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Arukona

Junior Trainer
Location
Ireland
Pronouns
He/him
Partners
  1. aggron
Well, here I am back for more Hands of Creation! Looking forward to delve into the next two chapters, getting some juicy points for the Review Event going on in Union right now, and chipping away at the task of getting deeper into this longfic.

There’s still much, much, much more to go before being caught up, I realise - but every little effort counts towards that goal. Maybe one day, I’ll be all caught up with this, and won’t have to cower from spoilers or try to puzzle out what the heck some of the hints dropped mean. I imagine this will be one hell of a fic to look back on in hindsight around Chapter 100 or so and realise just how different all of this seemed. With this fic’s sheer length, I bet there’ll definitely be a plot twist or two (or maybe even more) at some point that’ll turn this whole thing on its head.

But that is a matter for the future. For now, I remain mostly blessed with ignorance as I march onwards, treading deeper into the unknown…

(Oh, and this’ll very much be a ‘react as I read’ review.)





Chapter 25

A pity that Owen’s still being kept from his teammates. But if it’ll be better in the long term for them, then I guess it has to be done.

I feel like the paragraph about Zena’s reluctance to train with Owen does come across as a bit lacking due to the fact it’s told through narration than dialogue. If it was dialogue, it would come across better on an emotional level, in my opinion. (Also, Star’s a great help, telling them nothing about why them training together isn’t working.)

Zena panted, her lungs burning. “Anam—are all of your kind like this!?”
“So… immune to water!”

Well, Goodra do have Sap Sipper, so that’s probably not a surprise as to why Anam’s so resistant to it. I imagine that even after all that time of being the Ghost Guardian, Anam would still very much be in touch with his Goodra powers.

I also do kinda like how goofy Anam is in spite of his strength and power. Big, friendly and huggable - as a Goodra should be.

“B-but it’s scary,” Anam said, grabbing his horns and tugging. “It’s not just spooky Ghost powers, it’s—it’s a lot of things, you know?”

Hmm…this implies some things. It seems like there’s much more to Anam’s power than we first thought, and by the sounds of it, parts of his power that he doesn’t want to utilise. Would they be too strong for even him with all his age and experience to handle?

He plunged his hand into his thigh and pulled out one of their silver communicators. “Hi, Nevren! Do you mean there’s a report about a possible Mystic sighting?”

Well…that’s certainly one way to store an object, and if Anam is the Ghost Guardian, able to morph his body as we’ve seen, then I guess he can just use parts of his body as a makeshift pocket. Hey, I mean…if it works and doesn’t damage the communicators with his slime, then sure.

It’s very likely that the Electric Guardian is still there after all.”

The Electric Guardian? Guess we’ve found the next target to go after. I wonder who they might be?

“Nightshade Forest,” Star said, shivering slightly. “Talk about bad vibes.”

Nightshade Forest? The place from the first Special Episode, eh? Guess we’re going back to an old haunt of Owen’s. A strange place for the Electric Guardian to appear, though. Maybe they’re a wanderer?

“You don’t look that intimidating right now,” Star agreed, which earned a small, irritated spark from Owen’s tail. “As long as you keep calm, you’ll be fine.”

Wow. Wow. It’s almost like Star knows that Owen was evolved and more intimidating at one point. It might be unintentional on her part, but that is cold. In terms of the crass remarks she’s made, that has to be among the ones I’m most shocked by.

“Anam, please, you’re the Ghost Guardian,” Amia said. “Wouldn’t you be right at home here?”

“I—I guess so, but… it’s still a little spooky! What if there’s a monster hiding in the bushes…?”

Well, in fairness, ghosts are weak to Ghost. So it’s not unjustifiable that Anam’s frightened of the place. On another note, I’m liking more of the whole ‘incredibly powerful but still a grown child’ persona that Anam has going on. He’s ranking amongst my favourites so far, that’s for certain.

The focus has definitely shifted to Anam’s power this chapter, almost to the point of interrogation. I can’t help but wonder - are we going to see that ghostly power of his unleashed at some point in the near future?

Did you know that he’s starting to make these special devices that can keep food cold for a long time? And you won’t even need Ice types, either! I think it’s with a modified Hail Orb…”

Ah yes, magitech refrigeration. That’ll be a cool thing to have in future, wouldn’t it? :copyka:

Nevren does seem to be quite the inventor of many things. What else is he capable of, I wonder?

“Yeah, it’s really cool,” Anam said. “I wish I had his creativity, getting all those ideas…”

Eyyy! Even Anam’s getting in on the joke!

Ah, the craft of having to navigate a Zoroark’s illusions. With any luck, locating Enet and landing a hit would be enough for the illusion to fall away. Or would it be that easy, given their enhancement via Guardian powers?

Desperate, he fell back to some Mystic improvisation; claws became vines and latched onto the soft walls, anchoring him in place on either side, dangling in the middle of the pit.

I guess Owen still hasn’t quite learned to use his Guardian powers more regularly, judging on the way that using his Grass powers was more of a last resort. Hopefully, he’ll be able to grasp using his newfound powers on a more regular basis.

Hey, Klent comes back. Cool - nice to see him again.

Okay?! I’ll look like an Aron’s face if I fall down there!

Hey! I don’t permit slander to my favourite evolutionary line! You take that back! :screm:

Seems Enet’s one for the speed and evasion. This’ll require good timing on Owen’s part, I reckon.

Owen retracted his vines into his arms, only to see that a few of his fingers were missing.

Oof. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt, having fingers cut off like that. But he’ll probably just regenerate them with his new Guardian regeneration. Once again, a reminder of how ludicrous Guardian powers can be, sometimes.

Despite being a Charmander, he was becoming quite durable! He wondered if he should be worried at how he was becoming accustomed to the regular maiming.

You can say that again, with all the mortal deaths Owen’s gone through in his training with Manny. If he’s this durable as a Charmander, then he’ll be one strong boi as either of his evolved forms.

But the more he looked, in the silence of her complex burrow, the more it made sense. The Electric Guardian was feral.

Well…that’s certainly an interesting premise to end the chapter on. A feral Guardian? Just what’s their story, I wonder? Did they happen upon the Electric Orb by accident and gain its power? In fact, I just had a thought - is that the reason they’re skittish and fearful, because they’re scared of the power that’s blossomed within them?

That brings a new challenge to the table, having to deal with a feral Guardian. How will Owen overcome this?


Special Episode 2

Well, uh…after that cliffhanger, I can’t say I expected to see a Special Episode crop up here. But let’s see what we’ve got.

My god, will Nightshade Forest ever know peace? I do wonder though: based on the fact that the forest is clearly on fire, could this have taken place at the same time as the first Special Episode? It certainly has the same atmosphere, and somehow, I don’t think lightning would strike twice. (See what I did there? :copyka:)

Ra humored her, looking below—an Aggron?

Oh hello, an Aggron? I’m immediately interested. (It’s almost as if these days, whenever there’s an Aggron in fics, my attention is immediately drawn.)

“Star… her aura…” For some reason, it felt like he had seen her for so long already.

Hmm, what could this mean? Does Ra have some kind of memory block enforced on him? Is that why he’s attacking Star in the present day?

Frost surrounded the plants near her. “Insolence! What kind of potential mate do you consider yourself?!”

The ice did not make Ra flinch, even as it crawled over his scales. “A very strong one.”

Oh, and this Aggron’s the Ice Guardian! Cool! I wonder what her story is? And by the way Ra’s effectively resisting her attacks, is she one to be wooed by his strength, I wonder?

Where was that feral? There she is. Yes, keep coming. Closer, closer. She was just what Star deserved.

Hmm…based on the info we know from last chapter on Enet being a feral, could this be Ra’s plan? To make a Guardian out of a feral in order to spite Star?

Sounds like another case of Star being careless. What exactly prompted this incident to happen? I have to admit, cleaning up after this gremlin’s mistakes is becoming a bit of a chore, and I don’t find myself liking her that much. (Not a complaint on my part - just voicing an opinion of mine that’s come up over the past few chapters.)

Oh, a fluffy moment between the Aggron and Ra!

“I have to comment, Ra,” she said, “For someone who follows Mew, you’re quite Arceus-like.”

I can’t help but think that we might well end up having a few Guardians that’ll swear allegiance to Arceus and end up being the enemies of Owen and his allies. Just a thought I had upon reading this.

Ah, those two did love each other. But then whatever happened to Step? By the sounds of it, she’s not around any more… :sadwott:

“Your incessant need to fix things,” he said, “is itself what must be fixed.”

I guess it goes back to that old axiom: don’t fix what ain’t broken. Surely the ancestor of all Pokémon should’ve known that?

She wasn’t an Aggron, but instead a fellow Kommo-o. Star had apparently taught her the technique, based off of those strange Orbs invented in a faraway city.

A strange orb? A Transfer Orb, by the sounds of it? No, I totally didn’t pull up the list of orbs page on Bulbapedia, why would you think that? And with Guardian powers, transformation into another species isn’t out of the question. (Then again, it feels like nothing is, with all the zanyness we've seen in Guardians up to this point.)

“Twice.”

Step widened her eyes and then smirked. Ra liked her smile in this form. “Twice? How eager. Am I that desirable?”

Ah, they wanna have kids! How cute! But another question; do they necessarily need to be the same species? Given that Aggron and Kommo-o do share an Egg group…

And ah yes. We gotta mute gestures of love to kissing and closeness in a fic like this. This is a franchise for good little boys and girls, after all.

But now, after conjuring a single freak storm, he felt mortal again.

It was wonderful.

After feeling high on the power of a Guardian, I suppose one would desire the simple living of a mortal again. A part of me wonders if Owen might well end up having these feelings. (Then again, he kinda has, hasn’t he? With the whole ‘normal life’ that Amia had him live.)

Something else screeched; the mutant fell in a frozen heap, but two more took its place, and Step had to retreat.

Oh no, they were attacked by mutants. Guess that’s how Step met her end…Though, if it was a squad of mutants that did her in, I can see why Ra would attack Star like that. Especially since we’ve seen that same attitude in Zena for not wanting to side with Star.

So Step didn’t actually die from that encounter. But their situation doesn’t sound good at all.

“If you want to fight with us,” he said, “we need to train.”

At first, they were confused, but then their eyes lit up. Ra’s expression mirrored theirs.

You know, I just had a thought. If training was anything like what we saw in Chapter 24, then these kids are not going to enjoy it.

Ra watched with cold indifference. “You’re still weak. Try harder. Stand.” He cleaned the blood off of his claws with a flick.

Aaaand I was right. Notably, though, his children are mortals. Owen at least had the spirit of a Guardian in him, though, when he was training with Manny. So plainly this all-out training regime of Ra’s is quite hard on the kids. Might well end up being too hard on them…

But what burned into his memory the most was her cold glare. He’d never forget it.

Cold as ice. What happens next in their story? Does she leave him? Does she take the kids with her? Or is she killed on her own terms? Guess I’ll find out soon…

Ra gulped. “I’m… sorry.”

Step’s intense glare didn’t let up. “She’s never going to fight again, Ra. You traumatized her. They aren’t like you.”

And looks like Ra took things too far. Ingrained in his traditions, and too harsh on his children. Here’s your top contender for dad of the year thus far, everyone! (I am curious if there are worse parents lurking in this story, though…)

And while his aura was barely able to hold its form, he floated to the orb and plunged his cloudy arm into it. The rest of him followed.

Ah, so it looks like he’ll become one of the spirits in the orb. Not too unlike how Klent, once the Grass Guardian, is now a spirit within the Grass Orb and communicates with Owen. Is that how it is for Enet in the present day, then?

“You’ve become so strong, Kana,” he said. “And Cent, how’s she doing with her hospital work?”

“Good,” Kana replied simply, though she did smile.

The mention of Cent and Kana going places does make me think that maybe we might see them in the present day. That would be interesting - more faces for Owen to interact with. (Though that’s not yet confirmed, and nor do we know about Step’s whereabouts yet.)

Thundercloud Temple.

Huh. That name reminds me of an area of the same name…

“Doesn’t she realize that if the Orb is unguarded, anybody could get it?

That is quite a problem, alright. Once again, that ‘endless fixing’ digs Star into a deeper hole. By this rate, that hole has to be at the planet’s core with how deep she’s dug it.

“What’re you talking about? It’s called aging, Dad. You should try it some time. Actually, no. Don’t. It’s pretty rough.”

Ah. Well, never mind about what I said about seeing Cent and Kana in the present day. (Although Step being around is still a possibility, isn’t it? Since she was a Guardian.)

Ra saw the wall behind him collapse, revealing another room. In it, a great fissure in the clouds revealed a black void below. Ra did not want to imagine the fate of someone who fell into it.

Sounds pretty terrifying. Is it Star’s interference that’s doing this? Pretty morbid way to go about it, just summoning a giant black hole in the orb.

An Aggron glared at him. “You shouldn’t have come to Kilo Village, Ra.”

Back to Kilo Village, huh? Nice acknowledgment of this place outside the context of Owen and his companions.

“I detest our similarities.”

A shame to see the relationship crumble like this. And to think they had such a loving union too…

Two auras together are too easy for the mutants to detect.”

Well…wait until you find a cave system with multiple Guardian auras in them in the present day. (Then again, Ra and Step aren’t as protected, so her claim still stands.)

Step’s claws left little dents in her own arms. “Star was wrong to unite us.”

Another shovelling down the hole that Star keeps digging for herself. But I’ve had a thought regarding this whole ‘Guardians loving each other’ thing. Given how close Owen and Zena have been getting (still a faraway prospect of them being a couple), might Star possibly try to drive a wedge between them, in another effort to ‘fix’ a mistake she made in the past?

I don’t think it’s even an untamed Dungeon. I think it’s cursed, not blessed!

Oh dear…That sounds an absolutely horrid thing to have to deal with. They sound like all the chaos a Mystery Dungeon has multiplied by a thousand. Maybe even more! This concept’s going to be used a lot more in future, I bet.

He did not adapt. His Dragon pride, his Fighting spirit—it was too much for her, and he was too foolish to not compromise for her sake, and for their kids’ sake. This was his punishment.

Isn’t that the way? One has to compromise for another so different to them. Plus, there’s also adapting for a new generation, and Ra was stuck in old ways. A pity - paranoia and a refusal to adapt was his undoing with his family, it seems…

That’s when he realized—his Clanging Scales were so loud that they drew all of the spirits his way. They were all coming to him—all of them.

Oh, goodness, we’re going to have quite a scene ahead of us.

And wow, this certainly is proving to be a great Big Damn Heroes moment for all of the Electric spirits! Go on, guys! You can do it!

More sad scenes with Kana growing old now too. It’s really hard not to feel for the children - they age just like mortals, while their Guardian parents continued to remain unaged. A shame none of that Mystic power passed down onto their children. Not even a smidgen of an influence.

“Can you write down where she lives?” Kana asked. “So I don’t forget.”

She probably wants to visit her mother one last time before she passes on, I reckon. But will she even be afforded that luxury? Knowing how cruel Fate’s been this Special Episode…

She’d be coming here soon, perhaps even teleporting right inside. Wait. Why hadn’t she done that before?

Was it the chaotic Dungeon?

That could be an explanation, although that would have to be one chaotic Dungeon if even the ancestor of all Pokémon can’t use her own powers in it. By the sounds of it, cursed Mystery Dungeons sound like places with a great amount of limitations to them. Just how will our heroes deal with them in the present day?

“As if you can tell me you never beat up your kids.”

Ra’s smile was obliterated.

Ouch. Ouch. Stone cold right there. But I gotta admit that Star does have a point. Reluctant as I am to say it.

“Just like she abandoned you,” Star said.

Arceus above! Out in full with the backhandedness today. This would be a brilliant roasting contest if it weren’t so tragically sad.

For a Psychic, you have surprisingly little foresight.”

Ain’t that the truth. It’s the reason all of our heroes in this story are entangled in the mess done by Star’s own weaving.

“Where,” Ra said, “is Yveltal?”

…Now that’s an odd question. How does Yveltal fit into this story, exactly? The way Ra talks about them feeling so important to him…What could this mean? Is this what was meant earlier in the chapter by Step’s spirit being familiar to him Is this a distant past thing? Like, way back in the day? Even farther back than this Special Episode is. That’ll be one hell of a genesis story. The mention of more Legendaries beyond Star and Arceus, though, is quite interesting. I’d love to see where this could potentially go.

And with that, Ra’s gone. Though the way he vowed vengeance upon Star makes me think that maybe we haven’t seen the last of him. Will he come back in some other way?

Oh, but Ra got that reunion in the end. Alas, at the price of his ultimate demise. And having to live the rest of his days out as a statue.

“Star came here only moments ago to tell me about your arrival,” Step said. “I’ve never seen her so shaken.”

Perhaps this is Star’s method of an apology, reuniting Ra with his mate and daughters. The way they’re in the Ice Realm does still lend itself to the possibility that Step is alive. And how she talks about assimilating Ra into her core, possibly among her legion of spirits, is a sign that we may well see her in future. (Which as an Aggron stan, I rejoice at!)

Going back to my theory that certain Guardians will side with Arceus, though - after the whole debacle of this chapter, of Ra saying he should have sided with Arceus and the Divine Dragons, and Step saying Star uniting them was a mistake, I would not at all be surprised if siding with Arceus is what Step ends up doing. That would put her in the role of an adversary of Owen and his allies. I guess we’ll see what happens when or if that plays out.





Conclusion

Well, these were certainly an interesting pair of chapters, especially the Special Episode. The ending to the latter was definitely bittersweet, and Ra’s tale was certainly a sad one. But I am intrigued as to some info of what was implied in the Special Episode, along with the implications of Enet being a feral ‘mon and the implications of Anam’s powers. As well as that, some matters implied in the past that could have an impact on the present day, such as cursed Mystery Dungeons and the existence of Yveltal, along with possibly other Legendary Pokémon.

These chapters were an enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next along the pipeline!
 

Negrek

Sunshowered
Staff
Hey, Namo. Here for your Blitz prize review! As we discussed, this one covers more of the story than usual, as I had been reading it anyway on my own. This review will go over the first 25 chapters, including the first two special episodes.

It’s definitely a strange experience, reading this after having gone through Blacklight. It’s hard to say how some of the revelations would have hit if I didn’t already know about e.g. Owen’s resets and some of the worldbuilding that carries over between the two stories. As the fic goes on, though, I imagine we’ll get farther and farther away from stuff I know about, and it’s fun to see how everything comes out in context, too.

You’ve mentioned a couple times that this story originally started out as a Bleach fic, and yeah, that tracks, tbh. The focus on souls and the spirit world, the various artificial constructs/creatures, and the general abundance of characters are all highly reminiscent! This really does feel way more shonen than any other PMD fic I’ve read, which is pretty interesting, tbh! Mainline Pokémon is shonen itself, but it’s interesting to transplant the tropes into a setting where characters aren’t getting stronger by acquiring more powerful monsters, but where magic powers are just the baseline, and the characters are training to do REALLY unhinged things with them.

The worldbuilding is something I really enjoy about this story; it’s very interesting to me to see how all that shonen flavor interacts with the PMD world. We’ve got multiple planes of existence that can be traversed by appropriately powerful/special people, weird magi-science, all kinds of aura fuckery, and characters who can walk away after taking absolutely massive damage in a fight and for whom death is more of an inconvenience than anything. Although we still have the trappings of the PMD world here, with dungeons and rescue teams and such, they’re not what the story’s about in the same way that it is for most PMD fics. The characters are off in their own world, rarely interacting with normal Pokémon; even Owen, who thought he grew up surrounded by ordinary people, ultimately found out that they were all guardian spirits and also dead. I do sometimes wonder about what the ordinary Pokémon’s perspective would be on all this Guardian businesses, and also dear god could Owen use even one friend who’s Just Some Guy and not involved in some kind of massive conspiracy, but it’s fun to see where you take things when you have free rein to get as nuts as you want with stuff. At this point I’m most interested in learning more about this world’s history, and also its relationship with the human world and how that all ties into what’s going on in Kilo right now. A lot of what’s happening now ties into past events that we aren’t privy to yet, and I look forward to seeing more of that uncovered and getting a better sense of what all is up with Kilo. Clearly, it’s a lot!

Also, I’m sure you’ve heard it loads by now, but I’ll say it again—you really do do a great job of creating a lively and memorable cast of characters, all of them distinct even despite sometimes having small parts. Everyone can find a favorite somewhere here, I think. At this point I think I like Owen the best, perhaps because he really is the most developed by far. One downside of the number of characters, of course, is that we don’t get to spend a lot of time with the vast majority of them, but I think you do a good job of balancing them. At this point no particular character or group feels neglected.

Up until this point the plot has mostly been focused on Owen’s revelations and the quest to find the guardians. As I said earlier, this is hard for me to really evaluate—I came in with an unusual amount of prior knowledge, so nothing here was like, whoa, gasp, big twist. On the flip side, I don’t know where the Orb quest is going or what we’re going to be doing with the various Guardian characters later on, so it’s a little hard to say whether the narrative time devoted to some of them (e.g. ADAM) will ultimately feel super worth it. I do think you do a good job of making sure that something significant happens in each chapter. There’s always some mystery pulling the characters along or some threat pushing them forward, and I think that gives the fic a nice breezy, readable quality, a want-to-see-what-happens-next appeal. It’s clear you have an idea of where you want to go and are striving to get there, even if that place is quite far off yet.

I was tickled to see that this section included the infamous grocery shopping chapter—I think? From the way it had been described I had been expecting an entire chapter of literal grocery shopping, but to me it felt like we got maybe five paragraphs of shopping and then a bunch of plot stuff while the characters are technically out buying stuff. So perhaps there’s a later chapter that’s actually just shopping, heh.

I actually might have preferred more shopping, tbh! It was fun to see Deca and Spice again, but what I really would have liked a bit more of in this section was characters interacting and wrestling with all the revelations that have been coming down the pike while trying to find the half-price Nanabs or whatever. This could have been a good time for Owen and Rhys to talk, for example! The story hasn’t been non-stop action per se, but with so many characters, it’s natural for some relationships to get a lot less development than others. On balance I thought some more time with Rhys/Owen/Team Alloy in particular wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Meanwhile, Deca himself is an interesting guy. I would tend to expect that he’s another Owen; perhaps even the tenth, based on the name? Could either predate or postdate the current Owen, either as an unsuccessful prototype with Perceive too stronk or as a likewise-unsuccessful attempt to fix whatever’s actually wrong with current-Owen. Or perhaps someone from the Hunters who knew Owen previously—not necessarily a Charmander, even. Or perhaps again a manifestation of Owen’s “instincts” of some sort, a Wishkeeper kind of character. With just the two scenes with him so far I can’t do much to narrow it down, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy that reveal later!

I did find it a bit odd, though, that some of the big reveals in the story so far haven’t seemed to have much of an impact on the characters. For example, it’s revealed that Rhys and Nevren created Owen and the other Team Alloy members, but no one besides the Pokémon themselves really bats an eye at that information. Star, Amia, etc, are all familiar with this, but the majority of the guardians have no idea, right? And yet none of them but Zena seems to have much reaction to the idea of one of their allies used to be one of the people trying to kill them, or was one of the people involved in creating the monsters that are actually right now trying to kill them and required them to uproot their lives to come to presumed safety in Hotspot Cave, or the whole “we have to keep memory-wiping and devolving these people because if we don’t they’ll go berserk and murder us all.” Like, objectively, this situation is extremely fucked up! So why does almost no one seem to react to it? The guardians are a quirky bunch with weird priorities, and they generally seem to have good relationships with Star (which, given how she’s manipulated Owen and Zena, is kind of a big yikes), an literal god, so I’m not expecting them to all immediately abandon ship or whatever. But they don’t react much to this revelation at all, which is odd to me! We get some bombshell reveal chapters and then go back to the orb hunt more or less the same as we did before.

Similar deal with the revelation that Mew and Arceus are both dead. Owen kind of responds to this like, oh, huh, that kind of makes sense, but like… Does it??? The gods of your two major religions both being dead and thus having limited power, not to mention conspiring against each other, seems like the sort of thing that has pretty big theological implications! Owen’s not the religious type, so perhaps he doesn’t much care, but surely some of the other guardians would, right? Find their faith shaken or their understanding of the world changed? There’s no such thing as an all-powerful creator, they were as killable as anyone else, and they’re apparently rather shady. It feels like it should be a big thing, but it doesn’t get much reaction at all.

Though on that note, tangent, it does seem weird that we’ve seen only one legend so far who doesn’t seem to be dead. There’s some suggestion that Star may not be the original Mew and is possibly some ascended Pokémon, similar to what we saw in Blacklight. Presumably Arceus would be the same, presumably having been some kind of canine originally, given the nickname. So something might be going on there, like the gods were all killed off by something and for some reason have had no replacements… Surely we must ultimately learn how Star and Arceus died at some point! I wonder if there are some parallels to Dora as well; iirc you told me the only legend there appeared to be Zygarde as well?

In any case, you’ve obviously set up some fun mysteries here, and it’s entertaining to speculate about what all’s really going on. But it’s odd when the mysteries get peeled back but then don’t seem to change the course of the story much. You do generally do a good job of showing how this all impacts Owen, though! His anxiety as he begins to realize what’s going on, the fear that if he lets on that he’s remembering things, they’ll only take everything away from him again, stood out to me in particular. And of course he freaked out when Klent came clean! Under the circumstances, running away to be alone (in lava) is if anything a mild reaction, heh. I’m kind of surprised that he hasn’t tried to talk to Rhys about the fact that the guy had a hand in making him. Owen barely talks to his fellow mutants about it! More interaction between those four is something I’d really like to see; I’d expect them to be feeling this the hardest! A few more character-focused scenes, as opposed to more orb-hunting, would have gone over well with me.

All in all this has been a fun start, and I look forward to things getting even crazier as the fic goes on! This has been a solid read for my commute, so I expect to continue with it… albeit very slowly, heh. See you at the end of Part I, perhaps?
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
Though glad to be getting back into things @Namohysip , and thanks again for checking out my writing during RE. Hopefully this repays the favor a bit during this last week of it. ^^

I replied to you on United but I'm glad you enjoyed yourself here, Fobbie! Yep, you've reached the point in the story where the plot has finally kicked off. The ride fully begins now!

I feel like the paragraph about Zena’s reluctance to train with Owen does come across as a bit lacking due to the fact it’s told through narration than dialogue.

Yeah, I do a bit of this early on and I'd probably write it a bit differently had I gone a different style here with what I know now. Still, glad that otherwise it's been a good read on how it goes. My reply to Negrek below actually will address and touch upon some of this as well...

Sounds like another case of Star being careless.

Prepare for this to become a trend going forward.

But I am intrigued as to some info of what was implied in the Special Episode, along with the implications of Enet being a feral ‘mon and the implications of Anam’s powers. As well as that, some matters implied in the past that could have an impact on the present day, such as cursed Mystery Dungeons and the existence of Yveltal, along with possibly other Legendary Pokémon.

These chapters were an enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next along the pipeline!

Yep, I'm glad it's been an enjoyable read along the way!

Owen use even one friend who’s Just Some Guy and not involved in some kind of massive conspiracy, but it’s fun to see where you take things when you have free rein to get as nuts as you want with stuff. At this point I’m most interested in learning more about this world’s history, and also its relationship with the human world and how that all ties into what’s going on in Kilo right now.

Having someone who is Just A Dude is great. There's something akin to that later on, but one flaw with some parts of HoC is that there isn't a lot of "baseline perspective" until later when I tried to rectify it some.

I was tickled to see that this section included the infamous grocery shopping chapter—I think?

This is it! It's pretty short in retrospect, but I think some people felt there was no significance to it. But yeah, I do agree that it very quickly leads into something important.

Star, Amia, etc, are all familiar with this, but the majority of the guardians have no idea, right? And yet none of them but Zena seems to have much reaction to the idea of one of their allies used to be one of the people trying to kill them, or was one of the people involved in creating the monsters that are actually right now trying to kill them and required them to uproot their lives to come to presumed safety in Hotspot Cave, or the whole “we have to keep memory-wiping and devolving these people because if we don’t they’ll go berserk and murder us all.”

You're right, it is a bit odd that they don't react as much. Some of it is because of their odd perspectives, and some of it is because they already know. I'm not 100% which specific set of scenes this is, but I do recall implying later that Star and the others prompted them while Owen was out cold, so said shock is subdued. The only one not playing along is Zena, who is appalled that they're trying to play Owen for a fool here.

Similar deal with the revelation that Mew and Arceus are both dead. Owen kind of responds to this like, oh, huh, that kind of makes sense, but like… Does it???

As mentioned above, some of this they semi already know, or suspected. But I think I could have done a better job showing this one off (Or were around when it happened.)

Either way, though, glad it's been a good read for you! One day you'll be caught up on the silliness that is Owen's path through life.
 
Chapter 149 - Nightmare

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
Chapter 149 – Nightmare

Hot Spot went from calm to chaos in seconds, because seconds were all they had left. If Alexander got to South Null Village as quickly as Manny said he would, then there was a risk their Waypoints—precarious as they were—would be destroyed. And while they could potentially head to Fae Fae Forest again to go directly to the North, there was no telling if its exit point had shifted since then.

“Gahi!” Mhynt shouted. “How quickly can you get to Kilo from here?”

“With the new Waypoint? Ehhh ten seconds?”

Mhynt leaped several feet into the air and slapped a note on Gahi’s forehead. “Get those items and come back in three hundred.”

“Eh—sure!” And he vanished, flying out of the cave post-Teleport.

“Can he count t’ three hundred?” Manny wondered aloud.

“Someone carry Valle!” Owen shouted, pointing at the statue.

“O-on it!” Demitri said. “Wait! What about our other halves? They’re supposed to come with us, right?”

“I put them on the notes,” Mhynt said. “Gahi can at least read, right?”

“Hopefully,” Mispy said.

“He hasn’t picked up a book in a while,” Demitri said worriedly.

“Come on, guys, he’s not stupid,” Owen said, feeling oddly defensive.

“C-can we help with anything?” Alex asked desperately. “Er, more supplies, or…”

“Thankfully, we’ve prepared for this,” Zena said. “We’re packed. We have a special bag for our supplies in the main one. I’ll get that.”

“Good luck, dear,” Amia said, nodding. “When you return, we’ll have that dinner.”

“Right.” Owen nodded firmly.

They gathered the rest of their supplies, double-checked what they had on a timer that Uxie personally counted down from, and then had some time to spare while waiting for Gahi. Tension coursed through everyone, leaving Owen feeling sympathy pains in his chest. It felt like everyone’s hearts were beating at the same rhythm, and Owen’s was part of that same chorus.

Then came Gahi, who was also carrying a few curious badges with him. “Palkia gave these,” he said. “Somethin’ about better Communicators?”

“Oh! Nevren made…” Owen nodded. “Right. We can use those. Come on, let’s go!”

“Partner up, everyone,” Mhynt said. “We’re flying!”

Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy all got together and fused into Migami, bolting to the sky. Zena flew on her own; Trina, not as adept at flying, wrapped around Migami’s body and was carried along that way.

“Owen!” someone cried.

Rushing to the entrance were two Jirachi, waving him down. He winced—there was no time for this. He couldn’t—

“Good luck!” one called.

“Hurry! Do your best, okay?!”

He was stunned until Mhynt kicked his shin to get his attention.

“R-right.” Owen spat a plume of fire in the air toward Eon and Jirachi in affirmative. He’d know what that meant.

Both of them beamed as Owen flew skyward with Mhynt.

“We’ll do our part!” Eon cried, or maybe it was Jirachi.

“Don’t give up! Keep fighting!” Jirachi added, but it could have been Eon.

Owen got his last glimpse of Kilo’s light before flying up and into the Voidlands’ rift. Then, he had to adjust quickly—up became down, and gravity flipped. He tumbled and righted himself with a blast of updraft, then made sure Mhynt was still firmly on his back. The others landed nicely.

“I see him,” Mhynt said grimly. “Down!”

“What?!” He obeyed automatically, narrowly dodging a corrosive beam of Shadows that careened far into the horizon, distantly exploding and darkening the sky. “S-someone got better aim!”

“He’s locked onto you after last time,” Mhynt said. “We don’t have time for this. He could have prepared anything…”

Fear was already clutching at his heart. Fear, and a new fire as he remembered Spice. Remi. What Alexander did to them.

Mhynt smacked Owen on the back of his head. “Waypoint, Owen! Waypoint! We don’t have time to stare!”

The explosions were still distant. Stray shots and guesses where they landed. But they knew where to go; fleeing was an easy ordeal. Owen could only hope that the others would be able to defend South Null Village once they were gone.

A small part of him wanted to stay. To fight. Surely them at their best, after so many days of downtime, would be enough, right?

But then again, Alexander had time to heal, too, and there was no telling what he’d done to prepare. Did they want to afford to risk it all in a confrontation with him at South Null?

He had to stick to the plan. He couldn’t let his emotions, his Battleheart, his fears get the better of him after one setback. Large setback. Catastrophic setback, actually, if Alexander managed to destroy anything valuable.

Down the streets, into the town hall, and then the basement. That was where they’d placed the Waypoint. Owen saw a trail of Shadows careen over the rooftops once, but it was so wide that he was confident Alexander had no idea where they’d gone.

But then Owen heaved and collapsed down, a horrible, searing cramp wracking his whole body.

“Owen!” Zena shouted.

“What happened?!” Mhynt called back. Everyone else stopped.

Owen tried to stand again, but another Shadow Blast raced over the sky. After another explosion, Owen wailed, the pain doubling.

Their heads turned to something Owen didn’t have the strength to see. It was like Alexander was pulling out his living guts where he stood.

“The Tree,” Zena whispered.

“Demitri, carry Owen!” Mhynt ordered.

“What?”

“They’re linked,” Mhynt hissed. “Owen, why?! Why did you leave part of yourself in the Tree?!”

“Needed t-to… because… the rift…”

“You were sustaining it?!” Mhynt asked. “I thought it… sustained itself!”

“Tree…”

Demitri heaved Owen and continued to run. Mispy helped with her vines, stabilizing him, as they raced into the building. There was another boom, another horrid pain that resonated past his mind and into his spirit. The reaction flowed through his body, bile dripping down Demitri’s back.

“Sorry,” Owen wheezed.

“Hang in there,” Mispy said, looking so helpless. She couldn’t heal this. It was all in his head.

“Withdraw your spirit, Owen,” Mhynt ordered. “You can’t handle this. Let the rift close, we’re already inside!”

“Can’t…” Owen braced. “I can’t. Not until… the team makes it. That’s when… I—”

Another rumble, but this time, there was no pain. He braced for it, but none had hit him.

Someone roared. Owen wasn’t sure who; he couldn’t recognize the distantly familiar sound. He sifted through his memories one by one as the temperature of the air raised. Outside, everything was a bright blue.

Reshiram…

Manny must have gotten started on his squad early. Or maybe they had been opportunistic.

But it saved the Tree from a few blasts. Bought them all precious seconds. As Owen’s mind drifted off, too fatigued from that onslaught of pain and primally desperate for a reprieve, he smiled.

It was going to be alright, at least for a little while longer.

<><><>​

“Sorry I’m late,” Reshiram grunted, blue fire dancing around his wings as the turbine of his tail whirred.

“So, you’re me, huh?” Brandon remarked, balanced atop his back. “Gah!” He pointed ahead.

Reshiram blasted the incoming Shadow Blast with his Fire energy, deflecting it downward and into a random building. He winced. “Sorry about that!” he called. “This place was evacuated, right? I sort of just woke up.”

“And you don’t feel like you’re at your full strength,” Brandon said.

“Obviously not. You’re still here.” Reshiram smirked, but then he glanced back to the rift. Every strike against the Radiant Tree had distorted it to the point where it seemed like another strike or two would close it completely—and destroy the Tree.

Brandon sighed. “Things sure are dire,” he said as Reshiram deflected another Shadow Blast, but he was getting slower. Tired.

Brandon felt within himself, his team of six that watched from within the Steel Core. Little whispers of encouragement and apprehension. He knew them well.

“Hey, look, just tell it to be straight,” Brandon said. “Will I still be… me?”

“Quite the opportune time,” Reshiram hummed. “If I had to guess, we’ll be us. I don’t think either of us will complain about it when it’s over.”

“How about our bonds?” Brandon asked.

“Bonds.” Reshiram studied Alexander as he got closer. A few hundred seconds now. “Oh. Your team, from the human world." He shook his head. “It sounds like that’s stronger than anything I formed if you ask me. And I vaguely remember them, too. They’ll be fine.”

“Heh.” Brandon brought a gently closed fist to his chest, then nodded. “Alright. No more wasting time. Let’s—”

Reshiram deflected one last blast, and at that, he grunted with strain.

“Hurry, please,” Reshiram wheezed.

“A-alright, alright!”

Silence.

“So how do we—”

Brandon suddenly erupted in light, as did Reshiram, and halves became whole.

<><><>​

By the time Owen was aware of his surroundings again, he’d been laid in a bed and covered with heavy blankets. He could hardly breathe, but he heard muffled talking coming from the other room. He tried to feel around for his horns, knowing his Perceive was off, but couldn’t find them. Panic settled in—it was too dark to see—and he groaned a little louder before finally grasping at his horns again. They’d been on the table.

“Ah! Not yet,” Zena said, suddenly bringing a ribbon over his hands.

Owen yelped in reply and rolled out of bed, landing hard on the carpeting beneath and onto his arm. “Ow—Z-Zena, are we… where are we?”

“It’s okay, everything’s okay,” Zena assured him.

“What happened? Null Village—”

“—is fine,” Zena said. “We’re in North Null Village. We put you in a room in Darkrai and Cresselia’s home until you woke up. We had to, err… clean you up. But something must have happened in South Null to save the Tree.”

“Something must have… Right, I think it was… Reshiram, that fire and light I recognize…” Owen tried to grab his horns again, but Zena held firm and shook her head.

“You’re still feeling weak. Don’t use your horns for now, okay?”

Reluctantly, Owen pulled away and relented. “…What did I miss?”

“Nothing too much. We’ve just been preparing for the trip,” Zena said. “We got word from the others about what happened. The Tree of Life is fine. You’ve… been asleep for a little while, and…”

“Asleep?!” Owen shot up, but was slammed with another wave of nausea and wobbled back. Zena swiftly circled Owen and caught him.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “We have it all handled. We aren’t behind schedule.”

“We… we aren’t?” Owen asked.

Zena giggled. “We didn’t need you for most of it!”

Owen winced, glancing away.

“Oh, I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way,” Zena said. “Anyway, er, come. Let’s go see the others. We’re going to be training soon.”

“Training? What?” Owen squinted. “We’re training? I thought we were going to the Abyssal Sea.”

“We are, but to do that, we need to be strong enough to withstand the monsters within the black waters. Otherwise… well, we’ll become one of them.”

“Oh.”

Zena nodded. “I already did some training myself. You should get a round in.”

“But, without my Perceive…”

“It’s just raw strength,” Zena said. “You’ll be fine. You’re stronger than me, right?”

“I don’t know,” Owen admitted.

Zena gave him an odd look. It almost seemed disappointed.

“Z-Zena?”

“Why would you think you’re weak?” Zena pressed.

“No, I mean… it’s just been a while, you know?”

Her expression twisted a little in puzzlement at first, but then she offered him an encouraging smile and gestured for him to follow.

Soon, Owen found himself in another room, past a hall, through a street he couldn’t quite remember the details of, and then into an open field. Dusty, light purple, and the sky was its usual red, and it finally dawned on him that he had subjected himself to entering the Voidlands once more.

“Losing heart?” Zena asked.

“No, of course not,” Owen replied. “It’s just… always a little tough to look up and not see the sun.”

“Hm.” Zena had that disapproving look again and she continued to slither forward. There, on the opposite side of the field surrounded by gnarled black trees, Demitri and Mispy stood. Gahi must have been away doing scouting with Mhynt, or something.

“Where’s Darkrai and Cresselia?” Owen asked.

“They’re scouting. They helped to train us, but I think for now, we’ll just have to train you ourselves. You’re a little behind, but you’re a fast learner, aren’t you?”

“I, uh, I think so,” Owen said. “Zena, is everything alright? You seem tense…”

Zena sighed. “Sorry. I’ve been restless, waiting.”

“O-oh.” A pang of guilt coiled around his gut. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“You couldn’t help it. Not your fault.”

“Hey,” Demitri called over, waving. “So, I think it’s time we got to training, huh?! Zena, you should start. Oh, and avoid using your Water against him, yeah?”

“Of course,” Zena said.

“I can handle that,” Owen said, frowning. “I can just shift to Grass and deal with it.”

“Let’s start with ice. It isn’t augmented by my Orb and is neutral against your base form,” Zena said. “We’ve had some training for this; can you trust us?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure.”

Zena nodded and slithered to the other side of the field. Only then, as Owen focused on his aura, did he realize how feeble it felt. Was he still recovering?

“Something wrong?” Zena asked.

Mispy’s eyes were closed and she had a pensive frown.

“I think I’m still a little out of it,” Owen said.

“Hm.” She sighed. “Well, if you are, maybe we shouldn’t train.”

“No, I—we can still train! Just… let’s see first?”

“Hmm. Okay, Owen. Attack me with…” She raised her ribbons in a shrug. “Anything.”

“Okay. I’ll, uh…” She could handle a Flamethrower easily. “Okay. Let’s go!”

He crouched and flared his wings, then surged forward. Fire erupted from his throat as he aimed for her chest, but Zena didn’t even move. She stared at the flames and concentrated; a small barrier split the flames effortlessly and Owen had to veer to the side before he could do anything to her.

“Wh—” Owen shook his head. “Wow! Zena, that was amazing!”

“…What was that? Was that your best?” Zena asked. “Owen, was that all?”

“Y—uh, well, I… huh?”

“Let’s… try that again,” Zena said tentatively, gesturing for him to come at her again.

He tried again, this time going for a Flame Burst instead, startled at how easily he’d conjured it up from before. He realized that he had no idea which of his techniques were tuned to his aura anymore. They were all just floating around in his mind freely…

But the Flame Burst bounced harmlessly off of Zena’s simple deflection barrier, and she wiped the rest of the embers from her scales nonchalantly. Demitri and Mispy, on the sidelines, tilted their heads in unison.

“Let’s try it the other way,” Zena said, water energy collecting in front of her mouth. Owen flew backward and crossed his arms, conjuring a shield of light.

What Owen didn’t expect was the sheer force behind it. Zena’s Hydro Pump slammed into his shield and sent him flying far, far, far back, into one of the buildings. The barrier shattered and everything went dark.

The next thing Owen knew, he was staring at the red sky on a dusty field. Mispy withdrew her vines and nodded at the others, who seemed relieved.

“Owen,” Zena said, “I’m sorry. I had no idea you were that weakened.”

“How did… how did that happen?” he croaked. “I can’t even… protect against… That was just a warning shot, wasn’t it?”

“It was, Owen,” Zena said. “I think that attack on the Tree, or something, made you a lot weaker. You… can’t really do anything anymore.”

“What’re we supposed to do about that?” Demitri asked worriedly. “If Owen’s this weak, he won’t be able to last against the Abyssal Sea. No way!”

“This is just temporary!” Owen said. “I’m sure I’ll get my strength back! By the time we’re there, it’ll be just fine, definitely!”

But Zena and Mispy, as they exchanged a look, seemed much less confident.

“Guys?”

Zena sighed, ribbons curling around themselves. “Owen… I think we need to confess something.”

“Wait, Zena,” Demitri said, “maybe we don’t have to worry about it. We can—”

“This is exactly what they warned us about,” Zena said.

Mispy nodded. “He can’t come,” she concluded.

Owen’s heart sank, chest feeling cold. “What?”

“Owen… This little test,” she said, “it’s… just to find out if you actually lost your strength or not. And you did. We’re going to have to go to the Abyssal Sea without you, and…”

Whatever else Zena had to say was a strange blur. Owen reached toward her, but then he found himself sitting at a table in Darkrai and Cresselia’s room, realizing that they’d been brought to lunch. At first, Owen was startled, but then he remembered they’d just walked him back. He’d gone into some kind of mental shock at losing all of his power.

He took a few bites of the tasteless plate of rice and meat in front of him.

Zena and Demitri passed by and gave apologetic nods; Mispy had already gone ahead. Last was Gahi, who sped by before Teleporting backward to float next to Owen.

“Hey, see yeh,” he said, tapping Owen on the shoulder before disappearing again.

“W-wait! What?” Owen sprang up. “I thought this was just a lunch break?”

“Forgot already?” Demitri asked, looking concerned. “Get some rest, Owen. We told you we were heading out, remember?”

“No, I don’t—we were just—weren’t we just training? What?”

“That was yesterday, Owen,” Zena said. “Oh, he’s slipping again…”

“Slipping? What do you mean?” Owen muttered. “We only trained for a little while! …R… right?”

“We’ve been training for a while, Owen,” Demitri said, wincing a moment later. “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to say that…”

“A… a while?” Owen asked. “What are you talking about? My strength definitely should have… come back by now, then…”

The sad looks continued, and eventually, they all turned and continued to walk away, out of the home and into the forest. Owen shambled after them, feeling heavier and weaker with every step. “This… isn’t right,” he said. “Let me come with you. I… I may not… remember things… or have my strength… but I still need to be there. For Necrozma, for… everyone! This isn’t right… none of this is right!”

They weren’t listening. They only looked back at him again with those cold, tired, pitying stares.

What was going on? Ever since he’d woken up in North Null Village, everything had spiraled completely out of control, after all his planning. None of it added up, it was all…

The realization struck him all at once. Owen squeezed his fists and thumped his tail. “Wait!” he roared, his voice finding new strength. “Zena. Hello?”

The first step was the heaviest and got lighter after each push forward. “Even if I’m reduced to just a shell, this was my plan to march forward. I can’t fall back anymore. So, if… if I’m too weak to be at the front, then at least let me give you my strength before I go back. My advice! I may not remember the past few days… but I remember the past! I remember everything else! And that knowledge is what… will help. A communicator, I can still talk to Necrozma through that!”

They all turned in unison, staring him down, cold gazes. Owen didn’t falter. A fire drove him. “Accept what I can give, please. I’m going to give everything if…”

“You really will keep fighting, even if you can’t follow us?” Zena asked.

“Even when you’re weak and helpless…” Demitri frowned.

“Stubborn,” Mispy remarked.

“Hmph. You were so much stronger before,” Mhynt said. “Well… physically.”

“I’m a Heart. It’s all about having strength—and not just physical strength. Internal strength, too.” Owen balled up his claws and formed a golden light. “Take this, then. It’s as much as I can give. Okay?”

He held the light forward, but all of them suddenly recoiled at that, hissing like it was some plague.

“Uh—guys?” Owen asked. Their forms were hardly recognizable… His vision clouded like a haze had always been there. He squinted and tried to wave it away, but then he realized it wasn’t his vision. It was the world around him.

“What’s… happening…” Owen looked at the light in his hands, then at the apparitions. He was ready to give everything to empower those who could still fight. That had been his resolve. But in the process, what did he do? What… broke? Why was the world falling apart?

In a surge of primal desperation, he ripped at the air with claws of light, and indeed, he caught something. Reality bent to his will, and he clawed forward, Zena and everything else of the illusory world dissolving into swirls of watery color. He heaved through the distortions, his arms growing heavy as he clawed his way out, puffing fire, growling, snarling…

And then, Owen found himself on his back, smothered in a blanket. He groaned and sat up, pupils dilating and narrowing until he focused on a phantom reading a book in the corner of the room. Still half-feral, he snarled and sprang from his bed, rushing blindly toward him.

“Hm?” Darkrai glanced up. He dropped the book. “AYEEEE! NO! WAIT! MERCY!”

The ear-splitting cry was enough to startle Owen into three-quarters sensible. “What?” he growled, puffing more fire on the ground. Some of the embers licked at Darkrai’s arms.

“Ah—sorry, please! It was… part of your plans! Remember? Owen? Test of resolve? Mental fortitude? Owen? H-hello?”

The Charizard snorted again, trying to recall. He had no memory of this… but it did add up. The King of Nightmares had been born to help Pokémon face their fears, and against someone like Alexander, a crash course of confronting that would be useful.

“Oh, wait, that wasn’t you,” Darkrai murmured. “It was… a-ah, it was that Mhynt Treecko…”

That explained it.

Owen let out another irritated growl. It finally registered to him that he couldn’t Perceive anything. He felt for his horns—missing.

“Oh, ah, table.”

There they were, gently in place next to where he’d been resting. And next to the table was Zena, brow furrowed in discomfort, still deep asleep. The same went for Demitri, Mispy, their counterparts, Trina, and even Mhynt.

“Did you see what I was dreaming about?” Owen asked.

“No. And you don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Darkrai said. “You woke up. You fought through it; that’s enough. If the others aren’t able to… well, I won’t stop them from going to the Abyssal Sea, but it will be harder for them.”

“They will,” Owen said.

“Such confidence,” called a new voice. Cresselia drifted into the room, her demeanor stern, though she was deliberately keeping her distance from the slumbering Pokémon. “Is that from somewhere, or are you just puffing out your chest?”

“Somewhere,” Owen asserted, still riding the high of his conquered nightmare. “We’ve been through more than enough to handle a little bad dream.”

Cresselia’s intense gaze didn’t falter, but she did nod. “We’ll see how much that follows through. But, Owen, I’m surprised you were the third to wake up.”

“…Third?”

Owen counted the heads again and realized Gahi and Azelf were missing. Of course.

“Yes, ah, Gahi and Azelf were… defiant right from the start. I suppose we shouldn’t have expected any different in their dreams… They went on a stroll to shake off the negative thoughts. Would you like the same?”

“I’m fine.” Owen crossed his arms, mildly curious about what Gahi and Azelf dreamed about. But that seemed too private to ask. He’d let them talk about it when they were ready if they ever wanted to.

“Are you sure?” Darkrai asked. “Mhynt said to use the worst I had, and I don’t know how that… would manifest.”

“Your worst wasn’t terrible,” Owen replied. “I’ve already had worse in Alexander’s castle.” With a slight, encouraging smile, he said, “I think you’re too nice to give a true nightmare, Darkrai. You’re meant to give something… conquerable. Not oppressive.”

“Oh.” Darkrai dipped his head, the wisp that drifted off of him slowing.

“It was a compliment, honey,” Cresselia cooed, rubbing his shoulder before nodding. “Well, if you’re awake, would you like an update from South Null?”

“Oh. Right, uh—how long have we been out, actually?” Owen asked nervously. He wondered how much truth there was in his nightmare.

“Only a few hours,” Cresselia said. “To stay on schedule, you’ll want the team to be up and ready by our next sleep. You have time.”

Perhaps he should have been less obvious with his sigh of relief, but at that moment he had to let it out. “…What happened at South Null?”

“Well… they’re fine, mostly. They drove Alexander off,” Cresselia said.

“Okay, that’s good… Mostly?”

“Alexander… likely got what he wanted.”

<><><>​

Reshiram nursed the scorch mark on his left wing with a strange mixture of dust and berries of the Voidlands, glancing skyward with a scowl. “So much for full power,” he grunted, thumping his back against the wall.

“Don’t say that.” Marshadow casually strode by Reshiram and sat next to him against the ruined town hall, its rooftop caved in and sparking with residual Shadow energy. “Yeh saved lives. That’s important, too.”

“Yeah, well…” Reshiram glanced at the tree. It was still on fire, and it had been long dead. Above it, the rift that connected the Voidlands to Kilo Village was completely closed. Just as it had been before.

Traces of Owen’s spirit within the Tree had also disappeared. He could only hope that Owen was whole and at full strength all the way across the forest.

“Guess there’s no going back for us,” Reshiram said.

“Hey,” Marshadow added. “What’s yer name?”

“Uh? Brandon?”

“Heh.” Marshadow smirked. “Nice. Marshadow Manny.”

“Oh, we’re doing this conversation.” Reshiram rolled his eyes. “Look, just because my immortal Machoke half and my immortal Legend half became the same person again doesn’t mean I’m gonna just toss aside my name again. I had good memories tied to that name!”

“Nah, nah, I get yeh.”

“…And my team’s pretty pleased, too,” he said. “I’m probably gonna miss, you know, having them around if we have to return this power to Necrozma. Turn him into the proper spirit repository again.”

“Ehh, somethin’ tells me that’s not gonna happen,” Marshadow said. “The new afterlife formed across the aura sea works well, I heard. Maybe it doesn’t gotta be a forever nap in the lightbulb’s body.”

“He’s pretty traditional,” Brandon warned. “Think he’d be interested in that?”

“Not like he’s been doin’ it fer all that long,” Marshadow pointed out. “Eh, whatever. We’ll figure it out. Ah, yeh! That reminds me. Fergot. Jirachi made it in, an’ he’s gettin’ everyone set, too. We’re gonna head out fer some Titan hunting… jus’ like we did fer you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Brandon groaned and stretched his back. “Alright. Let’s get going. One Titan at a time…”

Marshadow hopped onto his back, which earned an annoyed grunt from Brandon, though he didn’t object. The Dragon of Truth made one last glance at the burned Tree of Life. “…You guys better keep up your part, too,” he said. “Don’t fall back now…”

Part of him wondered who really heard his murmurs.

<><><>​

Mispy was next to rise, looking shaken but stable. After keeping her from blasting Darkrai with a Solar Beam, they filled her in on what had happened, and her hostility toward Darkrai was reduced from blasting to simply glaring. Then came Mhynt, Trina, Zena, and lastly Demitri, who awoke screaming about falling from the sky.

Their counterparts, perhaps not by coincidence, woke up at the same time, with Mesprit hugging Uxie tightly and saying something about falling. Uxie reminded him that he could float.

“I’m sorry for all of this,” Darkrai finally said as he set down a tray of freshly baked cookies for Team Alloy. “But it was just to make sure you wouldn’t give in to despair. The Abyssal Sea’s fumes amplify that sort of thing, and if you couldn’t handle a basic Nightmare, the fumes would surely turn you into more of them.”

“M-more of them?” Demitri asked.

Cresselia nodded gravely. “The endgame of most Void Shadows is to eventually seep into the Abyssal Sea, where they, as a collective, try to drag more and more into themselves. It’s a sea of madness, surrounding and separating Necrozma from the rest of us. Even if you managed to get on the small isle that is his prison, he’s guarded by Titans.”

“Well… if you wanted to make sure we were all okay, why didn’t you test Valle?” Owen asked.

“Hm?” Cresselia tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

Owen gestured to the Shiftry statue.

“…Oh, Owen,” Cresselia said apologetically. “Yes, we tested Valle. He did very well.”

Owen’s flame sparked. “He’s not my imaginary friend! He’s literally Necrozma!”

“Hello,” the Shiftry statue said.

“KYAAAA!” Darkrai flew behind Cresselia, who also flinched. “Wh-why didn’t you talk?!”

“I wasn’t addressed.”

“W-well…” Cresselia sighed. “Valle will be fine if he’s Necrozma. He’d be immune to the fumes’ effects.”

“Wouldn’t that mean I’d also be fine? I have his direct blessings,” Owen said.

Cresselia nodded. “Your presence, and Valle’s, will be a boon for everyone. But it doesn’t hurt to be too careful. But… well, now that Valle knows about the Nightmare trick, that won’t work out.”

Valle continued to not move. “If Radiance is the antidote to the Abyssal Sea, I will be fine.”

Owen sighed. “Alright. Then let’s leave after a good rest. How long is it from here to the Sea?”

“Unfortunately,” Darkrai said, “you’ll probably only get there just after your next sleep if you go straightaway.”

“Oh.” That was a lot of traveling. The sheer size of the Voidlands was always startling after spending centuries in Kilo.

“Aah, it’ll be fine,” Gahi dismissed, crossing his arms and spreading his wings confidently. “We’ve got speed. You already have the boat ready?”

“Yes! That, we do,” Darkrai said. “It was constructed and hidden, but once you go on your way, we’ll reveal it right at your destination. Just make sure you follow ‘north’ that way.”

“Can do,” Owen said. “Right. If that’s the case… One last question. How’s Tanneth?”

“Tanneth? Oh! The Vaporeon. She’s… mostly recovered, but not nearly at her full strength.” Darkrai sighed. “She has her own place here, and while it isn’t the… best place to live, it’s safer than Kilo where Lugia might try to get her. Would you like to see her?”

“Yes, please.”

“Owen?” Mhynt asked. “Is something the matter?”

“…She and I go back,” Owen said. “I have scattered memories of it, but she was… a friend of mine during the Dark Matter days. I just wanted to try to catch up and see if that would jog any of those old memories back. That’s all.”

“I’d like to see her, too,” Zena said. “She and I were friends, too. But, that sounds like it was after her memories were wiped of that time…”

“Well, that’s all fine,” Cresselia said. “I’ll give you her address. . .”

<><><>​

Tanneth’s temporary abode was very close. One floor, only three rooms or so, and sparsely populated with essential furniture. Tanneth herself was reading a book, so she wasn’t busy. Owen gently rapped his claw against the door and waited.

“Tell me about her,” Zena said while Tanneth got out of her seat.

“Emily? I happened to convince her about Dark Matter during the first war,” Owen explained. “That’s probably how she wound up having those powers—and a piece of Dark Matter—to begin with. Diyem must have gotten desperate once I was taken out of the picture because I don’t remember a whole lot beyond that.”

The door opened, the little Vaporeon reflexively stepping back upon seeing the much larger Charizard and Milotic on the other side.

“Hey,” Owen greeted with a nervous wave.

“Hi…?” Tanneth stared, but then her eyes bugged out. “Owen! Zena!”

“Yep!”

She looked mournful. “You’re… back.”

“Oh, it’s not like that!” Owen said. “We’re here on purpose! Off to rescue Necrozma soon.”

“Oh.” Tanneth sighed, brightening afterward. “Okay, that’s way better than what I was thinking. I thought my… my other half ate the world.”

“No. She’s sort of been aimlessly wandering around and stays away from places with too much of Necrozma’s light, so she’s… under control. Er, we just wanted to talk and catch up. May we come in?”

“Yeah—um, sure. I don’t… have any seats except for my own, so—”

“That’s fine. We can just settle by the wall.”

Tanneth treated them to some tea made of strange plants of the Voidlands and a surprisingly sweet fruit, though a little overpowering. Owen offered to heat the kettle faster, and soon they were all relaxing with cups of a steaming, sweet-tart brew.

“Um, if it’s not a problem, can you call me Emily?” the Vaporeon asked.

“Oh… that’s right.” Zena curled her ribbons loosely. “You’re…”

“Yeah. I… There was something that happened… during the war. The longer I stay in the Voidlands, the more I remember what happened.”

“I wasn’t around for it,” Owen said. “Can you give me the rundown?”

Emily glanced at Zena, then at Owen.

“She can hear, too,” Owen said. “We’re all in this together. Anything I know, I’m going to summarize to everyone.”

“Oh.” That made Emily less enthused, like she was looking for different words to say than before.

“T—Emily, they already know all about Wishkeeper and what I did, and they forgave me.” Mostly. “We’re working to right wrongs for good. We need to know what happened.”

This Vaporeon was so different from the one they’d met only a few months ago. The Voidlands had dampened her spirits even more than she’d already been. Then again, with how they’d found her… maybe she wasn’t recovered.

Would she ever, after this? How deep did the damage to ‘Emily’ go, even after she was saved?

“Dark Matter,” Emily began, “wanted me to… save the world in your place. As Lugia, I was one of the few Legends—along with Rayquaza, Giratina, and Azelf—to receive Necrozma’s blessing. But of the four of us, I was the only one who directly, you know, went against, uh, against Necrozma’s plan to… uh…”

“End the world,” Owen finished.

“Y-yeah.”

“Why in the world would everyone else agree?” Zena asked. “I still can’t understand it. Why end everything, end all life?”

“It wasn’t all life,” Emily answered ruefully. “We’re just a teeny tiny ‘pocket world’ that’s only a little bit away from the ‘main world.’”

“And… we were here in the first place,” Owen said, “because Mew had been possessed by some weird technology in the human world, and Arceus found out and… in a fit of rage, smote the whole island. The first lives of Pokémon that could speak and have societies like you guys… Those were all originally humans. And the feral Pokémon were all the wild Pokémon on that island. But this tiny world was meant to be temporary. Arceus only planned to make it for a few decades or something, but then Star felt bad? I think? And… just let the world live on because suddenly the first generation had kids, and they had kids, so on so on.”

“Well, of course,” Zena murmured. “That’s part of life, isn’t it?”

“And that’s the problem,” Owen said. “Necrozma’s answer was to stop new life from being born, so the last generation would just fade out, and Legends could handle the gaps a small population could no longer cover, with their greater powers. Then once every soul was dead… that’s it. The world would end, and they’d be able to focus on the ‘main’ world again.” He sighed. “Instead… the people who were born in Kilo wanted to keep living. I became their figurehead.”

“…Was it all a mistake?” Emily asked. “Should we have just… let it end? Look at all the suffering it’s caused…”

“I… don’t know,” Owen said. “But I do know that I want to make things right and at least rescue everyone from here. What happens after… we can talk about with Necrozma and the other gods. But I think everyone—even Diyem—agrees that we need to empty the Voidlands.”

It wasn’t the perfect answer, but it at least relaxed the Vaporeon in front of him, who nodded.

“Anyway,” Owen said, “I want to catch up a little, too. So… you and Zena, huh?”

“Oh! Um. Right…” Emily smiled nervously at Zena. “It was just a coincidence, practically. Running into her, I mean. I don’t even remember how we met specifically anymore. We just started hanging out near one of the undersea villages. After the dark war, something… defeated me and split me in half. But unlike all the other Legends, my Lugia half didn’t get sucked into the Voidlands. Maybe I was lucky, being the strongest one with Diyem’s power.”

“At least the most defensive,” Owen agreed.

“I guess with amnesia, we were just taken care of down there.”

“None of the Legends had amnesia, though,” Owen remarked. “Why did Emily—Lugia forget?”

The Vaporeon sighed. “No idea. But if the memories were sealed into the Voidlands by some crazy Decree, then that means they would’ve left my halves and gone straight here. No half here, neither half remembers. Until I spent time in here, at least…” She curled up a little in her bed. “…And… I’m going to have to recombine with her, too. Even though I was trying to run away, she almost pulled me in…”

“Yeah. Rhys rescued you,” Owen said.

“How is Rhys?” she added.

Cold gripped his chest. Gods, did nobody tell her?! “He’s alright,” Owen half-lied. “He and Dialga merged, so he’s a little different now. But you know, that’s how it goes.”

“Then… it’ll be okay when I combine with the other me. After… you find a way to purify her, right?”

“It’s a deep darkness, but that’s the plan,” Owen said. “Necrozma could help.”

“Thanks…” She still was uncertain, but the smile she gave was at least a little more genuine.

It was just another reason for him to go and take this risk and cross the sea. He only hoped the rest of his team would have the same resolve.

“We should get ready,” Owen finally concluded. “Let’s check with the others using the communicator.”

“Take care, Emily,” Zena said. “You’ll get to see sunlight again in no time.”

“Be careful,” Emily said. “And… thank you.”

A warm tightness filled Owen’s chest as he left, knowing that he was responsible, indirectly, for Emily’s mess all the same. But just as much, it was another reason he had to keep going.

Just a little longer. That was the hope.
 

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Well, been some time since I reviewed a story. Let’s see, how long does this one go fo-

Chapter 1 of 164
cat-cough.gif


Welp…guess yah gotta start somewhere, heh. Speaking of starting somewhere.

Poison-tipped fangs plunged into Owen's chest.

Goddamn it Owen!
A Owen.png

He didn't know what it was.

A little picky here, but he knows it’s at least a “Stone Serpent” so…there’s that at least. I mean, it’s not patching for your lungs nor cure for your poison, but KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

"OWEN!" cried a Gardevoir.

"M-Mom!" Owen mouthed.

At ease, Charizard and Gardevoir shippers. We have found the treasure you so desperately seek.

The impact on the ground gave Owen just enough time to escape, wriggling out of its rocky hold. He felt free for only half a second. Owen turned his head and saw the thing launch a succession of large rocks toward his father, the Magmortar. Three hits. They went straight through him. Blue fire erupted from the resulting holes. And then, his father exploded in a flurry of embers.

Nevermind. Guess it is a Magmorter, or rather was a Magmorter, lel #DadDead

"Shh, it's okay," she said, placing her hand firmly on his back. The pain was unbearable. "It's okay, it's okay. Calm down. Sleep…"

Okay, time for some actual worthy commentary on this. So when it comes to paragraphs (or sentence lines), yah normally have them be focused on the current character they’re about. So when say, The Gardevoir is talking, you’d only prescribe the sentences in this section to the Gardevoir or at least as the focus. “The pain was unbearable” I believe is more Owen’s area of things so you would do a link break for that line and then back to the Gardevoir.

"Shh," Amia said softly. "Just sleep. Just sleep…"

Time to be picky once again, but just like the previous naming of Owen, Amia is also named with a speaking verb. I think it would be sort of better to introduce these characters and their names in the actual action/dialogue. Like, you have the mom calling out Owen and maybe the Dad could say “Amia” or something to refer to her, given he doesn’t really have much lines at all.

He remembered a fight. A fight that he'd lost. Badly.

Oh Owen, fights are when both sides do something to the other, not onsided constriction….unless you’re like Yugioh in which case fight can range from the most epic la anime, to being snuggled to death.

Another voice whispered quietly from the other room. "Amia, is he okay?"

Owen saw the burning shoulders of his Magmortar father. A vague image flashed in front of his mind of that very same Magmortar bursting into an explosion of blue embers. Bluer than his mother's hair. That must have been a dream.

Ah, nice, it was a dream. Good cuz I would have been pretty bummed if the father, let alone an actual prevelant Magmorter, would have been axed in first chapter without speaking any lines. Though about that, I do like you have a Magmorter as the dad, but it does make me wonder if you’re doing some kind of adoption thing here or if you’re going on something else.

Personally, I prefer the air…I mean I like it when fics get creative with their worldbuilding and can have seemingly odd aspects to their worlds that make them unique while still following the laws, so I would be curious down the line to hear an answer to this question.

The third seat was much larger than the rest—in order to accommodate for its usual occupant

Quibbling over details alert again, but perhaps a better adective for occupant that’s more relevant to what you set up in the first part would be “much larger” or something along those lines. It is also sort of obvious that he would be the usual occupant.


Kay, rather basic name but I have high hopes for this one.

Alex.jpg
In another life…another time…you could have been good too.

"What's wrong?" Owen asked.

"N-nothing," Alex said. He refused to make eye contact.

Classic sign that something is wrong. I imagine that it’s not out of some lack of good emotional skills since he pretty much inquired about his son’s wellbeing right in front of him, but perhaps you are doing some clever writing in the father being distant while still wanting to be present in the actual development. Sorry, had to use this can of gargly jargon wordthought before it expired, but yeah good for giving hints to the reader like this about these characters.

Owen noticed the subtle, shocked expressions in his parents' eyes, but he didn't acknowledge it.

I’m guessing you mean he pretended he didn’t notice? That’s the vibe I’m getting.

His parents always got uncomfortable when he talked about his dreams, and he never knew why. He did admit that they felt too real to be dreams, but what else could they be? He had decided long ago not to press the issue. He grabbed his bowl and downed half of his breakfast. His parents' expressions were grave, but they feigned a smile when he looked at them again. "Weird, huh? Dreams are funny."

He’s a sacrifice of some sort of chosen for some dark destiny. Calling it right now, slamming my two cents at the gambling station LET’S GO RED 7!!!!

Being part of the Thousand Hearts is a big deal, after all!

Dang, these parents are cult members? Just a hunch, it could be a well respect medical foundation for heart transplants…..HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

She was trying to help him feel better, but that didn't help the knot of inferiority tightening in his gut. How many times had he tried and failed to get in? No, this would be different. That was the whole reason he was going out on a practice exploration in the first place.

I get sort of doing a bit of expository, but I would prefer if it was done in the actual dialogue rather than simply the narration. Even if it was the character’s own thoughts speaking that would mean something more than the basic narration, at least for introducing this information. You previously have the parents talk about the thousand hearts, Owen talking about the bad dreams/good dreams stuff, etc. So why not this too? It would make the information stand out more as well as give us more of a look into the characters and how they would feel on the topic (Like the parents about the dreams)

No way!" Owen said, beaming. "Fighting is the way to go. I can't live without a good fight. And what better way to fight than to, uh, y'know, fight bad guys?"

Geez, I like Owen. But yeah, curious what kind of culture this place is that lead to a fighting aspect in a son of clearly battled scarred parents.

"Super totally!" Owen said, tipping his bowl of stew directly into his mouth.

Yeah! That’s Super Special Awesome!....I’m joking about the catchphrase, please don’t let that be his catchphrase, I’ll wrestle a panda and livestream if it you don’t make it!

She fidgeted with her hands. It was a telltale sign she was trying to convince herself it would be okay. Owen chose not to acknowledge this, either.

Picky time for the third time. I think the reader can tell the “fidgeting” of her hands is sort of a cue in how fake her confidence in this is. After all, we see it in movies, lol. The rest is fine, but I do wonder why Owen is brushing off all these tell tales from his parents so blatantly despite clearly getting they’re Super Totally bothered by this. I get he’s pumped up about it, but he seems to have a good relationship with them so why wouldn’t he ask about that? Why they’re nervous and whatnot for him. Like, it goes far beyond simple nervousness, at least with what Owen’s been seeing, just seems odd to me.

"Yeah," Owen said. "And if I get horribly maimed, I'll just warp back to the entrance! It'll be fine!" He grinned,

Nevermind, you answered my question in real time. I do like how you’re going about setting up these questions for me about the characters and then just immediately giving the characterization I need for something like this. Really makes me think I should be writing instead of typing up reviews live time for this, ahehehehehehehehe…ahehehe……..ahehe…….aheh………………darn.

He was trying to be funny, but he practically heard his father's heart explode through his giant torso.

JUST LIKE IN THE DREAM!!! :)

bandits and outlaws and even ferals waiting for defeated Pokémon to return to the entrance.

DID SOMEBODY SAY FERALS! (Does the rabies dance!)

"And what if you bring something important with you? If you get kicked out of a Dungeon in that way, you'll—lose it! You'll lose almost everything on you! Perhaps even your—your life!"

Video games be like “Lol, did you work hard for that, cha ching!!!”

Alex's fire finally returned to something normal in size. "I hope he isn't self-conscious of his size. It might affect how strong he is, even if he's stronger than the average Charmander, you know, given the…"

OH MY GOD, YOGI!!!! YOGI IS HERE!!!!!! SIGN MY FACE, YOGI BEAR!!!!!!!!!!!

Amia giggled, patting Alex on the shoulders, completely unaffected by the flames. "He's got a strong will, though, and he's resourceful, too. He'll make up for it. And who knows? Maybe this adventure is what he needs to control that spirit of his." She sighed, staring at the empty bowl Owen left behind. "I wish Rhys was still here. Maybe we wouldn't have had to…"

Alex hummed worriedly. "That was a close call, yesterday," he said. "I've never seen one of those mutants so powerful before. What if he runs into another of those—those things in the Dungeon?"

Firstly, who the fuck is Rhys?

Second, that incident happened yesterday? Hold the phone, it happened yesterday and the boy just was in tip top or almost top shape the following night, aaaaand his parents are just letting him go out again for a test? You’d think they’re report it or something. I mean, something is clearly off about what happened and even if the boy healed up that fast overnight, surely some rock snake thingy warrents some manner of investigation? Right?....Guess we’ll just have to see. But Mutants, huh? Noticeably absent from the list of “Lions and Tigers and Bears”, PMD Hands of Creation Version.

Amia bit her lip. "I know, dear. But that Dungeon is safer than most. If he runs into any trouble, well, it'll be better there than anywhere else. You know it's me they're after, not him."

HOLY PLOT TWIST ON A PLOT TWIST SANDWICH WITH PLOT TWIST ON TOP AND A SIDE OF PICKLES! It was the Mom all along! Welp, guess that confirms in my mind the kid is gonna have some special ability, but we’ll see how it goes. Wonder who is after the mother and why.

"That doesn't make me feel any better." Alex rubbed his cannons together. "If I was just a little stronger, I could have defended us both. But I just… evaporated after the first strike. Curse this body. It's so foreign, even now. Sometimes I wish I…"

Dang, these last few lines of dialogue really amping up the world and tension here. I must say, this was probably the part of the chapter I was waiting for the most. Kudos on making a tense mystery that has my eyebrow raised and leaning in towards my screen at a 75% angle.

"It's not your fault, dear," Amia said soothingly, holding his shoulder a bit tighter. "It's my fault, too.

Dr. Picky here again. But it probably should be either “It’s not only your fault, dear” or “It’s my fault.” Since the way this is worded, it’s not his fault but it’s her fault too…which doesn’t work outside of Australia.

Okay, so closing thoughts. Decent start, it felt like the information could have been conveyed in a more interesting way than just basic narration, but the characters are elaborated upon well and we get an explanation for the earlier conflict. Dunno, how much I like you actually showing the conflict, but I do admit it does give the impression of it being a dream till the parents drop that bombshell in the end.

Speaking of it, hands down best part is the end. This sets up the mystery and the parents are shown even further, the Mom holding a lot of concern about whatever is after them but clearly better at handling this aspect than her husband who’s a worry heart and probably not the strongest fighter but heavily involved in this.

Good job on characters and setting up an interesting start of the worldbuilding.

It’s a first chapter so Plot ain’t gonna be too big for me though it does make a good “hook”. Guess we’ll see what happens to Owen on the next episode of Owen yah glad I didn’t say Owen.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Heya, it took a while to get this together between the past week being a bit hectic and this chapter being a bit chunky, but you gave me the honor of being selected as a prize reviewer from Union's latest Review Event, so I decided that I'd get that rolling sooner rather than later. Picking up with…

Chapter 8

“I’m a PLANT!” Owen screeched, grabbing his chest and tugging gently at the feather-like arrangement of leaves that covered his body. He yelped when he realized that it was a lot easier to pull them away than he had expected. One of the leaves fell to the ground; a tiny splotch of green blood remained where the leaf had been plucked.

Mispy: "Technically, you're more of a planimal. Part plant and part ani-" ^^;
Owen: "NOT. HELPING. MISPY!" >.<

“Ow.” He at the small hole left behind. The bleeding stopped quickly. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with being a plant,” he said to Mispy, who was glaring at him. “J-just—I’m a Charmander! Charmander! Like fire! Not a—a—”

If you wind up patching in Tera types into this setting, you totally need to give Owen a Grass one as a meta troll.

And yeah, I suppose that I should've seen Mispy getting crabby about Owen's freaking out about his newfound floralness coming, since she is the most short-tempered member of Team Alloy.

“Grassmander?” Demitri said.

Demitri’s remark sent Gahi over the edge. The Trapinch laughed, rolling his huge head and round body on the ground. “GRASSMANDER!” he shouted to the heavens. “Oh, Arceus may’s well kill me now; there ain’t nothing gonna top this!”

Cue the "blaze it" jokes in 3... 2...

Mispy:
:zardglare:

Gahi: "I mean... er... uh... it's surprisingly distinctive? I mean, at least you're not a Fire Grovyle-"
:CabotScared:

Demitri: "... Isn't there someone in town who's one of those?"
Mispy: "Probably not unless our author left the cameo machine on lately. And the point is that there is nothing wrong with being a plant!" >_>;
Owen: "Can we skip to the part where I keel over and die of embarrassment yet?" X_X

“It’s—it’s not funny!” Owen’s feathers fanned out, making him look much larger and puffier than before. “I’m not ready for this!”

He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Gahi had a point to laugh at the situation, for one reason or another. And perhaps, in a few days, Owen would laugh, too. But for now, at the front of Owen’s mind, the Grassmander was thinking about the most effective way to crack an exoskeleton.

Live look at Owen rn:
Image


But with more flowers and less cat ears involved.

“Now, Owen, close your eyes,” Rhys said carefully. “Try to meditate, yes? Can you do that?”

Owen: "Rhys, I just got turned into a PLANT! In what world am I going to be able to meditate like this?!" >.<
Mispy: "Rhys, can I smack him? Please tell me I can smack him." >_>;

“I…! I… I’ll try.” Owen felt the vine in the back of his throat well up. He was used to embers billowing from his mouth when he did that. Instead, he felt that same, horrible tendril prodding at the back of his throat. He gulped to keep it down. It writhed in his gut like a giant parasite. Owen clutched his belly. “I guess it’s—is this permanent?”

IIRC from what I've heard through the grapevine, it's not, but it sticks around long enough for you to become a Charmeleon that's still Grass-type, so get used to the weed jokes for a while, Owen.

“Likely not,” Rhys said. “Owen… you absorbed the Grass Orb into your being. The Grass Type, in other words, is manifesting itself in you. But soon, your body will properly assimilate it, and you will return to your Fiery self—and, perhaps after a bit of training, you’ll be able to transform from one form to the other at will. That can be quite useful.”

Owen: "Oh thank gods. So... uh... is there any way of speeding that up, or...?"
:sweats:

Rhys: "... Owen, start with the meditation first. Baby steps here." -_-;

“O-okay… okay, I think that makes sense…” His breathing steadied. “So, I just have to wait for now? Rhys—how do you know about all this?”

Cue the pin drop moment.

Rhys:
giphy.gif

Owen: "We don't have that in our world, so really. How do you know this?" >_>;

“I’ve studied it before,” he said dismissively, “And, hrm… Owen, could you come with me? I would like to take you to town.”

I can already see Owen screaming internally at the idea of being seen in his present state by all of Kilo Village.

“H-hey, can we come, too?” Demitri said.

Gahi raised his head, finally calm enough to not chitter his laughs between words. “Yeah, I wanna hear what this is all about.”

“Please?” Mispy asked.

I'm honestly surprised that Owen's immediate reaction to getting drug along into public isn't the first thing that we're seeing after Rhys' question, though I suppose that could always be coming up in about 5 seconds.

“Ngh… I’m not sure,” Rhys said. “We will see.”

“We’re gonna follow,” Gahi said.

Rhys growled, “Are you going to disobey me?”

Huh. Is Owen meant to be in a state of blank shock right now or something? Since it's a little hard to get a read for how he's feeling right now in spite of this scene being written from his perspective.

Gahi: "Wait, but yeh didn't say we couldn't follow ya, so how would we be disobeyin' anythi-?"
:what:

Rhys: "Gahi, take a hint already."
:lucariwhat:


Mispy shrugged with her vines. “Owen will just tell us.”

The Lucario growled. He knew they were right. “You will come,” he said, “but you will be silent unless addressed. Understood?”

Narrator: "They will not stay silent."

“Silent, eh?”

“Gahi.” Rhys glared.

“Okay, okay.” Gahi flicked his head in what was his species’ equivalent of an eyeroll. “Silent.”

I feel pretty good about that prediction earlier given how flippant Gahi is being right now. Though I'm honestly surprised that Owen has had nothing at all to say during all of this. Not even a grudging "okay, if it'll help..." or something like that.

Owen nervously shifted his stance. He thought Rhys would be extraordinarily upset at him for touching the Orb, and he remembered Star’s words to behave conservatively for now. Perhaps she was right about convincing him; he didn’t feel that tension from Rhys. At all. In fact, Owen sensed… relief. Rhys was relieved that Owen grabbed the Orb.

Wait, is Rhys broadcasting that to Owen there through something something Lucario feeling sharing, is he getting that from his body language, or is he sitting on aura sensitivity like Mispy is?

Somehow, this made the Grassy Charmander—he refused to adopt the term “Grassmander”—feel even worse.

Would he prefer "Hitokusa" or "Salaplante" instead? :V

Rhys retreated into the storage room and returned with what appeared to be a cloth three times the size of Owen. “Wear this.”

“Wear?” Owen asked. “What’s…?”

Rhys: "Owen, do you seriously want all of Kilo Village to see you in your present state?"
:lucariwhat:

Owen: "... Right. Didn't think about that one."
:ohnowen:


“This is a cloak. We can’t let you be visible in public. You may be mistaken for a mutant.”

>"""mistaken""" for a mutant.

Why am I getting the sneaking suspicion that those other mutants prowling around aren't so unrelated from those other type orbs floating around right now?

Owen gulped, reaching for the cloak. It was heavy. It felt like it was made from some sort of fur and silk. It was a wonderful shade of blue, with hints of black and cream-colored fur as well. Owen brought it a bit closer, sniffing the disguise curiously. It felt quite natural and soft. A strange sense of nostalgia washed over him—something about the smell made him want to nestle into it for a nice, long—

... Rhys made this from his sheddings, didn't he?

“AUGH!” Owen hurled the cloak against the wall. “GROSS!”

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all flinched.

Demitri in particular hid behind Mispy, clutching at his tusks as if they would keep him grounded. “Wh-what’s wrong?!”

Yeah, it's made from Rhys' sheddings, I can already tell. But it might make sense to throw in a brief sentence where Owen freezes or has his eyes widen in disgust or something like that, since there's no real transition between him in nostalgia mode and his
:TailsEww:
mode right afterwards at the moment.

“What’re you panicking fer?” Gahi said, clicking his jaws.

Owen pointed an accusatory claw at Rhys, and his vine shot from his mouth halfway. He chomped down to keep it from fully emerging, and he swallowed it back. After a fit of coughing, he said raggedly, “That’s your FUR!"

Rhys: "Yes? And? Look, nobody cares when cloaks are made from Mareep wool, why should my fur be any different?"
:joltyshrug~1:


Though I suppose that that's one way of telling that Owen really does go way back with Rhys beyond what he can remember.

“Of—of course it is! I happen to shed quite a bit during the summer!” Rhys raised his muzzle indignantly. “I wasn’t going to put it all to waste! I made it into a cloak. I wove it with some Wurmple silk for a foundation, let it dry, and—

Owen:
:squirpuke~1:

Rhys: "Look, Owen. You need something to keep you from being spotted in town and this cloak is perfectly suited for the purpose. Quit whining and put it on already."
:typhNOsion:


“I’m wearing YOU!” Owen squeezed his eyes shut. “Who hoards their own fur?! You don’t see me making a—making a bag out of my discarded scales! I think I’m going to throw up—”

I take it that Owen doesn't hang around a lot of sheepmons, huh? Or would they similarly get repulsed by the idea of wearing things made of their own wool?

Though that makes me wonder if there's indeed a moment where Owen has a bag made from his shed scales later on as a brick joke thing.

Owen belched a volley of claw-sized seeds from his mouth. Rhys ducked to avoid the high-velocity projectiles, which instead clattered loudly against the rocky wall behind him.

“Bullet Seed,” Mispy said with wide, fascinated eyes.

Demitri: "Well, that's certainly a new spin on 'projectile vomiting' there." .-.
Owen: "Everyone. Stop. Talking!"
:sevidazed:


Owen groaned. Rhys stepped to his pelt and picked it up, dusting off a few of the bullets. He put it back in Owen’s arms.

“You will wear this,” he said. “We cannot go in public otherwise. Understood?”

Owen:
Image

Mispy: "For the love of the gods, Owen, just put on the cloak." >_>;
Gahi: "Just saying, I'm never letting you forget about this moment."
:trollzel:


Owen stared at the cloak of Rhys. The mixture of disgust and comfort he got from holding it in his arms was enough to make the vine in his belly writhe. “Unghh.” He finally slipped it on. It was very warm.

Owen: "So are any number of disgusting things that I don't want rubbing up against me, but I'm just going to not think about that so that way I don't vomit up another Bullet Seed." 🤢

Owen walked in total silence on their way to Kilo Village. He didn’t know what he looked like; he only knew that the cloak covered him quite well. He felt a lot like a Mimikyu, or a Tangela, hidden away in a veil of darkness. He wondered, briefly, if this was going to be how he’d have to live forever. Even if he would eventually return to his Fiery self… that Espurr was going to hunt him down. He didn’t feel much stronger. If she was out for blood, the fight would be over in one misstep.

Demitri: "I mean, at least it beats dwelling on the fact that you're wearing Rhys' sheddings right now?" ^^;
Owen: "Oh gods, Demitri, why would you remind me of that?"
:squirpuke~1:


Owen briefly lifted his cloak to catch a glance at the sky. It looked like it was just before noon. He spotted another Heart passing by—a Tyranitar. He stared at Owen curiously; the transformed Charmander quickly hid beneath his cloak again. The Heart paid them no mind for one reason or another; perhaps, with Rhys, he didn’t want to interfere.

inb4 said Tyranitar was having his own "I'm just seeing things, there's not really a Grassmander right there" moment sort of like Owen's emphatic denial of the weirdness around him in the first 6-ish chapters.

A nagging feeling tugged in the back of his mind. He felt bare, despite the cloak. He realized shortly after that there was a distinct lack of weight on his left shoulder. He’d forgotten his bag at Rhys’ home. Too late now, he thought.

I mean, do you really want to be hitting the mission grind like this right away, Owen? Maybe that's for the best.

“How long was I out…?”

“It was not very long,” Rhys said. “I left to speak with the Hearts, and then I returned home after a… small errand. Then, well, I arrived. Apparently, you immediately went for the Orb once I was gone, is that right?”

Owen: "It wasn't that immediate, was it?" ^^;
Rhys: "I'll just take that as a 'yes'." -_-;

“M-maybe.” Yes. “But… I feel like I’ve been gone for days. That Dungeon in the Orb was huge!”

“Time passes differently in the spirit world,” Rhys said. “It can go as fast or as slow as it wishes, depending on the environment, whoever commands it, and other conditions.”

I actually didn't get that vibe last chapter, but that's not really a fault of this chapter in particular so I won't harp on it too much.

Owen navigated up the stairway, tripping over the cloak—it was too long for him. There were a few instances where his legs and tail were exposed to the world. Rhys was quick to shove Owen back underneath.

Owen: "You just had to leave the cloak undyed so that way I could constantly remember that this came off your body, didn't you Rhys?" >_>;
Rhys: "I thought about dying it green since I saw it work well on another Pokémon of your species here in Kilo Village... but meh, dye's expensive and it's not as if the cloak needed regular use anyways."
:gardeshrug~1:


On the way up the stairs, Owen wondered—bitterly—why he had to get caught up in this in the first place. What were these Orbs even for, anyway? Why did they exist at all? He wanted to ask, but he had a feeling that there were more pressing answers he wanted to learn, first. For example, how someone would react to seeing a Grass Charmander. If he was mistaken for a mutant, he’d be mulch in seconds, wouldn’t he?

Owen: "... Starting to get a bit worried about the way that that Tyranitar spotted me back there a little earlier. Th-That's not going to wind up being a problem later on, is it?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


All the while, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi—even Gahi—were quietly following behind, though it seemed that they were just as curious about where this was all going. He heard the pitter-patter of their feet despite not seeing them. Small comforts.

Gahi's audibly snerking and trying not to laugh during all of this, isn't he? :V

They walked through the halls of the large, heart-shaped building, going straight for Anam’s quarters. Owen, recognizing the turns being made and following the purple path painted on the ground, realized where they were going. Straight to Goodra Anam.

W-wait, how big is this Orb stuff?”

“Bigger than you will expect.”

Would suggest splitting Owen's dialogue off from that description, but no kidding there. Even if I suppose we already got a glimpse of how this stuff's SRS BSNS a bit earlier on from that scene where Rhys reported before Anam and Nevren.

“Owen!”

“M-mom?!” Owen threw his cloak off with an enthusiasm that insulted Rhys—thankfully, nobody else was around. He pointed at the blue Gardevoir. “G-guys! It’s—why’s my mom here?”

They couldn’t show up for his promotion into the Hearts, yet suddenly they’re here on such short notice? If he still had a flame, it would’ve been blazing irritably.

Owen: "... Is this going to result in me finding out that you and dad have been holding secrets from me that are going to make me upset to no end?"
:unimpressed:

Amia: "... Hopefully not?" ^^;

Amia ran and picked him up, holding him close to her chest. Owen murmured something about not being handled that way, and that he wasn’t some kid to pick up, but his protests were weak and halfhearted. Being embraced by his mother was something he really needed.

Translation, Owen's a kid. Or at least at heart.

“Oh, Owen, I was so worried! I thought something had happened, and…! Oh, your father has been completely distraught!”

Owen: "... Wait, how are you just not reacting at all to the fact that I'm a plant right now?"
:what:


The Magmortar emerged from Anam’s office next and nodded. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to hold him, too. But he held back, considering Owen’s new Type. “Owen! What happened?” he said with an odd delay. “Why are you…?”

“…Amia,” Rhys said, nodding at her.

Owen: "Okay, I guess mom was just trying to be polite and not make me feel bad for being like... this." >_>;

“O-oh, Rhys.” Amia’s shoulders sagged slightly. “Um… hello. How have you been?”

Owen blinked. “Wait,” he said. “What’s going on? You—you know my mom? Mom? You know… Rhys? H-he’s an Elite!”

Alex: "Wait, you mean that all this time you didn't put two and two together-?" ^^;
Amia: "Dear!" >.<
Alex: "What? We didn't hide it that hard from him, did we?"

Owen took it all in. Amia and Alex, his adoptive parents, were both there. They knew Rhys. And now, they were all going to see the Head, Anam… “Why’d you come here?”

“Wait, hang on.” Gahi tilted his huge head. “Yer mom’s a Gardevoir? How’s that work? I may not be much of a reader, but ain’t the mom usually the same species?!

Wait, it's biologically possible for parent species to not be the same as the mother outside of edge cases like Ditto breeding in this setting? Or is the idea that Owen's adopted?

Mispy bopped Gahi on the head with a vine. “Don’t ask that.”

“I was adopted,” Owen replied routinely.

Whelp, I suppose that answers that. Probably. Maybe. With how much of Owen's life is questionable as to how much is real, I suppose I shouldn't reflexively assume that the story of how he became Alex and Amia's child is fully accurate either.

Demitri sighed, rubbing his right tusk. “Sorry about Gahi.” After an awkward two seconds of silence, he added, “If it’s any help, er, we don’t know our real parents, either!”


- Owen blinks and does a double-take -
Owen: "Wait. All of us are adopted? What on earth are the odds of-?" .-.
Rhys: "Ahem. I believe that we had a meeting to get to right about now?"

“You don’t say.” He would normally be suspicious of them sharing that aspect with him, too, but there were bigger issues to deal with in his head. It was a struggle to triage all of the incoming questions he had swirling around his head.


Owen: "Like how on earth I'm going to get my tail flame back. That one's definitely front and center right now."
:ohnowen:


“Er, actually,” Amia said, addressing Owen’s question, “we came here because James came for us. He said that you’d be here soon, and we’d… want to see you. I think he was right.

Owen: "Okay, seriously. Does everyone from the Thousand Hearts know you two?! What next? Is Nevren just going to waltz in through the door-?"
:WHY:

Rhys: "Actually, now that you mention it..."
Owen: "Rhys, don't answer that, please. My head's spinning enough from everything I'm learning right now!" @.@

“Owen,” Alex said, “why did you touch the Orb? Why didn’t you tell us that—”

“Wait, you know about the Orb?” Owen asked.

Owen: "Okay, seriously, can we all take a step back and talk about how all of you apparently know what's going on right now-?"
Everyone Minus Team Alloy:
Image

Demitri: "I mean, we'll get there eventually, right? Since this is really starting to weird me out, too." .-.

“You may stop your questions, Owen.” A silhouette of a Decidueye rose from the ground in the form of a black fog, the rest of his colors arriving seconds later. “Anam is ready to see you. Rhys, keep a close eye on the entrance while we talk, yes?

“Of course.”

Oh, well that's not ominous at all there.
:copyka:


[ ]

“Is—is nobody going to point out that James just rose from the ground like s-some sort of phantom?” Owen asked. “H-he’s a Ghost Type, but he’s not…!” He followed them, but at this point, Owen wondered if he was still dead.

It might have made sense to drop in a paragraph of Owen freaking out about James taking a page from Giratina there, since I actually didn't get the vibe that he found that weird until he spoke up, and explicitly mentioning it might have teed that up a bit more.

... Now that I think about it, I kinda wonder if there should be a couple paragraphs to a similar effect interspersed here and there in this scene to better sell the idea of Owen being overwhelmed by a flood of new revelations and reeling from them a bit more.

They all entered Anam’s room. Rhys stayed at the back with his eyes closed, standing guard. He was constantly watching for auras. Owen, uneasy, thought about the Espurr from before. Was that what Rhys was looking for?

inb4 it's not, since Star did hint that Owen would have no shortage of enemies after touching the orb and going home.

Anam’s office was only about seven of the Goodra’s paces across. Upon entering, the left side was riddled with books covered in a permanent, hard layer of dry slime. It flaked off to the touch, but it had a net gain every time the Goodra contacted them. Owen spotted, at the far end of the shelf, an ancient-looking edition of the Book of Arceus, with a white cover that was faded and worn by time. Perhaps it was preserved only because of the layer of dried slime that encrusted it. He even spotted on an upper shelf a thick book titled The Unabridged Encyclopedia of Pokémon Abilities and Techniques, Seventh Edition.

Oh, since this story kicked off in 7th Gen, huh? Cute nod there. Though it makes me wonder if there's been an "Eighth" and "Ninth" Edition of this encyclopedia also written in this setting.

Owen, realizing that he was only familiar with the sixth edition, stared enviously at it. For a precious few seconds, he’d forgotten about his troubles, replaced by the petty thought of how much it would cost to buy one. Unfortunately, the feeling of leaves on his arm brought his current issue back to the forefront of his mind.

Yeah, feeling pretty good about there being an Eighth and Ninth edition of that Encyclopedia floating around somewhere in this setting.

The right side of the office had a giant board with many papers pinned all over. It seemed to be for the sake of planning and organizing. It looked incredibly chaotic; Owen couldn’t make out any pattern to where everything was placed.

It looks like the Pepe Silva meme right about now, doesn't it?

The middle of the room had a desk made of dark wood, polished either by a craftsperson or by Anam’s general moistness. It was covered in a stack of paper a quarter as tall as Owen’s head, with a small bottle of Bluk Berry concentrate to the side for ink. Behind the desk, to the back of the office, was a pool of water that Anam likely used to stay hydrated. It had its own current—the inflow came from the left, with the outflow going to the back.

Owen: "I'm just going to assume that it's not Anam's moistness that keeps the desk polished since it's not visibly rotting and also, I'd really rather not barf up another Bullet Seed right now." X(

Anam sat in this pool of water, nibbling at his fingers nervously. “Owen,” the Goodra said, frowning at the Grass-Charmander. “Rhys… is this what you wanted to happen?” When he got no reply, he continued. “Why? This might…”

“Hold on,” Owen said. “What’s going on? How come you guys are all… do you guys all know something I don’t?”

Alex: "Didn't we already acknowledge this like 10 cutaways ago?" ^^;
Owen: "That wasn't canon, okay?" >_>;

Of course they did.

“Hey, we’ve got the same problem,” Gahi said. “What’s going on?”

Mispy wrapped a vine around Gahi’s huge jaws to keep him quiet. Demitri remained silent. Perhaps if they just let them speak, all would become clear—or, as clear as they could make it, at least.

Gahi: "... Right, wasn't supposed to speak-" ._.;
Mispy: "(Gahi, you're doing it again...)" >.<

“Owen,” Rhys said, “There is something that you should know about… the Orbs, and their history."

[ ]

"For a long while, they have been guarded by Pokémon like you—those who have taken hold of the Orb, claiming its Core as their own," he explained. "These Pokémon are known as Guardians—ideally, there would be one for each Type. A Guardian of Grass, in other words, would be you.”

I kinda wonder if Rhys' line here would've been more effective in two parts. Since something about the structure of his dialogue already feels as if it's meant to have a natural pause that doesn't quite come through with all his dialogue together in one block.

Owen: "But I'm supposed to be a Fire-type-"
Rhys: "Not anymore, you're not."

“I’m… I’m the Grass Guardian.”

“Well, you are now, after taking the Orb.”

Kek. I see that that last cutaway gag wasn't far off from the truth.

[ ]

“Recently,” James said, “there has been an… increase in Orb-related activity. A Pokémon has figured out how to find them, somehow, and is now trying to gather them up."

[ ]

"We do not know how many she has, but she has at least one, due to the glow she gives off in the darkness," the Decidueye explained. "The Espurr, known as Rim. Is that correct, Rhys?”

Another spot where IMO adding a couple snippets of description would help transition things a bit more, especially by teeing up other characters getting involved through little bits of body language or just showing Owen reacting to the explanations he's receiving a bit more.

Also, James' dialogue is long enough that it merits mulling whether or not to break it up into two.

“Yes,” Rhys said. “I have tracked her for quite some time. We used to be familiar with one another, until our motivations… diverged. Now, she has an Orb within her, likely taken from a slain Guardian.”

Owen: "... I'm sorry, did you just say 'slain Guardian'? As in she's going to try and kill me, too?"
:uhhh:

Rhys: "Potentially, yes. You were warned about something like this on the other side, were you not?"

“S-slain?” Owen squeaked, his head feeling oddly icy with anxiety. “Wait, motivations? Wait, but what’s the point? Why does she want them? To be a little stronger?”

I love it when I anticipate where characters go with their reactions. Even if Owen wasn't quite as panicky as in the prior joke.

James shook his head. “Each extra Orb amplifies one’s power. To gather them all within one being? You could become something far greater than some of the highest Legendary Pokémon known to us. You could rival Arceus himself. At least… that is what you have gathered, Rhys, from your research?”

Okay, what on earth are those orbs anyways? Arceus plates in a modified form factor or something? Since being able to get souped-up and effectively become a new god sounds like quite the perk related to them.

“Yes,” Rhys said. “Gathering all of the Orbs will grant you… considerable power. You could distort reality itself. That’s already possible with one Orb and enough training—but every single Orb, gathered together, will exponentiate its range of influence to, quite possibly, the entire world. Perhaps further. This is why we need the Orbs to remain apart. Separate, and as far away as possible.”

Wait, is this going to turn out to be like Ether from XB2 all over again where it turns out that the best of the best wielders of it are effectively bringing the things they imagine into existence? Since I'm kinda getting those vibes when Rhys talks about the powers of these Orbs being able to distort reality right about now.

“In other words, dear,” Amia said, “we don’t want someone who wants that power… to actually have it. It could end, um… everything, dear.

My sus-o-meter for Star just shot up by several notches. Since why would she withhold this information from Owen if she didn't have ulterior motives?

“E-everything?” Owen said. “but… but if…! I mean… St—Star! Star, the Mew! Can’t she stop this?”

“She is of the spirit world,” Rhys said. “Something is holding them back from interfering with matters of the Orb in the world of the living. So, we are on our own.”

And casual revelation there that Rhys knows Star. Even if we got some strong hints that something like that was the case from the last chapter.

“Oh, great,” Owen mumbled, wondering what could possibly be holding her back.

I'm not convinced that removing that block would be a good thing, Owen...

Owen wasn’t sure if he was fully absorbing this information. All he knew that the vine writhing in his stomach was replaced by a cold lump. Why did Star trick him into touching this thing? Suddenly, worrying about getting mugged in a Dungeon felt a lot more desirable.

- An Aerodactyl struts by the door with a sour expression -
Jerry: "I'm right here, you know!" >_>;
Rhys: "Yeah, yeah, now get lost and go back to your duties as a Broken Heart. This doesn't concern you."
:typhNOsion:


“Okay,” Owen said. “So, the Orbs, and their Guardians—all this time, they’ve been kept separate, right? So,”—Owen briefly wondered if he should ask, but he had to, for his curiosity was not satiated—“what’s this have to do with all you guys?”

inb4 they're not all that separated anymore at the moment.

Owen didn’t like the amount of silence that filled the room then. He eyed them all. Anam, James, Rhys—his friends, and his parents. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi seemed totally lost. But everyone else in the room looked tense, the answer pressing against their lips or beak.

It was the Lucario who finally broke that silence. “There are three Guardians within this room.”

Yeah, I knew it. My money is on James being one of them because of his Giratina antics-

Wait, it's the other members of Team Alloy, isn't it? Since I distinctly remember that they were mentioned as having peculiar traits that shouldn't have been possible for their species and typings like Mispy's aura sensitivity.

Rhys was about to speak his next sentence—he didn’t even breathe between them. Yet, to Owen, there was an eternity’s worth of between that one and the next. Three guardians. He was one. His parents were here. Why were they here? He knew why.

“Owen, you are one of them. Heart Head Anam is the second. And the third…”

Oh, well never mind. Guess it is James who's the last guardian after all. Probably. Maybe.

No. No, no, no.

Amia lowered her head and clasped her hands together. “I’m sorry, Owen, but… so am I, dear. I’ve been the Fire Guardian for a very long time.”

... Didn't see that one coming. Though I wonder if there should've been more description to prime the audience towards the direction that Amia specifically was the third Guardian. Since I admittedly didn't connect the dots as to "... oh, the last guardian is mom or dad"

Perhaps I'm overthinking it, but something subtle like having him linger looking at them before having that flash of realization might have hammered it home a bit harder.

“M… Mom? But—but then what about… what about Dad?”

James sighed. “It is true. Guardians do not die of age. Unless they somehow lose their power, or are slain, they live forever. Therefore, they are sure to outlast all of their loved ones, who pass on to the spirit world.”

Oh, so it's "live until killed" immortality, huh? Though I wouldn't be so sure about "sure to outlast all their loved ones" unless they are heavily handicapped on coming back on things they ought to die from. Since... yeah, I don't think that Owen's exactly built like a tank right now in the present day.

Alex nodded. “The spirit world. That’s where I truly reside, Owen. I’ve… been dead, technically, for quite some time.”

Oh, so that's why he poofed in the prologue and then just magically came back.

Though that makes me wonder if there's some sort of cost or side effect to Pokémon from the Spirit World coming out into the mortal realm. Especially if most Pokémon from there are being held back by something.

Owen’s head spun, that icy feeling becoming a tingling buzz. He sat down in the middle of the room, covering his eyes. “H-hang on… y-you’re… but you’re right here! You’re right in front of me! You aren’t a spirit! You’re… alive! You’re alive!

inb4 Alex is "only mostly dead" all over again.

The Magmortar glanced at the Gardevoir, who nodded. Amia held her hand up; Alex suddenly disintegrated, becoming nothing more than a small, blue ember. It entered her hand. Gone.

Owen: "Oh my gods. Mom, what else have you been keeping from me?!"
:ohnowen:


“Guardians can summon spirits, dear,” Amia said. “It’s one of the very first techniques you will learn. And while those spirits are weak at first… they will eventually become solid, and mimic the living.”

Oh hey, it's like Yuna with her Soul Dew from PoV, except with less limitations. So do you two share the same patch of collective consciousness or something? :V

“I, too,” James said, “am a spirit. I suppose, in a sense, I have been by Anam’s side for longer than he has been a Guardian.”

... I suppose that explains his Giratina antics. Though wait, does that mean that Anam's the Ghost guardian, then? Since that would certainly explain a few of the party tricks I remember him doing in the GL crossover.

Owen was close to tears. His whole world was collapsing around him. His dad was a ghost. His mom was immortal. What’s next?

“Th-then,” Owen said, “what’s… going to happen to me?” he said. “If the Guardians have to be s-separated… th-then what’s…?”

A sign that you're going off on a grand adventure, kid. Whether or not you want to.

We will no longer be following that policy,” Rhys said before James could answer. “It would be cruel to separate you from your own mother. Additionally,” he paused, “now that it is apparent that Rim—the Espurr—has a means of tracking down Guardians, it is now a bad idea to keep the powers isolated for her to pick away one at a time. We should beat her at her own game—and gather the Guardians ourselves.”

Was about to post that Bubsy macro, but given that Amia and Anam are both competent enough fighters that Rim isn't reflexively targeting them for their orbs... yeah, probably a smart idea to not yeet Owen off to fend for himself in the boonies given that he's got a ways to go to climb the power scale ladder at this point in time.

I also kinda wonder if this paragraph really ought to be 2 + description in between, but that might be a stylistic nitpick on my end.

“We can use our cave!” Amia perked up. “Since the entire village is just my spirits, I could easily have the houses be more… vacant… for other Guardians!”

Image


I... didn't see that one coming, though I suppose I ought to be less surprised since of course Amia wouldn't want any properly living neighbors who could be extorted into giving away how to get into Hot Spot Cave.

The villagers, too?!” Owen cried. “B-but what about the Granny Arcanine down the road? O-or—or the Infernape that’s always repairing houses? Those kids that played by the—! They’re… they’re all dead?”

Amia: "... They're only mostly dead?"
:gardeshrug~1:

Owen: "Oh my gods. Mom, why would you just not tell me any of this?!"
:WHY:


“Their status doesn’t change the way they live,” Amia hastily soothed, trying to assure Owen. “They just… happen to be spirits. That’s all!”

Oh, so Amia's basically doing the rhetorical equivalent of:
Image


huh?

“Is that why I never see anybody eating?” Owen said. “Because… they don’t need to? D-Dad, you said you ate breakfast! You… you said so!” He realized that his father was no longer around. In some primal, irrational reflex, his eyes darted around to find him. His mother made another motion, summoning a blue ember. It materialized into his father. In a second wave of realization, Owen stumbled to his feet and staggered back.

Can't tell if the implication is that the food just got thrown out / eaten by someone else or if Alex needed "food" of a different sort. Guess we'll find out fast.

“I’m sorry that this is so much, Owen,” Alex said. “But. I promise, even though everything is different—it isn’t very different—if you… just look at it a certain way, it isn’t so bad! Don’t you think?”

Owen:
Image

Gahi: "(Yeesh, someone's not taking this well...)"

Owen’s mind was processing it all, yet processing none of it. Thoughts whirled so rapidly that nothing stuck. The cacophony in his head made everyone sound like distant echoes.

It was all fake. Fabrications. His mother. His father. All of Hot Spot Cave. It was all one great illusion. His whole past was built on an elaborate lie.

Oh, so Owen really is BSODing in live time right now, huh?

“I—I need to go,” Owen said. “I just—I need some air.”

It might have made sense to drop in a passing mention of Owen's general demeanor in the paragraph prior to this. I assume he's meant to be shaken right now, but the dialogue is ambiguous enough for it to be interpretable as frustration / anger.

“Owen, wait!” Anam said. The Charmander was trying to get out, weaving past the others. Mispy was the closet to him, but she didn’t get in the way. Rhys leaned forward to stop him, but Owen was too fast. The second Rhys’ muscles made the twitch to advance, Owen ran out, but skidded to halt only a few paces later.

Wew, someone's a slippery one. Though I suppose that the others aren't trying to stop Owen that aggressively right now. Which I suppose is probably for the best given that I can't imagine he'd react well to being forcibly restrained at the moment.

“Ah,” Alakazam Nevren greeted at the entryway. “Hello, Owen. That is an interesting fashion statement.”

Oh, well that would explain why Owen abruptly stopped.

Owen: "W-Wait, is Nevren just seeing me uncovered as a Grassy Charmander right now, or do I still have Rhys' gross cloak right now?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


Owen was quiet. “You… y-you know, too.”

“Hm? Oh, was I late?” Nevren said.

“Very,” Rhys said. “Why were you not here?

Because he was messing around with Swolax and doing heavens-knows-what with it that probably wasn't anything good.

“Well, unfortunately,” Nevren said, “I was busy handling the memories of all the townsfolk you recklessly rushed past with a Grass-Type Charmander, Rhys. Whatever disguise you used exposed his tail and legs quite a few times.”

:copyber:


Just how many people's memories does this guy nuke on a daily basis? And yeah, he totally has wiped Owen and the rest of Team Alloy before. On multiple occasions. I can already tell.

Demitri: "... I'm sorry, did he just say out loud that he wiped townsfolk's memories?"
:wtfuckle:

Mispy: "No, I... definitely heard that myself." ._.
Gahi: "Great, now I'm gonna be paranoid every time I'm having trouble remembering something."

“Ngh… was it truly that many?”

“Yes, quite that many,” Nevren nodded.

“Wait—what?” Owen said. “What do you mean?”

“I had to, ah, slightly modify the memories of those who saw you.”

>"""slightly modify"""

Sticker, sceptilisk,


Okay, Nevren.

“You can do that?” Owen asked.

“Not on my own, no,” Nevren said. “It was just an… invention of mine, thanks to some of Rhys’ help. We needed it in order to maintain Anam’s position, lest people realize that a Goodra has been the Hearts’ Head for centuries, let alone my existence alongside Rhys.”

Geez, Anam. Just how many skeletons do you have in that slimy closet of yours? .-.

“Hang on, you two are immortal, too? How is—”

inb4 those two are dead like Alex. Since in the absence of Orb weirdness or them somehow getting Guardian powers passed onto them by a third party, that would be the most straightforward explanation based off what we've seen thus far.

“Oy, what’s all that about?” Gahi spoke up.

“Ahh…” Nevren nodded. “We are. But for a different, but related, reason, so to speak.”

“Boy, that’s useful.”

Yeah, feeling pretty good about that prediction that they're from the Spirit World / undead like Alex.

Suddenly, his head was too full, and he didn’t want to ask more. He was done. He didn’t care anymore. His curiosity was satiated, and then bloated, and then force-fed. “I’m going.”

“Going?” Nevren said. “I’d recommend against it. That Espurr could appear at any moment, actually, and we wouldn’t want you to be—” Nevren touched Owen’s shoulder.

“I WANT TO GO!”

Amia: "Owen? Dear? Not to be a nag, but you should really strongly reconsider-"
Owen: "I. WANT. TO. GO!"
:unimpressed:


Rhys reached out to grab him, but Owen turned his head and spat a well-aimed flurry of seeds in his face. Some got in his eyes.

I can already hear the wincing reactions from Team Alloy there given that Owen spewed those up in an equivalent of blowing chunks a bit earlier.

Owen broke off in a sprint. Nevren immediately attempted to restrain him with a well-placed twist of the air—but the new Guardian was too clever and dodged in time, predicting the strike. He had too much experience with Psychic by now to let one connect so easily.

“Ahh…” Nevren watched him go. “Perhaps we should chase him.”

Rhys: "You can. I'm going to wash my eyes out and hope that I'll somehow feel clean again after this."
:squirpuke~1:


Rhys was already on it, a blur of blue and white with the help of an Extreme Speed. With his vision slightly impaired, he was slower than usual. Gahi ran, too, barely keeping up. Once they both got to the exit of the Heart, they were abruptly ensnared by vines that sprouted from the ground, completely blocking the entryway.

Agh—he used—what is this—a Grass variant of his Trap technique—” Rhys kicked through the first layer, but two more tangles blocked their way.

Whelp, scratch that for Rhys. Though Owen's techniques carry over to his new typing, huh? I'll admit that I hadn't expected that, much less for Owen to be able to wield it in its new form as seamlessly as he's doing here, but I'm guessing the Grass Orb is helping with that.

Nevren’s eyes glowed. He vanished from the office and appeared ahead, right by the stairs to the southern road, blocking Owen’s way. “Stop!” Nevren held a hand up. A clear barrier formed from his palm.

Okay, so I'm technically just realizing it now, but if you're coming down hard on Third Person Limited PoV, which IIRC your later chapters do, this and the bits up to Nevren seeing Owen bolt should either be done in their own scene or have their framing changed. Something to keep in mind if you do an eventual rewrite.

Owen ran straight into it, baring his fangs at Nevren. “Let me out!” he said, slamming his fist against the barrier. His heart was beating against the sides of his head.

“I can’t allow that, Owen,” Nevren said. “You will stay here while we sort things out.”

I mean, at least it's marginally more polite than just chucking a Sleep Seed at Owen and dragging him back in while dozing off? ^^;

“I said…” Owen’s vision was reddening again red. He pounded against the barrier. Nevren briefly glanced into his pocket, where something dim and gray shined. Meanwhile, the Charmander’s growls became deeper, defying his small stature. “Let… me… OUT!”

Ah yes, totally normal and not worrisome at all there.
:FearfulMeowth:


And then, a bright, white light enveloped Owen. It was a brilliant glow—one that surrounded all Pokémon that were in the process of ascending to their next stage in life. But for a brief instant during that evolution, there was a tinge of something else—a strange, blackish bolt. Owen roared from within the light, slamming his fist on the barrier once again. He didn’t have time to fully process his new height or more defined shoulders, or his new, lanky appearance as a Charmeleon. He only knew to attack again. His mouth opened wide and a thick vine slammed against Nevren’s barrier with an ethereal thud.

Oh wow, so he's already becoming a Grassmeleon in this chapter, huh? Somehow I was expecting things to take a bit longer, but I suppose that would explain the amount of art of it that we see.

“Ngh—” The feedback caused Nevren to fall backwards. The grassy Charmeleon—leaves for scales, and an even larger flower on his tail—ran past the Elite.

Rhys broke through the vines by the entrance, rushing past Nevren. A second set of vines erupted from the ground beneath him, ensnaring the Lucario yet again.

Nevren!” he hissed. “Why did you not pursue him?”

Nevren: "Look, let's see you do better with a splitting headache, alright?" >_>;

The Alakazam glanced down at his bag again, inspecting the gray badge. He shrugged. “Ah, he’s well beyond my scope,” Nevren said flatly, sitting up. “I suggest you chase him instead. I need to remain behind and modify the memories of the Pokémon he runs past again.”

I like how nonchalant this guy is about the idea of mind-wiping randos around Kilo Village. Totally a good sign of what sort of person he is.
:copyka2:


Rhys cursed Star’s name and advanced. He saw the green Charmeleon enter one of the many Waypoints in the long rows. Which one was it? He ran to where it was and read it to himself. “Calm Water Lake…” He cursed Arceus’ name next. “Why must he behave so childishly…?”

He supposed the revelations could have been done a bit more gradually… but he didn’t have to flee. Rhys stepped onto the Waypoint—and a flurry of vines wrapped around the metallic tile, blocking it completely.

Oh, we're going to find out what was going on with those freaky water ghosts in a bit, huh? (Though in light of what went down with this reveal, sounds like it's very likely the Water Orb.)

Owen didn’t know how long he had been running. He just kept going. From the building, to the Waypoint, to the Dungeon. Water splashed all over; the fact that he partially enjoyed the feeling of water on his leaves was so unsettling that he had to slow down. Snoozing Pokémon stared dumbly at Owen when he passed. A particularly irritable Krabby pinched Owen’s leg, but when it did, the limb burst into an angry, writing pair of vines. The sight alone frightened the Krabby enough to scuttle away, bubbling in terror. Owen tripped over his one working leg, staring in a new mixture of emotions—annoyance and terror.

Well that must be a sight to behold there. Though can all of Owen's limbs do that in his present state? .-.

“Normal—back to normal, you stupid—” He tried to focus, but his leg kept flailing, the vines splashing in protest against the watery Dungeon. He got onto his one working foot and hobbled forward, using his hands to drag himself along the walls. His right arm disintegrated next. He fell into the water.

Whelp, guess that confirms that there.

“P-please, please!” he cried, using his left hand to cover his eyes. But his claws were no longer there. His hands were no longer there. He gasped and stared at what they’d become—writhing tendrils covered in thorns, all the way up to his shoulders.

I mean, at least he's not barfing up more Bullet Seeds out of stress and horrified revulsion? ^^;

Owen screamed. He screamed and rolled onto his back, swinging his split arms against the rocks, creating small gashes in the sandstone. His tail and legs were gone. They, too, were ingraining themselves into the ground, into the walls, and Owen had no control over it. “Stop, stop, STOP!” Owen wailed. “PLEASE, STOP!”

Oh, he's rooting into the soil right now, huh? Though this is some quality body horror going on even without the consideration that Owen's flatly had a type change.
:FearfulMeowth:


Meditate, a voice said softly.

He kept swinging, trying to pull his arms together. He started by trying to get some feeling—some semblance of a feeling—of lifting his arms toward himself, to his chest. But the thorns and the vines just kept writhing and twisting ineffectually in the water like a dying insect. Meditate, Owen. Breathe.

Whelp, guess that's one way to tell that Rhys caught up with Owen there. I'm assuming that's going on through aura at the moment.

“H-help… someone…” Owen was nothing but a head and torso amid a tapestry of plant life.

Owen: "Oh my gods..."
:uhhh:

Voice: "Owen, listen to me. Deep breaths, deep breaths."

Close your eyes and breathe.

Owen whimpered, but he obeyed. He could hear the gurgling of the vines sloshing in the loose ground beneath him. Chaotic ripples of water brushed against his feathery leaves. It slowed down. His vines stopped moving.

Well, it's a start, at least. I guess we'll see how effective this is at unexploding Owen's tail and limbs pretty quick.

He took a slow, deep breath. His heart was still frantically beating away. His right arm involuntarily twitched; his eyes shot there, staring. It was back to normal. He panted, looking at the rest of him. The final few vines twisted themselves into a spiral, solidifying into a leg. He tentatively clenched his toes.

“Oh, Mew.” He covered his eyes, shaking. His breathing was uneven and trembling. He found the strength to stand back up. And he remained standing for a while, not advancing.

Owen: "Actually, wait. Why am I even saying this when it's literally Mew's fault that I'm like this right now?" >_>;

He was in the Dungeon already; there was no turning back. He had to keep going. And so, with step after careful step, the Charmeleon continued.

In the third segment, he spotted it: that same, strange wall, into the glowing labyrinth. It wasn’t repaired. He didn’t really know for sure if he was beyond the Dungeon’s influence yet. He’d left behind his bag, and therefore his Badge, at Rhys’ home. He was a bit glad for it, though. If he had his bag when he evolved, he might have ruined its contents from whatever happened in the Dungeon. He already had it ruined once in the fight with Aerodactyl. To ruin his spare one, too? Maybe that time, he would’ve lost all his precious items, like the Eviolite given to him by—

Ah yes, time for Owen to go full
:hisssssss:
about Nevren in live-time right about now.

“Nevren…” He thought about that gift. It would still be useful to him as a Charmeleon, with one more evolutionary step to take. He stared at his claws, pressing them together. It was inconvenient to go from four fingers to three. At least his hands were bigger. The horn on the back of his head was an odd addition, though. He felt like he could sense things even more thoroughly. He was sure he could even tell what was around the corner.

Oh, so Charmeleon's head horns have sonar/echolocative properties in this setting, huh? Don't think I've seen that one before, but it's an interesting touch and could potentially lead to neat moments.

He should’ve been ecstatic. He evolved. He finally evolved.

He just wished that his evolution was a bit happier than how it happened.

Owen: "I-I'm supposed to have red scales and a hearty flame on my tail. Not... this."
:grohno~1:


Someone knocked at Owen’s mental door. What an odd feeling—a thought that wasn’t his, calling for him to listen.

Owen? Owen, hello? It was the same voice that told him to meditate.

…Star?

:copyber:


Well, that's not Rhys there.

Star: "So? How's life outside the Spirit World, been holding up well?"
:MewWave:

Owen:
200w.gif

Star: "... That good, huh?" ^^;

What’s WRONG with you?! Star said, exasperated. You did the one thing I told you not to do!

Owen: "What's wrong with me?! YOU TRICKED ME INTO KILLING MYSELF AND TURNING INTO A PLANT!"
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:


C-c’mon, give me a break, they… they all just… everyone lied to me! Every single one! Mom’s immortal, Dad’s dead, turns out the leader of the world is part of some giant conspiracy, and two of my idols are in on it! And—and YOU! You forced me to do this! I didn’t even believe you existed, and now I find out you’re a LIAR!

Ah, so Owen is capable of getting angry at Star. Or at least for now.

E-excuse me?!

Owen raised his arms, mouthing his thoughts like a lunatic. He mimicked Star’s tone. Oh, Owen, it’s no big deal, just take this Orb or die! Not that hard a choice! Go on, be happy, turn your tail into a flower!

Owen slammed his hand against the wall and yelped. It exploded into more vines. After a second of panic, he closed his eyes, breathed slowly, and waited for it to go back to normal. He sighed, and a few seeds spilled from his throat; he choked for a few seconds and had to stop walking to clear his chest. At least that meditation turned out to be useful for keeping his body from falling apart.

Owen: "Seriously, why are you even talking to me right now?!" >_>;

Don’t talk to me, Owen finally growled. I need to cool off.

Owen could feel Star about to protest, but then she stopped herself. Relieved, he sighed. But now he just felt guilty.

Thanks, Owen said. I’ll… I’ll talk to you later, okay? Just… not now. I need to…

... Whatever mind juju Star is using to make Owen more controllable, it must be some seriously strong stuff given how quickly he wraps around from livid to "w-well, we could talk later". And he doesn't have the excuse of crushing on her unlike the last Char I saw with a comparable emotional turnaround.

Just be careful.

Owen left it at that. But his time alone with his thoughts lasted only seconds.

Turn back, turn back…!

Owen: "Whuh? Star? Is that you right now-?"

A pang of irritation hit Owen. He quietly advanced, head down.

Go away… run…!

Or become one of us…!

Owen: "... Right, that freaky place with all the water ghosts is here too. Almost forgot about that-"
- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Hey wait a minute... water ghosts? You don't think...?"

Owen said nothing. He kept walking. His claws pressed into his palms.

Do you have a death wish?

We’ll kill you!

Owen: "Honestly, considering how this day has been going, I'll take my chances." >_>;

Owen didn’t even feel afraid. Not after all this. Even if they were spirits, he could still sense their intentions in how they spoke. They wouldn’t try to hurt him. They were just trying to scare him away. And he was in no mood to be spooked by even more dead Pokémon.

After all, Owen thought bitterly, I’ve been with them all my life.

This isn’t a Dungeon anymo—

Oh, he's wandering into the Spirit World right about now, isn't he?

“I know!” Owen yelled. His voice echoed through the halls and returned to him. He shouted again. “I know!” He stomped his foot on the ground. “I know this isn’t a Dungeon, and I know you guys are spirits! I get it!” He turned around, addressing the glowing walls.

“The Water Guardian is here! I don’t care WHAT you are, okay?! I’m not here to fight! I can’t even be bothered to fight! You have no idea how rare that is with me! I’m a Guardian, too, and this was all kinda just thrown at me this morning! I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m tired, I’m confused, I’m just—”

His voice cracked. [ ]

I hate… everything right now, and I just want to talk to… to someone I don’t know, who’s… who’s in my situation, okay!?”

:sadwott~2:


And thus begins the grand tradition of this story using Owen as a chew toy... well, harder than he has been already. Even if I'm not fully sure how he reflexively knows that this is a good place to start looking for the Water Guardian since you'd think that based off Anam and Amia that Owen would need to consider the possibility that the Water Guardian isn't by the freaky spirit fountain thingy.

Though IMO, Owen's second paragraph probably works a bit better hacked up in pieces with the "His voice cracked." expanded a bit beyond what's there.

Owen sniffed, shaking his head. He stomped his foot again, much weaker this time. It was practically only a gentle step in place. “So just—shut up, quit the haunted caves act, and let me through! O… okay?”

His voice echoed, the only living thing in the room.

Owen: "I-Is that a maybe?"

When nobody responded, he gathered what energy he had left and shouted one last time. “Are you done?!”

The spirits only replied with silence, and then more silence when Owen spun to address the other half of his invisible crowd. Owen huffed and continued onward. The catharsis of finally screaming at something forced hot tears to well up, but he blinked them away. He refused to cry.

I mean, if you're blinking away tears, you're kinda crying already, but close enough. Also, Owen probably doesn't want to think too hard about "wait, my tears weren't like that before I became a Grassy Charmander".

For the rest of the long walk, not a single spirit bothered him, let alone attacked. His only encounter with one of the Watery spirits was a Swampert on the far end of the cavern’s many turns. Upon seeing Owen, the spirit meekly dove into the wall to avoid confrontation.

The Grass-Typed Charmeleon went through the rest of the cave without resistance. Slowly, his thoughts transitioned from hatred of the present to fear of the future.

Well, sounds like we're going to be meeting that Water Guardian pretty fast at this rate. Can't say I was expecting us to be here already.

Alright, I see that this is the chapter of the story that lives up to the (current) story summary on FFN since Owen basically had his entire life come down in the span of about 2 hours, tops and is understandably reeling from the shock of everything. I'm not sure how fast the story is going to pick up from here, but it's definitely a good shake-up moment since it more or less blows up the entire status quo of what we've seen in and around Kilo Village and gets the audience to wonder what else has been kept from the cast members.

In terms of criticisms, a fuller summary is in the line-by-lines. In general, I think it was pretty well put together, though I noticed a few paragraphs that struck me as likely working better if they were formatted as multiple ones since they were a bit long-winded to get through in their present formatting. I also felt that this chapter in particular, the description was a bit light, especially at times relating to character reactions. Like you can still kinda piece together their moods and stuff through their dialogue, but there were some moments here or there where stopping to show the emotional gears turning a bit more (which to their credits, other parts of the chapter like Owen's moment of internal crisis in the last scene have and use to strong effect) might make things stick a bit more.

I also wonder if the middle scene might have worked better as two since functionally it's an exposition and a pursuit scene, but meh. It's not that long in the grand scheme of things, and potential perspective quibbles aside, I thought it got what it needed to done.

Though I had fun with this chapter @Namohysip , even if a part of me is unsure just how hard and fast the story is going to pick up from here. I suppose that's something for me to look forward to next time, since after posting this review, there will be 4 more for me to knock out as part of your RE5 prize. And hey, this story already went to some places in the span of 8 numbered chapters, might as well see how much farther it goes in 3 and a Special Episode. :V
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
Thanks for the review, Vray! You had some good advice here, though I'd like to note that the chapter you just read was written five years ago and had only been revised two years ago. You may be treading a lot of old ground trying to nitpick delivery syntax, and it would probably be much easier on you to give broader reviews for earlier chapters altogether! My writing composition has since evolved well past what you see here. However...

I get sort of doing a bit of expository, but I would prefer if it was done in the actual dialogue rather than simply the narration.

I don't agree here. I have a balance of narration of thoughts and actual dialogue to balance out not having everyone being exposition fairies and only putting some here where organic. It's the prologue; not all of the information is going to be laid out at once, only backdrop, hence why it wasn't explained who Rhys is (that's for very soon) and so on.

Also, regarding the 'not your fault' thing, that was intentional. Not everyone is going to speak perfectly logical dialogue. Amia is trying to take the blame but couldn't quite shift it completely away from Alex despite trying to.

--

If you wind up patching in Tera types into this setting

Ha ha what are you talking about, Game Freak stole from ME. Again! I ALREADY had the type-shifting element-empowering appearance-changing item that is based off of an empowered crystal and causes things to glow! I can't believe how close these gimmicks are.

a part of me is unsure just how hard and fast the story is going to pick up from here.

From what I've observed of my own writing style, Hands of Creation has a pattern of downtime with buildup and then a rush of activity. Right now, you're in a "rush" phase. After a few chapters, things will calm down and characters will have a moment to breathe and process what happened.

Anyway, thanks for the reviews, you two! Time for the next chapter...
 
Chapter 150 - Into Thirds

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
Chapter 150 – Into Thirds

“. . . and with that, we’ll be heading to the Abyssal Sea now.”

“Wonderful. Good luck, Team Alloy.” Dialga nodded firmly and looked at Palkia. “Well, it seems that Team Alloy is making good time. They’re about two days ahead of schedule. Darkrai’s nightmares weren’t an obstacle for them at all.”

“Perhaps he’s gone soft,” Palkia said. “Ah, well. I’m sure they’re fine. Now then!” Palkia cheerily turned around. “Let’s inform the others and—hm, just where did my prototype Dungeon Gun go?”

“Your what?”

“Well, in the cosmic sense, it’s mine, though I suppose, technically, it’s not mine,” Palkia said. “You see, my Alakazam half, before he fled, had left behind schemati—”

“I don’t care what half made it, why does it exist?!”

Palkia raised a claw to answer, but when none came, he tapped his chin thoughtfully.

“Bloooo.”

Palkia perked up. “Hm?”

The source of the little noise was a tiny Charmander with a black and white flame. She held a device with strange crystals on the top containers and a small opening on the front.

“Ah.” Palkia dipped his paw into the air. It emerged from a small portal by the gun, plucking it from her grasp. She yelped in surprise and grasped where it had been, tearing up.

A second later, a squeaking toy of a tiny Rattata landed in front of her. She giggled, biting and squeezing it several times.

“Found it!” Palkia said cheerily to Dialga, who looked utterly horrified.

“Why in the world did they leave her under YOUR care?!”

“Oh, she isn’t under my care,” Palkia said. “Frankly I’m not sure how she got here.”

“And you didn’t think to tell anyone?!”

“I’m far too busy with my research, Dialga, you know this!”

“Did you not have a child in the human world?” Dialga chided. “How can you be so… so…”

“Now, that was thousands of years ago!” Palkia said. “Apparently. Memory of that era fuzzy. And my time as a Legend is still so very young! I’m not the god of child-rearing, I’m the god of space!”

“And yet here you are, wasting your time with… with…”

“Oh, this is hardly a waste,” Palkia said. “I tried to think of a satisfying answer for you, Dialga, but I suppose I’ll just give mine instead. This Dungeon Gun will save us, I assure you. With it, we can freely connect to the Voidlands, just as my other half can. And connect out all the same, without any risk of Void Shadows mucking up the passageway! Well, at first. We will need to close and reopen it, too.”

“I still don’t see the merit in this,” Dialga said. “I’m… going to take Charmander home. Who is supposed to be watching her?” He paused. “I’ll just ask. Yes, hello”—He activated the communicator—"Do you know who is taking care of Charmander today?”

“What’s wrong?” Owen’s voice came immediately.

“Ah—nothing’s wrong! We were just… wondering.”

“Charmander?” Brandon called next. “Oh, the new girl. That’s supposed to be Spice.”

“Excuse me? I haven’t seen her all day. I thought Anam was looking after her.”

“Anam is still resting, I think,” Leo called. “Didn’t Madeline take over?”

“How do you guys not know who is supposed to have Charmander?!”
Owen squeaked. “Haven’t even… come up with a name yet. Did she like any of the names suggested?”

“Not yet,”
Brandon said. “You know you can just pick one, right? Not like she cares.”

“Ahem,”
Barky interrupted. “Charmander was given to Madeline, who was busy, and gave her to Palkia to deliver back to Spice.”

“…Why would you give Palkia a child?”
Brandon asked.

“Don’t—make me come back there,” Owen said.

“Owen, calm down, she can handle herself.”

“She’s two! Days!”


“Ahh, now I remember!” Palkia exclaimed. “Madeline did hand her off to me to deliver to Spice! But then my test results chimed that they were done processing, so I looked them over. It must have slipped my mind!”

Silence.

“Please,” Owen said, “Please, just… bring her to Hot Spot. Mom can look after her. Don’t just… move her around everywhere, she’s too young for that.”

“I—I will. I’m sorry, Owen,” Dialga said hastily.

“Now, now. This is my responsibility,” Palkia said. “I’m feeling generous.” Palkia tilted his head, confused about the sudden concern. Really, was it that much of a problem? This strange Charmander was probably more powerful than they imagined. “Well, goodbye, for now, Dialga,” he said. “I have a baby to deliver.”

<><><>​

“Again, I’m very sorry,” Dialga’s voice echoed in the room.

“Oh, it’s not a problem, just me slowly realizing gods shouldn’t raise kids,” Spice echoed back. And as the communicators slowly quieted out into inactivity, Star leaned back against her bed and sighed.

She’d napped through the whole thing. Only through Barky did she realize what had happened to Owen, and what nearly had made everything go wrong.

Star turned her gaze to the space next to her bed, where Hecto wasn’t. A hundred bodies and he couldn’t spare even one for her. He’d become more and more distant ever since the rift between the Voidlands and Kilo had widened. He had said it was because his memories of that time had returned, or were returning.

They’d returned for her, too, of course. Hecto wasn’t of this world; he wasn’t of Barky’s creation at all. He’d been visiting to watch over something, and things had become… complicated afterward. After her rescue.

Star rolled in her bed for timeless moments until someone knocked on her door.

“Yeah?” Star called, sending a pulse of aura to read who it was. She had trouble recognizing the aura distinctly, which could only mean…

“Hey,” called Charmander Owen’s voice, though it was Eon. The door slid closed behind him, though he didn’t approach further.

“Eon?” Star asked, tilting her head. She crawled to the very edge of her cushions and frowned. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you supposed to be fighting with the Titan crowd?”

“The rift closed before I could get through,” Eon said ruefully. “I’m kinda lost. I had been sent over to message everyone and help Teleport them back, but I was too slow to get through myself. Turns out, Teleporting into the rift doesn’t work. I just appeared behind it.”

“Oh. Yeah, common mistake with Teleporting into a portal,” Star said. “Well, they have enough backup… If they can restore the rift or do something else to get you in… you’ll be fine.”

“Yeah…” Eon continued to stand awkwardly by the entrance.

“…So, you want to take a seat, or?”

“Oh—okay. Sorry. I didn’t really know if I was…”

“It’s okay,” Star said with an annoyed sigh. “Why does everyone treat me like I’m some…”

“It’s just, the way we saw you, and…”

“I’m fine,” Star lied. “Just find somewhere to sit. I’m feeling a little better. Had a nap, and I made amends with Owen.”

“You did?” Eon said. “So that actually—so you’re fine now? Or, no, not fine, but, just, between you two, I mean—”

“I don’t… want to talk about it too much. But it’s okay. We’re okay.” Star sighed. “Are you asking because you still want to talk to him?”

“I think… we’re okay. But I want to talk to him for real, and not over those communicator things. Everyone can hear it, and that’s awkward…”

“Yeah…”

Eon had finally settled against the wall, crossing his arms. And for a little while, they didn’t say anything to each other. It was a quiet moment where they both awkwardly stared at the walls. Star occasionally stole a glance at Eon, who happened to glance away when she did. He’d also transformed into another Mew, and Star flicked her ear.

“Hey,” she said, “do you remember being a Mew before?”

“Yeah, a little,” Eon said.

“I can’t remember what changed to turn you into a Ditto.”

“Oh.” Eon rubbed the back of his head. “The details are sort of foggy for me still, but I think it happened at the split.”

“Split. I wasn’t there for that… I might’ve been fighting somewhere else. First Dark War, right?”

Eon nodded. “I was fighting Emily.”

“Emily? Oh, geez, that’s, uh…”

“I took a Shadow Blast directly while transformed. I couldn’t replicate the sheer power, and ever since then, I think… it just broke my aura.”

Star winced. “Shadows tend to do that,” she said.

Eon sighed, curling his paws up. It was weird to hear her own voice, but the tone was always Eon’s. She knew how Eon spoke, and while they’d picked up a few vocal habits from each other, he was still distinct. People like Barky or Hecto or Owen would tell them apart.

“I don’t want to talk about it too much. Is that okay?” Eon asked.

“Oh—yeah, sure. Yeah.” Star mumbled a curse to herself. “Not like I can’t relate to that…”

Another silence settled in, but this one felt a little less awkward. It was relaxing to have that sort of company again.

“Can I ask you something?” Star asked.

“Sure.”

“Are you mad at me for bringing you here at all?” she asked.

His ear flicked and he rolled to face her. “…Like… two thousand years ago, you mean?”

“Or maybe even when I evolved Owen way back when to help you guys get free. That’s what put the targets on your back in the first place.”

That vacant stare from Eon suggested he had to think back to recall what she was talking about.

He smiled a little and rolled so he was facing the ceiling.

“That was too many lifetimes ago for me to dwell on it that way, Star. But… you let Owen and I stay together. You gave him that power, and we used it to stay together. And we owed it to you to save you from whatever that organization was doing to you after. If anything, I’d… be pretty upset at the way Barky decided to get his retribution for it, since that got us in the crossfire.

“You just felt bad afterward and tried to give us a second chance.”

“But… I was the careless one,” Star said, playing with her paws. “If I didn’t go into the land of mortals, making myself vulnerable, none of this would have happened.”

“Blaming yourself for getting caught?” Eon asked. “Barky was the one who actively decided to destroy an entire island for what a small group of people on it did. I still would resent him for that above everything. He’s the sort of wrathful Legend they talk about in stories meant to demonize them. You? You just wanted to help people more directly.”

“But that’s not how we’re supposed to act,” Star said.

“Who told you that?”

Star sighed. “It’s just… Look at what happens?” she evaded. “I don’t know. It’s just been on my mind. How, if we didn’t interfere at all, it would’ve—” She exhaled sharply. “Sorry. I’m dwelling. I’ve been dwelling for moons now, feels like. I… had nothing to do but dwell and be spiteful to Alexander’s cronies.” Her paws were shaking a little. She tried to hide it by pressing them against her sides.

“Star…”

Star sighed. “…How do you deal with it?” she finally asked. “With all that regret. You messed up, too, right?”

“Don’t give me a loaded question like that,” Eon said with a wince. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to… atone.”

She laughed genuinely at that. “Atone? How in the world can a god atone? Who do I atone to?”

Eon tilted his head. “…Your people,” he said. “I thought that was obvious.”

“W-well, yeah, totally,” Star mumbled back.

Eon stared at her, skeptical.

“It’s just, what I mean is, I thought that… like, you’d look for forgiveness from someone… but like, who are we held accountable to?” Star paused. “Well, I guess that’d be an Overseer, but—like, they don’t really step in unless things get super bad.”

Eon squinted. “Wait, but isn’t Hecto an Overseer thing?”

“…Things got bad.”

The false Mew winced and shook his head. “Okay,” he said. “Either way… I think it’s the same way a Pokémon Trainer would have to atone to their Pokémon if, you know, they messed up. In the human world, sure, humans had more authority, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still… you know, obligated to be good to their Pokémon. Otherwise, the Pokémon would rise against them. They’re stronger, even if humans are smarter.”

“So what, in this analogy, a Pokémon Trainer is like what I am to you all?”

“It’s not perfect, but, ehh…” Eon shrugged nervously. “Look, I’m just looking at it like how I’m looking at Owen. And I really… messed up being his Trainer. That’s all.”

“Yeah, Messed Up with a capital MU,” Star said.

Despite that, though, she did feel a little better about herself. She wasn’t alone in trying to ‘atone’ despite being the one people usually atoned toward. In the Books, at least… which she had yet to read.

She wondered how those Books depicted her…

“Alright,” Star finally sighed, sitting up. “I’m tired of staring at the ceiling feeling like garbage. Want to go somewhere?”

“Wh—uh?” Eon blinked. “What’re you talking about?”

“I dunno,” Star said. “I’m… tired of sitting around. I want to get moving.”

Always spontaneous, aren’t you? Star heard an echo of Barky. Something he’d told her a long time ago. Her tail flicked in defiance. Her spontaneity was what got her into trouble, but this time it was to help her.

“Okay. Um, what did you want to do?” Eon asked, floating a little higher from the ground.

“No idea. Nothing high pressure since I’m apparently ‘in a fragile state’ or whatever, but I dunno. Pick something!”

“…Seeing how Owen’s parents are doing?”

“Something else!”

“What’s wrong with that?” Eon asked. “…Oh, right.”

“Yeah, kinda on their naughty list,” Star said.

“What?”

“Never mind, how about—you know what?” Star balled up her fists and nodded. “Sure! Hot Spot. Wanna go now?”

“You’re really spontaneous, aren’t you?” Eon tittered.

Star suppressed the urge to contest that. Sure, it was true. But maybe some socializing was what she needed.

<><><>​

“All in favor of never letting Charmander near Palkia again?” Spice asked, raising her hand.

“Yeah!” Enet cheered, raising a paw. She didn’t seem to know what they were talking about.

“I… wouldn’t want her near any experiments, no,” Alex added, putting one of his smaller heads to his chin.

Hot Spot was a calming place for Spice. The heated caverns reminded her of Pyrock.

Crawling around where Owen used to sleep was that black-white flamed Charmander, who took a liking to the bedding. And since Owen wasn’t around, they figured he wouldn’t mind if she used it for the time being.

Though, Spice had more on her mind.

“Tomorrow we’ll be doing rounds of Kilo. Whole planet, just to find oddities and Dungeons to seal with Anam, except the useful ones we already have,” Spice said. “But I’m a little more worried about… us.”

Enet tilted her head, left ear twitching. “Us?” she asked.

“Yeah. The fact that we’re the same person. And apparently, one of the spirits in your Electric Orb right now is also the final third.”

“Mmmm.” Enet’s other ear twitched, and then the Zoroark snorted and paced into the other room.

Spice sighed. “What, did I bore you again?”

“She’s just wandering and exploring her old environment,” Alex said. “Zoroark often have whole territories that they guard. I heard stories that the strongest ones conjure illusions to protect their space, just like that. Amazing, don’t you think?”

“And probably just scary stories,” Spice dismissed. “I hope she’s focusing on finding that last fragment of… me. Otherwise… I don’t know.”

“Otherwise what, dear?” Amia slipped into the room. “Oh, you mean… being ‘whole’ again, like all the Legends?”

“I feel whole already,” Spice defended. “I would be a whole lot happier if I could just live my new life with Sugar and be done with all this. But according to Arceus Himself, that’s not how this works.”

Amia only frowned. “Just like everyone else… The same soul can’t stay apart forever. Eventually, you’ll reunite, right?”

“Yeah, by whose command? Didn’t sound like He was gonna force it…”

“Also true,” Alex said nervously. “I don’t know. But maybe—”

Heads turned to the entrance as everyone felt a powerful force approaching. “What’s that?” Amia whispered, her hair glowing with blue flames bubbling to the surface of her skin.

“Hold on, Amia,” Alex said. “It could be a friend.”

“I have bad memories of this power… who is this?” Amia said.

“He-ey!” Star called. “Sorry for the surprise visit!”

“Oh.” Alex sighed. “Amia, it’s just Star. You remember Star, don’t you?”

Amia was quiet and the flames didn’t die away. “I remember how she killed me, yes.”

“A-ah…” Alex nodded. “I’ll… talk to her.”

“Hold on. What if she’s here for some ulterior motive?” Amia asked. “Dear… I think you should withdraw for now.”

Alex winced, but obeyed, disappearing as a flurry of embers that returned to Amia.

“Hello?” Star called.

“Wait, did I miss something? I thought she was, like, one of the good gods,” Spice said.

Enet returned with armfuls of berries, which she set in front of Spice.

“What?”

“Food!” Enet said. “Feel better.”

“I feel fine.”

“Lie!” Enet accused.

“Enet, you should probably take Charmander and hide somewhere,” Amia said.

Enet tilted her head and picked up the food again, placing it in front of Amia this time. When the nearest berries to the Gardevoir began to sizzle, Enet crawled away and plucked Charmander from the bed, stuffing her in her mane. She waited in the corner of the room with a confused, anxious expression.

And Spice was in the middle of an awkward reunion. Wonderful.

“Star,” Amia greeted. “Why are you here?”

But then, she tensed even more, and that fire atop her head got a little hotter. The Gardevoir took a breath and nodded. “Eon, too. You’re both here?”

“Yeah, uh, I sort of… didn’t want to mope in my room anymore and I’m trying to seize the opportunity to just say hi,” Star said. “I know we’ve already been, like, around here and there for the meetings, but…”

“Yes, I remember that.”

There was an odd weight in Amia’s tone.

“I… just wanted to try to apologize. I’m sorry,” Star said. “…For everything that you remember, and everything you might not yet. I figured you’d react this way, so—if you want me to go, I will.”

Perhaps Amia would have agreed that she wanted Star gone. She never had the opportunity to reply, because Enet blurted, “Hi, Star!”

“Saaaa!” Charmander added, poking out of the fur just behind Enet’s head.

Amia’s hair was still on fire as the two Mew floated closer. Spice tried to figure out which was which. The more nervous one was probably Eon. The one taking the lead seemed more like how Star was trying to present herself.

Spice wasn’t sure what convinced Amia to relent, but the fire finally went out. “Just to talk?” she asked.

“Yeah. Again, I’m just… trying to take action. By talking, this time, instead of doing something totally stupid. And hasty. And probably put us all in this mess in the first place… I’m trying to do better. I don’t know what I can do to start, though. Do you, like… have any suggestions?”

“Suggestions?” Amia repeated, her cold tone melting a little. “Well… How are things with Owen? He left recently, and…”

“We’re doing better. We talked just before he left,” Star said. “I gave him my blessing. Literally and figuratively.”

“Oh, goodness—is that something you can take back?” Amia asked.

“Nope.” Star tapped her chin. “Once a god gives a blessing to someone, that’s it. It’s theirs. Means you have to be pretty selective about it, but Necrozma was like that.”

“Doesn’t Angelo have the same blessing from his parents?” Amia questioned.

“I, uh, I wasn’t as careful. Back then! I think Owen is a good choice! Right?”

“Of course he is!” Amia said with a laugh. “I have nothing but good thoughts about Owen!”

“H-ha, yeah.” Star nervously made eye contact with Spice, who finally remembered she wasn’t watching a play and was actually there.

“Uh, hi.”

“Hiii!” Charmander waved at Star, who waved back.

“Aww, hi, little guy!” Star greeted, but then glanced at the others, as if for permission. With great apprehension, Amia didn’t seem to object, so Star floated over and kept low. “What’s your name? I’m Mew Star!”

“Hiii!” Charmander said again, reaching out to her. “Muuu!”

“And part of your name is Charmander,” Star explained. “Can you say that for me, huh? Chaaar-maaan-derrr?”

“Muuu!”

Star giggled. “That’s my name!” she explained. Then, glancing at the others, she asked, “Have you come up with a name yet?”

“Not yet,” Amia said. “We’ve been thinking of one that she’d smile to. Small, silly tradition when thinking of new names that aren’t passed down…” She knelt by Enet, who crouched down in response. Charmander giggled and spat a few flames toward her; they were the same color as her tail’s flame.

“Wow, look at that,” Star whispered. “Hey, do those hurt you?”

“Yes, a little,” Amia admitted. “They aren’t normal flames, and they aren’t Dragon flames either.”

“Figured…”

“Muuu!” Charmander said again, grasping for Amia’s cheeks.

“Hmm?” Amia leaned forward and Charmander giggled, squeezing her pale skin before falling into Enet’s fur, swimming around it like some tall nest.

“Having fun with Enet, Charmander?” Amia asked.

“Fu-un!” Charmander repeated, which earned several gasps from the room.

“No way!” Amia whispered.

“Wow,” Star drifted forward.

“Words!” Enet cheered, digging through her mane to find her.

Amia rushed into the other room and fiddled with the silver badge they’d been given. “Hello? Hello, is this on?” she called.

“Yes, what’s wrong?” called Dialga from the other end.

“Mom?” Owen said.

“Oh?” Star drifted closer. “Isn’t Owen flying across the Voidlands right now?”

“As long as one Dungeon remains open, the connection should still work,” Owen said. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Charmander! She said her first word!”

“What?! What was it?!” Owen asked.

“Is something wrong, Owen?” Zena called, her voice cutting in and out.

The audio from their side went out, presumably as they conversed, and then Owen returned.

“What was the word?”

“It was ‘fun!’ Just a repeat of what Star was saying, she probably doesn’t know the word, but…”

“She’s learning so fast…”

“Hmm, I wonder why,”
Dialga chimed in. “That Charmander is certainly someone of many talents. But Xerneas said she was just born…”

“Oh, so serious!” Amia dismissed. “Um, that’s all, though. We’re still deciding on a name.”

“A name?” Palkia called over some whirring. “I’d love to—” There was a sharp explosion, and then his feed cut out.

“I’ll… take care of that later,” Dialga murmured.

“Owen, do you mind if we come up with some names?” Star asked.

“Oh, no, that’s fine. I kind of want to think, too, but… I’m not that good at names.”

“Hmm…”

Charmander squealed when she rolled out of Enet’s fur and into her arms. Enet tilted her head and sniffed the top of Charmander’s head, then set her down. She waddled her way to Amia next, falling onto her dress when she tried to lean down.

“Na-ame,” Charmander said.

“W-was that her?” Owen whispered. “That was! She really is talking!”

“Amazing,”
Zena also said.

“Hah, she’s a genius!” Gahi declared.

“More likely, it’s innate knowledge, somehow,” Mhynt said, “or some kind of… hm. I’m not sure. Could she be passively absorbing it…? Or just very good at mimicry?”

“Why is mimicry the
last option you thought of?” Demitri asked. “Babies mimic all the time!”

“Uh, I mean, I had to learn Mimic from—”

“Wrong Mimic, Owen.”
Mhynt sighed.

“Muuu!” Charmander declared again.

“Is he calling for you, Star?”

“I think so,” Star said with a little titter. “Hey, yep, that’s my name! Or, species I guess,” she added.

“Na-ame!” Charmander said again. “Muuu!”

“Yes!” Star said with a nod. “Good job, Charmander!”

“Muu!”

Spice tilted her head, tapping her chest’s gem in thought. “Hang on. Is she trying to tell us something?”

“Name is Mew!” Enet declared, which earned a positive squeal from Charmander.

“Well, uhh…” Star tittered. “I mean, that’d just get confusing, wouldn’t it?”

“Chaaarmaaaander… Mu!” Charmander declared again.

“Maybe if we spelled it differently?” Owen asked. “It is a little odd, but…”

Amia sighed. “Well, it’s what she likes,” she said. “Besides, it’s not like it’s a hard name to mistake.”

“I… I guess so,” Owen finally said. “Charmander Mu. You know… maybe if we spelled it a little different, I wouldn’t… be against it.”

“Sorry if, um… I made it awkward,” Star said.

“Mu!” Charmander declared.

Amia seemed a little disapproving, but she gave a smile anyway. “We’ve tried to get a name she’d like for a while, and you got it. Fair’s fair,” she said. “How does that name sound, hm? Mu?”

“Name Mu!” Charmander agreed, clapping before spitting more flames of bright darkness.

“Then Mu it is,” Amia said.

Spice smiled a little and glanced at Enet, who yipped at her. She winced and glanced away. Gods, were they going to be the same person one day?

“…By the way, Enet,” Spice said, “did you find who our third is?”

“Third?” Enet asked. “Oh! Mhm!”

Spice blinked. “Oh? Who?”

“Amelia!” Enet tapped her claws together. “Oh, but… Klent’s sad.”

“Klent…”

Star tilted her head. “What’s this about?” she asked. “Amelia’s… your third? The—oh, wait…” Star gasped. “Wait! How? I thought Klent… adopted her kinda recently? I mean, not recently by your standards, but—you know, like, way after Remi died. What’s up with that?”

Enet shrugged. “Just know. I feel it. She felt it.”

“Felt it… Yeah. Like Owen was sorta familiar.” Spice sighed. “Guess with the Voidlands’ open and its barrier breaking, the feelings and memories are manipulating us to feel a certain way. Not too happy about it, but…”

Amia nodded solemnly. “I’m sorry,” she said. “If you want to talk it out at all…”

“You know, I think we should,” Spice said as Mu began climbing into her lap, then reaching for her shoulders. Spice picked her up and let her crawl on top of her head. “Maybe tomorrow. Or tonight. Whatever works. Not now, I’m gonna just… I dunno. Talk to Leo.”

Enet’s ear flicked and she tilted her head. “Not now?”

“No. Later,” Spice evaded. “…Anyway, I think that’s enough socializing for me, yeah? I’ll be back.”

Not wanting to think about it anymore, she set Mu back in Enet’s mane and wandered out of Amia’s home.

She was just deferring it, she thought to herself.

But if she wanted to stay as “Spice,” what else was she supposed to do?

<><><>​

“Alexander,” Qitlan reported, stepping into his room.

“Mmmgh… Qitlan. You’re walking again.” The Hydreigon raised his main head out from his bed, but the rest of him was too lethargic to do much more.

It was a lot lonelier in the bedroom without Mhynt or someone else there, but that was only because that infernal lizard had stolen her away, along with everything else good that had been going on in Cipher City. He hadn’t even bothered with the State of the City, leaving it to his speakers to handle. They knew how to run it. Why did it matter? He had to focus on getting his power back.

“Yes. My strength is returning,” Qitlan said, though there was a noticeable limp in his gait, and faded parts of his body where he hadn’t properly healed. Not yet. Maybe some treatments would restore that, too. “I have some good news.”

“Always welcome,” Alexander said, grunting.

“We found Owen and know precisely where he’s going.” Qitlan smirked and placed the papers on a table for Alexander to look over later.

That gave him enough strength to rise from bed and float to him, grasping Qitlan by the shoulders. “Really? With certainty?”

“With sightings and aura signatures,” Qitlan replied, placing his fingers on Alexander’s smaller heads. He gripped them a little tightly, probably as a show of strength. He always liked that in Qitlan.

“Where?”

“The Abyssal Sea. They hid a boat there and it’s well-defended. They’re going to try to cross it and get to Zero Isle Void.”

Alexander’s grin widened further, and Qitlan’s had the same energy. He leaned a little closer as if to whisper a secret, but none came. Alexander simply replied, “Then we have a plan. How close are they? How fast is the ship?”

“They will likely get there in a day, and will cross the sea, depending on how well their sailing is done, in two weeks.” Qitlan pulled back. “In other words… a trivial matter for you to catch up if you want to take them where they are most vulnerable.”

“Yes… yes!” This was it. The break he finally needed to get Owen back. But then he paused. “And who is with him?”

“It seems he brought a small team. The Trio of Mind, their counterparts, some random Milotic, and… Mhynt.”

“More than enough of a reason to go,” Alexander said, giddy. “Prepare some countermeasures for me to take. And I will go. Alone. Anything else will slow me down and we won’t catch up.”

“You don’t want a backup crew?”

“Mmf, fine, but I will go ahead to give them a proper assault. I will be enough to sink their ship and let the sea claim the ones I don’t care about. Maybe we can get more Titans out of this…”

“Then I’ll do everything you want,” Qitlan said, “and… more. If you’d like, of course.”

“As much as you can,” Alexander said, shoving Qitlan away to get to work. “Wonderful as always, Qitlan.”

“Ah, Alexander!” Qitlan called. “I wondered if I could… come with you, as well?”

“No!” Alexander replied. “You’re far too valuable as a lead for the backup. I will see you when we have Mhynt and the others under my claws once more!”

He wasn’t sure why he sensed a bit of negativity from Qitlan just then, but he didn’t care. This was going to be it.

Owen, Mhynt—both would finally be in his grasp again. For good this time. Just two weeks to race against… and the power of Shadow and Radiance would be in his grasp.
 
Chapter 151 - Mu

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
Chapter 151 – Mu

Owen forgot what boats were. Kilo only had a single major landmass, after all, so the only real boats they had were for crossing large streams or going down long rivers where the ground was too hard to traverse.

And since Waypoints connected most of the world, his recent memories didn’t have much water travel at all. Though he did vaguely recall a few times during his Reincarnations under Eon, when his memories were scrambled, he had tried to swim across a lake or two. And died. A lot.

“Um, s-so, what happens if we fall overboard?” Demitri asked the Dhelmise boat captain at the front of the dock, which was more like a stone outcropping built firmly atop the still, black water.

“Well,” the living anchor whispered, “you die.”

Demitri squeaked.

“Well, no. I suppose that’s not true.”

Demitri relaxed.

“It claims your soul. Which, depending on who you talk to… ehh, you’ll be fine.”

Mispy picked Demitri up and hauled him onto the ship as he whimpered. Dhelmise let out a rattling, hollow hiss that Owen realized was supposed to be laughter.

They all loaded onto the ship and had a brief meet and greet with the skeleton crew that had been assigned to them. Owen was impressed, at first, with how much North Null had provided, but then he realized that if this was an investment into escaping the Voidlands—an investment that they’d already paid for in South Null in some ways—they’d probably dedicate anything to their cause.

Having a nice reputation helped them get what they needed.

“Here is your room. Enjoy,” rattled Dhelmise before floating down the dark hall. Had it not been for Owen’s flame, it would’ve been very hard to see under the deck. It was already vaguely dim when the red sky was above them…

Their accommodations were modest. A few packs of leaves that worked well as bedding for the time being, some kind of purple cotton, and a few tables. There was an empty, tiny room meant for storage of their supplies and a bucket of clean water in the corner for drinking.

And in the back of the room, set there like a piece of furniture, was the statue of Valle. The Shiftry rumbled in greeting and said nothing else, apparently content to be another fixture in the room.

“Not bad,” Owen remarked. “For something that’s going to be floating across the sea for weeks, I think that’s good. They said more supplies were deeper in the ship, right?”

Mispy nodded and planted Demitri on one of the beds, patting him on the head until he’d calmed down.

The Trio of Mind, meanwhile, floated around one another in a circle.

“Yeah, this’ll do,” Azelf said.

“Big enough for Azelf is big enough for us,” Mesprit added, nodding. “Maybe we can get some training in while here?”

“Training?” Owen asked.

“You know…” Mesprit gestured to Demitri. “Trying to sync up. So the… transition isn’t so bad.”

“Oh.” That still tightened Owen’s chest. “Right. Yeah, that’s fine.”

Zena brought a ribbon over Owen’s shoulder, having just entered. He leaned against her and sighed. “Sure. I’ll help however I can.”

Mhynt was the last to enter, pacing around the room as if to appraise it.

“I’m in the next room over,” she said. “Seems we have three rooms to share. I have the joy of picking who I’m going to be a spare for the pair.”

“Eh?” Gahi asked.

Mhynt gestured to Gahi, then Trina. Then she pointed between Demitri and Mispy. And finally, thumbed toward Owen and Zena.

“Oh.” Owen winced. “That, uh… I mean… that’s…”

Mhynt chuckled. “I’m not bothered by the pairs,” she said, “I suppose what’s more inconvenient is for all this ship space, we only have a few rooms. I suppose it wasn’t meant for a whole fleet…”

“Maybe we can find something extra somewhere,” Owen offered.

“We could also separate by boys and girls,” Mhynt hummed.

“Eh? Why?” Gahi asked. “that’s kinda a weird way ter split. How about we split by eh… Dragons, Psychics, ‘n Neither?”

“I’d like to sleep with Mispy, actually,” Demitri said.

Mhynt pinched her snout. “I regret bringing this up.”

“A-alright, everyone,” Owen said. “Let’s just… sort this out. And then we can get some training done.”

It was going to be a long couple of weeks.

<><><>​

Chunks of earth flew through the sky, tinged with the corrosive power of Shadows. Angelo screamed with fear before Phol picked him up and sprinted to the nearest Dungeon where Spice was waving for him to get along. Spice could only watch and hope that they could make it in time.

Emily roared behind them, charging another Shadow-tinged Aeroblast to rip the dirt from the ground. The Incineroar ran across one of the small valleys that had been formed by the last one, hoping that it would make Emily focus on the same path so he could jump out of it in time.

But, thankfully, Emily’s charge was too slow. Phol barely managed to get through the Dungeon’s barrier, and Spice entered last just to make sure they’d all made it.

“Okay,” Spice whispered. “I think… I think we’re safe. She won’t follow us here. Probably. We’re kinda living on a prayer that it’s not a coincidence she never enters Dungeons.”

Angelo heaved and collapsed on the ground. Phol, too, knelt and sighed.

“Everyone not dying?” Spice asked. “Better question, who’s dying?”

Angelo raised a paw.

“Who’s actually dying?”

Angelo’s paw flopped back into the dirt.

They seemed to have wound up in a forest dungeon of some kind. There was a foul smell in the air, acrid like something was dissolving, but not anything that had lived there.

“Where are we?” Phol asked. “Something about this place…”

“Yeah, I don’t like it either. But we were heading away from Milli Town, so that means…” Spice checked their map, then the sky, for whatever it was worth. “Swamp of Purity?”

“Isn’t one of Arceus’ disciples here?” Leo asked. “If that’s the case… we should be safe here. A small respite.”

Spice looked around. “Yeah… no Void Shadows, at least,” she murmured. “Still…”

“Something bothering you about here?” Phol asked.

“Yeah. I think we shouldn’t spend more time here than we have to.”

“I’ll trust your judgment.” Phol didn’t want to question whatever strange Dungeon instincts Spice had as a wraith. They had led the group well so far. That was all he could hope for.

Phol’s left ear twitched. He heard something in the bushes.

A moment later, a Charmander with black and white flames emerged from the bushes, wobbling forward.

“Strange. I wouldn’t expect a feral here,” Phol said.

“They’re definitely not native…”

Spice looked horrified. “Why in all of the heavens is Mu here?!”

“Muuu!”

“Wh-what?” Leo said. “Mu? You know this feral?”

“She looks feral because of her ‘father’ but that’s Mu! Owen’s kid!”

“Ahh!” Angelo squeaked. “You’re right! But how did she get here?!”

“There’s no way she wandered that far from home. This… this isn’t right.” Leo carefully approached Mu. “Hey, little Charmander. My name’s Leo.”

Mu looked at Leo but then stared at Spice.

“Hey, Mu. It’s alright,” she assured. “How’d you get here, huh?”

Mu approached and grabbed Leo’s fur in fistfuls, suddenly fascinated with its texture. She giggled and pulled a little harder until she was hiding inside.

“Ah! Er, sure, you can hide around if you like,” Leo said, glancing helplessly at the others. “I guess this means we’re going to head back a little early, huh?”

“We can’t just take a kid with us,” Spice agreed. “Let’s go back. Hang on, let me alert the others.” She pulled out their Communicator. “Hey, guys?! Why is Mu all the way in the Swamp of Purity?”

Silence. Then, Owen’s voice, “She’s WHAT?!”

“Who let Palkia look after her?”
Brandon’s voice came next.

Star next. “I swear to me, Palkia, I’m gonna—"

“Now, now, I had nothing to do with this!”

“Then explain how she’s across the planet!”

“Spatial anomaly?”

“That’s YOUR business!”

“…Hm, you’re right. How odd.”


“Okay, guys? Look,” Spice said, “I don’t care who did what, but we’re bringing her back. Keep an eye on her, alright? Leo, let’s go.”

“Um, small problem,” Leo said nervously, suddenly pulling up his fur and lifting his legs. There was no Mu to be found. “I can’t find her.”

Completely dumbfounded, Spice dropped the communicator.

<><><>​

“That was passable.” Diyem closed his eyes, studying the auras in front of him. “If you run into wraiths, you’ll at least know how to dodge their attacks. Let’s try again.”

The trainees groaned but complied as Diyem built up more shadowy energy over his shoulders.

The black-flamed Charmander exhaled through his nose and observed, but then movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He saw another Charmander staring at him, strongly resembling Owen, but her flame was—

“Excuse me,” Diyem said to the others. “You’ve earned your break after all. I’ll be back shortly.”

Walking somewhat quickly, Diyem approached Mu just as she went around the corner. “Mu!” he called.

“Muuu!” she replied, craning her head backward.

“How in the world did you get here?” Diyem growled.

She flinched, her eyes suddenly watering.

“Ngh—no. I’m not upset,” Diyem lied, calming himself. “I’m only worried. Are you okay?”

He didn’t even think she could understand him yet. But just an hour ago, Mu had been spotted in the Swamp of Purity. That was half a day away on the other side of the continent. And then she disappeared. Here?

He had to alert the others. “Come on, Mu. Let’s go see your family.”

Mu only stared.

“…Mu, we should go,” Diyem went on.

Oh no. He had to deal with a child.

How did one deal with a child?

“…Sweet… little… Charmander,” Diyem said, trying to remember how to smile, “wouldn’t you like some… candy?” Did kids like candy? Was that still true?

Mu crawled a little closer, staring upwards expectantly.

Diyem mentally cursed. Does she know the word candy? How? She’s barely a few days old!

“I have some,” Diyem said. “Come with me, yes?”

Mu continued to stare incredulously, but just as she was about to come within pickup distance, she stopped and looked at something behind Diyem.

“You know,” Hakk said, “I overheard some of that. Word of advice, O Lord of Darkness, but offering candy to a kid in a back alley if they follow you is probably the worst possible thing you could’ve said or done here.”

Diyem whirled back and pointed at the oversized, icy Sandslash. “And it’s rude to follow people,” he growled. “If I still had my powers, I would have blasted you.”

“Cute.” Hakk pointed behind Diyem. “She’s getting away.”

“Wh—”

Diyem caught her tail flame going around the corner. He flashed one final glare at Hakk before sprinting forward—but by the time he went around, there was no sign of her.

“What is this child,” Diyem asked, though it sounded more like a question.

“You get her?” Hakk called, following.

“No,” Diyem said. “She disappeared. Again.”

“That kid…” Hakk rubbed the back of his head. “We should at least warn the others.”

“Of course.” Marching down the alley again, the black-flame Charmander happened to glance Hakk’s way. He exhaled through his nose. “Nice Mark of Necrozma.”

Hakk spun around and covered his rear. “Get!” he shooed away.

As Diyem marched down the alleyway, he suddenly formed a theory. Considering what Mu was, both of Necrozma’s and his own powers, could she be…?

<><><>​

“Dungeon teleportation?” Palkia repeated. “Why, that sounds incredibly interesting. But what do you mean?”

“I believe Mu has an innate ability to manipulate Dungeon space. That includes the creation of tiny, temporary Dungeons for the sole purpose of traversal. If my theory is correct, she has visited the Voidlands, briefly, to go to other Dungeons, or to even emerge in totally new locations on Kilo.”


Diyem’s theory made enough sense, but the implications were staggering. A mere child had the instincts to create and destroy Dungeons? Owen glanced worriedly at the others, who had all gathered around the Communicator in their room—they’d ultimately decided to all share a single room, unable to decide how to split up.

“How do we test that?” Owen asked. “Better yet, how do we… you know… stop Mu from doing that? If she goes into the wrong Dungeon, she could get seriously hurt.”

“That’s what I want to figure out. As it stands, I don’t know. I can only hope she also inherited my command over Void Shadows so she can at least tell them to stay away. Right now, though, she is more a liability than a benefit. She is only a child.”

“I don’t like this,” Mhynt murmured while the communicator’s connection wasn’t sending anyone out. “I feel like we should have a dedicated team solely to make sure Mu is raised properly. If she wanders off and falls into Alexander’s hands accidentally, that could prove disastrous.”

“Ahh! I have an idea!” Palkia chimed in. “All I need is something of hers, like a loose scale, claw, baby tooth, really anything.”

“Well, she’s way too young to be losing teeth,” Owen said, “but maybe we can find some of that other stuff. Why exactly?”

“Well, the same reason my pearls help to guide spatial warping,” Palkia explained. “With some fine-tuning to their aura, I can probably make my Dungeon Gun resonate with the source and create a small pocket Dungeon right in front of them! It’s not too different from Waypoints, really…”

Letting Palkia try any kind of new experiment involving Mu had Owen’s flame sparking with anxiety. Palkia and Nevren weren’t too far removed from one another, and it felt like Palkia was always one unethical slip-up from becoming another horrible blight on nature.

But the alternative was having no idea how to find or keep Mu under control until she would be more conscientious of her apparent powers.

“Is this why Alexander wanted someone like her?” Demitri wondered aloud.

“Doubtless,” Mhynt said. “The ability to freely create Dungeons as he wants? Perfect control over Radiance and Shadow? He’d be unstoppable. Alexander’s current weakness is the light of the surface world. If he gains power over it… That’s it. He will have all he needs to become this world’s new god.”

“That’s always what it boils down to,” Owen said with a frustrated hum. “Everyone wants to be a god. The god. Take over from Necrozma, Star, Barky…”

“When it’s right there, I imagine those lusting for power would find the goal irresistible. Especially when it seems possible.” Mhynt crossed her arms. “This temporary world wasn’t made with many securities in mind. That’s why we’re in this problem in the first place.”

“We can talk philosophy about this later when we have the power to change it,” Uxie said telepathically. “Right now, we should focus our brain power on stopping Alexander altogether. And right now, that’s keeping Mu safe and out of Alexander’s clutches. Make sure he doesn’t even know she exists.”

“Right.” Owen sighed. “Uxie says we should just focus on one thing at a time. Keeping Mu out of Alexander’s hands, just in case. So, Palkia, if you can find a way that we can locate her if she runs off…”

“Of course! However, it just occurred to me, we do have a much easier solution, do we not?”

“We do?” Owen asked.

“Why not simply kill her?”

Cold silence answered, and Owen at first thought he’d misheard him. “What? we aren’t doing that! What’s wrong with you?”

“Now, I know it sounds unethical—”

“She’s a child! Not even that, a hatchling!”

“Indeed! And also one that, should Alexander get a hold of—”

“We’re not hurting her.”

“You know, Owen, this is very reminiscent of when you decided to save the world and instead doomed it to the Voidlands.”

“I… that’s not…” Owen was shaking his head, but he knew it wasn’t coming across properly.

“Come now, Owen. Death hardly means anything to us. Take her spirit into the Fire Core so she can ‘live’ in safety. You were quite happy as a Fire Spirit for a time, weren’t you?”

“I don’t care how you frame it. We aren’t hurting her. Okay? End of story,” Owen said, flame sparking. Demitri fidgeted nervously. Mispy seemed contemplative but didn’t seem to object to either of them.

Palkia sighed on his end of the communicator. “Well, I suppose I’ll take this as another challenge. We’ll go with the body part idea.”

“We can probably get you some scales or trim her claws,” Owen said. “…When we get her. Why?”

“Silver linings! You know, I was considering putting these into tiles for better portability, perhaps dubbing them… Dungeon-Creating-and-Entering Cards.”

“Find a catchier title,” Mhynt suggested.

“Ahh, marketability. A good point, Mhynt.”

Owen rolled his eyes and checked on how the others were feeling. Demitri seemed nervous, the way his claws kept clenching and unclenching against his palms. Mispy was comforting him. The Trio of Mind was equally pensive. Trina was horrified for some reason, looking at Gahi, who was—

“Found Mu,” Owen suddenly blurted.

“Eh?” Gahi followed Owen’s gaze to just behind him, where Mu was currently playing with a loose piece of wood in the floorboards.

“You’re kidding,” Diyem muttered.

“Heyyyy Mu,” Owen said carefully, creeping a little closer. “You feeling alright?”

“Muuu.”

The little Charmander was fine and normal. The only concerning part was that she was there at all. How in the world did she get to the middle of the Abyssal Sea so effortlessly? What happened if she misfired and appeared in the water?!

“Palkia, please get that portal shooting gun ready as soon as possible,” Owen whispered.

“Understood. A rush job. That’s the sort of challenge I can appreciate.”

“I suppose, while she’s here, we can at least keep her entertained,” Mhynt suggested.

“It’s at least a change of pace,” Trina agreed. “Maybe we can have him climb on top of Valle.”

Valle provided no objections. That usually meant he didn’t mind.

Still, Owen wanted to make sure. “Valle, is that alright? You, uh… haven’t been talking much.”

“I am meditating. But Mu can do as she likes. As long as she does not break parts of me off again.”

The stony Shiftry puzzled Owen. Was he at all worried about meeting his immortal half?

“By the way, how have you been doing?” Owen asked.

Gahi started to play with Mu, picking her up under the arms and gently tossing her in the air. Mu laughed, and there was an uncharacteristically tranquil smile on Gahi’s face.

Valle answered, “I have been fine. I feel that I am getting close to someone important to me. Myself, I believe.”

“I suppose this takes ‘not forgetting about Number One’ quite literally,” Mhynt hummed.

Mu climbed to the top of Valle’s head and raised her arms. “Yeah!” she declared.

“Y-yeah,” Owen echoed. “That’s… another word!”

“Yeah!” Mu declared again.

“Did we ever say that in front of her?” Mhynt wondered aloud. “Strange…”

“Oh!” Demitri perked up. “We should start teaching her words and phrases!”

Gahi instantly looked bored and glanced at Azelf.

“Well, while y’do that,” Gahi said, “we’re gonna go flyin’ around again, do some scoutin’.”

“Don’t get close to the water!” Owen warned.

But as Gahi and Azelf left, Demitri and the others took the time to entertain their new passenger for however long she wished to remain.

<><><>​

After the scare with Mu, Spice decided to only go a little deeper into the Swamp of Purity to send a message over to Ghrelle. Angelo and the others seemed to be feeling sick from the fumes in the air, so she told them to wait near the entrance while she delved deeper on her own. She’d return quickly at any sign of trouble.

She knew from Jerry that simply going a little deeper was a risk. The moment she saw any actual puddles of sludge, she’d turn back. Apparently those were the lethal parts.

It had been a while since she’d been alone with her thoughts. At night, when they were camping out on their way to the next Waypoint location, it wasn’t the same. She could always hear Leo snoozing or Angelo whimpering in the cold. She’d always have someone’s furry body nearby reminding her that others were nearby.

But now it was just her. Someone who wasn’t even a whole person, all alone. She kept thinking about Enet, the feral who was also a fragment of herself. She thought about that Lilligant swimming within the Zoroark’s spirit. Did that mean she was outnumbered, two to one on components?

And then a new thought echoed.

Was there a way she could persist? Could she escape, run, or go missing? Or could she dominate, and the other two would just be echoes of her ego?

Was that an evil thought? Or was that survival?

A breeze from the Dungeon clouded her vision with purple smog. She grumbled and ducked her head, not trusting even the otherwise benign fumes for her Poison body.

“Is something wrooong?”

Spice exhaled a long curse and looked to her right. “You scared me,” she said dumbly.

A Gastrodon made entirely of purple sludge was staring at her. She wasn’t sure, but maybe he was smiling.

“Do you wanna see Ghrelle? She’s busy singing. I don’t think you want to see her today.”

“Right. Well, sorry if I look off. I can’t really help it.”

“It’s okay. Arceus told us about you. You’re safe here.”

“Right…”

“My name is Ano,” the Gastrodon said. “You’re…?”

“Spice.”

“How come you have a creepy voice?” Ano asked. “Oh, oh, wait! Let me do it! Ooooh, we are one, we are powerful!”

Spice flinched. “How in Kilo are you doing that?”

“Oh, I’m just having all the other spirits talk with me. It’s fun! How do you do it?”

“I… I don’t know. I don’t know how to turn it off.”

“Really? It just sounds like a bunch of your voices saying the same thing at once. Just make it so only one voice talks!”

“Oh, sure, ‘just’ make it do that. Like I haven’t tried.”

“Can I help?”

She didn’t want to trust that. “I’ll figure it out myself. Thanks, though. I… appreciate the offer.”

Ano tilted his head, part of his face slipping off and onto the ground. More of his face grew back to replace it.

Spice noticed the eye that fell off was still staring at her.

“What’s bothering you?” Ano asked.

Aside from… you? Spice winced and answered, “It’s sort of complicated.”

“I can try complicated!”

This was ridiculous. Still… Ano wasn’t someone of consequence. He wasn’t going to blab to her friends. Maybe this could help. “Have you ever been worried that one day, you’ll wake up as… not who you used to be?”

“Hmm…” Ano’s three eyes closed. The Gastrodon made a bubbling, gurgling noise. “Nope! Usually, other people wake up as part of me!”

“Oh, wonderful. Why?”

Ano sank into the ground, and soon, several little eyes emerged from his slime, little heads and limbs half-formed and creeping out. A few waved at Spice. Others seemed to be listless and trying to sink back inside.

Spice regretted coming here.

“The Poison Orb welcomes every lost soul and molds them into something better. And when they want to go out, they travel with me!” Ano cheerfully explained. “That’s the purpose of a Guardian, after all, even if I’m just the lead spirit.”

Guardians, spirits, all of this went way over Spice’s head. It all just sounded like creepy power-mongering using the ex-life force of others to her. Even Owen, her presumed father, was some kind of soul-harvester who got stronger the more people were stuffed inside his aura.

“How come?” Ano asked. “Are you scared of becoming something else?”

But would he understand? Well, there was no harm in asking. “I’m a piece of somebody else. There are three of us, and I’m just one. None of us are the same as the original.”

“Oh.” Ano tilted his head. “Ha ha! That’s funny. You sound like the legend of Reshiram, Zekrom, and Kyurem! Except Lord Arceus said that the three weren’t one original being, only that they can become one if they need to.”

“I heard of that legend. I’m surprised it isn’t true, though.” In part, at least.

“Maybe it could be true,” Ano said. “Lord Arceus told us about it. That there is another one in another world that is like that story, and he based the ones here off of that.”

So he spoke about that other world to Ghrelle, did he? An interesting little tidbit, Spice thought.

“Well, I guess it’s kind of like that. But I don’t remember ever being this original, whole person. And I’m worried that when I do return, I won’t… be me anymore. You get it? It feels… almost worse than dying. I’m just… gone. ‘Spice’ is gone.”

“Hmm…” Ano’s eyes closed again. “Mister Rhys and Lord Dialga were the same way. But I think Mister Rhys is still in there. He’s just quieter.”

“Quieter…”

“Mhm. But no memory is ever truly gone. It’ll be okay!” His eyes warped in a way like he was trying to smile.

“What if I don’t want to be quiet?” Spice asked. “I just want to live.”

“I think you’re gonna live,” Ano said. “You know what’s funny about becoming one? You’re scared of it up until it happens. After that, you always always always realize it wasn’t so bad.”

“Yeah, because the person waking up doesn’t realize what’s gone,” Spice growled.

“Huh? But that person is all of the persons!”

Spice growled. This was going nowhere. “I guess so,” she dismissed. “Anyway, I need to report to the others. Thanks for the talk.”

“Okay! Bye!” He and the many misshapen limbs waved at Spice as she headed for the outer parts of the Swamp of Purity.

Afraid until after it happens. What kind of advice was that?

Do you want to persist?

Spice halted. Ano was already gone. He must have slimed his way to the deeper parts of the Dungeon again.

“Hello?” Spice called.

Do you want to be the survivor?

The voice came from nowhere in particular. But she could only pray that it was not coming from within. It felt like it was coming from somewhere else, but she couldn’t get an identity on the words. No voice, no tone. Just… thoughts. Thoughts that weren’t hers, being taped onto the front of her skull. She felt a need to scrape it off like an itch, but when she scratched at her forehead, nothing happened.

If you kill them, ‘you’ will dominate.

“Whatever,”
she growled back. Marching further out of the Dungeon’s depths, the itch in her forehead began to subside.

But it never completely went away.

<><><>​

“I’ve done it!” Palkia said. “It took a little while, but the Mu-Dungeon-Gun is complete! Now no matter where she is, I can make a Dungeon right in front of her, and poof! Mu can be found!”

It had been a few days. By some fortune, Palkia’s focus had been on something not diabolical or terrible for the future of the world. A “Dungeon gun” was a horrible idea, but at least this time it was for keeping someone safe. Maybe it would be useful later, right?

“Great, Palkia,” Owen said. “I guess if you ever run into some trouble finding her, you can shoot that and grab her. Can you give some of that to others who care for her on Kilo?”

“Gladly! I’m working on making it very portable. All I had to do was tap into the spiritual pulse of Kilo and how it seems to resonate with the ethereal plane, which in turn reaches over to the Voidlands opposite to Kilo on a cosmological scale. Fascinatingly, I can then use the portal created by this gun as a medium to go instantly between the two planes. There also seems to be a small pocket between the two if I configure the settings properly… but that is only for traversal across the same plane, using the opposite as a go-between. How fascinating…”

He had no idea what any of that was about.

“In other words,” Mhynt translated, palm to the ceiling, “with the proper configuration, you can make a tiny Dungeon that instantly traverses into the Voidlands or a larger Dungeon that can go from one spot of Kilo to another.”

“Yes! Precisely! Now I just need a name for these things. Being able to travel anywhere by entering a portal… Travelgun? Dungeon? Gungeon? Entrance Gun?”

“Is it really just a gun that shoots Dungeons?” Demitri asked.

“Well, the original models were, but it’s a bit of an artifact title now. To make it more configurable and… stable… I’ve had to convert it to a piecewise tile format. Like specialized cards that can channel the world’s energy a certain way.”

“Cards?” Demitri leaned back, tapping his tusks. “I guess if that’s the case, you’d probably want to call them Dungeon Cards, right?”

Zena raised a ribbon despite Palkia not being able to see it through the communicator. “Entry Cards?” she asked. “After all, that’s what they are, and they’re a play on those tickets used to see plays in Kilo Village.”

“Hmm, I’ve yet to see one,” Trina hummed while glancing down the hall. “Gahi has been out for a while…”

“Entry Cards sounds too mundane,” Mesprit complained.

“Hmm… hmmmm… But it does seem closer.”

“Does this matter?” Mispy finally asked, her eyes drooping from boredom.

Owen tittered, about to speak, when Palkia cut him off.

“Of course it matters! It’s a matter of marketability! I can’t continue my research if I don’t get proper funding for more research, after all.”

“Fund—you’re Palkia!

“Yes! And Palkia needs money,” Palkia explained. “I don’t make gold. I control space!”

“Can’t you just, like, perform a divine miracle or something?” Owen asked. “Get paid to transport a bunch of supplies instantly every so often and you’ll have all the funding you need.”

Palkia didn’t reply. Team Alloy exchanged looks with one another.

“I hadn’t considered that,” Palkia finally said.

“Seriously?” Mispy sighed. Uxie flopped onto Mispy’s vines, defeated.

“I simply assumed my funding should come from successful research. I hadn’t considered other ways to make a profit. Hmm. Hmm, hmm. Yes. I’ll consider—ENTERCARDS!”

The shout was enough to startle Demitri into kicking Mesprit into the wooden wall. “Ah, sorry!”

Mesprit seemed unharmed, though the wall itself was a different story.

“Entercards?” Mhynt asked. “That’s an awful name.”

“Well, I personally think it’s quite catchy. Yes, I’m certain it will become popular! New research funding, here I come!”

Mispy groaned and covered her eyes, but then her antennae twitched and she perked up. Owen followed her eyes to the hallway and then his Perceive caught Gahi entering their range at alarming speeds.

He appeared next to the entrance, a gust of wind following him. “We got a problem.”

“Uh?” Owen stood up, trying to get numbness out of his legs, and followed Gahi out of the ship and to the deck. The rest followed.

Gahi flew high into the red sky, but then suddenly ducked down with a “Yeow!” when he narrowly dodged a sizzling beam of dark energy.

Ten days out at sea, with a few more days to go, in the middle of the seemingly endless black ocean, it dawned on Owen the sheer weight of what that isolation could mean.

Especially when they could see Alexander flying toward the ship with only minutes between them.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Heya, took a while to get this together, but I’m back for another review. I'd let things get away from me a bit, so I figured that getting back into the swing on a shorter chapter was for the best.

So let’s pick things right up with…

Chapter 9

No wild Pokémon resided within these glowing caves. Unsurprising. There wasn’t much food, and it was on a strange offshoot of a Dungeon. Not the easiest place to find, let alone inhabit. Even if they showed up, perhaps the spirits would frighten them away.

Gee, ya think? Since they were pretty effective on the local townies from the last we saw of them.

Owen walked the rest of the way through the cave in silence, brooding over the morning’s events, dwelling on how his life—everything from his parents to his idols to his home—had been turned inside-out. He saw his father evaporate into nothing but a little blue ember, and then be recreated like it was nothing. How old were they? Why did they decide to adopt him? Why did they decide to adopt anyone? What if everybody in Amia’s Orb were all past kids? Was there a secret graveyard of Amia’s countless dead children?

There's totally a secret graveyard full of the bones of Amia's dead adopted kids, isn't there?

Owen: "Mother of Mew, has anything about my life not been a giant lie of some sort?!"
:ohnowen:


Owen shivered. No, that was ridiculous. He’d’ve found something like that. Unless they burned the bodies in the lava river. Wait! But I play in that river all the time! Was I playing in dead bodies?! Owen shook his head furiously. No. No! Mom’s not like that. Maybe they really are just villagers from an ancient time.

[ ] Why would Amia lie with another lie? Owen’s pace wavered. [ ]

If I was bathing in dead Pokémon, I’m running away.

Wait, but wouldn't the bodies of the dead Pokémon have been reduced to ashes / vaporized in lava? Like I kinda get what Owen's going for here, but it'd likely have made more sense to get grossed out over some sort of aftereffect of burning up those bodies. e.x. if the banks of the lava river had ash drifts or suspicious white sand, it could trigger the "oh my god, I was getting dead people all over myself" lightswitch in Owen's head.

Also, I kinda feel that that last part of the paragraph works better converted into a slightly elongated paragraph that emphasizes that "... waaaaait a minute" plus disgust at the end a bit more that similarly would make Owen's "I'm running away from home" thought a bit funnier at the end. Basically letting things marinate a bit more for the cringe comedy.

You already did that, Star quipped.

Owen: "Oh my gods."
:squirpuke~1:

Star: "Probably for the best that we didn't get too into how many times you've done it, really." ^^;

Owen jolted, losing his pace. H-hey! Don’t do that!

Hey, c’mon, I’m bros with your spirits. They’ll let me eavesdrop if they want me to.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNHooTszyW4


Wait, Owen has spirits associated with him already?

Ugh, eavesdrop silently, please, Owen said. You know what? Can I block you?

I’m not telling.

Translation: Owen can, but Star would rather that Owen didn't know how to do that.

So I can, Owen said, squeezing his eyes tight.

H-hey, wait! Owen, no fair, I was just—

Should've just told him 'no' if you didn't want him putting two and two together, Star.

Silence. Owen deflated, relieved.

... Wait, so closing your eyes is sufficient to block out eavesdroppers in the vein of Star? Or did something deeper happen here?

Since I assume that Owen cut her off from the way that her line just abruptly stops, but it's not really communicated what happens here or Owen having a realization that "huh, I did cut her off".

Something shined ahead. Latching onto anything to distract himself, he quickened his pace.

Oh right, Owen doesn't have a tail fire anymore for illumination. Though just how dark is this place at the moment? Since I didn't think it was that dark from the way the first paragraph described these caves as "glowing".

While the cave rocks in general were still a soft blue even in otherwise complete darkness, this shining was a smidge brighter than the rest. That must’ve been where the Guardian was waiting for him. Still, the darkness unnerved him. Owen wasn’t sure why. His tail swished nervously, and that’s when he realized why.

This was the first time in all his life that he was in truly in the dark. His flame was gone, replaced by a useless flower. The Charmeleon pulled his tail around to inspect it. He resented the fact that they were even bigger than before. The daffodil was large enough that he could stick his snout in it.

Oh, so that's how dark these caves are right now. Though I kinda wonder if the darkness bit should've been frontloaded earlier in the chapter a tad with his realization of "... right, no tail flame" being kept here.

Also, IMO this paragraph is long enough that you should strongly consider dividing it up in some capacity. I gave a suggestion for what I felt was a fairly natural dividing point.

I wish it could glow a little or something, Owen thought.

- blinks -
... Wait, can it? Since bioluminesence is a thing, and Solar Beam is a Grass-type move, so...

The flower suddenly lit up.

Yeek—!”

Owen threw his tail, but the light persisted. He swung it back around. It wasn’t quite as bright as his flame, but it would do. It was, perhaps, the first good thing to happen to him that day.

Should've known, really. Though this feels like a bit that would work a bit better with the dialogue and description bits each in their own paragraph to make them all stand out a little more.

He then eyed the glow at the end of the tunnel, reminded of why he was there. He was starting to get second thoughts about all this. After enough time walking in silence, and all that walking in the gentle darkness, he wondered if running away was really the best idea.

No, of course it wasn’t. Still, they all lied to him! His flower brightened with a flicker of rage, but then dimmed.

This feels like another paragraph that might work better in two. Though I see that Owen's bioluminesence shades after how his fire pre-transformation worked.

No. He got this far. He may as well see it through. Star didn’t protest him actually seeing the Guardian, after all. Perhaps this one was friendly, too, just like Amia and Anam. The Water holder was mere steps away; the Grass-Typed Charmeleon advanced.

Way to jinx yourself in live-time, Owen. Since this is more or less a poster child of "things that you don't do in stories"
:copyber:


It was a large chamber with a rough, rocky floor. If Owen had to make a judgement on the size, it was around the same diameter as Hot Spot Square—at a full sprint, it would take Owen thirty seconds to go all the way across. Now that he thought about it, it might take less time, now that his leg span was so much longer.

Every sound Owen made echoed for what felt like eternity. Self-conscious of his own noises, he tried to walk as carefully as he could. Despite this, the gentle ticking of his claws on rock remained. He gulped, and even that noise echoed for a little while. The silence made his head feel full. There was a pressure about it.

Owen: "... Boy do I hope that this Water Guardian is friendly, since talk about an ominous neighborhood there."
:uhhh:


And in this silence, he noticed that one of his steps felt different from the rest. He looked down, letting out a soft churr in curiosity. He inspected the underside of his foot and picked out what appeared to be a large, cream-colored scale. Turning the scale changed its color somewhat, like staring into a prism. It wasn’t whole; it appeared that it had been ripped off prematurely, with a little strip of skin still attached to one side. Owen wrinkled his snout and tossed it away.

A cream, iridescent scale, huh? Not ringing any bells the- oh, it's a Heart Scale, isn't it?

There was a circle of water in the middle of this chamber. If Owen threw hard enough, perhaps he’d be able to toss a rock in the middle of it. The water itself was completely still, like a perfect pane of glass. He hesitantly walked forward; he couldn’t see the bottom. He couldn’t find any loose rocks to figure out if it just happened to have a dark base. He was left staring into the void that was this lake.

Trippy. Even if I'm pretty sure that water won't remain perfectly still for long.

Where was the Guardian? “Hello…?” Owen called.

Hello, hello, hello. It echoed in all directions, and then faded.

Owen: "... Yeah, I should've dragged the rest of Team Alloy along with me or something like that, since I'm sure getting second thoughts about coming here right now."
:FearfulMeowth:


He sat down at the water’s edge. As a Grass Type, he didn’t feel as afraid of the water. It would normally sting quite a bit to get the flame on his tail wet—and there had been a few times when he accidentally extinguished it in the rain, though then his tail just emitted steam. Painfully. But he certainly tried to avoid it—his Fire attacks were next to useless in that sort of weather. But Grass… How would he do with that? He sighed, but relented.

Ah, so this setting runs off the assumption that Char tails extinguishing doesn't instantly equal death. Though it makes sense given that even Pokémon Chronicles took this route with the episode that had a Charizard dive into the sea briefly.

If he was going to become a Fire Type again, he may as well enjoy the novelty of taking a dip in cool water for once. He squatted down and dipped his right leg first, wincing at the chill. He eased his way in until his knees were submerged, but couldn’t go further. The lake’s edge was too steep, and he had no idea how swimming worked.

Figures. Though I actually sanity-checked whether or not it was possible for a Fire-type to learn Surf, and nope. Not even Volcanion can as of SV.

Owen saw the water ripple near the middle, just once. Nothing had gone inside to disturb the surface other than himself.

What was that? “U-uh… is someone there?”

IMO, this is another paragraph where selling a sense of "passage of time" would probably make things work a bit better.

No reply. Owen figured it was just an aftereffect of dipping his legs inside, like the echoes of his voice were ripples in the air. He looked into the black water. He figured the Guardian was watching him from the very bottom. And he knew the spirits were listening in from the walls.

Narrator: "It was not just an aftereffect of dipping his legs inside."

“I just wanted to talk to someone in my situation,” Owen said softly, closing his eyes. “I just got this… this job, kinda. I touched an Orb that I shouldn’t have, and now I look like this, and I’m being told all these things about being a Guardian, and being involved in this long conspiracy to keep them all protected or whatever. And I just don’t get it.”

His claws gently grasped at the leaves on his knees. He was careful not to tug at them this time.

“And—and turns out, my Mom is the same way. She’s the Fire Guardian… and I dunno what that’s gonna mean, either. The way James—he’s, um, he’s the person who helps run the Thousand Hearts—and, um, and that’s, like, this group of Pokémon that help rescue others around the world. Yeah… the way James was looking at me—it was like he wanted to send me away.” He winced.

I... actually didn't notice that last chapter, though I wonder if that has any implications for how Anam sees Owen given that James is one of the spirits associated with him.

“James wanted me to be like my Mom, who lived in that cave with just her spirits. I… I didn’t know that’s how it was for her. I think that’s why she almost never goes out. I had this dream—turns out, wasn’t a dream—where we went for a walk in the woods, and we got attacked, just like that. I almost died. But Mom healed me, and I passed out. But is that what it’s like to be a Guardian? To just be… sealed off?”

Owen: "Because if it is, I'm calling some BS about how Anam just gets to go and run a guild and town around it and chum it up with everybody while everybody else has to be a hermit." >_>;

Owen leaned back, using his hands to prop himself up. He happened to land his right hand on another one of the discarded scales—he felt a soft, fleshy bit on one of the sides and winced, quickly pulling his hand up. Losing support, he fell down, knocking his horn against the rock.

Nggk—!”

The ringing in his ears didn’t stop for quite a while. He clutched his forehead with his left hand while inspecting the scale with his right. It had another strip of skin on the edges that had come off with the scale. He tossed it away, but then breathed.

I honestly winced along with the narration there. Though I suppose that's a sign that the Water Guardian is just chilling in this chamber somewhere.

He continued to talk to the air. Even if nobody was listening—and he was sure at least the spirits were listening—it was therapeutic to actually unload his thoughts. There were simply too many to keep inside.

Someone's totally listening in on Owen right now and it's not just the spirits, huh?

“She’s just alone in that cave. I mean… not alone alone, but her spirits, y’know? And just them… forever, maybe. I can’t imagine what that’d feel like.”

He kicked his feet in the water, making more ripples like the one before.

I guess you kinda know what that feels like. If you’re listening, or your spirits. I don’t know if I want that kind of life. But wh-what’s the alternative? I… I could get killed! I didn’t even get to be a Charizard yet! B-but maybe I never will…” Owen glanced at the flower on his tail. He wondered if it’d hurt to pluck at the petals. He didn’t want to find out.

Would recommend hacking this up, though I'm now finding it morbidly hilarious to imagine Amia and Guardians with a similar MO as her as being the cat ladies of HoC's setting. Even if their companions have the added benefit of being sapient and able to hold a conversation.

That thought made another dawn on him. “If you’re the Water Guardian… that must mean you can become your Type, too, right? I got all green because of touching the Orb, so maybe that means… you’re all Watery.”

Owen: "I mean, I kinda gathered from some of the spirits that were prowling around, but... I am right, yes?"

A wave of cold realization struck Owen. He jerked his legs out of the water and pulled himself back with his arms, scrambling to his feet. Water dripped from his lower half. “I’m so sorry!”

... Wait, so the pool was the Water Guardian all this time? Though if that's the case, it might have made sense to beat it over the heads of the reader a bit harder, since admittedly I did a double-take at the "wave of cold realization" and what Owen realized there.

The water rippled. It didn’t stop this time. Instead, it got stronger—most definitely in the middle, now—until something rose out from it. Water, but something that took a shape of its own, something serpentine. It thrust itself from the lake’s center, quickly approaching Owen, who was too surprised to move. The water landed near Owen, coiling around itself, taking a solid form. Its form transitioned from something that was entirely transparent into the normal colors of its species.

Oh wait, this is where the Milotic from the story banner on TR comes from, huh?

The Milotic stared down at Owen with a soft blush. Owen stared back in awe, mouth agape just enough to reveal his lower teeth. She was at least three times’ Owen’s height, even in her current, coiled stance.

“H-hello,” Owen greeted.

Yeah, I called it. Though I see that these two are already hitting it off nice and quick with each other from that reaction.

“Hello,” she said.

Then, there was a silence between the two.

“I—”

“My—”

They had interrupted one another.

Wow, these two really are made for each other given how the awkwardness meter is rocketing up the charts.
:loltias:


“N-no, you go—”

“Please, introduce—”

They both stopped talking again.

Owen: "Okay, maybe one of us should just speak and the other just cut themself off and wait?" >///<

Owen fidgeted with his claws; the Milotic’s tail twitched. Her blush had faded.

Owen took a breath; the Water Guardian did not.

“I’m Owen,” the Charmeleon said.

“My name is Zena,” she said. “It is nice to meet you. I am sorry for keeping you waiting.”

And we have a name. Though 'keeping you waiting', huh? As in Zena was expecting Owen to come here?

“O-oh, no, it’s okay, I—I was kinda just talking to myself anyway, but if you heard that, I mean… that’s good, so I don’t have to repeat myself. Sorry for stepping in you.” He said the last part in a mumble.

Huh. So Vaporeon powers are a part of a Water Guardian's toolkit. Duly noted in that case.

Zena nodded. “You do not,” she said. “I’m very… sorry for your fate, but you’re right. We have to remain separated in order to keep the power from combining.”

[ ]

“S-so, as in, it’s dangerous for us to even touch?”

So how obviously is Owen blushing through his scales right now with dialogue that's stammering that much? >:V

I do wonder if it'd have made sense for Owen to have a bit more reaction to Zena's commentary, though. Though haven't the two of them technically just combined their powers by virtue of Owen casually chilling in Zena while she was in puddle mode?

“No—no, nothing like that.” The Milotic shook her head, her pink, ribbon-like eyebrows swaying in delay to her movements. “But, should we fight, perhaps, and then the winner extracts the power from the loser, well… we can’t have that.”

Ah yes, just like in my spider courtship documentaries. /s

Owen: "... Remind me to never make you angry."
:FearfulMeowth:


“O-oh, okay,” Owen said. “But… I heard that it’s starting to be dangerous to stay away. W-wait! Um—yesterday, I saw a Torkoal come this way, I think. Is that, um, is that someone you know?”

“He was not,” Zena said. “I dispatched of him.”

“D-dispatched?”

Small nitpick, but "dispatched" as in "got rid of" / "killed" doesn't have an "of". If you wish to keep the "of" formulation, you probably want "disposed" there.

“He was a Hunter,” Zena replied. “They are the ones that we hide from. A Pokémon that intends to find us… and take our power. By any means necessary.”

Ah yes, so there's just a drowned Torkoal corpse lying around somewhere here. Lovely.

Though 'Hunter', huh? Guess we know what Rim's social circle is called, even if I don't see them taking many Rescue Missions anytime soon.

Owen didn’t ask further. Instead, he looked down at the water, and then at Zena again. “Um… how… how long have you been here?”

Zena hesitated. “I do not know.”

Owen: "You don't even have some sort of tally mark of days or something-?"
:wtfuckle:

Zena: "Lost track... some time ago. Could've been a thousand years with how much time blurs by in my state, honestly." ^^;

“H-how long, um—before that Torkoal came, how long has it been since… someone came here? At all?”

She shook her head again.

Owen: "You should really consider investing in a calendar." .-.
Zena: "Do they even make ones that can be constantly soaked in water?" ^^;

“Do you at least know Star?”

[ ]

“I… I do,” she said. “And we talk from time to time, just as I talk with my spirits, I suppose.”

Kinda wonder if there should've been a bit more body language from Zena's part there. Since it's a potential tool for hinting at Zena's attitudes / relation with Star. e.x. if she visibly stiffens up and gets evasive or something like that.

“…But it’s not enough.”

Zena glanced away. “I suppose it isn’t,” she said. “But it’s… it’s still dangerous for us to converse with one another, isn’t it? If a Hunter finds us… they could potentially get two Orbs, not just the one.”

Owen: "Look, if Anam can strut around in public in the middle of freaking Kilo Village and never have problems with Hunters, I think we'll be fine just talking like this for a few minutes."
:eltyunamused:


“A-actually, we were thinking, um, that it’s kinda dangerous to be separated, now, because, like, there’s this thing, um, it’s this theory,” Owen trailed off. “Like they can detect us now. They’d pick us off one by one. So instead, maybe strength in numbers?”

I'd suggest "just stick around Anam constantly", but Anam has honestly been giving me some sus vibes, so that would probably already be a risk in and of itself.

“Strength in numbers,” Zena said. “You mentioned that your mother is the Fire Guardian. Is there anybody else?”

“Goodra Anam—leader of the Thousand Hearts—he’s another Guardian. I don’t think I caught what Type.”

My money is still on Anam being the Ghost Guardian from James' Giratina antics.

“I see,” Zena said slowly. She was quiet, mulling over Owen’s words. The Grass Guardian, meanwhile, took the time to look over Zena again. The way her scales reflected the dim light—and in particular, the way she glowed in the same way the Hot Spot mushrooms did.

Bitterly, Owen realized that the glow he’d been so accustomed to was no doubt a reflection of his mother’s Guardianship. But he couldn’t deny how comforting the light was, so he gazed a while longer at Zena’s scales. Would

Wait, so every Guardian has something about them / their domain glow like this? Wonder what that's going to imply for Owen's eventual crib. And what Anam's "glow" thing is given that we haven't seen it yet.

Though this feels like another paragraph that would benefit from being divided up.

“…Why are you looking at me in that way?”

“Sorry!” Owen’s entire body stiffened upright; even his tail stood alert.
He's in wuuuuuv~ ❤️
Owen: "For crying out loud, I've barely just met her!" >///<

Zena glared at him, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. “Hmph!” she turned her head away.

“N-no, it’s not like that!” Owen waved his claws in front of him. “I didn’t think you were pretty! I—I mean, wait, wait, you are pretty! But—but I—”
Never mind, then. Owen really is crushing hard on Zena in live-time now. Though cue the Doofenshmirtz "two nickels" meme about reading fics with Char protags that fall for draconic sea noodles.

“You’d best choose your next words carefully,” Zena hissed.

“I like your glow!”

Zena flinched.

Owen: "That... came out wrong, didn't it?"
:ohnowen:


Owen covered his mouth. “I—I mean… you…” Slowly, Owen brought his arms down. “C’mon, I mean, you’re a Milotic. You guys are just naturally really pretty. And that whole Guardian glow you have going on in these caves really makes it look nice, and stuff. It’s true that your kind have… rainbow scales in the light, right? If you look at it at a certain angle? So… it’s just natural.”

Owen sure has a way with words there. Like it's at once innocent while just radiating cringe. Though I should've expected as much from a 'mon who managed to make Rhys question whether or not he was gay for him.
:hoodLUL:


Five seconds passed with just Owen’s echoing voice filling the void.

“W-well,” Zena said, looking at the wall. “Thank you.”

Owen: "... I'm going to go hide under a rock and die from embarrassment right now." >///<

Owen shifted awkwardly, looking at Zena again. This time, he looked her tail over, how the creamy, prismatic scales transitioned into stained glass that Owen would have expected from a temple for Arceus. Owen sensed another glare and immediately brought his head down. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I only saw your kind in drawings before.

Zena: "I'm... not sure if I want to know what sort of drawings you saw Milotic in, really-" >_>;
Owen: "Oh my gods. Stuff like encyclopedia drawings, okay? Look, I'm not that bad at blundering into innuendos, am I?"
:grohno~1:


“Drawings?” Zena repeated. Her eyes narrowed again. “What kind of—" But then, suddenly, the Milotic jerked her head up, startling Owen with the sudden movement. “Another Hunter is coming. This one is—I know this one. He’s much stronger.”

Kek. I see that the plot was actually going in the direction of the last cutaway gag.

Owen: "I'm not sure whether I should be scared, or relieved that this Hunter Pokémon is apparently keeping things from being any more embarrassing for me than they already are." >_>;

“Wh-what?”

“Yes. We need to go.”

“Go?”

Owen: "... How are we supposed to manage that again when there's only one exit?"
Zena: "You sure about that?"
- Owen stares at the pool of water in the center of the room -
Owen: "... Pls no."
:uhhh:


“If you want strength in numbers, then—then I’ll humor you,” she said. “But we need to hide. The tunnel.” She pointed with one of her eyebrows at the dark lake. “It leads to a river outside. Can you swim?”

“I kinda used to be a Fire Type.”

Zena:
Image

"Can you at least hold your breath and cling tightly to something in your claws?"

“Then I will be the current that guides you,” she said. “Please, get in.”

She slithered into the lake and vanished, melting into the water. Owen’s old instincts were telling him to stay as far away from the water as possible—especially for a swim—but he knew he’d be fine in this current, Grassy form. His tail glowed brightly.

Well scratch the "hold onto something tightly with your claws", but yeah. I figured that they'd wind up escaping through the pool.

“If you say so,” Owen said.

He jumped in, expecting a frightening sting, but instead, it merely felt cold. He held his breath as the water rushed around him, muffling his sense of sight and sound. It pushed him down, deeper into the tunnel; the water pressure wasn’t that bad, either. It seemed like Zena was pushing against the rest of the water, making it a little easier on his body.

At first, it seemed like he’d have an easy time going through. His lungs felt a bit of strain—he’d never held his breath for very long in the past—but hopefully Zena would keep him going.

Would recommend hacking the dialogue and description off from each other in the first paragraph.

Though "at first", huh? Meaning that things didn't stay easy going through?
:copyber:


But then, Owen felt a rush of heat in his chest. He glanced down; his green, leafy scales were solidifying, becoming yellower. His arms were turning red.

Owen: "Oh hey, I'm ditching that freaky plant form and going back to normal!"
:eltystarry:

- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Oh my gods, I'm ditching that freaky plant form and going back to normal. While being submerged underwater."
:eltyscared:


Rhys said he’d go back to normal eventually.

Why now?! He looked behind him; the flower on his tail was wilting. Bubbles of steam trickled from the burning bud. The water was starting to feel less pleasant. And it wasn’t getting any easier to hold his breath, either. No, no! Just a little longer…! C’mon!

Because adversity builds character, and your author's a bit of a meme for how much he "builds your character" in your story?
:joltyshrug~1:


He couldn’t hold his breath for much longer. He couldn’t see anything in these tunnels—it was too dark. The flower wasn’t glowing anymore, and his flame was slowly coming back.

I kinda wonder if the "couldn't hold his breath for much longer" would've been better sold by describing some of the live-time discomfort of Owen feeling like he needs air increasingly kicking in. Something to keep in mind if you do touch-ups at some point in the future.

Pressure built in his chest. The need to breathe was too strong. In an effort to relieve some of that pressure, Owen puffed out, releasing some of the air. That only made him want to breathe in again. He flailed his arms and legs, trying to warn Zena that he wasn’t going to last much longer. Zena, the water, could not respond, but the water did rush faster. Owen had to close his eyes—the pressure against his face was too much.

Cue the "glub glub"-ing noises.

He felt it. He was a Fire Type again. He felt the horrible sting of near-freezing water around his whole body, like acid, particularly against his tail. He also felt his lungs give way—and in a sharp intake, water filled his chest. At first, it felt like nothing but pure pain, a stab from the inside that tore him apart. And then, nothing, the Charmeleon passing out from shock.

This is kinda morbidly hilarious given that Owen's apparently going on a journey through a literal sea of acid in the present day. Wonder if he'll get to do a point of comparison.
:copyber:


Owen was floating in a black void, on his back. His lungs felt… tight. Like he couldn’t move them. Voices filled his head. Memories from long ago. Forgotten.

“Who’re you gonna fight, Owen?”

Are we doing a reincarnation plot right now? Since this sure feels like we're doing a reincarnation plot right now.

Owen’s mouth moved in the darkness. He spoke, despite his lungs being filled with water. “Gonna fight… Demitri…”

“Baah, always Demitri. How about Mispy?”

“No way. She’ll kill me…”

Yeah, considering what we've seen of Mispy, I have no reason to disbelieve that.
:copyka:


“But she’s a Grass Type, c’mon!”

“Gahi, she’ll kill me. That Solar Beam is insane…”

“Feh, then why don’t yeh fly and make it easier ter dodge?”

Okay, so admittedly I got spoiled on this by a meme as part of TR's April Fools, but nice subtle tipoff that Owen used to be a 'zard in the past.

Owen gasped and opened his eyes. “Solar Beam…”

“Hm?” Zena turned back. “Oh, you’re finally awake.”

He's on a beach waking up and looking into Zena's eyes, isn't he?

The sun was setting; leaving with it was any sense of warmth. They were near a river, but closer to the ocean. There was a beach further down, where the grass transitioned into sand, with Wingull circling over the shore line. The air was salty. Owen sat up—his entire body ached.

“Ugh… what happened?”

“You drowned,” Zena said. “I was waiting for your body to recover.”

Owen: "Wait, as in I died? But you don't just recover from dying, do you?"
:ohnowen:

Zena: "Guardian, remember? You can't die as long as you have your orb's power. Didn't you already learn this from past experience?"
Owen: "... Right, Rhys and the others said that I died before I became that Grassy Charmander, huh?"

“D-drowned?!” Owen shot up. “Why didn’t you—w-wait, did you—” His face flushed.

“Did I what?” Zena asked. “I waited for your body to fix itself.”

“Th-the body doesn’t fix drowning!”

Zena: "Owen, I literally just explained to you how this works-"
:eltywtf:

Owen: "Look, that wasn't canon, okay?"

“For a Guardian, it does,” Zena said matter-of-factly. “I set you down once we escaped, and waited for your heart to start beating again—”

“MY HEART STOPPED?!”

It might have made sense to describe more of Owen's body language or internal thought process a bit more to better sell the sense of him panicking over "I just died!
:uhhh:
" a bit harder.

Zena, annoyed, growled, “Yes. Is this truly that new to you?”

“K-kinda! I feel like I should be dead right about now!”

Zena: "Technically, you were only mostly dead thanks to your connection to the Grass Orb-"
Owen: "Oh my gods, not this again..."
:grohno~1:


“So long as their body remains mostly intact,” Zena said, “Guardians can live and recover from any injury. It’s known as being Mystic.”

“Mystic,” Owen slowly repeated. “So, all Guardians are Mystic?”

“Yes.”

Oh, so that's where the 'Mystic' in the 'Mystic Glow' chapter came from.

Though it makes me wonder what this story's definition of "mostly intact" is for a body.

“But, that’s the same thing, then. What other things are Mystic?”

“Well, I imagine Star is Mystic, even if she guards no particular Orb. The Hunters are also Mystic, though I wouldn’t consider them Guardians.” ... Wait, so then when the

Hunters are 'dispatched' does that mean that they didn't die permanently? Or did Zena just do a thorough enough job at deleting their bodies that they couldn't come back?

“O-oh.” That much made sense. Finally, something logical. “Okay. So, just people who have power related to the Orbs.” He looked at his claws. He still felt… soggy. But at least he could breathe again. Something felt different, too. He felt stronger. Maybe that was just how his flame burned a bit hotter as a Charmeleon.
It's something deeper than the BST buff, isn't it?

“You mentioned… Solar Beam,” Zena said.

“Huh? Solar Beam?”

“When you woke up. Were you trying to learn Solar Beam? After all, you’re the Grass Guardian.”

Owen: "No, it was more like I didn't want to get hit by a Solar Beam from a newer friend of mine who has a bit of a psychotic side when she's upset." ^^;
- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Except... I don't remember when we had the meeting I remembered. Or why the others were telling me to fly."

“Oh, uh, no, I…” He rubbed his head. “I can’t remember. I must’ve been having some kind of weird dream from bad oxygen. It happened before. I was climbing a mountain with one of the Elite Hearts, and when I meditated there, I had a crazy dream, too. Ugh, that’s two times that I got a weird dream. I need a break.”

Narrator:
Image


Zena smiled slightly. “Today has had the most talking I’ve heard from a stranger in a very long time,” she said. “You’re quite chatty.”

Owen looked down. “Sorry.”

Zena tilted her head. “I meant I enjoy it. You apologize quite often, too.”

Owen: "... Can't tell if that's supposed to be a good thing or not, really." ^///^

“Oh.” Owen tried to think of something else to talk about, but his mind drew a blank. He almost apologized again, but managed to stop himself. Next, he considered talking about the weather, but decided against it.

“Owen… do you know where we are?”

Owen: "No...? Not really? Am I supposed to?" .-.

Thankful for an opportunity, he scanned the horizon; the oceanside didn’t have the sun. “Um, well… the sun’s setting that way… so I think we’re at a southern beach, right?” He turned around. “So that means… the Thousand Hearts is—there! Look, d’you see that mountain with the flat top?” He pointed through the thin trees to the north. It was hard to see past the southern forest, but the distinct, black rocks of Kilo Mountain were clearly visible through the gaps.

“Yes. That was there even before I began my hiding… Has anything changed about it?”
Owen:
795119682369093724.gif

"I'm sorry, how long did you say you were in that pool again?"
Zena: "I lost track, honestly. But quite a while."

“That’s Kilo Village at the top, in the crater. The volcano is extinct and, uh… yeah. That’s where I go for rescue missions and things like that. I bet Anam will know what to do!”

“Anam…” The Milotic crossed her ribbons pensively. “He’s another Guardian? Star mentioned him before. But she doesn’t talk a lot about the other Guardians—I think it’s to… keep us from wanting to meet them in person. But, Owen, I’m… not sure. I don’t know.”
Oh, so the current plot arc is essentially "Gotta Catch 'Em All" for Guardians, huh?

“You don’t know? Don’t know what?”

“If it’s a good idea to go there,” she said. “The Orbs. They’re supposed to…”

“Not anymore. C’mon, let’s just go!”
Not convinced that this isn't going to wind up ending in disaster at some point, but I suppose Owen and his new noodle crush do need to get back to town, so...

“I… But what would I say? How much has changed?”

Owen hesitated; all things considered, it probably had been a while for her. Still, what else were they supposed to do? “I dunno, but it should be fine! C’mon, I can show you around.”

You see, now you're making me worry that it's not going to be fine.
:copyka2:


Zena still didn’t slither to follow, looking at the Charmeleon. “How are you so sure?” The Milotic curled her long body, tensing her muscles. She waited for a response that would assure her.

“Because,” he trailed off. “I mean, well…”

“Did you not just rant about how everything you know has been a great lie?” Zena asked. “I believe you used similar terminology.”

Owen: "... Yes, but all my friends and family are there, so where else am I supposed to go, really?" ^^;

“Y-yeah, but, only some, not everything…”

“But didn’t some of that everything happen to be your own parents, and your idols?”

Owen: "... And?"
:joltyshrug~1:

Zena: "... Owen? Have you considered talking with someone about this level of blind trust that you have? Since I'm pretty sure that it's not healthy."
:eltywtf:


“…Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi didn’t know, either.”

That much was true. If anything, he could still trust them, and now that he thought about it, maybe telling him that his whole family were either dead or immortal wouldn’t have settled right no matter how they told him. That was probably the reason, right?

I trust them. And… and Rhys is the one who wants the Guardians to stay together, too.”

Image

Though would recommend hacking this paragraph up into smaller parts.

Zena blinked. “What was his name? Rhys?”

“Yeah, Rhys,” Owen said. “What?”

“Lucario Rhys?”

“H-huh? Yeah.”

Owen: "Wait, you... know him?" .-.

In a matter of seconds, the Water Guardian’s expression shifted from one of ease to one of grave darkness. “We are not going to Kilo Village.”

“W-wait, but why—”

“Rhys is one of the Hunters.”

:copyber:


Well, looks like a fugitive arc might be on the table after all. Didn't see that one coming, though that raises so many questions about Anam if Rhys is still an active Hunter and Anam's aware of that and working with him all the same.

Though waaaaaait a minute, that Torkoal is Rhys' lover, isn't he? Since I distinctly remember that there's art of Rhys paired with a Torkoal floating around on the net and if he and Rhys are both Hunters...

Alright, a bit late, but onto the postmortem:

A bit of a shorter chapter this time, though I gather that the main point of it was to introduce Owen's GF a new face to this plot that I'm sure we'll be seeing more of, and to both hint at things being more complicated than they seemed in the past through those "dreams" and continue the process of exploding Owen's normal life into pieces, especially with the ending. To its credit, the chapter did all those things pretty effectively, and in the span of a little over 4000 words to boot.

As for criticisms... it wasn't big enough to really take me out of the experience, but there were a couple parts of the chapter where I felt that the description was a little too light. e.x. in the final scene where Owen's freaking out about coming to after drowning where a good chunk of it was straight dialogue and didn't get us inside Owen's head as much as I think it could've. Some paragraphs also felt kinda "big, long block" or else description and dialogue smashed together that might have worked better in smaller pieces, but that's partly a stylistic thing anyways.

But altogether, I thought that it was a good show @Namohysip , and you're definitely keeping me on my toes for where this story is going, since for less than 6% of the way through the story's total run, it sure feels like a lot has happened in it.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Heya, took me a while to get Chapter 9’s review formally together, but I’m finally here with the next one in the series. There was a Review Tag going on offsite that I signed up for even before my Chapter 9 review was done, but I figured that just submitting that and calling it a day for Review Tag would be kinda cheating, so let's also tackle the next one up the chain and keep those prize reviews rolling:

Chapter 10

“But… but Rhys is cool,” Owen said.

Zena: "Owen, didn't you just go on a long spiel about how you'd found out that everything in your life was all a lie?" -_-;
Owen: "Look, can't this one thing not be one?!" O_O;

The Charmeleon had stopped walking the moment Zena told him that Rhys was a Hunter. It simply didn’t make sense. No… no, it did. It added up. But it didn’t make sense to Owen anyway. Rhys was too noble. He was an Elite Heart. How could he be a murderer, too?

It's called 'having a cover', honey. Though the fact that Anam is as buddy buddy with Rhys as you've seen him should raise some serious questions as to whether he's really all that he seems himself.

“That Lucario is the one who nearly killed me.” Zena’s tail twitched, flexing the fan at the tip. “He is the reason I spent lifetimes sealed away.”

Owen: "I don't suppose that this is all some sort of misunderstanding that you two could talk out-?" ^^;
Zena:
Image


“But… but he gave me the Orb! I mean, he didn’t—I mean, he was holding the Orb, but he never claimed it, and, um, and also, like—when I took it, he didn’t want to hurt me at all! M-maybe you’re thinking of his great grandfather or something? Like, Rhys is just a really strong Lucario. He’s not a Guardian or anything. He doesn’t glow! So, he can’t be, um, un-aging and stuff like us.” Nevren had said that they didn’t age for another reason. Was that because—


Zena: "Owen, did you seriously forget that I literally told you that Hunters are Mystics like Guardians and as such they don't die?" >_>;
Owen: "... Honestly, yeah. I kinda did. And really would've rather that I didn't remember that." ._.

Though in retrospect, part of me wonders if this line from Owen's a tad busy and too 'big block' in format.

“Hunters don’t age. He could easily be the same Lucario.” She coiled around herself a bit tighter, staring intensely at Owen. “Tell me. Did he specialize in aura attacks?”

Owen: "..."
:uhhh:

Zena: "I'm just going to go ahead and take that as a 'yes'. -_-;

“I—I mean, what Lucario doesn’t, right?” Owen tittered nervously. He shrank before the serpent. He knew that Zena could see the helpless defiance in his eyes.

Isn't 'helpless defiance' a bit of an oxymoron there? Since if you're defiant, you're by virtue not helpless since you're basically digging your heels in to push back. If sticking to the 'helpless', would suggest something more along the lines of 'confusion' or 'disbelief' here.

The Milotic did not break her stare. “Are you sure? Do you truly believe that Rhys won’t harm you, should you appear before him now?”

Owen: "..."
:fearfullaugh~1:

Zena: "Again, thanks for confirming my suspicions, Owen." >_>;

Owen gulped, looking at his chest. He was glad to be back to his fiery self again. It felt right. But would Rhys try to kill him? That Lucario…. He was stern, certainly. And perhaps he’d punish him with more meditation, or something like that. Perhaps, as well, he was a bit too harsh with his training regimen. But…

He simply couldn’t imagine Rhys wanting to hurt him. Something at the very core of his being was telling him that he could trust Rhys. But at the same time, why did he feel that way? He just met him, didn’t he?

IMO, it is probably worth splitting this paragraph up into two at some point since it's a bit on the chunky side. My suggestion is as above, but there's probably also other alternative splits that would work.

Also, I know that it's kinda beating a dead horse, but yeah, these two have met before in the past. And probably fairly frequently.

“I don’t know.” The words tumbled out of him, but they were the truth. “I feel like I can trust him! But at the same time, he could… if he wanted, he could easily… couldn’t he? Well, I feel like he’d just force me to meditate, like he always di—”

Owen blinked a few times. What? When did Rhys ever force him to meditate? That never happened. That was Demitri and the others. He grew up with Amia and Alex—his adoptive parents. They were the ones who—

Yeah, see? Even Owen's subconscious memories are agreeing with me here. Though another spot that IMO works better as two paragraphs.

“Owen? Are you okay?” Zena asked, tilting her head.

Owen: "Not particularly, but let's not think too hard about that right now."
:grohno~1:


“H-huh? Oh. I’m fine. Um… b-but I really… I don’t know! If you’re with me, maybe he’ll hear me out, and not attack you? If he’s still like that? No… I—he’s too nice. If he wanted to, he could’ve killed me right at the beginning, when I first got the Orb!”

Or he has ulterior motives. That's possible too, just saying.

“Regardless of his actions before,” Zena said, “he may have second thoughts. He is still a Hunter, and it is their very purpose to track down and gather the Orbs at all costs. And right now, we are two Guardians, possessing two Orbs. That may be an opportunity too tempting to ignore.”

Okay, yeah. Anam and Amia have shot up quite a bit on the sus-o-meter for me right now. Since the fact that they work with Rhys and Rhys leaves them alone while the two never seem to have Hunter problems...

Owen played with the scales at the base of his claws. Zena had a point. Why would Rhys be chasing after them in the first place? Why Rhys specifically, if he knew that this would be the Water Guardian? But Owen’s gut still told him that Rhys was safe. He never sensed any ounce of malice in his body language. He was good at spotting those things, for as long as he could remember! But… what if Zena was right? What if he got tempted? What if that malice… came back?

Owen, have you ever considered that you're just a terrible judge of character? Since it sure feels like you're one at this rate with the whole episode of what happened with Star.

Owen’s legs felt weak. He walked to a nearby, sandy rock and sat against it. Waves washed upon the shoreline two times before he spoke again. “Rhys… could kill me…”

Owen: "I mean, I already knew he was tough enough to do that. But Rhys... could actually want to kill me..." O.O
Zena: "Yes, Owen. That's what Hunters do to Guardians. Do I need to give the explanation again?" -_-;

“He very well could,” Zena said. She slithered a bit closer, but hesitated to get within arm’s reach of him. “And you aren’t nearly strong enough to defend yourself against him.”

“But… b-but he’s my… I trusted him,” Owen said. “There’s no way he’d....!”

Zena: "Again, Owen. You literally just discovered that your entire life was a lie earlier today. Are you sure there's really 'no way' Rhys would kill you when that's literally his job?"
:eltywtf:

Owen: "... I think that I need to lie down for a while."
:uhhh:


“Are you willing to risk your life to see if you are correct?” Zena said.

Ah yes, same general point as the cutaway gag, but much more direct.

The ocean brushed against the sand. Owen smelled the salt in the air. Wingull squawked at one another, bickering over a carcass. He clenched the claws of his feet a few times in the sandy grass. He felt hot. His face, especially. His chest hurt. Something in the back of his eyes burned. His vision blurred. The Charmeleon trembled, clawing at his knees.

Everyone I knew…”

Zena: "Was a lie like the rest of your life? Yes? Why is this just now sinking in for you?" -_-;
Owen:
:riplup:


“Owen…” Zena said softly. She finally broke past her hesitation and slithered even closer. She used a brow to rub his head. “It’s okay. It’s… okay. Even if Rhys is dangerous, the others are still your friends. And your mother, Owen. What Charizard would harm their own child?

Cue running into the infanticidal Charizard like 150 chapters down the pipe from here just to give Zena an "... alright, didn't see that coming" moment.

“Um, a-actually, my Mom’s a Gardevoir… I don’t know my real parents.”

“Oh, I’m—”

Owen shook his head. “But either way, it’s… it’s all the same. You’re right. There’s no way she’d want to hurt me. She raised me! She—” Owen’s heart skipped a beat. “Mom! She’s with Rhys…! And she’s a Guardian!” He sprung to his feet, as if that action would somehow give him an idea on what to do next.

Owen... you do realize that you're making an argument in live time at the moment to not reflexively trust Amia, right?

He felt a strange tingling on the scales on his back. The air felt… sharp, like it cut into his lungs, and a sinking feeling twisted his stomach into a knot. What was this power that he could feel? He’d never had such a sensation before. He was used to having a vague sense of what was around the corner, or even in the other room. But this? This was new.

Oh, so Owen's Guardian powers kick in during times of stress/duress? Since that sure feels like where this is going right about now.

At the same time, Zena stared toward Kilo Mountain. “He’s coming,” she said. “How did he know we were here? Who could have…?”

Well then.

Owen realized that what he was sensing was something Zena sensed, too. He closed his eyes. He heard the rapid footsteps of something bipedal. He recognized the pattern--it was Rhys, without a doubt. He also heard another sound, a lot more rapid, with smaller legs. Hard knocking on sandy dirt. Angry chittering. That pattern was equally familiar. It was a Trapinch, going much faster than it should for its species. “Gahi, too.”

Zena: "Yeah. I'm... just going to turn and swim off really really quickly right now. I'd strongly suggest that you join me if you want to live." O_O;

Zena coiled around herself, preparing to launch everything she had at the incoming duo.

“D-don’t hurt Gahi. He’s a Trapinch, and he’s—he’s not involved in any of this!”

Zena:
:gardexhausted:

Owen: "Gahi... isn't involved in any of this, is he?"
:grohno~1:


Zena said nothing, but she was clearly aiming for Rhys. Owen turned toward the source of the sound again. Louder. He only had a few seconds to react. Was this really Rhys attempting to kill them? Why would he chase them all the way down here? Why couldn’t he hear his mother’s running pattern? Because she wasn’t there. It was just Rhys and Gahi.

“Owen!” Rhys shouted, jumping between two trees, into plain view.

Owen: "Wait, Zena, please. I know that this looks bad, but please take a moment to try and talk things-!"

Zena fired. The beam of water was simultaneously wide and dense, and it was a perfect shot. Rhys held his paws forward with an Aura Sphere-like shield to deflect the blast. Gahi, trailing behind, dove behind a tree to avoid the scattered beams of water, shouting something angrily. When the Hydro Pump stopped, and the mist faded, Rhys remained. Zena’s attack was completely neutralized by the shield.

Owen: "Out." O.O
Rhys: "Oh, I think it's a bit late for that, Owen."
:lucariwhat:


Gahi stared in horror at the gaping hole left in the tree that he’d been hiding behind. The deflected beams had missed him by only a head’s length.

Gahi: "Owen?! What the hell?!"
Owen: "Look, this wasn't my idea, okay?!" O_O;

For that one instant, the world stood still for Owen. It all clicked in his mind at once. He felt Zena’s coils wind in defensive terror beside him. Almost out of empathy, his muscles tensed in a similar way. His heart was pounding against his neck. Rhys had deflected one of the most powerful attacks Owen had ever seen.

Zena: "I was the one who wanted to swim away while we still had a head start, but noooooo..." >_>;

He had been ready for that attack. He was expecting it. He knew. Owen’s claws dug into his palms; his tail blazed with a shining, green flame.

The last of the mist faded. Zena’s words echoed in his thoughts.

Rhys is one of the Hunters.

Gahi: "Uh... Owen? Since when were you a Charmeleon again? And what are you doing there right next to the psychotic oarfish that almost just vaporized me-?"

The Lucario let out a pant. “Owen, I—”

The Charmeleon opened with a plume of fire. It was easily blocked, but Owen followed up by lunging forward. He wasn’t using words anymore, just roars and grunts. Rhys deftly blocked every hit with little pulses of aura from his paws, stepping backwards with each lunge Owen made.

Gahi: "Owen?!" O.O
Owen: "I'll explain later, Gahi! Just get out of the way!"

“Owen, enough!” Rhys said.

“You—what did you do—what did you do to Mom?!” Owen shouted.

“Your mother?! What in the world do you mean?!”

Zena: "I... think that I'm missing a step or two here myself, Owen. How's your mother factor into all of this again? Since she wasn't really on your mind in the description." ^^;

Owen roared and blasted Rhys with fire, point-blank. He couldn’t deflect this one, and his upper body was briefly alight. This was too much for Rhys to tolerate. With a single blow and a grunt of anger, Rhys swiped his paw toward Owen and created a small sphere on his side. It exploded, and blasted Owen with a shockwave of aura force. He slammed into a tree and cried in pain when his left shoulder dislocated itself, and his left leg broke in two places. A few ribs probably got fractured, too. There was a large welt on his right side where the aura had exploded, and some scales had been blasted off, too. He crumpled to the ground; it hurt too much to move.

Zena: "Um... yeah, that's probably our cue to exit stage left-" O.O
Rhys:
Image


Zena spewed another beam of water at Rhys, but the Hunter jumped to the right in a blue blur. Zena blinked and lost track of him. She turned toward Owen and saw Rhys there instead, kneeling down. Rhys’ eyes were narrowed with concern.

“You won’t!” Zena shouted. “Get away from him! Or I’ll fire again! I won’t miss!”

- Gahi turns his oversized head between Owen and Zena -
Gahi: "Wait, Owen? Are you two crushing on each other or somethi-?"
Owen + Zena: "Shut up!" >.<

“If you do miss, you will hit Owen,” Rhys said calmly. He didn’t even react to her.

“It’s… it’s a risk I’ll take to stop you, you—murderer!”

Gahi: "I am so confused right now."
:what:

Owen: "I'd explain, but I'm kinda busy trying not to die right now." @.@

“Murderer,” Rhys repeated softly. He inspected Owen, who only glared. Flames danced out of his mouth. “Your mother is worried about you, Owen. Your father, too.”

“You’re a Hunter,” Owen said. “Zena… Zena told me! You… you killed Guardians like me!”

Rhys: "Owen, you do realize that there's literally 2 Guardians strutting around Kilo Village constantly that I get along fine with, right?"
:lucariwhat:


“Owen.” Rhys closed his eyes. “If I wanted to kill, then you two would already be dead.”

“N-no way!” Owen said. “I’d totally beat you if… if I wanted to! I’m a Guardian! I survived drowning!”

Rhys:
Image

Owen: "I-I would!" >///<
Zena: "Uh... yeah, no. You're kinda hopelessly outmatched right now, Owen."
Gahi: "Yeah, even I knew that before Rhys suddenly went all Super Saiyan right there."

“Drowning,” Rhys said with a snort. “You took a quarter of the day, I imagine, just to recover from that. Do you really think a Hunter would kill a Guardian by drowning them?”

Owen: "M-Maybe? Also, this topic of conversation is really freaking me out, Rhys-"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Rhys: "You brought it up in the first place!" >.<

Owen gulped. “Y-yeah, well, I bet I could survive… a lot of things, now.”

His eyes darted to the left and right, searching for some sort of opening. Owen focused on a tree behind Rhys. The Lucario followed his gaze—just what Owen wanted. He spewed a wad of fire at Rhys the moment he looked away. In a single, deft motion, Rhys brought his arm up and blocked the blast with another aura shield.

Owen: "... I should've brought a Luminous Orb along with me." >.<

Owen flinched, and Rhys looked at him with a knowing glare. Owen had no escape.

“You cannot survive much,” Rhys said. “Divine energy from the Orb sustains you, even if your very heart stops. However, great injury to your body disrupts that flow. If someone wished to kill you… they would. And they can. Just because you are Mystic does not mean you are invincible. Look at you, Owen.” He shook his head. “A body half broken already. If I aimed for your head,” he pointed out, “the Grass Orb would be without a host once more.”

Oh, so "Boom, Headshot" is a reliable nullifier to Mystic immortality. Filing that one away for the future.

Owen envisioned Rhys doing just that. Moving his paw just a bit further up. He would’ve been headless. Just like that. He thought back to the Aerodactyl. He still would have been paralyzed from the waist down from his strikes. And if he was rejected from the Dungeon, some opportunistic wild Pokémon still could have feasted on his unconscious body.

Owen: "I... really did not need to think about any of that, thanks." o_o;

Owen’s sense of mortality returned to him. When that happened, the Charmeleon thought his heart had stopped again.

“You can’t even stand.”

“I can totally stand!” Owen used his good arm and clawed at the air in front of Rhys.

Narrator: "He absolutely cannot stand right now."

Rhys waited.

He kept clawing and tried to sit. In the end, he couldn’t. The most he could do was prop himself up. His arm trembled, and he fell again.

Yeah, I figured.

Gahi waddled out from the tree he’d been hiding in. “Lighten up, Firebutt,” Gahi said. “Yer beat. And you! Pretty lady! You calm down, too! Rhys ain’t gonna hurt anybody.”

“P-pretty lady?” Zena flushed red.

Ah yes, Gahi just casually swooping in to compete with Owen for Zena's affections there. o<o

“Can you stand, Owen?” Rhys asked again. Despite his neutral tone, Owen sensed that he was mocking him.

I mean, you kinda made it an easy layup there, Owen. :V

“Nrgh.” Owen’s tail twitched. “I don’t feel like it.” He exhaled a defeated plume of smoke. It tasted like roasted seeds.

Oh, so Owen's Grass powers are starting to kick in again, huh?

Rhys sighed and looked up at the trees. He inspected the tops, and then looked at Zena. She didn’t take her eyes off of him, waiting for any sudden movements. Rhys, recognizing this, moved slowly, gently, raising his arm to point up. Zena didn’t change her focus. Right at Rhys.

“There is a ripe Oran Berry in the trees. I intend to harvest it for Owen. Milotic Zena, will you allow me to do this?”

Wait, these two know each other on a full-name basis? How many times have they fought each other? .-.

“You will move slowly,” Zena said.

That's not necessarily the thing that you want a trained killer to do, Zena. .-.

Rhys obeyed. Every step was deliberate, and he pointed the pad of his paw toward the berry. The tiniest of Aura Spheres appeared there, and he fired, knocking it off of the tree. It landed nearby. Rhys took step after deliberate step toward the berry, and then leaned down to pick it up.

... Wait, just how much size control / variation do Riolu/Lucario have over Aura Sphere in this setting anyways?

At this point, Gahi was shaking with impatience, pacing in a rapid circle nearby. He mumbled something about being able to do this seven times by the time he finished once.

Gahi: "Also, would it kill someone to please explain to me what's going on?" >_>;
Owen + Zena + Rhys:
Image


Finally, Rhys returned to Owen and handed him the berry.

“How can a berry help him?” Zena said. “They’re a pick-me-up. They only provide energy, as all food would. Oran Berries are useless for injuries like that.”

Ah yes, providing worldbuilding regarding the limitations of healing items. Though duly noted.

Owen glanced at Zena confusedly.

“Is—is it not?” Zena asked.

... Or not, guess that's a side effect of Zena quite literally living under a rock for a few lifetimes.

Owen grabbed the berry and took a bite, chewing awkwardly while lying on the ground. A soft glow flowed from Owen’s throat to the rest of his body, barely visible if it wasn’t for the darkness of twilight.

Wait, is that from the Oran Berry, or from Heal Pulse there?

“Hold still,” Rhys said. With a firm push, he snapped Owen’s arm back into its socket, eliciting a loud, suppressed grunt from the Charmeleon. He then moved to his broken leg. “Are you ready, Owen?”

I actually just realized, but in the bit describing Owen's litany of injuries, how does he know some of those details from his perspective anyways? Like can you really tell if your leg has been broken in multiple locations versus one in terms of an experience?

... Though I suppose given the implication that Owen has been alive for much longer than he thinks right now, that he might be able to ID that from lived experiences, even if he only subconsciously remembers them at the moment.

Owen whimpered.

“I’ll do it on three. One—” Rhys snapped them in place. Owen didn’t cry out that time; his eyes watered, and he gritted his teeth, but the most noise that came was from the air rapidly moving through his nostrils.

“Thank you,” he said in a high-pitched voice.

So how obviously is Owen trying not to cry right about now anyways?

“Eat your berry.”

Owen awkwardly ate at the berry using his good arm, still lying on the ground. A glow emanated from his throat that was only visible due to the darkness of twilight. It pulsed throughout the rest of his body—while bruised, Owen felt much better. Bones repaired themselves; he felt like he could breathe deeply again. He sighed and deflated after the final bite, idly licking at his claws.

Rhys: "So now do you believe that I don't want to kill you, Owen?"
:lucariwhat:

Owen: "This could've been done without the multiple broken bones, just saying." >_>;

“Oran Berries have been greatly enhanced since your time, Zena,” Rhys said. “They have been blessed by Goodra Anam, leader of the Hearts, who doubles as a sort of… priest, if you will. Most Oran Berries you see in the world today carry that blessing. This is especially true for content found in Dungeons, which have, too, been blessed. Prior, they were much less welcoming.”

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNHooTszyW4


I'm sorry, what? I mean, I knew something was up with Anam, but I didn't expect him to have anywhere near that much power on the cosmic scale- oh, this is why he's the silhouette on the left side of the FFN banner, isn't it?

“Blessing,” Zena repeated. “Priest. What sort of cult do you run?”

It’s not much of a cult if you can see actual results, now is it?” Rhys asked, motioning to the fiery Grass Guardian. “For smaller Pokémon like Owen, a single berry is enough to fully restore them to fighting health.”

Image


Owen grunted and stood up. He didn’t know what to think anymore. He’d gone past the panic and despair and slipped into frustration and anger again. The same anger that made him yell at Zena’s spirits. Even if he was healed, his older thoughts returned to him, now that he no longer feared for his life. He glared at Rhys.

Who are you?”

Would suggest a minor chop-up here, though can't tell if we're about to find out or else if Rhys is going to play coy for another 20-50 chapters from here.

“...I am Lucario Rhys, Elite Heart of Kilo Village. I am a former Hunter of the Guardians.” Rhys looked to Zena. “Owen is very good at detecting lies and malevolence. He is very in-tune with body language, and he knows if I intend to strike him, even if it is as a surprise. Owen, do you sense anything from me that suggests I would want to hurt you?

... Wait, so Owen has aura sensitivity too in this story? Since otherwise how on earth can he tell that the vibes that Rhys is giving off aren't manipulative in nature?

Though I'm not sure if I buy Rhys' story or not. On the one hand, it'd explain his lack of aggression towards Anam and Amia, on the other... we basically have zero reason to take anyone's word in Kilo Village at face value after the past couple chapters.


Owen looked up. He could feel it, yes. He didn’t know it was some sort of talent of his, but he was always very aware of his surroundings, including those close to him. And he could sense Rhys’ paw twitching irritably. His muscles were tense from the battle. His brow was furrowed with hidden impatience, invisible thanks to his fur, but the tension was there.

Can't tell if that's meant to be more akin to Pyra/Mythra's Foresight from XB2 or the various Tattle/Scan abilities from Paper Mario and FF games, but noted.

Rhys did want to hurt him… but not in the way Zena thought. No. Rhys was holding himself back from smacking him on the head. He could imagine Rhys telling him to stop acting so immaturely, so rashly, so childishly. He wanted him to be a proper Heart. He could hear the lecture about how, had this been done on a mission, innocents could get hurt, or worse.

Okay, Owen confirmed for Aura-sensitive, or else having some sort of ability that's functionally indistinguishable from it.

Owen finally straightened, but then brought his head down. He rubbed his nose with his arm.

Zena’s eyes softened, just barely. “Very well. But do not think you’ve convinced me, Hunter.”

I mean, yeah. I don't exactly blame Zena there, since it hasn't exactly been demonstrated in this setting that Lucario aren't capable of social engineering by giving off false vibes with their auras, so...

“Great, great, that’s all nice and good,” Gahi said, clicking his jaws to get their attention. “But as yeh may’ve noticed, it’s pretty much twilight at this point, and I’m tired, and I haven’t had dinner yet, and maybe we can get this rolling along? Oy, Rhys, y’got yer Badge? I wanna go back ter Kilo. I hate rivers, and I hate oceans. I’d rather get eaten than drown someplace like this. We gonna go?”

I like how after everything that's happened in front of Gahi in terms of earth-shattering reveals, that this is what he's most worried about at the moment. >:V

“Why did you even come, then?” Rhys said in a hiss that was only half-controlled.

“Well, yeh had that story about Mystics an’ all that ter tell me on the way,” Gahi said. “Was the first story yeh ever told that wasn’t boring.”

I can see Rhys' eye twitching in live-time already.

Owen sensed Rhys wanted to hit Gahi, too. The left half of his lips twitched upward, and he couldn’t hide his brightening flame. He shook his head to keep composed and looked to the Water Guardian.

Yeah, I knew it. :P

“Zena,” Owen said. “Even if Rhys is a Hunter… I mean, there’s no way Goodra Anam would allow him to do anything. If we go to Kilo Village, we’ll be safe. And I think Anam is way stronger than Rhys is.”

Sticker, sceptilisk,


I mean, after he's right there on the cover alongside a Mew and an Arceus? I mean, I'm not going to definitively say that Anam is using Hunters for his own ends, but I certainly don't reflexively believe the underlined, since a lot of details that have come out in the past couple chapters are strongly pointing towards Anam having some serious skeletons in his closet and/or ulterior motives.

“Perhaps not way stronger,” Rhys growled. He looked at Gahi. “Very well. I have the Badge. If Zena will allow me to look through my supplies, I will get it.”

Kek, someone got a touch salty there.

“You may,” Zena said slowly. “But if I am to follow, expect me to be ten paces behind you. I refuse to walk beside the likes of you.”

Rhys: "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Let's just move on already." >_>;

Rhys winced. But Owen also sensed a tension in Rhys’ throat, too. Owen gently rubbed at his own, trying to get an idea of what the feeling was supposed to be. The Charmeleon realized then that Rhys had a figurative lump in his throat.

Huh. Maybe Rhys really is an ex-Hunter at the moment. Since he sure seemed to take getting shot down by Zena hard.

“...What’s a pace fer you?” Gahi said, observing her lack of limbs.

The Milotic glared.

“Feh.” Gahi shuffled behind Owen. He tried to be casual, but Owen noticed his tremble.

Owen: "Um... Gahi? Are you alright right now?"

Rhys pulled out the Association Badge.

“And that will help us home, how?” Zena asked.

“It’ll bring us back to town,” Owen said. “It can only really bring back four people at a time or so. We usually bring more Badges in case we have to rescue a bunch at once, so then we can still get back ourselves.”

Owen recalled what he’d read about the Badges functionality and limits.

You can key it in to other locations to warp to if you configure it while you’re there, but by default, if you just tap the little heart button in the middle once, you’ll go to the Central Waypoint," the Charmeleon explained. "Easy. I’d’ve set my new Badge to go to Hot Spot Cave, but… it’s been a really hectic few days lately…”

“Oh?” Zena tilted her head. “What’s a Waypoint?”

Would recommend hacking the paragraph with the Waypoint explanation up into 3 parts. Perhaps also expanding the description portion a bit.

Owen: "Also, how long did you say you were holed up in that watery cave again-?" .-.
Zena: "Look, that's not relevant right now. The point is that this wasn't around the last time I was outside." >_>;

“Oh, wow,” Owen said. “You have been gone for a while. Um… it’s… this thing where you have to stand on it, and then once you do, it will activate, and then you’ll go to its corresponding tile somewhere else in the world—so, in this case, the one in Kilo Village. Nevren invented it.”

Owen looked at the Badge. [ ]

This Badge has the same sort of energy," he explained. "It’s weaker, and it has to recharge… but it is tied to the Waypoints or other areas you register with it.”

Yeah, same energy as that cutaway gag. Though I'd recommend hacking this paragraph up a bit as well since it functionally feels like two lines of dialogue taped together.

“I see… Waypoints can be used as much as we want, but they’re stuck at two specific locations. But these Badges can be used anywhere, but require energy. What an interesting system. Very well. If you are confident in this… thing, I will put my faith in you, Owen.”

Image


Owen caught a twitch of irritation from Rhys, but he figured he deserved that one.

“Owen,” Rhys said, “why don’t you use it?”

Owen: "Right, let's just get ourselves out of here right now..." ^^;

Owen nodded, took the Badge, and thrust it in the air. He clicked the button once. In a split-second, they reappeared in Kilo Village, just in time to see a small team, led by Anam, heading for Calm Water Lake’s Waypoint. The others accompanying him were Decidueye James and Alakazam Nevren.

“Whoa, wait! L-look!” Anam said, pointing.

Given that it's been just under 3600 words in a straight shot, I kinda wonder if this point would've been a logical moment to drop in a hard scene break given that we're literally skipping locations right now.

“H-hi, guys!” Owen hesitated. In the rush of events, he finally remembered what had happened. Wasn’t he supposed to be angry at them? But, now that he had time to think… “I’m… I’m sorry for running off,” he said. “I just—I wanted to clear my head, and—”

Zena stared, wide-eyed, at the countless buildings that surrounded her. Owen was glad they came when there weren’t any Pokémon passing by, or the isolated Milotic would have been completely overwhelmed.

Oh hey, I get to make more jokes about Owen effectively being Rex from XB2 given that he finds a girl with mysterious powers that's been stuck far away from the surface for literal centuries and brings her as a tagalong.

Next thing you'll tell me, Zena will be giving him an escort mission to some legendary corner of the world or something. >:V

Owen: "This... wasn't around the last time you were out, was it?" ^^; Zena: "Not at all."
:grohno~1:


“A-and this is Zena! She’s, um, she’s the Water Guardian.”

Zena tensed and looked away. “H-h-hel…”

“Hi, Zena!” Anam waved. “It’s good to meet you!”

I take it that Anam was not active as a Guardian when Zena got holed up in that cave given that she doesn't recognize him.

“Ahh, the Water Guardian, I see,” Nevren said. He stepped forward and held out a hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Zena. I am sorry if this is beyond your favored conditions.”

“Y-yes, thank…” Zena held out an eyebrow for him to shake.

Huh. I never realized that those head barbels literally grew from right above Milotic's eyes. I was going to object to this, but I suppose it kinda fits.

[ ]

“Zena, are you okay?” Owen asked.

“Give her time, Owen,” Nevren said. “She has not spoken to so many strangers in a very long while, I imagine. This will take time to adjust.”

IMO, this probably would've worked a bit better with some emphasis more on Zena's future shock with her surroundings, since there hasn't been a lot of that described outside of dialogue beyond that one paragraph where she was mentioned being wide-eyed.

“She spoke just fine with Rhys…” But he wondered if it was easier for her to yell at someone she hated than to talk to someone new. Didn’t explain why she spoke so easily with him, however. Owen figured it was because he was just one little Charmeleon, and this was a gang of elites and Gahi.

Because you two are in wuuuuuuv~

“Owen!” Demitri shouted from the top of the Heart stairway. “H-hey! You’re back to normal!”

Demetri, don't make me break out Bender again. Though wait, did Demetri see Owen evolve while running away? If not, how is he not reacting more to Owen being a Charmeleon right now?

Mispy was next to Demitri, and both of them rushed down to meet with the rest of their team.

“Yeah, so much fer being funny ter look at,” Gahi said. “How’s it feel ter be Fire again, anyway?”

Yeah, see above. Since unless this news was relayed earlier somehow, this feels like a bit of an underreaction since even if it's not quite as freakishly dramatic, Owen has still changed a lot from how they last remembered him.

Good,” Owen said immediately.

Mispy glared.

Owen: "Look, Mispy, I need this okay? I'm sure that you'd be miserable yourself if you got turned Fire-type and had others making weed jokes about you constantly!" >_>;
Mispy: "You don't have to be so pointed about it, alright?" >.<

“S-so.” Owen avoided Mispy’s eyes. “How did… Rhys find us?”

“He ran ahead ter get yeh,” Gahi said. “Said he knew where yeh’d be. Maybe he sensed yer Mystic aura, y’know?”

- Beat moment -
Owen: "Wait, he can do that?" .-.

“I am familiar with the underwater channel that Zena used,” Rhys said. “Once I figured out where you had gone, I decided to follow you there. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Waypoint designated to that part of the southern shoreline, as no Dungeon had ever formed in that location. I had to go on foot. Gahi was the only one who could realistically keep up.

Wait, did Gahi tunnel his way down or something? Since I'd never have pegged him as being able to keep up on those nubby legs of his as a Trapinch.

“O-oh.” Owen thought about what Zena had said. A Hunter had been chasing after them. Did Rhys chase her through those channels before? What stopped him from…?

Getting killed by Zena and then later rezzing, obviously.

Zena looked at Anam. By his species name, she knew he was the leader. “You… I’d… like to introduce myself,” she said. “And… to your spirit.”

Wait, how does she know that again? Just an assumption of "oh, he's a pseudolegendary, so he must be the one in charge" or is there something up with Goodra in this world?

“Oh!” Anam said. “Yeah! I’m Anam, and this is James! He worked with me for a long time, but when he eventually got too old, I brought him back as a spirit assistant!

:copyber:


That's at once hilarious and all sorts of messed-up there.

Owen squinted slightly. Anam sounded odd when he said that. Did anybody else notice? He glanced at Rhys. He noticed. But he didn’t say anything. It must have been nothing. Anam wasn’t the sort to lie, after all.

Oh, so I'm not the only one who caught how that was incredibly messed-up on Anam's part to bring someone back from the grave to put them back to work eternally.

“Yes,” James said, nodding. “Ah, and Owen, your parents are very worried about you. I will fetch them.” He sank into the ground.

Wait, James can functionally use his ghost powers to teleport others across spatial distances? I didn't realize that, but noted for the future.

A brief, awkward silence filled the air. It was only broken when Anam said, “Wait! So… so that means right now, in this town… we have four of the Guardians in one place!”

Yes, and I'm not convinced that that's necessarily a good thing that that's the case.

“F-four…” Zena said, realizing this. “Water, Grass, and…?”

“Fire’s my Mom,” Owen said.

And I’m the Ghost Guardian!” Anam said.

Yeah, I knew it. Though I suppose that that makes some of his party tricks in the GL crossover that I remember being very confusing to me while reading it make a lot more sense.

“Four of us, all in one place,” Zena remarked. “Isn’t that a bit worrying?”

“Not anymore,” Anam said. “I think we’re going to be changing strategies.”

This is going to turn into "gotta catch 'em all", but for Guardians, isn't it?

Nevren nodded. “Yes. It appears that the remaining Hunters have discovered a means of tracking the auras of Guardians with great precision, so we must now dedicate ourselves to gathering, rather than separating, the power before the Hunters do the same.”

Aaaaaaand I called it.

“Hmm.” Zena looked at Nevren carefully. “You… give off a strange aura as well.”

“Y-yes, well… that is…”

Oh, so Zena has a built-in sus-o-meter as well, huh? Though wait, has Owen just never registered that something was up with Nevren? Since if so, I'm going to have to call into question everything that he said about Rhys earlier this chapter.
:copyka:


“Nevren,” Owen said, crossing his arms. “I’m really sensitive to secrets right now, and I just… I just don’t want to deal with it. Just tell me now so we can get it over with."

[ ]

And "I think this Mystic power is making my perception go on overdrive, and I think I hate it? Because I’m feeling all the lies pouring from you guys. It’s disgusting. Just… tell the truth.”

Would recommend splitting Owen's dialogue up into two pieces with something in between, though I guess his aura sensitivity or whatever he's got going on from being the Grass Guardian is giving him a better sense that something's up with Nevren at the moment.

Anam nibbled nervously on his fingers.

Nevren shook his head, eyes closed. “Very well,” he said. “It’s not much of a secret to others, but I used to be an active Hunter as well, yes. A… researcher; I was not much for fighting.

giphy.gif


Alright, buddy. I saw what you were doing with that Swolax there a couple chapters ago, so excuse me if I don't take this at face value.

Owen expected this, the way Rhys was so familiar with him. “Are there any other Elites or, like… anybody else here in the Hearts that are former Hunters?”

Nevren shook his head. “Of the Hearts, only Rhys and I are affiliated,” he said.

Time to see how effective that perception is at ferreting out lies, I guess. Since on the one hand, the TH are already quite a weirdness magnet, buuuuut...

“Okay, just—what’s the point?” Owen said. “What’s the whole point of the Hunters? Why are you guys around for so long if you don’t have any Orbs to keep you alive? How many of you are there, and…?”

“Perhaps,” Rhys said, “this is something that we should discuss in private.”

Owen: "Wait, but I thought that we were in private right now." ^^;
Rhys: "Somewhere more private than this." >_>;

Anam nodded. “Mhm. The night crowd is gonna come soon, and I don’t want them to overhear anything. Let’s go to my office!”

Ah yes, time to see what a fashion disaster that place is, especially if the TH lobby is anything to go by.

Everyone agreed, though Zena trailed behind, as promised. Ten paces. In this case, those were ten intervals of Zena’s weaving, slithering motions. The walk was a long one—it felt longer than usual. And Owen sensed it again. Rhys’ tension. But this was a different tension… Owen shook his head. He hated feeling these things. He tried to dull it, but he still had the vaguest feeling of what the others were doing around him.

Live look at Rhys rn:

Image


Rhys glanced back at Zena. Owen did his best to ignore it, but those glances were becoming very frequent. He wasn’t getting tempted, was he? Was Nevren stronger than Rhys? No, he said he wasn’t a fighter. And what about Anam? Surely he could handle Rhys. Then again, Owen never actually saw the Goodra fight before. In fact, if the rumors were true, he usually just hugged outlaws into submission.

"""hugged""", yes. Throw enough force behind that, and it can become a quite literally breaking experience.

Suddenly, Rhys stopped walking; Owen nearly bumped into him had it not been for how abruptly he had stopped.

Rhys?” Owen asked, leaning to the side.

Zena tensed, Mystic energy silently flowing beneath the surface of her scales, making the once creamy color glow iridescently against the setting sun.

Couple small tweaks I'd suggest for here. Though I take it that this means that the gang isn't alone right now.

“I… I wish to apologize,” Rhys said, head down. “For what I put you through. I didn’t intend for you to live in fear. And… for that, I’m sorry.”

Huh. I suppose that confirms that Rhys really is an ex-Hunter, though I wonder what the backstory behind his change of heart is.

Zena’s guard faltered, but then her glare redoubled. “Intentions don’t mean very much, Hunter.”

Owen and Rhys both winced, but neither had a counter. Zena had every right. Anam nervously nibbled at the tips of his fingers; Gahi clicked his jaws irritably, but it seemed that even he knew not to speak up. Demitri and Mispy, largely uninformed, only exchanged confused glances.

Demetri: "... I'm sorry, why are we here again?"
:joltyshrug~1:

Mispy: "Because we're protagonists, so this almost certainly is going to wind up affecting us somehow plot-wise so might as well get a briefing?"
Demetri: "Right. That'd be a good reason to be here."

“I understand,” Rhys finally said, cutting through the silence, but more agonizing emptiness took its place seconds later. Rhys’ paws twitched, and that lump—Owen sensed it in his throat again. But no words came.

Rhys SE focused around his defection from being a Hunter when?

<><><>

In the dying lights of evening, the group quietly shuffled into Anam’s office. Demitri tripped and fell onto Mispy, who wrapped her vines around him and set the Axew atop her back. Nevren tapped his spoons twice; Luminous Orbs lit the corridors. “Could’ve done that in the first place,” Demitri mumbled.

Wait, is there supposed to be a hard scene break here? Since the way the prose flows in this section feels like it could've had one dropped in without missing a beat, and the entire time, there have been literally zero scene breaks in this entire chapter and we're now -checks notes- a little under 5000 words into this one.

The Goodra sat in the pond in the back of the room; all of the others sat in simple nests of hay that James had materialized from the shadows, except for Zena, who coiled around herself, next to Owen. On Owen’s other side was his mother—who refused to keep her hand off of the Charmeleon’s arm, holding firmly—and next to her, Alex.

Oh, so Goomy and their evos are semi-aquatic in this setting, huh? Noted for the future.

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi jealously eyed Owen’s new, Charmeleon form. Owen, noticing this, gave a teasing little smirk—he won that little game and, surely, he’ll hit his final form first, too. The Elites were near Anam, though not too close; the gooey world leader tended to get in a grabby, cuddly mood at night, and the last thing they needed was to get covered in his slime.

Oh, so they did notice that Owen evolved. I was starting to wonder from the (apparently deliberate) lack of reaction earlier, buuuut... >:V

“Well,” James said. “Rhys, perhaps it is appropriate for you to explain… yourself to those who are not aware.”

“Yes,” Rhys said. “I… believe it is appropriate.” He looked at the others—particularly at Zena, and then Owen, and finally, his students. “Nevren and I… are two of the five Hunters. Our purpose was to gather all of the Orbs into one being. We were meant to use this power to challenge Arceus, as we deemed him an improper god.”

I... am not convinced that they gave up on this mission and didn't just shift targets for someone to uplift into a god, since it sure is convenient that the current plan for Kilo Village is to gather all the Guardians holding the Orbs that would be needed to elevate a new god to challenge the llama himself in one place.

Also, I'm guessing that Rim is one of the remaining three Hunters. Makes me wonder if the other two are still alive, and if they are, what they're presently up to.

It took nearly ten seconds for Owen to fully process those three sentences; he didn’t even react when Zena spoke first.

“Wh-what do you mean, challenge Arceus? Is that the power that these Orbs possess?” Zena asked. “Why in the world would Arceus allow such a thing to exist?”

Bold of you to assume that Arceus had a choice in the matter, Owen.

“Because he created it in the first place,” Rhys said, “ and is powerless to stop it by his own design. At least, that is the story we are told," Rhys said. "That Arceus used to be omnipotent, when the world was first created. But then, fearing his own power and temper, he delegated some of it to others that he could trust."

[ ]

"Star was one; he gave her a third of his power. Another third became imbued into artifacts that represented Arceus’ power," he continued. "Those became the Orbs. The remaining third is still with him.”

This is a long bit of monologue here. Would strongly suggest hacking it up into at least two pieces with description / internal thoughts from Owen in between, and potentially into three.

Though:
>giving Star a third of your power as a creator entity


:madness~3:


I see that Owen's not the only Pokémon with atrocious judgment of character in this story.

“Okay…” Owen rubbed his head. “But… hang on. Arceus didn’t like His own temper? Arceus has a temper?”

Rhys: "Yes...? You do realize that gods, including high gods having a temper isn't exactly a rare feature of mythology, right?"
:lucariwhat:

Owen: "I get that, but this is the first time that I've heard this about Arceus." .-.

Rhys nodded. “Arceus does indeed become wrathful at times, and with absolute power, the results can be… devastating.”

So how many times did music related wind up needing to be cued up back in the day anyways?:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU2oSGSAZuE


It seemed too simple. Why would someone with ultimate power give it up at all?

It was stolen from the llama, wasn't it? Since that feels like a pretty easy explanation that would lend itself well to the whole Xanatos Pileup shtick that HoC is (in)famous for.

Owen pressed on. “So… so He basically… tried to save the world from Him, retroactively?” Even as Owen said it, there was a hint of skepticism in his tone.

“It seems so.”

:sceptikarp:


Yeah, I'm not buying that that's the real explanation for what happened there.

Owen grumbled. “But what about you? The Hunters? You want to challenge Him? Like, as in, usurp Him? Even though He did something so selfless?” Owen briefly paused, feeling a brief tinge of reverence in the way he spoke of the Creator. Just yesterday, he didn’t believe in the existence of one at all. Now…?

- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Arceus is going to wind up turning out to be an evil asshole at this rate with how literally everything I've taken for granted in my life has turned out to be a lie, isn't he?"
:ohnowen:


The shock of it all left him feeling numb enough that he could focus on the conversation and nothing else.

Rhys closed his eyes. “We were… conscripted,” he said, “by Star, to usurp him.”

Wow, Owen really does have some godawful judgment of character.
:lolcat:


Owen: "... Oh my gods."
:grohno~1:


“Oh.” Owen said. He blinked twice. “Wait—"

“You’re lying,” Zena said immediately.

“Do I look like I’m lying?” Rhys said just as quickly.

Zena: "Yes? You are by your own admission an allegedly inactive Hunter. Do you seriously expect me as a Guardian to not think that you're lying to me?"
:typhNOsion:

Rhys: "Okay, let me elaborate here..." >_>;

“That Torkoal said the same exact thing,” Zena said. “You’re lying, just as he was! Star would never—”

I'm beginning to see how Owen and Zena wind up falling for each other given that they clearly have broken sus-o-meters when it comes to Star.

“Hm?” Amia looked up. “Oh, hold on, dear.”

Owen glanced curiously at his mother; she held her hand forward, pushing out a blue ember. It coalesced and turned into a pink cloud, and then further solidified into a very faint, yet clearly visible, Mew.

“H-h-hi, Star!” Owen greeted.

Star:
Image

Rhys:
:hisssssss:

Star: "Wait, he's here too? Amia, you need to tell me about these things..." >_>;

“Hey, Owen!” Star waved. “Hey, good to see you got your old Type back. Maybe you can practice switching between the two later, huh?

Noted that that's apparently something that Guardians can do in this setting. Even if I suppose that means that Zena might have gotten a bit of a short straw there given that she's a Guardian over her already-natural type.

Amia sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make you any more solid, Star, but your spirit’s just too much to manifest.”

“Nah, it’s fine. This works.”

So just how blatantly is Rhys death glaring from the corner right about now?

Owen gulped, knowing why Star wanted to be summoned in the first place. “Um—about… about what Rhys said.”

“Star, are you here to disprove what that Hunter is saying?” Zena said. “Smite him.”

Star:
Image

Zena: "... Star, you're not actually saying that you-" ._.

Star held her arms up, waving her paws quickly. “N-no, no, I don’t do the whole smite thing. I, uh, I mean, I’m kinda here to… back Rhys up.”

Zena’s coils tightened.

Yeah, I figured. And I can already tell there's basically coinflip odds of Zena BSODing in live time right about now.

“I was listening in, and… he’s right. I… did kinda… create the Hunters, in a sense.” She fiddled with her paws.

Zena: "What do you mean 'kinda' create the Hunters?!" O_O;
Star: "Er... well, I was just getting to that part, actually..."

The Milotic looked like she’d been stabbed in the chest. “Y-you… created them?” She expected Star to laugh and say it was a joke, another one of her pranks. But the Mew’s downcast eyes said it all. “The very people that—that ruined my life—that ruined everything I had?!” Zena said.

Star: "... It was an accident?" ^^;
Zena: "I spent literal centuries hiding in a cave because of them!"
:hisssssss:


Star kept her head down.

The lack of response was perhaps the worst reaction Zena could have received. The painful silence lasted for—Owen wasn’t sure how many seconds. Too long. Even Gahi stayed quiet, his huge mouth slightly open in disbelief. Owen wondered if it was because the trio was witnessing Mew Herself, or because Star was behind something so horrible.

Owen: "Oh my gods, Arceus really is going to turn out to be an evil asshole in this world, isn't he?" o_o;

Silent through it all, Anam nibbled on his fingers and shrank back, eyes focused on nothing. It was like he was listening to a voice only he could hear, even while Zena spoke.

He's totally listening to a voice that only he can hear right now, isn't he?

“I could have lived a normal life!” Zena whispered loudly. She was trembling. Her voice slowly grew in volume. “I… I could have lived as a normal Milotic, perhaps found myself a fine partner to have an egg with, to raise a child together, to become a family, to die of age like—like any other Pokémon!"

[ ]

"But instead…! Instead I lived… centuries… in isolation… with nothing but spirits that taunt me with their deaths, their ability to freely leave and pass on…! And I’m…" she whispered hoarsely. "I’m just stuck here with this Orb, some piece of our so-called all-mighty Creator’s rejected power! And… and all for what?! All for you to take it back?!”

IMO, Zena's line is long enough that it probably makes sense to break it up and have her eyetwitch or something like that after realizing that she's been living in hiding for untold centuries for nothing because Star is Star. Doesn't necessarily have to be split in the same fashion as above, but it's something to consider.

Star opened her mouth to speak.

I don’t want to hear another word from you! Leave my sight!”

Owen: "Um, Zena? Not that I don't share your opinion that Star did something extremely messed-up, but isn't she the one who's got a third of Arceus'-" ^^;
Zena: "I. DON'T. CARE."
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:


Star bit her lower lip. She lingered, but when Zena’s piercing, fiery eyes persisted—enough to rival Owen’s tail—she disintegrated into a blue ember and returned to Amia.

Surprised that Star didn't put up more of a fuss, though I suppose she is there as an astral projection right about now.

Zena threw her head onto her coils, shivering and sniffling. Owen quietly looked around and saw that nobody was comfortable enough to approach her. He took initiative and quietly stepped closer to Zena and put a hand to her neck. She jerked her head away, but didn’t resist when Owen tried a second time.

“Why?” Owen finally asked. “What’s… what’s it all for? Why does—or, did, why did Star want that power?”

>why did

I'm not convinced that she really gave it up, Owen. Especially considering how she tricked you into killing yourself just a couple chapters ago.

Rhys shook his head. “I don’t… I don’t know,” he said. “What she told us is the extent of her motivations behind trying to usurp Arceus. That he is an improper god; that the world is stagnating; that to save it, she would need the power. And… while I agreed with her at the time, the way the Hunters worked to do this…”

He glanced at Zena. [ ]

It shook me. And I could not continue," he explained. "and Star felt the same. Yet… well, as you can see, some of them still continue.”

Would recommend dividing this line from Rhys up and dropping in some more body language or emotion from him. Especially if you're intending to play up the sense of regret that Rhys apparently has about his actions from back in the day.

Zena pressed her eyes against her scales. She was well beyond anger at this point; it seemed like she was just closing herself off again, like she was hiding away in the base of her caverns all over again. The way she coiled against the rocks made her scales bend roughly against the jagged portions. Owen stared worriedly at this. Did Zena even realize it?

She probably doesn't, but I think that Zena's probably got other things on her mind like trying to think of the most effective way to kill Star right about now. ^^;

“Star was my friend,” she said. “How could she lie to me? For so long?”

Simple: She was never really as good of a friend as you thought she was. That's an easy way to square the circle there.

Owen held Zena’s side, trying to prevent her from damaging her scales too much. It was enough to stop her, and she resorted instead to brushing against his side instead. She needed something to press against, and Owen recognized that much, even if he couldn’t understand why. Her sheer size made it hard for the Charmeleon to remain stable; he gripped his claws onto the nest for some leverage. It wasn’t very effective.

Owen: "(Dammit, why couldn't Anam have invested in proper stools or cushions of some sort?)" >_>;

“She may have told you many times before,” Rhys said, “and then erased your memory of it when the reaction was… less than favorable. Star can do that—it’s what inspired, and helped, Nevren do the same to Kilo Village to maintain Anam’s leadership without anybody realizing he never dies. But with all of us present, I doubt she can erase your memories again. Not effectively.”

- Cue the record scratch moment -
Owen: "Are you kidding me?! Seriously, what the hell?!"
:WHY:


Zena sniffed. Her tail wrapped around Owen next; he was too slow to react, and he became enveloped somewhere along her abdomen. She curled around him, just to have something to hold. “I remember… oh, I certainly remember now…!”

“Y-you do?” Owen said. “How many times did She tell you?”

Owen: "Also, I can't tell if this is making you feel better or much, much worse right now, Zena." .-.

Zena shook her head. Her voice was only slightly louder than a whisper. “A number of times. Every few decades. I reacted badly. I threatened to leave, and she couldn’t have that—I would get hurt.” She shrugged her head and rolled her watering eyes. Owen sensed Zena’s muscles make the same contraction pattern as before, threatening to brush against the walls again. He held her firmly, and her scales flinched away from the rocks.

And what did we all learn today about trusting Star, kids?

The Milotic continued, “So, she had to undo it… and make me forget. She didn’t want me to get hurt…. That’s what she always told me. But…” Zena sniffled. She suddenly raised her voice, and it cracked. “But I’d rather die than live like this!”

And short of chunky salsa-ing her head or disintegrating herself, Zena can't die anymore. Just lovely.
:copyka:


“You don’t have to live like that any longer,” Rhys said firmly. “We will stay together as our own community. We will live among the mortals. And… we will gather the Orbs before the remaining Hunters can.”

Zena: "You're literally still working with Star right now!"
:seviAAAAAAAAAAA:

Rhys: "... She's changed in the last few hundred years?" ^^; Gahi: "(Yeah, color me doubtful there...)"
:what:

Demetri: "(Actually, now that you mention it, Gahi. How are we not speaking up more during all of this right now? Shouldn't this be shocking news for us?)"

It didn’t look like it was getting through to Zena, but she was at least silent. Her coils tightened further around Owen.

The Charmeleon squeaked, air escaping his chest. His bones creaked. “Can’t… can’t breathe…!”

Owen: "Um, Zena? Not that you aren't rightfully upset right now, but do you think you could let me out of your coils right now?" @.@

Zena released him and he gasped for air. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. She stared at Rhys, now, recalling his recent actions. “Yet, here you are, now. Claiming to be an ex-Hunter… Why? When that was what you were given that power for?”

inb4 the answer is "yesterday plus 500 years ago".

“Because I don’t believe it is helping anybody to keep the Orbs scattered in this way,” he said. “Even Star agrees, I’m sure, that having us live together is much better than keeping us apart. It’s unfortunate that we had to wait this long for that decision… but here we are.”

Yeah, somebody's totally planning on trying to nab all those orbs once they're all gathered together, I can already tell. And judging from the silhouettes on the story cover... I have a couple of potential suspects that I'm keeping in mind.

“And she doesn’t agree with the other Hunters, either?” Owen asked. “Like that Espurr?”

“Certainly not,” Nevren spoke up. “The remaining Hunters are acting on their own, for their own gain.”

Imagine taking any of these guys at face value when it's come out that they've been lying about everything up until this point.

Granted, it's Owen, so I'm sure he'll do it anyways given that he seems to have some sort of credulity switch built into him, but...

Anam finally perked up, even if his usual, happy demeanor was completely missing, replaced instead by pained concern. “I—I trust Nevren. He’s my friend.”

200w.gif


Owen sank down, satisfied at least with this answer. While it was hard, even for Owen, to get a read on Nevren, what he said was reasonable. And if Anam trusted him, that was good enough.

Image


Let's not even get into how it was just admitted that Anam has Nevren wipe the residents' memories periodically so nobody can realize that Anam's been running KV for hundreds of years continuously if not longer.

“So that’s it, then,” James said, nodding. “We race the Hunters to gathering the Guardians. With Star’s cooperation, perhaps we can find more of them.”

Zena:
:absus:

James: "Again, I realize that this is an uncomfortable proposition for you, Zena, but... Star's changed? Probably?" ^v^;

Zena curled a bit tighter around Owen again; the Charmeleon tensed, readying for another crushing grip. “You can plan with her,” she said, “I’m not ready to speak.”

Kek. I had a feeling that Zena wasn't going to be down with just trusting Star like nothing ever happened.

“Of course,” James said. “Amia? If you can summon her, please.”

“Oh—yes, dear.”

Zena: "Are you going to at least let me leave the room first, or-?" :|
James + Amia:
Image


Star appeared again, this time a bit more solid—but Star was too powerful for Amia to fully materialize, and she was still very see-through. “H-hey, everyone…”

Her head was on fire.

Well that's probably a bad sign there, though I suppose "liar, liar head on fire" has a ring to it.

“Uh, Star, er…” Owen pointed.

“What?” Star tried to look up. “Oh, come on.” She licked her paw and dabbed it on her forehead, putting out the flame. “Honestly, Amia. Fire realm’s way too hot.”

Oh, so whenever a Guardian summons Star, she has to go through their aligned type realm, huh? Or at least I think that's the implication there.

Amia tittered softly, but then fell back into a tense silence.

“Star…” Owen wanted to speak carefully, if only so he didn’t get crushed like a Cheri Berry. “I—I don’t get how you could create the Hunters and…” He glanced at Zena,.“And let something like that happen, but… You seem like a good Pokémon! S-so, you’re gonna help us, right?”

And there goes Owen's judgment of character™️ in action again. I like how even after tricking him into effectively killing himself and taking on a form that he finds alien and horrifying, that Owen (for now) still reflexively thinks of Star as a good and trustworthy person.
:copyka:


Star nodded. “I’ll do what I can. But, the thing is… a lot of the Guardians don’t talk to me anymore. They’re doing their own thing, hiding away and making sure they don’t, you know, get into any trouble. I’ll need some time to prepare. And I think you all need some rest.”

“O-oh.” Owen nodded. “Right…”

Gee, I wonder why they're doing that?
:copyber:


Just then, the pure exhaustion of the day hit him. This day began with him dying while touching the Grass Orb. It ended with him dying again when he turned back to a Fire Type. And now this?

Zena: "And you're seriously going to still trust Star after all of that, Owen?" -_-;
Owen:
Image

"Especially since I'm pretty sure we don't really have a choice not to if we want to move the plot forward."

“Rest up for a few days,” Star said. “I need to… gather everything I know. Alright?”

Wonder if we're actually going to see that depicted in the story or if we're just going to jump straight to the end of that period.

Rhys nodded. “That’s fair enough. Demitri, Mispy, Gahi. Let’s return home for dinner. Owen, I imagine you would like to go home with Amia.”

“Y-yeah,” Owen said. “Definitely. I’ll—” He tried to get out of Zena’s coils, but the Milotic held onto him tighter.

“Where will I go?” she asked.

inb4 Owen volunteers her to join his place back at Hot Spot Cave and shenanigans ensue.

“Oh, um, well.” Owen considered this. Zena probably wouldn’t be very comfortable in a slimy pool of water with Anam. And Rhys—that was certainly out of the question.

Feeling good about that prediction right now, really. ^^

“You can come home with us, dear,” Amia said. “Hot Spot Cave, despite the name, is quite cool if I’m not using my power. I’ll make sure the central part of the cave is tolerable!”

Zena nodded. “Then, I will go there.”

Aaaaaand I called it.

Rhys nodded. “I believe we should also move in,” he said. “While Star prepares, we will gather our supplies and go to Hot Spot Cave.”

“E-eh? Just like that?” Gahi asked.

Owen: "Wait, huh? Why exactly do you all need to come to my place again?" .-.

“I have a responsibility to protect the Guardians. If they are going to live in Hot Spot, then I shall go there as penance.”

On the one level, that makes a kind of sense, on the other hand... why is Rhys suddenly feeling an urge to do this now after so many years of Amia and Anam already being present? There being three Guardians under one roof raising the stakes of there not being someone to keep an eye on them?

“Oh! You know,” Owen perked up, “there’s actually a building a lot like yours in Hot Spot! It even has a little sand pit from one of the other—” Owen winced, remembering that his entire village was dead. “You know, where one of the spirits used to fake-live.”

“A sand pit? Fer me?” Gahi said. “Hah! Well, I ain’t gonna complain. Figure we’ll accidentally go ter our old home a lot in the next few days, though.”

Team Alloy and Rhys have already been to that duplicate home at sometime in the past at least once, haven't they? Since that would explain a lot about how it's basically set up ready for them to move in.

“We will be sure to register our Badges with Hot Spot Cave as its new personal Waypoint,” Rhys said. “Come, you three. Let’s go.”

Wait, so does that mean that all habitation by civilization is basically clustered around whatever waypoints are in the network in this setting? Or am I reading into things too much?

Owen rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Hey, um, am I part of Team Alloy, now?” he asked. “We never made it official.”

“Eh? Oh, sure,” Gahi said. “Figured we already were. Sure. It’s official now.”

Mispy: "Gahi, you're supposed to ask-" >_>;
Demetri: "I'd be down for it!" ^^
Rhys: "I have no objections here either as your mentor. And it'd make keeping an eye on Owen a bit easier, really."
Mispy: "Look guys, it's the principle that counts here!" >.<

Vines slowly wrapped around Gahi, lifting him off the ground. His tiny legs wiggled uselessly. Mispy turned the Trapinch around, staring at him with narrowed, red eyes. The Chikorita spoke with her whisper of a voice, yet it was firmer than anybody else on the team. “I’m the leader.”

Didn't peg that one from the way that Gahi conducts himself, but I suppose that I should be a lot less surprised right now.

“E-ehh…” Gahi’s jaws shut tight. He nodded.

Mispy dropped Gahi and nodded at Owen. “You may.”

Owen: "Well, glad that worked itself out! (Also, someone remind me to stay far, far away from Mispy...)" ^^

Owen brightened. “Great! Then, um—I’ll see you guys soon!”

Demetri: "Whuh? Aren't we all going together to your place?"
Owen: "I thought that you'd have stuff to move so... I wasn't expecting it?"
:joltyshrug~1:


With those parting words, Team Alloy departed again. Rhys glanced behind just once to meet eyes with Zena, only to be met with an icy glare. He bristled and hastily exited with the others.

Owen’s tail dimmed, but Amia held his shoulder. She smiled and said, softly, “Give it time.” She followed the others out.

I'm curious myself as to how long it'll take Zena to come around on Rhys, if ever. Since while that seems like the sort of thing that you rightfully just don't let go overnight... with how much things have shaken up in the span of a little over 10 chapters, I suppose it wouldn't be wise to rule out any particular future outcomes.

Owen frowned, but couldn’t find it in himself to argue. But the thought was there…

Wasn’t giving it time what ruined Zena’s life to begin with?

No, that was more being kept in the dark by someone she trusted as a friend who couldn't be bothered to go and clue her in until just now.

The Charmeleon realized, upon descending the stairway, that his flame was a lot more noticeable. The evening’s final light disappeared behind the horizon.

- Owen gawks at his strengthened tail flame and its illumination -
Owen: "Huh, I could get used to this..."
- And gets brushed past by Zena as the pair trade a fleeting glimpse -
Owen: "Really used to this." ^///^

Alright, it took a bit longer than initially planned, but I made it to the end of Chapter 10, and as such it's time to give that postmortem for the event that you don't necessarily have the time to go through the full run-down right away.

This chapter was a bit on the slower side just soaking in the aftermath of everything as well as getting some (alleged) closure on Rhys and some of the local bigwigs' status, though I supposed that that was kinda inevitable given that a lot has happened in the past 4-5 chapters and at some point the cast needs a moment to breathe. To its credit, it still did a decent job at keeping the audience on its toes, since there were a number of things like Rhys being an (apparent) ex-Hunter or Star playing both sides of the Hunters and Guardians that I didn't anticipate before those details came out. So kudos on keeping things suspenseful.

As for weaknesses for the chapter. It has some similar issues regarding description and "block text" as the past couple ones, so I won't harp too hard about that since you already know what my general recommendations there are. I do feel that the entire 8000-ish word chapter being a straight shot with no scene breaks made things feel like it dragged a bit. Which is a bit strange since I saw at least 2 places that felt like fairly natural scene breaks that for whatever reason weren't exploited.

But altogether, I think that it was a strong showing @Namohysip , if definitely chunkier than what I'd been getting used to in the earlier run. You've definitely been giving me something to look forward to with the march up to SE1.

Best of luck writing, and hope the feedback was fun and helpful to read.
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
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Special Episode 4 Review

I apologize for being late with this Vwheel review. Been undergoing some irl situations right now, but anywhere here goes.


It's been quite a few years since I've last read this behemoth of a story of yours and so I've forgotten quite a couple of things about as of reading this chapter. I'm fairly certain that I've either read or skimmed parts of this special episode though since a lot of it struck out as familiar.


One thing I immediately found interesting in this chapter has to be Nevren's revision device that allowed him to keep going "it's rewind time" over and over again as the chapter went on. The device almost functions like save states in an emulator or something lol.


Mispy's healing seems remarkably powerful if it's this strong even while she's just a Chikorita, and Nevren is quite a lot more squishy than I expected. There were a lot of "concerning" moments too with the nonchalance in how he uses his psychic mind control tricks. Still don't like him. I hope he trips on a couch in a future chapter. The part where he tries to mind control Anam and gets wrecked, and also when Eon blasted him were the highlight moments of the chapter. /j


That aside, I think I've been spoiled by too many more eloquent prose works that I didn't quite enjoy this chapter as I'd have liked. The descriptions were fine and serviceable, but aside from character interactions the descriptions didn't make me feel much emotion. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I've especially come to appreciate straightforward prose through Sanderson's stormlight series. My takeaway is that strong character writing does a lot of the legwork in minimalist prose works which, to HOC's credit, is done well enough to keep one engaged with the story.
 
Chapter 152 - Battle of the Abyssal Sea

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
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  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
  6. marowak
Thanks for the reviews, Fobbie, Adam! And yeah, Adam, the prose is certainly old, but I like to think the straightforwardness lets the characters shine a little more, as you said. I've never been one for anything too flowery. I got to you guys elsewhere, but thanks for reading!

--

Chapter 152 – Battle of the Abyssal Sea

Alexander blasted through the ship’s mast. They hadn’t seen it coming and had no time to maneuver it, but Dhelmise was already shouting at the skeleton crew to get to work pulling the ship away from the next incoming blast.

“Why?! Why is he following us now?! I thought the clash at South Null put him out of commission!” Owen frantically searched for something he could do, but at such an incredible distance, he had no idea. He didn’t have the power to properly deflect those attacks… did he?

No. No, he did! He’d done it before, and that was up close! Maybe…

Another blast soared through the skies. At its trajectory, Owen was sure it would be hitting the mast again, and without that, their remaining travel time was going to double or worse.

He spread his wings and leaped in the way, crossing his arms to form a Protect shield. The golden light shifted and hardened, lined with tinges of dark tendrils. Owen gasped softly but decided to worry about that later as the blast approached.

With the Protect still up, Owen breathed and focused on that energy. Once it struck—much weaker from such a great distance—he squeezed his claws and twisted it around. He felt it, that horrible energy. He could control it. It was so familiar.

The dark tendrils of his Protect surged with power and helped him grasp it completely, and then reflect it all at Alexander.

He easily weaved out of the way. It would be several seconds before it would even get to where it could have hit Alexander. Parrying them to hurt Alexander would be pointless at this distance.

But he could still deflect it.

“Good job!” Demitri cried. “Are you hurt?!”

“No! Just fine,” Owen said. “But it’ll get harder the closer he gets…”

Was there a way he could try to weaken Alexander?

“How far is he?!” Owen called.

“Better question, how soon ‘til he gets here?” Gahi added, flying up. “Ehhh…”

Owen couldn’t rely on Gahi to give a good estimate, but he had a feeling they only had a few minutes before Alexander would start doing melee combat, and at that point, it would be far too dangerous. They had to drive him away before that.

At this point, the crew had rushed out of the deck, about ten strong along with Team Alloy. But really, Owen didn’t think these ten would be able to do much against Alexander himself. Was there any point in them even being out here?

The next blast was incoming, and five of those Pokémon rushed forward. All of them could fly or levitate.

“No!” Owen cried. “Don’t—”

The blast struck something with a horrid, ethereal ringing that deafened Owen. Something splashed, and Owen could only imagine, just outside of his Perceive’s range, a Pokémon being pulled underneath those black depths forever. But when he counted the heads, all five were still there, surrounded by golden spheres in a hexagonal pattern.

“What?” Owen whispered. “They all have Necrozma’s blessing…”

“We brought specialists for just this problem,” explained Dhelmise in another of his ominous whispers. “According to our findings, we are quite resistant to the dark. It seems to be… hereditary.”

Hereditary.

Owen gulped hard. These… were his children. His descendants. Did any other person blessed with Necrozma have children? Were all of them descendants of Alexander too, who broke off because they had inherited the light, not the dark?

He couldn’t tell them. It wasn’t even relevant to their lives. He was nothing but a historical note to them, in the end; that connection… was a secret he had to keep to himself for now.

Mispy was staring at him.

“I’m okay,” Owen said to her.

“They can’t last,” Mispy warned.

“Huh?”

A third volley came, deflected again, but some of them were wavering and sinking, their stamina wearing down. She was right; this was yet another instance of just buying time.

“I’m gonna help,” Gahi finally said.

“Gahi, you can’t take Alexander on directly! Just one strike and—”

“Maybe I can’t,” Gahi snarled, “But we can! Demitri, Mispy! C’mon, you with me?!”

“I am,” Mispy said, nodding.

“W-wait!” Owen shouted. “We just—fight him at sea? What if we fall?!”

“Carry me with you,” Mhynt ordered. “I will help you resist any Shadow tricks he throws.”

Zena winced; Owen realized that she, without being able to take advantage of the seas, would not be able to do much here except—

“Zena, accelerate the boat from here!” Owen said. “We can get more time that way so we can think of something else.”

“Of course!” Zena nodded.

“Owen,” Trina spoke up next, frowning at him. “I think what we should do now is coordinate with Palkia and the others. This is a crisis; perhaps Arceus or the others may be able to help.”

“R-right!”

“I’ll get the communicator. You help deflect more blasts. We cannot let the boat sink!”

Another clang, but this one was a stray shot easily deflected. It seemed Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy—fusing into Migami—were already halfway to Alexander with Mhynt on their back.

Mesprit and Azelf, meanwhile, emboldened the defending crew with valor and extra bursts of courage to keep fighting, while Uxie augmented their defenses directly with psychic barriers.

Once their strength began to waver, Owen swapped in next, trying to distract Alexander with a scattershot repulsion of his next attack. When the Shadow Blast struck the barrier, rather than reflect it exactly, Owen tried to aim it skyward and curve the energy downward. It wasn’t nearly as effective, but it did force Alexander to watch more cautiously as Migami lobbed potshots from afar.

He wanted them to return quickly, though. One wrong move and Migami would…

“Owen!” Trina called, tossing the communicator to him.

“Is something wrong?” Palkia said.

“Palkia!” Owen said. “We have a problem. Alexander found us and he’s flying straight for us!”

“Goodness, that’s soon. I thought he was recovering.”

“Did you ever see actual injuries on him, or was he just turned away?”

“Hmm, our scouts were quite confident he’d been wounded… But there is no telling. Ah, well. A shame, really. So! What is your plan?”

“MY plan?!” Owen sputtered but then jumped in the way to take over for more blasts. They were getting faster; Alexander was starting to fire more wildly, and he was halfway to them. Rapidly closing the distance. And they couldn’t let him get into melee range…

“As much as I want to help, I do not think I can safely use my spatial warping to get to you,” Palkia remarked. “And, really, Alexander would surely trump my powers in that realm, to begin with… I could certainly try if you wish.”

And risk Palkia falling under Alexander’s control again? Or any of the other Legends? That wouldn’t do.

Another rumble. Migami had to fall back; it looked like one of the Shadow Blasts had nearly grazed them. Thankfully, Mispy’s judgment trumped Gahi’s pride, and they were falling back.

Alexander was nearly as fast. This wasn’t going to work! And at this rate, even with Zena’s acceleration, the ship was…

“…Palkia,” Owen said, “Palkia! Can you get me a Dungeon?!”

“A Dungeon? Right where you are? Not really, no. I would need something to tune to, and is Mu there?”

“No. We haven’t found her. She’s—”

“Mu is with us,” Spice reported. “Dunno if she’ll understand to go to you guys, and—”

“No, no, no, don’t put her here. If Alexander sees her—”

A chorus of objections accompanied Owen.

“Alright, alright!” Spice said. “I wasn’t suggesting! But what, Owen, a Dungeon?”

“Yes. If Alexander is too strong in the Voidlands, what if we… just… put him into Kilo and tried to take him out there?”

A beat. Then another chorus of objections. Reshiram’s was the loudest. “Bring him right home?! Are you insane?!”

“We need to get to Necrozma,” Owen said. “And… if you can get to a remote area, it’ll be safer. Get some of the Guardians to suppress him. We might be able to get rid of Alexander and get to Necrozma on this one trip! If he’s going to chase us this aggressively…”

Mhynt hurled a conjured Leaf Blade at Alexander’s chest. For once, it had connected, but the rampaging Dragon kept flying as if he didn’t even feel the blade in his body.

“That still has the problem of not having the means to connect to you, Owen,” Palkia pointed out. “I’d need a part of your body, and you did not donate such things for research.”

“Why would I—” Owen grumbled, rubbing his forehead. “There has to be some way. Maybe some dropped scales from Zena at home? I shed patches of scales, I think, err…”

“That would produce quite a weak signal,” Palkia hummed. “I may not be able to get a substantial enough connection to form much of anything like that.”

“Ah!”
Dialga exclaimed. “No! We have just what we need!”

“What? How?” Owen asked.

“When Rhys—when I had taken your horns after sparring with Trina’s doubles of Team Alloy!”

Owen thought back. Yes, he remembered seeing Rhys slip those broken horns into his bag ‘because it might be useful later.’ He was just hoarding.

And for once it was true.

Wait.

“You still have those?!” Owen blurted.

The crew cried out again, several of them forced to fall back to the deck. They were trembling with fatigue and didn’t have the strength to fly or float any longer. Owen grunted and went back to the skies again. Alexander was getting more distracted by Migami, but that meant he was spending time trying to down them.

“GET BACK!” Owen shouted. Then, to the communicator, “Okay, please, get it quickly! Palkia, how soon can you configure that device to create a Dungeon in front of me?”

“Well, I suppose I can quickly find a free area, get some Guardians, perhaps two minutes?”

“Then go! Don’t hesitate, go!”

No response. Another Shadow Blast carved its way across the water, leaving a fissure down the blackened sea. Owen dove down, mere feet away from the water’s surface, and conjured another Protect to block its path and scatter it back. The countless rays would make it harder for Alexander to dodge, but he could only hope Migami would avoid any friendly fire.

There still was no response from Palkia, but Migami was retreating more, disappearing in flashes of light to get faster. Alexander was hot on the trail.

“Hello?!” Owen called again. “Palkia, answer!”

“Erm, he left,” Dialga said. “When you said don’t hesitate, well, he disappeared into the floor.”

“Oh.” Well, at least his very literal interpretation helped this time around. “Er—good! Hopefully, he’ll be back on time… We’ll hold the line!”

The crew seemed exhausted. Alexander did not. But now that Alexander was closer—he could see the three heads individually, now—it seemed he was switching his rhythm to stronger, mid-range attacks. From his smaller heads, he opened his jaws and blasted into the water, conjuring whirlwinds of darkness. He hurled them in horizontal arcs toward the ship, flanking them on both sides.

“Zena! Give us a push, we need to outpace that storm!”

“I can’t outrun that!” Zena shouted from below.

But she could slow its approach. “Go as fast as you can! I’ll try to dispel them!”

“Dispel?!” cried one of the crewmates—an Illumise who seemed aged enough that her tone alone explained to Owen, ‘You idiot, that isn’t how storms work.’

A lot of things didn’t work properly anymore. Owen had to try what he could.

He veered to the right, going straight to the first storm, and conjured another shield. The storm batted against him while cutting up his back, deafening him to everything else. He’d have no idea if they were calling for him anymore amid the acidic howling. Everything in front of him was a swirl of purples and blacks, but all the same, he could feel that essence. Control it, claim it, all the same, Mimicking that power and then claiming what was in front of him as his own.

Once he became the eye of the storm, Owen whirled around and pointed at the other one, and the storm obeyed. They clashed, opposites in direction, leaving turbulence in the water and nothing to strike the ship itself but a few flecks of water.

“H-ha!” Owen panted. “That… that worked.”

A shadow loomed over the ship.

“Uh?”

Alexander had conjured a wave twice the height of the ship.

And Owen had no idea how to counter something like that.

“Zena! Just keep pushing!” Owen sputtered just as Migami appeared beside him, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him to the deck rather than floating above the water.

“Migami! I can’t just sit here—”

“Hold still,” Migami ordered. “Keep this place stable. Save anyone who falls!” And then, they Teleported behind the boat.

Just as Owen got to his feet, the boat lurched forward and knocked him over again. Muttering to himself, Owen focused on his Perceive…

Zena was at the deck’s very edge, practically hanging off the back of the ship while focusing on the water’s currents. Blackened and tainted or otherwise, it was still water, and Zena had control over it.

But what worried him more was Migami flying near the ship’s base, hands only inches away from the ship itself as their wings pumped and pumped. Owen didn’t understand the pose; their hands weren’t touching the ship, and it was like their many tendrils were pushing off of something that wasn’t there, being crushed by an unseen force.

And then he realized it was their Psychic energy. They were creating barriers to gain purchase on thin air. Perhaps they were pushing another barrier on the ship itself, literally using brute strength and the Psychic Orb’s energy to push as far as they could to accelerate.

Migami was roaring just barely louder than the incoming wave that loomed over them like a blackened avalanche. Alexander’s eyes, like red pinpricks behind the water, locked onto Owen’s for a split second and the breath in his chest left him.

“H-hurry,” Owen whispered. “P-please, hurry.”

He had to do something. Anything. But what was he supposed to do?

The ship was decelerating. Migami didn’t have enough power to outrun a ship, even with all their speed and Zena’s assistance.

“Migami!” Owen cried, finally finding his feet.

“I’m tryin’!” Migami whimpered back. On their backs, the Trio of Mind was enhancing their barriers, but they could only do so much, too. They just needed a little more power.

Just a little more.

Owen took a slow breath. He had to stay calm, but he couldn’t think slowly. He was useless here.

He thought back to his nightmare. When he was useless, he had to rely on his friends. He had to lend them his power, even if it was direct, and even if it would leave him with nothing.

While he couldn’t go to that extreme, he could still do something. He could Bestow his power, just like before. Bless his friends, not just objects or the ground. Store his power within them.

He envisioned his friends not as immutable people, but as vessels for more power. Something that can take more than he had given before; entrusting them with himself, in a way. And as they struggled and cried for everything they had, Owen tried to answer.

“Take it,” Owen whispered. “Just one more push!”

The membrane of his wings flashed gold, and he slammed his hands on the ground. The energy shot through the wood, ignoring it completely, and siphoned into Zena. His other hand aimed at Migami, and the same golden energy enveloped them. His Perceive couldn’t see the effects, but his eyes did. A bright gold enveloped them both.

He couldn’t stand. When the boat lurched again, doubling in speed, the most he could accomplish was feebly reaching out to scattered, toppling crewmates so they didn’t hit the deck’s edge as he had.

Somehow, they outpaced the wave, and the wave itself lost its momentum. Distantly, Alexander’s frustrated cursing reached them.

Migami Teleported next to him, setting down a limp Zena.

“G… good job,” Owen said. “How’re you feeling?”

Migami collapsed into a pile of a Haxorus, Meganium, and Flygon.

“Yeah… figured,” Owen said.

“Owen!” Palkia said. “Owen, if you may answer? I have everything set up!”

A nearby crewmate stared at the communicator on the ground. Owen gestured tiredly for it, while Uxie looked through their bags for a spare Oran or Elixir to help return their strength, offering the latter to Owen.

“Good,” Owen said. “When I say now, you need to activate it. Okay? Are you somewhere safe?”

“On such short notice gathering who I can, yes. Near enough that backup can be called, but far enough that immediate threats are not a concern.”

Owen nodded, then remembered Palkia couldn’t see that. “Okay. Just wait for my call. It might be a few.”

Alexander was out of massive storms and waves. Perhaps he was also tired. Or he was just impatient. One way or another, though, he was still surging forward. Without Zena or Migami to accelerate them, he was also so much closer.

“He wants me,” Owen said. “I’ll take him on.”

“What?!” Demitri shouted. “We can’t do that! You’ll—”

“If you hit that water, it’s over, Demitri,” Owen said. “It was risky enough with you taking him on once. We can’t do that again. I just need to… get close to him.”

“Owen, can you explain what your plan is? Please?” Demitri begged.

“Palkia will make a Dungeon and warp him out right on time. Into Kilo, where that place will dissolve him. He’s of Void, so he’ll dissolve. He might even become a Deino again if I’m lucky!” Owen puffed. “Trust me, okay?”

He looked uneasy, but the hasty explanation was enough for Demitri to acquiesce. “Let us help, too. We’re still weak, but…”

“I’ve got a second wind goin’,” Gahi growled.

Mispy ate a pouch of Elixirs and pulled Demitri into her vines. As Gahi taunted the air, she dragged him in next.

The Elixir did its job for Owen, too. His stamina, while temporary, had been restored. With a powerful kick off the deck, Owen flew through the skies and got at the same elevation as Alexander, about twenty feet above the sea.

“Alexander!” Owen shouted. Then, murmuring into the communicator, he said, “On second thought, Palkia, not when I say so. Wait until I roar.”

“Ooh, dramatic.”

“Shh!”

Alexander was not one for conversation. By Owen’s estimates, he was about ten seconds away. Owen tried to close the gap, flying forward.

Alexander veered away.

“What?” Owen whispered. “H-hey!”

By the time Owen countered his momentum to chase Alexander again, he’d clashed with Migami. He could only be glad that Migami was fast enough to dodge it.

Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf backed them up. Each psychic blast was tinged with their divine power, trying to siphon away from Alexander’s mind like before.

But this time, he’d been more prepared. Every time Uxie tried to erase Alexander’s memory of his attacks, a puff of darkness splashed off of the Hydreigon’s forehead. Every attempt to demotivate him from Azelf only made a dark, once invisible armor over his chest flash. Mesprit tried to make Alexander apathetic to those same tricks, but that strange dark shield blocked their attempts.

“What is that?” Owen whispered. “Was that what he was preparing?”

He’d seen something like this before. It reminded him of the way Rhys had armor made of solid aura. Could that interfere with psychic waves? He had no time to theorize—only that Alexander had come prepared this time.

He was overpowering Migami and the three. Trina had gone in to hide with Zena, but they were still watching as if to find an opportune moment to strike.

Where was Mhynt?

Just then, a beam from above slammed Alexander into the water. Owen gasped and followed the beam to its source—Mhynt, with a shadowy Lunala looming behind her, fading away just as the beam’s true might ended.

“Nice shot!” Migami shouted.

“He’s coming back!” Mhynt warned.

Of course. Alexander was immune to the water. If anything, it was his domain more than anything else.

Mhynt conjured a Leaf Blade and crouched, but a blast from below caught her off guard. She narrowly dodged out of the way, deflecting the blast over her shoulder.

Cursing, she called, “Don’t let that hit you if you don’t have Shadows!”

“Oh, I never would’ve guessed!” Migami shouted back.

The Hydreigon burst from the water, snarling, wordless. He lunged for Migami again, and this time, he was just fast enough to graze their shoulder. The cut ate away at their flesh by several extra inches, widening the wound before a wave of healing halted its advance.

“Stop!” Owen cried. “Don’t you want me?!”

But Alexander pursued. As Migami tried to blip away to gain more distance, Owen noted their stamina was running low. That graze wasn’t doing them any favors, either. The Trio of Mind tried to halt Alexander, but all that accomplished was earning a few retaliatory blasts from Alexander’s scales, like his body itself was repelling against him.

Alexander was closer. And Owen felt… something. His Perceive clued him in… on a squirming inside Alexander’s body. Void Shadows—how many?—stuffed just beneath his scales, powering him while tearing up his insides at the same time. Owen had no idea how painful it was or how long Alexander could maintain it… but it was augmenting him the same way his Orb was.

He was even stronger than before.

“C’mon!” Migami shouted. “That all y’got?!”

They finally gathered enough light and blasted Alexander with a searing ray of a Solar Beam. It was a direct hit, enough that Owen had to double back and cover his eyes.

But his Perceive showed him the result. Alexander, parts of him ripping off only on the surface level, flew straight through the beam and followed it to its source. Migami couldn’t see it. Too focused on the beam. There was no alarm in their body language.

“RUN!” Owen screamed.

Alexander’s jaws clamped onto their neck. Crunched. And their body went limp, shocked surprise in their expression.

He crunched harder and something tore. Owen’s curse of perception forced him to witness every detail of that chunk of flesh sliding down Alexander’s throat, and then, with a careless push, Migami was thrown into the water.

They were still alive, barely. But that was worse. They were falling into the ocean.

Without thinking, Owen dived toward them. He could barely think. Alexander was flying toward him next. Pest. Demon. Monster.

He had just enough presence of mind to enact the plan. He pressed the communicator and screamed, banking upward and toward Alexander. He caught a glimpse of the blood-soaked mouths of the Hydreigon, and then a distortion appeared in front of him.

Alexander gasped in surprise, but couldn’t halt his momentum. He passed through the portal and it closed.

Owen fell into the water, hard, and dove down six feet. Nine feet. Twelve feet. He Perceived their body in the water and Perceived an overwhelming number of hands, limbs, and barely-formed bodies drifting toward them from all directions. Lost spirits, Void Shadows of the Abyssal Sea, coming to claim another to their fold.

Below, Migami was being split apart. Tendrils dug through their flesh and split the trio into their parts. And then dug further, intending to split them even more. They were barely conscious; Mispy was healing the fastest, but her body was losing its shape at the same time. Demitri and Gahi were barely recognizable anymore, and it had only been a few seconds.

“STOP!” Owen cried. “Give them back! Don’t… don’t take them away! I’m so tired… of losing everything…!” The water tasted foul. The bubbles of his words resonated. His wings were bright, scaring the dark things from grabbing him, but the same couldn’t be said for those around his friends. They were drifting further but had slowed down.

“GIVE THEM BACK!” Owen roared again, pulling his arm back, channeling power from somewhere deeper. Such a strain, a searing pain in the center of his chest. It crept over his shoulder and out his palm, and then snaked back around his arm, forming a lance of light and darkness.

Before he had the chance to use it for anything, though—and he didn’t know what; he was running on instinct—the flow of the sea… stopped.

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi—still bleeding, still melting—were stabilized. Mispy’s eyes fluttered open. Per routine, she glowed, and her wounds began to close. She saw Demitri and Gahi, and she glowed, and their wounds closed next. They all looked at Owen and tilted their heads.

They were fine.

They were… fine?

Owen had stunned them. That was his conclusion. And he wasn’t going to let them come back to their senses and take them again. He gestured for them to follow, and they quickly did, swimming upward. Gahi grabbed Demitri, who grabbed Mispy, and they all ascended to the Sea’s surface. Upon glancing at the ship’s deck, all four of them disappeared and reappeared on the deck.

Owen coughed out mouthfuls of sour, bitter ocean water. He grimaced when he realized some of it was… chunky with Void matter.

“Oh, gross,” he mumbled. “I-is everyone okay?”

Demitri made a gurgling noise and collapsed. Mispy picked him up by the legs and held him upside-down, Abyssal water pouring from his mouth. After a fit of coughing, Demitri smiled and gave a nod to Mispy, who set him down again.

“Been better,” Gahi groaned, rubbing his forehead.

“How in the world…”

At the entrance, some of the crew emerged.

“They’re alive! H-ha! No way!”

Some were cautious, but three of them rushed over to look Team Alloy over. One also approached Owen and offered a hand.

The Charizard smiled gratefully and took the offer. Some Abyssal water still soaked him.

“Oh—sorry,” he said, but the person he’d touched stiffened a little.

There was a look of… horror in his eyes, but then it washed to his simple smile again.

“You okay?” Owen asked.

“Just fine,” he replied.

“Okay.” Owen let go, nodding. “I’m fine. Uh—help the others, they were the ones inj—”

The crewmate walked to Team Alloy to inspect them.

“…Right,” Owen said, looking at the others. “Sorry about that, everyone… I… Actually, can I just… go to my room and cry for a bit?” He tittered, the emotions finally coming back to him as the adrenaline wore off.

“Take all the rest you need,” Mhynt said with a firm nod. Zena and Trina coiled up nearby and nodded the same way, and Owen was glad to see them all unharmed.

“Thank you,” Owen said with a small sigh. “Hey, guys?” He addressed the rest of his team.

Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all looked toward him, attentive. It was a little weird.

“Uh… just rest, okay? Don’t strain yourself.”

“You got it,” Gahi said, nodding, as did Demitri and Mispy.

They remained there as the crew looked them over. One was murmuring about being checked in the medical ward a little more thoroughly, just in case.

“Good idea,” Owen said. “How about you guys rest up there and—”

They were already heading down to the lower levels of the ship. No snide remarks, no resistance, simply…

“Wait,” Owen said, and they all looked back at him. Obedience in their eyes.

The coldness that ran through his body was a little faster than the logical realization. They weren’t listening to him. They were obeying him.

“Something wrong, Owen?” Zena asked.

“I—just need a moment,” Owen replied. And it was technically true. “Just a second, sorry, I—I—”

Zena and the others looked at him with concern, but before they could touch him—he had no idea what activated this—he rushed for one of the empty cabins. He closed the door. He found a wooden plank and lodged it on the door. He found another and lodged it further.

Zena was slithering toward the door, concern in all her movements. Owen ripped out his horns.

“Owen?” She knocked against the door. Jiggled the handle and tried to push it. “The door’s stuck, Owen, er…”

“Later,” Owen whispered. “Please, later… I—I’m okay. I’m okay, I promise. I need… to… ch-check on Palkia. I just need to check on Palkia.”

Mhynt spoke next. “Take your rest, Owen, but you’re answering our questions after. Understood?”

Icy dread raced along his back. “Okay,” he croaked.

With a quiet sigh, Owen reached for the communicator again and quietly asked, “Palkia? How’d it go? Did Alexander… dissolve?”

Silence.

“Palkia?”

“Palkia, are you okay?” Diyem’s voice came next. “What happened?”

“I heard the plan, what’s going on?” Spice said. “That should’ve worked. He’s the Voidiest of all of us.”

“Ah… h-hello,” Palkia said, sounding strained.

“Palkia!” Owen’s chest tightened. “What happened? What’s going on?”

“Small… problem. Ah, you see. Dissolve, he did not. Some kind of… shield around him? Quite a lot of screams! But not his. I don’t think I can feel my other arm, quite difficult to move right now. But the wound has… stopped spreading…”

“W-what about the others?!” Owen asked, trying to keep his voice down and he didn’t know why.

“Wounded or dazed. Alexander… avoided most of us. We were too alert. Ah… but… alert everyone, please.

“He is flying toward Kilo Village.”
 
Chapter 153 - The Curse of Power

Namohysip

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Chapter 153 – The Curse of Power

“Okay,” Owen whispered shakily, “you can wake me up now, Darkrai. This is… just an extended nightmare, right? Please. I give. It’s too much…”

Nothing replied to him. The communicator was murmuring with the others frantically coordinating what was happening on the other side of reality. Palkia gathering his bearings. Xerneas rushing over to treat the rest.

Owen lowered the communicator and tried to ease his breathing. He wasn’t entirely sure what was happening on their side anymore, only that he was powerless to stop any of it.

“Alright, Owen,” Mhynt said. “Zena is too kind to you. Open the door or I’m cutting it down.”

“I—I’ll open it.”

Awkwardly, the Charizard started pushing aside the wood meant to keep anyone from entering, realizing how futile that was against so many of them. He had simply not been thinking. It was all a panic. And his first instinct was to push everyone else away. What did that say about him?

The door creaked open. On the other side, the Trio of Mind, Zena, Trina, and Mhynt were all there, which surprised him until he recalled tossing his horns away.

And they could tell he was without them, too.

“Owen,” Zena said. “What happened?”

Mhynt eyed the horns tossed on the ground. Owen quickly picked them up, snapping them into place.

“I’m sorry if I… scared you, or anything,” he added. “I’m okay. I’m… I’m okay. And I think Palkia and the others are okay, too, just—”

“We heard,” Mhynt said. “It’s okay. We can’t do anything about it right now, but… they’re smart. They’ll figure it out. From where they were to Kilo, how long is it? It could be hours—many kilos for them.” Her eyes narrowed. “But you were distressed even before that, Owen. Speak.”

Zena frowned at Mhynt and amended, “We’re just worried about you. Please—”

When she moved forward to hold him, Owen staggered back and shouted, “No, it’s—!”

She pulled her ribbons back, startled and hurt. That hurt Owen even more. But what was he supposed to say?

“Sorry,” Owen said, deflating, “it’s okay. I can talk.”

“What’s happening?” Zena whispered to him, not moving closer again. “Are you… hurt? You’re so afraid…”

“He fell into the ocean,” Mhynt said. “The rest of Team Alloy was also behaving strangely…”

“Perhaps I should return to them,” Trina hummed. “My hypnosis seemed to keep them from stirring…”

“Of course it would; that’s what Hypnosis does,” Mhynt murmured, earning a brief glare.

Owen found his way to the wall and slid down, staring at his tail flame, which was dimmer than usual. He couldn’t find the effort to disguise his mood. It wouldn’t have been honest to them.

“May we come in?” Zena asked, her voice delicate.

Owen nodded weakly. “But… don’t touch me,” he said, “for your own good…”

Mhynt’s eyes narrowed, and then she glanced at Trina. “Check on them again, actually,” she said.

Trina seemed confused but nodded and slithered out.

The door closed behind Zena, and it was just the three of them in a gently swaying cabin on a boat going deeper into the black oceans.

“Don’t touch you,” Mhynt echoed. “You don’t look Voided. Which isn’t a surprise; none of us are surprised by this. Now, please, Owen. Speak.”

No matter how many times Mhynt demanded it, Owen still felt that horrible feeling in his gut about giving the truth. Maybe, if the currents of the ship were a little friendlier, they would get there sooner. Maybe there wouldn’t be any time to talk. That would make this easier. And delay the inevitable.

So, with a defeated sigh, Owen squeezed his eyes shut. “I… think something killed them down there. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi, I mean. And… a-and the dark power down there awakened something in me, too. I c-can’t control it, I don’t think I can control it.”

Mhynt’s expression was stoic, but there was a hint of grave darkness in her eyes. Zena looked more confused than anything.

“What awakened?” Zena asked. “Why are you… Are you hearing any voices? Of the spirits in the ocean? We—we’ll free them, Owen. That’s the whole point of what we’re doing, right?”

“That isn’t it,” Owen said. “The sea, Zena. It killed them. No, not even killed, it—it Voided them. They aren’t immune like I am. Even Guardians like Gahi aren’t immune. And… I saved them. But when I did that… they’re mine now.”

Owen’s claws went to his head, digging into his scales.

“They’ll follow my every command, Zena. I don’t even have to try. I say it, and… and they listen… no questions… they just do it, Zena.”

Steady breath in, steady breath out. He could feel the horror in their bodies. That cold shock, that tension of trying to say the right thing. In Zena, he sensed… what might have been fear or hesitance. Did she think he would control her next if they reacted badly?

“I know how to work around this,” Mhynt replied.

Owen blinked, pausing, registering the words. “You what?”

“I’ve seen something similar with how Alexander commands Void Shadows,” Mhynt explained. “If you are worried about their free will… until we find a way to revive them—perhaps a trip to Xerneas, or even Diyem—I know how you can get their true desires out of them. It’s a small logic trick that can work around the new rule of obeying you.”

Zena seemed lost in the explanation. “That means they can still… be themselves?”

“I believe so, or close to it,” Mhynt said. “It’s not a clean fix. However, Owen… not being able to touch your allies is going to be a problem.”

“I think I agree,” said Owen. “After all, if I can’t be close to allies in battle, that’d be like having another enemy on the—”

“I meant psychologically,” Mhynt hummed. “You’re a very physical person. I suspect it’s some of your feral instincts, but you prefer to huddle against things at night. The isolation is not going to be good for your mental health.”

“That is true,” Zena added. “And I… do not know how I feel about not being able to so much as hold you, Owen. There must be a way to control it.”

“I think he’s overreacting,” Mhynt stated.

“Over—”

Mhynt held up her hand and Owen simmered down, though his flame sparked.

“You can’t control people with a touch so easily. Here’s my theory: you spoke to someone already weakened by the sea, and you were already damp. Therefore… you are likely safe now.”

“I don’t want to test that,” Owen said flatly. “I’m not testing any of my friends to see if I’m—”

“Would you like to live the rest of your life in fear of basic contact?” Mhynt pressed. “I’m confident you are safe here. And if you aren’t safe, Diyem can help, or Xerneas, or even Necrozma himself. If even they cannot override you, well… that puts you at a great advantage against Alexander. So. Test?”

Looking briefly helpless, he turned to Zena for her opinion. She seemed conflicted, but then gained resolve in her eyes. She held a ribbon forward.

“I trust you,” she said.

“It’s not me you have to trust,” Owen countered. “It’s… my power.”

“I trust you to use it right,” Zena replied. “Even in the past, you only wanted what was best. And you wouldn’t ever impose your will on others, would you? Not after what you did.”

Mhynt only crossed her arms, as if studying Owen.

“You’re afraid of it,” Zena went on. “That’s reason enough for me to think you won’t misuse it. And I don’t want you to be afraid. We’ll accidentally touch anyway, I know it. So let’s just get it over with.”

Owen sighed. That was probably also true if a careless scale brush would be enough. “I’m sorry,” he said in advance, reaching out. Zena showed a flash of fear before he touched her.

The tension remained. Anticipatory.

One second. Two. Five.

“…Does it feel like anything?” Zena asked when Owen let go.

“I don’t know,” Owen replied. “Coil up.”

“What? Why?”

Owen laughed a little; Mhynt smiled wryly, heading for the exit. Just as Owen pulled Zena in for a tighter hug, Mhynt said, “I’ll take care of Team Alloy. Owen, you relax.”

“Thank you,” Owen whispered as Zena wrapped around him.

“Am I under your control?” Zena asked.

“No,” he replied. “No, it’s… it was just a flare-up, maybe. It’s not so bad. We… we can work through this.”

He took more steady breaths, trying to sort through his thoughts. They could save Team Alloy later. And they probably had a workaround for now. That just left…

“Ngh—!” Owen struggled for his communicator, which Zena grabbed for him. “Palkia? Wait, no—Spice? Any news? Is Alexander coming?”

“Not the best time, buddy!” Spice replied over the noise in the background. Explosions and shouts.

“Oh no.” Owen looked at Zena, then back at the communicator. “Light! Shoot light at him!”

“We’ll let you know once that starts working!”

“Just listen for updates, Owen,” Zena said. “Don’t distract them.” Gently, she helped him set the communicator down. Reluctantly, Owen obeyed.

He just didn’t understand. How was he becoming so strong, yet feeling so much weaker?

<><><>​

Spice lost track of how many times she’d cursed.

But every time a new frantic blast of darkness came, a new protector had to block the strike, and ultimately be too tired for the remainder. That forced Spice to get out to the front and block it with her own, black barrier. And each time, that barrier wasn’t enough, and it instead blasted away some part of her body.

Her body was a suggestion. It was a startling revelation, but she’d lost her arm three times, and with a little focus, she had grown them back.

Because she was a Void Shadow. She’d forgotten for so long that those powers had gone dormant, but she had the power to shift and adjust her body as desired. The healing, the scarring, all of it was just to get back to a normal appearance.

She wondered if those blessed items not working, the scarring, all of it was just… her fooling herself. No. Surely her body was solid enough that she’d just been unable to heal it.

She still had that normalcy. She still had a body!

Spice cursed again when a blast struck the side of the crater. Another missed shot. Alexander was firing wide; there was no way she’d be fast enough to block all of them, and Nate was already hiding inside the crater to avoid getting hit too often. He was practically as big a target as the caldera itself.

“He’s coming in!” announced one of the Hearts.

“Fall back!”

“But what do we do?!”

“Defend from inside buildings if you have to!”

Those buildings would be pointless. Alexander was shattering Protect barriers with some of those attacks; the weaker barriers in the buildings wouldn’t hold up nearly as well.

“Get the Guardians!” called another.

“But they’re our backup!”

“And we need that now!”

Another blast drowned out the rest of their deliberations and Spice was left defending again. She’d gotten distracted; a blast was coming straight for her face. Hastily, she brought up a sloppy barrier, but then a blur of gray dove in, bringing up his own.

An ethereal clang followed, and then the shot went high into the clouds, splitting them apart.

“Jerry,” Spice wheezed.

“You good?”

“Yeah.”

Jerry stood by her side and got into a defensive stance. “You handle the left side. I’ll handle the right. I think our backup’s coming soon.”

With a firm nod, they went in opposite directions and prepared for Alexander’s next assault.

<><><>​

Storms, gales, rain of dark and flashing lights. Nate didn’t know what to make of the return of such terrors, only that he was hurting, and he had to save up his power for another great blast. But he didn’t know if the spirits within him had the power to offer. Not yet, so soon.

But maybe he had to try anyway to slow Alexander down. That shadowy Hydreigon… Nate could sense countless tortured spirits just beyond the surface of his scales, protecting him, insulating him, from the atmosphere. The spirits were being used like an artificial Void atmosphere around him, but the outer surface was evaporating away rapidly, called back to the Voidlands. Soon, the same would happen to Alexander.

But he was coming too fast. Nate had to stop him!

He called upon the spirits within him to help, and of course, they agreed. Energy funneled through his long body, swirling in his chest, and channeling their way to his five heads. Many of his eyes closed as each spirit, each eye, closed in turn, concentrating to donate their power to their host.

Nate opened the palm that made up his face and aimed his five finger-heads toward Alexander. The power of the lost Tree flowed through him, and it would only be poetic that it would be aimed at its destroyer.

But moments before Nate could fire, he realized, to his horror, that he could not. It was not because he lacked the energy, but because of the angle. If he fired at Alexander, and missed—and surely, he would, at least for an instant—then he would hit… Yotta Outskirts.

He simply could not do that. They were innocent, and to strike Alexander, especially if he dodged or survived it… their blood would be on Nate’s hands.

The closer Alexander got, the higher his angle became. It was deliberate. He knew Nate wouldn’t fire…

The leviathan squirmed nervously. What was he supposed to do?

Nate dispelled the charge. He wouldn’t destroy a village just to target Alexander. He had to use weaker, more precise attacks. He aimed upward, firing a shower of similar energy skyward, and then directed them down. In response, the Hydreigon weaved between many of them but shrugged off the few that hit. But each one wore away at his shield.

Nate winced, hearing and feeling their screams. Those poor souls were used as shields and then dragged back to the Voidlands to be used over and over by this dark god’s whims.

Alexander got past Nate’s barrage, and then past Nate himself, even after a desperate swipe and grab to pin him down. Nate was too large and Alexander was too fast, and now, even Nate’s shower of attacks would risk harming the civilians of Kilo Village.

He’d have to instead try to empower others. He shifted his energy again, many eyes opening and searching for fighters who were about to take on Alexander.

At least his barrier was almost gone. They just had to outlast him for a little while longer…

Most of the citizens were hiding, but he sensed many of them with heightened energy. They were going to attack if Alexander got too close, and that was probably a good thing. More slowing down.

He just hoped nobody would die because of this.

Angelo was hiding in his room. Nate could sense his aura shifting around as if trying out different techniques, unable to choose which one to open with.

The strongest auras were emerging from the Heart HQ, including Anam. His powers had been significantly reduced, but he was still the Heart of Hearts. Even without the power of darkness, he was formidable. By his side was ADAM, the strange Porygon Z, as well as Willow, the tiny Joltik. Both of them were so adorable, even if Willow was only a half-soul. She hadn’t wanted to go with the others just yet for Titan hunting—her shrinking powers didn’t work on things that large; she’d tried on Nate—so now, she was trying to shrink Alexander down.

And to Nate’s amazement, as Willow pushed her power over him, he did shrink. Within the pink cloud, Alexander’s body became a small, berry-sized thing unceremoniously. That was it! He was contained!

…Ah, no, he just blasted Willow three streets down and undid the effects.

Nate lobbed a dark spirit toward Willow, who quickly enveloped her and cushioned the impact on the ground. Then, he turned his attention to the remaining Guardians. Anam was trying to score a few hits, but he was too slow. Alexander was avoiding him entirely.

Get him away! Nate urged, holding his attacks. He was tempted, ever so tempted, to fire, but then he imagined all the citizens in the area. Buildings, people… He already felt bad about killing those who wandered too close to the Void across his crater. But the citizens here weren’t corrupted or about to enter a fate worse than death. In fact, their world was just about to turn things around!

“Fire!” Spice cried.

What? Fire? Why would he do that? Down below, the cute little Salazzle-wraith was waving and urging him.

“C’mon, we can treat injuries, but we can’t treat what that guy’ll do!”

She had a strong argument. But he was a big scary monster. If he hurt the citizens, would they exile him? It was why he’d fled at all in the first place…

But she was also a monster to them, and they accepted her even when she was a little rude. Could he be rude?

The Porygon-Z Guardian blared a distressed klaxon before firing a Hyper Beam down the road, melting part of the main street. Alexander endured almost the full hit, but his shield looked significantly depleted. Maybe he was starting to evaporate…

But now, the Guardian was exhausted. He wouldn’t be able to fire again.

Yes! It was time to fire!

Nate shot into the air, and as the energy beams curled downward by his will, it was like a fabled meteor shower had turned hostile.

But Alexander was fast, dodging and weaving. Sometimes he went too close to the fleeing Porygon-Z to fire. He might hurt him instead…

What was Alexander going to do to him, anyway?

That stray thought rattled around in Nate’s mind for a second too late. By the time he realized what it meant, Alexander lunged and finally connected.

He was going to enter his Orb.

Nate charged the most concentrated blast he could, hoping that the lives within the nearby buildings would survive—or forgive him if they did not. He used only one head, aiming not at Alexander, but the Porygon-Z. It had to be done. The air warped around the blast, the smallest vapors in the air sizzling. Alexander pulled the startled, flailing Porygon into the ground.

No! Nate tried to angle his shot toward the ground instead, but it missed. The boulders just beyond where Alexander had been exploded out, molten rock leaving the spot aglow.

Where did he go?

Nate couldn’t sense him anymore. Did he kill him?

No… it was too easy.

“Did you get him?!” Spice called up.

He didn’t, but he also didn’t know how to give a response.

He hesitated for a few seconds too long, because Spice sighed and said into a communicator, “He seems to be gone for now. Not sure what happened. We’ll get back to you after we regroup.”

<><><>​

Mhynt’s blade struck the wall just beside Demitri’s yead. The Haxorus screamed and covered his eyes a split-second after it hit, his reflexes too slow. Mispy snarled and was about to wrap the Treecko in thorns before she hopped back and across the room. The conjured Leaf Blade disappeared, reappearing in her hand.

“Good,” she said. “You still have a sense of self-preservation.”

“Duh?” Mispy said, still looking cautious and annoyed.

Demitri uncovered his eyes. “Wh-why are you saying that?”

“I just wanted to see how far gone you were. But it seems that you’re still mostly yourselves.”

“Hey,” Gahi said. “How’s Owen?”

“Strategizing with Palkia and the others,” Mhynt half-lied. “I wanted to talk to you about something you may not be aware of. Where are your other halves?”

“Helping the crew repair the boat,” Demitri said.

Mhynt nodded, crossing her arms. “Then we can talk in private and you may choose what to do with this information. You’re Void Shadows.”

A beat.

Then, Demitri tilted his head; Mispy’s scaly brow furrowed; Gahi scoffed.

“Yeah, right,” Gahi said, holding out his arms. “I’m green, sleek, scaly, an’ a real good looker.” He flexed, revealing vaguely defined muscles.

Demitri, curious, did the same and looked at his arm. When he flexed, the air around his arm pulsed outward.

Gahi scowled. “Cheater.”

“Did you just flex out a shockwave?” Mhynt narrowed her eyes. “How strong are you?”

“I—I don’t know… That just happens when I channel my strength. You know, aura stuff…”

“Aura stuff.” Mhynt waved it away. “I want you to think back to when Owen told you to go to this room. Did you feel compelled to follow that command?”

“I dunno about compelled,” Gahi said. “Jus’ seemed reasonable, so we did it. What, is listenin’ ter our leader a sign o’ bein’ a Void Shadow?”

“How can we tell?” Mispy asked.

“…Later, I’m going to call for Owen to come this way. And when he does, he will ask you to do a few things, and that will be enough, rationally, for you to realize this. But before we do, I would like to ask a few questions of you, for Owen’s sake.”

“Okay…” Gahi still looked skeptical. He crossed his arms and glared. “I ain’t in anyone’s control. I’m me.”

Mhynt nodded at the mutant super soldier and then looked at Demitri and Mispy. “Now, first question. If Owen told you to die, would you?”

“Um. No?” Demitri poked his claws together. “That doesn’t sound like him at all…”

“Hah!” Gahi pointed at Mhynt. “We disobeyed Owen! We ain’t Void Shadows!”

“Hypoth… thetical,” Mispy chided, gesturing with a vine for Mhynt to continue.

Mhynt nodded. “And if he told you to do anything, would you listen?”

“I mean… he’s our leader,” Demitri said. “And aside from Mispy, he’s usually the best person to go for tactics…”

Mispy shrugged. “Not the smartest… but… tactics.”

“Exactly,” Demitri explained. “I mean, I guess now that he’s got all his memories back, he might have an edge there, too, but—er, I mean—sorry, Mispy.”

The Meganium seemed competitive and indignant. Demitri rubbed her side and she seemed to settle down.

“Hmm. Overall, this is good,” Mhynt said. “Perhaps it’s a credit to Owen’s unconscious desires that you’ve kept your individualities.”

“How can you prove it?” Gahi asked again. “C’mon, just get Owen in here already!”

Mhynt sighed. “Will you have some patience?”

“Feels like we can’t do anythin’ else ‘til that happens! C’mon!”

“Okay. Fine.” Mhynt was getting a headache from the Flygon, and not because of his psionics. “Wait here. Surely you have the patience for that.”

Gahi scoffed and pressed his back against the wall, crossing his arms in a pout. But she saw a few uncomfortable twitches in his claws. It was bothering him.

Perhaps this proof would at least help them come to terms with it, and then they can figure out ways around it.

<><><>​

Mhynt returned only a few minutes later with Owen behind him. The Charizard was a nervous wreck, mumbling about how he could face his team again, and Mhynt offered halfhearted assurances to him while he and Zena walked down the ship to the other room.

Once they were back, Mhynt stood aside and watched how things played out. She didn’t intend to step in unless Owen looked stuck, but as far as she was concerned, this was something for him to figure out. Spotting Zena already looking for ways to step in, she whispered her over.

“Yes?” Zena asked.

“Let him handle this.”

“He seems overwhelmed, Mhynt…”

“Has he done well under pressure before?” Mhynt asked.

“Sometimes,” Zena said.

“How about now that his memories are returned?” Mhynt offered. “He’s quite different now, isn’t he?”

“In a lot of ways, he’s also the same,” Zena said. “Is that necessary?”

But before Zena could object further Owen stepped up to his team.

“Hey,” Owen greeted.

“Hi?” Demitri said. “We’re Void Shadows, apparently.”

“Y… yeah.”

“We don’t feel like it,” Demitri said. “Mhynt said you’d have some proof.”

Owen nodded. “For… for this proof, will you be mad? If it turns out… you are Void Shadows?”

“No,” Demitri said, “that’s—”

“Yeah, I’ll be mad!” Gahi waved his fist at Mhynt. “I ain’t someone ter control!”

Mispy rubbed her forehead with a vine. “Circumstances,” she said.

“She means, she’d be mad at the circumstances,” Demitri explained. “Let’s just do the test. I don’t think any of us will be mad, Owen. A-at you,” he hastily amended when Gahi glared.

The ship rocked gently. Mhynt wondered how much faster they were going now that Owen had, perhaps consciously or subconsciously, encouraged the currents to speed their trip up. Zena picked at a splinter in the wood, trying to repair it with a gentle stream of water and ice. Mhynt quietly informed her this was a bad idea.

“Okay,” Owen said. “Demitri.”

Demitri’s head snapped to attention. Owen glanced at Mispy and Gahi for their reactions; they did look a little unnerved.

“Punch your left arm with your right.”

Demitri raised his right arm, curled his claws in, and slammed it into his left arm. There was a horrible, sickening cracking and squelching sound as the arm bent impossibly in two places. Owen looked ill.

Mispy and Gahi both blinked, staring at the injury, then at Owen.

“What was that fer?” Gahi asked.

“This sort of hurts,” Demitri mumbled.

“You… you aren’t freaking out,” Owen said. “Mispy, heal him!”

Mispy obeyed, almost mechanically wrapping her vines around the injury and pumping healing energy into him. Bones snapped back into place, flesh wrapping and stitching together, wrapped finally in scales. The blood remained on the ship and the wall—now cracked—behind him.

“You know,” Mhynt said, “you should have asked someone without absurd strength to do that.”

“It was the first thing that came to mind,” Owen said. “I didn’t want to get… elaborate on my friends hurting themselves!”

Mhynt sighed, punching her snout. “Please, continue.”

“Well—look, that was weird, right? Guys? Do you agree that was weird that Demitri just listened to that without a care?”

“It was,” Mispy said. “But… you commanded it.”

“Okay—no, no, see, don’t do that. Don’t listen to my commands just because I say them, okay? Because you’re Void Shadows now, and… and I’m the one who controls you. Void Shadows just… do that, and usually it’s Diyem, or Alexander, b-but now it’s me, too. So… I don’t want that. Especially not you. Okay?”

“I don’t want that, either,” Gahi muttered. “But… it ain’t like I can freak out about it.”

There it is. “Good,” Mhynt said. “You’re self-aware of your condition. That’s what we’re looking for. Owen?”

“Right. N-now that… that you’re aware… I want you to answer my questions, as a hypothetical. Okay? A hypothetical where, if I didn’t command you to do something, what would you do in response, okay?”

The three exchanged looks, as if a little confused, but Mispy got it the fastest.

“Okay,” Mispy said.

“Demitri, Gahi, follow her lead. Mispy, if I wasn’t controlling you… what would you want to do right now?”

“Sleep,” Mispy said.

Owen paused. “Oh. Right, it’s… been a while since we had our last sleep.”

“Has it?” Gahi asked. “I ain’t tired.”

“I’m a little tired,” Demitri added. “Maybe it’s because it’s darker below deck.”

“Okay, so Mispy, if you want to sleep, you can sleep after this is over. Is that okay?”

Mispy nodded.

“…If you weren’t under my control, would you say that’s okay?”

Mispy nodded again, after a pause.

“That’s good. She thought about it,” Mhynt said. She offered a smile, “They aren’t all gone, Owen. But until we get a way to free them from your spell, that’s how you need to ask questions, okay?”

“Impract… actical,” Mispy said. “Battle.”

“Oh, Mispy means… like, if in the middle of battle, you had to do that whole thing,” Demitri said, “we won’t be that effective.”

“I… I know, but…”

“I’ll agree,” Mispy said.

“I trust you,” Demitri said. “…Even if I wasn’t under your command, I say I’d trust you!”

Gahi crossed his arms, giving Owen a little glare. Of the three, Gahi seemed to resist this control the most, and for that, he appreciated it. He huffed. “Only fer as long as y’gotta. My will’s mine.”

“I know, Gahi. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“Nah. I know y’didn’t. I’m just sayin’, my will’s mine.”

“It is. And I’ll… respect it. Always. But in battle, if I give a command, I can’t… do it with all the caveats if you’re in danger. Do you trust me to make the right decisions?”

“No,” Gahi growled. “…But if y’gotta, I’ll listen. I ain’t gonna hold it against y’ ‘til this is over.”

Owen’s wings lowered, and Mhynt felt that little tightness in her chest loosen up. “Well,” she said, “it seems you have some loyal allies even without the Voiding. Congratulations.” Mhynt nodded at Zena. “Now, we should get ready. With how fast the ship is going, we’ll probably arrive at the Abyssal Sea far ahead of schedule, perhaps by the time you wake up. You should get an early rest just in case.”

“Right, okay. Um… does everyone want to rest in the same room again?” Owen glanced at Team Alloy but was deliberately avoiding Zena’s gaze.

“Is it safe?” Zena asked Mhynt. “Owen tends to get battle-excited in his sleep. His tail can go from ethereal to burning. Can the same happen with these Voiding powers?”

“As far as I can tell,” Mhynt said, “it wasn’t Owen who did the Voiding, but a splash from the sea augmenting it. As long as Owen stays dry, he is safe.”

“Good.” Zena slithered up to Owen and curled around him. He leaned into it as if he’d been touch-starved. Perhaps he was.

There was that small pang of longing in her chest. Something that she dutifully tried to shove away, mentally, while on this trip. She only closed her eyes and sighed. “Very good,” she said. “I’ll get Trina and the Trio and let them know you’re alright.”

“Thanks for all the help, Mhynt,” Owen added, looking relieved. “I’m… er… sorry if…”

“Don’t,” Mhynt replied tiredly, stepping out.

She’d said she would be strong, but it was admittedly getting harder than she’d anticipated, seeing them together. She really needed to sort through her feelings when this was over.

But on the next awakening, they would finally be on the island. From there… Necrozma awaited.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. custom/quilava-fobbie
Heya, this took a bit longer than I initially anticipated to get this together since this chapter is on the chunkier side, but I figured I might as well get things rolling since I do have a couple deadlines to meet, so let's jump right in with:

Chapter 11

Kricketot chirped in the bushes. No moon filled the sky, but tiny white pinpricks, painted on the sky, took its place. Amia, with Alex beside her, led the way home with Owen and Zena. There was a little spring in the Gardevoir’s step. Owen’s tail and his Magmortar father’s shoulders lit the way.

“Uh oh,” Owen suddenly said, stopping.

“What is it, dear?” Amia asked.

“How is Zena gonna get inside if she’s alone?”

For a second, I was going to ask if they literally painted the ceiling of Hot Spot Cave, but I guess it's just a night with a new moon right now.

Zena blinked. “What do you mean? Does it not open to certain individuals?”

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Owen said. “You need to do the password to get in. But you can’t do it, because you don’t have any limbs.”

inb4 she somehow manages to do the M3-esque dance to get in anyways... somehow.

The Kricketot filled the void-like silence that followed.

“What?” Zena said.

Amia giggled. “Oh, Owen, that password is just for non-Guardians. If you’re Mystic, it’s easy to just will the boulder to the side, you know! I just put that switch there because once we had you, well, it wasn’t going to just be me heading in and out of that spot…”


Owen: "... Why are you just telling me about this now?!" >///<
Amia: "In my defense, you've been Mystic for all of a day so far."
:gardeshrug~1:


“W-wait… so only I was…?” Owen trailed off.

“What is this password?” Zena asked.

“Uhh—” Owen blushed. “It’s not important.”

Zena: "No, really, what is this-?"
Owen: "Completely irrelevant since I'm Mystic myself now! Eh heh heh... let's just go in now, please."
:fearfullaugh~1:


“We’ll have to teach it to Gahi and the others anyway, dear,” Amia said. “But you won’t need it if you’re Mystic, Zena. So, Owen, that means you won’t have to do the dance anymore! Isn’t that nice?”


inb4 Owen gets stuck with teaching Gahi and the others the dance so he still has to keep doing it more anyways.
:hoodLUL:


“A dance,” Zena repeated, staring at Owen. She was clearly envisioning Owen cutting some form of a jig, based on the smile she valiantly suppressed.

Owen wondered if drowning was the better outcome after all.

I can already tell that Owen's going to be flushing beet red through his facial scales a lot in this story. >:V

“Ah, here we are!” Amia flicked her hand at the boulder. It rolled away effortlessly.

Owen looked crushed.


Owen: "Mom, I swear to gods, if you've been hiding other secrets that could've spared me untold embarrassment..." >///<
Alex: "(Remind me, dear, you did tell him that the sand next to the lava pools are made of crushed bones, right?)" ^^;

On their way in, Owen’s fatigue returned to the forefront of his mind. “I can’t wait to get some sleep.”

“I just might sleep, too,” Amia said. “It’s not really something that we need to do, but—”

“Wait,” Owen said exhaustedly, exasperatedly, “you don’t have to sleep?”

Owen: "Wait, huh? Are you sure? Since I feel exhausted right now." ._.;

“When you become strong enough as a Mystic,” Amia said delicately, “a lot of the things that mortals need to perform become optional. Eating, sleeping…”

Amia: "Dying, as I'm sure you've learned from experience..." ^^;
Owen: "Why on earth am I just finding all of these things out now?!" >.<

“But I like both of those things.” Owen frowned. “What’s the point of living if you can’t get a good meal?”

Alex: "It gives you extra time to go and do stuff like read Angelo's comics? Those are always good for a hoot."
:joltyshrug~1:

Amia: "I mean, you could always do them anyways, just saying. (Preferably not the 'dying' part, since boy would that get creepy fast.)" ^^

“Well, nothing’s stopping you!” Amia laughed. “A meal every now and then is wonderful! Besides, Owen, you just became a Guardian. You still need to eat.”

Huh, so the story actually explicitly acknowledges that. Neat.

Owen shifted uncomfortably. “I slept quite a lot,” Zena admitted. “It gets… boring, down there.”

Zena: "In retrospect, I probably should've brought some reading material or something before shutting myself up in isolation for untold centuries. But oh well, hindsight is 20/20 and all that." -_-;

“I can imagine,” Owen said. But on second thought, he couldn’t.

I'm actually morbidly curious as to how on earth Zena stayed sane down there given how solitary isolation over sufficiently long periods IRL is well-documented to have detrimental effects to mental health for humans. .-.

He eyed the glowing mushrooms. “Mom? Are these mushrooms glowing because of your power?”

“They are, dear,” Amia said. “I thought it made the cave look very pretty.”

Owen nodded. “Do you like them?”

“Yeah!” Owen said. “So—can you keep that, maybe?”

Owen: "... Wait, but isn't that something that I should be able to do as the Grass Guardian? I thought you were the Fire-?" ^^;
Amia: "They're very fiery mushrooms that respond to my powers?"
:gardeshrug~1:


Amia beamed. “I’d love to. What about you, Zena?”

“They’re much better than my dreary cave.”

They walked through the empty town. The pit in Owen’s stomach returned. He remembered the Arcanine that always greeted him. The kids playing in the main path. All his neighbors. Now it was empty and silent. Their steps echoed across the corridors.

Owen: "... So is everyone else just gone for good now, or...?"
Amia: "Meh, didn't feel like dealing with dozens of spirits while showing company around. Especially since I doubt it'll just be Zena and your new friends from Team Alloy who will be coming in soon enough."

“I think this home in particular, Zena, would do nicely for you,” Amia said. It was right next to their own cavern, though it seemed a lot cooler inside. Within this alcove was a large pit filled with rocks. Amia stepped toward the entryway and held her hand out.

Owen yelped when Amia’s head and dress burst into blue flames. More fire spewed from her arm, colliding with the rocks. The heat was enough to make Zena slither back a few paces. The loose rocks melted and compressed into liquid, creating an even deeper pit. Then, the flames stopped, and Amia’s body extinguished.

Zena: "... I'm sorry, but how is this place supposed to be suitable for me again?" .-.

Owen’s jaw may as well have been on the floor.

Alex approached the lava, jumped in, and shoved his cannons into the molten rock. It looked like he was siphoning the stuff into his body. Then, he lifted his arms—which looked much heavier—and ejected that same molten rock to the far side of the home. Amia did the same thing, using psychic energy to haul more of the molten rock away to the corner of the room.

Alex: "It's a work in progress? Just give us a couple minutes here." ^^;

Amia finished by holding her other hand out, releasing a concentrated beam of ice into the pool. Plumes of steam filled the air and faded, leaving a pit of smooth obsidian behind.


Zena: "Wait, you can do that?! But you're the Fire-!" O_O;
Amia: "Gardevoir can learn Icy Wind by TM. Good enough."
:gardeshrug~1:


“There!” Amia clapped her hands together. “Just one Hydro Pump, Zena, and you’ll have a lake to rest in!”

... Wait, just how much water does Hydro Pump disgorge in this setting? .-.

Zena slithered tentatively closer. She gently prodded at the cooled obsidian, and then at the depths of the pit. It would fit her comfortably, and then some. She nodded. “It’s wonderful, Amia,” she said. “Thank you.”

Owen: "Wait, that obsidian isn't warm still? Like at all? But how does that-?" .-.
Amia: "Practice? I have been around for quite a while to get good at my moves, Owen." ^^

“We should go to bed, Owen,” Alex said. “You still need to sleep.”

“Oh, yeah, right,” Owen nodded.

Owen: "Wait, am I still getting my same old bed with the Rawst Leaves, or...?" ^^;

Amia and Alex left, but Owen didn’t follow just yet. He turned his attention back to Zena; she was filling the pool with multiple, gentle Hydro Pumps, made from pure, crystal-clear water. It only took three to finish the job, cold water filling it to the very rim. She looked back. “Owen?”

Owen: "Whuh? Huh? Sorry, I just thought you looked pretty gir- I mean, pretty good. Your place that mom made looks pretty good."
:ohnowen:

Zena: "Uh... huh." ¬_¬

Owen glanced at the missing scales along her body; it occurred to him that Zena would be resting alone for the night. He could never sleep if it wasn’t at home in his bed. Would Zena be the same way, or was she used to it? “Will you be okay?”

“Will I be… okay?”

“Yeah.”

Zena: "Owen, I've literally slept on my own for hundreds of years. One more night won't hurt."
:eltywtf:

Owen: "Look, it's just- I... was a bit worried since you got thrown around a bit earlier, alright?"

Zena tilted her head. “How do you mean?”

Owen played with his claws. “You said you were alone for centuries…”

Zena’s expression was oddly neutral. “That’s true.”

Owen: "... I mean, wasn't that lonely at all? Since I've heard stories of Pokémon that went insane being cooped up all on their own for way less time than that." .-.
- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Not that I'm implying you're insane! That's not at all what I was trying to-!"
:grohno~1:


There was another long silence. He didn’t want to impose anything upon her, but part of the pit in his gut was certainly the thought of Zena being alone again. He’d never get to sleep with thoughts like that plaguing his mind. He glanced at Zena again; her expression was regal, but it felt like a mask. She had been so expressive before; now it was gone and emotionless.

Wow, Owen's falling for his sea noodle even faster than Flame did in Rebirth. I think this must be some sort of world record or something. o<o

He didn’t believe it for a second. So, he spoke. “Do you want—”

“Yes. Please.”

“O-okay.” Owen scampered into his home. “Mom!” he called. “I—oh, thanks.”

Amia handed him a bowl of Tamato soup.

“Keep Zena company, dear, at least for tonight.”

Owen: "Can't tell whether my heart should be aflutter or if I should be keeling over from embarrassment right now." ^///^

“Would you like me to carry over your bed?” Alex asked, peering out from the kitchen corridor.

“Oh, sure, yeah.”

Owen: "Dad, I'm a Charmeleon now. Are you sure that this isn't going to be difficult and awkward for-?" -_-;
Alex: "Nonsense, Owen. You might be a bit bigger now, but you're still my little boy." ^^

Owen returned to Zena’s home and found a spot in the corner to drink his soup. Zena had slipped into the water during his absence, but he could still vaguely sense her presence as part of the water. Steam filled the air and clouded his vision; the soup’s red base was scalding, just how he liked it. The Charmeleon drank in greedy gulps. Alex returned with his bed, setting it down next to him. Owen crawled on top, finished his bowl in one last gulp, and handed it to Alex.

Thanks,” he said, and then eyed before eying the lake.

IMO, enough happens in the paragraph before Owen's line of dialogue here that it might make sense to hack this one bit in two and play around with the verb tense a little bit to facilitate the dialogue and speech tag bit being standalone.

“So, I’m gonna rest here for tonight,” Owen said. “Hope that’s okay.”

The lake didn’t reply. Owen didn’t mind. He curled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around, resting his chin atop them. He then wrapped his tail forward, noticing how the flame lit up the whole room.

“Does my tail bother you?” he asked. “I—I can probably cover it, if you like.”

... Wait, is it possible to air-starve a Char's tail fire in this setting? If so, does that feel painful much like dousing it in water? Or is that its own distinct sensation?

Owen took her silence as indifference. Another glow illuminated the entryway; Alex entered, a book precariously held in the claws within his cannons. “I found this on your bed,” he said. “Looks like you have it bookmarked. Latest edition of,”—he squinted at the cover’s title—“Ho-Oh’s Absurd Escapade, I think?”

Ah yes, the first of Angelo's works in this story, though somehow I didn't realize that in spite of his species, he made text works and not visual ones. Even if I suppose that it helps add a layer of difference from the material being shouted-out.

Also, Monado: Beginning of the World among Angelo's bootleg stories when?

“Oh, right!” Owen’s flame brightened. He looked the cover over—a comic book—and figured if he couldn’t sleep, he could read through a few pages. “Thanks, Dad.”

Oh, I take that back. Guess Angelo's fare are comics after all in this setting.

With a nod and a few hesitant glances back, Alex finally left Owen alone with Zena. His tail was even brighter, now, and he was certain that it would be distracting the Milotic who probably just wanted a good night’s sleep.

They're going to act out your TR signature art in live-time in about 30 seconds, aren't they?

Owen then remembered that Mystics didn’t need to sleep. Was Zena just doing it out of habit? Either way, he knew his endless light would be bothersome.

“Sorry if it’s too bright. I guess I’ll cover it.” Owen looked for a patch of Rawst leaves to hide his tail under. “It wouldn’t be too hard to—”

“It’s okay.”

Owen: "Huh? It... is?"

Owen jolted, not expecting a voice. Zena had her head out of the water, staring at him. Most of the rest of her body remained liquefied.

“O-oh,” he said.

“Leave your tail out,” she said. “Sleep as you want. I’m not bothered by it at all.”

Zena: "Honestly, after sleeping in a dark cave for the better part of a few centuries... it's nice to have a bit of a change." ^^

Owen nodded wordlessly. Zena sank back into the water, blending into it.

The soup’s warmth spread to the rest of his body, and his eyes grew heavy. He wasn’t going to last much longer. He curled up in bed, closed his eyes, and drifted away. Unfamiliar as it was, his bed made the new cave feel like home.

Zena slept soundly for the first time in decades.

A reminder that if your story is sticking to third person limited framing that the last bit probably needs to change in framing a bit since this scene has been written from Owen's perspective, while this is a detail he logically wouldn't know while dozing off. e.x. a passing mention that he found this out the next morning after waking up or something.

Granted, if you're doing omniscient at times, go ahead and disregard that.

“It’s a dance?” Gahi growled, angrily clicking his jaws.

The morning sun accompanied the arrival of Rhys and the rest of Team Alloy, just beyond Hot Spot Cave’s entrance.

Lemme just get the right reaction for this upcoming moment:

giphy.gif


“I’m not that good at dancing,” Demitri said, glancing at Mispy, who rolled her eyes.

“Maybe we can simplify it for you!” Amia said. “A phrase, or I can just manually check your auras instead of automating it.”

I can already hear Owen moaning about how it's not fair that he had to do a stupid butt-shaking dance all his life until yesterday and the rules are suddenly getting changed the moment they have company.
:lultias:


Rhys nodded. “Well, in any case, we have about half of our essential supplies with us,” he said, motioning behind him. Demitri was singlehandedly hauling the bulk of it in a gigantic bag that had a color suspiciously similar to Rhys’ fur coat. Owen stared in disgust.

Owen: "... If I see that thing in my room, I'm burning it."
:unimpressed:


“We have a home just for you!” Amia said. “I set it up overnight while Owen and Zena were sleeping.”

Zena straightened her stance to appear taller. “I—I wasn’t sleeping. I was merely meditating, as I always do.”

Narrator: "She was sleeping. The text literally said so."

Owen was positive he’d heard the lake snore. Or perhaps that was a dream.

Zena: "No, you were just dreaming, Owen. There was no snoring of any sort." >_>;

“Once we haul the rest of our supplies,” Rhys said, “we will return home to get the last of it. Afterward, we will continue with our usual regimen of training, missions, and so on, until Star is ready.”

Zena huffed at the mention of the Creator. Rhys glanced at the Milotic next; they briefly locked gazes, but Zena’s was a cold stare. Rhys looked to the floor next. “Do you need something, Hunter?” she growled. “Now that I think about it, I likely won’t be sleeping for the rest of my nights here.”

Owen: "... Look, Zena, it's been centuries since Rhys was an active Hunter. Are you really going to keep holding a grudge against him like-" ._.;
Zena:
Image

"He knows what he did, Owen. And I have no reason to believe he won't relapse."

Rhys’ tail lowered, but he had no words.

“N-now, now, we just have to wait,” Amia said. “Owen! While your friends go on their usual missions, why don’t you stay back and train with Zena and I under Rhys? Perhaps we can help you get a better hold of your Mystic powers.”

Zena: "Hey! I never agreed to do anything with that Hunter-" >:(
Amia: "It's for the good of Owen and the world at large for making him more competent as a Mystic?" ^^;

“Oh, that could work,” Owen said. Though he longed for a normal day, he supposed such a privilege would need defer to his new duties, forced as they were. “What kind of training?”

“Train under him?” Zena asked. “The Lucario can go on missions with the rest of Team Alloy.”

Yeah, I figured that Zena would be an "oh hell no" to the idea of training under Rhys based off her earlier dialogue.

“P-perhaps that is for the best,” Rhys said quickly. “I should supervise them for now, anyway, now that the mutants are at another resurgence. It could be dangerous.”

Zena didn’t smile nor smirk, but there was a bit of relief in her relaxed coils. “When we train, Owen, the first thing you should learn,” she said, “is how to control your ability to harness your Orb. So, becoming Grass.”

Owen: "... Wait, but how are you going to teach me this when you're the Water Guardi-"
:what:

Zena: "The process of controlling Mystic power is relatively constant regardless of type? Probably?" ^^;

Owen recalled when he’d been nothing but a torso and vines. “Th-that sounds like a good plan. How do I do that?”

“Practice,” Amia said. “It shouldn’t be more than a few days for something that simple, so the timing works well!”

I can already tell that I'll be needing to break out the popcorn gifs a number of times during the inevitable training montage. >:V

Owen wondered if it was possible to die of boredom as a Guardian. That sounded much more lethal than drowning.

Zena: "Well, actually..."
Owen: "Look, I don't need to know the answer to that question, okay?"
:grohno~1:


“Heh, good luck, Grassmander,” Gahi said with a mocking churr.

Owen growled, ending it with a defiant chirp. “Don’t forget that Grass trumps Ground.”

Gahi: "Not once I evolve, it doesn't-"
Mispy: "Gahi, enough, seriously. And trust me, even after you evolve I'll be able to trump you just fine." >:|

“Aah, you’ll do fine,” Gahi said, wobbling into the cave. His voice echoed when they entered Rhys’ new abode. “Huh. Place looks almost like home.”

Owen: "It's actually a room-for-room duplicate. I already checked." ^^;
- Blink moment -
Gahi: "... Weird that your parents would just have this lying around for us in advance, but eh. I can't really complain here."

Owen sighed, looking at his paws. He couldn’t get that feeling of his whole body melting into vines out of his mind. The Charmeleon suppressed a shudder, sparing a glance at his tail to make sure it was still alight. He then looked at Zena, following her glare.

She and Rhys were looking at one another from across the cave. The Lucario was the first to break his gaze, shrinking into his home with his tail between his legs.

Owen: "(Yeesh, Rhys. What on earth did you do as a Hunter if you're that ashamed over it?)" ._.

Flames and steam filled Hot Spot’s central road. Jets of water blasted the ground, narrowly avoided by a grassy Charmeleon in the center of the soaked, rocky field. He panted and rolled, frantically looking up; Zena stared, waiting for him to get on his feet. Scalding puddles of water surrounded Owen in small pools from previous attacks. He wanted to stay down, if only to take a few extra seconds to breathe, but he knew that the last time he did that, she just blasted him anyway.

“Don’t stall, dear!” Amia sang, white-hot embers floating around her head. Just behind her, Alex stood with a meek smile, waving at Owen, as if that would somehow encourage him.

Owen: "Oh my gods, when you all said that I'd be training as a Guardian, this was not what I had in mind."
:uhhh:


“C-can’t I take a second to rest?” Owen said.

“Just a bit more, dear. You said you wanted to push yourself, right?” Amia flicked her hand.

Owen: "W-Wait, when on earth did I-?!" O_O;
Amia: "Offscreen, dear. Things like that happen in stories like these sometimes."
:gardeshrug~1:


Owen screeched and closed his eyes, focusing on his leafy feathers. They hardened, turning red, but it was too slow. He jumped out of the way again, but the ember redirected itself toward him. He screamed again, panic redoubling, and spat an ember of his own; that was just enough to cancel the attack in a swirl of orange and white fire.

- Zena winces from the side -
Zena: "Er... Amia? Do you think that we might be overdoing it a tad-?"
Amia: "Nonsense, this is but child's play for a Guardian. Owen's perfectly fine."
:joltyshrug~1:


Owen’s throat burned—he was still a bit on the grassy side. He coughed smoke, taking in ragged breaths, and fell to his knees. “W-wait—wait.”

“Should we stop?” Zena asked.

“Hmm…” Amia tapped her chin. “Just one more volley.”

Boy, can I call 'em for characters or what? :V

He finally got a break; he wasn’t going to bargain for more.

F-fine, just one more,” Owen said, rubbing his eyes. “When are you gonna—AAAA!”

He ducked, narrowly dodging another beam of water. Owen’s horn carved the bottom of the beam; he felt the torrent tug his whole head backward, but he reacted just barely fast enough to duck further down.

Even as Owen’s scales transitioned to leaves, he couldn’t help but think that the most horrifying part about all this was he knew they were holding back.

Owen: "I... think that I'm ready to train with Rhys for a while, honestly."
:sevidazed:


Also, IMO the paragraph with Owen's line of dialogue works better as two smaller ones.

Zena leaned her head down, redirecting her blast to hit Owen again. He rolled in response, the blast grazing his leafy arms—but compared to when he had been fiery, it didn’t hurt nearly as much.

The air felt hot, the power imbued within Pokémon techniques cutting through his body’s natural immunity to mundane flames. The Charmeleon dared to glance at Amia, but he couldn’t see her—instead, he only saw orange fire taking up half his vision. He screamed and crossed his arms, finally giving in. There was no way he’d be able to transition back to Fire that quickly. A shield of golden light appeared in front of Owen once he crossed his arms; the flames curved around the shield, splitting and evaporating behind the green Charmeleon.

Wait, was that Protect there? Or are those Mystic powers in action that just saved Owen from becoming a Grassmeleon fritter?

Owen’s Protect dissipated. His arms hung limply beside him.

Ugh…” Owen finally collapsed onto his rear. “D-done. I’m done.”

Whelp, Protect it is. Though this is another paragraph that IMO works better as two.

And this time, Amia and Zena complied.

He sighed, unable to suppress the relieved smile on his face. “Thanks.”

“We didn’t push you too hard, did we?” Zena asked. “I personally thought we went a bit too far near the end, there…”

Owen: "Whuh? Oh, no no, you did pretty girl- I mean, you did pretty good, pretty good. I... just need to get used to this, that's all."
:sweats:

Zena: "(And to make it a bit less obvious when you've got a crush, as well.)" ¬_¬

“No, I—I think you stopped at the right time. Mom knows.” He gave a little smile at the Gardevoir, and then at the Magmortar that stood behind her. Alex held out a cannon for Owen to grab, pulling him to his feet.

I fizzle out sometimes, but I still have some energy left in me. I just have to push a little more than I think I can. That’s part of Mystic training, right? I—I’m way better than I was last session!”

IMO, this should be at least two paragraphs. But 'last session'? Just how far ahead in time are we relative to the last scene?

“That’s definitely true,” Amia agreed, holding her hands together. “It’s only been a few days and you’re already switching so fast!”

Huh, that's definitely more of a jump ahead timewise than I was expecting. Guessing there will be fewer popcorn gifs to throw around than anticipated.

“Not fast enough to just do it on the fly, though,” Owen mumbled. “…I want to train again, and you have to promise to push a little harder, okay?”

“N-now?” Zena asked; even Amia flinched.

Amia: "Owen, I would just like to remind that you yourself were fairly worn out by the end of-"
:eltywtf:

Owen: "Look, I'm not going to get any tougher just sitting around and waiting. I can handle it, I know I can!" >_>;

Alex tittered, patting Owen’s back. “N-now, why don’t we take a break, first? F-for a bit longer? You may be Mystic, but you still don’t have the same stamina as before. P-perhaps some meditating instead?”

“Aw, but I already meditated this morning.” Owen puffed out a small ember in protest, crossing his arms over his chest. His stomach felt like it was tying knots, but he ignored it.

Which is a sign that this can only end well™️ by ignoring it.

“Well, it’s also almost lunchtime, isn’t it?” Amia said. “Owen, did you eat breakfast?”

“B-breakfast?” Owen repeated. “…O-oh, right. I think I forgot…”

Wew, somebody's been getting into his training if he's been letting bodily needs slip from his mind like this.

The knot loosened, but with it came a fierce growl, deeper than anything Owen could produce with his throat. “E-eheh…”

Amia raised her head to the sound of a boulder moving. “Oh! Looks like Team Alloy’s back, dear.”

Owen perked up, spinning around. “Just in time for lunch!”

- Beat moment -
Owen: "... Wait, is Rhys with them still, since if he is... uh... Zena has been getting used to his presence, right?" ^^;

Amia and Alex both laughed. “We’ll get it ready, dear.”

Rhys, Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all entered, though curiously, Nevren was also behind them.
Oh, hey, Nevren,” Owen greeted with a formal bow. “How come you’re here?”

My sus-meter just pinged, since I do not trust Nevren based off what we've seen of him in this story thus far.

“Ahh, I just wanted to inspect the landscape. I’m curious what Rhys’ new home looks like, and I was also promised a heavenly meal.”

Sticker, sceptilisk,


Really, Nevren. That's what you're going with?

“From Rhys or Mom?” Owen poked a claw behind him. “She’s already making something, so you might want to hurry.”

Rhys bristled. “But I asked her to hold off on dinner. I had just the dish in mind.”

inb4 it's something that makes Owen wince just hearing it.

“…Dinner?” Owen leaned to the right; orange light bled through the entryway before the boulder closed it off. Demitri yawned, which made Mispy yawn next. Gahi clicked his jaws and clenched them shut. “How long have I been…”

“Had a really long mission,” Demitri said, picking tiredly at his tusks. “A mutant—some kind of Electivire… thing, they weren’t sure what other features it had—had been on a rampage through a town a little north of the Wooden Wilds. Like… half of the buildings were either collapsed or cracked.”

Oh, well that's a good omen for how the townsfolk fared from that whole rampage that went down.
:copyka2:


“Quite impressive, really.” Nevren raised one of his spoons. “I’m certain those buildings were reinforced with Protect insulation. It had hit hard enough to dissipate it, and then continue through. Very impressive, if we want to at least give credit where it’s due.”

Owen: "I'm... just going to not ask what happened to the townsfolk there, since I can already tell that I really don't wanna know."
:fearfullaugh~1:


Team Alloy—Owen included—glared at Nevren. Zena, too, huffed. “What are these mutants? Owen mentioned them to me before, but all I know is that they’re strange Pokémon that seem to just appear.”

“Well, effectively, that is what they are,” Nevren said. “They’re so few and far between that they aren’t necessarily a concern… until a particularly troublesome one appears. And that has been happening more often lately.”

inb4 they're something like Pokémon leaking out from the Spirit World, since it'd explain a thing or two about why all the mutants we've seen thus far seem to be Pokémon with a shift in type-affinity like the Swolax.

Rhys hummed, shaking his head. “If you must know, they have to do with the Hunters. I’m certain of that. We couldn’t find the mutant itself, only its path of destruction. It will take a while for that town to recover… but we did what we could in the immediate sense. Anam and James are arranging for long-term assistance as we speak. We may station a few Hearts there for morale and security in case another mutant happens to appear there. A second attack would wipe them from the map without our help.”

inb4 they station the Hearts there and the town just gets wiped off the map anyways. Since the fact that Nevren is bringing up how precarious that town's situation is feels like a terrible omen for its long-term existence.

Owen shuddered, nodding. “I ran into a Snorlax mutant a while ago. Ugh…” He turned around. “I’m gonna help make dinner.”

I... kinda wonder if this would've had more impact if Owen elaborated on the Swolax encounter and how he can relate to how dangerous they are. Since something about the line that's there feels a bit disconnected from Nevren's point, even if I get that meta-wise this is supposed to be a transition.

“Hey, I’m coming, too,” Demitri said. “I want to see what we’re having! It should almost be ready, right?”

“Not if I have anything to say about it. If they aren’t finished, I will get my dish ready.” Rhys took advantage of his longer strides to cross Hot Spot and enter Amia’s home. “Amia! Amia, don’t forget that it’s dinnertime, and you promised me . . .”

Whelp, guess we're not finding out what Rhys cooked for dinner, even if I'm a little surprised that he doesn't just blurt out what he made tonight.

No longer able to hear Rhys, and with Nevren walking ahead, too, Owen looked back at the rest of Team Alloy. “How’d the mission go? Did Rhys help out a lot?”

“It was a bunch of rebuilding and gathering supplies,” Demitri said.

“Boring.” Mispy’s leaf drooped.

Owen: "... Were the villagers not grateful for the help or something? Since I'm surprised you're not saying anything at all about that." .-.

“Yep, boring,” Gahi clicked. “Barely got a good fight in. Was glad we ran into some territorial ferals on the way, otherwise we’d be all stir-crazy.”

Peanut's got his priorities in order, I see. o<o

“Yeah.” Owen glanced back at the clouds of steam that coated the ceiling, condensing into droplets to rain back to the floor. “I got my fill of fights during my training, at least.”

“Lucky you.” Gahi wobbled past them; the other three had to walk quickly to keep up. “Bah, at least you can actually relate ter us. Nobody gets it, that need ter fight, y’know?”

“Y-yeah, but I think I get weird looks when I try to talk about that.”

I mean, considering your seeming talent for bumbling into accidental innuendoes, I wonder why you're getting those weird looks, Owen. >:V

At the dinner table, Zena struggled to find a place where she would properly fit. In an effort to include her in daily life again—at least, as close to normal daily life as they could manage—they had invited her over for dinner every day. Her size made things a bit awkward, though she eventually figured out to coil near the corner and lean her head toward the table.

... Wait, was it ever mentioned that the gang went to the table? If not, it might have made sense to do a scene cut to basically jump ahead from Team Alloy chatting with each other to "now we are seated for noms".

But Owen noticed that there was a scowl on her face. He had a good idea why, based on where her eyes were glaring.

Amia had graciously allowed him to add his dish to the spread—it seemed to be some sort of spicy rice, speckled with Cheri bits and seasoned with a dark brown sauce. But his fur stood on end; he felt it, too. Perhaps it was her aura, but Zena was making her glare plainly obvious.

Owen: "Zena, I thought you were getting over your thing with Rhys!"
:grohno~1:

Zena: "Well, I'm not ranting about how he's a waste of space and flesh right now at your dinner table as I rightfully ought to, so I suppose that I am, now aren't I?" >:|

Owen decided not to speak and instead sat next to the Milotic. He flashed a forced smile, and Zena reciprocated with the same.

“How long ‘til it’s done?” Gahi shouted, banging his chin on the table. “That mission took ferever and I’m starved!”

“Very soon, Gahi; be polite.” Rhys tossed the pan’s contents up, slicing Cheri Berries with tiny blades of aura in midair. After a few tosses, he poured the last of the brown sauce in, which Owen realized was the main source of the savory smell.

Owen: "... I don't even want to know what on earth that is, do I?" ^^;

“Rhys is pretty good at cooking, huh?” Owen asked Zena, hoping that she’d at least have some shred of recognition for his talents.

“Mm.” Zena’s scowl softened, but she also looked away from him.

Owen: "... This dinner is going to be really, really awkward, I can already tell." ._.

After what felt like forever, Rhys finally turned around with the spicy rice, as well as Amia’s simpler, but hearty, potato-Tamato stew. Owen wasn’t sure which one to go for first; he just took half of both for himself. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi took after him while Amia placed bowls of water near the middle, warning them that it was a bit spicy.

I take it that Amia doesn't eat a lot of spicy food, since milk is actually a lot more effective at dealing with capsaicin than water is.

“You guys really like yer spice,” Gahi said.

“It’s okay,” Mispy said.

“Feh, you’d eat anything.”

“Say that again.” Owen didn’t have to look to know that Gahi had inched away from the Chikorita.

I mean, considering some snippets of later HoC I've seen floating around on the net... Gahi isn't wrong there. ^^;

Zena didn’t take a bowl for herself, but she stayed for the company. Though, compared to the previous dinners, she was a lot quieter than usual. And the only real difference was that Rhys was eating with them—and Nevren, but Owen knew that it was mostly the ex-Hunter Lucario that she was focused on.

Wait, was Rhys also present for those other dinners? Since if she's quieter than them, that... has some implications for what those other dinners were like.
:copyber:


It was either because nobody else spoke, or because he, too, caught the tension, but even Gahi was quiet during dinner. In an attempt to stuff the thickness of the air away, Owen finished his meal first; almost immediately after he set his bowl down for the final time, Zena moved to speak.

Thank you for the dinner, Amia. It was lovely.”

“Oh, you’re welcome, dear.”

“I will be going.”

Small recommendation to break up this first paragraph here. Though I can already tell this is going to take a turn for the awkward in 3... 2...

Without any further goodbye, she slithered out.

“I—I’ll go, too,” Owen said automatically, stepping away.

Rhys stood up next, which made everyone except Nevren stare in alarm. “Er—Rhys, dear?” Amia asked. “Is something the matter?”

Rhys: "... Amia, are you seriously asking this question when one of your guests was very deliberately ignoring me and trying to make me feel unwelcome during dinner?"
:lucariwhat:

Amia: "... It was worth asking anyways?"
:gardeshrug~1:


“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Nevren said leisurely, taking another spoonful of stew. “Amia, you must tell me how you cook these potatoes. The texture is marvelous.”

“Oh—I’ll tell you about the recipe, dear, but—”

She'd have to kill him afterwards? ^^;

“Would you excuse me?” Nevren stood up with more agency than usual. Rhys had already gone out, following Zena. Owen, watching it all, sped up his pace to make sure nothing particularly insane happened—not that enough had already befallen him the past few days.

“Hey, uh, Zena?” Owen said, stepping inside Zena’s abode nervously. “Er… sorry if I’m bothering you or anything, but…”

You aren’t bothering me at all, Owen.” Zena slipped into the lake and kept her upper body above the water’s surface. While her eyes had a fire that defied her affinities, Owen could only assume she was telling the truth, particularly when her glare was aimed behind him.

Owen: "U-Um... you are trying to get over your thing with Rhys, right?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Zena:
:absus:


Owen: "... R-Right?"
:uhhh:


“Ah… yes. Hello, Zena.” Rhys gave a formal bow. “I didn’t mean to intrude, but—”

“Then why are you here?”

Both Owen and Rhys winced. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi caught up to them, Nevren right behind.

Owen: "(I'm... just going to take that as a 'hell no' there.)" ._.;

“I… I wanted to apologize, again, for my actions in chasing you down. It wasn’t right of me, and I regret it—all of it. I want to make things right, and I want all of the Guardians to stop living in isolation and fear because of what the Hunters—myself included—had done.”

While Zena didn’t look convinced, she still replied enough to humor him.

And how do you intend to do that? By approaching the Guardians again, but in peace? Just like that Torkoal tried? I doubt they would believe you.”

That was that same Torkoal that's Rhys' lover, wasn't it?

“That is why I came here,” Rhys said, paws squeezed into little, anxious balls. “I need your help.”

“Rhys, what exactly are you doing?” Nevren said.

“Something I should have done when I first met her,” Rhys said, taking slow, deliberate, and careful steps into Zena’s home.

Owen: "Um, Rhys? Maybe you should ask the 'mon who hates your guts if this is alright before-" o_o;

“Don’t come any closer, Hunter,” Zena hissed. “We may be working toward the same goal, but I refuse to—”

Rhys held out a paw and lowered his head.

Owen: "(Rhys, seriously? What are you doing?!)"

The Mystic flash that came from Zena’s mouth suggested she was about to blast him until his head went down. The light disappeared, replaced by words.

What are you doing?”

Oh hey, I knew I was onto something, even if I didn't get who'd do the wondering right.

“I, Lucario Rhys, Promise to abandon my role as a Hunter. Do you accept?” His paw glowed in a soft, golden light.

While Owen sensed no reaction from the rest of Team Alloy, the way Nevren ended up blinking several times, and how Zena flinched, made the Charmeleon let out a quick, confused chirp.

Doesn’t he already promise that, implicitly?”

Owen: "Rhys, I thought you stopped being a Hunter forever ago-" .-.
Rhys: "I'm making it formal as a gesture of good will?" ^^;

But Zena didn’t answer him; she was completely focused on Rhys.

A Divine Promise, you mean?”

“Yes. I won’t kill another Guardian. My work as a Hunter is done, officially, and by Divine Promise.”

Owen: "... I'm sorry, what's a 'Divine Promise' again and why are you two treating it like it's some sort of blood pact-?" .-.
Rhys: "Owen, please. You're ruining the moment right now." >_>;

“…This is a trick,” Zena said hastily. “You couldn’t simply—abandon your—”

Rhys repeated, more firmly this time, “Zena, I hereby Promise to abandon my role as a Hunter. Do you accept?”

Owen: "... Rhys, just out of morbid curiosity, but what exactly happens if you break a Divine Promise again?" ^^;
Rhys: "I'll explain later, but it's irrelevant, since I won't break this one."

She stared at his paw for a while longer, the significance completely lost to Owen. He could only infer that this was a lot more than Rhys’ word alone…

“Do you accept?”

More silence. While he didn’t know her for long, Owen had never seen Zena’s eyes so wide. Shakily, she held out one of her ribbons, grasping Rhys’ paw.

I… I—I accept.”

... Wait, is the room going to blow up or something in like 5 seconds? Since that sure seemed really tense and heavy for a promise between two Pokémon there.

Nevren looked like he was about to faint. Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy all looked at Owen for an answer, but the Charmeleon only replied with a shrug and wide eyes.

The golden light between Zena’s ribbon and Rhys’ paw flashed, then faded. Rhys stood up, his expression firm, and bowed at her again. Zena, meanwhile, was stunned into complete silence, ribbon still hovering where Rhys’ paw had been. She finally closed her mouth and looked down.

Th-thank you, Rhys. But I’m very tired.”

Owen: "... Rhys? What on earth was that-?" o_o;
Rhys: "Again, I'll explain later, Owen." -_-;

“I understand.”

She doesn’t look tired at all, Owen noted, frowning. Why were serpents so hard to read? “Um, Zena, will you be okay on your own?”

I actually find that hilarious that Owen would have trouble reading a serpentine creature given that snakes and lizards are relatively close to one another on the taxonomic tree.

And to this, Zena gave him a warm smile that Owen hoped was genuine.

I’ll be fine tonight, but thank you. I… need to think.”

Owen: "... Which I suppose given that I'm actively hoping it was genuine, it probably isn't." ._.;

“Do you feel safe, dear?” Amia asked, holding a hand to the fin on her chest.

Alex bumped his cannons together. “If you would like company, we could always stand by your home.”

Owen: "I'll come too!" ^^
Zena: "Um, Owen, as much as I appreciate the thought, but if Rhys doesn't keep his word, I think you're going to be more than a little outmatched-" ._.;

“I believe I will be okay. There will always be others awake, yes?”

“Oh, certainly. Owen, you still need your rest, but we will be awake to keep an eye on things.”

Zena looked at her ribbon. “…I won’t deny that I feel at least slightly safer. But… thank you anyway.”

She turned around. [ ]

I’m going to meditate and converse with my spirits. We’re all a bit… Well. I’ll be seeing you tomorrow morning. Hopefully Star will finally return with news.”

Would recommend splitting and expanding the "she turned around" part of the last paragraph. Though wait, is the "I believe I will be okay" meant to be from Zena, or from Owen? Since I assumed it was from Zena, but Amia's line there is also addressing Owen when he didn't speak up for three lines prior to this one.

The mushrooms were dim compared to the fire in the center of the room. Owen was always fond of the light; if anything, he was glad that the bright flames didn’t bother his parents’ sleeping patterns. Since they lacked one. He wanted to sleep right on top of it, but Amia said it would make him smell of smoke all the next day. Instead, he went for his boring Rawst bed and lazily rolled until his arm dipped into a small alcove in the wall. Out came a book titled The Power and Peril of Seeds and Scarves, with Owen hoping that a bit of nonfiction could take his mind off of things. As interesting as it was, every page made his eyes just a bit heavier, the existential worries of his relatively newfound power and problems washing away.

I suppose that I should be less surprised that a technically-oriented book would help put Owen to sleep. But hey, that's not exactly a rare trait.
:loltias:


Alex knocked his cannons against Owen’s room, the sound echoing hollowly. “Owen?”

“Hey.” Owen placed the book, open-faced, on his chest. “Something wrong?”

I didn't realize that Amia and Alex were right there. While I get that they mentioned that they'd help keep watch over Zena's place, I wonder if there was a more explicit way of saying that they're literally in the room with Owen in the intro paragraph or something.

The Magmortar smiled. “I was about to ask you that.” He sat down near his bed—due to his size, he towered over Owen without any effort. “The past few days must have been really hectic.”

“Yeah, a little,” Owen said, shrugging. “But I’m starting to get used to it.”

Owen: "... Which I should probably be more concerned about given how much of the past few days have been outright traumatic, but it is what it is."
:grohno~1:


“I can tell.”

“Eh?”

Alex chuckled quietly. “Well, this is the first time that you’re still awake after all your training.”

That intensive, huh? Though I guess it makes sense with what we saw of how Owen's latest session went down given that he was visibly winded at the end and that was after improvement from the past days.

Owen blushed, hiding beneath his book, focused on an image depicting a Reviver Seed’s healing light.

Did I really just pass out that fast?”

“It certainly seemed that way.” Alex pressed his cannons together. “Owen, er… is there anything that you’d like to talk about? Anything that might be bothering you, or…?”

Oh, so that little light visual effect from the games literally happens in this setting. Noted, then.

Owen’s expression slowly transitioned from flustered to subdued, though he remained hidden behind the pages. He had been focused so much on training that he never had the time to really reflect on why he was doing it in the first place, or what had happened on that disastrous day. He felt his scales crawl, like they were about to become leaves, and shuddered.

Owen: "I'm... never going to get used to this, am I?"
:TailsEww:


He felt Alex staring at him. Something had to be said to that, and it felt almost like a disservice to just tell him that everything was okay. Owen sighed, relenting.

I guess there’s one thing that sort of bothered me, but… I just…”

“Yes, Owen? Please, anything. I want to be as open as I can with you, now that, well… this is happening.”

Owen closed his eyes, focused on the dark. It was rare that he’d want to see nothing—especially since his flame kept his species perpetually in the light.

How come you guys wouldn’t show up when I became a Heart?”

Well, this is going to get nice and awkward in short order, I can already tell.

“A-ah…”

Owen waited. All in all, it was one thing that certainly bothered him, out of everything. Becoming a Heart was monumental… and yet they weren’t even in the crowd.

“Well, we… it was dangerous. What if the Hunters tried to attack us while we were out in the open? We could possibly fight them off on our own, but if there are innocents nearby…”

Owen: "Dad, Anam is a Mystic himself and he was literally right there."
:unimpressed:

Alex: "... He's Anam so it doesn't count?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


Owen figured that would be the answer. It was only fair. But after those countless attempts, year after year, of trying to join the Hearts—he had no idea how many times he had been rejected—the day he was accepted, they couldn’t just take one risk?

“Why were you able to show up at Anam’s place?”

Owen: "Since, you know, this whole 'Guardians can't gather together for safety from Hunters' thing just seemed to conveniently go out the window the moment that I became one."
:judgemander~1:


“Anam came to get us,” Alex said. “Out of all of us, he’s the one strong enough to be in public… and he’s the only other Guardian we know.”

Kek, I knew I was onto something with that joke about "Anam doesn't count", though yeah. Anam being significantly up there on the power scale tracks and is kinda foreshadowed by the cover art, so...

Though Owen’s claws were still squeezing the book cover, he knew that was a reasonable enough answer. But something still felt wrong.

“Owen, what’s this really about? I think… you already knew those answers.”

Owen: "I mean, we could get into why it suspiciously feels like you're lying to me still, but..." >_>;

Owen snorted a bit of fire; his heart skipped a beat, reflexively trying to put out the flames on the page, but then he remembered he had bought special Rawst editions. The pages remained unaffected. He sighed, finally lowering the book.

Why didn’t you tell me?”

Alex flinched. “T-tell you?”

“About… you. That the whole village is dead. And that Mom’s…”

Can't tell if we're about to get a proper explanation now that Owen's properly Mystic or else if we're going to get more deflection and lying since there had to be a reason why Amia and Alex tried to keep this all hidden from Owen all this time.

“We just wanted you to live a normal life, Owen. That’s really all.”

:mizuDoubt:


That's not how this story works, buddy.

“But—that was just a huge lie!”

Owen dared to peek out from behind the book. He regretted it immediately; Alex’s eyes were right on him, accompanied by an apologetic frown. He couldn’t bear to look at it for much longer, yet without thinking placed the book to the side of his nest. The Charmeleon rolled on the leaves, staring at the fire in the center of the room. For some reason, the flames seemed a lot colder tonight.

Wait, is the cold flames supposed to be a sign of regret by spirits / channeling them wavering or something? Or is that just Owen being plagued with feelings of regret right now?

“I’m sorry, Owen.” Alex placed his arm on the Charmeleon’s back, giving it a gentle press between his shoulders. Owen’s body loosened, muscles relaxing. “We just didn’t want you to panic. If you could have just had… the smallest sense of normalcy… where you wouldn’t have to feel afraid, or wouldn’t get scared by anything you saw, or what you knew… I—I didn’t want you to worry.”

I legitimately can't tell if this is earnest or more BSing, but if nothing else, it seems that Amia and Alex at least wanted Owen to not get sucked into life as a shonen protagonist in his most recent memory loop. If not an outright reincarnation cycle given that we've seen that rezzing is on the table in some circumstances in this setting, so…

“Right.” Owen should have expected an answer like that, too. He already knew that the rest of the village spirits—now within Amia so she could spend more power training him—were surely proud. And perhaps, when his training was His eyes softened, finally gathering enough nerve to look at Alex directly. “What’s Mom doing, anyway?”

“Standing guard outside, as always.”

Owen:
giphy.gif

Alex: "Owen, it's been a long day for you. Do you seriously think that I'd lie to your face now of all times?" -_-;

As always. Owen wasn’t sure what his face looked like, but it was apparently insulted enough that Alex looked at the fire next.

“I’m sorry.”

Owen couldn’t stay mad at that face. With a sigh of defeat, he just smiled at his father, “It’s okay. I… I get it. You guys just wanted me to be happy, and… I was.”

Somehow, Alex’s relieved smile spread to Owen’s, too… or perhaps that was because he could barely stay awake. The fatigue was starting to set in again. At least he had some time to chat.

How have… I been doing?” Owen asked. “With my training… Mystic… strong.”

Alex: "... Not terrible, at least?" ^^;
Owen: "Dad, if I wasn't doing good, you can just tell me, you know." >_>;

“You’ve been doing well, Owen. I’m so proud of you for how well you’re taking all this. So is your mother.”

“Mhmm…” Owen’s eyelids fluttered. The flames were a blurry, dancing blotch in front of his eyes, ever-present and cozy. “Guardians… Star, gonna…

Ah yes, her again. Only good things can come from Star coming into the mix here, truly.
:copyka2:


“Soon, hopefully,” Alex replied. “Maybe if we can get them together, we can take on the Hunters. If they. . .”

Owen wasn’t sure what Alex said after that. He curled around a clump of leaves, the tip of his tail touching his snout, and faded. He had many nights to rest, but it was the first time that he hadn’t just passed out immediately. Yet, despite this, it was the most restful sleep he’d had since becoming the Grass Guardian.

In his sleep, Owen heard his mother’s voice.

Good night, little ember.

That last line's adorable. Though it makes me wonder if stuff like 'ember' or 'cinder' are common terms of endearment among Fire-types in general in this world (or set of them based off some passing lines of dialogue from Anam and the gang).

“Well… I know for sure that Rim already stole one of the Orbs,” Star said, sitting on Anam’s dark wooden desk. In the morning light, James felt it was appropriate to gather everybody together once Star brought news to Amia that she had gathered all the intelligence she needed. It had been another few days, but the rest was well worth it—at least from Owen’s perspective. While he was never allowed to go on missions with Team Alloy, his meditation and training with Zena and Amia, while excruciating, was also… fun? Perhaps that’s how it felt, finally able to truly exert himself and fight in ways that most civilians felt uncomfortable with.

Ah yes, a Star scene. Time to see how fast things go from 0 to
:copyka:
given that I can already tell that the skeletons are going to be flying out of the closet in live-time.

“She has the Psychic Orb, actually. Appropriate, given she always likes being an Espurr, but…” She shook her head. “That one wasn’t very well-guarded. Some village had it as an artifact, hidden in plain sight, so all she had to do was sneak in and steal it. Didn’t have any power. Folks who tried touching it never woke up again, so, guess they just saw it as too dangerous.”

Likes being an Espurr? Implying that Rim isn't really one? What is she, a Ditto? A Zoroark? Or do Mystic Orbs grant the ability to species-shift akin to the property of Transfer Orbs?

“How about all the other Orbs?” Owen asked.

“As far as I know, they’re all with a Guardian, but most I wouldn’t recommend going to just now,” Star said. “Still, we’re in a good spot. Four Orbs with us, one Orb to them.”

Again, I am not convinced at all that gathering all the guardians in one place isn't just going to result in someone, potentially Star at this rate, just knifing everyone in the back to take all the power for themselves.

“How come you can’t just tell them to come over?” Owen asked.

“For one,” Star held up a nebulous claw, “a lot of them are kinda leery about me since, you know, I told them to stay put and all that, and suddenly changing my tune is gonna throw them off. And two, even if I did tell them that, uh, news flash, Hunters might get them on their way over. We need to go to them as a group in case we run into trouble.”

:sceptikarp:


Star, just saying, you're giving me some really strong Airy vibes right about now, and I know how that turned out since I played Bravely Default back in the day.

Zena, while still flashing glares at Star whenever she could, kept herself professional enough to contribute. “I suppose she has a point. If that’s the case, let’s begin with Orbs you believe are the easiest to access. That means the Hunters would have the easiest time getting them, too.”

“Okay. I’ll put down those dots first,” Star said. “Then you guys can grab the first one. Uhh…”

She looked up at the huge map on the front wall of Anam’s office. The others followed her gaze. It depicted a great, roughly-circle-shaped country that comprised almost all of the world’s dry land. Everything else was just ocean. Owen saw the marking of his home to the north of Kilo Mountain in the center of the map.

- Beat moment -
Owen: "Wait, our entire world is literally one country and a surrounding sea?" .-.
Star: "Well, our setting may or may not have been duct taped together from some odds and ends by Arceus. Kinda a common theory among the readerbase, and hey, it's not that rare a premise among PMD fics, is it?"
:joltyshrug~1:


“This one’s pretty good. She’s a little weird, but she won’t hurt you, maybe. Willow, the Fairy Guardian. She’s right here, in a hidden garden inside that forest….” She pointed at a pale green patch of land within a northwestern woodland called Fae, Fae Forest.

Demitri shuddered slightly. “Fairy, huh…”

Oh, so we're going to see Demitri have a moment like:

Image


one of these days, huh? :V

“Oh, calm down,” Star hushed him. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

“I—I do!” Demitri said. “I just… won’t try to fight her.”

Narrator: "He absolutely does not want to go."

“How about all the other locations?” Owen asked. “We should try to rescue them all at once!”

“No-go on that,” Star dismissed. “Spread ourselves too thin, the Hunters will beat us down.”

Star: "Seriously, Owen, there's at least a dozen others out there. Words do not begin to describe how bad of an idea sending one or two Pokémon at a time to each would be."
:eltywtf:

Owen: "... But don't we risk the Hunters just picking off other Orbs and Guardians that are just completely undefended at the moment?" .-.

“Hrm.” James fluffed up his feathers. “At the same time, we risk giving the Hunters even more time than necessary if we all go to them one by one. Perhaps we should follow official Heart protocol—teams of four or fewer. On a practical level, it’s the most optimal size for a mission of this scale.”

And conveniently, it keeps things from being a massive mess for the author and keeps narrow and focused party sizes. :V

Which will probably go out the window in due time given that IIRC this whole orb hunt thing goes off the rails within the span of an Act, but hey. It's nice to have plans.

Owen nodded. “I feel like you’d need someone dedicated to just managing things if you have too many Hearts fighting on one team.”

Nevren chuckled. “A Heart manager. It sounds as if you want a tactician.”

Rhys glared at Nevren. The Alakazam ignored it.

I mean, considering how we've already learned that Nevren casually manages Kilo Village's minds, that comment about being a 'Heart manager'... probably is going feel dramatically less funny in retrospect in like 20 chapters or so.
:copyber:


“What an interesting concept, Owen,” Nevren went on. “Well, I’m not much of a fighter, so perhaps I can play that role,” he said. “Would you care if I gave you all communication devices? I’ve actually been working on this for quite some time, and it may actually be useful in this case, hm.”

“Y-you can do that? How?”

Wait, badges? Or something more advanced than that?

“It’s similar technology to how my Waypoints have been working, but instead of transferring solid material such as Pokémon and their possessions, it transfers energy, such as, in this case, the vibrations of the air made by speaking. Quite useful, yes?”

Nevren pulled from his bag—as if he’d been waiting a while to announce this—what appeared to be three silver Badges.

I only have two at the moment… ah, no, three.”

Yup, I called it. Though wait, how on earth have the Thousand Hearts been coordinating all this time if badges in this world are prototype technology?

“They look… kinda like our Badge,” Owen said.

“Yes, I wanted there to be a resemblance. However, the color is quite different, so I imagine there will not be much confusion.”

Well, never mind then. Though I doubt that the only thing separating these from normal badges is a color scheme, so that's got me wondering...

It was indeed a lot like the Badge, but the design in the center was not a heart, but a diamond. However, it was the silver sheen, compared to the typical gold, was the most immediate difference.

Mispy prodded one of the communicators with a vine. “Mnn… nice.”

Are there others that are spades and clubs as well? :V

“How do you use it?” Owen asked.

“You press the center rhombus and speak into it. So long as the other badge is not pressed, it will reflect what it ‘hears’… to put it simply.”

Gahi pressed the little rhombus with his tiny foot. “Can yeh hear me?”

Can yeh hear me? the other two said at the very same time.

Owen: "Huh... convenient. Though what happens if multiple wearers press the diamond thingy at the same time?"
:bulbuhhh:


“Whoa!” Owen said. “That’s… really cool!”

The Trapinch clicked. “That’s how I sound?”

“Sounded normal to me,” Demitri said.

“Mhm.” Mispy nodded.

Ah yes, Gahi discovering that "wait, do I really sound like that?" dynamic that happens since a person's voice as heard with their own ears travels differently than sound coming from an external source. Though it makes me wonder if some species of Pokémon are uniquely prone to "wait, I sound like that?" relative to others.

Gahi grumbled something and pushed the communicator to the others with a flick of his head. “I don’t like it.”

Mispy:
oh-no-anyway.gif

Demitri: "I'm sure you'll get used to it soon enough, Gahi." ^^;

“Aww, you sound fine, Gahi. We’re used to it,” Demitri teased. “Hey, how about we compete for second place on evolving on this mission, huh?”

Almost instantly, their cheerful expressions shifted to challenging glares, and the challenge was on.

- Blinks -
I didn't think that we'd seriously be broaching the topic of evolution for party members this early in the plot, but considering how fast Owen got his first evo and with the implication a couple chapters back that Team Alloy used to be fully evolved, well...

“Hey!” Owen perked up. “How about for this mission, all four of us team u—”

“No!” Rhys and Star said.

Owen jumped.

Owen: "H-Huh? Is... there something wrong with that idea?" ._.;

Rhys shook his head. “That is not a good idea. We need at least one elite with you. Don’t forget, you’re all only at the Entry level. The Hunters… No. I shall accompany them.”

I mean, I suppose that logically makes sense given that Rhys has been apprenticing Team Alloy to begin with. Even if I'm kinda expecting Zena to cut in and throw a fit in short order.

“And your father and I will go with you instead, Owen,” Amia said, smiling.

Owen deflated. He really wanted to fight as a quartet…

Zena: "Ahem."
Owen: "Oh! Wait... are you actually here right now? Or is that a cutaway gag thing-?" ^^;

“So that will be a team with Rhys and his students,” James said, “and a team of Owen, Amia, and I presume Alex. That leaves you, Zena… perhaps to come with myself and Anam. Do you have a spirit to accompany you?”

Zena glanced at Owen, but then sighed and addressed James. “None that I can solidify usefully.”

Owen: "Wait, but Nevren, if she's here, couldn't she come with-?" ^^;