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Pokémon Heroica Legends: An Undesired Hope

Episode 6: To Girage Field ~ Crystal’s Dilemma


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Crystal complete - Copy.png

Episode 6: To Girage Field ~ Crystal’s Dilemma

Silence fell for a long while. The group must have walked for over half the day without a single word, during which time Vergrace was gone in the distance and their scenery was changing. Crystal appreciated the quiet. She had the time to let everything that had happened soak in.

The beautiful, windy scenery that surrounded Vergrace flattened into green plains that had the occasional small hut or woodland in the distance. Everything looked far away from the dirt road they had to guide them, the tracks on said road telling of the many Pokémon who had trekked here before. Their destination looked to be in the distance, though it was a blurry silhouette of structures that barely peeked over the horizon.

“So, nobody’s gonna talk about all that?” Ruby finally spoke up. “I’m kinda still mad about it, y’know.”

“It’s getting late, so we might have to think about camping,” Azu said, rubbing an arm.

“Hello? We really not gonna address the Copperajah in the room?” Ruby raised her voice.

“Th-there’s a Copperajah?” Shelly gasped. “Wait, we’re not in a room.”

“No you idiot!” Ruby slapped him. “What the heck happened back there?”

“I… think it’s better we don’t,” Azu proposed. “The sun’s setting. Let’s focus on camp.”

“And pretend that one of us didn’t just murder a Pokémon?” Crystal cried. She didn’t expect herself to sound so loud, and shook with irritation.

“What? That’s not the problem!” Ruby objected. Crystal’s eyes widened.

“How is that not a problem?” Crystal cried. “Ruby, what?”

“The problem is that I was the only one to stand up for Lucca,” the Cyndaquil stated. Mimia barked and growled at her. “And the doggy bear, too. But yeah, why’d everyone else get cold feet?”

“Why do you think? He chopped a Pokémon’s head off. He killed somebody, Ruby! Ended their life. That Pokémon is never going to be able to do anything ever again,” Crystal stated.

“Crystal, you’re defending an evil guy like Evark. Or guys? Does he count as two Pokémon? Whatever. Point is, he deserved to die, yet all the other Pokémon are treating us like we’re the bad guys? And all of you guys got all scared an’ stuff?”

Crystal wanted to argue, but all sorts of feelings stood in the way. It wasn’t fear like Ruby seemed to think it was, but anger, confusion, and whatever other feelings came with troubled thoughts. No cohesive sentences came to her besides a want to peck Ruby right now.

“It’s a very grey situation, but Ruby is right, in a way. From what I’m made to understand, Evark was an intelligent feral who probably consumed countless young Pokémon and destroyed many habitats by draining their Bestia. When it comes right down to it, Heroica is definitely a better place without him,” Azu explained. Crystal looked up at her with terror on her face. “But most of what Evark did was actually within the law. Lucca was the one to step out and completely break the law.”

“It’s against the law to stop bad guys?” Ruby cried.

“It’s against the law to kill another Pokémon while within a town, village, or notable habitat. Pokémon are free to do what they want outside of civilised areas, so long as it’s not proven to be for personal malice,” Azu corrected, tapping her chin. “And despite that, it was clearly a desperation move, an act that needed to be done that no one else was willing to do.”

“Exactly. So what’s the real problem? Why didn’t anyone else stand up for him?” Ruby bounced angrily.

“I… I get it. I just… did you really have to… you know?” Crystal struggled.

“Yeah, I do have to agree there,” Azu finally turned to Lucca. “Did you have to kill him so gruesomely in front of everyone else like that? I’ve observed ferals before and even I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I did something I’m used to seeing, so I didn’t think much of it. This may not be my place to say right now, but I am sorry. I mean it,” Lucca stated. He rubbed the back of his head and turned away. “Where I’m from, a quick finish like that was a basic way to survive.”

“You don’t know how to shop at a store, and a critical kill is basic survival? Where in the world do you come from?” Azu asked. He raised a flipper to answer, but everyone’s horrified faces stopped him.

“S-sorry. I can’t say,” he replied quickly, turning his back. Mimia whined, too.

“Urf. Look, I appreciate what you did. You really saved our fur back there. But from here on… try not to jump the blade, okay? Knocking Evark out and putting him in custody would have been just as good a solution,” Azu suggested, and sighed. “We’re all shaky and on edge. I say we set up camp early and try and get a good night’s sleep.”

“The sun is starting to set,” Shelly added. Mimia barked walked off.

“And that’s the other thing,” Ruby butted in. “You! Where the hell were you?”

“M-me?” Shelly gasped.

“Yes you! After what we talked about, too!” she raised her voice. Shelly staggered and covered his face.

“I-I’m sorry. H-h-he looked really big and strong, a-a-and, a-and—” he squeaked.

Ruby started growling at him, making him squeak even more. “You little…”

“Don’t go killing him now. He’s done nothing wrong,” Lucca commented.

“Not funny. At all,” Crystal breathed out.

“Sorry. What’s your deal with him, anyway? You can’t really blame another Pokémon for being scared,” Lucca wondered.

“Yes you can, especially if the kid’s supposed to be a Shining Warrior like us. What kinda hero gets scared by another Pokémon?” Ruby rambled.

“I was scared by a lot of Pokémon when I was younger, too. Most bigger Pokémon are way stronger than me. Your Flamethrower couldn’t compete with Evark’s, after all,” Lucca explained. That seemed to shut Ruby up completely, but not in the way anyone expected. She didn’t make a sound, she just turned her back and walked off. “E-er… Ruby?”

“Forget it. Just setup camp already,” she grumbled.

“Gosh. All I said was she lost the battle,” Lucca rubbed the back of his head again.

“She’s really sensitive about being stronger. She’s probably going to be shooting lots of fire into the sky tonight,” Crystal informed.

“I didn’t say she was weak, though. She’s not. Just wasn’t stronger than a Zweilous,” Lucca corrected.

“Oh, I was wondering about that. Ruby!” Azu called out, getting the Cyndaquil’s attention. She signalled her over. “Do you have any idea how your fire even works? I mean why you can shoot Flamethrower without using Bestia.”

“I dunno. Guess I’m just special or something,” Ruby said boastfully.

“Well that was a quick recovery,” sighed Crystal.

“But how? I can’t think of how a Pokémon could use that attack at such a power without using Bestia. The energy just constitutes too much to the attack,” Azu swayed side to side. “Is there anything weird about it? Like some secret trick you do to use it, or is it something you eat? That sort of thing.”

Ruby tilted her head. “I dunno, I never thought about stuff like that. It was always just somethin’ I had to do, so I made an attack outta it, and now I’m just good at it.”

“Something you… had to do?” Azu repeated, still thinking hard.

“Yeah. Er… this is sorta embarrassing, but I’m only tellin’ ya ‘cos you’re the smart one, yeah?” Ruby said, blushing a bit.

“Eh? Secret’s safe with us,” Azu replied blankly.

“If I don’t shoot fire, my belly gets kinda big and starts to hurt, like, a lot. If I shoot lots of fire, I feel better. It doesn’t work if it comes from my back. It’s been like this since forever,” Ruby explained. Azu’s mouth hung open and her face started to brighten. “I hate it, it makes me look fat no matter what I eat or how much I exercise, and nobody believes me. But if it makes me strong, I don’t really care, either?”

“No other Pokémon has anything like that, though. And I’m telling you, it’s because you dunk yourself in the river so much,” Crystal cried.

“The river? Oh my gods—” Azu choked and made them all turn to her. “Ruby, this is a super long shot, but by any chance, are you good at swimming? And holding your breath?”

“Yeah? I guess. Most Pokémon seem surprised that I can,” Ruby mumbled, clearly getting unnerved by Azu’s growing excitedness.

“How long can you hold your breath?” Azu asked.

“… Thirty minutes?” Ruby answered blankly.

Azu let out a shrill scream that made everyone except Shelly cringe. “Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before how could I miss that! It’s so obvious, and yet still it’s- No! One more test. I have to confirm!”

“Confirm?” Ruby gasped.

“Do you mind if I try a little something? Please? I may be able to explain your powers!” Azu squeaked, bouncing eagerly. Ruby and Crystal exchanged glances.

“It’s not gonna be weird is it? What do I have to do?” Ruby wondered.

“Just stand tall and hold still, okay? This’ll only take a second,” Azu instructed.

Ruby did as she was told and stood up tall on her hind legs, but she was clearly unnerved as the aqua bunny walked behind her. Like this, everyone could see exactly what she meant by her belly being rounder than expected. Crystal didn’t care as much as most, but it was very clear that Ruby had a lot of extra weight on her, as her belly sagged and the pudge of her cheeks could be made out.

Azu suddenly squeezed Ruby from behind, making sure her hands pressed deep into Ruby’s stomach. It looked like the contents of her belly had been pushed up to her head, and that came out as not only a loud belch, but a ball of fire larger than her whole body. The fireball arched and blew up before it hit the ground, where it burst into a huge star shape made of flames. Even though she flinched well away from it, Crystal could feel intense heat and embers, and had to shield her face.

Azu gave another shrill scream, and this time bounced on her feet. “I was right, oh my gods I was actually right! Excuse my language but, but, aaiieee! I can’t believe it!”

“Gaah! What is wrong with you- don’t do that!” Ruby snapped. Her face was completely red. Amongst the excitement, Shelly had burst out laughing.

“Was that Fire Blast? That was incredible!” Lucca remarked. Mimia was equally impressed.

“That wasn’t incredible, you could’ve made me barf!” Ruby cried. “And what’re you laughing at?”

“That! That wasn’t a Fire Blast, that was a Fire Burp!” Shelly giggled into laughing again.

“Fire bur- that’s not funny, that’s gross! Stop laughing at me you little- grrr!” Ruby cried out. She couldn’t stop blushing, so she gestured to hit Shelly, who shrunk and dove away. “Azu, what the heck?”

“Okay okay, let me explain, ‘cos it’s a doozy!” Azu said, still bouncing. “Where do I even start? I guess, the stuff about me and you. Ruby, what you have is a thing called a fire gland.”

“A fire gland?” Ruby cocked her head.

“Yeah. We water type Pokémon have them too, but in our case, they’re called water glands. They’re an organ we use to create and store the water we use in our water type attacks, and fire it out at high power,” Azu began, and patted her belly. “Me, Crystal, and Shelly’s would be in our bellies. Lucca’s would be near his nose, as that’s where his water comes from.”

“Weird,” Ruby commented. Lucca rubbed his nose out of curiosity.

“But fire types aren’t meant to have glands like that. Fire Pokémon don’t normally store fire in their bodies like that, you know? Contrary to belief, not even Cyndaquil!” Azu continued. Ruby tried to look behind her, curious as well. “Because you have this gland, it’s a bit like a birth defect, shall we say? Your body doesn’t know what to do with all that fire, and it makes more fire than you can fit in you, so you have to exhale it. Because you have to exhale it, you can essentially shoot Flamethrower without the power boost from Bestia. What you’re doing isn’t a Pokémon attack at all, but just you getting rid of excess fire in your body!”

“Oh really? What would happen if I didn’t exhale it?” Ruby asked.

“Then you’d explode, of course,” Azu stated. Crystal was more surprised by how blunt that was.

“It’s… wait, is that actually why I’m fat?” Ruby asked. “Fire’s just like… brewing in me, bloating me up like a balloon?”

“Probably. It’s mostly in your belly, after all!” Azu stated with a hand on her hip.

“That’s… a good thing, isn’t it? Ruby, you’re healthy after all,” Crystal remarked. The Cyndaquil didn’t respond. She seemed too surprised.

“Now the other thing. The reason you have a fire gland, and your ability to last underwater. You’re what we call a ‘watermarked’ Pokémon,” Azu continued. “In ancient times, there existed an extraordinary class of water Pokémon that called themselves the Undine. The stories say the Undine were only allowed to breed with each other, so that their powers could stay within the race. If an Undine bred with anything other than a water type, that child would become watermarked, and have water related abilities they aren’t supposed to have. The parent Pokémon were usually banished from the Undine, and the children killed for their defects.”

“Whoa. Then I can’t be that, can I? That’s just an old story,” Ruby gasped.

“But the proof is right here in you. You’re a fire type with a fire gland, you can swim, you can hold your breath longer than even some water Pokémon despite being fire type… I’m certain, you’re a watermarked Pokémon!” Azu announced. “I didn’t even know they could be fire type or have powers like yours! There’s so much I could learn from you, I’m all excited!”

“Don’t get your hopes up, I’m not plannin’ on being a lab Rattata,” Ruby shifted away. “That stuff’s good to know, but I sorta don’t believe it, to be honest.”

“I should show you a book on Undine if we find one. I have loads back at my lab, but I didn’t bring any with me,” Azu reasoned. “E-er, only if you want to and stuff, of course. I know I’m a scientist without much fame or success but…”

“Not that, I don’t care about that,” Ruby shook her head. “All I care about now is that this stuff isn’t gonna stop me getting stronger. If it’s true and I’m not actually overweight, then that’s good to know.”

While she spoke, Shelly snuck up behind and hugged her the same way Azu did earlier. Ruby yelped and made another fire burp, though this one was noticeably weaker than the first. It still set Shelly off laughing though, and the leaf on his headband glowed yellow.

“You- little- son of a—” Ruby growled and stomped the ground. Shelly already took off though. “Don’t do that! Get back here you stupid kid!”

“Why is he… oh never mind. At least they’re getting along,” Lucca sighed and shook his head. “Beats the gloomy mood from before.”

“Don’t talk like you’re off the hook!” Crystal cried.

“I know, I’m not. We got a bit off track there. Got to set up camp, remember?” Lucca stated. Mimia barked out loud, and they all turned to see two tents already set up a little ways away from the main road. “When did you… ah, that’s Mimia for you. Thanks buddy!”

“Oh great. There’s only two tents again. Who sleeps where?” Ruby asked. “And no funny business. I’ve got my eyes on you now, fully.”

“I know, I won’t,” Shelly giggled.

Thanks to Shelly and Ruby’s little game, the group were able to settle quickly. Crystal knew not to act sour as they ate and went to sleep, but the dilemma wouldn’t leave her mind the whole night. Not just Evark’s death, but her inability to help the scene in any way.

I’m not cut out for this, she concluded, lying down with her head poking out of her tent to watch the stars. Ruby was already snoring away beside her. I couldn’t fight the Lycanroc, I barely got to help Mum, and then I brought Evark to Vergrace… I should have done something. I really should have done something.

She shifted a bit to see if she could spot the others. Lucca and Mimia slept very close to each other. In fact, they were huddled together so closely they looked like a large, fluffy loaf. Azu was bundled up outside their tent, curled up to look like an egg, too.

Geez, I should’ve eaten more. Lucca was right… even though this tragedy happened, life’s still moving. We have to keep going. Why did I get picked as a Shining Warrior? She sighed and rolled back. Ruby was gone. Huh? Where did she?

It didn’t take much shifting to spot Ruby sneaking away. That wasn’t of any concern, at least until Shelly showed up close by, too. The duo were sneaking away from the tents, prompting Crystal to sit up.

“Where are they going?” she whispered to herself. What if it’s dangerous? What if they go too far and get hurt?

Still, something told her not to make herself known. Once they were a good distance away, she got up and followed, using their silhouettes in the darkness to guide her. They concealed themselves by a gathering of rocks – not that that was a very good hiding spot, in these plains. It did allow Crystal to get close enough to hear them though, hiding on the other side of the rocks out of their view.

“Alright, training starts proper now, you stupid kid,” Ruby began.

“Do you have to call me stupid kid?” he cocked his head.

“Until you stop running away from every fight we get in, you’re a stupid kid!” she reiterated. “First of all, you’re short. Shorter than me and Crystal! We gotta get some good food in you so you can grow taller.”

What does growing taller than me have to do with anything? Crystal cocked her head.

“I cannae eat much, though,” Shelly frowned.

“Secondly, that means every enemy’s gonna be bigger than you. Can’t be gettin’ scared of every enemy you ever fight, right?” Ruby tested.

“But how do I not be scared?” he asked.

“You dive in headfirst and try stuff out!” Ruby stated, and blew a bit of fire out. “Punch the bad guy. If that doesn’t work, stab ‘em with your weapon! If that doesn’t work, see if there’s somethin’ else nearby that you can use to your advantage.”

That… is actually valid fighting advice, Crystal cocked her head, surprised.

“Thirdly, always fight without remorse. Me and you are gonna fight right now, and fight like we mean it, too. Ready or not, here I come!” Ruby stated, flaring her back.

“Wa-wait a minute, I’m not—” Shelly squealed.

“Don’t care, feral Pokémon will ambush anytime ready or not!” she added, charging at him with the Parashelter.

His reaction took Crystal by surprise. Ruby was bumped back so hard she stumbled and nearly fell back, having to take a second or two to regain balance. Shelly held a wonder orb in one paw and a frying pan in the other.

“Where did you just get that?” Ruby gasped.

“I er—” he stuttered.

“Never mind, still fighting!” she shouted, breathing fire at him.

He shielded himself with the frying pan, but she kept up her attack. Crystal had the mind to jump in to help him as she could hear his growls and coughs. Before she could, Shelly dove to the side and rolled to his feet, one paw deep inside his wonder orb. He pulled a seed out of it as Ruby let up her attack, and threw it at her.

“What the—” Ruby choked as the seed popped at her feet. Out came spores that resembled dust and electricity, which showered the Cyndaquil. In a flash, Ruby was stunned to the spot, shivering with paralysis.

“Ah, that was a Stun Seed! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Shelly gasped and came to her aid. She growled and tried to brush him off, but was limited to jittery movements that couldn’t stop him. He dug into his orb again and pulled out a few more seeds, picking out the Heal Seed for her. She reluctantly accepted it, and was cured.

“Okay time out. What the heck?” she ordered and pointed at him.

“Huh?” he replied.

“What’s going on? Where’d the fry pan go? And where’d you get the seeds from?” she quizzed.

“Oh er… it’s my Treasure Orb. I can use it to pull items from my storage at home,” Shelly explained, showing her the orb. “Sorry… I did that on instinct.”

“What the he- you have something that freaking useful and you’re the one that’s scared of everything?” Ruby cried. “So what’re ya hidin’? Swords? Knives? Hammers?”

“Oh, there’s no weapons in there. I-I’ve trained to use a katana, but I didn’t get to take one with me,” he replied.

“Well, that sucks. Guess we better work on gettin’ you a weapon then, shouldn’t we? When we get to that next town or whatever. Until then, that frying pan will do the trick,” Ruby said.

They’re just training. Typical Ruby. She wouldn’t want me joining her, either, Crystal thought with a sigh. She shook her head. I’m the weakling that’s run away from every fight, too. And she’s right. I need to be stronger. From tomorrow onwards, I have to try.

The next morning…

The group were sat in a large circle, besides Lucca who was flat on his back rubbing his belly. In the middle was a pile of their edible supplies: a variety of fruit, berries, bread, and water. Seeing it all like this, Crystal was half tempted to dive right in and eat it all.

“Well that’s all counted. We have enough for about a week if we ration properly,” Azu stated.

“Does that mean we can eat yet?” Lucca groaned.

“Well, we’ve got to choose who gets what, and it’s only raw fruit,” Azu giggled as his stomach growled. She turned back to the pile and sighed. “Just, this could get old, fast.”

“I have an idea!” Ruby proposed and bounced up high. “Okay mister. Do your thing!”

There was a long moment of silence. “There are three misters here,” Crystal said.

“Don’t try to embarrass me,” Ruby snapped and smacked the back of Shelly’s head. “Who else would I be talking about?”

“Ow… sorry,” Shelly groaned as he approached their food.

“Huh? What’s this about?” Azu wondered.

“It’s part of er… somethin’ special. Yeah! Somethin’ Shelly said he wanted to show us, but he’s bein’ a scaredy Meowth about it,” Ruby announced. “So go on, do your thing! We’re all waiting,”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this? What did you do?” Crystal asked, sweating.

“I didn’t do anythin’! It’s him who didn’t do stuff,” Ruby snapped.

The group were clearly as unsure as Crystal was, but Shelly seemed to get into what he was doing, examining their food pile. As he did, the leaf on his headband changed colours, mostly fading between yellow and green. It settled on a blinking green, and he turned to the group with an excited smile.

“I know what I can make. Ruby, could I ask you make me a fire?” he requested.

“You’re going to cook? Cook what? These are just berries and bread,” Azu gasped. Ruby obeyed him anyway, and got a small wood fire going.

Minutes later, Shelly was deep into his task. For someone who was normally so shy it was hard to feel his presence, Crystal was surprised to find him so engaged that he didn’t seem to care that everyone was watching. The group were expected to have a couple of berries each, but he only picked out four and a slice of bread for each of them, working with that and his frying pan.

“If you fry the bread on a certain heat, they’ll soak the juices from the berries, and then we’re left with the mash which we can spread like a condiment, which further fries into the bread itself… because it becomes like a sponge, the juice of the berries spreads further… it’s done!” Shelly rambled, lifting the pan to present his work.

Six slices of bread that looked waterlogged sat in the pan, toasted, smoking, and coloured like pecha berries. Lucca reluctantly took a bite, but his face immediately brightened, so Crystal braved a peck next. Just a teensy nibble and flavour burst across her tongue.

“This is really good,” she gasped, stuffing her face with it. A single slice of toasted bread wouldn’t normally do anything for her, but this one was so thick that she couldn’t manage nearly as much. The one slice filled her up, especially thanks to the surprising amount of berry juice hidden within.

“If only I’d known something so delicious could be made from such limited ingredients,” Lucca murmured. He sounded like he was drowning in bliss.

“Alright. I thought it’d be a laugh, but you win,” Ruby admitted. Even Mimia was making muffled sounds of bliss.

“It… is it really that good?” Shelly asked. His face was totally red.

“Yeah! Best thing I’ve ever eaten for sure!” Lucca cheered.

“You’re putting me to shame, I can’t believe this,” Azu added.

“Guess we have our designated cook?” Ruby teased him with a nudge, and then shuffled up close. “Crystal’s a more of a foodie than me. Make food she likes, and she’ll like you a lot.”

Shelly blushed even harder, but nodded.

Mimia started growling for some reason, and although the group didn’t think much of it at first, those growls quickly turned into barks loud enough that the group jumped in surprise. Crystal in particular glanced back and forth in the direction Mimia was facing, but there was nothing there.

There was nothing there at first, actually. She should have been used to it by now, but Pokémon were sneaking up on them. As soon as she noticed a few points where the grass blades were split, her heart raced, and she debated whether to hide behind the others or stay where she was so as to not surprise their attackers. Glancing up, a few flying types circled their spot, too.

“Oh boy, I was so hungry I overlooked that. The smell must’ve attracted ferals,” Azu said, slowly standing up. She reached for their tent without looking away, and retrieved her staff.

“You ready to try what we practiced?” Ruby whispered. She glanced back when she got no reply, and Shelly was already hiding behind the tents. “You freaking- alright whatever. Just me and you, Crystal!”

“Me?” Crystal squeaked as the Pokémon came closer. A pack of Poochyena and a flock of Spearow were their opponents. “Wa-wait, if I hit any of these Pokémon with my arrows, I could kill them.”

“You’re still worried about that?” Lucca cried. The group shifted together as the enemies surrounded them, keeping their backs together. “You don’t have to kill them, but you do have to fight.”

“But with weapons like these?” she replied. Her thoughts raced. “Even if I didn’t, I could really hurt them. I can’t cripple their legs, or—”

“Crystal get it together!” Ruby shouted, and the fight initiated.

Crystal was jumped on right away by a Poochyena, and it was more savage than she anticipated. For a hungry Pokémon attracted by the smell of sweet sauce, it had huge fangs and red eyes that could only be described as bloodthirsty.

She thrust her bow into its face as it tried to chomp down on her, and its fangs locked into the wood of the bow. She grunted in effort as she pushed back against it, while Poochyena snarled and drooled in her face, attempting to wrench out of her grip. Despite putting all her might into breaking free of this monster’s grasp, her efforts were useless. Poochyena drew closer and closer, growling with triumph as it soon got so close she could feel its breath on her face.

“Get away from her!” Shelly squealed. The next thing Crystal knew, a heavy wind whipped her, and a blur took Poochyena away. The next moment, all the growling and snarling had stopped, and the cool grass below was all she knew. The shouts and cries of a wild battle surrounded her, making her shoot to her feet and ready her bow again.

This time it was Shelly that was presumably below the Poochyena. She couldn’t see fully thanks to the grass obscuring the ground, but that Poochyena was fighting something at its feet. Without a weapon to push it back however, Shelly would be helpless. Crystal watched it try and take two bites from him before she freaked out, and her body began to move on its own.

Something took away her senses. All she could feel was panic. She drew back an arrow and just fired. She didn’t even feel like she aimed, and yet she hit her target critical. Poochyena made the shortest, most frightening whimper and then fell on its side. Only her arrow was visible from the grass.

“No… no, I didn’t mean to!” Crystal gasped.

“Nice shot!” Azu praised.

“No, not a nice shot!” Crystal squealed. She was shaking like a leaf, and spun around in fright. The battle was already over, with most of the feral Pokémon fleeing. Others were knocked out. “I… oh gods, did I…?”

She held her breath when the Poochyena twitched. It stood up and limped after its pack, whining the whole time. Crystal sighed and slumped. “Thank goodness…”

“Crystal, you’re defending the enemy Pokémon again,” Ruby confronted her. “Shelly just saved your butt, then you saved his, but aren’t you gonna say thank you?”

“Shelly just…” Crystal mumbled, and blankly turned to him. He was sat up in a daze, but his leaf was dark blue. “Wait a minute, what’s with that attitude? Ruby, I nearly killed an innocent Pokémon!”

“We’re not in a town, though. Remember what Azu said? That’s just self-defence,” Lucca stated.

“You’re one to talk!” Crystal screeched at him. She heard herself and snapped quiet, though she still breathed heavily.

“Stop being so pathetic! You’re a hero, a Shining Warrior. Just fight, damn it!” Ruby shouted.

“Ruby!” Azu silenced her. There was a long pause as Azu gathered her thoughts, then she stood tall and tapped her staff on the ground. “This is exactly why Pokémon aren’t supposed to use weapons. Weapons don’t use Bestia, and so don’t cause damage like Pokémon attacks do. Our bodies don’t resist weapons, and get permanently harmed. Crippling a leg, breaking an arm, likely even taking a life.”

“I just can’t bear it. If that were to happen to me, I’d hate it, too,” Crystal stared at the ground.

“Life’s a very valuable thing, and nobody wants to lose it to some meaningless skirmish like this, let alone lose a leg to it. Pardon me for this comment but… you’re a civilian. I realise that now,” Azu explained. “I should apologize. When I found out you guys were Shining Warriors, I didn’t account for who you really were beneath that. And you’re just a young girl who was thrown into this whole legend. It’s only natural you’d not be very keen on fighting.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, though,” Crystal looked up at her.

“You know what, I’m the same. I assumed all of us would be like me. I resigned myself to protecting civilians from having to fight, that’s why I killed Evark. So normal Pokémon like you wouldn’t have to try and make that decision,” Lucca stated, making Crystal gasp. He wasn’t looking at her. “I won’t blame you for hating me. All I ask is that you accept me making it my duty to protect you.”

“I don’t get it though. You’re the one who beat Suzie, you beat that Poochyena, you’re a Shining Warrior. You should fight like the rest of us!” Ruby argued.

“Says who?” Lucca challenged. “Shelly doesn’t fight either, and I won’t make him. We can still do our duty as Shining Warriors, but leave the fighting to me and Mimia.”

“I’m not gonna sit around and be a weakling. I’ll always fight by your side, Lucca,” Ruby promised, making sure she faced him head on. He smiled warmly at her.

“I really appreciate it, Ruby,” he nodded. She blushed and rubbed her face. “Crystal. You don’t have to fight from here on. I’m sorry for not noticing sooner. When the going gets tough, hang back and protect yourself – we’ll deal with the enemies. We’ll each have our roles on this journey, and fighting will be mine.”

“Can… can cooking be mine?” Shelly asked.

“After that meal, I doubt anyone has any objections!” Lucca remarked, getting a happy noise from Mimia, too.

“Speaking of, we should probably clean up our camp and get going before we attract anymore hungry ferals,” Azu suggested.

“Good call. Good thing the fire went out, too,” Ruby said, getting to work.

Crystal was left blank as the group got to work. A civilian? I’m just a civilian… They’re right. I can’t hurt a Cutiefly. But why does it hurt so much? They’re not calling me useless… Ruby obviously thinks I am.

The Piplup sighed and rubbed a flipper, only now noticing Shelly stood beside her, and jolted. “Sh-Shelly…”

“U-um… Lucca is r-right, you know, I think. You’re a kind lass, and it’s good to be kind,” he said. She sighed again, and watched the group clear up.

“I know he’s right. Thank you,” she replied.

“Hey, I know you cooked and stuff, but we did just fight. Get your lazy butt over here and help out!” Ruby cried.

“O-oh, right!” Shelly squeaked and bounced off. Crystal watched them with an empty expression, glanced at her bow, and then strapped her bow to her back.
Episode 7: Ruby’s First Date


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Megan complete - Copy (2).png

Episode 7: Ruby’s First Date

The next few days blurred together like routine. Shelly’s good breakfasts, hours of marching, the occasional fight against feral Pokémon, and when the sun began to set, they’d go off-road to camp for the night, where Ruby and Shelly would sneak off for training. Crystal snuck after them to see if she could learn a thing or two, but wound up admiring their activity more than actually practicing herself.

Before they knew it, the silhouette of their destination was close enough to tell that it was a city. Ruby couldn’t help but walk near the front today, excited to explore the place and see a new setting. Crystal waddled beside her, just as excited.

“Is it just me, or is it kinda chilly over here? Are you guys okay?” Ruby asked as a cold wind ruffled her fur.

“It is colder than I’m used to, but it’s only the wind. The sun’s still warm and all,” Lucca agreed.

“That’s right. Girage Fields is by the sea, so you’ll get a lot of coastal winds. Lucky Crystal, the only one with a scarf,” Azu commented, making the Piplup blush. “I’m just happy to finally get somewhere. We were actually starting to run out of food.”

“I wonder whose fault that is?” Ruby snickered.

“Hey you eat a lot, too,” Lucca defended himself.

“I’m a growing girl, I’m allowed to!” she giggled.

“After finally getting to the bottom of your weight issue, too,” Crystal rolled her eyes and sighed. Ruby growled at her, while Mimia happily yipped at them.

The city was surrounded by a large river that went out to sea from the side they would enter. A single bridge served as the entrance. As they walked across, they had a clear view of the sea and an island in the distance. Crystal and Ruby gasped as they jumped up the guard railing.

“Wow, there’s so much water! And it’s so blue,” Ruby remarked.

“It just goes on and on, yet it’s so pretty,” Crystal whispered in amazement. The way the sun shimmered off the top of the water made it sparkle, which in turn made Crystal’s eyes sparkle, too.

“You two never seen the sea before? Don’t go jumping over now. That water’s got to be deep,” Azu warned.

“How deep are we talkin’? It just looks like a really big Lillistep River,” Ruby said. She couldn’t take her eyes off it. Her amulet flashed and made her jump, and Angel swirled out of it to stand beside them.

“You see that island in the distance? That’s your destination. You’ll find the second trial there,” Angel stated. “That’s why I told you guys to find a boat. If you can safely cross the sea there, you’ll have no problems.”

“Angel… do you know where we’ll find a boat, though?” Crystal asked.

“Heck no!” the Togekiss squeaked, and then flew back into the amulet.

“Yeesh, she’s so helpful. Whatever. It’s a city with lots of Pokémon, there’s bound to be something here to help us, right?” Ruby said.

“We could ask a Pokémon to fly us over the water, too,” Shelly suggested.

“Good thinking. Well, I was going to suggest something,” Lucca began. He appeared nervous now that all eyes were on him. “Cities are way bigger than I expected, and it looks kind of crowded, too.”

Ruby didn’t realise right away, either. The moment they got on the bridge, the population rocketed. Species of all different kinds walked or flew past them in both directions. Looking into the actual city too, there was a crowd of Pokémon. A group their size would have difficulty sticking together.

“I was going to ask… since you’re more used to stuff like this, Miss Azu, would you show me around, please?” Lucca proposed.

“Me?” the bunny shifted back.

“Yeah! I-it could be fun and stuff. There’s lots you wanted to see too, right? We could go together, and check everything out.” Lucca said. Mimia barked and growled a round at him. “What’s your problem? Where did that come from?”

Ruby cocked her head at his aggravation. It was clear that Mimia was more upset than usual. The way he growled and barked this time, it was almost like he was ranting about something.

“Okay now you’re just being silly. I’m not asking Azu out on a date, I’m just asking her if the two of us could… look around to see the city…” he argued, going quieter with every word. He rubbed the back of his head and smiled sheepishly. “I can see why that could be seen as a date now, actually. Oops.”

“Wait a minute, a date? Lucca, what about me?” Ruby squeaked. She jumped on his back and hugged up to his face.

“Ruby—” he said.

“I’ve never been to a city before. What if the two of us looked around instead? Shelly and Crystal could go together, too,” she suggested.

“Me and Shelly?” Crystal asked unsurely. She glanced at the Oshawott, who flinched and hid behind his paws, leaf flashing pink. “Um, can we focus? I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but it’s better we stick together, isn’t it?”

“Na-uh. Lucca said it before, we could have some fun! Let’s take a load off, get some good food, see the sights!” Ruby said cheerfully. “There’s lots of stuff here. I’d get lost without a big strong hero to guide me.”

“Huh?” Crystal slumped. “You’re acting really weird, Ruby.”

“I’m not bein’ weird, you’re weird!” she snapped.

“I agree, but me and you’d get lost on our own. I wanted to go with Azu,” Lucca said blankly.

“You won’t take me?” Ruby asked, putting on her best adorable expression. It didn’t look right with her eyes open.

“Sorry. I asked Azu first,” Lucca stated.

“Oh,” Ruby turned away.

Crystal slapped her face and shook her head. “I can’t believe we’re really arguing about this. If Azu’s the only one who knows her way around the city, then shouldn’t it be a given we all stick together?”

“I don’t actually know my way around here. I’ve never been to Girage Fields before,” Azu admitted quietly. “I’m surprised anyone would really ask me out, though…”

Mimia started barking again.

“Mimia, you know your way around? That’s great! He can help you guys look around. Let’s make a plan and meet back at an inn later. It’s an easy plan,” Lucca suggested. Now Mimia was stomping his feet as he shouted and pouted. “Okay seriously buddy, will you cut that out? Other Pokémon are looking at us!”

Nervous glances at a few onlookers made them turn away. Mimia still snarled and pouted about it, though.

“Shouldn’t I be the one who gets the last say in this?” Azu pointed out. “Our big group would cause problems in the crowds. So not only does it help if we split up, it really could be fun. I’m absolutely certain there are things that each of you want to check out.”

“You’ll really take me?” Lucca put his flippers together.

“You have to listen to me, though. Someone’s got to keep you out of the shop situation,” Azu stated, hands on her hips.

“Aw man, the shop again? Was it really that bad?” Lucca sighed.

“Yeah. it really was,” Ruby answered.

“Oh and get off me,” he groaned.

“Nah. I like it here. You’re comfy,” she sunk into him. Lucca growled and thrashed a bit to throw her off.

“When I think about it, there’s something cool I can show you. I may not know my way around, but I do know some attractions the city’s famous for,” Azu smiled. “I think you’d be interested, Lucca.”

“Hmm? What is it?” Lucca asked with a smile.

“It’s a surprise now, silly. C’mon, let’s go,” Azu walked off, smiling cheekily.

“Wa-wait a minute, what about…?” Ruby muttered. Her heart sunk as the duo seemed to completely forget about her presence. “U-um, guys! What about the plan? A-and, er… I really wanted to—”

“Ah, I almost forgot! Shall we meet by the town entrance in a few hours? We’ll sort out the inn and supplies,” Azu suggested. “Crystal, you have the money from our fights, right? May I take about three thousand Gald?”

“Uh, sure,” Crystal muttered, handing her the pouch.

“Are we really doing this? Lucca, you’re really gonna leave a helpless lil’ lady like me on my own?” Ruby whined. There was a long silence, and not one member of the group had sympathy on their face. “Wow guys. Just wow.”

“You’re the last Pokémon I’d call a helpless little lady. If anything, I’m counting on you to take care of everyone else! Not that you’ll get into trouble,” Lucca said.

At least I’m being given SOME responsibility. I’ll take that as a compliment, but… gods, can’t this guy take a hint? What nice stuff could Azu give him? Ruby pouted in her head, looking up at them. A few more instructions were given, but she zoned out to them. Lucca was clearly excited about getting to be alone with Azu for some reason, or at least, that’s what it looked like. This was the first time since arriving in Vergrace that he had that soft, cute smile of his.

Ruby stood there like a lemon, with the whole world blurring besides Azu and Lucca. As they disappeared into a dark blur straight ahead, it felt like something in her chest was leaving her, irritating her. She clutched her chest and shivered, not knowing what to say, do, or feel.

“Ruby?” Crystal cried, pulling her back to reality.

“Who what when where huh?” Ruby gasped. “Oh er, we’re just standin’ around here, huh? How much money did he leave us with?”

“Are you okay? You got sorta weird there,” Crystal tilted her head.

“I’m fine, it’s nothing! Y-you’re the one actin’ weird. Whatever, let’s just go! Somewhere,” Ruby replied. Mimia barked and bumped her, and then walked ahead with a stern march. She took it as him wanting to lead the way, which was fine for now. She knew he was strong.

The crowd situation was even worse than they were warned. Not long after entering, the roads became noisy streams of Pokémon far taller and bigger than they were, and they marched at a robotic pace. Ruby couldn’t see over or beside the burly figures of Machamp or Rhyperior families, and was irritated as Scizor, Mawile, and other sharp Pokémon brushed her as they passed. She was able to hug up close to her party though, and Mimia soon directed them hard to the left, where there was a park bench in a tiny square of grass free of the public.

Guess this is why it’s called field, Ruby realised as she took the moment to scout around.

The ground was all grass cut so short that that it felt like walking on fur. All of it also had a yellow colour to it, matching the dry, orange buildings and dusty street signs. No matter where she looked, it was a maze of buildings with crowds of Pokémon flowing down the roads between them, and behind that, another layer of the same thing. Muffled chatter constantly filled the air, but she could make out salesmon clapping and shouting about their wares, too.

“Geez, there’s like a gazillion buildings here. How’re we supposed to find anythin’?” she complained. “So much of this stuff looks the same, too.”

Mimia barked again, bringing her attention to a bulletin board in the middle of the square. It was a map of a section of the city.

“Oh. This place is so big it has a map. So it’s more like a dungeon than a place Pokémon can live,” Ruby muttered. Mimia made a round of noises directed at her, and they sounded calm and endearing. “Yeah uh… I never got what you were saying when you do that. Sorry, gonna have to talk normal if you wanna tell me something.”

Mimia whined.

“There’s no need to be mean about it. I guess he’s asking where we want to go from here,” Crystal replied, tilting her head.

“Whoa, you can understand Mimia?” Ruby said.

“That’s amazing, Crystal,” Shelly praised.

“Well no, I can’t either. But I did notice that Mimia tends to sound different based on what’s going on,” Crystal pointed out. Mimia yipped happily. “Like now, he sounded inquisitive and we’re looking at a map, so I assumed he would be asking us about it. Other times, like when we’re out in the fields, he might sound angry to warn of feral Pokémon coming.”

“That… actually makes a lotta sense. I feel stupid for not getting that. It’s kinda obvious,” Ruby grumbled. Mimia yipped and made a few more noises toward her. “That wasn’t you callin’ me stupid, was it?”

“Wouldn’t be inaccurate,” Crystal teased. Shelly giggled, and Mimia yipped.

“Wow guys, seriously?” she spat. Hmpf. Shelly’s laughing with her which is a step toward my end of the bargain, at least.

Ruby traced a paw across the map as she looked at the different landmarks pointed out. If we’re just meant to play around today, I wonder if there’s any cute scenes I can put them in? Don’t go too big Ruby, Shelly’s still a weakling. Just something to make Crystal notice him better.

“That fat Cyndaquil again of all the places!” a grown up gasp came from behind her.

“You’re telling me,” added a grownup girl, too. Ruby paid little heed at first, but noticed familiar, dirty red scales rushing towards her and turned. It was Smokes the Charmeleon, coupled with a Wigglytuff. One look at the latter made her wary, and she shifted back.

“Ah!” Shelly gasped.

“You’re that kid, aren’t ya? Yeah you are, that mad kid who didn’t drown in the river. Ya made it outta that big mess?” Smokes pointed at her. He shook both claws. “Actually, don’t answer. Of course you could make it here. If being thrown in a river, knights and fires couldn’t kill ya, I doubt a little trip to here could.”

“What’s that about? Being thrown in a river? Knights and fires?” the Wigglytuff inquired.

“It’s nuthin, just a little throwback between me and the mouse,” snickered Smokes. “Fancy meeting you here, pipsqueak!”

Ruby hardly paid attention to his mockery. She was too drawn to the Wigglytuff. This Pokémon’s absurd size and attractively round appearance was a brilliant mask for what she could sense underneath. This Wigglytuff carried an axe that matched her height on her back, and had a constant aura of vigilance. They were far stronger than any first glance could have implied, and she couldn’t begin to imagine how strong. If someone so much as tried to pinch her, there was no doubt Wigglytuff would crush them.

“U-um, do we know you?” Crystal asked. Mimia walked between the two groups, but didn’t say anything.

“Oh oh, it’s okay everyone,” Shelly gasped. “It’s... erm, ah, an old friend. H-her name is Kusha. The lass is Kusha.”

Shelly’s friend is this brute? Who the heck is she? Ruby glanced at the Oshawott in horror.

“Oh, you made friends already. The other Shining Warriors, I presume?” Kusha smiled. “Nice going, I knew you could do it. Seems like your journey’s fully under way.”

And she knows that we’re the Shining Warriors. She’s… no ordinary girl, Ruby turned back to Kusha. I’ll never admit this out loud, but I hope we never have to fight this thing.

“No way. A little squirt like him knows a supersize like you?” Smokes commented. Kusha gave him a look. “Just being blunt.”

“There’s something going on with the knights. They’re these big metal Pokémon that patrol cities like this. You might’ve seen them before,” Kusha began.

Ruby turned away. “Those guys. They’re trouble.”

“You know them?” Kusha asked.

“They attacked our village on the day we left home, but we don’t know why. We just know they’re bad guys,” Crystal replied.

“I figured. They’re doubling down on a search for certain Pokémon. Meanwhile, they mass hired for some huge construction project in the east. I’m investigating, but something else important has come up,” Kusha stated. “It seems there’s not much room for me to help you out here, so might I ask a big favour in return?”

“O-oh, you could help us!” Shelly said. “Can you still fly? M-me and my friends need to get to Van Aken.”

“If it’s just you all, I might be able to manage. Might. You might be too heavy,” Kusha replied, and starting giggling. “Silly Shelly. You just wanted to fly with me as a balloon again, didn’t you?”

Shelly blushed and turned away, and Ruby gave him a sceptical look. “Weirdo.”

“She really can fly, though. It’s really cool,” he mumbled.

“If you need to get across the sea, I’ll see what I can do to work something out. You won’t have to give me long. But er, do you really want to go back there?” Kusha asked.

That perked Shelly up “Ah- er it’s just… that’s where one of the trials is. We need to go there. For the first time.”

“Hmm?” Kusha replied. Shelly shook his paws desperately, and was silent but flustered, his leaf a light blue. “Well okay. I get it. I’ll get to work on that right away, anyhow. For me though, I had an investigation into an ancient artefact.”

“Oh, great. More old stories,” Ruby groaned.

“I get you. It’s a long shot, but I assume because you Shining Warriors are attached to ancient legends and stuff like that. Have you ever seen or heard of the Armlet of Transmutation?” Kusha asked.

“The Armlet of Transmu-what now?” Ruby replied.

“Transmutation. That’s hardly a big word,” Crystal rolled her eyes.

Kusha unveiled a small notebook and showed them a drawing. It was a gold bracelet adorned with lots of jagged edges. Mimia made a curious noise at it.

“Oh my gosh, wait I actually have seen that thing before. Isn’t that the thing I got for Smokes that was buried in the river?” Ruby gasped. “Don’t you still have it? You said you’d only sell it if you ran outta money.”

“Ack, that old thing?” Smokes choked and jerked back.

“Wait are you serious? Do you actually have it? That’s what I approached you for in the first place,” Kusha turned to the Charmeleon.

“Well if that was the case, what was the point in bein’ so roundabout with askin’ me for a job?” smokes cried, tugging at his bag. “Grr, it’s mine though! If you want it, ya gotta do me a favour, too. Since we’re handin’ out favours, might as well, right?”

“I’m not so sure about this. You’re kind of shady,” Crystal admitted.

“Not kinda. He is shady,” Ruby corrected.

“Phew, I wasn’t wrong,” Shelly sighed.

Kusha hesitated to comment, and was quiet. “Alright. I’ll ask what it is, first.”

“Should be easy for a supersize like you. You kids shouldn’t follow either, the grownups are talking!” Smokes stated as he directed her back into the crowds.

“We’re kinda involved here,” Ruby groaned.

They went around the other side of the bulletin map and closer to the edge of the city, were there were a number of boardwalks on top of a large sandy area. It was a lot less crowded here, but there were still enough Pokémon to fill the air with chatter and footsteps.

“C’mon, where were you where I last saw you,” Smokes rambled as he impatiently scouted the area. He pointed to large gazebo shaped like a Smeargle’s head. “Aha! Found you.”

“A… restaurant?” Ruby tilted her head.

“Not just any restaurant. Captain Smeargle’s Pizza Parlour! Most famous place in Heroica,” Smokes cheered, raising his claws. “Fancy sharin’ a meal? We can split the bill.”

“… Yeah, that’s shady as heck. How do we know you’re not gonna run out on us?” Ruby challenged.

“Pah, I could pay for a meal here on my own if I wanted to!” he argued. “It just… eats into my savings a bit. Yeah. But what’s a meal with old friends, huh? Once rivals, now buddies.”

“You tried to drown me in a river! We aren’t buddies,” Ruby cried.

“Goodness, that’s horrible!” Kusha remarked.

“Gah, don’t shout shit like that! It’s water under the bridge,” Smokes objected.

“Not funny,” Crystal groaned.

“Uh-um, what is a pizza?” Shelly asked. Smokes gasped exaggeratedly.

“You kids have never had a pizza before? It’s a food of the gods, I’m tellin’ ya!” Smokes bragged. “Soft but hot bread smoothed with a layer of tomato, then a thick, stringy layer of cheese.”

“Cheese?” Ruby perked up.

“Uh oh,” Crystal said.

“Yeah, and not some run-o-the-mill Kecleon shop cheese, either. I’m talkin’ the freshest stuff, straight off the farm. The fancy shit ya can smell from another continent away!” Smokes rambled. Just the image made Ruby drool. “Captain Smeargle paints toppings with a tail that draws ingredients rather than paintings. The beauty with pizza is you can put any other food you like on top of it, and it completes the thing.”

“Anything?” Ruby asked.

“Fruit, meat, veggies, you name it baby,” Smokes rambled. The more he listed things off, the nosier Mimia got.

“Even more cheese?” Ruby added. She didn’t realise her eyes were open now.

“Heh heh. Sounds like the four cheese is right up your alley,” Smokes pointed coolly at her.

“This is a really bad idea!” Crystal warned.

“It sounds delicious, though. What’s wrong with it?” Shelly wondered.

“The food is fine, it’s,” Crystal trailed off, sneaking a glance at Ruby.

“Not that I have anything against fancy foods, but will you really give me the armlet if we share a meal with you?” Kusha inquired, unbothered.

“Oh the favour wasn’t to share the meal. That’s only part of the favour,” Smokes snickered.

“What’re we waiting for? Whose hungry?” Ruby bounced. Crystal moved to say something, but her stomach growled, so the Piplup sighed in defeat.

“This is gonna be a disaster,” Crystal hung her head.

“Crystal, do you not like pizza?” Shelly wondered.

“I can eat it just fine. That’s not the problem. Just, never mind,” she said, sweating.

“Hmm? What could be the problem?” Shelly tilted his head.

One hour later…

“I-I think I’m starting to see the problem now,” Shelly staggered with an awkward smile.

“Phew. Okay, I’m done,” Ruby gurgled and let out a small, fiery burp. She fell backwards, rubbing her belly contently. “You weren’t kiddin’ when you said it was the food of the gods.”

“It’s a magic food for sure,” Smokes snickered.

While the group had each shared two pizzas between them, Ruby had eaten four alone. She knew that fattened her up to the point she could barely move right now, but in her eyes, she could pay for it later. The important thing now was she had a new favourite dinner.

“The way you inhaled all that, one would think you’re the Stufful hibernating for the winter,” Kusha commented. Mimia grumbled at the comment. “So Smokes, about this favour of yours for the armlet.”

“Right right, yes, the poster was actually in here. There’s a wanted guy I wanna take down ‘cos it’s got a huge reward that’ll make this meal feel like it came for free,” he explained. “Problem is, the guy’s a water type. I don’t need to explain the rest, do I?”

“You want me to help you catch an outlaw? That’s no trouble at all, especially if they have a wanted poster of information on him. Should’ve shown me in the first place,” Kusha smiled. “Although… it’s a bit silly that you’re worried about a type disadvantage when we can’t use moves.”

“Knew it. You’re a babe, y’know that? Help me catch that guy, and the armlet’s yours. I get to keep the reward money too, yeah?” Smokes smirked. Mimia barked.

“At least share some with the kids,” Kusha rolled her eyes. “But you may, as long as I get the armlet. And before we start, show me.”

“Fine, they get a cut,” Smokes groaned as he shuffled through his bag. He presented the armlet, in perfect condition just like when Ruby found it. Seeing it in reality again brought on a strange feeling of eeriness. This was a huge bracelet with very unclear markings, and the idea that Suzie was concerned about its disappearance meant it was more than meets the eye.

“I’m a Charmeleon of my word. Help me take down the criminal, give me a seventy-five percent cut, and the armlet’s yours. I’ll have so much money I won’t need to fall back on selling this thing in emergency,” he promised.

“Sure, we’ll go after ‘em. Just… gimme a minute. Or ten,” Ruby burped quietly again. Crystal hid herself in embarrassment, while Shelly giggled.

“Gives me a chance to excuse myself. I’ll be right back. Poster’s by the entrance, if you want to check it out while ya wait,” Smokes said, pointing at it as he stood up.

“Ugh. Don’t take too long,” Kusha rolled her eyes. Crystal got up too, looking for the poster. The moment she saw it, her flippers covered her mouth.

“Crystal?” Shelly said, hearing her gasp. She didn’t move, so he waddled over, only to have nearly the same reaction.

“Ruby!” Crystal practically screeched, making her jolt. Kusha and Mimia were finally alarmed now, too.

“What could possibly get you guys in such a rowdy mood…?” Ruby groaned as she came over, too. The moment she saw the poster, her heart stopped.

The poster had a horrendous drawing. There was no doubt about it, however. It depicted a blue figure holding two gold swords, with a pink nose, pigtails, and what looked like a dress. Ruby’s eyes shot open and wavered as she dared to read onwards.

Wanted: Luca. Species: Brionne. Male. Believed to be at least twenty years old. Last seen with a group of six. Identified by a Shining Warrior amulet. Wanted dead or alive. Assigned by Heroica Knights. The reward was a number she couldn’t read, but there were a lot of zeros.

Wait, Lucca’s a grownup? Ruby gasped. All surroundings went dark, now. The way he behaved, she couldn’t believe it. Several scenes replayed in her mind, but nothing made sense. All she knew now was that if that predicted age was anywhere near right, she had been a fool since meeting him.

“He’s so old,” she whispered. Of course he wouldn’t notice a stupid kid like me…

“What’s wrong with this?” Kusha asked. The moment she spoke, Ruby gasped and flew back to reality. “I mean, it’s not the worst drawing I’ve ever seen, but it is pretty bad.”

This was no time to be worrying about potential boyfriends. Ruby growled and flared her back. A wave of gasps filled the room, but a quick glance at the public made her stop. She tore the poster from the wall and stormed out.

“Ah, Ruby!” Crystal cried, but she didn’t wait.

“Girls, you didn’t- oh my gods, do not tell me they’re the ones walking out on paying,” Kusha squeaked. Shelly popped up beside her, groaned, and then impatiently counted coins. He left more than their meal on the counter for the surprised chef, but still ran out. “Wait, Shelly that’s too much- what about Smokes? Gosh, what is going on?”

Before Ruby could sprint into the crowd, Mimia barged her over, barking incessantly. “What’s your problem?” she shouted.

“Calm down!” Mimia ordered. Ruby’s eyes widened and she gawked at him.

“W-we need to think about this. Azu didn’t tell us where they were going. Where are we supposed to find them?” Crystal cried.

“Ugh. Good point,” Ruby growled and turned away. Mimia was still barking at her. “What? I told ya, I don’t get you unless you speak properly.”

Mimia growled a response, and then dug through his belongings. He sniffed at one of their folded tents, then at the air around them.

“Oh yeah, your doggie senses! You could find ‘em in no time,” Ruby remarked, getting a peppy yip in response.

“I’m not sure we can find them in such a big place, though,” Crystal tilted her head. Mimia barked a few times and then charged off. “A-ah, Mimia!”

“He seems sure of himself. Let’s go,” Ruby nodded.

“Wait, girls! What about—” Kusha gasped as even Shelly ran off without her. “If I’m piecing this together right… Well, I know how to find Shelly. I guess it’s my job to keep an eye on that shady Charmeleon.”

The city didn’t seem so crowded now that they were sprinting through, or maybe it was the help Mimia was getting from the other Pokémon. He barked incessantly, making the crowds and roads of Pokémon stop and make space, but only out of surprise. Crystal apologized profusely as they passed, while Ruby found it slightly funny.

It stopped being funny when they sprinted for a long while, though. The group passed a children’s park, a huge pond, an even a street lined entirely with market stalls and shops. The range of tasty smells and fun laughter that came from it all made it hurt to ignore, even though she knew she had an important task to focus on. If everything got cleared up, she hoped she could come back to it all.

Then it stopped feeling like a holiday by the time Mimia reached a destination. The whole group was a panting wreck, sat on the ground while waving their paws like white flags. Ruby was so exhausted that she couldn’t speak, and Mimia being unaffected by it all only made her feel even more tired.

“Okay… what is this place?” Ruby asked, finally catching her breath. It was a huge hall that reminded her of the casino back in Lillistep: gaudy and lined with posters all over the walls. “Chaos… t-hee-atree?”

“Theatre! When did you forget how to read?” Crystal cried.

“I didn’t. I’ve never seen that word before!” Ruby snapped. Mimia barked. “Whatever, guess they’re inside.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Crystal groaned as they wandered in.

“There’s even more food in here,” Shelly pointed out, noting popcorn and sweet stands, each stationed by Alcremie and Slugma. There was a Glalie preparing icy products too, while a lone Indeedee stood between red VIP barriers and a hallway.

“You’re not still hungry, are you?” Crystal asked. Shelly squirmed a response and blushed. “After all that cheese…”

“Hey, I could still go for whatever it is they’re making. It smells so good,” Ruby licked her lips.

“If you eat anymore, you’re going to explode! Besides, we need to focus. We need to find Lu- er, you know who,” Crystal complained.

“For someone who doesn’t fight because she’s a weakling, you’re awfully authoritative,” Ruby argued.

“What- how do you know what authoritative means but not theatre?” Crystal cried.

“I dunno, how do you know how to use a bow but don’t know how to fight?” Ruby raised her voice.

Crystal sighed. “Forget it.”

“That… wasn’t very nice, Ruby,” Shelly commented, to which she gave him a nasty stare.

“At least someone gets it. I’m not going crazy. Thanks, Shelly,” Crystal grumbled and turned away.

“Don’t push your luck,” Ruby said as he tried to hide a blush.

Mimia started barking again, making the Indeedee usher nervous. There was clear incentive to push past, but the Indeedee held his hands forward.

“Please, you mustn’t raise a ruckus. What’s the problem? May I help you?” Indeedee asked, flustered as Mimia kept trying to squeeze past him.

“We need to get through to find our friend. It’s super important, we’re talking life or death over here!” Ruby bounced eagerly.

Indeedee glanced down the hallway behind him, then scratched the tuft of fur on his head. “The show’s just starting, and they explicitly drilled me not to let anyone through once the show starts. Are your parents here? If there was a grownup with you, I could be a bit more lenient.”

Mimia barked even louder, and his face was fierce.

“This guy’s a grownup, so watch who you’re calling a kid!” Ruby retorted.

“She is? But you’re—” Indeedee gasped, silencing with Mimia’s growling. “Please, you really mustn’t…”

“Ruby, hang on a second,” Crystal said, and pulled the group back a bit. “If it’s a big show going on and no one’s allowed through, then Lucca should be safe in there. We could just wait for him here.”

“Oh yeah, right. I’m sure even those knights wouldn’t be allowed in,” Shelly added.

“And let ‘em find us first? Once Pokémon find out Lucca’s a Shining Warrior and that he’s one of us, they’ll come for us too, y’know,” Ruby argued.

“But how long will it take for that? I think we can at least wait until the show’s over,” Crystal reasoned.

“Grr, screw that. We shouldn’t have even split up in the first place!” Ruby cried. She spat a small flame to scare the Indeedee, and then barged past him. “C’mon, let’s get him!”

“Wait no, eek!” The Indeedee cried and curled up, but Mimia and company simply hopped over him.

“This is a really bad idea!” Crystal warned.

“I-i-its okay, we’re gonna be okay. Ruby’s strong, right?” Shelly gasped, though his leaf had turned dark blue.

As they ran down the hallway, the area darkened until they came to a wide doorway with an orb above it. The orb made a dull red glow, which was enough to make Ruby slowdown in consideration. She had already pushed past that wimpy guard though, so there was no turning back. With that in mind, she pushed the double doors open and quickly went inside.

Light, atmospheric music was playing. The floor was smooth, shiny, and led to the different areas of the room. Straight ahead led to rows and rows of seats, while a little to their right was a fancy stage. Right now, there was a range of Oricorio, Ninjask, and Cinccino dancing on stage in a brilliant, coordinated fashion. The Cinccino wore silky outfits that shimmered whenever rotating stage lights shone over them.

The group appeared to enter at the end of the performance, as the song soon stopped and the dancers finished in a perfect pose, mostly stood on each other to create a giant living Pokémon statue or something. The seats, which were filled to the brim with all kinds of Pokémon, immediately applauded, and more lights came on. No one seemed to notice Ruby and the others come in.

“How’re we going to find Lucca in this?” Crystal had to shout to be heard.

“Mimia, you still got that scent?” Ruby asked, and he yipped. “That’s how!”

“Thank you, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemon, let me thank you for coming here today!” a new voice announced.

Ruby stopped dead in her tracks.

“I’m sure many of you have travelled far and wide, and paid many a pretty penny to come all this way for tonight’s show. For that, each of you is the star of the show,” the Pokémon remarked. As the dancers gathered to leave the stage from behind the curtains, a very large Ribombee came through. He was huge for a bug type, nearly Lucca’s height, and had strange letters written on his forehead. Most of all, Ruby recognised his rich voice.

His large size, his way of speaking, the yellow, insectoid shape – there was no doubt about it. The more he spoke, the more she drew comparisons to those horrible memories. She had almost forgotten about it, but now that she was here, nothing else mattered. She stared at him from below the stage as he gloated and drew out the time of the show, but she managed to zone out to everything despite his volume. All she could see right now was a murderer in a veil of darkness.

“Ruby?” Crystal hissed at her. Ruby didn’t even look at the Piplup.

“That’s him, Crystal,” Ruby whispered.


“That’s the guy who killed my mother.”
Episode 8: Lucca’s New Mission


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Lucca complete - Copy.png

Episode 8: Lucca’s New Mission

“I don’t get it. I thought I would understand, but I don’t,” Lucca admitted as he observed the show. The way the Oricorio moved, he knew he could dance better than them. Combined with the Cinccino’s scarves and clothes flowing about the stage, and the Ninjask zipping about too, the dance routine appeared very flashy. It was as if bunch of figures were dancing through water, without any actual water. He couldn’t help but feel it was wasteful.

“There’s nothing to get, silly. It’s just a dance. Shh,” Azu hushed him and giggled.

“I am watching. I can do the moves they’re doing,” he bragged. He squirmed in his seat, and wound up leaning on the chair in front of him. “And these things aren’t built for Pokémon without feet. This is so uncomfortable.”

“That is a good point. I thought they would’ve accommodated for that,” Azu commented. “Sorry.”

“Not your fault. Just, when you said it was a dance show, I thought there would be a battle involved, but there’s not a weapon in sight,” Lucca said.

Azu pulled him back into his seat. “Why would a dance performance have a fight?”

“Isn’t that practical? That’s the only reason why I learned to dance, to apply it to combat. Weapons are pretty difficult for a Brionne to use, so I had to find a way,” he explained. There was a pause, and Azu appeared almost sceptical. “I’ve never seen Pokémon dance for entertainment before. I-I didn’t know others liked to watch, too.”

“I’m starting to get a picture about where you’ve come from,” Azu muttered. The performance finished just then, and applause started up as lights came on. “Okay, you gotta admit, that pose is cool.”

“The coordination, the balance, the timing, the smoothness… they’re barely twitching. These Pokémon would be real contenders in battle,” Lucca remarked.

“What is with you and fighting? You didn’t strike me as the violent type, you know,” Azu laughed lightly.

“Force of habit. I did get to see a thing or two I could try out sometime, though,” he admitted.

“Will you relax? You’re not here to train or learn how to fight or whatever. Just sit back and enjoy the show. It’s not even the main act yet,” Azu said. She dug behind her and revealed a bowl of food. “Here! Chewy sweets. Try one!”

“Sweets?” he replied, eying it unsurely. Small, soft, pink and white squares were heaped up. He took one, sniffed it, and could only smell sugar. He wasn’t sure until he took a bite, hardly expecting it to be as fluffy as it was. It was tasty enough to make him blush and reach for more, but she pulled the bowl away from him.

“Uh uh uh, we’re sharing these, hee hee,” she said, half-lidded.

“Aww. What are they? I could eat a whole bowl of them!” he remarked and licked his lips.

“They’re called marshmallows. Something told me you’d never tried one before,” she giggled as she held one out to him. He followed it with his nose like a magnet, so she played with him a bit. She held it up and he stood on his tail, and when she held it low, he flopped to the floor. “I cannot believe you sometimes.”

“Gimme!” he whined. She flicked it up and he caught it in his mouth, making a pleasant sound while he chewed.

“So which of you is the dog now? Or is this just what Mimia takes after?” she giggled, playing with another one for him.

“Only when tasty food is involved,” he said without turning away from the marshmallow, making her laugh even more.

“Oh Lucca,” she sighed.

“Thank you, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemon, let me thank you for coming here today!” began a new voice as the dancers left the stage. Lucca had to do a double take as the voice was all too familiar. The moment he saw the large Ribombee show up in the centre of the stage, he flew forward and leaned on the chair in front of him.

“Alver?” Lucca gasped.

“Lucca?” Azu whispered. He instantly felt embarrassed, and glanced between her and the stage.

“I’m sure many of you have travelled far and wide, and paid many a pretty penny to come all this way for tonight’s show. For that, each of you is the star of the show,” Alver continued. “But before we continue on with the main act, I must run through our house rules so that you all, and our star Esther, may all enjoy the show.”

I don’t get it. What the heck are you doing here? Lucca asked himself, unable to believe his eyes. What happened to our mission?

“Is it someone you know?” Azu asked quietly as the audience had gone silent. Lucca got a hold of himself and leaned back.

“U-uh, I… sorry about that. I-I thought it was someone I knew, but there shouldn’t be anyone,” he said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. What am I doing? What’s the harm if Azu knows? She might even be able to help.

As Alver spoke, Ruby crawled on stage and ran into the light in the centre. A round of gasps came from the audience as she appeared and flared her back, and even Alver lost his trail of words. Lucca leaned forward again too, and this time he was gritting his fangs.

“Wait, isn’t that Ruby?” Lucca hissed.

“What is she doing here? How did she even?” Azu added, concerned now as well.

“Ahaha, excuse me a moment everyone,” Alver laughed. “Young miss, please return to your seat. We cannot continue the show with members of the public so close to the stage.”

Ruby tensed up. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“Hmm?” Alver replied.

“Figures. A heartless murderer like you probably doesn’t remember anyone he’s killed,” Ruby raised her voice. The flames on her back grew, and she opened her eyes to give him a fierce glare. “Ring any bells?”

Alver was silent. Despite Lucca’s distance from the stage, for the briefest moment, it looked like Alver smiled. Something about it rubbed Lucca the wrong way. Perhaps the Ribombee had an inside joke brought up, or just found the scene funny. Alver’s slight reaction just felt concerning.

“Young miss, please return to your seat as you are holding up the performance. I do not want to have to call security,” Alver instructed with a bow.

“Like hell I’d do that. I’m not leaving until you’re burnt to a crisp,” Ruby threatened.

“Ruby, stop it!” Crystal cried, appearing onstage too. Mimia barked beside her.

“Stay the heck back! This is between me and the murderer!” Ruby ordered. “I’m not letting you live another day. You’re gonna pay for killing my mother, and I don’t care who’s around or what. Today, you die!”

“Er, what is going on? Lucca, she’s not seriously going to, is she?” Azu said with growing panic.

There’s no freaking way, Lucca cried in his head, starting to shake. The one who killed Ruby’s mother was Alver? That’s impossible, this is Alver’s first time in Heroica. Ruby HAS to be mistaken!

“Well now, that’s quite a threat. I would ask that you don’t—” Alver replied.

Ruby cut him off by blowing fire straight at him. In a flash, his large staff appeared in his dangly arms, and he spun it around to deflect the flames. Ruby quickly let up, and he was completely unharmed. He didn’t retaliate however, and held the staff over his front defensively.

“Wait… Ruby mentioned it. A large yellow bug type with a staff. She actually said it,” Azu revealed, making Lucca gasp. “But in front of all these Pokémon? Lucca, she’s really going to fight him!”

All Lucca could do was growl. Alver? Seriously, it’s ALVER? What in the world is going on?

“Um, Mr Alver? What’s going on?” a young girl asked. A Pikachu peeked out from the curtains behind the stage, making Alver glance away from Ruby.

“Esther, stay back!” Alver shouted and held out his arm.

“Die!” Ruby shrieked, shooting another stream of fire at him. Both Alver and the Pikachu ducked away from her attack, letting it blast against the curtains in a small explosion. A large fire spread upwards across the stage decor, but that didn’t stop Ruby from fighting.

Shouting wildly, Ruby unleashed Flamethrower after Flamethrower towards Alver, who ducked and swerved side to side to avoid them. Seconds later and he was surrounded by flames and screaming Pokémon, yet he stared at Ruby with an unbothered look.

“Don’t give me that!” Ruby snarled, opening the Parashelter. She filled the canopy with fire and then twirled, keeping her weapon on the tip of her hand. Fire Spin flew from her with perfect aim, and this time her attack hit its mark. Alver was surprised, and crossed his staff and arms over his front to resist the embers of Ruby’s flaming hurricane.

“Ruby, stop it!” Crystal shrieked as she dove into her.

“Crystal, what the- get the hell off me!” Ruby shouted back.

Mimia was in shock too, glancing back and forth as the two Pokémon wrestled and rolled all over. In the chaos, Alver swiped his staff aside to free himself from the Fire Spin, and then shared a glance at Mimia, too. Neither said a word.

“Crystal what the heck?” Ruby cried, finally throwing off her sister.

“Don’t ask me!” Crystal coughed as she rolled to her feet. “Just look around you. Why would you do this?”

“Shut up! I don’t care. This is what I’m alive for you bastard! I won’t let you get in the way!” Ruby cried.

“Just stop it—” Crystal tried to argue, but was cut off by another Flamethrower that just missed her. Her eyes were wider than ever. “R-Ruby…”

“This isn’t like Fossil Hill or the stupid dogs in the field, or even Suzie. Crystal if you don’t get outta the way, then I’ll kill you, too,” Ruby threatened, eyes open and flared with hatred. Crystal couldn’t respond. “This bastard murdered my parents. I spent all my life getting stronger to get revenge. I’ll die before I let anything stop me!”

Roaring at the top of her lungs, Ruby unleashed another burst of fire, but Alver dodged it just as effortlessly as ever. This time however, the Ribombee charged towards her, dodging two more bursts of fire to appear right in front of her. He swung his staff upwards, and even though Ruby blocked it with the Parashelter, her weapon was sent flying out of her grip.

“That’s enough racket from you,” Alver said as he brought his weapon back down. Ruby attempted to shoot more fire at him, but he struck her head straight down, making her choke on those flames. The one attack brought her face flat to the floor too, with a huge dent below her. He raised his weapon again, leaving a moment to see whether she was still conscious or not, to which she shivered in pain. “Disrupt my show, will you? I’ll see to it that you never walk again!”

He swung down at her, but a heavy snap was all that sounded out instead. He was surprised to see Mimia protecting her, knife in mouth and growling fiercely. They stayed like that for a moment, and then shifted away from one another.

“Ruby, Crystal!” Lucca cried, finally reaching them. Azu stayed back with a frightened Shelly. The audience had all evacuated, but the Pikachu from earlier still peeked in from backstage.

“You know these children?” Alver asked.

Lucca’s mouth hung open in response. Now that he was right up close, there was absolutely no doubt that it was Alver, his retainer and childhood friend. The resemblance was unmistakable. Before he could say a word, a platoon of Pokémon appeared behind the group.

“Cease! Apprehend them!” a round of orders were given, and Lucca’s group were tackled down by Machoke, Scizor, and the like. Nobody tried to fight them off at all.

“Well this couldn’t have gone worse,” Azu grumbled, giving an iron bar a light kick. “Jailed for wanting to go on a date with a Shining Warrior. The gods really do have it out for me.”

“It wasn’t your fault though. It was Crystal’s!” Ruby shouted, giving the same iron bar an even harder kick. The six of them had been thrown into the same jail cell, which was cramped and lacked a bed.

“My fault? You let your fire out in a room full of Pokémon!” Crystal cried. “Of course we were gonna get arrested!”

“Yes, it’s your fault. If you hadn’t gotten in the way, I’d still be fightin’ that guy. He got hit by my Fire Spin!” Ruby raised her voice. She growled and shot yet more fire at the iron bars, but it had no effect. “Instead he got out of it then got lucky with a hit. Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

“Pull yourself together,” Mimia cried. She glared at him as if to hear what he had to say, but he stopped there and turned away.

The bickering continued, but Lucca was zoned out to it all, leaned against the back wall with folded flippers. A thousand questions filled his thoughts, and it hurt not to have answers to any. After a while he looked up, maintaining a serious look. “Ruby.”

“What?” she snapped at him. There was a pause.

“You might as well tell us what’s up now,” Lucca demanded. As if she caught his tone, she turned away and growled, eyes darting side to side. “We’ve seen what lengths you’re willing to take. There’s no point in keeping us out of the loop.”

“Hmpf. If it means none of you pulling that Crystal shit again,” Ruby grumbled. That touched a nerve, and Crystal slapped her face. “You little—”

“Watch your language!” Crystal cried. “And stop trying to act so tough, too. We’re on your side. There’s no point in fighting us.”

“That’s what I thought, but then you freaking stopped me—”

“We’re not arguing about this. There were a thousand ways to deal with that situation and you took the most stupid one. Now the whole city thinks we’re Bestia thieving fakes,” Crystal cried.

“Crystal, Ruby!” Lucca snapped, getting their attentions. “Stop fighting and let her talk.”

The duo turned away from each other, and Ruby stomped away. She sighed after a while, and tried to look at the group. Her face was bitter and she couldn’t keep eye contact with anyone. “I don’t know what the guy was after, but he attacked me and Mum years ago.”

“I figured that much, but to what extent? You’ve been calling him a murderer,” Azu commented.

“I dunno. The guy had these monsters I’ve never seen before following him. They were these super strong monsters, they tore down our house and everything. Mum tried to carry me through a forest to escape, but they got her,” Ruby recalled. “She jumped off a cliff with me to try and get away and everything. He just kept chasing us until he killed her. I think he wanted me dead too, but I guess he didn’t know I survived.”

“Monsters you’ve never seen before? You’re certain it was… the bug we saw on stage?” Lucca questioned.

“I couldn’t see the monsters because it was really dark and rainy and stuff. But they were big and white, and strong enough to tear down trees and the hut where we lived,” Ruby explained. “But that guy, I’m certain. Big, yellow bug with the weird writing on his head and the staff with the moon shape on it, he was the main one.”

“It fits his description to a T. I’m not saying I don’t believe you, but it’s difficult to picture. He was just a stage presenter, after all,” Azu commented.

A retainer turned presenter who used to study Ultra Beasts, and murdered Ruby’s mother years ago? It just doesn’t make sense why he’d do this, Lucca thought, rubbing his chin.

“I didn’t even realise Mum had died at the time. I stayed underneath her body, and nearly drowned in rainwater and mud. If Suzie didn’t find me, It’d have been that or I’d have starved to death,” Ruby continued. “It’s haunted my nightmares ever since. That’s how I know it’s my calling.”

“Your… calling?” Shelly asked.

“I spent all this time training daily. Making my fire stronger so that I could burn him to death. That’s all I’ve really cared about. Even this Shining Warrior stuff doesn’t matter to me. All I want to do is kill him and make it stop,” Ruby stated. Everyone stared at her, and not one of them hid their troubled appearance. “I said the same to Crystal. If I have to kill one of you to get through to him, then I will, and I won’t hold back. So don’t gimme those looks. Next time, do not get in my way.”

“Don’t be like that. Crystal’s your sister, isn’t she? If she had to die for this, what would you do afterwards?” Azu challenged.

“I don’t care if I die doing this or whatever! I don’t care about anything, don’t you get it? Nothing, and I mean nothing, matters except killing that guy!” Ruby cried.

She’s totally stubborn on this. I can tell she’s not lying or exaggerating, but can reoccurring nightmares really cause this much hatred? Lucca rubbed his chin, and then glared at Ruby. “Do you understand why Crystal tried to stop you? Or why we’re all clearly opposed to this now?”

“’Cos of the stupid public, or Shining Warrior Journey or whatever. I know this isn’t about me,” Ruby replied, and turned away. “Things’ll never be about me.”

“When you’re calmer, you should sit and have a real think about it,” Lucca suggested. He meant to say more, but stopped as he could hear footsteps approaching. A Magnezone followed by two Pangoro approached their cell, and stood by the door for a moment.

“What?” Ruby snapped at them.

“Would the one called Lucca please come forward? You are required for questioning,” Magnezone requested in its robotic tone. The group exchanged glances, but Lucca followed the instruction.

“Wait but—” Shelly leaned forward.

“It’ll be fine. It’s worse for us if we don’t behave,” Lucca said as he walked out.

“But… but the… p-p-poster,” Shelly whimpered and scrunched up.

If it’s just questioning, hopefully I can explain what’s going on, kind of…this is going to be tough, but I have to try to get everyone out of this. It’s my fault, after all, Lucca gulped as he was directed back through the corridors of the jail. He was confused when they began to ascend stairs toward the exit however, and even more when he was brought into a hotel lobby. The room was totally empty besides Alver, who had his back to them when they arrived.

“We have brought him, captain,” Magnezone said, making Alver turn around.

“Thank you. Would you give us the room?” Alver asked. There was slight hesitation and unsure looks from the Pangoro, but Magnezone gestured a nod.

“Very well, captain. We will guard the premises,” Magnezone stated. Just like that, it was just Lucca and Alver. The bug type fluttered over to a small café section where there were seats, and leaned on the backrest of one.

“Alver,” Lucca began.

“Well now, you’ve been getting yourself into quite the noisy activities, haven’t you? I almost gave myself away, seeing Mimia show up like that,” Alver said with a snicker.

“You’re telling me! What in the world are you doing as a stage presenter for a dance show?” Lucca replied.

“Are we duelling with questions? What were you doing at a theatre in the first place? Don’t you have Shining Warrior duties?” Alver smirked this time.

“Grk. Weren’t you supposed to be assisting me from afar? I’ve seen nothing!” Lucca growled.

“Your Highness,” Alver said. His smirk didn’t change.

“It’s complicated,” sighed Lucca. “Do I have to tell you?”

“Yes, you must. You wouldn’t want to betray your father, would you?” Alver challenged. Lucca paused again.

“I’ve met someone I like… I didn’t think I would. Father’s words that I should live and enjoy myself on the journey made me think it would be alright if got to take a little time off,” Lucca explained, playing with his flippers. “She’s really into the Shining Warrior stuff, and ancient history and legends. We’re a lot alike, I just thought—”

“Oh? Is it that Azumarill?” Alver asked, leaning forward. Lucca gulped. “Ah. You have good taste. Someone who matches your type and interests would make a fine queen. You are not wrong for indulging in her, provided something comes of it, Your Highness.”

He makes it sound a bit like it’s a game… How would Azu react to Reverie, anyway? She’d probably squeal if she found out I was the prince of a legendary race, Lucca asked himself.

“You must watch yourself, however,” Alver continued, unrolling a large piece of paper. Lucca’s mouth dropped when he saw his portrait on the wanted poster. “We can’t have you loitering around a huge public space like this when there are wanted posters around.”

“Wait, that was justified, I promise—” Lucca staggered.

“You need not explain yourself to me, Your Highness. You killed a Pokémon that threatened our mission, did you not?” Alver raised a hand. Lucca held his breath. “That was our agreed duty when we came to this world. To see you be persecuted by the Pokémon of Heroica is just a solid example of why the Shining Warrior legend exists in the first place.”

Lucca didn’t reply. What does he mean by that?

“Didn’t you ever question why Bestia is a limited resource in the first place? Or why the Pokémon of Heroica struggle to uphold the legend, to the point that it is known as a legend and not a tradition?” Alver asked.

Lucca’s breathing became heavier, so Alver started pacing, fluttering back and forth.

“For daring to kill a Pokémon that threatened to drain the remaining Bestia from our world, you are seen as a criminal, not the Pokémon. We Revenants, it is down to us to shoulder Heroica’s toughest chores and burdens. To ensure that these Pokémon can innocently live in their own paradise, no matter how much we have to sacrifice. That is simply the way it must be.”

“You’re saying there’s going to be no real reward for doing all this, aren’t you?” Lucca hung his head.

“That you may even die for nothing. We both knew this when we left Reverie, however. I’m merely saying to watch yourself as you do what must be done, lest the Heroicans do worse than simply jail you. Their ignorance to the world’s problems is boundless,” Alver explained.

There was another pause, and Lucca sighed. Seeing that, Alver smiled and leaned on the chair again. “You may have noticed that Magnezone call me by the title of ‘captain’. I took on the role of authority here so that I can uproot any criminals and bring them to justice. Specifically, those who use Bestia. Would you like to deal with my current objective?”

“Huh?” Lucca looked at him. That strange smile never left, so Lucca grew concerned. “What do you mean by that?”

“Your name is already on a wanted poster. We could work together. I draw out the Bestia thieves, you erase them. There is one right here in the performance industry, that is why I am here undercover as a presenter,” Alver explained.

Wait a minute, he can’t possibly mean… Lucca froze at that thought. “You want me to…”

“Don’t make me say it out loud,” Alver tensed up.

“What is wrong with you? I only killed Evark because I had no choice. He could have dealt significantly more damage if I didn’t. I don’t intend to kill anyone else so casually!” Lucca exclaimed.

“It will be both of our faces on wanted posters if you leave it to me. Either way, my current target dies tonight,” Alver stated.

Lucca’s body went cold. “Alver… have you… killed a Pokémon before?”

That eerie smile returned, and Alver flew closer. “Do you suspect me of something?”

“Please don’t dance around the question. I need to know. Have you killed another Pokémon before?” Lucca lowered his tone.

“More than I can count. So have you, counting the beasts of Reverie we used to train you. Is there someone specific?” Alver asked, and then his face brightened. “Ah. You suspect me of that Cyndaquil’s vengeance, don’t you? Something about her mother?”

Lucca glared at him. His heart beat so fast it felt like it might jump out of his chest. It was like he already knew what response he was going to get, yet he didn’t want to hear it. The feeling made him gulp and shift back.

“Everyone I have ever killed has been detrimental to our plan in one way or another. Bestia thieves, or Pokémon that knew of my origin and intended to stop me. I seem to recall a Typhlosion diving off a cliff to protect her child from me,” Alver stated, rubbing his chin.

It is… it’s Ruby’s story… Lucca froze completely stiff.

“I didn’t know the child survived, nor that they would resort to using Bestia to take revenge,” Alver mumbled.

“No, wait! Ruby’s fire doesn’t use Bestia,” Lucca cried, and then covered his mouth. Alver glanced at him. “I-I can’t believe it… it’s you that she’s after. It’s really you.”

“Is she one of yours?” Alver cocked his head.

“Yes, she’s a Shining Warrior. She’s not a threat in any way. But that’s why we need to think about this,” Lucca cried. “We can’t just go and kill every little Pokémon that wastes Bestia. These are Pokémon who’re just living normal lives, or trying to. Some of them don’t mean to, and they have families, or children, and friends! They’re—”

“Your Highness!” Alver interrupted him. “Have you forgotten what I just explained to you?”

Lucca gulped.

“We are Revenants from Reverie. Aska Revenants. And you, especially, are the crown prince. It is your duty to do absolutely everything you can to ensure our world comes to peace. To bring back your family,” Alver stated. “You cannot worry about the Pokémon you kill, their families, or whatever personal agendas they have. You work for the greater good. If a Pokémon uses a substantial amount of Bestia, we must stop them by all means possible. Even if it means killing them.”

Lucca hung his head.

“Do I make myself clear?” Alver asked. Lucca didn’t reply, so he cleared his throat. “I said, do I make myself clear?”

“… Yes, Alver,” Lucca replied bitterly.

“If you are wanted, then I won’t risk soiling my name and position should there be any error. I could even position myself as the captor of your case, meaning I would always be able to sneak you free should you get caught. It is a fortunate spin on the situation,” Alver rambled.

Lucca zoned out again. He could hear Alver clearly and took in the words, but the darkness of the situation tore at him. Lilan gave me hope that what I did was for the greater good and that I could be a hero. If I just go and start killing more Pokémon, am I really a hero? Just because they threaten the chance for the Aska to come back?

Thinking of Lilan brought back the awful feelings he got from villagers of Vergrace. Their collective fear, their silence, their clear animosity towards him and his new friends who hadn’t even done anything. The frozen figures of his family came next, and his determination to free them.

What good is freeing my ancestors if I have to be a villain to do it? What would they say and do if they found out I killed innocent Pokémon to help them? Lucca tensed up with his thoughts. What would Father do in this situation? Can I even tell Mimia?

Lucca had entered a distant trance that evening. Just like Alver proposed, some strings were pulled and the team were set free, under the condition that they leave Girage as soon as possible and not make too much of a big deal. They still needed a ship, so tomorrow would be a big day.

“The target is the Pikachu idol, Esther. She travels Heroica, performing pop music and dances at concerts and theatres like the one you were at earlier,” Alver explained. “But her routine has herself and her entire troupe using electricity. The move Flash, Discharge, even Volt Tackle and to a degree, Draining Kiss. You already witnessed it in the usage of the stage lights. This obvious waste of Bestia made her a danger to our plan, but her celebrity status made it extremely difficult for me to get close. Tonight, she sleeps on the fifth floor of Chansey Towers. This may be our only chance to stop her for good.”

The coldness of Alver’s instruction was what bothered Lucca most. He sat leaned back against the bed of this fancy hotel room, located on the first floor of Chansey Towers. When Mimia finished sorting their supplies and prepping the beds, they would go to sleep, and Lucca would make his move.

There’s no buttering this up. This is a hit, Lucca thought with a sigh. He glared at Mimia, who made an upset face at whatever look Lucca was giving him. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on what I do about Ruby. Can I really do the rest of the journey knowing that the justice she wants is right there? Was it even for the greater good?

Mimia barked at him, and his heart jumped. At some point, the Stufful had come up close to him. “Mimia,” Lucca shuddered.

What’s wrong?” Mimia asked, speaking feral. He said that as he cuddled Lucca tight.

The best thing about Mimia was the magic of his hugs. This Stufful had the physical strength to uproot trees without much effort, and yet, his body maintained a nostalgic softness that was always pleasant to touch. Lucca hugged him back, and all the comforts of his favourite stuffed toy from childhood came right back.

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong,” Lucca replied, stroking Mimia’s back.

We’ve been together too long for that to fly. Don’t you want to talk to me about it?” Mimia continued, breaking away. Lucca tried to hide a gulp. He felt so guilty, facing Mimia like this. As if detecting that insecurity, Mimia nuzzled his face. “When we were in Reverie, you had no problem sharing secrets with me. Even now, those secrets and feelings stay between us. Why can’t you now?

“I can’t now because nothing’s wrong, silly. If there really was something wrong, I’d tell you, that’s for sure,” Lucca said slowly.

Was it something I did?” Mimia replied with a whine. Lucca’s eyes widened.

“What? No, what could you have possibly done? You’ve been phenomenal throughout all of this,” Lucca remarked. Mimia stared at him, and then he realised Mimia meant the earlier argument. “Oh, you meant that stuff with Azu. Er, I can talk to you about that, actually.”

You like her. That is very clear,” Mimia turned away. The disappointment in his grumbles was clear.

“Father made a joke about it, but now I know what he said about meeting Pokémon is very real,” Lucca sighed. “She’s just… it’s like when I met you, I guess. I can’t help but feel kind of feathery and happy. I-I like being around her. I want to know more about her and have her around our little adventures. Having someone cute, smart, and adventurous like her around would make things even funner than they already are.”

Did you really feel the same things about me when we met?” Mimia asked. His cheeks grew a slightly red then, and the question and the cuteness made Lucca’s face feel a little hot, too.

“Well I don’t know exactly about back then. That was over ten years ago. I just know I feel that about you now,” Lucca rubbed the back of his head. He perked up and tackled Mimia onto the bed, who playfully fought back. “What’s with a question like that, anyway? Point is it’s nothing to do with you, buddy!”

Mimia barked a few times before he was able to squirm out of his gasp. He had a great big smile on his face. “Azu has lots to do with me!

“She… does?” Lucca froze up, confused. Mimia sighed, then pouted, and turned away.

Never mind,” He whined. Silence fell, so Lucca got comfy again. “What are you going to do about Ruby and Alver?

He immediately sat back up. “How do you know about—”

“Because you just told me,” Mimia sighed in normal speech this time. “We cannot allow her to fight him.”

Lucca’s breathing was heavy. “Mimia… what do you plan to do about it?”

Mimia went straight back to speaking feral again. “I would allow her to have her revenge, and to fight alone for that revenge, but we cannot guide her to Alver yet. Someone of her determination would set aside the fact that we know him. We have to respect one another’s decisions.

“That’s awfully sound of you. She has a short temper, so how do you know she won’t literally kill us, too?” Lucca asked.

This is the way of the feral code. If this was to happen while in my pack, this is how we would deal with it,” Mimia explained, his growls and noises oddly stern. “If she refuses to understand our position and tries to kill us, then she can try. Think of an act like that as treason – turning on your own kind is never tolerated.

“I get it, but—” Lucca shuddered.

But Ruby is a friend,” Mimia continued. “And we are not in a feral pack, nor are we in a place of royal code. We are adventurers from another realm. If I am being honest, I do not think Ruby has the power to defeat Alver just yet. I want to help her indirectly, so I would guide her away from Alver until she is strong enough, and observe how this situation develops.

“You actually want to let her kill him?” Lucca whispered, covering his mouth. “Do you dislike Alver?”

I am indifferent. I want to let her see her fight through. It is out of respect for both parties, not hatred,” Mimia explained. He curled up and settled on the bed beside Lucca. “There is one more thing to discuss on this matter. Ruby likes you. A lot.

“Yeah that’s kind of lucky, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem easy to get on her good side,” Lucca sighed. He laid down and tucked his flippers behind his head. “She doesn’t seem like she has a lot of friends or intends to make many. Er, keep that one between us.”

For goodness sake My Lord, I mean she likes you romantically!” Mimia barked a few times. Lucca flinched.

“You’re kidding, right? We haven’t known everyone for that long. And if she was in love with me, why not just say it?” he asked with a furrowed brow.

Of course she won’t say anything! You are unbelievably dense, My Lord. You just remarked how closed she is, yet she treats you with constant kindness and admiration,” Mimia explained.

“… I guess she does,” he said blankly. “What do I do about that? She’s a kid, we can’t be in love.”

If she discovers your connection to Alver, you may break her heart. But it is also inevitable that she will discover this connection,” Mimia stated. “You must talk to her about this at some point, both her feelings for you and your connection to Alver. And you must time it perfectly, My Lord.

Lucca sighed again. What kind of timing is he talking about? This barely answered anything. In fact, it just gave me even more to think about. If I act too suspicious, she’ll figure it out. If I tell her, she’ll never let me live it down.

The only advice I have is to picture yourself in her feet, the same way you did for me,” Mimia made softer noises as he settled into bed beside him. “If you were in her scenario, when would you prefer to find out? What would you like your friends to do?

What would I like my friends to do? Lucca repeated, staring at the ceiling. “I’m sorry, Mimia. Would you give me some time to think about that one? I don’t have an answer right now.”

There’s no need to apologize to me,” Mimia assured even softer. “Goodnight, Lucca.

“… Goodnight, Mimia buddy,” Lucca mumbled back.

Soon after silence fell between them, that distant trance came right back. Lucca kept his eyes shut, but his thoughts wouldn’t stop. He repeated words from their conversation, and memories of his mission and Alver’s meeting. All of it felt so surreal, so improbable, so unreal that it wasn’t really happening. He opened his eyes hours later, yet it felt like no time had passed at all.

It was even darker than it was earlier. Candles had been put out, the cold wind of the night shook the windows, and not a whisper or a creak came from any Pokémon. Despite being indoors, just the sound of the wind made Lucca cringe from a chill.

He stared at the ceiling for several minutes. Mimia snored beside him, mouth open and drooling ever so slightly. He stroked Mimia’s back a few times, and didn’t get a hint of a reaction. Must’ve been so much more tired than I thought. He was on his feet all day, after all.

With a deep sigh, Lucca slid out of bed and retrieved one of his swords. He squinted at the blade, and then grabbed the other one. This still didn’t feel like it was happening. He would play along, some other crazy thing would happen, and then he would wake up in a tent like it was all a dream.

Still got to do it properly, he told himself, and slid out of the room.

The hallway was just as chilling. It was pitch black besides a single candle lit at the far end. The walls quietly rumbled with the wind outside, too. Lucca stood still for a moment to try and detect any other Pokémon, but felt nothing. He headed for the dreaded stairs, and no sooner than he reached them, his heart fell into his stomach.

Climbing stairs was already difficult. Climbing them while making as little noise as possible, with the end goal being to kill another Pokémon, was a whole other spectrum. The world around him vanished as he slid his form up one step at a time, as time came to a total standstill. At one point, he even felt suffocated, and had to stop to steady his thoughts.

What am I even doing? He eventually asked himself. He drew a sword and stared at it. Its golden blade appeared dull and faded in the darkness. I just have to do what I did to Evark. It’s for the greater good. Just do it, Lucca. Do it just this once, and then never again. We can leave Alver behind and just worry about the Shining Warrior journey from here on.

He took the deepest breath ever, holding his chest with both flippers. Alright. Fifth floor. Let’s do this.

The fifth floor should have been the same as the other floors, identical in everything but decoration. It was a deluxe section of the hotel reserved for celebrities and the rich, as Alver had told him. As Lucca approached the end of the stairs, he was alarmed to not find any Pokémon guarding the place. It made him slow in expectation of an ambush, but as he slid into the corridor, there were no Pokémon.

They can’t just leave celebrities out in the open like this… unless everyone’s asleep, he thought to himself as he glanced back and forth. The colourful, shiny decoration proved he was in the right place, but the stains on the floor said otherwise. He approached one of the stains and smelt it, immediately recoiling. His stomach turned upside-down, and he had to cover his mouth.

There’s no way! This is— he choked in his head. He didn’t realise he was shuddering like crazy until he pulled his flippers away from his mouth. Blinking several times to check if he was dreaming or not, he followed the trail of stains, which led to a single, open room.

He didn’t need to think about this one. He held one sword at the ready, kept a flipper by his back to draw the other one at a moment’s notice, and slowly slid toward the door. Although he felt threatened by an enemy he couldn’t sense, he was able to focus fully. Someone was here before him, someone he couldn’t hear or smell. Wanting to get a good look at this dangerous Pokémon to plan his next move, he peeked into the room, making sure not to touch the door. He immediately gasped, giving himself away, however.

The room was a deluxe hotel room. Busy with furniture, fancy decorations, a huge mattress bed rather than the standard hay ones, and even curtains. Everything seemed insulated too, as it was warmer here, and he couldn’t hear the wind either.

However, everything looked like it had been struck by a storm. The furniture was broken and snapped to pieces, which were scattered all over the room. The bed was torn apart, the windows were cracked, and a Braixen lay discarded in the corner, its body covered in damage.

Lucca grit his fangs to prevent himself from making more noise as he scanned the room. Opposite the fallen Braixen, a Pikachu was backed into the corner, also covered in damage. She was awake, with a look of terror as her attacker stood over her. Lucca’s presence made the Pokémon turn to him.

“C… C-C-Crystal?” Lucca whispered.

It was definitely her. The docile Piplup twisted their head to stare him in the eyes. Her own eyes were glowing. No, there was a ring inside her eyes that glowed an eerie blue. She had her bow at the ready, and that was all he needed to see.

In a flash, an arrow was drawn and fired at Lucca, who shifted to the side. It nicked one of his ruffles, making him grunt. He reached to rub it, but Crystal lunged and tackled him to the ground. He instinctively held her back with his sword, surprised to find himself in a life or death moment. She held an arrow in one flipper and her bow in the other, and pointed both at his neck. She had enough strength that she could stab him with both if he let up for even a moment. This was not a moment where he could let his shock control him.

Lucca roared at the top of his voice. He flicked his tail to kick Crystal away and then rolled onto his front, drawing his other sword in the process. Crystal lunged at him again, but her weapon was no match for Lucca’s at this range. Two quick slashes knocked her bow and arrow away, and sent her flat on her back. She didn’t seem to get back up.

Lucca breathed out loud, holding both swords ready for another moment in case she stood up. The Pikachu moved in the corner of his eye to bring him back to focus, and his heart jumped out of his chest.

His thoughts raced too much to form anything coherent. Crystal was here, attacked him and the other Pokémon here, and now this utterly terrified idol Pikachu was staring at him. The Pikachu appeared almost desperate, as if praying with all her will without physically praying, and that brought Lucca to his decision.

He took a deep breath, sheathed swords, and then scooped up Crystal. With one more glance at the Pikachu, he threw Crystal on his back and made for the staircase.
Episode 9: Escape From Girage


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Mimia complete - Copy.png

Episode 9: Escape From Girage

The past week had been worrying. Constant concern for Lucca was normal for Mimia, but ever since the incident in Vergrace, the Brionne had started to change. Last night’s conversation was a little reassuring, but this morning nullified all of it.

The group sat at breakfast in silence. Fancy hotel foods from the city should have been the talk of the table. None of them had ever seen treats like berry mash wraps, honey porridge, or marshmallows in hot chocolate before, and yet a bitter mood hung over the group.

Mimia sighed as he glanced over everyone. Ruby wolfed down plate after plate with aggressive vigour, while Crystal and Shelly slowly ate their food with pale glares. Azu was troubled but indifferent, and Lucca – it was painfully obvious something was wrong. He hadn’t filled his bowl to overflowing, nor had he touched his food.

“What’s with you? You ate so much pizza yesterday,” Crystal finally broke the quiet. “Seriously, keep eating like that and you really will blow up.”

“Ifbs bwainfin’”, Ruby replied.

“I can’t understand you if your mouth’s full,” Crystal groaned and rolled her eyes. Ruby gulped loudly.

“It’s training!” she repeated. “I lost to that guy, so I’m gonna have to triple my efforts. And that means havin’ the energy to work. I get real hungry when I’m mad, okay? So this is me getting over it!”

“By stress eating? If you stuff yourself you’re going to make yourself sleepy more than anything,” Crystal said worriedly.

“You’re right!” Ruby froze. “So we’ll make this the only meal of the day. No, make that the week! Then I can train my stamina to the max.”

“Wait no that’s not how it works! Then you won’t have any energy at all,” Crystal cried.

As they began to bicker, Mimia snuck another glance at Lucca, who seemed to be fixated on Crystal. He retained an empty look, but his eyes gave the slightest twitch.

Did you get a stomach-ache?” Mimia asked him in feral speech. This caused Lucca to flinch in alarm, and the table went quiet. “Lucca…

“No, I just… okay, guys. This is going to sound crazy, but we need to get out of here as soon as we can,” Lucca said, and stood on his tail.

“Police’s orders?” Azu said.

“… Yeah. Something like that,” Lucca nodded. Azu sighed and slumped, which made him settle back down.

“I’m so sorry I dragged you guys into this. I’m so sorry,” she sounded like she was about to cry.

“No no, this isn’t your fault or anything. Just, I er… ah, there’s stuff they told me not to talk about or something like that. I promise, Azu you’ve done nothing wrong,” Lucca said. He spoke slowly and tugged at his ruffles the whole time.

The last time Lucca had been like this, he had been guilty of breaking his father’s throne. The fortunate thing about a Pokémon like him was that honesty was his natural mode, so any attempt to hide things and Mimia could tell immediately. Not that anyone else couldn’t tell from how little he’d eaten.

“Pfft. The heck could they tell ya that you’re not allowed to tell us?” Ruby asked.

“Ruby please, not this time,” Lucca begged.

“Whatever. We still have to find a boat or somethin’ to cross the sea with, right? We didn’t really do that yesterday, so we ain’t goin’ anywhere fast even if we wanted to,” Ruby stated, scratching her face.

“Kusha said she would work on- och, we forgot about Kusha!” Shelly gasped. “If she’s not mad at us, she might be able to help out.”

You’re going to tell us what you’re hiding, aren’t you?” Mimia asked. Lucca moaned and hung his head, making Mimia whine, too. “At least eat something for me.

He wouldn’t get the chance to do that, it seemed. A large group of Pokémon marched into the room, bringing the hotel eatery to quiet. There were police Pokémon like Magnezone and Pangoro, but also the hotel security, a trio of Hariyama. Behind them was four tall, bipedal creatures clad head to toe in steel armour. They each held lances besides one, who had a huge sword.

“Knights,” Ruby hissed. “Just who we wanted to see at a time like this.”

“N-no… why are they here?” Crystal panicked, hiding behind her.

Knights? Mimia thought as he stood on guard. Just the girls’ reaction alone was enough for him to tell they were trouble.

The other members of the public tried not to give the authorities any attention, but the mood of the room spoilt any cosiness left at this breakfast hour. None of these huge Pokémon said anything until a Pikachu squeezed between them, and slowly scanned the room. Mimia recognised her as the idol from yesterday’s show. She was the only Pikachu he’d ever seen wearing a flashy pink tutu and heart-themed shirt, after all.

“There, over there!” Pikachu squeaked, pointing straight at them. Mimia tensed up until he heard the tears in her voice. “I know it was her. She’s the one who snuck into my room and tried to kill me! She got Phoenix!”

Murder? Sneaking? Mimia almost screamed. What in the world happened last night?

“Darn it. Guys we need to go, now!” Lucca ordered.

“Wait, what?” Azu whispered.

“Don’t question it, please. We can’t afford to get caught, we just need to move,” Lucca hissed, standing guard over the group.

Mimia’s mouth hung open, now. “Lucca, what is going on?

The police and the security Pokémon moved to confront the group, leading them to spread out and prepare for battle. The public burst into conversation of course, many of them moving out of urgency. Mimia had mere moments to act, but what little he had planned fizzled the moment he noticed the knights.

The four knights exchanged a very quick mumble, and none of them moved. He thought it confusing that they didn’t move with the police, but then one raised its sword above the Pikachu, no doubt about to strike. Mimia opened both eyes wide and stuck a foot forward. “Pikachu, look out!”

Fortunately for him, the sudden callout made her look around, and she flinched away a fatal slash just in time. She tripped away from the knight in a panic while the police and security spun around, just as confused as the group. Mimia knew better than to let this opportunity go to waste, however.

He galloped forward and tackled the nearest Pangoro to the floor, kicking off their chest to gain space, and then twisted to bark at his group. “Go! Get out through the window, now!

“The window?” Azu gasped, glancing back and forth at it. Ruby and the others jumped for it, but Lucca stared at the battle.

Why isn’t he running? He’s the one who wanted to run, Mimia was confused until he glanced back at the security.

The knights were fighting the Magnezone and the other Pangoro, and with weapons in hand, they had a clear advantage. Screams, angry shouts, and the Pikachu’s cries shook the walls as heavy Pokémon were slammed to the ground in defeat. Pikachu barely escaped a sudden death, but wound up pinned below a knight’s metal foot.

“A-argh, ack- why’re you attacking me?” Pikachu cried. The knight raised their lance, and she screamed at the top of her lungs. “No, help! Someone please!”

For the first time ever in a battle, Mimia was conflicted. He had the power to save her now, but what if that was part of why Lucca wanted them to run? And what did the knights have to do with the girls, Crystal and Ruby?

No. That an innocent girl is about to be murdered in daylight is something Lucca could never be involved in! Mimia thought with a gasp.

Before he could move however, Lucca sprang into action in a way he never expected to ever see. The Brionne’s body flashed with blue light, and then a tall whirlpool of water swirled and submerged him. Lucca shot straight forward faster than the eye could blink in this watery bullet, and collided with the knight so hard the steel creature was sent sailing into the wall behind them. The water dispersed from Lucca, who landed on his tail, completely unharmed.

Pikachu had a moment to catch her breath before Mimia hoisted her onto his back. She thrashed helplessly in his grip while screaming some profanity, but it was drowned out to the noise of shouting knights and the clangs of their metal bodies.

My Lord, this way!” Mimia barked, keeping Lucca in focus.

“Got it,” Lucca replied. He slashed at one knight while kicking another with his tailfins, and then rushed in Mimia’s direction. The rest of the group had already jumped out of the window.

“Lucca!” the group cried as Mimia and Lucca landed on the grass outside. Lucca fell in a heap, while Mimia landed perfectly.

“You’re late,” Ruby pouted.

“What the hell is going on? Why do you have Esther?” Azu cried.

“You know, I actually don’t know anymore,” Lucca shook his head.

“You’re the one who tried to kill me, too! What the heck do you- let go of me!” Esther screeched.

“What I do know is things are going upside-down. Esther, right?” Lucca shouted at her. She was hyperventilating, but stopped talking. “You brought those knights for us, but they tried to kill you instead.”

“I- I dunno, I don’t get it either,” she whimpered.

“I know how this sounds, but stick with us or they’re only going to try again,” Lucca informed.

“There they are!” came the echoed shouts of more knights. There was a whole platoon of them charging towards the group from the left.

“We don’t have time to talk. We need to get out of here!” Lucca stated.

“No need to tell me twice!” Ruby squeaked and took off, pulling a frightened Crystal with her.

Esther whimpered until Mimia barked at her, and then she scrunched herself onto his back. That at least made it easy to sprint, and then the group were off. Mimia pushed to the front of the group, so that he could direct them, and barged straight into a crowded road. The crowd disbanded with angry shouts and curses, but that made space for the others to run right through.

“Comin’ through!” Ruby shouted amongst the confused cries of the public. She shot a few flames into the air to push them back, too. Glancing behind her, the pursuing knights barged and trampled the crowd without hesitation.

“Where are we going?” Shelly cried as they passed several buildings and streets this way.

“I dunno!” Lucca admitted. He came to a sudden stop around the corner of a building, went to sprint in the other direction, and stopped there too. Knights had gathered from the three sides and were heading straight towards them.

“Drat, they’re everywhere,” Lucca growled.

“How many of them are there?” Crystal asked.

“Doesn’t matter. We’re getting’ outta this, somehow,” Ruby added.

Just then, the group’s amulets glowed and Angel’s voice came out loud. “Sounds like it’s time for me to save the day with those epic powers, huh?”

“If you really can, it’d really do us a favour,” Ruby remarked.

“You already did it earlier, actually,” Angel informed. “If you guys give me time to recharge, I can allow you to use a limited amount of Bestia with no damage to the environment. Lucca already used one move with Aqua Jet, that leaves four moves left. One for each hero!”

The group were surrounded on three sides by knights, all wielding different weapons. They stopped in a perfect formation that left no gaps for the group to run away, and then forced the group closer to the corner of the building.

“That’s it? Is four Pokémon moves even enough?” Crystal squeaked.

“We might not even need it,” Ruby mumbled.

She’s right. Over there!” Mimia barked, spotting her way out. The way the knights had gathered together was clearly improvised, as they made a wall by standing beside one another as close as possible. Thanks to that, four who held lances stood too close to each other, and couldn’t hold their weapons as efficiently as they should. “I can barge through them, but can you make it?

“Just one big blast should do it,” Lucca grumbled, and drew his swords. That made the knights stop and visibly tense up.

“A big blast?” Ruby gasped, and opened her eyes. “Shelly, burp!”

“Huh?” squeaked the Oshawott.

“Hurry up and burp me!” she cried as she plopped herself in front of him.

“Wait shouldn’t we—” Lucca gasped and glanced back. Shelly squeezed Ruby’s belly, making her let out a huge fireball. The troubled knights cried out and stumbled before the attack hit them, and the resulting explosion sent nearby knights to the ground. Flames and embers filled the air, and a fire was left behind on the grassy ground.

Everyone had to shield their faces, but a bark from Mimia and they were on the move again, jumping over the fire before it rose and began to spread. The remaining knights got to the feet and gave chase, but were left in the dust.

“What the heck was that? Was it really worth starting a fire?” Esther gasped. No one answered. “You guys really are bad guys, aren’t you?”

“I don’t want to have to do it!” Crystal cried.

“Over here,” Lucca ordered, directing everyone around another corner.

Mimia and the group stopped to catch their breath, but the adrenaline was fuelled, now. Even though he puffed and panted, he scouted around to check where the knights were, and felt like if more showed up, he could fight them.

This area is conveniently mazey, he realised, taking note of all the grated fences around and how tall they were. Lucca had ducked them into a station filled with wagons and coaches. Many of them had been damaged to the point they needed repair, but a large structure at the far end had some perfectly maintained wooden caravans. Mimia wandered over, and beamed up. Bingo.

“What’d you find?” Lucca responded to his peppy sounds.

“Aren’t these cross-country coaches?” Crystal asked. Everyone turned to her. “They’re what travellers and stuff use when they’re not explorers and stuff. A few showed up in Lillistep from time to time.”

The name ‘cross-country’ says everything about their durability. My Lord, may we use one to escape the city?” Mimia asked.

“It certainly beats running the whole way. If those guys weren’t big steel types, I might’ve been caught a while ago,” Lucca remarked.

Azu glanced back and forth between the group and the caravans. “Wait a minute, am I assuming correctly? We’re going to use one of these to get out of the city?”

“It’s Mimia’s idea. Would it work, Azu?” Lucca wondered.

“Don’t ask me! I don’t even know why we’re being chased,” Azu complained, rubbing her belly. “If we keep running like that though, I’m going to lose my breakfast.”

“How’d you manage that? I could run a hundred more laps,” Ruby bragged.

“I’m not used to running like this. I’m not an explorer, I’m not a fighter, I’m just- I’m just a normal scientist. I’m not good at things like this,” Azu began to whimper.

“Whoa, take it easy. I didn’t mean to,” Ruby gasped.

Azu sighed. “Sorry. I’m really confused right now.”

As she spoke, Mimia went to figure out what to do with the caravan. This wooden vehicle was protected by a small roof and side doors, but neither fully walled in their passengers. The seats were at least cushioned and had their own handrails, similar to the seats in the theatre.

He climbed in and quickly realised their dilemma. Pokémon were needed to pull this caravan. There are two reins. I might not be able to pull it myself.

“Do we have a moment?” Azu wondered, glancing back and forth across the coach station. “I’ve never felt like this before, or been in this situation. I’m actually scared.”

“Ah, don’t be. We’re going to be okay,” Lucca said, patting her, but she shoved him away.

“That’s not going to fly. The police came after us, and there were mentions of murder,” Azu raised her voice. “Lucca, you said you wouldn’t do what happened in Vergrace again. Why are the police after us? I thought the situation in the theatre got resolved?”

Mimia peeked over the side of the caravan upon hearing that. Lucca sweated hard, and his mouth was agape. His face was going slightly pale too, but he could only utter sounds in response.

“Lucca!” Azu shouted now.

“I can’t now. I’m really sorry now, but I can’t. I just can’t. We need to focus on getting out of here,” he said, turning away. Ruby and the others gave him pleading looks, but that only made him grit his fangs and turn away from them, too.

Lucca, Mimia shuddered, his chest heavy. This must be a misunderstanding. Lord Lucca is a hero, he has no reason to kill Pokémon we don’t know.

“So you really are the bad guys,” Esther said. Mimia flinched, forgetting she was even on his back. He barked at her, and she got off and sat in the caravan.

“We’re not the bad guys!” Lucca snapped at her.

“At least tell us, tell me,” Azu proposed, a hand on her chest. “Did you kill another Pokémon?”

Lucca paused, but only to make sure he looked her in the eyes, it looked like. “No. I didn’t kill anyone.”

“So we’re bein’ setup or somethin’. Must be part of the knight’s plans, whatever they want,” Ruby growled.

“They must know about the wanted poster. That doesn’t answer why they want the lass, though,” Shelly rubbed his chin.

“That’s not true, though. I saw you and the Piplup there, I saw it all! You killed Phoenix,” Esther exclaimed.

“Speculation won’t get us anywhere. Let’s get out of the city, then I promise I’ll explain and we’ll try and figure things out,” Lucca reasoned, directing everyone into the caravan. “Mimia, you know how to get this thing to move?”

Guess I’m pulling it either way, Mimia groaned in his head. He hopped through the front and gripped the reins in his mouth, and then glanced back at Lucca. He picked up the reins in confusion, but caught on when Mimia pulled on them. Huh? This isn’t so heavy after all.

“Whoa, Mimia are you okay?” Azu gasped. Mimia gave her a muffled bark and trotted along, pulling the caravan with ease. “H-how strong is he? Something like this should require two strong Pokémon like Rapidash or Mudsdale.”

“I could probably pull it faster than him,” Ruby bragged.

“Please don’t try,” Crystal squeaked.

“I wouldn’t, either. Mimia is just… special,” Lucca stated. He held his amulet out and shook it. “This doesn’t help us cross the sea, so aren’t there any other fountains we can get to?”

“You really want to skip the fountain when you’re so close to it?” Angel’s voice came out of the amulet. The group didn’t answer. “There’s two over the pond, so you’re saving yourselves a lot of time by doing them now, you know.”

“You’ve seen our predicament. I know you know full well what’s going on,” Lucca snapped, making the others raise their eyebrows. “We can’t do this now, so we’ll come back later. Where’s the next nearest Bestia Fountain we can activate?”

Angel paused, and that even brought Mimia to halt. “The next trial is in the desert. Your little caravan might make it.”

“That’s the southeast exit to the city, I believe,” Azu mumbled, pulling a map out of her belongings. “That’s quite a trek, though. Will you be okay, Mimia?”

“There they are!” came the echoed shout of a knight.

“Seal off the station exits. We’ll trap them in!” ordered another.

“We’ll have to try. Mimia!” Lucca answered.

Mimia responded with a bark, braced himself, and then galloped off as fast as he could. He could feel he was slower with the weight and bulk of the carriage behind him, but it almost helped in making his small form look intimidating. He headed straight for the three knights in waiting, where they stumbled back with unsure noises. He didn’t even have to tackle them. He ran right past them and the caravan did the rest, bashing them aside with a loud snap.

My Lord, I hate to ask, but I require your direction right now,” Mimia huffed, pulling the caravan onto the road. Pokémon scattered, shouted, and pointed at them, and pretty soon he had a clear route to navigate.

“Er, Azu? Mind reading that map for us?” Lucca called out, but she was already ahead of them.

“Take a right!” cried the aqua bunny with a point of her arm.

Mimia moved to go down the road to the right, but there were three Magnezone and a platoon of Magneton waiting for them, so corrected himself and headed left instead. The caravan swerved so hard it tilted and nearly pulled him off balance, but he was able to keep control.

“Mimia!” Lucca shouted.

“We won’t make it that way,” Shelly cried, pointing out the authorities waiting.

“Just bust through ‘em the same way we busted through the knights,” Ruby suggested. Shelly peeked over the back of his seat and squealed, making her do the same.

“They’re chasing after us!” Shelly wailed.

“Great, a runaway situation. Is this really worth fighting?” Azu sighed.

“We can’t afford to get caught,” Lucca stated. He wrapped a flipper around Esther, who squeaked and tried to squeeze away from him. “I hate to do this, but Azu, we really need your help right now.”

“What?” Azu gasped.

“Find us a route and guide Mimia, please. Ruby, you have permission to use your fire,” Lucca instructed.

“I can Flamethrower?” Ruby said excitedly.

“Flame anyone who tries to stop us, but try not to hurt them,” Lucca clarified.

“No promises!” Ruby giggled and flared her back.

“You’re too excited about this,” Crystal complained. She flinched as she spotted a Staraptor flying beside them, and instinctively reached for her bow. On the Staraptor’s back was a Sirfetch’d, leek pointed and ready to strike. “Wah, get away!”

“Just shoot it!” Lucca shouted.

Crystal let out a shrill squeak as she fired her arrow. Whatever happened, both bird Pokémon squawked and fell back out of sight. “Wait no, I didn’t mean to!”

“What?” Esther whispered, watching intently.

“Incoming from the other side,” Lucca warned, and Crystal flipped direction. There were two more tough flying types with Sirfetch’d riding them. Both raised their leeks in threat, to which Crystal squeaked again.

Despite her petty cries, Crystal nocked in an arrow and fired in a flash, looking as though she didn’t even take aim. Her arrows hit the flying type Pokémon close to their legs, sending them and their riders to the ground.

“Don’t celebrate yet, Skarmory!” Lucca pointed upwards. Straight behind them was a trio of Skarmory, though they weren’t carrying any Pokémon. They spun like drills and swooped towards the caravan however, proving to be just as big a danger. “Mimia, go left!”

Mimia did as he was told, reading the urgency in Lucca’s voice. He threw his weight to the left as hard as he could, once again violently swerving the whole caravan across the road. The Skarmory missed their attacks completely, but kept up their pursuit.

“Now it’s my turn!” Ruby cheered, shooting a stream of fire at them. The flying types seemed to be taken by surprise, and disappeared into smoky blasts as fire engulfed them. Ruby giggled, but her victory was short lived as another caravan appeared from the smoke, this one pulled expertly by two Rapidash. “Er, I might need help with this one.”

“This might be a bad time too, but that earlier left was a real bad move,” Azu informed.

“What?” Lucca gasped.

“If we go left again, we’ll loop around ourselves. We head right, we head toward the sea,” Azu said. Lucca growled. “Mimia, turn left now!”

Mimia barked again. This time it was a strain to pull his body. He had never sprinted for so long before, let alone pulling such a bulky thing with him. He panted and sweated, but could barely feel any of it. He was surprised to see the Rapidash appear beside him however, both of whom had barely worked up a sweat. Their caravan was overcrowded with knights.

Get rid of these guys!” he barked back at Lucca.

“Mimia, right again!” Azu cried.

Mimia gasped as he tried to take the turn, but another wall of Pangoro made him cut it halfway and continue down the road. The feeling of sand in his feet slowed him down, the cries of his friends worried him, and the pangs in his chest told him to give up. He took a deep breath, braced, and picked up the pace, instantly feeling a surge of painful fatigue.

Can’t give up… I won’t give up until Lord Lucca says! He roared in his mind.

Ruby was the first to stand back up, and shot fire at the pursuing caravan. She hit the side of the vehicle, but her attack spread across that side rather than striking the knights inside. She noticed her attack getting closer to her as well, and flinched backward.

“They’re blocking it! Sis, do something!” Ruby shouted.

“Me? What can I do?” Crystal whimpered and cowered in her seat. She grabbed her head and coiled up. “Oh my gods, we’re gonna get caught… we’re gonna get caught!”

Seeing that, Ruby snarled and glanced at Shelly, who wasn’t much better than her. They locked eyes however, and that seemed to calm him down. She wouldn’t count on him, though. She stood up over the side of the caravan again, noting how close the knights were to them. Close enough to stab with their lances and topple them for good.

“Mimia, stop!” Ruby shouted, but he kept going. “Stop, I mean it! Lucca, tell him to stop!”

“But why would—?” Lucca gasped.

“Just do it!” she screamed.

“Mimia!” Lucca snapped.

Now he obeyed, and used all fours to skid to a stop so hard that a wave of sand was kicked up. The knight’s caravan didn’t stop with them however, throwing off their aim and balance completely. The enemy vehicle attempted to U-turn further up the road, but swerved out of control and crashed into a building. The shouts, cries, and heavy clangs of knights and horse Pokémon echoed through the air in their defeat.

“Nice thinking,” Azu praised.

“You have to be a genius to be strong in battle,” Ruby bragged.

Mimia could barely hear their praise and banter. He panted worse than he thought he would, enough to drown out the world around him while sweat dampened his fur all over. He opened both eyes as sweat got in and burned him, mentally admitting defeat. He needed to hang his head and catch his breath, or he’d really pay for it.

That is, if he had the chance. Just as he loosened his forelegs to flop over, he caught the glint of a firelight in the corner of his eye. In a gazebo far to their left, an arrow was lit and aimed straight at them.

Lord Lucca!” he shrieked and threw himself toward their caravan. The arrow was fired just then, and it landed by the wheel of their caravan.

The next thing he knew, something exploded into a fiery blast, and a terrible force sent him flying through the air. He was in so much pain that his scream was silent, not that he could hear anything anyway. He landed rough, somewhere sandy that burnt his whole body. No, it wasn’t the area that was burning, it was him in pain.

He opened his eyes after what felt like a few minutes, and cursed himself for being so weak. Everything was a blur that was coming into focus. Their caravan was totalled, and Lucca was helping the others out from under it. As far as he could tell, they were unharmed besides the obvious shock of it. His ears rung, but he didn’t need to hear Lucca to know his next order was to keep running and guard them. He kept to the back of the group as he followed, constantly glancing back and forth. Their attackers were the police this time, and no ordinary group.

“That’s far enough,” stated a Raichu.

Mimia believed it to be a Raichu. It had that Pokémon’s iconic features: its plump shape, long, stringy tail, and yellow cheek pouches. However, its body was mostly rounded rather than jagged and lightning bolt themed, and its orange fur was a gentler tone. Its tail was flat like a board, and Raichu happily sat on that tail as it floated across the sandy floor.

Where…?” Mimia huffed as everything else came into focus.

They were on a beach at the seaside of the city, a boardwalk market to be specific. With Bronzong and Infernape blocking the outward paths, and this Raichu and her army of Inteleon archers guarding the city, the only path was the pier that headed straight into the sea. Lucca and the group backed themselves against onto the pier despite, and then faced the authorities.

“I have to hand it to you. You gave us the most excitement we’ve had in years,” Raichu admitted. Her voice was soft and caring, an accent to her calm blue eyes. “The last time we had a runaway, it was some rich guy who’d blown all his savings in a casino.”

Mimia closed one eye again and focused. No way I’m entertaining this charmer.

“Of all things, he got done in for doing a dine and dash. Lame, right? You get rich, train yourself up to be a champ, then become the world’s most threatening dine and dasher. Still, he got us to mobilise and lock off the city,” Raichu continued. She sighed when she got no response. “That was the part where you’re supposed to laugh.”

“The only joke here is you accusing us!” Ruby snapped. Lucca put a flipper in front of her.

“I guess that was in bad taste. The police of Heroica really are a joke, aren’t they?” Raichu sighed again. She started playing with the tips of her feet, and the Inteleon archers took aim. Their arrows were equipped with lit fuses and sparklers. “Hand over Esther, paws in the air, and turn around. If you refuse, we’re gonna have to set these on you. And trust me. You don’t want these arrows. We’re allowed to kill.”

“Let’s just give it up,” Azu huffed.

Lucca didn’t move. He bit his lip, and his eyes kept darting around. Eventually, his eyes narrowed. “Into the water.”

“What?” Azu whispered.

“It’s our only choice, just do it,” the Brionne hissed.

“You’ve got three seconds,” Raichu groaned. Mimia tensed up and frowned. “Three…”

Just listen to him!” Mimia barked at his friends.


Lucca grit his fangs, grabbed Esther so hard she yelped, and leapt into the water behind them. As if drawn by his suddenness, Crystal and the group followed, so Mimia guarded them before taking a deep breath. Even Ruby didn’t hesitate to jump in.

“What the?” Raichu gasped as her Inteleon archers charged toward him. Mimia gave them a playful wave and backflipped off the pier, having the water muffle their shouts and curses.

Lucca lead the team, and headed deeper and deeper into the sea. As Mimia followed them into the bubbly darkness, a few arrows zipped past him, each one missing by a hair to make him flinch.

“Stop firing, you’ll hit the hostage!” Raichu snapped at her team. The Inteleon snarled but obeyed. She floated to the water’s edge and leaned over, waiting a lengthy moment. None of the group surfaced, and their silhouette’s couldn’t be seen at all. “This generation’s Shining Warriors are truly something else… they won’t get very far with the black water, though.”
Episode 10: Ocean Adventure


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Lucca complete - Copy.png

Episode 10: Ocean Adventure

Lucca had never felt so anxious before. He grit his fangs and focused as he swam into the depths of the sea, only diverting his eyes for brief instances. As he passed schools of Remoraid and other water types, or odd rock formations that could hide predators, his chest swelled with worry. His concerns were unfounded, as nothing attacked them.

“Lucca!” Azu’s panicked shout got his attention, making him flinch and flip around to her.. “Air? Hurry up give everyone air!”

“Ah, I—” he shuddered. Now that they stopped, he realised what he had really done. They group had followed him deep into the sea, and he had only lead them across the seafloor for a few minutes. Mimia’s cheeks were red and looked to burst, while Esther was clutching his back so tightly it actually hurt.

“Esther, let go of me!” he ordered, twisting back to try and get the Pikachu to let go. Her eyes widened and she shook her head, clenching even tighter if that was possible. “Gack- I can’t help you if you don’t- c’mon, just let me- Azu, help?”

Azu was even more anxious than he was, and after a bit more fiddling and fighting, managed to yank Esther off his back by pulling from behind. The moment Esther came free, the Pikachu let out a gurgled breath and started to choke, but Lucca was right there for her. He put his nose to her face and blew an air bubble over her, making sure it was a little bigger than her head before pulling away.

He didn’t wait for her to get over her gasping fit, he went straight to Mimia and gave him an air bubble, and then did the same for Ruby, who was oddly calm and unbothered. The Cyndaquil was clearly holding her breath, but equally nowhere near any peril like Mimia and Esther.

“What, what? What the heck is- aahhh it feels funny get it off me!” Esther squealed.

“Stop fidgeting or it’ll pop! Do you want to drown?” Azu warned. That shut the Pikachu up, but she was still breathing anxiously. “Whoa, are you okay?”

“Okay? Am I okay? Gods, how can I be okay?” Esther squeaked. She twisted and hugged Azu as tightly as she did Lucca. “I’m at the bottom of the ocean. Oh my gods I’m at the bottom of the ocean! With bad guys who tried to kill me!”

We didn’t try to kill you, the knights did,” Ruby objected. “And pull yourself together!”

“No no no you don’t understand- I can’t- I’m gonna die!” Esther cried.

“You’re not going to die. None of us are going to die here!” Lucca shouted above her, silencing her. “I’m not going to let any of you drown. I’m sorry that took so long. I just wanted to make sure we were well out of range.”

“I could’ve gone a few miles, to be fair,” Ruby bragged.

“Well you’re not normal,” Crystal remarked. “Mr Mimia, Miss Esther, are you okay?”

“No!” Esther squealed and hugged Azu even tighter. Mimia barked at her, happily paddling up to Lucca.

“Wait a minute… Esther, can you swim?” Azu asked.

“No! Please don’t let go of me I swear, please oh please oh please,” Esther cried.

Azu and Lucca glanced at one another, and the former crossed her arms. “She’ll sink like a stone if someone doesn’t carry her. Well then? What’s next on your amazing plan?”

Guilt swelled huge in Lucca’s stomach. He couldn’t take his eyes off them. This Azumarill was done with him and beyond, while the Pikachu was clearly restless for her life and wouldn’t relax until she was out of this situation. Playing with his flippers made him feel pathetic. Pull yourself together, Lucca. You are a crown prince. You have to take charge and just do what you have to do.

Looking around, he thought they were a little above the seafloor, but there appeared to be a road laid out for them. The slightly rugged terrain and frequent masses of coral, moss, and underwater plant life told of how far from convenient this road was, but it was a road nonetheless. No sounds came from anywhere, besides the weak, sloshy current and natural bubbling. There were no barricades either, the sides simply led deeper into the sea where the water got even darker.

Behind them, he could make out the silhouette of the island where Girage Field was. Ahead was another island silhouette, although it was much further way. The water wasn’t foggy, but it was dark enough to obscure much of the reefs and Pokémon beyond their outlines. It certainly was as chilly as it looked, however.

“I understand this sounds wild, but we’ll keep to this level and the road. The current shouldn’t send us off course,” Lucca began. He turned to the distant island. “We’ll head for our original goal that way.”

“That’s quite an alternative to a boat,” Ruby commented. “Will your air bubbles even last?”

“If they don’t, I’ll just make more,” he stated, offering a flipper out to Esther. “You’ll have to trust me on this. Let me carry you, or you’ll stop Azu from swimming.”

“You’re out of your mind,” Azu said as Esther was given to him. “I can’t believe I- I’m going crazy right now. Do you have any idea what you’re putting us through?”

“Please Azu, let’s just try, okay? We have to do this, and we have to focus,” Lucca argued.

“No Lucca!” Azu cried, and he stopped. The others looked just as disoriented with him. “You made us run away from the police. They fired at us. And now we’re going to swim across the freezing cold ocean for miles in hopes we don’t get swept out to nowhere?”

Put into words, that swell of guilt came back in full force. He could have thrown up just trying to stay composed. If it was just me and Mimia, he wouldn’t object to it. In fact, we’ve done long underwater travels like this before. But I didn’t think about the kids with me… Can they do this?

“You need to tell us what’s going on. All of it. You said you would,” Azu ordered desperately.

“Is now really the time?” Lucca objected.

“We’re not going to make it, Lucca. You can’t expect us to blindly attempt something this perilous,” Azu reasoned.

“Wait but aren’t you a water type?” Ruby wondered.

“Not every water Pokémon can breathe underwater. My body’s not built for swimming in the sea. If we reach a strong current, there is nothing I could do to save you,” Azu explained.

“I’m an air breather, too. Think of it this way – there’s a reason all of the water Pokémon here live on land,” Crystal added. “We’re just really good at holding our breaths.”

“Ah so like me, except you can actually talk underwater,” Ruby clarified.

“You… understood that,” Crystal hung her head. “I’m so scared. If we mess this up, we could… we could actually—”

“We’re gonna be okay!” Shelly interjected. Everyone turned to him. “We’re gonna be okay if we stick to the road. I… I know we will.”

“Shelly…” Crystal replied.

“Nothing’s going to happen to us unless we sit here and keep arguing,” Lucca added. The group gave him needy looks again, and he turned away.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t gonna try,” Ruby stated, and he looked at her. “I meant it when I said I’d stick by you, yeah? But if we’re gonna be swimming all the way to an island, you might as well take the time to tell us what the heck was goin’ on back there. You got me to tell ya my story, after all.”

Mimia let out a round of growls and noises too, and then began to lead the way. He almost looked leisurely as he paddled ahead, and that guilt came back.

“Not this time, buddy. You took a beating back there. Let me lead,” Lucca said as he went ahead. “And… I will.”

There was a long pause. He could hear everyone swishing water aside in their attempts to keep up, so he slowed down and went closer to the ocean road. That way everyone could at least walk.

“Now that I think about it, where do I even start?” Lucca cocked his head. Got to come up with something that makes sense without revealing who Alver is, or the Crystal situation.

“Just take it from the top. I want to know everything,” Azu replied.

Lucca rubbed his face. That guilt wouldn’t be leaving his belly anytime soon. “When the police took me away, they did it because of some wanted poster or something I had.”

“Oh yeah, is no one gonna talk about how awful they made you look on that?” Ruby commented. “They didn’t just make you look like a bad guy, they barely captured any of your cute features!”

“… Cute features?” Crystal said unsurely.

“Ouch. Is nothing about me cute?” Lucca joked, batting his eyelashes.

“You are rich thinking you can jest at a time like this,” Azu said, unimpressed. “Don’t get distracted. Girls, don’t encourage him, either.”

“Sorry about that. Erm… The authorities acknowledged me as a sort of leader of the Shining Warriors. We managed to come to a proposition, that we would be able to leave if we kept everything under wraps. We would go on as if I was still wanted, but the police in the city wouldn’t chase us,” Lucca continued. He glanced behind him at Esther, who appeared confused. “But then there was a murder in the hotel, and Esther believed it was one of us.”

Esther opened her mouth to comment, but didn’t say anything. He felt her grip tighten, however.

“I knew they would instantly turn against us, so I meant to rush us out of the city,” he explained.

“If that was what happened, then why the heck didn’t you just tell us earlier? There was literally no reason to hide the police’s proposition from us!” Azu cried.

“I,” Lucca gurgled a sigh. “I’d already put you through a lot with Vergrace and the situation with the Ribombee. I at least wanted to make sure you guys could have a good breakfast, and maybe look around… you know, calm down and treat Girage Field like the happy holiday you wanted to begin with.”

“Aren’t you and Azu the ones who wanted the holiday?” Shelly pointed out.

“Yeah. Pretty sure it’s all your fault. You should’ve taken me instead!” Ruby added.

Lucca nervously nibbled a flipper. “But when Esther came in and started pointing claims, I panicked. I panicked and I just… said things, okay?”

“But it wasn’t one of us who- I didn’t even know who you were until this whole mess,” Ruby stated.

“I… I’m sure it was. I thought I saw the Piplup. It was a Piplup with a bow and arrow, and you were the only one I’ve ever seen,” Esther explained.

“You thought?” Ruby repeated.

“Me?” Crystal squeaked.

“I… I dunno anymore. It was dark and… you seemed so soulless and evil, saying all these vile things. I…” Esther shuddered.

“Why the apprehension all of a sudden?” Azu asked.

“I saw you guys on the caravan and I just… I don’t wanna just say ‘my bad’, but it almost seems like I got the wrong Piplup? I don’t even get how that’s possible, but seeing you here and stuff, it almost seems like it couldn’t have been you,” Esther explained. “If I really am wrong, then I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry!”

She’s… quite naïve. Lucca remarked, watching Esther and Crystal. But I know what I saw. I doubt I could ever forget what I saw even if I wanted to. If she doubts it could be Crystal though, this gives me a chance.

“Then there’s the mystery that the knights suddenly turned on you during that scene. They were right on your side up until that moment, as if when they realised who you were, they wanted you dead,” Lucca explained. “That threw me off. I didn’t mean to give you guys distrust or put you through this whole mess… but all I could think to do was to try and save everyone and escape.”

“I thought the knights might side with the police, but it did seem like they were on opposite sides there,” Azu put a hand to her mouth. “I don’t mean to discredit you Esther, but… a Piplup with a bow and arrow is pretty specific, yet I can’t bring myself to believe Crystal would do a thing like that.”

“Please. I honestly don’t know who you or anyone around you are. I don’t have any reason to hurt any of you,” Crystal pleaded.

“Wait, lots of Pokémon don’t like the Shining Warriors. Could you guys have imposters?” Esther gasped. She promptly panicked and moved to cover her mouth, flinching at the feeling of the bubble.

“Would Pokémon do something like that? Just to throw us off?” Lucca asked.

“Maybe not to throw you off, but for other nasty stuff. There was once a group who pretended to be the heroes in Girage Field. They kept demanding free food and to see us perform—” Esther squealed, and then gasped again. “What if it was them again? What if they were after me for something?”

“It’s a plan a criminal would come up with sure. I bet they weren’t counting on the real Shining Warriors turning up and making things weird for them, though,” Azu added. “This is all just conjecture. Until we see something more concrete, we’re in the dark.”

“Wargh!” Shelly made a gurgled squeak, making everyone spin around. He was on his backside and looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“You okay? What is it?” Lucca asked, one flipper on his sword. Shelly didn’t respond. “Shelly?”

“Ah- I… s-sorry. I thought I saw something… in the dark,” Shelly whimpered, playing with his paws.

“Geez, again with that. You can’t go screaming at every tiny little—” Ruby rambled, only to suddenly plant her feet and turn to the side.

She wasn’t the only one. Lucca tightened his gaze and gripped the hilt of one of his blades. He could hear the current changing unnaturally, as if a few Pokémon were swishing past them. He couldn’t see anything besides more coral formations, however.

“Esther,” Lucca began to mutter. “If I try to fight with you on my back, your bubble with pop.”

“Please for the love of the gods don’t let go of me,” she responded, shaking her head.

“You had best hold your breath, then,” he instructed.

Mimia barked and popped up beside them, offering a foot.

“That’s a better idea. Let Mimia carry you,” Lucca said, transferring her to the Stufful. Esther was reluctant, but hugged Mimia close.

“Just stay back and take care of her. Lucca, if any of their air bubbles pop, we’ll need you to—” Azu instructed, but was silenced as their foe revealed themselves.

A small group of Wishiwashi swam a loop through the water before settling in front of the group. There were just four of them in a tight-knit formation, but they were fast and didn’t float still. Even stranger, their normally blue eyes had a bright red glow, although with their tiny forms, Lucca didn’t feel at all threatened.

“It’s just these guys,” Lucca remarked, still drawing one blade.

“A quick Flamethrower ought to deal with this,” Ruby bragged.

“Underwater? I’d be impressed if that even turned into an Ember,” Crystal cried, nocking an arrow. “Wa-wait a minute, an arrow wouldn’t be much better.”

“And Mimia’s going to be slowed by the pressure,” Lucca added, and then turned to Azu. “It’s up to us.”

“You’re actually asking me to fight?” Azu replied, reluctantly taking her staff off her back.

“I owe you so much already. But please, just to protect everyone,” he stated.

The Wishiwashi squeaked together, sounding almost like a siren, and then came charging as a single, coordinated unit. They were fast, but Lucca was in his element. The moment they moved, he flew forward too, and swung his tail around the smack them aside. It was as easy as brushing fur.

There’s no reason to brandish a blade on every little feral, he remarked, watching them carefully. The little fish cried at him like a siren again, and then tried exactly the same attack. This time Lucca swiped them aside with a flipper, but then pointed his sword at them. “Next time’s the sword. I’d think carefully if I were you.”

The Wishiwashi grew quiet, and watched him and Azu carefully. Azu tightened her pose too, and brought her staff forward a bit. After a while, the Pokémon simply scattered, wailing and squeaking as they disappeared into the dark water.

“What was that all about? They were just as wimpy as all the other ferals,” Ruby complained. “What a waste of time.”

“Well, why wouldn’t they be? They weren’t a full Wishiwashi shoal, either,” Azu replied. “Speaking of, we should definitely get moving in case they come back with one.”

“What difference would a shoal make? Whatever that is. They’re still just weak lil’ things,” Ruby asked.

“Trust me, you don’t want to know. I know you like strength Ruby, but trust me, now is the worst time to want to tangle with a Wishiwashi shoal,” Azu warned, resuming their trip.

“I’ll take your word for it, at that tone,” Crystal leaned back.

“But you, you did it!” Ruby cheered. She motioned to jump on Crystal, but the water slowed her too much, and she slowly flopped onto the coral instead.

“Wha-what? What’d I do?” Crystal squeaked.

“You got into a fight, and then just like, got all cool. Like yeah you couldn’t actually attack, but you got an arrow ready and made ‘em all scared,” Ruby remarked. Everyone’s eyes widened.

“But I…” Crystal hung her head.

“Just keep it like that, okay sis? One step at a time. You’ll stop being scared and can fight soon,” Ruby stated.

Lucca stared at Crystal’s troubled look. I don’t want to read into it too much… but Crystal’s always got her weapon out even if she doesn’t fight. This is nothing new… but let’s not take this away from Ruby.

“I have a really bad feeling about this,” Shelly said. A few turned to him. “Don’t this seem really weird? There’s this road down here goin’ straight to Van Aken, just like the roads above water.”

“Don’t moan about convenience. I would rather not have to actually swim the whole way,” Ruby replied.

“But doesn’t it seem too convenient? There’s not that many wild Pokémon either. Those Wishiwashi looked more dangerous than they were, too,” he added.

“Shelly, you can’t get scared by every little guy just ‘cos they’ve got glowing eyes or somethin’,” Ruby sighed, and then edged as close to him as her air bubble would allow. She mumbled something, and he rubbed his face. Oddly, the colour of his leaf was clear despite the water, and flashed pink slightly.

“Don’t scare me, what’re you talkin’ about?” Esther asked.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, lass. I just find it weird that there’s a road underwater,” Shelly corrected himself.

“You just said you had a really bad feeling about it!” Esther cried.

Shelly scratched the back of his head. “Er, I put it the wrong way. I’m not scared or anything.”

“He does have a point, though. Red-eyed monsters are never good news, and it does seem weird that there’s a road underwater. I expected there to be trenches or other terrain to contend with,” Lucca pointed out. “It’s almost as if Pokémon actually use this road for transport.”

“For transport?” Azu questioned.

“That is what this is, isn’t it? The road is perfectly straight, it isn’t that bumpy, and it’s high enough that the surface is in sight. There aren’t that many ferals, either,” Lucca explained. “I just can’t think what purpose an underwater road like this could be useful for, though. Pokémon that live in the sea and those that live on land don’t exactly trade, and swimmers don’t need roads or routes like this.”

There was silence for a few seconds, and then Azu beamed up.

“Wait a minute!” Azu squeaked high pitched enough to make everyone flinch. She swam to the left edge of the road, laughing with gradual insanity. Then she swan to the right, and then spun around, admiring everything around. Each movement, she got quicker and quicker, and laughed ever louder. “Oh my gods, how didn’t I figure it out sooner?”

“Azu?” Lucca said, the only one not weirded out.

“Lucca!” Azu squeaked at him, and slammed her hands on his sides so hard it hurt. “You’re a genius! I could kiss you right now!”

“I… I am?” he replied, blinking blankly at her. What she just said sunk in after a moment, and he turned away to rub his nose. “Er… that…”

“Better not do that,” Ruby commented.

“These are ruins of an Undine civilisation!” Azu announced. “You’re exactly right, Lucca. These are Pokémon who traded and travelled with Pokémon on the land. It’s written that they based their architecture off of land dwellers so that anyone could use them conveniently.”

“What’re Undine again? I know you said I’m half one or somethin’ like that,” Ruby cocked her head.

“They’re an aquatic civilisation that once thrived in Heroica. They’re said to be Pokémon that have awesome powers like the ability to manipulate water, and lived in perfect harmony with the element,” Azu explained. Every word sounded more enthusiastic than the last, and she bounced faster that a hyperactive Cherrim. “Maybe that Wishiwashi we met was a remnant of their super-advanced magitech, constructed to guard something. It still wanders the seas today, warning what few travellers remain of greater dangers lurking here.”
“Stop it! I don’t wanna drown!” Esther cried.

“I don’t fully get it. Normal Pokémon can’t breathe underwater, so what gives?” Ruby asked.

“They could manipulate water, Ruby. So Pokémon wouldn’t need to breathe underwater. They could make the sea arch around this road or something,” Azu stated. “What I’m saying is, Pokémon walked along this road as if it wasn’t underwater when the Undine wanted them to.”

“Wait, really? That sounds amazing!” Crystal remarked, looking up and around.

“Yep! And speak of the devil, looks like the Wishiwashi was trying to warn us after all,” Azu announced, pointing her staff forward.

Lucca and Mimia had stopped not far ahead, right before the very thing she pointed out. There was a strange phenomenon ahead, a section of the sea that almost looked like an illusion. The water turned black, but not in the sense that there was a black cloud dirtying the colour. The sea retained its transparency and filtered light through enough to see the surroundings, yet a black filter passed through it all. Everything ahead was rendered in black and light.

“It’s like the colour’s been sucked from the sea,” Lucca pointed out. Mimia whined with him.

“It’s called Black Water. It’s what happens when Bestia is completely drained from natural water,” Azu explained. “Black Water retains all the properties of water that you don’t want. Water pressure, the need to swim, that sort of a thing… but it lacks everything that could be helpful.”

“As if there was anything helpful about water in the first place,” Ruby grumbled.

“Water’s good for you to drink. Not seawater, though,” Crystal happily pointed out.

“It doesn’t beat juice!” Ruby objected.

“This water has absolutely no oxygen in it. If we go ahead, even me, Crystal and Lucca will have to hold our breaths,” Azu stated, and the trio flinched. “Your air bubbles will likely pop, too. No oxygen, no nutrients, nothing. It doesn’t even have salt in it, or a temperature.”

“So we’re stuck, right? We have to turn back, don’t we?” Esther said. No one replied. “Oh gods, please don’t tell me you guys actually wanna go in there.”

“We don’t have much choice. We can’t go back to Girage Field. The knights will try to kill you,” Lucca stated.

“If this carries on to the surface, then a ship would actually sink here, too. Think of it as totally cursed water,” Azu added.

“So we couldn’t even sneak around to try and grab a ship,” Lucca rubbed his chin.

“Will we make it?” Shelly asked, playing with his paws.

“It depends on how long this carries on for. Which of us has the longest breath hold time?” Azu asked. There was a long pause, and everyone exchanged awkward glances with each other.

“Well uh… I guess you or Lucca,” Crystal pointed at them.

“Me? A Snorlax is fitter than I am. Plus, admittedly I’m running on gas right now. I’m going to need to surface in a minute, haha,” Azu rubbed her back.

Her attitude totally changed once she realised these are ruins. At least she’s smiling, Lucca remarked, and glanced at her. “You’ve done more than enough, anyway.”

“How about we don’t get sappy and all just go together?” Ruby said.

“I’m just going to check how long this goes on for. If it’s too long, then—” Lucca reasoned.

“Then someone’s gonna drown. We’ve all gotta go there either way, right? Let’s stop arguing about it and just go,” Ruby complained. The group exchanged glances again, and shook their heads.

“She… is kind of right this time,” Azu admitted.

“Please don’t actually go!” Esther cried. “I-I can’t. I definitely won’t make it!”

“Esther, you need to not panic. Just take a deep breath and hold for as long as you can. I’ll even carry you so I can swim fast. We’ll be first out,” Lucca explained, but she kept shaking her head. She sounded like she might cry, and clenched Mimia hard. “You have to try. You have to try your best.”

“Uh uh! Dumb weird air bubble is one thing, now you’re askin’ me to do this? When you guys might die, too? I can’t, I won’t!” Esther cried.

I can’t force her… what do we do about this? C’mon, think Lucca, think! The Brionne growled and rubbed his chin.

“Erm, Lucca is the only one who has used a Pokémon attack today, hasn’t he?” Shelly spoke up. “Then we don’t have to hold our breaths. We can just use Angel to neutralise the area.”

“Holy crap, you little genius!” Ruby gasped.

“Angel, will that actually work?” Crystal asked, holding her amulet forward.

“You guys are on the right track,” Angel replied. The amulet glowed with her words. “At my strength, I could neutralise the area for a grand total of five seconds. That’d be all your Bestia for the day, too.”

“Well that sucks,” Ruby slumped.

“But if you guys could think of a move or ability in your arsenal that could get you through, I could provide that for far longer,” Angel added. “Say… Crystal using Aqua Jet to boost everybody through? Then you’d only need to hold your breaths for five seconds.”

“Right. We’d be in and out of the region in a flash,” Lucca cheered. “Let’s give it a go!”

“E-erm… I-I don’t know how to use Aqua Jet,” Crystal admitted, playing with her flippers. “I never really learnt any Pokémon attacks. Suzie stopped me from learning anything combat related.”

“Argh, great. You’re useless!” Ruby kicked the water.

“I’d be doing it if I hadn’t already used my attack for the day,” Lucca said.

“Aqua Jet? I’m guessing you guys spoke to the guardian Angel again,” Azu said, going quiet. She faced the black water, and then the group. “We link paws, and all shoot forward in one big Aqua Jet attack? That sounds like a wild plan that’d actually work.”

“Erm, I can do it!” Shelly announced, and then shrunk when all eyes turned to him. “I-I know how to use Aqua Jet. I did it by accident once when training a few years ago… b-but I never really forgot.”

“You never forgot because it’s in your body. You’re a Pokémon, you’re all built to use your attacks and powers!” Angel remarked. “Believe in yourself and go for it.”

“Okay!” Shelly chirped. “… Erm, how do we do this?”

He shifted awkwardly when Ruby huddled up to him and linked their paws. “Don’t get any big ideas. Just focus on the move.”

“If we all stay close enough to each other, it just might work,” Lucca mumbled, huddling close, too. He took a shivering Esther from Mimia’s back, letting her hug him instead. “Azu, you get Mimia. Shelly, you’re small enough to hold Ruby and Crystal, right?”

“Uh uh uh!” Ruby pushed her way between Shelly and Crystal. “Don’t think you’re getting a free pass. Crystal holds my hand.”

“What’s your deal?” Crystal rolled her eyes.

“I wasn’t going to try,” Shelly mumbled. “Shouldn’t I be in the middle, though?”

“We do it like this, or we don’t do it at all,” demanded Ruby.

Even though he was confident, Lucca’s heart raced. He’d never had to battle with environment that stole his breath before. Only now that he was faced with the situation did he learn how privileged he was, being a water type.

Lucca, Mimia, and Azu positioned themselves behind Shelly and the smaller group, and linked flippers, paws, and hands. The moment they did, Angel appeared behind them and gave her wings a great flap, bathing the group in a pretty swirl of blue light. The moment that light came, all air bubbles the group had popped, and they had to hold their breaths. Shelly promptly started, tensing up to surround them all in a current, and then they were off like a rocket.

Lucca concentrated just as hard as when they started this awful trip. The moment they hit the black water, he felt the strain Azu had warned them about. Even though they were surrounded by the water from Shelly’s Pokémon move, a dull chill surrounded him, while some sort of pressure caused his chest to tighten. He faced forward through it all, kicking his tail as if to help boost them forward faster.

It wasn’t clear how long they had swam for, but five seconds was a clear underestimation. What was clear was that strain was starting to get to him, yet it was clear they weren’t getting out of the black water anytime soon. The further on they went, the duller and duller the scenery became, and the more and more he felt an urge to open his mouth. He grunted a little. The sight of bubbles escaping him and the group made his heart race, and he feared he might give in.

Hold it together Lucca… just hold it, hold it! He repeated to himself, soon clenching his eyes shut, too. He wasn’t used to holding his breath at all. He thought this would be easy, but instead it was filling him with anxiety that he might have actually screwed up. Surely a minute had passed, and they were still there, speeding through the black water and unable to breathe.

Not long after he started to grumble and tense a bit did they come to a sharp stop. Lucca slammed face first into something so hard he flipped several times as he recoiled, and coughed out a chunk of air in the process. He scrambled and thrashed to get a hold of himself, quickly realising that the water around him was blue again.

“Wait we’re… air bubbles!” he hissed, breathing normally. He had to look for Esther and Mimia who had scattered during the crash, both of which didn’t look much better than he felt earlier. Their cheeks looked like they were going to burst until he gave them air bubbles, and they each had gasping fits once they could. Ruby was once again unbothered by it all, however.

“Ow… what happened?” Shelly groaned, rubbing his head.

Rocky wall loomed before them, with a large cave entrance in the middle. It didn’t take a minute for Lucca to realise that this was the island they were heading towards, and he smiled excitedly. “Isn’t this… we made it!”

“That was close, though… I don’t know about you, but that kind of pushed me,” Azu admitted. “We’re definitely going to need a better way coming back.”

“You’re telling me. Is this really what it’s like to hold your breath? It feels awful!” Crystal added. “My chest felt like it was on fire.”

“This is why I told you not to!” Esther cried. “My tummy feels all pruned and twisted. I could throw up!”

“Aww stop complainin’. We made it, didn’t we?” Ruby said, smiling cheekily.

“We did, but… what’s this?” Shelly wondered, still rubbing his head. He was staring at the cave, which was so dark inside they couldn’t see a thing. He wandered closer, and then flinched as a high pitched cry rang through the water.

“Argh!” Lucca grunted and grabbed his head. It was the familiar siren cry from the Wishiwashi earlier, only so loud and high pitched that it pierced his thoughts. That very Pokémon soon appeared before Shelly, five of them this time, each with red eyes that stared right into his.

“Wah!” squealed the Oshawott as he flew back into the group.

“You guys again,” Azu said, taking the lead with Lucca.

The Wishiwashi kept squealing, this time no longer in sync with one another, almost like a flock of birds and their shrill chirps. More Wishiwashi began to show up from all around however, small schools just like the five before them. Soon there was fifteen, then twenty-five, and then more than Lucca could count, all gathering into this one spot to guard the cave.

“Uh,” Lucca said, and swam back a bit.

“Guys, we need to get out of here! Now!” Azu warned in growing panic. The duo turned around, surprised to find that Mimia and the group’s air bubbles had popped, likely a result of the noise from the Wishiwashi. “Oh no…”

“Just grab ‘em and go!” Lucca ordered, making sure Esther was still holding onto him.

Azu took Mimia in the meantime, while Crystal and Ruby linked hands, with Shelly not far behind. The group made for the surface as fast as they could, finding themselves fighting a strong current that attempted to pull them down. A low, earth-shaking grumble came from behind, and their surroundings darkened slightly.

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“What?” Lucca whispered, glancing back.

Below him, whatever the Wishiwashi were becoming, he could tell it was trouble. They were obscured by the darkened water, but the silhouette of an enormous monster with a gaping maw and faded, blurry red eyes was unmistakable. The monster looked like it was inhaling water strong enough to devour the group entirely, and all around them the water swirled to trap them in place.

Before he could try a new plan, the current changed directions. A whirlpool suddenly formed below the group, which punched them straight upwards. Lucca felt himself black out for a moment, and then roared as his body was swung around like a feather in a hurricane. He lost track of his surroundings or whether Esther still held him or not. Everything just spun, flipped, and kept him dizzy enough to throw up.

With a dry cough and a grunt, he landed smack on cold, soft ground. It was soft, but wet enough to feel like a punch to his front and his flippers. It was also muddy enough that he reflexively spat out and scrambled to get up, having to wipe mess off his face.

“Ow,” Lucca groaned. “What just happened?”

“Urgh,” Azu groaned beside him.

“Azu!” Lucca came to her aid. She was reluctant, but accepted his flipper to stand. “That was some whirlpool. At least that thing didn’t decide to eat us.”

“That could’ve gone a lot worse,” Crystal added.

The group shook themselves and got up, and Mimia’s barking made them realise where they were. Outside of the water at last, but surrounded by Pokémon clothed in armour and equipped with weapons, all lances pointed at them.

“Aww enough for one day already!” Azu cried and threw her arms up.

“Silence! Don’t move!” one of the Vileplume soldiers commanded.

Wait, they’re not the same as the knights, or are they? Lucca asked himself, focusing. Every single one of these soldiers was an identifiable species that only had enough armour to protect vital areas. Each one was grass type too, from Vileplume to Decidueye. Behind them were more grass type Pokémon, but they appeared more like ordinary civilians, muttering amongst each other as they observed the scene.

“Somebody coulda warned us the island had knights on it, too,” Ruby complained.

“Wait, don’t hurt them!” Shelly cried as he pushed his way through to the front. The soldiers were aggressive until they noticed something, and their eyes widened. “Don’t… hurt them. Please. It’s me.”

“Your Highness Prince Shelly?” Vileplume gasped.

“Prince Shelly?” the others gasped as well.
Episode 11: Shelly’s Trial


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
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Episode 11: Shelly’s Trial

I really didn’t want to come back here, was all Shelly could think. Repeated over and over, and somehow it was the only thing not driving him crazy. The walk from the village to the Greenhouse Palace felt longer than the trip through the sea, perhaps because of the sun setting, or perhaps because he had only done it twice before now and wasn’t used to it.

Now, him and the group were gathered in the throne room. The wait was excruciating. He couldn’t formulate how this was going to go or what to say once the group found out the truth about him. The soldiers watched them diligently the whole time.

“So, you gonna tell us what’s going on or what?” Ruby finally asked, giving Shelly a prod. Just that tap made him squeak and flinch. “Uh…”

“S-sorry,” he replied, playing with his paws.

“Silence, males! Not a word from any of ya,” demanded a Sceptile as she prodded Ruby with her lance. Ruby growled at them, but Lucca settled her down.

“I’m not a boy,” Ruby grumbled.

“Neither am I. That means they’re not talking to me, right?” Esther asked. The Sceptile prodded her with their spear, making her squeak. “Okay okay, I get it.”

“Just behave,” Crystal grumbled and rolled her eyes. Mimia whined with her.

I can’t mess about. I need to do this the way Ruby taught me. I have to convince Gladys this time, Shelly sighed. Just then, the throne room doors opened, and everyone turned around.

“Where is he? Bring him forward!” Queen Gladys ordered the moment she marched through. She went to her throne and knelt in front while the guards made space for Shelly, who nervously waddled forward. The moment she saw him, her eyes widened, and then settled.

“Huh?” Shelly said. Gladys certainly didn’t look as he remembered. The Tsareena appeared as refined, tough, and grand as ever, yet the tone of her voice and the way her eyes shook felt different. He felt an aura of relief from her, the same kind one has when they’ve found something truly important to them they thought they had lost.

And strangely, that was even more fear-inducing than the build-up to this confrontation.

“Shelly… it is truly you. Ah, and you’re okay. You’re okay, aren’t you? Ah, you’re not hurt or hungry or thirsty?” Gladys asked, gasping between words. “Ah, I shouldn’t overwhelm you. Ye’ve been away for a long while. I can only imagine what you’ve been through. You don’t need to tell me anything if you don’t feel like it.”

“Great. They sound just like Shelly,” Ruby groaned.

“Whoa… their accents are so strong,” Crystal commented.

“What does that mean, though?” Lucca asked.

“Uh,” Shelly replied. Gladys stood up and addressed at her soldiers.

“Well then? Don’t just stand there you cabbages! Go and issue the orders. The prince is back. Get the chefs cooking, recover the search parties,” Gladys commanded. She looked down at Shelly. “You must be starving. We’ll make you your favourite apple curry, and then you can rest easy in your room. We left it same as before, so you can do as you want in there.”

“But I—” Shelly began.

“Where is he, where is my special little fighter?” a girly voice chimed in. Elise burst into the room and tripped on something, stumbling right up to Shelly’s feet before falling over.

“Elise?” he gasped and flinched. The Steenee looked up at him, locked eyes and froze. She had a similar reaction to Gladys, and yet she felt completely different. Relieved eyes that watered, and yet he felt a genuine concern from her. Even the leaf attached to her bracelet had turned bright orange. She slowly got up, and they locked hands.

“It’s really you,” Elise whispered. He uttered a sound, and then she started smiling. “Shelly… oh my precious Shelly, it’s really you. It’s really, really you!”

She threw herself into a hug and nuzzled his cheek, trying to contain her tears. He reflexively hugged back, but only to keep his balance. She was saying something, his name continuously, but it was muffled by her tears and wails.

“Elise, please. I do not blame you for your affection, but he’s just come home,” Gladys complained, dragging her hand down her face.

“But I… he’s right here,” Elise whispered, pulling back a bit. “I don’t care if he smells all seaweedy. You’re right here in front of me.”

“Give the lad some space!” Gladys raised her voice.

“No!” Elise cried. “Now that you’re back, I’m never lettin’ go of you. I don’t wanna lose you again!”

“Erm… you’re kinda… squeezing me tightly. And it hurts,” Shelly lied, turning away.

“Oh, oops sorry!” Elise gasped and let go. “Wait a minute, you just said that! That’s not a nice thing to say to your wife. Do you have any idea how much I missed you?”

“H-huh? Did I hear that right?” Azu gasped.

“Wife?” Ruby added.

“Whoa… okay, I wasn’t expecting that,” Esther leaned forward.

Just the mention of the word made Shelly cringe, and he tried to sneak a glance at his friends. Elise wrapped herself around him again however, and this time kissed him on the cheek. “I’m sorry. I can’t help myself. I just… I’m just so happy that you’re back. I don’t care if it’s getting late or I… I just… I’m so happy, Shelly. I don’t ever wanna leave you again.”

“I,” Shelly awkwardly returned her affection, but he didn’t kiss her. He caught a glimpse of Ruby in the corner of his eye, and then faced Elise properly. “I’m… I’m sorry.”

“You better be. We have so much to make up for!” Elise cheered. “This might just be the best day of my life! I’ve never felt so happy before!”

“Shelly. What the hell is going on?” Ruby asked, and slowly stepped forward. The soldiers thrust their weapons in threat, but she didn’t give them so much as a glance. “Who is she?”

Shelly gulped.

“Oh, oh my gosh! Wait, I know what’s going on, I think?” Elise gasped. She held Shelly’s paw and turned to the others. “These are them, aren’t they? The Shining Warriors. You guys have amulets just like my Shelly’s!”

Shelly couldn’t even look at them, but he could feel Ruby’s gaze piercing right through his body. He didn’t need to look to know her eyes were wide open, reddened with rage. Her stare pierced his whole body so much it hurt, yet he didn’t let go of Elise’s hand.

“Aren’t you gonna introduce me? This is kinda exciting, too!” Elise laughed. She skipped ahead and bowed. “Greetings, legendary warriors. I’m Princess Elise, the Princess of Van Aken. Wait, that was wrong. I said princess twice!”

“Elise,” Shelly slumped as she blushed. Gladys palmed her face again.

“You guys must know Shelly really well! He’s my husband, so he’s prince of the island, too,” Elise introduced.

“Apparently, we don’t know him really well,” Ruby replied. The others could feel her livid aura now as well. “Shelly, who is she?”

“She’s… Princess Elise. She’s my… my wife,” he admitted, looking at the floor.

In saying that, it felt like time froze. Everything darkened except himself and Ruby, and he dared to look up at her. He had never seen her so angry before, even after seeing her take on the Ribombee. In a twisted kind of way, it was relieving.

It was relieving because there was no escape anymore. He had screwed up, and now he would be everyone’s enemy for the rest of this journey. His leaf had never been so blue.

“You... you stupid little bastard! You thought you were being smart, didn’t you?” Ruby snapped and lunged at him, but Lucca was quick enough to pull her back. The guards reacted too, while Elise flinched back.

“Wha… d-did I do something? I’m sorry if I—” Elise gasped.

“Ruby, stop it! Get a hold of yourself. We’re not having another Girage situation!” Lucca shouted as he held her down.

“But he—” Ruby screamed at him.

“Don’t make the same mistakes as me!” Lucca shouted even louder. That silenced her, but not without a livid shiver. Ruby couldn’t close her eyes or settle the flames on her back. Shelly stared at the floor, torn apart by every last emotion.

“That is who they are. Villains who wish to burn our society, so we’ll burn them down instead. Take them to the cells immediately, and I want the elite watching them. Now!” Gladys ordered.

“Wait me, too?” Esther gasped.

“Your Highness, please hear us out for a moment. We’re not here to—” Lucca objected.

“Silence! Not another word. You cannot speak,” Gladys stated.

“At least leave the Pikachu, she’s not part of—” Azu tried to reason, too.

“I said silence!” Gladys’ voice boomed like thunder this time. “I care not. No Pokémon besides we, the grass type women of Van Aken, are ever welcome here. Away with you! If I have to see their faces for another second, I’ll twist your tails so hard so help me if you ever have feeling there again!”

That made Shelly look up. His friends were so confused and desperate as they disappeared into the formation of Whimsicott and Sceptile soldiers. They were marched out of sight quicker than he could say anything. He knew what to say, yet not a sound escaped his mouth. He just trembled as he watched them.

“That just leaves me and you, honey bunch,” Elise said, swaying playfully. She grabbed Shelly’s paw and ran off. “C’mon, let’s go already!”

“Elise—” Gladys stuck an arm out helplessly. “What is wrong with that lass?”

“Wait, Elise!” Shelly gasped, but she yanked him hard. He was surprised at how strong her grip and pull was. Not strong enough that he couldn’t pull back, but she was almost as strong as he was now. He was sure she never used to be this strong. So he played along and walked beside her, taking the chance to check out the palace.

What’s going on? It feels like there are more guards than before, he quickly realised as he passed species he hadn’t seen as soldiers. Duos of Lilligant guarded every room, Victreebel and Carnivine hung from the ceiling like Zubat, while Nuzleaf patrolled alongside the usual Vileplume soldiers. Even his bedroom was guarded by a trio of Roserade.

“We kept everything the same for you, but we cleaned up a bit, too,” Elise informed, letting him wander into the bedroom first.

Everything really is the same. They even kept the bed, he realised as he slowly examined everything. The sight of that tiny dog bed made him sigh. If I asked, would they give me a new one?

Elise giggled to get his attention and grabbed his paw again. “You’re quiet. It’s impressive, ain’t it? Only the best for my hero.”

If only you knew… but no Shelly, I have to focus. There’s no time for this, he shook his head and clenched his paws. “Elise.”

She hushed him for some reason, and slyly pointed to the door. The Roserade guards were still there. He gave her a funny look, making her giggle again. “Where have you been anyway, mister? We were all really worried about you, ya’know.”

“I was,” he began, but something told him to wait. He glanced at the door again. The guards were still there, and one was sneaking a glance at him clear as day. They tried to hide their curiosity, so he didn’t challenge it. Instead, he went over to sit in his bed and lowered his voice. “Is Kusha still here?”

“She went off the island to try and look for you. Did you see her at all?” Elise replied, putting her hands together. “If you didn’t, she probably already knows that you’re here. We got Jumpluff spies now, and they’re really good.”

“Jumpluff spies?” Shelly raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah. Y’know, the wee flying blue fluffy things. They’re so quiet they can fly all over the place and listen to Pokémon without anyone knowing,” Elise explained. That made him instinctively look around the corners of the room, but there was nothing there. “They wouldn’t be in here, silly. We’re prince and princess, the guards are only here to keep an eye on your food.”

“Right, my food,” Shelly muttered. Now that he was settled down in a homely space, his stomach felt like it was eating itself. Both from guilt, and that he hadn’t eaten since the morning.

“Speaking of which!” Elise’s mood switched. “You still smell seaweedy! Go wash, mister seaweed!”

“Seaweedy?” he cocked his head.

“Like fishy seawater or something. What were you doing? It’s kinda gross,” she giggled. “Would I smell like that if I went on an adventure, too?”

“Elise, I was… I’m waiting for the gua—” he replied.

“Shh, I know. When the food gets here,” she whispered with a sneaky smile.

Does she know what’s going on? He almost gasped. “I’ll er, go and have that wash.”

“Yes, please! It’s silly of you to come back to me smelling like that!” she cried.

“Will you be awake by the time I come back, though? It is getting dark,” he asked.

“Oh don’t give me that, laddie! Of course I’ll stay awake for you. I don’t just flop and wilt the moment the sun sets,” she pouted.

He turned away. He was too nervous to side-track with a bath right now. “You sure?”

“Be quick laddie! The more you fath around now the less time we have to make up for lost time!” she cried.

As he made his way to leave, a knock on the door made him flinch. A soft voice spoke from behind. “Your Highnesses? We have the food. Is it okay to come in?”

Shelly glanced back at Elise, who smiled and winked at him. He wasn’t sure what that signal was for, but he stepped away. “Yes please. You can come in.”

Now this was a pleasant, familiar feeling he needed. A tall tray with large pots full of curry and plates of his favourite food to dip in it. Sliced apples, soft toast, and a few oran berries. The aroma from it all made his stomach rumble, and he couldn’t help but drool, too.

“I’m glad to be able to serve this for you again, Prince Shelly. We didn’t have the usual amount of apples this time, so we provided substitutes. I hope that’s okay,” the Bellossom maid informed. Shelly was too busy staring to respond, so Elise giggled and took charge.

“Thank you very much. That’ll be all, though. I’ll take it back when I’m leaving, so go take a load off!” Elise said with a wave.

“Are you sure? Your Highness, I couldn’t ask such a mundane—” Bellossom gasped.

“Oh don’t gimme that! You lasses have been workin’ your leaves off, I ain’t gonna push you when we’re all meant to be celebrating. Go take a load off for the evening, and tell the other maids, too,” Elise objected. She leaned in close to the Bellossom and started mumbling. “Last thing you can do for me, though. Tell the guards to stop being so nosy. Me and Shelly want some private time.”

“Private time?” Bellossom replied.

“You wouldn’t understand it,” Elise said, half-lidded.

“As you wish, Your Highness. Thank you dearly for your generosity,” Bellossom bowed and skipped out. They could see her talk to the guards before the door closed, and could hear their muffled speech for a bit, too. A minute or so later and the Roserade marched off, leaving the duo in silence at long last.

“Finally!” Elise groaned hoarsely and rushed over. Shelly was still drooling at the food. “They finally left us alone. We can- Shelly?”

There was no response. His leaf was pink, his stomach growled, and his eyes were locked to the pot of curry. She slowly picked up a plate, layered some rice on and then poured the curry on top. He followed the plate like a magnet.

“Hee hee hee, you silly foodie. It looks like you missed apple curry more than you missed me! I wonder if all boys are like this?” she giggled as she handed him the plate. “Never change, my precious little honey bunch.”

That got him to shake himself back into focus. He still took a few bites, and then made sure to pay attention to her.

“We’re finally alone, so we can get down to proper business. And I dunno how long we have, so I wanna take this seriously, too,” she stated.

‘Elise’ and ‘serious’ don’t really go in the same sentence, but I don’t have a choice right now. It’s now or never, Shelly thought as he swallowed. “What’s going on?”

“Kusha told me everything, and I mean everything. She and the Jumpluff kept me up to date on stuff,” Elise whispered. Shelly choked and almost spat out his food. “Ah, hey, hey are you okay?”

He had a little fit of gasps coughs, and had to wipe his eyes of tears. “Exactly what?”

“About… well, yeah. How you two snuck out in the middle of the night to go on the Shining Warrior journey, but you couldn’t get me. One of your teammates had to kill an evil dragon in a village, and you did one of the trials, and you’re still looking for the last hero… and fighting the evil bee at the theatre, too. It all sounds so exciting and cool! You’ve been gone for a really long while. You’re already a hero!” Elise explained.

Every word made Shelly twist his face and slow down eating. If Kusha knows all about that stuff, then she watched me closer than she said she would. I wonder how much she influenced? And why did she feel the need to show up in Girage?

“A few of the guards and stuff are on our side, you know. They don’t understand or agree with why Mama wants us trapped here, so they wanna help out the Shining Warriors,” Elise continued. She put her hands together and leaned close to his face. “So you’re gonna keep your promise, aren’t you? We’re gonna set your friends free, and then we’ll embark on a romantic journey together, and save Heroica as the Shining Warriors!”

I wasn’t expecting this. I did promise Elise we would go together, but then I met Crystal. Ruby’s still mad at me, too. I don’t think it would go very well if she went with us, Shelly pondered the idea without showing it, and only blinked. He stuffed his face with a few more mouthfuls to hide his thoughts. Then again, Azu is travelling with us and she’s just fine… well, if you count being mad at Lucca as just fine.

“Hello, Heroica to Shelly? Ya there, honey bunch?” Elise sung.

“Did Mama ever say why she didn’t want me to go and find the Shining Warriors?” he asked.

“Nah. She got super mad in front of the guards when I asked her, too. That’s when some of the guards secretly started helpin’ me,” she replied, hand on her hip. Shelly turned away. “What’re you thinkin’ about, honey?”

“Do you think I could talk to her?” he asked. She shook her head again.

“She put your friends in the prison without even givin’ ‘em a chance to say anything. She’s definitely not gonna give you a chance, as wonderful as that’d be,” she answered.

Shelly finally put a paw to his chin and grumbled. “Do you have a plan to help my friends?”

“Sorta? I’m allowed to walk around, and since you left, I’ve been practicing super hard at fighting. Remember, I’ll be your sword,” she bragged. She knelt down to him and blushed a bit. “To be honest, if you didn’t come back, I was planning to sneak out to try and find you, too. So I had to grow strong.”

“Re-really?” he looked at her, and she nodded. That explains the strength earlier. If she winds up helping everyone, they won’t be so mad at her, either.

He looked away again, this time up at the food he hadn’t eaten yet. It had cooled by now. I’m not ready to face them yet… but that does let me… okay. That’s a plan.

“Shelly… is everything okay?” Elise asked. Just then, her voice was softer than he had ever heard it, and the blue tint on her leaf gave away her worry.

“I’m okay, I was thinking really hard. Sorry,” he shook himself and stood up to return to eating. “It’s because there’s a Bestia Fountain here on this island. We can’t just break everyone out and run like I did. We need to get to the trial without everyone attacking us.”

“Whoa, for real? That explains why you came back here,” she replied, and he nodded. “Okay, I’m all in this. This is super exciting! What’ve you got?”

“If I go sneaking around, everyone will get suspicious that I’m not relaxing. Even worse if I head to where everyone is. I hate to do this, but I need to count on you,” Shelly began, turning away.

“That’s right, that makes sense. They might get suspicious if I’m not fretting over you too, so I’ll just tell ‘em I’m getting you snacks or something,” she added.

“If you can find a way to bring everyone to the entrance to the inner garden, I can meet them, and we’ll all get out together. I’ll handle the rest,” Shelly explained.

“Pfft, this is easy, honey. We’ll be there before you know it,” she bragged.

“We’ll go straight for the trial, so you need to make sure you’re ready for battle, too,” Shelly stated. He took the plate of apples and handed them to her. “My friends haven’t gotten to eat much, so give them these too, if you can.”

“They must be hungrier than you,” she remarked. She stood tall and patted her chest. “Alright! I’ll go now. You just get ready to meet us by the inner garden. Don’t be late or fall asleep now, wee mister!”

“I should be telling you that. Then sun’s nearly set and all,” he snickered.

“I’m not gonna fall asleep! Trust me, I’ve been training that!” she pouted at him.

“I’m counting on you, Elise,” he smiled. That made her calm down, and she blushed. With a peppy nod and a smile, she slipped the apples into a pouch and skipped out, leaving him alone. A minute later, he sighed and sat down, staring at his plate of curry.

“I know what you’re planning. This isn’t a good idea at all, you know,” Angel’s voice came out of his amulet. “You shouldn’t break someone’s heart just to fix another’s.”

I’m sorry, Elise, Shelly sighed again. “You’re not going to tell them, are you?”

Angel didn’t reply.


“Another prison. I can’t believe I’m spending two nights of my life in prison,” Azu sighed as she slumped against the metal wall. Their prison cell fit the theme of the Greenhouse Palace, besides these plated metal walls. The ceiling was completely clear glass, while their exit was a wall of thorny vines so thickly tangled together it was difficult to see through them.

“You’re telling me. I’ve never spent any night in a prison! There isn’t even a bed in here!” Esther cried. “This sucks. I’ve done nothing wrong. What’d I do to deserve this?”

It stunk of cut grass in here, besides a smoky smell from Ruby’s smouldering. She hadn’t set anything alight, but she was erupting her back so much she might have been burning her own fur. Everyone left her to her own corner, and also kept away from a lone Pikachu who sat in the opposite corner. Esther was a little curious about said Pikachu, but as no one else said anything, she didn’t, either.

“Any idea why they took Lucca and Mimia away from us?” Crystal wondered, still looking around.

“They’re boys,” Azu sighed.

There was a pause, and Crystal raised an eyebrow. “That means?”

“Didn’t you notice? All the soldiers so far have been female. I’m guessing they have laws against male Pokémon,” Azu clarified.

“I didn’t. That’s kind of weird,” Crystal muttered, only now noticing the Vileplume guard patrolling the room. They were female as well, just like the two Whimsicott by the exit at the far end of the room.

“Grr, this is all that bastard Shelly’s fault. He’s gonna get us all killed, and for what? Stupid, stupid, stupid!” Ruby rambled.

“And what’s with you? Why have you started kicking off with all that foul language, too?” Crystal cried.

“Because! It’s! His! Fault!” Ruby snarled, kicking the wall between each word. “Argh! I’m so stupid, it’s always the quiet ones. I shoulda known!”

“What did Shelly do? Besides keep quiet that he’s a prince or something,” Crystal asked, rubbing her face. “Wait, they’re all female, but Shelly’s a prince?”

“What’s with that look?” Ruby cried.

“I dunno. I think there’s something kind of magical about that. Who would’ve thought he was a prince? He’s got that special orb, he can cook, he’s the only boy here… This is all kind of out of an old fairy tale, isn’t it?” Crystal said happily, putting her flippers together.

“Oh really? Now you’re gettin’ googly-eyed and into him? Na-uh, not on my watch. That bastard can rot in hell!” Ruby spat.

“I’m not ‘into him’ or any of that. Ugh. I just think it’s cool,” Crystal assured.

“That’s what being into someone sounds like, just so you know,” Esther commented and scratched her ear.

“Geez. What did he do to you? I thought you two were getting along,” Azu wondered.

Ruby pondered it for a moment, and then faced everyone. “I might as well tell you all. No point in keepin’ it secret anymore. His deal’s off!”

“So you two were hanging out. It’s difficult to get him to talk, but he’s a bright kid,” Azu admitted with a smile.

“Shelly has a crush on Crystal. Like, a big one,” Ruby began.

Crystal immediately gasped and leaned back. “M-me?”

“Thinks you’re cute, strong, likes how you’re kind and all that. Y’know, the usual dreamy dribble. But I noticed he was kinda getting’ creepy staring at you and stuff, so I stepped in. Turns out he’s a total introvert and has no idea how to talk to girls!” Ruby raised her voice.

“I’m surprised you know what ‘introvert’ means, but I don’t like where this is going,” Crystal sighed and palmed her face.

“I wasn’t gonna give him the time of day, don’t worry. No way a weakling like him stands a chance with you. But we struck a deal. I would help him talk to you and stuff, while he becomes a training partner and teaches me moves,” Ruby explained. “I thought it was all crap at first, but then he taught me Fire Spin, and I realised he’s the real deal.”

“So when that Steenee came out as his wife earlier, you realised he might’ve been playing you,” Azu muttered.

“Exactly! Who does this guy think he is? Like he can have two wives? As if that makes him some kinda champion?” Ruby started raising her voice. “It makes me so damn angry!”

Every word made Crystal shiver more and more. She soon stood up, marched over to Ruby, and then slapped the Cyndaquil so hard she was silenced.

“What the heck is wrong with you?” Crystal screamed.

“M-me?” Ruby whispered. She was in complete shock.

“Why would you do something like that? I don’t need you dictating my life. You’re not my mother!” Crystal shouted.

“But… I just…” Ruby staggered. Was I wrong? How was I wrong?

“You idiot. I can’t believe you did something like that. I’m not looking for a partner right now or anything but like… the idea we could’ve been talking or anything. Shelly could’ve been talking more. What exactly did you tell him?” Crystal cried, sounding desperate.

Ruby gulped. “I di-didn’t completely stop him from talking to you or anything. I just said he wasn’t to hit on you until he starts to act like a real man. And you know, real men aren’t shy or weak, or run away from fights, or cook or—”

“Good gods, stop, just… stop. Okay, I’ve heard enough, I get the picture,” Azu cut in, cringing hard. “Er… I’m surprised. I… you two grew up under the same Kangaskhan, right? How did you get that mindset and not Crystal?”

Ruby didn’t answer. She just glared at the group seriously.

“You know what? Yeah, it’s better you don’t answer. Just… oh man, where do I even start with this?” Azu sighed.

“Would you like to have been spoken to that way?” Crystal asked.

“Huh?” Ruby replied.

“How about you’re not allowed to date Lucca until you become a real girl,” Crystal began. “And real girls don’t go around fighting everything, or looking for revenge. And they don’t eat a lot, either—”

“Alright, alright, I get it,” Ruby spat and turned away. Her face turned red, too.

“No you don’t. You never do! You just do whatever the heck you want and assume everyone will be okay with it. You do it all the time! You never think about anybody but yourself,” Crystal ranted. “Just think about it. I’m not allowed to talk to this guy because you don’t like the fact that he’s shy? What the heck kind of logic is that?”

“I was trying to look after you. You don’t know anything about the dangers of the outside world. You dunno what kind of creep he could’ve been!” Ruby argued.

“For someone with stronger eyesight than other Cyndaquil, you certainly did struggle to read between the lines,” Azu stated, rubbing her back. “Shelly didn’t exactly look proud to admit that the Steenee was his wife. And you said he taught you Fire Spin?”

“I was wondering where you picked up that move,” Crystal added, one flipper on her hip.

“Sounds to me like Shelly was pretty genuine in his response to you. What exactly did you teach him?” Azu asked.

“We just trained, really. Weren’t many chances for us to go deeper. So he was researching fire moves, and I was teaching him how to be tougher in battle,” Ruby explained. “I did also tell him to go all in when he wants something, though. Y’know, like to speak up and do what you gotta do, no matter what anyone says. Just like I do.”

“Credit where credit’s due, too. You two make a good team. The way you used you Fire Burp back in Girage, I thought you’d never try because you hated it,” Azu admitted.

“I do hate it, but it’s the strongest fire move I’ve got right now. If it gets us outta an emergency, then I’ve gotta do it,” Ruby replied.

“Wow, it’s literally called Fire Burp? I was wondering what that was,” Esther commented, scratching the back of her head.

“It isn’t! It’s a not a move or anything. Gah, just don’t get used to it,” Ruby blushed. “What’s with the sudden praise after ripping into me, anyway? What’s your point?”

“I’m trying to figure out what Shelly might do now. He knew all about this when he took on your training, and he must’ve known we’d get put in prison when we got here. The way he told us not to try and fight this one out, it tells me he’s been plotting this confrontation the whole time,” Azu explained.

“Well duh! He played us like a bunch of idiots!” Ruby cried.

“But he has a crush on Crystal, real enough to go through with your training. If he wanted to keep this place a secret, he’d have hidden us or tried to avoid going to this island,” Azu began to mumble. “I’m hoping he has a way out of here, or this Shining Warrior journey’s toast.”

“You’re saying to put faith in him,” Crystal stated.

“Oh no, you’re all toast,” the Vileplume guard announced, getting their attention. She pointed up, and the group looked. “You see that glass cover? That’s the same glass as you get on a magnifying glass. And what happens when you put a magnifying glass straight in the sunlight, hmm?”

Crystal tensed up. “It intensifies the light enough to burn things.”

“Exactly. And lemme tell you, this: Van Aken’s one of the hottest places in the world, close to the equator of our planet. In the morning, this prison will be like sitting in a flame,” Vileplume explained. “You lasses are dead in the morning.”

The group exchanged glances, and Azu tensed up. “If Shelly’s got a plan, he’d better hurry.”

“He darn well better!” Esther squealed, shaking her arms. “I kept quiet ‘cos I thought it was saucy relationship stuff, but this is way more than that. We’ve gotta get a way outta here and like, now!”

The group was quiet, which only seemed to make her more nervous. “Erm, hello? Aren’t you guys the Shining Warriors? You guys can do somethin’ magical, right?”

“Did I just hear that right?” The Shining Warriors?” the Pikachu in the back finally got up. She walked over curiously, and then brightened up. “I should’ve noticed earlier. You’ve got amulets.”

“Er, these are just an erm, family thing,” Ruby replied.

This Pikachu was a little taller than Esther, and a slight bit more tanned, too. She wore a sea-themed pair of goggles and a scarf loosely around her neck, while a pair of watery bracelets adorned her arms. She brushed aside her scarf to reveal an amulet the same as Crystal and Ruby’s, meeting their surprised gawks with a cocky smirk.

“The last Shining Warrior!” Crystal and Ruby gasped.

“After the Angel told me everything, I went ahead and hoped you guys would catchup to me. I didn’t count on this, though,” Pikachu snickered. “Er, I’m Brine. As in, my name’s Brine. Nice to meet you.”

“This isn’t exactly a nice meeting. Sheesh, way to be an embarrassing first impression,” Ruby groaned.

“You deserve it, after your rubbish,” Crystal turned to her.

“I’m sorry, okay?” Ruby groaned.

“You’re not. I know you’re not!” Crystal raised her voice.

“Girls, please do not start arguing again. Listen. We need to focus on getting out of here. Don’t worry, I’m not letting Ruby off the hook. But we can talk about this later,” Azu intervened.

“Oh no, you guys can sort it now, if you want,” Brine snickered. She began to mumble. “I already have a way out of here. We just need to wait a while, for the sun to set fully.”

“You can’t fill us in?” Azu muttered back.

“Think about it. They’re grass types. This whole palace is a Greenhouse. They’re at their weakest when it’s dark,” Brine explained.

The group looked up nosily, and Azu put a hand on her hip. “They have Pokémon for night watch, though. Vileplume thrive at night.”

“They’ll still be weaker,” Brine said, flopping back into the corner. She tucked her arms behind her head. “We’re not going to be fed or anything, so I’d relax how we can.”

“The chill attitude doesn’t fill me with confidence,” Esther groaned. “I dunno about you, but I’m famished. How am I meant to relax on an empty stomach?”

“I really do apologise for this. As soon as we can leave you somewhere safe, we’ll stop dragging you around with us. I promise,” Azu sighed.

“You darn well better!” Esther cried. She stomped over to Brine and plonked herself down. “This stinks. This is worse than the ride across the desert.”

There was a pause, and Azu kept playing with her hands. “Erm, that said, if you can cross the desert then we might need your help with that.”

“Oh of course!” Esther cried.

“Your Highness?” Vileplume gasped, getting everyone’s attention. Ruby was first to rush to the vines, and then growled when she realised it was Elise rather than Shelly. “You mustn’t be here. You know how Her Highness Queen Gladys gets when you snoop around like this.”

“I came to see the lasses. You know I’m super interested in this stuff,” Elise replied cheerfully.

“Please, you really mustn’t,” A Whimsicott objected.

“If Mama’s gonna keep me locked up like a Budew, then she’s gonna have to come up with better ways to keep me entertained,” Elise argued, ignoring the guards’ nervousness. She went right up to the vines, peppy and smiling. It almost felt like she was mocking them with how nosy and carefree she was, swaying side to side.

“Wait, huh?” Azu whispered.

“They’re all so different. You’re so round and squishy! I guess kinda like Shelly,” Elise laughed.

“Your Highness, please. You’ve had your fun now, yes?” Vileplume groaned.

“I’ll have my fun when I say I’ve had my fun,” Elise froze and clenched her fists.

“If Her Highness finds you down here, there will be trouble,” Vileplume warned.

“And there’ll be even more trouble for you if you tell her I was down here, won’t there?” Elise put her hands on her hips and leaned toward them. “Stop being such a rotten onion. Geez, I haven’t been here for more than a minute and you’re on my case like! Can’t you royal turds just grow a character and do something cool for a change?”

“Uh… whoa,” Ruby commented as Elise began to rant. The guards didn’t even get a chance to respond once, they just raised their arms in submission. “At least his wife’s not a total dunce. Makes me wonder where he gets his rubbish from.”

Crystal slapped her again, to which Azu palmed her face.

“She’s got a point, though. Steenee’s got quite a mouth on her,” Esther giggled.

“So do you, apparently,” Brine rolled her eyes.

“Now, will you do me a favour?” Elise asked. “Turn around for me, please.”

“E-er, is this a game, your Highness? Please, I must get back to patrolling,” Vileplume complained as she obeyed anyway.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be quick. Stay asleep for me,” Elise instructed, drawing a sword. It looked as though she hit the Vileplume on the back with it, and they promptly flattened onto the ground. “And then, you let me borrow the keys.”

“Princess!” The Whimsicott began before they were silenced, too. The group heard a slash, followed by Pokémon falling to the floor.

“Wait, did you just—” Azu gasped.

She and the group stepped away in alarm as Elise dug through Vileplume’s armour, only to return with a odd gardening tool. Elise jammed the tool in between the vines locking them in and pulled the handles apart, which pulled the vines apart, too. Soon there was a gap wide enough for everyone to get through, so Elise stood aside and bowed to the group.

“You’re… setting us free?” Ruby asked sceptically.

“Shelly’s proposal. Plus, Mama may have problems, but I couldn’t sit by and let the Shining Warriors die. You’re meant to save the world, aren’t you?” Elise answered. She started bouncing and clapping. “This is so exciting! Let’s go and rescue the boys next!”

“You’re a bit earlier than I expected. Aren’t there going to be more guards?” Brine wondered.

“I already took care of it!” Elise nodded. “C’mon! Follow me.”

What’s going on? She’s so cheerful, Ruby realised. She was last to follow.

“Oh wait, before we go on… so I don’t fall asleep,” Elise said as she cast an orb above her. The orb floated and released a sunny light directly over her, and it followed her perfectly. The dark colours of the night had already taken over most of the sky, so the orb’s effect stood out. How it maintained a clear sparkle and didn’t blind everyone, Ruby was amazed.

“A Sunny Orb?” Azu commented. She was bent over the guards, confirming they were only knocked out.

“Yeah. It does my Leaf Guard so I stay awake,” Elise explained. She skipped ahead without a care in the world.

“That’s a clever use of your ability,” Ruby muttered.

“I don’t get it… won’t the light just draw everyone’s attention to us? Why do you need it?” Esther asked.

“Grass type Pokémon are just like plants, right? They grow and stay healthy with light and water. I guess when it gets dark, most grass Pokémon go to sleep ‘cos they don’t get any energy,” Ruby explained. “Leaf Guard is an ability that stops Pokémon from getting poisoned and stuff if it’s super sunny. So if Elise has a Sunny Orb, she won’t fall asleep.”

Everyone stared at Ruby, jaw-dropped. “What? What’d I say now?”

“It’s not that it’s just… wow. That’s exactly right, isn’t it?” Crystal turned to Azu, who nodded. “How did you know that?”

“Oh so I’m not allowed to be smart anymore, huh? It’s battle stuff, this is basic to me!” Ruby complained.

“I like you all already. You know about me, and I’m not even from your island! If only the Pokémon here felt the same,” Elise said, and skipped ahead. Ruby was drawn to her carefree movements.

On closer inspection, Elise’s current clothing was as well thought-out as that Sunny Orb. The Steenee wore a loose dress with a ruffled skirt short enough that it wasn’t flowy around her waist – not that it could, with hips like hers. The bow on her back was ruffled too, hiding only a shield shaped like a scalchop. No matter where she looked, Ruby couldn’t figure out where that sword had come from.

What’s going on? I know she said she sorted it out, but there really aren’t any guards around? Ruby realised, slowing down to look around. With the walls and ceiling being clear glass, the palace resembled a deep woodland she expected to have to fight to get through. However, even in the other rooms and hallways she could see in the distance, there were only sleeping Pokémon.

Could this girl be the real deal? It’s gotta be some elaborate trap. There’s no way an entire palace of Pokémon is just gone, Ruby thought. She slowed down and tensed up. “Girls.”

“Ruby?” Crystal turned around and sighed. “What now? Can’t you just—”

“Doesn’t this seem super fishy? Like it’s too easy. There’s no way there aren’t any guards around,” Ruby warned.

“Why complain? The easier this is, the better,” Esther remarked.

“Me and Shelly’s retainer sorted it out for us. She’s a big, round lass called Kusha,” Elise answered.

“Kusha? Is Kusha a Wigglytuff?” Crystal leaned back.

“Uh huh! How’d you know? She’s really big and strong. Stopping the guards is no problem for her,” Elise giggled. “C’mon! It’s this way. Down here.”

“I did say he’d have a plan,” Azu said with a smirk.

But then where is Shelly? Azu said to read between the lines but… I don’t get it. How can a boy like Shelly have Pokémon like Elise and Kusha and be so… weak and pathetic? Ruby watched them all descend a straight staircase that led into a different section of the palace, just like the one they had come out of.

“Shh. Leave this next part to me,” Elise instructed just as they reached the far end. The moment she pulled the curtains aside however, a round of arrows came through, and the group just about flinched out of the way.

“Whoa!” Esther gasped exaggeratedly.

“Your Highness, we’ll protect you!” a pair of Decidueye announced, bows at the ready.

“Oh great. They saw us coming,” Elise groaned. She did a quick spin to draw her sword from inside of her dress, and somehow tied her shield to her arm at the same time.

“Your Highness?” one of the Decidueye replied, and lowered her bow.

“Yeah uh, I don’t need saving or anything. If you lasses could step aside an’ like, forget you saw us, that’d be great,” Elise requested.

“No can do, Your Highness. If you’re on their side, this is an act of treason!” the Decidueye stated, and raised her bow again.

“So much for politics. Doesn’t being princess mean anything?” Brine commented.

“I’ll make this quick!” Ruby growled and flared her back.

“Ruby, wait! Leave this to us,” Azu stood in her way. “If you use your fire here, you risk setting the entire island on fire. Let’s avoid doing anything drastic.”

“But they took our weapons. How else we supposed to fight?” Ruby objected.

“With me,” Brine answered, stepping forward. “I don’t have my weapon, but I don’t need it cast some moves.”

“Paws in the air. Your Highness, please step away!” Decidueye ordered. The duo quickly drew their arrows, forcing the group to pause. Brine slowly raised her paws, while the others surrendered right away.

“Wait, girls, you don’t have to—” Elise cried.

“Just step aside, princess!” Decidueye shouted. Elise reluctantly obeyed, even dropping her sword.

“The order was to freeze. Don’t mock us!” the other Decidueye snapped, drawing her arrow back further. It wasn’t clear what aggravated her, but Brine was twinkling her fingers.

A moment later, the same Decidueye was distracted. The floor below her was wet. The moment she turned her head away, Brine flicked her whole hand, and a torrent of water erupted from below the grass type. They let out a gurgled scream as they went splat on the ceiling, squashed flat against it.

“What was that?” the first Decidueye gasped. She moved to attack, but Brine was already in the motion to unleash her magic again. With a spin into the raise of her other hand, another torrent of water shot the Decidueye up to the ceiling. Both grass types fell to the floor, knocked out.

“Wow… cool. You guys really do have magic powers,” Esther remarked.

“No seriously, what the heck was that?” Ruby cried. “How did you do that?”

“It’s a long story. We’re better off going before they wake up, or any more guards come,” Brine replied.

“But that’s—” Ruby whispered.

“Psst Ruby, look at Azu,” Crystal whispered too, pointing at her. The aqua bunny had the biggest smile she had ever seen, and it was only growing bigger. Her eyes were glistening brighter than a star, too.

“Uhh,” Ruby leaned away.

“You’re Undine, aren’t you?” Azu asked.

Brine stopped in her tracks and twisted to face her. “You’ve heard the term before?”

Azu slapped her hands over her mouth, but even that failed to stifle the shrill squeal she made. “You’re real. You’re real, you’re real, you’re real! I read so much and I was super excited when I learnt about Ruby but this one’s for sure. You’re a Pikachu! With water powers! You really just did that!”

“I’m half-Undine, to be specific. The in-between nobody actually wants,” Brine clarified.

“You’re exactly what I want, actually. I’m in interested in both – how half-Undine came to be, and where the Undine are, if they still exist,” Azu stated.

“Is this going to go into scientist talk?” Elise interrupted. “If so, can we save it until the morning? Shelly’s waiting for us.”

“Oh he is, is he?” Ruby opened her eyes.

“But we rescue the males, first. Down here!” Elise giggled as she skipped away.

“Don’t worry. I don’t plan to treat you like a lab-Rattata or something, but I do hope you’ll indulge the many questions I have. I might be able to help you,” Azu said quietly. Brine turned away sadly, and tightened her scarf.

“I wouldn’t start counting your marbles yet. I’d be gone already if the Shining Warriors weren’t here,” Brine replied. Azu was surprised. “If I trusted everyone who said that kind of thing to me, who knows where I’d be. Nowhere nice, that’s for sure.”

“Oh,” Azu slowed down. Brine didn’t slow for her at all.

“Just down these stairs,” Elise quietened down. A loud crash echoed from below, and just as she turned to the group in confusion, a Vileplume came flying through the door and into the stairs. “Eeek!”

“Whoa!” Crystal squeaked as well.

Ruby was first to move after a moment, and poked the Vileplume. There was no response. “They’re out for the count.”

Another crash got their attention, so the group exchanged glances and rushed inside, only to gasp. Lucca and Mimia were out of their prison cell, and had clearly dealt with the knocked out grass types scattered around the room. However, Kusha was there too, and everyone had their weapons.

“It’s you, Miss Kusha!” Crystal said.

“Did you break them out? We weren’t supposed to make too much noise,” Elise whined.

“It’s good that you’re here. Plans changed,” Kusha said hurriedly. She pushed past the group, signalling to lead the way.

“Wait huh? What’s going on, Kusha?” Elise cried.

“Shelly’s gone off on his own.” Kusha alerted. “He said he wants to do one of the Shining Warrior trials on his own.”

“What the- wait a minute, why would he?” Ruby gasped. “That’s just dumb, we know how tough they are! How could he possibly think he could do one on his own?”

“I don’t know. He made sure I couldn’t follow him, but I’m worried. He said it was something about proving he was a man,” Kusha sighed.

Ruby turned cold, and fell limp.
Episode 12: Operation Rescue Shelly


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Megan complete - Copy (2).png

Episode 12: Operation Rescue Shelly

“Shelly headed towards the Shadow Palace. It’s a replica of the Greenhouse Palace, gaining its name because it’s always enshrouded in darkness,” Kusha explained as they walked. She floated along beside the group. “I attempted to investigate the place once, but I didn’t get very far. I couldn’t find a way in.”

“Hopefully it stays that way and we find Shelly on the road or something,” Ruby grumbled. She kept her head down, though she was at the front of the group. Esther was the only one that had been left behind, secretly hidden in Elise’s room before they left.

“Up there. It’s just over that hill,” Kusha came to a stop and pointed.

The group looked up to get exactly what she meant by ‘replica’. From where they were now, a few miles deep into the fields behind the Greenhouse Palace, they had a view of the Shadow Palace. It looked exactly as the Greenhouse Palace did when they were the same distance away, only it barely stood out in the night.

Royal towers peeked over the hill, shaped just like the triangular towers of Shelly’s home. All of it was pitch black, save for the circular windows which were perfectly white. If not for the cloudless, starry sky as a backdrop, the palace would be invisible.

“This is your fault, you know,” Crystal said.

“How is it my fault?” Ruby retorted. “It’s not my fault Shelly’s a weak dumb idiot who wants to misinterpret what I say.”

“If it wasn’t for your stupid ‘strong man’ ideology, Shelly wouldn’t have thought to do this in the first place!” Crystal raised her voice. “We could’ve been dealing with whatever’s going on properly, together. Instead, all this is going on!”

I didn’t tell Shelly to run off on his own to do one of the Shining Warrior trials. I never said doing something that stupid would make someone a man!” Ruby shouted.

“But you must’ve have said something that planted that implication in his head. Do you really not understand that?” Azu cut in. Ruby growled. “I’m serious, Ruby. This is a problem that pervades seemingly everywhere in our world.”

“If I’m understanding the situation correctly… you feel like Shelly isn’t very masculine because of his quiet behaviour, don’t you?” Lucca asked.

Ruby growled even louder. “That’s right? Ain’t it? It’s a thing.”

“From a young age, we’re taught a lot of harmful things by grownups who have suffered thanks to their own misguided upbringing,” Azu began. “We’re criticised for not fitting into stereotypes, and harmed if we’re not capable of often impossible expectations.”

“Don’t get all wordy, you know I don’t get it when you talk all nerdy,” Ruby complained.

“Rgh, can’t you just pay attention for once?” Crystal cried.

“Shelly isn’t any less of Shelly just ‘cos the lad’s not strong or loud. That’s why he’s got me,” Elise stated. Ruby turned to her with a sceptical look. “We have this whole thing going on. I’m the sword of the couple, while he’s the shield. I’m plenty loud for him!”

“But how does that make him a hero? We’re supposed to save the world, right?” Ruby questioned.

“A better question is, why wouldn’t his abilities make him a hero?” Lucca asked. Ruby raised an eyebrow. “What’s a hero in your definition?”

“Eh y’know, do I really gotta explain that? Someone who’s strong, can stand up for themselves and other Pokémon. They have no trouble beating up the bad guys,” Ruby replied. “Heroes are smart, strong, they can do lots of cool skills, they never make mistakes… If they’re boys, they’re super mature and wise, and they always know what to say. Y’know, we can always count on ‘em.”

“Ah, so not me,” Lucca stated.

“… Huh?” Ruby slowed down. “You’re totally a hero.”

“By your definition, hardly. I hate saying this about myself, but just by look alone, am I really ‘manly’?” Lucca clarified, standing on his tail. His ruffles swayed in the light wind, and he had to hold them down like a skirt. Ruby turned away to hide a blush.

“You… kinda are, in my eyes,” she mumbled. Now is not the time to be pretty, Lucca.

“I’ve been learning all about Heroica since I came here. Did you forget I didn’t even know how shops worked before I met you guys?” Lucca chuckled. Ruby choked on her own breath.

“Yeah. I wouldn’t forget,” Crystal said, half-lidded. “So you definitely don’t fit the ‘smart’ part.”

“Wait, you don’t know how shops work?” Brine commented.

“And that whole strength thing, too? Yeah see my Father really wanted me to learn to fight with one sword. I couldn’t get that at all though, and it was stopping me from fighting altogether. I was terrible in battle; Mimia can vouch for that!” Lucca continued, glancing at his friend. Mimia barked and snickered in agreement. “But when I learnt how to dance? And use two, way lighter swords? I got strong in my own way. I got good at sword dancing, and that led to where I am now. Physically speaking, I’m not strong at all. My power to fight comes from the momentum I put behind all my movements.”

“B-but Shelly’s not good at any kinda fighting. What’s your point?” Ruby asked.

“You trained with him, right? He’s not good at your kind of fighting,” Azu answered. Ruby went quiet. “Fate decides the Shining Warriors. He has to have been good at something to be chosen but fighting the way you like isn’t it.”

“Like I said, it’s being a shield!” Elise cried. “Shelly’s really smart and handy with tools and technology and stuff. He’s the only one who can use the Treasure Orb.”

“That weird orb that he pulls random items out of?” Ruby asked.

“Yeah, that thing! He’s the only one who figured out how to get it to work. He helps all the scientists build orbs and stuff, too,” Elise explained. “You should see him when we do knight training. I’m always getting banged up and torn, and he fixes me right up. You’d never guess, lookin’ at me now!”

“Tsk, why didn’t he ever—” Ruby hissed but cut herself off.

“There’s more of those lines you didn’t read between, either,” Azu continued. “Elise, you and Shelly grew up here, right? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“I don’t mind. The Shining Warriors can ask me anything,” Elise bowed. “Yes. Me and Shelly grew up right here on Van Aken. The day we were allowed to leave the palace was the day we discovered the lad was a Shining Warrior. Until then, we learned all sorts of stuff in the palace.”

“You’d never even left?” Crystal gasped. “Then how did we meet him at Beau Falls?”

“When Mama found out he was a Shining Warrior, she stopped us from leaving the palace again. But Kusha and a few of the guards didn’t get it, because the Shining Warriors are here to save the world, right? Mama shouldn’t stop us from doing that, so Kusha helped him escape,” Elise explained. “I was meant to come too, but it was too hard to get me. Now that he’s here though, Shelly promised me we’d all travel together!”

“That’s a big promise,” Ruby grumbled.

“That answers a lot of questions, though,” Lucca nodded. “Shelly was the only boy, a water type Pokémon growing up in a kingdom of grass type women. It’s only natural he wouldn’t develop the traits you typically find in male Pokémon elsewhere.”

“Add science into the mix, it explains why he’s so short and underdeveloped. He grew up outside of his intended environment,” Azu explained. “Everything we’ve been through has been his first experience with the outside world. That honestly makes me feel pretty bad about how rough it’s been.”

“And then you go about telling him everything he’s ever known is wrong and not what a boy should act like,” Crystal stated. That made Ruby gawk and growl. “He’s probably so lost and confused right now. He’s forcing himself to do something neither of you really understood.”

“Ugh, enough already, I get it!” Ruby roared. “Let’s stop wasting time and go rescue the dumb kid already.”

The group came to a stop, besides Elise and Ruby. Crystal sighed loud enough to get them to stop, and Ruby growled at her again. “What?”

“You really don’t get it at all, do you?” Crystal groaned.

“What the hell does it all matter? If that kid dies then everything was for nothing. The longer we mess around chatting like this, the more time there is for that to happen. So let’s stop wasting time and go already!” Ruby stomped her feet.

“Oh Ruby,” Crystal sighed.

“I don’t agree with the tone, but she does have a point. Our priority should be recovering Shelly,” Brine stated, resuming their walk.

“Well aren’t you just full of empathy,” Crystal muttered. Azu gave her a tap.

“There’s no point in inciting arguments. Let’s focus,” Azu added. Crystal sighed.

“When we rescue Shelly, assuming he needs rescuing, then we can all sit down and talk about this. That’s what I’m getting at,” Brine explained.

“If we even can! We still gotta deal with that stupid queen!” Ruby snapped.

“Mama?” Elise asked.

“Ack! Yeah, uh, right. Your mother. We’ve gotta convince her to let you guys leave and stuff,” Ruby said.

“One thing at a time. Shelly first,” Brine stated. Ruby gurgled a complaint but gave in after that.

I swear to the gods, when we find you I’m gonna give you such a piece of my mind, she promised herself.

When they reached the palace, differences started to make themselves known. This palace had a moat with a drawbridge wide enough that a couple of Snorlax could fit through. Ruby couldn’t help but halt, however. She couldn’t see beyond a few inches of inside the place. The moment she got close, the world around seemed to halt with her. The river below was motionless. The wind stopped. Her fur crawled as a chill seeped down to her bones.

“Strange how there’s an entrance this time. It’s impossible to miss, yet I’m certain this was not here before,” Kusha stated. “Do we have ways of lighting the place up?”

“This came in handy after all,” Lucca said as he pulled the Anima Flower from their belongings. Ruby flared her back, too. The combined lighting didn’t go very far, but it was better than complete darkness.

“U-um… it’s so dark. W-would Shelly really come here?” Elise asked.

“You don’t have to come with if you don’t want to,” Ruby replied, and wandered in.

“Wha? It’s just… h-how did Shelly get through?” Elise cried, sticking an arm out. Ruby was drawn to the leaf on her bracelet, which had turned blue since learning Shelly ran away. Right now, she could have sworn the leaf was a darker shade of blue, however. “And, well, y’know, I’m a grass type and all…”

“Would you like me to wait here with you?” Kusha asked with a smile. “This is a Shining Warrior trial site, after all. I don’t believe we’re supposed to be here. That may be why I was kept out originally.”

“Tsk. You’re both dumb cowards,” Ruby turned away.

“Ruby? What’s gotten into you?” Crystal objected.

“I’m just telling it how it is. You called yourself your husband’s sword, but you won’t run into a place like this to save his ass?” Ruby clarified, glaring at a shocked Elise. “And you wanted him to take you on this journey to begin with?”

“I didn’t know we’d have to go somewhere so dark and scary!” Elise cried.

“And this is only the tip of that iceberg. Whatever. Get yourself together or stay here like a coward,” Ruby turned to walk off. The whole group was shocked.

“Clearly, Ruby is very worried about Shelly,” Brine shrugged.

“Don’t start sayin’ stupid stuff like that! If it is my fault he could get himself killed, then I’m gonna correct it. That’s all,” Ruby pouted and pointed at the Pikachu.

“Alright, I’ll go. No, you’re right lass. I can’t be scared. Just, gimme a sec,” Elise gasped. She cast another Sunny Orb up, surrounding herself in another beam of light. “I’ll fall asleep if this runs out, so let’s hurry.”

“That’s more like it,” Ruby smirked. Crystal dragged a flipper down her face and followed.

Contrary to her speech, Ruby walked slower than ever. It was difficult to see where she could go. The walls of the Shadow Palace weren’t transparent, nor were they very wide, either. The floor was cold, the walls were cold, and a chill in the air kept her shivering, even though she kept her back flared for light. This was going to be a long mission.

“Stop,” Azu hissed after a minute, and the group paused. Her ears were raised high, and she turned to Elise. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Huh?” she replied. Her legs were knocking together.

“It is really cold in here for some reason,” Brine admitted. “If your flames aren’t helping, then I’m not sure what would.”

“But that’s not it. I hear whimpering,” Azu said quietly.

“Well, it’s not me,” Elise shook her head.

“Shelly,” Crystal whispered in concern.

“If you can hear him, that helps. Elise gives off the most light, too. Would you two lead the way?” Lucca suggested.

“Is my light not good enough?” Ruby asked.

“Oh, it is, don’t stop. Just you know, actually walk with us so someone besides only you can use it?” Crystal replied.

Ruby groaned as she obeyed. “Y’know, you’re being kinda a jerk right now. Maybe you guys could walk faster? I’m not even going fast!”

We’re the jerks? After what you did?” Crystal squeaked.

“Girls! There’s no point arguing right now,” Azu snapped at them.

“Um, this way. I think the layout is the same as home,” Elise pointed out as she walked ahead.

The group slithered behind her as she led the way. There were a few mutterings here and there between Elise and Azu, usually when they reached the end of a corridor where the path split. There were no doors, and empty candle lamps lined the walls.

Strangely, Ruby couldn’t tell what colour these walls were, or that they were even walls at all. Between her fire, the Anima Flower, and Elise’s Sunny Orb, the group had a light source that only enabled them to see a couple metres around them. Everything else was completely black. When they reached a wall, the only thing that implied it was a wall was the way the light shone on the corners where the wall met the floor. It was as if they were walking through an optical illusion.

Despite this, Elise picked paths quickly, shuffling along as if to keep the noise of her footsteps to a minimum. The further they went, the deeper the chill became, so much that even Ruby found herself shivering and sniffling. It didn’t feel cold, so it must have been part of the illusion.

“U-um, girls?” Crystal stopped everyone after a while. “Can you shine your light here, please?”

“What’s up?” Lucca asked, holding the Anima Flower to it. There was another wall here beside them, and soon after he shone light on it, the wall began to light up, too.

“I thought I saw something. Look, these markings are the same as the Fossil Hill temple!” Crystal bounced excitedly.

As she revealed that, candles around them lit up with blue flames, while the light from the markings began to spread across the ceiling and floor. Before they knew it, the darkness was replaced by a blue hue that resembled being underwater.

“Wait a minute—” Ruby gasped and covered her mouth. I didn’t think we’d be underwater!

“Ruby?” Lucca cocked his head. Bubbles came out of his mouth as he spoke, surprising him. Mimia barked however, and his voice wasn’t hindered in the slightest. “Wow, it’s like we’re in the sea again.”

“But there’s magical blue flames,” Azu remarked, slowly twirling around to admire it all.

“Is this what Shining Warrior trials are like? It’s so beautiful and cool,” Elise added, entranced by it.

“Is everyone breathing alright?” Kusha asked.

“It is strange to look at,” Brine remarked, paws held loosely over her mouth. “It’s as cold as the sea, there’s the bubbles, but I’m as dry as before. We’re not underwater at all.”

“You hear that, Ruby? You can breathe,” Crystal pointed out.

Ruby was still holding her breath. Bubbles even seeped from her nose and lips, really driving the impression she was underwater. Seeing everyone else was fine, she opened her mouth for a second to test it. Water didn’t rush into her, so she dared to breathe through her nose. Everything was fine. Mimia barked at her and gave her a happy wave, too.

“Well we can see now, so let’s go?” Lucca said.

“Okay but where?” Azu replied.

The group all looked around again, realising they were deep in a labyrinth more complex than the Fossil Hill temple. Now that they could see the hallways and walls, they spotted countless paths leading every which way. Right now, there were at a four-way intersection, but each path only led to splits with even more paths.

Even worse, the transparent glass walls from the Greenhouse Palace became a thing, so they could see all the paths they couldn’t reach. Hallways above and below them, crisscrossing at angles so varied they might not have even been attached to the palace. All the mysterious vegetation in between the walls helped to keep the optical illusion as irritating to stare at, too.

Mimia barking snapped everyone into focus. He was being approached by a trio of Wishiwashi who were crying at him like sirens. The group reflexively drew their weapons but didn’t attack.

“Wait a minute, what’re they trying to do? See who can make the most noise?” Ruby complained.

“Shh! He’s talking to them,” Lucca hissed. A round of feral dialogue was exchanged, although it really didn’t sound like talking. Neither Mimia nor the Wishiwashi stopped making noises once. A minute later, Mimia whined and shuffled back.

“What’s up?” Lucca asked. Mimia replied to him with whines and sad sounds. “He says they’re just reciting strange words. It’s all incomprehensible.”

“Well what exactly are they saying? Maybe we can figure something out?” Azu asked.

“Do not. Anger. The pawns,” Mimia recited. Eyebrows were immediately raised.

“The pawns? What pawns?” Brine replied.

“Eyes open. Here they come!” Kusha warned as she threw herself into a spin. Her axe tore through the trio of Wishiwashi, silencing them. She landed to find her attack had missed them completely, but the trio were split up and fled. “Oh, er…”

“That explains how Shelly got this far. The ferals here are weaklings,” Ruby remarked.

“Hey, I’ll take it. We really should move before they come back, though,” Lucca commented as everyone sheathed their weapons. The others nodded. “Can you still hear anything? It’s up to you to lead the way.”

“Huh? Oh no, the sound’s gotten too awkward to hear. This weird magic water’s in the way,” Azu complained, rubbing her face.

“We’re on our own, then,” Brine sighed.

Lucca led the way this time. He was able to take advantage of the water effect and swim through the air, making him quicker than ever. For Ruby however, she was drawn to how natural it looked for him. It was a bad time to think about this, but a positive thought in a train of negative ones: Lucca was truly beautiful.

The way his whole body swayed side to side, with the light shimmering off his ruffles and fur, it wasn’t like any other Pokémon she knew. She could picture his expertise at dancing, pulling off those cool moves he does in battle with natural athleticism she wishes she had. Despite his appetite, he maintained a sleek figure that paired well with a slightly pudgy face she could only describe as truly cute. No matter how she looked at him, he was perfect to her.

No, Ruby. The wanted poster, she recalled. Not the horrible drawing, but the text on it. He’s a grownup, nearly ten years older than me. I couldn’t do anything even if I wanted to. And now this stuff with Shelly?

Ruby shivered hard and almost pinched herself. I dunno jack crap about relationships! What the hell am I supposed to say or do? How do I talk about this? WHO do I even talk to? I just shouldn’t think about this stuff anymore. Who am I kidding myself, thinkin’ anyone could like me, anyway?

“They’re here again!” Elise squeaked.

This time there were two formations of Wishiwashi, and each one had a group of four. Mimia rushed forward and barked at them again, so the group held back to let him talk. The result was the same, and he soon shuffled back with a sad whine.

“Nothing new?” Lucca asked. Mimia made more noises. “They’re talking about missing friends.”

“Oh, so our story. Sorry, but we’re not leaving until we find our missing friend,” Crystal stated, pointing at them.

Crystal squealed as the Wishiwashi came charging at her in their groups, each one in a formation that made them shaped like sharp spikes. Lucca was first to swim over and slashed one group with one sword before spinning to slice them with the other. The group separated, and the individual Wishiwashi fled again. Kusha defeated the other group with a similar action. She took their tackle to her belly first, and then swung her axe through their ranks. In a flash, the group were alone again.

“Uh… thank you,” Crystal huffed, surprised at how easily she was saved.

“Can I ask? How’re you doing that?” Lucca asked, turning to Kusha.

“Doing what?” the Wigglytuff replied.

“Wigglytuff aren’t a bulked-up species, yet you’re swinging that axe around like it’s a feather. It looks heavy even for me, and I’m quite strong, if I may say so,” Azu clarified.

“Is Kusha not meant to be that strong?” Elise cocked her head.

“Well, she’s strong enough that I don’t need to do anything. No complaints from me,” Brine giggled, tucking her paws behind her head.

“I don’t really like talking about it… it’s thanks to premature evolution,” Kusha answered.

“Oh,” Azu replied, her excitement gone.

“Premature evolution?” Ruby asked.

“Pokémon like me evolve through exposure to certain stones, you know that, yes? If we are made to evolve from an exceptionally young age, it can cause some rather… incorrect mutations in the evolution process,” Kusha explained. “In my case, my power is bolstered to unnatural levels. I’m considerably stronger than a Wigglytuff should be, but it comes at the cost of me not being able to control that strength.”

“Oh yeah? How much stronger?” Ruby asked with a cocky smirk.

“Over one hundred times,” Kusha stated. Ruby choked. “My parents did it hoping I would survive. Then they abandoned me because they didn’t know how to handle me.”

“The Sound War?” Azu commented.

“Good. I don’t need to explain any more,” Kusha said.

“Why would a Pokémon do that? That sounds so mean!” Elise asked. “Did your Mama really leave you just because you got super strong?”

Kusha turned away and shut her eyes. “If you do end up on this journey Elise, then you are going to learn a lot about the outside world. I’m sure you’ve heard before that Heroica is a dangerous place.”

“That’s why Mama made me and Shelly do knight training before we got to leave, right? I know how to fight feral Pokémon in the fields. How much worse can it be?” Elise asked. She sounded more and more disheartened by the second. “Mama wouldn’t leave me if I got super strong, would she?”

“Pokémon haven’t had Bestia energy for the last few decades now. The result is civil unrest and Pokémon needing to find new ways to maintain their strength in order to survive,” Azu explained. “A species line like Wigglytuff doesn’t have high physical strength, or a body that’s convenient for using weapons, don’t you think? So they’re completely vulnerable to predators. When you think about it, something as distasteful as mutation through premature evolution doesn’t seem that surprising.”

“And that sound wars, thing?” Lucca asked.

“Sound-based Pokémon moves like Sing and Hyper Voice do not require Bestia to work at all,” Azu stated. This time the whole group stopped.

“Wait, they don’t?” Ruby was first to gasp. Lucca was so shocked his mouth hung open.

“I… thought that was common knowledge. Pokémon that rely on those moves had to go into hiding because while they were too weak to use weaponry, their advantage made them sought after. Seriously, it was a huge civil war,” Azu explained. “This happened when Bestia shortages became a thing, so we’re talking centuries ago, maybe longer. Around the same time that the Undine vanished into the sea, in fact.”

“Does that mean Pokémon like Wigglytuff are rare to see? Or anyone who knows moves like Sing and Hyper Voice?” Lucca asked. He had a flipper by his chin.

“Now you know how special it is to have me as your retainer,” Kusha giggled. “Survivor of war and a mutation. I feel like I’m rarer than a shiny.”

“That’s so sad, though. You’re just like me,” Elise said. “I didn’t know it was so dangerous outside that everyone had to hide from each other.”

She actually has a point there. Shelly wasn’t allowed to leave the palace, Suzie never wanted me and Crystal to leave the village, Azu lived in the middle of nowhere, and Brine’s that half-Undine thingy… What’s the difference? How many Pokémon out there are being hidden from each other? If we all tried to live together without Bestia, would we all just fight like ferals? Ruby realised and hung her head. How did taking away Pokémon powers do this to everyone?

“If I may? We don’t have all night,” Brine spoke up, arms folded.

“Ah, she’s right. But where do we go from here? I’ve sort of been leading randomly,” Lucca came to a stop.

Mimia leapt forward and started barking again, and more Wishiwashi promptly appeared. They swam through the walls, floor and ceiling to gather into formations. Four groups appeared this time, and each one was shaped like a Pokémon.

“More of them? What’s up this time?” Crystal cried, hiding behind the group. Once again, Mimia exchanged a round of feral words, and then turned to the group with a confused look. “Well?”

“They said it’s time for punishment, or something. Gather the Queen in the core,” Lucca translated, just as confused.

“So much for being lazy. It looks like the longer we take, the more of these things show up,” Brine commented as she stepped forward.

The Wishiwashi gathered to look like Sentret. Their shape was that of the normal type Pokémon, but their forms wobbled with the jittery movements of the individual fish. There must have been dozens gathered into each spot, as it was irritating to stare at. These Sentret’s eyes glowed bright blue, as that was where the Wishiwashi eyes were most gathered.

Otherwise, it was like facing ordinary Sentret. They bounced on their tails to make themselves tall and surrounded the group, who stood back-to-back with their weapons ready. Crystal and Elise were kept in the centre, although the latter was eager to fight.

“If they’re going to keep coming, then we need to figure this out, and now,” Lucca stated, watching the enemies intently. One Sentret launched itself at him, but he knocked it back with his sword.

“There is something I noticed,” Elise said.

“Don’t hold back. What’s up?” Brine replied. Another Sentret flew at her, but she stopped it with a thrust of her palm. A wall of water formed in front of it, and the Sentret bounced right off. “Okay, good. My moves still work.”

“This place still looks exactly like the Greenhouse Palace. The most important thing’s gotta be in the throne room, aye? I think I can lead us there,” the Steenee explained.

“You managed to figure that out even with all the other crap around?” Ruby replied. She blocked an attack with her Parashelter, and then quickly spat fire at it, making the fish disperse. “Oh wow, my fire still works, too!”

“At this point, we’ve got to try something. Elise, on the next attack, charge through,” Lucca instructed.

“Got it!” Elise nodded and bent her knees to be ready to sprint.

During their short conversation, more groups of Wishiwashi appeared from all angles. They gathered to take the forms of small Pokémon like Sentret and Zigzagoon, and each group cried in perfect sync, too. Soon, the team were surrounded by these fishy fakes, their thoughts drowned out by siren-like wails.

There’s so many of ‘em, and they’re not even strong. This is so annoying! Ruby realised, taking down what must have been her fifth enemy with a swing of her umbrella. “Forget waitin’ for a path, I’ll make one!”

“Ruby, be careful!” Lucca cried.

She ignored him, inhaling deeply. Elise seemed to catch on to her plan and pointed to the left, so she let her flames loose to the left. Ruby’s fire tore through the Wishiwashi, splitting their groups with ease until there was a clear line through the surrounding enemies.

“Now!” Azu shouted, scooping up Ruby. Everyone sprinted right through, while Kusha and Lucca kept to the sides of the group to stop other Wishiwashi from closing in.

“What’s going on? They’re everywhere,” Brine complained. Not long after they started sprinting, they were almost stopped by more groups of Wishiwashi appearing through the walls and floor. A quick blast of water or fire took care of them, but they showed no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“Don’t complain, just keep up with her,” Lucca shouted.

It was more frantic than Ruby anticipated. Azu put her down to sprint beside them, and there wasn’t more than a couple of seconds to focus on just running. She shot fire to the left, ran, and immediately had to shoot more to the top right. She almost tripped up as more enemies came from the floor in front of her, and she bashed through them with the Parashelter.

This was all the while the others had to do similar. Kusha kept herself inflated to fend off the Wishiwashi’s attacks, and swung her axe around to keep moving and defeat them. Lucca danced through the air with grace, slashing at every fish he saw with all his might. Even Azu kept close by, using her staff and tail to hit any that came near.

Just as Ruby felt her breath run short, she found herself on a staircase and had to stop for a moment. Elise was leading them down a long hallway with descending steps every now and then. “Why’re we going down?”

“I-I don’t know. I promise. In the real palace, these stairs go up,” Elise shook her head, confused as well. She squeaked as a blast went off, but it was only Brine attacking more fish.

“It clearly leads to something, so let’s do this,” the Pikachu replied. Elise nodded and ran ahead.

A large set of double doors sat at the end, and the walls surrounding those doors were solid unlike the walls of the Shadow palace. Nobody thought twice, they barged through and skidded to a stop once they were inside. Everyone instinctively stood back-to-back to get a proper look around the new room while they caught their breath.

Now this was familiar ground. The floor was perfectly flat and tiled, with the lines between the tiles illuminated with blue light. This room had the strange water effect in it as well, but the surrounding walls and ceiling were all pitch black. It almost looked like there were no walls at all, even though that made no sense. It certainly felt that way too, with cold wind ruffling their fur. The water flowed like a current with said wind, but it couldn’t be heard.

“Shelly!” Crystal was the first to cry out. He was in the centre of the room and spun around at her call. He looked terrified however, and then calmed a bit when he realised who it was. His leaf turned green, too.

“Thank goodness. We actually found him,” Azu sighed in relief.

“It is… it really is you!” Elise sighed as well, and then put her hands on her hips. “Alright mister, start talking. What’s the big idea, running off on your own? You had me so worried!”

“Miss Elise,” Kusha muttered as the Steenee marched off to the centre of the room.

“Don’t you try and stop me, Kusha. This is a husband-and-wife emergency!” Elise pouted at her. Shelly hid his face in embarrassment.

“This girl really doesn’t get it,” Ruby shook her head as the group walked after her.

At that moment, she noticed the lights on the floor were different to what she remembered. It wasn’t the lights between the tiles, but several glowing spots that flowed below them. The little dots swayed side to side as they began to gather by the centre of the room, right below Shelly and Elise.

“Wait, those are- Shelly, look out below!” Ruby gasped.

To her surprise, her shout only made Shelly flinch and gasp at her, and then stare at the floor. He had more than enough time to react as the lights gathered and took form as whatever they were meant to be. A dark silhouette formed below the couple, taking up more than half the room, and yet he and Elise merely exchanged glances. Colour washed from their faces, and they both went silent.

No! Why did I hesitate? Ruby cursed herself and lunged forward. She felt the others beside her move as well, but all of them were clearly too far away to help.

All of them, besides Crystal.

The Piplup had run over the moment Ruby called out, and dove through Shelly and Elise just as the Wishiwashi below them took form. A second later, she was in the maw of an enormous monster as it emerged from below, while Shelly and Elise lay in a heap beside it.

They were hairs from being eaten as the monster rose from below. A monster that resembled an amalgamation of fish. It had three tailfins, each one larger than Kusha. Its body was ovoid and the darkest shades of blue possible, illuminated by the floor lights. A ring of glowing blue eyes ran around the centre of its body, while eerie blue flames made up its actual eyes.

“C-Crystal?” Ruby whispered and shivered. The monster made a gesture to gulp, and then angled itself to stare down at the group. If she was ever to be scared of monsters in the dark, then this was why.

“Did… did she just?” Elise gasped. She glanced at Shelly, then the monster, and then the leaf on her bracelet glowed so dark a navy blue it was as if it was on fire. She screamed so loud everyone’s ears rung.

Ruby had never seen anything like it. She knew to challenge the Steenee, but she never imagined they would freak out like this. Elise had turned white, latched to Shelly like a Shellder to a Slowpoke, and wouldn’t stop scrambling to get away. All the time she screamed panicked lines like a helpless child. Ruby felt remorse for her earlier comments.

On the contrary, Shelly was shouting back at her for keeping him off-balance. He was angry, fierce, almost warrior-like, with the leaf on his headband a fiery red. His attention was on the giant fish, and at some point, he had taken off his scalchop and readied his Treasure Orb. He was still helpless and his voice had a frightened tone, but his body said otherwise. She had never seen him like this.

“That didn’t just happen, did it? Please tell me that didn’t just happen,” Lucca shouted as he appeared beside Ruby, both swords pointed forward. “Spit her out you freak!”

The monster growled at the group, its low tone causing the entire room to rumble. It merely glared at them, as if using its size to try and intimidate them. It was certainly working – Ruby didn’t know where to begin with attacking this thing. It was so dark, its body was so big and gross, and the way it constantly rippled made her fur crawl irritably. She wanted to turn away, to scream and run just like Elise, hide her face, anything to stop staring.

I can’t. If you’ve hurt Crystal, I’ll kill every last one of you, she told herself, flaring her back.
Episode 13: The Second Fountain


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Shelly complete - Copy.png

Episode 13: The Second Fountain

When the going gets tough, all sorts of scary, negative feelings take over. That’s how it’s always been for Shelly. His paws would go numb, his teeth would clatter, and in the worst cases, he’d clench his eyes shut. The lightest touch would send him sailing to the other side of the country, and he’d drown out every bit of noise he could. He couldn’t even tell what someone right next to him is saying.

Now was the opposite. He hadn’t seen it, but he didn’t want to lie to himself in knowing Crystal had just been killed by that monster. One second, she shoved him and Elise aside, the next, she disappeared into the giant Wishiwashi’s mouth.

Shelly flew to his feet and glared at the monster. As if mocking him, it didn’t turn in his direction once. Ruby and Lucca stood at the front as always, their serious stares showing they weren’t intimidated by it. Azu and Mimia stood close behind, concerned about their frontliners. Lastly was Kusha and a Pikachu he didn’t recognise, but they both looked ready to strike lightning down on anyone who so much as twitched.

But why can’t I move? Shelly hissed as he dragged himself forward. Elise was latched to his lower half, and her words lost in the tone of her wails. “Ruby told me never to turn away from my enemy, but… Elise!”

The Steenee continued to cry and wail at him, even going as far as to try and pull him back. He had no idea what she was saying, but he didn’t need to. He growled as he turned his back to her to observe the battle. It hadn’t started yet.

“This is bad!” Angel’s voice echoed into his head. Shelly held his amulet forward, and his heart jumped as its colour had completely drained. It was a black gem with no markings. “Crystal’s in critical condition. You have to save her, and now!”

She can still be saved… Shelly realised. He grit his teeth and turned back to Elise. “Elise! Let go of me, now!”

She stopped wailing, but was hyperventilating so loud he had to shout over her.

“Let go of me so I can fight!” he demanded. She didn’t let go. She stared at him with the most anxious and pathetic gaze he had ever seen her make. “Elise!”

“Shelly no!” she cried and shuffled up to grab him even tighter. He attempted to kick and shove her away, which only scared her more.

I can’t let her stop me. If we don’t destroy this thing now, then everything was for nothing! Shelly told himself. It was a struggle to take out his Treasure Orb, but he managed it, and reached for the one item he always knew how to retrieve from it: a knife, his personal weapon of choice. He pointed the knife at Elise, and she held her breath.

“Sh-Shelly?” she whispered.

“I need to fight, so let go of me. Don’t make me have to hurt you!” he threatened. He had no idea how he appeared, but his desperation finally got through to her. She slowly let go of him and sat back, but her gaze never left his once. Her leaf remained a fiery blue however, so he knew how terrified she was. “Just stay out of harm. I’ll make sure you won’t get hurt.”

“But what about you—” she cut herself off as he ran into the fight.

The battle had started. Lucca and Mimia latched to the side of the giant Wishiwashi and hacked away at it with their weapons. Ruby held her Parashelter on guard to block the wild sprays of water Wishiwashi blew everywhere, and shot her fire when she had a chance. Azu and Kusha weren’t far behind and swung at loose Wishiwashi swarms that came near them.

The whole scene was a blur. The giant Wishiwashi roared and shook the room as the beating it received made it smash against the floor and walls. Shelly waited off to the side for the opportune moment to take it down in one shot. Both paws held his knife tightly, and just as that chance showed itself, everything slowed.

Wishiwashi twisted in front of his view with its mouth wide open and eyes aglow with rage. There was no water gun being charged. It was as free a chance as he was going to get. Gritting his teeth, Shelly threw himself forward faster than he knew he could go, drawing back an arm in the process. He thrust his knife straight through the monstrous fish’s mouth, silencing it in an instant.

“Shelly?” Lucca gasped as he backed away with everyone else.

Their surprise didn’t distract the Oshawott, though. His body pinned Wishiwashi’s lower jaw to the floor, while his knife pierced the top jaw from the inside, poking right through the top. There was an earth-shaking roar of agony, but now the monster lay motionless, its body still as a stone. A few seconds later, its whole form dispersed into thousands of tiny Wishiwashi that spread throughout the room. Crystal was left face flat in the centre, her body covered from head to toe in black marks.

“Crystal!” Shelly dropped his weapon and rushed to her. She was surprisingly light, and her body flopped in his paws. “Please, no no no, wake up! Please!”

She didn’t even twitch. He put her down, shook her, and checked for a heartbeat, but got no response. His breath unsettled at that, and he tensed up. “Elise! Elise, get over here and use Synthesis!”

Elise gasped and shook her head, hesitant.

“She’s not dead yet. You can still save her!” Shelly cried desperately. The way he looked seemed to frighten her more. His leaf had turned gold, a colour neither had ever seen their leaves go before.

“Gods damn it girl, get your shit together! Use that sunlight orb thingy and help us out!” Ruby snapped at her.

“You need more light, right? Use my Anima Flower,” Lucca added, scrambling to take it out. “Angel, can you give her some Bestia?”

“It’ll cost you your move for the day,” Angel replied as she obeyed. She positioned herself behind Elise and began to glow blue.

The others getting together got through to the Steenee. Though Elise still didn’t say anything, she tripped over to Shelly and Crystal, and laid her hands over Crystal’s chest. Her current sunlight orb was still active, so she had no trouble using her move. Her body glowed with a verdant radiance, which spread pulses of green waves across Crystal’s body. She grunted to use the move, sounding as though she might start crying. As she used it, Angel flapped her wings to send blue energy into Elise.

Everyone waited with baited breath. When Elise stopped glowing, she collapsed back and had to catch her breath. After a few seconds, Shelly felt his amulet begin to warm up a little, and held it forward. The black colour was fading to its usual colour, making his chest heave with angst.

“Crystal?” he said quietly. Sure enough, the Piplup began to squirm a bit, and he gasped.

“Crystal!” everyone called out happily.

“Shelly! Above you!” Kusha shouted.

Whatever instincts were driving him now, Shelly was glad he had them. He turned the instant he heard Kusha’s call, spotting a serpentine maw heading straight towards him. Without a second thought, he dove straight through Crystal, allowing her to avoid being eaten again by a hair.

The monster slammed into the floor hard enough that a shockwave knocked everyone away, however. The surprise knocked them all to the ground and scattered them across the room. Shelly struggled to his feet to find the Wishiwashi had taken on a new form.

That serpentine guess was correct. The creature was long and curled its body so as to avoid stretching from wall to wall. Its head had four odd, horn-like extensions jutting from near its neck, while flat, rectangular wings lined its body at regular intervals. It also had dragon-like claws, but no feet.

“Wait a minute, isn’t that Rayquaza?” Ruby gasped.

“Rayquaza? The Sky God spoken of in legends?” Lucca replied, just as surprised. He glanced back and forth between Ruby and the monster. “But it’s just a bunch of Wishiwashi.”

“This one must be part of your trial. A normal school of Wishiwashi isn’t enough. It has to mimic a mighty legendary, too!” Azu explained. The dragon Wishiwashi roared at her and came charging, but Mimia was quick to barge it aside.

“But then how do we stop it? Fatally wounding it isn’t going to work,” Brine pointed out as the group repositioned themselves. Mimia wrestled with it but was quickly thrown off back to their side.

“Just beat it in battle, how else? It might be tryin’ to copy a legendary, but it’s still just a bunch of stupid fish!” Ruby replied, flaring her back.

She promptly shot fire at it, but it retaliated with a Water Gun of its own. Rather than try to compete, Ruby stopped her attack and rolled to the side, just about dodging the water. The dragon Wishiwashi gave a garbled cry and flew towards her. Everyone else backed off to dodge, only to have it circle Ruby.

“Ruby!” Elise and Shelly cried, stood guard over a surprised Crystal.

The Cyndaquil remained focused, however. The monster trapped her with its body and loomed above. It appeared ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, even if it meant tangling itself or slamming into the floor. She held her Parashelter open in its face, and began to blow fire into the canopy.

The Dragon Wishiwashi roared at her once more, and then dove down after all. With a grunt and a cry, Ruby shoved the Parashelter into its mouth, but was stunned there. It began to drag her around as it attempted to pull itself free, but its jaws were locked around that metallic shield. All the while, Ruby kept shooting more and more fire into the canopy, and soon had enough for a Fire Spin.

“Eat this!” Ruby yelled as she yanked back. She managed to pull the fish into a twirl, which released her Fire Spin with both herself and the monster in the centre. A whirlpool of fire spiralled up into the ceiling, setting off the squeaks and squeals of smaller schools of Wishiwashi, all until the full monster separated again.

“That’s our Ruby! You had me worried for a moment,” Lucca praised, coming to her side.

“Hmpf,” replied the Cyndaquil, focused on the fish.

“That’s not going to work. The damage is being spread across the individual Wishiwashi,” Brine said, back-to-back with Azu. Said Wishiwashi covered the ceiling like a swarm of flies, swimming all around with no coherent direction.

“She’s right. If their schools are taking forms, then they’re just going to become a different Pokémon. We need a way to hit them all at once, every single one that’s in this dungeon,” Azu stated.

“What? But there’s gotta be a gajillion of these things. There’s no way we can hit ‘em all at the same time,” Ruby cried. The fish started to gather into one spot on the ceiling again, making everyone pay attention. “Tsk, forget it. We’re just beat ‘em bunches at a time. They can copy a hundred Pokémon; I’ll destroy them all!”

“A way we can hit them all at once?” Shelly mumbled to himself. He tensed up as the Wishiwashi gathered into the shape of a Chandelure, glowing flames and all. Do we have a Pokémon attack like that in our group?

He snuck a glance at the rest of the team. Any of our water type moves would get swallowed up by the magic water in the area. Ruby’s fire’s not big enough, either. Mister Mimia only has physical attacks, probably.

Then his eyes locked onto Kusha. She floated off the floor and held her axe across her front. Wait, the lass has… and there’s water physics. If that’s right, then…

“A-Angel! You can still give our Bestia to other Pokémon, can’t you?” Shelly asked desperately.

“It’ll cost you your Pokémon attack for the day, mind you. Lucca just used his on that pretty princess’ Synthesis,” Angel replied, popping out beside him.

“Give my attack to Kusha. Kusha!” Shelly shouted, surprising her. “Use Hyper Voice!”

“A Pokémon attack?” the Wigglytuff gasped.

“The Angel’s going to give you Bestia, please just do it!” Shelly cried. Kusha obeyed with a sharp inhale, and her body inflated a lot.

“Wa-wait a minute, a move like that in a place like this underwa— everybody cover your ears!” Azu squealed and pulled hers down.

Shelly was already doing that, and scrunched himself up extra tight with Azu’s warning. Even that couldn’t save him from the power of Kusha’s Hyper Voice. She let out a horrible sound that pulsed all around her. Everything fluctuated, and an indescribable noise filled Shelly’s head. He held his breath and writhed in irritation, and even when the noise stopped, a violent shiver travelled up his body and a ringing sound was left behind.

No one said anything, but the way they moved implied they felt the same pain he just did. The Wishiwashi were the most affected, however. Their Chandelure form vibrated as the fish swarms struggled to stay connected. Suddenly, they all separated at once, squeaking and squealing pathetically. Unlike their previous defeats however, the Wishiwashi swam through the walls and kept going until they out of the distance.

“They… ran away,” Lucca muttered. He took his flippers off his head for a moment and immediately put them back on as the ringing noise remained. Mimia howled beside him with his head buried in his forelegs. “Mimia, keep it together!”

Azu was little better. She’d fallen to her side and clutched her ears down her body so tightly it looked like it hurt.

“Geez, couldn’t you have held back a little bit? This is ridiculous!” Ruby cried.

“When does the ringing stop?” Elise cried, too.

“Give it a minute,” Kusha answered. She didn’t seem to be affected by the lingering noise.

The ringing did stop, and when it did, the blue light on the floor intensified. Streams of light swirled up towards the ceiling with an angelic tone, which vanished into a show of sparkles and waves. It was as if the group had been transported to a world of waves and light.

“The fountain’s awakening. It’s just like at Fossil Hill,” Ruby remarked, sitting back.

“Okay. I needed this. I forgot how relaxing this was,” Lucca remarked. Mimia made a content noise beside him.

“I find it strange how I can feel it, too,” Azu agreed, laying a hand on her chest.

“I don’t know what’s happening but… I… I’m not scared anymore,” Elise remarked, curious about the whole show. The lights gradually died down, and the group were returned to the room. “Oh. It stopped.”

Although relaxed, Shelly remained concentrated and scanned the room. It was brighter than before, and they could no longer see through the walls. The strange underwater effect was gone, too. As far as he was aware, they were in a run-of-the-mill room inside of a building somewhere. Square, unfurnished, but tiled floor and walls decorated with wallpaper. There was a fireplace at the far end, and the double doors they came through.

“It’s over, isn’t it? We did the second trial,” Crystal said slowly.

“Crystal!” Shelly gasped and dove into her again.

“Whoa, Sh-Shelly?” she gasped.

“You’re okay, you’re really okay! I’m so glad you’re okay!” He hugged her tightly.

“You crazy rascal! You had us so worried,” Ruby shoved them.

“Are you alright? Is anything broken?” Lucca cried.

“Any pain? We’re right here,” Azu gasped.

“Arf arf arf!” Mimia barked beside them.

“You guys… wh-what’s with all this? I’m not dead,” Crystal gasped.

“Are you kidding? We thought you’d died! That was a crazy move back there,” Brine stated. “We’ve just met, and even I’m surprised. Please don’t tell me you’re that reckless often.”

“Well no, I…” Crystal replied, going quiet. “U-um, Shelly? You can let go, now.”

He didn’t let go, however. He could feel what the others couldn’t see, and that brought back all the fright and fear he was used to. He didn’t understand how, and that was what was scariest about this. Right now, with his paws wrapped so tightly around Crystal he could feel their furs tangling, her body was cold.

Not cold like the area. The cold he expected to feel from a dead body. Not that he knew what a dead body felt like, but he had read it in fantasy books and seen his fair share of withered plant Pokémon. She felt stiff and she had no heartbeat. It was literally like hugging a statue.

“Okay that’s enough, big guy. I know you were worried, but she’s not yours,” Ruby joked.

Shelly slowly withdrew, but his arms were frozen in place. “Y-y-your heart, i-i-it still isn’t—”

“Ack!” Ruby choked. She threw herself into Shelly to knock him to the floor.

“Ruby?” Lucca said.

“What the heck was that about?” Brine commented. Crystal was too confused to say anything.

“R-Ruby,” Shelly muttered. She pinned him down, making sure only he could see her face. And she was fiercer than a Zweilous.

He could just about make out her grumble. “Don’t. Say. Anything.”

Shelly gulped. He couldn’t stop his leaf from turning blue, but hopefully the others didn’t know what that meant yet. Is… Crystal still dead? Am I dreaming? What does Ruby even mean?

“Geez, Shelly was just worried about me. You’re not still on that romance rubbish, are you?” Crystal groaned and scratched the back of her head.

“Just don’t want him saying anythin’ stupid, that’s all,” Ruby rubbed her face.

“She almost died, cut him some slack!” Lucca remarked while others turned away in embarrassment.

“Did our conversation mean nothing in the end?” Azu added.

“What’s all this about nearly dying? I pushed Shelly outta the way, and then last I remember, I was somewhere dark and in a lot of pain. I’m fine now, though. I think the fountain healed us,” Crystal explained.

“You got eaten by the Wishiwashi, and our amulets turned black and everything. Angel told us you were in critical condition!” Brine cried.

“I actually almost died?” Crystal looked down.

“Are you alright?” Azu asked.

“I am. I just, it doesn’t feel like I did. I don’t mean that to sound boastful or something,” Crystal admitted, rubbing a flipper. “I just saw Shelly in danger and knew I had to do something. I was the fastest and the closest to help, so I did.”

“By diving into it instead of hitting it with an attack?” brine continued. Ruby started growling for some reason. “That’s… selfless.”

“I… I’m starting to realise, I’m a liability if I keep doing stuff like that, aren’t I?” Crystal hung her head.

“Damn right you are!” Ruby shouted. “You’re gonna start goin’ on about how you should just shut up and stick to the back and stuff now, aren’t ya? Right after you lead the charge, and saved our asses against the Girage police.”

“Ruby?” Crystal replied. The Cyndaquil sounded exasperated.

“Don’t you get it? Those same feelings you just had, those instincts that let you save Shelly and hang in there until we could save you? That’s what makes you a hero. That’s how you fight! So don’t you dare start wallowing in pity like you’re draggin’ us down. You’re my sis, and we’re in this together,” Ruby stated, and turned away. “I’m not sayin’ you have to injure or kill anyone. I’m saying you know how to fight! And you can fight your own way. But when you keep being scared and then blaming yourself for getting us into trouble? That’s not what we’re all here for. You’re not putting us in trouble.”

“Well yeah. She’s not putting us in trouble, you are,” Lucca snickered.

“Oh- shut up,” she groaned.

“Ruby… I think I get it,” Crystal replied and rubbed her head.

“And you!” Ruby raised her voice as she turned to Shelly. He stood straight and narrow instantly. “What the hell did you think you were doing with all this?”

Shelly gasped. I forgot I even left everyone alone in the first place!

“You didn’t seriously think you were gonna become a man by runnin’ off on your own to play hero at a Shining Warrior trial, did you? ‘Cos that’s the total opposite of everythin’ I was tryin’ to teach you!” She shouted.

The way she moved like she was about to slap him; he was going to thrash at her, but he resisted. His leaf turned red a bit, and he leaned forward. “Then what was it you were trying ta teach me, lass? Ya kept tellin’ me to get stronger and fight on my own, but I was just teaching you moves, wasn’t I?”

“You do need to get stronger and more heroic. But running off on your own headfirst into danger we know nothing about ain’t heroic!” Ruby cried. To his surprise, she began to turn away as if struggling to keep eye contact, and her tone began to whimper. She wiped her eyes several times, too. “Look, I-we were just as worried about you as we were Crystal, y’know. I said some wrong stuff and I led you into this, thinking like this. I didn’t mean to. You could’ve died, too. If you’d died because of me, that wouldn’t make you heroic or manly in my eyes. It’d just make you stupid.”

“Ruby?” Shelly replied slowly. She sniffled and rubbed her eyes once more, now able to stare at him. He could see her eyes were wet, however.

“I said it back when we came up with our stupid little plan. I’m not a man, I can’t teach you how to be one. I could only turn you into someone I wanted you to be, but the truth is, even I don’t know what that is,” she explained. “I didn’t know half of what you were dealing with. I mean the stuff about Elise and the arranged marriage and stuff. I didn’t know you were better with the treasure orb, either. If I’d known, or been smarter myself, this whole mess could’ve been avoided. So I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry I was such a big jerk and stuff.”

“I… s-sorry, I-I don’t actually get what you’re talking about now,” Shelly replied, leaning back.

“Rgh, this is why I don’t do this kinda stuff!” Ruby cried and stomped her feet. “I’m saying the deal’s off! The stupid stuff with Crystal. I was totally wrong, ‘kay? Everything I said and did was wrong. You can forget it all!”

He didn’t reply, and stared at her. She’s really beating herself up about this. But Ruby taught me a lot about fighting. How can all of it be wrong?

“There, I said it. You guys can stop drilling me about it now, right?” Ruby turned to the others.

“You’re unbelievable,” Azu shook her head.

“We should try and talk about it later. We are still in the Shadow Palace,” Kusha pointed out.

“Right. And now we have Queen Gladys to deal with,” Azu added.

“No rest for the best, huh?” Brine shrugged.

“I don’t really get what’s going on anymore, but I think I can help with that,” Elise replied quietly.

Outside, Shelly had to stop as bright sunlight blinded him. The others weren’t much better, some even groaning at it. The foggy fields surrounding the palace transformed overnight and now resembled the fields in front of the palace.

“This area’s totally different. Once we did the trial, the palace transformed,” Lucca remarked, admiring the grass twice his height surrounding the road. He turned to Kusha. “I guess you could say it was cursed after all.”

“I can’t answer that. This is way more mysterious than I could’ve imagined,” Kusha shook her head. “I’m a bit worried, too. Is the trial really complete? I’m the one who defeated that monster.”

“Of course it is. Angel said so, right?” Ruby replied.

“Yep! You can tell her not to worry about a thing,” Angel answered without appearing.

“Why wouldn’t it count if you’re the one who defeated it?” Brine wondered.

“I don’t know. I didn’t actually fight back there because I assumed only the Shining Warriors could harm it,” Kusha explained. “That said, that was a very smart call back there, Shelly.”

“I hated it, but I have to agree,” Azu admitted. “Some prior warning would be appreciated if we’re Hyper Voicing in the future.”

“How did that work, anyway? Are sound-based moves really that powerful? ‘Cos if so, I wanna learn ‘em,” Ruby asked.

“They aren’t normally. Sound is significantly louder underwater. Even though we weren’t actually underwater, that area was like we were, right? So my Hyper Voice came out louder than it was supposed to. The Wishiwashi didn’t stand a chance,” Kusha explained.

“So it was just a lucky go. That sucks,” Ruby spat.

“Not necessarily. That was a really clever call from Shelly. Knowing what his team could do and the science of the area. I think it was a good strategy,” Kusha remarked with a smile.

“I think I learnt that from you, Ruby. You’re the one that told me to keep the arena in mind when fighting,” Shelly admitted, scratching his head. Ruby grumbled and scratched her face, too.

“Freeze!” a voice shouted.

In a flash, a squad of Grovyle soldiers jumped out of the grass and surrounded everyone. The group barely had time to reach for their weapons before lances were practically prodding their fur.

“Wait, wait, wait, stop!” Elise cried, waving her arms.

“Your Highness! We’re here to—”

“Oh shut up you dobbers, put your weapons down! I’m not kidnapped or any rubbish,” Elise pouted. The soldiers glanced at the lead Grovyle for direction, who reluctantly obeyed her. “We were going back to see Mama anyway, so you might as well take us now.”

“Well that’s a switch. You’re not so scared anymore, huh?” Ruby commented.

“Ruby, please,” Lucca groaned.

“I don’t really want to talk about that right now,” Elise said quietly, rubbing an arm. The others exchanged awkward glances.

It didn’t feel like it took long to get back to the Greenhouse Palace. Despite being up all night, Shelly didn’t feel too tired, either. Elise dismissed the soldiers right away, but they all went to the throne room with them anyway. The usual Whimsicott guards were there, and each of them gasped or cheered when they saw the royals unharmed.

“Elise, Shelly!” Gladys leaned forward in her throne the moment they entered. They couldn’t stop the guards from surrounding them again, so the group were put back on edge. “I’m so relieved to see you both okay. You’re out of your mind you wild bairns, sneaking off into the night like that. And to the Shadow palace, no less!”

“Mama,” Elise said quietly. Her head was hung. Shelly wanted to say something too, but there was something about the relief in Gladys’ voice that stopped him. The Tsareena’s eyes narrowed, and she calmed down. With a single hand movement, the guards gave the team space.

“I’m not one to beat around the bush. It seems time and age have crept up on me. I wouldn’t be royalty if I let those things get the better of me. It’s time we had an all-important talk about yourselves as knights and the Shining Warriors, isn’t it?” Gladys stated. Elise gasped and looked up. “If you’re sneaking off with the warriors out of jail, then it’s clear you’re serious about what you want to do with your lives.”

Shelly expected Elise to beam at that opportunity, but instead, she said nothing. She hung her head again and played with her hands while her leaf turned a bit blue. She must’ve been really scared at the trial battle. This seems like a really bad time to ask for the divorce, but I have to.

“I tried to decline the Shining Warriors, but you came here anyway. Despite my force, you ventured to the Shadow Palace and completed the trial there. I realise I can’t stop you from doing what you have to do,” Gladys explained. “I want to come to an agreement with you. This is my child you’re dealing with here, my crown princess and her betrothed. I can’t let you go.”

“What’s there to propose, though? What can we do for you?” Lucca asked.

“First of all, how did you get here? Every report doesn’t mention a boat or anything docked at our shores. You didn’t get shipwrecked, did you?” Gladys began. She leaned on the side of her throne.

The group exchanged awkward glances, and then Lucca slid forward. “We walked. Through the ocean.”

“You walked?” Gladys sat up with eyes wider than ever. “You have no transport. There’s a fire type in your ranks. The sea has spots of black water! You really want me to believe you walked? Kusha didn’t help you at all?”

Come to think of it, she hasn’t mentioned Kusha before. Does Mama still not know that Kusha’s a spy? Shelly tilted his head.

“It’s not a good idea to joke in front of royalty at a time like this, you know,” Brine commented.

“I know. We’re not. We walked through the underwater road from Girage Fields to here. Me and Azu have the power to make bubbles of air, which let the others survive,” Lucca explained.

“The past two days have had more miracles than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I’m inclined to believe you, but I wouldn’t have you return that way when you need to leave,” Gladys went back to leaning on her armrest. “I have a great favour to ask of you, and a promise you must make to me. In exchange, you may use our island’s services as necessary, and Shelly and Elise can be given freedom within your group.”

“I’m listening,” Lucca replied quietly.

“Deep underwater, underneath our island, there is a cavern. We need you to mine material there,” Gladys said. “We have methods of underwater travel and to extract the material ourselves, but not being species that can breathe underwater, our methods are inconvenient at best. A group of water types like yourselves would find this task menial, I assume.”

“Oh really, that’s it?” Lucca replied. “We just go to the cave, get you a bunch of that material, and then we can go?”

Is she talking about the Derris Ore? Shelly wondered.

“Get me as much as you can carry. I will provide you with the means to extract it and to travel underwater as well. The other part of this proposition,” Gladys said. Her speech slowed and she leaned forward. “Make sure Shelly and Elise come back to us. Please.”

“That’s a given, though. The others travelling with us do it of their own free will, not by our order,” Lucca said, glancing at Azu and Kusha.

“I mean you must promise me, male. If you are to bring Elise and Shelly with you, please promise me that they’ll come home someday. Alive, and while I am alive,” Gladys raised her voice.

“Mama?” Shelly muttered.

“I think I understand,” Lucca looked down, then back up her, his face stern. “No matter what, they’ll come home. I swear it.”

“Thank you. Allow me to apologise for the way we have treated you thus far as well. We of Van Aken are grass type females who populate through growing seeds, you see. We do not breed; nor do we grow male Pokémon. Your kind is not normally accepted here, so we as an army, and our villagers, will not take too kindly to you,” Gladys continued. She leaned on a hand again. “I will give them the alert that you are safe and to aid you, but do not blame them if they are not so courteous to you. We have a history, and they simply don’t want their peace disturbed.”

“That’s fair. I wouldn’t ask for anything more,” Azu nodded.

“Now then. You soldiers. Clear out, show the Shining Warriors to empty quarters. They are now our honoured guests,” Gladys ordered. “We’ll prepare that objective for you by tomorrow. We will sort out travel back to mainland Heroica when it’s time for you to leave as well. For now, I want to spend time with my children.”

“Us?” Elise gasped.

“Of course! I won’t see you again for much time. Is it wrong to want to make up for that time now?” Gladys said happily.

There’s a first time for everything, Shelly groaned in his head. The soldiers started shuffling about the room, and soon everyone was guided out besides himself and Elise. It was alarming how quiet and cold the room felt, even with the sun beaming through the glass walls. Or maybe it was the imposing presence of the massive Tsareena. It had been so long since Shelly had seen and looked up to her like this, he’d forgotten that she was multiple times his height, throne included.

“Good. They truly left us alone, now. Elise, what’s wrong?” Gladys began as she slowly stepped forward.

“H-huh? Me?” the Steenee shifted back. Gladys sat cross-legged in front of them, prompting Shelly to sit and Elise to kneel.

“You should be ecstatic that you are able to embark on this quest with your betrothed. Yet, you’ve barely said a word, and your Gospel Vibe shines with sadness. Something’s happened, hasn’t it?” Gladys said in concern. “You don’t need to hold anything back with me.”

“Mama,” Elise sighed. She couldn’t look at Shelly or Gladys. “I’m sorry. I’m… scared.”

“You saw them do the trial, didn’t you? Or the monsters that live in the Shadow Palace. The Wishiwashi,” Gladys asked. Elise gasped and glanced up. “I attempted to clear the place out many years before you were born. It was a nightmare back then as it is now. The schools were infinite, and take on many foreign species as forms. It was terrifying.”

“Wa-wait Mama, you’ve been there before? But Elise is fifteen,” Shelly said, becoming concerned.

“Multiple times. Pokémon were lost attempting to make that place safe, so I chose to close the place off entirely. That was why I forbade you going there,” Gladys answered.

“Well it’s not that, but there was a Shining Warrior trial there,” Shelly muttered. He gulped and looked up at her. “The Shining Warriors are chosen every ten years. If you went there before me and Elise came here, then there has to have been at least one set of Shining Warriors who came here, right? What happened to them?”

Gladys didn’t answer. In fact, she barely reacted.

“Why are you so against them?” Elise asked.

Again, there was barely a reaction. Shelly couldn’t read her at all, and continuing to stare only made his heart race. Something happened here. Now Mama wants Derris Ore from the cave?

“These are unpleasant memories. I had hoped we could bond properly, since I may not see you again for a long while,” Gladys finally responded. The two kids looked up at her. “Yes, Shining Warriors have come here in the past. In my entire lifetime going beyond fifty years, they only made it to Van Aken once.”

“Once?” Shelly and Elise gasped.

“The group that did were despicable. They fit the accursed tropes that we women have been taught to fear. I had to defeat them and have them executed,” Gladys explained. “Unsalvageable venom who cared little besides our beauty and fine drink. They wanted to treat us as though we were their possessions, and that we should kneel before them as heroes. We allowed them free reign still, but it was that day that I truly learnt why we do not trust males.”

“They tried to take over the island?” Elise gasped.

“With fire and poison. They were conquerors, not heroes. That is why I feared Shelly becoming a warrior, and you joining them. I don’t know what manner of monstrosities truly exists beyond Van Aken, but I have seen an example with my own eyes. The last thing I would want for you two is to suffer at their hands, or to become one of them,” Gladys stated. “Fate tortures us leaders. It isn’t an easy decision to allow you all to leave. I cannot even take your place – the Pokémon here need me.”

“But then why take care of Shelly? Shelly’s a male, you made us marry!” Elise cried.

“Elise?” Gladys replied. The Steenee stood down. “Shelly was brought to this island very young, and we of the royalty have raised him. Though I have you call me Mama, you are not truly my child. It’s through this method that I believe we can change the traditions of van Aken and learn to open up to male Pokémon. Perhaps that’s why fate chose you two to journey.”

“You think it’s fate, too?” Elise asked.

“A journey teaches many things. Experiences that will never be forgotten and lessons that cannot be taught through words. If you two were to lead Van Aken like I planned, then perhaps it is best you experience this journey,” Gladys stated. She couldn’t hide a lustful gaze upwards. “But as a mother, a Pokémon who must take care of you two as a couple, I cannot help but zealously worry. I have never seen the Shining Warriors succeed, and now Pokémon are near incapable of using latent abilities or powers. The odds of you succeeding will keep me awake at night.”

“I didn’t realise it was that hard. I’m sorry Mama, I’m sorry, Shelly. I know all this stuff as a knight and I knew it’d be hard, but I didn’t think it’d be that scary,” Elise confessed. “I got so scared I just wanted to run away, and my body wouldn’t move. Despite all that, Shelly, you told me what to do. You just did what you needed to do. That’s why you’re the Shining Warrior, and not me.”

Eep, now is DEFINITELY not the time to ask for a divorce. But if not now, then when? It doesn’t sound like we’re going to be on the island for much longer. What do I even say here? Shelly turned away and rubbed an arm. “S-sorry about that.”

“Sorry? What for, you saved our lives,” Elise replied.

“But I had to, you know, with the knife and stuff,” he struggled.

“Oh… well don’t worry about that, I know you did what you had to do. I forgive you already!” Elise said, bouncing happily.

That should hold off for now… but this is a lot to swallow. Five generations of Shining Warriors failed before us, and only one made it here. Mama executed them because some were male, but then she still took me in and married me to Elise. Now she’s okay with me leaving the island as long as me and the other water types gather Derris Ore for her? Shelly faced the floor. The two girls continued to talk, but he had drowned them out. I don’t understand what’s going on here…
Episode 14: A Threat of Conflict


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Lucca and Azu dinner date by SleepySealion.jpg

Episode 14: A Threat of Conflict

“Okay, Azu I appreciate the enthusiasm, but…” Lucca gurgled. The Brionne was sat back against a bush with a belly so full he resembled a Munchlax.

“But…?” Azu replied as she stirred a pot of curry. The group were given three rooms to rest and relax in, and at their request, Lucca, Azu, and Mimia had free reign over cooking equipment.in their room.

This place almost felt like they were camping outside. It was a room for sure, with glass walls and a ceiling on all sides, but there was so much greenery it gave the feel of the outdoors. Bushes surrounded the glass walls, while the ground was exactly like the gardens or fields outside. To top it all off, the glass was so clean that the clouds and sun were clear as ever. The only way one could tell they were in a room in the palace was the fact that the other rooms and hallways were visible, and there was no wind.

“Um, er, maybe Mimia would like to try some of your cooking?” Lucca suggested.

“Nonsense, you’ve got plenty of room for more. I know you like your food,” Azu said happily as she poured him another bowl of curry. “We still haven’t tried the Bluk wine seasoning yet. You’ve got four curry dishes to go mister, and then we can get to their banana bread recipes.”

“If I eat anymore, I’m going to explode,” Lucca sunk to the floor. Mimia giggled beside him, and then sung something in feral language. “Aww help me out here buddy. I never knew Azu’d be so enthusiastic about cooking…”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so content! Is my cooking really that good?” Azu asked as she handed him yet another bowl. Despite his complaints, he snaked over and happily began to wolf it down.

“It’s so good I’d keep eating if I had room,” gurgled the Brionne.

“… There’s a lie here. Does it really taste good? You’re not just saying that to try and keep me happy, are you?” she replied.

Her serious tone made him look up, and he swallowed. “No, seriously. I was worried Shelly would be the only good cook and we’d overwork him, but with you around too, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Azu leaned to the side in bother.

“I-I mean that as in, I really appreciate your help and er—”

“Maybe that is all I’m good for after all,” Azu sighed. “At least I’m useful for something on this journey.”

“What? No, where did that come from? You’ve been an immense help to us so far,” Lucca objected. He tried to sit as he normally did, but his belly made him uncomfortable, so he leaned back against the bush with a grumble. “And even if you weren’t, everyone likes you here. You came to learn about the warriors, and you’re learning a lot, I hope.”

Azu hesitated to respond as she cooked. “It isn’t worth it if I can’t actually help you, though. Sure, you like my cooking now, but that just seems a bit…”

“I like your passion!” Lucca stated. That got her to look straight at him and his proud grin. “Maybe I’m a bit of a fool, but when we met, I could tell you were very passionate about researching legends, myths, and all other sorts of adventurous discoveries. You weren’t lying about that, were you?”

“No! Not at all! I’ve spent years learning all I can about the Shining Warriors and the legends of Heroica. I dedicated myself to learning about that so that I could find a way that we don’t have to rely on the legend or the warriors anymore,” Azu raised her voice.

“See? That alone is why you should stick with us. Honestly, you know more than we do in some respects,” Lucca snickered. “If what you just said is true, then it’s a wonder that you weren’t chosen as a warrior, too. Your heart’s in the right place, you’ve got passion and experience, and fighting by your side feels like second nature already. You’re one of us – even if you wanted to kick back the rest of the journey, I’d be fine with it.”

“That’s… Lucca, do you hear yourself sometimes?” Azu turned away. She blushed a bit, and rubbed her face to get rid of it.

“I mean it, though,” he assured. “Wait, did I say something stupid or offensive?”

“No, you didn’t. Just a little more affectionate than I was expecting. I don’t want to be in the way, that’s all,” she admitted. “Here, another bowl. This one’s got a drizzle of wine in it, so don’t scarf it.”

Lucca jerked. “M-more? E-er, how much more curry do they have?”

Azu glanced at the storage they had been given. There were at least a dozen different ingredients she hadn’t touched yet. “We’re a little less than halfway through the taste test. Did you want a bigger bowl?”

“I’m definitely gonna explode,” Lucca shrivelled to the floor as he accepted the next bowl anyway. His struggle to eat more was saved as the door knocked.

“Hello? Mister Lucca, Miss Azu? It’s Shelly, I’m coming in,” the Oshawott shyly called from beyond. Azu gave him a happy wave as he entered, but changed when she saw the concern on his face. “Oh, Mister Mimia, too. U-um, hello.”

“Don’t mind us. The grass types weren’t sure what to cook and we knew you’d be busy, so I begged them to let me try my hand at cooking,” Azu said, and rubbed the back of her head. “Ruby and Crystal were here earlier, but they went back to their rooms after a bowl or two. No idea where Brine is.”

“Oh. That’s okay, it was you I was looking for, anyway. I could use an opinion, if that’s okay,” Shelly began. The trio came forward for him. “I… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Mama- I mean Queen Gladys, is up to something.”

“Is this room secure?” Lucca replied. Shelly nodded unsurely. “That’s fine, because so do I.”

Mimia yipped in agreement, while Azu nodded.

“You three as well?” Shelly’s eyes widened. “I don’t know why I don’t trust her. Everything she said and did is so fine and noble, yet still I can’t think straight or relax.”

“Go ahead. Tell me exactly what you’re feeling,” Lucca replied. He smiled proudly again, but forgot his belly and leaned back.

“It-it’s not that important. I just… I don’t know, my heart tells me something’s wrong?” Shelly cocked his head, and his leaf turned blue. He began to relay his conversation with Gladys earlier, about the failed warriors and how she executed them. Not long after he started, Lucca and Azu put their flipper and hands to their chins and looked down, while Mimia closed his eyes and swayed in thought.

“She’s not lying about one thing. The past generations of warriors all failed,” Azu stated. “To think that they never made it very far, and one of those generations was executed right here.”

“It’s pretty sound, right? Her will to expand this kingdom and be kind to us lines up airtight,” Lucca stated. He smirked cockily, and came out of his thought pose. “But you can’t trust the mind of royalty. They’ve always got an ulterior motive and are a hundred steps ahead. So, what’s on your mind?”

“Why can’t royalty be trusted? They’re the rulers of a country. They have to be the most trustworthy Pokémon ever,” Shelly wondered, and raised an eyebrow.

“That’s also true, that’s the thing. You don’t get to be royalty by being the brightest and most heroic Pokémon ever, though. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have war, or battles, right?” Lucca replied. Azu snuck a look at him, but didn’t say anything. “The obvious thing of note is the ore she wants us to mine. Gladys refrained from telling us exactly what it was, or maybe she’s waiting until it’s convenient to.”

“That’s what I was wondering about, too. Shelly, do you have any idea what it is she wants us to mine?” Azu asked.

“It’s called Derris Ore. It’s what wonder orbs are made of,” Shelly answered, and took out his Treasure Orb. As he spoke, his leaf turned green. “We have plenty of it on the island already, and we experiment with creating new orbs. It’s really cool stuff.”

“Wow, they can do that?” Azu remarked. She kept rubbing her chin. “If she’s planning on expanding back to Heroica, having orbs would make a good trade deal. Orbs don’t require Bestia energy, so their demand skyrocketed. Knowing they’re made right here is huge.”

“And you have that custom made one that can bring items from anywhere in your storage, right? Their scientists are really something,” Lucca added.

“They are! I wish I could show you, i-if you’re interested. They make all kinds of orbs, like stuff for exploration, or stuff to power machines, too,” Shelly got even happier. That last bit made Azu freeze. “Me and Kusha had to borrow an air bike or something, but we crashed it, so they don’t let me go to the lab anymore.”

“An… air bike?” Azu repeated.

“Oh, it was a vehicle. It goes really fast, but it doesn’t have wheels or anything – it flies over the ground! I guess it’s like a caravan, but way smaller and way faster? It went fast by turning the handles. I can’t really explain it,” Shelly recalled.

“And it’s powered by an orb? Did they have anything else like that in the lab?” Azu asked.

“Lots of stuff. I-I’ve never seen it all before and I wasn’t allowed to touch it,” Shelly answered. “The last time I saw it all was with Kusha. There were a lot of machines.”

There was a pause, and then Azu smiled and nodded. “Well that explains why you were so handy around my lab. That’s where all that experience came from huh?”

“I don’t think I was that helpful,” Shelly started playing with his paws.

“Nonsense, you know how useful having an extra pair of paws around the lab was? Especially someone who actually knew their way around tech stuff? I could walk a hundred miles and wouldn’t come across another Pokémon anywhere near as helpful as you,” Azu praised, making him blush. “It sounds like we need to talk to Kusha, though. Do you mind fetching her, please?”

“She’s probably patrolling or guarding Elise. I’ll try and find her,” Shelly nodded, and made his way out. Not long after he left, Azu promptly put out the fire and started to put away the cooking tools, to Lucca’s surprise. Mimia made a sound, too.

“That’s a look I’m starting to like, too. You’re onto something,” Lucca said with a smirk.

“This is going to sound expected coming from me, but we need to see this lab. Depending on what they’re developing, we could either be in danger, or in the midst of something very special,” Azu stated.

“Vehicles for easy traversing of difficult terrain, and tools that can nullify the use of conventional weapons,” a familiar voice called to them. The group gasped and searched around, but didn’t spot their spy right away. Mimia was the first to look up, and set off barking. Kusha floated amongst some greenery high up. She quickly deflated and leisurely floated down to them.

“Kusha. How long were you there?” Lucca gasped.

“As long as I needed to be. You have an advantage in that Queen Gladys still thinks I’m on her side. She ordered me to spy on the three of you,” the Wigglytuff informed. “She doesn’t seem to realise that I’m a spy of my own.”

“A twist within a twist? I like it. What do you have for us?” Lucca inquired. Kusha walked between them as she spoke, and seemed to intentionally brush herself against Lucca.

“Shelly hasn’t seen beyond the vehicles, but it’s exactly as you fear. The Van Akens have been researching Derris Ore to create vehicles that will help them cross the ocean, alongside weaponry that can help them fight without attacks of abilities,” Kusha explained. She stopped in front of the whole group, and tapped her axe straight on the ground. “Based on my recent investigation, I would say they’re about eighty percent ready to launch a full-scale attack on Heroica.”

“Of course it’s the worst scenario. If we go to the cave and get that ore, it’s only a matter of time before we have a war on our paws,” Azu sighed and shook her head. “Lucca, what do we do?”

“If we don’t do exactly as she says, it’s only going to mean more trouble in our stay here. We’re extremely lucky we got fed with the way living conditions here are,” Lucca stated. His flipper returned to his chin, and his face became intense. “This could make us seem worse than the previous Shining Warriors, but I think we need to confront her. If we can shut that whole operation down at the source—”

“Lucca!” Azu hissed. He took a moment to face her. “Didn’t you promise we wouldn’t have a Vergrace situation again?”

Mimia chimed in with his own round of aggressive growls and howls. Lucca made a sound which prompted him to say more. Mimia was calmer as he carried on talking, to which Lucca folded his flippers.

“It might not be necessary to kill her, but I know how royalty are. If we can prove its conquest Gladys is after, then it’s likely she’s dedicated her entire being to it. You have to trust me,” Lucca replied.

“What would you know about the way royalty think?” Azu raised an eyebrow. Lucca gasped to stop himself from answering. “Lucca?”

“I just… It’s something they would do, alright? You can’t rule out it’s a possibility,” Lucca argued.

“But to act rashly on that could sever what little trust we have right now. Is that worth the risk for our own lives?” Azu reasoned, and laid a hand on her chest. “Think of the others, Lucca.”

Mimia joined in with another round of noises, to which Lucca nodded.

“I’m not opposed to asking everyone. We’ll do a vote and see what the others think. The only thing I ask is that we somehow keep Shelly out of it. He’s going through enough as it is,” Lucca sat back and turned away.

“That one’s a given. Why do you think I waited until he left?” Kusha replied.

“And, well,” Lucca started playing with his flippers.

“And?” Azu raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve… kind of got to sleep this off,” Lucca snickered and pointed to his belly.

“You’re such a drama queen sometimes,” Azu giggled and rolled her eyes.

Meanwhile, Shelly spent a while wandering the halls of the palace in search of Kusha. Of course, he found nothing but patrols, visitors, and more patrols. As he gave up his search to return to Lucca and the others, he happened to pass by the room Ruby was given, and decided to peek in.

She had another guest quarters just like his room. She’d shoved furniture and shrubs all the way to the ends of the room to make space in the centre, where she put out her sleeping bag. Right now, she had her Parashelter out and seemed to be swinging it around at an invisible opponent.

I really should get back to the others, but… Shelly realised as he watched her for a while.

Ruby didn’t fight the way he was taught to. There was little to no finesse in her movements, and there clearly wasn’t a stance, either. Not that a Cyndaquil was well suited for a heavy, two-handed weapon like an armoured umbrella, after all. Yet still, she swung it with force he could hear from beyond the glass walls. She would hold the weapon high with both hands wrapped around the handle, and then twirl her whole body on one leg to swing at her enemy with bludgeoning force. There was a heavy woosh with each swing, and little grunts and huffs from her.

Just for a little while, Shelly decided to himself, and knocked. The moment he did, she flinched and scrambled to put away her weapon.

“U-um, hello? It’s open, you can come in,” she called out and sat cutely. She reached for her bag as he came in and pretended to sort her belongings.

“You didn’t have to stop,” Shelly said. It didn’t take her long to put two and two together.

“You really need to stop doing that, y’know. It’s creepy no matter what,” Ruby complained, and readied her weapon again. “I know this place has glass walls and stuff, but you’ve gotta know what privacy is, right?”

“I was interested. The only fighting styles I’ve seen are with swords, lances, and whips. And that’s by bipedal Pokémon,” he replied. “I got intrigued by your weapon again.”

Ruby glanced at it, and then gave him a frown. “I look stupid, don’t I? You find this funny.”

“No, not at all! Honestly lass, I’m impressed. I don’t think I could swing a weapon that heavy around, yet you do it without tripping all over. You’re way stronger than you look. I-I should know that already, but I continue to be surprised by how much,” Shelly remarked.

“Don’t you know how to use a sword? That’s kinda an Oshawott thing, ain’t it?” Ruby quizzed him. “Think you could get me one?”

“I do know how to use a sword, but that doesn’t mean I can actually use a sword. There’s a reason I have this knife instead,” he replied. He took off his scalchop to reveal it, and then put it away in the Treasure Orb. “As for getting you a sword, do you really want to give up the Parashelter? You’d lose your Fire Spin.”

“Small price to pay for a deadlier weapon, if ya ask me,” she reasoned. She went back to practice, and this time opened up the canopy. “If you wanna help out, then come at me with that knife of yours.”

“Huh?” he jerked.

“Hurry up before I pound ya with it! Try and cut me with your knife, and I’ll block it with this shield,” Ruby instructed. She peeked from behind it with a smirk. “That’s why ya came in here, right? Can’t start slacking on our training, ever.”

“What if I actually hurt you?” he cried.

“Pah, like you could actually cut me. You won’t even get close!” she bragged.

“Ruby, I’m serious! Anything but the—”

“Bashing your head in five, four,” Ruby replied.

“Ruby stop, please!” Shelly cried and held a paw out. She went quiet, and made sure to look him in the eyes.

“You’re right, I do want to continue training. But I…” Shelly trailed off. Ruby put the Parashelter aside to show she was listening, so he took a deep breath. “I think I need your help one more time.”

“The only thing I can help you with is fighting. I’m not good for anything else, but go on,” she replied.

She said that so stern and certainly, like it’s something she actually believes, Shelly hesitated, and put his paws together. “It’s about… Queen Gladys.”

“She’s got you going to that underwater cave, right? Please don’t tell me you wanna bring me with you. An underwater trip like that is too hard for me,” Ruby raised an eyebrow.

“Darn it lass, stop jumping to assumptions!” Shelly snapped.

“Then hurry up and be blunt and stop beatin’ around the bush. You know I hate that stuff,” Ruby started tapping her foot. He took a deep breath again.

“I think we’re all going to fight Mama- I mean Queen Gladys soon,” Shelly stated, and she instantly stopped. “I can’t get this feeling out of my head that she’s up to something. But if we do, I don’t know if I can.”

“You can barely fight stuff as it is,” Ruby replied. He looked up at her in surprise. “You’re docile like Crystal. But I can’t change who you are. I can’t help you with this.”

“Yes you can,” he said hesitantly. “When I attacked the Wishiwashi in the Shadow Palace, it was nothing like anything I’d ever felt before. I didn’t think what I normally thought. I was scared, but not because the monster was a giant, or I could get hurt. I was scared because we were about to lose Crystal. If I didn’t do anything, or I let anything stop me, we could have lost Crystal forever. That was all I could think about, and I just did everything I needed to do.”

Ruby stared at him and didn’t respond, but her eyes opened. She almost appeared angry with him, yet he slid a foot in front of the other and didn’t back down from her. “If something happens and we do have to fight Gladys, I want to be able to do it without being scared. O-or any enemy we have to fight.”

Ruby still didn’t reply.

“You can go into any fight without being scared all the time and do everything perfectly. Please teach me how to!” he cried.

“You spoilt little shit,” Ruby spat and turned away. Shelly gasped and froze.

“How… how does that make me spoiled?” Shelly challenged.

“I’m only like this because I have to be. I’m a freaking weirdo of a Cyndaquil, and everyone treats like crap because of it. If I don’t be strong, Pokémon will bully me, and my Mum’s murderer will get away with what they did,” Ruby explained. She pointed at him fiercely. “Don’t you get it? This ain’t some glamorous skill you can just learn so you can look after some girl you like. You do what you have to do or you suffer.”

Shelly hesitated again, and faced the floor. “H-how bad is it?”

“It’s not important, forget it. I don’t wanna ramble about it. Now pick up your stupid knife and let’s get training, or buzz off. You’re wasting my time,” she complained.

There was a long pause this time. Shelly eventually drew his knife and held it how he was taught to wield a sword. His left foot slid back and his right arm aimed forward to point the blade straight at his enemy. He shuddered like this, but his eyes focused.

“Ruby. When we’re done with this journey and you’ve gotten revenge on your murderer, what are you going to do?” he asked.

Her face contorted, and then she opened the Parashelter again. “You’re think you’re being smart, don’t you? The answer to that’s none of your business!”

That night…

It made perfect sense, yet it was a surprise how much the palace winded down once the sun began to set. Visitors were made to leave the castle, while the guards took up stationed positions or returned to rooms for designated respite. Vileplume guards replaced Lilligant, Shiinotic began to glow, and the palace felt like a forest with all the greenery in the darkness.

It was almost like a dungeon. Humid hallways patrolled by formidable grass types, where the only things one could see were the thick forestation between the walls, and the eerie glow of distant nocturnal creatures. The rhythmic marching of footsteps echoed down the hallways, as well as the occasional mumble, too.

This isn’t going to be easy, Lucca realised as he peeked out of his room. He slipped back in, where everyone besides Shelly was gathered. “We’re all okay with doing this?”

“Not okay, but we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do, right?” Ruby replied. “Just to make sure, we’re not going in with attacks blazing, right?”

Please for the love of the gods, do not do that,” Crystal groaned and slumped.

“We’re confronting her. Confronting doesn’t always mean fighting,” Azu clarified. “We find out what she’s really after, and if she fights, we fight back.”

“Negotiation isn’t my strong suit, but something tells me it isn’t you guys, either,” Brine said, and shook her head. “Doing this at night only makes us look even more suspicious, you know.”

“We don’t have a choice, though. It’s the only time Shelly would be asleep with Elise,” Kusha replied.

“I know but… look, I just don’t want to end up in a prison again,” Brine grumbled and turned away.

“It’s game over for all of us if that happens again, to be fair,” Azu agreed.

“Let’s go. Shelly and Elise are unlikely to come after us, but we shouldn’t waste any time,” Lucca said. Mimia barked with him, and they were off.

“I still feel really bad about this,” Crystal rubbed a flipper.

It didn’t take long for the dangerous dungeon atmosphere to take over. Lucca scouted the hallway as the group poured out of the room. He took note of where the glowing Shiinotic were, and where to go to reach the throne room.

“Is something the matter, Shining Warriors?” a guard asked, making him jump. He didn’t notice the duo of Roserade and Vileplume stood beside the doorway. He didn’t answer, but everyone looked to him for one. “Er, I got hungry again so I thought I’d look around for some fruit.”

“Leaving this silly billy to look for that is asking for trouble, so we’re coming with,” Azu lied with him.

“With your weapons?” Roserade asked with a sneer.

“No point in leavin’ ‘em behind either, is there?” Ruby replied. Mimia yipped in response.

“We can fetch everything we need for you. In case you didn’t notice, it’s very impolite to wander around noisily at night,” Roserade informed.

“No no, don’t trouble yourself. I don’t even know what you have or what I want, so let me take a walk around. I promise I won’t bother anyone,” Lucca assured.

“Shining Warriors, we’ve been ordered to ensure you stay safe. It would be best if you remained in your quarters, please,” Vileplume ordered.

“Ugh, I hate beatin’ around the bush with stuff like this,” Brine groaned hoarsely. As she did, Mimia slowly tiptoed around the commotion. “You’re threatening us to stay in our rooms, why?”

“To prevent any and all commotion. Please, bear with us,” Vileplume became desperate.

Lucca glanced at his group, and then glared at the guards seriously. “We need to speak to Queen Gladys. Can that be arranged right now?”

“Her Highness stopped taking visitors hours ago. If you had more you wished to know, you should have asked earlier,” Roserade complained.

“When she booted us out to spend time with her family? That would be fairly rude of us,” Lucca folded his flippers and closed his eyes.

“And in the interests of keeping her safe, we would ask that you leave your weapons behind. Remember that you are in our custody, male!” Roserade hissed. A loud thump sounded out and she fell to the floor suddenly.

“Huh? What did you—” Vileplume gasped before she met the same fate. Mimia was behind their collapsed bodies and dusted his paws off.

“He knocked them out, right? They’re just… sleeping?” Crystal whispered.

“I promise you,” Kusha said, and Mimia yipped in agreement.

“We need to be quick. The moment they wake up, they’re going to cause a ruckus,” Lucca warned. Brine ignored him to pull the grass types back into the bedroom, however. “Brine!”

“I heard you, gimme a minute,” she grunted as she pulled their bodies up to the wall. She began to twirl her kendama around, and after a few seconds, a string of water trailed behind the ball. The water spiralled around the grass guards like a rope and tied them up. “This should keep them for a while, too.”

“Huh. This is convenient,” Azu commented. “Not the time to ask how it works, is it?”

“They’re just my powers. To tell the truth, I don’t really know how they work, either,” Brine admitted with a shrug. “If you’re worried, they’ll be fine. The water weakens over time, but it’ll hold them like a rope.”

“It’s not that I’m worried about. It’s what comes afterwards,” Azu said with a sigh.

“It’ll be fine. It has to be,” Lucca tried to sooth her.

Even as he said that, he couldn’t help but be on edge from here on out. All he had to do was go to the throne room, but the anticipation of the encounter drove him wild. Exploring a dark palace filled with guards that were likely to attack him and his friends sounded just like their most recent exploration. The Greenhouse Palace was the dungeon, and Queen Gladys was the boss. The wary taps of his friends’ footsteps implied they felt the same, and was the only sound for miles.

If a war breaks out in Heroica, Pokémon won’t hesitate to use Bestia. My mission will fail instantly, Lucca told himself after a deep breath. We need Pokémon to see us as heroes, and we need relations to be as stable as possible when the Aska return. We just can’t have the Van Akens attacking, but I know for sure it’s what Gladys is after. Shelly and Elise’s marriage, the obstruction of the Shining Warriors, us getting her a chunk of Derris Ore, and the development of weapons and vehicles… It all adds up too perfectly.

Mimia perked up and yipped after a while, making him stop. Lucca didn’t say anything as the Stufful started to sniff around, and then turned to Lucca worriedly. “Something is afoot. There are more guards than there should be.

“So they don’t trust us after all,” Lucca said.

No, it isn’t that. It’s more like… please take a look,” Mimia replied.

Lucca slid around the corner to spy for himself – this was the only section of the palace not to have transparent walls. The throne room was mere metres away, but was guarded by eight soldiers; four Whimsicott and four Shiinotic. His eyes narrowed, and he turned to his team. “Fighting them seems like a bad idea.”

“Y’know, I could just burn this place to the ground,” Ruby suggested.

“If you did, all of us would be in trouble, too. You’re prohibited from using your fire, here,” Azu ordered.

“Whaddya mean? Brine can just put it out no biggie. You saw those water powers,” Ruby objected.

“They are limited, y’know. I dunno if I could put out an entire island fire,” Brine complained. Before they could actually argue, Lucca slid out into the open and waved to the guards, who immediately shifted in offense. “Grk, Lucca! What’re you doing?”

“You’re not gonna fight them, are you?” Crystal hissed.

“Who goes there?” One of the Whimsicott snapped at him.

“Calm down, it’s just me. Lucca, one of the Shining Warriors,” he introduced, and bowed at them. “We need to see Queen Gladys. It’s important.”

“They’re with me, so you know it’s approved. Apologies for the inconvenience,” Kusha bowed as well.

“Her Highness doesn’t see visitors this late,” Whimsicott replied.

“This again,” Ruby groaned and rolled her eyes.

”The entire palace goes on lockdown when the sun sets. Begone back to your quarters. You will have better luck if you rise early,” Whimsicott added. Just then, the throne room doors opened with a loud clang, and the guards spun around.

“Don’t bother wasting their time. They’re not going to buy it,” the Queen’s voice came through before the room fully opened.

“Your Highness!” Shiinotic gasped.

“You can fight if you wish, but you’re no match for them. You’ll just slow them down,” Gladys warned. Lucca mouthed a response, while the guards growled and leered at the group. “Don’t just stand there. You came to see me, didn’t you? Come forward and stand before the throne.”

There was hesitation in everyone’s moves, but they obeyed and entered. The guards came with them. The throne room was well lit by candle lamps on the walls and a massive chandelier hung from the ceiling. Lucca hadn’t noticed them before, but now that he did, he noted that not a flame was in sight. Every candle was powered by an orb which gave off a clean white light. This room didn’t have the vibes of night time at all.

“Impressed? Our developers are some of the best in the world, I would like to think. This room is so bright that it is as if it is daytime, despite it being the middle of the night,” Gladys remarked.

“I’m a scientist too. I have to admit, I’m quite curious and excited about it,” Azu agreed, and rubbed her back.

“Please don’t get nerdy on us,” Ruby replied.

“I imagine that is not why you’re here. I brushed you off rather abruptly earlier. What can I help you with?” Gladys asked. The group turned to Lucca, who warily slid forward.

“It’s related to the technology, actually. This ore you wanted us to mine, what do you plan on using it for?” he began.

“I imagine Shelly or Kusha may have told you already. The ore can be used to create wonder orbs. With Shelly gone, we lose our best method of mining it. It would help us if you could get a lot of it so that we don’t have to completely halt research and development,” Gladys explained. “Why, if you are content with waiting around for a few days, we could even supply you with a fair few orbs. You are doing us a grand favour, after all.”

“You couldn’t build a vehicle to mine underwater yourselves?” Lucca challenged. Gladys’ eyes narrowed.

“We tried twice. Both times, that Wishiwashi monster destroyed our machine, and… Pokémon perished,” Gladys answered. Lucca and the group shifted back a bit. “I suppose it is worth another shot now that you’ve dealt with it in the Shadow Palace, however. I must admit that I’m afraid to try.”

“I’m just concerned about what you plan to use it all for. I can’t think why an island as content as this would need terrain vehicles and the like. You’re at peace here,” Lucca reasoned.

“Your Bestia levels are good, climate is keeping you all healthy, there doesn’t seem to be any civil unrest,” Azu added. “Were you planning to trade goods with Heroica?”

Gladys shut her eyes and gave a great big sigh. “Your perception is frustratingly accurate. I seems I shouldn’t underestimate another woman, be they from another species or land.”

Lucca shifted forward again.

“Let’s hear it. How much did you figure out? How much did Kusha tell you?” Gladys opened her eyes. For an instant, it appeared her eyes were glowing red.

“I didn’t make sense to me why you gave us this task without saying right away what the ore was for. Also there’s the unanswered question of why you raised Shelly, despite your entire race having it out for male Pokémon,” Lucca put a flipper to his forehead. “You married a water type Pokémon into your family and raised them to be as loyal to you as possible so that you could dedicate them to mining Derris Ore for you, didn’t you? Ore which you could use to build weapons and vehicles with. Enough to begin conquest of Heroica!”

“Wait I didn’t mention that, why do you know about—” Kusha cut herself off. “That would explain why you were so adamant about Shelly never leaving, even after he became a Shining Warrior. Is all this true, Queen Gladys?”

There was a long pause, during which the guards tensed up and pointed their weapons at the group. Gladys sighed, sat down in her throne, and signalled them to stand down with a few hand movements. The guards reluctantly obeyed, but gave the group the dirtiest stares ever.

“I became queen after much arduous struggles to overcome the challenges left by my parents. To prove I had unflinching courage, determination, and godly wit, and yet, in the slightest of errors, it could all come crashing down,” Gladys said.

“Your Highness?” one of the guards gasped.

The Tsareena stood up and slowly walked to the back of her throne. “All throughout my time as ruler, I have worked tirelessly to better the lives of our suffering species. I prayed day in and out that one day the Shining Warriors would reach us and bring about salvation. This is the second time in my lifetime that I have ever met them, and once again I am faced with the difficult decision that they are my enemy.”

“You can’t be serious! Do you actually want to use orbs to rage war on Heroica?” Crystal cried and stepped forward.

“Van Aken is sinking. Our crops are failing. Rain is becoming scarce. And the sea is rotting into black water, so we can’t even filter it. My Pokémon are dying, warriors,” Gladys stated. She retrieved a weapon from the back of her throne and finally came back around. “If I don’t do something, we grass types will grow extinct. And I refuse to be below the disgusting species of mainland Heroica. I can’t expect you bairns to understand my position.”

“Conquest can’t be the only answer. The only thing Heroicans want right now is salvation, just like you!” Lucca cried.

“And what you did is wrong. Shelly’s not your lapdog, he’s just a kid!” Ruby chimed in. “You took away that boy’s childhood just so you could start a war? Is that supposed to be justice?”

“As a queen, I have to bear the burden of my Pokémon, even if it means committing an unforgiveable sin. It is all for the sake of our future!” Gladys argued, and took up a fighting stance. Her weapon was a huge boomerang with sharp blades on both ends. An orb was imbued in the centre. “We will not see eye to eye to this. If you can’t obey, then I will be forced to silence the lot of ye.”

“So you’re going to kill the Shining Warriors, and then rage war on Heroica. Then what? You need us to restore Bestia!” Brine argued. Gladys’ eyes narrowed as if she was smirking, making her nervous.

“You don’t get to be queen without covering for every possibility,” Gladys bragged. “Stand down, guards. This will be a duel. If I win, you will do as I say and mine as much ore as I desire. If you win, I will stand down.”

“So basically, fight or die,” Lucca drew his swords.

“Wa-wait, we don’t really have to do this, do we?” Crystal cried as the others did the same. “Angel hasn’t recovered from earlier yet; it hasn’t been a day! I-I-I think…”

“There’s one thing I don’t get,” Kusha spoke up. “Why hire me? You were so certain Pokémon outside of Van Aken are below you.”

“I hired you because you were a spy,” Gladys stated. Kusha’s eyes widened. “Did you really think I hadn’t figured it out? I knew from the moment you first came to me. You’re a Wigglytuff. A sound-based lass like yourself must know more than anyone else about doing as you will to survive.”

“You’re… you’re bluffing,” Kusha replied in shock.

“Kusha Brunelle. Despite being just eighteen years of age, you have plenty of years’ experience as a spy in the forms of seduction, infiltration, and combat. Your family subjected you to premature evolution in order to ensure your survival, and now you serve Mother Bun as a government agent for Vilé,” Gladys recalled. Every word made the Wigglytuff shudder harder. “But she sent you on this mission to infiltrate us for more reasons than you think. If you want to know about doing whatever it takes to survive in this accursed world, then I suggest you go back home.”

A Flamethrower attack interrupted Gladys, but she blocked the attack with her bladed boomerang. The group hadn’t noticed Ruby start the fight, but Gladys didn’t seem to flip out. She dusted herself off once Ruby’s fire stopped, and then tapped her weapon on her back.

“R-Ruby! What is wrong with you?” Crystal shrieked. Ruby ignored her and snarled at Gladys, who barely reacted.

“You also don’t get to be queen without being the strongest this land has to offer. I hope you didn’t think fire would defeat me that easily,” Gladys bragged. “You can come at me all at once. I will bury you, so-called heroes of Heroica!”

Ruby growled at that, and then tried her Flamethrower again. This time, Gladys spun to throw her boomerang. The weapon tore right through the fire at wicked speed, and just about missed Ruby’s head as she ducked at the last second. The group had to flinch out of the way as the weapon curled toward them before it returned to Gladys, who caught it effortlessly.

Lucca and Mimia were next with their usual round of aggression. The duo dove toward the Tsareena and came at her from the left and right. Lucca twirled around her as he attempted to slash her, while Mimia leapt up high to hammer her head in. Gladys rose one leg high up to kick Lucca, while a free arm thrust against Mimia’s paws. There was a grunt from both parties, but they all froze there.

“What?” Lucca gasped. Both of his swords ground against Gladys’ armoured leg, while her arm was rigid against Mimia’s paws. Gladys snickered cockily, but then Mimia suddenly cut her arm with his knife.

“Get off me you bassa!” Gladys yelled. She sent Mimia skidding across the ground, and then promptly kicked Lucca in the stomach so hard he coughed and stumbled back. Ruby’s Fire Spin struck her a moment later, and trapped her in the centre of a swirling flame. “Tsk. Do ye really believe this will stop me?”

“It doesn’t have to!” Kusha shouted, high in the air above the queen. She floated around the Tsareena with an unexpected speed. She breathed in and out carefully to pull her body in various directions, and spun at the same time. Like this, it was as if she was dancing through the air, and could swing her axe with great momentum.

Gladys backed up her confidence and blocked every attack, however. Even though she was stuck in the Fire Spin, she swung her boomerang against Kusha’s axe with enough force that sparks flew with every collision. Kusha was knocked around like the balloon she was, and eventually fell back to Lucca’s side, who was just standing back up. Once free, Gladys yelled at the top of her voice and spun in the opposite direction to the Fire Spin to erase it completely.

“She’s right. She knows exactly what she’s doing,” Azu growled. “That Boomerang gives her crazy range, but her natural leg strength helps even if she’s weapon-less.”

“Even Ruby’s fire isn’t working. Like this, her defence seems impenetrable,” Lucca added. He glanced at his group for a solution. Everyone was ready for the next attack, even Crystal who had an arrow drawn. Brine was close by with an orb of water on the end of a paw.

Water’s not very effective, but in this instance… that’s it! Lucca had revelation. “Ruby! Aim your fire at the ground!”

“What?” she replied.

“I’ve got a plan!” he shouted.

Gladys looked like she was going to attack again, but hesitated as Ruby began to spread flames across the floor. Only the carpet burned, forcing the group to spread out. She didn’t say anything. Her eyes merely narrowed.

“Now Brine, put it out! Ruby, keep burning. Crystal, Mimia, you’re with me,” Lucca instructed, and leapt forward.

“Yer off yer head. What is putting out your own fire going to achieve?” Gladys mocked as she defended the trio’s attacks again. No matter how fast he was, Lucca’s blades bounced right off her legs, while Mimia was slapped away. Gladys eventually spun to kick them both away, and then threw her boomerang straight at Crystal to stop her from shooting an arrow. The Piplup could only squeak and crouch to avoid it, but her flippers were cut and she was knocked down.

“Crystal!” Azu came to her aid.

There was a pause for a moment as Gladys realised Lucca’s plan was coming to fruition. With Ruby’s fire constantly being put out by brine, the room began to get steamy. Lucca snickered at her as he vanished from her view and slipped into the mist. He hadn’t damaged her yet, but now was his chance to change that.

“Clever dobber,” Gladys growled.

Now I’m in my element, Lucca thought confidently. He slipped and slid silently around the room, and then charged when he was behind her. To his surprise, Gladys spun and countered his slash with a swing of her weapon, but Lucca bounced off right back into the mist.

He knew where she was because he could hear her breath and growls of annoyance. What he didn’t count on was her reactions being fast enough to keep up with him. He would slide around until he could attack from behind, but every time he flew at her, she twisted to swing her boomerang or kick him back into the mist.

What’s going on? Why can’t I hit? Lucca cursed himself as he bounced back from yet another attack. He tried to stab her, slash her, even feint an attack – each and every time, Gladys stopped him with ease. Am I too slow? Or is there some way she’s detecting me?

He continued to sneak around as he thought, and then lunged for her from behind. This time, Gladys spun around him with a leg raised high. Not only did Lucca miss his attack, but that leg came down and slammed him into the ground. Lucca coughed on impact, and before he could move, a sharp pain crushed his back.

“Lucca!” Azu cried at his shriek. The mist began to clear, revealing Gladys had him right where she wanted him. He was crushed below her foot.

“You are just like all other males. A cocky Tepig. Ye think of yourself as better than the common Pokémon, but you’re just a petty dobber!” Gladys mocked him as she dug her foot deeper into his back. Lucca writhed and choked on his breath as pain surged through him. He felt like a drill was digging into him and melting his insides. “A disgusting, big-headed Tepig in the body of a spoiled pretty-boy. Do you understand who you really are?”

“Let him go!” Crystal cried, aiming an arrow at her. Mimia barked viciously, but Gladys paid them no heed.

“You are a peasant!” Gladys stated, and stomped on him with her speech. “A weakling. A pathetic, weak, snobby waste of time. Whatever gave you the idea you could speak to me in the manner you have? I’ll make sure face the roughest punishment!”

“Mama!” a feminine voice squealed, making everyone glance at the door. Gladys had to do a double take to realise who it was, but the moment she did, she froze and her eyes widened.

“Sh-Shelly?” Ruby gasped. Shelly and Elise were stood in the doorway, jaw-dropped

“What’s going on?” Shelly said in disbelief. There was a long pause as both parties stared at one another.

“This isn’t—” Gladys eventually staggered. Lucca managed to roll away from her foot just then, but the best he could do was lunge back to his friends and cringe as he rubbed his back.

“Not a place I want to end up again,” he coughed.

“Not the time for this humour, either,” Azu hissed at him.

“Se-seriously… Mama, what’s going on?” Elise gasped with a shiver. Shelly dared to step forward, but stopped at Lucca’s side.

Gladys’ eyes narrowed, and she glared at the group. “We had a disagreement, and a duel started. But how and why are you two here?”

“This bastard wants to start a war with Heroica using the orbs she’s been making. She was gonna use you to mine ore for rest of your life. That’s why she married you into her family!” Ruby explained.

“What?” Shelly whispered.

“Is that really true, Mama?” Elise gasped. Gladys growled and tightened her pose. “Answer me!”

“Whether it is or it isn’t is irrelevant!” Gladys snapped. “They are male! They cannot be trusted. And we of Van Aken are on the verge of a breakthrough that will save our Pokémon!”

“By beating up the Shining Warriors? Mama, what does that help with?” Elise cried.

“Elise, you must trust me. This battle is not what you think it is,” Gladys staggered.

“Then end it, Mama!” Elise demanded. Gladys gasped. “Stop fighting and being so mean to the Shining Warriors. Help them out!”

The Tsareena struggled to respond, and then stiffened. She finally composed herself, and shut her eyes. “No.”

“But why?” Elise shivered.

“Perhaps someday you will understand the difficult position you are putting me in. But I cannot do that,” Gladys stated. “The Shining Warriors will die by my blade or obey me. That is the only way for us to move forward now.”

“Mama, don’t do this. I-I won’t let you hurt my friends,” Shelly slowly shook his head.

“Then you will suffer with them,” Gladys warned, and the duo gasped. “Do not test me. Daughter or not, you will be punished for disobeying me. Shelly! You are delusional if you believe you can defeat me as you are now.”

“Lucca, Kusha, are you two alright?” Shelly asked, keeping his eyes on Gladys.

“Halfway there, but I’m not down and out,” Lucca replied.

“Healthy, here,” Kusha said.

“R-Ruby, I know what this sounds like. But please let me use your fire one more time,” Shelly requested.

“Sure, but I hope you have a proper plan. She’s been blocking my fire this whole time,” Ruby informed. Shelly held up his Treasure Orb, and that seemed to signal to the others what he was about to try.

I don’t know what he’s planning, but this boy’s got enough miracles in that orb to last us a lifetime. If anyone can turn this around, it’s him, Lucca told himself, and posed with his swords. “You just need us to keep her busy right? Okay, let’s go for it!”

Crystal finally shot a few arrows at Gladys, who blocked them with her boomerang. Brine fired spheres of water right behind, which Gladys also slashed through to shield herself. Lucca, Mimia, and Kusha took her on again, but just like before, were at the mercy of her mighty kicks.

Shelly had their back this time, however. After a quick rummage through his treasure orb, he held two orbs up high to cast them. One was a dark, cloudy orb, while the other was patterned with grey stars.

“Apathy and Nullify!” Shelly cheered, and a smoky burst came from each orb as they vanished.

“What?” Gladys coughed. All of a sudden, energy crackled around the orb in her boomerang and her hand where she held the weapon. It sizzled and crackled up her arm until she was forced to drop it, and she fell on one knee as she cringed from irritation. At the same time, the lamps in the room dimmed, and the natural night took over.

Gladys looked up to see Lucca, Mimia, and Kusha high above her with weapons raised, and shot right back to her feet to confront them. This time however, Lucca’s blades managed to slash her legs, and she yelled and recoiled as plant-like skin tore off. She stumbled away from Kusha’s attack, but Mimia managed to tackle her to the floor. Before she could get up, ropes of water appeared below her and locked her legs to the floor.

“Do it Ruby! Finish her!” Brine growled, tensed up as she worked her magic.

“Shelly!” Ruby shouted. She was puffed up and primed for his favourite attack. Shelly didn’t hesitate. He squeezed her stomach as hard as he could, and out came her Fire Burp as a massive star made of flames. Gladys had an instant to widen her eyes and cross her arms over her front, and then she vanished into a massive, fiery explosion that knocked the party back,

Everyone shielded their faces as a heat wave blew against them. They waited impatiently for the smoke to clear, only to gasp when it turned out Gladys was still standing. She brushed off a little fire that lingered on her elbow, and then she stood straight. Her front and arms were blackened.

There’s no way! Lucca screamed in his mind as he tightened his pose. However, Gladys could only take two slow, struggled steps before she collapsed onto one knee, and hung her head.

“Your Highness!” the guards all cried.

“N-no… I can’t… th-this can’t be,” Gladys. growled.

“It’s over, Queen Gladys,” Lucca announced. The others stood straight and gathered around, but Lucca kept his swords out. “You lose.”

“Sh-shut up! I can’t lose here,” Gladys growled. She could barely lift her head, but once she saw Elise’s terrified stare, she stopped struggling.

“Mama, just stop,” Shelly begged.

“I can’t. You don’t understand. Our Pokémon are dying. Our island is on the verge of collapse!” Gladys argued.

“That’s because of you!” Shelly cried. He picked up her bladed boomerang and pushed the embedded orb out of it. Azu examined it, but was promptly confused.

“It’s another custom-made Wonder Orb. Are you going to tell us what it does?” Azu asked. Gladys growled a response.

“It draws in Bestia to let the wielder use their natural powers,” Shelly answered for her.

“That’s why she was so strong? She was using her actual abilities as a Pokémon?” Lucca remarked.

Shelly nodded. “But it’s imperfect, of course. It made her super strong compared to everyone else, but she used up Bestia whenever she battled.”

“That’s why you picked an Apathy and a Nullify orb. You sealed both her weapon and her Pokémon powers, allowing us to damage her,” Azu mumbled.

“I don’t get it. Why mama, why?” Elise cried. Gladys hesitated. “Just tell me! I’m not a kid anymore!”

“Telling you all will only bring more pain,” Gladys warned.

“As if we ain’t had enough pain walking in on this!” Elise squealed. Hearing that, Gladys sat back and laid an arm on her leg.

“You there, Brionne. Your second name is Aska, isn’t it?” Gladys began. Lucca’s eyes widened, but he refrained from answering. “I thought so. I recognise your eyes. The gods truly do give us royalty the worst of fates and burdens.”

“What’re you talking about?” Elise cocked her head.

“The last set of Shining Warriors who made it here… there was a mother. An Azumarill called Nebilim Aska. She was the strongest woman I have ever met. Wise, burdened, and powerful. Truly, the noble figure fit for a Shining Warrior,” Gladys began. “She gave me a premonition and an egg. She told me of the three worlds and the three races, and how war would come between them all.”

“Three races?” Azu asked.

“We, the scions of natural law: the Pokémon. The water type children of the ocean: the Undine. And then the messengers of the gods themselves: the Angels. All three of our races require Bestia to live, yet Heroica is the only realm in our world that produces Bestia, and so it is fate that we will war for conquest of Heroica,” Gladys explained. She struggled to sit up, but couldn’t get beyond her knees. “I believed if I began an early conquest, we Pokémon could seal our victory. But first, I had to rule Heroica. How fitting that the Shining Warriors – the very next generation at that – would be the bairns to stop me. I gave everything, and yet it wasn’t enough.”

“We all just want to bring Bestia back, though. I’m sure we can all share,” Crystal said.

“And I’m working on a way that we don’t have to rely on the Shining Warriors for Bestia anymore. If they can succeed and my research moves forward, I’m sure we can work on a way to provide for all,” Azu informed. “But war and conquest is not the answer. That’ll only set us back!”

“What’s this about an egg, though?” Lucca asked.

“I do not know what an Azumarill was doing with the egg of an Oshawott, but she assured to me it was her child. She left the egg with me because she knew she could not keep it during her journey. After she defeated me in a duel, I made the promise to raise the child,” Gladys explained. She turned to Shelly, who perked up in surprise. “Your real name is Chico Aska. That is the name she gave you. I renamed you to hide that fact until you were older.”

“But you said you executed them. You killed my real mother and father?” Shelly gasped in horror.

Gladys hesitated again, but tensed up. “No. I am certain that three of the old Shining Warriors are still alive.”

The group shifted forward.

“Yes, they attempted to claim Van Aken as their own, forcing me to execute them. But Nebilim Aska defeated me, and then escaped with her husband and his loyal partner. I believe their names were Varra and Alver,” Gladys finished.

“There’s no way!” Lucca yelled and flew backward. Everyone turned to him in shock, and he struggled to close his mouth.

“Lucca? What’s up with you?” Azu commented.

“N-nothing. Sorry, I just… no, I’m wrong. I thought I just… eheh, sorry,” he snickered and rubbed his back.

“Heh, weirdo,” Ruby snickered. “So that clears that up, right? One more thing left to declare.”

“Your means to leave the island. Do not worry. I am a woman of my word,” Gladys finally managed to stand up. “I’ll see to it that you have a means to travel back to Heroica as soon as possible.”

“Heck yeah, but there’s somethin’ else more important. We won that duel, so we get to make a demand,” Ruby stated. Gladys growled. “Shelly! Don’t make me have to do anymore than this. It’s your show!”

“Shelly?” Gladys asked. The Oshawott slowly came forward, and then looked up sternly.

“I… I want a divorce.”
Episode 15: The New Queen’s Desperate Struggle


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Author's note: Yeah I never do these, so when one's here, you know something's up. Sincere apologies for the extreme wait for an update! I went to focus on my other fanfic for a while, and then the date I was planned to move house came forward. And then I joined Art Fight this year. And then some personal stuff with friends happened.

Before I knew it, I was swamped with all sorts of other responsibilities and I just couldn't find the time to get more than a line or two down. Things are finally calming, so I should be able to get going regularly again. Thank you for your patience, and those still reading!

You can treat this as Heroica Legends Season 3, and I promise things are shifting into high gear, here. Look forward!



Banner Lucca complete - Copy.png

Episode 15: The New Queen’s Desperate Struggle

“I just don’t understand. Why wasn’t I told facts so important?” Lucca rambled. He paced around the room restlessly while Mimia lay curled up in the centre, watching him. They were back in their borrowed quarters and it was past midnight, so the others were away and asleep. “Three races. The Pokémon, the Angels, and the Undine, all vying for Bestia in Heroica. Who would’ve guessed the Shining Warrior legend was actually this deep?”

I do advise you to keep your voice down, My Lord,” Mimia spoke through a calm round of growls.

“This is mind blowing, buddy! Because we know there’s more to it than that. There’s me and you, the Revenants, who also want to return to Heroica. But then, Mother, Father, and Alver were all the previous Shining Warriors… do you know what this means?” Lucca rambled. He looked as if he was trying not to go crazy.

You and Shelly, Chico Aska, are brothers. From the very same parents, no less,” Mimia answered, again through calm growls. He stood up and stopped Lucca from pacing with a paw. “Level yourself, My Lord. You must think what you intend to do from here.

“You’re right,” he said after a deep breath. “Our mission stays the same. We need to complete the trials and restore Bestia to both Heroica and Reverie. If we can stop the three races from going to war, that’s a perfect plus.”

And we have done that for the Van Akens. We must hurry before the others begin conflict,” Mimia replied with a nod.

“Tomorrow, we’ll ask Angel where to go for the next trial. For now though, I want to do some personal digging,” Lucca proposed, to which Mimia barked at him. “There’s no need to get worked up. I never really got to know my mother. If she really was this respectful genius like Gladys says, I’d love to know more.”

Are you going to go again?” Mimia asked as Lucca began to pack away a few belongings.

“Only if they let me. There’s no need to push for this, but it might be the only chance I get to find out more. Why don’t you come with?” Lucca suggested. Mimia yipped happily, and then they were off.

Their room wasn’t guarded this time, so the night felt a lot more relaxed than earlier. Funnily enough, that made Lucca lighter with his movements, and the duo were a lot quieter. Not that he expected much difference between now and a few hours earlier, other than a few more guards around the throne room rather than on patrol.

That was until questionable facts started to show up. There weren’t any guards around, not even the glowing nocturnal Pokémon that strolled through the halls earlier. Lucca and Mimia were as silent as the palace around them, and grew unsettled as their light steps began to echo like loud chatter when they shouldn’t.

“What?” Lucca gasped. At the throne room doors, a platoon of soldiers lay knocked out. Mimia growled as they investigated, but was quickly disturbed. “These girls are… wounded doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

Lucca grit his fangs and glanced at the throne room. It wasn’t silent in there. He slowly slithered in, keeping one flipper ready to draw one of his swords. The light orbs were off, and the only noises were grunts of effort amongst a heavy thumping. He managed to shiver as a familiar chill slipped beneath his ruffles, ignorant of the humidity of the area.

“Not again…” he whispered.

That whisper caused the perpetrator to twist around. It was Crystal, and it was just like last time. The Piplup had a crazed, aroused glare in her eyes, and was covered from head to toe in dirt and damage. Before her were mushy remains of a grass type Pokémon, who looked as though they had been smashed and stabbed far more than necessary. Crystal hissed at him, to which he drew his weapons and braced for the worst.

He was right to, as Crystal flew at him faster than he could comprehend in this darkness. The sharp end of an arrow struck his blades so hard that sparks flew and lit the room for an instant, just enough time to make out a comical glee on Crystal’s face. He wouldn’t get to question it as she flew right into her next attack, another thrust that managed to cut his flipper.

“Ack- stop it—” Lucca grunted as he desperately defended himself.

Crystal was ruthless and fast. She was right in his face and struck him again and again with her beak and arrows. Lucca could barely make out where she was trying to stab him, and quickly rolled to the side to gain some distance.

The moment he did, Mimia howled as he tackled Crystal down. He barked at her, but she didn’t react. She barely let out a breath or a sound from the hit. She just stood back up and glared at the duo, her eyes aglow in the dark. Both Lucca and Mimia braced for the next attack, but it never came. Instead, Crystal stumbled, her eyes shut, and then she fell limp.

“Crystal!” Lucca gasped, and caught her. She was motionless, as if she had completely fainted. “It happened again.”

Again?” Mimia’s eye widened. Lucca was about to explain, but something caught the Stufful’s attention. “There are more guards. They are on their way here!

Lucca gulped, and slowly shook his head. Crystal was helpless in his flippers, and Gladys looked like she’d been through a grinder. “Mimia, take Crystal back to her room.”

What’re you going to do?” Mimia replied in panic as Crystal was set on his back.

“Don’t question it, just go! Don’t tell anyone what happened here, and don’t let anyone see you, either. Go, go!” Lucca raised his voice and pushed the Stufful away. Mimia clearly didn’t want to, but sprinted away without looking back.

Now it was just him and the body. A few moments later, he could hear the footsteps of soldiers rushing towards him. He took a deep breath, raised one sword, and then slowly pressed it into Gladys’ corpse. When the soldiers came in, he made sure they could see him pulling that sword out, and glared at them over his shoulder.

Everything blurred after that, with only one thing clear: this was the worst morning of Lucca’s life so far. Mimia was able to get away discreetly, meaning he took the full blame for Gladys’ death. He could only watch solemnly from a distance as Shelly and Elise bawled their eyes out over the discovery.

It felt like almost every soldier in the palace had come out at the news. An army of them surrounded him and the Shining Warriors, while the family were allowed all the time and space they needed. After a lengthy mourning, he and the other warriors were thrown back into jail, but this time they were all watched by a platoon of grass soldiers.

As soon as it was clear they were going to be here for a while, Azu stomped over and punched Lucca in the face, throwing him out of his blurred trance. “Why did you do it? What the hell were you thinking?”

Lucca grit his fangs and almost retaliated. That punch surely left a mark on his cheek. He certainly felt it in his mouth. However, the moment he heard her tone and saw her face, that mood vanished.

“I don’t understand. We had a truce; everything was going our way. You had no reason to fight her. You promised me, Lucca!” Azu sounded like she was going to cry, and stumbled around like she was going to thrash. “Answer me already! What the hell was going through your head when you decided to murder her?”

Darn it, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Think Lucca, think! What excuse would someone as smart as Azu buy? Lucca tugged at his ruffles. Nervous gestures wouldn’t cut it. His chest was so heavy and twisted that it hurt just to be conscious. Azu’s desperation was only echoed by the silent but awkward glares of Crystal and Ruby, while Mimia and Brine wouldn’t even look at him.

“I wanted to find out about my mother. But when I got back… to the throne room,” Lucca struggled to speak. Shutting his eyes only made him envision Crystal’s frightening stare in the moment. Those glowing, navy eyes like wispy flames in the darkness, and the speed she moved at. “I just…”

“You what? You what, Lucca? What are you trying to hide from me?” Azu raised her voice.

“It’s like I said before!” Lucca snapped and turned away. There was a pause for him to elaborate. “When I got there, she was preparing to leave. She was preparing to launch that attack on Heroica after all.”

At his words, Mimia half turned around. Even though it was his closed, torn eye looking back him, Mimia didn’t need to show he had much to argue. However, the Stufful said nothing.

“Does that justify killing her?” Azu challenged.

“If I’d defeated her again, she would only have waited until we left the island to try again. War would’ve started behind our backs,” Lucca was desperate as well. He crawled over and put his flippers at her sides. “Look, you have to trust me when I say—”

“Get your flippers off me,” she hissed and slapped him away. “I trusted you, Lucca. We trusted you. You said you weren’t going to kill anyone again. It had to be a queen, didn’t it?”

“Lay off him already,” Ruby finally stepped in.

“Ruby, don’t try to downplay this!” Crystal cried.

“I’m not going to downplay this. This was a totally shit thing to do at a totally shit time, I get it,” Ruby quickly raised her voice to quiet them. “But what good does ranting at the guy do right now? We’ve gotta do something now or we’re on a fast track to execution for sure. We can beat up this oaf later.”

“I was hoping I’d be free of propositions like that, but she’s right,” Brine reluctantly joined in. She lowered her volume. “Brute forcing our way out of this prison might not be the best idea, but it also might be the only move we can make.”

“I can’t—” Azu whimpered.

“Azu,” Ruby glared with her eyes open. Azu glared back, and that seemed to relay a thousand words. The Azumarill sighed and loosened up at last, but tears were still in her eyes, and her ears flopped to her sides..

“Shining Warriors!” a woman’s voice got their attention, followed by a round of lances tapped on the floor. The group faced the front, where the Roserade soldiers had made a formation to let three more Sceptile soldiers through. Shelly was there, but none of the group said anything. Shelly’s leaf was a deep blue. “You scoundrels are to stay here. We only want the murderer.”

The group glanced at the Brionne in terror as space was made for him. The instant the prison was unlocked, lances were thrust, and he found himself stuck in the middle of a tight formation of blades. Three blades rested right by his neck, while four other soldiers surrounded that formation and marched with him. A single move out of sync with their steps and the blades would press into him, delivering sharp spikes of pain. It was a struggle to keep up, torturous even, the longest and most painful walk through an area ever.

He was escorted back to the throne room, where Elise and a few other soldiers were waiting with even more Sceptile and Whimsicott. With a signal from Shelly, the blades were lifted, and Lucca’s flipper went straight to his neck to soothe it. Shelly seemed to wait for the soldiers, but they refrained from acting any further.

“I need to talk to Lucca alone, please. You said you would,” Shelly spoke up. The soldiers exchanged glances.

“With all due respect Your Highness, we cannot afford to do that,” one of them stated. “This drag of a male murdered Her Highness.”

“A-and… I… have to be here now,” Elise said slowly.

What’s Shelly planning? Lucca watched in confusion as the Oshawott pondered his thoughts.

“I guess it’s okay if all of you hear. You have to keep it private, though,” Shelly said, and shook his head. “Lucca… what really happened last night?”

Lucca’s face tightened. “It’s exactly as they saw. I met with Gladys again, and we—”

“No,” Shelly shook his head, and his leaf glowed an even deeper blue. “Her body was… I’ve seen you kill a Pokémon before. You don’t kill Pokémon that way.”

“If you don’t believe me, then I don’t know what to tell you,” Lucca turned away. There was a long pause until Shelly audibly gulped.

“It was Crystal, wasn’t it?” Shelly shuddered.

It took everything Lucca had not to give away his surprise.

“Mama was covered in… stab wounds. Like those from an arrow. You don’t stab your enemies. You also have a big cut on your flipper. Mama liked to fight with her feet, and she wouldn’t use her weapon on you again. And then there’s… Crystal’s… heart,” Shelly tried to explain, but he was holding back tears. Lucca’s face contorted all sorts, which only seemed to scare the Oshawott more. “I know weird stuff is happening with Crystal. Her heart doesn’t move, and she’s as cold to touch as a dead body. Ruby told me to keep quiet, but then this happens… My heart is telling me there’s something scary going on. Did it happen back at Girage, too?”

“Wa… wait, Shelly. What’re you saying? Are you tellin’ me someone else murdered Mama?” Elise said.

Is it really okay to tell him? He’s just a kid… but he’s figured it out this far. If he finds out I’m keeping stuff from him, it might hurt more. At the same time, having someone else to talk about all this might help me get to the bottom of it all. To top it all off, he is my younger brother… it would do well to be closer to him, Lucca shuddered with his thoughts. He gulped, shook his head, and slithered forward. “You mustn’t tell anyone else.”

Shelly gawked at him. “You mean?”

“I don’t know what it is, either. I did get up to try and murder Esther, but Crystal was there before me. She had a… maddened look in her eyes,” Lucca explained quietly. Shelly shivered hard. “I didn’t know what to do. All I could think at the time was that it was a nightmare. Letting her deal with the fact that she had killed a Pokémon was unthinkable, so I took the blame for it.”

“So it was Crystal who murdered Mama? The Piplup?” Elise asked desperately.

“I didn’t get up to kill Gladys, you know. I honestly just wanted to find out about my mother. I never knew her, but Gladys met her. When I got here, I found Crystal maddened again, and Gladys was already…” Lucca trailed off. “You mustn’t tell her. You two have to trust me.”

“But you don’t know what’s wrong with her. What if she murders another Pokémon? The Shining Warriors are murderers!” Elise cried.

“Elise, calm down!” Shelly demanded. The Steenee whimpered, but obeyed.

“I’m as perplexed and disheartened as you guys are. She’s so innocent and docile, it’s frightening to learn she has this dark side of her that’s suddenly coming out,” Lucca explained. “But this is also the first I’m hearing of her being cold and having a heart that doesn’t move. What’s that about?”

“I hugged her when we beat the Wishiwashi, and I’m sure of it. Her heart wasn’t beating, and she was as cold as a dead Pokémon. You don’t need to worry about why I know that… I know what a dead Pokémon feels like,” Shelly explained.

Lucca grit his fangs at that comment. “But she is alive and well. Fully functional, even.”

“Please tell me what you’re planning to do,” Shelly asked.

“This doesn’t change the fact that we’re the Shining Warriors. I planned to try and keep it secret from the others while we complete the rest of the trials. When we don’t have the matter of Bestia to worry about, it’ll be easier to focus on her and whatever’s happening,” Lucca explained.

“Lucca, she just killed my Mama. I can’t just pretend everything’s okay!” Shelly cried. “We have to do something!”

Lucca grit his fangs again, and slowly shook his head. “But what is there we can do? Until we know what’s actually going on with her, it’s hard to do anything. I dunno why she tried to kill Esther and then went after Gladys, too. Come to think of it, where is that Pikachu right now?”

“We had her stay in her quarters before we all went to the Shadow Palace. Kusha’s looked after her ever since we got back. Mama planned to return her to Heroica at the same time you all were gonna leave,” Elise explained.

“I doubt Esther has much more information, given she already sent the police after us,” Lucca pondered it. “Probably not in a good mood either, being cooped up in a room for all this time.”

“We’ve ruined her life, too,” Shelly sighed.

“What do you think you’re doing? Who’re you- argh!” a muffled shout came from outside the room, followed by a round of similar phrases, blades clashing and thumps. Everyone turned to the doorway as quiet fell. They flinched when the throne room doors were booted open and a group of knights began to pile in.

“What the?” several soldiers reacted, but were immediately thrown into harsh combat. The knights’ large stature compared to the grass soldiers made it easy for them to stomp all over them, but they stopped when they reached Lucca and Shelly.

“These guys again? What’re you doing here?” Lucca gasped. “That’s the other thing. They’re after Crystal for some reason.”

“But why did they follow us here?” Shelly cried.

“What’s going on?” Elise cried in panic.

“She’s not here. Where is she? The Piplup?” one of the knights demanded.

“Do not try to resist or defy. We know she is with your group!” another one added.

Lucca tightened his pose. “Y-you two, get out of here and get the others. I can handle this.”

“But you don’t have your weapons,” Shelly whispered worriedly.

“Stop muttering! Answer us!” threatened a knight, who gave a warning thrust with his lance.

“I don’t get it. Who’re they? What Pokémon are they?” Elise asked. Shelly and Lucca exchanged concerned looks, and then Lucca slid forward.

“We’re in the middle of an important meeting. You’ll have to wait your turn,” Lucca replied. If I can get to fight them alone, I can interrogate them to find out more. But the kids don’t need to see this.

“Lucca!” Shelly cried.

“I gave you an order. Go, just go!” Lucca shouted back at him. “Elise, you’re queen now. You have to take care of him!”

“Uh-ah, okay,” she squeaked.

The fight began with a lance thrust at Lucca, who flipped to the left to avoid it. He stood on his tail to retaliate, but a second knight thrust their lance, forcing him to bend his body to the right to dodge it. He could see a third knight rushing up from behind the two that just attacked, so he flipped backwards to steer clear of their assault.

“Elite knights, huh? You seem clumsy,” Lucca mocked them. While they growled and threw curses in response, he spotted Shelly and Elise sneaking around the side of the battle. “I don’t get it. You guys are supposed to protect Pokémon, right? Yet here you are trying to kill one of the Shining Warriors.”

“Our orders are none of your business. Tell us where the Piplup is or else!” the lead knight demanded.

“Or else, what?” Lucca folded his flippers with a smug smirk.

“You won’t live to regret it, punk!” the knight answered, and thrust his lance again.

This time, Lucca bent backwards so that he was underneath the lance. With his flippers firmly on the floor, he flicked his tail up as hard as he could to kick the lance right out of the knight’s grip. The weapon flipped through the air, but before Lucca could catch it, the other two knights rushed in with their lances bared.

From his handstand, Lucca spun and jumped over the first attack, and then caught the lance of the second. He twirled around it, and his added weight threw the second knight off-balance. The third knight hesitated from what he was seeing, giving Lucca the chance to jump off his shoulder.

“You make this too easy!” Lucca mocked as he caught the earlier lance in the air. The whole time, he was flipping and spinning with style, giving him all the leverage he needed to swing the weapon with great force as he landed. The three knights were knocked to the floor. The enemies promptly stood up however, and now surrounded him in a triangular formation.

Now that there was a short pause, Lucca nearly lost his balance. This lance was over twice his height, and its steel material was uncomfortable to hold or lift. He did his best to avoid showing that however, and planted the weapon straight up with both flippers on it. Seeing the knights’ hesitation, he taunted them with a cocky smirk again. Shelly and Elise had got away, too.

The trio came at him all at once this time. With both flippers latched to his stolen lance, the Brionne danced around their attacks by twirling and spiralling around the weapon. The continued thrusts were simple enough to dodge, but the weapon-less knight was now in his face, and kept trying to punch and swipe at him. Lucca eventually spun around his lance to swipe him with his tail, which knocked the knight back into a stab from one of his comrades.

“Shoot!” Lucca gasped at the friendly fire. That thrust pierced their armour with frightening ease, and the knight soon fell limp. The shocking moment didn’t deter the remaining two, however. They threw themselves back at him with shouts and curses.

“If the weapons are that strong, then,” Lucca growled to himself. He gripped his lance with both flippers again and brought up all his strength to swing it in a wide arc, managing to hit both knights and knock them back. They stumbled for a moment and then fell to the floor.

“Alright, start talking. Why do you want the Piplup?” Lucca shouted, doing his best to point the lance at their face. There was no response, not even a twitch, so he prodded their body. They were completely limp. “Seriously? This took them out?”

He discarded the lance and considered his options. First thing’s first, I need to get back to the others. Staying alone is a bad move.

He retraced his steps as best he could, but was quickly disturbed. The palace had transformed into a war ground between grass type soldiers and armoured knights. Thankfully, this meant he could slip by without engaging, but it put his heart rate into overdrive. All around were cries of pain and agony amongst the clash of metal, while defeated and wounded creatures lay at every corner. One wrong move and the attackers would turn on him, and he wasn’t sure if another battle with knights would go as lucky as earlier.

He managed to slip through the hallways, but not without losing a few furs. A skirmish between Sceptile and sword knights had him squeeze up against a wall to get past, only for a stray knife to land near him as he broke away. Seconds later, a knight fell to the ground in his path, but the Whimsicott were too busy fighting to chase him. Similar close shaves occurred moment after moment, each one keeping him a breath away from screaming, until he finally reached the staircase that led to the prison cells.

Just as he made a break to roll down the stairs, he finally yelled as two knights flew up them and landed in a rough heap right in front of him. He planted his flippers and prepared for the worst, until Brine appeared from the stairs, quickly followed by the others.

“Lucca!” Ruby called.

“Thank goodness, they let you guys out,” Lucca sighed in relief.

“Not quite. The knights just came down and broke us free. Shelly was behind them,” Azu explained. “What the heck is going on?”

“I’m asking you, but this isn’t really the place to talk,” Lucca sided with them.

“I don’t know what we’re supposed to do,” Elise whimpered. The others exchanged awkward glances and gestures. The leaf on her armband was as blue as Shelly’s earlier, while Shelly’s leaf had a hint of red.

“You need to do what Mama can do,” Shelly stated, and grabbed her hands. She gasped and stared at him. “It’s super hard right now. But if we just cry and be scared, it’s not going to end well.”

“But what would Mama do now? I’m not Mama, I was never close. I can’t replace her just like that!” Elise started to cry.

“Gods damn it girl, no one’s telling ya to. We just have to do somethin’ smart,” Ruby snapped.

“We need to get off the island. The knights are after Crystal, so if we leave, they should follow us,” Brine stated with folded paws. “Not the most preferable outcome, but it should at least stop this needless violence.”

“I’m really sorry about this,” Crystal whimpered.

“It’s not your fault. We can get to the bottom of this,” Brine replied. Lucca and Shelly exchanged the lightest of glances. “Elise, Shelly, where did they put everyone’s weapons?”

“Oh, over here,” Elise replied, and nervously led the way. A couple of doors down was another staircase, this time to a storage room. This one was separate from the rest of the palace in that the walls weren’t glass or transparent, and it was mostly dark. The room was devoid of knights or grass soldiers, so Elise had no trouble finding and opening a chest that contained everyone’s belongings.

“Huh? Well that was easy. They weren’t even guarding them,” Ruby raised an eyebrow. She gave her Parashelter a happy swing, at least.

“I imagine they were guarding everything originally, but then the knights took all the attention,” Azu said, clearly distracted by the room. “Not the best time to ask, but what is all this?”

“Er, it’s our recreational storage. This is where I pull most of my items from when I use the Treasure Orb. It’s here and my bedroom,” Shelly explained. At that, Azu started to take a look around. Sections of the wall dimly lit up when she got close to them, revealing all sorts of things hung up there. Weapons, tools, even pouches of berries and orbs. “The soldiers have orders to put all their spare stuff here so that I always have something to pull from.”

“So that’s how it works. Ya think if they actually lit this place up, you’d be able to see what you’re trying to get?” Ruby smirked.

“I don’t think that’s how it works… I can’t see through the Treasure Orb,” Shelly groaned.

“I’ll still get them to do it, by the way. That way you have help for the rest of your journey,” Elise assured. “But what do we do now? We can’t hide here forever, they’ll find us.”

“Gladys did say she was preparing a way for us to get off the island. Do you have any idea about that?” Brine wondered. “We can finish what she started, if she was making a boat or something.”

Elise hung her head as she thought about it. “A boat? Wait… she couldn’t have…”

The others stayed quiet to let her speak. She slowly looked up at them, and her face was a little pale. At least the blue on her leaf had dimmed.

“Something ringing a bell after all?” Brine put a paw on her hip.

“I think I know what Mama was planning to do. It’s not a machine, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Elise mumbled. “Um, I wonder if it’s my place to ask… I-I don’t actually know what to do to stop these knights, but they’re beating the soldiers. I can’t fight them, but you lads can, can’t you?”

“They’re trying to capture me! What’re you getting at?” Crystal cried.

“If you can help me stop the knights, I can get you off the island. I-I don’t know if that’s a fair trade or not,” Elise proposed.

“Your Highness,” Lucca said, getting her attention. His face was stern. “It’s not the most ideal circumstances, but you’re queen, now. You’re making the right choice, putting your Pokémon first. Technically this was our fault, and it’s our problem, too. So it’s only right we do something to stop the knights.”

“But how? If they catch me, who knows what they’ll do?” Crystal cried. Mimia barked at her, making her flinch.

“He’s right. That’s our leverage. We present you out in the open, and then we get away. They’ll be forced to chase us, so we escape them then,” Lucca explained.

“Wait a minute, we’re not going to walk through the ocean again, are we? A-and Kusha can’t carry all of us. Elise, what are you going to do?” Shelly asked worriedly.

“Posia,” Elise answered slowly. That seemed to silence Shelly completely. “I think Gladys was planning to lend you Posia.”

“Posia?” Azu put a hand on her hip.

“She’s a big, strong water Pokémon. I’ll take you to her after we fight the knights,” Elise clarified. “She can breathe the black water. She was helping us mine the Derris Ore, but we don’t need to do that anymore.”

“You don’t need to anymore?” Lucca questioned.

Elise shook her head. “I don’t want to do it if Mama was making weapons for war. I just want to help the Pokémon of Van Aken. That’s the right thing to do, right?”

Lucca replied with a sound, but an expectant look from Azu kept him quiet.

“Once we step out of this room, we’ll draw their attention. You lead us to Posia. That a good enough plan?” Azu said, facing everyone.

“Fine by me.”

“It’s scary, but we can do it.”

“It’s not fine by me!” Crystal squeaked. “Why do I have to be the bait? I don’t even like fighting.”

“It’s you they’re after. You don’t even have to fight. Just let ‘em see you, then run after Elise,” Ruby explained. “Like it or not, it’s the best shot we’ve got.”

Crystal grumbled miserably as she readied her bow in both flippers anyway. The group made sure the hallway was clear before they gathered outside to scout. A few defeated knights and soldiers lay to their left and right, but otherwise, all was quiet.

Lucca tensed up. It was too quiet. No shouts, and no visible conflict in the distant halls, either. Instead, he could make out groups of knights pacing up and down. The defeated grass Pokémon blended in with the vegetation in between the hallways of the palace, so it was difficult to tell they were even there. He glanced at the group, and they were just as wary.

“There’s no point in forcing fights right away. Let’s move,” he suggested. Mimia barked, and then the group were off.

“This way. Our docks are to the east of the island. Mama made a special exit to the palace as a shortcut,” Elise explained. She habitually skipped, to which the group jogged to keep up. They stopped at the end of the first hallway as three knights were approaching. Despite the glass walls, the knights didn’t seem to see them until they passed around the corner.

“Hit ‘em hard!” Azu ordered, and tackled one down immediately. Lucca was right behind her and slashed at their armour, while Mimia took down the third. The rest of the group jumped over while the knights were down.

Azu hopped away and held her staff defensively. The knights were surely going to follow, but the one she attacked didn’t so much as twitch. A quick look at the ones Lucca and Mimia attacked showed they were the same. Three armoured knights, seemingly defeated by blunt surprise attacks.

“What gives? Are they weaker?” Azu asked. Mimia barked at her.

“He’s right. I’ll take it over anymore hard fights,” Lucca translated. Azu nodded and they were off again.

“Down here,” Elise soon directed them to a junction. The floor was carpeted, but covered all over with marks and tears from the battles. The Steenee pondered options for a moment, and then used her sword to shred a section of the carpet.

“Whoa, is that okay?” Shelly gasped.

“We’d have to move all the bodies,” she pointed to the knocked-out knights and Pokémon all over it. “I’m not strong enough to move the carpet.”

“Sounds like our girl’s finally gettin’ it,” Ruby praised. Elise sighed, and then directed the group down a trap door.

“I’ve never seen this. It’s just like the door to the lab, though,” Shelly remarked as they descended a ladder into another dark room. Mimia had to carry Lucca down, and still landed with a thud. “E-er, are you two okay?”

“Stairs. And ladders. Pokémon’s worst inventions,” Lucca smiled sheepishly.

Down here was similar to the recreation room from earlier. Dark walls lit up as they got closer, only these didn’t have anything hung on them. Instead, rows upon rows of workbenches lined the room, while tools littered the floors and surfaces. In the direct centre, a large vehicle was being built, and appeared to be almost finished.

“Wait a minute, this is… a Tropius, isn’t it?” Azu asked, and laid a hand on it. It was cold like metal, making her flinch. “It’s a… machine?”

“A Tropius? You mean the Pokémon?” Elise glanced back and forth in confusion. “I think this was turned into a lab for some reason. It’s just supposed to be a path to the docks, though.”

“How many labs did Mama have? I knew there was one, but it was nothing like this,” Shelly remarked.

“I… I don’t know,” Elise hung her head.

“It appears far more was being developed for the war than we ever imagined,” Azu pointed out, still examining the Tropius machine. “It’s a vehicle in the shape of a Tropius, and it achieves aviation through the powering of several orbs.”

She tapped the chest of the machine to show what she was talking about, only for the whole room to rumble. Lights came on and the machine began to move, to which her eyes widened.

“Uh, Azu? What did you do?” Lucca asked.

“I didn’t do anything! Ruby, did you touch anything?” Azu gasped. The Tropius began to stand up tall and loom over the party. It lacked a head, with a neck that led nowhere, and its broad leaves were held up on a propellor. They began to rotate, but it wasn’t enough to make the robot airborne.

“Why’s it gotta be me? I wouldn’t touch any of this nerdy stuff!” Ruby retorted, and flared her back. “Whatever. If this thing wants to fight, then we’ll bring it down!”

“After everything that’s happened, I didn’t think we’d be fighting a robot today,” Crystal commented, aiming an arrow at it.

Mimia barked incessantly at it, but it didn’t respond at all. The propellers spun faster and faster until a heavy wind spread across the room, keeping the party held back. Everything on the tables began to fall scatter noisily on the floor. Soon the group had to shield their faces, and Mimia took to growling instead.

“What is it even doing? My arrows won’t work in this wind!” Crystal complained.

“And if I tried to reach that, I’ll be the one flying!” Lucca added. He had his swords stabbed into the floor to keep steady, and Mimia was latched to him whining.

“Guess it’s up to me!” Ruby cheered. She breathed fire, but it immediately dissipated into thin air. “H-huh? What just happened, my fire!”

“The wind’s putting it out!” Shelly cried. He and Elise were flat on the ground to stay steady, too.

“Tch, annoying thing,” Brine growled, crouched down. With a clench of her fist, a puddle of water appeared below the Tropius, which promptly erupted into a geyser. The water knocked it up to the ceiling, and a loud crash rumbled through the room. “Now, hit it, hit it, hit it!”

Mimia didn’t need to be told. As the propellers stopped and the Tropius toppled into the workbenches, he hopped up high and wrestled the robot by its neck. He slammed it front-first into the floor, where Ruby’s Flamethrower engulfed it. The two attacks resulted in a wave of electricity across Tropius’ body, followed by a crackling explosion.

“Mimia!” Lucca gasped, having to shield himself. Smoke billowed out of the headless Tropius’ neck, filling the ceiling with pitch black burning. Mimia turned out to be unharmed though, and instead started barking.

“Phew. It blew up, but all the metal’s still intact,” Azu remarked. “This is quite the remarkable piece of tech. It was to my understanding that the Van Akens were like the rest of Heroica, but this is pretty advanced.”

“Azu?” Lucca raised an eyebrow at her.

“I see… I see! How clever. The material in the wires simply transfers the runic coding of the orbs as an energy source throughout the device. It’s like wires, only it’s natural energy. However the core orbs themselves use Bestia to function, so they’re not sustainable, but they’re super energy efficient. Amazing, truly remarkable! The Van Aken scientists are worthy genius!” she rambled, poking and picking at the robot. “Even the design is convenient. It’s light and hollow as a boat, but its sheer size and shape gives it the leverage of a real Tropius. Such a thing could easily be used as a transport as well as for combat!”

“Azu!” Lucca shouted. She still couldn’t hear him, and continued to ramble and play with the machine. “Er… am I being ignored?”

“It’s impossible to talk to her when she’s like this,” Shelly slumped and smiled.

“Of all the times, though,” Brine scratched the back of her head. The sound of heavy clanking came from above, followed by a round of muffled shouts. “I think they’re here. No doubt they heard that battle.”

The group except Azu all turned to the trap door and ladder behind them, not surprised to see it flip open. A group of about four knights ascended from above.

“There’s that decoy we needed. You didn’t need to be the bait after all,” Ruby smiled at a worried Crystal. “Azu, c’mon let’s get it!”

“I’m not done here. Go knock some of them out or something, it’s not hard,” Azu replied without looking up from her work. She started dissecting the Tropius robot at some point, making everyone’s mouths drop.

“That wasn’t part of the plan!” Elise cried.

“And really not a funny joke, either,” Crystal added. Azu ignored them completely and continued to mumble to herself.

“There they are! Contact the others!” One of the knights ordered, and their comrade promptly climbed back up. The remaining three had axes and a sword, and confronted the group. “You’re ours, Piplup!”

“We are not doing this one today. Mimia, grab Azu, Elise, lead the way!” Lucca ordered.

“R-right! This way,” Elise called out and sprinted off.

“Hey wait-put me down! Ah- Mimia I’m not done here!” Azu cried and squealed. She flailed helplessly as Mimia attempted to carry her. “Alright fine I get it, I’m right behind you.”

“Stop right there!” The knight called out.

Further on through the lab, the lighting returned to the dim hall of earlier, only with less tools about or places to work. The area looked more like an underground tunnel than an advanced laboratory, only the hall was perfectly straight and the walls lit up as they passed. The whole time they ran, amongst their panting breaths, shouts and demands were yelled from the knights behind them. Even as he felt his stamina tested, their threats kept Lucca running.

How long does this thing go on for? He complained as his mouth began to dry up. He must have been sprinting as fast as he could for upwards of a minute or a few, and yet the hall barely changed. The end was nowhere in sight, and back where they came from was long gone, too.

“Shelly!” Azu shouted.

The Oshawott was the first to slow, and he whimpered in his effort to keep running. He was exhausted, and sweat rained down his face. The group all stopped for him, but that meant confronting the three knights who kept pace.

There were no words this time. The silver-armoured giants just came out swinging, and all aimed for Shelly at once. Azu was closest, and rushed to hold her staff over them both. The first attack was an axe, and it was swung so hard Azu’s body twisted to the side as she blocked it. The next was the other axe, which knocked her in the opposite direction. Both were hard enough to make her grunt. The last was the sword, which swung straight up. Azu’s staff was knocked right out of her hands.

“Shoot!” Azu hissed as her staff landed behind the group.

“Azu!” the others cried. Ruby flared up her back, but it was obvious she wouldn’t be fast enough. The knight shouted a curse as they brought their sword back down, and all Azu could do was cower and brace for the worst. Lucca didn’t hesitate despite, and threw himself into the knight in an all-out attempt to push to over.

The next moment, he let out a roar at the top of his voice. He didn’t know where that sword hit, but it hurt worse than anything he’d ever felt. No, it brought on an agonizing memory he believed he forgot. The indescribable burn in his side that simultaneously sapped away his energy in a flash and fuelled him with the adrenaline to do what he needed to do.

Every part of his body seemed to shut down besides those he needed in the instant. His vision blurred and the sounds of his friends’ worrisome cries were muffled. Everything besides his enemy was in black and white. With heavy breaths, he glared at the Kartana with maximum intimidation, and then leapt straight at them with both weapons pointed straight forward and a furious roar.

In the next moment, the enemy was a knight again. Lucca’s swords pierced their armour and brought them to the floor, yet he had no trouble tearing his swords out and giving the other two knights equal punishment. He threw his whole body into them, slamming them to the ground and delivering a brutal slash each. When they were down, he too fell on his side, and dropped his swords in a fruitless attempt to cover his wound.

“Lord Lucca!” Mimia shrieked over him.

Lucca couldn’t open his eyes. His body hurt so much that cringing this hard was the only way to bear it. He panted heavily in attempt to relax, and to his surprise, he soon felt the warmth of water around his wound. It stung enough for him to hiss, but it quickly subdued the searing pain.

“Wha… what?” he whispered. Brine was stood over him, and bathed his wound in water. Shelly was beside her using an orb. He couldn’t see what it was as the Oshawott’s paws were surrounded by light. “Shelly, Brine…”

“I get the feeling you’re all crazy. I’ve hardly been with you a few days and yet it feels like you all want to do reckless moves like that,” Brine complained. Lucca blinked dumbfoundedly at her. “I can control water, okay? And one of my moves just so happens to heal wounds. Shelly’s Health Orb is doing the gods work.”

“O-oh,” Lucca replied, and sat back. He caught a glimpse of Azu jaw dropped, but she stepped back and turned away when she noticed him.

“Is he going to be okay?” Crystal begged.

“He will be, but if we stay here too long, more knights will catch up. Can one of you carry him?” Brine replied impatiently.

“If that happens, we’ll fight ‘em off! Healing comes first,” Ruby snapped. Mimia barked at her, and then scooped up Lucca onto his back. Like that, he charged off ahead. “Oh er, I guess that works, too.”

“As long as he’s not bleeding, we can get him properly looked at once we get a calmer moment. I’m not about to let him suffer,” Brine reasoned.

“Promise?” Crystal asked.

“Girls don’t lie,” Brine smirked.

The group kept to jogging rather than sprinting this time, even though Mimia assured them he would be fine. Thankfully no other knights caught up to them, so they soon reached the end of the tunnel. There was no door, it was like a cave exit cleverly melded into the hills. Looking in from the outside, you couldn’t see the dark, mechanical walls, only the grassland surrounding it.

Just like Elise promised, the coast was in sight. A tiny collection of structures created a port, although there weren’t any boardwalks or ships, only strips of land that jutted out to sea where ships could presumably dock.

“That’s… strange,” Azu muttered. All eyes turned to her. “The inside of the castle was a proper warzone, but out here is as peaceful as ever.”

Lucca was confused until he took a proper look. Everywhere else on the island was as quiet and green as ever before. You wouldn’t believe that an army of knights had stormed the palace. I guess it could be that they’re all still inside the palace, but if that was the case, surely they would watch the exits, too? They don’t know about this one, but I can’t even see any around the perimeter.

“It is strange they’re not still following us, but the less Pokémon get hurt, the better. Let’s get you all to the sea,” Elise nodded, and continued on.

But then what was the point of that attack? Lucca asked himself. Come to think of it, they had a way to chase us across the sea, but let us go in the first place. Maybe because they couldn’t fight underwater, but then they still managed to learn that we were alive and on Van Aken, and then got here within two days.

Lucca’s face became intense, but doing so made his wound ache, to which he cringed and wiggled on Mimia’s back. Something’s very not right about all this. This seemingly unplanned storming of the palace, but then leaving everything else alone, to the point of not even chasing us outside. Are they trying to lure us somewhere?

Just as concerning was that no Pokémon came out to see them as they reached the port. This section was closer to the water than it appeared, with little huts and gazebos built right on top of soggy wetland. Some of the grass and trees even grew in the sea, with their highest points peeking out of the water. Elise took them to the water’s edge and knelt down, though she had a concerned expression.

“Everything okay?” Azu wondered.

“It is. I’m just worried if I’m doing the right thing or not,” Elise sighed. “I’m sorry. All I can think about right now is Shelly. And making sure the lad gets to do the Shining Warrior Journey.”

“I don’t really want to try and give advice, there. None of us are royalty or anything,” Brine pulled a face.

There was a lengthy silence, so Lucca carefully slipped off Mimia’s back, putting away the obvious concern with a raised flipper. “You’re putting a lot of faith in the Shining Warrior legend, aren’t you?”

“… It’s what I was raised to believe in. When Shelly became a hero, I knew it was real. Meeting you all was the confirmation,” she replied, rubbing an arm.

“It may be rich coming from me now, but I appreciate the faith. That you’ve seen it with your own eyes, I hope that reaffirms how hard we’re trying to save this world,” Lucca replied. He stood on his tail to give a bow with one flipper on his chest and the other behind him. “I’ll treat this as an order from royalty, to we who have visited your island. On my honour, I will do everything in my power to see this journey through. I will save Heroica, Your Highness.”

“Sir Lucca… okay, you don’t need to prove your conviction ta me anymore,” Elise finally smiled, and stood tall. “As Queen of Van Aken, I will do everything I can do to help the Shining Warriors. That’s an order now, and a promise to a strong young hero, me!”

“Elise,” Shelly trembled.

“This is oddly royal for you both,” Azu commented.

“Hee hee hee, I’ve gotta learn, don’t I? And mopin’ around all morning ain’t gonna fix it,” she cocked her head with a gleeful grin. The others were surprised.

“The sunlight finally gave her energy,” Shelly pointed out, and they all nodded and realised.

“I’ll do my best to calm the palace after I get back. I’ll look for Kusha and Esther, so I won’t be alone. Don’t worry about me,” Elise explained, and then walked into the water. She carefully pulled the leaf around her bracelet free, which was glowing green. “Let’s get you guys going.”

As she got to work, Azu began to visually ponder again, and swayed from side to side. “I’ve guessed a few theories, but I think it’s better to ask. What actually are those leaves you and Elise wear?”

“Oh yeah, me too. They always change colour,” Ruby added.

“They’re called Gospel Vibes,” Shelly began, and removed his headband to stare at his. It immediately returned to natural green. “They’re from a rare type of plant that only grows here on Van Aken, and reacts to changes in the body to change colour. The important figures of Van Aken have to wear these at all times because their colour gives away our mood.”

“So it changes colour based on how you’re feeling. I thought so,” Azu nodded.

“What does it mean when it’s blue? That’s what yours usually is,” Ruby asked. Shelly grumbled something as his flashed that very colour.

“We wear them because it allows the Pokémon to know when we’re telling the truth. They’re also customary for married Pokémon, to ensure a stable relationship going forward,” Shelly explained.

He slowed as Elise began to sing into her Gospel Vibe. With the leaf by her mouth, her song came out as whistle, but it had a soothing melody that sounded easy to remember. Soon after her song started, water began to flow around her, mostly out to sea, and in perfect time with her notes.

Almost like a musical stave had been drawn by ripples in the water, her notes began to appear on the surface as bright yellow orbs. The spheres grew along the stave, getting brighter and larger as the song went on, and flew out of the water once they reached the end. Elise stopped singing too, and quickly skipped back onto land.

“What’s going on? Is this some kind of magic?” Crystal whispered. “It’s beautiful.”

The stave swirled into a whirlpool, and from the centre of it, a shadow began to emerge. A Pokémon for sure, a round figure with large, bright eyes. Everyone stood back as it burst through the surface, sending a light wave over everyone.

“Ack-ah hey, watch it!” Ruby coughed and spat.

Half floating out of the water before them was a Pokémon the size of a small boat. Not big enough to be called a ship, but big enough to ferry the six of them with ease. It had a yellow marking over its eyes like a mask, and antennae with yellow orbs on the two tips. The rest of its body was blue, smooth, and fish-shaped, though its back fin looked powerful. It gave a peppy cry that sounded like a sonar that echoed throughout the area, even though its mouth remained underwater.

“I’ve never seen a Lanturn so big before!” Azu remarked.

“Figures a royal Pokémon would have a royal ride. Talk about putting on a show!” Lucca remarked. Mimia barked with him.

“Are you going to carry us across the ocean?” Crystal wondered.

“Her name is Posia, and yes they are,” Elise confirmed. She bowed to the Lanturn. “Posia, long time no see! I’ve got a big ask for you this time.”

The Lanturn merely nodded.

“These guys are the Shining Warriors! I want ye to follow their orders for a while, okay? Take them safely across the sea, and come at Shelly’s call,” Elise instructed. Posia nodded again.

“I feel like I’m lookin’ at a water type Angel,” Ruby grumbled.

“Huh? What does that thing have to do with me?” Angel replied without appearing.

“It totally looks like you! Big round body, needlessly oversized, doesn’t really say much…”

“Excuse you, you would know a thing or two about being big and round. Would you rather I comment on every little thing?” Angel snapped. The oversized Togekiss appeared and pointed madly at Brine. “And it’s not like this one listens to me, anyway!”

“Hey I’m here, aren’t I? I never said I wasn’t going to meet with the other heroes,” Brine argued.

“At least talk a bit more to point us in the right direction. Speaking of, where do we need to go next, anyway? It’s been constant since we got out of the Shadow Temple that we’ve not really asked,” Lucca replied.

“Hmpf. Fair enough, mister bossy,” Angel puffed out her cheeks. She took a few steps and pointed over to the ocean. At first there appeared to be nothing there, but shielding him eyes from the sun, Lucca could just about make out an island in the distance, faded by light. “That tall, grassy cone in the distance is the Seafoam Lightworks. You’re definitely going to have some fun there, and that’s where your third trial is.”

“Has any of this journey actually been ‘fun’ so far? I’ve lost count how many times one of us could have died,” Crystal hung her head.

“Well the name Lightworks sounds cool, so yeah, I think there could be something fun there. Plus, all the good food we’ve eaten is pretty fun if you ask me!” Ruby raised her head in glee. Mimia barked and growled at them all, making them all stop. “What, what? If this is about the corn cob I stole, I promised I’ll pay you back!”

“Behind us,” Elise mouthed off. From the hills came a collection of collection of caravans pulled by horse Pokémon. There was hesitation until the rallying cries of the knights echoed across the world over to them.

That’s what took them so long. They mobilised everyone and came at us all at once, Lucca shuddered as he watched the army of enemies appear from over the hill. From their distance, they were like a swarm of tiny bug Pokémon gathering out of a hole, only their collective rallying and metal armour shook the air with noise. “How are there so many?”

Crystal let out a scream and twisted to run, but Ruby stopped her, and the two wound up hugging. “Get it together, sis! We’re not gonna let you get hurt.”

“There’s no way you’re going back through that,” Shelly pointed out with a glance at the worried Elise.

“Why are there even so many? Do they really all just want Crystal?” Elise asked. Mimia barked twice at her.

“Mimia’s right, we’re not going to stick around to find out,” Lucca stated. He took one glance at Posia, who appeared unfazed. “Posia, I apologise for this, but we’re counting on you.”

“All aboard?” Azu glanced at everyone, who nodded.

It was a bit of a scramble to get everyone on the Lanturn’s back – its fishy shape was wide, round and smooth enough that there weren’t any holds besides the antennae. Ruby and Crystal were nestled at the front while the others sprawled out and hugged Posia as closely as they could.

“Wait, Elise, how will you get back to the island?” Ruby gasped.

“We’ll figure that out later. Posia, let’s go!” Lucca ordered.

Posia finally made a cry, an angelic cry that was already familiar to the tune Elise sung earlier. It was muffled as she splashed to kick herself away from the land, and then set off into a full swim. Her upper half remained above water the whole time, and was suitably flat despite the waves and splashing around them. Posia swam mechanically, keeping perfectly flat and balanced, yet maintaining an impressive speed as she tore through the water.

A quick glance back showed the knights weren’t following. They lined the coast, raised their weapons and shouted threats that were claimed by the distance, but they were harmless. Lucca watched them grow smaller and smaller as they got further away. He had to take a minute or two to finally calm and be sure they had no surprise way of following. Maybe I do still have potential to be right. They must’ve gotten to van Aken somehow, so why can’t they chase us now?

“Aiiieee, come on, enough for one day!” Crystal’s scream brought him back to the front.

There were ripples in the ocean not far ahead of them. Huge ripples that forced Posia to stop or risk diving into them. Though the Lanturn had plenty of space between herself and where the water was unsettled, the undulations suddenly snaked their way over and caught her. She gasped in panic, but her size seemed to resist any attempt the ocean made to throw her about.

“What’s happening?” Azu asked. “There’s a whirlpool beneath us!”

“Was this a trap from the knights?” Lucca gasped. There was indeed a whirlpool below them, but Posia’s swim speed countered it perfectly, and the group only suffered a rocky ride so far.

That was until the silhouette of another Pokémon appeared from below the surface. The group tensed, coughed, and readied their weapons to prepare. Bright, turquoise eyes glared, surrounded by a serpentine form that swam rapidly in circles to create the whirlpool that trapped them. A second later and the figure emerged, its body stretching and curving around the party to loom over them. It felt like a storm was brewing, complete with the deafening crashing of waves and bone-chilling rain, all summoned by this gargantuan serpent.

“You again? You don’t know how to give up, do ya?” Ruby shouted on top of the violent splashing. The serpent monster was a Wishiwashi, thousands of them bundled together. Its body glowed all over with their countless bright eyes, and blew the party back with a roar. It began to whip its tail on the surface with surprising ease despite its size, creating powerful waves that added to the mess of the whirlpool.

“Hold on tight!” Lucca shouted at the top of his voice.

He hugged Posia tighter than before and had to clench his eyes shut. His wound started burning again, his ears hurt from all the noise, and the rocking threatened to throw him miles into the sky. He knew what he had to do, yet his body couldn’t move an inch, lest he fall overboard, or worse, get struck by this powerful beast. The best he could do was force his eyes open to wait for an opening, but even that hurt to do.

The worst of it came, however. From left to right, forward to backwards, up and down, all with no coherency whatsoever, Lucca was thrown back and forth, and each impact hurt. Holding on hurt. His teeth clattered and his organs felt like they were hitting one another or something. Before long, the screams of three girls took over everything, and all Lucca could do was attempt to reach out.

Ruby, Elise, and Brine was all thrown into the air. Though his mind told him to jump and catch them, his body didn’t react. It couldn’t. He made an effort, but a wave of agony pulsed through him, resulting in a yell and a tight grip on his wound. A mere second later, the three girls disappeared into the rough sea below, while Posia was thrown in the opposite direction.

“Girls!” Lucca shouted as the storm got even worse. Posia was spun, flipped, and more. Lucca had no idea how he held on, but he did.


Pull up a chair.
Well, after what was a rather spacious read, where do I sit now that I’ve seen our heroes (well some) now at fossil hill? Hmmmmm…definitely better than when I started. It’s had a few dips and I’ll get into those, but for the most part, your dominoe set up is going smoothly. But enough of that for now, let’s get into the review.

Season 1:

Lucca 1:

I admit, this one caught me off guard at first. It wasn’t to say that it was bad, but more curious why seals with swords were a thing. Of course, your explanation of Bestia and it being the source of moves was a good one, along with the realms of Heroica being the last bastion of this energy and even if beginning to lose it. I found myself enjoying Lucca, he gave off good protag vibes of wanting to go off and do things, wanting to understand why things were the way they were, and why he had to use a silly sword, heh.

Much like me, it’s good for the audience to relate to a curious character to match the vibe the audience has. I’d probably say the weakest part was the fight scenes, but probably because it didn’t really have moves in it for dynamic allowance which makes sense.

Though, I do wonder how those other pokemon wound up there given most of the fighting is being against Ultra Beasts, which does give a nice nod to things to come.

Lucca 2:

Oh ho, boy, this one. So this has some of the biggest highs and lows for what I read.

First off, the revelations were a double-edged sword (aheh, get it) in this one. The reveal that an entire people is being guarded by these two (technically three), Mimia being a feral now trained which implies some things (wonder what happened to the other ones, maybe I missed a line), And the prospect of the worlds being more constructed and fleshed out.

However, this does feel like we’re just rushing into things and like Lucca, it’s a lot to take in. Now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing since I know you’ve got a lot of setting up to do, but it does leave me a little bit of whiplash given just last chapter we had Lucca complaining about not really knowing enough.

Alver and Mimia do make good allies for our champion and the journey to the mountain shows the more barren aspects as well as some interesting things on Mimia. However, I don’t buy the father’s excuse. I imagine he either failed when he was a hero and thus was too ashamed to go, decided to stay and guard the people (which would make sense), or something else. But the reasoning of him just staying behind because “You don’t need me” when the fate of at least two world’s is at stake doesn’t really make sense for a guy like him to say, especially with how resolved he is to bringing back his people. I’d imagine you’d need to explain that better on why he answered that way or give a reason that would make better sense for him.

Ruby 1:

Enter! Anomaly! Engaging hyperfocused algorithm! Stomach gasses launching! And no Bestia required!....No seriously, why no Bestia? I imagine we’ll get explained that later, but Ruby as it starts hits much harder than Crystal does (which is fine since Crystal’s spotlight is later).
While I didn’t find Ruby’s backstory nor motivation to be really unique in the grand scheme of things, I did enjoy her personality and her means of going about stuff, even if she does come off as a special child (which she is). I do wonder what makes her special though. We know she’s got a Typhlosion mom so maybe the dad is the clincher in that? Wonder if we’ll meet him.

Also Smokes was a joy and wonderful use of underage gambling for a funny scene. Of course, we all saw the betrayal coming and when she just wanted an umbrella aheh.

But yes, things are heating up (Heh…laugh!) and so it’s time for the epic fight of fire on fire!

Ruby 2:

……Wow did I get blue-balled hard. I was so ready for some nice combat, but yeah…it ended rather fast, though to be fair, it made sense. Using Bestia is a big no-no and the fact Suzie and Crystal came just a little later helped to work in hindsight. Although I do wonder what connection Suzie has with those golden gauntlets that were taken, maybe she stole them from some castle, thus getting some guards on her tail HHHHHHHMMMMMMMMM….

Anyways, so yeah, guards from earlier (love those guys) start raiding and yeah, our duo has to leave. If one blue ball wasn’t bad enough, we end with Ruby pretty much getting a lights out. Will this be the end of two of our six? Find out next time (season) on DragonBall Z!

Shelly 1:

Not gonna lie, big tonal shift happened and perfectly fine. Shelly is shy and implied later on, though my god he’s already married, impressive if not questionable motivations on the mother’s part. Although, while Princess Elise is…..wait….

Oh…Oh no….
What is it Elise 1.jpg
Oh God No!

What is it Elise 2.gif

What is it Elise 3.jpg

[insert Elise from Sonic 06 image here preferably that one scene >:) ]

But anyways, I like this Elise more. Sure, she’s a bit bratty but she does know what to do and how to handle herself, their new retainer also works well. Though, it is curious what plans the queen has given it’s against the legend and even revoking the birthday presents.

But it was good to see Elise have a nice scene with Shelly at the end. I do hope they can make this work out and escape to do Shelly’s destiny……they’re not are they?

Shelly 2:

Double 0 7 up in this joint. Who would have thought that a foreign Wigglytuff with an Axe spray would come in and wreck shop. But yeah, seems legends outweigh whatever spy mission was needed (albeit it was said Shelly was likely a part of that so kudos on that).

Kusha also doing her best to keep things from going up a rating and the duo manages to escape, albeit at the cost of Elise going with them, wonder if she’ll be coming back later in the story. For that matter, wonder what plot the mother was up to and what she’ll do now that Shelly has escaped.

I think it was this chapter I grew to start appreciating these individual set up pieces and focuses. Shelly for the most part was able to play into his element slowly and whatnot, allowing him to really help show reasons why he was chosen. It gives also incentive to look back on the others and really think about their role.

Lucca: Leader and warrior
Mimia: Feral translator and bark dog
Ruby: Hothead warrior
Shelly: Support and healer

But yeah, that’s five out of the six done. Now onto Brine.

Brine 1:

Okay, yeah now suddenly why she’s named Brine makes sense. Interesting water mechanic she’s got there and nice nod to the “Battle Revolution on the Nintendo Wii” You sure you weren’t born as a mystery gift, Brine aheh!

But I do wonder if her abnormalities is a similar boat to Ruby, though not as insane depending on your point of view. Her being around Scar is nice and for a Muk that’s insane, he seems to be a pretty cool guy. The flashback I felt was unnecessary since it only really just showed a visual representation of what could easily be explained in a few sentences for not much better pay off.

The town meeting was interesting though for 2 reasons. One our dear Flygon weathermon. I do wonder how one just predicts these things, but she seems to be very invested into this whole thing of the Shining Warriors and even has the military supporting her.

I like that dichotomy of the army not being the total bad guys in this story. Sure, conflicts of interest, but they want to help preserve this world too and it really does help show some realism and understanding of the powers that be. Gladys was an understandable exception, aheh. Second the history of the past warriors and how everyone dislikes them. Given what these last ones did (But why did it have to be pignite, I like pignite) it’d make sense such legend would get a bad rep, if it was truly the shining warriors. That much has yet to really be seen.

I haven’t touched much on Angel yet, but I will say she’s been fine so far though her absence in this chapter was a neat little twist.

Anyways, yeah, things happen as expected, I get why it’s all in this chapter since well….the scene itself isn’t too, too long. Ultra Beat Plot twist! POQHT4C NC4PHAUT PC9A8P FC98TV[t q!

I wonder if this implies the UB came from Lucca’s world or if it’s just a stable. Though, it could mean wherever the Bestia is being kept right now, the UB’s are as well. Perhaps UBs are somehow related to mons having their magical properties or in essence, Bestia. Who can say for now, but yeah. Brine got her tail kicked and the two others couldn’t do much more help and we end with another freaking Blue Ball!

Season 2:

Alright, the season 1 has built up a lot for this season. A lot of ends needing to be tied so let’s see how you go about it, but first some grammer I noticed and one worldbuilding thing too.

“Ugh, you’ve been so selfish lately. You only care this right now because it benefits you.”

“You only care about this right now…”

“Various reasons, depends on the Pokémon and the place. Everywhere has its own food chain, naturally. Some Pokémon hunt for materials, like skin or hide. Some even steal habitats to survive seasonal changes,” Azu explained as she walked. She kept her staff out, and habitually hung it on her back. “For us, we’re travellers. We may not be the food, but we might be carrying food, Gald, and other goodies they can use. That’s why most Pokémon get kicked out of dungeons if they’re defeated, rather than killed. They just take what they want and leave us for another day.”

I…actually like this worldbuilding bit. While sure, the prospect of getting eaten is well…tense, so is losing everything you have to random creatures. It also fits in well with the setting you’ve made thus far and is a better reason for why folks would just wind up at the beginning of the dungeon rather than well…eaten.

Alright, Azu is introduced and not much to say about Azu so far. Just scientist person invested in the heroes and keeps them from killing each other. I have to say, I’m surprised Kusha didn’t stay with Shelly or why Shelly wound up here instead of Fossil Hill itself. Curious why that wasn’t really touched upon.

Meanwhile, this was a much needed Crystal focus and her insecurities start getting into things (I think I final noticed POV of the chapters is related to whoever is in the banner. Nice touch and I feel stupid for not noticing that before)

So the clash wasn’t between Ruby and Alver but instead with some Lycanroc…kay. I guess that works, though I was waiting for Ruby to just lust after killing Alver since I was expecting Alver to be with the two, but maybe that’s something for later. I’d imagine it is since it’s being built up that way, but yeah, we end on another cliffhanger (literally this time) and while I begrudgingly want to go on, this review will get waaaaaay too long if I keep going and I told myself this is my stopping point.


Definitely taking a lot of building up here. While the parts can be a bit annoying to go through in terms of how disjointed or fast paced they can be with the others, season 1 does it’s job well. As someone else that takes time to build up his start for a satisfying climax, you’ve done well for Season 1 making me interested in the events of Season 2. I imagine a lot of threads made will get their commupance soon and hopefully we’ll get to focus on how our heroes get together and hurry to their trial site to assist Brine, at least that’s where it seems to be going.

I do wonder more on the mechanics of this world, but frankly, I’d like to applaud you actually giving a good reason for weapons and lack of moves to be in this world. Too many people just think “Pokemon + Sword = Cool” and just throw it in without giving it any thought. Your stuff here, screams thought and it is built into the world in ways that really make it feel alive and hard to really replace.

It offers a fresh coat of paint in a PMD world where moves really can’t be used and the few exceptions are well, just that. Exceptions.
I’m curious where this goes and while this read might cause me to take a break on this, I did find myself enjoying the cast and would be more than happy to pick it up sometime again when I feel like it. Kudos!
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Episode 16: The Depths of the Legend


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
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Episode 16: The Depths of the Legend

From one mess to the next. That’s how things always were. Even when she was staying in the desert to build that village, every day was just a messy situation. What’s another life-threatening mess to throw into the pile?

Fighting the Wishiwashi storm and then being thrown into an ocean of black water wasn’t unfamiliar – the swimming in the sea part, at least. Or so she thought. What should have happened was the current would throw her and her teammates around, and then when they were deposited in a calmer section of the ocean, she could surface.

A minute in and that hadn’t happened. It didn’t even feel like there was a current. The Pikachu, Cyndaquil, and Steenee were kept beneath the surface by some magical curse, as if the will of the sea itself didn’t want them to ascend. Brine kicked her feet, paddled her arms, even used her powers to geyser herself up, but all she got was pressure as if she was crushing herself against an invisible ceiling. To make matters worse, the surface was getting further and further away, and her chest was beginning to ache. She was running out of time.

For a brief moment, she floated steady to gain her bearings. Ruby and Elise were having the worst of it, with eyes clenched and hands over their mouths, yet bubbles leaked between their lips as they strained and moaned for oxygen. They were so far below the surface that the sunlight was a dull, wavy sphere miles above. Posia was nowhere to be found. If they had any chance of survival, Brine had to do something, and now.

With a growl and a shout, Brine unleashed the strongest water move she could muster, and formed a geyser beneath the three of them. It definitely worked, and yet that ceiling of force that kept them down persisted. A splitting pain surged across Brine’s body as a current punched her stomach, while that ceiling crushed her back, and she let out a cry.

A nasty snort and a cough instinctively followed. Panic and anxiety swamped her form as all logic went out the window. She scrambled to fight that current as best she could, still to no success whatsoever. Only when her energy started to give out did she realise, for a Pokémon who was drowning, she was awfully aware.

“What?” she whispered, astonished as bubbles came from her mouth with those words. Her heart raced, but she dared to take a deep breath. Bubbles went in, and bubbles went out. “I’m breathing the water?”

She snapped to Ruby and Elise, where they were coming to the same conclusion. The trio were way out of their element, and yet they were breathing just fine. Brine approached to link paws as their descent continued.

“Did I die already? This has gotta be a dream, right?” Ruby asked.

“Your amulet’s still good, so I hope you’re not dead. Something cool’s happening, that’s all,” Brine replied. “And now that I look around…”

“This ain’t anything like the sea around Van Aken,” Elise remarked.

In the distance was terrain one would expect from under the sea. Rocky coral reefs, mossy trenches, and colourful algae, most of which was obscured by the dark distance of the black water. Not a single Pokémon or even as much as a bubble was in sight, telling of a truly dead ocean.

Directly below them however, as the ocean willed them towards it, was another palace. A wondrous set of towers and walls of shapes so alien it was a wonder how it all functioned. It was so deep and rounded in shape that the pressure should have reduced it to ruins, yet unnatural light beamed from the many open slots within the palace grounds. Brine and company landed right in front of the palace gates, a perfect circle in the wall with four doors that opened in four directions. It was wide open for them.

“What’s going on? Where are we?” Elise gasped.

“The bottom of the ocean, obviously,” Brine answered. She swam up to the doors, and found nothing to be wary of. All she could hear was the light bubbling of distant currents. “Looks like we’re being given the grand welcome.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling in my gut,” Ruby commented.

“Whatever’s keeping us down here, we obviously don’t have a choice. C’mon, before whatever this magic that’s stopping us from drowning runs out,” Brine replied, and then led the way.

“Who died and made you leader?” Ruby complained. The chubby Cyndaquil had no chance of keeping up with her, though.

What is all this? These pillars and walls all have holes and cracks all over them, Brine realised, paying closer attention to her surroundings. There were pillars with windows on them, and orbs and flowers that shone to illuminate the place. However, nothing had any organization to it. The pillars weren’t in a pattern, the ceiling and floor sloped and twisted, and the windows looked more like holes that happened to be there.

At least it was tranquil, here. Too tranquil. Specks floated almost totally still, while tiny bubbles audibly rose from cracks here and there. Even though the path was straight and wide, the same as any other royal palace, Brine felt as though she was being directed through a mystery dungeon rather than a fancy building, complete with being watched from all angles.

Another set of doors sat at the far end of the corridor, and through those was an audience chamber. A tall slope of steps welcomed the group, surrounded on all sides by an arrangement of seats like those in an opera house. The seats were all far away enough that they were silhouettes in shades of blue, yet the group could make out the eyes and glows of Pokémon present. Brine was wary, but paddled up the slope.

“There you are. You took your time getting here for those who were so graciously invited,” the main Pokémon began.

Sat in a grand throne surrounded by all sorts of random trinkets was a small creature. With a droplet shaped head, stubby arms, and a bag shaped body adorned with a red gem, something about his posh voice and pampered face exuded authority. Even his eyes had yellow spots above them, like some fancy makeup attached to unnaturally straight eyelashes.

“Wait, you look familiar,” Brine whispered in concern.

“Do I? I believe I would recognise a Watermarked I have met before. It is only my mandate as ruler of the sea,” the Pokémon replied tiredly. They dug through the piles of junk beside them, making the group wary they might pull a weapon. They retrieved a paddle ball instead, and began to play it – a wonder it even worked underwater. “Just call me Manaphy. I don’t tend to care for the royal formalities.”

So you recognise that I’m watermarked, Brine remained tense. “Is it your magic that lets us breathe water?”

“Something like that. It’s more like a rule of my domain, my presence. Putting it in terms peasants would understand: I am so powerful that my mere presence allows a miracle like that to happen. Once you leave this region however, you won’t be able to breathe water, so don’t try,” Manaphy explained. He stopped playing, sighed, and chucked the toy back into the pile. “As long as you are in my presence, you are safe here. I can turn this power off, though! So don’t try anything funny. You’ll die quicker than you can comprehend under all this water pressure!”

“So you’re obviously threatening us for a reason. Was that your Wishiwashi up there?” Ruby scowled.

“As a matter of fact, yes, they were. I’ve had legions of puppeteer Wishiwashi for decades, but they got corrupted by that legend and became guardians of a Bestia Fountain on the surface. You can’t imagine my surprise when Shining Warriors strong enough to beat them finally came along!” Manaphy remarked excitedly. He leaned forward in his throne, and his eyes started to gleam. “Even more surprising that there was not one, but three Watermarked amongst them. Our time of suffering is close to an end!”

“You had better start from the top. I still have a load of questions,” Brine cocked her head.

Manaphy sat back in his throne and sighed. “So you three have got to be smart enough to know about the Undine, right? The Pokémon who rule the ocean. My Pokémon.”

“You’re the ruler of the Undine,” Brine shifted back a bit. If she could sweat here, she would be.

“Over the years we’ve been in hiding, since the Shining Warrior mess started. But when the Pokémon of Heroica started abusing Bestia and my oceans turned black, I knew I had to strike back. Heroica cannot be ruled by Pokémon any longer,” Manaphy explained. He rummaged through his pile again, and started admiring the various toys and house décor he picked up.

“That’s kinda why we’re here. We do all the trials, we bring Bestia back to the world. The sea turns back to normal, yeah? So no need to start a war,” Ruby explained.

“And what happens ten years later when the Bestia runs low again?” Manaphy challenged. Ruby growled. “Those power-hungry oafs can’t even support the warriors enough to complete the journey in the past fifty years or something. Whoever’s ruling them is doing a grand old job of trying to get us all killed!”

“U-um, Your Highness, these Pokémon are trying their best. I can, erm, attest to their devotion to—” Elise shifted forward.

“If they’re devoted and all that, then you’re all the more reason I need you,” Manaphy stated. The group fell silent. “You three are watermarked. No one wants you in this world. Not the Undine, not the Pokémon, and not even the angels who supposedly created us all. You’re a living sin amongst the Pokémon and we Undine. Therefore, you have nothing to lose with this proposition.”

The group remained silent, but their faces said it all.

“When you do all six trials and earn the Shining Warrior’s sword, use it to put all the Bestia into the ocean. Destroy Heroica so that we Undine can conquer it. We can rebuild a realm of peace on its drowned corpse,” Manaphy ordered.

“Why the hell would we do that?” Ruby replied instantly.

“Because if you do, I will recognise you as true heroes, and take care of you. You have a chance to forsake your inherent sinful births and become not just citizens of the sea, but be recognised as heroes amongst the Undine. Everything is in your favour,” Manaphy explained.

“Am I really a watermarked Pokémon? I don’t know what that is,” Elise admitted.

“They’re half-Undine,” Brine turned to her. “Undine are water Pokémon who live in the sea, and Pokémon, the creatures who occupy Heroica. A watermarked Pokémon is born when a Pokémon and an Undine breed. It’s normally impossible, but miracles can happen. It’s why I have water powers.”

“Azu said I might be one, but I wrote her off for it. You’re telling me I really am? A half-Undine?” Ruby grumbled.

“That doesn’t make sense for me, though. Van Akens don’t breed, we are all women grown from seeds planted in the earth,” Elise explained.

“Bwahaha! What a farce! That the stories they feed you to keep things PG now?” Manaphy laughed sarcastically. Elise could only blink in surprise. “Oh my, you truly believe it, too. Your mother is quite a sinner. You have a father, Queen Elise. An Undine father who was executed for breeding with a Pokémon!”

“But how…?” Elise whispered.

“By breeding, of course! You can hold your breath for great lengths of time, can you not? That is why Gladys had you explore the Van Aken cave and mine ore there for her. She even married you to a water type Pokémon, knowing that would be the only way for you to conceive. You are a Watermarked through and through!” Manaphy stated. Elise couldn’t close her mouth. “Pokémon do not support freaks like you, and neither do we Undine. Frankly, just the sight of you all makes me want kill you all right now. But you are Shining Warriors, and thus, I must support you if I am to support my Pokémon. And so, we have this proposition.”

“Like hell we’d do that, though!” Ruby snapped. Manaphy finally went straight faced and started paying proper attention.

“Surely you must know what it’s like to live a life where you are discriminated against, yes?” Manaphy asked. “You, overweight Cyndaquil with open eyes, and you, a Pikachu with water powers in a realm where Pokémon cannot use their attacks and abilities.”

“What’s your point?” Brine replied. She couldn’t help speak slowly, however. The words hurt.

“Give it one long, hard, proper think. I can wait for a while,” Manaphy swished his hand carefree. “If you guys went and restored Bestia to Heroica, you would still be condemned for who you are. Constant name-calling, Pokémon fearing you and your powers, no friends or others you can truly rely on. Would you really want to return to a pitiful life like that, despite being a hero?”

You’re wrong, is what Brine wanted to say so, so badly. Her mind kept saying it, but even deeper, memories played out at Manaphy’s words.

“Kill the Heroicans. Give we Undine the Bestia, and save my realm. You will be able to live the remainder of your lives in comfort, treated as true heroes. Return the sea to the natural blue it once was,” Manaphy continued.

There was silence for a while. The trio stared at Manaphy, who seemed to be completely unbothered by their appearances. Brine felt sick for even considering this, but it was truly a tasty proposition. After all those years of being the outcast, this guy really wants to give me the hero status? That’d be a comfortable future. I’d love to get back at the jerks who treated me badly. Anyone would, right? And some Pokémon out there actually would do it. But I don’t want it that badly. I’m just not one of those Pokémon…

“I don’t know what Heroicans are actually like. I’ve only heard stories, and met this group,” Elise began, and floated forward. “Over the past few days, all I have seen are harsh battles and feral violence. I have seen many Pokémon fatally hurt, and even lost my mother. So perhaps it’s kinda shallow, but I don’t want to see or bring about anymore needless violence or death.”

Manaphy seemed surprised, which Elise took to stand tall and proud.

“Creating more suffering will bring nothing! It will only drive surviving Heroicans to more violence and revenge!” she stated. “I am now ruler of Van Aken, and I wish to bring about peace, so I will go by what I know of Heroicans – these Pokémon, the Shining Warriors. They have shown me they can be friends, and want nothing but to save Heroica. It is their choice what to do with the Bestia and I will depend on that!”

“And besides,” Ruby came forward with a cheeky smirk on her face. “What happens when we’re your so-called heroes, anyway?”

“You’ll be accepted as Undine and citizens of my realm. My children, to be direct. You’ll live as royalty for the remainder of your lives,” Manaphy became bored again. “I suppose not much would change for the Steenee, but for the two of you, there are zero negatives over the lives you currently live.”

“Uh huh. And I’m the dumb fat kid who can only think about food and see the next ten seconds in front of me,” Ruby replied. Manaphy’s eyes narrowed, and some chatter started I the distance. “We’d become your slaves or something. You said it yourself; we can only breathe because we’re near to you. If the sea took over Heroica, we’d need to stay near to you forever, or we’d just drown.”

Somehow, I didn’t think about that. And that’s the least of our worries. I’m a normal Pikachu outside of this, I can’t imagine what would happen to my body if I tried to live in the sea 24/7, Brine cocked her head.

“Wait, surely you would have a solution to our breathing, right? Ye not going to just kill us after we give you the Bestia, are ye?” Steenee gasped.

“Of course he is. That’s exactly the kinda thing a Pokémon would do to a weirdo like me,” Ruby replied. Manaphy didn’t reply. “So can this crap! What’re you really after?”

There was a long pause, disrupted by the gradually increasing chatter of the distant onlookers. Comments could be made out, rude comments, all derogatory the trio had heard before. Manaphy soon ordered silence with a tired sigh, and tipped his head back in his throne.

“So you do have brains in those skulls of yours. You’re right, half-breeds like you have no place in Undine society. We would never in a million years accept you as heroes, let alone living things worth the oxygen you waste,” Manaphy said.

“But why?” Elise covered her mouth.

“You are completely right, Cyndaquil. You are Shining Warriors; we just want you power. Once we are done with you, we will claim our rightful place as rulers of Heroica, and take back the land just as they stole the sea from us,” Manaphy stated. He floated off his throne and approached Ruby directly, backed up the cheers and chatter of the onlookers. “I tried to be nice about it, but this is now a threat. You understand that, right? Follow my orders, or I will drown you all, right here and now. You don’t have a choice in this matter!”

“Then do it,” Brine pushed her way between the group. Her face was fierce.

“Miss Brine!” Elise gasped.

“We’ll never accept this ludicrous plan of yours, so hurry up and drown us. Kill the Shining Warriors and end the journey for a decade more.,” Brine replied.

“Do you think you’re being brave, half-breed? I don’t think you realise just how easy and how painful it would be. The pressure here would grind you to dust in an instant, all while you choke on brine!” Manaphy went even closer. Their noses were touching.

“Funny, it has my name on it. So I welcome the challenge,” Brine replied.

The two Pokémon remained up in each other’s face, silently snarling and cursing. Brine especially was a single trigger away from abusing Angel to unleash a Thunderbolt right into Manaphy, but held back with closed fists and a stiff form.

“Tsk,” Manaphy eventually backed down.

“Because you would lose your precious plan. Us succeeding is the only way to remove the black water. You need us,” Brine argued. “So instead of threatening our lives and trying to take advantage to kickstart a pointless war, how about you actually try to help your Pokémon and this world?”

“Why would I help a world filled with selfish creatures like Pokémon and Angels? Angels sit upon their almighty throne behaving as if they are omnipotent saviours, while they do nothing but watch the world decay. And the Pokémon steal our oceans and fight each other for dominance of the land like feral children!” Manaphy argued. “This is a world that is beyond saving. Naïve young things like you will one day realise that. Heroica must be cleansed! Washed away! Reformed into a world in which only dominant species can rule! The Undine!”

The trio spun around as cheers rang throughout the palace, and many lights shone and flickered across the surrounding stands. Brine quickly recovered however, and glared at Manaphy. “Look, you’re right. Pokémon are selfish, and goodness knows what the Angels are doing. But do you honestly think that just killing everyone is going to solve Heroica’s conflicts? Pokémon aren’t draining Bestia from the sea because they want to!”

“How would you know?”

“Because I’m a Watermarked Pikachu! I live on land, while you sit here issuing orders, and I guess some scouts or something report to you. You don’t know a thing about what Pokémon are really like!” Brine raised her voice. “I’ll save Heroica. And I’ll do it without your pathetic, cowardly revenge genocide ideology. If your Undine stand in my way, I’ll stop them, too.”

“You think you can stop us all from trying to claim our rightful places as rulers of Heroica?” Manaphy challenged.

“That’s not my aim,” Brine shook her head, and Manaphy went straight faced. “You might think it’s petty or impossible, but my aim is to end all this pointless fighting and discrimination. I want to make a world where all of us, Pokémon, Undine, Angel, and everything in between, can live in peace and not have to fight over Bestia. That’s why I’m a Shining Warrior. That’s what I have the power to do.”

There was another lengthy pause, but Manaphy finally raised an arm to silence the audience. He dug into his pile and retrieved his paddle ball, and leaned on the side of his throne to play with it. “It seems we will never see eye-to-eye. I hate childish things like you. Here I am with the power to disintegrate you all in a matter of seconds, backed up my history of suffering, factual evidence of current matters that even you are aware of, and clean motives that serve to perfect this world, and yet you stand against me with a bizarre, no-violence approach.”

“I mean, I don’t fancy being used as a tool to help your Undine, only to be lied to and drowned just because you don’t see me as a living thing. Heck, I didn’t ask to be born a Watermarked Pokémon!” Ruby argued.

Manaphy slowed to pay attention to them. “However, I am intrigued how this little game will play out. After all, it has been a very long time since I have had the Shining Warriors in my presence. Therefore, I will play along, and get out of this the best outcome for my Undine.”

“You’re going to help us?” Elise smiled.

“No, I will not,” Manaphy said, and her smile faded. “I will mobilise my armies and prepare for conquest of Heroica. However, we will stay and watch to see the result of your attempt at coexistence.”

The group shifted away, and Manaphy stared Brine directly in the eyes.

“The moment your attempts are irreversible, we will begin our conquest,” Manaphy stated. He clapped his stubby hands, and a school of Wishiwashi promptly swarmed behind his throne. He then pointed at the group, who were given an instant to lean back before the Wishiwashi swirled around them, creating a gigantic whirlpool.

“Not again!” Brine growled.

She wasn’t able to grab hands with the others, and was thrown into a spiralling ascent. She grunted and kicked her body to keep herself upright, barely able to hear the cries and gurgles of the other girls amongst the shrill squeaks of the fish circling them. Dark splotches took over her eyesight too, with small windows to give her glimpses of her friends and the outside ocean.

Before she knew it, dangerous instincts were kicking in. Brine couldn’t breathe. She hadn’t taken a breath, and was choking on water. The Wishiwashi wouldn’t let up however, and kept circling to carry her back up. It took all her might, but she slapped her paws over her mouth and resisted breathing as much as she could, eyes shut as the world started to blur from her.

Before she knew it, the pull from the swarm of fish let up, and she snapped back to reality. Brine and friends were deposited right below the surface in the middle of goodness knows where. To think that just minutes ago they were at the bottom of the ocean in a royal palace. Scratch that thought; she needed to surface. Elise and Ruby were at least on the same page as her. The trio all bounced out of the water at once, coughing and gorging on oxygen.

“Ugh, at least put us back where you found us!” Brine complained. Once she got a hold of herself enough to float, she realised that there was nothing around but scenery for miles in the distance. She was good in the water, but no match for the swim back to Van Aken or the Seafoam Lightworks.

“Uhh, what now?” Ruby asked. The hint of panic only made Brine’s heart beat faster. “I can swim, but this is a bit much! You got any fancy swimmin’ tricks to pull, now’s the time!”

“Why is it so hard to stay afloat?” Elise cried, kicking and splashing about.

It is hard to stay afloat. The black water stops the current, but this is still seawater in the middle of stark nowhere, Brine growled and grunted as she herself had to fight to stay afloat. She could barely keep her head out. “Girls, pull yourselves together!”

“How? If we don’t get something good, we really are gonna drown out here!” Ruby spat, trying to shove Brine.

“Get it together, shoutin’ at me isn’t gonna help!” Brine replied. That made them quiet. “Angel, we kinda need you right now!”

“Thought you’d never ask!” Angel sang. She burst out of Brine’s amulet, did a loop in the air, and then landed on top of the water with a graceful bow. “Whatever may I do for you, almighty Shining Warriors?”

“Now is not the time for whatever you’re mad about. Go and find the others, and bring ‘em to us!” Brine ordered. She paddled over to Ruby and Elise, and linked paws with both. “We need some sort of flare. If I keep you up, think you can cast fire into the sky? Elise, please lend me a hand.”

“I’ll make your amulet flash when I find them, and that’s when you let out the flare. Sound good?” Angel suggested.

“Please hurry!” Brine cried. Angel nodded, and then she was off.

Moments later and it felt like it took forever. Brine’s heart raced and her focus was strained. All sorts of anxiety-filled thoughts made her feel heavy enough to fall underwater, making her and the other girls kick their feet to stay up. She breathed so carefully and slowly twisted to look around to try and find the others, or anyone for that matter, who could get them out of this.

I’m a Half-Undine who struggles to swim in the sea. No wonder those Pokémon don’t want me amongst them, she realised. I haven’t been nice to the other warriors, either. What if they just leave me here? Abandon me like all the others… No, they wouldn’t, they couldn’t. But they’re not here! Surely they would stick around to search for us after we vanished.

“U-um, Miss Brine,” Elise spoke up. Brine looked at her, but remained focused on breathing carefully. “This might not be a good time… but I’m glad I met you.”

“H-huh?” Brine gasped.

“Ugh, don’t start gettin’ all sentimental. We’re not dying yet, and neither are you,” Ruby said. Brine couldn’t help but freeze for a moment, and blinked. A moment later, their amulets began to gleam brightly enough to blind them slightly. “And speak of the devil. Let’s do this flare thingy!”

Brine still stalled for a moment. She couldn’t take her eyes off Ruby. The Cyndaquil had an undeterred focus in her eyes and a cool gleam that seemed to be glorified by her damp fur. She had a short furstyle, but with that excess fur latched to her face and dripping with water, she looked like a tired and experienced hero.

“Brine!” Ruby shouted and snapped her back to reality. Brine nodded.

With a deep breath, Brine swam beneath Ruby and propped her up. Maybe it was the water, but for a chubby Cyndaquil, she was surprisingly light. Able to sit out of the water, Ruby was able to take a deep breath and spit a fireball up into the air. Not long after the fireball crackled in the distance, a yellow flicker caught the group’s attention, and they began to make their way.

“It’s them!” Elise gasped. The lights of Posia’s antennae were the flickering lights, followed by waves and calls from the others. Lucca jumped off to meet them halfway as well, and helped the girls without a word. They all collapsed onto Posia’s back, but Ruby was quick to shake herself dry.

“Ruby, Elise!” Shelly cried. “Are you okay?”

“Give them a chance!” Lucca pulled him back.

Good, he’s smart enough for this, Brine thanked him in her head. She was more worn out than expected, and panted on all fours. There was enough space on the Lanturn’s back for her to lay flat if she wanted. She chose to look up at her allies instead, and almost blushed at their concerned stares.

“I’m okay now, thanks to Brine. This one’s got some cool guts,” Ruby remarked, and gave her a cocky smile. Brine was surprised. “Ya just kept doin’ the right thing. Other than being tired of being underwater right now, no complaints from me.”

“R-Ruby…” Shelly shuddered.

“What? I’m just being honest,” she shrugged. Now everyone was staring at her, but she only seemed to get it when she spotted Crystal. The Piplup looked like they were about to explore into tears. “Oh. Right.”

“I don’t know how much more my heart can take… we’ve really got to stay out of the close calls,” Lucca sighed from relief. Mimia barked in agreement.

“Seriously, are you girls alright? We were all worried to death. What even happened back there?” Azu asked. The trio exchanged glances, and all slumped in sync.

“So what you’re really saying is if Brine wasn’t here, you would be in serious trouble,” Lucca remarked. “To that end, all of us owe you our lives.”

“L-let’s not get silly! You guys don’t owe me anything,” Brine turned away. “Shining Warriors or otherwise, all I did was what was right to do.”

“And in a world like ours, that’s worthy of praise and favour,” Azu remarked. She was deep in thought.

After their explanation, the group set off straight for the Seafoam Lightworks since it was closer than Van Aken. The cone-shaped island was surrounded on all sides by a deep, seaweed green. What looked like a thick jungle of vines cradled the island all the way to its peak, where an unusual structure rested. Brine tried to focus on it, but all she could think about was how much of a pain it would be to climb it.

“Miss Brine… truly, thank you. I was so worried,” Shelly added, playing with his paws.

“Alright, lay off already. We’re not out of the picture yet,” Brine groaned. They’re not seriously this concerned about me, are they? They can’t be.

“I know that look. What’s on your mind this time?” Lucca said.

Azu came out of her thought pose. “It’s the whole story. Manaphy, the king of the Undine, wanted to start a war. Just like Gladys.”

“It’s a coincidence we arrived both times and stopped them both, huh?” Lucca commented.

“It’s not that. Remember the story Gladys told us in general?” Azu began. “She mentioned three races, but also, three worlds. If the angels are here in Heroica with the Pokémon, and the ocean counts as its own world where the Undine live, then what’s the third world?”

There was a long pause as everyone thought about it, and then Lucca spoke up. “Silly Azu, it’s no use trying to think about it when we don’t have any more info. They could even be lying to us.”

“Is it even important? Stopping them all from fighting and giving the world its Bestia is our goal,” Brine added.

“And my goal is to figure out a way to live with Bestia without relying on this legend. So I’ve got to fully understand this legend and all its parts if I’m to make any progress. If only there was a way I could meet the Pokémon Gladys mentioned, Alver, Varra, and Nebilim. They could probably explain everything,” Azu explained, and went back into a thought pose. “For all we know, it could also have to do with the knights and why they seem to be so anxious to kill us.”

“They’re after Crystal mostly, for some reason. I actually tried to speak to one of them, but they wouldn’t answer,” Lucca reminded her.

“The knights... The same ones that attacked us in Van Aken?” Brine wondered. “Silver armour, can’t really see their fur or faces or whatever?”

“They’re the ones. Those pain in the necks have been chasing us all journey!” Ruby complained.

“Why would they want to kill you? They’re on Panzer’s side. I’m pretty sure she wanted to help the Shining Warriors,” Brine asked. She remembered the big speech the Flygon gave when she was in Girage, and the knights that surrounded the stage.

“The heck are you talkin’ about? You were there, right? They chased us all outta Van Aken!” Ruby cried.

“I was,” Brine nodded. “But now that I have time to think about it, a part of me thinks there could be a misunderstanding. All that trouble started before I got to meet them, after all.”

“So you’ve run into them too? We’ve had a few encounters, and every time is the same. They just attack on sight. Certainly not trying to help us,” Lucca explained.

“They’re so scary… I promise I didn’t do anything, either. I dunno why they want me so badly,” Crystal cried.

“U-um, Azu?” Shelly squeaked, drawing attention to the Azumarill. She looked astonished.

“Panzer? Did you just say Panzer?” Azu asked quietly and slowly.

“Yeah, what about it? I don’t know who she is, but she seemed like a pretty big deal. Gave a big speech on a stage in Girage Field while I was there one time,” Brine explained sceptically.

“Panzer the Flygon? And she commanded knights? Are you absolutely certain?” Azu asked.

The concern made Brine tense up. “She wore this mystical sash or scarf thing all over her body. Kinda difficult to forget.”

“What the hell is going on?” Azu whispered and turned away.

“Go on, honey. Floor’s all yours,” Lucca smirked.

“Panzer… Panzer is probably Heroica’s most influential scientist. She’s the one who discovered the Bestia phenomenon, amongst leading the studies on most Pokémon and nature physiology. She’s also the leading expert on Heroican history, about how this world used to be inhabited by the mythical creatures known as humans. Her theories are the backbone of studies even today. Her books are why I became a scientist to begin with,” Azu explained, and then went quiet. “But… she died over five-hundred years ago. Flygon have a long lifespan, but not that long. How could she show up now?”

“None of us are lying to each other, right? Because I know what I saw and heard. She spoke about the Shining Warrior legend starting back up and how she urged the public to help us in every way they could,” Brine stood up.

“Wasn’t she in those books you used to love, Shelly? You know about her too, right?” Elise added, and he nodded.

“Azu is right. She passed away over five hundred years ago, according to the books,” Shelly confirmed. “This is making my head hurt.”

“Okay gimme a minute to try somethin’ here,” Ruby butted in. “So we’ve got two evil leaders who wanna take over Heroica and start a war. Knights who apparently wanna help us, but also try to kill Crystal every chance they get, and they’re stalking us around the world. Now we’ve got a five-hundred year old smarty-pants suddenly alive and controlling those knights?”

“Don’t forget about the mystery of the old Shining Warriors, and how they’re still alive and up to goodness knows what. They’ve made all sorts of trouble for our reputation,” Brine added.

“When you put it all together like that, it seems even more bizarre. Nothing makes sense or connects,” Lucca complained. Mimia whined with him, and then made a round of noises. “He’s right. We can’t make any links, but it is all important stuff to note down.”

“Making guesses won’t get us anywhere, either. Whatever’s afoot, we can’t let it stop us from doing what we need to do,” Brine stated. Five-hundred year old Pokémon showing up is the last thing I expected to hear. How didn’t anyone else realise who Panzer was at the time?

“Miss Brine—“ Azu began.

“Just Brine is fine. I’m not that old yet,” Brine folded her arms.

“… Did Panzer say anything else? Besides wanting to help us?” Azu wondered.

“Oh, right. She did. Er, it was something about needing help to build something in the east. That was it, she said some big event was going to happen soon so she needed help to build around it. Recruited all sorts of buff Pokémon to help her build and stuff,” Brine swayed a bit as she recalled the scene.

“Why the east?” a new voice got their attention. It took Brine a second to realise that Azu didn’t hear it, and held out her amulet from below her scarf. It was glowing, implying Angel was talking. “I don’t want to bring up any other theories here, but if you guys succeed in all the Shining Warrior trials, you’ll end up in eastern Heroica. Aside from the fact that the journey takes place once a decade, it’s also impossible to predict when and where the Shining Warrior journey will start. That’s why I usually wait at one of the temples.”

“But that didn’t happen this time. What’re you getting at?” Brine asked in concern.

“Why does this apparently dead scientist know when this generation’s legend started? And why is she setting up for an ‘event’ where you guys’ journey will end?” Angel questioned. “I’m not supposed to get involved in this sorta stuff, but it really jimmies my ruffles.”

“… Don’t you mean ‘ruffled your jimmies’? Whatever that means,” Crystal scratched her face.

“Whatever, it’s weird okay? If you see her again, I’d watch your backs,” Angel warned. Considering what she just said, her tone was surprisingly serious, so Brine chose to drop it there.

I want to focus, but there are too many fishy things to pass off. If Panzer were trying to benefit off our journey, or actually help us, I haven’t been much of that help so far, she thought to herself.

She snuck a stare at Lucca, who wore the same face as usual. A plain smile and stance, juxtaposed by an awareness that could dodge an Aerial Ace. And yet, his eyes were another world, as if everything being said gave him revelatory thoughts. He didn’t even notice Brine staring, or maybe he was aware of it. Not knowing was somehow intimidating.

And you… the others may be kids who don’t think twice on this, but you clearly know more to this than you’re prepared to let on. But I can’t make a move now. I’ll have to wait for something to give me more evidence, first…
Episode 17: Storm the Lightworks!


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Mimia complete - Copy.png

Episode 17: Storm the Lightworks!

Remember the story Gladys told us in general?” Azu asked. “She mentioned three races, but also, three worlds. If the angels are here in Heroica with the Pokémon, and the ocean counts as its own world where the Undine live, then what’s the third world?”

There was a long pause as everyone thought about it, and then Lucca spoke up. “Silly Azu, it’s no use trying to think about it when we don’t have any more info. They could even be lying to us.”

If our goal is to coexist, why must we keep our world of Reverie a secret?

The question wouldn’t leave Mimia’s mind. The others had moved on from the conversation and began to take it easy as they arrived on the cone-shaped island, the Seafoam Lightworks. Until recently, thoughts like this were taboo. Mimia was to remain focused and dedicated to Lucca, the lord he was sworn to serve and protect until death. It wasn’t just royal orders from the king of Reverie, it was the code of his former pack, a law of life.

“Okay, this is a problem,” Azu said aloud to get everyone’s attention. “There’s no easy way up the island. The Bestia Fountain’s obviously at the top by that building, but it looks like the only way up is to climb.”

Mimia trotted back to try and get a good view of it all. From here, the best he could see of the structure was a silver wall that rounded the island peak, shrouded by distance, light, and a few clouds. Something was sticking out of it, but he couldn’t tell what. Otherwise, the entire island was a steep climbing frame made out of large, deep green vines and bush. Even with stubby feet like his, climbing would be easy, but long.

Unless the others need rest, we must get started if we are to reach the peak by the end of the day,” Mimia warned his master, speaking in his usual round of growls and noises.

“I… I know but…” Lucca made an awkward grin at the vines. “This is worse than stairs.”

“Last one up’s a rotten banana!” Ruby sung as she charged off.

“R-Ruby! Wait no, not a rotten banana!” Crystal cried as she gave chase.

“I don’t know. Rotten bananas aren’t so bad,” Shelly mumbled, playing with his paws.

“H-huh? Have we given you rotten bananas before?” Elise asked, covering her mouth.

“N-no, but I did sneak out and take some one time. I think they were bad because they were brown, but they didn’t taste too bad,” he admitted, and scratched the back of his head. His leaf had even turned green for a moment.

“I knew you eat weirdly, but that’s just unhealthy,” Azu remarked.

“I feel so bad! If I knew you were that hungry to eat brown bananas, I wish I could have done something,” Elise slumped.

Those two are getting ahead!” Mimia barked at them, and pointed to the two girls already climbing.

“I know you’re right, but I still don’t want to… climbing’s hard,” Lucca whined and threw his head up. “Why couldn’t it have just been a big slope or something.”

My Lord, I can carry you. Please stay latched to me,” Mimia offered himself.

“I don’t blame you having flippers and all that… okay, just this once. I’ll carry you up there,” Azu replied. Mimia shifted sharply.

“Wait, really?” Lucca leaned away in surprise. He was blushing a bit, too. “That’s really kind of you.”

“You saved me against the knights back there, so this is just me repaying a debt. Take it or leave it, and don’t get any ideas,” Azu shut her eyes and offered a hand.

But I… am I being ignored? Mimia’s eyes twitched as the water type couple got together. Lucca clearly refrained from gushing out of his mind as he got to hug the Azumarill from behind, and she carried him like some kind of seal-shaped backpack. It really was no bother to her though, and they were soon climbing at a good pace. Mimia watched them sternly.

“Everything okay?” Brine’s soft tone took him back to focus. She was getting started too, so he joined her without a word.

These vines didn’t feel natural. The way they were tangled across the island was almost like sewn clothing. Tight enough to be sturdier than a pile of rocks and that the island’s surface couldn’t be seen, but like crochet in that there were dark spaces between the vines. It was easy to climb as a result. In fact, for Mimia, it might as well by like walking up a very steep slope. His feet comfortably slotted right between the gaps.

The trip quickly became quiet. It wasn’t that easy for the others to climb, so they were all concentrating. Mimia remained at the back, and his sight focused mostly on Lucca and Azu. They were mumbling about something to each other, possibly complaining, but he couldn’t tell besides Lucca’s cocky body language.

He never acts like that with me, Mimia’s eyes squinted at the bothersome display. Am I being ignored because it is against our code?

His heart began to race. Whatever they were talking about, it made Lucca smile and blush again, and his tail began to wag, too. Azu twisted to tell him off, and even pinched him. They continued to climb in this playful manner. Focused on their immediate task, but also sharing quips back and forth.

It’s because I’m a feral, Mimia hung his head. It’s just like Master told. He warned me, and yet I fell into the mistake…

That memory flashing in his mind made him gasp and freeze. He hadn’t gotten anyone’s attention, but he did fall behind. Here and now, as a Pokémon dedicated to servitude in the spot between a feral and a royal retainer, he had broken the one rule every feral knew and passed down as holy knowledge.

Never grow attached to your master.

He stared at Lucca again. The Brionne was happy. There was a sparkle in his eyes as he and Azu chatted, the same gleam that appeared whenever Lucca rambled about his dreams of a journey. Mimia’s chest began to twist and the scenery was darkening, too. Lucca’s look was one of passion, earnest admiration. He was well and truly happy.

But I’m not a feral anymore! Mimia shook his head and returned to the climb. He had fallen quite far behind. But I’m also a retainer… what is it that Lucca even sees in the Azumarill?

He was silent for a while. They were high enough that he could feel the temperature drop in the air, but not even halfway up yet. At this rate, they would get there in an hour or so.

Never grow attached to your master.

Perhaps this is for the best,
Mimia sighed, still watching them. Even after the way they argued back on Van Aken, the way Lucca and Azu conversed was so natural. I am not a feral anymore, but Lord Lucca’s happiness comes before all else. If he should choose Azu, then I must see that through…

Somewhere in the distance, a sharp screech went off. Mimia didn’t think much of it until its irritating tone grew louder and louder, coupled with the scary sound of crackling and flames.

Wait, this high in the air?” Mimia barked.

“What is it?” Lucca wondered, picking up on the noise at the same time as everyone else.

“It sounded like a firework going off, but it’s awfully close,” Azu replied, ignoring the noise.

Not long after, a firework did explode, complete with its fiery crackle and sparkly light. Mimia couldn’t help but cringe and whine, however. That crackle hit tones that made his bones shiver for some reason. The noise was so close that it was almost like the soundwaves pierced his body.

“What’s a firework?” Ruby asked.

“You don’t know?” Azu was surprised.

“We never had anything noisy like that back in Lillistep.” Crystal clarified.

Before Azu could explain, several more fireworks went off, evident only by the screeching noises. The group couldn’t see them at all. It was all loud enough that the group halted in warning. Surely enough, three flares soared from above, spiralling through the sky like wild Ninjask. Trails of embers and smoke followed the fireworks, filling the air with light and heat.

“Watch out!” Mimia cried. The group heeded his warning thankfully, and braced themselves as the fireworks impacted the vines beside them. Lots of blasts went off, shrouding everyone in embers and dust, enough to set them all off coughing. Mimia felt he might go blind in his other eye too, with all the blinding colours flickering around them.

“What’s happening?” Ruby managed to cry above it all.

“I don’t know! Just hold on!” Azu replied.

The blasts soon stopped, but the group still had to blink back into focus and shake off the lingering ring in their ears. Mimia opened his mouth to speak, only to catch another round of fireworks being fired, and opted to snarl instead.

We are in danger!” he growled.

“You’re telling me. We’ve got to shoot those things out of the sky!” Lucca suggested, and hopped off Azu’s back to latch to the vines.

“But how? We can’t waste all our Pokémon moves now,” Shelly cried.

“Don’t hafta,” Ruby replied, and twisted herself to try and sit on the island. She slid down a bit, but managed to catch herself with her feet. From here, she was facing the scenery, and could breathe in to shoot flames.

“I-I’ll try too,” Crystal squeaked, and copied her sister’s pose. She had an easier time grabbing on since her flippers could reach behind her, and quickly readied her bow and arrow.

“Here they come,” Brine warned, already in the same pose. Her bracelets glowed and water surrounded her fists.

Several trails of fireworks came from above this time, and each one swirled unpredictably through the sky. Ruby and Brine held back to try and aim, while Crystal fired not long after the fireworks appeared. To everyone’s surprise, her first two arrows hit, causing the fireworks to explode harmlessly in the sky. They were still close enough that the lights were blinding, however.

“Whoa, nice aim,” Lucca praised.

“But there’s still more coming. Do your best, you three!” Azu warned with a point.

This time, a rain of fireworks came from above, so many that there was nothing but an irritating screech in the air. Ruby and Brine didn’t hesitate, they fired their attacks into the air in hopes of hitting any fireworks at random. Flashy explosions filled the sky, as one exploding firework caused another to blow, and a chain reaction a plethora of colours flickered. And yet, more screeches came with it, and more fireworks somehow evaded it all to threaten the party.

I have to do something, Mimia told himself, and faced the vines. Lucca and company were held on, but also scrunched up tight. Mimia opted to do as he originally planned, and scrambled over to Lucca. He caught the Brionne by surprise as he lifted them onto his back.

“Whoa, Mimia?” Lucca gasped.

We have to keep moving,” Mimia growled a warning.

“Wait no, look!” Azu pointed out into the sky.

It was difficult to, but Mimia dared to turn around. The group weren’t alone. Not all the fireworks were being aimed at them like they thought. There was a small gathering of large flying type Pokémon, heavily obscured by the fireworks crackling everywhere.

“Do they need our help?” Shelly asked.

“We should take advantage and get goin’, right?” Ruby asked.

“But they’re… can’t you see them?” Crystal was confused. “It’s the grass Pokémon. They look like Van Aken soldiers.”

“Flying Van Aken soldiers? That can’t be,” Elise replied. She did her best to squint and lean closer to the action. There were a few moments where the fireworks dulled, enabling the flying Pokémon to be more visible. They were in fact Tropius, and each one had either a Decidueye or a Sceptile riding on their back. “It is, it’s the fruit flies!”

“What’re they doing here? And why are they being fired at?” Ruby questioned.

“Hey! Over here! Try and land!” Elise called and waved.

“I don’t think landing’s going to be easy,” Brine raised an eyebrow. “Also, you girls had flying Pokémon this whole time?”

“It’s complicated,” Elise admitted with a giggle.

“Your Highness!” a soldier called out. The Tropius swooped close to the island’s surface, and the nearest one shook off a flame and a burn mark on them. They couldn’t land, but they were close enough to properly shield the group. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“What happened? Why are you all here?” Elise wondered.

“Is now really the time for chitchat?” Brine complained.

“Honestly, it might be,” Lucca said. “We need to get to the top of this island. Think you could lend us a paw one more time?”

Two of the soldiers exchanged glances, and then one of the Tropius spoke up in a calm, yet oppressing voice. “We are only here to find and rescue you, Queen Elise. Come on, we should return to Van Aken.”

“But why? I’m not in any… oh right, I sorta left you all with the soldiers to help the warriors, huh,” Elise realised. “Hey! The fireworks stopped.”

“They were coming from the peak of the island. They appear to not want us to approach by air,” Tropius stated.

“So it’s either we take their test and fly there, or climb the rest of the way,” Lucca stated. “Either way, they pelt us with fireworks the whole time.”

“Might as well take the more dangerous one. Me, sis, and Brine can help shoot ‘em outta the sky for you,” Ruby suggested, and gestured to jump on a Tropius.

“Yeah, if you guys can help everyone get to the peak, I can safely go back. I would rather stay with Shelly, but I kinda have to go back, don’t I?” Elise said.

“You’re queen now! They need you,” Shelly stated.

The soldiers exchanged looks again. “If you promise you can protect us from the fireworks, then we can at least try to do this for you.”

“Alright, we’ve got our plan. There are four Tropius, so it’ll be best if each of you get on one? The rest of us will hang back on the last one,” Lucca suggested. “We’ll stay with Elise too, so we’ll take the heat if anything comes our way.”

Each Tropius positioned themselves as close to the island as they could, making it easy for everyone to jump off and mount them. Just like was planned, Crystal, Ruby, and Brine were on separate mounts, while the rest of the group scattered amongst them. As the grassy giants took off back into the sky, they promptly made a formation with their three attackers at the front, and Elise behind them.

Mimia was with Elise, Lucca, and Azu, but it was a surprisingly tight fit. Elise had to sit at the front of course, while Azu sat behind her, and then Lucca hugged her from behind. If Mimia tried to hug him, he would risk pulling Lucca off, so he opted to hug the sauropod’s leg instead. For now, it was actually easy to hold on, even though his body dangled loosely.

To think that there were grass type Pokémon that could fly using giant leaves as wings, he remarked to himself, now that he had a spare moment. He barked aloud, but the others didn’t seem to hear him. Not surprising with the heavy wind whooshing past to fill his ears. I do wish I could be more comfortable, though.

The Tropius lined themselves up in the middle of the clouds, rendering the island a silhouette. Mimia sniffled and felt himself slip a bit, and his heart began to race. This was going to get hectic, and the chill and wind weren’t helping.

“We are going to rise above the clouds, and your destination will be within sight. The moment we do, we will be under attack. Please ready yourselves,” Tropius announced without looking back at them. She didn’t wait for them to respond either. With a few hard flaps of her enormous wings, she breached the clouds with so much speed that a wake of fluff followed them. Mimia felt every thrust punch him, yet he held on with merely a grunt at each.

“Lemme at your head!” Ruby shouted as she scrambled up her Tropius’ neck. They were clearly bothered by her, but allowed her to latch there.

From here, she had a perfect view of the world ahead: a sea of pure white, fluffy clouds below, followed by a deep blue that went as far as the eye could see. The higher they looked, the darker it got, but the view remained irritatingly saturated by the sunlight. The Seafoam Lightworks was the only thing to peak above the clouds, and it turned out to be no greater than an observatory, giant telescope and all.

That was at first glance. With all the bright light, everything was blurry. Yet even from his position of gripping a bulky leg, the sight of cannons was unmistakable. Mimia counted eight cannons, all on the front surrounding the telescope. In a single burst, fireworks fired from each, and the tranquil scene became filled with screeches and gas.

“Here they come!” Azu alerted.

The Tropius to the left and right of the formation swerved further in those directions, while the one in the centre flattened its wings to speed up. Crystal was on that centre one, and appeared more focused than she had ever been. Nestled between Tropius’ neck and a soldier behind her, all she had to do was draw back an arrow and fire.

Can she hit in these conditions? Mimia worried.

His Tropius didn’t slow down, in fact they sped up with tucked in wings and a diving posture. The whooshing noise quaked Mimia’s ears, while a horrid mixture of ice cold wind, heated light, and stale air cooked him all over. He tried to whine about it, by the wind ate every sound he could make.

He opted to squint and focus his eye instead. Tropius was headed straight for the observatory, while Crystal was taking care of the fireworks before they were any real threat. All four Tropius were speeding, and the front three were throwing out their projectile attacks just as planned. It was finally hard to hold on, and took all his strength, lest he go flying off into freefall.

Even so, Mimia couldn’t avoid noticing the oddity. The fireworks were all being burst not long before they could threaten the group. Somehow, even though they were moving so fast, even though the group had whatever scientific difficulties came with being this high in the sky, and even though the fireworks were tiny, fast-moving targets, they were being hit. All eight were destroyed in quick succession, one after the other.

Unfeasibly impressive! Mimia remarked, but another volley of eight fireworks soon came out. He held his breath, grunted, and braced, only for those too to be shot down before they could threaten the party.

“Alright show off! Leave some for the rest of us,” Ruby commented cheekily.

“Careful what you wish for, Ruby,” Brine called back.

Mimia chose not to say anything this time. They were seconds away from diving right into that observatory, and yet another round of fireworks came out. Each shot streamed past the group, but quickly looped around to threaten them from behind, to which Mimia set off barking and flailing. He immediately remembered where he was and gripped hard again.

He now had the closest view of the fireworks as they screeched and streamed towards him. He hated it, but all he could do was snarl and brace, or let go at the last moment. He locked eyes with one firework that was headed directly toward him, only for it to blow up as an arrow struck it.

Mimia gasped. He was so surprised that he couldn’t blink away from the sparkly bursts. His earlier observation was correct. Every single one of those fireworks was hit by Crystal’s arrows. One after the other in frighteningly quick succession, her arrows flashed past him and hit each firework directly, piercing them to make them explode early. Not a single one missed. Mimia was speechless as he turned to the front.

“Impressive… you excel your reputation,” one of the Tropius praised them. “Hold on tight, now.”

Mimia barked desperately, but still wasn’t heard. The Tropius managed to speed up even more, and now he had to hold on or else. He shut his eyes and scrunched up as he felt his grip slip a little. His chest ached too, a result of him holding his breath more than he thought. The whooshing noise came to a sharp stop, followed by a hard scraping of soil.

Mimia finally lost his grip as a powerful force flung him forward. He yelped as he went rolling through the air, and crashed into Lucca and the others, which in turn sent them tumbling off the Tropius with cries and coughs of their own. Every instinct flicked Mimia into extreme panic, only for him to hit the ground earlier than expected.

“M-Mimia!” Lucca shouted.

The Stufful growled and rolled to his feet, anxiously scouting around. Beside him was Lucca, Azu, and Elise, all in a heap and complaining as they got up. He meant to bark at them, but the new surroundings caught his attention.

“What the heck was that about?” Lucca cried. “We were safe for a good landing. Why did you—”

Mimia cut him off with a jab. Now that he wasn’t clung to the leg of their flying transport for dear life, he could truly appreciate the beauty of this realm. The stale air was a problem, but this clear blue world on the border of outer space was the last place he ever imagined he would get to experience. Everything above was so deep and dark in colour that he could actually see every star, bright and twinkling as a children’s rhyme.

“I can’t tell if it’s day or night! The sun’s up, yet the sky is dark as black,” Brine remarked.

“That’s because this is the sky. We’re in the middle of it,” Azu gasped. “It’s so high up that it’s tough to breathe. Are you kids handling it alright?”

“Is it… difficult to breathe here?” Crystal cocked her head.

“Ya’mean you can’t feel it? Having to breathe through my mouth here. This is nothing like holding my breath underwater,” Ruby replied.

”… I guess,” Crystal said.

“This is your destination, correct? If it is, then your request is fulfilled,” Tropius said.

“That really it? You girls don’t like sticking around, do ya?” Ruby grumbled.

“It is,” Lucca nodded to them. Tropius nodded back.

“Princess,” Tropius continued.

“Hnng, can’t I stay a little longer? This is so uncool!” Elise slumped.

“You have duties, now!” Shelly spoke up.

“I… I know, but—”

“You’ve got to do your part, and we’ve got to do ours. Everyone is counting on you, now,” he clarified.

Elise glanced back and forth between him and the Tropius a few times, and then gave up with a sigh. “Ba’ul, look at me that way and it’s like I don’t have a choice. But fine,” she shrugged. “Posia should be waiting for you at the bottom of the island where you left her. She is yours until this quest is over.”

“Seriously? Alright, we don’t have to walk back through the ocean!” Ruby cheered and punched the air.

“We are in your debt. I promise we’ll bring back Bestia,” Lucca stood on his tail to bow to her.

“Shelly,” Elise murmured. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help myself.”

He was about to say something, but silenced as she dove into him for a hug. It wasn’t like the playful hugs they expected of her either. Her voice became soft, her cheeks were flushed, and Mimia could spot a glint in her eye, too. Shelly returned the affection at least, though he had a worried look on his face.

“I’m not gonna see you again, for a really long time this time. I don’t want it to be like this,” Elise admitted. She broke away, but held his paws in hers. “You’re gonna take care of yourself, aren’t you lad? Eat well, sleep well, and not be in danger like at the other temple.”

“I have to do what I have to do, though,” he replied. He seemed to notice her disappointed look, and his own cheeks became red. For a moment, his leaf turned pink, and then became an odd rose colour, a shade of blue and pink. “I-I have everyone else to help, so I’ll be okay. You know how strong they are. Aa-and you have to stay safe for me, too! I-I want to visit when we’re done.”

“And when you do, I’ll make lots of apple curry for you! More than you can eat,” Elise said. She was smiling at last.

“Do you promise?” Shelly brightened up.

“Oooh… maybe if you bring us lots of cool souvenirs,” she twirled with a hand by her mouth.

“Your Highness!” a soldier complained. Elise just waved playfully at them.

“That’s a good point. I’ve been so focused on the serious stuff, I’ve not picked up anything special to take home,” Azu mumbled to herself.

“The apple curry, too,” Lucca said nervously. His stomach growled, and his pigtails drooped. “Is this a good place to camp for food?”

Despite everything, she is clearly still devoted to Shelly. It does not seem like Shelly is any less attached to her, either, Mimia watched the duo talk intently. It was to be sad farewell, and yet, they devolved into the most familiar casual conversation ever. They look just like us.

It made his heart heavy again. Long training sessions with Lucca in the harsh lands of Reverie. Mimia learnt how to camp the hard way, being locked out of the castle with no supplies other than his knife and Lucca’s blades. If he wasn’t acting as Lucca’s pillow, he was salvaging materials from beast habitats to build a tent. The two would usually spend a night hungry enough to eat each other, were they feral. With no entertainment besides themselves, it all led to priceless times just like this. Long, hungry nights where they could talk about whatever together.

Was that wrong? I was only following orders, and I’m still following orders now, Mimia shuddered. These two are royalty, born and raised, and yet they clearly ignore their duties to stay devoted and talk like ordinary friends.

He snuck a glance at Lucca and Azu, and was surprised. The rest of the group were comforting the Brionne as he exaggerated his hunger. Lucca’s stomach was noisy, and he was flat on the floor, drooling and mumbling about curry. Even the Tropius seemed to have smiles on their faces.

Lord Lucca, you always ordered me to treat you as an ordinary Pokémon. Our mission here also requires that I treat you as so, to hide your true identity, Mimia was shuddering, hard. He turned away and stared at the soil below. For somewhere high above the planet, it was surprisingly colourful and rich. But why do we have to stay secret? Why does it hurt so much to follow these orders, now?

“Mimia!” Lucca’s shout snapped him back to focus. The rest of the group were surprised at him. “You okay, buddy? You look pale.”

Mimia gasped lightly. It really was hard to breathe here, and his own stomach felt like it might eat itself. He only now realised that he was shivering, and he had both his eyes open. Maybe I am just exhausted. I must pull myself together. I am Lord Lucca’s retainer, and our mission is to save Reverie. Nothing else matters other than to follow orders without question.

“It has been an incredibly long day. I can’t even tell the time at this height, but I am ready knock out if you guys are,” Azu shrugged.

“Can’t I stay here one last time?” Elise begged.

“Your highness!” the Tropius and the guards cried in sync.

“Fiiiiiine. You’re all stinky dobbers!” Elise cried, and then threw herself on a Tropius’ back. “Well then? Hurry up, if you’re so eager to take me home.”

The two groups exchanged glances, to which Lucca bowed to them, and then they were off. Crystal and Ruby stood up as the Tropius took off, ready to attack any fireworks that went off, but there were none. They were able to fly until they were silhouettes thanks to the light, where they dove into the clouds and vanished from sight.

“It really is like a sea, but it’s made of clouds,” Ruby remarked, surprised by it all.

“It’s really pretty,” Crystal admitted, and lowered her bow. The sound of rustling tools got their attention. “We’re really camping here?”

“Please! I’m serious. If I don’t eat soon, I’m going to faint,” Lucca threw himself back.

“Plus, I’m exhausted after that whole ocean trip, followed by climbing… If we tried to do the trial now, I might not make it,” Brine admitted.

“I was really worried about everyone. It’s been nonstop ever since this morning,” Shelly said, focused on preparing a camp.

“It’s important to take these breaks when we can, whether we’re high up in the sky or deep in the middle of a dungeon,” Azu added, helping him out. Lucca’s stomach growled again, making him groan and wiggle on the floor. “Hee hee hee, and let’s be real, he’s not gonna stop complaining about it.”

“… I’m not hungry or tired, though,” Crystal muttered. Mimia gawked at her in surprise, but apparently she was quiet enough that no one heard her.

There’s that as well. After everything we’re been through today, she isn’t the slightest bit fatigued? I am fairly sure she is younger than I. Flawless marksmonship, and a lack of exhaustion, ever since the evening Lord Lucca initially found her after that murder… she did not even suffer fatal damage when swallowed whole by the Wishiwashi, Mimia couldn’t stop gawking. He shook himself back to focus, and began helping the others set up camp. I should not, but I feel as though I should speak to Lucca about this.

About an hour later, the sun actually set, to everyone’s surprise. It was as dark as a winter night, but the stars of space were just as visible as earlier, if not more. Oddly, the mismatched temperature didn’t change at all. Mimia still found himself sweating, yet shivering with every ice cold wind that passed. Everyone was wrapped up in their own tents besides him, who was making sure everything was cleared away and safe.

As far as he was aware, everyone was asleep besides Lucca and Azu. It was his turn to keep watch too, but no one had actually said so, obviously agreeing that there was zero chance of them being attacked. Whoever shot the fireworks at them earlier hadn’t confronted them, so they would likely stay safe all night.

He stopped to admire the observatory. This tall building was unlike even the urban cityscape of Girage Field. Rounded at its top, but tall and metal all around. Now that he was close and admiring it, it almost resembled a Magnemite, only it had two magnets on each side, and each magnet was a cannon rather than a magnet. The screw was a giant telescope too, tilted at an angle that faced the same direction as the cannons.

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Brine remarked. Somehow, she’d snuck up on him. “I’ve been around a lot of populated places, but I’ve never seen a building like this. I can’t imagine what anyone does here.”

The obvious answer is observe outer space, but I am curious as to why they need to be so close to it, too, Mimia thought to himself. He puffed through his nose, but Brine sat down anyway.

“Don’t mind me, it’s just tough to sleep after today. It’s like I’m so tired I can’t sleep. Might as well lend you a paw for a bit,” she said. They both sat there for a while, staring up at the twinkling stars behind the building. “Angel says that’s a Bestia Fountain, too. I guess it beats an abandoned temple?”

Yes, both the trials so far have been at abandoned temples. Fossil Hill and the Shadow palace, Mimia realised. He didn’t move from the spot.

“Pardon me. Out of all the others, you’re the only one I can’t grasp at all. I don’t even know if you can speak properly,” Brine said, and finally looked at him. “I don’t mean I don’t trust you or anything. I’d just like to get to know you and stuff.”

Mimia gave her his usual round of feral growls and noises. “I doubt you could understand me if you wanted to.

There was a pause, and Brine cocked her head. “Can you really only talk like that? Like a feral dungeon Pokémon?”

Thought so,” Mimia yipped.

“Lucca seems to be able to get you, and you two seem pretty close knit. I feel bad getting him to translate for me, but he’s still awake,” Brine replied, and got up.

Don’t bother them!” Mimia barked and growled at her. She was even more confused. “It is best we do not interfere with Lord Lucca and Azu.

“S-sorry, I don’t really get what the deal is,” Brine appeared worried, now. She folded her arms and stared at Mimia, and he stared back. “I really wanna talk to you, but I don’t understand a word. Er, you can understand me, can’t you?”

Mimia nodded and raised a paw.

“Clearly. That’s good at least. Maybe there’s some better way to convey what you wanna say… I don’t want to treat you like a feral, either. That just seems rude,” she mused. “I guess I just have to be smart for an evening, huh? You don’t want me bothering Lucca right now?”

Mimia nodded again.

“You and him really are close. This group kinda has close knit duos, huh? There’s Crystal and Ruby, Shelly and Elise, you and Lucca…” Brine began to ramble, and sat back down. “Well Elise isn’t a Shining Warrior, but even though they had the marriage stuff going on, you can tell they’ve got that childhood bond thing going on, right? That’s why it’s pretty funny to see you away from Lucca. You two’ve got that whole thing going on, too.”

Mimia made a sound. He had no response this time.

“I hope you two didn’t have a falling out or anything,” Brine said. Mimia shivered, but still didn’t say anything, making Brine sigh. “I hope I’m not being rude or intrusive or anything. But I do want to talk to you. No pressure or anything if you can’t, but I’m just throwing out words, here. Any way you could reply, I’ll try and figure it out.”

Mimia took in a breath. His chest was twisting, and he glanced back at the tent, perking his ears. Lucca and Azu were still chatting away, with Lucca being unusually playful and getting told off again. Considering the weight of what Azu was mad at him for, Lucca is being awfully boastful, and she is remarkably forgiving.

“Everything okay? Is something wrong back there?” Brine wondered.

This bitterness in my chest… why am I upset about it? The more the Pokémon like Lord Lucca, the better this mission can go. I am following orders. It is better that Lord Lucca and Azu grow closer, Mimia repeated that last part in his head several times, and then shook himself. He had a glint in his eye, and his chest ached. I am allowed to respond to Miss Brine as well, right? Whatever makes them suspect us less…

“You look really concerned,” Brine remarked, making him gasp. “Again I’m just throwing out words, here. Feel free to bark at me if I’m wrong.”

Bark. Just bark. It is better I do not concern her with my issues, Mimia told himself, but he didn’t bark. But it should also be okay. She is offering, and she is a to be friend and an ally. But is it even a problem? It isn’t a problem; everything is going as planned. It’s as Lord Lucca wishes, I—

“Hello, Pika to Stufful, you there?” Brine waved in his face, and he jittered back this time. However he appeared, she appeared worried now too, drooped ears and all. “I’m sorry if I’m making you nervous, I don’t mean to. I-I should probably just go. I’m sorry about that, Mimia.”

“Your story!” Mimia said loudly, and then covered his mouth. He didn’t mean to shout, but it kept her from leaving. “Your story. You have not told us your story.”

“Your voice… that’s your voice?” Brine gasped.

Mimia’s chest was already twisted all sorts by whatever these thoughts he had were. That comment just made him clam up and turn away.

“S-sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, I was just surprised! I heard it before, but I thought it was Ruby,” brine admitted, shaking her arms. She joined Mimia’s side again, staring out over the cloudsea. “If you want to keep your voice a secret, I will.”

Mimia didn’t reply. His heart beat so hard it hurt.

“I guess I can ramble for a while, if you really want to know,” Brine sighed. “I’m just trying to get to the bottom of everything. I never knew either of my parents, or I wasn’t old enough to be aware of them. Now that I know I’m a Watermarked Pikachu, I want to find and meet them, and find out everything I can about myself, my powers, and these creatures.”

Brine snuck a glance at her, and she seemed to notice. She smiled and winked, though.

“It’s not some big revenge plot like Ruby or anything. I just want to find out as much as I can about myself and this world. I’ll admit, I haven’t quite figured out what it is I want to do with my life as a whole yet, but if I learn a lot, I’ll discover what it is I really want, right?” Brine explained. “Something made me give a little speech to Manaphy, though. I never even thought about how he said my father had been executed. He was so casual about it; I can’t even tell if it was a taunt or the truth.”

Someone with no direction or goal in life became a Shining Warrior… Mimia blinked at his thoughts. “Why?”

“Why?” Brine cocked her head. “Something just made me argue. I do believe that if you really want something and it’s not hurting anyone, you should go for it with all your heart.”

Mimia’s mouth fell open.

“Seeing that guy threaten to go to war is something I didn’t want, so I just put the pieces together and convinced him to hold it back,” she explained softly, and clasped her paws by her mouth. “If my parents really aren’t alive, then I’ll just figure something out.”

“You live by the day,” Mimia stated, and Brine nodded.

“When you’re hunted just for having special genes, you sorta have to. I don’t think it even matters whether Heroica has Bestia or not; Pokémon want me dead just for being a weird Pokémon, while Undine want me dead just for not being an Undine,” Brine clenched her paws into fists. “So I suppose this is where I am, now. A Shining Warrior, in a position where I can stop this needless hopping from village to village. I’m thankful I can try and make a difference, but a part of me wonders if there’s even a point.”

Mimia didn’t turn away from her. He did make a face of interest, though, and she sighed.

“What’s the point of bringing back Bestia if I’m just going to go back to being on the run and living off the map all the time? I can’t get that dark feeling outta my chest,” she continued. She sat down and stared up, and he joined her. “Saving all the Pokémon just to live a crap life later on doesn’t make sense. I wanna be comfortable and live with Pokémon I wanna live with, you know?”

It makes sense. If you’re prejudiced, you would want your heroism recognised, not to return to prejudice, Mimia agreed.

“What about you? I know it’s a bit early to think about it, but what do you want to do when this is over?” Brine asked with a smile.

He gasped yet again. I hadn’t thought about that. Everything I’ve been doing up until then has been in the process of serving Lord Lucca, and in turn the Shining Warrior legend.

“It’s important to be honest about this stuff, too. I know I’m not the most ideal Pokémon to look up to, but I don’t want to be. I want to make myself happy before anything else. So don’t worry if it’s something totally selfish. I’m not going to judge,” Brine leaned back.

Mimia glanced back at the tent once more. Until I met Lord Lucca, my life has not had meaning. I was a feral that lived by the day, just like any other. I’m happy serving him. I want to follow him and his endeavours because I’m enjoying this journey.

He slowly turned back to the coudsea. Is that me saying I don’t want the world to be saved? Is that me being selfish like Miss Brine is suggesting? I don’t know…

“… We should probably try and get to bed. If we do the temple tomorrow and it’s anywhere as tough as the last one, we’ll want to be well rested,” Brine suggested, and threw herself to her feet.

If Lucca and Azu get together then what happens to me? Could something happen to me? Mimia thought intently. Brine waved him goodnight, and he stared just as intensely. Get a hold of yourself, Mimia. I am just here to serve Lucca. That’s my reason and what I want. I already said this to myself – if Lord Lucca wishes to be with Azu, then it is best I allow him to.

Never grow attached to your master.
Episode 18: The Third Fountain


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Mimia complete - Copy.png

Episode 18: The Third Fountain

“Y’know, I wasn’t expecting this place to be a dungeon,” Azu commented. “For a place called the Lightworks, it sure Is dark.”

Dark was an understatement. It was pure black in here. The only things visible besides themselves were clouds of frost that gathered against walls and corners. There was enough of this white frost to give away that this place was a maze, almost like it was the walls themselves giving off the frost. Everyone’s breath also came out as smoky puffs, yet the place felt hot.

They’d spent a night here and Mimia already felt like he was going crazy from this mixed temperature. What kind of place had all the visuals of an ice cold frigate, yet was hot enough to make his fur damp with sweat? Just a few steps forward he bumped his nose into a wall and squeaked in annoyance. There was no frost here so it was impossible to see, but a few punches confirmed there was a sturdy metal wall before them.

“So just like the other fountains, this place is going to challenge us. Ruby, could I ask for a little light, please?” Lucca said.

“Hnng. I hate being a walking lamp,” Ruby grumbled as she flared her back. Oddly, her flames didn’t illuminate the area at all. She got a white glow around her for about a one metre radius, and nothing was visible through it. “Er… I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how light is supposed to work.”

“Some kind of magic is blocking all light, besides what they want us to see… Using the frost sounds like the obvious solution, but there’s probably more to it,” Azu swayed as she thought aloud.

Mimia zoned out to their discussion a bit. Besides the obvious mysteriosity of this dungeon, something else was bothering him, something only he would pick up. This place smelt of a stench he wanted to forget. It was territory that had been marked.

Lord Lucca,” Mimia barked to get everyone’s attention. Lucca nodded to him.

“Mimia’s got something. Should we follow you?” he replied. Mimia nodded, and then led the way with his nose.

The obvious solution to this dungeon was to follow the frost after all. The further they went, the more it made sense, as the white clouds seeping below the walls took them on a winding path through the dark maze. Some ferals must have taken up residence here and probably weren’t expecting someone with as keen a nose as Mimia to make short work of this challenge.

However, for Mimia, there was a bigger issue. The deeper they got into the maze, the stronger this nostalgic stench became, and yet he seemed to be the only one who could detect it. It was never enough to disgust him, but it was strong enough that he crinkled his nose every now and then.

Nostalgic… It is nostalgic. I never thought I’d feel this again, he realised, and lifted his head for a moment. I’m not supposed to go back to the pack after cutting ties, but why is their mark here of all places? And with no other packs to challenge the territory, the smell is strong…

“Hey uh, I probably shouldn’t ask, but how does he know where we’re going?” Ruby asked.

“It took you fifteen minutes to ask that,” Crystal cocked her head.

“I thought I could figure it out on my own first, but it just seems like totally random,” Ruby said.

“Heh, Mimia’s just a bit of a miracle maker, don’t you think? I bet there’s no special trick to it, he’s just that special!” Lucca bragged.

Mimia paused for a moment, and then glanced back at him to make noises. “It smells here. Ferals marked their territory.

“Oh,” Lucca replied. He started sweating. “Wa-wait a minute, that’s what we’re following? Some kind of monster’s me- uh, are you sure that’s wise?”

The other temples each faced us with monsters at the depths,” Mimia made noises, and resumed walking. “There is no reason why this one would be different.

“Aww, great. We’re going to have to fight soon,” Lucca groaned.

“That’s kind of a given, since they’re all trials,” Brine rolled her eyes.

But why is it familiar? The pack would never invade a place like this. Why is a temple attached to a legend home to a feral pack, and why is it the one I was part of? Mimia groaned at his thoughts. We haven’t been attacked yet, but it seems like there is only one Pokémon here.

Not long later, the walls became round and opened out into a large area. Mimia couldn’t help but slow as his vision dissolved into pitch black nothingness. There was nothing here but the strongest stench of that nostalgic mark. No frost besides his breath, no white glows, nothing. He could at least see his friends when he glanced back, but they had stopped too.

No. Someone was there. Someone watched them the way only a feral hunting its prey would. To make matters worse, they watched him the same way only Mimia himself could. He could feel the sharp gaze of a hunter burn a hole on his figure from somewhere. Even though he couldn’t see them, he knew they were locked onto him, and didn’t so much as tremble.

Mimia barked to try and get a reaction. Nothing, his feminine barks merely echoed back at him. He barked again, louder this time, and again, only an echo responded. This hunter was patient and persistent. So, he began to growl with all the fury he could muster, in a way he assumed they would understand. “You aren’t fooling me, hunter!

“Something’s here,” Lucca warned, and drew his swords. The others prepared for battle, too.

“This isn’t good, though. Without the walls, I can’t see anything at all,” Brine complained.

“My flames still aren’t doin’ anythin’, either. I can still see you guys for some reason, so I guess, just don’t hit each other?” Ruby said.

“This is scary,” Shelly moaned quietly.

“Oh man up already!” Ruby cried.

“I said it’s scary, not that I’m scared! I’m not gonna run away,” he argued.

“Atta boy,” she said.

“I can’t believe you two are still doing that,” Crystal groaned.

Amongst their rambles, Mimia remained totally focused. He was right to, as he noticed a familiar fizzling noise from somewhere high up. High up and straight ahead of them. A moment later, two fireworks went off, and spiralled through the air straight towards them.

“Fireworks indoors?” Azu cried, and cowered while the others guarded.

Crystal and Ruby were already prepared, however. The duo leapt forward and aimed an arrow and a Flamethrower at the sparkling rockets. Aiming was easy as the fireworks seemed to give off light, to the point of illuminating the area around them. They both fired at the same time, and destroyed the fireworks when they were directly above the group. After a round of colourful, sparkly flashes, the darkness and silence promptly returned.

“Coward! Stop this fancy show and come fight us properly!” Ruby shouted.

“Overcoming this is obviously part of our trial. Azu, you might want to—” Lucca suggested, but the Azumarill was already off in the distance, and gave him a cheerful wave. “… Stand back. I-I guess, holler if you notice anything.”

These patient and secretive attacks remind me of… Mimia continued to fixate on the unseen enemy. It’s impossible. I didn’t want to go back. I’m not supposed to go back.

His thoughts shifted into high gear when he heard the sound of fizzling sparks again. This time though, time seemed to slow down for him. He confirmed the fireworks came from straight ahead and above. There was the slightest, teensiest glow of sparks in that direction, alongside a change in smell.

Burnt fur? Mimia realised.

Someone was manually setting off these fireworks. Three went off this time, one after the other, and earnt a tsk from Crystal and Ruby. The duo worked together to dispatch the fireworks again, but this time, Mimia braved keeping his eyes open.

Coloured bursts illuminated the room, revealing the distant walls, smooth floor, and an upper balcony straight ahead. Mimia was able to spot all this in the brief moment the room was lit, and locked his sights on the pillars that supported the upper area.

Once the dark came back, he barked several times, and then charged off, to which the others shouted concern at him. Mimia sprinted as fast as he could, leapt forward and drew a foreleg back for a mighty punch. He knew everything was metal, yet he put everything he could into punching that pillar, recoiling from the immense pain and force that resulted. He got what he wanted though, a horrible clang like a giant bell reverberated through the room as the pillar shook.

“Crgk, again with the loud noises,” Azu growled. She had her ears pulled down and shivered with irritation, but quickly recovered as Mimia’s act took effect.

A fierce growl silenced the scene, and this time it was loud enough that everyone knew to look up. A creature with an ice cold, grating cry that sounded like a synthesized Braviary’s screech had them all on edge. A moment later, lights came on, though not in the way everyone was hoping. All the details of the dungeon became visible, from white metal walls and pillars adorned with ancient patterns, to propeller vents that filled the room with frosty mist. The glow of the mist was all that illuminated the area, so it was as if they were locked in a void of white smoke. The maze they came from was gone, but oddly, Azu was trapped in with them.

As for the monster, it turned out to be a Ninetales. With a sleek fur coat of white with a tint of blue, and majestic tails that blended together to resemble flowy flames of cold air, this Ninetales camouflaged with the mist fantastically. It was only visible now thanks to its cry, and that parts of its body gleamed blue, as if it was reacting to their presence. Ninetales leapt down at the group with a rain of jagged icicles following it, forcing them all to back off. It landed with a crackle and a burst of wind, to which Mimia shivered.

“It looks like an ice type,” Shelly gasped. “B-but it’s not as scary. We can do this!”

“There’s the right attitude. Let’s make this quick,” Ruby flared her back.

“Don’t drop your guard. Camouflage is likely their tactic,” Lucca warned, sliding carefully to strafe. Brine was opposite him doing the same, and had her kendama ready.

Mimia didn’t move from his spot at the front, however. He stared at the Ninetales, and his heart raced. Ninetales kept their eyes shut, but appeared to be staring back. Silence fell, besides the shuffles and mumbles of the surrounding teammates. After a few moments, Mimia felt his nerves break, and he finally loosened up.

For what reason have you come back?” Ninetales spoke in feral noises, exactly the same as Mimia. Growls, snarls, and barks.

“H-huh?” Lucca replied. “It’s like Mimia? Wait a minute…”

Mimia gulped, and held his amulet forward. “Master Fionn, I am a Shining Warrior, now.

You are duty bound to that civvy. Do not shame me with ‘master’!” Fionn let out a round of barks. “You committed treason. You are not welcome within the pack’s presence. Begone!

I can’t!” Mimia bravely barked back. “Why are you here? This is a sacred trial site on the edge of the sky. It is not for feral territory!

There was a long pause while the Ninetales pondered their response. “It appears the gods chose us an intertwining fate. That is very obnoxious.

“What’s going on? Do they know each other?” Shelly wondered.

“It seems that way. But I can’t understand what they’re saying,” Brine cocked her head.

“Grr Mimia, can’t you man up and just translate for us?” Ruby bounced on her toes and pulled at her fur.

“Shh, let them talk first,” Crystal hushed her.

When the beasts of the underworld attacked us, I lost my eyes. I returned to our den with the strength of my nose. With my eyes gone and the pack all but eliminated, the gods took pity on me. I was guided here and given great powers. I am now this generation’s Shining Warrior trial of the Lightworks temple,” the Ninetales explained, all through calmer noises. His grating pitch and fierceness quickly returned, however. “That does not mean the pack is gone, nor does it mean we are exempt from our way of life. I will return us to our former glory, and that begins with punishing you. You will serve me again.

Mimia whined and turned away. “If I had gone with you, I would have lost my eyes, too. But Lord Lucca saved me. I can still see with one eye, and now I am more capable than ever. I owe Lord Lucca my life. I am happy to be his partner forevermore. I cannot return to feral life.

Fionn’s noises calmed again. “So we see. It is as you see it. It is love, is it not?

Mimia gasped and froze.

Mimia, are you not in love with this Lucca Pokémon?” Fionn asked.

Is it love? The words began to repeat in his head, and he dared to glance back at Lucca. The Brionne had a concentrated stare at the scene, but didn’t say anything. Just looking at him now with those words, Mimia’s tail wagged, and he felt his chest warm up. If he ever did return to feral life, the most painful thing would be having to forget Lucca. If Lord Lucca is listening, then I cannot say…

Mimia turned back to Fionn with a frown. “It is true, my life is dedicated to Lord Lucca. To that end alone, I can never return to the pack. My relationship with him is irrelevant.

There was another pause, and Fionn’s face clenched up. Even without eyes, that visible annoyance tore at Mimia’s conscience. Angering the pack leader was the worst thing one could do. “You have truly forgotten how to respect our kind.

Mimia gulped. To his surprise, Fionn turned to walk back a few paces, and then faced the group with even more ire than before.

To declare dedication to another leader is to commit treason!” Fionn barked a round, to which Mimia’s fur shivered. “To declare independence with another is to discard our way of life. To be granted such, you must defeat the pack leader in one-on-one mortal combat.

“Independence…” Mimia muttered. The word made him freeze.

The only reason one would declare independence from the pack is if they wished to live alone with their mating partner. Mimia, it is either love or treachery. Do not offend me!” Fionn snarled at him.

Mimia’s heart beat faster than it ever had before. He didn’t understand why he was so afraid, or why he was so conflicted. This was a Shining Warrior trial all the rest, and these personal projections were irrelevant. He knew that. He knew the law of his pack, and his own personal role in this whole adventure. And yet, one word threw it all into chaos.


Until now, everything I’ve done has been my choice, based solely on my feelings. Even though physically, all I have done is serve Lord Lucca with little to no questioning. How I’m feeling is being tested. Is this perhaps what the Shining Warrior trials truly are? Mimia kept his head down, and slowly turned to the rest of the group. His appearance seemed to surprise them all besides the focused Lucca, who didn’t change at all. I want to live with Lucca. More than anything in the world, after this quest, I want to live with Lord Lucca. Miss Azu’s relationship with him may change that. But if I’m to be truly independent, that means separating from the pack officially.

“Can you all understand what we are saying?” Mimia asked, still looking down.

“I’m trying to parse it, but I’ll admit it’s difficult when it’s not you talking. I can only get what you’re saying because I’m so used to how simplified you make it for me,” Lucca admitted.

“Wait, even you dunno what he’s really saying right now?” Ruby gasped. Mimia looked up, and became intense.

“All of you. Please stay back and out of this fight,” he requested.

“Huh?” Lucca responded, but Mimia didn’t give him a chance. He approached Fionn and stood firm.

“It’s important. So please let me do this,” he said.

You even know how to talk like them,” Fionn growled at him.

It is independence. I wish to live with Lucca, the Brionne behind me.” Mimia replied in a calmer round of growls. His heart still raced, but he was focused, now.

So you have chosen love, though you will not use the word. If I am recognising correctly, is it perhaps because the one you love is male, as well?” Fionn growled calmly, too. Mimia didn’t reply. “You have fallen for a male, even knowing that you will never truly be able to reproduce. The betrayal to our pack infuriates me, yet I shall count it as your request for independence.

Mimia drew his knife to hold it in his mouth and spread his feet apart. Not a second later, Fionn spread his feet and his tails too, boasting his size over Mimia.

“Do you understand the purpose of this duel? You could not live independently and protect a partner if you cannot defeat the leader of the pack who raised you. Blunt Knife Mimia! Show me that you have what it means to protect one you care about, and survive in this wild world!” Fionn barked at him.

Mimia howled a battle cry of his own, and then charged at the Ninetales. He ran so fast that the world around him blurred, and yet, the bigger Pokémon vanished in a flash of white, leaving Mimia to punch the ground. Mimia growled as his senses flew into full focus. He could smell Fionn’s mark perfectly. It was a smell that had been ingrained into him, and after being this close for a few moments, was like a sixth sense to the Stufful. And so, he could tell exactly where the Ninetales had vanished to, right down to the exact distance.

Mimia didn’t hesitate. He knew how formidable Fionn was. This was a Ninetales who had been chosen to become a Shining Warrior trial even though their eyes were gone. He couldn’t afford to hold back for even a moment. He ignored the recoil of punching the ground to hop up hammer down a few steps away, where Fionna vanished in a blur again. Just like the first time, they didn’t go far, so Mimia flipped to his feet and swung his head to slash with his knife. He hit a firework that was concealed in Fionn’s fur, and yelped as a strong burst of sparks went off in his face.

“Mimia!” Shelly cried, but Lucca stuck a flipper in front of him.

“No way, are we really gonna let him do the trial alone? That’s what we had a go at Shelly for!” Ruby argued.

“The difference is, he asked us for this,” Lucca said. His eyes narrowed. “And if I understood even a little of what they were talking about…”

Azu reluctantly joined the group. “This doesn’t look good, though.”

All the lights and sparks in Mimia’s face blinded him for a moment, but he thrashed about so that he couldn’t be struck easily. Once it cleared, he locked onto Fionn’s scent again, and detected them back at the top of the balcony. They had a fierce show of fangs in their blind glare, and spread their tails apart. Several fireworks appeared from within, and they promptly lit, making Mimia gasp.

Every rocket was fired at once, but each one flew down at Mimia one at a time. A jump to the left to avoid the first one, then a dive to dodge the second, and then Mimia scraped his feet to stop in place and dodge the third. He jumped on the spot to avoid a fourth and a fifth, then leaned to the right on two legs to avoid a sixth. A seventh just about grazed him, burning his side but not setting off, while an eighth missed him completely. The ninth was headed straight toward him. With a snarl, he hardened his grip on his knife, clenched his eyes shut tight, and sliced the firework in half. Intense heat showered over his form as the firework exploded on him, yet he didn’t so much as flinch.

There was shouting from his friends behind him, as well as explosive pops from the fireworks as they hit the background, yet all of it registered as muffled noise to the Stufful. He threw himself at the pillar and punched it again, setting off that horrible noise that brought Fionn down to them in the first place. This time, the Ninetales landed in a daze, snarling and growling as they attempted to cower below their ears. Mimia took advantage, and leapt up for a mighty punch.

No one could deny the bone-crunching sound as Mimia’s punch landed straight onto Fionn’s face. Fionn coughed as he recoiled, but Mimia wasn’t going to let him off with just that. He leapt after the fox and threw his whole body into punch after punch, but Fionn seemed to regain his senses after the first hit, and stumbled to avoid the others. Mimia still managed to hit his side a few times, but nothing as decisive as the first hit. Eventually, Mimia hopped back to gain distance, and hung his head. He was out of breath.

“Way to go Mimia!” Shelly cheered him on.

“I don’t get what’s going on, that guy’s eyes won’t open. How can he see Mimia?” Ruby questioned.

“Ironic, coming from a Pokémon whose eyes are supposed to closed all the time,” Brine replied. That made Ruby open her eyes and growl.

“It’s because they’re feral. That Pokémon is just like Mimia,” Lucca answered. “Feral Pokémon aren’t like us. They weren’t brought up through education or guidance from parents or families. They spend their entire lives guided by instincts and their senses, fighting against other ferals. Because of that, they’re a lot more sensitive with those features.”

“Uh, hello? Big weird word explanation make brain go loopy!” Ruby flailed in complaint.

“Even though that Pokémon can’t see, his nose and ears are super good. It’s like he can see with his nose and ears,” Crystal said.

“Even with everything going on? I can barely smell here!” Shelly cried.

Mimia seemed to be allowed to catch his breath, but that also allowed the damage he’d tanked to catch up to him. The firework from before left his body covered in burns that irritated him even though nothing touched him, while his eyes blurred with colours and lights from the flashes of the firework blasts. He remained locked onto Fionn, but couldn’t make out more than the Ninetales’ general shape. Oddly, it looked as though Fionn smirked at him, and then steadily backed away.

“Huh?” Mimia huffed, surprised at how out of breath he was. He stepped forward, but Fionn’s form had vanished into the white mist. He could still smell him, but without being able to see thanks to the mist and blur, Mimia thought twice about attacking.

He does not realise that I can still detect our mark, Mimia told himself, and tensed up again, ready to move at a moment’s notice. He could smell Fionn slowly strafing him from a distance, and wanted to wait until he came close before attempting to counter.

All of a sudden, a powerful swipe came from his left, sudden enough that he couldn’t dodge in time. Mimia yelped and stumbled to the side, cringing as his burns flared up from the strike. I could have sworn…?

Mimia ignored the pain to regain focus quickly. Fionn was currently still on the left, yet a blur of blue came from the right, this time bashing directly into Mimia’s side. He yelled as pain surged through him, and just about caught himself on shaky legs.

Something’s wrong. Why can’t I— Mimia sniffled and panicked, but he had no time to think. Attacks were coming from wherever Fionn wasn’t, but they were as fast and strong as the Ninetales was. He managed to stumble away from two more attacks, but a third smacked the back of his head down, and he spat and choked to remain on his feet.

He couldn’t move from there, and the pummelling began. Mimia shut his eyes and braced as best he could, but that was fruitless. Whatever was hitting him, it struck his body all over. One hit to his left side, and then a hit to the face, then one straight down on his back, followed by a hit to the side of his face. Each attack knocked his body and sent a searing wave of pain through his form, although through it all, he managed to remain on his feet, and barely yelped from each hit.

By the end of it, he was sure he was bleeding somewhere, and gave up keeping his eye shut. His body ached and shivered all over, and his breaths were heavy. That awful temperature of being too hot and cold at the same time had come back in full force. That was until he attempted to move, and shrieked as he felt like he might tear his own legs off.

He was shocked to find all four of his legs frozen to the ground by clear mounds of ice. He couldn’t so much as wiggle his legs, despite the intense cold that crept up his body from them. Some of those attacks he took must have been Pokémon attacks.

How did he achieve this without Bestia? Mimia gasped. He flew into full panic when the mist cleared a bit and Fionn reappeared a few paces away from him.

This will end it!” Fionn howled triumphantly, and raised his head and tails. The mist in the area started to sweep across the floor, where it slowly rose and shrouded Mimia in damp, cold air.

“That’s Freeze Dry! That’ll kill him!” Azu warned and shifted forward.

“Nuts to this!” Ruby hissed and flared her back.

“Mimia!” Lucca cried. He and Ruby flew forward to help him.

All it took was their voices to shift Mimia back into full focus. I can’t let them interfere no matter what. Not on my pride as a servant, or a feral, or even me!

With all the strength he could muster, Mimia whipped his head back to the others and loosened his knife, throwing it straight at Lucca’s base. Had the Brionne not stopped in place, the knife would’ve stabbed him. To say Lucca was horrified was an understatement, but it got him and Ruby to hesitate and glare at him. That was all the extra time he needed.

“Don’t you dare assume you’ve won!” Mimia growled as he tensed up.

Angel appeared behind him and flapped her wings to feed him Bestia energy, which he immediately began to use. Red energy began to flare up around Mimia in a tough, fiery aura, and that seemed to counter Fionn’s Freeze Dry attack. White air turned into a blinding glow like a sun, emphasized by pieces of the ground erupting and rising up around him.

Mimia roared at the top of his voice as the energy around him spiked, and his form appeared as a fireball. He broke free of the ice in an instant and flew at Fionn like a comet, one foot drawn back for a punch like before. Fionn had a mere moment to appear shocked before Mimia was in his face. With his punch, all the energy burst from Mimia at once, and the sound of an explosion went off. Mimia bounced back to the floor, while Fionn was sent flying into pillar behind him, where he smashed into it so hard his body hung in an indent.

“Superpower… that was the perfect choice to break free of the ice,” Azu breathed out. The others sighed in relief until the sound of crumbling took over, and Fionn fell to the ground. The Ninetales was still standing. “You’ve got to be kidding, he’s still up?”

Mimia remained on his feet, too. He was ready to collapse and hibernate after that attack. In fact, Superpower’s recoil made his body smoulder. It took everything he had to remain focused and glare at the slowly approaching Fionn. All senses were still on deck, ready to continue the fight. And then, Fionn fell to the floor, whining and panting weakly.

“I was about to say. No way could a flimsy guy like him keep going after being pancaked to the wall!” Ruby cried.

“He did it? He just did the whole trial by himself?” Shelly questioned in disbelief.

“Incredible… so this is the kind of drive the Shining Warriors have,” Brine whispered.

“But what about Mimia? Is he hurt?” Crystal cried, and rushed over. Everyone joined her besides Lucca, who slowly slithered over.

“Hey, that was incredible! I knew you were tough, but way to go,” Ruby cheered. Mimia sighed and stumbled a bit. “Wh-whoa, don’t go faintin’ on me now!”

Mimia whined but obeyed. His legs wouldn’t stop shaking, and his head was clouded. He wanted to collapse and just soak in everyone’s praise, but then noticed Lucca’s look. Everyone did, and it brought the scene to silence. Lucca stared down at him with a stern stare.

“Lucca?” Crystal said, and cocked her head.

There was silence and stillness for moment. Mimia’s nerves broke first, and he stared up at Lucca in confusion. He made a sound of interest. Lucca had never stared at him this way before, ever. It was concerning, almost scary even. And then, Lucca handed Mimia his knife.

Thank you, My Lord,” Mimia let out a sigh as he accepted and sheathed it. Lucca continued to stare however, and then raised a flipper. He stifled a cough, growled, and then smacked Mimia’s face so hard his head turned to the side.

What just happened didn’t even register until a moment later. That wasn’t a silly, friendly slap. It was a smack, and it was followed by a furious stare from Lucca. He was going to be told off, and his heart fell into his stomach.

“What, the hell, is wrong with you?” Lucca said, his face red with rage. “I can’t believe you!”

“L-Lucca?” Azu gasped amongst everyone else’s shocked faces. Mimia whined and hung his head.

“Mimia! Front and centre!” Lucca continued, to which Mimia responded with a stiff pose. It hurt with how weak he was, but he knew to obey. “By the power vested in me as crown prince of Reverie, from this moment forthwith, I hereby relieve you of all duties related to our royal family, and me, as crown prince!”

Mimia choked on his own breath, and gawked. “Wha… wa-wait, my lord?”

“Mimia. You’re fired,” Lucca stated sterner than ever.

He couldn’t close his mouth, or stop his heart. It actually hurt. He attempted to utter a response, but everything about the Brionne spelt of being completely serious. His mind ran a million thoughts too, and registered all sorts of horrible feelings. He wanted to cry, but also punch Lucca, and beg him to reconsider, all while stating this was a sickening sense of humour. Nothing came, and eventually, the Brionne raised his head high to take a deep breath as if stabilising his own thoughts.

When Lucca brought his head down, all the fury was gone. “There. Now you don’t have to try so hard.”

Mimia uttered a sound, but still no words came.

“I don’t know what all that was really about. I’m guessing it’s something to do with the way ferals used to be, and your want to protect me. I heard my name a few times,” Lucca began. He faced Mimia, and he was saddened. The Stufful’s heart returned to his chest, but it was still heavy and fast. “Mimia, you’re the Pokémon most dearest to me. I never want to see you do that to yourself just to stand up for me ever again.”

“But I…” Mimia couldn’t find the words.

“I don’t fully understand it, and you don’t have to tell me, either. But you almost killed yourself. All I know is that I never want to see you try to do something like that ever again,” Lucca explained. “You mean too much to me, buddy. We’re in this together. No amount of duty or whatever would ever make me happy to see you kill yourself for my sake.”

Mimia stared up at him, still gawking. He couldn’t help it, now. His tail was wagging hard, and his face was heating up. Were his fur not already pink, Lucca might have been able to tell.

“When I saved your life back then, and chose to keep you, it was because I genuinely wanted to be your friend. You becoming my retainer wasn’t duty, that was sort of just so that Father would let me keep you around. But otherwise, we’re friends, and we’ve always been. You’re a special friend, Mimia,” he continued. “We made this journey together, we set off together, and we’re going to finish it together. So don’t go getting all prideful like that on me again, okay? We fight together and we struggle together, no matter how hard it gets.”

“F-friends,” Mimia felt the heat in his face fade away as he hung his head. “Yes, Lord Lucca.

“It’s not ‘Lord Lucca’ anymore. It’s just ‘Lucca’,” he corrected, and cocked a smile.

… Not Lord Lucca anymore… if that is the case, then… what changes? What happens? Am I allowed to… Mimia shivered a bit. He sniffled uncontrollably. No, this is worse! How am I to be in his presence now?

“Mimia, c’mon. Look at me already. This means you aren’t bound by my orders, or royal duty or whatever. If you really want to be a stick in the mud, we’re not in Reverie right now. I have no jurisdiction or power here,” Lucca explained. That made Mimia gasp and look up again. “Here, in Heroica, we’re just two Pokémon. So c’mon. You haven’t been yourself lately, and it’s led to this. Please tell me what’s on your mind.”

“I…” Mimia tried, and gulped. He couldn’t stop himself from crying. He couldn’t say this out loud. He wasn’t strong enough. So he resorted to feral language, although it was muffled with hiccups and tears. “I was scared, Lord Lucca. I was so scared that you and Miss Azu could get married, and I would not know what would happen to me if you did.

“What?” Lucca whispered in surprise.

Mimia finally gave into his tears and leapt into Lucca, who fell back. Lucca accepted the hug and allowed him to cry into his ruffles. At that moment, the Bestia fountain began to restore, and blue light took over the world around them.

I don’t want to leave your side, Lord Lucca. I want to live with you, even after this journey is over. That is what I want, more than anything in the world. I was made to fight for it. Not just to declare my independence from my pack, but to myself. That’s why I had to fight so hard. That is how hard I would fight for you,” Mimia did his best to speak amongst his cries.

To his surprise, Lucca didn’t reply with words. Instead, he slipped his flippers behind Mimia in just as affectionate a way, one flipper cradling the back of his head, the other, Mimia’s back, and brought him close. Warmth from the magical fountain engulfed them as the energy healed Mimia, but he couldn’t feel a thing, just that embrace. As if wanting to keep it between them too, Lucca leaned his head even closer to Mimia’s ears, and spoke softly and quietly.

“You can do that, now. You could always do that. Mimia, I always want you to be part of my life, too,” he said.

The two remained there even as the fountain began to calm, and the temple returned. Unlike before, natural light had returned, revealing that the place was in fact, as standard as an observatory could be. There were rows of bookshelves and various items, while stairs and a ladder led up to a balcony where a giant telescope was. Right now, they were in the centre of a large empty space, where the floors matched the ancient designs of the previous temples.

Fionn had recovered as well, but had his back to the group. He acknowledged them with a huff, and then leapt up to the balcony where he disappeared amongst the upper area. Mimia turned at that, and somehow lost his presence. The smell of their mark was still around, but not on a Pokémon, as if Fionn’s presence had totally vanished.

“You okay?” Lucca asked, giving his head an affectionate pat. Mimia yipped happily, and stood tall.

“Er… okay I’m not the only one who’s absolutely lost, right?” Ruby spoke up at last.

“You really can’t tell anything at all?” Brine raised an eyebrow.

“What was all that about? Was I supposed to know?” she cocked her head. Brine palmed her face.

“And to think you had a crush on Lucca and stuff,” Crystal grumbled.

“Ka-ssh! Don’t say that out loud you dummy!” Ruby flailed her arms.

“I have to admit, I’m with Ruby on this one. There’s a lot to unpack from all that,” Azu came forward. Lucca had a serious look on his face, and struggled to look at her. He exchanged that seriousness with Mimia, and the duo nodded.

“It’s okay. There is a lot to explain,” Lucca said. “I had to keep it secret, but with what just happened, I want to be more open.”


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Brine complete - Copy.png

Episode 19: Feather, the Powerful Enigma

“Ah, now we’re talking. Cool breeze, yummy snacks, quiet ocean… For the first time in forever, life’s actually relaxing,” Ruby remarked. She sat back, sighed, and stuffed an apple in her mouth. The group were heading back to Heroica on Posia, the giant Lanturn that Elise lent them. Posia was fast thanks to its size, but it looked like it would still be a while before they touched land.

“Being up in the sky made my bones all stiff. You don’t realise how cold it is up there until you’re back in proper sunlight,” Lucca remarked, sat back and relaxed, too.

“You have bones?” Ruby squeaked.

“… Yeah, of course I do? Why wouldn’t I?” he raised an eyebrow.

“You’re so bendy and squishy, and slippery, too. You move like there’s nothing inside you sometimes,” Crystal remarked happily. Lucca gave his belly a nervous pat.

“Anyway, enough stalling. You said you were going to explain to us. Now, mister,” Azu said, arms folded.

“Yeah, I did. Still figuring out where to start,” he mumbled. “Hmm. Maybe it’s obvious by now, but me and Mimia don’t come from here. We’re from a kingdom underneath Heroica known as Reverie. I’m actually the crown prince of that kingdom.”

“Whoa, you’re a prince?” Crystal gasped. Ruby had to cover her mouth for some reason.

“Reverie is a world completely devoid of nature, though. Bestia has almost completely run out down there. It’s running out in Heroica too, but it’s more extreme than that. I’d never even seen a green field before until I came here,” Lucca explained. “Originally, it was my mission to help the Shining Warriors so that I could beg them to restore Bestia to Reverie. But then me and Mimia wound up becoming Shining Warriors ourselves.”

“Isn’t that convenient. Now that you’re hands on, you weren’t going to ask, you were just going to take, weren’t you?” Azu guessed.

“Not really. I don’t know exactly how the Bestia restoration works, so it would depend on what actually happens when all the fountains are activated,” Lucca said with a shrug. “The thing is, now I’m really confused on everything that’s going on. I knew that Father was once a Shining Warrior, but then Gladys tells me my Mother and their retainer were, too.”

“Why’s that important?” Ruby asked.

“Well,” he mouthed off, and stared at Shelly, who cocked their head in confusion. “Shelly, your mother was an Azumarill called Nebilim Aska, right? An Azumarill who somehow gave birth to you… well, that exact Pokémon had me, too.”

“Your ma was Nebilim, too? Wa-wait a minute,” the Oshawott gasped as he realised. “We’re brothers?”

“Somehow, distant brothers. Mother decided to leave you with Gladys for some reason, while I was raised in Reverie. Why do that? And why did Father never tell me about you? They had to have been together at the time,” Lucca rubbed his chin. “There’s just a few things I’m finding out that I’m confused about. Too confused to really commit to my mission.”

“Does this have something to do with why you murdered Pokémon? That’s what I’m concerned with, really,” Azu slumped.

Lucca hesitated this time. “That Zweilous was my work. It was my duty to kill any Pokémon that threatened to jeopardize the Shining Warrior journey at all costs. But after that? My retainer’s been meeting me in secret and telling me who I need to get rid of.”

“Have they been spying on us the whole time? Did they find something out about Gladys and Esther?” Azu’s eyes widened.

Lucca was still hesitant and thoughtful. “Well, no. They didn’t tell me. They just told me Esther had to go. I made an attempt on Esther, but something else happened.”

“Something else?” Brine cocked her head.

“Stop beating around the bush. I still don’t fully trust you, you know,” Azu stated.

“I will tell you. But you have to trust me right now – not here and now. I promise I’ll explain it, but I just can’t right now,” Lucca said, becoming a bit exasperated. The others turned away. “I’m conflicted. Reverie has its entire population, my entire family of supposedly intelligent Pokémon that’re all part of the Aska family, frozen in giant cubes of magic ice. They’ll wake up when Bestia is restored to Reverie. If we don’t, they could stay asleep forever. But once I saw how hard Mimia would hurt himself just for my sake…”

“You can’t afford for a Shining Warrior to die, is that it? Are we really just all tools to you?” Azu challenged.

“Oh shut up, he never said that!” Ruby snapped at her.

“Look, it’s more than that. I meant what I said up there. Mimia’s not some expendable resource, he’s my friend, and I never want him gone. But fighting this hard, killing other Pokémon I don’t know, and finding out there are secrets kept from me too, and then Brine’s story about the Undine coupled with Gladys’ goal,” Lucca explained, and glanced at Brine, who nodded.

“The Revenants could just be another race in this war for Bestia,” Brine stated, and he nodded.

“You guys are dear friends to me, not just allies in battle. That’s why I want to make a decision for myself, now. No more murdering Pokémon on order or secret agendas. From here on, I’m just a wandering guy who became a Shining Warrior,” Lucca announced.

“Oh really? Does that mean you’re…” Ruby said, and bat her eyes at him. Mimia started growling at her. “What? Don’t gimme that. I’ll fight you!”

“Ha, yeah I just told you I’m a prince, but I’d really prefer it if you guys treated me the same as always. I’ve no power here, after all,” Lucca snickered.

“But you’re my brother, now. If only Elise knew, too,” Shelly said.

“It’s weird, right? We’re so different, species and all, but it’s a thing. The Aska family is all inbred, so it’s oddly possible,” Lucca added. “Maybe I should be the one teaching you how to fight. Big brother duty and stuff.”

“I-I’m okay!” he gasped, and Lucca laughed.

“Man, you guys really have been through a lot,” Brine said quietly. And then there’s me… why am I really here?

Mimia said something in feral language, to which Lucca frowned. “Buddy, you didn’t need to be so secretive in the first place. I’m sure everyone would be happier to know the real you from here on out, too.”

Mimia nodded, and then carefully slid over to Brine, and bowed. “I’m sorry I was so rude to you before.”

Brine blinked dumbly. “Ahaha, it’s fine, really! I didn’t see it as rude or anything. I appreciate it, though.”

“I am not confident in my voice, so if possible, I would like to keep quiet in public, please,” Mimia added, addressing everyone this time.

“Why don’t you teach us feral language? That could help a lot,” Azu suggested. Mimia shook his head to say no, and then settled back down. “It was worth a shot.”

A prince from a dying kingdom, a runaway from a country looking for war, a disabled outcast, an independent feral, and whatever in the world Crystal is… why do I feel like I don’t belong? Brine frowned. I can’t force myself to care about what I don’t care about, though…

The group relaxed a lot more from there on, and reached Girage Field not long after. The city hadn’t changed visually from their last visit, but tensions rocketed the moment they arrived. It was still an overcrowded series of streets and fields lined with tall buildings, coupled with an ugly smell concocted by the various services. Aromas from a row of restaurants selling fresh food battled an active material works, where iron was melted and wood was cut directly opposite them. The smell of the sea spilled out everywhere else.

Brine was right to feel intimidated. There were many more knights around compared to last time she was here. The group docked themselves at the far end of a beach by a few huts and away from the commercial structures, so there were only a few other Pokémon here who relaxed and paid them little mind.

“Where are we even headed? I should have asked earlier, but Angel, where’s our next stop?” Lucca asked. The Togekiss popped out without a word, and then pointed to a spot on their map. “A little southeast. Is that area desert?”

“Oh, it would be there. Yeah, that makes sense,” Brine said. All eyes turned to her. “That fountain and the monster that guards it activated on me before I got to meet you guys. It happens to be an area I frequent, so I could guide you guys straight there the quickest way.”

“Quickest might not be best,” Azu sighed. Brine gave her a look. “Care to explain, mister royal?”

“We’re wanted by the knights, here. We can’t afford to get caught,” Lucca slumped, wary of the other Pokémon around. “We should get going and be out of here as soon as possible.”

“Well that’ll make this fun,” Brine scratched an ear, and then straightened her goggles. “Seriously, you guys… we’re gonna need a plan. Maybe some disguises…”

“Disguises, huh? Oh, I have just the thing!” Azu bounced happily.

A little while later, the group were back in the depths of the big city. Stuck in the middle of a crowd of Pokémon three times their height, they were filtered through the streets like mail on a factory line. They stayed together, but grew nervous as they reached a four-way intersection. Knights were stationed at the four corners to help direct all the Pokémon.

“Seriously, Azu? This was your plan? There are knights right there,” Crystal hissed.

“How do you hide a tree? Use a forest. We look just like everyone else now that we’re naked,” Azu giggled.

“Just because we’re not wearing our amulets, doesn’t mean we can’t be identified. Me and Mimia don’t wear anything besides our weapons,” Lucca said worriedly. Mimia did keep both eyes open, however.

“Shh. Look alive, now. Remember, we’re going for Teriyaki Outpost,” Brine whispered as their turn came up. The group straightened and let her take the lead.

“Don’t miss the smaller Pokémon. Are you all together? Where are you headed?” One of two knights stopped them at the corner.

“Teriyaki Desert. A friend is waiting at the outpost for us,” Brine pointed down the road.

“Very well. Ten seconds!” the knight shouted to his comrade on the other side of the square. They stood and watched as a line of Pokémon marched across, but Crystal couldn’t help but exhibit nervous gestures. She gulped, started to sweat, and Ruby nudged her in annoyance.

“Hey, wait a second. Are the six of you together? I swear I recognise this group…?” one of the knights crouched down to them.

Shoot. Is our group’s species too recognisable? Brine gulped.

The knight stared at them intensely, though it confused her more than anything. He had a hollow space for his eyes, but there was nothing there besides black, as far as Brine could tell. And yet, she felt his eyes on her, and possibly Crystal, who was very close to losing it. Her fists clenched and she shifted a foot back, ready to attack and sprint at a moment’s notice.

“What, ain’t ever seen a sexy Cyndaquil before?” Ruby said aloud, and posed for him.

“H-huh?” The knight jerked back instantly.

“Sorry. This mousey’s a bit too hot for the steel kind, so can we go now?” she teased.

“E-er, um, y-yes. Ahem,” the knight replied, and tapped his weapon.

“C’mon man, you know it’s bad favour to stare, especially the smaller ones. Yes we’re looking for a Piplup, but you can’t stop every one we see,” the other knight told him off. He signalled for the traffic to move, and the group walked off.

“I can’t believe this is actually working,” Brine sighed, and wiped her forehead.

“Like I said, hide a tree in a forest,” Azu giggled.

“You almost gave us away. Get it together!” Ruby complained.

“It’s not my fault! Who wouldn’t get nervous if stared in the eyes?” Crystal cried. “Plus, seriously? A sexy Cyndaquil? When did you get so racy?”

“What? Do you think I am?” she replied.

“No, what the heck!” Crystal squealed and blushed.

“Well I don’t, either,” she turned away. Crystal raised a flipper to argue, and then realised what was just said.

“Could we maybe... talk about this another time?” Azu suggested.

The crowd eased up as other Pokémon stopped off at shops or went down other streets. Girage was as big and bothersome as Brine remembered: a simple trip to one end of the city meant traipsing down wide roads of grass and stone, behind bulky Pokémon that somehow walked slower than a Slugma. The group took the opportunity to stock up on their own necessities as they passed market stands or tool shops.

Soon they reached the familiar road that led out to the desert. It was just the same as when she’d last used it. The stone floor here didn’t have much grass, and what was there was yellow and dry. The only buildings appeared to be homes, and a lone Kecleon shop right by the entry and exit banner. Beyond that, nothing but sandy dunes baked by unforgiving sunlight. The wind barely blew here either, so the heat was stagnant.

“When I said I wanted heat, this isn’t what I had in mind,” Lucca commented. He was already sweating.

“Are you water types gonna dry up and start flopping about? What’s the holdup?” Ruby asked as she took the lead.

“It’s… it looks really hot out there. And it’ll be a long journey, too,” Shelly leaned away.

“Aaand? All we have to do is- Ow, hey, what the- eek!” Ruby started dancing about as if something was nicking at her feet, and stopped once she bounced back to their side.

“Yes, the desert sands are extremely hot. There is a lack of wind too, so the heat will be relentless. Yet, this is where a Bestia Fountain is,” Brine explained.

“Hot enough to burn me? How does that make sense?” Ruby cried.

“You might be fire type, but you’re still just a little mouse Pokémon. You can still burn if you were set alight,” Azu explained. “Same way I could drown if I were stuck underwater.”

“Hrrg, point taken,” Ruby grumbled.

“Is the fountain far away?” Crystal asked.

“We can get there in a day if we walk nonstop. I’ve made the trip several times before,” Brine answered. She took her scarf out and hung her amulet around her neck again. “Given the hour, we’ll have to camp at an oasis that’s a little diversion of the way there.”

“Too late to go grab a carriage, huh?” Lucca joked.

“I wouldn’t pull it across the desert even if you ordered me to,” Mimia confessed. Lucca groaned as their trip began.

We managed to get through the city without the knights chasing us, but this is still going to be a task and a half, Brine realised. She led the way, but promptly stopped to let the others get used to the extreme heat. Ruby seemed to have adjusted, but Lucca and Shelly hissed and scrunched up their faces with every step. The hot sand must have been blistering to them.

Not that Brine herself was any better. She had gotten used to Van Aken’s comfy soils, so now her body was not happy about this. The heat was one thing, the grains seeping their way into her fur with every step was another. She had to resist stopping to scratch her feet every now and then, and could also feel sweat building up beneath her scarf. She could only imagine how Azu must have felt, with her Thick Fat becoming an issue. About twenty minutes later, the group had passed over the first sandy hill, where Brine had to stop and gasp out loud. Teriyaki Desert had changed completely from when she was last here.

What was once a natural desert was now a maze of ruins that carved its way into very earth itself. Everything was still yellow, orange, and dusty, with a pure blue sky that fluctuated in extreme heat. Unnatural shapes dotted the landscape every couple of metres, varying in size and shape. What little wind there was didn’t carry clouds of sand with it. Instead, it sang an eerie howl through holes in the walls like an offkey flute. Amongst that were craters like the surface of the moon, many of which still had meteorites that crackled with red flames or draconic blue energy.

“Was this the beast’s doing?” Brine whispered in disbelief.

“Er, good thing we prepared?” Azu shrugged. Brine shook her head as she stumbled forward, and stopped by a ledge that was higher than she expected. “This is not what the desert’s supposed to look like.”

The more she looked, the worse it got. To get through here, they would have to climb. They would have to dig. They would potentially even have to jump cliffs. Despite the utterly eaten earth, this whole area retained every harsh quality of the desert trip she knew and hated so much. They were not getting through here in one day.

“Does any of this even go through? You’d think the knights would warn us there was no desert outpost,” Crystal cocked her head. “Where do we start? How do we get down?”

“Careful. I can smell ferals hidden below,” Mimia warned.

“They’re probably loving this layout. Alright, so the aim is to not hit the lowest levels,” Lucca thought aloud. “Er, anyone have any idea how we’re going to manage that?”

“If only we could fly,” Crystal slumped.

“Fly…? Wa-wait, we can,” Shelly gasped. “Crystal, don’t you remember?”


“It was you, lass! Your idea,” he beamed up. Crystal stayed confused, so he started digging through his Treasure Orb. “I-I’m sure I have it somewhere. It was you who did it last time back at the Fossil Hill temple. Gotcha!”

He had to put the orb down to pull a rope from it, and then handed one end to Crystal. Azu finally beamed up too, and smiled. “Oh wow, now there’s a memory. Yes, with your good aim and the sturdiness of these ruins, that just might work.”

“You want me to make ropeways? It might take a while to get through,” Crystal said unsurely.

“It’ll be infinitely quicker than attempting to navigate these dungeons. So we tie one end to something, and then…” Azu trailed off as she scanned the scenery. “Look for something an arrow could pierce.”

“Not only does it have to pierce, it would have to stay stable. A bit difficult when you don’t have Mimia to stab it in the ground on the other end,” Lucca added. Mimia whined at the comment.

“Ropeways,” Brine muttered as the group split off to scan the environment. Everything was sand and earth, so there was no way an ordinary arrow was going to safely pierce and lock into place. “But we’re Shining Warriors. That’s right. We would never have to do this a normal way. Guys! I have an idea.”

“The floor’s all yours,” Lucca said. Brine took a moment to regain her bearings, and locked her sights on where she knew the oasis was.

“I wonder if this’ll work? We’ve got plenty of cool, special powers, after all,” Brine said, and crouched. Her bracelets glowed, and water gathered around her palms. She took a moment to bask in the relief from the heat, and then turned to Crystal. “Hand me that arrow! And get ready to shoot.”

“Uh,” Crystal nervously obeyed, and stood by Brine. The duo had their arms together, as if Brine steadied the arrow while Crystal nocked and pulled it back. When she was ready to aim, Brine’s water powers spiked, and a huge orb surrounded the entire bow. The orb splashed and sputtered like rushing water.

“You’re aiming as far you can go. See that dune over there, where the broken archway thingy is? Let’s try there,” Brine instructed.

“If you say so,” Crystal obeyed with determination. She let the arrow loose with a cry, and it flew across the air in a flash. Following the exact trajectory of the arrow was Brine’s water, which stayed in place as a beam of water. “Whoa, it’s like a Hydro Pump!”

“How’s that for a teamwork move? We could probably use this in a fight, too,” Brine remarked, and posed proudly. “Quickly, get in! The water won’t stay there forever.”

“Ladies first,” Lucca bowed.

“Why thank you,” Ruby played along, and dove straight in. Exactly as predicted, she was jetted along the water beam at high speed, and travelled along it perfectly. Brine stood by the front of the beam and provided more water for it, allowing the others to jump in at their leisure.

“Way to go. What’d we do without you two?” Azu praised, and rolled in.

“Careful, Mimia. You first. You too, little bro,” Lucca ordered. The Stufful yipped and dove in, followed by a nervous Shelly. Lucca was next, and gave a friendly wave. Crystal gave a focused nod and dove in, leaving just Brine.

“Alright. They’re either dead because of my screwup, or this is gonna be fun. Let’s do it, Brine,” the Pikachu told herself as she let up on her water. The beam instantly began to weaken, so she dashed in.

She was surprised at how much force would be here, even though it was her and Crystal’s attack. It wasn’t unpleasant as she braced herself for it, but it was little different than having her whole body carried by a powerful current. Fortunately, unlike being thrown around by a river, she could keep her body angled nicely, and observed the desert as it scrolled below. Even with a watery filter over it, she could see how dark the desert had become.

Brine hit her head on the wall at the end of the water beam and tumbled to the ground in a blank daze. It didn’t hurt as much as she thought, but she did get drenched as excess water splashed over her afterwards. “Uh… that was meant to happen, I think.”

“Hee hee hee, you okay? You look like you’re seen something,” Ruby commented.

“Ye-yeah,” she muttered as she got up. Now that they were in the middle of these ruins, she could see a few of the meteors and broken planet up close. Some of the walls that jutted out of the sand looked familiar, for some reason. “Wait a minute, these are…”

“Yep. It’s just like the temple we just did, and the one before that,” Lucca nodded to her. “This whole setup is our next trial site after all.”

“I’m sure the actual fountain is by Scar’s Village, though. To think that one beast could do all this damage intentionally… it’s like it’s trying to build its temple,” Brine remarked.

“Anything about that you can tell us by the way? Probably better we learn about the beast before we fight it,” Lucca asked.

“Good point. I was taking us to the oasis first. We can camp to prepare properly, and then head to the fountain tomorrow. We’ll use more water beams like we did just now. Sound like a plan?” Brine smiled.

“Hey guys, up here!” Ruby called. Her and Shelly were at the top of the dune behind them. “All that crazy stuff just stops over here!”

Brine was confused until she scrambled up the sands to reach the top of the dune. Surely enough, over this hill was actual desert, all the same as she expected. Sandy slopes swept by dusty winds as far as the eye could see, but the hopeful view of an oasis dead centre. There were a few tents by the water and greenery.

“Even with all this out here, there are other Pokémon here. The other temples were all empty,” Crystal remarked.

“You’d be surprised. It’s probably Scar and the builders,” Brine said, and climbed up. She stretched her arms, and then led the way. “I worked here with Scar for a good while. The guy really wanted to build a village here.”

“Here? In the desert?” Shelly asked. Brine nodded. It was all downhill from here, so she tucked her arms behind her head.

“It sounds nuts, doesn’t it? But he had a plan for it. Something about the way he does things inspired me to stay. Plus it kept me outta the public eye,” she explained.

The oasis was further away than the view made out. By the time they reached it, the sun was beginning to set, and with it, the temperature dropped and the winds picked up. The song from the temple echoed even here, now orchestrated by the sway of palm trees and the rustle of their leaves. Now that they weren’t running away from knights or sneaking through the public, there was something pleasant about all this.

Brine took a deep sniff and let out a content sigh. Now this was good nostalgia, even though it wasn’t that long ago. Not just nostalgia, but a part of adventuring that always attracted her. The best part of those long trips back and forth through Teriyaki Desert was the chill evenings where she could snuggle up in a tent and just snore away until the sun woke her. She didn’t consider herself lazy, but lazing around like that felt like a worthwhile reward.

“Impressive, Shining Warriors,” a low, female voice announced. Eyes widened and heads searched, until a familiar Raichu emerged from behind a couple of palm trees and a tent. She yawned and stretched as she floated into open space, but when she stopped, two camouflaged Inteleon appeared beside her. Both had bows and arrows nocked and ready. “You guys got here far quicker than I thought you would.”

“Should we know you?” Ruby raised an eyebrow.

“It’s that policemon that led the chase out of Girage,” Lucca said. He already had his swords drawn.

“When I was given the order to take down the Shining Warriors, you have no idea how excited I was. You guys’ve given me more excitement than any criminal Heroica’s force has ever had to deal with. You guys jumped into the ocean, and yet, here you are! Alive and well! Staring me down with the most intense mugs I’ve ever seen.”

Shelly sneezed, and had to rub his nose.

“Well, you could appear a little cooler I suppose, but we take what we can get. This is going to go to an all-out battle, isn’t it?” Raichu added cheerfully.

“I suppose you don’t want it to. I’m happy to resolve this diplomatically,” Azu replied.

“Oh? After fighting so hard, you’re willing to come quietly?” Raichu asked in surprise.

“N-no. I mean to explain a huge misunderstanding,” Lucca corrected.

“Perhaps it will come to that. But for now, I’m afraid your adventure comes to an end,” Raichu stated. She held a paw out to accept an offering. “Hand over Esther, weapons on the floor, and paws in the air. If you follow me back to the station, I will make sure to go easy on you.”

Who is this Pokémon? And why do her words fill me with dread? Brine asked herself as she tensed up. The Raichu appeared so round, docile, and cute, despite the age of her voice. She sat on her tail and levitated off the ground by a couple of metres, while her unusual blue eyes shone in the oncoming dark of night.

“You are planning on fighting me, aren’t you? I’m afraid my demands aren’t negotiable. They’re my orders from higher up, after all,” Raichu put her paw down.

“Grr, who even are you? You’re so pushy,” Ruby snapped. Raichu blinked slowly.

“I am Feather, Raichu chief of Heroica National Police,” Raichu introduced. Her body didn’t move as she spoke, but her Inteleon allies lit their arrows with sparklers and fire. “Me and my investigative forces deal with the biggest threats in Heroica. Members of your group are wanted for murder, kidnapping, and the damaging of public property. You’ve done a lot to earn the honour of confronting me.”

“This is bad. We can’t afford to fight the police,” Lucca muttered. “Does us being Shining Warriors really not matter? Can’t they excuse us since we’re heroes?”

“If they did that, other Pokémon would be crying bias. The older Shining Warriors weren’t star pupils, either,” Azu whispered.

“Stop mumbling. Don’t make me have to use the countdown again,” Feather groaned. “You either come quietly, or we fight and I force you. You have your orders.”

“Seriously, what did you guys do? The knights chasing us through Van Aken was a nightmare in itself, now you waited an ambush in the desert? Is the whole world against us?” Brine ranted.

Finally, feather lowered her paws. “Come again?”

“They… chased us through Van Aken?” Brine said with a furrowed brow. There was a long pause, and then Feather suddenly got off her tail and held it like a bow and arrow. The board of her tail was the arc, while the stringy part of her tail was the elastic. “Urk, what’s with that?”

“Oh, I just decided that you guys would make too interesting of a fight to pass up,” Feather remarked, and drew back an arrow. Everyone shifted back. “You escaped all that ruckus in Girage, survived an ocean of black water, and even got through an army of knights who braved chasing you to the other country… you guys are extreme.”

Brine focused hard on the battle, now. From this far away, I can dodge them, provided those Inteleon’s arrows don’t explode or something. If I can reach the water, I can replenish and wash them out or something.

“Hey, want to hear something cool? I know a Pokémon who’s done more extreme stuff than you,” Feather continued. The group remained tense and focused, to which she shrugged. “Hey, I’m just talking to you. No need to look like I’m gonna kill you or something. I’m not allowed to do that, since you are the Shining Warriors and all that.”

“If you’re not trying to kill us then why try so hard? Just let us go!” Ruby argued.

“You do your time, then you get back to your adventure. That, or we treat it as community service. Depends on how hard we want to go on you,” Feather shrugged. “But that extreme guy, yeah, he did a lot of hardcore stuff. I’m talking, this guy must’ve been trying to break as many laws as he could, and was somehow still labelled a good guy. It took everything I had to take him down. And then we fell in love and had a kid. Truly, the definition of extreme, right?”

What in the world is she on about? Brine was confused. She opened her mouth to make a sly comment, but stopped when she spotted Mimia behind the enemy. At some point he’d snuck by and was ready to pounce on the Inteleon. Brine spared him a blink, and then tried not to give him away.

“You guys are docile in comparison. You don’t want to get caught, but you’re not going to attack either, are you? Linger too long, and something will surprise ya,” Feather warned.

Mimia attacked just then, tackling the first Inteleon to the floor. There was a little scuffle, but Mimia defeated him by breaking his bow and hammering his head into the sand. The second Inteleon cursed, but just as he turned to stop Mimia, Crystal shot an arrow that knocked his weapon out of his hands. From there, Mimia tackled and knocked him out, too.

“Just like that. Well done,” Feather said, smiling at them. Mimia barked at her, and the rest of the group surrounded her. She pulled an arrow with her tail back as far as it would go, and slowly spun to glare at them all. “Thanks to that, you’re officially the aggressors. That means I get to have a go without holding back. They don’t need to see this.”

Something’s not right. Why does she WANT to fight us? Brine shuddered, and shifted back again. Actually, does a Raichu’s tail even work like that? Surely an arrow fired like that would lack power—

She was cut off as Feather launched an arrow at Shelly, who had an instant to react. Feather’s arrow hit the sand right in front of the Oshawott, but it hit so hard that a wave of sand erupted into the sky. Shelly wasn’t just knocked back by the sheer force of it, the sand buried him, too.

“Shelly!” Crystal cried.

“Always take out the support, first. So let’s see what the rest of you’ve got. C’mon, I’ll take you all on at once!” feather bounced cheerfully.

Lucca grit his fangs, and then flew forward as fast as he could. In the few seconds it took for him to reach her, the Raichu released three arrows, one after the other. He dodged all three, but each one had the same power as the arrow that took out Shelly. Sand exploded high into the air on impact, almost like a bomb had gone off.

Mimia barked to signal he was in the fight, too. Lucca and Mimia stood either side of Feather for a moment, and then dove into her. It was difficult to follow, but there were slashes, punches, and tail swipes, all exchanged within a short space of time. Just when it looked like Lucca might land a hit, Feather flipped out of the skirmish, and while upside-down in the air, fired an arrow at Ruby. Ruby had her Parashelter out and blocked it, but the arrow bounced right off the armoured canopy. It hit with so much force that the Cyndaquil was knocked off balance with a squeak.

“She’s fast!” Lucca hissed, and Mimia growled.

“Da-damn it, what’s with this?” Ruby grunted as more arrows were pelted against her shield. They hit with so much force it felt like the shield might shatter. She flared her back, planted her feet, and then put her all into shooting fire into her canopy.

“Hmpf, can’t stay blocking forever, can you?” Feather sung as she continued to fire arrow after arrow at Ruby’s shield. She suddenly stopped and spun to the side to avoid a vicious slash from Lucca. He continued to hack at her, but she twirled away from him gracefully. “Come now, you’re supposed to be a dancer, yes? You must have more graceful moves than this.”

She was shut up as Ruby’s Fire Spin flew into her, and she was trapped in the centre of swirling flames. Lucca landed before her and posed coolly. “I didn’t need to hit you. I just needed to stall time for that.”

“Right, right. Teamwork and all. You’re off to a great start, proving why you’re heroes and all. But still, I would not be the head of the police were I easy to defeat,” Feather replied. She crossed her paws and then unfurled them with force. A burst of steam surrounded her, and the Fire Spin was completely extinguished. “You’re going to have to try harder than that.”

“What? How?” Ruby shrieked.

There’s no way! Brine gasped. She stood back to observe the whole time, and as the battle resumed, paid even closer attention to Feather’s attacks. Every time the Raichu fired an arrow, there was watery residue. On top of that, she never once drew an actual arrow. It really is that…

“You’re not done already, are you?” Feather teased, and held her tail like a bow. “Surely you have more than one trick up your fur for a tricky foe, right?”

“Yeah, we do!” Brine announced, and held her kendama across her front.

“Oh? Now that’s just interesting. What do you plan to do with that toy?” Feather said, and calmed down. She sat back on her tail and leaned on her paws.

Good. She’s underestimating me, Brine took a deep breath. She knew all eyes were on her, so she didn’t waste time with her focus. Her powers began to conjure around her kendama, specifically the ball on the end, and it soon transformed into a large orb of water. Like this, Brine could swing the ball towards Feather like a wrecking ball.

Feather was certainly surprised. Those eyes of hers, which had been calm throughout this entire confrontation, finally widened into shock. She had to stand on her tail and throw herself backwards to dodge Brine’s attack, and nearly fell off her tail when she landed.

“And again!” Brine growled as she pulled her kendama the other way. Her attack was as heavy as an actual wrecking ball, so swinging this way pulled her whole body with the attack. Feather jumped away from it again, but this time she didn’t stumble. “Stay still damn it!”

“Brine, be careful!” Lucca coughed, but he was ignored. Brine kept swinging that giant orb across the sand with all the force she could muster. It drew a valley of sand it its wake, and smashed against the trees so hard the entire oasis shook with the sound of a gigantic splash.

Eventually the orb shrunk to normal size, so she brought the ball back to ball back to her kendama. By now, Brine was sweating hard, and her breath was dry. Feather hadn’t taken a single hit, but she was stood up and glaring at her with a frown. Brine glared back and tried to appear as intimidating as she could.

“A Pikachu… with Undine powers… a watermarked Pikachu,” Feather said. She finally smirked. “Now that is a surprise. The rest of you, is that how you guys walked through the sea?”

“Er, not really. I can make air bubbles,” Lucca rubbed the back of his head. Mimia yipped in agreement. Shelly finally crawled his way out of the sand too, and dozily joined them.

“Still, a rage-induced giant ball of water has gotta be on the low end of the creativity scale. I’m disappointed,” Feather admitted.

“Because you’re watermarked too, right?” Brine challenged. Feather’s look intensified again. “Raichu’s tails aren’t stringy enough to actually be used as a bow and arrow. I learnt that today from getting to touch the bow of a pro. You don’t even have actual arrows on you, either. You’re just amplifying your shots with blasts of water!”

Feather’s eyes widened. “You figured that out just by watching me. Now that’s impressive. But will that knowledge be enough to stop me?”

“Wait, stop!” Azu shouted. “Are you serious? What’s a watermarked Pokémon doing as the chief of police?”

“And… you said you had a daughter with someone who broke the law… c-could that be Brine?” Crystal asked.

“Brine? I thought I heard you call her that name,” Feather’s attention returned to the Pikachu. Now, her heart was racing. “So I’m gonna play this as if you guys already know about Undine and all that. Yeah, my daughter was called Brine. I had to abandon her after my husband took her away.”

Brine finally gasped.

“So the old man finally kicked the bucket? And you wound up a Shining Warrior,” Feather said softly, staring at Brine.

She couldn’t believe it, and lowered her weapon. Her mother was watermarked, too. She came from a lineage, and was probably abandoned so that her undine father could escape. In a flash, a blast hit the sand by her feet, causing it erupt and knock her backwards. “H-hey, what gives?”

Feather had her tail draw like a bow again, and snickered. “Fate put us on opposing sides. My warrant to arrest your group, your destiny to complete the Shing Warrior quest… doesn’t that sound metal as shit?”

“What?” Brine shrieked. “I’m your daughter! Doesn’t that mean anything?”

“You’re my daughter who has a warrant to be arrested. It’s my job. Meanwhile, you have your reasons, and a quest to complete. Therefore, this is a battle nonetheless,” Feather stated, and pulled her tail back. The group shifted to dodge. “Now you’re gettin’ it. Let’s make this a match to be remembered!”

“This is asinine. What kind of mother wants to fight her own daughter over this?” Ruby snapped. “What kind of Pokémon are you, some kinda deranged maniac?”

“Oh my, you seem upset about this,” Feather stopped smiling.

“Of course I’m upset, this is messed up! You don’t even know why you wanna arrest us, do you?” Ruby shouted.

“I have orders, and I’ve read the reports myself. You guys have caused too much trouble to be allowed to be left to run around. But if it clears anything up,” feather explained. “It’s the knights that want you, not the police.”

“So you married an undine, let him run off with your daughter, and now you don’t even care that he’s dead or that your daughter’s been looking for you all this time?” Ruby said.

“Ruby,” Brine muttered.

“Hmm. We’re not even talking about your family. It’s pretty strange you’re so concerned about it,” Feather shrugged.

“Nothing you say makes any damn sense. Why don’t you care?” Ruby shouted.

“It’s not that I don’t care, sweetheart. But if I locked all my motivations to my family, I wouldn’t have a life of my own,” Feather stated. Ruby’s eyes widened, and she couldn’t reply. “Now stop getting all sentimental. I’m your enemy. Come at me like you mean it!”

Ruby coughed, growled, and stifled curses under her breath until she exploded into a Flamethrower attack. Feather stared straight into that fire as it neared her, and fired a water arrow right before it hit, piercing the Flamethrower straight down the centre to completely extinguish it. Ruby was still growling at her, so she brushed her side as if dusting herself.

“Brine, can’t you do something?” Shelly asked worriedly.

“N-no … I used up all my water in that one attack,” Brine shuddered. Her dry voice surprised even herself, and she coughed.

“Wh-what if you had Bestia? Call Angel!” Shelly cried.

Brine grit her fangs. Lucca and Mimia returned to their usual strategy of trying to attack from both sides, but Feather was relentless this time. Lucca danced around to attack stylishly, while Mimia kept trying to hammer her down. Feather darted back and forth with slick movements like she was skating on ice, and let loose water arrows with enough force to knock them both back.

“Dang, she’s as smooth as me. I’ve never had to fight such a nimble opponent before,” Lucca admitted. Mimia whined at him.

It’s like she has mastery of her Undine powers. On top of being a psychic Raichu… that’s a powerful combo. How can we stop that at all? It doesn’t look like she’ll run out of water like I have, Brine thought intensely as she observed the battle. Feather just didn’t seem to have any weak points.

“Those powers of yours have to have something to them. It’s the water in your body, right?” Azu asked, and walked over. Brine nodded. “And we’re at an oasis. If you took a bath, you could use another attack. Is that how it works?”

“It is, but… what do I do?” Brine shuddered. By now, Lucca and Mimia were breathing heavily. Ruby hit with another Fire Spin, but it was blown away just as easily as before. “She knows how to use her powers properly, while I don’t. I… I don’t want to have to run away again. But I… I…”

“You’re not giving up, are you?” Azu replied.

“No! I don’t want to. But I… I-I don’t know what to do!” Brine shuddered. “Pokémon are going to get hurt because of me again. Everything we’ve worked up towards—”

“Then stop that!” Azu objected. “You’re the only other watermarked Pokémon here. Only you know Feather’s weakness. She can get dehydrated, is there another way to cut off her water powers?”

Another way to cut off her powers? Or something like that… Brine thought hard, and shivered. At this point, Lucca, Mimia, and Ruby had stood back to fight defensively, letting Feather take aim at them. We can’t cut off her powers with the oasis right there, she’ll just replenish it. She can predict our movements because she’s psychic. She probably has Lightning rod, so a Pokémon attack from me won’t even work. Damn it, think Brine, think! What can I do? There has to be something, anything!

Feather started laughing cockily. “Well, that’s a shame. I guess this is it, then. You guys put up a good song and dance. If you’ve got nothing else, then I guess it’s time to put your weapons—”

She was cut off by the sudden woosh of an arrow. Then, there was silence. Feather slowly looked down at herself, and there was an arrow stuck in her abdomen.

“H-how?” Brine whispered.

“C-Crystal?” Lucca was first to realise, and everyone there spun around to the very back of the battle. Behind all of them, Crystal was in a pose as if she had just fired, and her head was down. She nocked another arrow, and then raised her head. Her eyes were glowing a bright blue, and there was a bizarre glee on her face.

“S-so there was another archer in your ranks. You certainly caught me off guard,” Feather continued, and pointed a paw forward. In the blink of an eye, a rain of arrows fired straight at her, and she conjured a rounded shield of water to try and protect herself. However, several of the arrows went straight through it, and she fell backward with a freakish scream.

“What the? C-Crystal?” Ruby gasped.

“Stop her! You’ve got to stop her!” Lucca cried as he flew towards Crystal. Three arrows just about missed him while a fourth hit his side, but he ignored it with grunt.

“Lucca!” Azu cried as he engaged the Piplup.

The group were speechless as Lucca wrestled with her. He threw himself at her to tackle her down, and she retaliated with violent, feral thrashing, enough to make Mimia look tame. Lucca’s swords were slapped away from him, the arrow in his side was stabbed deeper, and then Crystal positioned herself behind his head and caught his neck with her bow. She pulled back, and to everyone’s surprise, Lucca couldn’t break free. He started to choke, and that brought everyone else to action.

“What’re you doing? Let him go!” Ruby shouted as she jumped onto Crystal’s back. She was quickly thrown off, and Lucca was still choking, so she roared at the top of her voice and swung the Parashelter at Crystal’s head. She hit hard enough that Crystal’s head turned to the side, but that was enough for Lucca to break free.

The duo fell paces apart from each other, Lucca coughing and panting to get his breath back, while Crystal robotically got to her feet. Not a sound came from her as she glared at Ruby, who flinched away. And then, Crystal’s eyes shut, and she fell face flat. Silence fell as suddenly as this scene had started.

“What… the heck just…?” Ruby breathed out. She shook herself off. “Lucca, Lucca are you okay?”

Her and Mimia freaking out over him brought Brine back, and she spun to try and find Feather. The Raichu had fallen to the ground, and trembled on shaky breath. Now was not the time to be shocked or have questions, though her mind had millions of them. “Feather!”


Author note: quite a chapter to come back to, huh?

Apologize for the extreme absence of updates until now. I’ve been working hard at trying to complete this fanfic, but between life issues, moving house, and a myriad of mental health stuff, progress has been incredibly slow. I desperately wanted to finish the story first before resuming posting for weekly updates. I’m happy to say I’m now at a stage where I will be able to do so!

So, what do you think so far? Any predictions on Crystal’s ruthless outbursts?
Episode 20: Family


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Brine complete - Copy.png

Episode 20: Family

“Okay, that should do it. You can stop whining now,” Azu said as she leaned off Lucca. He sat up and picked at his new bandages which held his ruffles down, and cringed with a hiss. “Geez, have you never had a bandage before? Don’t play with it, or you’ll start bleeding again.”

“We’re so lucky it didn’t hit any organs. The arrow almost went right through you,” Shelly remarked.

“You guys are literal lifesavers, you know that?” Feather remarked as she sat up. The arrows had been removed from her too, but she seemed to be too damaged to float on her tail anymore. “Now what’s to stop me from putting you all in hospital?”

“Try it, and I’m pretty sure you’ll end up falling to pieces. You look rough,” Ruby spat an ember at her.

“Heh, I’m just pulling your tails. I know when I’m defeated, and I know why I was defeated,” Feather replied. She became serious, and glared at the sleeping Crystal. The Piplup was motionless on the other side of the tents, watched intently by Brine. She had been put in a hammock. “I was caught way off guard by how powerful she’d be. She spent the whole battle running away like a helpless Wimpod. I didn’t even notice when she decided to take part.”

“I don’t even know why this happened, but I’m surprised it did when everyone else was around this time,” Lucca added. He turned his gaze to the night sky, which was filled with stars and nebulae. “Perhaps it has something to do with the night.”

“Wait… this time?” Azu said. Lucca’s face was intense, and he silently signalled Brine to come over.

“It’s good that she’s still out. I don’t want her to hear this. I don’t know what to say to her,” he began. He tried to sit as he usually did, but his wounds bothered him, so he rolled onto his back again. “There’s something dangerously wrong with Crystal. There are times where she just turns into this, I don’t know how to put it… feral killing machine.”

“And she just like, faints afterwards? Like that?” Brine shook her head. Lucca nodded.

“I told you before that I couldn’t say anything about Esther’s murder attempt, or Queen Gladys. This is why,” Lucca said. There was a wave of gasps and frightened looks from everyone, even Feather. “I was ordered to kill Esther because her performance uses Bestia energy. I tried to follow that order, but when I got there, Crystal was there before me… Esther’s bodyguard was unrecognisable, like he’d been shredded by something that wasn’t living. When I saw her face covered in blood, I panicked.”

“You’re lying. You have to be makin’ this up!” Ruby objected. “You’re telling me Esther was tellin’ the truth? Crystal tried to kill her? Why the hell would she? Crystal has no reason to, and she ain’t got the guts to even hit feral Pokémon!”

Silence fell as the others turned away nervously. “What? You got somethin’ to say, say it!”

“You saw her, Ruby. You yourself had to knock her out. That wasn’t normal. That was an undeniably violent display,” Azu argued.

“Plus, you might know something about that, Ruby,” Lucca continued, making her gasp. The Cyndaquil’s eyes began to water.

“No! No I don’t know anything! Shut up!” she whimpered. “Crystal ain’t a murderer! She’s too weak and pathetic to be one!”

Shelly dared to step forward. Playing with his paws, he shuddered as hard as his deep blue gospel vibe implied. “U-um… you know, back when we beat the Wishiwashi in the Shadow palace? And then I hugged her because I was really happy…”

“Shelly, shut up!” Ruby shrieked. He stalled, but clenched his fists.

“Her heart wasn’t beating!” Shelly cried. Silence fell again. “H-her heart wasn’t beating… her body felt like a corpse. I-I haven’t been able to forget. It’s scary, and I don’t get it.”

“Like a corpse?” Azu repeated. Her face was going white.

“I’m sorry, Ruby… I know I said I wouldn’t tell anyone, but I can’t… she killed Mama… I don’t know what to do with that,” Shelly trembled and hugged himself.

“It’s a similar story. Me and Mimia went to question Queen Gladys about my mother, Nebilim, after everyone had gone to bed. But when I got there, Crystal had reduced her to mush… and was still attacking,” Lucca recalled. Now Azu was trembling, too. “But I’m in a similar boat. Crystal just seems so innocent and docile; I couldn’t bring myself to let her take the blame for a murder. So I took the blame myself. Now, you guys have all seen it.”

“You stupid idiot! You’ve been burdening yourself with that the whole time? Didn’t you tell Mimia off for the same thing?” Azu snapped and leaned towards him. Lucca was about to reply, but blinked and gawked as Azu couldn’t hold back tears. “I-I’ve been hounding you for being a shady murderer, when all this time, you’ve just been trying to cover her suspicion? What the heck am I supposed to do with this, Lucca?”

“Urf… you’re not supposed to do anything. I’m the prince, here. It’s my role to carry burdens like that, and get to the bottom of the situation. I only lament I even have to ask for you guys’ help,” he answered, and shook his head. Mimia answered him with noises, which made him look up.

“So what, we just all believe it, now? From the stupid guy whose been lying to us all journey?” Ruby challenged.

“Please, Ruby. I know it’s incredibly hard, but I need your knowledge now, more than ever. You’re her sister. If you know anything about Crystal at all, you have to tell us,” Lucca said. His voice sounded just like a monarch just then, and his face was devoid of all the handsomeness his Brionne self normally exuded. “She attempted to kill Esther, she killed Queen Gladys, and now she almost killed Feather and me. We have to get to the bottom of this.”

Ruby sniffled and shivered. She turned away and looked like she might explode, but instead, heavy tears started to roll down her face. “Da-damn it. Damn it all to hell.”

“Ruby…” Shelly muttered.

“I don’t know either. I promise you; I don’t know. She’s just been getting worse all journey,” Ruby began, and everyone’s eyes widened. “Even when I first met her, I noticed her heart doesn’t beat. She has no pulse, she doesn’t breathe, and she’s weirdly super strong even though she doesn’t train or like to fight or anything.”

“Wait, what?” Brine muttered, and mulled it over.

“We’re sisters, right? So we used to fight over stuff. She could pull my arm off if I let her,” Ruby revealed, making everyone gawk. “So I wasn’t surprised to see her pick up a bow and be super good with it, either. I wanted her to help me on my journey, but I didn’t think it’d lead to this, so now I’m regretting it. She’s not a bad Pokémon, and you don’t have to do anything to her!”

“I did notice that she was exceptional with her bow. Her accuracy is unrealistic,” Mimia confirmed.

“Figuring out what to do with her is the point of this. We can’t afford to do anything that would jeopardize the Shining Warrior journey,” Lucca added. He glanced at Crystal, who was still lying down, completely motionless.

Right now, it’s impossible to tell whether she’s even alive or not. That’s terrifying… this Pokémon has been with them all this journey? Brine thought to herself. I kinda want her to wake up right now just so she doesn’t look dead and I can pretend that she’s normal… normal, huh? Something that none of us are.

“Whatever we do, we need to get this journey over and done with as quickly as possible, before whatever triggers those violent attacks triggers again,” Azu warned. She turned back to Feather. “I’m not even sure the police would be able to contain us. So what’s your plan?”

“It’s not like I’m going to be able to hide that the warriors defeated me. How the public decide to take that story is down to them. You’re still public enemy number one,” Feather shrugged. A wave of grunts responded to her. “Don’t gimme those looks. I never said I’d keep fighting you. To tell the complete truth, I just wanted to keep fighting you, not actually arrest you. To think that my daughter would be hardcore enough to survive and become a Shining Warrior, I have to say that this stuff really runs in our blood.”

And then there’s this. My own mother, after all this time, doesn’t really care about me. It’s not like I cared to search for her either, Brine sighed and faced the floor.

“I think I’m interested to see what’s going to happen this time,” Feather said, and leaned on her paws. “So how’s about this? There’s some village under construction about an hour’s flight from here.”

“Scar’s village? It’s still standing?” Brine questioned. Feather nodded.

“That area turned into a Bestia Fountain. The mad Muk opted to use the monster’s terrain to his advantage. So if you walk through the desert valley rather than going over it, you’ll avoid its rampage and sneak right up to it,” Feather explained. “That monster isn’t like any Pokémon I’ve ever seen before. Ever since it showed up, it’s been chewing up the desert by shooting Draco Meteor everywhere. I’m guessing because it’s part of your legendary journey and all that, it’ll never actually run out of Bestia.”

“The trials tend to have objectives like that. But it explains this area,” Lucca commented.

“I’m gonna keep the police off your tail and lift the charges off Esther’s attempted murder. You guys focus on your journey, but be warned: this will not keep the knights off your tail,” Feather continued.

“Oh, right. That’s a question, too,” Azu mumbled and sighed. “Earlier, you said you were following orders of higher ups. But you also said you’re the chief.”

“Yes I did, and I am. The minister of crime control and the board of law are the ones who give us the orders. Though they’re technically not a higher rank than me, they’re the ones who manage what the police force does, how it functions, our funding, all that stuff. You know, the big Metagross guys who’re good with data and strategy and stuff. Because of how important the Shining Warriors are, any criminal offences involving the warriors goes straight to them,” Feather explained.

“… You didn’t mention the knights,” Azu said slowly.

“Is that what you wanted to ask about? Between you and me, those guys are creepy and annoying,” Feather commented. Azu seemed surprised, but didn’t say anything. “Those Pokémon sprung up outta nowhere, but they’re helping us do our jobs so we haven’t exactly done much about them. But we don’t actually know why they’re around or doing what they’re doing.”

“Wait what?” Ruby gasped. Lucca sat forward now, too.

“Did you think we were on the same side? If we were, wouldn’t we all be in fancy armour?” Feather joked. She frowned at everyone’s terrified glare. “If you guys keep up those scary looks, your faces will stay like that. So er, what about them?”

“They started wandering Heroica one day and help keep the peace, but nobody actually knows who they are, what they are, or where they came from? Doesn’t that terrify you?” Azu questioned.

“Those things have been chasing me and Crystal ever since we left home. They’re crazy for Crystal for some reason,” Ruby cried.

“And we can’t forget how they helped Panzer that one time. But according to you, Panzer’s supposed to be dead,” Brine added.

“Hmm, that’s quite a mystery, ain’t it? If you want me to look into it too, I can. At the same time, you guys can do me a favour too, right? Don’t worry, this one’s totally up your alley,” Feather proposed. “You guys have to dig around ruins and legendary stuff, right? Ever come across an item call the Armlet of Transmutation?”

“Wasn’t that the thing Kusha was after, too?” Shelly cocked his head.

“Bingo, you’ve heard of it. I can’t bring it up to the police since they don’t really deal with legendary myth stuff. The threat of that artefact is very real, though. If you hear anything about it, please do everything in your power to secure it,” Feather requested. For how smiley she was earlier, her tone was intense. “It’s unlikely it will ever be used, but we absolutely can’t allow anyone who knows how to use it to get their paws on it. If they do, there’s no telling what will happen.”

“You’re not the first one to say that. What does it actually do?” Ruby wondered.

There was a pause, and feather remained intense. “I actually can’t tell you. Just keep it safe if you find it, okay?”

“Well, whatever. I think Smokes was the last guy with it. He sold it in Girage or something,” Ruby recalled. “He’s a shady Charmeleon. Obsessed with get rich quick stuff. Can’t miss ‘em.”

“Pokémon like that tend to slither around a lot. Just my type to hunt down. This could be fun, at least,” Feather commented.

“As for us, if we’re serious about tackling that trial tomorrow, we’re going to need proper rest,” Lucca suggested. “Are those tents empty? We’ve got our own, but—”

“Go ahead, and take any items you find in them, too. They were for my unit, but they won’t need them,” Feather smiled, and then became serious suddenly. “I don’t know exactly what the situation is, but I suggest you keep someone awake to watch… her.”

“Grr, Crystal’s not some monster who’s gonna kill us in our sleep!” Ruby pouted.

“We should still have someone to keep watch, just to make sure,” Mimia said. Ruby growled at him, but the Stufful remained stern.

This is turning quite sour, Brine realised, and stepped forward. “I’ll do it. I can’t sleep, and I need to replenish my water anyway.”

“You’ve had a rough fight. You sure you’ll be alright?” Azu asked.

“If someone swaps with me halfway, then sure,” she shrugged. Azu nodded to her, then the others, and they were off.

“That’s my girl. Brave as can be,” Feather joked.

“Are you really my mother? What’s with you?” Brine groaned.

“Yes, I gave birth to a watermarked Pikachu. When the Undine found out what happened, your father fled home with you and left me a memento. You have any idea who your father is?” Feather asked.

“I’ve no memory of him whatsoever,” Brine confessed.

“Hmm… he was a cool guy. A hunk of a Floatzel, if I may brag for a bit. Loved living life by the edge, always getting himself into battles to help Pokémon. I guess something happened to him, and here you are, Shining Warrior and all,” Feather explained.

“Could you at least try to sound like you care?” Brine cried. “I struggle through life trying to figure out why I’m such a weird Pikachu, and my mother sounds like she doesn’t give a toss and just wants to fight me. This couldn’t be worse.”

“And you became a Shining Warrior, defeating me in the process. Aren’t you proud of who you are?” Feather asked.

“I didn’t defeat you. You made a mockery of my powers. And how the heck am I supposed to be proud of myself when everyone, Pokémon and Undine, want to kill me?” she raised her voice. “You don’t even sound like you want me. Why the heck am I even a Shining Warrior?”

“Hmm. What do mine, or all those racist Pokémon’s opinions matter?” Feather replied. Brine let out a huff. “I’ve known you for what, a couple of hours now, and I can already see why you’re a Shining Warrior. But if you can’t, then know that that’s something I can’t help with.”

“If you think that’s some thoughtful wisdom, it’s really not. It’s just annoyingly vague,” brine sighed.

“I don’t think myself the wise type, so I’d say it’s pretty blunt, actually,” Feather smirked. “I’m gonna go crash for the night, too. Careful with the oasis water. It gets frightfully cold in the desert night, so you don’t wanna catch something.”

“Noted,” Brine said, looking away. Feather waited until she glanced back, waved happily, and then limped back over to the tents. There was silence for another moment, accented by a light wind that swept the sands in the distance. Brine sighed, and then made her way back over to Crystal’s hammock.

Another night alone in the desert. Can’t say I missed this.

The night fell quicker than she realised. It had been a couple hours since their battle, yet the sky had already transformed into a deep, navy backdrop dotted with bright stars and nebulae. The temperature really did drop, but it was far worse than she remembered, enough to get her to retrieve a towel and wrap herself up while she kept watch.

At that, Crystal hadn’t moved an inch. Even when the wind blew and her hammock swayed a little, Crystal remained rigid in place. Not a twitch, not a swell of her chest, and not a sound. Brine watched over her for a moment, but it only made her heart race.

The others were either telling the truth, or she’s just the heaviest sleeper I’ve ever met, she thought, and dared to shift closer to the Piplup. Her ears flicked as she focused her hearing. Even laying her head on Crystal’s chest, she couldn’t feel anything to imply the Piplup was alive. Their body was as cold as the trees, they had no pulse, and they most certainly weren’t breathing.

It was enough to spring Brine’s natural instincts into action. She immediately withdrew, heart racing and mouth agape, and considered trying to get their heart pumping again. No, Brine. You know what Shelly said. I just have to trust this is correct. She’s okay… whatever she’s doing.

She turned to the tents, and then the water. I’m probably just getting too tired myself. Best to just, get my water back and then call it a night.

Despite telling herself that, she couldn’t calm at all. Whether or not Crystal was actually alive, she had just experienced a dead Pokémon. No amount of assurance that this was normal for the Piplup could shake the fright of that. She shook herself off, took a deep breath, and approached the water.

So much for sleeping tonight. Focus now, Brine, she told herself, dipping her toes into the water. Frightfully chilly, just as was warned. In fact, it was colder than she remembered. Just that little touch however, she could feel moisture return to her form, and there was an inkling of relief. Okay now. Just one quick dip, and be out. Focus Brine, focus.

She slid forward to ease herself into the cold, but with the water up to her waist, she couldn’t help but shiver. One more deep breath and she rushed in, pulling her goggles over her eyes as she completely submerged. The silence of water took over, while a frightening drop in temperature almost made her gasp. It was hard, but that relieving feeling battled the discomfort. Her powers literally flowed into her, and she shut her eyes to bask as her energy returned. The glow of her bracelets was the evidence her method was working.

That was fast. The wonders of what a bath can do, she remarked as she opened her eyes to swim back. The oasis went far deeper than it appeared, and had a fair bit of plant life growing through the sand on the waterbed, too. The biggest surprise however, was the Cyndaquil sat smack bang in the centre. What the- Ruby?

She didn’t think twice. She didn’t need to deal with another crisis tonight. She swam over as fast as she could, but the moment she touched Ruby’s back, the Cyndaquil let out a squeak and flinched in surprise. They didn’t resist thankfully, so Brine carried them to the surface.

“What in the world are you doing here? I thought you went to sleep?” Brine gasped as they both crawled onto land. Ruby couldn’t seem to face her. “Er… Ruby? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she replied bluntly.

“… You were at the bottom of the oasis,” Brine stated, paws on her hips. Ruby didn’t react. “Look, I just had a fright with Crystal earlier. Don’t tell me you were trying to… you know…”

Ruby finally growled and faced her. “Tsk, get real. I’ve got too much to do to off myself at a time like this. And you can talk, what were you doing in the water anyway?”

“I had to refuel. It’s an Undine thing. When I use my water powers, I use the water in my body, you know? Like, the water I drink and everything. So if I take a bath, I’ll be able to use my powers for a while,” Brine explained. “But what about you? You could’ve died down there.”

“I wouldn’t have died. I’m not that weak. I’m watermarked too, you know,” Ruby said. Her eyes opened, and she was surprisingly solemn. “I wanna get stronger, so I did my usual training. I concentrate better and stuff when I’m underwater. I never knew why, but I guess if I’m the same as you, that explains it.”

“Well to tell the truth, I don’t fully get it either. It’s just something I figured out while growing up. Is it just like, the calmness of the water helps you? Like you can listen to water, and it’s alive to you?” Brine replied.

“It… is like that. See, you get me,” Ruby said. Brine’s frown remained, making her sigh. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’m sorry for gettin’ in your way.”

“You didn’t get in my way. It hardly takes a minute for me to refuel,” Brine said, and then went quiet. “Sorry… no. That’s not how I want to sound. I hardly know you.”

“If that’s true, then why do you wanna kill Crystal?” Ruby snapped.

“What? I don’t want to kill Crystal! I hardly know her, either,” Brine gasped, shaking her paws. She dragged a paw down her face. “Look, I barely know you guys. All I can go off is what I’ve seen and heard, and that’s… you know, what it is. I tried to fit in by watching everyone from a distance, but it really feels like everyone’s got their own reasons for being here and stuff. Everyone but me.”

“And that matters because?” Ruby got her usual fierce look back.

“So you don’t care, either?” Brine sighed.

“Don’t put words in my mouth. I never said that,” Ruby spat. “I asked you why you think that matters. Why you think not having a reason to be here is important.”

“Because… because it just doesn’t fit right, you know? Everyone else is all noble or has something they desperately want to fight for. It makes sense why you’ve all got the Shining Warrior title. I mean yeah, I wanna bring back Bestia, and I was looking for my mother and all that but like… it’s always sorta been day by day for me, you know? I don’t have some big noble goal I can hyperfocus on,” she explained.

“Then you don’t have one. Count yourself lucky you get to chill,” Ruby replied.

I’m totally pissing her off, and I don’t mean to, Brine realised.

“If you feel so bad about it, why don’t you just focus on helping us out?” Ruby suggested. “I’m not some noble hero with a just cause or anythin’. Neither is Shelly. We just have stuff we really wanna do, and the journey is stuff we can do at the same time. The moment I meet that Ribombee guy again, I’m not lettin’ anyone stop me from trying to kill him.”

“I don’t know the full story there, but I bet if the guy doesn’t die by your flame, you’ll never be happy with yourself,” Brine frowned.

“You really do get me. Huh. I think you’re the first Pokémon I’ve just met who does,” Ruby was surprised, and lost her anger. Brine couldn’t help but stare for a moment. Even though a Cyndaquil with open eyes was unusual, Ruby was surprisingly cute when she wasn’t permanently angry.

“I-I just guessed. I can’t really help with that,” Brine shook her head.

“That’s not what I wanted you to help with. It’s Crystal,” Ruby said. She got up and walked over, and Brine followed blankly. “I dunno what everyone else is thinkin’, but I know it’s not good. I just feel like something really bad’s gonna happen soon, just because everyone’s scared of Crystal now.”

“I am too, I have to be honest. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Brine started playing with her paws. Crystal still wasn’t moving.

“But I’m her sister, Brine! Nobody seems to get that,” Ruby said. “I grew up with her for like, ten years or whatever. She’s the only Pokémon who really put up with me and treated me like a normal Pokémon, despite everything wrong with me. The least I can do is treat her like a normal Pokémon too, right? A-and I know I don’t really show it, but I love her. As a sister, I mean.”

Their bond is real, Brine realised.

“Help me figure this out. And if things get bad with everyone else, help me look after Crystal, please,” Ruby begged.

“I’m not saying this just because we’re all Shining Warriors. But I’d help you regardless. Now that I know all this, I know even better. Family should love each other,” Brine replied, and finally smiled, too. “Unlike that sorry excuse for a Raichu. Kinda wish I never met her.”

“At least you still have a mother. If you wanna put your money where your mouth is, why don’t you go try and understand them instead of just hatin’ her?” Ruby commented. Brine went quiet.

At last, Crystal began to stir, and both girls gasped. It was just like waking up from a long nap. The Piplup shivered, groaned, and then sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Oh wow. I actually fell asleep.”

“Crystal,” Brine mumbled.

“Crystal!” Ruby squealed and dove into the hammock. Crystal sprung awake at that, but could only squeal back as the duo got tangled up in the hammock. They both fell out, but remained cuddled together.

“U-uh, hi,” Crystal said sheepishly. She froze when she noticed Ruby had started crying, and nervously wrapped her flippers around. They remained that way for a few minutes too, and the entire time, Ruby truly cried. Heavy tears matted Crystals’ fur, but she didn’t react at all, besides a few pats and rubs of Ruby’s back. She didn’t wail, but there were hiccups.

… I feel like I’ve missed way too much here, Brine realised, watching them solemnly. Crystal eventually noticed her, and sat up to detach Ruby.

“Um… hi. It’s not morning,” Crystal said shyly.

“Ye-yeah, it’s not. But that’s good, we get to talk alone for a little bit,” Ruby replied. She had to wipe her eyes and sniffle, but she returned to her cute look from earlier. “Um… do you… remember anything?”

“Remember anything? From last night?” Crystal folded her flippers.

“From before you fainted,” Ruby clarified. There was a pause.

“We were fighting Feather, right? One of her attacks hit me in the head, and I fainted. Sorry about that,” she cringed.

“No no no, that’s not a problem. You’re fine,” Ruby assured. Crystal’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets. “And now? You feeling okay?”

“Uh,” her beak hung open.

“… What?”

“Are you okay? You’re being kinda soft and mushy right now,” she asked.

“Ugh, what I’m not allowed to care about my sister? Take the love or leave it,” Ruby stomped. “But seriously, you were out for a while. You good?”

Crystal glanced at both girls unsurely. “Er, yeah. Kinda weirded out now to be honest, but I’m fine.”

“Hungry? Sleepy? Anything?” Ruby continued. Crystal made a sound, to which Ruby’s face tightened, and she lowered her volume. “… You can trust Brine. She’s promised me something.”

“Ah, wait you didn’t…” Crystal shuddered.

“Shelly… figured something out. About your heart, and the others are starting to question it,” Ruby informed. The Piplup couldn’t hide her angst from that. “I wanna protect you. I’ve not been very sisterly to you so far, and I wanna change that.”

“I-I don’t need you to, though. Plus, your eyes are open!” Crystal turned away.

“I know! I’ve just been thinking a lot. When I was training just now. Mimia’s started talking more, yeah? And just being the real him. Why the heck am I still hiding the real me?” Ruby said. “So I’m gonna keep my eyes open now. And anyone who thinks I’m ugly or scary or whatever can just get a Flamethrower to the face. The same goes for you too, though…”

“What the- you’re doing it again, Ruby! You don’t get to make that choice for me!” Crystal snapped.

“But it’s important. The more the others know, the less scared they can be… oh please, just work with me on this. I’m trying to help you, I mean it,” Ruby begged.

“You stupid idiot! Ugh, you can’t just say you’re helping me by telling everyone stuff I don’t want them to know about me,” Crystal raised her voice.

If this breaks into a fight, the others could eavesdrop. After all, Azu and Mimia are part of this group, Brine realised. Her heart was heavy watching these two descend into an argument. She gulped, and then stepped forward to make herself known. “Crystal.”

Crystal turned to her, surprised by the serious look.

“When you passed out against Feather, your body kept moving,” Brine began.

“Brine, wait!” Ruby gasped.

“You defeated Feather when the rest of us couldn’t. You just seemed to go on some sort of rampage, and almost killed Feather… and Lucca,” she explained. Crystal flinched and gasped. “Ruby had to knock you out. Now the others are concerned about what’s ailing you and what you’re capable of. They’ve noticed your extreme accuracy recently, too.”

“I… no…” she shuddered as she fell on her backside. Her flippers went to her head, and she slowly shook. “I… I didn’t- I couldn’t…”

“Brine… why?” Ruby shuddered.

“This is the only way we’re going to be able to do this. You don’t have to tell us everything right away, but you get it, right? If all of us are to trust each other, we need to know about each other and stop hiding secrets. Like Ruby’s eyes, or my water powers, or Lucca being a prince. Right now, even I’m afraid of you, but it’s just because I don’t know you or what’s going on.”

“I… I know… you’re right. I-I know you’re right, but I’m scared. I’m so scared what will happen,” Crystal whimpered. She slowly stood up, wiped an eye, and then checked her flipper. It was dry. “I can’t even cry tears… I don’t even remember if I ever could.”

“Crystal?” Ruby said.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, either. I had no idea I tried to kill somebody… I don’t want to do this. Did I really try to do that?” she whimpered. Brine and Ruby couldn’t reply, but their appearances said it all. “I did, didn’t I… you should take my bow from me.”

“I’m not doing that,” Ruby stated.

“I… It’s like I’m losing myself. I can’t remember the last time I slept… except now of course, but even that was because you knocked me out. I can’t eat anymore, too. I just throw up after a while. When everyone’s tired or cold, or hot, I don’t feel anything. It’s scary… but even that doesn’t feel like it’s there. I know I’m scared, but I don’t feel scared,” she explained. “I don’t have a heart, I don’t feel, and everyone says I feel like a dead body… am I even here?”

“You are!” Ruby shouted. “You’re my sister. You grew up with me. You argued with me, you ate with me, you helped me train. You set off on this journey with me! You have thoughts and feelings and wishes that made you a Shining Warrior, too. Stuff you like and stuff you hate. You’re alive! There’s just something wrong with you. A disease or somethin’. There has to be! I’m gonna figure it out and save you, no matter what it takes. When this journey’s over, me and you are gonna chill back in Lillistep, with all the other kids! I’m makin’ sure that happens!”

“Ruby… no. This isn’t like the other stuff. We don’t know a thing about me. No one, not even myself. We can’t just ‘figure this out’ or say it’s gonna be alright,” Crystal shuddered.

“Then what do you suppose we do instead? Stay scared and hide away from everyone else?” Brine argued. “I dunno about you, but I’d rather stand up to whatever the heck’s wrong and try to do something about it instead of wallowing in fear.”

“Ugh, why are you even involved? This is why I hate you, Ruby,” Crystal said.

“Don’t you think your sister’s got the right idea? You can hide away and achieve nothing, or keep doing what you want to do and fight all the problems that come up. Your choice,” Brine stepped even closer. “Plus, for someone who supposedly doesn’t feel anything, you’re awfully afraid of trying.”

“What’s the point of trying when I don’t know what’s going to happen?” Crystal cried. She sounded like she might cry, but no tears came.

“Are you seriously gonna let that stop you?” Ruby said. “None of us know what’s gonna happen on this quest. But we’re—”

“You still don’t get it, damn it!” Crystal shouted even louder. “I’m not you. I’m not like the rest of you. I didn’t even decide to go on this journey, I didn’t decide to be a Shining Warrior! I got forced to do this whole thing. Now I know I’m dangerous enough to kill a Pokémon, stuff I promised myself I’d never do. This whole thing is just hell, and I want it all to be over with!”

Ruby let out a trembled breath, and then shook her head. “This isn’t right. This isn’t how it was meant to go. I’m only trying to help, I promise you.”

“Oh whatever, Ruby. You only care about yourself. You should just keep caring about yourself before you make anymore trouble for everyone,” Crystal huffed. Ruby kept trembling and staring, but Crystal remained firm, and turned her back. “Just go to bed already. I’ll go pretend to sleep or something.”

“Urf,” Ruby hung her head, but she obeyed and slinked off.

She really meant well, too, Brine frowned. She stayed until Ruby was gone. “You’re not really going to give up, are you?”

Crystal sighed. “I can’t afford to, not after coming this far, can I?”

There was a long pause between the two.

“I’m allowed to not be happy about it,” Crystal added.
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Episode 21: The Fourth Fountain


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Megan complete - Copy (2).png

Episode 21: The Fourth Fountain

The group were gathered at the top of the dune that hid the oasis from the rest of Teriyaki Desert. The obscene heat had returned, rendering the scenery in dizzying fluctuations. Pure blue filled the horizon, with not a cloud in sight. Below was the broken world of the eaten earth and craters. Everyone was quiet, although they weren’t tense.

“I know Feather said to go through the dungeon, but part of me thinks we should at least try to skip some,” Lucca said. “We ride Brine’s water halfway, and then descend into that dungeon. Once we get there, we’ll form a hexagon formation around Crystal.”

“What? Huh?” Crystal said.

“To protect you during battle. I know you don’t like fighting, so it’s about time the rest of us took measures to keep you out of fights,” he answered.

He looked like he wanted to say more, but her appearance stopped him. She hastily unveiled her bow, nocked and arrow, and aimed right at his face, to which he slid back ready to dodge. She remained there for a moment, and then sighed as she lowered her bow.

“I know that you guys know what happened. My stupid sister couldn’t keep her mouth shut. So you don’t need to do something petty like this,” she said, walking ahead with her back turned. She sighed again, and then gave everyone the most determined look she could muster. “I’m not gonna be a burden anymore. I’m going to try and fight for real now, and get this journey done. But if something happens and I go berserk again, please don’t hold back and knock me out.”

Lucca was the only one to return her serious glare with his own. He didn’t say anything however, so she nodded to him. “It’s not just your job to burden stuff like that, Lucca. It’s all of ours, as the Shining Warriors.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a little too harsh on yourself? You don’t need to jump into things—” Azu replied, but Lucca put a flipper in front of her.

“She’s made her decision, so belittling that is insulting. It’s better we respect that decision,” Lucca stated, and then smirked. “Plus, we’ve seen your accuracy. I know if you fight with confidence, we’ve no reason to worry about you.”

Crystal nodded again, and this time appeared happier with the response. She took position at the top of the dune again, and peered over the scenery. “I don’t know if this is special or not, but I can see right through the ruins. There’s a quiet ledge I can hit and I’m sure we can all land on.”

“From here? Wait, there’s being good at fighting, and then there’s having super Pokémon sight and stuff. You can see that far? The heat doesn’t make everything blurry?” Brine questioned.

“I just guessed. When I’m aiming with my bow, everything just sort of clicks to me. As in like, I can just sorta tell exactly where my arrow’s going to land,” Crystal said unsurely.

“So we’ve got super sight, super strength, super hearing, super items, super fire, super sword, and super water. We’re quite a party, huh?” Brine remarked as she crouched by the Piplup. She repeated her actions from yesterday, surrounding Crystal’s bow in an orb of water. When Crystal let her arrow fly, Brine’s water followed it in a wide beam. “No wasting time this time.”

One by one the group jumped in, leaving Brine last. She didn’t need to keep the beam charged this time, and rode it through. Like last time, she eyed the world below and basked in the cool relief from the desert heat, however brief this trip was. As the beam descended, she got a good view of the awkward paths of the broken world below, as well as the ferals that wandered it.

Every single path was at a diagonal angle, with jagged rock ledges jutting out above, or ancient walls and arches segmenting it all. Golbat, Sandile, Sandaconda, and Slugma lay in hiding, though some came out, curious about the line of water above them. Brine didn’t stay distracted this time, and hopped out of the water beam as the ledge neared to land by her team with a cool slide.

“Huh. It’s actually kinda cool down here,” Ruby remarked.

“This is what you call cool? I’m melting,” Shelly moaned and slumped.

“It’s certainly shaded, but yeah, this is not a respite,” Azu agreed. “Also, problem we probably should’ve sorted before we got here.”

“The ferals?” Lucca said. The aforementioned Pokémon were beginning to gather in numbers and surround the group, though only the Golbat could reach the ledge they were on.

“That, and without being able to see the horizon, how’re we meant to find the fountain?” Azu pointed out.

“The same way we always figure stuff like this out,” Mimia replied with a happy yip, and gestured sniffing the air.

“So first, let’s get some clearance,” Lucca said eagerly, and slid forward. He launched himself into the air with a spin to strike the Golbat in front of him, bringing it down in a flash. The other ferals made space as he landed, mostly surprised that he approached.

Ruby couldn’t help but hesitate to sneak a glance at Crystal. The others had all jumped down to join the fight, so she had a moment. The Piplup didn’t seem nearly as fearful as she normally was when a fight broke out. Instead, she nocked an arrow and aimed, but then came the stalling. Seeing that, Ruby flared her back and spread her flames across the area, damaging everything besides three Slugma.

“Tsk. Those things had to be there,” she spat.

“They’re a little awkward for weapons to hit,” Azu warned as she edged away from them. The Slugma slid closer and gurgled threats at her. Everything around them was left smouldering.

“These guys can’t carry weapons or anything, so they seem pretty harmless. But if we get anywhere near… I can’t imagine what a magma burn feels like, I can’t risk my swords!” Lucca commented.

“Then it’s my turn,” Brine came forward. She made a few signs with her paw and focused on her kendama, and then a geyser of water erupted below, big enough to swallow the three Slugma. Their bodies hardened into coal, and they let out a weakened puff. “Let’s go before they heat up!”

“This way,” Mimia called out, and jogged ahead.

Mimia promptly slowed down after everyone sheathed their weapons to follow. The floor here wasn’t flat like the other temples. It was rugged like cobblestone, and extra itchy thanks to the sand mixed within. Waterfalls of sand drained into the dungeon floor from the many ledges and holes above, yet all was barely visible as a silhouette. The high walls and rock protrusions blocked out most of the light from above.

This dungeon is horrible, Ruby complained, and grumbled. Her feet burnt from being prodded by all this hot, rugged cobble, while the darkness had her squint irritably every time a turn or a corner came up. Thankfully, it was easy to detect where the ferals were hiding as a result.

Slugma lit up the world around them a blistering red as they awoke and charged the party, while Golbat shrieks echoed off the walls to give away their presence. Every time one of the Sandaconda or Sandile showed up, the cobbles would crumble where they surfaced. It was easy for the group to strike the enemies down before they could act.

Mimia eventually came to a halt at a three-way split. The others waited with him until he cocked his head and made a confused whine. “I smell something funny.”

“Think that means we’re close?” Lucca questioned.

“I don’t smell anything,” Ruby replied. Her stomach rumbled, and she flinched in surprise.

“Seriously, Ruby?” Crystal groaned.

“You ate this morning, didn’t you?” Shelly giggled.

“… I’m not hungry, though,” she mumbled, looking down at herself. It felt more like something was bubbling up inside rather than hunger. Her belly rumbled again, and she blushed lightly.

“Now’s hardly the time, though,” Lucca slumped. “What’s up, Mimia?”

“It is not her. It’s a mixture of smells. It’s like… it smells like Girage Field,” Mimia said. Now the others were confused, too.

“We should keep going anyway. We have to deal with whatever comes up,” Lucca raised a flipper. Everyone nodded, but Ruby’s stomach rumbled again. “Er, you gonna be okay?”

“Ye-yeah, I promise I’m not hungry! I-I dunno what this is… I promise! Really, I’m fine!” she slouched to rub her belly. Everyone stared for a good while, to which she growled. “Do I look sick?”

“Er… if you need some privacy, we can wait,” Lucca said. She could feel the heat in her face, now.

“I said I’m fine,” she spat a fireball into the air. “Don’t make me punch you!”

“Heh, I’ll take your word for it. Don’t push yourself if you are out of it, though,” Lucca snickered, and returned to leading with Mimia.

Geez, after tellin’ everyone not to be patronizing to Crystal, too. How come she gets the grownup treatment, but not me? She grumbled, still rubbing her belly. But what is up with this all of a sudden? I feel like there’s something boiling in my belly.

Mimia seemed comfortable enough to walk now, and after several minutes without ferals attacking, so did the others. The path brightened as it grew wider, while the ancient markings became clearer and more abundant. Everything got more organized, too. The cliff got smoother, the floor got flatter, and the path got less angled.

“Wait a minute, this is,” Brine muttered. Ruby glanced at her. “Back there was all like, cliff and ancient ruins and stuff, but over here is like… wood, and metals.”

Ruby paid a little more attention to the surroundings. It wasn’t like the ruins had been destroyed, it looked more like something was being built on top of them. There were signs plastered onto blank spaces on the walls, and they passed a pile of scrap material. Wood, metal, bricks, and other building stuff.

“So, what’s up?” Ruby asked.

“I don’t believe it. It’s just like Feather said,” Brine commented, and jogged ahead. “Don’t worry guys. I’ve got this from here.”

Ruby walked after everyone, mostly curious about the low-budget, homely feel she got from it all. The wooden signs, paw-painted text, and makeshift scaffolding was as familiar as the basic layout of Lillistep.

They soon came to a slope that had been dug out of the path. Cobblestones lay discarded to the side, while a caution signpost was hastily stabbed into the pile beside it. Beyond that, the path opened out into a wide area surrounded by wooden scaffolding.

“It’s… a village?” Ruby gasped as she spun around to admire.

“Who’d build a village in a place like this?” Crystal questioned, doing the same.

It was an unfinished village, with Pokémon still around and working on it. Not many, at that. A Gurdurr was high up pulling some string to tighten a knot while a trio of Timburr held the structure steady. Opposite that, two more Timburr had pickaxes and chipped away at the rock, while a multicoloured Muk barked orders at them. Brine walked straight up to them.

“You slouches wanna be like your boss, dont’cha? Then keep up the pace, and don’t be afraid of no rocks. You’re fighting types, crush them like you’re swatting bugs!” the Muk threw his fists in the air. He didn’t notice Brine walk up behind him, but the Timburr did. “Turn your backsides around, boys! What do ya think yer gawking at? There’s rock to crush! Rocks! Roooooock!”

“U-uh, boss?” one Timburr pointed nervously. The Muk slid around so aggressively he almost backhanded Brine, but she leaned back, smirking like she anticipated it. He wound up pointing a dripping finger at her instead, and she grinned even more cheekily.

“You’re alive!” the Muk roared as he tried to hug her. Now Brine was gasping anxiously as she dodged his attempts at affection. “I knew it was probable, but it’s still so relieving!”

“Okay okay, alright I got it! Stop before you end up killing me,” she cried. He froze in confusion. “Scar, your crystals. Remember, they’re the deadly poison.”

“Yes. Right. Ahem. Anyway, you’re back. And it looks like you brought your own share of muscle,” Scar said. He leaned beside her as if sneaking a glance, but it was incredibly obvious as his whole body stretched absurdly. “Weirdos, just like you. Can they even help? Some of them look just like kids.”

It’s always the kids, Ruby rolled her eyes.

“Just like me,” Brine signalled the others to come over, and then folded her arms. “You know, you’ve really got to stop insulting your helpers if you want them to actually help you.”

“Blunt realists ignite the soul! A fiery soul is a passionate soul! And a passionate soul is a soul who will stop at nothing to achieve anything they want!” Scar chanted, and raised a fist high.

“Heck yeah. Those are words to live by,” Ruby smirked.

“I’m afraid we’re not here to ‘help’ with that. But I am nosy that you guys are still here. What is all this?” Brine replied.

“This, is Frontier Village. We continued the project even after the monster claimed our original spot. It hasn’t destroyed any of our original work so far, which sent a message,” Scar explained. Brine raised an eyebrow. “Look, there’s a sixty percent chance I’d get attacked on sight going into Girage Field. The state of Vilé presents a zero percent chance of survival. Because I’m a well-paying male who puts his money where his mouth is, Gurdurr and his buddies decided to stick around and see Frontier Village through, no matter how rough this place gets.”

He mentioned Vilé, Angel’s voice echoed to the group, and they held up their amulets. That’s one of your next fountain spots, I’m pretty sure. I don’t like the sound of that… could you move this along?

“What about the monster and the fountain? That’s what we’re here to do,” Brine asked.

“Bah, don’t care about how your old pal’s doing? You really are a kid, no patience anymore,” Scar complained.

Still rambling, he slid his way to the far end of the square, where a narrow, sandy slope looked to ascend back into the desert. Just as they neared it, a monstrous roar filled the area, loud enough to echo across the sky and strong enough to create a gust that shook the whole area. Everyone shielded their faces from it, while the half-built structures groaned and creaked.

That is your monster,” Scar informed, and pointed straight up. The sky darkened. “Watch your heads, now. There is a twenty percent chance something could hit you.”

The explosive noise of an energy blast went off, just as loud as the roar, followed by the distant screech of fireworks sailing through the sky. Ruby shifted and prepared for the worst. “Fireworks again? This is getting old, fast.”

They weren’t fireworks, however. Whatever was unleashed, it tore through the sky in a trail of blazing purple. The beam split into countless smaller beams that rained down in the distance. Each beam shook the world with its own explosive blast, even though the results couldn’t be seen.

“They’re meteors,” Lucca commented in awe, and turned back to Scar. “The monster fires out meteors?”

“You came here on foot. You must have seen the craters left behind,” Scar continued, and Ruby’s mind had a lightbulb. “The monster of the fountain carves the land without ever leaving the vicinity of the fountain. Despite its feral behaviour, it hasn’t struck us once with any of its rampages.”

“It created all this? These valleys and craters all over the desert, creating the ruins,” Azu remarked, gazing around as she recalled the broken world. “And all without ever leaving the fountain? What kind of monster is it?”

“It’s a dragon, but it has this huge stinger. If you know what a Beedrill looks like, it’s sort of like that, but with dragon wings, and claws. It’s purple, too,” Brine explained. Mimia barked at Lucca, and the two exchanged nods. “What I’m surprised about is that it really left you guys alone?”

“Even the old setup for the village we have is exactly as we left it. It has a zero percent chance of attacking other Pokémon, as long as they sit outside of its domain,” Scar stated. He faced the slope again. “And it’s right up there.”

“I wish the other trial bosses were that docile. Makes this quite easy for a change,” Lucca commented.

“I wouldn’t count on it being easy. None of them have been easy,” Shelly frowned.

“You can say that again. Ruby, is your stomach okay?” Crystal asked.

“Ack- yes, I said I was fine!” Ruby flailed her arms. “Actually it’s been quiet since. I dunno what that was, but I promise ya it won’t stop me. Let’s go awaken the fountain already.”

“So you guys are the true Shining Warriors, ey? So the fight this time will have a different outcome, I hope,” Scar snickered. There was a pause.

“Er, you’re not going with them, you know. I stand out of these fights, too,” Azu said.

“You don’t think the trials are like school tests, do you? Any Pokémon can do them if a Shining Warrior is with them!” Scar raised himself high. “Tell them, briny child. Tell them how we almost died because you couldn’t beat this monster.”

“I hate how you say ‘you’ as if it was just me. And don’t call me ‘briny’,” Brine replied without looking at him. She slowly faced forward. “But I plan for things to be different this time. I have everyone else with me. And I’m stronger, too. I think.”

“I suppose I was never really kicked out of the trials when they started… but I’m also me. I’m not that strong,” Azu said.

“Just do what you can,” Lucca soothed her.

“And besides, none of you are poison type. There’s a thirty percent chance you’ll get poisoned by its nasty Sludge Bomb. Remember that this trial can use Pokémon attacks while we can’t,” Scar argued. “Lastly, I may be getting on, but you’ve got another thing coming if you think I’m gonna sit around and let my village be saved by anyone other than me. I started that project, I got interrupted by that monster, I’m gonna be there to smack that monster out!”

“Y’know, it’s no use making a speech like that now, when you could’ve tried that any time before we got here,” Brine sighed.

“Gotta hand it to him, though. He’s got the passion, like he said,” Ruby joked.

“Ruby…” Crystal groaned.

“He did try. About ten times. That’s why we started building back here instead of where we started,” Gurdurr informed. “We’ve put in this much work. Might as well see it through to the end.”

“You guys as well? Wa-wait a minute. You all want to fight, too?” Lucca gasped. Gurdurr and the Timburr were all lined up with their girders and wood blocks at the ready.

“When Pokémon come together, it don’t matter what powers we ‘ave. We’ve survived for decades with our Pokémon powers on lockdown. Now we’re building a village in the middle of a desert, even under these conditions. No percentage in the world will stop us from doing what we need to do!” Scar announced.

“… I won’t lie, his attitude’s pretty infectious. I see nothing wrong,” Ruby said cheerfully, and flared her back. “C’mon, let’s do this already!”

“I-I feel pretty worried letting ordinary civilians engage. We’re talking about a monster that carved an entire dungeon out in a desert,” Lucca said. “Brine? Will everything be okay?”

“I get your worry, but we really did fight this thing before, and we’re still here right? We know when and how to run if things get rough,” Brine reasoned. “I say we go for it. If we start to get hurt, we run back here. If these guys aren’t lying, the monster won’t chase us.”

“If you’re sure. Okay, let’s do this,” Lucca breathed out. He made sure to exchange nods with everyone, and they gave him eager grins in response.

We just gotta do what we do best. With this many Pokémon fighting, how can anything go wrong? Ruby told herself. She drew her Parashelter as they ascended the path. Hot desert sands returned the higher they went, but once the floor flattened out, the sand spread out into smooth stone. It was still super hot and singed her feet with every step, but she ignored it to look tough in front of everyone.

Scar wasn’t lying. This big clearing had an entire village-worth of structures outlined. The skeletons of typical Pokémon dome houses were nestled between taller block shaped scaffolds, some of which even had blocks, stone, or straw walls as they were half built. A dried-up fountain marked the centre of the clearing, but at the far end was a ditch of charred rock and earth. Here was where their trial monster sat, and the moment the group came close, it moved.

Ruby froze to the spot, as did the others. The earlier description was spot on: this monster was draconic in shape, with a purple, scaley coat across its body. Its lower half boasted a huge needle like the stinger of a Beedrill, only long enough that it could pierce right through them if they weren’t careful. She was most drawn to the monster’s eyes, which were a single, blue, visor-like glow. The monster floated high above the area to glare down and them, and then roared in threat.

“That’s a beast! How did a beast get up to Heroica?” Lucca gasped, while Mimia was going crazy barking at it.

“A beast? Wait, don’t tell me you recognise this thing?” Brine cried.

“I do. Beasts like these are the only Pokémon that roam Reverie. But they’re extremely powerful. I’ve never been able to defeat one,” he explained.

“U-urk! If you can’t beat one,” Shelly squeaked.

“No reason to be scared. The lot of us are here. Let’s do this!” Ruby flared her back even harder.

“It’s called Naganadel. It’s a poison type, but if we can get close, its worse at physical attacks,” Lucca added.

“That’s more like it,” Ruby replied.

The battle started with a Flamethrower from Naganadel, to which Ruby stood front and centre, and collided her own flames with it. She grunted a bit with effort, but the two attacks contested for a while until they exploded and filled the air with heat.

“Tsk, as if it needed to be any hotter,” Brine complained, shielding herself. The moment the smoke cleared, the group had only a moment to act. The dragon had its needle pointed straight at the group, and poison dripped from its tip. “Hurry, spread out!”

Several globs of purple fluid flew at the party, one shot at a time, and they all aimed in erratic directions. Ruby danced on her toes to ready herself. A quick sprint to the left dodged a couple, but she had to jump back to dodge another, and then dive to the side to dodge more. She rolled to her feet and let out a quick Flamethrower. Naganadel made a sound, and then screeched as it was engulfed in flames.

“Nice work, but it’s not very effective,” Shelly cried.

“Hmpf. It’s not like fire has no effect at all,” she spat.

“I don’t want to waste water. That’s what lost me the battle the first time. If only we could knock it out of the sky,” Brine said. “Then everyone else could pummel it!”

Naganadel threatened to use Sludge Bomb again, so eyes widened and everyone got ready to evade. Scar slid in front however. “Everyone get behind me!”

Another round of poison orbs rained down, but each hit barely made the Muk flinch. He stretched his body to cover as much space as possible, letting Ruby and the others crouch behind him.

“That’s your call, Crystal,” Azu said.

Crystal rolled out once the Sludge Bombs stopped, and released a volley of arrows. Naganadel immediately retaliated with fire however, burning her arrows before they could reach. Crystal remained in position until she realised the flames were heading straight for her, and cried out.

“Crystal!” Ruby shrieked, and threw herself in front of the cowering Piplup. She opened her Parashelter just in time, and the flames spread around them. Tremendous force pushed against her so hard she felt like her arms might fall off trying to keep herself planted like this, while intense heat and embers surrounded the duo.

“Th… thanks,” Crystal whispered.

“Keep focused until it’s over. You might be accurate, but that thing’s too far away for you to hit normally,” she growled.

“But then what? Shooting arrows is all I can do!” Crystal cried.

“We just need a way to hit that thing’s wings,” Ruby said. The flames stopped, and she swiped the Parashelter to extinguish anything let on it. Naganadel swept across the sky in the meantime, roaring and screeching at the party. “It’s fast, too… Crystal, do you trust me?”

Crystal glared at her.

“I mean it! Do you trust me? If so, stick with me, I’ll tell ya when!” she raised her voice.

“Fine,” Crystal lowered her bow.

“Guys, we’ve gotta provoke it! Draco Meteor tires it out, right? If we can get it to use that move—”

“The heck- why would we want it to use Draco Meteor? That’s its strongest move! We’ll die one hit,” Brine argued.

“But it’ll have to stop to use it. Then you can use that water rope thing,” Shelly pointed out.

“Water rope?” Brine replied.

“You know, that water magic you used to tie up the guards on Van Aken!” Shelly clarified.

“Whoa, you know about that?”

“Then when Brine’s got its wings tied down, you can clip them off to bring it down. Then it’s down to the rest of ya to pummel it to smithereens!” Ruby explained to Lucca and the others. They gasped and nodded in agreement.

“I can’t stress how tough that thing is, though. We’ll need everyone on this. Even you, Azu,” Lucca warned.

“As if I’d miss a chance to strut my stuff,” she grinned eagerly.

“Good. I expect you to keep up with me,” Ruby grinned, and made herself front and centre again. The moment she did, her stomach rumbled again, and this time it felt awkward enough to shiver and stumble. She tried to ignore it, but then her back stopped flaring completely. “A-ah, what?”

“Please tell me that’s a joke,” Crystal said.

“It’s not, ah-hnng,” she shivered and clutched herself. What the heck… my belly’s boiling again. And it won’t stop…

Naganadel’s screech made them pay attention. It glared down at them, and then its mouth leaked flames to warn of its next attack. Ruby flexed and attempted to flare her back again, but instead, her stomach just rumbled louder, and white steam puffed out of her back.

“U-uh, you’re taunting it, right? This is part of your plan?” Crystal asked.

Ruby looked up worriedly. Her flames wouldn’t come. “Why can’t I… what the heck is wrong with—”

“Ruby!” Crystal screamed.

A huge wave of fire was headed straight towards them. Ruby had no more than two seconds to react. She grabbed her sister and dove back, bracing as hard as she could. Although they dodged the point of impact, the flames quickly engulfed them, smothering them both in intense burns. Even though the attack should have been not very effective, she couldn’t hold in her grunts and moans as it felt like her fur and skin were getting torn off. It showed no signs of stopping either, locking her in place.

“Ruby, Crystal!” Lucca’s jaw hit the floor.

“Brine, your water!” Azu ordered.

“Angel, gimme Bestia!” Shelly shouted too. The Togekiss obeyed, flapping her wings to gift him a blue aura. After a quick puff up, he shot a powerful spray of water at the wall of flames, and soon set Ruby and Crystal free from their burning prison. He kept shooting water until he was out of breath, leaving the area charred and filled with sooty smoke.

“Look out!” Lucca shouted at the girls just as they stood up. Naganadel swooped down and soared past the battle. It brought a powerful tailwind with it that blew away the smoke, and then returned to its position in the sky.

“Are you two okay? What happened?” Brine gasped.

“I dunno— argh,” Ruby grunted as her stomach rumbled again.

“Su-seriously? This isn’t the time for this. Hang back and recover. We’ll come up with another plan,” Lucca ordered.

“No! This isn’t supposed to be happenin’,” Ruby shouted, and then slumped. “I seriously dunno what’s wrong. It feels like my stomach’s boiling something.”

“Boiling something?” Brine said.

“Sounds like a stomach ache to me. Just stop acting prideful, get out of here,” Azu joined in, and stood beside Lucca and Mimia to guard them.

“No! Because I’m not,” Ruby argued, and moaned as she was brought down again. She tried to fight it, but her back simply puffed out steam again. “Why won’t it stop? What is this?”

“Just stop being a showoffy tough-guy!” Crystal cried.

“Wait a minute… boiling stomach, steam from the back…” Brine muttered, watching Ruby intensely. Brine turned back to the battle as Naganadel threatened another Flamethrower. “R-Ruby, it’s boiling water, right?”

“Boiling water?” Ruby replied.

“Think about it. Don’t try to shoot fire, try to shoot water. Listen to the water the way only an Undine can!” Brine explained.

Ruby’s eyes widened. Water inside me? Boiling in my belly, like… if Azu’s stuff about a Fire Gland is right, then all that water I got in me last night…

She turned to the fight when another wave of fire streamed toward them. This time, she let instinct drive her. Similar instinct to what enabled her to learn to shoot fire in the first place. Rearing back a bit, something welled up within her, and she knew she could shoot it the same way she shot her flames. Instead of fire, a powerful gush of water came from her mouth instead with the sound of a boiling kettle, and it effortlessly extinguished the dragon’s powerful fire before it reached the party.

“Water?” Shelly gasped as Ruby’s attack streamed past the rest of them.

This new water move was as effortless as her usual Flamethrower, too. So much so that she slowly stepped forward as she released it, getting a better angle to contend with the dragon’s attack. It didn’t seem to realise that its attack was being erased, and eventually got hit directly with Ruby’s water. The spray made it screech and thrash about on the spot, and a deep red mark soon emerged on its chest where she hit.

“I knew it!” Brine cheered as Ruby finally stopped.

“Phew. That feels better, she slumped in relief. Her back gushed steam again, worryingly.

“That was Scald?” Azu gasped. “I’ve never seen a fire Pokémon use Scald before!”

“Places, everyone. Here it comes!” Scar kept their attention.

He was right to. Naganadel was furious this time, evident by its bared claws and tensed stinger. It let out a low, rumbling growl as it glared at Ruby in particular. Though it had no eyes to tell, she knew it was her. She could feel it try to pierce her spirit with that alien gaze. Instead of being intimidated, she turned and wiggled her backside at the beast, complete with a flaunty grin and wink.

The beast took the bait. It screeched down at the group one last time, lowered its altitude, and then began to tense much more than before. Energy began to swell its lower abdomen, so much that it began to glow a bright pink and purple within, and the energy visibly welled up to its mouth. It raised its head skyward and spat that energy out in the form of a familiar beam, which quickly split into a rain of screeching meteors.

“Now or never! Let’s do this!” Ruby cheered as she sprinted straight toward the attack. Crystal and Shelly were at her side.

There were far more meteors than she imagined, and they came fast and with obscene force. As the trio dodged the first two by shifting to the left and right, a powerful gush of wind whipped their bodies with each one that passed. The trio remained focused in spite of that force, and leapt straight towards the meteors.

Shelly was the first to attempt to shield the group with his scalchop. Though he blocked a meteor with it, it brough him back down to the ground. Ruby’s Parashelter smacked away two more, but not without harsh grunts. She eventually used Scald again, blowing away a few more meteors, before one finally knocked her to the ground, leaving just Crystal. The Piplup was more focused than ever before, and her eyes glinted for an instant. She released an arrow at that moment, at point blank, and pierced several meteors in a flash, shattering them into harmless trails of dust.

From the trio’s combined efforts, there was now an open spot directly in the middle of Naganadel’s Draco Meteor. Brine was already at work, and thrust both arms straight up. Her bracelets glowed with blinding brightness, but her attack worked. Out of her arms came long vines of water, and they stretched straight up to Naganadel to tangle around its wings. The beast glanced side to side in panic, and shrieked as it attempted to thrash out of Brine’s grip.

“Crystal, do it!” Azu shouted and swiped an arm aside.

Crystal’s eyes glinted again, and she released another volley of arrows. It almost looked like her attacks swirled around Brine’s water ropes, but they pierced the helpless dragon’s wings, just as planned. Skin and scales ripped apart close to the beast’s body, to which Brine didn’t hesitate to pull them right off. A screech louder than all the others shook the world as the beast fell to the ground with a heavy smash.

“Ha… ha… okay, that’s me done. The rest is up to you,” Brine panted, and let up her water attack.

Lucca, Mimia, and Azu didn’t respond, they all charged forward the moment the smoke began to clear. Mimia leapt up high, Lucca slid to attack from the left, and Azu charged the front. Her staff was caught by one of the dragon’s claws however, and her momentum stopped dead. Mimia’s fists met its other claw, and he bounced back harmlessly. Even with its wings torn off, Naganadel proved to itself to be a threat. It was able to lean on its front and stay upright with its claws.

The beast began to thrash about wildly. Screeches and growls filled the air as it dragged its body into slashes with its claws or attempt to jab its stinger at its attackers. Lucca’s blades bounced harmlessly off its hide, while Azu bounced back with every hit she landed. Mimia’s tackles only seemed to drag its body across the sand.

“You’ve gotta be kidding. How do we hurt this thing?” Lucca complained, rolling back to safety. It pointed its stinger at him, and its body swelled with poison. “Uh oh.”

The trio split up as Sludge Bomb fired out and stained the floor a smouldering toxic. Although it fired less Sludge Bombs this time, if the poison lingered on the floor like that, it was going to mean trouble.

“Think Azu, think! It’s insectoid, so its organs must be- the stinger!” Azu whispered to herself. “Lucca, you should be able to pierce the hide just above its stinger!”

“That big round part? Won’t poison come out?” he questioned.

“That’s the only part of its body that’s soft enough to stretch. Do it,” she explained.

“Grr. Mimia, a boost?” Lucca said, and the Stufful yipped.

They charged forward, and Lucca jumped onto Mimia’s back. With a spin, Mimia threw him high into the air, and then engaged Naganadel again. He had to dodge a couple of slashes from its claw, and then leapt on its front to throw punches at its head, but the beast quickly stopped him by grabbing both paws. The two growled at one another as they competed in strength, Mimia trying to pull its claws apart while the beast tried to pull Mimia aside.

Lucca descended with amazing force, and put all his weight into a downward stab with one of his swords. Just as Azu anticipated, he pierced its swollen abdomen with ease, almost popping it like a balloon. Once again, a screech shook the entire world as Naganadel was set off thrashing and rolling in agony. Poison gushed from body, which quickly began to glow white and blue. Anticipating the worst, Lucca and Mimia hopped off, and then ran back to Ruby and the others, who shielded themselves.

Naganadel froze completely, went dead silent for a moment, and then exploded into blue particles and a blinding light – Bestia energy. The energy scattered around the area like dust that promptly sunk into the ground, creating the familiar awakening of a Bestia fountain. The glowing floor took over the whole area, bathing to group in restorative energy.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about! See, when everyone puts their strength together, nothing is impossible!” Scar threw his fists up.

“Oh pipe down, you barely did anything!” Brine complained.

“He helped us block Sludge Bomb,” Shelly pointed out.

“Yeah, once. We did all the hard work,” she argued.

“Phew, what a workout. Hard work I’m super impressed with,” Lucca calmed down as he sheathed his swords. He looked over everyone proudly, and then his face went flat as he stared at Ruby and Crystal. They frowned back, expecting to be told off. “Heh. You girls are too cool.”

“H-huh?” Ruby flinched.

“That was cool. You had me worried before you pulled off Scald. But coming up with the plan and everything, Ruby, you’re something else” he praised.

He actually praised me, her face went bright red, and she started twiddling her hands and feet. “Eheh, you know, I’m the toughest here and stuff. You can count on me for anything.”

“You’re unbelievable,” Crystal sighed.

“Hey, I pulled my weight and everything. And so did you, all things considered,” Ruby said. Crystal seemed surprised. “You did good.”

“Crystal, Azu. For you two’s first proper trial battle, I agree. I was worried at first, but you two really do carry yourselves,” Lucca added.

“I’m not happy about having to do that, you know,” Crystal turned away. “We killed that Pokémon. It was a feral, but if it’s from your world, it’s probably just so scared and confused, and tried to make this world look like its home.”

“That’s… a surprisingly sound conclusion,” Azu agreed in surprise. “But it did blow up into a Bestia Fountain… something tells me that one was artificial. Otherwise, it’d have been a gorier victory.”

“For sure. Am I glad it wasn’t,” Lucca agreed. The fountain began to calm down just then, returning them to the natural desert village.

“It’s finally over,” Brine remarked. She sat and leaned back. A quiet wind blew, and the desert heat returned, too. It wasn’t harsh, but pleasantly chill in this small enclose surrounded by tall hills of sand. Even though the Draco Meteor went off around them, the only remains of it were black marks on the floor. Scar’s village was completely untouched. “We can finally go back to building this place.”

“You did it. There was an eighty percent chance you’d keep true to your word,” Scar said.

“I barely did anything, though. I got one attack and then ran out of water again,” Brine sighed and looked down.

“Are you kidding? Crystal wouldn’t have hit if it wasn’t for that hold of yours. You brought down a monster that massive and strong,” Azu remarked. “You were a tremendous help. I guess the high cost for your powers allows them to be extremely powerful.”

“I’m not mad, you know. I’m just happy Scar and the gang can finally build this place. I initially didn’t try to find you guys because I wanted to stay and help here. Now I’m kind of unburdened, you know? I’ve done my part,” Brine explained. There was a pause. “On another topic, I’m very curious about something with my powers.”

“What’s up?” Azu replied, a hand on her hip.

“Ruby’s Undine powers manifest as like, fake Pokémon attacks, kinda. Mine are just… whatever they are, you know? I wonder why that is,” she said. “I’m pretty sure we both have water glands, and our bodies store water in an unusual way. It’s similar to what water Pokémon do, I think.”

“That’s correct. Watermarked Pokémon store and deal with water the same way water Pokémon do. It lets you stay underwater for longer, as well as utilize your water attacks,” Azu explained. “I don’t think it’s unusual for two different Pokémon to manifest their attacks in different ways, though.”

“I guess if I fill my fire gland with water or something, I can use Scald for a while, huh? Might be handy,” Ruby remarked, giving her belly a rub.

“Why did you even have water in you? You normally drink juice,” Shelly wondered.

“Er, I trained last night,” Ruby got up.

“Of course,” Crystal rolled her eyes. “So you like, drank the oasis?”

“I guess? Brine surprised me while I was meditating, and I guess I breathed water for a while,” Ruby said.

“Wha-what? You did almost drown!” Brine gasped.

“It didn’t hurt or anythin’, so I didn’t say anythin’. And I’m fine now, so why complain?” Ruby smiled. Everyone stared at her in genuine concern, even Azu. “E-er, seriously, I’m fine. Yeah I swallowed a lot of water, but I promise you, I’m totally okay. It was just like drinking a lot, that’s all!”

“Any other Pokémon would be sick, even me! Worrying about you is… ah, Ruby, never change,” Crystal sighed. Ruby’s stomach growled, and everyone gave her a look.

“Okay this time, I really am hungry!” she said cheerfully.

“Never change,” Crystal bumped her with a half-lidded look, making her grin.

“You don’t change either, smarty goody-goody,” Ruby returned the gesture.

“Because of you guys, I get to finish building my dream village at last. I know you guys must be busy being legendary warriors and all that, but please, I insist you stay the night and allow me to treat you,” Scar said, clasping his dripping hands together.

“I-I don’t know if I could cook for all these Pokémon,” Shelly whimpered.

“Do we even have enough food for that? Lucca is here, after all,” Mimia added.

“Hey, I can restrain myself!” Lucca cried.

“I would provide the food, of course. What kind of guest would I be if I did not?” Scar argued.

“You literally eat junk. What possible meal could you provide us with?” Brine challenged.

“I must admit, I like the passion. I’m curious what you could come up with. You’ve been feeding Gurdurr and the others, after all,” Azu joined in with her own cheeky smirk.

“You guys will want to stuff yourselves until you burst, you’ll see! Ninety nine percent chance,” Scar shouted, and led the way back to the valley.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance we won’t,” Shelly giggled.

The group calmed as they returned to the area below the slope, but came to a complete halt. They all gasped at once, surprising Scar and the others. Watching them from the middle of the village was a tall Flygon backed up by two knights. They stood straight and proper, but had a cocky grin on their face.

Flygon wore a sash adorned with ancient symbols across their body in a weird way, as if they were tangled up in the sash. It went over one wing, around one leg, around their neck, around one of their antennae, both arms, and twirled around their body. It was impossible to tell where the sash started and ended.

“No way. You’re—” Azu gasped.

“It’s her. The one who gave the speech. You’re Panzer, right?” Brine said.
Episode 22: To The Mechanical Death Trap


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Lucca complete - Copy.png

Episode 22: To The Mechanical Death Trap

“Panzer? Isn’t she the big cheese you said you take after or something?” Ruby turned to Azu. The Azumarill was calm on the outside, but Ruby’s eyes could see that grip on her staff tighten.

“She was the leading scientist on Bestia theory, yes, but she’s supposed to have passed away hundreds of years ago,” she answered. “So, care to explain how and why you’re here?”

“Whoa, that’s an unfriendly welcome,” the Flygon raised her arms. “I’m here because I’m interested in this village in the desert everyone was building. It’s a remarkable undertaking, don’t you think? A locale for travellers to survive this harsh trek. Did you know that the Teriyaki Desert covers almost the entirety of central Heroica? Pokémon who wish to go between the eastern and western ends of the region either take the long, coastal route, or they have to brave this horrible place. I for one, support the creation of a place travellers can rest or even live if they’re not suited for desert travel.”

“That’s cool and all, but why are you alive?” Lucca challenged. Panzer hesitated, though she didn’t appear intimidated. She lowered her arms, but one of them twirled her sash around a nail.

“My dear Brionne… perhaps it is fine if I share this knowledge with the Shining Warriors,” she eventually replied. “Dragon Pokémon live for far longer than history has recorded. In fact, we live for far longer than other species could imagine.”

“That’s a lie and you know it,” Azu shifted forward.

“Says what? A book that supposedly records data I wrote?” Panzer retorted, and stopped twirling her sash. Azu stood down. “We hide our ability to transcend generations of history so that we do not influence future generations. Such is why Pokémon have evolved into the state that they currently are in. A universal law among dragons is to come forth when the world is in crisis. Think of us as… overseers, who prevent Pokémon from destroying themselves or this planet.”

“It’s pretty tough to believe. You’re almost talking like you’re a goddess or something, looking down on the rest of us,” Lucca stated.

“That is what I wish to avoid. We are not your leaders, nor are we even part of your hierarchy. We merely wish to protect the world. My name is so old that the only Pokémon who could recognise me are the most extreme historians. So I’m impressed, Miss…” Panzer continued, and gestured a bow.

“It’s Azu. I’m a professor, researching ways for Heroicans to stop relying on Bestia,” Azu introduced. “I’m not a Shining Warrior, but I’m with these guys to help them.”

“Hold on, if you’re trying to protect us then what’s with the knights trying to kill us and my sister?” Ruby challenged. She flared her back, and this time flames came out. Despite that, Crystal edged to hide behind her. “We just got out of a fight so I’m raring to go. Don’t give a good response, and I can’t promise you’ll walk away without a burn.”

“Oh? The knights attacked you? That does not sound right,” Panzer cocked her head. The two knights beside her shrugged.

“Multiple times, and they’re crazy serious. They set fire to Lillistep and followed us all the way to Van Aken to storm the palace!” Crystal cried. There was another pause.

“Me and my knights have dedicated ourselves to helping this generation’s Shining Warriors as much as possible. They should not be attacking you for any reason, let alone going to those lengths. I’ll make sure to announce this and reinforce our goals,” Panzer replied. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. The knights are powerful. That must have been a terrifying experience for you all.”

“What’s up with this old coot?” Ruby commented, and stopped flaring.

“Ruby!” Shelly hissed.

“Hahaha, it’s fine. I am an old coot, technically. I’m lucky to have met such healthy young heroes. Heroica is in good paws with such tenacious, fiery young personalities awakening its Bestia Fountains,” Panzer said with a laugh and a wink. “I wanted to find out the state of this village, but it seems I got here when you were here. I’m assuming that light earlier means you’ve cleared the trial that was here, hmm?”

“They did! They made short work of it, no thanks to me. Now, building the rest of Frontier Village will be a cinch. Seventy percent sure of it!” Scar answered.

“There’s a thirty percent chance you won’t build it? How?” Brine gave him a sceptical look.

“There’s a thirty percent chance it won’t be easy, that’s all. I was waiting for you to visit though, Panzer. Someone sold us something interesting,” Scar replied. He slid over to hand her a bracelet, and the group’s eyes widened.

“That’s!” Ruby gasped.

“The Armlet of Transmutation!” Crystal squeaked.

“Oh, my, well then. Someone just casually sold you this?” Panzer said, staring at it.

“Panzer, we need that armlet!” Brine demanded. Panzer glared back, and despite her calm appearance, suddenly she felt very imposing. Aggressively imposing. “Scar, give it to us, not her! I mean it!”

“Panzer’s visited a few times to help us out, and she actually stays to ask how we are, unlike some other ungrateful young’ns,” Scar blew raspberries at her.

“This is one area where my foot comes down. This artefact… that you know about it in itself is too much,” Panzer stated. She slipped the armlet into her belongings, which were latched to her by being nestled between that strange sash and her body. “I will hold onto it, and you can be rest assured that it will remain safe.”

“You’re treating us like children,” Azu complained.

“Warriors… your journey has been long, and is not yet over, but me, the knights, and the Pokémon of Heroica, have been working tirelessly to ensure that you succeed this time. Allow me to inform you of the location of your last trial: the Colour Citadel,” Panzer ignored her. “We have built a utopia around the location of your final trial and the Bestia Fountain. There, we will all be able to witness your crowning moment and aid you from safety.”

“You guys built a fortress on top of the last Bestia Fountain?” Brine gasped.

“It is almost complete, but you cannot go there right now. You must complete the other five trials. I’m sure that doing that this time will activate the sixth… we built the Colour Citadel to accommodate your safety, the safety of the Heroicans, and the appearance of the Shining Warriors’ sword,” Panzer explained. “You seem worried, but I can assure you, it has been developed with my generations of knowledge and guidance. It will ensure that the process will be as easy as possible for all of you. Come there with five trials completed, and we will welcome you with celebrations. Your final trial will be so easy you won’t have to do anything. Or much, depending on how the legends see things.”

The group didn’t say anything. They didn’t look at each other, nor did they emote. They didn’t need to. Despite that, Panzer appeared pleased with herself, and wagged her tail like a giddy child.

“I won’t talk your ears off anymore. You must be tired after your latest trial, after all. I wish you luck on your fifth trial, and eagerly await your arrival at the citadel,” she bowed, waved, and then turned her back to fly off. Her wings beat so fast they were a blur. She didn’t leave right away however, and half turned back. “I will ensure that this armlet does not see the light of day, and that the knights will leave you alone from here on. Whatever caused them to attack in the first place, I hope does not occur again.”

She took off like a jet, shooting off into the sky in a wake of dust. The two knights didn’t complain and sprinted back the way they came, leaving the group in silence. For Lucca in particular, he stared at the sky where Panzer vanished.

“What’s your take?” he eventually asked, leaning towards Azu. She was just as tense.

“A scientist once presumed dead that now commands the knights. Whatever she’s planning, there’s not much we can do about it. We do need to get that armlet back from her, though,” Azu answered.

“You lot are too shady. If you can trust the goodwill of me, then you can trust the goodwill of an old dragon, can’t ya?” Scar complained.

“Oh yeah? What’s the probability that she’s a good guy?” Brine challenged.

Scar scratched his head. “About eighty percent.”

“Even you can’t be certain,” she palmed her face.

That night, Shelly ended up cooking after all. The food Scar was so confident in was a collection of random ingredients delivered from Girage Field, so the group got their fair share of a fancy, filling meal. Then it was into tents while chatting around a campfire. Something about the homely, unpopulated village made everyone feel at home, and not in the middle of a deadly desert. Brine and her old friends caught up, Lucca joked with Azu and Mimia, while Ruby, Shelly, and Crystal rambled about battles and training. The trio went off to practice too. They got Crystal to shoot blunt arrows while the rest dodged the best they could. The hours flew by without a worry or a care.

Then the morning came. The group sorted their supplies, said their goodbyes, and were promptly on their way. Behind Naganadel’s lair at the back of the village was a hill that ascended into the desert, so the group were soon back on dry sands.

“Now this looks more like a desert. Just sand, dunes, and sun as far as the eye can see,” Lucca commented.

“You sound like you’re enjoying this,” Crystal replied.

“I’m not. I feel like I’m being cooked,” he admitted, and held up a compass. Mimia held up their map high on his nose. “You’re up, Angel. Where to next?”

“Don’t you remember? It’s the city of Vilé. You’re heading east,” Angel informed without coming out of the amulet.

Lucca nodded and cross checked between the map and compass. If the map’s scale was to be trusted, then they would be there by the evening. Humming to himself, he set off, while Mimia happily sung and trotted beside him.

“Keep your wits about you, now. This place isn’t going to be any less rough than the dungeon we just did,” Azu warned.

“So just, save my water?” Brine tucked her paws behind her head.

“I have a question, Brine,” Ruby bounced up to her.

“Should probably save our breath, but go ahead.”

“You can’t use your powers without water in your body, right? And it’s all your water, like what you drink and everything… so why don’t you just bring the water back into your body when you’re done with it?” Ruby wondered.

“… Does that work? I assumed it didn’t?” Azu’s eyes widened.

“Of course it doesn’t work! An Undine restoring their water using their own water is like saying you should drink your own spit. It’s gross and it doesn’t hydrate you,” Brine replied.

“But it’s water! Why does it matter where it comes from?” Ruby cried.

“I imagine it loses some properties that make it useful to the body once it gets used in an attack. If we could recycle our own Bestia, everything would be so much easier,” Shelly clarified.

“Oh alright, was just thinkin’ of a way to get over you havin’ limited attacks. Even if we bring Bestia back, you’re still gonna have limited powers,” Ruby accepted that. “Hey, why don’t we just get Shelly to use Water Gun?”

“Drinking another Pokémon’s water attack is even worse!” Brine was going red, now.

“It is? How come?” Ruby cocked her head.

“I- er- d-don’t really wanna talk about that one. It’s just… weird,” Shelly blushed and turned away, too.

“Ruby, please don’t tell me you’ve been…” Azu shuddered.

“No she hasn’t! No one’s been doing anything weird like that!” Shelly cried.

“Huh. It’s not like you to be grossed out with how weird you are,” Ruby smiled. “So using Scald to make hot chocolate is off the table, then.”

“Don’t even try!” the rest of the group snapped.

“Okay okay, was just throwing the idea out there,” Ruby leaned back.

“Hey, can I talk to you guys for a moment?” Angel’s voice came out of the amulets.

“Huh? You don’t have to ask. You can always talk to us,” Lucca smiled. The Togekiss came out and stood beside them. Lucca had forgotten how obscenely massive she was, and flinched as her wing blocked his view.

“I’m not supposed to influence your thoughts and actions, but I’ve been observing you all for a while, and I’m worried about the way things are going to go,” Angel began.

“Ah, are we doing something wrong?” Lucca’s heart began to race.

“No. Okay I worded that wrong. You can keep walking, by the way,” she corrected herself. She was frowning, but steadily floated alongside them. “I think I’m figuring things out. Why you were all separated when this journey started.”

“Oh yeah, we weren’t supposed to be. But we all got together and we’ve gotten this far, so does it matter?” Ruby wondered.

“Well, yes. I think someone has somehow managed to disrupt the legend,” Angel said. She spoke softly, like she was emotionally conflicted or something. “The Shining Warrior legend is supposed to take place every decade. Six Pokémon are chosen to be warriors, and fate will bring those warriors to the first Bestia Fountain. These are the rules set in stone by fate, and no amount of passion or driving force should be able to overturn those rules. I don’t know how, but I fear Panzer has somehow disrupted those rules.”

“What’ve you got? We don’t exactly know much about Panzer,” Lucca asked. There was a very long pause as Angel mulled over her responses. “If it means anything, regardless of what you say, I intend to see this quest through to the end. I hope everyone else is with me on that.”

Mimia yipped, while the others nodded. Seeing that, Angel took a deep breath, stopped on the spot, and started rubbing the tips of her wings together.

“Please do not let what I’m about to tell you affect you in any way. That includes your thoughts or the way you execute things,” Angel said. “But I think Azu is meant to be a Shining Warrior.”

“Huh? Me?” Azu replied and covered her mouth.

“The Bestia Fountains awaken with the prayers, thoughts, and feelings of the chosen six at the point they overcome their trials and pray. The six are specifically chosen because of all the Pokémon that exist in a current generation, they are the ones with the strongest feelings on the world and a passion for life,” Angel explained. “You also give off certain spiritual waves that I can feel and am drawn to. But the more I travel with you, the more I realise that Azu is definitely a Shining Warrior.”

“Your aim is to make a world that doesn’t rely on Bestia, after all,” Shelly pointed out. The Azumarill was starting to curl up from shyness. “If anyone fits those rules more than the average Pokémon, it’s you, Miss Azu.”

“That explains why we were able to do the trials without Brine, too. There was technically all six of us together, even back then,” Crystal added.

“But here’s where it gets weird. All of you are giving off those spiritual waves and fitting the roles of a warrior, perfectly. You’re all Shining Warriors. Somehow, there are seven of you, not six,” Angel stated. “Someone, somehow, added a seventh warrior to this generation.”

“Ain’t that a good thing? We get extra help!” Ruby said cheerfully.

“It doesn’t stop there,” Angel said, and she piped down. “I can locate the Shining Warriors, yes? By sensing your waves. You understand that, right?”

“Don’t tell me,” Lucca shuddered.

“From the city we’re headed to right now, I can sense an eighth…” Angel stated.

The whole group went dead silent, and Lucca couldn’t help but stop on the spot, too. Now, he was serious. Just what we needed, another mystery to pile onto the already exhausting pile. First, Panzer shows up like she’s checking up on us, supposedly after being dead for five hundred years. There’s Crystal being a dead Pokémon, too. The Armlet of Transmutation, and now, an eighth Shining Warrior?

“Is there not a way to differentiate between warriors? Then we could get a hint to who it is,” Brine asked. Angel shook her head and flopped her wings down.

“I didn’t think anything of Panzer until that confrontation earlier. But if she has truly been alive for five hundred years, and was able to predict the location of a Bestia Fountain enough to build that citadel around it like she says, then I can’t help but be afraid of what could happen. That kind of knowledge, nobody but me should have that kind of knowledge,” Angel explained.

“Mmmmgggrrroar! What does half this crap mean anyway?” Ruby cried, scratching her head fur. “Yeah that Panzer girl’s a weirdo, but what does it matter? We’re gonna go to the fountains anyway, right? Whatever rubbish she wants to throw at us, I’ll burn it to the ground.”

“Ruby,” Shelly smiled. “The lass is right, though. We have to go anyway. Panzer’s already built the citadel.”

Angel nodded, too. “I wish I could help you guys more than I do. It seems like enough staying out of it until you need Bestia energy…”

“You don’t get lonely, do you?” Crystal wondered.

“Me? Does it matter?” Angel seemed surprised by the question.

“Well, yeah. You spend all that time in the amulet watching us do stuff, right? I won’t lie, I’ve felt kind of bad only talking when I need you. There’s just been a lot going on,” Brine said, and scratched the back of her head. “You’re a Pokémon and stuff, so…”

Angel shook her head, and then waggled a feather as if it was a finger. “It’s okay, for real. I like being useful and playing my role. It’s fun to see how different the world is each generation, and what kind of Pokémon the Shining Warriors end up being.”

“Hmm… you said you are not allowed to influence our decision making. Why is that?” Mimia spoke up. Angel mulled over her answer this time.

“So, for what I just explained about the warriors each caring about Heroica in their own way, and that’s why they’re chosen, yeah?” she began. “It’s your thoughts, feelings, and intentions that get stored in the fountains when you awaken them. If I influence you guys honest feelings on the world, this legend, and more, it could rig what goes into the fountains. But if it’s not your true feelings, that never works out. Plus, that’s just not fair, right?”

“I think it is unfair that you have to stay quiet and follow orders all journey,” Mimia said. “It is like me, isn’t it? But I appreciate your concern for us, and your worries for Panzer. You trust us with this knowledge as well.”

“The rest of us are opening up. Why not you, too?” Crystal added.

“I… I really shouldn’t. I guess I’ve said too much,” Angel’s wings flopped down with her frown. “I’m sorry. That’s enough.”

“Angel?” Shelly said. The Togekiss vanished in a flash of particles. “Aww. It’s sad she has to feel that way.”

“We can’t force her, but I do get it, too. No matter what she says, we have to stay true to ourselves to awaken those fountains,” Azu sighed. “I just… can’t believe I’m meant to be a Shining Warrior.”

“Not meant to be, you are a Shining Warrior. Isn’t that great?” Lucca said cheerfully. “After all this time, you’ve had all the data and power you’ve always wanted!”

“I guess… that’s pretty scary, though. Do I still have to help you guys fight?” she asked worriedly.

“Probably, speaking of the devil,” Mimia said. He scraped his feet on the sand and drew his knife, prompting the others to stop. Surely enough, behind them was a couple of Trapinch, while a group of Cacnea were attempting to camouflage to their right.

“I was starting to wonder where all the ferals were,” Lucca drew his swords. “Let’s do what we do best!”

“Can we try not to kill them, please?” Crystal requested. That made the Brionne hesitate.

Is that possible? He glanced at his swords, then the ferals.

“I understand your plea, but I wouldn’t hold back if I were you. There’s a reason this place is the harshest environment in Heroica,” Azu said. She slid forward and swung her staff like a golf club to knock one of the Trapinch out of the sand. The other one lunged up to face height to try and chomp her, but Mimia was quick to tackle it away.

“Ugh, I’ll do whatever it takes,” Crystal huffed as she let loose an arrow straight at one of the Cacnea. Her target fell on its back as the arrow pierced its forehead, while the other three Cacnea yelled and bounced away. The Cacnea returned upright up however, ignoring the arrow stuck in its head. “Wh-what? How didn’t that…”

“These are feral Pokémon raised by a desert without Bestia. Their bodies are forged by endless droughts and lengthy treks across the sands,” Azu explained. “It’s only natural that physical defence will be their strong point.”

“An arrow to the head, though? That’s something else,” Lucca growled and tensed up.

“Just means me and Brine are up,” Ruby flared her back, while Brine started channelling her kendama. The latter didn’t need to attack at all however, as Ruby’s Flamethrower scared the cactus Pokémon off.

“There’s more!” Shelly cried and pointed. More Cacnea grouped with Maractus showed up behind them, while about four Vibrava swooped in from the right.

Now is not the time to feel guilty about a bit of bloodshed, Lucca told himself, and tensed up.

He let the enemies come to him, first. Two Cacnea bounced high into the air, winding up their arms for punches. A slide to the side and a slash dealt with them, while the Vibrava beat their wings close to the ground. Sand kicked up and began to blow around the area, turning into an impromptu sandstorm.

“Ack- clever bastards,” Lucca growled. Mimia started barking incessantly.

“Ah, can’t see—” Ruby started coughing.

Lucca shut his eyes for just a few seconds, and then braved a peek, only to get a painful spray of sand in his eyes. He muffled a grunt and had to ignore the taste of sand too, fighting the tears in his eyes to remain in the battle. His field of view had shrunk, but he could just about make out the Maractus bouncing toward him. Despite the four Vibrava blowing sand in their faces at once, he underestimated how strong the sandstorm would be.

Maractus was struck in the side by one of Crystal’s arrows just as it was about to swing, which allowed him finish it off with a clean slash. “Guys, I think we have to beat it!”

“Wait, I’ve got it!” Shelly cried, digging into his Treasure Orb. He came out with another orb and cast it without even looking at it. A droplet shot into the sky, followed by the rumble of thunderclouds. Soon it was raining heavily, much to the confusion of the combatants.

“Was that supposed to stop the sandstorm? Ya just weakened me!” Ruby complained. Her and Brine were crouched behind the Parashelter.

“Wait but… I-I thought changing the weather would—” Shelly whimpered. He was struck by a Cacnea before he could finish, and sent flying into Mimia.

“It’s not real weather, it’s those Vibrava! Crystal, you can see, right? Take them out!” Azu cried. Triplets of Trapinch appeared and latched to her staff, making her lose balance and fall over.

“But… but I…” Crystal struggled.

“Crystal, aim for their wings! You don’t have to mortally wound to win,” Lucca ordered.

“Right… but still if I…” she hissed. From what Lucca could tell, she seemed to be completely unhindered by the sand. She muttered something to herself as her eyes gleamed. It almost felt like the Vibrava doubled their efforts as she stood there taking aim, and yet when she fired, her arrow flew against the wind and tore the sandstorm in half.

A screech filled the air as one Vibrava thrashed about the air, and then came crashing down. The other Vibrava stopped blowing sand immediately, exchanged feral cries, and then flew towards the group with fangs bared. Lucca was ready for this, however. With Shelly’s rain still going, all he had to do was shake himself off and he was free of his itchy eyes.

Now it was just him and the three Vibrava. He backflipped to kick the nearest one with his tail, and then landed on his tail with both swords drawn and held high. The other two Vibrava weren’t afraid. They swooped toward him with cries echoing violence. He thrust one sword, letting one Vibrava bite his blade, while he twisted and bent his body toward the floor to throw off the other enemy. In this awkward sequence of moves, he had both dragons caught in both flippers, and spun his body to throw them both into the third Vibrava, the one he’d kicked with his tail.

“When I said beat it, I meant run,” Lucca said, sheathing his two swords.

“We’re running? For real?” Ruby replied. Her back was letting out steam, implying she’d switched to Scald. Her and Brine had just blasted away a couple of Krokorok.

“I’m not complaining. I think we walked into an ambush,” Azu replied. She had Trapinch all over her staff. One was chomping away at her rear, but Mimia kicked it off. “Ow- hey!”

Mimia giggled and blushed a little, so she poked him.

“Let’s try it like this,” Brine said, and dove forward. Water surrounded her like an Aqua Jet attack, but it also trailed behind her like her and Crystal’s water beams. The group needed no instruction and jumped in, where it propelled them away from the fight.

Shelly’s Rainy Orb had been left behind, so they were soon back to the bright tones of the desert. Lucca hummed at the thought and prepared to be let down to the ground, only for Brine’s water to suddenly disappear with a loud splashing sound. He cried out and rolled, having to scrape his swords against the ground to slow his momentum. Mimia yelped and rolled past him too, but he managed to catch the Stufful. “Brine!”

“Not- my f-fault,” the Pikachu was having a coughing fit. The others stared at her in surprise, and then genuine concern as she struggled to recover. She looked like she had been drowning. “Wha-what? Don’t look at me like- ack, that.”

They didn’t even exchange awkward looks. Brine caught her breath and sighed, and then stood up. “Look, I can’t actually breathe underwater, okay? So I can drown myself with moves like that. I got caught off-guard because Shelly’s rain provided more water than I expected.”

“Oh, right. A Rainy Orb was a better choice than I gave it credit for,” Lucca realised.

“Yep. I thought I got weaker, but technically I get stronger now, too!” Ruby remarked.

“Please be careful though, Brine. If you hurt yourself with your attacks—” Crystal whimpered.

“Just look ahead! That’s what caught me off-guard,” Brine snapped. Lucca raised an eyebrow and had to slither around her to get a look for himself, and then choked on his own breath.

The entire desert for miles descended here. It gradually sloped into what could only be described as an abyss. The lower the sand, the darker the colour, all until it reached a massive plateau of black, coal-like dust heavily indented into the planet. The ground sloped, and then had a sudden drop-off into this abyss, creating crumbling falls that vanished into the darkness below the plateau. These sandfalls surrounded the entire area for what looked to be the size of an entire region.

In the centre of the gorge stood a habitat unlike anything he could’ve imagined. A spherical dome shielded an oversized structure from the rain of dirt and rocks carried by the wind, which left it caked in speckled mud of varying browns and blacks. The dome covered all types of buildings: skyscrapers, castles, local tents, and everything in between, but all meshed together to create some sort of futuristic utopia. Coloured spotlights waved back and forth, while the city lights glistened every neon colour in the darkness of the gorge. It all resulted in a feel that could only be described as otherworldly and alien, no doubt helped by how this city dwarfed every other location he had seen on Heroica so far.

“That’s Vilé!” Angel cried. She came out of the amulet and had a look of horror. “If the Bestia Fountain is there, then this doesn’t look good.”

“What in the world is this? What’s happening?” Lucca shook his head in disbelief.

“I’ve never seen a phenomenon like this. I-I can’t even begin to guess what could be happening,” Azu was the same.

“If the actual fountain gets destroyed before you guys can awaken it, we’ll be unable to use it. The Shining Warrior legend would be impossible to complete for gods knows how many generations!” Angel warned.

“Of course, we can’t awaken a fountain that isn’t there. I never even considered that. We’d have to wait for the planet to naturally generate ground where the fountain can exist,” Azu whispered. “That could take thousands of years.”

“Exactly. We need to get down there immediately!” Angel cried.

“But how do we get in? I don’t see any bridges or anything,” Shelly worried.

“Same way as usual. I’m getting used to this, I think,” Crystal said, aiming an arrow at the city.

“But… the dome… could you pierce it?” Brine wondered.

Crystal didn’t respond. The group had never seen her this concentrated. Her eyes narrowed and her flippers went stiff. “There’s no wind here, so I’ll need to put more effort in than usual, but I’ve got it. Brine, your water, please.”

“If you say so,” the Pikachu obeyed, surrounding her in water. Crystal let out a cry as she fired, and this time there was so much force behind her arrow that it almost looked like the air pulsed away from her. From this distance, it wasn’t clear whether she pierced the dome or not, but she at least reached the island. She jumped in without instruction too, prompting the others to do the same.

He knew he shouldn’t have, but Lucca dared to look below at the abyss as they passed over it. Nothing but pitch black darkness below. Reverie is supposed to be below Heroica. I wonder if it leads there?

Crystal’s arrow did pierce the dome, meaning they landed directly in the city. Contrary to their urgency, Lucca couldn’t help but wander forward blankly, completely taken aback. He felt like he landed in an entirely different world to Heroica – that should have been a familiar feeling having come from Reverie, but at least those two worlds were similar in their nature and layout.

Within the dome, everything was mechanical. The streets, the buildings, everything around was made entirely out of steel, glass, and other metals. The crumbling of the sand in the distance was the only thing to break an eerie silence. Like Naganadel’s valley dungeon, the depth of the city rendered it in darkness compared to the rest of the desert, but not devoid of its horrible heat, which felt amplified by the dome trapping in stale oxygen.

Weirdest of all: despite the flashy shop signs, floor lights waving everywhere, and generally gaudy futurism of all the designs, not a single living thing was in sight. No Pokémon, no plants, nothing. Just pipes running through streets, fancy shop signs, and a web of tall and alien buildings as far as the eye could see.

Or so he thought. Mimia started barking, and then spread his feet apart and growled. Lucca kept a flipper ready to draw a sword until some Pokémon flew into sight. A group of Solrock and Lunatone. “Wait. Don’t attack them.”

“Aggressors. Do not resist or we will be forced to retaliate in kind,” the Solrock began. Its voice was oddly stagnant and grating. Every syllable was monotone and at exactly the same volume, but not like someone devoid of energy. It was almost like the words were produced artificially.

“You are under arrest for trespassing. Come quietly,” a Lunatone said. It had a different voice, but it was the same artificial tone.

“If you can get us into the city, that’s what we need to do,” Lucca replied unsurely. The group of Pokémon surrounded them in a circular formation with the lead Solrock at the front. “I don’t like the sound of arrest, but I’m a bit confused here.”

“We did sorta just blow a hole in their big glass bulb thingy,” Ruby pointed out.

“It’s called a dome. But yes, we should do as they say,” Azu said.

“Arrested… I’m so tired of this,” Crystal sighed.

Lucca grumbled guiltily. These space Pokémon began to lead them through the city, which only brought on unsettling vibes. There just didn’t seem to be any Pokémon here. All the buildings were closed via shutters or mechanical doorways. They were taken a long walk through a few streets and even an alley, but not a speck of it was natural. Where did they even get the metal and stuff to build all this? Heck, who built all this? Something tells me I don’t want to know.

They eventually reached a large square room that appeared to be an open part of a building. The only open building in this entire city, it seemed. Even though it was empty, the group were positioned in the middle of the room, and then metallic doors suddenly slid over the entrance and shut them in. Lucca slid forward and held a flipper out, but held back as he felt the entire room motion.

“We’re… moving?” Crystal said.

“It… makes me feel… funny,” Ruby added, and hugged herself. Mimia whined in agreement.

“I can’t see where we’re going. We’re gonna be okay, aren’t we?” Shelly asked. Lucca glanced back at him and put a flipper out. Thankfully he got the message and went quiet.

After a minute or two, the room stopped and the doors slid back to open. A hallway just as metallic as the city above awaited them, only it was lit by tubes that glowed with electronic light, both on the floors and ceiling. The group were directed down this hall, where they were quickly greeted by the actual city. Lucca couldn’t help but gasp, and nearly ran out of the formation.

It was a city. He knew it was a city. Yet, it was the most alien thing he had ever seen. There were many buildings and roads, but they were all at different heights and as straight as a Linoone’s stripes. Every single building was a skyscraper that went beyond the metal roof, while some of the roads had stairs or slopes that led to different sections of the city. The sides of the buildings were brighter and clearer than the ones above, with readable signs; advertisements, and the like. Blue lights sped across the walls and sides of buildings too, almost like the roads had an electronic bloodstream.

“There are Pokémon?” Azu gasped and pointed.

And they were as casual as Pokémon living in any other town or village. Groups chatted, entered shops, ran through the streets, doing whatever they normally did. Every single species was bipedal, but varied with no type or theming at all. The population was healthy.

“Do not lag behind, aggressors. Failure to comply with our orders will result in swift action,” Solrock brought them back to focus. The group were forced to tear their eyes away to follow along, where they were brought into another hallway like the one they entered from.

“Uh, Azu? Any idea what any of this is?” Brine asked. Concern was written all over her face.

“I can’t say for sure, besides the obvious. It may be hard to believe, but this entire city is mechanical. These guard Pokémon seem mechanical, too,” Azu replied.

“Mechanical? As in, they’re like… steel type Pokémon?” Crystal cocked her head.
“Machines. Automatons,” Azu nodded. “These were outlawed in Heroica several decades ago. I never thought I’d see so many just casually about.”

“They were made illegal?” Lucca questioned.

“Technology like this uses Bestia at a far faster rate than a country of Pokémon using their moves and abilities could,” Azu stated.

Lucca’s face became intense. And this entire city is mechanical… unless there’s some secret trick they know- no, wait! The city was sinking into the desert. This section of the desert must be dying because the whole city uses Bestia. Gods…

“I know what you’re thinking. Hold your blade, Lucca,” Azu said. She was staring at him with an intensity he had never seen before. “When Bestia is drained from an area, nature stops functioning. We saw that with Vergrace, when that Zweilous used Dragon Pulse. Colour drained from the area and the trees died. That was all because of one Pokémon. Not that this place looked like it was in good shape, but if an entire city were to be casually using Bestia all this time, they wouldn’t last very long, would they?”

Lucca’s mouth hung open. “You’re… right.”

“The machines would cease to function, too. They’ve come to some kind of solution here. Until we find out exactly what, we shouldn’t make any rash moves,” Azu addressed everyone else with that last one. They all nodded, but the concern was clear across their faces.

At last, several sliding doors and busy corridors later, they arrived at a board room. All eyes turned to the group right away. A Mawile, Grumpig, Jynx, and Zangoose looked to lead the charge. Serving them was a familiar Wigglytuff who almost dropped a tray of beverages.

“You guys?” Kusha gasped.

“Kusha?” Shelly said.

“These are the Pokémon responsible for breaching the protective dome on the surface. We shall stay on guard,” Solrock reported.

“You know these Pokémon?” Zangoose turned to Kusha, who nodded. “Then that won’t be necessary. Return to your patrols.”

“These guys are the Shining Warriors. If you guys have come here, then it has to be important… seeing the state… of… you know,” Kusha said, becoming awkward as the other Pokémon glared at her.

What’s going on here? Was there an interrogation? Lucca guessed. “There’s a Bestia Fountain here, and we need to find and activate it as soon as possible.”

“I see… you’ve seen the situation outside and consider this an emergency,” Zangoose summarised. Something about his tone made Lucca gulp. The others stayed silent too, so it wasn’t just him. The normal type tucked his claws behind his back and paced over to a door in the back. “I’ll have you know that your haste is unwarranted. We are completely safe here.”

“Sir, these defences will not protect us from—”

“Kusha. We will not have another word on this,” Zangoose silenced her. “Shining Warriors. Follow me.”

The group obeyed, but not without a glance back at Kusha. She was furious at that Zangoose. Furious enough that her glare alone could kill. Zangoose was totally unbothered though, and led them down yet another corridor. Lucca had long since grown tired of these.

“I’m only showing you this as you are the Shining Warriors. It is top secret to the rest of the world. To tell anyone else means to declare war on the rest of Heroica. Do you understand?” Zangoose stated. Lucca nodded, and he opened one last door.

Inside was a massive apparatus of machinery that occupied most of this circular room. The device guarded a giant Meganium with ribcage-like metal bars, while countless wires and tubes were attached directly to the grass type’s skin. Lots of lights flowed across the surface of the wires and tubes, as if energy was being pumped to and from the Meganium.

“What is all this?” Brine was the first to ask.

“I kinda think I’m gonna be sick,” Ruby said, trying not to look at it.

To everyone’s surprise, the Meganium lifted its head to look at the group. Its eyelids were swollen with multiple bags that appeared bruised from how swollen they were. On closer inspection, the grass type wasn’t even the shade of green they were meant to be, and the flower around their neck was so withered and dry that it looked like crinkled eggshell.

“Greetings, Shining Warriors. You must forgive me for my appearance. I am Mother Bun, the curator of Vilé,” Meganium gestured to bow.

“What is all this? You look terrible,” Crystal remarked.

“Crystal,” Azu said.

“I once again apologize for my unready appearance. Recent happenings have left our city on high alert, and I have not been able to leave my post for much time. We were not able to properly prepare for your arrival,” Bun confessed. Despite her appearance, her voice was so soft and tender that one could sleep to it.

“Let me make it clear now that Vilé is perfectly safe. You can rest easy, and take the time to enjoy our city. We boast the leading technology in all of Heroica, and are the only country thus far to rule in favour of automatons. For us, Bestia is sustainable,” Zangoose bragged.

“It really doesn’t look it,” Ruby growled.

“Are you aware of the powers we Meganium possess?” Bun asked. No one replied. “We have the power to feed and regenerate nature. With these powers amplified by this machine, I am able to provide nature with all the resources it requires to thrive.”

The whole group gasped.

“Thanks to this, it matters not how much Bestia my Pokémon use in their daily lives. As long as I draw breath, I am able to provide for them all,” Bun stated.

“What the- when’s the last time you stepped outta that… prison, whatever the heck it is?” Ruby challenged.

“Have you actually seen outside? The entire city is sinking into an abyss!” Crystal cried.

“Also, ‘nature’ must have a different definition to you. I haven’t seen a single shred of nature since we got here. Even you aren’t green anymore,” Lucca joined in.

“Girls, Lucca!” Azu snapped, and gave him a smack with her staff. “I’m sorry they speak out of line.”

“Tsk, who died and made you boss? Why’re you so worked up, anyway?” Ruby complained.

“Arguing about this here isn’t going to achieve anything. I just told you that,” Azu reasoned.

“Azu, this isn’t—” Brine came forward.

“We’re not arguing about this,” Azu raised her voice. Mimia whined, and she calmed down. “I apologize for their words. Please continue, Mother Bun.”

“I know why you have come here. The Bestia Fountain is located in the Temple of Heroica in the northern depths of the city. You can get there if you follow the restricted areas. When you are ready to depart for the fountain, let us know, and the security guards will allow you to pass,” Bun explained. “I wish the current circumstances could have been better, but I hope this does not sour your experience with this wonderful city. There is much to enjoy here that cannot be experienced elsewhere in Heroica. Allow my authorities to take care of you.”

“You know what, it beats knights running around,” Crystal folded her flippers.

“You must be weary after your journey here. It is not easy to breach the protective dome either, so I can’t imagine what kind of… weaponization you carry amongst yourself, so it is only natural. Allow me to accommodate you for the night,” Zangoose proposed with a bow.

“We appreciate it. If you have any water, it will go a long way,” Azu bowed as well.

“By your leave,” Zangoose bowed to Mother Bun as well, who nodded. He led the group out of the room and the Meganium watched them, yet Lucca stayed behind. With a great sigh and a racing heart, he approached her.

“You haven’t left this position for a long time, have you?” he began.

“Lucca!” Azu shouted at him by the exit. Bun didn’t reply, but Zangoose grit his fangs.

“The more I look at you, the worse I feel. It’s almost like it’s a wonder that you’re even conscious. My bets are you’ve stayed like this a few years. Maybe even decades,” Lucca continued. Bun still didn’t reply. “I’m sure you know this, but fresh air is good for grass type Pokémon. You should get some.”

Another week, another new part, and one that I had a lot of fun writing. I hope my descriptions do well, here!

What do you think of Mother bun? Friend or foe? That question’s for Panzer too, and the mysteries surrounding her. Could you sleep in a place that was living on a death timer?
Episode 23: The Definition of the Shining Warrior


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Shelly complete - Copy.png

Episode 23: The Definition of the Shining Warrior

Vilé was considerably more convoluted than even some mystery dungeons. Streets weaved in between buildings, shops, and other streets, but were only wide enough for a single Snorlax to wade through. Elevators and stairs were required to reach everywhere in the city, and there were so many signs that it was difficult to figure out how to get anywhere. Rather than having a line of shops on a single road, instead the shops were on different levels of the same building, meaning that lifts and stairs were required to access different facilities – each street only had one or two shops. Signs and maps constantly contradicted each other by leading to stairs or pointing to the same buildings.

Thankfully the city wasn’t busy. There were enough Pokémon to fill the air with the usual hustle and bustle of a busy town, but it was a far cry from Girage Field’s moderated pedestrian traffic. Something about the foggy distance made everything feel cold, but the dark combined with the neon lights and metallic sky to make it all feel alive. This also made it impossible to tell the time - all the group knew was that after their round of stocking up on necessities, they were worn out and ready to turn in.

Zangoose directed them the whole way with pure patience, finishing at the accommodation he promised earlier. This section of the city was high up, away from the commercial district, and quiet. A single structure was long with two floors, and lined with doors and staircases. Lucca started growling when he saw Zangoose heading straight for it, and grabbed his pigtails. “Hrrg, why does it always have to be stairs?”

“Lucca, are you okay?” Brine asked.

“No, I’m not okay. This entire freaking city is just stairs! If I have to climb another one, my flippers are gonna fall off,” he threw himself back to the floor.

“Geez, get up. You being whiny about stairs isn’t that cute, you know,” Ruby commented.

“Good. I don’t want to be cute,” he replied.

“Too bad, you don’t get to decide that. Now get up,” she groaned. He gurgled and waved a flipper up, so she started to drag him along. “You’re gonna hit your head if I drag you up the stairs, you know.”

“This guy sometimes,” Azu shook her head and palmed her face.

“These are empty rooms you can use to sleep in. They should have everything you need. There are no plans to use them anytime soon, so feel free to share or keep a room to yourselves, if you’d prefer,” Zangoose informed.

“Whoa what, we get our own rooms? About time!” Ruby cheered, dropping Lucca’s head on a step.

“Oh right, for some reason I forgot you used to live alone. I didn’t think you liked it, though,” Crystal cocked her head.

“Nothin’ against you guys, but sometimes a girl just needs some time to herself, y’know? Have you never felt that?” Ruby said smugly.

“I don’t feel anything, Ruby,” Crystal replied.

“You’re annoyed at me there, so clearly, ya do,” Ruby snickered. She skipped up the stairs and picked a door at random. “I call dibs on this one!”

“Why that one?” Brine giggled as the Cyndaquil ran in and slammed the door shut. She waited for a reply, but none came. “Yeesh, she’s weird. If we’re done here, I’ll hit the hay, too.”

“Sounds like everyone’s ready to,” Azu said quietly.

The group spread out into their own individual rooms, but Azu and Mimia waited behind with Lucca. Right when he was about to pick a room that was vacant, she tapped him and gestured to follow her. They went into the leftmost room to check that it was empty, and then made themselves comfortable. All that was in here was a bunkbed, a table, a shelf with some books, an open wardrobe, and a tinted window to look outside.

“This is about Mother Bun, isn’t it?” Lucca began. Mimia plopped himself on the bottom bunk while Azu waltzed over to the back to scan the shelf.

“Of course it is. I appreciate you not buttering this up,” she replied without turning around. “Ugh, they’re all children’s books. If these are reserved for special guests, why leave children’s books?”

“She’s dooming this entire country. Anyone with eyes can see that,” Lucca stated. “It’s seriously a wonder she’s still alive.”

“It’s true. I’ve never seen a Pokémon in that kind of condition before. But you mustn’t kill her,” Azu turned around. Her face was furious again.

“Azu…” Lucca muttered.

“I have to agree this time, Lucca,” Mimia joined in. He was curled up on the bed.

“Mimia?” Lucca was surprised.

“Her theory might be flawed, but it is also working. As long as she stays alive, this city won’t sink anytime soon. I don’t think it will, even in its current condition,” Mimia reasoned. “I say we take advantage of that. They will guide us to the trial tomorrow, and then we will have five trials completed.”

“But then what? This place will still crash. Even if we restore Bestia, Vilé will still fall. This place won’t magically rise out of the gorge,” Lucca argued.

“We’ll have time to deal with it, though. This is exactly the kind of thing I’m working towards,” Azu replied sharply. Lucca took in a breath. “Listen to me Lucca, and listen to me carefully. I still haven’t forgiven you for all the shit you’ve pulled up until now.”

Her cursing surprised him, so he ensured he had eye contact. She was deadly serious.

“You behave like everything you’ve done is noble and right, and don’t think of the repercussions. It’s like you’ve never worked with children before. None of them are going to be able to live normal lives because of you, you know.”

“Wh-what? I’m not their parent, though. I’ve never been their mentor or role model, or anything like that,” he turned away.

“Is that something a crown prince should really be saying?” Azu challenged. He clenched his flippers and struggled to look at her. “If you really don’t care about that, then care about me. I need this place to stay standing.”

“Why do you want Mother Bun to stay alive?” Lucca shook his head.

“Vilé managed to create technology that almost allows them to live like this. Their technology is moving forward with such a slow, gradual decline of the planet. They’re almost there. If I worked here and researched their methods, I may be able to come up with a truly sustainable method to advancing Heroica,” Azu explained desperately. “But I can’t do anything if you go on a murder spree and kill Mother Bun.”

“Besides, didn’t you say that we were doing this for ourselves, rather than Alver’s orders? We’ve no reason to,” Mimia added.

He’s got me there. I really did say something like that. And I meant it, too, Lucca realised. He sighed silently, and then shuffled over to the wardrobe. It had various hooks and lines perfect for hanging armour or accessories, and all at different heights. He was able to slot his swords in perfectly. “Fine, I won’t do it.”

“Were you actually going to do it?” Mimia’s mouth dropped.

“I was heavily considering it. You heard Angel’s warning. If this place goes down, then it’ll be thousands of years before any future warriors get another chance. That’s assuming Heroica even lives long enough that there can be more Shining Warriors,” he explained. “I just can’t shake the feeling that Mother Bun’s on her last legs. I don’t know why the other Pokémon didn’t seem that bothered by what was going on. Kusha seemed to get it.”

“Trust me, you’re not alone on that thought. I’m praying that if we can restore Bestia soon, Mother Bun will be able to ease up and take care of herself for a bit. Whatever miracle gives me enough time to research this place,” Azu added.

“I’ve seen feral elders who look healthier than her. And we ferals forgo anything beyond natural healthcare,” Mimia admitted.

Someone knocked on the door just then, and the group went quiet. “U-um, hello? It’s me, Shelly.”

“It’s open,” Lucca called, and glanced at Azu. “Er, this counts as my room, right?”

The Oshawott took a step in and instantly took to playing with his paws. “Oh, Azu and… A-am I interrupting something?”

“Nothing at all,” Azu answered before Lucca could say a word. “I really wanted to talk to Lucca about this whole thing and our plans for tomorrow… whenever that is. You can’t see the sun in this place.”

“I am interrupting… I’ll come back later,” he shook his head.

“You’re okay, it’s fine! Did you need something? Come in come in, this ain’t our house or anything. No need to be shy,” Azu smiled as she brought him over. Mimia yipped happily with her.

“We-well um, I wanted t-to talk to Lucca about something, too,” Shelly started twiddling his feet as well.

“Well go ahead, you don’t have to hold back,” Azu replied with a hand on her hip. He didn’t say anything, however. He just looked up at them expectantly. “Oh, right. I get it. I got what I wanted though, so I’m good.”

“H-huh?” Lucca cocked his head. Mimia got up and started humming a tune as he trotted out after her. “Azu, Mimia, where are you going?”

“I get it, it’s fine. We can chat again in the morning or something,” Azu sung. They shut the door behind them, and then silence fell.

“Geez, everyone’s acting funny. I didn’t think having your own rooms would make everyone lose their minds,” Lucca commented. He threw himself back on the bed and tucked his flippers behind his head. “Well, floor’s all yours, buddy.”

Shelly continued to ponder his words, and the longer he did, the more nervous he seemed to get. Lucca eventually sat up and snickered at him. “Wa-wah, what’s so funny?”

“You’re so nervous. I promise you, it’s fine. Whatever you want to ask, I’m listening,” Lucca assured.

Shelly gulped and still couldn’t look at him. “I… we, um, I wanted to talk about us being brothers.”

“Oh, that skipped my mind, too. There’s so much going on, I seriously never thought about that fully,” Lucca settled down. He laid on his side and leaned his head on a flipper. “I don’t get the science behind it, either. Me, you, Mother and Father are all completely different species, and yet there’s no doubt about it, right? We share parents.”

“What’s Papa- erm, Father like? And Mama, too?”

Lucca’s grin faded. “Father’s strict. Strict, but noble. On the outside, he’s always got this tiny, pleasant smile and gives smart orders without a second of thought. Yet still, I can tell he’s always battling deep thoughts and emotions. But I look up to him. He’s always doing the right thing as a king.”

“It’s just like Mama- I mean, Gladys,” Shelly whispered.

“As for Nebilim, our Mother… I’ll admit, I never knew her,” Lucca turned to him. “When I was old enough to be aware, she was already gone. Father never really spoke about her, and whenever I asked, he’d have the most distant eyes.”

“So you know as much as I do. Do you want to find her?”

Lucca paused in surprise. “We kinda have our paws full from the journey, don’t you think? Not that it’s not important or anything…”

“Don’t you want to find her?” Shelly glanced up at him.

“We don’t even know if she’s alive.”

“She has to be alive!” Shelly became serious. Lucca went quiet. “S-sorry… I just don’t know why she left me on the island like that.”

“We can only theorize, and I don’t think that’s productive. Maybe when this quest is over, we can start investigating?” Lucca suggested. “I wonder how Father would react if he found out who you were?”

Silence fell thanks to that question, and Shelly went back to playing with his paws. Lucca sighed and laid back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. “Another question we can only theorize, huh?”

“U-um… Lucca… Is it alright if, I um,” Shelly started to squeak.

“Hey come on. Look at me,” Lucca got him to face up. “You don’t need to be shy around me, or any of us. I promise.”

“This is going to sound really weird, though,” he admitted, and started blushing hard. “Is it okay if I sleep here tonight?”

That made Lucca roll over to face him again.

“I-I-I don’t mean weirdly or anything like that!” Shelly flailed his arms. “I just thought… I-I never got to have a brother… so I thought… I-I’ll sleep in another bed, of course!”

“Heh. It’s Mimia you’ll have to ask,” Lucca snickered. Shelly froze in surprise. “You just want to chat and stuff, right? I don’t mind at all. You’re right, we should get to know each other better, like real brothers should. I’m up for it.”

“Huh? Why Mimia?”

“Because… we’re really close. He’ll sleep here by default. Not saying you would, but I wouldn’t want him to be disturbed or vice versa, you know?” Lucca smiled.

“Oh… there are only two beds. I’m sorry I asked,” Shelly hung his head.

“There’s enough space. Mimia sleeps next to me.”

That made him flinch back. “He does?”

“… Is that really such a surprise?”

“Wa-wait, but if he does… can a boy sleep in the same bed as another boy?”

Lucca sat up with a sceptical look. “What in the world are you thinking about?”

The Oshawott was frozen to the spot, and his face was bright red. “U-um… Lucca, the girls on Van Aken told me… n-no, I wasn’t allowed to sleep in the same bed with anyone until I married Elise. Only couples are supposed to sleep together.”

“Is that how it works?” Lucca cocked his head. Now Shelly was gawking. “We’re not married or anything. That’s just the way things were back home and growing up.”

“… You’re not awkward at all,” Shelly whispered.

“Should I be?” Lucca asked. Shelly paused to observe. The Brionne was well and truly perplexed by the question. Not a hint of blush or a shred of stutter in his voice. Lucca eventually sat up and started snickering again. “You’re going on shy again, but I really don’t get it. Haven’t I proved we can talk about anything yet?”

“Lucca lives in a whole different world to me. I-I think I’m starting to understand that,” Shelly said quietly, and shook his head.

“Well yeah. It’s nothing like even here in Vilé. There’s no green, the trees are dead, it’s… okay it’s not as hot as the desert, but it’s hot and there’s barely any water. Nature’s just dead,” Lucca explained.

That isn’t what I meant, but it’s cool to know about Reverie, too, Shelly prodded his paws together.

“The only Pokémon around are these creatures we call beasts, too. They’re a bit like Pokémon, but they’re way weirder. That Naganadel monster we battled, that’s one of the beasts. Imagine having loads of those just flying around, and they’re all as strong as the one we battled,” Lucca continued.

“That’s scary? No wonder you’re so strong!” Shelly gasped.

“Eheh, I wish,” Lucca leaned on a flipper and winked. “I can’t beat any of them on my own, I can only drive them off. Mimia on the other hand, you should see him when he gets going.”

“When he gets going… you aren’t saying… the lad can beat them, can he?” Shelly trembled at the thought.

Lucca lifted both flippers and his tail. “Three at once.”

Three Naganadel at the same time? Shelly’s mouth hit the floor. He couldn’t picture it. If Mimia was really that powerful, then why didn’t he ever show it during this quest? “And he won?”

“He won,” Lucca nodded. “We have this belief that we learnt growing up… if there’s something you really, really want, and it’s not hurting anyone, then you should do absolutely everything in your power to achieve it.”

“Everything…” Shelly muttered.

“Mimia wasn’t actually supposed to stay with me. But I saved his life, and he really wanted to protect me in return. So he stayed during my training, and just, he was wild. He brought out power I never knew Pokémon without Bestia had. So we started training together instead, and he learnt to control his power,” Lucca recalled. “Father wanted me to learn to use a sword, but I just wasn’t getting it. So I picked up dancing and shuangdao instead, and well, here I am. Now, we fight together and Mimia’s my… well, he was my retainer and all that.”

“You really like Mimia, don’t you?” Shelly asked happily.

“Ahah, you saw all that at the Lightworks trial. I couldn’t imagine living without him, to be honest,” Lucca finally blushed slightly. “So yeah, it’s pretty fair to say.”

It’s super weird, but I think Lucca doesn’t realise he’s in love? Or maybe I don’t get it, and it’s okay for Pokémon to be like that with each other, Shelly replied with a sunny smile.

“What’s with that grin? Now you just look like you’re thinking something cheeky,” Lucca smirked at him.

“… I’m just happy,” Shelly’s tail wagged to back him up. “I’m happy because you and Mimia are happy, that’s all.”

“Okay… so what about you? How’re you feeling about the others?” Lucca asked, and leaned on both flippers this time.

Urk, then he goes and asks that. Maybe he does get it? Shelly flinched, but quickly calmed. “Er, what do you mean?”

“No one’s really spoken about you leaving Elise since that whole incident. You’ve been fine in battle and stuff, but when I think about it, it’s unfair we’ve sort of left you in the quiet like this,” he explained. He got up to rummage through his belongings and tossed a couple of fresh apples toward him. “Here. Snacks.”

“H-huh? Didn’t Azu say it’s not good to eat in our tents before bed?” Shelly whispered.

“Well Azu’s not here. Little secret, I’m always eating in my tent,” Lucca winked at him. “Don’t look at me like that, are you really surprised? I’m always hungry!”

“… So am I,” he admitted, and took a chomp. Lucca must have gotten these apples in the city, as their freshness gave them a clean flavour. “I’m okay. I’m just doing what I have to do. I’m sorry I messed up in the battle before. I really thought rain would stop the sandstorm. It’s supposed to.”

“You were on the right track. Magic weather changes by Pokémon attacks and orbs are meant to cancel each other out. But with Bestia not involved, the rules are just wacky,” Lucca explained. “Do you ever wonder why we even know these rules or learn Pokémon attacks, even though we’re several generations deep of not having Bestia?”

“I have. It’s easy to say it’s just nature, but it doesn’t make sense. I’ve never actually been taught to use Water Gun or Aqua Jet. I just… know how to use them for some reason,” Shelly nodded, and took another bite. Lucca ate two apples whole at once.

“Pardon me, didn’t mean to chance to subject on you a bit. What I meant was you honestly battled fine out there. And don’t worry about the fight with Feather; we all struggled there,” Lucca replied, eating a third. He let out a light belch, and then reached for two more. “You were really shy around me, so now I’m a little concerned there’s something on your mind.”

Is it really okay? I don’t know… I could regret this… Shelly pondered. “Will you… keep a secret?”

“You’re gonna keep mine, right?” Lucca flashed an apple. Shelly nodded shyly, and that apple was tossed at him. “Then don’t hold back. My lips are sealed tight.”

Shelly took a deep breath. He knew Lucca wasn’t lying. Just this little night had shown how cool and honest the Brionne was, yet he couldn’t calm the angst swelling in his chest. Despite it all, he shuffled through his Treasure Orb for one item he knew for sure how to find. Lucca leaned forward curiously, and then calmed when Shelly revealed a bracelet with a Gospel Vibe attached to it.

“That’s that leaf that changes based on emotions, right? You and Elise have one,” Lucca pointed out. Shelly nodded.

“They’re called Gospel Vibes. The royal family of Van Aken wear them to assure trust in their Pokémon that they’re not lying. But the public can get these too, and they’re given to other Pokémon when they make a marriage confession,” Shelly explained. His face went redder at every word until nervous gestures took over.

“Are you thinking of giving that to Crystal?” Lucca asked. Shelly gulped. “If you want my opinion, I think you’re too young to be thinking about marriage. Marriage is pretty—”

“It won’t be for marriage!” Shelly cried. “But I believe it’ll show how I truly feel. If they wear this and respond, it’ll show how they truly feel, too.”

“... And who’s they?” Lucca challenged. Shelly took in a sharp breath. “I promise I’ll keep it secret. I won’t get in the way, either. Last thing we want is another repeat of what Ruby did.”

Shelly took a deep breath, gulped, tensed himself, then turned away again. He couldn’t stop blushing, and his heart had not only fallen into his stomach, but it felt like it was going to come out if he went any further. “U-um, you get along really well with Miss Azu. Do you know how to talk to girls?”

“Huh?” Lucca’s eyes widened. “What kind of question is that? You’re the one who grew up on an island of only females. I grew up in a kingdom with only males.”

“B-but you and Azu are super close and stuff, a-a-and you went on a date and stuff,” Shelly whimpered.

“Didn’t you and Elise?” Lucca raised an eyebrow. Shelly faced the floor. His face couldn’t possibly go redder. “Oh. So it was less honest feelings and more a requirement from you, huh?”

“Me and Elise have never done anything like that,” he admitted.

“Well… huh. Oh geez, I guess this is where I’m meant to do proper big brother advice, huh?” Lucca rubbed the back of his head as he pondered a response. He hung his tail off and bed and sat straight. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my travels across Heroica, it’s that there are all kinds of Pokémon out there, Pokémon that live lives unlike anything I could imagine.”

Shelly kept staring at the floor.

“Unless they’re of a higher social standing, I just talk to them the same way I’d talk to my friends. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a boy or a girl,” Lucca continued. Shelly looked up at him. “Crystal’s quiet but kind, the careful kid. Ruby’s rowdy and passionate, and knows what she wants. Brine keeps to herself a lot, but she’s got more going for her than she lets on. And Azu, she’s cute, adventurous, and really smart. But when you really think about it, that’s just like me, you, and Mimia, right? And all the other males I knew back home. So just treat ‘em how you’d like to be treated.”

Shelly opened his mouth to respond, but couldn’t come up with anything against this. For someone who stuffed four apples into their cheeks, Lucca’s logic was sound. The Brionne caught him staring again, and cocked his head with his mouth still full. “What? Did I say something stupid?”

“N-no, hee hee,” Shelly replied. He glanced at his bracelet again. “I’ll make sure I give this to the Pokémon I like, and when I do, I’ll do it just the way I can! Thank you, Lucca.”

“You really don’t wanna tell me who it is?” Lucca grinned.

“I can’t. It’s a secret to everybody,” he smiled gleefully.

Lucca threw himself back and groaned. “Fiiine, mister no fun. I imagine you already know this, but don’t go trying to confess soon, though. We’ve got a little too much work to do.”

“Yes of course Lucca! I’m not desperate or anything,” Shelly complained. “I won’t tell anyone about you eating at night, too.”

“Azu’s the only one who has a problem with it,” Lucca shrugged. “I know she’s right, but she’s also not right. I’m hungry, so I eat when I’m hungry. There’s nothing unhealthy about that.”

“She does seem conscious about her size… even though I think she looks like what Azumarill are meant to look like,” Shelly commented.

“I know right? Wait, how do you know what Azumarill are meant to look like?” Lucca sat up.

“I saw them in a book a long time ago. I read a lot. Well, I used to read a lot of books. Even though they didn’t want me and Elise to go out, they had a lot of books to explain the outside world,” Shelly explained. “It’s embarrassing, but I used to dream about it a lot.”

“You as well? I researched a lot of stuff about legends before I got to come here. It was all in books Father had for some reason. They didn’t have a lot on Pokémon, but there was a lot about Heroica, camping out in nature, Bestia law… that sort of thing,” Lucca remarked.

“… Then how didn’t you know how shops work?” Shelly cocked his head.

“Ack- come on man, that was so long ago. Is no one going to let that go?”

“I just think it’s funny, to be honest.”

“As funny as Fire Burps?”

“That is funny! Don’t you think it’s just silly that Ruby’s strongest move is that?”

“Ah, I don’t really comment. But I’d take any other attack being her strongest than that.”

“You should trying burping her, too. Maybe you’ll make her do a stronger one.”

“If I tried to do something like that to Ruby, she’d burn me to ashes. It’s a miracle she hasn’t done that to you.”

“You’re scared of Ruby?”

“I’m not scared of Ruby!”

“Then you do the Fire Burp next time!”

“I am not giving her the- alright, you’re more mischievous than I thought, mister. Let’s test your battle knowledge then, shall we?” Lucca grinned as he got up. “You learnt a few tricks training with her, time to trade that knowledge with me.”

“R-really? You want to train?” Shelly gasped. “I’ll do my best. I won’t let you show me up!”

Their training session wound up being little more than back and forth fighting talk, mostly from Lucca nerding out about weapons and fighting styles. Shelly learnt a lot in theory that he wanted to try, but it tired him out more than he expected. As if their minds were being read, Mimia returned not long after the duo called it quits, and they all hit the hay at the same time.

Shelly was tired, but his mind wasn’t. He lay on the top bunk with a blanket half covering him, staring at the ceiling. This whole evening was surreal. He’d learnt so much about himself and the world around him just by talking to one person. That person was his brother, and that felt amazing.

Just treat them how you’d like to be treated, he told himself, and held his bracelet up high. The world outside of Van Aken… it’s so different, and it’s full of so many special Pokémon. I really haven’t been paying attention because of the journey… and trying to be stronger… for her…

He slipped the bracelet back into his belongings, careful as to avoid making too much noise. Then he rolled onto his front and crawled to look over the side of the bed, hoping to see how Lucca and Mimia slept together. The idea they were together was so brave, yet equally beautiful to him.

Provided that they were there. Mimia snored away on top of the blanket. Lucca who was meant to be cuddled up to him, was gone. The blankets were thrown aside as if he’d gotten out in a hurry. A lump formed in his chest.

Where? Shelly asked himself as he tried to scan the rest of the room. It was as dark as the night was meant to be, but with so little in their room anyway, it was easy to make things out. Unmistakably, Lucca’s swords were gone. That lump in his chest grew heavier.

He couldn’t have, he slid his way to the floor, snatched his own bag, and headed out.

All of the other rooms were shut tight. Most lights were off, and the area was in urban silence. From here, Shelly had a surprisingly pretty view of the city. At this height, it looked like an ocean of lights and glamour. Even though there were no waves or sunlight, the neon streetlights shimmered and flowed below. Everything above or in the distance was painted in a golden glow.

Crystal’s still asleep, I think, Shelly concluded, glancing back at the rooms again. Wait, she doesn’t sleep… does she pretend to? It doesn’t look like she’s snuck out. Hopefully Lucca’s just gone to get more food.

That’s what he wanted to think, yet he walked about thinking that. He kept going, all the way down into the city. He was good enough to remember the exact route Zangoose took them. This sort of thing was all he was good for, after all.

The population had dwindled from earlier, resembling nightlife much more. Volbeat and Illumise courted around, while groups of Sableye and Sneasel gallivanted amongst the closed businesses. The moment Shelly saw all the food joints closed up, that lump in his chest grew so heavy he could’ve thrown up.

It’s impossible. I’m overthinking, he told himself as he began to follow his memory. He traced Zangoose’s route all the way back to where they came. I’m way in over my head.

He wasn’t in over his head. He made it to the road where he should have found the authorities guarding the corridors. Instead, he found discarded Solrock and Lunatone automatons. Despite trembling like a Snorunt, he approached one to examine it. A single stab through the centre had destroyed its machinery, but not without various scratches and cuts all over its metal plating. Some of these automatons still crackled with electricity.

“Oh no, this can’t be happening,” he whispered as he took off down the corridor. The board room had a few more damaged automatons in it, and a glance showed they’d all been taken out the same way.

“Stop!” Shelly cried as he sprinted down the last corridor. “Don’t do it, don’t hurt her!”

He almost screamed as he came to a sharp stop inches away from a blade. Everything of the background blurred for moment, and all he could make out was Lucca’s gold sword pointed straight at his forehead, and Lucca positioned as if to stab him. The Brionne withdrew just as suddenly.

They didn’t say anything. They stared at each other, mouths open, stances stiff. Not a thought. Shelly diverted his eyes to assess the room, and nothing helped that lump in his chest. Mother Bun had her head down and eyes shut tightly. Broken automatons lay discarded around the room. He conjured a thousand things to say, yet instead, it was his emotions that welled up.

“Why?” he finally asked.

Lucca slid back and lowered his swords. He had an ashamed look on his face.

“Why?” Shelly asked again.

“You’re supposed to be asleep,” Lucca stated. His voice was quiet, low, and cold.


“I didn’t think you’d wake up.”

“Don’t treat me like a kid!” Shelly snapped. He tried to blink away tears, but he couldn’t. “W-were you really going to kill her?”

Lucca hesitated to respond. He didn’t look at Shelly once, but aggression filled his face. “If you figured it out that far, then why drag this out?”

“I… just say it ain’t so,” Shelly sighed in defeat. “You’re here, you killed her, didn’t you? If you’re here, then was everything else a lie? About Crystal getting Esther and Gladys…”

“Bun’s not dead yet, but I was about to,” Lucca stated. He sat idle with his two swords still pointed at Shelly.

“Don’t do it!” Shelly cried and leaned forward. He was trembling a lot, and his eyesight started to blur again. N-no… I can’t be scared. I can’t be scared. We spoke, I learnt, I started to move forward. Just do it Shelly, just do it!

Clenching his eyes shut, Shelly threw himself into a sprint and attempted to tackle Lucca, who easily slid aside to dodge it. Shelly knew he’d missed however, and positioned himself in front of Mother Bun’s apparatus. There, he stuck his arms out to guard it.

“You’re going to protect her?” Lucca replied. Shelly gulped and glared back. “Don’t be stupid, Shelly. You saw what the rest of us saw. If Bun continues what she’s doing, she’ll destroy this whole place!”

“Killing her won’t do anything, though. We’re the Shining Warriors! We’re meant to save all the Pokémon, not kill them!” Shelly cried. “We can save Mother Bun. That’s what we’re meant to do.”

“We’re meant to save this world, that’s what we’re meant to do. That means getting rid of anything and anyone that threatens it,” Lucca argued.

“… You did kill them, didn’t you?” Shelly shuddered. Lucca visibly tensed. “You lied about Crystal, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t. You saw Crystal go on a rampage yourself. But that’s not important right now,” Lucca replied. “What matters is we stop Mother Bun and save what’s left of this city!”

“Then there’s another way besides killing her. There has to be!” Shelly cried.

“Why am I even arguing with you about this? You don’t seriously think you can stop me, do you?” Lucca raised his voice.

Shelly’s mouth dropped. “I-I-I’m not weak. I’m good in battle. You said so yourself! D-didn’t tonight mean anything?”

“It did,” Lucca hung his head and loosened up for a moment. He went into a battle pose, and glared at Shelly. “But it doesn’t matter who they are. If they’re going to stand in the way, then I have to take them out to set things right. That’s what it takes to be a leader, to save this world.”

“Lucca!” Shelly cried.

“I tried to leave you out of this. You should have just stayed in bed. And we don’t have time to lose. Make up your mind, Shelly!”

Is he serious? He’s not, he can’t be serious. He can’t fight me, he’s not going to fight me, the Oshawott repeated similar in his mind, and slowly shook his head side to side.

“So you really will fight me. You know what? You understand what I told you quite well, about fighting for what you stand for. The thing you’re getting wrong is what you’re fighting for!” Lucca shouted.

Lucca launched himself at Shelly, who cried out and cowered behind his scalchop. Lucca spun his whole body as he came down towards him, both blades stretched out as far as his flippers would allow them. Shelly blocked the first slash, but the wicked force behind it knocked him to his side. The second slash tore his scalchop out of his paws. Lucca slid across the floor in such a way that his tail whacked Shelly right afterward, sending the Oshawott flying.

Shelly coughed in winded pain, but landed and skidded across the floor on a paw and a knee. Lucca seemed surprised, but that was all. The Brionne rushed at him again, both swords hung loosely behind him as he swam through the air. Shelly had a mere moment to react.

We just trained about this! Shelly told himself as he pulled his Treasure Orb front and centre. His other paw pulled out whatever it could grab before Lucca could attack. As Lucca slashed at him, Shelly pulled out a katana twice his height, which although blocked Lucca’s attack, was easily sent flying.

In that moment, Shelly kept pulling out weapon after weapon from the orb. A knife, nunchaku, even another orb which Lucca shattered before it activated. Shelly just kept stepping back to pull out whatever would block Lucca’s attacks, and it was working. Eventually the Brionne gave up and flipped backward, leaving Shelly with a thorny whip.

“Geez, of all the times to show you can actually defend yourself,” Lucca growled.

Is he out of ideas? Do I attack him back now? Shelly glanced at his weapon. He had never used a whip before, so he could only copy the attacks of the guards he knew. He attempted to do that, and cracked the weapon at Lucca. The Brionne crouched briefly and then swung both his swords upward, slicing the whip cleanly, and then threw himself at Shelly again. Backing off revealed the wall right behind him, and he almost choked. “A-Angel, Bestia please!”

But the Togekiss didn’t show. There was no energy boost, and that Aqua Jet Shelly wanted to use didn’t form. Not so much as a drip of water. Stuck and out of options, Shelly covered his face and cowered against the wall. Lucca eyes widened the instant that happened, and his sword stabbed deeply into the wall beside him.

The battle paused there. Shelly had never been so sweaty before, and his throat was so dry it hurt to breathe. He was practically pinned against the wall with how close Lucca was to him. He dared to look up, and met terrified eyes. The duo didn’t move from this spot for a while, either.

Eventually, Shelly sank to the floor. He might as well have been killed right there and then. His head wouldn’t conjure any thoughts and his body felt like jelly. Even though Lucca looked like he had just seen the most terrifying thing in his life, he had no will to continue fighting, or doing anything for that matter.

“Why didn’t you let him counterattack?” Lucca shouted and withdrew. Shelly looked up at him blankly. He was shouting into his amulet. “His Aqua Jet would’ve escaped or struck me!”

“I’m sorry… I know I’m not supposed to influence actions, but two Shining Warriors using Bestia to attack each other is too sad to watch,” Angel whimpered. “But cut that out. Are you really that pathetic and egotistical? You’re going to blame me because you almost killed him?”

“I-I wasn’t trying to kill him, I just needed to knock him out. I can’t afford to kill Shelly,” Lucca shuddered.

“Is that the Angel you are speaking to?” Mother Bun spoke up, surprising all three of them. Her head was still hung and her eyes were shut. “Do not be alarmed. I am aware of the Shining Warriors and their features.”

Lucca glared at her, but he didn’t answer. Shelly stared too, but he was stuck on the floor.

“If I am piecing your conversation together correctly, it would seem the deaths of the queen of Van Aken, and the other recent murders were not mere rumours after all. They are of relation to you,” Bun continued. “Young masters Lucca and Shelly, may you answer me something honestly?”

“How do you know about?” Lucca muttered.

“Kusha is closer to me than the other politicians you argued with earlier. I send her out into the world, and she returns to me with her hearings. It is how I have beared this position for the past many years,” Bun clarified. “Please tell me of the exact situation of the outside world. What is the state of the region surrounding Vilé?”

“The entire city is sinking,” Lucca calmed down at last. He pondered sheathing his weapons, but opted to hold them loosely instead. “This entire country is inside of a gorge made out of black sand. The sand falls around the city like waterfalls as it gradually descends into the planet. If it goes much further, this entire region will be destroyed.”

“So those rumours are also true. That is why you have come to assassinate me,” Bun surmised. Lucca returned to his battle pose.

“And you accept that?” he said.

Mother bun lifted her head at last, and her eyes opened. They were bloodshot, yet a sense of determination shone across them. “I wished for nothing but the salvation of my Pokémon, that they could live lives in comfort, fully protected from the conflict and struggles of the world around us. I gave my life, my entire being, spirit and body alike, to this cause. In doing so, it appears I have spoiled my Pokémon, and they know little of what is right or wrong anymore. They live in this city, blinded by the pleasure of comfortable lives and ignorant of their oncoming demise. These Pokémon… I apologise for this experience, Shining Warriors. Allow me to do one thing for you.”

Lucca didn’t reply. He appeared to understand as he calmed down, but he kept his weapons out. Shelly wandered over to him, still silent and drained of presence.

“I will light the way to the Temple of Heroica for you. Please take Kusha with you, and take care of her. She is my child,” Bun requested. “No matter what happens, please do not fight amongst yourselves as you two have. See this quest through to its end, and save Heroica from its turmoil once and for all. I beseech you.”

All of a sudden, the wires and metals attached to her body detached all at once, and all with a loud crackle of electricity or a puff of pressured air. The duo gasped and leaned forward as the Meganium hung her head again, and the entire system seemed to shut down. A low humming noise they hadn’t been aware of until now slowed to a stop, and she shut her eyes.

“You have until morning. The fate of Heroica rests with you,” she said softly.

And then, silence fell and the room darkened. Lucca slid forward and felt her head, only to retract in shock. He climbed up the machinery to check her neck for a pulse, and his eyes widened.

“Did… did she just…” Shelly whispered.

Lucca was gritting his fangs and glanced at him. “It’s what I came here for, and yet I… I’m confused. What was that? What did she mean?”

Their conversation was cut short as the whole room began to shake heavily. Lucca was thrown to the floor while Shelly cried out and lost his balance. They attempted to wait it out, but the quake didn’t show any signs of weakening.

“Quickly, outside!” Lucca ordered.

Magnezone sirens were going off, screams and cries filled the air, and the city had gone completely dark. All the lights, from the neon signs to the warm glow of indoor lighting, had all turned off save for one: an electronic pipe that glowed the exact green of a Meganium’s body. This single line of green snaked its way through the now dark streets, barely illuminating a single path above the city.

“She powered the entire city?” Shelly gasped. “What’s going on? It sounds like a riot down there.”

“It’s what I wanted, so why do I have this awful foreboding of urgency? What did she mean by ‘we have until morning’?” Lucca muttered. “I don’t like this one bit. Let’s get the others up.”

“You’ve really done it this time, Lucca,” Shelly stated.

“Me? She killed herself!” he argued. Shelly glared at him furiously. “Fine, but can we at least take this seriously? We need to calm those Pokémon down and tell them everything’s alright. We… should get the others first. Azu’s really good at managing stuff like this.”
Episode 24: The Fifth Fountain


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Crystal complete - Copy.png

Episode 24: The Fifth Fountain

“Ugh, I feel like I only just got to sleep. What time is it?” Ruby groaned as she stumbled out of her room. The others were already up, but just as sleepy as her, and had to rub their eyes or yawn to keep themselves awake. Mimia especially was curled up by Lucca and appeared to still be asleep.

“It is actually amazing you’re managing to sleep through these earthquakes,” Crystal commented. “Seriously, wake up!”

“Earthquakes? Wha?” Ruby finally grew concerned.

“So what’s going on? I assume you guys want to make it quick,” Azu put a hand on her hip. Shelly and Lucca exchanged glances, with the former especially focused and angry.

“Azu, I need you to listen to me and not freak out. I know what this is going to sound like,” Lucca began.

“Oh gods,” her eyes widened.

“Mother Bun… she passed away—”

“You killed her, didn’t you? Lucca, you freaking devil—”

“Azu!” Shelly snapped to her surprise. “It wasn’t Lucca!”

“Wha?” she shuddered as she held herself back. Lucca was still ashamed, and gulped.

“She left us a promise to take care of Kusha, and to follow the light to the temple,” he explained. He turned to the stairs that went down into the city. It was still darker than a dungeon, and frantic screams of panic filled the air. “All the lights went out after she passed, except for this green one in the centre of the city. I assume she means that one.”

Another earthquake started just then, shocking the group into squeaks, cries, and toppled stances. It didn’t last long, but it was strong enough to hurt. Even Crystal couldn’t stay standing.

“There’s another one,” Shelly gasped once it calmed.

“You guys weren’t kidding!” Ruby cried. “What the heck is going on?”

“My questions are on what in the world happened! How do you two know all this?” Brine questioned.

“We’ll answer later, I promise. Right now, we need to find Kusha and get to that temple,” Lucca ordered.

“I’m right here!” the Wigglytuff called out, getting their attentions. She deflated to lower to the ground. “I figured you guys would have something to do with this. Trouble follows you wherever you go. So what is it with me?”

“Mother Bun was attached to that device that powered the entire city’s electronics. Those electronics utilised Bestia, so there’s none left in this region, but Bun’s powers as a Meganium stabilised the environment and prevented the degradation of nature from happening. With her gone, that cycle is broken…” Azu muttered and paced back and forth. She froze and her face turned white as she slowly turned back to everyone. “The only thing left keeping this city afloat on the black sand is the residue left from Mother Bun’s powers.”

It took a moment for the reality of that to sink in, and then everyone flinched back. “Wa-wait a minute, you mean this whole city’s actually gonna fall into the planet?” Brine gasped.

“And she said we have until sunrise. We don’t even know when that is,” Lucca added. Another tremor shook the place, and this time the group instinctively latched to each other and Kusha to stay upright. Mimia finally woke up too, and started barking. “Damn… these quakes must be a sign of the city breaking!”

“I’m mad. I’m really freaking mad at you, Lucca. Don’t think for even a moment that I’m not accusing you,” Azu stated coldly. “But you’re lucky I’m a woman. We’ll talk about this later. For now, we need to do what we need to do, and we need to do it at all costs.”

“Hang on, I’m losing it a bit. Did I really just hear everything right? Mother Bun is…” Kusha trailed off. The group gave her a moment as she started to tremble and look like she might cry. “You’re playing with me, right? There’s no way.”

“Kusha, me and you will head down into the city and begin evacuating Pokémon. The rest of you, follow that green light to the trial,” Azu instructed. “I won’t be there to help you figure things out, so you had better be smart about it. Don’t mess around – beat that trial asap to awaken the fountain, and then get the heck out of here as soon as you can. Brine, save your water just in case you and Crystal need to do your arrow trick.”

“Was already planning on it,” Brine had her arms folded.

“How will we stay in contact? You know, to meet up afterwards,” Lucca asked.

“Contact? Ah, that gives me an idea,” Shelly muttered. He started shuffling about with something in his belongings.

“I don’t even want to meet up with you, so that’s not important. Go get on with it already!” Azu snapped at him.

“But Azu, you’re a Shining Warrior, too. We need you here,” he begged.

“I sure as heck don’t feel like one. You only need six of you, so it doesn’t matter that I’m not there,” Azu turned away. “Hurry up and get out of here. Stop staring at me.”

“But Azu…” Lucca frowned. Mimia whined with him.

“Grr, Lucca get it together already! We’re wasting time,” Crystal stepped up. She stomped on his tail when he didn’t respond, and that finally got him to move.

“You’d better give us a sign, or I’m gonna come back for you. We’re not leaving here without you,” Lucca stated, and rushed off into the city. Azu didn’t face him once, and sighed once they were out of sight. Mimia barked, revealing he’d waited behind.

“What? You’re with them, don’t keep him waiting,” Azu hissed at him. He didn’t move, however. “… Mimia?”

“You trust Lucca, don’t you?” Mimia spoke up and surprised her. “You trust and understand him. What you have is more than friendship, after all.”

Azu answered by turning away again, and faced the floor. She had a miserable look, like the colour was draining from her. Mimia continued to stare, though.

“If you do trust him, then now more than ever, you need to let him know. He’s just lonely,” Mimia stated, and then finally left. Silence fell for a bit, and then Azu sighed.

“That’s what that little guy sounds like? I never expected that voice… uh, this seems like a bad time to ask about everything, but what in the world happened?” Kusha asked.

“It’s a long story. But you’re involved in it now, so…” Azu mused with another sigh. “We have work to do too, so do you mind flying me? I’ll talk.”

Navigating the city was tough without any light. Everything close by was a black silhouette on a dark grey background, and that scenery was only grey because of smoke and dust that filled the air. The panic of the public had turned into crowded chatter, but it held an ominous vibe instead of the jovial nightlife it had before. No Pokémon could be seen in this darkness too, so Crystal couldn’t shake the feeling that they were surrounded by ghosts.

Eventually, the group managed to feel their way back to the centre of the city where the green light was. It was as dark here as was everywhere else, but the green glow at least illuminated the walkway and the group from below. The path looked like it ascended a few slopes and went somewhere behind the main building where Mother Bun was.

“That’s it, right?” Ruby asked. Lucca and Shelly nodded. Just as they began to walk up, Mimia stopped and growled, bringing everyone else to a stop. Several Solrock and Lunatone rose from below the walkway, only visible thanks to the glow of their red eyes. They were still silhouettes.

“System alert. System alert. Unidentified intruders detected. Code red lockdown in effect. Return to your homes immediately,” several of the automatons recited their lines one after the other as they surrounded the group.

“Tsk. They’re machines, so don’t hold back or be scared. Just trash them,” Lucca instructed.

“What do they want with us though? We haven’t done anythin’ wrong,” Ruby complained.

“Don’t question it, they’re just machines. They don’t know any better,” Lucca replied. He threw himself at a Solrock and stabbed it with his sword. It fell to the ground in crackling mess.

“Subject aggression detected. Initiating combat defence sequences,” a Lunatone responded. “Critical error. Critical error. Unable to obtain master power. Switching to auxiliary backup defence mode.”

I don’t think I want to know what any of this means, Crystal said to herself. She let loose an arrow and took out that Lunatone, leaving it just as broken. Ruby’s fire took out another, leaving just four of the mechanical Pokémon left.

“These things are so weak. One attack? I thought robots would be tougher than real Pokémon,” Ruby bragged.

The Solrock began to transform. Their spikes jutted out further than normal, while their face split apart to reveal their mechanical insides, all silver and sludgy. Their spikes turned into metal arms that each held sharp weapons like knives or saws. They flailed around violently, slicing the air so fast that light whooshes could be heard.

The Lunatone were no better. They too opened up, but instead of sharp weaponry, the normally sharp corners of their crescent shape were replaced by miniature cannons. Each cannon had its own laser pointer that locked right onto the party’s heads.

“You had to say something, didn’t you?” Crystal gave her a look.

“Oh-uh- shut up,” Ruby retorted. In a flash, two lasers fired straight at Ruby and Shelly, who both stumbled to dodge them by a few furs. The duo wound up back-to-back with each other, where Ruby’s Parashelter shielded them both. “Oh, hi there.”

“U-uh… got a plan?” Shelly replied.

“That’s your job!” she said.

Meanwhile, Crystal had her senses flare up to a hundred. She locked eyes with a Solrock as it sped toward her. Its weapons sliced the air so fast that the Solrock became a blur, yet she seemed to know exactly what weapon was what, and where it was.

When Solrock got close enough to actually hit, then the Piplup moved. A sword was swung from the left, so she jumped backward. Then a buzzsaw was thrust at her, to which she jumped high to land on top of the Solrock. She leaned to duck below a knife that came from her left. Every arm that swung a weapon at her, she could hear the whoosh before it came, feel the tiniest force from its swing, and identify the weapon, and all with enough time to figure out how best to counter.

She didn’t know how she was doing this, but she let her body move by itself. A few more savvy dodges had her control the Solrock by pulling its arms as if to drive it. She drew it right into the other Solrock who was fighting Lucca, and jumped off as the two crashed into each other. While airborne, she flipped over and fired two arrows straight at the robot’s eyes, piercing both machines. They promptly crashed to the floor and blew up into smoke and sparks.

“Way to go!” Lucca praised.

“Tch, these things don’t let up,” Ruby growled, still stuck behind her umbrella canopy. One Lunatone was eventually blasted up high, and smashed to bits when they hit the floor. Mimia jumped on the other, tore it in two, and then spun to throw it over the guardrail, where it exploded.

“I wasn’t sure how well that was going to go. Water and electricity are and aren’t a good mix,” Brine commented.

“Those things are really weird and dangerous. Who would make something like that? They could kill a Pokémon,” Crystal complained.

“I imagine that’s their intent. I think they tried to use Bestia as well, but with the energy all used up now, they were weakened,” Lucca pointed out.

“I don’t think I want to know what they’re like with Bestia attacks,” Shelly gulped.

“Should we go before more show up? I don’t fancy fighting more, either way,” Ruby suggested. The group agreed and jogged off.

The glowing guide took them behind the main building like Crystal guessed earlier, only it began to snake its around various pillars and other government-looking structures. At one point there were no guardrails, so the group slowed. More automatons showed up here and there too, but as there were less of them, the group dealt with them quicker.

Worser still, the tremors seemed to get worse and more frequent. As time went on, the chatter of the city turned back into cries of crisis which got louder as the earthquakes became stronger. Even with her awakened focus, Crystal had to stop to latch to the others in order to stay on her feet. Her attention turned to the ceiling as bunches of dust and debris fell, and she could hear the creak of metal and crumbling rock nearby.

“It looks like this is it,” Brine said. They could just about make out a cave entrance ahead of them where the green pipe stopped. “Is the temple here?”

“Weapons out. Let’s check it out,” Lucca took the lead again. The group obeyed and were right behind him.

The design of the city combined with the sandy rock of the desert earth, here. Crystal cringed as her feet crunched on grains with every step, yet were cold thanks to the textured metal floor. The walls were mostly steel material too, but it almost looked like it was embedded into the planet towards the ceiling. Klink and Klang happily rotated here and there as part of unknown devices.

It didn’t even register to her that there was natural light. Dull dusk lit everything with an orange tone, but it was better than the silhouettes from before. No one questioned it, so she kept up with them, and tensed up when an exit came into view. Something told her to keep her bow ready.

“Wow, it leads outside,” Ruby remarked. The sun wasn’t out, and they had an obscured view of the sandfalls surrounding the city. This exit was so carefully hidden towards the lower end of the bowl-shaped island that it must have been impossible to see from above.

Crystal sighed. She could hear a constant crumbling all around, while her feathers crawled from a sense of constant movement. Whatever magic was holding this place afloat was hitting its limits, and the descent was speeding up to discomforting levels. The destruction of the city was imminent.

A short walk ahead was a temple that finally fit the definition of ‘temple’. Indented pillars marked with familiar hieroglyphs held up the roof of a massive stone structure. The entire building was weathered to the point it was rust coloured. There wasn’t a single section that didn’t have chipped rock, cracks, or watermarked faded design. All of it was caked in sand, and the building grumbled with the tremors. It was truly a wonder this place was still standing.

“No time to lose,” Lucca nodded to the others, then Mimia. They all nodded in assurance, and rushed after him.

Inside was a single giant room. Similar to outside, pillars held up the ceiling, while the walls were marked with faded and weathered hieroglyphs. The ceiling had some sort of tinted film over it that enabled the room to be naturally lit, but wasn’t blinding to look up through. The back wall had a tapestry across it, and it was being read by a Pokémon.

“You actually got here,” the large, bulky figure spoke in a soft tone. “Despite everything that’s going on, you all made it this far.”

“No freaking way!” Ruby yelled. She recoiled so hard she almost fell backwards into a roll.

As for Crystal, if she had lost her feelings, then this was going to bring them back for sure. Familiarity. Painful, painful familiarity. She couldn’t escape it, those feelings of dread, guilt, pain, lust, all those horrid discomforts that held her back when she needed to escape from Lillistep. She knew she didn’t have a heart, and yet those feelings were there, and they made her freeze to the spot.

Suzie slowly turned around to address the group, confirming any and all doubts. It was Suzie, her mother, the Kangaskhan that had raised her and Ruby for all these years. It was weird to see her without the massive family she’d been brought up with, her adopted brothers and sisters. She looked no different to how she looked at the Fossil Hill Temple. Imposing, yet stoic, with a serene stance that truly meant no harm.

“Mum,” Crystal whispered. She lowered her bow, but no other words came. Despite what she was feeling, she didn’t want to go and hug her mother, either. Thoughts and fears that wouldn’t manifest as logical thoughts told her not to.

“You’re from… Fossil Hill. You destroyed the monster there for us, and it looks like you’ve done the same here, too,” Lucca said.

“You remembered. That makes me happy, you know,” Suzie cocked her head with a smile. “I am here for the same reason as back then, too.”

There was a long, silent pause. Suzie held an arm forward, offering her grip.

“Crystal. Ruby. That’s enough of your adventure. It’s time to go home, now,” she said. Her voice was so soft it could put them to sleep.

“Grr, we don’t see or hear a word from you for how freaking long, and that’s the first thing you want from us? Seriously?” Ruby snapped. “Like hell we’re gonna stop here! Our answer’s the same as it was back then.”

“With all due respect, we don’t have time for this. Either move aside, or we will be forced to—”

“Lucca!” Shelly shouted at him.

“We don’t have time, Shelly!” he raised his voice.

“This is why Azu hates you!” Shelly cried, and he flinched. “This isn’t our battle. Let them talk.”

“I get the angst; I really do, but… I can feel it. This is their whole world,” Brine added. She stood back.

“Brine!” Lucca said. Mimia tugged at his ruffles.

“You’d want it if it were you, wouldn’t you?” the Stufful said. Lucca sighed in defeat and stood back with then.

“Why… at least tell us why you want us to give up and go home,” Crystal requested.

“Because there are things better off left unknown to you. You are kids, young Pokémon whose dreams and aspirations should not be on the worldly scale your quest demands,” Suzie answered. She kept her hand out the whole time she spoke.

“As if we can afford to stop now… why treat us like this? Aren’t we growing up? You keep talking like we’re not going to understand when you’re not even giving us a chance,” Crystal argued desperately.

“You must trust me, Crystal. I only want the best for you and my children. Letting you go any further will only bring you unending pain. There are things you must not learn,” Suzie reasoned.

“You want the best for us, huh? By cooping us up in a house while the rest of Heroica slowly dies as it runs out of Bestia?” Ruby raised her voice.

“Ruby… your eyes are open,” Suzie said.

“Hell yeah they are, and I don’t care what you think of them. You wanna tell me you’re not embarrassed to be my Mum now, aren’t ya?” Ruby snapped. “You don’t want me as your daughter, just because I’m this fat thing that’s different to other Cyndaquil. That’s why you kept me in that shoddy old house next door! But journeying with these guys, I learnt to open my eyes and be proud of who I am. No matter what you say, I’m sticking with the guys that let me be me.

“Ruby’s right. We’ve learnt too much on this journey together, about the world, about ourselves, too much to back down now. We have the power to save Heroica, just give us this chance!” Crystal begged.

“… I cannot,” Suzie replied, and slowly lowered her arm. “This is a matter of life or death for the entirety of Heroica.”

“You think we don’t know that? That’s why we have to awaken this fountain! Step aside already!” Ruby flared her back.

“I think I’m starting to get something,” Angel spoke up, making everyone’s amulets shine. “I mentioned before that I could sense an eighth Shining Warrior, right? I don’t know why, but the waves are coming from her.”

“Her?” Crystal and Ruby choked.

“Definitely. She has the exact waves of a Shining Warrior, and as you can tell, the resolve of one, too. I don’t understand why she wants to stop the journey, though. I’ve never, ever had a warrior be against their own destiny like that. The warriors are always chosen because they’re Pokémon that would want to do it and have the resolve,” Angel explained.

“Angel, don’t you think you’re talking too much? You aren’t supposed to influence their thoughts and feelings, after all,” Suzie cut in, making the group flinch. “Please, Crystal and Ruby. I’m begging you. Come home with me, and live in peace.”

“… The fact that you could hear Angel pretty much confirms it,” Crystal replied. She was shaking, but she nocked an arrow and aimed straight at the Kangaskhan. “If you won’t tell us, then we have to stop you, no matter what.”

Suzie faced the floor and sniffled. “Put that down.”

“No. I won’t.”

“Your resolves seems stronger than before… you really will fight me to awaken this fountain, won’t you?” Suzie asked.

“We barely have time, too. Once the sun comes up, this place is toast. So we’ve gotta stop wastin’ time,” Ruby flared her back and got her Parashelter ready. The rest of the group stood beside them with their weapons out as well. “Suzie! If you won’t get outta the way, then we’re gonna have to make you!”

“That, or you tell us fully why you want us to back down so badly. Tell us everything,” Crystal demanded.

“… I can’t do that. I just can’t. I’m only trying to protect you,” Suzie shook her head slowly. “Just like last time, it appears we can no longer understand each other. Despite all being Shining Warriors, and despite you two being my daughters, destiny has made us oppose each other.”

Suzie assumed her battle stance, holding her claws level in front of her, and a stiff stance. Crystal’s eyes narrowed, but she quickly grew alarmed. What gives? It’s a simple battle pose, and yet it feels like none of my attacks will work… she has weaknesses, she has to!

“Let’s not waste time!” Ruby started filling the Parashelter’s canopy with fire. She twirled to throw those flames at Suzie as a Fire Spin attack. The Kangaskhan didn’t move from the spot, allowing the whirlpool of fire to envelop her completely. “Now you guys!”

Lucca and Mimia were next. The duo came at her from the left and right, and leapt up high to bring sword and arms down on her. With those two targeting her high and low points, while the Fire Spin locked her in place, Crystal knew exactly what to do. Her eyes gleamed as she took aim straight for the child in Suzie’s pouch.

Without a sound, Suzie crouched and crossed her arms. Then, with the most overwhelming force possible in the moment, unfurled her arms and brought them high. Her timing was so perfect that she brushed away the Fire Spin, blocked Crystal’s arrow, and backhanded Lucca and Mimia, all within an instant. She didn’t so much as flinch from the action.

“What?” Lucca growled as he slid back to everyone’s side. Suzie gave them a fierce glare unlike anything they had seen before.

“This will not go the same way as last time, especially now that you know I am a Shining Warrior,” she warned. “Crystal… my daughter. We are more alike than I would like to admit.”

“Wait, what do you mean?” Crystal lowered her bow to ponder that.

She would get an answer right away, it seemed. Suzie tensed, flexed, and thrust an arm at the group. She gestured drawing something towards her, and soon after, Angel let out a panicked scream.

“Angel?” the group gasped.

There was an attempt to keep Angel from getting abducted, but it was fruitless as they couldn’t touch her. The Togekiss was yanked from the amulets as if she had a chain around her neck. Large globs of Bestia energy were sucked from her, and then she was let go. That energy flew into Suzie, where it surrounded her in a blue sphere. The sphere made a high-pitched screeching noise as it expanded, cracked, and ultimately exploded.

Suzie seemed to have evolved, or it was just the child in her pouch. They had grown in the span of a moment, now resembling a smaller Kangaskhan that had its mother’s bulky build. Suzie linked hands with the child to spin them around, and then they both roared at the party.

“I-I’ve seen this! It’s the legendary Mega Evolution,” Shelly cried.

“Ya don’t need to tell me. The child can fight now, right?” Brine guessed.

“And they can fight independently of each other,” Shelly gulped.

“So the same tactic as Fossil Hill isn’t going to work. We’re going to need to beat her properly, and somehow,” Lucca stated, and tensed.

Combatants on both sides stared each other down from there. Suzie kept her fierce look, and now that she was coupled with that formidable partner who was just as menacing, they had an intimidating aura about them. Their eyes glowed and nails stood out in the dull conditions, like ferocious monsters that had their prey trapped. Everything fell quiet besides the sound of crumbling earth in the distance. Their time was running out.

“Tch. Two of you don’t mean jack. I’ll just burn you both!” Ruby announced as she flared her back harder. She tried Fire Spin again, but this time, the smaller Kangaskhan swiped the attack with both arms. The flames were extinguished before they reached, and then the child charged at Ruby, forcing her to contest them with the Parashelter.

The battle exploded from there. Crystal fired a volley of arrows to make the child back off, which gave Mimia the chance to rush in and tackle them. The duo exchanged punches and grapples until Mimia came out on top, where he spun to throw the child at Suzie. The mother was ready however, as was her child. Suzie caught them hand to hand perfectly, twirled just like Mimia, and threw them straight back with even more force. Mimia was tackled to the ground, and the duo skidded to one side of the room.

Brine’s magic came next, as a trio of geysers appeared below Suzie. Each one only made the Kangaskhan stumble, but it was enough for Lucca to engage her. He used the moisture to slide around and attack her from various angles, but Suzie managed to guard each hit with her arms. His swords bounced off her hide like it was armour no matter where and how hard he attacked. He slid to the left and right, jumped for her head, even flipped over her to strike her back, all of it to no avail. She punished his movements with a powerful strike from her tail, but he landed with a skid.

Ruby went for Flamethrower this time, which made Suzie shield her face with both arms. They didn’t sit there and take the attack however, they charged straight toward Ruby even with her still firing, making the Cyndaquil’s eyes widen in brief panic. Shelly cried out and pushed his way in front just in time, and belched out his own volley of explosive flames from a Blast Seed. The two fire attacks were enough to earn a grunt from Suzie and force her back.

Meanwhile, Crystal found herself under attack from Suzie’s child. She hopped around using the temple walls and pillars to stay airborne and be quicker than usual, but the child’s evolved state seemed to have as much resilience and skill as the mother. Crystal would propel herself off a surface and fire a wave of arrows, as many as a dozen in a couple of seconds, and yet every single one was blocked by staunch poses from the smaller Kangaskhan. Eventually she flew straight at them to try and surprise them with a kick, where her foot simply met their palm.

“Dang!” she coughed as her body took over. The child attempted to grab her, to which she vaulted off their body and fired more arrows. All blocked, but with the enemy so close to her now, they charged and flung themselves after her, thrashing as hard as they could. Crystal anxiously jumped back to avoid it, but once she hit the wall, thrust her bow to try and shield it. Just two hits made nasty snap noises that warned of her weapon breaking.

“Brine, water ropes! Pin them down!” Shelly swiped an arm with his order.

Mimia helped out by tackling the child again, and took a couple of punches to the stomach to grapple them again. He managed to tackle them down, and that was all the positioning Brine needed. With a cry and a thrust of her palms, the Pikachu released countless strings of water. Mimia was kicked off before they hit, but the water ropes latched themselves to the smaller Kangaskhan to pin to them to the ground. They attempted to thrash out, rendering Brine stuck in place too. She growled and twitched in effort to keep her attack going.

“Guys, it’s now or never! All on Suzie!” Lucca ordered. Everyone chanted in response and charged with him, to which Suzie snarled and planted her feet.

It was the most brutal, unhinged attack the group had ever done. Crystal let her instincts take over, as she quickly lost track of everything that was really going on. Ruby’s Fire Spin trapped Suzie in place and spread fire everywhere, Lucca and Mimia blitzed about to strike from all different directions, while Crystal herself returned to launching from pillar to pillar to fire volleys at every weak point she could find.

Despite everything, she could see their attacks were being braced for. Suzie moved so fast there were afterimages of her body. The parries were perfect, and attacks she couldn’t parry, she took with her back or other defensive sections of her body. Suzie soon let out a ferocious roar as she raised her right arm, to which everyone jumped back in warning. With an awesome punch to the ground, a shockwave shook the temple, complete with a wave of force that knocked the entire party away. Brine and her water ropes were knocked out, too.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Lucca growled as he got up alongside everyone. Suzie and her child were already back by each other’s sides, and glared at the party with the same viciousness as earlier. “When she said she was similar to Crystal, I didn’t think she meant literally. What the heck is it that makes them so fast?”

“It’s like their skill is perfect. Even with all of us at once, we couldn’t land a clean hit,” Ruby cursed herself. “There’s gotta be a way through. What’s Crystal’s weakness?”

“Why would we know that?” Lucca glanced at her. “Heck, you should know that!”

“If she keeps stomping the ground like that, she’ll destroy the fountain before any lack of Bestia does,” Shelly warned. “We’ve got to do something, and now.”

“Bestia, huh? Wait, that’s the one thing she doesn’t have,” Crystal whispered as she looked up. “She used up her Bestia on that mega evolution.”

“But what move could we use that would take her out? If nothing else works, why would a Pokémon attack work?” Ruby questioned. Crystal glared at Suzie, who glared back, unmoving. Her eyes narrowed, and her focus heightened. Suzie was fine, but her child was masking heavy breaths in the dull light.

They’re exhausted. The child doesn’t share Suzie’s stamina, she realised, and her eyes widened. We were wrong. The same tactic as before must work.

“Damn it, we can’t sit here forever. Let’s just try some stuff,” Ruby flared up again.

“Ruby, wait a minute!” Crystal stood in the way. “I have a plan. Angel, give all of us Bestia at once.”

“Everyone?” Angel gasped.

“But nobody use a Pokémon attack until I say so, and when I do, we need to work together,” Crystal explained. The group nodded. “Ruby, please fight with me. I need you to use Scald on them. Just keep hitting them, even though they can block it.”

“You got it, sis,” Ruby had to breathe in to change her fire to steam. Once she was good, she jogged behind Crystal, who threw herself into another skirmish.

“Alone this time?” Suzie questioned as Crystal began to nimbly dart around them. She dodged the child’s attempts to attack her, but focused her arrows on Suzie, who warily stumbled around the spot. “If your team together couldn’t hit me, why would you attempt it alone?”

“She’s not alone, ‘cos she’s got me,” Ruby retorted, and then blasted a stream of hot water at Suzie. She blocked it, but quickly began to grunt and shifted aside the attack. “Huh? She wasn’t able to beat it.”

“It’s good, just keep going,” Crystal egged her on, keeping up the onslaught of arrows.

“What’s going on? Scald worked, but not Flamethrower?” Brine questioned. Mimia barked to keep them both concentrated.

After a few more rounds of attacks, progress finally became visible. Ruby’s Scald and Crystal’s arrows combined to pin Suzie’s child to the spot, though they guarded every hit. This time however, they let out a moan as they fell on one hand, and all combatants eyes widened.

“Everyone, now!” Crystal shouted.

Mimia was first, and his body glowed white with Double Edge. He sped toward the fallen Kangaskhan faster than a bullet, and all they could do is growl and glare at him.

“No!” Suzie whispered, and flew in the way. She didn’t have time to counterattack however, and both of them took the full brunt of Mimia’s Double Edge. He slid below to punch them high into the air, where Lucca was waiting.

“Aqua Jet!” Lucca announced as he surrounded himself in water. With both swords out, he began to blitz around them both, darting back and forth to slash at them like an arrow made of water. He gradually moved faster with each hit, trapping them in the air via a continuous combo of his high-speed slashes.

Brine was high above the whole group, and twirled her kendama around to conjure as much water as she could muster. She opted for her wrecking ball attack, twirling until the ball of her kendama was a gigantic cannonball made of water. Once it was too heavy, she performed a front flip to smash that ball of water directly on top of the two Kangaskhan. A wicked