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Pokémon Prema Kannagi: Memory of a Ghoul

As part of her duties as future head priestess of her revered shrine, Prema Kannagi is sent to handle a restless Pokemon spirit haunting an old warehouse with special significance to her. Though her training and blood make her one of the most capable diviners in Sinnoh, she faces a challenge harder than any she's experienced...


This is the fifth fic or so chronologically of a metaseries. Actually mostly complete as of posting, with one last scene that needs to be converted from script format.

This fic runs concurrent with Nori Carino: Blade of the Blackout Killer. There is one plot beat only gone into detail in the other fic. Other than that, they are separate plots besides shared scenes from different perspectives. Reading the other is unnecessary to understand this one, not even the one scene in question, but I encourage you to do so anyway as it'll enhance your enjoyment of both fics.

There are some bad things in this fic, including the following:
Mild language, mild violence, mild depictions of people with disabilities, showing handi-capable people, sadness, scariness, dunking on the usual suspects, and parental abuse (but only if you have really strict ethics over strict parenting)
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Anima of Wrath (recollection I)
A thunderous crash followed by a scream of panic echoed through the vacant building. Baram Kim broke from his work-induced trance with a start, on his feet so quickly that he nearly knocked over the small table his laptop was set up on. Before the interruption, he had been feverishly typing the weekly dividends into a spreadsheet.

“What happened?!” he shouted to his crew outside.

“A stack of boxes fell over by themselves!” came the reply of one of his newer employees. A meek and dainty young woman by the name of Tina Evans.

“Nothing just falls by itself, Evans,” he replied. “Tell your Gurdurr to stack them up properly next time.” Pokemon laborers were particularly useful for physical work, but they had their limitations. There was the hassle of obedience, as well as their not being able to follow directions as accurately. Ultimately, there was no replacing humans or even machines when it came to certain things.

Baram Kim sat back down in the office he had commandeered. He was not an unintelligent man, he simply didn't do well in school. His parents were hoping he would become a lawyer or a politician, but he had disappointed them by coming to own a renovation company. The fact that he was as rich and successful as any white-collar worker meant nothing. To them, manual labor was something for Pokemon and people who had nowhere else to go and were too good for the service industry. Their attitude towards him was part of the reason he had moved to Sinnoh from his home region.

He and his partner – Kim Fairplay – built Kim and Kim Reno on the simple concept of hard work and efficiency. If anyone were to ask him what he considered their biggest accomplishment, he would answer it was the former Snowpoint Gym – now a spa resort where you could go for a dip before having a battle.

Their team was presently working at the former site of a Magcargo Express warehouse in Veilstone City. There had been attempts to redevelop in the past, but they had fallen through between lesser companies backing out of their contracts and the previous owners getting cold feet at the sunk cost. So long as the new owners continued to pay them, he intended to see the project through.

There came another crash from outside. He made one quick fix to the spreadsheet, a simple caps thing that could not go ignored. Kimberly would lose her mind if he uppercased the word ‘Pokemon’. Then he rose, adjusting his clothing as he did so. He exhaled sharply and cracked his knuckles before stepping out to speak with his workers face to face.

Befitting a former warehouse, one large room took up most of the building. Baram was uncertain why a restauranteur bought the place, though it was not his job to question their logic. He found his staff and the incident quickly enough, near the center of the room. Accidents came with the job, but two in five minutes was unacceptable.

“Evans!” he barked, eyes almost bulging from their sockets as they flicked at the large wooden crate lying on the floor. “That box has fragile pots and plates inside of it. If those turn out to be damaged, I am going to hold you accountable for all the costs.”

The red-haired woman dropped the broom she had been sweeping with, and it fell onto the table they had set up for tools and beverages. She put up her hands and opened her mouth, yet shrank back behind her Gurdurr. She gave no explanation.

“Mr. Kim, sir,” one of his longer-tenured employees stepped forward and cleared his throat. Hiro Nakamura was a tall yet tough man with a business acumen, who Baram would on certain days trust more than his partner. “They were right flat on top of each other.”

Baram crossed his arms. He spoke slowly and deliberately. “Then can you explain how this box fell over?” he inquired. He turned to each of the five workers on duty, but did not receive an answer. He put his hands behind his back. “None of you?”

A muffled yet mocking laugh rang out in response. A male's voice.

“Which one of you is doing that?” Baram demanded. He clenched his fists. He knew better than to actually swing them, but their sudden audacity was making him wish he could do so.

Nakamura bowed profusely. “Sir, we would never–”

He was interrupted by another laugh, this one more hollow. None of them were hiding their mouths, and none of their lips were moving. It was not just them in this building.

“Show yourself!” he demanded, and to the prankster's credit, they answered. They stepped, or rather, floated out from behind some more crates. Baram Kim was by no means an expert on Pokemon. However, he knew one when he saw one. It was a vaguely humanoid mass of dark mist, wearing a cracked yellow construction helmet as if in mockery of their trade.

“I should've known there would be ghosts here,” mused Nakamura. “The place was abandoned for a year and a half.”

“I don't care who or what they are,” said Baram. “If they're messing with this place, they're messing with our work.”

The Pokemon's mouth curved like a hook. “I wonder if you'll be the ones…” it whispered. Baram involuntarily shuddered. Its lips moved, and yet somehow this Pokemon spoke plain English. What was most unsettling to Baram was that he not only heard it with his ears, he heard it in his head.

He forced a sneer. “Enough, get rid of this thing.” He turned to his employees expectantly.

“You don't have to tell me twice!” Evans said, turning to her Pokemon. “Muscles, Knock Off!”

“Back her up, Rotom!” said Wong, their electrician. “Use Shadow Ball!”

Their own ghost flew up and expelled a sphere of pure darkness, as the burly Pokemon picked up its metal beam and rushed in to swing it. However, the Rotom was intercepted by a fox-like creature who came out of nowhere, the attack fizzling out against its pale body. The phantom lazily floated up to avoid the Knock Off.

A shadow dive-bombed down from the ceiling. It struck the burly Pokemon, making it cry out in pain. The Pokemon twirled as a flourish, revealing itself to be a four-winged bat of some kind. Meanwhile, the fox had pounced on Rotom, striking out with its claws in a way that made the ghostly ball of plasma screech in pain.

“Weak…” the phantom whispered, dismissively waving a hand.

“Discharge, Rotom!” cried Wong.

Evans gasped. “Wait! Get down, everyone!”

Baram didn't have to be told twice, but some of his employees and their Gurdurr were caught in the blast of electricity that went everywhere. The burly Pokemon and the men crumpled over in agony – including Wong himself. To make matters worse, their three assailants remained floating.

“I tire of this,” said the phantom, turning to its underlings. “You know what to do.”

The bat began to flap its wings, and a dark haze started spreading all over the room. The fox moved to continue attacking Rotom, and the humanoid phantom rushed toward them.

“You monster!” shouted Baram. He grabbed the first thing he could get his hands on – a blowtorch. Realizing what he held, he gripped the handle and squeezed it right as the ghost drew near. It growled and clutched at its head in pain as the flames seared its face.

In irritation, it lashed out and grabbed him by the throat. All at once, the air left Baram's lungs. The torch clattered at his feet as his muscles stopped answering his mind's orders.

“Not bad,” it said, eyes glowing violet. “But not good enough.”

A fist slammed into him from behind and knocked the wind out of him. As the dark energy flowed into his body, Baram Kim felt an agony unlike anything he had ever felt in his life. All the feeling left his muscles, all the air left his lungs, his ears felt as though they might rupture, and his heart felt like it might burn through his chest.


There was a voice. Distorted. Whose? Baram couldn't place. He shifted involuntarily. All was a blur. Yet a figure stood before him. Kid-sized? The man's mouth opened. He mumbled a word before everything truly went dark. Despite his state, Baram heard well what he spoke, repeated from what he'd heard echoing through the reaches of his mind.



Recollection I: Anima of Wrath

It was a gorgeous afternoon in late September. Autumn was Nariya Yaznik's favorite season. It wasn't too hot, and it wasn't too cold. There was no pollen to make her allergies act up like there would be in spring. The trees were always so colorful. There were fallen leaves to rake up, sure, but the Acolytes and other helpers around the shrine were keeping the ground spotless. Not that she would mind if they asked her to help.

Nariya was sitting patiently on her knees on an outdoor tatami, simply enjoying the gentle breeze. She was a tall girl, 209 cm in height the last time she measured, with black hair and dressed in comfortable sweatpants, a gray jacket, and an orange shirt.

It was perfectly peaceful until a sudden shout pierced the air, startling her. “Read all about it! Renovation Crew Injured in Mysterious Pokemon Attack!”

A short teenager with chestnut colored hair came parading onto the grounds of the Kannagi Shrine, a light blue set of papers in hand. He wore well-worn blue jeans held up by a belt with a gray t-shirt with the logo of Sunyshore Gym on it. His soft red eyes were alight with glee. A squirrel Pokemon was following behind him, his sleek fur a vivid blue and white.

“Oh. Hi, Nori,” she said as he approached. It was not an uncommon sight to see him up at the Kannagi Shrine, despite his apatheism. He was a good friend of Lady Prema Kannagi, her only real friend these days. Nori was more of an acquaintance to Nariya herself, particularly given his personality felt so overwhelming. “Prema had to step inside, if you were wondering.”

He shrugged. “Ah well, I can wait. Oh! And Yumi says hi.”

“Okay?” They had not spoken since Yumi left the activist group they were formerly in. It was a surprise she even remembered her. The little Pachirisu, Pachi, waved to her with his stubby little arms. Nariya waved back before turning to Nori. “Um, sorry if this is impertinent. What was with…the dramatic introduction?”

“Get it from a friend of mine back in Sunyshore. We were in the news club together, and she always did that when handing out newsletters.” He chuckled slightly. “So have you heard about what happened at the old warehouse YAMS used to use last night?”

Nariya shook her head, no. “I don't really…look at the news. I know…um, you and Lady Prema enjoy it, however.”

“You should check this one out. It's right here on the bottom of the front page.” He handed her a sheet which appeared to be his school newsletter. “It has this reporter's firsthand account of happening upon the scene!”

Nariya obliged, simply out of politeness and worrying about what he would think if she said no. Reading it over, it was not difficult to see why he would be interested, besides being the one to discover the incident. It took her two minutes to get through the short article, as she was not a fast reader by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, she was able to glean something from it. “Oh, I see. You're thinking they might be Pokemon you might be rehabilitating?”

“Yup!” he said. "Well, only one of them and now that you mention it, but still!" Nariya didn't quite get what he meant, but it didn't seem her speculation was wrong. That was a relief.

“But you're still…rehabilitating that Pawniard. R-right?”

He paused and turned away. “Yeah, I know. And that's not going so well. I took him to train in the wild yesterday, but…” He shook his head. Nariya may not have been the best at recognizing social cues, but he spelled out his discomfort clear as glass. “Oh, never mind. So how've you been?”

“Oh, I've just been me.” She was uncertain of how to answer that question when it was asked. She didn't feel her life was very interesting. The most that could be said of it was that she was friends with the future head priestess of a major religion. Regardless of that, she still felt an obligation to maintain a degree of professional conduct around someone so revered. It made their friendship somewhat awkward, to say the least.

At that moment, Lady Prema herself exited the shrine. She had an elegant step, her forest green hair billowing as she moved. She was in her formal Kannagi Shrine robe, beautiful violet attire reminiscent of a traditional jōe except with longer sleeves, which had gold trim along various parts of it. Her eyes fell upon the young male at once.

“It is good to see you, Nori,” she spoke, a smile as bright as the sun upon her face. “I was not expecting you to visit today.”

He laughed. “Thought I'd come by. I wanted to talk to you about a few things.”

She lowered her head. “I see,” she said. “What is it that you wished to speak about?”

After a brief pause. Nori clapped his hands. “Well, first,” he said, both hands on the papers he had brought. “Did you hear what happened down near the old Magcargo Express last night?”

Prema looked up. After a momentary pause of her own, she said, “Yes, although I cannot confess to knowing in detail.”

“It's really crazy,” Nori explained, running over to meet her halfway. He practically forced the paper into her hands. “They got attacked by Pokemon. A Crobat, a Sinnohite Zoroark, and one other – might be a Dusclops or Dusknoir from the sounds of it, knowing what's native. I found them by accident! Got some bystanders to help and went right in there to investigate! Some of them were delirious, mumbling about a ghoul.”

“It is not unusual for Pokemon to come to inhabit a place that humanity left behind,” Prema remarked as she read the article. “These miniature colonies gather together for their own benefit and protection, much like groups of similar species in the wild.”

“Still, it's crazy! They attacked unprovoked from the sounds of it, and in the city no less!”

He was correct. Although her parents had yet to permit her to have Pokemon of her own, Nariya had been studying extensively for when that day hopefully came. “They can be territorial, but they…human territory, respect it too…” She cursed her lack of articulation. She knew all these big words, but when it came time to speak, her tongue often got tangled.

Thankfully, both of her friends understood. “Yeah, they don't get this violent in urban areas,” Nori remarked. “Even then, you have to go to the deep wilds to see ones like this!”

“As every person is different, so too is every Pokemon. The ones inhabiting this abandoned warehouse are unlike most urban Pokemon. While I cannot speak as to why they act this way, I am certain they have their reasons.” She moved to give Nori his newsletter back, although he motioned she could keep it. “What else did you wish to see me about?”

“So the second thing is,” he said, “Since you didn't say, what were your initial impressions of Pawniard?”

Nori Carino was a – or more accurately, the – Pokemon Rehibilitator. He thought differently from most people when it came to the eponymous Pocket Monsters. Nori was someone who took troubled Pokemon that no one else was willing to (or able to) touch and gave them a final chance to reform.

Mention of his assignment made Nariya tense up. Prema had voiced her concerns to her in private. She feared the effect it would have on Nori's performance if she was honest with him. She could offer no advice to her friend, and now, he was posing the question at her directly in lieu of her giving an answer earlier. There would be no evading the question this time.

“Nori…” she started, hesitating a second too long.

His expression darkened a little. He took a step closer. “You think he's irredeemable, don't you?” he asked, with unveiled concern and a touch of frustration.

Prema remained still. Nori kept looking, almost pleading with her. Nariya wanted to do something to break the tension, but she didn't know what, if anything, she could do. Thus, she helplessly watched on.

“I suppose it would be for the best to tell you,” Prema soon said. “I sensed an implacable malice within your Pawniard I have felt in but a few Pokemon before. I would not go as far as saying he is irredeemable, however. It will simply be a far more difficult task than with the Demon Nidorina, who was merely misunderstood and seeking a purpose.”

Nori slowly nodded, processing her assessment. He looked up at the skies, putting a hand in his pocket. Prema had explained to her that there were such things as evil Pokemon, despite what some might claim. She did actually not use that word in her description of the Pokemon which once belonged to a serial killer. Yet even Nariya, for all her difficulty with reading others, had a feeling she was simply choosing not to speak it aloud.

Ultimately, Nori grinned and let out a chuckle. Granted, he had experienced situations far more hopeless in the past year, so his positive attitude came as little surprise to Nariya.

“I kind of figured,” he spoke, somewhat subdued but not fettered by her words. “Both from how you clammed up like a Shellder and from what I've been seeing.”

Prema closed her eyes and folded her hands. “Nori. If you at any point feel you are unable to handle this Pokemon, do not hesitate to tell the Officials as such.”

“I know, I know!” he echoed. “I can recall Pokemon really fast if I need to. It won't come to that, though. I'll find a way to rein him in, just you wait!”

Her friend chuckled softly. Nariya had to as well. She had to admit, she wished she had Nori Carino's shining optimism. Even if it bordered on the absurd like it was at that moment. Maybe that stubborn streak was precisely what it took to do what he did.

“We are having a late lunch if you wish to join us,” Prema offered with a bow. She smiled a little. “I take it you also wished to spend time here, given our time the other day got cut short?”

“Yup!” he confirmed, looking at his Pachirisu as he did so. “If you don't mind, that is.”

“Of course.” She beckoned for them to sit down.

Nariya lowered her head. It was not that she did not want Nori to be present, she simply felt overshadowed whenever he was around. She always had trouble socializing, due to being autistic. Plus, he was so good to Prema, bringing out sides of her few others were able to. He was perhaps the only person in the world who was both positive and without predilection for her.

Nariya wished she could do more for Prema, to be a better friend for her…


Prema Kannagi was able to spend an hour with her friends before they had to leave – Nori to get back home in time for dinner, and Nariya because her parents dropped by to pick her up. She was eternally grateful to have both of them in her life.

She had met them in August of last year when attending a youth protest group's meeting. Although her friendship with Nori started at the time, it was not truly cemented until a chance encounter last June, the same month she re-met and befriended Nariya. Until Nori, the only ones she had meaningfully interacted with were family, the shrine's faithful, shrine-goers, or random people who recognized her in public. Even Nariya counted among the second group. Although upon further consideration, there was one more person she supposed could be a friend on their level, whom she wanted to speak with.

She found Priestess Satomi tending to the garden. A woman who was close to eighty years her senior, clad in a robe much like her own save for the trim being silver. She was a mentor figure to Prema, having been with the shrine since her great-grandfather was the head priest. She had served four generations of Kannagis, including herself. Whenever Prema had a question about her duties she did not feel comfortable speaking about with her father, she would turn to Satomi Kurusu.

“Lady Kannagi,” the elderly woman greeted, deeply bowing. As with just about everyone, Satomi regarded her with the highest respect even in informal situations. “Always glad to see you grace me with your presence. To what do I owe this visit?”

Prema bowed in return. “Priestess Satomi, I have an ethical dilemma. I was hoping to have your thoughts on the matter.”

“But of course, Lady Kannagi.” She beckoned for her to come closer to speak privately. In a more hushed tone of voice, she asked, “What's on your mind?”

Prema serenely shut her eyes and lowered her head with shame. The sensation in the back of her throat made it somewhat difficult to speak, but she did so regardless.

“When and how often is dishonesty acceptable?”

Her elderly mentor rolled her head. “That depends on the context, Lady Kannagi. Take it this is about Nori Carino again?”

Prema felt like she might suddenly suffocate. “Yes,” she admitted, not expecting Priestess Satomi to see through her. “Twice now I was forced to speak with him about a subject I wished to avoid.”

“Well, big difference between that and lying. You told him honest when he asked, didn't you?”

“Perhaps so.” She turned away slightly. It still did not feel right.

“There now,” her mentor said, gently massaging her shoulders. “Think of it this way. If you spoke your mind all the time, you're bound to say something you shouldn't. Feelings could get hurt! Secrets could come out! You did not tell him of your position as you were afraid of being judged. You did not tell him what you thought of that Pawniard since you were afraid he would get discouraged.”

The irony therein was that those turned out to be unfounded. He thought nothing of her being a priestess, and was not deterred by her impressions of the Pawniard once belonging to Lochlyn Nuzzo. “I feel it improper to get into the habit of being disingenuous. Yet I also do not wish to say something I should not.” It was applicable whether it was speaking too much about her work or saying something socially unacceptable.

“Lady Kannagi, I believe it's going to take far more than you're capable of to diminish that boy's trust,” she replied at once. “Now if I got him right, he values you far too much to throw your friendship away. Why else would someone who doesn't care for religion as he does – speaking nothing of his mom – hang around with you?” The woman's crooked, wry smirk brought a faint smile to Prema's own lips. “If by chance he does, well. You know what I always say: a Kecleon can't hide their stripes!”

“I suppose you are correct.” She prayed it would never come to that, for she valued Nori just as much in return. If only that was the end of it. “Yet I told him an outright lie today, as well.”

She blinked. “Oh? What did you say?”

She averted her gaze involuntarily for a fleeting moment. “He had brought a news article he had written on the incident at the former Magcargo Express building. Apparently, he was also the one who discovered it.”

“Ah, now that's quite a coincidence, is it not?” She laughed, although Prema failed to find the humor in it. “The very place you will be going to for a little exor-cise in a couple days.” She laughed again, this time at her own pun.

“Yes. He asked if I had heard of it, and I told him I had not.”

“Maybe you could ask him to lend a hand!” She once again chuckled. “You should know he's a bang-up Pokemon Trainer himself!”

“You know I cannot do that, Priestess Satomi.” Nori was not a member of their shrine. He would not be permitted to accompany her on this excursion, and he had made his stance on religion perfectly clear. Moreover, part of the reason why she had lied was that he would surely insist on helping if he knew of her involvement.

Priestess Satomi rolled her shoulders. “Well, in any case, I am certain that if and when he finds out, he will understand,” the elderly woman assured her. “He has his own job to attend to. You can later tell him with honesty that you did not want to worry him.”

“I was not considering it from that perspective. I was thinking of stating it was shrine business.” A groan escaped her, spawned from discomfort. She was discussing excuses for dishonesty. If you were a beggar for three days, you could not stop. Therefore, it was not something Prema wished to make habitual.

“Besides, the mayor said to keep it hush. For all the public knows, a trainer's coming in to deal with rogue Pokemon.”

Having to lie to cover for others' lies. Her father had once spoken to her about that issue. It perhaps was the most absolute reason, yet one that left the most bitter taste in her mouth. “I suppose it cannot be helped.”

She winked. “If it's still that big a worry, just tell him. I'm sure he'll keep quiet and respect your decisions. And don't forget, you got your friend Nariya to lean on too for these things.”

Prema nodded. “Thank you, Priestess Satomi.” Her word was implicit permission, should the need and opportunity arise.

“Anytime, Lady Kannagi.” She gave a salute.

Her mind was as eased as it could get over the matter. A necessity. For in two days' time, she would be performing an exorcism. She could not afford to have any doubt in her heart when it came time to soothe the restless spirits haunting the old warehouse.
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Name of Respect (recollection II)
Recollection II: Name of Respect

There was a small training room in the Kannagi Shrine used for various purposes by the senior members, a holdover from the old building. A group of roughly seven onlookers had gathered to watch an impromptu sparring match. On the sidelines stood Priestess Satomi, acting as the referee.

Nariya Yaznik had eagerly jumped at the opportunity without fully knowing what it entailed. Now that she was standing across from Lady Prema herself, her stomach was in knots. She could barely see, her muscles felt rigid, and the pressure alone was weighing her down. She hadn't made any progress, royally messed up with the one blow she did get in, and was close to losing. Through it all, Prema's bright smile never left her face. Nariya had difficulty reading other people, unable to tell if that was out of comfort or her friend enjoying this in some – hopefully not twisted – capacity.

“Hya!” Prema swung, aiming for her wrists.

Nariya took a step back, nearly tripping over her own legs. Her hands were shaking, both out of nerves and from gripping her stick tighter than an Arbok coiled around its prey. The protective mask and helmet was obstructing the tall girl's vision. She cried out, stomped a foot, and swung her weapon down.


Suddenly, a sharp and stinging pain shot through her torso. Nariya let her weapon clatter down, clutching the point of impact while fighting off sobs.

“Point!” declared Priestess Satomi. “This match goes to Lady Kannagi!”

The result didn't matter to her. She knew a loss was inevitable against an experienced practitioner of kendo, but she thought the protective pads were going to make it painless. But it hurt, not only physically, but mentally too!

“Nariya, are you all right?”

She looked up to see Prema had removed her helmet. Her friend was standing nearby, watching her with concern.

“I…I don't…it hurts, but…”

“Don't you worry about a thing,” Priestess Satomi assured her. “We'll look you over and patch you up if we need to!”

“I apologize, Nariya. I suppose I got carried away.” Prema softly chuckled.

“It's…quite all right, Lady Prema!” She found it in herself to stand up straight, although she continued to massage the spot where Prema had last struck her. Nothing felt broken or bruised, fortunately. “I just…I'm just glad I could do this.” Her friend needed a sparring partner, and she wanted to volunteer. It was all there was to it.

“We will sit down for tea after the medics examine you for injuries,” said her friend.

Nariya forced a smile. “Can I try preparing?”

She received a nod in response. “If you wish.”


Prema Kannagi raised the yunomi to her mouth. At once, she noticed how warm the cup was. Nevertheless, she made to gently sip the tea, hesitating when she felt the steam rising out of it. She allowed the liquid to graze her lips. The cup was too hot to hold, so the tea was too hot to drink.

She peered up at the tall girl standing beside her, watching with equal measure anticipation and dread. Reconsidering her actions, she forced herself to take a small sip of the beverage. The sweetness was distinguishable even while the tea seared her tongue. Prema tried not to react to either issue as she gulped it down.

“W-well?” Nariya stammered. This had been her first attempt at preparing and pouring tea. “Is it…all right?”

She was only able to give her friend a comforting smile as she placed the cup back on the tray. “The taste is acceptable. You did well to bring out the natural flavoring of the leaves. However, you must not add more than a little sugar initially, and ensure the temperature is right before serving.”

As soon as she said ‘however,’ Nariya's shoulders dropped. As Prema explained what went wrong, her friend slouched further. “I knew it…” she said, a groan escaping her.

“Do not feel discouraged,” Prema comforted her. “You did well for your first time preparing tea traditionally.”

“Th-thank you, Lady Prema!” Her friend bowed repeatedly and profusely. “I've been trying my hardest to learn all these things!”

“I understand for a while you have been attempting to involve yourself more in the shrine in attempt to do more for me.” With these words, Nariya froze up with a stunned expression. Prema elaborated. “I appreciate it. However, you should not feel compelled to perform activities you are not comfortable with for my sake.”

Nariya exhaled, leaning back into the zabuton. “Thank you. I like making tea, but I don't want to…do kendo again.”

Prema could only fold her hands and smile. “You also did well for your first time there.”

“I just never liked fighting,” she said with a heavy sigh, putting a hand over her heart. “Lady Prema, why do you practice kendo? Um, if you don't mind my asking.”

“It is part of our tradition. My ancestors learned swordsmanship as a means to better protect themselves and their followers. While we primarily use it for ceremonial purposes, self-defense is still a useful skill to have.”

“Do you…anticipate…having to…?”

Prema answered with a proverb, “Knock on a stone bridge before you cross it.”

Nariya understood its meaning. “Because even if things seem safe, they can still collapse. So it's good to know if you need it, is what you're saying.”

Prema nodded. “Prevention is worth far more than any cure.”

“It would be easier to save…well, yourself than having to be saved.”

“Yes.” The world was far safer in present times than it was back in wartime, feudal times, or even earlier. Regardless, it was always beneficial to know how to defend oneself, particularly for those in positions of power.

The future head priestess once more picked up her cup. It had cooled enough to begin drinking, and a careful sip fully confirmed as such. The tea had more sugar than she was used to; thankfully it was not excessive. Nariya beamed with satisfaction, sitting a little taller. Prema speculated she had prepared it how she liked it, a common mistake which even Prema would admit to making before.

Her friend stole a brief glance at her watch while adjusting her bangs. “It's half an hour before mom picks me up. Do you have any plans before dinner?”

She did. It would be something Nariya would not be able to participate in no matter how eager she might be, due to her parents' strict rules on her and Pokemon. Moreover, given how it was scheduled, her spectating was also out of the question.

Prema inhaled slightly before she said her words. “Yes. I will be doing a bout of Pokemon training. To be specific, we will be practicing against another member of the shrine.”

To her surprise, Nariya reacted not with dismay at being unable to join her or interest at getting to see Pokemon, but by narrowing her eyes ever so slightly and lightly biting her lip. Suspicion?

“Um, Lady Prema, it's Thursday. You're busy for a Thursday,” she noted. She nearly raised her voice initially, although reverted to her usual unsteady tone.

She lightly shut her eyes, placing her teacup back down. There was no sense in not telling her the truth.

“I am preparing for tomorrow.”

“Why, what's happening tomorrow?”

Prema folded her hands. “Do you remember the article Nori showed us yesterday?” she asked. When Nariya showed little sign of remembering, she fully clarified. “On Friday night, I will be heading to the old warehouse we met to deal with the restless spirits within.”

Nariya's eyes stretched wide. Her voice quivered, “Wait, you're going to…the spirit, there?!” She rocked slightly on the cushion.

“As the heir to the shrine, my position is not simply that of a religious leader,” Prema spoke softly yet confidently, as to tell Nariya that everything was going to be all right. “It is a position that comes with many responsibilities. One of these is to assist in handling supernatural or Pokemon-related incidents across the region. This is nothing new to me.”

It was part of what made their shrine so revered. The Kannagi family had true spiritual power. Few others could make that claim, the Mitsutri family being about the only other prominent one. That was also ultimately why the two of them carried far more respect and influence than their religious rivals. Being turned to by governments for matters such as these was not uncommon.

“Deal with?” Nariya abruptly asked, an understandable measure of hesitation in her tone.

“Ideally, I will either understand the situation of these Pokemon or put their souls at ease.” She pursed her lips. “Failing those, capture or exorcism are options.”

Nariya relaxed. After ten seconds of thought, she spoke up “So…this training is in case…”

“In case I need to battle them, yes.” And Nariya had seen how talented she was. Prema was taught by senior members of the shrine, including former Celestic Town Gym Leader Warutsu Amaya, how to raise Pokemon and battle effectively. Her tutelage was not, on say, the level of someone such as Nori, but was a cut above most of the rest. The Kannagi family raised Pokemon not only for similar reasons as to why they practiced kendo, but it was as much a way to bond with Pokemon as friendship.

“They didn't give a lot of notice…” Nariya voiced an observation. “You probably got told about it yesterday.”

“That is correct. It was something the city wanted to be dealt with as soon as possible.”

She was used to having a week or two to prepare. The suddenness may have been part of the reason for their assigning her the task, as a test. Prema was ready to meet the challenge. What kind of priestess would she be if she failed?

“Um, Lady Prema?”

“Yes, Nariya?”

“Your tea…”

A sudden change of subject. Yet Prema had to admit, she was so engrossed in that explanation she had momentarily forgotten. “Oh, I suppose I should drink it before it gets too cold, yes.”


The Kannagi Shrine in Veilstone City sat on the former site of a radio station. The shrine's faithful repurposed it and the surrounding area to suit their needs, save for a radio dish that was too costly to remove. The area behind the building was a gated-off space for people and Pokemon alike, which included a battlefield. It was as much for training as it was a source of entertainment like a kagura-den would be.

Prema had her personal quarters for raising Pokemon in private, but today was about practical experience. After all, knowledge and potential mean nothing without application. Therefore, one of the shrine's senior members would be coming by in a short while to challenge her and her faithful friends.

Before getting into that, however, she had something that needed taking care of. Thankfully, she had the opportunity to do so while waiting on the benches for her sparring partner to arrive.

“Nariya, I have a request of you,” she said, humbly turning to her friend.

She shuddered. “Y-yes? Lady Prema?”

“Please do not tell Nori about what I will be doing on Friday.”

“Oh, um.” Nariya turned away, awkwardly shuffling her feet. “It shouldn't be a big deal, since we rarely…”

“Thank you, Nariya.” Prema bowed lightly. It was something she had been considering, and thought of as for the better.

“Can I ask you something, though?”

“You may,” Prema affirmed. She already had a feeling about what it was, why she did not want Nori to know of her task.

“Well. I can understand the etymology of both Taiyoko and Yahata, but I'm not certain what Shu means.” She glanced at the small pink fae wearing a bird-like mask sitting between them.

That was an unexpected question. Albeit one that was far simpler to explain. “It is derived from the term shigeki-shū.”

Prema patted her Pokemon. She would have liked to have Shu out of his Poke Ball more often, although she knew he could not always control his scents. It was not something she personally minded, yet she knew others found his presence disruptive indoors.

“Oh! So, pungent odor! That…” She shuddered a little, chuckling nervously as she tried not to point her nose in the Spritzee's direction. “That would make more sense for you.”

Nariya had a wide vocabulary in both English and Japanese, so it was not surprising that she understood at once. Her friend was someone who read dictionaries for fun. Even Prema had learned a few words because of her, although she would admit to not wishing to use them in common speech.

One thing she said intrigued Prema. “I am only curious. What did you mean by that name making more sense for me?”

“Well, I thought it might have been derived from Shushupu. It seemed too simple, though. And um…wouldn't have fit if he…evolved.”

The traditional Japanese name of Spritzee. Prema nodded, then shook her head. It was not something that crossed her mind when conceiving the nickname, although it was also not the first time she had been asked if it was her inspiration. A younger boy in the shrine by the name of Ken had believed it was because Shu was a human name; he was not incorrect in how that cemented the choice.

“Lady Kannagi.”

Prema turned to such a surprising sight that she could not help but rise and blurt out their names. “Father? Maiden Kaede?”

The ruby-haired Kaede Minmei worked as a gatekeeper, and was one of the shrine's most experienced Pokemon Trainers. Priest Warutsu and Priestess Satomi both personally tutored her. She was presently dressed in her Iga clan ninja attire, albeit dyed in violet colors to match the shrine. She may have only been twenty-two years of age as of last week, yet Prema felt it was only a matter of time before she was granted the title of Priestess.

“Prema.” The sound of her father's voice, Master Haruto Kannagi, made her stand tall. Much like her own, his robe had elaborate gold trim. Prema had speculated Kaede was a candidate for the battle, but she did not anticipate her father's presence.

“Yes, Father?”

“Tomorrow will be one of your greatest challenges yet as the future Master of the shrine. I hope you understand what this battle is about.”

She understood at once. They had a reputation to uphold, and this was one of a few tests she needed to pass before performing her duty. She could not afford failure. Prema bowed heavily. “I will do my best, Father.”

“Good luck, Lady Prema. I wish I could watch, but…” Nariya trailed off and shuffled her feet. No doubt her mother would be arriving soon. She weakly raised an arm. “I need to get going.”

“Thank you, Nariya.” She watched until her friend had walked out of sight, before taking her position.

Her father stepped to the sidelines to act as the battle's judge, or at least as an observer. She could not afford nervousness with his watching. “You will be having a series of one-on-one battles with Maiden Kaede. You will have the advantage of choosing second each time.”

“Understandable. All of my Pokemon will need an opportunity to practice.” Shu floated by her side. Although not yet evolved, he was just as capable a battler as her other friends.

“It's best of three! I won't hold back, Lady Kannagi,” said Kaede, brandishing her first Poke Ball. “Even if I'd been asked to.”

“I would ask you do not,” Prema plainly replied, folding her hands and smiling coyly.

Kaede grinned, flipping her scarf behind her as she sent out her first partner, a small black insect with long antennae and four wings with an ice motif: white dots like falling snow on the upper two, and a gradient on the lower two.

“Paparism!” she called the name of her Vivillion.

Prema was well aware of the fact that going second was not necessarily a boon. Maiden Kaede had chosen her Pokemon, and now she had to choose her answer. Whichever of her friends battled now would not be able to battle later. It was sensible to save Taiyoko for last. She glanced down at Shu. Either of her other Pokemon would have their own problems against the lepidopteran. The primary threat of Paparism was the myriad of powder moves which he knew. But while the little Spritzee would be exposed to status ailments, Yahata would be highly vulnerable to damage.

“I trust in you, Shu,” she ultimately decided. Her companion nodded, floating forward into position.

“I expect both of you and your Pokemon to battle to the fullest of your abilities,” said her father, more still than a royal guard in Galar. “May the best pair of partners emerge victorious.”

Their primary disadvantage in the first match would be speed. Shu was as swift as a Spritzee could be, which was not significantly much. Precise strategy would be required for victory. If Shu landed enough strong attacks, they could win.

“All right!” Kaede did not give her the chance to make the first attack. She swung a leg out. “Kick things off with Electroweb!”

Prema's arm and leg muscles tightened. Already, her Pokemon's weakness was scouted and poised to become a greater one. As expected of someone as talented as her. “Evasive maneuvers, Shu,” was her request.

It was as such, but as she well knew and was reminded of, telling a Pokemon to dodge it was not necessarily a guarantee. Kaede wagged a finger as the electric netting caught and wrapped around the little fairy. “Ooo! That's too bad.”

The green-haired girl huffed. She made a mental note to attempt a counterattack when faced with such a situation in the future. For now, it was time to make their own first move: “Echoed Voice, Shu.”

Shu shouted, a light reverb in his cry. The reliable thing about sound-based moves is how difficult they were to avoid. It made them an excellent choice of attack against Pokemon who rely upon evasion. Indeed, Paparism shuddered at the noise.

“Clever girl…” Kaede chuckled mirthlessly. “But it will not work!”

When Shu looked back for confirmation, she lightly nodded. “Continue with Echoed Voice.”

“Stop it cold with Gust!”

Paparism flapped his wings vigorously. Although hurt by sound waves once more, he managed to blast the little fairy across the battlefield. He hit the cage wall, thankfully, with no real force behind the impact. Prema's shoulders dropped with her relief.

“Once again, Shu.”

Her Pokemon floated a little closer before letting out the vocal attack for the third consecutive time. While difficult to find the echoes to reliably power up the move, it was nevertheless growing stronger with each use.

“Base strategy,” Kaede said, cranking the sarcasm in her tone all the way to the maximum.

“Yet reliable,” she calmly answered, folding her hands. One could not overlook simplicity.

“How about this?” the ninja said, pirouetting as she pointed. “Blow some Rage Powder their way!”

Prema could only smile at Kaede's ingenuity. It would be an excellent counter. “Evade,” she said for the sake of posterity. Shu was attempting to dodge of his own volition, but was nevertheless caught by the powder propelled by the wind.

One whiff drove the Spritzee berserk. In a furious rage, he fired a Charge Beam at Paparism. It was their other best offensive option in this battle. Yet at the current range, Paparism had no trouble escaping, guided by a wave of Kaede's hand.

“I am not surprised one as talented as yourself could break our momentum,” she complimented their opponent.

“You have to do better than that, Princess,” replied Kaede. “Set up some Infestation!”

They had set the traps, whirling vortexes of grubs and tiny insects scattered between the two Pokemon. Shu's Fairy Winds were falling short, and he was going right for one of the whirlwinds.

Knowing she had to act at once, Prema shut her eyes and held out a palm. “Shu!” she called to her friend.

At once and just in time, Shu snapped from his trance. He looked back.

Kaede pounced. “Now, Paparism, Vivid Wings!”

Vivillion's signature move, and the main reason why she did not use Yahata. Paparism spread his wings wide. They took on a faint, pale-blue glow as the essence contained within emerged in a lustrous flash. The wave of Ice-type energy caught Shu unaware, sending him careening to the ground.

“Shu, are you all right?” Prema asked, leaning in.

“He won't be soon! Poison Powder!”

Paparism made a bombing run, scattering specialized wing scales as he passed over his target. Shu went into spasms as the toxins entered his body.

“Using your powers to help break the rage,” Kaede chuckled with glee. “Can't see I saw that one coming.”

Prema could only smile. “Press your advantages.” Calling out to your Pokemon was surprisingly effective. She only wanted to be certain of success.

“Let's see how well that works when he's asnooze!” Kaede performed a backflip, to the amusement of the crowd that was gathering outside the cage. “Sleep Powder!

Blow it back with Fairy Wind? No, now was the time to go all out. “Psychic, Shu!”

With all his mental might, Shu reached out and grabbed hold of Paparism, who was miming his trainer's motions with aerial acrobatics. He pulled downward, slamming their opponent onto his back.

“Bleh! Vivid Wings!”

While tempted to have Shu recover with Aromatherapy, Kaede remaining on the offensive made her think better of doing so. “Use Charge Beam.”

While the Vivillion was able to get up and execute the move, this also left him in no position to evade the Electric attack. Moreover, Prema witnessed a bit of sparkling around her friend as the attack concluded, the telltale sign of a stat boost.

“Crap!” Kaede winced, taking note of it as well. “Ah, to hell with it. All or nothing, now. Hurricane!”

“If you are using your strongest attack, we will answer in kind.” She turned to the lightly glowing Shu who had sensed her intentions as she was mid-sentence. “Yes, Moonblast.”

The two Pokemon prepped their strongest moves, both executing simultaneously. Shu was sent flying back uncontrollably. However, the windstorm halted as his own move made contact, before he tumbled into the cage.

Paparism was knocked down. He strained, pushing up. His feebly fluttering wings barely kept him aloft. He was not yet unconscious.

However, Kaede – who had been squinting and looking at the ground – shrugged at her partner's continued gusto with her hands in her pockets. “Welp, know when we're beat,” she stated with irreverence, eventually taking out her partner's Poke Ball. “You did great out there, man, but looks like Lady Kannagi wins this round.”

Prema nodded at the conceding. Her father did so as well, with approval toward both sides. “So be it. The score is one for Prema, and zero for Kaede.”

“Shu, you did a fantastic job. Thank you for coming through for me.” He answered by flying directly for her, which she met by catching him with a light embrace. He let all his scents out in his delight at being held. She would likely need to wash her robe, but Prema didn't mind.

“Enjoy this victory while it lasts!” Kaede declared. “For it shall be your final taste of it today!”

Prema nodded as she let go of Shu, not only as an acknowledgment, but as an indicator of satisfaction. The first point was the most critical. It was not a guarantee of victory, yet it gave her the advantage.

Kaede twirled. “Citroushee, it's your turn!” Out came a small pumpkin Pokemon carved like a jack-o-lantern. An umbra ghoul rose out from within. A Gourgeist.

She could assure her victory in the best of three by using Taiyoko next. Yet she suspected her father wanted to see a clean sweep. No, it was more appropriate to use her own Grass type. She asked Shu to observe from outside the cage – just to be certain he was not caught in any crossfire – before the battle resumed.


The faux mad cackling of Maiden Kaede echoed everywhere. “You are in MY domain now, Princess!”

The battlefield was a convoluted mess. It was enclosed within a golden-yellow box whose walls consisted of countless polyhedral shapes. An artificial sun was scorching down from above, and the ground was coated in violet energy. There was no sign of their foe, using her inherent abilities to hide amidst the haze of mist and heat.

“Bug Buzz, Taiyoko!” Prema called out to her strongest companion, her own papilio Pokemon, which had six orange wings, white fluff around her thorax, and blue-hot eyes. The majestic Volcarona's cacophonous screeching rang loud enough to make everyone watching cringe at least slightly, yet there was no sign of whether it affected their opponent.

“Smite her with Mystical Fire, Fohoshi!”

Prema watched closely. A flame spouted from the tip of a barely visible stick.

“There, Aerial Ace!” Taiyoko spotted it as well and was already on her way, but she was not quick enough. She was struck by the magical flame, which was aimed with masterful precision.

Prema knew she needed to find some way of stopping the assault. Her father had continued after Yahata's victory for good reason. It would not reflect well if her strongest friend fell.

Kaede giggled wickedly. “Fire Spin!”

Taiyoko kept on guard, yet from behind her materialized a bipedal vixen with an orange and red body. With a twirl of her staff, she entrapped Taiyoko in a vortex of flame that went all the way to the top of the Wonder Room.


Kaede performed a little dance with a singsong. “You-are-too-late, Princess.” She wagged a finger. “Psyshock!”

The fierce winds of the move were making it difficult for even a Fire-type to escape – and of course, Taiyoko's Bug-type did not help their cause. She was helpless to resist the blast of psychokinetic energy.

“What, I say, what will you do now?” the ninja woman asked, performing an impression.

Prema pressed two fingers to the bridge of her nose as she weighed her options. One swiftly came to mind. It would work if Taiyoko could execute it.

“Taiyoko, Fiery Dance. Spin in the same direction.”

Kaede's bravado faltered for a fleeting moment. “Not a counter-spin, huh?”

Prema knew full well what she was doing. Taiyoko enveloped herself in flame as she twirled in the direction of the Fire Spin. Soon, she herself became a swirling, burning mass. Already anticipating her intent, the fiery moth charged. As she did so, she carried the Fire Spin with her.

“What in the–” Kaede was cut off as the overpowered move ravaged her Pokemon. Even through the Light Screen, it dealt a respectable if not incredible amount of damage to Fohoshi.

“Shoot her down with Psybeam!” growled Kaede.

The battle was won. “Swoop in with Aerial Ace.”

With the Fire Spin now gone, used as fuel for their attack, Taiyoko flew at their foe in an erratic pattern. She avoided the laser en route and slammed into Fohoshi, sending the vixen into a stumble.

“Get back into cover!” warned Kaede.

“The final move, Hidden Power.”

Taiyoko focused and unleashed her inner essence. A mysterious light appeared, imbued with strength akin to the stones of the ancient castle they met in. Prema remembered it well. She owed it to her father knocking the rampaging Volcarona out when negotiations and battle failed, yet regardless of how it came to be, they were now true companions. Ones who had just claimed another victory together.

“Well…” Kaede shook her head at herself. “Actually, I was pulling my punches a bit there, but wasn't expecting you'd be THAT good. Might've had trouble even if I was going all out.”

Prema smiled. “It is all right.” She was only expecting Maiden Kaede to fight well enough to give her a challenge. “Thank you for the battle.”

“Three for three.” Her father voiced his approval, even as he stood stoically. “Well done, Prema.”

“I thought you might expect that of me. Thank you, Father. And thank you, all of you.” She sang praises for her Pokemon. Taiyoko fluttered above. Shu flew into the cage and started encircling Prema, chirping all the while. Yahata remained outside, but put a proud wing on his hip.

“I was no match for you, Lady Kannagi. Nice going.” The ninja walked up to her.

“It was all a matter of adapting to your strategy. You were a worthy opponent.” Her opponent bowed as they shook hands.

She had come to understand why Maiden Kaede was chosen to face her. The Pokemon she would encounter on Friday evidently specialized in deception and indirect techniques, just like Maiden Kaede. She was the most sensible opponent on hand.

Her father crossed his arms. “We will be practicing your meditative and spiritual techniques tonight and tomorrow.”

Prema nodded. “I understand, Father.”

The ninja woman smirked. “But first, you need to get ready for dinner.” Although usually laid-back, she was enthusiastic when it came to meals. She always claimed eating was the best thing before and after working. “Told'em to make it fit for royalty.”

She smiled warmly. “Of course, Maiden Kaede.”
Aims of a Friend (recollection III)
From here on out, expect spoilers for Blade of the Blackout Killer to start showing up. If it's a problem and you want to read both fics, read up through C4 of BotBK beforehand. That said, it's foreshadowing by design here (what it alludes to hasn't been dropped as of this chapter's publication). I'll have explicit WARNINGS later on for more serious instances.


Recollection III: Aims of a Friend

As usual, a white Rondo Accord was waiting for Nariya in a parking lot near the base of the shrine. Every school day, her mom would drop her off at Veilstone Hills High School on her way to work at the Pokemon Disease Research Institute. Her dad would pick her up after classes ended, and would drive her home or to the shrine, depending on her plans for the day. Her mom would pick her up after work if necessary.

Nariya opened up the right rear passenger door and slowly got in. Her parents had both taken her height into consideration when buying their cars. But even with a lot of headroom, she needed to be careful while getting in and out of vehicles. She never saw herself driving, but if she did, she was definitely buying a convertible.

“So how was your day today, Nariya?” asked her mother, Quinn Yaznik.

“It went okay,” she said. Nariya was always unsure how to answer that question whenever she was asked it.

“Anything interesting happen?”

“Kind of. But…not really.”

Her parents were very supportive of her. They wanted what was best for her, yet respected her wishes foremost. She once read a story online about another autistic person's parents trying to ‘fix’ him. Thankfully, people raised enough of a stink that the extended family stepped in to help.

“Nariya, what happened?” her mom insisted, giving her a mildly stern glance through the rear-view mirror.

She winced. They could be a little pushy. It was just their way of caring, and they weren't intrusive – if she didn't want to talk about something, they'd wait until she was ready. Nariya had to admit, their attitude did help sometimes. It sometimes spurred her to speak up about things she otherwise wouldn't.

“Well…Prema's going to…help a spirit. You know, the one at the warehouse?” she cautiously explained. “I was thinking of…going.” After a second, she added, “If it's okay.”

There, she'd said it. She wasn't expecting anything, though. Her mom always let her go along with Youths Against Mistaken Society to their protests, yet this was asking for too much more. She got into trouble on a couple of occasions with Louis and the others, but she was never in danger. They said it never hurt to ask, but it actually did sometimes.

“Have you asked Lady Kannagi?” To her utter shock, her mom didn't say no outright. She instead made an inquiry.

Nariya was forced to shake her head. “No…not yet.”

She received a nod in response. “If it's all right with her, you may go. Just follow her instructions.”

Nariya gasped. “Thank you! I will, mom! Don't worry!” She was planning that anyway!

Yes! Step one completed! Now all she had to do was convince Prema! Which…might be a harder sell, come to think of it. Maybe this was more foolish than she thought. Still, she wanted to do something for Prema, even if it meant just being there to support her! Nariya hoped her friend would understand.

“So how was work today?” Nariya asked. A lot of it went over her head, even though she understood most of the terms. But it was always nice to hear about it.

Her mom grumbled. “It was way less productive than I wanted it to be. We spent most of the day helping a student intern get acquainted with the software and machines.” She grumbled lightly. “I can't fault her for being polite or eager, but we had to walk her through everything.”

“Well…um…” Nariya was always hesitant to speak her thoughts about matters. “Better that she knows than…”

As she trailed off, a combination of fear and being unable to think of the right words, her mom said, “I just hope she's worth the trouble. Let's put it to you that way.”

Nariya quietly conceded. Her mom could be very utilitarian. Then again, it was not necessarily a bad thing. She was all right with her being friends with Louis and Mariko, just because it meant having friends to socialize with. In the same vein, she took no issue with her breaking it off when it became too toxic. That same attitude was probably why she was tentatively allowing her to accompany Prema tomorrow.

The tall teenager sighed. She desperately wanted to expand her world and come out of her shell. She hated being in a rut. Maybe that was another reason why she wanted to go through with it.


Nariya spent the rest of Thursday stressing about how she was going to word it to Prema. She eventually took her mind off it with homework and watching her dad play a computer game. School flew by on Friday, and before she knew it, her dad's truck was parked near the shrine's steps.

Owen Yaznik was the regional director of Sofmap in Sinnoh, which meant he set his own schedule. He was a hobbyist photographer on top of that. He'd even set up a small lab for film development in their house, occasionally helping people develop photos for a fee. Nariya wanted to be like him, though she knew she'd have to work hard to be her own boss some day.

“So, you ready?” her father asked, not looking back at her as she got out of his truck.

“I guess.”

“Want me to wait? So you can leave if you can't go?”

He didn't really look at her while he spoke. Sometimes, Nariya pondered if her dad was autistic as well. It was not necessarily a hereditary condition, but it didn't mean he couldn't be. There were a few signs, but he didn't care whether he was or not.

She shook her head. “No, if she says I can't, I'll just wait for mom.”

“All right. See you tonight or tomorrow.”

“Thanks, dad.”

Nariya got out and gazed blankly at the steps. She took a deep breath. She personally found it difficult to speak with others even if she knew them well. After all, it was difficult to say how or even if her words would come out, no matter how many times she went over them in her mind.

“Everything fine?”

Nariya winced, nearly jumped at her dad's words of concern. She hated sudden noises. “Yes, it's fine!” she insisted, starting up the hill.

She would have to bring it up before five. Nariya knew she needed to say it and get it out of the way as soon as possible. That would be for the best.

As she made it through the torii, there was no sign of Prema. It was not unusual for her to be indoors or even away from the shrine, but it sure put a damper on her plans.

She awkwardly shuffled around. What to do? She was always at a loss about what to do whenever her friend was not present. Priestess Satomi was purifying herself at the chōzu-ya. Maiden Kaede and Acolyte Jirou were standing by the entrance. Others she'd seen but didn't know by name were doing various things, like meditating on the grass.

About a minute passed, with Nariya simply pacing around near the torii. It was seeing Priestess Satomi start moving towards the shrine's entrance that finally got her to take action. Her slow walk turned into a run, and before she knew it, she was shouting for her.

Nariya covered her mouth. It wasn't appropriate to yell like that. More than one person glared at her, yet mercifully, the elderly woman was not one of them. She turned to her with a grin. “Yes, Nariya?”

“Um…” Nariya was momentarily distracted by Acolyte Jirou's harsh visage. Her eyes were on him as she asked, “Is Lady Prema busy?”

“She very much is, Nariya,” came the reply.

Nariya turned away from the man, although she could not look Priestess Satomi in the eyes, either. “Is it okay if I speak with her? Please?”

“After she is finished.”

“Please, I need to tell her by five.”

The elderly woman nodded, seeming to get it. “I'll be heading in to assist her. I can pass a message along if you'd like.”


“Speak up,” snapped the male gatekeeper. “She doesn't have all day.”

Priestess Satomi shook her head. Even Maiden Kaede frowned at him. “Acolyte Jirou. Give her time. You know she sometimes has trouble talking to others,” she gently scolded. His lip curled, and that was the extent of his reaction.

Okay, step one, completed. Step two was to take a deep breath. Nariya inhaled deeply. She held it in as long as she was able to before blurting out her question.

“Is it okay if I go with her tonight?!”

Simple and to the point. It did not take long for the elderly woman to flash a thumbs up. “Yes, I'm sure that can arranged. I will let her know.”

“Th-thank you!” She never actually believed they'd agree to this, let alone so easily!

“Just enjoy yourself until about, say, dinnertime or thereabouts.” Priestess Satomi winked before entering the shrine, the door guards parting to allow her entry.

Nariya hummed. It would be hard to enjoy herself, given she didn't know anyone else here well enough. But the wait was going to be worth it!


Prema departed her personal meditation room after two hours within its soundproof walls. Her serene calm belied her intense focus, for she was aware of the importance of tomorrow evening. It had ramifications not only for herself, but for the Kannagi Shrine as a whole. Failure would bring immense shame upon them, not something that could be afforded at the juncture they stood at.

She passed by a small group of shrine-goers in the halls while heading to meet with Priestess Satomi. The Kannagi Shrine could be considered unusual given people being permitted inside (albeit only trustees with the usual rule of cleansing oneself). Yet to the knowing mind, it was not that strange, given they had always been something of a progressive faith. Their detractors would call it abandoning tradition, yet they saw it as evolution.

One of the young followers abruptly jumped out and waved at her. “Um. H-hello, Lady Kannagi!” he said, stepping forward and bowing. The blond boy wore a pink t-shirt stylized with a Lickilicky, and was nervously fidgeting with his clothes and shuffling his feet – bare, though wearing geta.

She gave him a smile of assurance. It was acceptable if he wished to speak. “Hello, Kento.”
Kento Aiushi, who often went by Ken. His parents originally lived in Ecruteak before moving to Celestic to be closer to the Kannagi Shrine. While not among those who resided on the shrine grounds, they nonetheless moved to Veilstone alongside them. Prema had a certain admiration for Kento. He had easily adapted to being uprooted twice in his life, despite only recently turning eleven years of age.

“So did your meditating go well?” he asked.

“It did.”

“So will you be talking with real ghost Pokemon tomorrow?”

“It is probable, yes. Only the gods know now how I will be received, however.” Communication itself was not difficult. Much of the training she was presently undertaking was if it did not go well.

“Will you have to battle them?”

“Possibly, yes. I would prefer to avoid it, however.”

“But why not just use your Pokemon in the first place? Yours are super strong, aren't they?”

“Ken, leave Lady Kannagi be.” Kento jumped, startled by the sudden appearance of his father, who had an appearance much like his own. “I can explain anything you don't understand about the shrine's customs.”

“It is all right,” she verbally assured. “One of my duties is to always be willing to educate followers about our shrine.”

Kento bowed profusely. “I don't want to keep you, 'cause I know you're busy. But thanks anyway!” With an eager wave, he followed his father away.

Prema continued toward her destination. The average person would think much like Kento would, so she did not blame him for his misunderstanding. But there were a number of reasons behind battle not being their first resort. Besides ethics, the Kannagi Shrine did not make use of Pokemon as extensively as some of their contemporaries. This was a purposeful decision. They taught followers to rely upon, yet not depend upon Pokemon. She made a mental note that it would make a good thing to go over in a speech.

She was already waiting for her near the room where the senior members of the shrine held meetings. Prema greeted her at once.

“Priestess Satomi.” She bowed lightly to her elder. “I am prepared for your training.”

“And I'm ready to help you with your training!” she said, hopping to her feet and clapping her hands. “I also wanted to let you know we've selected the three people who will be accompanying you tonight.”

Yes, that would be important as well. Whenever the head or heir to the shrine went on a task – the Rite aside – they were nearly always accompanied by three other members. It was as much for protection as it was an honor and privilege for those selected.

“Very well. Who are they?”

“The first is, of course, Maiden Kaede.”

“Yes.” She was aware of that. A senior, or at least, talented member of the shrine was always in attendance. Her particular talents made her a logical pick for the situation. She sometimes even watched over her father and herself from the shadows.

“Next, the name Jack Bryell ring a bell to you?”

“Yes, although I have not gotten the opportunity to speak with him personally.” She was aware that Acolyte Jack was a follower of the shrine who lived in Veilstone prior to their moving. His work as a Pokemon caretaker only allowed him to visit Celestic Town on holidays, but he had since become a regular. Prema supposed he was the customary lower ranking member, being tested to see how reliable they were.

“And the last person is one you know very well. You see her often, after all, heh.”


“No, I decided I'd sit this one out.” She chucked. “Therefore, the last member of your party. She is a certain Miss Yaznik.”

“Nariya?” she repeated, astounded at the decision. Nariya did not have a formal title, only being a follower for three months and some weeks. It must have been both a personal request on her friend's behalf and something her father approved.

“Is this acceptable to you, Lady Kannagi?” asked Priestess Satomi, noting her shock.

“It is. I simply did not believe she had the interest.” She was under the impression that Nariya only wished to involve herself with the shrine as a means to repay their friendship. Perhaps that was still part of her motivation. “So long as she understands the responsibilities involved, she would be welcome.”

“I'll make sure she knows-it-all before tonight. And ask Kaede to keep an eye on her, just in case.” Priestess Satomi smirked.

The other question she had was why her father would approve of such a thing. She trusted he had the sense of sound judgment, although she had to admit to being curious. It would be something to ask at the appropriate time.

“Well, let's get to it,” said Priestess Satomi. “Gotta practice to keep your abilities sharp, after all. Ready to roll?”

“Yes, let us proceed.”

“Good thing those teen protesters don't know what you're up to, eh?” The elderly woman chuckled. “They'd throw a fit about this just to be petty!”

Her hyperbolic joking aside, that was another case in point. No doubt, there were going to be those insisting they leave the warehouse alone, as it technically was a Pokemon habitat. Others, like the city councilors who made the request, wanted them expunged without a thought or care. The shrine's stance was more rational and deterministic. Perhaps these phantom Pokemon had solid motivations. Yet they could well be viciously territorial, not having any regard for humanity. Such Pokemon did exist, unfortunately.

“No matter,” assured Priestess Satomi. “You must do what you must, after all.”

“Yes.” The fact remained it had to be done, but there were many ways to go about it. The ideal case would to find a new home for them in the wild. Forcible removal would be her last resort. She did not feel it would have to come to that, mercifully.


After getting confirmation that she would be able to attend, Nariya set about attempting to pass the time until Prema was prepared. It was eventful, yet she was unable to do anything but sit and watch. She would not see her friend until after 5pm. After she told her mom, there was no going back short of sleeping overnight at the shrine, and that was not happening.

Dinner was teriyaki chicken served with bread rolls and miso soup. It was always a delight to eat at the Kannagi Shrine, since they had great cooks. Nariya cleansed herself and stepped into the shrine to see Prema.

The green-haired maiden was sitting on a zabuton in a quiet corner, completely engrossed in a binder. While she had been given Priestess Satomi's blessing, Nariya was uncertain if she should interrupt.

It was ultimately a decision she did not have to make as Prema briefly glanced at her. “Hello, Nariya,” she greeted.

“Um, hi.”

“I am glad you decided to accompany me tonight,” she said, still poring over what she was reading. “We will be leaving at 8pm. Do your best to ready yourself before then.”

“Okay.” All-business, even when expressing her joy. Nariya should have expected that. Nevertheless, she could not help but tell her, “And thanks so much! I promise to stay out of your way! And I know I have to help and support you no matter what!” Priestess Satomi had given her a briefing on what her responsibilities would be.

Prema nodded. “I will clarify only one further thing in that case.”

“What's that?” Nariya decided to sit beside her.

“Tonight is as important for you as it is for myself. Your performance will determine how worthy of trust you are.”

“Huh? What do you mean it's…” Her words slowed until they were at a halt. What did she sign on for? And what did Lady Prema say just now? “I didn't want this! I thought we were friends!”

“We are.” Her friend looked up. “I apologize if I was unclear. I was speaking strictly in the opinion of the shrine.”

“That's…I guess that makes sense.” That reminded her of something that happened when she was waiting, but she was unsure if she should mention it. Instead, she continued the line of conversation. “If I pass…what happens then?”

At this question, Prema folded up her binder. “To accompany the head or heir to the shrine on a task is among the highest honors for a member, one that is granted only to trustees. They serve a secondary purpose, however. That being to determine how reliable these individuals may be in higher positions. While you would be precluded from immediate promotion due to your joining the shrine only recently, it would mean much for your future prospects, should you choose to pursue such a path.”

A career of serving at the Kannagi Shrine. “I don't know…” she admitted. Nariya wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life. “And what if I don't? I mean, what if I…”

Prema understood. “The least that can happen would be your no longer being permitted to accompany me on shrine business, regardless of our friendship. In the worst case, expulsion from the shrine is possible.”

What did she say!? “Wait! But if they…what about…I don't want to not be friends anymore! I–”

“Nariya.” Her friend suddenly spoke in a serious, almost chilling voice. She'd never heard Prema take on such a tone before. “If you have doubts that severe weighing upon you, then I ask you do not accompany me tonight. They could render you ineffectual, if not detrimental. For instance, it could be something these spirits could exploit, depending on their nature.”

“No, I should…be okay…”

Prema met her eyes, which made Nariya more than a little uncomfortable. “Are you certain?” she asked. “There will be no consequences if you wish to back out.”

“Y-yes. I can…push it out of my mind by then.” Besides, if she went through the trouble of asking and then just decided not to, it wouldn't reflect well on her. She might not even get another chance. “Just one more thing is bothering me.”

“What is it?”

With what had been said about not having things weighing on her mind, Nariya felt it was best to get it off her chest after all. It took her a few moments for her to decide how to best articulate it. She thanked her lucky stars that Lady Prema had saintly patience.

“Well, Nori came by. He really wanted to see you.”

“I was informed as such, yes,” came the aloof reply.

“He got turned away.” She couldn't help, she couldn't even say anything to him. It had bothered Nariya immensely, even worried her. “Maybe you should go…see him?” she idly suggested, pressing her index fingers together.

Prema closed her eyes. “I cannot do that.”

“But…he was really upset!” Her heart fell into her stomach. Nariya protested, her words coming out louder than she intended. “What if Nori…”

She was only trailing off, thinking about her words. Prema spoke up in her lull. “Nariya, it is not that I do not wish to see him. I must focus on my duties tonight.”

Nariya fidgeted uncomfortably. Duty. Maybe it was important, but it still felt bad for her to leave a friend in the wind. Couldn't they at least stop by and see him on the way to the warehouse?

“Any doubt or distraction will not only affect my abilities, but may be something that could be turned against me.” Prema tilted her head. “A lesson for you about spiritual power.”

“I…see.” It would make complete sense for one's will to need be unfaltering. “But Prema,” she said, addressing her friend more personally. “Aren't you worried?”

“I am unconcerned.”

“Why?!” she squinted and protested. How could she say that?!

“As I said, I cannot afford to think of this matter for now. My thoughts are strictly on tonight. Moreover, I have confidence Nori can make it through whatever troubles him,” she said, standing tall and smiling away. “By chance that he still needs to speak with me, I will be able to do so tomorrow. If not then, Monday.”

Nariya blinked. She reluctantly sighed, expressing her agreement with a slump. Her friend's apathy was not out of callousness, but faith. She supposed all she could do was trust in it. Prema did know Nori better than her, after all. Plus, he survived Sunyshore Gym. One more day of waiting for Prema shouldn't hurt him. As long as he wasn't discouraged from seeing her entirely.

“It will work out, Nariya,” her friend reassured her.

“I guess you're right, Prema.” She had lingering doubts, but it was nothing that could be helped. Knowing that made Nariya sure she could put them aside for tonight. She said she was going to come along, and she was going to do it!
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Means of an End (recollection IV)
Writing on a new laptop, had to get a new one after the fan bearing on my late mother's old one gave out. That and SV, and to a lesser extent, general depression are why this chapter was so delayed in editing. But here it is! Hopefully finally getting to Tactics Ogre Reborn doesn't result in further delays.


Haruto Kannagi had finished double-checking the tax paperwork for the property. With that, all his work for the day was in order. As if on cue, there was a knock at the door as he filed it away.

“Master Haruto,” came the voice of Priestess Satomi Kurusu. “May I come in?”

“You may.”

The elderly woman entered. She had a peculiar swagger to her every step, the kind only seen in the arrogance of youth or – in her instance – the absolute confidence of old age. No surprise, given she was one of their top priestesses. If the Kannagi Shrine was not led by blood, she would have become Master a long time ago. She was in many ways his mentor, and it pleased him to no end to see that Prema thought of her the same way.

She sat before him, letting out a heavy yet happy sigh. “So the young princess is off, well on her way to come of age.”

“Princess?” Haruto inquired.

“Oh, just a little something Kaede likes to call her sometimes.” Yes, Haruto recalled her making remarks to that effect during their training battle. Satomi shrugged. “Not that big a stretch, is it?”

“I suppose not.” Prema certainly had the qualities of one, although it was not wholly accurate either. “I have utmost confidence in her success tonight.”

Satomi chuckled as she leaned forward. “I remember when I saw you off to your own first task. And when I accompanied your mother on her own when I was that Yaznik girl's age!”

Haruto nodded at the mention of his daughter's friend. “She's been a big help for Prema.” That was part of why he permitted her to attend the task tonight. That, and seeing where their friendship stood…

“She really has been. Don't want her turning out like you almost did.”

Haruto could only huff in irritation. Among those in the shrine, he would only ever allow Priestess Satomi to so brazenly poke fun at him.

“It's good she has real friends.” She tapped the bridge of her nose. “What about Carino? That free spirit of an official?”

Haruto leaned back in his chair. “The same, but in a different way.” There was much to say about Nori Carino, but this was not the time to go over his thoughts.

“Getting back to business though, this is a bit unprecedented,” Satomi remarked. “If something happens to Prema, the shrine will have no heirs left.”

“That's why Maiden Kaede is with her.”

“Better safe than sorry, eh?” Satomi huffed. “Can't blame you for it. You got a bad feeling too, huh?”

Haruto's eyebrows furled. “No, I did so only out of concern as a father. Kaede is there to step in if absolutely necessary.” He paused. He had not given the situation as much thought as his elder had appeared to. “You think this spirit might be dangerous enough that she might have to?”

Satomi scratched her head. “I can't speak to that. Yet Prema's been a little…sheltered, I suppose.”

Haruto paused at the shift in subject. He could not refute that. It was his biggest regret about Prema's upbringing, one he took full responsibility for. She had been studious in her training to become Master of the shrine, yet had little in the way of practical life experience. The head of the Kannagi Shrine pondered if there were any future Masters like Prema who started on their trials this late, barring exceptional circumstances.

“This will be the first time she's done something on her own, for a certain measure of being on her own here,” Satomi added. “Might affect her performance, is what I'm saying.”

Haruto sighed. “I understand that. Even so, she must learn. And I have confidence that she will.”


Recollection IV: Means of an End

Nariya had been in the old Magcargo Express warehouse many times in the past, when she was still with Youths Against Mistaken Society. Until the property was purchased, the protest group used the space outside as a meeting spot. They went inside whenever they needed privacy from potential eavesdroppers.

The others started setting up the moment they stepped inside. She was paralyzed by nostalgia as she approached Lady Prema. The tall teenager couldn't help but hover around for nearly a minute, uncertain of how to initiate conversation.

“Yes?” Prema eventually noticed and asked.

“This is where we…” she said, trailing off as she tried to find the next word.

Prema understood, folding her hands and smiling. “Yes, it is where we met for the first time. And where we met again.”

“It is.”

“Fate works in mysterious ways.”

Kaede hopped to the side of them. Nariya jumped back, startled by her agility. “That it does. But don't forget, we're here on business.”

Nariya shook her head. “I haven't…”

“And you know what the plan is, right?”

“I know.”

Prema drew her gaze across all of them. Herself, Maiden Kaede, and that third person. A man in his twenties with periwinkle-colored hair. She didn't know his name, and was too meek to ask. Especially in case he was someone whose name she should know…

“My fellows of the shrine,” she formally announced, bowing with grace and pride. “I am grateful for your presence and choosing to accompany me. With your support, I will see to it that the spirits inhabiting this building find peace tonight.”

The other two bowed deeper in return, Nariya hastily following suit upon noticing. She was uncertain how she could help Lady Prema except by giving moral support through her presence. Yet if that was all she was capable of doing, she would do her best to otherwise stay out of the way.


Some amount of time passed. Nariya's mom and dad didn't let her have a cell phone, nor did she have another means to tell time, so she was uncertain of how long it was. Only that it was very late. The future head priestess of the Kannagi Shrine had taken to sitting cross-legged, near motionless in the dead center of the room. Kaede was pacing restlessly, and the third person was sitting on a chair with his head down.

Nariya did not know what the appropriate thing to do was. She was never much of a daydreamer, so when her thoughts ran dry, she simply sat quietly. The room was bland and dull. Just boxes and chairs and tables. She did see a broom on one of the tables, but thought better of touching it. Someone might have placed it there for a reason, after all.

“Gods, I'm bored,” rasped Kaede, all of a sudden. Nariya froze up upon the realization she was speaking to her. “Know you are too.”

“I'm…not…” she lied, unconvincingly. It would be improper to admit that outright, particularly when it was her decision to attend.

Kaede crossed her arms and sighed. “So this is the first of four major tasks Lady Kannagi needs to do to be worthy of the title of head priestess, the Master of the shrine.”

Nariya was never good at socialization, yet even she was able to tell Kaede was throwing things out in an attempt to strike up conversation. Truth be told, what she had mentioned had caught her interest.

“What are the others?” she asked.

Kaede shrugged. “Dunno about the second or third, but everyone knows about the capital-r Rite.”

Nariya glanced away. “I don't…”

She cringed. She knew she should not have said that, and felt the scrutinizing eyes of both of her shrine-mates upon her. The third person whose name she did not know rose from his seat and stepped forth, no doubt to give her a harsh lecture.

“Long and short of the Rite is,” said the man, shockingly not upset, “Lady Kannagi will have to travel to the three lakes of Sinnoh and pray to each of the Essences of the Soul in their chambers. After that, it's off to the peak of Mount Coronet, the Spear Pillar, to leave an offering to the Original One.”

Kaede raised a finger, adding, “Once she's at least sixteen. And completed her other training.”

Nariya silently nodded. Prema would be sixteen come February, but she seemed a long way off from the other prerequisite. So tonight was the first step in a long and arduous path. “Um, do you know what the second and third are, mister…?”

“Just call me Jack,” he said. “Don't know the specifics myself, just that one's more of a curriculum thing. Others can't be as wide-scale as a journey, though!”

He and Kaede laughed, with Nariya nervously joining in.

“Still remember my trip around Sinnoh,” remarked Kaede. “Did Cool and Smart Contests, cleared Master Rank in both, but didn't win the big one in either.” That came as a surprise to Nariya, given her talent for battling.

“I did Gyms,” said Jack. “Did quite a bit of traveling back in the day. Made top 4 in the Kanto League in particular.”

“Have you gone on one, Nariya?” Kaede inquired. “Or are you thinking of going on one?”

She shook her head. “My parents don't let me have Pokemon. Because…well. I'm autistic, and…”

The ninja smirked. “Heh, maybe Lady Kannagi's will be your big chance.”

Nariya glanced up at the roof. She loved Pokemon, but a journey felt a bit much. Even if it was only accompanying someone else, that would be a lot of travel and time away from home. Particularly if she could not think of a personal goal for the journey that she felt comfortable with.

“So…” she meekly spoke up about something that had been on her mind. “Tsukimi, um, the festival, is on Sund–”

“My fellows of the shrine,” announced Prema.

Nariya jumped, glancing away. Should they not have been speaking? It was wrong to talk about someone behind their back, and they were doing so right in front of her.

Her friend stood. “I am prepared. It is now time to call out to the spirits.”

Lady Prema whispered something. Was this part of the process? Nariya glanced over to Maiden Kaede for verification. She was hoping to get it just from her expression, but she couldn't tell.

“Is it…” she tried to ask outright.

“Yeah, it's starting,” came Kaede's reply. “Sit tight and get ready.”

Nariya nodded. The tall girl was uncertain what good she would be, yet…she was here. Whatever she could do, she would do.

Prema clasped a palm over a fist and began chanting in Japanese. “Blessed spirits, I humbly request thee. Reveal your form to us,” she followed up in plain English.

Nariya tensed up. She was about to meet a ghost Pokemon. Not something like a Gastly or Misdreavus, but one that had passed from the world. And one that had assaulted humans and their Pokemon. She had no Pokemon of her own to defend herself…or Lady Prema…if the worst came to pass.

Several long, agonizing seconds followed, which felt like minutes. Yet nothing appeared before them.

“Maybe…they're not here?” Nariya blurted aloud.

Kaede and Jack's disapproving eyes fell upon her at once, nearly crushing her under their gazes. The potential head priestess of the shrine shook her head. “No,” came her soft reply. “I sense the presence of another besides we four. They are present.”

Yet why would they not appear? Nariya did not want to ask another question, just in case it made her feel stupider or look ruder than she already did. Or if it made the others even more upset.

Prema was still. Even if Nariya was any good at reading body language, there wasn't any to see with her. Kaede was occasionally glancing over at a stack of boxes, and Jack was fidgeting and shuffling more than she was.

The green-haired teenager once again put her hands into a prayer position. “Spirits inhabiting this warehouse. If you are there, give a sign of your presence.”

Once more, Nariya held her breath. Yet the only sound she heard was the others' breathing. If there was any motion or mystical thing, she couldn't see any of it. They waited a full three minutes, but nothing came.

“They will not answer…” Prema mused.

“Er, Lady Kannagi?” Nariya jumped and covered her head with her arms as a raspy voice spoke up. She glanced around, thankful that it was only Jack. “Mind if I uh, feed my Pokemon? Around their time. Sorry. Didn't think it'd go this long.”

Nariya was taken aback. It had to be around 10pm by her estimation. That was an awfully late time for a meal. She was always in bed by that hour, and usually asleep.

Kaede crossed her arms and shot daggers out of her eyes at Jack. However, Prema smiled gently after several seconds. “By all means, Acolyte Jack. I simply ask that they do nothing to provoke the spirits.”

“Don't worry, they're as tame as it gets, heh.” With a bow of thanks, Jack went to the far left corner of the room to take care of his business.

Kaede sighed. “Lady Kannagi, you are way too nice sometimes.”

“Maiden Kaede,” came her friend's reply. “While there are moments where one must be firm, to do so without purpose is to be rigid. Each is its own circumstance. There are times when compassion must take precedent over regulation. Even when not necessary, to show it regardless, if of sound judgment, is a mark of good character. If you wish to flourish in your position, you may wish to keep this in mind.”

She spoke with the same air of grace and power to the two of them as she would with hundreds of onlookers. It was enough to make them both shrink back, even though only one of them was being personally addressed. “Ah…” The ninja lowered her head. “Forgive me for stepping out of line.”

Prema nodded. “Think nothing of it, Maiden Kaede.”

“But…” Nariya took a deep breath, not wanting to come across as disrespectful as Kaede did. Her concerns had real merit. “Are you not concerned it could negatively impact, or even outright compromise the exorcism?”

“I would not have agreed if I felt it could.” She smiled. “That is an understandable concern, however.”

“Okay.” If Prema was saying so, that was all she needed to hear.

“It cannot be helped if these Pokemon always eat at this hour. We must take the needs of all into consideration when we…”

Prema trailed off, much like Nariya might when speaking. It was unnatural for one such as her. “When we what?” she asked. She was not as good at finishing others' sentences.

“Something is coming!”

Right as she said so, a black laser zigzagged down from the ceiling, angled at Jack's Pokemon. It crashed into his Venomoth, sending it to the floor.

“What is this?!” Jack got up and looked around. A cross-shaped shadow came swooping down on his Banette. He jumped in the way to shield it, getting hit in the stomach.

“Jack!” Nariya shouted. That had to have hurt badly! He was rolling on the hard stone floor, clutching himself.

Prema was looking around above with intense focus. Kaede was running over somewhere. And Nariya had no idea what to do…but she saw it!

“Look out!” she warned.

Prema turned in time to see another black laser coming straight for her. Acting without hesitation, Nariya threw herself at her friend.


As she was getting ready to shield herself with spiritual power, Prema found herself hurled to the ground by something. She got out her hands in enough time to break her fall, scooting aside as soon as possible. She quickly turned to spot what had blindsided her, her heart sinking as she did so.

“Nariya!” She had taken the brunt of the blast, being thrown a few meters away. She was writhing, babbling incomprehensibly. Prema was about to go help, when someone shouted to her.

“Get back, Lady Kannagi!” It was Kaede. Halfway across the room.

Prema's body listened, even as her mind was screaming to check on her friend. Laughter boomed through the hollow building and her mind. She took stock of the situation. A Crobat and a white Zoroark were attacking Acolyte Jack's Pokemon. He was on the floor in a daze, but a cursory glance said he was otherwise well. Maiden Kaede was in a battle pose holding a sphere in her hands. There was no sign of Nariya's attacker, yet.

“I'll take care of this, Lady Kannagi!” shouted Kaede. “Get out of here!”

“I cannot–” she started, right as the woman wailed loudly. A mere kiai, thankfully, as threw something upward with all her might.

It only struck Prema after seeing the glow that Maiden Kaede was not fighting back with Pokemon. The ball exploded into a spray of flame, which flared up into a scintillating flash of light upon contact with the phantom lurking in the shadows of the ceiling. Prema briefly saw the humanoid-shaped Pokemon as it was hurt by the spiritually-supercharged ninjutsu.

Kaede promptly fell to a single knee, gasping and clutching at her chest. No doubt, thought Prema, she put her all into that.

Prema stood and stared down her adversary, remaining alert for any ambush or sudden attack. The clear leader of the group, the spirit of the warehouse. Despite the blow they had taken, they remained intact. Prema was unable to discern the exact species the phantom was, between the darkness and being unable to focus.

“Why do you do this?” she firmly yet politely asked the restless Pokemon.

In reply, the leader cackled. “How quaint…” he said. Prema's mouth went ajar. It was not rare that a Pokemon could speak the human languages, yet she had not been expecting this one to be able to. None of its victims had stated anything of the sort. “The priestess who hides behind her followers is speaking to me of morality. You're not good enough.”

“Behind you!” Kaede shouted, reaching for her satchel.

Prema turned to see the pale Zoroark about five meters from her. A simple fake-out, or an attempt at one. They halted as she caught sight and flashed a toothy, malevolent smile.

Fohoshi materialized before Prema, waving her staff threateningly. The ghostly Pokemon didn't so much as flinch from the gesture.

“Pathetic. You waste my time, Kannagi,” the leading Pokemon said, deadpan. He addressed the others. “Let's go.”

The spirits started to float away. “Wait!” Prema called out.

The Zoroark sank into the floor, while the Crobat flew up to the ceiling and disappeared. The phantom flickered from sight, and Prema could not so much as sense their presence afterward.

At once, guilt came crashing down upon her. She surveyed the carnage.

Jack was struggling to stand, although he was more concerned about his unconscious Pokemon than his own condition. Fohoshi was ensuring her trainer was okay, which left…

“Nariya!” Prema rushed over and knelt down.

“I saw…it…”

“You saw what, Nariya?!”


Her friend tried sitting up, only to fall unconscious. Prema put a hand to her forehead. A fever and spiritual damage. This was her fault. Her own shortcomings and hesitations led to her friend getting badly injured.

“Lady Kannagi, we still got company.”

Prema was on her feet at once, eyes locked to where Kaede was gesturing. “Come out of there!” she shouted, tightly grasping Taiyoko's Poke Ball. If it was a person responsible for all this, she would make them pay dearly.

A figure darted out from behind the stack of crates. Acolyte Jack suddenly lurched into action, catching up and tackling them to the floor before they could escape.

The one responsible let out a disgruntled snort as she was yanked up. She was in a black shirt with a dark gray overcoat, with cargo pants and a small bag at her side. “This is assault, I say! You'll hear from my lawyers if I'm so much as bruised!”

Prema and Maiden Kaede both marched over, the latter standing in front. “Who are you?”

“Reporter Akari Schrader!” the woman declared, breaking free of the Pokemon caretaker's grasp and reaching into her pocket. She retrieved her wallet and flashed her ID as well as a proud grin. “And I just got some excellent footage!”

Kaede advanced upon her, grabbing her by the coat. “You'd better not publish it,” she threatened.

“Too late!” the Schrader said, pulling away. “It's already out there! You can't stop the press!”

“If you put anything disparaging towards Lady Kannagi in it–”

“Maiden Kaede,” she hushed, raising a palm. She went silent at once. Prema turned to the reporter. “Mrs. Schrader. I understand and respect your freedom of the press. I will not question your motivations or how you found out we would be present here tonight. However, I must ask why you did not raise a hand to help us when the spirit was attacking.”

The reporter blinked. “Well, that's…” She chuckled, lightly shuffling her feet. “I didn't have my Pokemon on me, you see.”

Prema folded her hands. “Were you not concerned for your own safety?”

Acolyte Jack at least appeared to understand where her line of reasoning was headed. “Yeah, look what they did to young Nariya and my Pokemon. You had to be staking the place out before we showed up, right?”

Akari tensed. Her eyes stretched wide, darting from place to place. Without warning, she shoved Kaede aside and made a break for it.

“Get back here!” The woman with ninja training crouched to pursue.

“Leave her be,” Prema urged. “We have more pressing matters to attend to.” She once more glanced worriedly over at her friend.

“I swear, though,” the ninja grumbled. “Knew she was hiding there, but didn't think she'd do that. I'm gonna make sure she regrets it.”

Prema was unconcerned about the reporter. The media would not open themselves up to a slander lawsuit, and her father would no doubt find a way to handle the situation. Even she was aware of a means to discredit Akari Schrader should the need arise.

Her only concern at that moment was Nariya. Even in the worst case, one could always recover from a scandal. As the saying went, however – life, once lost, can never be recovered. She walked over to check on her friend, again placing a hand on her forehead. Not as feverish. Breathing, but no sign of consciousness. There was bruising on both her arms, and on the forehead as well.

“Nariya…” Prema whispered. This was her fault. There was a part of her that wanted to yell at Nariya, demand to know why she would do something so rash. She had to take pause at that thought, aware it was an irrational thought. Lashing out would not help anyone, least of all the shrine.

Acolyte Jack approached. His Pokemon were back in their capsules. “What should we do, Lady Kannagi?” He scratched at his scalp. “Think my Pokemon will be fine?”

“Your Pokemon should be fine after some rest. But Nariya…” She could not bear to speak it.

The caretaker nodded. “Understood. I'll call an ambulance.”

In life, failure is something one was inevitably bound to taste. Prema was no stranger to it. Yet she had never failed to this degree, when so much was on the line. She had not managed to contain the spirit, and her friend had gotten critically injured. Whatever it meant for her training meant little to her. How was she going to explain this to her father? The rest of the shrine? And Nariya's family?
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Nanism of Anguish (recollection V)
Recollection V: Nanism of Anguish

“I cannot see Nariya?” Prema repeated what had been said to her as she stood aghast in the hall of the East Veilstone General medical facility.

The future head of the Kannagi Shrine had resolved to visit her friend first thing in the morning. Priestess Satomi insisted she have breakfast before doing so, which was simply onigiri and green tea. She was not expecting to encounter an obstruction of this nature.

“Yes, Lady Kannagi,” Dr. Whitman answered with an apologetic bow. He had a shiny scalp with a small amount of hair at the back. Adjusting his glasses, he clarified, “I apologize, but it's per the family's request.”

With this, Prema turned to Quinn Yaznik. Nariya's mother, who very much looked like an older, yet much shorter version of her daughter. “Mrs. Yaznik,” she humbly began. “Forgive my impudence, but what reason do you have for disallowing Nariya visitors?”

Her nose curled. “Lady Kannagi, when I allowed Nariya to go with you last night, I did so under the impression it would not be dangerous.” Her words were dripping with more venom than a Muk. “Not only did she get badly injured by the spirit, you also failed to protect her. Is it not your duty to look after your followers?”

The future head priestess held her breath. No, it was the other way around, Nariya was technically to protect her. Yet despite her safety coming first, it was preferable to also keep the safety of the others. Prema felt personally responsible. Were it not for her own shortcomings, she would not have lost control of the situation. She had failed not only herself and the Kannagi Shrine, but worse yet, she had failed her friend.

Prema did something she had only ever done with her father. She knelt down, swallowing the lump in her throat before speaking. “I cannot apologize enough, both to you and Nariya, Mrs. Yaznik,” she said. She was not bowing so much as she was lowering her head in shame. “If I were aware of the severity of the situation, I would never have allowed Nariya to accompany me. I see now that was a mistake, and it was my hesitation that nearly cost Nariya her life.”

“With all due respect, Lady Kannagi, words are cheap.” Mrs. Yaznik shook her head. “This incident should never have happened to begin with.”

Yes, this should not have happened. She should have accounted for the possibility of this much danger. “Again, I can only apologize.” She felt utterly foolish. This was a problem warranting a Kannagi's presence, so there was bound to be that sort of peril. Why did she not see that? Why did her father even allow it? “Though I cannot turn back time, I can promise, I will vow, to do whatever I can to atone for my indiscretion. But if you will simply–”

She cut in. “There is no ‘but’ here, Lady Kannagi. For the time being, I am not–”

Mrs. Yaznik herself was interrupted by a shout from down the hall. “Coming through!”

Prema turned to see a young man in a hurry, weaving around an empty gurney. He apologized before starting into a power walk, coming to an abrupt stop as he got near.

“Ah!” Nori perked up upon catching sight of her, but quickly looked away at the door. “Room C5! This is the one!”

The doctor stood in front of him, holding out his hands. “Hold on, sir, you can't just walk in without permission. Who are you and what business do you have?”

“I'm one of Nariya's friends,” he introduced himself. He gave her a fleeting glance. “I heard she got hurt last night, and I want to go see her!”

The doctor glanced over to Mrs. Yaznik, who harrumphed and moved to block the door. “This is a private ward. Family only.”

Nori stomped a foot. He stepped forward while shaking a fist, and Prema was momentarily worried he was going to strike her. “Do you really think not letting any of her friends see her is going to do her any good?!”

“Considering she is in here because of her so-called friend?” Nariya's mother gave her a dirty look. “I think so, yes. I don't know you well enough to trust you, and Lady Kannagi is clearly a toxic influence.”

Prema shut her eyes. That remark was uncalled-for. As tempted as she was to do so, she was aware addressing it would only further hurt her standing. Besides, Nori was going to do so himself.

“You let her into YAMS, though!” he indeed countered. “You let her be with a toxic protest group!”

Her lip curled as she nearly spit in derision. “Yes, but she never got hurt over the course of their protests.”

Nori glowered at Mrs. Yaznik, silenced by logic that Prema had to admit, was irrefutable. No matter what YAMS did or how they eventually ended up treating her, Nariya's only wounds from them were emotional. Some would argue they could be just as devastating to a person if not worse, but there was no room for debate when it came to physical injury.

Her friend's glare suddenly gave way to a twisted, almost unnerving smirk. He reached into his jacket, pulled out his wallet, and retrieved a card with orange trim. He turned to Dr. Whitman.

“My name is Nori Carino, doctor,” he formally introduced. “SPRT zero-one. I'm requesting permission as an official to see the patient.”

Prema covered her mouth as she gasped vaguely. That was correct! She was not expecting Nori to pull rank for this.

Mrs. Yaznik crossed her arms. She walked right up to Nori, towering over him. “Mr. Carino, what reason do you have for wanting to see my daughter?” she demanded.

The doctor silently looked at him, pondering the same thing. While permissible, officials in practice required good reason to do such things. That said, Prema suspected exactly how Nori was going to justify it.

Indeed, her friend went right into his reasoning. “This incident concerns a highly dangerous Pokemon. As a Pokemon Rehabilitator, it is my job to work with these Pokemon. And as a Special Trainer in the International Police, I have the authority to become involved in Pokemon-related incidents if I deem it necessary.”

He evidently had given this the required thought, although he spoke a little too powerfully and even stood on his toes in his attempt to put on an air of authority. Mrs. Yaznik's dismissive head shake spelled out that she was unimpressed. “And what about speaking with Nariya do you deem necessary?”

“Nariya – er, your daughter, the patient, is an important witness. It is important to know what we're dealing with.” He turned to face Prema. “For the same reason, I'll have to speak with you about it as well, Miss Kannagi.”

“Very well, Mr. Carino,” she agreed, playing along. He should have called her Lady Kannagi – even her religious rivals would show her that level of respect – but this was not the right moment to be pointing that out. “I will do what I am able. However, I am afraid I will be busy for the rest of the day.”

He grinned at her. “That's fine. Do what you can, when you can, as long as you do.”

Mrs. Yaznik sighed, placing a palm on her face in exasperation. She motioned to Dr. Whitman to talk the situation over. It was evident from her rasping that she was displeased. The doctor sharply exhaled, resignedly explaining matters.

“Your request is granted, Mr. Carino,” Dr. Whitman conceded. Prema had to admit, she was impressed at how he maintained his composure. “The patient needs to rest, but I can give you fifteen minutes to speak with her.”

“Thanks a–” Nori stuttered and corrected himself. “I mean, thank you for your cooperation.”

“It is I who should be thanking you,” Prema replied, bowing lightly. “The Kannagi Shrine truly appreciates your assistance with this matter.”

“Happy to help.” He raised a thumb and winked at her as he stepped inside.

“As for you, Lady Kannagi,” said the doctor, bowing deeply. “I apologize. I'm afraid I cannot make an exception for you, despite your status. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.”

She folded her hands. “I understand. I apologize for taking up your time.”

She parted with two sources of relief. The first was how as she was turning to leave, Mrs. Yaznik gave her a benign nod, one free of hostility. Perhaps there was hope yet. More importantly, while she was unable to meet with Nariya herself, she had no doubt seeing Nori would help despite their being closer to acquaintances.

As she stepped into the lobby, she was accosted by the receptionist, a man with navy blue hair and a beige suit. “Lady Kannagi!” he said. “How did your visit go?”

“I was not permitted to visit her,” she had to admit.

“Ah, oh well. Sorry about that.”

“There is nothing for you to apologize about. I thank you for at least allowing me the opportunity to try.”

“The pleasure's all mine!” he said. “Priestess Satomi's over in the waiting area.”

With nonverbal acknowledgment, Prema departed. She found Priestess Satomi was seated without incident. She was reading a gun magazine and – instead of her robes – was wearing slick dark-amethyst pants and a matching bosozuku-style leather jacket with a stylized caricature of a Raitora stitched on the back.

“So! How'd it go, Lady Kannagi?”

“Admittedly, not as well as I hoped. Nariya's mother disallowed my visitation, citing her injuries as fault of mine, which I cannot deny. She referred to me as a toxic influence, although it appears that remark at least was made in the heat of the moment.”

“Ah well, worth a try, was it not?” Priestess Satomi laughed as she folded her magazine. Prema was able to glean that her elderly mentor had anticipated this result. “Y'know back in the day, it'd be you who could stop her mother from seeing her!”

“I would not do such a thing.” While she could not hope to understand Mrs. Yaznik's reasons, she could only respect them and pray that she changed her mind. There was that little glimmer of hope at the end. “In any event, Nori came by. He did manage to get in to see Nariya.”

“Mhm. Saw him walking in. I knew he could pull it off.” They must have spoken beforehand. Priestess Satomi motioned for her to lead the way out. “You just can't stop someone like him!”

“I am relieved Nariya will be able to see someone else she knows.”

Family is fostered by care and time together. However, friends such as herself and Nori had no obligations. His presence in times of trouble made clear his loyalty and dedication. Knowing that would do much for Nariya, perhaps more than she could do.

As they stepped outside into the parking lot, Priestess Satomi snickered devilishly. She gained a spring in her step as they drew closer to her vehicle. She reached into the trunk and pulled out a pair of helmets.

“So, are you ready to ride this time?” she asked with a wild grin. She traced a finger along her motorbike's handlebars and patted the back seat. Priestess Satomi was a real-life Turbo Granny, and she reveled in it.

Prema took a wary step away. “I will sit in the side-car again, thank you.”


Everything hurt. Everything was bright. Everything was too loud. All she wanted to do was lie down and sleep. Yet she was not tired enough for her brain to shut itself off and send her to peaceful dreams. Sometimes, she would hear that voice again, screaming into her mind.


A voice. Not the one in her mind. Nariya opened her eyes to a squint. The sight of the boy before her made her open her eyes further.

“Nori?” she asked, tilting her head up at him. What was he doing here?

He stole the doctor's swivel chair and sat down, sliding it up to her bedside. “How are you feeling?”

“I have a…” She gripped her head. “Concussion.”

“Oh. I had one of those. Hit my head on a diving board at a water park.” For a second, Nariya felt like she'd done the same. That had to have hurt. “You get told how to handle it?”

“Yes.” She wanted to nod, but she couldn't move her neck. “But, why are…”

As she was tripping over her words, he cut in, understanding where she was going. “I came to see you, what else?”

That didn't answer anything. “Why? Why would you…”

Nori paused. He was quiet for about ten seconds. Had she said something she should not have?

“Well, for one,” he started, “Back in Sunyshore, I had a friend named Lux. His mom didn't want us being friends, sometimes it seemed like she didn't want him having any friends. Plus it was hard for him to make any. I didn't want the same thing happening to you! She didn't want Prema getting in, since she seems to hate her for what happened.”

That seemed…well, not the same thing. “It's not that. Mom's just…she's upset.” If she had to speculate, she was only blaming Prema in her anguish. At least, that's what she hoped. “She wanted me being friends with Louis and Mariko, because some friends are better than none.”

“That's…!” Nori shouted. He paused. “I can't understand that, but okay.”

She hadn't explained it well enough. She was bad at explaining these things. Furthermore, she had a bad habit of taking too long to find the right words.

He sighed. “Well, I was worried too. You are sort of my friend, plus Prema couldn't get in to see you.”

A friend. Nariya had never thought of Nori as one before, only as an acquaintance. He said they were before, and she didn't really buy it. Still, it was hard to refute he could be one…

“But I should get to the half-excuse I made,” he continued. “I'll need to ask you about the incident. As an official.”

“You're not…mad at me?” she asked. She had to ask.

“Why would I be?”


Nori blinked. “I get Prema probably told you not to tell me what was happening.”

She could only sigh. For someone who got into serious trouble for being so unforgiving at one point, he was almost absurd in his apathy over it. “What do you want to know about?”

“Tell me everything you can.”

With this, Nariya recounted what she could remember. Her mind was in a bit of a haze, but she did the best she could. She added that Lady Prema could probably give a more accurate account.

“Was there anything else?” he asked. “Did you see what it was? Anything weird?”

Nariya looked away. “Well, one thing, but…” But he probably wouldn't believe her, given he's…well, Nori.

Nori put his hands on the side of the bed. “Please, tell me!” he said, inadvertently jostling it a little.

“O-okay.” This was stupid and a skeptic like him might not care, but he asked, so she'd tell him. “When the spirit attacked me, I heard the word ‘ghoul’ in my head. Shouted suddenly…really loud. Even covering my ears didn't help.” She didn't mind loud noises like some autistic people did, but loud and sudden noises were another story.

He adjusted his bangs. “Ghoul?” he repeated. “That's what those workers were mumbling when I found them.”

“It was really weird. I don't…”

Nariya paused. She was trailing off like always, but her thoughts shifted as her self-doubts bubbled to the surface. She vented to the person in front of her.

“I don't want to do anything like that ever again,” she admitted. “I wish I never went. All I did was cause her trouble.”

Nori sighed. “Hey, at least you tried. More than I've ever been able to do for her.”

“Prema appreciates you a lot,” she assured him. “Even if it doesn't seem like it…”

“I wonder…” he mused.

“Just what she…said.”

“If you say so.” He looked up at the wall clock. “I think my time here's almost up.”

“Are you going to help her?” she asked as he was headed out the door.

“I'll try.”

Try. Maybe sometimes, all you have to do is try like she did. Maybe she failed and caused Prema grief, but Nori did say she had attempted to visit. Maybe she did care. Just like Nori evidently did…


Prema Kannagi's guilt refused to subside. What had happened was entirely avoidable. She was uncertain why her father agreed to the request, but she should never have allowed it herself. Because of her shortcomings, Nariya was hospitalized. Her friend had suffered physical and possible spiritual injury, and there was a very real chance that they would never again be allowed to see each other.

Upon arrival at the shrine grounds, Prema immediately went to her father's office. She knocked upon the door with more vigor than she intended.

“Father?” she said, attempting to contain her anguish.


She did so, closing and locking the door. The young priestess stood before her father, hanging her head low. Her body was shaking, her knees struggling to maintain her weight. As she went to speak, it felt like someone had stuffed her mouth full of mochi. Her father's steely gaze did little to ease her nerves.

There was so much to talk about. Her words came out all in one blast. “I want another chance,” she said. The way she said it made her want to fade into the background like a Kecleon.

She did not get an answer in words, but with a narrowed gaze.

“Please,” she begged, staring him right in the eye. It was something of a pained stare. “You must allow me an opportunity to redeem myself. I must do this, not only for the shrine, but Nariya. I–”

“Prema!” he barked, making her soul nearly jump out of her body. He gave a simple one-word answer, “No.”

“But, father!” She leaned over the desk, placing her hands on it.

Her father reached a hand out. Prema tensed, knowing she was unable to avoid what was coming. She shut her eyes and winced as he…patted her head?

Haruto frowned, yet there was a gentleness in it. His words were firm, yet composed. “With your heart in that much turmoil, it will only end up as a repeat of last time.”

Prema's anguish reverted to shame. She was unable to refute that. Doubtless many could blame her for being too emotional, but it was detrimental when it came to the use of her abilities. Under these conditions, the likely result would be more people getting injured…or worse.

“So what will happen?” she inquired, shaking lightly.

“We are figuring that out.” A non-answer that did little to ease her nerves. He stood, sliding his chair under his desk. “But never mind for now. We will require your presence for the festival on Sunday,” her father informed. “Make sure you're presentable during it.”

Prema could only stare blankly. “There is a festival?”

He nodded. “Tsukimi.”

“Oh, yes.” It had somehow slipped her mind with all that had been going on. How did he expect her to focus on something else? She only prayed that she could, and that a dark cloud would not be cast over the shrine's celebrations due to her failings.

The festival had been something Nariya was eagerly looking forward to. She was going to miss it, all because Prema could not keep her safe.

“It's a shame, actually.”

She looked up at her father. “Nariya, yes…”

He drummed his fingers, tapping out a rhythm Prema did not recognize. “I suppose her too. But I meant the blood moon.”

“There will be an eclipse during it?” Now she felt even worse.

“A supermoon too. But the eclipse won't be visible here, just over in North America.” He leaned back in his seat. “Simply a curiosity for us.”

“I suppose so.”

“For now, get some rest. I'll instruct no one to disturb you.”

He walked her out the door. Rest. How could she find rest at a time like this? She had disgraced herself and the Kannagi Clan. While she could not argue with his reasoning, surely her father would not allow this to stand, would he? Prema had a sinking feeling the consequences would be further reaching than she had already witnessed. She could only pray to the gods that they would not be too debilitating.


As his daughter went to her room, Haruto Kannagi let out a sigh. Equal measures relieved and concerned. Bittersweet emotions. She had not acted this way since he refused her permission to see her first friend. It was comforting to see Prema so out of her shell, yet it did not bode well for their immediate prospects.

He would need to discuss where to proceed from here with his closest confidants. Moreover, they needed to act soon. It would otherwise be an opportunity for religious rivals such as the Mitsutris to step in. Or further disgrace to fall upon them.


The Tsukimi festival was a fic idea I had, but with the timing in 2015 I realized I'd either need to push the fic back to allow it or to drop the idea since it'd happen midfic. I went with the latter partially since really, it'd just be a cultural research related one-shot with some early pushing of Nori+Prema I can do better elsewhere. Aside, it really was a supermoon eclipse, but it wasn't visible in Japan. Yes I could've taken a liberty just because like I did with hurricanes, but I chose not to this time due to the other reasons not to write it. It was sensible that it should've be acknowledged in-universe, that said.
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Ens of Faith (recollection VI)
Recollection VI: Ens of Faith

It was not until Sunday that Prema received any kind of indication as to how the shrine was going to proceed. Until then, she had isolated herself in her room, first out of shame and later for meditative silence. She actually might not have eaten if people hadn't brought her meals.

One advantage was that it allowed her to fully prepare herself. By the time she was summoned to her father's office that morning, a calm had drawn over her. It was not to say she was not still anguished, but that she was pushing her emotions aside. She did not even need to breathe in before speaking.

“I am here, Father,” she said, bowing deeply before him. “Whatever your decision, I am prepared to accept it.”

His eyes turned to narrow slits. “Prema, this is out of out-of-character for you. It makes me wonder if you are truly ready for the tasks you must perform to succeed me some day.” Her father sat tall, yet still as a statue as he scolded her.

She should have known. She could not hide anything from him. All Prema could do was lower her head, though she made sure to avert her gaze for only a fleeting moment. She did not dare to answer with words. Nothing she said would have any positive effect.

The hard truth was that there was no excuse for her failure. There was also no excuse for her behavior afterwards. She was above that. She was Prema Kannagi, the future Head of the Kannagi Shrine. Any weakness, perceived or otherwise, could not be afforded. She had to be impassive, or at least put up an adequate facade. Her present feelings were threatening to warp people's perceptions of her and had no doubt already done some irreparable damage.

“However,” he continued. The sharpness of his tone made Prema snap to attention. “Due the danger these spirits pose, you remain one of the few in the shrine with the spiritual power to deal with them. Furthermore, we cannot allow your failure to remain as it is, no matter how well we have handled the media situation.”

She blinked slowly, processing his words. “So I am to attempt the ritual once more?” she inquired for full clarification.

“Correct,” her father said. “I had always intended you to do so.”

Prema closed her eyes. If this was the shrine's decision, she would not let everyone down a second time. It was rare to get a second chance in life. She vowed not to squander this one.

Nevertheless, there was still cause for concern. There were few she could confide in about it. Her father was one of them, but he still had the prejudice of being the Head of the shrine. The same could be said for Priestess Satomi, and to a certain extent for Nariya, those times she understood the issues. And speaking about it with those outside the shrine was not ideal for many reasons, if not forbidden.

“But what of my emotional state?” she voiced her biggest worry. At least this was something he could and would help with. “I must confess, there is a part of me that still wishes to avenge Nariya's injury. And what of tonight? I do not feel as if I can fulfill my duties properly.”

“I am certain you will do fine tonight. As for your emotions, it is not cause for concern. For you of all would know,” he started. He paused to allow it to sink in. Until he started speaking, Prema did not understand where he was going with it. “Let your knowledge guide you, but let not it chain you. Let your emotions push you…”

Prema peered at him as he paused. With a nod, she finished the saying, “But let not them control you. And let your will move you, but let not it force you.”

It was a teaching of theirs. Its meaning was that while the gifts the Essences of the Soul had bestowed upon humanity were to be cherished, they were only part of a whole. There was nothing wrong with acting upon one's emotions, so long as one makes decisions with a sound mind. That was the proper way to approach this situation.

“I will not fail you again, Father.” Though she still harbored doubts, Prema was able to say this with more confidence.

“I'm sure you won't, Prema. You'll be heading back there within the week.” He rose from his seat with a smile. “Go and see Priestess Satomi. We'll ensure you're better prepared this time.”

“Thank you, Father.” With a bow, she set off.

It was not just relief that Prema felt about getting another attempt. If anything, she felt even more pressure. Although she presented a confident front to her followers, the truth was that she had doubts like everyone else. The very future of the Kannagi Shrine was on the line. If she were to fail again, what would become of their storied faith with over a millennium of history? It was not something she wished to think about.


Like most streets in Japan, the northernmost main road in Veilstone City had no formal name. Nevertheless, people often referred to it colloquially as Saihokutan Street. It stretched two-thirds of the way across the city and encompassed several block numbers. The steps leading up to the Kannagi Shrine were on the easternmost side, whereas the mansions of Marble Tor peered down upon the west perimeter.

Kaede Minmei and Jack Bryell sat together in a small diner on this street. It was very compact, with just enough room for larger people to walk in the aisles of the L-shaped dining area. There were tables outside, although they had no cover from the elements. In spite of it, the food was good, and the owners kept the place immaculately clean. Because of it, the Hungry Hippodon (sic) was one of the more popular eateries along the road.

“Thanks for taking me up on this,” said Jack as they were waiting for their order. They had not drawn much attention, much to their relief. They were only mentioned by name in the article, and evidently, most people didn't recognize them on sight.

Kaede shrugged. “Hey, gotta hear out those below you. Part of the Kannagi way, after all.”

The man leaned back, nestling into his seat. “I've been a member of the shrine for a decade now. Master Haruto Kannagi and Lady Kannagi took a chance on me because of it, and I failed them.” A small pout escaped him. “I know these are usually tests to see if people can get higher positions. So much for those hopes of mine.”

True. She might get another chance several years down the line, but odds were he would not. The way he said it made the self-styled ninja's eyes narrow. “Why, did you want the power?” she inquired.

Jack shook off. “No. I just wanted to find some way to give something back to the shrine for all it's done to change my life, besides donations.”

“Ah, so you're one of those, eh?” She flashed a knowing smirk. That cleared things up, and put them in a way better light. “I getcha.”

“I was a deadbeat after high school. I didn't get good enough grades to get into college. My Pokemon were too out of shape to make a living off them. The parents threw me out when I was nineteen. I lived as a bum for a while, diving in dumpsters and begging on the streets. Then I wandered over to Celestic. The rest is history, as they say. I managed to get my caretaker's license a little over a year later. Wanted to open a Pokemon Sanctuary actually, but I didn't have the money to go that far.”

She nodded as she took in his story. It was not one she had heard before. She had nothing to say about it, so she just gave him a reminder. “Keep in mind, a lot of your free time's taken up when you serve the shrine. You'd probably have to give that up if you want to serve the Kannagis like you want.”

“I was hoping for something a little lower key than what you do, actually.”

“Yeah, know what you mean.” Kaede looked out of the window, thinking about how she had come to join the shrine. “But well, just because Lady Kannagi failed doesn't mean we did. We gave our accounts of what happened. Just need to wait for the verdict.”

She said this, yet knew better than to be too optimistic. There was still a chance they would be made the scapegoats. No one had blamed them to their faces yet, but it was doubtful anyone would. How people acted would say more than their words.

Jack nodded, his shoulders untensing. “I guess you're right. I hope Nariya gets better soon, so we can find out.”

She was silent for a few moments as she thought about that. As a shadow, she had learned to expect and prepare for anything. She doubted the shrine would cast blame on Nariya Yaznik, although from what she heard, her future with them was in doubt anyway. She could only answer him with an irreverent shrug. “Eh, whatever happens, happens.”

“Glad at least one of us can be so carefree about this.” Jack laughed a little.

It was how she liked to live: in the moment. “We should probably head back soon. Festival planning to take care of.”



The first thing Priestess Satomi did was make her eat breakfast. Prema was not hungry, but Satomi's insistence made it impossible to decline. After a simple meal of rice, sushi, and fresh vegetables, they set out for training.

The Kannagi Shrine in Veilstone City was built on the site of a radio station that had since moved operations to Hearthome City. Some rooms were soundproof – even a screaming Exploud couldn't penetrate their walls. Among them were what were now Prema and her father's quarters – formerly sound testing rooms – and the conference room they were headed to, once used for recording.

Priestess Satomi pulled out a chair for her, which she graciously accepted. The elderly woman sat to her right. It was only the two of them at the table which could accommodate ten times their number. Prema preferred it that way for the time being. There was only one person with whom she could speak openly about one of her current concerns, the only other person in the room with her.

“Before we begin, Priestess Satomi,” said Prema. “May I ask you something?”

Her mentor grinned. “You want to know what everyone thinks about what happened a couple days ago, right?”

“That is correct.” She was unsurprised that Priestess Satomi could tell what was troubling her.

“Well, I'm sorry to say, Lady Kannagi,” she started, pausing to shake her head. Prema felt her chest lightly tighten. “I'm afraid that your concerns are completely and utterly…unfounded.”

Priestess Satomi burst into laughter at her own words. Prema herself was unable to see the humor in it, although she understood that her elderly mentor figure did enjoy the occasional bit of teasing. For her part, she was relieved to hear the news, despite the way it was presented.

“It is a comfort to hear that. I must ask why they are so forgiving, however.” How could people forgive her so easily?

Priestess Satomi smiled gently. “Oh, Lady Kannagi. People respect you, and they're more understanding than you might think. They do not see what happened and think you're weak. They think the spirits are strong.”

“They?” The use of that word stood out. Priestess Satomi never said ‘they’ when speaking of the definite, except when someone used it as a personal pronoun or when she meant absolutely everyone. “So it is a different, if incorrect, interpretation with others.”

“Lady Kannagi,” said Priestess Satomi, suddenly very serious. “This type of self-deprecation is unbecoming of one of your station. You mustn't be seen like this by the shrine's followers.”

Prema was momentarily stilled. Her father had said the same thing. Her bow was reflexive, and almost made her topple over. “You are correct,” she admitted. “I suppose the expectations placed upon me have clouded my judgment.”

“It's understandable. We all feel pressure, and you're under a lot of it. But I can tell you these things taking a single session is the exception.”

So Father knew. Prema immediately understood what they might have been trying to do. The task was not only to prove herself, it was a learning experience as well. It was far from what was expected of her, but she had not failed entirely. At least not yet.

“Now, we didn't expect it to go as badly as it did, but part of that was out of our control.” Prema could not deny that. A lot of it was on her, but the reporter's presence and actions were unexpected. “We put out a statement, and with that? The public's just fine, the Mitsutris aside, of course. Even the mighty Schraders are not immune to scandal.” She chortled.

Prema nodded and shut her eyes serenely. While she had been avoiding the news, Akari Schrader's cowardly method of securing her material and subsequent escape would be damaging to her own reputation. The best case scenario would her article getting discredited altogether, although that was wishful thinking.

She opened her eyes. “One more thing, Priestess Satomi.”

“What's on your mind?”

“What if I do fail again?” The possibility was in the back of her mind.

“We'll manage, we always have. As for the spirits, I guess the city will just trash the building and have done with it.” She shrugged and laughed as if it were nothing.

The heir to the shrine frowned. “That would be inadvisable. The spirits would simply head elsewhere.”

“Not our problem at that point. But anyhow, let's get started!” The elderly woman clapped her hands. “And when the time comes, I'll be coming with you.”


“Something wrong with that? Am I unworthy of aiding you?”

A nod. “I can think of no one else I would rather have by my side.” Knowing her mentor would be there set her mind at ease.

Priestess Satomi tapped a finger on her lips. She always did so when considering something, yet she did not voice her thoughts. “We'll start you out by reviewing your communication techniques.”

“Very well.”

This training was to ensure that she would be better prepared the next time she approached the spirits of the warehouse. Prema was determined to succeed. For everyone's sake.


Her training ended after two and a half hours. Prema decided to step outside when Priestess Satomi left. Although the shrine was abuzz with preparations for the Tsukimi Festival that evening, she knew where she could find some privacy. There was a wooded path behind the shrine. No one went there, neither humans nor Pokemon. It was a good place for a quiet walk, contemplation, or private meetings if the shrine was not sufficient for any reason. There were some particular individuals she wished to speak with. She told only Priestess Satomi of her intentions, who would pass it along to her father.

The priestess walked until the path opened up into a small grove. It had small sprouts of grass poking up from the dirt, a few stray stones lying around, and a fallen tree on the north side. She sighed heavily as she sat upon the latter.

Prema's Pokemon were some of her only friends. She was closer to them than her followers in some ways. Yet, as she had been learning as of late, they were no substitute for those like Nariya. Even without a communication barrier, Pokemon could not understand everything about humanity. Still, there were no others she could turn to at the moment.

The priestess brought out her strongest and most experienced companion. “Hello, Taiyoko.”

She received a polite and formal greeting in return, on the wind of chitters and clacks. Her ability to understand the language of Pokemon was nowhere near the level of, for instance, the Healers of Tokiwa. Nevertheless, her empathy and training – and some pattern recognition – was sufficient to passively understand them for the most part. It was also how all Pokemon themselves could understand humans, no matter the language, or communicate across their own languages.

However, it took something more to truly dispel the language barrier. Thus, Prema shut her eyes. She leaned forward without bending her knees, her fingers slack though bending her wrists up toward the side of her head. Focusing. It was a matter of the mind to let the air flow freely into one's ears. She breathed through her mouth and held it in, before letting it through her nostrils. Let any whisper reach anywhere, let its intent be known to your mind. Even certain Pokemon did things akin to this, such as those considered easy to raise for new trainers.

“Lady Kannagi,” came a familiar voice. It did not come as actual words, but rather, akin to interpreted thoughts entering her mind. They were still bug sounds; Prema only heard them differently.

Prema opened her eyes again, but remained in her meditative trance. “Yes,” she replied to Taiyoko. “I wished to seek your consul.”

“Then these tympanic membranes are yours.” The moth spoke the tongue of the underground in cacophonous dialect, a sign of leadership or the independent. Her formal words belied her harsh and powerful tone, but Prema knew it was merely akin to an accent. “Tell me of your dilemma.”

Prema did so. The Volcarona was far older and wiser than her other Pokemon. Taiyoko once told her she had lived over a century, although Prema suspected it was much more than that. Most importantly, she had a lot of experience living in the wild, in a former human habitat no less. If there was any Pokemon who could give her insight into the actions of the phantom Pokemon, it would be her, one who had seen many Pokemon come into and go from the world.

“Most fascinating…” Taiyoko mused as she concluded.

“Did any part of their behavior stand out to you? Are you capable of providing any insight?”

Taiyoko beat her wings more intensely for two seconds. “The part that strikes me as odd is how three powerful Pokemon of different species have joined together. In the wild, Pokemon colonies are generally limited to their own subspecies, barring exceptional circumstances. There will be some mutualistic and commensalistic interactions, but when it comes to societies, it is never as biodiverse as some of you humans imagine.”

“Yet they are working and living together. That much is a fact,” Prema reiterated. She was aware from the start that this was an unusual gathering. Even if one took into account that interspecies mixing was more likely to occur closer to urban areas, there did not seem to be a logical reason for it. “What could possibly drive them to do this? Pokemon that live in human cities are generally not this aggressive.”

“Indeed, for they know it is your species permitting them in your lands.” Taiyoko let out a vocalization of disgust, directed towards the phantoms' lack of respect. “It is logical to assume that these ghosts and their Crobat companion share a common goal. Yet it cannot be survival, the most common reason to see such a drastically mixed group of Pokemon uniting.”

“Yes, they are both far too powerful for that and would have already departed the warehouse if that were the case.” Prema hummed. It went without saying that it could not have been their types, another common impetus for unity, due to the Crobat. It possibly being the soul of one did not change matters.

“When you confronted them,” Taiyoko said, pausing slightly. “Were there any powerful emotions you sensed?”

“Malice, for one,” came her reply. When she reflected on it, there was one other thing. “I also felt something akin to a sense of duty.”

“The latter is evidence of a hierarchy in their ranks. In which case, you need only negotiate with their leader.”

“That would be the logical conclusion, if it were clear who their leader is.”

“If that is true, perhaps they are indeed equals with a common cause.” What that cause might be, Prema could not say. After a few moments of silent fluttering, Taiyoko inquired, “Do you have any idea as to why these Pokemon attacked? Any clue as to what drew their ire?”

It was as if a light suddenly illuminated her path. “They emerged shortly after Acolyte Jack sent out his Pokemon to feed them. Now that you mention it, their malice was in the form of resentment.” It was different from, say, Nori's Pawniard. The hatred of the spirits had a clear direction.

“So the attack was timed at the appearance of other Pokemon. Perhaps they are seeking worthy trainers, or are otherwise jealous.”

“We can only speculate until we get a clearer picture when next we encounter them.” Nevertheless, she had a clearer picture than before. The timing was too convenient. They did not answer her calls, and immediately went after Acolyte Jack's Pokemon. It could not have been a battle they were after, though, given they left in the face of Fohoshi challenging them.

She bowed in appreciation. “Thank you, Taiyoko. Your wisdom is ever appreciated.”

“I am ever at your aid, Lady Kannagi. After all, I am your laryeique.”

An untranslatable word she heard in its raw form. It roughly meant ‘one who follows and gladly provides unquestioned service’. The closest equivalent in the human languages would be servant or its variants like kenin, but it did not have the negative connotations associated with said words. In fact, it had positive ones. To be a laryeique was to willfully follow a worthy leader, and was a term that expressed deep respect towards that individual, be it a trainer or fellow Pokemon.

“I appreciate your saying that, Taiyoko.” She smiled at the fiery moth. Prema never considered herself worthy of such a majestic Pokemon due to the circumstances in which she obtained her. The fact that Taiyoko thought otherwise due to her subsequent actions always meant a lot to Prema.

With an inhale and exhale, Prema dropped her focus. She felt groggy after doing so, as if waking from a dream, a side effect of using her powers. It was not as simple as deciding to do it, or simply being able to do it, such as the aforementioned Healers.

She retrieved the capsules of her other two companions, sending out Shu and Yahata before her. The Spritzee floated gracefully, making an adorable squeak. The owl, by contrast, stood ready and waiting. This was not necessarily due to his personality, but rather because he had sensed Prema's intentions. She needed to talk with them about something.

“Shu, Yahata.” Her first partner and formal starter respectively. “And you too, Taiyoko. I first wanted to let you know that not a day goes by that I do not appreciate you.”

Shu immediately flew into her chest. Prema met him with a one-handed embrace. She patted him on the backside. His scent was nearly overpowering, but Prema kept her composure.

“As I was discussing with Taiyoko,” she began, still holding Shu. The moth already knew the gist of the situation and the stakes at hand. “The motives of the spirits in the warehouse have become a little more clear. There is a possibility you may have to face them in battle. They will be dangerous opponents who have no qualms about harming not only you, but myself. Are you prepared to battle for me if necessary?”

It pained Prema to have to ask them to endanger themselves, but her two evolved Pokemon understood immediately. After all, battling was one of the many ways Pokemon and humanity bonded. It helped that neither of them disliked it. Shu seemed a little hesitant as she released him, shuffling away. If he was uncomfortable, Prema would accept that. But some encouragement, if not prodding from the others, was all it took for him to do a somersault in the air and cry out eagerly.

She chuckled softly at his sudden enthusiasm. “Thank you. I will do my best to prevent a conflict, but I want you three to be prepared in the event it proves unavoidable.”

Prema believed that there was a way to get through to the spirits. There had to be a reason for their anger towards other Pokemon, and once she knew what it was, they could surely come to an accord. Hopefully, they would find relocation acceptable. Or perhaps their souls could truly be set at ease, and they would pass on to the next world.

“Until then…” She took a short breath in. “Do you mind if we simply spend some time out here, together?” Talking to Taiyoko was very helpful, but Prema had to admit that it did not alleviate all her concerns. She wanted to get her mind off them, if only briefly.

Shu and Taiyoko seemed to be happy about it, the former expressing it more than the latter by circling around her. Yahata waved a wing silently and stoically, perhaps a bit dismissively. Serious as always, but as loyal and caring as any of her companions.

They would have to return before long to serve at the festival in the evening. But until then, Prema would take the opportunity to relax and get into a proper frame of mind to do so.


Refreshed from a late lunch, Nori Carino walked down the road. He had been having some serious trouble with his own work, but for the most part, that was another story.

While his research on his assignment kept going in circles, his thoughts kept coming back to Prema. If he knew what he was doing, he felt he could find a clear direction to go with the murderous Pawniard he was rehabilitating. Instead, he was thinking about Prema's situation.

It wasn't totally unjustified. Like Nariya said, these were dangerous wild Pokemon. So Nori knew he should be able to become involved! He also knew that he was just using semantics, but he would use any excuse to help. Prema had done a lot for him, so how could he return the favor?

Maybe it was also his curiosity at work. It had started as a distraction at the library on Saturday. He wanted to clear his mind from his own situation, so he shifted gears. He had typed in “Veilstone City warehouse worker accident November 2014” and pressed return. The first thing he saw was a Seenit post, and the second was a small article from the Veilstone Times, dated November 28th.

The latter was vague, perhaps written when it was breaking news. There wasn't any follow-up. The Seenit post seemed to be automated, and had a link to a Sinnoh News article that was now deleted. He was starting to develop something of a reporter's instinct, but as far as he was concerned, it didn't take having one to see something was up.

That was how he came to find himself standing before the Veilstone Times building, ready to do some research.
Seams of Truths (recollection VII)
Recollection VII: Seams of Truths

“Thank you for coming to speak with me,” Haruto Kannagi said to the other individual in his office. It was shortly after eleven at night. Almost every other resident of the shrine was in bed.

“No worries, Master Haruto,” Priestess Satomi Kurusu chuckled. He was glad that she had answered his call to meet at this hour. “Good festival tonight, huh?”

He nodded. “That it was.” Each one that the shrine hosted had been livelier than the last. Day by day, they were attracting more regular visitors. Some of whom had even expressed interest in serving the gods.

Satomi grinned. “Gotta say, knew your plan to branch out would work. But didn't think it'd work this nicely.”

“It is, of course, only the first step.”

“Every journey begins with one step. The next one's keeping the new worshipers.”

Of course. But that was not what he wanted to discuss. He segued into that subject. “Prema did well tonight.”

“That she did. She put all her doubts aside and focused on her role.” She drummed rhythmically with her fingers on the side of the chair. “She's made of stronger stuff than she thinks.”

It was promising, but did not dispel all of his doubts. Before he could get into them, Satomi brought it up herself.

“Lemme guess, called me in to talk about how she's been lately?”


“Well, sometimes, you get something in your head you have to talk about before you can sleep.” She flashed a grin. “Got the gist of your motives here?”

He shook his head. “Only partially.” While it was true that he needed to get it off his chest, it wasn't so urgent that he needed to right away. “It was more a matter of convenience to do it now.”

Her eyebrows raised up for a moment, but she smiled. She understood, this was something for her ears alone. “Well, let's hear it.”

The shrine's Master cut straight to the point. “This primarily regards Prema's second attempt at dealing with the spirit.”

“Say no more,” she said. “I know what to do if things go wrong.”

Haruto smiled at the ever-reliable priestess. “Thank you, Satomi.”

The expectation was that Prema would need more than one attempt. It was not unusual. But that Akari Schrader threw a wrench into their plans. Although they had contained the situation, they could no longer afford to let Prema fail. If it meant covering for her, there was no helping it. This next attempt had to succeed, at least as far as the public knew.

“Of course, we're gonna do everything to make sure I won't have to.”

“Of course,” he repeated. This was one of Prema's tasks. Suitable opportunities for them did not come easily. It was not only a matter of being worthy in the eyes of the public. She also needed to prove herself to the gods.

“Shame it has to be this way, though, huh?”

Haruto lowered his head. Painful memories began to resurface.

“Ah, sorry,” she apologized, rubbing her hair. “I didn't mean why she's an only child, I was talking about the rest of your family.”

He sighed. “I know you meant nothing by it, Satomi.”

The Kannagi family had once been prominent, in no danger of being without a blood heir to the shrine. How greatly things had changed in the span of two generations. Some had split off into derivative faiths or left due to disputes. Others departed for their own reasons. Haruto himself felt responsible for alienating the few who remained. Then, it happened, leaving only himself and his daughter. He wondered what his ancestors thought of his actions. It was difficult to sense them and he could feel neither approval nor disapproval when he did.

They had plans in place, should the worst come to pass. Priest Warutsu's appointment as head of the original shrine was part of a trial run. Though the Kannagi Shrine would persevere even without Prema, it was not an avenue they preferred to go down. The Mitsutri Shrine was never the same after their family stepped back from leadership, even ignoring their actions. There were some family members Haruto had thought of reaching out to if need be. Whether they would accept was another question.

“Thank you for sticking with me, Satomi. Words cannot express my gratitude for all you've done, and have yet to do.” The shrine was not lacking in the faithful, but rare were those like Satomi Kurusu who were truly devoted.

“You're quite welcome, Master Haruto. I am, after all, a humble servant of the Kannagi Shrine.”

He tensed as the elderly woman bowed before him. Perhaps he was reading too much into it, but he wanted to clear things up. “Satomi, might I ask a question of you?”

She gestured almost flippantly with a flick of a hand. “Ask away, Master Haruto.”

Haruto took a deep breath and prepared for the worst. “What are your honest thoughts on how I've been running the shrine the past decade?”

There it was. His greatest source of concern. While almost no one but his remaining family had left the shrine because of him, his decisions were ultimately responsible for this potential succession crisis. Haruto knew there were those who disagreed with his decisions, the biggest sticking point being his expansion. Some hid their discontent better than others. Even some who had supported it had questioned why he had not stayed at the original location, unswayed by his argument that his presence showed investment. Where did Priestess Satomi stand on the matter? She had never given him a clue, and her initial steely silence was unnerving.

“Well, Haruto.” She was one of the few members of the shrine who he allowed to call him by simply his first name. Her frank tone made him sit up and take notice. “There is one thing you must remember. The Kannagi Shrine has always been about breaking new ground and paving new paths. It has been that way since its conception. The way I see it, the decisions you have been making lately are no different. Throughout the history of the shrine, there have been many Masters that simply served. Only a handful can say they made a difference. And as bitter a pill as it was for your present family to swallow, I am sure your ancestors are as proud of you as I am.”

The man exhaled. He had always worried if Satomi stayed on only out of loyalty, and to hear her approval was a relief. He was about to express his gratitude when there came a sudden knock at the door.

“Master Haruto Kannagi!” came a voice just loud enough to be heard. The man used the most formal form of his name.

“What is it, Monk Naito?” A man of great devotion, one who had earned his title by his willingness to serve as a night watch. The Kannagis had a long tradition of respecting sensible sacrifice, and being willing to give up life at normal hours to protect the shrine was one such thing.

“I apologize for the intrusion, but we have a situation outside.” He sounded more frustrated than concerned.

“What kind of situation?” he pressed the guard. “And why did it involve leaving your station?”

“That Nori Carino character's at the gate. He's insisting to see Lady Kannagi and refusing to leave. What should we do?”

Haruto crossed his arms. While he had many virtues, Naito struggled with his anger. He had to grow as a person if he wished to attain the title of Priest in the future.

The head of the shrine didn't even need to glance at Satomi. She asked the question that he would have asked. “So why's he asking to see her?”

Naito was silent for a second. Likely thrown off by Satomi answering. “He claimed,” the guard spat with utter disbelief, “That it's important to what Lady Kannagi is doing. He demanded to see either of you if he couldn't see Lady Kannagi.”

“Seems reasonable enough,” the elderly woman spoke more quietly and threw up her arms. She turned on her heels and almost leaned over his desk. “Well? Whaddaya say? Tell him to come back in the morning? Let him through? Or just throw'em out? Up to you, Chief.”

Haruto took a moment to consider the situation and the circumstances. Nori Carino, the Pokemon Rehabilitator. Prema's first real friend. A passionate individual who could be discourteous, yet was also forthright. He would have known better than to ask to meet this late, yet did so regardless. The question was why? Haruto guessed it was something Carino felt he needed to say as soon as possible.

Haruto gave his answer. “We will allow this. Satomi, go see if Prema is awake. If she is not, I will speak with him and see what it is about.” Carino was claiming he had something important to tell Prema, and Haruto was inclined to believe that it was the case. If it was not, however…

A wry smile fell upon Satomi, as though she had expected his reply. “Consider it done.”

“And, thank you once more.” Her reassurance meant a lot. He would have liked to speak with her for longer, such as about the situation with Ms. Yaznik. But it couldn't be helped.

“Anytime.” She opened the door and strutted out, giving a wave to the dumbstruck guard outside.

“But Master Haruto Kannagi…” Monk Naito began to say, trailing off partway. “This boy is–”

He raised a palm to silence the man. “This is the decision I have made. Go tell him either myself or Prema will be out to join him shortly.” He gave a stern frown, and added, “And do so respectfully.” He had no illusions about who was being disrespectful to whom.

The man bowed. “Y-yes, Master Haruto Kannagi.” He closed the door and hurried off.

Haruto leaned back as he was left in solitude. He supposed another reason for allowing this was to avoid hypocrisy. After all, he had called Satomi here so late. There was a difference in how the Pokemon Rehabilitator was being tactless about it, yet that was part of the reason Haruto why could not dislike him. He sort of reminded him of…well. That was ultimately unimportant at the moment, and again, something he wanted to avoid thinking about.


It was the dead of night, and Prema could not sleep. Her stomach was churning, her head was spinning, and she couldn't not stop thinking about things.

The Tsukimi celebrations had gone well. She managed to perform her duties to the fullest in spite of being unable to personally enjoy the festival. The cloud of her failure did not appear to have a significantly negative impact on matters. Yet she could not help but wonder if it had dissuaded some individuals who otherwise would have attended. After all, who would want to pledge upon a shrine whose heir was inept? At least the visitors were none the wiser about her weak emotional state.

Though the time spent with her faithful companions had done much to ease her anxiety, it was far from a panacea. She supposed it was merely a temporary distraction. Her second encounter with the spirit loomed, getting closer with each passing second, and even with Taiyoko's insight, Prema was uncertain how it would play out.

She was the sole successor to the Kannagi Shrine. Prema believed that was the only reason she was given a second chance. Such an egregious failing could never be overlooked otherwise, in spite of it being the norm to restore lost honor where believed capable. Priestess Satomi's statement was likely only indicative of the situation the shrine was in. Its only heir was woefully unprepared for simple evil spirits. Any competent shrine maiden would have no problem exorcising them. Was all her work these past fifteen years truly for naught? What would happen if she continued to prove an incapable head of the shrine?

“Knock, knock.”

“Ah!” Prema nearly jumped out of bed. What was Priest Satomi doing here? “Yes?”

A chuckle escaped her elderly mentor's mouth. “Guess you're awake after all. You've got a visitor, Lady Kannagi.”

She sat up properly. “At this hour?” she pondered, staring vacantly at the door. Her mind raced with the possibilities.

“At this late hour!” she verified. “Nori Carino's here, way past both your bedtimes, heh. Says it's important, related to your task.”

Nori, her closest friend. Ordinarily, his presence was a pleasant comfort to Prema, for he was the one person who never judged her for her status. She was unsure if she wanted to accept. Both due to the time, and not wanting him to see her in her current condition.

“I…” She stuttered. “Should I?”

“If you don't want to, that's fine.”

Nori was here with something important. Prema's better judgment took over. Why it had to be now was what intrigued her. Her only guess was that it was an attempt to avoid the day guards. Whatever the case, there was still a part of her that wanted to see him regardless.

“I will,” she said, rising from the futon. “Tell him I will see him shortly.”

A chuckle. “I'm sure he'll be happy to hear that.”

He would be. She had to make herself look presentable first, starting with changing into her robe. As she did so, something occurred to the green-haired girl. She mentally rehearsed what to say if it was what she suspected: that he wanted to accompany her. No doubt, he was going to be unhappy with her answer. She needed to prepare herself for his response.


Nori was standing outside near the door leading in, wearing a jacket and his backpack. He perked up immediately upon seeing her. She nodded at Monk Naito and dismissed him before turning to her friend.

“Prema!” he said. “Um, good…evening, I guess.”

“Good evening, Nori,” she said as Monk Naito moved towards the torii. “What did you wish to speak to me about this late?” She was curious as to why Father and Priestess Satomi permitted this. Did they know what this important thing was?

He tapped his left foot. “Well, I'll get right to it. This is about the thing you're doing at the warehouse. I wanted to help you out.”

Prema frowned. It was what she thought after all. “Nori,” she told him firmly. She needed to shut down this idea as soon as possible. “If you wish to accompany me, I must refuse.”

“That's not what I came here for!” he shouted. Realizing his tone, he turned away and pressed his index fingers together. “Um, I mean, sorry. But if you want me to, I will!”

As much as she was flattered by the offer, she had to force herself to shake her head. “Nori, I…” She exhaled. “I cannot.”

His fists lightly tightened. “Why not?” he asked curiously.

“You do not belong to our shrine,” she explained. She felt a crushing tightness in her throat as she elaborated, “You cannot accompany us on business.” It was best to give a simple justification.

“Forget your rules! Prema, I, well. I just…” Jittering, he glanced back and forth. He huffed, nearly a snivel. “I'm worried you'll get hurt, okay?!”

“I will not,” she said, standing tall yet needing to swallow her doubts. It was a facade he might see through, but she put it on regardless. She followed up with a wholly truthful statement. “I myself do not want to risk another friend getting injured.”

With that, he spun on his heels and began to walk away. For a few fleeting moments, Prema feared she had made an irreconcilable mistake. Her legs tingled and her throat closed up. She thought she was prepared, but she was not.

Until Nori stopped, buried his head in his hands, and shook his head. “Never mind, never mind then. It was just a thought. I have something to show you that's related, that's really what I came here for.”

She froze. He only wanted to show her something? She had jumped to a false conclusion. Prema knew it, she was not in a good state of mind. She pressed a hand to her chest, trying to steady her heartbeat. “Do you mean something related to the spirits at the warehouse?” she asked for confirmation.

He nodded slowly. “Yeah,” he said, wiping a tear from his left eye. “It took a while to dig up, but I think you need to see this.”

The young official reached into his bag and pulled out a stack of papers. After smoothing out the creases, he shuffled beside her. He retrieved a miniature flashlight from his pocket and shone it on the pages as he passed them over.


Nori thought back to what led to this. He got some help from his best friend back in Sunyshore. Her connections let him do the research he needed to help Prema and sate his own curiosity about the incident. One of the things Arumi had done was help him meet with her aunt. He brought what he had already found to her, with the hope she could fill in the blanks.

“Konrad Guhl. Aged 21,” said Akari Schrader. He kept his opinion on what she'd done to himself. “Passed away in November 2014, along with his three of his Pokemon. Crushed underneath a stack of crates that collapsed on him.” She was reading over some news articles. “That was the first attack.”

“The first of many,” the young official chimed in. She gave him a wry smirk. “It was also the only fatal one.”

“The next attack took place in January 2015.”

“Wait, I wanted to talk about that first attack first.” He knew the gist of the second one anyway. A homeless person and his Houndour got attacked when taking shelter there. “What can you tell me about it?”

“It went largely unreported, at the family's request.” Akari shook her head dismissively. As if the very notion of keeping news quiet was absurd. “What I do know is they launched a wrongful death suit behind the scenes, blaming the owners and construction company.”

“It would've been funny if they tried to sue the ghost. How would they even collect if they won?” He paused, realizing the possible implications. “Is that what you call a cover-up?”

“I guess you could see it as one if you really wanted.” The woman shrugged. “Both parties wanted it kept quiet. Even my contacts couldn't tell me much. A lot of it went on behind closed doors with the lawyers. The two sides reached a settlement on February 17th. The owners resold the property to recoup their losses.”

Nori nodded. “Per the law, property owners are responsible for any wild Pokemon activity on their land. They can and have been sued for attacks that happen there.” He knew facts like that from his studies.

“It's bait for frivolous lawsuits,” Akari dismissed.

True. The law was just vague enough in that regard. Although most judges knew better than to enforce it that way. That said, the fact that the ghosts were still there didn't make the previous owners and the new ones look good.

“Frankly,” the reporter remarked. “I'm not surprised it took the city this long to do anything. They could brush off trespassing youths and bums getting attacked, but not those workers.” Yes, there were several attacks, but none as high-profile as the last two.

Was she trying to get proof the ghosts were there? “Is that why you decided to spy on…I mean, stake the place out?”

Akari smiled shamelessly. “That, and be the first one to report on the exorcism. I wasn't expecting to get a story like that out of it, though.”

Nori's lip curled. He wanted to rip into her, but knew it'd be dumb. Besides, he heard others already were anyway for her methodology and bystander syndrome. He got back on subject. “What else can you tell me about the first accident? Anything about Mr. Guhl?” He was thinking maybe there was some sort of pattern to the attacks.

“I dug into his background when there was nothing better to find out,” the reporter replied. “He was working at a construction firm to save up enough money for a trip to Europe, likely to see his family's home region. He took a less-is-more approach to Pokemon training. He never went on a journey, but people at the battle spots said he'd stated his eventual intent to. His best Pokemon was his Sinnohian Zoroark, but he was also known for his Crobat and Dusclops. Those were his only three–”

“Wait.” He'd heard that before. “A Zoroark, a Crobat, and a Dusclops?”

“Yes,” she confirmed. “Some speculate he was taking inspiration from Agatha of the Kanto Elite Four. Namely, with the Ghost and Poison types. Like I was saying, him having only three instead of at least six got him some attention.”

She went on, somehow not seeing the connection. Which worked for Nori, since she'd probably complicate things by pushing out another article. But those were the three Pokemon in the warehouse! They were his Pokemon!


Zoroark, Crobat, Dusclops. Prema closed her eyes. Normally, when a Poke Ball is destroyed, the Pokemon within is released as a fail-safe. This was also implemented to bypass irreparable opening mechanisms. But in cases such as crushing where the energy – and thus the Pokemon's physical form – has nowhere to go, the Pokemon can pass on as a result.

There was other information there, such as how the rumors of the warehouse being haunted began and all the known attacks. Some of it appeared to be Nori's own thoughts. But the information on the Pokemon and their trainer was noted as the most important.

“This is very illuminating,” she mused. Could the phantoms indeed be the Pokemon of a deceased trainer? Taiyoko had mentioned the unlikelihood of those three species uniting in the wild. Sharing a trainer in their former life would be a possible connection.

“I had to get some help and really search for this.” Nori had calmed like she had. At least, he was as calm as he normally was. “They sort of buried it.”

“I see,” she remarked. There could be any number of reasons as to why the information was hard to find. The family wanting privacy, for example. “If this is true, it would explain many things.”

Still, there were other unknown variables, such as their motivations or the incongruous emotions she felt coming from the ghosts. She also had yet to see the Dusclops. Prema did believe the case he presented was the most likely possibility. But she could not take it as 100% factual yet.

“Did you see the guy's name, too?” he asked, pointing to it on the article.

Although uncertain of the significance, she nonetheless repeated it aloud. “Konrad Guhl. What of it?”

He shook his head. “Not like gull. It's properly pronounced like ghoul.”

It was like a flash of light had blinded her, yet opened her eyes to reality as the glare faded. “Guhl…” she repeated, the realization sinking in. “Is that what Nariya was saying?”

“Yeah, the construction guy said it too.” Yes, he was the one who found them after the attack. “And Nariya told me she heard it shouted in her head. So that's what I'm thinking it is.”

It could have been a coincidence that the spirits were of the same species. But their victims saying the trainer's name? Nariya hearing it in her mind? That erased all doubt, even with the unanswered questions. “So they are his Pokemon.”

“Not just them.”

Prema could admit to being mystified. “Nori, is there something else?”

Nori put his hands on his hips. He stood up straight, although his eyes flicked away for a second as he spoke. “Well, I'm not sure if this is how ghosts and spirits and stuff really work. I don't even know if this will help you or make a difference. But I think given all these things, you might be dealing with a trainer's ghost.”
Inanes of Mind (recollection VIII)
The ghost of a trainer.

Prema could only gasp lightly. No one in the shrine had even considered the possibility. If they had, they did not speak of it. She could tell from Nori's uncertain expression, tone, and even words that he felt it was speculation on his behalf.

But it fit. Konrad Guhl had perished alongside his partners. The spirits of both trainer and Pokemon remained in the warehouse, attacking others for reasons unknown. In spite of still not knowing their motivations, it would explain both the unidentifiable spirit and the sense of duty she felt from the phantoms. The only other mystery was why she felt that same feeling from Guhl.

“This explains almost everything.” She had to lightly bow. Much as she wanted to express her elation, she contained it to modest appreciation. “I cannot thank you enough, Nori. You have provided the last piece of information I was missing. I feel more confident now that I know what I am dealing with.”

He had given her far more than she was expecting. She would need to speak with Father and Priestess Satomi about it, but she was certain that they would agree with Nori's conclusions as well.

“It's like Volkner always told me, know your enemy!” He gave her a confident grin. “And you're welcome! I'm happy to help!” After a brief moment, he chuckled nervously and put a hand on the back of his head. “But since I know your enemy too, maybe I can help you even more?”

“Nori,” she said simply, perhaps more sternly than intended.

“Come on!” he snapped, stamping a foot. “I don't mind the risk! Besides, you can't invite me, but there's nothing stopping me from going there on my own, is there?”

She smiled, getting to the point she was wanted to make before he cut in with fervor. “You have done more than enough already,” she assured him. “And do not forget, you have your own duties. It would be unwise to be distracted from them.”

“I'm not getting distracted!” he protested, though she could tell by how sharply he insisted that he knew otherwise. “I'm just trying to take some time off to think!”

For a moment, Prema looked only at Nori, a prickle behind her eyes. A mix of emotions came over her, but all positive. That was not the reply she had been expecting out of him. But it was one she could relate to, since she had effectively done the same. Albeit not to the same extent. She felt momentary tightness in her chest, but it was just confidence rising through.

She moved slightly closer and spoke gently, knowing exactly what to say to ease his doubts. “I understand if it is difficult. Yet it is all the more reason to focus your efforts on it. A break is acceptable, but you should not put it off for much longer. As commendable as it is to help others, your immediate goals moving forward should be on your own responsibilities.”

Nori lowered his head and nodded reluctantly. It was evident from his hunched posture he was not confident about his ability to succeed, so she made a vow to him.

“I can promise to aid you however I can, after I have completed my task.”

He looked up at her, eyes full of marvel and hope. She folded her hands. “Thanks,” he said, his cheer returning. He clenched a fist, raising then lowering it. “But if I finish before you, I'm helping you no matter what you say!”

Prema stared at him, unable to prevent a little astonishment from slipping through. “Nori, do you believe you can reform another Pokemon in a matter of days?” she asked, pursing her lips. She did not mask her concern, leaning inward to express it. If he attempted to rush things, the only result would be more Pokemon – or people – getting injured.

“I won't know unless I try!” was his answer, a little uncertainty and self-deprecation in his tone. He shrugged, but kept a positive look. “I guess it's a race?”

Prema could only return his expression. “I believe I will win.” Perhaps this was his way of trying to cheer her up and motivate her. She felt it only natural to return the favor.

He huffed away a small laugh. “Just don't get hurt, okay?” he asked her once again.

“I will not,” she repeated. Yet, unlike the first time she had said this in their conversation, her confidence was not a facade. Now that she knew the nature and identity of this specter, Prema had no doubt that she would be able to emerge victorious.

Both of them were suddenly quiet. Prema did not know what to say next. She had already said thank you, and to say it again would be unusual. She was not good in personal social situations as these…

Nori shuffled his feet, somewhat unsure of himself as well. He was waiting for her to speak, and when she could not, he cleared his throat and asked, “Um, so how was the festival?” he casually asked, glancing over at the moon. “I know you guys hold some here.”

She breathed a sigh of relief at the silence being broken. Although what he said made her involuntarily peer down. “I could not particularly enjoy it,” she quietly confided to him. She supposed it was a combination of her emotional state and not being able to spend it with a friend as she had been expecting to.

“Sorry.” He sighed, seeming to understand why. “If I remembered and wasn't busy with research, I would've come by. Almost forgot about the day, actually.”

He would have come by? There were numerous layers of irony there, if that was indeed the case. “I suppose both of us could not enjoy it, then.”

“I guess.” Nori chuckled softly. “Maybe next time.” Next time? She pondered, was he only talking without thinking as he sometimes did, or did he truly mean it?

Another curtain of silence drew over them. Prema wished she could speak more about the festival. But even if it had not gone by in a blur, Nori would likely have little to no interest in their shrine. The only thing she was certain of was that she had fulfilled her duties properly.

Nori spoke up again. “Well, guess that's it.” He paused for the briefest of moments, before adding, “Good night, Prema.”

“Sleep well, Nori.” He had certainly earned some rest. “And be safe on your way back home.”

“I will be.” He tapped his pockets before turning to leave. He paused halfway, twisting around. “And…good luck.”

She closed her eyes for a moment. “Thank you, Nori.”

It was enough to bring a broad smile to his face. He pivoted around and set out with a puffed chest. Prema watched until he was out of sight before reentering the shrine.

“You two get along well,” said Priestess Satomi as she stepped into the commons area. The elderly woman standing near the door shrugged when Prema glanced at her. “Sorry for eavesdropping.”

“It is all right.” Prema would have been more concerned if she had not kept watch. After all, Monk Naito was disinterested and barely paying attention. She wondered if that was worth a reprimand. “How much did you hear?”

“Mostly just your small talk. But it sounds like he found something big after all. You'll have to show me what he found tomorrow.” She paused and tapped an ear. “But are you sure you don't want him coming with us? We can actually arrange that.”

It was news to Prema, yet she reaffirmed her decision. “No. I believe the risks and negatives outweigh what we stand to gain. After all, you will be present next time.”

She was expecting a grin and enthusiastic agreement, so it was it was a surprise for Prema when the old priestess frowned. “I suppose so,” she replied with a shrug.

“Priestess Satomi?”

“Your mind's made up.” She patted her on the shoulder. “Now work to see it through. I know you have what it takes.”

Prema slowly nodded. Although her elderly mentor seemed to harbor doubts about her decision, they did not seem to be critical. She returned to her quarters and had no trouble falling asleep.


Recollection VIII: Inanes of Mind

“A trainer's ghost?”

Prema had only seen Priestess Satomi so stunned twice before. The first time she could not remember the context behind, and the second time was when the Silph building in Kanto was taken over. They say that the older and wiser you get, the fewer things surprise you. It made sense, because you would have seen more. Yet this revelation had caught even her off-guard.

“Have a look at Nori's research,” she said, offering up the binder in which she had placed the sheets of paper in for organization and safekeeping. “I believe you will agree with me how much sense it makes.”

She reached into her reticule to retrieve her reading glasses from their case. Prema watched as her mentor's expression turned from confusion to realization, and from there into marvel, followed by delight.

It concluded with a cackle. “I knew that boy was full of surprises, but I never thought he'd be the one to blow this open! I don't know how we didn't see this one coming ourselves!” She clapped her hands together. “It all makes sense when you connect the dots. That's the advantage of having a fresh set of eyes with an open mind.”

Her father was just as surprised as Priestess Satomi when she spoke to him about it. He stoically hid his emotions, yet Prema could tell from the rest of his body language that he was as grateful as she was.

“So, Konrad Guhl, eh?” Priestess Satomi mused, more to herself than to anyone in particular.

It made Prema wonder. “Have you ever had to deal with the ghost of a trainer before, Priestess Satomi?”

“A few times, yes,” she said with a lively nod. “They are no different from any other spirit, even if they still have their Pokemon with them. But!” With that, she clapped her hands and raised a finger. “The big difference between them and Pokemon spirits?”

“It is that you can communicate more easily with some of them,” Prema answered. “Not just with words, but in understanding.” As much as they shared the world and lived together, people and Pokemon had different cultures. There were human customs and concepts that a Pokemon would not understand without study or long-term exposure. Of course, the opposite was also true.

Come to think of it, the spirit had addressed her as a priestess. She had initially thought little of it. It was not impossible for a wild Pokemon to know who she was; her family was prominent and helped lay the groundwork for modern relations between humanity and Pokemon. But the spirit had also mocked her, perceiving her as hiding behind her followers. That sort of grasp on religion was something only a human or a Pokemon who spent time around humans would know.

“Exactly!” Priestess Satomi let out a chuckle. “Nobody considered the obvious up till now.”

“We had been working under a false assumption made by others.” It was sometimes easy to miss things because of accepting prior accounts and not exploring alternate avenues. “I suspect that stemmed from a combination of most not knowing the nature of human spirits and the powers he seemed to exhibit.”

There could be any number of explanations behind the spirit's abilities. It was not impossible that he had acquired them in death, yet it could well be theatrics. Prema had yet to lay eyes on that Dusclops, after all.

One thing was clear. “We will have to completely alter our preparations.”

“Will we?”

Prema was uncertain what to make of the two-word question. “Will we not have to account for facing a human?”

“Ohoho.” Priestess Satomi wagged a finger. “Regardless of who commands this trio of ghostly Pokemon, the goal in dealing with them and their trainer remains the same. Besides, you have soothed some human spirits in the past, yes?”


“It will be a little different, but not as different as you might think.”

“Yes. Forgive me.”

“Oh, think nothing of it, Lady Kannagi. It's not every medium that gets the chance to deal with a vengeful trainer's spirit!” She laughed.

Yes. It was evident from how seldom they were mentioned during her studies. Spirits could linger on in the world for a multitude of reasons and were capable of interacting with the physical plane. It was by no means an unknown phenomenon. For instance, there was a recorded incident of a Marowak spirit haunting the Pokemon Tower in Kanto three years back. There were human ghosts in the Old Chateau, although the public at large was not privy to that information. And at least one Ghost-type expert had captured the spirit of a Pokemon.

“The question we must ask, then, is the motivations this trainer has.” While it would be possible to simply ask Guhl, any conclusions they could draw beforehand would be beneficial.

“If I had to hazard a guess?” Priestess Satomi leaned in. “You're going to end up battling him.”

Prema folded her hands. “Why do you believe that?”

“Oh, call it an old maid's instinct.”

“Priestess Satomi?”

“Prepare for any possibility, Lady Kannagi.” She winked, not giving a clear answer as she rose. “Come! Training awaits. Tomorrow's battle is won during today's practice!”

Prema was already preparing for potential conflict, though she had not believed it inevitable. Why was Priestess Satomi so sure things would come to blows? Evidently, she had realized something Prema had not, and was leaving it for her to deduce. It would become clear with time and thought.


Nariya leaned back on the uncomfortable hospital bed. She was so tall that her feet dangled over the edge if she didn't tuck them in. Moreover, the fluorescent lighting irritated her eyes whenever she looked straight up. But physical comfort was the least of her concerns.

A classmate of hers once compared being in the hospital to being in prison. Nariya found it a weird thing to say, especially since how could they know what it's like to be in prison, but now she fully understood what they meant. You couldn't leave your room at all without permission, you ate what they wanted and when they told you, you did what they told you, and if the doctors wanted to walk in and run a test you had to let them. Sure, it was nice and quiet, but it didn't make up for not being allowed any freedom. At least they told her exactly what had happened to her: bruising, a mild concussion, and possible spiritual damage. She hated it when people were vague about important stuff. Her imagination always ran wild whenever that happened.

It had only been three days, and she was already starting to get frustrated with the place. Her mom had managed to talk them into discharging her tomorrow. Thank the gods, since she wasn't sure if she could survive a day longer. She could go home and see her parents and read her favorite books and watch her favorite TV shows and rest when she wanted.

She glanced at the wall clock, the display of which read 6:04. Her dinner would be arriving in one minute. Eight, noon, and six, at roughly five minutes past the top of the hour. It was like clockwork.

Sure enough, the nurse came in on the dot, wheeling a cart. She was a tall woman with indigo hair and eyes to match. “Here you go,” the nurse said. Nariya was bad at remembering names. “Enjoy.”

“Thank you.”

She was always polite about it, even if she hated the food. It wasn't bad, but there was stuff she disliked in it. Every meal came with a serving of rice, except it was all white. Nariya hated white rice, she preferred brown rice. She barely ate any of it as a result. The fruits and vegetables were always nice. The poultry was good, but the other meat wasn't. This was yakitori, thankfully. Beverages were usually just spring water or juice – milk in the morning – which was fine by her. There was a serving of Figy sauce too, which she pushed to the far corner of the tray.

She managed to finish the fruit, most of the meat, and ate just a bit of rice. She gently pushed the cart away, although kept the water by her bedside. Collection would come an hour later.

Vapid and monotonous were the two words Nariya would use to describe her time at the hospital. There was nothing to do. At least she was tired enough to sleep for most of the day yesterday, a side effect of the concussion. But today just stunk. Her mom had brought over her homework and unread library books, which Nariya had finished in record time. She even impressed herself, since she was never very fast at such things. Had it not been for the fact that she was about to get out of here, she might have asked for a dictionary. She loved to read those and learn new words.

About twenty minutes later, there was a sudden knock on the door. Even though it was a gentle tap, it still made her jump.

Dr. Whitman stepped into the room. At least he had a nametag, so that made it easy to remember his name. “Ms. Yaznik?”

She didn't answer. It was a little overwhelming to see him here so suddenly. She'd finished dinner, sure, but it was weird for him to come walking in all of a sudden before the food cart was supposed to get collected!

“It's all right, I just came to give you some papers,” he assured. “They have information on what you'll have to be aware of and watch out for after you're discharged.”

He placed a stapled-together set of pages and a small pamphlet on her bedside table. The former seemed to contain general recovery information. The latter was a children's guide to concussions, which she found mildly offending. She wasn't a kid, she was sixteen years old! She didn't have the courage to say anything about it, though.

“If you have persistent headaches or start to have really bad nightmares, check back in right away.”

Nariya nodded. She never really got headaches; the concussion didn't count because it was her head physically aching. As for the latter issue, the doctors had told her that Ghost Pokemon attacks could have long-term effects on humans. It explained why she sometimes heard that voice again on Saturday, though she'd been fine since.

The doctor suddenly knelt by her bedside. “Are you sure you want to leave?” he asked, tilting his head downward. “We want to keep you in here for the rest of the week to monitor you and run some extra tests, just to be safe.”

She shook her head. “No, I…I want to…go home.” She thanked the gods her mom was willing to help get her out of here.

“All right.” The doctor didn't press the issue, to her relief. He stood and walked away.

The moment he was gone, Nariya felt her muscles relaxing. She was no good at socializing with people she didn't really know, even when they were nice.

Nariya wondered how Prema was doing. She hadn't been able to speak with her after what happened, although Nori had indicated she had tried to visit her. Would her mom even let them see each other again? And what about the spirit she was exorcising? She heard the news it hadn't gone well. So Prema was probably going to have to try and do it again, right? But would it end up the same way? If she kept failing, what would happen to her? She could only cross her fingers and pray things worked out.
Sins of a Memory (recollection IX)
Recollection IX: Sins of a Memory

The meals at the Kannagi Shrine were wonderfully varied. The expansion into Veilstone did not change this. They grew most of their own food on or within the premises. Fruit, vegetables, berries, wheat, rice, and so on. The chefs occasionally served eggs from common chickens. Of course, meat was an important part of a healthy diet as well. They got theirs from the store or donations, and although it was not frowned upon in their faith, they made it a point to avoid consuming meat which was Pokemon-sourced whenever possible. Beverages were tea, water, berry juices, milk, and occasionally (though Prema could not yet partake), sake.

They served food to the public during festivals. Otherwise, it was for anyone with a title in the shrine as well as invited visitors, typically regulars and full-time members. Any leftover portions were given to wild Pokemon or charity (they donated produce in exchange for the meat) as appropriate.

Today, they had a low-key meal, which was typical in the wake of festivals. It consisted of a mixed berry medley (as the chef had dubbed it), rice balls wrapped in lettuce, and yakitori.

Prema had arrived with Priestess Satomi after the training and had taken a seat across from her father. There was not much more to the altered preparations; they talked about it over the meal. She and her Pokemon had a few sparring matches with members of the shrine, including with Monk Naito, who himself owned a Crobat. They also went over various techniques for handling spirits, both human and Pokemon.

She was nearly finished when the elderly woman glanced at her curiously. “Are you sure you don’t want more?” she asked.

Prema had light portions along with a glass of spring water. “Yes,” the young heir confirmed, gently wiping her lips with a napkin. “I want to get back to preparations as soon as possible.”

“It's not good to overwork, y’know,” Satomi remarked. “Or undereat. Two of your Pokemon aren’t even done yet.”

Shu and Taiyoko were still enjoying their meals; Pokemon usually ate at the same time as people. They were served as appropriate for their tastes and species. In their case, they received leafy greens, processed dirt (for Taiyoko), and nectar. But Yahata had finished his seeds and meat even earlier. He moved silently to her side in response and put a wing on his hip.

Abruptly, Priestess Satomi burst into laughter, though was cognizant enough to muffle it with her palm. Yahata lowered his gaze and seemed to squint at her, in the process looking like most of his species except less jovial. Anyone who knew them found his face unusual, and in one instance, unsettling, for it appeared like a perpetual glare. A normal Dartrix could see as well as a Makuhita or a Skitty, but Yahata had mentioned alertness and dignity as reasons for keeping his eyes wide open.

“Is something the matter, Priestess Satomi?” Prema asked, more for the sake of her Pokemon than her own curiosity.

“Oh, nothing bad.” She brushed it off with a wave of her hand. “It’s just that how serious he is reminds me so much of an old Pokemon of mine.”

The elderly woman peered at a Blastoise over where the Pokemon were eating. Like animal turtles, they were known for their longevity. Still, her age was obvious. Her shell was a weathered beige with some stray cracks and rings in the scutes. The tortoise’s skin, however, remained as vividly blue as the day she evolved. Otohime was one of two Pokemon Priestess Satomi still had. The rest had either passed on or were passed down.

Prema hummed. It was an unpleasant topic, even if it was a fact of life. Humans could outlive their beloved Pokemon. Pokemon could see their allies – or even their trainer – leave the world ahead of them. The modern Poke Ball can prolong lifespans by lowering metabolism while within, but not all Pokemon like to be in them.

“I miss them every day. I know she does too. In a way, you kind of have to envy that trainer,” the elderly priestess remarked, shaking her head. “He and his partners got to go to the other side together.”

Prema shook her head. “I would not wish that on anyone.” It was far too grim a fate.

Priestess Satomi leaned back. “Then again, you're also right,” she concurred after several seconds.

The green-haired girl looked around, noticing that they were getting more than a couple of uncomfortable glances. It was taboo to talk about death openly in the country’s culture, and were it not they or others of equivalent respect doing so, they might not have gotten away with it. Their views on the afterlife were not as well-defined as in other faiths, with more of an emphasis on living this life. There was even a saying: born Kodo, die Gautama.

It is not to say they placed no focus upon it. Even among the Iseuan religions, it was known and acknowledged that spirits could remain on the physical plane after leaving their bodies. Therefore, the Kannagis and others honored their dead so that they might find peace. In turn, the spirits offered their protection. The nature of them varied. Those who passed suddenly or unfulfilled could return as onryō, vengeful spirits. Konrad Guhl and his Pokemon qualified.

A wing tapped her on her knee. Yahata was glancing up at her, his beak half-open and a wing curled up like a fist ready to strike. It was the body language he always gave when he was preparing for a battle. He was communicating that he was ready to get back into it.

“I believe we are finished with battling for the day,” she said to him. “I will be studying the findings Nori made in further detail.”

He relaxed into a neutral position, understanding the situation. There was a time when he would have slouched in disappointment, but he had moved beyond that phase.

“Good idea,” Priestess Satomi approved. “Just make sure you get a plan going while you're at it.”

“Of course.” There was a saying about knowledge without wisdom, after all. She rose and turned to the chef. “Thank you for the meal, but I must be on my way.”

“Of course, Lady Kannagi.” He bowed at a 45-degree angle. “There's plenty left if you get hungry later on.”

“Thank you,” she repeated, before turning to her Pokemon. “I will be in the common area. Come find me when you are finished.” Shu chirped merrily in acknowledgment, and Taiyoko flicked her antennae.

As she was moving to leave with Yahata following in behind, her father called out to her.

“Prema,” he spoke neutrally, looking up from his plate.

She stopped and turned to him, giving a light bow. “Father.”

He said but two further words. “Wednesday evening.”


That was somewhat sooner than she had been expecting. But even if it was tomorrow, she would be ready before the time came.


With a scant two days before she would return to confront Konrad Guhl, Prema felt it necessary to prepare as much as possible. In addition to training herself and her partners, she would need to prepare academically. It would be folly to not do so with the resources at her disposal.

She sat in the foyer of the shrine to do so. It was partly a matter of convenience for her Pokemon to be able to find her after dinner, but also for a change of scenery from her room. If it were not so late, she would have gone outside for fresh air. The chill of night notwithstanding, it would be difficult to read Nori's research in the dark. Everyone who passed by wished her luck, silently or otherwise.

The pattern continued until a ruby-haired woman stopped mid-stride. After a moment of being frozen to the floor, she hustled to her side. “Lady Kannagi,” Maiden Kaede stammered with a measure of alarm. She put her hands together and bowed fervently and unsteadily. “I want to say sorry again for not doing enough to stop that guy.”

“Maiden Kaede.” Prema could not help but look up from the pages. “This was not your fault.”

“Nah,” she brushed off. “As the senior member, it was my job to step up. Couldn't do that.”

Prema hummed. Maiden Kaede had always been an optimist. Not only had she maintained her smile in the aftermath of the disastrous first outing, but she had also consoled and encouraged everyone else. To see her acting like this was disconcerting. Had the situation changed? Or was the pressure of awaiting judgment catching up with her? Everyone had their limits, after all.

“In any event, it is good that you are here,” the future head priestess changed the subject. Perhaps there was a means to help improve her mood. “I wanted to get your opinion on this.”

She stood vacantly, eventually putting a hand to her mouth. It took her a moment to recover. “That's the thing the Demon Tamer found?” she slowly asked, leaning over top. There was still some uncertainty in her irises.

“Yes,” Prema confirmed. “I have been meaning to hear your personal thoughts on it.”

The word had spread, primarily confined to the upper echelons of the shrine. Some had dismissed it, but when asked, they could come up with no better alternative. Monk Naito had outright admitted that he hoped it would turn out to be false. Of course, three others had the advantage of having met the spirits with her, but only one was in the condition to give an opinion.

“A'right,” she breathed, a rural accent slipping through as she sat across at the other side of the chabudai. The woman glanced at the ceiling for a moment.

“Let's go over what happened. We walked in. You did your meditation, waited a bit to see if they'd approach and let our presence sink in, then called to them. They didn't want to answer. Jack steps in, wants to feed his Pokemon. That's when they attacked.” She paused there. “I don't get it.”

“What do you mean?”

Kaede didn't answer initially. She thought some more before she spoke again. “Maybe they wanted to strike when our guard was down. But they left when Fohoshi and I were ready to go.” The woman crossed her arms. “Cowards. Maybe smart. Still don't know what their deal is.”

That was part of what was so puzzling. What happened on Friday did not line up with the other attacks. Guhl and his Pokemon typically assailed everyone present, either into either submission or unconsciousness. They had left them with only words, albeit mocking ones.

“I am looking for a pattern behind the other attacks,” she explained. That would go a long way toward discovering their motives. Unfortunately, Guhl had refused to speak about it. It was not surprising; spirits were capable of belligerence. The only thing that was clear was that he had injured far too many trainers and their Pokemon. He could not be allowed to continue.

“Can't we just get accounts from people who got attacked?”

Prema shook her head. “Unfortunately, we do not have time to seek out the victims. Some may not be willing to speak with us. Others may not be able to remember much information, given the time that has passed and trauma.”

“What about the construction crew?”

“Perhaps.” She supposed it would be easier to get in contact with them. Getting statements from them was an avenue they could pursue, though it had already happened to a certain extent. “One who was in the condition to give an interview said that the spirits began with pranks, namely pushing over stacked boxes.”

“Wait, falling boxes!” Kaede exclaimed. “That's the connection!”

“I already thought of that,” Prema said, letting the air out of the trained kunoichi. “It is inconclusive.”

“But that's how he went!” she insisted. “Maybe he was trying to be ironic!”

Prema smiled. “Yes, I believe it proves that he and his Pokemon are the spirits of the warehouse.” It felt like too much of a coincidence to dismiss. “But it only has a connection with his identity. It did not happen in other incidents, so it has little to do with his motivations.”

Maiden Kaede sighed and sat down again. “So what do we have? You come up with anything?”

“Yes, there is one consistency. Pokemon were attacked in every incident.” It felt like nothing. After all, it was not unusual for people to bring out their Pokemon. But Prema could not rule out a connection due to their emergence coinciding with Acolyte Jack feeding his Pokemon. “And while he attacked their trainers, he left none of them with lasting physical injuries.” Which eliminated some possibilities about his intentions.

She snorted. “Maybe he wanted a battle.”

“I am uncertain if that is the case.” It was not impossible. Priestess Satomi had said they would end up battling, but if it was a battle he wanted, why did he leave? Their experience with him was so different from anyone else that it felt a clue in itself, but what it meant eluded Prema.

“Was being sarcastic anyway. We were gonna give'em one, but they ran away.” The woman threw up her arms. “Could just ask the guy. Again, I mean.”

“I might have to try.” Perhaps knowing his story would make him more receptive to conversation. Though the conclusion Prema had drawn from her elderly mentor's words was that, whatever his motivations, it was going to come down to force.

The woman rose. “Should get heading back home now. Glad I could help, even if it wasn't much.”

“Before you do so, is there anything else you can think of?” Prema was at an impasse in her thoughts.

Maiden Kaede wrapped a finger in the curls of her hair. “One thing, actually.”

“What is it?”

“The Demon Tamer ran in to help those workers, right?” she said. “Knowing him if he didn't have his Pachirisu out with him, he would've brought out the Demon. He had Pokemon and he was in there. So why didn't they go after him?”

Yes, that was a good point. Prema had not even thought of asking Nori if he felt any unusual presence. But it was a fact that the spirits did not attack him or the others who had helped to investigate. Come to think of it, Guhl had not attacked anyone in a similar situation, according to the reports. It was as though he wanted his victims to be found and helped.

“Thank you, Maiden Kaede.” Prema nodded her appreciation. “That is something I will need to think about.”

“Really?” the woman puffed and took a step back. A faint hint of her usual swagger returned. “Well, you're welcome. Catch ya later.”

“Until next we meet.”

Maiden Kaede set off, a spring in her step. Prema could not help but find it amusing. It was for reasons as these that she did not anticipate Father extensively punishing her. She was too loyal and reliable to not be granted the title of Priestess one day. If anyone, Acolyte Jack would receive the brunt of the blame. It would be a formality, if not a public scapegoating. He was already bearing the shame by isolating himself. If he was fortunate, Father would see his role in unwittingly drawing out the spirits as she did.

With a new thought to consider, Prema decided to retire to her room for the night. In a way, the point Maiden Kaede had brought up only raised further questions. Yet the picture was becoming clearer. The answers would come to her eventually, be it through revelation or from the source. It was not worth stressing overmuch.


Encaged by cruel tragedy.
The whispers of emptiness cry out.
A promise left broken like a body.
Time never waits.
Strength waxes and wanes.
Memories fade and turn to dust.
What cruel twists, what cruelties inflicted!
Let this be his memory.
But the path is never ending.
And so he sits, waiting for the next chapter.
A sensation lies within, ready to burst forth like a sneeze.
The proof of his memory.
What new cruelties will be wrought?
Will the promise be fulfilled yet?
Time never waits, but it tells.


There were actually quite a bit of foreshadowing about this plot twist before the reveal. The points brought up here are just some. To name just one not mentioned here, way back in the first chapter the humanoid spirit was mentioned to have eyes plural. It couldn't have been the cyclopian Dusclops!
Philopolemic (adjuration I) New
Adjuration I: Philopolemic

Prema did everything possible to get ready for her return to the warehouse on Wednesday evening. She spent almost every waking hour of her life on it; she even dreamt about it the night prior. After dinner and final preparations, she left the shrine in lockstep with Priestess Satomi. As they did so, a number of individuals gave her well-wishes.

“Get'em for me,” Maiden Kaede requested as they stepped outside. Beside her, Monk Naito gave a silent nod.

“You can do this, Lady Kannagi!” Ken waved wildly to her while sitting on the grass. His parents did the same, albeit in a more restrained fashion.

“Do us proud,” a visitor to the shrine encouraged her.

She nodded to them all. While Nariya was not present, and perhaps never would be again, Prema was certain she was also praying for their success. Everyone was.

To her surprise, her father was standing silently just beyond the torii. He approached as they passed beneath.

“Prema,” was all he said.

“Father.” She bowed.

He leaned forward and hugged her. “Good luck.”

She returned it. “Thank you, father.”

When he let her go, Prema went forward with conviction. She thought back on all the people who had helped her along the way. Father, Priestess Satomi, Nariya, Taiyoko, Maiden Kaede, Acolyte Jack, and Nori. All of their followers, all the people silently cheering for her. Shu and Yahata. Even Akari Schrader in a twisted way. Every one of their efforts helped her along the way. All that remained was to see it through. This would be her greatest test as heir to the Kannagi Shrine to date. She would not let them down. Tonight, the spirit of the warehouse would pass on in peace.


As the princess (she still could not get over that one!) set off down the steps, Satomi had a very brief exchange with the shrine's Master before making to follow.

“As we planned, then?”

“If necessary.”

“Will do.”


The two rode in silence to the old warehouse. Neither needed to say a word. Upon arriving, they put their helmets away, Priestess Satomi locked up her motorcycle, and they went to the front door. The future head priestess of the Kannagi Shrine retrieved the key. As she placed it in, she shut her eyes. This was it. The time had come. She turned the lock and opened the door.

As they entered, Priestess Satomi closed the door and locked it. The moment Prema stepped into the main room of the old warehouse, a sense of dread came over her. Perhaps part of it was nerves, but at least part of it was the feeling of being watched. There was no doubt. The spirit had been waiting for them.

She gave a silent glance to Priestess Satomi. Together, they combed the room to ascertain it was only them present. People always found ways to sneak into the building. Yet the warehouse was exactly as they left it several nights ago. Every crate was in place, every window had been shuttered, and even the unconsumed feed Acolyte Jack had left on the floor was still there. They met at the back, near the entrance to a small office.

“He's here,” rasped the elderly priestess.

Prema nodded. “I can sense him as well.” He did not stick out as being a human soul, but that could be masked. The truth would become clear shortly.

“I'll wait in here,” said Priestess Satomi, opening the door to the office. “You initiate contact.”

“I understand.” Spirits were occasionally more inclined to speak with one person than multiple. She could not rule out that was a factor in her previous attempt. Though Priestess Satomi was present to protect her if necessary, her being in another room would be sufficient.

Prema moved to the center of the room, her footsteps echoing through the hollow building. The renovation workers had set up a table and some chairs. Tools, including a broom, were left abandoned on the table. It was where Nariya, Priestess Kaede, and Acolyte Jack had sat on their first outing.

She closed her eyes and breathed in, holding her breath as long as she could. There was no need for so much meditation and preparation this time. Not when she knew what she was up against. Not when the spirit was waiting. Prema simply had to allow her mind to drift into the subconscious world. It was as much for utility as it was to calm her nerves. She was about to speak with the one who had harmed her friends. She could not allow her personal feelings to cloud her judgment.

There was still that sensation of being watched. No, rather, he was waiting to see what she would do. In her focused state and knowing the probable nature of what was before her, it was easy to find where it came from. She opened her eyes and looked the spirit straight in his.

“Konrad Guhl. I call to you.”

“Oho…” came the immediate response, spoken aloud.

The flame of his soul briefly flickered orange as the shadows high in the ceiling began to shift. A desaturated figure floated down from above. Human, yet not, with short and spiky blond hair and brown eyes. He was attired in a facsimile of a white and red Mitsutri hakama, no doubt to mock her. Little black embers danced about his dark form, doing nothing to illuminate their surroundings. The shrine had kept Nori's findings quiet, but there were those in the know, like Acolyte Jirou, who did not believe it. Even Prema was prepared for the possibility that his theory was incorrect. Yet hovering before her was that man who had passed away in an accident ten months ago.

“It has been far too long since I heard my name,” the man spoke with clarity. The shapes above him moved protectively. Prema immediately identified them as Pokemon. He dismissively asked, “Come to cast me out against my will, have you?”

She shook her head, denying the accusation. “Not against your will, no. I only wished to speak with you, that you may go in peace.”

“Go in peace,” he repeated slowly, derision dripping from each word. “That's a lofty goal if I ever heard one.”

The flames surrounding his body intensified. A manifested grudge. There was no doubt. This man had become an onryō along with his Pokemon. In plain terms, a vengeful spirit capable of bringing harm to the living. Prema could only pray that she could help him.

“I do not see how it could be lofty,” Prema replied. She had soothed the souls of similarly pessimistic spirits in the past.

“You know my name,” Guhl spat venom, eyes narrowing until they were razor-sharp. “What else can you tell me about myself?”

She obliged him. She told Guhl that he had been a well-known local trainer and about his untimely passing. Prema did not doubt there was more to his life, but Nori's notes had been brief. She resolved to thank him again once she could. As she summed up the lawsuit that followed and was beginning to recount his first recorded attack in January, Guhl interrupted.

“Why do you think they settled?” he asked, tongue flicking out from between his teeth.

Prema folded her hands and bowed. “I apologize. I am not that well versed in tort.” Criminal and Pokemon law, yes. A bit of property law as well. But not personal law. She could at least speculate, particularly given the glower she was receiving. “If I must guess, I would say it was their means of ensuring some punishment for the company, rather than fight further in court and chance losing.”

Guhl leaned back in midair. “Oh, you naive little girl,” he chortled. “It was never about justice to them. All my family cared about was getting money out of my death. The ones who allowed it to happen paid them off and got away with killing me. And they all forgot about me as soon as it was over.”

Prema could only gasp softly. Nori had not uncovered this part. The dead can sense when the living think of them. She did not need to ask for clarification, he truly meant everyone had moved on, from his family to his friends.

“If my soul was not bound to this warehouse…well.” There was a flash of white in his eyes. “I'm sure I don't have to explain what I would do.”

It was fortunate that he was. But if the building was demolished and the property redeveloped, that would set him free upon Veilstone. She could not let that happen.

She sighed heavily. “Fate can be cruel. We–”

“Save it,” Guhl cut in. “Your sympathy means nothing. It will not change what happened.”

An unfortunate truth. Even if she could travel through time, the Mighty Dialga would not allow it for such a trifling purpose. Of her realistic options, Prema preferred not to use force. That meant it came down to setting his soul at ease or otherwise convincing him to depart of his own volition. But how could she do so? She went over the facts again in her head. Guhl passed in November 2014. His first attack took place in January…and that was when she made a realization.

She brought it up at once. “You became an onryō before the trial concluded.” That was in February, and the first recorded attack was a month prior. Moreover, he must have been one even before that.

“Astute,” he said. His smirk grew thinner. “Why do you think that is?”

Prema shook her head, somewhat more forcefully than she intended. She could not allow him to completely dictate the course of the conversation.

“There is one thing I would like to know before I answer that. Why have you been attacking innocent people?”

Guhl shrugged. “Why else?” he asked. Before she could speculate, he answered himself. The resentment-fueled flares surrounding his body sparked erratically. “To pick a fight! I was hoping at least one of the fools I attacked would put up resistance. Or failing that, I wanted the city to send a powerful trainer in so that I and my partners may face them!”

He dropped his posturing at once. “Yet instead, they sent,” and with these flat words he paused. He scrutinized her and ruefully spoke his next word. “You.”

Prema took a step back during his tirade. She opened her mouth, but found herself at a loss for words. Her hunch had been way off. Her initial impression was that he was attempting to get the building demolished so that he could exact revenge upon those who he felt had wronged him. But he wanted something as base as a battle?

She glanced over at Priestess Satomi, who was smirking in a way that said she had figured it out long before. Was that why she had come to the conclusion that they would battle? Prema decided to move forward with another question. “If a powerful trainer had appeared and faced you, what would you have done after?”

“I, in turn, ask you, what do you believe a powerful trainer would have done if they faced my Pokemon?”

That was simple enough. “Attempt to make a capture.”

Guhl crossed his arms and folded his ankles. “I suppose. Too many fools of trainers think catching a strong Pokemon is enough to make them stronger. Or those that are strong only want more or varied power.” He snorted. “I took a quality over quantity approach.”

“It is unusual for a professional trainer, but not an incorrect approach.” Their own Priest Warutsu, for example, trained about a dozen Pokemon due to his former role as the Gym Leader of Celestic Town. But there was something to be said about sticking with only six, or less in Guhl's instance.

“And it paid off.” Guhl smiled, and with that, Prema thought they were getting somewhere. “It was why few could challenge us. We four share a powerful bond that persists into this life.”

“Because of that, Poke Balls would fail.”

“Just one came by to attempt as such. He could not even get that far.”

Perhaps it was for the best. There could have been many reasons why more did not try. For one, the rumors only spoke of ghosts. The city blamed the attacks on wild Pokemon whenever they received media attention. Most of those who took them at their word likely had the sense to stay away rather than go hunting for a new teammate. That was why the Demon Nidorina eluded capture for so long.

“We had a dream,” said Guhl, as three figures above him began to move. He patted a humanoid one. “To travel the world and battle the finest trainers together to become stronger. To find three more worthy partners from across many regions. And eventually, for all of us to become recognized as Champions. I know it's a cliché, but it was what I always wanted.” He floated over to an X-shaped one and gave them a sad smile. “If you've done your research, you should know the only thing that stood between us and our dream was the money to travel. I was saving up, doing odd jobs to pay for a flight to Europe. I wanted to visit the regions there, starting with where my family came from. I was close, so very close. But that dream was stolen from us because of this last job. We may never be able to truly rest in peace because of it. We never even had the chance to have a real battle against an equal in our lifetime.” He put his arm around the last remaining one. “Call what we've been attempting to do a sort of compromise.”

Prema listened intently to Guhl's plight. He had cooperated and told her his tale, that of a trainer aspiring for greatness whose life was cut short. One who still sought to fulfill it after his passing. Guhl did not speak for twenty seconds, awaiting her answer as she processed this. She soon reached her conclusion and spoke it aloud.

“I understand and sympathize with your plight, Mr. Guhl.” She paused, carefully considering her choice of words. “However, your means of fulfilling it in your current state was somewhat imprudent.”

“Do you intend to banish me after all, then?” His Pokemon came into full view. Prema had sensed what they were, and now saw they were indeed Dusclops, Crobat, and Sinnohian Zoroark. They hovered before him, menacing and protective. “Try it.”

Prema was not fazed by the swift and hostile response. She had prepared for it. Guhl showed just a little concern at her unflinching demeanor. Before she could address him further and clarify her position, he cut in.

“No, forget I said that. I have a better idea. A far better idea.” He leaned forward, floating ever closer until he was but five meters away. His Crobat followed right behind him as a vanguard. “I recall your family is adept at raising Pokemon, yes? You know who I am and know what I want. So I challenge you to a battle.”

Prema blinked. She had not expected him to directly challenge her, nor did she feel it was what should be done. “Mr. Guhl, surely there is another way we could settle this. If there is anything else I might do to appease you, such as–”

“Do you even understand why I wanted to have a strong trainer face us?” he yelled. The voice echoed not only in the room, but in her mind. “I wanted it so we could experience the thrill of a blood-pumping battle we could not have in life! We wanted to experience that at least one time! No one truly pushed us to our limits! Even here, no one we attacked has been worth the energy!”

To emphasize his demand, he flew back up behind his Pokemon, who all got into battle poses. “So face me, Kannagi! Face all of us! Show me the power of a clan dating back nearly fifteen hundred years!”

“I…” If his words and Nori's reports had merit, Guhl was an expert trainer. Undoubtedly beyond the abilities of her and her friends to handle. The thought of returning with someone more experienced flashed through Prema's mind. But no. Her father, the shrine, everyone was expecting her success tonight.

Prema glanced over at the office. Priestess Satomi was sitting in a swivel chair, watching intently through the glass window. She had predicted this confrontation. Prema supposed Satomi was capable of challenging Guhl in her stead. Yet not only could she not ask her mentor figure to endanger herself, but she had only two Pokemon to her name in her old age. Not enough for a proper battle.

Satomi waved her wrist and mouthed, “This is your fight.”

Prema nodded and turned around. “I accept,” she conceded. If doing so was what it took to soothe his soul, it could not be helped. “I cannot promise you that I will be the challenge you seek. Yet I will do my best not to disappoint you.”

“Just the answer I was hoping for…” he cooed, tracing a finger in the air. “Very good, Kannagi! Just don't hold back like that kunoichi. Give us everything you have without hesitation!”

Prema took a deep breath to steel herself. She had participated in Pokemon battles in the past, but never anything like this. She had not the experience of a typical trainer, and her formal training paled in comparison to the likes of Nori. But they had advantages which made the battle winnable. Her Pokemon were living and in active training. Guhl's could only practice on their victims, and their incorporeal nature made them less resilient. It was going to come down to technique.

“Want the old crone to serve as our judge?” Guhl inquired, a crooked smirk coming upon his mouth as he leered over at the office.

Prema shook her head. “We should not need one.” Their only purpose was to make things official, and she was sure Guhl would know his Pokemon's limits. If not, she would.

“Then choose your first Pokemon. Zwirrklop will be mine. Iksbat, Fuchspuk, you two stay back.” He gave a curt nod to the Dusclops, as the other two fell back above. “Our first real battle since the accident, friend. It's unfortunate we lost our Eviolite, but I suppose there's no point in dwelling on it.”

That was another potential advantage. Prema knew which Pokemon Guhl would be using. It was not impossible that he knew hers, but it was unlikely. It would be best if she saved Taiyoko for last. Yahata was the best choice against a pure Ghost-type, but the problem lay in the Crobat. That was a poor match for most of her Pokemon, especially Shu.

Prema retrieved the capsule of the Fairy-type. If facing Iksbat was out of the question, and if Fuchspuk was considered his strongest, did it make sense for Shu to be her lead? After a second to affirm her logic as sound, she pressed the Poke Ball against her chest. “I am counting on you,” she whispered before sending him out.

Her words must have reached Shu, as he emerged ready. He shuddered a little as he stared up at the soul of a Pokemon, yet flew forward to emphasize his resolve. Prema was concerned fear would overtake him, and it was a relief to see that would not be the case.

“My, my, quite impressive…” Guhl complimented. “Few people I fought in my time had Pokemon from outside Sinnoh, let alone the country.”

Perhaps yet another advantage, then: unfamiliarity. They needed all they could get. Prema would be the first to admit her Pokemon friends were unusual in how none were common sights in Japan. It also confirmed he was unaware of her team.

“Shall we begin, then?” Guhl cracked his knuckles, his Pokemon miming the gesture.

Prema held out a palm. “After you, Mr. Guhl.”

He grinned. “Shadow Punch, Zwirrklop.”

It came from above, the dark room allowing the punch to be swung from almost any conceivable location. Zwirrklop caught Shu by surprise, knocking him to the floor where he was nearly immobile.

First things first. “Shu, get upright.” Prema kept watch on their opponent, only for her to vanish into the shadows as the Spritzee righted himself.

Guhl chuckled. That was not a Phantom Force. Prema recalled the species of Dusclops could not learn that move. So they were concealed somewhere. It was a matter of finding their foe, and her friend could do just that.

“Shu, lure her out with Sweet Scent.”

Obligingly, he scattered his powerful scent up into the air. From behind a stack of crates, Zwirrklop began to drone listlessly toward Shu.

“Not bad,” Guhl remarked. “But not good enough. Erupting Shadow Punch!”

Erupting? “It is coming from below,” she warned.

Shu tried to dodge, but he was not fast enough. Zwirrklop's fist slammed into Shu once more, this time wreathed in fire. She was correct about where it would come from, yet she had not expected it to come with a Fire Punch. The combination of two different moves was forceful enough to knock her companion several meters up.

“Now Bind it.”

Zwirrklop reached into the shadows once more as she lunged forward. Her large palms caught Shu from behind as he came down. Shu tried to wriggle free in one powerful motion, but the ghost kept a tight grip.

“This is it?” Guhl cruelly mocked. “This is all you are capable of, Kannagi? I expected more.”

Prema blanched. The battle was already not in their favor. Shu squirmed in vain, firmly in the clutches of a deceased Dusclops commanded by an equally deceased trainer. Their opponents had been savvy enough to ensure he was facing outward, so Shu could not escape by simply firing an attack at Zwirrklop.

“What's the matter? Have you had enough already?” Guhl rasped, a guttural sound rising from his throat.

“I apologize.” It was not too difficult to determine what to do, since it was one of their only options. “Fairy Wind, Shu.”

Shu perked up and realized what to do. Once more, he began to spread his scent. Only this time, he strengthened it with his fae energy and spread it around his body. Zwirrklop trembled, unable to avoid whilst maintaining the Bind. The little Spritzee chirped in satisfaction.

“Keep holding on,” Guhl commanded for clarity. The phantom trainer crossed his arms. “Zwirrklop, Return.”

The Dusclops perked up upon hearing the order. Giddily, she began to cavort with Shu still in her hands. She bobbed as she stretched and contracted in what almost seemed like a cheer. With a pirouette, Zwirrklop let go and brought both fists down on the little fairy.

“Shu!” Prema gasped as he crashed helplessly onto the floor.

That was a full-force blow. Prema could tell before he spoke of it that the bond between this trainer and his Pokemon was as strong in death as it was in life. Still, she had not anticipated him to use the move that weaponizes that connection.

“Do you see now what you face, Kannagi?” Guhl boomed. He did not command a follow-up, allowing Shu a moment to get up and into the air again.

She maintained her cool. “Yes, the bond between you and your Pokemon is commendable.”

His lip curled. “Let's finish this. Shadow Sneak.”

“Shu, hold her off with Psychic.” There was no time for hesitation. She had to stop whatever he was planning.

Guhl went from rolling his eyes, to widening them, and finally narrowing them. It was all in sync with his Pokemon striking out with incredible speed, Shu hearing and executing her command quickly enough, and Zwirrklop, though temporarily halted, managing to gradually push through.

Something had to give. Shu was already struggling to maintain the Psychic, yet Zwirrklop was barely tiring. If it persisted–

“Disable it.”

The sudden blue gleam from Zwirrklop's eye immediately stopped the psychokinesis. “Shu, please get ready…” Prema warned.

Guhl only chuckled. “Power through whatever she's doing. Soften that bird up with a Rock Smash!”

“Dodge underneath,” she said with a simple smile. She was confident that Shu was capable of such.

The phantom trainer returned her expression with condescension. He pulled back slightly when Shu performed the evasive maneuver. Even Shu himself was a little surprised as he just passed under Zwirrklop's right arm. The Dusclops lost control and struck a crate instead. It was knocked to the left, teetering precariously on the edge.

Prema winced, as did the Pokemon, as the crate fell and split its contents – pots and plates – onto the floor in a cacophonous symphony of clattering and shattering. Zwirrklop stared dumbstruck, giving them time to strike.

“Shu, Draining Kiss.”

“Look out!” screeched the phantom trainer.

Zwirrklop turned and raised a fist, just in time to get it on the face.

“Move into Sweet Kiss.”

If Guhl and his Pokemon could combine similar moves into one, so could they. As the draining effect concluded, Shu nestled his beak into Zwirrklop more tenderly. Her eye dilated. Prema pondered if the confusion would take hold, given different Pokemon receive psychological moves differently, but it did.

Guhl clapped slowly. “Clever. But that will not turn this around,” he stated before looking up at his Pokemon. “Iksbat, get away from this.” He gestured upward.

“Shu, find cover!” Prema warned. She wasn't certain he could withstand whatever was coming. It had to be a massive Ghost-type attack. She edged aside, preparing to sprint away at any moment.

“Try it,” Guhl snipped. He closed his eyes and screamed in attempt to reach through to his Pokemon. “Zwirrklop, NIGHT SHADE!”

The Dusclops flailed around, dazed and disoriented, yet managed to spread enveloping waves of opaque darkness all about. Prema threw out a palm in a show of determination and steeled her mind as they passed over her. Night Shade did little to humans and animals, causing only physical and possibly mental discomfort. But it can pierce through to a Pokemon's soul, cutting through all defenses to weaken them. She could not tell if Shu had escaped.

The darkness soon lifted, and Prema nodded in satisfaction at the sight. Shu had sheltered himself beneath the table! To make things better, Zwirrklop dropped right next to him, thrashing in delirium.

“Moonblast, Shu!”

The Spritzee shut his eyes and meditated briefly, allowing lunar particles to flow into his body. His body began to glow a pale white as he chanted softly. With a determined wail, Shu released a spherical burst of energy that was larger than his body.

Zwirrklop never saw it coming and was sent flying by the blast. A fortunate critical hit, perhaps? She landed where the fallen kitchenware sat, although her type, if not her condition, made the fall no worse than landing on a cushion.

Guhl just smirked, a mixture of approval and confidence. “Push through, you can do this!” he encouraged. “One more Return!”

If that landed, that would be it for Shu. Zwirrklop took a moment to steady herself and shake off the confusion. But when Prema noticed where the Dusclops had landed, she realized how they could win.

“Shu, Charge Beam!”

The little fairy focused and let loose. Zwirrklop narrowly escaped getting hit directly by the laser, but it made no difference. Instead, it hit a pot and conducted through the others. The Ghost-type Pokemon toppled and groaned in agony as the electricity shot through her legs.

“Enough! Stop.”

Guhl's voice cut through the air, almost seeming to shake the building with its intensity. Prema signaled to her Pokemon to stop, who began nursing his wounds while he could.

The phantom trainer looked down at his Pokemon, giving her a crisp nod and thumbs up. “You did well, Zwirrklop. But you need a rest.”

She shook off her trainer's command, getting up and into a battle-ready position. Prema addressed her in turn.

“One more strong hit, and you might not be able to stay on this plane of existence,” she warned, looking up at Guhl. Surely he had realized the same thing.

“She's right,” he verified as he leaned in. “So come back to my side.”

The Dusclops looked at Shu and then at her trainer. With a low moan, she floated up. Guhl gave her a quick hug before sending her to the relative safety of the rafters.

“Not bad,” Guhl complimented. He snapped a finger and pointed.

“Thank you.” That was one of her opponent's Pokemon defeated. She had the early advantage…and yet she sensed a rapidly approaching hostility. “Shu, look out!”


Iksbat swooped down. Shu caught it out of the corner of his eye, but barely had time to turn around before he found himself in the maw of the Crobat. Poison-laden fangs sank into his body. Iksbat thrashed about before spitting an unconscious Shu on the floor.

“But not good enough,” the onryō dismissed with a cruel laugh.
Legerdemain (adjuration II) New
Adjuration II: Legerdemain​

Her advantage had vanished as quickly as she could utter “あ.” Even if they had ample time to react, the outcome would have been the same due to the sheer agility of Iksbat. With that, the most difficult opponent was before her.

“I apologize, Shu,” she said, walking up and cradling him in her arms. Thankfully, he did not appear to need any treatment for poison. “You were fantastic.”

He nestled into her chest. Prema considered allowing him to watch what was left of the battle, ultimately deciding against it. There was no telling if Guhl would command something similar to that Night Shade that could further injure Shu. The priestess gave him a gentle pat on the head before recalling him.

“So,” he hissed as he lounged back in midair. “What's next?”

That was a question she would have to think about very carefully. Taiyoko could face this Crobat and emerge victorious, but Yahata against Zoroark was not an even match. No, she needed to use the owl Pokemon first.

“Yahata, I require your help,” she whispered as she cast the capsule down before her.

The owl let out a stoic hoot as he floated down and sized up his opponent. It being a Crobat only made him rub his wings together in anticipation. There was a sparkle in his eyes which was not from any sort of attack he was preparing.

“A Grass-type?” he noted, either out of recognition or from speculation based off his features. “I wonder…are you foolish, confident, or already out of options?”

Prema calmed herself so as not to show weakness. Dartrix against Crobat was indeed a mismatch. She wanted to say she was confident, but the truth really was she had no other option. But that did not mean she did not have a plan, however. It was possible, but it would be a challenge. It was comforting knowing her friend was always up for one.

“No matter, as long as you're capable,” Guhl purred, running the backs of his fingers along his chin. “Let's turn the tables from earlier. Iksbat, Confuse Ray!”

Prema nodded. “You too, Yahata.”

The bat Pokemon opened his mouth while Yahata covered his face. In sync, Iksbat spat out a sphere of eerie light, and Yahata did the same with his eyes after spreading his wings outward. The two attacks hurtled forth, drew together in the middle, and canceled each other out. It was not the most productive countermeasure, but it worked.

Guhl snorted. “Back into the shadows, Iksbat!” he said. The bat darted to the rafters, concealing himself in their darkness and no doubt readying himself for another ambush.

It would be folly to have Yahata attempt to follow, given he could not fly as effectively. Prema could sense the relative location of Iksbat. But there was a better option. Being a ghost does not mean being a Ghost-type. She knew just what to do.

“Yahata, Swift!”

He nodded and spread one wing. With the other, he pulled it back and shot shining quills towards the ceiling. Guhl shook his head initially, until they started impacting Iksbat with devastating precision. The bat fell halfway to the floor in surprise.

“What?” he flatly said, perhaps unaware that Normal-type moves could still hit his phantom Crobat.

“Yahata, follow through with Shadow Sneak.” It was not just his Pokemon able to take advantage of the dark room. He stretched out his shadow into the air. Normally, this would have been impossible, but the circumstances were right to allow it.

“Dodge!” Despite Iksbat's best efforts, the Dartrix still got a piece of him. The flames around Guhl started to spark while he laughed with glee. “Well done! Now, use Poison Fang, Iksbat!”

So he had decided to bring the battle up close. Evasion was improbable, not with the speed of a Crobat against a grounded bird, not that it would have been better if Yahata had taken flight. But they could strike back. “Steel Wing!”

Yahata stood prepared, ready to intercept Iksbat mid-flight. The Crobat dove too quickly. The owl screeched as he was bitten on the shoulder. He thrashed his stiffened wing out and managed to hit his attacker. Once, twice. It was not ideal, but any bit of damage would help.

“Now, back into the air!” Guhl motioned with flair.

Iksbat retracted his fangs and escaped before Yahata could strike him a third time. He nearly fell over from momentum and exhaustion.

“Are you all right, Yahata?” Prema asked, putting her hands together. She was praying there was no poison. He lifted a wing and cooed, yes.

As Iksbat circled overhead, Prema saw an opportunity. It would have no immediate effect, but it would give them an advantage later, if they could defeat Iksbat quickly enough.

“Light Screen.”

Yahata focused. His eyes gleamed and his wingtips glowed faintly. He traced a faint shell of light around himself. It faded, and yet, there was still a source of illumination in the room.

Iksbat was also glowing. Prema could not help but gasp in horror. “You're not half bad, Kannagi,” Guhl complimented with a toothless and bottomless grin. “But playtime's over!”

Prema could only stare down at the floor. Guhl had turned her use of a defensive move into an opportunity to prepare something of his own! She should have known better! She had messed up, there was nothing she could do now!

But her friend stood in a ready position, eyes narrowed and focused on Iksbat. He had a wing ready in front of his face. Prema understood his intent. “Yahata, Confuse Ray,” she managed to utter. It was their only option, on a literal wing and prayer.

Yahata let the eerie light flow once more, letting out a shriek as he did so. Prema wondered if the light of the Sky Attack would cancel it, but her fears were dispelled when Iksbat began to wobble as it reached his eyes.

“Pull through!” the phantom trainer yelled. “SKY ATTACK!”

All the air left Prema at once as the X-shaped bat burst into white-red light and swooped directly at Yahata, poised to strike with blazing wings. The owl glared and braced for impact. It did no good. It was a direct hit, catching him right in the throat and sending him halfway across the room into more crates.

“Yahata!” Prema yelled, running over as fast as her legs could carry her. She didn't care if Iksbat was flying in for a follow-up. She immediately knelt down and checked on her friend. His eyes were shut. No serious injuries, thank the gods.

“Yahata…” she repeated, pulling him into a hug. She patted him on the back, but it did not rouse him. The priestess gently laid him back against the crate, a tightness in her chest and a knot in her stomach. She took a step back and lowered her gaze. She always felt guilt whenever her Pokemon got badly hurt in a battle. “I apologize…” she whispered. But all she could do was allow him to rest in his Poke Ball.

She finally turned back. Guhl had crossed his arms and was tapping them with a finger. Iksbat was near where Yahata had been, having shaken off his confusion.

“You done with the melodrama?” the phantom trainer asked.

Prema clenched her fists. How could he be so dismissive about this?! Had he not felt anything of the sort whenever one of his Pokemon got hurt? No, she could not get angry. She took a deep breath to compose herself. She could not afford this to cloud her judgment.

“I am,” she breathed in and out. “But…”

Prema silently stepped to the center of the room, near the table and chairs. She was almost tempted to sit down to make her point, though she knew that would put her at a strategic disadvantage. She had to focus on the aerial battle that was about to take place. Being distracted for even a moment was not something she could afford.

“Okay.” She inhaled and exhaled again.

“No snappy line, like it's time to finish this?” Guhl mocked, wagging a finger. The thought had crossed her mind, but she thought it disrespectful.

She brought out the Poke Ball containing her final and strongest Pokemon, Taiyoko. The day they met was a cherished memory. February of 2014. She was in Unova with her father, studying mythology in an ancient castle. She was by herself. A Volcarona entered the chamber. The fiery moth was in no mood for words. Shu and Yahata – then a mere Rowlet – stood no chance. Prema thought she was going to be hurt, if not worse. Then her father stepped in and rescued her. He captured the Volcarona and gave it to her for her birthday, on the condition that she declare that she had captured it herself. Prema felt bad, not only for the lie, but also for subjecting her to an unworthy trainer. But Taiyoko thought otherwise and proved to be a surprisingly loyal partner and friend, even in battle.

The room brightened as Taiyoko emerged from her ball. Volcarona was not considered a Legendary Pokemon, or even adjacent to one, but some cultures worshiped them like gods nonetheless. It was nothing unusual. Azalea Town in Johto, for example, paid tribute to the species of Slowpoke as bringers of rain. Their own faith had no lack of respect for these other views.

“What is this?” Guhl was at a loss for words. His Pokemon recoiled away from the light of the majestic Pokemon and fled higher up. Phantoms and spirits rarely agreed with the sun, and Taiyoko was one that shined anywhere and anytime.

“Are you ready, Mr. Guhl?” she asked him, a coy smile on her lips.

He scoffed at her confidence, but also gave a toothy half-grin. “Bring it.” He turned to his Pokemon. “Poison Fang, and make sure you hit it this time!”

Prema understood his strategy. If her final Pokemon became poisoned, especially badly poisoned, their defeat was inevitable. Prema had brought berries to treat mild injuries, yet she was uncertain how he would take things if she used them in the middle of their battle.

Not that it mattered. It would not hit. “Heat Wave, Taiyoko.”

Iksbat was quick, but Taiyoko had skill. She flapped her wings, blasting him with scorching hot air. Not only did this stop his advance a couple meters short, it left his ghostly body burnt.

Guhl clutched his head, wondering what to do. When his Pokemon squeaked to indicate he could continue, he rolled his head. “Get some distance and Air Slash.”

Prema decisively nodded. “Hidden Power, my friend.”

Iksbat swung his wings and sent out blades of air, and Taiyoko unleashed her inner essence. The result was an exchange of blows that struck a weakness, although the lingering Light Screen materialized around Taiyoko, keeping her relatively safe.

“That was super-effective?” Guhl realized as his Pokemon fumbled in the air. His upper lip twitched and the dark flames around him shivered. When Prema opened her mouth, he shouted, “All right, stop!”

They stopped. His partner got the message at once, flying back up to join him.

“Wait. Send Iksbat back down.” She retrieved and presented a Rawst Berry. The burn would not sap his spirit enough that it would threaten his continued existence on the mortal plane, yet it would still be painful until treated.

“I do not need your sympathy, Kannagi,” he dismissed, eyes momentarily flashing white.

“Very well.” Perhaps it was just a matter of pride. But she trusted that Guhl had a means of healing his Pokemon. They had a strong bond.

They each had one left. Could she and Taiyoko defeat his final Pokemon? Nori had told her that Konrad Guhl's Zoroark was his strongest Pokemon. How much stronger was unclear. But for the first time since the battle began, Prema felt hopeful about her chances.

“Fuchspuk!” he shouted. The pale Zoroark dropped from above. He landed on his feet and a single paw, standing and leaning forward with a growl and a hiss. He threw his arms out at his side, flashing his claws.

The two Pokemon sized each other up. Contrary to their types, Taiyoko's gaze was cold and distant whereas Fuchspuk's was fiery and hostile. Prema exchanged a knowing glance with her friend. They both knew what was at stake here.

Guhl soon gave the first attack. “Bitter Malice, Fuchspuk!”

“Heat Wave, Taiyoko.”

Her companion flapped her wings, blasting another wave of hot air. But Fuchspuk simply endured the attack, howling with fury. All of his despair and resentment became concentrated into a dark aura. It vanished momentarily and manifested all around Taiyoko. Nearly impossible to escape, and indeed, she could not.

Prema tucked inward as her Pokemon started to shudder. Frostbite. No, not that! Not now!

“Looks like your luck's run out,” Guhl said, rubbing his hands together and flicking his tongue at the roof of his mouth. “Aerial Ace, Fuchspuk.”

“Warm and protect yourself with Fiery Dance!”

Fuchspuk charged, barreling in on all fours. He stopped in front of Taiyoko as she wrapped herself in flames and spun defensively. She tried to move forward and envelop him, but he stepped aside and struck as soon as the move concluded. Taiyoko clacked in a frenzy as the claws raked over her, and continued to shudder. The frostbite ran much too deep!

“Another Aerial Ace before you fall back!” Once more, Fuchspuk delivered a lightning-fast blow with his claws that brutally tore into Prema's friend. The priestess hoped that he might trigger Taiyoko's Flame Body, but it did not happen. No, on very close examination, he was striking with just his nails to avoid that.

This was precarious. The frostbite was weakening Taiyoko's concentration, and therefore her ability to put her all into her special moves. She had to do something to compensate.

“Taiyoko…please…” she prayed and closed her eyes. It might be difficult to do, but it was the best countermeasure. “Sunny Day!”

“Stop them!” Guhl screamed. “Bitter Malice!”

Though she was not looking, Prema could feel her Pokemon going through with it. There was a flash as she hurled a hot sphere of light high above. It was an artificial sun, much like what ancient people revered Volcaronas as being.

“You little…” Guhl had retreated to the far corner of the room. Iksbat was behind him, though Zwirrklop was simply off to the side.

“Oh, I apologize.” In the heat of the moment, she had forgotten that the others would be affected. Fuchspuk appeared to be completely unabated, besides being stunned into halting his attack.

The phantom trainer ultimately laughed it off. “No matter,” he boomed, coming out a little further once the shock had worn off. It was something of a relief that it was not too debilitating for them to continue fighting. “Flamethrower, use it against them.”

The shadowy aura returned to Fuchspuk. This time, it shifted and became literal burning resentment which the ghostly fox expelled towards Taiyoko.

“Fiery Dance!”

Her Pokemon elegantly floated through the air, enveloped in flame. She started it just in time, partially absorbing the Flamethrower. She kept going towards Fuchspuk.

“Dodge,” roared Guhl.

Fuchspuk was off and running on all fours. Taiyoko could not get close enough. She was getting weaker with every second she spent with frostbite. Every time she was hit without hitting back was making things worse. They had to do something.

Guhl held up his palm, making Fuchspuk stop in place, fifteen meters away. He laughed, turning to his Pokemon expectantly. “End it. Return.”

He started bouncing with joy. The prelude to another full force strike. Taiyoko absolutely had to avoid it. The fiery moth looked back for suggestions. Prema had no doubt that Fuchspuk would find a way to escape a Heat Wave and hit regardless. They needed something else.

Prema watched closely. Guhl made a motion and Fuchspuk lunged. An erratic approach. He was likely going to conclude with a leaping strike. But she saw an opening. It was time for some quick strategy!

“String Shot between those two boxes!” She gestured at them. The one that had fallen and the one it had fallen from.

Taiyoko trusted her and turned to follow her instructions. She timed it perfectly. Fuchspuk indeed tried to slip through that spot, getting caught and tripped by the webbing. Her friend sensed what Prema wanted her to do next and followed up with more webbing.

The other Pokemon lay helpless on the floor, tangled in silk. It was time to strike a mighty blow. “Heat Wave!” That would make sure none of it was burned off!

“Shadow Sneak!”

Fuchspuk stretched out a paw. His shadow flew across the floor. Prema called out a warning, to no avail. Taiyoko flew up to avoid it while still preparing her attack, but the ghostly fox adjusted his trajectory. The fiery moth got off one gust before the shadow came up behind her and swung, knocking her down.

“Now get out and finish it!” Fuchspuk sank into the floor, leaving the sticky goop behind. Prema winced. She had forgotten they would be able to do that! The white and red fox burst from below and charged. “Shadow Claw!”

“Taiyoko, Fi–”

Their hearts were in sync; the flames were already gathering. Taiyoko launched upward, spreading fire everywhere. Fuchspuk halted as the purging flames struck true. The two Pokemon were engulfed, only their silhouettes visible. Taiyoko was straining, putting everything she could into the attack. Fuchspuk crouched.

And swung, the darkness slicing through the fire.

The flames died, and the Sunny Day began to sputter. Taiyoko was thrown high into the air from the force of the blow.

“Now, end it. Dark Pulse!”

Taiyoko may have already been unconscious, but this was deliberate insult to injury. Fuchspuk pressed his hands together, a ball of wicked energy forming between them. From his palms came the same black laser that had sent Nariya to the hospital. Taiyoko was sent careening into a crate, crashing into it and falling motionless to the floor. The battle was decided.

A cackle escaped Guhl as darkness enveloped the room. It was unlike his prior laughs: an insane, short explosion of sound, with an edge that no human – deceased or otherwise – should be able to make. Prema stood fast as the echo seemed to reach for her very soul. Perhaps more troubling was the sight of Fuchspuk. Still standing high, still with stamina to spare, and laughing just like his trainer. It was not as close as she had expected. Even without the misfortunate frostbite, were they outmatched to begin with?

She took a deep breath as the phantom trainer stopped laughing. “I apologize, Taiyoko,” she said, approaching her friend. She lightly touched a palm to the Pokemon's thorax. With that, the moth of the sun came to. “You fought well, but my own inadequacies failed you.”

Perhaps it was the pressure that got to her, perhaps they were not as experienced, or perhaps she was not good enough compared to Guhl. Either way, Taiyoko did not appear to blame her. She relaxed into the physical contact, chittering softly. Prema eventually gave her one last pat before allowing her friend to rest in her Poke Ball.

She walked to the center of the room and bowed respectfully to her opponent. “I must apologize to you as well, Mr. Guhl. I admit, Pokemon training has not been a high priority for myself.” Internally, she suspected that the only reason she did so well was because of the low endurance of spirit Pokemon. “In spite of your clear victory, I hope you were able to gain some satisfaction from our battle.”

“Not even a little,” came his cold reply. Guhl's form began to become completely shadowy. He stretched out his arms, which twisted and distorted. “Where was your passion? I hurt your friend, and you gave me that performance? You disappoint me, Kannagi. It's time you took a rest.”

He swooped down. He raised a bludgeon-shaped hand, ready to assault her. On pure instinct, Prema reached for and grabbed the broom that was lying on the table. Wielding it like a kendo stick, she swung and parried the phantom's blow.

A crack rang out as their weapons clashed. Guhl's eyes widened. Prema pushed and shoved him back several meters into the air. His gaze narrowed as he smirked. “Not bad. But not good enough. Fuchspuk, get her.”

For a moment, Prema considered dropping the broom in a show of defiance, yet she instead gripped it tighter. This vengeful spirit had shown no hesitation in harming innocents, so true pacifism could not be afforded. She turned to face the Pokemon, although kept an eye on Guhl over her shoulder. If it was just him or his Pokemon, she could defend herself and escape. But not both, not alone. The white and red fox raised his claws, and Guhl got ready to dive again.

It was fortunate that she was not alone. She had called for them mentally, but did not doubt her mentor would have come regardless. Right on cue, a round, watery blur tackled Fuchspuk, knocking him to the floor. As Guhl had his attention diverted by the attack on his Pokemon, narrow strings of energy – braided from the light of the sun – came from behind and ensnared his limbs. They quickly encircled his body and bound him.

It was Priestess Satomi and her Blastoise. The starter Pokemon stood as tall and proud as Prema figured she did nearly eighty years ago. She had evidently not missed a step.

“Forgot about someone?” Priestess Satomi taunted.

“You bitch!” Guhl growled and hissed, struggling to break free from the bindings. “That was a cowardly attack!”

The elderly priestess snorted. “Not so nice, is it? Thought I was gonna rest on my laurels?”

The phantom only grew angrier. The grudge-fueled flames around him sparked wildly. “Crush them! Extrasensory!” He looked upward. “Iksbat, Zwirrklop, help get me out!”

“Give'em a Hydro Cannon!”

Fuchspuk focused his power on the crates, perhaps in an attempt to send them flying as a projectile. Priestess Satomi's Blastoise lowered her cannons, locked and loaded them, and fired. The blast was so powerful that it sent the fox flying into the opposite wall. He sunk into the floor after impact, no longer having the strength to cling to the mortal world.

The other two Pokemon spirits shut their eyes, flinching in shock. The onryō gasped, a sob escaping him before he screamed. “NOOOO! Fuchspuk!” He thrashed and writhed. His eyes glowed white and were fixated on his captor. His resentment burned even more intensely, enveloping him in a dark inferno, but did nothing to free him.

“I think it is time you rested,” said Priestess Satomi as her Pokemon recharged from the devastating move. She nonchalantly held Guhl steady. “Lady Kannagi, quickly.”

While stunned by her mentor figure's mercilessness, Prema was aware that there was no time to hesitate, in case he found a means to break those bonds or his Pokemon snapped out of their reverie. Prema closed her eyes. She bent her right wrist and contorted her fingers into an infinity shape. She emptied her mind and thought only white.

“Blessed spirits of the other world, heed my call,” she chanted in a trance. Her hair and robes billowed lightly from the power welling around her. One finger, then two, and soon the tips of all five were tingling slightly. “Come set these lost souls to rest!”

Prema bent her wrist and fingers outward. Invisible spheres of light flew out from them, branding her foe. Guhl's screams of agony and a sickening slurping noise seemed to meld together. It was as if a drain plug had been pulled open beneath him. Iksbat was the first to be pulled into the invisible vortex, marked only by a faint light which didn't disturb corporeal surroundings. He was swiftly followed by Zwirrklop, who tried to resist but was eventually sucked in as well.

Guhl struggled violently, cursing up a storm, and managed to hold on. But he became still and silent as he watched his remaining partners disappear. The flames around his body faded. The vengeful spirit faced Prema, gritting his teeth and narrowing his gaze. An expression that could have meant any number of things, yet she could not afford to dwell on the subject. Reaching out to mentally grasp the strings of light that Priestess Satomi had formed, Prema threw her arm downward, casting the phantom into the endless depths. Finally, she clenched her fist, shutting the gate.

Prema paused to catch her breath as it ended, although she also felt more alert. It was over. It should have been nothing short of a relief, yet she could not feel happy about the way it had gone.

“Good riddance!” Priestess Satomi dismissed, strutting over to check on her Pokemon. “Still got it, don't we, Otohime?”

A low, croaking noise came from the throat of the Blastoise as she nodded. It transitioned into a quiet yawn, one spawned from boredom. It was obvious that she had expected more of a fight.

Satomi turned to her. She tilted her head upon noticing her sulking. “Why the long face, Lady Kannagi?”

Prema sighed and sat down on one of the chairs. “I am simply disappointed at how things turned out. The last wish of Mr. Guhl was to have a great battle before passing to the other side. I could not provide him with that.” She turned away and looked at the place where the vortex had been. “I should have asked you to face him. Or even accepted Nori's offer.”

“Well, no room for regrets. Maybe we would've done better! But then again, maybe not.” She chuckled knowingly. “Personally, I think you did just fine. And frankly?” She leaned in as if wishing to whisper a secret. “I doubt that man would've gone along even if he'd lost. Those grudges of his consumed his soul too much.”

Prema shuffled her feet. Yes, that was evident at the end. He was fine before, during, and even after the battle as he tried to attack her. But his personality warped when Priestess Satomi came to protect her. “Perhaps true, and yet…” And yet, she would have preferred to free him from it. It was also presumptuous to assume that he would not have passed on if he had been defeated.

“You are too kind, Lady Kannagi,” Priestess Satomi chuckled. “I can tell you're giving him the benefit of the doubt. And sympathy for the one who harmed Nariya and endangered your friendship!”

She straightened her posture. “I had decided to set it aside for dealing with him.”

“I am not saying it is a wholly negative trait.”

“That said, I do understand that Guhl needed to be dealt with, one way or another.” That was something she was under no illusions over. “I am simply wishing it did not have to come to this.”

“You said yourself he was going about things the wrong way. Attacking the innocent just to lure in the strong. There was already little room to excuse that, but all bets were off when he decided to attack you for Gods know what reason. It was his bed to make and lie in.”

He might have wanted to draw in someone stronger, someone better. They had acted in self-defense. That was perhaps the only reason Prema did not feel worse about it.

“You see that smile he had at the end, there?” Priestess Satomi suddenly asked.

“Was it one?” It was peculiar that his grudge subsided and he stopped struggling. But was it just that he had accepted his fate? Or did he want to be with his partners in the world beyond?

“I thought it was one, anyway.” She threw up her arms. “Just take it easy, Lady Kannagi. You've had a long week.”

Prema reluctantly nodded. “Yes… I suppose you are correct.”

“Thanks again for the assist, ol' girl.” She patted Otohime on the shell and recalled her. “Let's head back home and tell'em the good news.”


There was a truth she concealed from Priestess Satomi. She could get over having to forcibly send Guhl to the other side. She truly had no choice, she knew that. Yet it would not have come to that if not for her lack of ability. The guilt of having to be rescued was unlikely to go away. Had she been a better trainer, a stronger diviner, a more willful person, the outcome could have been very different.

In a sense, she had failed a second time.
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