Banner by golden3point14 (tumblr here!) CONTENT ADVISORY: this fic is rated T and features some realistic violence, crude/sexual humor, minor coarse language, character deaths, alcohol consumption, direct references to depression, and themes of suicide. Also, this fic has unmarked spoilers for Sun/Moon, Ultra Sun/Moon, and the entire Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. If you haven't played any of these and intend to do so blind, please don't read any further. XxX Welcome to the world of Pokémon! Where darkness looms on the horizon... Shane was a human meandering through a lonely, insignificant life. Upon waking up on a beach in the body of an ice Vulpix, he thought himself destined for greatness! Tessa, the Riolu who found Shane, saw in him a chance to turn her own struggling life around. To that end, they joined the Horizon Continent Exploration Guild under the banner of Team Radiance. But, as the two started working together, it became very apparent their ideals didn't line up. After arguments, dangerous situations, and a falling out that jeopardized their lives, Shane and Tessa finally found common ground and, together with the mysterious Null, are working toward bettering themselves. And just in time, because a sinister force has descended upon the continent. Can Team Radiance put a stop to the Prism Virus or will it consume the entire world? Welcome to the continuation of Guiding Light! For any newcomers, you can read Volume 1 here. Alternatively, if you want to skip to the good stuff, you can read a summary of the events and characters in this blog post. Whether you're following on or new to the story, I hope you enjoy it. ^^ Spoiler: Background Info Why are you splitting your story into volumes? I gave this a lot of thought. Several reasons pointed me to this decision. First off, folks on this site seem to prefer getting their fics in smaller, easy to digest portions. Had I kept everything in one topic, the story size would easily balloon to well over 100 chapters... with a massive word count, to boot. In breaking it up, I'm giving people a way to pace themselves. At the same time, it offers the potential to bring new readers on board. Likewise, reaction to the earliest chapters I posted in the last topic were... very mixed. I'd like to start fresh, especially since it will be awhile before I can go back and make adjustments to them. Don't I need to read Volume 1 to understand this story? Well, yes, it's true that you'd be very confused without it. That's why I made the summary blog posts. I personally think the content in this volume is a lot more exciting. So, if you're eager to get to it, I'd recommend using the summaries and going back to Volume 1 if you feel like it. Chapters and updates Like with Volume 1, chapters are grouped into episodes. One episode is like a story chapter from the canon PMD games. Since this is a new volume, episode and chapter numbers are being reset. This does mean the numbers won't match up with the version of this story on FanFiction.net. Also, these are all chapters that have already been published elsewhere, but are getting a fresh round of revisions before being published here. Chapters will generally be published every Saturday evening, EST. Spoiler: Table of Contents Episode 1: Viral Infection Chapter 1 (this post!) Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Bonus: Halloween Special Chapter 5 Bonus: Two Confessions This chapter was first published on January 21st, 2018. Enjoy! XxX Tessa plodded forward and found her mother sitting on a small rock atop a violet cliff face. She walked up and sat down beside her. Prisma's aura feelers twitched and she opened her eyes. "I just thought I'd check up on you," she began. "When last we spoke, it seemed like you had hit a bit of a rough patch. Have things gotten any better?" Tessa rubbed the back of her head. How much was she prepared to tell Prisma? "It's, um, all a bit confusing, to be honest," she said. Prisma crossed one leg over the other. "Well, maybe I can help you make sense of it." "No, that's not necessary. Everything's fine, I guess. I just had to go on a very difficult mission, that's all," Tessa said, concerned because she had brought her thoughts on Prisma up to her teammates. "I… well… my team ended up taking a Pokémon to Sunflower Meadows... so that he could die." Prisma's eyes widened. "What?" She turned around and plucked a squeaking Tessa off the ground. "Dear god... you didn't actually see this Pokémon die, did you?" Tessa nodded solemnly and Prisma's muzzle went agape. "Why would you agree to something like that?" she barked, practically shaking Tessa in the process. "Oh, you must be feeling miserable!" "We didn't exactly know all the details of the mission, Mom," Tessa said, struggling in Prisma's iron grip. She had seen that familiar spark of anger in Prisma's eyes. "It was a disciplinary assignment. I would've gotten kicked out of the guild if I didn't do it. My team only learned the truth when we got to Sunflower Meadows." Growling, Prisma dropped Tessa to the ground. Pitch-black energy crackled across Prisma's clenched fists. Tessa's aura feelers shot up in alarm, her fears proven true. "This is… an outrage!" Prisma seethed. "How could Braviary and Metagross do that to you? They know full well what we've been through." Prisma's eyes narrowed. "No… wait… this was probably intentional," she whispered. "The more things change... the more they stay the same. Tessa's aura feelers throbbed. She was right. Her mom was displaying the same anger she showed following Incineroar's death. Tessa hesitated to press on the issue, but this was her dream space. She should be safe, right? "Did you say something, Mom?" Tessa asked. Prisma's eyes widened, but she quickly regained a neutral expression. "Metagross has a history of employing backwards logic," she said. "If he's treating you badly, I think you ought to quit." Tessa's brows raised. Did Prisma say she was proud Tessa had made it to the guild in a previous conversation? Why did she jump to that idea so quickly. "I can't quit, Mom," Tessa said. "Why not?" Prisma asked. "It's… um… it's complicated," Tessa said. Prisma frowned. "Well, try me. I'm here now. Let me see what I can do to help." Prisma reached a paw over to Tessa, but she scooted away. She rubbed her shoulder. "Mom," she whispered, taking a deep breath. "You blame me for Dad's death, don't you?" Shock flashed across Prisma's face, but she hastily furrowed her brow and resumed her stern expression. "Sweetie, I would never do anything like that. You're my daughter. Whatever would give you such a ridiculous idea?" Tessa didn't believe her. She grabbed one of her aura feelers and rubbed it. "You always told me that aura never lies." She looked up at Prisma. "Before you left, I sensed a spark in your aura. Something that wasn't there before Dad died." Her gaze fell to the ground. "It's okay, Mom. You can tell me the truth. If I hadn't gotten sick, Dad would still be here." "Don't say that," Prisma barked. Tessa stiffened, worried Prisma might lash out. "You can't blame yourself for getting sick. If you want to blame anyone… blame Zapdos." "Zapdos?" Tessa gasped. "But he's a Legend. What does he have to do with this?" Prisma's expression darkened. "After your father's death, I spoke with Magearna. That day, the forecast in Sunrise Village called for clear skies." She clenched her fists, grabbing pawfuls of fur. "Zapdos decided to make an unexpected flyover. And he brought a thunderstorm with him." She turned back to Tessa. "You're innocent in this. It's Zapdos' fault. Zapdos… and… and…" Red aura crackled across Prisma's paws. It disappeared when she took a deep breath. "Sorry for startling you, Tessa. It's just... you know I'm under a lot of stress right now." "… yeah. Protecting Lunala must be pretty important," Tessa whispered, unsatisfied by Prisma's response to her concerns. "How about we just drop this subject?" Prisma said. "It sounds like you've been through an ordeal. I'm not here to try and make that worse. I could calm your mind, instead, if you'd let me." "I'm okay, Mom," Tessa said. "My teammates helped me get through it." Prisma raised an eyebrow. "You mean the human? What could he have possibly done?" "He got the entire guild to throw me a hatch day party," Tessa said. "Thanks for remembering, by the way. I'd have liked at least a letter or something." Prisma's eyes narrowed. "I don't know where this sudden attitude of yours cropped up from, but I suggest you adjust your tone. I made it crystal clear I can't do anything to give away where I'm hiding," she said. "I'm sorry, Tessa, and I wish there was another way, but…" "It's okay… Mom," Tessa growled, trying to keep her temper in check. "You keep working on Lunala. In the meantime, Vulpix and I are going to do what we can to help the Pokémon in Horizon deal with the Prism Virus." Her aura feelers tensed. Anger flashed in Prisma's eyes again. Tessa was sure of it. Something had to be wrong with her mother. "Very well," Prisma said. She got to her feet and approached the edge of the cliff. "Then I'm afraid this is where we have to part ways." Tessa frowned. "You mean no more dream communication?" Her mother nodded. "Why? I haven't done anything wrong." "I already told you, Tessa. That human will keep attracting trouble. And I cannot risk the Prism Virus stealing your dreams and using them to find out where I am," Prisma said. "Besides, I should be getting back to Lunala anyway." She stuck one leg out over the cliff. Tessa dashed toward her. "Wait, you're really going to leave me? Just like that? What about Gallian? What about–" Prisma turned to give her daughter one last look before pushing her other leg off the cliff's edge. Tessa watched her mom plummet into a purple void. Then her whole field of vision went pitch black. XxX Episode 1: Viral Infection Chapter 1: A Frosty Reception XxX ~Aurora Vale~ Frightened chittering echoed through the foliage scattered around the deepest recesses of a sprawling valley. Several bushes burst apart and dozens of rocky, meteor-like spheres floated away at a frenetic pace. Close behind them, blistering cold air swept across the valley floor. The air entrapped the trees and bushes, stripping them of their leaves and instantly freezing their bare remnants. A slick layer of sparkling white ice spread out across the ground. Some of the frost descended on a pair of nearby streams. The rushing water came to a stop and, in a matter of seconds, the streams were nothing but lines of splintering ice sheets. "Uhuu huu huu! Isn't it grand, Umbry? In just a few hours, we'll take this dreary little dungeon and turn it into the most amazing ice-skating rink in the world. Great Glacier won't even hold a candle to our pristine, wintry paradise!" In the center of the area, Espeon pranced around a cluster of onyx crystals. They pulsated with tendrils of crimson energy, sending waves of cold air across the valley and thickening the glacial frost that covered the ground. "… hmph. Personally, I can't wait to demolish Great Glacier. It's a sickening place, just like Glacier Palace," Umbreon sneered. "Why did we have to coat this place in ice anyway? Couldn't we have just poisoned it like we did with Mellath Bog?" "Of course not. We've got to be original!" Espeon said, swishing her hips. "Doing the same old thing every time is hardly fun. Where's the excitement? Where's the panache? We want all these Pokémon to be mystified in their last moments before the Prism Virus changes their lives forever." Umbreon rolled his eyes. "Also, you know Zero told us the best way to alter these Mystery Dungeons is to go by basic type effectiveness. Ground resists poison, but ice beats ground. So, I turned this dusty old valley into a winter wonderland," Espeon said, smirking. Umbreon glared at her. "Well, then these stupid crystals need to hurry up. I'm tired of waiting around for Tapu Lele to show up. And I hate the cold. Just like I hate that frosty Vulpix that slipped through our paws back in Dewdrop Woods. In fact, just being here makes me think of him. And that makes my blood boil." "Aww, don't say that, Umbry. It just makes our little game all the more fun," Espeon said. "Besides, if your blood's boiling, you should be perfectly warm." "… no, Espeon. Your partner has the right idea." The joyous smile on Espeon's face immediately vanished. She stopped dead in her tracks and shrank down onto her belly, ears and tail folding against her body. Likewise, Umbreon's angry expression simmered down, replaced by a frown. Behind the cluster of crystals, purple sparks materialized out of thin air. They spiraled around, until they formed a portal with white, checkerboard lines running through it. The sounds of ice crunching echoed through the valley. A golden metal staff struck the ground in front of the Eeveelutions. They both flinched. "Huh-Hi… Zero," Espeon squeaked. "You… um… you didn't tell us you'd be dropping by!" A black, crystal-coated foot stepped down on Espeon's left forepaw. Her tail shot into the air and crumpled up as pain raced across her body. "Get up," Zero ordered. Next thing Espeon knew, metal claws dug into her back. Zero hoisted her to her feet and shoved her away. Espeon stumbled to the side, keeping her weight off her left limb. "Um… a little advance notice would've been really appreciated," Espeon said. "We haven't finished setting things up here, so–" Zero pointed her staff forward. The black octahedron sitting atop it started glowing red. Espeon hopped backwards, turning her gaze away from the scepter. "I don't recall ever needing to inform you of my actions," Zero said, straightening out the strip of red, Egyptian-styled cloth dangling from her waist. She gazed at the winged heart stitched into its center. "I wanted to check in on your progress." Zero swung her staff in front of her and gazed into the gem. The red energy's crackling intensified. "It seems the infected Lurantis in Mellath Bog was disposed of." "What?" Umbreon gasped. "But we just infected her the other day. Who could've–?" He abruptly cut himself off and his eyes narrowed. "Don't tell me, it was Vulpix and Riolu again?" Zero placed her right paw on her black, crystalline mask and nudged it up. Espeon focused on Zero's left eye – her lone eye – and then looked away, biting her lower lip. "… hmph. It's good to see at least one of you has a decent head on their shoulders," Zero said, brushing snowflakes off the red spike protruding from the star insignia on her gem-encrusted chest. "With Lurantis done in, we've lost our best shot at subduing Tapu Fini. Not that it really matters, since it seems she never had the Dawn Hourglass to start with. That said, I'm not taking any chances this time around. Which is why I've come to speed things up a bit here." "That's very proactive of you," Espeon said, grinning awkwardly. "Silence," Zero hissed. Her eye flashed dark blue. "I would not need to be doing this if you two had done as I'd ordered and taken care of the human." She raised her left hand and black sparks crackled around it. "The Prism Virus has no use for disobedient Pokémon." The color drained from Espeon's face. "Now, now, there's no need for that," she squealed, her voice cracking. "As you can see, everything's going swimmingly here. Look, we've even got the wild Miniors fleeing in terror. See?" She jerked her head upward, looking at a Minior pair floating off toward the sky. Zero pivoted to follow Espeon's gaze. A sudden gust of wind ruffled the black fur around her rear and the four, waist-length dreadlocks sticking out of her head. With an annoyed growl, Zero raised her staff and the red energy swelled to fill the entire octahedron. "Infect," she said. A red waveform beam raced forward. The Miniors turned around and screamed in fright as the beam swallowed them up. Zero lowered her staff and looked up. A pair of black, jagged crystal lattices with glowing red cores now floated where the Miniors previously were. "There. Much more appropriate, wouldn't you say?" Zero said. The infected Miniors floated down toward them, dark energy crackling around their edges. "Let's see, Minior is hardly a threatening name. Henceforth, you are Necrospheres." Zero waved the Necrospheres off and turned to look at Espeon and Umbreon. "No objections, I trust?" "Of course not! Of course not! Wonderful names for such lovely little additions to our growing family. Uhuu huu… huu…" Espeon's tail curled up against her flank. Umbreon remained silent. "Good. Then let's dispense with the idle chatter and cut to business," Zero said. She raised her scepter high and slammed it into the ground. Espeon and Umbreon jumped in surprise and scrambled back. From the center of the crystal cluster, a black monolith jutted out of the ice. A red, winged-heart insignia appeared atop the monolith, matching the one stitched into Zero's robes and Nemes headdress. Ice streamed out in all directions, quickening the pace of the valley's freezing. Umbreon looked over his shoulder to find more Miniors transforming into Necrospheres. Zero adjusted her mask. "Now then, I do think it's time our dear friend Tapu Lele joined us, don't you?" she said, turned to look over toward the end of the valley. "Um… what do you want us to do?" Espeon asked. Zero walked to the other side of the crystal cluster. "You're going to be a distraction. Get behind the crystals. I'll order you to use Shadow Ball and Dark Pulse when I think the time is right. Until then, don't move a muscle. Don't even so much as speak. I'll keep our VIP entertained." She finished circling around the crystals and stood at attention. In the thick, wintry fog brought on by the ice, Zero spotted a round outline growing steadily larger. "Come to me, Land Spirit, so that my Prism Virus can cleanse this world of your worthless filth," she said. Tapu Lele appeared from the fog, a look of anger etched in her face. "Like, what's with the chilly reception?" she said, looking around. "Is this your doing?" Zero bowed mockingly. "I'm ever-so-humbled that you took notice." "This is, like, totally uncalled for!" Tapu Lele barked. "You return this land to the way it's supposed to be. Or better yet, scamper off before I blow you to smithereens and use your hollowed-out body as a raft to float along the stream that's supposed to be here." "Tempting offer," Zero mused. "But, if I may issue a rebuttal…" She held up her free arm and snapped her crystalline digits. "Eh?" Tapu Lele's eyes widened at the sight of the Eeveelutions lunging out from behind the monolith. Espeon had a ball of spectral energy gathering in her forehead diamond, while Umbreon's red rings pulsated with black and purple bolts. They fired their attacks toward each of Tapu Lele's sides. "Like, I'm going to turn you creeps into carpeting for my temple," Tapu Lele said, summoning pink barriers to effortlessly deflect the attacks. They ricocheted into nearby ice walls, exploding and showering the area in frosty shards. "I'm going to, like, sooooo thoroughly enjoy this," Tapu Lele cackled, vines of white energy stretching out toward the ground. Before she could generate her attack, however, a beam of silvery metal struck her and sent her spiraling backward. Zero raised her left hand and clenched her fist. A strange, distorted red wave raced forward, turning everything it spread across bright red. As it passed over Espeon and Umbreon, they froze in place, flickering like broken television screens. The wave struck Tapu Lele, slowing her down to a crawl. Static encased Zero's free paw. On either side of Tapu Lele, towers of red cubes formed up from the ground. Another red wave then raced forward, returning the area to its normal, icy-blue coloration. The towers toppled over, swallowing Tapu Lele up and drowning out her screams. Zero walked toward the downed Land Spirit, readying her staff. "What the–?" Zero gasped. She tapped her staff on the ground and the cubes evaporated into pixelated streams. All that remained of Tapu Lele was a splattered puddle of pink slime. "A Ditto?" Zero snarled. "Uhuu huu huu! Well, isn't that a surprise. Looks like Tapu Lele's a craftier critter than we thought, huh?" Espeon said. Zero abruptly turned around and held up her left paw. Several spiked cubes floated ominously around it, pointing at Espeon. "Meep!" Espeon ducked for cover behind the monolith. The cubes dissipated and Zero turned back around, nudging up her helmet. "It seems the rumors of her deceptive nature are true after all," Zero said. "It's no matter. She can only delay the inevitable for so long. My Legend-free world will become reality." "Does this mean we can leave now?" Umbreon growled. "I've grown sick of the cold." "On the contrary," Zero said. "That just means it's time for you two to get this place ready for our guests of honor." She turned around and walked over to Umbreon. "Seriously? Look, the bait didn't work," Umbreon said, ears twitching angrily. "Tapu Lele's onto us. If you want to destroy all the gods then I suggest we go for more vulnerable o–" "Shut your mouth," Zero hissed, backhanding Umbreon. Espeon shrank back as her partner crumple to the ground. "I have made it expressly clear why we're focusing on the Land Spirits. One of them holds the Dawn Hourglass – Tapu Lele, it would seem – and it's the key to perfecting the Ultra Entercards. Then, I can beam into any spot in any Mystery Dungeon I choose. No spells, magic barriers, or manipulated ley lines will stand in my way. With this power, each and every Legend will fall before the might of the Prism Virus." Zero knelt down. She dug the metal claws protruding from her paw into Umbreon's chest and hefted him into the air. His breath rushed out of him and his fur frazzled. "Now listen closely," Zero said. "You two will go to Sunrise Village and kidnap two residents: Sylveon and Eevee. That should bait the sniveling coward, Riolu, and her human leech out from their stupid guild. Have them come here and then dispose of them." "Uhuu huu huu huu! Sounds like fun," Espeon said, wagging her tail. "How about we find us a snuggly Sandslash and give him a dose of Celesteela? No, wait! Wait! We should totally do–" Zero slammed her staff against the ice. Her right arm phased out of existence, leaving distorted air in its place. "You're mishearing me, Espeon," she seethed, her arm returning. "I told you to dispose of them. No more infected Pokémon. No more of your pathetic, so-called games. Take care of this mess yourselves." Espeon's ears drooped. "Y-You want us to battle them? But… but if we lose, then…" "The Prism Virus consumes your life energy and gives it to me," Zero said. Espeon's tail fell between her legs. "Wipe that sniveling look off your face, Espeon. Or should I simply take your spirit here and now? Such spinelessness will not do any good." Zero dropped Umbreon onto the ice and stepped back. She brushed fur off her paw and then lifted it up, allowing dark energy to swirl around it. A black ball with red, web-like lines appeared in it. She pointed the ball at Umbreon and he immediately looked away, panic flashing across his face. "You are both my Pokémon," Zero said. "I captured you fair and square. You are my property. And I have trained you to wield powers you never would have discovered on your own. If you cannot win a simple battle against the opposition, then you will be discarded. I am trying to ensure this world has a prosperous future. At this point, setbacks are unacceptable." Espeon bowed, fixing her gaze on the ground. "Yes, Mistress Zero, of course. We won't fail you this time." Zero pressed a paw to her mask. "… hmph. Actions speak louder than words." She swung her staff around and looked into the octahedron. It started glowing. "Necky!" A moment passed, followed by a loud, garbled, "What? What is it? I'm trying to finish setting up my room!" "Return me to Celestial Island," Zero ordered. "Hang on! If I open another Ultra Wormhole, I'll be too tired to levitate this stuff around." "I'm sorry. Did it sound like I was asking you?" Zero snarled. "Ugh, fine. Now I'm going to recruit some Ultra Beasts to do it for me. Hope you're happy." Purple energy ripples gathered behind Zero and a portal identical to the one she arrived in opened up. Zero stepped toward it and vanished in the blink of an eye. Espeon and Umbreon looked away as a dazzling white light swallowed up the portal. "Well, you heard her, Espy. To Sunrise Village we go," Umbreon said. XxX ~Aeon Observatory~ "… you really don't… need to waste your cash… on me…" Team Radiance sat in front of Bruxish's pond while their fellow apprentice went about assembling his special cauldron. "Well, I guess we don't have to," Shane said. "But it wouldn't hurt to spice up your move set, would it? Seriously, have you even learned a single new move since you got here?" Null shook his head. "I figured… that the helmet… or the headaches… were just going to stop that from happening." "Ah." Shane's brow furrowed. Null had a good point. "But the helmet's got a crack in it. So, maybe that's going to change?" "That's rather optimistic of you," Tessa said. "A bit surprising with how you've acted the rest of the week. This doesn't mean the old Shane's back, does it?" Shane shook his head. "No. I... um... want to try and start being positive and, y'know, actually meaning it. I figured something like this is a good place to start." He blinked and then looked over at Tessa. "Hey, you actually called me Shane." "We're starting things over, right?" Tessa said. "May as well call you by what you want to be called, even if I don't quite get it." Shane's tails thumped against the floor. "So, Bruxish, how would this work exactly?" Tessa asked. "Oh, it's veeeeeeeeery easy, dahlings," Bruxish said. "I can use my scalding cauldron to glimpse a Pokémon's spiritual energy. From there, I can use the old thinker to determine both your ability and some of the moves you can learn." He tapped his forehead. Null looked down at his forelegs. "Um… did I mention… that none of the other psychics… have been able to read my aura?" "Yes, I'm well aware of that snafu," Bruxish said. "Not to speak ill of the Guildmaster, but he likely only tried to sense your aura. And that's a bit too basic. Your spiritual energy incorporates more than your aura. It's the essence of your being, dahling. This cauldron can drag that out for me to see thanks to a few haaaaaandy spells I learned growing up. It hasn't failed yet." Bruxish looked down into the boiling cauldron and rubbed his fins together. "Okay then. Let's get started, shall we?" He lifted his fins upward and his eyes glowed a deep, navy blue. The water in the cauldron bubbled faster. Shane and Tessa craned their necks to see over the top. "Hey, the water's not changing color," Shane said. "Isn't it supposed to be changing color?" Bruxish lowered his hands and looked down into the cauldron. "This is odd," he said. "I've never seen this happen before. Different colors show up to relate to the different types of moves a Pokémon can learn. But Vulpix is right. Null has a venerable absence of color. It symbolizes absolutely nothing." "You mean… I can't learn anything else?" Null rasped. "I wouldn't necessarily say that, dahling," Bruxish said. He closed his eyes and pressed his fins against his face. "Nnnngh." He opened his eyes and shook his head. "Goodness gracious. It seems like there's quite literally a block on your life force. Something is jamming my ability to read it." His levitation faltered momentarily. "Urgh. Did the Guildmaster mention experiencing any disorientation when trying to read your mind, dahling?" "Uh… I don't know," Null said. "Huh. Well, that just deepens this mystery," Shane said. He looked at Null, but stayed quiet because he wasn't sure how to properly express sympathy over Null's situation. Tessa scooted over beside Null and rubbed his back. "It's okay, buddy. Maybe we can try some TM's on you later?" she said. "… I suppose," Null said with a heavy sigh. Shane nodded. He was glad Tessa was around. She knew how to get through Null. "Well, as long as we're here, how about you take a gander at me?" Shane said, scooting toward the cauldron. "For one thing, I'd really appreciate knowing what the heck my ability is. Or what it could be, for that matter." "Oh, well of course. Just stand still for me, dahling," Bruxish said. Shane stood in front of the cauldron, looking up at Bruxish as he went about activating the cauldron. Shane sucked in his gut as droplets of boiling water scattered around the cauldron, narrowly missing his fur. "This can't be right," Bruxish said, opening his eyes. "Perhaps the cauldron is on the fritz?" Worry overtook Shane's face. That was the last thing he had wanted to hear. "Is something wrong?" Bruxish floated upward. "Magearna! Oh, dahling, could you come here? It seems my cauldron is acting up." It is? But I just did a diagnostic on it yesterday and it was fine, Magearna said, before disappearing into the north hallway, leaving Shane wondering how anyone could run a diagnostic on an oversized cooking instrument. Bruxish's brow furrowed. "Hmm, well if that's the case, I suppose I just have to take these findings at face value. Even if they don't make sense." "Not to be rude here, but I really don't like the sound of that," Shane said. What sort of bad hand was fate dealing him now? "Sorry to spook you, dahling. It's nothing life-threatening or anything," Bruxish said. "But according to my cauldron, your ability is Clear Body. And that doesn't make a lick of sense." Shane blinked. That didn't sound like anything to make a fuss over. "What's wrong with Clear Body? Regice has Clear Body and they're an ice-type too," he said. "I'm sorry, dahling. But Vulpix in Horizon are meant to have Snow Cloak, with a select few knowing Snow Warning. Your ability is more like an impossibility!" Bruxish said, shaking his head. Null and Tessa looked over at him. Shane wore a confused expression on his face. Why would he have a unique ability? Did it tie into how he ended up in the Pokémon world? "Don't look at me. Maybe Solgaleo did it to me?" Shane said, shrugging. "I strongly doubt I had anything to do with it. I don't even remember how I ended up here in the first place." He looked over at Bruxish. "Is there anything else off about what your cauldron's saying?" "Yes," Bruxish said. "I saw traces of fire-type energy in your life force. Actually, it was more than just traces. It seems like you should, theoretically, be able to learn multiple fire-type moves. But, again, that's totally implausible." "Maybe the fact that he's actually human prevents your cauldron from working properly?" Tessa said, scratching her chin. "I mean, sure, Shane has the body of a Vulpix, but his spirit should still be the same one he had as a human, right?" Shane nodded. "Yeah. That's gotta be it. Remember, I only knew of fire-type Vulpixes as a human. So, maybe those memories are corrupting your magic cauldron," he said, thinking that had to be the right explanation. "It's certainly poooooooossible," Bruxish said. "But I can't say for certain." Shane sighed and slumped over. "It's okay. Thanks for the help, anyway." He turned and walked over to Null. "Huh," Tessa said, raised an eyebrow. "What? Is there something on my face?" Shane asked, briefly going cross-eyed. "No. It's just… I'm surprised. I figured you'd be dancing around the place singing your own praises. I mean, you have a unique ability. Doesn't that make you special, just like you wanted?" she said. Shane blinked a few times. "Oh," he said, looking down. "Well… I mean… you said it yourself. Fresh start and all that jazz. Even if I did think this was cool–" Null groaned loudly and shook his head. Shane realized his unintentional pun and cringed. "My bad," he said. "As I was saying, even if I thought that was good news, I wasn't about to make a scene over it. I'm trying not to be like that anymore." Tessa frowned. "So, wait. Are you upset about your ability, then?" He shook his head. "I'm not upset. Just confused, that's all," he said, choosing his words carefully. "At the very least, it's better than what I'm supposed to have. Snow Cloak's only helpful if it's snowing out, which means I'd need to learn Hail. And I don't want to do that for the exact same reason why I wouldn't want Snow Warning." He pawed at the ground. "It would hurt you and Null." "Actually, I think Magearna has some kind of device that can keep us explorers safe in inclement weather. But I appreciate the concern," Tessa said, chuckling as Shane faceplanted into the floor. If only he had known that earlier. So much for trying to make a sweet gesture. "Well, at least now I can't have my strength or endurance lowered by other Pokémon's moves," Shane said, getting back to his feet. "But, whatever, not much to do about that if we just stand around and talk. How about we take on a couple of simple missions? I can't believe I'm saying this, but after the last week I'd kill for just a normal day on the job." Tessa nodded approvingly. "I agree. Lead the way. Maybe if the morning goes well, we can take on a higher-paying job," she said. "Ah, Team Radiance! Where's Magearna?" Trapinch sprinted out of the southern hallway, a panicked look on his face. "Whoa, where's the fire, dude?" Shane said. "It's the Pokénector. Something's wrong with the Pokénector! I need Magearna to look at it ASAP. Is she in her workshop?" Trapinch said, anxiously trotting in place. "Chill out. She just went back to it," Shane said. "Why don't you just call her out–" "Thanks for the heads up!" Trapinch said, dashing off toward the northern hallway. "… aaaaaaaaand he's gone," Shane said with a sigh. "You don't suppose we should stick around and see what the problem is, do you?" Tessa asked. "Nah, we should be fi–" Shane started, only to cut himself off and instead say, "that was a rhetorical question, wasn't it?" Tessa smiled at him. "Yes. But hey, you're picking up on my tone of voice much better." Shane didn't have the opportunity to mull over that complement because Trapinch reappeared in the hallway, with Magearna following along. I strongly doubt the Pokénector would just up and break on us. It's been perfectly functionalible since I upgraded it last month. "You've just gotta have a look at this," Trapinch said, heading for the southern hallway. "I can't even explain it. Part of the globe just blacked out." Blacked out? Magearna said. That's not possachievable. Show me. Despite Shane's silent begging not to get involved, Team Radiance followed their fellow guild members down the southern hallway to the sentry station. They all assembled around the Pokénector, giving Trapinch and Magearna enough room to stand by the portion mapping out the Horizon Continent. "Wait," Null said. "Look… there are two black spots." He turned to Tessa. "Isn't that one… toward the northern part of the continent… where we were the other day?" Tessa pulled out the team's Wonder Map and unfolded it. Her eyes widened. "Ah!" she gasped. "The Wonder Map… it's…" Shane walked over toward her. "What, did you rip it or something?" "It has black spots in the same places," Tessa said, showing it to her teammates. "Yeah, those parts are totally blacked out. Like someone spilled ink on them," Shane said. "But why would it do something like that?" Simple. Your Wonder Maps are synchronisified to the Pokénector, thanks to some handy spellcasting on my part, Magearna explained. I have developed the Pokénector to map out the changes to the landscape that the Tapus create. And that, in turns, updates everyone's Wonder Maps. She turned back to the Pokénector. But this is like nothing I've ever seen before. Shane's jaw stiffened. Magearna's explanation didn't sit well with him. Magical maps that could change on a whim? The thought made his fur prickle. "This all sounds dubious," Shane said. "So, if that northern area is Moonrise Marsh and Mellath Bog, then what's that place in the southwest?" Aurora Vale, Magearna said. Tessa's aura feelers tensed up. "I… I know that place," she whispered. "It's supposed to be the most beautiful Mystery Dungeon in all of Horizon, because you can always see an aurora in the sky above it." Her gaze fell toward the ground. "Dad had always promised that, once I joined the guild, he'd take me there and we could explore it together." Thinking back to yesterday morning, Shane looked over at Tessa in concern. "Hey, are you going to be okay?" he asked. "It's… it's fine," she said, taking a deep breath. Tessa looked over at Magearna. "Do you think this means something's wrong with Aurora Vale? Maybe the Tapus are doing something to it?" I can only launch a speculation algorithm on the matter, Magearna said. But I doubt that will assistify us much. "… maybe… it's been infected," Null muttered ominously. Shane shot Null a worried look. "Think about it. When we were in Mellath Bog… the whole place had been corrupted… by strange energy…" As much as Shane wanted to issue a retort, he couldn't escape the sinking feeling that Null was right. Is that a fact? Magearna said. Hmm. Well, I suppose the way to definitatively know would be to investigate Aurora Vale. She looked at Team Radiance. I don't suppose you three would be willing to go? It sounds like you have experiasity with such situations. Shane and Tessa exchanged nervous looks. It was all they needed to tell each other they didn't want a repeat of their time underground. "I, uh, don't know, Magearna," Shane stammered. "We're still shaken up from Mellath Bog. I'm not sure if we're the best ones for the job. What about Team Specter or Team Captivate?" They're both out, Magearna replied. It wouldn't be long. In fact, I'm not even requesticating that you go into the Dungeon. Just glimpse over it and ring me up on the Gear-Com to tell me what you see. "Well, I guess that's okay," Tessa said. "But, we're still going to stock up on supplies, just in case." Behind her, Shane and Null both nodded their support. That is fine. Just get going as soon as you can. My worry levels have surged to 47.3%, and I fear my ability to repairate the Pokénector will decrease if my worry levels keep rising, Magearna said. "Right." Tessa walked toward the hallway and her teammates followed her along. "So, um, are we going to head out right now?" "I guess so," Shane said. "Do you even know where we're going?" "Yeah," Tessa said. "There's a small community near Aurora Vale. It's called Borea Heights, I think. With any luck, we won't need to venture past there." They headed upstairs to the guild's entrance. But as they proceeded toward the door, it suddenly slid open. In flew a yellow bug with a white face, white hips, and a black scarf slung around her body. She promptly collapsed onto the ground, groaning loudly. Shane cocked his head. "Huh?" Tessa's aura feelers twitched. "T... Totem Ribombee? What happened to you? You look terrible," she said. "Totem?" Shane looked down at the bug and thought of his encounter with Lurantis. His tails shot between his legs. "Is... is she the leader of Aeon Town, then? And did she just get infected?" "No, she's the Totem of Sunrise Village," Tessa explained, kneeling down beside Ribombee. "Hey, can you hear me? Can you tell me what happened?" Totem Ribombee's eyes fluttered open and she grimaced. "Sunrise Village… attacked. Sylveon's house… destroyed. She and Eevee are… gone." Her eyes rolled back in her head and she lost consciousness. Tessa looked up at Shane with a panic-stricken expression. "We've gotta go to Sunrise Village right away!" she said. XxX That's right. Our fist chapter has officially introduced Zero into the story. Design wise she is based off Dark Enerjak, from Sonic Universe.