Chapter 156 - First Generation
Chapter 156 – First Generation
“Is it just me, or is this a terrible idea?” Phol murmured. “At what point did I get involved in the field again? I’m a doctor now, not a Heart.”
“Probably when we started losing Hearts to who knows where,” Spice said. “The world may have stopped ending, but the damage is done. Maybe once it calms down more, you can be irritated at patients again.”
Phol grumbled and didn’t reply directly.
Before them was a great temple, completely decayed from disrepair and abandonment. Stained glass windows once depicted the figures of Mew and Arceus and all their creations. The blank window that often separated the two was considered a symbol of their distance. But now, with the new revelations at hand, that third window was Necrozma, their mediator.
“According to the plan,” Leo said, looking at the sun’s position, “we wait until the apex of noon and then go in. That should time us for whatever the ‘spirit side’ team tries from within. This all seems very risky…”
“We’re just a distraction. Fight defensively,” Spice said.
“Mrgh. Right. How close is noon?”
Leo was watching his shadow creep along. “Pretty close,” he said. “We can probably head in already and the timing won’t be too off. It’s not like we were given exact kilos to count…”
“Does time even flow the same?” Phol asked as Angelo meekly approached and sketched something on his arm. Phol didn’t question it.
“I don’t know,” Leo said. “But we have to try at least a little bit.”
“They could have at least left one Guardian with us,” Phol mumbled, looking down the field. The scouts were circumnavigating the temple—and among them was Star—but the fact that nothing was exploding meant ADAM was just inside.
Angelo drew something on Leo next before approaching Spice.
“Okay, what are you doing?” Spice asked.
“A-ah! Um.” Angelo nervously poked his tail’s black paint. “I was just giving you some, ah, some good luck before you go in. A simple enchantment. Normally only Alcremie can learn it, er, but…”
“…Right. You know basically every known technique, don’t you?” Spice rolled her eyes. “Well, thanks, I guess. I’m sure it’ll help.”
“I hope so,” Angelo said, sketching out odd squares and hexagons next. Similar symbols appeared all around them in a two-layered barrier.
“Okay!” Angelo said. “We should be ready.”
“Hopefully, the Dungeon doesn’t dispel any of these once we enter,” Phol said. “Ah, there are the scouts.”
Star, a Hecto, and a Nate approached from around the corner. The canid Zygarde and strange wraith representative were quiet, but Star announced, “All clear! The guy must be inside. I think we’re good to go.”
“And my purpose specifically,” Phol said, “is to try to… shape my Protects into a gauntlet and then punch ADAM as hard as I can. And that will somehow work.”
“That will be part of what works. Maybe.” Star nodded. “Radiance seems to counter Shadows, so we do that from both sides. That’s what the other team will be doing with Anam’s Radiance.”
Part of Spice wondered if Anam knew how to fight anymore, with how meek he’d been lately. Hopefully, he’d rise to the occasion. “Alright,” she said. “Lead the way.”
The time for preparation was over. Hopefully, they could clean out whatever ADAM was doing and then try to track where Alexander had fled next. They approached the temple entrance. There was a soapy rainbow film where the door should have been. The Dungeon felt strong.
“One,” Leo said, “two… three!”
They dashed through.
And immediately put up Protect barriers to block incoming Hyper Beams from all sides.
The deafening blasts drowned out Spice’s curse. She couldn’t hear, but that was what nonverbal gestures were for. Phol tapped her shoulder and dashed ahead; the others followed suit while Hecto and Nate took the leads. They were, as they considered themselves, disposable—there were multiples of them, after all, or in the wraith’s case, he would just return to the main body. Spice wasn’t even sure if that was truly Nate, or a spirit acting as his extension.
This was supposed to be a small Dungeon, but it certainly felt a lot larger on the inside. It was just one large chamber with a smaller room in the back, but traps covered every square inch of the place.
But Spice noticed something peculiar about the way it was coming down. It was all regular. Each Hyper Beam exploded from a square, like a grid. It matched how they’d seen the apparent internal Dungeon’s format, but would that be useful?
Another volley came as they were only a fifth of the way across the room. Spice had no time to think about how useful the format of the Hyper Beams was.
“They aren’t firing again behind us,” Phol said. “They may need time to recharge.”
“This guy wasn’t as strong out in Kilo Village!” Leo said, looking winded.
“This is his domain. He’s a lot stronger inside.”
Spice brought up another Protect, as did Phol, and they both blocked the next volley to protect the team. Angelo conjured a much wider barrier to do the same but squealed as his knees buckled from the resonant pressure.
“Well, they could get to protecting us at any time, now!” Angelo cried as Phol picked him up under his arm.
They were going to make it if they could endure the barrage. The beams were fixed. If they took a moment to gather their breath where they’d already fired… perhaps they had a shot.
It was like a dance. A lethal, potentially soul-smashing dance.
“I’m gonna feel this in the morning,” Angelo wheezed.
But despite everything, Spice was proud that Angelo was here at all… even if they had to carry him along for it.
“They’re charged! Advance!” Phol called.
And so the dance began.
According to Star, the path ahead of them would lead to the Ethereal Forest’s exit into the Normal Realm.
Her directions hadn’t been necessary, as it turned out. Marshadow Manny crossed his arms and nodded to himself.
“Yep. Those’re Shadows, alright,” Manny said.
“Mhm… Um, just so you know, my Shadows aren’t super strong anymore,” Anam said. “So, um, I hope I can still help…”
The poor Goodra was still getting used to being weak. Marshadow made it a point to be more expressive around the fella. “Yer doin’ jus’ fine, Anam. Keep it up, eh? How about Radiance?”
“Oh! I’m better with that!” Anam said, the green patches along his neck lighting up to demonstrate.
“Perfect. We’ll need Radiance fer offense and Shadow fer defense.”
“Do you have either!”
“Hah!” Manny faced the dark path with his hands on his hips. “Nope!”
“Oh.” Anam’s horns drooped.
“Aaah, I spent half my lifetime in the Voidlands. I know a thing er two on avoidin’ it. We’ll be fine. It’s you guys I’m a li’l worried about.” His gaze trailed over to Willow, Jirachi, and another Jirachi wearing a blindfold.
Sure, they were powerful, but…
Well. It was a good thing he happened to visit when the rift was cut, since navigating a Cursed Dungeon didn’t seem like something in their résumé.
“Let’s go in,” Marshadow finally said. “Ain’t gonna dispel itself.”
“It might?” Jirachi on the left asked. “After all, we aren’t even sure if Alexander is still in there…”
“He ain’t.” Marshadow gestured to a trail of darkness that seemed obvious to him. Perhaps the others were not aware of how discrete the essences could be. “Seems like he left a while ago, prob’ly ter recoup in darker environments er somethin’. Hopefully, that’ll mean whatever’s inside ain’t so bad.”
This became a recovery mission rather than something more dangerous. Fighting Alexander directly could have resulted in apprehending and exorcizing him, sure, but were they prepared for that kind of damage?
Thankfully, that was for another day. “Ready ter head in?”
“Yes. We just need to find the Core and purify it, yes?” Jirachi asked.
Anam flexed his little arms and horns. Ripples of gold light coursed through his slime.
“Yep. Alright. No breaks. One… two…”
They dashed. The forest transitioned from beautiful blue hues with slightly glowing, dark tree trunks into white marble that was perfectly square. Hallways rose above and around them in that perfect grid pattern that those two digital Pokémon had described. But Marshadow wasn’t prepared for the actual environment that followed. His body felt strange in a way he couldn’t quite describe; his bag of supplies had gotten noticeably heavier, and he was tempted to look why.
But more worrying was how his vision had become blurry. He rubbed his eyes. And then noticed that his hands looked weird and blurry, too.
“What?!” Marshadow shouted. He couldn’t hear his voice. Something buzzed in his ears.
“What’s going on?!” Anam called. “Oh no! I can’t hear my voice! But I know I’m talking… I can hear myself talking!”
“You just said you couldn’t!” Jirachi shouted.
Everyone looked like they were made of little squares. They moved without motion, simply flashing from one pose to the next, Anam’s whole body jittering with fear.
“Is this what ADAM’s head looks like?” Marshadow asked. Whenever he spoke, the odd beeping and buzzing he heard was higher than Anam’s. And then he looked to his left.
He saw a rectangle with the words he’d said printed on them. Then, when Anam spoke, his words vanished, and Anam’s words appeared instead, though they seemed mirrored from Manny’s perspective.
“What’re you looking at, Manny?”
What indeed. In this strange grid, when he looked up and left, past the short wall, there was that big rectangle that captured their words. And behind that rectangle, he saw ADAM, supersized, staring at the words.
“THAT’S him?!” Jirachi shouted. The box his words appeared on shook as if he’d slammed a table.
“Ooh, that’s one for therapy,” Anam murmured, taking an uneasy step backward.
When ADAM spoke, his words appeared all around them in repeating patterns, nearly blinding them. “ABNORMALITY DETECTED INSIDE SECTOR 3-E.”
Marshadow swatted away at the words like bugs. This wasn’t going to work. They had to stop ADAM but he was currently high above them and beyond the Dungeon itself.
Core. Right, Core. They didn’t need to worry about the giant projection that was probably about to Hyper Beam them to death. They just had to worry about finding the Core before it was too late.
“Let’s go!” Marshadow called. He sprinted for the wall and tried to hide in it for some extra stealth, but instead of passing into it, he slammed hard and winced. “Ow,” he wheezed, the box containing his words shivering and crumpled.
“Are you okay?!” Anam asked, rushing to him.
Jirachi eyed Marshadow worriedly, and then tried to create a wave of Psychic energy. It only made a weak little ripple.
“Our powers are disabled here,” he said, “or weaker…”
The other Jirachi tried to conjure a flurry of stars instead, and those seemed to work—very effectively, too, leaving little cracks in the wall.
The Normal Dungeon. Did it somehow ‘Normalize’ them?
This suddenly got more complicated.
The whole floor lit up. Marshadow suddenly realized that if he was Normalized, then these strikes would certainly hurt him, too.
“RUN!” Marshadow commanded, and behind them, the ground erupted in Hyper Beam pillars.
Three Hectos had come in for backup during their navigation through the temple Dungeon, and two of them had been reduced to green vapor by ADAM’s attacks. They were reckless and weak, of course, but Spice could only help but think how that’d look if it hit any of them instead.
“Just a little more!” Angelo squeaked.
“Hey, Angelo! Any bright ideas on moving faster!?”
“Trick Room doesn’t work on Hyper Beams!” Angelo cried. “Wait! That’s it!”
He hastily sketched out gusts of wind and tossed them into the air. Everything seemed to move easier for the team, wind resistance eliminated and Tailwind pushing them onward. A Hyper Beam rained upon them from above, but then they got into one of the halls.
Here, the blasts didn’t reach them. At least, that was Spice’s thought. Why would this place allow ADAM to be so strong, anyway? Was the law of domains that powerful?
No, it wasn’t a question. It was plain in front of them. Without the distraction within ADAM’s realm, Spice wondered if they’d even get this far.
The back of the temple seemed to be a place that had once been for small offices and meeting rooms. The hallways were still abnormally large, though, as if they’d been built for Pokémon twice Anam’s size, and he was already a decently large Goodra.
“I see a light up ahead!” Phol announced.
“Hyper Beam light or end-of-the-Dungeon light?”
“Might be the same!” Angelo squeaked.
It was. Spice and Phol blocked the incoming beam with a dual Protect barrier. When the initial blast faded, they saw a jittering Porygon-Z in the middle of the back chamber. There were no exits except for the one they’d entered, which was typical for these strange Guardian Dungeons. The very center, the ‘core’ of the Dungeon, would be that Guardian.
“He’s recharging,” Phol said. “Attack!”
For a split second, Spice wasn’t sure if they wanted to attack and if that would have hurt ADAM badly or not. But then Phol did the honors of landing the first strike square in ADAM’s forehead, smashing his disconnected head into his hovering torso with a deep sound like two glass spheres knocking into each other.
ADAM’s head bobbled frictionlessly in the air. Spice aimed and bathed ADAM’s body in flames. Angelo conjured little droplets of poison that seeped into the artificial Pokémon’s smooth body. Hecto and Nate were in the back deflecting incoming Hyper Beams, for better or worse, but they were already down on most of their Substitutes, while Star was waiting for a clean shot.
“Something holding you back, dear?!” Spice cried to the Mew.
“I don’t want to overkill!” Star exclaimed.
Phol, who grabbed ADAM’s head and directed it down the hall as another Hyper Beam charged, roared, “Him or us!”
“Fine, fine, him!” Star conjured several little balls of explosive purple energy and lobbed them at ADAM. Phol grappled the Porygon-Z in place, largely unaffected by the bursts, before ADAM suddenly fizzled and went limp. The magnetism that kept his limbs and head in place weakened, and Phol quickly let go.
“…Did that do it?”
Star whimpered a curse. “Did I overdo it?”
Spice crept closer and brought her head close to his head. Star closed her eyes and checked his aura.
They came to the same conclusion: merely unconscious and recovering.
“Then… I guess we’re done for now,” Phol said. “Let’s charge up these Badges. We’ll warp him out of this place where he’ll be weaker again.”
“Right. Then it’s up to the others to clean things up on the inside,” Star said.
“That’s all? Hopefully, this’ll make it easier… He didn’t seem to be at his best against us, huh? He sorta just stared…”
“That’s exactly why we timed it this way,” Star explained. “He was distracted with whatever Marshadow’s team was doing.”
“Huh. Alright. Good job… Guess we’ll see if they’re back soon.”
But whatever was happening in there was probably not as bad as what they’d just gone through. Right?
Jirachi almost got eaten by a glitch.
That was the only way Marshadow could describe what he’d seen.
From across the hall, they’d seen some strange, warping projection of something made of black and white squares. There was no rhyme nor reason to what it was, only that it was hovering toward them rapidly, occasionally disappearing several feet backward before reappearing even more feet ahead.
It nearly descended upon Jirachi had it not been for quick thinking from Eon, who had pulled him away and ran around the corner.
Now they were fleeing from three more of the same things. Marshadow didn’t want to know what a single touch would do to them.
“I’m g-getting kinda tired,” Anam said, his feet slapping wetly on the ground with every labored stride.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get y’ an elixir maybe,” Marshadow said, digging through his bag.
This didn’t make sense. They’d navigated here through a Dungeon from Kilo, thanks to Star’s efforts, but how did that work? Dungeons really were a bridge between the living world and the spirit world, if that was the case, because Guardian realms were exclusively for spirits.
Was he dead? Alive? Or was it all just a blurry illusion?
Like the hundreds of elixirs that were in his bag.
“Wha—?!” Marshadow grabbed one randomly and tossed it to Anam, but then grabbed another few and realized why his bag felt so heavy. It was overstuffed with elixirs. He pulled out another, and another, and then overturned his bag as they ran, leaving a trail of full elixirs in their wake.
“Man, I hate this place!” Marshadow shouted. “Where’s the Core s’posed ter be?!”
“I think if we keep going across this grid, like reading a book, we’ll eventually find it!” Jirachi said, hovering as fast as he could before lunging at Marshadow’s shoulder.
“It ain’t that bad!”
“Sorry, I—propulsion with floating is a lot harder than you think in someone else’s Dungeon,” Jirachi said. “I never even figured out how to make my own…”
“Make yer—oh, yer Eon, not Jirachi. Wait, where’s Jirachi?”
Marshadow looked back and realized that Jirachi was already hitching a ride on Eon’s back the same way.
“Oh, come on!”
They’d reached another end of the grid. Unlike all the other Dungeons they’d ever explored, this one was indeed so perfectly square that following it like a book was all they needed to do to explore every segment of it. Assuming the exit didn’t somehow warp around. With ADAM constantly looming over them like they were little pieces on a board game, Marshadow wondered if he was moving things around without them realizing.
“Two—things on either side!” Jirachi warned.
Two ‘things’ indeed. Black-and-white, static squares with no pattern approached them in a pincer formation, forcing them to speed ahead and retread old ground.
The chamber rumbled. “Whoa!” Marshadow nearly toppled over but caught his footing just in time. The glitches had stopped following them, stalling. Marshadow glanced at the message box near him, facing ADAM, who was briefly dazed.
“Hey! He’s stunned!” Jirachi said. “That must be the others!”
“…I got an idea!” Marshadow said, reaching toward the message box, but it suddenly disappeared. “Jirachi! Keep talkin’!”
Marshadow tried, and it disappeared again.
“O-okay,” Jirachi said. “Um, the entire type matchup chart as taught to us in school starts with the Normal type, which is neutral against all types except for Ghost, which it . . .”
Marshadow smirked, getting a firm grasp of the box that contained Jirachi’s words. With a firm tug, he pulled it out of the air and held it behind him.
Touching the glitches was probably a bad idea, but maybe using some of this Dungeon’s environment against it would be enough. Marshadow pulled back and swung the flat box forward, thwacking the glitch with an ear-splitting staticky noise, like a sizzling pan right up against his head.
But it worked.
“Ha haaa!” Marshadow sprinted ahead in time to see a trail of pixilated slime on the ground. “Found Anam! Don’t stop talking yet!”
Jirachi continued. He’d gotten to eight of the types so far before Marshadow saw Anam up ahead, motes of light swirling around him like he was charging a strike.
And just in front of him, floating in a chamber like all the others, was a void of darkness that siphoned away the colors of the other parts of the blocky chamber. Anam fired a Radiant Dragon Pulse at it. The gold light burned through the black orb, plumes of thick smoke drifting away and revealing a golden sphere beneath.
Some of Anam was darker, too. When Marshadow crept closer to get a better look, he realized that Anam’s left arm was gold, and his right arm was black. The smoke siphoned into the darker one, while the gold drove it out of the sphere.
“Wow, how ‘bout that,” Marshadow said.
“Why is he going over types? Did he make a mistake?” Anam asked.
“Oh, eh. You c’n stop that now,” Marshadow said.
Jirachi sighed, the text box shaking and leaving Marshadow’s grip. “That was weird.”
Marshadow patted Jirachi on the back and then did the same for Eon as he drifted up. “Alright, Anam. What’s it look like?”
“It’s not too bad,” Anam reported. “Alexander must have only passed through… He just left a little behind like a distraction.”
“Feh. So we wouldn’t try ter track’m,” Marshadow concluded. “Geh… yeah. He got us there. Went right ter savin’ ADAM an’ didn’ think ter follow the guy more. Then again…”
“Splitting up more would be a huge risk,” Jirachi concluded.
The sphere was cleaned in a matter of minutes. “Welp,” he said. “That’s one problem solved.”
Jirachi tilted his head. “Anam? Why are you… covered in burns?”
“Oh! I’m sorry,” Anam said like it was some mistake he’d made. “My bag was suddenly super full of Blast Seeds and I set one off. And that set another off, and another one, and, um…”
“Huh. Blasts fer you, eh?”
“Mhm. Just like that one incident Owen had a few decades ago,” Anam said.
“…Ain’t gonna question that, eh, well, we got a ton o’ Elixirs. Weird, huh?”
“Really weird. But I guess it’s fine now,” Anam said. “Should we go find Willow?”
“I thought she was with you,” Marshadow hummed.
Anam shook his head, glancing at the orb, and then back at Marshadow. “Umm… ADAM might be out cold. Let’s just—”
“There you are!” Willow said, but the message box that followed her was a horrifyingly garbled mess. “I was looking everywhere where where where where for you!”
Marshadow… assumed it was Willow. But she was a jumble of yellow and blue with no sense of… It made Marshadow sick. “Don’t touch us,” Marshadow said. “Let’s get you outta here befer that becomes permanent.”
“Permanent nent nent? This is great! You should join join join join—”
“Nope! Let’s go! Outta here!” Marshadow tossed his bag over Willow.
“Wait!” Jirachi shouted. “Don’t—”
Marshadow’s bag suddenly swelled.
His bag exploded with hundreds of little Joltik.
It was going to be a long day.
Thankfully, Willow was still one person, and the countless Joltik were more like Substitutes than anything. Unfortunately, Willow was stubborn, and now Kilo Village was infested with Joltik. The team eventually gave up on gathering them from the uncooperative Guardian and decided her copies would eventually wither away on their own.
Spice wandered over to Ludicolo Café. As it turned out, quite a few others had the same idea. Anam, a Charmander in a blindfold—presumably Eon—Angelo, Jerry, and a Nate were all there. Lots of awkwardness was in the room, but surprisingly, nobody else was there. Maybe Jerry scared the other customers off, or Anam intimidated them accidentally. Or maybe they knew not to bother them.
“Hey,” Spice greeted with a wave.
“Hey, Spice,” several replied.
“Heard your mission went well,” Jerry hummed, munching on a thick piece of meat in some stew he’d ordered.
“Could’ve gone better, but… sure.” Spice spotted a Joltik skittering around the corner. They were going to see a lot of that in the coming days.
“I’m already nice and healed!” Anam said. “The nurses and healers are super nice. None of my wounds settled!”
Spice unconsciously scratched at her chest. “Yeah,” she mumbled. “Anyway… what’s this? Coincidental get-together?”
“It’s a nice place,” Anam said. “And, um… I don’t have a lot of work to do at the Hearts anymore since some of the others do a lot of it now…”
He likely meant several of the former Elites, their halves, or even Anam’s mother.
Spice knew that the feeling of dread she’d always felt from Anam was because of Dark Matter inside of him, but she also wondered if being the son of Giratina had anything to do with it. And he was their priest for a time, too. Gods, what the world had come to…
“Why aren’t you leader again, anyway?” Jerry asked. “Thought you wanted to ‘unite the world’ or something that mantra always said.” He rolled his eyes, but his words weren’t as venomous as before. If anything, it seemed to only annoy him.
“Oh, um. I’m… I’m not that… good at it anymore.” Anam poked his fingers together. “I sort of… I mean, um, Diyem was the one who… told me when things were wrong or people were being bad or evil. I didn’t really know, so… I can’t tell anymore.”
“Hmph. And Diyem told you I wasn’t worthy because I came from that same darkness, I bet. Just told you who had darkness…” Jerry sighed. “Whatever. I’ll yell at him about it later, been meaning to get around to that…”
Anam looked like he wanted to defend, but shrank away.
“For what it’s worth,” Spice said, “if your goal was to make a good world… it was one, up until the whole Nevren thing. And then Dark Ma—er, Diyem going crazy afterward. You… had good intentions.”
The little blob that was Nate slid to Anam and comforted him by tapping its forehead on his thigh.
“I liked it,” Angelo replied quietly. “I could live a comfortable life just doing art. Before the world almost ended. That was bad. But the world before that was nice.”
“It’s my fault, in a way,” Eon said. “If I didn’t go crazy just… trying to get Owen back, or get that power from Barky and Star—I forgot it was Necrozma I was fighting—it’s all so… stupid. The whole fight was against someone already dead…”
“Yeah, I guess everyone was sort of an idiot for a while,” Jerry muttered.
Suddenly, Anam’s communicator beeped. He reflexively tried to dig into his thigh, but he was mostly solid still and had put things in his bag again. He tittered and pulled it out.
“Oh, Diyem! Um, we’re in public right now, so…”
“That’s fine. This isn’t secret information. We’ve managed to reopen a rift using Hot Spot Dungeon, and it safely connects to South Null.
“That took forever,” Spice said. “What was the holdup?”
“For a while, getting into the Voidlands was difficult in general. Which was worrying, but the seal was not nearly as strong as before. With time we were able to get it undone.”
“Undone? Sealed? Why, how? It was just Alexander attacking, wasn’t it?”
“I’m not sure. This is why I’m heading in soon to investigate if the number of Dark Matter fragments inside has changed, or any other abnormalities. I can only tell that when I properly enter.”
“Alright, well, good luck with that. Everyone else hear that?”
“Yes, clearly,” Palkia reported.
“Does that mean the Titan hunting can resume, too?” Eon asked. “We almost tracked down a few Cores last time…”
“Likely, but be on high alert. Alexander is probably lurking somewhere in the realm. Anyway, I’m leaving soon. I just wanted to give the status update. Ending communications.”
The communicator went dim and Anam put it back.
There was a brief and comfortable silence as Spice went to order herself a Tamato-and-meat salad. By the time she returned, the conversation had shifted.
“So, you and Diyem,” Jerry asked Anam. “You guys still, like… close?”
“Yeah!” Anam said eagerly, lighting up. “We’re still roommates! He, um, I think he tried to help me get back into leadership, but I still dunno…”
“It’s weird that he puts so much effort into you,” Spice remarked. “…Not—as in, that you aren’t worth it. Just that he’d put that kind of effort into anyone. Isn’t he a ball of evil wrapped in Charmander skin?”
“He’s not evil,” Anam said quietly, glancing at his bowl. His food was a plate of various sliced fruits and berries. Mostly sweet fruits populated his plate, with only a few tart ones to break up the flavors. “He was suffering because he felt everyone’s… bad. He just wanted that to stop. But he couldn’t die unless everything else died. It wasn’t fair.”
Spice hummed, displeased. “I guess when you frame it that way, he didn’t have any options.”
“I wanted to find a way to help…”
“Yeah, we get it,” Jerry said. As crass as his words were, his tone was… softer, at least a little. “We’re sorta doing that now.”
“I definitely didn’t help,” Eon muttered. “…There are still mutants roaming around that I need to calm down. Maybe when Trina gets back, I can… get back to that with Jirachi and her.”
“I should get back to drawing,” Angelo said absently. “I haven’t sent out a new issue in a while.”
“I get the feeling most people won’t mind the wait,” Spice said.
“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Angelo muttered.
“What’s the matter, can’t handle the fans?”
“They terrify me sometimes, really,” Angelo admitted with a titter. “So glad I go by a pen name. A-ah, please don’t reveal who I truly am, by the way…”
Spice shrugged. It didn’t seem that important to her anyway. Maybe to Owen, it would be.
Spice sighed. “You guys know about… me, right?”
“The whole third-of-a-soul thing? Yeah,” Jerry said. “Sounds pretty rough. Especially when you’re sharing your soul with a feral and a dead plant.”
“That’s… I didn’t want to phrase it that way, Jerry, but… yes. It is rough.”
Jerry sighed. “What else am I supposed to say? Sorry your existence is gonna melt into one-third of a whole? Like, we’ve already seen the process with Dialga… I’m just glad I’m one person. I checked.”
“I’m still sorting it out,” Spice said. “Enet has Amelia in her already, so I think they’re… talking to each other. I don’t know how that’s going.”
“Where is Enet, anyway?” Jerry asked.
“Who knows? She’s invisible most of the time, feral Zoroark things, I guess. She could even be here right now.”
“Now?” Angelo asked, sitting up straighter.
“Yup. Maybe her predator instincts are kicking in, too, and she smells your fear… sneaking up right behind you, and—”
“Stop! Stop! There’s—she wouldn’t do that!” Angelo shivered. “R-right?”
“You seem like prey to me,” Jerry said.
“Zoroark are pranksters,” Anam added, frowning.
“You’re doomed, buddy.”
Nate hugged Angelo’s shins.
Angelo deflated. “Oh, why me…”
“Hi, Diyem!” Anam said, bringing out the communicator again. “How’d it—”
“We have a problem. The number of Dark Matter fragments inside the Voidlands has gone up.”
“Well, of course it’d go up. Alexander came back. So—”
A pause. “What?” Spice asked. “Do you know how many are up on the surface?”
“We assumed three. Alexander is one piece, I am a second. Then there was Emily and two unidentified pieces we’ve yet to track down properly. I’m positive they are intentionally hidden from me, perhaps in something that would blot out their dark aura. But… now I can sense there are three here. Where is Emily?”
“Last Lugia report had her east near War’s End,” Jerry said. “Nothing special. She always goes there.”
“Hmmh… Something is wrong. Very wrong… I can’t contact Owen’s group, either.”
“Ah, I think I know why that is,” said Palkia. “Their last contact was about entering an obsidian mountain. If that’s of Necrozma’s crystal, it may interfere with signals going inside. They tend to be quite energy-dense despite their appearance.”
“I still don’t like this. From one piece to three… No. We need to contact them immediately. Everyone in the Voidlands, be cautious of abnormalities. Is that clear?
“Something is making its move.”
Various affirmatives came in, and the connection went quiet once more. Anam and the others gave each other uneasy looks. After the brief respite… there was a lingering dread that something was coming all over again.