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Chapter 1

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
What if there was no intrepid young hero to save the day? In a reality where all that is left is to stare down the maw of death as Kyogre threatens to drown the world, the League and its trainers turn to desperate measures in Hoenn's final hours.

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Final Gambit


Chapter 1

The rain is hammering against the window, and outside, the sky is dark. The rest of Sootopolis is dark too, evacuated at the eleventh hour by the League's efforts. Elite and Gym Leader alike had gathered at the volcano crater city to clear the path of the Legendary's rampage, and now only a few remain behind. Outside, Kyogre's wrath threatens to drown not only Sootopolis, but Hoenn itself. Inside, a decision is about to be made.

"What do you mean you're not leaving?!"

Steven winces at Glacia's tone, not daring to look toward the Sootopolis Gym Leader. He knows Wallace would never back down in his decision, yet the sheer terror of his stubbornness is written clear in his expression. The same terror churns in his own gut as he keeps his face toward the windowpane smudged blind with torrential rain.

"Wallace, it's too late to save this city. Sootopolis is lost."

Drake's voice grates through the quiet, one-room building they had huddled in. It is almost enough to drown out the rattling of the door as each new gust of wind batters the city's walls. The former sea captain is no stranger to loss, nearly twice the age of the foolhardy youngster whose life he's trying to save, and he hopes his words carry enough wisdom to change Wallace's mind.

"It's too strong… too strong…" The look in Phoebe's eyes is distant, trailing toward the direction where the orbs that could control such a beast formerly rested. Mt. Pyre's slopes had been raided by the rogue organization known as Team Aqua mere months before Kyogre's appearance. Everyone in the room knew it was no coincidence. The group had been crafty and remained elusive despite the League's best efforts, yet even they had not anticipated that Kyogre's power would be this destructive. Aqua ran in fear as soon as the sea god appeared, taking the orb with them when they vanished, and with it Hoenn's last hope at quelling the beast.

"It sucks, and I know I hate it as much as you do, but the best we can do is seek shelter in another city while we figure out what to do next."

Never one to look so serious, Sidney's expression is as tight as his fists, balled against his sides no doubt in an effort to stop from slugging the closest thing in frustration. They were the most powerful trainers the region could offer, and there was no way they'd be enough. A god's wrath cannot be contained by human hands. Wallace is well aware of that fact, and yet he does not budge.

"Sootopolis is my responsibility, I will watch over her just as my ancestors have done for millennia."

Drake scoffs. "There's nothin' that says you have to go down with the ship. That's a seafarin' rule, not one from ancient scripture."

The stare from Glacia never falters, and she crosses her arms. "A city can always be rebuilt. A people cannot."

"Wallace, we need you." Phoebe is very near pleading at this point. "If there's anyone who can help piece together how to stop this monster, it's you."

"Yeah, man. I'm supposed to be the stubborn one here." Sidney does his best to lighten the mood, but no one takes the bait, and he sighs, slouching even further against the wall. "C'mon…"

And for the first time since the door was pulled shut behind them, Steven speaks.

"It's okay, he can stay."

All eyes snap toward the Champion with a collective gasp and shout of dismay. Had they heard correctly? Did he just sign and seal his best friend's death certificate without so much as batting an eye?

But Steven's gaze is soft as he turns to face the group, his expression silhouetted against the murky light from the window.

"But he won't be doing this alone."

Shock turns to puzzlement for a brief moment, a slight breath, just long enough for him to crack a thin, ironic smile he hopes no one will see. He's finally got this whole plan worked out in his head.

"I'll be staying with you, Wallace."

And the room erupts.

"What?!"

"No, Steven, you can't!"

"Have you gone mad?"

"What the hell, man?!"

Only Wallace remains silent, staring, lips pressed into a thin line. He knows what Steven is trying to do, and it won't work.

"I know you think someone has to stay who can enter the Cave of Origin in my stead, but without the orbs—"

"No, that's not it," Steven cuts him off with a shake of his head. "There's another reason, and it's because I have a very important task for you, Wallace."

As the Sootopolis Leader fixes him with an absurdly quizzical look, he strides forward to the table, pulling out his PokeNav. He calls up a map, but doesn't consult it, instead he stares straight at Wallace, gaze as serious as his words.

"I need a Relicanth, and you're the only one here who knows how to find one."

He toggles the projection feature from his PokeNav before he manages to convince himself that such an outlandish plan will never work. The map wavers only a little as he stills the nervous shaking of his hand.

"I've marked three places on this map, here here and here. Glacia, Sidney, and Drake, you are to head out to these respective locations and await my signal."

Steven continues before Sidney's string of expletives telling him just how stupid this all sounds breaks his concentration.

"Phoebe, I need you to go to the Oceanic Museum in Slateport. Ask the curator for the ancient stone tablet donated by my father. He'll know it's urgent. Bring it back here as fast as you can."

A stunned silence falls as his tone never wavers. The realization sets in that this isn't an elaborate joke; the Champion fully believes what he's saying. Glacia finally stutters out the question that hangs on everyone's lips.

"Then, what will you be doing?"

"I will remain here to keep Kyogre occupied. It cannot be allowed to leave Sootopolis' seas. The plan depends on being able to contain its power here."

The room erupts again, and Steven closes his eyes, willing his racing heart to stay as calm as he's trying to keep his comrades.

"Please!" he shouts, and the noise halts. They've never heard him raise his voice before, and they wait as he takes another moment to compose himself once more.

"The Legendary titans might be our only hope to save Hoenn. We don't have time to argue, so please—" his breath catches, and he feels Wallace tense in his seat. "...Please, we all must play our part."

The uneasy silence is punctuated by the hammering rain and the wailing wind, and then slowly the scraping of a chair cuts through as Drake rises. He nods once, solemnly, and then steps out into the storm. Glacia and Sidney watch him leave, the former still boring her icy stare into the Champion's heart.

To everyone's surprise, it's Phoebe who rises next. The color has returned to her cheeks, and she jabs a finger into Steven's chest with an earnest look.

"You better be here when I get back."

The door swings shut behind her as Glacia pushes her chair in.

"For once we seem to share the same sentiment. I'm sure Sidney will agree."

The Elite in question is a simmering cauldron of emotion, so he opts for a curt nod instead of words, and follows Glacia out the door.

Only Wallace is left now, and Steven can see how white his knuckles are, as if somehow anchoring himself to the table keeps him from spinning off into oblivion with the rest of his drowning city. His voice is a whisper.

"Steven…"

"Wallace."

Steven surprises himself with how steady his voice is despite the dread settling in his stomach. He tells himself that if he looks anywhere other than Wallace's gaze, his friend will know what this plan truly means. That the strain of summoning one Regi is already a monumental feat for a person to bear; he's read it in the ancient texts and had it corroborated by the researchers in Sinnoh. Summoning all three at once is simply not survivable.

"You should go."

Wallace stands, shakily, hesitantly, still not able to tear his eyes from Steven's face.

Steven hopes Wallace will never know that this is one of the last times he'll see him alive. He extends a hand to his friend, a gesture of good faith and reassurance, even though it feels empty. But as Wallace clasps the hand in a clammy grip, he pulls Steven into a hug so fierce that he nearly chokes.

"I will see you again." Wallace's words are strained, hissed right against his ear, and Steven squeezes his eyes shut and focuses on not losing it all now.

Wallace pulls back and again regards him with those eyes. The stare that feels like he knows Steven intends to break the promise before he even makes it.

"You have my word."

And in a flutter of white, Wallace leaves with the single minded goal of adding a Relicanth to his belt alongside his Wailord. He is going to name it Steven, because its head is as rock hard as his friend's.

Steven watches Wallace go before rolling his gaze to the ceiling. There he says a silent prayer that should Hoenn survive, Wallace will forgive him. That they'll all forgive him. He pulls out his PokeNav and types a message to his father. He'll hit send later. For now, he readies his pokeball and steps out into the dark, rainy night.
 
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Torchic W. Pip

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
they/he
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
  3. custom/torchic-mikuri
  4. custom/torchic-daigo
Holy shit. Holy shit. This might be one of my favorite fics, like, ever. Even this one chapter Just, like, hits all of the right notes for me. Like oh my goodness, the excitement in my heart right now is just... okay you know how you sometimes get butterflies in your stomach before going to something you like? That's what I'm getting with this fic.
Steven winces at Glacia's tone, not daring to look toward the Sootopolis Gym Leader. He knows Wallace would never back down in his decision, yet the sheer terror of his stubbornness is written clear in his expression. The same terror churns in his own gut as he keeps his face toward the windowpane smudged blind with torrential rain.

"Wallace, it's too late to save this city. Sootopolis is lost."
Yes.
The former sea captain is no stranger to loss, nearly twice the age of the foolhardy youngster whose life he's trying to save, and he hopes his words carry enough wisdom to change Wallace's mind.
Oooooh I love 1. the contrast between ages and life experiences, and 2. the hints at Drake's losses in the past.
Never one to look so serious, Sidney's expression is as tight as his fists, balled against his sides no doubt in an effort to stop from slugging the closest thing in frustration. They were the most powerful trainers the region could offer, and there was no way they'd be enough. A god's wrath cannot be contained by human hands. Wallace is well aware of that fact, and yet he does not budge.
"A god's wrath cannot be contained by human hands." Holy fuck that's incredible. And added with the "Wallace is well aware of that fact, and yet he does not budge."???? Yes.
"Sootopolis is my responsibility, I will watch over her just as my ancestors have done for millennia."

Drake scoffs. "There's nothin' that says you have to go down with the ship. That's a seafarin' rule, not one from ancient scripture."
YESYESYESYESYES THIS!!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!! Wallace angst and "I must follow in my ancestor's footsteps" angst and that combined and Drake's words?!?!?!?!?!?! I need this in liquid form so I can drink it straight from the bottle.
"A city can always be rebuilt. A people cannot."
YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES This is the Good. Stuff. :quag:
"I need a Relicanth, and you're the only one here who knows how to find one."
Wallace: ...I am?
Steven: Wait wut :unquag:
The room erupts again, and Steven closes his eyes, willing his racing heart to stay as calm as he's trying to keep his comrades.
Can relate lol
"You better be here when I get back."
:copyka:
Steven hopes Wallace will never know that this is one of the last times he'll see him alive.
:copyka: But bold
But as Wallace clasps the hand in a clammy grip, he pulls Steven into a hug so fierce that he nearly chokes.
CLAMMY GRIP YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"I will see you again." Wallace's words are strained, hissed right against his ear, and Steven squeezes his eyes shut and focuses on not losing it all now.
Oh no sweet summer child Wallace

Okay okay fangirling aside, I love this fic. The angst is wonderful to read in a way I absolutely love. Good, good stuff.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Holy shit. Holy shit. This might be one of my favorite fics, like, ever. Even this one chapter Just, like, hits all of the right notes for me. Like oh my goodness, the excitement in my heart right now is just... okay you know how you sometimes get butterflies in your stomach before going to something you like? That's what I'm getting with this fic.

Yes.

Oooooh I love 1. the contrast between ages and life experiences, and 2. the hints at Drake's losses in the past.

"A god's wrath cannot be contained by human hands." Holy fuck that's incredible. And added with the "Wallace is well aware of that fact, and yet he does not budge."???? Yes.

YESYESYESYESYES THIS!!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!! Wallace angst and "I must follow in my ancestor's footsteps" angst and that combined and Drake's words?!?!?!?!?!?! I need this in liquid form so I can drink it straight from the bottle.

YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES This is the Good. Stuff. :quag:

Wallace: ...I am?
Steven: Wait wut :unquag:

Can relate lol

:copyka:

:copyka: But bold

CLAMMY GRIP YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh no sweet summer child Wallace

Okay okay fangirling aside, I love this fic. The angst is wonderful to read in a way I absolutely love. Good, good stuff.
Haha my goodness, thank you so much for the incredibly kind review. I spoilered it just for the sake of condensing, but I'm rather tickled at the addition of the new emojis just in time for this fic to start being uploaded. Hooray for angst! :copyka: Plenty of that to go around in this one.

So, a fun fact: this fic was originally meant to be a one-shot of just this chapter. Because everyone's read the manga and knows what happens next, right? And then enough people were like, "you're not leaving it there are you?" and I went, "y'know, you're right, I have more of a bone to pick with the manga about this."

I also learned that when your favorite target for angst is Steven, by extension, so is Wallace, and you've seen plenty of that here already. More to come, I can promise you that!

Thanks again so much for the review, I'm so glad this first chapter hit all the right notes!
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
Given this is a completed work, and clearly a well-polished one, if the 1st chapter is anything to go by, I'll just focus on thoughts and impressions.

First off. Oh boy, what a chapter. I am constantly admiring how well you use brevity to tell something in a very short span very effectively. Each line and piece felt very punchy and very loaded with emotion. I immediately felt the weight of the situation, and the direness. Hoenn, but with no heroic young trainer to appear and save the day.

I also love how you let the individual personalities of the E4 shine through so strongly. They each feel very distinct, and very true to form, yet like allies and friends.

One weird quirk I'll mention however is that the first time I read this, I had a very brief confusion with understanding who was speaking. In the sense that I didn't understand that like, the first line with no speaker tags was Wallace, but then the second time was Glacia and such?

That might be a me thing though? The second time I read it through it was definitely easier. I think thats me reading too fast because its clear enough in the lines following dialogue. So yeah, probably me, hah!

Also man I feel so scared for whats going to happen? I'm pretty unfamiliar with this story or the manga, but Steven mentions needing a Relicanth and summoning the regi's and how apparently summoning one is so straining it... well it might not be good :V

"What do you mean you're not leaving?!"

Steven winces at Glacia's tone, not daring to look toward the Sootopolis Gym Leader. He knows Wallace would never back down in his decision, yet the sheer terror of his stubbornness is written clear in his expression. The same terror churns in his own gut as he keeps his face toward the windowpane smudged blind with torrential rain.

"Wallace, it's too late to save this city. Sootopolis is lost."

Drake's voice grates through the quiet, one-room building they had huddled in. It is almost enough to drown out the rattling of the door as each new gust of wind batters the city's walls. The former sea captain is no stranger to loss, nearly twice the age of the foolhardy youngster whose life he's trying to save, and he hopes his words carry enough wisdom to change Wallace's mind.
I just love the prose here wow! It feels so organic? I think thats the right word. It feels so much more... interesting than just 'She says coldly' or 'He says gruffly'. Very flavorful!

"The Legendary titans might be our only hope to save Hoenn. We don't have time to argue, so please—" his breath catches, and he feels Wallace tense in his seat. "...Please, we all must play our part."
Okay I'll admit that I didn't realize until now that they were seated? Again this may be me, missing it being mentioned? Not necessairly a 'go back and fix' or anything but just a food for future, about people placement? If its just me being dumb ignore this tho lol.

Steven watches Wallace go before rolling his gaze to the ceiling. There he says a silent prayer that should Hoenn survive, Wallace will forgive him. That they'll all forgive him. He pulls out his PokeNav and types a message to his father. He'll hit send later. For now, he readies his pokeball and steps out into the dark, rainy night.
What a fantastic ending line!

Overall, I don't have a lot to say critique wise, except about everything I enjoyed. I loved the flavorful prose, I am excited by the idea, and I love your characterizations. I really like how you incoporate the enviroment into your descirptions of character and atmosphere, and you really capture a whole mood with this piece.

:okgon: can't freakin wait for more wow
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Given this is a completed work, and clearly a well-polished one, if the 1st chapter is anything to go by, I'll just focus on thoughts and impressions.

First off. Oh boy, what a chapter. I am constantly admiring how well you use brevity to tell something in a very short span very effectively. Each line and piece felt very punchy and very loaded with emotion. I immediately felt the weight of the situation, and the direness. Hoenn, but with no heroic young trainer to appear and save the day.

I also love how you let the individual personalities of the E4 shine through so strongly. They each feel very distinct, and very true to form, yet like allies and friends.

One weird quirk I'll mention however is that the first time I read this, I had a very brief confusion with understanding who was speaking. In the sense that I didn't understand that like, the first line with no speaker tags was Wallace, but then the second time was Glacia and such?

That might be a me thing though? The second time I read it through it was definitely easier. I think thats me reading too fast because its clear enough in the lines following dialogue. So yeah, probably me, hah!

Also man I feel so scared for whats going to happen? I'm pretty unfamiliar with this story or the manga, but Steven mentions needing a Relicanth and summoning the regi's and how apparently summoning one is so straining it... well it might not be good :V


I just love the prose here wow! It feels so organic? I think thats the right word. It feels so much more... interesting than just 'She says coldly' or 'He says gruffly'. Very flavorful!


Okay I'll admit that I didn't realize until now that they were seated? Again this may be me, missing it being mentioned? Not necessairly a 'go back and fix' or anything but just a food for future, about people placement? If its just me being dumb ignore this tho lol.


What a fantastic ending line!

Overall, I don't have a lot to say critique wise, except about everything I enjoyed. I loved the flavorful prose, I am excited by the idea, and I love your characterizations. I really like how you incoporate the enviroment into your descirptions of character and atmosphere, and you really capture a whole mood with this piece.

:okgon: can't freakin wait for more wow
Tetra, gosh, thanks so much for this review! I've condensed it with a spoiler tag, but I'll address a few of the points here, since I'm rather pleased that some of the things you've brought up have been brought up by other readers before, and I'm a sucker for the scientific method (repeatable results!)

I definitely take a lot of pride in hearing that my prose accomplishes a lot with so little. There's a lot of deliberate word choice in this (and my other fics) that strives to make every word important and meaningful. Of course, as you've also noted, this does come back to bite me on occasion, and I have gotten the feedback that the lack of dialogue tags in this chapter is a more than a little confusing. At the time, I had hoped the dialogue, followed immediately by a line of context would let the reader know who had just said it, but in retrospect, having to sort out who said something after the fact is a bit tedious. Hearing that the intended method did work on a subsequent read-through is good to know, though. The dialogue was definitely trying to use words and phrases unique to each character in order to give more clues as to who is saying what. For clarity, the first four lines of dialogue are spoken in order of: Glacia, Drake, Phoebe, Sidney. Then Wallace who declares Sootopolis is his responsibly. So, definitely not a you-thing!

I'm pretty unfamiliar with this story or the manga
:copyka: Not gonna lie, you really should read the Ruby/Sapphire. It's spectacular. And that's not the Hoenn bias talking either. It's regarded as one of the best arcs in the whole Pokemon Adventures manga by most readers. And then you'll see why I have a bone to pick with the ending 😂 It will definitely shed some light on the context of this fic, though I think the fic stands well enough on its own. (I just think you'd love the manga and should read it anyway)

It feels so much more... interesting than just 'She says coldly' or 'He says gruffly'.
:veelove: This is funny because I will die on the hill of having to pry adverbs from my cold, dead hands, but I'm thrilled to hear that I can die on this hill because of thoughtful use of adverbs and not relying on them too much (at least in this instance). When you are selective with your adverb usage, it makes them really hit hard when you do use them. :okgon:

Okay, people placement, another spot where my brevity does take a hit. Again this tendency of mine to use context rather than outright description to inform readers of things after the fact bites me in the butt. Drake, Phoebe, Glacia, and Wallace are seated at the table in this little house. Sidney is leaning against a wall, and Steven has his back to them, staring out the window, until he finally moves toward the table. Eventually I think this is all clear from they way they each stand and leave, but it's after the fact and at the end of the scene rather than the beginning. It's a curse, I tell you, the way my brain loves to work out of order, even in the smallest of ways.

I'm so glad this chapter kicks off this fic so strongly for you. I definitely went hard with this chapter because it was never supposed to continue. Maybe I should treat all opening chapters like one-shots 🤔 Here's hoping the rest of the fic continues to deliver!
 
Chapter 2

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Chapter 2

Steven learns quickly that the land is no place to face a god of the seas. Sootopolis's lowest level is already flooded, sending waves crashing against the side of the house that had been their shelter. Salty spray joins the rain, and Steven is quickly soaked to the bone as he hurries to reach higher ground. Metagross needs to be within range to reach Kyogre, and he'd rather not drown right out of the gate.

His partner materializes on one of the city's mid levels, its claws sinking into the sloping volcanic stone like anchors. It doesn't take much to locate Kyogre circling overhead; the beast's massive wingspan slices through the swirling clouds with ease, an ominous silhouette flickering in and out of view as lightning rips through the sky. As he catches sight of the legendary beast, whatever command Steven had been ready to give dies on his lips, words suddenly feeling insignificant in the shadow of a god.

But Metagross won't be intimidated. It has prepared for this moment; they both have. Its gaze flicks down to where its trainer gapes at their opponent, and it sends a confident psychic pulse. Steven flinches, and finally tears his eyes away from the sky, finding Metagross's unwavering red stare. It gives a low rumble, and Steven can see the way its legs flex and tense. If they aren't ready now, they'll never be. He takes a steadying breath and nods.

Metagross turns its stare skyward and roars defiantly.

At first, nothing happens, and Steven wonders if Kyogre heard their challenge over the raging storm. But in an instant, he wonders no more as a bolt of blue energy slams into the cliff side, obliterating the spot where his partner had stood.

"Metagross!"

He's scrambling over chunks of stone and rubble before he realizes what he's doing. His heart is in his throat as he reaches the crater, the white rocks scarred black from the ferocity of Kyogre's attack, and he peers down.

Metagross is conscious, but barely. It lets out a painful groan and tries to rise as Steven slips down the side of the crater. His feet land with a splash; it's raining so hard the hole is already filling with water. Overhead, Kyogre's piercing cry splits the night, and Steven suppresses a shiver as he digs for his stock of healing items. For Kyogre to already be this strong after only waking so recently... They can't afford to take another hit like that. Metagross is tough, but steel can endure only so much before it yields.

"Let's… Let's be more careful from now on, okay?"

His partner's rumbled reply is deadly serious, all trace of its usual sarcasm destroyed along with the rubble in that crater. Its eyes close momentarily as the potion takes effect, and it hums a note of thanks.

Back on its feet, Metagross shakes itself off and hunkers low, sharing a look with its trainer; an unspoken vow of loyalty that Steven has seen from his starter time and time again. They both know the stakes, what the end of this battles means. Not just for Steven, but for Metagross too. Because ever since it found out about the plan— Steven's tumbling emotions had been easy enough to sense— it swore it would be by its trainer's side until the end, regardless of how unbearable the thought of continuing on without him is. This was never their battle to win.

With a powerful push, Metagross darts one way, while Steven dashes the other. In their bid to stall Kyogre as long as possible, they can't both be taken out in the same attack. Not that Steven even wants to admit he might lose a partner in this crazy plan; the thought hurts too much to even consider as a possibility. And as the rain drums down, he swallows that sinking fear and channels it into desperate belief, a second pokeball ready in his hand. His shout is lost to the wind, but Metagross feels it through their mental connection, loud and clear. Failure is not an option.

In a flash, Skarmory is out of its ball and Steven is already urging it skyward before he's fully situated on its back. His loyal flyer obeys, but the warble it gives as the ground falls away below them belies its nervousness. Steven takes a moment to catch his breath before he gives his pokemon what he hopes is a reassuring pat. "Metagross will keep Kyogre busy. Just keep us out of the battle, but not too far. If Metagross gets hit, bring me to it as fast as you can."

The plan sounds good, and Skarmory caws in confirmation, but the creeping doubt slithers down Steven's spine along with the soaking rain. How long can they truly keep this up? He has faith in Metagross, but without knowing how long it will take for all the pieces to fall into place… Steven shakes his head to banish the thought as Skarmory banks in a wide turn. There is no margin for error, but there's even less room for doubt.

As if on cue, his starter's flash cannon slices through the clouds, eliciting a startled screech as it scores a direct hit against Kyogre's flank. Its retaliatory strike is swift, but Metagross is prepared and already is on the move, safely dodging back into the maze of of Sootopolis' streets.

Kyogre's roar of frustration echoes through the empty city, and for the first time since the beast was awakened, Steven feels a flicker of hope burn through the suffocating weight of his decision. But like any flame in a downpour, it's extinguished in an instant as an entire city block is leveled as Kyogre lashes out, and his heart sinks again.

Steven's second silent prayer of the night is for Phoebe and Wallace to return swiftly. Guerrilla warfare only works when there's someplace left to hide.



The wind and rain continues to swirl in a vicious tempest that only grows with each flap of Kyogre's fins. Steven curses under his breath and ducks closer to Skarmory's back as the storm buffets the two of them about. It's not easy flying, especially with the beast looming so close overhead, but after nearly being swallowed beneath the massive waves at ground level, Steven is thankful Skarmory is willing to brave the storm.

Below them, Metagross groans as it clambers out from a jagged hole where Kyogre had sent it tumbling, and in the lightning flashing overhead, Steven can see its hide is dented in more places than he can count. Despite its injuries, his starter is undeterred, and it launches itself back at the leviathan with a throaty roar, promising to keep Kyogre occupied for as long as it takes.

But just as it has every time since the start of their battle, Kyogre is able to swat everything Metagross throws at it as if the powerful steel type is no more than a Surskit. Again, Metagross slams into the sloping cliff side, demolishing an abandoned house when it falls to the ground. And again, as it picks itself clear of the rubble and staggers back to its feet, Steven has to command Skarmory to roll out of the path of another volley of lightning aimed their way. He clings to his flyer's rain-slicked back with cold, numb hands and tries not to look at the churning waters below.

Except that some part of him feels the urge to stare at the angry sea until a familiar speck of white breaks the surface. The lower crater of Sootopolis is completely underwater, and he knows Wallace will choke when he sees his city slipping beneath the waves, but right now the only thing he wants to see is Wallace safely coming back from the ocean depths.

Just as he's peering over Skarmory's wings in the faint hope that maybe Wallace will be there this time, his flyer squawks in warning. Steven's head snaps up and finds the sky much closer than before. But it's not the clouds that have closed in.

Kyogre has discovered their presence.

Metagross is too far away to grab Kyogre's attention, so its glassy-eyed gaze has swung to the next closest target. Steven doesn't have to say a word, Skarmory can feel the air crackle with electricity, and as Kyogre's jaws open wide with a shriek, his partner is already fleeing for their lives. The air around them grows hot, and sparks dance through the sheets of rain. Kyogre's attack will swallow them whole.

Without warning, a blue blur rushes past Steven's head with a metallic cry. Time seems to slow as Metagross rockets through the air and collides with the sea god mid-flight. But the air is rife with charge, and Metagross's flying tackle is only enough to send the attack off course, not stop it. The sky erupts in a brilliant bolt, and Steven's stomach drops as Skarmory rolls into a dive.

They spin haphazardly to the left as the thunderbolt soars right, and as Skarmory pivots out of the path of Kyogre's strike, Steven feels his grip on its back loosen beneath his numb fingers. For a brief second, he believes they've made it through the worst of it. But even though the attack missed them, it hit something else. As Metagross tumbles toward the ground it roars in warning; they're on a collision course. Skarmory shrieks in dismay and twists out of the way.

But his flyer's dodge isn't clean enough. Metagross's leg clips Skarmory's wing, and the jolt of the connecting blow separates Steven from his partner. Steven's heart is in his throat as suddenly he is now free-falling toward the churning waters below. His pokemon's frantic cries are muffled by the rushing wind as he plummets.

This wasn't the way things were supposed to end.



Wallace is coming up from the depths into Sootopolis's crater lake when he sees something crash through the surface above. He squints through the murky water, the rough conditions make it hard to see, but when lightning flashes and he catches a glint of silver against the sea of black, his heart stops.

"Oh my god."

Gyarados can sense its trainer's panic and surges toward the drifting body. No, it's not a body, he's still alive, he has to be... Wallace grabs Steven's sinking form with both arms and holds tight as his partner breaks for the surface. With a mighty splash, they exit the water and make for the nearest solid ground.

To Wallace's dismay, they come to a stop on the roof of the Sootopolis Gym. The floodwaters are already lapping over the edges, but there's no time to mourn the loss of his Gym. In a flurry of agitated wings, Skarmory lands next to Gyarados and nervously watches Wallace check on its trainer's breathing.

But as soon as Wallace leans close, Steven coughs and Wallace nearly drops him in surprise. The Champion is soggy and disheveled and barely able to sit up under his own power, yet he laughs between coughs.

"Wallace, am I glad to see you! Your timing could not have been any better."

"Steven, are you insane? You could have died!"

A flash of something dances across Steven's features, but rather than acknowledge Wallace's dismay, he changes the subject.

"Did you catch one?"

He glances towards Wallace's belt as the Leader helps steady him on his feet. Wallace notices and nods, producing a shiny new dive ball in his hands.

"I wouldn't have come back without it."

"Brilliant." Steven wastes no time in digging out two pokeballs of his own and offering them to his friend. Wallace just stares at him in disbelief; he recognizes that first pokeball.

"Steven, why are you handing me Metagross's ball?"

"And Skarmory's too. I need that Relicanth on my team, and your Wailord as well."

But Wallace still doesn't move.

"Steven, what is going on?"

"I have to ask you to just trust me this time, Wallace. It's just temporary," he lies through his teeth. "I need a very specific set of pokemon for this whole plan to work. I know it sounds crazy, but I've triple checked; this is what has to happen. In exchange, I entrust these two to you."

"What do you mean, 'entrust'? What about the others?"

"They still have a very important role to play."

Reluctantly, Wallace retrieves a second pokeball and hands both over to Steven. The weight of the two that are placed in his palm in return are significantly lighter. Skarmory watches the exchange in silence, and in the distance, Metagross's roar echoes across the deserted city.

Kyogre's screech overhead causes both of them to involuntarily duck, and Steven gives a grim smile.

"Now all that's left is to wait for Phoebe to arrive."



If Drake were a betting man, he would've put money on this being the first rainfall the desert had ever seen. Resting with his back against a wet sandstone slab, he watches his Flygon fret and fuss over the foreign moisture falling from the sky. It huffs and rumbles and glares daggers up at the sky, and Drake secretly wishes that dealing with gods was as simple as flying up there and beating them back down to the ground.

But he knows it's not that simple. No matter how many dragons he commands, it still wouldn't be enough to stop Kyogre's rampage. Which is why he has to believe in something that's not raw strength. Something written in texts from an age that time forgot, a time when mortals remembered to fear the gods.

Drake's hand tightens around his PokeNav, the earlier message from Steven called up on screen. 'Once they're awake, do whatever it takes to bring them back to Sootopolis. I'm counting on you.'

He scowls at the screen and then scowls at the sandstone tomb before him. "Whatever it takes," he mutters, pulling his coat's collar up tighter to his chin. "I sure hope you know what you're doing, lad."

Drake can't decide which is worse, the wind, the rain, or the wait. He bets he knows which one Flygon hates the most. And then he decides the thing he hates the most isn't any of those three options after all.

It's the fact that, until now, he's forgotten what it's like to fear.



Glacia is angry. No, she's beyond that; she's livid. And there's not even anything worthwhile to kick on this godforsaken beach she's standing on. She watches Walrein fortify its ice dam at the shoreline, a weak effort to keep the rising tides at bay, and shivers. Her back is nearly against the rocky formation behind her, the beach slipping away inch by inch beneath the effects of Kyogre's wrath, even from here. Why on earth Steven wanted her to fly to the other end of the region just to drown anyway is beyond her. All she knows is that it's what the young Champion asked of her, so that's what she's going to do.

Part of her wonders why she can't just obey orders without question, it'd be a lot easier in the long run. Sidney seemed to have no trouble with that when they parted ways, banking Mandibuzz in the direction of Route 121. He'd been eerily silent the whole flight, which was odd considering he usually had such a colorful outlook on things that it put Drake to shame. But ever since they left Sootopolis, he'd been staring toward the horizon with a focus that she'd never seen from him before. For whatever problems he had with authority in his life, and there had been many, she secretly was impressed with his unwavering loyalty to the League.

Which prompts another round of frustration to bubble to the surface. Here she is, on this tiny insignificant rock, slowly sinking into the sea, and for what? She's a protector of this region, and she doesn't even have anyone to protect. Her family is safe and sound in Sinnoh where the legendary creatures are either benevolent toward humans or keep to themselves.

But as Walrein barks in dismay as another wave crashes over its barrier, Glacia chides herself on her error. Anger always did make her short-sighted. Hoenn is where her family is now. It is home to her pokemon — her partners — who she would be lost without. It is home to her colleagues and friends, who for all their antics nearly feel closer to her than her own family. And it is home to so many more that she has a responsibility to protect, as she swore as part of the Hoenn Elite.

And maybe that's why she's so mad about all of this. She's worried. Because the only time you should worry about losing loved ones is to the whims of time itself. And the only time you were supposed to fear the legends is when you misbehaved and your mother threatened that Giratina liked to snack on naughty children. And the only time you should be standing in the pouring rain waiting for a signal unknown is only in the most dire of circumstances.

Glacia sighs and crumples a fistful of her dress.

Because here she is, soaking wet and worrying over the fate of everyone she knows and loves. She's worried for Sidney, she's worried for Drake and Phoebe, she's worried for Wallace. For Steven. For the region. For the world.



The wind is blowing so hard the rain stings Phoebe's face as Dusknoir hurries the pair of them back toward the heart of the storm. They're still a ways off from Sootopolis, but Kyogre's presence weighs heavy in the air. Except the heaviness Phoebe feels in her heart isn't from the sea god's menace. She clings to the museum's ancient tablet with all her strength despite the dread that fills every corner of her being.

When she had arrived at the museum and asked for the tablet, breathless and soaking wet, the curator paled so quickly she thought the man might faint. But he held his composure and retrieved the artifact, handing it to her with shaking hands.

But in the end, it hadn't been the curator's reaction that left Phoebe unsettled. The truly terrifying thing had been that the second Phoebe's fingers brushed the ancient stone, the spirit's voices cried out all at once, and she nearly buckled from the force. It had taken considerable effort to conceal her alarm and bid the museum director farewell.

Even now, tucked in her arms, the tablet oozes malice; she can feel it clear as day. Dusknoir sends a worried look her way as she shivers. If the secrets locked away in the carved glyphs were so ominous that even the dead feared them, what on earth could Steven hope to achieve with such dreadful power?

But not once in all her time as an Elite under his charge has Steven ever lead her to doubt him. And now is not the time to start. She just has to believe that he knows something about this tablet that the spirits do not. She has to. So she squints into the wind and urges Dusknoir on, the precious cargo tucked away, gnawing a sinister hole in her heart.
 
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Chapter 3

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Chapter 3

Hardly a word has been spoken since the tablet's arrival in Sootopolis. Phoebe and Wallace stand in silence on the roof of the Sootopolis Gym, water lapping at their ankles as the city continues to flood. Their tasks complete, neither knows what else to do besides watch and hope, eyes glued to where Steven is clutching the artifact so tightly they fear it might break in half.

Wallace fidgets with the ends of his cape, unused to the feeling of helplessness that washes over him with each rising inch of the tide. He swallows the shame in fearing that even if Steven's plan succeeds, there won't be much left of his city to save.

Beside him, Phoebe is tense, and she concentrates on keeping her breathing steady. When she handed the tablet over to Steven, she saw the way his hands shook. At first she thought it must have been from the chill of the storm, but now that she's seen the grim look in his eyes she isn't so sure…

That same look is now focused intently on the tablet in his hands. Steven's shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath before he sets his jaw and turns, walking away from them, closer to the edge of the rooftop. The sound of his splashing footsteps halt as overhead, Kyogre and Metagross's roars mingle with peals of thunder.

Steven's hand twitches towards his belt for a second before he stops himself. That particular pokeball is no longer in its usual place, left in the care of his friend with an unspoken guarantee that it will remain empty. It takes significant effort to think beyond the racing of his heart. He knows Metagross can feel it too. His gaze rolls skyward.

He's ready to start the beginning of the end.

And so he relays his farewell to the pokemon he's known for his whole life —his first pokemon, his first true friend— and he feels it in his heart as Metagross cries out with the desperation of its love. Kyogre screeches in pain as the bite of Metagross's resolve bolsters the steel type's attack, and in turn, his partner's renewed determination steadies Steven's nerve. How many nights had he spent lying awake, preparing for this moment? It would be unbecoming to stall any longer.

He takes another breath and closes his eyes, and as his fingers dance over the timeworn carvings, he begins to recite the incantation in a strange tongue known by only the oldest of the Sinnohan scholars. From the edges of the tablet, a surge of energy prickles at his fingertips; cold, powerful, terrifying. But he buries his fear and ignores it. To falter now would mean failure, and he would not fail.

After the first few lines, he pauses and palms a pokeball from his belt. Relicanth appears in the choppy waves next to the Gym, and the freshly caught pokemon regards him with wary eyes. But he cannot spare the time to reassure it, and he continues, bringing another pokeball to bear. Cradily materializes next to Relicanth, and Steven gives her a weary smile.

"Make sure Relicanth doesn't leave your side, okay?"

She chirrups in the affirmative and Steven's smile is genuine this time. Her loyalty is as boundless as her enthusiasm, and the guilt of not telling her of his plan's true intentions is especially hard to swallow.

But there's no time to waste on regrets, and as the incantation continues, Armaldo, Claydol, and Aggron all appear in short order and blissful ignorance, and are instructed to hold their position in line across the roof of the Gym. Then, Wallace's Wailord materializes in the water on the far side of the Gym, completing the row of all six pokemon.

Phoebe and Wallace both continue to watch in puzzlement at the strange parade happening before them. But their puzzlement turns to dread as moments after Wailord falls into line, Steven staggers forward with a gasp and lands hard on his knees.

Wallace tries to rush to his side, but Phoebe's hand clamps down on his arm with surprising strength. Her eyes are wide and terrified, but she shakes her head no. Something is stirring, awakening... They must not interfere.

The Sootopolis Gym Leader makes a tortured noise at the back of his throat, but stops trying to break from her grasp. Instead, they watch as a ring of light forms around where Steven is kneeling, strange glyphs forming in the pale light. Phoebe tries to convince herself that the ghastly color of Steven's face is just a trick of the light, but she can't ignore the way the spirits are trembling, shivering, cowering.

She realizes she's digging her nails into Wallace's skin, but he doesn't seem to notice. He's gone stock still, too fixated on where their friend manages another line of the scripture between heavy breaths. After the next line, Steven pauses, his breathing steadying for a moment before he hugs the tablet to his chest and doubles over with a strangled cry.

Wallace jerks against Phoebe's hand again, but freezes when he catches sight of her expression. She's staring into empty space, unblinking. What he doesn't know, though, is that the space above Steven's hunched form isn't empty.

Three shadows have grown from the circle of glyphs that only she can see. The power of their presence makes her body shake, and Wallace is almost lost in his panic.

He doesn't know that there is a terrible price to be paid for unlocking such guarded secrets. He doesn't know that in her silence, Phoebe's heart breaks for the man standing next to her, and tears roll down her cheeks for the man kneeling a few yards away.

Steven's body shakes as he takes another shuddering breath. He's never felt a pain such as this. A sudden weight is pressing down against his shoulder blades, forcing him to hunch closer to the earth, and each lungful of air is a battle. The icy hand of dread that had seeped from the tablet the moment he spoke the first words of the scripture snakes its way around his heart. He can feel it pulse with growing strength as its fingers close tighter. It hurts, it hurts so badly, and he cries out as another presence, sharp as steel, jabs through his gut.

Through the sound of his own pulse ringing in his ears, he hears Aggron roar with protective righteousness. The Gym roof shakes as his partner charges forward, ready to tear whatever is harming his trainer into little tiny shreds. But Steven can't let that happen. He is barely able to pry his hand away from the tablet. It flies up, palm out, and Aggron freezes mid-charge.

"No! Stay there!"

The shout is all he can muster, but it's enough. Aggron is terrified and confused, but it obeys with a keening whine. Squinting through the pain, Steven can see it retreat next to where Armaldo is shaking and fidgeting with nervous uncertainty. Cradily tucks a tendril around Relicanth, keeping it near, and she shares a worried look with Claydol. It knows, just like Metagross knows, but it remains silent; it can't bring itself to upset her. Their line remains unbroken, so Steven continues while he still can.

The last verse he knows by heart. He's rehearsed it so many times in his head, trying to envision how it would be, how it would feel...

He never imagined it would feel like this.

With every word, the icy hand tightens, and the knife in his gut digs deeper, and weight on his back grows heavier, and by the last line he can bear it no more. He gasps, eyes squeezed tight. Any trace of the ancient language gone as he all but shouts the last line.

"—Those with courage, those with hope in your hearts, open the door where the eternal titans sleep!"

The words rip from his throat and Wallace loses it, tearing from Phoebe's grip. She doesn't try to stop him this time, she's openly sobbing now. The spirits have told her. The air is thick with the omen of death.

But Wallace never makes it to Steven's side. A swirling gust of wind bursts from the ground where Steven kneels with such ferocity that it blows Wallace backward. He recoils in horror as Steven's head rolls back, his eyes wide and staring, jaw slack, trapped in the center of the vortex. The tablet clutched tight to his chest begins to glow and the sky rumbles with something other than Kyogre's wrath. The white light surrounding the tablet grows, tracing lines down Steven's form and merging with the pulsing glyphs at his feet, completely engulfing the Champion in its aura. And for a second, time seems to stop.



Everything feels lighter, whiter, and Steven can finally open his eyes. But Sootopolis is gone. Instead, he finds himself in a chamber of rock and steel and ice. Empty, cavernous, save for the three titans standing before him. Larger than life, they loom over him, and he finds it hard to breathe from where he's kneeling on the rough chamber floor.

"Why have you summoned us?"

Their voices are booming, the pressure so strong he can't move.

"Hoenn—" he falters as the heavy weight on his shoulders presses down. "Hoenn needs your help."

An otherworldly sound erupts through the chamber —the rattling of stones, the chatter of ice, the screeching of steel— and he realizes the trio is laughing. They're laughing.

"Why would Hoenn need our help? She should know better after her people had forsaken us."

"We're… we're not the same people," Steven musters, a dull throb pulses in his stomach, and a chill wraps itself around his chest.

"You're not?" The rock titan leans down, easily towering over where Steven is hunched in the dirt. "Tell me, do you not fear us?"

"I—" The sharp sensation of steel stabs Steven through the midsection, and he gasps, but does not avert his gaze from the titan's leering face. "I do not fear you."

Regirock stands back up and hums in thought, but before it can speak, Steven continues, short of breath as the pain continues to grow, the icy sensation spreads its fingers through his ribs.

"Please, Hoenn needs you. Kyogre… Kyogre will bury her in the depths of the sea without your help."

All three titans pause in their rumbling. Registeel turns to its companions.

"Perhaps Hoenn finally understands our worth."

But Regice grates another laugh. "I am doubtful. Tell me, human, do you know what you must give to obtain our power?"

Steven clutches the tablet closer to his chest, nails digging into the coarse, ancient stone. "I do, and I am prepared to give it in exchange for Hoenn's protection."

The mirth in Regice's voice disappears as it turns the glyphs of its face toward Steven.

"Good."

And the hand of ice around his heart squeezes.



The air around Steven explodes outward in a shockwave as he screams. The force is so powerful, the rain evaporates before it even gets to the ground. The white aura of the tablet swirls into a great column around him. There it hangs, pulsing in and out like a heartbeat —once, twice, three times— before the light rockets skyward where it splits into three separate directions and shoots off beyond the city's walls.

Then all at once, Sootopolis falls into silence, save for the renewed hammering of the rain across the flooded crater basin.

Steven lies face down in the water, unmoving.
 
Chapter 4

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Chapter 4

For a moment, Wallace is too stunned to move. He can only stare in disbelief. Phoebe can already see the words forming on his lips before he screams their friend's name. It's a desperate scream; one that sends a chill down her spine. Mercifully, the echo from the empty city walls is cut short as Wallace crashes next to Steven with a frantic splash.

"Steven! Steven! Wake up! Oh god, wake up!"

By now, Wallace has hauled Steven's still form into his lap where he cradles his head with trembling hands. Steven is no more than a rag doll, limp and lifeless, eyes closed. Wallace is too busy wiping the soaking hair from Steven's face to bother checking for a pulse. His voice is hysterical.

"Steven, wake up! You can't be—!" The word won't come out. "You can't…"

But Steven doesn't answer. His hands are cold when Wallace plucks them from the water. Wallace tells himself the chill must be from the sea; he refuses to accept the alternative. Frantically, he tries to rub the warmth back into them, as if it somehow would solve everything. He stifles a sob.

"Steven… no…"

Suddenly, the earth lurches beneath their feet, bringing Cradily's mournful wail to an abrupt halt. A deep rumble rattles the Gym roof, and Wallace reflexively holds Steven's body tighter against his chest. The shaking sends Armaldo cowering even tighter beneath its claws, and jolts Aggron from its shocked stupor. It even seems to startle Kyogre, as its circling comes to a halt overhead and it screeches, eyes upturned to the horizon.

Something is happening. Phoebe can sense it too. A great omen, an immense power… The spirits are no longer crying for death; they are crying for salvation.

She is startled from her vision as the PokeNav in Steven's pocket crackles to life with Sidney's static-filled voice.

"Steven, what the hell is going on here?!"

Wallace jumps at the sound, but he waits, hoping that maybe Sidney will accomplish the miraculous and wake his friend, but Steven doesn't move.

Sidney's voice crackles through once more, and his panic somehow outweighs Wallace's own. "This giant pile of rock just broke open and I think… I think there's something inside. Holy shit, there is something here and it just moved!"

Wallace gives in and digs the PokeNav free of Steven's jacket. Someone has to answer Sidney. But as he toggles the voice reply, he doesn't speak, he can't. Breath caught in his throat, he's too distraught to think straight. Not that he would even know what to say to Sidney if he could find the words.

But Phoebe knows, the spirits imbuing her with their powers, and she stares straight ahead and whispers, "They're awake."

Wallace's head snaps towards her, and it's at that moment that Steven's body lurches in his hands with a choking gasp.

He nearly screams as Steven's arms flail wildly, hands grasping for something to anchor himself back in reality. They find purchase on the soaking fabric of Wallace's cloak, and Steven takes a ragged breath, like it's the first breath he's taken in years. His eyes are wide and frantic, panicked as if he just clawed his way back from the abyss. Wallace has never been so scared in his life.

Sidney's voice cuts through the air again, blissfully ignorant of the miracle Wallace has just witnessed.

"Steven what the —" A burst of static that sounds like the rusted gears of a train car jars the speaker. "— we supposed to be doing? What is this thing?!"

An icy grip grabs Wallace by the wrist, and he sees Steven staring at him, face betraying the agony of the Regi's price.

"Tell him…" His voice is barely a croak. "Tell him to lead it back here. Glacia and Drake, too. Do whatever it takes."

Wallace nods because he doesn't know what else to do, and shakily toggles the button again.

"T-this is Wallace. He says to lead it back to Sootopolis however you can."

"Wallace?" It's Glacia's voice this time, and for once she sounds just as harrowed as the rest of them. "What happened to Steven?"

"He's…" Wallace wants to say fine, but nothing about the pale and shaking person in his arms is even close to fine. "...He's here."

"Well, put him on!"

And Wallace panics again, because he can't tell Glacia that Steven almost— he still can't say it.

But Phoebe steps in, and somehow her voice is strong and steady. "Just get here as soon as you can. All of you."

A flood of reassurance washes over Wallace as Phoebe gives him a nod. He mouths a silent thank you to her, and she smiles thinly. She may have no idea what's going on either, but they can't falter now.

But the reassurance is all but gone when he feels Steven stir in his arms, weakly, listlessly. Phoebe rushes to his side in an effort to help Wallace prop him upright. Steven's breathing is shallow, and Phoebe fears he might collapse again any minute.

He's nearly made it to his feet when Sidney pipes up again. "This better not be one of those 'easier said than done' things."

Steven weakly shakes his head, answering the PokeNav now back in his hands. "No… they'll follow you easily. They just… I just…" He stumbles, nearly falling from Wallace's grasp, clutching at his midsection with the arm that Wallace isn't clinging onto for dear life.

"Well it ain't listening," Sidney grumbles. "I even tried asking nicely."

Steven's face pales even further, but then a realization hits. "Wait. The tablet. Where's the tablet?"

He tries to straighten and search for it in the rising water, but he can't, and as he doubles back over with a groan, it spurs Wallace to finally speak.

"Steven, we need to get you out of here. Somewhere safe."

Steven brushes his friend off, too focused on trying to find the ancient tablet. "No, Wallace, I have to stay."

"Steven…! But you—"

Phoebe can see the hurt clearly written on Wallace's face, and as much as she agrees with him, she has to believe Steven knows what he's doing. So she swallows her conflict and leaves the pair's side to begin to scan the waves. The tablet can't have gone far, and it's not long before she spots a faint glow a few yards away. She is already running towards it when Steven's shout freezes her in place.

"Phoebe, wait! Don't… Don't touch it. Just show me where."

She's startled by the sudden outburst, but she obeys and points it out for Wallace to guide the two of them over.

It's agonizing to watch how the Champion has been reduced to such a helpless state. He's barely upright and leaning on Wallace so heavily that at this point it's almost better if the Gym Leader outright carries him. But his expression—she's seen it before back at the League, that look of steely-eyed resolve—is still so determined that it leaves Phoebe in awe.

Wallace lowers him down to the ground, and as Steven scoops the tablet into his arms a palpable flood of relief courses over him. The faint glow of the carvings increases in strength, softly pulsing in and out, and Phoebe notices the rhythm is eerily close to matching the rise and fall of Steven's own breathing. The tablet pulses in and out again, and the tension melts from Steven's posture, imbuing him with a fresh breath of life. He's no longer hunched over, and as he sits back, he's already concentrating on the next line of the scripture.

Fingers tracing the ancient text, he spares a glance toward where his pokemon stand, ever obedient despite the mixture of fear and confusion in their expressions. Armaldo is shaking, but puts on a brave face next to Aggron's hulking form, the latter of which hasn't budged since his trainer's command to do just that. Steven knows it's torturous for the overprotective steel type to do nothing but watch, and he hopes his lingering gaze is enough of an apology. It has to be, because Steven can't bring himself to meet Cradily's anguished stare. Her cries have softened now, though she still quivers from her distress. Even without looking, the guilt makes his heart clench. Despite all of his regret, he is endlessly proud of them. He hopes that after it's over, Claydol relays as much to the rest of his team.

They've done their job. Now it's time for Steven to finish his. He focuses back on the tablet in his hands.

At first, his voice is shaky and uncertain. But with every word, it grows in strength. Phoebe feels some of her fear wash away, as Steven is slowly sounding like his old self; confident, composed, in control. Wallace is still hovering at Steven's side as the ritual continues, unsure whether things are going to finally be alright or not. The sight of Steven collapsed in the cold, gray waves still chills him to the bone.

Blissfully unaware of his friend's inner turmoil, Steven recites another part of the incantation. Turning his gaze skyward, determination finally outweighs the pain in his expression. The ghost of it still remains though, and he can't quite hide how much effort it takes to do anything more than read the tablet aloud. But continue to read he must, and as he reaches the end, his voice carries such strength it can be heard even over the din of the storm.

The command of Steven's last line sets the air abuzz, the spirits murmuring in Phoebe's mind. Ancient energy is converging on Sootopolis, and it's all channeling through not only the tablet, but Steven himself. Feeding off this new surge of energy, Steven finally moves in an attempt to drag himself to his feet. She lets out a sigh of relief as he nearly manages to stand under his own power. Wallace is there to help him the rest of the way, but it's still such a marked improvement, she can't help but feel a faint glimmer of hope.

Except it's snuffed out in an instant as overhead, Kyogre screeches, and there is no sign of Metagross anywhere. All eyes watch as the leviathan slowly turns in its path and fixes its gaze on them.

Phoebe's blood runs cold. Next to her, she hears Wallace make a quiet choking noise. The air feels too heavy to breathe, and even the rain is frozen in time as the god of the sea stares down with all of its menace.

Sidney's voice bursts through the PokeNav's speakers with a whoop of victory and confirmation that the titans are finally on their way toward Sootopolis just as her lips form the words:

"It knows."

And then it's like a bomb goes off. Kyogre roars, and Wallace panics, and Steven is turning toward his pokemon with orders for every defensive move that they know.

In a flash, Phoebe's own pokemon are out, and Dusknoir and Sableye are standing in front of Steven's team with their hands out, barriers rising in tandem with Claydol's. She meets Steven and Wallace's gaze with a nod and an unspoken vow; they are Elite, they will not wither in the face of danger. Not when Hoenn needs them most.

Steven gives her a knowing look and draws himself up enough so that Wallace can fish out his own pokemon. The Sootopolis Leader is still shaking, but Steven knows that his friend has the same steadfast resolve to protect that which he loves. As Wallace's prized Milotic materializes alongside his other partners, Steven allows himself a moment to muse; his friend really would make a good Champion…

With their pokemon assembled behind an array of shimmering barriers, Steven turns his gaze skyward where Kyogre is seething with rage. His heart is hammering in his chest and his grip around the tablet tightens. Summoning as much strength as he can from where he hangs from Wallace's shoulder, he issues their ultimatum.

"We must last until the Regis arrive. Hold the line at all costs!"



Sidney clings to Mandibuzz so tightly he fears he might yank out a handful of feathers. Adrenaline is still surging through him, his limbs tingling and a giddy smile plastered on his face. He's not sure he's supposed to be laughing in the face of the clanking, screeching monster charging across the landscape in his wake, but the momentary terror is drowned out by the sheer thrill of not having been crushed to death in the creature's steel grip.

Getting the thing's attention when it first emerged from its rocky tomb had been the hard part. At ground level, Registeel towered over him, its featureless face impossible to read. Steven said to get it to follow him, but how was he supposed to know if it even had been paying attention to him? It had seemed to be confused at first, grumbling and grinding to itself while the glyphs of its face blinked to life. Even Mandibuzz's dark pulse hadn't spurred it into moving. It had been content to just thrash blindly until Sidney made probably the dumbest decision of the day and directed Mandibuzz to hover directly in front of the thing's nose. ...Or, what Sidney guessed was its nose.

Turns out, he had guessed right.

When the the creature's fist closed in and nearly swatted them from the sky, Mandibuzz's panicked dodge must have triggered some annoyance response; like a giant swatting a fly, and Registeel finally gave chase as Sidney and Mandibuzz turned tail and ran.

Mission accomplished. Now all he has to do is stay on course and keep the thing angry enough to keep chasing them all the way back to Sootopolis. Easy peasy! So Sidney hurls another insult over his shoulder and urges Mandibuzz to keep up its pace, keeping them just out of reach of Registeel's angry grasp.

"All aboard the Save Hoenn Express!" Sidney whoops to the sky, and Mandibuzz screeches in unison. "Next stop, Sootopolis!"



Wallace grimaces as the roof of his Gym creaks and groans as another volley of Kyogre's attacks rains down from above. The building is barely standing under the assault, yet every time he urges Steven to evacuate to higher ground, his friend refuses. So instead they stand by their partners, seawater now waist deep and climbing as their platform slowly disappears into the waves.

Claydol is so tired it can barely keep its feet above water, and Cradily's petals are straining to keep Relicanth in line as the waves batter them back and forth. Milotic has put on a brave face, but the way her tail droops and her scales have lost their lustre tells Wallace she's reached her limit. Their defenses have held so far, and yet he can't shake the feeling that the next round will be the one to break the Camerupt's back...

Overhead, Kyogre roars as Metagross slams a flash cannon into its flank, its assault on the Gym momentarily halted. In the brief respite, Wallace can see that Aggron's labored breathing has steadily gotten worse the deeper the water has gotten, and its trainer is faring no better.

"Steven—" he starts, earning him the same weary glance every other time he's tried, but he continues anyway. "I know, I know. We have to 'hold the line'… But if the Gym collapses, what does it matter if we're all swept under in the end?"

"Wallace…" Steven hugs the tablet just a bit tighter. "I can't…" His gaze trails up to the lip of the crater where Kyogre dodges Metagross' sneak attack by slipping into the clouds above. "I don't know how much longer it'll be, but I have to stay here."

Beside him, Phoebe can barely keep from trembling as she nods. "We understand."

Wallace catches the look in her eyes, so distant and full of pity, and he don't bother trying to hide his frustrated scowl. "No, we don't understand. Steven, this is insanity. It's fine if you don't want to tell us everything, but it's not safe to stay—"

Milotic's shuddering wail is the only warning before Kyogre's attack hits its target. There's no time for Wallace to finish his thought. He becomes weightless as the Gym roof gives way beneath their feet.
 
Chapter 5

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Chapter 5

The first thing that greets Sidney as he crests over top of Sootopolis' walls is the sight of his friends hunkered atop the Gym's roof, alive and kicking. He begins to call out to them, waving frantically from Mandibuzz's back, but a thought stops him cold.

Why didn't he see Kyogre?

A quick glance side to side reveals nothing but empty air space. But before he can question the beast's sudden hide-and-seek skills, the cloudbank in front of him explodes in a burst of light.

Sidney yells and shields his eyes, not that that will save them from the point blank attack. But the attack never comes. Still alive and in one piece, he lowers his arm. Mandibuzz squawks a question and Sidney blinks in confusion.

"If the attack wasn't aimed at us…"

Frantically, he looks past his partner's wing just in time to see his friends disappear beneath the waves.

"Oh shit."

A pokeball is in his hand before he can think twice. "Sorry, Mandibuzz, but I'm gonna go do something really stupid." He gives his partner a pat on the neck and rolls off its back.

The rushing in Sidney's ears drowns out the churning of his stomach as he falls, but the sensation doesn't last as he calls out his pokemon and grabs hold of its fins. Sharpedo's skin is rough and firm, and it grounds him from the panic of freefall. He squints through the wind and takes aim, tongue poking out askew as he concentrates.

"There!" He points just past his partner's snout toward the remnants of the Gym. "Lower your head and it'll protect us on the dive! At least, I hope!"

Used to its trainer's half-cooked plans, Sharpedo obeys with a sharp cry, the wind parting as its skull bash forms around them. Sidney's fairly certain Sharpedo has never flown before, but the pokemon's aerial grace doesn't show it. They slice through the water's surface right on target with only a slight jolt to show for it. They burst back to the surface in an instant, Phoebe clinging tight to Sidney's arms.

"Sidney?!"

"Fee, oh man, you're okay! I gotcha!"

"Sid, wait! Steven… He needs help."

Sidney blinks for a second, but Sharpedo is already scanning the sea for the Champion. "Wait, isn't Wallace with him?"

Phoebe shakes her head. "Yes, but he's—"

A splash startles them both as something lands in the water right next to Sharpedo's fin. A platform of ice bobs in the waves beside them. It's nearly doubled in size by the time Phoebe realizes Glacia is standing at the edge, offering her a hand.

"Hop on! It's probably not as comfy as a Gym roof, but it should do the trick."

With Phoebe safely in Glacia's grasp, Sidney is just about to climb aboard himself when another splash sounds from the far side of the platform.

"Wallace!" Phoebe shouts just as Sidney spots a flash of white that disappears back under the surface.

"Sharpedo, let's go!"

His pokemon turns to head for where they last saw Wallace in the churning waves, only for the Sootopolis Leader to burst to the surface before they arrive. An exhausted Milotic shoves both her trainer and the dead weight in his arms toward Glacia's ice floe. Quickly, Sidney clambers aboard the floe himself to assist Glacia in hauling the pair aboard.

"Take him!" Wallace shouts, practically shoving Steven into the Elite's arms. He bobs under the waves at the motion, but Milotic shoves again, and Wallace resurfaces in time for Glacia to grab his hand.

Sidney is too busy dragging Steven over the edge to notice that Milotic herself doesn't come back up. Thankfully Sharpedo is on the case, and he lifts her tired body on his snout high enough for Wallace to recall her to safety.

Still catching his breath, Wallace gets to his feet with Glacia's help. Whatever gratitude that washes over him for her timely arrival is cut short as he overhears Sidney's failing efforts to help Steven up.

"Whoa, I gotcha, Boss."

Sidney has to hang on tight as Steven's legs give out and he sits down hard on the ice. Phoebe is already rushing to Sidney's side and together they manage to prop Steven upright. It's at this point that Sidney understands just what Phoebe meant earlier. He can't hide his shock at the sorry state of their leader. Steven is barely a shell of his usual self, skin deathly pale and hands trembling as they anchor the ancient slab to his chest as if it was the only thing grounding him in reality. Sidney's expression is tight as Steven stares off into space for a moment with a distant expression, and Phoebe can only offer a solemn shake of her head.

"Hey, uh, Boss?"

The sound of Sidney's voice seems to jolt Steven back to the present, and he finds the younger Elite's eyes with a shocked look of his own. "Sidney? Wait… If you're here, then…"

On cue, a thunderous impact rocks the city's walls. And then another. All eyes turn up to the crater's edge where two titans are standing tall, their silhouettes glowing bright against the stormy clouds. Regice and Registeel stare down into the crater bowl, their faces impassive as they stand stock still. The sky rips apart with furious lightning, and the rain is driving like needles. Somewhere behind them, Kyogre's cry is laced with unbridled rage, and the maelstrom increases in intensity.

Tearing his gaze from the two legendary titans, Steven finally spots Glacia through the storm, but he has no time to offer a greeting. He's wheeling his head, almost frantic, searching for something. "My pokemon, where are they?"

There is no reply; the ice platform is empty of anyone but the Elite, and Wallace's eyes widen in realization as Phoebe utters, "The line."

The water is getting rougher by the second, and Steven begins to panic. "We need to—" He doubles over with a cough. "They have to—"

A nasty wave breaks over the edge of their platform, and everyone stumbles from the impact. The ice floe tilts dangerously, but just as suddenly as the ice begins to rock, it stops. Wailord has the edge of the floe clamped in its mouth, and Armaldo slides down from its head and onto the platform, soggy and shaking, but unharmed. Claydol hovers down along side Armaldo, also having sought shelter on Wailord's back. From the other edge of the platform, Cradily hoists herself onto the ice with a boost from Relicanth. The ancient pokemon had towed her back to the surface after the collapse. She shakes herself once and then spots Steven and the rest of her teammates, and lets out a joyful squeal.

But Steven is not ready to celebrate just yet. "Where's Aggron?"

Wailord whines an uncertain note and Claydol echoes it. They don't remember seeing the big steel pokemon in the chaos.

Suddenly, the waves explode, and in a shower of salty spray, a pair of metal claws latch themselves into the ice. Like a drowned Delcatty, Aggron drags itself onto the floe, its hindquarters lifted up by a Kingdra's bony crown. Aggron is haggard, panting heavily and barely conscious. But Steven knows how stubborn the steel type can be, and with every team member accounted for, the line remains unbroken.

Steven deflates with relief, a giddy smile arranging itself on his face, and he covers his face with his hand. "Thank the gods."

Glacia shares a puzzled look with Sidney at the Champion's outburst, but inquires no further as a gust of wind swirls overhead.

"Not sure it's the gods you should be thanking, lad," Drake quips as he slides from Salamence's back. His partner lands heavily, allowing the weight of its other passenger to slump to the ground. Metagross creaks and groans as it tries to rise from where it collapsed upon landing, no longer supported by Salamence's sturdy frame. Its hide is so damaged there are visible cracks through the steel. The cross above its left eye is caved in, rendering the eye almost useless. One leg doesn't even respond as it struggles to crawl toward its trainer. Steven can't tear his eyes away.

"Metagross." It's barely a whisper, whether it's all he can muster, or the breath truly has frozen in his throat. He can feel his heart racing, the adrenaline starting to kick in. They're both still alive. He never thought he'd see his partner again. He never thought Metagross would see him again.

With a burst of strength, Steven lurches to his feet and stumbles as far as he can before falling to his knees at Metagross's side. He leans his head against its crest, the steel cold against his feverish brow. There are no words exchanged, the emotion pouring from Steven is all Metagross needs to know. The sound it makes is halfway between a wheeze and a sob.

However, the reunion is short lived as another resounding crash echoes across the abandoned city. Sootopolis's white stone crumbles down into the crater as Regirock lands atop the city's walls.

Three titans— one of rock, one of ice, one of steel— encircle the city, and Kyogre roars with outrage.

As the beast's cry echoes into nothingness, Sootopolis falls silent save for the howling of the storm. Everyone from human to pokemon alike is waiting, watching, as a wave of unease sweeps through the ruined city.

Steven slumps back against Metagross's leg, desperate stare fixed on where the Regis stand, unmoving. There is no scripture left to read, no command left to spur the titans into action. So he closes his eyes and hopes. He pours everything he has into a final plea. That maybe, just maybe, he can convince them that humanity is worth saving.

A hand falls on Steven's shoulder, and he opens his eyes to Wallace's concerned gaze. The water-type trainer is a complete mess. His hat long since lost to the bottom of the sea, the unspoken question in his eyes is as clear as day. If this is everything they could have done, would it truly be enough?

Steven doesn't have to answer. A rumble grows out of the silence, increasing in strength until it drowns out the hammering of the rain and the wailing of the wind. The walls of the city begin to shake. Buildings crumble to dust, leaving Wallace in wide-eyed terror. It's as if the very earth itself has decided to make this their grave. Kyogre screeches once more, rising higher into the stormy skies, ready to leave Sootopolis for the ruin it has become.

And then the Regis move.

The titans bring their arms to bear as one, a white energy growing and dancing between their hands. There is something terrible in that energy; everyone can feel its overwhelming presence. All eyes are turned to the sky as the Regi's power grows. Phoebe whimpers, and Sidney wraps his arm tighter around her shoulders, expression tight. Glacia and Drake share a tense look, but say nothing. Even Wallace cannot suppress a shiver where he kneels next to Steven's side. They'd been nothing in the face of Kyogre's awakening. They'd thought there was nothing left that could oppose the sea god's wrath. How wrong they were.

Kyogre, too, seems to realize its mistake in trying to run, as now it's nearly face to face with the Regi trio at the crater's edge. As it draws near, their energy cracks and sparks before leaping forth, creating a chain from one titan to the other that blocks Kyogre's path. The sea god freezes in place, startled for a moment by the Regis' display of power. Kyogre glowers at the three titans before it starts to charge an attack in its maw, content to blast a path through the titans' perimeter. The Regis make no attempt to defend themselves, and Kyogre allows itself a toothy smirk. It roars in triumph as its beam reaches full power.

The attack dies on its jaws.

In an instant, the titan's power slams into the sea god full force, drowning the beast in blinding white energy. Kyogre's pained howl tears through the night, clouds rippling and scattering from the force of the Regi's attack. The beast plummets from the sky, slamming into the crater's wall on the way down. The blow seems to jar it from its agony, and it lashes out, firing beams indiscriminately in an attempt to free itself from the Regis' hold.

Attacks rain down across the ruined city, destroying what little is left standing and churning the sea into a frenzy. Steven feels Wallace cling tighter to his arms as their makeshift platform lurches and bucks under the onslaught. Neither titan nor god cares what happens to the tiny specks of humanity caught in the crossfire. Bursts of light dance across the Regi's forms, mixing with the sparking flashes of their own power. The glyphs of their faces expressionless, hauntingly stoic in the face of such chaos.

They have seen ages and eons, and they know that the sea god does not have dominion over this world. Like the spires of an ancient church, they stand unflinching, staring down at the creature that dares to claim Hoenn as its own. Under their guard, Kyogre would not triumph. It had never triumphed as long as they had kept watch, and they would not allow it to happen this time either. Hoenn will persist.

It's magnificently terrifying to see Kyogre writhe and wail as the titans' energy pours over it. It struggles harder, but it's to no avail. Their arms outstretched, the Regis' expressionless faces belie nothing as they are battered with the wind and rain. Only once does Regirock stagger when one of Kyogre's beams strikes it dead center, but it's very clear: the god of the sea is losing.

Slowly, the beast is pushed lower and lower into the crater where the city walls rumble and quake. Wallace watches breathless until he sees just where the Regis are forcing Kyogre to go. He's on his feet with a gasp, wheeling to face Steven with an incredulous stare. "The Cave of Origin! They're pushing it toward the Cave of Origin!"

Weakly, Steven can only nod. It's been his plan this entire time. If not the orbs, then his hope was that something else could seal Kyogre's power within the cave's walls. He wants to explain as much, but he can't. His limbs are like lead, every breath is a battle. He can feel his strength waning with every inch the Regis gain. Still, he holds Wallace's gaze, hoping his stare can offer all the explanation for him.

The conflict is clear in Wallace's face. He can see Steven's waning condition, and he cannot bring himself to leave his friend's side. Not after everything they've been through on this horrible day. But he is Sootopolis's guardian, the protector of his city, the keeper of the Cave of Origin and all its lore and power. With a frantic gesture that he'll be right back, Wallace dashes toward the edge of the platform, harrowed stare fixated on where Kyogre is now being forced into the Cave's yawning opening, still screeching and thrashing, its fins gouging chunks from the ceremonial doors as its pushed deeper into the darkness.

Steven watches him go and tries to call out for Wallace to wait, but it comes out feeble, lost in Kyogre's angry roars. But for Steven, the roars are muffled, and everything feels further away. He can feel himself slipping, fading… Wallace is too far away now, he'll never be heard over the storm.

Resigned, Steven's head rolls back against Metagross's leg. The steel type whines a low note, and Steven feels a weight settle in around the two of them. There's a finality in their solitude, and as the thought of goodbyes hits him, he remembers one last thing. He uses his last strength to pull his PokeNav out, just to check. He toggles the screen and his gut sinks.

'Message failed to send. Retry?'

The message for his father. It never made it. In a panic he fumbles for the button, but his strength is gone, and the PokeNav tumbles from his hand and clatters across the ice, landing out of reach.

Steven struggles to move his tired body. His breath is coming in short gasps now, but he can't leave his father in the dark like this. He can't. If he could just… hit… send…

As he's reaching for the device—weakly, futilely—a voice echoes in the back of his mind. The same voice he heard in the chamber of rock and steel and ice, and he freezes.

"It is done. The pact is complete."

It's only then that he's faintly aware that the chaos of the storm has vanished. The drumming rain is only a patter now, and the air is quiet and still, no longer filled with the sound of Kyogre's final throes. From the top edge of the crater's walls, sunlight peeks through, the first rays of morning sneaking through the thinning clouds. In a way, the peacefulness almost feels mocking, the comfort foreign, like it knows he's leaving soon. He very nearly smiles at the thought of enjoying the sunrise one last time. The plan has worked. The beast has been sealed away. But he's just so tired...

"We shall take what is owed and leave this place."

Steven always imagined he'd made peace with his decision, that he'd be ready in the moment. But he's not. He wants to beg, to plead for just one more moment, he can't go yet. But he can't ask for more time, not from the beings who restlessly slumbered for so long. What was his existence against the centuries they'd spent imprisoned? Watching... Waiting... He can't even feel his trembling fingers anymore, stretched as far as they can go, and his PokeNav is still out of reach.

He can't go yet.

But the titans wait no longer. As Steven feels the icy presence take its leave, his last breath leaves with it. The strength leaves his limbs. The world around him is just so dark... He slumps forward. He's exhausted. He doesn't even feel it when he hits the ground.

Beside him, the ancient tablet has broken in two, the voices of the spirits nothing more than a whisper in the winds. The seal is lifted, the Regis are free, and in the eerie calm left in the aftermath of Kyogre's rampage, Steven Stone gives his life in return for the region he loves.



It has been just over a week since the incident that should have swallowed all of Hoenn, yet only claimed one life. Sootopolis stands quiet, empty, and flooded. Too damaged to allow her citizens to return to what's left of their homes, and too unstable to attempt to repair her just yet.

There is nothing Wallace can do except wait and hope. The same agonizing uncertainty as that day, when he could do nothing but helplessly watch. So he sets about burying his grief in something other than solitude, and busies himself with the rest of the Elite. They work in silence save for what's necessary. There's not much left to be said that can close the hole left from that fateful day. There's not much they want to say because that means it's time to fill it, and no one's ready for that just yet.

He travels to Pacifidlog with Sidney and Drake to help stabilize the battered floating colony. Then to Slateport with Phoebe to hand out provisions and aid to the refugees. And then Lilycove to do more of the same with Glacia. Last, to Mossdeep, alone, where he can't bring himself to even set foot on the northern part of the island.

Not because he knows that's where Steven's house sits, as empty as it's always been even when he was alive. Not because it would dredge up too many reminders of what would be missing from within its walls forever. But because Aggron, in its grief, refused to let anyone come near the home unless they were Steven himself. It had become so fiercely territorial that the road to the small cliffside cottage was blocked with barricades to keep accidental passerbys safe from its rampage. No amount of consoling or pleading would calm it, so Wallace turns on his heel almost as soon as he arrives, and takes its empty pokeball with him to Ever Grande, to be placed with the rest of Steven's belongings.

It's there, as he's tucking the pokeball into the last box left in the barren Champion's office, that Wallace sees the message that was never intended for him. He only notices because the notification light of Steven's PokeNav is blinking— low battery. He almost doesn't check the screen; it's not his place to look. But he does. Perhaps it's guilt. Perhaps it's grief. The reason why doesn't matter when he sees what's on the display.

He's not sure why he feels compelled to read it, and he certainly doesn't feel better after reading it. But he reads it all the same. And when he's done, his finger hovers over the 'Retry' button, and he pauses.

Has it been long enough for the wounds to close? Will this message tear them back open again, fresh and searing? Or do they fester still with the unknown knowledge contained in the letter's text, meant for the one who is suffering the most?

He hasn't seen Joseph Stone since the funeral. In fact, even at the funeral he openly avoided Steven's father the entire time. It hurt too much to see the unspoken question in his eyes: "You're his best friend. Why didn't you stop him?"

Wallace could never think of what to say to that. "I'm so sorry for your loss" was not the answer Mr. Stone was looking for. "I didn't know" felt too hollow to even try. So he'd settled for a happier truth, one that filled him with as much guilt as it did pride.

"He saved us all, Mr. Stone. Steven was a hero."

Except now… Now he knew the real truth. The awful, horrible burden that Steven took upon himself.

And with that knowledge, Wallace almost can't bring himself to face Joseph again. His eyes that are so tired. Tired of life, and all the misery it brings. Tired from having seen the burial of not only his wife, but his only child. Tired from seeing the faces of sympathy time and time again, and Wallace is just another one of those faces in a parade of empty tragedy.

Joseph had given him a shattered smile, and those tired eyes drifted off to some part of the room, far away and out of focus. "He always did have a knack for doing what he thought was right."

Wallace withdraws his hand from the button. Mr. Stone deserves to have his son's final words delivered to him by another human being. Not by some cold, emotionless screen. Maybe, just maybe, he then might find some peace. It's all Wallace can hope for, at this point.

Steven's PokeNav is tucked safely in his pocket as he drifts westward toward Rustboro on his Gyarados' back. It's not a short trip; Ever Grande is on the other side of the region. Wallace isn't sure if he's thankful for the extra time, or dreading how many times he can play the conversation over in his head before he arrives.

But he has to. He has to do what's right. For Steven.

Wallace's cheeks are wet, and he can't even blame it on the rain. He tilts his head to the clear blue sky, because he wants him to see. To see all of the beautiful and wondrous and broken things he left behind.

"I have never been more angry with you, Steven Stone, than I am right now. I just want you to know that."
 
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Chapter 6

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Chapter 6

Dad,

If you're reading this, then my plan has gone into action. I can only hope that this message finds you and the rest of Hoenn safe. A Champion's duty is to protect their region, and when I embarked on this journey and learned what I learned, I only followed through with it as a last resort to ensure that Hoenn would continue on, even if it meant that I could not. I'll miss you, and I'm sorry, but it had to be done.

I know you'll want to know exactly what happened, so I'll explain here. Besides myself and the Sinnohan scholars whom I confided in, you will be the only person who knows what transpired. I ask that you keep the details a secret, as this is a dangerous power should it fall into the wrong hands.

This whole plan started when I inadvertently discovered a link between the ancient stone tablet we donated to the Oceanic Museum, and Sinnoh's legend of the Regi Titans. Last year on a trip to Mt. Coronet, an archaeological dig uncovered carvings that matched the symbols found on the tablet we unearthed here in Hoenn, and from there I made the connection. I didn't think much after the initial discovery, and I wasn't spurred into action until Team Aqua raided Mt. Pyre and stole the Blue Orb, said to have the power to control Kyogre and hold dominion over the seas. The League agreed, the stolen orb was a major threat to Hoenn's safety, and we needed a plan to prevent disaster.

While the League worked on a plan to apprehend Team Aqua and reclaim the orb, I set out in secret to come up with a backup plan should our initial strategy fail. Call me paranoid, but I couldn't sit idle when I knew I might have had the means to stop any evil that Team Aqua could concoct.

In Sinnoh, the legendary Regigigas is said to be a protector, but it is not the only one of its kind. It had created three others like it in order to watch over the land where it could not. These three others resided in our own region, unfortunately sealed and locked away by the ancient people who feared their immense power. I had stumbled upon one of their tombs by complete accident many years ago, and later uncovered the location of the other two. Regirock, Regice, and Registeel; three Legendary Titans whose sole purpose was to watch over Hoenn and keep her safe. I knew that if I could figure out how to unseal their tombs, if Hoenn ever needed protecting, the Regis would come to her aid.

Unfortunately, things were not as simple as that, as I found out. I returned to Sinnoh several times to not only solve the mystery of the slumbering titans, but to decipher the stone tablet we had discovered. I figured that it surely had to be a key part in this mystery, and I was right. The inscriptions were an incantation that could be used to break the seals on the Regi's chambers. However, there was a catch.

Due to the immense power needed to seal the Regis in the first place, it would not be so easy to undo the work the ancient people had done. A sacrifice would be necessary to channel the energy needed to unseal the chambers. The person who fulfills the requirements of the unlocking ritual and recites the incantation will be used as a live conduit to undo the seal. With so much energy flowing through them, they will be able to control the titans for as long as they have energy to spare. That is to say, the one who unlocks the Regis can command them, but will also be killed by them, drained of their life energy in order for the titans to be free. It was a foolproof measure; none of the ancient people would consider giving their life to unleash what they assumed to be a terrible power.

At first, the Sinnohan scholars seemed reluctant to share this information with me, but I convinced their own Champion —a very passionate woman of both battling and history— to help me. Together we decided that should it be necessary, and only as a last resort, the titans should be summoned to protect the fate of the world. I committed the ritual to memory (would you believe a Relicanth and a Wailord are key to their revival? I thought it a mistranslation myself, but the scholars assured me it was not) and left Sinnoh with the words I was to recite should it come to that.

I have shared none of this information with anyone in Hoenn, not even the League. I knew it wasn't fair to carry such a secret, but I could not allow this information to be spread so easily. One ancient, powerful artifact was already in the wrong hands, I could not allow a second to be stolen as well.

As I'm sure you are now well aware, the worst did come to pass. Kyogre was unleashed by the hands of fools and left unchecked to destroy Hoenn. I can only hope that it now slumbers within the Cave of Origin, sealed away by the titans' power, as my plan intended.

Know that I did not make this decision lightly, nor have I done it to be remembered as a hero. It was what any Champion should have done.

I hope that despite my constant failings as your son, I've been able to make you proud.

I promise I will say hi to Mom for you.

And please apologize to Wallace for me. I haven't told him anything, and I'm sure he'll be quite upset with me about all of this.

Thank you for everything, Dad.

Love,

Steven
 
Chapter 7

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Chapter 7

Steven can't help but find it eerie to be facing the all-too-familiar door. It's so hard to shake the unease, like he's trespassing, yet he's standing in front of his own childhood home.

Just like waking from a dream, he can't really remember how he got here. The first thing he can recall is winding his way through the streets of Rustboro toward his eventual destination. Where his feet had taken him hadn't been a surprise; he'd made a promise, after all. It's just startling that it feels like Rustboro hasn't changed one bit, but he knows that's not the case. For one, all of the usual pokemon he'd been accustomed to seeing are gone. In their stead float only ghosts, drifting in and out of the streets crowded with people ensconced in the same ethereal glow as him.

He's no fool. There's a very good reason he's here, but he never expected death to be this familiar.

A Shuppet drifts by and he doesn't mean to stare, but he does. The ghost pokemon stares right back, but instead of snickering as the ghosts in the living world did, it gives him a wistful look. Like it knows how unjust it is that he's here.

But life isn't about playing fair. Steven knows this. He's known it ever since he was a little boy, and the one person in his life that meant everything had been taken from him all too soon. In a way, it made his decision that much easier. If it could prevent that same theft from happening to someone else, what he had given would all be worth it.

He raises his hand and knocks on the door. There is a shuffling inside, and after a moment the door opens.

She's as beautiful as he remembers, pieced together from childhood memories and fond stories from his father… All traces of her illness are gone; she is tall and strong and radiant, and not even the puzzled look she gives him can dull her presence. He smiles.

"Hi, Mom."

"...Steven?"

It's a hesitant question at first. After all, he was only five when she left. She would have no idea what her child looks like as an adult. But the realization is swift; he looks like his father after all. The next time she says his name, he nearly shivers from the anger in her voice, the pain. He did not expect such pain.

"Steven, you shouldn't be here. Why are you here?"

As much as he's planned what he'd say to her, he's at a loss. The desperation of her question leaves him speechless.

"How can this be? It's too soon… Look… look at you. You've grown so much." She's crying now, silent tears streaming down her pale cheeks. The conflict in her eyes is written so clearly that Steven can barely swallow around the tightness in his throat. She reaches out a hand to cup the face of the son she never had the chance to know. "You can't be here. Not now. Not when you've got so much life ahead of you."

"Mom, I—"

He falters, the prickle of tears beginning to form in his own eyes. He's back at home now, four years old. He's accidentally knocked over his father's display case of rare fossils, and she's discovered what he'd done. That same sinking feeling in his stomach, it rushes back stronger than ever. Yet his mother's tears sting more than any scolding he's ever gotten. He's in trouble, he's upset her, even though that's never what he intended. He never should have come here.

The regret grabs hold and strangles him. This isn't what he wanted.

It was supposed to be a happy reunion.

He tries to explain, this wasn't a choice he made selfishly. He had to. He had to in order to save the things he loved. But he can't form the words, because he knows deep down that nothing will heal the wound of meeting your child in the afterlife before his father.

As he goes to wipe his eyes, an icy sensation runs down his spine, and suddenly he notices the large gathering of ghost pokemon behind him. Guides of the spirit realm, they are drawn to those who are in turmoil. To soothe or to punish, Steven isn't sure, but he has no time to think, as his mother ignores the ghosts and reaches out and grabs him by the arm. She whisks the two of them through the crowd of pokemon and away down the street, a purposeful march to her step, and the vice grip on his wrist leaves him no choice but to follow.

"I have to make this right," she mutters as she tugs him toward the north edge of the city.

Paved streets fade to grass and rocky cliffside, and Steven knows all too well where they're headed. Any attempt he makes at asking why gets ignored with a shake of his mother's head, and she pulls them along even faster until they're at the gates of Rustboro Cemetery.

Finally, she lets go of his arm in order to swing the iron gate open. It creaks just like he remembers, and a faint breeze rustles the treetops. He shivers. The air is thick with something, what it is, Steven can't tell. He's too busy trying to keep the memories of this place from burying him. He's on autopilot as he trails behind his mother. Timeworn into his heart, he'd never forget the path to her grave. Everything in his chest squeezes a bit tighter as they arrive at the Stone family plot. Except this time there is something different, and the sight of it makes his blood run cold.

A new headstone next to hers. His headstone.

The reality of his situation comes crashing back down and he's shaking so badly he can barely choke out the same question he's been trying to ask for the last fifteen minutes.

"Mom… w-why are we here?"

Finally, she answers. "Because I'm sending you home."

Another breeze dances through the trees, and with it comes the faint tinkling of windchimes. Steven shivers again.

"But it's too late, Mom. I'm already dead." His stomach flips at the word. "I can't go back."

"It doesn't have to be too late."

And as she turns towards the pair of headstones, the guilty thought crosses his mind that maybe she's gone crazy in all the time she's spent here in this afterlife. He shakes his head and banishes the idea. His mother's not crazy... But then why is she so insistent when there's nothing that can be done?

He realizes she's kneeling now in front of his grave, her hands resting on the smooth stone. Her eyes are closed, fingers tracing the chiseled "S" of his name, and she's whispering something he can't quite make out.

"Mom…?"

Suddenly, the light of her spirit pulses once, twice, three times, like a heartbeat. She gasps as the wind picks up again, sending the chimes dancing. The breeze is short and swift, but as it dies down, the chimes don't die with it. They sway and clink and rattle in the still air, and it's only then that Steven realizes that the windchimes in the spirit world are special, too.

Chimecho hang in the trees above and sing, their tails swaying in time as the air swirls with light— drifting particles that glow and pulse with the same spirit energy that surrounds his mother...

Steven's eyes go wide as his gaze darts back to where she's kneeling, and his heart leaps into his throat. Another breeze rushes through, sending a cloud of particles floating away from her ethereal form. He can see the ground through her body, she's fading away like a waning sunset, and the panic nearly swallows him whole.

She's vanishing.

"Mom, what's happening!? Where are you going?" He can't bring himself to rush to her side, because what if when he reaches her, she melts through his hands; a million particles of glowing dust in the wind. "Why are… you… you're disappearing."

Her smile is as soft as it is sad. "I've had a lot of time, Steven. A lot of time to learn about this place. About the spirits who inhabit this place."

He watches in silent horror as more of her is carried away into the sky to the tune of the Chimecho's song.

"You're right, those who live in this world are dead. But they're not gone. They have the ability to commune with the living. Mediums, psychics, even wild ghosts can all hear our voices if the connection is strong enough."

Her eyes flick down to where a worn silver band rests around one of his fingers. He's wearing several, but this one stands out. She'd never forget it. It was hers.

"I've watched over Joseph all this time. And I've tried to watch over you, as best I could. The memories… They weren't as strong… But I've seen you grow, and what you've become. I'm so proud of you."

"Mom, why are you saying this?"

His voice cracks, but she's back to ignoring him, ignoring the way he's shaking and holding back the tears. She has to finish what she's going to say before it's too late.

"The most amazing thing is, if a soul's connection to the living world is strong enough, they have an extraordinary power. In exchange for a part of their spirit, they can send a wish to the land of the living in the chance that it may be granted. The greater the wish, the larger the price."

"Mom… no…"

She smiles, because behind that mask of grief, he's still that same brilliant little boy. He's already figured it out.

"I've given you life once already. What kind of mother would I be if I passed up the chance to give it to you again?"

He has nothing left to say. He's losing her again. Twice in a lifetime is too much. The tears pour unheeded down his cheeks.

"Steven..." Her voice is hollow; an echo on the wind. She reaches out with a fading hand, and he takes it without hesitation, falling to his knees in the soil next to her. He buries his face against her shoulder and sobs.

He's five years old again in her hospital room, begging for her to stay. He doesn't want her to go away and leave him all alone. Because this time, the memory is filled with the emptiness that comes afterward. He hugs her so hard that maybe if he never lets go, he can still save her. That's what he's supposed to do: save people.

She's slipping through his fingers like grains of sand.

Leaning back from their embrace, she cups her hand against his face. He looks at her with terrified eyes.

"Take care of your father for me." With her thumb she wipes the moisture from his cheek, her own tears running down the side of her face that hasn't faded yet. "I love you to the stars and back."

Suddenly, the wind picks up. What had been a steady breeze is now a gale, the force of it so strong it begins to lift him from the ground. He panics as he's lifted upward, prying him from her grasp. He tries to fight it, to get back to her side, but he's helpless. She watches him rise and gives one final smile. It's peaceful and reassuring and he's back at the hospital, being led from her room for the last time. He can't cry again, he has to be brave. For her.

He stops struggling and watches as the outline of his mother disintegrates into the sky; a whisper in the wind. He stares at the slight imprint in the soil where she had knelt. It's the last thing he sees before a flash of green light fills his vision, and the world goes silent.



He wakes with a start. Wherever he is, it's freezing. He blinks through the haziness of his mind, and realizes just how uncomfortable it is sprawled out on his side across a sheet of ice. He props himself up with one shaky hand and takes another breath, the sunlight warm on his face even as his hair drips water down his cheeks. His ribs ache, and his arm tingles with pins and needles, and why is his PokeNav all the way over there? Wait a minute…

Metagross's happy cry reverberates through him until it rattles his very soul.

He's back in Sootopolis.

He's alive.

A shadow falls across his face, and a familiar voice leans close as a hand falls on his shoulder with a gentle shake.

"Steven? Steven, hey. You scared us for a moment there."

It's Wallace. He looks harrowed, and doesn't even try to hide the quiver in his tone. Around him are the concerned faces of the Elite and their pokemon. No one dares to speak, as if breaking the silence would sever the last thread of reality, and the world would come crashing down around them. There is a wave of unease in the air somewhere beneath the overwhelming relief in seeing the Champion sit upright and alert, albeit shakily.

Phoebe watches as Steven looks from face to face, the same disbelief shining clear in his expression. She knows none of her fellow Elite truly understand why this uncertainty lingers in their hearts. Why Glacia's smile is laced with worry, her hands wringing tightly in front of her dress. Why the tension in Drake's jaw turns his own smile into a grimace. Why at her side, Sidney shifts from foot to foot, fidgeting with Absol's pokeball. And why she can barely hide her own shaking, too exhausted to even try to pretend she's not crying still.

Because no one had seen what she had, when they rushed to the side of their fallen friend. The tiny green spirit that floated just above Steven's body as Wallace desperately tried to wake him. Why it let her remember its face, she'll never know. Because as she recognized Celebi for what it is, she also realized how easy it would have been for it to have erased all trace of its intervention as easily as it reset the timeline. Instead, it met her own shocked stare with its bright blue eyes and grinned, a child-like giggle echoing in a way that only Phoebe could hear. And as she watched with tear streaked shock when the life flooded back into Steven, Celebi had given her a mischievous wink before blinking back out of existence, like it had never even been there in the first place.

But its exit was not without a trace. Manipulation of the flow of time is a messy thing; imprecise on even the best days. Somewhere in the back of her mind—in the back of everyone's mind—is the ghost of memories that supposedly never happened. Like the feeling of something you should remember, something you couldn't quite put into words, sitting right on the tip of your tongue, something lingered, sour and repugnant. The feeling that in deep in their hearts, they knew Steven had died. They had seen it with their own two eyes. Lived it. For days… weeks. And then suddenly, it was nothing more than a lie. A myth. A fairy tale full of nightmares. Because he was alive. Right there in front of them. Living, breathing proof that somewhere, somehow, a second chance had been granted.

"Wallace… I—" Steven falters as Wallace's hand unconsciously tightens on his shoulder, and he realizes no one has moved from the rough semicircle in which they'd gathered. Like they still can't believe what they're seeing. Steven looks around, and he notices that beneath the overwhelming relief runs a hint of something else. A cord drawn taught, pulled until it frayed, yet refused to snap.

It's only once Steven lands on Phoebe's heartbroken gaze that he realizes something is truly amiss. She's staring, wide-eyed and tearful. That the vivid recollection of his mother's face, of the weight of her in his arms… It hadn't all been a dream. His hand finds its way to his chest, gripping the fabric of his utterly ruined suit until his knuckles turn white. Beneath the curl of his fingers beats his heat, strong and steady. The growing dawn light glints off the of his silver rings, and for a second he forgets to breathe.

Suddenly, he's enveloped in a soggy, white-clad hug. Wallace's arms are a vice-grip, and even if he had the strength to fight it, Steven wouldn't have dared try. Instead, he sags against the shaking form of his friend until Wallace relents. But even as Wallace draws back, he keeps a steady hold of Steven's shoulders, stare so fierce that Steven nearly tries to duck away in shame.

"If you even try something so stupid ever again..."

Steven winces. He knows Wallace isn't looking for an apology. He just knows he can't make an empty promise to Wallace again. Because even if after all of this something else were to happen. If it wasn't truly the end. If an ancient power were to awaken once more…

"Steven." Wallace gives him a gentle shake. "Just… tell us next time, okay?"

Metagross's hum of agreement travels through the icy platform, and Steven's guilt rushes back anew. Behind the Elite, his pokemon are huddled together, simply staring at where their trainer had fallen. Not by their side where they could have tried to protect him. Not together as a team, as he'd promised so long ago. Somehow their silence hurts even more than any of the Regi's curses.

Except that as his gaze lands on them each in turn, there's no accusation left in their expressions. It's been buried deep by the relief of it all, and even the stalwart Aggron seems to have abandoned its shock at the betrayal of what had been Steven's final, awful command. It huffs a soft sound, and Armaldo chatters a nervous question in reply. Claydol's gaze drifts over Steven's shoulder to catch Metagross's one good eye, and the psychic types share an unspoken confirmation. Everything is going to be okay. Cradily shrieks with pure, unbridled joy.

Almost in response to her happy cries, a deep rumble echoes across the devastated city, and everyone freezes. An icy dagger of dread buries itself through the growing warmth in Steven's chest as all eyes turn up toward the crater's edge. The Regis.

But rather than looming down as before, the trio of titans stands with their backs on Sootopolis, the morning sun casting a halo of light around their imposing forms. A strange chattering sound rises through the air, joined by clattering and clanking, and Steven realizes only then that the tablet by his side is broken. With their link severed, the Regi's voices are muted to nothing inside his mind. Their purpose fulfilled, all that's left is for them to take their leave, and one by one they slip below the lip of the crater without another sound.

Steven exhales the shaky breath he's been holding and feels Wallace do the same. All eyes are back on him, and he realizes he's never given Wallace a response. He peeks over Wallace's shoulder only briefly, his pokemon waiting just as patiently as his friend. "I'll try," is the most honest answer he can muster.

And for the first time, the ghost of a smile dances across Wallace's face. "I guess that will have to do." He offers Steven his hand as he rises. Steven accepts it and is hoisted to his feet where he wobbles only momentarily before Wallace steadies him. "I hope you know, Steven Stone, just how impossibly exhausting it is to be your friend. I believe these are yours, by the way."

Three objects are shoved into Steven's hands. Two pokeballs and his PokeNav. Wallace looks at him expectantly, waggling his open palm. Steven quickly realizes what the gesture means, and he pulls out the two borrowed pokeballs from his pocket. While Wallace is occupied with his two returned partners, Steven turns his attention to the PokeNav, and his stomach does a flip.

'Message failed—'

He deletes the message. He'll explain everything later. For now, he pockets the device and rests his hand against the cool steel of Metagross's brow. If he listens closely, he can hear the faint sound of windchimes dancing on the breeze. He turns his gaze upward toward the clear blue sky and makes one final promise.

"I'll try."
 

K_S

Pokémon Trainer
Having just come up from a majora mask binge that summary carries some extra weight just walking in.

Though the title as well nice shout out for a move sets and scenario in ine stab.

Well i'm glad they were able to get the peopke out. Though getting a "safe" distance is going to be unfeasable at some point in the near future.

So we start with the end of the wolrd as we know it but its too late.

So who is going to be the one with the hero complex i wonder. Because near everyone but wattson has a prayer of making a mark and against a legend his team is foin to need so many rare candies.

And while i get wallace might want to step up... Per loyalties to legends people and place his team is utterly not built for anything but emergency transport at this point.

Which drake gets i think and i kinda hope he can either negotiate or bean mr. Hero upside the head and drag him off at this point...

So we can utterly blame mr. Archie... Nice. Though i suppose absolute last ditch the region can pull a sos outside thier region to let other kniw what aqua stole to stop them from drowning... Hopefully... Maybe....

Wonder where magmas in on this... Because canonically yhey might have the other stone which might serve a dodgy plan b. Though i doubt we will get that type of dues ex mechanica in this tale with how bad its going just in the opening lines...

And by steven chiming in i suspect weve got a two for one on the altruism train.. Headong for final destination. If drake head desks i dont blame the man at this point...

So did wallece accidentally plot his photogetic pose for his ,not alone" anouncment or is that he that type of lucky?

Yeah no wonder it errupts. Whike the dialogue is distinctive enough to tell whose who getting to see thier reactions via a snopit of description would have beem a nice addition.

I feel like the relicanth is the start of an odd noodle impliment...

Now w most modern gens we get cover set critter and three mini legends... So with them breaking off into threes i guess thats what they might be aiming for idea wise... But the stone age fishnis throwing me for a loop.

Also cant anyone call the rrgions professor and emergency xfer it to the (hopefully not drowned) pokecenter or are things too critical state for that to be viable?

Ah well lets see how it goes.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
Chapter 2:
His partner materializes on one of the city's mid levels, its claws sinking into the sloping volcanic stone like anchors. It doesn't take much to locate Kyogre circling overhead; the beast's massive wingspan slices through the swirling clouds with ease, an ominous silhouette flickering in and out of view as lightning rips through the sky. As he catches sight of the legendary beast, whatever command Steven had been ready to give dies on his lips, words suddenly feeling insignificant in the shadow of a god.
My gosh Pano, starting with a banger and banger prose. 'In The Shadow of a God' is a great chapter title if you're into that kind of thing btw.

But in an instant, he wonders no more as a bolt of blue energy slams into the cliff side, obliterating the spot where his partner had stood.
You almost gave me a heart attack. I know you're not a cruel writer but boy for a second I sure was scared. Crunchy prose. I love it.

If Drake were a betting man, he would've put money on this being the first rainfall the desert had ever seen. Resting with his back against a wet sandstone slab, he watches his Flygon
immediate 10/10 fic, there's a Flygon in it.

It's the fact that, until now, he's forgotten what it's like to fear.
This is such a banger section and a banger sentence and just :okgon: prose.

This chapter is just full of tension and building desperation. I am loving the way you cut between each of the E4's POV's and show their experiences as they face this perilous situation. You characterize all of them so well and so distinctly. And at the center of it all is their unified faith in Steven, which acts as a great linking point. I get a feeling faith is a central theme in this whole fic. Faith in ones pokemon, in one's trainer, in one's friends, and in the ancient tales from the past. Faith&Friendship are two of my bread and butter, especially friends having to have the best kind of faith - blind, where its only your trust and relationship with the person that leads you to listen and obey, without understanding everything with certainty.

Also, this chapter somehow feels like such a good 'calm before the storm' even though they're in the midst of a storm. There's a sense of building towards something, since each of them are reflecting on this Plan:tm: Steven has. Whatever it is. Knowing crazy Steven its not one they will like lol.

As a final aside, I'm living for the mental image of Kyogre flying. I feel like this is so rarely used its just magnificent, extremely scary mental image.

Chapter 3:

He's ready to start the beginning of the end.
Pano these lines are fire what the heck. This would be another good chapter title btw

And the hand of ice around his heart squeezes.
This entire section was exquisite. The comparisons to each of their elements, and what Steven is feeling, the brief interactions with the titans packing so much punch... mmmmm

Steven lies face down in the water, unmoving.
You know what I said before about being cruel? I take it back. Pano my HEART what is this

Gosh this chapter is so short, but it really wastes no time. I love how you use such concise storytelling. No in-between, no filler or dragging things out, each moment serving a purpose. I also think that for the most part, the omniscient POV worked well, I didn't have any confusions figuring out whose POV was whose, even though it moved between characters.

I'm also exceedingly curious where this will go from here? There's a good few more chapters to go. I know this is a fix-it fic for the adventures manga, but I'm unfamiliar with the story so this is all new to me. I'm not sure which parts are your lovely HC and which are stuff belonging to the manga, but I like it all. The idea of needing specific pokemon, all 'ancient' pokemon, to summon these titans... The ancient tablet written in Sinnohan (hello Regigigas tie in), the glyphs and the light and the mysticism of it all feels very oldschool gritty pokemon, a delightful balance of the heart of the anime but the stakes and intensity from old pokemon and Adventures.

Also it was very creepy too, and I love the inclusion of Phoebe's POV to show us the spirit side of things. There's also what seems to be the implied WB that the Titans are Hoenn's ancient protectors and later people came to fear them? And ofc there's the lovely price to summon them.... Oh Steven you idiot...

But also Pano can you stop ripping my heart out? I kind of need it.

Chapter 4

I'm gonna call this one 'Hold the Line'

"We must last until the Regis arrive. Hold the line at all costs!"
What a great line. This one really struck emotionally. The desperation, the resolve... :okgon:

Milotic's shuddering wail is the only warning before Kyogre's attack hits its target. There's no time for Wallace to finish his thought. He becomes weightless as the Gym roof gives way beneath their feet.
PANOOO

I have a lot of feelings about this chapter. I was desperately scared about Steven lookin real dead for a second?? its a rather surrel experience to read a fic based off a product I'm unfamiliar with and then wondering how its gonna go and really not knowing. You'remaking me go gray!!! The fear from Wallace in the beginning of this chapter was thoroughly palpable. Everything about it was deliciously whumpy in his fear and despair. And then Steven being not dead and gathering his resolve to defend against Kyogre until the titans arrive. The tension is delicious.

Sidney with a Mandibuzz is just... mmmm yes. Love that, love the mental image of him egging on the titan, and then I especially love the implication that the Titans are very large. The Lucario movie inexplicably kind of has them be small enough to plausibly fit inside a house but having them be quite larger is very nice.

And then you hit me a cliffhanger. Luckily the whole story is up!!!

Chapter 5

YEAH FINE ITS NOT LIKE I NEEDED MY HEART ANYWAY

I'm honestly choked up inside,, Ooof,ouch. ...
But Steven is not ready to celebrate just yet. "Where's Aggron?"
DONT SCARE ME LIKE THIS

His partner lands heavily, allowing the weight of its other passenger to slump to the ground. Metagross creaks and groans as it tries to rise from where it collapsed upon landing, no longer supported by Salamence's sturdy frame. Its hide is so damaged there are visible cracks through the steel. The cross above its left eye is caved in, rendering the eye almost useless. One leg doesn't even respond as it struggles to crawl toward its trainer. Steven can't tear his eyes away.
Metagross nooooo . My heart broke at this part.

The titans bring their arms to bear as one, a white energy growing and dancing between their hands. There is something terrible in that energy; everyone can feel its overwhelming presence. All eyes are turned to the sky as the Regi's power grows. Phoebe whimpers, and Sidney wraps his arm tighter around her shoulders, expression tight. Glacia and Drake share a tense look, but say nothing. Even Wallace cannot suppress a shiver where he kneels next to Steven's side. They'd been nothing in the face of Kyogre's awakening. They'd thought there was nothing left that could oppose the sea god's wrath. How wrong they were.
This was such a crisp good piece of prose.

Bursts of light dance across the Regi's forms, mixing with the sparking flashes of their own power. The glyphs of their faces expressionless, hauntingly stoic in the face of such chaos.
CRISPY

They have seen ages and eons, and they know that the sea god does not have dominion over this world. Like the spires of an ancient church, they stand unflinching, staring down at the creature that dares to claim Hoenn as its own. Under their guard, Kyogre would not triumph. It had never triumphed as long as they had kept watch, and they would not allow it to happen this time either. Hoenn will persist.
Aaahhh what,,, such a good line. Really ties into what I mentioned earlier about feeling like a central theme of this story is faith. I also love how the legendaries feel in this. There's such a sense of ancient power and reverance and a this sense of... I'm not sure the word for it, but I like it. Old, primal, benevolent.

Also what a good line. "Hoenn will persist."

"It is done. The pact is complete."
;.;

From the top edge of the crater's walls, sunlight peeks through, the first rays of morning sneaking through the thinning clouds.
such a soft, bittersweet line,,,

But the titans wait no longer. As Steven feels the icy presence take its leave, his last breath leaves with it. The strength leaves his limbs. The world around him is just so dark... He slumps forward. He's exhausted. He doesn't even feel it when his he hits the ground.

Beside him, the ancient tablet has broken in two, the voices of the spirits nothing more than a whisper in the winds. The seal is lifted, the Regis are free, and in the eerie calm left in the aftermath of Kyogre's rampage, Steven Stone gives his life in return for the region he loves.
My heart is in pieces... I felt this coming, I saw it, and yet I kept wishing there was another way. But there wasn't.

This chapter was such a heavy, hard one. And it was so good. The inevitable ending came and it hurt so horribly but it was also so well done. It was well foreshadowed, and handled in a way where I felt mad but also knew that there was no other way this could go (and really, isn't that the most tragic part). The entire sequence, the battle, and then what followed.... you really painted a picture with words. I felt so engrossed in the text I wasn't thinking about any crit tbh.

The entire last sequence with Steven was just... peak... pretty nicely fits the narrow fantasy I sometimes have in my head when I sometimes kill my characters before I go to sleep.

Still crying inside.

Then the aftermath section. I'm really glad this is hear, because there's nothing worse than a death that doesn't have a followup closer. It feels like a thread left dangling.

ut because Aggron, in its grief, refused to let anyone come near the home unless they were Steven himself. It had become so fiercely territorial that the road to the small cliffside cottage was blocked with barricades to keep accidental passerbys safe from its rampage. No amount of consoling or pleading would calm it, so Wallace turns on his heel almost as soon as he arrives, and takes its empty pokeball with him to Ever Grande, to be placed with the rest of Steven's belongings.
ooof ouch my heart. Aggron... I can't imagine how poorly his pokemon are faring. Poor poor Aggron...

oseph had given him a shattered smile, and those tired eyes drifted off to some part of the room, far away and out of focus.
I love the descriptor of 'shattered smile'. This whole section felt very raw and real, really captures the wide nebula of emotions surrounding grief.

Wallace's cheeks are wet, and he can't even blame it on the rain. He tilts his head to the clear blue sky, because he wants him to see. To see all of the beautiful and wondrous and broken things he left behind.

"I have never been more angry with you, Steven Stone, than I am right now. I just want you to know that."
Oh poor Wallace , also tasty prose here and all, mood, I hate you too Steven, darn you!! Darn you!!!!!

Chaper 6

I'm writing this as I read each chapter, so i have no idea what happens in 7 but I think 6 serves as a lovely segway or in-between to whatever is probably to come. It's a deceptively simple chapter but after the buildup of the previous 5 it carries so much weight. It's also a fantastic bit of exposition to fill in the gaps that are hard to intuit from context clues, although luckily the writing is so solid its pretty easy to grasp what Steven did and what he sacrificed.

It was what any Champion should have done.
This is such an evocative and powerful line, and speaks layers to Steven as his outlook. He never wanted to be a great hero or to be known like that, but rather his actions were simply a matter of duty, and no more. His duty and love for Hoenn shone brighter than all else, and he chose to do a final act to save the land he loved.

And really, what greater love is there than to lay down ones life for another? Steven is givin his life not just for friends, bu for Hoenn itself, and for everything Hoenn gave to him. Such a small yet magnanimous sacrifice... One for millions. It's really beautiful and heart wrenching.

Chapter 7

.....

"Hi, Mom."
This feltlike a gut punch

There's such a raw, heart rending emotion about this entire first section, especially the idea of seeing your son before your husband... its a special kind of grief, the idea of a father outliving his son...a mother reuniting in the afterlife with her son before her husband. Uniquely tragic.

"I've given you life once already. What kind of mother would I be if I passed up the chance to give it to you again?"
I love her, I love her so much. She's here on screen for such a short time but she has such a presence honestly.

Metagross's happy cry reverberates through him until it rattles his very soul.

He's back in Sootopolis.

He's alive

😭
But its exit was not without a trace. Manipulation of the flow of time is a messy thing; imprecise on even the best days. Somewhere in the back of her mind—in the back of everyone's mind—is the ghost of memories that supposedly never happened. Like the feeling of something you should remember, something you couldn't quite put into words, sitting right on the tip of your tongue, something lingered, sour and repugnant. The feeling that in deep in their hearts, they knew Steven had died. They had seen it with their own two eyes. Lived it. For days… weeks. And then suddenly, it was nothing more than a lie. A myth. A fairy tale full of nightmares. Because he was alive. Right there in front of them. Living, breathing proof that somewhere, somehow, a second chance had been granted.

I have so many feelings about this entire section, and everything that follows and everything around it. Putting it properly into words is actually really hard. I have so many emotions I'm feeling about this story, and especially its ending. I came in basically expecting a tragedy, but hoping it wasn't but convinced it would be anyway, and then fearing I would was right.

And I think a lot of writers might have stopped at 6. A strong, bittersweet tragedy to make you contemplate the nature of love and sacrifice, right? A final stand, a heroic cause, and only one life lost. A realistic and thought provoking story, right? Except you were brave. Braver than the norm. Many stories about death, sacrifice and the laying down ones life for love choose to stop there. Too afraid to broach further, to imagine a world wider, to conceive of a miracle wrought through the hands of love.

A glimpse into another life, Steven meeting his mom, and her final gift to him. truly an absurd miracle, a deus ex machina, some might try to call it. But it isn't. It's a reward. A final boon granted from love, a miracle utterly unexpected. A joy, for both the characters and the reader. To take a step beyond what is typical and revive the main character is just... beautiful. Except the word beautiful feels like a pale shadow of the words I want to evoke. Truly, this ending actually sparked Narnia-esque vibes for me, which is high praise.

Something about this resonated really deeply and personally. It feels so... hmmmm the words are too simple, but it feels... special. Bright. Magical even, but not like a shallow or meaningless way but like... this is the pokemon world, and we're allowed to believe in the unknown. That there's higher, benevolent forces at work watching over Steven, that Celebi would do this one little gift, that Steven's mom would give herself again.

Faith, love, sacrifice and the miracles they can bring. Gosh I cannot stop thinking about the absolutely boldly incredible and actually realistic ending you opted for, to bring Steven back. Masterful.

I can't even remember any crit, frankly. The prose just kept punching and punching, and I was on an emotional rollercoaster and very nearly teared up. The characters and the story and themes and prose and just all of it was like a full course meal with a absolutely banger dessert aaaaa

It's a cliche I said several times and I'll say again, my words are rather failing me here. But the story feels so rich in conveying themes and an ideal and I love that. it's powerful.

Ugh,,,, Gud fic????
I can't even say please update but I do hope you continue to deliver more fantastic pano stories, thank you for this.
 

HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
So…I can’t believe I’ve never reviewed this?? I think I had it in my head that I had at one point because we chatted about it or something?

Regardless, I am here to RIGHT THIS WRONG, this is an absolutely stellar fic and it deserves all the love in the world. I’m genuinely so excited to rant about how Luc I love this fic.

I pulled some lines that stood out to me this time reading through, and then I’ll chat more about the three chapters I’ve covered in general (and I’ll definitely be back to the review the rest…probably tomorrow!)

"A city can always be rebuilt. A people cannot."
Just wanted to point this one out because it’s beautiful, powerful, and right to the point—just like its speaker! This is such a Glacia line.

It doesn't take much to locate Kyogre circling overhead; the beast's massive wingspan slices through the swirling clouds with ease, an ominous silhouette flickering in and out of view as lightning rips through the sky.
GOOOOSH this image is SO POWERFUL, I love the use of the word “slices” here, I can picture this SO vividly. I want to paint it.

Metagross is tough, but steel can endure only so much before it yields.
Why does it feel like this line isn’t just talking about Metagross 🥲

This was never their battle to win.
You really know how to punch a reader in the gut with a good one-liner, and this fic is freaking full of them. (I’ve noticed Tetra excels at this too; no wonder I love both of your guys’ writing so much 😂)

Guerrilla warfare only works when there's someplace left to hide.
I just??? Love??? These lines??? They communicate so much without needing to outline every detail. How do you freaking do it? TEACH ME YOUR WAYS??

It's just temporary," he lies through his teeth.
Ah yes, the good old “he lies” dialogue tag. We love them things round these parts. :copyka:

Drake can't decide which is worse, the wind, the rain, or the wait. He bets he knows which one Flygon hates the most. And then he decides the thing he hates the most isn't any of those three options after all.

It's the fact that, until now, he's forgotten what it's like to fear.
AGAIN WITH THE ONE-LINERS. I hate you. 😂 You’re so good at these, it is literally unfair.

And maybe that's why she's so mad about all of this. She's worried. Because the only time you should worry about losing loved ones is to the whims of time itself. And the only time you were supposed to fear the legends is when you misbehaved and your mother threatened that Giratina liked to snack on naughty children. And the only time you should be standing in the pouring rain waiting for a signal unknown is only in the most dire of circumstances.
I am absolutely enamored with the way you outlined all of the elite four here, in this chapter and in the fic in general. I’ll elaborate more at the end of the review, but you get such a firm grasp on their personalities even with such small little flashes from their perspective. Drake quietly remembering what fear feels like, Glacia reacting with anger because she hates worrying and especially hates worrying while feeling powerless, Sidney just going silent and following through even though he’s angry (probably for similar reasons), etc.

Steven's hand twitches towards his belt for a second before he stops himself. That particular pokeball is no longer in its usual place, left in the care of his friend with an unspoken guarantee that it will remain empty. It takes significant effort to think beyond the racing of his heart. He knows Metagross can feel it too. His gaze rolls skyward.

He's ready to start the beginning of the end.
“Unspoken guarantee that it will remain empty” really tears at my heart here. The unspoken understanding and farewell between Steven and Metagross absolutely wrecks me. I’ll elaborate more below:

And so he relays his farewell to the pokemon he's known for his whole life —his first pokemon, his first true friend— and he feels it in his heart as Metagross cries out with the desperation of its love.
This. This right here.

Metagross has been with Steven longer than any other character present. The only character that beats that record is Steven’s father—but he was so absent that when it really comes down to it, Metagross has spent more time with Steven than any other living being. They know Steven inside and out, quite literally with their psychic connection, and they have the closest bond. More than Steven’s family, more than his best friend, more than his other Pokémon. They are each others’ rocks, the most solid foundation they’ve known. (Pun not intended but look, it works)

All of that is to say, the way you execute their understanding and silent farewell here is just…perfect. It doesn’t need to be a big drawn out thing with lots of emotional fanfare, because that’s not who they are. Obviously, current circumstances play a factor here too, but I’m not just talking about that, I’m talking about the writing in general and how you chose not to linger on this part. It was a perfect decision, and with how perfectly in character it is for both of them, it makes it all the more heartbreaking.

Through the sound of his own pulse ringing in his ears, he hears Aggron roar with protective righteousness. The Gym roof shakes as his partner charges forward, ready to tear whatever is harming his trainer into little tiny shreds. But Steven can't let that happen. He is barely able to pry his hand away from the tablet. It flies up, palm out, and Aggron freezes mid-charge.
Oh gosh. Oh my heart. Reading this, after everything I got to see in AQ, is destroying me. 😭 Aggron cares SO MUCH, his whole identity is protecting Steven, and now he can’t, and he doesn’t even know why. I HATE YOU

Steven's body shakes as he takes another shuddering breath. He's never felt a pain such as this. A sudden weight is pressing down against his shoulder blades, forcing him to hunch closer to the earth, and each lungful of air is a battle. The icy hand of dread that had seeped from the tablet the moment he spoke the first words of the scripture snakes its way around his heart. He can feel it pulse with growing strength as its fingers close tighter. It hurts, it hurts so badly, and he cries out as another presence, sharp as steel, jabs through his gut.
Okay I know I’ve commented on this before, but I MUST point it out again because it’s so good.

You have some lines that really stand out because they’re meant to, or because they’re so visceral and powerful. But then you also have some subtler elements in your writing that are just pure genius that are just as good. I noticed it with your subtle formatting theme in your nightmare AQ post, and I see it here now where you symbolize and describe Steven’s pain with the elements of the Regis. It’s so freaking good AND provides a solid visual for what he’s feeling and I love an absurd amount.

Okay, just a few more things to comment on!

I want to revisit what I said about the elite four, especially since they all have their moments to shine in chapter one. I love that you can tell who is speaking without even needing a dialogue tag, because all of their voices are so distinct and so perfectly in-character, all while without going into caricature territory like many canon characters are prone to do.

They each have a distinct reaction to Steven’s plan, and none of them have the slightest clue what he’s asking of them, and by all accounts it probably makes no sense at all. But they freaking do it anyway because THEY TRUST HIM SO MUCH. 😭 Even if they’re pissed about it (Sidney) or worried sick and confused (Glacia) or afraid and uncertain what’s going to happen (Drake) or overwhelmed and struggling to make sense of anything (Phoebe), or they follow along to humor him and trust that it will make sense later (Wallace), they do it. And Steven doesn’t even have to ask them twice.

Like. UGH. That kind of loyalty and faith doesn’t come from a simple co-worker relationship. That comes from some real tried-and true bonds right there, from something that’s even deeper than family, and that makes me FEEL THINGS. I’M FEELING THINGS, PANO, AND IT’S YOUR FAULT.

Wow this review got wayyy longer than I planned haha. I just have so much to gush about! Anyway, I’ll swing by tomorrow for another batch of 3!
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
For Blitz purposes: Number of Reviews per chapter!

All chapters are eligible for Blitz 22/23 week3 bonus!
It's free real estate, my deerlings and darlings!
1673437249023.png
 

HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Back for more, as promised! A couple of the most gut-wrenching lines within the entire fic are in these chapters. 😭

Something is happening. Phoebe can sense it too. A great omen, an immense power… The spirits are no longer crying for death; they are crying for salvation.
I meant to mention this in the previous review, but I really love how you use Phoebe’s eyes to describe what’s actually happening! From the visuals of what’s happening with Steven, to the very eerie voices of the spirits, it comes together so well and it gives Phoebe a more active role, which is always nice to see.

"Steven what the —" A burst of static that sounds like the rusted gears of a train car jars the speaker. "— we supposed to be doing? What is this thing?!"
Lolololol I enjoy the creative censorship here 😂 because we all know what Sidney said!

But Phoebe steps in, and somehow her voice is strong and steady. "Just get here as soon as you can. All of you."
Phoebe is a freaking VIP in this fic and I AM A BIG FAN. WE LOVE TO SEE IT. I LOVE HER.
Steven weakly shakes his head, answering the PokeNav now back in his hands. "No… they'll follow you easily. They just… I just…" He stumbles, nearly falling from Wallace's grasp, clutching at his midsection with the arm that Wallace isn't clinging onto for dear life.
I am such a SUCKER for whump where friends are trying to help the victim stand yet everyone is having a hard time due to the pain the victim is in. I’m ALSO a big fan of seeing the character double over and/or collapse from pain, AND BOY do we get a lot of that here. I love it. :copyka:
It's agonizing to watch how the Champion has been reduced to such a helpless state. He's barely upright and leaning on Wallace so heavily that at this point it's almost better if the Gym Leader outright carries him. But his expression—she's seen it before back at the League, that look of steely-eyed resolve—is still so determined that it leaves Phoebe in awe.
Also a huge fan of the defiant characters that can barely stand but they still have FIRE in their eyes and a determination to keep going no matter what. Steven does this better than anyone else, and every time you describe this it makes me SO HAPPY. Ugh it’s just so good, inject that into my veins repeatedly please

Armaldo is shaking, but puts on a brave face next to Aggron's hulking form, the latter of which hasn't budged since his trainer's command to do just that. Steven knows it's torturous for the overprotective steel type to do nothing but watch, and he hopes his lingering gaze is enough of an apology. It has to be, because Steven can't bring himself to meet Cradily's anguished stare. Her cries have softened now, though she still quivers from her distress. Even without looking, the guilt makes his heart clench. Despite all of his regret, he is endlessly proud of them. He hopes that after it's over, Claydol relays as much to the rest of his team.
I took the time to actually pause and really visualize each of them here, which is something that I didn’t do in my previous readings—at least, not quite so consciously. And man it made such a difference. Just like how the elite four have total faith and trust in Steven, his Pokémon have even more, and here they are, totally confused and afraid and completely exposed to Kyogre, but they stand firm. 😢 Gosh my heart. I love them all so much.

"It knows."

And then it's like a bomb goes off. Kyogre roars, and Wallace panics, and Steven is turning toward his pokemon with orders for every defensive move that they know.
REALLY loved how the paragraphs before this felt like everything was in slow motion, and then suddenly everything hits the fan all at once. “Orders for every defensive move they know” is so powerful it gives me chills.

As Wallace's prized Milotic materializes alongside his other partners, Steven allows himself a moment to muse; his friend really would make a good Champion…
The way he’s so prepared to die, and a big reason for that is because he knows Hoenn will be in excellent hands with Wallace and the rest of the League. 😢 There’s some really powerful unspoken love and trust packed into these lines.

"All aboard the Save Hoenn Express!" Sidney whoops to the sky, and Mandibuzz screeches in unison. "Next stop, Sootopolis!"
Well, I’m glad at least one person is having a good time in this story. 😂 Bless Sidney. What an absolute chaos gremlin.

Metagross creaks and groans as it tries to rise from where it collapsed upon landing, no longer supported by Salamence's sturdy frame. Its hide is so damaged there are visible cracks through the steel. The cross above its left eye is caved in, rendering the eye almost useless. One leg doesn't even respond as it struggles to crawl toward its trainer. Steven can't tear his eyes away.
This never fails to break my heart. Can we talk about how Metagross has been stalling an ancient god SOLO this WHOLE TIME? It doesn’t even have a type resistance—in fact, Kyogre resists its steel moves. The fact that Metagross made its way all the way back just to have one final moment with Steven makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry.

With a burst of strength, Steven lurches to his feet and stumbles as far as he can before falling to his knees at Metagross's side. He leans his head against its crest, the steel cold against his feverish brow. There are no words exchanged, the emotion pouring from Steven is all Metagross needs to know. The sound it makes is halfway between a wheeze and a sob.
I hate you, Pano, I hate you so much!

Continued from the previous chapters, that unspoken farewell is still there. Metagross doesn’t beg or protest or try to change Steven’s mind at any point. They simply understand one another, and take what little time they have left together.

The Regis make no attempt to defend themselves, and Kyogre allows itself a toothy smirk. It roars in triumph as its beam reaches full power.

The attack dies on its jaws.
Another fantastic one-liner to segue into the next stage of the fight. Don’t mind me, I’m just scribbling notes over here, this is actually a brilliant writing method!

They have seen ages and eons, and they know that the sea god does not have dominion over this world. Like the spires of an ancient church, they stand unflinching, staring down at the creature that dares to claim Hoenn as its own.
I am vibing SO HARD with the comparison to church spires, it’s just so fitting somehow, especially with all the ancient lore and mentions of spirits at work. It’s eerie, it’s otherworldly, it’s perfect.

Sootopolis stands quiet, empty, and flooded. Too damaged to allow her citizens to return to what's left of their homes, and too unstable to attempt to repair her just yet.

There is nothing Wallace can do except wait and hope.
Hhhhh. Everybody lost a lot by losing Steven, but Wallace really got the short straw here. He lost almost everything in this incident—his home, his gym, his entire city, his best friend. My heart breaks for him.

Not because he knows that's where Steven's house sits, as empty as it's always been even when he was alive. Not because it would dredge up too many reminders of what would be missing from within its walls forever. But because Aggron, in its grief, refused to let anyone come near the home unless they were Steven himself. It had become so fiercely territorial that the road to the small cliffside cottage was blocked with barricades to keep accidental passerbys safe from its rampage. No amount of consoling or pleading would calm it, so Wallace turns on his heel almost as soon as he arrives, and takes its empty pokeball with him to Ever Grande, to be placed with the rest of Steven's belongings.
STOP. This is the part that destroys me EVERY time. The amount of grief and denial Aggron must be going through to be like this, to become so fiercely territorial that people can’t come near him when any other time he’s so gentle and sweet with others—and after AQ, this just hurts EVEN MORE.

Wallace's cheeks are wet, and he can't even blame it on the rain. He tilts his head to the clear blue sky, because he wants him to see. To see all of the beautiful and wondrous and broken things he left behind.

"I have never been more angry with you, Steven Stone, than I am right now. I just want you to know that."
I love the very quiet, shell-shocked, broken way you depict grief. It’s not people wailing in the streets or having giant parades in Steven’s honor. It’s not Wallace curled up and sobbing on the floor (I mean, that probably did happen at some point but it’s not what you chose to focus on.) Instead, you focus on the way people continue carrying out their duties even with broken hearts, the way they only shed tears in private moments, the way they’re left reeling and questioning in the all the aftermath. It makes it feel so much more real and genuine, and I think it’s a more relatable depiction than if it were all wailing and sobbing.

I hope that despite my constant failings as your son, I've been able to make you proud.

I promise I will say hi to Mom for you.

Steven 😭 even while sacrificing his life for the region, he still never gives himself enough credit. I wanna smack him.

I just want to echo everything I’ve said before about how excellent this all is. In particular, since these chapters are the most action-heavy, you do a great job with writing clear and vivid descriptions of what’s happening without slowing down the pace. It’s not bogged down with too much detail, nor is it too sparse and thus confusing about what’s happening or where the battlers are. It’s a perfect balance! Goldilocks would approve. 😂💛
 
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HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Back for the finale! So far, we are 3/3 on how many times I’ve read this chapter versus how many times it manages to make me cry. There are some gorgeous and wrenching lines in here. 🥲

It's just startling that it feels like Rustboro hasn't changed one bit, but he knows that's not the case. For one, all of the usual pokemon he'd been accustomed to seeing are gone. In their stead float only ghosts, drifting in and out of the streets crowded with people ensconced in the same ethereal glow as him.
This reminds me that one of these days I’d like to pick your brain on what, if any, additional ghost lore you have. Are these ghosts here because they are ghosts of Pokémon who have passed away, too? Or are they just regular ghost mon spending their time here because this is their realm?

She's as beautiful as he remembers, pieced together from childhood memories and fond stories from his father… All traces of her illness are gone; she is tall and strong and radiant, and not even the puzzled look she gives him can dull her presence. He smiles.

"Hi, Mom."
I’d also love to pick your brain on what you picture his mom to be like, because I don’t think I’ve ever asked. I picture her having silver hair like Steven, but he could have also gotten that from his dad before Joseph’s hair went white.

She reaches out a hand to cup the face of the son she never had the chance to know.
This is where the floodgates begin to open. The pain of all the lost time they never got to have with each other, and even now, they don’t get to make up for it, because she has a sacrifice of her own to make. 💔

She gasps as the wind picks up again, sending the chimes dancing. The breeze is short and swift, but as it dies down, the chimes don't die with it. They sway and clink and rattle in the still air, and it's only then that Steven realizes that the windchimes in the spirit world are special, too.

Chimecho hang in the trees above and sing, their tails swaying in time as the air swirls with light— drifting particles that glow and pulse with the same spirit energy that surrounds his mother...
I love the role Chimecho play here, and even though I don’t really have a reference for it, I can imagine the haunting sounds of the wind chimes. A sound that is normally associated with peaceful quiet, but now it’s signifying something much more than that. Something said, eerie, and beautiful.

Her eyes flick down to where a worn silver band rests around one of his fingers. He's wearing several, but this one stands out. She'd never forget it. It was hers.
It’s one thing to know Steven’s ring (rings?) belonged to his mom, and another to see it in action as she recognizes it herself. Ugh.

"I've given you life once already. What kind of mother would I be if I passed up the chance to give it to you again?"
This line makes me feel things. So many things. You captured a mother’s love so beautifully here. Ugh I’m getting teary again
As I type this.

He's five years old again in her hospital room, begging for her to stay. He doesn't want her to go away and leave him all alone. Because this time, the memory is filled with the emptiness that comes afterward. He hugs her so hard that maybe if he never lets go, he can still save her. That's what he's supposed to do: save people.

She's slipping through his fingers like grains of sand.
This is so unfair, especially when you realize she’s giving up her chance to eventually be reunited with her whole family one day. It hurts!!!

Because as she recognized Celebi for what it is, she also realized how easy it would have been for it to have erased all trace of its intervention as easily as it reset the timeline. Instead, it met her own shocked stare with its bright blue eyes and grinned, a child-like giggle echoing in a way that only Phoebe could hear. And as she watched with tear streaked shock when the life flooded back into Steven, Celebi had given her a mischievous wink before blinking back out of existence, like it had never even been there in the first place.
I love the continued use of Phoebe’s sight once again, and the way you depict Celebi as a bit impish and mischievous. (I also love that you used Celebi in a way that makes sense here, unlike the freaking manga. 😂)

But its exit was not without a trace. Manipulation of the flow of time is a messy thing; imprecise on even the best days. Somewhere in the back of her mind—in the back of everyone's mind—is the ghost of memories that supposedly never happened. Like the feeling of something you should remember, something you couldn't quite put into words, sitting right on the tip of your tongue, something lingered, sour and repugnant. The feeling that in deep in their hearts, they knew Steven had died. They had seen it with their own two eyes. Lived it. For days… weeks. And then suddenly, it was nothing more than a lie. A myth. A fairy tale full of nightmares. Because he was alive. Right there in front of them. Living, breathing proof that somewhere, somehow, a second chance had been granted.
This is a really abstract concept that I personally would have REALLY struggled to put into words, but you nailed it. How eerie, that they all got this sense of loss and horror—a glimpse of the “bad ending”—without even being able to fully grasp it or put words to it. Sheeesh.

If he listens closely, he can hear the faint sound of windchimes dancing on the breeze. He turns his gaze upward toward the clear blue sky and makes one final promise.

"I'll try."
More wind chimes 🥲 It makes me wonder if she’s completely gone now, or if maybe there’s still some small part of her that’s still around, still watching and lingering. But that’s not for Steven (or us, the readers) to know.

Gosh I love this fic so much. I know we both like to meme on it being your Ultimate Angst fic, and it certainly has no shortage of that. But, memes and jokes aside, this really is so much more than that. At its core, this fic is about love. The love one has for their friends and family and country to lay down their life. The love the E4 and Steven’s Pokémon have to put complete trust in him, despite him refusing to explain anything. And ultimately, it’s the love of a mother that brings him back; her choice to take the consequences of her son’s decision upon her shoulders, so that he can keep on living.

This is a beautiful story, one that is close to my heart, and one that I confidently believe will stand the test of time thanks to the themes and messages within it. Thank you for writing this, and above all, thank you for sharing it. 💛
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
HELLO I am here for my Review Blitz W3 bonus--I mean, I'm here for great Hoenn fic content! :quag: I've read a little of your stuff before and enjoyed it, and this fic in particular was recommended, so I'm excited to dig into it!

Chapter 1

Even before I've read the first sentence of the story, I LOVE the artwork you put at the beginning. The Regis! So awe-inspiring! So regal! So majestic!

First thought as I read the first sentence: present tense!! Wow! I always feel that it increases the sense of urgency.

"Wallace, it's too late to save this city. Sootopolis is lost."
It sure is with THAT attitude!

Aqua ran in fear as soon as the sea god appeared, taking the orb with them when they vanished, and with it Hoenn's last hope at quelling the beast.
Typical :rolleyes:

"I've marked three places on this map, here here and here.
I believe you're missing a comma after the first "here."

"For once we seem to share the same sentiment.
Missing a comma after "once."

That the strain of summoning one Regi is already a monumental feat for a person to bear; he's read it in the ancient texts and had it corroborated by the researchers in Sinnoh. Summoning all three at once is simply not survivable.
Ooh! I know you said in the preview that this was based on the Pokemon Special, and I see now where it's coming from! I read the RS chapter so I remember some of the details, like this.

He extends a hand to his friend, a gesture of good faith and reassurance, even though it feels empty.
It's interesting how some moments of human life that are so full of emotion, that are out of our control, that should be incredibly touching, will actually drain all of the feeling from the moment.

And in a flutter of white, Wallace leaves with the single minded goal of adding a Relicanth to his belt alongside his Wailord. He is going to name it Steven, because its head is as rock hard as his friend's.
Ah, this is both super cheesy and incredibly sweet at the same time!

Steven watches Wallace go before rolling his gaze to the ceiling. There he says a silent prayer that should Hoenn survive, Wallace will forgive him. That they'll all forgive him.
I find this really interesting! Who, or what, is Steven praying to? Does he believe in some sort of higher power? It's curious that his prayer is that he'll be forgiven if he survives--not that Hoenn will survive, or that he'll see his friend and family again, but that he can receive others' forgiveness. It gives a glimpse to his interior life and his priorities: even in the midst of a cataclysmic event, Steven wants to hold his relationships as close as he can.

So, you don't need me to tell you that this is a GREAT premise to a fic. I'm a sucker for Hoenn, especially the evil teams and legendaries, and you've started us off smack-dab in the middle of the biggest thing to happen! Team Aqua has succeeded (kinda), Hoenn is about to fall apart, Kyogre is awakened, and the League is scrambling to do something. There are so many places the story can go from here. I LOVE reading about other peoples' take on the Hoenn storyline, and it's so neat to see how we all write it differently!

I think it's interesting that you only have Kyogre awake and there's no mention of Team Magma or Groudon (at least, not yet). Perhaps I'll soon find out why that is! If not, any reason you chose to focus on Kyogre? And why he can't leave the Sootopolis crater?

Onto chapter 2!

Chapter 2

Steven learns quickly that the land is no place to face a god of the seas.
:copyka:

The first glimpse of Kyogre's shadow is neat, but I'd like to see more of Steven's impression of him!

Because ever since it found out about the plan— Steven's tumbling emotions had been easy enough to sense— it swore it would be by its trainer's side until the end, regardless of how unbearable the thought of continuing on without him is. This was never their battle to win.
Considering he spent so long with a Pokemon who cares so deeply for him, to the point that he's willing to give up his life, it makes sense that Steven cares so much about all of his relationships. Also interesting to see him acknowledge that they won't win the fight. He referred to Kyogre as a "god," and, since I have the impression he's someone who believes in higher powers, it would bring into question what a "god" is if he believed that Metagross could truly defeat one.

But like any flame in a downpour, it's extinguished in an instant as an entire city block is leveled as Kyogre lashes out, and his heart sinks again.
Ah, saw that coming. Hiding in the streets? Kyogre will make sure there are NO MORE streets!

Steven's second silent prayer of the night is for Phoebe and Wallace to return swiftly.
This prayer makes a lot of sense, since it's directly related to their survival, but it's still striking how he doesn't directly pray for Metagross's life or well-being--that Steven is confident enough the return of his friends will mean that their lives are secured, so he prays that his preconceived plan will pan out the way he intends. It again shows that he has a lot of confidence in himself, and, to an extent, sees himself as having full understanding of how things should best work out.

Geeze, Steven must be FREEZING from Skarmory's back! Pouring rain is one thing, but added to flying through the air so he's constantly buffeted by wind, AND he's gripping a Pokemon made of ice-cold metal--no wonder his grip is numb! I'm surprised he was able to hang on as long as he did.

But as soon as Wallace leans close, Steven coughs and Wallace nearly drops him in surprise. The Champion is soggy and disheveled and barely able to sit up under his own power, yet he laughs between coughs.
And vomiting up seawater, I imagine! Ugh, that must be excruciating--not just the impact of hitting the ocean water, especially if he sank down pretty far, but having that much seawater forced down your throat has to sting so badly.

"And Skarmory's too. I need that Relicanth on my team, and your Wailord as well."

But Wallace still doesn't move.

"Steven, what is going on?"
Uhhh you're gonna ask your best friend for one of his beloved companion Pokemon without even telling him what you plan on doing????

"Now all that's left is to wait for Phoebe to arrive."
Good gravy, Steven. I know that, as the Champion, he has to be cool, calm, and collected, but to convince your best friend to swap Pokemon in a life-threatening situation and not explain what's happening apart from a "trust me"? How much harm would it cause to explain the situation?

No matter how many dragons he commands, it still wouldn't be enough to stop Kyogre's rampage.
It might not matter how many dragons he commands, but there is ONE dragon who could stop Kyogre's rampage! ;)

It's the fact that, until now, he's forgotten what it's like to fear.
Not just fear, but I can't imagine the anticipation and utter dread he must be feeling!

She watches Walrein fortify its ice dam at the shoreline, a weak effort to keep the rising tides at bay, and shivers.
Poor Walrein; its ice is probably just floating on top of the sea :sadwott:

I like the bit with Glacia a lot; we really get a glimpse not only into her current state of mind, but also into her history, her life growing up, and how badly she wants to protect everyone she knows.

The truly terrifying thing had been that the second Phoebe's fingers brushed the ancient stone, the spirit's voices cried out all at once, and she nearly buckled from the force. It had taken considerable effort to conceal her alarm and bid the museum director farewell.
Interesting! Does this happen to everyone who handles the tablet, or is there something special about Phoebe?

This chapter was very action-packed in the beginning, and I like how it slows down a lot as it goes into each member of the Elite Four reflecting on the situation. I do find it odd that Sidney wasn't shown; we only get to see what Glacia has observed of him, but we don't see what he's actually thinking. I'm sure we will before long, though! Also curious to see what all of the Gym Leaders are donig; Wallace is helping out Steven, but what of the others? Are they helping to evacuate Hoenn? Do they have other duties? Or are they not part of this fight at all?

Chapter 3

At first she thought it must have been from the chill of the storm, but now that she's seen the grim look in his eyes she isn't so sure…
Considering she was able to hear screaming spirits when she held the tablet, I imagine that anyone's hands would be shaking!

The description of Steven summoning the spirits and reciting the incantation is very chilling!

And the hand of ice around his heart squeezes.
I don't know why, but it took me until this sentence to realize that the sensations of ice, steel and rock that Steven keep feeling are the titans directly acting on him and causing him pain ^_^;

Steven lies face down in the water, unmoving.
STEVEN NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Quick, someone get a Celebi!

Wallace and Phoebe's reactions to Steven summoning the Regis provided a nice contrast: Wallace, understandably, was freaking out and went into fight mode. Phoebe understood what was going on, so she wasn't trying to stop Steven, but was interiorly distraught because she knew he was giving his life up. It shows that she had confidence in his plan, since she didn't try to stop him.

I don't have much to say about this chapter--it was short, but definitely impactful! I really like your prose; you keep the action scenes tense and dramatic, and when you describe Steven summoning the titans, it becomes more descriptive--but not so much that it distracts from what's happening. The appearance of the Regis is so thrilling! It definitely is intriguing when Regirock mentions that the humans in the past have abandoned them, and it makes me wonder what happened. If this is going along with the Pokedex canon, then the Regis were deliberately sealed away because they were considered too powerful, weren't they? It's interesting how humans trying to control/contain Pokemon is a theme among the Hoenn legendaries: the Regis have the tablet, and the weather trio has the orbs. I'm hoping we get to see some backstory to the Regis and learn why they underwent what they did!

Chapter 4

But Phoebe knows, the spirits imbuing her with their powers, and she stares straight ahead and whispers, "They're awake."
Hm! Considering she heard screams from the tablet when she touched it, and the spirits are now "imbuing her with powers," I take it that Phoebe DOES have something supernatural about her.

He nearly screams as Steven's arms flail wildly, hands grasping for something to anchor himself back in reality. They find purchase on the soaking fabric of Wallace's cloak, and Steven takes a ragged breath, like it's the first breath he's taken in years. His eyes are wide and frantic, panicked as if he just clawed his way back from the abyss. Wallace has never been so scared in his life.
Yikes! Getting some supernatural possession vibes here (which I suppose isn't too far from reality of what's happening).

She may have no idea what's going on either, but they can't falter now.
I feel like she must have SOME idea of what's going on, if she stopped Wallace from interfering with Steven's plan. And she definitely has some understanding of the spirits, since they seem to actively be doing something to her.

"This better not be one of those 'easier said than done' things."
Uhhhh do you really expect anything else when the world is literally drowning?

The tablet can't have gone far, and it's not long before she spots a faint glow a few yards away. She is already running towards it when Steven's shout freezes her in place.

"Phoebe, wait! Don't… Don't touch it. Just show me where."
This totally reminds me from that part in Return of the King when the Fellowship go to Isengard after it's been ravaged by the Ents and Pippin finds the orb that Saruman uses to communicate with Sauron! Gandalf tells Pippin not to touch it, and once he does, it ends up causing him pain like some sort of demonic object.

It's agonizing to watch how the Champion has been reduced to such a helpless state.
Since the writing has mostly had omniscient third-person POV, this sentence reads a little strangely. I take it that this part is from Phoebe's POV, but it was a bit jarring and felt out of place at first since it's written objectively.

The faint glow of the carvings increases in strength, softly pulsing in and out, and Phoebe notices the rhythm is eerily close to matching the rise and fall of Steven's own breathing.
The description of them pulsing makes me think that it's alive, acting as a heartbeat.

He hopes that after it's over, Claydol relays as much to the rest of his team.
Aw, can Claydol feel everything Steven feels, and see all of Steven's thoughts?

"It knows."
Geeze, that's chilling! Are all of these legends supernaturally connected, somehow?

As Wallace's prized Milotic materializes alongside his other partners, Steven allows himself a moment to muse; his friend really would make a good Champion…
FORESHADOWING?!

He's not sure he's supposed to be laughing in the face of the clanking, screeching monster charging across the landscape in his wake, but the momentary terror is drowned out by the sheer thrill of not having been crushed to death in the creature's steel grip.
Aw yis, finally seeing some things from Sidney's POV! But also good gravy, "I'm excited and thrilled because I'm not being tortured to death" is a really low standard!

So instead they stand by their partners, seawater now waist deep and climbing as their platform slowly disappears into the waves.
Is "get to higher ground" still an option for them?

His gaze trails up to the lip of the crater where Kyogre dodges Metagross' sneak attack by slipping into the clouds above.
Wait, is Kyogre literally flying through the air?

It's fine if you don't want to tell us everything, but it's not safe to stay—"
I want to say "it's fine," but considering that this was when Kyogre succeeded in breaking through their wall and destroying the platform they were standing on, I can't help but think that Steven should have told them more than what he did. From what I've seen so far, he has the utmost confidence in himself, and even though he's the Champion, the others aren't exactly common trainers either. They might not fully agree with his plan, but they could give insight or try to think of other ways they could hold off Kyogre instead of just gong along with Steven and relying on Metagross. Since Steven was convinced that Metagross was going to fall at some point, it would've especially been helpful if he had someone else with a powerful Pokemon to hold Kyogre off. And who would be better to trust than Wallace, since his Pokemon can resist Kyogre's typing and thus have the best chance?

Again, lots happening in this chapter! As I said, I don't fully agree with Steven's reasoning, but I'm also someone who thinks that it's usually best to be honest with the people around you, since I believe that hiding information and keeping secrets is going to ultimately bring more harm than good (especially since it can sow distrust and suspicion among people). They're definitely in hot water, and unless the Regi trio gets there ASAP, things look like they'll end quickly. Even if Steven's life isn't taken, the others' could easily perish.

But! The Regis ARE on their way, and Sidney (at the very least) is happy about it. There's so much action and lore waiting to be explored here. I'm excited to see where this goes!

Chapter 5

"Sorry, Mandibuzz, but I'm gonna go do something really stupid."
Love this great communication between friends!

Steven is barely a shell of his usual self, skin deathly pale and hands trembling as they anchor the ancient slab to his chest as if it was the only thing grounding him in reality.
I mean, the slab kinda is the only thing keeping him grounded. Without it, the Regis will stop obeying and Steven will pretty much die, right?

The sound of Sidney's voice seems to jolt Steven back to the present, and he finds the younger Elite's eyes with a shocked look of his own.
Interesting that you say that Sidney is the younger of the two of them! I always thought that Steven looked relatively young (maybe mid-20's) and Sidney was at least a little bit older, at least late-20's.

From the other edge of the platform, Cradily hoists herself onto the ice with a boost from Relicanth. The ancient pokemon had towed her back to the surface after the collapse.
Aw, I love Pokemon-Pokemon interactions like this! They're so sweet <3

"Where's Aggron?"

Wailord whines an uncertain note and Claydol echoes it. They don't remember seeing the big steel pokemon in the chaos.
Oof, if a giant hunk of rock and steel sank to the bottom of the ocean, that doesn't bode well.

Like a drowned Delcatty, Aggron drags itself onto the floe, its hindquarters lifted up by a Kingdra's bony crown.
Wow! I wasn't expecting that! And MAN, that Kingdra must be super strong!

Glacia shares a puzzled look with Sidney at the Champion's outburst, but inquires no further as a gust of wind swirls overhead.
I don't understand why she would find this weird; one of Steven's Pokemon was found to be alive after they thought he sank to the bottom of the ocean. Why wouldn't people be thankful?

"Not sure it's the gods you should be thanking, lad," Drake quips as he slides from Salamence's back.
Ah! I have two theories on this, then:
1. The others are more atheistic and don't believe in gods, and think it's strange that Steven believes in any.
2. They view Kyogre as a god, and don't understand why Steven would be thanking him.

Metagross creaks and groans as it tries to rise from where it collapsed upon landing, no longer supported by Salamence's sturdy frame. Its hide is so damaged there are visible cracks through the steel. The cross above its left eye is caved in, rendering the eye almost useless. One leg doesn't even respond as it struggles to crawl toward its trainer.
Good gravy, how is Metagross still alive, let alone moving?!

There are no words exchanged, the emotion pouring from Steven is all Metagross needs to know. The sound it makes is halfway between a wheeze and a sob.
Oof, and they're both at death's door here. I wonder what's harder: for Metagross to see Steven sickly and barely alive, or for Steven to see Metagross totally beaten and barely alive.

The water-type trainer is a complete mess. His hat long since lost to the bottom of the sea, the unspoken question in his eyes is as clear as day.
Interesting how Steven (or the narrator?) correlates the fact that Wallace lost his hat with him falling apart and being a mess.

The attack dies on its jaws.
Interesting! What attack did the Regis use on Kyogre? Superpower?

Like the spires of an ancient church, they stand unflinching, staring down at the creature that dares to claim Hoenn as its own.
Love the imagery of the titans as church spires looking down on something else that is revered as if it's a god.

Weakly, Steven can only nod. It's been his plan this entire time. If not the orbs, then his hope was that something else could seal Kyogre's power within the cave's walls.
Ah, so he's hoping that the Regis can force Kyogre down the Sootopolis crater and into the Cave of Origin to keep it sealed away, at least semi-permanently!

With a frantic gesture that he'll be right back, Wallace dashes toward the edge of the platform, harrowed stare fixated on where Kyogre is now being forced into the Cave's yawning opening, still screeching and thrashing, its fins gouging chunks from the ceremonial doors as its pushed deeper into the darkness.
This makes me wonder where, exactly, the cave is in relation to the Sootopolis crater and City. The Gym has already been completely flooded over, the it looks like the cave itself has not been fully flooded. Is it on higher ground and still above the waters? Or is it lower, and instead merely sucking in any water that inters it into a bottomless abyss?

That's interesting imagery--it actually gives me some ideas for my own stuff...

'Message failed to send. Retry?'
NOOOOOOOO this is literally the most HEARTBREAKING thing that someone who tried to send a message can receive! I've had this happen way too many times and it always STINKS ;_;

As I read, I kinda forget that there's a super heavy downpour happening. Maybe some more detail on how the heavy rain is impacting the onlookers? Like the drops splashing across the PokeNav's screen, or the rain causing it to literally slip out of Steven's hand, or even just blurring the visibility of Kyogre trying to fight off the Regis.

The seal is lifted, the Regis are free, and in the eerie calm left in the aftermath of Kyogre's rampage, Steven Stone gives his life in return for the region he loves.
Beautiful.

It actually is kinda restful to read that. The Regis are free from imprisonment, the spirits that were (presumably) tied to the tablet can go in peace, and Steven Stone can rest for all eternity after suffering through that horrible conflict.

It has been just over a week since the incident that should have swallowed all of Hoenn, yet only claimed one life.
Just one life? Really? Nobody died n the flooding or storm?

There's not much left to be said that can close the hole left from that fateful day. There's not much they want to say because that means it's time to fill it, and no one's ready for that just yet.
Mourning is so painful. And, I think, there aren't really any words to be said that can "close the hole." Just time taken to grieve, to feel out the pain of losing someone you love, and let the pain and sorrow run their course until you accept that your loved one is gone, but to also have hope of one day seeing them again.

He travels to Pacifidlog with Sidney and Drake to help stabilize the battered floating colony.
How is Pacifidlog still there?!?! I'm shocked that it's anything more than a bunch of splinters!

Last, to Mossdeep, alone, where he can't bring himself to even set foot on the northern part of the island.
Steven's home! <3

But because Aggron, in its grief, refused to let anyone come near the home unless they were Steven himself.
Oh. So is Aggron released from his Pokeball and now considered a "wild" Pokemon, technically?

It hurt too much to see the unspoken question in his eyes: "You're his best friend. Why didn't you stop him?"
Agh, it's so hurtful when someone has that attitude. Yes, I understand that you want the life of your family member back more than anything in the world. But it was his decision to make; nobody "failed" in stopping him, and if he was stopped, then the rest of the world would have drowned. He'd have died anyway. I understand Joseph's grief, but he has to accept that his son made his own decision. Foisting blame on others can be a coping mechanism, but it's not a healthy one, and it'll only leave him more bitter and resentful and prevent him from fully healing.

"I'm so sorry for your loss" was not the answer Mr. Stone was looking for. "I didn't know" felt too hollow to even try. So he'd settled for a happier truth, one that filled him with as much guilt as it did pride.

"He saved us all, Mr. Stone. Steven was a hero."
I know this struggle; there is literally nothing you can say in those times that will make the pain any better. Wallace probably opted for the best choice, but it will do nothing to assuage the pain that Steven's family feels.

Ah, this chapter hurt. It hurts so, so much to lose a family member, even if they're hailed as a "hero," and to lose a friend. I've gone through both. And there's truly nothing in those moments that can make anything better, that can lessen the pain. Community allows you to go through it, sure, but even then, people are there just to allow each other to feel out and process their pain. Not hide it, not cover it up, not "get over it." Even if what Steven did was heroic--even when someone says, "he's a hero," you don't feel any pride or joy in that. All you want is for them to have never died, to still be with you, to be alive again.

This was beautiful. I think you did a tasteful job of touching on Steven's death and how the others are starting to react to it. It's not something that's easy to write, especially if you haven't gone through it personally, so I think you did a wonderful job here.

Chapter 6

I think we're in for a tearjerker.

Besides myself and the Sinnohan scholars whom I confided in, you will be the only person who knows what transpired.
Well, himself and now Wallace, at least.

It was a foolproof measure; none of the ancient people would consider giving their life to unleash what they assumed to be a terrible power.
This is interesting, since it shows a bit of what the ancients prioritized, or what the ancient society was like. If none of them would consider sacrificing their own lives for others, it was probably a society where people largely fended for themselves. I get the impression where the sense of community was not as strong, and the heroes in this society's legends wouldn't have been hailed as one who sacrificed themself for others.

I wonder: was the language on the tablet Braille? Or something completely different?

Wow, I just got curious and looked up Braille and found out that Japanese Braille is a thing. I should have thought of this, since it's in the original RSE games, but I had assumed that they were using English Braille for some reason.

I hope that despite my constant failings as your son, I've been able to make you proud.
*sobs*
The feels here are so real that they HURT. Steven dies believing that he constantly failed his father. It sucks to feel that way. I can only pray that I'm not the same way when I leave this earth.

I promise I will say hi to Mom for you.
*sobs again*

And please apologize to Wallace for me. I haven't told him anything, and I'm sure he'll be quite upset with me about all of this.
:(

Thank you for everything, Dad.
</3

Love,

Steven
;_;

Only one thought on this chapter. Steven clearly believes in an afterlife, and one where the dead (if not all of them, at least some of them) can be together. It ties in to his praying earlier in the story, and it is heartwarming that he went in to all of this believing that he would see his mother at the other end of it. It gives the impression that he didn't view death as the end, but as the next adventure, which doesn't lessen the terror or severe trauma of the moment, but it does give a lot of hope and a silver lining to the pain he endured.

Chapter 7

I'm glad you posted this last chapter in time for the Blitz. On to the end!

In a way, it made his decision that much easier.
I can see this. Having very close friends and family members pass away before me has made me less afraid to pass on, someday.

I wonder how old Steven's mom appears--the same age she was when she died? If that was when Steven was very young, would she perhaps not be much older than he is then?

If it could prevent that same theft from happening to someone else, what he had given would all be worth it.
Also interesting that he views death as "theft." It's a common way to view death, and I sortof understand it. I never really used it, since it also gives the impression that the person's life, to an extent, belongs to you. And I suppose it does; they're family, after all.

It was supposed to be a happy reunion.
That's what I think, too. It seems very unusual and odd that the dead would be upset to find others with them when they know it has to happen at some point.

His mother disappeared! So is she dead AND gone? Does she not exist, and is no longer sentient? That's so sad!

Because as she recognized Celebi for what it is
Oh dang, someone really DID bring Celebi there!

Beneath the curl of his fingers beats his heat,
Is this supposed to be "heart"?

If an ancient power were to awaken once more…
But what are the chances of that happening? Kyogre's sealed away, which means that everything should be just fine. Right?

That was a poignant ending! I didn't expect it to line up with the canon solution of Celebi coming out of literally nowhere and saving Steven's life--it was still a surprise, but also made sense! Personally, I would have been fine if the fic left off at the end of chapter 6. IT felt finished, as it was, and all of the loose ends were tied up.

The ending that chapter 7 gives us does call in to mind a lot of questions. The one at the forefront of my mind is: what is the afterworld like? Is it a replica of the living world? Why was Steven's mom there, and how did her "wish" to bring him back to life result in her soul dissipating? It makes sense that she wants her son to continue living, but I honestly thought it was even sadder for Steven: he saw his Mom, one last time, and got to speak with her and embrace her. But she wasn't happy to see him and didn't say anything about being proud of him or affirming him. After he lived his life believing that he disappointed his father, he goes to the afterworld and has his mother immediately send him back to the living world. His reunion with her felt more bitter than sweet. I did feel touched when Steven got to hug his mother and started crying, and I also got emotional every time he saw himself as a little child and his mother was back in the hospital. Those were gut-wrenching, but in the sweetest way.

And it looks like the questions of the lore remain unanswered! I think the story does a good enough job on its own of describing the Regis' release and how they defeated Kyogre, and that the backstory isn't necessary. You described enough just to leave us with many questions, wanting for more ;) If you DO have any headcanons as to how the Regis were sealed away and what the ancient peoples were like, I'd be very interested in hearing them!

This was a great fic--I binged the whole thing in just a couple of hours! I think you did a great job of describing something so monumental to not only the Hoenn region, but the Pokemon world as a whole. Your prose is delightful to read, and seeing how protective Steven's Pokemon are of him is really heartwarming. As always, reading your works are a treat. Thanks so much for sharing!
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
Chapter 1

This was a super intriguing opening! I've been wanting to read more of your work since the Friends and Partners contest results, but AQ in particular was of course a more in-depth introduction to your Steven, and you've talked about this particular fic being whumpy. So when it came up as a W3 theme target, although I haven't been doing much of starting new chapterfics to catch up on for Blitz, I couldn't help checking it out.

Even without already knowing your Steven, I think you paint a pretty strong picture of everyone in this brief chapter, with good use of space. Disaster is already happening, Wallace is already determined to stay in Sootopolis, Steven already has a plan. All you need to do is establish the stakes, set the mood, show Steven taking charge of the situation, and then reveal the delicious hook that Steven fully believes this will kill him. Oh boy, I can tell this will be a ride. :copyka:

I saw where the plan was going as soon as Steven brought up needing a Relicanth, and immediately it made sense - of course mineral expert Steven would be familiar with the Regis as legendary Pokémon and think to plead for their aid in a situation like this. Initially I had the impression he was going to have the others do the summoning at their respective shrines, though, so I was taken aback for a moment when he started talking about how summoning all three of them would not be survivable for a single person. Looking again, though, he just tells them to await his instructions at the shrines, so I'm guessing he as the expert is planning to do the deed for all of them with the other Elite Four as backup.

Steven's friendship with Wallace is a highlight here, both in his support for Wallace's determination to stay in Sootopolis, and Wallace immediately deducing Steven must be doing this so he can enter the Cave of Origin in Wallace's stead, and Steven's desperation not to let Wallace know that he thinks this will be fatal. And of course, Wallace knows anyway, and pulls him into a hug, and insists that it won't happen. Steven remains convinced he'll have to betray that promise, but I'm looking forward to how they're all going to sabotage Steven's effort at a self-sacrifice. Oh man. Characters knowing (or thinking they know) that they're going to die and forging ahead anyway is one of my favorite whump things; I truly need to come back to this again and try to finish it.

Couple of line quotes:

"What?!"

"No, Steven, you can't!"

"Have you gone mad?"

"What the hell, man?!"
Based on their established voices... Drake, Phoebe, Glacia, Sidney, right? I enjoy that the characterization is strong enough to make it relatively straightforward to tell.

He toggles the projection feature from his PokeNav before he manages to convince himself that such an outlandish plan will never work.
This sentence can be read two ways: either as him toggling the projection feature and then convincing himself that it's never going to work, or quickly toggling the projection feature off because if he kept it on too long he might convince himself it won't work. Off context, I think you mean the latter, but it might be helpful to rephrase so as not to suggest the former - maybe "before he can convince himself"?

Steven continues before Sidney's string of expletives telling him just how stupid this all sounds breaks his concentration.
Same here, might read more clearly with "can break his concentration" (assuming that's what you were going for, anyway).
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
What if there was no intrepid young hero to save the day? In a reality where all that is left is to stare down the maw of death as Kyogre threatens to drown the world, the League and its trainers turn to desperate measures in Hoenn's final hours.

Oh, that’s an omen for where things are going to go in this story mood-wise.
:copyka2~1:


Definitely different from the fare of yours that I’ve read in the past, though I suppose seeing how you handle heavier narratives is something that I’m curious about. Let’s go ahead and see how that plays out.

Chapter 1

The rain is hammering against the window, and outside, the sky is dark. The rest of Sootopolis is dark too, evacuated at the eleventh hour by the League's efforts. Elite and Gym Leader alike had gathered at the volcano crater city to clear the path of the Legendary's rampage, and now only a few remain behind. Outside, Kyogre's wrath threatens to drown not only Sootopolis, but Hoenn itself. Inside, a decision is about to be made.

… Wait, so how on earth did Sootopolis get evacuated in the mother of all storm when it’s inside a crater rim that in-game you have to dive in order to reach? .-.

That sounds like quite the logistical miracle there.

"What do you mean you're not leaving?!"

Steven winces at Glacia's tone, not daring to look toward the Sootopolis Gym Leader. He knows Wallace would never back down in his decision, yet the sheer terror of his stubbornness is written clear in his expression. The same terror churns in his own gut as he keeps his face toward the windowpane smudged blind with torrential rain.

Oh, so this is an AU where Wallace isn’t the Gym Leader in-

"Wallace, it's too late to save this city. Sootopolis is lost."

Oh, well. Never mind then. Though I can already tell that Wallace is going to take this well™.

Drake's voice grates through the quiet, one-room building they had huddled in. It is almost enough to drown out the rattling of the door as each new gust of wind batters the city's walls. The former sea captain is no stranger to loss, nearly twice the age of the foolhardy youngster whose life he's trying to save, and he hopes his words carry enough wisdom to change Wallace's mind.

bender-laughing.gif


Since I can see the title and the list of CWs, and… yeah, not convinced that Wallace is going to make the rational decision here. Though boy is it dark to think that something like this might have been going on in the background while Brendan/May was going off on their own to put a stop to *bump wiggle wiggle* in-game. .-.

"It's too strong… too strong…" The look in Phoebe's eyes is distant, trailing toward the direction where the orbs that could control such a beast formerly rested. Mt. Pyre's slopes had been raided by the rogue organization known as Team Aqua mere months before Kyogre's appearance.

Everyone in the room knew it was no coincidence. The group had been crafty and remained elusive despite the League's best efforts, yet even they had not anticipated that Kyogre's power would be this destructive. Aqua ran in fear as soon as the sea god appeared, taking the orb with them when they vanished, and with it Hoenn's last hope at quelling the beast.

Would recommend chopping this up into two parts here since there’s a lot going on in this paragraph.

"It sucks, and I know I hate it as much as you do, but the best we can do is seek shelter in another city while we figure out what to do next."

So wait, what is Brendan/May doing in this AU anyways? Or is this the continuity where they never bothered to wander off from the moving truck / got sidetracked by the contest circuit for 6 months and missed out on all the rest of the Sapphire plot such that they’re in no condition to try and right this ship right now?

Never one to look so serious, Sidney's expression is as tight as his fists, balled against his sides no doubt in an effort to stop from slugging the closest thing in frustration. They were the most powerful trainers the region could offer, and there was no way they'd be enough. A god's wrath cannot be contained by human hands. Wallace is well aware of that fact, and yet he does not budge.

So wait, is this continuity also one where Dawn/Lucas just no-show in Sinnoh 3 years later and everything just ends or something? Since that’s a level of defeatism that I wouldn’t expect from a Pokémon setting.
:copyber:


"Sootopolis is my responsibility, I will watch over her just as my ancestors have done for millennia."

Yeah, Wallace is totally going to wind up dying in this story.

Drake scoffs. "There's nothin' that says you have to go down with the ship. That's a seafarin' rule, not one from ancient scripture."

… And with that tempting of fate, I kinda get the feeling that Drake isn’t going to get out of this either.

The stare from Glacia never falters, and she crosses her arms. "A city can always be rebuilt. A people cannot."

Glacia: “Though with some of these projections that we’re seeing of the flooding… uh… we might wind up seeing both get destroyed at this rate.”
:ohnowen:


"Wallace, we need you." Phoebe is very near pleading at this point. "If there's anyone who can help piece together how to stop this monster, it's you."

- Meanwhile in Petalburg, May/Brendan is screwing around on a GBA while the news drones on in the background -
May/Brendan: “Meh, it’s always a bunch of boring crap.”
- And promptly turns the TV off and turns up the virtual trumpets as the rain outside intensifies -

"Yeah, man. I'm supposed to be the stubborn one here." Sidney does his best to lighten the mood, but no one takes the bait, and he sighs, slouching even further against the wall. "C'mon…"

And for the first time since the door was pulled shut behind them, Steven speaks.

"It's okay, he can stay."

I can already tell that Steven is going to regret saying this later on in the story.

All eyes snap toward the Champion with a collective gasp and shout of dismay. Had they heard correctly? Did he just sign and seal his best friend's death certificate without so much as batting an eye?

Not that I don’t doubt that this is going to wind up being prescient, but there wasn’t a whole lot mentioned prior to this about how conditions have become ‘death sentence’-tier for staying in Sootopolis. It might have merited some throwaway line about projections about storm or flood damage to hammer home “bruh, anyone who stays here longer than the next [X] hours is gonna die” a bit harder in advance.

But Steven's gaze is soft as he turns to face the group, his expression silhouetted against the murky light from the window.

"But he won't be doing this alone."

:uhhh:


Oh boy, so Steven’s going to be sticking things out until the bitter end himself, huh?

Shock turns to puzzlement for a brief moment, a slight breath, just long enough for him to crack a thin, ironic smile he hopes no one will see. He's finally got this whole plan worked out in his head.

"I'll be staying with you, Wallace."

Yeah, I figured. And i can already tell the E4 is going to freak out about this.

And the room erupts.

"What?!"

"No, Steven, you can't!"

"Have you gone mad?!"

"What the hell, man?!"

Again, I figured.

Only Wallace remains silent, staring, lips pressed into a thin line. He knows what Steven is trying to do, and it won't work.

Wait, he does? Though now I’m curious as to what this final gambit (har har) is myself.

"I know you think someone has to stay who can enter the Cave of Origin in my stead, but without the orbs—"

"No, that's not it," Steven cuts him off with a shake of his head. "There's another reason, and it's because I have a very important task for you, Wallace."

Wallace: “Wait, you… do?” .-.

As the Sootopolis Leader fixes him with an absurdly quizzical look, he strides forward to the table, pulling out his PokeNav. He calls up a map, but doesn't consult it, instead he stares straight at Wallace, gaze as serious as his words.

"I need a Relicanth, and you're the only one here who knows how to find one."

Oh, so that’s why the Regis are on the cover art. So the party requirement to open up the Regis’ temples is literally a thing, huh?

He toggles the projection feature from his PokeNav before he manages to convince himself that such an outlandish plan will never work. The map wavers only a little as he stills the nervous shaking of his hand.

"I've marked three places on this map, here here and here. Glacia, Sidney, and Drake, you are to head out to these respective locations and await my signal."

Sidney: “Steven, we’re trusting our fate to a random passage of ancient braille! How do we even know that that thing wasn’t some ancient practical joke?!”
:grohno~1:

Steven: “We don’t. But it’s the best hope we’ve got right now.”

Steven continues before Sidney's string of expletives telling him just how stupid this all sounds breaks his concentration.

Kek, and I did the Sidney bit as a joke. Though yeah, I figured he’d find the idea of bringing a Relicanth and a Wailord out into the desert to be a dumb-sounding idea.

"Phoebe, I need you to go to the Oceanic Museum in Slateport. Ask the curator for the ancient stone tablet donated by my father. He'll know it's urgent. Bring it back here as fast as you can."

- Phoebe looks outside at the raging storm -
Phoebe: “And… uh… how am I supposed to do that again?” ._.;

A stunned silence falls as his tone never wavers. The realization sets in that this isn't an elaborate joke; the Champion fully believes what he's saying. Glacia finally stutters out the question that hangs on everyone's lips.

I can only imagine the
:wtfuckle:
reactions upon seeing Relicanth and Wailord actuallly opening the door to getting the Regis out, even if from the summary I suspect that they’ll be woefully inadequate for this task.

"Then, what will you be doing?"

"I will remain here to keep Kyogre occupied. It cannot be allowed to leave Sootopolis' seas. The plan depends on being able to contain its power here."

Which is a sign that this plan is going to fail horribly.

The room erupts again, and Steven closes his eyes, willing his racing heart to stay as calm as he's trying to keep his comrades.

So in other words, he’s not staying calm at all right now. ^^;

"Please!" he shouts, and the noise halts. They've never heard him raise his voice before, and they wait as he takes another moment to compose himself once more.

"The Legendary titans might be our only hope to save Hoenn. We don't have time to argue, so please—" his breath catches, and he feels Wallace tense in his seat. "...Please, we all must play our part."

What do “glub glub glub” noises sound like coming from Regis anyways? Since I’m pretty sure that that’s about how well this plan is going to turn out. Though you can’t say that it doesn’t fit title and premise-wise with a “final gambit”.

The uneasy silence is punctuated by the hammering rain and the wailing wind, and then slowly the scraping of a chair cuts through as Drake rises. He nods once, solemnly, and then steps out into the storm. Glacia and Sidney watch him leave, the former still boring her icy stare into the Champion's heart.

To everyone's surprise, it's Phoebe who rises next. The color has returned to her cheeks, and she jabs a finger into Steven's chest with an earnest look.

"You better be here when I get back."

whywouldyoudothat.jpg


Since, you know, you just spiked Steven’s odds of not being able to do just that by tempting fate like this, Phoebe.

The door swings shut behind her as Glacia pushes her chair in.

"For once we seem to share the same sentiment. I'm sure Sidney will agree."

Sidney: “Have you all lost your minds?!
:eltyscared:

Glacia: “Sidney, there are no other options to work with right now. Either come and help, or hop the next evacuation flight and get out of the way.” >:|

The Elite in question is a simmering cauldron of emotion, so he opts for a curt nod instead of words, and follows Glacia out the door.

Yeah, figured he’d come around in the end, even if he’s likely not expecting any of this to amount to anything.

Only Wallace is left now, and Steven can see how white his knuckles are, as if somehow anchoring himself to the table keeps him from spinning off into oblivion with the rest of his drowning city. His voice is a whisper.

"Steven…"

"Wallace."

Wallace: “Steven, why on earth would you-?!” O_O;
Steven: “Wallace, I knew what I was getting into. Just walk me through what you need here.”

Steven surprises himself with how steady his voice is despite the dread settling in his stomach. He tells himself that if he looks anywhere other than Wallace's gaze, his friend will know what this plan truly means. That the strain of summoning one Regi is already a monumental feat for a person to bear; he's read it in the ancient texts and had it corroborated by the researchers in Sinnoh. Summoning all three at once is simply not survivable.

:uhhh:


Well, that’s a terrible omen for how the E4 are going to fare by the end of this story, but okay then.

"You should go."

Wallace stands, shakily, hesitantly, still not able to tear his eyes from Steven's face.

Steven hopes Wallace will never know that this is one of the last times he'll see him alive. He extends a hand to his friend, a gesture of good faith and reassurance, even though it feels empty. But as Wallace clasps the hand in a clammy grip, he pulls Steven into a hug so fierce that he nearly chokes.

:sadwott~2:


I suppose that explains why this story is called ‘Final Gambit’, though somehow, I’m still a bit surprised at how fast things are going from 0-100 in this story.

"I will see you again." Wallace's words are strained, hissed right against his ear, and Steven squeezes his eyes shut and focuses on not losing it all now.

Narrator: “He will not see Steven again.”

Wallace pulls back and again regards him with those eyes. The stare that feels like he knows Steven intends to break the promise before he even makes it.

"You have my word."

Wallace: “... I’m… just going to turn and leave now, Steven.” >_>;
Steven: “(Was it really that unconvincing?)” ._.;

And in a flutter of white, Wallace leaves with the single minded goal of adding a Relicanth to his belt alongside his Wailord. He is going to name it Steven, because its head is as rock hard as his friend's.

Oh, so in the end there will still be a ‘Steven’ alive at the end. Probably. Maybe.

Steven watches Wallace go before rolling his gaze to the ceiling. There he says a silent prayer that should Hoenn survive, Wallace will forgive him. That they'll all forgive him. He pulls out his PokeNav and types a message to his father. He'll hit send later. For now, he readies his pokeball and steps out into the dark, rainy night.

- Meanwhile in Petalburg, May/Brendan looks up from the rain outside -
May/Brendan: “Yeesh, it’s really coming down right now.”
- And fetches a set of headphones and slides them into the headphone jack -
May/Brendan: “Much better, now that stupid rain won’t keep drowning out the music.” ^^

Boy is that different from just about everything that I’ve read from you before. But it did a great job at selling the sense of dread and impending disaster breathing down one’s neck, and the sense of having to string friends and ones along to keep their hopes up in the face of what if it works, will be certain death for oneself. It’s quite a mood, even if I’m starting to wonder if by the end, there’s really going to be nobody left other than ‘Steven’ happily swimming around in the rain as Hoenn sinks into the sea.
:copyka2~1:


I don’t have a lot in the way of complaints to levy with this chapter. Maybe some more description / contextualization of the scenario that Steven and the others are staring down would’ve been nice, but even as-is, it’s a chilling read, and imagining something like this quietly happening in the background of my Hoenn run where Brendan/May in all likelihood never made a serious blip on the radar for Steven and the E4 is suddenly a very [uhhh] prospect.

Well done, @Panoramic_Vacuum . I’m hoping to come back for more of this story in Week 4 of Review Blitz, but even if I don’t make it in time, I’ll definitely be back sometime afterwards. Since I can already tell that this is going to be quite a ride, even if it might make me
:eltycrying:
a bit by the conclusion.
 
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