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Bahamut lay still. His core was dimmed. His arms were bolted tightly against his core, which was venting thick, black smoke in some sort of distorted mirror for the heat the mysterious stone was giving off.
He is dying. Something happened when the stone interacted with his body. It stripped away his light. This reaction never happened before, why him...?
"But..." Owen hastily related this to Maple, who seemed to have already known.
"Bahamut, hang on," Maple said firmly. "I'll--I'll be sure to--" She was pressing her hands against his core and crystal, but even when she sent in gentle waves of light, they weren't sticking. Bahamut was too far gone. "No, no, this isn't--" Maple's mind was somewhere else, and her eyes were staring through Bahamut.
"What can I do?" Owen asked uselessly, but Maple didn't even hear him.
"Please, not like this," Maple whispered, pumping more energy into him, afraid that his Dark center would be too disrupted if she tried anything more.
"Maple...?" Owen didn't understand why she was so worked up. If she calmed down and thought it through, maybe there would be some other way to save him--and even if he died, would he not just go to Diyem again? The way she was getting so worked up--was Maple crying?
"Joule, please," Maple whispered desperately, and her whole body glowed gold for a split second. She didn't mean to, but she'd channeled a little more into Bahamut. Something else, something that wasn't Radiance, but some other power.
And this time, it worked.
The energy flowed around him, through his core, and the light swirled around his body again. His prisms turned and floated, but... something was wrong, still.
Something was indeed very off. Bahamut felt heavy in a way he had never experienced. He tried to stand up, but it suddenly registered that he had four legs. Bahamut stumbled and fell on his side. It was then that he saw one of his prismatic arms protruded from his back. His metal, yellow-orange back.
He opened his mouth — wait, he had a mouth? What happened to his beak?! — but instead of words there was a mewl.
"...What?" Maple and Owen both said, and the former finally realized how distraught she had been. She quickly tried to compose herself, straightening her fur, wiping her eyes--no tears, surprisingly--and then adjusting her cap. "I... I might have... made a mistake."
"He's..." Owen rubbed his head, fighting off a headache that might have been due to stress.
"Bahamut?" Maple said gently. "I think... I might have accidentally infused... some extra power within you to revive you. But your body reacted to it..."
Owen hid behind the mirror, only coming out when the roar subsided. "I--I have no idea! Maple?"
"...I've seen this before," Maple said. "Your kind are capable of taking possession of certain powerful entities. One of the most common possessions are other light-based beings, such as what form you're taking now--Solgaleo. But there is nobody you are controlling in this case. It was... a body given to you." Maple reached forward, gently. "...Hmm... Yes. I... I'm sorry. I do not think I can undo it. I granted you life."
"...What does that mean?" Owen asked.
"I gave something that did not qualify, traditionally, as alive... life."
"You aren't... a normal Smeargle, are you?" Owen asked, frowning.
Maple smiled sadly, but then addressed Bahamut. "I'm sorry, Bahamut. This will be an adjustment for you. But while you are here... you have been given 'life.' You might feel new instincts from this body. You can eat, and bleed, and sleep. You are... 'alive.'"
"Sounds like you made him mortal," Owen commented.
One blink. Then another. He looked down at his paws. His paws. Big. Yellow-orange. With black spokes protruding from them. "I—"
The stone beside him rocked back and forth. It hopped up a few times, thumping against the ground. Bahamut looked at it. Why did he feel like there was laughter echoing in his head? He rubbed it with one of his prism hands. "Well, this isn't a disaster, but it's not pleasant." He tried to step toward them, but misplanted his right foreleg and fell onto his side again. And the stone rolled around even more.
Roaring once again, Bahamut swatted the stone. It bounced off a nearby tree and ricocheted to strike him in the flank. His tail reflexively curled up and he somehow righted himself, newfound claws digging into the dirt.
"... I take it back. I hate this." He looked skyward. "Just strike me down, Dark Matter. I am not going to spend my days as an overgrown feline. I—"
Another growl rose up, but not from his mouth. Bahamut looked between his forelegs and was greeted by a second growl and a squeezing pain. "Khh..."
He hunched over. What... what was this pain? He had to think. Had to— wait, it was kind of like when he was starved for light. Then it was a hunger pain? This was what being hungry felt like?
Owen frowned, finding this less funny than the stone, but he tried to be constructive. "Hey, how about you get something to eat?" he asked. "Like... uh, maybe something small at first, like an Oran? Or an apple? Or maybe you can try a curry bowl..."
Maple helped Bahamut steady himself. "You'll need a few... life lessons, won't you?"
"Is it that obvious?" Bahamut was at least able to nudge his bag open to get out a berry. He wasn't completely ignorant of such matters. He had watched the people around him eat on numerous occasions. Bahamut gobbled the berry up. His mouth got very wet and berry juice and slobber dribbled on the ground around him. "So, this is what taste is like..." His pupilless eyes flickered. "Leaves much to be desired."
“If we were fighting, I’d call her something not suitable for your innocent charmander ear frills.” Bahamut sighed. “We should go, too, little one. Tell the others that we don’t have to hide Diyem’s truth anymore.”
"--No, I meant, Maple and Dave, er... never mind." Owen sighed. "...Not a little one..."
Maple disappeared through a portal, leaving the pair to walk back. Owen seemed a little brighter than before, if only after reflecting on what had just happened. There was still an air of caution about Maple, but at least they didn't have to hide the truth anymore. It was a weight off his shoulders.
"Thanks for the help," Owen said to Bahamut. "I hate secrets..."
Bahamut was still having trouble learning how to walk after a lifetime of floating everywhere. His steps lacked a solid rhythm to them. "Yes, I could tell. This one was positively burning you up inside." He kept a straight face despite the pun.