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TEEN: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant ('Chapter 31: Epilogue' Posted, Story Complete)

Discussion in 'Writers Workshop' started by lucarioknight56, Nov 19, 2017.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 29: Realization
    lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    And now for yet another nearly-late chapter!

    EDIT: I made some small changes to the beginning of Chapter 28 involving the details given to Hanson's Pokeballs. Just thought you should know!

    Updated 6/25/18

    *Adjusted details throughout work

    *Changed dialogue of Hanson, Vaun and Lawrence throughout.

    *Spelling fixes


    Chapter 29: Realization

    The elevator doors of Facility D’s second floor split apart, revealing Hanson’s glowering face. He strode to the module on the far side of the room, weaving around the crates of materials. Most of the scientists, engineers and guards had left, leaving only a faction of security for the nighttime. The whirring machines of before now lay silent, only the occasional clang from the bowels of the facility.

    A balding, crooked figure came into his path, his glasses cracked and his arm in a sling. He raised a shaking fist over his bruised head and exclaimed, “It wasn’t my fault! I was on the way with that accursed Dusknoir when the guards mutinied and—”

    “Yes, yes, Mister Vaun, I get the picture,” Hanson seethed. “I have more pressing matters than you at the moment.” He pushed past him and toward the gathering of guards around a collection of monitors.

    Vaun’s face fell as he shuffled toward him. “B-But sir, the experiment—”

    “Can wait!” Hanson fumed, turning his head. “I appreciate the concern, but we have an intruder! Go make yourself useful!” Vaun nodded his head in defeat and limped away.

    Hanson shook his head sadly, then returned to the monitors and guards. Various video feeds of Facility D showed across them, each showing employees going about their duties. The ten guards around the monitor did not focus on the screens but on the man huddled on a chair, wearing little else except a blanket over his shoulders.

    A guard noticed Hanson and waved over to him. “President Hanson, here’s the man who was ambushed!”

    Hanson made his way to him and noticed a bandage wrapped around his head, keeping a bag of ice in place. He frowned. “When did this happen? Did you see who?”

    The man winced, pushing the bag tighter on his head. “Can’t say for sure. I was just going in the bathroom to clean myself up when I felt something hit me across the head. I passed out, then a few moments later, I was sitting in a stall in nothing but my skivvies, wrapped up in the rope I brought in with me.” He shivered, pulling the blanket tighter. “It’s cold in there. Very cold.”

    Hanson smoothed back his hair, staring at the ground. “Did you see anyone as you passed out? Do you remember their color, their hair, anything?”

    The man furrowed his brow and looked up. “Hold on…I remember seeing the guy as I hit the floor. It was all hazy, but I could’ve sworn he looked…blue.”

    Hanson raised an eyebrow and leaned closer. “…Blue?”

    “Yeah, and a big furry jacket, with a silver thing on his chest. He…he even had red eyes.” The man groaned, holding his head. “Oof, he just hit me once too. Didn’t feel like some regular joe either. He was real strong.”

    Hanson held his chin, considering the detail. He turned to the guard sitting in front of the monitors and said, “Bring up the security footage from the past hour for the main entrance.” He obeyed, typing on the keyboard and dragging the mouse to a certain screen, showing a pair of guards of differing heights near the warehouse door.

    The screen panned back and forth as they chatted, going between the lightened entrance to the dark driveway leading to it. Hanson studied it, watching for anything unusual. At double the speed, nothing appeared to happen—until a shape appeared briefly in the dark.

    Hanson gripped the shoulder of the guard and pointed at the screen. “Pause the footage and go back, slowly!” He obeyed, and steadily, the shape reappeared behind the wall, barely visible in the dim atmosphere.

    Hanson narrowed his eyes, catching the colors of the figure. It appeared to be human, but the triangular…ears, he determined, set it off, and the arms were the wrong proportions. There was also the lack of feet, instead replaced with…paws. That, along with the dog-like head, in addition to the guard’s description, lead him to conclude:

    “The intruder’s a Lucario. He got inside somehow and wound up in the bathroom just as our unlucky fellow went in.” Hanson shook his head in bewilderment. “But there’s no way it could have avoided detection, even if…” He stared, realizing. “Why would it want his uniform?” He held the guard’s shoulder again and said, “Go to the camera closest to the bathroom and watch for anyone leaving it in a uniform.”

    He obeyed, and a visual showing the main floor of Facility D. Employees darted back and forth, making it nearly impossible for one to follow. But Hanson narrowed his focus on the bathroom doors, barely in the corner of the camera. He saw the now-underdressed guard enter, holding only his rope. Minutes later, a markedly-different individual exited, without the rope—and he looked familiar to Hanson.

    The president leaned closer, the guard becoming more distinctive as he paced toward the Master Ball crate. The brown hair, blue eyes, his posture. Hanson’s nails dug into the seat of station’s chair.

    Hanson released his grip, tossing his hand aside. “Lawrence,” he muttered. It all became clear to him, thinking back on his concern for the Equivosians’ wellbeing when he returned, as well as his interest in that Zoroark that he saw as they passed her.

    But in Hanson’s mind, this didn’t make sense. From the footage, he could clearly see Lawrence without a Pokeball, and the Lucario wasn’t in the room when the ambushed guard was discovered. Even then, if Lawrence followed the Lucario, the clothing he wore into the building would have been discovered in the bathroom after he changed. There was something missing in this picture.

    Hanson perked his head up. “Lawrence managed to get inside…and I know why.” He pointed at the screen showing a sturdy wall and a set of elevators opposite to it. “Show me the footage from the Equivosian room.” He looked at the black square to the left of the room and scowled. “Why can’t we see in the room itself?”

    “Electrical short. Happens sometimes with the older ones,” the guard explained.

    Hanson sighed, massaging his temple. “Fine. Just bring up the elevator footage.”

    The camera footage rewound, and he saw Vaun exit through a door in the wall, a Dusknoir in tow. Minutes after they exited through the elevator, a solitary guard pushed a carte, while a cloud of violet gas carried two other guards into a corner, then pushed a set of metal crates around them, obscuring them from view.

    The single guard pushing the crate looked around briefly, and Hanson grit his teeth. He saw the face of Lawrence Stephenson, clearly entering the most important room for Project Babel. And he had been inside for the past hour.

    Hanson spun around and snapped his fingers. His guard stood at attention. “All of you, follow me down to level four. We have to intercept Lawrence before he releases the Equivosians.” He strode to the elevator, and all ten followed. They entered the elevator and descended to level four.

    On their way down, Hanson considered the ways Lawrence could have gotten inside. “There’s only the main entrance and the building’s elevator, but he couldn’t have gone through either without the right access card. Even then, none of the cameras saw him go inside; they only saw the Lucario—which appeared to be taller than most, actually.” He tapped the side of his head, ignoring the guards around him. “It makes no sense. There had to have been a sign of him. The Lucario likely got inside through the ventilation shaft—I should have made the architect change that—but Lawrence came out instead of it. There is clearly something amiss.” He kept his hand on the Pokeballs on his belt, hidden behind his gray suitcoat. “Regardless of how he got inside, I can’t let him take the Equivosians. It would devastate the company; I invested a significant amount into the Master Balls, as well as the advertising for the project. I would be a laughingstock to cancel it because of him.” He gripped the gilded Pokeball tighter. “I’ve worked most of my life to create a world with perfect communication. I won’t let it end like this.”

    The elevator dinged, and the doors split apart, revealing the wall that guarded the Equivosian Pokemon. Hanson and his guards filed out and wrapped around the warehouse door, the metal gate the only thing standing between them and the Pokemon.

    A guard took his keycard from his pocket and swiped the scanner next to the door. The red light on top flashed green, and the door began to lift. It suddenly spat and struggled, falling to the ground with a clang, its engine smoking.

    Hanson gawked at the broken engine, then pointed at the door and exclaimed, “Bring it down!”

    A guard unclipped his Pokeball and pressed its button, causing the folded pieces of metal to expand outward and form a perfect sphere. He threw the ball in front of the door, and upon hitting the ground it flew open, a blinding white ball of energy flowing out. The ball rebounded into the guard’s hands as the energy warped and dimmed into a Machoke, flexing its arms and emitting a throaty grunt.

    “Punch the door down!” its owner ordered. The Machoke nodded, then punched the door, creating a sizeable dent in the metal. It continued in tandem, each blow bringing them closer to their prize.

    Hanson stared ahead but cocked his head at a low rumble that emanated from the corner. His guards noticed the rumble, all craning their heads to find the source. Hanson continued to hold his Pokeball, finding the source to be the wall to the right of the door the Machoke punched.

    The rumble grew louder, and the wall bulged, glowing red. It suddenly exploded outward, a massive flamethrower blasting it apart. Hanson and his guards stepped back, stunned by the destruction.

    From the dripping iron and fizzing circuitry, a scrawny Torracat crawled out, panting and limping as it advanced. “Never…never again…” he wheezed, collapsing to the ground.

    Plastic clattered behind him, and a large wheeled trash can sped out of the massive hole, its lid clanking against its body. A Zoroark and Lucario teamed up behind it, pushing it as fast as their legs could allow. The Lucario scooped up the Torracat and set it on top of the trash can, aiming for the open elevator.

    Hanson’s head swung between the Pokemon and the wall, then he roared, “What are you doing? Get the Pokemon!”

    Before the guards could react, a Dusknoir swerved out of the hole, his eye emanating waves of purple energy. He hovered above the guard and held out his arms, the energy radiating across all of them.

    Hanson’s eyes widened as he ducked down and rolled out of the way, narrowly avoiding the Dusknoir’s waves. The guards and the Machoke held increasingly bewildered expressions, all looking around and studying themselves.

    The Dusknoir chuckled as the elevator the Zoroark and Lucario entered closed. He hovered to the other two elevators and held up an electrified fist. He punched the scanners for all three, causing all of them to spark and spit, rendering them useless. The Dusknoir expanded into gas and flowed into a gap above the elevator, entering the shaft.

    Hanson picked himself up from the ground, holding his back. “Urgh…blasted Pokemon.” He looked at the back of his coat and noticed a sizeable tear, revealing the white shirt behind it. He pulled off the ruined grey suit jacket and tossed it to the guards, who only stared at it blankly.

    Hanson growled, striding to the cooling hole the Torracat had made. “Confuse Ray. Brilliant.” He peered around the hole, thinking, “At least I remember that from my battling days.

    In the room, all the cages now lay empty, either ripped apart at the bars or opened with their destroyed locks. Nothing remained save for scraps of food and a discarded uniform, strangely lacking the belt.

    Hanson studied it, his rage at losing the Pokemon tempered by his bewilderment. “Now Lawrence is nowhere to be seen. Without…clothes.” He shook himself, refusing to dwell on it. “Regardless of his circumstances, I have to stop him and that Lucario.” He glanced around the room and noticed a door in the corner, barely big enough for a person.

    Hanson lowered his head and ran to it, throwing the door open. A tiny elevator hung inside, tools and supplies scattered within. A spindly lightbulb hung above it all, flickering to life as the door opened.

    Hanson clambered inside and pressed a button, causing the elevator to creak and groan in protest. It painstakingly crawled up, leaving behind the confused guard and the room of empty cages.

    Hanson pulled a Pokeball of his belt, grimacing. He pulled a Pokedex from his pants pocket and typed a number into the dialer. After a few rings, a tired voice asked, “Yes, what is it, President Hanson?”

    “Vaun, get the rest of security on their feet! A Zoroark, Lucario, and Dusknoir are headed up the warehouse elevator to the top, and they have all the Pokemon—” He cut himself short, realizing how ridiculous he sounded. “In a…trashcan.”

    Vaun paused. “A…trashcan?”

    “Yes. They must’ve used the Master Balls to capture them, then tossed them inside to make them easier to carry.” Hanson shook the Pokedex and bellowed, “I’m on my way up now through the service elevator; the Dusknoir destroyed the scanners of the other three. Be ready for them!” He ended the call and continued to hold the Pokedex, closing his eyes as his visions of the future clashed with the complications of the present. All of this melded with the pain of the past and the utter discrepancy of the infiltration of Lawrence and the Lucario.

    ~~~~

    In the elevator, Zacheus panted haggardly on top of the trashcan, facing Lawrence and Cassia. “That…that really took it out of me…”

    Cassia set a hand on his back and said, “Sorry you had to go through that; you were the only one who would’ve been strong enough.” She sighed, looking up. “At least when I used my Life to help you out.”

    Lawrence unclipped one of the three Master Balls clipped to the belt around his waist and held it out to Zacheus. “Let’s keep you inside one of these; you’ll be safe in there.” Zacheus nodded, then Lawrence pressed the button against his body. The Master Ball snapped open, and Zacheus morphed into a shining ball of light shrinking into the Master Ball. It snapped closed, and it shook in Lawrence’s paw threw times. It settled, and Lawrence shrunk it, setting Zacheus with the others in the trashcan.

    Cassia shivered, closing the can’s lid. “That’s so…unnatural.”

    Lawrence shrugged, leaning against the elevator wall. “I agree, but it’s our only chance of getting everyone out of here. We can release them on the ship.”

    They remained quiet, the hum of the elevator filling the room. The box occasionally jittered, shaking the security card clipped to Lawrence’s belt. The thousands of inch-wide Master Balls clattered against each other, each holding the life of an Equivosian.

    Lawrence shifted in his position, looking down. “I’m…I’m sorry for what happened. I should’ve known Hanson would do something like this. I wanted you to be happy when you came here, not…afraid.” He closed his eyes, grimacing. “If there’s anything I can do to make up for it—”

    “Lawrence.”

    Cassia held Lawrence’s paw, pulling closer to him. “You came back for us. You’ve made up for it already.” Lawrence relaxed, standing upright. Cassia continued, “I want to see what this world really looks like—the trees, the sea…all of it.” She smiled, resting her head on his shoulder. “And you’re just the one I want to see it with.”

    Violet mist hastily flowed from the corner of the elevator, gathering in wisps. Gardner darkened and collapsed, coughing and wheezing as his remaining essence returned.

    He shakily looked up, his eye wide. “Nearly…nearly got torn up down there. Too much wind…too much…” His eye shut, and his head fell.

    Lawrence hurriedly pulled off another Master Ball and brought it close to Gardner. “We should have waited for you; the ventilation could tear a ghost to pieces.” He pressed the button against Gardner and placed him inside, setting the ball in the trashcan afterward.

    Cassia let out her breath quickly, brushing a hand through her mane. “It’s just going to be us against the guards. Do you think we’ll be alright?”

    The elevator dinged, and Lawrence nodded.

    “We will.”

    ~~~~

    On the ground floor of Facility D, Vaun paced stiffly in front of the thirty guards that remained for the night, holding his head high. They stood in front of the warehouse elevator, waiting for their target Pokemon to come out.

    Vaun pushed back his hair with his uninjured hand. “President Hanson wants these Pokemon reclaimed as swiftly as possible. Just recapture the Pokemon swiftly and efficiently, for the company’s sake and your own.” He turned around and stopped. “Am I clear?” There were muted grunts of approval from his subordinates.

    Vaun eyed them sternly. “I am aware that many of you don’t agree with the…processes behind Project Babel. But rest assured that these talking Pokemon were being given the best treatment possible in our current situation. They would have been put into a better living area—in time.”

    The elevator dinged, and Vaun shuffled to face it. The doors split, revealing a Zoroark and Lucario standing behind a large trash container, the Zoroark with a leather bag over her shoulder. They carefully advanced, the Lucario steady in his steps and the Zoroark uncertain.

    Vaun frowned, holding his good hand behind his back. “You, Lucario, have trespassed on Valence premises and have attempted to steal company property. Leave the Master Balls and the Zoroark, and I can promise you’ll still be treated well.”

    Lawrence set the trashcan down and stepped around it, glaring at Vaun. “Treated well? Like being stuffed in a cage and nearly killed by machine?”

    Vaun flinched, adjusting his cracked glasses. “Y-You can talk? How? You came from the outside, and—”

    “That doesn’t matter!” Lawrence fumed. “You nearly killed a Pokemon, all for some insane experiment! What you did before was bad enough, but then this?” He grimaced and shook his head. “How can you stand yourself?”

    Vaun’s face turned pink as he exclaimed, “I’m just doing what I’ve been told! Yes, I have concerns about their wellbeing, but these experiments will be tuned and adjusted to not be so taxing!”

    “Has it worked?” Cassia calmly replied.

    Vaun faltered, his face returning to its natural, clammy complexion. “E-Excuse me?”

    “Has your experiment worked? Have you made Thomas’ pain worthwhile?”

    Vaun struggled for words, the guards behind him loosening their grips on their Pokeballs. He looked back, his eyes growing wide. “Y-You can’t expect things like this to be right on the first try. We’re trying our—”

    “You.” Cassia pointed at a guard with graying stubble, who jumped slightly at her claw. “Do you agree with what he’s saying? Do you think that Pokemon should be hurt to make some fantasy?”

    Vaun hurried to the guard and hissed, “She’s a Pokemon, Carlisle! She has no idea what she’s talking about!”

    “I’m asking him, not you,” Cassia reaffirmed.

    Vaun turned back, aghast. He gave Carlisle a final look, then shuffled away, giving Carlisle a perfect view of Cassia and Lawrence.

    He rapped his fingers against his Pokeball, studying the ground. He cleared his throat, then looking up to Cassia, said, “I…I don’t usually speak up about what the President does, or what his plans are. Up until recently, it was all fine; it was just gadgets and stuff.” He pulled off his hat and wiped his brow. “But when he started bringing in Pokemon and saying it was for a new project, I found it hard to keep following what he said. He’s done a lot of things, but he never hurt nobody. But when I saw what he was doing to them…” He shuddered. “I signed up for this job to protect people and Pokemon. Not watch them get hurt. I was willing to put up with it since I thought it was temporary, but then Vaun and his other scientists got to saying it may go on for years—and when I heard them Pokemon talk…”

    Carlisle lowered his hat and stared at the floor, ashen. “I couldn’t watch that. I would’ve up and gotten my resignation ready, if it weren’t for me needing this job and…what the President made me agree to.” He looked to his fellow guards, all with their hands at their sides. “We never wanted this. The President’s gone too far this time. We were just too afraid of him to say no.”

    Vaun’s head flicked back and forth between them and the Pokemon. He sputtered and shouted, “Y-Y-You signed the contract! You’re to obey orders and—”

    “And what?” Another guard replied. “And treat this like any other job?”

    “Like the time you took my pet Herdier and tested ‘medicine’ on him? He was sick for over a week!”

    “Or that time you split open that Magmar’s head to see how it ticked?”

    “Or when you had a bunch of Rattata get some implant in them? None of them survived!”

    Vaun paled, stepping back. “I-I was only following the President’s orders!” The guards surrounded him, ignoring Cassia and Lawrence.

    Carlisle replaced his hat, studying Vaun coldly. “You’re his right-hand man down here. He might give the orders, but he doesn’t know what he’s asking for. You’re the one who gives him what he wants.” He nodded to his fellow guards, and two took Vaun’s arms. “I don’t care if I’m fired. Neither do they. At least we won’t have to send a bunch of Pokemon to die.” He began walking to the exit and waved for the others to follow. “If anyone else doesn’t like what this Sneasel or the President has us do, follow me out. I’ve had it with watching Pokemon die.” He gave a finally glance to Cassia and tipped his cap. “You’re certainly not like any Pokemon I’ve met. Keep making guys like me think, and you guys’ll do fine.” He opened the exit door, the entire troupe of guards following. Vaun was dragged through the crowd despite his feeble attempts to flee, pleading for them to release him. His cries were silenced by the shut door as the guards went out to the streets and left Facility D out of their lives.

    Lawrence turned to Cassia and made a small smile, holding on to the trashcan. “Some guards said they were too afraid to speak up. They just needed someone else to do it for them.”

    Cassia smiled back, holding on to the trashcan. “Lawrence, you’re as smart as ever.” They slowly rolled the trashcan toward the warehouse door, their final obstacle to Sinnoh.

    Clang! Clang!

    They froze, looking to their right. A section of wall rattled, the bolts around it coming loose. It clanged and shook again, a bulge appearing in the middle.

    Clang!

    The sheet burst from the wall and clattered on the ground, revealing Hanson wielding a sledgehammer, panting heavily. He glowered at the two Pokemon setting the head of the hammer on the ground. “Congratulations,” he seethed, “You managed to get past all my security and planning in one night, all to steal away a bunch of Pokemon.” He slowly stepped to the warehouse door, dragging the hammer behind him. “But unlike my guards, I won’t have the wool put over my eyes by a Zoroark.”

    Lawrence noticed the Pokeballs on his waist and lowered into a defensive stance. “Careful, Cassia. He looks ready to fight.”

    Hanson hefted the sledgehammer with a grunt, his eyes wide. “Oh yes, Lucario. To protect my company, my fortune, and my dreams.” He swung the hammer on the scanner for the warehouse door, causing it to explode in sparks and blare out an alarm.

    Hanson threw away the hammer and leaned back, groaning. “I haven’t had to do anything like that in years.” He stood straight again, frowning. “Then again, I haven’t had Lawrence Stephenson and a mysterious Lucario work together. Despite my records, a Lucario was not among the Equivosians, yet here’s one now, talking right to me.” He clutched the side of his head and said, “And Lawrence bewilders me with what he’s done!”

    Cassia took Lawrence’s arm and growled “He’s done more for us than you’d ever know.”

    Hanson stopped. He scrutinized the Lucario, his eyes flitting back and forth. “Wait…the clothes…the hiding…the voice.” Lawrence’s heart pounded as Hanson leaned forward, mouth slightly agape.

    He closed his mouth and coldly said, “You…you were changed. By the wormhole. No wonder you survived so long in such savage lands—and why you care so much for these Pokemon.” He brushed back his wild hair, his eyes squinting once more. “It all makes sense. Now I just have to figure out how to harness such a unique ability—after I give every Pokemon the power of speech.”

    Lawrence overcame the sinking feeling of dread in his chest and shouted, “How can you be so callous to torture these Pokemon, just to have our Pokemon do something that’s impossible?”

    “Impossible?” Hanson spat. “Impossible? We’re practically there! Everyone in the world sees them as companions, talking to them like they actually understand us! Like my teenage self thought, challenging the Elite Four!” He snatched an emerald-topped Pokeball and held it next to his head. “Before I became an inventor, I was an aspiring young trainer, what all the children in the world want to be. I was renowned in Unova, and everyone thought I would become the new champion.” He widened his stance. “I lost at the final round. I was forgotten, just like so many other unlucky challengers. If it wasn’t for the language barrier between me and my Pokemon I would have been victorious. And so many others would have been too.”

    “So that’s what all this is about? Making up for some match you lost ages ago?” Cassia exclaimed.

    Hanson took the ruby-topped Pokeball from his belt and smiled darkly. “Oh, it’s for more than that. I want to see a world with perfect communication for all, just as I’ve done with the Poketch and my Pokedexes. This is the final step. If you escape me, all my time, effort, and money would have been wasted.” He clicked the buttons on his Pokeballs, causing Lawrence to step back. “Those Master Balls cost a fortune, and my company will take a major blow if I fail to return on my investment. People are wanting my latest product, and I can’t leave them waiting.” His reared back the Pokeballs. “I can’t let you go!” He threw them both toward Lawrence and Cassia, their buttons glowing.

    Lawrence grabbed her claw and ran to the corner with the trashcan, avoiding the ruby Pokeball. It clacked against the floor and snapped open, throwing out a blinding sphere of light. It grew and morphed into a thick, musclebound Pokemon, the light fading into orange and black fur. Silver scattered in its coat, especially around the roaring fire that made its beard. Its eyes materialized, and it glared at the two Pokemon before it, snorting and scraping its hooves against the concrete floor.

    The emerald Pokeball did the same, sending out a sphere of light. It sat lower on the ground and formed into a metallic pod with three vined limbs, each with their own thorned casing. Spikes coated its body, the ones on its feet driving themselves into the concrete. It held itself lower, the thorns on the top of its body retracting to launch.

    The balls bounced back into Hanson’s hands, and he grinned. “Meet two of the surviving members of my team all those years ago: Bruiser, my Emboar, and Sniper, my Ferrothorn.” The Emboar bellowed throatily and clapped its paws together, reverberating in the air. The Ferrothorn emitted a crackling, shrieking cry as it vibrated, rattling its thorns.

    Cassia crouched, darkness spilling from her claws. “We don’t have to do this, Hanson. Just let us leave, and—”

    “And what? You’ll disappear, never to be seen again? I can’t afford that; Equivos was the only world I knew of with talking Pokemon, and now that it’s gone, you are my only hope.” Hanson pointed at them and roared, “Bruiser, Sniper, go high!”

    Bruiser the Emboar grunted, picking up Sniper the Ferrothorn by its sides. It rattled eagerly as Bruiser stooped, then thrust upward, sending the Ferrothorn to the ceiling. Its pods drove into the concrete and kept it hanging, the thorns on its bottom half retracting and hissing. Dozens rocketed out and zoomed toward Cassia and Lawrence.

    Lawrence’s paws flared with aura. “Avoid the thorns!” He and Cassia sprinted out of the way, all the thorns embedding into the floor.

    Bruiser bounded forward, his beard growing to consume his entire body. He bellowed and veered toward Lawrence, the force of the flame propelling him forward. The Lucario narrowly leapt over the Emboar, his legfur singed from the heat.

    Cassia dodged more thorns from Sniper, deflecting some with her claws. She turned invisible, causing Sniper to lose target and look back to Hanson.

    He waved to where Cassia disappeared and said, “Swing-Bash Strategy!”

    The Ferrothorn rattled in reply, its vines lengthening and lowering it closer to ground level.

    Lawrence weaved between Bruiser’s slow and powerful blows, beating his paws into his fatty exterior. None of his punches seemed to have any effect on the hardened Emboar, each rippling his skin and little more.

    Sniper hung only a few inches from the ground then started to circle. It spun faster, its arc growing wider and wider. It kept circling its thorn-covered body as its legs scrabbled across the ceiling, beating away crates and searching for a Zoroark in its path.

    Lawrence ducked beneath one of Bruiser’s punches, only to be blown back by another. He skidded against the floor as the Emboar charged forward again, elbow dropping toward him.

    Lawrence rolled out of the way, causing Bruiser to land on his chest. Lawrence summoned an Aura Sphere and fired it into Bruiser’s head, causing him to squeal and grab Lawrence’s leg. He swung him into the floor, stunning him as Bruiser swung him again, and again, and again.

    Cassia—invisible—ducked underneath Sniper’s sweeps and advanced to Bruiser, driving her claws into his side. He squealed once more and swiped at her origin, only for her to strike at a different point.

    He threw Lawrence behind him, only for him to be swung into by Sniper. He slammed into the wall and slid to the floor with a groan, his eyes closing.

    “Lawrence!” Cassia called. She grabbed onto Bruiser’s arm and allowed him to swing her into the air, right toward Sniper. She soared just above its menacing swing and into the vines that held it in place, grabbing onto them. Sniper rattled viciously as it slowed to stop its assailant. Cassia sliced the three vines at once, causing Sniper to fly into a wall and ingrain itself, the remaining vines on its head whipping wildly as they gradually grew back. Cassia landed on the ground and turned invisible once more, running toward Lawrence and leaving Bruiser to cauterize the cuts on its sides with his flamethrower breath.

    Hanson grit his teeth, his aged heart beating rapidly. “I haven’t felt this exhilarated in years. Lawrence is down, but so is Sniper until he can grow back his vines. Bruiser won’t be stopped by a few measly cuts; the Zoroark stands no chance. Soon, Project Babel will be back in order.”

    Cassia stopped next to Lawrence and rolled him onto his back. “Are you okay? Is anything broken?”

    Lawrence coughed, his eyes fluttering open. “Only my pride. Those Pokemon are strong.” As Cassia soothed his wound with what Life she had left, he pointed at the rejuvenating Ferrothorn. “Those things might have tough shells, but with a hard enough hit, they’ll crack open and lose all their thorns. They’ll hibernate until they can repair themselves, so I’ll try and take it on.”

    “Lawrence, we can’t fight here forever. The ship’s waiting for us,” Cassia warned.

    Lawrence came to his feet, holding his head. “I know, but we can’t have Hanson send these after us. Just focus on distracting the Emboar while I hit the Ferrothorn.”

    The pods on Sniper’s vines regrew and pounded into the wall, each straining to push the Ferrothorn out. Bruiser snorted and caught sight of Lawrence. He looked to Hanson.

    He pounded his fist into his palm. “He’s too fast for you to charge into; hit him from afar!”

    The Emboar stared blankly, then leaned toward Lawrence and let his flames envelop him. Lawrence ran away from the wall as Hanson groaned audibly, pressing his hands against his head. “No, no, no! I meant use Flamethrower, not Flame Charge!”

    Cassia ran out after Lawrence, forming a blob of inky-black gas in her claws. She threw it into Bruiser’s eyes, causing him to bellow and barrel ahead, charging into every crate in its path, completely missing Lawrence.

    Sniper finally pushed itself out and clambered to the ceiling, letting itself hang several feet from the wall. As Lawrence sprinted, Sniper showered thorns below it, scratching Lawrence’s body. Lawrence grit his teeth and generated an aura sphere, aiming it toward Sniper.

    Hanson hissed and shouted, “Sniper, drop! Drop now!”

    The Ferrothorn obeyed, shaking loose of the ceiling. Lawrence lost concentration and released the aura sphere prematurely, causing it to spiral into the wall. The Ferrothorn slammed next to him and threw him into the air, it vines pushing itself upright in the floor. It rattled furiously as a glowing green sphere formed in front of its eyes, gathering energy from the air.

    Cassia danced around Bruiser, narrowly avoiding the focused breaths of fire it blew from its snout. She glanced at Lawrence and gasped as he slowly got up, Sniper’s energy ball aimed directly at him.

    She held out her claw and gathered a crimson sphere, then launched it at Sniper. The sphere exploded on Sniper’s iron shell and sent it flying toward Lawrence, the energy ball dissipating. Lawrence reared back his fist and punched Sniper between its spikes, puncturing the shell and causing numberless thorns to flow out.

    Sniper let out one final rattle as its amber eyes closed. Hanson quaked as he pointed Sniper’s ball at the Ferrothorn and tapped the recall button. A red stream of light struck the Ferrothorn and formed it into light once more, travelling along the line into the Pokeball. He shrunk it and set it on his belt, pointing at the Emboar. “Bruiser, you can finish the job!”

    Bruiser grunted and continued swinging around him, narrowly missing Cassia each time. He finally squealed and leapt into the air, massive flames surrounding him on all sides.

    Lawrence paled and shouted, “Cassia, get out of the way! That’s a Heat Crash!”

    Cassia looked up and cried out as Bruiser rocketed to the ground, the heat so intense that neither could look at him. She leapt away, Bruiser’s fire exploding outward and catching Cassia’s back. She screamed, crashing to the ground and rolling to rid herself of the encroaching flame.

    “Cassia!” Lawrence yelled. He ran to her and cradled her head as she struggled to keep her eyes open. Bruiser struggled to push himself free of the sizeable crater, everywhere within five feet of him black with char.

    Hanson clapped his hands together, grinning. “Yes, yes! Finally, my Pokemon succeed once more!” He noticed Lawrence leaning toward Cassia’s ear and whisper something, but they were too far away for him to hear.

    He snapped his fingers and said, “Bruiser, get them before they go on the move again!” Bruiser squealed in understanding, still trying to push himself up.

    Lawrence stood up, stone-faced. Cassia lay on the ground, her hands folded over her chest. The Lucario ran to the Emboar and roared, leaping upward. He reached the peak of his arc just above Bruiser, grazing the ceiling. He flipped upside-down and pushed against the ceiling to shoot toward Bruiser’s unguarded head. He held his paw out and struck home, cracking the concrete and driving Bruiser deeper.

    He pushed himself off of Bruiser and landed on his feet. The Emboar’s eyes dazedly focused on Lawrence. The concrete around him sunk slightly, then cracked again. It suddenly dropped out from underneath the Emboar and crashed into the next floor, carrying him down with a slam. Buried underneath tons of concrete, the Emboar did not rise again.

    Hanson gaped at his Pokemon’s defeat as Lawrence advanced to Cassia and held out his final Master Ball. He pressed it next to Cassia’s side and absorbed her in a flash, clicking closed. He shrunk it and snapped it to his belt, then faced Hanson. “You’ll pay for what you’ve done.”

    Hanson stared for a moment, then pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head sadly. "Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence...I have done nothing wrong. I told my subordinates I wanted Project Babel to progress as quickly and effectively as possible, and they have done so. That is not to say there have not been missteps…” He gripped his third and final Pokeball. “But a tremendous amount of money has been invested into this, and the public has no idea how badly they want Project Babel.”

    He unclipped the Pokeball. “I will not let you walk out of here with those Pokémon...not when I can use them to do so much good for the world!" He held up the gold-engraved Pokeball, a grin plastered on his face. “And now…the Pokemon I began and ended my journey with, the one who failed to obey me when I needed it most—the first to experience the fruits of my labor.” He expanded the ball and threw it at Lawrence, sending out yet another ball of light.

    It grew to tower over Lawrence, standing over four times his height. A long, bladed tail grew, and its head included to large blades. Golden armor coated its body, and charcoal scales coated its face, hand, and arms. Sharp red claws penetrated the scales, and cold, staring eyes bore into Lawrence. A Haxorus.

    The Haxorus stood straight, its tail sweeping back and forth. It opened its mouth:

    “I live to obey…Master.”
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

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    Poor Vaun got rather roughed up there. Actually, I'm curious. In several scenes now, we've seen Hanson touch or fidget with one of his poké balls, generally when something's not going his way. Is that supposed to be a tick or a nervous habit? I wasn't really sure, but that was my impression.

    Given Lawrence's transformation abilities are completely magic-based, I think you do a decent job balancing Hanson's inability to put two and two together with having him still seem competent enough to piece together how Lawrence broke in. Usually, you see villains grab the idiot ball in these situations, but you opted for a middle ground that works pretty well. That said, I do think your portrayal of Gardner's Confuse Ray was a bit childish. You could've just had the guards stumble around in a daze and that would've done the job. Having them blurt out those stupid questions throws off the tone of what's supposed to be a serious situation. Likewise, for as important of a company as Valence is, you'd think Hanson would hire security with better 'mons than Machokes. At the very least, I'd expect them to be Machamps. :p

    Not to be that guy, but how exactly does that work? Wouldn't it just blow his gaseous essence off course?

    Ah, yes, the classic example of the Milgram experiment. I only glanced over the rewrites, but I don't seem to recall Vaun being made out to be quite so antagonist. Maybe I missed the changes, but it is coming out of left field for me. I'm a bit iffy on the hostility, though, as the "following orders" cop out is usually used on a character with some sort of sympathetic trait. Vaun doesn't have that at this point. I mean, the cop out still works okay, since he gets taken down pretty hard by his guard immediately afterward. :V

    Yeah, the torture part isn't good. But, y'know, I've gotta say, the second half of that part (the "never meant to have" bit) really lends some credence to Hanson's side of things, which is probably not what you wanted. Like, having Lawrence phrase it that way, to me, comes off as cruel. I can't beat around it. The fact that the Equivosians are (for all intents and purposes) superior to the other 'mons leaves a sour taste in my mouth. And that you've done it intentionally in the story and stated in responses that, yes, there's a clear difference making one group superior really has me wondering why that is. Did I miss something or do you have a plan/endgame in mind with this? On the bright side, it makes Valence seem a bit more sympathetic (unless that wasn't what you were going for, here). If I were in their shoes, I'd try to do something to deepen the human/pokémon bond. Maybe not that extreme, but I see where they're coming from.

    I know you had mentioned wanting to alter things so that Hanson was more behind-the-scenes, but his actions (this is quoted for example) still read as unapologetically evil. Maybe a few ladder rungs below Arthus, sure, but not very morally gray at all.

    On the brighter side, the initial fight was a fun read. I like dichotomy where Lawrence and Cassia – mostly Cassia because Lawrence done got his ass beat – can do their own thing, but Hanson's 'mons have to look to him for orders. And, whether you did this intentionally or not, you had a few moments of miscommunication with Hanson's team that kind of re-emphasized his past struggles and motivations. Kudos there. And double kudos for the shocking cliffhanger. Yeah, that came out of nowhere. I want to know what happened for sure.
     
  3. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    It is, in a sense. As portrayed before, Hanson usually keeps his Pokemon stored away, but when things get serious--and personal--he takes them out, and the battle-ready days of his youth start coming into play, where he's just ready for a battle at every turn.

    Thanks. I had to change the final scene where he finally gets it a couple times, so its good to see that it paid off.

    I agree, I'll go and change that. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I guess it's a similar case to when Lawrence and Cassia first hugged each other way back in Act 3; I played on it a little too much.

    Not necessarily, even if you're joking. See, in the games, Machoke evolve by trading--same with Phantump, which are also present. In this universe, for them to evolve, they have to migrate to a new location and make that their new home, and that's when they evolve. I'd imagine these Machoke are local, so they wouldn't evolve anyway.

    While the air in a ventilation shaft may push gas around, I doubt it keeps it at the same density. Gardner has to expend energy to keep himself from dissipating into the air already, so having gusts of wind furthering the job doesn't make things any easier. Beings that are completely gas, like Gastly, can probably manage it better, but for a part-gaseous being like Gardner, he risks spreading out too far and being unable to gather himself together again--rendering him dead, in a sense.

    So yeah, ventilation's bad for ghosts.

    I admit, I probably went a little over-the-top with Vaun's antagonistic role. I wanted him to stay firmly rooted to following Hanson's orders despite his grievances in the process, but I took that side a little too far. I'll make note of that in my revisions.

    I had a hard time wording that right. I'll just say that right now. I can make Lawrence's statements revolve more around respect for life rather than the project specifically, and have Hanson see Pokemon more as tools to use to make progress.

    And as for the whole 'Equivosians are superior' thing...I don't really see any other way to describe it. As it has been stated before, the Equivosians are physiologically similar to the Pokemon of Lawrence's world, they just have greatly enhanced mental capabilities, at the same level of humans. I guess you can always bring in the 'humans are superior to animals' thing, but please keep in mind that I never meant to put it into a negative light. All I was trying to show is that they need different treatment than the Pokemon that primarily populate the world--and that they can operate at the same level as humans, of course.

    This line I can understand being a bit too dark, but I don't know how I can handle this scene another way. He is wanting to protect his life's work and achieve his dreams, and as his security force have fled, he's the only one who can stand in the way of Lawrence and the other Pokemon from leaving. What else can I do to make him come off as less evil?

    Good to see the battle was written well, and I did purposefully put the miscommunication there. I always want to show the motivations behind a character's desire, and what may come about because of them--such as, for example, Arthus testing his vision on a certain Golurk. There may be a similar situation here. ;) That is all.
     
  4. canisaries

    canisaries calamari on the menu today

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    Hmm, "guy" sounds a bit casual to me in this context.

    Misplaced space.

    I think a word or two is missing in this sentence?

    It's kind of vague what shape this trash can is, and how exactly it's being transported. If it doesn't have any wheels (which would be the case for the most typical trash "can"), it would make a whole lot of awful noise.

    Save *for? (Not 100% sure on this.)

    Think you meant Vaun?

    I was confused about this sentence for a while until I realized the "itself" was referring to Sniper - however, the subject in the previous clause are the pods and not Sniper itself.

    Heh, nice touch.

    An* aura sphere?

    Somewhat confused - last I read of Sniper, it was stuck in a wall (or had just gotten out of it). As far as I can tell, it never moved to the ceiling.

    Think a word is missing around "sent".

    Bruiser uncapitalized.

    Mmm oh boy looks like another spot for me to inject real life physics to this magical monster story: unless Lawrence is extremely flexible, flipping mid-flight without starting the jump already spinning is actually not possible due to conservation of angular momentum. Just as a tennis ball can't change its arc-like trajectory when thrown, it also cannot start spinning from nowhere, as there is no force significant enough to cause that - the only force strong enough to impact the motion is gravity, which is what causes the tennisball's trajectory to curve and meet the ground in the first place. Now, living creatures are a bit more complex, as they have muscles they can use to alter their shape, but how much you can utilize this to your advantage depends largely on your body's flexibility. Cats are able to land on their feet when dropped feet-up by rotating their front and back halves while retracting and extending their limbs in the proper order, but as you can see in that video, it's a whole lot of twisting a Lucario is unlikely to be capable of or have an instinct for, given they are not only canine but also humanoid.

    On an actual writing-related note, the bolded sentence I think could be substituted with just "he flipped/rotated (himself) upside down" - it's less clunky and more understandable.

    *Claws?

    General Comments

    It sure is good that Ferrothorn here can regrow their vines, as for a second there it seemed like Cassia gave Sniper a full-on unlicensed amputation, lol.

    I have to be honest, a standard Pokemon battle isn't nearly as exciting as the apocalypse from before, so I really hope the story has something up its sleeve after this. This has been a long, epic journey and it deserves an epic ending.

    Talking golden-armor Haxorus is quite the oddity, though, and I'm curious to see where that'll lead. Good luck with the final chapter!
     
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  5. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Thanks for your suggestions, @canisariess. I'll make sure to implement them into the revision.

    I envision it more as this type of can.

    I forgot to show its movement to the ceiling, so sorry about that.

    Hmm...I see your point. I mean it to be a more gradual turn-around, like he's maybe half-way turned, but I can't seem to describe that well. Oh well.

    I agree, but this is what I have to work with in this side story with Valence. Unless I just skip the battle altogether, I'll try my best here.

    Although, I think I'll make the next chapter worth it. Lawrence is going against a Haxorus after all.

    As said above, I won't say any more on this. And depending on how the chapter turns out, I may have to split the epilogue portion from it, so there could end up being 31 chapters instead of 30. On the last day of nominations too...I'm cutting it close.
     
  6. canisaries

    canisaries calamari on the menu today

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    I see - I would more associate that shape with the word "container", though, and I haven't seen a can like that made of metal.
     
  7. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

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    Well, getting rid of "chuckled darkly" would go a long way. That reads like an evil laugh. Replacing it with a show of exasperation (shaking his head, giving a long/drawn out sigh, rubbing the bridge of his nose or his temples) might be a better alternative. Especially since I seem to recall Hanson picking Lawrence because they had a similar view about Pokémon. So, I'd actually expect Hanson to be a bit annoyed at how his time in Equivos changed him so radically. The line itself isn't that bad. Maybe changing it to something like, "Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence... my hands are clean in this endeavor. I told my subordinates I wanted Project Babel to progress as quickly and effectively as possible. Clearly, they went a bit overboard. But I'm sinking a tremendous amount of money into this and the public has no idea how badly they want what Project Babel has to offer. I will not let you walk out of here with those Pokémon... not when I can use them to do so much good for the world!"
     
  8. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    @canisaries

    Yeah, I can see your point. I'll make the change.

    @Ambyssin

    I like that line. Might make a few changes, but I think that portrayal of Hanson, alongside the dialogue changes I made in their confrontation, will do some good.

    I'll post the changes later today. Thanks for your reviews.
     
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  9. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Now, I know everyone is looking forward to chapter 30 tomorrow, it being the end of the story and all. But, unfortunately, it isn't ready. And I don't think it will be until at least Saturday. I've gotten two part-time jobs at once, with one of them leading to me staying up later and ultimately digging into my free time more. That, and with how my body's been adjusting to the workload, has lead to me finding it nearly impossible to focus on writing. I loathe the situation and want to be out of it, especially so this story can be completely finished for the awards. Hopefully I'll be able to do that.

    Now, as for the chapter, I'm tempted to split this one. But I doubt there will be enough content before the point I plan on splitting it. So, I'll just have to work with it. I guess this will just be a learning experience on how I can transition tones throughout a chapter. Wish me luck.
     
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  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 30: Exodus
    lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Very sorry for the late chapter, but with work hitting me like a truck, I found it very hard to write. But Chapter 30 is here, and after writing it, discovered I could split it as I originally planned. I hope to have it fully written by the end of Saturday and ready to post, that way it can still be eligible for the awards! Here's for hoping!

    Updated 07/06/18

    *Adjusted reasoning for needing another Equivosian than the Marill

    *Added dialogue for Razor to better show personality

    *Added Cassia getting used to her new human body


    Chapter 30: Exodus
    Down at the docks, Erica sat on her suitcase, tapping her feet against its side. She bundled her coat tightly around her, the breeze growing stronger on the shore. The five docks remained free of ships, with only the Wingull perched underneath them any indication of activity.

    She coughed, covering her nose. “I hate staying out here like this.” She looked out to sea briefly, finding nothing. “When is that ship supposed to be here? I’ve been waiting for hours!” She sighed, then muttered, “Lawrence better not have been pranking me…”

    Erica perked up her head; a low rush echoed from beyond the harbor. From the right, a white prow jutted out from behind the buildings lining the coast. A massive white ship with three decks along its sides churned the water, edging forward as the prow tipped toward the harbor.

    Erica stood up, eyes wide and jaw dropped. The liner stopped along the center dock, its engine quieting and crew rushing. Several men sent out a gangplank, and a burly man wearing a black trenchcoat strode down, a colorful Chatot sitting on his shoulder.

    He continued up the dock and stopped in front of Erica, his matted, grey beard and grimy exterior more visible. He tipped his cap and said, “Good evening, young lass! Would you happen to know where a man named Lawrence Stephenson is?”

    Erica shook herself briefly, regaining her composure. “Y-Yes, but he’s not here right now; he’s getting the rest of the…passengers.” She took a step back, eyeing the staring Chatot. “And you are?”

    Rawk! Debbie talks, Debbie talks!” the Chatot squawked, flapping its wings.

    Sheffield chuckled, stroking the Chatot’s note-shaped head. “Aye, that’s her name alright. As for mine, call me Captain Sheffield. I was called by Lawrence to take him to Sinnoh, and he said for me to bring an ocean liner of all things!” He laughed heartily, craning back his head. “I thought he was kidding, but when he explained that there were more coming with him, I went ahead and got one for him.” He blew out his breath, scratching his beard blankly. “Although, it wasn’t easy. Had a few friends who were able to snag one for me, but I won’t be able to use it for long—upcoming cruise and all that. I’ll have to leave tonight if I expect to make it all the way to Sunyshore.”

    “Lawrence said I could come along too,” Erica added, grabbing her suitcase.

    Sheffield studied her for a moment, then nodded. “Won’t deny anyone the pleasure of riding a ship such as this—especially if they’re a friend of Lawrence.” He waved over to the men walking about, carrying crates and other ship materials. “My crew will treat you well, no need to worry about that. Go on aboard and choose a room, and we’ll wait for Lawrence together.”

    “Thank you very much, sir.” Erica curtsied as she took her suitcase and rolled it toward the deck, still finding it difficult to believe that Lawrence indeed managed to hire an ocean liner.

    She stopped at the foot of the gangplank, then turned back to Sheffield, who followed some distance away. “Um…just so you know, he told me all about this today, so if I seem a bit skeptical…”

    Sheffield nodded sagely, stroking Debbie’s feathers once more. “You have every right to be. I mean, look at me, some old grimy man inviting one such as you aboard!” He chuckled momentarily, then said, “Seriously though, you can trust me. If I do something wrong, feel free to walk off whenever you please.” He grinned, stroking his beard. “Until we cast off, of course, but Lawrence and whoever he’s bringing with him ought to be fine.”

    “He…he hasn’t told you who he’s bringing?” Erica asked dubiously.

    “Said it was on a need-to-know basis. Honestly, I’d rather know, but I guess we’ll find out the crowd when he gets here.” Sheffield stepped around Erica and marched back onto his ship. “Now come on aboard! Lawrence surely won’t take long!”

    Erica paused, then slowly advanced onto the gangplank. Midway up, she looked back at the Valence Tech building, the glowing ‘V’ eerie in the cloudy night sky.

    “I sure hope so…”

    ~~~~

    At the top floor of Facility D, Lawrence gaped at the Haxorus that towered over him. Despite the unlit atmosphere, its scales seemed to gleam—yet its eyes were soulless, just like every Pokemon he had seen in this world. And it could speak.

    Lawrence stepped forward, away from the crater behind him. “How…how can it do that? How?” He kept a paw close to the Master Ball around his belt, where he had stored a burned Cassia.

    Hanson stood behind the Haxorus, looking around it to study Lawrence’s expression. “Astounding, isn’t it? After forty years of being an inventor, I’ve finally found the means to grant speech to Pokemon.” He smiled, looking up at the Haxorus. “Isn’t that right, Razor?”

    “Yes, Master,” the Haxorus replied, scraping its feet against the concrete floor, screeching and sending sparks.

    Hanson sighed, pacing around Razor and closer to Lawrence. “Unfortunately, the process still needs adjustments. He has some personality, but certainly nothing like the Equivosians.”

    How did you do this?” Lawrence roared. “You said you couldn’t! You said you needed a Pokemon from Equivos! All other ways failed!” He stamped his foot and bared his teeth. “You put all of them through that for a lie?”

    Hanson pointed at Razor and wagged his finger. “Careful, Lawrence. He may be a bit lacking in intellect, but he makes up for it in strength. And I’d rather not end this moment with his way of doing things.” Razor snorted, the blades around his mouth cleaving in the air.

    Lawrence seethed, crossing his arms and stepping aside. “Why?”

    Hanson held his hands up as he continued toward Lawrence. “I’ll admit, I should have been more open with you. You deserve an explanation—as much as it pains me to say, considering how much trouble you’ve given me.” He pulled the ruby-embedded Pokeball from his belt, tossing it in the air and giving the still Razor a glance. “Would you mind if I recalled poor Bruiser? Razor and I would appreciate it.”

    Lawrence did nothing at first, then stepped further away, allowing Hanson to stand at the edge of the enormous hole in the floor and point the ball at the Emboar buried beneath the rock, unconscious. He tapped the white button on the balls underside, causing a red stream of light to come from the main button and strike the Emboar. The Emboar turned into a ball of light, then streamed back into the ball.

    Hanson shrunk the ball and clipped back into his belt, nodding his head toward Lawrence. “It is good to see a gentleman in battle.” Now mere feet from Lawrence, the Lucario could see the president’s eye studying him, whizzing left and right, surely thinking of the sheer conundrum that was him.

    Almost as soon as he came, Hanson returned to Razor, his pace slowing as the Haxorus drew nearer. “It started a year after the Pokedex 2.0 released. I was searching for the next big leap in communication, one that could dwarf even the Pokedex. I won’t bore you with the details, but I eventually came to the conclusion that we had to make a product to allow Pokemon to speak—a dream I’ve had ever since I failed the Pokemon league as a young man.”

    Hanson rested a hand against Razor, reaching his side. “By the way, don’t think of going anywhere while I talk; Razor will strike you down faster than you can say ‘ouch’.” Lawrence glanced at the trashcan in the corner, knowing already that he couldn’t afford to do that.

    Hanson continued, “I had a series of basements built with the main Valence building for storage and lab purposes, but I had yet to use them. I ended up converting them into the research facility we call Facility D—the ‘D’ representing ‘discovery’. I set my scientists to work on developing a machine that could translate speech.” He frowned. “That came to nothing. Against my better judgement, I directed Vaun and the other scientists to experiment with Pokemon to devise a means. Nothing worked.

    “This continued for around two years, and I was running short on my patience—until I noticed an article. It advertised that the Aether Foundation was selling its dimensional technology to help offset the costs of allowing the Ultra Beasts to ravage their region. I went ahead and bought it, thinking I could use it to further my project—even if I had no idea how.”

    “What does this have to do with the Haxorus?” Lawrence seethed, eyeing the trash container.

    Hanson held up a finger. “Patience.” He lowered it, then said, “After training my employees on how to use the technology, we set about searching for different dimensions with it. We found many worlds while the generator was still being built, and several contained the known Ultra Beasts. Nothing held a clear view, mind you, but with the glimpses we had of these worlds, we had a good idea of what it had.

    “Several months after I acquired the technology, we found a lush dimension, full of Pokemon—at least, from what we could tell from our overhead views. By that time, the generator had finished construction, and so we decided to test it in this dimension.” He grimaced, standing away from Razor. “It worked well—so well that we accidentally brought something here.”

    Lawrence’s eyes widened. “You mean…you took a Pokemon? From Equivos?”

    “Yes…but it was completely accidental. We never meant for it to happen.” He blew out his breath and said, “The wormhole was close enough to the ground to drag in a Marill and bring her to us. When she came, we were all shocked, and I sent for medical help—she was covered in wounds of all sorts.”

    “Where is she now?” Lawrence asked, suddenly worried.

    Hanson lowered his head. “She died soon after, unfortunately. But before they did, we discovered she could speak. She said, ‘What in Equivos is this place?”, so we knew where shecame from. Stunned, I asked if she had a name. In her last breaths, she said, “I…Draena Marill.”

    Lawrence grit his teeth. “So that’s how you got that file…”

    “Yes. We later sent satellites into Equivos’ atmosphere, as we wanted to see the terrain. We didn’t want to try taking another Pokemon until we could guarantee it would be safe.” Hanson held a hand against his head. “The Marill’s death was tragic…but not entirely in vain.”

    Lawrence narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”

    Hanson paced next to Razor, folding his hands behind his back. “When I learned that the Equivos Pokemon could speak, I had my scientists investigate the Marill’s DNA. Upon comparing it with a standard Marill’s DNA, it turned out that there was another set of genes embedded there, likely to allow speech—but they were severely damaged from the radiation in the wormhole. It was determined that the genes could be copied to other Pokemon if they were intact, provided that we develop new technology and obtain another subject.

    “So you made something to do copy the genes…” Lawrence suggested.

    Hanson smiled. “Yes. Up until we hired you to capture the Pokemon, I had the facility developing the machine and tweaking the wormhole, so that we can be ready to test it.” He gestured to Razor. “When you came with the Equivosians, I had one of them used for the first extraction—and the recipient was Razor. It was a success, if at the cost of the Bibarel’s health. With time, the machine can be perfected, so that it won’t be near as stressful or painful for the Pokemon involved.”

    Razor huffed, scratching the back of his neck. Hanson sighed and looked away. “Although, I can’t say I am entirely pleased. He is now able to speak, yes, but he lacks a certain…charm.” He shrugged. “Something that can be fixed, I’m sure.”

    “How would that even work? Everyone will see the Pokemon and not want to use it!” Lawrence exclaimed, his anger rising.

    “Yes, the approach I mentioned before wouldn’t work. Instead, I’d have customers send in their Pokemon for a few days, and when they get them back, they will be able to speak just like you or myself,” Hanson said. He stepped back, retuning to his position from the previous battle. “This is where I stop my little tangent and ask you nicely: stand down, or I’ll have Razor make you.” He leered at Lawrence and said, “And this time, the language barrier won’t prevent me from succeeding.”

    Lawrence remained still. Wires fizzed and fans whirred, muting anything else in the background. His tail hung low, and he kept himself in a combat-ready stance. “You were never planning on giving them a better place to live, were you? You just wanted to keep them down here, giving all your Pokemon something unnatural to them.”

    “Unnatural?” Hanson asked. He turned to Razor. “Do you think having speech is unnatural?”

    “No, Master. My mind is clear; I understand what you are saying, and I remember my life more clearly than before. ” the Haxorus said in a neutral tone.

    Hanson stared for a moment. “Hmm…” He rubbed his chin. “As I’ve said before, there isn’t the same…spark, like the Equivosian Pokemon have. It’s as if there’s something missing, something that needs to be present.” He shrugged. “It matters little. Given enough time, the process can be perfected, and that spark will come.”

    Lawrence crouched, holding his paws up defensively. “I won’t let that happen. They need to live their own life, not satisfy yours.”

    Hanson sighed, shaking his head. “And here I thought you were a reasonable man—or Pokemon, I should say. It is a shame to have to do this to one of my former employees.” He pointed at Lawrence and called out, “Razor, use Dragon Pulse!”

    “Understood. I will strike down this opponent!” Razor reared back as purple light grew in his mouth, gathering into a ball of violet flame.

    Lawrence ran forward, aura coating his paws. Razor fired the Dragon Pulse, rocketing toward Lawrence. He deftly leapt to the right, narrowly dodging the beam. He gathered an Aura Sphere and shot it at Razor, striking across his chest.

    The Haxorus angled back slightly, but was otherwise unharmed. His eyes suddenly brightened. “I have faced one of these before…they are no match for me!” he bellowed, stomping forward and roaring. He swung his tail powerfully, meeting with Lawrence’s chest and throwing him to a wall.

    Lawrence shakily pushed himself up from the floor, groaning. Razor continued stomping toward him, holding his head high as his blades glowed white. Lawrence cringed and ducked under him, the Haxorus head clipping just above his own.

    Lawrence clambered onto Razor’s leg and onto his back, struggling to hold on to his scales. Razor attempted to reach back and strike him with his tusks and claws. Lawrence held on, latching onto his neck. He wrapped his legs around him and punched repeatedly at his head, creating dents in his hardened armor.

    “Use your tail to bat him off!” Hanson ordered, his fists tight.

    “Like swatting a Cutiefly!” Razor’s tail swung toward his own head, meeting with Lawrence’s back. Lawrence wheezed as his chest was crushed between back and tail. Razor swung his tail again, and Lawrence fell of his side, holding his side.

    The Haxorus turned around and held his head high, readying to strike. “With Master’s mind, I cannot lose! Lawrence held his paws out, wincing. Razor swung, and a rod of pure blue light appeared between Lawrence’s paws, blocking the tusks just before they could strike.

    As Razor continued pushing forward, they locked eyes, each trying to overpower the other. Razor huffed and seethed, “You cannot win. Master wishes others to have my gift. I no longer have to remain untested.” The Lucario’s eyes drifted to the corner, where the trash container was. The corner stood empty.

    Lawrence smirked, returning his gaze to Razor. “Thanks for the distraction,” he wheezed. He shouted and pushed the Haxorus’ head away, causing him to step back awkwardly to regain balance. Lawrence jabbed the pole into the Haxorus’ chest, pushing him onto his back with a slam.

    Hanson eyes whizzed left and right as Lawrence advanced, his Haxorus rolling back onto his feet. He looked to the left and froze. The container was gone—and all the Pokemon inside.

    His breathing quickened. “Where are they?” he muttered. He focused on Lawrence and bellowed, “Where are they?

    Lawrence beat away Razor’s claws with his pole, taking glances back at Hanson. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

    Hanson gripped Razor’s Pokeball so tight his knuckles turned white. “He couldn’t have taken them himself…unless…” He narrowed his eyes and shouted, “Grab the Master Ball on Lawrence’s belt!”

    “Understood!” Razor called, reaching toward Lawrence’s waist. The Lucario leapt out of the way and cracked his pole across the Haxorus’ head, receiving a guttural roar.

    Hanson rushed to the warehouse door, searching suspiciously. “You won’t get away with them that easily...”

    In the midst of their traded blows, Razor spun around and beat his tail across Lawrence, throwing him to the ground and dissipating his pole. Lawrence attempted to push himself up, but was pinned to the ground by the Haxorus’ foot, which narrowly avoided his belt.

    Razor reached down and took the Master Ball, then threw it toward Hanson. “As requested, Master.”

    Hanson deftly caught the ball and nodded to Razor. “Well done. Now I can confirm my suspicions.” He enlarged the ball and threw it to the ground in front of him. It bounced upward with no reaction.

    Hanson scooped up the ball and yelled, “I knew it! You never caught that Zoroark! You just had her make it look like you did.” He eyed the walls. “She’s still lurking around here, and she’s got the Pokemon with her as well! Well, your little plan isn’t going to work!” He tossed the ball in his hand, removing his other from Razor’s Pokeball. “I can just capture her—or you even.” He stared, considering it as Razor kept Lawrence on the ground, nearly pressing him to death.

    Hanson tossed the ball again and caught it at its peak. “Yes, far simpler. Zoroark are tricky, but they can hardly be considered strong fighters. Razor can keep her at bay quite easily. Isn’t that right?”

    Razor looked over to Hanson. “Yes. The black-furred creatures are tricksters and little more.”

    Hanson sighed, carefully walking toward Lawrence. “I really have to have your personality worked on, Razor. It isn’t at all like talking with a person.”

    Lawrence forced a laugh, holding his palms away from Razor’s leg. “Yeah…a world full of Pokemon like him…a dream come true.”

    Hanson stopped, frowning. “You can still change your mind, you know. Just give me the Pokemon, and—”

    “And what? Expect to be imprisoned for the rest of my life? Like everyone else?” Lawrence wheezed. “Not gonna happen. Ever.” He jabbed the spike on the back of his paws into Razor’s foot, driving them deep.

    Razor screeched and stepped back, stepping back toward the hole in the floor. Lawrence weakly pushed himself up and punched Razor’s chest, pushing him back further.

    Hanson’s eyes widened. “No, Razor! Fight back! Fight back!” He reared back the Master Ball, aiming toward Lawrence.

    Razor attempted to gain footing, swinging his arms to counter Lawrence’s blows. “You will pay!” The Lucario dodged them, continuing to push the Haxorus toward the hole.

    Hanson’s brow beaded with sweat. “This can’t be happening…” He reached for Razor’s Pokeball. “I can recall him and send him away from—”

    He groped empty space, then looked down. The gilded Pokeball was gone.

    The Master Ball was knocked from his hand, suddenly floating away. A Zoroark appeared and ran away from him, her back missing patches of fur and revealing raw, red skin.

    Hanson looked down at his hand, then back at Razor. “Don’t fail me, Razor! We can’t lose, not again!” he bellowed, running awkwardly toward Cassia.

    The Haxorus—now perched at the edge of the hole, suddenly punched Lawrence across his jaw, knocking him to the floor. His mouth glowed violet once more, preparing to strike Lawrence with another Dragon Pulse.

    He suddenly glowed red, then shrunk into a sphere of light. He returned to the Pokeball in Cassia’s outstretched claws, which hung over the edge of the pit. She dropped it.

    Hanson fell to the edge of the pit and reached out to the falling ball, his finger grazing its surface. “No!” It clattered against the rubble below, useless to its owner.

    Hanson seethed, holding his hand in the air. “That’s…that’s…” He leered at Cassia and hissed, “Conniving, deceitful, savage—”

    Cassia held her claws underneath his chin, cutting him short. “You just described yourself.” She studied the Master Ball, then dropped it into the pit as well. “You say you want the best for the world, but you’re willing to do the worst to obtain it.” She removed her claws, then set them against her bag. “If it wasn’t for me, you would have made the worst mistake in your life.”

    “If it wasn’t for you, every trainer in the world would have exactly what they wanted!” Hanson roared, standing up. “I devoted my life to creating communication between Pokemon and humans, and you are taking away the only way to that!” He jabbed a finger at Lawrence, who now stood straight with his arms crossed. “And you! You betrayed my company, leaving it for Pokemon! You left me for pets!

    “They are not pets. You know it,” Lawrence replied. He paced around the pit and grabbed Hanson’s collar, bringing his eyes close to his. “I’m warning you now: don’t try to find us. I’m taking them somewhere far away, somewhere where they can be safe from men like you.” His other paw glowed blue. “I’ll make you pay if you do.” He released Hanson’s collar, then looked over to Cassia. “I’m sick of this place. Let’s get out of here.” He walked away from Hanson, leaving the shaken, defeated man.

    He and Cassia stepped in front of the warehouse door, where the trash container materialized. He leaned over to Cassia’s ear and whispered, “Good thing you had those Rawst berries.” He held an aura sphere in his paws and sent it straight through the warehouse door, punching a sizeable hole inside it. They rolled the container out into the cold air of Castelia, hastening their pace to the dock.

    As the can clattered away, Hanson quaked, staring at the hole. “All that money…all that time…wasted…” He balled his fists, continuing to stare. “Mark my words, Lawrence Stephenson, I will find you and take my Pokemon back. Project Babel will continue, no matter what it takes!”

    ~~~~

    On Sheffield’s ship, he and Erica stood on the railing, looking out across Castelia. Debbie the Chatot flew overhead, occasionally squawking as the crew paced across the decks.

    “When do you think he’ll be here?” Erica asked.

    “Not got a clue. Ought to get here soon though; I’m just loaning this beauty till she sets sail for some fancy cruise,” Sheffield replied. He pulled at his collar, coughing slightly. “Yeah, I had to pull a few punches to get the guy to lend it to me. Good thing he trusted me with it—for a little while at least.” He squinted, gripping the guiderail. “Oi, is that Lawrence coming?”

    Erica squinted as well, noticing a large, clattering shape approaching from the darkness. They grew closer, and a bruised and battered man came into view, pushing a trash container alongside an equally beaten Zoroark.

    Sheffield waved his hands and bellowed, “Ahoy, Lawrence! High time you showed up! I was about to set sail without you!”

    “Get ready to leave, now!” he cried, carefully wheeling the container down the steps to the dock.

    Sheffield nodded and stomped away, shouting. “Oi, you heard the man! Get this ship ready for leavin’!” As his crew shouted orders and prepared to leave, he turned back and cocked his head curiously. “Erica here said you’d be bringin’ a bunch of people with ya or somethin. Where are they?”

    Lawrence and the Zoroark wheeled the container up the gangplank, heading toward Sheffield and Erica. “Just go!” Lawrence said as he stopped in front of him, the container screeching to a halt.

    Sheffield stepped around them and tipped his cap off to the Zoroark. “Pretty Pokemon you have there, Lawrence. I wasn’t aware you had one.”

    “Thank you,” she replied, smiling.

    Sheffield’s jaw dropped. “Did…did she just—”

    “I’ll explain later!” Lawrence hastily said, pushing Sheffield toward the stairs. He looked back to the Zoroark and said, “Erica, could you help Cassia get the Pokemon below deck?”

    Erica, equally stunned, nodded slowly as Lawrence ascended the stairs with a stricken Sheffield. She turned to Cassia, who gripped the trashcan and adjusted the bag over her shoulder.

    The Zoroark looked over to the stairs, then leaned over Erica. “Erica, right?”

    Erica blinked, then shook herself and said, “Y-Yes.”

    Cassia held out her claws, beaming. “Cassia Zoroark. It’s nice to see a friendly face around here for once.”

    Erica accepted her hand dumbly, shaking it. “Nice to meet you too.” She fiddled with a length of hair and said, “When Lawrence said there were Pokemon who could talk, I didn’t believe him. But now…”

    “Everyone else is in here.” Cassia opened the trash can lid, revealing the thousands of Master Balls inside.

    Erica’s eyes widened. “T-That’s a lot.”

    “I know, and they’re sure to want out,” Cassia said, closing the lid. “Can you take me down to the…hold, was it?”

    Erica swallowed, the nodded her head and said, “Yeah, sure. Had the tour and everything.” She pointed down the deck with a quivering finger. “Just head on that way and go to the big door. Can’t miss it.”

    Cassia began pushing the trash can, then came next to Erica and said, “Could you, um…help me, a bit later?”

    Erica eyed her curiously. “With what?”

    ~~~~

    “You never told me you had Pokemon that could talk!” Sheffield blasted, storming up the stairs and past sailors rushing back and forth.

    Lawrence struggled to keep up, feeling uneasy as it was. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but I was sort of pressed for time. Plus, you wouldn’t have believed me anyway.”

    Sheffield, threw open the door to the navigation room, then pointed Lawrence. “Darn right, I wouldn’t. Till now.” He crossed around the table covered in maps and around various navigation systems to the single wheel at the front, with a full top-down view of the ship and the ocean beyond. “You better tell me what you’ve been doing for the past month!” He adjusted some controls, and the ship lurched backward.

    Lawrence stumbled to a seat as Sheffield remained as still as a plank. He sighed and zipped up his jacket. “It’s a long story…”

    ~~~~

    Bright, orange light flooded the sky, brightening for a brand new day. The ocean remained still, the waves barely coming across. Wingull cawed above, flying over the sea in search of food. Goldeen and Wishiwashi swam beneath the surface, cutting between the seaweed and rocks. Kingler and Krabby bubbled on the sandy seafloor, skittering past Mareanie and other deep sea Pokemon.

    A triple-decked liner cleaved through the ocean, leaving behind the distant coast of Unova. Its pristine white reflected the sun’s rays, meshing with the dark windows of the numerous suites. Occasional footsteps clattered against the salt-covered deck, mostly quiet except for the thrumming motor in its heart. Trolleys laden with food wheeled to the various doors on the decks, all being pushed be Sheffield’s crew. They silently entered each room and visited the Pokemon inside, offering them refreshment on their long voyage to Sinnoh.

    Lawrence sat on the deck at the prow of the ship, breathing deeply. His brown hair was neatly swept to the side, and his face sported several bandages. He was unbothered by the smell of the sea and the swaying of the ship—comforted by the fact he was returning home.

    Boots clapped across the deck behind him, and Sheffield appeared, holding two glasses of dark liquid in his hands. He chuckled, sitting alongside Lawrence and setting the glasses between them. “You tell some tall tales, Lawrence, and I like that. A whole tribe of talking Pokemon, in this very ship. Can’t say I saw it coming.” He pointed at the glass closest to Lawrence. “Want one?”

    Lawrence shook his head. “I don’t drink.”

    Sheffield shrugged, taking them both for himself. “More for me then.” He took a swig from one and sighed contentedly, then looked over to Lawrence. “You told me where you’ve been. Now where are you heading? You brought nothing except those Pokemon from ‘Equivos’—you didn’t even bring an extra shirt.”

    “I didn’t have all that much in my apartment, so I didn’t bother packing; I have more clothes waiting for me at my parent’s house.” He leaned his arms against the floor and continued, “I’ll just head over to Solaceon town and bring everyone with me. I plan on making a home for them in the Mount Coronet reserve. There’s plenty of space there, and as long as we lay low, the rangers won’t be any trouble.”

    “And how do you plan on doing that? I doubt you’ll be able to just hide in the bushes with that crowd you’ve got, and you certainly can’t build a few houses.”

    “Funny thing; there’s this cave system I found one day that’s connected to the range. With enough money, I can convert it to a colony of sorts. Rig it up with lighting, buildings, all sorts of things.”

    Sheffield chuckled, taking another drink. “While clever, it ain’t cheap, and in case you weren’t aware, you’re out of a job.”

    Lawrence smiled, sitting straight. “I’ll be fine for a while. Turned out that Hanson paid me soon after I came back. I just transferred it to a separate account so he couldn’t take it back.”

    Sheffield laughed again, patting Lawrence on the back. “Well played, and serves ole Hanson right.” He leaned over and said, “How much did he give you?”

    Lawrence came closer and whispered, “Fifty grand.”

    Sheffield gawked, leaning away. “You can’t be serious.”’

    “I’m serious. He said he was giving me a bonus for me going to Equivos, but I never thought it’d be that much.” Lawrence leaned back again, his smile fading. “You know…Hanson isn’t that bad of a person. He did some bad things, but he was always trying to do the right thing.” He sighed. “But that doesn’t mean I can just let him do what he likes.”

    They remained silent for a moment, then Sheffield raised his glasses and said, “Well…I’ll be headin’ back up to the wheel. Feel free to come up and have a chat when you get the chance.” He plodded away, with Debbie flapping down and landing on shoulder with a squawk.

    Soon after, soft footsteps echoed behind Lawrence. He looked behind him and saw Erica, wearing a light blue shirt with a white skirt, with a Pokeball clipped to the belt. Her red hair was bundled together and lay across her shoulder.

    She sat on her knees, looking out to the sky. “Thanks.”

    Lawrence cocked his head. “For what?”

    “For letting me come. I’ve been wanting to go home for years now, but I could never pull together the money to do it. Now I can see my family in person again.” She smiled, nodding toward the suites. “Plus, there’s also your ‘company’.”

    “You like them?”

    “Of course I do! They’re all wonderful Pokemon, all with their own stories and interests! And they all believe in Arceus too!” She huffed, tapping her fingers against her knee. “Honestly, I wish I had a people like them in my church.” She stared for a moment, then asked, “I asked a bunch of them about you, and they all said you were a great Lucario, even greater than some other one named Matheus. Why’s that?”

    Lawrence straightened, smiling sheepishly. “T-They really said that?”

    “Why would I lie about something like that?”

    He blew out his breath, then held out his wrist and pulled back his sleeve, revealing the mark of Arceus. “I can turn into a Lucario by holding this symbol down.”

    Erica gawked at it, then closed her eyes and shook her head, backing away. “One crazy thing after another…” She looked around for a moment, then said, “I’ll…I’ll be going down to help that Torracat, Zacheus, get better.” She paused, then added, “And that creepy Dusknoir too. He’s very…strange.” She walked away, leaving Lawrence alone once more.

    He remained for several minutes, until feet padded up from the same direction Erica left. Without looking back, Lawrence said, “How’re Zacheus and Gardner doing, Erica?”

    “They’re doing just fine.”

    Caught by surprise, Lawrence looked behind him and froze. A pale-skinned woman stood with bare feet, wearing a simple white dress and a golden brooch in the shape of the arc of Arceus. Her hair was a dark, pure red, with black streaks scattered throughout it. She smiled beautifully, complementing her warm, blue eyes.

    Lawrence stood up, studying her eyes. “…Cassia?”

    She held up her wrist, revealing a symbol exactly like Lawrence’s. “Looks like we’re joined together after all. Just like he said.” She stepped forward unsteadily, stumbling. Lawrence caught her, and she laughed uneasily, looking down at her fingers. “I’ll have to get used to having hands like this.” She stood straight and rubbed the skin on her arm. “And it’s so strange not having fur.”

    Lawrence remained still, considering his own hand. “Similar sort of thing with me—except I had to deal with a tail”

    Cassia laughed and sat at the prow, gently pulling him down to sit next to her. “I’m a lot like you. In a strange place, filled with people I have never known—all in a body that’s unfamiliar to me.” She hugged Lawrence across his shoulder, closing her eyes. “And you happened to meet me, to have me be your guide.” She nestled her head onto his other shoulder. “And now I want you to be mine. Will you?”

    Lawrence’s surprise melted away for peace, and he returned the embrace. “Of course.”

    They sat together at the prow, journeying to their home, fully trusting in Arceus that all would be well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  11. canisaries

    canisaries calamari on the menu today

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    Stray comma.

    Missing "and"?

    The text seems to both refer to a combination of genes and a single gene? Not sure which one it is.

    There's a long way people can go in terms of forgiving DNA just kinda being a magic thing in entertainment and this struts the line, but kinda trips over it at the self-replication comment. Unique nature or not, the Marill's cells couldn't have all instantaneously died when she did, and to replicate a gene all you need is a living cell to undergo mitosis and it'll take care of that for you, no external technology required.

    However, thanks to the situation given, there's a very easy fix: the scientists don't need to know what the gene (or genes) is exactly like to know it's extraneous, since they know what the standard DNA is supposed to look like. They simply need to spot the extra material, and the logical assumption is that the DNA difference is what causes the speech-or-no-speech difference. The Marill's genes could have been damaged via extreme radiation, which would both give a clear reason as to why she died (radiation poisoning and cells unable to replicate properly with heavily damaged DNA) and render her original DNA code muddled and unclear. This is why they would need a new, undamaged specimen with the correct original code and healthy cells.

    I mean, may be forgetting some details, but kind of thought this was the situation anyway. If the Equivosians were free, they'd tell everyone about the tests and cages and that'd be pretty terrible for the company.

    Hanson's*

    *your. However, brilliant plan!

    ohhh so that's what they're for

    Missing "and" again?

    lul

    *flooded?

    Its*

    Missing comma?

    General Comments

    Didn't think about Cassia being able to turn into a human, but it does make a lot of sense. Seems like the final chapter will be about accommodating the Equivosians and finding out what happened to Arthus - definitely wishing for the latter, anyway. Looking forward to it.
     
  12. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

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    I can't speak for other readers, but as an avid player of Pokémon I have a strong personal distate for a trainer/'mon relationship taking on the whole master/slave dynamic, especially when it's made blatantly obvious through the 'mon referring to the trainer as "Master." That's not what the games are about and, in the context of this taking place in Unova, it makes N and Team Plasma look extremely justified in their actions if this is the kind of guy who was going around nearly claiming the league title. Again, I really don't think your intention here was to get me to sympatheize with Gen V characters who have no real relation to the story, but that's what ended up happen.

    I understand the Equivosians have human-level higher intellect but I really don't think the mainline world 'mons should be completely mindless like Razor is. Unless that's a side effect of Hanson's procedure... in which case that needs to be stated somewhere in the chapter. I didn't see anything mentioning it, leading me to believe this is basically how Razor acts, only now he can voice his (relative lack of) thoughts. Animals are perfectly capable of displaying basic emotions and thinking (and acting) for themselves. They're not mindless machines. And I don't think the animalistic, organic Pokémon would be, either. Ones like Metagross and Magnezone I can understand being considered completely mindless or drone-like, since it's how they're designed. Lawrence helped worked on Pokédex entries, he should know well what 'mons are capable of. I guess this a long-winded way of saying that you're portraying a caught 'mon like a slave and it really rubs me the wrong way and probably not for the reasons you wanted it to. <.<;

    If there's any good in it, it's that Hanson looks scummier for all his talk about wanting a deeper bond with his team. Because tis battle seems to suggest he really didn't have much of a bond with them at all. I sure hope that's what you going for, anyway.

    I think the sci-fi/technical explanation stuff of Hanson's plan is fine for the average reader. My personal willful suspension of disbelief doesn't hold up for it, because the only time we see technology used to open wormholes in the Gen VII games is by Giovanni (who would never willingly share it with Hanson) and Colress, who would probably look at Hanson and be reminded of his own past mistakes and keep his Colress Machine to himself. The Aether Foundation used a Cosmog, which they'd have no way of giving to Hanson. :p

    Likewise, as canisaries said, your DNA stuff is extremely sketchy. Tissues can be harvested from a recently diseases organism. Hell, that's sometimes how organ transplantation works. I think you need to put in a quick fix at bare minimum, like what canisaries said, considering this is Hanson's reasoning for going after Equivos when, scientifically speaking, he could've taken DNA from the Marill's living cells and culture it as necessary, eliminating the reasons to go to Equivos entirely and making this story not happen.

    On the plus side, Cassia's gambit was a nice, very clever ruse. Maybe not intentional, but it brought Zoroark: Master of Illusions to mind, namely the trick Zoroark pulls on Kodai at the film's climax. It was of a similar calliber and I quite liked it. Especially the "You just described yourself" put-down. That was some class A sass (Sassia? yeah, let's go with that). And a satisfying way to end of the battle as opposed to just raw strength getting put on display. I feel like we didn't get a lot of heroic uses of Cassia's illusion-making powers during the climax, so I like how big a role they played here.

    True, but these words ring a little flat in light of the fact that Equivosians are far outnumbered by 'mons not fortunate enough to get a blessing from Arceus. :/

    Lady, do I have a creepy Dusknoir I need to introduce you to. Actually, he's probably a lot better off these days than he used to be. :p

    And ending things off with, as you alluded to, the fact that Cassia's got the same hybrid thing going on... just the reverse. I don't know what this next chapter is going to hold, but I think there's something off with the fact that we're shown nothing of Cassia's reaction to something so alien to her. You showed us Lawrence's troubles with turning into a Lucario. We should see the reverse holding true, too. Otherwise it's a bit of a wasted opportunity in my book.

    I'll save my full thoughts on the ending for the last chapter, I think.
     
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  13. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Yeah, I don't have much of a medical background like you or Ambyssin do, so I'll go ahead and implement this sort of thing.

    Well...what other way would Razor refer to him? He wouldn't really know names, but he has to have some way to refer to Hanson.

    Off the top of my head, this reminds me of Pixar's Up, where the Doug refers to Carl Frederickson as 'Master', but it's not really a master-slave dynamic so much as a master and his pet. Think of it that way, I suppose.

    I'll remark on Hanson's change later on in my comments.

    On the bolded bit, I don't remember saying that. He researched them, yes, but it was primarily for Valence's applications and not necessarily for scientific purposes such as this. I guess he could have, but it never came to mind.

    As for the way Razor is portrayed, I actually had a tough time trying to work it out. I originally envisioned it similar to Grom when he is under Arthus' control. But that wouldn't have worked, as wild animals have a level of emotion and willpower that Grom didn't have. I just haven't really written animal thought processes, and that showed when I wrote Razor's dialogue.

    Well, his perception of Pokemon hasn't really improved over the years, as shown in this line of dialogue towards them in his office:

    He became disillusioned with idea that Pokemon were companions over his time developing machines for trainers, so while he may not be the best example of a trainer today, he likely was when he challenged the league.

    Well, considering that it's been several years since those games, I don't think it's too unreasonable to say that more advanced wormhole technology has come about, and more readily able to use.

    Yeah, just refer to my comment I made to canisaries. I'll work on it.

    Good to see that that was appreciated! I had to work it out a little bit before it ended up like htis, so its good that it was worth the effort.

    I can understand this, and I really should've tried to implement it. As I want to keep this change a surprise, I'll need to have her interact when she meets with Lawrence. I'll do something about that.

    I'll get to work on these changes; I plan on putting them up soon after I'm done. I hope I'll have Chapter 31 posted early tomorrow so that it has a chance to be reviewed before the nomination period ends. Make sure to keep an eye for it!
     
  14. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Unfortunately, it looks like I won't have the final chapter written in time for people to review. However, I do have a chance of getting it posted before the nomination period is over. Sorry to disappoint, but those are the current circumstances.

    Also, I posted the changes to Chapter 30 yesterday, so feel free to look through them.
     
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  15. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Upon further thought, I have determined that it will be impossible for me to have the detail I want in the epilogue if I attempt to write it today alone. I will have to delay it to tomorrow, but Unequivocant should be fine for the awards even if it doesn't have chapter 31.
     
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  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 31: Epilogue
    lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    And now, at 6000 views exactly....the final chapter. Note that this isn't part of the Summer 2018 Awards.

    Updated 7/15/18

    *Completely revised final scene


    Chapter 31: Epilogue
    Three days after Lawrence and the Equivosians fled, gleaming spires jutted above the horizon, shining in the morning light. Boats of all shapes and sizes floated in front of it, barely visible across the vast ocean in front of them. They grew closer with each passing moment, their journey to Sinnoh nearing its end.

    Lawrence leaned on the railing from the decks as Lucario, dressed in his clothes. Cassia joined him as a Zoroark, her white dress fitting well over fur. Lawrence breathed calmly and slowly, a bright feeling rising in his chest. “I’m finally coming home,” he thought. “After five years, I’m home.”

    Cassia held Lawrence’s paw, squeezing it as she grabbed the strap of her bag with her other claw. He turned to her, noticing her staring at the city, still.

    He leaned over to her. “Are you alright?”

    Cassia blinked, then turned away from the city. “Yes…it’s just…I’m not sure. It’s just that I’ve been surprised by your world before—the shower, the oven, the ‘TV’—but I’ve never really seen a whole city. There was Castelia, but it was at night, and I was more focused on getting out of there.” She sighed, resting her head on the railing. “I guess I’m just anxious. Will I stand out? Will they know I’m not from there?”

    “Sounds like something you were afraid about back in Equivos,” Lawrence replied, setting a paw on her shoulder. “And just like before, I’m always here for you. If you ever need help, let me know.”

    She smiled, looking up at him. “Thanks.” She turned back to the city. “I just hope I’ll be able to manage Sunyshore.”

    “I managed Equivos, didn’t I?”

    “But you had me to help you.”

    “And now you have me.”

    Cassia laughed, standing straight. “You always know what to say, don’t you?”

    Lawrence shrugged. “What can I say? It’s a gift.”

    Two shapes ascended the stairwell next to them, turning out to be Gardner and Zacheus, each fully recovered from their time in Valence. The Dusknoir held his hands behind his back and said, “All the Pokemon are in their balls and ready for moving.”

    “Y-Yeah, in the trash can too,” Zacheus added, taking a glance toward the city.

    Lawrence noticed this action and stooped down, eyes now level with the Torracat’s. “Why so scared? Nothing bad will happen to you on the way to Solaceon.”

    “Oh, i-it’s not that.” Zacheus circled his paw on the floor, looking down sheepishly. “I-I was just wondering when we’d get there is all. I…I don’t like staying in a ball for long, and I really don’t want to go into that city—too many humans and Pokemon for me.”

    Gardner grunted, crossing his arms. “Can’t help but agree. I don’t feel comfortable going to one of your cities yet; I’d rather remain out of sight.”

    Lawrence turned to Cassia. “Do you feel alright going into Sunyshore with me?’

    Cassia thought for a moment, then said, “To be honest, no.” Lawrence’s tail drooped.

    She quickly added, “But if you want me to, I will.” She smiled and held on to the railing, looking out to Sunyshore. “Who knows, it might be fun!”

    Lawrence smiled, sensing that she wasn’t entirely sure in her words. “I’ll try to do that.”

    Gardner and Zacheus were returned to their balls, and the ship pulled into the harbor soon after. As a human, Cassia’s eyes grew wide with amazement. Skyscrapers towered high above them, rivaling the mountains in size. Massive black panels stretched overhead as walkways, casting shadows over the roadway below. Hundreds of people could be seen in the streets between them, crossing back and forth with various Pokemon. There seemed to be no end to their diversity of sounds and sights, with car horns and senseless chatter ringing together.

    The harbor itself thrummed with activity as craft ranging from yachts to sailboats docked, with the largest of them being the liner Lawrence and the others stood on. Unlike Castelia’s stone architecture, massive wooden decks stretched into the water, each with dozens of craft tied onto the posts. Binacle were visible below, their heads waving out to catch food, while Wingull floated above them, resting their feet in the cold water.

    The gangplank fell against the deck as Lawrence and Cassia gathered with the trash container, looking out across Sunyshore. Now in human form, Lawrence continued to breath calmly, holding Cassia’s hand. She continued to squeeze Lawrence’s hand, occasionally combing her fingers through her hair.

    Sheffield descended the stairs, his Chatot, Debbie, on his shoulder. He smiled, walking up to Lawrence and setting a hand on his shoulder. “This is where we part ways. I have to sail back to Unova to return the ship.” He shook Lawrence, laughing. “But I’ll keep in touch! I work with Hanson as a shipper, don’t forget. I can let you know about what’s going on in Valence if need be.”

    “Thank you, Sheffield. I’ll keep that in mind,” Lawrence replied.” Sheffield released his grip and began ascending the stairs.

    Cassia quickly added, “Thanks for doing this. You have no idea what it means to us.”

    “Rawk! Bon voyage, bon voyage!” Debbie screeched, flapping her wings.

    Sheffield stopped and chuckled, petting Debbie’s note-shaped head. “Aye, bon voyage. She’s been like this ever since you helped her, Lawrence, and I’ll always be grateful for that.” He tipped his cap to Lawrence, then went back up the stairs.

    Soon after, Erica rolled her suitcase next to the trash container, wearing a light green dress. She looked at Cassia and nodded her head approvingly. “You look nice in that.” She looked down at the flat shoes around Cassia’s feet. “And those fit well too.”

    Cassia lifted her foot and adjusted the shoe, wincing. “They aren’t very comfortable though. Why do you wear these things?”

    “To protect our feet, of course! We don’t have pads like Pokemon do,” Erica replied.

    “Doesn’t mean they’re fun to wear…”

    “Oh, lighten up. You can always get a different pair later.” Erica turned away and breathed in deeply, exhaling after. “It feels so good to breath fresh air again. Sure, it’s Sunyshore—but it beats Castelia.”

    Lawrence nodded slightly, grabbing the container and wheeling it down the gangplank. “It sure does.”

    They exited the ship, and the gangplank was pulled back by the crew. The liner pulled away, and it gave a farewell blare of its horn, with Sheffield waving from the window. Erica, Lawrence and Cassia waved back and crossed the dock to the roadway adjacent to it.

    Cars trundled across the asphalt, pausing occasionally for pedestrians and their Pokemon. Erica led the way to the cars, while Lawrence trailed behind with the container, Cassia remaining close to him.

    A passing car belched out exhaust, blowing directly into their faces. Cassia coughed, attempting to blow away the gas with her hand. “Those things have horrible gas! What are they?”

    “They’re called cars; people use them to get to places faster,” Lawrence explained, trying to keep it as simple as possible.

    “Will we have to go in one?” Cassia asked, her eyes still watering from the passing cloud.

    “If we want to get to Solaceon, yes.”

    “Ugh…”

    “They’re better on the inside, trust me.”

    They continued along the sidewalk, with Cassia occasionally stopping to adjust the shoes. Fewer people surrounded them as they entered the interior of the parking lot, where a large, scruffy man wearing boots and a broad-brimmed hat leaned against a large blue truck, his eyes covered. A lean woman sat on the bed, looking around anxiously.

    She turned her head and froze. She patted the large man’s shoulder and said, “Gerald…” He looked up lazily, his eyes growing wide.

    Lawrence stopped, a lump rising in his throat. Erica and Cassia stood behind as Lawrence walked around the container and toward the man and woman.

    After a moment of silence, the man and woman scrambled to their feet and rushed to Lawrence, each hugging him tightly. “We missed you so much!” the woman cried.

    Tears came to Lawrence’s eyes as he hugged them back. He didn’t realize how much he missed his parents until this moment, when he could finally see them in person. For five years, he avoided them. And now he had returned.

    Gerald pulled back and gently tugged at Lawrence’s mom. “Now, Catherine, let him breathe!”

    Catherine sniffed, wiping her eyes and pulling back. “Yes…yes. It’s just been so long since I’ve been able to hold my son.”

    Lawrence couldn’t help but laugh, wiping the tears away with his sleeve. “I missed you too.”

    In their moment of silence, Erica stepped forward and said, “Hi, Mister and Misses Stephenson. Your son brought me back from Unova, and I just wanted to say that he’s a wonderful man.” She grabbed her suitcase and said, “I called my parents yesterday and told them I’d be coming. They should be waiting for me over at the department store, so I best be going.” She passed by Lawrence, her wheels clattering on the concrete. “I’ll make sure to visit when I get the chance!”

    As she walked away, Catherine squinted and said, “Isn’t she May’s daughter? The one who had that little branch in Castelia?”

    Lawrence stepped over to Cassia, taking her hand. “Yeah, and there’s someone I wanted you to meet.”

    Cassia offered a hand, smiling weakly. “I’m Cassia Zoroark. It’s nice to meet you.”

    Catherine and Gerald’s face contorted in confusion. Catherine accepted the hand and shook it, saying “Lawrence, didn’t you say on the phone that you had a Zoroark friend named Cassia?”

    Cassia looked back and stared at Lawrence. “You told them about me?”

    “I had to so they’d be ready for us when we came. It’s better than surprising them about talking Pokemon, or you for that matter,” Lawrence replied.

    “He told us all about it a few days ago, but didn’t you say she was a Zoroark?” Gerald said, cocking his head.

    Lawrence sighed, scratching the back of his head. “I found out a little while after that she can turn into a human, just like I can be a Lucario.”

    Catherine shuddered for a moment. “I still have a hard time believing that—even after you showed us.” She looked over at the trash container and said, “And all the Pokemon are in there?” Lawrence nodded.

    Gerald blew his breath out slowly, tipping his hat back. “Well, we can tie ‘em down in the truck. Can’t keep ‘em on the ranch for long, though; I hope you have somewhere planned out for ‘em.”

    “I do, don’t worry about that.” Lawrence paused, studying Cassia. “Um…I’ll need to go into town with Cassia to get her some more clothes. She’s borrowing this dress from Erica, and I’m pretty sure she’ll want it back.”

    Cassia looked down at the dress, confused. “How often do you change?”

    “For girls, it’s pretty often,” Lawrence thought. “About every day, but we should still go out and get some more.”

    “Cassia can just have some of my old clothes, and I can get her more in Solaceon if I need to,” Catherine said, taking Cassia’s arm and holding it out. “It really wouldn’t be much trouble, and I’ve always wanted to take a girl out clothes-shopping.” She smiled and looked at Lawrence. “Nothing like shopping for boys. They always complain and want to go look at the toys.”

    Lawrence groaned, holding a hand to his face. “Mom…”

    “I’m just teasing!” she laughed, hugging Lawrence again. She took Cassia’s hand and said, “Still, I’d be glad to help her out.”

    Lawrence restrained a sigh of relief, glad he wouldn’t have to go through that arduous task himself. “I guess we just need to get the Pokemon into the bed.”

    Gerald tested its weight and wheezed. “Could use a bit of help.”

    After tying down the container in the truck bed, they loaded in the car and began driving on the road. Gerald took the wheel and Catherine sat next to him, while Lawrence and Cassia sat in the back.

    Lawrence clipped Cassia’s seatbelt, furthering her bewilderment. “What’s that for?”

    “It’s to make sure you don’t get hurt if we crash.”

    “You mean you could hit another car?” Cassia asked, aghast.

    Realizing how terrifying that can be to someone with no experience, Lawrence added, “It happens rarely, and they don’t kill people…most of the time.” He held Cassia’s hand. “Look, we’ll be alright.”

    Cassia looked out, staring at the other cars and the people thronging the sidewalks. “I guess…”

    After they drove out of the center of the city and to the highway, Gerald looked into the rearview and said, “So, Lawrence, you said you’ll start goin’ to church again, and you sounded pretty excited! What got you to change your mind?”

    Catherine smiled, pressing her hands together and turning back to face them. “And how did you two get together?”

    Lawrence and Cassia shifted slightly and laughed nervously. “Well…”

    ~~~~

    It was night by the time the truck rolled onto the beaten path of the outskirts of Solaceon. Plains surrounded them, populated by herds of Tauros. They slept under the occasional tree or out in the open, even leaning against the barbwire fences. A wooden house occasionally cropped up, some with their porchlights on and others dark. It was quiet save for the occasional hoot of Noctowl or screech of Zubats, each on the prowl for Rattata to eat.

    Lawrence sat in the back with Cassia, wringing his sweaty hands. The trash container was secured tightly by a series of ropes tied to the sides of the bed. But that wasn’t what concerned him; his parents had been quiet ever since he told them the story of what happened in Equivos and in Valence—from when he first landed, to when he escaped with the remaining population.

    They finally stopped in the gravel driveway of a large cabin on top of a hill, with the towering Mount Coronet in sight. Vast forests surrounded it, a home for the diverse life that Sinnoh held—and, for Lawrence, the eventual home of Equivos.

    Gerald turned off the truck and took a deep breath. He turned back to face Lawrence. “You…you said some pretty unbelievable things. I tell some tall tales occasionally, but none of them are like yours.”

    “You don’t…believe me?” Lawrence said, slumping.

    “No, no, he didn’t mean it like that,” Catherine held on to Gerald’s arm. “It’s just that…it’s unlike anything we’ve heard before.” She sighed, closing her eyes. “I…I guess we just need to let it set in for a bit is all.”

    Catherine opened her door. “Your father and I just need to talk about it. Cassia can stay in the guest room, and you can stay in your old room. I’ll make sure to get some more clothes for her.” She gave Gerald a hard look. “And we’ll help him out with anything he needs, right?”

    “Uh, yeah, yeah,” he stuttered, pulling out the key and stumbling out the truck.

    Their doors closed, and Cassia looked at her hands doubtfully. “Think it was too much?”

    Lawrence shrugged. “I don’t know how else we could’ve told them.”

    Gerald entered the house first and turned on the lights. Catherine followed, then Lawrence and Cassia. Leather couches sat around a wooden table, a lantern hanging above it. A television sat against the wall, with two speakers adjacent to it. Opposite to it was a window, leading to a porch that had a perfect view of the fields below. Scattered on the walls were various portraits of family members and standing most prominently was a wooden arc of Arceus, coated with bright yellow paint.

    Catherine pulled Cassia into a hallway. “Come with me and we’ll get you some more clothes; it won’t take long.” Cassia gave a final, tired glance at Lawrence as she fell out of sight, and he suddenly felt like it wasn’t the best idea.

    His father clapped a hand on his back and sighed. “So…you love each other?”

    “…Yes.” Lawrence said, finding it difficult to say.

    Gerald stared for a moment, then smiled. “You know, you’ve really surprised me. Here you are, believing in Arceus again all thanks to her—and you love each other.” He chuckled, nudging Lawrence. “Might hear some wedding bells ringing soon, eh?”

    “Dad, I just barely got back, and we haven’t known each other for all that long,” Lawrence replied, blushing.

    “You know each other pretty well, though, if your story was anything to go by.” Gerald set his hat on the table, then said, “Look, whatever you have in mind for her and those Pokemon, just know that your mother and I will help in any way we can.” After a moment of silence, he opened the front door. “I’ll go get the truck in the garage and lock it up, just to make sure the Pokemon are safe.” He exited and closed the door behind him.

    Trusting his father, Lawrence went into the hallway Cassia entered and took a different direction, entering a small room at the end of it. He left the light off, studying his surroundings: a closet to the left, a bed to the right, shelves opposite to it, and a window between them. A dresser sat between the case and the closet, filled with his clothes. The bookcase held numerous books, and on top of it were pictures of him as a boy, smiling with Pokemon and other kids his age. On the wall was an arc similar to the one in the front room, only smaller. All of it was clean—even the carpet was vacuumed, as if his parents had always expected his return.

    Lawrence remembered so much from this single room. From his early years in praying for guidance, to the days he shunned Arceus. And now here he stood, changed in more ways than one.

    He changed into the pajamas that were in the dresser, still fitting well. He heard muffled talking between Cassia and Catherine, likely about her clothing situation. There was occasional laughing between them, and Lawrence could tell they would get along well.

    He sat on his bed and clasped his hands together. “There’s so much I need to do. I can’t keep the Equivosians in their balls forever, and it will take awhile to scout out the caves and make sure no one will find it.” He rubbed his face, tiredness beginning to overcome him. “And then there’s actually making the place habitable. They’re practically empty, and it’ll take ages to make something like they had in Equivos.”

    Another bout of laughter came from Cassia and Catherine, and Lawrence smiled. “But with Cassia’s help, everything will be fine.” He took two Master Balls from his pocket and set them on the sidetable next to the clock. “And I have Gardner. He’s not the friendliest guy, but he’s a leader. With him and everyone else, we’ll make a new home.”

    He lay on his bed and thought of his meeting with Arceus, how calm and sure he was in Lawrence. Arceus knew how to best treat his followers and how to save them—even through him. With the Creator and all the Equivosians at his side, he can create a good future.

    Lawrence closed his eyes and fell asleep, smiling.

    ~~~~

    Four Months Later…

    In the evening light, the emerald forest east of Mount Coronet swayed in the breeze. Starly flitted through the branches, avoiding the electric shocks of Pachirisu in search of fruit and berries. Ninetales prowled the wood for Rattata and Raticate, ignoring the chirruping Burmy hanging from the branches. Kricketot occasionally leapt from the branches and sung, only to dart away soon after.

    A Lucario wearing human clothes ran across the worn path weaving through the woods. The mountains rose to his left, and the trees spread to his right. He glanced around, noticing mounds of bare earth scattered amongst the grass. Saplings grew within them, one every few feet and covering a vast expanse.

    The Lucario came to the end of the path, a wall of rock in his path. He passed through it, walking through a mirage into a large cave, branching out into varied paths. A Beheeyem wove from one tunnel to another, the lights on its blinking rapidly. It gave a passing glance to the Lucario and nodded. “Evening, Keeper! Nothing to report, as usual.” He continued along his path, humming to himself.

    Lawrence ran into a tunnel, cool air overcoming the heat of the outside. Muffled voices and running water echoed through the cavern, past the doors embedded in the tunnel walls. Each had a lantern hanging on a hook next to it, some burning and others dark.

    At the foot of one door, a Dragonite swept a broom across the floor, smiling. She looked up and waved to Lawrence as he passed. “Morning!” she said, receiving a welcoming wave from the Lucario.

    The voices and water grew louder, until the tunnels became brighter, so bright that it seemed to be day. The tunnel expanded to a massive cavern, filled with half-built structures and crowds of Pokemon.

    Tents surrounded the main construction, many with stalls of various foods gathered from the surface. Others were more specialized, such as Timburr with furniture and Leavanny with cloth. All sorts of services tracing their roots back to Equivos made their home in these tents.

    Lawrence walked past a team of Machoke carrying lumber, a Bibarel cutting it, a Simisage nailing them together. Pokemon of all types collaborated in the effort, with even Pokemon such as Bouffalant and Gogoat carrying carts and supplies, or Swellow and Staravia delivering instructions from the architects. All this activity surrounded the single complete building: a temple made from stone, with an arc at the top of its spire.

    A Phantump soared over Lawrence’s head, whining. He turned to where it came from and quickly stepped out of the way as Gardner chased after it, roaring in irritation. “Get here now! You won’t evolve if you stay down here!”

    Zacheus hastily followed, his body larger and more muscular. He sighed, looking up at the ghosts flying through the cavern, narrowly avoiding the birds. “At least the Trevenant will scare everyone off when he’s done.” He followed underneath them, laughing when the Phantump smothered Gardner’s face with glee after it was caught.

    Lawrence chuckled as well, continuing to the temple. A purple blur suddenly ran under his legs, giggling. It held up a yellowish bottle with its dexterous, yellow tail as it ran to a building that had a sign labelled ‘Lonny’s’.

    A certain Ambipom stood a ways from it, directing the Pokemon assembling it. He cocked his head and smiled as the young Aipom leapt into his arms, holding the bottle out to him. They both laughed as Lonny opened the bottle and offered it to his son, who guzzled it down.

    Lawrence continued, walking over wires trialing the ground. A dozen Ampharos stood around a generator in the corner of the room, charging the large batteries surrounding it with wires on their tails. The generator whirred as a large waterfall forced its wheel in motion. The overhanging lights above all strung into the generator, and the water it carried fell into a canal, running through dug-out chutes beneath to diverse sections of the caverns.

    Lawrence finally reached the entrance to the temple, adorned with a freshly painted door. He entered, and suddenly the cacophony outside became muffled, replaced with a tranquil silence—save for the talk of individuals inside.

    Lawrence pressed the arc on his wrist and became human, then slipped his bare feet into the sandals to the side. He shuffled through the entryway, lit with candles in sconces. It expanded into a vast hall, long pews lining the floor and leading up to a small pulpit, where the arc of Arceus lay emblazoned on the wall.

    On the right side of the hall, three doors stood. One had a broom leaning against it, along with a mop in a bucket. Another was locked shut. The last was open a crack, the conversation within nearly audible.

    Lawrence stood outside the room and opened the door a little wider, seeing two red-headed women deep in discussion. They sat around a desk, bare save for the black laptop on top. Various books lined the shelves surrounding the walls, various charcoal drawings in frames sitting atop them. A chandelier hung above them, illuminating a painting of Arceus opposite the desk.

    Erica—wearing a bright blue dress—closed the laptop and stood up, beaming. “You have no idea how great this is, Cassia! Now everyone will be able to read it!”

    Cassia—in human form and wearing a black dress—stood up from the other side of the desk, the Arceist Tome in her hands. “Are you sure you have all the pages and pictures in there?”

    “Yep. I typed all the text and scanned the images, just like I showed you. I’m sorry I had to take it for a while, but at least you had Lawrence’s copy on his Pokedex.” Erica giggled and said, “And there’s another thing! All your notes in that copy will make reading this so much better!”

    Cassia set the Tome on top of the desk, holding the jewel of the necklace that hung around her neck. “Just make you sure you send copies here first. I want everyone to be able to read it on their own, and you know how important that is to keep everyone in line with Arceus’ teachings.”

    “I know, I know,” Erica replied, taking a bag from the foot of her chair and setting the laptop inside. “It will just help if I have the Arceist Church publish it for us. If they approve it, it will become an official set of scripture, and then everyone can read it.” She slung the bag over her shoulder. “I’ll let you know if that happens.”

    She approached the door and Lawrence stepped back. She opened it fully and noticed him and smiled. “Lawrence! You’re back!”

    Cassia hurriedly went out, smiling as well. “How’d your visit with your parents go?”

    Lawrence crossed his arms, flashing a ring on his finger. “Oh, just fine. They were wondering when you’d come see them again, Cassia—especially Mom. She likes having someone to chat with.”

    Cassia sighed, smiling wider. “Does she now? I couldn’t tell with the way she talks about your childhood.”

    Lawrence groaned and massaged his temple. “I’m well aware.”

    Erica and Cassia laughed, then Erica quickly hugged Cassia and sped to the door. “I’ll see you in a few weeks!” She sped out the door, leaving Lawrence and Cassia alone.

    Cassia wrapped an arm around Lawrence. “How’s everything going outside?”

    Lawrence wrapped an arm around her as well. “Just fine. Lonny’s inn is nearly finished, and the storage house is getting its foundation finished up.” He blew out his breath, glancing at the door. “Honestly, its amazing what’s been done around here, and with no one noticing too. I’ve gone around Sinnoh and asked experts to see if they know about this cavern, and they don’t—they insisted I was wrong, actually.”

    “So we’re safe here?”

    “With that knowledge and the Phantump evolving into Trevenant on top, along with Oren Beheeyem as a guard, no one will be able to find us.” Lawrence broke away from Cassia and pulled a key from his pocket. He opened the locked door and entered a dark room. Cassia followed.

    Lawrence flipped a switch on the wall and made the lamp within turn on, brightly illuminating the area. Two dressers sat next to each other on the far wall, to the left of a mirror. A wash basin stood in the corner to the right of it. To Lawrence’s left, a table with two wooden chairs, and in the corner a slanted table with assorted drawing instruments and a stack of paper, complete with a rolling chair. On the left wall, a large bed nicely made, and on the right wall, a long table with various pictures. They showed numerous Pokemon and people, all with Lawrence and Cassia in their Pokemon and human forms. In the center of them all were two portraits: one showed Lawrence and Cassia as humans in a tuxedo and white dress respectively, crowded around a church Lawrence’s parents and other people; the other showed a Lucario and Zoroark in the same positions wearing white flowers, only in the forest and with Gardner, Zacheus, and the other Equivosians.

    Lawrence studied the pictures, smiling. “Things have been great ever since we came here.”

    Cassia came next to him, smiling also. “Well, I’ve had some troubles getting used to being a human; I still don’t like shoes very much.” She held up her foot, bare. She lowered it and said, “But otherwise, it’s been wonderful.”

    Lawrence sat on the bed, slipping off his sandals. He pressed his arc and changed to a Lucario; Cassia followed, turning into her true, Zoroark self. Lawrence held up his paw, a tiny blue flame dancing on it. “My aura’s only grown stronger since I’ve been here. I haven’t needed to use it much, but still, it grows.” His smile faded as he looked up at Cassia. “What about you?”

    Cassia held up her claws, a crimson mist flowing from her claws. “I can still use Life—and my illusions still work, as you saw at the entrance.” She sighed, sitting next to Lawrence and closing her hand. “But I don’t like using Life. It’s just…how Arthus got it. I know that it isn’t inherently bad, but he killed the Pokemon he loved most to get it.” She shuddered. “I just…can’t bear to use it anymore.”

    Lawrence held Cassia close. He stared at one of the portraits: a charcoal drawing of him standing with Cassia, Grom, and Matheus—the same one he had discovered when he thought Cassia had died. Two golden bolts lay embedded in the top, polished and worn.

    Lawrence passed his paw over Cassia’s back, soothing her. “You miss them, don’t you?”

    Cassia looked over at the picture, still. “They…they did so much for us in Equivos. Grom was my only friend for years. Matheus taught us so much.”

    Lawrence stopped, remembering his final moments with Matheus—at the end of Equivos, holding Arthus back from taking Arceus with the seal. “He wanted to fix his mistakes. He wanted to earn everyone’s praise.” Lawrence closed his eyes, cringing. “I wish he could have done it some other way…”

    Cassia set a hand around the side of Lawrence’s face. “He did what he had to do. I wish he could have come with us…but Arthus had to be stopped.”

    Lawrence sighed, holding Cassia’s hand. “What made Arthus like that? To betray his friends and family, to kill so many, to take Arceus? If it wasn’t for him, Grom and Matheus wouldn’t have died.”

    Cassia remained quiet for a moment. “It…it was just one mistake after another. He never told me much about his past, so I can’t say.” She shook her head. “But that’s in the past now. Arthus is gone, and now we just have to make sure everyone here is safe.” She rested her head on Lawrence’s shoulder. “Do you think we can do that?”

    Lawrence thought for a moment, finding Arthus and his treachery leaving his mind quickly. He held up Cassia’s necklace, then the ring around his finger. “I promised to be with you forever, didn’t I? To help however I can, to keep Arceus in our minds?”

    Cassia chuckled, taking back the necklace. “That’s a ‘yes’ then?”

    Lawrence smiled, holding Cassia closer. “Yes.”

    A few minutes later, in the dark room, Lawrence thought of one final thing before he fell asleep alongside Cassia:

    “Thank you, Arceus, for helping me realize the truth. I have never been happier, and with Cassia at my side, I will always be at yours.”

    ~~~~

    Years Later…

    In a different world, a vast sea stretched on for eternity, crystal-clear and endlessly deep. The sky was a pure light blue, yet no sun could be seen. A slow, gentle wind blew, yet no tides appeared on the water’s surface.

    An island rose from the depths, made of pure, white stone. An enormous, shining tree grew on top of it, its roots wrapping eternally around the stone and its branches fanning to great distances. Light threaded through its bark, pulsing at varying degrees. No mark or blemish lay anywhere on its surface, completely perfect.

    Pokemon roamed through the vast canopy, crossing walkways made solely from the branches. Plateaus arose from the trunk and other branches, and spires sprung up. Berry bushes and fruit trees erupted from the bark, and springs of pure, fresh water flowed into pools. An entire world of Pokemon resided here, each with an aura of light surrounding them.

    The Pokemon spoke and played with each other, no purer joys to be found. No houses or belongings existed in the tree—Pokemon rested in the nests of leaves when needed, only to continue their life of peace. They could craft what they wished with only a thought, from a plaything to a delicious meal, thanks to the wisps of light that rose from the center of the tree and sought to assist.

    The Legends trod amongst them, each sharing glimpses of their storied past. All had completed their duty, and now they were free to be with the Pokemon they had helped create and protect. Water Pokemon swam in the pools, flying Pokemon soared through the trees—every environment a Pokemon would need existed here.

    Near the center of the tree, a Lucario sat, watching others of his kind congregate and laugh with each other. He waved to them, receiving a wave back from them. He passed by a group of Golurk, where one told of his time with a young Zoroark.

    At the center of the canopy, where a natural stairwell descended. Veins of light pulsed all around. The narrow stairwell wrapped continuously around itself, descending for what seemed like eternity. A single exit appeared in the center of the soft wooden steps, then continued to descend.

    The circuits of light gradually dimmed, the bark of the tree turning coarse and rigid. It was dark save for the spheres of violet light that floated above sconces of wood, flickering.

    A gate of intertwined branches stood between the stairs and a hallway. Beyond it, numerous hallways stretched before him, all with rooms and gates of their own. Each held only a single Pokemon, with no light surrounding their bodies. Instead of a peaceful, cheering demeanor of those in the canopy, they were silent, ashamed, and miserable.

    The hallways branched and extended downward, the atmosphere turning grimmer the farther he went. One held the almighty Mewtwo, languishing in his cell for attempting to control the world. Farther down, a Xatu stared in contemplation, dwelling on how he proposed a world without evil, and created the blade necessary to make it come to pass.

    Down toward the bottom of the cells, a Zoroark sat in the center of the ridged, rooted room. His thoughts seemed to echo all around him, free to float after years of madness: “I failed…after all that effort, I failed. Arceus has won, and now I have no chance of seeing my family again…ever.”

    Arthus made no movement, staring at the floor. “I only wanted everyone to be free from sorrow, the sorrow that I brought upon myself and others. I wanted to prevent that, but no one listened, least of all Matheus. And now here I stay, to waste away for the rest of eternity.”

    Time passed, and he did nothing. Nothing but consider his actions, and the situation he now stood in. “The afterlife is…brighter, than I expected. In the branches, at least. In the brief moments I had there when I died, it felt joyous. But when I came here…” He shuddered. “The true villains in Equivos belong here.”

    He remembered the crowd he saw surrounding those that died in the final destruction of Equivos. He thought he saw his beloved wife, standing amongst them and witnessing his banishment. He cringed, clutching his head. “If…if I had followed through with Arceus’ plan, none of this would have happened. Even with Cassia gone, I could have turned a new leaf, renounced everything Gregorius ever taught me. Then, I would have at least been together with Cassia in the canopy, along with Cassia and the rest of my descendants.”

    He glared at the wall. “That doesn’t excuse the fact that Arceus allowed Pokemon such as myself into this dismal place.”

    More time passed, and his memories haunted him. Every death, every betrayal, every evil act remained in his consciousness on their own accord. He tried to block them out, using his mental strength, but they continued to bash against, as if they were empowered by an unseen force. He screamed throughout the nightmares, the guilt and shame empowered by the roots of the Tree of Life driving away any justification he may have had. The sadness of never seeing his family—the core of his actions in life—only amplified his pain.

    In a brief moment of peace, he huddled in the corner, rocking on his feet. His eyes closed, he couldn’t bear to see the realm he had doomed himself to, all while saying in his mind: “I deserve this—all the death, carnage, and loss brought me here. All of it.” He dug his claws into his skin, but nothing bled; his body was immune to harm. He cursed and thought, “Let me fade and die…I don’t deserve to exist. I should never have been born.”

    The nightmares returned, and he screamed once more. He banged his head against the walls, feeling no pain, yet receiving temporary respite from the plaguing memories. Yet it did nothing to drive away the overflowing guilt of his life, no matter the good he had done before his spiraling downfall.

    In one moment of agony, Arthus stood erect and screamed, “I should never have taken you, Arceus! I should never have denied you! You are the only way to happiness! You are the only way to peace! I beg of you—make it stop! AAUUGH!He pounded his fists against the floor and sobbed, his final memories with Cassia returning to him in a torrent.

    What felt like years later, the memories stopped. He kept praying for Arceus to save him, just as he had done as a child, years ago. He realized that his torture had ended and stood upright.

    Unsure he looked up. “Ar…Arceus? Is it…over?”

    The gate of his cell lifted, and the Zoroark paused, opening his eyes and lowering his arms. The pure, blue eyes stared at the Lucario, no anger or chill in their gaze.

    Arthus wrapped his arms around himself, looking away from the Lucario. “Matheus…you’ve come.”

    Matheus remained still. “Yes, Arthus. I’ve come.”

    Arthus turned away from him, burying his face in his arms. “Leave…please. I can’t bear seeing a Pokemon I hurt—especially you.”

    Matheus stepped inside. “You aren’t the same Pokemon that died.”
    Arthus paused. “Torture…that’s what it was. All the Pokemon I killed return to haunt me. All the lives I ruined, all the families I broke…all because I claimed I had a better way.”

    Arthus shook his head. “But I couldn’t rely on myself in that torture, or anyone else. Only when I pleaded for Arceus did I feel peace.” He slumped his shoulders. “It feels…strange, for me to say it. Arceus never made a mistake; I did. I strove for good things, and good things happened. He let us have choice so we could make a better future than he ever could. He can create, but we can aspire.”

    He turned back to Matheus, avoiding his gaze. “I always knew it…I just let the darkness of the world crowd my vision.” He pressed a hand against his forehead and groaned, “Ferrick…Azure…Cassia…Erik…Laryon…everyone suffered because of me. I became the darkness I wanted to destroy. Gregorius tempted me, and I took his bait. I acted under his beliefs…and look what happened.”

    He fell to his knees, sobbing. “Just leave me, Matheus. I’m worthless. Pathetic. All that rage and death was a means to hide my sorrow. The only thing that made me happy after I emerged from the cocoon was my sweet Cassia…and even she saw the monster I was.”

    Matheus remained silent. He slowly walked to Arthus and set a paw on his shoulder. Arthus flinched, staring at Matheus, then at his paw.

    Matheus stood still. “Arthus…do you remember what we always said about each other?”

    Arthus sniffed, nodding. “That you kept me from madness—”

    “And you kept me from killing myself. We meant it in a joking way, but it was true. We kept each other in check, with your concern for others’ wellbeing countering my recklessness, and my positive outlook on Equivos countering your negative. Without each other, we both fell from grace.”

    Matheus lowered his head and closed his eyes. “It was my fault you changed. If I had never left for the Isle of Regret to complete the Trials, none of this would have happened.”

    “No.” Arthus pulled away. “I’m the one who found Gregorius. I’m the one who used the Edge. I’m the one who stole Arceus. None of it was your fault. None of it.” He retreated to the other corner and said, “If you’re here to apologize, then it’s no use. I’m the one who needs to apologize. Not you.”

    Matheus remained at the corner. “…You remind me of myself. Broken, dejected—I felt like no one loved me because I had abandoned them in their time of need, and to an extent, it was true. I wanted to hide, to be destroyed, to become nothing if only to avoid guilt.”

    “Unlike you, I deserve it,” Arthus croaked.

    Matheus stood at the door and pointed at Arthus. “You do. There is no denying that. But unlike most Pokemon here in the roots, you have a chance to redeem yourself—all because you realized that Arceus could save you.”

    Arthus’ eyes widened. He threw himself at Matheus’ paws and pleaded, “Please, please, let me be free! I will do anything, anything, to get rid of this guilt, this sadness, everything!”

    Matheus allowed him to ry. “If only it were so simple. First, I must ask you a question.” He leaned in lose and held Arthus’ head still. “Will you renounce everything you previously believed, and proclaim Arceus to be your only path, even if it means you remain down here forever?”

    Arthus hesitated. He considered all he had fought for in the past two-thousand years: to fight Arceus and bring his own vision of perfect world to be. It had been all he wanted, but his ulterior motive was to reverse the consequence of his worst mistake—of killing Cassia.

    He thought of this—but then of when he followed Arceus. In his youth, he imprisoned outlaws, created the Guild, had his family. He had everything he had longed for and could wish for nothing else.

    Yet he had fled the individual who made it all possible. Arceus.

    Slowly, Arthus nodded his head.

    Matheus stared, then smiled. He stepped away and held up his paw. “I cannot guarantee you can exit the roots…but I can assure you that I will come once every month, to reeducate you about Arceus. When and if he sees fit, he will call you to the canopy to join his other followers.”

    Arthus remained on the ground, tear-stricken. He shakily looked up at Matheus. “Can…can I see Cassia? Or Erik? They are all I’ve wanted since I’ve come here…I don’t know how much more I can take without them.

    Matheus’ smile faded. “Those in punishment are not allowed to see those who have proven worthy for Arceus’ presence.” Arthus closed his eyes, fully expecting it.

    Suddenly, Matheus smiled. “But, as servant of Arceus, I asked him to make an exception—but only one.” He rapped his paw against the gate, and it rose, revealing a young female Zoroark wearing a golden pendant around her neck.

    Arthus froze. She stepped inside, bright, contrasting with his stale appearance. He stood up slowly, completely stunned.

    Quietly, Matheus said, “This is the one time you may meet with her before you must continue with your confinement. With time, Arceus may release you.” He paused, then winked. “I look forward to when we can stand together as friends once more.”

    Arthus embraced his wife, rocking with her. “Cassia…I’ve…I’ve missed you.”

    She nodded her head, crying as well. “I missed you too.” She stepped back and clutched his shoulders. “Promise me…come back. Live with me, and Erik, and everyone else. I’ve gone two thousand years without you, and I don’t want to wait two-thousand more.”

    Arthus nodded his head constantly as she stepped away, falling to his knees once more. “Yes…yes…yes…”

    Cassia stepped out of the room, and Matheus followed. As the gate lowered once more, Matheus said, “I will see you next month.”

    The gate gently fell on the wood, and Arthus forced himself to calm. He looked up at the eiling, and for once in his afterlife, he smiled. “Thank you…Arceus…for letting me see her again…even if it will take me an eternity to truly be with her…” He sat cross-legged in the floor, a familiar wisp of light entering through the gaps of the gate and touching his chest.

    In the center of the tree of life, Arceus watched Arthus from a clear sphere, motionless. He stood in a room with walls thick with books, drifting in and out of their shelves to be written into by golden threads, all joining with Arceus’ arc. They wrote golden letters inside the different works, recording the events of entire worlds in their pages. The shelves spiraled high into the canopy and low into the roots, spreading even into the branches.

    In front of Arceus was a table with designs of all the Pokemon he had created, interwoven with humans amongst them, all beautifully intertwined. A thick tome lay on top of the table, its last few pages being written into by several threads.

    As the last words trailed onto the paper, Arceus said, “All may be brought to happiness as long as they follow my direction, one of peace and love. Treat others like yourself; a simple, yet powerful way to live. If all follow these words, evil shall be no more. Some who follow my words—the most devoted and worthy—may gain the option to learn my works, and to create worlds of their own.”

    He closed the book, and another materialized next to it, its pages blank. “The children of Equivos live on with their Keeper and Priestess. Their story has ended, only for another to begin.” His lights began writing rapidly inside as he stamped his foot.

    “My word shall never die, and my work shall never end.”

    End of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant

    I thank everyone who was willing to read my story for reaching this point. I hope you'll join me for future works. If there are any changes that I need to make, let me know, and I will address them. If you have any questions, write in my worldbuilding thread, which has a link in the Table of Contents. Thank you again.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018 at 6:27 AM
  17. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

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    Taking a break from some... ahem... other readings to wrap this story up. Gotta get dem sweet review league points, don'tcha know. :V

    I'm not necessarily going to fault you for cutting to the chase with getting to Sinnoh, here. Me thinks a three day boat ride would've offered time for important heart-to-heart chatter and Cassia adapting to her morphability. Heck, all the Equivosians getting more of a dose of this strange new world. But, well, you've already given us a whole arc following the story's climax, so I can see how that would bore other people. Also, I see you wasted no time turning Lawrence's and Cassia's dialogue lovey-dovey. How cute, I'm happy for them. What I'm a bit baffled by is the fact that Lawrence's whole conversation about what happened to him appears have to taken place behind the scenes. As I said earlier, you put yourself on a hard deadline and I see that cuts might've been made. But, y'know, considering Lawrence was supposedly overcome with emotion on seeing them, I would've at least wanted to see that conversation unfold in its entirety. Especially since his parents apparently give him the silent treatment when he explains his escapades to them. I'd have liked to see that uncomfortable scene play out.

    Credit where credit's do: I like your descriptions in the "four months later," scene. It paints a very clear picture of this new community that's forming. And you even threw in some mentions to some minor, location-specific characters... that I'm honestly surprised I remembered, given how sketchy my memory is with fics. It made me smile.

    I don't really think I can comment on the final scene, here. It reads a bit like a broken Aesop to me, because this fic had emphasized misery and woe for those who turned their backs on Arceus. So, to see Arthus getting what he desired most, in a manner of speaking, felt like a slap on the face.

    So, the rest of the review will be me following up some of my earlier thoughts. Basically, reading up through the end of the "four months later" part, I can't help but feel like a significant portion of this epilogue is a bit... empty and wooden. You introduce us to so many ideas, here, like the idea of Lawrence exploring the caves, foundations that need to be set in for the Equivosians to rebuild, Lawrence and Cassia getting engaged(!), and even the sailor guy mentioning keeping tabs on Valence. I'm... not going to lie to you, here: I think you took another story's worth of material and condensed it into an act to follow the story's climax. I can't get inside your head, obviously, but you had a very unique premise here: the populace of a PMD world travelling into a world of humans. There's a lot you could've done with that. And it could even tie into my earlier misgivings about Hanson feeling like a much weaker, less-developed antagonist than Arthus was. A sequel story could've given you time to rectify that.

    In my honest opinion, I think it might've served you better in the long run to cut the story off with a bit of a cliffhanger ending in Valence Tech, following the Equivosian armaggedon and Arthus' ultimate demise. You would've had the momentum from that climactic chapter and be set to open a new story in a tension-filled, high stakes situation. Then you could've started with the escape from Valence Tech turning into attempts to colonize part of Mt. Coronet. Maybe even with some sort of second Valence confrontation down the road? It also would've given you a lot more time to delve into the whole idea of Lawrence and Cassia being able to swap back and forth between human and 'mon at will. Like, what sorts of problems would that create? I could see it having problems. And, really, how safe is this spot in Mt. Coronet? You could've sculpted a legitimate threat figuring out about where they are.

    Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose. You really want to write the prequel, which, I'll say again, you should have folks read before looking at this story. I just look back at pretty much every chapter this post-climax act and how you said it needed to be split or delayed to better flesh out some scenes. And, to me, that really suggests you had more ideas than you entirely knew what to do with. You started writing the post-climax arc and things sort of got away from you and it ended up swelling up into something much bigger than I think you originally intended it to be. That, to me, makes a double-whammy to where the climax is weakened by this act's presence and, at the same time, the epilogue doesn't feel entirely satisfying because there are a lot of big things that get glossed over and left to my imagination.

    On the whole, I did enjoy reading this story, quite a bit. It had a methodical, steady build up to an incredibly tense, dramatic climax. Certain characters did baffle me a bit, but I was rooting for the protagonists and hoping for Arthus to get his ass kicked like the bad fox he was. But things petered out a bit with this final act. It was going to be tough from the get-go. I mean, how do you follow up armageddon? The shorter answer is with a different story entirely.

    Perhaps you've already realized this and all my comments are unnecessary. I seem to recall you saying you planned to split the original prequel into two separate stories. I think, in light of what happened here and my thoughts about it, that I personally support that move. Given some of my earlier reviews, I think Arthus' and Matheus' backstories deserve to get their own focus instead of getting shoved into different points in this story. And it would help a future reader out with understanding this story. Better you have a story that's a bit shorter than you intended than one that leaves a lot of ideas on the cutting room floor. That's gonna be all for me. Thanks for sharing this.
     
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  18. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    I can sum up my response to this in four words: I agree with you. What ended up originally as a single chapter ballooned into five, and there is still so much more to detail here. I really wouldn't mind creating a sequel to this story starting from Chapter 27 onward, even tossing in a backstory chapter for Hanson at the beginning to give him some depth.

    Except I have one issue: time.

    See, there's a reason why I wanted to finish Unequivocant so quickly. For religious reasons, I will be leaving around January for two years, and I doubt that wanting to write more stories would come off as a good reason to delay it. That's part of the reason I've been concerned about splitting the prequel, as it could be too much for me to write before the end of January.

    I am going on a vacation of sorts for a few days, so I'm going to have time to outline all three stories--and this time, fully. I'm going to outline everything chapter by chapter, that way I can figure out exactly how many there needs to be--and now that I've had more experience writing in this format, I don't think I'll make as many mistakes. I am hoping to write at most 50 chapters over the course of these stories, writing around 2000 words a day consistently for the remaining months I have. I won't know how many chapters I'll actually have to write until I outline, but I sincerely hope it won't go beyond this.

    Regardless, I intend to have Arthus and Matheus' backstory, which I have officially named PMD: Twilit Destinies, posted by the beginning of next month. I will use a new posting format where instead of posting single chapters every week, I post entire acts every couple weeks. That will allow me to write more and still not overload readers. I'll just hope that I don't overload myself.

    I'll also have the prologue of this sequel story ready by the end of the awards. I'll cut the chapters out afterward and adjust details as necessary. I will keep the final part of the epilogue as the true ending of the story, taking place years after the events of Unequivocant; it doesn't have enough to do with the sequel to warrant keeping it there. I'll make sure to address those issues.

    With that in mind, expect no new content from me except for a slew of reviews until August. I am always ready for new reviews on this story.
     
  19. canisaries

    canisaries calamari on the menu today

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    Congrats on finishing this bad boy, and good luck in your future projects! I'll be sure to be there reading them. Now, onto the comments.

    *looks at self with several days old clothing* whoops...

    Double newlines.

    Well, now you made me wonder: If Lawrence is a human who can turn into a Lucario and Cassia is a Zoroark who can turn into a human... what would their kids be like?

    *and

    Thinkin' it'll be quite a strong if... we all know how divisive disagreements over canons (the religious kind, not the fanon kind) can get.

    Nothing wrong with the discussion itself, I just feel like it would have taken place a lot sooner, given they've even had time to marry and everything.

    I know the Edge is like an actual thing but ahahhahahhahhahahhahhahhahhhahhhahhahhahahahha he got too edgy ahahahhahahhahha

    General Comments

    The afterlife setting of the passed on Equivosians is fantastically surreal. A gigantic tree with heaven at the canopy and the underworld at the roots brings Yggdrasil to mind. The concept of an afterlife with unlimited goods and anything one could imagine has always felt off to me, however, as it sounds like it would get boring after a while, and then you're just stuck somewhere forever with nothing new, which makes it not that different from the afterlife meant to be punishment. And if happiness is guaranteed no matter what, this takes away the choice Arceus punished Arthus for trying to take away and the aesop kind of trips on itself. This is getting to an area of pretty hard philosophical questions, though, so I'll lay off em and get back on track.

    I don't know how to feel about Arthus's turn to regret after his death. If I was him, I'd probably just be bitter forever... though I do suppose I'm pretty bull-headed. Still, we didn't get to see the brooding moments that brought him to this conclusion - I'm assuming he did have those moments and Arceus didn't just put the regret in his head as, again, that would muddle the logic entirely - which makes its pretty sudden for the reader. I feel like the scene would be more powerful if he was yet only just doubting himself and assessing his situation, not admitting Arceus was 100% right (as bitterness is an emotion rooted deep) but acknowledging that maybe his choices weren't the best and what he really just wants right now is to see his family again. Maybe Arceus allowing him to see his family again could be what begins his reconsideration of his attitude to Arceus?

    I'm hoping (and trusting) that he gets more fleshed out in the upcoming story. I'm not totally sure on posting entire arcs in one go - seems pretty overwhelming. However I do say this without the knowledge of just how long these arcs are. If it's like 2-3 chapters, I guess it's alright.

    By the way, I reread the first chapter yesterday and... either I was very, very dense back then, or you went back and reworded some stuff to draw more attention to the eyes. Either way, Cassia's twist is so very obvious in hindsight.
     
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  20. lucarioknight56

    lucarioknight56 Recorder of Tales

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    Thank you for your comments, @canisaries. I have revised the final scene of Chapter 31 to reflect your concerns, and hope that it feels more natural now. After the awards are over, I will transfer all of Act 5 into a new story, which I will call The Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds. There, we will see what is essentially an expanded epilogue, and what happened in the entirety. This scene I just revised, however, will be placed at the end of Chapter 26, as Matheus and Arthus' story truly ends there; it has no business being at the end of LECW. Twilit Destinies, their backstory, is fully planned, and will begin being written once Legends Awakened and LECW are planned, that way I can figure out exactly how much writing I need to do between now and when I leave. I aim to have both PMDTD and LECW posted after the Summer Awards have ended. Thank you, everyone, for your support.

    Don't worry, Arthus will. I will post around four chapters for each act, at least according to my plans.

    That's what I like. It is completely missable wen you first read it, but then when you go back, it is terribly obvious--as a good twist should be, in my opinion.
     
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