as soon as possible. So Claydol—" He stopped again, suddenly aware that the mental link that he shared with his Pokemon was gone.

He looked around.



The Grass-type Pokemon stood with Golbat on a patch of sand next to a large, unmoving object. Derek didn’t need Breloom or Golbat to tell him; he hardly could have expected Claydol to take two hydro pumps to the face easily.

Reaching into his pocket, he took out his Pokeballs and withdrew Claydol, Golbat and Breloom. He took out another Pokeball, and Wailord materialized in the ocean. He was so large that he couldn’t be in the shallow water like Seaking and stayed about thirty meters away from the shore. Derek turned back to Seaking and Golduck.

“Can you please help? My Claydol is unconscious and can’t teleport us back to the Pokemon League—we’ll need Wailord to transport us. Can you take Maressa to him while I go check on the others?”

Golduck nodded earnestly while Seaking heartily jumped up and down. With Golduck’s help, Derek lifted Maressa onto Seaking’s back. The Water-types made noises, and Derek knew they must have been talking, but he had no idea what the Pokemon tried to say.

As soon as Derek let go of Maressa, Seaking swam towards Wailord with Golduck keeping her steady. Derek watched with terrible anxiety—his heart never stopped pounding with terror once he saw Maressa. He couldn’t stop worst-case scenarios from coming to his mind—

But he couldn’t think of that now. There were others who needed his help. Turning, he ran to the rocks where Team Magma had landed and checked on Winona and Steven’s family. All of them were unconscious but he couldn’t detect any physical trauma. Derek figured Team Magma probably had Pokemon force them to sleep with hypnosis or sleep powder.

Calling Breloom out of his Pokeball again, Derek had the Grass-type help with carrying them down to the ocean shore to Seaking and Golduck, who transported them out to Wailord. Once all the Teams’ prisoners were transported, Seaking came back to Derek and looked expectantly up at him.

“Can you take me back to Wailord, please? We’re heading to Ever Grande City—Wailord took me and Golduck here. If you want to follow along, you’re welcome to.”

Seaking leapt in-and-out of the water in hearty agreement before taking Derek on his back and over to Wailord.

Wailord surfed under the starlit sky with the people and Golduck on his back while Seaking plowed through the waters next to him. Derek held Maressa in his arms, gazing at her scarred face.

As they surfed over the waters, Derek’s thoughts turned to Team Aqua. His blood boiled, and he thought of how now, more than ever, he wanted this whole fight to end. But as his gaze lingered on the raw stings and exposed muscle peeking through gashes in her skin, his anger melted away.

Hang on, Maressa.
Chapter 31

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Heya, here's the next chapter! Enjoy!

Chapter 31


Maressa wearily lifted her eyelids. Bright lights hung from a white ceiling. Panic suddenly overwhelmed her—she jerked her head around. She lay in a white bed with an IV tube connected to her arm. Several other lines ran from her body to a series of wires on a metal stand next to her bed. A monitor displayed several numbers in different colors. She felt something tickling her nose and saw an oxygen tube leading from her nostrils to the stand.

Her heart dropped as she saw her arms—they were covered in bandages, but dark red lines and purple-black bruises peeked out from exposed flesh. Her back and hips hurt. She was so tired—she wanted to sleep, but now that she was awake, it felt impossible to relax. Her heart hurt, as if someone had pricked it with a nail. When she closed her eyes, it came back to her—it all came back. The reality of those cold hours lying on wet sheets of metal, screaming until her throat went hoarse, salt water sluicing through her injuries…

But one memory dominated all others. She still saw the hungry gleam in Matt’s eyes, felt the pressure of his grip, the force of his weight.

Maressa involuntarily clenched her eyes and turned her head to the side. The feeling of a nail pricking her heart intensified, and it felt like dozens of nails were driven deeply in. But the memory was addicting, and every time she tried to turn her mind from it, she found herself drawn back—


She opened her eyes as the monitor beeped, and a woman dressed in scrubs pushed aside the curtains and walked in. Her eyes met Maressa’s and she smiled.

“You’re awake! How are you feeling?”

Maressa didn’t know how to respond. She just stared blankly at the strange woman, her heart still pounding hard.

“I know, it’s a lot to take in,” the woman said kindly. “There’s someone who wants to see you. I’m just going to adjust a few things and then let him know you’re here.” The woman prattled on about what exactly she was doing as she connected the tubes to different containers, but it was a lot of medical names and terminology that Maressa didn’t understand.

The woman left, and after a few minutes, Maressa’s heartbeat slowed, and she felt considerably calmer, though the feeling of fear lingered.

She looked up as a man with silver hair wearing a black suit and red tie walked in. He sat on a chair next to her bed and looked at her gently with grey eyes.

“Hello, Maressa. My name is Steven Stone. I’m the Champion of the Pokemon League. You’re at the Ever Grande City Hospital. You were rescued from Team Aqua and are now completely safe. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done—I’ve heard all about your betrayal from Derek and from your Golduck.”

At the mention of Golduck, Maressa started. Her heartbeat didn’t quicken like it always had, but she felt such an intense longing—a deep joy.

“Golduck’s here?” she croaked. Her voice was scratchy from her throat being so dry.

Steven smiled.

“He is—he helped save you. As far as your injuries, the medics say everything will heal. The Tentacruel stings are the biggest things, and you may have Tentacruel Syndrome—it’s a lingering effect that causes your body persistent pain and has psychological effects, but the symptoms improve after a number of hours.”

He gave her a small smile, but it quickly vanished. The pitch of his voice dropped and turned stern.

“I know you want to see your Golduck, Maressa, but I need to talk to you urgently. I need to hear everything that happened from your point of view—everything since you met Derek until now, as far as you can remember. I’m sorry to ask this, but please understand. Team Aqua is still out there and our fight with them isn’t over. We need to defeat them, and to do this, I need you to tell me everything you know. After that, you can see your Golduck and spend time with him—I promise.”

Maressa averted her eyes. She lay on the bed a moment, not really thinking, but not feeling quite able to speak.


Golduck was waiting for her—he saved her, and he was the only one she really wanted to see. She began to speak automatically, the words coming to her without needing to really recall the situations as they happened. She told Steven about meeting Derek, about everything Tabitha told her—of her escape, going to Mossdeep, reunion with Team Aqua, and stealing the Orbs after Phoebe and Liza’s failed negotiation attempt. She went on about her going through Mauville posing as a civilian, winding back up with Team Aqua, and of releasing her Pokemon and watching Jirachi’s destruction of Team Magma’s fleet. Maressa recounted everything Tabitha told her as clearly as she could.

When she got to being handed over to Team Aqua, her voice lost its automaton quality and started to shake. She briefly mentioned what they did to her—Tentacruel’s stings, being held under water, and other things that didn’t surprise Steven but disgusted him nonetheless. At this point, her voice was shaking so badly and tears were rolling down her cheeks; she didn’t go into detail, but the surface information was enough. When she finished, the two of them lingered in silence for a short while, Maressa still trembling and her face wet with tears.

“Thank you,” Steven said at last. “And I’m sorry for all you’ve gone through.” He stood up. “I need to go now. Do you want me to send for your Golduck?”

She didn’t respond right away. Taking a shuddering breath, she asked, “Are my other Pokemon here?”

Steven looked down at her with his head slightly tilted and his chin pointing forward.

“What other Pokemon do you have?”

“Lanturn, Sharpedo… and Seaking.”

“There is a Seaking that came back with you. I haven’t heard anything about the others. You said you released them?”

Maressa nodded.

“They’re probably still out in the ocean, then, in the south Hoenn sea.”

Maressa averted her eyes, thinking. Her Golduck was here, and a Seaking was with them—could it really be hers?—and Lanturn and Sharpedo were still out there somewhere. Golduck, and possibly Seaking, had been found—couldn’t Lanturn and Sharpedo also be found? Steven stared at her calculatingly, but Maressa barely paid it mind.

At last, Steven said, “I need to go. Your parents have been contacted—they’ll be here by tonight. I’ll go tell your Golduck to come in.”

Maressa nodded, and Steven left.

Once he was gone, and she was all alone, a feeling of terror—unlike any she had felt before, suddenly overwhelmed her. There was no reason for it; it was something inside her that filled her with dread. Deep in her heart, she knew something terrible was going to happen—as if the world was about to end, that she was about to die—

She closed her eyes, completely helpless against the terror. She wanted to cry out, wanted to break down and sob—but her body was frozen, unable to move.

She lay on the bed, wallowing in fear. She looked up as the curtain pulled back—and Golduck entered the room.


A huge smile broke over her face as her best friend hopped on the chair previously occupied by Steven. He also had long, red marks on his body, but they looked faded, and he appeared to otherwise be unharmed. His bright red eyes lit up as he gazed at her joyfully, his bright blue tail wagging back and forth in excitement. Maressa reached over and the two wrapped their arms around each other as they best they could with the wires and lines. Her friend’s head rested against hers; his skin was cool to the touch. The two of them remained that way—Maressa felt as though her heart would burst, and fresh tears came back to her eyes.

Golduck quacked—they missed her so much, and here she was!

“Oh, Golduck, I’ll never leave you again!” she choked. “Steven said you saved me! What happened?”

Golduck began to recount the story when Maressa noticed someone standing just beyond the open curtain. She looked up and saw Derek hovering by. Once her eyes met his, a relieved smile broke out on his face and he walked in.

“You’re awake,” he said quietly.

Still smiling, Maressa merely nodded. She wasn’t sure what she felt—happiness, to be sure, but there was a part of her that did not want him there.

Derek stepped forward and looked down at her. There were bruises on his face, and Maressa noticed bandages peeking out from under the sleeves of his t-shirt. His shoulders were tense, his hands in his pockets.

“Maressa, I… I didn’t mean to leave you behind. When I promised to release you, I meant it—and I tried, but my Claydol got me and teleported us to the desert near Lavaridge and he refused to take me back—and—and Maressa, I’m so sorry.”

The words tumbled out in a rush and Derek looked at Maressa as if he was worried she wouldn’t believe him.

“I’m not mad.”

Derek gaped.

“I’m not mad,” Maressa repeated. “Not at you.”

“Everything that happened to you—I know it’s my fault…”

Maressa slightly shook her head and sighed.

“It’s not your fault. I wasn’t strong enough to stop the Teams—none of us were.” She looked up at him with a slight smile. “You rescued me once. I know you would have done it then, too, if you had the chance.”

Her eyebrows furrowed slightly as she looked at Derek.

“Are those bandages? Are you hurt? Oh—Tabitha’s Mightyena bit you, didn’t he?”

Derek’s face turned pale.

“Well, yes that happened—a lot of things happened…”

“Like what?”

Derek sighed and averted his eyes. He wasn’t sure where to begin, or how to tell Maressa everything.

“Yeah, Derek,” she said, “what happened? How did I end up here? How did Golduck get here? How did you get here? And I want to see Seaking! How did he find us? What happened to the Teams?”

Derek looked down at Golduck. The Water-type looked nervous—more nervous than Derek had ever seen him. If Golduck thought telling Maressa the truth was scarier than facing a Metagross or several Tentacruel, then Derek was terrified.

But Maressa had a right to know as much as anyone else did—more than anyone else did.

“Do you want to tell her?” he asked Golduck.

The Water-type vehemently shook his head.

“Okay… Well—I’ll start with what happened to me.”

Derek recounted Claydol taking him to the desert before Jirachi transported them to Mossdeep City, just in time to see the mythical Pokemon disappear. He met up with the Pokemon League and told them everything that happened, and Steven Stone took him to Maressa’s old house in Mauville to tell her parents everything.

“And we met up with Golduck—he can tell you how that happened—and he gave Steven the Orbs. The Pokemon League was looking for the Sky Pillar and trying to find the places where the legendary golems are. Wallace ran in to Team Aqua and was badly injured, but fortunately his Wailord was able to bring him back to us. He lost his PokeNav, though, so Team Aqua was able to track down Winona and capture her. They also had their people who infiltrated the police capture Steven’s family. Team Magma called Steven from Winona’s PokeNav and told him what happened—that they had his family, and that Team Aqua had you and Winona.”

Derek paused. Maressa stared at him. The pharmaceuticals injected into her prevented her from feeling too wired up or anxious, but the dreaded feeling never left her. She didn’t know if it was the drugs, her injuries, or overall exhaustion, but she wasn’t able to piece together whatever Derek had left to say.

“Okay,” she said, “we were all stuck with the Teams. And? How did we get back?”

Derek licked his lips.

“There was only one thing the Teams would offer to exchange for you all.” He inhaled and looked up at Maressa. His dark brown eyes were wide open.

“We gave them the Orbs.”

Maressa blinked a few times. She couldn’t feel anything. She kept repeating Derek’s words in her head.

We gave them the Orbs.

Well, if the Teams had the Orbs, then that was it. They won. They had control over Kyogre and Groudon and knew their whereabouts.

And everything had been for nothing.

Everything she endured while under Team Aqua—every punch, every kick, those times she was entangled in stinging tentacles, all those times she screamed until she could scream no more, giving up the best friends she had ever made knowing full well she would never see them again—

All useless.

She stared at the ceiling overhead.

She didn’t look back at Derek or Golduck. She knew they stared at her, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t think of anything to say.

There was nothing to say.

Golduck nervously quacked. Was she okay?

“Everything you did wasn’t wasted,” Derek said quickly. “But we wanted you back. And if we have Rayquaza and the golems, then we should be able to manage. The golems can contain Groudon and Kyogre’s power, and Rayquaza can force them back to where they came from.”

Maressa stared at the ceiling.

Derek felt guilty, and her prolonged silence only worsened his apprehension.

“Why did I bother?” she asked.

She still didn’t look at Derek or Golduck.

“If you guys were just going to give them the Orbs… Why did I do anything?”

“Because we care about you!” Derek told her. “We wanted to save your life—”

“But I decided to give it up.”

She looked peculiar; her gaze was intense, but her eyelids were drooping and her brow was slightly furrowed. Her mouth hung slightly open as she stared at Derek. It was as though she would be very worked up or angry but was too tired to feel strongly.

“I gave up… everything—"

Golduck quacked. He, Lanturn, and Sharpedo were NOT ready to give up Maressa. If there was a way for them to get her back, they were going to take it—no matter what!

“Excuse me.”

Derek turned around and saw a nurse standing behind him.

“We need to allow the patient to rest, now,” she informed him. “I’m sorry, but I need to ask you to leave. You can come back in a few hours.”

Golduck hopped off Maressa’s bed and landed next to Derek. Maressa looked at them with half-open eyes. She blinked slowly. Derek’s heart twisted into knots.

“We’ll come back and see you soon,” Derek said.

Golduck quacked an affirmation.

Maressa turned away and closed her eyes. Derek walked away, the weight of guilt settling deeper into his stomach.

He didn’t regret giving Team Aqua and Team Magma the Orbs in exchange for their prisoners. But as he left, he saw Maressa looking more broken than he had ever seen her. And he felt so guilty about her condition. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her heavily-scarred hands and face. If only he had tried harder, fought harder, done more to just protect her, hang on and not let her go…

As he and Golduck stepped out of the air-conditioned hallways into Ever Grande’s sunlight, Derek took a deep breath of the sweet air. Golduck quacked—probably telling Derek that he’d see him later—and plodded off the brick walkway into a nearby stream.

Derek’s mind kept turning back to Maressa, processing all the guilt, the worry—and noticing for the first time that, whenever he thought of her, his heart burst with warmth. He kept thinking back to the smile she gave him in the hospital and the way she gazed at him with those soft, amber eyes.

She’s going to be okay, Derek thought with relief. Knowing that Maressa was going to live and make a full recovery was immensely comforting. All of her limbs would be fully functioning again—only the scars would last a lifetime.


Derek visited Maressa the next morning. A few hours after his first visit, he tried going back, but the nurse told him that the only other visitors permitted that day were Maressa’s parents and that he’d have to try another day. So, Derek waited until late morning before inviting Golduck to go with him to see Maressa.

The two of them found her sitting propped up on several pillows. Many of the lines previously connected to her body had been taken out. She had a mostly-empty tray before her and was finishing up some toast. Looking up, she smiled when she saw Golduck and Derek.

“Good morning,” Derek said as he sat in a chair next to her bed. “How’ve you been?”

Golduck took the other chair in her room and pushed it so he sat between Maressa and Derek. He quacked happily.

Maressa gave Golduck a large smile before turning to Derek.

“I’ve been okay. A lot of the symptoms of what I had—the Tentacruel State or whatever it’s called—have subsided. So I’ve been really hungry, but they keep on telling me to eat more slowly and that I can’t have as much food as I ask for.”

She looked a bit dejected at these last words.

“How was your parents’ visit?”

Maressa shrugged.

“It was okay. They already knew I was part of Team Aqua—I don’t know how, as I never told them. I tried asking them but they dodged all of my questions and insisted on questioning me.” She scowled. “I guess it’s public information now, or something. They asked me all about why I would join Team Aqua, what I’ve done, what happened to me…”

Maressa put her fork down and stared blankly ahead. Her eyes didn’t move and she didn’t blink—she just remained silent.



At hearing her name, she snapped back up and looked at Derek again.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh—yeah, sorry about that. Anyway, their visit was… Well, I don’t look forward to long explanations every time they come in. And apparently my sister, Betty, is supposed to be in sometime tomorrow.”

Noticing her sour look, Derek asked, “Is that a bad thing?”

“I just don’t look forward to more interrogation sessions. And I might have had my hospital bill from when I escaped from Team Magma sent to Betty…” At these last words, Maressa’s eyes shifted and she shrank back into her pillows.

Derek smiled. “That sounds like something you should have seen coming at some point.”

“I… Yeah,” she admitted with a sheepish smile.

“Anyway,” she continued, “what are you two up to today? And when do I get to see Seaking? I miss him!”

Golduck quacked several times and Maressa’s eyes lit up. She laughed.

“That’s so sweet of you, Golduck! But I’m not surprised.”

“What did he say?” Derek asked.

“That he planned on bringing a kiddie pool filled with water into my room so that Seaking could be with me—but the Chansey working here told him that kiddie pools are banned.”

Derek looked at Golduck—the Water-type looked angry.

“That’s an amazing idea! I wish I had thought of that. I’m sorry they said no to you, though.”

Golduck looked slightly heartened at Derek’s words and nodded. Derek turned back to Maressa.

He couldn’t stop thinking about where their conversation from yesterday had left off. The entire time he sat with Maressa, nervousness ate away at him, but she didn’t seem upset at him or Golduck at all.

“So… you’re not mad?” he asked tentatively.

She looked at him. Her smile was gone.

“About the Orbs?”

He nodded.

Her eyes fell and she inhaled deeply.

“I… I don’t know. I couldn’t stop thinking about it yesterday once you told me. But…” She shook her head. “It’s so surreal. All of this is. Sometimes, I can’t believe that any of this happened—that I joined Team Aqua, or that I was captured by Team Magma or… I feel like I should be living the life of a college student, that I worry about exams and that’s it. Or that I should just be training my Pokemon, or living a day-to-day life working a nine-to-five job. I haven’t really been able to process it, honestly…” She trailed off again and sighed. “I just don’t know, Derek. But at this point, I guess we just have to keep going with it.”

Derek bobbed his head.

“I feel that way, too.”

The three of them sat in silence for a little bit. Eventually, Maressa spoke.

“Do you have any idea when they’ll let me out of here?”

“With your condition, probably not for at least a few weeks—"


Maressa stared at him with her mouth hanging open. Both of her hands balled into fists and her face—already red from all the scarring—flushed with anger.

“I can’t be in here that long! I need to do something! Besides—"

“But I don’t actually know,” Derek cut across. “I can talk to your doctor and ask him what he thinks, but after everything you’ve been through, they’ll probably want to keep an eye on you. I really don’t know much about Tentacruel Syndrome—it might be something that you recover from in only a few days.”

Maressa said nothing but looked at her lap—after a minute, Derek realized that she wasn’t looking at her lap, but at her hands. She held one up and studied the red, rope-like pattern crossing it.

“Does my face look like this?” she asked quietly.

A twinge of guilt hit Derek’s heart.

“Well, you have some of those red marks on parts of your face.”

She kept staring at her hand.

“I look a lot different, don’t I?”

“It’s not that bad,” Derek lied.

Maressa lowered her hand but kept her eyes on it. She exhaled. Her shoulders were slumped, her eyes were half-closed.

“What day is it?” she asked.

Derek checked a calendar on the wall. “It’s September second.”

Maressa laughed darkly.

“It was my birthday five days ago…” She laid down on the bed, her eyes gazing glassily at the ceiling. “Happy birthday to me.” She blinked several times and yawned.

“Do you need to rest?” Derek asked her.

She nodded. “I think so...”

Derek nodded. He and Golduck stood up—

“Are you leaving?”

Maressa’s eyes were wide with fear, all signs of tiredness gone.

“Just for a bit—to let you sleep.”

“Please, don’t leave.”

Maressa gazed at him pleadingly, and Derek’s heart panged with guilt again.

“You can stay—please, at least until I fall asleep.”

Derek obliged and sat back down on his chair. Maressa relaxed considerably. She settled down into her pillows and closed her eyes.

“Are you okay?” Derek asked her.

She said nothing for a moment—then Derek noticed small pools of tears form under her eyelids.

“I’m so tired.”
Chapter 32

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Hi all, here's this week's chapter! I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 32

Derek met Maressa again later that evening. He hadn’t seen her parents—he wasn’t sure he wanted to, and Maressa made it sound like a bad idea.

“It’s non-stop interrogation,” she told him as she wolfed down some spaghetti. “ ‘Why did you join an illegal group? Why did you lie to us? Do you understand how betrayed we feel? Don’t you know how much we wanted to talk to you and see you? We thought you were out of contact but you were within Hoenn the whole time’—it’s never-ending.” She shook her head and downed some Miltank milk. “Also, when can I finally leave this hospital? They have people help me walk during the day, but when can I go outside?”

Derek shrugged.

“No idea. How do you feel when you walk?”

“My hips and legs hurt a bit, and there was a lot of pain at first, but it’s gotten better. Do you think, if I asked Steven to tell them to discharge me, he would do it?”

“That’s not a good idea. With your injuries, you shouldn’t push yourself. I think you should stay here until you’re all better.”

Maressa lowered her fork to her empty plate.

“Derek… I haven’t seen my Seaking in weeks. I know he’s outside but only because you and Golduck tell me that he is. I don’t know where my other Pokemon are. And I don’t know how much longer we all have, now that Team Aqua and Team Magma have the Orbs.”

Derek’s stomach twisted into knots as Maressa spoke. He couldn’t imagine spending what may be the last few days on earth without seeing his Pokemon.

“I’ll see what I can do so you can at least talk to Seaking again. Maybe I can ask Steven about it—he makes all the big decisions around here.”


Pale light shone through the window in Derek’s room. He inhaled deeply as he opened his eyes and watched the newly-risen sun creep over the horizon. Its rays sparkled brilliantly along the ocean waters. The sky was a bright green-blue as the morning star began its ascent.

The room the Pokemon League gave to Derek was nicer than anything he had ever stayed in. Ever Grande City was known almost solely for hosting the Elite Four and Victory Road, the final test for Pokemon trainers. Much of the city was high-end with fancy hotels for trainers to stay in as well as the homes of the Elite Four members. Derek knew there were lower-income parts of the city lying inland, further away from the island’s shorelines, but he had not seen any of it with his own eyes yet. For the duration of his stay, the Elite Four gave him a suite normally reserved for trainers who obtained all eight Hoenn League badges and were about to fight the Elite Four.

Apart from his visits with Maressa, Derek spent much of the day exploring Ever Grande’s idyllic nature. The cliffs had several small streams coursing down their sides; the shorelines were dotted with coconut palms; the caves held an abundance of Pokemon; little waterfalls dotted the island; the air was heavy with the sweet scent of flowers that grew along the walkways. Breloom loved exploring with Derek; Claydol enjoyed going along for company; even Golbat, who typically preferred to keep to himself, would join them as they went on daily excursions.

Maressa’s Pokemon stayed together. There was one particular river where Derek typically found Golduck and Seaking. He spent time with them and tried to socialize, sometimes bringing his own Pokemon to interact with them and translate. His heart panged with guilt every time Seaking spoke of how much he missed Maressa and wanted to see her.

After getting dressed, he made his way downstairs, his mind buzzing the whole time. How could he get her to see Seaking?

As the elevator stopped on the ground floor, Derek walked into the hallway where he saw a woman looking back-and-forth between the directory and a piece of paper she held in her hand. He started.


She looked up at him, her face alight with joy.


She looked better than before. A lot of the bruises were gone, replaced with her naturally-colored flesh. There were still some red marks, residues of being caught in a jungle of Tentacruel stingers, and rope-like scars still marred her face and arms.

“What are you doing? Shouldn’t you still be in the hospital?”

“I called Steven and asked if he could tell them to discharge me. He came to my room, talked to me a bit, talked to the medical staff, and I was released this morning! Their Pokemon helped speed up my recovery—Chansey and Blissey fed me nutrients from their soft-boiled, and they had Miltank milk for me to drink. This is my only day, though, so I want to spend as much time with you and my Pokemon as I can. I asked him for your room number, so he gave that to me. Do you know where Golduck and Seaking would be?”

“Wait—why did he agree to discharge you? And why is this your only day?”

“He said he needed help—the Pokemon League is trying to find Rayquaza and they need more people scouting the ocean. He said Seaking and I would be good to have, and if we’re out in the ocean, then we might see Sharpedo and Lanturn!”

Maressa was beaming, but Derek was deeply unsettled.

Steven is sending her out again?

“Maressa… Well, sure, I’ll take you to your Pokemon. Let’s go outside.”

They walked into the cool morning air down the brick walkway. Derek spoke to her as he led her off the bricks and down a dirt path. Palm trees crossed overhead, their leaves providing some shade from the bright sun. Beautifly fluttered in the thick bushes around them, drinking flower nectar through their proboscises.

“Do you really think this is all a good idea? I know Tentacruel Syndrome doesn’t last that long, but I know more than that happened to you. And do you really want to go out fighting again?”

“Well, it’s not fighting this time. We’re just searching.”

“But haven’t you done enough? Do you really feel like you need to help the Pokemon League after everything you’ve already done? And do you really want to go back into the ocean after everything that’s happened?”

Maressa was silent. Derek looked back—she had stopped walking. Her expression was blank. Her amber eyes stared straight forward, wide open, as if something was playing before her eyes, captivating her attention, that Derek could not see.


She blinked a few times and shook her head.

“There are a lot of things I want, Derek…” she said quietly. “But—well, given the current situation, we just all have to try and stop Team Aqua and Team Magma, right? No point in waiting around if it can be done sooner. And besides, I really want to see Lanturn and Sharpedo again. So, why wait?”

She looked up at Derek with a sort of half-smile on her face. He knew she was trying to stay positive, trying to believe in the best—

“Maressa, you aren’t obligated to do anything. And would your Pokemon think it’s a good idea for you to go out in the ocean right now?”

She shrugged as she slowly tried to clamber over a fallen tree trunk.

“I don’t know. But I’ll find out when I ask them!”

“Here, do you need help?” Derek asked when he saw how much she struggled to lift her legs.

She accepted his help, and the two of them continued down the dirt path, Derek hanging on to Maressa’s hand whenever she needed support. As they walked, their conversation drifted into other subjects—what their hometowns were like, how family life was growing up…

“This isn’t at all like hiking in Johto,” Derek said as he brushed aside palm fronds.

“Oh really? How so?”

“Johto isn’t tropical. There’s a lot more mountains and caves, and it’s mostly evergreen trees—pine trees and stuff like that. There are some forests with broadleaf trees, too, but no palm trees or anything like this.”

“That sounds a lot more like Kanto. And it isn’t nearly as humid.”

“Makes sense. Have you been to Mt. Silver or the Tojoh Falls before?”

“No, I haven’t! I heard they’re great, though, and I’ve always wanted to go. I haven’t been back to Kanto since my family moved to Hoenn.”

“We should go sometime. It’s gorgeous—if you haven’t seen Johto yet, those are great places to start. We can also visit New Bark Town so you can get a real cultural taste of the region.”

Maressa looked up at him and smiled—not one of the half-smiles she kept giving before when she justified helping the Pokemon League. She actually seemed to like the idea of hiking in Johto with Derek.

“That sounds fun.”

Derek smiled back at her before looking ahead at the path before them, his heart considerably lighter and carrying the familiar warmth.

Before long, the path opened up to a river. Golduck sat on the sandy edge while Seaking floated in the water. The two of them looked up as Derek and Maressa came into the clearing.


Maressa’s face lit up, her amber eyes filling with tears.

“Seaking, you’re really here!”


Seaking jumped in and out of the water with joy.

Maressa let go of Derek’s hand and hobbled over to Seaking as quickly as she could, half-laughing, half-crying. She ran straight into the water and wrapped her arms around him.

“Oh, Seaking, I’ve missed you! But I always knew I would see you again—I knew you were out there looking for me. I knew you wouldn’t give up—oh, Seaking!

Tears streamed down her cheeks and her face was flushed as she hugged her companion. Her chest heaved as she sobbed and laughed at the same time.

Derek hung in the back, smiling as he witnessed the reunion. He had never seen Maressa so happy.


He looked down to see Golduck standing next to him. The Water-type let out a series of quacks as he watched Maressa and Seaking. Derek smiled at him.

“I’m glad I got to meet you, Golduck. And I know Maressa has been in good hands as long as she’s been with you.”

Golduck crossed his arms and nodded, looking pleased with himself.

Derek released his Pokemon from their Pokeballs, watching them play with Maressa and her Pokemon. At about noon, he returned to the main city to grab lunch and brought it back for the others. As he and Maressa sat on a grassy patch near the river, eating sandwiches, they watched Breloom show off his strength by snapping a fallen tree trunk in different spots using first his claws, then his feet, then his tail. Golbat and Seaking raced down the river to see who could make it to the ocean faster. Claydol and Golduck tested their psychic powers by levitating different objects including (but not limited to) coconuts, fallen tree branches, and other Pokemon.

Derek leaned back on his hands—wincing, as his ribs were still tender—and smiled as he watched Maressa cheer on Seaking in his race against Golbat. She looked so relaxed. If it wasn’t for her scars and his injuries, it would be easy to forget about Team Aqua and Team Magma causing chaos in the outside world.

Derek lay on his back and looked up at the sun peeking through the tree branches. How could today be so perfect? How—after everything that had just happened, with everything currently going on, and with everything that was going to come—could they have a day so full of peace and laughter?


Maressa looked over at him, the sun shining brilliantly on her golden hair. Her amber eyes were soft, and the smile on her face made Derek’s heart swell.

“Enjoying the weather?”

He nodded.

“Enjoying everything.”

She looked back at her Pokemon.

“Me, too.”

She watched Seaking swim up the river, back to the starting line, so he could race Golbat again.

“I wish I had more time for this… but I head out tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“Are you sure? None of your Pokemon can swim. Do you think Steven would let you?”

“I’ll talk to him.”

Derek stood up. Maressa, with his help, got to her feet as well.

“I guess I should talk to my parents before I leave tomorrow—I really don’t want to, though. And Betty is supposed to come in at some point today… That won’t be a fun reunion, either. Have you talked to your family at all?”

Derek shook his head.

“Maybe I should, but… It’s just a lot.”

Maressa nodded in agreement. She looked at their Pokemon—just in time to watch Golbat and Seaking whiz by.

“I guess we can let them all be, for now.” She sighed. “I wish every day could be like this.”


Maressa sat in her bed, propped up on pillows. She stared down at her arms and the red scars spiderwebbing over her newly-regenerated skin—the bruises and cuts she had sustained under Team Aqua healed somewhat with medical attention, but the scars were still there.

Though Steven agreed to have her discharged, and the Pokemon had considerably accelerated her healing progress, she was still tired. The marks from the Tentacruel stopped stinging, but her body still ached and the scabs still cracked if she moved in certain ways. The doctors said no bones were broken—Steven speculated that Team Aqua wanted to keep her in decent condition to bargain with, but…

Golduck sat next to her, quacking away about new fighting strategies he wanted to try. Maressa knew he was doing it just to occupy her; she was grateful. It was hard to be alone. In the moments when Maressa was by herself, everything she had gone through under Team Aqua returned to her with astonishing clarity. The same fear and terror that inundated each moment came back in full force and her wounds hurt again. Panic welled up from within her heart, paralyzing her limbs, overwhelming her until she was a broken, sobbing mess.

Glancing at the window outside, she saw the sun begin to dip into the horizon. Derek had just walked her back to her room. She asked if she could have some time alone with Golduck before Betty and her parents showed up again. She was trying to spare Derek from meeting her family—she was sure they would have plenty of questions for him.


“Come in!”

The door opened and a woman slightly taller than Maressa slowly walked in. Her face was paler than Maressa’s and dotted with freckles. She had short, brown hair and eyes of matching color. Her purple sweatshirt was rolled up to the elbows. She looked apprehensively at Maressa.

“Hi, Betty.”

Betty softly closed the door behind her and walked to Maressa’s bedside.

“Hey,” she said with a soft smile. But the smile quickly vanished and her eyes roved up-and-down Maressa’s body. Her mouth hung open slightly and she looked as though she was about to cry.

Maressa’s stomach twisted into knots. It was the first time seeing Betty in nearly a year, and she looked like this: mangled and scarred.

The sisters stayed in awkward silence until Betty broke the tension.

“So… I got a bill from the Mossdeep City General Hospital.”

Maressa flashed her a smile.

“Uh… If I told you that I hoped by the time I talked to you about it, this current situation would be completely different and I expected that I would have enough money to repay you in full, would you be okay with it?”

Betty chuckled.

“Well, seeing as you now have two hospital bills, I guess I can help you out and try to cover that one.”

“Heh… Thanks.”

The two of them descended into silence again until Betty suddenly spoke.

“Why did you do it?”

Oh no, Maressa thought, not this again.

“Why don’t you just ask Mom and Dad? I’ve already told them about five times,” she snapped.

“Yeah, but you can tell me the real reasons. Did you not have a job after you graduated? Did you want to be rebellious, or feel important?”

“I don’t know!” she shouted.

Betty flinched but quickly recovered. Her gaze hardened, and Maressa glared back at her.

“Yeah, when I graduated, I didn’t have a job and I needed to pay off debt. Mom and Dad had been telling me for the past four years that what I was studying was useless—that there were already people doing work with the ocean, that it was best left to government entities, and that nobody in their right minds would work for a government entity, and that I would have been better off trying to work in healthcare or finance or—or something useful.”

Betty rolled her eyes.

“Mom and Dad always say that stuff—”

“I had it for four years!”

“You think they didn’t yell at me when I dropped out of college? When I told them I would rather go to a trade school and learn carpentry? They flipped, Maressa! I came straight to you once I got here instead of seeing them first because it’s nonstop, ‘Betty, you’re wasting your talents. Betty, you’re wasting your life. That stuff is for people who aren’t good enough for college. Do you know the sacrifices we’ve made to raise you and give you an education?’ But this is what I want to do!”

“And I thought this was what I wanted to do! I knew I wanted to spend my life in the ocean—go out on a boat, be at sea for days at a time, study marine Pokemon and everything about the sea. But I also knew that working for the government would be awful. And when I first met Team Aqua—well, I didn’t exactly know who or what they were. I saw a recruitment ad to work for a company called ‘Ocean Incorporated,’ so I went to talk to their recruiter. They interviewed me—I told them what I told you, that I believed we could make the world better. They asked if I wanted to work outside the government, if I was willing to work around the government and explained that trying to work completely in accordance with government regulations wasn’t possible.

“I—I believed them! I gave them my contact information, had another interview, and then with a follow-up not long after, I got a job offer. So, I took it. And, yeah, I knew it was illegal, but everything is illegal in some shape or form these days! But I was getting to do work I believed in, that I loved. It wasn’t until later that I realized that they’re a murderous, violent, criminal gang…”

Betty stared at Maressa for a moment. She sat down on Maressa’s bedside next to her and stared at the opposite wall.

“But, Maressa, why didn’t you at least tell me?”

Maressa sighed.

“You know our relationship isn’t the same as it used to be.”

Betty said nothing but Maressa knew she was upset. Neither of them liked to admit that their relationship had deteriorated, and they both always tried to sweep the reality under the rug, in hopes that, by ignoring it, it would go away and things could be like they used to. They would have a close connection; always accompany each other through everything; stay up late into the night talking about all sorts of possible topics; practically be able to read each others’ minds…

But those days were long gone.

Maressa wasn’t sure what started it. She didn’t know if Betty knew, either. She had a feeling it started with Maressa openly disagreeing with their parents about the state of the world—about the oceans dying and how humans caused it and, legal or not, something needed to be done about it. Betty never felt strongly; she tried to keep quiet, to keep out of it.

She’d tell Maressa to stop fighting with their parents and let things be. Maybe that was when Maressa no longer wanted to talk to Betty. As they grew older, they reached a point where silence and resentment was easier than open disagreement and fighting.

Betty glanced back at Maressa. Her shoulders slumped forward.

“I know we fight,” she said slowly, “but… you’re still my sister.”

Maressa nodded.

As Betty gazed at Maressa’s scars, her expression softened.

“I guess… I guess you couldn’t really say anything, even if you wanted to.”

Maressa shook her head.

“No… I did want to. But… Well, I couldn’t.”

Betty nodded, still staring at Maressa’s scars.

She stood up.

“I’m going back to my room. Do you need anything before I leave?”

Maressa shook her head.

“No, I’m good.”

Betty nodded and made her way to the door.

“Well… Good seeing you.”

Maressa smiled.

“Thank you for coming by.”


“Come in.”

Derek opened the door and walked into Steven’s office. The Champion stared intently at the screen of his computer. Behind him, the glass walls gave a wide view of the lush cliffsides of Ever Grande City which tumbled into the sparkling ocean beneath a crystal-clear sky. Steven looked up.

“You need to talk urgently?”

“Why are you sending Maressa out tomorrow? Why did you have her discharged from the hospital?”

Steven’s grey eyes narrowed.

“Do I need to spell it out for you? The teams have the Orbs. If what Maressa says about them is correct, it won’t be long before they find Groudon and Kyogre. From there, they’ll wreak havoc. I already have the three golems, so once Kyogre and Groudon clash, they should be able to contain the chaos—for a little bit. But to permanently stop all this, we need Rayquaza. We cannot afford to lose time or any helping hands. Drake reported his findings to me and we believe he found the Sky Pillar, where Rayquaza is supposed to reside. Sidney is going out tomorrow morning, and I asked Maressa if she’d be willing to go out. Her Pokemon would be a big help in whatever awaits—we don’t know if Team Aqua and Team Magma will be there too, or what exactly will need to be done with Rayquaza. She said yes. So she goes.”

“Wait wait—you think the teams are going to be there? You’re sending her to fight? She thinks she’s just going out to scout—”

“I don’t know if there’ll be a fight or not,” Steven said crossly.

Derek clenched his fists as he glared at the Champion. Blood rushed through his veins, the force of it causing his head to throb.

“After everything she’s done—and has been through—you know she shouldn’t go.”

“She’s an adult. She can make her own decisions. If you don’t like it, then tell her. I’m not forcing her to do anything.”

He put his head in his hands and sighed.

“This is going to be bloody, Derek. I am grateful for what she has done—and for what you’ve done, too—but people are going to die. Maybe a lot, maybe only a few—I don’t know. But we need everyone who’s willing to help.”

“Then I want to go with her tomorrow.”

Steven looked up at him.


“Didn’t you just say that you need everyone who’s willing?”

Steven’s eyes narrowed.

“But why do you want to go with her?”

Derek met Steven’s gaze, trying to avoid giving the obvious answer. He sought for an explanation that would sound reasonable in the given situation, but—

“I know why you want to go, Derek,” Steven said, “but you need to set aside your personal feelings and do what’s best for everyone. You have no Water-type Pokemon, so you won’t be much help out in the ocean. Since you served as a medic for Team Magma, I wanted to have you at the ready when everything blows up.”

“So, are you having me stay here in Ever Grande, or moving me somewhere else?”

“I don’t know!”

Steven suddenly shouted and threw his hands in the air.

“I feel like I don’t know anything, Derek! There’s barely anything recorded and known about these Pokemon or the Orbs. My League members are looking through mythology books to find out about what we’re dealing with—I had to dig through my childhood bedroom and grab my Hoenn’s Myths and Legends for Children! book to get even a clue about where to find Rayquaza!”

He reached under his desk and pulled out a long, thin book with brightly-illustrated pages. Flipping it open, he stopped at one page near the end and read out loud.

“At the top of the highest floor in the tallest tower in all of the Hoenn region, Rayquaza lives. Sometimes, people in Hoenn think they can hear loud cries at night. These are the cries of Rayquaza. Why is he sad? He is sad because he is so lonely. He is too strong to be friends with the rest of Hoenn’s Pokemon.

“When Rayquaza went to the rainforest to see his friend, Tropius, all the rain stopped!

“ ‘Hey,’ Tropius said, ‘why did you make the rain stop?’

“ ‘I’m so sorry,’ Rayquaza said. ‘I can’t help it! Rain always stops whenever I go out to play.’

“ ‘But the Pokemon in the rainforest need rain!’ Tropius said. ‘I need you to leave so that it can rain for us again.’

“Rayquaza was very sad about this. He loved playing with Tropius. He decided to see his friend, Flygon, in the desert. The desert didn’t have any rain! Flygon wouldn’t mind.

“ ‘Hello, Flygon!’ Rayquaza shouted when he went to the hot, sunny desert.

“ ‘Hello, Rayquaza!” Flygon said when he saw Rayquaza. But once Rayquaza landed in the desert, clouds blocked the sun! The sunlight wasn’t strong anymore.

“ ‘Hey,’ Flygon said, ‘why did you stop the sunlight?’

“ ‘I’m sorry,’ Rayquaza said. ‘Whenever I go outside, it gets cloudy and blocks the sun.’

“ ‘But the desert needs sunlight!’ Flygon said. ‘It keeps us warm. I need you to leave so that the sun can shine and we can be warm again.’

“So Rayquaza flew far, far away to an island in the south. ‘If I’m by myself, I won’t ruin things for anyone anymore,’ he said. He lives all alone at the top of the Sky Pillar, still crying that he can’t be with his friends.”

Steven looked up.

This was my starting point. Rayquaza stops weather conditions and lives at the Sky Pillar which is somewhere in Hoenn’s southern areas.”

He set the book down on his desk and wrung his hands.

“Until we find Rayquaza, I don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t know where Groudon and Kyogre will go, what they’ll do... Phoebe thinks they’ll either be drawn to Mt. Pyre or Sootopolis City—she’s guessing Mt. Pyre, since that’s where life ends, but we don’t know. Guessing wrong could be a disaster—if they do head for Mt. Pyre, we need everyone in Lilycove and Fortree to evacuate, and possibly other nearby cities as well. I don’t know how far-reaching Groudon’s or Kyogre’s effects will be. I hope they head for Sootopolis, surrounded by so much water, as that’ll only be one city—but we don’t know. I need to make an accurate prediction, but I can’t predict anything! The world is about to fall apart, but until it does, there’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen! And even with the golems, there are going to be consequences—they can’t be controlled forever.”

Steven glanced to the corner of the room, where a purple cloth lay draped over a rectangular shape. His silver eyes quivered with worry.

“As soon as I recite the incantation on the slab, the golems will awaken and I’ll have control over them… for a time. We just got Winona back, and already—”

He cut himself off and closed his eyes, exhaling deeply.

He looked back up at Derek.

“That is why I need to be ready whenever the next thing—whatever it is—happens. You don’t have to help us out, but I cannot allow you to hinder us, either. You may not go with Maressa.”

Derek stared at Steven as he slowly said, “If Team Magma never captured your family, would you have still tried to save Maressa?”

Steven glared back at Derek.

“That’s a matter of the past. I don’t know what I would have done. What’s happened has happened. There’s no use dwelling on it now.”

He turned away from Derek and looked back at his computer screen.

“If you want to help us out, I’ll have someone take you to Sootopolis by Tuesday.”

Derek knew the conversation was done. Turning around, he walked out of Steven’s office. The more he reflected on their conversation, the angrier he became.

No, he did not believe that Steven would have tried to save Maressa if his family hadn’t also been in danger. Had she been the only one on the line, he would have let her face the consequences.

Derek looked out the windows at the setting sun. Its orange light washed over the earth, painting the seascape a brilliant array of warm-colored hues. For the first time, Derek wondered how many more sunsets he would get to see.


Far away, Archie led a troop of Team Aqua members through the winding aquatic caves of the Seafloor Cavern. The Blue Orb glowed brightly in his hand, illuminating the entire passage with an unnatural azure light. Upon reaching a giant block of impassable stone, the grunts and commanders sent out their Pokemon to chip away at it and fill the cavern with water.

The humans all sat on small inflatable rafts while their Pokemon worked. After several hours of Pokemon hammering away at the rock and filling the area with a deluge, an ear-splitting rumble shook the Seafloor Cavern, and the stone burst open to reveal the enormous marine monster. The blue light in Archie’s hand shone like a star plucked from the heavens, reflecting the maniacal happiness in the Aqua Leader’s eyes.

The crew barely made it back into the submarine as Kyogre followed them, ripping through caves as though the stone walls were pieces of paper. Archie audibly cheered from the submarine as the leviathan followed them through the black ocean depths and into the blue seas.

Upon Kyogre’s awakening, the heavens tore open and sheets of water poured down on the earth. Lightning crackled in the sky, illuminating mile-high cloud formations. Gales tore through the salty air, and the seas raged violently as the ancient Pokemon awakened nature’s catastrophic forces.
Chapter 33

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
As promised, here's Chapter 33! I still need to do some proofing and editing on Chapter 34, but it should be ready by next Friday.

Chapter 33

Trees and scrub brush were no more than green blurs beneath them as the helicopter flew over the craggy land. Standing by the control panel near the front of the helicopter, Tabitha glanced over his shoulder and saw Maxie holding the Red Orb in his hands, staring at it hungrily.

When the squadron returned from Monsu Island, Maxie had the Red Orb and, it seemed, hadn’t let go of it since. Every time he glanced at his leader, Tabitha saw Maxie studying it closely. The glassy Orb seemed to give off a faint glow, reflecting the famished light in Maxie’s eyes. Once they had the Orb, Tabitha felt a shift in the atmosphere—there was some lingering presence around them. He knew that others felt it, as well—grunts looked over their shoulders, discreetly trying to glimpse the Orb in their boss’s hands. They whispered and murmured amongst themselves, their shoulders tense and eyes darting about nervously.

Maxie had barely spoken.

“What do we do now?” Tabitha asked when he saw Maxie alone in his office with the Orb.

For a few moments, Maxie said nothing, but continued to stare at the object sitting before him on his desk.

“We get Groudon,” he said slowly. “This Orb speaks to me, Tabitha. When I hold it, I feel Groudon’s presence—he’s in central Hoenn. He’s sleeping, waiting for us to wake him up.”

He bent closer to the Orb, examining it.

“But there’s more. There is much this Orb knows. It’s not just one entity, it… it’s many entities—many spirits—many souls—speaking to me. We must awaken Groudon, but this Orb… it’s also attracted to the East… I think, to Sootopolis City...”

The words died on Maxie’s lips as he gazed closely at the Orb, lost in its crystalline depths. Tabitha waited a few uncomfortable moments and, when Maxie made no gesture, he decided to speak.

“Shall I give the order for us to go to central Hoenn?”

“Hm?” Maxie looked up, blinking at Tabitha several times. “Oh, departing—yes, give the order. And I want you and Courtney to both come along. We head for Mt. Chimney.”

Without any other questions, Tabitha left the office. He was very uncomfortable with the whole situation—after the ordeal with Jirachi, he was convinced that messing with ancient, powerful Pokemon would only lead to further disaster, and that things might not play out as Maxie had so carefully planned…

But, right or wrong, Maxie was his leader. Tabitha had sworn allegiance to him and would see this through to whatever sticky end it led to.

Tabitha asked how everything had worked out with Derek and the prisoners, but Maxie didn’t know. Once he had the Red Orb, Team Magma had left.

Tabitha couldn’t keep his mind off Maressa, wondering if she was still alive. Realistically, he didn’t think she was—Team Aqua easily could have tortured her to death by the time the bargain was set in place. He also didn’t put it past Archie and Matt to purposefully kill her before handing her body over—Shelly might not do such a thing, but the others…

He knew what they would do. He knew what sort of people Matt and Archie were, and what they would want from a person they saw as disposable at best—a person they actively wanted to harm.

He grimaced.

While he knew that it was peoples’ lot in life—traitors were rewarded as they deserved—Tabitha knew that Maressa was responsible for the Teams’ situation. Without her, Team Aqua might not have had a chance at the Orbs. Without her, the Pokemon League definitely would not have received the Orbs. Without her, Derek may never have chosen to release Tate. And without her, they might not have the Red Orb now, on their way to Mt. Chimney to awaken Groudon…

If they had the Orb and were to awaken Groudon, then this would be over soon. It was so surreal—what would life look like when it was over? Most people wouldn’t be able to survive. Even then, people like Maressa—who deserved it the most and held some responsibility in it—wouldn’t be around to see it. Tabitha’s heart pricked with guilt. He wanted someone who had done so much, who cared so much for her Pokemon, who worked so hard to make things happen, to live.

He exhaled deeply. Maressa was gone. So what would life look like for him? Tabitha knew what he wanted—he always had. But duty to Team Magma always came first. He promised Maxie—and himself—that he would only focus on his personal life when Team Magma’s goals were accomplished.

And now, after six years, things were—finally—almost over.

Tabitha shook himself out of his reverie and scanned the helicopter with his eyes. Several grunts sat in chairs before the helicopter controls; others looked through the windows; and still others just stood around, speaking to each other in hushed tones. His eyebrows furrowed.

Where was Courtney?

He hadn’t seen her since they left the base—in fact, he had barely seen her since Maxie returned from Monsu Island.

Immediately, he made for the helicopter’s storage room and quickly found Courtney sitting on the floor behind several large crates. Her face was pale, and beads of sweat gathered on her forehead. One hand clutched her abdomen while the other was stretched out.

“Courtney! Are you okay?”

He crouched down next to her, his stomach twisted into worried knots.

She breathed slowly and deeply.

“I… I feel it…”

“Feel what? You look like you’re getting a fever—you should probably get in bed—"

“No,” she said sharply. Her red eyes glared venomously at Tabitha for a few seconds before clenching shut.

“It’s not a fever. I’m not sick. It’s… the Orb…”

Tabitha blinked several times. The only other time he had seen Courtney like this was when she was having nightmares—

When Jirachi was with them.

Dread trickled its way into Tabitha’s heart.

“Courtney,” he asked, “do you know why you feel this way? Does this—does it have to do with Jirachi, or what you saw before?”

His co-admin opened her eyes. She stared forward blankly, not really seeing what she looked at.

“It’s because I bear the three-thousand-year grudge… And because of my awful parents…”

Guilt and worry weighed in Tabitha’s heart. Courtney did not look good, and he felt obligated to make sure she was cared for. He was curious about whatever the “three-thousand-year grudge” was and what Courtney was talking about, but those needed to wait.

“Come on,” he said, putting an arm around her, “you should get some sleep before we—”

No,” she said forcefully. “I’m not sick. I can’t sleep. You should… you should at least know, I think…”

She sighed and looked at him with half-closed eyes.

“I’m from Sootopolis. My family is one of the old, native families from there—there are pockets of tribal people, but most of us are dying away or marrying into other families, diluting our blood. We’ve been there since people first landed in Sootopolis, a couple thousand years ago…

“Sootopolis has the Cave of Origin. People say that’s where life begins… Supposedly, it’s where Kyogre and Groudon come from. The appearance of either would bring rain or sun, and allow people to farm, and go on with life, and all of that…

“People used the Cave. It healed injuries and illnesses; it kept the land fertile. But Sootopolans weren’t the only ones in Hoenn. We were invaded several times. There are accounts of Kyogre and Groudon stopping the people who tried invading…”

Courtney’s eyelids fluttered.

“People saw the Pokemon’s power and wanted it. They tried to harness it—but the Cave couldn’t be used for that. So they changed the Cave. They filled it with writing and spells for evil magic and conducted a ritual in the Cave that sickened it and poisoned it. It doesn’t give life anymore—it’s cursed. People haven’t been allowed in since.”

Her face hardened and her eyebrows furrowed.

“Native Sootopolans watch the Cave and guard it—that includes my family. My parents were fanatics and wanted to control that same power that was used to make the Orbs. They wanted to experiment, to have a connection to the Cave… My mother gave birth to me inside of it—just like her mother before her, and her mother before her… There were complications, and my mother nearly died—I wish she had,” she spat bitterly. “And when I was six, they took me in and performed rituals on me. I’ve been tied to the Cave—tied to those.” She looked at the door leading to the main body of the helicopter where Maxie held the Red Orb.

Courtney glanced back at Tabitha.

“Do you want to know what my parents did to me?”

“That’s up to y—”

“Ever wondered why I chose to wear a full-length skirt?”

The question had never crossed Tabitha’s mind, but he watched as Courtney hiked up her skirt partway to show her right leg. Several markings that Tabitha couldn’t make sense of were scattered over Courtney’s skin—they were dark, as if branded in with a red-hot iron.

“It’s like that with my torso and hands, too,” she said. “Ever since my parents did that to me, the Cave of Origin has made me feel sick and has given me visions.”

She closed her eyes and pursed her lips, looking as if she was trying to hold back vomit. When her eyes opened again, dark storm clouds raged behind her red irises as resentment boiled within her.

“It’s those horrible people from Mt. Pyre. They invaded my home, tortured my people, and used them for their twisted ideas. Native Sootopolans were slaughtered by invaders, their blood poured into the Cave to create Orbs powerful enough to control the two ancient beasts. Those who were not sacrificed held a grudge—my bloodline…”

A chill ran up Tabitha’s arms. This was not making their current situation look any better.

“Okay,” he said quietly, “we should—”

“I’m not done,” she said quickly. Tabitha, though curious, was also a bit annoyed at being cut off.

“The people who made the Orbs tried to use them… Others were envious. So wars began for people to take control of the Orbs. Those who used them met nasty ends. No person ever had an Orb for long. Their use was dangerous... Groudon and Kyogre caused never-ending drought or constant storms. All of Hoenn was affected.

“So people nearby built their own Pokemon to stop them. Three golems they could control to contain the chaos and damage caused by Groudon and Kyogre…

“Groudon and Kyogre fought… Even with the golems trying to protect people, all of Hoenn started to fall into ruin. Forests burned to ash, mountains sank into the sea, rivers and bays dried up… Everything was dying.

“Then the fighting stopped. A green Pokemon came out of the sky… Groudon and Kyogre stopped fighting and have slept since…

“Pieces of the story… are missing… We know the green Pokemon is Rayquaza… But we don’t know how it got there, or who summoned it… The Orbs were made to control Groudon and Kyogre, so they must have not been in use when Rayquaza came… The golems were ‘sealed away,’ but no one seems to know how or by who…”

Tabitha watched Courtney, waiting for her to say more. She kept breathing heavily; her eyes remained closed. Tabitha’s legs had gone stiff from staying in a crouch for so long. But Courtney did not say more.

He didn’t know what to make of it—his mind whirred a mile a minute, and so many different questions came to his head. One question was certainly more important than the others, though.

“Does Maxie know all this?”

Courtney’s eyes opened a little.

“Some of it. I told him about me when I joined, like what happened to me, and what I know about the Orbs…”

“Does he know about Rayquaza?”

“I… I think so…”

As he watched sweat bead on Courtney’s pale forehead, Tabitha’s heart panged with pity.

“Courtney,” he asked softly, “are you sure you want to be here with the Orb around? Would you rather stay at base or go somewhere else?”

Courtney slightly shook her head.

“Maxie… told me to be here…”

“Has Maxie seen you like this?”

She gave a half-shrug.

“He doesn’t notice anything, now that he has the Orb…”

Something shifted within Tabitha—this didn’t sit right with him.

“But he should at least see that his admin isn’t able to command the grunts. And why are you so okay with him not paying attention to anything else?”

Courtney narrowed her eyebrows.

“I can… can still command grunts…”


“Once I get away from the Orb… I’ll be fine. Maxie… Maxie knows.”

Tabitha scowled.

“Well, do you at least want me to get you water or something?”

“No. I’ll… I’ll be okay, once Maxie takes the Orb out of here.”

Tabitha stood up, gave one last look to Courtney lying on the floor, and left the storage room. Nothing had changed: grunts still whispered; Maxie still stared at the Red Orb. Tabitha walked over to a window and looked at the mountain looming towards them.

Since the day they battled Team Aqua at Mt. Chimney—a day that felt like years ago—the volcano had gone dormant and the sky was clear of smoke and ash. Jirachi caused a temporary spike in volcanic activity, but after that single incident, the volcano once again was totally inactive. But Maxie was positive that Groudon lay somewhere beneath. If the beast woke up within a dormant volcano…

Tabitha watched the mountain grow closer, rising with the anxiety in his heart. He had no idea what would happen. All he could do was meet it when it came.


He passed through the halls of their abandoned base, running a gloved hand over the grooves of rock walls. It seemed that the Pokemon League had been there but had not done much. Once Derek confessed his betrayal, Team Magma packed up their stationary bases as quickly as they could and left. All of their large equipment had to be left behind along with anything small that wasn’t deemed essential. Computers were wiped or destroyed.

His eyes roved over the large equpment—drills, computers, storage crates and the like. There wasn’t a trace of anything smaller, though—perhaps the Pokemon League believed that the smaller items, such as trainer supplies, would be helpful.

It was surreal to be back there, going deeper and deeper into the base. Maxie led the group, the Red Orb in his hand giving off a faint red gleam that grew brighter as the caves darkened. Tabitha and many of the grunts followed. Courtney stayed behind in the helicopter with the rest of the team. Tabitha told her to give him a call as soon as she felt better, but he wasn’t sure how reliable she would be about it. Whether she chose to follow up was entirely dependent on her unpredictable mood swings…

He also doubted he would be able to pick up any signal from her. Hours passed by as Team Magma walked through Mt. Chimney’s winding interior corridors. The air was as hot and stifling as ever; sweat welled up in pores all over Tabitha’s body. He was grateful he was usually not assigned there. He had forgotten that constantly sweating was the norm for everyone in the Mt. Chimney base.

Tabitha looked at Maxie, who stared at the Orb in his hand. Seeing his leader—his trusted leader who had led and served Team Magma so well for the past six years—become single-mindedly obsessed with the object unnerved Tabitha. Whenever things were rough, Tabitha always trusted Maxie to see a way through, to come up with a plan, to explain why they did things the way they did. And even when Maxie didn’t give the full reasoning behind his motives or actions, Tabitha carried them out and trusted that it was all in accord with his leader’s ideas—as he did when it came to Jirachi.

Remembering the debacle surrounding Jirachi caused Tabitha’s heart to race with panic. None of the terror or guilt faded away—not that of capturing the ancient Pokemon, or of kidnapping an innocent child, or handing Maressa over to Team Aqua, or watching Jirachi destroy the submarines and allow a large portion of his team to be crushed and sink to the bottom of the sea…

But overall, Maxie had to be right about controlling Groudon and creating a better, more habitable world.


Glancing back, Tabitha saw lines of Camerupt and Numel walking alongside the Team Magma grunts; the magma from the Pokemon’s bodies gave extra light to the dark mountain halls. Pools of lava bubbled around the walkway, filling the passageways with an eerie red glow.


Tabitha barely heard Maxie. The commander held up a hand, signaling everyone behind him to halt. The craggy pathway had come to an end and there was nothing before them but solid rock. Maxie walked up to the rock and lay a hand on it.

“Groudon is in here.”

The Red Orb in his hand looked the same as ever, still giving off the faint glow in the dim cavern. The rock Maxie laid his hand on looked the exact same as any other rock around them: enormous, flat and featureless. Pulling his hand away, Maxie turned and looked back at Tabitha.

“We have to release Groudon from this stone to awaken him. Dig through, and heat it up to get to Groudon.”

Tabitha organized the grunts into different groups to retrieve excavation equipment and to use their Pokemon to chip away. Before long, Camerupts and Magcargos fired streams of molten lava at the rock to melt it down while they waited for others to come with drills to continue digging.

Tabitha’s heart remained uneasy while he oversaw the grunts’ excavation efforts.

This will all work out, he told himself. Maxie knows what he’s doing.

But Maxie hardly seemed interested in the excavation; he kept staring at the Red Orb in his hands, interacting with no one.



A female grunt named Jamie ran up to Tabitha. Her face was covered in dirt and sweat and she panted heavily. Behind her was a sloping cavern showing where the drills had penetrated the hard rock. Tabitha couldn’t see them, but he heard the drills continue to dig deeper—until a few moments ago, when they suddenly ceased.

“Why have you all stopped?”

“We’ve hit some sort of rock that we can’t dig in to—the drills won’t work. They’re breaking!”

“Then use the Pokemon.”

Tabitha and Jamie turned their heads to see Maxie staring at the two of them. For once, his attention was diverted from the Orb in his hands.

“Send out our Camerupts, Numels, Magcargos—anything that can produce lava. That ‘rock’ you cannot break through is Groudon. Immersing him in magma should awaken him.”

“Uh—I—yes, sir,” Jamie said hesitantly. She turned to go when Tabitha called her back.



“Has your group gotten a break?”


“Tell them all to come back here and take a rest. We’ll switch out squads so you don’t all get tired out.”

She sighed; her tensed shoulders relaxed and she slumped forward slightly.

“Thank you.”

The squadrons did as they were told; while the former group rested, the second group commanded their Pokemon to enter the newly-excavated chamber and flood it with magma.

Tabitha watched while several Pokemon stood before the entryway and belched out molten rock. Their attacks formed a small current of lava that brightly lit the chamber, giving the appearance of the inside of a great forge. All humans had to keep a ways back; the heat, which had already pushing human limits, grew too great for them to withstand.

For the first time, Maxie was not preoccupied with the Red Orb. He stared intently at the various Pokemon belching out attacks, sending the flow of lava down to where Groudon lay.


The leader blinked a few times as Tabitha approached him.

“Yes, Tabitha, what is it?”

“Do I have permission to have our grunts evacuate this base? If—when—Groudon wakes up, it won’t be safe for any of us here.”

Maxie nodded slowly.

“Yes, go ahead.”

“Sir, that applies to us, too. If we stay here, Mt. Chimney will collapse in on us.”

Maxie did not reply but kept staring at the entryway. The grunts recalled their Pokemon and hastily made their way out of the tunnel. Tabitha felt guilty and uncertain about what he was going to do—Maxie would not be happy about it, but Maxie’s life was more valuable than anything else.

Tabitha grabbed his arm and led Maxie—who neither resisted nor complied—through the tunnels. The light from the Red Orb shone more brightly than ever.

Though the trek to the interior mountain depths felt like it would never end, their exit felt much shorter to Tabitha. Perhaps because he ordered all of the grunts to move swiftly, or because there was the sense of urgency and danger hastening them along. Maxie jogged by Tabitha’s side at the back of the group silently, still clutching the Red Orb.

At last, they stepped out of the dark passages and into the sun. Everyone took in great gulps of fresh air, its crispness accentuated after hours in the poorly-ventilated mountain halls. Maxie breathed slowly, looking at the glowing Orb in his hands.


Tabitha looked up and saw Courtney making her way through the scrub and down the crags toward them.

“What’s…” She stopped speaking and looked queasy. Tabitha followed her gaze, leading to the Orb in Maxie’s hand.

Before he had a chance to speak, Maxie raised the Orb into the air.

“Now, Groudon! Come out!”

The Orb blazed brilliantly as if Maxie held living fire. It cast deep red light on all the Team Magma members looking up at it in awe and terror. It blotted out all sunlight, filling the world with its ethereal dark radiance.

The ground beneath the Team members’ feet trembled, and the trembling steadily grew in capacity. Tabitha heard rocks falling, crashing. Some grunts panicked and fled to the helicopter for shelter. Courtney fell to the ground. Maxie held the Orb straight up, his eyes opened wide, his face split by a wide grin.

With a deafening crash, the ground before them ripped open. Rainwater from the dormant volcano drained into the endless abyss as clouds of sulfuric ash billowed into the sky. Several long, white spikes rose from the pit and dug into the rock. Tabitha had trouble comprehending what he saw—until he realized that each enormous spike was a separate claw, gripping the sides of the open crater. A ridged head peaked over the rock. The yellow eyes looked relatively small and beady, though each was at least as large as Tabitha. Several serrated teeth were visible from the beast’s open jaws as it panted, pulling itself out of the open volcano.

Rocks tumbled and crashed all around them. Trees and scrub were uprooted. The air filled with black ash and smoke. As the behemoth pulled itself all the way out of the mountain, Tabitha had to crane his neck to get the creature in full view.

With the giant standing before him over the ripped-open mountaintop, Tabitha realized for the first time just how small, how helpless, he was.

The beast inhaled deeply and let out an earth-shattering roar. Lava spurted from the top of Mt. Chimney and oozed through cracks on its sides. Finally snapping out of his shock, Tabitha turned to the team.

“Everyone, inside the helicopter!”

Bending down, he lifted Courtney on to one shoulder and grabbed Maxie’s arm with his other hand and took them both into the helicopter.

“Yes, Groudon!” Maxie shouted. “Burn this world! Make it all new! Go on to Sootopolis, fight Kyogre and claim your destiny!”

Releasing Courtney and Maxie as soon as they were all aboard the helicopter, Tabitha ran to the control panel and immediately launched them into the air. He set the coordinates for Sootopolis City and called a grunt named Connor over and had him take control.

Tabitha got up and looked at the window outside. The sky was turning dark from the ash released by Mt. Chimney. Molten lava flowed down the mountain sides, alighting trees and scrub brush. Hordes of Pokemon rushed about, all trying to evade the fires and deadly magma flow.

Tabitha felt sick with terror. Sweat poured from his forehead, his heart raced with panic, and his stomach twisted with nausea. But he couldn’t peel his eyes off the giant. Maxie stood near him, suddenly full of life and excitement as he spoke to Groudon. The giant moved slowly, but it was so large that every step covered significant distance. And as they flew on, Groudon plodded along behind them, the bright sun heralding its awakening.
Chapter 34

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Here's chapter 34! Apologies it's a week and a day late--my life is going through big adjustments, but I hope to continue to keep up with the weekly schedule for a bit longer!

Chapter 34


At the sound of Maxie’s voice, he looked up. Tabitha had taken Courtney into the storage room and gave her water, trying to make her feel as best as she could. Her condition was the same as before: panting, sweating, and eyes rolling with nausea. She insisted she was fine, that it would all wear off, that it wasn’t hurting her and she just needed to recuperate.

He had come back to the main body of the helicopter and oversaw the grunts steering them towards Sootopolis City. Once they got away from the ashiness of Mt. Chimney’s eruption, the sun beat down with a blindingly bright light. The pale blue sky was cloudless.

“Yes, sir?”

Maxie still clutched the Red Orb in his hand where it blazed with a deep light.

“Once we get to Sootopolis City, you are to take a group of grunts and head to the Sky Pillar. You will meet up with members of Team Aqua, headed by one of their commanders. I’m sure that if the Pokemon League realized Rayquaza is there and can stop Groudon, they’re going to try that. I don’t want to run that risk.”

“How do I get there?”

“We have the Hoenn region mapped out; there’s a map built in to the programming of this helicopter. You can port it over to the other ones, as well. All of our team will meet us at Sootopolis City.”

Tabitha dipped his head.

“Would you rather have me stay here instead, and send Courtney to the Sky Pillar? Then she—”

“No. I need Courtney to come with us to the Cave of Origin. She can tell us everything we need to know.”

This didn’t sit well with Tabitha. What would happen to Courtney? She mentioned that the Cave made her sick and gave her visions—if it was coupled with the Red Orb, would that make things worse?

But he couldn’t defy a direct order from Maxie. Glancing out the window, he saw the black haze of Mt. Chimney’s explosion in the distance and Groudon slowly following them. The helicopter easily outsped the giant Pokemon, but Groudon would catch up before long.


Several hours later, the helicopter landed on the Sootopolis crater. Tabitha did as he was ordered and took a group with him into a smaller helicopter and flew south. Standing on the rocky outcrop, Maxie looked at the city before them.

Sootopolis City was built into the northern edge of the crater. Structures and walkways dotted the rocksides at staggered heights. The pale coquina buildings were capped with dark rooftops. At the bottom of the crater, towards the water, trees dotted the area. Patches of dark soil, remnants from the crater’s active volcanic days, were visible. On one patch, sitting in the water, was the Sootopolis City Gym--so elaborately designed that it could be mistaken for a museum. The water in the crater was as flat and clear as glass. People could see straight down at the seaweeds and Pokemon hanging just below the surface, until the sunlight was lost and the depths were lost to the dark.

“Where is the Cave of Origin?” he asked.

“Down there, near the center…” Courtney panted. She leaned on one of the grunts—a young woman named Cassie—swaying slightly on her feet.

Ordering the bulk of the team to stay there, Maxie went with Courtney and Cassie down to the water and briskly strode along the walkway to reach the Cave of Origin. He would have preferred that he and Courtney go alone. With their Team Magma uniforms, he wanted to attract as little attention as possible, but Courtney was evidently not able to walk on her own.

The sky was still a bright blue with cumulus clouds sailing in the wind; Groudon’s effects clearly hadn’t reached Sootopolis City yet. But before long…

Eventually, Courtney told them to turn and they walked into a recess in the rocky wall. It looked completely random, with nothing of interest, until they turned and came across an elderly man standing before a cave opening.

A thick, white beard stretched across his strong chin. He glared at them with deepset eyes. A tattooed hand clutched a gnarled, wooden staff, which he held at the ready. The entryway was pitch black; Maxie couldn’t make out anything behind the guard.

“Who are you?” the elderly man asked. “No one is allowed in here. Turn back.”

Courtney spoke—Maxie had no idea what she said. It was some language he had never heard before.

The old man looked slightly surprised and responded in the same language. The two conversed a short while, Courtney eventually turning aggressive and shouting at him. She grabbed a fistful of her skirt and hiked it up to show markings all over her right leg. The man’s eyes opened wide in shock—Courtney kept ranting. Cassie, still supporting most of Courtney’s weight, looked utterly confused as she listened to the two conversing, and gaped when she saw the markings on Courtney’s leg.

With a few last words, the man turned aside and gestured into the Cave.

“We can go in…” Courtney said tiredly. All of her aggression from moments before was gone; she again looked pale, sickly, and weak.

Needing no further prompting, Maxie walked straight in. He normally was not one to get excited and often prided himself on containing his emotions. But everything was going so well—they successfully enlisted the help of Team Aqua to get the Orbs, he had control of the Red Orb, he awakened Groudon, and now was going to uncover whatever secrets the Cave of Origin held. In spite of himself, his heart pounded with anticipation. He almost felt like smiling.

As the three of them walked into the cave, the entrance quickly dimmed and the Red Orb became the only source of light around them. The atmosphere shifted; there was a presence—or several presences—hanging about. It distinctly felt hostile, as though the trio was being watched by many people who did not want them there.

But Maxie had both the Red Orb and a woman who had been connected to the Cave for many years. Nothing in there could stand up to him. He shrugged away the insecurities strode on confidently.

“Further… Down…” Courtney said quietly.

Maxie’s heart pounded with excitement. He didn’t know what he was going to see, but he could not wait to find out. After everything that had gone wrong in his life—his meager upbringing as a child, witnessing his parents struggle in poverty, everyone around them refusing help, to finally making his own living as a teenager and adult with the constant witness of peoples’ hard-heartedness and neglect to care for their natural world—things were going right. He would remake the world in his own image and finally set things how they were supposed to be.

The trio went deeper into the Cave, walking in silence. The Red Orb glowed like a dying lamp, its crimson light making everything look flat. Courtney limped along, staring straight ahead with her eyes wide open. Maxie’s heart pounded with ever-growing excitement. Cassie went along with her commander and leader, following them with no idea as to what was happening but trusting that they would make the right decisions.

Cassie staggered—Courtney suddenly stopped holding herself up and would have fallen to the ground if the grunt did not catch her. Before them, Maxie kept walking without a glance back at his subordinates.

Cassie was about to say something when the Red Orb’s glow suddenly dimmed. Maxie peered at it closely just before the floor and walls lit up. Carvings and marks appeared all around them, glowing with the same light as the Orb.

They stood in a circular room. In the center of it was a pit with two semi-spherical- recesses. One of the recesses alit with a vermillion glow. Maxie held up the Orb and smiled.

The grunt’s heart pounded viciously and she gasped as she wheeled her head around. She looked at Courtney and her heart skipped a beat—Courtney’s eyes had rolled into the back of her head markings all over her body glowed with the same red light.

She let out a cry as Courtney’s body started moving—

The commander floated up in the air, hovering a few feet above them as the markings on the cave walls and on her body twisted and contorted into various shapes. While Cassie gaped at her commander in terror, Maxie stared at one of the walls, watching humanoid figures move as though retelling a story.

In her eyes, Courtney saw the same story play out as it did three thousand years ago.

The black sky filled with embers while men worked the bellows in the forge. Soldiers armed with spears and padded armor ushered lines of men, women and children. The night was filled with the sounds of crying mothers and wailing babies.

A great pit sat before the entrance to the Cave of Origin. A closed trough led from the pit and down into the ever winding depths of the Cave. Molten metal bubbled within the pit as if it were magma from the volcano’s active days.

Hiding behind a boulder on an outcrop of rock overlooking the scene, a young girl watched. Her red eyes were open wide as she saw people she knew ushered forward, prodded by spears and swords.

Her parents were pushed along. They were crying. She had never seen her dad cry before. She wanted to go to them, but she couldn’t. She escaped when the king’s soldiers came to their home. She was afraid.

The people were pushed and carried up a stairway scaffold before being dumped into the pool of molten metal. The hot liquid bubbled as it absorbed the screams of its victims. One by one, one-hundred people plunged in to the swirling liquid. After the last person fell in, the trough opened and the liquid poured into the Cave of Origin.

The great flow of molten metal rushed down into the Cave, flowing deeper and deeper until it poured into two spherical recesses. The small recesses absorbed all of the liquid as if they were two bottomless pits. Light from the recesses illumined the Cave. The walls rumbled and writhed. Groans and screams echoed throughout the walls as if the Cave itself was in agony.

Light from the recesses blazed brighter until it was blinding white. The cave entrance became too brilliant to look at. All onlookers—the soldiers, magicians, and the girl—closed their eyes and turned their faces from the searing light.

The white light gradually dimmed. The Cave stopped groaning and moving. Two sparkling Orbs, one giving off a faint red light and the other glowing blue, sat in the recesses.

While the soldiers dismantled the scaffold and trough, the magicians cautiously walked into the Cave. The girl couldn’t tear her eyes away. The outside world was silent. But in her ears rang the screams of her parents, friends, relatives—everyone she had ever known, no longer alive and yet not truly dead.

The vision turned white and misty. An indistinct human figure appeared, holding the Red Orb in one hand and the Blue Orb in the other. Markings radiating white light ran the length of the figure’s limbs and torso. It walked into the entrance of the Cave of Origin—everything vanished.

Cassie shouted as Courtney’s body suddenly fell on top of her. The commander sweated and breathed hard. Her eyes fluttered open. She stared straight ahead, apparently oblivious to the grunt under her.

Taking no notice of them, Maxie stared at the walls. The figures stopped moving; the marks lingered, depicting the creation of the Orbs. The Magma leader’s eyes remained fixated on the final image: a featureless human outline holding an Orb in each hand. Groudon and Kyogre stood to either side of the human while Rayquaza looked down from above.

Maxie glanced back-and-forth between the Orb in his hand and the wall carvings.

“Do you realize what this means?” he asked no one in particular. Cassie grunted while trying to support Courtney, whose eyes were wide open with terror.

“We still need the Cave,” Maxie murmured. “Courtney!”

She glanced at him with horror-stricken eyes.

“Protect the Cave entrance. Don’t allow anyone in. If people knew anything about these—” he held up the Red Orb “—the Cave might come under attack.

“You,” he barked to Cassie, “come with me. I’m going out to meet Groudon when he comes. I expect Archie and Kyogre won’t be far off.”

The two departed and left Courtney alone in the Cave, the screams of the trapped souls ringing in her ears.


Maressa stood next to Golduck in the small seacraft as they watched crewmembers drive the ship through the ocean water. Looking through an underwater window, she saw Seaking swim alongside them as they headed south. Though she was ecstatic to be with her friend again, looking underwater gave Maressa a rush of terror. Everything about it made her nervous—the metal walls and paneling reminded her of being back in one of Team Aqua’s submarines. Whenever she was alone, hearing footsteps filled her with anticipation and made her heart race. She expected to see someone with a striped shirt and blue bandanna around every corner—but she only ever saw Sidney and the crewmen.

The ship they were on interested Maressa; it was the newest design from Stern’s Shipyard in Slateport. Sidney said it was capable of exploring depths previously unreachable and came with diving bells. Watching the crewmen work at the control panels reminded Maressa of her early days with Team Aqua, when she first took off in a submarine at the edge of Mauville…

She shook her head to clear it of memories—she didn’t want to think of the events leading to her first capture by Team Magma. As Maressa watched crewmen check gauges and pull levers, her thoughts drifted back to her time spent in Ever Grande City. Her last evening was spent eating dinner with her parents and Betty—it was a strained reunion, as her family members still felt thoroughly betrayed by her. Maressa’s sympathy was limited. She didn’t tell them that she was due to leave the next morning, as she figured they would only protest. She felt guilty about hiding more truth from them, but really didn’t want to have more questions to answer.

Thoughts turned from her family to Derek. The previous night, she stopped by his room to say goodbye—it was supposed to be quick and only last a few minutes, but she didn’t know when she would get to see him again. The few minutes quickly evolved into an hour. Derek walked her back to her room, gave a goodbye hug—it was so bittersweet. She hadn’t wanted to stop talking to Derek. She felt safe with him, and she didn’t want to leave. But she understood that he had to be ready when things got messy.

“Here,” Derek said, putting something in her hand.

It was a Pokeball. She looked back at Derek, her mouth hanging open.

“Derek, I can’t take one of your Pokemon!”

“Please, Maressa, don’t fight me on this. I know you got new Pokeballs for Golduck and Seaking, but you might need extra help. And Seaking can’t help you if you run into trouble on land. I talked to Claydol about it beforehand, and he agreed to go with you and listen to you.”

Snapping back to the present, Maressa looked at the Pokeball she held in her hands. She hadn’t released Claydol from his Pokeball yet—would he like being in a submarine? And though she felt guilty about having one of Derek’s Pokemon, she was secretly grateful.

She looked up as a man with a tuft of red hair on his head walked up to the crewmen.

“Do you have an estimate of when we’ll make it?” he asked them.

One of the crewmen pointed to a screen.

“This is our destination. We’ll be there before long.”

Maressa left, walking back through the metal hallways to the room where she stayed. Her legs moved stiffly—it still hurt to walk. The feeling of impending doom that she had when first waking up in Ever Grande came back to her and she felt queasy as she sat on the cot in her room.

“It’s just another symptom of Tentacruel Syndrome,” the nurse told her. “It’s very common to feel dread, but it wears off.”

Maressa hugged her stomach and stared at her knees. The dread, the fear—they welled up from within her, leaving her unable to do anything but think about how scared she was.

Why did she have to feel this continual terror and pain? Why couldn’t it go away, and just leave her alone? The feelings were unbearable, but they seemed to have no reason. She would have preferred to not exist at all than to sit, paralyzed in her own headspace.

Maybe the nurse was right—maybe it was just a part of Tentacruel Syndrome, and it would wear away like every other physical ailment she had.



The waterfall crashed down the rocks and into the ocean below. Both Dusclops hovered beneath the canopy of trees to keep out of sunlight. Sableye crawled in the rock crevices, examining various stones she picked up. Banette sat despondently next to Phoebe, looking gloomier than usual.

Noticing something off to her left, Phobe raised her head. Far off to the west, the sky was bright—really bright. That wasn’t right—it was late afternoon. The sun should be setting.

As her Ghost-type Pokemon retreated into the shadows, Phoebe’s heart sank. If the sunlight was rising above mainland Hoenn, that could only mean one thing.

Sableye chittered. There was a Flying-type Pokemon coming for them.

Phoebe turned her head as the Skarmory’s wings beat powerfully, creating gusts that nearly blew the flowers out of her short-cropped hair. As Skarmory landed on the rocky precipice, Phoebe stood up and took the note in its mouth. Inside was the familiar, slanted writing of the Champion.

Meet me at my office immediately. Skarmory will take you.


Phoebe looked up at Skarmory; he patiently gazed back at her with his dark yellow eyes. Recalling her Pokemon into their Pokeballs, Phoebe clambered on to the metallic bird. It was awkward—her long skirt kept hiking up uncomfortably and she wasn’t accustomed to riding Pokemon.

Phoebe tightened her arms around Skarmory’s neck as the Flying-type Pokemon took off into the air. She squinted her eyes against the wind—she had ridden Pokemon through the air a few times in her life, but it had been so long. She didn’t like it. She much preferred to turn intangible and slip silently and invisibly through objects.

Ever Grande’s lush green wildlife passed below them as Skarmory took them to the Pokemon League Headquarters Tower. Instead of going to the door at the bottom, he climbed higher into the sky and stopped on a balcony. As the Pokemon settled, Phoebe’s arms peeled off the Pokemon and she stumbled to the landing. Shakily getting to her feet, Phoebe looked up at Skarmory.

“Th—thank you,” she stuttered.

Skarmory ruffled his steel feathers and looked highly pleased with himself.

Phoebe stepped into the building and down a few hallways—stumbling slightly as she readjusted to walking—and stopped before a large door made of dark wood. The doorframe was elegantly carved and accented with gold paint. Above it read,

“Cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te.”

Raising a hand, Phoebe timidly knocked. Ever since Steven’s outburst after she gave away the Orbs, their relationship had never been the same. And even after she told him everything she knew about the golems, she sensed that there was part of him that was more reserved, as if he was withdrawing from human contact.

“Come in.”

Opening the door, Phoebe saw the Champion facing the windowed wall behind him, looking at the bright light shining from the distant heavens. He didn’t turn as she walked in.

Phoebe stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, waiting for the Champion to speak first.

“You noticed the bright sunlight, too, have you?”

“Yes,” she said quietly.

“Then we know that Groudon has awakened.”

Phoebe’s heart plummeted. She knew that Groudon had awoken, but hearing the words spoken out loud somehow made it tangible, more real.

At last, Steven turned around to face her. Bags hung under his grey eyes. His silver hair was usually a little messy, but today it looked messier than usual. He kept his eyes forward, looking straight at his desk, as he spoke.

“I’m going to recite the incantation on the slab and summon the golems. Once I do, my life will be tied to them. I’m going to have Glacia command Regice and Drake command Regirock. The Gym Leaders will also be around to contain the chaos as much as possible.”

He paused. Phoebe said nothing.

“I want to thank you. For your research and help on finding Rayquaza—it wouldn’t be possible without you and your knowledge.”

She dipped your head.

“It’s an honor.”

“Do you know anything more about Kyogre, Groudon, or the Orbs? Is it just that the controllers of the Orbs will have total control over the Pokemon?”

Phoebe looked up. Steven stared at her. Her heart twisted with guilt and pity as she saw the toll that stress and uncertainty took on her leader.

“Life begins in the Cave of Origin, and life ends at Mt. Pyre… That’s what has been passed down among the old Hoenn families, anyway. Groudon and Kyogre came from the Cave of Origin at the beginning of creation. And three millennia ago, the Orbs were made there—but they were made by people. They aren’t natural. They are kept at Mt. Pyre, together, to ensure that they won’t bring destruction. The dead at Mt. Pyre prevent the Orbs, which holds the power of those who aren’t truly dead, from working. The two Orbs cannot be separated. Doing so leads to more chaos and destruction. But as long as they’re reunited, they can bring peace again.”

Steven said nothing. His eyes darted to different places around the room. His fingers twiddled a bit. At last, he spoke.

“If Maxie and Archie each have an Orb, I don’t think they ever intend on giving them up and reuniting them. That will have to be our goal. To separate them from the Orbs, bring the Orbs back together, and put them back at Mt. Pyre—or destroy them.”

Phoebe’s stomach churned.

“I don’t know if they can be destroyed. They’re kept at Mt. Pyre so their power won’t work… If they could be destroyed, I think it’d have been done long ago.” She looked down. “I know my ancestors and grandparents have looked into it, but… They say there’s a lot of power in the Orbs and that destroying them—if it’s possible—wouldn’t be easy.”

Steven kept looking down at his desk. He exhaled deeply.

“Well, then… hopefully Rayquaza can sort out all this mess.”

Steven’s eyes roved to the stone slab in the corner of the room. He glanced at the bright sunlight outside once more.

“It’s time.”

Getting to his feet, he removed the purple cloth from the stone and carried the slab to his desk. Running a finger over the rough braille letters, he inhaled deeply and read aloud the incantation.

The slab glowed, turning bright white and a surge of energy rushed out of it, shattering the window behind Steven, and shot into the sky where it dispersed into three.

Phoebe gaped as she stared at the new hole behind the Champion, but Steven didn’t even turn around. His hands were shaking.

“Phoebe,” he said slowly, “get the Pokemon League, and everyone who’s helping us, to Sootopolis City.”

Far away, in the Desert Ruins, the Island Cave, and the Ancient Tomb, six dots alit on each of three faces. From each cave, the golems rumbled as they rose from their thousand-year slumber.
Chapter 35

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Hi all! Here's the next chapter. It's also quite a short one. Enjoy!

Chapter 35

The crystal waters of Sootopolis lay stretched out below Steven. The surface was deceptively calm. He held the ancient slab in his hands, his heart racing. Several members of the Pokemon League stood around him, staring into the great crater. City buildings and homes, all facing south, rested on the northern-most cliffs. The Sootopolis Gym stood on a small island of its own in the crater lake. Thin, grey clouds blocked the sky overhead—but to the west, the clouds were ripped open as sunlight cascaded down.

League members stood with bated breath. Drake’s and Winona’s Pokemon soared overhead. Wallace’s Pokemon scouted the water below. Phoebe’s Pokemon flitted about in the shadows. Roxanne’s and Flannery’s Pokemon nosed about the rocks in the cliffsides.

No one said anything. Everyone’s earpieces were silent. The air was thick with apprehension.

As Steven glanced at the slab in his hands, his gut twisted—he felt like vomiting.

He had to do this—and he had to appear all right with it. It was all part of being the Champion. Steven had to know how to appear in public. No matter the situation—however dire—he had to look as if he knew what he was doing. He must appear calm and confident. If he, whose Pokemon could defeat all others, was afraid and unsure, then how would everyone else feel?

But as he stared at the braille on the slab, all of the pain, fear, and uncertainty rushed into him.

He did not want to give his life away. He was not ready to.

But whether or not he was ready, it was his duty.

On the western side of the Sootpolis crater, closest to the Hoenn landmass, the sun was exceedingly bright. His stomach plummeted. That could only mean one thing—

As if on cue, Drake flew down on his Salamence. The Dragon-type panted hard as it landed next to Steven, sending puffs of green embers swirling in the air. Winona came in on her Altaria a few seconds later.

“We couldn’t stop them,” Drake said gravely as he dismounted Salamence to let him catch his breath. “We tried to attack it, injure it, slow it down—nothing—”

An earth-shaking roar split the air. The members of the Pokemon League looked to the west as they heard rocks shatter.

“Groudon is burrowing through the side of the crater,” Winona said breathlessly. “It’ll burst through any moment.”

Steven nodded.

“Any word from Wallace?”

As if on cue, the ground beneath the Pokemon League shook. The waters within the crater churned and boiled; black clouds swirled in the sky overhead and lightning split the air. Steven and the others watched in awed horror as a pair of glowing yellow eyes glared at them from beneath the surface of the water. A second later, a beast of massive proportions sprang forth from the crater, its jaws parted as it let out a deafening cry. Red lines glowed along its azure body.

All members of the Pokemon League stood still, paralyzed with awe as they gazed on the ancient Pokemon.

Kyogre was huge. It slammed its flippers down, creating immense waves that washed over the bottom tier of buildings. As he watched the houses crumble and wash away, Steven was grateful that the city had evacuated.

Rocks on the western side of the crater rained down; vertical fissures split the entire length of the rock walls. Two massive, clawed hands appeared within the widening cracks, gripping the sides of the crags. Groudon shoved its immense form through the walls of the Sootopolis crater, boulders raining down around it like hail, glaring at the leviathan with beady yellow eyes.

The behemoth dove into the waters of the crater, creating another large wave that washed over several tiers of houses. The two massive creatures roared as they grappled with each other, churning up waters and knocking into the cliffsides. Where clouds had formed over Kyogre in the sky, spots of blinding sunlight occasionally pierced through. The rolling, black clouds were constantly broken and re-forming as the two Pokemon battled beneath.

Steven’s tongue went dry. He wasn’t sure what to do—what could anyone do? These beasts were several magnitudes larger than any other Pokemon he had ever seen. And where were the Team leaders with the Orbs? That, at least, would give him a starting point from which to attack.

Over his microphone, he heard someone gasp.

“What?” he asked, but soon saw the answer himself. The glare of sunlight glinted off metal as helicopters flew in.

That was likely Team Magma, he figured. Team Aqua traveled by water, didn’t they? But would they be in the water with Kyogre making the seas so turbulent.

He would have to figure that out later. Regaining composure, he calmly ordered, “Roxanne and Norman: attack Groudon together. Wattson and Liza: go after Kyogre. The rest of you: scout and look for the Team Aqua and Team Magma leaders. They can’t be far off.”

The Pokemon League members threw themselves into action. Various Pokemon took to the skies, scanning the seas and clouds for any helicopters or vessels they may have missed. Wallace’s Pokemon dove beneath the waves outside the Sootopolis crater, which grew ever more violent as Kyogre’s powers took effect.

Steven looked up to the ever-changing skies, his heart pounding. The tablet in his hands felt warm—alive. He knew the golems were coming.

It was only a matter of time until they arrived.


The Champion’s heart twisted as he watched the various figures in the Sootopolis crater. The members of the League and their Pokemon ran along the crater cliffs or else flew about the crater as they tried to attack the beasts. And in the middle of it all, Kyogre and Groudon battled as if they were the only two creatures in the world.

Their clash created tidal waves which splashed ever higher; nearly half of the city had been washed away. The effects of their battle were spilling outside the crater—to the east, the waters raged and churned like never before. Barrel waves ten meters high rolled with thunderous intensity. Rain cascaded from black clouds, rendering it impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction. Normally, Steven would be able to see Ever Grande City from atop the Sootopolis crater—but it was lost to sight, if it was still there. To the west, the sun baked the land; everything was lost in a blur of orange-brown. Clouds of dust rose from the ground, turning the air hazy. Fires erupted in dry forests, filling the air with greyish smoke.

And still, no sign of the Team leaders.

Where were they? They had to be close by—didn’t they? Or was it possible that they controlled the ancient Pokemon from afar?

The anxiety within him was shunted aside as nausea rose from the pit of his stomach. A hum ran up his arms and he gripped the slab more tightly. Looking up, saw three figures shoot through the sky and come to a halt before him.

Even after hearing all about them in legends, the golems were more magnificent than Steven could have dreamed. Each stood twice as tall as Steven; six dots were in place of where each of their faces would be. Though they stood impassively before him, Steven felt their presence—coming from them? Or from the slab? He didn’t know. But he felt it within him—something else spoke to him from within.

As he stared at the golems, Steven had one thought: stop Kyogre and Groudon.

Without hesitation, the golems rose into the air and dive-bombed the two ancient Pokemon. Regirock raised its rock arms above its head and swung them around, knocking Groudon in the face. The behemoth roared as it was knocked back and slammed into the cliff side. A flurry of hail and ice crystals shot from Regice onto the Ground-type, freezing it to the cliffs. Registeel dove straight into Kyogre, hitting the Water-type with its full weight and sending it dashing up against the cliffsides as it roared in pain.

The victory was short-lived: Groudon quickly regained its feet, shaking off the ice and snow. Inhaling, it shot mud from its mouth at Regirock and Regice. The two golems were blasted into the cliffsides, drowning in the deluge. Kyogre roared and sprayed water from its blowhole at Registeel, sending it careening into the rocks.

The three golems quickly recovered, and at Steven’s mental command, flung themselves at the ancient Pokemon again.

The Champion’s mind worked a mile a minute as he watched the battle. Neither the golems nor the weather titans were gaining ground; he had to think of an alternative. What else were the golems capable of?

He looked up as he heard a high-pitched, grating squeal and saw something shiny fall out of the sky.


But the Pokemon only fell for a few seconds and quickly righted itself. Smoke wafted from one of his metallic wings.

Steven’s eyes scanned the cliffsides and he saw, several hundred meters away from him, a group of people wearing red hoodies. A Camerupt stood in front of them, magma seeping down its sides.

Heart pounding as blood boiled in his veins, he said over his microphone, “Team Magma members spotted on the cliffsides. Take them out.”

He heard static cries over his headset and someone screamed.

“Team Aqua’s here—they nearly drowned my Golem!” Roxanne cried.

“What? Where?”

“On the cliffs by the city!”

Steven looked, but the city was too far away from him to clearly see any figures. He had no doubt that Team Aqua was there, though, and creating further chaos.

It’ll be okay, he told himself as the chaos worsened. We just need to hold out until Rayquaza shows up.

Derek stood atop the Sootopolis crater. Breloom hopped about restlessly—he wanted in on the action!

“Breloom, there’s nothing we can do. Steven wants us here when people and Pokemon get injured. And Phoebe wants us here when Team Aqua arrives to look for her Bennett.”

Derek looked over the edge of the crater to the waters below. Groudon and Kyogre had arrived, and the serene city of Sootopolis had devolved into chaos. Boulders were flung into the air as Groudon ripped up rocks as if they were sheets of paper. The seas became more violent; there was no sign of Team Aqua vessels. Around Derek and Breloom, other medical personnel and their Pokemon waited restlessly. Phoebe had spoken to each of them in private, letting them know that her Bennett had been taken by Team Aqua weeks ago. His mind wandered back to the previous night as he recalled the details.

He was walking through the halls of Ever Grande City’s hotel, looking at the sunset through the glass walls. The setting star dyed the waters orange and red; it made Derek think of the molten lava he used to see at Team Magma’s Mt. Chimney base.


He set out with the Pokemon League tomorrow morning for Sootopolis City. He would probably see old teammates. He would have to be ready to stand against them—though he didn’t imagine that would be a problem. He didn’t feel guilty about it. And being beaten up by Tabitha twice only made him more resolute in his decision.

He stopped at a corner, watching the brilliant sun slowly dip beneath the horizon. It was a sight he often got to see when out at sea with Team Magma. Hoenn had more brilliant sunsets than Johto; they were brighter, more vivid colors, and always filled him with a sort of peace. He wasn’t able to see the sunset often during his time in university or medical school. His Pokemon liked watching them with him—maybe they would want to watch it with him now.


He turned around and saw one of the Pokemon League members stroll up—bare feet peeked out beneath her long blue skirt; pink hibiscus flowers adorned her short-cropped hair. Her dark eyes gazed at him curiously, apprehensively.

“You’re that guy who betrayed Team Magma, right?”

Derek nodded.

“I am, yeah. Your name is Phoebe, right? The Elite Four member?”

“Yeah—well… That’s a bit blurry, right now. But yes, my name is Phoebe.”

She looked through the windows and stood next to Derek, her dark eyes shining slightly.

“Are you coming with us to Sootopolis?”

Derek nodded.

“I think so, yes. I told Steven I’d help out—so he told me to go to Sootopolis City.”

“Is he having you battle directly?”

“Not sure; since I’m a medic, I think he wants me and my Pokemon on the sidelines to be ready if—when—someone gets seriously hurt.”

“So, you might not be busy at first—right?”

Derek started—Phoebe looked up at him, looking considerably more nervous than before.

“I—I don’t know. Why? What do you need?”

She looked back out at the waters.

“There’s someone I need to get back, but I don’t know how—you might be the only one who can help me.”

Derek waited patiently; Phoebe blinked a few times before continuing on.

“You heard of how the Elite Four tried to make an exchange with Team Aqua, right? We would give them the Orbs if they gave us Tate? Well… To ensure their compliance, we made another trade: my Pokemon for one of theirs. And I have their Pokemon still with me, right here.”

She reached her hand into a pocket and withdrew a Pokeball. Through the translucent red lid, Derek saw a Crawdaunt soundly sleeping.

Phoebe pocketed it. Her eyes remained on the waters outside as she kept talking.

“And I promised Bennett I’d get her back, but I don’t see what chance I’ll have to do that,” Phoebe told him. Her dark eyes shone with tears as she struggled to not cry. “So, please, help me look for her. She was taken by the Team Aqua commander named Matt.

“I’ll be scouting and fighting the entire time, I’m sure. But you might be able to get away for a bit—and any other medics who come with us to help. If you see a Team Aqua ship, won’t you please try to board it and retrieve my Bannette? Please?”

She looked up at Derek, her eyes shining with desperation. Derek’s gut twisted with guilt.

“I don’t know—I don’t know how anything will look once we’re actually at Sootopolis.

“But,” he said once he saw Phoebe open her mouth, “I can try. If I see any Team Aqua ships, I can try to get aboard them and look for Banette.”

Phoebe sighed; she looked relieved, like air let out of a balloon and tension released. She dipped her head.

“Thank you.”

Derek snapped himself out of his memories and back to the present. Though Phoebe didn’t divulge the details of how Bennett was taken, Derek knew. Maressa had told him everything.

At the thought of Maressa, his heart sank. He didn’t want her to go. She had hardly been gone for more than a day, and already Derek missed her. He knew she had Golduck and Claydol to keep her safe, but still…

Looking up at the sky, Derek saw Golbat circling overhead. If anybody seemed prepared for all of this, it was Golbat. The Pokemon didn’t bat an eye when informed of Groudon and Kyogre’s awakening, nor was he scared when Derek said they might have to scout Team Aqua ships to find a missing Bennett.

Derek’s heart surged with gratitude for his friend. Looking down into the crater, he took a shaky breath as the two beasts ripped up the world around them.


The Eyes Have It
Aaaa Starlight!!! Somehow I thought I was much farther along in this story--in the 20's chapter-wise, at least--and that you were still posting in the 20's yourself. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was more than fifteen chapters behind!

All caught up now, of course, and what a ride it's been! I'm glad I checked in when I did, since it looks like we're just on the cusp of the climactic final battle. I don't know how many chapters are left now, but I think it's got to be fewer than ten, and maybe even fewer than five! At least I'll be able to follow along for the last part of the story instead of coming in after the fact.

In any case, what perhaps stood out to me the most about these chapters was how much hell all the characters go through as they progress! Derek and Maressa get variously beaten up, tortured, separated from their loved ones, beaten up again, etc. over and over again throughout these chapters. Tabitha's barely holding things together, and even Courtney's having terrifying nightmare visions, at this point more or less constantly. This has always been the case, of course, but this section really made me look back across the full arc of the story and appreciate how much it's about people struggling to survive in hard times, having their comforting illusions broken, and trying to find themselves in life while the world's coming down around their ears. It's nice to see the action-adventure plot of the Hoenn games get fleshed out and humanized a bit, leaning more into Team Magma/Aqua as high-control organizations and how people would get caught up in them, why they would stay--and what the consequences would be if they tried to break free. It's a tragic situation all around, with people driven by desperation on all sides. At this point no one but the team leaders are probably much into the "destroy and remake the world" plan, and even they won't survive the process, but no one sees any way out, if they're even aware of what's coming. The RSE storyline is pretty goofy on the face of it, but give the people caught up in it more depth and interest and there's a surprising amount to work with. I think you've done a great job of retelling that story in your own way, so it feels like more than just a rehash of the games and becomes a framework through which you can explore the themes you're most interested in.

I'm very curious how this will all shake out in the end. I don't think you'd go quite so far as to have Derek or Maressa die here, but I imagine Tabitha's role is probably going to end up being critical--perhaps he'll manage to stop Maxie where the League isn't able to--and I'm guessing he'll survive, but not totally sure! Meanwhile, Courtney seems the most likely to die in the course of this confrontation, whether she ultimately ends up working to stop the weatherpocalypse or not. I enjoyed the fact that you've made her a descendant of the Cave of Origin's guardians and pressed into its service against her will. Her story and that of the orbs reminds me of your old Hoenn contest entry--definitely a more brutal take on the Groudon/Kyogre mythos and the lengths people have gone to to control them in the past. I can't say I care for Courtney, really--she's just too into the torture--but I do appreciate that you did something to give her more character than just being the torture-happy second-in-command. In general I like how you've worked your own interpretations of ancient Hoenn lore into the story. A lot of your fics focus on folktales or mythical happenings in the distant past, and it's fun to see those elements shine here as well.

Like I said, returning to read this big chunk made me realize how dark this story really can get, which is funny, because I hadn't really thought of it in that way before. I wonder if that had just gone over my head before, or if the nature of the fic has just changed over time. Either way, I did appreciate the bit of respite we got in Chapter 32 where Maressa reunites with Seaking and gets to hang out with Derek for a bit. Aside from Tate getting broken out, it feels like one of the few positive turns we've had in the fic so far, heh. A nice calm before the storm. Hoping that at least one character is going to get to come out of this whole mess alive and at least semi-okay; they deserve it with all they've been through.

In general I'm perhaps most curious about where the surviving characters will end up going after the big boss battle. A lot of them don't seem to have much idea of where they could even go in life outside of the world they've become trapped in, so I hope that there's some indication that they'll find a new direction once everything stops being on fire. How would Maressa even start to go about rebuilding her life, after the time spent as a terrorist, isolated from former friends and with a poor relationship with her family? The characters have had to focus so much on simply staying alive through all this craziness that they haven't had much opportunity to think of what comes after, but it would be fun to see how they might approach "what comes after." I think I may be looking forward to that more than the big battle itself. (And to see how Lanturn and Sharpedo end up coming into play--I'm sure we'll be seeing them again!)

I'm curious to see how everything goes down with Rayquaza, since at this point it's looking like summoning them is the only thing that can get us out of this mess, but getting their aid clearly won't be straightforward. One of my favorite bits in recent chapters was Steven's disgust and frustration that he was having to rely on children's books as his only real source of information about where to find Rayquaza. It did make it a bit weird, though, his insistence on rescuing Maressa etc. and simply giving the orbs over to the teams because there were the safeguards of the regis and Rayquaza in place. Clearly Steven wasn't as solid as he thought on getting that all working, since Groudon and Kyogre are here, the regis can't best them, and no one has eyes on Rayquaza! I get that Steven caving and handing the orbs over was intended to show his hypocrisy, after he'd just fired Phoebe over doing the exact same thing, but the repetition of "the teams kidnap someone to blackmail the League -> the league immediately gives them the orbs" felt a bit odd to me. Perhaps there's some way you could emphasize the difference in the situation compared to what happened with Phoebe, so it feels more like an echo rather than the same thing happening twice?

You accidentally posted Chapter 28 in place of Chapter 24 (meaning Chapter 28 currently appears twice, at different points in the story). Bit of a wild flash-forward in there, heh.

There's a continuity error in Chapter 35 where Derek references Phoebe wanting him to stay where he is so he can look for Banette, but this happens before Phoebe actually comes up to him with her request. Also, in the last couple chapters especially, autocorrect's been changing "Banette" to "Bennett" a lot.

It was neat to see a couple elements of the story that echo those of other Hoenn fics around here, like Wallace's relationship to Winona or Steven's plan to call on the regis. Not sure whether those were actually inspired by the other stories or you just happened to interpret the story in a similar way to them, but either option is kind of delightful, I think. Seeing how people fill in the gaps in canon and how they can be inspired by other people's takes on the source material are some of my favorite aspects of fanfic.

I had a great time catching up with this fic, and you've been doing an amazing job getting these chapters up! I know you haven't been keeping to your weekly target, but you've still made a ton of progress. It's wild to think that this story might be coming to an end soon, and I'm glad I'll be able to follow along. I feel pretty good about my ability to keep up with the chapters, as long as you keep posting them!

Also, huge congrats on securing your position in NZ! That's super exciting, and I hope you end up loving it there. It's amazing that you've been keeping up with this fic despite everything going on in your life, and I wish you good luck in getting the rest posted. Wild to think that this one may be coming to a close soon!

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Aaaa Starlight!!! Somehow I thought I was much farther along in this story--in the 20's chapter-wise, at least--and that you were still posting in the 20's yourself. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was more than fifteen chapters behind!
Okay um wow THANK YOU for leaving such a glowing review! :veelove: No worries on getting behind--it means a lot that you decided to read and catch up!
All caught up now, of course, and what a ride it's been! I'm glad I checked in when I did, since it looks like we're just on the cusp of the climactic final battle. I don't know how many chapters are left now, but I think it's got to be fewer than ten, and maybe even fewer than five! At least I'll be able to follow along for the last part of the story instead of coming in after the fact.
Ha, I looked back at where I posted this story on Serebii and after I posted Chapter 16 at the fic's 4th anniversary, you speculated that the fic might end that year :P I'm not 100% how many chapters I have left, since I haven't parsed out the last several, but it is around ten more chapters, yes :)
In any case, what perhaps stood out to me the most about these chapters was how much hell all the characters go through as they progress! Derek and Maressa get variously beaten up, tortured, separated from their loved ones, beaten up again, etc. over and over again throughout these chapters. Tabitha's barely holding things together, and even Courtney's having terrifying nightmare visions, at this point more or less constantly. This has always been the case, of course, but this section really made me look back across the full arc of the story and appreciate how much it's about people struggling to survive in hard times, having their comforting illusions broken, and trying to find themselves in life while the world's coming down around their ears. It's nice to see the action-adventure plot of the Hoenn games get fleshed out and humanized a bit, leaning more into Team Magma/Aqua as high-control organizations and how people would get caught up in them, why they would stay--and what the consequences would be if they tried to break free. It's a tragic situation all around, with people driven by desperation on all sides. At this point no one but the team leaders are probably much into the "destroy and remake the world" plan, and even they won't survive the process, but no one sees any way out, if they're even aware of what's coming. The RSE storyline is pretty goofy on the face of it, but give the people caught up in it more depth and interest and there's a surprising amount to work with. I think you've done a great job of retelling that story in your own way, so it feels like more than just a rehash of the games and becomes a framework through which you can explore the themes you're most interested in.
That really means a lot to hear, so thank you! I'm glad I was able to work the RSE storyline into something with more depth. I really did fall in love with the characters and the environmental theme of it, and I felt like the anime was just too lighthearted with it and wanted something deeper. And lately, a couple of my works have had themes of "bad things happen and nothing good comes out of it" which I know is pretty bleak, but it's also something I'm working through, heh.
I'm very curious how this will all shake out in the end. I don't think you'd go quite so far as to have Derek or Maressa die here, but I imagine Tabitha's role is probably going to end up being critical--perhaps he'll manage to stop Maxie where the League isn't able to--and I'm guessing he'll survive, but not totally sure! Meanwhile, Courtney seems the most likely to die in the course of this confrontation, whether she ultimately ends up working to stop the weatherpocalypse or not. I enjoyed the fact that you've made her a descendant of the Cave of Origin's guardians and pressed into its service against her will. Her story and that of the orbs reminds me of your old Hoenn contest entry--definitely a more brutal take on the Groudon/Kyogre mythos and the lengths people have gone to to control them in the past. I can't say I care for Courtney, really--she's just too into the torture--but I do appreciate that you did something to give her more character than just being the torture-happy second-in-command. In general I like how you've worked your own interpretations of ancient Hoenn lore into the story. A lot of your fics focus on folktales or mythical happenings in the distant past, and it's fun to see those elements shine here as well.
Oh you'll see ;) And I was actually inspired by the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series for the creation of the Orbs and Courtney's backstory. The Orbs are created in the same way as the Millennium Items in Yu-Gi-Oh! with the sacrifice of a hundred people after their village was raided. Bakura was a smile child who watched it all happen, and the Millennium Items held the curse/grudge of those people for thousands of years. While Courtney wasn't actually there when the Orbs were made and isn't thousands of years old, the Cave and the Orbs hold the grudge/curse of her people, and it lives on in her, whether she wants it to or not. Having this forced on her has embittered her (along with her traumatic childhood). I went through a short period of writing when I was very obsessed with Yu-Gi-Oh! and wanted to incorporate that lol

Like I said, returning to read this big chunk made me realize how dark this story really can get, which is funny, because I hadn't really thought of it in that way before. I wonder if that had just gone over my head before, or if the nature of the fic has just changed over time. Either way, I did appreciate the bit of respite we got in Chapter 32 where Maressa reunites with Seaking and gets to hang out with Derek for a bit. Aside from Tate getting broken out, it feels like one of the few positive turns we've had in the fic so far, heh. A nice calm before the storm. Hoping that at least one character is going to get to come out of this whole mess alive and at least semi-okay; they deserve it with all they've been through.
I think that the darkness of the fic coming out in recent chapters has to do with a variety of reasons. Part of was always meant to be dark--it would always have people fighting for their lives while the team leaders tried to cause world-ending destruction. Another part is that the dark themes don't really set into the story until more recently; because the story is primarily told from Maressa's POV, after she gets handed to Team Aqua after betraying them, everything looks a lot worse from her perspective. She started out relatively innocent and excited, so the tone was lighter at the start. What might be the biggest contributor, though (and I am just speculating here since I don't have a concrete way to measure this) is how I've changed since I started writing this story, and how my life changes have impacted my storytelling.

The paragraph below is spoilered because it deals with events that happened to me in real-life, including abuse. I advise that people who are triggered or upset by this topic to not read it.
I mentioned before that in January of 2021, I was sexually abused on a date. I remained in contact with this person for several months, and so I was undergoing a series of traumatizing events, but I didn't realize it at the time. All I knew was that I was not okay; I was constantly in pain, constantly miserable, but I couldn't tell why, and I couldn't see that what was happening to me was abuse and manipulation. I developed severe anxiety to the point where I lost 1/10th of my body weight, I couldn't sleep at night, I developed chronic pain in my chest, and I was having panic attacks almost daily. I went through depression and anhedonia where I lost the ability to enjoy anything, including fanfic, which is a reason why I was inactive for several months. I developed and am still recovering from PTS(D) (some people don't like calling post-traumatic stress a "disorder," so I refer to it as PTS, though I personally think calling it a disorder inoffensive because I could tell there was something wrong with me).

These experiences have changed me, and I believe that they have changed my writing. Maressa was always going to be sexually assaulted by Matt, but when I first wrote it, I didn't know how to write it accurately and didn't understand how deeply it affected someone, so I just vaguely mentioned it and didn't delve into her thoughts or feelings about it. Now that I've personally gone through sexual assault (by someone named Matt, no less), I have been incorporating my pain and trauma into writing her experiences. I guess this makes her a self-insert, now that I think about it (though I'd argue that I'm the self-insert, since I got assaulted long after it happened to Maressa, heh), and I admit that I partly do it as a way of processing and self-validation. As the story goes on, I include a bit more of what I felt through Maressa's eyes (self-loathing, unforgiveness towards herself, flashes of irrational hatred towards others) AND part of the healing process. So, if it's any consolation, there are some good things for her ahead!

Perhaps a reason that the story becomes so dark is because (from my experience), when you're going through PTS/anxiety/depression, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You can't see things ever getting better, you can't feel love from people around you, and you can't fathom that there is any goodness left. I constantly felt that I couldn't go on, but that I had not choice but to go on. I knew that there was something wrong with me, and I just wanted everything to end.

I have gotten significantly better over the last year and a half, thanks be to God, and I feel more able to write about it. I'm still on a journey to healing, and I know that I still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to forgiveness, letting go, and reconciliation. But as I'm processing, I can transfer my experiences, at least a bit, to my characters who are going through equally traumatic events.
In general I'm perhaps most curious about where the surviving characters will end up going after the big boss battle. A lot of them don't seem to have much idea of where they could even go in life outside of the world they've become trapped in, so I hope that there's some indication that they'll find a new direction once everything stops being on fire. How would Maressa even start to go about rebuilding her life, after the time spent as a terrorist, isolated from former friends and with a poor relationship with her family? The characters have had to focus so much on simply staying alive through all this craziness that they haven't had much opportunity to think of what comes after, but it would be fun to see how they might approach "what comes after." I think I may be looking forward to that more than the big battle itself. (And to see how Lanturn and Sharpedo end up coming into play--I'm sure we'll be seeing them again!)
Like I mentioned, when going through the middle of traumatic events, you can't possibly see things getting any better. That's how it is for Maressa--part of her doesn't believe she's going to survive, and she's so desperately caught up in trying to live and in keeping her Pokemon together that she doesn't give thought to much else. At this point, she's so vulnerable that she's essentially doing whatever the League is telling her to do, since she doesn't have much ability for basic reasoning (at least, that was a symptom I had when going through PTS and now it's here too lol).

It's mentioned a few times that Derek muses "maybe this (hiking Mt. Silver, exploring the Hoenn sea) would be fun to do when the fighting is all over" and Maressa can't believe that he's thinking of life after everything has gone. He's significantly more placid than she is overall, but has also been less traumatized lol, and he has a strong career so he doesn't have to worry quite as much about finding a job.
I'm curious to see how everything goes down with Rayquaza, since at this point it's looking like summoning them is the only thing that can get us out of this mess, but getting their aid clearly won't be straightforward. One of my favorite bits in recent chapters was Steven's disgust and frustration that he was having to rely on children's books as his only real source of information about where to find Rayquaza. It did make it a bit weird, though, his insistence on rescuing Maressa etc. and simply giving the orbs over to the teams because there were the safeguards of the regis and Rayquaza in place. Clearly Steven wasn't as solid as he thought on getting that all working, since Groudon and Kyogre are here, the regis can't best them, and no one has eyes on Rayquaza! I get that Steven caving and handing the orbs over was intended to show his hypocrisy, after he'd just fired Phoebe over doing the exact same thing, but the repetition of "the teams kidnap someone to blackmail the League -> the league immediately gives them the orbs" felt a bit odd to me. Perhaps there's some way you could emphasize the difference in the situation compared to what happened with Phoebe, so it feels more like an echo rather than the same thing happening twice?
Thanks for pointing this out! I was at a point where, "I'm sure I have gaping errors and logic holes in my story, but I've read it over so many times that I can't see what they are anymore, so I'm going to post it and hope that someone points out whatever the flaws are." Yeah, if I can think of a way to make it more of an "echo" and less of "repetition," I'll go for it! Glad you pointed that out so I have somewhere to start.
You accidentally posted Chapter 28 in place of Chapter 24 (meaning Chapter 28 currently appears twice, at different points in the story). Bit of a wild flash-forward in there, heh.
LOL fixed! Thanks haha
There's a continuity error in Chapter 35 where Derek references Phoebe wanting him to stay where he is so he can look for Banette, but this happens before Phoebe actually comes up to him with her request. Also, in the last couple chapters especially, autocorrect's been changing "Banette" to "Bennett" a lot.
Ah, thanks for that! And noooooo stupid autocorrect! (One of my real-life friends has the last name "Bennett" lol)
It was neat to see a couple elements of the story that echo those of other Hoenn fics around here, like Wallace's relationship to Winona or Steven's plan to call on the regis. Not sure whether those were actually inspired by the other stories or you just happened to interpret the story in a similar way to them, but either option is kind of delightful, I think. Seeing how people fill in the gaps in canon and how they can be inspired by other people's takes on the source material are some of my favorite aspects of fanfic.
Thanks! I think it's part coincidence and partly me subconsciously taking in what I read and incorporating it into my writing, hehe.
I had a great time catching up with this fic, and you've been doing an amazing job getting these chapters up! I know you haven't been keeping to your weekly target, but you've still made a ton of progress. It's wild to think that this story might be coming to an end soon, and I'm glad I'll be able to follow along. I feel pretty good about my ability to keep up with the chapters, as long as you keep posting them!

Also, huge congrats on securing your position in NZ! That's super exciting, and I hope you end up loving it there. It's amazing that you've been keeping up with this fic despite everything going on in your life, and I wish you good luck in getting the rest posted. Wild to think that this one may be coming to a close soon!
Ah, thank you! Yes, I'm really hoping to finish this story before my next birthday (so end of February)! I really think I should be able to, I'll just have to work it in with all of the real-life craziness of the next few months.

With that, I announce that I WILL post another chapter tomorrow, but you can expect this fic to go on a short hiatus in October since I'll be travelling for a month straight, essentially.
Chapter 36

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Route 123
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Hi everyone! Apologies for the delay--I had thought I was out of updated chapters to publish, but I still have a few more! Hopefully I'll put out a chapter a week for at least the next three weeks. So here's chapter 36!

Chapter 36

Eventually—after how many days, Maressa didn’t know, and she didn’t want to keep count—they made land. As Maressa and Golduck got out of the craft and clambered on to the rocky shore, they looked up.

The island was not large—nothing more than a small spit of rock out in the middle of nowhere. White fog crept out from the sea. Small swaths of forest surrounded the tower that dominated the island. The Sky Pillar itself was perhaps a hundred meters across. Maressa and Golduck leaned their heads back, craning their necks to try and see how high the tower went, but the top of the monolith was soon lost to clouds.

“What’s that? But we just got here!”

Maressa looked over; Sidney’s eyes were wide open and he looked angry as he spoke into his headset.

“Do you what you can to hold them off; I’ll send backup.” Switching off his microphone, he turned to Maressa and the crewmen. “Other ships are under attack. Probably Team Aqua. If any of you have aquatic Pokemon you can spare, send them to help. But waking up Rayquaza is our priority.”

Maressa looked down at Seaking sitting in the water. He looked sadly up at her.

“Do you think you’d be willing to help them out, Seaking?”

He nodded—of course he would help! But what about her? Would she be okay?

“Don’t worry, Seaking. Golduck and Derek’s Claydol”—she held up his Pokeball—“are here with me! We’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Seaking nodded slowly. He was happy to be helpful but it always made him sad to leave Maressa and Golduck.

Grabbing on to Golduck’s webbed hand, Maressa slid down into the water and wrapped her arms around Seaking.

“I know, Seaking—I don’t want to leave you, either. But we will see you again soon. I promise.”

Maressa released him and smiled as he gave her one last look before ducking into the water and swimming away. Her heart clenched with sadness; guilt lingered as she turned away and climbed back up next to Sidney.

“Well, looks like this is it.”

Maressa stared up at the enormous tower before them.

“So we just go up and find Rayquaza? That’s it? Why hasn’t anyone else done this yet?” she asked him.

“Drake tried riding his Salamence when he first got here, but the tower is too high for his Salamence to get all the way up—which means it’s probably too high for any normal Pokemon. The windows were too small for him to get through, and he said the tower looked fragile in parts so he didn’t want to try breaking anything down.”

“So are we just going to climb up from the inside?”

Sidney nodded. “That’s our current plan, yeah.”

“Why are we the only ones here?”

Sidney walked forward to the tower.

“Things in Sootopolis are getting bad—Steven wanted all hands on deck to try and prevent as much damage as possible. So we’re the only ones he let go.”

He swiveled his head around. “Can’t see much in this fog. Can you guys scout the area out and make sure nothing is around here? I’d hate to get ambushed by any more Team members.”

Some of the crewmen made their way and scouted through the forest to their left.

“I’m going to go closer to the tower. Maressa, can you and your Golduck check out the area to our right?” Sidney asked.

“Sure thing,” she said. “Come on, Golduck.”

Letting her lean on him, Golduck accompanied Maressa into the scrubby forest. Though she knew she was supposed to be looking around her, Maressa kept her eyes on the pillar to her left, constantly amazed at its height.

“Golduck, how do you think people built that? It’s supposed to be ancient, but how can they have built it without modern tools or construction equipment? And where did they get the materials? This place is tiny! I think there’s more rock in that tower than there is on the rest of this island…”

Maressa chattered away as she voiced her thoughts, partly because she was curious—but mostly to keep away the unsettling feeling that grew within her. Something about this place seemed not quite right. Maressa didn’t know if it was the fog creeping through the low-hanging trees, or the feeling of fear that stuck with her ever since she was in the hospital, or if some sort of ancient presence was with them—but something about the place was off.

And she knew he sensed it, too. Golduck kept sneaking glances over his shoulder at the large, and his shoulders were hunched over more than usual. He looked as if he wanted to curl up and hide. Maressa’s heart panged with pity, and tried to keep his mind off the subject.

“Okay, Golduck, I haven’t seen any wild Pokemon or anything, so—what?”

Golduck suddenly hissed. His red eyes narrowed and he glared at a low-hanging tree ahead. Maressa could see nothing different about the tree; it looked like every other piece of foliage on that teeny island.

She heard it before she saw it—a low, rumbling growl emanated from the tree, and out stepped a large Mightyena. He glared at Golduck and raised his haunches as he sauntered towards them.

Maressa’s heart jolted, but something about the Mightyena was familiar—she had seen him many times before.


She looked up and saw a man wearing the Team Magma uniform step out from behind the tree. He stared at her in bewilderment for a second before a smile split his face.

“Maressa, you’re alive!”


It was weird seeing him smile like that—the only smiles she had ever seen on him were coy or smug, but this one was genuine, almost joyful, even.

She stayed where she was—her heart raced so rapidly that her chest hurt. Her limbs started shaking—she was back in the Team Magma base, and Tabitha was telling her that he would hand her over to Team Aqua.

Through her fear and anxiety, a spark of anger flared in her.

“Mightyena, calm down. Don’t attack,” Tabitha told his companion. The Dark-type stopped growling and stood straight up, still glaring at Golduck. Golduck planted himself squarely in front of Maressa, hissing and raising his shoulders.

“Golduck, it’s okay.”

I think…

Tabitha walked a few steps closer, still staring at Maressa in disbelief.

“I can’t believe it’s actually you—I didn’t think, after what Team Aqua put you through, you’d be out here.” The smile faded from his face. “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

Maressa didn’t know how to react. She didn’t think she’d see Tabitha again—she definitely didn’t expect to see him happy.

“What am I doing out here?” she spat. “What are you guys doing out here?”

“Stopping the Pokemon League when they come to awaken Rayquaza. Why are you working with them, Maressa? I would have thought they’d given you medical care instead of sending you out to do their dirty work for them.”

“I’m working for them so that we can stop you. Don’t roll your eyes—after everything you’ve done, you knew this was coming!”

Tabitha took a few steps closer to Maressa. She instinctively hugged herself at his approach. She wanted to hang on to Golduck. Tilting his head to the side, Tabitha gazed at her calculatingly.

“So, you’re just working for them because you want to stop us. Couldn’t you have tried to do that without helping the Pokemon League? Or did you think they were your only chance at defeating us?”

Maressa faltered.

“Wh—I don’t care how I defeat you or who it’s with. All that matters is that you guys don’t succeed, we get the Orbs back, Groudon and Kyogre go back to sleep, and the Teams are disbanded.”

“And then what, Maressa? Once we’re disbanded and everything is safe, do you think this world will just go back to the way it was? Do you want this world to go back to the way it was? You know how the Teams advertised ourselves—environmental protection companies that tried to restore nature to a healthy state.”

“I know!” she snapped. Blood rushed to her face. “But if either of you succeed, then that’s not helping nature—the world will be destroyed, Tabitha!”

“And do you like the world the way it is now?”

He stared at her hard with his black, piercing eyes. Mightyena began pacing around them in a circle. Golduck swiveled his head, following Mightyena with his deadly red glare.

“Look at the world, Maressa. Rampant crime. Homelessness. Fathers leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves. Disease-filled urban poverty. Drug-ridden rural poverty. A government that tells their people what they can and can’t do. A ruling class that tells those beneath them what they need. People gradually becoming sessile, no longer living with Pokemon. Is that what you really want to go back to?”

Maressa glared at him. She was tired of being used and manipulated—the only thing left was to answer honestly.

“Of course not!” she shouted. There was no need for shouting; Tabitha stood only a few steps away. But something in the atmosphere felt threatening—was it him? Or was it just the overall eeriness of the island itself? Shouting felt good; it gave her energy, it stopped her from shaking, and replaced her terror with rage and hatred.

“I don’t want any of that, Tabitha, but killing off most of the population and restarting this world won’t fix that! Maxie and Archie don’t care about people—if they did, they wouldn’t kill everyone. You know this! How can you honestly believe that killing people is the best way out? If people live, than at least we can hope for some sort of change in the future!”

His eyes narrowed. “Are you just repeating sappy platitudes you hear from politicians who try to manipulate people into voting for them?”

“I’ve already been manipulated!”

Maressa’s fists were shaking. Golduck let out a constant, low hiss. Rumbles echoed from deep in Mightyena’s throat as he kept circling the trio. Tabitha continued to stare at Maressa.

“I know what I believe. From what you’ve told me before, I have a hard time really believing that you want everyone to die so the world can reset that way. You tried to save my life, and I’m your enemy! What do you really want?”

“Regardless of what I want,” he said slowly, “I pledged allegiance and obedience to Maxie. I owe him everything—“

“You don’t owe him anything!

“Maxie is my leader, and whether he’s right or wrong, I obey him.”

“This is your life, Tabitha!” Maressa shouted. “Make your own choices, and stop blaming others for what you’re doing!

“Golduck, get us out of here!”

She was sick of talking, sick of the manipulation, and sick of endless arguments that got nowhere. At her word, Golduck shot a jet of water straight at Tabitha—it launched him off his feet and in a heap on tangled branches and vines. Mightyena leapt at Golduck and the two of them rolled on the ground.

“Claydol, help us out!”

In a flash of white light, the earthen doll appeared.

Golduck pinned Mightyena to the ground and quacked at Maressa—he could take on Mightyena by himself. She and Claydol should get to the Sky Pillar and awaken Rayquaza!

Maressa’s heart twisted—she didn’t want to leave Golduck alone. But Claydol rumbled in affirmation and urged her to come with him. Reaching up, Maressa grabbed the point on Claydol’s head and lifted herself on to him. Once she was secure, he sped through the forest and to the tower. Maressa glanced back to see Golduck slamming his tail repeatedly into Mightyena. Tabitha was getting back on his feet—but Claydol sped away before he made a move for them.

As Claydol levitated over the cracked steps and into the tower, Maressa saw Team Magma grunts and submarine crewmen fighting on the floor and in the halls. The ground floor was covered with smoke—Maressa’s vision was blotted out. All she could hear was shouting, choking, sputtering, and slamming.

Claydol didn’t seem to need eyesight—he made a straight shot to the stairwell and went up as quickly as he could, dodging Team Magma grunts and Pokemon League workers. Houndours and Vulpixes shot bursts of flame; Golbats and Zubats released clouds of haze; Geodudes hurled rocks; Electrikes and Manectrics filled the air with crackling electricity.

Maressa’s heart beat furiously and she clutched Claydol, sweat breaking out on her forehead. Claydol went forward, uninterrupted; he was bulky enough to shrug off any fire or rock attacks, and electric ones didn’t affect him at all. He always made sure to keep Maressa out of harm’s way, and the worst that she endured was breathing in smoke and fumes.

Claydol soared past everyone—someone called Maressa’s name, but she and Claydol ignored them and continued onward, up the endless stairway. As the noises of fighting faded away, Maressa’s mind lingered back to what Tabitha told her.

Blood boiled in her veins, pumping so hard that it gave her a headache. How could he claim the moral high ground when he was trying to kill people? How could he—who had hurt, kidnapped, and possibly killed countless innocents—try to claim morality over her—who had endured such torture because of her efforts to stop them? He enabled Team Aqua to torture her!

A surge of hatred rushed through her, and she gripped Claydol even more tightly than before. Hating Tabitha felt awful—but it blocked out the pain and fear. And, in spite of her resentment and loathing, she eventually became aware of another presence. Maressa glanced at Claydol, who looked up at her with a bright red eye. Derek mentioned that Claydol would form a mental link with her, but in her anger she hadn’t noticed it in until now.

She felt a tinge of fear—not from herself, but from Claydol.

“Oh, I’m sorry Claydol. Was I scaring you?”

A bit of affirmation flowed through their link.

“Well… I’ll try to control my anger from now on.”

Maressa looked at the walls as she and Claydol passed by them. Sunlight pouring in through the windows fell on faded paint that could have been centuries old; Maressa couldn’t tell what it was supposed to depict. Banette and Dusclops peered at her from out of the shadows lying on the floors—floors that, Maressa noticed for the first time, were cracked and crumbling inward.

This place is falling apart, she mused.

She gripped Claydol more tightly. None of the stairs looked like they would hold her weight. If she fell off of Claydol, she was done for.

Maressa looked back at the age-old murals along the walls. Was this place cursed? Did something happen to cause it to crumble to bits, barely holding together? Or was it just that ancient and uninhabited?

The windows offered a marvelous view of the little island and the clear blue ocean stretching into the horizon. But as Maressa and Claydol went higher, white mist drifted in through the windows, dimming the view and eventually blocking it entirely.

They didn’t travel through the fogged-up stairway for long, and eventually Claydol emerged from the hazy hallways into the open.

Maressa looked around. Everything, as far as she could see, was smothered in endless white mist. She looked down; this floor wasn’t cracked at all, and she slowly slid off Claydol to see if it would hold her weight.

It felt good to have her feet planted on something firm again. Maressa took a few steps forward and suddenly stopped.

Something was slowly, deeply inhaling and exhaling. A current of mist pulsed in and out. The presence that dominated the island ever sense Maressa got there magnified intensely, and as she stepped forward, she saw what it was.

The creature was enormous—it was far beyond anything Maressa had ever seen. Its snakelike body—which was as thick as a train—was coiled up on itself. The head was relatively thin, but still large enough that Maressa could lie on it spread-eagled. Each nostril was as big as her head. Every time the beast inhaled, copious amounts of white mist flowed in. A torrent of cloud was released with each exhale.

Claydol gazed at the beast with awe—he sent feelings of wonder and admiration to Maressa. He didn’t deny that he was afraid, too. How could he not be afraid? To float before a Pokemon so ancient, so powerful, so divine… It was as if a piece of Heaven had broken itself off and came down to grace the mortals living on earth. If they were to awaken this most august creature, it was to be done with the greatest grace and rever—


Claydol flinched as a rock crashed next to him. All eyes wide open, he stared at Maressa. The human glared up at Rayquaza, every vein sticking out of her neck, her amber eyes bulging.

“WAKE UP AND FIX OUR PROBLEM!” she screamed.

Picking up a rock lying nearby, she limped forward and hurled the rock at the Dragon-type. The rock fell very short, thankfully.

Claydol used his psychic energy to immobilize Maressa’s body and tried to placate her mind by showing her his own fear. They couldn’t behave in front of a mythical Pokemon like this!

But his own fear, his reverence, his wonder and awe—everything was immediately overridden by blinding rage. Sheer, unbridled fury coursed through her and smothered his senses. Maressa’s anger was beyond anything he ever felt from Derek. Her feelings overtook Claydol’s, and the Psychic-type was forced to let her go.

Having regained control of her own body, she glowered at Claydol and marched toward him.

”You do NOT use your psychic powers on me! You do not control me, you do not tell me to calm down!”

She looked back at Rayquaza and marched over to him.

“I’m sick of this!” she screeched. “I’m sick of fighting, I’m tired of everything being so useless! How can you just sleep here while the world is falling apart?! WAKE UP! WAKE UP, YOU STUPID, DUMB POKEMON!”

She glared at Claydol.

He cowered.

“If you’re going to use your Psychic powers, pick up these rocks, throw them at that thing, and tell him to wake up and get his useless butt into action!”

Claydol started protest—


Quavering, Claydol levitated a rock and shot it at Rayquaza. The rock tore through the mist and hit the draconid right between the nostrils. He shut all of his eyes—he couldn’t look.

But Maressa looked. She watched the Pokemon shake its head slightly and flutter its eyelids—but then it closed its eyes and went back to slee—

“NO, DO NOT SLEEP!” Maressa shouted. She picked up rocks and hurled them at the Dragon-type. “YOU’RE SO USELESS! You’ve been up here this whole time while people have been fighting and dying and—“

As she ranted and pelted the ancient Pokemon with rocks, Rayquaza’s eyes opened again. If she was not so worked up, his eyes would have freaked her out—the sclera and pupil were pitch black, cut through by the shocking yellow iris.

The giant stared at her curiously for a second before lifting its great head and slowly uncoiling its body. As Maressa craned her neck back to stare up at it, fear and helplessness overrode her rage. She stepped back, trying to keep its rising form in sight before stumbling and falling on her back.

Rayquaza bent down, dipping its head very close to her. It let out a hiss as it examined the human—tiny in its eyes.

Maressa’s breathing turned quick and shallow. Her whole body shook. Sweat dripped down her face. She glanced at Claydol, who was cowering near some rocks. Her heart immediately flooded with guilt for pushing him to awaken Rayquaza—suddenly, all of this seemed like a terrible idea. Rayquaza was gigantic. As Maressa and Claydol looked up at it rising over them, pure terror blotted out all other senses.

Rayquaza only examined her for a minute. Raising its serpentine head, it parted its jaws—wide enough to swallow several people whole—and let out an ear-splitting roar. Maressa covered her ears and curled into a ball. The Pokemon’s roar caused the tower to shake and the movement made Maressa’s stomach churn.

The mist cleared as the great Pokemon shot into the sky. Maressa glanced up and, for one brilliant second, got to see the emerald-green dragon race into the sunlight against a crystal-blue sky. But the force of Rayquaza pushing off the Sky Pillar was too much for the ancient structure to bear, and all around Maressa, the architecture crumbled apart.

The force of Rayquaza’s take-off caused the building to cave inward. Maressa’s voice caught in her throat as the stony plate she lay on tipped forward—her body left the stony plate she lay on, and for a few seconds, she was in free fall. She looked forward and saw Claydol race toward her in the air. One of his detached arms shot out and touched her—

Maressa’s body touched the ground with a heavy thud. Blood rushed crazily through her body and her stomach was doing flips. Nausea rose from her core up through her throat and she retched onto the sparse grasses before her. Rolling on to her back, Maressa closed her eyes and took deep gulps of air.

As she breathed in—the air on the ground was much richer than the thin atmosphere at the top of the tower—her body slowly calmed down, and she had time to mentally catch up. Opening her eyes, she saw hazy mist of the forest above her and Claydol peering at her curiously.

“Claydol… You teleported me down, didn’t you?”

He groaned in affirmation.

Maressa exhaled deeply. “Thank you…” Sitting up, Maressa looked around. Thin trees with broad leaves grew all about her. They were still on Sky Pillar’s island. As she realized it, she heard loud rumbling and repeated crashes.

“The tower!”

Maressa rolled on to her hands and knees—avoiding her pile of sick—and pushed herself to a standing position. As she watched, grey clouds of smoke and dusty debris flew up from where the ancient structure crumbled to the ground. She inhaled and exhaled deeply—her body still felt very sensitive and she wanted to keep her nausea under control.

“Come on, Claydol. Let’s see if they need our help.”

She suddenly felt Claydol’s feelings as if they were her own: reluctance, fear, and a promise to Derek to keep Maressa safe.

Claydol’s eyes were all downcast. After seeing and waking Rayquaza up, he just wanted to rest and stay out of trouble.

“Oh, sure. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to—here.”

Maressa pulled out his Pokeball but he protested. If Maressa was going, he would go too! He just wished they would all stay out of danger and away from fighting.

Maressa smiled at him as she pocketed his Pokeball. “You’re just like Derek. I hope he’s doing okay. But we should really go now, we don’t have time to lose!”

Though she didn’t admit it, she also was reluctant to go back into the fray. As she and Claydol made their way to the edge of an overlook, she saw the people working with the Elite Four standing near the shoreline while several Team Magma members scrambled away through the woods. Tabitha stood in place, giving orders over his headset as his team members and their Pokemon disappeared into the misty woods behind him. Once he laid eyes on Claydol and Maressa, his gaze hardened. He pointed to Maressa and shouted something indistinct; his Mightyena beside him leapt into action and charged Maressa at breakneck pace.

Anxiety and terror flooded her.

“Claydol, do something!”

Claydol’s psychic attacks were useless, so he resorted to launching his full weight at the incoming Pokemon. Mightyena nimbly dodged Claydol, and the Ground-type crashed into the sandy dirt. He immediately got back in the air, but the canine was already on Maressa.

She immediately turned around and sprinted away but it took Mightyena less than a second to catch up to her and tackle her to the ground. He shoved his snout into her pants pockets and took the Pokeballs out, ripping the seams in the process.

Mightyena’s weight suddenly disappeared; she heard a whoosh! as Claydol soared over her, barely missing Mightyena. Getting up, she saw Mightyena race back to Tabitha and drop Seaking’s, Golduck’s, and Claydol’s Pokeballs at his feet. Tabitha took the shrunken Pokeballs in his hands as Claydol flew at him and Mightyena.

But before Claydol could hit them, red light shot out from one of the Pokeballs in Tabitha’s hands and trapped Claydol inside. The Magma commander took out something small and X-shaped and fitted it over Claydol’s Pokeball. He looked at Maressa and threw the other two Pokeballs back towards her before turning tail and disappearing into the woods behind his teammates.

Maressa ran forward and picked up the remaining Pokeballs, placing them in her untorn pocket. Standing up, she stared at the forest where Tabitha and Mightyena ran away. As she watched them run, the realization that she’d been attacked hit her, and tears spilled from her eyes.

She was attacked. Mightyena's red eyes, shining with bloodlust, appeared before her again, and she sobbed openly. She saw his fangs, several inches long and sharp enough to cleave through bone. Her body shook. She could still feel the pressure of Mightyena’s paws on her back, feel the weight of her chest pressing into the ground, feel the suffocation of her face against the dirt—

She hugged herself as she shook. Taking in deep gulps of air, the sobbing eventually subsided. She wiped tears from her eyes as she stood straight up.

Turning around, she made her way towards the large pile of rubble that was once the Sky Pillar. The Pokemon League members were exploring the ruined tower, the base and lower levels of which were still intact. Several League-owned Pokemon scurried about through the debris; Machoke lifted and tossed aside boulders; Linoone and Zigzagoon ran amidst the rubble, trying to sniff out any who were lost; Tropius moved aside ruined staircases and archways. Several people stood around the debris while their Pokemon excavated.

As Maressa got closer, it slowly hit her that Derek’s Claydol had been kidnapped. Claydol, who saved her life—and potentially just saved all of Hoenn, if not the whole world—was captive under Team Magma.

The terror and adrenaline were joined by a trickle of guilt and the slow, crushing weight of sadness.

Maressa plodded forward, her body moving automatically. She didn’t really see what she was moving towards and only looked up at the sound of her name.

“Hey, Maressa! Are you and your Pokemon okay?”

Sidney stood with several other Pokemon League members. His hand rested on his Absol, who nuzzled his leg.

Maressa nodded dumbly as she walked up to him. “I think... Team Magma just took Derek’s Claydol.”

Sidney’s Absol stopped nuzzling his leg and looked up at Maressa with slanted, yellow eyes. Sidney’s red eyebrows raised in surprise. “When? What happened?”

“Just now—Claydol and I were on the ground over there,” she pointed at the hazy forest, “and Tabitha’s Mightyena charged me and took his Pokeball. Tabitha withdrew Claydol, and now they’re gone.” As the words fell from her lips, horrible guilt and anguish wracked her heart—but it was as if lying under a layer of numbness. She didn’t cry again; it was almost as if she couldn’t cry.

Sidney looked at her pityingly. “I’m sorry about that—it wasn’t your fault. But if everything goes as planned, then Team Magma is done for and Claydol’ll be with Derek before we know it!”

Maressa didn’t respond but looked at the people and Pokemon picking through the rubble. She wanted to talk about something else—anything else.

“Where’s Golduck? What’s going on here?”

“I think your Golduck is looking around in the ruins. He musta thought you were stuck in it. I’ll get someone to call him over.” He sent an order to a nearby League worker then turned back to Maressa with a beaming smile. “It worked! Rayquaza woke up and took off—the Hoenn crisis is about to end! We’ll return to Sootopolis, as ordered, but by the time we get there, this’ll probably all be over.”

Sunlight danced behind his shining eyes. But even though she knew this was overall a success, Maressa didn’t share his happiness or relief.

Plastering a smile to her face, she said, “That’s great!”

Loud quacking met her ears. She turned and saw Golduck sprint towards her on all fours—joy and relief flooded her, and this time, the smile that lit her face was real. Bending down, she held out her arms for a big hug and was rocked back into her heels by the force of him leaping into her arms.

“I’m so glad you’re okay!” she laughed as Golduck squeezed her midriff. “I know you have lots of questions, but let’s go find Seaking first!”

At the shore, the duo located Seaking—another happy reunion—and waited with him while the Pokemon League members regrouped. When Sidney finally gave the order for them to depart, Maressa disappeared into the ship with Golduck in his Pokeball and watched as Seaking swam alongside in the wide blue sea.

As she watched her orange friend swim along, the unsettled feeling in her heart never diminished. The nervousness and anxiety that recently pervaded her was still with her. Every time the thought of Claydol getting kidnapped came to mind, she felt awful. Everyone was celebrating, but she was afraid, alone, and ridden with guilt. Even with the good things happening—Rayquaza waking up, and the knowledge that this would soon be over—the feeling of impending doom did not leave her.

But it was just the lingering after effects of Tentacruel Syndrome, right? It would all go away soon, and everything would be back to normal.
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