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Pokémon Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Heroic Dreamers

Summary and Notes


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega

For reasons he doesn't understand, Shiron got another go at life. Now in a brand new world, the human-turned-Marshtomp embarks on a journey to find himself and become a hero, alongside new friends. All the while, a question keeps making its way to his head: "Am I good enough?". Prequel to "Liberators of Fate", but knowledge of that fic is not required. Cover by Stressthic.

Arc 1:

Chapter 1: Second Chance

Chapter 2: Fish Out Of Water
Chapter 3: Far From Home
Chapter 4: Crossing Paths
Chapter 5: Let's Unite!
Chapter 6: Driving Forward
Chapter 7: Yet To Be Named
Chapter 8: Not So Different
Chapter 9: Just Live More
Chapter 10: Silhouettes
Chapter 11: Clash! Thunderclap!

Chapter 12: Questions, Enemy, and Loss
Chapter 13: Weather, Power, and Friends

Chapter 14: Thorned Duties
Chapter 15: Blossoming
Chapter 16: Vanguards
Chapter 17: Roots of the King
Chapter 18: Knights of Cydonia
Chapter 19: Shot In The Dark
Chapter 20: Same Old Story
Chapter 21: Scion
Last edited:
Chapter 1: Second Chance


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 1 - Second Chance

Drip. Drip. Drip. Water dropped into a large river, slowly but surely. Hardly moving, but the sound of droplets was constant and almost rhythmical, able to bring peace to anyone who heard it.

The water was also blue in color, and very clean. There was nothing inside the river, not any animal or person, making it a serene place. The temperature was not too hot or too cold, anyone could dive into the river and swim with no issues. Of course, if they knew how to swim.

Something came crashing into the water and was immediately surrounded by bubbles. TRipples surrounded the figure, until the bubbles faded, leaving a human. Said figure had barely any distinct features, save for it having a masculine shape, and was entirely cyan in color.

“U-Urgh…” He said, trying to move his body. The figure looked at himself and gasped in shock. His state was nearly transparent to the point he could see through himself. “W-What’s going on?!”


A booming and royal voice reverberated throughout the river, shaking it to its core. The human turned around, confused and scared, trying to find out where the voice was coming from. His body was shaking as well, but it was frozen in place.

“Be not afraid, human. I am here to help you.”

Somehow, his shaking subsided. Still wary of the voice, he tried getting answers. “T-That’s kinda hard to believe when I’m in this… whatever this place is!”

“I understand that you have questions. I will try my best to answer them,” the voice said, and the water bubbled up again, gathering in a single spot where the voice came from.

In a bright flash of light, a figure stood. A quadrupedal stag-like creature with black and blue fur alongside a short, bushy tail. The antlers were colored gold, with a few spots having several colors of the rainbow. The creature looked at the human and smiled. He, on the other hand, was left shaking once again, and slowly tried backing away from the creature.

“My name is Xerneas.”

“X-Xerneas?!” The human asked, panting. “B-But you’re a legend, you… you…”

“A legend from tales as old as time,” she replied, giggling. “...You are from the Hoenn region, correct? I’ve seen it.”

“Y-Yeah? How do you know?”

“Legend, of course. Now, I have a question myself. What is your name, human?”

“I’m… my name is Shiron.” He answered, taking a deep breath. Things were getting calmer now, he felt.

“That is a beautiful name.” She looked around the river. “This place… how do I put it? It is a construct from your mind. It represents yourself… in your final moments.”

“My fin—” Shiron stopped, shutting himself up as the realization dawned upon him. “I’m… I’m dead.”

“Unfortunately, yes. Do you remember how you died?”

“I-I do. Of course… of course I’m dead,” Shiron looked down, but he saw nothing other than the depths of the river, which appeared to extend endlessly. “I deserved this, didn’t I?”

“No,” Xerneas shook her head. “You did not. And that is why I’m here. I’ve sensed greatness in you, Shiron. Tell me: what is your dream?”

Shiron was taken back by the sudden question. Why was someone as high and mighty as Xerneas asking him about his dream? It was only natural for him to be scared, to tremble at the sight. And what was that about sensing greatness?

“Please, answer my question, human.”

“My… my dream?” He wondered, thinking what to answer. What was his dream? And why did it matter anyway? He was dead. Shiron looked at himself, his crystal clear body. On his arms, he noticed something; there was a tint of red in them. He frowned.

“Do you not have an answer, Shiron?”

“N-No. I mean, yes. My dream was…” He gulped. “I wanted to help others. Everyone… w-well, I wanted to make others happy. To save people.”

“And your dream was interrupted by your death. If I may ask, why did you deci—”

Shiron shook his head in denial. “Please… I don’t wanna talk about it. I don’t even know why you brought me here. Just… what do you want?”

“I want to give you another chance,” she nodded. “Shiron, I think you deserve happiness like everyone else.”

“A second… chance?” He asked, unsure. He took another look at himself, shaking his arms. “I don’t know if I deserve it… I’ve brought nothing but pain to everyone I’ve met. Why do you think I deserve another chance?”

“Your heart,” Xerneas raised her head. “You have a big heart, and it’s full of love. You just need to treat yourself with kindness. The same way you treat so many others…”

Shiron trembled. Even being incorporeal, he felt the tears building up beneath his eyes. They wanted to come out so badly…

“What I’m about to offer you is something reserved only to those who deserve it,” Xerneas looked up and smiled. “Shiron, I can bring you to another world, a world of Pokémon. You will become one as well. Never to return to the human world, do you understand?”

“I’ll never get to go back home…?” Shiron asked. He would never see anyone there ever again. And becoming a Pokémon? That… sounded nice. If he really deserved this chance, then…

“I’ll take it.” Shiron then gasped. “Wait, what about my memories?!”

“Your memories?” Xerneas tilted her head. “I was planning on erasing them. Would you like to keep them?”

“Yes, I would. As much as I don’t have… good memories of my home, I wanna keep ‘em.”

“That is an unusual request, I must say. But, understood. It is time, Shiron, to cast aside your human shell and begin your new life.” Her antlers began to glow in a rainbow fashion, charging a multicolored beam of light.

Now that this was actually happening, Shiron felt his heart skip a beat. This was something else. He never even heard of it before, becoming a Pokémon? Weird, but he could accept that. Yeah, no problems with that part. Or with the whole “abandoning his family” part. He had his reasons for wanting this.

“Maybe someday we will meet again, Shiron, but until then… good luck!” The beam was launched towards the human, sending him into the depths of the river.

Next thing he knew, Shiron was getting propelled at an incredible speed. His body was practically rolling, and he could hardly see what was going on.

Why’s… everything… spinning?! He protested, coughing up water and moving his head back and forth, just waiting for that experience to be over. Xerneaaas! Why did you do this?!

He was getting deeper into the river, but something was odd. The more he looked, Shiron noticed that there were more things in it. Like algae, rocks, and even a few water-type Pokémon, like Feebas and Alomomola. What was going on?

And while he was still speeding up, that was no longer the weirdest part about this whole thing. Sure, he heard what Xerneas said, but now that Shiron managed to look at himself, he no longer saw the human, but instead, he had… the body of a Marshtomp. The bright-blue color gave it away, as did the gills he now had, and the weird, double tail… thing.

His surprised look gave way to a confused one. Okay, hold up! I’m in the body of a starter ? Okay, that’s… uh, it would be cool. Not that I mind, Mudkips are cute, and Swampert is really tough, but Marshtomp? That kinda seems like a downgrade to me…

Shiron closed his eyes and let his body continue on its path. To his surprise, he seemed to stop. Shiron then opened his eyes and gasped, they were even sparkling from the shock.

What he saw was a vast underwater ecosystem, like in his hometown, but different in the way he could see everything. It wasn’t as murky as the ocean he was used to, and Shiron found that lovely.

Lilycove doesn’t seem so good now… heh. Bet I can even swim now that I’m a water-type!

To test his theory, Shiron tried swimming like a puppy, but he discovered it was difficult. He wasn’t even leaving the place! And what’s worse, he was struggling to breathe. Shiron took some time to notice it, but he really needed to breathe.

Okay, new plan: get outta here! Having decided, he tried swimming upwards, towards the light, and he was getting there. Slowly, but surely. His lungs, on the other hand, were not so cool with this idea; they were getting stuffed with water, and Shiron tried holding his breath. O-Oh no… oh… n..o…

He coughed water and began falling down again, as his vision became blurry. Shiron struggled to keep himself awake and with open eyes, but he managed to hold on long enough that he saw someone else jumping down the water. A strange figure, with blue fur and a canine appearance, but on two legs.

H-Huh? Oh… what’s… that…? His vision was unclear, but the Pokémon in front of him also had a few patches of black fur, and two dreadlocks coming out of both sides of the stranger’s head.

R-Rio...lu? Shiron thought, right before he closed his eyes and passed out.

“Hold on, I got this!”

The Riolu rose to the surface, taking a pause to catch his breath. He soon pushed the Marshtomp, not without struggle. The water-type was heavier than he looked. But soon enough, the duo had gotten out of the river and fallen on the sandy ground.

“Phew… that was hard,” Riolu said, panting as he laid down, looking to his side and staring directly at the Marshtomp. “...Are you okay? Can you breathe? It’s kinda weird seeing a ‘tomp here, and drowning!”

“Nick! Where are you?!” A voice asked, making the canine look back at the other side of the beach, seeing a Quilladin running towards him.

“Hey Magnus! You won’t believe what I found here!” Nick waved, still exhausted from the rescue, but with enough energy to crack a smile.

Once the Quilladin was close enough, Nick noticed him wearing a white apron around his chest, and his nose sniffed the distinct aroma of sugar.

“N-Nick?” Magnus stopped, panting. “W-What’re you doing he—”

Another look made him notice the unconscious water-type standing next to Nick. Magnus gasped in shock, before standing back.

“W-Wait! Nick, who’s that?”

Nick grinned. “Some guy I just saved! He was, uh… drowning.”

“A water-type? Drowning ? He’s evolved! Unless you caught a feral!”

“...I’m not like that Treecko you heard about,” he rolled his eyes. “Oh, but this guy’s still unconscious.”

“Maybe for good reason? How would he drown?” Magnus gulped, managing to take another look at the Marshtomp.

“Beats me. I just knew I had to help, y’know? Right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, Shiron remained in the same state. He moved a little in his inert state. His face quickly turned red, and Shiron moved like he was gasping for air. Nick took notice of this and looked at his friend.

“Dude, I think we need to wake him up!”

“What?” Magnus flinched at the sentence, his heart skipping a beat. It was undeniable that this Marshtomp needed help, but what if he was only faking it? “What if he tries to attack us? What do we do, then?”

“...Just trust me on this one! I sensed his aura! We’ll be fine!”

“B-But… your senses suck… no offense.”

“None taken.”

The Quilladin stared at Shiron again, trembling a bit. However, the sight of that Marshtomp, helpless and suffocating, was enough for him to reconsider what to do.

Magnus ran towards the water-type, using both of his arms to push down on Shiron’s chest. He pumped as hard as he could, but tried not to use too much strength. All he needed was to wake him. That was all. After that, he opened Shiron’s mouth and began blowing on it, slow and easy. This was harder than the books said, he noticed.

C’mon, dude! Don’t leave me! Arceus, I hope Nick’s doing the right thing by rescuing this guy…

He saw Shiron’s chest rise and smiled, still blowing air as much as possible.

Shiron snapped his eyes open, coughing up water and instinctively sitting down. His hearing buzzed, and his other senses were on overload, trying to focus on too many things at once.

What was going on? Where was he? And what just happened? More questions popped up as he got used to the new sensations dawning on him. Starting with the gills that twitched, picking up the cold air around him, and a faint smell of rain.

This… this is… Shiron looked down at himself, now confirming that his body had indeed changed, just like Xerneas had mentioned earlier. He was no longer a human, and the world he once knew, the people he used to know… they were gone. All gone.

He stood up, trembling as he balanced himself, opening and closing his fists. ...This is… great !

A smile spread on Shiron’s face, and he touched his cheeks. The scaly feeling was comforting and he giggled loudly, enamored by how good it was. Despite the reality of him never being able to return dawning upon him, Shiron was ecstatic! Well, sure, he had to be careful not to get caught now, but everything should be fine, right

Unbeknownst to him, Shiron was being watched by his two rescuers. The duo was eyeing him like he was some sort of clown, and while Nick was finding what the Marshtomp was doing to be funny, Magnus was intrigued.

Finally, the Riolu cleared his throat. “Hey. You’re finally awake!”

The voice brought Shiron out of his trance and he saw a Riolu and a Quilladin, both staring right at him. Did they see his little show? Oh no. The mere thought made heat rise up on his face.

“Are you listening to me? Can you talk?” Nick asked, snapping his fingers to get Shiron’s attention again. “Are you in there? C’mon, we’re trying to help you!”

“Wha?” Shiron turned around and stared at them, blinking repeatedly. “Did you… talk?”

“What do you mean?” Nick crossed his arms, huffing. “Of course I talked! You’re the one I didn’t expect to talk! Or to drown, for that matter…”

A talking Pokémon? Shiron stepped back, trying to process what he heard. Was this the world Xerneas sent him to? A world of talking Pokémon? At least they didn’t seem aggressive, but still...

“U-Uh… hi!” The Quilladin forced a smile. “I-I’m Magnus, and this is my friend… Nick!”

“I found you in the river, you were drowning… so I took you out!” Nick explained, sighing in relief and rubbing sweat off his forehead. “...Although it’s weird for a water-type to drown, we thought you were a feral! Anyway, I guess the important question is: are you alright?”

Oh shit, the former human gulped. What to do?! These were the first Pokémon he met in this world, and if he angered them, surely things would get bad for him. What if I tell them I’m a human…? Maybe this’ll help!

Shiron’s thoughts were interrupted by the Riolu poking his shoulders.

“So?” Nick tilted his head as he waited for an answer.

...No, it won’t work. Think, Shiron, think! He struggled and scratched his chin, forcing himself to try harder to come up with something to tell the two. “I-I… I don’t know.”

No reply. Nick seemed to look at him deeper (if that was even possible) and squinted. Shiron noticed a faint orange glow on Nick’s otherwise red eyes.

“You’re… you’re lying. I know it.”

“You know your aura sense sucks,” Magnus pointed out. “Can we really depend on it?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault that other Riolu develop it early!” Nick touched his chest fluff, trying to defend himself.

Shiron frowned. And he thought Riolu were masters of aura… whatever that meant. But they were right; he was lying. “Y-Y’all got me! Alright, I lied. It’s just… the truth is a lil harder to accept, I think.”

Magnus snorted. “You think ?”

“Well, it’s not like we have better things to do…” Nick shrugged.

“Actually, I gotta help dad with the store,” the grass-type replied.


“I-I…” Shiron stopped. Telling straight away didn’t feel like the right idea. Then he remembered something Xerneas said and an idea appeared. “I lost my memory. I… I think I can only recall my name.”

Nick raised a brow, locking eyes with Magnus before returning to face Shiron. “And that would be…?”

“Do tell!” Magnus added, his eyes sparkling with curiosity.


The canine chuckled, shaking his head. “Next thing you’re gonna say you’re a human, right? Because that seems to be what most amnesiac ‘mons say around here.”

“He’s right!” Magnus nodded.

His jaw nearly dropped. These two knew about it the whole time and never bothered to tell Shiron about it?! Well, he did lie to their faces… but that didn’t make it right!

“How did you— “

“Joking, dude!” Nick snorted and laughed loudly. “Amnesia is common here, but humans are just a myth! Well… that’s what my grandpa told me.”

“Your… grandpa,” Shiron whispered. Was that too much information?

“Oh, that makes things easier,” Magnus sighed. “I guess we can go to the village now, this situation’s settled.”

The Marshtomp gasped. “Settled, what’s that supposed to mean?"

“C’mon dude!” Nick said, offering a paw. “I can’t say I fully trust you yet, but… do you have anywhere to go? No memories, no ability to swim… if we leave you here, some feral might come and eat you.”

Shiron weighed his options. He was stuck, for lack of a better word, in this weird place. They were willing to help him, but if he refused, what would he do? He didn’t know anything, and if they could help…

“O-Okay. Take me to your village!” Shiron replied. Yes! That was the start of his new life! Xerneas gave him a chance, and he was sure as hell not wasting it.

“Alrighty! I’m sure we can find somewhere for you to stay!” Nick said, turning around as he ran to the exit of the shore.

Magnus followed him, albeit slowly, his body not used to doing jogs. Shiron, on the other hand, waited for them to get a little farther before doing anything. At first, he just walked, looking at his hands. He didn’t notice it before, but there were cut marks, similar to a knife’s, around both of his arms.

...A new chance, huh? Do I really deserve it? I… I don’t know. But maybe I’ll find out. Maybe… maybe I do deserve… deserve to live.
Last edited:
Chapter 2 - Fish Out Of Water


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 2 - Fish Out Of Water

What a weird decision. Shiron, following two strangers. Not just that, but Pokémon. No, that wasn’t the weirdest part of this scenario. They talked like him, laughed like him. It would be just fine if not for the fact they were all Pokémon. Including him.

I’m not sure if I should feel shocked, happy or confused that I got to be reborn. Though, knowing myself… I probably don’t deserve this. Shiron stopped in his tracks, frowning as he looked at the two Pokémon with him. Why are they even helping me…?

“I sense some second thoughts!” The Riolu said, turning back and tilting his head. “We’re here to help you. At least I am.”

Magnus huffed and pouted, ignoring part of what Nick said. “I’m not a hero-wannabe like you. I’m fine with my job… and you too, considering how much time you spend there buying our stuff.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault you and your dad are great bakers!” Nick protested, touching his chest. “Shiron, once we get to Thornwell I’ll show you Magnum’s shop! You’re gonna love it! Well, if you have a sweet tooth…”

The Marshtomp seemed to be in trance, not listening to the conversation around him. His gills were picking up… something. Seems like it was the breeze, though for the others, it wasn’t strong. But there was something else. A wave of vibrations reverberated around him. What’s… goin’ on?

“Uh, Shiron? You okay in there?” Nick snapped his fingers, trying to get the water-type’s attention.

No use. Shiron was too enveloped in what his senses were telling him. Not just the vibrations, but the scent. It was incredibly faint, and were he not the species he was now, he doubted he’d sense it. An earthly scent was filling his nostrils, like dirt after… after rain.

“Rain!” Shiron said, snapping back to reality. “I-I can sense rain! It’s gonna rain soon!”

“Well, that’s natural?” Magnus asked, a little confused. All Marshtomp had this ability, so why was Shiron so surprised? Was it his amnesia?

From Nick’s blank expression, Magnus thought his friend had a similar idea. However, the Riolu had something else in mind, but decided not to speak about it. For now.

“R-Right. Natural,” the former human smiled sheepishly. “It’s neat, I’ll have to admit.”

In a way, they were right. Shiron wanted the rain to arrive soon, but even now he found it very soothing. Guess being a Pokémon is better than I thought. I’m loving this!

“I’m just glad you’re alright,” Nick smiled as well. “Though you seem to be… shocked? Next you’re gonna say you didn’t know ‘tomps have incredible brute strength.”

We have what? Shiron’s eyes sparkled like those of an impressed child. Things just got better! To think that I got here… I can’t believe it. It’s so… surreal.

“We’re almost there!” Magnus said, looking at the other two. “I’m sure you guys are tired, so I guess I’ll bake a cake for us~”

Hearing the word “cake” made Shiron’s stomach grumble, to which he covered his belly and felt heat rise up on his face, silently glad he couldn’t blush.

At the sight of the village, Shiron’s opinion of the world changed a little. He expected something big, grandiose, with large buildings, cars, city halls and all the things he was familiar with back in Hoenn.

Instead, what he got was a fancy, yet small town. Most of the buildings had plain colors, varying from black to grey, and while the houses looked like modern, human ones, they were still smaller than he thought.

“It’s small, but it’s home!” Nick stated, puffing out his chest with pride. “We don’t even have policemon, ya know?”

“Police...mon?” Shiron blinked.

Only now did it dawn that this place, this world had nothing like his own. No humans. No trainers. Nothing. No wonder they had different expressions, although he internally cringed at what he heard Nick say.

I hope they don’t say “everymon” or something stupid like that, Shiron internally cringed.

Well, if he was to live there for the rest of his life, might as well learn the ropes. Shiron looked around again, inspecting the houses. “Where are we? Like, what’s this street called? And, uh… Nick? Where am I gonna live?”

“Right, I’ll tell you this in a bit. As for where we are… this is Falink Street!” Said Nick, pointing around.

After introducing the street, the trio wandered beyond it, stopping at a large plaza. There, Shiron noticed that there were three other paths, with a water fountain right at the center.

“This is the heart of our village, Spirit Plaza!” Nick said, and Shiron soon realized why it was named that way; there were four main paths. One of them was where they came from, and ended on the beach.

To top it off, he saw multiple buildings around that place, all themed after different things. His eye wandered to a black one that included a small line on the entrance to it.

“That’s our bank! We might need to visit it soon if you’re gonna live here.” Nick stated.

Shiron nodded and his focus went to another building. Noticing this, Magnus giggled.

“My dad’s place is around here…” Magnus complemented, taking a look around before pointing to a large bakery.

“Ooooooh!” Shiron’s eyes sparkled again, while his stomach rumbled once more. The building he looked at was so pretty!

With an infrastructure that looked like it was made of chocolate and a large sign that said “Hansen’s Bakery”, the only thing that crossed Shiron’s mind was how much he wanted to go inside and have a feast, to the point drool was dripping from his mouth.

“Shiron, you alright?” Magnus asked, looking straight at him with a frown. “O-Oh dear. You must be really hungry! We should get you something!”

“Make that two,” Nick patted his belly and chuckled. “I’m starving. Why don’t we go to your bakery and you can make us a cake?”

“W-Wait,” the Marshtomp protested. “Yeah, I could use a snack. But we should also figure out what I’m gonna do from now on!”

Nick smiled, rubbing the fur on his head. This Marshtomp sure was curious. Of course, he didn’t blame Shiron for it. He was amnesiac (and maybe something else, but he’d ask it when they were alone) after all.

“Aight. I know a place you can live, it’s on another street. Just follow—”

“I’ll have a cake ready for you guys when you solve Shiron’s housing problem!” Magnus cooed, nodding at the two.

Part of Shiron wondered why they were so keen on helping him settle down in that town. But really, they were just kind. That’s what he thought as Nick pulled him away and onto another street.

“Which street’s this one?” Shiron asked. His curiosity had only grown since he entered the village.

Now they were on what appeared to be a hill, and only climbing up through a rocky path. He could see a single house on the top of the hill. It was big enough for… he assumed an Aggron was able to fit inside.

“Coalossal Hill!” Nick answered, snickering. “This is where I live, but there’s another hill. That one’s prettier.”

“Does that mean there’s… uh, a volcano here?” Shiron gulped, looking at the ground, and then remembered he wasn’t an expert on geology, so checking for volcanic rocks was pointless.

“Nope. I don’t know why we named it like this. Don’t worry about falling off. With that tummy you have, I bet you’ll just bounce.”

Shiron didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not, so instead, he sighed. “And I’m supposed to stay at your place? If that’s where we’re going.”

Before Nick could reply, the two heard thunder coming from the distance. Shiron stopped to look at where he heard the noise, and sure enough, there were clouds over the horizon. His prediction had come to fruition.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Nick said, yawning. “Our world. I bet that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Your… world?”

Nick raised a brow and for a moment, he smirked. “No? Our world. Y’know, mine and yours. And Magnus’. And everyone else, too.”

“O-Oh, right!”

Shiron was able to see the clouds forming, the wind blowing on his scales and Nick’s fur. The chirping of birds, and how the sun was setting. Things that he never took the time to experience, and they were right in front of him.

“It’s… really beautiful.”

Yet, an aching pain in his chest stopped him from pursuing that thrill again. Shiron was taken back to when he had met Xerneas. She chose to make him reborn. And surely he wasn’t the first one, considering what Nick said before. Not that it mattered to him.

What did matter, however, was that others weren’t given this choice. Was he even the right one to be resurrected? There must have been others that would be doing amazing things in this world, but Shiron? Shiron was just a nobody.

...This guy’s trying to become my friend. He’s really nice, I’ll give him that. But… I’m worthless. Who’d want to be friends with me anyway? A Riolu? Nah. A Litwick or a Chikorita? No.

Truly worthless.

I guess I’ll try it anyway, just to prove me wrong. Not like I have any other choice.

“What’re you thinking about?” Nick interrupted. When Shiron noticed his… friend staring, the Marshtomp gasped. Nick’s eyes had that same orange glow again, but this time it was more powerful.

“H-Huh? Are you trying to scan me?!” Shiron blinked, heat rising up again as he stuttered.

“Just wanted to get a hold on what you’re feeling…” Nick frowned, rubbing his arm. “S-Sorry. You were distracted, so I tried checking your aura. I couldn’t sense much, but still…”

Empaths. Never thought I’d meet one, Shiron sighed. “It’s fine. We’re close to the top anyway, can we go? Turns out nearly drowning took a lot out of me, and I’m still hungry.”

Nick smiled sheepishly and continued his stroll, having Shiron behind him. The canine was, at the very least, glad he seemed to have found a friend, from the little he had sensed.

The Riolu’s house stood on top of a rocky hill. Shiron was visibly impressed, gasping out loud and staring at the place. The rock-solid building even had plants growing around it, the crops moving in sync with the wind. It looked sturdy enough to resist erosion.

So this world had some impressive things! Not like the technological marvel of human society, but good enough. Shiron then looked at Nick, smiling.

“Okay, are we going inside now?”

Nick nodded in reply. “I think my grandpa’s busy with one of his friends, but yeah. We’re going in.”

“Fair enough.”

They walked inside the house, and Nick stayed behind to close the door. Shiron then took a while to see what the house looked like, compared to what he was used to.

Sure enough, it was vastly different. No television to be seen, just a well-cleaned, dark green couch with a table in front of it. Though he assumed there were no electronics, Shiron managed to see a… lamp on the ceiling, but it looked odd. It was just a large sphere.

Other than that, Shiron saw a hall that ended in what he thought was the kitchen.

“See anything unusual? Anything that jogged your memory? Because not remembering stuff kinda sucks.”

“Kinda,” what was with all those questions? Shiron ignored it for now. “I just never saw any house like this one before. It’s weird, y’know? I remember not seeing a house like yours, but I don’t remember what my house was like.”

“So you had a house?”

“I think so?”

Nick playfully tapped his friend on the back. “C’mon, let’s go to the kitchen! I bet grandpa’s having beer, but you’ll probably be better off having water.”

“If you say so…” Shiron touched his belly. I can’t believe I’m saying this—actually, I’m technically thinking and not saying, but whatever. I just hope this place has pizza. No point in getting transported to another world if I can’t have pizza.

The two walked towards the kitchen, but on the way, Shiron looked at the walls, seeing various pictures. They were black and white, making him think that Nick’s grandfather was either old-fashioned or this world didn’t have colored photos.

“This is your family?” Shiron stopped to point at a particular picture that had Nick being held in the arms of a Lucario, with a Mawile on their side.

“...Yeah. They’re my parents.” The Riolu answered bluntly, hastening his steps.

“Oh,” he looked at the photo again. Nick was much younger and smaller, like a child, or a baby. Maybe a puppy, in his case. “What happened to them?”

Nick stopped, staring at Shiron with a blank expression, before moving on without replying.

...Great, you blew it, Shiron sighed. I’m an idiot.

Nick thought about being the first one to arrive at the kitchen, but he decided against it at the last second. Instead, the two got there at the same time.

Shiron then eyed the place, still taking mental notes to compare. There was a metallic fridge, a table fit for six Pokémon, and two of the chairs were occupied by a large, hefty Pangoro that wore a beret, and a Houndoom that wore a fedora. The first of them chugged down an entire can of beer and soon looked at the duo.

“Hi, Nick,” the Pangoro said, now focusing on Shiron. “Hm? And who’s that? A new friend?”

“S-Sir! I’m Shiron. N-Nice meeting you,” the Marshtomp clicked his fingers, stuttering. “I’m new in town. Don’t really know my way arou—”

“Okay, hold up. First, introductions! My grandpa’s the Pangoro. His name is Rowan,” Nick interrupted. “And the Houndoom is Ivan. He’s a friend of the family.”

“Greetings,” Ivan nodded. “It’s a pleasure meeting you, child.”

Shiron, on the other hand, visibly flinched. The Pangoro’s name was Rowan? As in, the same name as that professor from Sinnoh? It couldn’t be the same person, could it?

Rowan raised a brow, noticing how the Marshtomp acted just from hearing his name. “Hmph. Well, I never saw you before. Nick, you haven’t dragged him into your so-called dream, have you?”

“It ain’t “so-called”! It is my dream, and no!” Nick protested, snarling, though he shook a little. “And I found him unconscious on the beach, he’s amnesiac!”

“Amnesiac?” Ivan asked, now looking at Shiron as well. “...Fascinating. We haven’t had one of those since you, Rowan!”

All the eyes were on him, and he didn’t know why. What was so special about an amnesiac? They didn’t even know he was a human! And Rowan… the way he looked at him was like he knew more than let on.

“That is interesting,” Rowan tapped the table, eyeing Shiron from top to bottom. “I’m assuming you want him to stay here, Nick?”

“Absolutely!” The canine replied, wagging his tail. “I couldn’t leave him there, y’know? Didn’t feel right.”

“I’m not complaining about it. He can stay,” Rowan said. “But… what is your name, child? Or can I call you Marshtomp?”

“W-Why would you call me by my species?” Shiron blinked, confused. “Actually, nevermind. It’s Shiron.”

“An unusual name,” Ivan stated.

As they were chatting, Rowan scratched his furry chin. He surely needed to talk to that kid later. For the moment, it was best that he and Nick got along.

“Hm, alright. Nick will show your room. Alright?”

A huge smile spread on Nick’s face, and his tail wagged faster. He just got a roommate!

“Oh, by the way, Pops! Magnus said he was getting a cake for us, so I’m gonna go with Shiron to get it!”

“As long as you don’t come home late, do as you please.”

“Will do!” Nick dragged Shiron out, while the Marshtomp laughed in joy.

Nick and Shiron were back at the plaza, but now the water-type took his time to see what else was in store for him. The first part of this was noticing a Zorua sprinting towards them, but closer to Nick’s general direction. The second part was checking that said Zorua wore a tattered green scarf and was holding what appeared to be goggles in her teeth.

“Audrey, how’s my favorite fluffball doing?!” Nick waved at the fox, then pointed at Shiron. “This is my new friend, Shiron!”

“H-Heya.” Shiron waved back.

The fox slowed to a halt, stopping in front of Nick. She put down the goggles and raised a brow. “Huh. Didn’t think you’d forget our date just to get some guy with you!”

“It’s not like that,” he deadpanned. “I rescued Shiron from drowning. Check this out: he said he’s amnesiac…”

“Wait, really?” She looked at the Marshtomp and gasped. “Wow, so they still show up? Neat! But that’s not why I’m here…”

Audrey pouted and stepped back, grabbing the goggles with her teeth again. Nick then rubbed his head and grunted.

“No need for that, can I have them now? I kinda need it for, y’know. Setting up my reputation as an adventurer.”

“Oh boy, should I or should I not give it to you?” She teased, giggling. “You might want to give me something in return~”

Why do I feel like I’m the third wheel here? Shiron cleared his throat.

Nick understood and smiled sheepishly, his face blushing red. What to do?

“I kinda promised to show Shiron around, since he’s new here. You can understand that… right?”

Audrey pouted and looked away from Nick, huffing. “Fine, fine. I’ll give you your goggles, but I’ll make sure our date goes… hm, smoothly!”

He picked the goggles up and smiled. They were black and adjustable, so anyone could wear them. Nick put them on right away and smiled.

“How do I look?”

“Mighty handsome,” Audrey replied, smiling and wagging her tail.

Yeah, I’m a third wheel alright. Shiron sighed. “Y’know what? Nick, go to your date. I kinda wanna explore this on my own.”

“Wait, really?” Nick’s ears twitched.

“Don’t worry, I think I can handle myself now. Don’t wanna blow your chances with her, so… feel free.”

“Thanks, Shiron! You’re the best!”

Sure, sure I am…

Alone. He hadn’t been like that in a while. Shiron watched them walk away and sighed, heading to the bakery.

Sure enough, the inside of the pastry shop was really pretty. The chairs were colorful, and the table looked like a biscuit, only not edible. As for the Pokémon inside, they were having fun, eating in silence, a few of them even giggled from the taste of the food.

Man, I wanna have some. I don’t… have any money. Of course I forgot about this. I’ll just use my charm instead!

As Shiron made his way inside, he saw that the counter was adorned with a glass that showed some of the desserts, like cupcakes and brownies. Of course, the best part was Magnus putting down a cake on the counter, and soon, the Quilladin locked eyes with him, smiling.

“Heya, Shiron! You’re here already. Where’s Nick? Oh, and don’t worry about paying. It’s on the house!”

“On a date.” Shiron walked to the counter and checked the cake out. Chocolate with a white frosting, and the smell was already sweet enough for his tummy to groan.

“Oh,” Magnus said. He forgot about it as well. “Hm, this cake is supposed to be for two, but you’re the only one here…”

“I can eat it by myself!”

“B-By yourself?!” Magnus gasped. How hungry was this Marshtomp?

“Yeah, why not?”

“...Nothing,” Magnus’ heart skipped a beat, and he shook his head. “I was a little shocked, but sure. Just sit down. Can I get you a drink while we’re at it? We have pinap, leppa, oran, rawst, lum…”

“I’ll let the chef decide!” Shiron smiled. “I’m sure you know more than me. Amnesiac, after all.”

“P-Pinap it is!”

So that was settled already, cool. Shiron sat on one of the chairs and waited. He could handle this. For the moment, he allowed himself to ignore the brain gremlins that told him he wasn’t good enough. That, and his hunger was bigger.

Soon, Magnus put the cake on Shiron’s table, along with a fork and a knife. The former human mused about them having utensils as well, but found it neat.

“Thanks, Magnus! I’ll be sure to pay you back when I get some money.”

“I-I said it’s on the house, I’ll just… uh, do my thing. Hope you have a good meal!”

Agreeing with that, Shiron took a single bite of cake and felt his brain practically explode from how good it was.

...My time has come. I’m eating this thing and nobody can stop me!

His stomach groaned again, and Shiron showed off a creepy smile, licking his lips.

Thunder echoed. Wind howled. A small boat navigated through a never ending storm, somehow. The boat was resisting the ocean’s advances, but it was only a matter of time until its crew perished.

Or, that was what one of them thought. A Tyrunt ran in circles, the red, regal cape he wore flowing in the wind, alongside a necklace that moved as frantically as him.

“Sir,” said a Roselia, bowing to the fossil Pokémon. She wore a cape like the other Pokémon, but hers was purple and accompanied by a black hood. “I believe we are near a beach. We might be able to make it through.”

The rock-type panted, stopping what he was doing. “Liz, I told you a million times, don’t call me sir! Terrence or Terry is fine!”

“B-But sir—Terry.”

“What were you talking about? We’re near a beach?”

“I can try navigating to it, but it will be tough. The storm is relentless today.”

“Tell me about it,” Terry sighed, holding on to his cape. “Do it. I certainly will not die here! And neither will you!”

“Yes, sir!” Liz steered the wheel towards a direction, and while Terry tried looking at where they were going, he only saw the waves splashing the boat.

Using her vines to grasp the wheel, Liz tried steering them in the right direction, but the storm was stronger. A huge wave swept through them, forcing Liz to let go of the wheel and grab Terry with her vines.

“Gah!” Terry gasped as the water struck him, coughing and panting. Just as it hit him, it stopped. While he was a little relieved, the storm showed no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Another wave struck the two, forcing them both unconscious.
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Chapter 3 - Far From Home


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 3 - Far From Home

Shiron had to admit the cake was way better than he thought, not that he had many of them back in Hoenn. Because of this, the sweet taste on his mouth was so invigorating he never wanted it to go away.

Can’t believe it! If only they added more frosting, or chocolate bars! You can never have enough, heh. Maybe I’ll ask Magnus to do it the next time.

Speaking of Magnus, the Quilladin was looking at Shiron, both impressed and a little scared that he was eating a cake for two or three mons without any issue. Even the other customers were staring, not that Shiron minded.

The grass-type cleared his throat, now standing next to Shiron. “H-Hey, uh, Shiron? Might wanna slow down on the chewing there. It’s, well… kinda fast. You’re gonna get sick!”

“Hm?” Shiron gulped a large piece of the dessert and blinked. “Oh. I didn’t notice it, sorry… it’s just so good! I’ve never had chocolate cake before, so… got carried away.”

“You never had it?” He gasped, his furry face turning red. “N-No wonder you’re this impressed! But did you like it?”

That kind of question answered itself, Shiron mused. Still, he could say his full opinion on the course. The Marshtomp puffed his chest and smiled. “Well, I gotta give the chef my utmost congratulations! This meal is astonishingly good~! See, it ain’t too sweet that I feel sick, but it’s not too bitter for my taste. In other words, it’s amazing! I could get another one myself!”

“...But I don’t wanna abuse your kindness and ask for another free cake. I’ll just pay the next time I come here.”

Magnus’ eyes sparkled in excitement and his tail began to wag, while the blush on his face grew. “Oh, thank you so much! I worked hard on this one!”

“I can see that,” Shiron said, pushing the plate away and slurping down the pinap juice. “Hm, this one is good too. Seems you love your job.”

“Yeah.” Magnus replied with a smile as he looked around the shop. “It’s the family business, but I like working here. It’s relaxing, and seeing all the clients enjoy the food… dunno, brings me joy!”

He then turned to face Shiron again. “Actually, what about you? I know you lost your memory, but what’re you planning to do?”

No idea. Shiron only stopped to think about it now, having been busy with other things, but what would he do? It’s not like he could just live freely in Nick's house and eat sweets all the time. Even if he could, that’d surely drive them away from him, and being alone was the worst.

“Do you have any idea?” Shiron decided to ask, hoping that Magnus would have any answer.

“Hmmm,” he pondered. “Depending on what skills you have, maybe you could work with me?”

At that, Shiron shook his head repeatedly. “N-No, no, no! I have, like, zero skills! I’m totally useless as a cook!”

“Too bad, then.” Magnus sighed. “Well, I can try and help, somewhat. Alright? Let me just finish the shift, and I’ll give you a hand!”

Meanwhile, Nick had gone to another hill. Unlike the one his house was located in, this one was greener, and there was a nice view of the ocean beyond the village.

Nick watched as the Zorua with him put down a white blanket and grabbed a basket with her mouth, offering it to him. He nodded and put it on top of the blanket, before opening it to reveal the content. Inside the basket were several berries, along with a few cupcakes.

“Nothing to drink?” Audrey snickered, laying down and looking at the Riolu with a smile on her face.

He shrugged and sat next to her, grabbing a chocolate cupcake from inside the box. “Couldn’t get any this time. Pops’ too careful now.”

“No worries. Can’t say I miss it.” Audrey chirped, right before Nick began patting her on her head, causing the fox to bark in excitement.

“Has the day been good?” Nick asked before looking at the large horizon in front of him. The storm clouds had gathered and he could see the storm approaching. Luckily, they should still have some time to go on with their date.

“Very exhausting, but good!” She replied, giggling and munching on the cupcake Nick held. “Gotta wake up early, though. Seems I’ll have to take care of the shop myself. Sooo… if you need anything done, you should probably ask already!”

“Hm. Nah, don’t think I need anything, you already made my goggles!”

Audrey sat on her haunches and touched her chin in thought. “How about scarves or bands for your team? Have you got any members yet?”

Nick shrugged and sighed. “...No. Yes. Maybe, I dunno. I’m working on it. I’ve thought about recruiting one, but he might not accept it. I just met him, and he’s, uh… the amnesiac guy.”

“Eh?” Audrey blinked, opening her mouth to gasp. “Sure you wanna recruit him?”

On second thought, Shiron was too new to be recruited. Still, he was the only choice Nick had. All he needed to do was figure out a way to convince him.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he finally replied.

“Good luck, then!” Audrey chirped. She took a look at the ocean like Nick. It was so peaceful, seeing the waves, the wind blowing on their fur… oh, she could stay there forever.

But Nick couldn’t. She saw in his eyes. Those bright, red eyes. There was hope in them. Audrey grabbed Nick’s paw tightly and laid her head on his arms, purring.

“Audrey,” Nick sighed, his ears drooping. “Be real with me on this one. You think I’ll really become a hero?”

“I’m not a psychic or medium, so I have no clue what the future holds for us,” she laughed. Her blue eyes sparkled in happiness and bliss. “But answering your question… yeah, I think you will! You’ll be just like the Lucario of legend!”

Said sentence did little to soothe his worries. Nick wasn’t like others of his kind. His aura senses barely worked, as Magnus so quickly reminded him. But if he still tried… and if what he thought about Shiron was true, then...

Just like mom, Nick remembered the picture in his house and felt his heart skipping a beat. I’ll become a good Lucario… I promise!

At the bakery, most of the other clients had left, leaving only Shiron and Magnus, the latter of which decided to sit next to Shiron. To his shock, the Marshtomp was still going at it. It was like he had some vacuum in his belly.

“By the way, Magnus,” Shiron sighed in relief, patting his belly. He managed to hold in a burp, not wanting to embarrass one of his only friends. “Gotta say. You’re one hell of a caker. Is that even a word…?”

“No clue. Ahem, Shiron! Still trying to help you out here. You have any hobbies? Anything you remember enjoying?”

Boy did these Pokémon enjoy asking him questions. Maybe he should just drop the charade and say he didn’t have any amnesia. Still, what did he enjoy doing?

“Sleeping, eating… relaxing.”

“You sound like a feral Skitty,” Magnus mused, covering his mouth.

“...W-Well, I don’t really know what I like!” Shiron blurted out, feeling heat rise up.

“That’s fine! You don’t need to know everything now…”

Except Shiron could remember something he liked. Was it embarrassing? No. Probably not. Now, how to say it without raising suspicions?

“Wait,” Shiron stopped. He had to make this work. With a flair for the dramatic, he started tapping the sides of his cheeks repeatedly, as if thinking very hard. He had no idea if that would be convincing, but it was the best thing to do now. “...I think I got something. I like, hmm… singing? Y-Yeah! I like singing!”

“Singing? Oh, that’s really cool! Can you try it? Do you remember any song?”

The heat grew stronger. “Wait, what? No! I-I mean, I can try, but… why? Just because I like singing doesn’t mean I can sing!”

“Just curious! Besides, you’re my friend, and I wanna know more about you.”

Friend? Shiron got a friend! And without even trying all that much, which made it much better. His heart thumped with the news, and he smiled. Guess Nick and Magnus were his friends. Well, oughta get to work.

“...F-Fine, just don’t make fun of me, okay?” Gosh this was anxiety-inducing. Maybe just a few lyrics and he was done. Yeah, that could do it. “...Don’t fail me now, trembling wings! You’re my hope, you’re my everything! We can fly if you believe… in… my… looooove!”

Turns out Shiron’s singing voice was awful, Magnus thought. Very out of rhythm, squeaky and the pitch shifted while he sang that verse. But it was adorable to see. And, despite how nervous Shiron looked, Magnus could see the Marshtomp was having fun, even smiling and wiggling his body a little.

“Why don’t you try it?” Audrey asked.

“I am trying!”

Nick stood up, extending his arm in the air. He closed his eyes and took a large breath, making his feelers twitch.

The fox waddled in front of Nick and tilted her head. “Aight. You feel anything different? Can you sense me?”

“No and no.” Nick replied.

It was only half a lie. He could vaguely feel something. It was very faint, and it kept flicking out, no matter how much effort he was putting into it. The entire thing was annoying, but most of all, demotivating. Why couldn’t he do this one simple thing?! Most, if not all, Riolu his age had mastered aura training, if not evolved already!

Nick grunted in frustration, his fur standing on end. “Damn it! Why can’t I do it?!”

Unknowingly, Nick got on his knees, panting, and then he looked at his paws. There was an orange glow around them, but even so, it faded instantly. Nothing worked.

Except, maybe, the hug that Audrey decided to give him. The fluffiness of his partner managed to calm him down a little, but he still whined like a sad puppy.

“There, there… Nicky, you’ll get there eventually! I know it, I believe in you…”

“I know. I know,” he sat down and frowned, patting the fox’s head. “...Wonder if mom had this much trouble.”

“You’re not her!” Audrey shook her head and pouted, playfully tapping Nick’s cheeks. “Listen. You’re Nick. You’re you. I know things’ll get better. Just gotta practice, y’know?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Nick forced a smile as he looked in the sky, deciding to lie down on the blanket. He found the clouds above him to be pretty, even if they had no particular formation. “And you? Got any illusions to show me?”

“I’m not really interested in doing them,” she chirped. “Besides, gotta work at the shop. Supplies don’t build themselves!”

A Riolu with no affinity for aura and a Zorua that wanted nothing to do with illusions. Anyone could tell they were an unusual couple. And Nick enjoyed it exactly the way it was.

“Heh. You’re gonna build our scarves? ‘Cause the team might be closer than ever before. If Shiron accepts the offer, ‘course.”

“Just say the word and I’ll do it right away!” Audrey blepped in response, snickering.

“I know you will,” Nick sighed in relief, cuddling alongside her again and letting their fur touch one another.

All things considered, Nick was glad he had her to depend on. Made a lot much easier, more bearable. Or should I say bewearable? Heh. I’m an idiot. Damn, glad she didn’t catch me saying it. Wouldn’t hear the end of it.

Stupid pun. Nick chuckled at it, though it was stupid of him to think about it. Much better than the alternative, however. And for now, he could relax and cuddle with Audrey, for as long as they needed.

After saying his goodbyes, Shiron left the bakery. He could properly gather his thoughts on the world now, or at least, those were his plans.

Right. So: humans are myths, for some reason there’s a lot of “amnesiacs”, and also, there’s someone named Rowan here?

If only the people back home knew about this place. It was nice of Xerneas to invite him here. Shiron wanted to know more about the place, for sure. See new things on this journey of his.

Wait a sec. If I’m a Marshtomp now, can I… can I use moves? Yo, that’d be sick! Maybe I should try it!

Except he never learned what moves Marshtomp learned. Water Gun was obvious, as was Mud Shot. The problem: he was really new at this.

New idea. Figure out what I’m doing here. Maybe I could find a job… for an eighteen-year-old, former human and with no qualifications.

His mind flashed back to a burned oven and the firefighters coming to his house. And a nasty grounding from his guardians.

Definitely no qualifications for cooking, at least.

Shiron stretched his arms for the first time since entering the world. They were definitely different than what he was used to, and having scales was noteworthy as well. He couldn’t help but wonder if there was a chance he’d shed later. Ew.

And now he wanted to check the village again. Shiron noticed it was probably the middle of the afternoon, and managed to see a few of the citizens, not that they bothered to talk with him.

With one exception; a Houndoom wearing the same fedora as the one on Nick’s house, making Shiron realize it was… he forgot the mutt’s name.

“Hello, kid. Shiron, was it?”

Ivan. He was Ivan. Shiron nodded. “Yup, that’s lil ol’ me! Nice seeing you again, sir.”

“Please, there’s no need for that formality here,” he barked, swishing his tail. “Are you enjoying your time here? I can smell chocolate on your mouth.”

“H-Huh?” Shiron instinctively rubbed it away, thanking once again his inability to blush. “Oh, w-well…”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he smiled. “Say, since you’re staying here, you might want to check the bank whenever you can. I run it, and can open an account for you. Is that alright?”

“W-Whoa, okay…” Shiron replied, gulping as he felt his gills droop. “I-I’ll go. Uh, don’t remember much about myself, will that be a problem?”

Ivan shook his head. “Just between the two of us… Rowan might explain some of this to you, just ask.”

“Hm… sure.” Shiron bowed to him and waved as the mutt went on his way.

By this point, he was almost sure that this Rowan guy was the same person as the professor. Did Nick know?

Questions for later.

With a sigh, Shiron looked up. The storm was getting near, and he heard thunder echoing. Maybe going back to Nick’s house was the best idea for now.

Nick stayed with Audrey until she fell asleep on his lap. He was basically stuck there, not even wanting to get up because it was very cozy. He eyed the storm clouds, before moving on to the ocean.

At first, he failed to see anything worthwhile. But then, amidst the large body of water, he saw something brown. A boat? It couldn’t be a boat. Yet, it looked like one, being dragged to the shore by the waves.

If that’s junk… then I don’t need to go there. B-But what if there’s someone inside…?

That thought crawled inside Nick’s head and he gulped, shivering. Oh no. There was no way someone would go on a boat trip with the rain, right? No. There was a chance, albeit a small one.

“D-Damn it. Damn it! Audrey, wake up!” He said, shaking her away from him.

Audrey snapped her eyes open and yawned, looking around until she saw Nick. Then, she snarled. “What was that for?!”

“No time to explain. I think there’s someone on the beach again! C’mon!”

Before she knew it, Nick was dragging her by the face off of the hill and into the main plaza. The Riolu panted, not stopping even for a second, at least until he saw Shiron next to the bakery’s door.

“Hey, Shiron! Come with us! I think something’s up!”

“E-Eh?” Not having time to properly react, he followed the two to the beach. What was that all about?

As the three made their way to the beach, the wind began howling, and thunder reverberated. Raindrops fell on their heads, much to Audrey’s annoyance, thinking about how her fur would smell later.

Nick, on the other hand, finally stopped, both to breathe and to search for the boat. “It’s gotta be here somewhere…”

“What’s going on?” Shiron asked, panting and grunting in annoyance.

“Nick found someone on the beach. Again.” Audrey answered, sighing.

“Someone else?”

“Focus,” Nick grunted, squinting his eyes as the rain grew thicker. The cold breeze made him shiver, but the canine still continued.

They finally arrived on the beach. It was empty, at least from Nick and Audrey’s viewpoints, and the sand was wet from the torrential rain, along with the waves that every so often tapped their feets.

“Can’t you track them by their scent? Or aura?” Shiron asked, gulping and covering his eyes from the rain.

“N-No!” Nick grunted, stopping in his tracks. “I’m useless in that regard. And if we don’t act quickly, they’ll… y’know.”

“W-What can we do?” The fox asked, drooping her ears.

“Wait,” Nick looked at Shiron. “You can do it! I’ve heard Marshtomp have incredible underwater vision, or mud. I don’t know.”

“M-Me?! But I’ve never done it!”

“Shiron, you need to try!”

He gulped. Could he do it? See if he could find the boat? Time was running out. They were counting on him. They trusted him.

I-I… I… I-I can do it… I-I need to do it!

Shiron lowered his arm and focused. The rain produced a fog that was making it hard for the others to see, but the moment he tried, it was as clear as a mirror. And the boat? The boat was there, so close to them.

“I-I found it! Follow me!”

Not just that. Shiron managed to see a Roselia crawling out of the vessel, carrying a Tyrunt in her vines. She raised her head to look at them before collapsing on the ground.

After putting the two knocked out mons on his back, Shiron followed Nick’s lead as they left the beach.

Shiron ran without putting much of an effort in holding the Tyrunt and Roselia, much to his surprise. “Where are we going?! We need to take care of them!”

“Of course we do! We’re going to the hospital!” Nick shouted, not looking back as he ran.

Audrey nodded. She was sprinting too. “The doctor’s our friend! Kinda. His daughter is, so don’t worry!”

“I wasn’t!” Shiron lied. He was worried, and just didn’t want to tell them that.

On the bright side, they did the right thing by rescuing these two. Shiron thought that was the right thing, at least. And he somehow helped, which only made it better.

Alright! Rescue… mission. It ain’t a mission, but if I treat it like that, then I guess it’ll make me calm down! Shiron sighed.

Nick eyed his Marshtomp friend for a moment and gulped. He’s probably worried too. We need to get there asap… we got this. We gotta… got this, he grunted. No time for jokes.

What came next was a trio of Pokémon following the streets, getting to the plaza, before turning onto another street on their right. Nick frantically looked around, almost like he wasn’t sure this was the proper place.

“It’s there, Nicky!” Audrey barked, her eyes locked on a large, white house. “Amy lives there, and her dad too, so c’mon!”

“You alright, Shiron? We’re very close!”

“Carrying them is easy. I’m fine!”

Nick nodded and he approached the door, before knocking on it multiple times to really get the owner’s attention. It didn’t take long before the door opened, revealing a Kirlia wearing a purple ribbon on her head.

Shiron, though, noticed that said Kirlia had a different coloration. A shiny?! Whoa… and she’s cute, too. Way out of my lea—Why am I thinking this? I’m human. Or… I was. Damn it brain, why are you so weird?!

Thankfully, none of them noticed Shiron’s internal debate over whether or not he could have crushes on Pokémon. There were bigger things to talk about anyway. And speaking of these things...

“Nick, Audrey. Always a pleasure. And…” she eyed Shiron and the other two, before gasping. “Oh dear! Say no more, come inside! I’ll do my best to heal them!”

“Thanks, Amy.” Audrey replied, looking at her before charging inside.

“W-Whoa!” Amy dodged the fox and eyed Nick with wide eyes. “She’s very feisty, huh?”

“Tell me about it,” Nick shrugged. “Not the point now. Shiron, c’mon!”

The Marshtomp merely nodded before joining his friends, mentally chuckling at the thought of having actual friends.

By Amy’s orders, Shiron put the two mons down on different beds slowly and carefully, so they would not be hurt any more than they already were.

The room they were in had white walls and a couple of beds. The air inside smelled fresh, like a mint, along with several drawers. Shiron assumed these things were to bring comfort to any patients.

“Nick, and Audrey, get some orans from the fridge!” Amy said, watching them walk away before she approached her patients. She eyed them with precision, and touched the Tyrunt’s arms, legs and tail. He had a purple cape and a golden necklace. Probably someone important. She saw a few bruises, but nothing too harsh. “I don’t think there’s… anything broken. This one’s a tough cookie.”

“Orans? But they’re not so good to heal… or are they?” Shiron asked.

“What’re you talking about? Orans are incredible!” Amy rolled her eyes. “Wait, who are you? Never seen you before.”

“Uh, Shiron. I’m new in town,” he smiled sheepishly. She could probably kick my ass. Nice…?

“Too bad we’re meeting this way.” She smiled. “Don’t worry, I think these guys will be fine. I take it you’re on Nick’s team?”

“T-Team? No. We just met.”

“Oh. I thought you were since you saved them. Nick has a bit of a hero complex.”

Shiron rubbed the back of his head. He really just did rescue them, without even thinking about it. Well, there was nothing to think about.

“It was the right thing to do.”

“I know,” Amy smiled. She then looked at Shiron for a moment, before touching the Tyrunt’s body. “By the way, I’m Amelia, but my friends call me Amy. Nice meeting you.”

She’s too cute… Shiron stuttered. “T-The pleasure is mine!”

Amelia’s hands were enveloped in a pink glow, as were her eyes. She soon began to inject energy into the Tyrunt. The glow transferred from her to him, and his bruises began to heal.

“Heal Pulse?” Shiron wondered. Could they use moves without a trainer’s help? How cool was that?!

“Yup.” Amelia smiled. “Now I’ll take care of the Roselia. Hm.”

She inspected the Roselia, and noticed the garment she wore. A black cape, a belt with some seeds on it, and what looked like the tip of some sort of weapon, like a blade.

“...Not my place to ask what they were doing here,” Amelia sighed, preparing another Heal Pulse.

As she did so, Nick arrived with two large, fluffy and white blankets. At his side, Audrey carried a bowl with various berries in her teeth.

“Alright, we got it! Did you do your thing?” Nick asked.

“Yes. Please leave me be. The living room is there!” The Kirlia pointed to an open door. “I’ll take care of them.”

The other three nodded and walked out of the room. Amelia sighed as she watched them go.


Terry felt like he was hit by something very large and very dangerous. Once he opened his eyes, the Tyrunt realized he was nowhere near the boat, or the shore! He was on a bed, covered in a blanket, and the moment he tried standing up, a nasty headache prevented him from doing so.


“Hello. I’m Amelia.”

He managed to see a Kirlia standing next to him. She smiled, approaching him.

“How are you feeling?” Amelia asked.

“Y-You took care of me?” Terry blinked. He clutched his blanket and looked away, tail wagging slowly. “I-I’m okay.”

“Good,” she replied. “You’re lucky, it’s nothing too severe. You’ll only need to stay here for a day.”

While Amelia explained the situation, Terry looked around until he saw Liz in a similar position to him, albeit on a different bed.

“You rescued me and my friend?” Terry asked.

Amelia shook her head. “Not exactly. I just healed you, but the ones that brought you here are outside. Would you like me to invite them in?”

“O-Okay,” he nodded, but soon gasped. “W-Wait, Liz isn’t gonna like—”

“Gah!” The Roselia woke up, gasping and panting. Her eyes were wide open as she looked at the surroundings, before her injuries forced her to lay down again. Even so, she mustered enough strength to look at Terry. “S-Sir Terrence. Pardon me… it appears we are in a peasant’s house.”

“I’m sorry?” Amelia glared at the grass-type, scoffing. “This might not be the biggest hospital around here, but it’s still good enough!”

Liz ignored her, only locking eyes with the Tyrunt. “Sir. Would you like me to take care of this? I believe we can escape and find shelter if we move soon.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Amelia raised a brow, her eyes glowing with psychic energy. “Nobody’s leaving! You two are hurt.”

“Nobody asked for your opinion,” Liz finally looked at Amy, huffing. “And you should show more respect. You are in the presence of the great Terrence, prince of Cydonia, and his loyal bodyguard, Miss Elizabeth! You shall address us as—”

“Enough, Liz. I told you being king isn’t what I want,” Terry sighed. “And can you please show respect to the commonfolk? They saved us!”

“Prince? Bodyguard?” Amelia tilted her head and soon facepalmed. “Look, I’m not interested in your status. I just did my job, healing you two.”

“We appreciate it!” Terry answered with a smile.

“I do not.”

“You do now. That’s an order, Liz.” Terry snarled.

Amelia ignored their antics and turned around. “I’ll get you two something to drink. Meanwhile… I think my friends want to ask you some questions.”

“Feel free to bring them in!” Terry replied, looking at Liz. “Okay, can you at least try to be friendly? I wanna know more about the… uh, peeps that rescued me!”

“That vocabulary is unfit for you, sir. I recommend using other terms. And they have not saved us. We could have done it without their help.”

The rock-type pouted. “I told you, it’s Terry! And please, show some gratitude!”

“...Alright, sir Terry. I will do my best.”

Shiron and Nick entered the room. They locked eyes with one another, before looking at the two patients.

“Heya,” Shiron waved. “You guys got hit pretty hard, huh? Glad you’re alright.”

“Nothing broken? Or any limbs missing?” Nick asked, only realizing the severity of his words after saying them. “O-Oh, hm. I know you’re not hurt anymore, sorry for that question…”

“It’s okay. I get your concern,” Terry said. He quickly looked at himself; there were no bruises. “Thank you for saving us.”

“...” Liz said nothing, and simply crossed her arms.

Is she mute? Shiron tilted his head, somewhat confused by her silence.

“What exactly happened?” Nick asked. He looked around and found a chair, taking a seat. “That boat is wrecked, what were you doing exactly?”

“None of your business, Riolu.” Liz snarled, her voice piercing him like thorns.


“...Fine,” she raised her head in a regal pose. “My name is Elizabeth, and the Tyrunt in your presence is the heir to the crown, prince Terrence. You two are peasants, so at the very least, should bow in his presence!”

Shiron heard that with wide eyes. There were kings and queens in this world? Neat. Though, that raised the question of where they were from and why they left the kingdom.

Nick scoffed. “I ain’t bowin’ for anyone, lady. If it weren’t for us, you’d be at the bottom of the sea by now!”

“Take it easy, Liz!” Terry frowned, slapping his tail on the bed. “...Look, I don’t want to talk about being a prince. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

“Sir. They do not need to know what we are doing here.”

“Well, I should be the one to decide that!” He sighed, looking down at the blanket. “I’m sorry for her. Liz’s… uptight. She was raised this way. We’re here because I wanted to run away. The life of a prince isn’t what I want for me.”

“You don’t want it?” Shiron asked, looking directly at Terry. The Marshtomp’s eyes sparkled.

“Terrence believes we are all equal.” Elizabeth explained. “He wanted to forge his own path in the world, away from the pressure and responsibility that his heritage entitles.”

Terry smiled sheepishly. “I’ve heard this town was a dump. No offense.”

“None taken,” Nick chuckled. “Can’t say I disagree.”

Terry nodded, managing to smile. “That’s why we chose to come here all the way from Cydonia.”

“You came all the way from there?!” Nick was left dumbstruck by what he said, and gulped. “All because of what you wanted to do with your life?”

I have no clue what Cydonia is, but judging from Nick’s reaction… must be something big. Shiron thought, scratching his chin.

Liz glared at the duo. “I am orde—asking you to stop with the questions for now. Terrence and I are very exhausted. And we need to stay here for a while, at least.”

“Oh, right.” Terry yawned. “Hm, normally I’d love to stay and chat, but she’s right.”

“We’ll come here tomorrow, then!” Nick replied, turning around to exit. “C’mon, Shiron! We gotta go home, and I need to ask you something when we get there!”

With no other choice but to comply, Shiron left with him.

As they walked towards the hill once more, Shiron remained in silence. At least he was getting some rest; the day had been very hectic after all. And Nick also wanted to ask him something.

Like all the times when he was asked to come and talk alone with his parents, Shiron got nervous. He wasn’t sweating, but his gills were drooping, as was his fin. He hadn’t done anything wrong, had he?

Don’t think so. Maybe I should just get along with it.

“Hey, Shiron.” Nick stopped in his tracks, looking at him. The rain fell from above him, and he let the water touch his fur.

Oh shit, he wants to talk now? I’m screwed!


“You’re a stranger in a brave new world. You lost your memory, and don’t know anyone here. But… I think I can consider you a friend.”

“T-Thanks, you too. You’re my friend.”

“What Terrence said about the town is true. It’s a dump.” Nick added, chuckling.

“I mean… it’s not what I expected, but it still looks good?”

Nick raised one of his hands in the air and focused, his feelers twitching. His paw glowed with energy.

“I’m terrible at using aura unless I’m really focusing on it,” as if to prove his point, the glow dissipated. “But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.”

“Then what is it? You’re kinda stretching things.”

“Considering all that happened today, I’ve decided… I’m going to make my own team of heroes. Heroes that try to save others and go on adventures.”

Nick approached Shiron, smiling even more. “I guess what I mean is… Shiron, will you join my team?”

Last edited:


Gotta go back. Back to the past.
Residency hell
  1. silvally-dragon
  2. necrozma-ultra
  3. milotic
  4. zoroark-soda
  5. dreepy
  6. mewtwo-ambyssin
Hi. Here for V-Wheel. I s'pose having read a sizeable chunk of LoF, I have some insight into this prequel, but not enough for this to be a foregone conclusion kind of story.

Haaaaaaving said that, however, I must confess that I'm a bit... disheartened to see that a lot of the issues I pointed out with LoF's prose and structure are still present. I'd hoped that they were artifacts of earlier chapters, but it unfortunately appears that's not the case for me. Again, I know English isn't your first language, so I really need to strongly, strongly recommend finding yourself a beta and/or a proofreader. Some of the things that continue from LoF, with examples:

Water dropped like a waterfall
Bizarre word choices and descriptions that almost makes it feel like you're forcing similes for the sake of having them. A waterfall generally doesn't drop. It can cascade. But even then, this clashes with the sentences that immediately come after it that describe an incredibly still and clear body of water. Not exactly the best for setting the scene, especially when these are the fic's opening paragraphs. They're readers' first glimpse into the fic. When they have to pause to parse things together, they may end up losing interest and dropping it.
There was nothing inside the river, not any animal or person, making it a serene place. The temperature was not too hot or too cold, anyone could dive into the river and swim with no issues.
This was another big one: comma splices. So many comma splices. You have a lot of instances where you use commas where you need full periods and separating out your thoughts. That second sentence would read far better as "The temperature was not too hot or too cold. Anyone could dive in and swim with no issues."

There's also the same narration issues I had with LoF. You seem to tend toward third-person omniscient, in which the narrator is a separate character who knows everything about these characters and what they're thinking. But then you have moments where things dip into a limited perspective, including out-of-nowhere scene that seem to be changing the POV character, except you don't actually focus on that one character. For example, when Nick's rescuing Shiron from drowning, the prose identifies him as Shiron, even though Nick has no idea what his name is. If you're going for limited, then it should be "Marshtomp" until he learns Shiron's name. If, however, you want to go omniscient, then the POV scene breaks can be gotten rid of, along with certain things like this...
"X-Xerneas?!" The human asked, panting. "B-But you're a legend, you… you…"
The paragraph before this attempted to describe Xerneas' appearance in detail. But an omniscient narrator would already know what Xerneas looks like, rendering it unnecessary.

And there are the dialogue formatting issues:
"I'm… my name is Shiron." He answered
If you're following dialogue with an attribution like "said" or "answered, the end of the dialogue gets a comma and the pronoun is lowercase: "I'm... my name is Shiron," he answered.
Of course… of course I'm dead," Shiron looked down
Conversely, when you're not using any dialogue attribution, the dialogue gets a full period. So, in this case: "Of course... of course I'm dead." Shiron looked down.

Again, a good proofreader or beta could iron out a lot of these kinds and make the story easier to parse through. As for the actual content... not much happens in the opening two chapters. I personally think it would've been a better opening to, y'know, actually see Shiron's human life and learn why he ended up feeling so awful about himself and, most likely, chose to take his own life. Having Xerneas simply tell me doesn't feel as engaging or interesting.

I think it was a cool choice to have Shiron almost drown. Some sort of "human brain, pokémon body" disconnect. Maybe there'll be more instances of this in the future? It's hard to tell what's going to happen in the greater scheme of themes. I believe Nick and Audrey are the parents of the LoF protags, so presumably things end up well for them and I think Shiron and Magnus will end up a couple? And maybe Nick's goggles get passed down to Brian or something? The only thing that hinted at the greater conflict was the scene at the end of chapter 2, but it was so short and we learn basically nothing about roselia and tyrunt. So, it was hard for me to make anything of it.

This is probably not what you wanted to here, but these are my honest thoughts. I do think a good beta or proofreader could really smooth your writing out considerably and encourage you to try and get one.
Chapter 4 - Crossing Paths


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 4 - Crossing Paths

Stay strong, my wings. Don't let me go.

I can make it. I'm not on my own.

Keep flying on through the day.

On my love!


Shiron just stared at Nick in silence. Joining a team. What was that all about? What team? There were no trainers there, so what just happened? More questions popped up, like what kind of team Nick was talking about, if Shiron should accept the invitation, and if that invitation was even good in the first place! But the most important of the questions was: why him?

"I'm sure you heard the first time," Nick grinned, his tail eagerly wagged. "C'mon, it'll be fun! We can be heroes, save and help others! Besides, you don't have anything to do, right? No memories!"

Drat, that was a good point. Well, except he did remember things, he just didn't know what to do now.

Shiron flopped his gills, frowning. "I-I mean… you, uh, you kinda dropped this on me. Don't think I can decide now, can I get some time to think about it?"

Though Nick tried to hide it, his disappointment was audible through his sad whine. Oh well, that wasn't a "no", just a "I'll think about it", which was better than outright denial.

"Okay…" Nick replied, rubbing the back of his head.

I feel kinda bad for him, but maybe this is the best choice. Whatever he's hoping to achieve, I'll just be in the way.

Nick, meanwhile, looked at the storm brewing right then. He forced a smile on his face and looked at the Marshtomp. "Guess I just gotta wait, then! Also, we should get home now. Gramps doesn't like when I get this wet."

"Yeah, sure…" Shiron sighed. The rain felt so good on his scales, like a cold shower after a hot day. So refreshing… why go away?

The reason was that he recognized those thoughts as probably belonging to his Marshtomp instincts. It managed to change his mind in the blink of an eye. "Okay, let's go!"

Shiron's stomach growled. Oh, I'm hungry too… great!

Good thing he managed to hide a sad face. Shiron then smiled at Nick. "Alright, lead the way!"

"We went there earlier today, do you really need a guide?"

"... I was trying to keep up the conversation."

Nick answered by sticking his tongue. "I know, just wanted to tease you! And don't worry about your stomach, Gramps knows how to cook! He even has some recipes I never heard of before!"

In response, his stomach grumbled. Shiron even felt himself drool at the thought of eating something, and his smile grew. Things weren't so bad in this world! Maybe someday he could even tell the truth about his humanity and memories. But not now. Shiron was far more interested in satisfying his empty stomach.

"Well, I am hungry, again. Lead the way, Nick!"

Nick smiled once again, and the sight of it was enough for Shiron's heart to melt.

"C'mon!" Nick hurried away.

Good thing they did, the rain only got worse after they entered Nick's house. Since Shiron was away from the eye of the storm, his gills didn't pick up much of it but the whooshing of the wind and the thunder rumbling.

On the bright side, it's comfy here. Except… Shiron only realized he was basically naked then. And the heat appeared again. Looking down, he was glad to not see anything; being the species he was, it probably was hidden somewhere. Never mind, if anything, it was better that way. Genitals are gross. I don't know how people can be into that.

His thoughts were interrupted by a few splashes of water, courtesy of Nick wiggling around to dry himself. After he was done, the fur on his body seemed fluffier. "Can I get you a towel…? Gramps won't like if you go into the kitchen wet like that."

They had towels? Another detail that made Shiron giggle. "Sure."

"Any particular color?"


"Aye!" Nick nodded before running away, Shiron could even see him go up a set of stairs, not remembering if he noticed the house having that earlier.

Oh. I didn't realize that this house looked so cozy. Shiron grunted. Knowing the place was like that should be nice, so why was his heart skipping a beat? Everything was fine. Unless… unless it was some kind of trick! What if the whole scenario was nothing other than his own delusions?

… Please tell me this is just in my head. I don't think I would ever get this comfortable. Not back home. A-And… why am I feeling comfortable here? These people, t-they, they can't be so nice? They barely know me!

His vision shifted to his arms. The fleshy scars were still there, but there was no blood, nothing. Shiron's stubby fingers twitched, while he took a deep breath.

Wait. If I slap myself and it hurts, then it means this isn't a dream!

Why didn't he think of that sooner? Shiron raised his right arm and gave his fishy face a nice, loud…


And he instantly fell on his rear, grunting in pain. "What just happened?! Sure, it hurts, but I'm not this strong!"

Just then, Nick came back with a large, red towel. He deadpanned at the sight of the Marshtomp sitting on the floor. "Huh? Shiron? What's up?"

Shoot. Act dumb!

"Who's Shiron?"

Wait, not that dumb!

"... I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that," Nick rolled his eyes, throwing the towel at his friend. "Dry yourself. I'm gonna go to the kitchen, can I meet you there?"

"Sure, sure." He replied, rubbing the towel on himself. Turns out Shiron was more wet than he assumed. Probably due to his new biology.

It didn't take long until he was dry (or as dry as he could be), so Shiron made his way to the kitchen, tapping his belly in preparation for whatever meal he was about to eat. With how good things were going so far, the meal was probably as good as the cake.

Terry covered himself with the blanket and yawned, looking at the lamp on the ceiling, the sphere inside it glowing.

I-I can't believe we're here! His tail started wagging, and the dragon smiled, his grasp on the blanket growing tighter.

"Liz? Are you still awake?"

"I am," she replied, not looking at him, but nodding along.

"Heh! We did it, Liz! We ran away, we actually ran away!" He giggled, tiny arms trembling. "It's like I imagined it! I'm finally free!"

Liz sighed, sitting on her bed. "Sir, is it wise to run? Your father or your brother might come to get you back. I believe they still want you as the heir to the throne."

"... It's not what I want," Terry whined. Why couldn't his family simply accept it? He was so far from them now! And they'd still follow him?


Terry sighed and closed his eyes, grunting. In his mind, he pictured them: a big Tyrantrum and a Tyrunt like him, though the latter wore a blue cape instead, and his eyes were green. They stared at him with disapproving looks.

"I can still see them," Terry opened his eyes and whined. "Is it so hard for them to just respect me for who I am, instead of pressuring me with all these expectations?!"

"Parents tend to do that." Liz stated, sighing and eyeing Terry. "For what is worth… I am sorry that you have to deal with it. I wish there was another way."

"There is another way, it's what I'm doing right now!"

"Landing on an Arceus-forsaken town is not another way."

In response, the Tyrunt pouted. "You need to chill, alright? We're only alive because of that Marshtomp and Riolu's kindness!"

"Yes. Strangers decided to help us. I am thankful for it, as they saved you. You are more important."

Why? Just because he was a royal? Terry could never understand that line of thought, not when he was the same as her; a Pokémon just wanting to live his life.

"... I'm really not. Liz, forget about the prince thing! I'm just as important as you! We're here, we're alive! We have our whole lives to look up to!"

"I know. But I cannot, in good will, allow you to—"

The door in front of them opened and closed, as Audrey and Amelia entered, looking at them.

"You two seem to be recovering well." Amelia said, smiling. "That's good. I think by tomorrow, you'll be free to go."

"Which brings me to a question!" Audrey chirped. "Actually, tons of questions. What were you two doing at the beach? What are you here for? What will you two do now?"

"I'm not sure," Terry shook his head in denial. "There's a lot of things I want to do, but I don't know where to start…"

Liz agreed, and she simply nodded. "Indeed. We were planning a quick tour of this town tomorrow. We do not have any guides, but that should hardly matter."

Audrey smirked, her poofy tail swishing. "My, my… wonder who could guide you?"

Sheltered from the rain, Nick sniffed the air inside his house, and his stomach grumbled. Better to take a shower first, as the other option was stay and listen to his grandpa's complaints.

"Shiron, I'll join you and gramps soon. Just, uh, lemme take a bath, alright? You can go ahead, don't think he's gonna yell at a guest…"

Lucky me! Shiron thought, musing about it, his gills perking up, while his own stomach was asking for more food, so he accepted the offer and made his way to the kitchen.

Though his nostrils didn't pick up much of a scent (Shiron hummed about not turning into a canine for a moment), he could still hear the sizzling of something cooking in a pan. Like he thought, the Pangoro from earlier was preparing their dinner, a big piece of steak, from what he could see.

"You likin' it, kid?" Rowan asked without turning around, moving the pan forward and backward so the oil would cover the roast. "High-quality Miltank fillet."

Hearing it just made his belly rumble more, and his gills drooped. "W-Well, it does sound good… can't say much about the smell, though."

"Heh. You don't have powerful noses like me or Nick," he turned the stove off and faced Shiron, scratching his furry chin. "I couldn't help but notice that you, how do I put it? Were staring at me for a while when we met. Are you alright?"

Crap. Shiron's immediate reaction was to gulp and stutter from the words Rowan said. Drops of sweat fell from his scales. What am I supposed to say?! And if I keep this up, I'll blow my secret! Think, Shiron, think!

Time almost crawled to a halt while he measured his options. Come clean? Pretend to be dumb? Whatever the case was, Shiron's increasing anxiety meant he needed to think of something fast.

Rowan cleared his throat, having waited long enough. His demeanor looked gruff and serious, he showed no signs of emotion other than mild annoyance, but Shiron also noticed a tint of kindness on the Pangoro's eyes. "Alright. If you don't want to talk about it, then we can leave it for later."

At least he was saved from discussing the human issue. Just then, something came up, clicking inside Shiron's mind like a button. Finally, something to change the subject! "U-Uh, question. You said this is Miltank meat, b-but… h-how, uh, how did you get it?"

"What do I look like? A butcher? I don't work with that. Just bought them at the market. And don't worry, it's safe to eat."

Well, did he have any other choice? Shiron's tummy was roaring again. Best to let it get some sustenance before thinking about such a moral problem, and since this place had no humans either, things were different, so maybe eating someone was… justified. Most of the time.

It didn't mean that he was happy about it. He could see the blood dripping from the steak, and smoke coming out of it. Shiron held a fork and gulped. He kept wondering what was the catch, what would they want in return.

Except nothing happened. Nick was too busy swallowing his part to care, while Rowan was eating a roasted berry along with the fillet. They both looked so natural doing it, the only thing unnatural was him not doing the same.

Okay. Okay, Shiron. You can do this. You're hungry, just gotta eat the… meat. He thought, staring at the meal with wide eyes and gulping. Man, I know I'm not vegan, but this is making me reconsider it.

"Shiron, what's up? You barely touched the food!" Nick said, looking at him while drinking from a cup of water.

Rowan cleared his throat. "Now, now, what did I say about interrupting others when they're eating?"

"... Don't do it?"

A nod from his grandfather confirmed Nick's suspicions, who went back to eating. Shiron still hadn't taken a single bite, and his thumping heart only made things harder.

… Alright, lemme try it like this.

The effort looked tamer than it was. Shiron closed his eyes, inhaled as much air as he could and cut off part of the meat, before swallowing it, not bothering to chew.

Hm? Hm?!

An assault of flavors made their way to his insides. So powerful that Shiron began wobbling around, nearly losing his balance on the chair. Where was this his whole life?!

"You liked it, eh?" Nick grinned, his plate finished. "Gramps' is the best!"

"Noticed," the Marshtomp replied, now taking a larger piece. After chewing it, he smiled, eyes sparkling. "Thanks for the meal, you two. Haven't eaten something this good in… I dunno, a long time!"

"It's nothing, really!" Nick replied.

Rowan nodded. "Just hospitality, I suppose. And neither of you need to worry about the dishes. I'll handle them myself."

"Alright!" Nick jumped out of the chair, landing on his feet, before motioning for Shiron to go with him. "C'mon, I'm gonna show you my room! And… yours too, I guess?"

I got food, friends, and a house on the same day? Xerneas, if you can hear me, thank you.

A whistle alerted Shiron, and not long after he was pulled away from the kitchen by the ever-energetic Riolu. The helicopter tail and constant giggling coming from Nick melted the Marshtomp's heart, and he found himself giggling back.

After crossing the hall and climbing the stairs, they stopped in front of a room that had soda cans under the door, and a large sign that said 'Keep Out'. If Shiron knew him any better, he'd think Nick was just pretending to be a delinquent teenager.

"This is your room, right?" Shiron kicked a can away from his feet. "Dude, you might wanna clean this place."

"Later." Nick opened the door and went inside first, letting Shiron take his time to join him.

Which wasn't long. But the Marshtomp was shocked to see a paper beneath his feet, along with several other papers scattered on the wooden floor, some with drawings, some with written notes.

Regardless of the intention, Nick quickly put them in a closet nearby, locking it and sighing in relief. "Phew! Sorry about that, those were my plans. Soooo, what do you think?"

Shiron stopped to look. Firstly, the bed. It was an actual bed! With a sheet and a mattress, and it looked so comfy! He could lay there and sleep through the whole day, honestly. Next to it was a smaller mattress, which he assumed was for him.

While his friend was busy being mesmerized by a simple bedroom, Nick opened the closet again, only to pull out a large, black blanket. Just then he realized that Shiron might not need one.

"Oh, I'm not sure how your body works. Do you need a blanket, or…?"

"Good question," Shiron replied. At times like this he hoped to have someone like professor Birch to help, but that guy was probably busy being chased by wild Zigzagoon. "... I don't think so, but I also don't wanna sleep in my birthday suit. That'd be weird."

Nick tilted his head. "What's a birthday suit?"

Of course they didn't have that concept.

"... Never mind that. Anything that I can wrap myself in other than the blanket?"

"Hold on," the canine answered, opening his closet and putting his head inside. His legs and tail twitched for a few seconds, before he left, carrying a red scarf. "Here! This should fit you!"

A scarf? Well, I always did like red, and it looks pretty… Shiron nodded, grabbing the accessory, putting it around his neck. Part of it remained next to his left arm. The scarf fit perfectly on him, like Shiron got hugged by a very fluffy Pokémon. "Hm, it's comfy! What's it made of?"

"Wooloo wool." Nick said with an especially large grin, like he was waiting to say exactly that.

"Pfft," the Marshtomp snorted in reply. Then, he burst out laughing, falling on his rear. "Wooloo wool! I'm just… hah! Nice one, Nick!"

"Normally my jokes don't land, so thanks for that!" Nick said, before hopping on his bed and yawning. "... And I'm beat."

Shiron did the same, but took the time to do a few stretches before falling on his mattress. How odd it was to not be wrapped in a blanket, or to wear clothes. It'd take some time to get used, for sure.

At least there were people there for him. He smiled, looking at the bed next to him. "Hey, Nick. I need to say thanks. For helping me, you didn't need to. I'm just some stranger, and yet you invited me in, showed me around."

What he heard in response was snoring. Nick was just as exhausted as him, if not more. Shiron clutched his scarf tightly.

Shiron blinked, then closed his eyes. I can't believe this really happened. It all feels like a dream. A good dream, but still… why? Why me of all people? I'm sure there's others that deserved this chance more than me.

Those thoughts were too familiar, so Shiron shook them off. Whether he deserved it or not, he was alive, and that was enough for him to smile, grateful for it. It wasn't long until he was rocked to sleep by the tiredness.

The squawking of an early Pidove forced Terry to wake up. Due to not being used to waking up so early, the dragon was still groggy. He quietly sat on the bed and yawned, his tail swishing slowly.

Not long after he sat up, so did Liz, the Roselia looking at him with a soft smile. "Good morning, sire. It is with great joy that we both have survived that long journey."

"I mean… you didn't need to come with me. That was your choice. Not that I mind, you're the only good thing that place had," he giggled in reply, but then his expression hardened as he clutched the necklace. "... With maybe one exception."

"I am sorry, sire."

"It's fine, and also not your fault." Terry nodded, laying down again. "Again, I'm glad you came with me."

Liz turned her face away, but couldn't hide her smile. "You are welcome. Do you wish to know my plans for today?"

Knowing Liz, that meant one of two things: either she was going to have him train until he passed out, or plan for them to run away from the city, since she didn't like it.

The first option had him cringing. "Does it include training? Because I'm not in the mood for that."

"It is less of training and more of checking what this town has to offer," Liz explained, raising her head in a regal pose. "We should also look for our bag. You did bring one, right? We cannot afford to look for a job, it is unfit for a prince."

Hearing the entire sentence nearly made Terry's jaw drop. Not because he forgot, but because telling her that he never bothered to bring money with them would make things go south really soon.


Unfortunately, his shocked expression only served to tell what was on his mind without Terry saying anything. Liz then took a long breath, containing all of her rage inside, but even so, a few petals dropped, while smoke came out of her mouth.

Deep breaths. In, out. In, out. Liz calmed herself down and crossed her arms. "Sire, I am choosing to believe you have a good reason for us to not have any money. Will you be so kind as to enlighten me?"

Though her face seemed calm and collected, Terry could feel his entire body shivering from fear.

"W-Well… I figured we could start over? G-Get a job of our own… make a business, do you get it?"

Liz grunted, shaking her head. The prince is unbelievable…

"Alright," she replied, shoving down all of her rage. Liz looked at him straight in the eye. "And when do you plan on looking for a job?"

"T-Today? We can try it today. I think."

They left their beds, quickly getting out of the house as well, ready for the day.

Shiron had no idea how he managed to sleep like that, with the scarf covering most of his stomach, drool dripping from his mouth, and with contortions worthy of an athlete.

So it came as anything but a surprise that it was painful enough for the Marshtomp to wake up, yawning and rubbing his eyes.

"Hmm. That was the best night I had in ages!" Shiron yawned again. Still groggy, he sat on the mattress. "... Wait, where am I? What's this place all about?"

Then, he remembered. The meeting with Xerneas, the beach, everything came flooding back. It was all real. Shiron pinched his arm and grunted from the pain, confirming it again.

"... Right. Gotta say, it's a lot better than me waking up at home, with… them."

Unbeknownst to him, Nick was still in the room, laying in his bed. The canine's ear twitched, picking up what his friend was saying. He let Shiron talk to himself for a while, but soon Nick's curiosity forced him to peek his head out, grinning.

"Who's them?"

"W-Wah!" Shiron jumped back, falling on the cold floor.

"You're a scaredy Meowth, hm?" Nick jumped to the ground and stretched his arms. "G'morning, by the way."

"G-Good morning, Nick," Shiron pouted, standing up and adjusting his scarf properly. It was somewhat itchy because of his scales, but nevertheless, Shiron found the garment comfy.

"You hungry? 'Cause I wanna show you a place. It's important."

"I guess?" As if on cue, Shiron's stomach grumbled while he tapped it. Man, I don't remember my body doing this as a human. Must be some side effect.

Nick scratched his chin and then snapped a finger. "Well, I'll grab some apples from the fridge and we can eat on the way!"

He then began to walk towards the door, only to be interrupted by Shiron clearing his throat.

"What's… an apple?"

"How do you not know what an apple is?" Nick blinked, then snorted. "Aight. C'mon, you'll find out anyway."

"If you say so."

The Marshtomp yawned, rubbing his eyes, before he followed Nick out of their shared bedroom.

Unlike the previous day, the town was more lively. Shiron saw more stores open on his way to the plaza, and more groups too. One of them included a Golem, a Beedrill, and a Charmeleon, who were heading to the bank, being the latest ones in a large line.

Not just that, but he also saw a few Timburr working on putting up decorations, like poles and flags. It reminded him of Christmas, considering that he saw a few red hats being sold to passerby Pokémon.

"We're celebrating holidays. Everyone will gather at the plaza today." Nick explained, chewing on the apple. "And before you ask, sorry, can't take you. I promised Audrey I'd go with her."

Shiron snorted, laughing a bit. "Didn't even think of that! Now, who am I gonna ask?"

The canine pondered, biting his lip. "I don't think I know you well enough to suggest anyone, but what do you like? Guys? Girls? Nobody? Both?"

"S-Straight to the point, huh?" He backed away, gulping and clutching his scarf. "... Both. I like both."

"Okay!" Nick cheered. "You could go with Amelia, the nurse. Remember her? She's nice, and got a nice behind to boot."

It felt like pretending to ignore that sentence was the best, if not the only option. Shiron even put both hands in his face, grunting.

"Right. So not her. In this case, why don't you try M—"

A puff of red smoke appeared in front of the two, before shaping into the form of a Zorua. To Nick, a familiar one, who glared at him with such an intense gaze he could feel it piercing his chest. She jumped at him, biting his tail and causing Nick to yelp.

"A-Audrey! H-Hi!" Nick replied, shaking to try to get her to go away. Meanwhile, Shiron suppressed a laugh, covering his mouth.

Audrey eventually jumped back, snarling, her fur standing on end. "Don't you "hi" me, mister! I heard your little talk about Amy! Shame on you!"

"Y-You got it all wrong, A-Audrey, I just said it to help my friend! H-He doesn't have anyone to go with!"

"Hmph," she turned to face Shiron. "Is that true?"

I didn't even say I wanted to go, but if I say no, they'll hate me for it… he nodded slowly. "Y-Yeah. It's true."

"Well, if that's the case…"

Audrey looked at Nick again, snarling, before strolling away from them. After getting far, she stared back at her boyfriend. "I'll let this slide! But if it happens again, the one that'll slide is you."

"S-Sure!" Nick waved at her, watching Audrey go.

"Where are we going anyway?" he asked, munching on the weird, red berry. It looked like a leppa, but was redder and tasted funny. Even the name (an anagram of leppa, for sure) was funny to him, so Shiron chuckled.

"Y'know how I mentioned that I wanted you on my team?"

Nick meant the big reveal Shiron heard yesterday, and of course he remembered. "Yup. What about it? I still haven't decided, if that's what you mean."

"I wanna show you my office," Nick replied, grinning and wagging his tail.

"You have an office?" Shiron stared, sighing while his gills lowered.

"What were you expecting?"

"Uh, something other than that…?" He smiled, trying to hide his embarrassment.

"Your lack of faith is astonishing." Nick laughed, turning around and walking.

"Gee, thanks," he rolled his eyes and followed his friend's lead. He wondered if he should ask that cute Quilladin to go with him, but quickly shrugged the idea off. They barely knew each other, anyway.

Meanwhile, Terry and Elizabeth had arrived in town. Well, not just them. Amelia was following close behind, inspecting their every move.

Much to the Roselia's dismay. She rolled her eyes, looking back before turning to Terry. "Why did you allow her to stalk us? Frankly, it is preposterous. I am the only one that needs to take care of you."

"I didn't allow her. She has free will." Terry grunted. He took a look around, fascinated by the preparations, and saw a few children playing tag. His nostrils flared, smelling something sweet nearby.

"And she can hear you two," Amelia said, standing next to them with her arms crossed. "Look, I'm just here to check on how you guys are. You may as well pretend I'm not around. I don't mind."

Liz glared. "I was doing that already."

"Really?" Amelia began to laugh. "Because it looked like you were doing a terrible job."

"Is that so?" The grass-type forced vines out of her flowers and prepared to strike.

"Try me," Amelia's body began to glow, surrounded by a pink aura.

Seeing both of them about to go on an actual battle made Terry run and stand between the two girls, panting and extending his tiny arms in both directions.

"S-Stop! C'mon, we should be hanging out, having fun! Not getting at each other's throats!"

Liz raised a brow and retracted the vines, raising her head. "Hmph. If you say so, sire."

"Sorry that you have to deal with her," Amelia's aura faded as she scooted closer to them. "Do you two need help visiting the town?"

"Sure! This is my first time visiting other towns, I wanna see what this one's got!" Terry's tail wagged.

"Do I get a say in this?" Liz grunted.

"No," the Kirlia giggled, clapping her hands. "Okay. There are a lot of things to do and places to go. Where do you wanna start?"

Starting off with whatever was assaulting his nostrils with a sweet scent, Terry told Amelia to lead them that way. They ended up in the middle of the plaza, where lots of shops and food stands could be seen.

"Oh, that's cool. So many places to check out!" Terry beamed, his tail wagging.

"Just be careful. If you go to the eastern exit of the plaza, you might end up in a mystery dungeon." the Kirlia pointed out.

Liz scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Fascinating, that is the first useful thing you said all day! And what kind of idiot builds a town around mystery dungeons?"

More strides at one another? Terry muttered, he didn't have time for this! Ignoring the two, the Tyrunt walked towards one of the stands, following the sweet smell to finally satiate his hunger.

This particular stand was decorated with cupcakes and ice cream cones. There were two receptionists, a Quilladin and a Sandslash that held a small Sandshrew in his arms, feeding him a bottle of milk. Behind the three came a Raticate, chewing on a slice of cheese while he waited for his turn.

"Hello, and good morning!" Sandslash smiled at the three, recognizing the Kirlia. "Oh, hello, Amelia, dear! How are you? How's your dad?"

"Good. Had to go to a seminar, so I'm taking care of our patients," she replied, eyeing Terry and Liz. "Which include these two."

"Hi, I'm Terrence, but all my friends call me Terry!"

"And I am Elizabeth," the Roselia added with a flick of her arms.

The Quilladin stepped forward, putting the bottle down before looking at the Sandslash. "Dad, I can take care of him now. Go talk with our clients, alright?"

Sandslash nodded, gently giving the small ground-type Pokémon to him. "Kids, eh? Have fun, Magnus. I'll switch with you in half an hour."

Magnus nodded and walked along the street, away from them. Sandslash then put an apron around his stomach and clapped his hands, smiling at his potential clients. "So! What can I get you?"

"I do not need to eat. I can synthesize my own nutrients by a process known as—"

Unbeknownst to them, the Raticate left the area as soon as Magnus did, running on all fours. Liz, however, kept a close eye on the rodent, frowning.

"Liz, not now," Terry pouted, stepping closer to see the treats. Inside the stand he could see various bowls of ice cream, each with a different color and smell.

"Seems you like sweets, kiddo." Sandslash beamed. "We have ice cream today. What flavor would you like? There's oran, pinap, aguav, lum… and you can even add gummies if you'd like!"

"Oh, let's see… I want lum ice cream with red gummies on top!" Terry almost jumped in joy, drool dripped from his snout.

"Of course! That'll be ten poké, please."

Just as quickly, Terry crashed down. He forgot to bring any money!

"... I'll pay," Amelia opened a purse, counting the coins before handing a few of them to the Sandslash. "That should do it."

Terry grabbed his ice cream cone and started eating immediately, walking away with Liz, who looked a lot more silent than usual. Too silent, he mused.

"Hey, Liz? What's wrong?"

Liz closed her eyes and sighed, looking at the prince. "Sire, I am afraid we might have a problem. That Raticate that was with us… he seemed suspicious. Left just as the Quilladin did. Perhaps we should investigate?"

"W-What do you mean?!" Terry gasped, almost dropping his dessert.

"I do not know… but we should check it, just in case." Liz nodded, before storming off with him.

Magnus walked across the street, holding the baby Sandshrew in his arms. Every so often the child started booping the Quilladin's nose, which only served to make him giggle, his tail wagging.

"You're such a cute baby! Yes you are, yes you are~!" Magnus tickled the child, causing more laughs from the two of them.

And in the shadow of the stores behind Magnus, something crawled. A Raticate, snickering while he hid himself, getting closer and closer to the two.

It all happened in an instant. Magnus was too slow to react, being knocked to the ground with a loud thud, and was only able to look up to see his brother grabbed by the paws of a Raticate.

"W-Who are you?! G-Give my brother back!" Magnus stood up slowly, creating two vines from his arms. He moved them, trying to hit the rodent.

To no avail. Raticate stumbled back and snickered. "Hehe! The child is mine! I bet your dad will pay a fat load of money to give him back!"

Magnus snarled, lunging in with more vines, but stopped once he saw Raticate using his sibling as a shield.

"Na-ah-ah! If you want this baby back, you better meet me at the entrance to Leaf Valley!"

"L-Leaf Valley?!" He flinched, standing in place. Magnus tried moving again, but only managed to fall to the ground, watching Raticate run away.

On the way to the place Nick wanted to show him, Shiron had ordered a smoothie nearby, and it was made from rawst berry! He could already tell it was his favorite, given the multiple slurps on the cup.

"Someone has a sweet tooth."

"Hey, I gotta enjoy it while you're still paying for all my stuff," the Marshtomp blepped, before slurping more.

"You'll be the death of me."

"That's the plan!" Shiron raised an arm and chuckled.

Smiling sheepishly, Nick looked in front of him and whistled to get his friend's attention. As the Marshtomp got near, he could see what the office was: an old wooden house. Abandoned, from how there were pieces of wood on the ground and broken windows, along with a few mattresses scattered around the entrance.

Maybe a broken house is this world's equivalent of a mansion? Shiron sipped in silence, waiting for any possible explanation.

And Nick noticed the uneasiness in Shiron's eyes, walking towards him and smiling. "Now, I know it looks bad, but if we work on it, we might have ourselves a great base!"

"Got it," Shiron nodded. Well, he did have the strength to work on something as big as that, but what if he failed? Or worse…

"I-I could cause an accident if I'm not careful! Are you sure you need my help?!"

Still keeping his smile, Nick tapped the water-type's back and pointed to the house. "What matters is that we can have fun doing it, even if we fail!"

"Oh, then—"

"S-Shiron, N-Nick!"

Magnus came running like an athlete, stopping next to them to catch his shaky and raspy breath. The two looked and saw him crying, drop after drop of tears falling down on the ground, not to mention how shaky he looked.

"M-Magnus? What's wrong?" Shiron asked, running to his side and offering a hand. "Slow down, what happened?"

Magnus instantly accepted the hand and hugged Shiron. "M-My brother… h-he got kidnapped! I told dad about it, the whole town's deciding what to do!"

"Kid…napped?" Nick tilted his head and snarled. "Magnus, what did the kidnapper say?! Do you know where they are?!"

"T-They went to Leaf Valley…" he replied, still sobbing next to Shiron.

"What's Leaf Valley?" The Marshtomp asked.

"I-It's a mystery dungeon!" Nick replied, clenching his fists as his fur stood on end. "And dangerous, 'specially for a baby!"

Mystery dungeon…? Shiron thought about the words, though they held no meaning for him. Not that it mattered, considering that a child was in danger! He had to do something to help, despite not knowing how to fight, use moves or anything the other Pokémon could do. Way out of his depth, for sure. Shiron's gills drooped.

"... Nick. Do you know where this… Leaf Valley is?" The Marshtomp asked.

"Uh, yeah? We all do." He answered.

Nodding, Shiron pulled away from Magnus, looking directly at him. "I'm going there with Nick, and we will get your brother back, you have my word!"

Hearing that made the Riolu's ears perk up. "You will?"

"Of course. C'mon, lead the way!"

After giving one final hug to Magnus, the duo ran off towards the plaza, ready for their first mission.


Rescue Team Member
Pokemon Paradise
  1. chikorita-saltriv
  2. bench-gen
  3. charmander
  4. snivy
  5. treecko
  6. tropius
  7. arctozolt
  8. wartortle
I'm here to review chapter 4 of this!

I really like how Shiron is confused about what joining a team means in this world! Really shows just how much of a fish out of water he is here.

Oh. I didn't realize that this house looked so cozy. Shiron grunted. Knowing the place was like that should be nice, so why was his heart skipping a beat? Everything was fine. Unless… unless it was some kind of trick! What if the whole scenario was nothing other than his own delusions?

… Please tell me this is just in my head. I don't think I would ever get this comfortable. Not back home. A-And… why am I feeling comfortable here? These people, t-they, they can't be so nice? They barely know me!

It hurts to see how foreign kindness is to Shiron. The fact that people being nice to him without being super close to him is so baffling to him helps paint a picture of what his life was like back in the human world, and it's not pretty.

Shoot. Act dumb!

"Who's Shiron?"

Wait, not that dumb!

I genuinely laughed at this.

Looks like Terry's home life wasn't too good, either. I'm guessing he and Shiron will eventually be able to bond over that.

I like Shiron's panic at the possibility of his secret being exposed. Helps show how terrified he is of being truthful about himself, and adds some great flair to the scene!

The description of Nick's room was great! I could really visualize it!

The classic PMD protagonist scarf! Always nice to see that.

I wonder why Terry's necklace is important?

Oh boy, Terry forgot to bring any money. That's going to be interesting.

"... Right. Gotta say, it's a lot better than me waking up at home, with… them."

Unbeknownst to him, Nick was still in the room, laying in his bed. The canine's ear twitched, picking up what his friend was saying. He let Shiron talk to himself for a while, but soon Nick's curiosity forced him to peek his head out, grinning.

"Who's them?"

Oooooh. Nick gets his first hint of Shiron's past. I'm excited to see what'll happen when Shiron's humanity is revealed to everyone.

Interesting how apples don't seem to have existed in Shiron's old world.

Heh, first place Terry goes is an ice cream shop. Judging by what is said of Terry's home life, I don't think he's ever had ice cream before.

Oh dear. A kidnapping, of Magnus' brother. First serious conflict of the story! I'm really interested to see how this goes!

And the first mystery dungeon of the story is coming up, too! I'm really excited to see Leaf Valley, and see Shiron's first battles!

Overall, I really enjoyed this chapter, and I'm excited to read more! I enjoy all the characters so far, and it's going to be great seeing them grow and form connections!
Chapter 5 - Let's Unite!


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 5 - Let's Unite!

If I could soar the sky for hours

Just like a butterfly through flowers,

I'll come to see you

While I'm wearing a smile on my face.

Athleticism was never Shiron's strong point, even if someone's life depended on it. The more he ran into the village, the more he wanted to stop to breathe. Sadly, it wasn't really an option, considering the kidnapping.

"C'mon, you guys! W-We need to be quick!" Magnus said. Ironically, he was behind them, his spherical body making it harder to follow suit.

Nick nodded, sweat dripping from his cheeks. "Good thing Leaf Valley isn't dangerous… well, not too dangerous! But still… there's a timer, and it's running out!"

A timer? What're they talking about?

The trio stopped in the middle of the plaza, seeing a commotion ensuing, and a crowd gathering around Magnus' father. He set his sights on that area and ran, shoving aside some of the citizens in the way, while Shiron and Nick were behind him.

"Sonny!" Sandslash said, walking closer to his child and hugging him tightly. "Where have you been?! I was worried! A-And your brother…"

"We're here to help!" Shiron barged in, panting and clutching his scarf. His body shivered ever so slightly.

Sandslash managed to eye him, but kept hugging his son. "Hello! You must be the Marshtomp from yesterday. I'm sorry that this is how we met, but… you said you'll help?"

Next up was Nick, who put his goggles on. "Yup! We'll do our best to help! Even if it means wandering into a dungeon!"

"We will get your son back," Shiron added, an unusual, serious look on his face. "No matter what."

The four heard footsteps accompanied by the sound of leaves rustling—Terry and Liz had just arrived..

"Bold words, Marshtomp," she raised her head, cracking a small smile. "And I believe you will enjoy what I am here to say."

She then extended her arm, pointing towards Terry, who cleared his throat. "Rejoice! For the heir to the throne of Cydonia and I will lend our assistance!"

Terry gulped, clicking his fingers. "W-We wanna go with you guys! I have a brother too. Can't just stand by and let something like this happen, right?"

As they heard the words, Sandslash and Magnus pulled away, nodding repeatedly.

"By Arceus, please! Please save my son!"

Magnus rubbed the tears off his face. "Shiron, Nick… I'm counting on you guys!"

"The more, the merrier!" Nick nodded, looking at Shiron. "This will be your first venture into a dungeon. Are you ready?"

"I-I… I am! Let's do this!"

"Hmph. In the case you had refused, we would have proceeded regardless. But no matter…" Liz turned around. "Onwards, to Leaf Valley!"

Out of their view, a Golem listened to the conversation, but made no notion to join—merely observing, biting his lips, and grinning. That mission was theirs, after all.

They didn't take too long before storming out, following Nick's lead. Shiron still gulped, his body shivering. Pretending to be brave to Magnus and his father was one thing, but could he really save that child? Shiron only hoped he and the others were enough.

After leaving through the east exit, Shiron stopped to catch his breath, looking down. Soon, Nick joined him, followed by Terry. The only one that didn't stop was Liz, merely gazing at the three behind her.

"If you think we can rest, then you three—two, are useless. My sire and I can keep going, but can you?"

Shiron raised his head and panted, followed by a nod. "W-We can! No… we will! Magnus and his dad are counting on me…"

"Let's not overexert ourselves," Terry gulped, looking at Shiron and Nick. "But Liz has a point. We can't stay here for long."

The Riolu cracked a smile, raising his head as well. "Yeah!" Nick replied, a fierce glare in his eyes, his tail swishing. "Besides, it's not too far from Leaf Valley. We got this, y'all!"

Agreeing on their course of action, the quartet moved on to the road.

In a sharp contrast to the relatively modernized area of Thornwell, Shiron found that the road ahead was much more grassy and wild, causing him to remember some of Hoenn's routes with a twist.

The twist from the grassy routes he was used to were clusters of trees levitating in the air, expanding as far as his eyes could see. Mesmerized by that, he kept walking and checking the surroundings, even seeing patches of land that, like the trees, were also suspended. All of them were similar in elevation, and the distance between them was nothing longer than a jump.

"Whoa, that's how a dungeon entrance looks like?" Terry stepped in, walking next to Shiron and staring at the sight in front of them with sparkling eyes. "The outside world is so pretty!"

"It's not exactly the entrance, but the distortion is around here," Nick replied, biting his lower lip. "The actual entrance is a few feet ahead. Shouldn't take too long."

Liz nodded. Her plan was to handle the situation without actually venturing inside the dungeon, for the sake of Terry, and considering how he and the Marshtomp were looking around like kids next to a candy bar…

"Our best course of action is to reason with the kidnapper," she said, looking at Nick. "However, ransom is not an option, unless you and your friend have enough money?"

"I'm broke, and my allowance doesn't come until next week." Nick shrugged. "You do have a point. Reasoning would save us some trouble. Hm, what to do…"

Terry turned around and ran towards them, followed by Shiron. The rock-type sighed while eyeing the group. "I studied diplomacy, what if I take care of that? Me and Liz should be good enough for it."

Meanwhile, Shiron raised his left arm, a smile appearing in his face. "I-I have an idea! Me and Terry go talk, while L-Liz and Nick stay hidden, in case something goes awry. How about that?"

And all eyes were on him. Shiron gulped, tugging his scarf and looking down. "...Nevermind! Stupid idea, haha! Don't worry, you can ignore it…"

Instinctively, he closed his eyes, trembling. That was it, they'd yell at him and kick him out of the mission for sure!

"Your plan could work," Liz replied, pointing at Shiron with one of her flowers. "I'm impressed, Marshtomp."

"Great idea! Let's do it!" Nick nodded, showing off his fangs. "Just say the word and we'll be there to back you up!"

The grass-type bit her lip and shook her head. "However, I believe there is room for improvement."

"First, I do not wish to endanger my sire, so what do you think about being the only one there?"

"J-Just me?!"

"Perhaps you can serve as the distraction, and then me and Riolu will act?"

A grunt from the Tyrunt expressed just how much he hated that idea. He then walked next to Shiron. "I'm going with him! Liz, I can't be on the sidelines any longer!"

She glared at him. "Sire, I do not recommend it."

"Tough, because I'm going in anyway!"

Nick shrugged. "Let's get this over with. Liz, isn't it? We got this, lady. I'll protect your sire as well!"

Lo and behold, the Raticate was at what the duo assumed was the dungeon's entrance, holding the baby Sandshrew in his grasp. The rat tapped his foot on the ground repeatedly, getting more impatient by the second.

That was before he locked eyes with Shiron and Terry, who were slowly making their way towards him. Raising a brow, Raticate grasped the baby tighter.

"Who're you two? What're you doing here?!"

Shiron opened his mouth, but Terry was already in front of him, clearing his throat.

"We're here to negotiate! You're holding that child hostage, and his father asked us to come do something about it," Terry said, standing upright with a raised voice. In the moment he betrayed a composure befitting his royal status.

"Speak my language, please."

Shiron stepped in, fiddling with his fingers, his gills flopping down. "We wanna bring the kid back to his family, can we discuss any terms you may have? Like, I dunno, money?"

"Money's good," Raticate replied, taking a step back. "I want a thousand poké! Now!"

A thousand? It has to be a lot… Shiron looked at Terry, the dragon-type gasping in shock. Okay, it is a lot of money.

"W-We don't have a thousand!" the Marshtomp shouted, gulping. "Anything else you want? C-Cause we can give you lots of stuff! How about my scarf? I-It's made from Wooloo wool."

Raticate raised a brow. What was that child even talking about? Did he not have any idea of the situation?

Terry had a similar reaction. "Well, then how about this for a change: I'm the heir to the throne of Cydonia."

Blinking, Shiron looked at his friend. A prince? More importantly, he had an idea of what was about to happen, but still hoped that Terry wasn't suggesting—

"Now, what do you think about kidnapping a prince, eh? Sounds a lot more interesting, don't you think?"

It was exactly what he feared. Shiron was about to protest, when he was interrupted by a loud laugh coming from Raticate.

"A prince? In that shithole of a village? Nah. Don't believe you," so he said, though once Raticate took a peek at the cape Terry was wearing, his eyes widened in realization. "...Oh. You're a prince?! What're you doing in that place anyway?"

"Long story," Terry rolled his eyes. "Are you going to kidnap me or not? Not like we have all the time in the world."

"Terry, is that a good idea…?" Shiron asked, tugging his scarf.

Raticate, meanwhile, felt a leaf fall on his nose. He sneezed and looked up to see many more leaves falling.

It wasn't long until he found himself dodging the strike of a Roselia, only having enough time to step back and hold the baby, who began crying at that point.

"Release the child." Liz said, producing sharp thorns on her roses. "Or I will be forced to take him myself."

"Where did you even come from, Liz?" the dragon tilted his head.

Nick came afterwards, putting his goggles on and striking a battle pose. "We hid in a few bushes!"

"Tsc," Raticate snarled, looking at the baby. "It was all your plan, eh? Tricking me to get this kid back! Well, I ain't givin' him back anytime soon!"

Shiron clenched his fists and frowned. "You're outnumbered! S-Surrender is your only option. C'mon, do what's best for you! We don't even need to fight!"

The cries from the small Sandshrew only got louder, causing Raticate to cringe. Now was the time to reconsider his options. One: escape to the dungeon and hope those kids got lost inside. Two: try to fight them off. A bad choice, but the baby could still be used as leverage.

Leverage… was the best choice he could take. Raticate lowered his head just a bit, showing off the big teeth he had. "G-Get any closer and I'll eat him!"

A wall of silence appeared between all of them. Shiron raised his arm. "Uh, what? It's a baby. You can't eat a baby."

"I'm a criminal, for crying out loud! You think I care?!"

"Disgusting," Liz raised her head, one of her roses touched the ground. "And yet, it fits you like a glove. But not to worry, I have already discovered the route to victory!"

Raticate blinked. "What're you—"

Vines protruded from the ground in front of Raticate and managed to snag the baby out of his hands in a second. It didn't end there, as the rat slashed off the vines, leaving the kid in the air.

Shiron, though not the first one to notice it, was the closest and could react properly. He did so by running as fast as he could, managing to catch the Sandshrew in his belly just in time.

Right then was when Raticate knew his plan was foiled, and the remaining Pokémon were arresting him. Or worse. His mind went into overdrive, thinking, planning something to get out of that mess.

Trembling more, he looked at Shiron. He and the baby were both ground-types, so there was something he could do… a final gambit to take. Electricity crackled around his body as he launched a shock wave towards Shiron.

Not fast enough to react, he yelped, getting hit. The attack didn't hurt him at all, but it scared him enough to drop the baby. Raticate then grabbed the child and chuckled.

"S-Shiron! Are you alright?!" Nick barged in, standing close to his friend.

"You idiots! He has the child!" Liz protested, ready to fight, but stood there so as to not hurt the baby.

"Heh…" Raticate still trembled, looking back. The dungeon was very close. One of the floating islands was very close, a small jump was all it took him to get there.

So it was exactly what he did.

Shiron stood up, panting heavily and looking at the valley, gulping. It was his fault. He got hit by the attack, and now the Raticate escaped. Magnus… Magnus would hate him now! No, that wasn't as important as the baby being kidnapped. An uneasiness in his stomach made the Marshtomp frown and tremble. What could he do?! Nothing, that's what.

Useless. Useless. That's all I'll ever be! I couldn't even save him! Why am I so… awful? The worst person to ever exist, that's me. I-It's always gonna be, Shiron thought about the vast void next to him, and how easy it'd be to just let it all go and—

"Hey Shiron, c'mon! We gotta go after him!" Nick brought him to his senses by clapping next to his face. The sensors on his face twitched slightly. "Don't go around sulking, even I could feel it a mile away, and that's saying something!"

"Staying here will do no good," Liz took a deep breath and eyed the two. "We need to move. Now that they are within the area of the dungeon, it is only a matter of time before they succumb."

"Succumb… to what?" Shiron asked, the somber expression on Liz's face giving an idea of the answer.

Terry was the one to reply, frowning. "They become ferals. If we don't hurry, even the baby will…"

Shiron was taken aback by that revelation. By ferals, did they mean wild Pokémon? Oh. Oh no. That settled things. Swallowing all his self-doubt for the moment, Shiron clenched both fists.

"...Right. I'm gonna save him, whatever it takes!" he said. Even if it kills me…

Nick agreed, gazing at the valley as far as he could. Still, Raticate was nowhere to be seen, which only meant trouble, especially if the dungeon decided to rearrange itself soon.

"Okay, I don't know how long we have 'til that thing gets randomized again, so I say we go now," the Riolu stated, electing one of Shiron's arms being raised, as if to ask a question. "...Dungeons are wacky. The distortion inside causes it to reform, so every time you walk inside, it won't be the same as last time."

…I'll add that to the list of things that just happen in this world, Shiron sighed. I'm still curious. Guess experience will be my teacher.

With that revelation in mind, Shiron followed the other three as they jumped on to one of the islands.

A strong gale was the first of many things Shiron noticed, from how much it made his scarf slap his face as he fell towards the grassy floor. The second thing was that his descent was very, very slow. It took almost half a minute just to get to the floor.

Finally, the third thing was one of the trees shaking wildly. Leaves fell off, along with a strange-looking orb. It was blue, almost glassy. Before he could touch it, an Aipom climbed out, grabbing the orb with its tail. It screeched, gnawing on the glass, only to grunt in pain and back away.

Nick focused, his aura sensors twitching. He ran ahead, a whitish glow around his body while the grass on the ground was shaken away from the speed. Nick then aimed at the Aipom, before punching it in the jaw and launching it towards the neighboring island.

He took a deep breath and rubbed the sweat off his head, before chuckling. If that was the level of the ferals nearby, the dungeon will be easy!

Sadly, it didn't end there, as a Hoothoot flew towards Nick, only to be met by a slash coming from Terry's tail that knocked it out. The bird crashed into the trunk of the tree, causing a few berries to be thrown next to it.

…Okay. What the hell was that? They did it so fast! Whoa. Just… whoa, Shiron rubbed his eyes and walked next to the Hoothoot to grab the blue berry. An Oran, he mused.

"Did you check that out? That's how you fight, Shiron!" Nick cheered. "Next time I wanna see what you got."

"And what's that glass thingy for?"

Terry put it in his jaw carefully so as to not break it, while Nick thought of an answer.

"Basically anything. There's a lot of types of those orbs, and when you break one of 'em, something happens."

"Oh, that's cool."

Back to the main issue: Shiron had no idea how to use moves like them. He was hoping to just wing it when the time was right, or maybe not have to at all! Either way, he was planning on doing his best to help the others, knowing how to fight or not.

"Hmph," the Roselia whispered, yanking the orb out of Terry's jaw and walking towards the edge of the island. "Stop acting like children. Grab as many berries as you can, we are leaving."

"I'm a little hungry, can I eat some of them?" Terry asked—no, pleaded, giving her puppy eyes.

"...You may eat a couple."

"Yay!" the dragon chirped, munching on the berry and swallowing it in a single gulp.

"Alright," Nick's expression turned serious. "...I think we have rested enough. Time to go."

Shiron gulped again. Whoever he was facing next better be some weak Pokémon, like a Bidoof or something. With that in mind, they moved on to the next island.

Lady luck didn't shine for him. As soon as they landed, a Sunkern hopped towards Shiron, screeching at him. The Marshtomp looked back at his team, sweat dripping from his face. None of them were moving. Instead, they were enjoying the fight about to break out.

"U-Uh, any help, guys?"

"I did say the next one was yours," Nick shrugged.

"Use one of your moves, Marshtomp. Preferably one that isn't ground-type or water-type."

"Cool, but I don't know any of my moves!" he protested, only to be met by stern looks. "I mean… maybe Mud Shot? Seriously, I don't know!"

The Sunkern hopped closer, Shiron noticed. He fell on his rear, looking at the tiny grass-type slowly creeping in. It was impressive, really. Something that tiny was making his body scream to run away. More sweat dripped, and his eyes focused on that thing. That thing about to hit him. If he was still human, maybe it wouldn't hurt so badly, but now? As a Marshtomp, he didn't know what was going to happen, nor how much it'd hurt.

Except… he didn't want to run away, or at least the conscious part of him didn't want to. Shiron trembled, his focus getting more intense. A move. He had to use a move, any move. Otherwise he'd lose that fight.

Putting in the effort to stand up, Shiron took in a deep breath and focused. He pictured himself inside that river from before, the current of water surrounding his entire body, the gills twitching from the vibrations. Then, he opened his mouth, straightening himself and roaring, ready to launch the most simple move he could: Water Gun.

Nothing. Not even a drip. Nada. All it accomplished was making him flush his cheeks and cover his face with the scarf. Still, the Sunkern was hopping, only a few inches away.

Oh, for crying out loud! I'm such an idiot. Why'd I think that was gonna work?!

Gosh, what would the others even think about this?! Shiron trembled at the thought.

"Pitiful," Liz stated, sighing. "How you managed to evolve is a mystery to me, albeit one I am not interested in discovering. Sire, would you like to try?"

"Sure," Terry nodded, walking towards the Sunkern. He opened his jaw and bit it, shaking his head while still holding the feral Sunkern, until he threw it away. "Well, this wasn't as hard as you made it look, Shiron."

"...A little anticlimactic, if you ask me." Nick deadpanned. Shrugging it off, he ran to the edge of the island, jumping off to the next one, followed by Terry and Liz.

Shiron, on the other hand, took a few more minutes, but eventually jumped as well. All things considered, nobody commented all that much about his predicament. Which was good.

As the team moved forward, they dealt with the other islands the same way, with Shiron only managing to hit a single punch on the way, much to the annoyance of Liz and a chuckle coming from Nick.

Eventually, they landed on a different patch of land. Larger, and with a waterfall running on the other side, ending on a small lake. From where the water was flowing, though? Nobody knew.

And, of course, their prize: Raticate, standing next to where the lake was and drinking as much water as he could. The baby was being held by the rat's tail and cried as loudly as he was capable of.

"We… have arrived!" Shiron said, flopping his body on the ground and panting. "F-Finally, I was getting so tired of fighting…"

"Aw, is the child not ready for fights yet?" Liz managed to sound both angry and sarcastic at once as she rolled her eyes towards him. "Grow up. The fight is not over."

"Should be pretty quick," Nick pointed out, grinning.

"Focus, guys." Terry added.

Their chat didn't go unnoticed, Raticate soon turned to face them and screeched, his fur standing on end.

"What the hell?! How'd you all get here? You followed me?!"

"Of course. You made it easy for us," Liz raised her head with a smirk. "Now, now. I suggest you release the baby. For your own best."

"Hah! You can't fight me as long as I have this baby with me!" Raticate replied with a smirk of his own.

Shiron heard the words ringing around him, realizing how serious that entire situation was. How one false step and someone was going to die. It made his heart palpitate.

I need… I need to do something. Xerneas gave me this chance, I'm not wasting it!

"Coward…" Shiron stood up, still panting. He clenched his left fist and snarled. "Your type is just the worst! How can you do such a thing?!"

"If you want to stop me, just try! I'll throw this baby off the cliff if I have to!"

Snarling more, Shiron took a single step forward. His body trembled more, and a fierce gaze could be seen in his eyes. "Guys. I'll fight this one myself!"

"Huh?" Terry blinked. "B-But… can you fight? For real?"

In a rare display of kindness, Liz frowned, a soft look on her face. "Marshtomp, stop it. We have the numbers, the three of us. You do not need to fight!"

"Let him," Nick said, arms crossed. "If he needs help, we'll help."

Hearing that was enough of an approval for Shiron to run, before jumping and trying to land a punch on Raticate. He could do it! Just a punch or two, judging from his feats of strength earlier on.

A failed attempt, as he simply landed behind Raticate, falling inside the lake. In fact, the criminal hardly moved or tried to dodge.

"...Whoa, I've seen toddlers do better than y—"

The sharp sounds of leaves splitting in half got Raticate's attention, and the sight only made it worse; four Riolu were circling around him, running to attack.

"D-Double T—" another vine yanked the baby off of him and sure enough, Raticate got punched right in the face, throwing him backwards.

Not before he fought back by unleashing a nearby shock wave that destroyed the copies, leaving only the real deal. Nick grunted—the electricity that pulsed through his body shocked him to the point he was having trouble moving.

"Hah! Not so tough now, are you?" Raticate recomposed, standing on all fours and grinning, exposing his buck teeth.

Terry frowned and ran towards Raticate, but due to his small legs, he was taking some time to get there, giving the rat enough time to react. Said reaction was a metallic glow around his tail, followed by him swishing around and hitting the fossil Pokémon. The impact caused Terry to cringe and stumble back, panting.

"Shiron, if you could please help us out here…" he asked, shaking his head and straightening his position. "We need help!"

"He is right!" Liz's grasp on the baby got tighter. "I cannot fight in this condition, and Riolu is paralyzed. You need to do something!"

Raticate turned around to face Shiron, who was still next to the lake. Their eyes locked, none of them said a single word. But Shiron could tell what his intention was, obviously. To attack him.

"Why, why, since none of you bothered to do anything, I'll just deal with your friend there!"

Letting it happen was out of the question, simple as that. Shiron clenched his fists, grasping a patch of dirt and grass while his body shook. Unknown to him, the water next to him started to flow out of the lake and wrapped around his left arm.

"You make me sick, kidnapping someone, trying to kill them… I can't just stand by and do nothing! Even if it kills me, even if I can't do a damn thing, I'll still try anyway! Because that's who I am!"

"I'd sure as hell would like to see that!"

Grunting, the Marshtomp dashed as fast as he could, and it didn't take him long to get near Raticate, the grin on the rat's face making him cringe in disgust. Shiron tried to land a punch, only for Raticate to dodge.

"I'm not giving up… I can't give up! You're going down!" Shiron roared, swishing his arm faster than he thought possible, the water on his left arm almost looking like it was in the shape of a drill, although much more amorphous.

The punch connected right into Raticate's face, and he screamed, before being thrown into the ground with incredible force, generating a few cracks under him. Shiron immediately stepped back, falling on his butt and panting as the water dropped to the ground.

"W-What just happened?"

Nick rushed as much as his paralyzed body could towards his friend. "I'll do you one better, what move was that? Not Water Gun, not Aqua Tail… it looked like, I dunno, something!"

"It looked like Liquidation," Liz concluded, putting Sandslash in one of her arms and wrapping vines around Raticate with the other. "But that is odd. Marshtomp are not capable of learning such a move."

"Maybe he's special or something?" Terry tilted his head. Whatever the case was, it didn't really matter, they won. All that was left was to escape the dungeon. While carrying a baby. And a Raticate. Oh boy.

"I'm pretty sure I ain't special. The opposite of that, if I'm being honest," Shiron took Nick's paw and stood up. "Also, Terry's right. Gotta go home, right? I'll take care of Raticate, I'm the strongest here anyway."

Everyone turned their eyes to him.

"...Physically stronger."

The way back was, as expected, calmer. Other than the occasional crying of the baby accompanied by a rumbling stomach, the team didn't encounter any issues.

That is, up until Liz had to shut Raticate up by wrapping his snout in vines, not that anyone with her complained. Shiron did think about commenting on that particular thing, but she was scary, and could very well kick his ass if she wanted to.

Not enough time passed until Nick could see the outlines of a very familiar Quilladin. He motioned to the others to pick up their pace, the team running towards the entrance.

"Nick, Shiron!" Magnus waved, though his eyes quickly looked at the Sandshrew, tears rolling down. "Y-You guys did it! Y-You really did it! My brother… h-he's back!"

"We helped too, you know." Terry grumbled, only to be met by a powerful hug coming from Magnus. "O-Oh, uh, you're welcome!"

Liz split the two apart and pouted. "As you plebeians might say, it was a piece of cake. Being grateful is only natural."

Magnus picked his brother from Liz's arms and enveloped the Sandshrew in another hug, and both siblings started to cry as they embraced.

"Just ignore her," Nick sighed, picking up the vines trapping Raticate as he walked closer to the city. Before entering, however, he turned back. "I'm gonna go deal with this Raticate. Put him up for good in jail. See you guys at the festival?"

"Yay! Of course!" Terry's tail wagged and he ran into the town.

"S-Sire, wait for me!" Liz blinked, running behind the Tyrunt.

Now only Shiron and Magnus were left. The Marshtomp tugged his scarf and covered his mouth, gulping. Something sounded odd about staying alone with the chef.

"Thanks, Shiron." the Quilladin said, smiling. "I can't repay you enough. But I sure can try. If you need anything, let me know."

Kindness. Gosh, it still sounded so weird when someone showed that to him.

"I don't think you should thank me, I didn't do much. Everyone else did much more than me. All I did was like… punch that guy. Really hard."

"Sure you did more than that," Magnus and the baby chuckled. "Hey, that was your first dungeon, right? I've never been in one, can you tell me about it? I'd love to hear!"

"Hm? Yeah, it was. Very trippy, almost felt like I was drunk…"

"I'll tell you what," the Quilladin stepped closer. "There's a lot of stuff I need to do today, but I should be free. Do you wanna… I dunno, hang out? Or something like that."

"Hang out…?" Shiron pulled down the scarf, now showing his face. His smiling face. "Of course!"

"Great! Let's get back to the village, I'm sure dad is gonna Bewear-hug you, so be prepared for that."

A small chuckle came out of the Marshtomp's face as he entered the village alongside Magnus.

After things calmed down, if only for a bit, Shiron walked to the beach where he first appeared, both because it was the first step on this world and because the ocean made him happy.

I dunno if you can hear me, Xerneas, but, uh, thanks?

Even when talking to himself Shiron managed to make things so awkward. He grumbled and continued with his thoughts.

Thanks for the opportunity. I helped someone today, so maybe there is something good about me. Maybe.

Steps creeped close to him, while his gills twitched. "Heya, you guys."

Nick was the first to sit down, dipping his toes in the cold water. "That was a good mission. We couldn't have done it without you."

"...And somehow, I still doubt that," Liz remained up, arms crossed. "However, you did good, and for that, I applaud you, Marshtomp."

"We should do it more often," Terry sat as well, tail thumping behind him. "If you want us to, of course. Liz gave this idea. We should—"

"It was your idea, Sire."

"Whatever. We want to create a team with you guys," he said, grinning proudly. "Always heard about rescue teams, exploration teams, societies… point is: can we form one?"

"That's cool and all, and also exactly what I had in mind!" Nick laid on the sand, cracking a smile. "I wanna make a team with all four of us." he eyed Shiron, grin turning wider and tail starting to wag. "Shiron, you've been awfully quiet. What's your thoughts on this one?"

Yeah, he was quiet. Shiron closed his eyes, thinking. No, calling it thinking would be exaggerating, because the truth was that he had the answer already.

"...I'm in! Let's do it!"

Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
  6. heliolisk-fobbie
Heya, dunno how wise it is of me to be throwing a review together like this at this hour. But eh. It was a priority of mine that I wanted to knock out as part of the ongoing review event off-server, especially after I didn't get a chance to throw a review as part of Review Blitz earlier this year.

So let's give a quick nibble at this story, since as a prequel to LoF, it might help out with some practical work I've got piling up for it. Starting off with…

Chapter 1

Drip. Drip. Drip. Water dropped dribbled into a large river, slowly but surely. Hardly moving, but the sound of droplets was constant and almost rhythmical, able to bring peace to calm anyone who heard it.

The water was also [blue in color, and very clean]. There was nothing inside the river, not any animal, nor any person, [making it a serene place.] The temperature was not too hot or too cold, [ ] anyone could dive into the river and swim with no issues. Of course, if they knew how to swim.

Okay, so I'm kinda going out on a limb here with some of these, but I'm tripping up a bit over some of these descriptions, and some feel very "tell and not show" in their current constructions.

Something about [blue in color, and very clean] feels kinda underwhelming in the phrasing. Like there would be ways of saying the same while getting a bit more vivid. Like as a throwaway example [a cerulean blue, and clear enough to see down to the rocks on its riverbed] basically says the same thing as the existing sentence (since clean rivers have great visibility), but it's a lot more "visual" than what's presently there.

Similarly for [making it a serene place], I feel that some sort of sensory component is missing there. It could be something as simple as taping on an addition like [making it a serene place to lay back with the quiet burbling of the water for company].

For the third set of brackets, unless if you're specifically doing second-person narration for this story, I'd drop in something like [the sort of place where], since it feels like it emphasizes that this would be the sort of place where one could enjoy that sort of activity, but no one's there to do it at the moment.

“U-Urgh…” He said, trying to move his body. The figure looked at himself and gasped in shock. His state body was nearly transparent to the point he could see through himself. “W-What’s going on?!”


There might be a less repetitive thing to use than 'body' there, but I don't think 'state' is quite right. Though I see we're headed for some sort of quiz-style opening. I think. That's usually where these sorts of "human and disembodied voice" interactions go in PMD stories.

A booming and regal voice reverberated throughout the river, shaking it to its core. The human turned around, confused and scared, trying to find out where the voice was coming from. His body was shaking as well, but it was frozen in place.

“Be not afraid, human. I am here to help you.”

... Wait a minute, how does that work if this guy was able to turn around earlier in the same paragraph. Is the idea that he can turn his head, but his feet/legs are stuck to the ground? Since that... feels like it could be described a bit better if so.

Somehow, [ ] his shaking subsided. Still wary of the voice, he tried getting answers. “T-That’s kinda hard to believe when I’m in this… whatever this place is!”

I understand that you have questions. I will try my best to answer them,” the voice said, and the water bubbled up again, gathering in a single spot where the voice came from.

For the bracketed section, I'd personally suggest emphasizing that the human calmed down, since it feels like the human's shaking subsiding is lacking context. Something like [he felt himself calm at the presence and] might be enough to do it.

... Though I don't think the human was ever described noticing water bubbling. Since he was described looking around for where the voice was coming from earlier, but I didn't see a point where he noticed a definitive location. You probably want to either make it so that way he notices the location now (i.e. the site with the bubbling water), or else have the human explicitly zero in on a place in the river with bubbling water in one of the earlier paragraphs such that he can see it happen 'again' here.

[In a bright flash of light, a figure stood.] A quadrupedal stag-like creature with black and blue fur alongside a short, bushy tail. [The antlers were colored gold, with a few spots having several colors of the rainbow.] The creature looked at the human and smiled. He, on the other hand, was left shaking once again, and slowly tried backing away from the creature.

“My name is Xerneas.”

Wait, is this like GtI where the Voice of Life summons you to the world, but in this case the Voice of Life and Xerneas are explicitly synonymous?

As for the bracketed bits... for the first one, was that light always there? Since if it just came, you probably want to explicitly note it like [A bright flash of light rang out, and as it cleared, the human could see a figure standing in its place]. If the light has always been there, you want it acknowledged somewhere in your earlier description.

As for the bit re: antlers: Something about it feels like it could be phrased more smoothly and descriptively. Perhaps something like [ The deer sported a pair of large, golden antlers that branched off much like limbs on a tree, with a few spots on it sporting various colors of the rainbow ] or something like it would do the trick?

“X-Xerneas?!” The human asked, panting. “B-But you’re a legend, you… you…”

A legend from tales as old as time,” she replied, giggling. “...You are from the Hoenn region, correct? I’ve seen it.

Oh, so Xern is a 'she' in this world, and it exists in parallel to a mainline one. Will file both those notes away for later.

“Y-Yeah? How do you know?”

Legend, of course. Now, I have a question myself. What is your name, human?

“I’m… my name is Shiron.” He answered, taking a deep breath. Things were getting calmer now, he felt.

And we've got a name! I kinda wonder if it'd have made a bit more sense to add a bit more description of either things going on during this convo or Shiron's internal thought process. Since as it stands, things are kinda 'talking heads' in this sequence at the moment.

“That is a beautiful name.” She looked around the river. “This place… how do I put it? It is a construct from your mind. It represents yourself… in your final moments.”

“My fin—” Shiron stopped, shutting himself up as the realization dawned upon him. “I’m… I’m dead.”

“Unfortunately, yes. Do you remember how you died?”


Well that got dark fast.

[ ]

“I-I do. Of course… of course I’m dead,” Shiron looked down, but he saw nothing other than the depths of the river, which appeared to extend endlessly. “I deserved this, didn’t I?”

“No,” Xerneas shook her head. “You did not. And that is why I’m here. I’ve sensed greatness in you, Shiron. Tell me: what is your dream?”

Shiron was taken back by the sudden question. Why was someone as high and mighty as Xerneas asking him about his dream? It was only natural for him to be scared, to tremble at the sight. And what was that about sensing greatness?

I... kinda wonder if it ought to have been hinted at all as to the manner in which Shiron died, and why he thinks he would've deserved it. Like I get playing coy for the sense of mystery, but giving a little nugget to pique the audience's curiosity feels like it might have leaned into it more, as well as have grounded Shiron's answer better. Also, it'd have put in some much-needed description to weave in in between all this dialogue.

“Please, answer my question, human.”

“My… my dream?” He wondered, thinking what to answer. What was his dream? And why did it matter anyway? He was dead. Shiron looked at himself, his crystal clear body. On his arms, he noticed something; there was a tint of red in them. He frowned.

“Do you not have an answer, Shiron?”

You have a scene separator / line break right in front of this line on your TR version. Not sure what the story behind that is, since the content on both sides of it seemed to be a contiguous scene. Was there a flashback sequence that was supposed to be there that accidentally got left behind or something?

“N-No. I mean, yes. My dream was…” He gulped. “I wanted to help others. Everyone… w-well, I wanted to make others happy. To save people.”

Well, that's certainly a heroic dream there. So the title of the story refers to at least Shiron, then.

“And your dream was interrupted by your death. If I may ask, why did you deci—”

Shiron shook his head in denial. [ ]

“Please… I don’t wanna talk about it. I don’t even know why you brought me here. Just… what do you want?”

“I want to give you another chance,” she nodded. “Shiron, I think you deserve happiness like everyone else.”

IMO, it might make sense to split off Shiron's head shake and expand it into a proper paragraph that does something like show off his internal thought process, since... yeah. This is a lot of pretty close-to-pure dialogue in this sequence so far.
[*][12:43 AM]

“A second… chance?” He asked, unsure. He took another look at himself, shaking his arms. “I don’t know if I deserve it… I’ve brought nothing but pain to everyone I’ve met. Why do you think I deserve another chance?”

That... feels like it should've been hinted at a lot more in description / internal thought process prior to this point, since this feels like something that's told, but we don't have a firm idea as to where it's coming from. Not even some hazy recollections that Shiron has of making others miserable that he alludes to.

“Your heart,” Xerneas raised her head. “You have a big heart, and it’s full of love. You just need to treat yourself with kindness. The same way you treat so many others…”

Shiron trembled. Even being while incorporeal, he felt the tears building up beneath his eyes. They wanted to come out so badly…

“What I’m about to offer you is something reserved only to those who deserve it,” Xerneas looked up and smiled. “Shiron, I can bring you to another world, a world of Pokémon. You will become one as well. Never to return to the human world, do you understand?”

Well that's certainly different from canonworld. Though I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea. It feels like a good way to add gravity to the idea of summoning a human to a PMD world, and Spike Chunsoft has always been a bit weaselly about returning humans to where they came from anyways.

“I’ll never get to go back home…?” Shiron asked. He would never see anyone there ever again. And becoming a Pokémon? That… sounded nice. If he really deserved this chance, then…

Wait, just how much did Shiron's life suck that he finds the idea of never going back home to be appealing with no caveats at all? Like it's something that stood out to me, but I think it'd have been more impactful with little hints here and there in description and internal dialogue leading up to this.

“I’ll take it.” Shiron then gasped. “Wait, what about my memories?!”

“Your memories?” Xerneas tilted her head. “I was planning on erasing them. Would you like to keep them?”

Well, sure is a good thing Xerneas stopped to ask.

“Yes, I would. As much as I don’t have I don't have a lot of thembut I have good memories of my home, I wanna keep ‘em.”

That... doesn't quite jibe with how we saw Shiron's reactions from earlier. I'm not sure what the story behind what Shiron's regrets versus his fonder memories is, since that's not really communicated or hinted at much.

I think the intent was along the lines of the suggested edit, but I can't really tell, and yeah. More description earlier would've helped a lot for grounding this bit.

“That is an unusual request, I must say. But, understood. It is time, Shiron, to cast aside your human shell and begin your new life.” Her antlers began to glow in a rainbow fashion, charging a multicolored beam of light.

Now that this was actually happening, Shiron felt his heart skip a beat. This was something else. He never even heard of it before, becoming a Pokémon? Weird, but he could accept that. Yeah, no problems with that part. Or with the whole “abandoning his family” part. He had his reasons for wanting this.

... I mean, isn't the alternative just accepting death and moving on? Is it really 'abandoning your family' if you're just never going to be able to see them again?

“Maybe someday we will meet again, Shiron, but until then… good luck!” The beam was launched towards the human, sending him into the depths of the river.

Ah yes, yeet the human. Just what you need when you've apparently died and are getting reincarnated.

Next thing he knew, Shiron was getting propelled at an incredible speed. His body was practically rolling, and he could hardly see what was going on.

Why’s… everything… spinning?! He protested, coughing up water and moving his head back and forth, just waiting for that experience to be over. Xerneaaas! Why did you do this?!

Xerneas: "Just part of the rebirth process, don't sweat it too much." ^^;

He was getting deeper into the river, but something was odd. The more he looked, Shiron noticed that there were more things in it. Like algae, rocks, and even a few water-type Pokémon, like Feebas and Alomomola. What was going on?

Shiron: "Is... this even the same river that I got chucked into? Since I could've sworn there was nothing in that one." ._.;

And while he was still speeding up, that was no longer the weirdest part about this whole thing. Sure, he heard what Xerneas said, but now that Shiron managed to look at himself, he no longer saw the human, but instead, he had… the body of a Marshtomp. The bright-blue color gave it away, as did the gills he now had, and the weird, double tail… thing.

Could've been worse. Xerneas could've started you out as a Mudkip. :V

His surprised look gave way to a confused one. Okay, hold up! I’m in the body of a starter? Okay, that’s… uh, it would be cool. Not that I mind, Mudkips are cute, and Swampert is really tough, but Marshtomp? That kinda seems like a downgrade to me…

Wew. 30 seconds into his new life, and Shiron's already finding things to complain about it. o<o

Shiron closed his eyes and let his body continue on its path. To his surprise, he seemed to stop. Shiron He then opened his eyes and gasped, they were even sparkling from the shock.

What he saw was a vast underwater ecosystem, like the ones in his hometown. But this one was different in the way he could see everything. It wasn’t as murky as the ocean he was used to, and Shiron found that lovely.

Lilycove doesn’t seem so good now… heh. Bet I can even swim now that I’m a water-type!

Oh, so Shiron was from Lilycove, huh? Nice little bit of backstory there.

To test his theory, Shiron tried swimming like a puppy, [but he discovered it was difficult. He wasn’t even leaving the place!] And what was worse, he was struggling to breathe. Shiron took some time to notice it, but he suddenly felt short of air and really needed to breathe.

I feel that the "discovered that swimming was difficult" bit probably would've worked better to more explicitly describe Shiron flailing and not really going anywhere for a sentence or two to better sell the idea. Since something about the current framing feels like it doesn't sell his "... Uh oh.
" feeling that he'd logically have right about now super clearly.

Shiron: "W-Wait a minute, but don't I have gills? I thought those were supposed to work underwater." ._.;

Okay, new plan: get outta here! Having decided, he tried swimming upwards, towards the light, and he was getting there. Slowly, but surely. His lungs, on the other hand, were not so cool with this idea; keeping pace, and they were getting stuffed slowly filling with water, and Shiron tried holding his breath. O-Oh no… oh… n..o…

Shiron: "B-But I have gills! Th-The text even explicitly said so!" O.O;

He coughed up water and began falling down again, as his vision became blurry. Shiron struggled to keep himself awake and with open eyes, but he managed to hold on long enough that he saw someone else jumping down into the water. A strange figure, with blue fur and a canine appearance, but on two legs.

H-Huh? Oh… what’s… that…? His vision was unclear, but the Pokémon in front of him also had a few patches of black fur, and two dreadlocks coming out of both sides of the stranger’s head.

R-Rio...lu? Shiron thought, right before he closed his eyes and passed out.

... Wait, I can't tell if Shiron is supposed to have made it to shore there, or if that's supposed to be this Riolu having jumped out into open water from like a pier or a boat. Since if Shiron's near land or some sort of structure, you'd think that he'd notice it a bit during this sequence as he climbs towards the surface.

“Hold on, I got this!”

The Riolu rose to the surface, taking a pause to catch his breath. He soon pushed the Marshtomp, not without struggle. The water-type was heavier than he looked. But soon enough, the duo had gotten out of the river and fallen on the sandy ground.

Oh, so Shiron was near shore. That probably is something you want to reflect at least in passing in that earlier sequence.

Though I see you're leaning into Riolu's Fighting typing and more "pintsized powerhouse" takes there, since I did a double-take at Riolu pulling a Marshtomp out to shore since I'm pretty sure Marshtomp is noticeably bigger than it.

“Phew… that was hard,” Riolu said, panting as he laid down, looking to his side and staring directly at the Marshtomp. “...Are you okay? Can you breathe? It’s kinda weird seeing a ‘tomp here, and drowning!”

Oh, species nickname, huh? I mean, it makes sense, though for whatever reason, I don't recall seeing those in the parts of LoF I'd gotten through.

[ ]

“Nick! Where are you?!” A voice asked, making the canine look back at the other side of the beach, seeing a Quilladin running towards him.

“Hey Magnus! You won’t believe what I found here!” Nick waved, still exhausted from the rescue, but with enough energy to crack a smile.

Once the Quilladin was close enough, Nick noticed him wearing a white apron around his chest, and his nose sniffed the distinct aroma of sugar.

I think that you might want to consider describing Shiron's reaction to this from whoever's perspective is relevant. I assume from Nick's since he was the character that opened things, but it just feels weird that Nick's dragged Shiron from a river, basically told him "boy, that's a close one", and Shiron has no explicitly mentioned reaction of any sort. Like if nothing else, you'd expect him to stare up confusedly and pant or something like that.

“N-Nick?” Magnus stopped, panting. “W-What’re you doing he—”

Another look made him notice the unconscious water-type standing next to Nick. Magnus gasped in shock, before standing back.

“W-Wait! Nick, who’s that?”

... I didn't pick up on that. In that case, scratch the bit about Shiron's reaction. Instead you probably want to emphasize his lack of a reaction, how he's still passed out, and how Nick would probably be getting worried from it.

Nick grinned. “Some guy I just saved! He was, uh… drowning.”

“A water-type? Drowning ? He’s evolved! Unless you caught a feral!”

Magnus: "Seriously, Nick. How does a Marshtomp drown? He has gills!"

Nick: "Hey man, I just know what I came across. I don't have an explanation for it."

“...I’m not like that Treecko you heard about,” he rolled his eyes. “Oh, but this guy’s still unconscious.”

[ ]

“Maybe for good reason? How would he drown?” Magnus gulped, managing to take another look at the Marshtomp.

“Beats me. I just knew I had to help, y’know? Right thing to do.”

IMO, you might want to drop in some explicit description moving Magnus and Nick closer to Shiron there. And maybe describing Magnus squirming nervously a bit more explicitly since he very obviously does not trust Shiron from his dialogue, and it would presumably reflect in his mannerisms.

Meanwhile, Shiron remained in the same state. He moved a little in his inert state. His face quickly turned red, and Shiron moved like he was gasping for air. [Nick took notice of this and looked at his friend.]

“Dude, I think we need to wake him up!”

“What?” Magnus flinched at the sentence, his heart skipping a beat. It was undeniable that this Marshtomp needed help, but what if he was only faking it? “What if he tries to attack us? What do we do, then?”

Something about the last sentence feels a little underwhelming. Like something as simple as [Nick grimaced, before shooting a worried look over at his friend.] IMO would already go a long ways to make things feel a bit less dry.

“...Just trust me on this one! I sensed his aura! We’ll be fine!”

“B-But… your senses suck… no offense.”

“None taken.”

Oh, so Nick is like the polar opposite of Lance then, huh? Since I never recalled Lance having this issue. :V

I wonder if it'd have been funnier to work in some sort of Noodle Incident mention in passing between Lance and Magnus though. Basically to emphasize how much Nick's aura senses suck for comedic effect. Like if he had a recent, particularly embarrassing fail with them that Magnus remembers.

The Quilladin stared at Shiron again, trembling a bit. However, the sight of that Marshtomp, helpless and suffocating, was enough for him to reconsider what to do.

Magnus ran towards the water-type, using both of his arms to push down on Shiron’s chest. He pumped as hard as he could, but tried not to use too much strength. All he needed was to wake him. That was all. After that, he opened Shiron’s mouth and began blowing on it, slow and easy. This was harder than the books said, he noticed.

I mean, in reality, that's kinda a secondary priority given that ribs break on a regular basis from CPR, but uh.... yeah, given how your Pokémon tend to err on the strong side relative to their size, it probably makes sense for Magnus to be careful there. ^^;

C’mon, dude! Don’t leave me! Arceus, I hope Nick’s doing did the right thing by rescuing this guy…

He saw Shiron’s chest rise and smiled, still blowing air as much as possible.

I think you want 'Nick did' there, since Nick pulled Shiron from the water but has otherwise stepped aside to let Magnus do his thing for trying to resuscitate him.

Shiron snapped his eyes open, coughing up water and instinctively sitting down. His hearing buzzed, and his other senses were on overload, trying to focus on too many things at once.

What was going on? Where was he? And what just happened? More questions popped up as he got used to the new sensations dawning on him. Starting with the gills that twitched, picking up the cold air around him, and a faint smell of rain.

This… this is… Shiron looked down at himself, now confirming that his body had indeed changed, just like Xerneas had mentioned earlier. He was no longer a human, and the world he once knew, the people he used to know… they were gone. All gone.

He stood up, trembling as he balanced himself, opening and closing his fists. ...This is… great !

Shiron: "I mean, I only almost drowned like a minute ago! But minor details!" ^^;

A smile spread on Shiron’s face, and he touched his cheeks. The scaly feeling was comforting and he giggled loudly, enamored by how good it was. Despite the reality of him never being able to return dawning upon him, Shiron was ecstatic! Well, sure, he had to be careful not to get caught now, but everything should be fine, right [ ]

Unbeknownst to him, Shiron was being watched by his two rescuers. The duo was eyeing him like he was some sort of clown, and while [Nick was finding what the Marshtomp was doing to be funny, Magnus was intrigued.]

Something got cut off where the first set of brackets are. I can't tell if that's supposed to just be a question mark, or if there was another bit of the sentence that got oopsed from existence.

I kinda wonder if you ought to have communicated the bit in the second brackets more from their facial expressions or mannerisms or the like. Since it feels a bit "tell not show" at the moment. Also, I had wondered where Nick and Magnus had suddenly vanished off to... but right, for all they knew, Shiron was a feral. It made perfect sense for them to want to give him a berth while he was stirring.

Finally, the Riolu cleared his throat. “Hey. You’re finally awake!”

The voice brought Shiron out of his trance and he saw a Riolu and a Quilladin, both staring right at him. Did they see his little show? Oh no. The mere thought made heat rise up on his face.

“Are you listening to me? Can you talk?” Nick asked, snapping his fingers to get Shiron’s attention again. “Are you in there? C’mon, we’re trying to help you!”

Wait, are those two still watching him from a distance, or are they drawing near since Shiron's now very obviously not a feral? It's a little hard to tell there from the description.

“Wha?” Shiron turned around and stared at them, blinking repeatedly. “Did you… talk?”

“What do you mean?” Nick crossed his arms, huffing. “Of course I talked! You’re the one I didn’t expect to talk! Or to drown, for that matter…”

A talking Pokémon? Shiron stepped back, trying to process what he heard. Was this the world Xerneas sent him to? A world of talking Pokémon? At least they didn’t seem aggressive, but still...

Shiron: "... I mean, okay, I guess it'd have gotten really weird really fast if I was just surrounded by other Pokémon I couldn't communicate with, but still. It's still a little jarring to process this in intelligible thoughts." ^^;

“U-Uh… hi!” The Quilladin forced a smile. “I-I’m Magnus, and this is my friend… Nick!”

“I found you in the river, you were drowning… so I took you out!” Nick explained, sighing in relief and rubbing sweat off his forehead. “...Although it’s weird for a water-type to drown, we thought you were a feral! Anyway, I guess the important question is: are you alright?”

[ ]

Oh shit, the former human gulped. What to do?! These were the first Pokémon he met in this world, and if he angered them, surely things would get bad for him. What if I tell them I’m a human…? Maybe this’ll help!


Not like there aren't other worlds where you really, really do not want to be open about being a 'humon'.

Though I wonder if it'd have made sense to explicitly show the gears turn in Shiron's head where that
-ness of how "this first impression could be the difference between making friends and being left for the wolves" sinks in, since things feel a little 0-60 right now for Shiron's quiet little freakout.

Shiron’s thoughts were interrupted by the Riolu poking his shoulders.

“So?” Nick tilted his head as he waited for an answer.

...No, it won’t work. Think, Shiron, think! He struggled and scratched his chin, forcing himself to try harder to come up with something to tell the two. “I-I… I don’t know.”

You have another weird line break right above this line in the TR version again. Not sure what that story is, since once again, it seems like this is part of a contiguous scene with no perspective changes.

No reply. Nick seemed to look at him deeper (if that was even possible) and squinted. Shiron noticed a faint orange glow on Nick’s otherwise red eyes.

“You’re… you’re lying. I know it.”

“You know your aura sense sucks,” Magnus pointed out. “Can we really depend on it?”

Oh, so that's what aura vision looks like, huh?

Shiron: "Look, I literally almost drowned in a river just a couple minutes ago! I'm allowed to be unsure if I'm doing alright, okay?" >_>;

“Hey, it’s not my fault that other Riolu develop it early!” Nick touched his chest fluff, trying to defend himself.

Shiron frowned. And he thought Riolu were masters of aura… whatever that meant. But they were right; he was lying. “Y-Y’all got me! Alright, I lied. It’s just… the truth is a lil harder to accept, I think.”

Magnus snorted. “You think ?

Shiron: "... I mean, could you try defining 'alright'? I mean, I'm alive, but that's kinda a really low bar to cross for 'alright'."

“Well, it’s not like we have better things to do…” Nick shrugged.

“Actually, I gotta help dad with the store,” the grass-type replied.


Can't tell if Magnus' dad is going to be understanding or crabby about his explanation for not being at the shop. I do wonder if it feels like there's missing body language somewhere in this sequence, but I can't put my finger on where it would work the best.

“I-I…” Shiron stopped. Telling straight away didn’t feel like the right idea. Then he remembered something Xerneas said and an idea appeared. “I lost my memory. I… I think I can only recall my name.”

Shiron: "... (I sure hope that that Riolu's aura sense is as terrible as his buddy was making it sound, since now I really am lying.)"

Nick raised a brow, locking eyes with Magnus before returning to face Shiron. “And that would be…?”

“Do tell!” Magnus added, his eyes sparkling with curiosity.


Nick: "Oh, so like the Wanderer-"
Magnus: "No, no, that's Shiren, Nick. He very clearly said Shiron there."
Nick: "Still, that's quite a resemblance name-wise."

The canine chuckled, shaking his head. “Next thing you’re gonna say you’re a human, right? Because that seems to be what most amnesiac ‘mons say around here.”

“He’s right!” Magnus nodded.

- Beat moment -
Shiron: "(Wait, just how common are humans like me out here?)" .-.

His jaw nearly dropped. These two knew about it the whole time and never bothered to tell Shiron about it?! Well, he did lie to their faces… but that didn’t make it right!

“How did you— “

“Joking, dude!” Nick snorted and laughed loudly. “Amnesia is common here, but humans are just a myth! Well… that’s what my grandpa told me.”

Shiron: "Wait, but you live in a Pokémon setting. Shouldn't you not be reflexively skeptical about myths given that almost all of them tend to turn out to have some kernel of truth to them?"

Nick: "I mean, every 'human' I've run into so far has turned out just to be a normal 'mon full of it, so... yeah, I'll take the under on us ever coming across a real one."

[ ]

“Your… grandpa,” Shiron whispered. Was that too much information?

“Oh, that makes things easier,” Magnus sighed. “I guess we can go to the village now, this situation’s settled.”

The Marshtomp gasped. [ ]

Settled, what’s that supposed to mean?"

“C’mon dude!” Nick said, offering a paw. “I can’t say I fully trust you yet, but… do you have anywhere to go? No memories, no ability to swim… if we leave you here, some feral might come and eat you.”

Would recommend either adding new or expanded description here to better sell body language and internal thought process.

Shiron: "That... sounds like a really good reason to go to the village, actually."

Shiron weighed his options. He was stuck, for lack of a better word, in this weird place. They were willing to help him, but if he refused, what would he do? He didn’t know anything, and if they could help…

“O-Okay. Take me to your village!” Shiron replied. Yes! That was the start of his new life! Xerneas gave him a chance, and he was sure as hell not wasting it.

Surprised that Shiron isn't reacting a bit more to the idea of getting eaten by other Pokémon, since if nothing else, one would expect that to unnerve him a bit. Also, considering that Shiron almost drowned less than 5 minutes ago, it might also make sense to have that factor into his decision-making, since if you managed to almost drown as a Water-type, it's probably a sign that you're not going to last long on your own in an unsafe environment.

“Alrighty! I’m sure we can find somewhere for you to stay!” Nick said, turning around as he ran to the exit of the shore.

Magnus followed him, albeit slowly, his body not used to doing jogs. Shiron, on the other hand, waited for them to get a little farther before doing anything. At first, he just walked, looking at his hands. He didn’t notice it before, but there were cut marks, similar to a knife’s, around both of his arms.

...A new chance, huh? Do I really deserve it? I… I don’t know. But maybe I’ll find out. Maybe… maybe I do deserve… deserve to live.

I know that this guy got brought here by Xerneas, who isn't usually a malevolent figure, but something about those markings feels strangely ominous.

Alright, time for the postmortem of this thing, since as you can gather, I had a lot to say:

I think that the chapter on the whole was pretty charming, and it did an alright job of introducing Shiron, Nick, and Magnus to the readers. There's some subtle differences in how the story's framed from most normal PMD ones, but I'd frankly count that as a net positive. Like the whole premise of "reincarnation isekai" is something that for whatever reason, I don't think I've seen done that much in PMD since the only offhand other story that's done that that I've read is Guiding Light, and the way it was handled seemed like a neat take.

As for things that I didn't like so much... the biggie is the description. Or more accurately, the lack of it. Like there's just a lot of places throughout this story where it feels like an extra paragraph here or there would've helped better visualize how things were playing out, or else that there was something that was being referred to that came out of left field since it wasn't hinted at enough by the rest of the prose. More description would've helped a lot on that front. There were also some bits and pieces for word choices and phrasing that felt a little clunky. I'm... not fully sure what I'd recommend there, but you might find it worth reading stuff aloud or via TTS if you're confident in your spoken English, since a lot of those bits I think would've been smoothed out pretty quickly from hearing it spoken by a voice.

The review was a bit more critical than I was expecting @It's Now Or Navar , but on the whole, I thought it was a cute piece. It has some rough edges, but I'm pretty confident you could sand them down without too much effort since most of the gripes I had were things that could be dealt with by additive fixes.

Good luck with writing @Navar , and hope the review helped.
Chapter 6 - Driving Forward


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 6 - Driving Forward

Let go, forget your worries.

Pack up, time to go, now let's hurry.

You know they're waiting,

And there's no time for fooling around.

Terrence got out of that dusty, old house to sneeze. His nostrils were itching, and the more he tried to hold it in, the more he felt the need to let it out. So he did, and began panting, catching his breath.

I know we said we'd join their team, but that Riolu should've picked a better base. How's it even standing?

He looked back, the house somehow managed to not break apart. And the dust? It made his nostrils weird. But alas, Liz did need his help, not that she'd say it out loud.

The one that did was Nick.

"Hey, Terry! C'mon, we need to clean this place up!"

"I'm coming!" Terry said, sighing as he ran inside.

There, he found an amusing sight: Liz was using her flowers to sweep dust into a large bag, holding it together with Nick, who was having troubles with his nose as well.

"Uh, Nick? What do you want me to do?"

"Good question! I want you to—achoo!" he was forced back, dropping the bag, and its contents, right on the Roselia.

Needless to say, she wasn't happy about it, growling. "How dare you?! Remove this dirt off me this instant!"

Nick smiled sheepishly, stepping back, hands folded in a praying position. "O-Oops! My bad!"

"My bad, you say? Yes, it is your bad!" she shouted, ready to pounce at him, when Terry got her attention, touching her flowers.

"It's not productive to fight over a trivial thing. We can clean that pretty quick, and then the rest of the house."

Oh thank Arceus, this guy can deal with her! Nick sighed in relief, but kept the sheepish look. "Yeah, there's also some boxes in my house that I wanna bring here. Stuff like tables, chairs, and I think there's a fridge in there?"

"Don't you need a power source for that?" Terry asked, tilting his head.

"Not to mention its weight, and you are a mere Riolu. I suggest asking the Marshtomp for assistance. And speaking of, where is he?"

Nick shrugged. "Shiron said he was taking Magnus' offer to hang out as thanks for saving his brother. I dunno where they are now, but he also said he was joining us soon. Ish."

That prompted an eye roll from the grass-type. "Why, of course! Our musclemon is busy on a lovely stroll around this dumpster!"

…I'm bad with sarcasm and even I could notice that, Terry thought.

"It's not my problem. Besides, the guy's new around here, he needs friends."

"I beg to differ," Liz replied. "My sire and I are also foreigners, and we do not have any friends."

Terry sighed. "But I kinda want one."

"...I do not have friends." she stated.

"I'm sure someone would love to," the Riolu pointed out, looking around and pointing at a few places in the room. "Alright, I'll grab the boxes, or those my feeble Riolu body can grab, and you guys clean this place up, got it?"

Before Liz could interject, Terry nodded in agreement for the two of them.

Back at the bakery, Shiron sat on a chair next to the door and patiently waited for Magnus to bring his drink: a cup of hot chocolate.

Aw, that's so sweet… he must be thirsty. Going inside a dungeon and fighting did a number on him.

And judging from the drool on the Marshtomp's mouth, Magnus knew he had to do his best in making the beverage. Which he did, pouring the finest cocoa powder into a mug, along with milk. The two mixed together and after that was done, Magnus added whipped cream, along with some sprinkles, for the aesthetics.

"That smells so good!" Shiron said, sniffing the air and licking his lips.

"It tastes even better, and since we're the only ones here, I can actually talk to you!" the Quilladin replied, walking to the table Shiron was on and sitting on the other side, putting down the mug. "Here you go, hope you enjoy it."

"You're the best," he nodded, taking a rather large sip from the drink. Unlike the last time he tried some of Magnus' sweets, he made an effort to not overreact.

Even if it tasted heavenly. In fact, the only reason Shiron didn't down it in one go was due to how hot it was, forcing him to put it back on the table and catch his breath.

"Phew… man, that was great! You gotta teach me how to make something like this!"

Magnus snickered. "Sure thing! Oh, and by the way, there's some chocolate on your face."

"Really, where?"

The Quilladin picked a napkin on the table and leaned closer, rubbing it just above Shiron's mouth. "There."

"Huh, guess you were right. Thanks again!" Shiron beamed, sipping again. "Hm, yummy! But, uh, can I be honest?"

But on the inside, he was screaming. Please say no, please say no. If I'm honest I might hurt his feelings!


Drat, Shiron sighed. "I kinda… like when it's sweeter. I apparently have a sweet tooth."

Magnus blinked, then let out a chuckle. "Ah, that was it? No problem! Just let me know next time, so I can make you a proper drink."

This time it was Shiron that blinked, and nearly spit out the chocolate, barely managing to stop himself and chugging the drink down. "W-What? But… I kinda insulted your work?"

"Except you didn't?" Magnus crossed his arms. "Everyone has their preference. Besides, even if you did, it's fine. I've dealt with a lot of criticism before."

Hearing that, Shiron sighed in relief. So he didn't blow it, good to hear. Still weird, I didn't ruin this. Weiiird.

"Oh, by the way, Shiron, what do you plan on doing here? I know you joined Nick's team, but like… do you want anything else from your new home?"

What kind of question is that? Shiron wondered. Better to keep the amnesia lie for a little longer. "Well, I might try getting my memories back, if that's possible?"

"Oh, cool," Magnus smiled. "I asked because you seem like a nice guy to be friends with, and I thought you wanted to leave this town, so…"

Nice guy to be friends… with.

Shiron repeated that sentence in his head over and over, again and again. Maybe he misheard it. "Well, I —"

Someone knocked on the door. Strange, since Magnus had closed the shop so they could hang out freely.

On the other side of the door stood a large Golem. His imposing presence told them he wasn't there for games, or to order anything. He just stood there… menacingly.

"Sir?" Magnus opened the door. "I'm sorry, but we're… closed."

"I ain't here for sweets," the Golem said, immediately entering, not bothering to talk with Magnus any longer. He stopped in front of Shiron and peeked at him, eyeing the Marshtomp. "Hm, hm…"

"What's with the peeking?" Shiron blushed, stepping back.

"Uh, sir, I said we're closed."

Once again, he ignored Magnus, gaze still on Shiron. "Interesting. When I heard we got another amnesiac, I got curious and wanted to see them. You're not impressive."

"Thanks? Actually, I shouldn't take this as a compliment. What?"

"And I got ignored," Magnus sighed, walking next to Shiron. Then, he stared at the Golem. "What do you want, Daichi?"

"I never said you could call me by my name," Daichi replied, rolling his eyes. "Eh, whatever. Shiron, was it? I'm curious. How did you get here…? I'm assuming an encounter with the holier-than-thou Xe—"

"I just kiiiiiiinda woke up on the shore, don't remember anything else!" Shiron proclaimed frantically, ready to salvage that lie with a technical truth. The less Magnus knew about it, the better.

Of course, that didn't go unnoticed by the other two, except Magnus ignored it. Daichi, on the other hand, flashed a smirk. "Reeeeally?"

Magnus pouted, opening the door again. "If you're here to harass a client, feel free to leave."

"Not harassing, just givin' out a friendly warning, that okay?"

No matter the response, Daichi didn't care. He eyed Shiron once more. The smirk was still there, but now that he was closer, Shiron flinched: that Golem was angry.

"W-What's the warning?"

"I've heard some rumors about you and that Riolu wantin' to deal with crime on this town. Now…" Daichi cracked his knuckles, laughing. "There isn't space here for both of us, so I suggest you make like a tree and leave."

Magnus trembled, closing his eyes and creating a vine around his arms, using it to slap Daichi. "That's… h-harassment. Out of here now!"

Daichi turned back, raising a brow, and then laughed. "Aight, aight. I did what I came here to do. See ya later, losers."

He walked out the door, but not before turning back to give them a final look. "And Shiron, do what I say and you won't get hurt!"

Nick left his house, holding two large boxes, one stacked on top of the other, which forced him to use both arms to carry the things.

He began climbing down the hill, only taking a few peeks to make sure he wouldn't fall down and drop the boxes. Granted, it was very much possible, and the thought made Nick sweat.

Okay! I can do this! Nick thought, gulping. In hindsight, I should've asked for their help before doing this. Duly noted.

As he continued, Nick stopped to both catch his breath and see the village. Despite the kidnapping earlier, they were still celebrating, shooting fireworks and dancing.

…Who's idea was it to start unboxing now instead of enjoying the party? Mine?

Nick groaned. It was mine. Damn it, me!

With his head full of thoughts, Nick failed to hear the buzzing sound of wings creeping ever closer. Not until the clicking of blades got so near he threw the boxes in the air to dodge an attack, rolling on the ground then catching the packages, gently putting them down to look at his assailant.


In front of him stood a Beedrill, his red eyes, hidden inside brown goggles, glowed in the dark. His wings thrummed, but he said no word, not even a whisper.

"Jackett, what's wrong with you? You could've killed me!"

"Boss' orders," he finally said, pointing at Nick with his stingers. "Though he did say not to kill you, I took the liberty of testing your skills. Not bad… for a defective Riolu."

Those last words made his heart throb, Nick's fur soon stood on its end. "I'm not defective! You take that back!"

"Prove it, then." Jackett teased, a slight smirk could be seen in his face, illuminated by the moon's light.

"I don't need to prove myself to you!" Nick shouted, now sporting sharp fangs.

Jackett laughed, shaking his head dismissively. "Then it's settled. You are defective. And you really think you can set up a team here? We don't have resources for two teams."

"...I'm sure we can find some common ground," Nick held in a large breath, clenching his fists to calm down. "Please, it's my dream!"

"Tsc, tsc, tsc." Jackett said, and he was gone.

Next he knew, the Beedrill stood right behind Nick, stingers just barely touching the Riolu. "Sometimes… dreams don't come true. You know that well enough, defective."

More poisonous words. Nick trembled, trying to muster the strength to fight back, whether physically or verbally. But it was no use, because once he turned around, Jackett was gone again.

"What… what was that for?" Nick panted, his body still shaking from the encounter.

And maybe he was defective. Broken. Wrong. Nick grunted, biting his lower lip, the pain distracting him from the intrusive thoughts.

"I-I… no. I'm not giving up! If there's only room for one team in this town, then I'll do it."

Much to her chagrin, Liz kept brooming the dust away from the house and into a trash bag. Unlike her, Terry was beaming at the job, using his tail to broom, all with a big grin. He closed the door to their office and walked next to Liz.

"Sire, how can you take this so lightly?" she asked, dumbstruck by the prospect of someone as high and mighty as a prince doing such a lowly job.

"I dunno, but it's fun! We're helping our—uh, my friends?"

"Helping, helping," Liz groaned, there was something she could do to make this situation better. "You know, there is no need for you to clean this place. I can do it for you."

"But I wanna do manual labor," he protested with a pout and a slap of his tail. "Besides, it builds character! I… think?"

A whistle got their attention. Terry looked at the other side of the area, watching as a Charmeleon wearing a belt buckle and a green scarf grinning at them.

"Ah, yes, of course, visitors. Please go away, we are not open for business yet." Liz said, her voice dripping with venom.

"Fella, I'm not here for that," Charmeleon said in a feminine voice, then shrugged. "Being honest I'm not in the mood to check out you bozos, but orders are orders."

"What is a 'bozo'?" Terry tilted his head.

"Nothing you should worry about, sire." Liz stepped in, standing in front of her lord and adopting a fighting stance. "I do not wish to fight, but I will if I must."

"Girl, I can literally burn you alive." Charmeleon scoffed, smoke coming out of her nostrils. Despite the threat, she hardly moved, only glaring at them with a lazy look. "Buuuut I'm not in the mood for that either."

Well, wasn't that jolly? Terry sighed. "What are you in the mood for?"

"Dunno," she said dryly. "Boss just said to check on the newbies who wanna make a team. Even if that's not possible right now."

"What? But we have a base, members and all!" Terry protested.

Before any of them could say another word, Liz stepped in, putting herself between the two and raising her head.

"I have heard of this before. Certain villages are so small, they cannot afford to pay more than one team. This must be one of them."

"Bingo, girl." Charmeleon flicked her tail, grinning. "Name's Onyx, by the way. Now that's all settled, I need your opinion on this. 'Cause we won't treat you well if y'all insist on the team thing."

Liz felt like she popped a vein (if she even had any). She grit her teeth and barely managed to resist slapping that Charmeleon. "Intriguing, but I do not have an answer, not yet. Our… leader has not returned, and we will not decide on an answer without him."

"Y'know, I can respect that." Onyx admitted, shrugging. She began to walk off, only looking back to deliver a final sentence. "Whatever, message's been said. What you guys do ain't my problem."

"That was weird." Shiron commented, exiting the bakery and waiting for Magnus to finish locking the place up.

"I guess so, but don't bother with that guy. He's a bully," the Quilladin replied, shrugging and turning around. "Alright, now that the bakery's closed, I guess I should go help dad."

Leaving so soon? Shiron almost wanted to go with him, but surely that would be a bother, wouldn't it?

"Oh, okay. And… since I don't have anything to do right now, maybe I need to meet up with the others."

"Hmm," Magnus fidgeted with his fingers, thinking. "Well…"

Was that a sign he could ask about it? Nah, it couldn't be. Magnus would never…

"Well, what?" Shiron asked. If he keeps this up, I'll ask to go with him!

"You sound like you don't want to leave yet." Magnus said, smirking. "Too bad we don't have a mirror around, then I'd show you how you're acting."

Shiron blinked, tapping his cheeks. To his surprise, they were hotter, and Magnus' words only made them turn tamato-red. Not only that, but his gills twitched slightly.

Gah! He just read me like an open book! he thought, grabbing the scarf to try and hide his embarrassment. It… didn't work.

"Awww… just teasing you!" Magnus laughed softly, holding a snort.

As if that made things better. "R-Right. Well, I do wanna go, but Nick made me promise I'd help with the office."

"Go ahead! I'll still be here by tomorrow, so no need to worry," Magnus held out his arms for a hug. "C'mere, it's the least I can do for saving my little brother."

And they hugged, Shiron breathing deeply to prevent a panic attack. It was… nice, to put it lightly. A genuine, caring hug. When was the last time he had one of those?

"I think… I can call you my friend." Shiron said, still enveloped in the hug.

"Hey, weren't we friends already?" Magnus teased, hugging him tighter, before pulling away. "But for real, no problem! You're my friend too. Feel free to drop by at the bakery whenever you want."

"That might be every day," Shiron rubbed the back of his head and laughed. "Seems it's a promise, then! It won't be the last time we meet."

"I don't want it to be!"

…Okay, that was surprising. And I got a friend, so… double win for me? I'll take that. Thanks again, Xerneas!

Whether she heard him or not didn't matter for Shiron, as he was just happy about bonding with Magnus (and eating, thanks to the new metabolism). He giggled like an excited child getting a brand new toy.

"See you soon, then?" Magnus asked, tail swishing.

"Oh, you bet! As soon as I'm free, because Nick'll probably drop a million things at me."

"Sure sounds like him."

"A-Alrighty, then! I-I'll see you soon!" nodding, Shiron looked around to see where the office was supposed to be, a few blocks from the bakery, and then walked off in that direction.

Right as he entered the office, Shiron stopped to catch his breath, raising his head just in time to see Liz next to him.

"Hmph. Took you long enough, Marshtomp."

Shiron forced a sheepish smile. "Sorry I'm late, I was doing… stuff."

Nick raised a brow and shrugged. "Eh, whatever dude. We were just waiting for you. Turns out there's something I kinda didn't tell you guys."

Hearing that caused Shiron to tilt his head. So Nick had secrets too? Honestly, all of them probably had their share of secrets.

"Yes, and while I suggested to talk about it before you got here—"

Terry brushed her off. "We figured it was best when everyone was together."

All eyes were set on Nick, and he gulped, struggling to form the words. "W-Well, you see…"

Terry slapped his tail on the wooden floor. "Me and Liz got a visitor, some lady Charmeleon, I think her name's Onyx?"

"Correct. She said her leader sent her. To what end? I am unsure at the moment."

"Y-Yeah, well, I got a visit too, a Beedrill…" Nick clicked his fingers together, gulping again. "See, Thornwell is kinda small, at least compared to other towns in this continent. We don't really have any police, just the detective agency run by one of Gramps' friends…"

Liz crossed her arms, raising a brow, paying close attention. Somehow, she could tell what this was all about, but would rather let Nick finish it.

"And right now they're not taking any applications to join the agency, which is why me and Liz got those visits, I know that team. They're led by a Golem, named—"

"Daichi!" Shiron blurted out, gasping. "He showed up at Magnus' bakery! Kind of a prick, if you ask me."

"Huh, so we all got visited by these guys." Terry mumbled.

"Anyway!" Nick clasped his hands together, nodding. This made things easier! "We can't join their agency, at least not now, so, instead… we make our own agency! What do you all think about it?"

"Hmph." Liz kept her arms crossed, thinking. She glanced at Terry, as if waiting for him to reply.

"I'm… I think I'm in!" Terry said as his tail began swishing. "I wanna learn more about the world, and helping others might be the way to do it!"

That left only Shiron. Sure, he agreed to it before, at the spur of the moment, of course, but still…

"Liz wants to follow what Terry does, I wanna be a hero, Terry wants to see the world," Nick said, now looking at Shiron. "And you, buddy? What's your dream?"

It wasn't like his decision had changed in the few hours since he told them. But Shiron didn't feel like answering what his dream was. He was happy enough helping them.

"I'm also in!" he raised an arm, smiling brightly. "Let's make this happen, let's all work together! As friends, and as a team!'

Shiron rushed in to shake hands with Nick, giving him a flashy grin.

Daichi waited next to a large house, crossing his arms and lowering his head. Where were the others? If they kept him waiting any longer…

"Howdy, chief." Onyx stopped by, putting on a western hat and cracking a grin. "How's it goin'?"

The Golem shrugged. "Waiting on Jackett. He went to check for jobs with the detective, but man, we lost that case with the kidnapper…"

"Not our fault those kids got to 'em first," Onyx said bluntly, flicking her tail. "Better luck next time, eh?"

"Maybe, maybe." Daichi sighed. "...And you? Got any requests for us to do?"

"Old 'mon Samurott asked for us to grab him some scrolls from a town nearby."

"Ah, why am I not surprised?" Daichi groaned. "Pah, we can do that. No issue. But man, I wanted something more exciting, like, like…"

"Another kidnapper?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

The sound of buzzing wings as Jackett descended on their side, sporting a neutral expression. "We can't have kidnappers all the time. Anyway, all I got was a delivery mission."

"Boy this evening just keeps gettin' better!" Daichi replied, almost dripping with sarcasm.

"I can do the delivery mission. I'm a good flier." the Beedrill added.

"And I'll grab the boomer's scrolls. Sounds like a plan," Onyx chirped, then looked at Daichi. "And you? Wanna come with me, or are you gonna sulk about it?"

"Smartass," he muttered. "I'll go with you."

"And what of the defective and his team?" Jackett pondered out loud. "Should we just let them run around unchecked?"

"For now? Sure. But if they don't follow the rules soon, we'll have to teach 'em a lesson!" Daichi grinned.

Onyx rolled her eyes. "Why d'ya guys always jump into violence? 'Sides, I don't think they're all that bad. There's a prince among them, too."

"A prince?" Daichi blinked. "I didn't expect that, but it's a pleasant surprise."

"Let's go rest, you two." Jackett said, grumbling. "We won't be able to fulfill the mission without a good night's sleep."

They all agreed that was the best course of action and entered the house.

Shiron entered Nick's house, yawning and rubbing his eyes. All in all, it was a good day. What a wonderful life this is! Being able to do so many new things, meeting all those people… he loved the feeling, the warmth in his heart.

And to think I'm gonna be a hero! Or… detective. Hah! This is actually really cool!

Did he deserve those things? Shiron shrugged that thought off before it got too troublesome and kept on walking, heading to "his" room.

…I'm kinda beat, though. Need to sleep. But one thing I know is… my life is burning bright, and I'll keep on living!
Chapter 7 - Yet To Be Named


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 7 - Yet To Be Named

So tell me, oh-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa.

If I could soar through the skies anymore.

Oh I don't know-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa

What tomorrow will bring.

Will I reach all of my dreams?

Why, ignoring every rational thinking, did Shiron think waking up this morning would be any different? It was like any other. He went to the bathroom, turned on the sink, and let the cold water moisturize his medium-sized, five-fingered hands (wrong). Veins were hidden beneath scars that were barely beginning to heal, and then he washed his face.

It was only when he took a look at his reflection that Shiron was taken aback. His face, his human face, disappeared, and he only saw the Marshtomp body staring back.

"...That was weird," he took the towel, only to realize how stupid that was. He was a water-type, so being wet was natural. Not just that, but the mere thought of drying was disgusting.

Okay, so maybe I didn't sleep well enough, Shiron blinked, his eyes lowering to his wrists. The scars were still there, but it looked like they were smaller. ...No, I slept a lot more than I normally do. And I feel like crap. Yay, me. Can't even do something as simple as sleeping, and here I am, trying to be a stupid hero!

Shiron felt his legs tremble, faltering. It was hard to move, let alone stay up. So he did the most reasonable thing and sat down, hugging his legs. What if there was a simple solution to his problems, his thoughts? The thoughts that never went away.

I… I-I need to check, he thought, slapping both cheeks. Shiron took a look around the bathroom, and he found what he looked for: a bathtub. White, shiny and with a few faucets. Perfect!

Humans were weak when compared to Pokémon, Shiron knew that. For example, it took ten to twelve minutes for someone to drown to death. Of course, this could take less time if the person was panicking, which was normal in these scenarios. Not just that, but a burning sensation entered their bodies along with the water. It was painful. Numbness followed, and the waiting… the waiting was by far the worst part.

What am I doing…?

"Shiron! Get out of the bathroom, I need to go!"

Nick knocked on the door so many times it was a miracle there weren't any dents or cracks. Regardless of the intention, it snapped Shiron out of his thoughts. He stood up, turning off the sink and putting his scarf back on.

Saved by the metaphorical clock, my favorite part of the day! Now to think of an excuse. Something, something… just play dumb and act casual, y'know, like I always do!

"In a minute, just gonna brush my teeth real quick!"

"You don't even have teeth!"

A wall of silence stood between them.

"...I'll brush my gums!" Shiron said, after much thought. If it was believable or not, Nick didn't tell him. What mattered was that it worked.

"So! What're we gonna do today?"

Shiron closed the door behind him and adjusted his scarf, taking a look at Nick. He smiled, waiting for the answer.

"We should probably register if we wanna do this," he said with a flick of his tail. "Let's see, there's seven of us, but I don't think all of us need to go."

"Seven?" Shiron tilted his head. "I'm not really good at math, but uh, weren't just four of us?"

Nick grinned in reply, shrugging. "I'm counting Amy, Audrey and Magnus. They're joining us as well, just not on the field."

Magnus is joining too?! Oh man, great! Shiron held in his excitement and simply nodded. "Okay, so who's gonna register?"

"You, me and—"

A Zorua materialized next to them in a puff of black smoke. "Sup!"

Shiron gasped, falling on his butt. "H-Hah! Audrey, hi! Don't do that, please!"

"You were right, this is fun!" the kit beamed, grinning proudly and scooting over to Nick.

"I'm a 'mon of many talents," Nick replied, puffing out his chest. "But uh, yeah. If Shiron doesn't want it, let's not do that again."

Audrey nodded. "Anyway, I'm gonna go with you guys to the registry. We'll probably not receive a lot of financial support, considering the budget is tight, but everything will work out just fine, trust me!"

"...Is there any reason why you're coming with—" Shiron stopped when he saw Nick patting her on the head. "Okay, nevermind. I forgot you two are lovesick."

Nick bit his lip, swishing his tail again. "I have an idea of how we're organizing this team, let's go! I'll tell you on the way!"

Before Shiron knew it, the two lovebirds were running away from him. He sighed. Maybe I should hurry before I go on another downwards spiral. They're cute together.

He picked up the pace, strolling, or rather, running, towards the other two. Though Shiron was panting, sweating and struggling to breathe, he was fast enough to catch up with them. Eventually.

"...Huff, how're you guys so fast?" Shiron panted, falling to his knees right after getting close enough to his friends.

"I'm athletic!" Nick flashed a grin and flexed an arm. "...And I don't spend half the day eating cake. It'll go to your thighs, dude."

"That was just mean, Nicky." Audrey stuck out her tongue. "For real, though, I do a lot of manual labor. Maybe you should try that out?"

"My thighs aren't even—whatever!" Shiron pouted right as his face turned a deep red. "Uh, where are we going, exactly?"

Nick snapped his fingers and pointed to the end of that cliff, towards the city. He slowly began pointing at a building, too far away to be discernible, other than the black color.

"The bank. It's where—"

Audrey chirped, interrupting him. "We call it a bank, but it's more like… both a bank, a police station and guild."

"Guild?" Shiron blinked. Okay, that was… fine, it was fine. He could handle it. The hell's a guild?

They kept on walking, crossing the streets, doing nothing more than talking. Of course, the main subject being what the hell this bank was. It had to be super organized, and… god, imagine how much money the mons running it had. Though Shiron never had much money, he knew how to save it.

What if they invest the money? They could capitalize in it and make even more pr—Okay I hate this line of thinking. Shiron cringed at himself, cursing at his studies, the dreaded hours of studying economy.

Flashes of thick books grew into his mind, and the thought of reading them alone was making him nauseous and sleepy. It didn't even contribute to social skills, after all, who would want to talk about economy, of all things?

At least that was useless in this world. He hoped it was.

Amidst his little trip across memory lane, Shiron didn't notice how both Nick and Audrey stopped walking to take a look at him.

"Shiron, you've been staring at us for like, five minutes." Nick snapped his fingers, they were eerily close to the Marshtomp's face. "What's up?"

"We did say a lot of things at once, no wonder the lil fish didn't get 'em," Audrey added, then flashed a friendly smile towards Shiron. "What do you wanna know?"

Part of him wondered how and why their entire defense system was saved to one building. Another part wanted to ask if it'd be easy to set up a team.

The second option was what he decided on. "So, uh, didn't those guys say that we couldn't form a team? What's up with that?"

"Budget issues." Nick replied with a shrug. "But hey, I got some savings for this scenario, we should be good to go."

"...For how long have you been saving money?"

"Fifteen years."

Shiron quirked a brow. "And you're…?"

"Nineteen years old," he replied, grinning. Despite how obvious the answer to that question was from his perspective, Nick had no issue with it. If anything, it made him closer to Shiron, in a way.

"And I'm nineteen too," Audrey chimed in, wagging her tail. "Nick's a few months older, though. Not much, but eh, it happens!"

"You're both a year older than me. Got it." Shiron nodded. "Ahem, that was a distraction, my bad. I don't think there's any other questions? Other than… uh, why did I need to go with you?"

"Heh. Obvious answer!" Nick flashed another grin.

"Tell him already." Audrey pouted.

"Shiron, you're gonna be the team leader!" Nick said with a smile as his tail began to wag.

If any reveal before that didn't happen, the impact of those words wouldn't be nearly as bad as it was. Shiron blinked. He had to have misheard it, right? It couldn't be true!

…His legs shook, trembling like jelly. "M-Me, the leader? N-Nah! You guys are overreacting, I'm barely good enough to be a grunt, let alone a leader. H-Haha!"

Shiron's vision turned blurry as he fell on the ground.

When he came back to his senses, Shiron was still dizzy. He bobbed around, eyes barely open, even after he rubbed them. There were voices all around him. Strange, at first, but after some seconds passed, he began to recognize them.

"You're awake again," Nick sighed in relief. Shiron blinked, finally able to see the Riolu sitting next to him. "Man, you got me worried there. Everything good?"

"The patient had a dizzy spell and passed out, Nick. He's better now, but it happened for a reason," the second voice… Amelia. "I believe some orans are more than enough for him."

She turned to him. "Hello, Shiron. Are you better now? You were only out for a few minutes, but Nick here called me to check on you."

Audrey was the third to check on him, frowning. "All we said was that you're the leader, and then you got knocked out."

Shiron looked down and shook his head. "S-Sorry about that, but I don't think I have leadership material. I'm better following orders."

"Nonsense." Nick put his paws on Shiron's shoulders and looked at him straight in the eye. "I saw a spark in you, man. I think you got what it takes. And if you don't believe in yourself… believe in me, 'cause I believe in you!"

"Very cheesy," Amelia pointed out, holding a grin. "But fitting regardless. Nick, do you need anything else? I'm going to check on the prince and his bodyguard. They're free to go, but a check-up never hurts."

"Nah, go ahead." Nick turned back to Shiron. "So, can you trust me on this one?"

"...Sure," Shiron was uncertain, but if it meant getting rid of that conversation, then it was fine. He stood up slowly. "Sure, sure. I'll be the leader. This will end well… Did you at least tell the others about this?"

"Everyone but Liz approves." Audrey said. "Anything else before we get inside? Only a few minutes away."

Damn it. Maybe I can convince Liz to be the leader… Shiron cleared his throat. "Alright, sure. Let's go."

"You bet!" Nick hopped up, his tail starting to wag like there was no tomorrow. "I can't believe it, I'm actually doing this! I'm making my own team! I'm a hero!"

What were meant to be encouraging words felt nothing less than knives in Shiron's chest. He didn't want to disappoint his friend, but there was no way he could be a good leader, a leader everyone looked forward to, and respected.

"Thanks, Shiron!" Nick said to him, and then hugged the Marshtomp. He was so tense his furry body shook. "You're the best partner I could hope for!"

Audrey raised a brow. "Hm?"

"Platonic partner!" Nick corrected, smiling sheepishly at her. "Don't give me that look!"

"Just teasing!"

But Shiron could certainly try, couldn't he? Shiron took a large breath and followed them on their way across the city, silently hoping that Nick made the right decision.

It all started with the large line outside the building. Pokémon after Pokémon waited for their turn inside the bank. Some were tapping the ground, others were huffing, and overall, the mood was filled with impatience.

"...Is this place always so full?" Shiron gulped. How long would they have to wait?

"It can take five hours for your turn to arrive," Nick explained, dripping with sweat.

"Uuuunless you make a reservation before!" Audrey chirped, posing dramatically as tiny sparkles of light surrounded her. An illusion.

"Thought you didn't like doing that." Nick blinked. "But it's for dramatic effect, so it's fine, right?"

The Zorua nodded, turning to Shiron. "So yeah, we did get a reservation! We can skip waiting and losing half the day to bureaucracy."

"Neat," he smiled. The three went ahead, ignoring the large cries of the other Pokémon who had to wait. Shiron felt bad for it, but… there wasn't anything he could do to help them.

And Shiron had even thought of a song to pass the time…

…The inside was better, at least when compared to the huge queue outside. It was organized. First, Shiron saw two Rhydon near the door he came from, sporting black ties. Guards, he presumed. After an inspection (and a minor annoyance when they took off his scarf), he and his friends were good to go.

Secondly, the walls. White, bright and tough. That last part was only revealed to him by an offhand comment from Nick.

"Even a Hyper Beam would have trouble tearing this place down!"

Shiron made a mental note to never get hit by such a move in this world. He kept walking, seeing employees helping some of the Pokémon find the place to do what they came there for.

In his case, Shiron just followed Nick, and of course, they ended up in another queue. There was only one other customer in front of them, a Samurott.

Huh? Weird, never seen a 'rott like this.

…Except this one looked odd. Shiron rubbed his eyes to see if they had failed him, but it wasn't true. The helmet was a dark shade of blue with a few details in red. It had more spikes, and they were sharper, too.

Whoa. His limbs have that blue and red armor too. And that tail… it looks like it's bent.

"What're you lookin' at?" Nick asked, tilting his head. Noticing where Shiron laid his eyes, he chuckled, and began to whisper. "That's… old mon Ronan. I heard he never lost a battle!"

"Cool…" Shiron whispered back. Still no idea why he looks like that. Maybe I shouldn't ask.

"Eh, if you never go into battle, you don't lose either!" Audrey teased, looking away dramatically. At that point, the weird Samurott had walked away, but none of the three noticed it. "But hey, maybe you should ask the guy to train you. From what Nick told me, you could barely take on a feral!"

Shiron looked at the Riolu, who shrugged. "Uh, yeah. But I helped us win! Somehow. It was this—"

"Next Pokémon in line, please! Bzzrt!"

A mechanical voice spoke, startling him. Only then did Shiron notice the clerk's species: a Porygon. A Porygon-Z, being exact. Out of all the Pokémon he knew, why was it a Porygon-Z? His shock didn't last long, however, as Nick pulled him towards the odd, technological Pokémon.

Between Shiron and the Porygon-Z stood piles and piles of paper, so thick that it would probably hurt him a lot, should they fall on him, not to mention the possibility of being cut! He gulped at the thought.

Nick was more impatient, tapping his fingers on the wooden table, while Porygon-Z seemed to scan the papers, grabbing some of them. "Papers for registration identified," it said, much like a machine.

A typing machine, to be more precise. Judging by the noise Shiron heard, Porygon-Z was using one. He wondered if that meant there were no computers, or that the bank was just old-fashioned.

"Input is required for this part of the process." Porygon-Z said, staring at them. Even with locked eyes, the mechanical Pokémon hardly showed any emotion.

…Mental note. Ask why in the world there's a Porygon-Z here, Shiron thought.

"Ah, right!" Nick barked, finally showing off a smile again. "What inputs?"

"Please input the members, species and function."

"Nick, Riolu," he pointed at himself. "Second in-command. Shiron, Marshtomp, leader."

"O-Oh…" Shiron gulped. This was real. It was happening right in front of him. Scary.

Audrey chimed in, putting her front paws at the table. "Audrey, Zorua, mechanical consultant!"

Before long, Nick continued. "Amelia, Kirlia, nurse. Magnus, Quilladin, cook. Terrence, Tyrunt, uh… combatant! Elizabeth, Roselia, combatant!"

Porygon-Z typed on the machine after every word, the buttons clunking with each press.

"Now, input your name."

Nick and Audrey both turned to Shiron, like they expected him to answer.

…They really expected an answer. Shiron froze, only barely managing to look at the two. "It's… I-It's, yet to be named?"

"Wait." Nick interjected, eyes widening. "Shiron, no—"

"Team 'Yet To Be Named'," Porygon-Z stated, still showing no expression. It typed. "Registration complete."

"Shiron, fuck!" Nick covered his face just as his fur turned into a deep shade of red. "This guy takes everything literally, we need to be very careful when naming things!"

The Marshtomp stepped back, gulping. Of course he blew it. "S-Sorry, sorry, sorry! Please forgive me!"

"Easy, easy. We can try changing it now, I think." Audrey hopped down, shaking her head. "Dang it… hey, Porygon-Z, can we change the name?"

Porygon-Z bobbed its head. "Requesting name change. State your reasoning."

Nick grunted. "The name sucks."

The clerk stopped, making a high-pitched, instrumental sound as it processed the information given to it.

Shiron tilted his head. Did… that sounded like a computer noise. Unsurprisingly.

"Request denied," Porygon-Z finally said. "I have determined 'the name sucks' is not a good reason. You may request another name change in twenty-nine days, twenty-three hours and fifty-nine minutes."

"...So much for that," Nick looked down, defeated, and let out a whimper. His ears began to flop down. "Let's go to the base."

He began to walk off into the exit alongside Audrey, but Shiron remained in place, still frozen. "I-I… I'm sorry."

Nick turned back. He took a long breath. "It's fine, c'mon."

Magnus entered the (if it could even be called that) team base carrying a large box. Anyone nearby could smell the content inside: a fresh cake. For his friends, of course.

And what a genius I am, made a bigger one for that hungry lil 'shtomp.

Right away, he realized how different the office was. For starters, the area he was in had a large gray sofa, a table with an empty bowl for snacks, and open windows that let the air enter. The inner areas were still a mystery, but at least the main part of the base worked well enough.

"Anyone here?" Magnus asked. "Kinda hard to close the do—"

A vine sprouted next to Magnus, wrapping around the handle and closing the door.

"—or. Okay, thanks." Magnus smiled sheepishly.

"Ah, the baker we helped earlier." Liz put down her vine, simply eyeing the Quilladin. "Hello, may I ask what you are doing here?"

"...Welcome party. Nick asked, and I thought 'Hey, why not bring cake to the peeps that saved my bro?', so here I am."

Terry was the next to appear, sniffing the air and drooling from the smell. "Cake! Chocolate, right?"

"Yup!" Magnus wagged his tail. Apart from how… Liz seemed to be, these two didn't look all that bad. "Seems the others will get here soon, can we prepare the place for 'em?"

"Disgusting," Liz stated. "...But better than mopping. I shall take it."

"Whoa boy, you're easy to convince, huh?" Magnus blinked. Well, at least it worked.

"You have no idea…" Terry muttered. He motioned for them to follow, deep inside the house.

"Cool!" Magnus followed.

This next area was more of the same, but instead of a sofa, there were multiple tables, one for each member. Magnus' eyes landed on the corner, seeing a mini fridge: the perfect place to put the cake. And he did just that.

Magnus looked around, searching for the nearest chair to sit on. "Can I ask you guys something?"

Terry was on his table already, and nodded. "Sure thing!"

"It is… acceptable, yes."

"Honestly, I was gonna ask why'd you run away, but I got something better," he said, biting a lip. "So, uh, how was the trip? That storm looked really rough…"

"Other than the storm, pleasant." Liz said, flicking a rose. "I was taught how to steer a ship, and though it took me a while to get used to a smaller vessel, we pulled through. As you can see."

"I see. We don't usually have storms…" Magnus replied. He looked up, thinking. "Usually, I heard some people talking about mini storms. Not here, but like, in the center of the continent. Not large enough to be relevant, I think. Thought it was something similar to the one you guys faced."

Hearing that, the Tyrunt tilted his head. "Never heard of mini storms."

"I cannot say I have heard of them either." Liz added. "However, the world is largely unknown, even to us. Perhaps it is another one of life's mysteries."

Just then, they heard the door opening. Magnus' ears twitched. Maybe the others had arrived! And he could show the cake he baked!

"I'll go check that out," he said, going through the door he came from.

Nick had left Audrey back home after a request from her, justifying it by saying she was working on something impressive for him and the rest of the team.

So now only he and Shiron were left, walking towards their base. They didn't talk much on the way, the fallout of what happened at the bank still fresh in their minds.

"How was I supposed to know that guy was so literal?"

"It's a machine, Shiron!" Nick protested with a whine. "A month! A month to change the name again! You're not even taking this seriously!"

"I'm not? Nick, you're the one that forced me to be a leader, I told you I had no qualities!"

Nick clenched his fists, holding back the urge to punch his friend right then, right there. Not due to anger (though he felt that way), but because what Shiron said wasn't true in the slightest! How could he not see the qualities?!

More importantly, why blame him?!

"Stop that, don't pin this on me!" Nick snarled at him. "You have! It's just… I wanted this for so long, and it's… not how I pictured it."

Did Nick sound… sad? No, disappointed. Yeah, that was it.

Shiron rubbed his right arm. "I'm sorry, Nick. I didn't mean to do it."

"I know you didn't," he replied. With a drawn-out sigh, Nick continued. "...It's fine, let's go."

Yet, Shiron wasn't any better. He still ruined everything, didn't he? Just like always… always ruining things, always the worst person to ever exist. A mistake, that's what Shiron was. An abomination.

He kicked the grass. Then again, and then once more. Shiron's voice turned into a roar, a cry for help. Everything about it hurt, he needed to let it out, bottling up no longer.

"I-I can try talking to Porygon-Z again!" Shiron cried. Yes, cried. The tears came rushing in, and there was no stopping them. "J-Just… please, please forgive me! I-I didn't mean to do it, Nick!"

"W-Whoa, calm down!" Nick turned to him, gasping. He stepped closer. "It's fine, Shiron! I'm fine! We all make mistakes, it's gonna be okay!"

"...You don't mean it," he blurted, panting. "Everyone says that, but they never mean it. Mom and Dad made sure of that… of telling me all about how much of a mistake I am!"

"What?" Nick grunted. Wanting to delay it no further, he hugged the Marshtomp tightly. "Shiron, you're not a mistake! If your parents told you that, screw them! You're my friend! I was upset about the name, but I don't think you're a mistake because of it!"

Shiron sniffled, saying nothing more. He just… accepted the hug. It was nice, fluffy, and felt good. His parents were wrong… they had to be wrong.

Wait. His parents.

Shiron pulled back from the hug, noticing what he did. What he told Nick. Oh shit, oh shit! I said too much!

"Are you alright, Shiron?" Nick asked. His concern sounded genuine enough.

"Uh, uh, y-yeah! Seems like I got some memories back during this moment, huh? I-I didn't even know I had parents, haha!"

Nick blinked at him, then shook his head. "...Shiron, I know."

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Shiron did his best to not make the internal screaming become external. "Know… what?"

"I know you're human," Nick replied, rubbing the back of his head. "...I knew it for a while. Washed up on the shore, claimed to have no memories, acted all weird…"

Shiron's heart sunk. "I don't know what you're talkin' about! I'm just a wee little Marshtomp!"

However, he figured the gig was up at this point. "...Why didn't you say anything?"

"I figured you wanted it to be a secret, so I played along." Nick didn't falter. In fact, he seemed 100% serious. "And it's not like humans are that uncommon. I mean, some 'mon don't believe they exist, but I always did."

"You… why?" Shiron sounded and looked confused. Frowns, drooped gills, it was all splattered on his face.

"I dunno," Nick shrugged. "All I know is that you're my friend. And I mean it. If your parents told you that crap, just ignore them. It's not easy, but… you got a friend in me, buddy."

Shiron began wobbling again, and hugged the Riolu again, putting all his strength. "T-Thank… thank you."

Nick returned the hug, tail wagging. "Here's something funny. Did you know there's conspiracy theories claiming they're controlling us from the inside? Like, some secret human society! Crazy, huh?"

"Y-Yeah, crazy…" Shiron sported a laugh. It was funny, and useful for calming down. "Let's… go to the base. Our friends are waiting, right?"


After more walking, they eventually saw the old building in the distance. Shiron also noticed what appeared to be a brown blur, but didn't see any other details.

On the other hand, Nick recognized what that was. Who that was. "Shiron, it's that prick Golem again! C'mon, we gotta run!"


They sped up, Nick obviously walking faster and with more vigor. But Shiron was able to keep the pace, following a bit behind his friend. As they got closer, they were able to see more details about what was going on.

The Golem was standing in front of the door, grinning, while Magnus was on the other side with drops of sweat falling from his face. Whatever it was, it made Nick and Shiron's heart start to race.

"Hey, stop whatever you're doing!" Shiron cried out, stopping suddenly, only to fall on the floor and roll for a moment, until Nick pulled him upwards. "T-Thanks!"

"Why are you here, Daichi?" Nick asked, letting go of the Marshtomp. "What do you want?!"

"Oh shit, you guys got here!" The Golem replied, now facing them. "Just wanted to have a chat. Heard you folks haven't taken our little tip in consideration…"

"H-Hi Shiron, hi Nick!" Magnus whispered towards them. "I'm good, don't worry."

"And y'all went to the trouble of getting an office and registering!" Daichi grinned, waving them off. "...But lemme tell you something, Nick. Sometimes, dreams just don't become true! Sometimes they get grinded, turned into dust! Think 'bout it, we don't have the resources, me and my teammates even tried to make things easier for you. And you refused. Every. Single. Time."

"I know we don't have resources!" Nick snarled. His fur stood on end as he prepared to fight. "But I can't give up on that! If I have to claw my way, I will!"

"Tch, 'mons like you are very annoying…" Daichi cracked his knuckles.

Time stopped. The Riolu and Golem locked eyes, none of them saying a word. It looked like a fight was about to break out at any point.

Shiron looked at them, confused. Daichi, meanwhile, roared, curving into a ball and rolling towards Nick.

That was it. It had started. Shiron felt his heart stop for a moment, and before he knew it, his body did something odd. It moved on its own. And it kept moving, kept running in Daichi's direction. He couldn't stop, nor did he want to stop.


A cloud of sandy smoke appeared before Nick, forcing him to quickly put on his goggles. One he did it, the sight in front of him made the canine gasp: Shiron was using both arms to grab Daichi, preventing his attack.

"S-Stop! I can't let you hurt my friend like this!" Shiron grunted, putting more pressure. Slowly, he began forcing the Golem backwards. "And… A-And I'll do everything I can to help him! I'll stop you!"

Daichi began to chuckle, stopping on his tracks. He pulled back, still laughing. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Holy shit, that was hilarious! How'd you do that?"

"I-I… don't know." Shiron fell on his rear, panting. I… can't be that strong, can I?

Magnus quickly made his way towards Shiron, standing on his side. "A-Are you alright?"


"Tell you what," Daichi looked at Nick, then at Shiron. "I have an idea that'll solve our problems. Let's play a game, shall we? A competition, if you will. To decide who gets to represent this town!"

"...You want to do what?!" Nick protested with a bark.

"A workplace competition! We'll figure it out later, but if you win, we'll let you have all our resources. If we win, you disband. How's about it?"

Nick stopped. Even if it was a crazy idea, it could work. All they had to do was win. He looked at Shiron and solemnly nodded. "It's his decision."

Shiron panted, frowning harder than he ever did this day. "...I'll do it."
Chapter 8 - Not So Different


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
A/N: This chapter contains a trigger warning for child abuse.

Chapter 8 - Not So Different

After the dream I'm lost and alone.

Quickly falling right through the unknown.

So I will fly and be free.

Escape this awful wasteland.

I will not worry!

Compared to the other days, Shiron woke up way too early. His yawning, tired eyes and overall sluggish posture proved it. Even while walking. If anything, walking made it worse. At least he had breakfast.

…Why do I need to go to this old man anyway? They know I'm not a fighter. There's no way this guy can make me strong in just a morning.

With another yawn, Shiron stretched his arms. The streets were mostly empty, being early in the morning, and the breeze felt nice on his scales. Windy, a tad salty. Not the best, but there wasn't any swamp nearby;

But—they're counting on me to help. And win this stupid competition. Shiron sighed, his friends' dreams weren't stupid, it was just the tiredness speaking. Hm. Wonder what they're making us do. Can I even help…? Bein' useless is my thing, but… gotta try.

He stopped, taking a look around. Shiron was back in the center of the town, and now all he had to do was go down one of the streets to find that house. If Nick told him correctly, it's…

"Left!" Shiron said, only to himself. Part of him wanted to make a quick stop at Magnus' bakery, but it was too early, the place probably wasn't open yet. Maybe he could find another excuse to go?

Okay what am I thinking? Having responsibilities sucks, but it is what it is. Just need to meet this "Ronan" guy.

Now that he stopped to think about it, this world was weird. There's a Rowan, a Ronan, and a Charmeleon named Onyx. Y'know, maybe being reborn into an odd world is my punishment for… existing.

Defying all odds, Shiron was still alive. He turned left and continued on his way.

As he walked, Shiron saw more houses, all normal. Not too big, not too small, some made of wood, others with bricks… nothing that caught his attention.

That was, until his eyes landed on a large, white house. Of course, it could be just another one, if not for the large open field on its left, full of wooden, featureless mannequins.

Target practice…? Or some kinda graveyard? Shiron gulped. It better not be a graveyard. Wait, it doesn't look like a graveyard. I'm an idiot! Why am I like this?

After a quick slap on his cheeks, Shiron grumbled. That had to be the house! Now for his greatest weakness: asking for the guy to help him. Or… old man. Yeah, old man. More respectful that way.

Okay, stop getting distracted by random stuff. Just gotta go, knock on the door, hope he doesn't instantly want to skin me alive, and—and I'm going on a tangent again, because why not?

Shiron clapped his hands, laughing out loud in an attempt to calm down, or at least ignore the oppressive anxiety of having to go there and do things.

Okay! On three! Three… two… two and a half… two point six… two point seven…

He gulped, charging ahead as fast as he could, quickly getting to the door. Shiron knocked three times.

Seconds felt like hours, while Shiron waited for someone to answer. Maybe there wasn't anyone home! He could hope for that. Then nobody would need him to do things and he could just… help with the competition. With emotional support.

Alas, luck was not in his favor, as the door creaked open. Shiron's heart thumped, eagerly waiting for whoever was on the other side—

"Hm?" A Houndoom answered. The same one from before. Shiron forgot his name… but it had to be. With that stern, yet soft expression. "Oh, you're that kid from before! Are you here to ask for assistance? I was just visiting Ronan, he's an old friend of mine."

"O-Oh, hi!" Shiron waved. Ivan! His name was Ivan! The third name that ended with "-an"! How could he forget? "Yup. Some friends said he could help me control my moves better, and he's a st—water-type like me! Two Starly with one Rock Tomb, amirite?"

Shiron felt himself die inside from that sentence. When did he learn it…?

"Kids these days… you never know what they are talking about." Ivan hummed. "Ah, where are my manners? Ronan was preparing tea for us, perhaps you wish to join? I am sure he will accept your request. He hasn't tutored anyone in a very long time."

…Y'know, maybe this won't be that bad. I get to be more useful to them, which means it's less likely they'll abandon me. Everyone wins! Shiron nodded. "I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm not a fan of tea. It's like, hot leaf juice. So, uh, I'll just wait for him outside?"

Ivan wondered for some seconds, then nodded. "Very well. But are you sure you will be alright? It's a little hot, even with the wind. Not to mention there could be a storm at any moment."

"I'm fine!" Shiron said. And I've been through worse…

"Alright. I will—"

"What is this ruckus?" Another voice said. Ivan stepped aside, leaving space for Ronan to appear. The Samurott eyed Shiron, rubbing his beard. "Oh, a youngster?"

"His name is Shiron." Ivan added. "He wanted to talk to you. Perhaps the tea can wait. I am… curious about his prowess. I have heard a lot about Swampert and their supposed boat-lifting strength."

Surely I'm not that strong. Shiron tilted his head. Alright then. "Uh, mister Ronan? My friends told me you could help me get stronger, can I… can you teach me the ropes? Of being a water-type?"

Ronan opened his mouth, gasping weakly. "A student? Hmmm. Curious. I'm not entirely sure how much help I can be, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with trying it."

"Is that a yes…?" Shiron asked, eyes sparkling. Maybe he really could become stronger!

"Of course," the Samurott turned to Ivan. "Could you check the tea? I am going to prepare the training grounds for him."

"Understood." Ivan nodded, walking inside the house.

After seeing him enter, Ronan eyed Shiron. "Alright, we will commence soon. I just need to prepare something. Wait here, I won't take long."

Shiron nodded. His gills began twitching.

And wait he did. For a short amount of time. Ronan went inside his house, and when he was back, he wore a black belt, like some sort of martial artist. He also put gray, fingerless gloves on his paws.


"Hmph." Ronan eyed him, fierce, powerful. "We will commence your training right now. Follow me."

Ivan left the house as well, not expressing any discernible emotion. His tail flicked just once, and he followed Ronan to the area with mannequins. Shiron gulped, then did the same.

Once they arrived, Ronan turned around, facing Shiron. "For this part of your training, we will measure your strength. I want you to hit one of my mannequins, and attempt to destroy it."

"Huh," he looked at the one closest. It was just… wood. Destroying it would be incredibly easy. Alright, let's see… I know Liquidation, apparently. Maybe Tackle? I'm sure I can tackle this thing.

Deciding to go for a simple tackle, Shiron charged, punching the mannequin straight in its featureless head. The impact produced a loud sound, but to his surprise, it was intact. Shiron blinked, maybe he needed more power…? That had to be it.

So he backed down and tried another punch, followed by a flurry of them. Ivan watched it, intrigued. Ronan simply glared, arms crossed.

Come on! budge! Or crack, something!

"Enough." Ronan said, and Shiron instantly stopped his attacks. "They were designed to withstand great force. However… you did well, really well for someone untrained. You are untrained, correct?"

"...You could say that." Shiron sighed, looking at his fists; both unharmed. This body's really tough… last time I tried punching my problems away, my hands were bleeding…

"I can see you have good physical strength," he added. "...But why a tackle? You're evolved, why haven't you attempted another attack?"

"Can't." Shiron shrugged. "I mean, I used… err, some weird drill thing, my friends said it was liquidation?"

Those words seemed to make Ronan's eyes widen. "Liquidation? At such a young stage? Fascinating! And you're not capable of controlling it?"

"It is intriguing," the Houndoom pointed out, scratching his chin with his right paw. "Very rare. I won't press you for details, however."

Ronan nodded. "Hm. And besides those two, do you know any other moves?"

Shiron stopped to think. He didn't even try more moves, how was he supposed to know which ones he could? The only reason he got Liquidation was through the heat of the moment.

"Your silence speaks a thousand words." The Samurott sighed. "I know of something that can help you figure it out, but I don't have it with me. Perhaps for a future session. For now, we should focus on your two attacks."


This is going well… more than I thought it would. Shiron smiled weakly. "What now?"

"Now, you will attempt to use Liquidation again." Ronan said, walking towards him. "Since you're new at this, I don't believe you can generate your own water. Can you?"


"Seems the answer is no." Ronan rubbed his beard, thinking. "Normally, trained Pokémon are able to draw in their aura to summon elemental attacks. Of course, not all attacks are elemental."

He yanked the swords on his legs, Shiron gasping once he saw they weren't as pointy as the Samurott in his world. Ronan closed his eyes, an aura of dark energy surrounded his body.

Shiron tilted his head. "What are you—"

In the blink of an eye, Ronan was gone. Shiron was only able to hear the sound of slashing and of cuts surrounding him, seeing flashes of dark light attacking all of the mannequins at once. And then Ronan returned, putting down his blades.

"Okay. Okay." Shiron clapped his hands together, inhaling. "What was that?"

"Ceaseless Edge." Ivan answered. "Samurott's signature move."

No it isn't?! Shiron blinked. What.

"...At least my type of Samurott," Ronan said. "I am a water and dark-type Samurott. Much like there are ice Vulpix."

Shiron simply nodded, having no words to say. Of course there was a dark-type Samurott. Why wouldn't it be real?

"Regardless, that was a demonstration. Shiron, I would like you to attempt using Liquidation."

"Aye. No idea how, though…" Shiron extended his left arm, just like that time at the dungeon.

"Ivan, could you grab some buckets of water?" Ronan asked, to which the Houndoom nodded, heading inside the house. "Shiron. Focus on your aura, on yourself. You are a waterfall. Strong, powerful. Your aura flows through you. It envelops you, strengthens you."

Many kind words. Shiron took a deep breath and closed his left fist. Thinking… remembering what he saw at the dungeon, of how useless and weak he felt. How powerless he was. Unable to even hurt a wild Pokémon, much less help his team.

I don't wanna… be useless. My life is worth it. I'm worthy. I deserve to live! And I will use my life to help my friends… to help this world!

Shiron roared! Exploded with power and energy! Like he could take on the entire world with nothing but his fists and friends to keep company!

…His fist was still normal. No water.

Ronan couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "Maybe you're a little too excited, youngster. I wasn't expecting you to be that strong. At least not yet. But it's good, you have motivation."

Shiron started blushing, and slowly lowered his arm. "M-My bad… why am I s-such… such an i-idiot…"

"Once you get a source of water, it'll be easier to do it." Ronan nodded. "Besides, why don't you check what you did?"


Something did change. The air around Shiron's mouth got cold, and on the ground next to him, a stream of ice formed.

"I-I know Icy Wind?!"

"Seems like it. Good, now you have a weapon against grass-types. Your kind is very weak against them."

Shiron smiled, stuttering. "W-Well… gonna try L-Liquidation next, r-right?"

"Yes." Ivan said, carrying a large bucket of water in his mouth. He walked next to Ronan, and slowly put the bucket down. "I will observe from afar. Do not worry about me."

Ronan grinned. "Now… are you ready to make use of your power?"

Shiron didn't bat an eye. "I am! I'll do my best! I-I can do this!"

Ronan nodded. "Good. Now, follow my lead. Liquidation is a special move. It resonates well with your emotions. I've heard that most types have a move like this, however…"

"You can't tell me the other cuz you don't know about 'em." Shiron said, rubbing his head. "Gotcha, gotcha. No problem! But, uh, what does this mean?"

"You said it was a drill. For some, it can be a sword, for others, a gauntlet. It depends from mon to mon." Ronan explained, extending his arm slightly. "I will demonstrate. Remember, you are like a stream of water, you dictate how it flows."

Shiron closed his eyes, and started picturing it. Himself, deep inside a lake, water flowing from all sides. It followed his every movement, every little gill twitch, it all changed the flow. Shiron was in command.

"Repeat what I say." Ronan moved his arm like a wave, water forming on the top of his palm, up and down. "...I'm a stream. Water flows within me, strong and free."

"Water flows within me, strong and free." Shiron repeated, his arm already up. Slowly, the water on the bucket began to rise up and cover his arm. He noticed his scales becoming wet, but remained focused.

"Good, good." Ronan chuckled, then flicked his ear. "...Don't repeat that last part. Just focus on stabilizing your move. Can you feel it?"

Shiron did, indeed, feel it. The water in his arm wobbled, taking shape. Could it be any shape?

"...Do you know why it's a drill, Shiron?"

"No—wait, wait…" Shiron raised his watery arm in the air, the water now fully turned into a drill. "With this, I will thrust through every adversity, opening my way to the future! Kicking logic to its curb, and doing the impossible!"

Ronan clapped. "...Well done. You have successfully used Liquidation."

Shiron panted, looking at his arm. It was so eery, but calming at the same time. "I-I did it! I actually did it! I—"

His momentary distraction made the water destabilize, falling on top of him. Shiron grumbled, taking off his scarf. "...Well, better than not doing it at all."

Ivan stepped in. "Congratulations, kid. But if I may, why are you in such a hurry to learn?"

"Daichi and his goons challenged my friends," Shiron wrung out the scarf, trying to get rid of the water. "And if we win, we get to properly act as a rescue team, or something like that."

"Ah." Ivan said, bluntly. "I see… do take care."

"Would you like to train more, Shiron?" Ronan asked. "We can take a break, and drink some tea."

"I'll… pass." Shiron had considered it. Just for a little while. "I don't like tea all that much. Besides, Nick asked me to not take too long here."

"Alright. When am I expecting to see you again?"

Shiron was already turning to leave, but took a moment to look at them. "Uh, tomorrow! I'm gonna show up at around the same time, so wait for me!"

The jog towards their base was fast, Shiron had enough energy to spare, even after using so much for that training. He smiled. So far, the day had been pretty good! Hopefully it would stay that way. Shiron already heard sounds of huffing and grunting, and a whip. Were they training…?

Well, only one way to find out! Hopefully it's training and not, y'know, killing each other. Shiron gulped. They better not be killing each other.

He stopped right in front of the office, sighing in relief, rubbing sweat off his head.

What happened was Liz creating thorny blades out of hervines, and Nick dodging multiple in a row. After three dodges, his palm turned light blue, and he aimed at the Roselia, firing a wave of energy, not exactly wind, no, Liz noticed it felt like a vacuum, sucking the air in, and it was aimed right at her face.

"U-Urgh!" Liz was hit, retreating her vines and rubbing her eyes with the roses, panting. Once she opened them again, she saw multiple Nicks, running towards her, their claws extended, shining like metal, and he slashed at her.

"G-Guys! Calm down, you're fighting too hard!" Terry said, waddling towards them, gasping and stuttering. "C-Can't we find a safer way to spar?"

"Sire, stay back!" Liz said, seeing the Nicks getting closer than was needed. Instead of trying to find out which one was real, she focused, her entire body glowing yellow, and soon enough, Liz stepped back.

Where she once stood was a lifeless substitute, entirely made of aura. Nick slashed it into pieces, watching it dissipate. He grinned, smiling and flicking his tail.

"Not bad!"

"Hm. You know Double Team, I know Substitute. Perhaps there is merit to working together after all." Liz flicked her cape, flashing a smile of her own.

"H-Hey, guys." Shiron stepped in, gulping. That was an intense fight, he could tell, and wondered if he'd ever get to that level, or remain a "wee little Marshtomp", like he called himself. "...What'd I miss?"

"Ah, Marshtomp." The Roselia turned to him, her smile gone in an instant. "I expected you to take longer. But for important matters first: you and I will work on this competition. At least, for the first challenge."

"H-Hi, Shiron!" Terry waved with his tiny arms. "They were just sparring. No need to worry. I say… worrying. Heh."

"Heya," the Riolu grinned. "Yup, what Liz said. We figured you two were the best match for this. And—"

"You could become friends!" Terry said, chirping, eyes sparkling.

"Marshtomp. We have a lot to discuss."

"And that's our cue to make it like a Liz and leave!" Nick smirked. Terry laughed at the joke, and the two entered the office.

Liz watched them leave and took a long, deep breath. Good. She was all alone with that Marshtomp. Her mental gears were already grinding, thinking, planning her next words.

"You alright?" Shiron asked, tugging on his scarf nervously. "D-Did I do something wrong? Usually, when someone says they need to talk, it's because I screwed something up. A-Actually, not usually. I-It's… it's all of the time. I'm used to it, b-but—"

"You have done nothing wrong, Marshtomp," she replied, crossing her rosy arms. "But if we do not do something, you will. Losing this little competition would crush my sire's heart, and I cannot let it happen. If I must work with you to win, then so be it. And we will win."

"...Do we even know what it's gonna be? Hard to be prepared for something if we don't know what it is."

As much as it brought her pain to admit it, Liz knew he had a point. It didn't mean that it was pretty. Not at all. Her normal expression turned into a frown, an angry frown.

"We do not. Which is why we must prepare for everything, Marshtomp." Liz glared at him, pouting. "...I already failed to convince my Highness to stay out of this little friendship party you seem to have, but he has grown fond of you, despite how little time you spent together. I can at least respect his wishes, even if I do not agree with them."

"Terry seems nice," he shrugged. Shiron raised a brow, curious. "But also, what? We can't prepare for everything. I mean… I get that, but yeah. I don't wanna lose either."

Shiron took a look at his arms. Even if they were small, he still saw the scars on his wrists. Maybe he should find a way to cover them… they started aching just by thinking of losing. "...We can try our best."

"I know we cannot, but our best is not enough—" Liz's eyes widened as she looked at the scars. They almost looked like someone whipped that area. "...What happened, Marshtomp? You say you do not know how to fight, but those are the marks of a fighter."

He was visibly taken aback, trembling. "...Did I ever tell you about my memories?"

"This is the first time we are having any kind of conversation."

Was it a good idea to share this with her? They were nothing more than acquaintances, at best, but… something in him told Shiron it was okay to be vulnerable.

"...M-Mom and dad. If I wasn't the perfect son they wanted, well, they'd… punish me." Shiron tapped his stomach, gills flopping down. "Sometimes, it was starvation. Other times, they whipped me. It was their way or no way at all."

Oh. This explains… a few things. Is that why he is so anxious? And hungry, too. Liz stared in silence, then wrapped a vine around her cape, pulling it down and turning around to him. On her back was a large burnt mark, almost like someone marked her with hot metal.

"I could not afford to lose. Protecting the royal bloodline was my job. Always."

"Oh, you—you… heavens, I'm so sorry you had to go through that!" Shiron said, trembling. That was why she was so stiff and responsible? He never expected their backgrounds to be so similar.

Liz didn't either. Her frown turned into a soft smile. "...Shiron. What is your reason for joining this team? Glory?"

"I wanted to help a friend," he said, smiling as well. "A-and I thought it'd help me find my place in the world. That kind of thing."

"...I see. Well, I have not found my reason yet. Perhaps this challenge will help me find it. We will win. I will think of something, and then let you know. Is that alright?"

"G-Got it." Shiron nodded. Now he could find a spot to get some food. The talk about starving reminded him of how fun it was to visit Magnus' bakery. "I'm gonna get some snacks for us, can you wait? I'm sure we can plan something."

Liz turned back, facing the entrance of their office. "Meet me here in two hours."


One thing Shiron learned during the time he spent there—was it a week? Two? Probably two—was that he could count on Magnus for mental support. And food, but mostly support. And he could really use a break from that talk with Liz. It hit a little too close to home.

It had been a while, too, and now the streets weren't so empty. Shiron simply followed the smell of food, feeling like he could almost fly, like he was in a cartoon.

Well, that was impossible, but the thought was there. Shiron followed along the streets, smiling more the closer he got to that place. And he got just in time! Magnus was opening the bakery with a key, wearing that little apron he always wore.

"Heya!" Shiron appeared from behind, grinning. "Howdy, Mag Mag! Or Magnus. Sorry, I'm bad with nicknames."

"Gah!" Magnus nearly jumped, if he wasn't used to Shiron just appearing out of nowhere. "H-Heya, Shiron. How're you doing? I'm just opening the place up, I take it you're here for the usual?"

"Yup. And for a talk, if you wanna!" Shiron smiled, but then began to stutter. "C-Cuz… don't need to talk to me if you don't."

"You're my friend. Why would I not want to talk to you?" Magnus raised a brow, opening the door. "Just need to set some stuff up, turn on the fridge, but yeah, we can talk. You'll want the usual, right?"

"Chocolate cake…" Shiron rubbed the drool off of him. "That's right! You know me really well."

"Alright. Won't take too long, I promise!"

Too long definitely didn't mean "half an hour", as that was the time Shiron took waiting, sitting on a table all on his own. But eventually, Magnus came, holding a large slice of chocolate cake, along with oran juice, on a black platter.

"Here ya go!" Magnus put it down, and then sat. "Alright, what's up?"

"...Workplace competition's tomorrow." Shiron said, already eating half of the cake. "It's putting a lot of pressure on me, feel like I can't fail—if I do, I'm letting everyone down."

And if I let everyone down, they'll abandon me…

Magnus smiled softly, shaking his head. "You're not letting anyone down! It's gonna be alright, Shiron, just wait! Even if you guys lose, it's not like it's the end of the world, right? Besides, the rules are: whoever wins three times first wins."

"Yeah, yeah, I know…" he sipped a bit of the juice, pouting. "Seems like Liz'll be my partner for this. She's scary."

"I get that, honestly.' Magnus nodded. He noticed the cake was already gone, and sweat dripped. "Errr… I believe in you! You saved my little bro, that's enough for me. And if you don't believe in yourself… how about believing in me?"

Why does that sound like it's from an anime… do they even have it here? Shiron blinked, sipping the rest of his juice at once. "I get it, I really do. Liz said my best won't be enough, and I dunno. I kinda heard that enough in my life already. I think she feels the same way."

"Then make use of that, buddy! She gets how you feel, and together, you can win and kick that Golem's ass!" Magnus smiled, wagging his tail "...Metaphorically speaking."

Can this guy stop being so good and friendly for five minutes? I can't take this. Shiron smiled in return. "Alright, I'll try to train more. Before I go, can I take some slices for them? Promise I won't eat 'em all!"



Magnus sighed. "Okay, I believe you. But tell you what, I'm gonna prepare snacks myself, and I'll take it to them when it's break time."

Shiron gave him a thumbs-up. "Fine by me! Before I go… can I have more cake?"

"...Yeah, yeah you can."

"We aren't changing anything." Nick crossed his arms, stern. "Liz, there's a reason we decided you should pair up with him."

Liz huffed. We? That meant her Highness and the Riolu both did it. Behind her back. Of course.

"...May I ask what that reason is?"

"I wanted you to get a friend." Terry said bluntly, shrugging. "Nick said it was a good way of getting you to bond."

Nick leaned against the wall, smirking. "And I was right. Besides, it's good for team building and all that jazz."

"Hmph." Liz grumbled, looking down. "Shiron is too kind. I do not believe he has what it takes to win. Yet, you, Riolu, seem to trust him. And Sire…"

"They saved us," the prince added, blinking. "It's the least we can do! And I feel like if we stay, I'll be able to learn more about the world than I did at home… so yeah, even if we lose, and I know that you hate losing, we can still all be friends!"

She bit her lip. Friends… something never necessary. Not for someone like her. Liz thought Shiron was the same, but he wanted friends. There was something different about them.

"I just do not understand how me and him could make a successful team." Liz sighed, eyeing Terry. She had an unusual soft expression, even for how much he knew her. "...I need to trust him, correct? That is hard, but… if you two are able to trust him, then I will do my best. Even if it is not enough."

"Good. That brings us to our next topic…" Nick rubbed his chin, thinking. "How to win this in an effective way. We don't know what they're planning, but we can try to maximize you and Shiron's strengths."

Terry nodded. "Yup, so, uh, Liz, mind sharing your strengths? Might be useful, you know."

"My strengths…" Liz began to wonder, taking a seat. Her mind, like the office, was mostly empty. It was harder to think than she expected, like trying to find someone in a large crowd.

As a Roselia, she was equipped with tools that could incapacitate. Poison powder, for one. Sleep powder, stun powder… she could use all of them in the competition. Hm, she was good at supporting, but had access to more damaging attacks, like Leaf Blade. She could use a decoy, which was effective at distracting opponents.

"A little of everything, I suppose," she finally said, nodding. "I am not sure how to describe it, but since Shiron is not trained, I can try to support him. Or rather… I must, if we are to have a chance. He is not so reliable in terms of combat."

"If there's even combat to be had…" Nick muttered. True, they all expected combat to be a part of it, but it wasn't certain. Who knew what those guys had going on. "...If not, we can try coming up with a plan B. Maybe you should find him and train? I think Shiron tried training with Ronan, but I'm not sure how well that went."

As they were talking, the door creaked open, and Shiron popped in, holding a large bag of sweets from Magnus' bakery. He already had a donut stuck in his mouth, and was currently chewing on it.

"Perfect. Just who I wanted." Liz stood up. "Shiron, I would like to spar with you. For some hours, at least. So I can have an idea of how you fight, and so we can plan our strike tomorrow."

"W-Whoa, whoa! Slow down!" Shiron shoved the donut down, coughing. "S-Sparring? I… I guess I could do that. After this snack, I mean."

Liz nodded. "Perfect! We shall spar until the sun sets. And… word of advice? I will not hold back."

Terry waved. "She really won't! You gotta take care! Nick, maybe you should prepare some orans, just in case."

"Can do."

With that plan, the quartet set out to do another training session, extending for most of the hours they had left that day.

Another day, another opportunity to fail at everything Shiron set out to do! He groggily got off his bed, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Today was the day. Their contest was starting, and obviously, his heart had already turned into a ticking time bomb the more he thought about it.

I can't lose. I won't lose. Need to win, need to be worthy… if I don't win, it means I'm not! Shiron frowned, his gills drooping down. …And if I win, I'm still not worthy, because it's just gonna be luck. It's always been luck, hasn't it? Lucky to die, lucky to be reborn, to find friends… always luck. Never a sign of me being anything other than meaningless garbage.

Shiron sat down, tugging his scarf again. His mind began to drift apart, far, far away from anything resembling this world, these people. No… he was thinking of a different life entirely.

Of his hometown, Lilycove, of that region full of water, of everything he once knew. Of a day, oh so many years ago, when he was just a child. Ten years old, he remembered well. Just a child.

It was a stormy night, Shiron remembered. He was hiding under a bed, inside a room shared by many other children. Children that left, being taken by their new moms and dads, some with two moms, some with two dads, others with just one of the two. But never him. Never, never him.

And he sniffled. His hands—human hands—were pulling away at his hair as he screamed, trying to understand why everyone else but him could find a family. Was it something wrong with him? It had to be. If he was a good son, then he wouldn't be there, at that orphanage. If he was good, someone would have adopted him by now.

Shiron wasn't good. His heart sank, and he began to cry, right there, under the bed. Dreaming about a future that would never come, because why would it? He was always alone, and Shiron would always be alone.

He heard footsteps, barely, his crying muffing them out. Shiron trembled. Could it be…? There wasn't anyone else in the room but him, as all the kids had left already. It had to be! But… it couldn't."

"This one hasn't been visited by many. Are you sure—?" Shiron recognized the voice as belonging to the headmaster.

A second voice grumbled. "My wife and I have decided. We want him."

…They want me?

Shiron crawled out of the bed, coughing up some dust and standing up. He rubbed more dust off his shirt and waited, still shaking. The door slowly creaked open, revealing a large man, well in his forties, wearing a tuxedo. The man eyed him intensively, like he was having second thoughts. His face looked weary and old. Very old.

"...Hello, child. My name is—ah, it doesn't matter. From this day onward, I am your father. Is that okay?"

He didn't even need to react, jumping straight ahead to hug the man, tears flowing down his face without any resistance. "Y-Yes, yes, please!"

The man didn't smile in return. All he did was lightly tap Shiron's head. "Come with me, I already made arrangements. You will be very useful, or I will make you useful."

Useful! Shiron was useful! He liked to think so! It had to be the case! He wanted it to be the case. With his new family, new home… Shiron wanted to be useful.

Oh, how he was wrong. And how long did it take for him to find out? From ten years old to… fifteen. Five years to realize that nothing in his life came for free. He grumbled, remembering one particular incident, one that he wanted to forget, to erase from every corner of his mind.

A hot, summer day. Shiron was in his room, a large, open room, with a bed, a table for studying, and a closet. His windows were open, though with that unbearable heat, it hardly mattered.

As a matter of fact, he was studying, Shiron could remember that much. A subject, math, probably, something that was hard to grasp.

Honestly, calling it studying would be a compliment. Shiron was, at most, trying to, but it was hard to focus with the hunger he felt, with how thirsty and tired he was.

So many formulas, so many numbers, letters… and some symbols he never even heard of! It didn't help that he smelled something being baked outside.

"The square root… I can't—what even is this? I don't understand a single thing!" Shiron panted, feeling his stomach growl. He looked at the door. Could he…? "Dad? Can you let me out? I-I haven't finished studying, but I'm hungry! And—well, if I starve to death, I can't be useful to you!"

No reply.

"Dad? Can you hear me?! I know someone's there! I-I'll be good! I'll finish this after I eat! P-Please!"

Still nothing.

The growl got worse. Shiron hazily hopped off the chair, panting. "D-Dad… dad, please. You can't—just let me out! Please, dad, please!"

Shiron fell on his knees. Tears rolled down again, and for a moment, he thought about trying to drink them, to not let that tiny bit of water go to waste.

He did it, but that didn't help. They were salty, and only made it worse. He kept crying, more, more. Hoping for something to change.

Finally, Shiron heard footsteps, quick, angry footsteps. He instantly stopped crying, holding back the tears as the door opened. His father… he was there, holding a whip on his right hand.

"I already told you… you're only leaving when I say you can. Do I need to teach you a lesson, kid? I don't expect anything other than perfection out of you."

"D-Don't need… to teach me a lesson. I-I'll… I'll try… just please… let me ea—"

The whip hit his hands, and Shiron fell to the ground, screaming.

Shiron snapped back to reality after hearing Nick close the door in a hurry. The Marshtomp panted, now seeing he was sweating through all possible pores.

"Heya—" Nick quirked a brow. "...I'd ask if you're alright, but huh, maybe not. Bad dream? Bad… human dream?"

"Something like that, yeah." Shiron stood up, slowly, checking in to see if he really was alright. Yup, still a Marshtomp. And no signs of his… father. Yikes. "We're getting ready?"

Nick nodded. "You overslept, but uuh, pretty much," he offered a paw. "C'mon! We gotta meet the others at the office! With that training you got yesterday, things should be easier!"

Easier, huh? Shiron thought. An intrusive thought was creeping in, he just knew it. …No. I suffered. I really suffered, can't deny that. That's why I'm here—why I'm gonna be a hero. So nobody suffers the same way I did.

"...Why are you standing there? Dude, c'mon."

Shiron followed him outside the room, and then, outside the house. On their way to HQ, he let the breeze course through him. Once a gentle breeze now was an oppressive one, that reminded him of home. Shiron frowned; he had to win. Nothing mattered other than perfection. A hero had to be perfect.

He looks odd… or, feels odd. Nick twitched his sensors, frowning, and cursing his inability to be accurate. …I can't feel it well, maybe I'm wrong? Honestly, let's hope I'm wrong. And if I'm not, that Shiron opens up about what's bothering him so much…

They soon arrived at the office, already seeing their teammates—Liz, in particular, seemed a little wary, her flowers even looked a tad tittered. Shiron frowned after seeing it. He couldn't help but worry.

"We're all here!" Nick said, tapping Shiron's back. "And up early! Well, at least you guys are. Where's the rest of them?"

"Didn't get here yet," Terry shook his head. "Amelia, Audrey and Magnus are inside. Magnus is making some cake, I think?"

For once, Shiron didn't immediately start feeling hungry. That could wait. "Okay, then. We should get ready?"

Liz nodded. She was all but ready, but it'd take a million years before she told anyone that. The training the day before alleviated some of her worries, but some of them were still there. How much the wound on her back hurt just by thinking they could lose.

Maybe Shiron could help. She did feel like he was a kindred spirit, with similar experiences to her own.

Experiences… Liz closed her eyes, reminiscing. The wound ached, and she felt like it was just yesterday she got that scar. She remembered it all, how it happened. It kept aching, even as she closed her eyes, grunting.

They were gone. Her new teammates. Instead, Liz saw a grassy, open field, where she stood at one side. On the other, she saw an Accelgor, adopting a battle stance. She knew this moment very well, a minor—major test of strength.

"Remember, Elizabeth." Accelgor said, crossing his arms and giving her a stern look. "We are members of the royal guard. Our lives are meaningless compared to the King. You are to lay down your life if it means protecting the heir."

Liz—Elizabeth nodded. She was well aware of the implications of this job, this duty of hers. "I understand, master. My job, my life is for the Prince."

"Good." Accelgor nodded, extending both his arms. "Then prove it to me. Show me your determination to protect him."

The Roselia stepped forward, charging. Accelgor grunted, dusty spikes protruding from his palms. He threw them, scattering all across the ground.

"Ah… You will need to do better than that." Elizabeth jumped in mid-air, spinning and readying her rose. It released a green powder that crackled with static. She spinned, making the powder cover more ground, spreading more evenly across the arena.

"Good. Stunning your opponents, preventing them from acting. But do you have the strength that it takes to—" As soon as the spores hit him, Accelgor faded into nothingness.

Elizabeth bit her lip, falling on her feet. Him disappearing could mean a few things. Double Team, Quick Attack, Purs—

Something struck her from behind, knocking her away. The Roselia spun, creating vines that stuck to the ground, stopping her from being pushed back further. However, this made Elizabeth touch the spikes and grunt in pain. Accelgor's body glowed with dark energy.

"Pursuit, hm? I should have expected as much."

"There is merit to paralyzing your adversary, but if they hit you before that… then it is pointless. Put more heart into it, Elizabeth. You are a proud bodyguard; act like one!"

First, I must get rid of those spikes… or perhaps… use them to my advantage.

Elizabeth ran, wrapping as many of the spikes as she could with vines, and then spun, launching them towards Accelgor. His eyes widened, dodging as many as he could. It left him open for an attack, and Liz took this opportunity to close in the distance to wrap her vines around his body, sucking his energy into herself.

"Well done," he said, raising an arm in the air. A single star made of energy formed, and was launched at her, cutting through the vines like they were nothing. Elizabeth jumped back to avoid being hit herself, and screamed, feeling the pain of being cut open.

"...That was nothing," she panted. Her gambit cost her some energy, and Accelgor was barely hurt at all. She had to think of a way to turn the tides, and fast.

"Quick reflexes, a sharp brain that adapted to another attack. You are doing well, Elizabeth." Accelgor nodded. "...But can you keep up? I will no longer hold back."

Liz simply smiled. "Come at me, then."

Just like she requested, Accelgor charged, moving in zigzag, then began spinning around Elizabeth. While he did so, Accelgor buzzed loudly, creating a shockwave that spread through multiple directions in order to hit her. She was hit by each one of the bug's buzzing, grunting. But she didn't give up.

My best…

Elizabeth waited, waited, and heard. She could do this, predict his next move. So Liz waited, focusing on nothing more than her hearing, and found the moment, making her grin. She shot a vine straight to her right, hitting Accelgor instantly.

"Not bad."

"Hmph." Liz pulled him closer with one arm, and with the other, her rose sprouted a seed, which she launched, making it explode right as it came into contact with Accelgor. Liz retreated the vines.

"I won." Elizabeth exclaimed, smiling. "...Was that it? Have I proved my worth to you, mas—"

She screamed in pain as something struck her from behind, Liz falling to the ground, shouting.

"Arrogant, full of yourself." Accelgor said, watching the Swift star dissipate. "...No, you lost. Despite your best efforts, you lost, Elizabeth."

"W-What? You coward, you attacked me from beh—"

Another star struck, but this time, the ground, only inches away from her.

"A savvy warrior uses all his tools." He said, bluntly. "...That is all. I am sorry, Elizabeth. But you do know what this means, don't you? To lose. You are unworthy."

"Unworthy… no." Liz stood up, slowly. "I can still fight. I will fight. It is what I was born for, and it is what I live for. I will prove my worth."

"Elizabeth." Accelgor demanded, furious. Liz simply stuttered, bowing slowly.

"...Good. I believe you know what this means."

"I… I do, Master." Liz turned around, her back facing Accelgor's front.

Accelgor's palm began to drip with poison; it coated that area in its entirety. Thick, purple poison. "I apologize, Elizabeth. But some warriors only learn through pain. I hope it makes you understand me. This mark will remain with you for as long as you live."

Elizabeth trembled, if only for a moment. She was ready for it. She had to be. Accelgor approached, touching her back with his poison-coated hand. She screamed, feeling the poison erode her. Ironically, since normally it would hardly give her this much pain. Accelgor—her master was much stronger, and this technique proved it.

She was weak. Pathetically weak. It was no surprise she didn't succeed, but that didn't mean she was accepting it. Elizabeth held back the tears; showing this type of emotion to her master and mentor would only make things worse. Besides, she knew he was right.

Liz remembered this day, so many years ago… how long? Five, no six, probably six, and how much it shaped her personality, her devotion to protecting Terry, and her drive to win at any cost. She opened her eyes, now back to that familiar area with the other teammates. Her eyes burnt with fire and determination. They would win.

"...These guys sure are taking their time showing up, huh?" Nick flicked his ears. If only he was able to sense them… but alas. "Maybe they gave up! Who knows, they could be coming in with a white flag to offer a peace sign."

"Doubt it," Shiron frowned. Honestly, he wanted that to be the case. But the previous encounters told him it wasn't the case. It'd never be the case.

And then, they finally came… Daichi, Jackett, and Onyx. Daichi wrapped a blue bandanna around his right arm, and once he saw Nick and Shiron, grinned.

"There they are!" Terry said, still keeping up the smile. "Think we can start this soon!"

Liz stepped forward, flicking her cape. "We can. I am warning you… I do not intend to hold back at all. I will achieve victory, and grasp it with my own…! Roses…"

She looked down, feeling her face start to heat up. How embarrassing

Shiron walked next to her, trembling. "W-We're gonna win. I'm doing my best, okay? I know we talked about it before, L-Liz, but this time I mean it. I'm gonna help! I'm not strong, o-or smart like you and Nick, or a prince like Terry… all I can really do is give it my all."

Onyx picked her hat, throwing it in mid-air and catching it without any effort. "Well, partners, we'll see about that."

Liz bit her lip. "...Your all. You keep saying that. Yet, I have—hm. Perhaps I should trust you more. At least a little more."

Daichi snapped a finger. "Jackett, will you do me the honors?"

The Beedril buzzed, nodding. "Of course. The rules are simple: we put a flag on the beach, and the contestants… Onyx and who—?"

Liz pointed at Shiron. "Me and him."

"Very well. You three will race to the beach. Whoever brings the flag back first wins."

"Sounds pretty simple, right?" This time, the Golem intervened, raising his hand. "You're allowed to use moves, as long as it's not like… Quick Attack, Extremespeed. Those are ruled out, alright? And 'course, you can fight! Just don't kill anyone."

"I ain't a murderer," Onyx put her hat on. "And that'll do it. Think I'm good to go, if y'all are too."

Nobody even called her that. Weird. Nick looked at his Marshtomp—human friend. "C'mon, Shiron! We'll be here, waiting for you!"

Terry's tail wagged. "Liz, you did an incredible job protecting me, you got this!"

Shiron tugged his scarf. I can do this… I can do this… we can—we can, I'm sure we can.

"I am ready." Liz smirked. Despite how obsessed she was with winning, this was nice. She missed a challenge like this, a chance to test her skills, to show off how strong she really was. If she had blood, it would be pumping.

"If you three are ready, then let's start the countdown." Jackett raised his arm in the air. "Five, four, three…"

With every second that passed, Shiron's heart beat. This was fine, he was fine. There was no use in letting his anxiety get the better of him. They could do this!

"Two… one… ready… GO!"

With those words ringing in all their minds, the three contestants sped up, running with all they had.

Apparently, Onyx had more than them. Her speed was higher, and she had the advantage of not having to deal with teammates to slow her down.

How Liz wished she could say that. Shiron was slow, sluggish, and had to stop to breathe every few seconds. At this rate, they'd be biting the dust sooner rather than later.

"W-Wait, Liz! They said we could fight…. y-you think we can try something?"

"Y'all are free to!" Onyx gave them a quick look, and continued running. They were at one of the streets now, moving closer to the center of the village.

Shiron frowned. "...How good are you at adapting?"

"I like to think a lot. Why?"

"Cuz of this!" Shiron inhaled as much air as he could, then unleashed a stream of frosty wind towards Ony—rather, the ground she was standing on.

Although short, it managed to distract her, as she had to shake off the bits of ice stuck to her. Liz readied her flowers, watching them turn into grassy blades, and she fired them while Onyx was busy removing the ice.

"What the—" Onyx roared, flames streaming out and burning the blades to a crisp. "Heh. Not bad, not bad! Didn't think y'all would think of something like that."

None of the attacks hit her, but Shiron still had a smile on his face; Onyx stopped running. If they could keep this up…

"...My master once told me that a savvy—"

"Liz, duck!"


Onyx rushed forward, trying to slash away at Liz. Shiron stepped in front, taking the hits without a single complaint. He resisted it all, retaining the smile. Shiron opened his mouth to release more icy wind, hitting the Charmeleon's face.

"Don't… hurt my friend!"

Onyx jumped back, hissing. She grinned "...Good plan, I'll give you that much. Constant attacks. Good. But there's more to fights than just strength! Or like… there's other types of strength. One of them is called: strategic retreating!"

She inhaled, bursting a single, black ball that split open into a large smokescreen. Shiron closed his eyes, grunting, while Liz cringed, covering her face with her roses.

"Damn it… Shiron, I remember the layout. If we keep heading forward, we can catch up!"

"Took the words outta my mouth," Shiron grunted, running ahead, pulling Liz with him.

They soon managed to escape the smoke, only a few more feet until they entered the center. Onyx was still far ahead, much to their disdain. Shiron panted, thinking.

"...Liz, I'm pretty strong. You think I can throw you really far?"

"I will abstain myself from replying. That is not an ideal plan." Liz said, but then she actually started to consider it. With a grunt, she slowly nodded. "...Yet, it is the only plan we have."

"Ready or not, here I come!" Shiron grabbed her back, aimed as far as his eye could see, and launched Liz forward.

She screamed in the air, landing very close to Onyx, but not quite. Liz stood up, dizzy, watching the Charmeleon look at her and chuckle.

"Whoa. I didn't think you guys were that crazy." She turned back. "...But I don't got time to waste talking to all y'all, so see ya!"

Liz grunted, extending a vine and wrapping it around Onyx's feet just as she was about to leave, making her trip and fall.

"A-At least… I… I… am not named after a different Pokémon entirely!"

Yes! Liz said something mean! Onyx better watch out!

…Her face turned a deep shade of green. Liz regretted saying those words the second they came out of her mouth.

"That's not my name, dipshit." Onyx slashed away the vine, standing up. "...Daichi gave it to me. I don't even have a name. Ask him, for all I care."

"...That makes no sense!" Shiron said, finally catching up to them. And his luck ran out, so he fell to the ground, panting, face full of dirt and mud.

"What are you talking about?" Liz tilted her head. Weird thing to say, especially to her adversaries.

"Doesn't matter. You guys want to win, I wanna win, let's cut the chit-chat already." Onyx's nostrils flared up with smoke. "I'm not taking it easy anymore. Can't disappoint Daichi. Not now, not ever!"

Disappoint… Shiron coughed out the dirt on his mouth. So she had a reason to win like they had? Seemed like everyone had their reasons. His was… helping everyone. Being a hero. Just thinking about it flared up his own determination.

"Well, I'm not losing to the likes of you!" Shiron proclaimed, punching the ground with his left fist. He roared, shooting balls of mud out of his mouth.

"Tch!" Onyx jumped back again, just in time to dodge another mud ball. "Huh… didn't think you were capable of that. Is that… the extent of your determination?"

"Shiron, will you please inform me if you know any other moves?"

"I know what now?" Shiron blinked, confused. All he really did was focus and try to strike… he didn't know he could do that. Like most things. Note to self: try and thank Xerneas later.

"But to answer your question… yes, that is our extent!" Liz rushed in, trying to whip with her vines, only for Onyx to torch a few of them. Still, she ignored the pain and continued on, screaming. No matter the pain, no matter how much it hurt, she pressed on.

Onyx cringed. They were different, different than what she thought. This team… they weren't so bad, were they? Maybe they had what it took.

Regardless of her thoughts, she still planned on winning. She couldn't lose. "For Daichi, I'd do anything. Bring it on, you overgrown weed!"

Liz jumped, slashing with multiple vines, some that Onyx dodged, but most of them were burnt. The Roselia grunted, but kept pressing forward, her body splitting into two. It was time for the decoy to attack, while the real Liz began to take in the energy of the ground beneath her to heal.

"Tch, coward!" Onyx's mouth burst with flames, incinerating the substitute completely, and she soon set her sights towards Liz, who, due to being ingrained, could hardly do anything to dodge.

Shiron watched it, his heart beating faster and faster. He kept watching, seeing more fire begin to form around the Charmeleon's mouth. His eyes widened, and his body—it moved, even without him trying, all on its own. With speed he never knew he had, with more strength that he thought possible… Shiron ran, stopping in front of Liz just as Onyx unleashed the flames.

Needless to say, he began to scream in pain, his scales burning, even his scarf was damaged by it. Despite all of it, Shiron never budged or moved, taking in the full power of the attack just so Liz didn't.

Even when the flames settled down, he remained there, standing still. Onyx panted, staring at him in complete disbelief, not even able to say a single word.

"Don't… d-don't… don't hurt… my friends!"

"Shiron… why?" Liz shouted, watching him. "You idiot! You did not need to do that! W-Why?!"

"You and I… we're not so different." Shiron chuckled, mustering strength to grab on to his scarf, or what remained of it. "...Besides, we're teammates, and friends. We look after one another, till the end of the line."

"...You're an odd one." Onyx said. She definitely had the time to keep going while the two talked, but for some reason… she didn't want to. "I know of some that would simply leave their friends to die to save their own skin. And yet, you didn't do any of that."

"T-That's cuz… cuz that type of person isn't who I am." Shiron said, hissing from the pain. "...A-And besides, you didn't need to ask the reason why. You're still with us, despite us being your opponents. O-Or your enemies. You're not so bad… yourself."

Liz opened her mouth, then looked at Onyx. The Charmeleon tried to speak, but only a stutter came out. It looked like she also didn't know why she stood there.

"I… I'm conflicted." Onyx replied. "But… I think you have a good heart."

I would… would I do the same for him? Liz wondered, unsure. "For one to be a hero, they must have a good heart."

"Yeah, that's really obvious." Shiron said, chuckling, only to grunt afterwards. "And you're weird, Onyx. Think we all are, my friends, and yours."

"What? Daichi's not my friend. He's my tra—" She shut herself up, before something larger spilled out. "...But I understand what you mean. Look, for what is worth, I think you two won, regardless of picking the flag or not."

Shiron blinked. Right, the flag! They had to get it, soon. And where were they, anyway? He stopped looking, focusing on fighting.

…At the beach already? Or at the hill that led to it, at least. So if he could at least hold off Onyx, then maybe Liz would be able to grab the flag!

"That being said, I can't just give up on this, so… my bad." Onyx shrugged, turning around and getting ready to bolt. Before she could, she felt the same vines from before. Weaker, but still there.

"We will not quit either. I am doing this… until my last breath." Liz said, retreating the roots on the ground. She had been healed enough, anyway. "Victory will be ours!"

"So determined…" the Charmeleon hissed, pulling the vines, and by extension, Liz, closer to her. "Let's see just how much of it is worth a damn!"

Shiron tried to attack again, but he gasped in pain, falling to the ground. No, no, no! Get up, body! Get up, please get up!

With the rest of his strength, Shiron fired another mud ball, hitting Onyx without much resistance, if at all. This set Liz free.

"Go! Don't worry about me, just grab it and run, Liz!"

Onyx rubbed the mud off and ran after Liz, the latter already on her way to the beach, finally setting sights on the flag. Shiron roared, rolling down the hill. If he didn't have power, he'd just use physics to get to them!

Liz rolled on the ground, dodging another fire blast, it almost hit her cape, and she pressed on. Closer to the flag, closer to victory. Meanwhile, Shiron had rolled far enough he could clearly see the water, an idea popped in his mind.

"L-Liz! Grab it! I know what to do!" Shiron focused, like the day before, with the training, with Ronan's words echoing in his mind. Water slowly streamed from the ocean into his arm, shaping into that familiar drill.

"Very well!" She hesitated for a moment, struggling to think if she should trust him. Liz did.

Onyx got on all fours, and pounced on Liz. She was one inch away, when—

Shiron rammed against the Charmeleon with his drill, sending them both into the side. They both grunted and screamed from the injuries, while Liz watched it happen.

She turned back, eyes locked on the flag. On that white flag that flowed with the wind. Liz could catch it, there was no resistance left, nothing that would prevent her from doing so.

Words rang inside her head. What Onyx said before, that she'd do anything for Daichi. That level of trust… she had that with Terry.

"What're you doing? Liz!"

"I…" she reached a vine to the flag, close, but not touching it. "...Char—Onyx. You said we have won, correct?"

"If it was up to me—get off!" She shoved Shiron aside and got up, nostrils flaring. "...Yes."

"Shiron, you said you and I are the same." Liz took a look at him, frowning. "...I have reasons to believe Onyx is too."

"You do…? B-But the game!"

"I know, I know!" Liz stepped back, grunting. "Trust me! I… trusted you. I am asking you to do the same."

Shiron blinked. She asked a simple thing. Well, not simple, but… Shiron gulped, nodding slowly. "A-Alright."

"...I cannot believe that I want to say this, but… Onyx." Liz stared at her, moving aside. "Take the flag. You won this challenge."

Onyx's eyes widened. Was that some sort of prank? Were they backstabbing her the moment she let her guard down? "...I don't understand."

"Neither do I. I have someone I would do anything for as well. And they would tell me…" Liz muttered. "That there are other types of victory."

"Other… types of victory?" Shiron whispered. This was a loss. But… it didn't sting as much as he thought it would.

Onyx sighed, walking to the flag and grabbing it. "Alright, weed. I'll respect your wishes. You'll have to tell me more about this someone."

Liz finally turned to Shiron. "I will help you walk. We need to go back to the others."

He couldn't agree more. Shiron slowly stood up, much to his own surprise. "Let's… just go."

Eventually, the trio returned to the starting spot, where everyone was. Daichi was the first to notice them, specifically, the flag on Onyx's hand. His crooked smile grew.

"Nice! You did it! Was it a piece of cake or not?"

Onyx bit her lip and shook her head. "Nope. These guys are tougher than I thought. You should've seen 'em. I'm lucky to have grabbed this thing."

Nick made his way towards Shiron, as did Terry. Both of them looked more worried than disappointed.

"...You alright? Your scarf's all burnt up." Nick rubbed his arm, gulping.

Terry eyed his bodyguard with a frown. "Liz? Sorry you lost, but we'll get them next time!"

"Yes, yes we will." She managed to smile at Shiron, who simply nodded at Nick's question.

"When's the next time anyway?" Shiron pulled away from Liz, sitting down. "Daichi? When's the next time?"

The Golem wondered for a moment, still smiling. "Let's say a week! We got the advantage now! Heh!"

"Good luck, y'all." Onyx gave them a thumbs-up, flicking her tail.

"We will meet again," the Beedrill buzzed, flying away, while his teammates walked downhill.

Shiron sighed in relief. "Thanks, Liz."

"Here." Liz wrapped vines around Shiron's left arm. Her equivalent of a handshake. "...I did not consider this before, Shiron, but… perhaps we can be friends, after all."

Shiron shook her vines with a bright, goofy smile on his face. "Thank you! We're gonna win next time! I just know it!"

"If I hear the word 'win' one more time today, I might just throw up…" she grunted. "...But yes, we will. For now, you need to recover."

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to get you a better scarf." Nick lightly tapped Shiron's back. "Let's go inside, Magnus made us lunch."

A loss was a loss. Shiron figured things would only get harder from now on, but… he had friends. He could count on them, for sure.
Chapter 9 - Just Live More


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 9 - Just Live More

Stay strong, my wings, don't let me go.

I can make it. I'm not on my own.

Keep flying on through the day.

On my love!

"More! Put your heart into it!"

A Beedrill buzzed, dodging countless rocks thrown in his direction. His face dripped with sweat, but with swift, precise movements, none of the rocks managed to hit him. In fact, his stinger began spinning like a drill, piercing through all of them in quick succession.

Soon enough, he landed on the ground, smirking, watching as the tiny bits of rubble fell around the arena. With the moon in the sky, one could see the large, rocky arena, borders marked with white paint.

"Good job," a Golem clapped his hands. Daichi. "But uh, maybe you oughta be faster. If this was home, we'd have lost against that Steelix. If he even had one."

"It's not home," Jackett raised a brow. "...Well, it's our new home, but I was talking about… you know."

"Viridian Forest," the Golem replied with a nod. "Well, maybe one day we can go back, or nah. Don't exactly want to go back."

Jackett nodded. "...Don't want it either. I like being here. And following your orders is as natural as it gets."

"Speaking of orders…" Daichi snapped a finger. "We can go for another round. This time, I want you to focus on hitting me with the rocks. See if ya can launch them, hit 'em with Drill Run."

Jackett straightened himself, saluting like a soldier. "Yes. All in preparation for tomorrow, I take it?"

"Another mission, actually," he waved the bug off. "We received it yesterday, has to do with some meteor storm sightings. Very nasty, they want us to investigate."

"Meteor… storms?" Jackett tilted his head. "Well… if the training needs to be rougher and tougher, then I'm ready for it."

"Good to hear! We're training 'til you can't stand!" Daichi cracked his knuckles, grinning widely. "Remember, Stone Edge hits real hard. Just don't get hit! I already got a plan, so when the time's right, I'll let you know!"

"Don't get hit. Easy." Jackett's wings began to buzz, raising him from the ground as he readied his stingers. He flew back, giving some distance between the two.

"As they say in Kalos… en garde!" Daichi roared, sticking his hands deep inside the earth below. Without warning, thick chunks of rock burst out, all aimed at Jackett, flying with incredible speed.

En garde indeed… Jackett breathed, moving straight ahead, both of his stingers beginning to spin.

Everything appeared to slow down as he processed what to do, how to fight back. Perhaps he should wait for the order, but Jackett had devised something already.

Should he wait, should he go with his own plan? Whatever he decided, Jackett knew it had to be fast, otherwise he'd get hit anyway. And perhaps… what he needed to do was be brave, and take a chance.

"Alright… now all you gotta do is—"

He didn't wait. Jackett controlled the speed of his stingers, not too fast, not too slow. Enough that it could hit the rocks instead of destroying them. The Beedrill engaged, almost like a slap, sending them straight down, and avoiding a strike.

"What the fuck are you doing…?"

"I had a plan, and I wanted to try it." Jackett said, descending. "It worked, so there should be no issue."

"I'm the trainer, Jackett. You follow my orders," he grumbled, huffing. "...But uh, good job."

"Hm. Yeah, you're right…" he sighed. Jackett was planning on saying something in his defense, but he shut that idea away. He was just a soldier in Daichi's hive, anyway.

"This isn't over, by the way. You're still standing." Daichi grinned. "Let's keep goin'!"

Meanwhile, Shiron entered his new house, holding a bag of chips, or half of it. He closed the door behind him and yawned, following the sound of giggles coming from the living room.

Huh. Nick sounds happy. Despite that hilarious loss last week.

Shiron threw the bag in a trash can and continued to walk, making his way to where the giggles were.

In the living room, he saw Nick and Rowan, sitting on the couch together. On the other side… a TV?

They have TVs here? Shiron blinked. Not expected at all, but to be fair, it was a really old, analog TV. Still, how odd. And it wasn't there before, was it?

Nick flicked his ears, waving at his friend. "Hey Shiron! Grandpa bought this for us! C'mon!"

The Pangoro huffed, nodding. "...I am heading to a business trip soon, so I had the idea of buying one of them for you youngsters."

"Thanks, mister Rowan." Shiron smiled, heading to the couch with them. At least he had some form of entertainment there. Already much more than home, that was certain. Yeah… I don't miss Lilycove at all.

"And I've heard you two are heading to another challenge tomorrow?" Rowan turned to face them. "Good work. Despite your losses, you are still trying."

"Mhm. We're gonna win this time!" Nick raised an arm, clenching his fist. "We can! And we will! Thanks, gramps!"

"I'm proud of you, Nick." Rowan tapped his grandson's head softly. "Having dreams is wonderful, and working to fulfill them takes guts. Again, good work."

"G-Gramps, you're embarrassing me…"

Shiron didn't mind, focusing on the TV show. Like he thought, the images were black and white, but he did recognize a Meganium cuddling with a Feraligatr. Cute.

"Mister? You're gonna travel?"

Nick chuckled. "We'll be the mon of the house, Shiron!"

Shiron fidgeted with his fingers. "That's reassuring… if we don't throw any parties."

"Hmph." Rowan glared at Nick. "You are not to throw parties. Inviting your girlfriend is fine, just don't trash the house."

"We won't! Promise!" Nick saluted, putting the most serious expression he could. "Right, Shiron?"

"R-Right. It's a promise…"

Rowan scoffed again, and turned his attention back to the show. "Very well, and good luck with your competition. I trust you'll do just fine."

Shiron felt his gills droop. They lost last week, and this time… well, this time, losing was not an option.

The night was still young, even for a young prince.

Terry yawned, jumping on his bed. Now that he and Liz were part of a—awfully named—team, they had a place to live! And one that didn't involve leeching off of a nurse!

Their beds were small, but comfortable, coming with pillows and sheets. Although it was very different from the one he was used to as a prince, Terry didn't mind. Comfort existed regardless, and once he laid down, Terry never wanted to leave.

Liz was different. She turned, and turned, and turned again. Putting the sheet on, then taking it off, then trying it on again. She pouted, no position looked comfortable enough.

No matter how much she tried, something was always off. Whether it was too cold, too hot, or something in-between. Liz eventually sat down, huffing.

"...I should have asked for a pot. It is far more bearable than this," she eyed Terry, the dragon hugging his pillow tightly, like a child with a new toy. "Sire, how are you taking this so well?"

"Royalty sucks," he said, closing his eyes. "Ah… I feel free here, Liz. Free to be me, to be whatever I want! There's nothing holding me back anymore!"

"I see," Liz grunted, the wound on her back aching. "...I believe this is not the case for me. That little challenge was, hm, entertaining, but my life is to serve you."

For a moment, silence was the only thing between them. Liz tilted her head, realizing she just touched a nerve. Terry sat as well, sighing loudly.

"Your life is your own. We're free, Liz. We're free to make our own destinies!" Terry said, and Liz could see fire and determination in his eyes. "Royalty is just a word, it doesn't mean anything to me! It shouldn't to you, too!"

"Sire…" she trembled. "...Perhaps that is true, but it is hard to break free from such things."

"It is, isn't it?" The prince chuckled. "We have friends to help us! We have the whole world ahead of us! If it's you and me, then I'm sure we can, alright? Because you're my friend."

Friends. Liz laid down again, deciding to give sleeping in a bed another try. "...Speaking of, tomorrow is our next challenge. I assume you will attempt it this time?"

"Nick and me, yeah. We're all in this together, and honestly, he's a nice guy. A little less heroic and powerful than I thought he'd be, but nice nonetheless."

"Lucario are the heroes," she stated. "...Or at least, that is what the stories tell. Nicholas—Nick is different."

Terry smiled. "We can call him eccentric and it'd still be a good way to describe him."

"Well, Sire, we should sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day, and…"

"And I should be rested. Got it." Terry nodded, hugging the pillow again. So soft…

Liz looked at the wooden ceiling, wondering if she really could do anything she wanted, not bound by rules or duties to Terry.

And once his friend finally fell asleep, after hours that stretched into a never ending wait, Terry hopped off the bed, grinning. He put on the cape, taking deep breaths. Royalty was meaningless, yes, but the accessory was a nice gesture.

Well… this is a first.

He remembered the talk a few days prior, Nick offering to hang out at night, to find something they could enjoy, both for team building and as friends. Terry said yes without a second of hesitation.

Sneaking in wasn't even that hard, he'd done it before going off on the boat. Terry silently hoped Liz was a heavy sleeper, but in case she wasn't, he left a note right on top of his pillow, explaining everything.

Once he was out of the office, Terry began to giggle, walking away from the building. Only thing left was to meet with Nick and—


Oh. There he was. Terry tilted his head. "...You were just waiting for me?"

"Yup. Shiron invited Magnus to go watch some TV show with him, and Audrey's busy with some requests, so I'm here. Waiting. Or was here, waiting. And now I'm free."

"Huh, you guys are really busy with… fun things," his smile remained, growing. "I never had fun at home. It was all 'go study, Terry', 'you must learn etiquette, Terry', those things."

"Oh man, I'm sorry…" Nick chuckled, clapping his hands together. "Okay, then! What'd you wanna do? Wanna find some comic books to read, maybe check the ladies?"

"Comic books?" the prince tilted his head, wondering. The words were familiar, although he didn't quite know what that was. "...I like the name, we can do that! But also, what's a comic book?"

"Where do I start?" Nick made a fighting pose, punching the air. "Bam! Bonk! Stories where there's fights! Well, some don't have fighting, some are just about daily activities, but the ones I like have fighting! It's fiction! Like bedtime stories, but for older mons!"

Terry's eyes sparkled, his interest peaked. "Oh! I loved bedtime stories! I want to read a comic book! Take me there, this'll be fun!"

"Before we do…" Nick offered a closed fist. "Let's fist bump! Like true friends!"

"Fist… bump?"

"You bump my fist, and we do a funny lil handshake! Y'know, like friends!"

More sparkles appeared. Friends! He had a friend! And dad said he'd never have one! Because kings don't have friends. Kings must be detached from the subjects, but at the same time, work with them. A weird dichotomy.

Terry smiled more, showing his sharp teeth, and bumped a fist with Nick's. "Y-Yeah! Friends! We're gonna win that thing tomorrow, too!"

"Right! Think of this as a way for us to know each other before the fighting—if it's fighting, starts! We gotta be closer! And I gotta count on you to help me, right?"

Terry nodded repeatedly. "I can say for sure, Nick, you can count on me, now please, let's go! I wanna read a comic!"

Their first stop was a large building with open windows, revealing varioust stands with multiple comics in each of them, too far away for Terry to read the contents. Nick's tail wagged as they approached.

But before they entered, Terry heard a bell ringing, and saw an ice cream stand nearby. "...Did I mention I never had ice cream?"

"What? For real?" Nick gasped, flabbergasted by such a reveal.

He just stared, blushing. "...Maybe. I just want one, can we get it before we buy the comics?"

"I don't see why not, I was just surprised. If you wanna get ice cream, who am I to stop you, buddy?" Nick shrugged, changing directions to the stand.

The dancing Ludicolo that ran the stand began to dance harder once they were in his field of view. "Hello, hello! We have everything! From popsicles to sundaes!"

Terry wondered what flavor to pick. He never had gummies before, either. Didn't they make someone smarter? That was what some of the guards told him. It had to be a myth.

Myth or not, they sounded delicious. "I'll have rawst ice cream with sky gummies!"

Nick waved at the vendor. "Think I just want chocolate."

"...You can eat chocolate?"

Nick nodded. "Yup. I can't imagine a life without chocolate. Even if it killed me, I'd still eat it. Not to be dramatic…"

Terry blinked. Well, it was dramatic, but at least it didn't kill him to eat chocolate. Now he wondered what other things his parents told him that just weren't true. Probably a whole lot of them.

Nick paid for the ice cream, giving Terry the one he requested, and started licking his own. "Hm, little too dark for my tastes. And you—Terry?"

His friend's eyes had been completely overtaken by sparkles, and his thick tail swished nonstop. "It's so good! Why haven't I tried this before?!"

"Sheesh… at least you're not a food vacuum like Shiron is."

Nick finished his dessert and smiled, watching Terry eat the rest of his ice cream. "Alright, we can go now, yeah?"



The two walked again, entering the rather large store. Nick remained in place, arms crossed, and with a large grin on his face. He waited for Terry's reaction.

"Whoa!" the prince gasped, looking from left to right, top to bottom. Action figures, comics, toys, he saw it all! So much, in fact, Terry got dizzy, wondering where to start. "A-A little help?"

"Sure. What topics do you like? I can try givin' you stuff that's easy to digest, like… Spinarak-Mon."

Terry nodded, slowly. "What's that one about?"

"A Machop gets bitten by a Spinarak and gets the powers of one, which means, uh…" Nick scratched the back of his head. "It's weird. They turn into some weird Spinarak slash Machop hybrid."

"I can try that one. Sounds fun." Terry smiled. It did sound fun. "...I'll buy it."

Nick smiled in return. "Alright, we can buy you a few volumes. Hey, who knows? Maybe Liz can be indoctrinated in the Spinarak cult."

"Heh. Sounds a little impossible, but so does the comic! We'll see."

"Now lemme just…" Nick zipped open his satchel, grabbing some coins. "That's my allowance. Let's bust it up!"

One large bag later and the two left the store. Terry carried his bag with a large, goofy smile. His tail kept wagging.

"Think this was fun, and I got to know you a little better," Nick said, sighing in relief. "...Tomorrow's gonna be a big day, you should rest now."

"I plan to, don't worry," Terry nodded. "That means we'll meet tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah, I need to go home too. See ya, Terry." Nick smirked, walking in the direction of his house.

Terry didn't wave, hands full, so instead, he shouted at the top of his lungs. "See you tomorrow, Nick!"

Jackett trained non-stop, for the entire night. And during the morning as well. He slashed away at rocks with his stinger, huffing and grunting, sweat dripping from every part of his body.

Even without feeling anything on his arms, he kept slashing, flying, fighting. All to become stronger.

A soldier protects his hive, he told himself. And he would protect it with his life if necessary. He'd win, and bring them glory and fame!

Jackett pointed a stinger at one of the rocks. It sharpened like a needle, and he rushed in, slashing the rock once, then twice, then another, another, and one final time. It did little to no damage, until he turned back, flicking his arm. The boulder was sliced into five parts.

"As suspected, it worked." Jackett said, grinning proudly. Of course it worked, it was a simple rock. No aura came from it, not that he could sense it, but he had a hunch it didn't possess any energy. "But it's not enough. I must become stronger… for the hive."

Jackett aimed at a boulder, the largest one of them all, and spun in the air, his entire body turning into a large drill, one that had a simple sense of direction, unable to turn back or move anywhere but forward. With one final grunt, he burst the large boulder open into nothing but rubble. He smiled, his wings stopped buzzing, and he fell on the ground, panting.

Can't… give up now! Jackett roared, forcing himself up, only to fall back down. His vision blurred, but he managed to hear someone calling out his name, and their pants, getting ever closer.

When he woke up, Jackett had a towel wrapped around his head, and a leppa berry was shoved inside his mouth.


"Shut up," Onyx said, sighing, her nostrils puffing with smoke. "Did ya try too hard? Daichi told me you two were training yesterday. Think you bit off more than you can chew."

"You shut up…" he buzzed, swallowing the berry, only for an oran to be shoved next. He ate that one as well, and laid down, grunting as he waited for the healing effects to kick in. "...We did, but the training ended early, he was called out for… something. A job, I think. So I decided to take matters into my own stingers."

"That's stupid. Why'd you do that? We can win against 'em."

"I know. For the hive."

"The hive…?" Onyx pouted. "We're teammates, not bugs. I mean, you are, but you get what I mean."

"Perhaps. Regardless of the outcome today, I believe I will grow stronger from it. It's what Daichi wants."

Onyx sat down, watching the arena, and what was left of the rocks. "...What about you? Is it what you want?"

"What I want…" Jackett bit his lip. "That is irrelevant. I follow orders. I don't have a future of my own, or dreams."

"The Marshtomp—all of 'em have a future ahead of them," she explained, smiling. "...I thought about a future for myself too, and who knows? Maybe you can figure something out, big guy."

"A future of my own…?" Jackett opened his mouth, thinking. He closed it not too long after, shaking his head. "...I don't know."

Later in the day, Shiron woke up earlier than usual, despite having no alarm. His body, or rather, his old, human body was used to waking early, or not sleeping at all. Or maybe, both.

In his room, he could see the sun was strong, and that the temperature was hot. Good thing his scarf was burnt, and that he didn't have the guts to seek out someone to knit it back.

Not the focus. I'll do that after…

Today was the day. Another challenge… whatever it was. Who was the genius that came up with them not being the ones deciding what the challenge was? Daichi would just make them do difficult things, like the race.

I say it's difficult, but I'm just slow… and chubby. Or I have large bones. Shiron poked his belly. It jiggled. "...Definitely not large bones."

Despite waking up early, Shiron found out he was alone in the house. With Rowan gone, it meant Nick had left before Shiron did.

Which meant he had to get out fast. Shiron hopped out of bed, stormed out the room, picking a piece of bread, quickly spreading jam on it, shoving the food inside his mouth, and then moved out of the house, barely being able to swallow the bread without choking on it.

C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon!

Not even Shiron knew he could run that fast. Not with his short legs. Maybe it was the spur of the moment, but he dashed across town, going through street after street, leaving nothing but a cloud of dust behind him.

Damn it! If I could use Liquidation… what did the old man say last time he saw me?

Shiron mumbled. Right. "You are unbelievably untrained. This is unprecedented. A water-type with no control. With a few lessons, you should be ready."

Well, it wasn't his fault he was untrained, right? But now he could be. Bah! Not now, brain!

Before long, he was on the verge of reaching the office, already seeing that familiar hill. And, on the edge of it, that familiar… Houndoom.

Huh? Shiron stopped to catch his breath and wonder if he should talk to the guy. "H-Hey! Mister Ivan!"

"Hm?" he turned back, smiling. "Ah, it's the youngster from before? How is your training going? Did you have any advancements?"

"More or less. Teach scolded me for being untrained." Shiron frowned, looking at his left hand. "Said it never happened before, that all water-types have at least some control and can use moves just by channeling their aura, and other stuff like that."

Ivan sat on all four legs. "Well, that is true. But do you believe you will never reach that level?"

"I—hey, don't put words in my mouth! But… yeah, I don't. Seems like that won't happen."

"Ronan is one of the best teachers you could ask for. I am sure you will achieve mastery over water." Ivan said. Not angry, or disappointed. Shiron didn't think one could look as hopeful while also acting so stern.

"...Really?" Maybe that was true, and Shiron knew it was likely just a bunch of intrusive thoughts, like usual. They weren't right, but getting rid of them was a challenge all on its own. "Well, uh, thanks. And what're you doing here?"

"I wish to observe your trials. Today is one such day, yes?"

"Well, not mine specifically, but yes. Isn't it a little too early, though? Like, aren't you noturn—nocturnal?"

"No," he replied, doing his best impression of a shrug. "That is a myth. Or perhaps, I am a different kind of Houndoom."

…Was that him trying to joke? Guy's incredibly stiff, but at least he seems reliable. Shiron sighed. "Okay, follow me, we're gonna check it out."

"I was already on my way, but alright."

Shiron held back a grumble, and followed Ivan up the hill.

…Only to see everyone marching back. Nick, Terry, Liz, Daichi, Jackett, Onyx. They were all moving away from their HQ.

"Guys? What's going on?"

"Heya, kiddo." Daichi waved. "Today's schtick is that we're pinning the mutt and dragon against my bug friend."

Jackett buzzed. "It means I will be fighting Nick and Terry. Two versus one."

"...One would think this classifies as having an advantage, but last week we did the same thing." Liz pointed out. "Sire, Nick. We can win this."

Ivan put a paw forward. "If you accept, I can act as a referee for this match. It will be my pleasure, and I can assure you there will be no cheating involved."

Nick looked at Terry, then at Jackett. "Seems fine to me. What'd you think?"

"I don't mind. This is fine, defective. I will win—"

Daichi raised his hand. "Don't need to call him defective, that was just to work him up."

"Affirmative." Jackett bowed.

…Why is he a robot? Shiron thought. "Well, then where are we going? Did you set up an arena or something?"

"We'll be usin' our training grounds," Onyx waved him off. "Also, where's your scarf? I know I burned it, but why didn't ya get it fixed?"

"Lazy bum." Shiron replied, shrugging.

"Alright, if that's all…" Daichi stepped forward. "I'll lead the way to the arena, and we can actually start this thing, then we'll win nice an' easily!"

Jackett buzzed for a moment, eyeing his opponents. "May we fight with honor, I will attempt my best, and you shall do the same."

Terry nodded. "Let's do our best!"

After a few minutes of walking, they ended up on the right side of a large, white house. Although Nick wanted to marvel at the sight, he instead focused on what he came there for: the ground.

A large area, with no grass in it, surrounded by white paint in the shape of a rectangle, dividing the area with training as its main purpose. It was large enough that he and Terry could fight to their hearts' content. And Jackett? He could fly. That was nothing.

Terry threw his cape to Liz, then looked at Nick. "I'm ready. Seems we'll have to fight, just like in the comics!"


Daichi stood on the wall that belonged to the house, leaning against it. Onyx did the same, while Shiron sat down with Liz by his side.

"Rules are pretty simple," Daichi said. "Jackett will fight two opponents at once. Whoever gets knocked out first loses. Yes, that means if either Nick or Terry are knocked out, you guys lose! Fight as much as you want!"

Jackett already flapped his wings, raising himself, and pointed a stinger at the two, who had just entered the other side of the arena.

"Three… two… one… ready? Go!" Daichi clenched his fist.

Right at the start, Jackett flew towards them, his body too fast for them to react. With a wave of his arm, wind began to gather around it, shaping itself like blades.

Terry bit his lip, prepared to strike, and… stood up in front of the Riolu, stomping the ground and making four medium-sized rocks fly towards Jackett, though their speed was lacking, giving him enough time to fly back and dodge.

"Not bad. But this is only just the beginning!" Jackett unleashed the blades, this time not aiming at any specific spot. They flew all around the place.

Terry remained up front, shooting rock after rock. Jackett simply scoffed, he hadn't done so much training the day before for nothing, and something like that wasn't stopping him.

…It really wasn't. In fact, none of the slabs did. They were thrown right into where his Aerial Ace blades tried to hit, intercepting them all. The Beedrill's eyes widened, and he went for a different strategy. He rose in the air, as high as he could.

"I can't intercept forever, Nick! And he's planning something!"

"I noticed!" Nick stopped to think, and to consider his options. As long as Jackett remained airborne, hitting him would be hard. Meaning… need to do something about those wings! We're both too slow to do anything directly, but maybe…

Jackett dropped down, gaining speed as he dove towards them.

"Terry! Rock Tomb, now! I have a plan!"

As instructed, Terry prepared another Rock Tomb, launching rocks in the air. Nick jumped into one of them and focused, his sensors twitching. He jumped towards another rock, but where he was, stood an after-image. He kept jumping, creating more and more of them.

Once he lowered enough, Jackett pointed his stinger. It dripped with poison, protruding into a large, purple spear. Nick, and all his "clones" jumped extended their arms forward, unleashing multiple vacuum waves, all aimed at Jackett.

"Tch!" Jackett spun, destroying the attacks and rubble with a single slash.

All except for one, who jumped off the rock he was on, claws covered in metallic, shining energy. "Hiyah!"

Nick slashed the wings with a Metal Claw, sending Jackett falling to the ground, alongside himself. Terry threw more rocks, controlling their speed to be slow enough for Nick to jump on them.

He did just that, falling into one and using it to soften the landing, jumping one more time before it shattered on the floor. Jackett, meanwhile, crashed with full force, unleashing a cloud of dirt around the area, but not enough that it obscured Nick and Terry's vision.

Daichi gasped. "What the…! Referee, is that fair?!"

Ivan pondered about it, then nodded. "It is fair. The fight may go on, if Jackett is still conscious."

Once the dust settled down, the bug stood up, panting. He had a wide grin on his face, despite the injuries. "Not bad! You're good soldiers!"

Nick panted, putting his goggles on. "I'm getting serious now… Terry, c'mon! We can do it! He's on our level now!"

Terry nodded, focusing his energy. His arms were wrapped in long, pink claws, bursting with draconic energy. "As they say in that comic… this is our stage now!"

Daichi crossed his tiny arms, groaning. "Jackett! Dodge their moves, and focus on using Drill Run! Tyrunt is weak against that move! As long as you dodge, you'll be fine!"

Wha—why is that so nostalgic? Shiron instantly looked at him, mouth open. "Hey! You can't give him orders like that!"

Ivan shook his head. "I will accept that, but you will refrain from giving any more tips, Daichi."

Liz sighed in relief. "...That was an odd thing to say, Golem. I choose to ignore it."

Better to ignore and focus on the fight. Jackett continued to pant, and he started shaking as well.

Nick closed a fist, taking a battle position. "We can definitely win, Terry! Let's focus our attacks together!"

"Aye!" Terry focused again, his body shining like metal for a moment, and his scales suddenly hardened. "We can do this! For your dream, for my dream! We'll win!"

Jackett stepped back. This about dreams again… what's so good about them?!

Nick looked at his friend, whispering. "I'll be bait, don't worry! Just trust me!"

The Riolu ran ahead, disappearing in the blink of an eye and leaving nothing but a speck of dust where he once stood. Jackett grinned, his stinger spinning, and charged forward.

Nick tried the metal claw again, grazing it against the hard drill pincers. The impact left sparks flying in the air, but he simply jumped back, and tried again. Jackett did the same, their attacks clashing time after time again.

Until Nick managed to create another after-image, letting it get hit, and then slashing away at Jackett, forcing him back.

"Gah!" Jackett groaned, rolling on the ground. "D-Damn it!"

Without orders, I'm meaningless! I can't find a plan on my own! I won't be able to defeat them at this rate!

The thought repeated endlessly inside his mind, even as he stood up, spitting some saliva. "...If I had any directions, I could win. How are you doing this without any?!"

Nick shrugged. "I'm my own 'mon. Nuff said."

Terry panted, running ahead. "Nick, this is our chance!"

"Right!" Nick charged on his side, claw prepared for another slash, and with Terry's dragon claw, they could finish this!

Jackett trembled. Why… why were they winning?! He spent the day and night training! He had a directive coming from Daichi! Dodging! Just dodge! Dodge and strike!

…That didn't work, did it? Jackett bit his lip, shaking. That was a wrong order, but he still had to follow it. It was in his blood, and denying it was… was preposterous.

"I will… I will follow my directives!" Jackett tried to dodge, and successfully did with Nick's attack, rolling to the side. "I follow what Daichi says, even if it kills me!"

It was the second attack that hit him, while Jackett was distracted by his own words, Terry came in, unleashing a draconic claw that pierced through the Beedrill's body, making him scream and stumble.

"Shut up!" Terry slapped his tail on the ground. "You don't need anyone's commands to fight! You're yourself! You can do things on your own! Live your own life!"

Nick's ears flicked. After attacking, Terry just… stood there, shouting. No, roaring, expressing his true feelings.

"I don't know what you're going on about, but I—we're all free! We aren't someone's puppets, we have feelings, emotions! And you're losing this battle because of some stupid 'directive'?!"

Jackett, slowly, stuck a stinger on the ground, to support him while he got up. The damage was done, but his body was strong enough to take it. "I… am a soldier."

Terry's teeth—his fangs appeared, and he snarled. "Nick… help me. We can end this. Here, now. He's tired."

I'm… tired? He was still shaking. Jackett was tired. Tired from the training, he didn't rest, not at all. Because his mind was set on being the best he could be, not for himself, but for Daichi. They weren't like him, they didn't have anything remotely close to this mentality, and they were winning.

Maybe… maybe his mentality was wrong. He looked at the Golem, who had a worried look, like the words got through him as well, although he quickly shook his head, removing the idea.

Jackett didn't. His individuality, his own plans—one that worked on that training—were never used. Maybe if he used them, he would win. But these kids, with their dreams, and their talk, and their camaraderie…

They won. Jackett raised the other arm, laughing. "You don't need to finish me off, because… I give up."

Everyone's reaction was unanimous. From shocked, to happy, in Shiron and Liz's case, to sad, from Onyx and Daichi, the latter, in particular, nearly dropped his jaw once he heard the words.

"Y-You give up? Why? Those kids' words mean nothing! Why are you—"

"...I decide to give up, Daichi." Jackett said, plain and simple. "They bested me in both combat, and mentality. I can respect that, why shouldn't you? There can be victory in loss, just as there can be loss in victory."

Daichi huffed, closing his fist as hard as he could. "...Fine. I can recognize that much."

"W-We won…" Shiron repeated Jackett's words in his head. "...We won! W-We actually won!"

Liz ran ahead into the arena, tackling Terry into a deep hug. "Sire, you won!"

"Wah! Slow down! Don't need to hug me that much! Y-You don't even like hugs!"

She stepped back, bowing. "My apologies, Sire."

"Actually… there is something I want to ask you!" Terry's tail wagged. "Do the thing! The rejoice thing!"

"Very well, Sire." Liz cleared her throat, then flicked her cape, letting it swish in the air. "Rejoice! Breaking through the adversities that befell on them let these two understand and befriend someone they once called enemy. They have grasped victory through this unity! This is the power of our team!"

Shiron felt the need to go and hug Nick as well, even more after this speech. So he did that, slowly, until his arms were wrapped around Nick's. "Congratulations!"

Onyx remained silent through this ordeal, crossing her arms. This, combined with her own experience last week, made things… different. "Jackett, congrats. You did good."

The bug nodded. "I know that. Guess that means we'll all meet next week? We're at a draw. And I need to rest. And… think about things."

Jackett watched the Golem walk off into the distance, knowing full well he was heading to a bar. He sighed. "Good plan on taking down my wings, by the way. They'll heal, but it was a good shot."

Nick saluted, pulling away from the hug. "Thanks! Figured it was worth a try, and turns out it was very worth it!"

Ivan gave them all a bright smile. "Congratulations, to all of you. You all did well, and I hope to watch more of this… Workplace Competition, as you all put it."

Jackett walked towards Onyx, flashing a smile. "Well… maybe I will think of a dream, sometime."

"Bet," the Charmeleon looked at her opponents. No, not opponents… rivals had a better ring to it. "We're gonna check on Daichi, he's a bit of a sore loser, and this kinda changes things… don't worry. Y'all did great."

Terry smiled more. "I'm glad! Next week, we'll see who's gonna come out on top! Or, wait… maybe in two weeks. Whoever wins three times first gets it, right?"

Onyx gave him a simple thumbs-up in response, and walked away with her Beedrill teammate, leaving the others on their way to celebrate that victory…

Chapter 10 - Silhouettes


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 10 - Silhouettes

I can fly the sky with no doubts,

Just like when I spread my own wings out.

I'll keep my head up,

And I'll shout as I leave from the ground.

Trigger warning for this chapter: Implied suicide.

Shiron had just finished downing a large cup of water when he heard the door knocking once. Then, as he put more water, he heard it knocking again. And a third time, right as he was drinking again.

It wasn't until the fourth knock that he heard the familiar scream of his Riolu friend, coming from the lounge. "Go open it! Audrey and I are busy!"

"Remind me to not be here when you two are having a date," he grumbled, putting the cup on the sink, and walking off. As he passed through the rooms, he saw the two love birds nuzzling.

Yeah… I can't interrupt that. God, I wish that were me, Shiron thought, mumbling. …Wait. Not with Nick. I mean, he's cute and all, but—not him. Not Audrey. Gah! Brain, stop!

Before his brain could screw more things up, Shiron went to see who was knocking, having lost count on the fifth—or was it sixth?—knock.

And on the other side were Onyx and Jackett, the latter on the ground instead of flying. So that's why I didn't hear any noises. Okay…

"Greetings, Marshtomp!" Jackett bowed his head, slowly. "I am here to request—"

"Stop that, will ya? Too formal." Onyx waved him off with a claw. "Anyway, sup. How's the scarf?"

"I just got it, it's in my—Nick's room. Asked Magnus to knit it for me, and he just… did." Shiron said. What can't he do? It's like he's the whole package.

…Why am I thinking this right now?
Shiron shook his head. "Oh, uh, yeah. Scarf's fine. Don't worry about it! Didn't even hurt that much."

"...You took a point-blank Flamethrower." Jackett tilted his head. "Perhaps the rumors of your kind being that strong here were indeed true."

Shiron blinked. "My… kind?"

"Don't worry about it. It's not why we're here," Onyx shrugged. "So, uh, it's been a week. Y'all won last round, yada yada yada."

"Our lead—Daichi has not decided what to do next. He hardly mentions our little squabble. Or any of you."

Onyx nodded, crossing her arms. "He's a sore loser, we knew that. Just… didn't think it'd be that much. Daichi's been ignoring it."

"Not to mention… we do not want to keep doing this." Jackett added. "...You and your soldiers—friends have proven yourselves enough. Keeping this up will just make Daichi even more angry."

"And we don't want that either."

Shiron nodded after every sentence. He already had an idea of what they wanted from this conversation, a hunch. And if his hunch was right, it was bad. Really bad. His greatest, most powerful foe.

"We would like you to talk to him," the bug said, smiling sheepishly, and rubbing his stingers together. "You and him are similar, in a way. We thought that perhaps you could convince him to end this."

"Okay, hold on—" Shiron clapped his hands, inhaling. "Why me? Why do people keep picking me for things?!"

Onyx and Jackett locked gazes. She shrugged. "Like that lug of a bug said, you and him are similar. We kinda took a liking to y'all."

"...I see." Shiron exhaled, then, another deep breath. He wasn't exactly sure if this made things better or not. "Look, I'll… I'll think about it, alright? But if I go, where would I find him?"

"At the y'allcoholic," Jackett replied, almost robotically. He then flashed a giant smile. A creepy one. "...Onyx and I think it is a stupid name, but Daichi likes it. He always goes there to wind out."

Shiron shivered, just nodding along. He looked up, seeing it was still early in the morning, around 10 AM, give or take. There was definitely enough time to decide.

"Okay. I'll think about it."

And he entered the house again, after saying goodbye to his opponents. Shiron had a tiny frown splattered across his face. Why? Because his hunch was right. He'd have to go and talk and convince Daichi to stop their fight.

Which, of course, was hard. Everything about it was as heavy as gravity, and just as pressuring. Shiron knew he would face that sooner or later, and if he was being honest, Shiron didn't want to disappoint them.

Funny, wasn't it? Disappointing total strangers. Yet, he couldn't bring himself to do that. They wanted his help, and they would get it. Strangers or not, Shiron knew the right thing to do was help. It was the heroic thing to do, too. And he was a hero now.

Despite that new perspective in mind, something else was up. Shiron had no idea how to convince him. He was hardly able to know why his friends trusted him enough, let alone someone like Daichi.

Although… Maybe his friends could help!The two that were nuzzling and kissing. But yes, he could give it a shot. Better to do that than nothing at all.

"Guys…?" Shiron cleared his throat, walking to the living room. He didn't even want to see what they were watching.

If they even were watching anything at all. Nick was just patting the Zorua's head, not paying any attention to the TV. Shiron was speaking to two fluffy walls.

"Guys," he tried again, speaking louder. No reply. …Do I need a megaphone?

Shiron cleared his throat, inhaling as much air as possible. And screamed. "GUYS! I NEED YOUR HELP!"

Nick finally perked back, covering his ears. "You didn't need to shout!"

"Ouch…" Audrey cringed, ears drooping. "What? What do you want?"

"So! Onyx and Jackett asked me to help talk to their teammate," he said, chuckling and shaking. "...They wanna end the fight. L-Like a draw! So w-we'll… W-We'll be able to get our team together! I-Isn't that nice?"

Nick jumped out of the couch in the blink of an eye, landing next to Shiron. His eyes were, at the same time, sparkling and on fire. "They wanna to what? We'll what?!"

Audray did the same, but slow and steady. She nuzzled Nick's leg, chirping excitedly. "Congratulations, Nicky! It's one step closer to the dream!"

"Uuuuh…" he needed to convince Daichi to stand down first. "...Not yet. They asked me to talk to Daichi, to make sure he'll agree to this. Y'know?"

"Oh…" Nick's happy, cheerful expression turned into a frown. "...Wait, what the hell are you doing here for, then?! Go talk to the guy!"

Audrey smirked. "If you don't, we'll beat you up! Or maybe I'll use you as a test subject for my newest gadget…"

Either way was bad, so Shiron bolted out of the house in a flash.

And back outside. Shiron grumbled; he didn't even have time to pick his scarf up, so now all he really felt was being naked. In a world where the majority of the people were naked.

Not like he could relate. Shiron walked down the street, thinking. They never told him where the bar was, and it was still way too early for someone to get there anyway. He was better off taking the time to think this through.

Daichi's scary. Everyone here is. Actually, hold on— Shiron sighed. I need a place to stay, standing around in the sun won't do me any good. But where?

His brain said to go to Magnus' bakery. And Shiron shut that thought down, not because he didn't want to go, but because it might be a bother to his friend.

And I'm not gonna be a bother anymore! Although… yeah I kinda wanna meet him—the place. I wanna see the place again.

Why was his heart skipping beat after beat? Why was his face so hot? Shiron shrugged everything off, and realized there was one place he could go that nobody would bother him in.

That being the beach he woke up in. Shiron climbed down the hill, letting his feet hit the sand beneath him, even if it was unpleasant. It didn't burn him as much as the sand in Lilycove did. Maybe his body got used to it, whether it was this or the human one.

He walked closer to the ocean, before sitting down, dipping his feet on the water. Shiron sighed, watching the horizon in front of him.

There were a lot of things to think about, weren't there? Shiron frowned. He didn't know where to start…

"Hey, dad, mom. If you're on the other side… I'm happy. I know none of you care about it, but I figured… nobody's listening anyway."

Waves moved, slowly, and faintly. Shiron looked at himself. It was funny, in a way. How much he didn't want to come back. It wasn't like he had any home to go back to. The one he had now was far better. Not like there was any comparison.

"...And you know why I died. You're the reason why. Both of you," Shiron clenched his chest. It ached. "B-But now… now I'm with others that like me, that help me. If I ever had the chance to meet you again, I'd rather stay dead."

Shiron sighed in relief, falling on the ground with a smile on his face. God it felt good to release that, even if they weren't there to hear it.

He let the waves hit him, cover him in his entirety, and closed his eyes. That was all so, so familiar…

Another regular night in Lilycove. Some fought in the contests, trainers bought items in the large mart, and some others hurried inside the Pokécenter, carrying knocked out Pokémon. It was all common, nothing out of the ordinary.

With one, very simple exception to the rule. A human male, in his late teens, running on alleyways, checking every corner, every place to make sure he wasn't being followed, letting the moon guide him.

Shiron wore a red jacket, rubbing his hands together. At this time of the year, Lilycove got cold, or their definition of cold, not what other regions like Sinnoh, where it snowed. His hometown only had the gentle breeze of the ocean.

As he walked, Shiron clutched his chest, as hard as he could. His heart kept beating, but it was uneasy. A fast-paced beating. It didn't stop, and neither did he. In fact, he only ran faster, like his life depended on it.

Ironic, considering what was on his mind. A thought that grew over the years.

"We can't accept failure."

His father's voice rang in his head, piercing through, everlasting, powerful. Shiron tried to suppress the voice, but it only got louder the more he did.

"I'm sorry, sweetie, but you can't be with us now. You've been a very bad boy."

His mother, this time. She was softer, almost gentle, but there was a hint of disappointment that was oh so suffocating.

Hah… failure. Failure. That's what I always was to you, right? You only took me in because you couldn't get any children of your own. I… I'm never needed, am I? The world doesn't need me. They didn't need me. I-I don't think… anybody needs me.

Shiron stopped once he got to the beach, watching the breeze ruffle his hair and his clothes, pondering if what he was about to do was a good thing or not.

But he was tired. So, so tired. Nothing mattered. He didn't matter, and his family made sure of that. If he was gone, then the world would be a better place. No friends, no family, nobody would miss him if he was gone. Everyone would simply move on with their lives, as if nothing bad happened.

T-True. If I was good enough, my parents—real parents would still be with me. But I'm not. I should just get this over with… they wanted a perfect son, someone to rely on, to succeed them. I'm nothing like that. I'm not even nothing, less than that. If it's even possible.

Mom and dad? They'd adopt someone else, and—oh. They would do the same things they did to him. Bad, bad idea. Shiron couldn't let someone else take the blame for his actions! It wasn't right, it wasn't fair!

Nothing in his life was fair… nothing at all. And once Shiron realized that, he knew that he simply didn't care anymore.

He was shaking. God, he was shaking. Shiron, even after making a decision, was having second thoughts. Even as he walked closer to the ocean. Even as the water began to fill his feet, legs, torso, shoulders. Even as it covered him completely.

Shiron wasn't sure if the wet sensation on his face was from the water, or from the tears. But what was the point?

It all ended…

A splash of water on his face woke him up from the dream—or nightmare, rather. Shiron looked at himself, checking his body.

"Still Marshtomp, huh? I do this every now and then, but it still surprises me." Shiron then stared at his hands, both trembling. "...I'm better now. I have friends, teammates. They like me. I know that, no matter what my brain keeps telling me."

Some of his friends were similar, like Liz. And to think his first thought of her was getting vines wrapped around his neck. Embarrassing. Really embarrassing.

"...I still don't know if I feel this way because of being a Pokémon now. I do like to be moisturized, and water feels good on me, but I can't swim.

Shiron sighed, taking deep breaths to ease the shaking on his arms. "Huh… to think that Xerneas gave me another shot. Me, of all people…"

Well, that wasn't entirely true, was it? She mentioned doing this to others before, Nick mentioned amnesiac Pokémon popping up, and Daichi—

"...Talked about Xerneas. He talked about her. How she's holy, and stuff."

Gears began to grind. Shiron sat, eyes widening. Wait, wait, wait.

Onyx mentioned not having a name until Daichi gave her one. Jackett said he was a soldier that followed orders. That Daichi was his leader.

And the two said him and the Golem were similar. It couldn't be the type—they were both ground-types—surely it wasn't that. Or, at least, not just that. There had to be something else involved. He just knew, but didn't think of how to put it into words.

How… h-how didn't I think of this before?! What if…

Daichi was human. He had to be. It all made sense! The things he said, the way the others talked about him…

"That's it! That's… oh my God. H-How didn't I notice this before?!" Shiron slapped his cheeks once. "How. Am. I. So. Stupid?!"

He began to laugh. Letting a loud laugh as he laid on the sand again. Shiron couldn't believe it! He could, but what he was laughing at was his own stupidity of not realizing it sooner.

If Daichi was one… then there were others like him! Some may not want to be Pokémon, but he was fine with it. Entirely fine, as a matter of fact. Shiron didn't wish to return home. Not at all.

And now… now he had new information in mind. Helping Daichi was the right thing to do.

Nick turned off the TV, at Audrey's request. Her fierce expression and puffed up fur told him all he needed to know. Their date was fun, but now it was time to work on something else entirely.

"Aura training?"

"...Aura training," she showed off a toothy grin, hopping off the couch. "Unless you don't want to. Nothing wrong with being an auraless Riolu, y'know?"

"I know." Nick put his goggles on, nodding. She was right, of course, but he didn't want to get better for petty reasons or to be "normal". He was never normal, anyway. "...I want this for me. To prove to myself I can do it."

"Good answer, Nicky!" She snickered, then focused her aura, her body glowing red, until it faded into nothingness.

Only her voice remained. "See if you can find me! Feel free to use your aura and search wherever you want!"

And she doesn't even like that… maybe that's why I fell. We're both freaks of nature. Nick closed his eyes and extended a paw, his sensors twitching. Alright… easy… easy… focus on her energy. Even when illusioned, she can't hide her aura. I can find it. I just need to… focus… and see her!

See her. See her. Something so easy. Nick had to do it, it was easy, nothing to worry about. So he tried harder, focusing every sense he had. His sensors began to glow, coated in orange.

"Find you… Audrey. You're important, so I gotta—I will find you. Defective or not, freak or not, I will. You're important to me, and you're guiding me. Like… an anchor."

His feelings for her were an anchor. Drawing him to her, to her essence; her aura. Why hadn't he thought of it before? Nick knew what to do now. Focus on his memories and feelings towards her.

Even with his eyes closed, Nick saw something. Shades of orange began to fill his "vision", but there was a different color; red, moving around from left to right. There was no shape to it, just a bunch of energy.

Nick knew who that was. "Got it! I see you!"

Audrey replied with a chuckle, popping into existence. "Heck yeah! Ya found me!"

"H-Heh! Guess I did…" Nick smiled back at her, but fell on his knees, panting, his vision turning dizzy. "...Ouch. Takes a lot more energy than I thought."

"Yeah. It looked like you were forcing yourself," she scooted closer, nuzzling his neck. "...And how'd ya do it? Before, you couldn't even get your feelers to glow. Now they're orange."

"Sometimes… a Lucario's aura isn't blue. It's a different color. Maybe it's that way for me too?" Nick shrugged, not really sure about the reason. "And… anyway. I thought about you. You're always here for me, and I figured that could help keep me grounded."

To that, the fox scratched her chin, tail swishing. "First: awww, thanks! Second… I might have a theory! I think… it's a mental block. Not physical."

"Huh? What makes you think that?"

Audrey nodded. "If it was some physical defect… I don't think you'd be able to do it at all. Something's holding you back."

Nick crossed his arms, raising a brow. "...Good point. Could be that. But I do feel like I'm getting better. Let's go to round two!"

"Already…?" Audrey chuckled. "Sure thing!"

They walked out of the house, Nick first, while adjusting his goggles, resting them nicely on his face. Audrey came right after, giggling to herself. There was an idea of what she could do to help him!

…Whether that was a good or bad idea remained to be seen. She ran ahead, putting some distance between the two, and then turned to face him, grinning.

"You mentioned an anchor before, right? Let's test that theory!"

"Gotta love your… love of theories. And testing stuff," he shrugged. "Anyway, I'm all up for it! What'd you got for me, hm?"

"Close your eyes. Focus on me, alright? I'll try to attack you." Audrey said, firm. "If you think of me when you do it, I'm sure you'll be able to sense my attacks!"

That is the weirdest type of flirting I've ever seen… not that I mind. Nick nodded, getting ready to fight, and closed his eyes. "Whenever you're—"

A ball of shadowy energy was immediately thrown at him, forcing Nick back a few feet. "I didn't mean now—"

Another one, but it landed just in front of him. Nick still had his eyes closed. Audrey snickered. "You gotta be more active, Nicky! Otherwise you'll get hit over and over~"

…Yeah. I don't regret my life choices. But man is she rough sometimes. Nick jumped back, focusing his aura again.

Doing it this time was a lot easier than before, and he thought of her again. Of them together. It didn't take long until his vision was overtaken by the shapeless red forms. One of them was headed his way. Nick smirked, ducking underneath and letting the sphere hti the ground behind him.

"Not bad! But I'mma keep this up, and you better too!"

I wonder if I can do this while moving… it's gonna be hard, isn't it? Nick just nodded, rushing ahead.

Just as he expected, the vision turned blurry, and the shapes moved around randomly. He bit a lip, thinking more and more about her. It managed to make the vision a little better, and right on time, as another attack was launched. Nick rolled to the side and panted, raising an arm.

"Wait… it's too much," Nick opened his eyes. "...Too much for now. But it's helping, so don't worry about it."

"Aw… sorry, Nicky," she scooted closer, nuzzling him again. "We got this, though! If we keep training like this, you'll get the hang of it in no time!"

"I hope so…" he sighed, pressing his snout against hers. "...And with your help, I'm certain this'll happen, alright?!"

"Yeah! And now… we can watch more stuff, right? Or is the challenge stuff happening right now?"

Nick shrugged at that. "...Depends on how much charisma Shiron has, which I'm hoping is a lot. And how much of a hotheaded guy Daichi is. Which… I hope it's not at all."

Daichi sneezed.

Was someone talking about me…?

Meh. Didn't matter. He was right in front of his house, watching the sun for a moment, then turned to the door, opening it.

It was messy, to say the least. The couch had bits of crips in it, the table in front of it was broken in half, there was dust all over the floor… Daichi didn't take care of his room. Negligence? Laziness? If anyone asked, he'd answer it was both of those reasons. Not that he cared. Or that his teammates did. Except for the occasional annoyed grunts coming from Onyx.

The door opened again as Onyx walked inside. Jackett flew behind her, rubbing his stingers.

Daichi sat on the couch, slowly, not wanting to break it further, and let out a long sigh. "Fuck… can't believe we're getting our asses kicked by a bunch of kids."

"You're like, twenty-three. Not that much older than them," she shrugged. "...Besides, we're tied. That just goes to show that they're not as bad as we thought. Hell, they helped us."

"Surely that counts as something," the bug buzzed, tilting his head. "Maybe we can reconsider this?"

"Yeah. Don't we need to prepare for the expedition? 'Sides, could always use some help." Onyx added.

"Prepare for… fuck. I forgot about it." Daichi facepalmed, groaning. "Yeah, yeah, we should. But I can't just… give up, y'know? I'm not convinced they're good enough."

"That sounds more like a 'you' problem than an 'us' problem, Daichi." Jackett winced. Before, he'd never say something like that. But something was different now.

"What the—since when did you talk back to me like that?!" he roared, standing up. Then, he laughed. "...Maybe the kids changed you more than I thought. I dunno. I need time to think."

Onyx blinked, then looked at Jackett with a gasp, one that he reciprocated. She finally faced him, sitting down on the couch. "...Didn't you have a week to think?"

"She is correct." Jackett added, buzzing. "I believe you are simply avoiding the issue, instead of finding a way to make it go away. Ergo, you need to face it. The kids are fine. The only 'bad' thing about them is their team's name."

"...Bugsy is right." Onyx chuckled. How long did I wait to make that joke…? Heh.

Daichi, still unconvinced, groaned and looked up, wincing. "I thought we could make a name for ourselves here, unlike Kanto. Then I find out there's another human here… it just didn't sit right with me."

"We said he should talk to you." Jackett stated. "At the bar. Probably at night, too."

"...Did you two set up a date for me?" Daichi tilted his head. "And I don't wanna meet 'im. Do I need to?"

"Pffft. What'd ya take us for?" Onyx flashed another grin. "Seriously, you two should talk this out. You're both leaders. It'll be good for ya."

Talk things out. Talk. Daichi shuddered at the thought. Why did it have to be talking? Couldn't they duke it out like the Pokémon they were? It sounded so much easier than talking.

…A part of him didn't want to disappoint them. Not after the time they spent together. Another part said it was rubbish.

Daichi chose the first part.

"Fine. Can you two tell him to meet me there at night?"

"Very well." Jackett nodded, flying out of the house, not waiting for anyone to reply.

He zigzagged across the town, looking around, carefully, until his eyes landed on the target he was looking for: that Marshtomp.

Right as Shiron was climbing up the hill to talk to his two other teammates. Still without the scarf. Returning home to be a third wheel? Not a chance. He was almost jealous of the thing Nick and Audrey had.

Once he heard the buzzing, he stopped, gulping and watching as the bug slowly descended to his level. Jackett greeted him with a wave. "Hello. I realized you have not contacted Daichi yet. Are you perhaps having trouble deciding what to say?"

"...Took the words right outta my mouth." Shiron gulped. "Yeah, what's up?"

"Onyx and I talked with him for a little bit. He expects to see you at the bar, at night. I was thinking… 7 PM?"

"Uh… sure, sure. That works out nicely." Shiron nodded. "...I'm not sure how much help I'll be, but I'll try my best! You guys are pretty good at this rescue thing too, and I wanna make my friends happy, so… yeah. Don't have any issues with that."

Jackett buzzed. "Make your friends happy? Not a bad thing to do, however, do consider your own opinions of the matter, Shiron."

Before he could give any reply, Jackett flew away, leaving him alone with his thoughts. Shiron had many of them, but ignored them and instead focused on going up again. At this hour, Terrence and Liz were surely awake.

He walked inside the office, confirming his thoughts. Terry sat in a chair, holding a… comic book? With a Spinarak fighting against a green Morgrem. Shiron blinked, thinking that was familiar.

Meanwhile, Liz was in the centermost chair, sighing as she watched him enter. She was bored, judging from the sigh.

"Ah, hello, Shiron. Would you perhaps be willing to spar with me today?"

"Oh, sure—" Shiron sniffed the air, smelling something baking, with chocolate! That could only mean one thing…

Magnus came from another room, waving at the three. "Hey guys! Cake's almost done, but I still need to decorate. Might take a little longer."

Shiron wasn't sure why, but the Quilladin looked different. Prettier, maybe. Especially because their gazes were locked with one another.

"...H-Hey!" Magnus nodded, waving again. "How's it going? I had a break today, and that's why I'm here earlier. Figured I could make something for you all."

"A-Appreciated." Shiron said, unmoving, like a statue. He was nervous most of the time already, but for some reason, it was way worse now!

…And Magnus was standing still as well. His face was unbelievably hot, and the words escaped his mouth. "S-So! What's the plan for today?"

Terry put down the comic to see what the hell was going on, blinking, and taking a look at Liz, who simply shrugged.

"I… r-right." Shiron put down his internal screaming and focused on what he came there to do. "...Jackett and Onyx want me to speak to Daichi. Decide what to do, since they think we're strong enough, or like… we're good enough to be our own lil team. Or something like that."

Liz finally showed emotion. Namely, an amused smirk. "Is that so? And to think we are tied… hm. I never had any doubts we could pull it off."

"Uh, didn't you suspect we were doomed from the start?" Terry interjected, face mesmerized by the comic. "...I may be reading, but I'm not deaf."

Her smirk turned into a flushed frown. "...Correct, sire."

Magnus giggled, slowly walking towards Shiron. "That's great! I'm happy for you! We should do something to celebrate! How about an extra large cake, eh?"

The prospect of getting a whole cake for himself was tempting enough, but Shiron knew that things weren't decided yet. He still needed to talk to the guy.

"If everything works out, I'm all for it."

"If it works out?" Liz flicked her cape for no other reason than to be dramatic. Something that made Terry chuckle. "I presume this means that there is a chance you cannot convince him to stand down?"

"Pretty likely. I'll try, but I can't promise anything…" Shiron sighed. And I still don't wanna disappoint you all…

"Don't worry about it." Terry put down the comic again, then opened a drawer, picking out another one. "Even if it doesn't happen, all we need to do is win two more times, right? We did it before, we can do it again, right?"

"You can!" Magnus smiled at the Marshtomp, showing his teeth.

Shiron started to blush visibly at the sight. "...How can you be so sure?"

"My rescued little brother proves it," Magnus replied, still smiling. "So I believe in you. One hundred percent!"

Liz nodded this time. "Yes… that is true. We have had a successful rescue effort. Defeating them will not be an issue."

Shiron blushed harder, mostly at Magnus' words. They were too nice, too soft… and he took all of them in. "It'll happen tonight, so… can I get some of that cake you made now?"

Hours passed since the meeting with both the bug and his friends, and Shiron was just a tad calmer by the end of them. It didn't mean he was giving up on this.

It did mean he was standing in front of the pub with an incredibly tight grip on his scarf, and smelling the beer that was inside that place. Could he even go there…?

I'm not old enough to drink. Am I? Well, I can always eat— Shiron zipped a satchel, counting the coins inside. Note to self: thank Nick's grandpa for the allowance later.

The more he stood there, the more nervous he got. Shiron knew it wasn't a good idea to stay, so he braced himself and walked inside, holding in a breath, and letting it out slowly. Talking was still an incredibly hard thing to do.

Once inside, the smell was heavier. The place was full of wooden tables and chairs, some larger than the others, to account for bigger Pokémon. Case in point, a Rhyhorn, sitting in a chair that was cracking ever so slightly.

The bartender, a Honchkrow, rubbed a glass clean, and glared at him, so Shiron yipped, looking for either a free table, or wherever Daichi was. Whatever he saw first.

Luckily for him, he saw Daichi. Downing a large glass of beer like it was nothing, and stuffing his face full of fries. The food was appealing enough to get Shiron to walk closer, and to take a seat.

"Huh." Daichi said, putting the glass down. "Heya, kiddo. You made it. Didn't think you would like a pub, and yet here we are."

"I didn't say I liked it," his mouth drooled at the sight of fries. He wanted one so bad…

"Take one. Or two. Or three. Don't care," the Golem said, shrugging. "My teammates wanted us to talk. And I'm here, so… let's talk."

"Talk… that's hard for me to do." Shiron stuffed as many fries as his hands could hold, chomping them down. A bit greasy…

"Hey, it ain't easy for me either!" Daichi sighed. "...There's a lot to talk about, eh? First, the good stuff: your team ain't half-bad, name not included."

It was an accident! Shiron kept that thought to himself. "T-Thanks. I'm probably the weak link, if we're being honest."

Daichi waved for a waiter, asking for a refill. Once they took the glass, he turned to Shiron again. "Weak link? Nah. You're just inexperienced. I was too, at first."

At first. Daichi really was like him. Shiron braced himself to pop the question. "Earlier today… Onyx and Jackett mentioned you were like me. Are you—"

"Human? Used to be." Daichi replied just as he got his refill, and sipped it away. "...Born in Viridian City. You?"


"Huh…" Daichi stuffed more of the fries, chewing on them. "I'd ask how you… y'know. But that would be a dick move."

Shiron sighed in relief. He didn't want to answer it. Not now, anyway. "Are your teammates… your Pokémon? From all the way back?"

"Yeah. Onyx was my starter, and I caught Jackett in the forest. We spent a lot of time together," Daichi replied with a smile that slowly became a frown. "...But I was a dick. I wanted to win with them no matter what, get the badges and become champion. Every trainer's dream."

"M-Mom and dad… didn't let me," Shiron muttered. "But I wanted to leave home. O-Or at least, leave them. Guess I did…"

To that, Daichi raised his glass. "Cheers, kiddo. But now, to the important stuff… that we should discuss. What're we gonna do? Onyx and Jackett said you proved yourselves time after time. And now that I look back… you did. So I'm wondering: what do you want?"

What he wanted. Shiron didn't know. It wasn't like he was encouraged to have things he wanted, or dreams. None of that was accepted back home.

"...I dunno." Shiron said, his gills drooping down. "Never stopped to think. I dunno if I even have dreams of my own."

Shiron looked at the table, thinking. A dream. All his friends had one. But what was his? Nothing came up. Not even a tiny idea. Nada.

Daichi downed another glass, but he didn't seem to be drunk at all. "It's alright, kid. It's okay to not have a dream for tomorrow. I know I didn't find mine for a long while."

All he could do was help his friends achieve theirs. Maybe… maybe that was his goal.

"I told Xerneas I wanted to help everyone, but… I don't know if that's true. Maybe I don't have any. But I can protect my friends' dreams!"

Hearing that, Daichi smiled. "Good answer. Just what I wanted to hear from a hero."

"I can be a hero… then you can too, Daichi." Shiron offered a hand. "Humans like us should stick together, right?"

"Fuck yeah." Daichi shook hands, smiling still. His teammates were right. That kid, and the others, were just fine.

"I think I can say for sure now that… the competition is over. Y'all won. Lookin' forward to us working together."

Shiron stuffed more fries, then tilted his head. "Working together?"

"Think of it as an allyship. Which reminds me… we got a job. It's kinda dangerous, from the looks of it. Doubt you've heard of this, but there's been meteor storms lately. Very nasty."

Shiron's face shifted into a frown. "Meteor storms?"

"Wherever one happens, 'mons also hear constant thunderclap. It's been happening for a while, and most of the time, we can evacuate. The most recent one left an entire town deserted because of the evacuation."

Daichi took a deep sip from more beer and put it down gently."Our job is to investigate that. 'Course, there's been others investigating it as well… think even mercs are being called to go there…"

A Monferno walked across a barren, wasted road, wearing nothing but a bag and an eyepatch, and a large green bandana around his neck.

Craters were spread around the area, around every corner. The few trees that were there were broken in half, some had massive scorch marks, others looked like they were cut in half at just the right angle.

Monferno kept walking, gulping. Not just the area looked odd, but it was unusually dark. Even the moonlight failed to shine the place, leaving only his own fire as the one source of light.

"...Oh fuck me. It's friggin' dark! The ferals must be settin' base here! This is gonna be a bother to work in…"

He grumbled. "Bah! I'm a Monferno, if I find any ferals, I'll just burn 'em to a crisp! Works like a charm every time."

As he strolled, Monferno noticed he was where he wanted to be.

In a ghost town. Broken buildings with rubble splattered around them, craters everywhere… and the everlasting feeling of someone watching him.

It didn't end there. The more he walked, the more Monferno sensed something… odd. His flame felt chilling. That was particularly weird because he wasn't touching anything cold, much less something that could make him shiver.

"...What the hell?! This isn't… right."

Monferno shivered again, before letting out a burst of flames everywhere, coming from his mouth. It didn't help, his shivers only grew.

"M-Must be nothing. I'm fine… I'll be fine."

Amidst the darkness, Monferno shivered again, a chill running down his entire being. To make matters worse…

…The fire went out. And the darkness overtook the area completely. Monferno tried igniting his tail again, but it was all for naught. His eyes darted around in panic, trying to set the fifth limb ablaze again, and again, and again!

Nothing. Not even a tiny spark.

"T-The hell?!"

Another chill pierced him, and he suddenly felt a bright flash of light coming from his front. Taking a look there, Monferno saw what he could only describe as glowing darkness. It expanded, forming a crack. Not a normal crack, no. It was like the air itself was being torn apart.

From the crack, he saw tendrils made of pure darkness, moving towards him. And as much as his first instinct was to run away, Monferno found himself paralyzed, unable to move even a finger.

"T-This ain't natural…" Monferno winced, unleashing more flames, aimed at the tendrils, but they did nothing, simply passing through the darkness.

The tendrils touched him, and right as they did, he felt a rush of power. Energy flowed through him, invigorating, and addicting. He still shivered, the rush making his heart race.

At the same time, it was chilling, down to his very soul. Yet, he couldn't run away, couldn't move.

Monferno simply screamed as the tendrils overtook him completely.

A/N: Sorry for the long delay! Lots of things happened, most of them really good. Here's another chapter... and hopefully it's not too triggering for folks.
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Chapter 11 - Clash! Thunderclap!


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 11 - Clash! Thunderclap!

I'm singing to the beat,

I won't stop.

Gotta keep on,

Won't give up.

I'll come and see you.

Just know I am here for you now.

For the citizens of Thornwell, it was just another day, with the sun shining brightly in the sky, the birds singing in the distance. Waking up, going to work for the adults, playing and heading to school for the children.

It wasn't another day for Shiron, and certainly not for his friends. His team—as they kept insisting, and he still didn't know why they elected him the leader—waited outside the door to the humble place they called "headquarters".

They were all waiting for Daichi to arrive, with the preparations for their trip. Granted, he talked about it the day before, but Shiron let the others catch up to speed on the entire thing.

And if he goes with us, nothing bad will happen! Shiron thought, sighing in relief and clutching his scarf, newly repaired, and now fireproof.

"Hm. I am curious on how this will go…" Liz hummed. She turned to Terry, the dragon prince, who was busy reading a comic book. "...Sire? What do you think we will find?"

He mostly ignored her, without taking his eyes off the piece of paper that mesmerized him. "Right now all I want to find is how Spinarak-Mon will win this one… his girlfriend just got kidnapped!"

"I could tell, but it would ruin the entire thing," Nick shrugged, smiling. "Better to find out by yourself."

Liz pouted. "...Nicholas, I believe you are rotting his brain with this nonsense."

Truth be told, she wanted to deal with it in her own way, but judged it inadequate.

Shiron cleared his throat. Maybe for once he could act as a leader and say cool things, like…

"Alright, guys! Rollcall?!"

"Present!" Nick raised an arm.

"...This sounds pointless, Shiron." Liz blinked, but raised her arm after seeing Terry do the same. "...Present."

"Alright!" Shiron gave them a friendly thumbs up, smiling as bright as he could. "That should be all—"

"Guuuuuuuys! I'm coming!"

A green and brown sphere ran up the hill, unrecognizable at first. But once it was close enough, the shape, expression and smile answered whose voice it was—

"Magnus!" Shiron didn't even try to contain his excitement, waving at his friend. He was a friend. "Hey!"

"Nice seeing you, buddy." Nick smiled at him, waving.

"I'm here to—" Magnus stopped to breathe, allowing them to see he held a large and white plastic back, with its contents, albeit a little blurred by the material, revealed to be multiple boxes. "I packed lunch for you guys! Uh… there's a lot, sorry Shiron, but I had to take into account you five."

That made Liz raise a brow. "Five? I assumed Daichi was joining us."

"Well, about that…" Magnus gulped.

He wasn't the only one arriving. Onyx, the Charmeleon, was right behind, holding her hat with a hand, and spinning it around with one of her clawed fingers.

"Heya," she said, putting the hat on. "Daichi told me he and Jackett were staying here for, as he put it, "bureaucratic shit". Which means I'm the one going with y'all."

Shiron's gills instantly deflated. So, instead of the powerful Golem, they were traveling with Onyx. The disappointment was so sharp it could cut through stone. "Ah…"

"Well." Liz sighed, taking a glance at Onyx. She had bested them, even if they gave up the match. For Liz, that was more than enough. "I believe we are in good company."

"Damn right." Onyx grinned, showing off her fangs. "That reminds me… this lil fella wants to go."

Finally, she pointed at Magnus. The Quilladin smiled sheepishly, holding onto the bag.

Don't tell them you just want Shiron's company, don't tell them you want his company, don't tell them— "Y-Yeah! I wanted to make sure you guys were well fed, y'know!"

"...Will it be safe?" Shiron gulped. Risking his (worthless) life was one thing, but risking his friend's life? He didn't want that in his conscience.

"Dunno. But we're all capable fighters, so it should be fine." Onyx sighed. Well, not all of them, it seemed. "This'll be a one-day adventure, for all we know. Anyhow… ready?"

Shiron looked at her with a fierce expression. This was his chance! "I'm ready!"

And off they went. The group of six walked through one of the town's exits, leaving through the grassy road, filled with trees from left to right.

They were organized in two trios: Shiron, Magnus and Terry stood behind, as the weakest members, guarding the rear to see if anything happened. Nick, Onyx and Liz walked at the front, ready to strike in case any feral attacked them. There weren't supposed to be any, but…

"Stay alert anyway. We can pass by a horde anytime soon." Onyx said, puffing out smoke. "We got this, alright?"

"Aight!" Nick cheered, raising an arm. "In case we come across any, we can just fight our way through!"

"I would rather not. However, I will if necessary." Liz added, smirking. She was… way too excited about fighting, despite her words.

"Sure you are. I can see the fire in your eyes," the Charmeleon smirked, punching Liz on the arm, gently. "I say, being a fire-type."

"Hmph. There is no fire in my eyes! Lies, I tell you!"


Nick smiled. This was good. No, this was great. He finally had a team of his own! A team that was out in the field, investigating, finding things! It was all he could dream of and even more!

One of these days, I gotta thank Shiron for accepting all of this. It's… honestly really nice.

He glanced back for a few seconds, wondering how his friend was doing. Or rather… friends. All three of them.

"Shame Liz didn't let you bring the comic… I kinda wanna read it too." Shiron said, watching Terry look around the trees, tail wagging.

Terry kept looking, his eyes sparkling. Both eyes were staring at the trees, the leaves, and the berries. "It's alright! I'm honestly happy! This place is beautiful! It's a lot better than my kingdom. Err, not mine, just… you know."

"Man… imagine if you guys got famous enough to visit other continents. Would blow your mind away!" Magnus smiled. He kept securing the bag, deciding to count on the others for protection, even if the trip had been safe so far.

They heard a growling noise; by this point everyone in their group was used to Shiron and his seemingly black hole of a stomach. He blushed, tapping his belly.

"...We should stop for lunch soon. How much did you bring?"

"Enough for around… two days, I think?" Just in case, Magnus checked the bag. There were a lot of boxes. "...Maybe three if we're lucky. Or less if we're not."

"And you came because you wanted us to eat. You know me so well, Magnus…" Shiron smiled.

"Y-Yeah! Because of that, haha!"

Terry looked at the two, tilting his head. "...Right. I missed some of the details, meteor storms?"

"Uh, yeah, even I know that," Magnus added, glancing at Terry. "Dad said there were a lot of them lately. We don't really know why. He's praying that they don't hit our town."

Shiron frowned. If they hit the town… it would be bad. Real bad. Maybe he should pray too. To whatever god this world had. Maybe Xerneas? She did revive him, after all.

"Well, we're investigating that," he said. "If there's an unnatural reason for it, we'll find out!"

I hope… the training with Ronan has to pay out! If anything happens here or back at Thornwell… it better pay out.

After that, the groups got closer together, as the road began to shift. Instead of trees, they were now next to grassy fields. Some feral Pokémon were around; Terry saw a herd of Tauros and Miltank in the distance, blocked by fences.

Must be a farm… neat.

"This probably won't be a very dangerous trip. I hope so, anyway." Onyx said, taking a look at the others.

"Fair enough," Liz replied, nodding. "I hope your statement proves to be true. However, even if it is is not, with our team—"

She turned back; seeing Shiron wrapping his arms around Magnus' back. He flashed a grin.

"Wanna be the biggest dreamer! I'll keep running straight ahead! From today into a brighter tomorrow!" Shiron sang, in all the glory his terrible voice could do. "That's right, I have finally realized… I've been forgetting my homework all this time. Life is slow and questions just pile on and on and on… 'Gotta know... where do I belong?'"

"H-Help…" Magnus muttered. On the bright side, Shiron's voice was surprisingly soothing. He didn't want to get rid of it anytime soon… so the help request was pretty much pointless.

"Ow, my ears." Nick covered them, groaning. "Shiron, shut up! You're terrible at this!"

Even Terry was groaning, shaking his head and muttering some unintelligible words, all to ignore the noises. "Lalalala…"

"Big and Bigger, Biggest dreamer! That's the start of everything! I know dreams are what I need to find the answers that I seek!"

Nick groaned dramatically, almost losing his balance. Terry ran in circles while pouting. But Magnus? He was the only one actually enjoying all the singing. Not even he knew why.

"A reliable team, eh?" Onyx chuckled, looking at Liz with a toothy grin.

Much to the Charmeleon's surprise, she saw something highly unusual. A… smile? A smile! Very small, and Liz looked like she was making a lot of effort just to smile.

"Oh, you're smiling, little rose?"

"I am not!" Liz protested, pouting and looking away with a huff. "This is a crude display of our prowess!"

"Hah. Say whatcha like, saw you smilin', so you were smilin'~!"

Reshiram almighty… may I have the strength to go through this! Liz thought. She retreated her smile, putting on her usual serious expression. But… they do seem to be having fun.

"M-Maybe try a different song, Shiron?" Magnus said. By now he started to blush, and shamelessly checked Shiron's arm out. He enjoyed how the sun shone in his scales, making them seem all the more brighter.

"A different song? Hm… gonna have to think about that one!"

Nick locked eyes with Terry, and the two said in unison. "NO!"

…A lot of fun, indeed. Liz couldn't help herself but smile once more, Instantly, she stopped herself, seeing Onyx smirking.

And on the road, they continued.

Until the farms were no longer visible, and the team found themselves at a crossroad. Literally. There were three distinct paths, one headed north, one headed west, and one headed east.

"Where do they all lead?" Shiron asked, looking at both Nick and Onyx, as they knew the layout better than him, and certainly better than the rest.


Nick was about to reply, but was stopped by the sound of Liz clearing her throat. She pointed at a sign nearby. The text inside served as their answer.

"It appears we would reach Bright Dawn by heading north," she said.

"It's one of the routes, yeah." Onyx shrugged. "Probably the quickest one, too. You'd need to go through Heavenwind first, but you'd get there in a week, give or take. Maybe more, I dunno."

"What about the west…?" This time, it was Terry. He knew basically nothing of this continent, so the least he could do was appreciate them helping him. "By the way, thank you. If it were just me and Liz, we would probably be lost by now."

"S-Sire! I know how to travel…" Liz pouted. She was thankful for not having blood to blush.

"I never said you didn't, but… well, I imagine it'd be easier getting lost, since we have no idea where anything is in this continent. No offense."

Magnus smiled sheepishly. "None taken!"

"Hillford's at the west," Nick said, pointing to the left and smiling. "Which is lucky, because—"

"That's our goal." Onyx finished his sentence. "Speaking of… we can rest a little now."

Shiron looked at the sky. The sun was right above them; was it noon? Probably, but now he missed digital watches.

Magnus smiled, wagging his tail and finally putting down the bag, opening it and showing off the boxes, each one with a different color. "We have veggies, meat for the protein, some rice for carbs… pretty much everything you'd need!"

"Whoohoo!" Shiron cheered, tapping his stomach again. "You're the best!"

"Course, you get a larger share…" Magnus handed the fish two boxes. He didn't even wait long before opening them to eat. Not that Magnus minded. If anything… that was adorable.

Onyx sighed in relief. "Whole package, eh? Eat up, y'all. We still have a lot of ground to cover."

Nick stood on one side of the field, adjusting himself to fight, both fists clenched. On the other side stood Liz, her cape flicking in the wind.

"Kick his butt, Liz!" Terry cheered, sitting down to eat. The others were all next to him. On his left was Onyx, and on his right, Magnus.

Magnus himself was on Shiron's side, watching the fish finish the second box of food. He wasn't sure, but it looked like Shiron did it faster than normal.

"This was… really good. And we get to watch them train? That's awesome!"

"I-I guess…" Magnus put his hand down, and a thought arose. Maybe he could put his hand closer to Shiron's… maybe. Just thinking caused his heart to skip a beat, an occurrence that repeated the closer he got to his goal.

But Shiron didn't even notice, not even when their hands did touch, if only for a second, as Magnus pushed himself away, blushing.

The fish was fixated at the fight, eyes widening. "Nick, you got this!"

"Y'all." Onyx smirked, showing a single fang. "First one to land a clear hit wins. Don't get too into this."

"Aye!" Nick put his goggles on, smiling. "Alright, Liz! Let's get this show on the road!"

To start things off, Nick took a single step forward before rushing towards her, his trail covered in a white streak from how fast he was running.


Liz spun her body, vines included. Petals began to fall from her roses, and surrounded her in a thin veil, whirling around in the wind. Nick then jumped once he was mere inches from her face, raising a leg to kick her.

The petals moved in the blink of an eye, gathering in front of her to stop the attack. Not just that, but they pierced through, leaving a bruise in Nick's leg, forcing him to back down a few feet.

Onyx cleared her throat, before raising an arm and cheering. "The fight rages on! Nick tries to go for a hit with a simple combination of Quick Attack and Low Kick! But Liz is faster, she's able to use Petal Dance to protect herself, and even hurt her opponent while she's at it! The girl is fierce!"

"...Narration?" Liz blinked. How odd, though not entirely bad.

"Seems you got a fan." Nick, once again, charged. This time however he stopped before even getting close, using the speed to create doubles of himself; each of the clones marched to attack her.

"Not bad! But you will need more than that!"

Liz moved the petals, multiplying them to cover her entire body… and then they burst into the air, creating a mass of petals strangely shaped like herself while she remained on the ground and was promptly hit by Nick's multiple attacks.

"Whoa…" Shiron looked with sparkling eyes, putting down the box and hugging Magnus tight. "Didja see that?! He's attacking multiple times!"

"Y-Yeah, I see it!" Magnus replied, screaming on the inside.

"You're way too cocky!" Nick's clones dissipated and his claws extended, sparkling like metal as he slashed her. He won the fight!

"Liz!" Terry shouted, not knowing whether to look or not. She lost!

…Or so he thought. As it turned out, once Nick struck Liz with enough force, her body dissipated into light. Nick only noticed it when it was too late—Liz, the real Liz, was enveloped by the flowers, blowing them away as she fell from the sky, spinning and creating vines from her flowers. She slapped him with them after landing, a powerful whip blowing Nick back.

Nick was left rolling back the field, groaning from pain. His opponent, on the other hand, simply flicked her cape, retreating the vines.

"Rejoice! For I win this spar." Liz raised her head, smirking proudly. "You did well, Nick, all things considered."

"Didn't expect you to use Substitute like that…" Nick stood up, coughing a few patches of grass he accidentally ate. "But hey, I don't mind! Nice trick."

"Congratulations, everyone!" Terry stood up, strolling over to them. "We should probably rest for a while… then we'll keep going, but that was a nice match!"

"Thank you, Sire." Liz bowed. "Everything for you."

Shiron pulled away from the hug, noticing he spent way too much in it, and now his face was all red from embarrassment. Thankfully, nobody noticed it… well, Magnus did, but he wasn't even talking about it, so everything was fine. Probably. Maybe.

To distract himself, he thought of desserts. Which wasn't a good idea, as all he wanted now was one of Magnus' cakes.


As the day ended and the night started to come, the team found themselves very close to their goal—so close, in fact, that the area already looked different.

"Uh…" Terry looked at the ground. The patches of grass were burnt to a crisp. At the places they weren't, there were holes on the ground, along with rubble. "Is this…"

"Might be meteor rocks." Onyx replied, looking around. The flame in her tail served as a nice way of keeping the place lit. "But the place's deserted. There was an evacuation notice a few weeks ago."

Magnus stood close to Shiron, very close. This part of the trip was larger than what he signed up for, that was for sure. But with his friends, he felt safe. "R-Really?"

"Not just that," Nick added. His tail was stiff. Very stiff. "...I've heard someone was here before, right? Merc, I think."

Liz nodded, checking the grass; there was so little green she was surprised to find any at all. "I, admittedly, am unaware of what transpired here. However, if you did not get any news from him…"

"Means something bad, rose." Onyx replied. She walked forward, closer to the entrance. Checking her surroundings, the Charmeleon found a large sign… or what remained of it. There was very little that wasn't burned to a crisp. "...At the very least, there's been some struggle. We gotta—"

A loud thunderclap reverberated in the area, along with a bright flash of electricity, coming from inside the city. It was followed by a pained roar.

"O-Oh no…" Magnus scooted closer to Shiron, trembling. "W-What was that…?"

"Trouble." Nick said, huffing. "Seems we gotta go check it out, hm?"

Terry, meanwhile, nearly jumped from the shock. He managed to keep his ground, though. "That was really loud! And really bright… what'd you think caused it, Liz?"

"Hm, a powerful electric-type, perhaps. Good thing we have someone to ground it." Liz squinted at Shiron, the fish yelping in surprise.

"M-Me? But…" Shiron shut himself up before something worse happened. This was his chance. "...O-Okay, so the plan is to go check it out?"

"We got this, don't worry!" Nick said, but he gulped, feeling sweat begin to form on his head.

Even then, Nick noticed his sensors twitching. Which was a sign something was up, considering how poor his aura sense was. But now? Now he sensed something powerful, oppressive. It had to be whoever they were facing, and so, Nick put on a brave front. as a Riolu, that was expected of him. "...Right."

Onyx looked at them all, puffing out smoke. "Alright, you lot. We'll head in. There's a very high chance we'll need to fight someone or something. Be on your guard. Magnus, stay out of the line of fire, alright? If you're not a fighter…"

"Yeah, I'm gonna get beaten up pretty badly." Magnus sighed. "I'll stay behind Shiron."

Another thunderclap rocked them as they entered the town. This time, Shiron and Terry were positioned in front of Magnus, ready to defend him if they needed to.

Onyx's tail flicked more, though the light wasn't really necessary, the stars in the sky were lit enough that they could walk around without issue.

On what was left of the ground, anyway. The buildings were destroyed, with craters inside them. Those were the older wounds to the structure of the city.

As for the new ones, they were caused by a fire. Some of the wooden buildings were burning even now. One such place was an area full of carts, the fire spreading around it, smoke rising up.

But the loud noises continued. They were coming from the center of the town, judging by the bright flashes the group could see every now and then, always followed by roars.

Magnus gulped, staying close to Shiron. Still, he looked around. There was nothing left of this city, and even with so many people, his heart still pounced. Something was out there, he just knew it.

"We can never be too careful." Liz muttered. Petals gathered around her, forming a gentle forcefield.

By far, the biggest sign of the destruction around town was the massive crater at the center. Onyx bit her lip and glanced at them.

"That's where the largest meteor fell… we don't know exactly what happened, but we'll see," she said. "I doubt there are any survivors, but just in case… Nick? Can you try sensing anything?"

"On it." Nick closed his eyes. This was his moment, it seemed, as she counted on him. Like with Audrey, the Riolu first focused on finding an anchor, someone to get drawn to. Of course, he thought of her.

And then, his body was wrapped in orange. He could see everyone nearby: Shiron was red, Terry was pink, Liz was yellow, and Onyx was the usual blue. Don't know her well enough to properly read, but eh. Let's see…

He touched the ground, trying to get a better sense, or to "scan" his surroundings for any powerful aura. What happened made him fall back; the aura he sensed was strong. Too strong to be a survivor trapped in rubble. In fact, the aura was so powerful Nick fell on his rear.

"Nick!" Shiron rushed to his side, getting on his knees. "A-Are you alright?"

Nick's feelers continued to twitch, like they never did before. "Urgh… the hell's going on in this place?"

"Oh! Hey, what the… what was that all about?!" Terry approached after, trembling.

"Seems our services may be necessary after all…" Liz pondered, shaking her head. "

"There's something really powerful here." Onyx puffed out a small flame, claws stretched. "Probably the only real explanation. Magnus, stay put. We'll go down the hole."

He didn't even try to protest, straightening himself. "Y-Yes!"

Shiron helped Nick stand up and frowned. His heart pounded as well. "Let's go."

With their plan in hand, the group marched forward, climbing down the hole.

On their way down, the group of five finally saw the cause of all the ruckus inside this town. A spark flew right above Shiron, hitting part of the wall and making some rocks fall deeper into the crater.

But after that, he took a look.

Two Pokémon were fighting. One of them was easily recognizable as an Infernape, although its body was consumed by a black aura, and it roared, sending punch after punch towards the other Pokémon, a creature they didn't recognize.

It was a bipedal, feline Pokémon with thin yellow and black fur, with zigzagging stripes across its thighs and a tuft of blue fur over its chest. A long, tail-like strand of yellow fur extended from the middle of its back, shaped almost like a lightning bolt. The Pokémon wore a brown vest, and its blue eyes were fierce, staring at the Infernape while dodging the punches.

"What… is that?!" Nick was taken aback, both by the mysterious Pokémon and by the powerful thunder that shook him to his core.

"No… n-no idea," Shiron trembled, now thankful that Magnus wasn't there to be attacked. Still, Liz was, and she was a plant… "Just be wary, everyone!"

Liz kept climbing down the crater, watching the fight rage on in the distance. Infernape jumped, roaring, the fire in its head raging, turning from red to blue from the sheer intensity. Now that they were approaching, they saw a scarf around the Infernape… that was burned until nothing was left.

"Tch! You took one heavy dose of that bloody thing, didn't you…? Damn cracks!"

The feline hissed, jumping back and slashing the air with his claws, turning pure energy into stars that flew towards Infernape, sending it back. This was an opportunity he had to take, no matter what.


Whatever this mysterious Pokémon was, he knew what to do, coating both of his fists in bright, blue electricity, and he jumped, ramming Infernape to the ground with a single punch, only increasing the size of the crater.

"And stay down!"

Meanwhile, the team finally managed to climb down, with Onyx at the front, for once. She watched the fight, the flashes, the electricity. Watching it all, but unsure of who to root for. Not to mention one detail that kept bugging her.

"Y'all," she said. "There's something wrong… Daichi said the 'mon sent here was a Monferno, not… an Infernape, or whatever that thing is."

"Perhaps he was wrong." Liz pointed out. Regardless, they still needed to see which one was in the wrong here. Or rather, what was wrong with this city.

"Uh…" Shiron cleared his throat, deciding to take the initiative and approach the two fighters. "H-Hey! We're team… u-uh, YTBN! Yeah! We were sent to investigate this place! What's going on?!"

"YTBN…?" Nick tilted his head. "I mean, it's better than what it stands for…"

Terry took a step forward, baring his teeth. "We would like to ask you some questions—"

A bolt of lightning was launched, landing right in front of Shiron.

"You lot stay put! This guy's gone nuts! And more importantly, it doesn't concern any of you!"

"You're under no authority to request that!" Onyx hissed, showing off her claw. "Present yourself!"

"Zeraora. Zero. Whatever you wanna name it!" Zero said, shrugging. He looked behind him, inspecting the unconscious body of Infernape. "This guy's dangerous! Too dangerous, so stay out of this!"

While he was talking, the unconscious fire-type began to shake. Slowly, and barely noticeable for the untrained eye. But Liz? Her eyes were sharp, trained.

Zero snarled. "Watch out!"

"R-Raaawrgh!" Infernape jumped back into consciousness, standing up and roaring. The flames ignited again, this time jumping high in the air, turning blue instantly. Its blue eyes were glowing with the same aura, and soon its body was coated by it.

"Look what you've done! It's gonna go wild and attack again—"

Infernape jumped, disappearing and reappearing right next to Shiron, fist clenched, coated in flames. It pulled its arm back, and punched the fish back with incredible force.

However, Shiron managed to block at the last possible second, crossing his arms in an "X" shape and taking the full force of the attack. With all the might he had, he was able to only be sent back a few feet.

"Urgh… you're really tough, but there's people I gotta protect! C'mon, can't we solve this with words instead of violence?!"

Protect…? Zero watched the scuffle, now a lot more interested. They were too weak to be of any help with this threat, but maybe… maybe he could test them. See what they had in store.

Infernape roared, lowering its head and then giving Shiron a powerful headbutt, finally forcing him back. Shiron was left dizzy, stumbling on his feet.

"Nice job, Shiron, but let me handle it!" Onyx jumped, focusing as much air as she could, and launching a powerful smoke bomb, that covered the area with it, covering Infernape's vision.

She didn't take long, aiming for a powerful slash, right at Infernape's stomach. Onyx followed this with a powerful and acrobatic attack, moving so fast two after-images appeared behind her. This attack managed to knock Infernape back.

For just a moment. Infernape returned the favor with a flurry of punches, all done in the span of seconds, so fast only the air blasts were left visible. Onyx was thrown backwards, landing on the ground.

"G-Gah! Y'all! Don't underestimate it! Use your all to fight it!"

Terry looked at the ground that they were in. Very rocky, with the occasional smaller craters. With so many rocks, he was in his natural element. In this case…

"Shiron, I'll need your strength! Launch the rock!" Terry stomped the ground, making stones float upwards.


Shiron ran ahead, grabbing one of the rocks. With his superhuman strength, he could probably deal a lot more damage. He lowered his arm backwards, and launched the rock at full force and high speed.

It was a quick and agile projectile, hitting Infernape. Or it would, if it wasn't just as fast. The fire-type simply punched the rock, shattering it into rubble, and then roaring, shaking the very ground they stood on.

"O-Oh! Oh… oh no!" Shiron gasped. His attack was meaningless! If… if only I could properly use Liquidation! I-I could attack this guy and win! I… oh no, oh no!

I cannot do much, however… I must. For Sire!
Liz jumped ahead, her roses covered in poison. She knew that if the Infernape landed too many hits, she was done for. "Nicholas! I need backup!"

While all this was happening, Nick was paralyzed. The aura he sensed earlier finally revealed itself. It belonged to the Infernape, but that was odd, because it was too powerful for a Pokémon like that to possess.

The Riolu was left out of it, thinking about reasons for this. Not to mention how Onyx said that the mercenary being a Monferno. Something was wrong with this place.


"H-Huh?! Oh, right! I'm on my way!" Nick rushed ahead, using the same strategy as their sparring session, creating multiple mirage clones of himself that ran in circles around Infernape.

Infernape quickly punched the ground to disperse every clone of Nick, but his job was done. Liz had enough time. She jumped, jabbing Infernape with a poison-coated punch, again and again. As much as she could do, before he was able to fight back.

Infernape roared once more, its flames somehow getting even hotter. Liz wasn't close, but even she could tell that, in case she touched it, she would burn, much like everything in this town.

Liz backflipped, landing right next to Onyx. "Are you… are you alright?"

"What'd ya think?" Onyx groaned, taking Liz's rose to help stand up.

"I think… I…" Liz trembled. No, no! This was a weakness! This fear, this dread that tried to make her stop, that told her to run, that was something her master said to get rid of. But it was out of her control. Liz kept trembling.

Zeraora looked disappointed. Do these guys really have what it takes…?

Infernape roared, setting his eyes on Liz. He jumped at her, ready to strike with fire.

Once more, Shiron stepped forward, taking the punch to his stomach and roaring from the pain. It even left a scorch mark, but he ignored it entirely, grabbing Infernape's arm with both of his.

"Leave… my friend… alone!" Shiron screamed, pulling Infernape up and tossing him to the other side of the hole with all the strength his body had. He fell on his knees, panting. "S-Sorry Liz… this is the second time I did something like this."

"...Idiot." Liz said, sighing. On the bright side, she was able to calm down somewhat.

"Watch out!" Onyx launched another smoke bomb right as Infernape lunged at them, temporarily blinding it. "Tch, now! Attack!"

Nick cracked his knuckles and ran, jumping. He clenched both fists and landed a powerful kick at Infernape's face. "Go, everyone!"

Terry nodded, running as fast as his stubby legs could do. Finally, he stomped again, launching a barrage of rocks towards Infernape. The fire-type, still blinded, was hit by each of them. "Your turn, Shiron!"

"Right!" There was something he could do, one attack that he managed to train with Ronan. Shiron ran ahead, grasping the ground firmly with his arm. The rocky area instantly turned into mud, and he was able to shape it into a sphere, before launching it at Infernape. The mud exploded, much like a bomb, in Infernape, who screeched at the attack.

But Liz did nothing. Her fear continued to conquer her, even as she watched her teammates deal blow after blow, she simply could not bring herself to do anything, lest Infernape burn her. I… I cannot… I-I… I…

Nick launched another kick, screaming and jumping back just in time for Terry to launch more rocks.

Infernape was struck time after time, its opponents didn't give much time to breathe or to counter their attacks, and finally, the raging fire-type landed on the ground, the blue flames finally turning red.

Shiron panted, falling to his knees. "D-Did we do it…?"

"Wait." Nick said. His sensors continued to twitch, sensing the evil aura coating Infernape. "The thing… I saw something, or sensed something, when I saw that guy. It's still there."

"What'd you see?" Onyx asked. She was on Liz's side, looking at the Roselia with a frown. "And while we're at it, are you okay? You look pretty shaken up."

Terry rushed to the Roselia's side. "Hey! It's alright, we won!"

But she had other plans. Liz stood up, gritting her teeth, and stared at Zeraora; her former composure was long gone, replaced by unmatched fury. Even Terry was taken aback by this, slowly backing away from her.

"It is far from over. He still stands, as do I." Liz let her cape flicker in the wind, a vine crawling out of one of her roses; her right one. It even dripped with venom, the purple ooze falling to the rocky ground. "Thanks to Shiron. I would love to say this is returning the favor, and it is. However… if I stand, I must fight!"

"Oi, oi! You did well, kid! Don't push your luck!" Zeraora shook his head and shrugged. Not wanting to entertain that thought, or to waste time fighting her, he decided the best course of action was to finish that as soon as possible. "The hell's this all about?! All I'm doing is giving you lot a warning!"

"...Where I am from, we do not need luck. All we need… is our strength!" Liz rushed forward and stuck her vine inside the rocks. Its roots started to spread from underground, culminating in her raising her right arm, launching chunks of rock towards Zeraora.

"L-Liz?!" Terry protested, only to stand down and watch it happen. When she set her sights on something, nobody could stop her. Right now, the prince wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing.

"W-Whoa…" Shiron only watched in awe, mouth opened. But it was changed into disbelief. "W-Wait! No need to get revenge cuz of me! I just did what I wanted!"

"And I am doing what I want!" Liz replied, hissing. It was like even her voice was venomous.

"Let her do it, dude. Bet this Zero dude is tired from the fighting before! If we need information, this is the only way we're getting it! Nick managed a proud smirk. "And I knew recruiting her was the right choice… Liz! Kick his butt!"

"Tch! And here you are, pushin' your luck to the limit!" With a snarl, he too ran, sparks of blue electricity rushing through both of his fists as he crushed the boulders with powerful punches.

It was just the distraction she needed. Liz jumped, twirling her body and covering it with petals, so many of them nobody could even see her regular self. The petals gathered together, forming a sharp blade that was tossed right in front of her, towards the feline.

"The hell?!" Zeraora dodged, watching the blade cut through the ground and leaving a part of it sliced open. If I was hit by that… tch! Gotta end this quick!

"Keep your eyes on the fight!"

Liz fell to the ground, preparing a powerful jab with her poison-coated arm, and Zeraora quickly moved to the side. They were inches away from one another, a prime opportunity for him to strike.

"Say that to yourself!"

And with all the focus he had in him, Zero punched Liz, straight in her face, sending an impressive amount of electricity through her body.


Liz was launched backwards, hitting the ground multiple times before eventually landing next to Terry, her body full of scorch marks of her own.

Thunder continued to clap as Zeraora approached them, clapping slowly. Shiron prepared to fight again, knowing he was the best to deal with that guy.

Zero ignored him, waving him off. "Go away, fishy. Anyway, you lot have tons of shit to learn. Like I thought… this is beyond you all. Especially considering I was just attacked."

"Lotta bark and no bite," Onyx said. "You're saying a ton of shit, but not explaining any of it."

"Explain? For starters, if Infernape wasn't weakened by my fight, none of you would have won. You're welcome, by the way."

Liz was about to protest, but even talking was tiring. Her entire body burned.

Terry decided to do it for her. "So aside from being cryptic, you're also arrogant? Amazing."

"I'd rather call it a charm," Zeraora looked at the sky, at the edge of the hole. "But fine, lemme entertain y'all. See… this ain't your normal meteor shower. It brings something with it, something the lil mutt sensed."

"...I'm not a mutt!" Nick protested, barking. His embarrassment was overshadowed by curiosity. "...What did I sense?"

"A Crack." Zero said, drawing in the shape of a fracture with electricity. The drawing remained in the air for a while, until it dissipated. "They're little pockets of nothing but energy. I wouldn't call them harmless, nah."

Sounds like something outta science fiction. Shiron kept that thought to himself. He was too tired to say it out loud.

"When they come into contact with a 'mon, they change 'em." Zeraora then pointed to Infernape. "Lady Charmeleon was right, when this guy got here, he was a Monferno. Sadly, the Crack got 'im."

"The Crack did… what?" Terry tilted his head, not putting two and two together.

"It forcefully evolved him." Liz said, mustering the courage to speak up. "...If it is a pocket of energy, and that energy was taken by this Monferno, it accelerated his growth, turning him into an Infernape."

To that, Zeraora gave Liz a big grin. "Bingo! Plant lady got it right! That's what it does. It makes you stronger. Which would be a nice deal… if it didn't come with a berserk button."

Shiron frowned. Infernape did seem to be going wild, and almost… pained? Amidst the battle, it was hard to tell.

"That's…" Nick wanted to confirm, just to be sure, but with all the fight he did, even at his best, sensing the aura would be difficult. Besides, the evil influence was still on him.

Albeit faintly. While the group was talking, the aura surrounding Infernape began to float upwards, leaving the fire-type's body.

"And there you have it! The explanation you lot wanted."

Onyx snarled, flicking her tail. "You seem to know quite a bit about these "Cracks", feel like sharing this? There's a place for you back home!"

"Nah, lady. I'm flattered, but I work alone." Zeraora closed his eyes, fists brimming with electrical sparks again. "Not to mention, again, you guys aren't ready! Look how tired you all are!

"Just… j-just watch us!" Shiron said, closing both fists and jumping in straight for a punch.

"Feisty, but kinda pointless, fishy." Zeraora dodged it without breaking a sweat, then kicked Shiron on his stomach, making him fall on the ground.

"It's five against one, do you really want to risk that?" Onyx flared her nostrils, launching a powerful stream of flames that barely missed Zeraora, who just grinned.

"Are you sure about that? Cracks are powerful. I'd be worried about your Infernape friend if I were you. Who knows? He might need medical attention more than anything else!"

Liz felt like she was about to pop a vessel, even if she had none to pop. "You fiend…"

Shiron stood up slowly, panting. If he was faster—if he could use Liquidation, he could catch up and get that guy to come with them.

"Now… I'm sorry about this, but I gotta make like a tree and leave! There's a place that needs me!"

Nick tried to run and catch up, but Zeraora turned tail, running with a streak of lightning behind him as he climbed up the crater, leaving on the opposite side of where the team entered.

Onyx punched the ground and snarled. "Damn it! We lost the one thing we needed to solve this case!"

She didn't bother looking at the others; and while she wasn't mad per se, Onyx was disappointed they failed.

I… I gotta look at the bright side for this, don't I? Shiron thought, fiddling with his fingers. "Uh… guys, on the bright side, we can question this Infernape, But we gotta get out of here first, r-right?"

The silence that befell them served as his answer. Shiron sighed, walking to Infernape and putting the fire-type on his back.

"I dunno if we can say this was a loss, or a victory. But we need to go! This guy might've gone berserk, but we can't just leave him like this!"

"No, we can't." Nick said. His sensors finally turned back to normal, not moving unless Nick himself was moving. Which he was quite thankful for.

No, this is certainly a loss. And perhaps it is my fault… if only I was stronger. Liz looked down.

"Let's just go. We should meet up with Magnus and walk back." Terry said, already on his way to the walls of the crater.

Left without much choice, the group made their way up.

As soon as Shiron made it to the exit, he saw Magnus running towards him, panting, and… crying? He swore he saw a tear forming, but maybe that was wrong.

"Shiron! What happened down there?! All I could see were sparks and flames and—oh my stars you're bruised! And burnt!"


He hadn't noticed, but taking the attacks took a toll on him, there were multiple bruises all over Shiron's body, but they weren't painful. "I… honestly didn't know. Maybe I'm that sturdy."

"You are an unusual Marshtomp." Liz added, though her look was elsewhere.

Onyx was the next to come, helping Nick climb. The duo glared at the others. They weren't nearly as hurt as Shiron, for once.

"It's strange that you don't seem to mind being this hurt." Terry said, eyeing the wounds. "...But uh, good to hear anyway?"

"I… I swear, guys, this is fine." Shiron protested, but was only met with piercing glares.

Magnus shook his head, which ended up as half his entire body moving. "I don't buy it! When we get back, I'm giving you a full cake. On the house!"

"...Deal." Shiron said, his stomach growling. Can't mention I got hurt so much back home this doesn't even faze me…

"Shiron might be special, to be fair." Nick deadpanned, yawning. "Anyway, this is super tiring. Can we go home? We'll leave Infernape at the clinic."

"Well, we seem to have a mystery in our hands. Meteor showers, cracks… all connected." Onyx added, looking at the hole. "We also found out what was wrong with this town. Nick, do you still—"

Nick shrugged. "Sense that weird thing? Nope. I don't feel anything."

"Cracks…?" Magnus asked, his gaze fully at Shiron.

"I think we're gonna have to explain on the way home. Which, by the way, we should start heading to. I'm getting kinda hungry, and I'm also beat."

"We won't take a full day to get home, will we?" Terry frowned. The possibility was there, and very real, which he hated.

"I dunno. We'll see." Onyx sighed.

Liz kept quiet. Quieter than she usually was. Multiple instances of "I am weak" kept running around her head, shutting down all other thoughts. They were suffocating. And the worst part? They were right.

I am so… weak. I cannot protect him like this. I cannot protect any of them. Why? Why am I so weak?

This just wouldn't do. Liz told herself one thing, one sure thing. She was going to become stronger. Their fight against this "Zeraora" was far from being over, and if she wanted to help them all, she needed to be stronger. That was her determination.

Before she knew it, the others had gone on ahead, and she was far from them. Lost in her thoughts, until Terry yelled at her to come with him.

She went with them, with a renewed fire in her eyes.

A/N: Hey all. This is the author (obviously, shush). It's been oficially one year since I posted this fic. Whoa, a year! And only 11 chapters! Somehow that feels weird, considering that by LoF's first anniversary, I had... I dunno, 40 chapters? Something along the way.

Anyway, thanks for everyone that keeps on reading this. I doubt myself a lot, a lot. And seeing the views increase does make my brain gremlins happy. Jokes aside... yeah, thanks. It does mean a lot that people appreciate what I'm writing, even if most of you are silent. I get that, honestly. I know there's readers, and even if you don't write reviews or anything, I don't mind it that much. At least, not anymore. I like to believe I've come a long way since I started both of my fics, and I... am gonna keep on writing, keep on going. Thanks everyone, for all the support you've given me this year. Let's keep on riding, alright? There's still a long way till this story is done.
Chapter 12 - Questions, Enemy, and Loss


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 12 - Questions, Enemy, and Loss

So tell me, oh-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa.

Will my voice echo throughout the whole town?

Oh I don't know-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa

what tomorrow will bring.

I am anticipating!

Daichi walked through the streets with Jackett by his side… flying, of course. The bug looked around, clearly trying to find the others, or at least Onyx.

"They're not coming with us today?"

"No. I think a small group, like the two of us, should be enough." Daichi said, shrugging the best his stubby arms could. "...Granted, not ideal, in my opinion."

"No, no." Jackett buzzed, nodding to him. With the news of what happened in Hillford the day before, they needed to be cautious. "Considering the "Zeraora" creature they found, I think we should take our time investigating. That is, if this… Infernape?"

"Yeah, they said something about crap forcing 'im to evolve."

"...I am fairly sure they didn't say the c-word."

To that, Daichi let out a boisterous laugh, tapping his teammate on the back. "Are you seriously tryin' to censor me?!"

…Which made Jackett blush and pout. "Hush! I believe it's crass and crude!"

"They're both words that start with "c"! Are ya gonna censor 'em too?"

"Well, that much is true, and a lot of words start with—but they're not swears!"

Luckily, the few people that looked at that playful display didn't think much of it, though some of the bystanders did share a laugh or two. Jackett himself was laughing, although only inside his mind, trying to stop Daichi from teasing him any further.

"I gotta admit. Kinda like how we are right now."

Jackett buzzed again. "Eh? What do you mean?"

"Friends. And, err… I have a long way to get better from now on, but I should proooobably thank you for convincing that other human about us all workin' together." Daichi rubbed his chin. "Yeah, that's what I wanted to tell you."

"Hm… I accept the thanks." Jackett nodded. "Granted, I still have a hive mentality. I would like to request assistance in freeing myself from it."


The duo managed to reach the hospital, being met with a familiar gaze.

"Don't overwhelm him."

Amelia stood in front of the town's hospital, crossing her arms and with a raised brow towards the Golem and Beedrill next to her. She sighed, keeping her gaze solely on them.

"Miss, we're not gonna do that." Daichi said, shaking his head and peeking through the half-open door.

Jackett bowed to the nurse. "Indeed. As part of the effort to investigate Hillford, we must ask him a few questions, if you allow us, of course."

"I… never said you couldn't," the Kirlia deadpanned, frowning at them. "As long as you don't overwhelm him with questions, you're free to go. Frankly, I'm glad your entire team isn't here. I would actually stop you all if that were the case."

"Yeah, figures. We decided to be just us." Daichi shrugged. "Can we…?"

"Yes." Amelia got out of the way, opening the door to them. "Again, don't overwhelm him."

"Let's go." Jackett buzzed his wings, entering the hospital without saying another word. For all his talk of trying to escape the mentality, using it right now would help with the investigation.

Daichi followed him.

The hospital was calm, anonymous walls and rows of empty beds highlighting how little activity there was, with nary a doctor or nurse in sight from where they were. Jackett even smiled, knowing that with so few patients, it meant life in the town was relatively peaceful, save for the occasional criminal activity.

Daichi, on the other hand, shivered. White walls, used to help bring comfort to patients, caused him to begin sweating, though the Golem rubbed it off as fast as he could.

"Huh, really hot in here, eh? Must be summer."

"...It's fall." Jackett deadpanned.


He was about to reply, but then something came up. Jackett tilted his head, raising an arm and sighing. "...Daichi."

"Uh, yeah?"

"We need to see the patient," he answered, crossing his arms.

"We're gonna."

"Really? Where's the room?"

It only then dawned on him. "...Oh, I see it now."

The door creaked open and soon closed, Amelia walking next to them. "Second floor. First door on the left. Or, if you're this terrible even when receiving directions, follow me. Also, no flying. Walk like a normal Pokémon."

"I like her." Jackett chuckled, descending to the floor. He was so used to flying, but walking wasn't any issue at all.

"Well, frick." Daichi grinned. "Jackett, I'm gonna get back at ya for that little stunt. Though I can't say I don't like it."

Amelia was already ahead of then, stopping to look at the duo. "Are you two following me or not? Just get on with it already."

After following her, the duo were allowed inside the room, which was very calm and full of light. Each bed had blankets and a pillow, to make sure the patients were comfortable.

In this particular room there was only an Infernape, flames out, eating from a bowl of soup. Because of it, he didn't notice the two at first; too busy "enjoying" hospital food.

Although that wasn't what Jackett noticed. According to reports from Onyx, this Infernape was berserk, attacking anyone in sight, and by the moment the team got there, he was already fighting.

Meaning: he should be hurt, or bruised, but there was none to be seen. For all intents and purposes, Infernape was healthy. At least physically. His mind was yet to be proved healed.

"Greetings." Jackett said, leaving the wave for Daichi.

"Heya." Daichi was the first one to get closer. "Mister…?"

"Used to be Monferno, but that ain't the case anymore." Infernape sighed, putting the bowl on his bed. "I know what you two want from me, so hit it. What use can I be?"

"First… what do you remember happening there?" Jackett asked. He did get a full report, but hearing it from the one who experienced it the most was far better.

"Hittin' me with your best shot, eh?" Infernape grumbled, clutching the blanket tight.

"See, that's the thing. Not much; when I got there, there was this weird… dark thing. I tried fightin' it, or like, torch the bloody thing."

Daichi huffed. There was nothing he could or should say, so instead he was relegated to listening to this story, not even finding it absurd. After all, he did die and come back to life, so something like that was fairly believable.

"Didn't work, and it, uh… grabbed me." Infernape shivered, a tiny spark of flames appearing on the top of his head. "Next thing I knew, I felt… strong. Like, hella strong! I was at the top of the world! And then… blam! Don't remember a single thing before waking up on the road, being carried here."

Jackett nodded, eyes closed. "Hm. This corroborates with what this "Zero" said. The Crack forced mister Monferno to go through the evolution process."

Infernape raised a finger after hearing the name, but put it down and started thinking.

"Nothin' else?" Daichi asked. "Like, do you know who that guy was? 'Cause we sure don't."

"Maybe? Look, my memory's all fuzzy, dude." Infernape huffed, the flames burning brighter, and his tail twitching. "Though… name's familiar. Think my contacts mentioned the guy before, something about being cautious and stuff."

"Being cautious." Daichi repeated, groaning. "Just great. If you remember anything else, can you let us know? Talk to the Kirlia, she's an ally."

"Oh yeah! She's really cute!" Infernape nodded, the fur on his face turning red. "Totally my type, too!"

"Relatable." Daichi turned around, taking a glance at him. "But really, let us know. We're gettin' to the bottom of this."

"It seems this "Zero" is a piece of work, and not one of the good ones." Jackett mentioned, walking towards the door. "We should tell the others."

"Aye." Daichi nodded. And with that, they left the room, leaving Infernape to rest some more.

Liz let the waves of the ocean rub against her roots, and kept watching the horizon. Home had never been so far, so out of reach. Yet, she extended an arm to try and grasp it, knowing well that was a pointless struggle.

Oh, how it hurt. Her pride, her body, everything hurt after the loss during the investigation. Deep inside her, everything hurt. Her back ached, burning like the wound from that one training session never healed.

How can I be this weak, this pathetic? I can never defend my… friends. Not like this. Perhaps the world really is out to get me—

Her thoughts were interrupted by a splash of water in her face, snapping Liz back to reality, where she heard a familiar voice.

"Sheesh, ya can only brood so much before it sucks the happiness outta everyone." Onyx sat next to her, dipping her toes in the water. "Ah… this is nice! Would rather have it be hotter, but y'know, I can deal with this."

Liz looked at her with a quirked brow. "...I assumed the members of the Charmander line could not handle water."

"What? No, that's just a myth." Onyx flicked her tail, the flame in it growing stronger. "Honestly, Bouquet, I'm offended."

"Bou…quet?" Liz blinked. "Because I am a Roselia?"

"Fits, doesn't it? 'Sides, you look like you need some company!"

To that, Liz pouted. "What I need is to be stronger. To fight better, and defeat that Zeraora. Not just for my friends, but for me as well. Losing is—"

"It ain't an option, right?"

Onyx had finished the sentence for her, and Liz nodded in reply. The Charmeleon sighed, looking at the ocean in silence.

"Losing… is part of the job. It sucks, and you feel bad about it. Nothing wrong with feelin' that way. What you should do is not let this bring you down."

Liz crossed her arms. Better to humor this Charmeleon. Or perhaps, instead of humoring, she really wanted the help. "...And how do I stop these feelings?"

"Well, for one, ya don't. Feelings are important." Onyx said, then stood up. "Secondly… there's a lesson you gotta learn. You lost once before, but that was from you forfeiting. I'm going all this way to say this, Liz. Fight me."

"Hmph. You fight with a member of the royal guard. The chances of you winning are neglectable." Liz snarled, and Onyx saw the fire in her eyes again.

Part of her plan did involve getting into the Roselia's nerves, and this seemed to work.

"Oh, so you're brooding and arrogant? Whoa!" Onyx flicked her tail again, showing off a toothy smile. "Don't mind it one bit! C'mon, fight me already! Whoever gets pinned down first wins!"

"Conditions accepted. Or perhaps you should say when you get pinned down." Liz began to spin, gathering petals beside her. She knew they were flammable, and frankly, it was a foolish idea to attack her with such a simple strike. Not that Liz cared, as all she wanted was to win.

And Onyx had preparations of her own, breathing a thick smoke that clouded the area, forcing Liz to step back and replan things. Or she could keep going with her previous idea, gathering the petals to create a makeshift shield, one that was quickly torched by a powerful punch.

Liz could feel a vein popping despite having none. She coated her roses in poison again, noticing the cloud was gone; she now had her sights set on Onyx, right in front of her. Liz went with a parry, trying to hit her opponent, and only that.

Her mind was focused solely on fighting, not caring for strategy at all. Due to this, Onyx could easily dodge the attacks and fight back, but she decided to simply dodge.

"Tch! Stop this nonsense! I am more than capable of—"

Onyx ducked and kicked both of Liz's roots, making her fall down. Liz gasped, looking up with her mouth gaped open, unable to speak anything else.

"You were sayin'?"

"B-But… no! I refuse to acknowledge this! Let us fight again!" Liz stood up as quick as she could, preparing another jab.

"No. I've made my point here." Onyx huffed, crossing her arms. She knew Liz was smart enough to figure out what the point was, but with that much rage, maybe she should help at least a little. "...So, what just happened? Or is the "member of the royal guard" too salty to admit it?"

"I… lost." Liz canceled her strike, now wondering just what she meant. It was just… a loss. That was all that happened.

"Yes, you did. You lost, and?"

"And… nothing?" Liz tilted her head. This felt like the right conclusion to that line of thought. But she still didn't know what it was all about.

"Exactly. You lost, and nothing bad happened." Onyx turned her head to face the horizon again. "...That was my point. Losing doesn't mean the end of the world."

"It… does not." Liz said, mostly to herself, gasping again. It was such a simple message. So, so simple. "I… can lose."

Onyx chuckled. "Bingo. There's something else, though. Because I had the same thought a while ago, when I was a wee lil 'mander. I wanted to evolve, because evolving meant…"

"...You could help those you love." Liz completed the sentence, still with her mouth opened. "You are… wiser than you look."

"Thanks." Onyx's grin grew wider. "Ya wanna evolve, become stronger. That's why you're so mad. You haven't evolved yet."

"No. A Shiny Stone could accelerate the process, but I have yet to acquire one."

"Let's train, then." Onyx looked at her again, offering a paw. "Train, 'til you evolve. Sounds good?"

Liz looked at the sand, sighing, and nodded. There was a tint of green blush in her face. "I accept."

The only one that was in their base was Nick… enjoying a cup of black coffee. Pure black, in fact, with not a single drop of sugar. After all, he was in a bad moment, and bad moments needed—

"Pfffft!" Nick spit the coffee out, rubbing his tongue in pure disgust. "How can anyone taste this?! It's awful!"

And here I was trying to act all cool and broody. Nick put his head on the table, groaning. He knew everyone in the team was dealing with their loss in a different way. It just happened that he didn't know what his way was.

"Maybe I should uh… well, I dunno."

So instead of deciding how to deal with it, Nick remained with his face planets on the table, groaning every now and then, and sometimes raising his head just to breathe.

From his position, he managed to see a shadow being cast in front of the table—and the footsteps, which he recognized, much to his own surprise, revealed it was one his teammates: Terry.

"Oh, uh… hey?"

"Hm, hi. You look awful." Terry sat in one of the chairs, opening a comic. With how sad Nick looked, the Tyrunt was surprised that their headquarters looked fine, clean, even. "...Why are you like this?"

"Dunno, kinda tired, and sad?" Nick raised his head, grumbling. He blew on the goggles, removing a bit of dust that gathered in them. "Thought I could ignore the feeling by acting like a broody teenager, didn't work."

"Huh… figures." Terry put his comic down. "I'll be frank with you—"

Nick spun in his chair. "Okay, Frank."


"Nevermind. Go ahead, Terry."

…Nick kept spinning. Terry blinked, watching that and getting increasingly dizzy. He shook his head.

"I'm angry too. Not that we lost, or anything like that. I'm more angry… that some of us got hurt. Shiron and Liz both fought head-on. Is this common?"

Nick tilted his head. Even though it was Terry that asked a question, Nick felt as if Terry instead came up with an answer. "For someone like us? Yeah."

"...So you got experience with it, then? Because I'm angry, and I could use a friend."

"Mom and Dad." Nick said, his ears drooping. "...Were like us. I don't have experience, but I remember what it was like living with them."

Terry didn't need to hear more to realize what was written under the lines when Nick mentioned his parents. "O-Oh! My apologies, I didn't mean to…"

"Y'know what? I could use a friend too." Nick said, hopping out of the chair. "I wanna know about you. Both because you're my teammate, and because you're my friend. Sounds good, right?"

"I… suppose so." Terry nodded, flicking his tail. Nick was trustworthy, and they fought together. In one of the comics, I learned fighting can bring Pokémon closer. Meaning he really IS my friend.

"Alright," he finally said. "Learning more about Riolu. Sounds good to me!"

"Eh, I don't have much to talk about my species. Other than the fact we're awesome!"

All of that talk begged the question of where Nick should start. Since there were so many questions, he knew some of them weren't going to be answered. And so, he decided to ask for the one that bugged him this entire time.

"Terry… why'd you run away?"

Of course that was what he asked. Terry groaned, knowing that was going to happen sooner or later, even if he really hoped it was as late as possible. He remained sitting on his chair, and tapped the table with a claw.

Nick raised an arm. "One second. I'm gonna… get something in the fridge real quick."


A few seconds passed, and Nick came back with two glasses of water, handing one of them to Terry.

"Better? I dunno about you, but I was thirsty. And it's not even summer! I'm just glad to not be shedding."

"...Now I'm glad I don't have fur." Terry sipped his water until he was halfway done. "So, as you know… I'm a prince. I'm supposed to succeed my father in the throne, as opposed to my younger sibling."

Just with those words, Nick had a hunch of Terry's reasoning for traveling. Even so, he decided to wait. At least to confirm his suspicions.

"I never wanted to be King." Terry added, his face shifting into a frown. "It's not in me, I don't want to rule over anyone, I want to… be free. Free to be me, you know?"

"In the end, isn't that what we all want?"

Nick closed his eyes and opened them, flashing a bright smile with one of his fangs poking out. "Me too. I wanted to be a hero to prove I could. And… well, protecting others is a nice thing to do."

"Yeah, when we win…" Terry muttered.

Nick replied, picking his goggles to look at them. "We're not alone in any struggles. Trying to ignore my feelings was wrong. I can say talking about 'em with you is the right choice."

"Hm… is it my turn, now?"

The Riolu flashed a thumbs up in reply. "Yup! Ask me anything!"

"Okay… what does aura sensing feel like?"


That was the question to ask him. Nick bit his lip, not wanting to sugarcoat things; being direct was the best thing he could do in this scenario.

"It's like… imagine you're listening to a band playing. Each of them has a different instrument, right?" Nick began fiddling with his fingers, moving left and right as he explained. "So when you listen to it, you recognize which one's which."

"Or… that's how it's supposed to be," he muttered, looking down. "For me? It's like someone's scratching a chalkboard, most of the time. Unless I'm really focused."

"Oh! I'm sorry Nick! Maybe I shouldn't have asked!" Terry got out of the chair, running to give his friend a hug.

"...It's alright. I asked something personal too. It's only natural." Nick still returned the hug anyway. "But this is nice. I learned something new, right?"

"Me too, I suppose." Terry smiled, his tail wagging. "And… as for the whole Crack thing, this is the "path of a hero"! That's what we should strive for!"

Nick could only blink. "What?"

"Something I read in a comic. Maybe we should buy more?"

"...On it."

Back at Nick's house, Shiron was using his break time to watch TV… and chat with Magnus, after he went to deliver what he promised. Except it was something else. He came with a batch of cookies. Not chocolate chip cookies, even. They had… a different taste. It was bitter, but not bad.

Magnus finished doing the dishes, and strutted to the couch, hopping on it. "Phew. If mister Rowan was here, I bet Nick would be grounded. Do you know how much I had to clean? A lot."

"Uh… yeah, I figured that was the case. He seems a little messy." Shiron said between bites.

The Marshtomp was eating, but slowly. Nothing like how everyone knew he liked to eat. Not to mention he took his time to properly chew, which, although a better way to eat, was strange.

It could only mean something was wrong. Maybe it had to do with his cooking?

"Shiron… are the cookies any good? Sorry it wasn't the cake, I know it's your favorite, but I wanted to test how Rawst berries would work for cookies, and… well?"

"H-Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah! It's good! You outdid yourself!"

There was… a lot of truth in his words, but Magnus still thought something was off about the fish. He could either try to find out, or leave Shiron the way he was.

Magnus went for the first option. "Are… are you okay?"

"Who, m-me?!" Shiron ate a rather large bite, coughing a little of it. "Yup! Never been better!"

"...I don't believe you." Magnus pouted. "I've only known you for around a month, but during this time, we became friends. I know there's something bothering you. What is it?"

Shiron looked at the bowl of cake between his legs, and his gills started flopping down. "I… it's my fault, Magnus. I'm the reason we didn't do any good at that town."

"W-Wha?" Magnus blinked, looking down, sighing, and then pressing both of his hands on the two sides of Shiron's face, looking at him straight in the eye. "Shiron. Stop. There's no way that was on you."

"But… b-but…" Shiron didn't even try to defend the growing blush and how good the touch felt. He was more concerned about trying to defend his depressive thoughts. "L-Look. If I was stronger, I could've taken on that guy. But that's not even the problem! I just went and… attacked him for no reason. I know Liz has some sorta hunger for battle, but me? I dunno. And if I was stronger, if I was faster, I—"

"If this, if that." Magnus interrupted, pressing tighter. "Don't make your life full of "what ifs". We're all a team. This means that, even if it was your fault, it's everyone's loss."

"..." Shiron had nothing to say, and nothing to do but tremble.

Words escaped his mouth, all except one. "Why?"

Magnus sighed, finally pushing away. "You saved my brother, you helped my friend, and you're all around a nice guy. I don't see why you'd think those things about yourself."

"Because I—" Shiron stopped himself from spilling everything. But Magnus was trying to help, and he wanted said help. At the very least, Shiron could say something. "I… remember a few things. Mostly, I remember my parents. Awful, awful people."

"You remember them?" Magnus blinked, turning to face his friend. "What do you mean awful?"

"They did… a lot of things that damaged my self-esteem. I keep getting those thoughts about being worthless, all the time. No matter how hard I try, they just… don't stop."

The Quilladin frowned, leaning closer to Shiron. So that was why he was so shy and nervous all the time. That was the reason, and although Magnus wondered how long Shiron remembered this, what mattered the most was comforting him. Therefore, he gave the fish a powerful hug.

"I'm… really sorry that happened to you."

"I…" Shiron stopped himself from speaking anything else, and simply locked eyes with Magnus. His heart skipped beat after beat, and he was at a loss of words again. "Thank… t-thank you."

"Listen, Shiron. I mean it when I say you're a friend. And a nice guy." Magnus smiled.

A smile so bright Shiron almost went blind from it. Metaphorically. How could anyone say those things about him? There was no way they could be true! And yet… and yet… Shiron knew they were. It was hard to admit, to agree with them, but his heart told him Magnus was telling him the truth.

"Can… can I ask for another hug? I-It was nice."

"Of course, buddy! What are friends for?"

"Friends…" Shiron repeated the word in his head until it lost its meaning. "I haven't told anything about my parents to anyone, by the way, can you—"

Before he knew it, the fish was enveloped by another hug, one that smelled of chocolate.

"...If you're asking me to keep it a secret, I'm more than happy to do it."

Shiron only nodded, leaning deeper into the hug. A knock on the door made the two pull apart from one another.

"Guess I gotta go, huh?"

"Yeah." Magnus kept his smile up. "I don't have work today, though, so I can… keep you company if you want."

"I'd love that!" Shiron nodded, getting off the couch. "Just, uh, lemme get the door."


It was the robust figure of Ivan, the Houndoom Shiron grew to know over the past month. Month, as in, thirty days.

…Oh shoot, the Porygon! Shiron facepalmed, groaning once he finally remembered that boring ordeal.

"Is… anything the matter?" Ivan tilted his head. He was sitting on all fours, clearly waiting for the door for a while.

"Gah! Sorry, m-mister! Just remembered how stupid and forgetful I am! Uh, forgot to change our team name."

"Ah, that. Frankly, it's a complaint we get a lot. We're working on it."

"Good to hear…" Shiron gulped. He would be surprised, but even the Pokémon world had bureaucracy from the looks of it.

Ivan huffed out a tiny cloud of smoke, his tail flicking left to right. "Well, I've been watching your team with great interest, perhaps you'd like me to change the name without going through Porygon?"

"R-Really?" Shiron would normally say yes without any hesitation, but… "I'd love to, but I don't have any good name ideas right now, and we're busy with the whole "evil cracks" thingy. Sorry."

"Suit yourself." Ivan nodded, peeking through the door. "...Do I smell cookies? Ah, nevermind. I've heard of what happened, though I don't have every detail."

"Yeah… bad things. I was reckless and attacked our lead, Liz got into a fight too, we lost, but at least we managed to save that Monf—Infernape."

Waddling footsteps made their way to the door, Magnus barely able to squeeze through, not until Shiron moved to the side.

"Oh, hi, mister Ivan! Yes, I've made a batch of Rawst Berry cookies!"

"Hm… really? I do hope you'll sell them at the bakery sometime." Ivan's tail wagged faster now. Perhaps he also had a sweet tooth. "Ahem, back to my reasoning behind checking in. I wanted to make sure you, Shiron, were feeling alright. So?"

Why… why are there so many people worried about me? It makes my stomach get all fuzzy and warm, but like, why? Shiron blinked, tugging on his scarf. "Better, I think? It's nice to have so many—"

Which word? People? Pokémon?

Shiron elected to use neither. "—So many of you supporting me."

"Good." Magnus grinned, looking directly at the Marshtomp. "You deserve it, buddy!"

"Well, if that's the case, perhaps I should return." Ivan slowly stood up and smiled. "While I'm at it, Shiron, if you ever need anyone to talk to, you can talk to me. It's likely I'll be at the bank, but I'll find some time for you."

Well, ain't that nice? Shiron clutched his scarf and raised it to cover his face, but nodded anyway. "...T-Thanks."

"Bye, mister Ivan!" Magnus waved, watching the Houndoom turn back and ran down the hill.

While the two watched him go, they also saw someone else climbing: Daichi. He was alone, and the big frown in his face told them it was about business.

"Hey, Shiron. We're calling a team meeting, so… let's go to your base, alright?"

Before the Marshtomp could reply, Magnus stepped forward. "I'm going too, even if it's just for support."

As they climbed down, Daichi grabbed Shiron's hand, eyeing Magnus in front of them.

The Golem shrugged. "Hey. I need to talk with him for a while, can you go on ahead? It's… leader stuff."


"Gotcha." Magnus nodded, running ahead.

"Okay then." Shiron's gills dropped while he adjusted the scarf. "What'd you want?"

Before saying anything, Daichi watched Magnus getting farther and farther, until he could no longer hear the two.

"When I said leader, I meant human," he answered, squinting his eyes just to be sure Magnus was away enough. "...Infernape didn't say much. Well, I mean, he did, but anyway. Do you remember Zeraora? Like, do you know if he existed back home? In Hoenn?"

"Oh, that's it?"

Shiron crossed his arms, frowning, thinking and trying to remember it hearing anything about such a Pokémon.

"I… I…"

Daichi quirked a brow, waiting. "Yes?"

"...No, nothing." Shiron sighed, disappointed in himself. Nothing came to mind about Zero, or his species. "I've never heard of it before, and to be honest, I don't know every species there is. Or types and stuff like that."

"Hm, fair enough." Daichi shrugged. "Same here. Don't think I knew. I asked because, considering none of us do, it might be either rare, or a legend. I'm considering the latter."

"Legend? Like Xerneas…? I don't know much, and I've never even seen one before her." Shiron started walking away, motioning for Daichi to follow him. "There's a lot we don't know, and here I thought this world was peaceful…"

Daichi looked ahead one more time and followed Shiron. "Thought that too, y'know? But even here, there's a lot of problems to be solved."

"...Yeah." Shiron stopped, thinking again, but once more, he realized there was nothing he knew. "But… we're gonna figure something out, I'm sure of it."

"That's the spirit! Now c'mon! If we're gonna kick electric butts, we gotta roll out!" Daichi jumped, retreating his limbs into his rocky shell… and rolled down the hill.

"What?" Shiron rubbed his eyes, taken aback by this. Sometimes I wonder if coming here was a bad decision. But hey, better this than home… if this really is what I deserve.

More importantly, he was left behind! He ran ahead, once more cursing his stubby legs for making him slow.

Magnus was waiting, waving for him, while Daichi jumped once he passed the Quilladin, his limbs popping off and back to normal as he landed.

"I'm—huff—here!" Shiron stopped and got on his knees, catching his breath. Other than that, he didn't seem all that tired, quickly standing up again. "Okay… that was easy enough. But what was that for?"

"Fun." Daichi grinned.

Magnus kept a smile on his face. "If it makes things better, I thought you did well!"

"You always seem to think that." Shiron thought he didn't need to ask why, and he wanted to keep going anyway. "Everyone's there?"

"Probably, I sent Jackett to call your friends. And Onyx said she was checkin' up on that plant, so that shouldn't take too long."

"If I knew, I'd have prepared more cookies, and maybe some waffles." Magnus pouted. Oh well, better luck next time!

"In your defense, the ones you made were great!" Shiron tapped his satisfied stomach and followed Daichi, who was rolling again.

Half an hour passed, and the two teams had gathered together at Shiron's headquarters, at the top of the hill. Daichi stood in the middle of the office, accompanied by Onyx and Jackett to his left and right.

Liz crossed her arms, waiting for the meeting to properly start. Meanwhile, Magnus served coffee for each of them, carrying a large platter.

"No, thanks." Nick refused, leaving the additional mug to be taken by the Golem, who slurped it in seconds.

Shiron sat in one of the chairs, putting his hands on the table. "Are we starting now? We seem to have everyone here."

"I believe we can," said Jackett, nodding. "We're here to discuss what to do next, how to continue our investigations, and how to discover the mysteries of the Cracks."

"If I may," Liz flicked her cape back. "As a guard, I had to learn numerous methods of defending my liege. One of them was to predict what my opponents may think."

Terry visibly flinched when he called a liege. "I… think she means we can try using what we know of Zero first."

Onyx snapped a finger, whistling. "Good idea. I do wanna add that there's a lot of us, so we should divide this into groups."

Liz moved to the center, making Daichi shuffle to the side to make way for her, due to his stature. The Roselia nodded in approval, slowly turning around in 360 degrees while she talked.

"First, I would like to apologize for my rash actions. I wanted to win more than anything. Of course, this thought still remains in me, but I shall work to deal with these feelings better."

Shiron opened his mouth, but didn't say anything yet, reminded of the words Magnus said before.

This was on all of them, as a team. "It's… it's alright, Liz. We just need to do better now."

"Yeah, don't worry." Nick gazed at Terry, the prince nodding at him in return. "We're all in this together."

"Good job." Onyx grinned, two fangs sticking out.

"Thank you, everyone." Liz closed her eyes, thinking, musing about their plan. Or plans. "If we are to deal with this as a group, then I suggest we each designate a function. I would like to request—"

"Me." Onyx raised an arm, her grin still shining brightly. "I volunteer to be your partner for this one. Wanna help, after all."

"W-Wait." Magnus put the platter in one of the tables, blowing on the few mugs that were left. "But I'm not very good at fighting, can I still help…?"

"Hell yeah," Daichi spoke. "Even if you're not in the front lines, support is appreciated. And if you want to fight, we can always train you."

Shiron raised an arm, wanting to talk next. "I'm not that good either, but I'm still trying my best."

"Ahem." Liz cleared her throat. "Before we settle on pairs, it would be wise to decide what our other goals are."

"Then let's focus on predicting what Zero will do." Jackett said. "According to your reports, he seemed brash, arrogant, or perhaps confident? And repeatedly dissed your efforts."

"Infernape said his contacts warned him about it, which means they should know… something, at the very least." Daichi added, rubbing his chin. There were too many variables, but with a group as large as them, they could get there. Maybe.

Liz nodded again. "Very well. In this case, I believe a group should talk with Infernape's contacts, and we might have a lead."

Which begged the question of who should be tasked with this. Liz walked in circles, folding her arms behind her back, wondering which of them would be best. They didn't know exactly how communications with them would go, so someone that was level-headed and someone diplomatic could work well.

"...Sire, Jackett," she finally said. "I have reasons to believe you two are fit for this job."

"Oh, me?" Terry eyed Jackett, the bug smiling at him. "...Can't say it was what I expected, but I can work with this."

"Very well. Do be careful, sire." The Roselia turned her attention back to Daichi. "There are other things we should plan."

Indeed. Daichi bit one of his fingers, wondering which thing they should focus on. Then, he remembered the conversation with Infernape, about how strong he felt after the Crack empowered him.

"...Did any of you feel different when you were in the town? 'Nape said something about it."

A wall of silence was raised between them, until Nick realized he was the best to answer this, given his senses. "A little bit. There was this… presence there. I could feel it in Infernape, it was strong and—honestly, can't describe it that well. Weird? Creepy? Probably both, and even more."

"Energy." Liz repeated. "All I felt there was anger. At myself for being weak, at him for belittling us, and so I acted on said anger."

Jackett buzzed to himself. "Do you think that perhaps that anger was related to that energy? If it empowers you, it might empower your feelings as well."

"Amplifying my aggression. And since I was not directly exposed to it, I did not evolve…" Liz considered that. Perhaps if I was, I could have defeated this "Zero". Hmph, I shall do that the next time we meet.

She kept that thought to herself. It would never help them, and it was something personal, something she needed to overcome as well.

"And… just makin' sure," Onyx was the next to raise her voice, leaning against the wall. "Does anyone know about this Crack thing other than us?"

Terry slapped his tail. "That's something I'll try finding out!"

"Correct. We will get rid of this variable as soon as we can." Jackett stated.

Nick crossed his arms, nodding to each and everything they said, while his head was busy with thoughts. Particularly, about what he sensed. He snapped a finger, adjusting his goggles.

"Guys! Maybe we can find a way to track that aura! 'Course, we need a sample for that to work, and I dunno if Audrey has all the resources here, but…"

"We might need to travel a bit for this." Daichi sighed. "Man, hero stuff is hard. But yeah, we're on the right track here, I think."

Magnus raised his arm, after doing a second round of serving refreshments to them. This time, glasses of water.

"Err, can't we try to get some weather reports? Maybe Bright Dawn could have it… that city's incredibly big."

"Good point." Liz smiled at him, but quickly turned it into a frown, as to not be seen that way.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Onyx noticed, keeping it to herself.

"In other words, a group goes to investigate Infernape's contacts, Nick tries finding a way to track the aura, and a third group gets the weather reports we need." Liz explained it, loud and clear to everyone. "However, it is likely that the deeper we get into this, more developments will appear, putting a stop to our schedule."

"Meaning… prepare to be unprepared." Onyx groaned, flicking her tail.

"Sounds fun." Daichi rolled his eyes, showing he thought the opposite.

Shiron had been silent for most of this, but even he could agree preparing for everything was impossible. Just what was Liz thinking…?

Regardless, it did seem like his friends had it figured out. And without any input from him, which could only mean this plan was flawless! If Shiron tried to help, he'd only make things worse for everyone. That was the truth—

Magnus' words echoed inside his head once more. If they lost, they'd deal with it as a team. But if they won, then it was the team's win. Shiron, being part of it, was a winner too.

Whoa. That's so simple… and my brain still refuses to accept it. Shiron groaned, putting his head on the table. Or, y'know… I could trust myself just a little more. Everyone else seems to.

Shiron fiddled with his fingers, watching the conversation, but not hearing anything other than his heartbeat. Too distracted with anxieties to pay any attention. And he knew that, which would probably make dealing with this anxiety easier.

First, count everything he could see. That was easy: his friends, the tables, the chair he sat on, his scarf, the platter and its carrier, Magnus.

Next, he moved to what he could hear. Birds tweeting outside, the creaking of his chair whenever he moved, how Liz kept tapping her roots on the wooden floor… Shiron then began to get a feel for his gills, twitching them and detecting the waves.

Even far from the beach, he could still hear the waves crashing into the ocean; strong and serene. There was also the wind, it was blowing much faster than usual. Did that mean it was going to rain…?

All those things were far, and while it was fun sensing them, Shiron wanted to focus on the present. He found himself looking at Magnus, still ignoring every chatter. Or rather, everything but the Quilladin. His focus was entirely on him. Whatever the others were talking came in deaf ears.

He remembered Ivan, too. The Houndoom kept talking with him so many times that Shiron wondered if he had any secret agenda. On second thought, that was probably him just being nice. Nice. Everyone there was nice, even the once abrasive Daichi. Now he had so many others to rely on.

Guess I never had that back home, did I? I was always… alone. Shiron sighed, but his gaze remained on Magnus, and without noticing, the Marshtomp began to smile. Not anymore. I'm grateful.

Slowly, his heart was normal, his gills were back up again, and his smile grew wider. Shiron managed to calm his anxiety. Who would've thought. Everyone in this world is important to me. I can't—won't let them down. We gotta be… Honest. Endearing. Reliable. Outstanding. And I didn't even know I knew that last word!

Shiron tugged on his scarf again, now listening to the conversation again. He didn't quite know how long that little thought exercise went on for, but at least, the meeting didn't seem to be over. And luckily, he snapped back in reality just in time to receive a question, Liz gazing at him.

"Shiron. I believe we can successfully complete this mission. What do you think?"

Shiron still had a big, goofy smile on his face, and he stood up to give Liz a thumbs up… with his three-fingered hand. Luckily that was never a problem, and neither was grabbing things.

"I think so too!" he said, smiling wider. "...I still have to continue my training with mister Ronan, but I'll do my best! I… I'm not gonna be a liability for you guys!"

"Liability…?" Liz tilted her head. "You are mistaken. Although your fighting skills are… lacking, I believe you are what they call a "diamond in the rough". You can be polished and become a better version of yourself."

Magnus went for another hug, even trying to lift the fish up, to no success. "What she said!"

"Yeah, dude." Nick shrugged. "Don't gotta act like that. We've all got each other's backs."

"Nicely said." Daichi added, nodding. He looked at everyone there. "Now… I think that's it for today, there aren't any topics we need to cover, are there? If not, I'm just gonna roll out again, maybe get some grub, and start workin' on this."

Nick left his chair, yawning. How long had they been there…? "Sounds good to me. Bye, Daichi."

Jackett was the second to leave, after Daichi opened the door for them to go. Onyx, however, stayed there.

And Magnus pulled from the hug, chuckling. "Right! Shiron, can I be your partner in training? I wanna help you guys too, and just cooking isn't gonna do it."

"Really?" Nick leaned closer, smirking at the baker. "I've been trying to get you to train for years now, and Shiron doing it is what gets you to go?"

"Oh! Well, he did save my little brother, so there's that…"

"Mhm. If you say so." Nick shrugged again.

Shiron pulled the scarf up to his face, then fiddled with his fingers for a while. "I-If you wanna go… sure! I mean, you don't need to, but I could use the company."

"Alright! I'll go with you, then! I dunno what's so fun about fighting, but if you're there, then it has to be!"

"I mean…" Shiron shook his head in denial. "I don't like fighting, but if it's gonna help my friends, I'll do it."

"That's what I'm talking about!" Magnus raised a fist in the air, cheering as his tail wagged.

Onyx chuckled to herself, rubbing the back of her head. "Guess everything worked out just fine in the end, eh? Hopefully y'all won't be Juniors by the end of this."

"We will not." Liz stated, fierce like before. "I know my goals, and I will work to achieve them. Because… I am a protector."

"Sounds fun." Onyx replied.

Shiron picked a glass of water and sipped it down. If he had any anxiety left, it was gone with the water. Another way of helping, for sure. "Guess we gotta go, huh? And it's not… wait, what time is it?"

Terry pondered for a moment, looking out the window. "Probably afternoon."

…I miss digital watches. Shiron sighed.

"Alright!" Nick clapped both of his hands together. His grin was wider, somehow. "Now that we have the rest of the day to ourselves, we could do something fun! Like, I dunno, a party!"

"Party?" Terry raised a single claw. "...I've never been into one. It could be fun!"

"Hey, we could have slushies!" Shiron smiled, pulling down his scarf. "Maybe read some of the books you guys have been getting! I wasn't—"

Shiron once again stopped himself before saying too much. Wasn't allowed to read anything other than those stupid high school books. Yuck.

Magnus scratched his chin. "I did want to try my hand at making slushies…"

"I will refrain from such activities." Liz said, then, she looked at Onyx. "May I request our training to begin earlier? I want to be at my peak as soon as possible. I will be stronger."

"Heh. Don't sweat it." Onyx walked towards the exit. "Come along! And you guys have fun at the party or whatever it is you're gonna do."

The girls left. Shiron sighed, but he wasn't sad, or mad. His smile quickly returned. "So, the first stop is at the comic book store?"

"We can even meet here again!" Magnus said. "I'm gonna get some stuff back home to make the slushies, but it shouldn't take too long."

Terry seemed to agree with that notion, his tail flicking. "I'm up for it. Nick?"

"You had me at slushies, to be honest."

EVeryone wanted it. Shiron just laughed at the entire situation, not even because it was funny, but because it helped with his anxiety. They were all his friends.

Even so, he didn't know what friendship was really like. "Friends do stuff together, right?"

"Aye. Fun stuff!" Nick cheered with two arms, bobbing his head back and forth.

"I'm afraid I don't know much. Father mostly paid the citizens to be my friends…" Terry frowned. "Mother was very angry when she found out."

Magnus, hearing this, locked eyes with Nick. "We need to give these two a good time. Popcorn?"

"With the slushies? Of course!"

"Aw… we didn't even have time to plan! We could've made it even better!" Magnus pouted, looking away.

"Oh yeah? Guess we'll just need to up the quality of this party!"

Shiron began to sweat, and Terry too. Both were looking at one another. They didn't have any idea of what the others were talking about, and that was… scary? Exciting?

Please let this be fun… Shiron gulped. No, he should ignore any anxiety and just… enjoy his time with his friends. And I even went on a long speech to myself about 'em! This is so weird. I can't say it's bad, but…

"Hm, 'kay!" Nick finally turned to his Marshtomp friend. "We're gonna make you two have a great time! Okay?!"

Good. It was good, Shiron tried to acknowledge that. "Okay…"

A portal burst forth, and out of it hopped Zero, still wearing his vest, but now sporting a satchel.

Is this the town…?

The landscape was... gloomy. Beyond two twisted trees, enveloped by a green fog lay a sprawling swamp. Great mushrooms towered over the land, providing shade and homes for the people. Pathways marked by fences littered the surface of the murky waters, all leading to a creepy looking log hut situated in the center. With a few sticks in the shape of a trident on top, it gave off the appearance of importance.

In the distance a pair of large hills gave off an eerie backdrop. Water flowed down one, into the murky waters drowning the path. It would be impossible to live here, and not get wet...

Seems like it is. The Zeraora walked away from the portal and zipped his satchel. Well, at least I got to HQ after being done with those kids. And speaking of…

This place smells awful.

Zero covered his nose. This was the next target? And he probably couldn't even reach out, because why would there be any reception in that ugly town?!

Okay. Calm down! He never gets it wrong… Zero rubbed his forehead, groaning. First things first, look for any anomalies here.

He zipped his satchel, taking a notebook and a pen. Zero opened it, reading the instructions inside.

"The first sign of an anomaly refers to the attitude of any 'mon nearby. They are more erratic, more energetic, and are likely to do things they normally wouldn't do." Zero scratched the back of his head. To notice that, he'd have to actually know the inhabitants, which could take a while.

For now, he leaned against one of the trees, reading the notes again. "This happens because, as the meteors grow closer, part of it might splinter, releasing tiny amounts of the Crack. They're normally too small to be perceived, but its effects can be noticed when studying the population. Of course, exceptions are probable."

Zero grimaced. Whoa, he's one huge nerd. Dunno why I'm even surprised…

So he needed to investigate how the population was doing? Considering my reputation 'round these parts, that might be a little harder than I wanted.

Before reading more, Zero climbed the tree, remembering one of the notes. Check for the sky, he said. It'll tell you everything, he said.

Once he arrived at the top, Zero squinted his eyes, looking up. Night had arrived, and he could see a bunch of shiny dots, some stars, some planets. A few of the dots were blinking.

If I remember correctly… ah, who am I kidding?! I don't! Better read this bloody thing…

"Although we have yet to discover the cause behind these storms, we have theorized it comes from outer space. Due to this, one can check the sky, though without the proper equipment, the most anyone can see is a shooting star. This might be related, but until confirmation with the adequate methods, it cannot be taken at face value."

So why did I even bother doing… man, I'm dumb. Zero climbed down the tree, landing on his feet, as his kind was known to. If his kind was more than one Pokémon, that was. Guess I should look for other signs of an anomaly, then.

He sighed, looking at the town once more. Too far to see anyone important, though. Zero glanced at the notebook. Guess I gotta keep reading… there has to be another way of finding out. Can't risk getting the citizens wrapped in this. Too dangerous.

Zero took another look at the notebook, this time flipping through pages. A few of them even had sketches of the cracks, some were even colored—orange and blue were the primary choices for those. But that wasn't what he looked for, so the Zeraora kept flipping, ignoring the drawings completely


"Perhaps the easiest way of recognizing an anomaly site is the climate. It can change wildly in mere days. The reason is yet to be discovered, but we have theorized it's a way of forcing a selection of attributes compatible with the fragment. An evolution, if you will. It appears to align with the effects of the Crack."

Bingo. So I just gotta check for weather anomalies? That's easy! This is a swamp! If I see a heat wave or a blizzard, I know I'm in the right place!

Out of curiosity, and because he was almost done with the page, Zero kept reading.

"Due to this, and the nature of the fragments, we have decided to call the combined structure Extraterrestrial Variable Organic Lifeform, or Evol for short."

Evol. Zero repeated. Just hearing the name was enough for him to start sweating… but he had to be brave. Brave enough to face that thing on his own, with no backup at all.

Tch. And those kids even seemed like they wanted to help. Too bad. It's a dangerous job. Zero yawned. Okay, so maybe he did need to see at least someone in town to get somewhere to sleep. Alternatively, he could sleep under that tree. It was comfortable.

Not as much as a bed, though. Zero groaned once more. "You don't like getting wet, do you?" Said that dumb idiot. He sure knows how to tease me…

Zero looked at the notebook again, and at the page he left off. He kept staring at the final words, about this "Evol". His blood boiled just from reading. Y'know… maybe I shouldn't have acted like a jerk to them. Using allies could work. Oooor it could mean they'd die horribly! Either or! Or hell, maybe both would happen! Who knows?!

He took a final look at the book, before closing it and putting the thing back in his satchel. No use wasting his time thinking about it, after all.

Evol's my enemy. The world's enemy. Zero put the book down and groaned, sparks of electricity flying off of him. My duty, my job… is to defeat them.


Pull up a chair.
Chapter 1: The Shiron Menace

Drip. Drip. Drip. Water dropped into a large river, slowly but surely.

A bit repetitive. Could be worse though, could have been every Fast and Furious movie or pokemon….wait.

Hardly moving, but the sound of droplets was constant and almost rhythmical, able to bring peace to anyone who heard it.

Unless they were to say, be dripping on your forehead….No! Don’t share my browser history with the FBI! (running gif of your choice)

I know this is a typo, but I’m just imagine someone pointing and saying. “Hey! Look! Tripples!” And the other guy is like “Triple what?” And the first guy is like “No! Tripples! In the water!” Then the second guy would say. “What triples in the water?” And we’d just have a comedy skit.

Said figure had barely any distinct features, save for it having a masculine shape, and was entirely cyan in color.

Marshtomp is a very masculine pokemon, if I do say so myself. I’m totally serious right now. Nothing says manly like cheek gills. That part less serious.

Anyways, as we move on, I know this has either not been brought up or has been brought up a bunch so apologies for doing it now, but bolding the text for emphasis is more distracting than aiding. I understand what you’re going for and I’ll wholly admit this is personal preference, but I do hope this isn’t a commonality outside of this impending or ethereal voice we’re hearing.

"I understand that you have questions. I will try my best to answer them," the voice said,

Plot twist, the quiz is the one that answers the questions… :-|

"My name is Xerneas."

And my name is Knuckles the Echidna…also, not sure if it being Xerneas fixes my earlier issue but we can pass that cuz MOTHER FUCKING XERNEUS IS RIGHT HERE!

"A legend from tales as old as time," she replied, giggling.

That feeling when the Goddess of Life enjoys a good Disney princess movie. Bonus points if you can name which one she’s referencing!

Things were getting calmer now, he felt.

Again, just incase this wasn’t brought up in any other people’s posts, sections like these, while grammatically sound, don’t really sound sound, yah know. The biggest sort of hinderance is how it sounds like it’s out of place. Calmly he felt, is sort of how it is summarized and that’s freaking Yoda talk man. Yoda talks backwards. Don’t be like Yoda, be like Obi-wan. “It seems I feel calmer now.” Or something else less wordy, aheh.

My fin—" Shiron stopped, shutting himself up as the realization dawned upon him. "I'm… I'm dead."
"Unfortunately, yes. Do you remember how you died?"
"I-I do. Of course… of course I'm dead," Shiron looked down, but he saw nothing other than the depths of the river, which appeared to extend endlessly. "I deserved this, didn't I?"

Okay, but how did you die?

Shiron was taken back by the sudden question. Why was someone as high and mighty as Xerneas asking him about his dream?

Something I do want to praise here is this emphasis you are placing. It’s done well and in a way that would work for not only the narration but the emphasis you place with the italics. It really does seal the whole “Why is she asking me” without having to scene it. I know I’m more of a “in the story” person and whatnot, but narration can send me and bits like these that emphasize the point well while being a part of the current now are also great. (Bonus points if you can guess which Xenoblade Chronicles game I’m referencing.)

Not sure why there’s a break afterward, but maybe that’s a FFnet thing.

And your dream was interrupted by your death. If I may ask, why did you deci—"

Ah so that’s how he died. Nice subtly there, albeit we don’t know the reason as of yet. I like it, your means of dropping crumbs makes me want to know dah Marshtomp more, which is always a good thing.

And while he was still speeding up, that was no longer the weirdest part about this whole thing. Sure, he heard what Xerneas said, but now that Shiron managed to look at himself, he no longer saw the human, but instead, he had… the body of a Marshtomp. The bright-blue color gave it away, as did the gills he now had, and the weird, double tail… thing.

Best starter line.

His surprised look gave way to a confused one. Okay, hold up! I'm in the body of a starter ? Okay, that's… uh, it would be cool. Not that I mind, Mudkips are cute, and Swampert is really tough, but Marshtomp? That kinda seems like a downgrade to me…


"What?" Magnus flinched at the sentence, his heart skipping a beat. It was undeniable that this Marshtomp needed help, but what if he was only faking it? "What if he tries to attack us? What do we do, then?"

What if you find out in a week from now IN THE NEXT EPISODE OF-!

"B-But… your senses suck… no offense."

Senses or sensing? I imagine you mean just his ability to sense aura so probably do Sensing or “Your Aura Sense” or something for sake of clarification.

Oh shit, the former human gulped. What to do?! These were the first Pokémon he met in this world, and if he angered them, surely things would get bad for him. What if I tell them I'm a human…? Maybe this'll help!

Huh, I don’t know how you did it, but I think I like this mix of narration and internal thought. I don’t often enjoy this kind of thing since it feels immersion breaking or not allowing the characters to be the centerpiece of the experience, but you do it in a way that’s sort of like a cartoon in how the narration fills in the little tid bits the characters’ don’t voice and yet they are very relevant. Kudos.
Alrighty, not bad for an intro. There’s a bit more in this than you see in normal PMD introductions so let’s see how I gravitate the bit.

I easily find your characterizing of Shiron the best quality here. I’ve seen him bothered, awestruck, happy, afraid, sad even, a good variety of emotions and how he portrays them. It’s done in an immersive way that I can visualize very well.

Magnus and Nick have some decent characterizing too, but I understand not focusing too heavily on them, aside from Nick’s bad at reading aura gimmick. Surprised he didn’t bring it up again after Shiron said he had amnesia when he doesn’t, but maybe he was distracted.

While I don’t like the bold indiciation you did with Xerneas, the main reason is because I don’t feel you need it. You sell the regal if not fairy atmosphere of this Pokémon well and Shiron’s reaction is more than enough to fill in the rest. There’s some odd cut offs due to the site, but if they were intentional, I would say the one between Xerneus and Shiron talking is probably the most egregious cut off.

Lastly, I like your prose. It’s simple, flows narration and action in scene better than a few others I’ve read, and is creative to a reasonable margin.

Not really much to say about plot since first chapter, but you do indicate the origins and that’s pretty much all you could ask for. I do wonder further if Shiron’s past life will have some effect or some current threat given the lack of any perceived foe for our heroes to face, but as I said before, first chapter.

Regardless, I shall conclude this review of chapter 1 with a reciting quote from one of my favorite heroes. Ahem…. “Marshtomp best middle evolution starter, fight me.” – Ghandi.

Good luck!

Chapter 2: Attack of the Cake

I hope they don’t say “everymon” or something stupid like that

Dang, Shiron spitting facts here.

But yeah, moving on it’s clear to see Nick’s kindness has clearly overwritten his earlier bits of hesitation.

I am a bit curious why Shiron was so quick to ask about the whole “What am I going to do here now?” Bit. I do understand his whole “I want to help people” but it seems interesting that amid all this shock and being showed around, let alone when he’s offered food when hungry, he’d focus on that aspect at least right now.

It’s not a big thing, but it makes me wonder if Shiron himself is overly fixated on this idea of “Second Chance”. Which, if that is what you’re aiming for, kudos for doing it so well in the first two chapters. I’m pretty much sold on him being in this for this ideal, now whether or not it’s a healthy one given the “implications” of the past chapter have given is yet to be seen.

Nick and Magnus are fine in this chapter too (albeit a bit odd thinking housing problems can be solved by the time a cake is baked, but eh, we are in a magical world with super strength Marshtomps, good choice btw)

“Coalossal Hill”

(Insert Shia Lebuff clap here)

So descriptions are par the expectancy, but the following scene at the house does give some needed insight to Nick. Albeit, I am curious why Shiron would ask “What happened to them” immediately and not “Where are they?” or something that feels closer to zero instead of the fifty he said here.
If I have to say, these chapters so far have been sort of the standard, but felt they were always lacking a sort of tension. Sure, there’s the whole character bits and for some that’d work, but I really, really like mysterious conflicts or unease for the world’s rules. Out of place things, besides our protagonist.

Rowan was that eyebrow moment. Must say, I wonder if he’s blood related given the whole “Lucario and Mawile” parents for Nick, but it’s possible. I do like it when fic users play around with these concepts and integrate them in a way for the world that indicates clear thought behind them. I do hope this is explored further.

“B-But sir—Terry”

Holy heck, Fatal Fury has invaded!
But other than fighting game invasions, not much else to say. Good follow-up to the first. I wonder if Magnus is going to be a main stay given how he felt less involved in this one and just with Nick's stuff in general, but we'll see. At least Nick got some good focus, expanded on Shiron, and we get the very interesting Rowan.

The ending certainly is questionable as to if this is friend or foe landing on the shores of the town, but guess we shall see.

Chapter 3: Revenge of the Prince of Pop

Ah yes, the cake has finally been consumed. (looks up the ingredients to make cake) Hmmm….eggs….milk…..oh God….I hope our definition of cake and theirs is…very, very different.

“I know you lost your memory, but what are you going to do here”

Okay, see this right here? ^ This is probably where I would first bring up that topic. I think this way is much more fluid with the story and whatnot.

So the date be going fine and we get some nice banter, though this “Lucario of Legend” seems curious. I doubt it’s a reference to the dad, but I do wonder what’s so “Legendary” about this Lucario.

Back to the cake eating contest we get some singing remembrance, kinda, and Magnus seems to have warmed up to our protagonist as well. Probably from seeing some adore his food so much.

Going to the date and we get further proof Nick sucks at his sensing abilities. Of course Audrey comes in with the wonderful mood booster of “You’re not like your mother”. You know, the mon that probably is good at it. It’s okay, you’re not like that. I get she meant well and to her credit, it is sweet, but yeah if someone said that to me they’d be one word short of a stink eye.

After the cake we FINALLY! Remember moves come with the pokemon (at a 100% discount if you deserve it).

Also, Shiron, you’re 18? You, me, party!

Anyways, shipwreck time. Looks like the Roselia managed to make it, but a Tyrant as well I see.
I will admit, the brief thing of “Where do we take them we need to take care of them.” And “Of course we do, we’re going to the hospital” maybe be your weakest lines yet. It felt like one of those scripts you’d get from show that feels it needs to say the obvious and then say the obvious again with the whole “Of course,” bit. Kinda just well…meh for me. But to your defense, I am not a teenage girl so that is probably why.

The next section is probably the weakest narration so far. Lying to conceal you do worry is well…eh? I mean, it’s not hard to tell he’s worried given he’s carrying them out and hastily asking where to take them so they can be cared for and what not. I mean, just seems a little outta left field for Shiron, who’s never really attempted to do a sort of emotionless tough guy fireman shtick unless he just got carried away with lying all the time.

Glad we see Shiron is getting aroused by Pokémon forms now. Also glad to know he wasn’t aroused before he became a pokemon. (Cue looking at the internet with a disapproving look) You know what you did internet.

This one’s a tough cookie

Let’s see…. “ingredients to make cookies”….(closes cook book and throws it over shoulder) Nope. I’m just pretending they’re all mother flipping vegan version. I mean, as long as you don’t commit to the dreaded meat thing (like some other fics do) we got no problem.

Though, seems the Tyrunt is a little slow give he’s asked twice that he was taken care of and he’s clearly been but eh, he might be young and/or rushed so guess we’ll see if this is a continuous bit for Terry.

Oh…oh…Terry…is a Lord. Oh dear, this, this right here. This means we have MONARCHY!!!

Welp, guess it was bound to happen we address the political aspect to this story and by king George we’ve done it. Guess we’ll see if it’s all worth it since this can make or break a world of building blocks.

Oh…nevermind. He’s a king. He is the monarchy, or at least had the ability to. Gosh diddly dear, first an amnesiac Marshtomp and now the King of the Dinosaurs. What’s next? Nicholas Cage’s Dracula in the pokemon form of a Noivern…I’d like that actually.

Uh…peeps that rescued me

I’ll have you know that I have patented the word “peeps” and violators must be flogged 1000 lashings.

Moving onto introductions, I already don’t like Elizabeth. I imagine that is your aim, but yeah…least favorite character so far.

I will say, not sure how I feel about random monarchy just arriving here. Guess their story will explain it better, but it seems a bit coincidentally they’d come less than a day since the human arrived. Eh, at least we get the running gag of “No offense. None taken” that Nick is always the lesser stick in, lol.

So, Terry is a prince that was the heir to pop, but he wanted to instead weave baskets and thus sailed across the ocean to where Pop culture hadn’t yet infected its populace.

Other than that, seems things have really picked up for a bit. Not in the way I was imagining, since I would have gathered explored Rowan instead of the random prince in our peasentry, but I won't knock it down too bad. It's got potential and while kinda cliche it can be done well. I always reserve that Cliches aren't bad and can be built upon very well or done very well.

Good luck.
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Chapter 13 - Weather, Power, and Friends


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 13 - Weather, Power, and Friends

After the dream that felt wouldn't end,

Now I'm back in my own world again.

But I'll be back. Sun or rain.

I will do my best and fight through the day!

"Aah… man, all this training is tiring!"

Shiron climbed down the stairs, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Yesterday had been a normal day, if not for training with that weird looking Samurott for the majority of it.

But it was a new day! Shiron could rest, and do things normal people—though he wasn't exactly a person anymore—did! No more parents that forced him to go through torture to meet their standards! Definitely the best part of the entire ordeal. His new friends were a bonus package.

Friends, right? They didn't yell at me for being reckless, they don't hate me… apparently, they don't want to punish me for making a mistake. Why…?

A momentary distraction came with the smell of toasted bread. Shiron started drooling, wondering if it was for a sandwich, or just bread with jam. Either option sounded just wonderful for him, so the Marshtomp ran to the kitchen.

It didn't take long until Shiron saw Nick messing with a frying pan, flipping a piece of bread up and down. He didn't seem to notice Shiron, though.

Maybe I should just wait. Things might go south if I scare him, he's too focused. Shiron licked his lips, pulling a chair to sit down.

Nick's ears twitched, and he took a quick look at the table, before returning to the pan. "Oh, g'morning! Since Gramps is still traveling, I figured I could make breakfast for us!"

"Mornin'..." Shiron rubbed his eyes again. Yup, still weird that he treats me so nice!

An audible whine came from him, one that didn't go unnoticed by Nick. "Everything alright, dude?"

"Uh…" Shiron gulped. Play it slow!


Nick frowned, turning off the stove. He gently put the bread on a plate, picking it up. "You do know you can talk to me about everything, right?"

There it was: kindness. Kindness he didn't deserve. Yet, Shiron couldn't help but accept it. "Are… a-are you sure?"

"Yeah, why not? We live together, we work together. Nothing wrong with it." Nick put the plate next to the fish and went back to grab a second for himself. "We're friends, that's what friends do. Unless… you didn't have any back as a human?"

Shiron gulped. It was true, he didn't have any friends in Lilycove, nobody that would miss him. The shock of having anybody do that was very much visible, as were his slowly drooping gills.

"...I'm taking the silence as confirmation." Nick took one final trip; this time to the fridge, grabbing red jam. He finally sat down. "And I do mean it. I dunno how life was there, but things are different. You can trust me."

"I… want to." Shiron muttered. "Okay, hear me out. I was a dumbass and attacked that guy without him even doing much to us. I thought I could take him."

"Well, it happens." Nick spread jam across his toast and took a single munch, swallowing before continuing to talk. "Really, I did stupid things too."

"That's not what concerns me, Nick." Shiron didn't even look at his breakfast; things were that bad. "I was fully expecting you guys to beat me up, or punish me, or expel me from the team—"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down there!" Nick interrupted, his eyes widened. "Why would we do any of that?"

"It's…" Shiron wondered if he could trust Nick with that kind of information. But he already spilled the beans about being human, so… "My parents did that. Whenever I failed any assignment, whenever I misbehaved, they would lock me up. Dad… said it built character."

Nick looked at his friend, whining. "Shiron, I—I'm… so sorry that happened. But I'm not gonna do any of that. Neither will the others. We support each other through everything."

"I know that. It's just weird." Shiron took a bite from his toast, and then kept looking at the bread. "So many good things happened to me, and it's all so overwhelming. I'm not used to it yet."

"Then let's make you." Nick flashed a smile. "I'm gonna beat those stupid thoughts myself if I have to!"

"What, why—"

Nick had a more serious look, the smile was still there, but Shiron knew it was serious instead of friendly. "They hurt my friend. That's all. I don't tolerate anyone that hurts my friends."

"I…" Shiron smiled, and then it turned into a chuckle. It was happening; he was loved! His friends cared for him!

"Okay… I'll try it. Though I gotta say having friends feels super weird.."

Nick nodded, biting the bread again. "Speaking of, I told Terry to come. We gotta discuss what our plan is, right?"


The Riolu chuckled again. "Also, I want to borrow some of his comics."

After they were both fed, the duo went to the living room, sitting on the couch to discuss their part of the plan. Nick had picked a can of soda, and was downing it down.

…At least there's something similar to home here. Kinda funny, to be honest. Shiron blinked. "Well, we're to get the weather reports, right? Then—"

Someone knocked on the door. Nick figured it was their dragon teammate, and went to open the door.

Shiron looked at the TV, and realized it was indeed a very old one. He wondered just how developed this world was, and who made these things. They looked very human-like.

If there's more than me and Daichi, I wonder if other humans invented this, he thought, stretching both arms. "Yuuup. Still sore. Fighting sucks, but it is what it is."

He heard the door opening and closing, and then quick steps made their way to the living room; Terry waved with a stubby arm.

"Good morning, Shiron! Sorry I'm late, I was, uh… busy with stuff." Terry chuckled, a tint of red in his face.

"He means going from the comic book store to the HQ just so he could put the comics there, and not share with his friends!" Nick stuck out his tongue. "Oh, how awful!"

Terry ignored the comment and sat next to the fish. Shiron, meanwhile, realized Terry wore a different cape. Still regal, but now it was green.

Shiron was too curious to not ask. "...Change of clothes?"


"He says weird stuff sometimes," Nick shrugged, taking a seat as well. "Don't mind it."

"I wasn't going to—" Terry pouted. "When I left, I picked some of my capes. They remind me of home, or the good things that happened there."

Never had anything like that. Shiron clutched his scarf. "Oh… I see."

"Is something wrong…?" Terry did see the mood was a little low on that house. Maybe they could use a story or two about his kingdom to cheer them up.

"I mean, no. Unless Shiron—"

"...I'd like to talk about it," he said. "It's weird that everything's going so well with us. Don't you think that, Terry?"

"Not… really," he sighed. "I don't understand where you're coming from, Shiron. As Reshiram teaches us, we must seek the truth, even if it hurts us! And then, a better life awaits us."

Nick watched that little speech with sparkling eyes. So inspirational! Even if Terry didn't want to be a king, he had the personality of one. The Riolu wondered if Terry could march soldiers into battle with such a bolstering voice.

"You all are too nice…" Shiron muttered. "Well, I think looking for weather reports isn't such a bad idea. Meanwhile, Nick can go check with his girlfriend?"

"Aaaaand that's where I dip." Nick hopped off the couch. His words were heartfelt and emotional, and he put on a toothy grin. "She's a genius! I'm sure she can figure it out!"

Terry nodded. "Perhaps. I've talked with Liz, she will give us some of the reports. Seems Daichi has them."

"Guess that's decided, then." Shiron took a deep breath. Part of him was excited about the entire mission, and he didn't exactly know why. "Guess we gotta wait for Liz…"

She sat at the center of their headquarters, waiting with the windows opened, letting the sunlight reinvigorate her. Liz liked, in particular, how shiny and warm it was, and how her flowers blossomed because of the sun.

Until someone barged in; the one she waited for, presumably. "Please, do come in, Daichi."

"Heya. Got the stuff you asked me to get!" The Golem closed the door. In his right hand was a folder with a few pieces of paper sticking out, though Daichi put them back into place as he walked forward. "This place's looking better than I thought. You guys did a good job at it."

"A humiliating act, if I am allowed to be honest," she shrugged, using two vines to grab the folder. "Neither me nor my liege should have to clean."

"Eeeeh, I wouldn't go that far." Daichi looked for a chair to sit on, but realized there was none that fit him. Instead, he leaned against the wall. "But that's not really the point, is it? We're here for business."

"Indeed." Liz put the folder on the table, opening it. Her eyes gazed at the pages.

Letter and letters, and more letters. Each one described a sighting of a meteor site. Liz raised a brow, annoyed, because this didn't help her at all. She already knew most of those things.

"Tried getting in touch with my contacts. They didn't answer the call," he explained. "...Then I tried callin' again, and nope, nothing. I'm starting to think there's more to it than we know."

"Really? I thought that was obvious." Liz deadpanned, flipping another page. She began to read one the letters, the first one she saw.

It described a strike near Pokémon Square, all the way in the Water Continent. Liz thought it made sense; meteors weren't contained inside a single continent after all. What really caught her attention was another detail: a description of a yellow, apparently electric Pokémon.


Daichi blinked, unsure of what she meant. "Excuse me?"

"This letter describes Zero to a near flawless degree." Liz prepared to read out loud. "We don't know what this species is, but it's yellow, bipedal, with fluffy fur and wearing a vest."

"Oh… it is him." Daichi's eyes widened, and he raised a finger. "In my defense, I didn't go through that."

"What?!" Liz said, practically spitting venom from her mouth. "You mean to tell me you, a supposedly experienced fighter, sent me and my associates to an abandoned town, with the possibility of us being killed in action… all without letting us know there was an unknown Pokémon on the loose?!"

Daichi, with each and every word she said, crawled back, towards the door. He started to sweat. "I-I… I didn't mean to, so I only checked the latest letter! That's all!"

"...Reshiram Almighty." Liz took as deep of a breath as she could, and sighed out loud, covering her face with a flower. "I am choosing to ignore what I just heard."


"Regardless, it is all in the past." A lie. If she was stronger and evolved, then they would be just fine. Liz really needed to become a Roserade as soon as possible.

"Oh, good to know!" Daichi sighed in relief, rubbing the sweat off of him.

"Anyway, did you happen to bring a map? Or rather, two maps, as I requested. One will be used by me, and one by my liege." Liz said.

"Aye. It's at the bottom of the folder. Last page, I think."

"Good." Liz flipped through the folder, and once she stopped at the final page, she took two pieces of paper, wrapping them in vines. "Hm, in better condition than I expected. Good job."

"...Should I be flattered or upset?"

"Whatever you wish." Liz looked at one of the maps. It was a map of their entire continent, with several check marks. Each one denoted a city or village, and each one of them was hit by meteors sometime over the last months.

Luckily, Cydonia is safe. Perhaps one day we can go back there… but that is a thought for the future. Liz kept staring, knowing she needed to find some sort of pattern to follow. "Although I know the answer, I will ask anyway. Did you know why those towns were attacked?"

Daichi shrugged. "No clue. Seems random to me."

"True randomness is almost never a reality." Liz stated. "There has to be a clue, some lead to guide us. I will find it."

"Maybe you'll need their help? What're they looking for, again?"

"Terry mentioned Shiron wanted to help with the geography," she added, still keeping her eyes on the map. "Now, I am unsure what an amnesiac Marshtomp would do with a map, but if he thinks it would help, then I have no choice but to accept it."

"Aaaalright." Daichi walked towards her, grabbing the second map. "If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna give this to them."

"By all means." Liz ignored him, tracing a vine from Thornwell to the town where they found Zero and Infernape. "I wonder… what secrets are you hiding, meteorites."

While she was distracted by the map, Daichi gulped, rushing out of the office. Liz knew she was alone.

Good. This means I am free to train. I will evolve.

Liz simply left the chair, putting on her cape and smiling. Yes, she had the time to train, to better herself. Even on her own, Liz was more than capable of practicing. Without access to her evolution stone, the process would take more time. Liz could wait, granted it wasn't a long wait.

"Now… what can I do?" Liz left the office, letting the wind make her cape flicker, and taking in more sunlight. "Perhaps practice my use of Substitute, or even better, I could work on getting Leaf Blade to be functional, for once."

Ah, how embarrassing. Someone as high as her, unable to use such a practical move. At least nobody else knew about it. And she would never tell anyone, especially Terry.


A voice echoed from far away, on the hill. Liz didn't know who it was, but the intonation was definitely familiar. She walked forward just a little, and was met with Magnus running as fast as he could.

…Running would be a compliment. He was sluggish and slow, stopping every now and then to pant and catch his breath.

That, too, is embarrassing. Liz thought, but chuckled to herself. How very curious. Perhaps she could help. "Greetings, Magnus."

"Not now, I'm—" he fell face first on the ground, and stood up slowly, panting again and again. "Okay, nevermind. H-Hi!"

"I would ask what you are doing, but I sense the answer is in my grasp already." Liz looked at him with a mix of pity and amusement. "Is training really that hard?"

"U-Uh… yeah! I'm bad at fighting, but I don't wanna be useless, so I figured… walking up and down this hill would help! Or maybe try Rollout?"

"Both are good options. However…" Liz flicked an arm, proudly. "You are spending too much energy trying to run, leaving no energy to go back. Ergo, you must rest. At least for a little while."

Was it really necessary for her to use so many complicated words? Sure, Magnus understood where she was coming from, but maybe Liz should talk like one of the common folk. Which… she wasn't.

"So, gotta rest, right?" Magnus sighed. He was tired. "But uh… from one grass-type to another, do you have any tips?"

Tips. Oh, she did have a lot of them. Liz smiled, a smug and proud smile. "Perhaps I do. I was on my way to train when I stumbled upon you."

Magnus bit a lip. There was a chance and he had to take it. "So, uh… question. Could you train me?"

"Train you?" Liz wondered, turning her head to the side. "I never trained anyone in my life, and I think my methods may be a little… rough. With that in mind, do you still wish to proceed?"

It was scary, but Magnus' determination was bigger than any sense of fear. "I already said I wanna help you guys!"

"Wanting to become stronger for someone else's sake…" she paused. It was something Liz understood very well. "Hmph. Understood. We shall begin your training routine."

To start the training, Liz ordered Magnus to go down the hill just a bit, enough that there was a reasonable distance between them. She extended a rose forward, smiling.

"Magnus, focus." Liz hissed. "I want you to hit me with your best shot. I will not retaliate or dodge."

"Aye!" Magnus ran up the hill, grunting. Two vines appeared in each of his arms as he jumped, launching the two attacks as whips towards Liz.

Liz didn't flinch. She let the attack hit her, but it didn't do any damage at all. Not even a cut, nothing. She was completely fine. "A very simple attack."

"I don't have that many things to use, to be fair." Magnus sighed. He still had something, and it was better to put it into use.

Magnus created two vines again and then ran. However, he curled up into a ball, propelling himself forward. His vines remained, and this time, he collided against her, combining the power of his sphere state and the whips.

This time, Liz was sent back, even if only by a few feet. She cringed, smiling. "Ah… fascinating. A combination of Rollout and Vine Whip. I did not expect you to pull it off."

Magnus' limbs popped off, no longer curled. He had a visible blush. "Uh, thanks! I got the idea from Daichi! He's like me… kinda."

"Hm… I would not recommend basing your attack strategy on such a brute like him." Liz paused. "However… you show promise. We shall continue, and we will keep going until we are both too tired."

Magnus frowned, curling into a ball again. He could do this! Becoming stronger for Sh—his friends.

Shiron received the folder and watched Daichi roll out of there. The Marshtomp sighed, but then smiled. This was an odd world to live in, but the best one he could hope for. If he deserved it or not… that was a question he would answer in the future.

"Back!" Shiron ran to the couch, sitting again. In his hand, he flashed the folder to Terry. "All done!"

"Thank you." Terry took a look with squinted eyes. "What we're looking for is something to give us a lead. Can you give me the file with the weather reports?"

Shiron did as instructed, and waited to see if he could give any input.

"Hm…" Terry started reading. His first thought was checking the town they visited, and what was reported there. "Snow? But that place is so close to the shore!"

"...There's no way that's natural." Shiron said. "Usually, if you live this close to the shore, you'd get sea air, a lot of wind, but still a hot place, y'know?"

Terry raised his head. "How… what?"

Wait. Shiron facepalmed. "I-I mean! Thornwell has a shore! You could notice the effects yourself, haha!"

…I thought he was amnesiac. Terry felt better to ignore this for the moment and focus on the task at hand. "Alright, so we have this tropical town that somehow got a blizzard. Does that mean it's connected?"

"Probably, but there might be something in the geography that's drawing in all the meteors… do we know that?" Shiron flipped the pages, looking for anything related. "Like, let's see. If there was a gravity pull so strong in these cities, then it'd make sense for the meteors to land there."

Terry blinked again. Was Shiron's amnesia just selective? He knew some things and didn't know others?

"The thing I'm most worried about is what Nick said—the aura he felt there." Shiron added. "Maybe… maybe the aura is making the pull be that strong. Not to mention he felt a presence, right? Can aura have a presence? I dunno much about this…"

Okay, now that's just weird. He knows… a lot. Then again, I'm not familiar with amnesiacs. Maybe I'm being weird. Terry looked at his map again, deciding to follow Shiron's lead. "Can gravity—or something that's as attractive as gravity affect weather?"

"Kinda? If you had less gravity, you'd have slower winds, more storms, etcetera. Though I wanna say it's not the only factor that's related to the weather."

"Then there's a chance." Terry muttered. "So let me get this straight: the meteors are being attracted to something. Or… maybe the "presence" Nick felt is going there because there's something it wants? Does that make sense?"

Shiron didn't exactly know how to reply. It both made sense and didn't at the same time. "Maybe…? It's a weird thing to say. Like I said, we need to know more about the towns being attacked."

"Then we need to contact Liz; knowing her, she's cracking her head wide open trying to figure out what's really going on." Terry left the table, handing the papers to Shiron.

"And Nick's off to… a not-date," he grimaced. "Well, let's hope this part of the plan is going smoothly."


Nick sneezed, rubbing his snout. "Ew. It's not even the season for me to be sick!"

He knocked on Audrey's door, adjusting his goggles. Nick needed to be as presentable as possible to her.

"One secon—"

A small explosion could be heard, and smoke coming out of the door. Nick immediately opened it, not waiting for Audrey to do it for him.

On the inside, there was a large cloud of dust, forcing Nick to cough and wave a little of it off with his paw. "Audrey? What's going on here? Did another one of your inventions explode? I mean, I see an explosion, but—"

"Nothing I do explodes!" Audrey came in with a vacuum, sucking in all the smoke. She held it with her… paws? Gloved paws. And with a leg, she pressed a valve, making it suck the dust.

"Whatcha got there?"

"A vacuum, didn't you see?" Audrey rolled her eyes, turning it off. "And gloves that let me get as much dexterity as you and the others."

"I meant… yeah I meant that." Nick coughed some more. "Seriously, no way of automating it yet?"

"Nah, I've got nothing." Audrey did her best version of a shrug. "Anyway, what brings you here, sweetheart? The gloves I made for your friend? They're not done yet. Got busy."

"Actually, something else!" Nick's tail started wagging like crazy, not that he cared enough to try and stop it. "I wanna see if you can make an aura tracker."

"...An aura what now?" Audrey rubbed her eyes, twitching her ears. "Did I hear that right?"

"You did!" Nick took a peek inside. Her living room was full of tools and gadgets, and the smell of oil filled his nose. She had worked very recently from the looks of it. "Me and the team need a way to track this… very specific aura."

"A very specific aura." Audrey repeated, muttering to herself. "Hm… maybe, maybe not. What do you think?"

"What do I think?" Nick tapped his chin, thinking. "...Maybe if I can find a way to capture that signature, then you make a device that tracks based on it?"

"Y'know, if you weren't busy doing the whole hero schtick, we could've made great partners!"

"Aren't we already?"

Audrey giggled. "I meant as engineers! And I'm sure I can figure something out. But I dunno, I might need help from one lil puppy~!"

"Helping my girlfriend out?" Nick didn't need to hear it twice. "Oh yeah, definitely. Count me in!"

She turned back, ready to head into another room. "Alright, and you can even help me with the glove… you sure he'll like it?"

"I'm fairly sure he likes anything. Except veggies? Which also seems to have an exception. If you count Magnus as a vegetable."

"Really? Oh… I could write about them, te-hee!"

Nick rubbed the back of his head. Once he had the time, he could try acting as a wingman. Now, if Shiron got his part done, it'd be great! If Liz got hers it would be even better!

Magnus jumped out of a gunk-coated flower that threatened to punch him, and nearly tripped. Liz simply smirked, running towards him.


"Do I really need to—"

"Just dodge!" Liz tried an uppercut, but Magnus curled up, rolling out of the way just in time. She smiled. "Good job. But there is hardly any time to rest! We must continue!"

"W-W-Wait, wait!" Magnus fell on the ground, raising an arm. Under him were drops and drops of sweat, while he panted. "Timeout! I wanna call for a timeout!"

Liz didn't quite get where he was coming from. It looked like he was too tired to keep going, but the word he used was strange. "A… what? What is a "timeout"?"

"How do you not… huh." Magnus sat down, panting. "I was asking for a little bit of time to rest. This is exhausting."

"Ah, fascinating." Liz said. It really was, but not knowing what that wort meant? Shameful. Thankfully, Magnus seemed okay with it. "Hm, very well. I believe we can end this session here."

"Okay, good. Seriously, I don't know how you guys do this. Makes the whole thing seem so easily…" Magnus rubbed some of the sweat off, panting. "Now all I want is berry juice. Maybe rawst if I'm feeling lucky."

"Hm… for what is worth, I have reasons to believe you were doing well. Of course, there is room for improvement. A lot of room."

"Okay, okay, I get it!" Magnus lay on the ground, panting again. He was tired and they did this for what? Half an hour? Training repeatedly was the most optimal choice, but if just one session left him this tired, Magnus didn't dare wonder how multiple would make him feel.

"Perhaps I can teach you a few of the moves I know. Vine Whip is… weak, and not something you should strive for." Liz pondered. Considering Magnus wasn't evolved, he didn't have his full arsenal.

"...Yeah, I know. It's most of what I got, though."

"It amazes me you evolved in the first place."

Ah, something she could ask!

"...If I may, how did you evolve?"

"I think naturally? I just sorta… woke up like this." Magnus shrugged. "Dad said it was from age or something."

"From… age." Liz sighed. Not the answer she wanted or looked for. "Understood."

"Also, can I go home now? Am I free to go?"

Liz pointed downhill. "By all means, feel free to. I still have things I must attend to, but if I find the time… I would not mind tasting berry juice."

Another thing she doesn't know, huh? Magnus slowly stood up, bowing to her. "Thanks. I'm gonna keep going. Gotta get stronger!"

"Stronger…" Liz muttered it to herself, watching Magnus run down the hill.

Alone again. Hmph. It seems I also need a "timeout". The maps await me…

Liz kept staring at the maps, and using a vine to grasp a nearby pencil, started scribbling on an empty piece of paper. Or would be, if she had any idea of where to go from there.

How rude. I am a trained combatant, I should be able to find… some sort of pattern! Otherwise, what am I good for?

If the others were there, they'd make a speech about depending on one another to solve this mystery. Oh, but Liz wanted to do it on her own. Nobody should follow her. Letting Zero defeat her was her mistake, not theirs. Therefore, Liz should be the only one to pay for it.

"Good afternoon!"

Shiron opened the door and entered, moving to the side so Terry could do the same. After they were both inside, the Marshtomp closed the door and yawned.

"Bah! It's been a pretty exhausting day, and I've done nothing but read!" Shiron giggled, waving at Liz. "Also, heya!"

"Hey, Liz." Terry said, running to sit in one of the chairs. "We've made some sort of progress."

Liz looked at the dragon, then at the map next to her, and then back at the dragon. "My apologies, Sire. I have yet to figure this out…"

"I have a working theory!" Shiron raised a hand… only to immediately tug on his scarf, blushing. "I-I mean, it's an idea! Might not be worth it, but…"

Terry was the first to glare at him. Liz only did it after seeing her prince.

"Okay, buddy. First off, it's a good theory. Second, stop internalizing those thoughts… it's not good for you." Terry sighed. "Anyway, Liz. Care to hear?"


Shiron still tugged on the scarf, slowly making his way to a chair. At least Terry was assertive enough to make him not focus on the anxiety and fear of his theory being wrong.

"We think the meteors are being drawn—uh, no. We think that the presence Nick felt is in the meteor, being drawn to the cities because something there is attracting it, or is attractive to it."

"It has to be something strong, Liz." Terry added, shaking his head. "At first we thought it was gravity, but Nick mentioned sensing an aura, or energy? Maybe it's some sort of energy."

"Something is pulling the presence…?" Liz stopped to think, mental gears grinding. Wait… a minute. Zero said the Cracks are pockets of energy, so what would that mean? Unless… unless—

…Ley lines.
Liz thought, her eyes widening from the revelation. Of course, that is the answer! They are brimming with energy, perfect to draw in such a presence. And perhaps—perhaps the presence, combined with the lines is what creates the Crack.

Liz failed to notice the growing smile on her face, and the rush of adrenaline that filled her. Yes, yes! That has to be it! The presence, whatever it is, is hitting those cities because there are ley lines around it!

She bit a lip. Of course… Zero must know about this. He is a master tactician, hunting down and containing the Cracks. What a smart opponent… I can only wonder what he is up to right now. Perhaps he is planning on how to deal with the next Crack.

Zero was doing anything but. He left the hotel holding a bag of chips, crunchy and salty; just the way he liked them. After munching on them, he opened his satchel, picking a notebook.

"Now, lemme see… I should work as a reporter, right? Eh… not my worst disguise, but honestly, I don't care much about it." Zero opened it on an empty page, and then fiddled with his satchel more, this time getting a pencil out. "Alright, let's see… need to check if the folks here are feelin' a little weird."

I'd be, if I was forced to live in such a smelly place. Yuck! Zero stuck out his tongue. I have no clue how they can handle it. I wouldn't…

It only came to him that there were more than a few citizens staring at him, a reminder that his species was—for lack of a better word—unknown. Not even Zero knew what he was, let alone find others of his kind.

Oh, for cryin' out loud, I don't have the time for this! Gotta interrogate—err, ask around. Seriously, why don't the folks at the organization make a tracker? It can't be so hard to do…

Zero looked around, first to see which paths would land him further from the murky lakes, and then to decide who he should question first. "Maybe I gotta go fast…"

Sure, he could go fast and ask a bunch of them in quick succession, but a little voice said no. Said voice sounded rough and coarse, and had a distinct image in his head, belonging to a Mightyena.

"Don't run around like an idiot, Z."

With his consciousness in head, Zero's eyes landed on a Lampent. Whoever they were, they were flying, headed to the shopping district.

Relegated to walking, Zero began a stroll. Even at his slowest, he could catch up with that Lampent quickly. The feline continued, walking through roots and through a small bridge, before seeing the market up ahead. Lampent continued to float.

Okay, in hindsight, I could've done this earlier… Zero cleared his throat and raised his voice. "Hello, Lampent! Could I get a minute of your attention?!"

"Hm?" Lampent turned to face him, gasping at the sight. "Oh, hello! Whoa, I've never seen anything like you before!"

The voice that came out was distinctly feminine.

"...I get that a lot, ma'am." Zero straightened himself, checking the notebook. "I'm a reporter from far away, and I was sent here to check some abnormalities. Could I ask some questions?"

"I don't see why not!" Lampent replied, the flame inside her bursting forth, making her insides glow. "What's wrong?"

Alright, where do I start…? Zero cleared his throat. "I've seen reports of abnormal weather. Did you see anything in particular?"

"Oh, there's been a sandstorm a few days ago!" Lampent answered, looking down to wonder if there was anything else. "...It lasted a few days."

"Did any of your friends and or family seem strange after the storm? Or during the storm? That happens too." Zero scribbled what she said, waiting patiently.

"I mean, it's a bunch of sand in a city that has zero all year. Of course everyone was shaken up…"

"Duly noted." Zero wrote that as well. "But was there anything… specific? Like a surge of power? Increased strength, even on non-battlers?"

"A surge of power…" Lampent stopped to think, and then shook her head, meaning, her entire body. "No, I don't think so."

"Hm… sure, I guess that's it. You can go on your way now." Zero shooed her off, and Lampent left with her flames bursting out of her body.

Still need to talk with others. Dang… and here I thought I could finally get that nap I need.

His other encounters went the same way. Some reported that the sand made them upset, angry or bothered, but very few—a Mienfoo and a Cacnea—mentioned feeling stronger. Not enough to classify the city as Crack-free in Zero's book.

Which meant he'd still need to stay there for a few more days. For now, he remained under one of the bigger trees, leaning against it. Putting his own report book down, Zero picked the one he received from his superior.

"Alright, Will, let's see what you have for me…" Zero started reading. "Our reports indicate the biggest condition for the appearance of Cracks is the presence of ley lines. Ley lines came to be conceived as lines of power that are filled with energy. Ancient Pokémon used to travel through the world using entercards, cards that draw on their power to open what is known as a Magnagate."

"What a bunch of mumbo jumbo…" Zero groaned. "Will, you're one weird 'mon."

Still, he couldn't deny using the gates; it was how he got to the town in the first place.

"Hm… I wonder if those kids from before will keep investigating this. Knowing the organization, they'll want to recruit that team. Which is gonna be a pain in the ass." Zero started to shiver. "Gods, hopefully I won't be reduced to a glorified babysitter."

That would be beyond humiliating. Zero closed the notebook, yawning. For now, he had to remain in low profile, investigating this town. From the looks of it, It'll take… around a week before the next phase of the Crack starts. I might need to give the bosses a call, make 'em evacuate the folk here.

Zero bit a lip. Yes, that was the best course of action. Now, he needed to go back to the hotel, remembering there was a phone there. Part of him still wondered how the kids were doing, if they could help him sometime. But involving them was dangerous and stupid.

He ran towards the hotel, silently hoping they'd just go on with their lives.

Liz wanted to pursue the mystery behind the Cracks. She let Shiron and Terry continue their investigation back at the office. As for her… she was alone, going to talk to the only one that could give at least some answers: Infernape.

The road was as calm as usual. However, when she was at the point of seeing the hospital's entrance, she was met with the sight of two Pokémon: a Krokorok and a Sneasler. Thinking nothing of it, she headed inside.

Hm… perhaps I should ask Amelia for her assistance. Liz thought as she entered the reception. She quickly saw the two Pokémon talking with the receptionist. I suppose I shall wait.

Liz approached them, waiting for her turn. She was able to hear part of the conversation; her eyes widened, hearing Krokorok ask for where Infernape was.

Wait, it could be a coincidence, or they could be Infernape's family.

Deciding to follow her instincts, Liz took a single step forward to better hear the conversation.

This time, Sneasler mentioned the incident, and the receptionist pointed towards the room. It could very well be a coincidence. However, being closer, Liz heard more details—including the surge of power that coursed through Infernape, a detail only she and her teammates knew.

…How do they know? I am certain none of us told the hospital crew. Unless…

The duo left to Infernape's room, leaving Liz to talk with the receptionist, a dark-type Meowth. She didn't want to ask the same thing, knowing something was brewing there, something she needed to find out. But as it turned out, she didn't need to.


Liz recognized the voice; it was the Kirlia she looked for. She turned back, facing Amelia, the Kirlia's shiny body glistening in the light.

"Miss Amelia."

"I knew you'd show up. We received a call earlier… two visitors wanting to check in on Infernape."

"Hm, indeed. My instincts told me there was something wrong."

Amelia shrugged. "I can't say I know what's going on exactly, but they aren't relatives, I checked, since I know you and your teammates were investigating this Infernape."

"I need to speak with those two." Liz put it bluntly.

The Kirlia took a large breath, sighing. "Absolutely not. I know this is an important matter to you, but I will take the safety of my patients first.

"Hmph." Liz flicked her cape, and as she looked at Amelia, at the cap the nurse wore, an idea came to mind. "...Let me borrow your cap."

Amelia looked up at her own head, and at her nurse cap. "...Why?"

"If I pretend to be a nurse, I can get close, and get more information this way."

The nurse wondered what the best course of action was. Although she didn't have the time to warn the team about these visitors, she had an opportunity to help.

"...You have five minutes."

She entered the room, remaining close to the door in case escaping proved necessary. Liz squinted her eyes, watching Krokorok and Sneasler closely. Infernape was still laying in bed, covered with a blanket.

"We wanna ask about the thing you saw." Krokorok said, eyeing Sneasler. "With as many details as you can."

"Don't push him." Sneasler snarled, putting on a smile for the fire-type. "Now, will you be a good boy and answer us?"

"I dunno how many of y'all will keep askin' me about that bloody thing…" Infernape groaned. "I already told that Golem before! I don't remember anything! Saw some tendrils, they took me, and I evolved! After that, nothin'!"

Krokorok frowned, turning to Sneasler. "I don't think he's cooperating that much."

"Noted." Sneasler stopped, tapping his chin. "...How about we focus on your feelings? Any emotions?"

"Just… incredibly strong?" Infernape answered, struggling to shrug, ending up groaning again. It would be so much better if they left him alone. He shivered a little.

"We won't be able to help you if you don't remember…" Krokorok snarled. "Do you have an idea of how long you were exposed to it?"

Liz, meanwhile, kept hearing them, checking the other, empty beds in that room to avoid any suspicion. What is the point in asking…? Unless expending more time near a Crack has some side effects.

But Infernape's interrogators didn't stop. Krokorok crossed his arms, huffing. "I'm gonna be real with ya. That thing you touched… is very dangerous. We don't know the full thing, but there's a chance your body won't adapt to it."

Sneasler slapped the ground-type Pokémon in response. "Idiot! You'll scare him off! We need to be gentle about this! What's the organization do if they hear you were this much of a brute?!"

Infernape groaned, shivering again. His flame was nowhere to be seen, and his fur was… grayer? Krokorok raised a brow, touching the fire-type's forehead, and instantly backed away, shaking his arm.

"W-What's happening… to me?" Infernape panted, shivering more and tugging on the blanket, pressing it as tight as possible.

"He's cold. Really cold," Krokorok added. "We should call the nurse now, before he gets hypothermia! I don't think this guy's strong enough to handle the Crack on his own. He needs help!"

"There's one right there!" Sneasler pointed at Liz. "Nurse, he needs immediate assistance!"

"I—" Liz bit a lip; she had no way of helping. "I will ask for help! Stay put!"

And with that, she ran out of the door. Amelia was waiting outside, and gave her a cross eye.

"Five minutes, huh?"

Liz didn't bother replying to that sarcastic comment. "There is… something wrong. You need to help them."

"On it. Stay away." Amelia entered the room.

Meanwhile, Liz started thinking about what Krokorok said… about being strong enough. Just what was going on? What did these Cracks do?

She had to get to the bottom of that mystery.

Liz remained outside, hearing the commotion coming from the room. She cringed, waiting. Was Infernape alright? He had to be. She didn't know him that well—and certainly wouldn't pretend to—but that Pokémon didn't deserve… whatever was going on.

I… would never have found out about these cracks if Terrence and I remained in the kingdom. Liz sighed. Time itself felt like it stopped while she waited.

To help distract herself, Liz wondered about Krokorok's words; about being strong. Was she? Could she take in the power of a Crack and stay healthy? If she didn't, it would take far too long to evolve, and in case they encountered Zero again, they'd lose.

So it didn't matter whether or not she was strong. Liz had to take it, this was her best shot at evolving and helping her—

…Should I call them "friends"? Liz chuckled to herself. The thought didn't cross her mind before, but it did make sense, in a way. Was it true? Could she call them friends?

They fought together for a little while, but there was something on the way, a possible threat. Whatever the Cracks were, whoever was behind them… it called to her. Liz wanted—no, she needed to find out more.

But telling the others about this plan? That was another story. This little quest was hers, and once she was done, Liz would return to their side, to Terry's side. The adrenaline of investigating and fighting was making her smirk; perhaps he was right in running away, and she was right in following.

Liz sighed. She had a plan; asking those two about what the "organization" was, if they knew Zero, and if that was the case, where he went. I will follow the trail alone if I have to.

Of course, that was if the Krokorok and Sneasler were related to Zero. The signs did point to that being the case, and Liz herself was sure. She had to follow this lead.

She heard a groan, likely coming from Infernape, and sighed once more. This could take a while, and it probably would take a while. Liz wondered if there was anything similar to the Cracks home, or if she heard of them before.

I got nothing. For all I know, this is new. Though… I suppose I was never the most avid news follower. Hmph.

While she thought about the situation, Liz walked in circles, touching her face with a flower. On one hand, she didn't know whether her theory of ley lines being involved was true or not. Without Zero, there was no way of knowing for sure, unless she asked the two with Amelia.

On the other hand, the signs pointed to her being right. Although it was strange that Shiron devised this theory. He was an amnesiac, so why did he have this sort of knowledge?

Perhaps he is hiding something. But… it is not my job to expose that. I have more pressing matters.

Those pressing matters made themselves known, as an alarm sounded next to the room. Without wasting a second, multiple nurses rushed inside. Liz had to move out of the way, eyes widening.

Is it really that bad…?

There was no way she could know. All Liz could do was wait for them to get out. She didn't need to wait for long. Krokorok opened the door, moved to the side, letting Sneasler walk out, and closed the door. The two stood right next to her.

This was what she wanted. "Hm. I believe… there are a few things we need to discuss."

They met again outside the hospital. Krokorok had left to buy something for them to eat and drink, so Liz was left with just Sneasler to talk to.

Good. She had a lot of questions to ask. Picking one to begin with was a hard choice, as there were too many topics to choose just one.

Eventually, she settled on the Pokémon they encountered before. "Do you know an electric-type Pokémon that goes by the name Zero?"

Sneasler didn't reply, but he didn't need to. The silence was the answer Liz needed.

"Hm… very well. I will choose to believe there is a reason for you to stay in silence."

"...Okay, fine." Sneasler grunted. "We know the guy. One of our best scouts."

Liz quirked a brow; this just got more interesting. "Really? An arrogant, overconfident scout."

"Sounds about right." Sneasler crossed his arms. "Listen, lady. What do you want? We're just here to assess how bad the situation is."

"The Cracks, is that right?" Liz paused, closing her eyes. Good, she could start actually interrogating. "So you travel to this small town, all so you could check on an Infernape. Is that right?"

Before he could reply, Liz cut him off with a wave of her arm. "It is fascinating. I do not know who you work for, but I must admit… it is impressive."

"T-Thanks?" Sneasler shrugged. "Can you let me go now? I dunno about you, but some of us have jobs."

Liz shook her head. "...I understand. Well, here is what will happen, mister Sneasler."

"Wha—" Sneasler was covered in sharp petals, and they accumulated towards his face.

"You will tell me where he went to and how to get there." Liz proclaimed, smirking. "I will follow him, and I will make the Crack's power… my own."

Sneasler was intimidated, but the way Liz said it was funny enough for him to start laughing. "Oh, please! You call Zero arrogant, but you're just as bad! If you think you can take the power, go ahead!"

"I do not think, I know I can take it." Liz stepped back, raising an arm. "I have my reasons, and this is something I must prove to myself. Prove that I am strong, that I can help those that believe in me."

Yes, it made sense. Terry would get worried, Shiron would follow her, and Nick would say something about being reckless and stupid.

"Prove to yourself…?" Sneasler deadpanned. "Frankly, I don't care, lady. But I do wanna warn you… you're messing with things you don't understand. The least you could do is ask for backup."

"Spill it already, Sneasler."

He sighed, leaning closer and whispering the name to her.

"Ah… I see. No, there is no need for backup. They…"

None of them understood. Even if she went alone, she was doing what was best for them. As the most trained, the strongest, it was her duty to protect those weaker than her. And this time… she wouldn't lose.

A/N: Hey, everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus, but I really needed to work on finishing Liberators. Now that it's over, I can focus on this one! So... here's a chapter!
Chapter 14 - Thorned Duties


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 14 - Thorned Duties

Stay strong, my wings. Don't fail me now.

We can make it, we'll do it somehow.

Keep flying on through the day.

On my love!

It was a bright, sunny day in the town of Thornwell. Every citizen was awake already, doing their duties for the day. For some, that was selling goods. For others, construction. But all of them had something to do.

For Liz, her main goal was to train. Train and get stronger, so she could protect those weaker than herself—or at least, that was what she told herself. True strength, as she came to find out, was hard to grasp, but saying she wanted to help others made it easy for her to set a goal. Of course, she still needed to actually train.

Liz flinched, seeing smoke sprouting in front of her. A simple strategy, but very effective. Blinding her first, then using that opportunity to strike. Of course, such a strategy was easy for someone like her to counter. All she needed to do was relax and prepare for the attack.

Straightening her legs, preparing vines—her posture was set. Liz saw a different color to the smoke, a hint of orange that moved and swooshed in the air: fire.

"Hiyah!" Onyx announced her entrance with a scream, her fist coated in orange flames as she prepared to strike Liz.

Liz simply spun around, before she jumped over Onyx, raising her petals and jabbing her, poison coating the flowers in her arms. "Sloppy!"

"Tch!" Onyx was hit by the attack, landing on the ground. The flame in her tail burnt brightly, and she turned around, claws shining like metal. "Not so fast!"

Seeing the attack coming, Liz dodged it, backing away. Once, then twice, then three times. Onyx kept trying the same attack repeatedly, as if doing the same thing would yield any different results. Liz thought it wasn't a very smart move, if at all. What was she trying to accomplish?

"I do not understand what you plan by doing this, but—" Liz dodged another strike, but her words slowed her down enough that it almost hit her. Cringing, she punched the Charmeleon once more, flowers coated with poison.

However, before the attack could connect, Onyx ducked, backflipping away from the attack, watching the smoke settle. Liz smiled, the poison vanishing from her flowers.

They stood atop the sun-drenched hill, overlooking their team's headquarters. The scorching rays of the sun beat relentlessly upon them, casting long shadows across the rugged terrain. Luckily, there weren't any onlookers or potential interruptions nearby, granting the freedom to focus solely on their training. Only Liz, Onyx, and…

Amelia cleared her throat. She slurped a juice prepared by the team's cook, lowering the sunglasses in her face. "I take it you two aren't finished yet?"

"Of course not!" Liz raised a brow, getting ready to fight again. "I must train. That opponent was simply too strong for us… but not for long. I will surpass him!"

"Y'know, that's a fine enough goal." Onyx said, but she shrugged afterwards. "...'Cept we don't know a lot about that guy, what he's plannin', and all that. Sure you're up for the task?"

"I will, I must be." Liz said, her voice laced with venom. "It is my duty. I will not be weak. There are… others that need protection, and I will give them that."

…Not again. I will never be weak again. I must be… strong.

Not once did the thought of helping Terry cross her mind. For now, all Liz could focus on was her own strength.

Amelia gave out a loud sigh, rubbing her head. "Alright, you two are lucky I'm on break today. I will heal any of you to the best of my capabilities, but that doesn't mean you can just act recklessly. Is that clear?"

"Aye, aye." Onyx grinned.

"Interesting choice of words," Liz crossed her arms, looking straight at Onyx. "You were not actually trying to win. You were holding back, I just know it. Like Shiron."

"...He holds back?"

"That Marshtomp shares a different opinion about fighting than we do, so I can tell he holds back." Liz shook her head. "It does not matter, this is about you. I accepted your offer to spar, but if you are not going to put any effort into this, then—"

Onyx pouted, a puff of smoke coming out of her nostrils. "Listen, I wasn't. I… I mean, I don't wanna hurt you too much y'hear? Plants and fire don't mix all that well."

Hearing that, Liz almost let her emotions get the best of her. Almost. Blowing out at her training partner wouldn't help either of them, but the words Onyx said were the strongest of poisons, they reminded Liz of her training, of all that she had to endure. An opponent holding back against her was preposterous.

"Hm… I figured that was the case." Liz took a deep breath, letting all the air inside, then out. In, and out. It helped calm down, and she needed that. "...I understand your point. However, Onyx, if you do not push me, how can I evolve?"

Onyx just shrugged. "Well, we could get ya that stone? It'd make the process a lot faster, for one."

But Liz shook her head. "I considered it, but I want to achieve my evolution through my own power, not any shortcuts."

Although… the Crack is very tempting.

"Own power, huh?" Onyx grinned again, the fire in her tail bursting further. "Heh, I respect that! Alright, c'mon! We gotta train some more!"

To help with this, she pounced towards Liz, surprising the Roselia, leaving little to no room for her to properly react. It all happened in a flash.


Before she knew it, Liz was down on the ground, Onyx pinning her down with two arms, and grinning wildly. "I can do this. But don't be reckless, alright? It's training, not a battle to the death!"

Liz could feel all her insides rushing to her face, twisting it into a deep blush, before Onyx moved off of her, cracking her knuckles.

"I-I… Promise not to be reckless. I will… try." Liz stood up, composing herself. "Let us continue!"

Waddle, waddle waddle. Terry climbed the hill, holding a brand new comic book in his arms. It had the cover of a Drizzile hugging what appeared to be a Salandit/Helioptile hybrid. Said Drizzile looked flustered, but happy at the same time. It was probably a fun story.

"This heat is awful…" Terry looked at his cape; it wasn't built for that kind of heat at all. "...Almost makes me miss Cydonia, it rains all the time there."

Behind the Tyrunt came Shiron, holding a chocolate bar that he was munching on. His scarf bothered the scales, especially with how hot the day was, but he kept it on anyway. Better than being naked, he told himself.

"Missing home, huh?"

Terry turned to face his friend. "Right… you don't remember yours, right? Sorry for mentioning this."

"Nah, don't worry, I'm alright. I think." Shiron shrugged, eating more of the chocolate. Good, but not as good as whatever Magnus baked for him. Funny enough, he kept thinking more about that Quilladin. It… probably didn't mean anything, he thought about all his friends!

One of them—Terry—kept staring, like Shiron was stuck inside his own little world. "...You're doing it again, not really moving. Are you alright? Is the heat getting to you?"

That promptly sent him back to reality. "Oops, sorry! I was just… really thinking about this chocolate. It's really good."

"Oh, that's fair." Terry resumed walking up the hill, peeking at the comic every now and again. Once they entered the HQ, they could all rest a little, and take shelter from the heat—

"Eat this!"

Onyx jumped again, trying to land another punch, but Liz backed off, and she only hit the ground. Still, the impact left a small crater on the ground.

"Oh, Reshiram almighty." Terry stopped on his tracks, watching the fight with widened eyes. His eyes darted to Liz, who kept dodging attack after attack, but sometimes, Onyx almost hit her, getting increasingly closer. "Liz! Don't overexert yourself!"

Liz heard him, moving her head to see him. "Sire, I—"

"Hah, sloppy!" Onyx used the distraction as an opportunity, jumping and spinning around, before hitting Liz with her tail, knocking the plant back, while Onyx landed on her feet with a smirk. "Hehe."

"Tch… I was sloppy, but you're—you cannot call me that, not when you are… sloppier." Liz stood up, rubbing her face where the punch hit, and spitting a little. "This is not over."

Terry let out a loud sigh, shaking his head. "Liz… training is fine, just don't get yourself hurt."

"Y-Yeah!" Shiron arrived, having finished his chocolate. He looked at Amelia. "But… she's there to help, r-right?"

Amelia shrugged. "I will, but yes, it's better to be careful."


Liz walked forward, preparing to fight once again. Her flowers dripped with poison, but she was smiling. "Very well, Onyx. You are very strong, I must admit. But… winning will make me stronger."

"Took the words right outta my mouth!" Onyx laughed, before she charged again, cutting the distance between them in a matter of seconds.

She started with a slap of her tail, one that Liz dodged. Afterwards, Onyx prepared her claws, slashing away while Liz was busy dodging the previous attack. This time, it connected, but Liz wasn't sent anywhere by the attack.

There was a plan on her part as well. Liz smiled, jabbing Onyx right in the chin, sending her into a scream of pain, as her scales started being corroded by the poison, and forcing Onyx to back off a few feet.

"Is that the best you can do?!"

Terry had watched the fight a little longer, but as it continued, he moved to the sidelines, sitting down on the ground with Shiron by his side. They got under a tree, thanking the shadow for alleviating a little of the heat.

"She's always like this…" the prince muttered, looking at the fight. "Liz pushes herself too much all the time. I don't like it."

Shiron heard him and turned to his friend. "All the time…?"

"Ever since I met her. Before she became my bodyguard, me and my brother watched her train with the other cadets." Terry explained, frowning. "...The guard is mostly composed of dragons, but a few other types have joined. Liz is one of them."

Well, now I'm curious… Shiron thought. Should he probe more? Would it be invading Terry and Liz's privacies?

"...Can I ask you about it?"

Terry sighed, slowly nodding. "Yeah, I don't mind. Liz was… and I suppose always will be… complicated."

As he watched the intense fight unfold before him, Terry was both captivated and worried about Liz's relentless flurry of punches, a sight he was all too familiar with. Each strike was precise, landing most of the time. One more punch connected with its target, and Terry flinched involuntarily, a vivid memory flooding back.

It was a day much like any other, with the exception of the heavy responsibilities that Terry carried on his shoulders. He and his brother, Edgar, had been entrusted with overseeing the rigorous training of the royal guard. Together, they stood in one of the sides of the vast training area—a long, plain field where the guards were allowed to fight and hone their skills without constraint.

For this session, they were overseeing one of the knights—a Baxcalibur, fighting against three Pokémon: Liz, a Noibat, and a Jangmo-o. Two dragons and a grass-type, fighting another dragon. They were obviously at a disadvantage, but the entire point of the training was surpassing that.

Once the brothers arrived, Terry noticed that the trainees were already bruised—Liz herself had part of her arm covered in ice, and had stopped fighting to give all their attention to the princes. Terry gulped, frowning at the sight. Could he do something about it…?

"Now, now. I know we are the heirs—or at least Terrence is, and as such, we are a sight for sore eyes." Edgar smirked, raising his head in the most pompous way possible. His gray cape flickered in the wind. "...However, our presence here does not mean you can simply stop! It is our duty to oversee this training session, and as such… I order you to continue."

"Edgar…" the other Tyrunt muttered, knowing his brother was always like this. Terry was never one for royal life, and his brother was the exact opposite. "W-Well, yes! I think we must proceed, right?"

"Be more imposing, brother." Edgar rolled his eyes, huffing. "But yes, we should. Proceed!"

Liz panted, looking at the two princes. In front of them, she could not show any kind of weakness, not even when her arm was burning from the ice in her flesh. She stood up, wrapping vines around that… and ripping the chunk of ice off of her. "Urgh! U-Ur…"

"Pay attention!" Baxcalibur stomped the ground, causing a small shake. "I will not hold back anymore! This will be a simple exercise, to show your strategic thinking! I will charge my attack, and you will have the chance to deal with it! If you let me charge…"

A smirk ran across his face. "Well, I doubt the princes will be enjoying it."

Despite that, Edgar's tail wagged. "Hm… I am curious. Keep going!"

Baxcalibur raised his head as high as he could, and started charging a beam. The air around his mouth got colder, shards of ice forming, coming together to form a ball. More and more energy was poured inside, expanding the ball.

Ice Beam…? Terry wondered if that was the attack. It could be something else, and frankly, he didn't know enough about ice-type moves.

Hm, intriguing. I should not charge blindly. Liz wondered, watching the air gathering around the dragon's mouth. Regardless of what the attack was supposed to be, Liz wasn't about to let herself be hit by it.

But at the same time, I cannot stand around doing nothing. She charged ahead, preparing an attack. Her options were, unfortunately, limited to absorbing a bit of energy from the dragon, launching poisonous darts, or spores to paralyze him. Her other attack was for healing purposes—Life Dew, as it was called.

Out of those three, she chose the latter, preparing to jump and strike. However, before she could, the Noibat nearby flew faster, flapping her wings to speed up, before trying a headbutt. Her hope was to stop the attack from charging.

Hm, even if the attack is not ready, I am sure it can still— Liz's eyes widened in realization. While the attack wasn't ready, the dragon could still launch it, and it would be devastating for Noibat. "Stop it, you will—"

It was too late. Baxcalibur roared, unleashing a powerful beam of ice that hit Noibat right in her stomach, sending the small dragon down to the ground.

Edgar, having watched it, simply shook his head in disapproval. "That was a poor strategy, I must admit. What do you think, Terrence?"

"I-I…" Terry paused to think. "I am not sure. There were better options, I am sure of it."

"Hmph. If she did not notice it, then she is simply too weak, and not proper material for the royal guard."

Liz, on the other hand, noticed that Baxcalibur was distracted after using the attack, breathing deeply to regain his composure, and leaving an opening to strike. But… Noibat was wounded, and badly. Faced with this choice, what should she do? Surely, saving the young trainee would not get her in the princes' good graces. Yet, her instincts said it was the right choice.

Oh, that's interesting! Terry watched, noticing that Liz was having trouble deciding what to do. …As a king—urgh, don't want to be one. Anyway, I think saving your subordinates is important. Will she choose that?

Next to her, the Jangmo-o had made a decision, rushing to Noibat's aid as fast as possible. Right before the dragon could do anything, Baxcalibur roared, launching another beam that knocked him out, landing next to Noibat.

"Damn it!"

Had she chosen to save her fellow trainee, the same result would happen to her. Yet, not helping someone was just as bad, if not worse. Which one would it be? Herself, or her teammate? Could she do both? Such an important decision was like a mountain laying on her back, but Liz did her best to ignore all instincts.

Instead, she charged towards the knight. She jumped, spinning her petals and launching poisonous darts that hit the rugged scales of the dragon, but didn't do much to harm him.

Huh? Terry was left flabbergasted. Why didn't she help him?

Baxcalibur roared, punching Liz when she was close enough and sending her to the ground. Finally, he huffed. "Dismissed! All three of you were knocked out, what a disgrace to the crown! Your princes are right here!"

"Actually, I do not really mind—"

Edgar stomped the floor repeatedly. "Sometimes you are too soft for your own good, brother… ahem! I expect a little more out of you next time!"

"Hmph, I shall train this sorry lot better, your Highnesses!" Baxcalibur bowed. "Please, during the next session, I can assure you they will have better results. To join as your personal bodyguards, they must."

Liz panted, slowly standing up. She had a move that could heal the others, but… she wasn't ordered to. "E-Err, I believe I can help them heal. Lately, I have been practicing Life Dew. It is not my best move, but—"

"Don't talk out of line, Elizabeth!" Baxcalibur roared, causing her to be quiet. "...Apologies, your Highnesess."

Oh, is that her name? How lovely.

"No, let her talk." Terry raised his voice slightly. "She wants to help."

Liz bowed, getting to her knees. "Thank you, your Highness. I practiced the move Life Dew, which lets me heal others, as well as myself. I believe this will help my fellow trainees."

"Hm…" Terry scratched his chin, before smiling. "Good plan! Please, mister Baxcalibur, heal your soldiers as well as you can. Me and my brother—"

"We shall take our leave." Edgar said, huffing a little smoke out of his nostrils. "While this presentation certainly… lacked in a few aspects, it makes up for it in others."

Baxcalibur put a hand on his chest, as a sign of respect. "Yes, sir!"

Nodding to his subordinate, Edgar began to walk off, before he realized his brother stayed behind. Rolling his eyes, Edgar called his attention with a snarl.

"Terrence, come on!"

"M-My apologies…" Terry gulped, waddling towards his sibling. The two walked out of the camp.

Along the way, they meandered past the garden, where vibrant blooms reached as far as their eyes could see, bringing serenity to the landscape. Diligent servants tended to the oasis, nourishing the plants with water and trimming away any unruly foliage.

Edgar sniffed the air, his small tail wagging. "Ah… I just love the smell of flowers. It really makes you appreciate what you were given."

Then, he stopped, clearing his throat. "See, Terrence, this is what we should strive for, our dream! To lead our people to a brighter tomorrow! It is in our blood, and we must accept it!"

There he goes again… always eager to talk about our lineage of royals. I cannot understand my own brother. Terry sighed, but smelled the flowers as well. As annoying as Edgar could be, he had a point; the place was beautiful. Everything else that he said, though? Terry didn't like it. Not one bit.

…Maybe a change of subject was warranted. He did want to talk about the trainees. "Ahem, Edgar! While I appreciate your… enthusiasm about our lineage, I believe there are other matters to discuss."

Edgar, taken out of his speech, pouted slightly. "Very well. This is about the trainees, correct?"

A nod, but before Terry answered, he ordered one of the servants to rest, seeing they were drenched in sweat.

"...Yes, the trainees. We are supposed to pick one to be our personal bodyguard. It feels like a tough decision."

"Of course it is! Personally… I am intrigued by that Roselia. She did consider the mission above all else. However… I could tell she hesitated."

Hesitated as in, wanted to save a comrade. Terry sighed. …I think that is more important than the mission, but Edgar would never believe me.

"What about you, brother? What do you think about her?"

Terry opened his mouth, but he didn't know much about her, or at least not enough to properly voice his opinion. He did want to know more about her, though.

Another punch brought him back to the present, just in time to see Onyx falling to the ground, panting and grinning. She was bruised, but so was Liz, with a few burns in her body. They weren't enough to knock her out, but still…

"Hmph. I warned you, didn't I?" Amelia left her chair, crossing her arms as she approached the two. "How long have you two been training?"

Onyx chuckled, standing up to shrug. "Like… two hours, give or take. Dunno exactly, it was so fun I didn't pay attention."

"Then I will be as blunt as possible: you need a break." Amelia said, first to Onyx, and then to Liz, the Roselia glaring back at her. "I mean it, nobody here is overstepping their limits."

"Suit yourself." Liz scoffed.

Amelia clapped her hands together, enveloping them both in a bright, pink glow of healing aura. "Stay close. This pulse is enough to heal your wounds. They aren't serious."

Letting the energy envelop her, Liz sighed in relief. Training will not yield any results right now, but in the near future, I will be able to see them. I just need to be patient.

"Yo!" Terry ran towards the girls, still holding the comic in his arms. "Are you two alright? Nothing broken?"

Shiron followed him, but slowly. "Uh, hi Liz, hi Onyx! And Amelia, too! Hope we didn't interrupt all the training, haha…"

"Not at all." Liz rolled her eyes. Then, to Terry, she smiled. "Don't—do not worry. Like Amelia said, she is healing us."

Onyx grinned at the two, adjusting her hat. "Phew, your friend's really tough! Fightin' was fun, and we're okay."

"Tell me about it!" Terry chuckled a bit.

"Well… I must admit, it was a fun match." Liz nodded.

Yes, it was. And it would make her stronger. Liz had to keep pushing herself, no matter how painful it got, because she had to win. In a way, joining this—unnamed—team was more helpful than she thought, allowing her to surpass her own limits.

Terry frowned a little. He turned to the others, getting their attention. "Can I have a minute or two with her? It won't take long."

"Right!" Shiron gave him a nod, moving with the other two towards the entrance to their HQ.

Back at the hill, Terry watched them go, only turning to see Liz when he was sure they wouldn't peek.

"They're pretty nice, don't you think?"

Liz nodded. "I suppose they are. I still believe you are better off in the kingdom, with your family, but… if this is your desire, then I will support you the entire way."

There it was, the thing Terry was thinking the most about. Liz, like always, was putting her life on the line for his, all because of tradition, because she was chosen to be his bodyguard.

"...Don't overdo it. I don't want you getting hurt for my sake, alright?"

But what could Liz do, when that was her entire role?

"I… am unsure if I can ever do that, Sire—"

Terry stared right through her.

"...Terry. It is my duty to protect you, and as such, I will go through any lengths to get stronger for your sake. You know I must."

"Do I, now?" Terry huffed, tapping the ground a few times while he prepared his next few words. His silence was deafening, capable of shattering everything in Liz.

"...Here you are, training day after day, for what? To protect me?"

Liz pouted. "Of course I am! I must defeat that, that—whatever that Pokémon was! For your sake! For—"

"No! Can't you see, Liz?!" Terry's voice cracked, his clenched fists turning the comic into a crumpled mess. His fangs were bared into a snarl. "This is not for me! It's not about protecting us or our friends! It's about your own wounded pride! You're seeking validation through victory!"

Liz fell silent, allowing Terry's words to reverberate within her. Contemplating the truth buried within his accusation… was he right? This battle was about herself, not her prince's safety? Personal satisfaction?

"I… I'm not complaining, Liz." Terry's voice quivered, barely audible. His body trembled, while tears welled up, tracing a path down his cheeks. "In fact, I'm glad you're putting yourself first. But please, whether it's for me or for yourself, promise me you won't do anything foolish. I… I can't bear the thought of losing you."

"S-Sire—Terry…" Liz held back her own emotions, and her urge to hug him, to remind him that everything was going to be okay. Because… she wasn't sure she could stop herself from doing anything like that. But she could try.

Nevertheless, she took a hesitant step forward, closing the distance between them. With resolve, she enfolded the prince in a tight embrace, offering solace and support for as long as he needed.

"Thank you. I promise to be careful."

"I… I understand." Terry sighed in relief, keeping the hug. However, he grumbled a little, noticing the state his comic was left in. "Aw, man… I'm gonna have to buy another one!"

Liz pulled herself away, clearing her throat. "Ah, apologies for making you do that."

"It's fine…"

Someone whistled, coming from the headquarters. Terry turned around, seeing Shiron waving at the two. On his side was Magnus, holding a large tray with waffles, a few berries… and syrup? It was enough for his mouth to start watering.

"Well, I know you don't eat like we do. Would you still like to join us?"

Liz considered, but shook her head. "Apologies, Terry, but I will meditate a little here."

"Suit yourself! Come on in when you're ready!" Terry nodded, waddling towards the others.

Liz settled herself upon the sun-drenched hill, taking a seat, looking down at the ground, as much as she wanted to gaze upon the radiant orb in the sky. Inhaling deeply, she embraced the warmth of the sun, savoring the energy infusing her being.

Alright, this should be easy… I always enjoyed meditating. It helps bring me ease, to soothe all my worries.

She took another deep breath, relaxing her body and letting everything go. Her mind focused on Terry's words, on the reason why she was training so hard. He was right, but… was she? Was she doing the right thing? They were living peacefully, and maybe, just maybe, that was good.

…No. Maybe for them, but I doubt it is to me.

How long had she been doing this? Fighting… was her life. It always was, and it always would be. Liz almost wanted to chuckle at that, because her current life had nothing to do with fights.

Unlike back in the kingdom. No, everything was different. Her sleep schedule, what she did in the day, who she talked to… it was all different. Until she met Terry.

The memory was vivid and haunting. Torrential rain cascaded down from the heavens, while the chilling winds howled like mournful spirits. Most of the others had sought shelter and succumbed to sleep. But not Liz.

Her resolve absolute, Liz found herself drawn to the training area. As the raindrops pelted down her body, her determination itself shielded her from any harm. With a deep breath, she thrust her right arm forward, then her left one, then the right one again. With every movement, she grew more accustomed to her surroundings.

Must… keep going.

Liz jumped, spinning in the air while letting her vines out, whipping at the air itself, and sending a few of the droplets out of the way, before more came from above. She landed on her feet, panting.

"N-Not yet… I'm not done just yet…"

Once again, she jumped, doing the same trick. This time, however, it was slightly faster, taking more out of her. But Liz still didn't quit. She wanted to perfect this maneuver, and as such, continued to try. Again. And again. And again.

"More… I must… I…"

With every spin, Liz panted more. With every move, she grew more tired. The toll on her body was only growing, but she showed no signs of stopping.

Meanwhile, under a large tent—where the soldiers stood to rest—was one of the princes, wearing his purple cape: Terry. He watched her in silence, contemplating on how to initiate a conversation.

Seeing her getting increasingly tired did help, at least somewhat. Terry cleared his throat, preparing to talk to her, and whistled as loud as the rain allowed him to.

She didn't hear him. Liz was ingrained in the exercise, even if it was getting exhausting. Once again, Terry whistled, louder. Liz still didn't hear him.

Oh, this might be a little… rude… but I fail to see another option. Terry stomped the ground, and a chunk of rock flew towards Liz, just as she was spinning.

"Hm? What?!" Liz cringed, whipping away at the rock with her vines, shattering it into tiny pieces of rubble, before landing. "Hm…? Who did this—"

She looked to the side, finally locking eyes with the prince. "S-Sire?! What are you doing here?! Have you not seen the storm? The—"

"Hush, I wanted to talk to you." Terry said… and heard thunder rumbling in the distance. "But I need you to come over. Please."

"Right away, sir." Liz nodded, walking towards the tent. She walked slowly, taking her time while the rain got stronger. Eventually, Liz was able to find shelter.

Once they were close enough to each other, Liz kneeled, lowering her head in a bow. "What is it, sir? Sire?"

"Oh boy…" Terry sighed; this could take a while. "Okay, first, you don't need to bow. Also, you can call me Terry! I don't really like all the formality, hence the contractions."

"But… it is tradition, Sire."

"Well, I don't care," he grumbled, pouting. Terry smiled at her next. "Seriously, stand up! I just wanted to talk to you."

"Hm… very well, if you insist." Liz stood up, but still kept herself straight, hardly moving at all.

"A little too stiff, but I'm sure we can work on it." Terry groaned slightly. "Well, Elizabeth, is it? Can I call you Liz? It's shorter."

"Well, sire, you are the prince."

"Liz it is!" he nodded. "...Well, Liz, I spent my day learning more about you, about your skills. You… weren't very good at the job, were you?"

Being so blunt was… not what Liz wanted. Knowing she was talking to the future king meant she should never voice that concern. "No, sir, I was not. Not at first. Even now, I am… weak, compared to the others. During today's lesson, I hesitated. I should have done better."

But Terry shook his head. "No, I don't think so. I think… you made a mistake."

"I beg your pardon, sir?"

"I think you should have tried to rescue the others," he said. "No mission is more important than lives, not even those for peace and justice."


Liz didn't have any words to say. Sure, his message was good, he understood where he was coming from, but everyone else taught her differently, so why should she accept this opinion, even if it came from the prince?

"I… I see, sir. But I cannot accept this. As part of the guard, I cannot fail. I must protect the crown at all costs."

"Crown this, crown that…" Terry muttered, looking nearby to find a bench. He sat on it, tapping the bench for Liz to sit as well. "...I'm actually curious. The crown has this strange jewel in it, it's pitch-black. But I digress, now come on!"

"Y-Yes, sir." Liz followed suit, taking a seat. What a strange prince…

"I'm here because I have an offer for you, Liz!" Terry's eyes sparkled. "I think—I know you have a lot of potential, and I want to help you unleash it. So… will you be my bodyguard?"

That entire sentence took Liz off-guard and almost made her fall, only barely managing to hold on. "S-Sir? You want me to guard you?"

"Well, first you should rest a little. How are you feeling?"

Liz took a look at herself, and every part of her body was tense. Just moving her arms hurt. "I… was planning on healing myself with Life Dew."

"Hm, I think healing yourself doesn't work as well as healing others, but alright." Terry nodded slowly. "...Still, you should rest."

Why was he telling her all that? All those… good things? Liz was a warrior, tasked with defending the proud lineage Terry was a part of. And yet, there he was, talking with her in the middle of the night, while the rain poured over the kingdom.

"I do not… understand why you are picking me over the others. I was slow and weak."

The prince crossed his arms, shaking his head in disappointment. "That's not what true strength looks like. I'm sure you can find it, and I promise to help, however I can."

Could she really trust him? Should she? He was the prince, he could simply order her to serve him, but he wasn't doing anything like that.

It could be worth a try. "I… might need some time to think about this, sir. I am flattered, but… it is a big decision."

"Of course! I never expected you to decide this right now, just… let me know, I want to help you, and I think you can help me too."

He offered her his paw. Knowing she didn't have one to shake Terry's with, Liz elected to create vines, wrapping them around Terry's paw. She had a small blush on her face.


"Please, just call me Terry! I swear I won't mind!"

"Well, if you insist, I shall… try my best to keep that in mind. It is a tad hard to unlearn proper manners."

"Oh, tell me about it!" Terry sighed, but smiled afterwards. "How about we stay here a little longer and watch the rain together? That way you can rest, and stop me from going to my room under this storm. Deal?"

So simple, yet so charming… Liz couldn't help but smile at his idea. "Of course, Terry."

That was the start of their friendship. Yes, friendship. Liz had friends, she could accept that much.

…I know I promised Terry I would not do anything foolish, but I suppose training does not count as foolish. I certainly hope so.

Liz sighed, standing up and stretching her arms. While she wasn't entirely sure how long she spent meditating, Liz also knew she had to train, as much as she enjoyed laying down to meditate. The training came first.

Perhaps he worries too much, but that is a good sign. I can count on him.

Enveloped in her own thoughts, Liz didn't feel the poke in her arm until heat rose next to her arm; Onyx again.

"Howdy!" Onyx grinned, spinning her hat with a claw, before putting it on. "Hope I didn't interrupt your brooding session!"

Liz scoffed, pouting. "I do not… brood. I was simply meditating!"

"Sure, sure…" her grin remained, and Onyx flexed her claws. "Alright! I had a nice bit of waffles for lunch, how about we continue our fight?! I don't wanna let you go on a winning streak!"

"Hmph… if you actually believe you will win, then you are more naive than I thought." Liz grinned, stepping back and getting into a fighting stance. "...But your challenge is accepted. What do you say we invert the roles? I attack, and you dodge."

"Heh! Kinda doubt I'll need to dodge, but fine by me!"

Liz moved her arms, vines protruding from them. With a smirk, the petals in her arms started gathering around, while she moved slightly from left to right, until the petals enveloped her entirely. Liz charged ahead, gathering dust and a large number of petals behind her. Liz jumped, preparing to strike with a swish movement, like a whip.

Dodge, huh? Onyx thought. Knowing how Liz liked to fight, this was likely a distraction. Substitute? She wants me to hit it! Meaning—

Onyx ducked under Liz, setting her sights on where the petals were, still in a large quantity, enough to obscure the real Liz, right?

…Wrong. Behind Onyx, she was struck with a mighty jab, sending her to the ground.

"I did say you were supposed to dodge."

"Don't worry, I can still keep going!" Onyx stood back up again, still smiling. It seemed she was still full of energy. As was Liz. Thankfully, their battle was uninterrupted.

That didn't mean they were alone. Watching the fight from the door were Shiron, Magnus and Terry. Amelia had decided to spend a little more time sunbathing, drinking another berry juice.

"She sure likes to fight, doesn't she…?" Shiron rubbed the back of his head. That was one of the few things he didn't get about Pokémon. Sure, trainers existed back in his homeworld, but nothing like this. At least, not that he knew of. "I wonder why…"

"It's her dream to be strong." Terry said, sitting on the floor. "A way to surpass her past self."

"But… why? Why go that far?"

Magnus looked at Shiron, tapping the Marshtomp on the back. "Sometimes, when you have a dream, it's really painful. Other times, it gets you really fired up, y'know?"

"I… didn't." Shiron ignored the fact he got a tap and how good it was to focus on the matter at hand. "Maybe I know now. Maybe."

But what do you do when you don't have a dream? Shiron sighed, and went back to watching the two.

Liz kept moving forward, hitting Onyx every time. Her attacks were relentless, wild, and almost savage. She stopped at nothing to hit her opponent, not giving a single moment to breath. It was sheer luck that Onyx managed to keep up with Liz.

Finally, Lix went for one last attack; another jab, right when Onyx was in front of her. This was the perfect opportunity to win, and…

Onyx pulled a trick out of her opponent's book, spinning and trying to slap the Roselia with her flaming tail. Though she was unsuccessful, Liz ended up falling on her rear.

"Alright, I give up! You win!" Onyx said, panting and gasping for air. "K-Kinda tired, so… let's end it here."

"What, but I did not—you—but…"

Onyx just shook her head. "Nah, I'm beat. You're really good."

"Good job, Liz!" Terry whistled from afar, waving at his friend with nothing but pride. "Whooo!"

"That was not a win! I needed to best you in battle, I—"

Someone walked next to her, and Liz only noticed the blue fluff on her side; the Riolu.

"Yo!" Nick waved at her from up close, before stepping back. "I'm not sure sitting there is a good idea. What're ya doin'?"

"...Hello, Nick." Liz didn't wave back at him, crossing her arms instead. Her curiosity peaked when seeing a folder in one of Nick's paws. "Do you have any updates on our search for Zero?"

Nick looked at her before giving her a smile. "Yeah, I do, actually! I wanted to tell the rest of the team before doing anything, so…"

He saw the others next to the door and smiled brighter. "How lucky! Everyone's here! Well, except for Daichi and Jackett. Where are they?"

"Off on a mission." Onyx shrugged.

Intriguing… Liz nodded. "I was in the middle of training… but this seems more important."

It didn't take long before the entire team was gathered on the couch, with Nick at the center, putting down the folder on the table nearby. He sweat, noticing that all of the eyes were on him. A quick glance revealed how they were sitting: Shiron and Magnus together. Terry, Amelia and Liz were each on a different chair, and Onyx was next to him.

"Man, this is kinda pressuring me, haha…" Nick rubbed the back of his head. "...But honestly, I don't think what I have to say is that bad. Quite the opposite!"

"Teeeell us all about it!" Onyx teased, sticking out her tongue.

Shiron sighed. "Don't put so much pressure on him, guys…"


Nick opened the folder, and it had the same map as the one he used before. This time, he pointed to a circle near a city name. "This is… Egovale. Nothing strange about it, right?"

Nobody but Magnus reacted, and even then, it was a shrug. "I dunno much about that place, other than it's what, an hour walk from here?"

"Yeah! But… there's something more!"

Liz rolled her eyes. "What is this about?"

Nick grinned. "Remember the reports we found, about that snow on the town we met Zero?"

"I read those reports!" Shiron protested, putting his hand in his chest.

"Easy now." Magnus tapped the Marshtomp on the back once again, and Shiron responded with a grumble.

"Don't worry, it's alright." Terry reassured the Marshtomp.

"Guys, shush." Nick grumbled, swishing his tail around. "Alright, hear me out. Egovale has been struck with a sandstorm. It was around… a week or so. Nothing major, but considering that we know it's near a leyline…"

"It might be attacked next." Liz completed the sentence. And if it was, then that meant Zero would be there.

Her opponent would be there. And she could get back her pride.

"...There is something else. I visited the hospital a while ago, and there I met two, err, goons. They were acting suspicious. Amelia?"

The Kirlia nodded. "Yes, a Sneasler and a Krokorok. They took my patient out, somehow convincing my boss that they were the only ones capable of saving him."

"Q-Quite the big conspiracy, don't you think?" Shiron messed with his fingers, before tugging on his scarf. "...Honestly, do you guys think we can handle this?"

A clap got his attention, and Onyx stood up. "Listen up, we've been doing this for a while. Me, Daichi and Jackett. If we say you guys are good, then you're good. Don't worry about it."


"Shiron," the Quilladin next to him smiled softly. "It's alright! We can do it! Just, y'know, trust yourself a little more."

"...I'll try." Shiron tugged harder, but didn't touch the subject anymore.

With that distraction dealt with, Nick knew he could focus back on the subject at hand.

"Well, here's the thing… I called a few numbers, services from Egovale. First, the reception there is awful. Secondly… I asked around about anyone matching Zero's appearance."

Liz paid attention to this. If she had a heart, it would surely be beating faster. "And what did you find out?"

She waited. For a long time, for an unbearable amount of time, as if everything had slowed down. Liz waited for Nick to open his mouth and share the news she so desperately craved.

"...He's there."

Oh, how it was sweet. Like the purest of nectars, drowning her with its taste. Now all she had to do was go there and defeat him! Simple as that!

"Okay, so our enemy's there, but we don't know the full extent of his powers, what exactly he's doing there, nothing." Shiron crossed his arms. "We're not gonna go rush in blindly, are we?"

Irrelevant. I am more than enough to handle him. Liz thought. Of course, she would never voice those thoughts to them. They were only for her.

Even if Terry did see how she had a big grin, the likes of which he had never seen. What was she planning?

"We'll have to figure it out, I guess. Just take it slow." Nick sighed. "...At the same time, if he's there, it means the place will be raided sooner or later. We need to warn them."

I will warn them after I have him in my ropes. Liz mused to herself. "I suppose you are right."

"Tomorrow, then." Shiron said. "...Tomorrow, we'll plan this."

As good of a decision as any.

Everyone went their separate ways. Shiron and Nick went to the latter's house, Magnus went to the shop, Amelia to the hospital, and Onyx to Daichi's place.

Only Terry and Liz remained in the headquarters. But even then, Terry went to sleep earlier, having gotten tired from reading too much. Liz was the only one awake.

Good. It was all she needed. With a paper in hand, she put it under the door and left, carrying in her back a bag with all the supplies for the trip.

Alright, the letter explaining my plan is sent, I am ready to travel… and ready to come back with rewards. Liz thought, smiling to herself. After closing the door, she looked up at the starry sky, taking in the view. I have to admit… it is a beautiful place.

Nonetheless, she had a job to do. Even if it was the middle of the night, even if the wind ruffled her body, cold and chilly, none of that mattered. All she could think about was the mission.

And it will succeed, because I am strong. I must be.

She had a plan. Get to the city, find Zero, fight him, and come back with him as her captive. Then, it would all be just right.

Never again… I am never being weak ever again.

Like that night before, like all the countless nights she spent training. Liz would prove her worth, prove her strength, or die trying.

…No. I will not die. I will win, even if it is the last thing I will ever do.

She sighed. Was she taking this too seriously? Even if that was the case, doing nothing would only make her feel worse.

So she kept walking across the lonely streets, headed to the south exit of the town. Having lived there for little over a month, Liz had a rough idea of where to go. Eventually, she saw the exit… and something else. Two of them.

"Hey," Onyx waved a claw, adjusting her hat. The flame in her tail burned so brightly it was a good source of light. "Come here often?"

"...What?" Liz blinked. Ignoring that comment, she focused on the other Pokémon nearby: Terry.

"You promised me you wouldn't do anything foolish… is that so hard to do?"

"Sire, I—" Liz shook her head. "...I am doing what I must. You said it yourself, this is about me, not you. I cannot, and will not, let you stop me."

Onyx flexed her claws, and a low growl escaped her throat. "We can try, y'know. I mean, I do have a score to settle with you…"

"No fighting!" Terry tapped the ground, huffing. "I want you to listen to reason! We know what you're planning!"

"Yes, I will finish this mission." Liz rolled her eyes. "Now step aside. I need to go."

Onyx got down on all fours, snarling. Her tail swished in the air, and the flame kept burning. "...Not if I have anything to do with it!"


Vines protruded from Liz's petals, touching the ground. "If that is the extent of your will, then I will challenge it myself!"

"Onyx!" Terry pleaded with her, looking at the Charmeleon.

"Grrrr…" she sighed, standing up. "...We're not stoppin' you, are we?"

"I believe I made that very clear." Liz said, retreating the vines. "Now, step aside."

"...No." Terry shook his head. "We may not stop you, but that doesn't mean you should go alone."

Liz stepped back after hearing that. "...I beg your pardon?"

"He's got a point." Onyx crossed her arms, puffing out smoke from her nostrils. "Three heads are better than one! If we're together, then we have a better shot at winning!"

Why? Why were they suggesting that? This was her decision, her mission.

"I… why?"

Terry sighed, walking towards his friend. "Well, like I said, I know you have a lot of potential. I can't have you gone just yet, it'd be too much on my conscience."

"Heh. What he said." Onyx grinned, rubbing one of her fangs with a claw. "So, what'd you say?"

"Hm… it is still my decision." Liz could either go on her own, risking it all, or take these two with her, as companions, as teammates, and give her a better chance. Her pride was wounded, but… maybe it was for the best.

"Very well, but do not get in my way." Liz frowned, taking one step forward. "I have the map in my bag, so we will not get lost. Now… come on."

As soon as she passed the other two, they followed her, leaving the city, and following the trail of their newest mission.

A/N: So... yeah. I wanted this chapter to be giving Liz a lot of focus, which is why she was the center of it all here. Thanks for reading it! As always, leave a comment and review if you can! It really helps! As an additional comment, this chapter has a reference to "Free Fiction", by GumPlum! Do read it, it's very good.
Chapter 15 - Blossoming


Professional Mudkip Lover
  1. swampert
  2. chesnaught-apron
  3. lucario-mega
Chapter 15 - Blossoming

After the dream I'm lost and alone.

Quickly falling right through the unknown.

So I will fly and be free.

Escape this awful wasteland.

I will not worry!

Shiron thought the day started like any other. Waking up, having breakfast with Nick, and then heading out to their base. On the way there, the two talked a little. Most of it was Nick complaining about the heat.

"It's not easy being this fluffy…" Nick panted, rubbing the sweat off his face. "You're lucky, Shiron! Always moisturized…"

"Well, as a human, I had fur too. Kinda." Shiron shrugged. "I lived somewhere hot, so I'm used to it."


I wouldn't consider my human life "lucky", but sure. Shiron tugged on his scarf slightly. "Also, I'm not moisturized all the time. It feels a little weird."

"Lucky!" Nick managed a chuckle, but it was momentary, and he was panting afterwards. "Hey, can you use that fin of yours to see if it's gonna rain anytime soon? I kinda miss it."

Shiron only winced. "I remember how you smell with wet fur… sorry, buddy, but I don't miss it."

In response, Nick stuck his tongue out. The blep was incredibly smug, and a little menacing. "Hey! I'll have you know once I'm dry, I smell good, like flowers! I know Audrey says that all the time! Maybe you'll find a lady—or guy—that tells you smell nice, too!"

"Ew…" Shiron cringed like he never did before. Something about a girl doing… that sounded weird to him. Not that he didn't like them—girls—but that idea was… strange and undesired. Except his brain replaced the mental image with Magnus, and that was suddenly a lot more desirable.

Shiron was quick to ignore it. "Let's not talk about this. I'm still wrapping my head around being…"

He touched his belly with both arms, jiggling it around. "Y'know?"

"I… don't. And I don't think I want to." Nick was the one to wince this time. "...Whatever, we gotta get to HQ."

Thank God.

Shiron sighed in relief, walking alongside his friend. Unlike the previous days that week, they weren't met with the loud buzzing of moves and fighting. Strangely, the place was empty, with no sign of anyone but them around.

"Okay… I think this is weird." Nick said, looking around the immediate areas. No flower, no prince, nothing. Deciding to check it out for himself, Nick stopped and focused all his senses, thinking about his girlfriend.

It was slightly easier this time around, but focusing on his aura senses was still a work in progress. With his eyes closed, he didn't see anything, other than a few waves wobbling around. They were next to him; Shiron.

"...Nothing. I dunno if it's my senses being stupid or if they're not here."

"You'll get the hang of it eventually, Nick." Shiron sighed, opening the door to their headquarters.

Like he thought, the inside was just as empty. However, there were no signs of struggle, nothing was broken or missing, and by all intents and purposes, the base was just how it was left.

…Except for that large piece of paper in the central table. It got Shiron's attention, and he quickly tapped Nick's arm to bring him back.

"What?" The Riolu didn't react at first, but soon set his eyes on the prize. "Oh fu—please tell me they didn't bail on us!"

Shiron picked up the paper, reading it out loud. "Dear friends, it's me, Terry. Me and Onyx found out Liz is planning on doing something incredibly stupid. Perhaps we're doing something similar, because we will be going after her."

He took a pause to breathe. "...What the—"

"She's after Zero." Nick added, putting a paw in his head and groaning. "That idiot… we don't do these things on our own!"

"There's more, hold on," Shiron said, before continuing to read. "...If I don't show up soon, it means we haven't convinced her to retreat. It's likely we're going with her."

"She's going… to that swampy town." Nick deapanned, rubbing his paw on his face once again. "That's where Zero is, as far as I know. Maybe he's not there anymore, maybe he is. What are we going to do?!"

"That town's… pretty far away, isn't it?" Shiron put down the paper, tugging on his scarf. What choice was there? "Even if we go there running, we won't reach it before them. By the time we catch up… it's gonna be too late."

"I know, I know!" Nick kicked the air, panting again. Why was this happening? "They can be killed if we don't do anything!"

Hearing those words made Shiron's heart sink. "I-I know, Nick. B-But…"

"But what?!"

"...Maybe we need to trust them. That they'll come back safe and sound."

"Trust them?"

Nick repeated it, and slowly let out a sigh. Of course, they were on the same team, it was natural for there to be trust. Yet, he didn't. Not before, but maybe now…

"...I guess that's the only option."

And maybe a prayer, while they were at it.

Liz ventured forward, leaving the campsite she and the others prepared. In front of her was the road leading to Egovale. She could see the landscape changing right before her eyes, even from far away, transitioning to a murky and ominous realm.

"Hm… I never thought I would go to such a place."

Grass patches turned sparse and wiry, struggling to thrive amidst the dampness that permeated the air. Even the earth seemed to swallow her footsteps with each stride.

"I sure don't like this place…" Onyx appeared from behind, adjusting her hat. Towering trees with gnarled branches and thick, twisted roots loomed in the distance. "Did we get to the right one?"

"Look at the place." Liz bit a lip. "Clearly, we did. We could not see this while it was nighttime, but now…"

Terry was the next one, rubbing his eyes and yawning. "Good morning! Are we close—"

Just as he said it, Terry saw whatever Liz did. Yes, they could see the town from this position, but at the same time, there was something else. A gust erupting from atop the town, though it was no ordinary wind—it carried with it a swirling tempest of sand. In vast quantities, the grains engulfed the area, creating an incredible veil that obscured vision and disoriented anyone caught within its grasp.

"...This isn't natural, is it?" Terry gulped, his tail flopping down. "I'll be fine with it, rock-type and all, but what about you two?"

Onyx sighed, then grumbled to herself. "This is where I wish I brought goggles along the way. Would make things a lot easier for us."

"Hm… indeed, that poses an issue." Liz muttered to herself. "In hindsight, you two coming with me was a blessing in disguise. Terry can take the lead, and I shall wrap vines around both of you. That way, we can stick together through the storm."

For her to say that, she really does trust us… enough to let go of her pride, even if only a little. Terry smiled, walking forward until Liz was behind him. "Sounds good to me! I don't think we'll take too long, but let's start now, just in case!"

Liz smiled, creating two vines. The first, she wrapped around Onyx's waist. The second, around Terry's tail. All three of them were connected now.

"T-Thanks." Onyx muttered, watching the vine rope around her. It felt odd, like how she expected a plant to feel, but at the same time, it was good. "...Now, let's get inside the town!"

Terry nodded, leading the way. With each step, the familiar field faded behind them, gradually giving way to the swampy terrain. Undeterred, even by the small specks of sand making their way to him, Terry moved forward.

During the trip there, Onyx didn't say much, mostly because she didn't want to accidentally eat sand. That, and there was nothing really out there to discuss. Clearly, Liz would take the lead on this mission, and if things got bad, the others would have to take care of her.

Eh, I'm not a fan of this, but we'll make it work. I hope.

It was a slow trek. Terry had to make sure the others were still behind him, that he could clearly see ahead before making much progress, and overall, not get distracted. That last part was particularly hard, all because of, well…

"Sire, please hurry up! We cannot afford to be so slow! If we take too long, Zero might have left already!"

Liz shouted. Shouted in a way she never had before, when talking to Terry. Even he had to stop and look behind, blinking repeatedly.

"I don't think that's a very good thing to do, Liz…" Terry muttered, his tail drooping. "It's not like you to be this worked up."

She didn't notice how harsh it sounded, not until the others gave her a nasty look. "Hmph. Perhaps, but I still think we need to hurry."

Unintentionally, she began to tug on the vines harder, and Terry hissed at the sensation.


"...Apologies, sire." Liz looked away, and everything about what she did dawned on her. Why? Because she wanted to fight this… Zero?

I-It is worth it. I have to tell myself that

"That was awful of you." Onyx sighed, and then felt the taste of sand in her mouth, coughing a bit. She didn't talk much after that.

Minutes passed, and the trio ventured closer into the swamp. As they did, the storm got thicker to the point even Terry was having trouble moving forward, and had to slow down.

"A-Almost there, everyone! Just—hold on!"

Terry pushed through, using every ounce of strength he had to overcome the sandstorm. With one last roar, he got inside, panting and looking back to check if the girls were with him.

"Congratulations, Sire. You are getting stronger every day." Liz said with a smile, retreating the vines back into herself.

"Thank the Gods we got out of there, but…" Onyx coughed. Even inside the town, the storm still raged on. "...W-What's the plan now?"

"Well, obviously we need to gather information first. I doubt Zero is just… walking around this town." Liz smirked, flicking her cape."

"Visitors, visitors!" A buzzing voice proclaimed, coming from the sky. A Yanmega flew towards them, flapping her wings. "Oh, visitors! Please, are you here to deal with the sand?!"

Terry opened his mouth to say something, but then Liz cut him off.

"Hm, you can say that. First, there is someone here we must locate." Liz explained, then stopped to wonder how she would describe Zero. If she didn't know what species he was, certainly neither would that villager. "A… bipedal Pokémon. He has yellow fur, and is electric too."

Onyx crossed her arms. "Goes by "Zero". Know the guy?"

Yanmega buzzed a little longer. "Hm… Zero, Zero. Name's familiar, but not the description. What species is him?"

"I—we do not know." Liz shook her head. "I am not aware of what he is, it is part of why we are searching for him."

Yanmega did her best impression of a shrug. "Sorry, I've got no idea. You can try someone else."

Realizing they wouldn't be helping out much, she flew away.

"...Fine." Liz looked at the other two. "We will just have to search for ourselves."

It didn't go as well. The trio walked around, asking whoever was available for information about the mysterious Pokémon. However, most of the citizens were inside their houses, taking shelter from the storm, rendering their search moot. Despite this, Liz didn't feel like giving up.

"He has to be here! I just know it…"

Terry walked behind her, keeping an eye on Onyx to make sure the Charmeleon was alright.

"Liz, maybe he left!"

"Not to feed your friend's… obsession," Onyx's words were received with a glare. "...No offense."

"Hmph. None taken. To the untrained eye, I might look obsessed. But really, I need to prove to myself I am strong."

"Always with that attitude…" Terry muttered. Maybe there was something he could do, but he didn't think of anything. Instead, he looked up, seeing the large tree trunks. They covered the sky, at least partially, so the storm didn't get to them nearly as much as it could.

But… there was something he heard. A noise. Almost like something cracking. Something powerful. Thunder? Was he hearing actual thunder, in the middle of a sandstorm?

…It's probably nothing. If Shiron was here, he could help.

"Doesn't seem like anyone's listening to us." Onyx shrugged. "So maybe he isn't here."

"No, wait." Liz hissed, then started walking around. "Zero does not live here. For all we know, he is only here to deal with the Cracks. But I doubt he would just stay on the streets. He must be inside a hotel."

Terry snapped a finger. "You're right! But this town isn't that big, surely they don't have that many hotels?"

"One sec!"

The Charmeleon ran ahead, looking around. If he was inside a hotel, then the building—or tree it was built on—would be bigger than the others.

"Tch. I wish I could fly right now—" Onyx grumbled. The storm had grown heavier, and seeing anything was getting increasingly hard. "...Any more ideas?"

"We can't waste time here! This thing will get worse at any second!" Terry pleaded. His vision wasn't as bad as the others, so it came down to him to solve things.

Stepping forward, the prince focused all his attention on his surroundings. Buildings with closed doors, a few lakes to the left and right—with sand starting to pile up on them—and, off in the distance, a bigger building. There was even a sign on it, but he wasn't able to read. Not from that distance.

"...I might have found something. That—" Terry's words were cut off by a deafening roar, so loud it shattered the sandstorm, tearing the swirling sands with nothing but a wild surge of energy.

"Uh…" Onyx watched the thunder fall down, and before she could react properly, felt droplets of water fall down on her, while the sand did the same. "What the—what's going on?!"

"We do not have the time to find out! Follow Terry!" Liz urged, and as her words echoed in the air amidst all the thunder, Terry darted forward.

As they raced, the ominous echoes of thunder continued to reverberate, each boom accompanied by the shattering of trees and the splintering of wood that littered the ground. Liz slowed down as she heard distant screams and witnessed Pokémon scrambling, running inside the buildings to escape the impending devastation.

"Liz! Don't you think we should be doing something to help them—" Terry protested just as another bolt struck, again on the lake.

"He's got a point, you know!" Onyx ran, holding on to her hat. "This is more important!"

Liz ignored their pleas. Amid the chaos and destruction, she didn't find any signs of Zero. The one who was supposed to prevent such a catastrophe, where could he be? Doubt crept into Liz's mind, intertwining with her growing concern. Had she been mistaken? Had Zero abandoned them and his duty?

…No. I doubt it. I need to be right. I need to.

Onyx was doing something else. She scanned her surroundings, checking to see if any of the town's inhabitants were there. Sherealized that most managed to hide within the trees, but some were still on the run. Seeing that made Terry's heart sink. If only he could convince her to help…

Their momentary relief was shattered by the encroaching thunder, each strike more frequent and powerful than the last. Burning logs crashed to the ground, and the wind howled with an unsettling ferocity.

Terry stopped in front of the hotel, finally managing to read the sign. "I-It's here! But Liz, don't you think we have other priorities? Like, I don't know… helping them out?"

"I will deal with them when I have to!" Liz sprouted two vines, scowling as hard as she could. "My priority is Zero!"

"But you can't!" Terry snarled, biting into her vine and trying to pull her away from the building.

"You're a little weirder than usual, Liz." Onyx crossed her arms. In times like this, she needed to show some sort of responsibility. "You hurt Terry before, and even yelled. Are you sure that's what you wanna do?"

To that, Liz hissed again, sprouting another vine. "I know that! But we need to focus on what is important right now!"

"And what's that? Some petty revenge? Or your friend? Hell, there's a storm at the top of the sky, and here you are, thinking about how you're gonna beat up that guy!"

Onyx stepped forward, facing Liz. She was taller than the Roselia, so Onyx had to lower her head. "Shouldn't you be thinking about, I dunno, savin' all these 'mons around here?"

"Y-You… you do not understand… a single thing!"

Liz shouted again, her left flower coated in the same poison. She raised it, aiming at Onyx's head, and then…

"STOP!" Terry was the one to scream this time, so loud he was left panting afterwards. "Look, we can all stay here and argue against each other, or we can do what we came here for!"

Liz stepped back, gulping. Once again, realization hit her. She trembled, looking at the flower—still full of poison, and still close to Onyx's face.

"Sheesh… I didn't think you would go that far." Onyx grumbled. "...For the record, I was looking around all this time. I don't think the 'mons around here are harmed. At least not yet."

"Liz, I'm going to have a talk with you when we're back, because I don't like this kind of attitude, especially towards someone that doesn't need it." Terry shouted, focusing on Liz once more. "...Okay, I said what I needed to. Do you get it now?"

"Really…?" Liz let out a sigh of relief, but chose to ignore all the guilt over what she did, and finally focus on the mission.

While the two were arguing, Onyx was hissing. The water in her tail, while not fatal, was getting annoying. With the deafening echoes of thunder persisting, she wanted to assess the situation. And so, she cast her gaze upward, discerning a large and unstable log precariously perched above them.

Onyx looked at the log again, just as a set of thunders hit it. She could hear the structure cracking, barely able to sustain itself.

"Guys, I need your attention right now!"

Terry looked back, getting distracted long enough to loosen his hold on the vine. "Not now—"

Another thunderous impact struck the log, sending it plummeting downward. Despite its immense size, it was incredibly fast. Were they quick enough to avert disaster?

"Guys!" Onyx urged them to pay attention, and they did, looking up to see the log coming.

In that split second, where they were filled with nothing but panic, a bolt of lightning appeared in the air, running past the three just in time to catch them, moving them away from the log. They barely had enough time to notice until they were out of harm's way.

Liz was the first to regain consciousness, taking a look at her surroundings, and at the log that nearly hit them. There were a few sparks of electricity left in the air, leaving a trail that led her eyes to another tree nearby, and to the figure leaning against it.

"Heh." Zero put his hat on, grinning at them. "Howdy, howdy! Now, where have I seen y'all before…?"

"Oh, have you forgotten already?!" Liz hissed, her flowers dripping with venom. "I have not! I will never forget!"

Zero just grinned, slowly walking towards the two, touching his chin with a paw, trying to remember their faces. First, he looked at Onyx; the Charmeleon didn't look very familiar. Next, Terry. While he was a little more recognizable—that cape was, at least—he didn't quite remember.

Finally, he stopped at Liz, standing taller than her, so much that he needed to get on his feet just to take a better look.

"Easy there, darlin'. I ain't one to remember folks that aren't worth my time, but I gotta admit, you're lookin' mighty fine. Once we settle this business, you and I could have—"

Liz tried to jab at him with one of her arms, but Zero simply moved out of the way in time, his hat nearly falling off.

"Oops! Can't have that now, can we?" Zero grabbed it, putting it back on his head. "Phew, nice! Now… I think I'm startin' to remember y'all."

"We went through all the trouble of finding you!" Terry hissed, taking a fighting stance.

"Well, if that darlin' didn't work out for me…" Zero turned to the prince, grinning. "How's about you, ray of sunshine? Care to have some fun with me?"

"...No, thanks!" Terry hissed.

And lastly, Zero glared at Onyx, but he didn't even have time to talk.

"Don't you dare!" She huffed. "We're here for you! Talkin' or fightin', whatever you wanna pick, dumbass!"

"Feisty. I like it." Zero continued to grin, walking towards the tree again. But before continuing the chat, he looked up. For the moment, the storm had calmed down. "Ah, that's good, that's good. Now… where were we?"

He clapped his paws together. "Well, well, well! It's comin' back to me now! That lil fight with the Infernape, wasn't it? Dang, can't believe y'all stuck with me all the way here… I gotta admit, that takes some real commitment."

"It is ingrained in my memory, so yes, we did." Liz said, trying another jab. Once more, Zero moved out of the way in time.

"Well, as much as I'd love to have a good ol' time with you three—believe me, I've been there!" Zero chuckled, adjusting his hat with a sly grin. "...But we've got ourselves a bit of a situation here. Already called for backup, but they're gonna take their sweet time. How 'bout lendin' me a hand? Or a paw, or a flower in that darlin's case!"

Terry approached the large… electric-type with a faint smile. "Help? Of course! I'd be happy to!"

"Doesn't sound like a bad idea, actually. What'd you think, Liz?" Onyx turned back. Liz had been quiet, processing what Zero was offering them.

"I… believe…" Liz squinted her eyes, whipping at the ground with a vine. She had a scowl on her face. "No! I will have my comeback! You cannot stop me!"

"Tch, darlin', you're gettin' a little too feisty for my likin', not gonna lie…" Zero shrugged, his playful grin vanishing as he closed the distance, undeterred by her attack. "Whatever grudge you have against me, it's kinda pointless when you take that into consideration."

He extended a finger towards the sky, directing their attention to the eye of the storm. Despite the dwindling thunder, remnants of crackling sparks danced in the air. Yet, that was not the biggest detail. The entire expanse was enveloped in an eerie, pitch-black aura, tinged with outlines of pulsating orange and sky blue. Sinister tentacle-like appendages tried to crawl out of the shroud, as if trying to grasp the earth beneath.

Terry was left dumbstruck, and didn't take his eyes off of the aura. "W-What… what is that thing? The Crack you mentioned?"

"You could say that. It's the step before the Crack appears." Zero focused on Liz again. "It's lookin' like it'll hold steady for the moment, but I know it ain't gonna last. Once it unleashes its fury, this whole darn town will be wiped clean off the map. What are y'all gonna do, then?"

Onyx grit her teeth, but she had a pretty good idea of what her answer was. As did Terry—there was not any doubt in his fierce eyes.

"I want to help." Terry said, looking at Onyx. She nodded at him. "And Liz?"


Liz walked forward, sprouting more vines. Her eyes were fixed on Zero, and though she didn't say anything, her intentions were crystal clear. With an arm raised, she prepared to strike him with the vine.

That was, until the Yanmega from before flew, landing between the two, and forcing Liz to stand down. The bug glared at her, wings bussing.

"D-Don't hurt him! He's only here to help!"

"Huh? What is the meaning of this?!"

Terry walked beside Liz, touching her arm. "Stop. We don't have time for this. Listen, if that thing is really going to destroy this town… I don't want to—I can't let it happen."

"He's got a point, y'know." Zero shrugged. "Listen here, sunshine. Y'all can stand here and try to fight me, but I ain't in the mood. I'm here to do my job, which includes savin' all of 'em."

"Z-Zero's been here for a week, instructing us…" Yanmega muttered. She flew towards the electric-type. "R-Right?"

"Right!" Zero clapped his paws again. His tail swished. "Now, if y'all wanna help out, I'm more than happy to accept it!"

Liz raised her arm once again, but even she realized that they were right. All of them, except for her. She took her obsession too far… but why? Why was it so hard to let go of it? Maybe she wasn't strong enough for it.

It is… always about strength. Without it, I am… nothing.

Zero adjusted his vest, along with his hat. "Alright, so! We don't have much time until the meteors come crashin' down. We need to evacuate the town as soon as possible. Then, the Crack will arrive."

"What happens when it arrives?" Terry asked, tilting his head.

"...We'll have to deal with it, I'm afraid." Zero sighed. "It's very likely it'll latch onto whoever's near, so for now, our main concern is makin' sure ain't nobody caught in that predicament."

Liz hissed, looking at him again. "Is that so?

"Y'all can stay and fight me, ooor you can help me out with this thing…" Zero shrugged. His eyes were focused on Liz. "What's it gonna be, Petal?"

"I say…" Liz jumped forward, ignoring every bit of strategy to try a jab at Zero, aiming at his stomach.

"Tch. Predictable, ain't it?"

Zero moved out of the way, and his own fist started crackling with energy. He hit her on the back, forcing Liz to the ground. She ended up with her face on the muddy floor, but soon stood up, coughing a bit of soil.

Three times. Three times she let her obsession get the best of her, and for what? All three times she was met with nothing but pain, in various different ways.

"Tell you what… help me with this, and I'll let you fight me." Zero said, shrugging again.

"T-That is… acceptable." Liz panted, rubbing some soil off her cape.

"Oh, let's go!" Onyx cheered, jumping at the Roselia for a hug. Liz moved to the side to dodge.

"Hm… I apologize, but we are not that close. Yet." Liz looked at Zero again. "What do we need to do?"

Zero fiddled with his bag, checking if something was there. "Sorry, y'all, but I ain't allowed to show off everythin' just yet. I'm gonna be checkin' the radius, how big of an impact the meteors will have. Your job is gettin' everyone outta here!"

"M-Mister Zero, can I help them too?" Yanmega asked, buzzing her wings again.

"That does not sound hard…" Liz muttered, taking a deep breath. "Very well, if they are inside their houses, then this makes searching for them less arduous.

Taking her teammates into consideration, Liz quickly came up with a plan. "Terrence, you will lead them away, since your vision is not impaired with all the sand. Onyx, I need you to reach all the burning trees and check for anyone trapped inside. Are you strong—"

"Oh, you know it!" Onyx flexed an arm. "I can get 'em out, no problem!"

That left two Pokémon to deal with. Herself… and this Yanmega. "Please, ma'am, I need you to talk to whoever you can, let them know we are coming to help. After that, find Terry, and lead them away."

Yanmega smiled. "I can do that!"

Good, so now only she was left. Liz looked at the sky, seeing more of the sparks. At the same time, the sand began to gather once more, into a nasty cloud.

Those tentacles… why do they feel so… inviting? And what is this power I feel? I… want to see for myself…

"Y'ain't seen nothin' yet," Zero said to her. "I'm gonna go do my thing. What about you?"

"I… want to ask so many questions. We have been looking for you for a while. But I suppose we can talk once this is over."

"She'll be with me!" Onyx wrapped her arm around Liz's torso, grinning. "We'll handle any stragglers we find our way."

"For what's worth, darlin', I ain't a bad guy. Not at all." Zero tilted his head, his body sparkling with electricity. "Oh, and by the way… it's Zeraora. That's what I'm called. At least, that's what I can remember."

He ran off, leaving a trail of thunder behind him.


Liz didn't remember hearing that name before.

They had a mission to fulfill. It wasn't an easy mission, not at all. But Onyx knew she had to keep going. Taking the ground path, she dodged logs and twigs, while searching for the trees that were still up in flames.

It proved to be hard, the rain became heavier, dowsing out any fires. From the top of the trees, Liz used her vines to swing around the logs, allowing her to check other areas.

"Have you found anything yet?!"

"Nope! Sorry!" Onyx said, looking around. Maybe she needed to raise her voice a little. And by that, she shouted. "OI! ANYONE AROUND?! WE'RE WITH ZERO, COME OUT ALREADY! IT'S NOT SAFE!"

Reshiram almighty, she can scream so loud… Liz thought, though it wasn't a complaint; just an observation. And as the thought went away, she managed to see two Pokémon—a Spidops and a Galvantula—crawl away from a hole in a nearby tree. "Onyx, there!"

The Charmeleon stopped, checking to see the tree, and ran in that direction, offering both her paws. "Hey! We're here to help! Please, leave the town!"

"W-What's happening?!" The Galvantula asked, their body twitching. "Is Zero really here…?"

"Yeah, he's checking to see how big the impact will be," she replied, watching Liz land next to her.

"Indeed. Please, flee this town. On the outskirts of it, you will find a Tyrunt. He is my… friend."

Calling Terry her friend felt right.

"...He will lead you out, through the sandstorm."


"Zero's orders." Onyx added.

Hearing the words made the two bugs more interested in the idea. They looked at each other, then at the sky. The eye of the storm was still very active.

"Go! We do not have that much time!" Liz urged them, and the two ran away.

She was left panting. Taking another look at the sky, Liz didn't see anything different from how it looked a few minutes ago.

"What even is this all about…" she muttered. "It is hard to believe something this powerful exists."

"Boy, you wouldn't believe a few of the things I know." Onyx shrugged. "But c'mon, we still have to find more of them! These can't be the only ones!"

"...You are correct. A rarity these days." Liz couldn't help but chuckle. "Come on, now."

The duo moved as quickly as they could. On their way across the town, they managed to locate another tree, and were now on the process of transporting the citizens to the edge.

"Come on, now! We'll get there in a minute!" Onyx urged the two she and Liz found, a Sprigatito and a Smoliv, who stuck together, guided by her.

"Please, there is no need for panic. You will live to fight another day." Liz tried her best to reassure them, but judging by the confused look on their faces, she didn't succeed.

"...Let's go! Let's go!" Liz tried a different approach, smiling and trying to be less formal. It only made them get more confused.

"Aw, you're adorable like that." Onyx teased, grinning at her.

A flash of lightning appeared before them, dissipating to reveal Zero, one of his paws closed as if he was holding something inside. He still had his signature toothy grin.

"Howdy, ladies! Good job! I had time to do some searchin' by my own, but you did most of the work. That means these two—" he pointed to the Sprigatito and Smoliv duo. "—Should be the last ones. Now, c'mon! Get to the exit already!"

"Really? That's great!" Onyx shouted, really wanting to get out of that rain and sand. Neither of those felt good against her skin.

'You are… surprisingly efficient." Liz muttered to herself, but it was louder than intended, and made Zero laugh. "Hmph. Where is Terry?"

"I'll lead y'all to 'im." Zero adjusted his hat, turning around. "And I'll even slow down so y'all can catch up! Maybe even get a look at my bu—"

"Nobody here is interested." Liz rolled her eyes. "Drop it. Just tell us where to go."

"Aw…" Zero had the last laugh and began to run, not as fast as he wanted to go, and there weren't even any sparks surrounding his body. He was running like everyone else.

Liz did this last part of the journey in silence, contemplating her decision. For the moment, she wasn't sure if it would help with evolving, and now she also wondered what her true reason for fighting was. If not for Terry, not for herself… then for whom? Or for what?

They stopped at the entrance, where the majority of the citizens were. And in the middle of them was Terry, doing his best to maintain the peace around that area.

Oh… Liz looked at all of the Pokémon she helped rescue, all their smiling faces, the gratitude in their eyes… it was nice to see. She didn't have a heart—not like other Pokémon—but if she did, it would be beating happily.

…Maybe it is not for gratitude, either. For them… to live happy lives. Has mine been happy?

She didn't know what to answer. But there was no opportunity for contemplation, as the storm intensified with renewed force, unleashing a turbulent blend of water and sand that engulfed the entire vicinity, while the resounding thunder reverberated once more.

"W-Whoa!" Terry held onto his cape, but still trembled, looking up at the massive black void. "T-This can't be natural…"

Onyx instinctively stood close to Liz, her tail swishing. "...You've got a point. What in the world is that?"

"It means we don't have enough time to stand around, doin' nothin'. Which means it's time for my part." Zero sighed, grasping the object in his paw a little tighter. "Stand back, y'all."

"B-But mister Zero!" Yanmega cried out, floating next to him. "What're we going to do?!"

"Sit tight."

This time, the sparkles surrounded his body, and Zero bolted forward. He opened the paw, revealing a small cube-shaped object, with a visor full of circles inside, and an arrow. It seemed to be pointing towards the black void in the sky.

Lemme check… Will said this thing would do most of the work. Nice, 'cause I ain't good with tech!

The circles pulsated, becoming more wobbly by the second, while the arrow started to flash.

Tch… wouldn't it be nice if, for once in my life, I didn't have to deal with this crap?

He started running around the town, checking his device every now and then. In a few spots, the arrow flashed brighter. In others, it barely did. Zero grumbled something to himself while doing this process.

I hate math… so much.

Zero turned back to meet up with the others, but not before he put the device back into his satchel.

"You returned." Liz put an arm in her hips, quirking a brow. "...What did you find?"

"Somethin' really bad. I ain't ever seen an event this big before…" Zero admitted. His body was pouring, and not from the rain. Pure sweat. "We have to run now! Or we'll get caught in the middle!"

Terry gulped again, turning back. "Everyone, follow me! I'll guide us through the sand!"

Without a moment of hesitation, they sprinted away, heeding Zero's warnings. It didn't take long for the grim reality to unfold. The eye of the storm crackled with an overwhelming surge of power, straining under the weight of the contained energy, on the verge of collapsing.

And then, it occurred. The first meteor hurtled down from the heavens, striking the ground with a thunderous impact. It was quickly followed by another, and then another, until a total of four meteors rained down relentlessly. There was no force capable of halting this onslaught, leaving them with no choice but to keep on running.

There was a bright flash of light, enveloping the entire area.

Nothing. Not a single sound was heard. Terry groaned, his earholes too busy ringing to discern what was going on. Even his vision wasn't working right, as the flash didn't vanish just yet.

"W-What…" he coughed, moving around. The ringing continued, but there was another sound; a cry. No, a call? Yes, a call. Someone was calling him.

"Pr… T…"

"Prin… Ter…"

"Prince Terry!"

His vision cleared and he realized who it was, Liz, standing so close to his face that he could make out all the details. She was shaking, trembling, moving her arms around slightly, like she wanted to shake him.

"By the almighty Reshiram…" Liz sighed in relief. "You are awake. I prayed for your safety…"

"Told ya he was alright." Onyx said, rubbing some sand off her hat. "Everyone is. We did it."

"We… did it?" Terry muttered, groaning as he stood up. His eyes widened at the sight.

In place of the once-thriving town, a colossal crater loomed, a vast void that stretched into the depths beyond sight. Everything that had once existed in that spot had been obliterated, leaving no trace behind. The storm itself had dissipated, leaving no remnants of rain or sand in its wake.

"W-What's gonna happen to us?!" Asked Yanmega, flying towards Zero. "Our homes, our lives! They're all gone!"

Tch… always the hardest part of this job. Zero looked up and sighed. One thing at a time. "When my backup arrives, y'all will be reallocated, sent somewhere else. You won't be homeless, I promise that."

"B-But…" Yanmega frowned, slowly descending to the ground. "I… don't like this."

Zero looked at the citizens, and all their frowning faces. "None of y'all do. That, I know. But… y'all are alive. Ain't that worth somethin'?"

Liz watched them talk, looking down. She felt the droplets fall on her, and wondered what she was doing wrong. For all her life, she focused on getting stronger for someone else. Recently, she was doing it for her own sake. That was some improvement, but now there was a situation that needed more than just strength.

Compared to this situation, a grudge seems meaningless. Liz told herself, sighing. But she still wasn't convinced. One time, she chose her own pride over helping someone else, and it… led to meeting Terry, becoming his bodyguard.

What he said to her resonated deep within. That he thought she should have helped, and that she had potential. During that day, she did so many wrong things. Things that hurt others, and herself.

I… I was wrong. I was wrong today. But… I can still make it right. Maybe, just maybe… I can do the right thing, from now on.

A loud screech filled the air, coming from the bottom of the crater. It was incomprehensible. It sounded nothing like a voice, instead, it was more of a feral scream. But it wasn't the only thing. From the crater, more tentacles sprouted, grabbing at the corners of the hole.

"...Fuck. It ain't over yet!" Zero shouted, sparks covering his body again. "But what's goin' on?! Nobody was there to be taken over!"

Tremors shook the ground, and the eerie sight of writhing tentacles emerging from the gaping hole sent a chill down Liz's spine, instilling a primal reaction that froze her in place. It wasn't over, no. Something big was coming, something powerful. She knew it, everyone knew it.

"Zero! Explain what this is!" Liz forced herself to move, taking a battle stance.

"I-I dunno! I ain't seen anythin' like this before!"

Terry walked closer to the edge, gritting his teeth. "Whatever it is, we'll fight it off! We've come too far to give up!"

"Yeah, the prince's right!" Onyx puffed out smoke, taking her own stance.

Meanwhile, most of the citizens remained in shock, not moving forward, and trying to run away instead. Zero noticed this, looking back.

"Stay put! We'll deal with this!"

As the tremors intensified, so did the energy. The tentacles screamed, before retreating back into the hole. It seemed to cause a chain reaction, and imbue the coming shockwave with even more energy. Then, in the blink of an eye, it exploded.

Something was launched high into the air, enveloped in a blue and orange aura. It was… a strange Pokémon. Rocky, like a Geodude, but it had no mouth, no limbs and no eyes. Instead, it was much more rock-like, with four large plates separated by two large cracks. They encircled its body horizontally and vertically.

"W-What is that?!" Onyx asked nobody in particular, hoping at least one Pokémon there would be able to answer her question. "There's… some spikes on that thing!"

"I-I've seen this… this Pokémon before. I-In a book!" Terry blurted out, panting. Words failed him, and so did his memory. "I-I don't remember the name. It's… M-Minor?"

"Minior." Liz explained, her voice sounding less panicked. "...I remember reading about them as well. A rare species, often thought to reside in the sky."

"Y'all gotta take it down." Zero pointed a finger at the Minior. "See that aura? It's pure energy, comin' from the Crack. It might spread if we leave it like this."

"Hmph. I suppose I will fight after all."

Liz smirked, jumping ahead, as high as she could, trying to reach the Minior. And she was close to her target, arms raised and coated with poison.

"You will submit!" With a single swipe—

Minior was faster. It moved in the blink of an eye, hitting Liz with an acrobatic move, sending her crashing down at the edge of the hole, raising a large cloud of smoke.

"Y'all…" Zero stepped forward, tipping his hat. "I don't think you're qualified to face somethin' like that. Leave it to the professionals."

To his surprise, Onyx walked in front of him, sticking out her tongue. "Sorry about that, big boy, but we're in this to win! We'll fight that… Minior thing and win! Isn't that right, Liz?!"

"You took the words… o-out of my mouth." Liz stood up slowly, panting, but with a grin on her face. "At the very least, it was a good warmup."

Terry tapped Zero's arm and shrugged—or his version of it. "We'll handle this."

"…Y'know what? Fine. Take this. But if things get rough, I'm comin' in." Zero crossed his arms. And… maybe this'll prove if they're worthy enough to join the organization. Maybe.

"Come on, now." Liz grinned wider, jumping again. She saw the others joining in each of her sides.

First, assessing the situation. That Minior was incredibly fast, and packed a powerful punch.

Metaphorically. It does not have hands.

During that particular moment, the Minior was static. It floated in the air, but didn't appear to move at all.

"Maybe it's waiting for something!" Onyx declared, preparing her claws. "I'll try to go for a clean hit! If that thing's made of rock, I got just the metal for it!"

After her words, Minior moved… an inch. But it moved. Liz watched that with her brows raised.

What does it mean?

"Terry! I need your help! Give me some rocks for impulse!" Onyx said, charging ahead.

"On it!"

The prince kicked the ground, aiming a few feet in front of him. A burst of energy sprouted, and chunks of rock were launched upwards. Onyx jumped in one of them, and was propelled even further into the sky.

At the same time, Minior twitched again, except it did this for a few more seconds than before. Not enough to attack, but it definitely wasn't as static as before.

"Hiyah!" Onyx shouted, her claws taking on a metallic sheen. She could see herself getting closer to her opponent.

But something happened. Minior reacted, moving again and rolling around, hitting Onyx directly on her stomach. The Charmeleon yelped in paid, her own attack nearly dissipating.

"Fuuu—I can't—can't let this opportunity pass!" Onyx focused her strength on keeping the Metal Claw active, sinking it into Minior.

As expected, it was a clean shot, and Minior screeched again, a high-pitched shout that tore through the air. In response, it continued its assault on Onyx, but this time, moving her towards the other side of the crater.

"Terrence, keep me grounded!" Liz marched forward, sprouting vines from both her arms. With the left, she launched it towards Terry—the prince caught it with his teeth. With the right arm, she extended it as far as possible, wrapping the vine around Onyx's waist.

"They… ain't so bad, after all." Zero's ears twitched. He kept a close look, but remained in position. "But I wonder if that's all they can do…"

Liz began to pull, trying to get Onyx off Minior's grasp. It was working, somewhat, but the rocky creature moved away, leaving only a gust of wind. "Did we—"


Terry screamed from behind; Minior had struck him, but didn't stop there. It continued the attack, lifting Terry towards Liz, and making both of them crash against each other.

"What the—" Liz could only react by screaming, and yet, it wasn't over.

Minior chirped with a distorted voice, before raising itself in the air. Terry and Liz were both in front of it, being taken by the high-speed attack. And there was still one victim to claim.

Onyx. She had barely reacted to the entire situation, as it happened too fast, but then she saw them approaching, and couldn't do much: Minior ram through them all with incredible force.

The vines connecting the three were their undoing, sending all to the other edge, but at least, onto solid ground. Not that it made the pain in them hurt any less.

"W-We are not… we have not been defeated—" Liz said just as her head hit the ground, screaming again. It didn't help that Terry was beneath her, and that Onyx was above her.

Soon, the trio flopped to the sides, separating them from one another. And Minior, once again, remained in the air, static.

W-Why… is it not attacking us? Liz thought, struggling to move. Everything in her body was heavy, and the mere act of standing up took a lot out of her. It reacted just fine when Onyx attacked, and when I did, so why—

Then, it hit her. Minior only moved when someone made a sound, when someone made their existence known to it. As long as they didn't move, or make any sounds, it would remain inert.

It cannot be any noise. After all, we talked and it did not attack. It has to be loud enough.

She found a weakness. "T-Terrence, Onyx. I… think I have a plan."

"Really? Boy, I'd love to hear it." Onyx groaned, standing up. Her hat was miraculously still in her head, but was flattened, and she had to adjust it.

"W-What is it?" Terry asked, remaining on the ground.

"It reacts to sound. If we make one loud enough, we can trick it into attacking. Then, we take that opportunity."

Terry opened his mouth to gasp. "O-Oh! That makes sense… I… whoa, you're a natural at this!"

"Huh, how about that?" Onyx flexed her claws. "What do you want me to do?"

"I'll send my petals into the air, and you burn them to a crisp. That should get its attention. Then, we all attack at once."

Just like she suspected, Minior didn't react to all their chatter. It remained static.

"Alright, on one, two…" Liz focused her energies and extended both her arms. Petals began to fly from her flowers, standing in the air. "Now!"

Onyx took a deep breath in and roared, unleashing a stream of flames that hit the petals and burnt them in a matter of seconds. During that moment… Minior finally reacted. It zipped straight into the direction of the flames, ignoring that its true enemies were down below.

"Strike!" Liz jabbed the rock with her arms. Afterwards, Onyx got her turn, jumping and slashing at it with her metallic claws.

And finally, Terry. He unleashed three chunks of rock that hit Minior at point-blank. All three attacks served to propel it upwards, and the surface of its body began to crack.

"Yes! We hit it!" Onyx started to celebrate, raising her arms to cheer.

"...Wait." Liz pointed out, frowning. "There is something… else about them. Be careful."

Minior continued to fly up, until it stopped, out of nowhere. Its entire body began to crack, and part of it split apart, falling to the ground. Finally, its inside was revealed. A bright, pink body, with energy that gathered to form eyes and a mouth. Lastly, the aura on it dissipated.

And it came crashing down, aiming at Liz. It was even faster than before.

"It cast off its shell!" Terry blurted out, grimacing.

Its shell is completely smashed… Liz thought. It made the thing faster, but lowered its defenses at the same time.

Terry ran ahead, almost getting to the edge, and his claws began to shine, imbued with a draconic aura. "I'm not letting it hurt you!"

That got a reaction out of Minior, stopping on its tracks and moving its "face" until it saw Terry. Then, it's body began to glow pink, and a powerful gleam was launched towards the prince.

"Oh, no you don't!" Onyx moved to the right, bumping into Terry and sending him aside, putting herself in the way of the gleam. And it hit her. Though the fairy move wouldn't normally hurt her this much.

The fact it did indicated something was very strange about this Minior. Onyx fell on the ground, screaming and contorting. Her body burned—not like one would assume from her typing.

Zero wanted to shout, but it'd draw the Minior's attention. And besides, I'm sure they'll figure it out.

And Minior remained static once more. Liz panted, watching the creature. What did this all mean? How could that Minior be under the influence of a Crack, if it didn't evolve?

This is… strange. But she'd need to think about that later. Liz came rushing to Onyx's aid, helping the Charmeleon stand.

"We can't afford to be hit by it…" Terry said. "S-Sorry, Onyx. You had to protect me."

"In my defense, I didn't think it'd hurt me that much…" she spit a bit of blood on the ground. "Why is it so strong?!"

"Perhaps… the Crack is empowering it. Since there is no evolution, all that energy is making it stronger." Liz said. It made sense to her, giving what she knew about the Cracks.

"Heh. I like smart women." Onyx smirked. "...Cool and all, but what're we gonna do about it?"

"I-I guess we can try putting more pressure on it."

"Correct, Terry." Liz sprouted more vines. "Our plan has not changed. Lure it to us, then hit it as much as possible. If I remember correctly, the fact it does not have its shell means it is low on energy."

"So we just gotta hit it really hard?" Onyx cracked her fists, a metallic glow overtaking her claws. "I can do that!"

"Alright. Let's go!" Terry said with a shout, intentionally trying to be as loud as possible.

While Onyx punched the ground with her claws. The two combined moves got the attention of Minior, who began to roll towards that area, wind gathering around its body.

"I will hold it off! You focus on attacking!" Liz prepared to use her vines.

All three of them watched as the Minior flew down, getting as ready as they could to strike. Closer, closer and closer. Each second, the distance between them got shorter.

Until… it was close enough. Liz immediately swiped her right arm, covering Minior with the vines. Her whip held it in the ari, though not without struggle. The acrobatic maneuver of Minior was its effort to break free, only restrained by Liz creating more of her whips to contain it.

"I-I… will hold it off as much as I can! Strike now!" Liz shouted.

Just as she did… the aura flared up again, orange and blue, but something was odd. Liz trembled, unable to take her eyes off of that creature.

And she felt… someone. An unknown presence, along with emotions. Nobody talked to her, it was the emotions themselves being transmitted to her body. Loneliness, despair, rage, sadness.

It… wanted her to join. If she joined, it could make her evolve, it could make her stronger. It wouldn't be as lonely if she was with it.

What… the… what is this…

She could be stronger if she just accepted it. Better yet, she could evolve! All of its friends were going through evolution, and it wanted her to do the same. Why the hesitation? It wanted to know. Liz had a feeling this wasn't the Minior. It was someone else.

So lonely. So very alone.

But she refused to give in. Liz scowled, taking a deep breath. "We will strike it together!"

Her vines began to glow, changing, shifting. No longer vines, but instead… blades.

"I do not know who or what you are, but none of us will fall prey to you. Begone!"

Liz rushed forward, slashing Minior with her newly-acquired grass blades. Onyx smirked, jumping to punch at it with the same metal claws, while Terry used his own draconic ones.

The combined onslaught proved too much for Minior to handle. It let out a glass-shattering scream, and fell to the ground. The aura began to coat its entire body, and it melted into a pile of goo.

On the other side, Zero grinned proudly, clapping his paws. "Hah… I'm impressed, I gotta admit."

Liz watched the blades fade into her flowers, and kept looking at the place, unable to find the words to describe it.

"Congrats, by the way." Onyx grinned at her, wrapping her arm around Liz's back. "You got a new move! Now you gotta practice!"

"You're right!" Terry went to Liz's side, his tail wagging. "Congratulations! I always knew you could do it!"

"I-I suppose so… I feel very drained. For once, I would like to rest."

There was a clap coming from behind him, and as he turned to see what was happening, the crowd erupted into cheers. Zero's ears twitched, and he soon smiled.

"Whoa, guess I ain't the only one doin' congratulations 'round here." Zero smiled at that. He cleared his throat, preparing to shout. "Oi! Y'all! Get back in here! Can y'all walk or do I need to go there?!"

It was a little hard to hear from the other side, and the trio only really heard all the cheers. To Liz, it was a tad embarrassing.

"I-I… should I thank them?"

Onyx grinned. "Think they're thanking you instead. It's good for morale!"

Zero didn't wait for them to answer, simply jumping down the hole and running. Lightning sparked around his body, and he soon climbed to the other side.

"Sheesh. Didn't bother answerin' me, didja?" Zero grinned. He opened his satchel again, taking… a small card out. "Here, a reward for all your efforts. It's an entercard."

Liz grabbed it, raising a brow. "Excuse me? Why are you giving us this?"

"Pretty sure my bosses are gonna kill me for this, but… y'ain't so bad, after all. Maybe we'll cross paths again, if you choose to use that card." Zero smirked. "Well, guess it's time to fulfill my part of the deal, ain't it? Y'all can fight me."

"...No. I no longer wish to." Liz shook her head.

"Really? That's great!" Terry sighed in relief. The fight was over, and they won. "Thank almighty Reshiram…"

"You did well too, prince." Onyx stuck out her tongue. "We should rest, and then we can start going home. I'm sure the others are worried about us."

Prince? That Tyrunt is a prince? Zero smiled. Such information could be very helpful to him, if he wanted to use it.

Or… he was required to talk all about this trip once he got back to the headquarters. It was obvious now that, once he did, his superiors would never let him hear the end of it.

Fuck… I kinda know what they're gonna say. You exposed yourself too much, Zero! You involved civilians, Zero! This ain't gonna be fun… not at all.

But still, they weren't so bad. Not as strong as they could be, and Zero didn't know if the other members of his organization would approve of them joining, but all in due time.

Guess I should at least be thankful we dealt with this. One less threat to this world.

Liz crossed her arms, finally allowing herself a moment to relax. All things considered, the day wasn't all that bad, and they even got useful information.

One question still remained in her mind, however.

…What in the world is a Zeraora?

A/N: Good Wednesday! Here's hoping this was a good chapter. Pretty long, but hey, I had fun writing it.
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