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Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Astral Genealogy Cover.jpg

Faernia and Eris: two great civilizations ruled by fairies and dragons respectively. Rune, the Oshawott crown prince of Eris, is tasked with revitalising a peace treaty to prevent war between the two planets. He is thrust from a comfortable life of royal pampering and into a dangerous journey to marry a woman he has never met.

As the pressure of the public challenging laws set by legendary Pokémon grows, Rune must change the course of tradition and forge a new legend in this tale that spans his childhood, adulthood, and fatherhood beyond. No matter when or where, shadows of conflict will test more than his ideals and will for peace.

This story contains the following material:

Dark themes

Foul language

Descriptions of blood and mild gore

Fantasy violence

This story is recommended viewing for users age 15+, but has been not been rated under mature content rating due to being generally viewable by an audience below that age. By reading this book, you adhere to the above warnings and the mature content contained within.

Do not proceed if you are not okay with any of the listed content.

Plush cast.JPG

This is an older work that has been updated to a readable standard. I DO NOT need any comments on writing quality with regards to this work. If you are going to review, please keep comments related to characters and story events as opposed to writing quality. Completed as of January 2021.


Last edited:
Episode 1: A single spark


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 1: A single spark

So far, so good,” the Kommo-o thought to himself, sprinting on all fours down the steep, rugged rockery of the mountain. His solid structure made easy work of the trek as he clambered across spikes at high speed, completely ignoring their obvious threat as if they dealt him no pain. He still travelled with a limbering gallop however, keeping a determined grip on the two strings of rope that kept a carriage strapped to his back. Its loose attachment irritated him with its constant movements.

He soon had to skid to a stop as he found his view obscured by his surroundings, a wide range of charcoal black mountains and a dusty sky that refused to let through even a spec of sunlight. He wiped his forehead and crinkled his nose, scanning the environment restlessly in search of his destination. The area stunk of embers and the dust in the air threatened to make him sneeze, but he was able to lock eyes with his target before long.

“There. We’re almost there now, so don’t even think about opening your mouth to anyone,” he commanded, twisting his head to glance back at the carriage. He could just about make out the single passenger whimpering within, a lone Clefairy that seemed to do her best to avoid looking at him. “We’ve long lost your little heroes, so don’t bother trying to cry out or anything. If you do, I’ll have more than enough time to make you regret it.”

He kept his voice low and growled his words, hoping that he had frightened her enough to obey. Judging by her pathetic squeak, he had succeeded and used that as his signal to carry on the rest of the way. Reaching the foot of the next mountain, his left claw abandoned one of the ropes carrying the carriage to start climbing it. He used that free hand to jab at the rock and hoist himself upwards. The reckless act caused the rocks to crumble and shake with his heavy body, whilst his carriage dangled dangerously from him, but he didn’t care as he didn’t have to climb this way for long. Before he knew it, he had reached the centre of this new mountain, where he unveiled its startling secret.

“Lord Jyararanga,” a rough voice said in surprise. He had to take a moment to catch his breath before looking at who had spoken; giving a relieved sigh that it was a Zoroark. There were two of them gawking at him.

“I hope those surprised looks mean the illusion’s still up. This castle isn’t hiding itself,” Jyararanga growled, dismissing the two of them to walk off. They gave him bothered looks and returned to guarding what was suddenly a smooth, well-decorated entryway to a castle. A clean red carpet covered the centre of the hallway and all paths that branched from it, whilst lit candles adorned the walls to brighten the place. If it wasn’t for the black brickwork lining those walls and the ceiling, one would never guess that a castle was built into the mountains this way. Its entrance was being visually hidden by the impressive illusions that could only be made by a Zoroark, so they made for the best guards as well.

The castle was lively and productive with a variety of tough Pokémon the Kommo-o was used to seeing. Each of them gave him an astonished look and immediately stopped whatever they were doing to move aside once they saw him and what he was carrying. He ignored them all without much more than an annoyed look, resuming the hurried gallop he’d taken to get this far in the first place. After another long trek up royal stairways and hallways of increasing elaborateness, he finally reached his royal chambers, where he unloaded the carriage next to his nest of hay and rock.

“Get out here, now!” he commanded once again, snapping the backs of his arms together. They made a horribly loud ringing sound that resembled a steel bell, causing the Clefairy to squeal as she obeyed. She tripped out of the carriage and searched for him, trembling so much that she couldn’t stand in one spot. “We don’t have much time, so you had best follow my orders perfectly. I don’t need you to do much.”

The Clefairy didn’t reply with anything more than continued whimpers, leading to a moment of silence. He stared down at her and sighed, taking a moment to collect his thoughts. “Listen to me. If you do a good job, I’ll take you home. So just listen to me and do exactly as I say, okay? You won’t get hurt or anything. That’s a promise,” he said, leaving his arms to rest on the floor.

Clefairy’s trembling gradually came to a halt, but she was still playing with her hands. Jyararanga’s face tightened, “I said, okay? Do you understand?”

“I-uh-um-yes, okay,” she said, going right back to trembling before him. He almost palmed his face, but let it off with a grumble.

“I need to go and make preparations,” he said, hoisting the carriage onto his back again. “Until I return, do not leave this room, and do not speak to anyone. And stay out of sight as well. I’ll be back to take you to the top of the mountain as soon as I’m ready.”

“O-okay,” she responded, squeezing her tiny fingers together. He grumbled at her again but galloped off at that, leaving her to deal with calming down alone.

Gazing around the room, the rough, harsh appearance of everything kept her shuddering and uncomfortable. Everything of the walls and floor looked hard and dull coloured, the room had no door, and a cold wind seemed to cycle through it without cease. Even the hay covered bed seemed to have a jagged appearance, and she knew that she daren’t try to make herself comfortable in it. Who knew what that giant Kommo-o was like with others sleeping in its bed?

She stayed as still as she could, anxiously listening to the sounds of the Pokémon hard at work outside the room. A lot of them passed by as well, not one of them sparing a glance inside. The more she concentrated however, the more she found herself beginning to shudder. Soon enough, she found herself in a level of pain she couldn’t take, being introduced to feelings foreign and seemingly beyond her control.

She could hear everything from everywhere around this castle, and it hurt. Somehow, every last word, shout, footstep, and all else, from every single room and floor could be heard so clearly that she knew exactly what was going on and where it was happening. The sheer amount of noises combined to make her feel like her ears were going to explode. She could hear the shouts of chefs hastily making about twenty different dishes at once. The Zoroark guards at the entrance were having a casual conversation about their favourite weapons. Soldiers were being issued dozens of different orders and were mobilising at different spots around the castle. And most irritating of all, the shouts of two kids playing tag were amongst it all.

The two kids. Their voices were getting louder and louder, closer and closer. They were so close and loud that every word from them brought an unbearable pang to her head. It got to the point where she couldn’t help but moan out loud and fall to her backside, clutching her head to try and drive the pain out. There was just too much loud noise.

“Oh, whoa! I’ve never seen you before, when did you get here?” one of the kids asked, sounding so loud that his words blurred and could barely be made out. She gasped and froze, finding herself stood before an Oshawott just about shorter than her. His face was young and pudgy, but he had an excessive amount of white fur on his head that was styled into a fancy hairdo. She hadn’t seen him come in, so she stared at him in surprise.

“When did you get here? What’s your name?” his young, gritty voice boomed, splitting her head in half. She immediately cried out and grabbed her head in agony, once again brought back to the floor. “Whoa, are you okay? What’s wrong?” he said, stepping back from her. “Man, oh man! I messed up big time!”

“Big brother!” the other voice called out. This one came from another Oshawott, a little girl that was a notable few inches shorter than the first Oshawott. She too had excess head fur that was made into a hairstyle, although hers was messier and clearly hadn’t been made today. “There you are! We’re not supposed to be in Daddy’s room, so what’re you up to?”

“No, no, look!” the first Oshawott said, pointing at Clefairy. She cringed at the volume again but managed to force herself to look at them. They both stared at her for a few moments, keeping her nerves on edge.

“I’ve never seen you before. Is Daddy back? He must’ve brought her back with him!” the little girl said, slowly walking around the Clefairy to examine her. Every word made Clefairy cringe and clutch her head with a moan of pain, taking the little boy’s attention. “Wait a minute… pink body, little wings, short and fat… you’re a fairy! A fairy Pokémon!”

“A fairy Pokémon?” the little boy said, continuing to stare at the struggling Clefairy. There was a moment of quiet, enough for her to stop struggling again, to which he gave her a straight face. He breathed in and began to speak loudly, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Testing, testing, one two three.”

Once again, the Clefairy squealed and tried to withstand the volume of his voice, failing at doing much more than falling to the ground and moaning aloud. Her head was so full of headache inducing noise that she couldn’t even hear herself now, and could just about feel herself fainting. Her eyes were clenched shut and the clarity of the voices had suddenly become muffled, drowning out to a bearable level.

“Are you okay?” the little boy asked, this time whispering. She could barely hear him amongst the ambience of her headache, but she could open her eyes again at least. To her surprise, the Oshawott was right in front of her and both of his hands were holding down her ears, squishing them into her. She shot to her feet and panicked until he hushed her, making her freeze.

“It… it stopped…” she mouthed, realising what had just happened. The boy holding down her ears had drowned out the noise almost completely.

“So, it is too noisy. Keep your ears closed like that, I’ll take you somewhere quiet,” the little boy said. She followed his instructions, unsure of what was best right now. Once her hands were firmly squashing down her ears, he let go of them and stepped back, taking a moment to check that she was okay before turning and walking away.

“C’mon, follow me!” he said eagerly.

“But big brother, what happened to our game?” the little girl said.

“Forget that, I wanna know about the fairy now. Let’s go to the roof,” he replied, waving at them. Clefairy stayed put and stared for a while, running a hundred thoughts through her mind. She knew better than to disobey that big brute that had taken her away from her room. But then again, he had probably kidnapped her to eat her or something. Meanwhile, this little boy had helped her on the spot and seemed friendly enough. If she really had any chance of not getting eaten, following this little boy was probably her best bet.

“Er, your ears… are you alright?” the little boy said, making her realise she had let go of her ears during her thought trail. Her hearing had returned to normal, silencing all but her surprised breathing. “Was that all just an act? You’re pretty funny already.”

“N-no… It’s not noisy anymore,” she said.

“That’s good. Are you gonna follow me or not?” the little boy asked, dancing on the spot.

“But that dragon told me to stay here. He m-might eat me,” she said, going quieter at the thought of that.

“Eat you?” The little boy repeated, walking back over to examine her. “Nah, you don’t look very nice. I don’t think Dad would eat you.”

“But you’re a fairy, right? From the Fairy Kingdom in the sky!” The little girl asked. Clefairy nodded. “Really? Oh my gods, that’s so cool! You’ve gotta tell us about that!”

“Tell you?” Clefairy replied.

“I’ve never seen a fairy before. Heck, I’ve barely seen any Pokémon outside of the castle! What’s it like in the Fairy Kingdom? I bet it’s really sunny and colourful and stuff!” the little boy started rambling. “O-oh! I’m Rune, by the way. What’s your name?”

“I… I’m not allowed to tell you mine,” Clefairy said, scrunching herself up.

“Well, that makes you weird. I’m Diantha, and I’m the princess here, you know. That means you have to tell me your name,” the little girl said, putting her hands on her hips. There was another moment of quiet.

“Why are you two here? Are you here because of the big dragon?” Clefairy asked, playing with her fingers. The two Oshawott leaned back and exchanged glances, quickly whispering something to each other.

“Yeah, we’re here to show you around,” Rune replied, putting his hands on his hips as well. “So don’t be so stiff! You’re not in trouble.”

They said that, but she knew that she was. Either these two kids were playing along with something, or they really didn’t know where she had come from. She started shaking a little and glanced side to side unsurely, almost hoping that the dragon would come back and clear everything up for her. But he didn’t, so she forced herself to speak up. “He told me not to t-talk to anyone. And not to go anywhere either.”

“Hmm. I wonder why he did that? If you told us where you came from, we might be able to help,” Rune said.

“Really? Aren’t you with the dragon? He stole me away from home and didn’t let me out of the carriage until I was here,” Clefairy said. “I don’t know where I am or who he is. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Rune gasped overzealously, “Sis, do you know what this is? What this means?”

“This… means something?” she replied.

“It’s the call to adventure. This little fairy got kidnapped from the sky. Now we’ve gotta take her back there!” Rune said, pumping his fists. He turned to Clefairy and gave her an upbeat handshake. “So it’s fine that we don’t know your name. If you’ve been kidnapped, we’re just gonna take you home!”

“But big brother! We don’t know how to get to the Fairy Kingdom. And how would Dad let us go if he’s the one that kidnapped her?” Diantha whined.

“That’s why it’s the call to adventure. We don’t tell him. We set off in secret using that blocked passageway Dad always keeps us from going up. There must be some sorta secret up there, a secret that has something to do with why he kidnapped a fairy Pokémon!” he said, posing enthusiastically. “Stick with me little fairy. I promise I’ll take you home, no matter what.”

“Would you really?” Clefairy replied.

“You might be wrong this time, Rune. But it does kinda sound like fun,” Diantha said in a playful tone. “I’ve wanted to know what’s up there ever since Dad said we shouldn’t go.”

“Exactly! So let’s go right now before he comes back!” Rune suggested, grabbing one of Clefairy’s hands.

“A-ah, wait Rune!” she squeaked, tripping after him.

“Big brother, don’t go and leave me behind!” Diantha cried, having to skip after them.

Clefairy could barely keep up with his steps, trying not to cry out or draw too much attention to herself as she was dragged along the foreign hallway. They bumped past a few servants and soldiers and made them drop whatever they were carrying, resulting in them getting shouted at. None of them seemed to comment on the fact that she was a fairy however, which although was confusing, was fortunate enough to let her relax a little. She let herself get dragged along the numerous hallways and focused on not tripping up, doing nothing but puffing and panting to keep up.

The castle turned out to be bigger than she imagined. It took them at least ten minutes to navigate the repetitive hallways and staircases, gradually going higher and higher until they reached a quiet enough area. They had run out of breath by the time they got there, but this hallway was empty enough for them to take as long as they needed. It was just a long, straight corridor with a single branching path to the left; a staircase that was heavily barricaded with red fencing and several signs.

“Huh?” Clefairy mused, trying to make sense of it. The signs were written in a language she hadn’t ever seen before. The letters were so unusual that it was impossible to even guess what was written on it. “I can’t read it. Is this a drawing?”

“A drawing? Nah, it says ‘danger, do not enter’. But we’re gonna enter anyway, because a big secret is up here,” Rune said. Clefairy looked over the signs again. It probably did say that, but the characters of the text were so mind boggling that it was hard to believe anything. Then again, he lived here, so he probably could read it.

“Rune, if there really is danger up there, you’ll be able to protect us, right? You’ve been going to knight practice,” Diantha said, making her brother flinch. He started scratching his back and laughing, and then clearly feigned a boastful appearance.

“Of course! I’m not a knight yet, but I unlocked some pretty sweet skill. Whatever danger shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, smiling cheekily at the two girls. He gestured to help Clefairy over the fence. “Ladies and guests first.”

“Spoken like a true royal knight,” Diantha said, ignoring that the gesture was for Clefairy. That or she didn’t care as she pushed the fairy type out of the way to climb over, receiving a push on her backside from her brother to help her over. Clefairy reluctantly copied, falling down on the other side.

“It’s just a staircase. Does this lead to a different part of the roof or something?” Diantha asked once they were all over the fence. The stairs before them were longer than the rest of the stairs they had climbed thus far, but a source of light was coming through the other end to obscure where they led.

“Only one way to find out. Follow me, ladies!” Rune said, marching forward. Clefairy gave a slight moan but followed, relieved to be able to walk on her own two feet this time.

Meanwhile, back down in the main castle hallways, Jyararanga had gone right back to charging through with full focus on his task. His preparations were clear on his attire as he now possessed a sword and armour fit for a war. He was also carrying a peculiar cloth that was for a Pokémon far smaller than himself, the cloth adorned with unusual, dark markings that resembled black flames. It could be seen clear as day that the Kommo-o was sweating as he had been running and fretting the whole time, to a point that he had to catch his breath when he finally made it back to his den.

“What… Ariala, where…?” he whispered, scanning the room for her. He began to tear the room apart, quickly concluding that she was no longer there. “No. This cannot be!”

He tripped out of the room and almost stomped right on top of a soldier, a Druddigon equipped with a helmet and a sword. “You! You’re on duty on this floor, yes? What happened to the fairy I had here?”

“The fairy?” the Druddigon responded in surprise.

“Yes, the fairy! The tiny pink Pokémon that was in my chamber! Where is she?” Jyararanga raised his voice.

“I don’t know. I did see a little pink kid with the prince and princess. The lot of them were making a ruckus,” the soldier answered.

“Rune and Diantha… n-no. No, this can’t be happening. Rune is supposed to be in knight school. Could he have taken her? Where did they go?” he raised his voice even more.

“I wasn’t watching, your highness. They distracted me and several servants,” the soldier recalled.

“No! Damn it, this can’t be happening,” Jyararanga roared, grabbing his head. He glanced side to side and then stomped his feet. “Forget your orders! Find them at all costs. And tell all other staff to find and bring them to my quarters immediately!”

“Your highness, if I may—“

“No questions. The entirety of our world is in danger if you don’t find her. FIND THAT FAIRY!” he roared at the top of his voice.
Episode 2: The weight of duty


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 2: The weight of duty

“It's so dark up here,” Clefairy said, scanning the area. At the peak of the lengthy staircase was a structure that was so old it was drowning in moss. They were at the top of the mountain that the castle was built into so the rockery around them was charcoal coloured, yet the ruined temple standing before them was slathered in green and dead plant life. The nearby cloudy sky was still very dark and blocked out any sunlight, rendering the area in a grey, colourless hue.

“It's some sorta ancient temple,” Rune joined in, curiously exploring the area. He walked straight in without a second of thought, leading the two girls to follow him.

Clefairy slowed down once she stepped foot inside, her attention captured by the faded drawings and writing all over the walls. The temple was a single, enormous room with these drawings on every side, even what was left of the crumbled ceiling. However, all of the text was in the same language as that of the warning sign she couldn't read before, so it failed to make any sense to her.

“Rune, what does all this say?” she said, blindly bumping into him in the centre of the room.

“I dunno. It's too old and groggy, and most of the words look really grown up,” he said, half ignoring her. “I'm more interested in this thingy.”

Clefairy spun around and joined him to stare at the unusual object. A hexagon a little taller than them floated in the centre of the room, marked up with an asymmetrical pattern of black and green hexagons across its surface. The whole object gave off a soft green glow without a sound.
“Is it some kinda Pokémon?” Diantha asked, skipping right up to it. She sniffed it briefly before attempting to grab it, where she squealed and leapt backwards, blowing her hands. “It's hot it's hot it's hot!”

“Whatever this thing is, it's what Dad was trying to keep from everyone by stopping us from going up here. I'll call it the 'green crystal'!” Rune announced, taking his scalchop off his belly. “So let's figure out what the green crystal does and take it with us.”

Clefairy chose to return her focus to the drawings on the walls. None of it seemed to make any sort of pattern or glyph or anything. Whatever it all said, the fact that the area was off limits, had this burning green crystal in it, and had been untouched for possibly hundreds of years, filled her with uncertainty. As if answering that summary of her thoughts, she caught sight of a Pokémon spying on them from above. Although there was hardly a ceiling to the temple, a Pokémon was stood up on what little roof there was, staring down at them. She met its fierce red eye and flinched, starting to breathe heavily.

“What's-” she said, getting cut off by a cry from Rune. The Oshawott had struck the green crystal with Razor Shell, causing it to glow brighter and brighter. The sound of flames released from it in growing volume as well, becoming loud enough to take the trio into discomfort.

“Is it... it's gonna explode?” Diantha warned. The three of them flinched and shielded their faces as the crystal seemed to do just that, bursting into a blinding, green blast of light that engulfed the room. The light faded away just as quickly as it had appeared, although it faded along with the glow that the crystal originally had, leaving the room even dimmer than before.

“Eeek! Rune, why did you do that?” Diantha squealed once she got a hold of herself.

“Do what? I didn't do anything! I just hit it,” he said.

“Look it's all dark and creepy now. I think you broke it. This is why boys shouldn't touch important stuff.”

“I said I didn't do anything!”

“But it's all cold and dark now. If you didn't break it, fix it.”

“But it's not broken! How can I fix what isn't broken?”

Clefairy moaned to herself as she watched the two Oshawott bicker and snap at each other, flicking their hands in some kind of attempt to slap each other. She gave up waiting for them and tried to find out what had just happened, spotting the Pokémon that was spying on them before. It was in a different spot but still on top of the temple and staring down at them, its red eye and scruffy white fur coat standing out in the dim conditions. She didn't need to be told that it wasn't happy, and them being here was probably why.

“Um, excuse me...” Clefairy tried to ask, trailing off at the interruption of another sound. Propellers. Lots of propellers. And all of them were close by. “... What's that?”

Another explosion occurred, this one being far realer than the one caused by the green crystal. Part of the temple was blasted away, damaging a ridiculous portion of the structure around where the blast hit. It hit the top right corner of the room, where the ceiling and walls in that section completely fell apart, revealing the dark sky and what had caused the attack.

“Airships!” Clefairy cried. There were three of them, giant sailboats that floated in the sky with the use of several propellers and fabric wings. Cannons jutted out from the sides of them, one of which was smoking as if it had just fired.

“Airships? Are those Pokémon as well?” Rune said, stepping closer to the two girls. Pokémon jumped off of those airships, a small collection of Mawile and Granbull that each carried a weapon. It wasn't until they landed that Rune swiped his scalchop aside and readied his Razor Shell again. “I've never seen these Pokémon before, but don't worry. If they're bad guys, I'll protect you.”

“They're not bad guys!” Clefairy squeaked, glancing to and from the two parties. The fairy types weren't even trying to hide their aggression from the looks of things, aiming their spears and fists at the children.

“Are you sure? They look pretty angry,” Rune replied, keeping his eyes locked on them.

“R-Rune... these guys might be fairy Pokémon. Remember what Dad said?” Diantha said. “The fairy Pokémon are supposed to be at war with us.”

“Oh, right!” Rune gasped, glancing back at Clefairy. “Is that why Dad kidnapped you? If we let 'em get to the castle, we'll be in more trouble than this.”

“But you're the only one that can fight. Can you really take them?” Diantha said.

“O-of course I can. I'm a knight, aren't I?” he said with a boastful pose.

“B-but guys—” Clefairy tried to respond, but was once again cut off by Rune running off before she could even start. Diantha stayed put with a worried posture, keeping her hands pressed together.

“Hey you evil fairies! I'm not gonna let you get any further, alright? If you want us, you're gonna have to go through me!” he said, showing off a few slashes to make himself appear skilled. Three Mawile stood at the front of the enemy group, and all they did in response was exchange glances with each other. “Alright fine, have it your way!”

Roaring at the top of his voice with his Razor Shell raised high, Rune charged at them and leapt into the air, targeting the Mawile in the centre. Two of the Mawile scattered whilst the one he aimed for prepared to defend itself, holding its lance firmly with both hands. Rune's attack collided with it hard enough to make his foe grunt, but with a push of the lance, he was forced back into the air to land a few paces away.

“How was that? I'm strong you know!” he said, swiping the air again.

“Little punk!” the Mawile growled, revealing its masculine voice. Rune lunged and attempted to slash him with Razor Shell again, finding all three of his attempts blocked by the Mawile's steady skill. After blocking three slashes, the Mawile retaliated with a swipe of his own, his lengthy weapon striking Rune's head so hard that it sent him to the ground with a winded cry of pain.

“A-ah... ow, that really hurt!” the Oshawott coughed, struggling to his feet. A bruised mark had already formed where he had been hit, which hurt him enough to flinch when he tried to rub it. Mawile ignored his complaint and pointed a palm at him, giving a battle cry as it charged up a Flash Cannon. Rune only had the time to gasp before the special attack was fired, getting struck head on.

“Rune!” Diantha cried, turning in disbelief as Rune's body was sent flying back into them. His front now showed signs of harsh burns and several marks of damage, but he was still able to struggle to his feet. He needed her help to stay standing, however.

“Argh... th-they're really strong,” he admitted, huffing in pain.

“Y-you don't need to fight them though,” Clefairy said.

“Dad kidnapped you for a reason, so I'm gonna look after you. Besides... I'm the prince. I-I can't let them beat me!” he said, gritting his teeth.

“Pah. Is this some kind of joke? Is the Dragon Kingdom Eris truly so deplorable that they rely on children to defend themselves?” Mawile said, making his comrades smile and snicker. “Your attitude is as messy as your kingdom.”

“Rune!” a familiar voice roared from behind Rune and the others. The trio spun around in fright, calming down as a Kommo-o stormed up the staircase towards them. He wore heavy armour on top of his metallic coat of scales, whilst a large sword was strapped to his back.

“Dad?” Rune and Diantha gasped in surprise. The Kommo-o took only a second to assess the situation, where he calmed right down and started to walk. He slowly drew his sword as he passed the three children, revealing its unique, multi-coloured decoration. In between the handle and the blade was a pattern of petal shaped appendages, each one a different colour that flowed as if filled with a variety of liquids. The blade itself glowed a bright white, visible only when the sword was fully drawn.

“King Jyararanga himself...” Mawile gawked, mouthing off to something. The enemy fairies sided with each other with uncertain looks on their faces, as if overwhelmed by the dragon's appearance. Jyararanga alone outsized all of them put together.

“Rune, you're supposed to be in knight school right now,” Jyararanga said, turning his head back. The Oshawott flinched, scratching his back with a cheeky laugh.

“I er—”

“This is not a joke,” Jyararanga said. “You should know better than to follow your foolish brother as well, Diantha. But we don't have time for this right now- this right now is a dire battle. Keep hold of that Clefairy for me and fend for yourselves if necessary.”

“Wait, what're you going to do to them?” Clefairy gasped, trying to step forward. She locked eyes with the king and froze completely, quickly getting pulled back a little by Rune and Diantha.

“No... the princess is right there! If we all storm him at once, not even the mighty dragon king can stand up to us!” Mawile rallied, raising his lance. “Come on men! Strike with me, and let us bring the princess home today!”

The enemy fairies all gave a war cry and came charging at once, making Rune and the children gasp. Having never seen his father fight, let alone be dressed for battle the way he was, Rune had no idea what to expect from a situation that had his father looking this tense.

Any worry he could have had was unfounded, however. Jyararanga dealt with the first five charging fairies with ease, stomping one foot into the ground so hard that the floor broke apart; creating huge stalagmites that flipped them into the air or blocked the way. The few Granbull that made it through the attack went with Play Rough attacks, their fists and jaws glowing white with fairy energy. They were backhanded away with ease, getting knocked flying through the air to the other side of the area.

“We don't have time for this. Ariala! You have to wear this!” Jyararanga ordered, tossing a bundle of fabric at the children. Rune struggled to catch it due to the suddenness of the command and stared at it in confusion.

“What's this?” Diantha asked as Rune hung the fabric in front of him. It was a women's cape with a curious design of dark flames on it.

“Don't question it, just wear it!” Jyararanga shouted, getting jumped on by a few more Play Rough users. He cried out and shook them off into the air, finally using his sword to slash one of the Pokémon in half on its way down.

At that moment, time began to slow down. The little Oshawott couldn't believe his eyes – his father defending himself was one thing, but mercilessly killing another Pokémon was something he never imagined ever seeing. But it was happening, and it was so fast and sudden that he had lost all focus and thoughts as to what to respond with. He just stared at the gruesome appearance of a Granbull getting sliced in half, its innards raining down the Kommo-o's side.

And it didn't stop there, either. The more those fairies threw themselves at him, the more ruthless Jyararanga became, not hesitating to slash them to bits, stab them, or simply crush them with his overwhelming size. It didn't take long before the fairies were retreating and screaming orders to escape at each other, climbing back onto their airships using ropes. Some of the Mawile stayed behind to fire more Flash Cannon, but they dealt no visible damage to the Kommo-o's armour at all.

It wasn't until the sound of tears and whimpering caught his attention that Rune fell back into focus, and he spun around to the Clefairy behind him. She was crying her eyes out and covered her face with her hands, only reinforcing what was actually happening. Seeing her crying like this amongst the needless death, his body fell cold. He didn't know what to say or do, he just stared.

“Moonblast cannon ready! Fire, we can at least wound him!” one of the Mawile ordered, signalling to the airships. He was the only fairy not on an airship right now, and two out of the three of the ships were flying away. The last one had a cannon aimed directly at Jyararanga, and it was gleaming with white energy as if charging up.

“Get behind me!” The Kommo-o ordered, glancing back briefly.

He swiped his sword aside and then held it in a defensive pose, planting his feet into the ground. The cannon fired a second later, releasing exactly what the commander had hinted at: an enormous Moonblast the size of a cannonball. With a mighty roar at the top of his voice, Jyararanga sliced the attack in two as it approached him, causing it to explode early and shower him in glittering energy. He cried out in pain at the effort, but remained standing, bringing everyone's jaws to the floor.

“Dear Tapu- this king is a monster! Go! Retreat now!” Mawile cried, abandoning his position to get away. He only managed to grab a rope dangling from the remaining airship before it started to fly away however, leaving him hanging off of it.

But even their retreat wasn't enough. Growling with increasing volume, Jyararanga cupped his claws together and gathered fiery energy in between them, releasing it into the air with a roar of effort. A sputtering orb of fire was launched up high, which soon burst into a rain of meteors that showered the world around them. Despite the meteors being rather small, the damage they caused was loud and devastating. It took only one meteor to bring the airship to the ground, where it crashed somewhere in the nearby mountains with a loud, deafening explosion.

“He... he-he killed all of them,” Rune whispered, still holding onto the cape. Now that the conflict was over, the area had fallen back to the ancient silence it had when they arrived, only now it was a lot more colourful. The bloody remains of the fairy type Pokémon were scattered around the ruins of the temple in puddles of mushy, pink innards, staining the black mountain and green moss with the stench of conflict.

Another roar took his attention away from the scene, this one coming from behind them. He had shifted forward to keep up with his father during the battle, not realising that he was now far in front of the green crystal. But that crystal was being swallowed up by what looked like a living shadow, a dark, murky, transparent figure that slathered the ground all around the crystal. It slowly seeped its way up through the artefact, releasing distorted roars as it covered the crystal in whatever substance it was made of.

“No! Ariala!” Jyararanga shouted so loudly it made the Rune's ears ring. The next thing he knew, Jyararanga's sword was thrown straight through the air at the green crystal. The shadow sunk into the ground to avoid the stab, now appearing as a completely flat splotch of fiery darkness. If it wasn't for the fact that it zipped across the ground at such high speed, it would barely be visible.

“Wha-what is that?” Rune cried, stumbling backwards.

Before he could do anything beyond flustered movements, he was knocked to the ground by a heavy force, presumably the shadow tripping him up on its way past. He quickly rolled over and sat up, where time slowed down for him once again.

He almost screamed, but some natural instinct stopped him. Seeing the dead bodies of the fairy Pokémon gave him an uncomfortable chill, but now that it was someone he knew and loved, that chill had intensified so much that he was frozen to the spot.

Diantha was being hung up in the air right before his eyes, her face unreadable. Her eyes were wide and static but her mouth was agape. A second passed, and a thin trail of blood dribbled from her mouth, pooling onto the floor in front of Rune in a thick mass. The shadowy monster had an arm directly through his sister's stomach, the tips of its claw painted the same red that stained the rest of the battlefield. Barely a sound escaped her besides weak, dazed, gurgled breaths.

Then she suddenly coughed up a mouthful of blood, splattering it all over Rune's head. He flinched and went completely white, his breaths just as empty as he realised how much blood had splashed onto him. He couldn't think straight or restore his thoughts at all; he just kept glancing at his body until his eyes locked with Diantha's again. Her eyes were rolling back, physically darkening by the second.

“B-big brother... i-it hurts...” she breathed out.

That was it. He couldn't take it anymore and let his body act on its own. All he could tell was that he screamed at the top of his voice before blacking out.


Many hours later, or at least what felt like many hours later, some thoughts started to clear up in Rune's mind. The thoughts were clear enough for him to be able to tell that he was in a bed, likely meant to be sleeping. Then they cleared up even more, and he shot awake in a flash, no longer wanting to keep his eyes closed.

He stared at the ceiling for a moment and then gasped, jolting into a sitting up position. He grabbed his head in pain the moment he did so, feeling his chest and head ache in complaint.

“Wha-what? Where am I?” he growled to himself, trying to ignore the pain to examine his surroundings. Once the tears in his eyes cleared up, he was able to make out a doctor watching over him, a Goodra with a worried look on its face.

“You're awake. Please, your highness, wait right here,” he said, stumbling out of the room. This room had no door at all, so Rune could hear everything going on outside. His father stomped in a moment later, stopping at a distance to stare down at him.

“Dad,” Rune mumbled, scanning him carefully. The Kommo-o was covered from head to toe in scratches and bruises. “Your body- wa-wait, what happened? My head hurts, my belly is... Sis? Where is sis?”

“Rune,” Jyararanga said.

“Diantha, where's Diantha and the fairy? That was all just a nightmare, right?” he cried, throwing himself out of the bed. He dashed out of the room, took a moment to examine the medical ward around him, and then made for a room at random. He happened to choose the right one, finding himself staring at his sister. The little Oshawott was sat up under the covers, completely zoned out to Rune's presence. “Diantha... oh thank goodness, it was just a—”

She turned to face him, revealing a startling change in her appearance. Besides her empty, distant expression, her eyes had completely changed colour. What was once a deep, navy blue was now a dark, smoky texture with a piercing white pupil in the centre. Those white pupils lacked all detail that eyes should have had, unmoving even as her head turned to follow Rune and Jyararanga.

“Sis,” Rune breathed out again, approaching her.

“Stay away!” she shrieked, hiding herself behind her hands and looking away. A heavy gush of wind magically burst from her as she did so, blowing Rune right back into Jyararanga's hard scales. He fell to the floor weakly and barely looked back at her. She was whimpering and hugging herself, no longer covered by a blanket. A nearby bookshelf and candlelight had fallen over as well.

“What just—”

“Do you see what you have done, Rune?” Jyararanga said. Rune stood up and gawked at him. “Because of your foolish, disobedient actions, some serious casualties have occurred today.”

“Because of my foolish actions? How is it my fault? You're the one that brought a fairy to the dragon kingdom, how was I supposed to know that would make us get attacked?” he said. “Besides, you didn't have to kill those fairies! They were just soldiers looking for the princess!”

“My actions were none of your business. Had you been in knight school as you should have, you would not have alerted the fairies of our kingdom's location. You revealed to them the location of the Dragon Weapon as well. And you forced a conflict upon us that we were not fully prepared for!” Jyararanga raised his voice.

“Wait- the Dragon Weapon? You don't mean... that green crystal?” Rune asked, thinking about it. The Kommo-o's face tightened. “Seriously? That green crystal was the Dragon Weapon? The weapon from the legend that almost destroyed the whole world?”

“The very same. I brought the fairy here to use her powers to drive away the darkness that threatened to steal it. The act was supposed to be undercover, but you drew their forces to us, and the shadow took your sister. The fact that she lives is a miracle that you should count yourself lucky for,” he explained. Rune glanced back at the bedridden Oshawott behind him, who wasn't whimpering anymore but was still looking down and hugging herself.

“Don't you understand the weight of your actions? You are this kingdom's crown prince. It is your duty to protect the Pokémon of our planet, and yet, you continue to shirk your training and education,” he continued.

“That's because I'm bored! You don't let me leave the castle, you don't tell me what's going on outside, the teachers don't even teach me anything interesting. And knight school is dumb. I can use Razor Shell just fine, why have I gotta keep practicing?” Rune said. Jyararanga slapped him with the back of his arm so hard he fell to the floor with a cry, left clutching his head. “O-ow! What the hell was that for?”

“If I hadn't shown up when I did, those soldiers would have killed you and your sister. Would your training have been wasteful then? Don't you think you could have protected her if you could fight?” Jyararanga said. Rune didn't reply. “You are pathetic. You are looking for excuses to blame your own errors on someone else. Someone like you will never even make it to adulthood.”

“What?” Rune gasped, standing up. Jyararanga's face tightened again.

“Perhaps it was a mistake to have even adopted you. As you are now, you will be useless to everyone. You couldn't protect your sister if you tried,” he said, turning and walking off.

“I-I could've! I just underestimated them!” Rune tried to argue, but his words fell on death ears as Jyararanga continued walking until he was out of sight. He glanced back at Diantha again, shuddering at her sorrowful look. “I... I just... If I had...”

He started glancing back and forth at her and the empty doorway, fighting the tears forming in his eyes. “If I had just listened to everyone... if I just knew how to fight...”


Mew specialist
  1. mew-adam
  2. celebi-shiny
  3. roserade-adam
Since you posted your fic here, I decided to give it a go and see what it's about. I vaguely remember reading the first chapter of this fic a few years ago in fact. I don't think I reviewed it back then, so might as well do so now.

I think the first chapter is mostly alright. It does introduce the relevant characters early on like the dragon King who's name I'll probably never memorize, Rune and Diantha.

However, I have a few issues with how the events of this chapter play out. While I wondered why the king didn't just have his best men to go and kidnap the Clefairy, him feeling it's too important to leave to subordinates can work as a logical explanation. What doesn't make sense however is the fact that he left her alone in the sleeping chambers with very few guards on alert. You'd think the person he went out of his way to go and capture by himself would be put under the maximum level of security and surveillance when he's not around. This comes across as highly careless and feels like it happened just to get the plot going and not because it's logical. The king strikes me as a capable ruler and this oversight really makes me wonder how his kingdom is even being run.

I don't really have much to say about Rune, Diantha and Clefairy. I did find it weird that the former two are so childish as you'd expect royalty, and especially the boy next in line for the throne to be very disciplined and well mannered. Rather, Rune comes across as really bratty and possibly even reckless. Even though he heard that his father ordered Clefairy to remain in the room and even kidnapped her, he immediately decided to ignore that fact and even says he'll return Clefairy home because she was kidnapped. It doesn't feel to me like Rune respects nor fears his father, the king.

Overall, while I think this chapter was a decent read, the events in it kind of fall apart once someone sits down and starts to really think about it. They're not issues that ruin the reading experience, at least not for me, but I do hope the successive chapters have their events more thought out.
Episode 3: Rune’s solution


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Rune Midgard.png

Episode 3: Rune’s solution

Crouched down and silent, Rune awaited the ending of the ceremony. A Scizor slowly approached and crouched down with him when he was directly in front, placing a small crown on the Oshawott’s head. Once that was in place and he stood up, Rune stood up as well, generating applause from the Pokémon that watched on.

“Congratulations, Your Highness. With this, you are now officially a royal knight. Never forget your pledge and work hard to forge a legend of yourself,” Scizor announced, bowing to him. Rune’s face was stern and stiff even when he nodded. He faced the last procedure he had to do for the ceremony while looking just as empty, but deep inside, he was jumping for joy.

It had taken ten years. Ten years since the unforgettable incident where he thought he had lost his sister’s life. He spent all that time training tirelessly in the castle’s Knight School, and today was the day that he graduated. He was truly a royal knight with the grade that proved he was one of the kingdom’s best fighters- he felt invincible, and nothing was ever going to give him pain like that experience ten years ago ever again.

Believing that as fact was what made him so happy right now, but he daren’t show it. He knew better than to risk them shoving a sneak attack in his face or something, so he remained focused as he retrieved the plain sword that all warriors got gifted for graduating. He accepted it and raised it high, creating another applause that made his heart flutter.

“Big brother!” a girly voice interrupted his triumph, stretching out the syllables excessively. Rune nearly sighed as said sister showed up, skipping along the hallway before noticing him in the training hall. She completely ignored the large audience of Pokémon and skipped over. “There you are! You gotta come with. Daddy wants ya.”

“Sis, can it wait a little bit?” he replied, returning the sword to the cushion it was gifted to him on.

“Nope. It’s Daddy, and he says it’s exciting,” she smiled, bouncing on her toes.

Her appearance had changed greatly during these ten years, although to Rune, she had only gotten girlier as the years went by. She wore a bright pink short skirt high up around her waist, slightly covering her scalchop, but due to her tail sticking out from behind, her bottom was in full view. Her head fur had grown greatly as well, so she wore that in a lengthy ponytail and tied it with large sticks to create an ‘X’ shaped hairclip. Her eyes hadn’t changed however, still dark and lost with static, pure white pupils.

“As you can see, I’m in the middle of a ceremony. Please, I won’t be a few—”

“And I just said it was important, geez. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” she said, snatching his arm and dragging him away. He allowed her to without any opposition, getting pulled along like a doll.

Rune’s appearance had grown during that time as well, unlike the castle around him. He had grown the slightest bit taller and dressed up his head fur as well, whilst also choosing to wear a bright red cape to hide his belongings in. He had chosen to keep to himself though, and although the Pokémon of the castle noticed his change of diligence, he never once told anyone exactly why he became so quiet and started taking Knight School seriously. If anyone ever asked, he would just walk away.

He soon found himself near the throne room rather than Jyararanga’s den, where Diantha finally dropped him with a groan and a pout. “Rune c’mon, get those lazy legs movin’ already! Why have I gotta drag you everywhere?”

“I was wondering when you were going to let me,” he said, stretching and brushing himself off. He led the remainder of the way as if unbothered by her complaints, immediately locking eyes with Jyararanga when he made it to the throne room. The room was empty besides the old dragon, interestingly enough.

“Here he is, Daddy! In no time, just like you asked. And with that, I am outta here,” Diantha said, shoving him into the room. She skipped out right away, but hid just outside the entrance.

“… Father, you called?” Rune began with a sigh.

“I apologise for taking you out of your graduation ceremony so suddenly, but I fear for the future of Planet Eris should we not act soon,” he sighed as well, getting Rune’s concern. “Let me start by congratulating you on your incredible achievement. I have nothing but praise for knights who make the royal guard. As my son, you’ve made me very proud.”

“I’m only doing as I must. Did you call me here for an assignment, Father?” Rune replied, kneeling down.

“Stand up, boy. You are my son and a crown prince. You need only show me respect as your father, not my lineage,” he assured, letting Rune stand up. “This is indeed about an assignment as a royal knight. I have much to tell you, so listen well. This concerns the history of our world, so I hope that you are up to date.”

Rune folded his arms and shut his eyes. “Our two planets, Eris the Dragon Kingdom and Faernia the Fairy Kingdom, were at war and separated by species. But when the Dragon Weapon was created and threatened to destroy both worlds, a peace treaty was formed that prevented its use,” he said, opening his eyes. “A shadow Pokémon tried to take the weapon from here ten years ago, but since then, we have had peace.”

“We have had peace, but that peace has been coming to an end during those ten years. Eris is facing more civil conflict than it ever has in the form of natural disasters and a rise of crime across the surface. But at the heart of it, Pokémon are turning to the rumour that Faernia is the cause. I do not know exactly what the real cause is, nor have I seen the magnitude of the problems that plague our planet, but I have heard enough reports to imagine the reality,” Jyararanga explained. “The poorer Pokémon fear that they will be dragged into another war, where they will lose what little they have. With disasters striking and a warrant for war rising within our society, I travelled to Faernia in order to meet with their queen.”

“You went that far? When?” Rune asked in surprise.

“Their society is suffering from similar. Strange occurrences such as out of control weather, lack of vegetation, and greatly increased aggression from the locals. Just like how our Pokémon blame our problems on them, they blame their problems on us. But me and the queen managed to come to an agreement for a new peace treaty that will enable our cooperation on the resolution to these matters,” he continued, half ignoring Rune, who was thinking.

“I see. I’m now guessing that my official agreement to this treaty is required,” he replied. Jyararanga nodded.

“Both the official agreement, and the binding of the treaty itself. Your choice and actions will affect the legitimacy of this treaty. Because… well… you see… the treaty is… um,” he suddenly mouthed off, scratching the back of his head.

“What is it, Father? This is a matter of peace and war, I’ll do whatever I must,” Rune said. His father paused before clearing his throat and then facing forward smartly again.

“The binding contract for this treaty is the joint hands of the prince and princess of our kingdoms. In order for the treaty to become legal, you must marry the princess of Faernia, Princess Ariala,” he announced. There was a long moment of complete silence. “… We came to the conclusion that the weight of such a treaty should be our kingdoms’ most treasured possessions. Thus, we hand each other our children in holy unity.”

“That… I’m not arguing with that logic, but that wasn’t what I was expecting. I would’ve thought our kingdom’s most treasured possession would be the Sword of Earthly Elements,” Rune said, dumbfounded. “I’ll do it, but well… how well I do in this ordeal is… I ask that you don’t judge me greatly for it.”

“Why so?”

“I… it’s marriage, an arranged marriage. I haven’t been thinking about that at all, even though I’m of age and the retainers gossip about it,” he admitted. “And… between you and me Father… I’m not very good around women.”

The old dragon gave a hearty chuckle, reaching to the side of his throne to retrieve something. “Don’t be modest, my son. The servants gossip about you because you are every woman’s dream! Just behave how you would around your sister and your marriage will go fine. I’m certain the princess will be happy to have you.”

“No way, big bro’s getting married?” Diantha squealed, rushing into the room. “Ho ho ho, that’s sweet!”

“Sis! No it’s- it- ugh, what’re you doing here?” Rune coughed. “If I treated a wife how I treat you, our kingdoms would definitely go to war.”

“Of course they would. But anyway, this means that Rune’s got a pretty exciting journey ahead of him, right? After all, you’ve gotta get to Faernia to marry the princess,” Diantha said with a giggle, leaning forward and winking at him. “If I come with, he’ll be just fine. I’ll teach you all about treating ladies.”

“We agreed on a meeting point near a Fantasia Port. If you go to the central port and show them proof of your identity, they will allow you to travel to Faernia, where the princess will be waiting. Once you meet her on the Faernian side of the port, the procedures can begin,” Jyararanga said. “Diantha, you will be staying here. Having both royalty leave this castle wouldn’t bode well for our kingdom’s morale.”

“Aww really? The one chance for something actually exciting to happen and you leave me housekeeping? This stinks,” she said, pouting. “C’mon, big bro needs me! Can’t you make an exception? I’ve been cooped up in this old castle for way too long; I’m gonna grow fat on bread if I don’t get some exercise!”

“You still have much to learn before you can consider leaving, Diantha,” Jyararanga said, sighing after. He finally revealed what he had reached for earlier, his iconic sword that was mentioned earlier. To Rune’s surprise, the sword had shrunk considerably and was now the perfect size for him. “The time has come for you to wield the Sword of Earthly Elements, Rune.”

“Wait what? But that’s your sword, and—”

“This mighty weapon is only useable by those it recognises as crown royalty. As you can see, the blade has resized to your fitting and will no longer function for me. Your time has come,” he explained, handing the golden sword to him. “Use it to aid you in your journey to Faernia. Its slashes are magical and will change type to fit your situation, enabling you to defeat any opponent.”

“This still seems excessive. I only just graduated; I don’t deserve the kingdom’s treasured weapon!” he said, taking it anyway. It felt as light and smooth as handling a Razor Shell attack, much to his surprise. “Father, seriously… thank you so much. Now I have to accept your assignment.”

“I dislike these circumstances, but you should depart immediately,” Jyararanga said.

“What?” both Oshawott gasped.

Jyararanga went quiet for some reason, making sounds as if he was thinking hard about something. He eventually stood up and started walking, glancing back when he realised that they weren’t following him. He signalled for them to do so, tucking his arms behind his back.

“Diantha, you may still not be an adult by any means yet, but I do believe it is important that you start learning of this, your duties as royalty. Up until now, you’ve spent your lives in comfort, learning and training for the day that you can protect this kingdom,” he said, walking slowly. “But protecting Eris doesn’t mean simply wielding a sword and throwing attacks at enemies.”

“Of course. I’m being made to marry a woman I’ve never met,” Rune said, looking away. Jyararanga paused.

“When you leave this castle, you’re going to see the true state of the world around us. To reiterate, I have only heard reports of the damage and dangers we have been facing – not even I know of the reality that awaits you out there,” he said. “Whatever the troubles, I want you to face them with an open mind and do as you can to resolve them. Your role as prince and princess is to shoulder the burdens of every last Pokémon in the kingdom. If you have to bear the weight of sin to resolve an issue, your views and beliefs matter not. It is your duty to carry that sin in place of another.”

“Your mentor pushed that idea on me for a long time. I am fully prepared,” Rune replied, saluting.

“Er… if I have to go about killing Pokémon or something just to make others happy, then I’m not happy with it,” Diantha said.

“No one is, but that’s the point. As the royalty of Eris, we are the ones that take on that kind of burden. Quite literally, we live like kings, so a little suffering from us is of little consequence,” Rune said. “When the public commit a murder, they are trialled and prosecuted for it. A commoner that kills another lives with the label of their actions for the remainder of their lives, whilst for us, it will be mere guilt. That is our duty.”

“I still don’t get that, ‘cos were just Pokémon like everybody else, but whatevs. If you say so,” she shrugged. Rune sighed.

“This is why I’m crown prince and you’re not, sis. Father, you just want me to help others I come across as I can?” he asked.

“Exactly that. Central Port Fantasia is not far from the castle, so you have a lot of time. Princess Ariala is a Clefable and she is planned to be accompanied by her three retainers. If you arrive before her, then simply wait on the Faernia side of the port,” Jyararanga said.

“Okay, seriously, hold up a sec. You’re not being serious, are you? You’re actually gonna leave the castle right now, right this minute, today?” Diantha asked, waving her arms about.

“If my duty requires it, then I must. But if you want to be picky with details, I want to at least pack some belongings,” Rune said, strapping his new sword to his back. It was hidden by his cape perfectly.

“But what am I gonna do while you’re gone? I’ll be so bored with no one to play with!” she moaned.

“Sis, you’re sixteen. You don’t ‘play’ with Pokémon that way anymore. And besides, I’ve been busy with Knight School until now. This will be no different than me being away for that, so just do what you normally do to kill time,” he replied, shaking his head. “In fact, do yourself a favour and focus more on your studies. You’ve still got grades to achieve, don’t you?”

“Oh look at you, studious all of a sudden. Pfft fine, I’ll do what I do, big guy,” she said, winking at him before skipping off in the direction they came from. The duo waited until they were certain she was gone before exchanging unsure looks.

“I know she’s a bit of a handful now but please, take care of her. She’s still my sister, and precious to me,” Rune said.

“You know that she’s safe as long as she lives here in this castle. But you mustn’t keep speaking like that. You’re my son and she is my daughter, I would take care of you both until my last breath regardless of who you are,” Jyararanga replied, bowing a little.

“I’m talking about her… powers. If she were ever to lose control of them or something…” Rune said, looking away. His father responded with a raised hand, answering him without a word.

It was still early, yet it felt like he had been awake all day. Rune chose his supplies carefully and wound up prepared to travel lightly, carrying nothing more than a messenger bag and the Sword of Earthly Elements. Both fitted underneath his cape so neatly they couldn’t be seen, as well as being light enough for him to walk at full speed.

Yet the moment dragged on. Even when he knew he was ready, he stared at a family painting hung up on his bedroom wall for a few moments to take a breather. The painting was of his younger self, and staring it at it now filled him with regret.

What am I really getting myself into?” he sighed in his mind. “I’ve never even dated a woman before. How in the world can I make it my duty to be someone’s husband? How could I have even trained myself for this?

No one replied, of course. He just stared at the painting and blinked a few times. That past version of himself in the painting would do a lot of things without thinking, simply because he could. Now he had to do the same, simply because he had to. It was the same principle, yet the whole idea of suddenly marrying tore into him like a knife.

It’s no use thinking about it. The fate of Eris and Faernia rests on my decision right now. I have to do this,” he concluded, turning around so quickly that his cape whipped around. He froze at the sight of his sister in the doorway staring at him. “Sis…”

“You really are leaving, aren’t you?” she asked quietly. He didn’t reply. “And you’ll be gone a long time, too.”

“It’s my duty. But taking care of you is my duty as well, so you staying here is doing me a great favour,” he said, nodding to her. “This isn’t goodbye forever, either. I’ll be back someday, and we’ll have lots to catch up on. So promise me you’ll stay safe and look after everyone, okay?”

“Okay,” she groaned, rolling her eyes. “Pfft, was kinda hoping you’d like, reconsider and bring me with ya.”

“Urf. Please change for the better,” he said, snickering while shaking his head. “By the way, your fang is showing.”

“It er, aaah!” she yelped, blushing as she felt her lips and realised that it was. Since that fateful day ten years ago, her right fang occasionally poked through like that, making her look like a baby. “Why do you always have to point it out and laugh about it? It’s not funny!”

“It is. It’s cute,” he said, snickering even more at how red her face was.

“Oh so I am cute, huh? Hee hee,” she said, posing for him.

“I’ll see you again soon, alright? Just behave while I’m away,” He said, rolling his eyes. He left her alone in the room at that. She watched him with a sly smile on her face, giggling to herself once he was gone.

“Oh I’ll behave alright.”
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Episode 4: Marble monopoly


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Rune Midgard.png

Episode 4: Marble monopoly

Rune’s farewells were surprisingly quick and not very emotional, but that fact didn’t linger on his mind for long. His fondness of the soldiers and servants at the castle had always been shaky, and it wasn’t like he was saying goodbye forever.

What took his attention more was the vastness of the outside world surrounding the castle. Having never been far out beyond the training grounds used by the Knight School, he was astonished by the amount of rugged terrain all around him. Mountain after mountain lined the scenery as far as his eyes could see, all of them were made of blackened, charred rock, and each one was sharp enough to split the clouds they poked through.

He was used to the heat of the area, but now that he was trampling up and down these mountains to cross them, he found himself sweating a lot more. He even made sure to stay close to the feet of the mountains so that he didn’t have to climb up and down too much, yet a little while into the trek and he already had to stop to take a breather. He wiped his forehead and glanced back, disappointed that the castle was still in sight.

I was told to go straight ahead, but I wish I had asked how long for,” he complained in his mind, realising his mistake after looking ahead. There wasn’t even a road where he was, just more of these rocky mountains and hills carrying on into the dark distance. He steeled himself and resumed the task, but was quickly stopped by the sound of a sudden shout. He stopped in the middle of a trio of hills to listen in, only getting a few distant, unclear echoes instead.

Great. I’m already being followed,” he thought with a sigh, keeping focused. He started walking again, but this time much slower. He kept to the enclosed valley between the three mountains and used that as a path, quickly finding that the shouting was still happening, getting clearer and louder. The Pokémon weren’t following him; he was getting closer to them. As he did, the sound of their attacks going off could be made out as well, so he began to follow the source.

The shouting soon led him to a downhill road at last, but both sides of the road were occupied by small groups of rough looking Pokémon. One side was led by a Scrafty, the other a Mightyena, and those two Pokémon were literally butting their heads against each other while their groups rallied them on.

“Okay, that’s enough you two. What is—”

“Stay outta this you little squirt! This mutt looked at me funny!” Scrafty shouted at him.

“Mutt? Like your poor ass is any better, tramp!” Mightyena responded, baring his teeth at him.

“You’re right! Scum like you doesn’t even deserve the title of mutt!”

“Yeah, you’re too low on the scale to even title!”

“… Squirt?” Rune said, staring blankly. He shook himself and focused. “Both of you, that’s enough! Cease this squabble at once!”

“Who’re you to butt in? Oh I see. You seen the little prize I got and want a piece of her, too? Sorry, but wearing a cape doesn’t make you a hero,” Scrafty said, folding his arms.

“Ignore the little kid. Your business is with me! And I don’t like the way your mates are lookin’ at me,” Mightyena said, growling.

“Are you really upset because you looked at each other badly? Both of you are pathetic, if that’s the case,” Rune said, folding his arms as well. Both groups turned to him now. “Your battle is unnecessary and it blocks the road. Cease and go about your business.”

“Pah, the little squirt is right. We ain’t got time to waste with you. I got me a date with Dana,” Scrafty said, turning away.

“Oh that’s even worse! You think you’re all high and mighty ‘cos you got pretty little Dana, huh? She’s just pitying you, I dated her last week!” Mightyena said, baring his teeth.

“My goodness, what’ll it take to stop these two?” Rune said, smacking his forehead as the two groups went at each other verbally again. He quickly scanned the two gangs, each with Scraggy and Poochyena respectively. However, amongst the Scrafty was a peppy little Oshawott that was dolled up with a ponytail for a hairstyle and a bright pink skirt. “Wait a minute- Diantha? What the heck?”

“Oh, I thought I recognised that voice! Hi big bro,” Diantha called out, waving to him amongst the crowd. Both Pokémon stopped bickering once they heard her.

Rune glanced back and forth between the mountains and his sister, starting to sweat awkwardly. “What’re you doing here? Scratch that, how the hell did you pass me?”

“I dunno. Maybe you shoulda taken the road instead of mountain climbin’,” she said. He made a sound as he gawked at her in disbelief.

“Forget it. You’re coming with me back to the castle right now,” he said.

“Once again squirt, cape or not, brother or not, you’re not playin’ this little lady’s hero!” Scrafty shouted.

“Yeah uh, I sorta have a date already planned out, so I can’t go back right now,” Diantha said, sweating just as nervously.

“Date?” Rune raised his voice. “This is beyond out of hand… what is really going on here?

“Don’t you get it, squirt? Buzz off already! I got enough to deal with from this mutt right here,” Scrafty said, leaning forward. Rune huffed and took off his scalchop, erecting a Razor Shell from it.

“Okay I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but call me squirt one more time and you’ll regret it. Sis, get over here right now. You’re coming home with me,” Rune replied.

“So you are tryin’ to play the hero? Get ‘im, boys!” Scrafty ordered on top of Diantha’s response, pointing at Rune. The Scraggy all cheered in sync with each other and came charging, all of them assuming the same pose as they ran. One hand held up their skin-like trousers whilst the other held a fist.

“This is pitiful,” Rune said with a sigh. He only had time to assume his battle pose for about a second, holding his scalchop with both hands so that it was next to his face with the blade pointing directly forwards. He didn’t have to move from the spot like this, he just swung with great force each time one of the foes got close to him to knock them aside. Even though there was a big group of them, they all attacked one at a time with no greater than a straight punch, so not one of them managed to get close. He made sure to put a lot of effort into his last slash so that the last Scraggy was sent rolling down the hill.

“Aw whoa, okay, that’s awesome! I underestimated your training,” Diantha said, cheering the battle on from a distance. Rune caught sight of her just as he finished off the Scraggy, having his eyes drawn to the three Poochyena sneaking up on her.

“Don’t touch her!” he shouted, lunging forward with his Razor Shell tucked to his left side. Still using both hands to swing it, he swung wide enough to take out the three of them in a single slash, harming them enough to make them yelp and cry out.

“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, the guys’ a knight! Beat it!” Scrafty cried, running away. Rune watched them in shock, speechless as the Mightyena copied just as pettily.

“Boss, wait for us!” The Scraggy cried, scrambling after them. Seconds later, it was just Rune and Diantha on an empty road, the former so shocked that his eyes and mouth were wider than watermelons.

“Well I thought they were tough, but you made them look like real pushovers,” Diantha said, breaking the silence at last.

“They threatened each other and acted very tough, but when an actual fight began, they fled for their own sake. For a first-time experience of outsiders, those Pokémon were awfully pathetic,” Rune said blankly, still staring in the direction they ran.

“Yeah, that’s sorta what most Marbles are like, I think. Big on the outside, cute and squishy inside!” she said, giggling.

“Diantha!” Rune shouted, making her jump. “What the hell do you think you’re doing out here?”

“Waah! Me?” she squeaked, taking a moment to calm down and fix her skirt. Her fang started showing again. “I’m doing what I said I was doing, hanging out with that dude on a date. Nothin’ special!”

“How and when did- wait a minute, a date? And they acted as though they knew you,” he said.

“Yeah. Okay I’m not gonna be fancy and just level with ya big bro. Did you really think I sat in the castle all those years while you were training and did nothing? I’ve been in and out more times than I can count,” she said, giggling to herself.

“… Your fang is showing,” he said with a straight face.

“Hwa? Oh how long was it- you little guy!” she said, pawing at her face to try and hide it. Rune snickered at her and put a hand on his hip.

“So you’re not going to stay at the castle even after I leave, are you? And you’ve been out here multiple times?” he asked.

“Uh huh. Met all the folks in the town and hung out with all of ‘em at least once,” she replied cheerfully.

“Show me the way, then,” he said. She froze. “Go on. If you know this place so well, take me to the town the shortest way you can.”

“Can I? Can I really come with you?” she asked.

“… Only to the town. Once we’re there, head back to the castle and stay there. And tell me about these ‘dates’ that you went on in the meantime,” he said, speaking slowly.

“See, you do need me, hee hee hee. Okay big guy, I’ll tell you how a lady like me likes to be treated,” she giggled, walking off.

“The princess isn’t going to be you. I just need ideas,” he said with a groan, shrugging his shoulders. He returned his scalchop to his belly and began to follow her.

Sticking to the road made things far easier than anticipated. Even though the area was still hot, the air felt clean and didn’t smell as hot as it actually was. There wasn’t nearly as much climbing to do. The mountains in the background remained in the background as well, and the duo never ran into much more trouble than a few steep hills.

About an hour passed during their trip before the town came into view, and during that time, all they did was talk about Diantha’s secret path out of the castle and her activities in the town. No other Pokémon even came into sight the whole time, which although kept Rune calm, remained as a concern to him.

“Here we are! Marble Rock. It’s the town that’s the capital of the Magma Heel region or something,” Diantha announced with enthusiastic hand movements. “It’s called a town, but really it’s just this dingy little thing here. Everyone makes the most of it, so they live.”

“I… see,” he mouthed, unable to believe what he was taking in. The town looked big, but really it was just because it was nestled in a clear section of the valleys they had been walking through. The ‘houses’ were all caves that had been roughly built into the sides of the hills. There was a well and a few poles with ropes and wires that Pokémon used to hang clothing and tools from. A few Pokémon managed tiny gardens as well and were currently working on them, but none of them seemed to be growing much more than tiny plants that hadn’t sprouted yet. The soil they had to work with was all in small, square patches that could barely fit a Snorlax.

“Not very lively, is it? I thought commoners were supposed to be busier than royalty?” Rune said. The area was about as quiet, dark, and dull as the mountain road leading up to it.

“It’s just a quiet day. But to be honest, things have been getting quieter lately,” Diantha replied, rubbing her belly. “I was actually supposed to have dinner with that guy. I’m starving.”

“Food isn’t a bad call, actually. I got up too early to have breakfast,” Rune agreed, feeling his own belly rumble. It didn’t take long to locate what cave was used as the inn here, as it was marked out by a painted wooden sign. Said sign was quite poorly hung up above the entrance.

Inside was just as unimpressive as outside. The inn was only three rooms large: the entryway, a kitchen area for staff only, and the actual bedroom, a circular space with four hay beds. Two candles were all that kept it lit up. There weren’t even any windows or a door, so it stunk of the recent cleaning efforts.

“What’re you in the mood for? This place is…” Rune said, not knowing how to comment as he scanned the place in search of the food menu. He didn’t want to be rude and offend the Furret behind the counter who patiently walked over to greet them.

“Oh, Lady Dana! I wasn’t expecting you today,” he said, smiling. Rune gave him an awkward look. “I trust you’ve been well?”

“Yup, as smooth as ever, Corey! I don’t have any donations today though; I wasn’t expecting to pass through. But plans changed, so here I am with big bro,” Diantha replied.

“Your brother… oh! Forgive me, Your Highness! Welcome to the Marble Rock Inn,” The Furret said, bowing. Rune put a hand on his hip.

“Donations? You’ve been giving them donations?” he asked.

“Only those yucky veggies I don’t eat. The Pokémon here love ‘em,” she said, showing a fang again.

“It saves us a lot of work when it comes to the Breeding Grounds, and it gives us a lot to cook with. The Sitrus Berries are a favourite,” Corey remarked. “It’s fine, Your Highness. What can I do for you?”

“Breeding Grounds? I’m completely confused here. Why do you need…?” Rune said, breathing out. He flinched once he saw the board painted above the makeshift stone counter that had the prices and food menu on it. “Three thousand Dragon Power for a single meal? And that’s without staying the night? That’s daylight robbery, even for me!”

“Okay, whoa. I never saw that price increase coming. What’s happening?” Diantha said.

“I worked it out. With the current taxes, it’s the only way I’ll be able to keep running this place and continue making a profit. Naturally, Pokémon have started walking out, so I was considering closing up for good and migrating myself. But it’d be tough on the family if I went back to them, you know?” Corey explained.

“Of course it is. You’re charging extortion for some pretty shoddy quality,” Rune said in agreement.

“Uh, big bro?” Diantha mumbled. The Furret froze and went into a thought pose. “It’d be better not to fight over something like this.”

“Perhaps Your Highness being here means you’re going to do something about this?” Corey replied. “When our landlord starts requesting fair amounts again, I can lower my prices. For now, they stay as they are.”

“So the landlord is a problem with money right now. Is that why this place is so empty?” Rune said.

“Probably. It costs so much to settle here that many Pokémon that used to live here have migrated already. To tell the truth, I’m a bit pissed off since the collectors from Castle Eris aren’t exactly helping matters, either,” Corey explained, folding his arms and looking away. “They come and collect their hunts and royalties and then just leave, not listening or giving a crap about us at all. At least Dana there helps us out like the princess she is.”

“You can call me Diantha now, by the way,” Diantha said, earning a rude glance from Rune.

“This is my first time meeting you, so I’m being as honest as can be. It’s not going to be more of the same with you, is it? You’re not just here to claim free stuff and then leave, are you?” Corey asked. Rune paused.

“Tell me about these ‘Breeding Grounds’ you have,” he asked. Corey paused this time, going a bit flat faced.

“Dana, is your brother being serious right now?” he replied. Rune’s face tightened.

“To be honest, I dunno exactly what the breeding Grounds are, either,” she said. “I stay outta the complex business. I just wanna have some fun.”

“The Breeding Grounds are the main reason our town is even still on the map. It feeds us. The Pokémon there are bred, fattened up, and then hunted for their meat, which we sell to you royals or eat. We don’t get fruits or berries here because sod all grows in the climate,” the Furret explained. Rune’s mouth hit the floor. “But it’s getting pretty tough dealing with the hunts. Most of the Pokémon that have already left were our fighters, so there’s not as many Pokémon that can hunt anymore. Things get violent, and well… We deal with it, somehow. But it won’t stay this way forever if things keep going the way they are.”

“The food we eat… don’t you have anything nice to say about the royal family?” Rune asked.

“Why would I? It’s that current king that even came up with the idea of the Breeding Grounds and put them in every major town on Eris. I’m lucky I don’t have to sit through the horror of hunting,” he raised his voice. “I bet if it were up to you, you sickening savages would eat each other or some—”

Rune silenced him by pointing a Razor Shell at his neck, causing both Diantha and the Furret to stretch up and raise their hands. “We’re not savages. But if that’s really how you think, maybe I should.”

“… You know what? Go right ahead. My life’s not worth living, anyway. You’d just make things easy for me by killing me,” he replied. Rune coughed and his face dropped in shock, but no words came out. He just stood there with the blade pointed at the Furret’s neck, struggling to keep eye contact.

“Whoa there, now this isn’t a fun scenario to walk in on!” an old voice interrupted the scene, making everyone jump. Before Rune could retract his attack, the leafy arms of a Sunflora wrapped around him and his sister, squeezing them both together. “Scoundrels! Bring harm to a member of the public, and I shall see you to justice for it!”

“You… darn it- this ‘scoundrel’ you’re strangling is the prince! Unhand me at once!” Rune said, not liking how close to his sister he was being squeezed. The Sunflora dropped them immediately.

“The prince? My goodness!” he gasped. Both Oshawott stomped off and brushed themselves off, Diantha over exaggerating with her breathing. “You’re pulling my tail, if I had one, aren’t you?”

“Gah- how dare you!” Rune raised his voice.

“Believe them. The lady is the princess, and that is her brother,” Furret said, calming him down. “You’re here to pick up the collection, Galen?”

“I’m afraid so, little innkeeper! But if you don’t have it, I’ll just have to put it on a tab for you. Bear in mind that tab is already five times the first pay!” the Sunflora reported happily, saluting. His voice was old and grainy, but it fitted his appearance. He was very tall and smooth despite the age of his voice, colourful and young like any Sunflora should have been. He wore an elaborate, dark blue cape shaped like two triangles with large white shoulder pads on it.

Wait, he’s already had to delay paying five times? How much is he getting charged?” Rune realised quickly, going quiet.

“I’m sorry, Galen. But I’ll be able to start paying soon. Please, I beg of you to let the landlord know I’ll be able to pay soon,” Corey said, hanging his head.

“Don’t sweat it young man, you’re not the only one that hasn’t paid yet. As long as that’s not an empty promise, we’ll all be smiling in the end,” Sunflora said, bowing. “Forgive me for my interruption earlier then, your highnesses! You may call me Galen. If you’ll excuse me.”

With that he walked out, leaving the prince even more dumbfounded than when he came in. Rune dared to glance at the innkeeper, finding him still hanging his head in dismay. He glanced back at the inn’s surroundings, then the doorway.

“Forget it. I’ve lost my appetite,” Rune said, storming off.

“Wait huh, really? Rune—" Diantha cried, going quiet as he walked off without her. “Wait a minute, I’m still hungry though.”

For some reason, there was a small hope that upon leaving the inn, things wouldn’t look as barren as they did. But they were, and if anything, there were less Pokémon outside than there was when they got there. That allowed Rune to spot the Sunflora that had just left however, and he dashed over.

“You there, Galen! Stop!” Rune called out, getting its attention. “You are connected to the landlord here, aren’t you?”

“Sharp ears you have, Your Highness! Indeed I am. And I just finished making my rounds to report back to them. Are you in need of a funding report yourself?” Galen said. Rune paused.

“No. I need to see them myself. Take me to see the landlord,” he said.

“Wait, why’re we doing this? What about food?” Diantha moaned.

“You saw those prices; we’re not getting anything until we get to the bottom of why they’re so high. And this Breeding Ground situation, too. It sounds like the problems of this town are sourcing from that landlord, so I’ll just have to meet them,” he said.

“Can’t we do it after food? I really am hungry,” she whined.

“I’m carrying apples. You can have some of those,” he said, turning back to Galen. “Can you take us?”

“Pfft, yucky fruit, really? You really don’t know how to eat like a king,” Diantha said, accepting an apple anyway.

“Of course I can escort you. But do know that if you start trouble, I will step in to prevent it. Keeping happiness and contentness is a life goal of mine,” Sunflora agreed, leading the way.

“Pretty certain most of the Pokémon here aren’t happy, even with you around,” he sighed again, following. There was another moment of quiet, disturbed only by Galen’s decision to dance along the road while humming to himself Rune exchanged a glance with Diantha, raising an eyebrow. “Pardon me for asking, but Galen, who exactly are you? You’re skipping along like a little girl.”

“Me? I’m Galen, the beacon of happiness, that’s who! The whole purpose of my being is to cheer Pokémon up for the coming days. Eris is seeing a lot gloom and doom after all, so it needs a hero to bring smiles to everyone’s faces,” the Sunflora said, bowing like a butler.

“By collecting Pokémon’s taxes and debts? I don’t think anyone would smile about that even if they had the money,” Rune said, even more concerned.

Galen raised a leafy hand. “Ah, you know only of my first front. Debt collecting is but a temporary second job.”

“Whoa, you work two jobs?” Diantha said, her fang showing from a goofy smile.

“All for the efforts of spreading happiness!” Galen cheered, raising his leaves high. “My first and main goal is but a wandering bard, a musician whose mastery with music is unmatched. I’m known far and wide for the variety of musical talents I can perform!”

“So you’re just a musician, really,” Rune said, folding his arms.

“Not quite. My performances can take place anywhere and anytime I feel like it, and anywhere Pokémon request it! Parties, port towns, even alleyways or street corners. I’ll perform for anyone anywhere to generate smiles and happiness!” Galen said, going back to skipping along.

“Wait, so you’re more of a busker?” Rune said.

“Buskers perform for profit and practice. I need neither of such! I just want the smiles of others. Happiness makes the world go round!” Galen said.

“Can’t argue with that. Your kids must love you,” Diantha said, giggling.

Rune unfurled his arms, a little annoyed. “So let me get this straight. You just travel the world playing music to make Pokémon smile, but then stopped in this town to become a debt collector? That’s not making Pokémon very happy. If anything, that’s doing the opposite!”

Galen slowed down, laying a leaf on his chest. “When you meet this landlord, you will understand just how happy my efforts are making them. Once the money is collected, I will perform for these Pokémon and brighten their days. Give them directions to aid their migration from the town! Generate smiles that will last a lifetime.”

Diantha leaned in to her brother and started whispering. “Rune… are you sure about this? This guy’s weird as a pickle.”

“If he can really take us to the landlord, he can generate as many smiles as he wants,” he mumble back, rolling his eyes.
Episode 5: Blinded by suffering


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 5: Blinded by suffering

“Here we are, the landlord’s place of respite,” Galen said, skipping and dancing ahead. After directing Rune and Diantha across the village, they had to traverse a large, rocky plain before finally coming across a manor. The structure was clearly built by Pokémon with no knowledge of carpentry, yet it stood taller, prouder, and fancier than any of the homes in the rest of Marble Rock.

“Well one thing’s for sure, at least they aren’t flaunting their money,” Rune said, staring up at it. “Strange. The paint here looks like it could be redone, the windows aren’t shaped correctly, and it doesn’t even look like there’s a chimney. Even the caves back there had chimneys.”

“Aye. The mistress knows a good bit about stretching every last coin she gets,” Galen said.

“The mistress? Wait, the landlord’s a woman?” Rune asked.

“Is that surprising?” he replied. Rune paused.

“Lord isn’t quite the name I’d give to woman,” Rune admitted.

“Rune! Don’t be sexist!” Diantha snapped.

“Aye! Try to be courteous, now. The mistress isn’t afraid to hide her disdain for the royal family. You’ll want to prove her attitude wrong,” Galen said, leading them right in. The front doors didn’t even have a lock.

“Wait, shouldn’t we knock first?” Rune asked.

“Ha! With hands like these, do you think I could knock?” Galen laughed, showing off his leafy arms. Rune started sweating awkwardly. “Milady, I have returned with today’s collections! And they’re bigger than last week!”

Rune folded his arms whilst Diantha eyed the decoration of the house. It was a step up from the cave houses of the village, but still bare compared to the castle they were used to. Wooden floorboards with a few holes and marks, some loose nails jutting out of the structural pillars, and hallways built so half-haphazardly that they weren’t even straight or symmetrical, was what made up the interior of the manor. There was a lot of clear space at least, enabling them to see the walkways on the upper floors and the many doors available.

“Milady? Yoo hoo, milady Kelsith! I have this week’s collections,” Galen called out again, coughing due to going to such a high pitch. Some tough Pokémon emerged from the main room and approached them. They were all Pawniard, besides one Emolga that was casually leaning on the outside of one of the balconies to look down at them.

“They all have royal pin badges. They have royal guards, too?” Rune muttered to himself, watching in interest.

“I’m coming I’m coming, no need to shout!” A young woman’s voice finally responded. The Pokémon came from a room on one of the upper floors and didn’t seem to be taking many steps, despite rushing down to meet them with heavy footsteps. Rune had to hide a smile when she finally came into view, immediately noting how attractive she looked.

It was definitely a Pokémon he hadn’t seen before, a fox-like Pokémon with a captivating, pale cream fur coat with smooth, bright pink fur across her ears and upper head. She seemed to have bows tied to her chest and left ear, both with two, lengthy ribbons coming from them. She was very smooth and clean, but noticeably chubby. In fact, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say that she was fat when compared to the rest of her species.

“There you are! You’re looking as fine as ever, milady Kelsith. I’m surprised, Are you too pretty to look dull?” Galen said, bowing.

“Thanks, but save the flattery until we’re done working. How much extra are we talking?” Kelsith replied, stopping directly in front of him. He revealed a heavy sack of coins and she immediately snatched it to peer inside, using her feelers in place of hands. The movement brought Rune and Diantha’s mouths to the ground.

“Only about an extra two hundred Dragon Power. That one came from what they caught from the Breeding Grounds,” Galen said with a nod.

“You took from the Pokémon that got sent there?” Kelsith asked.

“I didn’t, they did. To be fair, Pokémon who have their days numbered there have no use for gold,” he said. Kelsith sighed and resealed the sack, having to put a lot of effort into carrying it on her back. Her feelers kept a hold of it, like ropes keeping supplies to a carriage.

“Fine, but that’s the pay that belongs to the hoarders. They don’t owe me anything because the Breeding Grounds are their land, I’ve told you that before,” she said, shaking her head. “And who’re these? I didn’t give you permission to bring friends.”

“Did you hear that? We’re already classed as friends!” Galen cheered, grabbing Rune’s hands to jump for joy with him.

“Wha-what? O-okay, stop!” he coughed, taken by surprise.

“Well you seem happy about that,” Diantha giggled.

“Galen!” Kelsith shouted.

“Yes yes, I know. These two wanted to speak with you, actually. It’s the crown prince and the princess of Castle Eris, up in the mountains,” Galen said, politely making way for Rune to step forwards.

“Wait, you’re who?” Kelsith choked.

“Prince Rune. I’ve come to inquire about the state of the funding here in Marble Rock. The amount you’re taxing Pokémon is causing an unhealthy amount of problems,” Rune said, bowing as well. Kelsith leapt backwards faster than he thought she could move, gawking at him and Diantha.

“G-G-Galen! You idiot, you brought the friggin’ crown prince here?” she screamed. “Guards, strike him down! Capture him, don’t let him move!”

Just like that, the Pawniard guards bared their claws and entered battle ready poses, all of them familiar to Rune. Many more emerged from various rooms and created a formation as well, unnerving Diantha and Galen. Rune didn’t move however, still staring at the pink Pokémon.

“Whoa whoa whoa, what’s goin’ on, what’d I do?” Diantha said, throwing her arms up.

“Now now, there’s no need for this much violence, is there?” Galen added, doing the same.

“Arms up, prince! Or they will strike you down!” Kelsith said. Rune didn’t reply, continuing to stare at her. “Oh, feeling brave, are we?”

“No, I just,” he muttered, blinking a few times. “Ah, I see now. Round, pink body, short and fat… you’re a fairy Pokémon, aren’t you?”

Kelsith screamed, making Rune shake his head. “I see now. We’re just dealing with another miscreant. All of you, you stand in the face of the crown prince. Lay down your aggression immediately.”

“Eeek, right! B-b-but, what if I offer you guys triple pay, and the ‘Kelsith Special’? Just lock them up and don’t let him come near!” Kelsith said.

“Sorry your highness, but that’s an offer we can’t refuse. A chance at the Kelsith Special is a dream come true!” one of the Pawniard replied.

“Now this is just underhanded, what have we done to make you this upset? He just wants to help resolve your problems,” Galen said. Rune sighed and took off his scalchop.

“She’s a fairy, Galen. A fairy in a kingdom of dragons. No surprise she’s running this place into the ground. The rumours are true,” he explained, erecting a Razor Shell from his weapon. “So are the sayings. Pokémon change as soon as money’s involved.”

“Ooh ooh ooh, you’re gonna battle them? Let me get a piece of the action, too!” Diantha said excitedly, holding her scalchop with both hands.

“What? No, you stay back! This conflict only involves me,” Rune said.

“That goes against my principles, your highness. Please, allow me to aid you in victory as well,” Galen objected, stepping forward. He revealed a weapon from the inside of his fancy cape, a long, razor sharp conductor’s baton. “I have served you for much time, milady Kelsith. I aided you for your happiness, but if your happiness involves this level of treachery, then I must strike you down.”

“Aaahh, no,” Kelsith panicked, shaking her head. “Guards! Get them!”

“You’ll never get through all those Pokémon on your own. Just lemme help!” Diantha said, taking centre stage. Before Rune could argue any further, she began to execute her attack, entering a prayer pose with her scalchop held between her two hands.

“But your powers,” Rune whispered, watching in interest. The guards were about to come charging when large puddles of water appeared below a bunch of them, leaving them dumbfounded.

“That’s my fly. Now multiply, Water Pledge!” Diantha chanted, punching the ground. That movement seemed to make more puddles appear below more enemies. She followed by punching the air in a cheerful jump, which made the puddles erupt into huge geysers of water. The room was filled with the cries of Pawniard and splashing water as they were all sent into air. As Diantha moved however, a noticeable amount of black smog released from her, quickly fading into the air.

“Whoa, impressive!” Galen said, shoving Rune. “Now’s your chance, boy! Take on the mistress!”

“Oh, right!” he replied, dashing underneath the airborne soldiers. Kelsith turned tail and attempted to escape him, heading straight for the stairs. She even dropped her money sack, running with a spring and a float in each step. The soldiers crashed to the ground behind them both, meeting the faces of Diantha and Galen.

“We’ll take care of you guys, so pay close attention, now!” Diantha said, entering another prayer pose. This time she opened out with a spin and a girly pose, conjuring a number of large cards made of reddish magic. Black smog came out of her as she sent the cards at the Pawniard to attack again, knocking them backwards as the cards exploded with force.

“Trump Card? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Oshawott use that one before,” Galen remarked, catching sight of a Pawniard attacking from the side.

He spun around to hit its claw with his baton sword, and although he was knocked back by his own strike, he used that momentum to twirl into a Razor Leaf attack. Countless, razor thin leaves stormed through the air, forcing the Pawniard to brace and block.

“Nor have I seen a move like that! It’s like you’re dancing or something,” Diantha said, smiling at him. Before they could have a real conversation, the guards got back up and surrounded them both, forcing them to focus.

Meanwhile, Rune had managed to chase Kelsith up a few floors, where she chose to stop climbing and head towards a large set of double doors. Although he was only a couple of seconds behind her, he stopped when he reached the part of the balcony where an Emolga was perched, and pointed his Razor Shell at it.

“Whatever you’re planning, give it up, now. I’ll knock you down here if you get in my way,” he said. Emolga was casually lying back on the banister with its arms tucked behind the back of its head, and slowly looked up at him. He was wearing a pair of thick, rectangular-rimmed glasses.

“Who, me?” he said in a blunt, prideful voice. “I’m not part of this little squabble. Leave me be.”

“And then you surround me in some sort of ambush. I won’t fall for it,” Rune said, thrusting his sword. The Emolga sighed in bother, sliding off the banister.

“Look, I’m just a mailmon. You three starting this mess has slowed me down. So hurry up and get it over with so I can finish my business here and get back to work,” he said. Rune stared at him for a moment, surprised to not see a change of face from the electric type.

“You don’t seem to be too bothered about the big conflict going on downstairs,” Rune said.

“Why should I? It’s not my business,” he answered, half lidded.

“But it is. Don’t act like you don’t care about the battle. The sooner it’s over with, the sooner you can do your ‘business’. So how about you help me end it?” Rune said.

The Emolga gave an exaggerated sigh, and then backflipped off of the upper floor. Rune rushed over to the edge to watch him, speechless when Emolga began to swoop right in between the fighting Pawniard. He released a bright blast of electricity all around him as he passed them, hitting some and missing others due to their awareness of his intrusion. Those that were hit wound up getting paralysed, stunned to the spot thanks to electricity that continuously crackled across their bodies.

“There. Your friends should be able to deal with the rest. Now go fight the fairy already,” he said in a bothered tone. Rune continued to stare at him.

“What’s your name?” Rune asked slowly.

“Don’t worry about that. Hurry up before she makes an escape out a window or something. Fairy types can float, you know,” Emolga said, gesturing towards the double doors. Kelsith was still there, stretching out her feet once Rune stared at her.

“Erm… thanks for the warning,” he said blankly, slowly stepping away. Emolga watched him for a bit and then went back to lying back on the banister, so he turned his focus to Kelsith at last.

“Stay back, I’m warning you! I’m stronger than I look!” she warned, pointing her feelers forward. Rune didn’t reply, assuming his battle pose. “Okay, you asked for it! I tried to spare you, dragon, but you asked for it!”

She quickly crossed all four of her ribbons together to create an ‘X’ shape, and then unfurled them to release a strong, grey gush of wind. Rune braced the moment he saw it, surprised to feel it was so strong that it whipped him off balance. He did his best to stay on his feet however, using his left hand to form a Water pulse attack.

“If I can’t get close,” he muttered, shooting it at the fairy type. She braced herself all the same as him, taking the water orb on her side. She too was sent backwards a little, but gave him a boastful smile to show her lack of pain from the attack.

“You’re going to have to try harder than that, dragon!” she said, stretching out her feet.

“Then I will!” Rune shouted, dismissing his Razor Shell. He raised both arms and grunted, forming a much larger Water Pulse attack in between them. Once the orb of water was bigger than he was, he bowled it towards her, filling the room with the sound of rushing water. She cried out and dashed to the side to dodge it completely, sprinting towards him as quickly as she could.

“Let’s see if you can handle this!” she said, making it right up to Rune’s face. Before he could reform his Razor Shell, she tackled him to the ground with her feelers, slapping him twice with them before pinning him down as hard as she could. With Rune locked in place, she knelt right down and kissed him on the cheek. A sphere of light pulled away with her, which flew into her body when she hopped back. Rune was left growling and cursing on the ground, shivering from pain.

“I did it. I actually did it. Okay, phew. He’s down,” Kelsith breathed out, calming down as she stepped away. She stretched upwards in fright when he began to stand, rubbing his cheek in bother.

“You have an interesting way of fighting. I’ve never seen techniques like this before. Are these Pokémon attacks?” he asked, readying his Razor Shell again.

“But… Draining Kiss,” she shuddered. “You’re a dragon, that should’ve finished you off!”

“Sorry, but that’s a misjudgement on your end. I’m not a dragon!” Rune shouted, stomping the floor. The movement surrounded his body in water, which he used to spring forward at blinding speed. He crashed right into Kelsith, making her cry out in pain. He didn’t hold back and knocked her down with a Razor Shell at full effort, spinning his whole body round with the slash. He hit the side of her face hard enough to floor her.

Kelsith couldn’t help but shiver on the ground, taking a moment to try and brace the pain the attack had given her. She expected to have a bruise or something on her face thanks to him, but when she tried to stand to continue the fight, her eyes met a real sword. Rune had drawn the Sword of Earthly Elements and had it so close to her that it was prodding her nose, silencing her breath.

“Surrender now or I’ll be forced to fatally harm you. Call off your guards, now!” he ordered, gritting his teeth at her. She sat there on the floor for a little while, unable to stop her eyes from welling up.

“S-stop, please! Everyone, stop fighting!” she suddenly wailed, sounding pathetic. Rune almost felt sorry, but refrained from pulling his weapon away. The sounds of the battle downstairs had stopped though, implying that everyone heard her. “Please don’t hurt me anymore, please don’t kill me please, I’m begging you!”

“Why are you?” Rune muttered, slowly returning his sword to its sheath. Diantha and Galen soon came running, followed by a few Pawniard. Kelsith really was crying like a child however, making Rune groan and tilt his head.

“Big brother, what’s wrong with you? You made a girl cry!” Diantha said. Rune sighed.

“Cut it out already. I’m not going to kill you. But you’re going to have to pay for what you’ve done,” he said with a groan.

“No no, you don’t understand,” she gurgled, trying to force herself to stop. She couldn’t stop wiping her eyes with her feelers. “Of all the days to randomly happen. Oh, this isn’t what I wanted at all.”

“What’re you talking about?” Rune questioned. Kelsith let out some more tears and then finally sighed out loud, getting a hold of herself.

“I’m not the real landlord here. I was originally from Faernia, as you figured out already,” she said. “But please listen to me, I’m begging you.”

“I’m listening,” Rune replied, folding his arms.

“I was disowned from my family due to a disability. But that disability, it was enough to get me disowned from Faernia altogether. I was sent down here once the authorities discovered what was really wrong with me,” she said.

“How’d you get abandoned by an entire planet?” Diantha asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I can’t have children. That kind of disability is too imperfect for their society. Faernia only looks like a perfect haven because they get rid of all their defective species,” Kelsith said, widening Rune’s eyes. “Next thing I knew, I was down in one of Eris’ Breeding Grounds. The same problem occurred – because I couldn’t have any eggs, I was just sat on death’s row. Fattened up and just waiting to be hunted by you savages.”

“But then the miracle of happiness occurred!” Galen said, trying to clap with his leaves.

“Yes. The Pokémon that came to hunt me wound up falling in love. I didn’t know it at the time, but he took me back here rather than killing me outright, and took care of me. Skip forwards five years, and we got married under the radar. I have to stay out of the public eye so I sort of put on weight, but we managed to stay happy regardless,” she said.

“Not like it matters. With cinnamon buns like yours, I’m not surprised he fell in love. He picked wisely,” Diantha remarked, giggling.

“… Cinnamon buns? What?” Rune repeated, tilting his head.

“I can’t have children, so why does that matter to him? He picked for other reasons. But anyway, my husband Emerson, an Umbreon, he fell terribly sick recently. He’s been getting worse and I didn’t know what to do. I-I resorted to trying to get treatment from Faernia,” she explained.

“Why Faernia?” Rune asked.

“Eris is inferior to Faernia when it comes to medical advancement. I couldn’t get a hold of a cure here, so I had to somehow find a solution from the other planet. It’s actually possible, but terribly expensive,” she said.

That must have been what that mailmon was there for, to strike a deal with her,” Rune thought to himself, turning around. The Emolga was gone.

“This way,” Kelsith said, inviting them through the double doors. She immediately freaked out upon entry, finding said Umbreon staggering towards the middle of the room. Even though Rune had never seen an Umbreon before, he didn’t need to be told just how terribly sick the Pokémon really was. Its fur was grey and tattered in places as if it was falling out. “Emerson! What’re you doing out of bed?”

“I heard the shouting and the crying, and had to do something,” he growled, trying to nuzzle into her.

“Please no, please don’t push yourself that hard. This is uh, resolved, now,” she breathed out, holding him up as best as she could.

“It’s okay, Kelsith. I just got woken up, I can walk,” he said, managing to look at everyone. Rune stared at him with an open mouth.

This must be why Father wanted me to journey, rather than simply escorting me to Faernia. He must have known that this whole ordeal was going on, and he wants to know how I’m going to deal with it,” he realised, turning his back to the scene.

“Rune?” Diantha said.

How do I deal with this? She was just trying to save her husband. And after suffering so much because of something she was born with, something she can’t even control,” Rune thought, gritting his teeth. “Do I hold stiff and punish her for her crimes? Or do I try to find a way that all of them can be happy? How could I even resolve this with everyone being happy?

“I got an idea. If you need medicine from Faernia, why don’t you come with us on our journey? We’re actually headed there,” Diantha said. Rune spun in a flash.

“Are you? Whatever for?” Galen asked.

“Wait a minute, Diantha—” Rune coughed, getting his mouth covered by Diantha.

“Rune’s on a journey to marry the princess of Faernia. If you both come with us, I’m sure she’ll listen to your story and help out! Plus you can leave the village, so the Pokémon won’t have to pay any more taxes!” she said. “Plus for us, we get a useful army. As long as you help us fight, we both win!”

“Sis, that’s a terrible idea!” Rune shouted.

“That sounds like it just about resolves every issue we have here. I’m in, a quest for happiness in marriage? A marriage that in turn will ensure the happiness of both planets? It’s very reason I live!” Galen cheered.

“If… if I joined your army and aided that cause, would you truly spare us?” Kelsith asked. Rune tossed his arms up and sighed.

“I’m the one in charge here, not my sister. And that bit of information is confidential to—”

“Oh stuff that! Why shouldn’t other Pokémon know that you’re gonna unite the two planets?” Diantha said.

“Because…” Rune mouthed, losing his words.

“Exactly! We help them, they help us. That’s all there is to it. Plus, what kind of prince journeys without an army?” Diantha said.

“Alright alright, you win. But we have to at least tell that innkeeper about this,” Rune said, giving up with a shake of his head. Around the corner from where they were speaking, Emolga was still there, listening in. He walked off, pressing his glasses up.

“So we’ve got a party of five, now. Not quite a real army, but I’m sure we’ll get there,” Diantha said as they left the manor. She was skipping along, getting pulled back by Rune.

“I’ll do my best. It’s the least I can do since you’re sparing my life. And helping me and Emerson out so… I can’t thank you enough,” Kelsith said, bowing her head.

“I might look like a dying old cookie, but don’t count me out of the picture. I’m a hunter for the Magma Heel region for a reason!” Emerson said, raising a paw with an eager smile.

“Yes but, please don’t push yourself. If you feel tired, please say. I’ll do what I can to protect you,” Kelsith said.

Emerson bowed his head with a groan. “I truly feel vulnerable, having to rely on you so… but it’s all the reason why I love you so.”

“I think I see why you asked these two to join us. The army may be small, but our fighting styles are all very varied,” Rune said, arms folded. “A knight, a dark witch, a bard, a hunter, and a fairy type. It’ll be hard to lose a battle with this many different types.”

“Actually it’s because I wanted to draw out your interests. I saw the way you were starin’ at Kelsith,” Diantha giggled, tucking her hands behind her back.

“Hmm? My… ‘interests’?” he replied.

“You like her cinnamon buns, don’t you? You think she’s hot, hmm?” she said in a sing-song tone. Kelsith’s cheeks turned red, and she turned away with a light groan.

Rune raised an eyebrow. “I actually haven’t the slightest clue what you’re talking about. Whatever you mean by ‘cinnamon buns’ and ‘hot’, I honestly don’t understand.”

“Oh ho. I see, his highness likes to play it cool,” Galen said, set off snickering. Rune raised an eyebrow.

“Do you guys have to talk about me this way?” Kelsith said quietly, still blushing.

“It’s fine, honey. You really are something special, you know. Few Pokémon on Eris will have seen a fairy – a Pokémon as beautiful as you are,” Emerson said, posing boastfully. “It’s only natural you’ll get a lot of looks and comments. But cinnamon buns and attractiveness aside, everything about you is the reason I hold your paw in marriage.”

“See, there’s the real reason. You wanna know how to treat a wife, just observe these two!” Diantha said, giggling. “Take what you like from ‘em and adapt it your own way.”

“I… see… Does that include the part about… ‘cinnamon buns’?” Rune asked, tilting his head.

“Er, you kinda don’t get a choice there. Whatever the princess has is what you stick with!” she said, laughing out loud.

“I’m so confused,” Rune groaned, palming his face.
Episode 6: Constellars


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 6: Constellars

“I see. That’s what’s been going on,” Corey mumbled, scratching his chin. After the battle with Kelsith, where Rune agreed to allow her and her husband Emerson to travel with him, the group returned to the inn in Marble Rock. There, they had explained what had been going on and what they were doing about it, excluding the marriage between Rune and Ariala.

“If you two are leaving, does that mean I won’t have to pay for a while?” the Furret asked.

“You may never have to pay again, if anything. You can return your prices to normal. I’m sorry you had to do such a thing in the first place,” Kelsith said, bowing. Corey prodded his hands together and looked over everyone, smiling sheepishly at Rune.

“Well then, I’m sorry I ever misjudged you! To think that you actually came out of your way and resolved my greatest issues just like that,” he said, snickering. “When will you be leaving? If you wish to stay here tonight, you may, free of charge. It is the least I can do.”

“Well we can’t say no to that hospitality!” Diantha cheered. “Even though we have the manor, which is probably nicer to sleep in. I’ll take up your offer!”

“You’re unbelievable,” Rune said, watching her skip into the bedroom. He turned to the others. “You sure you’re up for this whole army thing? One wrong move and it’ll be royal judgement.”

“I understand. But for what you’re doing for us, this is the least I can do to repay you,” Emerson replied. “May I ask what our plans are from here, though? My condition shouldn’t stop me from fighting, but I’m not sure how much I can do, either.”

“Just do what you can. No offense, but I wouldn’t have expected much, anyway. We don’t even know what your condition is,” Rune said, joining his sister in the bedroom. There were only four beds in the corners of the room and a painted map on one wall. Diantha had already thrown herself back first onto one of the beds, but was examining the map. “Ugh, this map isn’t even useful. I can’t see any Fantasia Ports on it.”

“Fantasia Ports?” Diantha repeated.

“Father said to head to one of those in order to get to Faernia. He said it wouldn’t take long to get there, but to be honest; I lost my sense of direction when I got here. I don’t know where it is anymore,” he said.

“I wish I could help you there, but I’ve spent all my life here, I’m afraid,” Emerson added, settling down on a bed at random. His yellow rings still managed to glow through his grey fur, much like any other Umbreon. “I only know how to get to the Breeding Grounds and back.”

“Galen, you said you travel, right? You know about this Fantasia Port thingy?” Diantha asked.

“I’m afraid my guess is as good as yours, your highness! Never in my years have I ever heard of a port that lets you sail between the two planets,” the Sunflora answered, sounding cheerful. “If such a thing exists, I wouldn’t pass up a chance to spread my music to Faernia!”

Ordinary citizens like these Pokémon don’t seem to have heard of the port before. But they wouldn’t, not with things as they are now,” Rune realised, thinking hard. “Father can’t be lying about its existence, though. He’s gotten to Faernia somehow. I’ll just have to backtrack a bit and regain my bearings.

He looked up and realised that everyone was silent and staring at him. “Of all the things I didn’t bring, why didn’t I bring a damn compass?

“So what’re we gonna do, boss?” Diantha asked, raising an arm. Rune groaned, lost for words on how to reply. He quickly turned that into a look of bother when he noticed a Pokémon standing in the bedroom doorway, watching them. It was the Emolga from the manor.

“Something bothering you?” Rune asked, raising an eyebrow. Emolga pushed up his glasses and walked in, leaning against a wall at random.

“Once I learnt who you were, I had to pay attention. You’re just as pitiful as I was warned,” he said. Rune’s Razor Shell already found itself pointed at his neck. “And I suppose that threatening me will resolve your current dilemma?”

“Keep running your mouth like that, and maybe it’ll solve a dilemma. Silencing annoying Pokémon like you,” Rune replied.

“Don’t make me think less of you. Put away that weapon. Killing me won’t achieve anything good for you,” he said, snorting quietly. Rune leered at him but obeyed, not returning his scalchop to his belly.

“That was pretty hot-headed of you, big bro,” Diantha said, giggling. Rune smacked her with the scalchop. “Ow, what was that for?”

“I’ve heard that the prince was travelling up to Faernia to meet with and marry the princess. I wasn’t told why, but I assume it’s to help unite our two planets,” Emolga explained. “I come across that prince in an unrelated skirmish, he mentions the Fantasia Port, but then doesn’t even know how to get there? This must be a joke.”

“Where did you learn that information?” Rune said, concerned.

“I told you. I’m a mailmon. I hear things,” he answered, unfolding his arms to push up his glasses again. “I can’t bear to just sit and watch this, so I think I’ll guide you part of the way.”

“Oh wait of course! Ptero, you know how to get to Faernia. Please help guide us!” Kelsith said, leaning forward.

“You know this kid?” Rune raised an eyebrow. Kelsith and Emerson exchanged nods, and then gestured for the Emolga to speak.

“My name is Ptero. I am one of the only mailmon in the world with a right to travel between the two planets,” Ptero introduced. “Despite the messy communications, there is a warrant for deliveries to be made between Eris and Faernia. I make those deliveries, and my most recent job was obtaining a cure for Emerson’s condition, whatever it is.”

“So really, this long, drawn out confrontation was about you offering to help get us to Faernia,” Rune said, tapping his arm.

“It’s a more difficult process than you might think. News of your marriage has spread fast due to its open announcement on Faernia. Let me just say that not everyone is in agreement,” Ptero said. “We must travel over the Magma Heel, the volcano to the east of the village. It isn’t far, but it’s dangerous ground. That will take us to one of the world’s Fantasia Ports.”

“Hey, you’d probably know. I’ve been meaning to ask, why do Pokémon call them planets?” Diantha asked. Ptero gave her a disgusted look.

“This only backs up that all royalty are uneducated, spoiled snobs. You must be joking; you really don’t know?” he replied. Rune sighed loudly.

“I’m privy to release this information, but no, neither of us know. Me and my sister have never left the castle,” Rune said, shocking the others. “This is my first time seeing the outside world other than paintings and such.”

“Well, sorta. I’ve been out here a bit, but I’ve never been as far as that nasty Magma Heel,” Diantha said. Ptero growled and gritted his teeth.

“I… see,” he breathed out. “They’re called planets because they have their own ecosphere, as well as being classable as planet sized in mass. But really, both Eris and Faernia are connected, and are debated as being their own, single planet by astrologers.”

“Why would something like that be debated? They are or they aren’t separate planets,” Rune said.

“You see, both planets combine to form a world we call ‘Etheria’. Really, Etheria is just a single planet – Eris – with a giant outer rim around it. That outer rim is Faernia,” Ptero continued. “As I said before, each planet has its own ecosphere, separated by a layer of space with no atmosphere. They each have their own climate, tectonic plates, orbit pattern, all the things that make a planet. Flying between them is no simple matter, so the Pokémon that live on the outer rim took to calling it a planet: Faernia.”

“To get through an area without atmosphere,” Rune muttered.

“You use a fantasia ship, from the aforementioned port. Such a trip is a dangerous procedure that’s strictly reserved for very special cases like myself,” Ptero said.

“Then we’ll be counting on you to guide us through Magma Heel and to get us a trip, then,” Rune said, walking over. “That is, if you actually intend to help us. Really, why did you follow us?”

“Put two and two together already. You recruited my most recent agents. I had to find out if they still wanted the deal or not,” he said after a tired sigh, shaking his head.

“Is Ptero really allowed to join us, big bro?” Diantha asked.

“I’ll guide you to the port, no more. I have my own work to do,” Ptero answered for him. He turned to leave, stopping in the doorway. “Meet me at the eastern edge of the village at sunrise. Any later and I’ll be gone.”

He left after that, leaving the room in silence. Rune kept staring at the doorway though, slowly returning his scalchop to his belly. “What he said makes sense, and yet, I can’t shake the feeling he came after me for something else.

“I can’t believe we get to travel with that guy. I better get bonding, quick,” Diantha squeaked, pulling out a mirror to sort out her head fur.

“What’s up with you?” Rune asked.

“Really? Did you see that guy? He was the definition of hot! But he didn’t even look at me. I gotta get in gear and actually talk to him when we see him!” she said. Rune didn’t offer a comment outside of palming his face and shaking his head.

The next morning…

It didn’t take long for Rune’s comfort to waver. Thanks to Ptero’s guidance, the group were now on rather high ground, stomping their way up a humid mountain that was clearly part of a volcano. They had been trekking up and down these mountainous hills all morning, and by the time it was midday, had reached the very limit of what would be a safe enough trip for them.

Embers stung them constantly, the air was sooty and dark, and the floor felt like it was stabbing their feet with each step. From what he could see to his right, a volcano was spewing out fumes, whilst the left unveiled a river of lava. The same reddish yellowish glow trailed its way all over the jagged flooring too, like veins of lava pumping throughout the area.

“Alright, this stinks now. It’s so hot,” Diantha cried, slumping forward. “Why do we have to walk through here again?”

“Going across the mountain is the only actual way to get to the Fantasia Port. You can’t go around without at least having to climb one of these mountains,” Ptero replied, skipping across the ground. “Magma Heel just so happens to be the quickest way. If we keep up this pace, we’ll get there by the afternoon.”

“Even I must admit, this heat is pushing it, though,” Galen said, hung forward so much that his leaves were dragging across the ground.

“I heard that Eris had a lot of awful terrain, but this is something else. There aren’t even any feral Pokémon around,” Kelsith said.

“I wouldn’t be so sure. It’s foggy enough for us to get ambushed,” Rune said. “If that happens, I’ll have your life, Ptero.”

“Then my life is as safe as can be. I’ve been through here enough times to know that nothing lives here,” he said, a heavy tone of certainty in his voice. They kept following the skipping Emolga until a loud crumbling sound took over the area, causing everyone to stop.

“Nothing lives here, huh?” Rune said, checking his sides again. Even though the sound of crumbling rock took over, nothing seemed to be happening around them.

“Keep moving. There’s probably some natural activity,” Ptero said with a shake of his head, going back to leading.

Rune groaned and kept up, making sure that Diantha and the Emolga were both in his sight the whole time. It took minutes, but he soon found that the soot in the air was beginning to thicken so much that he couldn’t even see them properly. It was a gradual change that he didn’t realise was happening until Ptero was completely invisible.

“Everyone, halt! It’s getting thicker,” Rune called out. Emerson’s rings stood out in the gritty air, showing that he obeyed. “This is an ambush, isn’t it?”

Everyone stood tense, awaiting another order from the prince. To his surprise, the black air began to fade away, getting replaced with clear but molten surroundings. Wherever they had stumbled to while it was foggy, the lava was now closer to them than was comforting. It was so close that they could hear the river of it bubbling along, as well as the rocks it transported. They all made a crumbling rumble.

“What’s going on?” Kelsith asked, looking around. Everyone was present and as overheated as earlier.

“As I said, natural activity. Some rock from the volcano must have fallen into the volcano and created a burst of smoke. It’s all cleared, now,” Ptero said.

Rune scanned the environment one last time, finding it to be the same as before. The lava river to their left, the volcano to the right, and the sky, black and covered in smouldering clouds. Still, the sound of crumbling and destruction sounded louder than it should, and he turned to the volcano again.

“A rock slide!” Rune shouted, spotting it suddenly. Huge boulders were rolling towards them in a wide layer that would sweep them all if they didn’t act.

“Get behind me, now!” Emerson ordered, siding with Kelsith. The two of them glowed with energy and pointed their paws forward, working together to form a tall wall of glassy light in front of them. “The Reflect barrier should help.”

Rune and Diantha obeyed, but the former still growled and put some effort into a Water Pulse attack. He shouted as he chucked it forwards, managing to smash one of the boulders long before it reached them. Many more were directly behind it. “This was an intentional attack!”

“Never mind that, just break ‘em!” Diantha cried, praying for her attack. She released Water Pledge in front of them, magically attacking the boulders with a huge sprout of water from underneath. There were too many to hold back however, and the group soon found themselves completely surrounded by the deafening sound of giant rocks slamming down beside them. Kelsith and Emerson cried out with effort as many of the rocks smashed against their barrier, but they held strong and didn’t waver any more than leaning backwards with each hit.

“Rune, look out!” Ptero said, flying above the whole thing. Rune heard him enough to glance up in surprise that he was there. When he focused back on what was in front of him, he was knocked down by something, something fast and white.

“Damn, what?” he coughed, flipping to his feet. He drew his Razor Shell and swung at the white blur in front of him, missing and being thrown into a moment of slow motion. The creature was four legged and had some tough, black nails on its feet, with had one of those feet drawn back for a punch. Powerful energy bathed said foot as it was drawn back, getting released all at once as it delivered a winding punch to Rune’s stomach, and he cried out so dryly that he lost his voice.

“Rune!” Galen cried, only just realising what was happening. The Oshawott stomped forwards to avoid falling to the floor, but had to take a moment to clutch his belly to resist the pain. His attacker used that moment to get away, revealing itself at last.

The creature was taller than Kelsith and Emerson, with rougher fur and a long, beardy mane. Its body was sleeker and had a black, scythe shaped tail. The most notable thing about this Pokémon was the intimidating mask it wore, a mask with only one eye socket. One half was pitch black whilst the other was white, and small, rectangular holes like that of a scarecrow’s mouth made for the mouth holes. The upper portion of the mask as cracked on the left and right, making room for the Pokémon’s facial fur to show through, as well as another scythe.

“Rune, help!” Diantha cried, revealing that she was being imprisoned by the Pokémon. It had one of its hind legs pressing her into the molten rock below.

“You! Release my sister!” Rune roared at the top of his voice, stomping the ground to cover himself with water. He flew at the Pokémon with Aqua Jet, pointing his Razor Shell forward during the same attack.

“Rune, be careful!” Ptero said. The Pokémon avoided Rune’s attack with the ease of a lean to the side, once again trapping him in a slow-motion moment. His front claws were bathed in dark energy again, which he used to punch Rune right back to where he started.

“His Sucker Punch packs a real punch. If we strike first from a distance, we’ll get caught,” Emerson said as Rune struggled back to his feet.

“It’s an Absol. They’re good at that,” Ptero said, landing by them.

“Who are you?” Rune shouted fiercely.

“Disappointing. You’ve lost your mind already,” the Absol replied on top of Diantha’s struggled moans. His voice was calm and collected, unlike the chaotic environment around him. “Is keeping a hold of your sister all it takes?”

“What do you want with her? Release her now or I’ll kill you!” Rune said, keeping his volume high.

“Or perhaps my appearance has left an impression? Either way, you would do well to calm down, dear child. This will not take long,” Absol said. The single eye they could see through his mask was static, completely unmoving despite his head movements.

“You stand before his royal highness, prince Rune! Identify yourself, or else!” Ptero said, spinning once. He held two thin knives in his small hands, ready to fight.

“Him being the prince makes no difference to this. But Rune is the only one that matters, here. The rest of you will have to stay out of this,” Absol said, placing his front paws together. His body flashed and some screeches suddenly sounded out, followed by the appearance of some faded creatures on the ground in front of him. “But I know you’ll try to get in the way, so stay occupied whilst I go about my business with Rune.”

“Holy crap, he’s a Constellar,” Ptero whispered.

“A Constellar?” Rune said, glancing at him.

“Some twisted religion that’s only on Faernia. They worship the stars or something,” Kelsith answered.

“Skip the trivia, what’s important now?” Rune said.

“They summon those white creatures called Ancient Spectres. Ancient Spectres are highly skilled and can only be killed by a counterattack,” Ptero said, drawing their attention to the monsters the Absol had called up.

The Spectres looked like ordinary Pokémon shape-wise, but their bodies lacked all texture besides a ghostly white skin. Despite screeching when they were formed, the spectres didn’t make any sound at all when they came charging, their natural weapons bared and ready to strike. Some were four legged and had claws; others showed teeth, and one even showed bladed arms.

“Whatever, I’ll just tear through them all!” Rune said, lunging at them to attack. To his surprise, Ptero’s warning came true, and his Razor Shell passed right through the body of the ghostly creature, letting it slash him fatally. Rune roared as his chest was sliced open enough to draw blood, but still he remained on his feet.

“Your highness, counterattacks!” Galen said, throwing a Razor Leaf at the enemies. The leaves flew right through the Spectres as if they weren’t even there, not even so much as slowing them down. Ptero finally came to Rune’s rescue, shoving him out of the way to take the fight into his own hands. He waited until the Spectre attempted to slash him before tackling it with a Spark attack, sending the enemy to the floor in a sparking mess.

“Like so. You can only hit them a moment after they try to hit you,” he said, glancing back at Rune. Rune growled and forced himself to stand, unable to remove one hand from the cut on his chest. It wasn’t as fatal as it looked to be, but it was bleeding and it had him breathing loudly.

“I see. How much will you refuse to listen, Rune? Will it be until you allow yourself to be mortally wounded? Is that what you would consider protecting the ones you love?” Absol said, watching the battle unfold. He stared at Rune in particular, giving a sigh of disappointment that Rune and his allies were struggling to get past the Spectres. “Even with the solution told to your face, you’re struggling to keep standing and fighting. It’s laughable. Someone who spent ten years of their life getting stronger for the sake of protecting, and you can’t even so much as defeat a single Constellar. If you keep behaving like that, you won’t stand a chance against the real thing.”

“You shut up! Stop being a coward and fight like a real man!” Rune said, clashing with the Spectre. He managed to knock it away and stabbed it, but was quickly beset by another one, one with claws.

“Real men aren’t a danger to you and your sister, Rune. Perhaps you can defeat what you consider to be a real man, but if you can’t defeat the unexpected, then you’ve no right to be the protector of our planet,” Absol replied.

“Bastard rogue, how dare you speak to me that way!” Rune said, still deep in combat with the Spectre. Kelsith and the others were being targeted by their own Spectres, having just as much trouble taking them out.

“This is just pitiful, now,” Absol sighed, watching them all.

“Um, excuse me,” Diantha spoke up, still trapped underneath one of his back legs. “I know this is an awkward time and thing to ask but… I feel like I know you.”

The statement made Absol turn his head to look at her. “Yeah, I don’t know why, but the way you’re talking, I feel like I’ve known you for ages or something. What’s your name?”

“You may call me Mirror, in the brief moments of life that remain to you, my dear,” he said, stomping his back foot down on her. She cried out in pain and started to squirm as his grip put more pressure on her than before, so much that she could feel herself getting pressed into the heated rock below. Mirror’s nails dug into her back all the time, and once they started to pierce her fur and skin, she started thrashing and screaming in pain, shaking her hands and feet in desperation.

“Sis! Sis no, let her go!” Rune roared at the top of his voice, trying to dismiss the Spectre. His Razor Shell refused to hit it in the moment, enabling it to clash with him again and stop him in place.

Despite how much she struggled, Diantha couldn’t stop Mirror’s foot from crushing her alive. It didn’t take long before she lost her voice to pain, but that was the end of it. Right when she was sure that parts of her body were breaking, her eyes lit up with smoky darkness and an eerie gleam of fiery white. Black energy started to crackle around her like some sort of dark electricity, loosening Mirror’s grip slightly.

“It begins,” he said, looking down at her. Diantha suddenly exploded, hard enough to make Mirror cry out and have to jump away. The force of the blast took everyone off their feet, but Rune didn’t hold back and flipped right back up. He lunged at Mirror with an Aqua Jet, only to face the very same attack that their battle opened out with. He was dodged with an easy shift to the left, trapped in a slow-motion moment where he got so see Sucker Punch charging around Mirror’s front foot. A second later he was struck back at full force, sent scraping across the molten floor in a fit of coughing and sputtering.

“Even after seeing everything that happened and being faced with your demise, you let your anger control you and fell for the very same attack,” Mirror said, watching everyone fret over Rune’s discarded body. He wasn’t standing nearly as quickly now, implying his defeat. “Pitiful, truly pitiful.”

As if right on cue, Diantha screamed at the top of voice, suddenly expelling a storm of the black electricity in a huge pillar that rose into the sky. It sounded like a mighty lightning bolt striking something as it left her body and tore the clouds apart, silencing the world around them when its deafening volume came to a sudden halt. Diantha was left shivering and breathing heavily.

“S-sis,” Rune growled, not taking his eyes off of her. Ptero and Galen had to help him up, but he immediately dismissed them to stumble over to her. She was out cold on the floor, but was visually unharmed.

“He’s gone!” Kelsith gasped, unable to find the Absol anywhere. “What was that all about? He just attacked us and ran?”

“Never mind that now. If he’s gone, then all the better. We need to get the prince and princess looked at immediately,” Emerson said, nodding at them.

“Yes, right,” Kelsith nodded.
Episode 7: The saint’s departure


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Ariala Asgard.png

A word of warning: this is a chapter that contains sexual references, as warned in the first post of this thread.

Episode 7: The saint’s departure

Dark storm clouds blanketed the sky above. A heavy, howling wind threatened to whip the rain right from those clouds, but the Pokémon below them showed no care to that oncoming danger.

They couldn’t care. They were in the middle of something too important to care about a little rain. Atop the ruins of an ancient castle that was wrecked with damage were thousands of Pokémon, each taking a side of the battlefield. One army stood behind a tall, fierce, battle-worn Dewott who wielded a glowing sword, whilst the other army stood behind two mythical Pokémon, Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele.

The Dewott and Tapu stared each other down with as much anger that their gazes alone could kill. Knowing of their unavoidable bout, Tapu Koko gave a bird-like screech, stretching out its masked arms to release a field of Electric Terrain.

In the direct centre of the two Pokémon, a Clefable sat, waking up to witness the oncoming battle. She stood up in panic, gasping frantically at both the Dewott and the Tapu.

“Damn you Tapu Koko. Damn you!” Dewott shouted, stretching his sword forward. “You took everything from me! My sister, my father, even my wife! I’ll kill you!”

“Then come. Attack me if you dare,” Tapu Koko replied in his aged, deep voice.

“You’re either too stupid to realise what you’re getting yourself into, or you’re just so brave you’re stupid!” Tapu Lele laughed, floating above the battle. The Dewott roared at the top of his voice and came charging, dragging the blade of his sword across the stone ground as he approached in an arc.

“Rune, wait!” Clefable put her arm out to stop him. “Wait… Rune? How do I know it’s Rune?

The Dewott ran right past her as if she wasn’t even there, jumping high into the air to slam his weapon straight down onto the mythical electric type. Tapu Koko used his right mask as a shield, shoving it forwards to push Dewott away.

“Rune, stop!” Clefable cried again. The duo continued to ignore her, going at each other with deadly intent in each of their attacks. Dewott was stabbing and slashing with roars of effort, whilst Tapu Koko evaded or shielded every hit, eventually retaliating with a mighty Thunderbolt. The electrified terrain seemed to join in with the attack, shocking the Dewott from every conceivable direction. The whole thing quickly exploded, rendering Dewott as a burnt heap on the floor, barely breathing.

“Pathetic,” Tapu Koko said, surrounding himself in a crackling orb of electricity. He shifted backwards in preparation for a Wild Charge, sending Clefable to a full panic.

“N-no, please! My Lord Tapu Koko, don’t kill him!” she said, throwing herself into the centre of the battle. Tapu Koko seemingly couldn’t even hear her, shooting off at the speed of a rocket. He went straight through her like a ghost, physically ignoring her presence completely. She froze in shock of the moment, able to hear nothing but Dewott’s deathly scream from behind her.

Tapu Lele laughed childishly, covering her metaphorical mouth with a hand. “That was over so fast that it wasn’t even entertaining. But that’s what happens when a puny mortal challenges a God.”

As the childish legendary spoke, a familiar puddle of dark, swampy waste began to pool beneath her, radiating with black electricity. The puddle stretched upwards until it began to smother her, replacing Tapu Lele’s intriguing patterns with dark flames and a poisonous colour.

“You’re next, fool. Not even the devout shall be spared,” she said, suddenly sounding a lot deeper and terrifying in tone. Clefable flinched and stared up at her, meeting her pupil-less, soulless eyes.

“N-no! Wa-wait, please! Rune, help!” Clefable screamed as Tapu Lele attacked.

The next moment passed by in a blur. Clefable shot awake, sitting up so madly that she fell forwards and rolled right out of bed, toppling to the floor in a heap. She shivered in pain and discomfort, still able to hear the screams and cries she had emitted in her nightmare.

That was until the noise intensified and she realised that it wasn’t the nightmare, it was reality. She was whimpering in pain, but those whimpers sounded as loud as an Exploud with a microphone speaker. Every other sound in the area was echoing on top of those whimpers at an unbearable volume, leaving her crying in agony. The footsteps of the Pokémon patrolling the castle, the chatter of the commoners outside, the running water in the castle’s depths - she could hear all of it, and all at hundreds of times the volume it should have been.

“Ariala? Ariala, are you okay?” a female Meowstic sung, casually entering the room. As soon as she saw the Clefable curled up on the floor she freaked out, immediately realising what was wrong. She sat Ariala up, getting her attention.

Ariala could barely look at her, deafened to what the Meowstic was saying even though they were right in front of each other. Thankfully she didn’t need to, as the Meowstic said all it needed to through her body movements. She put a paw to her mouth and then covered her ears with her paws, and although still struggling to move, Ariala copied. It took a few minutes of muffled breaths and unstable shuddering, but surely enough, the overwhelming sounds dulled out and she could return to sitting normally.

“Nier, thank you,” Ariala said with a sigh of relief, letting go of her ears. She took a moment to steady her breathing and wake up properly, focusing her eyesight on everything around.

The Meowstic knelt in front of her was an old friend and now a retainer. There was nothing that differentiated Nier from other Meowstic besides her size and the unique weapon she carried, a rapier with a shiny orb on the end of the handle. Otherwise, Nier was the one Pokémon that kept Ariala from questioning whether she was fat or not, since the Meowstic somehow managed to retain a wider belly than the Clefable. She would never admit that comment aloud, though.

“Good… morning,” Ariala said, leaning back to relax. Nier stayed quiet until she was sure that Ariala was fine, and stood up.

“You sure you’re alright? There are better places to sleep than on the floor, you know,” she said, putting her paws on her wide hips. Unlike other female Meowstic, she didn’t look the slightest bit unsociable. “Good morning anyway, your highness! Excited about today?”

“I- yes, sort of,” Ariala replied, using her bed to help her stand. She brushed herself off and scanned the room, still more dazed than she thought. Nothing was different from the usual; her room in the castle was grand, clear, carpeted, and well furnished. Drawers and shelves of trinkets and belongings were dust free, and a large window was just waiting to have its curtains opened to light everything up, revealing their pinkish colours. Everything in Ariala’s room was pink – she could camouflage herself there if she wanted to.

“You had another nightmare, didn’t you,” Nier said, still holding her hips. Ariala sighed and looked down. “What happened in it this time?”

“It was the same as the ones before. Our Lord Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele performing heinous acts against Eris. Did you ever get to see Tapu Fini about this?” she replied.

“We did. As soon as we did, she stopped responding to Pokémon. No one could get their fortunes read for the rest of the day. So it’s definitely a foreboding of something. Still though, we can’t let it stop us now. You got all your bag and stuff sorted?” Nier said.

“Yes, I prepared last night. I have everything I need for travel except,” Ariala smiled at last. She glanced left and right in search of something, finding it hung up next to a mirror on the wall. A red fan made of diamond with knives hidden within its folds. She hopped up to snatch it off the wall, clasping it tightly between her three fingers. She swung it like a weapon twice and then folded it, showing her friend how confident she was with it. “Do you have my clothing as well?”

“Vincent’s bringing it, so we’ve just gotta wait for him. This is so exciting, though! I could barely sleep,” Nier raised her arms. “A trip across Faernia. It’s been so long!”

“This is not a holiday, you know,” she reached for her travel bag, scrolling through its pockets to check its contents.

“I know I know, but it’s still exciting! It’s been years since me and Vincent went on a big trip around here, so I bet loads has changed. Plus, you’ve never been out of the castle, so you like, have to sightsee!” Nier cheered.

Ariala sighed and looked away. “Yes. For the first time in ten years, I will be seeing the outside world of Faernia,” she said softly. “This is except that one time. I wonder if Eris is still the same?

“Oh yeah. I know it’s still a while away, but have you decided whether you’re actually going to marry Prince Rune or not?”

“I’m going to. Not because the Queen demanded it, but because I truly believe in the purpose of this ceremony,” Ariala held a hand to her chest. “If our two kingdoms can begin working together, then all of Etheria can prosper from it. But first, I must see the outside world for myself. Never forget that that is why I am asking you all for help on this.”

“And all the more reason we gotta get you to relax and sightsee!” Nier pumped her fist.

Ariala froze. “You set me up for that, didn’t you?”

“Ariala? Nier? You girls in there?” a rough voice called from outside the room, knocking at the same time. “I’m coming in!”

Before either of the girls could say anything, the Pokémon barged in but carefully shut the door behind him. It was the second of Ariala’s retainers, and possibly the most unusual Pokémon in the world. He was tall, bipedal, and coated in aquatic blue fur like a Dewott, but his features were what made him unique. He had the features of a Dewott and a male Meowstic from head to toe, as if his body couldn’t decide on one of the other. His fur, eyes, whiskers, arms, and legs were that of a Dewott, whilst his ears, tail, scarf, hands, and waist were that of a Meowstic. He looked confused but frustrated, gritting his uneven teeth together. He only had one Meowstic tail, but it was far longer and flexible than it should have been.

“Vincent! Did you find Ariala’s costume?” Nier waved to him.

“Urf, that’s what I’m here about, actually. Keep your voice down, there’s guards outside the room,” he said, revealing a length of cloth. “You said you hid her clothing in the storeroom, right? All I found in there was this thing.”

“Yup, that’s it! Specially chosen and should fit just right!” she said, snatching the cloth to hand it to the princess.

“Nier, we left you to choose Ariala’s clothing because we trusted you to find something that would disguise the fact that she’s princess. That little cloth won’t do a thing!” he said.

“This qualifies as clothing?” Ariala muttered, examining the cloth in confusion. It was more like a scarf if anything. Pure red, long, and with a cute bow tie sewed onto it.

“Course it will! I chose it because it’ll make her look sexy,” Nier replied.

“Sexy? What the- that’s not what we were going for!” Vincent raised his voice.

“It wasn’t exactly, but its genius! Everyone who knows the princess knows how devout she is. No one would ever expect her to look attractive.”

“Nier, we’re supposed to detract attention, not attract attention. And for the love of the gods, what about this thing would make a Pokémon look ‘sexy’ of all things?”

“Ah I guess you wouldn’t understand it. It’s a lady thing. I wouldn’t expect you to have a fashion sense.”

“What? How the- look, forget it. There is no way that we’re travelling Faernia with Ariala wearing this ridiculous—”

“Is this how I’m supposed to wear it?” Ariala said, revealing that she had put on the cloth anyway. She had tied it around her waist like a belt, ensuring that it just about covered her crotch. The bow was on her front, acting as a sort of pocket which she could slip her fan into. Both Meowstic stared in disbelief, gawking at her. “Well it’s true that I don’t know about this whole ‘sexy’ thing, but it must be working. Both of you are staring right at my legs.”

“N-no I wasn’t!” Vincent said, turning away to hide a blush.

“See Vincent? It’s perfect!” Nier laughed, making him groan. She ignored his embarrassment to jump on him, wrapping her legs around his waist to latch herself to him. Surprisingly enough, they didn’t fall over.

“Wa-wait, N-Nier! What are you—”

“Ha ha, no need to be nervous now, little man. We’re all mates here, so just admit I did good, right?” she said, squeezing his nose. He stared at her and then slowly engaged her in a hug, more so that he could keep his balance.

“Yeesh, you’re such a handful. Fine I’ll go through with it for now, but we’ll buy some actual clothes after we leave,” he sighed. She giggled at him and gave him a half lidded look. “Now get off me already!”

“Not until you admit that I win,” she said.

“Win at what? The only thing I see you winning at lately is an eating contest,”

“Oh har har. Where’d you hear that one, the gym?”

“Was that supposed to be a roast? Because going to the gym is a good thing.”

Ariala sat there and watched them exchange insults back and forth, taking notice of the duo’s slow descent into affection. For some reason she found herself giggling at them and then eventually laughing out loud, which finally rendered them silent.

“Sorry, you two never stop, do you? But it’s intriguing to see,” she said, still giggling a little. “The only married couple I know are the two Pokémon that argue the most over the smallest of things. It goes against everything my tutors taught me.”

“That’s not funny though! Your highness, are you really going to travel wearing that… whatever that is?” Vincent cried.

“You’re staring at my legs again, so yes, I am. It clearly functions as intended,” she replied. Vincent palmed his face while Nier gave him a cheeky look. “Also, please call me Ariala from here on out.”

“That’s no better than calling you ‘your highness’!”

“The aim of this is to blend in, not to directly hide myself. After all, we’re going out to meet Prince Rune,” she said. Vincent sighed.

“Fine, you win,” he said with a shrug.

“Yes! In your face!”

“Not you, damn it!”

“Do you have your weapon, Vincent? If you do, we can leave now,” Ariala asked. Vincent seemed to switch mood suddenly, looking stern about something.

“Not with me, but I can sort that out. You two depart as intended, and I’ll catch up,” he said, leaving quickly.

“Vincent?” she said.

“He’s fine. Shall we go then?” Nier said, taking the princess’ hand.

Ariala reluctantly followed, ensuring that she was wearing her travel bag properly. The duo drew the curtains of the large window, revealing that it was a window built on top of a glass door that led out onto a small balcony. Said balcony overlooked a dense forest and was high enough to touch the clouds, leaving mainland civilisation an indeterminate distance away.

“Why didn’t Vincent come prepared?” Ariala asked, eying the scenery.

“He did. Since he’s a hybrid, it causes a bit of trouble when he’s in public. He keeps his own disguise elsewhere,” Nier replied.

“A hybrid? What’s a hybrid?” she asked again, pointing at something below. “Down there. We can land down there.”

“We dunno how they come about, but they’re a combination of two Pokémon together. Vincent’s sorta like a Dewott fused with a Meowstic. He can’t use Pokémon attacks, but it does make him super strong,” Nier said.

She took Ariala’s hand again and whispered a countdown with her, jumping off the balcony upon reaching zero. Wind quickly picked up and ruffled their fur out of place as their descent picked up speed, but Nier rectified that by releasing her Psychic, having to lift up her ears to do so. Both her and Ariala had light blue outlines around them as Nier controlled their descent, Ariala helping herself out by fluttering her small wings. They landed amongst the trees where Ariala had pointed to safe and sound.

“Phew. I will be counting on you both from here on out. It’s quite embarrassing that I don’t know my way around my own home city,” Ariala said.

Curiosity ate at her like a child in a theme park. She wanted to lose herself amongst the quiet trees and plant life around her. The ground was soft and loamy, almost completely made out of soil which grew a variety of flowers and tree sprouts. The wind was pleasant, refreshing, and light on the trees. Even the sunlight that poked through the overhead leaves wasn’t too bright or hot; the whole area evoking a sense of relaxation she wasn’t expecting to have.

“I’m serious about that sightseeing stuff, you know. It’d be better if you led the way and stuff!” Nier said, leading the way anyway and prompting the Clefable to follow.

So this is it. This is really happening. If we get far away enough today, we will never return to this castle until we’re certain of why this proposal was made,” Ariala thought to herself, staring at the ground.

She recalled the time in which the marriage proposal was even announced to her, long after it had been discussed and confirmed. The other royals had made a big deal out of it anyway, giving Ariala an audience and all. However, it had prevented her from actually giving any input to said proposal. Any and all questions she gave had been dodged and left unanswered until it practically became a royal order.

I just cannot understand it. Since that kidnapping, I’ve been confined to Castle Faernia for my safety, but then they throw all of that away by forcing me to marry Prince Rune? Is there some great ulterior motive that I possibly cannot understand?

She looked forward as she recalled the Queen’s blank expression during the entire audience. Interpreters had to speak for the Queen, and nothing they said had bothered her enough to react in any way whatsoever. “Queen Magearna… if unity of our planets is what you truly seek, then I will not let you down.

Her thoughts killed more time than expected, and they soon made it to the first leg of their journey: the city that Castle Faernia overlooked. Ariala’s thoughts drowned to nothing as she gazed around at the unfamiliar skyscrapers that built up this city, still curious about it all.

The green theme of the forest had transformed into an attractive silver and white theme to make up roads, streetlights, fountains, and all sorts of other urban attractions. What caught Ariala’s attention the most was the thin streams of colour running through the streetlights and the edges of the roads, almost as if decorating them. A substance was going through them, but she was clueless as to what.

“Welcome to the Tower of the Tapu, Ariala,” a familiar voice made her jump a little. A Pokémon that hid its species through a huge brown hood and a robe was stood right beside her. She didn’t even notice him turn up.

“No need to scare her, Vincent. But yeah, this is your capital, Ariala! The Tower of the Tapu and the forefront of Faernia’s technology,” Nier said.

“Vincent,” Ariala whispered.

“It’s fine; this is just my outdoor clothing. If you need me to do something, I can do it just fine,” he said, pulling back his hood a bit to reveal it was indeed Vincent.

He and Nier resumed leading, revealing the bustling activity of the city that they were just waiting to get lost in. Neon colours engulfed the scenery no matter where she looked, making up shops, street signs, traffic signals, and more. Rails and wires ran through some of the roads which let single carriage trams transport crowds of Pokémon through them. Other Pokémon glided through the air as if they were on roads, having to abide by their own traffic signals and such. Every last bit of technology here shined openly and had those strange streams running through them.

“So you know how we’ve all been taught to respect the Gods and Goddesses of Faernia? This is what they gift us with in response to our faith. A prospering world that sees little strife,” Vincent explained, using his hands to show it all off.

Looking around, Ariala could see that statement held all the truth it needed to have to reassure her that Faernia was fine. Every Pokémon she looked at was smiling or relaxed as they went about their business, exchanging polite greetings or friendly conversations with one another. There was a Primarina performer singing to a tune with a guitar, getting applause from a few passers that stopped to listen. Some baby Togepi were dragging their mother along to run after a tram that was waiting for them. A Sylveon and a Vaporeon stepped out of an accessory shop, showing off their new looks to each other. She couldn’t help but smile warmly at all the positive activity.

“Wasn’t my marriage proposal to help sort out the worldwide issues occurring recently? I had heard that natural disasters and dangerous weather was damaging parts of Faernia and Eris,” Ariala said.

“It wouldn’t affect here, we’re just too close to the Tapu. But I believe none of them except Fini are here right now because they’ve all gone to help out those other Pokémon in need. They haven’t been seen for a few days,” Vincent said.

“Wait, the Gods themselves aid us?” Ariala asked.

“Yup. You don’t know how it all works, do you?” Nier said.

“I knew that our faith granted us the Tapu’s protection and power, but I did not know that meant them physically being here to help us. The special fortune telling audiences that Tapu Fini gave us was the limit I thought they would communicate with us,” Ariala said.

Vincent cleared his throat. “The four Tapu each have powers that affect the entire planet. For Tapu Koko, his Electric Terrain provides us with power. Equally, he leads our scientists and engineers to develop the technology that you can see enhances our everyday lives. He’s a strict father to us that ensures we never stop being Pokémon, though. The mother, Tapu Lele, provides us with forces and law. It’s her Psychic Terrain that keeps order and stability in the weather and the forces of nature. Without her blessings, I bet half of our technology wouldn’t function as it’s meant to.”

Nier took over. “Meanwhile, Tapu Fini nurtures us with clean water, air, and well, clean everything! Her Misty Terrain basically filters everything to keep it clean and healthy to the touch. On top of making sure we have the top healthcare, she guides us with her visions of the future, as you know. Lastly, Tapu Bulu’s Grassy Terrain keeps our land natural and fertile. It’s his balance with the other Tapu that stops us from becoming lazy or resorting to eating meat. Without him, things like trees and plants and stuff would be dying all over the place.”

“I see. So the substances going through those little pipes are the terrains of the Tapu,” Ariala said.

“Yup! This city, the Tower of the Tapu, is the only place on Faernia where all of their terrains overlap. So it’ll be the best place in all of Etheria for sure,” Nier said. Ariala paused for a moment.

“We should be looking for that clothes shop, by the way. Pokémon are staring at you,” Vincent said, continuing their walk through the streets.

“I wonder why,” Nier said, half lidded.

“This is no good. We need to go further out than this,” Ariala said, shaking her head to stop her retainers. “Is there truly no strife here? Is it possible for the perfect place to exist? I can’t imagine the Gods allowing that to happen.

As if on cue, an alarming sound sharply struck her ears in a way that made her shudder. She stopped to focus on it; making out what sounded like a match had been struck, followed by the lighting of several fuses. The fizzling sound of explosives set to go off was unmistakable, so she reacted by readying her fan.

“Ariala? What’s up?” Nier asked.

“Don’t you hear that?” she replied in panic.

“Remember that you have heightened senses compared to us. If you are losing control of your hearing, then calm down, clench your ears, and focus,” Vincent said.

“No, you don’t understand. A bo—” she cried, getting cut off by the sudden chain of explosions that went off.

Despite how far away they were, the blasts triggered a mass scattering of the public around them. Pokémon immediately screamed their cries and began to run away, although some recognised that they were currently safe and turned to stare at the great cloud of smoke rising in the distance. One of the skyscrapers looked like it fell down as well, generating another overly loud bang that made everyone flinch and cry out when it smashed to the ground.

Ariala’s retainers both turned to her in expectation of her hearing going out of control, but she was fine for now. Seeing the smoke rising up, she nodded and clenched her fan. “Nier, Vincent, don’t worry about me. It’s time for us to do our duty as protectors of Faernia. Let’s go and see what’s going on!”
Episode 8: Civil uncivilised conflicts


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Ariala Asgard.png

Episode 8: Civil uncivilised conflicts

“I thought it’d be here. That was a temple that dropped,” Vincent said as he skidded to a stop. The trio had been following him through the city as best they could, but Ariala’s light body caused her to run with an inconvenient gait. When she ran, she had to skip, hovering in the air for a good moment before touching down to take the next step. For whatever reason it was tiring for her, so she caught up to Vincent and Nier with heavy gasps.

“A temple? Why is a temple a skyscraper?” she asked in between those heavy breaths. Vincent tilted his head at her.

“Not everyone’s as fast and smooth as you, genius,” Nier said. He shrugged.

“The Tapu actually commanded it, I believe. Tapu Lele likes everything to be sophisticated,” he said, walking forward. They turned one more corner to encounter what was really going down.

The building that had fallen was in ruins, shrouded in flames and a sooty skyline. There were quite a lot of Pokémon around, but all of them were chanting and cheering on a Greninja that stood tall and proud in front of the destroyed temple. Otherwise, all other Pokémon seemed to have fled, leaving the place a large, grass covered square where the temple’s garden sat. Sprinklers hidden within the grass had activated to keep the fire at bay, but Greninja was using the arcs of those sprinklers to appear flashy while it posed.

“What’s going on?” Ariala asked once she caught her breath back. Long before she even approached the crowd, many of them turned to her, their gazes giving enough chills to make her freeze. Vincent and Nier exchanged glances and stood guard over her. “Please. What is the meaning of all this?”

“Ho really? We knock down a precious building of yours and what’s the most you retaliate with? A Clefable and two cutesy cats? Surely you’re not so settled in your ways that you’re this idiotic,” Greninja said, jumping up high to land in front of his crowd. His eyes lacked detail beyond bold lines, confusing Ariala as to whether he was actually looking at her or not. He had a scarf resembling a frog’s tongue around his neck, which flowed in the heated wind.

“You did this? You set off bombs and destroyed that temple?” she asked.

“Oh, was that big old thing a temple? I’m sorry, it looked unimportant,” Greninja said. Ariala hesitated to reply, sneaking a look at the rest of the Pokémon behind him. There were hundreds of them and although they all appeared angry, not one of them held a weapon or possessed any armour.

Wait a minute,” she realised. Upon closer inspection, many of the Pokémon were young commoners; just like the many she had seen on the way here. Some of them had a few accessories like ribbons, ties, or bows, at most.

“That’s all? Scared? Not even going to strike us down? Then we’ll go about our business. Hear me now, you pretty fairy! I am Tundra, and I hate your city’s little charade with its Tapu religion. I’m going to destroy every last temple here, and I have just enough explosives to do so!” he shouted.

“I don’t understand, why would you want to destroy the temples?” Ariala said.

“Forget trying to argue with them, Ariala. They’re protesters. The only way we’ll get them to stop is by driving them out,” Vincent said, revealing a spear from within his robe. He lengthened it with a flick, making it taller than himself.

“Wait, but many of them are just commoners!” she put her hand out.

“Commoners? Who are you to put such a label on us?” Tundra said, finally giving an angry look that unveiled his pupil-less red eyes.

“Please wait, I wish to understand what is really going on here,” she said, stepping in front of her retainers. “I am Princess Ariala.”

“Your highness!” Nier coughed.

“If we can resolve this without further damage, then I wish to do so,” she said.

“Princess? Oh, yes, I guess I did hear that the princess was going to marry the prince of Eris. Guess you’re leaving to do that now, huh?” Tundra replied, going quiet. He glanced back at his audience, and then back at Ariala, cracking a sneaky smile, evident by his squinting eyes. “But let’s be serious here. Princess Ariala wouldn’t wear such a provocative piece of thread, would she? You’re just some girl trying to play hero.”

Oh right. I had completely forgotten that I was wearing this thing,” she gasped in her head, looking down at the cloth wrapped around herself. Nier and Vincent exchanged glances, the latter palming his face. “It matters not whether I am wearing provocative clothing or not, anyway. Destroying all the temples with explosives would put many Pokémon in danger. I cannot allow you to harm Pokémon that way, no matter what the reason!”

“Bah, we don’t have time for this. But still - change of plan, folks. How’s about we kidnap this ‘princess’ and her little entourage? Surely with such a bribe, the Tapu will bend to our will!” Greninja said, raising a hand. His audience chanted with him and then came running, raising their fists, claws, and whatever more they had. Just like that, an entire army of Pokémon was threatening to run right into Ariala’s trio.

“Princess, stay back!” Vincent said, hopping into battle. He held his spear with his left hand, letting that arm hang loosely behind him so that the spear wasn’t pointing at an obvious target. He crouched with his right arm hung loosely in front of him, and that was his battle pose. Nier unsheathed her rapier as well, but all she did was stand guard over Ariala.

Just as the crowd got near, Vincent threw back his hood and jumped into the fray. His hybrid appearance must have taken the Pokémon by surprise since they slowed down as soon as his head became visible, not reacting to his lightning fast attacks. He started with a punch to the stomach of the Makuhita at the front, then spun and whacked the Raichu behind with the side of his spear, making sure not to hit with the sharp end. Then he shifted all momentum into a jump backwards, kicking off of a Nidorina that was in waiting. His right hand slashed at anything to his side with its sharp nails, whilst his spear hit anything opposite. Otherwise, it was his feet tripping up or kicking anything nearby.

Of course, the crowd didn’t all focus on the hybrid. Many special attacks were fired off from a distance towards Ariala and Nier, whom were ready for whatever came their way. Nier’s special rapier had a shiny orb on the end of the handle, and that was the side she held upwards, giving the weapon the appearance of a magic wand rather than a sword.

“Protect!” Nier shouted, thrusting her weapon skyward. A green barrier appeared around herself and Ariala, which the special attacks crashed against with great force. Despite the attacks not getting through, the heat of Flamethrowers combined with the cold of Ice Beams, leaving a discomforting radiance in the air around the duo.

“There were so many attacks, but you blocked them all,” Ariala said, gawking at the spectacle. Once the beams let up, Nier released her shield with a spin and unfurled her ears, pushing both paws forward. An invisible wave of psychic force flew through the air, sending a number of the enemy Pokémon flying. Her attack was only as strong as a heavy blast of wind however, and most of their pain came from the way they all crumpled together in a heap. “Vincent’s attacks are knocking them out in one go, too.”

“That’s because we’re strong!” Nier said, putting her paws on her hips.

It was true; Vincent was managing to keep a large number of the Pokémon at bay with some of the wildest movements Ariala had ever seen. He was constantly moving and hitting something with a melee attack of some sort, and each one had enough force to pin a Pokémon to the ground for good.

“I don’t think so,” Ariala said, unable to take her eyes off the conflict. “These are all normal civilians. They’re no more used to fighting than having to drive away a feral insect. They shouldn’t be fighting like this!”

“You say that, but there’s still a lot of ‘em,” Nier replied, readying her weapon again. Her ears remained unfurled and ready to use Psychic. A few seconds later she did just that, blasting away a Scyther that almost sliced Vincent’s back. He waved to her as thanks for the save, and then came running back to their side.

“They’re no threat individually, but their numbers are something,” he huffed, catching his breath. Once again, the crowd of protesters were staring down Ariala’s trio, but this time, many of them looked wearier and more serious. Tundra in particular finally stepped forward, assuming a similar battle pose to Vincent, where he was crouched on the ground.

“I see. Vincent, the cursed hybrid and his wife Nier, the blessed Meowstic. You really are the princess, aren’t you?” he asked, sounding surprisingly calm. He kept a large distance between them both, and his eyes kept shifting side to side as if expecting something.

“Now that you’re certain of that, I will ask you again to call off your attack. Harming Pokémon this way is a serious act of evil!” Ariala said. Just then, her senses spiked again and her ears twitched, picking up the sounds of another crowd of Pokémon approaching. The familiar clop sound of horse feet sprinting across the ground was the clearest, so she kept quiet and edged backwards a little. “Are those reinforcements? Was this attack planned this well?

“Honestly, your words sound a little naïve for the crown royalty of our planet. Do you really have no idea why I hate your damn Tapu so much?” Tundra replied, angrier after every word.

“Forgive me for my current ignorance, but I really do not. Is there something I can do I resolve this peacefully?” she asked. Tundra squinted at her.

“I feel like you’re mocking me, but I’ll play along, anyway,” he growled, stepping forward to ensure he could be heard. “Famine. Earthquakes. Hurricane winds. Even immoral crimes such as thievery and destruction of property.”

Ariala’s eyes widened. “What does that have to do with the Tapu? Fixing the natural disasters is the purpose of my pilgrimage.”

“Tsk. This shit’s been goin’ on since I was a kid, pretty princess. And what have the Tapu done to help?” Tundra said. “Nothing. They let me grow up in the wilderness, having nothing to help myself and my family. While you and your privileged religious dogs sucked up to the Tapu’s favouritism, I watched my family die of starvation, continuing to pray day after day that the Tapu would bless them and take care of them! Now I’m the only one left.”

“That’s horrible!” Ariala cried.

“And I’m not the only one. My friends, the Pokémon behind me, every last one of them has suffered,” Tundra continued, glancing back at the crowd. “I won’t sit back and let this meaningless suffering go on any longer. I’ll become a leader or die trying – I’ll overthrow the blasted Tapu and lead the world into true prosperity!”

“You’re missing a huge point in your little sob story, I’m afraid,” Vincent said. “What justification does this have to blow up buildings? You could’ve killed Pokémon! And if that’s your intention, how does that make you any better than what you make of the Tapu?”

“The Tapu are kinda fickle sometimes, it’s hard to tell what they’re thinking. But they’re omniscient gods; their guidance has kept a relative peace for centuries. When they forsake someone, it can only be for a reason,” Nier added, ready to cast Protect at any moment.

“Regardless of the Tapu’s reasoning, you are bringing harm to innocent Pokémon. I cannot allow that act to go unchecked. If you wish to proceed, then I am afraid that you will force my hand,” Ariala said, finally opening out her fan.

“So what, ‘cos you think my family is evil, that gives you aristocrats and Tapu an excuse to leave us to rot? Didn’t I just tell you that we prayed, day after day? We were devout, and yet, forsaken by the gods we looked up to!” Tundra shouted, losing his patience. Ariala tensed up, not finding the words to reply. “It’s a big, distant dream, but I’m through with trying to reason. I’ll bring down this whole society, even if it kills me!”

At those words, he made a number of signs with his webbed hands and fingers, quickly shifting between signs as he mumbled chants to himself. Vincent seemed to realise what he was doing and lunged forward, only to stop when Tundra suddenly vanished from sight.

“He disappeared?” Ariala said. She flinched when he reappeared directly above her, unable to brace for the heavy kick he landed directly on her face. He flipped off her as she fell to the ground, landing directly on top of her again to pin her body to the ground. Without even looking back, he vanished again as Nier retaliated from behind, attempting to slash him with her rapier.

“He’s fast!” she choked, next to be put down by a Water Shuriken attack she didn’t see coming.

“I’m not like the Pokémon that agree with my views. They’re simply civilians like you say, civilians brave enough to follow and fight for me,” Tundra said, revealing that he had warped a surprising distance away. “But me? I know how to fight, how to defend myself. I’ve spent years being forced to protect myself from thieves and the feral Pokémon out in Faernia’s wilds. You aristocrats can’t compete with me!”

Just as Ariala returned to her feet, a new crowd of Pokémon arrived on scene. The group was a platoon of cat Pokémon, from Meowth to Purrloin to Glameow, all led by a Ponyta that was familiar to her. They were soldiers wearing armour decorated with the unique markings on the bodies of the Tapu, except for the Meowth sat atop the Ponyta’s back.

“Praise the gods we’re not too late. Of all the times for a protest of this magnitude to start, why when the castle is in an uproar?” Ponyta said. Ariala confirmed who she thanks to her old, weary, but motherly voice, and calmed right down.

“The Cat’s Brigade is on the job, though. We’ll be done with this rabble in no time and be back on the search for my lady Nier!” Meowth said, standing up proudly on the Ponyta’s back. She shook him off in clear annoyance, so he hopped off and posed elaborately instead. “All units get into formation! Let’s drive these evildoers back where they came! And while you’re at it, search for any sign of lady Nier!”

“Meyes sir!” the cats chanted in perfect unison, obeying the fancy Meowth. He was as tall as a Meowstic and wore a glittering cape that shone with blinding golds even in the smoky light. With a hearty raise of a spear identical to Vincent’s, his troops charged off towards the crowd of protestors, creating a ruckus.

“Reinforcements alright, but they’re for us. We just might be able to deal with this, now,” Ariala said, finally appearing ready to fight. Tundra gave the new arrivals a livid look, having to jump away as his army of followers were effortlessly driven away. They were fleeing before the soldiers even got near, refusing to fight back one bit.

“But isn’t that Naomi? Staying here will let the soldiers find you, Ariala,” Nier said.

“Being caught this early is no problem compared to ending this skirmish. Let us force Tundra into retreat!” Ariala said, raising her own weapon high.

“You’re the boss,” Vincent shrugged, swiping his spear. Tundra’s eyes thinned.

“Don’t underestimate me, princess,” he said, readying two Water Shuriken. She held her fan close to her face as he threw them, surprised at the speed they tore through the air to reach her. She barely had time to slash at both shuriken to weaken them, still feeling enough of a sting to emit a girlish squeak.

There was no time to rest, though. As soon as she looked at Tundra after that attack, countless more Water Shuriken were headed her way, and more were being tossed like unwanted toys. Fearing the onslaught, Ariala released her fan and let it float in front of her, opening it out with a magical spin. The fan opened out further than it looked like it could have, now as wide as a full circle. With a free hand that sparkled with psychic energy, she thrust into it, filling the fan’s transparent gleam with pretty pink energy. That energy burst from within the fan, causing it to transform into an enormous Reflect barrier, matching the fan’s red diamond texture. That barrier didn’t even shake or react to the rain of shuriken that smashed into it, blocking the attack completely.

Tundra flinched in shock at how fast Ariala had pulled up that powerful shield, but that wasn’t the end of her unusual show. The instant he let up his attack, she retrieved her fan to dismiss the barrier, repeating the motion of filling it with energy. This time the energy was that of a Moonblast attack, but it still had the effect of charging the Moonblast to a ridiculous size. Tundra braced himself with eyes wider than a cartoon character, roaring out in pain at the surprising force behind the attack.

“I would implore you not to underestimate me, either. I wished for this not to require combat, but I must,” Ariala said, retrieving her fan with a graceful pose. Tundra barely remained on his feet and snarled at her, covered from head to toe in marks of damage from the single attack.

“You gonna finish this?” Nier asked, still stood at the princess’ side. Vincent was as well, but didn’t look as casual.

Tundra growled at the three of them and swirled his head around to reposition his tongue-scarf, and then made a few more hand signs as quickly as he could.

“This is your last chance to surrender. If you continue to fight, you will see greater punishment for it,” Ariala said, tightening her pose.

Tundra ignored her and continued to prepare his attack, which surrounded his hands in a gloopy orb of black energy. Seeing that, Ariala prepared her Moonblast again, charging it to a larger size than Tundra’s oncoming Dark Pulse in just seconds thanks to her fan. “Very well then, if you insist. I really don’t want to have to do this!”

“Da-damn it, what the hell kind of power is that?” he said, growling at how he was being visually outdone this easily. Just as he glanced around to reconsider his options to escape, Ariala suddenly released a scream, drawing his widened eyes back to her.

She still had the large Moonblast held by her fan in front of her, but the Clefable’s body was surrounded by black electricity that crackled around her louder than she was crying out. She was clearly struggling and straining as her fur darkened, but refused to give in to whatever this black electricity was, staying on her feet and keeping hold of her charged Moonblast. Said Moonblast was continuing to grow bigger and bigger as the seconds went by however, and was soon beyond an attack that looked safe for even Ariala to hold.

“Uh-uh, princess? Calm down, hold the power back!” Nier said, staggering back. Ariala responded with increased volume of her growls, but failed to do much more that grip her hand right hand with her left, helping to stabilise it.

“T-Tundra! G-get out of the way!” she shrieked. The Greninja gasped and focused, nervously letting go of his Dark Pulse to back away.

“Ariala, calm down, focus!” Vincent cried.

“I-I-I c-can’t!” she growled, shutting her eyes.

“Your highness!” Ponyta shouted, galloping over. “Release all the energy, now! The rest of you, we’ve got to blow up that moonblast!”

“Naomi, won’t that hurt her?” Vincent said.

“If you don’t, the energy will take over her, and we’ll have to deal with that again.” the Ponyta spat, squinting at Ariala’s two retainers. The duo exchanged nods and then sided with Naomi, who stretched her hooves apart and braced herself.

“Sorry about this, your highness. But it’s gonna hurt,” Nier said in dismay, pointing a paw forward. She unfurled her ears and released a psychic blast from that paw, having the attack materialise directly inside of Ariala’s ever growing Moonblast. Both attacks exploded instantly, forcing everyone to cover their faces.

“What? What’s going on over there now?” Meowth cried in complaint, finally looking over to see the giant cloud of smoke the Moonblast caused. When the smoke began to clear, he caught sight of Ariala, gawking at her darkened colour scheme and damaged fur.

All of a sudden Ariala screamed at the top of voice, releasing a storm of the black electricity in a huge pillar that rose into the sky. It sounded like a lightning bolt striking something as it left her body and tore the clouds asunder, silencing just as quickly as it burst from her. Ariala was left shivering and breathing weakly, but was kept on her feet by Vincent.

“Princess!” he cried, staggering as her body pulled him to the ground with her. She replied with unfathomable words, but he was able to make out her desperation to sit down. No one said anything else for a while; they all just watched her in concern.

“What happened?” Naomi finally asked, glancing at Ariala’s retainers.

“I dunno, actually. We were stopping this protest, and then you showed up with the Cat’s Brigade so we started fighting back, and then her darkness just overflowed,” Nier said.

Before Vincent could input, another blast of thunder sounded through the sky, drawing all eyes back to it. Yet another Pokémon entered the scene, this one descending from the sky in a gleaming yellow orb at a blindingly fast speed.

Everyone knew who it was the moment they saw the orb of crackling electricity land before Ariala. The orb opened out to reveal Tapu Koko, the grand mythical calmly staring down at the princess with barely a movement from its mask shaped arms. It stared down at her with intimidation, but she stared back with her mouth agape, entranced by his presence. No movement came from anyone but her getting to her feet, and then Tapu Koko slowly turned around.

Its eyes locked right onto Tundra, who flinched. He glanced aside to find that all of the other protesters had been dealt with by Meowth and the other cats, yet he dared to gesture continuing to fight by making a hand sign. All it took was Tapu Koko’s face tightening to make him retract that idea, and he finally turned tail to run. Even when he was long gone, not a word was said for a length of time, enough for everyone to gather round. Everyone knelt down, whilst Ariala bowed respectfully.

“My lord Tapu Koko,” Ariala said softly, still breathing rather weakly. He didn’t even turn to face her.

“My statue was in that temple,” he said at last, still not turning around. His voice was old and gruff, like that of an ancient, wise man. “You will resolve that problem, won’t you?”

“Of course. The temple will be fixed as soon as possible,” Ariala said, bowing again. He half turned to look at her, hiding half of his face behind his right mask.

“That wasn’t why I came here. I sense it. Destructive dark powers were released right here, and very recently, on planet Eris,” he said. She didn’t reply. “The next time I see that kind of power, I will eradicate it and any who exhibit it.”

With his cold warning left in place, he spun around and shot off back into the sky, disappearing in the same orb of crackling light he arrived in. Everyone couldn’t help but stare until he was out of sight, still in awe of his blunt presence.

But why?” Ariala asked herself, letting out a breath.
Episode 9: Faernia’s outcasts


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 9: Faernia’s outcasts

It took a while for things to calm down, but eventually the authorities gathered around the remains of the protest and got to work with putting out the fire, sealing off the area, and ensuring that this part of the city remained safe. Despite their late arrival, Ariala remained in the same spot she was when Tapu Koko left, staring into the ruined remains of the temple with the blankest expression a Clefable could have.

“Princess! Are you listening to me?” Naomi shouted in her face, finally snapping her back to reality. Even then, she only flinched and then shut her eyes, shaking her head as if to dismiss her current thoughts.

“Vincent. Do you know where those protesters came from?” she asked.

“Princess! You really haven’t been listening at all!” Naomi shouted again, to which she cringed. “This is terribly unlike you. We are returning to the castle right now.”

“Naomi- urf, this is why I didn’t tell you. I refuse to return to the castle, especially after this event,” she said, slipping her fan into its pocket. Vincent and Nier folded their arms and watched in interest.

“Why would you refuse? We have a safe carriage prepared to escort you to the meeting point with Rune. Do you know how much of an uproar you caused when we discovered you weren’t in your quarters?” Naomi stomped a hoof. “You as well, Vincent and Nier. As her highness’ personal retainers, you should know better than to drag her out on such an ordeal. Your actions can be seen as treason!”

“Hey hey, hold on a second. Treason? Lady Nier’s too perfect to perform such an act. I’m sure she has a perfectly valid reason for leaving with the princess this way!” Meowth stepped in. Nier smiled at him, giggling about something.

“Both of my retainers objected to my plan many times until I threatened to leave on my own terms. Them being here is part of their desire to protect me,” Ariala said. “But there is no turning back, now. I have seen too much, already.”

“Seen too much?” the Ponyta coughed.

“That protest, the loss of control over my darkness, and the reactions of Tapu Koko – I need to see more,” Ariala said. “I don’t want to believe it, but my nightmares are leading towards premonitions. Until I can confirm what is really happening, I shouldn’t decide on a solid course of action.

“See? It sounds like her highness and the beautiful Nier are being like the angels they should be. Nothing but praise for their brave actions and desire to protect the Pokémon of their planet!” Meowth preached as he swiped his overly flashy gold cape aside.

“Charle! You’re not helping!” Naomi cried.

“Oh but I am. Whilst I’m sure the Pokémon greatly appreciate your aid, you are much safer and better off helping from within your quarters, your highness. You need only give orders and we subjects will be at your service,” Charle said.

“Good. Then you will allow me to leave,” Ariala replied. There was a pause.

“Except that, of course. Your safety is most important, after all,” he grew quieter.

“Oh come on you guys! I’ve never left the castle ever since the kidnapping. That was ten years ago. I am twenty-one years old, now. Don’t you think it’s stifling to keep me locked up there?” Ariala raised her voice. “Do you honestly expect me to live my life in ignorance, and still have the ability to rule an entire planet? Let alone marry the prince of our opposite?”

“We are only trying to protect you,” Vincent answered quickly. He still had his eyes shut and arms folded.


“We are only trying to protect you. I understand your warrant to see the world of Faernia, but when I agreed to those terms, I did not think you would want to get involved with anything like those protestors,” he unfurled his arms to face her. “Pokémon outside of Faernia’s civilization can be dangerous and unpredictable. There are many unknowns out there that we still don’t even know how to deal with, but they don’t affect us since we have the blessings of the gods, the Tapu.”

“My duty as crown princess requires me not to ignore those Pokémon or situations. Whether life-threatening or not, I wish to get involved in these grave matters first-hand. They destroyed a temple without warning and threatened to do so to the others. That kind of threat isn’t to be overlooked,” Ariala said.

“That’s our Ariala. Nothin’ like the princesses of fairy tales or any of that!” Nier giggled.

“Fairy tales… I hate that phrase,” Ariala sighed.

“As I promised when I became your retainer, I will do my utmost to protect you and help you in your endeavours, but I can only advise you against this with all my being. We don’t have much time until the meeting with Rune, either. Will you really follow the protesters in hopes of negotiating with them?” Vincent said. Nier giggled again, for some reason.

“What’s with you two all of a sudden? What’re you planning?” Naomi asked.

“My decision remains the same. I wish to know the truth of the outside world, and refuse to remain sheltered any longer. Before meeting with Rune, I would like to speak to Tundra,” Ariala said. Vincent exchanged nods with Nier, who put her paws on her chubby hips.

“Those protesters came from an indoor city called the Stardust Treasury. It’s a dead-end city built as a place of respite for the outcasts of Faernia,” Nier said.

“Wait, Nier!” Naomi gasped.

“The Pokémon that live there are, well,” Nier completely ignored Naomi’s outburst. She started playing with her ear a bit with a paw. “The Pokémon that live there are those rejected by the Tapu.”

“Rejected?” Ariala said quietly.

“That’s enough. You’ve said enough!” Naomi shouted, stomping her way in between everyone. “Ariala, you are coming back to the castle right now! And your retainers will see punishment for this.”

“Even if you do that, I’m just going to leave again and find out how to get to that city. There’s no turning back now,” Ariala replied. “It’s almost as if they’re trying to keep something from me.

“I think I know the princess enough to know that she means that, Naomi. You can’t change her mind when it’s made up like this,” Charle added. He covered his front with his cape, posing coolly.

“Thank you, Charle. So why don’t you come with me if you want to protect me that badly? Come with me and help supervise what happens.” Ariala said.

“Wait really, Ariala? Naomi?” Nier slumped.

“And Charle? You know what he’s like around Nier,” Vincent said.

“But they’re not going to leave us alone, either. We’re just going to keep squabbling like this unless either of us gets our way,” she replied.

“Yeah but, they’re annoying,” both Meowstic said in sync.

“Would you rather we fight for our way?” she said.

“N-no! That won’t be necessary,” Naomi hopped back a little. She gave the proposal a long round of thought, making noises as she pondered her options. All the time she stared at Ariala and her retainers, not appearing happy with anything that was happening right now. “Okay, but on one major condition. And as crown princess, protector of your Pokémon, you must honour this promise to your dying breath. After you have seen the issues at the Stardust Treasury, you will return to the meeting point to meet the prince of Eris.”

“I accept. That was what I was planning to do in the first place,” Ariala nodded.

“And that means you’re coming with us as well, Charle. We will need your power,” Naomi said.

“Hey, I won’t pass up a chance to protect my lovely lady Nier,” the Meowth shrugged.

“Oh please. ‘Cos I need protecting,” Nier said.

“Of course you do, especially in a nasty place like that. Fakers like Vincent are only asking for trouble,” he snickered. Vincent rolled his eyes and walked off.

“Fakers?” Ariala tilted her head.

“Yeah, he’s a fake Pokémon, right? Some sort of fusion between two Pokémon. If you didn’t choose him as a retainer, he would be exiled from Faernia already. And he knows that. You pity him, Nier!” Charle remarked, pointing at her.

“The only thing I pity about Vincent is that he has to put up with you,” she shrugged. Charle reacted with an unfathomable shriek, flinching back before pointing both paws at Vincent.

“That’s not true! There, is no way, that I, the great warrior defender, Charle, am below, this freak accident of unnatural nature!” he remarked, posing vigorously. Every word had unnecessary emphasis on it, and every pose had at least a finger pointed at the poor Meowstic hybrid.

“We should get going immediately. Will you two lead the way?” Ariala said.

“Right now? As in, right this very instant? You don’t want to get transport or anything?” Naomi said.

“Naomi, the purpose of this pilgrimage is to experience the world. Protecting myself with personal escorts is unnecessary,” she reasoned. She started walking off in a random direction, and Vincent dashed over and turned her around.

“U-uh er, princess, that’s the wrong way,” he said. She blushed a little but smiled at him, accepting his correction.

Hours passed and silence had fallen between the group. Naomi had managed to convince Ariala to get a carriage, but it was only a small one suited for bringing her entourage with her. Right now, Ariala was riding on the Ponyta’s back while she sprinted across the plains of Faernia, pulling that carriage along.

The carriage was a wooden traveller’s caravan to house the group and a few of the cat soldiers from the Cat’s Brigade. Their weapons and symbols of importance were hidden within, so to all eyes they looked just like any other group of travellers.

They had been chatting for a bit when their travel started, but now, Ariala was rigid and stern. She barely moved as Naomi galloped along, not reacting to any bumps or discomforts that occurred during the ride. Her face was intense and just as unmoving, not even visibly breathing, and her hands gripped the ropes that latched her to Naomi as tightly as her three stubby fingers could manage.

She wasn’t angry about being forced to travel with guardians; that argument had long since blown over for her. The dark events of her nightmare had been playing through her mind continuously throughout the past half an hour, now coupled with the unsettling words Tapu Koko had left her with.

“That wasn’t why I came here. I sense it. Destructive dark powers were released right here, and very recently, on planet Eris. The next time I see that kind of power, I will eradicate it and any who exhibit it.”

She knew exactly what he was talking about, and perhaps, her retainers knew as well. But deep down she knew more about it than anyone on Faernia, and had never once dared to share that information with another Pokémon. It all happened ten years ago, and yet, the truth was fresh in her mind, tearing away at her conscience. She always felt guilty for keeping it secret, but now that the Tapu clearly had doubts for her, she felt vulnerable for having that secret. It had been ten years, and now it was as if the danger of that secret could surface at any moment.

At last, she made a movement and stuck her right hand out. It pulsed with dark energy, excreting a dark, gaseous substance around her arm. A low, eerie sound came with it, and the sounds of the others shifting in discomfort told her that they had immediately sensed the release of this dark power.

“Ariala?” Naomi said in concern. Ariala stopped releasing the energy, holding onto the ropes again. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she spoke softly.

The power looked as disgusting as ever, and the thought that it was somewhere in her body, constantly brewing and waiting for its chance to come out sickened her. Jyararanga had kidnapped her to seal that power within her, warning her to never abuse it. She barely had control over it in the past, but thanks to Vincent and Nier, she could hold it in. So what had made her lose control when she attacked Tundra? Why did she release so much energy that even Tapu Koko had been alarmed of it?

Another memory played out in her mind, the image of a young Oshawott pierced by a monstrous hand of just as disturbing texture. Had that little girl survived just as well as she had? Did she have control over the darkness as well? Was she the one on Eris that had released enough darkness for Tapu Koko to detect it?

“Ariala!” Naomi cried, snapping her out of her trance. She was able to gallop at full speed and speak without huffing or puffing at all, which was always impressive to the Clefable. “Are you listening? We’ve been travelling for a while now. Are you okay to keep going?”

She let out a sigh and changed face at last. She was famished, bone dry thirsty, the wind gave her a chill, and her legs felt stiff from the amount of time she had spent sitting in one place. She shook her head and glanced at her allies, giving them a warm smile. “Actually, we should think about food. It’s been a while.”

“Oh finally, I thought you’d never say that!” Nier sighed hoarsely as she slumped back in her seat. “I’m so hungry I could pass out!”

“Why didn’t you say that earlier? I have snacks. You need only ask, my lady,” Charle said.

“You couldn’t tell? Her stomach’s been singing for quite a while,” Vincent snickered.

“Very funny,” she rolled her eyes

“Was it? I couldn’t hear it,” Ariala admitted, blushing at the song of her own stomach sounding out. Naomi giggled as well and began to slow down, taking them off course.

They had been following a road that ran through the plains the whole time. Plains and fields of crops were all that passed, and between all of that, a few herds of Pokémon in the distance. Those Pokémon barely paid them any mind besides a glance, minding their own business just as the Pokémon in the city did.

“We made good progress today, anyway. We could reach Stardust Treasury within a day if we continue at this pace,” Naomi said. She didn’t go far off the road, stopping in a patch of low grass. Ariala was about to get to work on untying the ropes from her, but was quickly stopped by a few of the cat soldiers and Charle.

“Please, allow me, your highness,” they proposed, essentially taking over the entire chore of setting up a camp, leaving her to sit and watch with a bothered face.

Nier, Vincent, and Charle spent the time bickering with each other over who would protect the other. Naomi fretted over every little thing that the princess did, from the fruits she chose to eat to whether she slept in the caravan or in a tent. It was nothing new to her, and by the time night had fallen, she was so sick of it that she had given up on doing anything about it.

One advantage she knew she had as a Clefable was her ability to keep quiet. Even though Vincent was on watch duty, she knew she could easily sneak out of the caravan and go wherever she wanted. If any danger somehow came, she could hear it coming from miles away and escape before anything could happen. She didn’t need guards for this.

And so, in the darkness of potentially midnight when everyone else was fast asleep, she did just that: snuck out of the caravan and skipped off amongst the fields to get some time to herself. After today’s battle, she was fully expecting some sort of danger to approach her. But despite standing right out in the open of the fields, nothing was there at all.

It’s just as safe as the royals told me. I can sense feral Pokémon, but they’re all asleep. I could sleep out here if I wanted to,” she thought to herself, staring around at it all. Clouds still covered the sky, blocking out the stars. Accepting that she was alone, she stuck out a hand and expelled the dark energy again, surprised at how luminous it stood out in the night, and how loud a noise it made in the silence. That didn’t stop her from hearing footsteps of someone sneaking up on her however, so she quickly hid it and spun around.

“You know, I don’t blame you for wanting to get away from it all. Pardon me, but I can’t let you roam too far, especially if you’re playing with that,” Vincent said.

“It’s fine. Thank you for your concern,” she sighed. There was a pause.

“We’re still in the Tapu’s domain. So even the feral Pokémon that choose to live outside of towns and cities have all the vegetables they can eat,” he said as he slowly walked to sit beside her. “Once we leave the domain however, you’ll see the truth of it all.”

“The kind of Pokémon that follow Tundra. May I ask why you know so much about that?” she joined him in sitting down.

“If you’ll allow me,” he replied, and she nodded. “I have a rather long history with it. I met Nier in a place that was connected to the Stardust Treasury. But it was a place where I was sealed… for a thousand years.”

“A thousand years?” she gasped.

“I lived in a village called Crescent Fields. I wasn’t anything special to be honest, but I was in training to become the protector of the village. At that time, we had heavy faith in the Tapu just like we do now, but things were hardly as advanced. We barely even had weapons,” he recalled. He turned up at the sky. “I spent everyday training tirelessly with my surrogate father, who I was allowed to call Lin. But on the day I was supposed to take over the role of protector, we went to our village shrine to pray to the Tapu for my future.”

“Did something happen?” she tilted her head at Vincent’s sudden pause. He looked like he was holding back a tear, wiping his eyes as he looked back down.

“I don’t remember. The last thing I remember is falling down into some kind of underground ruins. Next thing I know, Nier found me sealed in some kind of technological ball in those same ruins. I had lost the ability to use my Pokémon attacks, and she said I looked like an Oshawott fused with an Espurr. She was an Espurr back then, too,” he turned to Ariala. “Everything I ever knew had been replaced by what we have now. When I finally learnt the date, I learnt that I had somehow skipped through time, through an entire millennial calendar. It was only Archanea seven-fifty when I prayed; suddenly it was Thracia seven-fifty when I woke up. I had truly skipped forward one thousand years.”

“Thracia seven-fifty is when we met,” Ariala pointed out.

“Yes. Nier was exactly my age and wanted to travel to see the world. I had no knowledge of the world and needed to adapt. It was a win-win situation for us both, so I took the task of training her while she showed me around,” he said, snickering at the memories. “Next thing I knew, we both grew stronger, evolved, and were wed. But we didn’t want our time spent training to be wasted, so we joined the royal guard after settling in the Tower of the Tapu.”

“And that’s when I appointed you as personal retainers. I had just come back from the kidnapping, so I was pretty frightened. But now that I think about it, I picked you because you look like a Dewott. Rune was still in my mind back then,” Ariala said. “So you have seen much of the world around?”

“Sorry, I sort of went off on a tangent there, didn’t I? But that was the main reason why we went to become soldiers. We wanted to make changes to what we had seen. The very first place we wound up visiting when left on our journey was the Stardust Treasury. There, my thoughts of the Tapu’s teachings and followings changed. I won’t try to give you any thoughts. I know it’s my duty to protect you, but I’m honestly more than impressed by your personal decision to see the world yourself. I want you to develop your own feelings on this pilgrimage and make your own choices to what you believe in. As a friend, I’m happy to let you do this.”

“But you will advise me when something comes up, won’t you?”

“I will. But keep this conversation between us. Tomorrow, I’m your retainer again, and this conversation never happened.”

“You have my word,” she smiled. “And thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. But what’s on your mind, though? You definitely seem to be bothered, ever since your darkness erupted against Tundra,” he asked. Ariala perked up and looked away, making sounds of nervousness and discomfort. “Would it be best if I didn’t inquire about it now?”

“I’m sorry, Vincent. But yes. It would be best,” she said. “The way things are going, you’ll find out soon, anyway.

Vincent didn’t say anything more, so she got a moment to settle down and sit again. She still stared at him though, particularly distracted by his whiskers. “A warrior from one thousand years ago. I never would have imagined that I had such a unique friend by my side. What he and Nier know about the world has obviously changed their perspective of everything. Will mine change as well? As princess, is it okay for me to have these fears and thoughts about the gods that protect us?

She slowly turned away to look up at the sky. Two moons were peeking through the clouds, letting off an eerie, luminous but colourless glow that hurt to look at. “I can’t even ask the gods for guidance on this matter.

The next day was just as uneventful as she was used to. Ariala was once again made to relax whilst her friends worked to prepare breakfast, dismantle the campsite, and set up for travel again. Soon enough they were back on the road, where this time her appearance wasn’t as troubled as yesterday. Ariala concentrated forward with a plain look, trying not to let her thoughts distract her.

Yesterday had been relatively cold and cloudy, but it seemed like the further they went, the colder and cloudier it was getting. She was sure that it was just midday, yet the sun hadn’t been visible once due to the heavy clouds in the sky as far as the eye could see. This was even with the dusty wind that blew strongly enough to make her shiver.

At the same time, it soon came to her attention the reduction in the amount of life around. They were still amongst fields and plains of grass, but now those were not much more than short grass and weeds occasionally sectioned off by hedges or fencing. There were no flowers or plants or even trees, and the herds of feral Pokémon were smaller and less frequent. It almost looked as if the colour was draining from the world as well. One thing was for certain, the fields weren’t green.

“We’re approaching the border of the Tapu’s domain. We’re almost there to Stardust Treasury,” Naomi announced. Ariala faced forward again, catching sight of a distant silhouette resembling a building directly in front.

This is it. The meeting with the Pokémon that were rejected by the Tapu,” she said in her mind. “Refresh my memory again. The calendar of Etheria shifts to a new title every millennium, right?”

“Yes… that’s correct,” Naomi said quietly.

“Why so?” Ariala asked. The others were clearly confused. “I’m curious. I never actually learnt why.”

“Every one thousand years across both Faernia and Eris, the title of our millennium changes. We differentiate the titles this way so that we can pinpoint prominent periods of history and timelines correctly,” Naomi said. “It makes it easier for scientists and historians to make calculations and predictions as well, since they can make correlations between events on both planets with ease.”

Nier pouted and folded her arms. “Ugh. Maths stuff.”

“What does this have to do with maths?” Vincent said.

“It’s all complex wordings and calculaty and- ugh it sucks, okay? Why couldn’t we just keep counting the years from the beginning?” she said.

“That would actually be worse. Our numbered years would reach unprecedented numbers, and we would have to manually label time periods and generations by the years in which they took place,” Naomi continued. “Giving each millennium a title enables us to just call each millennium by that title. For example, if I was to refer to the last generation, I would mention Archanea, followed by the year number.”

“Whilst our generation is Thracia. So if me and Prince Rune get married this year, Pokémon in the future would remember it taking place in the year Thracia seven-sixty,” Ariala said.

“Correct. It seems like you’re studying, your highness,” Naomi smiled.

“I really am just curious how the names get decided. As far as I know, the millennial titles just seem to get universally known. Is there some monarch that decides it?” she replied.

“Good question. They all sound like fantasy names from some game series or something. Archanea, Gaiden, Thracia… it’s gotta be some nerd naming it all,” Nier smiled.

“The stars decide it in conjunction with the last generation on the nine hundred and ninety-ninth year of the millennium. Supposedly the whole process is called ‘Astral Genealogy’,” Naomi said.

“That’s even worse! It’s definitely some nerd coming up with it, I’m convinced,” Nier said.
Episode 10: Master Lin


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 10: Master Lin

“What is this?” Ariala whispered, her eyes wavering upon the sight before her. After half a day’s worth of travel by Ponyta and cart, her and her small army had reached the Stardust Treasury. They weren’t exactly there yet, but the landmark was in sight, less than ten minutes away. The land it stood on brought Ariala near to tears.

A torrent of emotions flushed over her, confusing her on what to think. Even though it defied all logic, the fields and colours of nature stopped dead. There was literally a line dividing the two parts of the planet, one half having grass, hedges, trees, and all other forms of nature, whilst the other half was a colourless wasteland covered in grey, dust, and cracks. The only visible landmark was the Stardust Treasury itself, an enormous rectangular box that was as tall as a city.

“This is the edge of the Tapu’s domain. The blessings granted by their terrain stop here, so nature is left to its own rules. Of course, our current technology physically affects nature, so everything outside of the Tapu’s domain fails to function,” Vincent said. He stared at the blank distance coldly, squinting at something. “This is where the Pokémon that don’t worship the Tapu live, outside of their influence.”

“Where the protesters live,” Ariala said. She slowly shook her head and focused her grip back on Naomi, to which the Ponyta nodded and galloped on their way. “This structure is roofed over. Is the entire city indoors?”

The giant structure looked more like an ancient ruin of some kind, being made of perfectly square stone blocks of the same, colourless material that the planet was made from. No marks or decorations were anywhere across it, but it was being held up by thick iron bars like a prison cell.

Those iron bars ran all the way around it, hiding a single entrance where there was enough space for a Pokémon to fit through. There wasn’t enough room for the carriage to go through, so they left it there – the other carriages parked outside implied it was okay to, anyway.

Inside was more pleasant than expected. The uplifting life that filled the Tower of the Tapu was present here on a far greater scale it seemed, as many more Pokémon filled the streets and paths than the group had ever seen. The buildings that lined the city were of inconsistent quality, from straw hut cafes that were a single room, to enormous skyscrapers covered with flashy logos and neon shop signs. Amongst the buildings were convenient overpasses, footbridges that crossed over central roads. Some were so high up that they ran right beside some of the skyscrapers.

“Hey Ariala, how’re you holding up? If it gets too loud, let us know, okay?” Nier distracted Ariala for a moment.

Until then, she hadn’t noticed the jovial festivities sounding out around her. There were street performers that danced and sung, and muffled conversation from hundreds around. Now that she was paying attention, there was a mixture of delicious aromas that came from the many food stands around that made her feel hungry, even though she had eaten well for breakfast already. Curious still, she approached one of the straw stands, eying its displayed selection.

“See anything you like? Some of these dishes are very rare and can only be gotten here,” the Prinplup behind the stand said, using a wing to show it all off. “They’re all cooked using the baking and frying methods from Eris, but made using ingredients from Faernia. So nothing distasteful!”

“Huh. I had no idea that berries wrapped in deep fried batter could smell so good. They look good, too. And it’s remarkably cheap,” Ariala put a finger on her lips.

“Gotta admit, they do look really good,” Nier drooled. Vincent rolled his eyes.

“You need only ask, my lovely lady. Want something?” Charle said, shoving his way to the front.

“I wouldn’t if I were you. You don’t know what’s in street food like this,” Naomi said. “We specifically ate well before coming here so that we wouldn’t succumb to unknown foods like this.”

“Suit yourself. It’s a once in a lifetime though, I assure you,” Prinplup said smugly.

“You can’t come to a place like this and not try the food! It’s like, the law of tourism. I’ll take a Cornn Berry sausage in batter, please!” Nier said. She giggled excitedly as the exchange was quickly made, having to bounce the snack around in her paws to cool it down.

“It’s a good choice, but make sure you cool it down and have a drink afterwards. Cornn are known for their dryness,” Prinplup said.

“Bit late on the warning!” she said, trying to dull the heat by stuffing a large bite in her mouth. She wound up flinching and squealing as it burnt her tongue, almost falling over.

“N-Nier!” Naomi cried. The Meowstic quickly recovered and started squealing in glee instead, taking another large bite like her life depended on it.

“This thing is so good! It’s crispy and warm and thick, but sweet like a sweet!” she said. “I’ve never eaten anything like this before. We’ve gotta get a recipe!”

“You’re making me want to try something,” Ariala said, walking off to admire her other choices. “Toffee apple, candy Oran Berry, fried rice, baked nut cake, fizzy Sitrus Juice… I’ve never seen any of these foods before. And how much variety do we have back home?”

“Too much variety!” Nier agreed, her voice muffled by a full mouth. Two sticks were in her hand, both presumably having foods on them.

“Did you buy- you’re gonna run out of money before we’re even done here. Save some room for dinner!” Vincent said.

“Oh I’ve always got room for dinner, don’t you worry about that, heh heh. Say Ariala, what’re we even doing here, anyway?” she said. Ariala slowed down and started scratching her chin, giving everything another look over.

There are electronic lights on the ceiling, and some power is being used to operate ovens, fires, and all else. Even though the Tapu’s domain doesn’t reach here, their society is almost as well maintained as ours,” she concluded, setting her sights on the road forward. Pokémon barely paid her and her group any notice, despite Vincent’s hooded robe covering his appearance. “I can’t believe it. At first glance, this place seems completely normal. But what is it about these Pokémon that causes them to decline the blessings of the Tapu? And so much so that they would travel so far to violently protest?

The others watched her as she wandered off mumbling, shrugging as they followed. Ariala never answered the question, exploring the city without clear purpose. She did buy food and drink however, adapting to the positive vibes given out by the place. Within an hour or two the group had seen a good majority of the city, from its dining districts to a retail park and even an amusement sector filled with arcades and theatres for stage plays.

“I’ve been holding off on admitting this, but this city has changed greatly from how I last remember it. It’s far more advanced,” Vincent said as he settled down on a bench on the side of a street. The road they were on was quiet and moody, lined with many habitats made of stone. Ariala was examining a map next to the bench while the others stretched and took a break.

“Not my ideal area for a date though, that’s for sure. As flashy as this place is, Nier deserves better,” Charle said. He polished the coin on his forehead and snickering at his work in a mirror.

“Do you ever stop talking about Nier?” Vincent complained.

“Do you ever treat her as she deserves to be treated? A fantastic lady like her only comes by once in a man’s dreams, after all,” he smiled cheekily. “You should be treating every day with her like it’s your last!”

“I understand that way of thinking, but we think differently. Listen Charle, I don’t appreciate you trying to lecture a married couple on how they should treat each other,” Vincent folded his arms.

“Your marriage isn’t even genuine. That’s why it infuriates me so. This beautiful Meowstic deserves better than your efforts!” he snapped, pointing fingers at him with ridiculous enthusiasm.

“Oh boys, you can be so territorial sometimes, you know that?” Nier giggled, giving them both a playful look.

“I believe you mean ‘possessive’,” Vincent said.

“Shut up, I knew that! Listen Charle, me and Vincent may not have some fancy paper or ring to say that we’re married, but we are, trust that much. Our commitment is different to most normal Pokémon,” she said.

“That’s why I wanted you both, to be honest. You’re nothing like the other royals. They can be so stuck up and stifling with their rules sometimes,” Ariala said, half paying attention. She was focused on the map sign.

“But your highness, we’re strict for a reason!” Naomi cried.

“Hush! Don’t say that out loud,” Vincent hissed. Barely any Pokémon paid attention, thankfully. “Anyway, point is, I don’t like the way you talk to Nier anymore. I’ve been patient until now, but you just aren’t respecting us at all.”

“I don’t mind, to be honest. I don’t see the big deal,” Nier shrugged.

“The big deal is that if you don’t put your foot down and just tell him you aren’t interested in him, he’s going to keep fretting and hitting on you,” Vincent said.

“I think it’s funny and sorta cute!” she giggled. Charle slumped forward. “In a cartoony sorta way. When Charle gets a real girlfriend, he’s gonna make her really happy.”

“But don’t you understand, my lady? There’s only one woman I truly want to make as happy as you imply,” he said. She tilted her head, making him slump forward and groan.

“I won’t find what I’m looking for here,” Ariala said out loud, and everyone paid attention. “Perhaps if we stayed here for a few days, we would get to see the city’s true colours, but we don’t have that much time. So let’s see if we can reach this ‘Zodiac Temple’ that’s in the centre of the city. We’ll have to pay for one of those Manectric buses to get there.”

Before anyone could reply, a loud blast occurred in the stone house right next to them, and a huge Flamethrower streamed out from one of the windows. Ariala stepped away whilst Vincent and Naomi stood guard over her, flinching when a Grumpig fell through the door, covered in marks of damage and burns. A Blaziken followed, stomping on the Grumpig’s stomach to keep it in the ground.

“You just don’t get it, do you? It’s over. You lost the bet, so the money’s mine. You want more money, freaking work for it, don’t gamble for it!” Blaziken said, ignoring the wails of pain from the Pokémon below him. “I’m sick and tired of you showing your ugly mug here every day, begging for money back. You’ve got three days, you hear me? Three days to get a job, cough up, or cough your last!”

“P-please get off! Okay okay, I’m begging you, no more pain, please!” Grumpig squealed.

“Looks like somebody pushed their luck,” Charle looked. Ariala refused to dismiss it despite the others turning away as well, and approached.

“Release him,” she said with a straight face.

“And who’re you? This Pokémon’s been—” Blaziken growled at her.

“I understand the situation enough from those few words. But physically harming him will impair his ability to work. Hurting him serves no purpose,” she said. Blaziken spat and obeyed, slowly lifting his foot off. “Nier, this Pokémon is burnt. If you would heal him, please?”

“Wait, but if I—” she glanced aside. Quite a few Pokémon were watching the scene.

“It matters not. Don’t worry about it,” Ariala smiled.

“Ari,” Vincent said.

“If you say so,” Nier replied with clear reluctance, and stood over the Grumpig. She drew her rapier and held it upside-down so that the shiny orb was at the top, raising it into the air. “By the blessings of Tapu Lele and Tapu Fini, cure this soul with your healing powers. First Aid!”

The orb flashed and out came a soft, golden, glittery glow that showered sparkles over the damaged Grumpig. As each bit of glitter landed on him, it burst into a warm glow that sunk into his body, removing his burns and dirt. Seconds later, he was back on his feet and admiring his healthy body, speechless at how quickly and magically he had just been healed.

“Huh. I thought that the rapier was just a fancy weapon for a fancy lady. I didn’t know it could actually heal,” Charle said.

“It’s a double sided rapier. One side is a blade, the other, a healing staff. Me and Vincent needed someone to take care of us during our travels, after all,” she said quietly, looking at the crowd around them. Many of the Pokémon now appeared to be all kinds of disgusted and scared, trying not to look back at her.

“Are you feeling better?” Ariala asked, surprised as Grumpig flinched away from her. He took the opportunity to run away, crying at the top of his voice. “… Why is he afraid?”

“I thought I recognised that voice when everything went quiet. You’re awfully brave, using a Tapu blessing in a city like this,” a familiar voice stated. Tundra the Greninja was stood in the doorway of the house, his arms folded and eyes thin.

“Tundra! At last, I’ve been looking for you this whole time,” Ariala said.

“Hmm? I don’t think you realise what kind of position you’re in. We have no reason not to just outright kill you right here and now,” Tundra said, silencing them all. He slowly scanned the rest of the crowd, opening his eyes to appear more threatening. “Well? Don’t just stand there. This isn’t a pantomime. Get out of here! I will deal with them.”

The crowd began to disperse, Blaziken included, who went back into the house. Once they were all alone, Tundra approached, hiding his eyes again. “Princess Ariala, what the hell do you think you’re doing here?”

“I came to stay true to my proposal. I want to resolve the issues you have with the Tapu,” she answered.

“Look- no- don’t come near me!” he raised his voice.

“Ariala!” Naomi shouted. Ariala ignored them all until she was right up in Tundra’s face, looking at him in the eyes without wavering.

“I want us to strike some kind of mutual agreement. If there is something I can do to resolve the conflicts you have with the Tapu and our society, then I will be willing to cooperate within reason. Now is the time to have your most important problems fixed.” She said. “Please, Tundra. I do not want to see more Pokémon get hurt or unnecessary violence performed. I am certain we can work something out—”

“Okay okay, I get it! Sheesh, you don’t have to stand that close to me. Your breath stinks, what’ve you been eating? And you’re still dressed in that ridiculous… disguise, if that’s what you call it,” he said. Ariala stepped backward. “You’re speaking to the wrong Pokémon. Although I govern Stardust Treasury in a way, at the moment, we are ruled by our own religious mayor of sorts.”

“Religious mayor?” Vincent replied.

“The high priest of the Constellars, Master Lin. At present, he and his followers fund and power our city with their magic, enabling us to survive. Without them, we would be out in the wilderness that you see surrounding this city. If you want to talk diplomacy, he is the one to talk to. He should be in the Zodiac Temple in the centre of the city,” Tundra said.

“We were about to head there, anyway. Thank you very much, Tundra,” Ariala bowed to him. “Come on, everyone. The day will not wait for us. Let us set up a meeting with him.”

“I have a bad feeling about this, your highness,” Naomi trotted after her. The others didn’t say anything but followed anyway. Tundra watched them walk off with open eyes, joined by Blaziken after they left.

“Why did you let them off?” he asked. Tundra groaned and fixed his tongue scarf.

“I have a bad feeling about this as well. But I want to see how this plays out, anyway,” Tundra answered.

The Manectric Bus wasn’t what they expected it to be. It was quite literally the process of renting a ride on the back of an electrified dog, and then having that dog take you to a designated stop in the city by running exceedingly fast. It was like a cheap Ponyta ride, except it had no convenient safety equipment whatsoever.

It got them to their destination in the blink of an eye at least, an area devoid of all Pokémon. An enormous, perfectly rigid lake sat in the centre of the city littered with eerie, ghostly flowers with coiled petals and oversized buds. They floated on the water like lotus, spewing out an indescribably quirky stench that shrouded the area in pale mist. A single bridge with rotten planks led to the temple in the centre, an enormous structure that felt like it would disappear in the mist at any second.

“This is the place. But it doesn’t feel like the place to talk,” Ariala said, holding a hand out. Some sort of glitter filled the atmosphere around the lake, completing the scene by giving it a spatial feel. She couldn’t touch the glitter at all however, it just faded upon contact.

“Because it’s a trap. Even I can see that!” Charle said. “C’mon your highness! You’ve got to be smarter than this.”

“Whether it is or isn’t smart, I must understand the full situation. And if the Pokémon I seek is in there, then I must go,” she said, and marched forward. She gasped at the creaking of the planks beneath her, freezing to ensure that it was safe to walk on. If this bridge couldn’t carry her, then what of her entourage?

“Something’s been bugging me as well. Tundra called their leader ‘Master Lin’. That was… his name,” Vincent added, just as careful with his steps.

Oh right, Vincent’s dad was called Lin, too,” Nier realised, using her psychic to float across safely.

The temple looked just as any other sacred structure would look, both inside and out. Outside was aged but imposing, whilst inside was cold, vast, but well managed. The stained glass windows all showed off zodiac symbols, and each one shone a dark, spatial light onto the rows of benches. At the far end of the hall was a lone Pokémon clothed in a dark purple robe, sat down on a huge chair with his back to everyone.

Ariala couldn’t help but stop in the central walkway between the benches. Only now was she beginning to get the unholy vibes of being in extreme danger. Her fur trembled from both fear and the actual cold, but her ears detected nothing. There was no one watching them, no one there breathing except herself and the Pokémon sat in the chair, their breaths visible before them as large gushes of frost.

“I’ve been expecting you, princess,” the Pokémon spoke. The sudden speech of the snide voice made her flinch, and her face tensed up. The fact that no one else was saying anything told her that her allies were just as turned off by the situation, so she reached for her fan and made sure to grip it, ready to brandish it at any moment.

“Now now, there is no need to be nervous. I have cleared the hall for your arrival, your highness. You need not worry. Come forward and speak to me,” the figure said. It raised its right arm to wave slowly.

Its voice was condescending and vile, yet wise and struggled, like that of a powerful old veteran. It pronounced every word with heavy emphasis. From this distance, Ariala could barely make out its hand either, but it looked like a claw.

“I said come forward and speak to me,” it growled, gesturing a click with its sharp fingers.

The movement of a finger curling towards itself seemed to capture Ariala, and she went skidding across the floor against her will and control, psychically dragged right up to the large chair. She screamed and fought against it but couldn’t do anything until the hand stopped its movement, in which she was now right behind the chair. As if knowing that, the chair spun around, revealing the Pokémon at last.

Ariala could have screamed again if she didn’t already. The monster sat before her clearly wasn’t a Pokémon at all; unidentifiable to everything she knew was living in this world. It had the features of most Pokémon in its face at least – blue, wrinkly skin, pitch black eyeballs with piercing red pupils, amber hair shooting out from the tip of its layered forehead, a long, pointed nose, and a lipless mouth that was dryer than a desert. His whole face was dry, looking as if it could shatter into crust at a touch. Everything else of its body besides its hands and wrists was covered perfectly by its deep, dark coloured robe, almost causing the creature to blend in with the eerie atmosphere of the temple. His eyes stood out too much for him to camouflage, though.

“Princess!” the others cried as Ariala tripped backwards, losing control of her calm completely. She hadn’t realised she had drawn her fan and guarded her front with it, but she was thankful that the others soon stood guard over her. Just the sight of his abyssal eyes was enough to silence her from fright.

“That’s a shame. I did the best I could to make this meeting to your standards, your highness. You would still have your guards attack me?” he said as he slowly stood. A large sash adorned with zodiac symbols appeared around his neck, each symbol glowing a bright, aqua blue. “I am Master Lin, high priest of the Constellars and governor of the Stardust Treasury. Didn’t you want to speak to me?”

The others tightened their poses and held their weapons at the ready, resisting every urge to lash out at him. Seeing that, Ariala got to her feet and tried to approach, unable to stop herself from shuddering. She wasn’t uncomfortably close to him, yet she could feel it; an overwhelming feeling in her body that was telling her she was dangerously close to death right now.

“Y-yes, I did. I wish to negotiate some terms with you about the outsiders of F-Faernia and the followers of the Tapu,” she said softly. She took a moment to clear her throat and take a deep breath. “Some Pokémon from this city recently travelled to the Tower of the Tapu to protest against our planet’s primary religion, our belief in the Tapu.”

“I see. You have come to resolve this conflict. Well, let me be brief to settle your discomfort,” Lin responded, stretching his wrinkly arms out wide. He clapped his sharp, claw-like hands together, causing the doors of the temple to shut with a loud slam. Everyone gasped and spun around at it, jumping back from Lin as he raised his hands with a wicked smile on his face. “Obey me and you shall get everything you desire from me, princess!”


Bidoof Fan
  1. sneasel-nip
  2. bidoof
  3. absol
  4. kirlia
  5. windskull-bidoof
  6. little-guy-windskull
  7. purugly
  8. mawile
  9. manectric
Hey there. I’ve been meaning to check out one of your works for a while. I believe this is the one I had reccomended to me so I decided to start out with it. I’ll be covering the first two chapters in this review. I’m going to note that I may get into some nitpicky things on prose, but feel free to ignore that if you don’t find it useful!

Ch 1

To start off, I’ll say that you do a good job of setting scenes. You’re descriptive enough that I can get a pretty good image in my head of a location, and the description never overstays its welcome.

That said, I do have some bits of prose I want to point out for one reason or another.

He soon had to skid to a stop as he found his view obscured by his surroundings, a wide range of charcoal black mountains and a dusty sky that refused to let through even a spec of sunlight. He wiped his forehead and crinkled his nose, scanning the environment restlessly in search of his destination. The area stunk of embers and the dust in the air threatened to make him sneeze, but he was able to lock eyes with his target before long

To start out, let me bring up this paragraph in particular, as it was one of the more notable examples where the prose was sort of… passive, or else used more words than needed. There are two sentences in particular where it’s noticable:

“He soon had to skid to a stop as he found his view obscured by his surroundings,” is the first spot. “as he found his view” in particular could have been shortened. I would have rewritten it like this:

“He soon had to skid to a stop, his view obscured by his surroundings.”

“but he was able to lock eyes with his target before long” was the other one. The first half of the sentence was great, it gives a strong mental image, but the second half of the sentence kind of flounders, if that makes sense. A more concise, cleaner version might be something like “but he still locked eyes with his target.”

One other thing of note here. “spec” should be “speck.”

The use of Zoroark illusions to hide the castle is quite clever, but it does leave me with a question that I’ll bring up later.

After another long trek up royal stairways and hallways of increasing elaborateness
Very nitpicky note here, but I think “increasingly elaborate hallways” would have felt more natural.

“Get out here, now!” he commanded once again,
The prose here confused me a little. It suggests that he’d already told her to get out, but I don’t think he had yet? If the “again” is in reference to an earlier, unrelated demand, there’s been enough time that I don’t think the again is warranted.

The sound thing with the clefairy was interesting, and seems to suggest some sort of special powers. Possibly related to why she was kidnapped?

I was a little confused by Rune’s handling of the whole “oh, my dad kidnapped someone. Especially considering how strongly he reacts later when his dad murders people. But considering he’s a child I can kind of write that off.

None of them seemed to comment on the fact that she was a fairy however, which although was confusing, was fortunate enough to let her relax a little.
I’d remove the was between “although” and “confusing.”

CH 2
A green hexagonal thing? I’m suspecting something Zygarde related. I figure that’ll be explained at some point in the future.

Another explosion occurred, this one being far realer than the one caused by the green crystal. Part of the temple was blasted away, damaging a ridiculous portion of the structure around where the blast hit. It hit the top right corner of the room, where the ceiling and walls in that section completely fell apart, revealing the dark sky and what had caused the attack.
This is another paragraph that felt particularly clunky to me. The only other one I felt was weak enough to do a breakdown on.

“this one being far realer” would be better worded as “this one being far more real.” I can’t remember the grammar rule that’s relevant here, but I’m quite certain on this.

“Part of the temple was blasted away, damaging a ridiculous portion of the structure where the blast hit.” Define ridiculous in this instance. I think describing the damage would be the better way to go here. This same advice goes for the rest of the paragraph.

And this is one other thing I’m confused about. Was the temple not also hidden by the zoroark illusions? Is it too far out?

I know the characters are kids, so I’m willing to excuse this to some extent, but why did no one try to talk Rune down? He was a child and this was not one, but SEVERAL trained soldiers. On a related note, it bothers me that the types of weapons they’re wielding is never mentioned. When there’s so much care to description in most other parts of the story, it strikes me as particularly odd.

Despite your warnings I uh, wasn’t expecting things to get so visceral, especially this early. I also didn’t expect Diantha to, uh, basically almost die. I suspect that the Zygarde thing/dragon weapon is the only reason she’s still alive, and it looks like it did something to her. I figure that will be explained later.

One last nitpick, and this one is very minor. These first two chapters almost sort of felt like a prologue/prelude to set the scene for the main story and almost sort of feel like they should have been one long chapter. I don’t know that for certain, though, since I don’t know how much time passes between them and chapter 3. So take this with a grain of salt.

I know there was generally a lot of critique and nitpicks in this review. So I do want to take a moment to say that I really did like what I’ve read so far. You’ve got the beginnings of a really neat setup that creates intrigue. And you do a good job of scene setting and describing environments. The prose just needs a bit of fine tuning here and there. And I do plan to come back and read more at some point, though I can’t promise when that will be. Until then, though, take care.
Episode 11: Hybrid connections


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Episode 11: Hybrid connections

“I don’t get it. What could you possibly want with Ariala? Who are you really?” Naomi shouted. The flames on her back were going wild, illuminating the darkness well.

“My business is with the princess and no one else. The rest of you can keep out of our meeting,” Master Lin said, raising one arm. A dark, slimy substance spewed from the palm of his hand all over the floor. Once enough of it covered the ground, the slime formed into the shape of Pokémon, losing the texture of the dark substance in replace of a near transparent appearance.

“Spectres? Everyone be careful, he’s a cantor!” Naomi said, her eyes fixed on Lin. He kept on spilling out more and more slime until he was surrounded by six of the spectres, all of which resembled different Pokémon. Their ghostly figures were highly visible in the darkness as they couldn’t be seen through.

“Spectres? What’re they? They look so cool,” Charle readied his claws. “Actually, never mind. Whatever they are, rabble like that is why the Cat’s Brigade is here. Ready men? Charge!”

Seconds later the temple was filled with battle cries and the clashing of attacks. Charle’s small army ended up pushing Ariala and her friends aside; taking on the spectres with slashes and tackles, whichever their species did best. Despite the ghostly appearance of the spectres, their physical attacks were working. No sounds came from the enemies, but they were being kept back with ease.

“While that’s going on, you and I can have our talk,” Lin said, using Psychic to pull Ariala towards him again. The others freaked out as she was thrown over the battle and right up to Lin’s face, where he held her up by just below her mouth, strangling her. “I’m sure you know what I’m after. You’ve kept me waiting long enough. Release it!”

“Re-release what?” Ariala wriggled in his grasp. He dropped her and curled his claws, covering them in more slime.

“Don’t waste my time, Princess!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she huffed. She struggled to her feet and stood guard with her fan, trying to keep calm. “I honestly do not know what you are talking about.”

“The Shadow Partition that was sealed within you when you were a child. I believe you had to travel to Eris for their king to do it,” he said.

How does he know about that?” Ariala gasped in her mind. She stumbled and glanced back, finding her allies separated from her by the six spectres.

“Don’t bother, we are safe to talk. Release that Shadow Partition and you will be free to ask of whatever you please from me,” he said, pointing a finger at her.

She hesitated and glanced back at her friends again, concluding it was safe to talk without them hearing. “I won’t. I don’t know how you know about that, but whatever wicked reason you require it, I will not give it to you!”

“Hmpf. I didn’t spend all those months in planning just to get this far and have you tell me no. Whether you wish it or not, I will have that Shadow Partition from you!” he raised his voice, throwing the slime to the floor to summon two more spectres. They were formed quicker than the six that had formed earlier, running at Ariala with sharp claws bared.

Ariala gasped again but fell into the flow of battle as quickly as needed. She brandished her fan against the two spectres, both Sandslash, and then protected herself by putting up a Reflect. The Sandslash clawed at the red barrier like mad, unable to even dent it.

“I see. It makes sense that you wouldn’t come here without being capable of defending yourself,” Lin said with a smile as he performed more hand movements.

He summoned more spectres, but before they had even formed, he found himself distracted by a huge pink glow in front of him. Still behind her Reflect barrier, Ariala was holding onto a huge Moonblast attack and let it go with a cry of effort, making Lin gasp and rethink. The attack tore right through the two Sandslash and the two spectres that hadn’t formed yet, threatening to hit him head on if he didn’t do anything.

To Ariala’s surprise, her Moonblast was stopped by a single palm pointed at it. Lin barely let out a sound of effort as he pushed against it, soon swiping that arm aside to send the Moonblast haywire, where it exploded harmlessly on the ceiling away from everyone. He had a cocky smile on his face, his dry features giving that more of a conniving feel that made Ariala shift away in discomfort.

“If that’s how it is, I’ll defeat you myself!” he said. Instead of using his slime to create more spectres, he tensed his arms and cupped his claws around a glowing orb that appeared in front of him. He didn’t charge it for long, and soon after he fired it, it burst into a rain of glowing stars.

“Swift?” Ariala muttered under her breath, reacting with a Light Screen.

The stars passed right through her barrier however, smashing it to pieces after just a few of them hit, and with many stars still to come, Ariala’s life flashed before her eyes. She could only widen gasp before they hit.

The next second, she was screaming at the top of her voice, each and every star slicing deep into her body wherever they happened to hit. Blood splashed out of the miniature stab wounds they all made, and she fell to her backside, barely conscious of the wicked pain that coursed through her.

“Ariala!” Vincent roared.

He hadn’t seen what had happened to her, but her scream was enough to tell him and the others that they needed to step their game up. Any mercy that he and Nier had flew out of the window from there on as they proceeded to stab two of the spectres in front of them with their weapons. Vincent pierced the ghostly spectre so that his spear poked right through its back, discarded its body with a flick, and then sprinted right through the battle, ignoring any pain he took from the crossfire of attacks. Once Ariala and Lin were in view, he leapt up high and attempted to smash his spear right through Lin.

“Annoying peasant!” Lin said, drawing back an arm as he spotted Vincent. A psychic force clashed against the hybrid as he thrust that arm directly at the spear, stopping Vincent in place. Vincent growled and hopped back to Ariala’s side to prevent getting hit by a follow up, gritting his teeth. “Know your place you sacrilegious plebeian!”

Vincent responded but coughed to stop himself before any words came out. He slowly stood up beside the princess, guarding his face with his spear. Lin didn’t seem to retaliate and started smiling at him, calming him enough to speak. “Who are you really? And what’s the meaning of this?”

“That’s none of your business. If you would be so kind—”

“Don’t toy with me. My Father was to be called Master Lin. Who are you really?” he raised his voice. Lin lost his smile.

“Vincent? Are you the princess’s guard?” Lin replied, his black eyes widening.

“You recognise me? What is going on here?” he shouted. Lin started smiling again, this time more evilly than before.

“Well now, things have gotten interesting. To think you would hang onto life this far, even after becoming the monstrosity you are now. A true wonder you could even evolve!” he snickered. The glowing pupils in his black eyes disappeared, making his eyes look as if they were sockets leading into the darkness of his skull. “The protests I conducted brought the princess here. But now that I know that brings you with it, things will get far more interesting.”

Vincent flinched when an attack flew past him faster than he could blink, impacting Lin right in the chest. Lin’s screech implied that it had taken him by surprise as well, and he staggered backwards in agony as the attack remained there. He glanced at it in disbelief, finding a shining blue shuriken there.

“Don’t just stand there! Take him down!” Tundra said, falling from somewhere on the ceiling.

The way he flashed into colour told them that he had been camouflaged the whole time, having heard and seen everything. Vincent shook his head into focus and lunged at Lin again, but even with the Water Shuriken in his chest, Lin blocked every attack with a psychic force and hand movements. Their clash came to a quick end again, but this time, both Vincent and Lin landed in battle ready poses.

“Wait, what?” Ariala gasped, eyes widened at them both. They were both stood in Vincent’s signature pose, with one arm hung forward loosely, one leg knelt down, and their other arm stretched behind them. “So it’s true, they are connected.”

“Princess!” Tundra shouted. He pulled her to her feet, reminding her of the intense condition of her body. She felt like she was about to split into a million pieces just trying to stand, so she staggered and cringed, holding in a scream. “Hey, Ponyta! Get your ass over here and let’s make a break for it!”

“Don’t order me around! Charle!” Naomi replied.

Charle saluted her and then stampeded forward with the Cat’s Brigade, all of them aimlessly running right into the spectres. Seeing that coming, Vincent retreated, picking up Ariala and jumping over them to return to Naomi’s side. He didn’t waste time in sitting her on the Ponyta’s back, running alongside them for the exit.

“The doors are sealed, but I can break them open. Don’t dawdle!” Tundra said, landing in front of the doors. He performed a few hand signs and then flicked a Water Shuriken at it, having that shuriken shatter a previously invisible barrier. He kicked it open at that, and the team were soon galloping away as fast as they could.

“Fall back now, men! Her highness has escaped!” Charle said, still keeping wary of Lin anyway. Lin had simply protected himself during their attack, taking no visible damage at all. He didn’t seem interested in retaliating either, so Charle turned and ran for the exit after his soldiers.

“You there, Meowth. Wait just a minute,” Lin called. Charle hesitated and stopped in the doorway, looking over his shoulder. “I’ve learnt invaluable information from this encounter, so I’ve no reason to follow you. Yet still, I sense conflict. A desire within you. You weren’t trying your utmost in that battle.”

“What’s it to you, freak? It’s just my job to protect her highness and lady Nier from evil like you,” Charle replied, pointing at him.

“I see. The Meowstic. She has your heart, but the hybrid stands in the way of your confessions. If you ever desire greater power, come to me. I will tell you all you need to know about that hybrid,” he said. Charle’s eyes widened.

“Everything I need to know? You know stuff about that freak of nature?” Charle said.

“I know much that will be of use to you, information that will surely change Pokémon’s views of him. A harsh reality that your lovely Nier perhaps is not aware of,” he smiled. Charle went quiet, his mouth lingering on a reply.

“I can come back at any time? Can we discuss this civilly?” Charle asked.

“Contrary to my actions today, I am indeed very capable of civil discussion. I am the Stardust Treasury’s trusted mayor for a good reason. You have seen the magnitude of my planned protests and the stability of this city first-hand. That should be testament to my claims,” he said.

“Hmpf. You might be evil, but if it’s priceless info you’re offering and the price isn’t too high, I just might come back,” Charle scratched his chin.

“Of course. I wish to aid you, in this case. I believe in the demise of a hybrid like Vincent.”

“Okay. We don’t seem to be getting followed, so we should be safe to break here,” Naomi said, stopping out in the open space outside of the city. Ariala slid off her back but collapsed to her backside again, cringing and resisting touching her wounds. She had stopped bleeding, but her body was still covered in red marks. “Nier, please. You healing.”

“I know I know, I’m on it!” she said. “Where’s Charle, though? We’ve got the soldiers, but not him.”

“I think he stayed behind to keep Lin busy. He’s annoying, but that Meowth takes his job seriously,” Vincent replied, looking back at the city.

“That was a total disaster, though. Look at you, Princess! This kind of damage is what we needed to avoid. This never would have happened if we had gone right for the meeting point,” Naomi stomped a hoof.

“It wasn’t a total disaster. To be completely honest with you, I learnt all I needed to. I’m happy that we got that experience,” Ariala replied, doing her best to stand up. Nier’s healing had barely helped her visually, but the pain had stopped.


“I’m fine. Being in that city and being able to meet the Pokémon in power allowed me to see a lot of the situation we’re in. Despite their different beliefs and urban myths about them, those Pokémon are no different than the ones in the capital,” she said. “Yet, these Pokémon suffer from lack of vegetation, the natural disasters, and more. The Tapu don’t help them, and in turn, they have no faith in the Tapu. But what is the true reason why?”

Tundra was still with them, but had his back turned until Ariala started speaking. He half looked back at everyone, surprised to lock eyes with Ariala. “What do you want? I wasn’t helping you. I already had suspicions that Master Lin was cooperating with me for his own gains. Thwarting him just happened to work in your favour.”

“Tundra, the Pokémon of Stardust Treasury look to you to lead their protests and journey, yes?” Ariala asked. “Please, join us. My pilgrimage is for the unity of the Faernia and Eris and the overall piece of Etheria. If your forces joined ours, our conflicts would be resolved for the time being. In turn, I will do my utmost to ensure your city sees the proper protection it should.”

“Wait wait wait, whoa, Ariala, you for real?” Nier said. “Tundra and the protesters? On our team? That’s next level nuttiness!”

“I can’t lie and say the thought of that doesn’t irk me. I mean, these are Pokémon that have literally killed hundreds, and are out for you in particular,” Vincent said.

“I forbid it, your highness. A Pokémon like him is not to go any closer to you than he is now,” Naomi stomped a hoof again. Ariala sighed.

“Naomi, you may be my personal chaperone, but I am the princess of the planet Faernia. I don’t stand for dictatorship, but I stand for freedom, peace, and equality,” she said, closing her hands into fists. “Not only has Tundra saved our lives, but I- no, we can see that he and his Pokémon are fighting for their fair right in this land. There is no clear reason for the lack of Tapu’s blessing out here, nor why we should ignore them or treat them any lesser just for not having the same religious beliefs as us. To that end, I propose we work together to resolve each other’s conflicts.”

“You really are a class act, you know that?” Tundra spoke up, a smirk hidden behind his scarf. He quickly calmed down and folded his arms. “But my actions against Master Lin have undoubtedly turned him and the Constellars against me. I daren’t return to the city anytime soon, which leaves me with very few options.”

“So there’s that issue as well,” Ariala said.

“I don’t want to help you. I don’t actually care about your Tapu religion or anything. I just want my Pokémon to be safe from these oncoming disasters. As you can see, a famine is certain to start here soon,” he said as he gazed over the barren land around them. “If you stay true to your word in your efforts to help me and my Pokémon out of this horrible situation, then I will fight alongside you towards this mutual goal.”

“Not just here, but Pokémon all over Faernia and Eris are suffering from natural disasters. This is why I’m on a pilgrimage to meet and marry the prince of Eris. Our unison will act as a link between the two planets, and we can begin working together towards peace,” she smiled. “And to be honest, I see more in you than you behave like. I get the sense that you’re not the type to act underhandedly or turn your back on someone.”

“Hmpf. You’re inviting many opportunities for me to do something irreversible, Princess. But fine. You have your temporary alliance,” he said.

“No you don’t!” Naomi stepped between them. “I refuse to give you even an inch of a chance.”

“You’ve gotta admit Naomi, she’s done a good job of keeping Tundra in check so far. I’m willing to give this a shot,” Nier smiled.

“But she could get hurt!” Naomi cried.

“If Tundra wanted Ariala dead, then he would have attacked her when he appeared in the Zodiac Temple. Instead, you helped us escape,” Vincent said, making her gasp. He approached Tundra and held out a paw, gesturing a handshake. “Effort like that will let us get along.”

“I’m yet to see you put that effort in at my end. But no point in doing otherwise. You have my word,” Tundra replied, shaking hands with Vincent. He did the same with Nier, going back to smiling.

“By the way Vincent, what was that going on back there? You and Lin having the same battle pose,” Ariala asked. Vincent gritted his teeth and looked away.

“I have some ideas, but I can’t say for sure. But as long as we stay away from Stardust Treasury, we shouldn’t have to deal with Master Lin, anyway. We should focus on reaching the meeting point now,” he replied as he pulled his hood over his head.

“You’re right. It’ll be nightfall soon, too. If we don’t hurry, we might actually be late. Tundra, I hope you don’t mind travelling by cart,” Ariala said.

“What about Charle? He’s still not here yet!” Nier said.

“Don’t worry about it. We will deal with it, your highness!” A soldier from the Cat’s Brigade said. “Half of us should continue to protect you; the remainder will scout the city again. We will catch up to you as soon as possible. Should new orders come, we’ll send a letter by air.”

“If you say so. I hope he’s alright,” Nier said as she climbed into the cart with the others. Vincent was last, looking more intense than the others.

Sorry, your highness. But this is a battle I can’t get you involved in,” he promised himself.

“Hmm… there’s something I’ve been thinking about,” Tundra said, arms folded.

“What is it? Go right ahead! We might as well learn a bit about each other with a chat,” Nier beamed up.

“Dare I ask what you’re expecting from this marriage? As far as I know, you’ve lived a very sheltered life, Princess,” he said.

“That I have. I don’t give myself expectations for things like this as well. I leave my thoughts open, that way I may deal with any given situation appropriately, rather than expecting what might not come,” Ariala laid a palm on her chest.

“Well that’s an admirable way of thinking, but you’ve got to have some expectations. I mean, this is a dude you’re going to spend your life with,” he unfurled his arms. “You don’t want him to look good, or have certain skills, treat you a certain way?”

“I honestly haven’t really been thinking that way. Am I supposed to?” she said.

“Of course you are! Gods, it’s a marriage. You wouldn’t mate with any old Pokémon, you go after the one that attracts you the most, right?” he said.

She smiled. “I thought the purpose of this marriage was to help smooth the communication between our planets. That’s more important than whether the prince is actually attractive or not.”

“Hmpf. I like! You have impressive tolerance,” he said. His eyes made it seem like he was smirking. “Now I’m a little interested to see how this relationship will turn out.”

“Gotta admit, that does worry me a little, Ariala,” Nier said. “Pokémon on Eris are supposed to be rougher too, y’know? You’ve gotta set some ground rules for yourself.”

“Ground rules. that is a good idea, actually,” Ariala rubbed her face. “I will ensure I set ground rules in place. Otherwise, I will respond naturally to the man as I must.”

“…Why do I have a horrible feeling this is going to go very wrong?” Vincent sighed.

The truth is, I know exactly what I’m dealing with already. Unless you’ve changed, Rune,” Ariala thought, and started smiling. “I have faith that you haven’t, that you’re still the kind Oshawott I met that day.
Episode 12: To Faernia!


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Rune Midgard.png

Episode 12: To Faernia!

“We’re here, finally,” Rune sighed.

“I don’t normally complain about a trip, but even I must admit that it felt as though we were walking on that mountain forever. And all without it getting any cooler!” Galen sighed as well, throwing himself back first onto the rock. He immediately cringed and rubbed his backside, cursing his seat for being so hard.

Rune ignored him even though the others broke into giggles. They were overlooking the Fantasia Port, he was sure of it. At the bottom of the rocky hill was a large clearing by the sea filled with docked ships. They looked like fantastical contraptions he had only seen once before, giant sailing ships with oars poking out of their sides. Those oars were shaped like bird wings, right down to their flexible feathers that swayed in the wind.

Rune’s eyes thinned as he recalled that painful memory. These ships were different to the ships he had seen back then. These ones had see-through roofs instead of sails for some reason, as well as enormous cannons on their backs. Despite being this different, just the sight of them reminded him of the horrific scenario his Father had shown him, where he destroyed the fairies’ airships and killed them in the process. He stared at them intently, having that very memory envision itself before him. Flames surrounded the ships as they lay in ruins, burning everything within. The Pokémon inside screamed for their lives, evaporating in the merciless fires as he stood and watched, helpless, unable to do a thing but accept the deaths occurring before him.

“Rune?” Diantha snapped him back to reality. “You okay? You were daydreaming.”

“I,” he wiped his forehead. He was sweating, a lot. There was no reason to, though. The airships sat on a green field by the sea. There were no flames, nor were there Pokémon dying. “Let’s not waste time.”

“Yeah, right! Oh I actually can’t believe we’re going to Faernia. I never thought about it at first, but now that I am, it’s so cool!” she said, rushing off first. Rune grumbled as she stumbled down the hill, looking like she was going to trip and face plant at any moment.

“After you, your highness,” Galen said. Ptero was waiting as well, arms folded and face flat as per usual. Rune didn’t show them any hints and walked off, joining his sister at the port.

There were a lot more Pokémon than he could see from the top of the hill, and all of them looked like they worked here. A whole crowd of Pokémon scampered back and forth to take care of all sorts of tasks, from carrying boxes of things to working on the airships. It all looked complicated and busy, but thankfully Diantha had stopped to watch them all rather than ask questions.

“I hate to do this, but wait here your highness. I’ll sort out the trip,” Ptero said.

“And we should trust you with this task, because?” Rune said. Ptero raised an eyebrow. “Your little ‘detour’ almost got my sister killed. I’d hate to think what other nasty surprise you’ll plan on an airship.”

“Whoa what? You don’t trust him?” Diantha cried.

“No, I don’t,” Rune folded his arms.

“Bro, that’s whack! He didn’t do anything but take us the quick way to the port. It was Mirror that attacked us,” she said, leaning towards him.

“It doesn’t matter who attacked you. You almost died and if we didn’t go that way, we wouldn’t have run into Mirror. You wouldn’t have gotten hurt and—” Rune raised his voice, leaning towards her as well.

“Who cares? I fought ‘im off, you know!”

“Yes, with the powers that you shouldn’t be using. Heck, you shouldn’t even be in danger! Hell, you shouldn’t even be here!”

“What’s with you? I can take care of myself.”

“I don’t care if you can or you can’t. The point is you need to be in as little danger as possible. And this guy dragged us into a trap.”

“The only one that thinks that is you. And why doesn’t it matter? You’re treating me like I’m a kid. I’m sixteen, remember?”

“Gods, I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re this hot-headed. If you don’t trust me that much, then just follow me. You can watch me set this all up,” Ptero said. “I would have thought you would want to do something more useful like buy provisions and prepare for the trip.”

“See? We can trust him!” Diantha pouted. “Trust your friends, Rune. We all wanna see you get to Faernia.”

“Friends? Argh, I—” Rune grabbed his head. He took a deep breath and calmed down, hanging his arms by his side. “Look, sis. This isn’t about trust or friendship or anything. I can’t help worrying about you because you’re here, okay? Just let me protect you.”

“I don’t need protecting, Rune. I’m an adult now. And this is about friends and trust, you’re not treating Ptero like a friend and you’re not trusting him!” she said.

“Seventeen is an adult in Oshawott years, sis,” Rune said.

“Oh who the heck cares?”

“Diantha, stop this, please. I have to not take any chances because I can’t afford to lose you again!” Rune cried. “You might not see it, but back then, when I saw what happened to you… I can’t bear to let that happen again. But I know I can’t keep you locked up in the castle, that’s why I let you come with me. But if you get hurt again, it’ll… it’ll…”

“Wait wha? Rune?” she quietened down, surprised by his change of tone.

“Please, just let me protect you. I love you too much to let you get hurt again. I want you to be as safe as possible through all of this,” he put his hands on her shoulders. Her cheeks reddened slightly and she looked away.

“Alright alright, you don’t have to get all like that on me,” she said quietly. “But you’ve gotta trust the others, ‘kay? They wanna protect us, too.”

“It’s true. Safe Pokémon are happy Pokémon, right?” Galen as he wrapped his leaves around both Oshawott. Rune groaned and rolled his eyes while Diantha started giggling. “And we’re a team working towards the happiest world. No reason not to trust each other. Diantha is safe as long as we’re around, your highness. I would gamble my life on it!”

“Besides, I can vouch for Ptero in telling you that he’s trustworthy. We’ve been in contact for way too long for him to pull something dangerous around me,” Kelsith said.

“If I recall correctly, Pokémon that can travel between the two planets are very far and few in between. Ptero might be our only hope to fly to Faernia,” Emerson said.

“That’s correct. You need a special badge of right to freely travel between the planets. You can only get those badges by having the approval of royalty from both planets as well, so it’s extremely difficult to get, if I must say,” Ptero confirmed, showing them the badge from his bag. It was a simple pin badge with pink and navy blue. “I didn’t want to unveil this, but I’m actually required to help you. I’d be hard pressed for my freedom if I were to refuse to help royalty of either planet.”

Hmm? Wait, it’s his duty to help the royalty? Did Jyararanga plan this as well? Is Ptero only helping me because he was asked to?” Rune gasped in his head. “No, it’s too early to make an assumption like that. I’ll have to see what Ptero does from here. If he’s our only ticket to travel to Faernia, then I have to put that much trust in him.

“You kids, you’re making a ruckus and you’re in the way!” A child shouted, rushing towards them. It was a Togedemaru, but much taller and bigger than he sounded. “You don’t work here, so I’m letting you off. But please leave!”

“Seriously, Shota? I’m right here,” Ptero groaned. The Togedemaru went quiet and glanced over at everyone, looking dumbfounded.

“Oh, hi there Ptero. What’s going on here, then? Are you with these kids?” he asked.

“We’re not kids. I am Prince Rune of Caste Eris,” Rune bowed. Togedemaru’s eyes widened.

“Whoa, he’s so chubby! But why does his tail stick up like that?” Diantha giggled. Rune slapped her head, to which she cursed and tried to hit him back.

“His and her royal highness and an entourage of Pokémon. Wait, there’s a fairy with you, too?” Togedemaru cried. “Wait wait wait, I’m sorry. Call me Shota. I-I’m the captain of these parts. We-welcome to Port Fantasia number one, where we handle communications between planet Eris and Faernia.”

“We know. Your mailmon Ptero told us everything. We need a flight to Faernia,” Rune replied with a nod.

“Yes, I received the letter about that a while ago. We’re to take you to the meeting point for your marriage with Princess Ariala, yes?” Shota said.

“You already know?” he tilted his head.

“Yes. An operation li-like this would have been set up months in advance, you know! The-that said, we’ve run into some difficulty and well,” Shota said, looking side to side. “We don’t have a private airship yet. A recent rock slide dealt us a lot of damage, followed by the rotting of the sea leading to a bit of famine and… urf, the problems piled up. Most of the staff fled.”

“That rock slide damaged here, too,” Emerson said.

“That would have to have happened before our encounter with Mirror, though. That means the rock slides here have been a common occurrence,” Rune added, folding his arms. “The sooner this trip is done, the better. Can you still take us in one of those airships?”

Shota glanced back at the three docked ships, and then back at Rune’s party, looking even more nervous than before. “In one of those shoddy old things? Sure we can, but for you as a prince?”

“Don’t concern yourself with making a fancy vessel or something. We just need to get to Faernia safely,” Rune said.

“Yeah it can do that, but there’ll be many other Pokémon on board, you know. Those ships were already planned for mailmon and stuff,” he said, still sweating.

“That’s fine. Make some space for Emerson and we’ll be alright,” Rune said, smiling.

“Hey, whatever I have isn’t contagious!” the Umbreon cried.

“Honey, he’s just taking safe measures,” Kelsith giggled.

“If that’s really alright, then go ahead and make yourselves comfy on board the ship in the middle, there. Let the staff know who you are and they’ll show you what to do,” Shota said.

“Thank you very much. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? We didn’t need you, after all,” Rune said, giving Ptero a smug look.

“Big bro,” Diantha growled.

“Hey, I’m joking this time. But that was a lot easier to do than he made it out to be,” he said, leading the way.

“Just to let you know, it’s an eight hour trip between the two planets. If you need to do your business, do it before you get on. There aren’t any restrooms on board,” Ptero said.

“Rest… rooms?” Rune raised an eyebrow.

“You know, the litterboxes. Eris might not have them, but on Faernia, you can’t just plop down anywhere and do that stuff. You have to develop a sense of hygiene,” he said.

“You guys have designated areas to litter?” Rune asked. Ptero sighed.

“I have a lot to teach you,” he groaned. Shota stood and watched them until they were on the other side of the field, where he was finally joined by another Pokémon, a Cacturne.

“Oh gods, I’m so nervous. We can really do this, right? We’ve only got one shot,” he said, shivering and gasping hard. “Alright. Let’s gather everyone and get going. No time to go over the plan.”

Cacturne didn’t say anything, nor did it move at all. It wasn’t even clear how it came to stand beside Shota, but it disappeared just as suddenly, causing the Togedemaru to groan in bother. “I know you’re eager, but we’ve gotta get this right, okay? No jumping the gun.”

Contrary to Shota’s worries, the interior of the airship was far fancier than anyone expected it to be. It felt more like a home than it did a ship – it was spacious, furnished with wooden materials, decorated with paintings and posters, and even had a fireplace with an open fire burning in it. Tasty smells came from a room that was presumably the kitchen, whilst the only two rooms with doors blocking them had ‘staff only’ signs on them.

There were no seats, only cushions, so Rune and the others made themselves comfortable at the head of the ship, an upper floor that was just below the glass roof. The glass curled right around until it reached the floor, so the group had a clear view of the surrounding world. From here they had an emergency exit that led right out of the airship and easy access to the other rooms.

A lecture from Ptero about the standards of the public on Faernia failed to distract Rune from his nervousness, however. Once they had taken off, the unusual feeling of the floor tilting and the background shifting took away every sense of relaxation he could have had. He couldn’t shake how fragile these airships were; knowing that any bad attacks that went off in here would cause the whole thing to explode with him in it. Even worse, with the clear view of the outside world around them as they flew, he had all the sickening sights of Eris and its landmarks getting smaller and smaller.

“S-sis, don’t stand so close to the window!” he called out, realising that she was leaning against it obsessively. She ignored him however, even when that scenery started to darken. It took very little time, but they had ascended to space and were going beyond. Everything around them outside was pitch black, minus the stars that glistened in the distance. An indecisive temperature came with it, one that had Rune shivering from cold even though he was sat so close to the fire.

“I understand your discomfort, but I assure you, we’re safe. These airships use jets and oars to ‘sail’ through space. We’ll avoid any stars or debris with ease,” Ptero said as walked over to Rune with the others.

“Honestly, it beats my first trip across the planets. I was locked in a box,” Kelsith shrugged.

“I actually remember you being too stiff to move for a while. All the more reason I felt so sorry for you,” Emerson laughed.

“How can you guys laugh?” Rune groaned. His head was hurting from the mixed temperature, making him feel like he was going to throw up.

“I do this for a living you know, going between the planets,” Ptero tapped his glasses.

“Oh, right. Sis, please come back over here. You keep pressing into that window and your face is gonna flatten,” he said.

“But it’s so pretty out there. We’re in space, big bro! That’s so cool. I mean, imagine going to another planet in this thing?” she said.

“It’s a wondrous feeling, isn’t it? I could have only dreamt that travel like this was possible. And all to visit Pokémon on the opposite planet,” Galen said.

“It’s also dangerous. One wrong move and we’re all dust,” Rune said. Diantha puffed up her cheeks.

“Really? You’re that scared, huh? I’m gonna be fine Rune, you don’t need to fret over every little thing,” she said. “Maybe you could take it easy if you ate somethin’ for once.”

“You know what, that’s a good call. It’s been a while since any of us have eaten anything, hasn’t it?” he said, realising that fact. He was running on fumes for sure, yet his stomach was ready to heave up more than the Butterfree that filled it to bursting. As he stood up to tend to that hunger, a group of Pokémon came through one of the doors in the back, casually walking around him and his party.

“You have a knack for reading others minds. I wonder if they do special dishes for this trip, though? Space themed food is on my mind, now!” Galen said.

“I usually bring my own meals since I’m not into Eris’ dishes. Who do we ask to prepare food?” Ptero wondered.

Rune wondered just that, but his face flattened as he watched the way the Pokémon gathered into the room. It was almost as if they were surrounding him in a formation of some sort, a familiar positioning. None of them replied to the obvious questions he had, and it soon clicked in his mind what he should have been doing. He drew his Razor Shell and swiped it aside to show his threat, forcing the surrounding Pokémon to stop and prepare for an attack.

“Huh?” Diantha said.

Before she could say another word, A Cacnea came at her swinging, getting hit back by the prepared Rune. A Ninetales flared up its mouth and blew a Fire Blast at them straight afterwards, which Rune sliced in half, but not without recoil damage. Embers scorched him and Diantha, garnering a growl of pain from them both.

Thankfully, Ptero and Kelsith had realised and jumped into the battle, protecting Rune and Diantha from further attacks with a Thunderbolt and a Fairy Wind. The attacks stopped from there, leaving Rune and the party back to back with each other, surrounded by their potential enemies.

“What in the world do you think you’re doing?” Ptero shouted, revealing his daggers.

“Don’t bother asking. Just fight back!” Rune said..

He knew he had to be, here. Whatever reason these Pokémon were attacking him, he needed to ensure none of them damaged the surrounding ship too much. As such his eyes darted between the three most threatening looking Pokémon present, an Arcanine, a Raticate, and a Wartortle.

“Ah, we’re sorry, Ptero. But this is our only chance to stop them,” Wartortle replied, looking down.

“We almost died because of rock slides, earthquakes, and famine, and all the royal family cares about is a pointless little royal wedding? I won’t stand or a king that cares nothing about his Pokémon,” Arcanine said. Rune’s face tightened.

“Wait, what? You guys aren’t sayin’ you don’t want Rune to marry, are you?” Diantha gasped.

“The only way King Jyararanga is gonna get up off his ass and do something about these earthquakes and stuff is if something happens to him. The death of his son ought to be a working switch for that,” Arcanine said.

“You’re just supposed to be mailmon. Our job is to help these Pokémon. What makes you think treason will help?” Ptero shouted, his mouth agape.

“Is the happiness of the royal family that much to ask? I admit that times are hard, but taking it out on someone of high standing is not the answer. I don’t see how that could possibly make you happy,” Galen said. Before Arcanine could continue arguing with them, Rune sprinted forward and swung his Razor Shell at full force, sending him flying with a mighty roar.

“Rune!” Ptero gasped, but it was too late. The other Pokémon immediately turned on him after that pre-emptive attack, turning the once homely room into an all-out brawl.

About three Pokémon attempted to dive on top of Rune, but he avoided them all by using an Aqua Jet which he aimed at the Ninetales from earlier. The quick strike sent it to the ground a good distance away, but there was no time to breathe as a Scizor took him on next, slamming its claws onto Rune’s head. Rune was ready and clashed against them with Razor Shell, quickly breaking away before attempting more attacks. The two of them smashed their attacks against each other hard enough to make one another grunt, but thanks to Rune’s size and his faster movements, he was soon slashing at Scizor’s chest to knock it to the ground.

“You selfish jerks! That’s not why Rune’s going to Faernia!” Diantha cried, getting ignored.

She stood by the others and protected herself from stray attacks with Water Gun, not having to do much as the enemies aimed almost solely after Rune. The others helped out from a distance, but to their surprise, Rune seemed to be able to handle the entire battle on his own.

“This is a joke. None of you even know how to fight. Strength in numbers means nothing when you’re weak!” he shouted. He was already surrounded by a bundle of knocked out Pokémon.

“It doesn’t matter, either way. You’re too late!” Arcanine said with a weak snicker, struggling to his feet. “We win this either way. We’re all going to die, and it’ll show your king that he needs to get to work.”

“Instead of attempting to do something about your predicaments yourselves, you’re dealing with your losses by bringing suffering onto your leaders. If you’re planning on crashing this ship, I’ll never let you!” Rune said tightened his pose. Arcanine started laughing to himself, making Rune go quiet. “Wait a minute, if these are the mailmon, then where’s that Togedemaru?

At that, his eyes slightly shifted to scan the room. Wartortle, Arcanine, a Dodrio and a few other species were still standing, whilst those knocked out were forcing themselves back to their feet. “He’s not here because he’s the one driving the ship. Shit, I have to find him!

He stepped backwards and coughed another curse under his breath as he realised that fact, gritting his teeth on top of his other attempts at intimidation. Arcanine seemed to have realised Rune’s thoughts however, and smiled in smug triumph.

I can’t leave this room without sis, though. But I have to hurry, or we’ll all be killed!” he thought, beginning to shudder, glancing back at her. “Damn it- screw it! Galen, Emerson, take care of Diantha for me. Ptero, Kelsith, you’re with me!”

“Huh, what?” Ptero gasped.

“Don’t question it, just follow me!” Rune said as charged off.
Episode 13: Signs of a change


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Rune Midgard.png
Episode 13: Signs of a change

Shota failed to stand as still as he wanted to. The Togedemaru attempted to focus on a wall of electricals and high-tech controllers towering above him, reading the little markings on different sections. The machines were all black, with a web of different coloured wires, dials, switches, and occasionally, screens, all across an entire wall of the room. He was trying to pick out a specific one, but couldn’t focus his thoughts for long enough to even start analysing or choosing one.

He blinked sweat out of his eyes and sighed. It was always unnecessarily hot in here, especially when the airship was active and halfway through space. He had no time to dawdle, and yet every bone in his body refused to act and deal with the task.

“Yes yes, I know. But it’s still hard, you know? Blowing the wrong fuse will just make everything inconvenient to everyone,” he said. Cacturne was behind him, staring perfectly motionless. “Ramuda, listen. I hate it when you start doing this. This is something I have to do, alright? I don’t care if you’ll find it easier.”

Shota faced the machines and stared up at the wires and the points where they connected. “It’ll all be over, yeah? I just spark the right wire, and this whole ship goes alight. The prince will be dead, the king will mourn his loss and start acting seriously, and…”

And then, silence fell. Shota faced forward and shuddered hard. “We’re all in this together, huh? We all agreed our losses are worth it for the greater good. That’s why we’re all going to do this, no matter what it takes,” he breathed out. “Heh, you know, it reminds me of how my sister died. She was the only one in our little herd that said we should keep living life normally.”

Ramuda didn’t move an inch, and yet, Shota seemed to understand words from him and turned to face him. Tears were in his eyes, but he was smiling and shaking, trying to look as happy as he could. “Yeah, seriously. Our home got flooded by black water. Then the cave we found as an emergency got destroyed by a fissure, and yet, she just kept going. She kept believing in Jyararanga and the other dragon gods, pep talking the whole herd every time their morale dropped. So we followed her to new home after new home.”

Another moment of silence. This time, Ramuda’s thorny arms swayed a little bit, but still no words left his mouth, so Shota kept answering him. “Now I’m here. The whole herd is gone but me. I have nothing to go back to. No one who works here does. That’s why we decided on this suicide mission.”

“… Then do it? Ramuda, this isn’t something you just do! My whole life’s flashin’ before my eyes, you know? Yeah it’s selfish that all the king cares about is that royal wedding, but like, what if… just what if – and this is purely hypothetical – what if that marriage was actually leading to something? Something better, something that could save all of Eris. Something like my sister wanted,” he cried. He sighed and looked up at the wires again. His lightning bolt shaped tail stretched upwards along with the spines on his back, and his cheeks began to crackle. “You’re right. For the greater good. Let’s do this.”

Ramuda’s arms slowly hung forward and became still. Seeing he was ready, Shota shut his eyes and breathed in deeply. “Was nice knowing you, Ramuda. And I’m so sorry, sis. But I’m gonna join ya.”

“Stop! Don’t you dare!” Rune roared exaggeratedly, charging into the room so fast he threatened to trip and roll forward. Seeing Shota about to release an electric attack, he threw his scalchop as hard as he could and then launched into an Aqua Jet attack.

“What the—” Shota choked, stopping his attack from the sudden aggression against him. The scalchop hit him hard enough to knock him forward slightly, followed by him getting smashed into the wall in front of him by the Aqua Jet. Rune crashed into the same wall and both Pokémon bounced off of it to the ground, grabbing their faces in pain.

“Rune, watch out!” Ptero shouted, him and Kelsith coming into the room a moment later.

The Oshawott’s eyes snapped open at the warning, spotting Ramuda just above him and ready to smash its arms down with a Needle Arm attack. Rune just about rolled away from it, not fazed by the huge hole in the ground the attack made. He rolled over to his scalchop and immediately turned it into a Razor Shell, having to use it to block subsequent Needle Arm attacks. Ramuda mercilessly swung at him before he could even get to his feet.

“Whoa whoa whoa, Ramuda!” Shota said. Kelsith caught him in her feelers before he could jump into the fight, covering his mouth in an effort to strangle him. With him kept busy that way, Ptero could take flight above Rune’s battle, where he released a strong electric shock that froze Ramuda to the spot.

Rune shielded his face from the flash of electricity that surged across Ramuda’s body, surprised to hear a cry of pain from the grass type. He knew what he had to do however, and flew to his feet to slash the Cacturne at full force. A clean cut across its front sent it to the ground outside of Ptero’s electricity, bringing the battle to a pause.

“Thank goodness, we made it in time. You saw through their plan immediately,” Ptero said, catching his breath as he floated to the floor. “Whatever your intentions are, your actions stop here. You are—”

“In breach of his royal highness’s safety, blah blah blah I get it. Got any other authority to abuse?” Shota spat. He tensed up and let out a light electric shock, making Kelsith yip and release him. “Quick Ramuda, Sandstorm!”

Rune only had time to gasp before Ramuda punched the floor to summon a huge gust of wind with the force of his hit. Waves of sand came with that wind, engulfing the room in a shower of orange sand and rocks. Although it didn’t last long, everyone had to shield their faces from it, and coughed or spat to help themselves. Once it died down, Ramuda and Shota were nowhere to be seen.

“Ugh, smart little- they can’t have gotten far. Back to the bridge!” Rune said.

“More running? After all of that.” Kelsith skipped after him and Ptero.

“Don’t complain. If we don’t do this, we could die!” Rune shouted.

“Shota…” Ptero muttered.

“Rune, you left me alone!” Diantha cried the moment they got back to the room below the roof. She ignored every sense of urgency to run over and body slam him. “It was so scary and they were so tough! We had to battle and fight and-”

“Sis, please!” he fought her off.

“Not until you make it up to me! I had to put in so much work.”

“Yes, fine, whatever! Just- stop!” he said as he managed to push her away.

“Yaay! I’m getting treats on Faernia, now. All the more reason to actually win this.” She giggled at her victory, and posed beside him. He ignored her to get a proper look at the room, surprised to find that most of the battle had already been dealt with. All of the random Pokémon that had attacked them were on the ground, defeated and giving them aggressive glares. The room wasn’t even that messy, as if everyone fighting had been aware that a badly aimed attack could destroy the glass roof.

On the other hand, Shota and Ramuda were as threatening as ever, both stood by a bookshelf on the side of the room. Now that the attention was fully on them, Shota stepped forward and signalled Ramuda to act. The Cacturne pushed the bookshelf aside to reveal an emergency exit that looked like it led right out of the airship. A large wheel served as the door lock.

“That’s—" Rune choked.

“You must be naïve if you thought you could stop me from a plan like this without stopping my backup, too. You’re at my mercy, royals!” Shota posed similarly to Diantha.

“Are you gonna run away? Wait a sec, if you open the door while we’re in space, what happens?” Diantha cried.

“The worst will happen. The air will drain out of the ship, and we’ll all be flung out into open space. We’d be dead for certain,” Ptero said. Everyone gasped and glanced at him, but he ignored them and continued. “Shota, what exactly are you playing at? What’s the meaning of this charade?”

“The meaning of this ‘charade’ is to trigger King Jyararanga!” Shota pointed at them. “He’s been doing nothing about the suffering Pokémon, and then when times are at their worst, what does he do? Prepares for a royal wedding? To hell with that! We’ll kill you, prince, and then he’ll realise that he has to act. He has to act, or his own Pokémon will overthrow him.”

“But if you open that door, you won’t survive, either. We’ll all die!” Ptero raised his voice. There was a pause.

“Yeah, that’s not much of a cost, you know. Not like I have a life to go back to. We all decided that when we made this plan.” He shut his eyes. “Unless you were to let us hold you hostage?”

“Hostage?” Rune raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah. If you don’t want me to open this door and kill everyone here, let us hold you hostage. We’ll make King Jyararanga work for your safety!” he said. Ramuda slowly cast him a look, though only his head turned. “So go on! Lay down your weapons, all of you! Paws in the air, unless you wanna lose that air!”

Rune and the others didn’t move and glared at him with furious mugs. “Go on! I mean it! I’m not afraid of death!”

“Will you stop fighting if we do?” Rune asked.

“Of course. If you start doing as I say and be a good little hostage, then I won’t need to fight any of you,” he promised. Rune slowly crouched and slid his scalchop onto the ground, doing the same for the sword on his back.

“Your highness!” Ptero gasped.

“Do as he says, everyone. Lay down your weapons and paws in the air,” Rune said. The others groaned and grumbled, hesitantly doing as he asked.

“What’re you talking about? This gets us what we want, and we get to live!” Shota turned to Ramuda. The Cacturne didn’t say anything, but its opposition was visibly obvious. For whatever reason he wasn’t happy with what Shota had just proposed, and that much made Rune freeze and pay close attention to him. “Yeah it was an ‘on the spot’ idea but it works, doesn’t it?”

There was another pause, and then Shota flipped out and started bouncing on the spot. “What do you mean it’s the coward’s way out? What, do you wanna die really badly or something?”

“Er, who’s he talking to?” Diantha tilted her head.

“Gah, wait, I didn’t mean that literally! I’m trying to say that—” Shota gasped. That small moment of distraction Diantha created with her question proved to be fatal, as Rune had glanced at her to offer a short answer. In that small moment, Ramuda’s arms were turning the wheel to unlock the emergency exit. Even Shota couldn’t stop him now, despite being so close to him.

“Everybody get down!” Ptero shouted, throwing himself to the floor.

“Ramuda you mad thing!” Shota cried as well, slamming himself to the floor with everyone. His prickles lodged him into the ground stiffly, but even that proved to be of little help to the bizarre force that burst in the moment the door was opened.

Rune couldn’t help but cough and cry out, taken by surprise at how powerful the wind was. The moment the door was opened, Ramuda went flying straight out and vanished from sight before anyone could comprehend what was happening. Books, paper, food, dust, and more went hurtling out of the exit at blinding speed, all while a frightening howl came from the door. Along with this terribly strong wind that vacuumed everything out of the room came a destructive cold, one that seemed to suck the oxygen and energy right out of Rune.

In seconds, his body felt like it was straining beyond its limits. Frost and ice generated from sweat all over his head and arms, whilst his breathe was reduced to sharp coughs and prickly gasps. He could barely turn his head to look up at the situation, feeling like his eyes were about to slice open from the freezing moisture paralysing them in place. He could just about make out Shota slipping free however, unable to resist the heavy wind pulling him free from the floor.

“N-no you don’t,” Rune growled.

He let himself relax, immediately getting taken up into the air. He soared over and unintentionally tackled the Togedemaru, but the two of them quickly latched back onto the floor, their hands linked and bodies as flat as possible. Without even realising it, Rune had erected a Razor Shell just to help, having it stabbed into the floor as well. He wasn’t sure when he caught it, but he was very glad that he did.

“Prince!” Shota said dryly, eyes widened at what he was seeing.

He was in just as bad a state as Rune was, half frozen over and straining to stay conscious. Rune didn’t answer him, staring back and ensuring that he held them both down as much as he could. Shota quickly got over his shock and joined in with that, keeping hold of Rune as tightly as he could.

Then, all of a sudden, the howling came to a complete stop. It was still freezing cold, but everything silenced besides everyone’s shaky breathing and surprised groans. The debris stopped getting sucked out of the ship, the wind ceased to pull at everyone, and the air stilled enough for it not to hurt to breathe. Rune was the first to get up, not understanding what had just happened. The emergency exit was still wide open, viewing nothing but the dark depths of space, but nothing was moving anymore.

“Safeguard?” Diantha whispered to herself, able to see what he couldn’t. A little way outside was a protective barrier around the ship, one that had given them their saving grace. But who had used it, and when?

“K-Kelsith, your feelers! Shut the door while we have the chance!” Emerson shouted.

“Ah, right!” she gasped as she stretched her feelers over to it. It clearly took effort and more strength than she had, but she managed to shut it, where Rune took over and turned the wheel to lock it back up the moment he could.

“What just happened?” Ptero asked. Diantha was the only one seemingly not surprised, looking for the unidentified Pokémon that had used Safeguard to give them this miracle. She found them quickly, and took in a sharp breath the moment she did.

Mirror, the masked Absol, was on the roof of the ship staring directly into her eyes. He didn’t even have anything to protect him from the danger of outer space, and yet, he was perfectly fine and curious as ever. He jumped out of sight before she could collect herself to say anything.

“P-prince, yo-you—” Shota struggled to say. Rune swiped at him as hard as he could with Razor Shell before he could finish, sending him tumbling to the centre of the room. He whined as the wind was knocked out of him, choking on a breath when he opened his eyes to find Rune directly in front of him pointing his Razor Shell straight at his face.

“I’ll be damned if I let you die after all of that. Too bad your little Cacturne friend had more of a death wish than you!” Rune said. Shota uttered a reply until his fear disappeared, where he stood back up and attempted to retort. Rune slashed him before he even made a sound, this time so hard that a cut was made above his nose.

“Rune!” Diantha cried.

“Don’t even bother. I’m not killing you and this situation is getting reversed, like it or not,” Rune huffed again. “Listen to me, Shota. You’d die for the sake of the world, won’t you? To see Jyararanga resolve our issues and save us all.”

“Y-yes. Even though I don’t want to—”

“Then you can put that much effort into aiding us. You and all your little cronies can. Rather than putting your energy into destructive feelings and the murder of royalty, you can dedicate what little of your worthless lives is left to servitude. That way nobody gets hurt and we all get what we want,” Rune said, keeping his sword pointed at Shota. “The purpose of my marriage isn’t leisure. It’s coexistence. I’m marrying the princess of Faernia so that our planets might mend our broken relations. When we do that and combine our planets’ natural talents, we can resolve the issues these worldwide disasters are causing.”

“Wait, that’s why this royal wedding is happening?” Shota gasped.

“Well duh, what did you think it was? Daddy’s not ignoring you Pokémon. It’s just that this is a problem affecting Faernia as well as Eris, and no one knows what the problem is right now. If we could help ya, we’d have done it without going through all this marriage nonsense!” Diantha said.

Shota shuddered and glanced at Rune, who was still glaring at him. His fury had died down however, and distraction could be seen in his face.

“Emerson, Kelsith, would you do me a favour? Take Shota away and make sure he continues to fly the ship. Keep a constant eye on him. Galen, Ptero, you keep an eye on these other Pokémon,” Rune said. “All of you are in this same spot, just so you know. You’re now soldiers working for me. If you can throw your lives away on a mission like this, then you can also use them to help me.”

“Aye aye your highness! And while I’m at it, let’s fix that bookshelf, shall we? Last thing we want are any sneaky ‘accidents’ with that door” Galen saluted him.

Rune sighed, almost forgetting about Galen’s oblivious nature. With his orders given and the room starting to return to activity, he ensured that everyone was doing as they were told before stumbling over to the back wall. He leaned against it and folded his arms, but had to fight the urge to slump against it.

“Rune- I mean, your highness,” Ptero said, keeping him awake.

“What?” he replied, unable to hide a tired breath. His body felt like it was it was about to collapse, gradually reaching a level he couldn’t take. “You have your orders. Get to them. We need to get everything under control asap. Don’t concern yourself with me, I’ll get a status report done in a minute.”

“What about me big bro? You’re not gonna put me to work, are you?” Diantha groaned. Rune paused and stood straight.

“You can er… look, just don’t get in the way. Do relief stuff. Go make sure nobody else is hurt or anything,” he said.

“Alright! I know exactly what I’m gonna do. Don’t worry about me then,” she giggled. “Mirror, why’d you come here? And why’d you save us like that? I’m gonna go find you and find out, like it or not!

“I need to apologise,” Ptero said.

“For what?” he said, taken by surprise.

“I underestimated you greatly. Just here, I’m impressed. But you’re a prince – I shouldn’t have tested you in the first place.” He folded his arms. “I also have to apologise for the fact that this even happened. Shota is an old friend of mine. We’re both mailmon who travel between the planets, so it’s honestly a shock to find him this way.”

“You just want to thank me for sparing him, don’t you? If he steps out of line, he’s getting executed all the same. Count yourself lucky,” Rune said, but he began to slump. “Damn it, what’s- I can’t stay awake.”

”Your highness?” Ptero said.

Rune tried to respond but only managed to breathe out once more before fatigue took a tight hold of his body, and his sight and hearing blurred completely. Next thing he knew he couldn’t even feel anything of the blurry imagery before him, and fell forwards into a deep slumber.

“I see. How much will you refuse to listen, Rune? Will it be until you allow yourself to be mortally wounded? Is that what you would consider protecting the ones you love? Even with the solution told to your face, you’re struggling to keep standing and fighting. It’s laughable. Someone who spent ten years of their life getting stronger for the sake of protecting, and you can’t even so much as defeat a single Constellar. If you keep behaving like that, you won’t stand a chance against the real thing.”

“Even after seeing everything that happened and being faced with your demise, you let your anger control you and fell for the very same attack.”

… Is that because of what he said? Why did I…?
Episode 14: Jyararanga’s scheme


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Rune Midgard.png
Episode 14: Jyararanga’s scheme

Rune awoke with an unusual level of awareness. He couldn’t remember even a hint of what dreams he’d had, nor could he hear anyone around him until his eyes were fully open. He was still in the main room of the airship, but the background was brighter than the spatial backdrop he was used to seeing from it.

“Huh? Wait what, where are we?” He sprung awake. Clouds surrounded the ship on all sides, causing it to rumble unpleasantly as it descended amongst them.

“Big brother, you’re awake! Just in time. I was getting worried we’d have to carry ya or something,” Diantha giggled. He stood up and grumbled, surprised to see everyone on the trip gathered in the same room. Ptero was addressing them all.

“What’s going on? I fell asleep, but…” He rubbed his head.

“Uh yeah, that thing Cacturne did before put us in a pretty bad position, right? Things got real cold and you sorta fainted. But we’re also outta fuel now too, so we’re figuring out a way to land safely,” she said. Rune folded his arms and joined everyone else.

“We’re just making an emergency landing, right? Isn’t anyone flying the ship right now?” he asked. The others gave him worrisome looks, to which he raised an eyebrow until he noticed that even Shota was there. “Wait a minute- if Shota’s here then that means—”

“Yep. We’re gonna crash. The guys seem pretty calm, though,” Diantha said. Rune’s eyes widened.

“Are you nuts? If this thing crashes, it’ll—”

“Your highness, please calm down. We’ve talked this through already and can assure you that not much bad will happen,” Ptero said.

“Not much bad is still bad. Can we really afford for something to happen?”

“Trust your friends already, big bro! We’re gonna be okay,” Diantha groaned.

“Yes. Many of us here know the move Protect, as well as defensive moves like Reflect and such. The ship will suffer little damage and we won’t land exactly where we want to, but that’s all,” Ptero said.

“One minute ‘till impact, captain!” Galen announced.

“One minute?” Rune shouted.

“Places everyone. Do your best,” Ptero said.

“Wait wait wait, what am I supposed to—”

“Just sit back, relax, and trust us, okay?” Diantha said as she joined everyone at the front. She raised her hands along with a few others and released a translucent green barrier from around her, giving a cry to show her effort. Despite performing the same actions, the others released a perfectly transparent barrier, having theirs not go as far out as Diantha’s. All of their barriers at least surrounded the ship, though.

“Wait, Diantha! That’s—” Rune said, cut off by the sudden tilting of the floor. The ship was leaning forwards with their descent which forced him to pay attention and focus.

“I know what I’m doin’ okay? You don’t need to worry about me usin’ my powers,” she growled in effort.

I just want you to be safe, darn it,” he sighed, and coughed when the ship shook again. He felt sick staring at the window now, seeing it scroll from clouds to a distant land to a detailed field in just a few seconds.

They were falling fast, and he could only imagine how fast. The ships that he had seen Jyararanga destroy didn’t fall nearly as quickly as they were now, yet they exploded upon impact with the ground. If the Pokémon here were serious about saving themselves, he knew their protection would need to be stronger than this.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but sis, go all out. That’s the only way we’re going to survive this.” He put one foot forward.

“I’ve got permission?” She glanced back at him.

“Gods, just do it!” he cried.

She thrust her arms with another cry of effort. Dark electricity crackled around her briefly before exploding into an enormous aura, one that outgrew the protect barrier she currently had. It enhanced the barrier in the process, somehow causing the airship to float at a level angle as well.

“What the?” Ptero gasped, surprised by Diantha outdoing everyone.

She didn’t even seem to be putting much effort into her Protect now, and kept one arm held forward while making no sound at all. Her body remained surrounded by black, smoky gases and crackling electricity, however. Before Ptero could question her witchcraft, the airship crashed against the ground and threw everyone off balance, wildly skidding and grinding against whatever was below it as it forcefully came to a stop. Diantha let up her barrier right away, thrown into a huge clump with everyone else at the front of the ship.

“Ow… that still hurt anyway,” she moaned once they came to a complete stop. At first glance the shield had protected their fall, but when she pushed herself to stand up, she found Ptero cradled beneath her in between her arms. “O-oh. Why hello there, cutie.”

“Re-really? Get off of me,” he said.

“I kinda like it here. You’re soft,” she giggled.

“Da-darn it, stop messing around!” he cried, fidgeting enough to get her to stand up. He brushed himself off, unable to hide a light blush. “What kind of move was that? I didn’t know you were capable of such an arte.”

“It’s just something sis can do. Don’t mind it, we’ve got bigger concerns.” Rune drew their attention to outside the window. To their surprise, no damage was visible on the ship whatsoever, not even as much as a crack on the window. There were quite a few Pokémon gathered around it however, all of them fretting about the crash landing.

“Allow me, your highness. I’ll take responsibility for this predicament,” Ptero said with a bow.

“So gentlemanly,” Diantha giggled.

He wearily opened the emergency exit and examined the area, turning and nodding to everyone else before hopping out. Rune copied even though Ptero had just confirmed it was safe, surprised to find the small variety of Pokémon that were making space for them to jump out. He couldn’t identify any of them by species, but there were quite a few cat pokemon dressed in uniform wielding lances and swords. They were definitely on Faernia.

“Are you all alright? Here, let me help you down!” their potential leader called out in her slightly gritty voice. It was a tall, pink, soft, fairy-like Pokémon that resembled a Clefairy, only taller and less round. Rune ignored her and jumped to ground without her help, concerned by her vastly different appearance to the other formal looking soldiers. She wore a bright red ribbon around her waist with the bow tied at her front, where she kept a fancy fan tucked away.

“Ari—” one of the cats hissed and yanked her back.

Is she even a soldier?” Rune asked himself, unable to take his eyes off her attractive attire. “We’re fine. I apologise greatly for the intrusion. We have business on Faernia, but we ran into some trouble during our flight and ran out of fuel. Might I ask where we are, though?”

“Here,” Ptero showed them his badge. Shota and the others were made to do the same, to which the leader nodded.

“Oh, mailmon. You’re in the southern Coral Fields. I imagine you intended to land at the Fantasia Port to the west.” A Ponyta trotted over. She was pulling a large carriage just fit for the soldiers.

“If you would like, we can escort you all there. The feral Pokémon in this area are rattled due to the ship you just crashed.” The fairy smiled.

“Ari—” Ponyta hissed and nudged her.

“We can take care of that airship as well. I’m impressed you managed to crash land without damaging it at allS” she ignored her bothered companions. “Cat’s Brigade, if you will?”

“Look- no, we’re not doing this. You promised you would stick to your duties, and not only are we side-tracking again, but you’re ignoring your safety. These are Pokémon from Eris. The threat they potentially pose requires utmost care and consideration,” Ponyta said. She stood right in front of Rune and flared her back, failing to intimidate him at all. “You stand in the presence her Royal Highness Princess Ariala. For your illegal crossing and trespassing, we’re going to have to place you under arrest until we can ascertain the truth of your story.”

“Naomi, we ourselves saw them falling through the sky. We don’t need any more proof to their story,” Ariala said.

“It is for your safety, your highness. You shan’t go near them!” the Ponyta stomped a hoof.

“Wait, which of you is the princess?” Rune gasped. The others exchanged glances, taken by surprise.

“That would be me. We just happened to see your airship falling, so we’ve come to help. Please pardon my retainer, Naomi. She is rightfully protective, but she means no harm, deep down.” Ariala bowed.

“Wow Rune, you scored lucky! She’s pretty and thick, don’t you think?” Diantha giggled, half lidded.

“S-sis!” he cried. He turned back to the confused Clefable and went stiff “Are you serious? What kind of attire is that for a princess?”

“Who’re you to ask that? Besides, it’s none of your business,” a hooded Pokémon stepped up.

“No no, you don’t understand.” Rune shook his head. He drew his sword to show it off, causing a wave of shock to cross over Ariala’s group. “I am Rune, crown prince of planet Eris. The Pokémon behind me are an army of sorts, all to aid my escort to planet Faernia to meet the princess.”

“The sword of Earthly Elements- Rune, it’s you,” Ariala whispered.

Rune went silent with her and stared back. The two of them looked one another in the eyes with open mouths. Words longed to escape them both, but all they could manage were near silent breaths and nervous sounds. They barely even moved or blinked, inciting the others to say something. No one made a move however, half expecting the duo to say something every few seconds.

“Oh come on, we didn’t cross through space just for you to get Beautifly in your tummy!” Diantha finally complained and shoved her brother forward. “Say something!”

“Gah, s-sis, wait, I—” he said. Ariala breathed out and clutched her chest.

“Rune. I- do you remember me?” she asked slowly.

“Huh? Remember you?” Diantha replied, confused now.

Rune raised an eyebrow, to which Ariala slowly approached him. She was wary and looked at the palms of her hands before acting, leaning forward to plant her hands on Rune’s ears. He let her, still confused about what she was doing until a spike of nostalgia hit his heart and his face flushed with relief. To him, Ariala’s resemblance to that Clefairy finally became clear, and being this close to her face, he saw the lacking difference between now and back then.

“It’s you, from ten years ago. That fairy I found in Father’s room,” he said. She smiled and withdrew, starting to blush lightly. “I had no idea that all this time…”

“That honestly makes me happy. You remembered,” she said.

Father definitely planned this. This whole trip up until now, he planned it all. There’s no way he didn’t know that that Clefairy was the princess – but then, why? And what happened after all of that? I might actually finally find out what really went down that day,” Rune told himself, and shook his head to hide his concerned looks. “You evolved.”

“Oh. Yes, I did. That was recent, actually. I’ve not been a Clefable for more than a year.” She smiled.

“Evolution is hard to do on Eris since our Evolution Springs are drying up. Father wouldn’t even gift me a Master Seal despite doing so well in training,” he replied. “Makes me wonder if I’m not a good enough fighter or something.”

“We are losing our springs as well. We will need to sort out your evolution soon, lest our procedures become uncomfortable,” she said.

“Uncomfortable?” Rune replied.

“Well who would’ve thought it? You two somehow already know each other? And you met here of all places.” Nier clapped as she walked between them. “Can you imagine what would’ve happened if Ariala wasn’t so kind and we ignored the falling airship?”

“Yes, I wonder what could have happened.” Naomi looked away.

“This isn’t really the place to mingle, though. We should head to that Fantasia Port. Not that any ferals would dare attack an army as big as ours,” Vincent said.

“Right. Will your group lead the way?” Rune said.

“Naturally,” Vincent nodded, doing just that.

After a small bit of preparation and recovery, the large group began their trek across Faernia’s Coral Fields, leaving a few soldiers behind to deal with the crashed airship. Rune and Diantha couldn’t help but fall behind while walking, amazed at the otherworldly difference in the area compared to Eris.

As the name suggested, actual fields of colourful coral made up most of the ground in this area. It was all hilly and quite rocky in appearance, yet a pleasant wind blew and the scenery was level enough to view a far distance. The sun was warm, the various coral reefs were softer than they looked, and it didn’t take long for the party to reach a public road that appeared so safe a child could walk through it.

In fact, it was more populated than any areas of wilderness Rune had ever seen, even if that was due to herds of feral Pokémon hiding and scouting amongst the mountainous, underwater-like reefs.

“Keep up, now,” Vincent called out, snapping Rune back into focus. He tapped his sister and they jogged to catch up with Ariala, still staying silent in their observations. That was until he noticed that Vincent kept staring at him, and he had to hide his nervousness.

“Is something wrong?” he wondered.

“No, honestly. I’m just surprised. If your group is an example of anything to go by, then my perceptions of Pokémon from Eris are all wrong,” Vincent said, smiling. “I should know not to believe in stereotype, and yet I’m surprised. I especially didn’t know that there were any fairies on Eris.”

“Er yeah, funny story that one, isn’t it?” Kelsith laughed awkwardly.

“The same could be said for your group. You still haven’t told me why Ariala’s wearing… that,” Rune replied.

“Still won’t admit I won?” Nier said, half lidded.

“It was a stupid idea and you know it! In fact it’s so stupid that no one realises it’s an idea we’re actually going with,” Vincent cried.

“Is it some sorta disguise? I think she looks pretty good in it. If I were into girls, I’d be drooling! Rune’s a lucky guy!” Diantha giggled.

“Sis, can you stop, please? This is a princess we’re talking about,” Rune groaned.

“It’s true though, ain’t it? Rating outta ten. You can tell me, I won’t tell,” she said.

“It certainly has been a talking point. I like it, as well. Unlike most clothing I’ve seen, it’s not restrictive in movement. Your cape and furstyle looks impressive, too. Nothing like what I remember you as,” Ariala said. “I can tell you have grown as a man.”

“Would you believe me if I said that you’re the first Pokémon to ever tell me that?” Rune smiled.

“Most girls normally just fawn over him and he gets all nervous,” Diantha said.

“Sis!” Rune cried. Ariala giggled.

“Do they, now? I imagine most men to you as well. Your appearance is unique,” Ariala replied.

“It is, isn’t it? Pardon me for askin’, but are those paintbrushes, your highness?” Nier asked.

“Just call me Diantha! And yeah, they are. I’m a painter, and I needed someplace to carry ‘em,” she said.

“You used to be a painter. You haven’t painted anything in years,” Rune groaned.

“Actually I’ve been painting up until we set off for this. I needed something to do while you were in Knight School, and some places outside of the castle were just too good to pass up,” she replied.

“Oh yeah? Then let’s see some,” he said.

“Don’t have any on me now. Canvasses are big you know!”

“Of course you don’t.”

“We will be a while, you know. We have to start setting up the wedding party. If you’d like, we can arrange for you to paint the bride and groom!” Nier said. Vincent beamed up.

“That’s a surprisingly good idea for you,” Vincent said. She growled at him.

“That is actually a wonderful idea, though. If you haven’t lost your ability, I bet the painting would be fantastic,” Rune said.

“Of course! But not for free, though. If there’s gonna be a party, I demand dibs on cake. That’ll make up the cost.” Diantha posed and gave a half-lidded look.

“Is there really going to be a party?” Ariala asked slowly.

“Of course, your highness. One fitting of royalty, attended by the biggest figures from both planets. Well, I believed it would be so, but King Jyararanga hasn’t come with you, so,” Naomi said, closing her eyes. “I believe Queen Magearna has already sorted out things like formal invitations, timing, dates and such.”

Their group was too big to dare to fight, that was obvious at first glance. Despite that, Rune kept up his guard all the way to the populated Fantasia Port. Even here was far different to the one he knew briefly on Eris – it was more of a town than it was a hidden port. The Tapu’s domain covered here, leading it to being another city with pipes of terrain energy running through it, advanced, silvery buildings of metallic material, and a myriad of sophisticated Pokémon operating all throughout. He couldn’t help but slow down as they entered, gazing around at everything like a confused child in a park.

“Please keep up, your highness. We’re here,” Naomi said, snapping him into focus. They were walking into a structure that looked to be even bigger than Castle Eris. “I must admit, you’ve all been well behaved, despite what I hear about Pokémon from Eris.”

“I have to agree. We had a few squabbles on the way here, but our journey back has been smooth enough. That’s probably only because of these two, though.” Vincent glanced nervously at Diantha and Nier. The duo were chatting, giggling, and laughing like they were childhood friends, Nier getting everyone’s attention by whispering something that made Diantha’s eyes widen. The two broke into laughter when they noticed Vincent and Rune staring at them.

“S-sis, what’re you up to?” Rune groaned.

“Oh never mind. Nothing,” she sung and skipped off. Nier didn’t follow, joining Rune and Ariala in the centre of the main room, a hallway lined with enormous columns. She was half-lidded, though.

“Right, now that we have united, we shouldn’t waste any time in the planning of the wedding. Vincent, Nier, I will leave the contact of Queen Magearna to you two,” Naomi said. The couple saluted her. “Prince Rune, where are your retainers? I believe the task of contacting the king of Eris should fall to them.”

“I don’t have retainers. I’ll write Father a letter,” Rune replied.

“What? How can you not have retainers?” she said.

“I do everything I need myself. I had servants growing up, but I dismissed them when I joined Knight School.” He folded his arms. “You just need me to let him know we’ve met up, right?”

“Unacceptable. The two of you are preparing for the biggest day of your lives. I won’t have you overworking yourselves.”

“It’s just writing a letter. That’s hardly overwork—"

“You misunderstand me, your highness. You and your army are honoured guests on our planet. We would not have you labouring away on mundane tasks unfitting of your rank. If you do not have servants you can instruct, then please, leave the work to us.” She bowed to him. She nodded to Nier and Vincent, and the trio got to work.

“Naomi,” Ariala groaned quietly.

And so, the duo was made to stand aside whilst Naomi and the other soldiers took on chores around the building. Neither of them were clear on exactly what was going on, but all the Pokémon wound up crossing back and forth across the hall, shouting orders, carrying and rearranging goods, and more. Rune’s army were taken away but were soon here and there, mingling where possible and asking questions. Some left to explore the port town; others offered their help, whilst the remainder went to their accommodation, reporting to Rune where they would be. Diantha and Galen were the ones seen the most, the loudest, and most obstructive.

“At least sis is having fun,” Rune said at last, head cocked as he watched her bombard a few Cat’s Brigade soldiers with questions. Galen seemed to be watching over her, keeping her out of actual trouble. Ariala didn’t respond to Rune at all, and sighed heavily. “Er, that was quite a sigh. What’s up?”

“I am like you in that it bothers me to be doing nothing like this. The purpose of our marriage is not to have a fancy party. Why should we stand aside whilst our retainers fret over something that is excessive to us?” She look at her hand. Rune raised an eyebrow. “I apologise. That was worded wrong.”

“You don’t like parties, do you?” Rune asked.

“From what I have experienced of royal parties, no. That is between you and me, though. It is duty to attend them, so I have no choice,” she said.

“Neither do I, to be honest. Not like we have much for parties, though. They’re mostly bonfires or feasts, and those weren’t too bad.” Rune smiled. Ariala went quiet and stared back at the crowd of Pokémon. Diantha was trying to figure out what was in a few boxes now, sniffing and searching them for a lock or something.

“Rune. I am afraid I cannot resist asking you much longer, for we may not get another time alone where I might ask,” she said. Her tone got his concern. “I was set on ignoring the crash of your airship until I saw the power that surrounded it and saved it from crash landing.”

“Yes. Everyone’s combined Protect barrier,” he said. Ariala shook her head and gave him a stern look.

“I know exactly what that dark power is. I was not expecting someone in your army to be capable of it. Please, you must tell me who it is.”

He blinked at her. “What exactly do you know, and why does it matter?”

“Please. I would like to get this out of the way as I do not want there to be any mistrust between us.”

“If that’s the case, then why don’t you tell me what happened when Father kidnapped you? Why did he kidnap you, only to have us marry each other a decade later?”

Ariala breathed out and shut her eyes, and then slowly clenched her hands. “I’m afraid I cannot share that information with you. It is information simply best left unknown to as many Pokémon as possible. Your Father made me promise that one.”

“Then don’t expect any answers from me.” Rune folded his arms. “The plot thickens. Father conspired with her. But to what end? If she’s telling the truth about knowing all about Diantha’s powers, then why does she know about them?

“So you know who used the powers,” she replied. Rune gave her a plain look, but his breathing became tenser. “I don’t wish to interrogate you. I’ll respect your decision to keep this a secret from me. But please, I can only give you a dire warning: that Pokémon absolutely cannot openly use those powers here. One of our Gods, Tapu Koko, has sworn destruction of those dark powers. If a Pokémon provokes him with those powers, it may be disastrous.”

“You two, apologies for the wait! We’ve got your rooms sorted out at last,” Nier called out and waved them over. Rune and Ariala exchanged glances. “Come on up! I’ll show you two to your private quarters here.”

“At your earliest convenience, please warn them,” she said.

“You’re going to have to tell me all about the gods of Faernia, you knowl.” Rune followed after her.

“Oh? That one I can tell. Listen well to the legend of Faernia and why our religion is so integrated into our society.”

“So… is it normal for royals to not wear full clothing on Faernia?” Diantha asked.

“No, it’s pretty normal. Lots of Pokémon wear clothes to make themselves look prettier, because they like the clothing, or whatever,” Vincent replied. Her was leaned against the wall while Diantha bounced up to get his attention.

“If you’re wondering about us, we’re not to wear obstructive clothing for what we might need to help Ariala with.” Nier joined them. “And then Vincent has to wear his cloak because he’s Vincent.”

“Huh, okay. I’m sure you guys can still dress pretty and be useful. If we ever get to go to Eris together, I’ll take you to my retainers! They can make you something personal like my skirt, tailored just for you!” Diantha said.

Vincent grumbled. “You know, that just might be a lifesaver. This old cloak of mine has seen better days.”

“Not gonna lie, if you get clothes made for you, you might wanna get someone who knows what they’re doing. Your look has problems,” Nier said.

“Problems? Is your style different? Don’t I look cute?” Diantha looked at herself.

“You’re er… kinda revealing. Behind. Your skirt is way too short and it doesn’t even have a tailhole!” Nier giggled.

Diantha was surprised. “Yeah, and? Don’t you think it’s meant to be like that?”

Vincent beamed up. “It… wait, what?”

“It’s like Ariala’s clothing, right? It draws eyes to certain areas. Then Pokémon can see the true beauty of your body. That’s how it works, and if that’s been bothering you, then it works!” she cheered.

“Huh. Faernians don’t exactly have a dress code, but we’re to be more sophisticated than that, you know?” Nier put her hands on her hips. “If a Pokémon wanted to show off their body, they’d do it by not wearing clothing at all and letting their fur do that work. Like me right now.”

“Yes. Skirts need room for tails, hats have holes for ears… it’s basic stuff,” Vincent said. “Please don’t tell me Eris has inconvenient but provocative clothing as commonplace?”

Diantha started blushing. “N-no, that’s only for me because this was made for me! I don’t have any problem with it, but if I need to wear something else, I’m fine with that, too.”

“Then let us return the proposition. If we get the time, let us go shopping. You can pick something you like.” Vincent smiled.

“Oh hell yeah, yes please! And you can show me a great place to eat, too! There’s someone I wanna take there.” Diantha went half-lidded.

“It’s a date! We’ll teach you all about Faernia’s beauty,” Nier cheered.

Damn it, my retainers are definitely gonna pay for this one,” Diantha thought, and smiled evilly. “When I get back, you guys are gonna get more than a punishment…
Episode 15: As the Gods Will it


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Ariala Asgard.png

Episode 15: As the Gods Will it

“Rune… wake up, Rune.”

After a bit of groaning and squirming the Oshawott was awake, half-lidded and angry until he realised that it was Ariala leaning over him. She didn’t seem bothered or embarrassed in the slightest and got off as soon as he was awake.

“Please follow me. You will need your sword and cape,” she said, as she walked out the door. He tilted his head and yawned. Their quarters were clearly temporary, hardly decorated but still more impressive than anywhere he had ever slept. For the time being, they had separate beds, white walls, and their own personal furniture in a spacious room.

Quietly gathering his things for a short walk, Rune found Ariala outside of the building they were using. His way out was obstructed with the work everyone had put into preparing yesterday, now evident by organized tables and flashy decorations all over the walls. It was like this all over the building, from the hallways to the grand hall in the centre.

“Wait, it’s so early! What’re we doing?” he gasped once he stepped outside. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so the Fantasia Port was masked by silhouettes and cold winds. He was already regretting getting out of bed.

“I’m sorry. But please, walk with me,” Ariala replied. She walked a few steps and then started skipping in order to pick up the pace, concerning Rune further.

“Is there something you want to show me?” He tucked his hands behind his head. “Your retainers aren’t here, either.”

“That’s good. They don’t need to be,” she said. He raised an eyebrow. “It’s okay, you know. If you’re concerned about my safety, you needn’t be. They know that I do this all the time.”

“Okay. And that’s not worrisome at all?” he said.

“Clefable are good at keeping themselves safe, you know. We have remarkable hearing, so any danger I come across, I can escape from before it becomes real danger.” She smiled at him. “It’s also why I have those breakdowns. I shouldn’t be living in the middle of a city, but I must, so it affects my hearing sometimes.”

“When things are too loud. I’ll bear it in mind,” Rune yawned again.

There weren’t even any Pokémon around, minus a few nocturnal Volbeat and Illumise. He could only guess what they were up to, but in an urban area like this, he felt safe even with them around. That was until he realised that Ariala was headed towards the town’s northern exit, a road that led to a field of hills and distant mountains.

“I apologize for dragging you out this far, but please follow me. We have much to do that I would only feel comfortable with if we were to be alone,” she said. He gave it a little round of thought before reaching for his sword, keeping one hand on the hilt.

“What’s the purpose of this? Why wait until now to say?”

“There are several reasons for our departure. One is to make use of a gift,” she replied, revealing something in her hands. It was a small, glowing red orb surrounded by golden strands of light, said strands moving in a symmetrical pattern around the orb. Rune’s jaw hit the floor.

“That’s a Master Seal!”

“It is yours. Please use it to evolve into a Dewott.”

He accepted it, still gawking. “But why?”

“There is an Evolution Spring near here. If possible, I would like to use that spring as a honeymoon location of sorts, only we’re going there before our actual marriage. If you can evolve there, it will make mating easier.”

“That makes sense. I know you said you hate parties- wait, what? Did I hear that right?”

“You heard correctly. If we’re to mate, it will be easier in your evolved form. And between you and me, I… it will be my first time. I would prefer it if no one I knew was nearby,” she said, clutching her chest. Rune’s teeth were grating.

“Why? Here I thought I was trying to be, you know, respectful and stuff, and then you just go and outright—”

“You needn’t act a certain way. Please, just be yourself. That’s the Rune I longed to meet again.” She smiled again, beginning their walk out of town. Despite his opposition, Rune followed her, keeping beside her.

“Okay. So are you like, secretly a pervert a something? That would explain the costume,” he groaned and scratched his head.

“Not in the slightest! I’ve been worried more about our unison. I do not want to waste time with this marriage, and I have been thinking a lot about our two planets and their current status. I believe that if a child is born of both Eris and Faernia’s blood, they would act as a living symbol of our planets’ coexistence. Beyond that, between you and me, it a great excuse for us to bond and take this very seriously.”

Rune didn’t reply.

“Our marriage is for the purpose of uniting our two planets and keeping the universal peace that has kept us together for generations. To that I end, I am prepared to bear a child with you. Of course, that commitment requires both of our approval, so I am not about to pull you into something you are not prepared to do. At the very least, a marriage outside of the eyes of the public is preferable to me,” she said.

“You’re super weird, you know that? I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you that.” Rune smiled as well now. “But I can tell you’ve thought this through. You’re a smart weird. You don’t actually like me at all, but you’re prepared to do all sorts of stuff to bring about peace.”

“Well I wouldn’t say I don’t like you. I do, but only what I know of you from ten years ago. It would be best if we got to know each other properly, outside of the eyes and peer pressure of our armies and retainers. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?”

“If you want my honest opinion, you’re flat out beautiful. I’m lucky you proposed to mate, rather than me having to be brave and do it!” he snickered. She didn’t reply, going flat faced. “Oh come on, don’t be like that. I was trying to jest, like my sister.”

“I see,” she mumbled.

“But it was an honest opinion,” he said, making her blush a bit. “Ariala. I can’t help but worry you’re pushing yourself in this ordeal. A child is a huge responsibility, let alone, mating with someone you barely know. Are you absolutely certain you’ve thought this through?”

“Ever since I learnt about the proposition our parents made, I have been thinking about this. For the sake of our planets and peace, I am prepared to do much more,” she said, and then pointed to the left. “This way. The Evolution Spring is over here, hidden amongst the hills.”

“You should know then, being around women is my weak point. Gentlemanly behaviour isn’t something I’m used to doing. Eris is a rough planet, and most of our families are forcefully bred. Those that aren’t are usually rearranged on some level. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m likely going to hurt you. I’m a fighter, not a lover.”

“You say you aren’t gentlemanly, yet you’re worried about hurting me. That sounds gentlemanly enough to me.” She smiled.

Rune froze. “I think you know what I’m trying to get at here, but you’re playing it smart to try and get things in your favour. You’re giving me a really deep proposition here, and having never been in a real relationship before, let alone mated, I’m worried I’ll hurt you if we go into things this quickly,” he said. He could feel himself becoming stiff in his movements, for some reason.

“Are you saying you don’t want to mate?” she asked.

“Look- no I- that’s—” he growled, and stopped to sigh. “You one-up me when it comes to this crown royalty business. I spent my years doing nothing but training to become a knight so that I could protect Pokémon in need, namely my sister. Me marrying you should be enough of an icon towards our planets’ coexistence. I could never actually be a worthwhile husband towards you.”

“I beg to differ.” Ariala came to a stop at the top of a cave. The entrance was small and went straight down into the ground, sloping at such an angle that it looked more like a slide rather than a cave path. “Rune, just this conversation alone has shown me just how much care you have for me and this ordeal. I desperately want this for the sake of our planet’s peace.”

“You’re really pushing it.” he looked away.

“You’re correct. I am pushing too hard,” she gasped and slowed down. She went back to clutching her chest. “I won’t make any demands. But will you at least stay with me away from the others for a while?”

“Why not? And to tell the truth, I’m pretty excited about this Master Seal. Why didn’t I think of a gift for you?” he said.

“I’m glad you like it! I couldn’t think of anything else, ha ha.” she said.

She walked slowly now, keeping her arms out beside her to maintain her balance. Rune followed once there was a good few paces between them, attempting to be as careful as her. He wound up immediately sliding down the slope, crying out to give a second of warning before crashing right into her behind. Him shoving her so suddenly made her lose her balance, and the duo went tumbling down the long slope at full speed.

Rune eventually bounced off her and splashed into shallowed water, surprisingly not in as much pain as he thought he would be. He opened his eyes to find luminous moss squished below him, all of it bathed in a short layer of water.

“Ow,” Ariala moaned, rubbing her side as she stood up.

“Sorry about that, I wasn’t expecting it to be slippery!” he cried. She took a moment to collect herself and then faced forward and gasped, drawing his attention to where they were.

The Evolution Spring was wider and more beautiful than he imagined. The luminous moss covered much of the cave’s flooring, all of it lightly covered by the same shallowed water. It gave the water an ethereal feel, while conveniently brightening the rest of the cave’s numerous paths and walls. It was spacious, clean, quiet, and best of all, cosy.

The real surprise came from the creature levitating in the centre of the shallow lake, however. A watery maiden of a Pokémon watched them calmly, a lady with a dark body protected by two purple shells. Its arms were long and webbed, whilst lengthy, cyan hair strode down its sides. Its shell was covered with markings.

“Tapu Fini,” Ariala whispered. Rune glanced at her, and then she got a hold of herself enough to bow and pray.

“That’s Tapu Fini? One of the Goddesses of Faernia?” Rune gasped, glancing back and forth between her and the majestic water type.

“Please. Calm yourselves,” Tapu Fini responded, laying a hand on its chest. Its voice was aged but powerful, retaining a calm serenity despite being loud. “Come, young couple. Stand before me.”

“Yes. Rune,” Ariala said.

He watched her unsurely, more taken by the way she skipped ahead, tapping right off the water. Her gait was fantastical and delicate, each far step leaving the lightest ripple across the water to create a careful pattern of sparkles and light across its surface. Just there and then, he could imagine her dancing across the surface of the spring, looking as beautiful and pure as a fairy in a storybook.

He got a hold of himself and followed, but he couldn’t get that image out of his mind. Once they were face to face with Tapu Fini, the Tapu laid a hand on both of their heads, giving them a feathery tap. She was far bigger than Rune realised at first glance.

“You are quite overwhelmed, aren’t you? Do not be alarmed, royal children. I am here as I have foreseen your future.” Tapu Fini gestured a smile at them. Although she had no visible mouth, her mature eyes gave it all away. “I am here to ensure that the future of this world goes as it should. Your actions tonight affect the future for many years to come, so they must not divert.”

“You see, Tapu Fini can foretell the future. Many Pokémon from Faernia consult her for guidance, whilst she suggests paths for which we can prosper. When it’s really important, it is said that she goes out of her way to secure our future,” Ariala said.

“I see. As a mythical Pokémon, I trust your abilities,” Rune replied, staring up at her.

“The Tapu are also the ones to consult when it comes to using a seal. You can use your Master Seal right now if you want,” Ariala said.

“Can I really? Right now, this very instant?” Rune gasped.

“If you are qualified and have made this choice, then pray before me. Lay down your weapons and seal your path. If it as the gods will it, then you will evolve via my blessing,” Tapu Fini said.

“Yes my lord,” Rune nodded.

Ariala gave him space while he took off his sword and cape, carefully laying both down in front of him. They floated on the water’s surface. He then held the Master Seal with both hands, getting a nod from Tapu Fini on what to do with it. He shut his eyes and cast it up above him, and she snatched it into her shell. With that in place, he knelt down and prayed.

Please almighty, grant me the strength to become a knight. Give me the power to protect those I hold dear to me. My family, my friends, my wife to be,” he told himself, keeping completely still.

Tapu Fini began to circle the space above him, gradually releasing a golden glitter, the same gold as the Master Seal she had taken into her shell. The glitter showered directly over Rune, quickly causing his body to glow the same colour.

“It’s working.” Ariala gawked as Rune’s form grew before her eyes.

He grew taller and thinner, gained longer arms, and his head fur lost all form of control in its style. With a bright burst of light, Rune’s new body came into focus, revealing the proud, confident figure of a Dewott.

“Stand,” Tapu Fini said, and Rune stood. He had to flick his head fur out of his face with a hand, eager to examine his new figure. He retrieved his sword and cape, and posed proudly with both.

“I can already feel much stronger. I promise you that these new powers will not go to waste. This new path will be used to protect the world of Etheria. I swear it,” he said.

“I do not know what served to change fate, but I should assure you, Ariala’s plans are those that should come to pass,” Tapu Fini continued.

Rune’s mouth dropped. “Her plans? Wait you don’t mean us having a child?”

“Yeah um, about that,” Ariala said, rubbing the side of her face. “I erm, initially wanted you to evolve to make that easier, but I see that it hasn’t made much of a difference.”

“Hm?” Rune turned to face her. He still had to look up at her.

“You’re not much taller than you were,” she said, blushing brightly.

“Oh come on. I’m not exactly a midget compared to you now, am I?” he groaned.

“The act will be performed tonight. Within a few weeks, a royal warrior will be born. It will be a boy of cyan fur, blessed by the constellations and defiant of nature’s laws. A symbol of peace and coexistence, he will lead his Pokémon, both ancestors and a new generation, to a future of prosperity and peace.” Tapu Fini laid a hand on her chest.

Rune’s eyes widened and his face became stern. Tapu Fini ignored his obvious concern however, continuing to talk. “I will act as your priestess, if you are prepared to unite now.”

“I see. Not only is the marriage the ideal of the king and queen, but it is as you will it,” Ariala copied Fini’s pose. “Rune, it is our tradition to follow the ideals of the gods who protect us. This is no longer my idea, but a requirement given to me by Tapu Fini herself.”

“This is all moving pretty fast. I sort of understand what you’re saying, but a requirement? To make such a dedication by the words of a Goddess, don’t you think that’s quite extreme?” Rune said.

“I can see why you would feel that way. However, consider this: it is this dedication to the guidance of our gods that has enabled Faernia to flourish as far as it has. I am willing to do as they will if it leads us to prosperity,” Ariala replied.

Rune hesitated. “Don’t you think that’s a bit, I don’t know, sad? Yeah it’s made Faernia into this pretty world, but at the same time, you’re not living freely. You’re just doing what the Tapu tell you to do,” he said, looking down. “I… the idea of marrying someone because someone else told me to do it makes me feel like I’m being used.”

“Rune!” Ariala cried.

“That’s not to say I don’t want to. It’s just harder to do it now that a fancy goddess is telling me to. I respect your words and your position in this world. But that’s just how I feel. Back home, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, and I learnt about life the hard way. That’s why I came to that personal decision of not thinking about a relationship until now. It was something I knew I didn’t need to live.”

“I admire your honesty,” Ariala sighed and shut her eyes. “But I implore you to think again about the circumstances.”


“Young prince of Eris, there is a way to assess your dedication, you know,” Tapu Fini spoke up. “Take Ariala’s hands into your own. Look each other in the eyes and embrace one another in tradition. Your planets both share the same tradition when it comes to showing one another’s affection.”

“To kiss,” Rune whispered as he turned to Ariala. She did the same and then looked away, her cheeks going redder than ever. She couldn’t help but gasp girlishly, and tapped her cheeks in surprise of their sudden warmth.

“I, I know what I have to do, but all of a sudden, I’m overwhelmed by nervousness?” she squeaked sharply. She gasped at that and put her hands together, unable to look at him. “I’m sorry; I am prepared for this, though!”

“Wow, all it took was an invite to kiss and you broke?” Rune snickered. “Just hold my hands, then.”

She went quiet and had to force herself to look at him. His confidence drove her to accept his hands one at a time, where she relaxed right away from how soft his grip was. The duo brought each other closer almost by reflex, so close to one another that their bellies were touching, noses centimetres apart. Now that they were there, Rune couldn’t help but look away himself, and let out a light groan.

“Oh, you’re nervous now, too!” Ariala giggled.

“N-no, it’s not that! It’s, well,” he gasped, facing her again. “Your… body is… surprisingly soft. In a good way.”

Ariala let out the lightest sigh. “Rune.”

“I’m not thinking dirty thoughts, I swear! I’m just not used to it. I don’t know if it’s a fairy thing or what.”


“I’ve never known anyone to have such soft fur, not even sis! And she’s crazy about—”

“Rune!” Ariala raised her voice. He gasped again, silenced by her quickness in leaning forward. She planted a kiss directly on his lips, freezing in place until he responded in kind, wrapping his arms around her and returning the affection.

“A-Ariala,” he whispered once they broke free, keeping their arms wrapped around each other.

“Do not think of it as acting against our will. This can work. The two of us wish for our world to prosper in an age of peace. To do that, we can devote ourselves to each other. If you are prepared to go that far, then I have no regret in saying that I love you,” she said, not blushing at all.

“I’m willing to try. You’re right. That’s why I travelled all this way. To be with you, and to guide our planets to the future,” he replied, staring back. They faced each other for a few seconds more, not leaving each other’s embrace at all.

Meanwhile, back at the Fantasia Port…

“Gods, I can’t believe this. We leave them alone for a couple of hours and they disappear off the face of Faernia!” Ptero shouted, tossing his arms up. “And the worst part is Rune knows how much trouble we went through to get here!”

“You went through trouble? It can’t be as hard as the prissy princess had it. I’m straight up under treason, here!” Tundra spat.

“A little treason, huh? At least you’re not being forced to work against your will,” Shota growled.

“You all, quit arguing and get searching! Her highness could be anywhere in town!” Naomi shouted at them all, stomping a hoof.

“They’re not here, though. They didn’t leave a letter or anything,” Ptero said, leaning forward to scout out the distance anyway. Nothing but the casual festivity of the Fantasia Port in the morning: few groups of Pokémon taking care of morning chores, others preparing their stores for any morning customers.

“Her highness normally goes out for walks at night. She’s a Clefable, it can’t be helped. They bathe in the moonlight and such. But even then, she’s normally well rested and back by the morning. I can’t even think where she could have gone this time, or why.” Vincent shook his head.

“Isn’t that like, oh I don’t know, your freaking job? You’re their personal retainers!” Diantha cried. “And why do I have to search?”

“Your brother is missing, too. He might even be looking for her. I don’t know how they got out so easily, there were guards around the entrance,” Naomi replied.

“Actually, there weren’t any guards or patrols,” Nier said. Naomi’s eyes popped out with a scream. “Remember, she can hear far more precisely than we can. Patrols and guards and stuff keep her up at night, so she ordered us not to have them around.”

“Urf, for real? This is such a bother,” Diantha groaned as she wandered off while the rest of them continued to squabble. She chose to scout a spot where no one else was looking, a road lined with shops and flashy signs. “He’s gotta be in one of these. Probably doing something corny and taking Ariala out for breakfast or something.”

She glanced back at the others to ensure she wasn’t being followed and then took off with her hands tucked behind her head. With a yawn and a scratch, she lazily scanned her surroundings as she passed them, but didn’t spot anything of interest. Having explored the town yesterday, she had already grown tired of its limited shopping options and educational tourist attractions. That was until a great spot of darkness got her attention, and she shook her head to make sure she wasn’t seeing things.

Nothing in the alleyway to her right. The street and the buildings by that alley were painted white, too. But that made Mirror’s familiar half black-half white mask stand out greatly, and she froze to the spot, overwhelmed by a horrible chill. She was out here, alone, and he was there, staring directly at her through that static mask of his from the roof of a building. It wasn’t until a full minute had passed without a single twitch from him that she realised what she was doing, and stepped backwards.

“Come now. I know what you’re thinking, your highness,” Mirror said, calm and collected in tone. His mask was directly next to her, and all she did was blink and step backwards. She could feel his mane brushing her back, tickling that uncomfortable chill that was now burning her chest.

“G-get away from me!” she coughed. He was gone again. She twisted, gasped, and stumbled, almost fell directly onto one of his paws.

“You asked me a question the first time we met. I’m willing to answer, now,” he said. Her breathing was heavy, but she stayed quiet and listened. “You and I are closer than you think. We’re both time bombs. Switches of fate. Pokémon that threaten a delicate balance to the world.”

“What’re you talking about?” She stumbled away. He followed her like a lion sneaking up on its prey.

“You know exactly what I am talking about, your highness. The powers we have and their imbalance to the hierarchy. The very idea that we’re both alive is a threat to Etheria, and you know it,” he said. Every word was plain and controlled, echoing out from behind his mask with unreal stability. “I’m talking about your darkness, Diantha. It is time for a shift in the puzzle.”

“You have it as well, don’t you? That’s what you’re trying to tell me. That shadow’s powers,” she replied in a saddened tone.

“I have something to show you, your highness. Any and all questions will be answered this following day,” he said. “And don’t pretend you have a choice in the matter. A single step out of line, and I will kill you myself. It is every bit important that Rune be tested.”
Episode 16: Great battle under the stars


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Rune Midgard.png
Episode 16: Great battle under the stars

“We’ve come so far out. Mirror, where are we?” Diantha asked as she observed the scenery.

Mirror didn’t seem to mind that she wasn’t walking right beside him, but she knew how serious he was about following him. Jogging was becoming difficult due to the area however, so she decided to stick behind him for now.

The terrain was comparable to Eris, here. Tall hills that blocked the horizon made up this mountain range, whilst jagged flooring and rocky paths made up the immediate surroundings. The natural golden colour of the ground made it different to Eris’ mountains, as a light, golden brown layer of grass covered most of terrain. The further in they went, the more the grass seemed to sparkle, whilst the sound of collisions got louder and louder. The wind got stronger, too.

“Mirror? Hello?” Diantha said, tripping up. He stopped her from falling over with a foot without looking back at her. “Er, thank you.”

“This area is known as Fairy Hill. It is the final frontier of Faernia, the place in which the final battle of the ancient war took place,” Mirror finally said as he stopped at the top of one of the hills. Diantha joined him and gasped.

This hill was tall enough to let them look over most of the region. Amongst the glittery sheen of the golden hills were a large variety of weapons, all the same types she had seen before: swords, lances, axes, bows and arrows, hammers, claws, and more. There were hundreds of these weapons, all lodged into the ground like stalks of corn in a field. They were all rusted and weathered, but their aged orange material melded into the golden brown of the Earth, making them appear new and just as glittery.

On the contrary, Fairy Hill was definitely one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen, and it was definitely going to be a place she would paint when she next got the chance. Glitter rained from the cloudy sky like glistening snowflakes, whilst streams of this same glitter floated up from the ground right back into the clouds. It was like the glitter was painting patterns in the dark sky, pouring this shimmering dust in waves whilst drawing it up in curly lanes.

A high pitched screech distracted her from her appreciation of the sky. One of those lanes of glitter falling down was too fast and fiery to be whatever this dust was that was falling. She followed that fiery trail to find that the crash wasn’t too far from them, a little ways down their current hill.

“Beyond here lies the wilderness of Faernia, the part of the planet shaped by Pokémon from Eris. They came this far out to claim Faernia as their own, but the battle that took place threatened to wipe out both armies,” Mirror said.

“I think I heard about this. Eris tried to use that Dragon Weapon thing, right?” she said.

“Precisely. Once their attention had been brought to the amount of death suffered in this battle alone, the battle came to a halt. This once beautiful majesty of nature bestowed to us by the Tapu’s blessings had been reduced to what you see now: a rugged land soiled by blood and memories of sinful conflict,” he said. His head was hung as he spoke, but his eye didn’t move, nor did his tone change. “The weapons you see here are all that both planets could do to pay respect to those who lost their lives. It serves as a reminder to us as the current generation, the sins we Pokémon have performed. They are the scar in Etheria’s side.”

“So this is the ground where the last battle was. But why’d you take me here of all places?” Diantha tilted her head. She didn’t wait for an answer and rushed towards the crash they had seen earlier. A small crater had already formed, where a large, brown rock lay. “It’s a meteorite!”

“They are called Minior. They are drawn to this area’s natural relation to death.” Mirror walked over. She gave him an annoyed look.

“What’s with you and all this death dark speech? No one’s going to die here,” she said. The meteor started to crack and break apart, revealing a gleaming object within, a small orb with spikes that gave it a star shape. Diantha couldn’t help but laugh at it, reaching out to help it get free of its shell. Her single fang was showing now. “Oh wow, it’s so pretty!”

The blue orb didn’t reply to her, steadying itself in the space in front of her. Once it was fine, large, swirly eyes of white light formed in front of it, alongside a pleasant smile. It released a babyish giggle that warmed her heart. She was happy to see it, and it was happy to see her.

“You just fell from space just now, didn’t you, little guy? This is so cool! What’s your name?” She bounced in front of it. It responded with another giggle and some chirpy squeaks, which was enough for her. Deciding that it couldn’t answer, she decided to go quiet and think of a name for it instead.

That was until it started to float away from her, straight back up into the sky. She watched in confusion, entranced by the happy, giggling blue orb as it floated up with the rest of the golden dust. Minior stared at her with its goofy smile as well, right up until the tips of its star shape began to fade.

“Wait, what’s happening to it? Minior, come back!” she cried, reaching out for it.

It didn’t come back. It kept on floating higher and higher, gradually fading into golden dust. Its babyish giggles continued until it was nothing more than another glittery stream in the sky.

“What just happened to it? The Minior,” Diantha whispered. Mirror stood directly next to her.

“Minior are born in space. They inhale dust and debris that forms into the shells that land around here,” he began, bringing her attention to the countless Minior shells that were around the area. They could hardly be seen thanks to the weapons and glitter. “Their shells become too heavy, so they fall to planets. But Minior cannot actually survive in the atmosphere of either Eris or Faernia. Their bodies fade.”

“Oh. Wait, so when its shell broke just there, you mean it—” she gasped.

“This fleeting cycle of life and death… you are about to learn just how similar it is to our own, as carriers of a Shadow Partition,” Mirror said. He faced the sky the whole time.

Diantha moaned and joined him in staring up. Now that she knew that those beautiful streams of golden dust were the lives of fading Minior, the whole show cast a troubling atmosphere over her. It was beautiful, that was for certain. But it wasn’t what she wanted. It was a fact that she wished she had never learnt.

“Tell me, my lady Diantha. What do you think of Eris?” Mirror asked. She tilted her head at him. “Your home has troubles like the breeding ground, where Pokémon are forcibly bred and butchered to be eaten by other Pokémon. The locals know nothing outside of themselves, wishing harm upon the royal family even though you are seeking to help them. Even aristocrats like Kelsith and Emerson live in the shadows, fearful of being overthrown, suffering from disasters and losing everything they have.”

Diantha sighed and looked at the floor. Mirror didn’t face her, but kept talking. “It’s just as fleeting as what you see here. We’re all pawns in the games of the gods. Whether you live or die from here on, does it matter? Is it good or bad?”

“Sh-shut up already!” Diantha cried.

“Tell me, my lady. After all, you’re the princess who these Pokémon count on for survival.”

“I don’t know, okay? I’m just one girl. I couldn’t give ya a solid answer to that even if I wanted to,” she pouted. “What I mean is, I can’t do anything to change that, so I just deal with what’s right in front of me, okay? Big bro and Dad, they’re the type to go for the bigger picture. Ask them what they think.”

Mirror went completely silent until she looked at him, concerned why he wasn’t replying. “I see. That’s your answer.”

The sun rising was the last thing Rune expected to wake him, having fallen asleep in the cave that he and Ariala were in last night. Ariala wasn’t next to him like he thought she would be though, so he got up quickly and search for her.

“Ari? Where?” Rune called out. Light was coming through the various paths of the cave, polluting the magical feel the area had at night. Thankfully he didn’t have to look very far, as the Clefable was wide awake and staring at the slope that led outside. She turned and smiled at Rune’s call.

“Good morning, Rune.” She waved as he walked over. She was standing on top of the water. “I’m so proud of last night. I actually got a bit excited and couldn’t sleep.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, right. That didn’t go as badly as I thought it would.” He raised his left arm. A bracelet of light formed around it, whilst one appeared on Ariala’s right arm at the same time. “As long as this bracelet is on our arm properly, we’re officially married. That’s some wondrous technology right there.”

“It’s not technology, Rune. It’s Tapu Fini’s blessing. A marriage by the Tapu’s blessing is like no other. As long our feelings for each other are genuine, these bracelets will remain,” she said.

“Yeah but you know, it’s hard to believe after the time we’ve known each other. I’m glad it’s working, but I’m worried. I’ve never known something like this,” he said.

“I know our feelings for each other are real,” she replied. She softly laid a hand on her belly, and his eyes widened. “The proof will be right here.”

“Wait, you’re not trying to say- you’re not having an egg already, are you?”

“No, not yet. It will at least take a few days. But the feelings are there. We’re going to be parents, soon,” she said, holding his hands.

“Ariala,” he said. They stayed like that for a while, staring into each other’s eyes until they were both smiling. “Sh-should we get some breakfast? The others must be wondering where we are.”

“Yes. My retainers are used to me wandering off, but not for this length of time. Let’s go,” she said. He laughed a little but walked off with her, taking one of the cave paths at random. This one looked like it had the most sunlight coming from it, anyway. “Rune, what do you fancy, though? We don’t eat meat on Faernia, so I don’t think we’ll be able to provide you with your kind of meal.”

“That’s fine, I knew that. To be honest I feel wrong eating other Pokémon, anyway. Show me what’s a good breakfast for you.” He smiled.

The two happily chatted on their way back to the Fantasia Port, not running into any form of trouble on their way back. Rune couldn’t help but stay on edge the whole journey, fully expecting feral Pokémon to jump them or something. To be able to spend such a wonderful night with Ariala and not face any trouble there or back felt too good to be true.

The thought brought his attention to just how heavenly Faernia was to him. The morning was bright, the scenery was colourful and quiet, the wind felt pleasant, and Ariala casually talking to him all combined to give him a feeling he had forgotten. Right here and now, this was true joy, but maybe he deserved it. After all the battles he had taken on to get this far, a short break wouldn’t hurt the situation, he thought. He would let his jovial feelings soak in now, and then get back to work tomorrow. After all, he still had to keep his promise to Kelsith and Emerson, as well as prepare for his public announcements about their oncoming child.

“… and then he ended up chasing Nier all around the room! It honestly lifted my spirits,” Ariala laughed, Rune laughing with her.

“Honestly, you make those two sound like more of a handful than I used to be. And I used to be one naughty kid,” he said.

“We’re back, that didn’t take long. Um, should we meet the others before we head out?” she said.

“Of course. They’re—” Rune cut himself off. As soon as they set foot into the town, a dark foreboding overcame him. Lots of Pokémon were moving about, and all of them were heavily stressed. He’d always had the ability to sense nearby feelings like this, but never this clearly. It was almost scary, but an asset he could get used to as a Dewott, now. “Ariala, listen carefully. Do you hear anything?”

She paused to listen. “From the place we’re staying at. Pokémon are calling out for Diantha?”

“Diantha?” Rune replied. He stormed off before she could say anything else, but she followed him in the same mood.

“Hello? Everyone!” Rune barged through the doorway.

“Is that- Rune, good gods, where have you been?” Ptero said as he swooped towards him. He stopped at Rune’s feet and gawked up at him. “Gods… where have you been?”

“Huh? Oh right, the evolution- never mind that now, though. I’ll explain later. What’s got you all in a rush?” he asked.

“It’s awful.” Kelsith looked away. Ptero shook his head and pushed up his glasses.

“Her highness Princess Diantha has been kidnapped,” Galen said. Rune and Ariala gasped, the former’s eyes widening at every word. “The perpetrator is none other than Mirror, that masked Absol. For whatever reason, he left you a letter.”

Rune snatched the letter from him and growled at the fact that it was only two sentences long.

“I have Diantha. To try to retrieve her, come to Fairy Hill. Mirror.” Ariala read aloud over his shoulder. “I know where Fairy Hill is. Naomi, prepare the transport, right now! Contact Queen Magearna and request an army.”

“Your highness, I can’t! This is clearly a trap,” Naomi cried.

“Trap or not, my sister is there. We ran into this guy on the way to Faernia, and I can’t stress how dangerous he is. Even if you decide not to go, I’m going to rescue her,” Rune folded his arms. “And my army are coming with me.”

“Of course we are,” Ptero sighed hoarsely. “This only happened because she didn’t want to look for you two, you know.”

“More like Naomi got everyone up super early and had us searching the whole town. I told her you’d be alright,” Nier put her paws on her hips.

“Alright alright, enough arguing. None of this matters. Right now Diantha needs our help, and I’m going to help her,” Rune shouted.

“We’re coming with you. This is my responsibility as well,” Ariala said.

“But Ariala, the egg—”

“I told you, I will be fine. It will take a few days at least. I implore you not to underestimate me in a situation like this,” she said, shaking her head. Rune’s breath settled. “I may not have been there before, but I know a lot about Fairy Hill, its history, and its current condition. It was an extensive part of my education.”

“Okay. I trust you. Please, lead the way.”

“Man, just when things were startin’ to look up. We were gonna get a wedding cake with sprinkles, and I ain’t had sprinkles in years!” Nier whined.

That’s what you’re worried about?” Vincent replied and smacked his forehead. “Not the fact that of all our years of travel, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of a kidnapping like this.”

“Meaning?” she asked.

“It’s just giving me a bad feeling.” He shook his head. “Your highness Prince Rune. Please allow me to introduce myself to you properly.”

“It’s okay, you’re a hybrid, I already know. Ariala told me everything,” Rune replied before he could take off his cloak. Vincent slowly took it off anyway, surprised. “It makes no difference to me, especially if you’re going to help with this.”

“You’re also the first Pokémon to have reacted that way,” he said. “I will cherish our friendship.”

“And I’ll be counting on you,” Rune said.

An excruciating few hours passed, Rune and Ariala almost silent the entire time. They only spoke when it was necessary, readying themselves for the trap ahead. Most of the others were quiet with them, but their faces told of their concerns and fears. Just looking at them told Rune of all the liberties he was taking right now, side-tracking so drastically thanks to his sister.

“We’re here. We can’t go any further with our convoy,” Naomi said as she skidded to a halt. Rune let out a breath he’d been holding in and stepped out, immediately coming to a halt. The weapons jutting out of the floor rang too many alarm bells.

“This place is Fairy Hill? The last battle of the ancient war?” he asked. “Why’d he take Diantha here?”

“I can’t think of any reason other than an advantageous layout. Mountains like these are the worst place to do battle, after all,” Vincent replied. Ariala skipped past them both.

“Your highness, please don’t run off! This area is dangerous!” Naomi cried. The Clefable ignored her to urge the others to get a move on.

A few hills up and down and she came to a halt. There was a wide enough area for a war battle to take place, but the terrain was still rugged and littered with old weapons. Although an incalculable distance away, Mirror and Diantha were definitely at the far end, high up on another hill. The golden dust seemed to avoid falling here, as did the Minior that periodically landed.

“There he is. But he’s not alone, even though he looks it.” Ariala pointed to them. “I can hear many other Pokémon in waiting… hundreds of others, hidden behind the hills to the left and right.”

“So it’s a simple ambush after all. Ptero, you can fly, right? Please scout for us,” Rune said. Ptero mouthed a response and obeyed, gliding upwards as high as he could. Nier had to help him with her psychic, flying up after him. The duo quickly came down, their faces filled with dread.

“There are two armies waiting to the left and right. They look like citizens of Faernia,” Ptero said. “I’ve not seen their type of clothing before, though. It’s very informal and impractical, like Eris’ clothing.”

“That ‘impractical’ clothing doubles as fur coats for Pokémon from Stardust Treasury, since we can’t survive during the winters. Those Pokémon are protesters,” Tundra said.

“How can you be certain?” Rune asked.

“Trust me; Faernia is stuck up enough to have that kind of dress code. Point is, leave that side of the army to me. Once they see me, their morale will definitely drop,” he answered.

“Can confirm. Those protesters are actually the reason Tundra’s even with us,” Nier said. Rune nodded.

“Okay. Then it’s just Mirror’s spectres. Do you all know how to beat ancient spectres?” Rune asked. “They can only be attacked a moment after they attack you. That might sound difficult, but keep your cool and we’ll be able to keep moving forward. Once we get Diantha, we’re out of here. Retreat at first order and don’t kill anyone unless you absolutely must!”

“Don’t kill anyone? That’s a first for you. I don’t know if I’ll be able to comply,” Shota snickered. Rune gave him a livid look.

“You pick the worst times to make jokes, Shota. Let’s just get this over with,” Ptero sighed.

Rune looked over at everyone. Here and now, thanks to Diantha’s idea of recruiting a personal army of his own, he had gotten to know quite a few Pokémon. From Galen’s jumpy excitement to the battle ahead, to Kelsith and Emerson’s worry, to Shota and the Eris protesters’ bitter compliance; he had gathered quite the army. This would be their most serious battle yet, and he wasn’t certain they were all up for it.

“Follow my lead, everyone!” he cheered, raising his sword. Their all raised their arms and weapons in response, Ariala’s army doing the same. With that, they all stepped out into the open, coming into Mirror and Diantha’s view.

“Is that- big brother!” Diantha cried, stood beside Mirror.

“Sis!” Rune called back. For some reason Diantha went quiet and looked away.

“You’re finally here. Given the circumstances, I’m impressed with the time it took for you to reach here,” Mirror said.

“What the hell do you want with my sister?” Rune said.

“To test you and your limits. But also to move this world forward. You keeping her secret from this world is far more damaging than is worth it. I think you know that, yet you choose to fight fate and kept her alive,” Mirror replied. “This here is a ritual, a ceremony in which all can be present. For the sake of Etheria’s future, the gods of Faernia will publicly execute a Shadow Partition.”

“A Shadow Partition?” Rune replied.

“The dark powers that Diantha possesses. Both your sister and your wife have those powers. Your marriage to Ariala was so that you could kill them and save the world. That is your duty as crown prince of Eris,” Mirror replied. Ariala’s face went white.

How does he know that I have a Shadow Partition? Who is this Pokémon?” she gasped in her head.

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but the only one getting executed today is gonna be you. For kidnapping and threatening my sister’s life, I sentence you to death, Mirror!” Rune announced.

Just then, the armies of the protesters revealed themselves, appearing in formations on the hills to the left and right. The large variety of battle ready Pokémon created walls with their numbers, blocking escape to the left and right. To everyone’s surprise however, another army showed up behind Rune and Ariala’s group in a more threatening formation, this army led by a Meowth in soldier’s armour.

“On the contrary Rune, any wrong move you make now will result in a lot more death than necessary,” Mirror threatened. “Attack us, and we won’t hesitate to kill you or any of your units. Is that really worth it over your sister’s controversial existence?”

I prepared for this, but this looks a lot more troublesome than I thought,” Rune growled in his head. “Again with your cowardly tactics. But this won’t work, Mirror. Diantha’s coming home with us!”

“My army won’t attack until you attack, Rune. So take all the time you need to think long and hard about this,” Mirror replied. “Is it really worth re-enacting the final battle of the war of Etheria?”

“How did an army end up behind us? And these are in royal armour. They’re actual soldiers from Faernia!” Ptero gasped, sweating intently.

“Wait that’s- Charle! Am I glad to see you!” Nier cheered, recognising the Meowth at the front. Charle didn’t reply right away. “This battle just changed. That’s Charle, the head of the Cat’s Brigade. They’re Faernia’s royal army!”

“Oh? They’re on our side?” Rune asked.

“Lady Nier, I know the truth, now. I’ve seen it all,” Charle bowed. “All Cat’s Brigade units, we move at Mirror’s command. If they resist, attack the prince, princess, and their groups. Capture the prince and princess, and kill the rest!”

“Wha-what the? Charle, have you lost your mind?” Nier shrieked above the roars of the soldiers. The Cat’s Brigade soldiers amongst Ariala’s friends were less enthusiastic but raised their weapons, muttering amongst themselves.

“As if he ever had one to begin with,” Vincent growled and tightened his pose. Ariala was quiet.

“And just to ensure you know just how hopeless your situation truly is,” Mirror added, straining to put effort into a move of his own. Dozens of ghostly spectres rose from the ground in bright pools of eerie light. Within seconds, Rune and Ariala’s armies were surrounded on all sides by hundreds of Pokémon, from spectres to protestors to trained soldiers.

Rune’s eyes were wide enough to fall out of their sockets. His mind was racing and he felt like he was going to vomit. He was calm enough to consider how to win this seemingly unwinnable battle, but he knew that his chances were slim enough. Someone getting badly hurt was guaranteed.

“Everyone, listen to me carefully,” he said, hiding his uncertainty in his voice. “We can get through this. We can definitely get through this.”

“Rune,” Ariala said.

“I warned you all that this would be a trap. We should retreat immediately,” Naomi hissed.

“That’s what we’re going to do. We only actually need to rescue Diantha, so as intimidating as this looks, it won’t actually be that difficult to get through,” Rune said. “Diantha taught me to trust my friends, and this situation calls for it more than ever. The Cat’s Brigade are the biggest threat and are directly after Ariala, so it’s my duty to help her out there.”

“Rune, I don’t need protecting—”

“I understand your plight, honestly, I do. If it was just the protesters, I’d be fine with leaving you. But this is Faernia’s royal army. We can’t take any chances,” he said. Ariala moaned a bit and opened her mouth to argue, but couldn’t manage the words. “Ptero, Galen, Kelsith. I want you three to go straight for Mirror. I hate to ask of this, but if Mrs. Nier could fling those three over the spectres with her Psychic…”

“Are you freaking kidding? That’s your plan?” Ptero cried.

“I shouldn’t be saying this now, but Diantha has a crush on you, Ptero. If you go to rescue her, she’ll try harder to get away for sure. Besides that, I know that you three have experience with spectres. I know I can trust you to get Diantha back and get away,” he explained.

“Rune, I’m a mailmon, not a fighter,” Ptero cried. “You can’t expect me to defeat Mirror!”

“It doesn’t matter, little Emolga! You heard his highness. The princess has her heart set on you! And it’s nice to know we’re in his good books this much. I’m sure we can handle a little bait and catch!” Galen said, patting him on the back.

“That’s not the point you senile old plant!” he said.

“I can provide support from a distance. This is a working strategy. When we have Diantha, one of us will shoot an attack into the air. That’ll be our cue to escape, right?” Kelsith suggested.

“That’s the idea. Thank you so much, Kelsith,” Rune said.

“Mirror said he’ll wait, but I doubt he’ll wait around much longer. Are you three ready?” Nier said, facing the trio. Galen and Kelsith stood in front of her, facing Mirror’s army.

“Are we- is this some kind of—” Ptero coughed, stopping to sigh. “What’s my incentive for this? Me risking my life had better have a worthwhile reward.”

“Isn’t it obvious? My approval for Diantha’s hand in marriage. You three will become heroes, and the royal family will look after you for life,” Rune said. Ptero fixed his glasses and gave him a look.

“Are you even allowed to make this kind of proposal on your sister’s behalf? If I did that to my—”

“Ptero, we don’t have time for this! We’ll sort it all out later!” Kelsith cried.

“Fine. But I’ll hold you to that proposal, your highness,” he replied.

“Wait for my signal,” Rune said as he took the lead. Knowing that this was really it, everyone else readied their weapons and mentally prepared themselves, spreading out in a way that surrounded Rune and Arial and much as possible. Rune intentionally waited until there was a solid circle of Pokémon surrounding them before raising the Sword of Earthly Elements, ensuring that Mirror could see it.

“I see. That’s your answer,” the Absol replied, and sat down on all fours. He flicked his left paw, and the spectres charged forward.

“Here they come,” Rune whispered, turning and running back into the centre of his circle. He kept his sword drawn and stood ready for battle.

Seeing the spectres move, the other three armies released their war cries and came charging too, their combined roars causing Rune’s mind to lose control. But there was no way out of this situation, now. He threw himself and his friends into it almost without thinking, and now he had to deal with it. He had to deal with the countless ghostly figures charging straight at him, as well as the hundreds of fighters approaching from behind. He had to or else his life was over. That fact in the back of his mind stopped him from actually going crazy.

“Nier, go!” he said once the enemies were close enough.

Nier raised both ears and cried out, trapping the three Pokémon in her Psychic. She flung them high up into the air and then quickly released them.

Right now, she had to deal with the Persian that came at her first. She hopped away from its first two slashes and then pushed it back with a blast of Psychic, barely having the time to take a breather when a Liepard came from behind. She jumped and did a front flip to land on its head, drawing her rapier to block yet another attacker from behind the Liepard, a Torracat. Its armour guarded against Nier’s stab, so it snickered at her in brief triumph.

Meanwhile, Rune and Vincent had teamed up without any discussion, slashing and stabbing at anything that came their way. Their idea of keeping every enemy alive didn’t stop them from cutting anywhere that wasn’t vital. For Vincent, he was giving the battle a lot more effort in running directly into the centre of a group of enemies to slash, kick or threaten them back with his spear. Right now he was spinning in a single spot to parry the blows of Machoke and Gurdurr with his arm and weapon, suddenly using his spear to vault over and avoid getting dogpiled by a whole bundle of fighting types. He flipped after vaulting so that he could smash the blunt side of his spear onto the enemies below him, but as soon as he landed, he had to jump again to kick a Raichu and a Servine.

Rune wanted to praise him for his feat, but he was too concentrated on his own mob of enemies, a Pyroar, a Cherrim, and a Wartortle. A swift Water Pulse took care of the Pyroar, whilst Wartortle put up a fight by protecting itself with its hard shell. It bashed into him several times, Rune’s sword bouncing right off of its shell with every attempt to cut it. He eventually ducked away from it, but slid right into a Magical Leaf attack from the Cherrim. He cringed loudly from the sharp attack, retaliating by slashing one of its purple petals right off, and then kicked it away before it could scream in pain. He turned back to Wartortle and flinched, having his arm get bitten hard enough to draw blood. Even worse, a spectre had taken the place of the Pyroar he took out earlier; looking like it was preparing a special attack.

Before Rune could act, a large pink blast streamed past him, almost hitting him. It took out the spectre and the Wartortle, pushing them into a group of enemies before exploding and damaging them all. Confused but concerned, Rune glanced at the attack’s source to find that Ariala was barely as protected as he wished her to be. The way her hands were pointed implied that she had fired the Moonblast, but she couldn’t stay like that for long. A Litten and a Growlithe joined forces to try and hit her with Fire Fang, but some quick work with her fan set up a Reflect Barrier that knocked them both back. She flicked her fan about with graceful skill to bring up a Light Screen behind her, stopping a Thunderbolt he hadn’t even realised was aimed at her. Surrounded by enemies that made quick work of her Reflect, she cried out in effort and fluttered off the ground to unleash a Dazzling Gleam attack. Bright lasers burst from her in all directions, sending everything close to her flying.

“Stay away from her!” Rune shouted, using Aqua Jet to fly over to her. He collided with a Lopunny using Quick attack, immediately drawing a Razor Shell with one scalchop to compete with it. It tried to parry against his dual swords with its feet, but was overwhelmed by his strength and knocked out in moments.

Above the battle, unable to help but watch the chaos unfolding below, Ptero, Kelsith and Galen were steadily gliding towards the ground. Ptero used his wings, Kelsith used her weight to ‘swim’ through the air, whilst Galen spun his whole body like a propeller, landing with a boastful bow. The trio didn’t land far from Mirror, but not too far from the big battle, either. They exchanged uncertain glances and faced forward, where Mirror was still sat down waiting for them.

“I wonder if Rune knew you could do that?” Ptero asked, raising an eyebrow at Galen.

“Knew I could do what?” he replied, completely unfazed.

“Never mind.” He shook his head and posed with his two knives. Kelsith moaned a little and took place behind the two boys. The Absol didn’t move at their presence.

“Ptero!” Diantha poked her head out from behind Mirror. “Am I glad to see you!”

“We’re here to get you back, your highness. Mirror, you heard the king! Your days are numbered thanks to your act,” Ptero said. Mirror took a few seconds to respond, and soon stood up on all fours.

“This is disappointing. I was expecting to fight Rune,” Mirror said. “Instead, he sends his friends to their deaths. He hasn’t learnt a thing.”

“Tsk. Remember guys. Our only aim is to get Diantha back,” Ptero muttered. “One of us must distract him, whilst the other escorts Diantha to a safe spot. Once we can escape, fire the attack that’s the escape signal.”

The others made sounds of acknowledgement, expecting Mirror to attack first. But he didn’t move an inch. Ptero growled in angst, wanting him to act so that he had something to counter. But Mirror showed unyielding patience, whilst Ptero had little time, little time that didn’t even have a written limit.

Knowing this, Ptero finally initiated the fight with a sprint into a Spark attack. Mirror dodged it by shifting his body to the side, moving so seamlessly that Ptero didn’t even register that he missed until he landed a few metres behind him.

“What?” Ptero whispered.

“Ptero, be careful!” Diantha cried. Her desperate tone brought him back into focus, so he tried again, charging into a Spark attack.

Mirror dodged it again with a shift to the side. This time however, he grabbed Ptero’s tail and stopped all his momentum, not suffering any effects at all from the electricity crackling all over the Emolga. Mirror’s other paw swung around and smashed Ptero directly into the ground so hard that he was left in a pothole. No sound came from Ptero other than that of his impact, and the attack was so sudden that the others didn’t realise it had happened until Ptero was in the ground, where all they could do was gasp.

“Ptero!” Kelsith cried. She had been preparing to jump in with Draining Kiss, but stopped once she saw him half buried in the ground.

“How could you? You might be fast, but do you have rhythm?” Galen said.

He swiped both his arms across his front to release a number of Razor Leaves, to which Mirror shifted to the side at the last moment to avoid again. This time he darted far to the right so that the leaves missed him by a mile, and then began to zigzag toward Galen in this same high speed fashion. The movements threw the Sunflora right off focus, as he could barely follow what was happening. He drew his baton sword and aimlessly swung at the air in front of him.

In the blink of an eye, Mirror was directly below his sword for just enough time for Galen to realise he was there. In that very instant, a cloud of dark energy pulsed across Mirror’s right paw, which was drawn back for a Sucker Punch attack. Before Galen could even flinch, Mirror’s attack hit Galen in the stomach, earning a winded cough and a great burst of spit from the Sunflora. That one attack was enough to knock him out for good, and he collapsed to the ground in a breathless heap.

“G-Galen! Dear gods, he’s this powerful?” Kelsith said. Mirror slowly looked up at her, making her flinch. She didn’t hesitate to cry out and turn tail to the fight, realising that she was trapped between the war and this monstrosity of a Pokémon.

“How pathetic. Given the mission, persuaded by reward, and you would still flee at the first sight of difficulty? Aren’t you aware that that very act is considered treason?” Mirror said as he walked back over to Ptero, who was still conscious, but was immobile due to lack of strength. Mirror picked him up by the head with one paw, ensuring that his nails dug in deeply. Ptero whimpered in pain, helpless and dangling like a doll.

“Do-don’t kill him!” Kelsith cried, reaching out a paw. She flinched back when Mirror looked at her again, and lost her words.

“Not even the face of a crisis will persuade you,” Mirror said, and slammed Ptero into the ground again. His nails glowed white, threatening a Slash attack. “Whether you like it or not, I’m going to kill him. Are you going to make any attempt to stop that from happening?”

Kelsith stared in horror, unable to reply. She couldn’t stop shuddering, hyperventilating, or take her eyes off the masked Absol.

“You won’t. Then don’t say another word,” Mirror said.

He raised his voice in effort to attack, swinging both of his front paws straight down to slice Ptero in two. Kelsith cringed at the sight and just about looked away, surprised to not see any blood splatter from the merciless attack. That was when she realised that Ptero hadn’t been hit. He had been protected by Diantha, who growled and cried out as she pushed her scalchop against Mirror’s huge claws.

“Grrk- argh, darn it, no! I w-won’t let you k-kill him!” she growled. He stared down at her struggling form for a moment, choosing to put more weight into his paws. He quickly began to crush her to the spot, and Diantha broke into screams.

Despite Diantha’s struggles to keep herself stood upright against Mirror’s weight, Kelsith didn’t move an inch. Their clash went on for longer than a minute, all the time Diantha screaming and growling in agony as she pushed back to no avail. Only when she finally started to run out of breath did her screams stop, replaced by lifeless moans and weak cries of desperation.

At the same time however, Diantha’s form began to change, once again fast enough for Kelsith to not realise until it had long after it started. Diantha was surrounded by waves of dark, purple fire and crackling, black electricity, which quickly intensified until it engulfed her and Mirror. A huge blast occurred and the duo exploded, Mirror’s shocked cry of pain being the only voice heard from the impact. Kelsith squealed and turned to the side to shield herself from the wicked wind that sent her skidding across the ground.

This same dark fire and electricity wavered across the battlefield, its appearance dangerous enough to bring the whole battle to a halt. In an instant, every last Pokémon in the battle stopped what they were doing and turned to the source of the dark powers. Diantha was barely visible at the heart of it, but the way she whimpered and stumbled about weakly gave away that it was her. The dark aura soon died down in the area except around her, leaving her weak but intimidating.

No one knew what to say or what to expect, or even what had happened – one thing was certain, Mirror had been badly hurt by Diantha’s outburst and was now even weaker than her. No one could hear his breathing, but the way his head hung, unsteadily shaking up and down, gave away that he had grown tired and desperate. His body crackled with paralysis and shuddered from burns, whilst visually covered from head to toe in cuts and bruises.

“Was that Diantha?” Ariala asked, stood beside Rune. The sound of thunder booming through the clouds made her flinch, and her eyes shot upwards. A warm yellow glow sped through the clouds, and she flew into crisis. “Wait, that’s- that means—”

“Ariala?” Rune said, glancing at her.

Ariala kept staring until the distant clouds above Diantha parted, revealing a heavenly light from above. A Pokémon shrouded by a large yellow orb of electricity descended straight towards Diantha.

“N-no! This can’t be happening,” Ariala gasped, glancing back and forth. “R-Rune! You’ve got to get Diantha back right now!”

“Why, what’s—”

“Just go, please!” she screamed and shoved him forward. She tried to run after them as well, but couldn’t manage better than a hurried skip.

Fortunately for Rune, the war remained at a halt for him to sprint. Even the spectres seemed to be entranced by this godly Pokémon’s appearance, which soon came to focus when it was floating before Diantha. The orb surrounding it had disappeared, allowing it to be seen by all.

A black, bird-like Pokémon with an enormous plume stretching up from its head now sat before Diantha. It stared at her with its cold, unmoving face, protecting half of its face with the large, yellow masks it wore on its arms. Spines resembling a bird’s tail feathers made up its lower half, letting it float just off the ground.

“It looks like Tapu Fini? What does it want with Diantha, though?” Rune huffed, sprinting towards them with his arms hung loosely behind him. Only when he made that resemblance did he remember Ariala’s warning, and what this encounter really meant.

“So you know who it was that used those dark powers,” Ariala said. “I don’t wish to interrogate you. I’ll respect your decision to keep this a secret from me. But please, I can only give you a dire warning: that Pokémon cannot openly use those powers here. One of our Gods, Tapu Koko, has sworn destruction of those dark powers. If a Pokémon provokes him with those powers, it may be disastrous.”

If that warning was as obvious as she wanted it to be, then the unthinkable was about to happen. Rune’s face twisted in angst and fear. He ignored the cries of his body to keep running at full speed like this, but he was still at least a hundred metres away from them. Even Aqua Jet wouldn’t reach them in time. He needed just a few seconds, a little over ten in fact, to get there and do something about it that would maybe change the way this scene was looking.

Despite his wishes and mental begging for a miracle, everything was going wrong. Tapu Koko was stood over Diantha in a way that voiced dominance, his pose, face, and all else telling her not to dare make a move. All sounds drowned out to silence when Tapu Koko tensed up and crossed its arms, unfurling them in a cataclysmic burst of lightning.

Electricity stormed all around him at a deafening volume, yet it all came out silent to Rune. All he could see was Tapu Koko slamming a deadly, blinding amount of electricity onto a single spot, his attack so overwhelming that the heavy wind that came from it took Rune off his feet, as well as any other Pokémon nearby. Rune himself could feel the suffocating bolts as they streamed past him, engulfing his whole body in burning pain that jolted his heart to a dangerous speed. He crashed to the ground in agony, yet ignored it all to scramble to his feet and continue sprinting towards the electric type deity, ignoring every last bit of pain and lack of energy.

“Diantha!” Rune roared at the top of his voice as he shoved Tapu Koko out of the way. The floor around her had become a crater bigger than every crater in the area, lit with flames, crackling electricity, and warmed with blackened earth. Diantha stood in the direct centre of the crater, her arms stretched out beside her, head tilted upwards and body unmoving. Rune didn’t waste time in grabbing her, surprised to be shocked back by a burst of static that lingered over her. He ignored the pain of that to stand back up and try again, and gripped her sides with both hands to absorb all of the electricity that still lingered. He screamed her name as he did so.

“Diantha, please, say something!” he begged and shook her.

Her eyes remained open, as did her mouth, but no sound or life showed at all. She fell straight backwards when he released her, almost hitting the ground harshly if not for the way he cradled her. He kept calling her name and begging, shaking her in hopes of a sign of life, but none came. He eventually laid a hand on her chest. There was no pulse.

“N-no, this isn’t- Diantha, Diantha, wake up damn it, Diantha!” he said, laying her down flat. He started pressing her chest, calling out and attempting to jolt her awake somehow.

But nothing came of it. Her body was without pulse, staring back at him with open eyes and an open mouth. No breath. No movement. Not even the twitch of her pupils.

“Please, gods no,” Rune whispered, still shaking and putting pressure on her chest. Tapu Koko, Ariala, Mirror, and all the other Pokémon in the battle watched from their spots, unable to show emotion to what they were seeing.

“Diantha, please for the love of gods, please wake up,” Rune begged as he lost his tone to the pettiness of tears.

He couldn’t control the way they splattered all over Diantha, or the way his voice degenerated with his lack of strength and desperation. Eventually his body hit its absolutely limit and he barely had the strength to stay leaning over her on all fours. He took the opportunity to try and breathe into her mouth, calling out her name between every breath.

It didn’t work. Her body stared right back at him. Lacking hope and ideas, Rune finally stopped acting and stared back, mentally praying that it was all some morbid joke and that she would wake up.

But she didn’t.

He stared back, waiting for that miracle, but it never came. Her dead body stared right back at him.

“Almighty no,” Ariala whispered. Kelsith couldn’t believe what she had witnessed and watched on. Mirror was as emotionless as ever, but even he didn’t move or say anything, as if there was some mutual level of respect that caused him to do so. The rest of the Pokémon in the battle watched on with that same level of respect, some Pokémon exchanging glances with one another to silently share their natural grief.

“Diantha?” Rune said one last time. No response. Trembling with feelings unknown to him, he slowly moved a hand to change her pose, laying her hands on her chest. He then carefully closed her eyelids and her mouth and stayed there for another moment in hopes that she would jerk in response to his uninvited movements.

“You did this,” he whispered. “Damn it, why? What the bloody hell did Diantha do to deserve death?”

Tapu Koko finally shifted back a bit. Rune clenched his hands into fists, slowly got to his feet, and drew the Sword of Earthly Elements. Oddly, the blade of the treasured sword was glowing a bright white in the dark atmosphere. Rune shuddered in acknowledgement but ignored it, swiping it aside as he stood up and ready to fight.

“You killed her!” Rune roared at the top of his voice as he lunged at the legendary.

“Rune!” Ariala cried.

Tapu Koko hopped to the side to avoid him, and stared coldly. No sound came from him at all, but Rune took no notice. The Dewott was screaming like a mad beast, wildly charging at him again and again with his sword raised high above his head. Every swing he made put a huge dent in the ground, but missed Tapu Koko with ease.

This carried on until Rune ran out of breath again, where he gave Tapu Koko a livid glare. His appearance was drowned in feral rage, but Tapu Koko showed no reaction other than his dodges. Eventually the legendary turned around and then took off back into the sky, shooting off with the sound of thunder and a stream of electricity in his wake.

“No! Get back here damn you! I’ll kill you!” Rune screamed again, rushing to the spot where Tapu Koko just was. His strength ran low again and he fell onto one hand and knee, using his sword to keep himself stood up. He was breathing heavily and never took his eyes off where Tapu Koko had been. “I’ll kill you for what you’ve done. I swear it. I will kill you!”
Episode 17: Final trigger


Hero in their dreams
They/them, She/her,
Banner Ariala Asgard.png

Episode 17: Final trigger

“The fact that the battle disbanded after Tapu Koko departed is a miracle of the gods,” an Azumarill stated, tapping her staff on the smooth floor beneath it. Azumarill’s staff was as tall as she was, completely pink, and had a golden star on the tip. She looked displeased with Ariala and her party’s appearance before her, yet unbothered by their beaten up states.

Behind Azumarill was an enormous throne with a silver, robotic maiden sat in it. Queen Magearna. After Rune’s declaration towards Tapu Koko, he hadn’t been allowed to even set foot into the castle, so he and his army, what remained of it anyway, were waiting outside for Ariala to finish a meeting she had been called for.

“Your story connects with ours quite well.” Azumarill glanced at Magearna. The Queen made no sound as exchanging a glance with her. “You’re aware of what happened here whilst you were away on that unauthorised battle, yes?”

“No, your highness. We haven’t been back here for a day yet,” Ariala said, stood straight and tall. Azumarill’s face flattened.

“Possibly before your battle took place, Charle came here with his sword raised. He stated that the things he had learnt about Vincent changed the way he viewed this kingdom, and then the entire army, the Cat’s Brigade, marched out with him,” Azumarill said. “Tapu Koko has publicly executed the princess of Eris. The Cat’s Brigade have vanished after committing treason, attempting to kill you during that battle. Prince Rune declared that he would kill Tapu Koko, essentially declaring war on Faernia – right after marrying you. On top of that, you disobeyed the direct orders of Queen Magearna and had your wedding in secret, away from the public.”

Ariala didn’t reply. She couldn’t. Clearly knowing she had nothing to say, Azumarill continued to talk, staring right into her eyes. “Princess Ariala. This is a national crisis.”

“Hey c’mon, pilin’ on the pressure like that isn’t gonna help anyone here,” Nier cried, paws on her hips. “We gotta get some pointers, here. Time isn’t gonna wait for us to figure out what to do!”

“If you mean consulting Tapu Fini for guidance, she has sealed herself away for the time being. We won’t see her again for a least a week,” Azumarill said. Nier went quiet. “Princess, do you see what your disobedience has done? We are now on the verge of the world war that we wished to prevent. We have no army to defend us. The public are confused, spreading rumours of ill fate while they watch Rune’s army in fear of when they will strike.”

“Azu, what exactly did Charle say he learnt about me?” Vincent said. There was a length of silence until Magearna glanced at Azumarill. Azumarill’s left ear lifted up as if listening intently to something the Queen was saying, but no actual words came out.

“Are you sure that’s wise, your highness?” Azumarill replied. Magearna seemed to ignore that question, static in appearance. “Very well. He told us of your personal agenda. Your incentive to stop the Constellars above all else. That as a Pokémon originating from Eris itself, your opposition to methods of true peace aren’t surprising.”

Vincent grit his teeth.

“Should I be surprised, as well? As a hybrid, you are only still alive due to the princess’s pity of you, after all,”

“You take that back, Azu!” Nier shouted.

“Nier, please,” Ariala said. “Now is not the time for underhanded comments or mistrust. What has occurred today cannot simply be overlooked. We must find a civil way to resolve all of this, or this world risks unnecessary damage. We need to find a way to stop this potential war.”

“There is a point to these comments, your highness. To put it in a way that even an ignorant child like you would understand: we no longer need your idealistic judgement,” Azu said. Ariala’s face turned white. “You are to return to your quarters for good at once, and do not leave unless ordered. We will handle the rest.”

“Wha… what?” she whispered.

“You heard me. Return to your quarters at once, and you are not to leave unless ordered. You’ve caused enough trouble,” Azu raised her voice. “We will deliver your meals and necessities as per our usual routine. You will have no reason to leave your quarters.”

Ariala’s eyes were watering and her breathe became unsettled. She wanted to argue, but her throat and chest twisted to the point that it hurt to keep breathing. Not a sound other than a struggled, near silent whimper escaped her. She couldn’t just leave things as they were and return to living in solitude, not after seeing so much. Not after having so many unfinished promises. Not when she had a child on the way.

Despite her obvious paralysis to the idea, Nier and Vincent grabbed her hands to walk her to her room. She allowed them to without so much as a comment or a look. Azu and Magearna waited until they were long out of sight before moving again, the former sighing and kicking the floor in frustration.

“You know, I wish I knew what was on your mind with this. The fact that you aren’t freaking out is almost unsettling. If the public saw you now or could hear what you were saying, then I’m certain some would suspect you of treason as well,” Azu sighed, giving Magearna a sceptical look. There was another lengthy moment of silence until Azu sighed again and turned to walk off.

“Do you still trust me?” Magearna asked, surprising her. The Queen’s voice was hollow, feminine and robotic, yet iconic and unlike any other voice Azu had ever heard before. “If so, then wait and see what is going to happen.”

Ariala and her retainers remained in silence until they got back to her room, where she immediately moaned out loud to herself and slumped against the door. Her room had been so well looked after that it was exactly as it was when she left it. Pink enough for her to camouflage in, clean and clear, and well furnished.

She couldn’t bring herself to stand up and appreciate it all right now, though. She trembled in a pathetic effort to even look up. What was there she could possibly do now to change anything that was going to happen? Hopeless thoughts drowned her mind, making her gradually sag closer and closer to the floor.

“Ariala,” Nier said. She didn’t even move. “We’re not gonna do this. I’m not gonna sit here and watch this unfold.”

“But what can we do? I have no doubt that if I’m considered a danger to the kingdom’s operations, then there will be more guards preventing me from leaving the room. And if we waste even a few days, my egg will prevent me from acting,” Ariala said. Vincent got her attention, walking towards the balcony windows of the room before pacing back to the centre. “Vincent?”

“There are a few things that are bothering me about everything that has happened so far,” he said.

“Only a few things? The whole shabang’s got the princess in tears, honey!” Nier cried. Vincent shook his head.

“There are things that just don’t connect, even though they said that they do,” Vincent said. “Namely, Charle. It’s obvious to me that Master Lin must have told him all about me. But what did he really learn that enabled him to disband the entire Cat’s Brigade?”

“Well they all follow him, don’t they?” Nier replied. Ariala’s mouth dropped as she had a small revelation, realising what Vincent was getting at.

“Think about it. These are royal knights. It’s an honour to protect the royalty. Pokémon of that status couldn’t ask for more. Yet still, something he said or did caused the entire army to rebel and march out of this castle. On top of that, there was little effort to actually come and find you. During our journey, I was prepared to have to deal with knights that wanted to take you back here or resume our escort. Yet still, even with that whole ordeal with the protesters in the capital, the most we had to supervise us was Naomi.”

“And knowing her, that was probably her taking it upon herself to come and find you due to being worried sick,” Nier said.

“Exactly. Why isn’t anything being done?” Vincent asked. Ariala finally stood back up and stuck a hand out as if she wanted to answer. She quickly retracted and didn’t say anything. “Your highness, pardon me for my attitude here, but please speak your mind. You keeping quiet about some secrets is definitely part of the problem here.”

“Urf. This is actually normal practice for Faernia,” she said. The two Meowstic’s eyes widened. “We rely on the guidance of the Tapu. We do as they say and allow them to build our future.”

“Even to this extent? Did they not care that you ran away from the castle for your own deeds?” Vincent gasped.

“You’ve got it wrong. They likely consulted the Tapu for guidance on what to do about my running away. If the Tapu told them not to follow, then they didn’t follow.”

“That’s messed up! Who in their right mind wouldn’t try to help just because the Tapu said so? Are you trying to say that the Tapu told the Cat’s Brigade to listen to Charle?” Nier said, paws on her hips.

“Faernia is very closely intertwined with the ideals of the Tapu. It is following that guidance that has allowed us to get this far,” Ariala said as she started to pace. “Even I consult them through prayer from time to time. The worst cases would ask the Tapu for what to have for dinner. Since their guidance has taken our world so far, it is very difficult to say no to them. If they answer us with guidance we don’t understand, we follow it anyway under the impression that it will lead us to greater good – because every time we do, it has.”

“Then… geez, that’s a rough spot. Tapu Fini isn’t seeing anyone right now, so can we even ask?” Nier replied. Ariala shook her head.

“My leaving of home, my decisions up until now, they have all been my own judgement. I studied the Tapu’s guidance, the infrastructure of our kingdom and our world, our laws – I studied it all intensively and came to the decision to leave home and marry on my own terms. In doing so, I attempted to help Pokémon, and wound up causing our planet’s greatest crisis. I did it all without ever asking the Tapu for guidance,” Ariala sighed, looking away. “My intervention to their projected future is the sole cause of this crisis. And yet, this very topic makes me think deeply of Rune.”

“Rune? What’s he got to do with this?” Nier asked.

“He opposed the idea of our marriage once he learnt that it was actually the Tapu’s idea. He was uncertain, but accepted my proposal and intentions. But then Tapu Fini showed herself before us, giving us a premonition, ordering us to marry. Despite the circumstances, he was honest and told me that it turned him right off the idea. He then told me how it was that the Pokémon of Eris truly live; free of guidance, learning from their mistakes and attempting to build a better world based on those mistakes. Even his army broke all stereotypes, made up of innocent Pokémon with great problems that they wished to resolve on their own.”

“Rune,” Vincent muttered, going into a thought pose. Nier copied and matched his pose perfectly.

“Based on what’s happened, both sides of the coin are justified. My intervention may no longer be necessary,” Ariala sighed again.

“No. I think it’s completely necessary,” Vincent said. “In fact, you and Rune’s intervention is mandatory. Right now, you hold the key.”

“Hmm?” Ariala replied, standing back up.

“Your child,” he said. Ariala’s eyes widened, and she laid a hand on her belly. “If you had followed orders directly, the marriage wouldn’t have happened yet, you might not have learnt about Eris the way you have, and you definitely would not have had a child yet.”

“Our child… how could an unborn be the key to this horrible situation?”

“Just tell the world the truth. No one knows that you’re already a mother to be with the crown prince of Eris. You did what Pokémon were protesting about so much – proved that our two planets can come together,” Nier said. “And when the child is born, they’ll be the living embodiment of our planet’s coexistence!”

“What she’s saying is that we need to point the public in the right direction. We need to prove to them that despite the disbanding of the Cat’s Brigade, our planets can come together,” Vincent said.

Yes, that’s true. I wouldn’t have had my child, yet,” Ariala thought to herself and closed her eyes. “But that also means we would have constantly been under the protection of the army. Charle wouldn’t have met Master Lin, I wouldn’t be married, and Mirror wouldn’t have even kidnapped Princess Diantha.

She stood up and walked over to her balcony, ignoring the concerned noises of her retainers. Looking out from this window, the weather looked like a storm was approaching. Deep, grey clouds blanketed the sky, an uncomfortable wind howled, and the world below was quiet.

If I went out of my way to publicly announce that I was having a child with Rune, how would Pokémon react? Would they be disgusted? Would those opposing it wish for an abortion, or worse, attempt to murder me?” she thought hard, eyes on the clouds. “No matter what way I look at it, acting now does nothing but feed into this dark foreboding I have. These clouds match those of my nightmare.

Rune and Tapu Koko stared each other down with as much anger that their gazes alone could kill. Knowing of their unavoidable bout, Tapu Koko gave a bird-like screech, stretching out its masked arms to release a large field of electric terrain.

In the direct centre of the two Pokémon, Ariala sat, waking up to witness the oncoming battle. She stood up in panic and gasped at them both.

“Damn you Tapu Koko. Damn you!” Rune pointed the Sword of Earthly Elements forward. “You took everything from me! My sister, my father, even my wife! I’ll kill you!”

“Then come. Attack me if you dare,” Tapu Koko replied in his aged, manly voice.

If things carry on the way they are, that premonition will indefinitely come true. That I can tell.” She stared intently. “These clouds match those of that horrible nightmare. If I run out to meet him now, I will undoubtedly witness it. The only way to avoid this outcome is to ensure that my child is born, and to find out this story from everyone’s point of view. If I can find out exactly what Charle did, what he learnt…

“Princess?” Vincent brought her back to focus. She gave him a stern look, and he didn’t speak further.

“Nier, can I get you to go into the city for me, please? Right now, right this instant,” she said.

“Can do, but how co—”

“Don’t question it. Please, just go. I need to know if the Tapu are here right now,” she raised her voice.

“They are. I saw them patrolling above the clouds when we arrived. I was going to mention how unusual it was for all four Tapu to congregate in one place, but then Azu went and ran her mouth,” Nier said, paws on her hips again.

“We don’t have much time, then. Nier, Vincent, this is going to sound horribly unlike me.” She glanced at them both. “Please, we need to get to the Stardust Treasury at all costs.”

“Stardust Treasury?” they said in sync.

“I want to find out Charle’s side of the story. But better still, it is the only place where we’ll be safe,” she answered, stretching out both arms. She began to strain and growl with increasing effort, and both her arms became surrounded in dark smoke and energy.

“A-Ariala? What’re—” Vincent gasped.

“I’m sorry, you two. But please, bear with this!” she shouted, surrounding herself in dark energy.

Outside, Rune and his small army were stood in the direct centre of the city, a park at the end of a long road leading to Faernia Castle. Rune stood while the others sat, nervous about the many foreign eyes on them. Kelsith and Emerson were off in their own corner, trying not to lock with eyes with anyone. Shota and his small group of protesters gave anyone that stopped to stare a dirty look, thankfully getting them to leave.

Rune ignored them all, however. His face was rigid and his form stunk of fury. If they were alive, he knew that Diantha would be having a go at him for looking so unwelcoming right now. Galen would be getting on his nerves, drawing attention to their group with his jolly obliviousness. Ptero would probably be telling him off for stuff that wasn’t his fault, advising him on things about the Tower of the Tapu.

But they weren’t here. All Rune had was the bitter, traumatised faces of Shota and the others. And so, he remained stiff and unwelcoming. Having waited in this spot for upwards of an hour now, he took a step forward and looked to the clouds, where four coloured lights swirled around in an uncoordinated pattern of sorts.

“They’ve taken her away from me,” he said. The others moved in response. “It’s obvious. My declaration has scared them into keeping Princess Ariala ‘safe’ from me.”

“Is that what you think?” Shota replied after a while. Rune didn’t face move and folded his arms. “Hey, if you wanna fight, who am I to stop ya? This place looks like quite the dream. If I lived here, why would I ever complain?”

Rune gave him a glare, to which the Togedemaru snickered. “That’s what you’re getting at, right your highness? You did say you would kill the God the Faernians look up to. We’ll choose where we want to live as a reward for our hard work in battle.”

“Don’t beat around the bush, smartass. What do you want?” Rune asked. Shota sighed.

“If you were gonna fight Faernia anyway, what was the point of all that big deal with our battle? This is what I wanted in the first place, huh?” he said. “But despite what I did, the stuff my sister stood for sticks to me. It’s why I didn’t kill you when I had the chance. And then I saw my dearest friend Ptero helping you out.”

“I never did ask about your connection to Ptero. I just knew you two knew each other, that’s why I spared you,” Rune said.

Shota sighed and his face went plain. “Your highness, he’s just a mailmon. A mailmon gave his all to your cause, and died for you and your sister. That’s some peace he stands for, you know? Peace that’ll haunt me for the rest of my years. That guy’s smart and had his life set out for him. Now I’m left never having an answer as to why he actually accepted your suicidal proposal, or why he didn’t run away from that unwinnable fight. I’ll never know what he actually saw in your cause to help you.”

Rune fell quiet again, so Shota looked up at him. “Look, you’re the crown prince and all that. I know how these things are; letting Tapu Koko get away with his midday murder isn’t something you can just do. Hell, he’s the one that declared war on Eris, not you. Yet here we are, smack bang in the middle of the public, being labelled as the war hungry monsters. If it were me, I’d probably do something stupid like trigger the war right now, and then regret it years later when I start questioning Ptero again.”

“I suppose I’m supposed to magically have a more intelligent response just because I’m the prince.” Rune folded his arms.

Before he could say anything else, a large explosion occurred in the castle in the distance. It was somewhere high up, like a powerful Pokémon attack had gone off. Rather than it being a harmless, grey burst of smoke however, it was a murky, shadowy burst of fire that crackled with dark electricity.

“What?” Rune whispered, keeping his arms folded whilst the public lost their cool around him. The darkness continued to expand until it smothered most of the upper half of the castle. There was no denying it; Rune knew this dark power all too well. His mouth hung open but he remained stiff, entranced at the way it lingered around the castle. The four lights parading above the clouds had stopped the moment the blast had appeared, and now they were heading towards the situation all at once.

The others were asking questions around him, wondering why Rune didn’t react. He ignored them all however, watching, thinking hard.

“The darkness came from Ariala, who came from—” Rune muttered. He unfurled his arms and closed them into fists at his side. “This changes everything.”
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