Chapter 29 – Honor and Loyalty
The more Owen thought about it, the stranger it all felt. Nevren’s actions seemed friendly, but the peculiar things that he did from time to time, specifically with him, made him suspicious. The gift that he was given to suppress his evolution, right before he became Mystic? Right before the traditional suppression methods wouldn’t have been enough? Then there was Nevren’s entire past in creating them.
And then, most of all—and what made Owen still scratch his scaly head—what exactly was that vision he had on the mountain, during his trial to become a Heart? Nevren had tried to attack him back then, but it was all a dream. It was, right? He wasn’t hurting at all when it was over, and he knew he’d dealt a horrible blow onto Nevren, too. So, what was that all about? Was it really the altitude? Or was it a Psychic vision that Nevren gave him, perhaps to test out his skills? That could have been it.
Owen tried to explain this to Zena, Amia, and Alex, and while Zena nodded at every word, Amia and Alex seemed less sure.
“Are you sure that you aren’t just a little worn out?” Amia said. “To be honest, all I want to do is rest for the night. Don’t you? Nevren may have not told you that the stone would keep you from evolving because then you’d try to evolve—and that’s just not a good idea right now… right? Why don’t you just rest?”
“But it seems suspicious, don’t you think?” Zena pushed.
“Nevren’s gift is the only reason Owen is still with us,” Alex said with a frown. “For that alone, I think we owe him quite a bit.”
“He could have been honest with Owen,” Zena said, growling. “Star is still not telling us everything, and to be honest, if Star ever tells us to do something questionable, I won’t follow.”
“None of us will, dear,” Amia said. “But think of it this way. If Nevren told Owen that it was an Everstone… and that he wasn’t supposed to evolve… how do you suppose he would react? Owen, who wanted nothing more than to evolve?”
Both Zena and Owen flinched. The Charmeleon gulped, turning his head to focus on his stash of books in the back alcove of the room. “I guess I could be a little tired,” Owen said. “But… I don’t know. I still don’t know.”
“Just… just don’t throw away that stone, okay?” Alex begged. “Getting too far away from it just might evolve you, and we can’t have that. Not yet.”
“Because I’ll go crazy?”
“Well… yes?” Amia said delicately. “I think we all agree that we might not be ready for that. You still need some time to meditate.”
Owen fiddled with his claws again. Then, he looked up at Zena, and then Amia and Alex. The first thing they’d asked him when he almost evolved was what he was thinking, and if he felt angry. Or perhaps if he felt violent? But he didn’t feel either of those things. He felt afraid. He thought about nothing but those he knew. He didn’t feel some sort of insanity creeping in on him, did he? Sure, there was a pressure, but that wasn’t the same. Right?
“But do I?” he said. “What if I’ve been ready this whole time, and this stone is holding me back?”
“Now, Owen, let’s not—”
“What if I got rid of it and evolved when I was calmer? I bet I’d be fine after that,” Owen said. “Then I could take on Rim and the other Hunters, no problem. It’d all be over. I bet I’d even rescue all of the other Guardians that are lost and afraid… I could’ve saved Cara and Forrest.”
Owen still remembered how terrified the Lopunny in particular had looked. That could’ve been any of them. That could’ve been Zena if the Hunters got to her first. With a fire in his chest, Owen glanced at the Milotic, then at his parents.
“So why don’t I try it?”
“Because, dear,” Amia said in a slow, yet frantic tone, “don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusions? The last time you evolved, you still went—”
“I went crazy, but I was stressed! Attacked by Azu! What happened after that? When I won? Was I still angry?”
“I… I mean.” Amia stumbled over her words. “Not… not really, but… but you were shaking, and shivering—and I know that you were trying your hardest to keep it together. You weren’t ready, even after the fight was over. I… it’s just not good yet, okay? Even if Nevren might not be totally honest with us—maybe you evolving isn’t good for either of us.”
Owen flinched. “I… I mean…” He turned away. “I guess that’s a possible answer…”
“I don’t want to risk it yet,” Amia said. “Can you just wait a little while longer? We—we’ll try evolving you later. When we can be sure we’ll turn you back… if it doesn’t work out.”
The Charmeleon huffed. “Okay,” he relented. “…But I get to stay as a Charizard for a little while, okay? If I’m not attacking anybody, then it should be just fine, right?”
“Yes… okay, Owen… I know you want to do it, and we can’t force you to not evolve, so… let’s just schedule a time for it to happen, alright? Will that be okay?”
“…Two days,” Owen said. “I want to try evolving in two days. And this counts as the first day.”
Amia sighed, but Owen held firm. She really trapped herself with that one. “Not… three days?”
“Two days,” Owen said, prodding at his remaining food. He dumped the rest into his mouth and stood up to put the bowl away.
Zena frowned. “Can’t you wait a little longer, Owen?” the Water Guardian asked. “We still don’t know for sure. And I don’t want to lose you.”
Some of the wind under Owen’s nonexistent wings faded, but he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he said, “If I feel like I can handle it, then I’m going to try.”
Alex watched his son go, and then shook his head. “…He’s certainly going through that rebellious phase… again… isn’t he?”
Amia rubbed her head. “He’s probably remembering all the other times he went through it,” she said. “Ohh,, he trapped me in my own argument!”
“You could have just said three days,” Alex said.
“Then he would have just tossed his stone today,” Amia said, pouting. “But… I can’t blame him. You have to look at it from his perspective—he doesn’t even know who he really is, in a way. And now he wants to claim it.”
Zena nodded. “I can’t imagine what that must feel like,” she told them. “Owen doesn’t know if who he is right now is real. Can you imagine? The idea that who you are is just… false. That the real you is sealed inside.” Zena tensed. “Owen… he’s… he’s not someone completely different, is he?”
“He might lose himself completely,” Alex said.
“We’ll fix it if that happens,” Amia said, glancing at her hands. “Just like always…”
“…But… but will it work?” Alex tried not to look too nervous.
Amia hesitated. “…I’m going to train,” she said. “Just that attack. Just the Suppression Aura. To make sure I can do it right, and do it strongly, to buy us some extra time.”
“Strong,” Alex said. “I think we’re all going to have to be strong for this—including Owen.”
Zena looked at Owen’s collection of books. “Amia,” she said. “Teach me the Suppression Aura, too.”
Outside, Owen stepped through the caves again, admiring the mushroom light. He looked at his pouch, and then took the stone out of it. He stared for a while. Rolled it in his claws. Dug into a small imperfection in the amalgam. Eviolite… why was he so gullible? Why did he just accept what Nevren said as the truth? He always seemed so trustworthy to him.
Was that just part of his latent instincts? Did his instincts naturally trust him, his creator? Or was he built to be a follower?
Owen stared at the stone again, holding it in a crushing grip. It was too strong to destroy that way. Owen wondered, what would happen if he tossed it into the lava? If he headed down to the flaming river and… got rid of it? Would he evolve right there? Would he feel perfectly normal? Would he remember everything, and take down the Hunters, just like that? Was it that easy? Could Nevren be holding him back this entire time, just with this gift?
Cara and Forrest were dead because they were too weak and too slow. Rim ran away when he threatened to evolve. And Rim attacked Rhys before, but when the others of Team Alloy evolved, she ran away, too!
They could have beaten her!
Owen clutched the stone a bit harder. His arm muscles felt hot. Hotter than the lava he bathed in.
The sound of something metallic tumbling to the ground echoed out of the cave. It startled Owen so much that he nearly dropped the amalgam. He faltered with it in the air and slipped it into the bag out of reflex.
Rhys cursed from his room in the cavern to the right.
For the briefest moment, Owen eyed the home with suspicion. He was a Hunter, too. But then, Owen recalled that Rhys had made a Promise to Zena that he’d abandon that position. He couldn’t kill another Guardian, let alone betray them. If anything… he could trust Rhys.
Hesitating, Owen walked into the ex-Hunter’s home and tapped the back of his claw against the wall. He passed the kitchen, went through the familiar hall, and turned to the right on the first entryway.
“Ah, hello, Owen,” Rhys said, a tinge of irritation in his voice, which Owen interpreted as toward the mess in front of him. It seemed that one of the shelves broke under the weight of another memento that Rhys had apparently found on the ground. A Dusk Stone from Nightshade Forest. What use would he ever have for that? Owen rolled his eyes. He probably thought it’d be ‘useful someday.’
Even with his clouded memories, that phrase associated with Rhys was very familiar. He had thousands of those moments. Some of them seemed more useless than the others, like the odd, metallic bracelet near the corner of the fallen shelves. One of Nevren’s prototype inventions. Nevren…
Owen dug through his bag and set down the Everstone-Eviolite. “Rhys?” he said. “Did you always know Nevren gave me this to keep me from evolving?”
Rhys dropped the Fire Stone he’d been holding.
Owen growled, tail flashing yellow. “You did.”
Rhys sighed. “You were evolving very quickly, Owen. It was an emotional strain on your mother. That goes double after you wound up becoming the Grass Guardian. It makes suppressing your true form… difficult.”
“Hm.” That much made sense. He could only imagine how hard it was for Amia and Alex to keep up with him, constantly worrying that he’d evolve in the wrong place at the wrong time…
Owen rubbed his head. “The sooner my memories are totally back, the better.” He paused, remembering why he’d approached in the first place. “Rhys, er—about Nevren, actually. I…” He hesitated, realizing that, if Rhys knew about it, and Rhys was no longer a Hunter, then the likelihood of Nevren still being a Hunter was slim to none.
He asked anyway, just to be sure. “Why do you trust Nevren? He’s so… blank. I can never get a read from him. And he used to be a Hunter, just like you. What makes you trust him?”
Owen had reminded himself of yet another reason to be wary of the Alakazam. His unreadable expressions. His lack of muscle movement. The only thing that had ever phased him in a meaningful way was when Rhys made that Promise—and only then, because of how significant it was to make it. If Nevren lied to him, Owen’s strange Perception ability would not work.
Another thought crossed his mind. What if it simply didn’t work on Nevren, specifically? How deep did his instincts go? Paranoia creeping in, he refocused on Rhys. His pause didn’t bode well.
Rhys looked at Owen, humming thoughtfully. Then, he sighed, and continued to arrange his items on the repaired shelf. “I promised Nevren that I would not tell you about the moment we shared.”
“Uhh—” Owen blushed.
“Not in that way,” Rhys hissed.
Owen waited for an alternative explanation.
Rhys sighed irritably. “A very long time ago, Nevren behaved as Anam’s strategist. A tactician, so to speak, during… an event. He was working in a mutual interest between the Hunters and the Hearts to stabilize the world during a chaotic era, before the Thousand Hearts established its roots across all of Kilo.”
Owen listened intently. A time when the Hearts weren’t around? How long ago could that have been?
“One day,” he said, “near the end of this chaos, Nevren approached me. And… he confessed to me that while he had been aligned with the Hunters for quite some time, something… changed in his worldview. It was when I was… gravely injured, resting in a hospital—this was before Anam’s blessings were widespread—and Anam saved my life by bringing me there. Nevren approached me then, while I was resting, and told me that he had an epiphany.”
“An epiphany?” Owen said. “Wait—so Nevren was still a Hunter?”
“We didn’t necessarily call ourselves that at the time,” Rhys admitted. “It was a different time. The Divine Dragons, we called ourselves. Frankly, I can’t recall why…. None of us are Dragons. I believe Eon came up with the term because it sounded cool…” Rhys rolled his eyes.
Calling oneself a Dragon, despite not being one, was something Owen felt he could relate to all too strongly.
Rhys went on. “But yes. And it was on that day of his epiphany… that I saw Nevren as the most emotional Pokémon I’d ever seen him. Now, it was nothing dramatic. He did not cry. He did not shout. Frankly, he did not do much than he usually did. But his eyes, Owen.” Rhys looked down at a small bag of marbles. “His eyes were alive with light. The light of a Heart. He said that the Hearts deserved the world.” Rhys pulled out a marble from the bag. A blue one, with a single, green circle on one side. “Ever since that day, I noticed that, while working with Anam, he seemed… somehow happier. Content. That’s the word. As if he knew what he wished to do with himself. Someone who knew his purpose.” Rhys chuckled. “I envy a Pokémon who knows such peace.”
Owen listened, but then hung his head in shame. He knew none of what Rhys was saying. Those memories were locked away so firmly that he knew it was tied to a point in time that Star had sealed for his own safety. Owen could feel it, even now. The blocks that Star put on his mind—the memories that were pressed up against them. It was a dull headache. But if Owen knew what Rhys had known, he wouldn’t have been suspicious of Nevren at all.
“He really just wants to help,” Owen said. “Oh, Mew. I feel bad just for thinking he was sabotaging us.”
Owen nodded. “Rim’s been catching up to us every time we talk with the communicators. Or, that’s kinda how I noticed it.”
“Rim is also the Psychic Guardian, unfortunately,” Rhys said. “And while I doubt that grants her the ability to see into the future, I suspect it heightens her perceptive range—and aura senses—significantly. We also know that they likely have a means of tracking Guardians as well.”
“Oh,” Owen said. “Right… I… forgot about that.”
The evidence fell apart. It was all circumstantial. Nevren was just trying to help with all of his inventions. He thought about how he had advanced the whole world with his technological marvels. Waypoints. Badges. Even those X-Ray Specs that Owen was grounded for life from using. He, along with James, managed almost everything to do with the Hearts’ inner organization, keeping all of Kilo safe.
He gave his whole life to the Association. And just because he gave him an evolution-suppressing stone, he thought he was a liar. When in the end, it was just so he could stay sane, and to help his parents cope.
“Hey, Owen!” Gahi shouted.
This broke the Charmeleon’s chain of thought. “Wh—what?”
“Let’s train! I wanna evolve like yeh got to!”
The levity was just what he needed. “Oh—okay,” Owen said. “Sure! Yeah…” He couldn’t deny the joy in battles, even if it was an instinct that he was born with. Perhaps he could forget about that for at least a little while.
“Thanks, Rhys,” Owen said.
Rhys smiled. “I would trust Nevren with my life, Owen. I’m sorry that we lied to you.”
Owen shook his head. “I get it,” he said, and then left.
In the hall, before meeting up with Gahi and the others, he looked down at the stone again. Carrying it around, hoping it would keep him sane, wasn’t going to cut it after a while. Maybe Amia had a point. Maybe evolving should wait until he was definitely, totally ready for it. But how else would he be able to ensure he’d have it with him? A dull headache pulsed through him, and he recalled in a previous life, an Aerodactyl stealing his bag, including the stone. It seemed a lot more believable that he’d lose it when it was the least convenient.
But how was he supposed to keep that from happening again? Owen pondered, tail-fire dimming to his deep concentration. And then, an idea came.
“Please… leave me be,” Valle said.
Enet tilted her head, sniffing at the feet of the stone Shiftry.
True to form, the Rock Guardian did not move.
“This is not something that I am used to,” Valle said. “Enet, Guardian of Electricity, this is too close.”
Enet tilted her head to the other side, pacing around Valle. “Not move?”
“I do not move. All is stillness.”
“But… I move.”
“I am the Guardian of Rock,” Valle said. “It is not my place to do such…” He trailed off.
“I can, but I choose not to.”
Valle was silent. “It… is simply something that I have grown accustomed to.”
“But other Rock move,” Enet said, using her claw to pull at her lower right lip. She reached down and picked up a pebble, tossing it from one paw to the other.
Enet stopped. “Not you? Because you crazy?”
“I—did not go crazy, as you call it,” Valle said. “I… built a tolerance to the solitude.”
“Oh,” Enet nodded, sitting down. “Being alone… hurts.”
Valle took a few seconds to reply. “It… does. Yes. It did. But I grew used to it.”
Enet frowned and made her way back to the front of Valle. “But… not alone! So… move again!”
By now, a few others passing by were listening in on the conversation, wondering what Enet was trying. Most just let Valle do as he wanted, but now…
ADAM buzzed curiously. “Valle, do you wish to change your protocol?”
“I… am unsure,” Valle said. “I don’t know if I know how to move.”
“Move!” Enet waved her arms around. “Easy!”
“Easy,” Valle repeated uncertainly.
A distant explosion shook the caves, though the walls were too strong to risk the area collapsing.
“That must be the modified Pokémon fighting,” Valle said.
“Modi…?” Enet puffed out her cheeks. “Use easy words!”
“The Pokémon that become something strange when they evolve,” Valle said.
“Strange?” Enet asked. “Oh! Owen! And the other four…”
“…Three,” ADAM corrected.
Enet blinked and counted her claws, but then huffed and turned around. “Numbers dumb.”
“Numbers are everything,” ADAM replied.
Enet growled again. “Dumb.”
Valle was still as always, but he appeared to be observing their movements carefully. The unmoving Guardian spoke, “Are you… sure?”
“Sure?” Enet asked. “Huh?”
“About… movement,” Valle said. “Is it… safe to do?”
“Yes?” Enet asked, wiggling her arms. “Easy!”
Valle was silent again. “I can float… and I can slide,” he said. “But… I have not moved in a mountain’s age.”
Enet tilted her head. She clearly didn’t understand the analogy. “Age?”
“Do you plan to move, Valle? Are you certain that is the best choice?” ADAM asked.
“I don’t know,” Valle said. “…Stillness… I need stillness.”
“How come?” Enet asked.
Valle couldn’t answer.
“Move!” Enet encouraged, jumping once in the air. “Easy! Try… arm! Move arm!” She wiggled her right arm.
“My arm… yes. My arm. I could move my arm.” Though Valle didn’t move it yet. “That doesn’t sound very hard. The stillness… doesn’t need to be forever. Even other Rock Pokémon move. Mountains move, rarely… slowly… I can move. Can’t I?”
“Yeah,” Enet said. “I think so. Right?”
There was a long silence again. Enet shifted awkwardly, eventually losing interest, though ADAM remained, watching Valle closely.
“Do you intend to move?” ADAM asked.
“I… yes. I will.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly, one of Valle’s arms twitched. And then moved again, and then, by roughly a mere ten degrees, the arm changed its angle. And then it stopped. The nearby cavern walls trembled, like the skipping of a heartbeat. “That… is enough movement for a while.”
“Huh?” Enet looked back. “Oh! You moved! I think…” Enet tilted her head at the rocky Guardian.
“I did,” said Valle. “Thank you.”
“Yeah!” Enet said. But then, the Zoroark addressed ADAM. “You. Talk weird.”
ADAM buzzed in response. “Weird?”
“Yeah! Zzzz! What’s that?”
Adam twitched. “Zzzz? I am processing.”
“Yes. I think. I must think. Sometimes things… puzzle me, and I require extra time to think.”
“Thinking, you zzz?” Enet asked.
ADAM buzzed again.
“That! What’s that?”
ADAM buzzed louder. “That is me thinking. I am annoyed.”
“Are you broken?” Enet asked.
“Far from broken! I am—optimal!” ADAM twitched furiously.
Enet giggled. “Funny words!”
“Aaaaaaa.” ADAM flew into a nearby building, perhaps to cool off his core units.
“Enet,” Valle said. “Why do you think ADAM is broken?”
“Huh?” Enet asked. “Not broken?”
“Well… he is certainly odd,” Valle replied. “But I attributed that to his species. Porygon-Z tend to behave… oddly. It is a wonder where they even came from. The rumor is they came from an ancient time of the mythical human.”
“Oh.” None of this meant anything to her. “He… smelled funny.” She sniffed the air. “Smell … of his, this,” she said, patting her chest.
“His… chest, had an odd smell.” Valle repeated.
“No,” Enet said. “The… this,” she said, pressing her claws deeper into her fur.
“His heart? …Does he have one?” Valle asked. “Ohh.” He recognized the frustrated look on her face. “You mean his aura. All of our auras are strange. I’m surprised that you perceive auras by smell, Enet.”
“No,” said Valle. “I see it with sight.”
This was foreign to the Zoroark.
“Well, in any case, perhaps he is just odd,” said Valle. “Now… Enet. Why don’t you see the others? I… must… be still, here.”
“You won’t move more?”
“Tch… I shall move in the future,” Valle said. “I promise.”
This was enough for the wild creature. “Okay.” And so, she bounded off.
Nevren sat in the middle of Anam’s office, sorting through records and papers. Anam was in another room of the Heart HQ, performing blessings on another batch of seeds, which required the withdrawal of all his spirits—including James—to perform with the most power and efficiency. That left the Alakazam alone to manage the paperwork.
“Hmm, interesting,” he said. “There are quite a few false alarms… a good handful of sightings in the Southern Ocean, but that’s likely due to the glowing moss that comes with the transition of summer to autumn. Still, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to investigate further…”
“More reports, Elite Nevren!”
“Ah, thank you, put it on the desk!” Nevren called back, not even looking up. He sorted through more of the papers. “Ahh, I simply don’t have the time to look through every single one of these, do I? If only I could—hm, wait a moment. Why don’t I just—” Nevren paused, looking at a small, silver badge next to him. Unlike the communicator, this one had a blue, glowing gem in the middle. He reached toward it, but then stopped when the blue gem abruptly dimmed to a dead gray. “…How long have you been there?”
Nevren sighed and turned around. “Rim, you know it’s rude to eavesdrop. Come on, show yourself.”
The Espurr appeared in a warping bend of light.
“Well, I take it you know where the next few Orbs are, do you? I imagine you’ll be sending Elder to do his negotiating first. A futile effort, you know. They’re very unlikely to agree to anything of the sort, simply giving up their power willingly like that…”
Rim glanced away.
“Yes, yes, I suppose you always have a bit of hope that you won’t have to take it away violently, but, hrm…” Nevren sighed. “Well. I suppose I can’t stop you. I’ve already tried convincing you quite a few times, after all.” Nevren looked at the gray gem again. “Ah, speaking of which, could you vanish for a moment?”
Rim stared at Nevren curiously.
“Just for a moment.”
Rim obeyed, disappearing. A few seconds later, a Golem stepped into the office. “We have another report,” he said.
“Ah, good. You were sent to the Arachno Forest?”
“Yes, er—we were, but… we don’t think anybody should go there anymore.”
“Oh? Is it that dangerous?”
“Y-yes. Actually, about that, I’d… like to set up a mission for it.”
Nevren tilted his head. “A rescue mission? …Where is the rest of your team?”
The Golem winced.
“I see. I will set one up immediately.”
He left. Rim appeared shortly after.
“Rim, if it’s not a bother,” he said, “are the mutants responsible for that?”
Rim shook her head immediately.
“But did we not send quite a few of them there in the past? None returned. But their spirits never went into the aura sea, either—so it wasn’t as if they were killed. Hecto informed Eon as much, regardless of how uncooperative those Zygarde have been lately. Are you sure they don’t simply get lost in their battle modes there?”
Rim shook her head. “But… I can’t…”
“Hmm… well. Please, set up a team anyway in an attempt to rescue his Pokémon, Rim. Moderately strong mutants should do. Team of three? Be sure to set them to Scouting and not Battling.”
“Ah, and Rim,” Nevren said.
“How many Orbs do you have at the moment? Which ones, between yourself and Eon?”
“…Psychic…” Rim said. “Flying, Ground…” She paused, but then nodded.
“Only three, hm?” he said. “You’re falling behind. At this rate, Owen will have you beaten for sure.”
“No need to worry.” Nevren sighed. “After all, he didn’t align with Barky. Did you hear of that?”
“Yes! Quite surprising. Perhaps Rhys was right after all.” Nevren nodded, almost beaming. “Incredible, really. I’d go easy on him for that. Well, in any case, Frozen Oceanside may be a bit dangerous for them to handle, so I’d recommend gathering that Orb next. Ice Type, so be wary of being frozen. The Pokémon there is quite hostile toward Hunters. And Star. And Barky. Frankly everyone, quite cold in spirit.”
“Elder?” Nevren said. “I’d honestly rather not. Regardless of his elemental attributes, he may become encased in ice immediately if he doesn’t convince her to side with us or relinquish her power. It isn’t as if that strategy worked before.”
“Eon said to…”
“Yes, but Eon is far from logical,” Nevren said. “It may be a gesture of good faith, but sending Elder is a waste of time and a risk to the poor Torkoal’s life. Let him rest.”
Rim stared with her big eyes.
Nevren shook his head.
Rim stared harder.
The Alakazam sighed. “Very well,” he relented. “Elder first. Remember, I don’t want to send Owen on risky missions. He isn’t strong enough yet. He and his friends need to live. A shame he already befriended the Zoroark, but I suppose it cannot be helped. I was hoping you’d kill her before that happened, like with Cara or Forrest.”
“Mm.” Rim nodded, but then eyed the Alakazam carefully. “Owen…”
“Tried… to evolve…”
“Evolve…” Nevren frowned. “Yes, I heard. Is he ready?”
Rim bit at her lower lip.
“Hmm… Perhaps I should talk to him.”
“He might not… trust you…”
“Ah,” Nevren nodded. “I suppose he would be the first to worry. Well, aside from Rhys. I don’t think he fully trusts me, even now. He wouldn’t understand. Just like Eon and his emotions, Rhys lets his honor get in the way. Time is running out, hm? Third war or not, we must keep going. Still. Regarding Owen. What do you recommend?”
Rim tensed, shaking her head.
“Ah, sorry, sorry,” Nevren said. “I apologize. I’ll think it over myself—no need to be put on the spot, hm? Just ask Elder to speak to the Ice Guardian, and we can proceed from there. I believe her name is Ladder, but you might want to double-check. It has been a while since I heard the name. I will send Owen’s group to the Steel Guardian.”
Rim flinched. “S-Steel? But that’s…”
“I believe it is time,” Nevren said. “They will fail, but I think now is a good time for them to know about the Trinity. Besides, he is the least dangerous of the three. I won’t be sending them to Zero Isle, for one, or Dark Mist Swamp.” Nevren sorted through the papers. “…Thank you, Rim. That will be all. Ah, but do send a team to Arachno Forest on a rescue. Perhaps we’ll find another Guardian there.”
Rim nodded and vanished. Nevren looked down at the papers. The Badge on his desk had become blue during the middle of their conversation.
He briefly thought about Owen and how quickly he had befriended Guardians for nearly half of the Orbs. Fast friends with even the unruliest of them. The Fighter, the Fairy, and the feral in particular. Perhaps it was charisma or perhaps it was his unintimidating disposition. Or perhaps it was, despite everything, the hidden strength he possessed. The potential that surpassed even Nevren’s base design expectations. No, Nevren knew that this strength Owen possessed—perhaps not physical strength, but the strength of spirit, or the light he possessed. That wasn’t his design. That was something much greater.
“Owen,” Nevren said to himself, shaking his head. “You’re just like your father.”