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Pokémon The Makings of a Hero

Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Howdy, this is my first work I'm posting on Thousand Roads, just a short little read but I did put a fair amount of time into it. I hope you all enjoy!

Summary: A Litwick named Vix traveled into a dungeon in search of an answer to a simple question, but ended up getting so much more than she bargained for.

Violence, Minor Language, Mentions of Death

 
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Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Chapter One: A Convenient Storm
This was basically suicide. No sane Pokemon would willingly venture through a mystery dungeon, just to climb up a cursed mountain for a question. There had to have been better ways to get an answer, ways better suited to not risk prematurely and permanently put out the purple flame of this Litwick, but Vix was never prone to thinking up those alternatives when she needed them.

She stared up at the jagged, rocky face she was determined to climb. An ominous, ghostly glow surrounded her, and she began to carefully scale the mountainside, making sure to conserve as much energy as possible. “I got this, just one final stretch..!”

Along with her trusty satchel, Vix overcame many hardships, some you wouldn’t think an adolescent could have handled by themself, but now have to deal with a soon-to-be-diminished food supply and a very tall mountain to climb. She was past the point of no return, mostly because she was right there and it would probably take more energy to go back.

Traversing the stones protruding through the mountain was simple, float up a couple feet, try not to look down, land, don’t look back, and repeat. So simple even a Magikarp could fumble around and manage it.

As Vix traveled further up, the terrain grew less friendly to her. Smoother, more angled rocks, spaced further and further apart, coupled with a growing tiredness and hunger, meant more energy used between and even after jumps. Her waxy body ached, and her flame flickered more and more. It was a miracle she found any kindling to snack on after she ran out of charcoal, but she was out of luck in terms of replenishing her ghostly abilities, meaning she’d have to rest as soon as possible.

“Hah... How did anyone... climb up this thing?!” the candle exclaimed, finding a small crevice to hunker down in. It certainly didn't scream home, as it was only big enough to fit her fragile body in with a little bit of wiggle room for it to be inhabitable. To make such a swell situation even better, it started to rain. Now there was no way she’d risk going outside, and from the looks of it, she’d have to wait a while for it to clear up.

“Dang it, I’m gonna lose so much time,” Vix sighed, melting a tad to better fit in the hideaway. In her bag was a notebook, pencil, and crumbs of charcoal, hardly enough for the rest of the way up. She’d be reliant on any kindling or fuel she could find, if any.

Despite all the trouble she was going through, Vix didn’t once think about going back, not yet. This was important to her, this one, silly little question. No one back home could answer it, they all thought in absolutes, either good or bad, right or wrong, Evil or Just. And they were superficial to boot.

The two Vix set out to find were both denied entry to her village simply because they were wearing tattered, bloodied cloaks, but sported no visible injuries. It was painfully obvious that it wasn’t their own, but... Vix never thought that they were bad because of that. A black and red fox and a Bisharp, whether they were exiles, criminals, or nomads, came to her village for help, and were denied it.

While Vix was mostly optimistic about the two strangers, her hunch was supported by what happened later that same day. Bandits rolled into town, the same ones that did every week, demanding payment for allowing their “hopeless, run-down, ghost of a town,” as they called it, stand. It wasn’t like they could refuse. Those bandits were powerful Fire Types, and this village had mostly Grass Types. There wasn’t really much they could do.

So, after those bandits finished taking all their money and valuables, they went through the mystery dungeon, which was already weird, seeing how they normally just go back the way they came. The day went on, everyone was sad, but after a few hours... the bandit leader, a Magmortar, came back, alone. He was terrified, looking as if he had barely escaped death. He had carried back everything his group had taken, and swore to never bother them again.

Everyone else thought that it was because of the cursed mountain, but Vix had a feeling that it was more than just that. Some time later and more bandits showed up, demanding more of their belongings, but just like before, they’d leave for a while, then the leader would come right back and return everything!

It’s been a few weeks since those strangers appeared, and while they haven’t been seen since then, Vix would bet her life on them being the ones stopping the bandits. Which just so happens to be what she’s doing. Go figure.

Tired, hungry, and with her only option being to wait out the storm, Vix took out her notebook and pencil and began to scribble notes in it.

‘Day, uh... two, I think? Maybe three, it's hard to tell how long I slept in the forest. Wild Shiinotic are very territorial, as it turns out. I’m lucky they just put me to sleep and left…’

‘I kinda wish I stocked up on firewood while I was there, though. I was so caught up in getting out of there once I woke that I forgot how low I was getting. Besides, I had plenty for a couple more days, I thought... then I found that river and almost lost everything. Arceus herself must be watching over me, what are the odds that I would wash up in the same place as my precious little carry on? It would be nice if I could get some help up here, but that’s what happens when I say I’m adventuring alone. I go alone, and hope to return alone. Hindsight is always 20/20, but what good is that? An adventurer moves forward, so why bother looking back so much?’

‘Anyway, once this rain passes, I’ll continue upwards and onwards. This is important for me, and only me it seems. No one else would have gone through half the trouble I am for those two. If they can’t give me an answer, I’ll at least be able to thank them on my village’s behalf.’

‘...Ace is gonna give me so much shit when I get back.’

Vix smiled, reading over the events of the days prior, remembering the thrill they brought, and reveling in the mystery for what was ahead. Now, she was so close to the end of her little quest. Either she’d make it to the top and find the strangers, or die trying.

She really hoped it wouldn’t come to that second thing, though.

At some point, Vix dozed off, the sounds of wind and rain lulling her to sleep. It was relaxing, as long as she didn’t think about the hundreds of feet of rock below her, waiting for a simple mistake from her to coat them is ghastly wax.

<><><><><>​


Some hours later, a loud, earth-shaking crack of thunder jolted her awake. It felt like the mountain itself was about to crumble! Curious about what was going on, Vix peeked her head (head being most of her body) out the crevice. It was pouring outside, making it almost impossible to see anything other than rain and darkness. Rivers of water cascaded down the mountainside, the wind roared like a mighty beast. Was it nighttime? How long was she out? How did it get this bad so quickly?

None of these were answered, instead another question popped into mind as another bolt of lightning from above struck the mountain, and the sound of rocks shattering and falling filled her head.

‘Am I safe?’ she thought, solidifying herself into her candle-like shape. The walls around her shook, water sprayed in from the entrance; it was becoming apparent that she might want to get outta there. But where would she go? Climb further up and get struck by lightning, or caught in the flowing water, or crushed by falling rocks? Or go back down and hope she could move faster than everything falling above her?

She’d have to act fast. Water was beginning to fill her resting place. Vix was able to get back a good amount of energy, but it would be foolish to assume she could get all the way up in this weather.

“Okay, let’s do this! I can make it!” Vix pumped herself up, an eerie purple glow around her. What was her plan? Make it to the top. How would she do it? Blind faith and dumb luck.

Peeking her head out, her violet flame flickering violently in the hurricane winds, Vix tried to map out her path to victory. There was hardly any of the mountain visible at this point, but there was a rock close enough that she might actually be able to reach! And just past it, the blurry outline of another rock she could reach! Things were looking up already!

“Okay, just gotta jump, one rock at a time... Like putting one foot in front of the other, er, one... candle stump, hop…” Vix shook her head. “Whatever, the point is this is gonna be easy!”

Hesitance be damned, Vix took the jump before she could remember the danger she’d be in if she failed. The winds were astronomically more powerful than she gave them credit for, steering her off course as she jumped up, but she was able to work against it enough to land where she planned! The sensation of cold, wet stone had never been so comfortable!

“I-I did it! I actually did it!” she cheered, eyes now set on her next destination. Huge raindrops battered her wax body, leaving indents as they hit. It took a good amount of focus to keep herself together, but she eventually gave up on it and brought her attention back to the task at hand. If she could get to one rock in this weather, then she could make it to the top!

It was a bit harder to aim, being in the rain and all, but the moment Vix believed she was able to make it, she took that chance and leapt upwards. The roaring winds protested against her, demanding she fall, and the torrential downpour beat on her so furiously, it was like she was melting, but once again she landed on her mark, and again basked in the joy of progress.

‘Just a few more!’ Vix encouraged herself, determined to make it. Two successful jumps, and only a “few” left. The mountain, seemingly hearing her hope to make it to the top, decided to shake and rumble again, despite not getting struck again. Vix hugged herself along the wall, nearly dousing herself in the water rushing down it. Her flame going out wouldn’t be a big issue; it would sting and she’d have a harder time concentrating, but it was better to deal with a minor hiccup than a major mistake.

Once the rumbling stopped, Vix went back to it, aiming for the next rock, jumping for it, and continuing on. She got into a good enough rhythm that all she had to do before a jump was catch her breath.

Vix was able to climb up two stones before the already bad situation got worse. As she landed, she slipped, stumbling forward and falling on the rock. More and more rain fell, and just about everything got more and more slippery as a result, leaving Vix to hug the stone beneath her to stay on. Fear crawled up her back, this was starting to look bad, and her not moving allowed her brain to realize that. Looking on the brighter side, however, this wasn’t so bad. Her grip was firm, and she no longer had to worry about her flame going out, so all Vix needed to do was hold on and keep herself physically together.

However, the storm wasn’t done with her just yet. A sudden, blinding flash of lightning, followed by a mighty crack of thunder, leading up to a powerful explosion behind Vix. The bolt struck her platform, her temporary safe place, her moment of reprieve. Everything below her shattered into bits and pieces, and her mentality along with it.

All that bravado, all that hope, gone in an instant. She couldn’t get herself to float, her mind was clouded by an overwhelming fear. For the first time in a long while, Vix felt bitterly cold. The world below was calling, drawing her close, and Vix couldn’t do anything about it but scream. This adventure she forced upon herself, was about to meet its end. No one knew she was here, no one knew to save her, and no one would likely find her. That last thought, scared her most of all. She’d be gone, erased from this world, with the whimper of a failed explorer, rather than the bang of a successful adventurer.

Ghastly-purple tears blended with the rain washing across Vix’s face. She still couldn’t believe this was it, the end. Falling from a mountain after getting blown off by a lightning bolt in the middle of a storm, such a fantastical way to go out, but the fact that it would be hers was... heartbreaking for her. Any future adventures she could have had, all the good times that would have awaited her, everything her and Ace, her Chespin compadre, could have experienced... now just, gone. The entire rest of her story was taken away from her. Or maybe her story already wrapped up, and this was how the book closed off.

Any peace Vix tried to find as she plummeted to the cold, unfeeling earth, wouldn’t come to her. It was too much to accept, that either this was all planned, or she’ll miss out on everything else. But what could she do now? Trying to make it easier on herself, Vix shut her eyes tightly, and allowed the storm to break her apart, thinking it might help.

‘Th-This is unbelievable... I can’t... oh Arceus, why? Why did I do this alone? I didn’t even tell anyone, and look at where that got me…’

Sobs shook Vix’s body, drowned out by the raging storm. While not at peace, she fell and cried in regretful silence. She must have been close to the bottom by now, the suspense was dreadful. Just let it happen already…

Something further below popped, or broke, and moments later, all of Vix’s momentum was reversed. She was grabbed by something, and whatever or whoever it was, was bringing her back up the mountain. The speed they were ascending was too much for her to move, so she couldn’t see anything other than a black figure’s body.

Nearing the summit, the figure made a sudden turn into a cave, and then stopped abruptly once they got inside. The figure was... warm, and soft too. It took her a moment to realize that she was being cradled like a baby, but she hardly seemed bothered by it. Vix looked up at who was holding her, seeing black and grey fur and spiky, crimson hair. There was a tattered cloak around his shoulders, and a worried face staring right back at her. It was... vaguely familiar, to say the least.

“You alright?” he asked, and everything started to click. That voice, she remembered it! It was one of those two strangers! He saved her! HE saved HER!!! She didn’t need to come finding them, they found her!

There was so much she wanted to say, so much to ask! This was a Pokemon she’d never even seen before, and here he was, cradling her with the care of a parent holding their child! Vix tried to say something, anything, nothing came out. The adrenaline had already started to fade. Her eyes felt heavy, adamant on closing, and her body felt like it was melting into the fox’s tender grasp.

“H-Hey! Are you tired?! Say something!” the fox exclaimed, but Vix was already drifting away. His words blended together in her head, turning into a sort of lullaby to further her into sleep.

<><><><><>​


“... go back by herself,” a cold, stern voice drew Vix from her slumber. She groggily solidified, rubbing her eyes and yawning. It sounded like people arguing.

“She nearly died out there! We can’t do that to her!”

Yep, definitely arguing. It took a moment or two for Vix’s eyes to see clearly, revealing to her the spacious cave she resided in. There was so much room, and boxes full of berries and other items lined the walls, and a tunnel leading further in, but it was too dark to see anything within it. Vix looked down, a fancy pillow cushioned her, decorated in red and black stripes. A fire in the middle of the room illuminated it all, including the two strangers she risked her life to see. They didn’t seem to notice her waking just yet.

“Why do you want to waste time bringing her back? The villagers will still refuse us,” the metal one said, a Bisharp, if Vix remembered correctly. He was taller than she had imagined, and bulkier too. An air of authority surrounded him, and it only took one look between the two to tell that this Bisharp was the one in charge.

“I don’t care about that! She’s already been through hell trying to get here, sending her back by herself would get her killed!” the fox retorted. It was a bit harder to tell what he was, while Bisharps are rare, Vix could at least say she read about them before. And it’s not like she’d forget such an extravagant looking Pokemon either, what with the short, scarlet hair, matching crimson claws, and jet-black and grey fur. The fox had a far more gentle feel to him, despite his look being equally intimidating to the Bisharp.

“You act as if you weren’t going to follow her back anyway, like you did when she was on her way here. Were you expecting me to not notice you suddenly wanting to go explore the forest dungeon everyday?” the Bisharp scoffed, crossing his arms. “You once came back nearly dead with the stench of fairy aura all over you, and you can’t play it up as you forgetting about those annoying mushrooms, we already had a run in with them, you aren’t that idiotic.”

“Ok, fine, I helped her get here, but what else was I supposed to do? Let her be attacked by those berserkers, or let her drown in that river?” the fox admitted

Something then clicked in Vix’s mind. All those times she was in danger, she assumed it was her being fortunate or lucky, but to have such close calls, right after each other? It always felt a little far fetched, and now she had a real answer. This stranger was acting as her guardian angel the entire time. A small smile grew on Vix’s candle wax face, she knew these two were kindhearted, not the criminals the villagers thought them out to be.

“If you were so adamant on protecting her, how the hell did she get blown off this mountain, in the middle of a raging storm, in the first goddamn place?!” A stomp of metallic greaves punctuated the Bisharp’s anger, startling both Vix and the fox. “Explain yourself! What happened?!”

“I-I… I wanted to see how far she’d get…” The fox’s voice shook and his body sank. “She made it halfway, I believed she could make it…”

The Bisharp let out a sigh, irritated, but understanding. “Once the storm came in, you should have assisted her sooner. Your negligence would have gotten her killed, and if anyone realized she hadn’t come back yet, they’d start searching. Who do you think would have been blamed for her death?”

A grim silence fell upon them, the fox didn’t need to say the answer, and Vix knew it too. They’d be the first ones the village would suspect, and these two would be greatly outnumbered. The Bisharp glanced Vix’s way for the first time, her deep purple eyes meeting his fiery red. He shut his eyes and cleared his throat.

“It would seem that our guest has awoken. Hopefully not from my outburst a moment ago,” the Bisharp said, motioning towards the Litwick. “Forgive us and our little... disagreement.”

The fox turned his head, a relieved look washing over him. “I knew you’d be ok! I was worried for a little bit, you started melting, a-and your eyes were closing, I couldn’t tell if you were falling asleep or...” His smile wavered for a moment. “I-I’m just glad you’re alright!”

Vix was astounded, really. They were absolutely nothing like the village imagined, almost the complete opposite. It took her a moment to find the right words to say, there were so many to pick from.

“Um, thank you,” her voice was far more shy than she would have liked. They were still somewhat unnerving to look at, one was covered in blades with an axehead practically sticking out of his head, and the other was built like a beast with huge claws and his sharp teeth that could be seen every time his mouth opened. The contrast between their looks and how they acted was jarring, to say the least.

“How are you feeling? That storm was more than strong enough to damage you, from the looks of it,” the Bisharp asked, taking a gentler tone than earlier.

“I’m... good. It didn’t hurt all that bad, really,” Vix answered, hopping off of the pillow.

“That’s a relief. You hungry?” the fox offered an oran berry, fresh and ripe. Vix hesitated for a moment before grabbing the fruit. It was just barely smaller than her, causing her to stumble when the fox let go. The other two pulled out a berry of their own, a lum berry for the fox and a rawst berry for the Bisharp.

Vix was still at a loss of what to really say to the pair, she was still finding this all kind of hard to believe, actually. Not only was she right about where the two went, but also that the village greatly misunderstood them! They might’ve had a rough first impression, but they deserved a second chance! And, even more importantly, they might be able to answer her question.

Assuming she’d get the courage to ask it.

“Hey,” the Bisharp got Vix’s attention. “I would like to believe you have a name, correct? Mine is Eera.”

“Oh right, I’m Castiss!” a bright, friendly smile from the fox followed his introduction.

“My name is Vix, pleasure meeting you,” some comfort rose inside Vix as the two introduced themselves. She took a bite out of her oran, relishing the flavor within it. Then, like a starved Pokemon finding their first bit of food in days, she began to devour the defenseless berry. An oran had never tasted so delicious! Was it even an oran? It might’ve been some super-oran that she’d never been able to eat before!

“The pleasure is ours, Vix,” Eera nodded, chuckling lightly at the sight of the Litwick devouring the berry. “If you don’t mind us prying, why is it that you tried to climb this mountain?”

“Yeah, and why by yourself? Any mystery dungeon can be dangerous, and this mountain is right in the middle of one,” Castiss added, finishing his berry in one bite.

Vix finished her oran before speaking; it was too good to not eat in one sitting. Plus, she had a lot more energy now, and was actually able to say what she wanted. “I thought this would be where you two were. It was awful to watch you both get kicked out so easily, and I wanted to say sorry on everyone’s behalf, even if they still haven’t warmed up to you guys yet.”

“Us?” Castiss tilted his head, hung up on that part of her explanation.

“You risked your life to apologize, to us?” Eera raised a brow, or the equivalent of that, since Vix couldn’t tell if he even had eyebrows. “That is a lot of risk for something so... trivial.”

“Well, there’s more to it than just that...” Vix cleared her throat. “I wanted to ask if it was you that took care of our bandit problem too. Those thugs have been at our throats for years, but the day you two appeared, they started returning everything they stole and running away with their tails between their legs!”

Castiss and Eera looked at each other for a moment, then the former snickered and turned back to her. The fox was about to speak, when Eera suddenly cut in before him.

“Sorry, we don’t know anything about the bandits. We’ve just been up here and in the dungeon since we arrived,” Eera said, his eyes shut and his arms crossed. Castiss pouted, glaring at the Bisharp.

“R-Really?” Vix melted slightly. “I thought... but, who else could it have been? None of us would stand a chance against those guys!”

Castiss was about to speak again, but not before getting a death glare from his companion. The fox rolled his eyes, ignoring the silent warning.

“It was us! You’re a pretty good guesser!” Castiss snickered, getting an oran chucked at his head by Eera.

Vix didn’t seem to care, she was right again! She was so overjoyed at her success so far that she barely noticed the other two fighting, or maybe didn’t care. With a purple glow, Vix floated over to the wrestling pair, accidentally distracting Castiss enough for Eera to pin him down.

“That means you guys are heroes!” Vix cheered, getting both of their attention. “You’re heroes, I knew it! So you can help me!”

Castiss and Eera looked at each other, then back to the Litwick. Their expressions faltered for a moment, but they still wanted to hear her out. She did come all the way out here for this, it’d be rude to decline her request, they felt.

“Ok… what is it?” Eera asked, still keeping Castiss pinned on the ground.

A bright, cheerful look shined on Vix, her flame dancing excitedly on top of her head. Her question, the one she risked her life to ask, was finally going to be answered! It was almost too good to be true! After taking a moment to curb her energy, Vix finally asked,

“What does it mean to be a Hero?”
 
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Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
Glad to see you posting this! Congrats on finishing up your edits, and I hope your work on future chapters goes well.

I'll admit, I did a bit of a double take at the "short little read" comment in the first post followed by a list of chapters, heh. But it's neat; I almost always see epic-length PMD fics, or occasionally one-shots, so a shorter chaptered story set in that world is a real rarity. I'm curious what sort of story you're going to tell that's too big for a one-shot but not big enough for 65+ chapters!

I like how we got right into the action here, with Vix already engaged with her mission and having to fight hard to make it happen. I thought you did a good job of setting the scene of the perilous and miserable mountain climb, with the dark and the rain and the raging wind. I was a little weirded out, though; if Vix is a ghost and can go ethereal, why did she even keep falling after she'd stopped taking physical form? How would hitting the ground even hurt her?

Probably the most fun was Vix herself, though! She's super cute; I enjoyed her upbeat attitude and the little details you gave about her eating charcoal and having to worry about running out of fuel. I guess this is a litwick who doesn't eat by sucking out other people's souls! All your characters in this chapter are cute, really; the comraderie between the zoroark and bisharp at the end is obvious, and it's clear why Vix took to them immediately.

I do kind of wish we'd learned what Vix's question was a bit earlier on. It makes perfect sense to reveal it at the end of the chapter here, giving some fitting closure to the first chapter while also providing a hook into the next. I think it might have been more effective, though, to make it less of a secret and lean a bit more into *why* Vix was willing to risk so much to get her question answered. Why does the concept of heroism or being a hero mean so much to her? Why does she feel like no one in her village can help her with that?

I'm still wondering that now, of course! There's still lots to discover about Vix in the upcoming chapters, and I'm sure we'll learn more about her as time goes on. I'm curious what direction this story will go in... Some kind of small adventure, I'm guessing, based on the chapter titles. Looking forward to meeting Vix's chespin friend.

I have some additional grammar corrections/sentence nitpicks under the spoiler, but this was a fun opener! Good luck with your writing.

One thing to watch out for in your writing are run-on sentences. These occur when you have multiple complete sentences tied together with a comma. The first sentence of the story is one:

This was basically suicide, no sane Pokemon would willingly venture through a mystery dungeon, just to climb up a cursed mountain for a question.
"This was basically suicide" is a sentence, and so is "No sane pokémon [...] for a question." Since they're full sentences, they should be denoted by the usual period and capital letter, rather than just a comma. Run-ons tend to get long and can get hard to follow, since they cram in a lot of information; they sound sort of "breathless" to a person reading along. Here are a couple more examples:

It wasn’t like they could refuse, those bandits were powerful Fire Types, and this village had mostly Grass Types, there wasn’t really much they could do.
This is actually three sentences: "It wasn't like they could refuse," "There wasn't really much they could do," and the middle one about types. Again, you want to split these up with periods.

She’d have to act fast, water was beginning to fill her resting place.
This is a straightforward, easy one. Should be. "She'd have to act fast. Water was beginning to fill her resting place."

Also, you usually do a good job with your dialogue punctuation. Usually it's correct to not capitalize the first letter after a piece of dialogue, since it's often part of a dialogue tag. However, if what follows dialogue is some piece of action unrelated to how the word was said and can stand as a complete sentence, it should actually be capitalized. So here:

“If you were so adamant on protecting her, how the hell did she get blown off this mountain, in the middle of a raging storm, in the first goddamn place?!” a stomp of metallic greaves punctuated the Bisharp’s anger, startling both Vix and the fox.
The stomping happens after the dialogue and isn't related to it. It should be "A stomp of metallic greaves..."

“I was worried for a little bit, you started melting, a-and your eyes were closing, I couldn’t tell if you were falling asleep or...” his smile wavered for a moment.
"His smile wavered" should be capitalized.

“I-I… I wanted to see how far she’d get…” the fox’s voice wavered and his body sank.
Here again it should be "The fox's voice wavered."

There had to have been better ways to get an answer, ways better suited to not risk prematurely and permanently put out the purple flame of this Litwick, but Vix was never privy to thinking up those alternatives when she needed them.
I think you mean "prone" here, rather than "privy." Or something like "she never tended to think up those alternatives..." would work better.

Along with her trusty satchel, Vix overcame many hardships, some you wouldn’t think an adolescent could have handled by themself, but now have to deal with a soon-to-be-diminished food supply and a very tall mountain to climb.
I would love more detail here! A couple examples of the hardships Vix has endured would make this sentence more concrete and vibrant.

It’s been a few weeks since those strangers appeared, and while they haven’t been seen since then, Vix would bet her life on them being the ones stopping the bandits, which just so happens to be what she’s doing right now.
Your tenses get weird here.

Curious about what was going on, Vix peaked her head (head being most of her body) out the crevice.
*peeked, although it's a cute image.

She got into a good enough moment that all that had to be done before a jump was catch her breath.
Moment? Maybe you mean something like "rhythm?"

It was too much to accept, that either this was all planned, or she’ll miss out on everything else.

This was a Pokemon she’d never even seen before, and here he was, cradling her with the care of a parent holding their child! Vix tried to say something, anything, nothing came out.

Looking down, a fancy pillow cushioned Vix, decorated in red and black stripes.
Here it's *the pillow* looking down, not Vix. "Vix looked down. A fancy pillow cushioned her, decorated in red and black stripes," would be one way to fix it.

It was a little weird to have Vix identify one of her saviors as a bisharp "if she remembered correctly" when earlier she recalled the travelers as straight-up "a bisharp" and a black-and-red fox; it didn't seem like she was uncertain about the bisharp's species before.
 

Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Glad to see you posting this! Congrats on finishing up your edits, and I hope your work on future chapters goes well.

I'll admit, I did a bit of a double take at the "short little read" comment in the first post followed by a list of chapters, heh. But it's neat; I almost always see epic-length PMD fics, or occasionally one-shots, so a shorter chaptered story set in that world is a real rarity. I'm curious what sort of story you're going to tell that's too big for a one-shot but not big enough for 65+ chapters!

I like how we got right into the action here, with Vix already engaged with her mission and having to fight hard to make it happen. I thought you did a good job of setting the scene of the perilous and miserable mountain climb, with the dark and the rain and the raging wind. I was a little weirded out, though; if Vix is a ghost and can go ethereal, why did she even keep falling after she'd stopped taking physical form? How would hitting the ground even hurt her?

Probably the most fun was Vix herself, though! She's super cute; I enjoyed her upbeat attitude and the little details you gave about her eating charcoal and having to worry about running out of fuel. I guess this is a litwick who doesn't eat by sucking out other people's souls! All your characters in this chapter are cute, really; the comraderie between the zoroark and bisharp at the end is obvious, and it's clear why Vix took to them immediately.

I do kind of wish we'd learned what Vix's question was a bit earlier on. It makes perfect sense to reveal it at the end of the chapter here, giving some fitting closure to the first chapter while also providing a hook into the next. I think it might have been more effective, though, to make it less of a secret and lean a bit more into *why* Vix was willing to risk so much to get her question answered. Why does the concept of heroism or being a hero mean so much to her? Why does she feel like no one in her village can help her with that?

I'm still wondering that now, of course! There's still lots to discover about Vix in the upcoming chapters, and I'm sure we'll learn more about her as time goes on. I'm curious what direction this story will go in... Some kind of small adventure, I'm guessing, based on the chapter titles. Looking forward to meeting Vix's chespin friend.

I have some additional grammar corrections/sentence nitpicks under the spoiler, but this was a fun opener! Good luck with your writing.

One thing to watch out for in your writing are run-on sentences. These occur when you have multiple complete sentences tied together with a comma. The first sentence of the story is one:



"This was basically suicide" is a sentence, and so is "No sane pokémon [...] for a question." Since they're full sentences, they should be denoted by the usual period and capital letter, rather than just a comma. Run-ons tend to get long and can get hard to follow, since they cram in a lot of information; they sound sort of "breathless" to a person reading along. Here are a couple more examples:


This is actually three sentences: "It wasn't like they could refuse," "There wasn't really much they could do," and the middle one about types. Again, you want to split these up with periods.


This is a straightforward, easy one. Should be. "She'd have to act fast. Water was beginning to fill her resting place."

Also, you usually do a good job with your dialogue punctuation. Usually it's correct to not capitalize the first letter after a piece of dialogue, since it's often part of a dialogue tag. However, if what follows dialogue is some piece of action unrelated to how the word was said and can stand as a complete sentence, it should actually be capitalized. So here:


The stomping happens after the dialogue and isn't related to it. It should be "A stomp of metallic greaves..."


"His smile wavered" should be capitalized.


Here again it should be "The fox's voice wavered."


I think you mean "prone" here, rather than "privy." Or something like "she never tended to think up those alternatives..." would work better.


I would love more detail here! A couple examples of the hardships Vix has endured would make this sentence more concrete and vibrant.


Your tenses get weird here.


*peeked, although it's a cute image.


Moment? Maybe you mean something like "rhythm?"

It was too much to accept, that either this was all planned, or she’ll miss out on everything else.

This was a Pokemon she’d never even seen before, and here he was, cradling her with the care of a parent holding their child! Vix tried to say something, anything, nothing came out.


Here it's *the pillow* looking down, not Vix. "Vix looked down. A fancy pillow cushioned her, decorated in red and black stripes," would be one way to fix it.

It was a little weird to have Vix identify one of her saviors as a bisharp "if she remembered correctly" when earlier she recalled the travelers as straight-up "a bisharp" and a black-and-red fox; it didn't seem like she was uncertain about the bisharp's species before.
________________

Thanks for reading, the things you pointed are we helpful and I already went ahead and fixed them. I am beyond glad that you enjoyed the chapter, and I hope I can continue to entertain with the later ones. This is my first time getting a review and responding to it in a forum format, which was pretty exciting!

I think I'll have to look out for run-ons in the later chapters too, I was about to the second chapter until I realized you left a review. It's a good thing I read through it, hehe.
 

Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Chapter Two: Reckless Abandon


Vix’s question hung in the air for a little bit, and a nervous look fell upon the Litwick. Was this too strange a question? Maybe she got too far ahead of herself; she basically just met these two after all. Before Vix could retract the question, Eera got off of Castiss and faced her.

“Hm... I don’t believe that question has an answer we can easily provide,” Eera hummed, crossing his arms. “‘Hero’ is far too broad a title for any one or two people to properly answer.”

“You came to the wrong people for that,” Castiss bluntly answered, his gentleness replaced by an icy, somber look. “If you’re looking for heroes, you’d have better luck finding one among those bandits.”

Vix flinched, startled by Castiss’ sudden tonal shift. Eera shut his eyes and remained silent, thinking to himself.

“Wh-What do you mean? You saved me several times, and you’ve been saving us from those bandits!” Vix exclaimed, floating closer to the fox. “How are you not heroes?!”

More silence fell as Castiss looked at Vix, emotionless. His gaze felt unnatural, and the longer they stared at each other, the more she realized just how much he towered over her. It was like Castiss shifted into an entirely different person, one more befitting of his frightful appearance.

“Might I ask why you want to know this?” Eera finally cut the deathly silence, causing Vix to flinch. Castiss turned his head to the side, letting out a brief sigh.

“I-I want to be an adventurer...” Vix replied, finding it a little difficult to regain her confidence. “I feel like that means being a hero too, but… I don’t really know the first thing about being one, and no one in the village really cares about things like this.They’re more focused on logging and lumbering.”

“I see,” Eera nodded. “That you would seek answers for yourself is understandable, but searching for two total strangers for a response? In the middle of a mystery dungeon? I find that more than a bit reckless, don’t you?”

Vix’s cheeks flushed light purple, agreeing with his statement. “Maybe, but it’s not like I haven’t been through the dungeon before! I knew going in alone would be more difficult, but the wild Pokemon have been getting more and more aggressive lately. Some of them are downright scary now.”

“We are familiar with that phenomenon. It’s a sort of powered-up state called ‘Berserk,’ and it’s been popping up more and more around the world, from what we’ve seen. It may be linked to the increase of dungeons, but I digress.”

He grabbed another rawst berry.. “Despite Castiss’ objection, I would like to help you find an answer. I would hate your ignorance to be a result of his pessimism.”

“I’m the pessimist?” Castiss shot a death glare at Eera, his fangs bearing for a second as a low growl rolled in his chest. Vix took a step back, feeling the growl herself. “Look who’s talking, mister ‘Tall, Dark, and Brooding.’ Ain’t there a sayin’ about throwin’ rocks in a glass house? Because that’s what it sounds like you’re doing.”

“Castiss, contain yourself. There’s no reason to cause a scene over this,” Eera warned, but looked ready to fight anyway.

“Why’re ya so afraid of causin’ a scene, huh? We’re in a cave on top of a mountain, who’s gonna-” the fox cut himself off, remembering the Litwick that came to see them. He took a deep breath and relaxed as much as he could, letting his body sink to the floor as he exhaled. “Right, we’re not alone… and it’s not like we could actually fight in here either, huh?” Castiss’ tone shifted back to, what Vix believed to be, normal.

Eera loosened up as well, shooting a friendly smirk at the fox before turning to Vix. “We’ll assist you, Vix. Knowledge is a power all should have access to.”

Vix’s face lit up as her flame grew brighter. Even if Castiss believed they weren’t heroes, the chance to learn from them was something she greatly appreciated. “Thank you! Thank you both so much!”

“H-Hey, don’t go thanking us yet,” Castiss chuckled, popping another lum berry in his mouth. “What if you don’t like the answer we give you?”

“I won’t mind. If I don’t like it, it might still help me find the answer I do like!” Vix smiled.

“Well then,” Eera got up and cracked his neck, the sound reverberating throughout the cave. “Where should we begin..?”

“I think... I’ll answer first,” Castiss stated. Vix and Eera looked at him, surprised. “I know, I just said we aren’t heroes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an answer!” he snickered, then turned to Eera. “Can I ask you to wait a little bit to give her your answer?”

“Hmph, fine. I didn’t have one right now anyway,” the Bisharp waved the two off, walking towards the tunnel. “I’ll go further into the cave and survey it some more. The two of you should do your best to stay out of trouble. Especially you, Castiss.”

The fox stuck out his tongue in response, waving a small goodbye as his companion ventured into the dark passageway.

Castiss and Vix remained in the cave, mostly silent. The sounds of the storm were faintly present, and Castiss seemed to enjoy them, laying on his back and basking in the heat of the fire. They spent some time sitting there, and while it was nice to just relax and unwind, Vix kinda wanted an answer. She was about to ask what Castiss was waiting for, but was stopped before she could open her mouth by a rather loud yawn from the fox.

Awwwwwwwwww mann… what time is it?” he asked, glancing over to see the Litwick beside him. “What’s up? Do ya wanna go back to your village or something?”

“No, I was wondering what your answer was gonna be, and why we’re not really… saying that answer.”

Castiss nodded, sitting up. “There’s no rush, is there? Figured you’d want some more rest after what happened earlier. Besides, my answer’s gonna be a bit tricky to explain, so I still gotta think about it.”

“Oh, I see,” Vix sighed, taking a seat next to Castiss. He was right, she was still somewhat exhausted. Maybe it’d be smart to take his advice and relax for a little while longer. Vix went back over to the pillow she woke up on and laid down on it, dozing off hardly a moment later.


<><><><><>​


Vix awoke to the sounds of heavy footsteps. It would have been alarming, if the one making those steps hadn’t appeared not too long after.

“Mornin’ Vix!” Castiss greeted warmly, carrying two large crates above his head, one in each paw. They were filled to the brim with berries and items, most likely from the dungeon below… and he was just carrying them like they were nothing?! The fox dropped the two crates next to some of the other crates and some of the items jumped out, but were caught before they touched the ground.

“M-Morning, Castiss,” Vix said, still somewhat in awe of the fox’s strength and speed. He looked so skinny, was it all muscle or something? What kind of Pokemon was he?

“You ready to head out or what?” Castiss grinned and began stretching.

“Head out? Why?”

“You’re question, remember? I kinda know a way to answer it, and I’m a lot better at it while not cooped up in a cave,” the fox replied, pointing at the crates. “Feel free to help yourself to anything you want from those boxes, and I know that fire types enjoy charcoal, so I made some myself!” He chuckled, grabbing his black and red satchel and pulling out a few sticks of charcoal. He ate one of them and handed the rest of them to Vix.

“You eat charcoal too? Are you some kind of Fire Type?” she asked, biting on the smoky snack gifted to her. It was perfectly made, crispy, fresh, and smoky!

“No, but I can use some pretty strong fire attacks, so I snack on charcoal and kindling sometimes,” Castiss snickered, spewing a tiny flame from his maw. He planted himself on the ground, grabbing a lum berry and a tamato berry from the crate beside him and devouring them in two bites.

This fox was… definitely something to get used to. Deciding to take his offer, Vix grabbed a kasib berry and floated behind him as they left the cave.


<><><><><>​


Sunlight hurt Vix’s eyes as they reached the cave’s entrance, blinding her for a moment from the grand display of the forest below. There were so many shades of green and kinds of trees, all waving in the distorted wind of the dungeon. The morning sun’s warmth showered over the two, and a breeze blew through their flame and fur, carrying the scent of fresh, forest air and rain with it. It was hard to believe that this was the place where Vix was in peril the night before, even as she looked down to see the jagged cliff face glisten with the last signs of the storm.

“This is so beautiful…” Vix gasped, taking it all in.

“It’s one of the best views I’ve seen so far, but this is the first time I’ve seen a dungeon from this high up,” Castiss sighed. “Makes all the time in the dungeon a bit easier to deal with,” the two gazed upon the dungeon for a bit longer before Castiss kneeled down next to Vix and asked, “So, it’s a long way down, ya wanna take the fast way?”

She didn’t know what the fast way could be, but she’d rather do whatever that was than climb back down. Come to think of it, how did Castiss get those crates up here? There’s no path to walk down or anything. “Sure, where is it?”

A playful smirk decorated the fox’s snout. “Hop on and hold tight,” he replied. Vix did as she was told, planting herself on his shoulder and holding on as tight as possible, even melting a bit to wrap around him slightly. “Alright, you ready?”

“Yeah, but for wha-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!” Castiss had leaped high into the air, and the two began plummeting towards the base of the mountain. Vix was utterly terrified, gripping Castiss’ neck as tight as she possibly could, burying her face in his fur.

‘Th-This guy is INSANE!!!’ her mind was racing, fueled by fear and adrenaline once more. He was going to get them both killed! Why?! Why did he jump with her on?! Why didn’t she take the long way down? ‘Arceus above, PLEASE don’t let me die!’

“Maybe I should have warned you, sorry…” Castiss chuckled. He sounded less like someone who was bringing him and an unlucky kid to an untimely demise, and more like someone who gave their friend a really bitter berry without telling them first.

Castiss took a deep, deep breath, and his exhale was a mighty flamethrower aimed below them, slowing their fall and pushing them towards the mountainside. The fox then dug his claws into the rocky surface, practically tearing through it. Once they were past the tops of the trees, Castiss kicked him and Vix off the wall and basically flew through the air, grabbing onto a branch and flipping on top of it, crouching on the branch and breathing somewhat heavily.

Vix saw some of what the fox did, mainly just the flamethrower and when he flipped onto the branch. It would have been spectacular if she wasn’t basically melting into the fox’s neck, refusing to look until she was sure she was safe.

“So… what’d you think?” Castiss asked, a proud smile on his face.

“Th-Th-That was INSANE!” Vix shouted, causing the fox to flinch and hold his ear. “What were you THINKING?! Jump off the mountain because it was COOL?! We could have DIED!!!”

“Aghh! But we aren’t! We were fine!” Castiss held his pained ear. “Why would I let anything happen to you? You were safe!”

“It sure didn’t FEEL like it!” Vix barked.

“Then why didn’t you let go?” the fox barked back. “You can float, can’t ya? That’s how you were scaling the mountain before! Hell, ya probably could have floated all the way down here if ya wanted! Why’d ya trust me enough to take you down the mountain if ya didn’t trust that I’d keep ya safe?!”

“Because I didn’t know this was the shortcut!”

“What else could it have been?!”

“I-I don’t know!” Vix finally let go of Castiss’ neck. “You still could have warned me or something!”

“A-Alright, alright! I’m sorry,” Castiss sighed, sitting with his back resting on the tree trunk. “I guess in hindsight, jumping off a mountain isn’t the most ideal way anyone would think to get down it…”

“It really isn’t…” Vix popped herself off of the fox’s shoulder, landing on his knee. “What do you do that jumping off a mountain would be considered normal?”

“I’m just a traveler, really. Living on the road, seeing the world, doing whatever, really. Don’t got a place to go back to, so Eera and I just keep moving forward,” Castiss had a smile, but it wavered and morphed into a frown as he said that last part. “It’s just us, has been for a while…”

Vix regretted asking that now, seeing how downtrodden he got. She was about to see if he was alright, but the fox suddenly jumped to his feet, looking as if nothing had just happened.

“Alright, enough of that doom and gloom, we got stuff to attend to!” Castiss exclaimed, looking down at the Litwick who was still attached to his knee. “A-Are you stuck?”

“Not really stuck, I can get off whenever I want,” Vix grinned, jumping off Castiss’ leg. “See? Easy peasy!”

Castiss chuckled, dropping down to hold onto the branch below them. “That’s pretty cool, actually. Makes me wonder ever more why you were scared earlier, but whatever. I’m gonna head down the flashy way, which is just swinging from branch to branch really. Wanna come, or are you gonna float down normally?”

The Litwick smiled, hopping onto his shoulder. “Since we’re less likely to turn into a waxy fox pancake from this height, I’d gladly like to go down the fun way. Just promise not to do anything risky-”

Before Vix could even finish her sentence, Castiss began swinging and spinning on the branch, flipping through the air towards another branch, and continuing downwards.

“CASTIIIIIISSSSSSSS!!!”

<><><><><>​


Each tree looked tall enough to pierce the sky, despite the mountain being so much grander by comparison. Almost every trunk was so wide that no one could wrap their arms around it. Hardly any sunlight reached the forest floor, whatever slim streams that made it past the thick foliage above did little to illuminate the area. The main source of light was in the form of luminescent mushrooms of varying sizes, or glowing crystals protruding through the ground in one of many colors, normally green, yellow-green, or light pink. A faint, ominous haze covered the area, making anything outside of a few yards ahead look blurry.

“This dungeon is getting worse,” Castiss stated. “The haze might have been present before, but it’s getting worse.”

“How can you tell? This place looks fine by me, or at least it looks the same as when I came in,” Vix replied, taking a liking to being on Castiss’ head rather than his shoulder.

“You want to be an adventurer, right? You need to be able to see or sense these sorts of things. Dungeons with a haze like this attract more wild Pokemon, and the haze itself makes them go Berserk, and the thicker the haze gets, the more likely it will be for even sapient Pokemon to go Berserk,” Castiss explained. “Even if you weren’t trying to be an adventurer, you need to know this stuff.”

“How come you know so much?”

Castiss hesitated for a moment, his ear twitching. “Simple, I’m a traveler, and my travel buddy made sure to drill this stuff into my head. Everywhere is getting more dangerous by the day, thanks to dungeons, criminals, and Berserking Pokemon. Nobody can get a break… not until someone fixes it.” his tone shifted, somewhat sorrowful or regretful. Vix wasn’t great at telling how people felt, but she knew he was feeling somewhat down about this.

“I’m sure it’ll be alright,” she attempted to soothe the fox, patting his ear. “That’s part of the reason I wanna be a hero, to get to the bottom of all this mess and, I dunno, find some way to stop it?”

Another twitch of his ear, not because of Vix patting it, however. Castiss stopped for a moment before changing directions. “That’s a very noble thing to want to do, but I’ll be honest, this is greater than any of us right now.”

“Why do you sound so sure of that?” the Litwick asked, leaning over his forehead to look him in the eye. He was serious, that she was able to tell. The look Castiss gave her felt like a warning, that she didn’t want to know the answer to that.

The two walked in silence for a little while, taking in the scenery until Castiss abruptly stopped, his ears flicking and twitching alarmingly. As if he found something he was looking for, the fox charged in one direction, weaving around trees and mushrooms. Before Vix could ask what the trouble was, he answered her, “Someone’s in trouble, they’re surrounded!”

<><><><><>​

‘This was a bad idea! Really, really bad!’ the frantic thoughts of a Chespin looped in his mind as he ran through the forest. Behind him, a surprisingly menacing horde of Ribombee, with the one in charge being much larger than the rest and exuding a menacing black aura, its eyes crimson and crazed. The rodent had come in search of his friend; while only two days passed outside the dungeon, he knew more time had passed inside it, and while Vix was capable, he was too full of worry to not go in after her.

‘Wh-What if the Shiinotic already got her? Or these Ribombee? They’re so aggressive now, Vix wouldn’t possibly have stood a chance on her own!’ It would seem that this Chespin, Ace, made the same mistake Vix did by going in alone. Ace tripped on a root, rolling forward into the trunk of a tree. He tried to get up in time before the Ribombee could reach him, but they were already so close. Almost on top of him, in fact. Ace pulled his satchel from his side, searching for something, anything that could save him.

“Yes! Some blast seeds!” he exclaimed, pulling out three of the seeds. There were way more than three Ribombee, but it would be better than nothing. “Stay back! Or you’re gonna get a real bad tan!” Ace warned, glaring at the incoming wild Pokemon. “I-I’m serious!”

But the incoming insects didn’t even slow their approach. Since they didn’t want to listen, Ace reeled back and chucked the three blast seeds at the Ribombee. “Take this you creeps!”

Ace had expected a big explosion, but what he got was an eruption of flame that nearly took him out too! He couldn’t see any of the Ribombee horde anymore, the fire was so spread out and so high up that it basically formed a wall that scorched the plants around it.

“H-Holy Arceus! I didn’t realize blast seeds were so strong! I should definitely use more of them…” the Chespin chuckled, taking a long moment to catch his breath. Running for so long would tire anyone out, so this break was greatly appreciated.

Ace pulled an oran berry from his bag and took a bite out of it, getting to his feet and preparing to try and find Vix again. Two steps, then, something exploded on his back, knocking him to the ground. Intense pain overcame Ace, and as particles of pollen fell around him, he realized why. Struggling to even push himself off the ground, Ace turned to the still raging fire, and his body froze. From the fire, came that large Ribombee, hardly bothered by the flames on its body. And it was mad..

“N-No way..!” Ace gasped, crawling backwards to get away from the monster. “That’s impossible! With an explosion that big, h-how are you-”

“Ace!” a voice called from behind the Chespin, followed by a tiny burst of flame shooting past him, hitting the Ribombee in its chest. Ace turned to see a Litwick floating towards him, a sight that nearly brought him to tears.

“V-Vix! I found you! Well, you found me, but still!” Ace tried to get up again, but his body ached too much. Vix got to his side and helped him to his feet, pulling him behind her.

“We need to move, now!” she ordered, not getting any objections from her friend.

Furious at the ember that hit it, the Ribombee gathered more pollen and fired it at the two escaping Pokemon. Its attack was halted by a black figure getting between it and its targets. A pained groan left the figure, causing Ace to turn around, a second wave of fear overflowing within him.

“M-M-M-MONSTER!!!” the Chespin exclaimed as he saw the menacing shape of a fox, forgetting he was hurt and running ahead of Vix.

“No, he’s here to help us!” Vix tried to calm her friend down, but he wasn’t listening. Vix looked back, gasping at the sight of more Ribombee appearing, closing in on Castiss. Perhaps not wanting to further the forest fire, Castiss resorted to fighting the Ribombee with his paws and claws, but there were too many of them! The urge to go back and help him was strong, but the words Castiss told Vix before this rang in her head.

“No matter what happens, focus on getting your friend out of here, alright? Don’t worry about me, just run and don’t turn back!” he sounded so sure that he’d be fine that Vix didn’t even try to argue with him. Even as his exclamations of pain were suddenly audible, and the glow of pink, Fairy Type attacks shined and pollen blew past them, Vix didn’t turn back.


<><><><><>​


Timberthicket Village was like a paradise after the nightmare Ace and Vix narrowly escaped from. The log houses looked like the most luxurious inns, the dirt road that led to the dirt circle in the center might as well have been paved in gold, and the Chesnaught that took them back home and scolded them both sounded like an angel.

“Feel like explaining yourselves?” the Grass Type asked sternly. His arms were crossed and his foot tapped impatiently on the wooden floor. Vix stepped forward, somehow finding the strength to look the Chesnaught in the eye.

“I’m sorry, Indul. I went into the dungeon alone and Ace came to save me,” she said.

“You never did say why, you just up and left. We were starting to get worried, but while you were gone, more bandits showed up and we were too occupied with that to come after you. It looks like, this time, those bandits are back to stealing from us taking what we have without bringing them back...” Indul groaned, holding his forehead. He gave both of them another look over, noting Ace’s injuries. “What happened in there? The dungeon can't have gotten that bad, right?”

“It’s a little more dangerous, but it wasn’t too much for us!” Vix grinned, getting a look double take from Ace. She glanced back at the Chespin, telling him to go along with it. “I was actually planning on going back inside pretty soon! It was fun camping out alone in a dungeon.”

Another surprised look from Ace, this one Vix ignored. The Chespin cleared his throat and looked in a direction relatively close to Indul’s eyes. “This time, I’ll make sure to go in with her, pops! We’ll be safe!”

A hearty chuckle escaped the Chesnaught’s chest as he patted his son on the head. “That’s what I like to hear! I’m alright with the both of you going in together, but no more going solo for a while, alright?”

Vix and Ace both nodded, promising to stick together. Indul smiled and made for the exit. “Good. I have some business to attend to. Seeing how roughed up you are, I’d suggest staying in for the rest of the day, as little of it there looks to be.”

Now alone, the Litwick and Chespin stood in silence for a moment before the latter practically collapsed onto the floor, on his hands and knees.

“I haven’t held my breath that long before..! If he stayed even a moment later, I’d have blabbed about what actually happened!” Ace rolled onto his back, panting. He suddenly pointed at Vix’s face, glaring at her. “What were you doing in there?! What was that monster that you said was there to save us?!”

Vix pushed Ace’s paw to the side and covered his mouth, shushing him. “Can you not with the yelling?! Geez! I was gonna tell you, just not right now.”

“Wh-What do you mean-” Ace started saying, but was again silenced by a waxy nub. He took a deep breath to calm down, having got all the yelling out of his system. “Ok, why do you want to wait to tell me?”

“Because I know you’re gonna freak out about it, or tell Indul. You and secrets don’t mix, like blast seeds and fire,” Vix chuckled.

“I said I was sorry! I wasn’t trying to throw the seed at your flame,” Ace grinned, getting off the ground. “Well, maybe... who’s to say? It was pretty funny after a while.”

“I covered the walls, you jerk, and you too!” the Litwick shoved her friend, laughing. “The second Indul walked in and slipped, I thought he’d be sooooo mad!”

“Because we were going through his stuff, or because he slipped on you?” Ace snickered.

Vix rolled her eyes and nodded, heading towards the room at the back of the house. There were only three rooms, including a kitchen and two bedrooms, each being rather spacious despite how small the house looked from the outside. This room in particular held two small mattress beds on either side of the room, a night stand on the far wall, and a window sitting just above that night stand.

“I can’t imagine a lot of people can say their friend blew them up the first time they met, huh?” she sighed, falling onto her bed and melting into it, but not before taking out her notebook and pencil and tossing her satchel to the side. “I’m beat, what about you?”

“Does it count if I got beat up? For how cute Ribombee are, they really hurt,” Ace plopped himself on his own bed and let out a long, groaning exhale. “I barely spent half a day in there this time… I’m never gonna beat your record of a week.”

Vix snickered, tossing the Chespin an oran berry. “Not with that attitude, you won’t. Maybe once the dungeon gets safer, you’ll be able to spend a whole month in it?”

The berry hit Ace on the head, which he barely felt, and he grabbed it before it bounced onto the ground. After taking a bite out of it, he looked over at Vix as if she was crazy. “Why would I wanna spend a month surrounded by Ribombee and Shiinotic?”

“Didn’t you just say Ribombee were cute?” the Litwick teased, getting half an oran tossed at her.

“Th-That doesn’t mean I wanna be in a dungeon full of ‘em!” Ace exclaimed.

Vix giggled, taking a bite out of the oran he threw at her. “Whatever cute bee lover. I hope you dream of nectar and honey with your little bee girlfriend~”

Instead of humoring Vix with a response, Ace huffed and turned away from the living candle. He ended up going to sleep not too long after, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Vix let out a sigh and looked at the ceiling, her mind wandering back to Castiss and the Ribombee he was fighting.

The way the fox demanded she not turn back for him, it sounded like he knew he was going to be swarmed by them. She couldn’t understand him, jumping off a mountain as a shortcut, saving two Pokemon from a village that denied him and his friend when they needed a place to stay, and even risking his life to save one of them! Plus, all that stuff he knows about dungeons, and how strong he looks to be, there’s no way he’s just a simple “traveler.”

A proud smile stretched on Vix’s face; she was right yet again. Despite what Castiss insisted, there was no mistaking it, he was a hero! And an adventurer to boot! He and Eera were exactly who she was looking for! The excited Litwick scribbled away in her notebook, jotting down what had happened. She could hardly wait for tomorrow!
 

Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Chapter Three: Another Forest



Before the sun rose the next morning, Vix popped out of bed and floated towards the kitchen. She grabbed an apple, a couple plain seeds, some charcoal. She quickly scribbled a note saying she entered the dungeon, and was about to head out the door when...

"Hey, what're you doin' up so early?" Ace yawned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "You're not heading back into the dungeon already, are you?"

"N-Not just yet, I was, uh, gonna wait outside for you!" Vix lied.

"But you didn't even try to wake me up…"

"Well, you're up now, so let's go!" Despite being smaller than him,Vix was able to drag Ace along without much trouble. The Chespin could only verbally protest, which he gave up momentarily.

The entrance to the dungeon was a plain, forested path, slightly distorted by the haze Castiss told Vix about. The two took in the gentle breeze that blew around them from the path, it was refreshing in an... adventurous sort of way. The thrill of entering the dungeon was one thing, but to also learn from heroes in hiding? Vix was exploding with excitement, her dancing flame showing that excitement to all.

"Alright, no turning back!" the Litwick giggled. "To Adventure!"

"Wait, what do you mean no turning ba-" Ace started to ask, but Vix was already pulling him against his will, right back into the dungeon they narrowly escaped the day before. "And you're just gonna drag me inside… cool, that's fine, don't tell me. I didn't even wanna know…"


<><><><><>​


"H-Hold on! Th-That was that fox guy?!" Ace yelled, looking at Vix like he'd seen a ghost. Well... he is looking at one, technically…

"Yep! He's… different, to say the least, but he's a good guy." Vix tapped what would be her chin.

"Different?! More like evil! Did you NOT see him roll up to town covered in BLOOD?!"

"I never did ask him about that… but how is he evil if he saved you yesterday?"

Ace opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't find an answer that quickly. "H-He just wanted to be the one to do it, instead of those Ribombee! Yeah!"

"Seriously? He didn't want the swarm of Ribombee to kill you, so he stepped in to save you, and dealt with the Ribombee, AND never actually came after you..." Vix deadpanned. Ace wasn't totally confident in that answer, but stood by it anyway.

"Whatever, let's just hurry to the mountain and find him," the Litwick groaned. "It's gonna take a while but-"

"H-He's in the Cursed Mountain?" Ace squeaked, getting a stern look from Vix.

"Aren't you the one obsessed with that myth? I actually climbed it, and that myth terrifies me."

"Th-This is different! I don't actually believe the myth! But I DO believe that that fox is not safe to be around!"

Vix rolled her eyes and pulled Ace into the dungeon, already fed up with his wimpiness.


<><><><><>​


They continued through the forest, grabbing items, avoiding the sounds of wild Pokemon, and Vix filling in Ace on more of her self-provided quest. With the pace they kept, and the few detours needed to avoid conflict, Vix and Ace reached the river before the day was over.

Exhaustion hit like a punch to the gut, and both Pokemon collapsed on the river's edge. Their satchels were full and heavy, their body's sore, but they were glad to have made it this far in one piece.

"L-Let's… set up camp…" Ace panted, rolling onto his back. "We can continue on in the morning."

"That'll be a waste of time..!" Vix tiredly exclaimed. "We can rest up and go through the night, that's what I did last time!"

"Why do you wanna see them so badly?" the Chespin sat up, pulling a small, wrapped-up green tent from his satchel. He started setting it up, looking over at the Litwick with a smug grin for a moment. "You love one of them, doncha?"

Vix flushed purple, and her flame flickered. "N-No, I'm just worried about him! And Eera has an answer I need for something!"

"Gotcha! I didn't even say which one!" Ace snickered, planting large, plastic nails into the ground through loops in the edges of the tent.

"Unlike you, I don't fall in love with the first Pokemon I meet in a dungeon!" Vix stuck her tongue out and crossed her arm-nubs. "Maybe if we find that Ribombee again, you can ask her out, since you feel so left out."

"I do not like that Ribombee!" Ace huffed, but his rosy cheeky said otherwise.

The tent was done being set up, just enough room for the two to rest in comfortably. It was cozy, and Vix managed to keep it warm too. With the gentle flow of the river, rustling of leaves, and fading sunlight, Ace and Vix planned the rest of their journey to the mountain the light of twilight came. They began taking down their tent and folding it back down to its compact shape, sometimes glancing upon the majesty of the skyline and purples and oranges that danced across it.

"Perfect! Now we just gotta head across," Ace dusted off his paws, looking at the flow of water before them. "It doesn't look too strong today, luckily, maybe we can just swim across? But… we might want to be a bit safer than that and find a fallen tree or something…"

As Ace pondered and paced back and forth, Vix gently floated to the other side without alerting him.

"...I mean, who knows how long it would take to get a tree to fall in just the right way to get us across? We might wanna start… Vix?" the Chespin realized he was alone, turning to the other side of the river to see a candle waving at him. "Ok, cheater," a vine stretched Ace's back all the way over to Vix, who tied around a nearby tree. Then, Ace dropped himself into the water and pulled himself along the vine.

"Didya have fun?" Vix asked with a smile.

Ace rolled his eyes. "Yes, actually. Now let's keep going. It was your idea to walk through the night, so if I pass out, you're carrying me."


<><><><><>​


The darkness of night, coupled with the sudden increase of foliage, was more than Vix had planned for, she needed to basically be constantly eating something to burn bright enough to see a few yards ahead. It wasn't normal, she could tell, and maybe Ace could too. The things they could see were wild; warped trees with vines, sharp stones and dark colored gems poking out of the ground, and the few items they were able to find being lookalikes.

The haze was stronger here. They must have wandered into a different part of the dungeon, almost entirely unfamiliar to them. The air was thick, and a putrid stench burned their noses, or lack thereof. Dread crawled up their backs, chilling even Vix to her non-existent bones

"This isn't the right place, is it?" Ace asked, grabbing what he thought was a geo pebble, but when his mind was brought to when he was younger, and his eyes began to be blurred by tears, he tossed it aside. "Please say no…"

"Not at all. B-But I think we'll be able to make it to the mountain if we keep walking straight," Vix answered, hoping to be right. She was running low on charcoal, and frankly, the twigs and leaves of this part of the dungeon didn't feel trustworthy, or any part of this place for that matter.

Deeper and deeper into the darkness they trudged, the air grew thicker, the stench fouler, and the spine-chilling dread more and more unbearable. When their path began to decline, and the haze looked to almost be flowing from it, Ace and Vix considered going back, trying a different way. After very little back and forth, they decided to head back. A decision... that did not last very long.

Grroouuhhhh… nggghhaaaa…

Both of them froze. Someone… something was… close.

H-Haaaaaaaah… mm-mngghhhh…

Slow, ground-shaking steps gave the general direction of whatever was making that noise. Vix's flame dimmed for a moment out of fear, unsure if she should risk expanding it to see whatever was lurking. Other than the footsteps, the only thing alerting them to being was a ghastly-green glow among the darkness.

"V-Vix… we can't, go back now… can we..?" Ace whispered shakily, leaning in close to her candle wax body. His breathing was sharp, erratic; any attempts to remain calm for failing fast.

"J-Just follow my lead…" Vix replied quietly, gently floating over the ground. As she and Ace progressed slowly but surely down the hill, the footsteps sounded like they were going the opposite direction. Despite that, that foreboding dread didn't leave them.


<><><><><>​


After a while the footsteps faded, and the ground shaking grew weaker. The bottom of the hill was shrouded with haze, like a thick fog. Distant, unknown sounds seemed to surround the exhausted duo, some of them sounding totally unnatural. The few crystals that were there were tiny and dull in color. Plant life, too, had become scarce. Trees were thin and sickly, and what little grass was there was dead. Whether that was because of the haze, neither of the two knew...

Ace collapsed on the cold floor, panting heavily. The air tasted utterly vile, but he needed to breathe. Vix melted into a puddle of anxious wax, her flame flicking and sputtering.

"We messed up! We really, REALLY messed up!" Ace exclaimed, gagging at the smell.

"I know…" Vix sighed.

"We're LOST, in a place that smells so bad a MUK would be revolted, with some… MONSTER in the woods behind us!" the Chespin yelled, making Vix melt even further and her flame to shrink.

"I know..!"

"All because you wanted to find some freaks, and ask them a question, that literally ANYONE could have told you!"

"I KNOW!" Vix exploded, taking her candle shape once more as her flame violently bursts from her wick. "And they are NOT freaks! They're heroes!"

"They saved us once! And you believe they saved us from the bandits, too! But what about what Indul said? While we were gone, more bandits came! Where was your hero then?!" Ace shoved his face close to Vix's. If he had a flame, it'd be burning just as violently as Vix's.

"He was saving your sorry ass from Ribombee, and making sure we got home safe! And if the bandits came before that, then…" she started shrinking, remorseful. "... i-it's my fault… Castiss was looking out for me ever since I went into the dungeon, he saved me over and over again. I was distracting him the entire time…"

Ace's anger fell as he saw the regret growing on his friends face. "It isn't your fault, Vix. You wouldn't have known. Wasn't there another one? Era or something?"

"Eera was busy, I think. When I woke up after Castiss saved me from the storm, Eera went deeper into the mountain for… something," Vix replied, holding her head. "Oh Arceus… it really is my fault. Castiss was the only one who was fighting the bandits, wasn't he?"

This was turning sour faster than either could have predicted. Ace tried his hardest to ignore the almost rotting stench and console his friend. As bad as things were getting, being sad is only going to make it worse.

"I promise, it isn't your fault. The bandits didn't come before I left, so Castiss was busy saving me too. If anything, it was more my fault seeing ho-" Ace was cut off by a sudden thump, and the shaking of the ground. All of his color left him, and he stood there, shaking. Vix was too caught up in her own thoughts to notice at first… but then the second thump came.

Those weren't thumps, as they were able to tell now, but footsteps…

Slow…

Heavy…

Footsteps.

Nnn-nnngggghhhhaaaa…


Neither of them could move, it was as if their bodies accepted what was to come already. Closer the steps came, and from behind, that green glow began to shine. It was right there, it was right on top of them. They could hear its body creaking and groaning, and feel its ungodly presence. It radiated cold, and that wretched stench… was also coming from it.

Ace began to turn despite not wanting to, wracked with fear and dread. His eyes widened. It was giant, towering over them, made almost entirely of dark colored stone. Its mantle was rounded and broken, having a crack in its center that was sealed by something that looked like metal, and was propped up on two sturdy legs with two bulky arms that rested by its sides. On its shoulders and hands was a jagged swirl emitting that same green light Ace and Vix saw earlier, and the crack on its mantle poured that light onto the frightened pair.

Gggghh-gggrrrrrrrrrrr…

The sounds it made seemed to be almost lifelike, eerily unfitting for the rock giant.

Vix and Ace watched, petrified, as it raised its giant arm. They feared what it was going to do, what it was, everything about this… thing! Vix managed to shake enough fear away to do something.

"Move!" she yelled, firing small flames at the titan's raised arm. The attack halted its movements for a moment, which was enough for Ace to regain control of his body and run with Vix out of there! The ground shook violently as the arm struck where Ace was standing, and thoughts about what would have happened to him if he didn't move plagued his mind.

They didn't turn back for any reason, weaving through the trees as fast as they could possibly go, and ignoring the slowly approaching footsteps that shook the ground beneath them. It was huge, bulky, and clearly not made for movement, the pair thought. They just had to keep running, and they'd be fine. They must have been faster than it, they had to.


<><><><><>​


Sprinting through the haze was nauseating, but fortunately, Ace and Vix came across a hollowed out trunk to hide in. It was surrounded by a few other dying trees, so cover wasn't an issue at least. Having a moment to breath was something neither would take for granted, putrid air or not. Thoroughly exhausted and sore, the Litwick and Chespin duo fell beside each other in the tree.

"What is that thing?" Ace spoke in hushed tones, on the verge of fully panicking.

"I don't think we want to know," Vix shakily replied. "We're stuck here with that thing… and it's all my fault."

"We're not stuck, we're just lost! It's not much better, sure, but that means we can still get out! We'll be back home in no time!" Ace attempted to reassure his friend, forcing himself to believe his own words.

They kept quiet, listening for the steps that signaled the titan's approach. Tens of minutes went by, and nothing came. Aside from the eerie sounds of this forest, there was an oddly comforting silence. To be safe, they waited just a bit longer before speaking again.

"Alright, it's not coming," Vix let out a relieved sigh, melting slightly.

"Sounds like it. So, maybe we should make a plan or something? That might help keep us focused," Ace suggested, pulling his satchel from his side and rummaging through it. Vix did the same. "Let's see… I have a few blast seeds, a heal seed, a-and… oh! My all-mach orb!"

"I still have a couple plain seeds, a stun seed, two orans and a cleanse orb. Wait, did you not grab anything on the way here?" Vix looked at Ace, rolling her eyes as he shrugged. "Whatever, keep this oran with you. I think we might be able to run from that thing pretty easily, with all the stuff we got."

"Yep! I knew today was a good day to bring my precious orb! This bad boy's gonna get us out of here in no time flat!" the Chespin threw his fist in the air, cheering quietly. "And if that giant rock thing shows its ugly mug, I blast it to kingdom come!"

"And I guess I can stun it for a bit, maybe give it a shiny new look for whoever gets chased by it after us too," the two snickered, the gravity of their situation easing off a bit.

Once they believed they were ready and left the tree, regret formed as they realized how turned around they were. As if that mattered in the end anyway, who's ever heard of going back the way you came in a dungeon? Armed with their limited supplies, newfound, but also somewhat shaky, courage, and their wits, Vix and Ace marched further into the unknown. Ace kept a paw on his bag, ready for anything to pop up, and Vix nibbled on a plain seed as her ghostly flame lit their way.


<><><><><>​


The pair walked and floated mostly in silence, listening intently for the booming footsteps and ominous groans of their pursuer among the eerie ambiance. Not feeling that dreadful sense of something following them helped ease the tension a little, and the dead forest they lost in felt a tiny bit least haunted.

"You know, after breathing this smell in for a while, it isn't so bad," Ace spoke, breaking their silence. "I mean, it's still the absolute worst thing I've ever smelled, but at least I'm not gagging on it anymore.

"Yeah, I don't even have a nose and I agree with that. Maybe there are some Poison Types here, or… were. I don't think anything besides that big rock thing is here," Vix shuddered slightly. "This place is so different from the rest of the dungeon, I don't think anyone's seen anything like it."

"I hope not, this would give anyone nightmares, maybe even Indul!" Ace chuckled, fumbling with the items in his bag. "We should probably tell him we found this place, actually. A dead forest with a stone giant feels like something Indul might want to make note of."

Vix hummed for a moment, thinking about it. "Yeah, definitely. But what's that gonna do other than worry him? It's an entire section of a mystery dungeon, I'm not even sure if it's part of the same dungeon either…"

As they chatted away, the terrain started to change; going upwards at a slight incline, pebbles and stones became more and more prominent, and the odd gem or two were getting bigger and more colorful. Apparently, some of them were pink, like in the normal part of the dungeon, others were purple, but a few remained dark and dull.

Vix's flame flickered excitedly, and a hopeful smile grew on Ace. "I think we're getting closer to the mountain!" the Litwick cheered, speeding up. "We're almost out of here! Oh thank Arceus!"

The incline grew more and more, and dirt and dead grass got less prominent, now in favor of cold stone. Vix and Ace ran like their lives depended on it, swearing that they could taste freedom! As the haze started to clear up, and sunlight illuminated the mountainside, both Pokemon let out a cheerful cry. That odor started to clear up, slowly being replaced with crisp, clean air.

"I almost can't believe it!" Ace cried out, wiping tears away as he dashed towards the exit. "I can almost feel the sunlight!" he dreamed of basking in the sun's rays for hours once they got out of there, that thought helped push him even faster. But, the forest did not seem ready to let them leave just yet…

thoo… thoo…

'Ignore it! It can't be that close! We didn't hear it this entire time, there's no way it caught up to us that fast!' Vix told herself focusing on reaching the mountain. 'It's just wandering through the woods around us, yeah! That's-'

thoo... thoom… thoomm Thoomm Thooom


'N-No freaking way, that's impossible! We lost it! I KNOW we lost it!' Ace's mind screamed. This nightmare was so close to being over, they're RIGHT THERE! The mountain, the sunlight, it is right in front of them! Just a bit further, they just needed to go a bit further!

Gggg-gg-ggrrrrrrhhhhhhhhh…

A faint green light shone from behind them, growing faster and faster. Was it gaining on them?! Its footsteps made it out that way, almost toppling Ace over every time they hit the ground. He felt sick to his stomach, their chance at leaving was fleeting away. How? Why?! It wasn't fair!

"D-DAMMMIT!" the Chespin shouted at the top of his lungs. "This isn't fair! We're right there! We are RIGHT THERE!" every part of him said to keep running, that he and Vix would make it if they kept running.

But, without even looking back to see how close the giant was, both of them knew how unlikely that was. It was practically breathing down their backs, its vile stench and unworldly presence causing their skin or wax to crawl.

The giant's body creaked and moaned, then all of sudden, it struck the ground with incredible force. Ace and Vix were sent skyborne, the latter of which managed to keep herself stable enough to float, while the former flailed his arms as he fell. Ace was also able to get a better look at the top of the giant. It only had half a face, a curve indicating where it must have been sliced off.

"I got you!" Vix exclaimed, grabbing hold of Ace's tail. She flew away from the giant as fast as she could, but not only was it keeping pace with her, but she was falling and slowing down. Vix's exhaustion was starting to take its toll, at the worst, possibile, time! They needed to do something, fast!

"Y-Your bag! Quick, throw something from your bag!" the Litwick frantically yelled.

Ace reached for his bag, pulling out a fresh blast seed and grinning. "Hey, Headless! Eat this and choke on it!" he shouted, dropping the seed and swatting it at the giant with a vine. The hit the giant's shoulder, exploding on impact and causing it to fall backwards.

GG-GGRRRRAAAAAAHHGGGG..!

Its heavy body hit the ground with a violent crash. Ace let out a laugh, utterly shocked but entirely grateful that the seed worked.

"It's down! We knocked it down!" he cheered, letting his body hang as he and Vix started to lower. The Litwick was able to keep them airborne for long enough that the giant was lost in the haze.

They hit the ground, tumbling along it before sliding to a stop in a depression in the stone. Vix kept herself solid as she rolled, melting into an exhausted puddle once her movement halted. Ace laid flat on his back, taking deep breaths and staring into the sky. It was so refreshing, for once, to see the mountain so close. As Ace looked into the sky, some sparkly something caught his eye. It was hard to see, the haze around them was thick enough to blur something from that far away, but it was coming down pretty quick.

"Hey… Vix..?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the shiny thing. "What's that?" Ace pointed at the thing just long enough for Vix to see it, before dropping his arm back down.

"It's really shiny, I think. Oh, did it come from the top of the mountain?" Vix asked.

"Uh-huh."

"It might just be Eera then…" the Litwick went back being a puddle on the ground, hardly a care in the world.

"Ok… but he's kinda coming right at us…"

"That's great, he might be coming to save us..."

"No, like… he's coming right at us!" Ace picked himself up, tripping over himself to move. "Get up! Hurry!" He tried to scoop up as much of Vix as he could, but she was still goopy.

Vix, slightly irritated, solidified herself and looked back at the incoming Eera. From an angle, it really did look like-

"WAIT NO!" the Litwick yelled, as if Eera could have heard her. Ace picked the candle up and ran for it, trying his best not to trip or stumble, which might have made him trip and stumble more.

Before they were clear of the depression in the stone, Ace and Vix were launched out of it by the force of an attack hitting the ground, landing just a few feet away on their faces. The sound of metal clanking on stone alerted the two of Eera's landing, but neither felt they had the strength to get up and greet him.

"Now… where did that explosi-" Eera's voice suddenly stopped, and his metallic steps approached the fallen pair. "Vix?! What are you doing here? And who is this?" he asked, lifting them both off the ground.

"Lost… in the woods…" Vix groaned, melting slightly. "Found… forest…"

"Giant… chased us…" Ace weakly added. "I blew… it up…"

"A giant? You were being chased by-" again, he was cut off. This time by the gentle snoring of the two small Pokemon in his arms. A small smile found its way onto Eera, he could tell that they were exhausted. "...Alright, let's return to our cave, the both of you deserve to rest for getting away from that."

Eera turned to the mountain and walked back, careful not to jostle the two slumbering Pokemon too much. He gently leapt from stone to stone as he scaled the cliff face, unaware of the green glow that watched his every move from the haze below.
 
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Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Chapter Four: From Bad to Worse


Vix blinked awake, half melted around Ace on a familiar black and red pillow, in a familiar looking cave, and the warmth of a fire hitting her face. Ace was still sound asleep, murmuring something with an adorable little smile.

"This is, what, the second time we saved you while you were on our way to us?" a voice spoke from the other side of the fire. Poking his head out to the side was Castiss, who gave Vix a wave once she noticed him. His chest and arms were bandaged up, but it didn't look like he was in pain. "Nice to see you're awake, Vix. I just got back from exploring the dungeon, and Eera asked to watch you guys until you woke up."

"Eera?" Vix solidified and asked, hopping off of the pillow and leaving Ace to himself. "Oh yeah, he saved us earlier..! We were being chased by a big rock… thing, then we blew it up and Eera nearly crushed us!"

"A big rock thing?" Castiss crossed his arms and hummed. "Wait… where were you two?"

"Some part of the dungeon that smelled awful and felt kinda dead. Why?"

The look and Castiss' face switched from pleasant and calm to worried and shocked in an instant.

"Wh-Why the hell did you… How did you even…" the fox fumbled over his words, panicking slightly. It took him a moment to calm himself and say what he was trying so hard to. "What were the two of you doing?" he asked, still worried.

"I- We were trying to get here," Vix gestured to the cave. "I don't even know how we got there, or that there was even another part to the dungeon!" she looked back over at Ace, who had curled up on the pillow. "We were so scared…"

"Well, yeah, that place is horrifying!" some of Castiss' cheerfulness coming back. He tossed an oran to Vix, giving a sympathetic smile. "Wish I knew you were coming, I'd have helped you guys through that mess. Eera and I have been pretty busy after you and your friend left."

The Litwick took a bit out of the oran, again admiring its strong flavor. "Busy? With what?"

Castiss placed a lum berry in his maw and ate it, wondering about something. After he finished the berry, he shrugged and said, "You two are kinda wrapped up in it, so it wouldn't hurt to tell you. But we might wanna wait for your friend to get up first."

'Wrapped up in it?' Vix thought, taking another bite out of the berry she was given. 'What, are they trying to hunt that rock giant?'

The two conscious Pokemon chatted away for a while until Ace finally decided to wake up and join them. The Chespin groggily uncurled himself and propped himself up on his arms, looking around. Once his eyes landed on Vix, he yawned and waved at her.

"Hey Vix… hey fox guy…" he half-mumbled, rubbing his eyes. Ace suddenly stopped, snapping his head back to the tall fox that was waving back at him. "W-Wait… i-isn't that-"

"Yes, this is one of the guys that came to Timberthicket a few weeks ago, who is also the guy that saved me from falling off the mountain during a storm," Vix quickly interrupted, shoving her half eaten fruit and the still-waking Chespin. "And who also saved you from your crazy Ribombee girlfriend."

Ace took the fruit, staring at Castiss as he processed what was told to him. "Right, right, he's a her- wait, d-did you tell him about the Ribombee?!" he glared at his candle wax friend, feeling his face heat up.

"I thought you were joking, but… wow," Castiss snickered. "I mean, Ribombee are pretty dang cute, I wouldn't blame you."

"N-NO! I do NOT like that Ribombee!" Ace sputtered, shaking his head and hands to further emphasize that point.

"He even knows the exact one we're talking about, see?" Vix giggled, her flame dancing playfully. She and Castiss got up and began to sing, "Ace and Ribombee, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-"

"NO! NO! NO!" Ace continued to protest, getting a laugh out of the two torturing him.

"Seriously, Castiss? Are you six?" a much more serious voice spoke from the tunnel, followed by the clanks of metal greaves. Eera entered the room with a smirk, beaming Castiss in the forehead with an oran berry.

"Are you? Who just walks in a room and throws fruit at someone?" the fox chuckled, catching fruit as it fell and tossed it in his mouth.

Ace let out a squeak as the Bisharp entered. He was so tall, and had so many blades! It was as if that stone giant had a son with an axe! "A-A-Are you…"

"Oh, you're awake. I am Eera, pleasure to meet you," the bladed Pokemon gave a slight bow to Ace as he introduced himself. "I doubt Castiss found the time to inform the both of you while he was teasing you?"

Ace shook his head, basically hiding behind his berry. Eera sighed and sat beside Castiss.

"I see. Well, now that everyone is awake, I would like to understand why I found you both in that wretched place," Eera asked, taking a more stern tone.

"We don't know, we just walked through the woods like we normally would have, then we just kinda got there," Vix answered, honest.

Eera looked Vix and Ace over, crossing his arms. "Is that so… Unfortunately, your misadventure has gifted you an opportunity that you cannot refuse, Vix. Thanks to your run-in with that automaton, the both of you are stuck with us until further notice."

"WHAT?!" Vix and Ace both exclaim, the former being excited and the latter more confused and upset.

"Wh-Why do we gotta stay here with you?!" Ace tossed the half-eaten berry to the side. "You're trying to kidnap us, aren't you?! We were right to-"

"We are doing nothing of the sort," Eera replied calmly. "That automaton is an ancient Pokemon called Golurk. They are normally dormant, or at the very least passive, but this one is… corrupted. It is part of the reason we came in the first place."

"Golurk were built to be protectors, but that one is a monster. Once it has its sights on you, it will stop at nothing to hunt you down. If you went back to your home, you'd endanger everyone there," Castiss added.

"No, nononono…" Ace fell backwards, his blood running cold. "I'm stuck here, i-in the mystery dungeon, with some… evil rock thing?!"

Vix placed her hand nub on her friend's back. "You're also stuck with me, and we got both of these heroes! They can probably smash that thing to pieces!"

"Maybe. We've been stockpiling items just so we can have a chance against it. I've been setting these crates up wherever Eera thinks we're gonna have to fight that thing, but he's still saying we aren't ready to take it down just yet," Castiss chuckled and shrugged.

"For as long as we've been here, I believe we know next to nothing about the dungeon or that Golurk, and frankly, it would be nice to have my partner actually assisting me as I looked into this," Eera glared at the fox. "We have more than enough items, so I ask you to come with me, Castiss."

Castiss mumbled something and leaned against one of the crates, resting the back of his head on his arms. "That doesn't sound like you asking."

Eera put on a fiendish grin, some dark pressure emanating from him, strong enough for Vix and Ace to get chills. "I wasn't."

"A-Are you sure h-he's a hero..?" Ace asked Vix, shaking slightly as he looked at the menacing Bisharp.

"Just because he's a bit scary, d-doesn't mean he isn't a hero!" the Litwick replied, smiling nervously. After taking a moment to calm her nerves, Vix approached the two heroes and asked, "What can we do to help?"

Everyone in the room looked at her with differing levels of shock, the most coming from Ace, whose mouth was agape and sounded like he was choking on whatever it was he wanted to say. Eera, the least shocked, let out a chuckle and smirked at the living candle.

"I knew there was something about you, Vix. You've been spared from certain death twice now, and yet you keep coming back for more. It's admirable, if not absurdly naive," the Bisharp said, then putting on a more serious tone. "The both of you are already tangled up in this mess enough, I will do everything in my power to make sure you are not tangled up further. I request that you stay here, out of harm's way."

"Oh thank Arceus!" The sudden relief in Ace was felt by everyone in the room, even more so when he fell face down onto the pillow he was resting on.

"Wh-Why?!" Vix's protest was met with avid "no"s and hushes from her friend, which she ignored. "We already took it down once! Why shouldn't we help?"

Eera scanned the Litwick's face for a moment before standing up and reaching into one of the crates, pulling out a blast seed. "You landed a decent hit on it and got away. But throwing a blast seed at it is different than fighting it head on, and I thoroughly doubt you two have any considerable amount of strength."

"Then, we'll prove it!" Vix huffed, getting silent objections from Ace.

"I'd love to see how, especially since every fight you've been in since we met resulted in you needing us to save you," Eera scoffed. "Please, inform me, how would you prove yourselves?"

He was giving Vix a smug look, which made her slightly aggravated. Did he always think so little of her? It's not like she gave him much reason not to, admittedly, he had a point after all. But that didn't mean she couldn't help, right? They'd need all the help they could get to beat that thing! She'd just have to prove her usefulness to him!

"If you think we're so weak, how about you fight us?" she suggested with a sly smirk. The Bisharp had to take a double take, as well as Castiss. Ace, on the other hand, looked like he had died.

"A-A-Are you… CRAZY?!" he exclaimed, lifting Vix up and shaking her. "We would not stand a CHANCE!"

A hearty, almost unnerving laugh filled the room, coming from Eera. Ace and Vix felt something bad was about to happen, both of them hunkering behind their pillow. Even Castiss leaned away from the Bisharp, his fur standing on end.

"I can't believe it, you actually just said that!" Eera wiped a tear from his eye, still laughing. "Castiss really grew on you, didn't he? No one with any level of intelligence would have suggested such a stupid way to prove themselves!"

He cut his laughs short by glaring at the Litwick with cold, unamused eyes. "You would wish you fought that Golurk instead," Eera's voice would have chilled Vix to the bone, and basically froze Ace solid. There wasn't a hint of exaggeration in what he said, but… there's no way he's telling the truth about that, right?

"We're wasting time. Castiss, let's go," Eera shut his eyes and stood up, heading towards the tunnel. The fox looked back at the two younger Pokemon, waving a goodbye before following behind Eera.

Now alone, Ace and Vix sat in silence, trying to process everything that's happened. After a while, Vix got up and grabbed a couple berries from one of the crates, handing one of them to Ace.

"So… this is something, isn't it?" Ace asked, looking into the fire as he ate his berry.

"Yeah, it is," Vix replied with a sigh. "It's a real mess."

"It could be worse, I think. Like, imagine if we didn't have a cave full of food to hide in?" the Chespin gestured to the space around them and chuckled slightly.

Vix shrugged, focusing more on her food than Ace's attempt at lightening the mood. More silence followed. Being outright told she wouldn't be able to help, and then denied the opportunity to prove otherwise, was hitting her a lot more than she thought it would.

"He's so blunt," Vix eventually said, pushing her berry aside. She barely took a bite out of it. "I know we can help him, we're not useless."

"Why do you wanna help them so badly?" Ace asked.

"I dunno. Why wouldn't I?" Vix looked back. "I owe them, don't I? They saved me twice already."

"That doesn't mean you gotta risk your life to save them. Why should you want to pay them back for something you didn't ask for?"

"Because it's the right thing to do! We both owe them, helping them out is the least we can do!"

"Yeah, I agree, and we can do that by staying in here and doing what he said. Staying out of their way, and not trying to play hero," Ace stated bluntly. "I know that you want to be a hero above everything else, but following behind two guys you just met so you can get killed is not gonna help you."

Vix stared at the Chespin with a blank expression, for like, an uncomfortable amount of time. She was just sitting there… ominously… Then she started snickering to herself.

"Uh… Vix? Are you-" Ace began, before being suddenly silenced by his friend going on the complete other side of the spectrum, bursting and bubbling with energy. Ace lifted the pillow to protect himself from the purple flames that threatened to give him a very unwanted tan.

"That's it! This is his test! He wants me to follow them and give them help anyway!" Vix exclaimed, then devouring her berry, grabbing her little satchel, and started rummaging through the many crates for supplies.

Her companion pulled her away from the crate, placing her back down on the pillow and pointing his digit where her nose would have been. "Don't you even dare. We are not following those guys."

"Ok," Vix floated forward, taking Ace's paw into her candle wax face. She then kept on going, eventually enveloping his arm and shoulder before literally going around him and re-solidifying behind him. "I'll just go by myself then."

Ace shuddered, feeling somewhat violated. "I-I thought you promised not to do that anymore..!" he turned around. "W-Wait, we aren't supposed to follow them!"

"Why would he have made such a show of it if he wanted us to sit here and twiddle our thumbs?" the candle asked, about to enter the darkened tunnel.

"We don't even have thumbs!"

"Exactly!" Vix grinned, making Ace facepalm. "That means you agree with me."

"In what UNIVERSE?!" the Chespin exclaimed, grabbing his bag. "We are NOT going after them, and that's fi-"

...boom...

They both quieted, certain that something just exploded. Was it Castiss and Eera? Eera did have a blast seed with him, but how close would he and Castiss need to be for it's explosion to be audible all the way here? A couple seconds passed and nothing happened, leaving Vix and Ace unsure if that was a good or bad sign.

"C-Call me crazy, but was that from outside the mountain?" Ace gulped.

"Maybe we should head deeper in and not find out," Vix replied, shakily. She turned to the passageway and started walking in, realizing a few moments later that Ace wasn't behind her. "Seriously? Come on!" she ordered.

"B-But Eera said-"

...Grrooooaaahhhhhhh…

Ace had never let out a more high-pitched scream in his life, the result of looking back to see the monstrous green glow that would color his nightmares for weeks to come. It was there, too big to fit in the entrance, but adamant on getting inside regardless. The tunnel walls creaked and cracked, probably nothing more than a inconvenience to the monster it was holding back

"WE'RE GOING, NOW!" Vix shouted, rushing down the tunnel with a terrified Chespin alongside her.

<><><><><>​

It was surprisingly well lit deeper within the mountain. The main light source was the many, multi-colored gems scattered along the walls, floors, and ceilings. Most of them were brown or tan, but a few were that same light purple color as some of those in that haze-filled forest, and fewer still were pitch black or either dark or light pink. The chamber Ace and Vix found themselves in was rather spacious, beautifully decorated with gems.

"Wow, this place looks pretty, uh, pretty," Vix chuckled.

"We're running from a monster, and you're caught up looking at the pretty gems?" Ace started running again, but was stopped by Vix.

"I think we're alright, actually. Look," she turned him around. They ran in a straight line, but there wasn't a tunnel behind them anymore. Just a solid wall. "I think this might also be a mystery dungeon."

"A dungeon inside a dungeon? That just fits right in with the crazy we've seen already," Ace groaned. "So how're we gonna find those guys?"

"Simple, we get through the dungeon. They're probably at the end of it, or maybe we'll get lucky and find them before we even get to the end."

The regular dungeon happenings were easy for them to handle; beat the occasional wild Pokemon, which were usually Baltoy, Cubone, and Roggenrola, find the exit tunnel or stairs, and gather items. Each floor they progressed through felt more spacious than the last, and more abundant in wild Pokemon and items as well.

<><><><><>​

After an hour or so of traversing the mountain dungeon, the simplicity of going from point A to point B was now significantly more complicated. The Haze slowly welcomed itself into the mountain, along with the signature vile stench of the dead forest and the corrupted Golurk, perhaps a sign of them nearing the end? Unfortunately, whether that was the case or not, it wouldn't matter if they couldn't find the exit in the first place. It didn't help that more and more lookalike items were popping up, and the wild Pokemon were growing stronger and more erratic, both possibly due to the haze.

"Alright, this feels like the last chunk of exploring we'll have to do," Vix stated, believing those words firmly. "How're you holding up, Ace?"

"Could be better. I really hate that smell, and I'm a little sore, but I'll manage," Ace replied, confident. "I'm doing pretty good on items too, even snagged a few of those lookalikes, just in case. What about you?"

"I'm alright, kinda wish we grabbed some more of the stuff Castiss gathered in those crates, but we're doing pretty fine, all things considered. Wait… I'm low on orans, only got a couple left."

"Aw, shoot, same here. Let's hope we won't have to use them soon."

Further into the vast floor they progressed, cautious. The gems shrank in number, leaving hardly any light in these lower chambers, but Vix was able to keep that from being a problem. Other than the faint crackling of Vix's flame, it was silent. That Golurk, if it somehow got here, it's weight would be a dead giveaway of its location.

There was a surprising lack of wild Pokemon here, which was a welcomed surprise, since the floor they just left was packed with powerful Baltoy and Roggenrola. But hey, why complain about catching a break? There also weren't any items here, and the stench was getting stronger as they progressed too.

"What's our plan if we run into that Golurk?" Ace asked, focusing on the path ahead. His paws were shaking gently, so he clenched them as hard as possible.

"We do what we did last time, blast seed him until he leaves us alone. I grabbed plenty from those crates, and picked up a few more on our way through the dungeon," Vix replied. "I just hope we don't need to fight it before we find Castiss and Eera."

"You and me both. I mean, I can pitch a mean seed, but there's no telling how many we'll need to take it out for good."

Vix giggled. "You want to try and defeat it? I thought it scared you stiff just by existing in the same room as you?"

"Well, yeah, that's why I wanna get rid of it!" the Chespin huffed and crossed his arms. "But we're definitely gonna need those heroes of yours. It's like the scary one said, we're not exactly as strong as they are."

"We just went through, I don't even remember how many floors of this place I think we might be able to do something to it. At the very least, you have a slight advantage by being a Grass Type. If we run outta seeds, just keep whippin' it," Vix chuckled, turning to face Ace as she floated forward. "I really owe you one for getting wrapped up in this with me. It'd be way less fun."

Ace raised a brow. "This is fun to you?"

"Relatively speaking, yes. Like, I can poke and tease you about your Ribombee girlfriend to lighten the mood and get a good laugh," the candle grinned smugly.

"I do not have a Ribombee girlfriend!" Ace huffed, turning his face away from Vix.

"You're oh so humble, Ace! She must be a lucky gal~"

"That has nothing to do with being humble!"

"See? You are humble! What a great boyfriend you must be."

Ace grabbed a plain seed and shoved it in Vix's mouth, his face red with embarrassment. Despite the teasing, he started to smile and eventually let out a sigh. "I guess I can see what you mean. About me making this more fun, not the boyfriend comment."

Vix finished the seed and went back to lighting their way. It really felt like there weren't any other Pokemon on this floor, they should have walked into one or two by now. Once they came up on another large, open chamber, Vix and Ace sat on the ground to rest for a little bit. If you ignore the smell and the darkness, it was a rather relaxing spot.

They spent some time organizing their items, giving most of the seeds to Ace and almost all the wonder orbs to Vix, and speculated about what Castiss and Eera were up to pass the time. When they were ready to continue onward, coincidentally, another contender had entered the floor.

...thooom...thooom…

Its footsteps echoed through the chambers and corridors, and the stench of the floor got a tad stronger, but fortunately the Golurk was still far away. . Ace and Vix looked at each other, suppressing their fear and focusing on their goal. How it even got down here was beyond them.

They practiced caution at every turn; while hearing the footsteps remain distant was a comfort, if that Golurk dissolved into sand to traverse the floor, they'd need to be ready for it. Ace held two blast seeds in his vines, ready to chuck them at anything big, grey, and trying to kill them.

Ace and Vix reached one incredibly long room, which they didn't give the time to look over as they sped towards the other side. The exit tunnel was in sight, its ominous darkness a saving grace for the pair, had it not been for the strange Marowak standing guard in front of it. Its scales were blue and its belly was black, and there was a black mark on its skull. It was also more slender, and its bone club was longer.

"Is it a wild Pokemon?" Ace whispered. They were yet to be noticed by it.

"I think so?" Vix replied quietly. "If we have to fight it, we might alert the Golurk."

"So what you're saying is, we should blow this thing to bits and run for it?"

"Why do you like exploding things so much?"

Ace shrugged, getting an eye roll from Vix. They got as close to the Marowak as they could without it noticing them. The Chespin pulled out one more blast seed, feeling three should do the trick, and fired them at the Marowak. A green glint shone from its eyes as it sprung to life, swatting two of the seeds to the side and the third one right back at Ace and Vix! Acting off reflex, Ace hit the seed with his vine again, sending it back to the Marowak and actually hitting it this time, knocking it on its back.

The explosions shook the entire chamber, perhaps even the entire floor, and with it stopped the heavy, distant footsteps of the Golurk. Only slightly panicking, Ace and Vix hurried to the exit. They were just about to pass the Marowak when Ace got struck in the back by a bone, knocking him flat on his face.

"Ace!" Vix exclaimed, trying to help him up. "We're right there, get up, please!"

"Owwww…" the Chespin groaned, slowly picking himself up. "That didn't hurt hurt, but it still hurt pretty bad…"

The Marowak growled and slammed its bone on the ground, furious. A ghastly green flame erupted on both ends of the bone, matching the color of its eyes. A chill crawled throughout Vix's body, that green was the same as the Golurk's!

"W-Wait, is this corrupted too?!" she exclaimed, trying to push Ace towards the exit.

"RRRRAAAAAAHHHHHH!" the Marowak roared, lunging for the candle and rodent with its club raised overhead. Vix jumped between Ace and the incoming Marowak, the flame on her head dancing wildly. Vix's flame spiraled into a purple, fiery vortex, enveloping the Marowak and sending it back to the ground.

"That won't hold it for long, Ace, let's go!" she stated, floating towards the tunnel. Ace nodded, hurrying behind her.

He stopped just short of entering the tunnel, turning back around to look at the Marowak for a moment. It was engulfed in flames, but it didn't look all that bothered by it. Ace pulled another blast seed from his bag, and the Marowak actually took a step back. Ace reeled his arm back, ready to throw it, but stopped when a panicked look flashed on the Marowak as it ran away.

"...Huh," Ace shrugged, turning to Vix. "Sorry for the hold up, let's get outta here befor-"

Gggrrrrhhhhhhhh…

Speak of the devil. The Golurk appeared before the Marowak, causing the fleeing Pokemon to bump into its leg.

"Uh oh…" Ace gulped. Vix grabbed Ace's arm and pulled him towards the tunnel.

For some reason, he kept watching the two corrupted Pokemon, something about them wasn't right, other than being corrupted, that is. The Marowak backpedaled away from the Golurk, its club raised by shaky arms, and the two corrupted 'mon stared at each other for a moment. If they were talking something of the like, they were too far for either Vix or Ace to hear.

Then, out of nowhere, the Golurk punched the Marowak, launching it all the way back to the tunnel. The reptile crashed into the wall, the purple flames around it dispersing in purple embers, and deep cracks splintered through the wall.

"Wh-Why did..?" the rodent spoke, confused. His gaze met the Marowak's, and they looked into each other's eyes before the corrupted reptile collapsed on the ground. Ace hesitated for a moment, confused about what to do, but Vix pulled him through the exit before he had the chance to decide on his own.
 
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Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Chapter 5: The Plot Thickens


Vix and Ace ran until they reached what they assumed was the final chamber of the dungeon; an enormous room packed with dull-colored gems,barely shining enough light to see, a single, wide path leading deeper into the chamber with dark, seemingly bottomless pits on either side, and rich with that ominous haze.

"We can't stop yet, they'll be here any minute," Vix stated, hardly giving her or Ace a moment to catch their breath.

"Ok, but can we at least slow down..?" Ace pleaded, teetering from side-to-side. "My legs are gonna give out if we keep running…"

"We wouldn't need to be running so much if you didn't stop for no reason! If you weren't gonna throw the blast seed, why did you just... stand there?" Vix turned, somewhat upset. "We can't waste time like that."

Ace rubbed the back of his head, not entirely sure what his answer would be. "I-I mean, I was but… I dunno, that Marowak ran off…" he stopped for a moment and thought back on that moment. "It might've just been me, but did it look... scared to you?"

"I wasn't paying attention to the thing that was trying to kill us, because the bigger and more terrifying thing that was trying to kill us showed up, and we had to, you know, get out of there?" Vix replied, but then a more perplexed look came about her. "But… it did look a little scared, I think. It could have just panicked because it didn't want to get blown up, but when it ran into the Golurk…"

They looked at each other, a faint sense of regret growing in their chest. The Golurk obviously struck the Marowak, and Vix and Ace could swear they saw the Marowak shaking in fear before that. Should they have left it by itself? It's not like they could simply just go back, plus the Golurk would still be there. Their plan to combat the corrupted ancient guardian was more of a way to keep it away, if they ran out of items it would catch them with ease, especially if they were carrying a Marowak on their backs. Well, Ace's back, really.

"It's no use stressing on it now, right?" Ace sighed. "We'll just have to keep moving and tell your heroes what happened."

"I guess… I'm just gonna feel bad about it, I should've at least tried to save it but…" Vix shuddered, thinking about the Golurk again. "I was… scared, that monster was right there, and-"

Ace smiled warmly, patting the candle on her back. "You don't gotta tell me, I was way more scared than you were, believe me. Maybe we can go back and help it out once we meet up with your heroes or something."

It was a long, quiet walk along the stone path, leading up to another tunnel that headed further downwards, with even less gems lighting it up. Vix took her role as the literal candle lighting the way, and the two ventured ever deeper into the darkness.

<><><><><>​

With their daily cardio finally taken care of, the exhausted candle and rodent decided the ground was an acceptable place to relax once they reached the end of their descent. It felt like the right choice; nice, cool, and solid. Unfortunately, a pair of strong, fuzzy arms picked them off the ground, but very fortunately, those same arms cradled the two with the gentle, loving care of a mother.

"Fancy meeting you here, guys," Castiss snickered. "You come here often?"

"They had better not, since I forbade them coming down here in the first place," the stern voice of Eera spoke from behind the fox. "If I wasn't busy scolding you, I'd be scolding them for ignoring what I said."

Vix opened her eyes for a moment to confirm the two identities, then shut them again, melting slightly into Castiss' arms. "We couldn't have stayed, that Golurk showed up and we didn't want to stick around and see if it could get through that tunnel."

"But it did anyway, we saw it beat up that weird blue Marowak just before we got here," Ace added, not caring if anyone saw him nuzzling into the fox's soft fur. "I was thinking we should probably go help him, somehow."

Castiss snickered at the two tired Pokemon, bringing them over to Eera. Somewhat curious on where they were, Vix and Ace decided to actually have a look around. There wasn't much to write home about, just a room with some barely luminescent gems, a table with supplies and books, some of those item-filled crates, and an entryway leading to another chamber.

Eera was looking through a bunch of papers and notes, some of which looked rather old, and plenty of them in languages neither Vix nor Ace could understand. Once close enough, Vix hopped out of Castiss' arms and looked over some of the notes Eera was attending to.

"Anything catch your eye?" the Bisharp asked, not looking away from the papers before him.

Admittedly, most of it looked like nonsense, just scribbles and symbols to Vix. There were a few things that seemed to be present in almost every single one of those notes. The Golurk, the Mountain itself, a green flame, and an odd, cracked rock. Of the four, that rock stood out the most, for being the least interesting thing there. "That, the rock thing."

Eera grinned and chuckled. "You have a good eye, as I expected. It's called a Keystone, but we have no idea to or of what, why there's one here, or why so many people before us were looking into it."

"A vast majority of these notes are ancient, and some just downright undecipherable, but that Keystone is always called a Keystone in what I can translate, and it's apparently important to this dungeon and the concentration of haze within it." Eera further explained.

"But that makes no sense, since the haze itself is relatively new," Castiss groaned. "And it's not something that was always here and was just hiding out underground or something. That's what kept us stumped for so long."

"While there is something different with the haze in this part of the dungeon, as well as that dead forest, it isn't so different in the sense that the source could be different from the other hazes we've encountered," Eera stated, tapping his chin thoughtfully.

"There's also just something off with this entire mountain, but I can't tell if it's because of the haze or not. It's definitely important, since the mountain shows up almost as much as that Keystone. If it's in the notes, I'm betting it's in the ones we can't make any sense of…"

"Perhaps it's something similar to that dungeon we ventured through prior, with the inverted waterfalls?"

"No, I think that was way different. That jungle didn't feel off like this mountain or that dead forest does. Maybe the desert one?"

"I think not, that was time alteration. Time is running relatively smoothly here, for a dungeon, that is. Although… the haze has some effect on one's perception of time, but to say that was the extent would be premature at best…"

Castiss and Eera went back and forth, bouncing ideas off each other at a rate that overwhelmed Vix, who made the mistake of trying to take it all in. So many things were being said between the two, reverse waterfalls, something about time being messed with, dungeons in jungles and deserts, not to mention some fancy gears and gems and orbs and…

"Wow, you guys talk a whole lot, doncha?" Ace yawned, falling out of Castiss' arms and landing on the table. He didn't look bothered by the fall, shaking it off like it was nothing. "What was the problem again?"

"Th-They're trying to connect this weird looking stone to the gear, I-I mean the waterfall to the desert, wait, no…" Vix spoke, lost in her own thoughts.

"Hm? Oh, we gotta figure out how the mountain and that Keystone are connected," Castiss answered, noticing Vix melting as she tried to understand everything he and Eera were saying. "You two wouldn't happen to know anything about the mountain or that Keystone that could help us, right?"

"That rock thing? No clue. But we do know that the mountain is cursed as heck," Ace grinned proudly. "Some nights, there's a creepy blue glow around the mountain, and anyone that approaches it on those nights is plagued with nightmares for months."

Eera crossed his arms and hummed, frowning slightly. "Here too? That doesn't exactly help us…"

"That's just what happens to the lucky ones, the ones that make it back," Ace continued, a devilish grin on his face. "Those that don't return from the mountain before that glow is gone, are said to become a part of the mountain itself! Scary, right?" he snickered to himself, sending a chill through Vix.

"Wh-Why do you have to be so dramatic whenever you talk about creepy stuff?!" she pouted.

"Only because it gets you so creeped out, really," Ace replied, putting on a menacing face. "I hope you aren't scared about that legend being real, right? What if the mountain's glowing right now? You'll have nightmares of Pokemon screaming, night after night, or become one with the Mountain itself!" he cackled, getting a frightful cry from his candle wax friend. Castiss chuckled, amused, but Eera tossed an oran berry at the back of the Chespin's head.

"Becoming part of the mountain, you say?" Eera asked, his frown softening. "Do you mean they disappear?"

"Well yeah, but it hasn't happened in a long time from what I've heard," Ace replied, having not felt the berry hit his head. "They'd go missing, and never be seen again. Maybe it was that Golurk this entire time…" for some reason, that was too much for Ace to handle. "I-I really hope not…"

Castiss and Eera looked at each other, a smile stretching on both of their faces. They began looking through all of those notes, their eyes and hands/paws moving faster than Ace or Vix could follow. Both fully-evolved Pokemon were muttering things quietly to themselves, so when Eera suddenly spoke up, it made Ace and Vix jump.

"When was your village founded?" he asked, his gaze focused entirely on the papers before him.

"U-Uh… I don't know, it's pretty old," Ace scratched the back of his head. "I know it was waaaaaay before Indul and I showed up. I think mayb-"

"Before Indul, you say?" Castiss chimed in, his ears twitching. "That's enough for now, actually."

"W-Wait, you know Indul?" Vix asked, but she was mostly ignored.

"Indul was still considered active until about, twenty years ago or so, and Ace looks to be a teenager, so they may have moved about ten years ago…" Eera muttered, flipping between multiple pages.

"It might be a century old town, but I'm not too sure about that. This legend feels way too intact for it to be a century old in such a small town where it'd only be spread by word of mouth…" Castiss added, moving the notes around in some sort of order, but neither Vix or Ace could tell.

"Don't count that out, fox, it being a small town helps keep the legend like this, actually. It doesn't sound like it's at all recent, so maybe…"

There they went again, talking and muttering and fumbling with notes, too fast for either of the two onlookers to get a handle on any of what was being said. This time, Vix decided to just let them do what they're doing and wait for an explanation afterwards. She and Ace went to the crates and stocked up on items they were familiar with. Some of the items looked slightly different, almost unnoticeable on a few, but they weren't lookalikes.

After a good while of… whatever the hell they were up to, Castiss and Eera finally presented their finished work to Ace and Vix. It still looked like a sort of mess to the two younger Pokemon, so they waited for an explanation.

"Ok, so, we've decided to almost completely ignore the founding of Timberthicket, which took us down a metaphorical rabbithole that got us nowhere, but we knew time was still a factor," Castiss began, snickering a little.

"But we first decided to sort these by handwriting, since some of these are eerily similar to each other, and it being a coincidence is out of the question," Eera added, grabbing one of the stacks and handing it to Ace. "Tell me, what's so strange about these? Other than the similar handwriting."

Ace looked at the pages for a moment, thinking about it. "I mean, the papers look like… different ages, I think? Some of these are old and brownish, and this one is kinda just yellowish."

Castiss and Eera both nodded, the former taking the lead and speaking. "Exactly! It's the same with all these other stacks, similar handwriting, but the pages differ in deterioration! How could that be, is the question we were trying to tackle."

"And thanks to that legend of yours, I think I know the answer," Eera chimed in, an excited glint in his eye. "What if those who could not leave the mountain when the glow diminishes, didn't really become a part of it? Instead of meeting an untimely demise, they were given something worse…"

Castiss grabbed some of the papers, flipping through to one of the older ones. "It says here, 'It has been several days, and there is still no exit. Whenever I reach the end, I either find more notes, or nothing at all…

If there is someone here with me, I wish for them to know I mean them no harm, and I yearn to meet with someone who can speak with me again,'
which sounds strange, right?"

"Yeah… usually the end room isn't affected by changes to the dungeon, so why would there either be notes there or not?" Vix asked. Ace nodded beside her, pretending to follow along.

"Also, how are you gonna run into someone in a dungeon? It's… it's a dungeon, it's always changing and all that," Ace added. "Well… we did run into that Golurk, so maybe it could actually happen."

"And this one here, which has a similar writing style, reads, 'I believe several months have gone by, and yet I am still here. This cursed mountain is playing tricks on me, it must! I've found notes I am certain I left days ago, and notes with symbols I cannot even begin to understand. There was even a note in my penmanship that I do not recall creating,' even this poor fellow knows something is not right here," Eera said.

"That doesn't sound all that strange I think," Ace scratched his head. "I mean, he did say he was there a while already, why would he remember all the notes he wrote?"

Castiss wagged his claw, grabbing one of the notes with symbols the younger duo didn't understand. "Allow me to either enlighten you, or confuse you further then, 'I've been lost for a few hours, I believe. Imagine my surprise when I found a note here, in a mountain few even bothered to explore…

It is strange that I recognize it, though. Maybe I should bring it back for the others to see, we might have a missing Pokemon on our hands…'
" the fox chuckled at the perplexed looks on Ace and Vix's faces.

Eera grabbed an older looking note with similar symbols, reading it off. "'I can't… I remember now, that note… that first note… it wasn't the first, but the last… I need to leave… the notes, they make no sense… where is the exit? I can't find it, the notes… I lost them all… someone, please… the notes… where are they..?"

"O-Ok, can we stop reading them now and just say what the problem is?" Vix shuddered. "This sounds like a h-horror story in the making…"

"Just a few more, and if you don't come up with the answer before that, we'll tell you," Castiss snickered, reaching for one of the older, more eligible notes. "'That flame, was it always down here? None of those other notes mention it, in fact, mine is the first to even mention it or that Golurk, I think. It was cold, which is weird for a fire. I don't even know where it came from…'"

Ace and Vix both had a double take, the latter of the two exclaiming,. "W-Wait, that one was written after some of the other ones?! It looks like it could turn to dust if I so much as look at it wrong!"

Eera chuckled, grabbing another old one and clearing his throat. "And this is probably the most interesting one, 'I've done it, I got all the notes, I think. I keep finding more, but they look like the others, so I might have just dropped them...

That flame, it did something to me, I can feel it. I've been getting colder and stronger, and it might just be my eyes playing tricks on me, but my scales look kinda blue...

That Golurk changed too, it's way more pissed these days. I so much as look at it wrong and it wants me dead. It reeks too, and now the rest of the mountain stinks along with it. It's so bad it's actually hurting my eyes. Someone should tell that guy to take a bath or something… that jerk also lumbers around and groans a lot, which is new, I thought it the strong, silent, asshole type...'
"

"And I think this is that guy's last note," Castiss took a deep breath and read another note. "'Some guy showed up, don't know or care what he was, but he's blue, had some rock thing, and was covered in the same kinda green flames I messed with forever ago. Feels the same too. He didn't say much, just went deeper into the dungeon and came out a little while later. He did nod at me before he left. Didn't even offer to take me with him, that prick...

Golurk wasn't anywhere to be seen either, which was a relief, but when he came back he acted like he didn't even know me! The nerve of this guy…'"


"This is just getting weirder and more confusing… How many people were in here?" Ace groaned, crossing his arms.

"If everyone that came in here made notes, then maybe ten or so," Eera shrugged. "But that isn't what we need to worry about. There is something special about this dungeon, and that guy with the green flame that this note mentioned, he's the main cause."

"How? If this is the latest note, how did he cause all this creepy craziness?" Vix asked, getting a bright, toothy grin from Castiss and Eera.

The fox yanked off his tattered cloak, revealing a necklace with an eye catching pendant attached to it. It looked like a gear, with a majestic greenish-blue color. It seemed to shimmer as he showed it off to Ace and Vix. "This is based off of something called a Time Gear. If someone has one, they can mess with how time flows; stop it, slow it down, speed it up, or reverse it."

"It is possible for a Time Gear to alter more than just time, if it itself is altered the right way, which is most likely what is going on here. That green flame, the haze, and that Keystone must play a part in it," Eera added, looking through the notes once more. "Several of these mention finding the same exact note in different places, and also point out the notes they don't even recognize the language of… but what about this place would draw such a variety of people here?"

Before Vix or Ace could answer, Castiss excitedly jumped in to do it for them. "Nothing! We only came here because we knew about the dungeon going wonky, which only, like, one of these notes even talks about! So why are so many different Pokemon coming here in the first place?"

Castiss and Eera both look at each other, grinning and chuckling to themselves. Their levels of excitement were almost as scary as what was going on here, especially considering what they're getting excited over. Both of them took a step back from the table, and pointed at Ace and Vix. "People from different places aren't coming here, they already were!"

A brief silence fell upon the group, the fox and Bisharp waiting for a response, and the candle and rodent just as confused, if not more than before.

"H-How are they already here?" Vix questioned.

"In order to explain that, we're gonna have to talk about parallel uni-" Castiss shut himself up, taking on a more cautious stance as his ears flicked and twitched. His head snapped to the tunnel leading to this room, bringing everyone's attention to it as well. The faint, ghastly glow of a flame illuminated more and more of the tunnel as its source drew closer.

Each step was faint, followed by a foot dragging on the ground, up until something fell to the ground with a dull thud, and something else clattering beside it. Castiss slowly approached the tunnel, surprised as he saw what was there. He looked back at the others for a moment, then approached whatever it was, coming back a moment later with a barely conscious, beaten, and bloody reptile.

"It's that Marowak!" Ace jumped off the table and hurried over to it. Vix gasped, shocked at the condition it was in. Its helmet was cracked, one of its legs twisted the wrong way, green blood trickled from its many wounds and mouth, and one of its eyes were bloodshot. It was hard to look at, and it made Vix wonder how it even got here.

Eera and Castiss looked at each other for a moment, then nodded. Castiss leaned the Marowak against a wall, and immediately went to work, meanwhile Eera went through the tunnel. He grabbed an oran from his satchel and crushed it with ease, slathering it on the Marowak's wounds. Then he pulled out some bandage wrap and tightly wrapped it around the Marowak's body, soothing the reptile when it winced and groaned.

Castiss let out a sigh and looked the Marowak in the eye, his paws hovering over the twisted leg. The reptile was hesitant, glancing down at its leg, then back up at Castiss. It shut its eyes and nodded, gripping its bone club tightly. After a three count, Castiss corrected the leg's position, drawing out pained grunts and whimpers from the Marowak. After all that was done, Castiss handed a sitrus berry to the Marowak and turned towards the exit.

"I'm gonna head on up with Eera…" the fox looked back at the Marowak for a moment "Um… heal up, I guess," he waved before leaving.

Not too long after Castiss left, Ace found his gaze again locked with the injured reptile. He walked up to the Marowak and sat in front of it, giving a sympathetic look, which was met with a glare and a growl.

"I'm sorry we left you back there," the Chespin apologized, looking down. "We panicked and… I mean, that giant is just…" he shook lightly, clenching his paws.

The Marowak dropped the end of his club on Ace's head, wincing a bit from moving.

"What was that for?" Ace asked, rubbing his head.

The reptile's glare was still on Ace, but softened after a moment. It looked around the room until its eyes landed on Vix, who was still on the table. The Litwick melted under the Marowak's gaze, it felt like it was staring right through her. It suddenly tried to stand up, using its bone club as support.

"Hey, I don't think you shou-" Ace began, but shut his mouth once the Marowak glared back at him.

The Marowak shambled over to the table, glancing at Vix for a moment before looking over the papers. Aside from the fluttering and shuffling of papers, the room was silent. After a while of searching, the Marowak pulled a tattered note with illustrations of that stone, the Golurk, and wonder stones, and showed it to the Litwick. She only gave it a simple glance, not recognizing the language.

"I'm sorry, I can't read it," Vix shook her head, but took the note anyway. "We can see if Castiss and Eera can, though," she hopped off the table and began floating towards the exit.

The Marowak frowned; she barely even looked it over.

"We. Cannot. Read it," Ace said, shaking his head while pointing at the note in Vix's grasp. A confused grunt from the reptile told Ace efforts to be understood fell flat. "Whatever, let's just go find them…"

Ace and Vix were on either side of the Marowak as they travelled back up the tunnel, getting growls and glares whenever the Marowak looked like it needed assistance. About halfway up, familiar, spine-chilling sounds echoed down the passageway.

...thoom… ...thoom…

The three stopped dead in their tracks. It was only a matter of time before it got down here, that they knew, but they weren't prepared for it. They hoped it would never come down here, as unrealistic as that hope was. Soon, the sounds of battle reached the three in the tunnel, which was enough to break the hold of fear on them.

"Castiss and Eera, they're fighting it!" Vix exclaimed. "Thank Arceus, they're able to fight it!"

Ace looked at the Marowak, who pushed past the candle and rodent. "Shouldn't we bring him back? He's still hurt!"

Seemingly understanding that last statement, the Marowak clutched its club tightly and smacked the wall of the tunnel, cracking it with ease. Two eerie flames sparked to life on the ends of the club, and it looked back at Ace before running up the tunnel.

"Guess that answers your question," Vix chuckled, hiding her nervousness well. "I feel like… they got this. Yeah, they got this. We just gotta believe in them," she convinced herself, floating behind the Marowak.

"Ok, yeah. They can beat that giant rock easily!" Ace stated, hurrying behind Vix. "They'll smash it to bits, then we can get outta this place!"
 
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Fusion

Exploring The Infinite
Pronouns
Him/His
Chapter Six: A Fight for Survival!


The chamber was ablaze with sparks and flames. The sounds of metal striking stone, the roar of flamethrowers, and the eerie groans of a monster filled the ears of all who heard it. The pathway Eera and Castiss battled the Golurk was just wide enough to support the three of them, but with every attack that struck it, or every movement the Golurk made, it felt just one or two wrong moves away from breaking below them.

"Oh, they're actually holding it back. What are the odds that we don't have to help them?" Ace asked Vix, getting an eye roll from her.

"If you really wanna sit this one out, go ahead. Wouldn't wanna get you hurt before your date with your girlfriend now, would we?" Vix joked. Ace grumbled something under his breath, following the other two to join the fight.

<><><>​

Eera blocked a mighty blow from the Golurk, grabbing its arm and holding it in place for Castiss to blast it with darkness. The Golurk groaned painfully, throwing Eera off its arm and lurching towards Castiss. Just before it could hit the fox, Marowak slammed its club into the Golurk's leg, causing it to stumble and fall on its knee.

"Hey, you're up even sooner than I thought!" Castiss snickered, jumping back beside Marowak. "Nice having you on our side!"

Marowak huffed, aiming it's club at the Golurk without really paying Castiss any mind.

"We're here too," Vix said, smiling confidently. "We can beat it together!"

"Your confidence is well appreciated, but it is ill-founded." Eera said, blunt as ever. "Observe," a faint dark glow formed around Eera's body, condensing around his metal gauntlet. He threw his arm forward, blasting the Golurk in the shoulder with a dark pulse, taking it off entirely.

"Whoa! That was so strong!" Ace exclaimed. "Do it again!"

Eera was about to respond, but Marowak interrupted with a battle cry, the flame on its club turning a deep purple before Marowak slammed the end on the ground. A ghostly purple trail bled across the ground towards the Golurk, crawling up the automaton's leg before exploding in a purple flash. With a hefty thud, the Golurk hit the ground, missing an arm and a leg.

"We should get it now, right?" Vix asked, wondering why no one was moving to hit it again. I mean, kicking something when it's down is a little dirty, but maybe this was different?

A green glow grew around the grounded giant. Its detached limbs sort of… well, the best way Vix or Ace could put it, vanished out of thin air, then reappeared back on the Golurk, like nothing happened.

"Oh…" Ace and Vix took a couple steps or hops back, getting the feeling that maybe this was out of their league.

"Y-You got this, guys!" Vix cheered, several feet away from the fighters.

"Knock 'em dead!" Ace cleared his throat. "Go team!"

Marowak looked back, specifically at Vix, then at Eera, then back to the Golurk. Not knowing what it wanted, Vix decided to pull back for a bit with Ace. The battle was now underway, with Ace and Vix safely viewing it from a distance.

"Alright, we need to come up with a plan to beat that thing for them," Vix stated, floating right beside her Chespin companion.

"H-How?! That thing just… poofed its arm and leg back on!" Ace sputtered, throwing his hands up. "That's, like, cheating!"

"I know, which is why we need to calm down and think, while they fight it off," Vix said, gesturing to them both then the ones fighting respectively. Seeing Ace still semi-panicking, Vix grabbed his face and held it close to hers, forcing him to look into her eyes. "Look at me, alright? We're gonna be fine. We'll think up the best plan we can, and then we'll beat this Golurk and get the hell out of here. But I need you to calm down, ok?"

Ace stared into the yellow dots calmed his nerves and brought him out of his panic attack before it hit him. His heart rate slowed, and his mind began to clear. "Ok. Ok, I got this. We got this. We're gonna win this fight, go back home, and sleep for a whole week…"

Vix smiled and let go of Ace's face, nodding proudly and turning back to the fight. "Only one week? I'm shooting for a month. But that's for when we get outta here. First thing's first, get rid of the rock guy."

<><><>​

...Gg-gggrrrrrrhhhhh… Hhhhhhhh-hhhhaaaahhh...

Castiss, Eera, and Marowak fought well together. Castiss threw flamethrowers and dark pulses at the Golurk, Eera matched the giant blow-for-blow, and Marowak either used Hex from a distance, or thwacked the Golurk with his club a few times. However, the Golurk shook off most of their attacks, repaired whatever visible damage it took, and groaned painfully through it all.

After firing a Hex, Marowak turned to Vix and let out a sort of bark. It pointed its club at her, then at Castiss, before focusing back on the Golurk. Much like before, Vix had no idea what it was trying to tell her.

"Come up with anything yet?" Ace asked, gently nudging Vix with his elbow.

"I dunno, I'm trying to think but it's a lot harder than I thought…" the Litwick said, shaking Marowak's glance away from her mind. "How do you beat something that cheats?"

Ace rested his chin on his paw and hummed. "Maybe… make it not be able to cheat anymore? What if we smash it to bits so tiny, that it can't cheat itself back together?"

Vix blinked, surprised she didn't think of such a simple solution herself. "That might actually work. Lemme guess… you wanted to bl-"

"Yes I wanted to blow it up," Ace snickered, a devilish grin on his face. "I'm gonna use all the blast seeds we got!"

That would explain why he thought of that before she did. Since it was the only thing either could come up with at the moment, Vix shrugged and went along with the demolition maniac's plan. They had seven seeds between them, which should be plenty. Ace got himself ready, two seeds in his vines, two in his paws, and hurried over to Castiss.

"Hey, we got an idea," Ace said once the fox was done scorching the Golurk with flames. "Remember when you saved me from those Ribombee?"

Castiss glanced down at Ace for a moment, just now noticing the rodent was there. "Yeah, what about that? You're not missing your girlfriend now, are you?"

"Shut up. I wanted to ask if it was you that made that blast seed I threw explode like that," he said, a smile on his snout.

"Yeah it was me. Why are you asking now?" Castiss asked, tilting his head to the side. After looking at the seeds Ace was holding, and the grin on the Chespin's face, Castiss snickered and flashed Ace his own toothy grin. "I see what you're getting at! Heheheh, this is gonna be huge!"

<><><>​

The Golurk groaned as it slammed its fist down on Eera, who just barely managed to block in time. Eera was pushed down to a knee, the force the Golurk pressed down on him cracking his metal gauntlets, as well as the ground beneath him. Luckily, Marowak leapt onto the Golurk's back and beat down on it with its spirit-powered club, which was just enough to irritate the Golurk and try to attack the reptile instead.

"Eera! Marowak!" Vix yelled from Castiss' shoulder. "Distract that rock giant a little bit longer please!"

Eera could tell from the look on Castiss' face, they came up with a plan. He looked at his gauntlets again, the cracks were disconcerting, but he'd be able to manage a few more attacks. With an affirmative nod, Eera cracked his neck and scoffed at the ancient automaton.

"With a plan being set into motion, I've no reason to keep being defensive, do I?" An excited look on him as darkness danced around his body. "They want you distracted, but I'm a bit of an overachiever."

Eera rushed in towards the Golurk and wailed on its mantle with several powerful strikes, the crack on it spreading ever so slightly. Marowak got into a couple more swings with his club before leaping to safety.

...Gggg-gggraaaaahhhhhh..!

The Golurk tried to punch Eera away, but the Bisharp danced around the fist and grabbed hold of the giant's arm. With an incredible show of strength, Eera lifted the Golurk over his head and slammed it on the ground behind him. The pathway shook and cracked further, but held strong still. As the darkness around his body fizzled away, Eera stood on shaky legs over the automaton, panting.

"D-Dammit…" he groaned. The cracks on his gauntlets grew, and tiny cracks appeared on various parts of his body. It hurt a little to move his arms, but it wasn't unbearable at least.

<><><>​

"Alright, Golurk is down for a bit!" Ace grinned, more confident than over about his plan."Now's our chance!"

Castiss had gotten down on all fours, embers escaping his maw with exhale he took, and the air around him grew hotter and hotter. "Great, I'm just about done, too. All of you guys ready?"

Ace nodded, readying his vines to launch blast seeds at the grey giant. Vix nodded as well, and Marowak gave an affirmative grunt, both holding one seed each.

"Eera! Get out of the way!" Vix yelled, motioning for him to come to them.

The Bisharp jumped over the Golurk and rejoined his teammates, standing behind Marowak. "What did you two come up with?" he asked, crossing his arms.

"Something awesome!" Ace snickered, tossing one last blast seed to Eera. "Let 'im have it Vix and Marowak!"

Vix tossed her seed over to the reptile, who batted it at the Golurk along with his own blasted seed just as the giant got up. The seeds collided with their target, exploding on impact. As the smoke cleared, the Golurk stood there with its arm raised behind a green barrier.

...Gggggg-ggggrrrrrr hhhhhhhaaaahhhh...

"Looks like you owe me one, Ace!" Vix giggled. "You really wanted us to throw them all at once!"

"Whatever, now there's no way we can mess up!" Ace huffed, turning back to the Bisharp behind them. "Chuck that seed as hard as you can Eera!" the Chespin roared, launching his own blast seeds at the stone giant.

Eera was happy to oblige, his arm seeping dark energy as he hurled the blast seed at the Golurk. His moment to act finally here, Castiss opened his maw as bright yellow and orange flames danced inside it. Hardly a moment later, a glorious blast of fire shot from the fox, scorching the path below it as it launched at it's rocky target. The Golurk raised its arm again, a green barrier forming for all of a second before fading out entirely. The blast seeds were inches away from hitting, but the flamethrower reached them first. The normally emotionless Golurk visibly panicked, trying to protect its cracked mantle with its hands.

GGgGgg-ggahAAhhh..! KKKKK-KRRRAAAAA-AAHHHHHGGGGGH-HAA!

In an instant, the chamber was basked in a blinding light, followed by an earth-shattering explosion that engulfed the Golurk and everything behind it. Yellow, red, and orange flames roared and danced before the group's very eyes. The path, despite its efforts to remain intact, was almost entirely destroyed past the point where the explosion started, smoke and dust filled the air, and just as Ace and Vix hoped, the Golurk was nowhere to be seen.

Ace was entranced by the gigantic eruption of flame that decimated that giant and the path. He watched as the flames died down, entirely in awe. "Did… Did we do it?"

"I think… I think we did..!" Vix replied, a smile stretching on her face. "Oh my god, we actually did it! IT WORKED!" she cheered, her purple flame dancingly excitedly.

Eera was surprised at the size and effectiveness of the explosion, and more so impressed by how quickly Ace and Vix came up with it. "That was, hopefully fatal. The explosive might within a seed that can fit in one's palm is apparently something to be reckoned with."

"Especially when I blast them with all the fire I got," Castiss chuckled weakly, standing back up on two feet. "I'm gonna need to eat coal to get anything outta me now, hehe. Let's head on back and look through those notes… again..?"

Marowak started growling, slowly backing away and looking around frantically for something, bone club ready to strike. At about the same time, Castiss' ears began to twitch and flick. A low rumbling sound rose from the dark below, shaking the ground.

"Is the path about to crumble?" Vix asked, planting herself on Castiss' shoulder. "W-We should probably get moving now, right?"

Everyone turned back and ran towards the end of the tunnel, the rumbling growing louder, growing closer. Just as the group was about to reach the end, everything suddenly quieted. It should have been a relief, but in reality, it was anything but. It was dead silent, and the smoke and dust was still very much present even this far away from the explosion site.

Marowak shivered and gulped, anxious. It quickly looked at Vix, pointing at her bag then at Castiss.

"I-I don't get it! What is it?" the Litwick spoke in a panicky tone.

Without any warning, Marowak grabbed the tiny bag and rummaged through it, eventually pulling out the note that Vix had neatly folded and tucked inside. It then grabbed Castiss' paw and slammed the note into it.

"A note?" Castiss looked down just long enough to see what it was. "Must be important, we can read it inside that safe room."

Exercising extreme caution, the group walked towards the tunnel, to the safety and security it would lead them to. All the while, Castiss' ears twitched and flicked, Marowak let out frightened whimpers, and Eera watched the smoke for even the faintest sign of movement within it.



Castiss' head suddenly snapped ahead of them, his eyes darting around for a moment "N-No way..!" the fox gasped, directing everyone's attention to the path ahead.

Green poured through the particles of dust in the air, almost freezing the air around it. Eera, being ahead of the group, threw his arm back as darkness surrounded him. "Grab them! Now!"

Castiss didn't hesitate, grabbing Ace, Vix, and Marowak and jumping away from Eera and the green glow. Eera rushed headfirst into what seemed to be danger, thrusting his arm forward, embedded with dark energy. The force and speed of Eera's attack cleared the smoke, revealing there to be nothing.

"Wh-What?!" the Bisharp stepped back, fear creeping up his spine.

"Eera, it's-!" Castiss voice was heard for only a moment, and then…

KKKKRRRRRHHHHHHAAAAAA-GGHHHHHAAAAAAAAA!

The Golurk was above Eera, moments away from crashing down on him. It felt like time had slowed. Eera was already in need of repair, and there wasn't any doubt that the Golurk would greatly worsen his state. The Bisharp shut his eyes, breathing deeply. A thick, dark aura enveloped him, and he then relaxed.

"EERA!" Castiss cried out, running forward just as the Golurk crashed down on Eera, shaking the ground violently and sending more dust into the air. Castiss looked on, a dreadful chill crawling under his skin. He gripped his chest and fell to a knee, breathing heavily. "N-No..! Dammit!" The fox glared daggers at the giant, growling furiously. "I-I'll smash you! I'll turn you to dust, you hear me?!"

...Gggggggrrrrraaaahhhh..! HHHHHAHAAAAAAA-AAAAAHHHH..!


A brief flash of green shined through the dust, followed by the sound of metal suddenly expanding and shrapnel tearing through stone. Marowak stood in front of the others, protecting them as metal shards flew past them. It winced as some of the shards pierced its body, but stood strong regardless.

"Marowak!" Vix exclaimed. The reptile gave a reassuring grunt, pointing again at the note on the ground before turning back to the cloud of dust, battle ready.

A heavy thud shook the ground, and the dust began to disperse to partially reveal Eera. Green smoke mixed with the dust, making it hard to see most of him, but it was clear that he was cracked and broken. The blade on his helmet was mostly gone, the helmet itself looked as if it was about to split, jagged lines spread along his face and body, and what looked like green smoke rose from the cracks.

"Hahh… Hahh…" the Bisharp fell to his knees, more metal breaking off of him.

"Eera!" Ace and Vix both exclaimed, relief and worry flowing over them. Castiss' face lit up, a joyous grin on his snout. He tripped over himself trying to get over to Eera, but was stopped by Marowak again directing his attention to the note it tried so desperately to get the fox to read. Castiss growled lightly, planting himself on his bottom and opening the note.

"This note better be impor- oh…" Castiss read the note to himself, a smile slowly stretching across his face. "This is very important…"

"What does it say?" Vix asked, her and Ace looking over Castiss' shoulders.

The fox didn't respond, looking over the note once more before jumping to his feet. "It's how we beat the Golurk…" he finally answered, getting a smug look from Marowak.

"Why didn't you tell us earlier?!" Castiss pouted, getting a growl and a glare from the reptile. "Ok, ok, I'm sorry. You can clobber me later, but right now I need you to grab Eera. Alright?" Marowak nodded, running over to the injured Bisharp. "Vix, Ace, I need you to find a cleanse orb, a nullify orb, and a health orb. We should have plenty in those crates full of items."

"Gotcha," Vix replied. "Actually, we already have a cleanse orb, so we're almost halfway there!"

"Not quite, but… I'll explain later. Just get those orbs and Eera can take it from there," Castiss said, shooting a confident grin before cracking his neck. "I'll handle it from here, so hurry and get back here so we can finish this once and for all!"

Vix nodded, then she and Ace followed behind Marowak. They passed by the Golurk, seeing it spasm and jolt on the stone floor. It groaned quietly, like it was in pain, which felt… unnatural. Not wanting to stay too close to it for too long, the three hurried over to Eera. He was swaying gently, and his eyes were barely able to stay open. This close, it was clear to see that smoke was escaping through the cracks in his body, hiding whatever was under it.

"Eera, are you alright?" Ace asked, getting the Bisharp's attention.

"I… am, absolutely not…" Eera weakly replied, giving a faint smirk. "I can't… I can't get up, not on my own."

Marowak nodded, placing Eera's arm around its shoulder and heaving him onto its back with the help of Ace's vines. The rodent and reptile pause for a moment, glancing at each other briefly before continuing down the tunnel.

<><><>​

The moment they reached the end of the tunnel, Marowak and Ace laid Eera on the floor, and Vix grabbed several berries and reviver seeds from one of the crates. They fed a reviver seed to Eera, then Vix and Ace went to work trying to find a health orb for whatever it was Castiss had planned.

"What's the plan? I assume that would be the reason we came back down, correct?" Eera asked, trying to sit himself up and getting help from Marowak to do so.

"Marowak found the note telling us how to get rid of Golurk, we just gotta get a few orbs first," Ace answered, diving into one of the crates, tossing out all the orbs they could find.

"After that, Castiss said you'd take care of the rest," Vix added, looking through the scattered orbs. She grew increasingly angry, eventually throwing an orb against a wall. "UHG! Why are there so many hurl orbs?!" Vix spat, throwing more of the orbs.

"What are you- whoa- doing?!" Ace asked, narrowly avoiding an orb to the face.

Despite Vix's small size, she threw like a champ. One of the orbs bounced right off a wall, ricocheted off a crate, and rocketed directly towards Eera. Marowak managed to raise its club and blocked the orb! But the force of the orb colliding with the club was more than Marowak thought, and a moment later the club smacked Eera in the face.

Ace winced, slowly descending back into the pool of items, and Vix melted into a shameful puddle of wax and regret. Marowak, surprisingly, tried to apologize and went to touch where its club smacked into. It reeled back slightly when it touched the Bisharp, but tried to help anyway by smashing an oran and rubbing the paste on Eera's face.

"E-Eera?" Vix bubbled.

"I'm fine, yes," Eera replied flatly, taking Marowak's paw away from him. He sighed, standing himself up without assistance and looking over at the crate holding Ace. "Have you found the orbs yet?"

Ace popped out with one nullify orb, looking proud of himself. "I got one of them, which was a lot harder than I thought. How many hurl orbs can one dungeon have?"

"Technically, an infinite number," Eera chuckled. "It also didn't help that you went into the crate full of entirely projectile-based items. The only reason you even found a nullify orb in there is because Castiss didn't sort the crates thoroughly."

Vix solidified herself and looked at the crate, clearly labeled "Throwin' stuffs" in sloppy handwriting. She let out an aggravated groan and went over to a crate labelled "The opposite of hurt." Almost immediately, she found a health orb and tossed it over to Eera.

"We're one step closer to getting out of this mess, finally…" Vix sighed, handing her cleanse orb as well. "So, what're we gonna do now?"

Eera looked down at the orbs, thoughtful. Suddenly, it was like something clicked in his mind. "I think… I know what he's getting at. Let me see if I still can…"

He shut his eyes, taking a deep breath. His dark aura started crackling around him, reacting strangely with the orbs he held. The orbs levitated slightly above Eera's hands, moving closer together. Eera let out a pained grunt as he moved his hands to almost force the orbs even closer, his aura enveloping him more and more. Once the orbs were basically touching, green sparks started flying off of the orbs, and Eera winced and growled, the cracks reforming on his body. The Bisharp gave one final push, but instead of the orbs coming together they exploded in a blinding flash of green, blowing Eera back into the wall behind him.

"Eera!" Vix and Ace exclaim, going to the Bisharp's side. They, as well as Marowak, tried to help Eera up, but was politely declined.

"I'm fine, but I can't do what Castiss needs me to do," Eera sighed, looking at his injured self. "Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard way."

"Does the hard way include none of us being put in mortal danger and beating Golurk without trying?" Ace asked, hoping to get a yes, but knowing that wasn't going to happen.

"Yes, actually," Eera replied. Ace's face lit up for just a moment, until he heard the Bisharp snickering under his breath. "Well, technically yes. If we play our cards right, we can get in close to the automaton and do what we need to effortlessly. But, that would require it to stay in one place long enough to do so."

"Oh man, if only we had literal crates full of items that could help with that…" Vix sarcastically groaned, floating into a crate labeled "The reverse of the reverse of statuses."

"Where could we possibly find something like that?" Ace followed Vix's lead, his eyes shining at the sight of a crate simply labeled, "boom." He wasted no time diving in and grabbing as many blast seeds as he could stuff into his satchel.

"That is all well and good, but if we were to afflict something onto the Golurk, one of these orbs would be used on getting rid of that affliction," Eera shook his head. "I do not think the answer requires explosives either. I feel that more or less made things worse for… one of us," he winced, rubbing his fractured chest.

"Awww…" Ace sighed, dumping a sea of seeds back into the crate. He did, however, keep quite a few.

"We've been able to stun the beast on our own rather well. Let's rely on our own strength, then Castiss can put forth whatever plan he has." Eera stood up, red bits of metal falling from his body. He tried to walk, but his steps were shaky and uneven. Right before Eera could fall, fortunately, Marowak lent him its bone club for support. "Thank you. Normally, metal burst is my last resort, thanks to its heavy toll on my body. I regret handing the responsibility of this battle on you all, but I have no other choice. I'm sorry."

Vix floated towards the Bisharp's face and smiled warmly. "You've basically been handling this fight on your own since it started! We'll handle it from here."

Marowak huffed and crossed its arms, insulted that its efforts were put aside for the sake of making Eera feel better, but went along with it and nodded anyway.

"I really hope you aren't taking after Castiss, for everyone's sake," Eera chuckled.

Vix snickered, her flame dancing happily. "Alright, that's enough stalling. Let's hurry and end this once and for all!"

"Oh god, you almost sound exactly like him…" Eera said. "But you are right. As strong as he is, Castiss can only do so much on his own."

As prepared as they could be, everyone sped back up the tunnel. Ace's heart was pounding and Vix's flame was burning brightly, both out of excitement, adrenaline, and a bit of fear. They didn't really notice until now, but this was their first serious mission; there was something at stake here, but they didn't let that pressure get to them. They promised to themselves to stay strong, and see this mission through to the end.
 
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