Chapter 50 - Heart to Heart
- Aug 18, 2018
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Chapter 50 – Heart to Heart
Solid rocks slammed against the fleshy walls that surrounded Jerry. He spun around to make sure he was as far away as possible from any portion of it, and even beat his wings to make sure he wasn’t touching the floor. He spat more rocks against the wall, but they just bounced harmlessly off, shattering on the floor.
Amia was silent in the corner of the room. Without sight, hearing, arms, or legs, all she could do was feel with her back and her head. Though, she had a peaceful smile on her face, like she knew she would be fine. Or, perhaps more likely, she was hallucinating from some strange cocktail that resided in this cursed chamber.
“I will NOT die this way!” Jerry shouted. He took a breath, ready to spit out another wad of solid rock, but nothing came. He didn’t feel that solid mass forming in the back of his throat. He didn’t have the aura for it—too strained. He coughed out a few pebbles and roughly shook his head. “Ungh—not like this… not like this…!”
He was starting to tire out.
“The air—there’s no air in here,” Jerry said, hyperventilating. He looked down at Amia. Motionless as ever. He looked up at the ceiling, where Emily’s throat had been completely shut. “I have to—”
Jerry spun in the air. In the strange, glowing flesh, someone had appeared next to Amia. A blue creature that was partially attached to the walls.
“What?” Jerry beat his wings several times, each one harder than the last. “Who are you?”
“I’m Vaporeon Tanneth!” She waved a paw at him. “It’s okay! Emily’s perfectly safe!”
“Yeah, no. Let me out!”
“Sorry, but we can’t do that,” Tanneth said. “Oh! Um, by the way, when you came in here, you dropped this! Do you need it? It seems really important.” She held up a scarf.
“What? W-wait!” Jerry clutched at his neck, but this caused him to stop flying. He yelped and beat his wings harder, maintaining his altitude. But that split-second he had to feel his neck indicated, indeed, that he wasn’t wearing the Stable Scarf anymore. He worriedly glanced at his feet, and then his tail, but it all looked normal.
“What’s the matter?” Tanneth asked, tilting her head. “It’s okay! It’s only a little wet!”
“It’s wet?” He weighed his options. On one hand, he could probably just put that on and it would dry off after a while. On the other, maybe being a puddle of sludge wouldn’t be so bad. After all, melting didn’t hurt—at least, not the sort of melting he had experienced. And it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as whatever this Lugia and her demonic belly-dweller Vaporeon had in store.
“It’s okay! I’ll dry it off!” Tanneth got on her hind legs, using her thick tail to retain balance when she leaned back. She shook her front paws furiously, flinging water—Jerry hoped it was just water—in all directions. “There! All dry!”
Jerry stared. He didn’t need to fly closer, or even squint, to know that what Tanneth did was nowhere near enough to satisfy a Rock Type on what it meant to be dry. “Listen, Water,” Jerry growled, “I don’t know what it means to be dry for someone like you, but me? That cloth is still wet. Very wet. It may not be dripping, but it’s still not touching me. Ever.”
“No, it’s damp! That’s a lot drier than wet!”
“IT’S NOT DRY!” Jerry’s wings were getting tired. There wasn’t any updraft in this place—he was either going to lose his stability from exhaustion, or he’d find a place to land. The ground all looked the same; there wouldn’t be a good way to land and not have to deal with whatever dungeon this place was. He grumbled and finally transitioned into a steady glide, sticking out his feet for a landing.
His toes squished against the malleable flesh. The Aerodactyl gagged, shutting his eyes tight. This entire day has been one long nightmare, and this was the finale, sealed away inside a Legendary demon with no chance to escape, under the pretense of being healed. He should have known better than to trust a bunch of freaks, Hearts, and freak Hearts.
He heard the squishy pitter-patter of the Vaporeon coming closer. He reluctantly opened his eyes to reintroduce himself to his surroundings. He focused on Tanneth; the Stable Scarf was in her mouth. She stuck her head out, offering it to Jerry. It was a bit darker, and it hung heavily from her teeth. But it was either that, or die. No, not even die. Star said she didn’t know where the auras of those who melted went. That could mean a lot of things…
Jerry reached out and touched the scarf. Squish. His claws hesitantly wrapped around it completely and pulled back. It felt lukewarm. Tanneth let go, giggling. “See? Dry!”
In that moment, there was no fiber in Jerry’s being that had even an ounce of joy toward the Vaporeon, the Lugia, or anybody else on that entire island. For the briefest moments, he wondered what it was that led to this very instance. Trapped and eaten, forced to choose between adorning himself with a Lugia-soaked scarf, or a death that would not even grant him the peace of the aura sea. Was it petty? Perhaps it was. But in that instance, Jerry considered throwing the scarf back at Tanneth.
“What’s wrong?” Tanneth asked.
Jerry stared at the scarf. That wasn’t going around his neck. “Nothing. Shouldn’t you be chatting with the monster?”
“The one who ate us.”
“Aw, she didn’t eat you, silly!” Tanneth said, giggling. “Emily doesn’t eat!”
No words or sounds left Jerry. There was something in his mind—some small, quiet part of his mental fortitude—that finally crumbled away. Perhaps it happened when he stared at Tanneth’s closed, happy eyes. Perhaps it was earlier, when he finally touched the scarf. Or perhaps even still, it was just the culmination of everything in his life that led to that moment. Jerry was sure it was all of these things. But whatever it was, it was enough for him to finally nod to the Vaporeon. He put a smile on his face, dropped the scarf on the ground, and said, “Go away.”
“Oh! Okay.” Tanneth nodded. “You need your rest! I’ll see you later. You look okay, but your friend will probably need all night until she’s better.”
Jerry said nothing. He only waved at Tanneth with his right wing, still smiling. He practically mirrored Tanneth’s expression. This satisfied her, and she waved back with her paw, sank into the walls, and left them alone.
The Aerodactyl waved for a bit longer, as if to be sure that she wouldn’t peek and see him suddenly stop waving. Once he felt an appropriate amount of time passed, he brought his wing to his side. He took two paces to the left and turned around, looking at the walls. He then looked up, at the fleshy ceiling, and at the sealed hole that blocked the way to Emily’s esophagus.
Jerry closed his eyes and nodded to himself. And then, he looked back at the wall.
Jerry screamed. With a single, deep breath, and with every ounce of strain in his throat, the Aerodactyl opened his mouth as wide as he could and yelled as loudly as his chest allowed. All of his fears, all of his disbelief, all of his complete resignation was concentrated and distilled into a single, drawn-out roar.
He eventually ran out of air. He panted, grunting, hunched over. His tail flicked angrily, slamming wetly against the ground. The only reason he wasn’t clawing at the walls was because he didn’t want to get any more of the creature on him than he had to.
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PLACE?!” Jerry roared to the sky. “These—these freaks?! Spirits? Mystics? WHY? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?” He panted again, regaining his breath. He paced across the chamber, feeling even more trapped than before. Despite the ample room that she had—for someone’s insides—it was still too cramped for the flier. He needed air. He needed to see the sky. He needed solid ground.
Jerry muttered loudly to himself in a mixture of angry shouts and loud whispers. “Oh, don’t worry about it, we’ll help you right up!” His laughter was quick and rapid. “Sure, you’re just a head, and your body is in danger of completely melting away, but it’s fine! We have this magic thingamabob to keep you from dying! Oh, and also, that kid whose team arrested you is the one who made it!” Jerry panted a few more times. He was starting to tire himself out. Even standing felt like a chore. “Why would he do that? Well, obviously, because he cares! Something that you obviously don’t do, oh, no, that’s why you couldn’t become a Heart! You just didn’t care enough! It’s aaaall about having your HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE—NNGHAAAAGH!”
Jerry slashed at Emily’s stomach lining, leaving a huge gash against the thick tissue. There was no blood. In a shaking, seething breath, Jerry watched the flesh squeeze itself together, mending the wound from edge to edge.
“I hate you,” Jerry finally hissed. He didn’t know who he was saying it to. He just kept repeating it to himself, walking in circles, until, finally, something caught his eye. He saw her. The stump of a Gardevoir was propped up against the far wall, only ten of his paces away. Her eyes were open and aware, and her breathing was soft. Her body showed the natural tension of one trying to stay quiet. A stiffness in her breathing, afraid to draw attention.
Jerry’s breathing slowed and he finally stopped pacing. He stopped mumbling. He happened to stop right next to the Stable Scarf. He still refused to pick it up. He hadn’t melted yet, so he wasn’t going to start now.
But now, a new problem presented itself. The Fire imp was awake. How much of that did she hear? Should he even care? He was going to be stuck with her for at least a night. Was she going to say anything? So far, she was just avoiding his eyes.
Jerry growled to himself. Even if Amia looked at him, he couldn’t look back. The catharsis of yelling and thrashing finally wearing off, the Aerodactyl only felt a creeping sense of shame. He saw Anam’s slimy, gooey head shaking in rejection toward his name on James’ list of candidates. He saw Owen’s eyes of pompous concern, looking down upon him when Jerry had no choice but to look at wherever the Charizard decided to position his bodiless head. He saw Star, glaring at him. He saw his mother’s empty eyes.
Jerry jumped at the sound of someone else’s voice. He simply didn’t expect it. Even though Tanneth had been there not long ago, it felt like an eternity since he’d heard anything but his own thoughts. And that’s what he first hears? He stared at Amia. Her eyes were downcast.
His jaw clenched, sharp teeth neatly fitting together. What right did she have to apologize to him? He wanted nothing to do with her, or with anybody in her family, of her clan. He didn’t care what Ghrelle said. The Fire Clan was real, and in the schism, Amia, or her ancestors, happened to be on the winning side.
But he wasn’t just going to ignore her. She was nothing but a head and torso, but those eyes. He couldn’t bear having those eyes upon him, and he’d do anything to get her to stop staring so silently.
Jerry found his voice. It was ragged from strain. “What for?”
At first, Amia didn’t reply. Her eyes gave little hints of movement, darting minute angles to the left and right, as if searching for an answer in the middle of an invisible book. “I’m just… sorry.”
Jerry stared at the stump of a Gardevoir and grumbled loudly to himself. He brought his wing to his head and clawed at his skull in frustration. “You can’t just say sorry for no reason. Doesn’t make sense. You sound just like your son.”
Amia smiled weakly. “Well… Alex and I did raise him for centuries. I suppose he picked up a few of my habits.”
“Hmph.” Jerry stared at Amia for a bit longer. What was he supposed to say? He couldn’t find it in him to yell now that Amia was able to hear—and now that he was again aware of her presence in the first place. He stared at the helpless thing in front of him. How easy would it be if he just attacked her then? She had no power. What sort of revenge could he take for his lineage of suffering?
A cold, icy void filled Jerry’s guts. This was why he never became a Heart. He pushed the thoughts away.
He swallowed, trying to get the roughness out of his throat. “How much of me did you hear?”
“Oh, not very much.” Amia tilted her head. “My hearing was coming back at around the time you started, but it was all very… muffled. And then my sight came back.”
“Rrff.” Jerry shifted where he stood, still not used to the horrible, squishy dampness under his talons. “And how are you feeling?” Jerry asked noncommittally. “Other than your missing limbs.”
Jerry didn’t say anything in reply. He merely nodded and wandered to a portion of the wall that he deemed the driest-looking. He leaned against a portion of the wall and slid down. It was slick and had enough softness to behave as a pillow.
Jerry tilted his head, carefully cracking his neck. “Why did it have to be like this?”
“Be like… what, dear?”
“You know what,” Jerry said, pointing his wing out. “This. What is Emily? She isn’t a Lugia. She’s… some sort of hollow shell filled with air. Where’s the lungs? The bones? The gut? I’m starting to think this isn’t even a stomach. I don’t think she has organs. I think it’s just a throat that leads to her lower body.”
“You might be right.” Amia nodded. This motion made her body lose its balance, and she fell to the side with a soft “Oof.” Amia craned her neck. “D-dear, I can’t quite get up. Could you…?”
Jerry didn’t move. Now she wanted him to help her up? She could help herself. She was practically a god. Since when did gods ask for help from lowly mortals like him? No. She didn’t deserve the help. She brought it upon herself.
“Jerry? Oh, dear, is my voice going? Jerry, I can’t quite… oh, dear.” Her body rolled until her face was flat on the ground. The Gardevoir’s chest was propped up by her red fin, and she turned her head to get air. “Jerry? Did you fall asleep, dear? It must be quite late. That’s okay. I’ll… be here.”
If she wasn’t right outside, I’d think this whole mess was one of Mew’s divine pranks. Jerry sighed and got up. He did so slowly, as if not to disrupt his spine, but he looked back with surprise. There wasn’t an ounce of pain.
He wobbled closer and brought a wing under Amia’s side, pulling her up. He situated her against the back wall and sat next to her afterward, figuring she’d fall over a second time otherwise. If she was going to be this helpless, then he had no choice but to help. Otherwise, she’d whine all night, he figured.
Jerry adjusted his back again. It really was gone. “So, this place really heals you.”
“It seems so,” Amia said. “I can already see and hear again. In a little while, I think my limbs will start coming back. Well, I certainly hope so, at least.”
“What happened back there?” Jerry asked. “It doesn’t look like you have burns. It isn’t like you incinerated your body. It’s just… gone.”
Amia glanced away. “I’m not sure myself. I just… kept pushing. I felt my power was gone, but… that monster was still there. I kept digging for more energy. Before I knew it, I…”
“I heard something the Ditto said,” the Aerodactyl recalled. “Something about how when people like you get strong enough, the aura and body become indistinguishable, or something. So, I guess I’m talking to an aura right now.”
“Mm.” Amia looked down at her partially-deteriorated dress. “If that’s the case, it’s a good thing Emily can even heal auras… at least a little.” She closed her eyes. “I hope Owen’s okay.”
“He’s fine,” Jerry said, rolling his eyes. “His ‘Dad’ ran off.” Jerry caught the flash of anger in Amia’s eyes. “H-hey, hey, didn’t you hear my tone? I put his title in little air quotes.” He raised his wings and squeezed his claws.
Amia relaxed slightly, but her displeased expression didn’t fade.
“So, what, you guys were mates once, and then fell out?”
“No,” Amia said, sighing. “Eon… created Owen. He created all four of them—Team Alloy. They were meant to be four pieces to a single being that could, well, defeat a lot of things. Guardians included.”
“Even the big ball of slime?”
Amia shook her head, nearly falling over a second time if it wasn’t for Jerry catching her. “Thank you—and I don’t know. I haven’t ever seen them completely fused before. And I’ve never seen Anam at full force, either. They’re two big unknowns.”
Another silence followed, and Jerry glanced to his right just in time to see a little nub forming at the top of Amia’s shoulder, twitching with movement. He wrinkled his snout and elected to not look at Amia for the rest of his stay until it grew back completely.
“I’m sure Anam will help you get back on your feet, Jerry. He’s a very good Pokémon.”
“Doesn’t matter if he’s good or bad. Can he solve the world’s problems?”
“Well—most of the world seems quite good, don’t you think?”
“Most doesn’t mean all,” Jerry said. “I still fell through his grand vision. The fact that outlaws exist is enough evidence for that.”
“Mm,” Amia said noncombatively.
“Well…” Amia hesitated. “Short of controlling everybody, I don’t really see how you can stop outlaws from existing. Some people just don’t want to play by the rules.”
“Some people can’t afford to,” Jerry muttered.
“I—I know. I know. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Do you, though?” Jerry asked. “Do you know? Seeing as you grew up under the Guardian side of the Fire Clan, I—and don’t you start about it being fake, it still existed!”
Amia was about to speak, but she stopped when he had raised his voice. “I’m guessing your family was not part of the ones that were involved with the Fire Orb, then.”
“No,” Jerry said. “I guess not. To be honest, I’m not even sure why it all happened. They were all just stories. Yet it turns out they were true, huh?”
Amia hesitated. “I don’t know much about your history, either, Jerry. I don’t even know what the schism was all about. I got the Orb for… different reasons. The whole schism—I don’t know why it started, or what happened from all of it.”
“Oh, really? And how long have you been Guardian?”
Amia nibbled on her lips. “A bit over five centuries.”
Jerry stared. “What—”
“I was supposed to die a long time ago,” she said quickly. “But—some things came up, and I couldn’t.”
“Some things,” said Jerry. “You mean Owen. You raised him for five hundred years? No wonder he doesn’t act his age.”
“I don’t act my age,” Amia said. “I don’t think you can act five hundred years old. Mystics… stagnate. We settle into certain mindsets. I’ve noticed that. But I suppose that isn’t a bad thing.”
“Otherwise, you’d go crazy. Maybe the brain just changes as you age. Seeing as you don’t age, you don’t change.” Jerry shrugged.
“How old are you, dear?” Amia asked.
“Thirty-two. Gonna turn thirty-three on the third moon of autumn.”
“Oh, it’s almost autumn, isn’t it?” Amia said.
“When’s your hatch day?” Jerry asked with an amused smirk.
Amia flinched and turned away, nearly falling again. Jerry resituated her again. “I don’t remember.”
Jerry didn’t expect to feel a pit of guilt in his gut from that one. “Oh.”
“You’d think I’d remember something that monumental, but I don’t,” she said. “I don’t even remember which season it was.”
Jerry said nothing. And in the steady silence of the chamber, the Aerodactyl felt his eyelids descend, slowly, without him realizing. There was a strange warmth about this place, and a soothing aura that flowed through the air. It must have been the healing that they talked about before, but now, in the calm, Jerry felt like it was wrapping around him like blankets.
Jerry jolted upright, catching himself before he fell asleep completely. Amia squeaked, falling onto her side again. “Oof—Jerry, dear, are you okay?” Amia craned her neck to get a better look.
“I’m just fine.”
Amia studied him.
He used his wings to pull her back upright, scrunching his snout at the sight of what appeared to be tiny fingers sprouting from her growing arm-stump. They moved and twitched tentatively.
“You look so tired, dear.”
“Hmph, well, I haven’t slept in a while,” he said. “Now that I think about it, I haven’t had a good meal in me, either. I guess that energized pulse Star gave me did the trick because I’m not that hungry yet. Could do for something in the morning, though…”
Near the end, Jerry’s voice had faded into a disorganized mumble.
“Ohh, Jerry, get some sleep. We were wondering the same thing on the way here. Gahi was so tired he slammed into Owen and fused with him!” Amia laughed; Jerry preemptively steadied her body for the inevitable topple. “Thank you, dear.”
“I still don’t know why I got caught up in all this,” Jerry said. “I only went to that swamp to avoid the authorities. Not like they’d ever go there. It was the perfect hiding spot, and after dealing with all the stories about the Void, I figured the swamp wouldn’t be anything to worry about.”
“Mm, because of all the rumors?”
“Yeah.” Jerry said. “The Void claiming the souls of those who fall into it? All those strange sightings of dark creatures skittering around the south? The swamp was nothing compared to that. So, I went there. The only story about that swamp was that going too deep into the poison meant you’d never escape, so I just never did.”
Amia shifted uncomfortably the more Jerry talked about the Void, but she instead focused on what Jerry had alluded to otherwise. “Until you followed us,” she pointed out.
“Nrgh. I got greedy,” Jerry said. “I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to take Owen down.”
Amia frowned, finding a way to adjust herself without Jerry’s help. “Owen wasn’t even out there to arrest you. He was traveling, and he was attacked. Team Alloy was the one that…”
Jerry looked away, and a long silence followed between them. What did it matter? He was just getting some quick goods and cash so he could make a few ends meet. Finding food in the wild was getting a lot harder. Too many territorial wild Pokémon as civilization grew and growing pockets of outskirt towns and villages sent the ferals to get lost in Dungeons. Ghrelle’s words echoed in his mind, but he saw no other, easy way out. The life of an outlaw was just the easiest path. He was already used to it from his father, after all.
“Why do you hate Owen so much?” Amia asked softly.
Oh, and this again. He shouldn’t have been surprised; of course his mother would see him as a golden child. Still… “I don’t… hate him.”
Amia didn’t look convinced, but she also didn’t challenge him. “Oh, okay.”
“Don’t give me that,” Jerry growled, rubbing his skull. “I know that tone.”
“Don’t give me that either! Argh, you guys are all the same! I don’t get it.” He leaned back angrily. His back squished against Emily’s flesh, and he reflexively jolted forward again.
“Perhaps that’s just the sort of personality Anam recruits,” Amia said quietly.
That brought out another pang of bitterness in the back of Jerry’s throat. He bit on his cheek, getting a phantom sensation of tasting iron, despite not biting hard enough to draw blood. He eased up and sighed.
It was faint, but Jerry heard quiet mumbles through the walls. They were talking amongst each other. It sounded like they were playing some sort of word game. Emily was too thick to hear the details, only the tone. And then, laughter.
Amia laughed with them. “It seems that they’re in good spirits.”
They listened to a few of the rounds, not hearing any of the words, just the noises. Manny was particularly boisterous. Every so often, they heard the gentle tone of Zena speaking quickly next, and then Owen at the same pace. Owen stumbled over his words, and that caused another round of laughter.
Jerry wrapped his wings around himself, finally relenting. He pressed against the fleshy walls and let exhaustion take over.
He finally found the words. “It’s his eyes.” He sighed.
Amia looked up. “I’m sorry?”
“Owen’s eyes,” he said. “They’re just like Anam’s. Have you noticed?”
Amia looked at Jerry, puzzled. Jerry realized shortly after that, on the face of it, perhaps it didn’t make sense. Anam’s eyes were green like the slimy orbs that lined his body. Owen’s eyes were the natural blue of his Charizard line. Despite being a mutant, that was one feature that didn’t change. Anam’s were also a lot bigger.
“They have light,” Jerry said. “This… this brightness about them. He’s always… going into things with…” Jerry shook his head. “There’s just an energy to it. Like it’ll all be okay. Like he’ll figure it out. Even if he’s facing someone like me, he still had that light in them. I’ve seen how dejected he was when I slashed his throat, and I still saw that light in his eyes. I don’t know what to call it.” He brought his wings forward, picking at a loose scale on the left wing’s rightmost claw. “I hate it.”
Amia turned her head toward Jerry, curiously staring into his eyes from the side. She wondered if he had that same light. What was the light? What did it look like? But Amia didn’t know what to look for. All she saw was that Jerry was tired.
“I’m sorry it bothers you so much.”
“Don’t be,” Jerry said, grunting. “You guys are the ones who have it all together. My problem with Owen is just that. My problem.” He looked up. “Once I’m healed, I’ll just go back to Kilo and finish my sentence. Then I can put all this behind me. I’ll let Star wipe my memories of all this. Then I can move on.”
Amia cleared her throat, but nothing followed.
Jerry glanced at Amia and caught a glimpse of her eyes. He saw it in her, too. She wanted to help him. There was a hopeful light in her eyes.
Jerry turned away and leaned against the wall. “I’m going to sleep. I need it.”
Amia nodded. “Okay, dear. Good night.”
Amia fell over from the nod. Jerry stirred slightly, but Amia quickly said it was okay, and he settled down. The Aerodactyl slept; the Gardevoir remained awake, staring pensively at the walls.
“What do you mean, not healed?!”
“B-buh, huh?” Gahi rolled over, blinking at the sun. “Aghh, what’s with that light…?”
Jerry clutched at the scarf around his neck, but then looked at Gahi. “WAH!” the Aerodactyl shouted, pointing an accusatory wing at him. “What happened to your face?!”
“What d’you mean, my face?!” Gahi shouted in a hiss. “No uglier than yers, stone-breath!”
Jerry and Gahi both growled at one another like two ferals fighting over territory. Gahi eventually broke his stare to reach down and grab his goggles.
“Um,” Owen spoke up gently, “the red hoods, on Gahi’s face are actually removable.”
“N-not for normal Flygon, they aren’t!”
“Demitri can remove his tusks, too,” Owen recalled, tapping a claw on his chin. “I guess that’s just how Nevren designed us.”
Owen and Gahi both shrugged. Owen did have to admit, though, seeing those coverings off of Gahi’s face made his otherwise entirely green, shiny head a bit bare. “Gahi, does everything look red when you put those on?”
“Eh?” Gahi asked. He placed the red coverings over his eyes; they sank into his scales, and then made a gentle, organic click once Gahi found the right position.
Jerry looked ill.
“Nah, maybe a little? But I think it only looks red on the outside. Y’wanna try’m on?” He pulled one off with a pop.
“Please stop doing that,” Jerry begged.
“I—I think we’re okay. Just keep them on, Gahi,” Owen said.
Gahi shrugged and clicked it back on.
“Emily, dear,” Amia said—she was still green, which bothered Owen. “What do you mean, Jerry isn’t healed?”
“His aura’s still… bad,” Emily said.
“Not you, too,” Jerry growled.
“N-no, no! As in… he has… the bad stuff! Melty-melty if he takes the scarf off!”
“Wait,” Star spoke up. “You mean you couldn’t cure him?”
“I got eaten for nothing?” Jerry hissed.
Emily nibbled on her massive wing-fingers. “Sorry,” she said. “This never happened before. But… I can’t heal you!” The way Emily trembled suggested this was more distressing for the Lugia than it was for Jerry.
The outlaw paced in a small circle. “So, what, then? I’m just—doomed to melt?”
“We know that the Stable Scarf can keep you intact,” Star said. “As long as you keep that on, you won’t melt. In fact, I think it got enhanced a little by Emily. I think now if you wear it, it’ll actually restore you back to normal if you take it off and melt. I’ll call it… a Stabilize Scarf!”
Jerry wondered why the Creator was so uncreative. “And if I lose it, then what?”
“Then you’ll melt.”
Jerry growled. “So, I have to stay by you guys so I can get healed. Is that it?”
“Well…” Star said. “I guess so, yeah. I don’t think any of these guys would want you out in the wild and in their conscience, huh?”
“Yeah, if Jerry isn’t cured, we can’t let him go,” Owen said. “He still has to pay his dues, but if he’ll melt if he accidentally loses the Scarf, then—n-no, we can’t.”
“So, you’re saying I’m stuck with you guys for good,” Jerry said.
“Until we can undo it,” Star said. “Ghrelle isn’t gonna. Maybe Anam can? He’s probably our strongest Mystic.”
“I will not ask for his help,” Jerry said.
“Too bad,” Star said. She turned around. “I guess that’s everything. We have a personal Waypoint set for here, right?”
“We do,” Owen said.
“Alright. That’s all we need. Badges should be charged for now, so—let’s head home!”
Owen nodded and pulled out his Badge. Gahi did the same; between the two, it would be enough to warp everyone back.
Amia glanced at the cave, noticing that most of the glass had been cleared away. “I’m sorry about your home, Emily.”
“Oh! It’s okay,” Emily said. “The others helped clean it out! And Zena washed away everything else, too!”
“Yeah, Zena was great!” Owen said. “Would’ve taken forever without her helping.”
Zena giggled. “Well, everyone was a great help,” she said, nudging Owen.
Owen stumbled forward when Zena nudged him. He glanced oddly at Zena, blushing. “Hey, are you alright?”
“Hm? How do you mean, Owen?”
“I dunno. Sometimes you get weird reactions. So, for future reference, what’re you feeling right now?”
Jerry rubbed his head. Was he seriously that blind? All that head-scrambling must have really done a number of the kid’s ability to process basic social cues. “How do you function?” he said. “She’s happy, nitwit.”
“B-but I know what she’s like when she’s happy! This was different!”
“Oh, Mew, just take us home.”
Star’s ear twitched.
“I am happy, Owen,” Zena said with an apologetic smile. “Maybe what you’re feeling is me being comfortable, too.”
“Comfortable, huh? Okay. I’ll keep that in mind.” Owen closed his eyes, mumbling to himself. “Comfortable.” He rubbed his arm, looking away. “Comfortable…”
Jerry wondered if he should tell Owen that it was a lot more than comfort. No, he’ll let him figure it out on his own. Jerry doubted he’d ever learn if he just gave him the answers. Besides, maybe Owen could learn what a lost opportunity felt like.
Jerry tugged noncommittally at the Scarf, realizing that he was going to be living with the smart idiot for a lot longer.
“Let’s go!” Gahi said, clicking their Badge. Owen did the same after Emily stepped a safe distance away. In a flash, they all left, and the Lugia waved a massive arm goodbye. Tanneth did the same atop her shoulder.