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TEEN: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Hands of Creation

canisaries

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Chapter 40 thoughts (but not 41 yet as I am s l o w e):

We should Be ready for that.”
Accidental capital?

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.”
"I don't have limbs Manny that's pretty insensitive"

“I thought he was supposed to get all his mrmories back.
typo detected

After half of him spending almost all of his life as a Trapinch of Vibrava,
Or? Unless you mean the proud Vibrava Clan

Rhys brought his paw to his mouth to hide his smile, but a chuckle betrayed him. He looked at Gawen in the eyes for the first time, the Lucario’s eyes 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…”
it was at that moment i realized

this doggo was to be protected

“I don’t.” Gahi snorted. “See ya, nerd!”
NEEEEEEEEERRRRRRD

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.
I repeat.

NEEEEEEEEERRRRRRD

The rest of the day, passed with little happening.
Accidental comma?

“Okay, okay,” Star sighed. “You two Luvdiscs can go.
wtf star yuo cant say that

The forest was an odd, hazy purple color.
purple haze huh hehe is that a hehe is that hehehe a hehe a j-jojo reference

“Wh-what?!” Enet’s fur puffed up, making her look twice her size.
activate F L O O F

Owen turned his attention back to “Please. Just… think about it, okay?” Owen said. “I know where you’ll be.”
Missing word / rest of sentence?

“…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.”
i-it's not like i'm grateful or anything... b-baka

---

The return of the Aerodactyl really reminded me that there's a whole continent full of non-mutant non-spirit non-Mystics just living normal lives in this world, lol. Kinda surprised I even remembered the guy - though then again not that much, as if I recall right, there was some memory jogging about him along the way. So, good call on that.

Interested to see what this character will bring with him, intrigued by the possibility of a societal problem (possibility, as Jerry could just be one of those who blame their own mistakes and flaws on society, not that I'd have experience with any such characters myself cough cough ahem) and finally of course really happy to see some more Enet again! 100% best girl.
 

canisaries

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“Thank Arceus.” Zena sighed.
hey watch your words!!

“I like how quiet it is,” Willow said.
If it's quiet, did I misunderstand the line before that stated this:

They 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.
As I read it as saying that the wind continued?

“I see…. And how do I know you are not lying to me?”
Four periods instead of three.

One was a Tauros with tails that were literally on fire;
As opposed to... metaphorically? This seemed odd to me because literally would definitely be the default interpretation in a situation such as this.

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.
um it's called fashion sweetie. you may have heard of it

Willow screamed angrily.
leaked audio

“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 she could only hope to slow it down.

With some kinetic force, he pulled out their Badge remotely and thrust it in the air; it shined, but it couldn’t operate immediately. It was still building a charge to warp them away—they just had to last a few more seconds…
The "he" in the last paragraph should be switched to ADAM, as the previous "he" mentioned was referring to the Tauros. At least, I'm assuming ADAM was the one doing this act.

That wraps it up for my thoughts this time. Keep up the good work!
 

namohysip

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it was at that moment i realized

this doggo was to be protected
Every dog gets his day, I suppose.

The return of the Aerodactyl really reminded me that there's a whole continent full of non-mutant non-spirit non-Mystics just living normal lives in this world
Yeah, I definitely want to explore that a little, and old Jerry will probably help to give some perspective on that. Prior to this, the only sense of normalcy we had was from folks like Sugar, Spice, and Leo.

Kinda surprised I even remembered the guy - though then again not that much, as if I recall right, there was some memory jogging about him along the way. So, good call on that.
Yep! That was the point of those, more or less. "Hey, don't forget this guy, hint hint."
really happy to see some more Enet again! 100% best girl.
With the character cast growing, I definitely need to prioritize and think about which characters to feature when.

As I read it as saying that the wind continued?
I'll look into that, might've just been some odd wording on my part.

Anyway, glad to get Act II started! The next part should be up soon.
 
Chapter 42 - Royalty

namohysip

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Chapter 42 – Royalty

“Y’know, it’s kinda hard ter hate this place,” Manny said. “Nice air, strong trees… Could do without all the spiderwebs, though.”

Arachno Forest was brimming with life. The trees were thick with dark leaves and strong trunks; very little light reached the forest floor. The ground was lush from recent rainfall. Every boulder hid a plethora of Bug Pokémon beneath it, something that made Rhys’ aura sensors tingle.

“I don’t like it,” Mispy mumbled, also able to sense the auras of the many Pokémon hidden away. Her many vines delicately glided over the mud, hesitant to touch any rock for fear of getting bitten by whatever was inside. It didn’t hurt her, of course—but it was a very spooky feeling to get bitten by something she didn’t expect to be there.

Demitri, riding atop the mutant’s back, wondered if it was a good idea for Mispy in particular to come here. “You’re weak against Bug Pokémon, right? And I think, like… half of them know a lot of Poison moves, too.”

“None of these choices were favorable for Mispy,” Rhys said. “Ice, Poison, and Bug—if you want my opinion, this may have been the best option. At least this forest is healthy.”

“Infested,” Mispy corrected. The petals around her neck glowed dimly.

“N-no Solar Beams yet, Mispy.” Demitri gently, yet frantically, stroked the back of her neck; this was enough to calm her down.

“I just… want to go home,” Mispy said. “And cuddle…”

Demitri blushed. “W-well, that doesn’t sound too bad… But let’s get this Guardian, first.”

“Heh,” Manny looked back. “You two’re close.”

“Well, we trained together!” Demitri said. “We were both created, like Gahi and Owen, and we were supposed to work as a team. So, I guess in a way, this was meant to happen. I don’t mind.”

“Mm,” Mispy said. “Demitri’s cute.”

“I—I am not,” Demitri said, clicking a claw against one of his face-blades. “Don’t I look scary and gruesome? These things detach, you know!” He tugged at his right tusk, pulling it clean off. A small hole, like a giant nostril, was left behind where the tusk had been securely in place. “I think I look awesome, not cute.” He wedged it back into place with a dull click.

“Both,” Mispy said, turning her head back to nuzzle him.

Rhys hummed, nearly jumping at a Spinarak that had skittered across the ground. “Now, let’s focus.”

“Heheh, what, too mushy fer yeh?” Manny teased.

“It’s simply not the appropriate time,” Rhys said, turning up his nose. “Besides, I feel the presence of another Mystic aura far off. But… it’s difficult to tell where. It’s a powerful aura—my senses are being disrupted.”

“Oh, so it ain’t jus’ me,” Manny said. “I’ve been trying ter sense any life that might be stalking us down… but fer the life o’ me, I can’t. Not a single aura. Feh…” Manny went on to mumble under his breath. “Guess it’s all the spiders ‘n stuff.”

“Mispy?” Rhys said. “Your sense of aura is more precise than either of ours when you focus. Can you sense anything?”

Mispy shook her head. “Blind.”

“This Guardian must be deliberately masking any major auras nearby,” Rhys surmised. Suddenly, a strange creature skittered past them, darting from one bush into the next. It looked like an Electrike with more limbs than it should have… “At least we know we found the right… general area.”

Mispy shuddered, looking at the sky for something that was at least vaguely cute. Her eyes relaxed when she saw a Pichu lounging in the treetops a bit further ahead. But then it rolled in its sleep, revealing huge, insectoid mandibles and chitinous claws where its arms should be. Hopes crushed, the Meganium elected to focus on the back of Rhys’ head.

Something rustled in the bushes far to their right. Mispy jumped; half of her tendrils writhed defensively; the other half crawled over her own body and wrapped around Demitri like a cocoon.

“M-Mispy—can’t see—gnck!”

“Who’s there?” Rhys immediately widened his stance and held his paws up, flaring with aura. “We—have no intention to fight, but will defend ourselves!”

“Speak for yourself,” Demitri, muffled, said. “I wouldn’t mind some sparring, but—we aren’t hostile or anything!” He squirmed until at least his head was free. “Mispy, can you see anything?”

Mispy didn’t answer, still spooked at the sight of what appeared to be a Whismur with insect legs sprouting from its back, its normal limbs dangling uselessly while it crawled from one tree to the next.

“Who are you guys?” someone called, shrouded in the darkness of the trees’ shadows. “And why do you look like… us?”

“Us?” Demitri asked. “Wait, that voice sounds… weird. I don’t like it.”

“…Familiar…” Mispy glanced at Demitri.

There were two Pokémon on the other side of the trees. If only because they were curious, the first one stepped aside to get a better look—it was a mirror image, an exact copy, of Demitri, down to the last detail. Moments later, an identical copy of Mispy emerged next, writhing vines and all.

“I… I don’t believe it,” Rhys said breathlessly. “Nevren made… another set. Or Eon, or…” He shook his head, looking back worriedly at the two mutants on the team. This wasn’t going to bode well for their psyche after what they had just been through.

“A… another…” Demitri repeated slowly. His voice became quiet. “They’re… they’re us.”

“No, they aren’t,” Rhys said firmly, knowing what path Demitri’s mind was taking. “They look like you, but they’re different entirely. That isn’t you—Haxorus, what is your name?”

“Ax,” said the clone of Demitri.

“And you, Meganium?”

“Ani.”

“They’re… less creative,” Mispy noted. “Wait, but if…”

Demitri nodded. “If there are copies of us, then—um—hey!” He pointed at Ax. “Do you know a Charizard and a Flygon that, um, come with you guys?”

“You mean Har and Lygo?”

Mispy had no words for their naming convention, and instead looked down, feeling what she could only guess was disappointment in her kin.

“Yeah, eh… actually, hang on,” Manny said. “Why’re yeh guys here? Yer… synthetic, ain’t ya? Most o’ my spirits’re synthetic. And they were all crazy until I helped calm ‘em down.”

“We were like that, once,” Ax said. “But Queen Trina helped us. Now we serve her.”

“Queen… Trina,” Rhys said. “Interesting—and this Queen of yours… may we meet her?”

“Why?” Ax asked.

Ani glared, vines already tense for battle.

Rhys spoke slowly, knowing that anything sudden could provoke them. “Hm… we believe that she is a Guardian, perhaps of the Bug Orb? We are forming an alliance of Guardians to protect ourselves against the Hunters. If that’s agreeable to her, then we would like her to relocate to our… base, of a sort.”

“Hmm…” They both hummed. They stared suspiciously at Rhys; the look they gave him seemed to put the Lucario off his rhythm. He’d never seen Demitri and Mispy look at him so suspiciously before. Even if these two weren’t them, it still looked like it. He’d expect such skepticism from Owen, but Demitri and Mispy were much more rigidly loyal.

Mispy shifted her weight. “Um…”

“What is it?” Ani, Mispy’s double, asked.

“…Can we fight?” Mispy asked.

“Heheh…” Manny shook his head. “Never change.”

There was a glimmer of temptation in Ani’s eyes, but she scoffed. “I don’t do things so childish for no reason. You won’t get a fight from me unless Queen Trina makes a request for it.”

“Well, all the more reason to meet her, right?” Demitri said. “Can we?”

“Well,” Ax said, fiddling with his claws in the same way Demitri did. “…Fine. We will inform her that you are here. But it will be up to her if she can meet you at all, you know.”

“Sounds fine ter me,” Manny shrugged. “Lead the way.”

The both glared at Manny.

“Wh-what my colleague means,” Rhys said, “is that we would be honored to meet your queen, and humbly request that you lead us to her domain.”

“That’s better,” Ani growled.

Ax hopped on top of Ani’s back. The Meganium slowly spun around on her vines and crept forward into the forest depths. Demitri and Mispy watched them uneasily. Even his habit of riding atop Mispy was something they did. But—no, that was just a natural reaction. Mispy’s body was great for traveling and carrying great weight on foot, or vine. If anything, Manny and Rhys should’ve been on top of her, too. If it wasn’t for the Waypoints that Nevren had organized the scouts to set up for them to these locations, he would’ve been riding on Mispy’s back anyway.

On the way to the Bug Guardian’s domain, Manny mumbled to Rhys, “Well, ain’t they proper… Ain’t nothing like my spirits.”

Rhys nodded and spoke leisurely, just loud enough for Demitri and Mispy to hear. “Synthetic Pokémon are just like we are, when you take away their modified instincts. As such, they can be raised and influenced to behave in ways you wouldn’t expect. It seems that this Bug Guardian is following a feral Vespiquen’s approach to raising an army… How interesting. I’m curious what species she is.”

The more they walked, the more the forest became blanketed in webs and silk. He could hardly see the trees through it all at this point. In fact, for a moment, that they weren’t in a forest at all anymore. Even the sky was blotted out by the web; they were in some sort of bug nest. A cave out in open air.

“Hey, eh…” Manny said. “You ain’t… turnin’ us inter lunch, are yeh?”

“Lucario don’t provide very much meat,” Ani said. “Eating your kind wouldn’t be worth the trouble.”

“Th-that’s right, good thinking. ‘Cause we’d give you way more trouble than it’s worth.”

“That’s one way to put it,” said Ax. “But should you give us trouble anyway, perhaps we will reconsider. I’ve never had Lucario before.”

Manny puffed out his chest. “Feh, yer queen doesn’t sound so tough. I bet I could take ‘er down with just—”

Rhys was about to warn Manny to hold his tongue, but before he had the chance, both Ax and Ani spun. The mutated Haxorus sprung from Ani’s back, pulled from his face one of his bladed tusks and held it against Manny’s side. At the same time, Ani wrapped her vines around Manny and squeezed, making sure her thorns left a mark. He didn’t have time to react to the vines; Ax and his blade was just an additional threat. At first, Manny just gave a confident smirk; a few mutants couldn’t do much to him as a Guardian.

His frame cracked in three places.

“Hrngk—!” Manny wheezed, eyes wide. How did they—

“You will not threaten the queen,” Ani and Ax said in a hiss. “Got it?”

“Yeah,” Manny rasped. “Got it. No threats.”

He was released, and then he collapsed to the ground, groaning. Demitri hastily got down and helped Manny onto Mispy’s back to recover.

“Idiot,” Mispy mumbled. This Fighting Guardian was indeed where Gahi got his attitude from. He used to be such a good guy, too. But after that rebellious runaway phase, he was a delinquent.

“Good thing I don’t eat…” Manny said. He coughed out a glob of blood and rubbed at one of his broken ribs. He felt it healing. “These guys ain’t no joke…”

“They’re us,” Demitri said, looking at Ax. “Of course, they’d be strong.”

But strength alone from some mortal wasn’t enough to break through Mystic protection. Manny knew not to speak up, though. Perhaps the Guardian was enhancing them in some way.

“He gets it,” Ax said, smiling at his counterpart.

Mispy giggled, bumping her head against Demitri. “Um… Who’s… the queen?”

“Queen Trina,” Ax said, “or the Bug Guardian, like you said. She’s a Serperior, and she’s probably the strongest one in the world, even if you excluded her Mystic Aura. That’s how strong she is.”

Manny looked like he was about to question this claim, but then remembered the immense pressure applied to his whole body. He decided against it and, perhaps for the first time in centuries, held back his words.

“Is she a merciful queen?” Rhys inquired.

“Absolutely. Queen Trina is the most reasonable Pokémon in the world. We owe our lives to her; we would be dead without her guidance.”

“Oh? How so?” Rhys asked. “You are Synthetic Pokémon—that likely means you were created by Nevren, yes? You came from Quarts HQ?”

“That’s right,” said Ax. “But… we don’t really… remember a whole lot about that. It’s sort of fuzzy. I think it comes from the fact that we had to be calmed down.” Ax stared back at Rhys with a hint of suspicion. “How do you know that?”

“Er—I happened to know about the area. We’ve been investigating the synthetic Pokémon and… those associated with them for quite some time now. It’s only natural that we would be familiar.”

“Hm.” Easily convinced, Ax continued. “A lot of us were sent here on a mission to take an Orb with us. We were led by Espurr Rim. That’s probably what happened to us, too, before the Queen took us. Do you know about her?”

“I certainly do,” Rhys said. “We’ve fought one another in the past. She is very powerful.”

“Not as powerful as our queen,” said Ax. “She and her army were able to take down Rim’s onslaught—including us, I guess. But instead of killing us, she took us in.”

“She… took you in?” Rhys asked. “Were you not in your battle modes? I doubt Rim would return you to a neutral state in the middle of a battle.”

“We were still in that mode. But she took us in anyway. Her army of Bug Pokémon and her servants restrained us and dragged us to the deepest part of her cavern, the place we’re leading you now. And once we were brought there…”

At this point in their walk, the forest path gave way to walls of silk, lit only by the Mystic glow of the web and the little light that could shine through the cavern’s ceiling. It truly was a place made by, and for, Bug Pokémon. Massive Bug Pokémon. The cavern’s ceilings were high enough to fly in, and even if they all walked side by side, they wouldn’t be able to touch both walls.

A cold, twisting feeling made a knot in Rhys’ stomach. He couldn’t see anything by aura, even within here. He could only rely on his eyes. The way the cavern was constructed absorbed almost all echoes; sound traveled only through vibrations in the webbing. And that could only mean that everyone in the cavern knew they were here. It was too quiet. He felt thousands of eyes staring at him from all directions, yet he couldn’t see a single one.

“Mm…” Mispy said. “What are… those?” She pointed a vine ahead. It was darkest there. Less and less natural light reached these parts of the labyrinthine corridors, leaving them to rely on the glow of the web instead. And with that glow, Mispy saw oval-shaped cocoons a bit larger than Rhys lining the sides of the large cavern. One of them moved. Another one twitched. The rest were completely still.

Manny tensed. He saw something else moving in that darkness. Something long, slow, graceful. It reminded him of Zena. “I think we found her.”

“Yes,” said Ax. He and Ani lowered their heads; Ax went on one knee, while Ani, lacking knees, sank lower to the ground and deeply bowed her head.

“Hm…” Rhys said. He followed suit, kneeling with his eyes closed. Demitri and Mispy, thankful to have references, mirrored the poses Ax and Ani took.

Even blind, Rhys couldn’t ignore the sheer aura presence radiating from the approaching Guardian. He peeked through his left eye—Indeed, it was a Serperior. The gaze from her red eyes pierced through them. Even without talking, Rhys felt like he wanted to speak every lie he’d ever said. Every sin he’d ever committed. He wanted to stay kneeling to her forever.

Rhys shook the thoughts from his head and maintained his composure. Queen Trina indeed—her hypnotic spell wouldn’t work on him. He glanced at Demitri and Mispy; they seemed a bit more susceptible, gazing emptily at the slithering royal.

Rhys quietly spoke, “Demitri, Mispy. Remember your meditation.”

That was enough to snap them out of it. Realizing what had happened, they watched Trina with extra caution.

“So that’s yer game…” Manny wheezed. He wasn’t affected at all, but between his still healing ribs and the immense pressure she radiated, he could hardly breathe.

“Queen Trina,” Ax said, “we brought the guests that you desired.”

“Desired?” Rhys asked.

“Yes. When you requested to see her, we felt her will, and her will was to allow it.”

Ani nodded and continued for Ax. “We can feel her thoughts and commands, no matter where we are. One day, if we die, our spirits will be bonded to her will even more. Spirits that server a Guardian are quick to become like them, or to become loyal to them. It’s only natural.”

Trina spoke deliberately. Her voice was neither loud nor soft, but perfectly controlled, like it had been practiced countless times. Her volume was enough to command attention, yet not distract with its loudness. “You have fulfilled your duties for the day. You may rest.”

“We thank you.” The two synthetic Pokémon moved backwards, raised themselves, turned, and departed through one of the many corridors in the maze of webs.

“…That was weird,” Manny said. “That’s calmer than I’d ever seen a synthetic like’m befer.”

“That is because I tamed them,” Trina said, staring at Manny. She observed the plethora of crimson patches riddling the Lucario’s crushed body. “…What have you done to elicit Ani’s wrath?”

“E-eh, nothin’,” Manny said. “Yer highness. I ain’t meanin’ nothin’.”

“…You spoke badly of me.”

“E-ehhh.”

“I could turn you into a mere drone for that,” Trina said, staring right into his eyes.

Manny quickly looked away, some primal instinct inside of him telling him to avoid eye contact. The spirits inside of his body roared angrily, outraged that someone would intimidate Manny so much. “Feh…”

“Hmm…” Trina said, looking him over, but then shook her head slowly. “It is not worth my time. I can sense that you, too, are a Guardian. It would be unbecoming of me to harm your spirits. They have done nothing wrong. But I do sense something curious… Many of the auras within your body are… also synthetic, are they not? No aura ancestry whatsoever. Actually, now that I take a closer look, all of your auras seem odd.” She looked at the two Lucario and two mutants.

“Feh, not important.” He tentatively moved his arm; it was back to normal. During their walk, his body healed roughly halfway. “Sorry, yer highness. Not important ter look at that, but yeah. They’re synthetic. I kill ‘em, and then sate their hunger fer battle. Now they fight with me instead.”

“Interesting… Perhaps that is another way to heal their damaged auras. You are smarter than I expected.”

Mispy giggled.

“And you two,” Trina said. “Your auras feel fully repaired. Just how did you do that? What treatment did you two go through?”

“We meditated a lot,” Demitri said.

“…Is that a joke?”

Rhys shook his head. “It is the genuine truth. Based on my theories of calming broken auras, and without any Mystic powers like you have, I had to put them through an intense meditation, regression, and training regimen.”

“Meditation… fascinating,” said Trina, eying the two. “And with just that hard work, they were able to maintain their sanity? How did you get them to meditate in the first place?”

“They were not always in these forms. I put them in their larval state—in other words… their pre-evolved forms. Thankfully, in that state, their instincts are almost entirely dormant—I was able to train them when in that state, so when they returned to their—”

“How did you revert them to a pre-evolved state? Evolution is a one-way path. Only with divine influence can you reverse it. The power of a Guardian, or perhaps a Pokémon of Legendary proportions, blessed by Arceus…”

“Not quite,” Rhys said with a little smile. “I have been blessed by Mew Star, in a sense. I have a tiny fraction of the same divine power you have within me, as a… former Hunter.”

Trina narrowed her eyes. “And how can I be sure that you are a former Hunter?” he said. “At least now your knowledge of ‘synthetic’ Pokémon makes sense.”

“Actually, maybe modified Pokémon is better?” Demitri asked.

“Modified? But you weren’t changed at birth. You were created from scratch. Your resemblance to other Pokémon is a mere coincidence, perhaps for the ease of creativity. You are Synthetic. You are Pokémon, all the same, yet you are different. Be proud of that.”

“P… proud?” Demitri repeated.

“Why would we be proud of that?” Mispy said.

Rhys felt a pang of guilt and looked away. Even with his talk to Gahi and Owen, he knew that Demitri and Mispy had still be harboring some resentment. If only it was just as easy to smooth things over with them. “That’s—that’s not a way to look at it, Mispy.”

“We’re fake,” Mispy said, eying her counterpart.

“That’s hardly a healthy outlook. Hmph.” Trina shook her head. “Have pride that you are powerful.”

“Does Star even like us?” Demitri asked.

“Demitri—where is this coming from?” Rhys said.

Trina stared closely at both of the mutant Pokémon. “Yes, Demitri. Where are these thoughts coming from?”

“Enough games,” Manny said. “What’s yer influence on ‘em? I know it’s you.”

Trina glared; Manny’s tail involuntarily sank down, and he winced. He clenched his paws and brought his head up again, but little was going to bring his tail back to its original height. He just stared ahead. “You mess with the mind. Yer makin’ their inner thoughts stronger. I know how you work, Queen Trina.”

“…But… it’s true,” Mispy said.

Rhys frowned. “…So… that’s truly how you feel about yourselves? That you’re…?”

“We’re strong,” Demitri said. “But… I guess…”

“…Maybe we’re… lesser souls.”

“Preposterous,” Trina said, and this time her voice was a lot firmer. Demitri and Mispy both shrank down like children. “You are artificial, but your soul shines like any other. Your aura may look different, but you are a life all the same. I may not care for Star’s attitude…” Trina gave the pair a small, regal smile. “But I believe that she treats you at the same value as all other lives.”

Demitri and Mispy didn’t seem very convinced, looking away.

“I… I had no idea,” said Rhys. “I thought that they enjoyed themselves.”

“W-we do!” Demitri said. “It’s just—you know, sometimes, it’s nighttime, it’s quiet, and you’re just… alone with your thoughts… You start thinking about things… you know?”

“And it’s… wrong.” Mispy nodded. “We’re… wrong.”

“I—I don’t… I wouldn’t dare consider something like that,” Rhys said.

“Rhys…” Demitri said. “You spent centuries trying to fix us.”

“That’s…” Rhys hesitated, thoughts rushing to find some sort of counter. He couldn’t. Demitri was right—they were broken for the longest time, trapped in their own fighting, self-destructive instincts.

“Out of respect for your teacher,” Trina said, “I have no interest in taking you into my hive. You seem to trust Rhys very much, and I see no reason why he would be a bad influence on you, if he is so dedicated to restoring your spirits. And for that, Rhys, I must praise you.”

Rhys did his best to hide his wagging tail. “I appreciate it.”

Just then, a muffled roar echoed from one of the cocoons. It heaved from powerful punches from within, thrashing against the wall the cocoon was attached to. A clawed fist burst out from the silk webbing.

Without missing a beat, Trina turned around and slithered toward it, hissing soothingly. The hiss reverberated in Rhys’ ears, making them twitch and sink down. It was like a blanket that wrapped around his mind. He could’ve fallen asleep where he stood. It was even stronger on whatever was struggling inside; it let out a weak roar, and then the arm went limp. A vine emerged from her back, wrapped around the hand, and eased it back into the cocoon. She then mended the silk, slowly wrapping it back up. Her entire front secreted more of the white lines, and with each lap, the cocoon thickened. Demitri and Mispy shuddered.

“What…” Demitri said. “What’re you gonna do to them? I—I thought Mystics didn’t have to eat!”

“Oh, I’m hardly eating them,” said Trina. “I am storing them away so they can calm down. Every night, I help them sleep. And every morning, I wake them. Slowly, they grow accustomed to my voice and my presence.”

Mispy grimaced. “Creepy.”

Trina scoffed. “It tames them. Most of them are quite fine once they are awakened. If a moon passes, they are tamed, and they wish to leave… then I let them leave. It isn’t as if I force them to stay.”

“Y-yeah, but, you brainwash them, don’t you?” Demitri said. “I can’t imagine myself ever calling someone a queen, and Ax was…”

“You shouldn’t compare yourself to Ax,” Trina said.

“Wh—bu—we’re literally the same person! I mean—body!” Demitri protested.

“Yes, but you were raised in a completely different way,” Trina said. “Instincts can only take you so far. In the end, I was able to soothe their minds and their auras, and then I introduced myself. Your kind are fiercely loyal to any leadership you deem worthy. So, me convincing them that I was worth their time was all I had to do.”

“Well…” Demitri said.

“How did you convince them?” Mispy asked.

“Well, after their auras were calmed,” Trina said, “I offered to battle them. After beating them—”

“W-wait, you beat them? Even when they fused together?”

Trina chuckled. “Do you really think such a petty maneuver will work on me?”

“P-petty? That’s hardly petty! We remember what happened—fusion was Nevren’s ultimate design, or something! It took our best features, and combined them! We were, like, unstoppable.”

“Oh, I’m sure, in a battle one against one, you would certainly give the average Pokémon some trouble,” Trina said. “But I am not a normal Pokémon, and they did not fight against just myself, either. After all, four against one is hardly fair, hm?”

“W-well… that’s true…” Demitri said.

“A coordinated team of four could still defeat your fusion. There are limits, even to the ultimate fighter. From what I have observed, even Nevren’s design is limited by how many components fuse together, and how that can weaken the peak strength of any of those individual powers you listed. And to add… Against a Mystic such as myself, there was truly no competition.”

“Well, aren’t you full of yourself,” Demitri mumbled irritably. A bit of his pride was scraped away at Trina’s matter-of-fact remarks.

Manny was prodding at the walls, marveling at the strength of the webbing. “So, eh… did yeh make this all yerself?”

“Of course. As the Bug Guardian, it is my obligation to make a home for my hive.”

“…Where’s it all come from?”

Trina glared. “It is uncouth to ask a Queen where it all comes from.”

“Y-yeh, okay, sure,” Manny said. He rubbed at his muzzle nervously, but then looked up at Mispy, who was fixated on Trina. “Hey, yeh feeling alright?”

“H-huh?” Mispy asked. “Oh—yes. Um…” She sighed, but then looked at Trina.

“…You wish to fight me,” Trina said.

“Mhm.”

Trina smiled. “Perhaps later. I would like to return to the subject of your arrival. You wish for me to join you all?”

“Yes, we do,” said Rhys. “It may be cumbersome, but… we believe that the Hunters’ strength is increasing. We cannot afford to sit passively while Eon gathers them one by one. Even now, he has three Orbs under his influence. Even with your great power, Trina, I do not believe it would be wise to fight him, should he feel the need to confront you directly. That—is no insult to your power,” Rhys said quickly, noticing her strengthening glare, “but more a testament to his, simply due to his ruthless nature. He has thrice the number of Orbs, Trina. It is a matter of numbers.”

“Hm. Numbers only mean so much,” Trina said. “…But I do understand your sentiments.” She looked up, studying the woven cave around them. “I must consider my options. You will arrive tomorrow to receive my decision. I will allow you to leave a personal Waypoint here so you may return easily.”

Rhys knew that this was the best he was going to get. Considering Trina’s haughty nature, persisting any further would lower their chances. He was also getting sick of the web between his toes. “Very well. We thank you for the opportunity.” He bowed his head, and then turned to set up a waypoint near the wall of the inner chambers—though he made a conscious effort to keep away from the cocoons. He wondered if there was another Lucario somewhere in these chambers, sleeping away in Trina’s prison… He wondered if it was enjoyable.

Rhys shook his head. Her influence was strong. He stopped in the middle of the chamber and held his badge up. He pressed his claw on the heart-shaped insignia twice in quick succession. It flashed. Then, Rhys lowered the Badge to the ground, and pressed once. The flash stopped. Waypoint registered, though only for this Badge. Rhys turned around. “We should go,” he said. “We will return tomorrow, Trina, in the morning. Is this agreeable?”

“It is,” said the Serperior.

In a flash of light, they were gone from Trina’s labyrinth, and returned to Hot Spot Cave.

Trina stared at the empty space in front of them, but then turned her head back. “Why so shy, Har?”

A snort answered her, earning a sigh from Trina.

“Is he moping around again?” Ax said. “C’mon, Har! It was just more of us!”

“It wasn’t just more of us,” Har said, stepping out from the shadows with his wings low. The Charizard stared at Trina. “That was… those were the prototypes, weren’t they? The…”

Trina frowned, but then sighed, shaking her head. “I suppose they were,” she said. “Come. I shall arrange for lunch to be made. We can’t have anybody upset on an empty stomach.” She slithered deeper into the caves. “It’s not healthy.”

<><><>​

The mushrooms glowed brightly, suggesting that it was late in the afternoon outside. Rhys shivered. “Goodness, what is that feeling?” It quite warm in the labyrinth of Trina’s silken maze, but Hot Spot Cave was freezing. The instant they returned, a wave of cold air brushed under his fur; every exhale let out a frosty cloud.

Mispy and Demitri huddled close; Manny rubbed his arms. What kind of cold could pierces their Mystic protections? Unreal.

Rhys looked to his right and saw a home where the rocks were encased in ice. An Aggron was sitting inside, also made of ice. He thought it was a statue before it started moving. She stepped outside to greet them.

“Hello. You are also Guardians?”

“Eh, just me,” Manny said.

“Are those two giving you trouble? I shall freeze them,” said Step. Clouds of frost formed around her hands, and it looked like she was about to popsiclize Demitri and Mispy.

“N-no, that won’t be necessary!” Rhys quickly said. “They are—safe. Allies. Yes?”

“Allies. Of the Guardians? They are mutants.”

“Y-yes, friendly mutants,” Rhys assured her.

“…Your aura is of a Hunter,” Step said. “Perhaps I shall freeze you next.”

This was not a good day for Rhys.

Manny stepped forward this time, “Oy, lemme vouch fer ‘em, they’re fine. Yer from Frozen Oceanside? Zena, Willow, Adam, an’ Valle saved yeh?”

“My name is ADAM.”

“Oy, there they are!” Manny waved.

The group of four approached, with Willow atop Zena’s head. The Joltik hopped. “It’s okay, Step! These four are our friends! Oh! Rhys! I’m glad you came back!”

“Oh? It wasn’t as if I was leaving.”

“No, because, um—we have a friend who’s thawing out further in the caves!”

“A friend? Thawing out?”

“Yes,” Step said. “A Hunter approached me, and I froze him so he would not cause trouble. However, I was convinced that, perhaps, he is not so bad.”

“I… I see. This hunter—who—?” Rhys asked a bit hastily.

Step tilted her head. “An old friend of yours? He is known as Torkoal Eld—”

Rhys was gone in a blink; only a bit of his blue fur remained where he once stood.
 
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