Chapter 131 - Half Death
- Aug 18, 2018
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Chapter 131 – Half Death
Cresselia smashed through the door to the bathroom and locked eyes with Spice. The only reason the Salazzle wraith wasn’t immediately torn to shreds was because of some quick thinking with a black Protect barrier. Instead, whips of pink energy twisted the metal of the tub and left cracks in the wall. All of it passed harmlessly through Darkrai, but even with the Protect, Spice winced as her arms felt numb.
“Wait!” Spice shouted. “I’m not hostile! Talking! I’m talking!”
“Advanced wraiths can talk just fine,” Cresselia said as Darkrai scrambled out of the tub, dripping wet as he floated behind her. So startled, he seemed to struggle with just staying off the ground.
But Cresselia wasn’t attacking again, and Spice let the barrier down. It took too much energy to keep it up the whole time.
“Sorry for barging in,” Spice said. “I won’t make any sudden moves.”
Cresselia said nothing, keeping an alert stance. Her wings were pulsing with energy, readying another Psychic blast at any act of aggression.
“Why are you here?” she asked, stern, as bubbles started to follow behind Spice. The others were coming.
“We’re from Kilo,” Spice said quickly. “I look weird, but they look normal. You’ll trust them, right?”
“If I can sense their spirits… and they aren’t tainted… then fine. But yours… Yours is completely corroded.”
Spice winced. So it really did look that terrible, did it? “My name is Salazzle Spice. I am a Heart who helps rescue Pokémon in need. I live with my parents, Anise and Whystle, and I have a sister, Sugar. We run Sugar and Spice. Mostly selling chocolates. There was a big attack from Dark Matter lately, and… hopefully everything is still standing, but we want to go back.”
Cresselia glanced at Spice’s right, where the bubbles got even bigger. Spice held up a claw to Cresselia, and used her other hand to reach down and pull someone from below.
Angelo gasped for air, sopping wet. “I thought… I was… going to drown!”
Moments later, Brandon’s steel form rose up, Angelo sitting on his head. Quickly following was Phol, who only snorted and grumbled at the water, before rising higher to reveal Leo carried under his arm like baggage.
“Why is there a portal in my bathtub?!” Darkrai squeaked.
“Guess it got attracted to your strength, or something,” Spice said.
“Then the barrier between the Voidlands and Kilo is weakening…” Cresselia frowned. Upon seeing the other, uncorrupted members of Spice’s team, she lowered her guard. “Your auras do not feel tainted. In fact…” She eyed Phol, then Angelo, then Brandon. “I sense blessings from some of you.”
“Well, if that’s your way of saying we’re safe, mind if we dry off?” Brandon asked. “We’ve got three Fires on the team. The water’s probably killing them.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” Phol said.
“Please get me a towel,” Leo croaked.
After assessing the damage to the bathroom, and then drying everyone off, Spice and the others were led into the living room. Cresselia still seemed cautious of Spice, which of course made her self-conscious of every little thing she did, but at least she wasn’t killing her on the spot.
“So, it’s true,” Cresselia finally opened as they all sat, or floated, around a small dinner table. The room was lightly furnished with tables to hold plants, some odd screen in the back of the room, and seats that did not look like they were used very much. Just down the hall was the bathroom, and Darkrai had gone further into another room that smelled of somethings sweet.
“It is,” Brandon said. “Kilo’s in trouble. We don’t really know how it all turned out, but we were being chased by Lugia before coming here for an escape. All that other stuff, we don’t really know.”
“I h-hope not too many died in all this,” Angelo said. “Gods, just recollecting all of that…”
“It sounds like the situation is dire indeed,” Cresselia said. “I’m sorry that we can’t be of much help, but… in the Voidlands, we’re basically stuck here. If we leave, our bodies evaporate—painfully—without a way to anchor ourselves to that world. We’re of the Voidlands, now.”
“D-does that mean we’ll also be trapped here if we stay too long?” Angelo asked. “Am—am I stuck here now?!”
“No, you’ll be fine,” Spice said. “Passing through a Dungeon’s core is a safe way to go through. Just don’t die in here.”
“Oh, just don’t die, of course,” Angelo breathed, looking halfway into passing out.
“I have to ask,” Phol said. “Your… are you the exact same Pokémon spoken of in the Book of Arceus?”
Darkrai and Cresselia exchanged a look. Darkrai seemed nervous.
“Yes, but we were not around when that was written,” Cresselia said. “Those were likely stories passed down about us, perhaps twisted by time, before being transcribed. But there were no… books in that way about us before the Void King’s War.”
“I see… Stories, and that’s all.” Angelo seemed to slump down. “Well, that’s disappointing.”
“You say while talking to living Legends,” Brandon said. “…You’re living, right?”
“Not really,” Cresselia said.
Spice sighed and placed her hands in her lap. “This has been nice,” she said, “but we have to get going. We need to find another Dungeon exit—any one, doesn’t matter which—so we can escape Lugia. We have her other half with us right now, but she’s too weak to be out.”
“Other half?” Darkrai repeated. “What does that mean?”
Spice shrugged. “It doesn’t make sense to me, either. That’s just what she’s saying. That if Emily takes her, they’ll combine, and Lugia will be complete… and completely unstoppable.”
“Lugia…” Darkrai looked pained. “She defected against Necrozma a long time ago as guardian of the sea. She wanted to protect all life… and fell into the hands of Dark Matter because of it. Now look at her…”
“Sounds like a real history lesson,” Brandon said dully. “I dunno if that’s all that important right now, though. Spice?”
The Salazzle wraith seemed lost in thought, tapping on the green gem in her chest.
“Spice,” Brandon said.
Leo touched her shoulder.
“Huh? Oh. Right, Lugia. Well, what’s important is keeping her away for now. We don’t know how to beat her because she’s basically immortal.”
“Most who take Dark Matter’s blessing are that way,” Cresselia confirmed. “The only way to defeat someone so thoroughly corrupted by darkness is to use Necrozma’s light. Unfortunately, the two are mutually vulnerable to one another.”
“Necrozma’s light,” Brandon repeated. “Necrozma… Why does that sound familiar?”
“I believe he has been wiped from history, somehow, in the living world,” Cresselia said. “You… feel familiar.” She squinted. “What is your name?”
Cresselia’s eyes widened. “By Star…”
Brandon tilted his head. “Uhh?”
“Brandon, with a team of six loyal feral Pokémon who learned to speak?”
The metal Machoke shifted uncomfortably. “Kinda creepy you know that.”
“You’re Reshiram. You need to find him.”
A long pause was followed by an incredulous grunt. Spice didn’t know how to react, so she could only imagine how Brandon had felt in that second.
“Sorry, I think I had something crazy in my ear, try that again?”
“I—I don’t know how it’s possible,” Cresselia said, “but you’re another one. Reshiram is somewhere in Void Forest, right now, as a Titan. But if he can be freed…”
“Rewind, rewind, time out.” Brandon put his metal arms in a T. “Can you take me back to the part where you’re treating me like the Dragon of Truth? Since when am I truthful?!”
“You are easy to read,” Phol said. “And I believe you once bragged about telling that Owen fellow the truth when your superior said otherwise?”
“Oh, sure, one or two examples makes me the ultimate embodiment of all things true!” Brandon raised his voice a little, but then sat back down. “…I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that while I come to terms with it.”
“Oh!” Darkrai perked up. “Ah, um, let’s pause on this. The cookies are done!”
With a little pep, he floated down the hall, and Brandon stared incredulously. Spice shared the expression, or at least she hoped she was.
“…So, that’s the King of Nightmares,” Spice said. “Gotta say, wouldn’t be my first guess.”
Cresselia huffed. “Don’t believe every story you’re told,” she said. “Darkrai is the embodiment of fear. He harnesses everyone’s fear to make them stronger for the real thing.”
“What’s that around his neck?” Angelo asked. “It’s beautiful.”
“A Lunar Wing. A charm from me,” Cresselia said. “As long as he wears it, his… atmosphere is suppressed. We figured it out a long time ago.”
“Oh, that’s beautiful…” Angelo put a hand to his chest. “…May I draw it one day?”
Cresselia looked like she’d almost flinched. “Y-you may, if… What?”
Angelo fidgeted. “Er, never mind.”
Spice sighed. This was her team. But… at least they were in someplace safer.
It was surreal to finally see Owen again after accepting that he had been taken away, ready to rescue him. But part of that still didn’t feel real, mostly because now he was a flower.
Zena had stared in total disbelief for a while, before Mispy confirmed, indeed, that the flower’s essence felt the same as Owen’s, and they even asked a few basic questions to him to see if it would answer as Owen would. And, indeed, it did. It was Owen.
“Well,” Xerneas said with a conclusive huff, “that changes things, doesn’t it?”
“In what way?” Zena asked.
Owen bobbed his flower affirmatively.
“Well, rescuing Owen is no longer of extreme urgency, if he is not even whole,” Xerneas said. “In fact, it seems that Owen has split himself into three pieces. Very clever of him…”
“Uh, three?” repeated Zena. “Oh, you mean… I thought Owen left the Tree behind when he hatched, though,” Zena said. “And it was only being sustained my the spirits he’d left behind to keep it up?”
“I don’t know what you mean by spirits,” Xerneas said, “but that, ahem, replica Tree of Life contains Owen as its base. Another, small part of him is within this flower. And lastly, there is the one with Alexander. Since his spirit does not feel fragmented otherwise, I’m confident that these are the only fragments of him to worry about… unlike yours, Diyem.”
“Mmff. Yes. Five pieces, as I said,” Diyem muttered.
“So you generally can’t tell at three or less, huh?” Demitri hummed. “I hope that doesn’t mean there’s a third of us out there somewhere, too. I’m still trying to come to terms with Mesprit being my other half…”
“I doubt it. Even if it’s hard to notice, you still become weaker, and you’re far from it.” Xerneas looked down at the flower. “You planned this all this time, hm? Alexander could not have you entirely, even now. So, you bought us some time. I suppose that will make up for some of your past… mistakes.”
The flower shrank back.
“You certainly aren’t afraid to speak to openly of those,” Dialga said with a sigh.
“Diyem already admitted to revealing as much,” Xerneas said. “Now then… Let’s return to planning.”
The new normal was a life of reconstruction for Har and his team. Buildings were still largely toppled over, but the people who once lived in them were not. Displaced, but recovering, it was nothing short of a miracle that their casualties were so few. It was almost as if the battle had never truly been aimed at Kilo Village, but at certain individuals inside.
Every day, Ani would leave to help with healing any rescued Pokémon that had been found in other parts of the world. Lygo, with his great speed, would scout ahead and find and return as many as he could, and guide carriers to handle the rest. Ax and Har, meanwhile, teamed up for heavy lifting, converting their efforts from rescue to recovery. Thankfully, very few bodies had been found underneath the thick rubble of Kilo Village and other settlements north, closer to Hot Spot.
And after every day of that, they would return to their new “home.”
It wasn’t as comfortable as the web that Trina had made, and it wasn’t big enough, either. Makeshift. A simple building in Kilo Village made from some kind of reinforced clay or brick, lined with wood, and a stone tile floor. Boring. Functional. They hadn’t really gotten any furniture beyond the essentials to rest in. Never saw the need, yet it still felt lacking.
“I’m beat,” Har said, flopping onto his bed of hay. It was the simplest kind of bed but it reminded him the most of home. It was usually meant for ferals living with normal Pokémon, but he couldn’t resist the lure of something that was like a forest. Ax, Ani, and Lygo had opted for normal bedding instead, of fabric stuffed with soft things to curl on top of.
At least it was better than a Poké Ball, he lied to himself.
Har curled up a little tighter. Nothing felt good anymore and he didn’t even know why. Casualties were miraculously low. The town was recovering. The ceremonies for the departed were over. And yet, he felt so empty. Why?
“Home,” someone called, stepping into their home from the main entrance. The sliding noise told Har it was Ani. A vine opened the door and the tendril-legged Meganium slipped through. “Wow. You look awful.”
“Thanks,” the Charizard replied in a huff as he rolled onto his back, flailing his arms uselessly. “That’s just what I wanted to hear.”
Ani rolled her eyes and tossed her bag of stuff in the corner and crawled his way next. “Want to talk about it?”
A beat of silence. Ani slid a little closer and wrapped several of her vines around him. Har grumbled and curled up again, turning away, but Ani just pulled him into an embrace. He leaned into it.
“I don’t know how to talk about it,” Har said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just not happy.”
Though he did like having Ani there. He felt a little less empty. He breathed in, then out.
“We could fuse, if you want,” Ani offered. “We hadn’t done that in a long time.”
“I don’t want you to catch whatever I have,” Har replied. “But… but thank you. I’m really glad that you’re… still you. I still think about that sometimes.”
Ani smiled and nuzzled against his back, and Har leaned against her more. His heart eased. His friends were always there, his team. He thought back to how much he had cried, then, when he realized he wouldn’t truly lose them.
“You’re okay,” Ani whispered. “It’s going to be okay.”
Don’t cry, don’t cry. Not this time, it’s ridiculous.
He couldn’t find it in him to speak. That would break him down.
Ani gently rocked him left and right. The exhaustion started to hit him. He slowly drifted off, his mind finally slowing down, despite never having any thoughts to begin with.
Har awoke to the mumbles and shuffles of Ax and Lygo returning from some other job in town. Ani had, at some point, gotten off of him to help with making dinner, and Har briefly wondered how long he had been out. After spending some time silently in bed, he sat up, which was enough to alert the others.
“Hey, sleepyhead,” Ax greeted. “Busy day?”
“A little,” Har admitted.
He felt a little okay.
“I miss anything?” the Charizard continued.
“Nah. More recovery. Rescued some people from a village northeast. Most escaped a while back, so this was just the fighters who were holed up and weren’t sure if it was safe yet.” Lygo listed off more of their rescues, and Har fell into a relaxed little stupor while he half-listened to what he was saying. He was mostly just paying attention to the fact that they were there.
But before they could properly get started on dinner, Lygo’s antennae twitched and he glanced at the front door.
“Something wrong?” Ax asked.
Har stood up.
“There’s some kinda commotion outside,” Lygo mumbled.
“Let’s check it out,” Har said, thumping his tail on the ground once, like it would energize him.
Just beyond their home, which was a little north of the central Waypoint that was no longer operational, they saw a crowd of Pokémon forming and converging from all directions. Along with the normal Pokémon were the black blobs with varying numbers of eyes—the ‘Nates’ as they were being called.
All of them were converging to a spot in front of Heart HQ.
Lygo, predictably, sped ahead and left the rest of the team behind. When Har finally caught up alongside the others, he gaped at the sight.
Arceus was standing right there, head held high, and several onlookers simultaneously trying to get closer and yet afraid to be too close at the same time.
“Yes,” Arceus said with a booming voice, “I am thankful that so many of you are doing well. My duties atop Destiny Tower have, for now, come to an end. I found it only appropriate to visit the center of civilization as it recovers.”
Pokémon were praying, bowing, kneeling, and Har could only see a god who was just making a show of earning praise. Still… he did fend off Dark Matter for the duration of the battle and, as far as they had been told, dealt the finishing blow as well.
Arceus met Har’s eyes and he spotted a flash of surprise.
The day couldn’t possibly get better. “Har,” he corrected bitterly.
“Ah. My apologies.” Arceus drifted toward Har, as if walking would be beneath him, and nodded at the Charizard. He politely requested that the other Pokémon resume their day, and they seemed, at least, to listen to him. Perhaps that divine status was good use after all. “I trust that you are well. As is the rest of your team. Rest assured that Trina still doing well. We are working on how to extract them from the Voidlands as we speak.”
“That’s a relief,” Ani said, looking encouragingly at Har. Admittedly, that was good to hear. He only hoped that progress in bringing her back would be just as optimistic.
“What about the others?” Har asked. “Is Rhys still missing?”
Arceus nodded gravely. “We are still looking for him. I was actually going to see Elder now to give him updates, even if… Well. Elder had specifically asked for updates, no matter the news. Morning and evening. And we’re getting close to evening.”
“Right. Makes sense.” Har hummed, thinking about him. Elder. Of all the Hunters, he had been the most peaceful. And while he was passive, and therefore complacent to all that they had done, perhaps there was some merit to what he was doing now.
“Would you mind if I came, too?” Har asked. “I haven’t seen Elder in a while.”
“We have,” Lygo said. “Uh, kinda be awkward to visit again, so… How about you do that, and we go and finish dinner back home?”
Har nodded. “Leave me the spicy stuff,” he requested, and after some nods, they split paths.
Har walked alongside Arceus with an awkward gait. He didn’t really know what to say to Arceus, and the more he thought about it, the more surreal the situation was. The Creator. Floating up the same stairs. Was Har even under his dominion? He’d been artificially created, after all… A copy of someone else.
“…Arceus,” Har said, “am I, uh, you know, an abomination by definition?”
“What a very direct way of asking,” Arceus said with a little chuckle. “Perhaps by some definitions. But I do not think you are, if you are asking me that question, in this context.”
“Oh. Good.” He fidgeted again. “…Sorry, I don’t… I’ve never been that… reverent.”
“Not to offend,” Arceus said, “but considering your counterpart, I am not surprised.”
Har snorted. “Yeah… He’s fine, right?”
“…What happened to Owen?”
“We are… working on it. He is alive.”
Being ‘alive’ hardly meant anything anymore. Har decided not to press for now. Pivoting, Har asked, “So, are Owen and I, like, soul twins, or something?”
“Hm.” Arceus tilted his head as they began to ascend Heart HQ’s stairs. “I don’t believe you are. From how it was described to me during my… interrogation of Nevren’s crimes against nature, what Nevren did was take a feral soul with little background and implanted all of the memories he could extract from Owen, and place them into that soul.”
Hearing about it said so matter-of-factly left Har feeling cold inside, but he nodded shakily. “R-right. So, I used to be… some random feral Pokémon before Nevren… o-overwrote that. That’s… that’s… k-kind of terrifying, actually? What did I used to be?”
“Perhaps with some deep meditation, you can remember,” Arceus said. “Do your past self a service by holding onto that legacy, hm? It’s… somewhat like the concept of reincarnation.”
“Do Pokémon reincarnate normally?” Har pressed, suddenly realizing that Arceus could outright give him the answer.
“Not typically, no,” Arceus said. “Well, we have certain systems at play for it, but not normally. They cross the Aura Sea where they persist there. Reincarnation is… messy, for aged spirits. Memories are eternal, you see, and Pokémon are very attuned to the spirits that hold them. The mind has physical memories, but there are deeper ones within the spirit. And sometimes, old lives can reawaken suddenly, and… clash with the current one. In general, it is better left avoided.”
“Right…” He sighed. “Nevren probably tried to get test subjects with the least ‘memories’ to work with, so he could easily… craft it as he liked.”
“He’s practical like that,” Arceus said bitterly.
“Ah… I’m sorry. It is not your fault. I do not resent your existence toward you at all. Please… think nothing of it from me.”
They were about to enter the main hall of the Heart HQ after a long flight of stairs when Arceus stopped advancing and looked up. Har tilted his head.
“L-Lord Arceus, Your Grace.”
Descending from the skies was a Dragonite holding a letter. “A delivery from Hot Spot Vortex. It’s a letter addressed to You, intended for Elder, from Dialga.”
“Addressed to me, but intended for Elder,” Arceus clarified.
“Yes. I’m sorry, Your Grace, but I do not have any elaboration on what that means.”
Har glanced at the letter in Dragonite’s hand as it was passed over, floating in front of the Creator. He glanced nervously at Arceus, and then tried to sate his curiosity. His Perceive heightened; it was a mundane letter. It was curious that mundane objects could pass through the Voidlands into Kilo, but the living could not. Or was that parchment delivered into the Voidlands, to be delivered back?
Har shook his head, getting distracted. He tuned his Perceive to the letter again as Dragonite left with a deep bow. Har could sense his nervousness and elation at speaking to Arceus and tuned that out, too.
The writing was heavy. Someone with heavy penmanship, or at least heavy telekinesis, if it was truly Dialga. That made it easy to read. He couldn’t see color with his Perceive, but he could see the grooves in the paper and piece the letter’s words together that way. As Arceus read, so did Har, silently.
He wished he hadn’t.
It is with great sorrow that I must inform you that two of your companions have perished, and several more may be departing soon. I have known this for some time, but did not have the courage to report it properly until now, and for that, I must apologize.
Lucario Rhys is gone. Dark Matter killed him within the depths of the Voidlands, and filled his spirit with darkness. It was an attempt to corrupt me… his other half. You may not remember this incident, as it was wiped from history and even from your knowledge, but in order to protect the powers from falling into darkness completely, the mortal and immortal halves of much of the pantheon had been split during the war against the Void King as insurance. This was done by Necrozma, who saw a bloody battle at the time.
I nearly lost myself, but Rhys’ spirit was strong, and I was purified by Owen shortly after. He is a master of Shadow and Radiance, and used both to free me of those chains. But ‘Rhys’ is no more. I have his memories, but they are faded. I must focus to recall them well. When he was killed, he was weak. Perhaps, with time, I shall be able to recover more of ‘him,’ but I am the dominant personality. The ‘Rhys’ within me does not feel a strong need to surface. I do not know how to articulate this feeling further, and this letter is not the place for it.
Elder will be devastated. I do not know how to tell him. A small part of me, the part that is Rhys, is pained by this news. But I fear that if I see him, I will not know what to do, and it will only worsen the situation for everyone involved. I defer to your judgement as my commander of all things.
Ra has also reunited with Xerneas in the same way. Only he knows how prominent each half of him has become in his reunited state. Step and her whereabouts are unknown; she is likely chasing the invisible link that ties her to Yveltal, her other half, without realizing it. She will surely face the same fate.
Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi will soon set off to meet their halves, the trio of mind. Eon, as you know him, shall be joining them to see his half, Jirachi. Owen has no corresponding half, if you are wondering.
I wished to send this to you as a letter, rather than through Nevren or other mediums, because Nevren is someone we must capture as well. He is Palkia’s other half, and with Palkia, we will be able to more easily transport us to various locations. We would use Hoopa, but we cannot find him yet. And he is Hoopa… so I’d rather not deal with him, to be quite frank. His other half is apparently just as unstable.
As for Elder himself, please be kind to him during this troubling time, as his days are also numbered. We are very confident in what Elder is. Rayquaza will need his half one day, too. Perhaps then, he and Rhys may still be together in spirit.
I apologize again for withholding such information for so long. Send correspondence when you can for your judgement on our actions.
At some point, perhaps Arceus knew Har had been reading the letter, because when Har glanced at Arceus, they locked eyes.
“…Har,” Arceus said.
“I—I’m sorry.” He lowered his head.
“How well do you know Elder?”
“Not… as much as you’d probably want.”
“…I would like some assistance regardless, if you would.”
Arceus, asking for assistance? That wasn’t something to refuse… but he wished he could.
Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi accompanied Diyem as a team of four through the eastern side of Null Village. There, he led the way into what seemed to be a cave in the middle of the forest that led downward into the purple ground. Void Shadows were squirming inside…
“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Demitri whimpered.
Even Mispy felt a little sick from it. She glanced at Gahi, then at Demitri. “It’ll be okay,” she said.
“Feh! So Anam’s in there?” Gahi asked.
“Yes. I tossed him inside to have the swarm keep an eye on him,” Diyem said. “They will be docile with me around.”
“And these are… these are all Void Shadows. They all used to be people, and… and you just…”
“Are you still dwelling on that?” Diyem muttered. “Restoring them all isn’t practical. I barely have the power, and if I did, suddenly they will all require food and shelter and companionship and other tedious needs. As a Void Shadow, they don’t care about any of that. They aren’t suffering. Can’t it wait?”
While callous, Mispy couldn’t deny the practicality of it. Amia, now that she was restored, had showed no signs of real trauma from the ordeal… aside from the memory loss. It was an ugly thought… but they didn’t have time to restore the countless lost souls in the cave when they were still battling Alexander and all the other Dark Matter fragments.
But Demitri was still disturbed. “Will we eventually help all of them?”
Diyem rubbed his eyes. “No wonder they made you Mesprit,” he muttered.
“Wh-what’s that supposed to mean?”
“You seem like the kind of person to feel bad for scaring ferals away from a campground.”
Demitri fidgeted for a while. He was probably rolling a sentence in his head. “…They probably just want to be warm…”
Diyem stared at Mispy, who stared back. Not that she had a defense. She liked that about him. In fact, it reminded her to think more compassionately…
“What can we do?” Mispy asked Diyem.
“Yeah,” Gahi echoed. “I don’t wanna just say ‘ferget them,’ y’know?”
Diyem sighed loudly. “I’ll tell them to relax, and they’ll listen. They won’t care, they won’t get into fights. They will just… stay here, in the cave, and sleep.”
As they walked, several clumps of Void Shadows watched them from the corners of the cave, staring at Diyem, then at the three, and then at Diyem again.
“I think some of them have different personalities,” Demitri said. “See, that one looks a little more nervous. And that one’s lazy… And that one might be more restless, you know?”
“You’re personifying a blob of evil sludge, Haxorus,” the little black-flamed Charmander said.
“Well, they used to be people…” Demitri gulped. “It’s… it’s just so horrible. There are so many of them, a-and… and they all used to have names, and families, and dreams, and…”
Mispy wrapped a vine around his shoulders and squeezed gently, grounding him. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “It’ll be okay.”
Demitri’s eyes were a little watery, but he nodded.
Gahi was hiding a snarl when he looked at Diyem. “And you did all that,” he growled.
“I did.” Diyem looked ahead. “I intend to reverse it when I have that power.”
“How’ll that be done?”
“Well, defeating me,” Diyem said. “Or giving me time to release and restore all of them… And I do not have the time nor energy for it. And, no, killing me here won’t help. You have to take out all the other pieces, too.”
“Bah, long answer,” Gahi complained.
“And a short wit,” Diyem muttered.
Mispy considered bashing him for that… but decided against it.
They walked for a little longer through those horrible passageways before Diyem made another little hum. “He’s ahead.”
Under a tense silence, they approached. They saw a heap of what looked vaguely Goodra-shaped slumped over in the back of the cave, moving downward, as if crouching.
“Heart of Hearts?” Demitri asked. Everything else was so quiet that his voice seemed so loud. Yet, the walls were so coated in Void Shadows that there was no echo. “Anam?”
The figure jumped slightly, then froze. Like he was afraid to turn around. But eventually, he did, slowly. Glowing, green eyes stared at them, wide and tearful and somehow puffy despite his odd biology. Zena wasn’t really sure if those were truly eyes to begin with, or…
“You’re here?” Anam whispered.
His voice… it was hoarse. Scratchy. Small.
The Goodra stood up and wobbled toward them, reaching toward the air just in front of them.
“You’re… really here?”
Most of the group stepped back nervously, but Demitri stood his ground. Gahi shoved him forward as a shield just in time to block Anam’s advance. A great, slimy hug enveloped Demitri, who groaned but did not resist, as Anam wailed hollowly into his shoulders, swinging him left and right like a toy.
“I missed you guys so much!” Anam wailed, squeezing harder.
Anam let Demitri go, a thin trail of slime connecting the two all over. Demitri had a mixture of disgust and relief on his face.
“I’m glad you’re alright,” Demitri said. “Um, it’s safe to come back, now.”
“H-huh? But… they aren’t going to let me out,” Anam said, gesturing to the Void Shadows. He slumped his shoulders and drooped his horns. “That’s why I was stuck here… I’m not… I’m not strong like that anymore. There are too many in this cave…”
Not strong anymore? Anam was one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in all of Kilo, barring perhaps Arceus himself. So, it was true, then. Anam’s true power had been drawn from Dark Matter all this time. Now that she looked closer, Anam also appeared… solid compared to his usual self.
Something about that seemed sobering to her. Though, she could still tell that his body wasn’t quite normal, either. There was still some Mystic influence within.
“We should return,” Zena announced. “We have a lot to catch you up on, Anam.”
“Such as myself,” Diyem said.
“Huh? Owen? How come you look sad and grumpy?”
Diyem stared. Then, wordlessly, he turned around and started walking back. The rest of the team followed him, returning to Null Village with their old leader.
“Owen! How come you’re grumpy?!” Anam called desperately, chasing after him. “Would a hug help?!”
Diyem walked faster.