Chapter 97 - Reaching Out
- Aug 18, 2018
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Chapter 97 – Reaching Out
A great Titan towered over the forest, charging a Shadow Blast. Anam was all too familiar with the attack; it was a signature, powerful technique that all basic Titans shared.
It fired; Anam countered with a sigh, which unleashed a halfhearted, indigo, yet radiant blast of his own. The light of his attack cut through the strike and split the blast across the empty fields of purple grass behind him. When the attack faded, Anam fired again and blasted the Titan directly, knocking its front half into pieces. He closed his eyes and clasped his hands together. Please, have a moment of peace.
The rest of the body went limp, countless Void Shadows scattering in all directions.
Anam watched them go, a few of them firing parting shots of darkness toward him, but a barrier of light dissipated all but the strongest ones, which lightly stung his amorphous body.
The Goodra then advanced, his horns drooping, with slow steps.
Anam, you should hurry, a voice called within him.
“I’m sorry, Jam-Jam” Anam said, taking a breath. “I don’t like hurting them.”
I understand. But please, before Dark Matter gets to the town. You can feel him getting closer, can’t you?
And talk to us mentally when you go in there, James chided. You want to convince them to evacuate, not that you’re crazy.
Perhaps, a new voice said, this time of his mother, you should start practicing that now.
It was a miracle that he had company at all. Dark Matter had claimed so many spirits within his core, but James and Madeline, his parents, he was able to wrest back. But so many of the others were still somewhere in the Voidlands, either as Void Shadows, or frightened spirits trying to live their sad lives.
Anam shook his head—bad thoughts. He shouldn’t focus on that. He had to save them. He could save them! He just… needed to find the others. Defeating Dark Matter wasn’t something he alone could do, after all. It was too bad he couldn’t get to Necrozma immediately, not with the power he had now.
“Just a little more,” Anam said, leaping into the air and flying forward. Even in the Voidlands, under Dark Matter’s domain, he still had some of his Mystic power manifesting. Just ahead, Anam saw a great spire jutting out of the dead forest, as well as several Pokémon flying overhead. Good, they spotted him.
Less good, they were firing at him.
Twirling to the left, Anam easily dodged a Hyper Beam, and then another barrel roll left him only grazed by an Ice Beam. Then came the great charge from the spire itself, energy concentrating at the tip in a fine, bright point. Anam held his hand forward.
A beam of energy, another high-powered Hyper Beam, cut across the trees, incinerating the tips off the branches it touched, but Anam knew how to manipulate crystal energy. He deflected it to the left, where it sliced through the forest and left a messy, smoldering gash in the trees. That left the scouts panicking; they must have expected it to be a direct hit.
“Wait!” Anam shouted, but his voice didn’t carry far. He flew faster, but then wobbled in the air—he was using his power too much. It was so strange to not have Dark Matter powering him anymore.
Be careful, Anam, Madeline said.
He landed a few paces from what he thought was the town’s entrance. Within seconds, scouts surrounded him, using the gnarled trees as cover.
“Wait!” he shouted again. “I need to speak to your leaders! Quickly!”
Anam’s breaths were quick and shallow, and he tried to keep calm. The reckless act of going straight into town was already catching up to him—he couldn’t feel their negativity anymore. He had no idea what any of them were thinking. Dark Matter wasn’t there to tell him. What if they were thinking of how to dispose of him?
“Who are you?” came a deep, demanding voice from the left.
“I’m Goodra Anam, and Dark Matter is coming here! Please, I need to see your leader!”
More silence followed, and it ate away at Anam. Losing his patience and composure, Anam took another step toward the town, but a sudden blast of ice struck the ground a few feet ahead.
“Stay right where you are, Dragon,” came a feminine voice to the right.
“Please,” Anam said. “Can’t you detect him or something? I need to—”
“You’re going to have to wait until we can make sure you’re not a Void Shadow.”
“But—but I—I just deflected that Z-Crystal beam thing! Void Shadows can’t do that!”
To this, there was not only silence in words, but the subtle movements of Pokémon moving around, perhaps communicating to the scout leader, or sending other nonverbal signals throughout the ring that had Anam surrounded. Every second wasted, Anam felt Dark Matter drift closer. He was perhaps only half a day away. That wasn’t nearly enough time.
I’m sorry, Anam thought, though he wasn’t sure who it was directed toward.
Not yet, Anam—
Anam rushed for the entrance and, instantly, a flurry of action overtook his senses. Lights of all colors, but mostly cyan, came from the left and right, and a cold, sharp pain shot through his body. His advance was halted in an instant because his legs refused to respond, completely frozen in ice. He shook his body and freed one leg and decided the other one wasn’t worth keeping. His left horn extended and shattered the ice where it met his right leg. The excess of his body fashioned itself into another one.
More beams of energy came next, this time striking him in the chest. This was ideal, because he could keep running—
A heavy fist slammed into Anam’s back in a downward strike, sinking into his body.
“Ugh! What is this guy?!”
Anam jerked forward, caught on his fist, and tried to wiggle free, but his assailant was grasping onto the ice that had formed in his chest like a glacier. He pushed harder and fell forward, ignoring the hole in his chest where the ice block had been.
“He really is a Void Shadow! Kill it!”
“No, please!” Anam rolled out of the way. These scouts were strong—hardened by the Voidlands and potentially centuries of training, for all he knew. He simply wouldn’t be able to stand up to that kind of skill and get away unscathed.
But he could afford a little damage.
Guys, can you help make a distraction? Anam begged.
But he didn’t have time to hash out a plan, so he tried it on his own. He slammed his hands on the ground and channeled Ghostly energy into the floor. He hated that cold power, but it didn’t feel as foul anymore—his portion of the Ghost Orb was not tainted by Dark Matter’s presence.
The guards felt differently, suddenly shouting as hands rose from the ground. The dead hands dragged them downward. They struggled and broke free, but more rose and dragged them deeper. That would keep them stuck for a while—
More ice coated Anam’s body and suddenly his whole lower half was solid. He squeaked in surprise and then wailed in pain when that persistent Machamp’s fist slammed into the ice, shattering it. Machamp shouted in horror, which Anam understood. Shattering a Pokémon was probably not his intent.
Anam went flying forward, but this was good! In a sudden burst of inspiration, Anam’s body softened, and his horns hardened. Then, with a firm jab downward, Anam could no longer feel his chest.
It had been a long while since Anam had been headless—well, bodiless—but he still had some of the motions return to him in seconds. It was like a Charizard discovering how to fly. He ignored his parents’ warnings about being so vulnerable. At this point, any single hit would freeze him completely. He knew that. He also knew that if he got held up at all, he’d run out of time.
A little faster. His horns dug into the ground and he galloped forward, and he briefly recalled an old, old game he’d played with his parents. Hearing them talk to him like parents must have jogged the memory. Another game of Blaster.
With a childish grin, Anam slammed his face into the ground and channeled what energy he could in the back of his throat. There was less space than usual to work with, but it would do; as just a head, this wasn’t too different from a Goomy with abnormally large horns, right? Then, he fired, and just in time; the cold chill of an Ice Beam coated the ground he’d just stood, and he was propelled upward and through the sky. A second Dragon Pulse to the left and he dodged several more stray blasts, and then he was out of their range and—
He slammed into a wall with a wet SLAP. Dazed, Anam curled his horns around whatever he could, miraculously finding some leverage around a curve. He had landed on a rooftop, his company being some purplish scum and slightly tilted tiles.
Ignoring the looming sense of dread that was Dark Matter’s approach, Anam focused on the powerful auras nearby. Two in particular—Dragons, like him? They weren’t quite Guardians, but it was something similar, like Hunters. They might be the leaders.
You should hurry, Anam, Madeline warned. Remember, one hit and—
Okay, okay, Anam said. Um, okay. Two more blasts, one to get away, and another to… oh, this roof is strong, right?
You don’t have a choice, Madeline said.
Anam hummed nervously and positioned his face downward. Then, with another blast, he was in the sky—thankfully, the roof held. Must have been like the buildings in Kilo. A second blast diverted him away from the initial volleys of Ice Beams from the scouts below.
From above, the town was beautiful. In the dark, jagged sea of Void Forest, this town was a speckled beacon of light, dotted with so many different colors in the walls and along the rooftops. It scared away the Titans; while they were drawn to crystals, they were warded away by high concentrations of it… It was no different than the warmth of a campfire and the terror of an inferno.
He was falling, the colorful buildings looking less like squares and more like proper structures again. But this time it was fine; the scouts, while still pursuing him from the sky and the ground, were far behind, and he only needed to see the leaders.
“Help!” Anam shouted at the two guards that stared, dumbfounded, at the Goodra head that had just rolled across the ground. “I need to talk to your leaders! Quickly!”
The first guard, a bewildered Inkay, wrapped a tendril around a crystal in the satchel under her beak. “What—what happened to you?”
The second guard, a wary Beartic, snarled down and said, “Careful. It looks like scouts are chasing it.”
“No, no, wait! I’m not a Void Shadow, I’m just a little funny!”
“A little funny? Where’d the rest of you go?!”
“Frozen by the entrance.” Anam landed on his cheek and used one horn to point vaguely north.
“How are you talking?!” Inkay shouted. “Don’t Goodra need lungs for that?”
“Well, I don’t usually use my lungs,” Anam said.
Beartic squinted. “That just gives me even more questions!”
A rough, quick voice shouted from within the building. “Okay, what’s going on?”
“Latios, stay back!” Beartic said, not breaking his gaze away from Anam. The Goodra hoped that he wouldn’t get frozen as a precaution.
“Oh, get over it.”
Out came a blue-white creature covered in fine feathers and rigid, angular wings jutting out from either side of his back. His eyes were fixed in a perpetual, serious stare, and his arms were in a defensive position beneath his chest despite his casual tone.
Latios floated higher to get a look at Anam. “It’s just a weird-looking Goomy.”
“Um, I’m actually a Goodra. My name’s Anam!” He waved with his horn, but when he did, he accidentally rolled over and spent the next few seconds trying to right himself.
“Then where’s the rest of—” Latios stopped. “Wait, Anam? Kilo’s ruler?”
“Well, I’m actually called the Heart of Hearts, not ruler.”
“Anam,” Beartic repeated. “You mean Dark Matter’s seal?”
“If our intelligence is anything to go by,” Latios murmured. “Let him in. I’ll get Latias.”
“You can’t feel his aura? No way that’s a Void Shadow.”
“No, I can’t,” Beartic deadpanned, crossing his massive arms. “Unlike you, I happen to not be an immortal fallen god.”
“Oh, right.” Latios didn’t even look back. “Come on in, Anam.”
“Thank you!” Anam stiffened his horns and crawled inside. “Oh! Um, and can you ask for them to carry my body here? It’s a lot easier than regenerating it…”
“Oh, sure,” Latios said. “Beartic, do that.”
Beartic sputtered over his words, then grunted and lumbered away. Inkay floated in the air, drifting toward Latios, then at Beartic, and then finally decided on settling on the latter’s head.
Anam followed Latios through the building, which seemed even larger thanks to his Goomy-sized perspective of it all. Supersized doors led to overwhelming halls that were well-lit and colorful but gentle mixtures of light blues and reds. After a few turns, Latios floated in front of a metal, sliding door that sank inward and slid into the wall.
Something clattered to the ground and a red creature, similar to Latios, flew around a central table and hid underneath it.
Latios, sighing, drooped his head and said, “Latias… just me.”
“O-oh, oh, I’m sorry,” Latias said, peeking out from the side of the table. “It was so loud out there, I thought something had gone wrong. Um, why is there a weird Goomy with you?”
“Goodra head. It’s Anam.” Latios floated inside and gestured for Anam to take a seat—which he struggled to climb—and settled on the other side of the table.
“Oh! Anam!” Latias peeked up. “Wait—Anam? What’re you doing here? That’s… that’s really bad!”
Anam climbed further to get a better look at what was displayed on the center of this chamber, which resembled some kind of small conference room. Countless papers riddled the walls, all kinds of notes that Anam couldn’t discern. The back of the room had a map of the Voidlands with a gold pin in the eastern portion of the forest area—depicted in a dark green, despite the actual colors—which must have been their location.
The center table was alight with a screen of buttons, not unlike one of Nevren’s strange inventions. However, it looked like this one was displaying another, more interactive map of the Voidlands, with several dots either blinking or remaining stationary on the map. One dot was a black color with a white outline, which was blinking and slowly moving toward their current location.
“I know it seems bad,” Anam said to Latias. “But, um, I’m here to warn you guys that Dark Matter is coming. But… it looks like you guys already know.” He looked at the black dot on the map.
“We do. We’re already preparing to evacuate,” Latios said.
“Oh.” Anam should have known that they’d be more competent, even with such an unexpected event. They probably had countless ‘doomsday’ scenarios and action plans in their systems…
“But you should tell us everything anyway,” Latios said. “Why are you here? I thought you were Dark Matter’s seal.”
“I, um… I lost my grip a little,” Anam admitted, shame gripping at where his heart should have been. “A-and now I can’t get it back without weakening him, but he’s too strong… I need to find some of my friends that are trapped here, too. Others who are like me! Please, did you see anything like that?”
“Hmm… No.” Latios floated toward Latias and asked, “Any reports about others like Anam?”
“Um, what would that even mean?” Latias asked. “Like you how? Just a head?”
“No, um, as in, more powerful than usual? Maybe they react—oh! They react to Z-Crystals more!”
“Well, we have a lot of those. People who inherited Necrozma’s blessing.”
“No, even more than that,” Anam said. “They should have an even stronger reaction because they, um, ohh, it’s too long to explain! They just do! They have a piece of Necrozma’s power!”
“Mhm! Some more than others. Like me!”
Ask them about Owen, Madeline said. He’s here, too.
“Oh! And a Charizard! He’d probably have the strongest reaction of them all.”
“No new Charizard has showed up here lately,” Latios said. “But y’know, I’ll try to send word to the other cities and ask, but… That’s a risk on its own, you know. Alexander might be spying on any messages we send.
No, Owen. Ask about Owen specifically.
“Um, not just any Charizard—Owen.”
Latios and Latias both looked at one another, then at Anam. “Owen?” Latias asked. “He should be long dead. Wasn’t he mortal?”
“I thought he was killed,” Latios added.
“He’s alive, oh, um, he’s here, so I guess not alive,” Anam said. “But he worked under me for a little while. I was taking care of him! Kind of.”
“Owen…” Latias levitated a little higher, her expression brightening. Then, it suddenly twisted into horror. “Wait… Owen! Alexander would try to imprison him immediately—at best!”
“We need to spread the news without our lovely King finding out,” Latios agreed. “Anam, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to send something over the network. Did you visit any other towns? We’ve got the North, West, and South strongholds to visit next. If Owen’s anywhere, it’d be one of those places. Or he’s already in Cipher City, but we’d probably know about that by now…”
“I passed by the North one,” Anam said. “I didn’t feel anything there, though, not like Owen.”
“Good. That narrows things down.” Latios looked at Latias, nodding. “I have a plan. We’re some of the fastest fliers in the Voidlands, but I’m a little faster. I’m going to head to West Null Village and probably try to avoid the Cipher City scouts. I’ll have to fly wide around the city. Latias, take the easier route for South Null Village. Anam, you’ve got leadership experience up there, right? We’re gonna give you a good word so you can help protect this place while we’re gone.”
“A-are you sure?”
“They can handle themselves without us,” Latios assured. “Okay. It’s sudden but we also don’t have a lot of time. Latias, if you run into any trouble, just head back, alright?”
“Mhm. And you too.” Latias floated a little higher, nervously fidgeting. “I, um, if you get hurt, fly back. And if you think the scouts are following you, fly back, too. Nobody can outrun you, and we’ll be safer together…”
“I’ll prepare some letters to deliver to them to say we needed to send an alert about Dark Matter,” Latios said. “Maybe say Dark Matter messed up our communications.”
Anam wasn’t following most of their planning and instead looked back at the doorway, wondering where the rest of his body was, or if they were still thawing it out.
Eventually, Anam realized Latias was addressing him directly: “It’s, um, good to meet you in person, Anam. I knew your mother for a while, and, um, also Giratina. I hope, um, oh, I shouldn’t have mentioned, she’s probably…”
…Giratina? What about Giratina? Madeline said, and her perplexed tone bled through Anam.
“What?” Anam asked. “Um, Mom is okay, but what about Giratina?”
“Eh? I always associated those two together. Oh, it’s been so long, but they were always together, you know?”
…What in the world is she talking about?
“Sorry, I don’t think Mom ever mentioned Giratina to me,” Anam said. “Are you sure it was Giratina?”
“No, I remember, too,” Latios said, tilting his head. “I suppose it has been a thousand years or so…”
Anam and Madeline both fell silent, and James hummed on the left side of Anam’s mind. Strange, he said. Not once did Giratina cross Madeline’s mind, at least, she never mentioned them to me.
Could I have lost a memory of an entire person somehow? I don’t understand…
Anam frowned. He was no longer bound by the Promise he had made to Dark Matter now that the conditional—Dark Matter never attacking—had been broken. But even then, he had no knowledge of Giratina’s association with his mother. How thoroughly had they been erased? How? Perhaps it was like Dialga and Palkia. Nevren remembered Dialga, and Rhys remembered Palkia. Yet neither remembered the other.
“Anyway,” Latios said, breaking the pensive silence, “we don’t have time to think about that. I need to fly. West Null Village is a lot farther away than South, so I’m taking a head start. Latias, once you have everything prepped here, go South.”
“Mm!” Latias nodded, fidgeting again. “They, um, I’ll do my best! And, er, um…”
“Don’t worry, Sis.” Latios grinned and nuzzled her side. “They trust you. You’re the nice one, remember?”
Latias nodded, her feathers fluffing up. “N-nice, right. But maybe they need a commander…”
“Well, then imagine you’re blue,” Latios said. “Okay, I need to get going. No time left.” He glanced at the map; Dark Matter was accelerating. “Definitely no time. Anam, you’re sure you can hold him off?”
Anam hesitated. “I can stall.”
“Good enough. I’m counting on you. Latias, you too. You can do it.”
“Right. I will!”
He flew out of the planning room and Latias poked at a few buttons on the wall. “I’m going to make a backup of all the data we need and pass it to the scouts,” Latias said. “I’ll make a few copies. I’ll give some to you.”
“Data? Of what?”
“Stuff we know about Alexander and tracking Necrozma. But if this place gets destroyed by Dark Matter, or the scouts come with another random inspection, we need a way to hide it.” She looked back at Anam. “So, um, if you’re here, and Dark Matter’s moving, and Necrozma’s light spiked a few months ago… does that mean we’re escaping the Voidlands soon?”
Anam blinked, thinking. Now that it was all coming to a head, it was odd that all the Guardians were glowing more than usual just before Owen became the Grass Guardian… Was that a coincidence?
“There’s a way out, right?” Latias asked. “We—that’s what we’ve been fighting for all this time. There has to be, right?”
“Yes, there is,” Anam assured. “I’m… I’m sorry that you’ve all been sealed for so long, but it was to keep the wraiths from escaping, and…”
A cold, sinking feeling came from his phantom chest again, and probably not because his body was still thawing. That was right. His blessings had been undone. The seal between the Voidlands and Kilo was broken… All of the Dungeons were gateways into the Voidlands once more.
Latias jammed a strange rectangle in Anam’s head. “There you go,” she said. “um, sorry, that didn’t hurt, did it?”
Anam crossed his eyes, even if the gesture was meaningless. “What is it?”
“The data. Hang onto it! And… thank you, Anam, again. To see light again!” She raised a tiny fist.
“Y-yeah. To see light again!”
“Owen, that’s enough!” Tim cried.
But it wasn’t. Owen clawed his way through yet another training dummy that Tim had set up—or rather, the one that Owen had put together just to slice through again. They had brought them at the strange human shop, ten of them for cheap since they were on something the humans called ‘clearance.’ He didn’t know what it meant, but they got more when it happened.
The evening sun left an orange glow on the pale green hillsides and long shadows extended across the fields before it. Tim’s shadow was a few paces away from Owen’s, yet the young trainer did not move closer.
His claws bled and his red scales had a tinge of darker crimson. He had occasionally wiped them on his chest, leaving little flecks along his cream underbelly, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to be satisfied until he could cleave these training dummies in two with one swipe. So far, he was down to three slashes, which was much better than the seven he’d started out with. Pokémon were more durable, and they moved and fought back, but training was training.
And it wouldn’t be enough until he knew he could defend Tim properly.
Tim was behind him, perhaps too afraid to get in the way, so Owen ignored him and went for another horizontal slice, his claws wreathed in fire.
“You need rest, too, Owen,” Tim begged.
“Not until I know it won’t happen again,” Owen said between breaths. “I don’t… I won’t be taken away from you.”
“I know you want to get stronger,” Tim said, “but you’ll only get… get vulnerable if…”
“I won’t lose again!” Owen spun around to glare fiery daggers at Tim. “I c-can’t… Not when there are humans out there that could… could just steal me! I n-never felt so… useless before. I’m…”
His legs wobbled but he refused to kneel. He hid his tail from Tim’s view, too, because he knew it was dim and wavering.
Owen was all Tim had left. The rest of their team was gone. The police wouldn’t find them. Ayame had said they were some kind of crime syndicate. There was no way…
Tim held Owen’s shoulders firmly, and Owen had forgotten how weak his touch had become. That poison was potent. But Tim’s strength was returning rapidly, even though it had been a few days. Humans were a lot stronger than Owen gave them credit for—or maybe it was just Tim who was strong like that.
“Please,” Tim said. “Let’s rest for tonight.”
The wind blew, sending a few stray blades of grass into Tim’s hair. Another blade burned in his tail, and that’s how he knew he was too worked up. Normally that flame only burned hot when he was agitated or in battle. If it was just training, it would have only been a gentle warmth.
But how could he train with a clear mind anymore?
He didn’t have Duos to spar with. With the whole team gone he had to pick up the slack.
But now that he was out of the battle for a while, his claws ached and stung, and his chest was tight and his throat dry. Maybe taking a break would be a good idea…
Rustling grass that didn’t match the wind patterns caught their attention. Ascending the lower hills was Ayame; beside her, a Dragonair. They both wore somber expressions, though there was still that pompous air about her.
“Hey,” Tim greeted, trying to keep a steady voice.
“I got something for you,” Ayame said, and then tossed a small package to Tim. With a bit of fumbling, he caught it and looked down, inquisitive.
“What is it?” he asked as Ayame sat down by the top of the hill. Tim sat with her.
Ire curled around Owen assertively. Owen growled and tried to wiggle away, but Ire growled back and bumped his cheek against Owen’s side.
“You fight too much,” Ire lectured. “Relax!” There was cheer in his tone, but his eyes were stern. He must have inherited them from Ayame.
“I can’t relax when I’m weak,” Owen said.
“You’ll be weaker if you fight too much.”
They all said the same thing, but at this point, Owen was in no position to fight back—mostly because Ire had rendered him immobile.
Ayame placed something in front of Ire, and Tim placed another package for Owen to look through. Smelled like food—and the moment that registered, the Charmeleon’s stomach growled. Ire relaxed and let Owen go.
“A TM?” Tim asked, the other package now open.
“Owen’s been training hard, but I don’t think strength alone is going to cut it,” Ayame said. “With everything we know, I think learning about new techniques might help Owen more than anything. Knowledge might speed up his training, make him stronger than a Charmeleon at the same strength, in a way. And besides, I know he’s smart. He helps you with your math homework, doesn’t he?”
“N-no, he just looks at the pictures.”
“Mmhm. Anyway, try it out on him.”
“Which one is it?”
“Pretty strange move, but one that’ll help him learn exactly how it feels to use other moves. What better way to learn about what enemies can do than use their techniques yourself, right?”
Tim flipped the disc a few times over, frowning.
“It’s called Mimic,” Ayame said. “If Owen sees a move, he can capture that energy for a short time and store it inside himself. Then, he can call upon it and use that same energy again.”
“What?” Tim scratched his head. “Is that even something he’s compatible with?”
“Mimic is compatible with almost all Pokémon,” Ayame said, “but it’s also a huge strain, so be really careful. I heard rumors that they’re going to discontinue this TM, or they’re planning to, because it’s not really that popular. But I was just thinking about everything, and maybe it’s just what Owen needs.”
“How much did you spend on…”
Ayame smiled dismissively. “Forget it.”
Owen awoke to a Void Shadow staring at him with nothing but a clear screen keeping him safe.
“Hi, Mom,” Owen said blearily, rubbing his eyes. Something about Mimic…that felt useful, but he couldn’t piece together why.
The Void Shadow said nothing in reply.
“Did you sleep at all? Was my fire bothering you? It’s technically light or something, right? And that’s supposed to… wait, how did I know that?” Owen scratched at his scalp, humming. Right, those crystals were imbued with light, or something like light, or called light, and…
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Jerry said from the entrance.
Owen stiffened, but then looked back. Only then did he realize that there was a blanket over him, soft like silk.
“I don’t remember falling asleep,” Owen admitted.
“Yeah, you kinda conked out next to Zena. We grabbed a blanket, cleaned up the food, and left you to rest.” Jerry held up another package of food which smelled like a light, sweet breakfast.
A confused warmth spread through Owen’s chest at that, and he still wondered where this more tender side of Jerry was coming from after everything else that happened. And despite this, what Jerry had told him before, and his general attitude prior, was now at the forefront of his mind.
Jerry scowled. “What? Still hate me?”
Owen hadn’t realized the glare he’d given. “No, I—” The reality was he didn’t, and the glare wasn’t meant for him. “I was just thinking back, sorry. You happened to be where I was looking.”
“…Bah, like you can lie.” Jerry set the food down. “We’re going to be having a meeting in Dialga’s room pretty soon, but you don’t need to come if you—”
“I’ll be coming,” Owen automatically said.
“You sure?” Jerry replied just as quickly. “Like, we get it. If you need to spend more time with Amia…”
“That isn’t it.” As much as Owen wanted to. “I need to be stronger right now. For her, too, even if she might… not completely recognize me right now.” He smiled sadly, but then stood up, taking a sharp breath. “Alright! Enough moping. Nothing’s gonna help her if I do!”
Jerry flinched, and for a second, there was a hint of some foul emotion on his face that Owen couldn’t quite place. But then he wiped it away and looked forward. “Right. Then follow me.”
Everyone gathered in Dialga’s room, a larger-than-life chamber with illustrations of tall, rugged mountains and artificial wind from fans in camouflaged walls. The ground was intentionally uneven and rocky to better support the feel of a Dragon’s ideal habitat, though Dialga didn’t seem impressed.
Trina, Eon, and Gahi had to be taken away—along with Xypher—to be inspected and patched up for their injuries. Hakk had chosen to stay with Xypher to keep him company. Marshadow, however, was fine enough to attend.
That only left Zena, Jerry, Owen, Demitri, and Mispy to gather together with Marshadow and Dialga.
“Alright, guess we’ll catch up the others if their checkups run long,” Marshadow said. “I got a few things ter say.”
Owen was glad that he already knew Manny so well, because without that, Marshadow would have been very hard to understand.
“First,” Marshadow said, pointing at Dialga, “how come yer not Voided?”
“Voided… As in, what happened to—er.” Dialga glanced awkwardly at Owen, and the Charmander shook his head in response
“What happened to Amia,” Owen said.
Dialga stared awkwardly, then continued. “I don’t know. Perhaps I’m too strong for them to kill, so they had to instead try to take me over some other way. As a defense, I had gone into dormancy for… what I imagine is quite a while. I recall fighting back very recently to something… Like I was emerging from a vat of slime. Very unpleasant. I think Palkia was there, too…”
“Palkia, right…” Marshadow looked down. “Not sure what caused that. There were energy spikes in the Nil Plateaus a while ago, couldn’t find anything after. Then suddenly this all happens, tons o’ newcomers ter th’ Voidlands.”
“Wait, what was that?” Demitri said. “Slime? Climbing out? Anam had ties to Dark Matter, right?”
“Slimy,” Mispy confirmed, nodding.
Marshadow waved his arms. “I wanted ter gather everyone here so we c’n try to sort everything we know out,” he said. “In order. As far back as we can.”
“I don’t even know where to begin!” Demitri breathed, then looked to Mispy, who shrugged.
“Owen’s… the oldest,” Mispy explained.
Owen shrank. That was true. He was older than a lot of—who was he younger than here? “Dialga, um, sir,” Owen said, looking up at the massive Timekeeper.
The metallic Dragon dwarfed everyone else, even Zena. The building, which was geared toward large Pokémon, had still forced Dialga to crouch between the doorway.
“You’re older than me, right?” Owen asked.
“I… believe I am roughly as old as this world,” Dialga deadpanned. “Perhaps a little younger. So, yes. I believe I’m older.”
Owen slumped over, sighing. “Right,” he said. “Sorry, kind of stupid of me to say something like that. I don’t know why I—but I don’t think Dialga talking about Creation or whatever would matter anyway. I think the beginning for me is… when I was born in a place called Kanto.”
“Never heard o’ it,” Marshadow said.
Owen figured as much. “It’s a world where humans and Pokémon live together,” he said. “Humans can’t do a lot on their own, but they can strengthen Pokémon. I had what’s called a trainer—but in practice, they’re more like partners. Not—not important.” Owen waved his hand, but before he could go on, Marshadow interrupted.
“Now, hold on,” he said. “Not important? Sounds real important ter me. Why’d you mention that? Was Eon yer partner? Yer father?”
“At some point, he was my trainer, but then, he… something happened. I don’t remember yet. And it led to him… I…” He bit his tongue lightly, unable to find the words.
“Take a breath,” Zena suggested.
He didn’t even know he was holding it, but that explained the dizziness. Slowly, his breath returned, but not his thoughts.
“Thanks,” Owen finally said. “Let me try to explain what I know. Maybe the blanks will come back later…”
Owen started with the general dynamics between humans and Pokémon as he understood them. Most important was how humans could understand Pokémon vaguely if untrained, but almost perfectly if tuned with them. Then he went on about how Pokémon of that world enjoyed battling, and it came to them the same way walking or eating did.
“So, that’s why you liked battling?” Demitri asked. “Does that mean we’re from the same world, too?”
“I don’t remember any of you from Kanto,” Owen said. “And I have a feeling that you never were there. I think you two and Gahi are native to Kilo. But… beyond that, I don’t know. If I wasn’t born a mutant, maybe you two weren’t, either. We never really asked where those new spirits came from for new mutants. I thought Eon just created them.”
“Guess we’ll ask,” Jerry said. “He wasn’t all that hurt, was he?”
“He’ll be fine,” Owen said dismissively. “He’s still my old trainer. He’s”—An image flashed in Owen’s mind, one of a human who had been struck with poisonous spikes—“too strong to let a few little attacks take him down.” Despite the pride in his tone, his smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Alright, humans and Pokémon have a strong bond. Cool. Dunno if that’ll be useful, but I’ll keep it in mind.” Marshadow leaned forward. “What’s next? How’d yeh get here?”
“Still don’t know,” Owen said. “Every time I fall asleep, I get a few new memories. Maybe if I focus on that in the coming days, I’ll get them all back. Or maybe I can meditate.”
“Y’know, I always thought that was weird,” Jerry said. “All that meditating, and those memories. Seems real convenient that you’re getting ‘em all back now…”
“There was a Divine Decree keeping most of them sealed until I got here, I think,” Owen said. “Maybe when Star possessed me, it broke that…”
“Still,” Jerry said. “Feels planned.”
Owen sighed. “Maybe it is,” he said. “Almost everything about what I do and who I talk to has been planned by someone that isn’t me for centuries.” He rolled his eyes. “If someone else is dictating when I get my memories back, too, I wouldn’t be surprised. I—”
Maybe it was planned. He didn’t know why, but his feelings sometimes outlasted his conscious memories, and that idea, that mere idea that something was planned, tugged at him. Planned by who? Certainly not him. Certainly not Arceus or Star.
Then it had to be Necrozma. Someone at that level. Could all of this be happening because of some plan by him?
What caused all of this to begin now, of all times?
He made a mental note to revisit this later.
“Anyway,” Owen said, realizing they were all staring at him, “I don’t know how I went from Kanto to Kilo, and I don’t know about much of my time with Necrozma. It’s all a huge blur until I became a mutant under Eon again.”
“That’s a freakin’ huge gap,” Marshadow commented. “I’m gonna close a little bit of that, and maybe it’ll jog yer memory.”
Attention turned to Marshadow, who cleared his throat, and everyone waited in respectful silence. “Oh, eh, you c’n fill in, too, Didi.”
Dialga blinked, frowning. “Dialga, please.”
“Worth a shot.” Marshadow winked. “Alright. So, I dunno the whole deal about how the world formed er anything like that. Wasn’t around when that happened. I do know, though, that we lived a pretty good life managin’ the place. Basically, if something ever went wrong, we’d step in. Fix things from a higher level, y’know? World of little gods like Pokémon would take bigger gods ter fix things if they mess it all up.”
“We seemed to get along fine without you guys, though,” Owen commented. “I mean—no offense or anything, just, our world barely has any gods now, and it’s been fine.”
Marshadow smiled wryly. “Well, yeah. Now yeh just had the one, Anam. He sorta filled the divine vacuum. And befer that, lots o’ people were droppin’ into the Voidlands through Dungeons. Befer Anam fixed them, dying in a Dungeon meant your spirit fell… here.”
Owen felt a little colder.
“Yeah, it ain’t pretty,” Marshadow said, glancing at Owen’s dimming tail. “Dunno how Dungeons formed ter begin with, either. Showed up one day, around the same time that blights happen. Assumption is that it has ter do with Dark Matter, so—”
“Hold on, blights?” Demitri interjected.
“Yes, I’m not familiar with that term,” Zena said. “What are blights?”
“No clue what you guys call it now,” Marshadow said. “It’s the energy associated with Void Shadows. It’s corrosive ter aura, rots yeh from the inside but gives yeh a lot of power in return.”
“Void…” Jerry trailed off.
“What was that?” Zena asked, glancing to Jerry.
“Eh—nothing,” Jerry said.
“Not nothing,” Mispy said, frowning. “You know.”
“Lay off, will ya?” Jerry snapped, but by now everyone was staring at him. “Look, we called it the Basin’s Protection. Blessing. Whatever. It’s been, like, decades since I was only a kid when I dealt with that kind of power, and—”
“You were blighted?” Marshadow said, his head suddenly flashing with green fire.
“I dunno what that means, but whatever it is, you—back off!” Jerry stood up, realizing that the stinging feeling in the air was because Marshadow’s aura was flaring.
“Guys, come on,” Owen groaned.
Mispy slid between Jerry and Marshadow, turning her back to Jerry to glare at the small Legend.
Jerry used Mispy’s size to stay hidden, though he still said, “If I was some threat, wouldn’t you guys have seen it by now?”
Marshadow glared through Mispy, but then relaxed. “…Right. Sorry fer gettin’ all hot ‘n bothered.” His head returned to its normal, black wisps. “That ain’t like me.”
Mispy relaxed next, though now she very clearly decided that it would be appropriate to stay closer to Jerry in case something like that happened again. Demitri relocated on Jerry’s other side, following Mispy’s direction, and decided to be his left guard.
“Um, so is the blight… really that bad?” Demitri asked.
Marshadow sighed, rubbing his forehead. After the initial adrenaline, he did look genuinely ashamed.
“I wouldn’t call it bad,” Jerry downplayed. “It ran in my family. Void’s Blessing. Sure, it sounds ominous, but it was a symbol of power, and it was what helped the Quartz Kingdom flourish before Anam took over. We had advantages against the Dungeons and could repel wraiths, even control them if we had to so they didn’t cause trouble.”
“Inherited, eh?” Marshadow said. “Blessings run across blood, yeah. Has ter to with the way spiritual history passes along the Infinity Energy signatures. Thing is, only person who has this ‘Void Blessing’ er whatever… is Alexander.”
“Alexander… the Hydreigon in Cipher City,” Owen clarified.
“Yeah. From what I gathered, you also know a Hydreigon Alexander.” Marshadow eyed Owen curiously, coaxing him to elaborate.
“My dad’s real species is Hydreigon, and his name is Alex,” Owen said. “He changed because I was scared of his Hydreigon form when I was younger, or something.”
“Ain’t no way that’s a coincidence,” Marshadow said. “Sounds ter me like that event erased from history is bubblbin’ up in yer subconscious mind. Y’were Jirachi’s assistant. Chances are, yeh fought Alexander.”
“Okay, but that doesn’t explain anything about my dad,” Owen said. “He’s not—”
“Maybe if we run inter him again,” Marshadow said, “we’ll ask.”
“It’s a southern tradition for some families to pass a name down the bloodline,” Jerry said. “Mine, for one. Pretty sure there’s a Smeargle in town that’s got that going on. Maybe your dad was southern?”
“But then…” Owen sighed. “I don’t get what that has to do with any of this. But it sounds to me like, Jerry, somewhere in your ancestry was… my step-grandpa, or something?”
Jerry grimaced like he was looking at a moldy plate of food.
Owen tried to envision his father being related to someone like Cipher City’s ruler. Perhaps the reason Alex hid that was by intentional omission. Was he ashamed of his species bloodline, and wanted to change it?
Did Alex know about his father? If he was in the Voidlands, then Alex must have assumed he was dead and not worth talking about.
Owen had to find him and ask—hopefully Alex was still alive and not Voided. Amia was, unfortunately, no longer able to answer this question… As enigmatic as it seemed, Owen had a feeling that the blights, Alexander, Dark Matter, and himself all had something to do with each other. Perhaps Marshadow was right; Owen could have fought Alexander in the past. And then forgot, with the rest of that gap in history…
“About blights,” Owen said, breaking everyone’s contemplative silence. “I remember a little about it. When the Legends were around, they were practically invincible. No mortal Pokémon could defeat a Legend… except if the mortal was under the effects of a blight. For some reason, that let them cut through that invulnerability.”
Marshadow settled in his seat. “Even Arceus wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Figure Necrozma had no idea, either.”
“How about Mew?”
“We don’t really rely on Mew fer intelligence,” Marshadow admitted.
Owen frowned, glancing at Dialga, but he, too, shook his head. It was unlikely that Star would have any idea about the blights, or she would have said as much.
“Then it’s all unknown even to Legends? How is that possible? Dialga, weren’t you around when the world was created?”
“I was,” Dialga said. “When everything was nothing but a swarm of Unown, a testing ground to plan this new, little world… At least… I think I was around back then.” Briefly troubled, Dialga shifted his weight until he was at a sort of half-kneel. “It’s very blurry. I only remember watching, floating there… Did I have a body? I remember Arceus arguing with Mew. I can’t remember the conversation, so long ago… And then… it’s all blank. Like so many years passed in an instant, and suddenly I was standing before Arceus, ready to serve.”
“No offense or anything,” Owen said, “but hazy memories and just remembering serving Arceus doesn’t sound that good to me.”
“Oh?” Dialga asked.
“Arceus… lost his way a little.”
“Lost his way, how could he lose his way?” Dialga said defensively, and Owen realized that this would be a losing battle.
“Er, nothing. Maybe he was a little stressed.”
“Hmph. Maybe you just didn’t understand the sheer magnitude of what he was saying. If you get an order from Arceus, you listen, simple as that. Next time you see him, I expect you to apologize for any insolence and defiance you threw at him.”
It took every ounce of willpower and control for Owen to not roll his eyes.
“Alright,” Owen moved on. “So you guys lived as Legends and helped manage the world. What happened after? How come I became a mutant and you guys ended up here?”
“…The blight decided it was high time ter rise up, one way er another,” Marshadow said. “It happened real quick. Pokémon were gettin’ corrupted more and more, mostly down south, and suddenly we had a whole army of Pokémon that had the blight in ‘em. They were being led by the Dragon Guardian, last I checked…”
Owen blinked. “What? The Dragon Guardian? Aramé, right?”
“Eh? No, Lugia,” Marshadow said. “The blight got ter her somehow, and…” He hummed, concerned. “Well, the attacks practically carved out the country.”
Carved out echoed in Owen’s mind, and he briefly thought back to where they had discovered Valle. That fissure, called the War’s End, yet the reason behind its name had been lost to time…
Or had its history been erased?
“I dunno the full scope o’ that battle,” Marshadow said. “I was a small part. Me and my team—they’re all dead, probably Void Shadows by now—we all fought near the front lines, too. So, I know fer sure Lugia was what ol’ Dark Matter was usin’ as the centerpiece. Made her invincible.”
“Invincible…” Owen trailed off. “But that’s… I don’t understand. I met Lugia, and she’s one of the nicest Pokémon I ever met! Yeah, a little weird, but…”
“You met Lugia?” Marshadow said. “How far back?”
“It hasn’t been all that long before I came here,” Owen said. “Like, only a few weeks ago.”
Dialga and Marshadow exchanged a grave look. “Then she’s been dormant this whole time. And if Dark Matter’s making moves now… what’s to say he isn’t trying to regain control?”
“What was the nature of Lugia?” Dialga asked.
“What do you mean?” Owen didn’t know how to nicely explain Emily’s nature.
“How powerful was she?”
“Well…” Owen frowned. “She was a very strong healer. And, er… well, she… I don’t think it’s possible to actually hurt her in a way that matters. If you’re inside her, practically anything you try is nullified.”
Marshadow blinked. “Wait, repeat that last part?”
“And she’s supposed to be a healer?” Dialga asked.
“She… heals you if you’re in close contact. Very close contact.” Owen fidgeted. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“She eats people,” Jerry said flatly. “And inside, they heal. Then she pulls them out. It’s disgusting.”
But despite Jerry’s words, Marshadow’s expression became even darker.
“It’s a long shot,” Marshadow said, “but… is she bigger on the inside?”
“She’s big enough!” Jerry shouted, but then lowered his wings, thoughtful. “Then again… I feel like it should’ve been harder to fly around the way I did…”
“It was bigger on the inside,” Demitri noted. “I thought that was just some Mystic property of her, but the only one who can change around sizes like that is Willow.”
“And Willow’s the Fairy Guardian,” Owen added. “That power came from her personality and desires, the same way everyone’s powers manifest, right? Emily didn’t seem like someone who’d develop a power that shrinks people down or something.”
“She was big because she was one of Necrozma’s elite students, just like you,” Marshadow said. “But ter be even bigger inside, like a distortion is balled up in her gut?” He sighed, rubbing his forehead. “…Call it a hunch, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. Lugia—Emily, y’called her? She ain’t a Lugia anymore. Ain’t been one fer a long, long time.”
“Then… what is she?”
“Same thing Anam became.” Everyone was silent, all eyes focused on Marshadow. “Dark Matter turned her inter a gateway inter the Voidlands. A living Dungeon.”