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TEEN: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation

They were in a big, lime-green field of grass.


Even while he was checking his supplies, Gahi said nothing to him. Owen’s eyes finally adjusted to the light of the morning sun. Gahi, a Synthetic Flygon, was similarly slim as Owen was, but had scales with a blinding sheen. Even after the light of evolution completely faded, Gahi’s body reflected the sun well enough to make it hard to stare directly at him. It made sense—if Gahi’s entire specialty was agility and evasion, being hard to look at would add to the latter.

"It's like diamonds... You're beautiful."

"Beautiful? This is the skin of a killer, Owen!"

But Gahi’s smile vanished when a golden light poured out of Owen’s bag and onto Gahi. The Flygon’s confidence and peace rapidly transitioned into panic and anger.

Owen looked at his bag again. Reviver Seed.

o fug

Yet it was also like staring into the eyes of a starved, feral.

Not 100% sure, but may be an accidental comma.

And the worst part of it all, what made Owen more terrified and helpless than anything else—was that he loved it.

what the hell owen your're cheating on zena!

Owen, dear, they… first of all, Charizard isn’t…

rip lmao

“No, please…” he begged to nobody in particular.

yes.... no one important.... must have been the wind....

Zena, Gawen, Amia, Alex, Willow, Demitri, and Mispy, in that final moment, were gone, taken by the Lugia to the depths of the sea.

oh gosh oh frick!! no no no this is a family friendly website


So... fusions. I have a vague recollection of this being mentioned before, but I suppose I forgot about it until now. I guess the best adjective I can give for it right now is "cool". I am intrigued by how it works psychologically and hope to get a deeper look at that in the future.

I'm not too big on action scenes myself, which I think is probably the reason why I lost some immersion during Gahi and Owen's fight as the mood itself stayed constant, but I can appreciate the creative choreography.

Head's otherwise a bit empty for one reason or another, so I don't think I can really give much feedback of substance on this, sorry about that.

I know you're joking but that's actually an accidental slip of my own policy on phrasing. I try to be sparing on roots and vegetables and outright avoid fruit references, since berries replace them aside from apples and bananas... sigh... PMD canon flora is weird.

So... fusions. I have a vague recollection of this being mentioned before, but I suppose I forgot about it until now. I guess the best adjective I can give for it right now is "cool". I am intrigued by how it works psychologically and hope to get a deeper look at that in the future.

I honestly forget if I mentioned that or not, but yes, here it is, the payoff and reveal. It's not for everyone, but hopefully I've at this point gone so deep into the story that it was build toward enough to be justified--and more importantly, one is already so deep into the story that they can let one (or two, or three...) oddities slide since at this point, the story's already got a lot of strange and this is just the next step forward.

I'm not too big on action scenes myself, which I think is probably the reason why I lost some immersion during Gahi and Owen's fight as the mood itself stayed constant, but I can appreciate the creative choreography.

I'm glad you like the creative choreography, even if it was hectic as everything to try to get it working. Balancing the mood with the frantic nature of this everyone vs. Gawen fight in particular was very hard, and I think I'm going to revisit this chapter sometime in the future with fresh eyes to tighten up the prose some more. I need to get more of the emotion going, not just the frantic fighting. Tricky, tricky...

Well, anyway, the next chapter will be dropping sometime tomorrow!
Chapter 37 - Body, Mind, and Spirit
Chapter 37 – Body, Mind, and Spirit

The Grass Orb was silent.

Nobody dared move. The spirits didn’t speak—they could only stare, petrified, at what they thought would be the end of their cozy corner of eternity. He was laying there—Gahi and Owen, fused together as one.

The only one moving was Star. The Mew floated over his unconscious body, inspecting every part of it.

“They’re fused to the core,” Star mumbled to herself. “I don’t know if I can pull them apart without destroying everything we worked toward. It’d be from zero again…”

Gawen was unconscious. The battle itself was a strain on their body, the stress of the encounter on the mind, and the overexertion of their powers on the spirit. To be passed out in even the spirit world meant that they had fought to the very limit. To their fortune, that gave Star the opportunity to theorize on what she could do.

“What do you mean,” Klent finally said, “by fused to the core? From zero?”

“This happened before,” Star said, looking back. “When Demitri, Mispy, Gahi, and Owen all fused together for the first time, something went wrong. Nevren said they weren’t ready—or something just wasn’t calculated right. What do you expect? Four minds merging into one, seamlessly and without error? In your dreams. Even I would need a few tries…”

Klent moved forward, then stopped. “So… something went wrong to make them go berserk?”

“Yeah. And I’m trying to figure out why now. It’s probably something really small that propagates throughout the system. Like an illness that spreads through the body. Ngh… The way Nevren had me solve it before was by forcing them apart. But that’s like untying a knot by slicing it in half – you’re going to have damaged rope. To do it right… you need a way to untie them and still have their minds intact afterward. Then, they don’t have to heal the broken pieces of their selves…”

“I think I follow,” Klent said slowly. “But, how would you do it?”

Star hesitated, looking the fused aura over. She shook her head. “Just give me a second.”

“He’s eventually going to wake up, isn’t he?” Klent said worriedly.

“I know, I know—just—give me a second. I need to think.” She rubbed her head, squeezing her temple. “I have to see what their spirits look like.”

“Spirits? But we’re already—”

“No,” Star said. “Their literal spirit. Right now, this is a world of aura. But I have to… t-to open that up further.”

Klent’s eyes widened. “But that’s… Star, doesn’t that only happen beyond the aura sea? You don’t just pull a spirit from—”

“I have to,” Star said. “I just have to be careful.”

She breathed in, then out, and brought a tiny paw forward, glowing with golden light. It trembled, but she inched it closer to the scaly Pokémon’s chest. The shaking intensified and she jerked her hand away.

“I—I can do this! Stop staring at me!”

Klent flinched, as did the other spirits. They quickly looked down, shuffling where they stood.

“This isn’t hard at all,” Star said. “It’s trivial, even. What’s a single—I mean, what’re two souls to a Creator? This is child’s play.” She held her paw against his chest again, trying to keep it from shaking. “Just draw the spirit out. Just draw it out a little.”

A golden sphere emerged partway—just the top of the orb—from Gawen’s rising and falling chest. It swirled, two currents twisting and turning around themselves to make up the single, unstable ball of light. Star winced—almost gagged—and took another steady breath. But then she felt something almost break loose and gasped, shoving it back into him. His whole body jolted, but remained unconscious, and Star pulled her hand away.

“I—I can’t do it,” she said, hand trembling. “I c-can’t keep it together. Oh, God, why can’t I—this is supposed to be easy! I’m s-supposed to be a Creator! Why can’t I pull myself together when it actually matters?!” She shoved her hands to her sides, hitting the air. Nearby rocks and trees split apart, startling Klent and the others. She slammed her hands over her eyes next, breathing in sharply.

Zygarde Hecto cleared his throat behind her. “Star.”

“Not now,” Star said, sniffling.

“This is important.”

“I can’t do anything right now,” Star replied, shaking her head. “I have to fix Gahi and Owen. That’s all I can think about now, okay?”

Hecto nodded. “I understand.”

Klent, Amelia, and all of the other spirits all stared at something behind Star, eyes wide. The Mew eyed them all incredulously, but then spun around. “Ng—!”

Arceus stood before her, significantly smaller than usual. He was no larger than Gawen.

Countless tendrils of light emerged from Star’s back, but Arceus held up his right hoof, lowering his head.

“I know I cannot fight here,” he said.

“Y-yeah, that’s right,” Star growled. “Leave.”

“I would like to help.”

Star’s tendrils wavered. She did nothing when the other Creator stepped around her and toward Gawen. He gently placed his hoof on Gawen’s chest, the same as Star, and pulled back. The sphere emerged halfway from the aura, a semicircle atop his scales. Two tendrils of light emerged from Arceus’ back next, slowly moving toward the fused spirit. Star watched closely, ready to push him away if he tried anything out of the ordinary.

The unstable swirling slowed. One spirit collected against the first tendril and the other half of the current spiraled around the other. Then, slowly, the two tendrils retracted. The two smaller spheres slid toward one another again, spinning together in a gentle, steady vortex. Arceus pressed his hoof forward, pushing the fused orb back into Gawen. The glowing subsided and Arceus stepped away.

He looked at Star, who quickly turned her head away and down, glaring at a boulder that she had shattered.

“The rest is up to you.” Arceus tapped his left hind leg on the ground, creating a portal. “I know you do not want me around.” He spun and walked through, the circle disappearing moments later.

Star’s fist clenched, watching him go. “I could’ve…” She couldn’t find the words to finish. Star’s shoulders relaxed, though Klent and the other spirits were still tense.

“Star?” Klent asked. “What did he do?”

Star shook her head. “Barky’s just being a showoff.” Star forced a smile. “I could’ve done the same thing if I tried again.”

Klent frowned, rubbing his pom-poms together.

Amelia adjusted the flower atop her head. “What’s left?” the Lilligant asked. “It looked like their spirits were fused together the… right way this time. But how do you separate them now? Is there… a trick?”

Star steadied her breaths one last time, nodding. She went back to inspecting Gawen. “Everything about them has to do with their aura,” Star said. “Bodily fusions are easy to fix for me. It’s the aura and the spirit that’s hard to do. It’s like trying to separate red and blue from purple.”

Klent nodded. “Mm. Or salt from the sea. Something like that?”

“Kinda, but it’s equal parts salt and water,” Star said.

The Jumpluff shook his body in understanding, the top dandelion puff bobbing. “Well… what if you had a way to attract out one part, but not the other? If you make water evaporate, it’ll leave salt behind. I think that’s what Arceus did with their spirits, if what I saw was right. Would there be a way to… get Owen out, and leave Gahi behind, or the other way around?”

“I don’t… really know. That’s one thing we could do… or try…”

Hecto cleared his throat. “He’s awake.”

Gawen’s eyes opened, staring at the sky.

Star clenched her jaw. “Nobody move,” she said calmly.

It was a moment of serenity, but it was fleeting. Gawen’s eyes locked onto Star.

“Hey,” Star said. “You feeling alright?”

“He’s not moving,” Klent said.

“Oh, he’s trying,” Star stated. “I have him immobilized with Psychic. He’s pretty weak, so it’s easy to keep him down, uh, gently.” She floated closer. “Gahi, Owen… it’s okay. Take a breath. Meditate, alright? Just a little…” Star waved a glowing paw near Gawen’s cheek. He let out a slow growl, and then a huff.

“Gahi, this is the Grass Orb—a part of the spirit realm. Can you see it, in Owen’s memories? It’s safe here. Nice and calm.”

“Can you reason with him?”

“I think so,” Star said. “It’s different… this isn’t like the last time. I think because it’s just two of them, and the meditation—you know, the stuff Rhys did—I think that’s making it easier. They aren’t totally broken this time. That’s probably why Barks was able to fix him so easily, too. Maybe if we’re careful…”

There was another long, tense silence. Star was working on Gawen while he was still awake, prodding at his aura, searching for anything she could untangle. Every so often, she sighed, mumbling to herself. They weren’t sure what she meant for most of it. But eventually, she said something a bit more audibly. “This should help…”

A small spark of white energy pulsed through the fused creature. Star floated away and released her Psychic hold. A small shockwave warped the light around Gawen upon release. The forest spirits flinched. He was unsealed and free to move.

“Hey,” Star whispered. “On a scale of one to ten… how badly do you want to fight right now?”

The Flygon-Charizard amalgamation stared at Star, and then at all the others. He looked at the trees. “Nine,” he said. “Just ‘cause I know what… ten feels like.”

“S-Star! How did you—”

“Keep your voice down,” Star said serenely. “I couldn’t remove his instincts and I couldn’t tamper with his head at all… but I was able to lower his stress levels and the mechanisms that contribute to being in battle mode all the time. I helped him feel less aggressive. The aura mimics the body, and I did some brain stuff. As Creator, you kinda have to know that sorta thing. But he could easily slip back into it, so no sudden movements.”

Gawen looked down shamefully. “I’m… I’m just a monster,” he said. “I’ve always been one. I’ve just been… sealed away. ‘Til now.”

“Pretty much,” Star said. “But you’re my monster, okay?”

Gawen winced. “Y-yeah…”

“May I touch your shoulder?”

Gawen nodded.

Star gently floated toward him and did just as she had asked. It was a tiny paw compared to the dragon. “I can see my reflection,” Star said with a smile, looking at his scales. “The Gahi half of you really shines, huh?”

Gawen smiled slightly.

“…I’m really proud of how far you’ve come, Owen. Gahi. You never would have been this controlled in the past.”

“It’s so hard…”

“I know. I know. But it’s okay, and you’re doing it anyway. Just keep going, you two…”

“Two,” Gawen said. He rubbed at his head. “I… I don’t know… who I am…” His claws dug into his scales, voice rising.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay,” Star said in a whisper. “Let me help. Gahi… Gahi, is that name familiar to you?”

“Yeah… that’s… that’s me… that’s me, and also someone I know…”

“Mhm, that’s true. Part of you is Gahi. You were a Trapinch, and you always wanted to be the first one to evolve. Do you remember that?”

“I… I do. I was always jealous… because… because Owen…. He was always faster. And I hate… when people are faster. But… but Owen’s me, too… I didn’t know that Gahi was jealous… But I… but I liked me, too. Because we were family.”

Star nodded. She gently moved until she was sitting on their shoulder. “Owen, did you enjoy training with Gahi?”

“Yeah… I did. I liked training with me… with Gahi—Owen and Gahi, us, me…” He rubbed his forehead. “It… it hurts…”

“Shh, shh..” Star didn’t give the fusion time to take it all in. The gentle onslaught continued uninterrupted. “Owen… Amia raised you all on her own. Do you remember that?”

Gawen was quiet. He looked like he had a splitting headache. His eyes were shut tight, creases forming along his muzzle. Scales ground against one another with every fold of skin. Star rubbed his shoulders.

“I… I remember,” he finally said.

“Gahi, did you miss Owen?”

“I… I did… missed him a lot… missed‘m all the time…”

“Gahi, do you remember how you coped? What did you do?”

“…Slept in his bed… the Rawst Leaves… they smell a certain way… Owen smelled like Rawst all the time, ‘cause he slept in it fer… I slept in them, and Gahi was always annoyed at how they smelled… But then I started missing it, ‘cause even if it was annoying… I guess Gahi really liked it…” Gawen gulped, trying to hold down his nausea. “S-Star… m-my head… I… I can’t think about this.”

“It’s okay. Gahi, Owen, it’s okay. Keep thinking, okay?”

“I can’t…”

Star rubbed his shoulders more. “This is good, you two. Keep holding it through. You’ve got this. I’m going to keep going, and I’m not stopping. Owen, did Gahi ever win against you in chess?”

“Star… p-please, stop…”

“Gahi, did Owen ever beat you in a race?”

“Yer killing my head…” He was clutching his head so tightly that his claws were piercing his scales.

“Owen, do you remember when you tried to sleep like Gahi, underground?”

I hated it…!”

“Gahi, have you ever read a single paper in your life?”

“I totally read a few! But Owen, he reads… everything he can… I…” His grip wavered; his whole body had tensed, and then relaxed.

Star blinked. “…Owen? Gahi? Hello?”

Their eyes were closed, but gently. There were no crease marks of stress; his aura felt… more serene. The gashes in his skull vanished away.

Klent, confused that Star was confused, stepped forward. “S-Star?”

“Star,” Hecto said, “is this not part of the procedure?”

“It, uh, no,” Star said. “Owen? Gahi?”

The fusion went half-limp, falling forward. Star had to really push to keep the creature from collapsing on top of her. “Ng—guys, c’mon!”

Gawen came to his senses, shaking his head. “S-sorry.” He sat up, but he looked dizzy. “I… I feel better,” he said. “I’m… I’m Owen, right now. Gahi’s resting.”

“Excuse me?” Star said. “That’s not—supposed to happen yet. Hello? Gahi?”

Owen was quiet, eyes closed. Gahi opened his eyes. “Yeah, what? I’m… feeling a li’l better.”

Gahi closed his eyes. The same body opened them again. “Star, I think… I think I’m feeling better. I think if we switch… it hurts less. I still… really… really want to fight… but at least I know who I am.”

Closed, opened. “I never saw yeh fight befer, Star. So, what, yeh think yer any good? Can you fight?”

“I—uh—I mean…”

Hecto spoke up. “Star, perhaps your methods were simply more effective than expected.”

“No, I’m pretty sure they had to go through a few more steps before finding a way like this. But maybe Owen’s just—smarter and figured it out on his own.”

“N-no, I don’t think I did. Star, I think you helped me. Heh, yeah, I figure yer real good and just didn’t think yeh could do it so easy. I—I mean, maybe that, because I didn’t get any ideas. It hurt a lot, so it was… y’know, was hard ter do the thinking, ‘specially when I was messing with Owen’s good thinkin’ parts.”

“Ugh, now my head’s starting to hurt,” Star said. “Okay, new rule. Pause before you switch control so I’m not listening to one voice two ways.”

“O-oh, um…” A pause. “Sorry fer that.” Another pause. “It came a little naturally.” Then, the fusion, with Owen in control, looked at his claws. “Actually, Star, um—I wanted to ask… a-and I don’t know if I want to know the answer, but… a-are… are we dead?”

“Uhh…” Star rubbed her ear. Her tail flicked as if she wasn’t completely sure. The three flames on Gawen’s tail flickered anxiously. Then, Star nodded. “No, you’re alive. But that’s actually making me wonder something…” Star observed the fusion making strange motions, such as brushing his tail pensively on the ground or pushing at a wall that wasn’t there. “…You okay there?”

“Everything feels… soft.”


Little specks of light leaked from the fusion’s body. “The air feels… soft. Does that make sense?”

“Not rea—”

The fusion vanished.

Klent blinked. “D… did they wake up?”

“Yeah. So at least they’re alive,” Star said.

“Will… what happened carry over to the real world?”

Star sighed. “Boy, I hope so. Let’s just watch and see.”

“Mm…” Klent, along with the other spirits, closed their eyes to tune into what their host was experiencing.


At first, he thought he was back in Hot Spot Cave. Everything around them had a dim, cyan glow, just like the mushrooms, or Aether Forest, or the aura sea. But everything felt too close—and too soft—to be the caverns. Owen tried to turn but was met with great resistance from a soft, solid wall. He felt like he was in some sort of crawl space; there was light ahead of him, so he pulled himself out of what he imagined was an alcove in the wall.

He heard the murmurs of a quiet conversation. “Ngh… ugh!” He was out and in an open area, though it was still very dim. “Finally!” he said. “Arceus, it felt like Anam in there…”

He turned around, realizing that was a very strange way to describe something, and inspected his surroundings. It looked like some sort of shiny, red wall with a cyan glow. He came from a crease in the wall, like dough that was folded over itself. The whole place was like this.

And then he recalled his previous moments of being conscious. Amia staring at him, the ocean rapidly advancing—and that Lugia. And then darkness, perhaps from the impact of where he had landed, but perhaps also because—

“Oh… oh, no. Nooo, no, no.” The fusion paced. Every step he made was squishy against the ground. “N-no, no, no, that’s not it,” he said. “Absolutely not. I ain’t gonna accept that. Ain’t no way I got ate. Th-that just isn’t how it works—this is—this is just a strange dream! ‘Cause this ain’t how bodies work—I’d be dead! Long dead! Some sea monster woulda made me lunch by now! Ain’t no way that… maybe I just escaped and…”

Owen’s half realized that there was an easy way to determine where he was. With great apprehension, he turned his attention to his Perceive.

He was in the center of something large. It had a giant, central chamber, and six offshoots that appeared to be moving. The one at the front of this chamber swiveled to the left and right subtly; the one in the rear twisted with the currents—he realized that this thing was underwater. And there were four more structures attached to the central chamber—two were shorter, and near the rear offshoot, and two were longer and beating hard against the water, propelling the entire structure forward. They were wing-like, yet also hand-like.

It was a Lugia without anything inside. No heart. No lungs. No real organs of any kind. “I… oh.” He wanted to collapse but didn’t want to know what the ground felt like. What his feet felt was enough. The fusion gagged and covered his mouth. “Why…?”

The murmuring returned. Gahi and Owen tried to gather themselves and turned toward the sound. At first, they were unfamiliar—and with newfound worry, he wondered how much his memories may have been shuffled by this incident—but soon, he could put a few of the voices to names.

“…That’s… Zena,” he said. “And Willow, and… is that—Demitri and Mispy? That is!” Pushing aside the circumstances, Gawen rushed toward the only familiar thing he had left. “Hey, guys!”

Zena perked up. They were all gathered nearby, opposite of the great chamber. “Owen? Er—Gahi? Both…?”

Amia recognized the tone. “Owen! Y-you’re… you’re okay! Oh, thank Arceus, I—” She sniffled; it seemed like she had it together until she finally saw him awake and sane. She ran toward him and tripped over her own feet; the fusion caught her.

“H-hey, Mom, it’s—it’s alright,” Owen said, rubbing her back. He realized how tall he was, now—even larger than he was as a Charizard. “I think Star helped us in the spirit world.”

“Us—so Gahi’s still…?”

“Yeah, I’m still here,” Gahi nodded. “It kinda hurts our head ter fight fer control at the same time, but if we swap like this, it ain’t so bad, and if we merge our heads, it ain’t too bad, either. Still weird, though, eh, so we’ll try’n keep it separate.”

“Oh, that’s… that’s interesting!” Amia said delicately. “But…”

“Interesting? That’s cool!” Willow piped up, hopping from Amia’s hair onto Gawen’s snout. She skittered forward until she was between his horns.

Owen grinned. “I think we can get better at being ‘as one’ too, but…” He looked at his claws. “I’d like it if we were two bodies again. I like being close to Gahi, but—maybe not this close…”

Gahi sighed. “Yeah, ain’t that something yeh’d expect outta Demitri an’ Mispy? But not us, I figure.”

Mispy huffed; Demitri rubbed at one of his tusks, avoiding eye contact.

“Oh, that’s… quite odd to hear two kinds of people from the same voice,” Amia said. “It’s almost like when Eon mimicked my voice—oooh, I still get shivers from that…”

“Eon seems really familiar, but…” Demitri frowned. “He’s a lot less friendly than I thought he’d be.”

“Don’t remind me,” Owen grumbled. “Um, so… I really, really don’t want to know… but I have to… Where are we?”

“We’re being carried by an old friend of mine,” Zena said. “Her name is Emily—she’s a Lugia. I didn’t think she’d still be alive, but… this is definitely her. I remember it all now.”

Gawen crossed his arms incredulously. “Your friend?” he said. “She… eats people.”

“Well, it’s not eating if you aren’t food, don’t you think?” Zena suggested.

“No, this is pretty strongly like eating,” Owen said, eying the walls suspiciously. “How does this even work? My Perceive is telling me Emily doesn’t have anything going on inside her. I don’t even know if she has blood. It’s like a Drifblim shaped itself into a Lugia. And how big is she, anyway?!”

“She’s really, really big,” Willow said. “I tried to shrink Emily so we could try to escape, but it just bounced off the walls and shrank us a little instead…”

Owen looked up at the fleshy ceiling with a grimace. This place reminded him of the Hot Spot training grounds in terms of size, though the ceilings were closer and it generally felt more claustrophobic. He had the vaguest of recollections of how big Emily was, and somehow she seemed bigger on the inside even after considering Willow’s power.

Zena hummed. “I don’t know why she’s like this, either. But she has a certain power about her. Can’t you feel it?”

“Yeah, but—it’s subtle. I felt it when I was—nghk… when I was lodged somewhere in the walls. Up against it I definitely felt something strong, but now that I’m just standing here? Not really… But her aura is strong. I can’t see anything outside.”

Owen scanned the group again and felt the presence of somebody hiding behind Zena’s tail. “Um? Who’s that?”


“Oh,” Zena lifted her tail, revealing—nothing. “That was Tanneth. She lives, er… with Emily. She’s a Vaporeon, but I think she’s still a little nervous about you, Owen, Gahi.”

“She is? How come?” Owen asked, feeling stupid seconds later.

“It’s okay, Tanneth,” Amia said. “This one’s friendly. A friend of ours, Star, must have helped them!”

“A-are you sure?” someone said beneath Mispy.

Owen and Gahi got a good look at Tanneth; it was indeed a Vaporeon, though she seemed to be partway inside the floor. Once again, it reminded them of Anam.

“Actually, um, Emily was the one who helped you,” Tanneth said. “She said that she felt your aura was in a lot of pain, so she healed you with a lot of her power.”

“My aura was in… pain?” Gawen said. “How? Y’mean like, I was ripping apart?”

Tanneth nodded. “Emily doesn’t like when Pokémon are hurt, but she can only heal others if they’re very, very close to her body. But she can heal anything!”

“Anything,” Owen repeated slowly. “But—but what if I went crazy? I’d’ve really hurt Emily, all the way in here!”

Tanneth shook her head. “Emily can’t get hurt. She’s really, really strong! …Defensively!”

“Defensively? So, she can’t attack? But Lugia are supposed to be really strong—I read that Lugia was supposed to know Aeroblast! That could rip anything to shreds!”

“Emily…. Now that I think about it, I don’t think she ever was that powerful,” Zena said. “She should be strong, but her Aeroblast… I think the worst it ever did was make little whirlpools for us to play in.” She looked up. “But maybe when she gets back to wherever her home is, we can talk more.”

“Still strange,” Owen said, crossing his arms thoughtfully. “But yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Actually, while we’re waiting, I… want to try something. Can you guys give me a little bit? I want to de-fuse…”

“You can do that?” Willow asked, tapping her leg on his left goggle.

“I think so,” Owen said.

“We better,” Gahi said.

“We’ll try,” Gawen said.

Reluctantly, Gawen sat down to meditate. Demitri and Mispy crept closer to get a better look at their sparring partner. Demitri tapped at his right tusk thoughtfully. “Wow… So that’s what it’s like to fuse together… And you’re sane, too! Who would’ve thought that a little healing energy would’ve helped, huh?”

“Star was helping, too,” Gawen said. “I think it was the healing that made it feel better, but… Star was the one that helped us actually separate. We just have to finish it off.”

Mispy inspected the flame at the end of Gawen’s tail—the three blade-like spires of fire. “What if you… went Grass Type?” Mispy theorized.

Owen’s half was intensely curious and distracted by the remark; Gahi’s half was just annoyed that they couldn’t concentrate in peace. The two conflicting thoughts were too much for the fusion and, in an instant, one head split off from the main one, turning irritably, “Shaddap, I’m trying ter concentrate!”

“Wah! T-two heads!” Tanneth squeaked.

“Eh?” Gahi looked down. He could move the right arm, but not the left. “Oy, lookit that!”

“Gahi! I can’t feel my right side!”

“Well, I can’t feel my left! C’mon, let’s just keep going!”

“Um—” Mispy, in an effort to help, wrapped her vines around their arms and pulled.

The two heads grunted in strain, but, thankfully, this was the correct approach. With a little tug and some concentration, the dragon and the pseudodragon split apart, their respective halves regenerating in a dim light. They tumbled to the ground with a series of plops and damp splashes.

“Ugh! Finally!” Owen said. He shook himself off and tried to ignore the empty feeling in his chest. “Glad to be me again. No offense or anything, Gahi, but I think you dumbed me down a few pegs…”

“Feh,” Gahi stuck his nose in the air. He paused as if something had dawned on him. “Hey, I ain’t crazy!” He looked at his claws. “How ‘bout that, eh?” And then he flexed his wings.

“I think we’re going to go a little crazy when we evolve,” Demitri said, looking at Mispy worriedly. “Um—when that happens, do you think you’ll be able to…”

“We’ll help,” Owen said. “We just have to beat you and then, um… help you straighten out after that. Maybe Emily can help!”

Just then, the ground shifted. “Earth—earthquake?” Owen said. “W-wait, we’re not on—”

The ground heaved, throwing them all backward. The entire area turned sideways, floors becoming walls. Owen and Gahi hit the new ground; Amia and Willow landed on top of Owen, followed by Demitri and Mispy atop Gahi, and lastly Zena, whose lengthy body pinned them all down.

They all groaned.

“Everyone okay?” Owen wheezed.

“I think I squished my webbers,” Willow whined.

Tanneth’s head stuck out of a nearby wall, giggling. “Hey, everyone! Emily’s gonna let you guys out, now!”

Owen’s expression darkened. “Please tell me she has a better way to—”

A giant wing-arm burst violently through the walls of the Lugia, presumably through her belly, fishing around her own insides like one would search for a snack in the dark. The wing was big enough to grab them all in one go. Without thinking, Owen shrieked, and they were pulled back to the outside world.
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I'd be wary of your fic getting too popular, because you run the risk of getting buried under a mountain of Steven Universe comparisons for what you did to Owen and Gahi here. I say that having never watched the show, but I know that the main characters fusing with people is a central gimmick of the show. Hey, at least it's not a DBZ comparison this time. Y'know, aside from the fact that this whole chapter was one extended Broly rage sequence. Oops. Ain't I a stinker? :p

I enjoyed the extended action sequence. I'm well aware by now that long action scenes are bad and older, more sophisticated readers don't like them to drag for too long. [sigh] But, like, this fic, despite it's premise being rooted in how over-the-top it claims to be, has actually been softer on the action side. Aside from Ra's special episode, the closest we've had to a long action sequence was with Willow and, well, the stakes were never particularly high there and it event had a bit of a gag element to it. This fight, much like Ra's, does have a lot higher stakes. Though said stakes are better because you've firmly established up to this point the risks of allowing your synths to run about unchecked. Even if death is a slap on the risk in this world, you do try to correct for that with the whole "If they're spirits they won't have the freedom to move about entirely on their own," which is, I guess, an all right substitute given the way your world works.

The fight itself is initially very slow when it's just Owen and Gahi. It follows the whole "I know you're in there somewhere!" bit to a tee, but it's not like it was bad or anything. Things got really interesting when they finally fused. Though that opening bit about how good Owen thought it felt when Gahi was burrowing into him reads a lot different when one knows you're into vore. I liked how everyone really had to pitch in in order to put a stop to things. Gives a great sense of the threat level posed and also shows how serious the situation was. What I didn't like was how it ended. I mean, my climactic battle had an eleventh hour superpower moment, but it came from a main character. This lugia ex machina left me feeling cheated. Badass way to introduce Emily, I suppose, but a really unfulfilling way to end things off. But that's just my take. [shrug]

So, this Lugia is basically Monstro? Y'know, from Pinocchio? Only she can also seemingly liquify itself like Zena and her insides are basically a glorified healing chamber? Uh-huh. I see, I see. [scribbles on clipboard.]

Well, as far as debrief chapters go, I don't have all that much to say. I would've liked to have gotten a better of sense of who Emily actually is, but that mostly stems from, again, how unsatisfying I thought her popping up right at the end of the last chapter was. But what can you do? In any case, Mew and Arceus get to perform aura surgery. I say that with a straight face because, like, surgery is the first thing that came to mind in addressing the whole Gawen issue. Not real surgery. The dramatized variation you see on TV, complete with Mew having a freakout and Arceus having to show up to make sure they don't lose their "patient." Which, yeah, maybe Arceus didn't have the friendliest introduction to the story, but I still like him more than Star and this only adds to that. Didn't even take the opportunity to gloat or demean Star in any way. Came in, untangled the auras, and left without stirring anything up. Good for him.

I have a similar issue with Gawen as I did with the Chasm of the Void. The way you tried to handle switching back and forth between Owen and Gahi as speaker... messed with my head and took me out of things. Not enough dialogue attributions and, to make matters worse, you were swapping speakers within the same paragraph. Yes, they're one entity and, double yes, Gahi has the accent. But since, dialogue-wise, you're treating them separately they should get separate paragraphs. It makes matters worse when you switch from labeling them Gawen in the process to Gahi and Owen in the next scene, even though they haven't defused. It doesn't help that Star actually lampshaded this confusion. I don't know how prevalent the fusion thing will be going forward. But something tells me it'll be popping up again. If it does, I strongly suggest you keep the separate spirits' dialogue in separate paragraphs and find a way (beyond speech quirks) to make it clear who's speaking.
I know that the main characters fusing with people is a central gimmick of the show. Hey, at least it's not a DBZ comparison this time. Y'know, aside from the fact that this whole chapter was one extended Broly rage sequence.

Blah blah I give up blah blah. But in all seriousness, let's not forget that DBZ has a bunch of fusion going on, too. It's a fun trope, what can I say? Besides, this reveal was something like 36 chapters in the making, the moment "Team Alloy" was brought up. At least the twist itself was handled interestingly.

this fic, despite it's premise being rooted in how over-the-top it claims to be, has actually been softer on the action side.

Y'know, that's kinda funny to think about, but you're right. After all the reading I've done, it really seems like I only have a few big battles going on in between fluff, stuff, and banter. Seems to work, but I'm kinda surprised to see it. That being said, there may be strings where the battles will get more frequent down the line. Hopefully it won't be too suffocating.

This fight, much like Ra's, does have a lot higher stakes. Though said stakes are better because you've firmly established up to this point the risks of allowing your synths to run about unchecked. Even if death is a slap on the risk in this world, you do try to correct for that with the whole "If they're spirits they won't have the freedom to move about entirely on their own," which is, I guess, an all right substitute given the way your world works.

Yeah, it's sort of a handicap I gave myself by making half of this plot revolve around spirits and the spirit world. Really makes death more of a "well guess you're here now" like what was literally demonstrated with Cara (if you remember her. The Lopunny who got Thunder'd.) But on the bright side, by raising the stakes here, I've at least confirmed to myself that despite death not being the biggest thing to worry about, there are a lot of other ways to, ahh... make things dangerous and have the reader fear for loss of some kind. In this case, loss of mind, loss of self, loss of control.

What I didn't like was how it ended. I mean, my climactic battle had an eleventh hour superpower moment, but it came from a main character. This lugia ex machina left me feeling cheated. Badass way to introduce Emily, I suppose, but a really unfulfilling way to end things off.

Oof, yeah. While Team Alloy had foreshadowing all over the place, Emily was a lot harder for foreshadow, and I guess she got introduced a bit clumsily/hastily. I'm actually working on a minor extension of this scene to at least give a "brief resolution" to the Gawen fight, so Emily shows up after that, if only to make the battle more satisfying and "atomic" rather than interrupted by an Emily ex mawchina. Yes, I did say that.

I would've liked to have gotten a better of sense of who Emily actually is

I suppose I could've had Tanneth explain more, but that's sort of an info dump, and Tanneth isn't exactly a character I'd want to leave to explaining things for long. Thankfully, the next chapter will explain what madness just happened!

The way you tried to handle switching back and forth between Owen and Gahi as speaker... messed with my head and took me out of things. Not enough dialogue attributions and, to make matters worse, you were swapping speakers within the same paragraph. Yes, they're one entity and, double yes, Gahi has the accent. But since, dialogue-wise, you're treating them separately they should get separate paragraphs. It makes matters worse when you switch from labeling them Gawen in the process to Gahi and Owen in the next scene, even though they haven't defused.

I'll look into this. It was a bit of a tricky balance between blending them and illustrating in the narrative that they're blended down to the core like a good smoothie, but also that they can separate as needed once they're properly in control. I'll definitely look into making future moments like these less confusing. Thankfully (and it's not much of a spoiler) other fusions are less troublesome. It's just that Owen and Gahi are both talkative, so they fight for speech rights pretty often.
Chapter 38 - The Enigmatic Healer
Chapter 38 – The Enigmatic Healer

Manny crossed his arms with doubt, flying through the air with his body parallel to the ocean. “Yer gonna have ter explain that one a second time, Rhys,” he said. “They all got ate, but they’re just fine?”

“Y-yes, I promise, they are perfectly safe. More than safe; if anything, they might be getting healed right now.”

Manny felt someone knocking on his spiritual doors. He held his hand out and Star emerged, looking a bit shaken.

“Y’alright?” Manny asked.

“Yeah, sorry, sorry,” Star said. “I was just… sorting things out with Owen and Gahi.”

She steadied her breath, earning a few concerned looks from Manny, and then addressed the others. “It’s true. That was Emily. She’s a wonderful Pokémon, but—well, I don’t know if any of you are going to remember her in a little while. Y’see… well…” Star hesitated. “Actually… I’m a little surprised you’re remembering her at all. Maybe because you guys are all together, it’s starting to…” She trailed off. “…Guys. Do you remember seeing the Lugia at all?”

“Wh—of course! It only took up like half our view!” Manny said.

“Huh,” Star said. “Well… I guess we’ll see how much I can explain, then. See… Lugia Emily… ahh… she’s really kind. So kind that Arceus gifted her a tiny, tiny portion of divine energy—enough to make her a true legend, but not enough to expand that influence beyond her body. She had it on the condition that she’d only be able to use that power to help others—and so, she trained to become the ultimate healer.”

“The healer that… eats people,” Anam said, nibbling his hand. “Does it hurt?”

“If you ask me, it’s pretty cozy.” Star crossed her arms. “And it’s pretty spacious in there, too. Emily’s basically a dense balloon filled with air. Dense enough to still dive underwater, but with all that air in the middle, it’s really easy to live in. Her aura is strongest within her, so… anything that’s inside of her basically can’t get hurt.”

“It’s also quite difficult to escape,” Rhys muttered.

“Oh, yeah!” Star giggled. “Back when you were a real Hunter going after divine energy, Emily was one of your targets!” She shoved Rhys by the shoulder. “She ate you and refused to let you go unless you promised not to fight her!”

“I’m surprised she didn’t force me to make a Divine Promise,” Rhys muttered. “But I suppose we did… chat for a while. Her and that Vaporeon within her.”

“You mean, even your ultimate moves didn’t work on Emily?” Anam said. “Would… would mine?”

“Maybe?” Star shrugged. “I dunno. I mean, Ghost has an advantage over her type, but Em’s pretty exceptional. But I don’t think she’d beat you in a fight, either. Like I said—she’s an ultimate healer. Like, on a scale of one to ten, her capacity to harm is… negative one, I guess? Or close to it. Maybe if she rolled on you it’d do some damage, but…”

“I’d rather not envision this,” Rhys stated flatly.

“So, they’re definitely okay,” Anam said.

“Yeah,” Star said. “I promise—if they’re in Emily’s guts, they’re as safe as you can get.”

“Quite counterintuitive,” James remarked.

“Hrm.” Rhys didn’t like the situation, but he couldn’t deny that Owen and the others, for now, would be in good hands. He focused his attention ahead, toward the expanse of ocean.

“Where are we going?” Anam asked.

“We’re following Emily back to her home base,” Star said. “With any luck, we’ll be able to find her pretty easily. She’s on the other side of the world, so she’s equidistant from all parts of the shoreline. Makes it useful to go to anywhere she can sense trouble. It shouldn’t be long from now. It’s a tiny island that gets flooded pretty often.”

“Water is not still,” Valle said.

“Oh, get over it, you already broke your own vow when Enet made you move your arms. Why don’t you stop being a literal statue, anyway?”

“I cannot.” Valle rumbled angrily.


“Solid ground! Thank Arceus!” Owen had half a mind to kiss, but he kept himself calm. “Wait—where are we?”

They were inside of a large, yet shallow cave. It was only ten or so paces from the mouth to the back wall, yet Owen had enough room to fly in the airspace it provided. Behind them was a small beach of white sand. In fact—and a cursory Perceive of the surroundings confirmed this—the small cave was more like a partly hollowed boulder sitting in the middle of a tiny circle of land.

Circumnavigating the tiny island on foot would take about the same amount of time as it would to eat a nice bowl of stew. Maybe one with a good set of Tamato base, some potatoes and onions…

Was Rhys going to make dinner?

“This is my home!”

The sheer volume of the voice shook Owen’s chest and tossed him out of his thoughts. He worried that his heart would stop either from the percussive impact or the surprise. He briefly wondered if he and Gahi, when they had fused, had two hearts.

He spun around. “W-wow, Emily, you’re… big!”

Emily seemed smaller on the outside, but she still dwarfed them all by comparison. Legends often depicted Lugia as a creature at least three times the size of a Charizard, but Emily was much more than that. Five, six times? Owen couldn’t tell. He only knew that he was noticeably smaller than her head and she had to angle her gaze sharply downward to make eye contact with them. Her voice was deep and booming, but it fit for someone of her stature. He felt the innocent kindness it had, though, just like their Heart of Hearts, Anam. Perhaps that was why Zena was reminded of her through their leader.

Still, he couldn’t get over the fact that there was a gaping hole in her belly where she had pulled them out. “Emily, are you okay?”

“Okay about what?” Emily asked.

“Um, Emily, dear,” Amia said, pointing at where her ribcage would have been, “is it normal for you to… just have that wound?”

She didn’t have any bones or blood; in fact, it seemed like the red flesh within was just for show.

“Oh, oops!” Emily said, bringing her wing-arms to her chest. She rubbed at the edges and the hole closed up, like she was shaping clay to patch a wet sculpture. “Sorry! I need to remember to keep that in one piece or people freak out…”

Demitri looked at Emily worriedly. “That doesn’t hurt, does it?”

Mispy’s vines twitched, ready to heal her if there were any residual injures, yet the Lugia’s body was back to normal. Whatever normal was.

“Hurt?” Emily asked, but then something moved up her chest, became a lump on her shoulder, and popped toward the ground.

The Vaporeon, Tanneth, landed with surprising grace for such a drop. “Emily doesn’t feel a lot of things that she should,” she said. “She doesn’t need to eat, or sleep, or… any of that! I dunno why. She’s always been that way. Maybe she’s a deity.”

Emily giggled, rubbing the back of her head. “I dunno about that….”

“It’s… certainly nothing like other Lugia that I’ve heard of,” Amia said. “Oh, wait, but are there other Lugia?”

“There should be,” Owen said. “I think… Then again, never saw one… Either way, Em’s definitely not a normal Lugia. But… is she a Guardian?”

“A what?” Emily asked. “Yeah, I’m totally a Guardian! I’m the guardian of the seas! I keep all the salty water safe!”

“So, the Guardian of…” Zena paused. “The former Guardian of Water?”

“Huh? I mean, I don’t guard all water…” Emily frowned. “I mostly just keep the ocean safer. Not rivers and stuff… Just oceans. But I can try to cover the land, but that’s a lot of land… and I’m slower on land, so it’s harder to help Pokémon in time.”

Owen looked in the air pensively. “…I think we’re working with two different definitions of Guardian.”

Amia nodded. “Um, Emily, do you know what the spirit world is?”

“Spirit… world?” Emily asked. “Like, where Ghost Pokémon go? Oh, no, no!” She bopped herself on the head. “Ghosts aren’t dead. It’s where spirits of the dead go! Right?”

Zena hummed. “I don’t think she’s a Guardian. She’s just… a normal guardian. Er, a non-Orb… protector… of sorts.”

“Hmm…” Owen churred uncertainly. Something wasn’t adding up. But he didn’t have any extra information to work with yet. “I guess we should take some time to recover. Do we have a communicator with us?”

The Charizard sat down against the cave’s rocky walls; the ground had soft bedding to it that was covered in a thin layer of dried kelp. Emily must have taken the time to make it, somehow, or find it some other way to craft something of this size—it was very cozy.

The cold pit in his stomach suggested that this bedding could easily be more of Emily’s flesh fashioned into a soft cushion, but he avoided using his Perception to find out for sure. Some things were best left unknown.

This sentiment lasted for a few fleeting seconds. Owen checked and, indeed, it seemed to be more of Emily, like she lopped off a part of her belly and turned it into a soft cushion. He elected to not inform the others and festered in his own disgust in silence.

“We do,” Amia said, pulling out her communicator. “But it didn’t work inside of Emily—maybe now it will?”

“Doesn’t work inside Emily? That’s weird. Maybe it’s aura-based,” Tanneth said. “Or some other kind of technique. A lot of stuff gets blocked off by Emily… You can’t even use Teleport to get in or out of her.”

“Oh, goodness, that’s… How do you know that?” Amia asked worriedly.

“Someone tried to use Teleport once,” Tanneth said. “I don’t remember who, though. I think it was an Alakazam.”

“You don’t say.” Owen curled his tail around his hips and legs. He finally had time to decompress someplace that wasn’t from his nightmares, aside from the bedding. And in that moment of silence with just his thoughts, it finally occurred to him—this was the first time in centuries that he was himself, at least mostly. His head still felt like a great fog if he tried to think back too far, but his body… He fused, and he survived it; he knew what he was capable of, and all his power. And when he was fused with Gahi, when he finally regained his sanity in that state…

“Heh…” Gahi leaned back. “I guess I c’n deal with second place.”

“Huh?” Owen came out of his thoughts. “What? Were you guys talking?”

Demitri nodded. “Yeah, we were just talking about how you won the race to evolve first. And Gahi’s second. So now it’s just between the two of us.”

“Oh, you guys are racing to evolve? That’s so cool!” Emily pushed her wings together. “I wish I evolved…”

“You… don’t need to get any bigger,” Owen said.

“I forget being an Eevee!” Tanneth said cheerfully. “It was too long ago. Maybe I was always a Vaporeon!”

“Doubt that one, too,” Owen said. “But, uh—about that… Demitri, Mispy, are you guys sure you’re ready to evolve? Gahi went crazy. And when we fused, we both went totally nuts. It took a near-death experience to get us out of—oh, I wonder if my Mysticism is stronger from that…”

“What’s that, dear?” Amia asked.

“Uh—nothing. Anyway, what I mean is, if you evolve, you might get hurt if we don’t keep it totally safe. Because what if, you know…”

“Safe?” Emily said. “Well… if they want to evolve, why don’t they just do it in me?”

Owen wished his Perception extended to the future; that way, he would’ve seen the trap he’d put himself in. “B-back… in you?”

“Yeah! If you need a place where you can’t get hurt, then I’m definitely that!”

“I’ve never quite seen someone describe themselves as a place before, Emily.” Zena chuckled. “I don’t think you were quite this large when I knew you before!”

Emily giggled. “I missed you, Zena!” she said. “I wondered what happened to you! I can’t believe I forgot!”

“I feel the same way,” Zena said. “It’s so odd, isn’t it? But—that’s not important right now. Let’s talk about them evolving. Demitri, from how I understand it, you have the strength of the team, right?”

“Yeah, I think,” Demitri said. “I know that it’s really hard to stop my attacks…. With anything. I think I even break through Protect a little. But I’m pretty slow.”

Mispy nodded. “And I’m…”

“Our defense,” Owen completed. “And that includes healing. And there’s also that technique Rhys taught you about passively charging your Solar Beam… It takes twice as long, but you can do other attacks in between. I dunno if normal Pokémon can do stuff like that. Imagine combining you two…” Owen paused. “What’s with your aura sensing, anyway?”

Amia nodded. “Rhys told me about this a long time ago, dear. Apparently, they tried to give that to you during the design phase, but there’s only so much that you can cram into a single aura at once, if that makes any sense. That was the whole purpose of fusion to begin with—to bypass that natural limit with multiple auras at the same time. So, you got Perception of the physical world and Mispy got Perception of the ethereal world…

“Imagine combining all four of you,” Amia said gravely. “An unstoppable, self-healing, agile, and totally aware creature…”

Owen winced; something between a bruise and a sharp headache knocked at part of his head. “I think… that’s something Star warned me not to think about,” he said. “I still can’t believe Eon did that… We could’ve been killed! Why would he unleash us like that? I definitely don’t think he intended to help us!”

“Yeah, he seemed like a real jerk,” Gahi said. “Hmph. Well, I’ll show him. I’m gonna be stronger’n ever, and I’ll be normal in the head when I do it! Think he’s gonna make me fer a crazy thing…”

Owen laughed. “Yeah! And we’ll make sure that Demitri and Mispy can evolve and stay sane, too. Um… so, Emily, you mentioned that…?”

“Yeah!” She slammed her wing on her belly—the shockwave alone startled Amia, who had been inspecting a mossy rock. “If you guys train and evolve in my body, you’ll be as safe as possible!”

“Hmm… Well… okay. What do you guys think? Do you want to… ugh… I mean…”

“I’m fine with it,” Demitri said. “Mispy?”

The Bayleef nodded. “We can go all-out?”

“Totally!” Emily said.

Owen felt the presence of someone else—no, quite a few others. “Oh,” he said. “I think the others caught up to us.”

“Others? Oh! Your friends?” Emily asked.

“You mean Rhys and Anam and everyone?” Demitri asked.

“Oh, good! We’ll all meet up so we can—um—regroup?” Amia stepped past Emily, who was nearly as tall as the cave on the island.

“Rhys! Anam! We’re over here!” The Gardevoir waved them over, sending a plume of blue fire in the sky to get their attention.

Rhys, the nearest to them, winced with recognition.

Emily waved a huge wing-arm at them. “Hey! Everyone! Over here!”

“I really don’t think you need to wave to get their attention,” Owen mumbled, further alarmed at how large Emily seemed when her wing was above her head.

Rhys landed gingerly and looked down, hands to his sides in respect. He bowed. “Hello, Lugia Emily.”


“I am Lucario Rhys. I hope… that our past encounter doesn’t leave any sour feelings.”

“…Huh?” Emily asked, tilting her massive head. “What do you mean?” She reached down; Rhys flinched, tensing, but didn’t move otherwise. Her massive wing-arm wrapped around Rhys, two of the finger-like ends holding him like a long pastry. She brought her other wing forward and held it level, setting him on the flat of it. Then, the Lugia squinted at him. “…I met a lot of Lucario… but you do look familiar… Did you need healing?”

“I’d—No, thank you, I’m, I—there’s no need for that. I was the one who… attempted to strike you down, long ago, to take your power.”

“Uhh—Rhys?” Owen said. “Emily isn’t a Guardian. Were you trying to harvest her power just because she had a lot of it? How do you even… harvest that sort of power?”

“It’s difficult to explain,” Rhys said. “I can’t explain it, without you all forgetting again. You see, Emily isn’t just powerful for no reason, she’s the Dragon Guardian. Well… she used to be, anyway.”

“…She’s what, dear?” Amia said.

Rhys grumbled, but repeated himself uselessly. “I just said, she’s the ex-Dragon Guardian.”

Amia looked at the others; they all shrugged.

Rhys ran his claws through the fur of his head. “There is something about Emily that, if I say it, you will forget. It’s as if I didn’t say it at all. It’s because Arceus has made it so—a Divine Decree that no normal person can remember. The Hunters… were personally involved in what became of Emily. We’re able to remember. The Decree was not strong enough to eliminate that from our lives, for how major it was. But if your Mystic power becomes strong enough to defy it, just as you defy some of the other laws of reality, perhaps one day we can tell you.”

Owen paused, glancing at Anam. “Do you remember?”

Anam frowned. “A little,” he said. “I thought she was just a nice Lugia…”

Owen frowned. “Wait, so does that mean Nevren also remembers who Emily is?”

“Yes,” Rhys said.

“And if we become strong enough, we’ll be able to remember what you told us?” Owen asked. “Hmm…”

Rhys nodded. “Perhaps with some help from Star, you’ll remember, too. But as of now? I doubt it.”

“Try again,” Owen said, staring up at Rhys. “Say it again! Who is Emily?”

Rhys rubbed his temples. “The former Dragon Guardian.” He stared and waited for a reaction from the others, yet none came. They all looked at him with blank, expectant eyes.

“…You… you said something, didn’t you?” Owen asked.

“I did.” Rhys sighed.

“Guess now isn’t the time.” Star shrugged.

Emily giggled. “You’re silly! You just stood there!” she said. “Can I pet you?”

It seemed that Emily didn’t remember, either, Owen noticed. He hummed, puzzled.

“You… I would prefer if you did not,” Rhys said, looking away.

“Aww…” Emily sadly set the Lucario down.

“You must be super important, Mister Rhys!” Tanneth said. “I bet you’re a super strong hero, just like Emily!”

Rhys glanced down. “I have to disagree.”

“Huh? How come?” Emily said. “You seem like a nice Pokémon!”

“Hmm…” Owen said. “We probably have to become really strong,” he said. “How strong do you think? Do we have to… be stronger than Arceus himself?”

Rhys shook his head “I certainly hope not. Only a small fraction of his power should be needed to override it. This is especially true for those aligned with Star.”

“…Oh,” Owen said.

“Ohh, that’s right,” Amia said, tapping her ill-defined chin. “Owen, you never aligned with Star or Arceus. You’re… your own alliance right now, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t call it an alliance,” Owen said. “I just want to keep my options open. Maybe it’s just my instincts.”

“What?” Demitri said.

“I feel like I don’t know the full story,” Owen said. “Who makes decisions without as much information as they can get?”

“I mean, figure what I see’s enough.” Gahi shrugged. “Eh. But yer real thorough. I’ll trust ya. I ain’t gonna side with either a’them, then, if yer gonna do the same.”

Demitri and Mispy exchanged looks, but then nodded at Owen.

“You know best,” Mispy said.

“Aw, gee, guys…” Owen blushed.

“…Oh, no!” Emily said, straightening. “I have to go! A Pokémon is in trouble.”

Tanneth hopped onto Emily’s shoulder and burrowed into it, melting away.

The Lugia addressed them hastily. “Umm—can I come back later?”

“We should probably get going, too,” Rhys said. “Perhaps another time. Er… Would you mind if we set a Waypoint to this cave, so we can visit later without the travel time? It’s all the way across the world, after all…”

“Oh! Sure! That sounds cool,” Emily said.

“Perfect. I will set up—you can rescue that Pokémon, now.”

“Okay. See you!” Emily didn’t hesitate and jumped into the ocean, creating a wave that washed all the way into the caves. Owen grumbled and raised his tail so his flames didn’t get doused by the sea.

And then the waters calmed, the massive sea guardian sinking into its depths.

“She seemed nice,” Demitri said. “Weird, but nice.”

While everyone else nodded in agreement, Owen glanced at Anam again. All this time, his gooey body felt tense. His Perception gave him another piece of information: It felt almost like Anam was listening to somebody.

“Heart of Hearts?” Owen asked.

Anam jolted upright. “H-huh? Hi! Hello, Owen. Are you feeling okay?”

“Are you?” Owen asked.

Anam grinned. “Totally! Congratulations on evolving, Owen! That’s super cool!” He clapped his slimy hands together, bowing with so much enthusiasm, combined with his incessant giggling, that it fooled everyone else in the room. “I was just thinking, now that you can fly, and fight at your best, think of all the people you’re gonna be able to help! You and Gahi! Fused as the mighty Gawen—you need to come up with a cool name for all the other fusions, too!”

He looked happy as ever. And the others all grinned, too—even Rhys, suggesting that he sensed no strangeness from Anam’s aura. Owen smiled, if only because the Goodra’s was contagious. But he wasn’t fooled.

“Okay, everyone!” Anam said, raising his arms to get their attention. “Let’s go home!”

Deflating with relief after the morning’s chaos, they all agreed.

Owen spared one last glance at Anam before they warped back to Hot Spot. Anam’s aura looked normal, and his smile was wide as ever. But now that he was fully evolved, he realized that perhaps Anam could mask his aura from the others.

Zena nudged Owen’s side.

“Oh—hey, uh, Zena,” the Charizard greeted uncertainly. “Are you okay?”

While Anam’s body type was familiar to him, Zena’s felt foreign all over again. With a pang of frustration, he wondered if it used to be familiar before.

“Hello, Owen,” she said. “I didn’t get to congratulate you directly until now.”

“Oh, yeah!” Owen said, grinning—genuine, this time. “I forgot how much I missed wings. I mean, I guess I never missed them, since I didn’t know I had… you know what I mean.”

Zena giggled. “I think so.”

Owen grinned awkwardly. What else did she want him to say? “Are you tired?”

“What? Oh, I suppose so,” Zena said.

“Oh, that explains it,” Owen said.

Yet she didn’t leave to converse with the others. “…Owen, how are your memories doing?”

“Oh.” They were both masters of a awkward questions, it seemed. “Er, to be honest, I feel really muddled. I think fusing with Gahi messed with it again. But it’s okay! I think they’ll come back eventually. How come? Did I forget something important?”

Zena glanced away.

“Zena?” He fiddled with his claws nervously. “I didn’t forget your hatch day or something, did I? I’m—really sorry if I did. And what a day for it to happen on, too…”

“No, no,” Zena said. “Sorry. I’m just very sorry that you’ve lost your memories again. Hopefully we can recover them. Then it’ll all make sense, right?”

Owen nodded. “Yeah. Then maybe I’ll remember a bit more about you, too!” He laughed.

Zena didn’t return it.


“Set to go!” Anam said, raising the Badge in the air. Rhys and Demitri did the same, and they all disappeared in a flash of light.
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“If you ask me, it’s pretty cozy,” Star crossed her arms.

well that's one more thing we know about you now star

It was a small beach of white sand. Ahead of them sat a small cavern dug into the only landmark in the whole island, a large rock tall enough to fly in at the entrance, though considering the size of the island, they couldn’t fly in very far, and it quickly tapered off into a smaller alcove near the back. The height of the cavern was reminiscent of the Hot Spot training grounds, while the depth was more like a humble home.

I've read this passage a lot of times and only now am I sort of understanding what it may have meant. I just can't seem to read it in a way where all the descriptions fit together. I think the problem may be that the features of the island aren't given in an intuitive order. The beach is the first thing to be mentioned, while it's later mentioned to be very small compared to the rock. The cavern in the rock is also mentioned before the rock itself, and it's described as "small" before we get that sense of scale. After this, the rock is described as "tall enough to fly in" which seemingly contradicts that "small cavern" part.

I can't give exact advice as I'm still not 100% sure what the island being described really looks like, but I feel like generally it would be good to go from biggest to smallest. No one starts a painting details first, you know?

He briefly wondered if he and Gahi, when they had fused, had two hearts.

You can probably already guess the tasteless comment that came to my mind.

He spun around. “W-wow, Emily, you’re… big!”

Ditto here.

“Oh, oops!” Emily said, bringing her wing-arms to her chest. She rubbed at the edges and the hole closed up, like she was shaping clay to patch a wet sculpture. “Sorry! I need to remember to keep that in one piece or people freak out…”

Emily better be done in claymation when the HoC animated movie comes out.

“Hurt?” Emily asked, but then something moved up her neck, became a lump on her shoulder, and popped toward the ground.

This confused me - was something else supposed to be in place of "neck"? Because I can't really picture anything going up a neck and arriving at a shoulder. That, or I overlooked a passage that described she was in some specific posture that had her neck blow the level of her shoulder. Or generally misunderstood some other way.

“Someone tried to use Teleport once,” Tanneth said. “I don’t remember who, though. I think it was an Alakazam.”

Hmm I bet it wasn't any important Alakazam or anything...

“Yeah! If you need a place where you can’t get hurt, then I’m definitely that!”

demitri and mispy inside emily "this is our get-along space"

Her massive wing-arm wrapped around Rhys, two of the finger-like ends holding him like a long pastry.

hold doggo gentle like breadstik


So I'm glad that it got addressed pretty soon what Emily was, or more importantly, how it different from what we'd seen before. I started out as confused, so I was glad to see the main characters confused as well.

I swear I had some other thought on this chapter in my mind, but it slipped me during an interruption in the writing of this post. I'll get back to you on the 'cord if I remember. Till then!
I've read this passage a lot of times and only now am I sort of understanding what it may have meant. I just can't seem to read it in a way where all the descriptions fit together. I think the problem may be that the features of the island aren't given in an intuitive order.

We had a talk about this in private, and I see what you mean. I'll be looking into how to patch this up soon.

You can probably already guess the tasteless comment that came to my mind.

To be fair, they're reptiles. What if they already have two? ...Would that mean they have four? Wait. No. Bad thought. This is supposed to be Teen.

This confused me - was something else supposed to be in place of "neck"?

Weird phrasing on my part. I think when I was writing this passage, I initially had it in my head that Tanneth would be climbing out of her mouth, but then I realized I had already dug a hole so deep for myself that I shouldn't be going any deeper and moved to the shoulder, but forgot to redirect properly. I'll patch that up.

I started out as confused, so I was glad to see the main characters confused as well.

I mean, sometimes lampshading it can be effective, right? Though I can't rely on it too often.

Thanks for the feedback! I'm planning to get the final chapter of Act I (though not the final part-- special episode 3 is the finale) up tomorrow night.
Chapter 39 - Correct
Chapter 39 – Correct

“Sooo, can we evolve now?” Demitri balled up his fists, shaking them enthusiastically. Mispy listened, but spent her time prodding at one of the Hot Spot mushrooms with a vine to feign a lack of interest.

“Not until we’re sure we can get you in a safe environment,” Rhys said.

Demitri frowned, tapping into some unused Dragon pride. “Aw, c’mon! I mean—if something bad happens, you can just warp us to Emily’s place, right? It’s not like we can fly off like those two!” He pointed at the fully-evolved Flygon and Charizard, both of whom smirked at Demitri in almost the same manner.

“How’s it feel competing fer third place?” Gahi taunted.

Owen quickly suppressed the smirk. “You know, Gahi, if they evolve fine, they’ll be the only ones to do it without some kind of assistance.”

“Feh, whatever helps’m sleep at night.” Gahi stuck his nose in the air triumphantly, his shining body gleaming against the mushroom glow.

“Well… that much is true…” Rhys considered their reasoning, but sounded cautious.

Owen had to agree. After all, they were strongly biased toward recovering their true forms and memories. For all Rhys knew, even with the two of them stable, Demitri and Mispy could make it all fall apart with a single misstep.

Demitri frowned, looking down. Maybe Rhys was—Mispy prodded Demitri hard on the back with her other vine. “I mean—we’re way better at meditating, compared to Gahi,” he said. “So, since we’re all behaved and all that, that means we’ll stay sane easier, right?”

Gahi’s right eye twitched. “Oy, that ain’t my fault, Eon made me nuts!”

“It’s likely a bit of both, Gahi,” Rhys said, earning an indignant flinch, then a snort, from the mutant. “Hmm… but I suppose if we have enough containment procedures in place, we should be able to evolve you without waiting for another opportunity where Emily is available. How does that sound?”

Demitri lit up. “That sounds great!”

Mispy nodded eagerly.

“How does that sound to everyone else?” Rhys clarified, turning to face the remainder of the crowd.

Owen rumbled uncertainly, startling himself with how deep the growl sounded. He had to get used to that. The much larger pseudo-dragon cleared his throat.. “We’ll have to make sure they can’t escape. And that if we get in trouble, we can warp them right to Emily’s place. But since we sorta… warped to the Chasm place, and then again to get out of it, I think the Badge is depleted for now. And—oh! The Dark Guardian! Is he—”

“I don’t think we should go there for now.” Rhys shook his head. “If we return now, he might feel threatened, after how Eon behaved. We should wait at least a day. Until then… Why don’t we have some breakfast? A… late… very late breakfast.” His shoulders slouched. It was a good thing he didn’t have to eat.

Demitri and Mispy’s stomachs suddenly growled. Mispy’s especially, droning on for several seconds after Demitri’s settled.

“W-wow, that’s right—we totally forgot to eat…”

“Food,” Mispy lamented.

Amia giggled. “Rhys, dear, why don’t we make something special for them?”

“That will give the Badges time to recharge,” Rhys agreed. “Very well. We will make something energizing. That will give me some time to prepare my training for them… I think we will be able to unlock their potential quickly.”

Demitri perked up. “Ooh—is it a secret technique? How come you never showed it to us before?”

“Is it dangerous?” Mispy asked.

“No, not necessarily,” Rhys said, holding up a paw. “I simply… cannot use it very often. But for this case, I think it will be worth our time. I can prepare while I am cooking with Amia.” He absently rubbed along the spike on his wrist, as if polishing it to think.

“Oh!” Anam said, slapping his hands together. “Um—well, while you guys are doing that, is it okay if I go back to Kilo Village to do some checking up?”

“Oh, of course, dear!” Amia said. “Going to help out Nevren?”

“Mhm!” He clasped his fingers together in prayer. “Also, I wanna do some extra blessings. It helps to calm the mind, you know?”

“Mind bringing over some extra Orans when you do?” Owen asked. “I think someone ate all of mine when I was asleep.”

Mispy shifted her weight subtly. Owen’s fire flashed an angry yellow, but then settled to a resigned orange. “Good luck with training, you two.”


It was later in the afternoon, but Owen was desperate for a nap. Breakfast—at this point, lunch—was still cooking, so Owen took the opportunity to retreat to his room. Zena had briefly followed him, but then saw Gahi speed along to catch up. She watched the pair pensively, but then sighed, deciding that she should remain behind with Demitri and Mispy in case they had to be Suppressed. Owen assumed that was the reasoning.

Most of the others shuffled away to their usual routines. Manny went to train with his spirits again; ADAM returned to his home to “normalize” more perceived imperfections; Valle did as he always did; Enet returned to her abode, instantly darkening the entire inside.

Content at the normalcy, Owen’s pace slowed to a leisurely wobble, wondering how comfortable the rocks would feel if he decided to collapse right there. Gahi was hanging around many paces behind him, leaning against walls or otherwise prodding at mushrooms with his feet, similar to Mispy. His walking pace was almost as fast as Owen when he ran, which made him wait for agonizingly long periods of time just to stay inconspicuously behind Owen.

Between Gahi’s lack of subtlety and Owen’s Perceive, Owen was simply waiting for Gahi to actually speak up.

Once he was at the entryway to his home, his patience finally ran out. “Need something, Gahi?”

“Eh—hey.” Gahi flinched, tail wrapping around himself. His slender-than-normal body made all the bends and curls that much more obvious.

“You tired?”

“…A li’l.”

The Flygon stood awkwardly by the entrance to his room. Owen, not sure where to go, sat by his bed and left half of it for him to sit on. He noticed that it was bigger than when he had first left it; did Amia take the time to gather more Rawst leaves for his new body?

Gahi sat next to Owen and curled his tail around himself. He played with the fan at the tip, tracing the angular decorations with the back of his claws.

For a while, the silence ate at both of them. The gravity of the morning caught up. Casual air slowly condensed into a thick tension.

Owen glanced at Gahi only once, but he spared him any intense stares. Still, he could feel it; Gahi was trembling. He mimicked Gahi’s body language, wrapping his tail around to play with the fire, sustaining a few embers at the tips of his claws like little candles.

“…That was… scary, huh?” Owen asked.

Gahi gulped and nodded. He didn’t break eye contact with his tail. “Yeah.”

Owen reached for a Rawst leaf and grabbed one; it was still soft. “I should probably get a cover for these to wrap them up. Lasts longer.”

“Not like sand,” Gahi said. “Stuff lasts ferever.”

“Heh… yeah.” Owen shifted where he sat.

Gahi scooted himself forward and leaned toward the ground. Not comfortable, he leaned back instead, stretching his slender body. Eventually, the svelte-bodied Flygon settled, belly facing the ceiling. “I just,” he said. “I feel like…”

Owen mirrored Gahi again, laying down next to him until they were both staring at the ceiling. Gahi’s tail twitched away from Owen’s.

“Like you weren’t in control?”

“Tch… yeah.”


More silence.

“…I’m beat.” Gahi rolled until he was on his side, facing Owen; he closed his eyes. “I’m just… gonna go fer an afternoon nap.”

Owen nodded. “That’s fine. I guess my bed is softer than the sand you’re used to and stuff.” He glanced at Gahi. It seemed like he was already drifting off. Smiling, the Charizard pushed himself into a sitting position. “I’m gonna—”

“Can you,” Gahi said quickly; one eye opened.

Owen stopped.

“Can you… just stick around a li’l while?”

The Charizard’s gaze softened further, breathing a small sigh that produced no flame.

“Sure, Gahi. I’ll be right here.”

He laid back down, staring at the ceiling again. His eyes focused on a small clutch of mushrooms in the corner. He always liked staring at that patch. He’d feel out of place if those ever fell; he’d need to find a new patch to call his favorite.

He wondered if it would help Gahi if he read a book or two. Perhaps game of marbles? Now that he actually had hands, it might be a little easier. But Owen couldn’t find his voice. They continued to fester in their silence a while longer.

“Am I me?” Gahi asked.

Both of the shiny dragon’s eyes were open, staring at nothing in particular, only straight to the rocks above them.

“…Feels like… I’m going through what you were going through…” Gahi’s voice got quieter and quieter. “When y’were all…”

“The way you are now,” Owen said, “is who you are. Back there… That wasn’t you. That was just… something Eon wanted you to be a long time ago.”

Gahi didn’t react. He kept staring. Owen glanced at him every so often out of the corner of his eye, but Gahi didn’t even notice. Owen wondered what it was like to have such little awareness. Even when he was tired, he knew where everything around him was.

Owen continued. “I think you’re you, right now.”

Gahi’s claws dug into the scales of his palms. “I couldn’t stop it… I just… wanted ter do it… ter fuse… so badly. I wanted ter fight… just… just fight… wasn’t the same… was like I’d die if I didn’t fight… Knew I wouldn’t… but I…”

Owen kept his voice steady and soft. “I was the same way, Gahi. I remember what happened when I fought Azu the first time. I was the same way—I just went… crazy. I kept attacking, even when he was an ember. And then I tried to attack his ember. Then I started to attack Mom… but I stopped really fast there… I remember that part. I remember stopping…”

“That’s pro’ly ‘cause yer Mystic. But I’m just… normal. If I go crazy again… I ain’t gonna stop it with that li’l… li’l privilege yeh got.”

“I don’t think you’ll go crazy again. Not on your own. Your aura’s better now. It’s fixed.” He made another uneasy glance at Gahi, but it wasn’t returned.

Gahi didn’t say anything, and the silence filled the air again.

Owen sighed. He could feel Gahi’s anxiety. He didn’t know how he could help. He went through the same thing—and in the end, Gahi was right. If he did lose himself again… he wouldn’t be able to stop it. That was part of his design.

“I don’t… I don’t wanna live like this,” Gahi said. “I j-just don’t… don’t like any o’ this!”


He rolled over, sniffled, and buried his head against the leaves. “It’s gonna happen. I’m gonna lose it… I’m not gonna be me… This isn’t me! I ain’t this! I’m—I’m just some kinda—thing! A weapon!” Gahi’s claws sank deep into the bedding, tearing leaves with the pressure. “I ain’t got a will—I’m just some weapon! All I wanted was ter fight! That’s all I am… just like he wanted, all this time… just… just…”

Owen moved toward Gahi and wrapped his arms around him, and then his wings. Gahi trembled, reflexively leaning against Owen.

“It’s okay, Gahi,” Owen said. “You’re okay. You’re fine now, right?”

Gahi sniffed and shrank.

“You’re you, right now. And that’s all that matters. If you got to this state once, you can do it again. But losing your mind again…. I won’t let that happen, okay? I’m the smart guy, right? I’ll figure it out.”

“Y-you better…”

“I will.” Owen nodded, making sure that Gahi saw his smile this time.

Gahi coughed, then sniffed, and then wiped his nostrils. “Ngg…”

Owen was ready to let go, but Gahi didn’t let him. His arms held him a little tighter. Owen complied, gently rubbing at the Flygon’s back.

“You’re alright, Gahi,” he said. “I think between me and the others, we’ve got it all under control.”

“Mn…” Gahi’s eyes blinked a bit more slowly this time.

Another long silence followed, broken intermittently by the Flygon’s sniffling. But this silence was cozier. Gahi’s body relaxed more, deflating against the soft layers of leaves. The sniffles became less and less frequent.

Eventually, Owen’s eyes grew heavy, and finally, closed. Gahi had drifted off long before then.


Some time later, Amia quietly stepped into the room and whispered, “Owen, Gahi, are you ready for—” But she saw neither of them in bed. Instead, there was a single being, curled up with a peaceful smile. Amia didn’t have to read their auras to see that they were okay. With a smile, she nodded to herself and stepped back, nodding to Alex just behind her.

“Is he okay?” he asked.

“They’re just fine.”

With that in order, Amia led the way to the Hot Spot training grounds deeper in the complex. She tried to look casual, idly talking with Alex, who fretted about whether they would be too far from them, but Amia was confident/

“They’re sleeping for now,” Amia said. “I think they’re tuckered out from the, um… everything. Rhys—is it safe if they’re fused?”

“They fused again?” Demitri said.

Mispy closed her eyes to scan for their auras. “Mmm… Mhm.” The Bayleef nodded. “But… stable.”

“Yes, I sensed it as well,” Rhys said, eyes closed and head down. “They’re fused together, but their auras are stable. We needn’t worry.”

“Oh, good,” Amia said. She clapped her hands together, grinning. “They had the cutest little smile! I figured they were fine, but I wanted to make sure.”

Alex bumped his cannons together, and the way Alex smiled, Amia suspected he was envisioning the image of those two sleeping. “I’m glad that Owen can at least accept that part of him. Gahi, too.”

Rhys nodded, lifting his head to address the others. He had been focused for so long that he almost looked strained. The cyan of his aura coursed along his undercoat. “Well, in any case, we should get to training. Demitri, Mispy, I hope you didn’t eat too much. I’m prepared for your training session.”

“Are you sure…?” Mispy asked. “Your aura…”

Amia nodded, frowning. “Yes, dear. Why is your aura so…”

“I have been… building it up. I’m not very used to it, so it may seem a bit… volatile. But, please—allow me to start. Give me a moment. This is a very advanced Mystic technique.”

His aura flared even more and then concentrated at his paws. He put them together, like he was forming a giant Aura Sphere, and then aimed it at the ground in front of him. His entire body glowed with aura power, and then, finally, he fired—it was a continuous blast of aura energy that piled up, taking the shape of something. Rhys grunted; he stopped and staggered backwards.

“Rhys?” Amia asked.

“I—I am fine,” Rhys said. “I was… a bit reckless. But I am fine. Give it a moment…”

The aural mass finished shaping itself.

“Whoa…” Demitri said.

“That’s…” Mispy added.

It looked just like Rhys in shape and size, but was cyan like the Aura Spheres he attacked with, as well as slightly transparent.

Rhys wobbled his way to the side of the arena and sat down to stay conscious. “There… Aura Substitute, I call it. Now, you may fight.”

“Fight… this thing?”

The aura entered a battle stance, awaiting the first move. It seemed to behave on its own in some autonomous fashion.

“How will that help?” Demitri frowned, looking disappointed. “And why’d you go through all that trouble? I wanna fight the real thing!”

“This will be significantly faster, if we wish to evolve you as soon as possible.” He didn’t speak again for a while, catching his breath. “The… hah… the aura you see there,” he continued, “is based on my theories on a Pokémon’s power, and their aura efficiency—their power and the channel that connects them to that divine energy. The aura matter that can widen and strengthen that connection… what you see before you is a manifestation of that in an almost pure form.

“It takes more and more energy to reach greater amounts of power. However, conversely, it takes relatively little energy to go from a low aura efficiency to that of a higher one. Since you are suppressed… this will be an easy way to unleash your powers again, safely.”

“…Mm… I think I understand,” Amia lied. “But, for the people who don’t… could you explain that more simply, dear?”

“Yeah!” Willow said, popping up from behind Mispy’s neck. She sprouted her fairy wings and landed on Demitri’s right tusk. “That was too many words! Say it again! But easy!”

Rhys sighed. “I took from myself a bit of my great aura matter and am going to give it to them, should they…”—Rhys panted—“should they defeat it.”

“Okay, dear. You rest,” Amia said. “Demitri, Mispy! Do you understand that?”

They both stared.

Demitri spoke, “So we… beat it up? He can’t just give it to us?”

“I could,” Rhys said, “but that would waste a lot of the energy. You have to be using your aura—both offense and defense, giving and receiving—to get the most from it. No, er, no pain, no gain.”

“Yes,” Amia said.

Mispy shrugged. “Makes sense. Easy.”

Some small amount of pride made Rhys snort. “Are you sure? I wouldn’t underestimate my Aura Substitute.”

“Oh, yeah?” Demitri tried to sound tough. “I’d like to see you—uh, it try.”

Rhys shrugged weakly. “Enjoy yourselves.” He motioned to the cyan double. “It will act when you do.”

Demitri stomped on the ground, accidentally cracking a bit of the rocks below. “Uh—Go!” He rushed at the aura as quickly as he could—in other words, at a speed that Rhys could outpace by walking. Mispy sighed, shaking her head; she took the free moment to charge her Solar Beam a quarter way, wiggling her leaf at the same time to form a Light Screen barrier around the two of them.

Rhys’ automaton fired an Aura Sphere directly at Demitri. It smashed against his face, yet he took the hit and kept going, closer until he was able to land the first hit, slashing with Fighting energy in his fists, hoping that this aura was still Fighting-Steel like the source material.

The aura sizzled at the attack, jumping away. It looked blurry and then solidified. Demitri looked at his claws, feeling an intense heat course through where his hand had connected until the warmth spread to his chest, and then out to the rest of his body.

“Did—did you feel that?” he said. “That was… strong! I wanna do that again!”

“Keep going!” Mispy shouted, halfway charged. She blasted Demitri with a wave of healing energy, easily repairing the damage Rhys’ double had inflicted on his nose.

“R-right!” Demitri followed up with the same pattern as before. This aura copy wasn’t as intelligent as Rhys and didn’t think very dynamically. It also seemed to only know one technique, Aura Sphere, and kept using it against Demitri. It was raw power—but between Mispy’s healing and Demitri powering through any strike, they would surely win.

Zena watched silently, looking like her mind was elsewhere. Only when Mispy’s neck leaves started to glow did she snap back to the battle at hand. “I’m impressed at their teamwork. Were they trained that way, or were they designed with that cooperation?”

“I’m not sure,” Amia said, “but I think at some point you need to learn how to cooperate, don’t you think?”

Rhys hummed. “They could have had the base instilled in their instincts, but we had to train them the natural way for real teamwork.”

Amia watched Rhys’ labored breathing. “How are you feeling, dear? Does it… hurt you, when they attack that aura?”

“Not at all. It isn’t me—it’s just my power in a shell, working off my basic fighting reflexes. It’s a tiny piece of me, just enough to let it fight at the simplest level. Nothing more.”

“…You seem to use Aura Sphere a lot,” Amia said.

“Well, er, it’s very reliable,” Rhys said. “It isn’t as if I’m fighting Ghosts very often.”

“Hmm… I suppose Owen will have an easier time against you, if that’s the case,” Amia hummed. “After all, one of his Types can handle Aura Sphere quite well. And the other one has an advantage over Steel!”

“Ngh—well, he doesn’t need this training,” Rhys dismissed. “…Amia, get ready to bring them to Emily if this does not go well. The moment that aura shell is destroyed, they will evolve. I know how much power I put and how much they need.”

“Mm, of course,” Amia said. “Zena? Can you help?”

“I will. Emily should be back at her cave by now. Unless she had to rescue someone else… We only need one Badge, right? We should still have one more with energy for a warp there. I just hope we won’t have to restrain them.”

Rhys wondered what a fusion of Demitri and Mispy would bring about to this group. Something that was unstoppably strong, yet also able to rapidly heal from any of their strikes? That wasn’t a battle of containment. That was a battle of stalling for time.

Amia nodded. “We’ll just have to hope. If anything, it’s on the other side of the world, right? It should be safe. They aren’t fast like Gawen. And they can’t fly.” The Gardevoir paused. “Rhys, they can’t fly, when fused, right?”

“No, a Demitri-Mispy fusion shouldn’t be able to fly. They won’t have wings.”

“Good, good…” Briefly, Amia had envisioned them flying using vines for wings, somehow.

“Now!” Mispy yelled.

Demitri dove out of the way and the Bayleef fired her Solar Beam straight at their shell of an opponent. It disintegrated immediately and the Beam left a bright, smoldering spot on the wall for Amia to repair later. Cyan particles rose and evaporated and Demitri and Mispy felt the power contained within rush through them.

“Ooh, I think I felt a bit of that, myself,” Amia said, rubbing her arms. “Rhys, just how strong are you?”

“A bit on the strong side,” Rhys said. “Shouldn’t you be observing them?”

“A-ah, sorry.”

Just then, a white light enveloped them both. The group watched with tension; if they had to deal with a fusion that was slow yet unstoppable, perhaps they could focus more on blowing them back with distanced techniques. Hydro Pump—that wouldn’t hurt them much, but would it push them back?

More worrisome—combining that with Gawen. Hopefully they kept the same slowness that Demitri had so they could outpace them to Gawen’s bed.

The usual white light was tarnished by black sparks. Their forms grew and morphed. And then it faded…

Demitri didn’t change very much compared to the normal Haxorus form. A bit taller, a bit bulkier, with defined muscles along his limbs. His tail had an additional ax-like appendage on either side, and the axes on his head were somewhat longer. It looked like they were detached slightly on his cheeks, too, removable like a self-grown weapon.

Mispy, however, was dramatically different. While she still had a Meganium’s head and body, her limbs and tail were replaced instead by vines that transitioned from the pale green of her body into a deeper green at the end. The vines writhed constantly and it was hard to tell what else was hidden away there. Likely, more vines, each one as thick as what her legs would have been.

“W-wow,” Demitri said. “That’s… that’s so… powerful! I feel like I can lift a mountain! …C… can I lift a mountain?”

Demitri and Mispy both looked toward one another, then at Rhys, Amia, and Zena, all of them with a Suppressive Aura ready. It seemed that, briefly, the pair worried that they would lose themselves even more than the Suppressors were anticipating. Yet they felt normal. All of Rhys’ meditation had paid off after all—at least for them.

Finally, Rhys answered Demitri. “Not quite at that level, Demitri. Mispy, how are you feeling?”

The monstrous Meganium’s eyes closed, but the flower petals around her neck, a vibrant pink with a white trim, swayed serenely on their own. She looked at Rhys and smiled. “I feel… correct.”

Amia and Willow cheered, the latter jumping from Rhys’ head to Zena’s and finally to Amia’s.

“You’re both okay!” Amia said. “I can’t believe it! We didn’t have to fight you or anything!”

“Can we still do that?” Demitri asked.

Amia held her arms up quickly. “A-ah, let’s wait for a moment. Um, Rhys?”

The Lucario finally let loose a laugh. “I’m not surprised. Compared to Gahi, Demitri and Mispy were much more disciplined in their meditation. I expected them to stabilize first.”

“Does that mean we beat Gahi and Owen?” Demitri said. “We stabilized first?”

“Well… you evolved last,” Rhys said. “But Owen stabilized first anyway.”

“But that’s cheating, right? Because he’s Mystic. So that means that we won, because we got to stabilize all on our own.” Demitri crossed his arms defiantly. Mispy nodded sagely. If Demitri was the muscle, and the brain was a muscle, then that meant he must have said the smartest thing in the room just then. They won, and that’s what mattered.

Rhys rubbed his forehead. “Yes, I suppose if you go by those rules, you two were the only ones to stabilize through training and effort alone. Congratulations. You win by default.”

Amia giggled. Zena puffed her cheeks defiantly but let them have their moment.

“Great!” Demitri said, pumping his fist in the air. “We won, Mispy!” Giddy, the monstrous Haxorus held his arms against his chest, hugging himself in triumph, admiring the toughness of his new set of scales.

Mispy nudged Demitri on the side playfully with her head. A few of her vines twisted around his abdomen.

“What now?” Mispy asked

“Let’s wait for Gahi and Owen to wake up,” Rhys said. “After that, we can plan our next steps. With the Dark Orb in… uncertain conditions, our options are a bit narrow. The only confirmed sighting we have is the Frozen Oceanside, and we may have already lost that one…”

“But it’s worth checking anyway, just in case,” Amia said.

Zena hummed. “Of course. And the other, is…”

“Dark Mist Swamp,” Rhys said. “Oh, and Arachno Forest. I’m certain there is a Guardian there of some kind, from my discussions with Star.”

“And then there’s the Orb at Zero Isle,” Amia said, counting using tiny embers. “That, counting the ones we know Eon already has, and then the ones that we have…. Oh! Rhys! Isn’t that everything? Aside from Brandon at the factory… that’s all of the Orbs!”

“It is.” Rhys hummed worriedly. “We’re nearly there. If we can gain an edge against Eon, this may very well work out…”

Willow hopped onto Rhys’ head, nibbling on a tuft of his fur. “And then?”

“And then…” Rhys said.

“…We beat the bad guy up?” Willow asked.

“…I suppose we do.”


Gawen woke up with a sharp gasp, eyes opening instantly. Memories flooded his mind and his hand reflexively grabbed at his chest, clutching at an invisible heart. He grunted and doubled over, panting, shaking. He covered his mouth next, gagging. The phantom pain of the old memory was overwhelming. He gagged again, nausea taking over, and for a moment it felt like he had been ripped asunder. He trembled, roaring softly into the bed beneath him, slashing his tail against the wall. He scorched one of his books—thankfully, made of Rawst leaves, it did not burn.

The pain slowly passed enough for him to move again. Dizzy. By the color of the mushrooms, it was late in the morning. Had he slept the whole day and night away?

He sluggishly got out of bed and stepped outside, spotting a few of the Guardians milling about in town, passing the time as they pleased. It looked like Enet was playing a game of chase with Willow. ADAM was polishing Valle’s position in the center of town, transforming it into some kind of altar. Valle appreciated the reverent feeling it gave him, and he glowed a little brighter than usual. Manny, meanwhile, was sparring against Azu, Roh, and Verd all at once, shouting something about Yen being much harder to fire them up. It seemed that Anam, James, and Nevren were still in Kilo, likely pulling another all-nighter to catch up on paperwork.

“Oh! Owen—er, Gawen, I mean.” Amia approached them. “Um… look! Demitri and Mispy evolved, and they’re just fine!”

Gawen stared at the evolved pair emptily. They waved. Demitri was hefting Mispy’s entire body in the air as part of testing his strength, though she proved to be too light. Mispy, meanwhile, was re-learning how to walk when she had no legs, yet at the same time, had a hundred legs.

But they stopped when they realized how pale the other half of Team Alloy seemed. Demitri set Mispy down; the Meganium wrapped her vines around the Haxorus, setting him on her back. Clumsily, she slid to Gawen.

“Are you okay?” Demitri asked.

“You look…” Mispy tilted her head to look at them at a different angle.

“Did you have a nightmare, dear?” Amia asked. “It must have been so frightful, for you to look so… ghostly.”

Gawen looked at Amia, then at the others. He felt sick from that final memory. And sick from it all finally piecing together. There was a glimmer of relief that it was finally all there. No—not all there. There were still swaths of memories between then and now that were a scrambled blur. But the beginning—his first life—it was all there. But these memories…

Gawen tried to steady his breathing, tried to meditate, but that incessant shaking was back again. It took a long, tense silence for him to suppress it enough to speak coherently. “I… remember.”

Amia’s eyes flashed in surprise. “You… do, dear?” she asked delicately.

Gawen nodded. He stared at his hands, and then intensely at Demitri and Mispy. With Owen’s next words, the same memories came flooding back.

“I remember… Quartz.”
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The much larger pseudo-dragon cleared his throat..

Accidental double period.

Also, I did a minor double-take on this as at first I didn't put together it was referring to Owen, but thought it was someone else. Maybe it's because Owen's been evolved for a while now and the size difference hadn't been addressed in a bit? Not sure. Possibly just due to the use of a comparative in general.

That will give me some time to prepare my training for them….

Four periods instead of three. I don't know how I'm so good at spotting these.

It looked just like Rhys in shape and size, but was cyan like the Aura Spheres he attacked with, as well as slightly transparent.

My own clone! Now neither of us will be virgins

“…Mm… I think I understand,” Amia said. “But, for the people who don’t… could you explain that more simply, dear?”

gosh bless your soul

“Good, good…” Briefly, Amia had envisioned them flying using vines for wings, somehow.

look is easy! you just grab the air and pull

Mispy, however, was dramatically different. While she still had a Meganium’s head and body, her limbs and tail were replaced instead by vines that transitioned from the pale green of her body into a deeper green at the end. The vines writhed constantly and it was hard to tell what else was hidden away there. Likely, more vines, each one as thick as what her legs would have been.

oh great now she's gonna look like a roomba when she's walking around

I feel like I can lift a mountain! …C… can I lift a mountain?

Hmm, should there be no space before the "can"? The stuttering C is kind of part of the word, right?

“What now?” Mispy asked

Period (possibly more) missing.

Gawen woke up with a sharp gasp, eyes opening instantly. Memories flooded his mind and his hand reflexively grabbed at his chest, clutching at an invisible heart. He grunted and doubled over, panting, shaking. He covered his mouth next, gagging. The phantom pain of the old memory was overwhelming. He gagged again, nausea taking over, and for a moment it felt like he had been ripped asunder. He trembled, roaring softly into the bed beneath him, flashing his tail against the wall. He scorched one of his books—thankfully, made of Rawst leaves, it did not burn.

omg morning sickness

they're gonna have a BABY

Demitri was hefting Mispy’s entire body in the air as part of testing his strength, though she proved to be too light. Mispy, meanwhile, was re-learning how to walk when she had no legs, yet at the same time, had a hundred legs.

Wait, I'm not sure how this works. Demitri is holding Mispy up, but Mispy is simultaneously walking on the ground? I can't picture a scenario where those don't conflict.

“I remember… Quartz.”

GAAAASP wait i don't know who that is

Alright, the plot thickens yet again. The bonding scene between Gahi and Owen was sweet, and them falling asleep peacefully set up a good false sense of security to make that wake-up catch the reader off guard.

That's all I can think of to say at the moment, catch you later.
oh great now she's gonna look like a roomba when she's walking around

Aaaand I can't unsee that.

Demitri is holding Mispy up, but Mispy is simultaneously walking on the ground? I can't picture a scenario where those don't conflict.

Ah, whoops. I'll take a look at this. I think I wrote it weird where I had two actions in my head but forgot to have them happen alternatively or something during this idle time. My choreography brain broke.

Anyway, the finale of Act I is coming! I plan to publish it by the end of today, in my time zone, at the latest as a personal deadline.
Special Episode 3 - When the World Was Small
Special Episode 3 - When the World Was Small

Bright lights lined narrow hallways of concrete and metal. White walls surrounded polished floors of marble tile. Every sound echoed for ages across the labyrinth. A youthful, albeit deep, voice echoed from the inside of one of the many rooms that lined these halls. It was monotone, growing more and more bored with each number said.







“…Uncle Hecto?”

The Charizard looked up, eyes half-closed. The canid Zygarde in front of him stared in his usual, unblinking expression. Between the big, empty room that surrounded them—a pure white cube that would take a full minute to traverse at a leisurely walk—and the only thing of note being the two individuals and the jars between them, Owen had nothing meaningful to focus on. The lack of anything was overwhelmingly underwhelming to his Perception.

“Are you unable to determine the value of this collection?” he asked.

Owen shook his head. “No, it’s… it’s just 170 pebbles, but… this is boring, Uncle. I feel my tail-fire dimming. I think I’m actually dying of boredom.”

Between them was an assortment of glass jars of varying sizes and contents. Each jar was filled with many tiny objects. Pebbles, seeds, leaves… Owen counted the number of them in seconds.

“Hm. I see. You wish to end this test?”

“Can we just skip to the hardest one and work backward?”

Hecto looked at the many jars—about fifty in total. Then, he looked at Owen’s bored, yet pleading eyes. “Very well. Three tests. If you pass them all, we can end the exam prematurely. Do you have any objections, Nevren?”

A voice echoed from the ceiling in response, out of some sort of device that emitted the sound accompanied by a static buzz that obscured the clarity of his tone. “No, that will be just fine.”

“Good.” The flame on Owen’s tail brightened significantly.

Hecto pawed at the largest jar and slid it over. “Next.”

Owen stared at the jar, filled with countless little marbles, all of the same indistinguishable color. “Exactly a thousand.”

Hecto nodded and then slid the second jar over. “Next,” he said. But there was a twist to this one; the jar was completely black. It was impossible to see inside.

Owen didn’t take very long. “Fifty, exactly.”

Hecto nodded. “Next.”

Owen frowned, looking left and right. “You didn’t move anything.”

“There is a jar outside of this room, where you have never gone. How many items are inside, and what are they?”

Owen blinked, but then he nodded and closed his eyes. He navigated the emptiness around him, trying to focus on the presumed jar outside of the test chamber. He saw something. It felt like a container, certainly had the shape of one, but it seemed emptier than any of the others he’d dealt with. “Two Cheri Berries.”

Hecto paused. He and Owen shared stares. When Owen didn’t amend his response, Hecto said, “That is… incorrect.”

“What? But that’s all I see.”

“The correct answer was two Cheri Berries, seven Oran Berries, and a Pecha Berry. Ten objects.”

“But I only see two Cheri Berries,” Owen said firmly. “Go check.” He flicked his tail irritably.

Hecto stared, but then stood up and trotted out of the room. Owen rubbed at his arms and stretched his legs, bending his spine inward until he felt the tension release. He heaved a sigh and stretched forward next, beating his wings twice. Then he curved his neck and rolled on the cold ground, spewing a gentle plume of fire just over the jars.

He felt numb. He sat down on his left side for too long and everything felt tingly. But he couldn’t strike at the numbness; that would be unbearable. He’d be incapacitated and on the ground for ages. Just rolling around was starting to hurt, transitioning from a lack of sensation to the feeling of infinite needles under his scales.

“Oh, no,” Owen muttered, stiffening his whole body. “Oh no. Bad…” He was stuck. The needles took over completely. Any little muscle twitch and his whole world would shatter. No! He moved. His little toe claws twitched. Oh, it was starting to spread. Now his foot was feeling it. It squeezed along every part of his leg, needles prodding every bit of his body. Mercifully, it stopped there. Owen shut his eyes tight, praying that it would go away soon. But this was it. This was the end.

Hecto returned, staring at Owen prone on the ground. “Are you dying?”

Owen grunted. “I might be.”

“Hm. We should consider five-minute breaks for extended tests like these.” Hecto then looked up toward the speakers. “Owen is correct.”

“What? Where did the other berries go?” Nevren said. “I was going to have those as part of my lunch!”

Still on the ground, Owen grumbled his explanation. “There are little bits of Auntie Rim’s fur near the jar.”

Hecto left to inspect Owen’s claim. In the meantime, Owen tentatively flexed his toes again. Less pain. The needles gave way to a gentle cold. He breathed a sigh of relief, accidentally spitting up a Fire Trap sphere. He caught it before it’d hit the jars, squeezing it in his hands until it popped in a plume of fire in his face.

Hecto returned in time to see the blast, but did not comment on it. Instead, he looked up. “Owen is correct.”

“Well,” Nevren growled. “In any case, Owen has finished all of his tests. I will not need the extra data, considering what I have already obtained. This will do for now. Thank you, Owen. You may return to the recreational room.”

“Um—actually, how are the others doing?” Owen finally found it safe enough to stand, swishing his tail behind him to rid the last of the tingly numbness brought upon him by the accursed test.

“They are nearly finished,” Nevren said. “But you must remember, Owen, that their training is much more taxing on their physical bodies than yours. Your core ability isn’t quite as tangible.”

“Yeah, well, I’m starting to get a headache…” Owen said.

“Ah, let me note that down,” Nevren said. After a pause, the voice resumed, “Well, do as you like, Owen. Just don’t interfere with the testing.”

“I’m gonna see Gahi first. I know the way, and he’s closest, right?”

“Hmm… Let me see the map… Yes, at the moment, he is the closest, followed by Demitri, and then Mispy.”

“Thought so. Okay. Thanks, Dad!”


In another room with even more white tile, a green blur flashed across the field. This open area would take a normal person at a walking pace five minutes to cross; this blur, however, was doing laps in just under five seconds—the bulk of that time being the beginning and end, where he reversed directions.

A loud buzzer sounded; the mutated Flygon stopped in the middle of the field, collapsing on all fours, panting. “Peh… peh… beh…” He rolled onto his back next, chest rising and falling rapidly. “Yeh went… way too long…”

“That was very good, Gahi,” Nevren said. “I gained a great deal of data from observations and vital readings. That is your final test for the day.”

“Good,” Gahi wheezed out. His wings fell to his sides lazily on the ground. “Was gonna just melt away if that kept up…”

“Gahi!” Owen called

The Flygon tiredly turned his head. “Oy, how’re yeh doing?”

“Fine! I just finished my tests. D’you wanna go see the others? I’m gonna see Demitri next.”

“Sure,” Gahi said. He was still on the ground and showed no signs of movement. If it wasn’t for his quick breathing, he’d look long dead.

Owen stepped closer worriedly, tapping his chin. “Are… you gonna stand up?”

Gahi’s left leg twitched weakly. “Too tired.”

Owen sighed, stepping over the Flygon with an amused smile. “I’ll help,” he said. “Just roll over so I can carry you on my back, alright?”

He approached and got Gahi’s right arm first, hauling him over his shoulders; then, on his back, Gahi wrapped his arms around Owen, and then his tail coiled around the Charizard for security.

“Thanks; I can barely move…”

They walked through the halls in silence for half of the trip. Then, a thought crossed Owen’s mind. “Gahi?”


“Tell me about the outside world again.”

“Heh…” Gahi bumped his head against the side of Owen’s neck. “It’s big, and there’s a huge light in the sky that makes up fer all the lights that we’ve got down here. Yeh saw that befer, when we were let outside. But it’s different when yer flying all around in that sky… knowing yeh don’t gotta go back until y’wanna. Yer free.”

“Sky…” Owen repeated. “That sounds amazing. You can just… go, as far as you want, and there’s no wall that keeps you enclosed.”

“Yeah. No walls. No Quarts HQ ter keep us holed up in. And up there, in the sky… space. Outer space. Ain’t any air, though. That’s what Manny said.”

“The crazy guy you met when you ran off?”


“What was he like? How come you talk like him?”

“’Cause he’s cool. He’s like Uncle Rhys ’cept better.”

“Aww, but Uncle Rhys is great,” Owen said. “But this Manny guy sounds pretty cool. Maybe we’ll meet him sometime. If we ever get let out again… Why’d you have to run away like that? Now we’re grounded forever! Rhys said so!”

“’Cause it looked fun.” Gahi shrugged, his tail squeezing a bit tighter around Owen’s. “I came back!”

“After, like, a week!” Owen said. “Uncle Hecto had to search high and low for you! All of his Zygarde, too! Well, most of them…”

“Feh.” Gahi rolled his eyes.

They finally reached the exit of the massive running room, entering a small, square hallway lit by lights a uniform distance away from each other. Owen suddenly smiled, as if he saw someone that Gahi couldn’t. Seconds later, a tiny shadow came down from a hall to the right.

“There you guys are!”

“Auntie Star!” Gahi and Owen said.

The Mew happily floated over to greet them, bumping against Owen’s chest. “How far did Nev push you this time, Gahi? Or are you just faking so Owen can carry you?”

“I ain’t faking!” Gahi said. “I, eh, I was running fer a while, is all. Felt like my legs’re jelly. And my wings. I tried alternating but it still got tired, all that.”

“Wow, must’ve been for a while.” She flicked her tail, forming a purple bubble beneath her. She landed on top, bouncing a few times. The ball followed them through the hallway while she ran her paws along its malleable surface.

“What’re you doing back here, Star? I thought you were busy touring the world again.”

“Today’s a big day,” Star said. “We’re gonna put your final ability to the test.”

“Our final ability? W-wait! Do you mean that thing that Uncle Nevren told us never to do?”

“The melty thing?” Gahi asked.

“Yeah. But now, we’re gonna do it! He thinks we’re ready, and I think so, too. Or, as ready as we’ll ever be. If things go wrong, we’ll just split you guys apart again, but—yeah! Isn’t that cool? C’mon!” She pressed down on the Psychic bubble, accelerating it forward. It made an ethereal whirring noise when it sped up. “Rhys and Elder are making us some lunch, and then we can go.”

“Sweet!” Owen pumped his fists toward himself, practically shaking with excitement, and picked up the pace. “Oh, but we have to get Demitri and Mispy first.”

“Yeah, of course. Demitri just finished up, but Mispy’s taking a little longer.”

“How much did Demitri lift this time?” Owen asked.

“Well, he broke the presser, uh, again.” Star rubbed her forehead. “So, I guess Nevren has to find a way to double the pressure… again. But that’s for another test! D’s pretty pumped about breaking Nev’s things.”

Star floated for a while longer, her tail curling around the bubble. She pressed her right paw a bit harder on the bubble, causing it to turn around to face them. “Walking all that way is boring. Can I just teleport you guys there?”

“You have a Badge?”

“No, silly! Nev’s still testing that. I meant with Teleport. C’mon!” She tapped their shoulders, and then they all vanished in a flash of light.


Demitri’s test chamber was much smaller than the others, mostly because Demitri didn’t have to move very much. It was only ten feet across with a metallic pillar lodged in the ceiling, though the pillar was bent at an odd angle, jammed against its slot with no way to be pushed out or retracted inward. The ceiling also had a worrisome crack running all the way toward the wall.

“Sorry about breaking your things again, Uncle Nev…” Demitri rubbed the back of his head. “I dunno what got into me.”

“Ah, but what do you mean by that?” the voice in the ceiling said.

“I felt like I was at my limit, but then I just… felt more power well up! But I think if I went any further, I’d’ve collapsed.”

“Ahh, thank you, Demitri. That is just the information I was seeking. Perhaps we can actually move on to different another type of strength testing again. Perhaps we can revisit throwing? We’ve repaired the walls since the last time.”

“That sounds fun! Yeah!” Demitri nodded, flicking his tail against the wall, accidentally carving into the concrete with one of his tail-axes. He jumped, looking back. “Oops—s-so, uh… What do I do about that?” he asked, pointing at the metallic pillar lodged in the ceiling.

“I will handle it later. I believe Star and the others are heading to the dining room.”

“Oh, okay. But can I see Mispy first?” Demitri asked. “I want to see how she’s doing with her training.”

“Demitri!” Owen called, walking down the hall after having appeared in a flash of light.

“Oh, guys! Did you see Mispy yet?” Demitri tugged his tail out of the wall and followed after them.

“No, not yet,” Owen said, leaning to the side. “You, uh… really need to be careful about that tail of yours, Demitri. Didn’t you cut off Mispy’s vines a few times?”

“I mean—yeah, but…” Demitri fidgeted. “If it gets dull, I feel all gross and stuff. I need it sharp. Maybe you should put out your tail, huh?”

Owen grabbed his tail protectively. “Th-that’s totally different! That hurts! Also, I think it kills me!”

“Just a myth,” Nevren sounded. “It emits steam otherwise. Though you are correct, it does hurt. The water-shock involved may also cause you to pass out, hence the myth that it spells death.”

Owen shuddered. “Please don’t say water shock. I’d rather die than deal with that.”

“Well, considering that drowning often happens afterward, you’ll likely experience both.”

“Hey, um,” Demitri held up a claw nervously, “can we see Mispy?”

Star spun until she was upside-down on her Psychic bubble. “Aww, what, worried about your girlfriend?”

“Sh-she’s not my girlfriend!” Demitri flicked his tail, startled, accidentally leaving another mark in the wall. He reached over and yanked it back out. “I—I mean, is she still doing her tests?”

“She’s nearly finished,” Nevren said. “I’ll have to talk to her shortly for the final phase. Feel free to go to her observation room. Star?”

“You got it, Nev,” Star said.


“Well… congratulations, Mispy,” Nevren said. “You’ve outlasted the Beammaker at its full sustainable capacity.”

“Good!” Mispy said. Her countless vines writhed with pride, sitting atop a pile of burned mulch mixed with a strange, greenish, burned liquid mixed together with it. The mutant Meganium looked up. “I win?”

“Yes, you win,” Nevren said. “Now, for the, ah, bonus fight.”

“Bonus?” Mispy’s eyes lit up. The modified Meganium bounced on the ruined ground—of all the training areas, Mispy’s was the most in need of repairs. The concrete floor was riddled with craters and cracks; the metallic walls were warped and bent in some areas. Thankfully, this particular room was reinforced with a secondary wall beyond the first one, specifically because of Mispy’s training.

“Yes. Ah, but we should wait. I recently got off of a talk with Demitri and the others—they’ve come to wait for you.”

A flash of light caught Mispy’s eyes.

The source of light was Owen’s tail, the Charizard waving to get her attention. “Hey, Mispy! How’s the Beammaker going?”

“I beat it!” Mispy said.

“Y-you did?”

Mispy nodded. “And now… the bonus fight.”

Star sighed. “Wow, Mispy. That kinda blows me away, actually. For Nevren to be able to create someone so, uh… you!”

The creature giggled, covering her head with three vines.

“You mean she withstood that giant blaster?” Demitri asked. “Mispy, doesn’t that hurt?”

“Nope!” Mispy said.

“Don’t forget, Demitri,” Star said, “Mispy doesn’t register pain the way normal people do. She knows she’s getting hurt, but… it doesn’t hurt hurt, you know?”

“Not really,” Demitri said. “Maybe if we fuse I’d understand!”

“We-e-ell, let’s wait a while, huh?” Star teased. “It’s scheduled first thing tomorrow morning, okay?”

“Mm.” Mispy nodded, but then shooed them away with her vines. It was time for the bonus fight, after all.

“Oh, right,” Star said. “Everyone! To the other room! Let’s wait until Mispy gets her test done, okay? We can watch with Nevren!”

“Ahh, of course. Please head into the other room so you don’t get hurt by the shockwaves or thermal energy. Be sure to put on your UBGs, too, yes?”

They shuffled out of the area and into another, smaller room. There, a thick, clear window separated them from Mispy’s area. A weak buzz vibrated the ground.

“Nevren must be charging up,” Owen said.

“Protective gear, everyone!” Star announced, popping her Psychic bubble. She flew over to a small chest in the corner of the room with a label on the front: Ultra Black Glasses. Opening it with a little Psychic wave, she passed along the nearly totally black lenses for the others to wear.

“Is that really necessary?” Owen said.

“No, if you don’t mind going blind,” Star said. “I can’t heal you every time, y’know!”

“…But you can.”

“Well, maybe I don't want to.” Star winked.

Just then, Rim appeared behind them.

“Oh, hey Rim!” Star greeted.

The Espurr smiled.

Owen’s tail fire briefly enlarged. “Rim, did you eat those berries during my test?”

The Espurr’s eyes widened. “H-huh…?”

“The berries out in the hall.” Owen narrowed his eyes, watching every telltale muscle of a little thief that got caught.

Rim’s eyes widened even more. Owen worried that they’d pop right out of her head.

Owen snorted a small jet of flame through his nostrils. “Yeah, those were part of one of my tests.”

“S… S… S-sorry…!” She looked down, shivering.

Owen’s demeanor immediately softened, his once irritated attitude replaced with an urge to pet her. “Aww, it’s alright. I got to prove Hecto wrong because of it! That must be, like, bonus points or something.” Owen helped Rim with her pair—extra-large lenses for her body size. “Let’s watch Mispy, huh? How about you rest on my head to watch better?”

Rim grinned, floating in the air until she was sitting on top of Owen’s head, using his horns as support for her arms.

The vibrating got louder. The ground shook with power. “Uhh, what’s Nevren doing…?”

“He’s charging the Beammaker 3.0 to its fullest output,” Star said. “To the point where, well, it’s not gonna be operational afterward. But seeing as Mispy can withstand the non-breaking blast, I guess he’s gonna have to make 4.0 anyway…” Star hummed. “We’re starting to run out of power sources. You can only get so much from solar energy. We might need to look for different options soon…”

“Wow… she’s so strong…!” Demitri said; Owen practically saw the Haxorus’ happy eyes through the glasses. Though that was probably just his Perception.

“Of course she is,” Owen said. “I mean, she has to be! She’s our defender component!”

“Keep ‘em on!” Star announced.

In an instant, a giant blast of light, heat, and forceful energy hit the ground where Mispy stood—it was a constant, rumbling stream that shook the very ground beneath them, not unlike a Hyper Beam. The building withstood the shaking, but Owen wondered if Mispy would be able to do the same thing. She always carried a Reviver Seed with her when this happened, hidden within the many tendrils beneath her. The Beammaker would stop prematurely if it was ever activated. But Owen still worried.

The Charizard saw many of Mispy’s vines disintegrate away; at the same time, parts of her body burned and reformed at the same rate that her vines vanished. Indeed, that was the secret of Mispy’s power source—by using all of that extra mass below her, she could recover constantly for quite a while. Just how long was still being determined by Nevren. Owen figured that’s what the tests were for.

The Beammaker finally stopped with a stuttering blast, and Mispy, less than half her original weight and surrounded by the ash of what had been destroyed, shook her head and coughed out even more of the black, burned mass. “Ugh…” she said.

“Mispy!” Demitri called. He took off his glasses and ran into the main room, tripping over the mounds of damp ash the closer he got to Mispy. “Ugh—gross—Mispy, did it hurt?”

“No,” Mispy said. “But I feel… weak.”

“You feel weak?” Nevren said. “That’s good to know. Thank you.” He paused to log down his findings and the results in his notes. “You may eat as much as you like, Mispy. The food is ready.”

“Great!” Star cheered. “Man, that’s perfect! Okay, let’s go! Mispy! Need help walking?”

“I’m fine,” Mispy said; she was already latched onto Demitri, riding on his back with her cheek pressed against the back of the Haxorus’ head. Gahi and Owen smirked at the dragon; he blushed but did nothing to push Mispy away.


The mess hall was the first room that Owen had seen all day—other than his own room—to have any sort of color to it. Reddish-brown paint colored the walls. A long table of polished, dark wood acted as the centerpiece of the room, with three quartz chandeliers uniformly hanging on the ceiling, glimmering like diamonds.

The long table was filled end to end with food and dishes made by a team of five Hectos. Star hopped onto the back of one of them. “You’re such a good cook, Hec.” She planted a kiss on his cheek.

The expressionless Zygarde’s ears rose imperceptibly. “Thank you.” The other four stared at the lucky Hecto, but then resumed their work.

Star tilted her head. “Are you sure about having five of you here? Even though Nevren helped you bypass your cell limit, five is pretty big out of a hundred.”

“Five is adequate for here without weakening my observational abilities for the rest of the world,” Hecto said. “Hmm… I should also point out,” he said, “that I believe the Ghost Orb is stirring… A Goodra wandered into its location, and the Ghost spirits attempted to kill him. Or, well, absorb his aura to become part of their brood. However, it appears that he is too strong… They may have found a vessel.”

“A Goodra?” Star said. “You don’t mean…”

“Yes, Madeline’s child.”

An uncomfortable silence washed over the group of Divine Dragons, mutants, and Star. “Madeline…” The Mew rubbed at her left arm.

“And the Ghost Orb, you say?” Nevren repeated—this time, his voice came from himself, and not from the ceiling. The Alakazam walked toward the table and made for himself a modest plate of food. “Hidden in plain sight, yet too strong for us to approach safely… It’s unfortunate that the Ghost Orb was the first one we could locate.”

“Yeah… those guys are just beyond mean, too,” Star said, looking off. “They like to play pranks on me. Not even I have an easy time getting close to them.”

Owen lifted his plate, bringing the flame of his tail underneath it. “I mean, they’re Ghost Types, right? Don’t they sorta play with life and death, and you’re kinda… y’know… a Creator?” He focused on the ethereal flame to make it hot enough to sizzle the dish.

The Creator,” Star corrected.

“What about—”

“Arceus didn’t do the creation of life part,” Star said. “That’s all me. He did the physics and all that… And maybe a few on the pantheon, but, y’know.”

“O-okay, okay.” Owen nodded. He tested his food with his claw, now satisfied with the temperature. “But maybe they just toy with you because they kinda break your rules?”

“Pbb, rules, I didn’t make any rules. W—wait! I made their species too, you know! I think they just do that because they have an advantage over my natural Type. And I guess I’m a little spooked by Ghost Types…” The last part was said too quietly for them to hear. “I should switch to Fairy…”

Owen scanned the room and spotted Rhys picking from the berry salad plate, getting a heaping pile for himself. “Uncle Rhys!” he said. “Are you good against Ghost Types? No, right?”

“Not particularly,” Rhys said. “Two of my best techniques are completely ineffective.”

“Isn’t that awesome aura-armor thing also Fighting?”

“It’s without an attribute,” Rhys said. “It affects all Pokémon equally.”

“Wow…” Owen said. “That’s kinda cool!”

“Heh, too bad yeh pass out after usin’ it,” Gahi said.

“Ngh, I’m working on it,” he said in a growl, angrily eating a Pecha in one bite. He scanned the room between bites, finally speaking when he downed the sweet berry. “…Where’s Eon?”

“He’s inspecting the lab,” said Nevren. “You know how he is.”

“Oh! You mean our new siblings that you’re making?” Demitri asked.

“Yes! Precisely,” Nevren said.

Gahi glanced off uncomfortably. Owen glanced at him, gently bumping his tail on his side. Gahi just grunted and nibbled on a piece of bread.

Nevren went on. “They’re coming along very well. It won’t be long before they’re ready to be activated. Though, they may not be as strong as you all. Perhaps future creations… Ah, that reminds me.” Nevren tapped his spoon on his chin. “When you’re done eating, perhaps we should attempt the full-fusion first thing in the morning, when you’re rested and refreshed from today’s tests. If the Ghost Orb found a vessel… we may want to nip that in the bud now.”

Mispy flinched, face stuffed full of a whole plate of sliced fish.

“Figure of speech, Mispy,” Nevren said. “Hecto, how is the vessel faring?”

“He is…” Hecto said. “Befriending them.”

“B-befriending?” said another, shaky voice.

“Elder!” Rhys stood up with a second plate in his hands. “I made your plate, Elder. Please, enjoy.”

“Ahh, Rhys… Thank you.”

The giant Torkoal—at least twice the size of the average of his kind—gave Rhys a grateful smile. He was also twice as slow; he may have been on the way to lunch all morning, for all they knew.

Elder chuckled. “It seems that Mispy is having her fill.”

The behemoth’s vines had morphed into mouths, chomping away at entire piles of food; the food channeled directly into her body, forming more vines to eat away. It was horrifying, but Owen and the others were so used to it that it was a comforting, if not slightly disturbing, sight to see her so content.

“She’s got the right idea,” Owen said.

The family settled down to eat in a brief, comfortable silence. Elder went for mostly greens and fruits, while Demitri focused on many of the meats instead. Gahi and Owen had a more balanced diet; Mispy ate whatever was placed in front of her, including one of the plates. Rhys, concerned, asked if Mispy was feeling okay. She responded with a nod, mouth too full to speak.

Star asked Elder, “Didn’t you try to negotiate with the Ghost Spirits a while back?”

“I did,” Elder said. “One of the first to show up before me, at least. But those spirits…” He shivered. “It’s no wonder they’re not hidden – even with the knowledge of where they are, approaching it is simply too difficult. Assuming you aren’t killed by the feather-arrows of their commander from afar, the…” Elder shivered again.

“It’s okay, Elder. Perhaps this is for the best,” Rhys said. “If someone has befriended the hostile spirits, then perhaps we can then befriend the vessel. Hecto, how is…?”

“The vessel has fully assimilated the Orb. However, I was unable to determine anything more, as the copy I used to keep track of it has perished.”

“O-oh.” Owen gulped, fire dimming. “Did it… hurt?”

“It was surprisingly painless. Mostly. A dull ache, followed by a metallic taste in my mouth. Silent killer.” Hecto nodded. “However, my final observation indicated that the Goodra was completely dormant. We should wait until tomorrow so I can scout the area again, just in case.”

“Astonishing. What an incredible Pokémon,” Nevren said. “I have full confidence that Madeline’s son would be able to finish what she could not. Perhaps I should contact him later… He would be a substantially useful ally in gathering the Orbs, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Totally,” Star said, nodding. “But anyway, that’s for tomorrow. I don’t think you guys should be fusing after your training, so we’ll do it first thing in the morning! Let’s break for now. How’s that?”

“Alright,” Owen said, rolling his shoulders. “Urgh, yeah. I think I’m gonna take a nap or something…”

“Yep,” Gahi said.

“Me, too,” Demitri said.

Mispy swallowed multiple piles of food with her vines and her normal mouth. “I guess,” she finally said.

Owen blinked. “Uh, Mispy? What happened to the table?”

“Mm?” Mispy looked down. There were whole chunks of wood missing in front of her. “I dunno.”

“We should really move to stone tables,” Nevren mumbled.


Owen threw himself onto a large, white couch, rubbing his face along the soft, cotton mattress with a low rumble from his throat. “So sooooft,” he mumbled, rolling until he was on his back. He squirmed, getting that cushiony feeling all along his scales and his wings, flicking his tail against the fabric—thankfully, fire-resistant.

He watched Gahi with one eye. The Flygon prodded at one of Owen’s books, reading it aloud. “Charizard and You: Best Care for Your Favorite Fiery Pokémon.” Gahi stared at Owen, squinting.

“It’s informative,” Owen said, shrugging.

Gahi turned the book over, flipping through the pages. “How come a bunch of these’re blank?” he asked, staring at one particular page that had absolutely nothing on it.

“I think it’s a misprinted version or something, but a lot of the books are like that. Dad says it’s because the printing technology is still sort of developing, so sometimes the words get printed funny.”

Gahi shrugged. “Hey, at least yer getting knowledge outta it.” He shoved the book back in its shelf, picking out another. “…There’s no cover on this one,” he said, squinting. “Wait, y’know, if I look at it just right…” He tilted the book.

“Oh, that might be the one with a bunch of advanced battle techniques,” Owen said. “Super useful when you’re fighting in pairs, too!”

“Heh.” Gahi returned the book. “Y’know, I wouldn’t mind a fight. Never had one in a while.” He flexed his wings. “Too bad I feel like jelly.”

“I could use a fight,” Owen admitted. “You guys did all your physical tests, but mine were all mental. I need to get some energy out there.” Owen paused, thoughts lingering on his conversation with Gahi before lunch. “Hey,” he said. “I know what we can do. Everyone’s busy with fusion prep and stuff, right?”

“Mhm,” Mispy said.

“How about… we sneak out?”

Gahi, Mispy, and Demitri all flinched. “Sneak out?” Demitri squeaked, tail flicking worriedly. “B-but that might just get us in trouble…”

“Yeah, but what’re they gonna do? They need us to fuse tomorrow! C’mon, it’ll just be for a little while.” Owen squeezed his fists, almost mimicking a battle stance. “Just so we can see the sky again!”

“But how?” Mispy asked.

“Aw, c’mon,” Owen said, tapping his head. “I’ve got Perceive. This’ll be easy.”

“There’s, like, five Hectos patrolling the halls.”

“Doesn’t matter. Nevren isn’t watching right now, I don’t think, right? Let’s go.” Owen nodded. “It’ll be easy!”

The three looked at one another uncertainly. Eventually, Mispy nodded. She pointed a vine at him. “It’s your idea.”

Owen tittered. “O-okay.”

He stepped toward the door and pressed his hand against the metallic door. In response to the pressure, the door slid into the walls. Owen immediately led the way; Gahi sped on after him. Mispy picked Demitri up, placed him on her back, and squeezed through the door last, vines spilling into and out of the doorway that was just barely wide enough for her to squish through.

“This way,” Owen said in a whisper, rounding the corner of the grid-like arrangement of hallways. Forward, forward, left, forward, right, right.

“What’re you doing?” Gahi said impatiently.

“Shh,” Owen hissed. He looked ahead again and made another left, but then stopped.

Gahi crossed his arms, grumbling. Owen was thankful that Gahi was at least patient enough, or faithful enough, to keep with Owen’s lead. “Okay,” Owen said. “Almost!”

A few more turns and they saw a number at the end of the hall—the number three, painted in red and outlined in yellow. Owen rushed for it and waited for the others. Once they were all squeezed near the end of the hall, Owen whispered to the wall, “One.”

The “3” became a “1” in a blink. They all spun around and went down a new hallway. Left, forward, right, forward, right, forward, forward, forward—“I see it,” Demitri said excitedly, leaning closer.

There was a great door at the end of the grid by the western exit of Quartz HQ made of metal. Owen quickly approached the door and pressed a hand on it, hoping it would work.

By some miracle, it did. The huge doors parted, sliding into the walls, revealing—more hallways, the same as behind them. “…What?” Owen said. “No, that’s not right. I know I felt the exit on the other side a little bit ago!” He rushed through. Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi followed.

“What?!” Owen said again, staring up.

“Is something wrong?” Demitri asked.

“We’re not on the top floor anymore,” Owen said. “This isn’t floor one. We’re, like, three floors down again! And—” Owen spun around. “Uh oh.”

“Hello.” Nevren greeted, waving a spoon. “Going somewhere?”

“How did—when did—” Owen backed away, flustered.

Mispy jabbed Owen in the back, shoving him forward. “His idea!”

“Now, you know you aren’t supposed to go outside,” Nevren warned, shaking a spoon. “Last time that happened, we lost Gahi for a week.”

Gahi pouted. “Aw, I promise I won’t do that again.”

“That’s what you said last time.” Nevren sighed. “How about this. After the fusion, we will begin arranging for taking you all out on individual trips, perhaps while we go on missions to find Orbs and whatnot. Does that sound acceptable? It may be dangerous, but we could use your talents anyway. Mispy, I plan on bringing you to see that Ghost vessel, for example.”

“You promise?” Mispy growled.

“I do.” Nevren gave her a formal bow. “In any case, if you’re looking for entertainment, why don’t you see Eon? If you have any excess energy, you can ask him for a sparring match.”

Owen’s tail fired up. “Sparring with Dad?” he said. “Y-yeah! Sure! Where is he?”

“Floor eight.”


On the eighth floor, Owen navigated through the halls with the rest of the Alloy and finally reached another door. Owen gently pressed his hand against it; they slid open, revealing a large, open arena in the shape of a dome. The ground was marble-white, but the walls had simplistic, linear designs of blue that zig-zagged toward the top of the dome in a jagged spiral. A Greninja stood in the center of the arena, slicing the air with ease. Droplets of water surrounded him, forming small, explosive bubbles.

Then, from his hands, he blasted water into the floor, propelling him up and into the air. He landed on the ground again, then hopped higher, shooting water below him again for an even greater jump at the apex of his leap. The Greninja flipped in the air and landed gracefully on his feet. “Perfect,” he said to himself.

He spun around, pleased, and took a few steps forward—promptly stepping on his own tongue. The Greninja yelped and fell forward, slipping in a spectacular front-flip that ended with his face meeting the ground. His head burst into a pile of pink slime, followed by the rest of his body, becoming nothing but a puddle.

Owen and the others giggled. “H-hey, Dad,” Owen said, waving at the bubbling ooze.

“Mrrngh.” The puddle re-formed into an orange mass with a flaming rear. A few seconds later, it solidified into an exact copy of Owen. “And I maintained that form for so long, too…” He rubbed his forehead, staring up at the other Charizard. “And how are you, kids?”

“Just fine,” Owen said. “Hey, can we spar? The other three are tired, but I didn’t get to do anything exciting all day. Just a quick fight! Please?”

While Owen spoke, Eon sighed and glanced at the other three, transforming into someone when he glanced at them. “Okay, okay,” he said. “Just give me a second to get my lucky scarf.”

Eon looked at Owen again, becoming a Charizard. “Want to see a magic trick?” he said. “And just like that… presto!” He flicked his hand, revealing a simple, pink scarf. “Bet you didn’t Perceive how I grabbed that one.”

Owen did not, and that made it all the more impressive. “W-wow! Where’d you get it?!”

Eon pointed at the small bag at the very corner of the room. “Magic.” Then, he wrapped the scarf around his eyes, tying it around the back of his head. “There. Now I won’t transform randomly. I want you three to stay quiet, alright?”

The rest of the Alloy knew the routine. With Eon’s overactive Impostor ability, he couldn’t help his transformations—anybody in the forefront of his mind would be the form he took. He usually had to stare at someone very intensely to maintain a single body for long, though the blindfold certainly helped keep things stable. For a time.

Eon grinned “Come on! I haven’t got all day. Well, I do. But you need to rest.”

“Okay, okay,” Owen said, following the blindfolded Charizard to the center of the arena. “How about this, if you’re in such a rush. The first person to land a single hit wins.”

“Sure,” Eon said casually. “I’ll give you the first ten shots.”

Owen’s tail burned bright, pupils narrowing dangerously.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Eon raised his hands, not even having to look to sense Owen’s glare. “Two shots.”

“You’re gonna regret that. I know your tricks this time!” Owen stomped on the ground. “I have just the plan to get you this time!”

“Mhm, mhm.” Eon tilted his head leisurely. He turned around. “Let’s go, Owen. I’m waiting.”

A tense silence festered between the two. Owen made careful steps around Eon, strafing the Charizard in a slow circle, looking for an opening. He watched his flame. When it flared up, Owen knew that an attack would be coming, right? Compressed air danced around Owen’s claws, swirling in a spiral that collected at the very tips. His wings lit up with little specks of light, drifting away from him. The Fire Traps remained where he stood, floating delicately. It wouldn’t be much, and Eon would certainly not let him make a full circle—last time he tried, Eon struck early, claiming that his extended Trap counted as two moves.

Eon’s flame flashed blue.

Owen jumped to the right to avoid some invisible maneuver, yet Eon didn’t move. Instead, he turned his blind eyes toward him, smirking. “Made you flinch.”

Owen blinked, then snarled. “Oh yeah?!” He rushed forward, blasting Eon with an Air Slash that had been charged on his right claws. Then, he sent a beam of fire ahead of Eon, cornering him in a V-shape. The left was solid air; the right was searing flames. Still spewing fire, Owen smirked and turned his head, closing the gap.

And then Eon vanished.

And then Owen realized he’d used up his two strikes.

Eon was behind him. He sensed it. Owen spun around and closed his wings, forming a golden barrier to block him.

Eon wasn’t there.


Eon flicked Owen on the back of his head, between his horns. “Got you.”

Owen spun around for a second time. Embers still floated in the air behind Eon, where Owen had last fired. The true Charizard stared with wide eyes. “But I—you—that—”

Eon grinned. “Hey, you almost got me that time,” he said, chuckling.

“H-how’d you do that?!” Owen said, pointing at him. “You were behind me! I felt it! And then you—blipped in front of me! That’s no fair!”

Eon shrugged. “Magic,” he said. “I’m super-fast.”

Gahi’s tail flicked challengingly.

“Anyway, did you at least get a bit of your aggression out, Owen? You put your all into those attacks. I felt the heat.” He tapped at his cheek.

Owen grumbled.

Eon pat Owen’s shoulder. “I’ll give you a proper fight tomorrow. I just don’t want you to ache when you evolve.” He motioned for him to follow. “Why don’t I take you to your beds?”

Owen’s wings drooped in defeat. “Okay…”


Metal doors parted and they were back in their room again, Eon escorting the four of them back to the couch, still blind. Along the way, they rambled to Eon about their training, how they managed to exceed Nevren’s expectations yet again, and how Rim stole Nevren’s berries. Eon laughed. “I guess she couldn’t resist. You know how much she loves them. Just like Rhys and his Pechas.”

“Or Elder and his Orans,” Demitri said. “Or Owen and his Tamatos.”

“H-hey, those are amazing and you know it.” Owen stuck his nose in the air, snorting a small cloud of embers.

Mispy shrugged, while Gahi and Demitri both shuddered.

“I don’t get you Fire Types,” Gahi said.

“Well, to be fair, I think that’s more an Owen thing than a Fire thing,” Eon explained. With everyone inside, Eon walked toward the shelves and opened a small case. “Let’s see…” He lowered his voice while struggling with the case, clearly not used to the three claws a Charizard had per hand.

The clicking of the chest opening was enough to make Mispy, Demitri, and Gahi all yawn at the same time. Even Owen was starting to feel a bit tired, longing for a good night’s sleep.

Eon tossed four colorful spheres toward them. Owen caught two; Mispy caught the other half. She inspected the stickers on the top. One had a little flame symbol; Mispy handed that one to Owen. Meanwhile, Owen passed a leaf-sticker sphere to Mispy in return. Demitri’s ball had a little purple claw mark sticker, leaving Gahi’s as one with a small sand dune.

Demitri and Mispy stared at one another and exchanged balls such that they were holding one another’s. Then, then squeezed it, thrusting them forward at one another; a beam of light enveloped them at the same time. The balls opened, splitting in half, as the Meganium and Haxorus washed away in that same, red light.

Gahi tossed his ball in the air, bumping it with his nose. It cracked open and enveloped Gahi next, the sphere falling to the ground with a dull clatter.

Owen grinned at Eon. “Hey, so,” he said, “tomorrow, after the fusion… what if we sparred as the full Alloy, huh?”

“The full Alloy? I dunno if I’ll win against that,” Eon said, mirroring Owen’s expression. “I’ll wake you guys up if you oversleep.” He nodded toward Owen.

Owen nodded back. “Night.” Owen tilted the ball toward him and squeezed, firing the beam toward himself. Owen’s vision went dark, his body felt weightless, and then he felt a rough rumble around him. His mind breathed a sigh that his body could not emulate. In this cozy darkness, he felt someone pick him up.

“Good night, you four,” Eon said.

Owen felt Eon’s claws wrap around the ball. His consciousness sank deeper, a grin forming where he had no face. Despite not feeling much, he felt warm in his bed.

Eon set them all on the couch and left the room.

Owen’s Perceive didn’t work within this space, yet despite this, he still had a subconscious idea of what was around him. He felt Gahi’s bed wiggling as he settled down for bed, eternally restless. Mispy’s was completely motionless. Demitri’s shifted every so often until it finally rolled to the back of the couch, balanced in the corner.

The coziness was too much. Already in darkness, Owen’s mind drifted away completely.


The Alloy components walked through the halls and eventually went to another training room. The four excitedly bounced with each step; Mispy nuzzled at Demitri’s back and Gahi elbowed Owen, remarking that they’d finally get to put all this work to the test. And finally, they entered the training room—a somewhat smaller area, more like a waiting room than anything, and stepped into the very center of the chamber. The echoes were strongest here, as if the past was reminding them of its existence. Nevren, Elder, and the others stood at the edges of the room to observe and prepare for any potential mishaps. Rhys stood closer to keep watch on how their auras interacted.

The four components of the Alloy faced one another.

“Where’s Eon?” Demitri asked.

“Right here!” Heavy footsteps—the voice came from someone that sounded exactly like Demitri. And, indeed, a doppelganger of Demitri entered the room, holding his knees. “Sorry for the wait—I lost track of time…”

“Eon, did you eat at all?” Nevren asked. “You didn’t show up for lunch, or dinner, or breakfast…”

“No, I’ll eat later. This is more important,” Eon said, transforming into Nevren.

Nevren nodded. “Very well. Okay. Are we ready?” He turned his attention to the four synthetic Pokémon.

“Ready!” they all said.

“Use Mispy as the central figure,” said Nevren. “Given her size, it will be the easiest. Good, a bit closer… Now, you must all close your eyes and focus. Relax your minds, and then your bodies. Try to tune in with the auras of one another…”

Owen breathed slowly, and he indeed could feel their presence. He breathed a bit faster when he felt his body lose its shape, enveloped in the many vines in front of him. Gahi was next to him, and his side was melting into his. He didn’t know how to describe it. This happened now and then in the past, but they always woke up before they totally fused. It was such a warm, tingling feeling, as if their very nerves were being attached and intertwined with one another. But they’d always pull away. It wasn’t too hard to do that. But now—was this…? He didn’t want to stop. This was deeper than they’d ever gone—and he couldn’t get enough. Just a little more…

“Keep going…” Nevren said slowly, glancing at something in his hands. Some sort of blue emblem in the shape of a badge.

Eon watched, tense, still taking on the form of Owen. Countless tense seconds passed, their first fusion as an Alloy done slowly and steadily. Perhaps it had been minutes. None of them could tell, especially the Alloy components themselves.

Rhys winced with unease. “Their auras are starting to link,” he said. “It’s… incredible, but… it feels wrong, somehow.”

“It seems fine so far,” Star said. “Their auras are merging fine, but it’s just getting started.”

Despite this, Star was playing with her pawpads anxiously.

More silent seconds passed. The auras mingled together, but the closer they got, the more their flares lashed out wildly. Nevren’s blue emblem abruptly dimmed to a gray color.

Rhys’ expression darkened. “Nevren. I don’t think we should keep going. We should separate them.”

“What’s wrong?” Star asked.

“I agree,” Nevren said immediately.

“Their auras aren’t attaching properly. Something isn’t right with it. They aren’t ready—perhaps some more training, or—”

“We need to separate them.” Nevren looked at his gray emblem, snorting. He shoved it in his bag. “Reverse the fusion process!”

“Guys!” Star interrupted Rhys, shouting at the four.

Gahi, Demitri, and Mispy were all too involved in the fusion to sense anything else. Owen, however, heard them. “What’s… what’s wrong?” he said in a slur. “Wait… I need to go… further…”

“Owen!” Rhys said. “Back away! Stop the fusion!” Rhys’ paws burned with aura and he rushed toward them.

“I… I can’t…! It’s… too…” The fusion accelerated rapidly by Mispy’s own defiance. Vines wrapped around Owen’s head, and his body was lost to the amalgamation. He felt Rhys pulling at his body, but he was already attached to Mispy, part of her—just as she was part of him, and the others a part of the whole. He let out a final breath; he could hear the thoughts of his components plague his own. And his thoughts plagued theirs. He couldn’t feel his arms any longer. His wings went next, and then the rest of him. His mind was the last to go.

The rest of the memories, while there, felt blurry and rushed. With his mind not fully intact, he only felt raw emotions and instincts, reflexive actions. Without any mirrors, he didn’t even know what he looked like in this final, monstrous, whole form. Fading images filled his mind—fragments of memories that pieced together to show, finally, the full picture. He remembered roaring—feeling an overwhelming power that forced out all other thoughts.

He remembered Star floating in front of him with great, white wings made from long, glowing tendrils. She had tears in her eyes. Of what, he didn’t know. Horror, sadness, regret? It could be any of them, or all of them. He remembered feeling blood between his claws and his vines, the squished form of one of the many Zygarde that had accompanied them torn to bloody shreds beneath him.

He remembered all of them firing tirelessly against him. Aura Sphere, Flamethrower—even Eon, who tried to mimic his body, couldn’t properly copy a creature that was composed of four auras. Nevren had shouted something to Star, and then the Mew shook her head. And then she floated above them, the tiny Creator’s tearful expression the last thing Owen remembered seeing.

“I’m sorry,” Star said.

And then those wings… The light stabbed into his—no, their body. Light coursed through them like magma. They roared, flailing in all directions. Flamethrowers and Solar Beams scorched the walls; tremors cracked the ground; countless vines carved into the room. The pain only got worse. The twisted minds of the Alloy, combined with the exponential, excruciating, soul-splitting pain of the filaments burrowing into them became the only thing they knew.

This was the memory that had been blocked—the pain, the insanity, the creeping shockwave of madness that came back even after so many centuries sealed away. The memory that required a reset just to stay sane. But they couldn’t let that happen. Not again. Never again. They had to see this memory through. They couldn’t let it take them. This was all the past.

Whose memories were these? They were Owen’s, but they were also from the others. Pieces of conversations from both sides flitted through the singular mind.

They all watched the same set of memories unfold. They all, now separate again, had to relive being the Alloy, as if it had just happened. Owen knew that they were seeing the same memories. And he, with Gahi, helped him deal with them, unable to handle it on his own. He guided him along, holding his hand for every step. He felt Gahi’s fear, but Gahi felt Owen’s confidence. And that saved him.

As the Alloy, Demitri could only think about Mispy. He wanted to hold her. He wanted to tell her that everything was okay. That nothing could go wrong, if only to assure himself that the pain would subside.

Mispy couldn’t stand it. She had forgotten what pain felt like. She was the one that felt them all attach to her. She felt Demitri’s fear. She wrapped her vines around him in her mind, agreeing with him. It was going to be okay. She had lost her mind first to the Alloy.

Gahi writhed from within, screaming to regain what sense of self he had. But it was all lost that day, stolen from him and melted into the rest of the Alloy. Gahi was gone. The others were all gone. Yet they were all together. He felt Owen’s warmth, and that kept him anchored to the present. He felt his assuring thoughts, his calm words, and he followed that like the one light in a dark void.

Just a little longer. They had to remember just a little longer.

The wings, made from hundreds of filaments of light, parted. Still, they were pierced through their body. The light tore them apart, ripping their merged essences into quarters. Four bloodied pieces fell to the ground, indistinguishable masses of flesh.

Owen recognized his memories for his own, but he also understood the new memories that were forced into him. Foreign pasts that he would never be able to get rid of, because now, they were his, just as they were also theirs. He remembered two sides of the same conversation. He remembered winning and losing the same battle.

There were even memories where he was not present. The gentle caress of a tapestry of vines around his body and a huge head gently nuzzling against his tough scales. The feeling of air rushing past him through the air, free and in the sky, flying toward a great spire in the ground.

But now, he knew which memories were his, and which were theirs. And he accepted them all.

The pain stopped.

After countless lives repeated, the four souls breathed a sigh of relief.

End of Act I
apparently i exist here now! crossposting, if you don't mind~

aaaaaand... I rescind what I said about Act I not having a proper conclusion. When you said there'd be a special episode, I'd been assuming it was like the previous two, where it was something totally removed from the current narrative, there for supplementary info but not required. But this--this relates 100% to the current narrative and was absolutely needed to bring this subplot to a satisfying end.

Just... dammit augh why'd you have to make everyone such a big happy family?! >:'[ I wanna read more about them bein' all happy together! Why did everything go wrooooong. Dx

Implying I don't love stories with broken people trying to put their broken lives back together.

In any case, I am genuinely really curious to see how everything went wrong (probably later, I imagine.) We all know that Star later came to regret the decision to gather the Orbs (only to then pick up that goal again in order to beat Eon to the punch) but the exact circumstances of that have not yet come to light, and I think the motivation there will answer a lot of questions.
“Thought so. Okay. Thanks, Dad!”


“Gahi!” Owen called

missing period

No Quarts HQ

Not sure if it's intentional, but this Quartz is spelled with an S instead of a Z.

“Don’t forget, Demitri,” Star said, “Mispy doesn’t register pain the way normal people do. She knows she’s getting hurt, but… it doesn’t hurt hurt, you know?”

i hurt myself todayyyy
just to see if i still feeeeel

Just then, Rim appeared behind them.

unsheathes katana

“Oh! You mean our new siblings that you’re making?” Demitri asked.

making babies huh...

Eon grinned “Come on! I haven’t got all day. Well, I do. But you need to rest.”

missing period

His head burst into a pile of pink slime, followed by the rest of his body, becoming nothing but a puddle.


Demitri and Mispy stared at one another and exchanged balls such that they were holding one another’s.



Well, wow. Looks like not even gods should play god.
Don't get excited: I'm just replying to reviews. Only a few more days before I can get Act II out, though. Thanks for the review, Chibi! I covered you elsewhere, but as for Canis...


Amazing how just one innocuous word can evoke such emotions.


Surprise! Eon's all pupil. I mean, in his normal form, at least. Amazing that the main antagonist of Act II is a pink blob, but hey.

Well, wow. Looks like not even gods should play god.

I love this line because of how profound it is and also simply how appropriate it is considering what just happened.

Alright, guys. Thanks for the feedback! I'll be sure to get back into things soon. Friday night / early Saturday morning at the latest. I have a separate oneshot to release first.
Act II - A Stubborn Ego
ACT II – A Stubborn Ego

The Hall of Origin was made of pure, white, shining tile. Light shined from above, radiating off of tall ceilings. The light bounced off the walls and illuminated the floor. The passageways were so wide that an entire squad of Owens could march, wing to wing, and have room to spare. The ceilings were tall enough to even more flying far overhead. The hall led into a chamber at least four times as large. It was here that Arceus stood, staring at a great spherical projection in the air.

To the naked eye, nothing was happening. But to Arceus, he could see every event of the world through mortals’ eyes. He couldn’t focus on it all. He no longer had the power to do that—he lacked it for a very long time. Instead, he had his focus on one thing at a time. And right now, his attention was tuned to something that was not even a part of his own design…

The screen projection shifted until it was looking over Hot Spot Cave. It couldn’t go much closer. He could only see blurry images of Owen and the others conversing with one another, looking through the eyes of the Pokémon inside. But their Mystic power made maintaining a connection too difficult. The projection suddenly fizzled out, going back into a great sphere of the world by default.

“Yo, Barky.” In a flash of light, Star appeared and landed on his back. She was so small that his fur was like a field of white, tall grass. The Mew’s tail flicked with an air of innocence, but the larger deity knew all too well that she was taunting him.

Barky growled. What an irritating imp.

“Still watching Owen, are you?”

Barky stared at the sphere. The projection expanded; its outer edges faded, and a thin view of Hot Spot Cave’s interior came into focus, though Valle’s eyes. He was particularly useful for how aware he was of the caverns and how weak his aura was. His eyes were always watching—irritably, Barky imagined—at the various motions in the cave. It showed everyone—aside from Anam and Nevren—sitting in the middle of the square. They seemed to be calming Demitri and Mispy down. But the vision was quite faded. The high concentration of divine energy between all of the Guardians made it difficult to observe them. Anywhere Anam was in particular made observation next to impossible.

“His aura stabilized,” Barky said. And while Demitri and Mispy were distressed, they appeared to be in no danger of losing themselves to those old instincts. Rhys’ plan worked. It took centuries… but it worked.

“Yep. Guess I won that bet after all, huh?”

Barky snorted. “I do not gamble. That is a mortal’s vice.”

“Being wrathful is a mortal’s vice, and look where you are.”

That one stung. Barky’s left hoof scraped against the floor, leaving a hollow-sounding echo through the hall. Star, looking down at the hoof from atop his back, shook her head. He could never quite control his anger. Her tail flicked again. She tilted her head and arched her back, stretching every part of her body while lounging on top of him, even her little claws.

“What do you want?” Barky finally asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Star said in a sing-song tone. “I’m just popping by.” She twirled a lock of his fur between her tiny claws.

Barky didn’t say anything in return. He went back to watching the mutated Charizard.

Star gently tugged at the fur, pulling off a few loose strands. “It’s pretty impressive that science can create something that I couldn’t.” She looked at the blurry image of Owen and Gahi, “Look at them. Fused together into something that probably shouldn’t even exist. I mean, by my standards, at least. But, y’know, I don’t think I really mind that anymore. Owen’s nice. And Gahi, I like his attitude. The two of them together is kinda the best of both worlds.

“Between Nevren’s knowledge over genetics and Rhys’ knowledge over the aura, they managed to make the perfect fighter out of four pieces. Aside from a few flaws. But… I’m glad he’s finding himself. He didn’t deserve that fate—none of them did.”

Barky growled. “And yet, so many more have been created since then.” He turned his head so his right eye stared directly at Star. The piercing, unblinking, green-red gaze made Star shrink, just slightly. “Are you proud of that?”

Star bit her lip.

If Barky had a mouth, he’d smirk with it, but he figured his eyes would say enough. He knew she hated when he was right. Sure, Owen and his team were under their own control. Independent, even if they were still a bit subservient to authority figures like Anam or Rhys and—in Owen’s case—Amia. But the others? What of them? Would they be slaves to the remaining Hunters forever? Was that her fault? She probably wouldn’t think so. She didn’t have that kind of power, after all. The Hunters carried on after she made the mistake of trusting them. Now it was the mortals’ turn to fix it, not her.

“They’ll work it out,” Star said. “I have faith in them.”

Predictable. Barky scoffed. “Faith is for the lower creatures, not gods. We are their faith, Star. You cannot fall back on it as they do, for we are where it all ends. There is no higher authority.”

Star’s tail flicked irritably. Barky watched her tiny fist clench; she wanted to punch him in the back, but that would just show him her weakness. Go on, Star. Show it again.

Star relaxed, but her glare didn’t subside. “You say faith is something for mortals to do, but so is bickering, but we’ve been doing that for the age of the universe. So, what then, huh?”

Barky had no response. He returned to watching the sphere.

Star huffed through her nose. Her toes clenched on the fur, prodding between two vertebrae on his spine. She kicked off and leaned forward, hanging her arms over part of the golden wheel attached to his back.

“Hey, Barky,” Star said. “You know they’re eventually going to gather them all. Someone is. And none of the Promises they made can keep that from happening. You can’t wait it out. So…”

He waited, but Star didn’t continue for a while. That must have been all that had to be said. And Arceus didn’t have much to say back, either. He made his point. But he could tell that her talking with him just made her feel worse. Still, he had no idea what she was thinking; they couldn’t read each other’s minds. He’d like that, but she refused. And if she refused, then so would he.

Star cleared her throat again. “Barky…”

“Unless you plan to step down, I have nothing more to say.”

After a few seconds to stare, she floated off of him. Arceus eyed her closely; he knew her for so long that it didn’t take Owen’s Perceive to know how she was feeling. Perhaps a heavy heart, but a stubborn attitude to deflect any guilt away from her. Maybe she wanted it to all be over. And, really, he wanted it to be the same. If only she listened to what he had to say. Was she thinking the same thing toward him? No, of course she was. Because she was a fixer. She had to help. And apparently she knew how it had to be done.

Arceus stared at those determined eyes of Mew. Fists clenched again, she spoke, “Once I have them all… you’re done.”

She disappeared as quickly as she came.

There was no wind in the Hall of Origin. Complete silence accompanied the tension Star left behind. The Creator broke it with a gentle tap on the ground. It echoed, on and on. Arceus wondered if he spoke too harshly toward her. Because she was right. He did get angry. But Star was no better. Star was too immature for that sort of power. She mingled with the spirits of mortals as if they were at her level. They simply weren’t. Yet now, she behaved like one. And then, in the end, it always got her hurt.

“How did it come to this…?”

But he didn’t like the answer.


Author's note: This tiny piece is just the prelude, just like Act I's prelude. Expect the first real chapter to be coming in only a few days, at the end of the weekend at the latest~
The Hall of Origin was made of pure, white, shining tile. Light shined from above, radiating off of tall ceilings. The light bounced off the walls and illuminated the floor. The passageways were so wide that an entire squad of Owens could march, wing to wing, and have room to spare. The ceilings were tall enough to even more flying far overhead. The hall led into a chamber at least four times as large. It was here that Arceus stood, staring at a great spherical projection in the air.

Now playing: Temple of Time from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

To the naked eye, nothing was happening. But to Arceus, he could see every event of the world through mortals’ eyes.

"Hey, what's this guy doing over he- hold on, what are you doing with -- no, that's not supposed to go in th- NO STOP THAT RIGHT NOW EW GROSS GROSS EW"

“His aura stabilized,” Barky said. And while Demitri and Mispy were distressed, they appeared to be in no danger of losing themselves to those old instincts. Rhys’ plan worked. It took centuries… but it worked.

So there are a couple of spots in this prelude where the narrator gets pretty into a character's head, and while it mostly doesn't get distracting and flows just fine, I legitimately thought the sentences here were accidentally left out of quotes. It may be because of the "And" it starts off with, and it's definitely further strengthened by the imperfect tense towards the end. Based on what was meant, "was working" or "had worked" would be clearer, with the "it took" naturally changed to match.

Arceus stared at those determined eyes of Mew. Fists clenched again, she spoke, “Once I have them all… you’re done.”

No, Star, you messed up the line, it's 'catch them all'.

Anyway, I stumbled a bit on this on the first read because of the actor character changing mid-paragraph.


Good god chat. It was a bit weird seeing the two interact like this without the tension felt in earlier scenes, but I suppose there's not much they could do to each other anyway, being dead and all. Also WOW Barky is HYUG what a big boi.

Well, see you later with the first chapter proper! Glad HoC is back, even if it wasn't gone for that long.
So there are a couple of spots in this prelude where the narrator gets pretty into a character's head, and while it mostly doesn't get distracting and flows just fine, I legitimately thought the sentences here were accidentally left out of quotes.

This narration really gets into their head, yeah. I guess that's a bit jarring, but hmm... I'll think about what to do about this. It's tricky. The style is a little different here, which I tried to generally keep in Bark's perspective.

Anyway, I stumbled a bit on this on the first read because of the actor character changing mid-paragraph.

Same reasoning, but I'll try to polish this up later.

It was a bit weird seeing the two interact like this without the tension felt in earlier scenes, but I suppose there's not much they could do to each other anyway, being dead and all.

That's sorta what I was going for! They're like estranged cosmic roommates. Except also holding a proxy war. So that's fun.

Also WOW Barky is HYUG what a big boi.

The size comparisons between Arceus and Mew are staggering. Arceus is ten feet tall!

Glad HoC is back, even if it wasn't gone for that long.

It felt long to me, too, don't worry. I'm glad to be back. Soon, the first true chapter will drop! Just need to do a final few touches...
Chapter 40 - Regrets and Reconciliation
Chapter 40 – Regrets and Reconciliation

Gawen watched silently as Demitri and Mispy recalled their past, or at least a small portion of it. They remembered bits and pieces of their first lives. Perhaps not all of it, but enough to understand exactly what had happened to them, and why they had been reset. Minds scrambled and left to insanity, spending centuries being slowly repaired by Rhys. At some point, Rhys must have spirited them away so they wouldn’t have to fuse ever again.

The Flygon-Charizard fusion glanced at the Lucario in question. He was standing as he always had, stoic and silent, but the tension in his body spoke volumes. Compared to Owen alone, Gawen couldn’t sense the extreme details, but it was enough. It was as if the guilt of a hundred lifetimes had concentrated itself into a thick, bitter bile in the pit of Rhys’ stomach.

“It hurt so much,” Demitri said in a shaky whisper. The Haxorus wrapped his arms around himself, shuddering. “My head was all over the place, and… a-and I didn’t know what was going on, and… and I was just… I just had to move… I had to… I don’t know what I had to do. I just had to… get it all out. F-fight…”

Mispy, next to him, wrapped her many, many vines protectively around her mate, pulling him close. Demitri flinched away—Gawen was certain it was because he was afraid of fusing with her, but she refused to let go. If anything, she held on tighter, pressing her head against his.

“It’s okay,” she said.

“Oh—M-Mispy…” Demitri shuddered again, giving in. He fell toward her, squeezing five of her vines close. The remainder wrapped around him until he was pressed against her main body. She craned her neck, brushing her cheek just above his axes. Even if she couldn’t feel pain, she knew that it upset him if she accidentally cut herself on his axes. The muscle memory of how to hug him despite the axes returned to her immediately.

Demitri sniffled, relaxing when he was finally enveloped. He remembered her scent. It was always strongly of plant life like this, like grass sliced by his axes. He always liked the smell of cut grass. Now he knew why. Demitri deflated against the monstrous Meganium, still sniffling, but feeling relaxed.

Rhys and Manny both subconsciously rubbed at their aura sensors. The former glanced at Gawen, briefly meeting eyes.

“I think we should all retire for the day,” Amia said delicately. “Hopefully by tomorrow, or the day after, Star will have some Orb locations for us to look for. Not too many are left, right?”

“We know where a few are,” Rhys said, “but I doubt any of them would be productive. Eon is going to send someone to the Frozen Oceanside soon, though. Likely Rim. We should be ready for that.”

“Do you think if we ask Hecto, he’ll tell us when Eon starts making another move?” Gawen suddenly spoke up. “I mean, by now he’s probably trying to keep an eye on him, right?”

“No can do there.”

Gawen glanced around, spotting Star’s faded form hovering just behind Manny.

“Thanks, bud,” Star said.

“Heh, no problem.”

Star addressed the group. “Hecto still hangs around Eon to keep an eye on him, but Eon sorta keeps a lot of things from him. There’s no way he’ll find out if Rim’s gone. I mean, she could probably just be heading out to get supplies for the army, you know?”

Gawen gulped. “R-right. Well, Hecto can at least check if something’s going on in Frozen Oceanside, right? And Star, d’you know any other spots?”

“I thought I knew where the Bug Guardian was, but she must’ve moved again. And she’s not talking to me, so I have to go scout around the spirit world again. I’ll let you guys know if I find something. I also want to get a better read on where the Ice Guardian is in Frozen Oceanside. That place is huge. You’ll freeze before you find her if I can’t get a good read, so sit tight, alright? That’s probably one reason why Eon didn’t go there right away.”

Gawen nodded, looking at the others. “I guess that’s the plan. Thanks, Star.”

“Gonna head off. Thanks, guys!” Star disappeared into Manny.

Amia tilted her head at Manny. “Now, why does she always pick you to get summoned?”

Manny shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe she feels safer since she’s got a Type advantage. I know she hates goin’ through Anam. Fits the pattern. Besides, I dunno. I don’t mind. It’s kinda cute. Don’cha just wanna scratch under her chin?”

Zena stared. “…No.”

“Bahh,” Manny waved a paw at them. “I’m gonna go train. Gotta try summoning Yen again. Figure if I can half-summon Star, ain’t too hard ter make’m solid.”

Demitri was composed enough to nod at Mispy. “I think we’re going to take a… nap.”

Rhys made a motion to go after them, but Mispy was already sliding off to their room, carrying Demitri with him. Something held him back, feet planted firmly in the ground. Others in the group dispersed as usual, and Rhys, looking lost, turned and walked to the training grounds.

“Hmm…” Gawen saw that while everyone was dispersing, nobody quite paid attention to Rhys, perhaps because the Lucario was very good at leaving without being followed. He always was quiet. But something was bothering him. The Owen half was screaming to follow after, and that was enough to convince the Gahi half to take reluctant steps along.

Watching Gawen from behind, Zena opened her mouth to speak—but Gawen was already too focused on Rhys to acknowledge much else. She winced.

Amia placed a hand on Zena’s neck. “Don’t worry, dear. Owen is still trying to remember things—and don’t forget, that’s Gahi in there, too.”

“He didn’t remember me, Amia.” Zena looked at her. “I thought he was supposed to get all his memories back. But I didn’t see a single… a single flash of recognition on his face. I was just another Guardian. What if—”

“Zena, Zena, dear,” Amia said delicately, placing her other hand on her ribbon.

Alex stood on Zena’s other side shaking his head. “You can’t force this. Owen’s mind is in a delicate state right now, and memories are probably going to be coming to him in flashes for a while. Maybe a few days, or moons, or… well…” He bumped his cannons together. He wiggled his arms against one another, almost like a hand puppet, like his hands were two heads debating an idea. “I’m sorry you have to deal with this.”

“We’ll help you, dear.” Amia took her hands off of Zena to clasp them in front of the fin on her chest. “We’ve had to raise Owen for so long. We know he’ll remember you eventually. We just have to jog the memories out of him.”

Zena could only watch Owen, fused with Gahi, walk away. “Of course.”


“Rhys?” Gawen called.

Rhys jumped. “Oh—Gahi—er, Owen, er…”

“I think Willow picked Gawen,” the fusion said, flashing a resigned smile.

They didn’t quite make it to the training grounds. The cave was still tall and wide, making Gawen’s voice echo. Rhys slowly turned around, though he was looking at Gawen’s chest rather than his face. Eventually, those eyes trailed to the wall instead, trying to look casual.

It only occurred to Gawen then just how small Rhys was, now. He was at least a head or two shorter than him, fully evolved. After half of him spending almost all of his life as a Trapinch or Vibrava, actually looking down at him was a surreal feeling.

It also occurred to Gawen that they had been standing in silence for a while.

“I, er,” Owen’s half fumbled.

And then more silence flooded in.

Rhys shifted his weight to his left foot. “Well, if you were looking to train with me, I’m still a bit tired from donating my aura matter to Demitri and Mispy.”

“Right, yeah. Ain’t a problem,” Gahi’s half said.

The following silence didn’t last as long, broken again by Rhys. “How have you been feeling? Are you… acclimating to being fused together? Is that how you prefer things?”

“I mean—either way is fine. I guess we just never bothered breaking up yet,” Gawen said. “And, actually, er… I think right now, I want to be two-in-one for this.”

“For… this?”

This time, Gawen shifted his weight, almost mirroring Rhys’ posture. It was impossible to ignore Owen’s dulled Perceive like this, with just one Lucario and everything else motionless enough to satisfy Valle.

Gawen crossed his arms, and then crossed his wings over them. “I felt how you were when Demitri was breaking down.”


His neutral tone was characteristic as ever, but his body had tensed considerably.

“Sorry, but you know I can tell.”

“Of course. I cannot blame you.”

“I just wanted to say that… even if it’s hard on them, I’m still happy that we can finally remember who we are. It… it hurt a lot. Back then, and remembering it now. But we had to. Because before, it was like… living in a fog. It still is, but… for the first time, it feels like that fog is clearing up. Like my head can breathe again. Like I can actually see, even if it’s still blurry, and there’s still so much left to clear up, and…” Gawen rolled his eyes. “Ugh. You get it. I’m sick of Owen’s side explaining it. He’s too wordy.”

Rhys allowed a smile to escape him. “Well, that, too, is something I can’t blame him for. He always was the one to read the most.”

“Yeah.” Gawen grinned, unfolding his wings, then his arms. “Anyway, the real reason I wanted to come here is just, I’m sorry for how guilty you feel for all this. I dunno how hard it must’ve been to raise me—er, to raise Gahi and the others, like that.”

“You’re sorry? I’m the one who should be sorry for putting you through it all.” Rhys looked away, paws clenched. “I shouldn’t have allowed it to happen in the first place. All the ceaseless suffering… and for what? For—”

“Rhys.” Gawen thumped his tail on the ground, startling the Lucario enough to break his posture. The thud echoed for several seconds, and in a way, it didn’t seem to stop. “Enough.”

Rhys raised his arms in some kind of protest against an invisible force, but then lowered them, along with his head.

“Enough of that already.”

Rhys nodded. “Of course.”

“We’re moving forward, got it?”

“Of course.” His voice was even smaller.

Behind the red lenses, Gawen’s eyes softened. “There’s one last thing I wanted to say.”

Rhys listened without a word.

“The Gahi side of me never wanted to say it, but the Owen side ain’t giving me a choice. I figure it’s a good idea to get it out there.” He looked down, trying to make eye contact, but all Rhys was interested in were the glowing mushrooms in the corner of the cave that gave the hall its light.

“For all the time you spend raising Gahi, and Demitri, and Mispy, and for all the trouble you went through just to fix us… when it could’ve been easier to just leave us, or to just let us keep being weapons, or to control us, or… anything. For taking the hard route to make us better… I just wanted to say thank you. And… that I love ya, Pops.”

Far in the distance, like a faint echo, Willow screeched at Enet about playing unfairly, and that she was going to shrink her and stomp her into the ground. Then, the panicked voice of ADAM drowned them both out, followed by blaring an alarm signal. That, too, was so faint that it quickly faded into nothing.

Rhys brought his paw to his mouth to hide his smile, but a chuckle betrayed him. He looked at Gawen directly for the first time, the Lucario’s expression brimming with a strange light. His paw migrated to his eyes next, tilting his head back. The little chuckles got a bit louder, accented by sniffles.

“Pops,” he repeated. “Oh, such an informal nickname, Gahi. And you’ll never call me that as yourself, will you?” He laughed again, his mouth some strange combination of a smile and frown. “Oh! Pops…”

Gawen stepped a bit closer, bringing a hand on his shoulder. Rhys couldn’t see, but he felt it. His body immediately leaned forward, though his free arm didn’t move just yet. Gawen wrapped his wings around the small Lucario, pulling him closer. He had to lean a bit awkwardly to get at a good level with him, but that was okay.

Rhys’ laughing eventually died down, replaced by quiet, undignified sniffles. Gawen took care to avoid the spike on his chest, but otherwise kept the Lucario in a full, warm embrace. His undercoat was so matted. He smelled vaguely of Pecha Berries that had long since gone bad, but it was only noticeable when he was right next to him. Little imperfections.

Rhys finally composed himself enough to speak, still holding Gawen close. “That’s all I ever… that’s all I ever wanted to hear. Oh, Gahi…”

Gawen slowly let Rhys go. He resisted at first, so he stayed that way a while longer. The sobbing Lucario eventually relented, releasing the mutant fusion to stand properly. He stretched, cracking his back once.

Rhys made one last sniff, wiping his nose with the side of his paw. “In any case,” he said, accompanied by a sigh. “I did intend to meditate. I may spar with Manny again if he is not too busy with summoning his mate.”

“…Wait. Mate? Yen?”

“Apparently so, from chats I’ve had with him,” Rhys said.

“…You guys chat?”

“Why wouldn’t we?”

“You guys are, like, complete opposites.”

“Two sides of the same coin, hm? There is a lot to empathize between two Lucario.”

Gawen still seemed unconvinced, but he nodded anyway.

“Would you care to join us? Perhaps we can spar or train as well.”

At that moment, the two halves had completely different answers. Gahi wanted to lean forward to speak, while Owen wanted to look back. The result was a Flygon’s head moving forward, while a Charizard’s head pulled back, the original head splitting in a clay-like two before solidifying to normal.

“Hah, you bet I wanna—”

“Well, actually, I think I’m—”

The disorientation of two heads trying to control the same body made the partial-fusion fall over, caught only because Rhys was quick enough to break the fall from below.

“W-wait! Stuck! Can’t—Gahi, quit moving the tail!”

“Stop movin’ my arm!”

“F-focus! Just focus!!” Rhys said from below, holding them up. “Perhaps it’s time you separated, yes?”

“Okay, okay. Just give me a second. We did it before.” Owen tried to turn his head, but his neck muscles weren’t quite cooperating. “Gahi? A little help?”

“Hang on, hang on,” Gahi muttered. He planted his feet on the ground. “Rhys, grab Owen’s arm. Owen, wiggle yer arm. Yeah, that one. Got it? Okay, now pull… little more…”

With a tug and some focus, they separated out into two halves. Owen stood up, making sure that his flame was singular and his scales were orange. Gahi made sure his tail wasn’t on fire and his body was sleek. “Finally, yer outta my headspace,” Gahi snorted.

Owen grunted, holding back his own words. Instead, he nodded at Rhys. “Um—thanks, again. I’m gonna head back and… read something. I need to relax. A fight sounds nice, but… I don’t know. I don’t think it’s healthy.”

“I understand,” Rhys said.

“I don’t.” Gahi snorted. “See ya, nerd!” In a green blur, he flew deeper into the caves.

Rhys watched, then followed, a noticeable spring in his step. It didn’t take Owen’s Perception to see it. The Charizard smiled at the thought, returning to the rest of Hot Spot. It wasn’t a very long walk, and in no time, he spotted his home, the gentle glow of Alex’s shoulders illuminating the inside of the home a bit more than the rest of the mushroom-lit caverns.

“I’m home,” Owen called, tapping his claws on the doorway. “Everything alright?”

“Owen! You didn’t go training with Rhys? And what about Gahi?”

“That’s who went training.” Owen laughed, heading to his room. He plopped onto his bed belly-first, tail raised in the air while he rummaged through a little alcove near the back of his room, searching for a good book to read. Something light. Academics were nice, but he wanted something a little more on the entertaining side.

Maybe The Steel Chemist—he couldn’t remember a few of the volumes, so it would be worth reading again. Or maybe he could reread Perish Book? That sounded better. He grabbed the comic and placed it delicately at the edge of his bed, but then another thought crossed his mind. He couldn’t read without getting it taken care of first.

Owen sighed, sliding the book away. He quietly stepped out to see Amia preparing dinner with Alex. Small portions, since they didn’t really have to eat; it was mostly for Owen. “Hey, Mom? Dad?”

“Yes, dear?” Amia asked.

“I just wanted to say, um, since I don’t think I said it before… I mean, er…” Without Gahi, somehow the words were a lot more difficult to come by. Let alone being able to say it. “I…”

Amia and Alex both turned fully this time, the Magmortar of the pair hesitantly approaching. “Are you feeling okay? What did you want to say? Does it have to do with… your memories?”

Gahi was always someone to take action. To step forward without really thinking about it. It was stupid and reckless. But sometimes, was it the right thing to do? Was he overthinking this?

Amia stepped forward next. “Owen, if—”

Owen brought his arms and wings out, grabbing them both. He pulled them in, wrapping around them, and closed his eyes. Alex suppressed a yelp in surprise, while Amia let out a quiet “Oh!”

“Thank you,” Owen said.

Amia and Alex looked at one another over Owen’s shoulders. They both smiled, returning Owen’s gesture as well as they could. Alex leaned in, gently tapping his left cannon on Owen’s back.

Far away, watching through the simple window into their kitchen, was a Milotic. And while there was a pang of envy and longing at the sight of Owen having such a close moment with two others… Zena still smiled and retired to her home.


The rest of the day passed with little happening. Hecto indeed kept an eye out for any possible movements from Rim, but nothing suggested that she had headed to the Frozen Oceanside, or anywhere else, all through the night. Still, that didn’t keep some in Hot Spot from getting antsy while they waited for Star to talk about any leads on where they could be.

“Can’t we just go to the places we know about?” Owen had said.

But the reply was simple. They were too exhausted from the fight against their berserk fused form to do much of anything for the day. Instead, they spend the night recovering, and felt refreshed by morning.

And to their fortune, Star had returned with news, summoned once again by Manny. “Gather everyone up! I’ve got three places we can look!”

Gahi and Owen had been in the middle of practicing their fusion technique again. They were getting better at the transition, though separating still took a lot longer than fusing. Demitri and Mispy were a bit more hesitant, more content with spending the day sparring with one another.

“Oh, hey, you’re fused together again,” Star said. “Feeling alright? Who’s active right now?”

“Uh… both?” Gawen said. “I guess we sort of just shift around when we need to, but right now I’m feeling pretty fifty-fifty.”

“At least he took on Owen’s vocabulary,” Demitri mumbled to Mispy.

“I heard that,” Gawen said. “Don’t think Gahi isn’t still around, y’know.”

“Kept Gahi’s attitude,” Mispy giggled.

Gawen grumbled, shaking his head. “That reminds me, Star,” he said, noticing that the others had yet to fully gather, “in our memories… you were solid. How come? I thought you were dead even before all this happened.”

“Oh, I was… I was actually there,” Star said. “I’m… not allowed to do that anymore.”

“Wait… you mean…” Demitri said. “You mean that’s why you never, um, physically visit this world anymore? Because Arceus doesn’t let you?”

“We don’t let each other,” Star said. “Barky came down after I split you four up, and… and he wasn’t very happy. So, we sealed each other off, trapped in the spirit realm until we both agree that we can both descend without a summoning. So… basically neither of us can come down at full strength anymore.”

“Wow…” Demitri said. “So, you guys are… in a standoff, kinda?”

“Pretty much,” Star said. “Isn’t really any other way to phrase it than just a divine deadlock between the two of us…. Which, by the way, is probably why he’s so obsessed with this Orb business. If enough Orbs get into either of our hands, well—we’ll overpower one another, and who knows after that. Whoever gets all the Orbs will tip the scales.”

Gawen nodded. “…But… I’m not aligned with you, Star. Or Ba—or Arceus. Why would you want me to have an Orb? After all, you were the one who….”

“I guess,” Star said, “I… think you’d know to make the right choice, in the end.”

“That’s not part of my design, is it?” Gawen said.

“No, no, nothing like that,” Star said. “Just, once you guys all get together—”

“We’re going to just put an end to what’s happening and live peacefully,” Gawen said firmly. “No pooling the power together. We’re stopping Eon, and then we can be done.” Gawen frowned. “When can we do that, anyway?”

“Once we have everyone we can have,” Star said. “This is gonna be the last of it. Barky’s Trinity isn’t gonna help, but I want to at least give one more shot to the second person there. The Dragon Guardian’s a no-go, but the Poison Guardian is… maybe there’s a chance? I say we try. Don’t worry—I’ll go over that when everyone else gets here.”

It didn’t take long for everyone to be gathered, but Star’s instructions were quick. She sighed, sitting on top of Gawen’s head. “Alright, here’s the deal. We’ve got the last three Guardians that we want to check out, and hopefully these can go without a hitch. Bug, Poison, and Ice. The last one is Dragon, and we ain’t gonna touch that one yet.”

“Why not?” Gawen crossed his arms, incredulous.

“You wanna die?”

Gawen frowned, tri-flame tail flicking. “Y’know, if this Dragon Guardian is so strong, how come Barky doesn’t just send that one to Eon and be done with it?”

“Ask Barky that one,” Star said. “Maybe we can have a talk with her after Eon. I’d rather take on a known evil than her. Alright?”

“I bet the Dragon Guardian is just cool and you don’t like that.” Gawen growled.

“I can’t… tell if that was Owen or Gahi,” Star said. She looked at the others, but they seemed equally unsure. The Mew rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Let’s keep going. So, here’s the thing. Poison Guardian, I have a team set up for that. I know how she is, and I think it’d be a good idea if the most agreeable personalities went there. So… just from my guess, that’s gonna be Owen, Enet, and Amia. Oh, and, uh, I guess Gahi, since… you know.”

“You sure Gahi won’t be a bad influence?” Amia said.

This earned an offended look from Gahi’s half, nearly splitting their heads apart; he slammed his hands on either side of his skull, as if that helped to physically keep them in place. “Not funny,” Gawen muttered.

“Perhaps I should go instead.” Rhys raised a paw. “As a Steel Type, I would—”

“No, no,” Star said. “Bad idea. You four are fine,” Star said, “And, Rhys, I think you should go to the Bug Guardian instead. You will be more useful for that. Manny, maybe… you, too. Demitri, Mispy, I think it’d be a good idea for you to go with.”

Amia frowned. “Well, Anam could still go to the Poison place, right?”

Gawen, exasperated, said, “How come yer so against me?!”

“Gahi will be fine,” Star said. “And about Anam, I know I said that, but…” Star looked up. “Where is he? He’s still at Kilo Village, and I dunno if he’ll be back for a while. I thought it’d be a quick little trip, but something must be keeping him. Is Nevren answering any of you?”

“No, not yet,” Amia said. “Should we try contacting him again? Perhaps they’re caught up in paperwork again.”

“Yeah, try that,” Star said. “I’d go try talking to Anam again, but those Ghosts play pranks too much in their realm… It’s hard enough to go through them, but they’ve been pretty antsy lately. Anam was just about to summon them against you, Gawen, but once he held back, well, they’re still pretty angry about it. If I go now, I might have a problem leaving.” She shuddered. “Something about that place… doesn’t sit right with me.”

“Must be your Type,” Manny said in a half-joke.

But to Gawen, it still didn’t settle right anyway. Anam was their strongest Guardian—shouldn’t he be accompanying them? “Hmm, well, we should probably keep Anam in mind once we’re done with these Orbs. While that happens, we can check out the Poison Orb.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Star said. “Rhys, how about you go to the forest with Demitri and Mispy?”

“Eh, I’ll tag along, too,” Manny said.

“Okay, that works. Another team of four. Zena, you think you can handle the ice?”

“Oh, er…” Zena glanced at Gawen, then at Amia, who gave her a small, apologetic smile. She sighed, looking back at Star. “Very well. If it’s necessary.”

“I wanna go too!” Willow said. “I said that last time!”

“I shall go as well,” said ADAM. “I feel that a team of three is adequate for that location. Valle will accompany me; four will be a redundant and secure amount.”

The Shiftry statue was unmoving as always, but finally spoke up. “I did not agree to this.”

“You will accompany me.” ADAM turned his head, and only his head, to the Shiftry statue.

The cave rumbled quietly. “Very well.”

“Okay, okay,” Star sighed. “You two Luvdisc can go. Someone leave a note for Anam to see when he gets back so he doesn’t freak out that everyone left, alright? You know how panicked he gets if he feels alone.”

“I’ll get to that,” Amia said.

“Okay, team. Let’s break! Don’t forget your communicators!”


“You know, Owen,” Amia commented, “you’re very obsessive about everybody’s inventories. I think you were starting to rub people the wrong way.”

The forest was an odd, hazy purple color. The trees were dark, and the leaves were a sickly violet. The ground felt cold and sticky, despite nothing actually sticking to their feet. The Dungeon itself was not a labyrinth like the normal variety they were used to; instead, it seemed to be by the Poison Guardian’s personal design, a simple, flat, and open field of trees.

As they passed by, a hazy Pidgey watched them from above, flying away when they got too close.

“But—but you saw how they were preparing it! They had clear holes in their inventory.” Gawen, with Owen as the dominant mind, pleaded his case. “Willow didn’t even pack Oran Berries! Who goes on a mission without Oran Berries? Even if you’re Mystic, you can’t go unprepared. A single Oran Berry can mean the difference between life and death, you know. It’d be even better if you brought two. Or three.”

Enet nodded. “They taste good. And things that taste good are good.”

Amia rubbed her head. “Well, that’s true, but did you really have to sort through their items one by one?”

“Well, I found that empty Elixir bottle in Demitri’s bag, didn’t I?” Owen said. “I knew something didn’t feel right. What if he ran out of power for Dual Chop, tried to restore his aura, and got nothing but an empty bottle? They’d be done for!”

“O-okay, Owen, you made your point,” Amia said.

“And Rhys! I can’t believe him! I thought he’d be better about it, but he didn’t even bring a Petrify Orb with him. It’s not as if he has crowd-control techniques, either. Just because he has super cool aura powers doesn’t mean he might get hit from behind. One ambush and—okay, okay, she said she gets th’ point already! I’m takin’ over, yer actin’ up!”

Amia sighed. “Thank you, Gahi. I think Owen was getting more worked up than he needed to.”

“Yeah, no kidding.” Gahi snorted. “I was considering de-fusin’, but af’er that, I’m gonna let’m simmer down.”

“He talks a lot,” Enet said. “Big words.”

“Feh, worse ‘n Rhys,” Gahi said.

Enet nodded. Uneasy, the Zoroark took in their surroundings. They had been going through a forest, and the last river they passed was quite clear. But now it was starting to smell a bit different, and while she at first thought they had passed by a river, it was actually a thick stream of bright, purple sludge, the consistency of flowing mud.

Something dripped from a branch above them. Amia reflexively touched her shoulder and shrieked. “Oh—GROSS!”

“Wh-what?!” Enet’s fur puffed up, making her look twice her size.

Amia flicked her hand against a tree trunk; purple goo spattered against the wood. “Poison Guardian indeed—oh, where’s my Pecha Scarf, I’m just going to mmmnfff…” Amia tied the scarf around her face.

“Stinky,” Enet complained, grabbing her own scarf.

“Good thing I prepared for this…” Owen said, taking over the body. He grabbed a scarf and wrapped one around himself. There was a spare in the bag in case they decided to separate.

They weren’t even sure where the goo came from—inspecting the trees above revealed nothing. But they were certain that the Poison Orb was here. They felt the Mystic aura getting stronger, corresponding directly to the prevalent, purple fog that polluted the atmosphere. But Owen sensed another presence nearby that didn’t get stronger nor weaker. Were they being followed? It felt… vaguely familiar. It was recent, compared to his long, long life—but it still felt distant. Probably a reset before his current memories, or two, or maybe three. Someone he met in a previous ‘life,’ in a set of scattered memories.

“Is that…?” Owen mumbled.

“Is what, dear?” Amia asked.

“I think someone’s following us.”

“Oh? W-well—we wouldn’t want to frighten them. Maybe you should separate.”

“Frighten?” Owen asked. “What, I’m scary er somethin’?” Gahi asked.

“…You… are very kindhearted,” Amia said delicately. “You don’t seem very scary since we know you.”

Owen’s wings drooped. “So, I look kinda…?”

“Big and strong and scary.” Enet nodded.

“Oh, Owen, it’s not your fault!” Amia said. “Or you, Gahi, it’s just—how the dragon Pokémon tend to look, usually! It’s just how you are, but it has nothing to do with—”

“Okay, okay.” Owen sighed. Despite it, he smiled. “I’ll de-fuse. I think I still sense—whoever it is…. I swear I know who it is, but…”

After a bit of focus, Gahi stepped forward from the malleable body of the fusion; Owen closed up behind Gahi, rubbing his chest to make sure everything was where it should have been. He didn’t feel as empty. Maybe he was having an easier time fusing and parting, both mentally and physically, now that they were more in sync—or perhaps because he was starting to get sick of sharing a mind with Gahi.

“What d’ya see?” Gahi asked.

“I see…” Owen closed his eyes. “…It’s an… it’s someone sneaking around, I know that. And he’s been following us for a little while… W-wait! Hey!” Owen shouted, pointing at a nearby bush. “It’s—it’s Aerodactyl!”

“Eh? Wait, yeh talking about the one from way back then, ehh… that was the life befer this one, right?”

“Y-yeah. Yeah, I was a Charmander, but it was before the last time our memories got reset. H-hey! Aerodactyl! I thought you were serving time!?”

At first, there was no reply. But then, a moment later, he emerged, smirking. “Well, look at you,” he said. “All evolved in such a short time. Guess you were a late bloomer after all… eh?” He snorted. “…I escaped. Turns out it’s pretty easy to just fly away if you find the right opportunity.”

“B-but… but you could’ve gotten a job! And everything!” Owen opened his wings and arms completely, as if protesting reality. “Wouldn’t that be better?”

“Ugh, what sort of bleeding heart are you?” Aerodactyl said. “Look, Charizard, I dunno what your deal is, but that boring kind of life isn’t for everyone. I’m a Pokémon—and I can live off the land as I please!”

“Um, Owen, who is this?” Amia asked.

“Smells mean,” Enet said, growling.

“He’s that outlaw, remember? The one I got on one of my last missions before all this Orb stuff happened. He must’ve escaped and hid here where nobody could get him….”

“Yeah, well,” Aerodactyl hesitated, “That’s exactly it. Problem is, this place isn’t exactly the best place to hide, either. Can’t get too close to the center without feeling sick. Nobody comes here. No food to steal. And all the fruit tastes… tainted.” He looked off. “But it’s still better than how I was living after you caught me.”

Owen held his chest in a similar way that Amia does, with his right arm against his heart. “B-but I was trying to help! You can’t live this dangerous life! There aren’t enough… resources to keep living that way!” Owen looked Aerodactyl over, realizing that he seemed skinnier than an Aerodactyl should be. He could see his ribs pressing against his skin, and his legs looked like they were barely able to hold him up.

“Pah! It’s better than struggling just to make ends meet. You have it easy. You’re strong, and part of the Thousand Hearts. Did you ever wonder why so many people want to get into such a dangerous business? Or why there are only really a thousand of you at any one time?”

“B-because of standards? Right? And because it’s for people to help everyone! What else would you put yourself at risk for? And—and you could take a job that isn’t rescuing, too! You could help clean the buildings, or gather food, or—”

Aerodactyl snarled, cutting Owen off. “I can’t live off of that without living my whole life doing it. Look at you, all pampered and groomed to be a Heart. And don’t think I don’t know your story.” He pointed at Amia. “You used to be a Heart, too! Now I don’t know why you’re still alive after all this time, but you guys are part of a long line of Hearts. The elite class! And then there’s us, at the bottom. As if we ever had a choice.”

Amia flinched. “I—I’m not who you think I am,” she said. “Gardevoir simply don’t live that long.”

“I’d bet you come from that line, though. Am I right? Of the Fire Clan? My family line was at the bottom ever since our little feud with yours. That’s how the story goes, and it seems pretty obvious, even now, that it’s true!”

“Fire Clan?” Owen said. He had no idea what that was. He deduced that this was how the Fire Orb was presented to the general public, and based on how Amia had suddenly flinched and closed in on herself—even if it was slight—perhaps Aerodactyl was saying the truth after all…

Aerodactyl snorted again. “I’m in a bad mood. I haven’t had a good meal in days. But you know what really fuels me? It’s seeing folks like you who don’t know how the world really is. It’s time to even the playing field!” He got into a battle stance, wings forward and jaws clenched. “Give me all you have, and I’ll let you go. Otherwise… You’ll die, right here!”

Enet hissed, fur on end.

“Honestly…” Owen rubbed the back of his head, playing with his left horn with the tip of his claw. “Aerodactyl, c-can’t we talk? It sounds like we have like three layers of issues to go over here! Maybe we can—”

“I’ll talk if you hand over everything you have.”

“That’s not right, either, y’know!” Owen said.

Gahi beat his wings, kicking up a small cloud of hazy dirt. “Bah, ferget this guy! Let’s beat ‘im up!”

“Gahi, we can’t—this isn’t a normal Dungeon. If we defeat him here, he might not get sent back—and we don’t even know if he’d be able to survive an ejection anyway. Look at him!”

“What, scared?” Aerodactyl said, maintaining his stance, but it didn’t take Perception to see his trembling form. He was fueled by pride alone.

“Ngh… then we’ll beat ‘im up gently,” Gahi muttered.

Owen considered their options. What Gahi proposed, at this point, was probably the best thing they could do. “Enet, stay back,” he said. “I don’t think you can attack softly, and I don’t want to hurt him.”

“Attack… softly?” Enet asked. “Like playing?”

“Not… not really. We’ll handle this one, okay?”

“Hmph…” Enet didn’t fight it. She took a few steps back; her foot landed in more of that purple slime. She winced and kicked away; it stuck between her paws. She sat on a nearby rock, picking away at the goop with her claws.

Owen stepped forward.

“Oh, really?” Aerodactyl said. “Hah! Charizard wants to fight?”

“Yeah,” Owen said.

“I’m a lot stronger than before, you know,” Aerodactyl said. “Don’t think this’ll be some easy repeat compared to last time!” He slashed at the air, making a small shockwave that nearly knocked him off balance.

“That’s cool,” Owen said uncertainly. It was a strong hit, but he had nearly fallen over from pushing too hard just with that. “I guess that training helped you out, huh? You know, with all that work, you might’ve even made it into the Hearts…”

For some reason, this made Aerodactyl’s face screw up into some strange mixture of anger and desperation. He opened wide and chucked a Rock Blast straight toward Owen. The Charizard ducked—the blast hit Gahi, standing behind him, instead.

The three consecutive blasts broke open against the Flygon’s head. “Ow,” he muttered, rubbing the small wound.

Owen started to walk forward; his lithe frame, for a Charizard, allowed for easier movements, even up close to his opponent. Aerodactyl took a nervous step back. “S-stop dodging!” He took another step. “How d’you know where all my attacks go?” But then he smirked. “Heh… got you!”

Nothing happened.

“E-eh?!” he said. “But—but the—” He looked down. Owen’s legs had a small tint of green; vines had covered the pitfall he had set. “Where’d those come from?! Y-you—got lucky!” Aerodactyl tripped on another vine and fell backward. His wings beat frantically to stand up, but by then, Owen was right in front. In a panic, Aerodactyl lunged forward. His teeth sank into Owen’s arm—powerful jaws that could split logs in half, normally. And yet… when Aerodactyl crunched down, nothing broke. No blood spilled; not a scale got dented. Owen’s body simply resisted the attack—bending against the teeth, yet not breaking. The aura behind his strike was gone.

“Aerodactyl… A lot’s changed. I’m not that weak Charmander anymore. And you’re… starving. This just… isn’t worth my time. Please, just go. If you go back… I’ll tell Anam to go easy. You can get a second chance, okay? I’ll… I know. I’ll buy you something to eat, too. You… you feel so hungry. I know that sounds weird, but…”

All the while, he gnawed as hard as he could against Owen, but it was as if he was immortal. Even with his strength, even if he was a little weak because of the miasma he’d been living in for so long, how could he be doing almost no damage against this Charizard? Owen felt his disbelief, and he saw the subtle blotches of poison that spread beneath his skin.

Aerodactyl let go and fired toward Owen, point blank, with a Rock Blast. Owen felt this one—he winced, but he still took the blow. A small blemish on his scales was left behind when the five consecutive blasts connected.

“Y-you’re crazy! Y-you’re some kind of—some kind of—freak!”

“W-well, I mean…” Owen, caught off guard, glanced away for only a second. That was all Aerodactyl needed. He jumped away with a single wingbeat, panting.

“This… this isn’t over!” Aerodactyl searched for a way out; this deep, the forest looked the same in all directions.

“Hey, you ain’t gonna get away! I’m faster’n you’ll ever be!” Gahi threatened, taking a single, quick step forward. His foot landed right in a large puddle of purple sludge. “Aw, c’mon!” he shouted, stepping away. He glanced at Owen. The Charizard had it covered. Disgruntled, he sat next to Enet and picked at his foot with her.

Owen turned his attention back to the escaped outlaw. “Please. Just… think about it, okay?” Owen said. “I know where you’ll be.”

“It’s… it’s not worth it!” He shook his head, swinging his wing sideways at the air. “Just—leave me alone! And I’ll figure out my life on my own! I don’t need you to tell me how to live, you—you pampered little—”

Another glob of slime fell from the tree, landing on Aerodactyl’s right wing. “Ngh—I hate this forest!” he shouted. “What is all this?! If you go even deeper into this place, what happens?! Purple goo falls from the trees! Disgusting!” He pointed toward Owen; it seemed like the purple goo was getting larger, sinking into his wing. “I hate all of this! I hate you! I hate this life! I…! I…!”

A long silence filled the air just then, like Aerodactyl couldn’t find the words. He shook his head, locking eyes with Owen. The Charizard almost flinched—there was a strange… emptiness in them, like the desperate eyes of a hungry feral.

Those eyes glistened with tears at the very edges. “It’s just—not—fair!”

Enet looked up for just a second. Her eyes bulged. “Wing!”

Owen focused on the wing of Aerodactyl and saw the membrane… melt away—turned into more of that poisoned goo. Aerodactyl didn’t even notice it, not until Enet said so. He bent the stump of his wing back. “Wh-wh… what—”

It advanced; the goo that dripped from his wing landed on his leg, which melted next. He screamed; it didn’t look painful, but the Rock-Flying Pokémon was panicking. He flailed, and that caused more goo to spatter on different parts of his body. Aerodactyl only had one leg to stand on; he tried to hop away. “S-stop… make it stop…!”

“A-Aero—it’s okay!” Owen scrambled toward him, digging through his bag as if that would help.

“N-no! You get away from me!” he said, swinging his other wing. The melting was advancing rapidly—he couldn’t move with his legs anymore. Even his tail had dissolved; his upper half remained, just his one wing and head. He dragged what remained of his body across the ground to keep running.

“Stop!” Owen said. “H-hang on!” He dug through his bag, his mind racing. There had to be a way to help. Had to be! And then Owen saw it—a Pecha Scarf. Could he—

Aerodactyl’s wing was gone now. Without a chest or even a torso, he had no means to speak—just fearful eyes staring ahead. Owen wrapped the Pecha Scarf around his head. “Th-there!” he said… but nothing happened. It kept going; his long neck dissolved next. Just the head. Desperate, Owen stared a bit longer. “No, no…!”

He closed his eyes tight. He had an idea. He focused on his power a bit more—deep within him, that divine energy held within that Orb. He channeled it from those depths and pushed it into his claws, and then into the scarf. It was all he had left to try. All he was thinking about was trying to save this outlaw’s life. He wasn’t going to forget that fearful look in his eyes. What a horrible way to die. He refused to let it happen. Stop it—make it stop. Owen commanded it to stop.

And the melting… stopped. The Pecha Scarf was glowing. Not even Owen could believe it at first. With his heart racing, Owen checked to see if Aerodactyl was alive. It was hard to tell; the only indication was that he blinked. He wrapped the scarf around the stump that was Aerodactyl’s neck and turned his head. “A-are… are you okay?” he said.

He opened his mouth and, somehow, was able to speak. The Scarf glowed a bit with each word. “What happened? Why am I…? I… I can’t feel… I can’t feel my body…”

“It’s okay,” Owen said. “I’ll—we’ll get you to Mispy, okay? She’s a great healer. I bet she can patch this right up…”

“Is—is that gonna happen to me?” Gahi said. “H-hey, wait a second—ain’t that mine!?” he shouted, pointing at the scarf.

“I—I feel like this is a little more important, Gahi!” Owen said.

“Ngh… yeah, I guess,” he relented.

“A-Aerodactyl, sir, does… does it hurt at all…? W-we can go back right now if you want!”

“N-no, it… it never hurt. B-but I can’t feel… my body anymore. I’m just a head….” His voice raised with confusion. “What happened to the rest…?”

“I—I don’t know,” Owen said. “But we’ll figure it out, okay? We’re just going to carry you with us for a little while.”

Gahi sighed. He looked at his foot. “…How come that never happened to me?” he said. “I… I dunno. I feel fine. Am I in one piece?” he looked at his tail, then his wings. All fine.

“It touched all of us,” Amia said. “but it only affected Aerodactyl…. That’s so strange. But we should still be careful. Gahi—are you Mystic?”

“Nah,” Gahi said. “I think Owen’s still got all that. Still, eh… good thing I ain’t a puddle yet. I don’t wanna melt… Looked painful…”

“It wasn’t,” Aerodactyl said irritably. “Do you even listen?”

“He’s not the best listener,” Owen whispered.

“Oy, what’re yeh sayin’ about me?” Gahi growled. “Meh, let’s keep goin’. If he ain’t hurt he’s fine.”

“Okay,” Owen said. “Oh—here, Gahi. Take this,” Owen said, handing his Scarf over. “If you’re not Mystic, this purple fog might hurt you anyway. I’ll be fine.”

“Thanks,” Gahi said, wrapping it around his mouth. “M’kay. Let’s go.”

And so, the five advanced through Dark Mist Swamp.

“…Your name is Owen,” Aerodactyl said.

“Yeah. Um—what’s your name?” Owen asked.

He snorted. “Like I’d tell…”

Owen nibbled at his tongue but said nothing.

“…It’s Jeremy,” the head said. “Just call me Jerry.”

Owen nodded. “I’m glad I could help, Jerry.”

“Don’t celebrate just yet,” he growled. “If I have to live like this forever, just kill me.”
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Chapter 41 - Frozen Over
Chapter 41 – Frozen Over

The northwestern corner of the world was covered in a perpetual, thick layer of ice. The white field was dotted with black rocks and sloping hills of snow and ice. The ground wasn’t stable, and there were a few incidents early on where Valle had fallen into thinner portions of the ice and had to be hauled out before he sank to the bottom. With some levitation, they were able to manage their way through the worst of it—as Mystics, the cold didn’t bother them too much at first. But the deeper they went into this icy territory, the more it seemed that their Mystic powers lost their effect. The cold’s horrible fingers crept into Zena and Willow the most.

Willow trembled, the frost rapidly forming on her yellow fuzz. “I can’t feel my… everything!”

Zena nodded. “It is… quite cold. I am glad that I can deal with such things normally… but it may be a bit much if I go any further… I feel like my Water form would solidify completely if I transformed…”

“I guess then you’d be a pretty Milotic ice sculpture, a-at l-least,” Willow said.

“System processors are functional,” ADAM said. “The current temperatures are allowing my CPU to overclock safely without additional cooling.”

“The temperature has little effect on me,” Valle said. “But I would want to avoid water. I do not want the ice to break through any cracks in my body. The expansion may destroy my limbs.”

“You could always m-move, you know,” Willow said. The tiny Joltik hopped from Zena’s head onto ADAM’s. The bitter cold licked at Willow’s fur during the jump, and Zena, for that split-second, worried that the little Joltik would turn solid right then. Thankfully, she landed and dug a claw along the side of ADAM’s smooth head—he buzzed in protest.

“Mmmm… that’s so much better…”

“Adam’s warmer?” asked Zena.

“Mhmmm…” Willow nuzzled up against one of ADAM’s smooth eyes. His optical lens flickered nervously. “It’s like Owen’s head,” she went on. “I wish he came with us. Owen feels nice…”

“He is nice…” Zena hummed.

“Huh?” Willow asked.

“Hm?” Zena blinked, looking back at her.

“Be careful,” Valle interjected. “The ice ahead of us is thin.”

Indeed, it seemed like the ice in front of them was clear, the water below a lot darker. Valle levitated off of the ground, gently floating above the frozen floor.

He rotated his body. “You should do the same.”

“O-okay.” Zena contorted and twisted her body, and then moved up, slithering through the air, reminiscent of a Rayquaza. “Well, this isn’t so bad…” she said, wobbling unsteadily in the air. The bitter cold not only got through her Mystic aura, but it also seemed to interfere with their levitation. “We simply continue onward like this?”

“Yeah! Um… but what are we looking for?” Willow asked.

“Scanning…” ADAM said. “No Mystic Aura detected. The next scan will begin in 200 seconds.”

“Oh, right, Mystic auras,” Willow said. “I wonder what the Ice Guardian is like. I hope she’s at least a little warmer…”

“I have my doubts,” Zena said. “It has been getting… c-colder every step of the way.”

Willow pressed her body as hard as she could against ADAM. “But you don’t step.”

“It’s an ex-expression,” Zena grunted. “Is it—getting even colder, by chance? I—I f-feel as if my v-very blood will be… solid soon…”

“M-maybe,” Willow said. While her belly looked nice and warm thanks to ADAM’s heat, ice crystals formed on the fur on her back. The wind howled around them; this frozen tundra wanted no life to advance any further. Perhaps even Ice types would struggle in such low temperatures. If it was this cold for Mystics, how cold was it for a normal Pokémon?

“I’m positive the Guardian is ahead,” Zena said. “It—it just has to be. Even for here, this cold—just isn’t n-natural. Any colder, and we may s-solidify…”

“Even our Mystic power has no effect against this cold,” Valle observed. “It indeed must be from another Mystic, in that case. Perhaps we should make our presence known. The cold may subside if we express that we are—” Valle’s arm abruptly fell off, landing on the frozen lake with a dull thud, leaving a crack in the thin ice. It slipped through and sank into the abyss, and the group all stared at it, mesmerized. “…I just replaced that arm.”

“L-letting ourselves be kn-known. That m-might be a good idea,” Zena said. “G-Guardian of Ice! We are—the Guardians of—Water… Fairy… oh… what are the other two?”

“Normal and Rock,” said Valle. “We wish to speak with you in peace. You seem to be a very skilled Guardian—I’m sure you can, in some way, read our intentions.”

“Life functions lowering,” ADAM reported.

“The cold is so draining,” Zena said. It was like they were walking straight into Yveltal’s cocoon; did this Mystic Ice have more power than just the cold behind it? Perhaps this was Icy Wind and they didn’t even realize it… “Hello? Are you there?!”

They received no reply but the wind. Willow winced when a particle of snow got in her eyes; she rubbed one of her legs on the lens to clear it up, and then attempted to burrow against ADAM’s smooth body. It didn’t work, but she tried anyway, just to keep moving. “I can’t… f-feel… my…”

“Willow?” Zena asked.

Willow stopped moving, frozen precisely on top of ADAM’s head, expression caught in frigid desperation. She carefully brought her ribbons over her body, delicately picking her up even as icicles formed on her pink brows, pulling her up. The Joltik was completely stiff.

“That isn’t good.” Zena checked her aura; it was still there, thankfully.

Even without Mysticism, she supposed mortal Pokémon were durable enough to withstand a little freezing. More worrying was the fact that if they didn’t hurry, the same thing was going to happen to them.

“I think I’ll just…” Zena carefully wedged the frozen, yellow fuzz between ADAM’s head and shoulders.

“W-we need to hurry,” Zena said. “S-Star said it was j-just ahead.”

“Valle and I can advance,” ADAM proposed. “You shall stay back so your organic body does not freeze completely.”

“N-no, it’s fine,” Zena said. “We just need to…”

But then, before they decided to fall back, the cold let up. It was still freezing to a mortal, but to a Mystic, they could finally resist the bitter frost. Zena first tried to discern any sort of difference between the snow that had fallen before compared to now, but between the total whiteout conditions and the howling wind, nothing had changed. Just the Mystic disruption that nearly froze them over.

“Thank Arceus.” Zena sighed. “Let’s keep going.” If anything, perhaps that meant the Ice Guardian accepted them.

Willow slowly thawed, twitching back to life. “What happened? Did I sleep?”

“You froze. Are you okay?”

“Mmm…” Willow shook off some water from her body before it re-froze again and hopped off of ADAM’s head, landing on Valle next. He protested halfheartedly, but at this point gave up on the tiny Joltik hitching a ride on the others. She offered to chip away at the layer of ice that had formed on his stone body, using her little legs as ice picks. He accepted this as payment.

During the walk, as Valle floated forward in an otherwise motionless stance, he asked, “Have you ever considered taking on your evolved form?”

“No, because they aren’t cute,” Willow said. “As the Fairy Guardian, I have to keep up an image of being cute and deadly. You wouldn’t understand.” She stuck her tiny body in the air. “Now hold still, I need to pick at the ice on your joints. Oh, right, you don’t move!”

“Somehow, I think Valle, of all of us, would understand keeping up appearances,” Zena thought aloud. “But really, cute and deadly? Why can’t a Fairy be… well… just cute?”

“Some are.” Willow hummed, thinking. “But that’s less fun. I wanna be both! That way, I can scare people or make them coo at me, and I get to choose what and when!”

“Hm.” Zena wanted to remark that Willow was one of the least deadly of the group—but recalled her little talent of shrinking her opponents. Perhaps she could be trouble if they upset her.

“I like how quiet it is,” Willow said. “It reminds me of home, except it’s ice instead of grass, and rocks instead of mushrooms. Do you think there are little ice demons here?”

“Oh, home?” Zena said. “My home was quiet, too. But I didn’t enjoy it as much. I used to speak with my spirits a lot more often, but… in hindsight, perhaps I depressed them with my loneliness.” Zena blinked, glancing at Willow. “Frost demons?”

“Yeah! I turn my spirits into screaming mushrooms to scare others away. It’s really funny! We all get a good laugh out of it.”

“Oh, I see.” She did not. “Unfortunately, my spirits were never quite as adventurous. They must take after me. Bit of a… cycle of inaction… We felt lonely, together. Even now they aren’t very enthused about, er, doing much.”

“You were lonely?” Willow asked.

ADAM buzzed. “My input sensors, too, were lacking stimuli for very long ranges of time. The log files of my arrival to that strange temple have corrupted long ago. In fact, such a large amount of time passed in my lifetime that I had to add a byte to my time counter in order to accommodate for my logging. My species was not built for such large timeframes.”

“I dunno what any of that is, ADAM,” Willow said. “What do you mean, built? I thought your kind came from Ditto getting creative.”

“…I believe that humans made my kind originally,” said ADAM. “But I do not know how that is possible, if humans are from another world.”

“That is curious,” Zena said. “Perhaps they used to exist… but died off?”

“Maybe we ate them,” Willow said. “Humans don’t sound very strong. I bet they were secretly at the bottom of the food chain, and eventually we just realized that and ate them!”

“I’m not so sure,” Zena said. “Remember what we heard about from the others about Brandon. They have other advantages…. Apparently, they’re smarter than Pokémon, or perhaps have something else to give them an advantage over us… The way he was described, Brandon seemed very skilled, even if he isn’t human anymore.”

“He sounds weird,” Willow said. “I dunno how I feel about humans. I don’t think I like them if they’re all like Brandon.”

ADAM buzzed uneasily.

“There appears to be an obstacle ahead,” Valle reported.

Everyone stopped their advance.

Zena squinted at the obstruction. It appeared to be transparent, but something was inside, too. A silhouette darkened the core of the large lump of clear ice. At least, she imagined it was clear; there was a layer of frosty snow that made it impossible to see through it clearly. “What is…” she said. Was it some sort of rock with a thick layer of frost? Or…

“O-oh no!” Willow said. “Someone got frozen over in the ice! I can see their aura still trapped in there!”

“Aura? How could someone survive such a freeze?” Valle said. “Most bodies would perish under such cold for so long. That’s why I suggested going back for you organics, like Willow.”

“It’s alive, so we should try to help,” Zena said, accelerating her slithering pace. “What is it?” She closed her eyes to focus her senses entirely on the aura. It was weak, but it still had a shape. How horrible—it must have been awful to freeze over in such a way. Would they even be able to speak? A brain on ice didn’t sound like a good thing… “It appears to be a… Torkoal, is it not? Though he’s quite large…”

Indeed, it was a large, orange Pokémon with a brown shell, frozen in ice. Based on the aura strength, he wasn’t conscious, and based on its compact shape, he was hiding in his shell.

“A Fire Type on Ice,” Willow said. “That must be a really strong Guardian to do something like this.”

Valle floated a bit closer, tilting his entire body to get his face closer. “Hmm… How can we free him?”

“There is no need.”

A deep, metallic voice filled the air this time. They turned and saw a remarkable sight—something entirely see-through, made of the very same sort of ice that surrounded the Torkoal, like glass. Zena realized that Valle might have, in some ways, made a new friend—though, unlike Valle, this Pokémon moved. An Aggron made entirely of clear, see-through ice, covered in a thin layer of blizzard snow.

“Welcome to my home,” she said. “Do not stay long.”

“Uh—” Willow bristled and sparked with pink dust. “Are you the Ice Guardian? We’re Guardians, too! Don’t we kinda have that in common to be friendly?”

“Hunters have Orbs, too. Hunters are Guardians. I wouldn’t consider myself to be… that, you see.” She nodded and motioned to the clump of ice that contained the Torkoal. “He doesn’t have an Orb—but he is still a Hunter, the one called Elder.”

She had an odd accent. While not broken, there was a sort of tough disconnectedness about the way she spoke, as if the nouns and adjectives and verbs were being placed next to one another forcibly, rather than in a flowing rhythm.

“Elder,” Zena said. “That sounds… familiar. Isn’t that the one that Rhys…”

“Rhys?” repeated the Aggron, the wind picking up. “I do not know of any Rhys, but if he is also a Hunter, and you are with him—”

“No, Rhys is no longer a Hunter,” Zena said.

“You sound certain.”

“He made a Promise to me that he would not kill another Guardian,” Zena said. “A Divine Promise.”

The Aggron flicked her tail, bumping against the ice that encased Elder. Her arms crossed pensively. “I see…. And how do I know you are not lying to me?”

“I could Promise to you that I did not just lie,” Zena offered.

“…No. Not necessary,” she said. “You have truth in your eyes.”

Willow’s sparks died down. “Oh. That was easy.”

“The Joltik will speak with grace.” The Aggron glared, her intense, icy eyes threatening to freeze Willow over for a second time.

“Eep—!” She hopped onto ADAM again and hid in the gap between his head and torso.

Step released her glare, but remained guarded. “Hm. Which Guardian is she?”

“Fairy. I suppose her personality fits,” said Zena, sighing. “She means well, I assure you. My name is Milotic Zena.” She moved one of her brows forward like a hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“I am Aggron Step,” said the Ice Guardian, bringing her right hand forward for a shake. Contact made Zena’s brow freeze, but it didn’t look like Step realized it, or didn’t care. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I apologize if your trip here was daunting, but I stopped my Mystic blizzard so you could approach.”

Zena glanced at the frozen Hunter. She also used her other brow to rub off the ice from where Step had made contact. “Could you release him?”

“The Hunter? Why?”

“I believe he is harmless.”

“Of course he is harmless. He is frozen.”

“Wow, ADAM,” Willow said. “She’s even more literal than you are.”

Step growled, resuming her glare. “I shall make a frozen Joltik next if she does not watch herself.”

“Nnn—” Once again, Willow hid away, though this time it was behind Zena’s head, shrinking until she could fit between her scales. Her tiny voice said, “Call me when she’s not scary!”

“Hmm…” Step relaxed her glare again, though not without an unamused snort. “Well. I suppose I will let him out. I intended to use him as a bargaining chip when the other Hunters came, but if you are sure it is safe…”

“Ah—about that,” Zena said. “That is somewhat the reason why we came. You see, we were trying to gather the Guardians together as a sort of… strength in numbers against the Hunters, to defeat them should they try to attack us all at once.”

“Oh? The opposite approach, then, to the original plan?” Step asked. “I was quite happy with my quiet solitude.”

“Y-you… liked that?” Zena winced. It felt like a lie. She didn’t look happy at all. What sort of Pokémon could enjoy that horrible loneliness, and crave more of it? Zena recalled many long nights cursing her existence within those damp caverns, thrashing about in frustration, yet also her fear of dying. She had stagnated in there, until Owen put his feet into her lake. That was when it all changed… Zena shook her head. The cold must have been getting to her.

“I did, yes,” Step answered. “I could spend an eternity here with only myself and my spirits. There is no need for others. My mate is with me; my children visit. I even met a few of my grandchildren. I need little else.”

“Wow,” Willow said. “I mean… I guess so…”

Only Zena could hear Willow, given her size. “I suppose we all react differently to the plan, but for now, we do need to change. Step, would you come with us? We can bring Elder, too.”

“Hmm… You understand why I am hesitant.”

“Y-yes, well, what if we… bring him frozen, first? And then we will… thaw him at home, where we can be in a more controlled environment.”

“Hmm…” Step crossed her arms, considering. “That will have to wait.”

Valle slowly rotated until his back faced Step. “Yes, it will.”

“What?” Zena asked.

ADAM buzzed with three rapid beeps. “My aura sensors indicate a team of synthetic auras as well as one Hunter is approaching.”

“W-wait—ADAM, can you tell what it is?” Zena asked.

“…An Espurr… is the Hunter,” ADAM said.

“Rim,” Zena growled.

“Mutant auras are more difficult to identify.”

“It matters not,” said Step, slamming her tail against a nearby rock, which shattered. Zena flinched at the noise. “They shall all perish by my frost.”

“We will help,” Zena said.

It didn’t take very long for Rim to arrive; behind her was a set of three mutant Pokémon. One was a Tauros with tails that were literally on fire; the next was an icy Ninetales with luminous, white fur; the final one was a Roserade with frost that fell from its petals, rather than poison. Rim herself was bundled up in thick layers of cloth such that only her big eyes were visible, floating above the three mutants like a haunted Tangela.

“For them to get this far, they may be strong,” Step observed.

“Very,” Zena said.

“They must have been waiting for me to halt my Mystic blizzard. How clever of them…”

Willow, returning to her normal size, said, “I can take ‘em! Just let me get close and I’ll shrink them down to little pebble-sized versions of themselves—and then—squish!”

“You don’t actually squish your victims, do you?” Zena said.

“Well—how else am I supposed to beat them? They’re tiny!”

Valle shouted to Rim, “What are you doing here? Have you come to kill the Ice Guardian?”

Rim looked down but shook her head.

“…Well. That’s good, at least,” said Zena.

The wind howled; the Espurr shivered and desperately rubbed her paws together, breathing into them. Frost dotted the outside of her layers of scarves.

The gray feline puffed again. Zena felt a pang of empathy for her. Neither of them were in a good condition to fight.

“Have you… d…d-decided?” Rim asked, her faint voice even more muffled beneath her cloth. It was a miracle that Step had heard her at all.

“Decided?” Zena asked.

“I have,” Step said, nodding. She looked back at Elder, frozen in ice. “Elder has been speaking to me in the spirit world for quite some time. And while I agree with much of what he says…. I must point out,”—she stared at Rim—“that you brought those three Pokémon with you. Is that a threat?”

Rim flinched. “N-no, I… like… company.”

“What’s wrong with company?” asked Roserade, flicking a bit of ice off of her petals. “Hmph.”

“I’m sure you knew what you were doing,” Step said lowly. “…And I have to say, I don’t agree with any of your practices. I believe Eon has lost his way. I don’t intend to follow him down his confused path.”

“So… you are an enemy…”

“I suppose I am,” Step said, “though I do not agree with the agenda of Mew or Arceus, either. So that puts me nowhere, doesn’t it?”

“No, that puts you, uh…” Willow paused. “I guess that puts you with Owen.”

“Owen?” Step repeated.

“Wait,” Zena said, noticing that the three mutants were getting antsy. “Do we really have to fight?”

“I mean, I was hoping we could,” Roserade said. “We walked all this way and sat around for all this time, and we don’t even get a fight out of it? C’mon!”

“We don’t need to, though,” Zena said. “What… is this all for? Why do you need all of the Orbs? Is it really to usurp Arceus?”

Rim nodded slowly.

“I mean, what else would it be for? Getting taller?” Ninetales asked. “C’mon, you’re thinking too small!”

“Talking’s boring,” Tauros complained. “Can we fight yet?”

Zena wasn’t sure if their badge was ready to warp them out. They’d have to escape quickly, but the moment they made any move for it, they’d be attacked. She had to stall until she could think of a better move, or some kind of distraction.

Still, it was a good opportunity to know what this was all about. “And why do you want to usurp Arceus?” Zena said. “What’s the point?”

“You know, you’re kinda asking the Hunter who isn’t good at talking,” Ninetales pointed out. “You know Auntie Rim has a bad stutter, right? Dunno why she can’t just fix it with her Mystic power, but—”

Roserade smacked Ninetales over the head with an icy rose, then said, “Ignore him, he’s an idiot. To be honest, we don’t really know what Father wants from all this, but, we do know that Arceus isn’t all that friendly.”

“Well—” Zena couldn’t dispute that. “I doubt Eon would be much better.”

“Oh yeah?” Ninetales said. “Well I bet our Father is better than your Father.”

“I don’t revere him in that way,” Zena said. “In fact, after everything we’ve been through, I don’t think I’d revere any of them, even if we defeat you.”

“Well, hey! We’ve got something in common!” Ninetales grinned. “Now, c’mon! How about you give up those Orbs, eh?”

“That would kill us.”

Ninetales winced, but that didn’t seem to deter him. “Um, we’ll be gentle?”

Zena glanced at Roserade, who gave her a knowing nod. He really was an idiot.

“I don’t like gentle,” Tauros said, stamping his hooves.

Rim was, at this point, covered in a thick layer of frost. She used a small wave of Psychic energy to brush most of it away.

“Look,” Roserade said, “the point is we have a mission to do, and the reasons behind it is locked behind one of those Decree things. My guess? Something to do with this world not being right. Father aaaalways talks about it like that.”

“Yeah! I mean, what’s with Dungeons in general, right?” Ninetales said. “And that Void Basin place that keeps getting bigger every year, and that’s the weirdest Dungeon of them all!”

“Void what?” Zena said.

“That weird place southwest! Well, south of here, I guess, since this is northwest, and—”

“I hate directions!” Tauros said, crouching for a dash. He made several strides forward, but the slick, icy ground gave him no forward momentum. Eventually, he fell over, and Roserade, Rim, and Ninetales all looked at Tauros disappointedly.

Zena’s heart skipped a beat. In that one instant, while they helped Tauros stand, she also glanced at Step, who had grown more and more impatient with every exchange. Her claws dug little rivets into her own icy arm. ADAM was constantly bussing. Willow had frozen over once more, and Valle was again behaving as some kind of centerpiece to the icy field.

But she had the badge.

Deftly, she slipped a ribbon into her bag, pulled it out, flipped it so it was hidden from view, and looked back at Tauros and the others.

Just in time. They were looking back again. A second too slow and they would have seen it.

“Team… up?” Rim asked.

Zena was so concentrated on the badge that she didn’t respond. Step, then, took over for her hesitance.

“You cannot possibly think we would team up with you!” Step said. “Decree? How can we trust something you cannot prove? Dungeons? A natural part of the world! Void Basin? Pah! As if I had ever heard of such a place!”

“Well, that’s probably because nobody’s allowed there, and it’s just a boring empty crater anyway,” Ninetales said. “But that other stuff! C’mon, don’t you want to deck God in the—”

“I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!” Step slammed her tail on the ground, shattering yet another boulder. A pillar of icy spikes erupted from beneath Ninetales, and he narrowly jumped out of the way to avoid it. Some of his luminous, white fur was cut from the grazing strike.

“My ‘do!” Ninetales shouted, then snarled. “Okay, that’s it.

Hurry, hurry! Zena begged the Badge, which felt sluggish to activate. How did Owen do it? Was a gesture required? A gesture—right! She had to raise it in the air.


Rim raised her paw in the air, shining a strange light. The three mutants looked at it, and then understood. All three dashed toward one another, slipping clumsily, and Zena realized that it was now or never. She thrust the badge in the air—and a Psychic blast knocked it out of her ribbon. “No!”

Step caught it as it flew past her, encasing it in ice that was attached to her hands. “Is this important?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s—"

The three synthetic Pokémon slammed into one another and meshed into a single being—one with the base of a Tauros with a bright glow, the color and frosty tails of a Ninetales, and thorns and petals adorning its body like scales. The fusion was in total control—not berserk, not even shaking. Rim held her paw forward; the fusion nodded and rushed them.

Valle, ending his stillness, fired another volley of rocks; Zena stopped her explanation to follow up with a chilly beam of water. ADAM didn’t have time to fire another Hyper Beam. Willow was still frozen. Both attacks hit it at the same time—it roared in pain and stumbled in its dash, but still rumbled forward, even after taking two direct, Mystic hits. They didn’t have time to evade the strike. There was no telling how powerful their attacks would actually be, considering how much damage it could take and still keep coming.

Step used her uncovered hand to blast a beam of freezing energy, but the energy fizzled out before it even touched the fusion.

ADAM announced, “Switching to evasive procedure.”

“I am still fully capable of fighting!” Step said.

“Your Ice techniques are useless,” ADAM reported. “In fact, it seems to be making the fusion stronger.”

Step slammed her tail on the ground, creating a glacier just in front of the Tauros-amalgam. He spat a plume of fire on the ground, banking off of the indent it left, and ran around the rising glacier instead. Step hissed, slamming her tail down again to create another, but Zena could only hope for it to be slowed down.

“Raise the Badge!” Zena shouted to Step.



Step scowled, but she complied—however, in that instant, her guard lowered.

Between glacial uprisings, Tauros launched a giant cloud of fire toward Step. She staggered back, holding her arms up as a pathetic shield, even though those would surely melt against the incoming fire. Yet, the blast never connected. Instead, through the steam, there were three new figures blocking the strike.

“Ow,” said one of them, bursting into an ember that returned to Step.

The largest of the three looked back at the Aggron. “Are you okay?”

Step grunted, shaking it off. “I got careless.”

“We noticed.” The Kommo-o gave Step a little smirk. “You! Porygon! Will we be evacuating?”

“Species: Porygon-Z!”

“Ra, ahead!” Step shouted.

Ra and the other remaining Kommo-o looked forward too late; a second Fire Blast incinerated them, their embers returning to Step. She slammed her fist into the ground, creating another wall of ice, but flames from the Ice-Fire Tauros melted through the layers rapidly.

“Evasive action! Evasive action!”

“Step!” Zena blasted the ice with water, hoping to slow down the fire’s advance.

Step grunted and raised her icy hand in the air, and finally, it worked. In an instant, the group, and everyone within that range, vanished in a flash of light.


“Toss him in the lava. He will be fine.” Step shrugged.

“But he’ll melt!” Willow squeaked.

“The ice will melt. The shelled Fire will be just fine.”

“But he’ll… drown?” Willow protested, less enthusiastic.

Step, and the frozen Hunter, and the four other Guardians all stood in the middle of Hot Spot square, the first to return from their missions. They were all gathered around the Hunter, still in a block of ice, withdrawn in his shell. Far away, beyond the glow of the mushrooms, was the orange glow of a lava river.

“Rocks in liquid motion disturb me,” Valle stated.

“Well, I obviously cannot get close to the lava,” Step said, motioning to her icy body. “Valle, if you refuse to move, and Willow, if you’re too small, we just have to rely on… what are you, exactly, again? Ra mentioned your species, yet it’s too foreign.”

“I am a Porygon-Z,” ADAM stated. “I refuse to further overheat my processors.”

“Overheat?” Step parsed. “Then perhaps you can use the ice to stay cool while you move it forward. Will you do that?”

“You do not have the necessary user permissions.”

Step blinked, but suddenly narrowed her eyes. “Are you refusing me?” she said in a growl. “You are the most capable. Do you wish for me to melt? Perhaps I should freeze you next.”

“Fear levels increasing.”

“How come you want to unfreeze him?” Willow asked. “The Torkoal could try to kill us! Hunters are all super powerful!”

“This Hunter was… underwhelming,” Step stated flatly. “I have little to say about his strength, as his aura exhumed no power, and he did not fight back.”

“Oh.” Willow moved closer to the ice, shivering when a bit of frost collected on her fur. There was a pool of water near the base of the melting ice. “I guess Hot Spot is already warm enough to thaw him out.”

“This is taking far too long,” Step said impatiently. “I’ve isolated myself for decades, and yet this feels like an eternity longer. I shall shatter his prison myself.”

She stepped back—Willow and ADAM cleared the way. Valle remained where he stood, though he was already out of the way and in his usual spot in Hot Spot’s central square. Step sent from her chest a single aura ember. It grew and solidified into an icy Kommo-o, taking on a battle stance toward the ice.

“Prepare yourselves for a loud noise,” Step warned the others. “Now, Ra!”

Zena tensed, quickly bringing up her ribbons. “Are you sure this is a—"

The Kommo-o slammed his chest, clanging his scales. Dragon-enhanced ripples of sound reverberated across the ice, leaving countless small cracks and fissures behind.

“Hmph.” Ra crossed his arms. “It was sloppy, but that will do.” He looked back to Step, nodding. She nodded back, withdrawing the spirit back into her realm.

She held her chest briefly, knocking her claws against her icy armor. “It was just fine,” she mumbled to herself.

Willow tilted her head at the gesture. “Are you okay?”

“Hm? Yes, I’m just fine. Go on and help the Hunter out of his prison. If I get too close, I might accidentally freeze him all over again.”

“Oh! I have an idea!” Willow jumped toward the frozen Torkoal, spurting her pink wings to complete the gap. “Maybe this’ll help!”

Pink mist formed around her body. After a few seconds, the hunk of ice—and the Torkoal inside—shrank down until it was no larger than Willow herself. She crawled toward the block of ice and prodded at the many cracks that Ra left behind, pulling the walls apart. With him in his shell, it was very easy to free him safely.

“Oh, oh!” Willow said. “His little legs are moving! Aww, isn’t he cute? I wanna just—”

“You will not harm the Hunter,” ADAM said. “I am detecting malevolence from the Fairy Guardian.”

“Am not! I was just gonna poke him a little!”

“That is enough, Guardian,” Step growled. “Return him to his normal size.”

“W-well, maybe I don’t wanna!”

“You shall return him to normal size,” Step said, “or you will be frozen for a century.”

“Mnnn! I can take you on… but I’m gonna do this because I’m being nice.” Willow stared at the ice block a bit longer, waving her tiny legs at it, and then jumped away, landing skillfully on top of ADAM’s head.

The ice returned to its normal size, as did the Torkoal within. Now that he was bigger, they could hear weak, tired groans from within his shell. “Hello? Ah… it’s quite cold…”

“Torkoal Elder,” Step said with a cold gaze. “I hope my spirits treated you kindly.”

“Your mate is quite frightening,” Elder said. “Such intense eyes.”

Step smirked. “It is why he is my mate.”

“Elder,” Zena said, watching him carefully. “You spoke to me before. And Owen met me not long after—you told me… that if I gave up my power, I could finally leave this cave.”

“Ahh… Milotic Zena, correct?” Elder asked. “Yes. I told you as much. You would be free.”

“And then I refused. In fact, I believe I killed you.”

“Ahh… not quite,” Elder said. He brought his foot toward his neck, but then frowned. “Oh, where is my bag…?”

“The bag? I froze it and discarded it into the ice,” Step said.

Elder frowned. “That had my lunch… I haven’t had a lunch in such a long time. I was looking forward to it.” When he was met with nothing but a cold stare, he relented. “Well… it had my Badge, and a Reviver Seed, Zena. I always use that combination to escape if I ever run into trouble. I may have looked injured when you fought me—you have a very powerful Hydro Pump, I might add—but… yes. I escaped. I typically do.”

“Well, you failed this time,” Step growled. “And we will be keeping you here as well.”

Elder bowed his head. “Very well. I cannot fight back. And… I understand that Rhys is here, too. I cannot complain.”

“You know Rhys, then.”

“Yes. We…” Elder hesitated. “We are very familiar with one another. We speak often through the spirit world. And, when fate allows us, we exchange letters and gifts. Why, I know just the perfect Pecha patch… ahh, he certainly loves his Pecha Berries, but only certain kinds, you know…”

Zena felt herself getting older merely listening to him. “You do understand that Rhys is no longer a Hunter. He abandoned his role.”

“He has for a while.” Elder, unfazed, nodded at what Zena thought would be a shocking remark. “I do not blame him.”

“And yet, you remain one.”

“I did,” Elder replied. “I did because I wanted to try to end this nonviolently. Without fighting.”

Willow sparked with pink electricity. “So much for that!”

“Yes…” Elder sighed. “But now that most of the Guardians are with the Trinity, or with Owen, or… dead, I suppose my purpose has ended.” He trotted in place, his huge body—much larger than any normal Torkoal—swaying with the shifting weight. “Eon will be very upset at my departure.”

Step stared Elder down, but then looked back at the others. “I know little of this. Does he seem trustworthy to you?”

“No deception readings detected,” ADAM said.

“He moves very little,” Valle remarked.

“I dunno, but Owen will!” Willow said.

“Yes, if anything, Owen would be able to tell if he’s lying or not. He must have some memory of you, so perhaps he’s familiar with your body language.”

“Owen. Who is this Owen?” Step said.

Willow giggled, hopping onto Zena’s head next. “He’s a super-cool mutant Charizard that gives rides on his head! Right, Zena? And you have a crush on him!”

Zena inhaled sharply, but said nothing.

“Ahh, Owen,” Elder said. “Yes. He has the ability to expand his aura into the surrounding area, becoming aware of everything it touches. This includes body language. For someone he is familiar with, he can tell if someone is lying, or how they are feeling. He will certainly know if I am lying, Step.”

“He is familiar with you?” Step said. “And he is a mutant? Then how can I trust him?”

“Because Owen’s nice!” Willow said. “He’s friends with all of us! I’d rather listen to him than to Star!”

“Really? Then he doesn’t care for Star, either?” The Aggron’s face, unable to show proper expression, seemed at least slightly contemplative. “Owen…”

“He’s the Grass Guardian,” Zena said, nodding. “I trust Rhys because he made a Divine Promise to me, but I trust Owen because…”

Step eyed Zena curiously. “Because of your crush?”

Zena looked down, finding the words and ignoring the hotness of her face. “Because he is genuine. You will see it in his eyes.”

Seeing as Step did not have Owen to reference, she instead looked at Zena’s eyes. Her gaze did not break. “Hm,” the Aggron said. “Very well. I will see what this Owen says.” She turned to Elder. “Until then, we shall wait.”
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