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[Support] Other Storms

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Dragon Enthusiast
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
All of Team Spectrum had been scattered across the winds of the Eterna storm. Several of them had gone through trials in their own realms as their closest companions turned against them, or as the world that they'd been thrust into turned against them instead. And as they battled and fought for their survival, some had more struggles than others. Amid the storm, those who took on a more supportive role in battle had their own fights to go through...
The Burning Shrine: Soul and Celeste

Shiny Phantump

Through Dream, I Travel
  1. sylveon
  2. absol-mega
  3. silvally-psychic
  4. custom/ninetales-phantump
  5. cosmog
Celeste found himself in the shrine back home. Was this it? Had he died? No, if so, he wouldn't remember that he'd ever left. This place wasn't really what it appeared to be.

Soul was here, too. She had her back turned, staring into the brazier holding the sacred flame. Or, this place's imitation of the flame, as it may be. Her voice shook as she spoke.

"I remember."

The flames grew taller, as if fueled by Soul's words.

"Back before, soon after you arrived, you killed a shade."

"I'm sorry..."

She ignored him and proceeded. "You thought it was pointless, trying to keep us alive... I would forgive that. You didn't know we were any more than parasites. But you just couldn't admit you were wrong. Once you got my egg, you treated me like an object, because it was better than admitting I was alive. I spent the beginning of my life trying not to exist so that I wouldn't break that delusion."

"Soul, liste-"

Soul's snapped around to look at him. Her eyes were burning red with indignation. "Silence! I don't have to listen to you. You've given me nothing, and so you've earned nothing in return. I've spent my entire life fighting tooth and claw to fix the way you screwed me up."

As Soul's voice grew louder, the flames in the brazier swelled to such enormous size that the tapestries set on the wall behind it began to burn.

"I... I hate you! All I needed was a family that wanted me, but I ended up with you instead."

The shrine was swelteringly hot as it caught fire and burned around him.

Soul didn't know where she was, or how she ended up here. Perhaps it was a place of importance to Celeste, but that was no reason for her to care about it. It wasn't as if like she had any shared memories of it. It was cathartic to watch it burn. She was furious in a way she'd never been able to feel before. The storm had granted her resolve to confront the past.

"All I needed was a family that wanted me, but I ended up with you instead."

A smirk broke out on her face. She laughed. "Don't worry about me, though. I'll be fine. I found a way to go on without you. I found my own family, my siblings... and soon I'll have a mother, too."

I am my mother's daughter.

Soul raised her legs off the ground, holding still in the air. Her hind legs began to disappear as her forelegs shifted into claws. Wingbones emerged from behind her shoulders. Her tails fused into a single bladed end.

Yes. This is how things were supposed to be.

Soul flicked her tail out and sliced the strap off Celeste's bag, catching it in her claw. It was still the same bag. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. It hurt to look at, hurt to think about.

"So many memories..."

Soul hurled the bag into the brazier. The flames leapt in response to the fuel, dancing through several unnatural different colours as invaluable magic-imbued items were reduced to ash.

She expected to see Celeste's eyes begin to glow with radiance, like they did before every fight. Yet nothing happened. She stared into his eyes, seeing the sadness, the regret, and the fear.

It's too late to start having regrets.

Still, though, there was no radiance in his eyes. Did he think he could fool her into think he trusted her if he just kept his combat vision off? As if he fact he was afraid wasn't written across his face. She wouldn't allow herself to be fooled by fake trust.

"Please, Soul, jus-"

Soul slashed at his throat with her tail. He sputtered staggered back, eyes widening. She felt him switch to trying to speak over the mental link. This time it was her turn to block it out.

"I don't care! I'm done dealing with you!"

Just yesterday, Soul had been finding it harder to call upon the spiteful energy for her hexes. Today, storm whirling around them, emotion burning in her core, she had no such difficulty. She called on that strength for one last hex...

Soul used Ruin on Celeste! He was inflicted with Curse!

There was nothing left for her here. Soul flew through a spot where the ceiling had burned away and left.

Celeste tried to call out to Soul as she fled, but his lungs fought to breathe.

Celeste took 253 damage from the curse...

He watched Soul disappear. Maybe he deserved this...

Celeste took 253 damage from the curse...

He did deserve it, didn't he? He hoped Soul would be able to move on.

Celeste took 253 damage from the curse...

He tried to reach out again, even though he doubted she was listening.

Soul. I'm proud of how much you've grown... But, please, don't let this consume you. You had found a way to be happy. I don't want this version of you to replace that. Please... Move on. Forget me.

Celeste took 253 damage from the curse. Celeste fainted.

He saw Soul turn back to look at him before consciousness failed him.


Soul felt Celeste reach out again. Having burned out her anger, her curiosity got the better of her.

Soul. I'm proud of how much you've grown.

As if he had any right to-

But please, don't let this consume you. You had found a way to be happy.

She was happy! This was her why to get closure. Then why wasn't she satisfied?

I don't want this version of you to replace that.

This version of her? She hadn't become someone else! The storm had just-

Please... Move on. Forget me.

Soul turned around and looked back. The fear was gone from his eyes. Why? There was nothing he could do to stop the curse from consuming him. Didn't that mean his fear was about to come true? But no, now there was just sadness, a pleading look in his eyes. Pleading for what? For her to... move on? To forget him? Why would he want to be forgotten?

Oh. He'd just told her why, hadn't he.

She had found a way to be happy. He didn't want this to replace that. She just didn't understand why he cared. The two of them had barely had any connection at all. Why did he care? Why did he want her to be happy? Why wasn't he more concerned about the fact he could die in that burning shrine? She was going to be a murderer, why was he still worried about her?

In the end, he did care. You just didn't notice.

She might never know now. A burning beam could fall on his unconscious body any moment now, and she would never see him again, and she would never understand why he seemed to care all of a sudden. Because she would have killed him. Are you happy now? Do you have your 'closure?'

There was one thing left she could do. She swooped back down and took him into her claws. Felt his real, living heartbeat against her false shade projection. Why were things like this? Why was she like this?

Why did she have so many questions all of a sudden? She was supposed to be done with questions.

Soul felt... something. Nausea? Heartache? The ever-elusive "pain?"

She felt like her heart was going to break. But she didn't have one. The closest she had was her core, and it was almost indestru-

Soul felt something crack inside her.

She examined herself, and saw her core had cracked. Was Eien's storm going to hatch her? This could've been a happy moment. You ruined it.

She recalled her projection into the shell. If it would make any difference, she wasn't sure, but if she was going to hatch she wanted to do it properly. Was... Was this really happening? If not for the circumstances, she would be thrilled...

When she returned, there was no eggshell. Nor anything left of her core. Her senses were stronger, her appearance more solid... but... she was still...

It didn't matter. What right did she have to complain right now. She lifted Celeste up off the ground and carried him out of the shrine. The storm... Was it getting clearer somehow? Perhaps her mother was saved. Or dead.

"I'm sorry..." she whispered to her unconscious host... former host? She wasn't sure anymore. But now that he was safe, she had one more thing to do.

Soul flew off towards the place she felt the eye of the storm would be.
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Some place nice: Seyka

RJR Basimilus

Arceus is nice I suppose...
the Lovely Planet
  1. arceus-fighting
  2. lurantis
  3. arceus-poison
(CW: Kind of violent)

Seyka had hung back slightly from the rest of the group, idly watching the storm as it raged. The Skarmory was hoping he wouldn’t have to help this time when he found himself abruptly lying flat on his back, his wings spread out.

“I guess this means we lost,” Seyka said to himself. “Too bad, I had fun.”

“No, you didn’t.”

Startled, Seyka turned his head. To his left, a shadowy Archeops sat cross legged, staring at him. It looked down at Seyka in disgust, it’s eyes a deep red.

“Hey- you evolved.” Seyka frowned. “Mmm, I don’t know what to call you. It doesn’t feel right to use my brother’s name.”

The Archeops-shade shrugged. “Why don’t you call me Mar then?”

The Skarmory stiffened. “Inno, you promised you wouldn’t make jokes like that.”

Inno laughed. “I love seeing you angry. But I don’t remember promising anything like that.” The Archeops stood up, looming over the Skarmory. “Anyway, you called me Inno. Change your mind?”

“How you were before now- checking on me, asking me if I wanted anything -that was nice, but... that wasn’t you.” Seyka made a face. “But now you’re normal again.”

“Is that a problem?” Inno sighed. “I thought you would be happy.”

Seyka slowly got to his feet, looking around. They were in a grove of trees, surrounded by blackened branches. The ground was covered in pink leaves, a few falling off of Seyka’s head. For a moment, the Skarmory was silent. Then, he smiled.

“I am happy,” Seyka said. “But why do this now?” He looked around again. The tips of some branches were covered with a light layer of frost. In the distance, the Skarmory could see an indistinct shape. As he looked closer, his eyes widened for a moment. “Oh. Here. This must be just a joke. From what the others said, these weird energies do things like this.”

Inno followed Seyka’s gaze. “You say I’m normal, but you’re still talking.”

“Because I know it’s not ‘you’ you. You’re just like him, but you’re-”

“The difference is negligible,” Inno interrupted, reaching out and grasping Seyka’s lower jaw. In his other hand, he produced a rock. Before the Skarmory could protest, he placed it in Seyka’s open mouth and rammed his arm upwards, forcing Seyka to crunch down on the rock. “Only a little while away from home and you’re already soft. Looks like we need to work on that.”

Seyka staggered backwards, his eyes closed. He shook his head, spitting out fragments of rock, as well as bits of teeth. “You’re right. I was helping out the team though, so I kind of forgot.”

“Helping?” The Archeops looked amused. “With what? You’ve never learned any of those techniques the rest of them rely on- radiance or whatever. You barely function as moral support, let alone physical.”

“Ah.” Seyka looked away. “Damn it.”

“Well, it’s okay,” Inno said. “I’ve never expected anything out of you, and I’m sure they feel the same.”

“Mmm, oh well. I still enjoyed it,” Seyka replied.

“And I already said you didn’t.” Inno was annoyed. “Nothing that has happened has truly meant anything to you. You’re the same as at home, a walking corpse without meaning or purpose.”

“You don’t have to say it like that,” Seyka protested.

The Archeops’ expression was unchanged. “You don’t have the right to ask for something like that.” Inno straightened up, walking a distance away. “Alright then, I’ve decided to kill you. For real this time.”

“That’s what you said last time,” Seyka said glumly, “I can’t die- you can’t die- it’s pointless.”

“So you say...” Inno trailed off. “But you two both know exactly how to kill each other. And since it looks like your brother, for all his talk, still has a shred of love for you, I can pick up where he left off. You said it yourself, I’m not him.”

Seyka thought for a moment. “Well... alright, go ahead. I don’t mind dying.”

Inno took a deep breath, then stomped on the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust. Remaining perfectly still, Seyka’s eyes flitted around in anticipation until the dust cleared, revealing Inno in the same spot he had been, now sitting.

“I thought about it,” Inno said idly, “And it’s just too much trouble to try and attack you. Your body is just really tough, you know? So- I have a question. What do you feel, talking to me?”

The Skarmory pondered the question. “I feel like I’m able to say what’s on my mind. That talking to you is like practice for the real thing.”

“Right, I see.” Inno blinked, his red eyes gleaming. “I think I’ve had an epiphany here.” The Archeops got up. “I’m leaving.”

“Huh?” Seyka was confused.

“I’m going to go find Mar. I’d rather stick around my older brother, who is reliable.”

Seyka’s expression twisted into a scowl. “Cut that out! I don’t want to hear that name ever again.”

Inno shrugged. “I’m only acting how I feel my real counterpart would act. You’ve been a waste of space for this long, so there’s hardly a point in extra chances. Don’t you think he would reach this conclusion too eventually?”

Seyka shrunk back from the Archeops. “No, no no. We’ve been together for this long.”

“Hence why we’re both fools. But at least I learn from my mistakes. It’s taken half a millenia to do so, but I’ve learned.” The Archeops glared at Seyka. “What have you learned?”

“I uh... Inno.” Seyka struggled to find words.

“That’s what I think Inno- the real Inno -would say,” Inno said. “So unless you have something to show me, some proof that you have something worth my time, then... you will be on your own.”

The Skarmory froze. His beak opened and closed, but nothing came out.

“I’m leaving now,” Inno said in a singsong tone. He started exaggeratedly walking away. “Good riddance to my stupid younger brother.”

“Wait,” Seyka cried desperately, “I- have something, I know it. Just... give me a moment.”

“Oookay,” the Archeops said, circling back around. “I’m listening. Be careful though, if you fail to live up to expectations after getting my hopes up, then it’ll just be worse.”

Seyka nodded and squeezed his eyes shut. He thought about Inno and about himself, trying to tell himself that he could do something, anything.

What am I waiting for?

What can I do?

Seyka’s thoughts wandered aimlessly, until suddenly, he thought about Mar. A shiver ran through his body. Pushing the thought out of his head, Seyka found he couldn’t continue, shaken. He stood silently, despairing, until a little voice popped in his head.

What about Mar?

The Skarmory shook his head to clear his thoughts. But he found himself thinking about Mar again. And again. And again.

Inno watched silently, examining the Skarmory’s face. Something caught his attention, and he leaned in. Slowly, his expression curled into a smile.

Seyka’s thoughts were a whirlwind. Thinking about Mar had opened a floodgate of meaningless memories- happy, sad, ambiguous. Then, in a single moment, years of ignoring himself caught up to Seyka and he felt a thunderous burst of emotion.

Seyka found something he could give, something he could express. That something was rage.

“You can’t leave,” Seyka said quietly.

“Is that a statement or a request?” Inno asked.

“Shut up,” Seyka growled, “If you can’t tell what I mean when I say it, then ask for clarification.”

“Well, thank you for the ‘clarification’” Inno said. “Are you going to show me what I asked for?”

Seyka snapped up, glaring at the Archeops. “I owe you nothing. You owe me, as my brother. I’ve done everything you asked for centuries, and you think I owe you?”

Inno smiled innocently. “If I owe you, then you’re going to have to beat it out of me, because I can’t find it.”

Seyka stared at the Archeops before advancing towards him. “If you insist.”

When the Skarmory was feet away from the Archeops, he lunged, Inno stepping to the side to avoid him. Seyka leaned to the side, turning to follow Inno as he extended his wings, slicing through the air in Inno’s direction.

“This is worth seeing,” Inno commented, as Seyka continued to attack him. “If you applied this energy elsewhere, then that would be great!”

“I hate you, Inno,” Seyka said, his expression blank as he attacked the Archeops over and over to no avail.

“Hmm, I don’t think that’s quite right.” Inno moved to the side, catching one of Seyka’s wings as he swung them again. His right leg shot out, catching one of Seyka’s legs and sending the Skarmory toppling to the ground. “I get that you’re excited, but think about where to direct your emotions.” He stepped back and found himself backed up against a tree. “Oops.”

Seyka leaped up and rushed the Archeops one last time. Inno, leaning against the tree, seemed to not be making any moves to dodge, simply waiting. As Seyka met him, the Skarmory cried, slowing slightly. He stretched his neck down to one outstretched wing and with a flick of his neck, tore out one of his steel feathers. Holding it in his mouth, he thrust it at Inno, who watched with interest.

The feather rammed straight into the shade’s neck, piercing straight through.

Inno laughed. “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” His arms shot out, grabbing the Skarmory by the neck and pulling him forward.

Seyka barely had time to gasp before Inno pulled him into his own feather, the steel wing piercing Seyka’s chest. Looking down at it in shock, Seyka glanced back at the Archeops, who flashed him a peace sign. Gritting his teeth, Seyka summoned one last burst of strength and thrust his wing forward. With a roar, he pulled another feather from himself and jammed it into Inno’s head, the Shade’s visage collapsing into a shadowy mess.

For a moment, Seyka breathed slowly, not speaking.

“Okay, let’s break this down.” In the mass of shadows, Inno’s red eyes reformed. “We’re both impaled, myself worse off than you. Lucky for me, I can take this kind of punishment. That was a good move with the head. Never giving up is essential for winning.”

And with that, the gates closed. Seyka felt drained, all the energy leaving his body.

“So- you done?” Inno asked.

“Yes,” Seyka replied. “Ah, that was embarrassing.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it. Just want to clarify though, who do you hate?”

“I... hate Mar,” Seyka said.

“Because he abandoned us,” Inno stated.


“Because he broke the promise we made.”


“You don’t hate me right?” Inno made a face.

Seyka looked away.

“I thought so. Sorry for saying those things earlier, Seyka.” Inno’s expression was inscrutable. “I love you.”

Seyka was silent. Slowly, he backed up, the steel wing sliding out from his chest.

“You want to take a break?” Inno said, phasing out from where the wing was embedded in the tree. “We can fight more later.”

The Skarmory nodded. “I think... I will go and cry.”

The Archeops stuck his tongue out. “You do that.”


Seyka was crumpled on the ground. The Skarmory made no effort to move, sniffling as he stared at the Archeops.

Inno examined his handiwork with delight. Seyka’s feathers stuck out of his body at odd angles, the longest one running straight through him and pinning him to the ground.

“I never said I wouldn’t attack you while you were busy,” Inno admonished, slowly pulling one feather out of Seyka’s body. “Also, see how your earlier attack backfired? I learned from that that your feathers are very good for stabbing.”

“Mmmm,” Seyka murmured.

“Take a moment and think about it. We’ll continue when you’re ready. No surprises this time, I know you can do it.”


“I’m finished,” Seyka said to no one in particular.

Some time had passed. A ways away from the Skarmory, Inno was lying on his back, laughing to himself. His midsection was pierced by several of Seyka’s feathers, and the shade’s own shadowy feathers lay in clumps around him from where they had been ferociously ripped off.

“Yeah, that’s good,” Inno said loudly. “That’s what I’m looking for. Now if only you could show that to the real Inno. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“I’ll think about it,” Seyka replied. He sat in a pile of pink leaves, feeling a little sorry for himself. “I hope no one was watching that.”

“What’s there to be bashful about?” Inno asked. “You did great.”

Seyka groaned. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”



Shadow Falling
Nate came to with the sounds of battle in his ears. Attacks whizzing and sizzling, people shouting. Something roaring, deep and furious. Eien?

Of course. He'd been on the way to--Nate pushed himself to his feet, hands already balling into fists, heart pounding.

Except Eien wasn't there. Nobody else from the team, neither. Around him was something like the smoky suggestion of a forest, hazy trees and bushes done in insubstantial vapor. Up ahead shadowy figures yelled and struggled, pokémon brawling as a gentle rain fell, turning the indistinct ground to muddy goo. Meowth, sneasel, mienfoo, raticate, nidorino, geodude, litleo, and a fearow, diving and soaring up and then diving again.

Nate watched for a moment, puzzled. The pokémon seemed like they were ganging up on another shadow, bigger than the rest. It was this that was roaring, looking over the rest with its edges twisting and contorting, constantly shaping and re-shaping, from arms to scythes to wings to tentacles and back to arms again. It wasn't until Nate caught sight of the ball of light in the middle of the shadow, glowing red and golden. A core. Rocky.

Nate cursed and raced forward, already gathering water. Whatever these shadows were, they weren't exactly expert battlers. Nate's first hydro pump exploded the meowth in shadowy wisps. But Rocky's attacks weren't very powerful, even if he knew a lot of them, even though he kept changing to beat whatever pokémon was hurting him most. And unlike his host had been, when the fearow came spearing down at them, Rocky was alone.

"Rocky!" Nate yelled breathlessly, shoving away the raticate when it came bounding at him, burst it to harmless vapor with a couple punches and another jet of water. The pokémon were turning towards him now, though a couple kept on heckling Rocky, shadow limbs shredding the edges of his rippling ectoplasm.

"You called them here," Rocky said in a hollow voice. The soft red-orange of his eyes had gone a burning, brilliant shade, something between pink and purple. "You told them to attack me. You did this."

"What? No. I just fucking got here," Nate said. He glanced around wildly and was confronted only by more trees, trees in every direction. Shit. Which way to go?

"You did," Rocky insisted, and kept a flat glare on Nate even when the marshtomp had to shove him aside to avoid a dive-bomb tipped by the fearow's wicked, stabbing beak. "You told them to come here so they could catch me. So you could get your pokémon back. You told Team Rocket to come and get me so you could get what you wanted."

"Rocky, that happened to somebody else. You ain't the fucking freak, okay? You never were. This is just some shitty illusion, probably from that shithead on the moon. Snap the fuck out of it." Nate fell in beside his familiar, trying to keep his eyes on the sky and the ground at once. Needed to take out that fucking fearow. This was ridiculous.

"You think this doesn't matter?" Rocky shot ink-black flames at the hazy mienfoo. It ducked and swayed around them, then sprang forward at Rocky only to be swatted aside by Nate. Not that the familiar was fucking grateful. "This is coming from your memories. It's happening because of you."

"My memories?" The sneasel swung his claws Nate's way, unleashing a barrage of icy shards. One grazed Nate's arm, leaving a bloody cut behind. "Sure. Whatever," Nate muttered. Memories? Illusions... but ones that were real somehow, that could actually hurt. Actually kill, even.

It was just like that nightmare forest. A cursed dungeon. That's exactly what this was, wasn't it? Dungeons were even supposed to come from eternatus. Bahamut had to have said that at some point, hadn't he? So. Eien had made her own cursed dungeon for everyone, and maybe Soda or whatever was controlling Soda had put some of his own batshit and illusions into it. No big deal. That forest had never been any kind of big deal.

It had rattled the fuck out of Soda, though, hadn't it? Completely shut him down the first time they visited, put him out of commission for a while the second. Could they use that? If they got Eien on-side, maybe she could conjure up a place like this for Soda, distract him enough to take him down? Maybe he had divine power, but that wouldn't do shit to change the fact that his mind was like, what had Breaker said, a broken mirror or some shit? His body was strong, but his mind was weak, so obviously they needed to attack--

One side of Nate's body went hot, light white and burning even through his closed eyelids. He fell over sideways, gasping and clutching at the burn spreading across his side. Jesus shit, that was a fucking solar beam. Goddamned ground typing.

The solar beam had come from beside him.

"What the fuck was that for?" Nate yelled at Rocky, struggling back to his feet.

"You're not listening to me!" the familiar said, eyes burning red and dangerous.

"Look, can we save the heart-to-hearts for after the stupid illusions are done trying to kill us?" Nate asked. "We kinda got more important shit to deal with right now."

"No," Rocky said. His core crackled and sparked, turning his ethereal body ruddy. "You never want to talk. You always have important things to do. Because you never want to talk."

The sneasel-shade was creeping up behind Rocky, who glared unflinching at Nate, furious, oblivious. The marshtomp spat a hydro pump at the sneasel, angled out around Rocky, but not trying especially hard to avoid the familiar's ectoplasmic body. Asshole deserved it. "You want to talk?" Nate said, water dribbling down his chin from the remnants of the attack. "Then get fucking talking. We both know how this one goes." Out among the shadowy suggestions of trees were the sounds of pokéballs opening.
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Shadow Falling
"I'm supposed to help you," Rocky said. "That's the entire reason I'm here. But you won't let me."

"What the fuck are you talking about? You help me all the time. Cibus sucked like twelve times more before you came around, for real." He could feel it now, actually. There was something missing, some extra energy he'd come to take for granted. Even if he tried to reach out, he couldn't hear any of Rocky's thoughts. Nate clenched his fists reflexively, taking a quick glance at his familiar.

Rocky was frowning, still huge and gangly, what looked like a broken-off horn projecting from one side of his ethereal head. The edges of his body flickered and danced, transforming and dissolving back on themselves, again and again. "Not like that," Rocky said. "I mean help you be... better. Feel better."

Oh, great. Mushy bullshit. Nate pried something passing for a boulder out of the indistinct ground and hurled it at the fearow shade. That at last exploded it in a whirl of dissolving feathers. Good fucking riddance.

There was peace for exactly one second before more shadow pokémon charged into the clearing, oddish and golbat and beedrill and marowak and staravia and Jesus, there couldn't have been this many in real life, could there? No way.

Nate gathered water, sweeping a hydro pump across the front line of shadows, bursting several of the pokémon straight off. A rock slide did in a few others, and then the press of enemies was upon them, and Nate ducked the golbat's dripping teeth, took a grazing slash from a pawniard and knocked it away with a quick water gun. They needed to prioritize the fliers, those were the most fucking annoying--

This time Nate saw Rocky's attack coming and sidestepped a grass knot swipe. "Hey!" he yelled, and was promptly set upon by the staravia. It took him a second to shake the bird off, and then he glared at Rocky, already getting separated from him by the shadowy crowd of pokémon. "Fuck off with that! What the fuck is your damage?"

"You're doing it again!" the familiar yelled back. "You act like you need to solve everything. You run around trying to do everything yourself. Getting out of here's all you want to think about!

It took Nate a second to respond. Just what the fuck was Rocky on? "Look, I'm sorry I like to spend my time figuring out how to get out of here instead of talking about feelings and shit. I'm trying to solve this because I don't want us to fucking die!" He struggled towards the familiar, blasting and shoving and punching shadow assailants away.

Rocky looked at Nate, wrong-colored eyes flickering. "We aren't going to die. Eien doesn't want to hurt me. I'm her kid, aren't I? But the same thing's controlling her that's controlling Soda and everything else. She has to do this."

Nate growled and took a swipe at a pawniard. "Yeah. I know. Don't really matter who's doing it. Point is, we need to get out of here first, and talk about feelings later. Seriously, this is the worst possible time." A hydro pump blew the pawniard apart. Wait, he'd already knocked a pawniard out, hadn't he? The same one? Nate tried to get a look at the mass of shadow pokémon around him before another lashed out. Did they even have a chance to win this? Fuck, they needed to get out of here.

"It's more than that," Rocky said. "I think it's a test. I think Eien wants us to get stronger. Both of us. And for you that means stop trying to find a way out. So I want to talk to you. Now." The familiar was getting swarmed with shadow enemies but barely seemed to notice. He couldn't do much to drive them back, but their own attacks were just ripping through his ectoplasm, the wounds sealing themselves after only a moment. Every now and again one would strike his core, maybe breaking off a tiny piece. The old stone was cracked and crumbling, sparkling with the same off-red light as the familiar's eyes.

He was fucking possessed. Dear fucking god. "We can talk when you fucking snap out of it. I ain't listening to this shit right now," Nate snapped.

Rocky made a growling noise, low and far too large-sounding, even now with him looking bigger than ever. Nate stared. "Of course you aren't. You're the worst," the familiar said, in a voice that wasn't entirely his own. "The worst." His ectoplasm writhed and shifted, changing and changing again. Nate could barely see any infernape left at him at all. Rocky leapt at the crowd of shadows, roaring a mindbending roar. He swept flames over the crowd of pokémon, but they barely seemed to care. The familiar kept fighting while Nate watched, stunned. Shit.
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Shadow Falling
"All right, all right, all right!" Nate yelled, trying to fight his way over to Rocky while the familiar plowed ahead through the crowd of pokémon. Maybe he couldn't feel the shadow pokémon's attacks, but Nate sure did. He was scratched and burned and bruised, and Rocky had all the fucking items with him, of course. The shadows might go down easy, but there were too fucking many of them. Nate didn't know how long he'd be able to keep up the hydro pumps.

Maybe he should try knocking Rocky out instead? That usually made people get a grip here on Cibus. Nate would have to fight his way out of here on his own, but if Rocky couldn't be reasoned with...

Rocky blanched when the hydro pump knocked another chunk out of his core. Red-purple light seeped out, and the familiar whirled around, indistinct tail lashing. It looked like it had morphed into something segmented. "So now you want to fight?" Rocky roared. The blast of fire he shot Nate's way was easy to dodge, but it, too, glowed an unnatural pink.

"No, I don't," Nate snapped. "But since it looks like you ain't gonna listen to me--"

"You're the one who won't listen to me!" Rocky's flames crackled pink and dark smoky purple, and when Nate threw himself down in the mud to avoid them, it only left him open for a geodude to hop over and body slam him deeper into the muck. This was just so fucking stupid. Rocky was never going to hear the end of this once Nate smacked him back to normal.

"You don't listen to me or anybody else," Rocky said. "You don't even listen to your own pokémon!"

"The fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"You promised to try. You said you'd try to be better. But you haven't tried at all! Even if you aren't so mean to me anymore, you're still a jerk to everybody else."

"If you want, I can be mean to you again, too," Nate sneered. The geodude didn't stand a chance against him, of course, but now he was dripping with muck as well as rainwater. Marshtomp were probably supposed to love this shit, weren't they?

"Your pokémon would be disappointed in you," Rocky boomed. "Mightyena would be disappointed in you."

A hot spike of anger jolted Nate, and he clenched his fists, mud oozing stickily between his fingers. But all he said was, "Yeah. Always a fucking disappointment, ain't I? What's your fucking point?"

"The point is you should do something about it," Rocky said. "Stop hiding. Stop being mean. Don't be so angry."

"I'll stop being angry when the world stops being bullshit." Nate gave an oddish an extra-hard swat that sent it bouncing and dissolving away, then slapped the dusting of purple powder it left behind off his arm. "There ain't no point making friends around ere, okay? I ain't even gonna remember none of this shit. It don't matter."

"Of course it matters. Even if it doesn't matter to you, it matters to everybody here. They'll remember. I'll remember."

Yeah. He would. "Well, if anybody's got a bone to pick with me, I guess they can chase me back to middleofnowhereville mcmagicless land, then. Honestly, all the people who fucked off to do their own thing instead of all the god-fighting bullshit had the right idea. That's what I'd be doing if I didn't want to get out of here as soon as possible."

"No, you wouldn't," Rocky said. "You like helping people. You like that you actually get to do it here. But you won't let anybody help you."

Nate grimaced. "Well, maybe I don't need no fucking help. Ever thought of that?"

"You're sad and you're tired and you're lonely, and you won't admit it," Rocky said. "But you don't have to be. I'm here. And you can make other friends, too."

People around here seriously thought friendship could cure fucking cancer. And it probably could, in this world, which was worse. "That's the last thing I want. Get to know somebody for, what, six months, and then you've got to leave them forever? No fucking thanks. I can live without friends for a few months."

Rocky's eyes dimmed slightly. A shadow beedrill had gotten caught in his ectoplasm, thrashing madly, but he didn't appear to notice. "What about me?" he asked, and his voice wasn't quite so booming.

Dear god. Nate wished he could rub his face, but he needed both hands free to beat back the ariados that kept coming at him. "Look, do you fucking mind?" he yelled at the expressionless shadow horde. "This is like the worst possible fucking time. God." He couldn't properly turn to look at Rocky, keeping an eye out for attacks instead, but he said, "Look, you weren't exactly supposed to happen, okay? I definitely didn't think some weird squishy pokémon we punched out of a typhlosion was gonna, like, psychically bond with me or none of that. Not that it's, like, a bad thing or nothing. Don't mean I regret it. But I ain't looking for more people I gotta leave behind. One's more than enough."

The silence that followed was somewhat ruined by a golbat that blew an air slash at Rocky, separating his head from his body. It wore the same pensive expression despite no longer being attached to him, spoke as though nothing was wrong. "But you don't really need to leave me behind. I know you can't really travel to other worlds, but I can. And I think I'm going to live a really, really long time, too. I'll find you. No matter how long it takes." Rocky's eyes blazed, his flames leaping higher. "And even if that... Even if that doesn't work somehow, then after we die, we can always--"

"Rocky," Nate said, gently cutting him off. "I think you're going to live a long time, too. You'll meet a fuckton of other people. I ain't that special. You ain't gonna worry about me none."

"That's not true!" The echo was creeping back into Rocky's voice. "I'm not going to forget you. You always give up! You always act like you're worthless. Stop it! Stop it and let me help you."

It seemed like they actually were making a dent in the mass of shadow pokémon, or maybe they were regrouping--they'd drawn back, gathering in some formless dark shape. "Look, Rocky," Nate said. "You're going to be a hero, right? Well, there's one thing heroes gotta learn: you can't save everybody."

"No." Rocky's tail lashed. "Don't talk like that."

"We've known each other a few months. There's nothing you could do in that amount of time that would change who I've been my entire life. Don't beat yourself up for not helping me enough, okay? My shit ain't your responsibility."

"I know! It's yours! But you won't do anything," Rocky said. He was drawing himself up too, maybe. Bigger. Darker. Stranger shapes. "Why not? You know you can changed. You even managed to evolve. And use your Radiance! You never thought you'd be able to do that, but you did. You know it's possible. Why won't you even try?"

Nate shook his head. "I got no clue why any of that shit happened, but getting new powers, whatever, it don't mean much. It don't matter, Rocky. None of what happens here matters."

"I don't think that's right. I think you're scared," Rocky said. He loomed, eyes blazing the wrong color. "You're scared things might be able to change. Because what would it mean if they did? It would mean you could have done that any time. And if you were sad, if everything was terrible--it was your fault, because you were the one making it be that way."

"Fuck you!" Nate snapped. He felt hot despite the pelting rain, angry now for real, properly. "What the fuck do you think you know about me? You want to stand there and fucking lecture me about my life?"

"I'm made out of your memories. I know you better than anybody. And you know I'm right."

"Fuck you!" Nate couldn't see straight. Couldn't think. "Fuck you, fuck you!"

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Happy eevee
Kindle woke up in the base of the mountain, gasping for air as if he just had been out of air not long ago, though he didn't quite manage to remember why. The fox soon found himself hyperventilating, his chest moving up and down irregularly as if he had been scared just a minute ago, to the point where he thought he could actually asphyxiate all by himself. Perhaps he had had a nightmare? He always had trouble remembering those, even in Cybus.

Kindle closed his eyes, and laid on the ground for a while, just trying to regulate his breath. "Must have been one hell of a nightmare..." He muttered to himself between his still strangled breaths.

After what felt like an eternity, he felt himself breathing normally again, and let out a little sigh of relief without even knowing why. After taking yet another second to recover, the ninetales scrambled to his feet and threw a look around. Part a slushy forest, part a mountain's base, just like he expected. Alya wasn't next to him, so she probably had gone already to the village, right? She said that shaymins liked to stick together, even some sort of demonic familiar shaymin or whatever she was, on her own words.

The village... Why...

Kindle shook his head, and simply started walking towards the slope. The grass creaked under his feet, a little more than he was used to, for some reason. The fox looked down but didn't manage to make out exactly what was going on there, it was too dark.

He frowned. Why was it dark? Kindle looked up at the sky, the sun wasn't there, it probably was night. Since he couldn't see the moon, he guessed it was behind the mountain. He couldn't see any stars, night probably had just fallen and they weren't visible yet. Yes, that had to be it... But he still felt as if there was something missing, he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but whatever it was it made him feel... He couldn't even put a name to the feel. Uneasiness? Too simple. Fear? Not quite. Whatever it was, he just wanted to forget about it, so he walked out of the forest as quickly as he could. His steps caused such uncanny cacophony of creaks and grates it made his fur stand on end, so he walked faster.

It wasn't long until he was out of the grassy area behind him, onto the rocky path of the mountain, and he allowed himself to let out a breath of relief. But as he kept walking, he noticed that the creak hadn't stopped. And for some reason, that managed to scare him. A stone slope shouldn't be doing that sound, he was sure of it. For the second time in less than a minute, Kindle squealed his eyes to try to decipher what was under his feet, in vain. There just wasn't enough light for him to make out anything other than the general shape of the things around him. Okay, okay, he just needed to find one of the lanterns of the road...

The ninetales had to make a conscious effort to remember what was the distribution. One hundred twenty lanterns, there should be always one within sight ahead of the traveler, and one behind. They should always be lit either day or night, then, why couldn't he see any? Had something smothered their light? Had...

Wait, he was in cybus. The shaymin village in cybus didn't have the mountain lanterns. It wasn't until that realization hit him that the fox let out the breath that had been strangled in his chest. Nothing had happened, he was just... Confusing his memories again. He repeated that to himself until his knees stopped shaking, more or less. He was such an idiot, wasn't he? Kindle chuckled softly... And because he had done it so softly was it that he jumped when he heard the sound sear through the silence so sharply that it hurt his ears.

The fox fell silent, the only thing he could hear now was his breath. Only his breath. What had happened with the ever-present sounds of the forest? With the whistling of the wind?

What had happened with his talkative familiar, that should be bothering him through their link right now?

All of these were gone. The forest was silent, the wind didn't blow, and Alya didn't talk. It hadn't even been a full minute since Kindle had recovered his composure, but he was rapidly losing it again. His knees were shaking, his tails were puffing up and releasing small shards of ice under him. But he couldn't let that happen. The sheer instinct of preventing any shed of ice around the village snapped him out of his paralysis, making the fox curl his tails around himself to try and relax them. That distracted him a little, helped him forget about that ominous feeling that had been on the atmosphere ever since he recovered consciousness.

That was the word he had been looking for, wasn't it? Ominousness. This place felt ominous, even though he was sure it should have been familiar enough for him to feel at home. Something was off, but he couldn't tell exactly what. He couldn't see a thing, he couldn't hear a thing. The ninetales focused on his link with his familiar. He couldn't remember the last time he had done that. She was the one to contact him, always, because she never shut up. But she was all silent now. The message Kindle sent met no response, he didn't even know if she had heard it.

Kindle gulped loudly, too loudly. The sound made him jump again, it was too loud, this place was too silent. His eyes scanned the woods once more, hoping to see something, anything. Anything other than those vague shapes of trees moving with the wind.


There was no wind.

What was moving those branches?

A small thing after another, a realization after another. He was at boiling point, and that unknown movement in somewhere completely still was the last push that what was left of his resolve needed to break.

Kindle turned around, and ran away from there, from whatever was hiding in the forest. Each step caused the ground to horribly creak under his paws, that uncanny sound that had followed him all the time he had been there. He couldn't run away from it, he couldn't find out what it was. He didn't want to hear it anymore, he didn't want to know what it was anymore. He just wanted it to go the hell away.

He found something in the darkness, or rather, crashed onto it. His eyesight was so limited, and he had been running at such speed, that he simply couldn't register that there was something ahead of him until he had rammed onto it headfirst. Kindle heard the dry sound of something breaking, but couldn't tell whether it had been the thing, or his skull. The sharp pain on his forehead told him it was likely the latter just a second after.

The fox staggered back, shaking his head to get the blood out of his eyes. His head hurt, he felt like it was going to split in two. But he had other worries at that point. What the hell had he just an into? For the third time, Kindle squealed his eyes trying to see what was before him, even if he knew it was pointless.

Sharp features, a large shape behind, a tail of sorts, and, were those claws? Kindle was on guard, his tails had instinctively surrounded him as a protective coat, waiting for whatever that was to do a move. Nothing came.

Seconds turned into minutes, but the thing still hadn't moved a single bit. Kindle cleaned his eyes with a tail, but having blood on his eyes made little difference when he couldn't see a thing either way. Hesitantly, Kindle moved closer. It didn't react. The fox made it to its side.

He slowly raised a paw, and touched its surface. Cold, rough... Wet? No, that was just his blood, where he had hit it earlier. It had splashed in a sort of plate, a strange one; Soft, but full of irregularities. The fox felt over it with his claws and pads, trying to make out its shape. A small voice in the back of his head told him he should still be running, he was running from something just a second ago, but now he couldn't remember from what. Even that small voice was silenced when Kindle finally realized what was before him; A stone lantern, modeled after a pokemon, and in the middle of the path. Why was it on the path? It was dangerous, it should be at the side or people could run into it if they didn't see it as he had just done. But why wouldn't they see it? The mouth of the statue was supposed to be lit at all times, why was it not? And, why was it on cybus? It wasn't supposed to be in there, it should be on his home, on the path to his village, not on cybus'.

Because he was on cybus, right?

He didn't know anymore.

Kindle wanted to keep running, but, as scared as he was, as anxious as he was, leaving the lantern there went against everything he had been taught. Reluctantly, the ninetales circled the statue to get on its side, resting his shoulder and head against it, and pushed. His claws scratched the ground, struggling to find support. The ground creaked once again, before he heard something like shattering, followed by a sharp pain on his feet. Kindle gagged, losing his grip of the lantern and falling to the side as his knees gave in. He pulled his hind legs closer to him, feeling over them in the darkness with his paws. His pads were lacerated. It was only superficial, but the cuts were there, and they had come from apparently nowhere. Once again he found himself trembling, but grit his teeth and stood back up to keep pushing the statue out of sheer spite. Every step forwards was a pain; His shoulder was aching from being pressed against it. His feet were pained from scratching that strange, sharp floor. His head still felt as if it was about to break. And even so, he still managed to return the lantern to the side of the road, where it belonged. A small victory, he needed it.

A sound broke the silence of the night, a rock falling somewhere on the slope behind him. He jumped again, turning back as his ears perked. Kindle stared at that direction for a while, his heart beating so intensely he could feel it on his bones, but no other sound came.

This was the second, the second only thing that hadn't been him. The trees moving, that rock falling. He wasn't alone, he knew it, and it scared him as much as the first time. Or did it? Did he want to be alone? No, he didn't. He was scared of being alone, but he was also scared of that unknown being. He didn't know where were his teammates, he didn't know where was his familiar. He didn't know where was that thing that was following him.

Kindle didn't think anymore, he just ran. Away from whatever that was, away from the statue and the forest, towards the village. He wanted to reach the village. He wanted answers. He wanted to find his familiar.

He needed to find his familiar.
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Happy eevee
It didn't even take Kindle ten minutes to reach the village, but it felt like an eternity to him. The ninetales rushed through the gates like an exhalation, a shade of white and grey that left a trail of cold air behind him. And in the end, the only thing he achieved was to trip and fall at the entrance, just like he had done when he had first visited Cybus' shaymin village. Except that this time, it hurt. When Kindle fell, he heard the same shattering as before, before feeling it. Thousands of tiny needles cutting his face, making him whimper as he protected it with his tail, too late. The ninetales stood back up, cleaning his face with one of his tails again. There weren't as many wounds as he had expected, for some reason, but it had still hurt.

At this point, he should have known better, but he looked around either way. The shapes of the buildings were there, as he had expected, but he couldn't see a single shaymin... Except for the one watching him from the middle of the village.

Alya was in the form of a sky shaymin, like she liked. Sitting on her hind legs in the circle of flowers in the middle of the town. He knew where she was not because he could see it, but because he remembered every detail of the place well enough to know where everything was with his eyes closed, or, in this case, without seeing anything.

For some reason, Kindle had thought going to the village would also mean escaping the dark, and the silence. He had always connected the place to light, warmth. The sound of his family and friends going on with their daily activities. He could almost hear the well at the other side of the place spinning to process grain, the distant explosions from the younger shaymin fighting with much more power than any irresponsible youngling should have at birth. The soft hissing of the tea in his home being made, that he somehow managed to hear over everything else. But none of those were there this time, everything felt so empty...

Alya stood up, looking at him right in the eye. Strange, he had always considered the eyes of the familiars to be dark, just like the rest of them, even though they had a white color. But right now, those same eyes were the only light in the dark surrounding them. A faint shine that was barely enough to be seen, but he had grown so used to the lack of light they could have been as well the sun itself.

Kindle took longer than he expected to be able to talk, and when he did, he was surprised at the sound of his own voice. Raspy, tired, scared. "Ce- Alya," he said, having almost called her the name of his sister back home. Kindle paused, feeling her eyes over him as if she was staring at his soul. "Y-you are fine, I thought..."

The shaymin turned around, and walked away from him, disappearing behind a house at the side.

Kindle stuttered. Through the link he had with Alya, even though she still wasn't answering, he felt it just now. Her hostility.

"Wait!" The fox screamed. A sound that, in the silence, resonated so loudly it made him flinch. He feared to have scared Alya with that too, but there was no signal of her, not anymore.

Kindle grit his teeth, and started to run after her without a second thought. The fox reached the place Alya had been at, but before he could follow her path, he noticed something; A soft creak, one that didn't come from the ground, but from the flowers he had touched when he came into the circle.

Kindle paused, before throwing a second look at the flowerbed around him. He could barely make out the shape of the gracidea, but just like the rest of the village, he just knew they were there.

Hesitantly, the ninetales raised a paw, and touched one of them. He felt the stiff, cold surface breaking under his claws, until the petals fell to the ground, letting out yet another creak as they broke. The flowers were frozen. The precious flowers he had cherished all his life were dead, and it had been ice what killed them.

Kindle let out a whimper. Had he done that? Why didn't he remember it? He was so careful with his ice in the village, always followed a hundred and a half rules he had imposed on himself to not cause harm, this shouldn't have happened. But he knew slips always happened, it had happened before, even though he had tried incredibly hard to prevent it. Was Alya mad with him because of this? He had to find her, he needed to apologize.

As he rushed out of the flower field, Kindle kept bearing the creak of the ground under him, but now he knew what it was. How could he not, after realizing what had happened with the gracidea? The whole place was frozen. From the base of the mountain, to the village he was in. A layer of ice was over all of it. That was why it creaked when something touched it, that was it had cut him when he had shattered it. He hadn't noticed the temperature because of his own icy body, but now that he was conscious of it, he couldn't not notice it. The grass under him was cold and dead, just like the flowers he had left behind.

Kindle bolted in between the buildings, barely managing to not crash into them in the dark. The fox felt a knot in his stomach, made of a feeling he long since hadn't felt; Self-hatred. Everyone In the village was a creature of life, except him. The only thing he could do in a place as precious as that was to destroy it, and he hated himself because of it.

"Alya!" The ninetales shouted in desperation. "Please wait! I...!" What? 'I can explain?' He didn't even know what happened, how could he possibly explain a thing?

Kindle shook his head to banish the thoughts, accidentally shedding even more ice over the already frozen ground. The ninetales cried silently as he tried to find her trail, but it was impossible. Kindle stopped at the other side of the village, at the very edge of the mountain where shaymin usually took off in the sky form, breathing heavily as he looked around. He might not have been able to see much, but those two dots of light that were Alya's eyes had been the only thing he was able to see clearly, he needed to find them again.

Kindle looked over the side of the cliff, wondering if she could have flown away, but he couldn't make out a single thing in that dark. He looked behind him, to try spotting her again in the village if she was there, but he couldn't.

The fox turned back to the cliff, looking down at what could have been a direct path to hell for all he knew. He tries to contact Alya again. I don't know what did I do but please come back!

As soon as had sent those words, he realized just how pathetic they sounded. How pathetic he sounded. And right after that other thought, he mentally slapped himself for worrying about something as stupid as sounding pathetic while Alya was missing. This was about finding her, how could he be worrying about how did he sound?

The ninetales turned around, and walked back into the village to explore it further. Hoping to see the shadowy shaymin somewhere along the way.

After some time, he felt a tingling on the back of his head, and turned around. There she was again, sitting on the roof of a building and watching him from there.

Did I do this? He asked, now knowing she was listening just because of their proximity. Please answer me!

...Answer me? Since when was this about him? Kindle looked away from Ayla, hitting his forehead repeatedly with a paw. Why the hell was he worried about himself? Since when was he this selfish? The ninetales looked back to the familiar, only to realize she no longer was on the roof.
A whimper came out of Kindle's throat without him noticing, and the fox bolted around the building to see where had she gone, to no avail. Disappeared again. ...Idiot, I'm such an idiot…He repeated to himself as he returned to walk around the village to find her.

Alya please, did something happen to you?! He technically couldn't shout in a telepathic link, but the intensity with which he sent those though was almost enough to convince him otherwise. He needed to find Alya, he needed to find out if he had done something that turned her against him… Alya please let me help, let me…

'Me'? Was he really thinking about himself again? Or wasn't he? His mind was muddled, or perhaps, it was clearer than ever before. Was everything he thought just him thinking about himself, even if disguised as worry about his familiar?

"I'm disgusting…" He said out loud. Words that hurt his throat as he let them out.

For a while, the ninetales searched in silence. Thinking about everything he did with Alya, with his sister back home, with everyone. Was it all selfishness? When he wanted to protect someone, he just wanted them to not leave him, didn't he? When he wanted to comfort someone, he just wanted them to open to him, didn't he? Everything he did always ended up just being for him, didn't it? Was that true?

Kindle found himself back on the cliff, his paws had taken him there without him noticing. The ninetales stared at the darkness, seeing his tears falling down and disappearing in it. He hadn't even noticed when he started crying. But god, he was crying. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen so many of his own tears, was that too just wanting attention? But he was alone now, it couldn't be that. These weren't tears caused by selfishness, they couldn't be.

Unless… Unless what he wanted was to excuse himself, to fool himself with his tears.

He truly was a disgusting being. The fox stared at the abyss opening in front of him in a night without stars. Almost without thinking, he took a step into that void…

...And stopped. He couldn't. The ninetales stayed in there, one foot right in front of the abyss, thinking about everything again. The only person he really had in cybus was his familiar, and he wanted to find Ayla, but because of himself, that was the truth. In the end, he didn't care about her, did he? It was just another lie he had told to himself. The fox gulped, before taking a step back to get away from the cliff, closed his eyes… And then jumping right towards it.

For a moment, he felt himself floating in the dark. But that second passed soon, and he felt something biting his tails. Kindle gagged when he was dragged back to the safety of the ground by his rear, hitting the frozen grass like a rag and tearing a cacophony of sounds out of it with his fall.

Kindle opened his eyes, and scrambled back to his feet in time to see a paw slapping him in the face. The fox staggered back, looking at where it had come from, only to see Alya glaring at him with such anger he thought she was going to kill him right after saving him.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?!!" The familiar screamed as she hit him again, causing the fox to recoil further, trying to protect himself from the barrage of blows. "Why would you even think about doing such thing? Do you have any idea how much would you hurt yourself? How much you would hurt me?" Each word came with a hit, until the ninetales was cornered against a wall, and not even then did she stop. "What about your sister, your real sister back home. Do you want her to go through that grief if you even try to do something like this in there?"

Kindle stuttered to find an answer, but he couldn't think of one. He was a horrible person. Then, why was she still worrying like that about him?

"You dummy, you unforgivable dummy!" Alya continued as her attacks began to lose strength, until she was merely pawing at the ninetales' chest. "Never do that again, promise me you won't." She asked as her assault came to a stop, looking at Kindle's eyes with her own shining ones. "I don't care whatever stupid reasoning you had, that wasn't you, so shut any explanations you have and promise me you won't ever do something like that again."

Kindle was still shaking, his body still ached, but he managed to talk. "I… I promise."

The shaymin lunged forwards one more time, and Kindle braced himself. He didn't need to. Alya had thrown her arms around him in a gooey hug, burying her face on his shoulder. "I woke up in here wanting to kill you, you really kill you. I don't know if it was the godamn storm, or whatever it was. I wanted to hurt you, and the worst part is that I knew exactly how." Kindle stared at her without understanding. "If If I attacked you right away you wouldn't have been hurt. I had to get in your head… And I knew how to. I hate this. I almost got you killed. I almost got you to kill yourself…" Kindle had never seen a familiar cry, nor did he know if they could. But the strangled sound coming out of Alya sure was a cry.

This was… Weird. A second ago she was attacking him, now she was… like this. Hesitantly, Kindle rose a paw, and pressed the familiar closer to himself. "It… It was my…"

The ninetales wasn't expecting a punch in the gut, but that was exactly what he got. Kindle gagged, before coughing and struggling for air. "Don't dare you say it was your fault, or I'll throw you down that cliff myself." Kindle nodded slowly, now too scared to say anything else.

After what felt like an eternity, Alya pulled away from him, before rubbing her temple. "I'm going to need therapy after this… Oh, screw it, my therapy will be beating the ever-living shit of whatever caused this." And just like that, she was back to her old self. Kindle barely had any time to react, but he pulled himself away from the building and ran after her.

Alya paused, before turning to him. "We can't waste more time now, but… When we get back to cybus… the normal cybus. We need to talk… about this." Despite her newfound resolve, Kindle still could hear the uneasiness in her voice. "But just know… whatever bullshit this storm made you think… Whatever I made you think… know it isn't true. Whatever got you to… To jump at that cliff, was a lie. All of it. I know you better than anyone, in this life or the one back home. And you have nothing to be ashamed of." In the dark, Kindle couldn't see Alya's face, but he knew she was trying her best to give him a reassuring smile. "I hope you can… forgive me for this."

Funny, he hadn't noticed just how tight the knot in his stomach had grown until it disappeared when Alya said that. Kindle wanted to thank her, but he feared to bite his tongue, so he sent her a message through their links. Not even words, just the feeling is gratitude he experienced at that moment. And it was enough. The shaymin let out a sigh of relief, before giving him a joke punch in the arm. One that he normally wouldn't have felt, but right now he was so bruised that it caused him to whimper. "Sorry…" The familiar said a last time, before moving closer to him.

The two of them walked together once more, out of their storm.
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Shadow Falling
Rocky didn't waver as a hydro pump from Nate knocked another chunk out of his core. It was more crumble than stone now, pulsing with red light like a corrupted heart. "It's okay," the familiar said. "It's not too late."

Nate wanted to scream What the fuck are you talking about? He wanted to punch Rocky's face clean off. He wanted to go off with one of those Blacklight explosions Astrid was always pulling and simply blast everything to hell.

But all he had at his disposal was water and mud, and his own inadequate fists, tiny compared to Rocky, who seemed to have grown still larger. There wasn't much infernape left about him. Nate let out a roar of frustration, and then a hydro pump, which Rocky blocked with a protect shield. And the next, and the next. The infernape simply watched, moving no more than was necessary to block or deflect Nate's furious attacks.

"You bastard!" Nate yelled up at him. "Where the fuck do you think you get off, saying all this shit about me? Like I'm the shithead kid who needs to learn a lesson? You think you're better than me? You think you got all this shit figured out?" He sent a wave of muddy water crashing towards the familiar, who braced himself and let the wave wash past, carrying away some of his shadowy form. He still towered.

"I came from you, so I don't know how I can be better than you," Rocky said. "There has to be some part of you that's at least as good as me."

"You and your fucking talk! You were so eager to hit me earlier. Why won't you fucking fight?" It didn't look as though Rocky was even feeling his attacks, whether he let them hit or not. The familiar merely watched, silent. Probably waiting for Nate to tire himself out. The thought only renewed his anger, let him shake off aches and weariness, drove back the cold and clinging damp. "Fuck you!" he yelled again. "Fight me! That's what you want, isn't it? Why the fuck aren't you--"

He was cut off by an explosion of pain, vision going white and then he was suddenly lying on his face, head throbbing. He rolled over and tried to sit up, used enough to battle now that at least he wasn't just going to fucking lie there. He pressed a hand to the back of his head, searching for what had hit him.

The shadow pokémon had gone from many to one, an outsized marowak that stared at Nate from empty eye sockets. It leaned on a black bone made out of the same shadow-stuff as the rest of it, one end reddened with blood that slowly wicked back into the darkness. So that was how it was, huh? "Piss off," Nate growled. "We're fucking busy over here."

Behind the marowak more shadows stood. Humanoid shadows. Nate hadn't been awake for this part of the fight, so he didn't really know what to expect. Hell, that meant Rocky didn't know what to expect, either. He must just be making this shit up. What were a bunch of fake Rockets about to do? Shoot him?

What the fuck happened to him? one of the shadows said in a flat, emotionless whisper.

Loved pokémon so much that he turned into one, is that it?

Well, at least you can still tell it's him. He's ugly as fuck, even for a marshtomp.

Nate snarled and pushed himself back to his feet.

"I know things haven't been good in the past," Rocky said from behind him. "But you can't stop trying."

"Oh, right. Like I stopped trying," Nate growled. "What the fuck would you even know about trying? Like you've had to deal with half the shit I've been through."

The marowak tossed its club again, and Nate ducked under it. Ducked again to dodge the return sweep, already running towards the cluster of shadowy figures. Water gathered around him, pushing out ahead in a great wave that burst the shadow constructs in wisps of darkness. The marowak was left with only one working arm, but still it came at him with the club. And that fucker hurt, shadow or no, when it connected. Same as the fucking bullets were bound to hurt, if the remaining Rockets managed to get a proper shot on him.

Bullets. Nate was sure that was wrong. He was sure they hadn't shot at the freak when they came for it. They weren't looking to kill.

Not that it mattered. Nate was fighting either way, with water, with mud, with his bare hands. He blasted the marowak into nothing, swept Rockets away to coiling wisps with wave after wave of freezing water. More figures formed from the remnants, rising up to attack him again. Other Rockets, other marowak. Nate took an actual shot to one arm and barely noticed, so numb from the rain anyway that he might not have paid attention even without the blinding anger. He ripped shadows in half with ice, drowned them under tidal waves, tore chunks from shadowy heads with basic attacks. Still the shadows kept coming, if anything more numerous than ever.

Not so tough now that you can't hide behind your pokémon, are you?

You won't get away from us this time, asshole. Did you really think you could outsmart Team Rocket?

Nate struck out blindly, letting his anger carry him forward. He couldn't get enough air. Even his bones hurt. One of his arms was on fire, his head ringing. He destroyed shadow after shadow, and still more rose in their place, endless. It didn't matter how many he defeated. Yeah, yeah, I get it. It's a metaphor and shit. Pretty damn on the nose, ain't it?

The marowak's club struck true, toppling Nate over in the mud with his ribs screaming. He managed to drag himself back to a kneeling position but couldn't make it any further, left staring up at the marowak's dark, impassive skull, the leering Rockets beyond.

"You can stop this," Rocky said, terribly softly. He was a hulking, blurred dark shape, only his eyes and the remains of his core glowing, lighting his ectoplasm up a ruddy color. "You've always been able to stop this."

Nate leaned forward and struggled to get his breath back. His arms were shaking, threatening to give out. Meanwhile the shadowy Rockets were gathering again. Quiet for now, holding back. Waiting to see what would happen?

"What is it, then?" Nate finally snarled. "What the fuck is it? What do I have to do to be good enough for you?"

"Don't say it like that," Rocky said. "You know it's not like that. All I want is for you to be happy. I don't want you to give up on yourself. It doesn't have to be much. I know we... I know there probably isn't going to be much more time. Before you go home. But I want you to try to be happy. Just do one thing. One nice thing. Maybe when you're sad, ask for a hug instead of getting drunk and starting fights with people. Maybe stop being so mean to Dave all the time. Maybe try to get to know somebody else on the team better. Maybe somebody who's lonely and needs a friend, too. Anything like that."

"You want me to be nice to that dickhead? That's your idea of improving my fucking life? You know all the awful shit up with his familiar, right?" Not even fucking touching the implied lonely and needs a friend bullshit.

"Even you don't really believe that," Rocky said sternly. "Maybe you could admit you were making stuff up because you wanted something to be mad about. That could be one good thing. But it was just an example," he went on over Nate's protest. "Any of those things is good. Or maybe something else. Just one thing. That's all I'm asking. Pick one."

Right. He could be nice to that shitheel mightyena when hell froze over, maybe. Nate's anger backed up into his throat, and he swallowed down bile before saying, with every ounce of control he could muster, "I guess maybe I could do something. One of those things. But you got to give me something in return."

Rocky sat back, frowning. "What?"

"Promise me that when it's time for me to leave here, you won't come looking for me."

"What?! No!" Rocky's eyes widened, and for a second his fractured core crackled with energy. "Why would you ask that? Don't you--don't you want to see me again? I..."

"Course I want to see you again," Nate said. "It's shit, knowing I gotta leave you behind. But it seems like the universe likes me to punt me all over the goddamn place just because it can. Who even knows where I'm gonna end up after this? And I'm human, you know? I ain't gonna live long, one way or another. Yeah, yeah, time travel, what the fuck ever. But the point is: there's a whole goddamn universe out there for you to see. Go out there and fucking see it. Go join up with the God Squad like you wanted to. Hang out with your real dad."

"Who knows if there's even going to be a God Squad anymore?" Rocky said bitterly. "Maple can't go anywhere anymore if she wants to get Telum back, and then who's going to lead them? And after what happened to Soda, would the others even want to keep going still?"

Maybe he had a point. And it wasn't like Rocky could exactly go along with Diyem after this, if he was going to get mixed up in more Overseer shit. But he obviously couldn't come with Nate, like literally could not. And he couldn't be wasting time searching for some random human when he ought to be getting out there and figuring out what he wanted to do with his life, finding friends and enemies and adventure in his own world or worlds. "Yeah, that's fair. It might have to be you'll have to find someone else to go adventuring with. Maybe some of the other familiars would be into forming a squad. Or, hell, you could stay on Cibus, join the Guild in Destiny Village. You got a huge fucking universe out there to expore. That's what you should be doing, not trying to track me down."

Rocky shook what passed as his head. "Stop acting like you aren't important. You are! I will find you. And I can have all the adventures I want on the way. Or after!"

"You ain't," Nate said, "if you want me to agree to your terms."

"That's way bigger than what I asked from you," Rocky said. "That's not fair!"

"Yeah, well, that's life. Look at it like this: we both need things, right. I need"--he couldn't help his mouth twisting into a sneer--"to be happy, am I right?" Dear fucking god. "And you need to learn to live on your own. Just part of growing up, you know? Everybody's got to go off on their own at some point. The two of us ain't got much choice in the matter. I'm just trying to make it suck less, okay? I'm trying to save you some heartache down the line. I know it's shit, but it's for the best. Believe me."

Rocky's ectoplasm bubbled and rippled fitfully. "I don't like it. I don't want--"

"And we both need to get out of here," Nate said. "How long you think you're gonna be able to hold all that off, huh?" He waved a hand around at the black mass rippling and roiling around them, like something stalking the perimeter of a fence. "So. What do you say?" He held out a hand, advanced a little on Rocky's shadowy form.

The familiar shrank back. "I-I don't know. I..." He paused for a long moment, and Nate waited, hand still out. "You have to promise, okay? You have to do... something. Anything. I, I'm tired of you being angry all the time. Even if I can't really feel it so much anymore."

"Ain't much more fun for me," Nate said. "I promise."

The shadowy familiar wavered, core flashing erratically. "Okay," he said after a few seconds, voice warping and distorting strangely. "I guess I, I guess I promise, too." Hesitantly a blob of darkness pulled away from the main mass of his body, reaching out for Nate's hand. It shrank as it moved, black haze evaporating from it, until by the time it reached Nate's hand it was almost a normal infernape hand, the same one Rocky usually had. It hesitated once more, just for a second, and then closed around Nate's hand.

The last of Rocky's core cracked and flaked away, his eyes going dark. Black smoke streamed off him, and the darkness surrounding the clearing evaporated, too, streaming up into the cloudy sky. Nate had to shield his face as the wind rose around them, swatting him one last time with water and mud. The shadows cleared and the rain stopped, clouds giving way to clear sky. Rocky was back to his normal size and shape, but frozen in place, all dark. His hand around Nate's was oddly solid.

"Rocky?" Nate said. "Are you...?"

The familiar's eyes blinked back on, and the rest of his colors followed, now their usual soft orange. "I'm here," he said. "I'm okay. I think. I feel kinda weird."

Nate sighed. Jesus. Just had to be as worrying about all that as possible, didn't he? "Well, your core's gone. Maybe that's it. It don't hurt none?"

"No, but..." Rocky frowned, poking his own ectoplasm. "I feel like I can... feel! Is this what it feels like? It's really weird! Do you ever get used to it? Or do you keep having to notice what the ground under you feels like all the time."

"I think you'll get used to it," Nate said, and he couldn't help but smile while Rocky squelched in the mud, not letting go of Nate's hand but swiping at the water droplets on his ectoplasm, kindling a small flame in his free hand. It looked brighter than his others, almost real. "So what the fuck happened, anyhow? You hatch?"

"I guess, maybe." Rocky poked himself again. "I thought when I hatched I would turn into something cool. But I'm still just me."

"Well, if infernape ain't cool enough for you, you could always have changed into something else. Can you still do that?"

Rocky paused for a second, face screwed up in concentration. One arm went thick and armored and clawed, then shifted back to normal. "Yup!" He lashed his tail and stomped a couple more times experimentally. Then he turned his glowing eyes back to Nate, grinning. "Know what?"

Nate sighed, but he couldn't help but smile back at his familiar. "What?"

"That means I can find out what a hug feels like now!"

"Oh, for fuck's--" Nate started, but Rocky had already pulled him into one, and though he protested, he didn't actually try to get away. "You got to stop with the hugs, Kid," he said, squeezing Rocky a little tighter, "or people are gonna start taking me for the hugging type."

"Maybe you should let them. That would be one nice thing."

Nate let that go unremarked upon. "We got to get going," he said eventually. "There's some fight or something we're supposed to be doing, remember?"

"I guess." Rocky released him, reluctantly. "I still don't know. I don't know if we..."

Nate waited to see if he would complete his thought, but it seemed like Rocky couldn't. "We can talk more," he said gently. "We still got time. But we probably want to find our way out of..." He gestured to the shadowy trees, which had stayed behind when the other darkness evaporated.

Rocky nodded slowly. "I know the way out."

Nate let him take the lead, and after a little while the familiar stopped glancing over his shoulder, satisfied at last that the marshtomp was always keeping close.

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