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Fanfiction The Redwood Saga

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Sahqoreyth, Mar 2, 2019.

  1. Sahqoreyth

    (Kirlia ♂)
    Level 21
    Mar 2, 2019
    Dawn Stone ★★★★
    Chapter 49: With A Hunger To Swallow The World

    Lumiose City Center - Kalos Region

    "Ledi Girl, Ledi Girl, swings from webs and saves the world! Undoes the damage before our eyes! Beats bad guys of any size! Look out! Here comes the Ledi Giiirrrl!"

    The crowd applauded the aspiring guitarist as he finished the latest verse of his superhero song. Not far away from him, a pair of seemingly normal teenagers were getting ice cream. The girl had black hair in pigtails, blue eyes with an Eousian slant to them, and pale skin tones. Her eyes were the only giveaway about her heritage, otherwise she seemed as much a native Kalosian as the boy beside her. For his part, he had blonde hair, blue eyes, and tanned pale skin. They were dressed as normally as every other teen, the only thing potentially odd about them was their Pokémon.

    The boy had a shiny colored Liepard, while the girl was partnered with a seemingly regular Ledian. The Liepard gave the worrisome bug a smirk as he licked his own ice cream, the only dish the owner served that incorporated cheese in it. "What's wrong sugarcube?"

    The Ledian shook her head. "I'm not sure…I don't sense Dark Moth like we did earlier. I don't like it, Plagg."

    The Liepard yawned and took in their latest Trainers and the pureness of their emotions. "You worry too much. Surely after that last embarrassingly easy Battle he'll give up. I would. I mean really, how many times does a guy have to lose before he realizes that he's hopelessly outclassed?"

    Just as the Ledian reluctantly agreed with this lifetime's partner, a wave of pure Shadow and evil swept over Kalos. The Ledian, Tikki, only had a few instants to react. The humans, Marinette and Adrien, were too absorbed with each other to notice the oncoming wave. Behind them, every citizen, from the guitarist to the ice cream seller doubled over suddenly, as Kalos, and the other regions that made up Europa, got to experience what a Shadow Infusion felt like. Despite their good vibes and superhero-encouraged mental fortitude, the citizenry of Lumiose City still fell to Monarch's enhanced power.

    Immediately following the wave of Shadow, balls of Shadowy spores came streaking down from the Mediterra Mountains. Tikki knew what came next. She looked at Plagg. "We need to Burst! Now!"

    The Liepard's ears flattened. "But they're both-"

    Tikki shook her head. "No time! They're already transforming for Dark Moth! The destruction will start soon! Now!"

    Marinette looked over at her partner, as she understood the bug's words. She was half way through asking what was wrong when both Tikki and the Liepard next to her started glowing. Suddenly, Marinette felt the Burst Heart's power, and realized she was in her hero form. A bright red full body spandex suit with black spots covered her frame and a half-mask akin to both a biker's helmet and a Ledian's head, also red and black, somewhat hid her identity while protecting her skull. In this form, her pigtails became antennae, and Tikki's wings allowed her to fly, and use whatever moves she knew. As Ledi Girl registered what had happened, she turned slowly in horror to see Adrien's reaction, only to find Night Cat staring back at her in his usual similarly skin-tight black attire. His shock faded faster than hers, as fate affirmed that she was, in fact, the one for him. "That's twice I've fallen for you, Bugaboo."

    Those seven words made Ledi Girl's face, the human part of it anyway, turn crimson. "Not now, Kittycat. Something is…" She turned suddenly as she felt her Ledi Sense go off, looking behind her as the guitarist from earlier grew to a gigantic size. A moment later, his body changed, fusing with that of his Pokémon. The Toxtricity fusion, not unlike Ledi Girl and Night Cat in nature, let out a screech that turned into electricity as it tore through the park area. The two heroes had already leapt out of the cone of its effect though, only to run straight into what could only be described as a giant ice cream kaiju, somehow fused with his ice typed Chocolluxe.

    "Dark Moth figured out how to share his fusion abilities with those he controls…" Ledi Girl said, as the pair ascended up Lumiose Tower. All around them, giant fusions of supervillain-Pokémon hybrids were filling the skyline and tearing the city apart. Marinette understood then why Tikki had revealed her secret. If she'd taken the time to explain, Lumiose City, and everywhere else, would've been rubble by the time she used the Burst Heart, and repairing the damage would've been up to the government.

    Night Cat stared quietly out at the destruction. Buildings could be fixed by Xerneas's power. Lives could not. "We're outmatched here, Milady. I think it's time we called in some help."

    "Seems I got here just in time, then."

    The two whirled, ready to attack the new baritone voice, only to realize it was the Champion. Connor Gladstone was more of a recluse than Alain after being so publicly thrashed by the Unovan Champion, but he had appeared, more than once, to help the fledgling heroes when they were trapped in a river of Muk with no boat, to offer some timely assistance. Since their heroic Greninja left Kalos to rejoin his Trainer, he'd shown up more often, somehow always aware when things were turning too dire for them to handle themselves.

    "Champion! Thank Arceus…" Ledi Girl said, visibly de-tensing in relief. "We…don't even know where to start, with this…there's so many of them."

    "First, take a deep breath. Both of you." Connor said, crossing his arms. Once they did so, he continued. "You've faced hundreds of these creations before, and won every time. The only difference now is that they're all here at once. But we prepared for this scenario. You've been training your parties up like I told you to, right?"

    The pair nodded. Ledi Girl was less confident about her new partners than Night Cat was, but the Champion had a point when he'd demonstrated that relying just on Tikki and Plagg was not always going to be enough. A lesson he himself had learned the hard way. "Good." Connor said, nodding. "Then go and find Dark Moth. You can sense him better than I can. Leave cleaning up Kalos to me, and the Four. Dark Moth is your Battle, today."

    "He's right, milady." Night Cat said, glaring at the mountains where the Shadow Wave had originated. "The only way we stop all of them and reverse the damage is by taking him out, this time. Permanently."

    Ledi Girl's eyes widened. "Could you do that? Use Yveltal's power on a living person?"

    Night Cat's masked eyes narrowed. "He already made me, remember? He's been getting weaker since he took that darkness in. It's still corroding him, I can feel it. This transforming everyone at once seems desperate, to me. He's running out of time." He clenched a fist, and it hummed with dark energy. "I'll end him before he hurts anyone else. He's gone too far, this time."

    Night Cat, like most vigilantes, was a long time fan of New Tork's own famous masked hero, the Midnight Marauder. In his day, the Crobat-themed vigilante had taken down and imprisoned a whole cast of criminal characters that rivaled his own conquests in their lunacy. The worst of these had been Blacefelon, an explosion happy insane clown gangster who, somehow, had managed to capture and train the Ultra Beast known as Blacephalon, and upon doing so, had gone on a legendary and explosive crime spree across New Tork. The Ultra Beast had possessed more power than even New Tork City's finest. The Midnight Marauder had successfully incarcerated the villain almost a hundred times over the course of their respective careers, and the madman had managed to break out of the prison, asylum, or supervillain holding facility he'd been sent to just as many times.

    Then, as the story went, one day the Blacefelon went too far. In a deranged attempt to make the Marauder break emotionally, he bombed a gathering of rich people that Blacefelon had apparently noticed the Marauder seemed to either protect, or appear around most often. While Night Cat didn't know who the Masked Marauder lost, it was clear to all that the lunatic had finally killed someone important to him. In reality, it had been many someones. Thomas Gladstone's entire family, parents included, had been caught in the blast that had been set off at one of the Gladstone's charity events. The people of means in New Tork had, for once, been trying to do good with their excess wealth, and in doing so had lost their lives. Blacefelon's mangled corpse was found the day after the bombing, and the Midnight Marauder never appeared again. The Beast Ball containing the explosive Ultra Beast had also been missing from the corpse.

    Naturally, everyone knew, or rather guessed, at what had happened. Several movies had been made around those events, and the general consensus was that the Marauder broke his code of not taking life when Blacefelon finally killed someone who mattered to the vigilante personally. It left a distasteful stain on an otherwise stellar crime fighting career, and Night Cat, as the next generation, was determined to not make the same mistake. "He won't hurt anyone ever again." Night Cat reaffirmed, after a long pause. His actions wouldn't reduce the number of killers in the world, but they would keep the lives of the citizens of Kalos from being endangered by Dark Moth ever again. If he had to be the one to take in the darkness that came with taking a life to achieve a safe future, he would. With that, he bounded off.

    "Night Cat…" Ledi Girl started, but he was already off, bounding towards the mountains. Ledi Girl sighed.

    Connor patted her shoulder, then. "You'll make the right choice, Ledi Girl. You always do. I trust your judgement. Now go catch up to him, he'll need you for this."

    With that, her wings opened and she took after her partner, thwipping one of her sticky String Shot threads to a nearby building to build her speed. The String Shot seemed to come from her wrists, but only when she brought her two middle fingers down over her palm.

    "Alright lads…Mega Evolve." Connor said, turning to the chaos that was enveloping his region. His main ten Pokémon appeared from their balls then and those who could, achieved a state beyond evolution. Not many Trainers could manage multiple Mega Evolutions, but it was something he'd seen Alex do, thus, Connor had mastered it too, in time. "Take down the fusions one at a time, and quickly. I'll be right behind you to Purge them. Those of you who can, search the rubble for survivors. All right, go!" As one, they leapt, flew, or sprinted into action. Connor focused his body's energy then, building it up with emotion until it reached a limit, at which point he overwhelmed that limit, and achieved a new form. His fighting typing ascended to that of the Light, and the now golden haired Champion followed Ardor, Gren, and Gar, as they were his best battlers and likely to take out whoever they faced first.

    Ledi Girl caught up to Night Cat quickly, and together the pair glanced behind them, pausing on one of the roofs of Lumiose's outer buildings. In the distance, the ice cream kaiju went down, hard, making the entire city shake. Night Cat looked at his partner, who was still in the throes of emotional turmoil over realizing who Night Cat was. "If we don't hurry, not even Xerneas's power will be enough to repair this." Ledi Girl turned as he spoke. His hand moved to her cheek by instinct, and she turned a bright crimson again. "One way or another, this ends today. It won't matter that we know each other's identities if Dark Moth is out of the picture."

    "You're right…" Ledi Girl finally said. "L-let's go. Before he runs and hides again."

    "No need to worry about that, you worthless bug." Dark Moth said, as he descended from above them, seemingly just able to fly on his own power now. Something was different though. New. Dark Moth had never looked this dapper, or had Malamar tentacles covering and extending from his head. "Today you and your infuriating feline's story ends before the power of Monarch! In failure! Shadow Cacophony!"

    Monarch, as he was now apparently calling himself, flapped his shadowy wings then as they rose up from his back, and obscene screeches and noises filled the heads of the heroes. Ledi Girl was more affected, being part bug, but Night Cat had honed his mind with the Champion of Kalos for situations like this. "Black Oblivion…" He held out a clenched fist as he summoned Yveltal's power, and channeled that unspeakably dark aura into the shape of a sword. This time, it was a katana, and Night Cat smirked confidently.

    The Champion's Greninja, Gren, was a master of what he called 'Iai Moves', moves so fast that only very powerful Pokémon had a hope of dodging or blocking them, and perhaps because of its species or by choice, Gren's slashing moves also took a katana shape. Both Gren and the Greninja that until recently had guarded Kalos had trained him in their ninjutsu arts. Connor had also instructed him on the basics of what he called the 'Tiger Style' of martial arts.

    For her part, Ledi Girl powered through the cacophony with a Supersonic radiating from her antennae and protecting her head. Following Night Cat's lead as he crouched and 'sheathed' his death sword by his waist, as he would if his dark katana had a scabbard, Ledi Girl summoned the power of Xerneas. Or started to, at least. Summoning the region's natural power to enhance her attack, defense, and speed took a second. Oddly enough, Monarch seemed willing to wait, as he just stared at them with a manic grin from ear to ear.

    Not liking how confident he looked, Night Cat struck. Marinette and Tikki had the kind of bond that let them attack in perfect harmony. Adrien had a similar bond, but the difference lay in his Liepard, who had a condition for their unified attacks. He had to shout his move's names heroically, except in instances of stealth and sabotage. And of course, the power of said move depended entirely on what Adrien called his attacks. Naturally, the names Plagg liked most were straight out of an anime. Dark Clover was a favorite.

    "Night Cloaked…Iai Slash!" Night Cat struck with the speed he'd honed in his training only to blink, as he found four tentacles from Monarch's head had expanded and caught the katana. Somehow, they were generating a psychic energy barrier around the blade's sharp edge, holding it in place while avoiding decay.

    As Night Cat tried to brute force the move through, Monarch chuckled with a hint of mania as he quite easily stopped the fusion of man and 'mon. That was when Ledi Girl finally powered up.

    "Geomancy!" She raised her arms, and if past was prologue would then follow her immediate three-stat-six-stage power up with a Moonblast, which usually staggered Monarch's creations, if not outright breaking his hold on them. Today though, was his day. Finally.

    As Ledi Girl readied the Moonblast, Monarch suddenly yanked Night Cat forward, unbalancing him and then used his head tentacles to swing him in an entire circle before slamming him into his partner. Ledi Girl lost her breath as her kittycat was sent slamming into her stomach, and her move faded too. Then, still floating above them, Monarch cackled, not even hiding his madness and just how much he enjoyed destroying his nemeses. "It's all over now, Ledi Girl." He snapped his fingers. "Topsy Turvy!"

    As Malum's signature move took effect on the pair, Monarch devolved into an uninterrupted fit of cackling laughter. Night Cat showed the effects of his move first, stumbling, as his sword suddenly felt weaker, heavier, and his body felt slower. Then, roughly seventy five percent of his stamina was drained into the blade. Normally, that much of his stamina could raise his attack power quite a bit. Now, it just brought his attack strength back to even.

    He was doing better than Ledi Girl, who was now negative six stages in speed, attack power, and defense. Realizing her plight, she struggled to slowly reach for another Pokéball, and called out one of her other partners to help her. "Kaalki!" Her Zebstrika appeared at her command. "Tikki, Kaalki, Unify!" Though she technically became a blend of Ledian, Zebstrika, and a human, Ledi Girl's outfit was all that physically changed, as she traded black spots for black stripes, over her usual red. Electricity sparked over her limbs as Kaalki's speed counteracted the debuff she'd taken.

    Monarch narrowed his eyes and moved to stop her, but Night Cat had a similar idea, albeit one that…expanded the scope of Ledi Girl's lead. His entire team came out at once. Alongside Plagg, who manifested as a regular colored Liepard from the dark katana in his Trainer's hand, were his shiny colored Noivern, his Torterra, his Litten-turned-Incineroar, his Infernape, and his loyal Boltund. "Sass, Wayzz, Roarr, Xuppu, Barkk! Unify your attacks!"

    As he intoned each of their names and made certain signs with his hands, they started to glow with elemental aura, and manifested their respective strongest attacks. Plagg created a prism of dark energy, and his team focused their attacks on that. Monarch smirked as the now white colored fused moves, manifesting as a beam of white energy, arced towards him. But even Malum urged him to not let that hit their fused form. Thus, Monarch Teleported with a bamf, and chuckled. "I wish I'd unlocked these Psychic powers years ago! I would've beaten both of you countless times!"

    As Night Cat realized he needed Monarch to sit still, a pair of timely String Shots thwipped around Monarch's fine attire, binding him and his wings in place as he reappeared. The second thwip bound his head tentacles. As he Teleported, Ledi Girl did too, thanks to Kaalki's speed and Tikki's ability to sense his Shadow, she easily kept up with Monarch, and kept him bound. Like a Venomoth in a small room, he Teleported around relentlessly, apparently not realizing there was in fact a limit to his uses of that ability. Unlike some psychics, he hadn't successfully extended the move's power by ingesting a PP Max, either.

    As he panted hard and found he couldn't bamf anymore, Night Cat struck. "Once more! Unity Beam!" All six of his partners attacked again and this time, the focused combo move struck Monarch, who in the last moments closed his eyes and accepted his loss. Both of Dark Moth's Pokémon were unconscious as the dust from the hit faded and before he could so much as sit up, Ledi Girl had him in her sticky String Shot again.

    Night Cat stomped towards him, only to be stopped by his love. His anger faded as their eyes met. Now disarmed, the two superheroes approached their longtime adversary. "No more games…no more last minute escapes…right here, right now, your reign of terror ends, Dark Moth!"

    The still-dazed man sneered at him. "I…am…Monarch!" He slumped then, exhausted. Night Cat clenched a fist, ready to punch the man who'd made the last couple years of living in Lumiose City a stressful nightmare, never knowing when his power would show up to turn someone into a monster. His fist unclenched as Ledi Girl grabbed it and without further preamble, Night Cat de-masked the man. The pair stared in shock. Ledi Girl knew him as Gabriel Agreste, an eccentric billionaire that had filled the technological vacuum Lysander's departure created, and the father of the love of her life. Night Cat fell to his knees before his own father as he instinctively tried to deny the reality in front of him, but his vision wouldn't let him look away. His team gathered around him as the Jennies arrived on the scene.

    Arborstone Castle - Albion Region

    While Arthur had taken his father's throne and dealt with the man who seemed to be in charge of what was left of the castle, Cynthia, still aided by Jess, Rick, and Drake, descended to the lower levels. As she only had her Glaceon, her Porygon Z, and the black Rayquaza, who had returned to its strangely designed ancient Pokéball on hand, they were a welcome aid. Rick and Drake took the lead through the dungeon, as they encountered Shadow infused Pokémon. Gallahad knew how to Purge now thanks to Arthur's brief but instructive lesson and the three Champion tier Trainers were more than enough for the solitary wandering Shadow Pokémon they came across.

    The first Pokémon they came across from her belt, was Cynthia's Togekiss. Jess, Rick, and Drake just stared in horror at what the Shadow Infusion had wrought. If there was one creature that should never be infused with such darkness, it was a Togekiss. The constant state of blind rage had him writhing in a dark corner in constant pain thanks to the nature of his species. The women rushed over to him, but Gallahad was faster. "Your suffering ends now." He said, solemnly. "Purge!" He crossed his arms, extended them into swords, and hit the Togekiss with the move point blank. The Shadow burned away, and Jess had a Max Revive ready the moment the angelic fairy turned white again.

    As he regained consciousness, he looked at his Trainer, and struggled towards her lap. Cynthia ran a hand through his feathers. "It's alright. You're safe, now. We'll find the others, too. Rest." She pulled out a Luxury Ball then, and the Togekiss booped it with his snoot, entering it willingly. The ball dinged shut immediately, and said, "Occupant's hearth has been updated." A newer, useful feature of modern balls let Trainers switch their Pokémon to a new one at will, which had, in conjunction with Bill's teleportation system able to recall Pokémon by their Trainer's ID number to their Trainer's Boxes, significantly reduced the amount of stolen Pokémon in the world, and saved them from having to search for Cynthia's old balls.

    One by one, they recovered her Milotic, Roserade, and Spiritomb. Of her Lucario, there was no sign, and finally, upon reaching the bottom of the castle and finding it opening up into a large, natural underground cavern, they found her Garchomp, and what she was guarding down here in the dark.

    "Garchomp…" Cynthia murmured, as she saw the state of her friend. Malnutrition and weeks of constantly pushing her species' natural aggressive qualities to their limit had reduced her to a mad, chomping menace, her eyes were bloodshot and enraged and she was foaming at the mouth, bound by a massive chain around her chafed neck. As she sensed prey approaching her, she did not pause. The rattle of metal was the only warning before the incredibly fast Garchomp attacked. Even weighed down by the chains, while infused with Shadow, she was faster than ever, in a limited area. Exactly how Morgana had wanted her.

    "Goliath!" Rick shouted, summoning his own Garchomp who was massive in size not solely because of his power, but because he was just naturally tall. The two land sharks locked limbs and heads as they struggled against each other. Strong as Goliath was, Cynthia's Garchomp had battle experience comparable to Leon's Charizard. Goliath was content to hold the lock, to give Gallahad time for Purge, but the Shadow Garchomp was physically unable to stop fighting. She guided their claws to one side, crashing them into the ground and then hit Goliath in his stomach with her hard skull.

    He lost his breath, and then his draconic eyes widened as he felt the force of the hit knock him into the air despite his size, and send him hurtling into the nearest cavern wall, cratering it as he collided with the stone. With Goliath out of range, the Shadow Garchomp turned on the rest of them, just in time to take a Purge to the face from Gallahad.

    Thinking it was over, the Gallade lowered his guard, only to Teleport out of the way of the Shadow Chomp she viciously tore apart the empty air with in the space he'd just occupied. "Purge didn't work…not good!" He shouted, as he barely outmaneuvered the draconic jet with Teleport. Panicked, Rick recalled the Gallade just in time to dodge a shadowy Dragon Claw. Unfortunately, the enraged land shark's predatory eyes followed the beam taking her prey to its source, where she found yet more prey.

    "I can hold her!" A new voice came from behind Cynthia's Garchomp. A Psychic move enveloped her, and the female voice sounded again. "Run!"

    Seemingly catching a glance of their rescuer, Jess ran towards her, as the others ran away. She Teleported over beside their timely rescuer. The Gardevoir, young, female, and naturally pretty stared at the human in shock. "You need to leave, or you'll be trapped with me!"

    Jess smirked. "No, my dear, we're both leaving. Maintain the Psychic, and come with me. Delphi! Help her." Her Delphox appeared too, and as the three of them ran, the Shadow Garchomp tried to break free of the Psychic, only to be bound by another layer of psychic power as Delphi used the same move.

    As they continued to run after the other group towards the cavern's exit to the castle, the Gardevoir projected her voice again. "So what do we do once we're out of range of Psychic's effectiveness?"

    Delphi and Jess shared a look and spoke the same word. "Range?"

    At that moment, a furious roar echoed through the underground behind them, and once more they heard the ominous sound of a Garchomp in flight. Normally they were all but silent, but when rushing, their rough skin caused a slight whistle to their movements in the air. The Gardevoir threw up a Barrier as the Shadow Garchomp streaked towards them, and at that moment, with her iconic jaws inches from them, a massive wave of Light energy suddenly burned through the area. Only Gwen, the Gardevoir, saw it purify the Shadow corruption of their attacker before everything turned white.

    The amount of power Arthur acquired was kept hidden and used sparingly for good reason. But in Albion, it seemed that the Light understood it was desperately needed, and the young Gallade was able to draw forth a massive explosion of revitalizing energy. As it pulsed over the city, not everything immediately changed to become green and shiny again. The buildings were still decayed, or destroyed in the fighting, the cobbles were still cracked, but the people gathered by the castle, the first to be caught in the wave, got the most of its effects.

    The sick were healed, the blind were given sight and the cripples among the populace, what few managed to survive in such conditions, found their bodies restored. Moreover, the minds of the populace though 'simple' by some standards were understandably dumbfounded as they were also set free of Morgana's lingering magic, and rightly called these events a miracle.

    All of Albion, and even Aurora, up to Galar's border at least, also benefited from the pulse of Light, as it cleansed any and all lingering Shadows. The Shadow Marsh became just a normal, if ghost-inhabited swamp. The region's Lycanrocs, while still prone to biting humans, became a little less feral as their minds were freed as well. Even on Knothole Island, where Geralt had been busy dealing with a swarm of enraged Lycanroc trying to overrun the decent people living there, they felt the Light's blessing, and what remained of that pack of stone wolves had, in the wake of the fading Light, retreated into the woods. The Ranger didn't have to wonder at the source of the Light, he knew his cousin was involved somehow, probably. He sheathed Srebro and Stahl, his Doublade, and began the long trek back to the mainland.

    As the Light faded, Cynthia ran over to her partner and gave her what looked like a blue Max Revive. The Garchomp's eyes shot open as soon as she swallowed it, and she let out a tired groan, resting in Cynthia's lap as the exhaustion brought her back into unconsciousness. Jess led the others out when it was clear that the Sinnoh Champion needed a minute with her first partner. As the humans discussed what to do next, Gwen floated off into the castle, almost on instinct. She didn't know where she was going, but she kept heading upwards, and eventually, found the main level of the building.

    She was disappointed, as she'd imagined the upper parts of the castle to be beautiful, but in reality, her own little space was far more pleasing than this rotting mass of stone and wood. Her head shot up then, as she heard something flying around her, and muted psychic voices.

    "It's definitely her."

    "It could be any Gardevoir, and we don't know what Morgana did to her. Be patient."

    "No. They need a little nudge…"

    Gwen tilted her head, and in the dim light of the castle caught the faint outline of an invisible Pokémon. Then she dropped that invisibility. Gwen just stared, mouth agape. In her little sanctuary, one of the pictures had this very Pokémon seemingly empowering the Heroes of old Albion. "The lake fairy…" She said quietly.

    Nimue giggled. "You're not far off. I am a Mesprit. Nimue. I lived here, once. Tell me Gwen, what drew you here? Instinct, perhaps?"

    "How do you know my…" She paused, as she processed the Mesprit's words. "Instinct? I…you know, I think it did…it's odd, like something…called me here. That light from earlier, it felt…" The giant blue eyes stared up at Nimue. "Was that you?"

    She giggled again, and did a flip in the air. To say she'd waited a long time for this moment was an understatement. "Oh no, not me." When Gwen looked even more confused, the Mesprit guided her sight, pointing with one of her tails to the top of the stairs that led to the throne room.

    It was at that moment that Arthur, still fully armored, covered in the grime of war, and now visibly smoking, stumbled out of the throne room and leaned on the railing by the staircase as he caught his breath. He recalled the Mind Armor back into his heart piece, and coughed as he recovered from the massive outpouring of power. The second invisible shape moved towards him, and Gwen watched it, only just making out where it was. Merlin appeared then, beside Arthur. "What happened? That was no normal pulse of Light."

    Arthur coughed again, then stood up straight, as he answered his mentor. He didn't notice Gwen or Nimue, or the widening of the Gardevoir's eyes as she recognized the dreamily handsome Gallade with the curled hair spikes from her Future Sight. Seeing the male that, until this point she'd been wholly convinced was just a made-up fantasy created by her loneliness and pent up lust, was a lot to process. She felt her face turning hot for reasons she would never verbalize, and she looked down, burying her thoughts and memories of previous actions deep. She could tell Nimue was psychic, and powerful, and couldn't chance an entity like her reading her mind right now.

    "...and then the giant of Light crossed his arms like this, and hit me with a Move that…that's called Spacium Beam. That's when the Light pulse went off." Arthur frowned, looking down as he tried to remember how he knew what the move's name was. The giant hadn't mentioned it, and yet he was sure that was its name.

    At that moment, two things happened at once. Arthur, looking down as he pondered, noticed a Gardevoir at the foot of the stairs, with Nimue. Behind him, Lancelus came down from what he had learned was Morgana's bedroom. After a brief encounter with what looked like a ghostly Chatot, the bird had flown off through an open window, leaving Lancelus alone in the chamber to ransack it, and learn far more about Morgana's personal tastes than he ever wanted to know. He too noticed the Gardevoir, much faster than Arthur did, but the fact that his friend was literally smoking took his immediate attention. Though as he spoke to Arthur, the Gallade seemed unable to hear him.

    It was then that Lancelus noticed the pair had locked eyes, and he was left standing there, awkwardly, as Arthur stepped down the staircase. Lancelus made to follow, but a tail from the Uxie called Merlin stopped him. Merlin shook his head silently, and the pair simply watched what was unfolding below. For her part, Nimue was excitedly vibing in the air again behind the pair grinning widely as she did her psychic somersaults.

    As Arthur stopped before her, still in his Mega Form, he summoned all of his knowledge gathered in his brief existence relating to and concerning the wooing of the opposite sex. While Alex's experience constituted a large part of this knowledge, Leo had also weighed in surprisingly hard by pointing out how tropes in anime sometimes mirrored real life, and Arthur had studied the sources he cited. It was this culmination of 'knowledge' that made him stand up straight and tower over her slightly, look at her eyes as he spoke to her, smirk, and say, "Hello there."

    Lancelus blinked, as he noticed Merlin was no longer beside him. Gwen seemed to choke on her own words, and turned a deeper shade of red as her brain refused to project, and her Pokéspeech caught in her throat. Behind them, in one of the far corners of the lower room, Lancelus spied the two mythical psychic types. Nimue was trying, hard, not to break down into laughter, and Merlin was begrudgingly handing her a rather large, juicy berry.

    As Gwen struggled to communicate anything, Arthur continued, not letting the pause grow awkward. "Pardon me, but…" He raised a hand towards her face then, and lightly booped her forehead with his pointy 'fingers'. "Huh. Real. That's a first…" He stood back then out of her personal space, just leaving her staring with a mix of embarrassment and confusion as he kept talking. "I'm Arthur. What's your name?"

    Gwen blinked, but found she could speak again after the boop. She coughed once, and then projected her words without issue as she regained her composure. "Gwenivere. But I go by Gwen, usually."

    "I've seen your face before." Arthur stated with sudden, subtle intensity. "When I use Future Sight. Every single time. It's your face that dominates my vision…and then whatever I'm trying to see appears afterwards."

    Gwen's eyes just widened and her face shifted back to red. She didn't lose her cool again, though. "I h-had a similar…umm…experience. Your, uh, face. And then a vision. I didn't think you were real…"

    "Same." Arthur said, nodding. "I thought it was what I imagined the perfect female to look like. At first. The more I saw it though, the more I realized there were subtle imperfections an imagined vision just wouldn't have. I left it to the future, to guide me to you. I was hoping you might end up being real. So just who are you, Gwen?"

    Gwen almost mentioned his 'imperfections' comment, but then realized she'd been too enamored to even try to notice his own. Even in reality, it was hard to see anything imperfect about the Mega Gallade before her, but the young Gardevoir was blinded at that moment in ways she did not yet understand. It was about this time that cheering could be heard from outside the castle. Genuine, lively cheers, too, not the weak groan of a beleaguered populace.

    As the clamor of celebration rose right outside the castle, Arthur guided Gwen out to the garden, which had become a barren, flat expanse of dirt, expired mulch, cracked stone, and a few old, long dead trees that still stood upright, despite not being alive. She told him what she could do in terms of Future Sight and what she liked doing, he did the same, explaining how his Sacred Sword worked and describing the various battles he'd had with his more memorable opponents. The two mythical Pokémon seemed satisfied with the outcome as the pair strolled through the dead garden, but were too focused on each other to even notice their bleak surroundings. Satisfied that they seemed to like each other, Nimue and Merlin joined the human's merrymaking outside.

    Nobody noticed that Lancelus had been having a moment of his own, upon seeing Gwen. But it was already clear who she preferred. The future itself had seemingly all but guaranteed their union, and that, more than anything else, made Lancelus kill those new feelings in his heart. Arthur was also his friend, and a friend was all he vowed to ever let Gwen be to him. He knew, or at least hoped, he'd find another Gardevoir in time.

    Ymir's Wahlom - Norstad Region

    As Arthur reclaimed his kingdom and Kalos's latest generation of defenders did their duty exceptionally well, Alex had flown on Shruikan to the relatively close region of Norstad. They took the sea route the ancient Norstad invaders of Galar had once used, although they flew instead of surfing. This time when they approached the region's mountainous edges, there was no wind wall, no storm, and barely even a few clouds. It was, Alex noted, as they gave Valaskjalf a wide berth, an absurdly nice day in Norstad. They had been having a lot of those lately, and Alex guessed that a certain young Xerneas and its new parent had something to do with the vibrant landscape.

    They flew over the area the locals had evidently, and appropriately started calling 'Alduin's Fall', the massive crater where Alex had trapped the ancient dragon, so Arthur could deliver his death blow. As he was reminded of the ancient dragon, his eyes narrowed. A foul pattern filled his vision, and for reasons he couldn't verbalize, he had a sudden urge to go visit the wyrm's grave. Shruikan agreed to take him to that place considered sacred by dragon types. As Alex technically shared their power, he assumed it would be fine, and his Trainer had great instincts thanks to his psychic powers. Shruikan had learned to trust them.

    Within minutes thanks to Shruikan's speed, they arrived at the Dovah Graad, and thanks to Alduin's size, both Alex and Shruikan saw immediately that the wyrm's bones were missing. There was no sign of them being dragged off by the locals, or feathers from Articuno. Indeed, it was like the ashy skeleton had just completely vanished.

    "Where do you think his bones are?" Shruikan rumbled, just as concerned as Alex was over this discovery.

    "I think that his bones disappearing and Morgana achieving her goals are not disconnected events…we need to find this Ymir, and learn this Light Move capable of stopping the Successor. If it can stop him, it can stop whatever Alduin has become. Probably."

    Seeing his logic as sound, the pair set off again then, for the eastern side of Norstad, an area they had not yet been to, but Shruikan had a vague understanding of geographically. With the storms gone, he was able to fly high enough to see the general area they'd been pointed to. Ütgarde rose from the middle of the eastern side of Norstad, impossible to miss thanks to its size and the fact that it was the only mountain for miles around. It seemed inhabited, though Alex sensed no sentients, or Pokémon, which was odd. A mountain that size usually had at least one. He filed its suspiciousness under things to investigate later, as Shruikan matched Ütgarde's peak in height, and then headed north.

    As they arrived at Ymir's Well, as it was known in Common, they found it similarly abandoned. Given how the locals typically reacted to a black Salamence, Alex recalled Shruikan, before looking around. While there were signs of habitation, they were ancient, and given how high up this place was, the snow had not melted away, although it had been replaced with natural snow and not the Everstorm's Shadow-tainted snowflakes.

    As Alex called out, heard no response, and then r eadied his mind for a brief sweep of the area, he heard footsteps. Clad in heavy, slightly rusted iron armor on his head, hands, and feet, a local of Norstad wearing standard leather armor on his torso with an iron pauldron on his right shoulder and bearing a banded iron shield on his left arm approached him. His helmet was not unlike Alex's own in design, but the main difference lay in the quality of its crafting. Rust and general wear covered the warrior's simple but reinforced attire as he stopped a suitable distance from Alex and spoke in the tongue of dragons. "You won't find anyone here, stranger. Ymir is long gone."

    Alex raised an eyebrow at the man, unable to make out more of his features thanks to the helmet, he could see pale white skin and a respectable brown beard poking out from it. "Do you know what happened to Ymir, Warrior?"

    The man shrugged his burly shoulders, and indeed the more Alex looked, the more he realized they were roughly the same height. His muscles seemed much more defined, though. "The legends say Ymir contacted the Source of All Living Matter. The Well used to give wisdom and insight, for a price. Now, it's just water." As he answered Alex, he asked a question of his own. "You, who rides a Black Salamence…you are a Pokémon Trainer, are you not? From the other Regions?"

    Alex stepped closer, nodding. "I'm from Unova, to the west. I've actually visited Norstad before, though I never came this far east."

    The man smiled to himself under his helmet. "Dovah do Wer…finally. I have long sought you, Slayer of Alduin. He lifted his shield then, revealing a belt of ten freshly made Pokéballs around his waist. "I challenge you! Face us in glorious Battle!"

    Only because he was pressed on time, Alex psychically examined the man's team, and nodded to himself. "I don't have time for a full Battle…but I can give you a one on one. Kalagon." He psychically chucked the Gible's ball, and the baby land shark yawned, then chomped the empty air excitedly.

    The iron clad man eyed the Gible, and seemed disappointed. "Could…could you use the Salamence instead?"

    Alex chuckled. "Face me with your own first form Dragon Type. If you impress us…then some day, on my word as Dragonslayer, you and I will have a proper Battle. Ten on Ten, no Move restrictions, and the use of as many power ups, enhancements, or special Moves as you like. Basically…in accordance with the rules of the World Tournament."

    While disappointed, the man had already seen Shruikan, and understood that, at their current level, even his ace wouldn't last more than a second against a dragon like that. It made some sense as, if the stories were accurate, that very Salamence had engaged the World Eater in aerial combat, and lived. "Very well, I will hold you to that. For this, we can go one on one. No substitutions, and no Move limits. In accordance with your…World Tournament." He could sense his own Garchomp's desire to stomp the Gible, since it was also male, but his Trainer chose his own bitey dragon baby instead. He thumbed the button, realized it was still miniaturized, squeezed it to embiggen it, and then his Tyrunt finally appeared, nostrils flaring as he looked around, took in his surroundings, and then locked eyes with Kalagon.

    Kalagon's thoughts of food vanished as something instinctual went off in his baby shark brain upon meeting the other male dragon's gaze. His tiny arms spread out to the side, and he crouched slightly. Behind him, Alex smirked. He could sense Shruikan smirking as well. "Reminds me of a certain Bagon, and my Charmeleon."

    Shruikan's ball shuddered, as he snorted in response. When Alex didn't go first, the as yet nameless Trainer took the initiative. "Dragon Claw."

    As the Tyrunt lowered his head and charged Kalagon, Alex countered. "Sand Tomb!" Kalagon's tiny arms rose, and a whirlwind of sand rose around the Tyrunt, stopping the much higher level Pokémon in his tracks, as the super effective move battered him. "Now follow it with Bulldoze!" While he couldn't quake the earth just yet, Kalagon had learned enough to shape smaller amounts of it in battle. Twin lines of jutting rocks spiraled towards the trapped Tyrunt.

    "Jump out of it." Nodding, the Tyrunt did so, smashing through the sand tornado's wall with ease, and dissipating it. The Bulldoze attack lost steam, as it missed its mark. "Now Dragon Claw."

    "Dodge with Dig!" Alex called, and Kalagon responded immediately, as digging was something he enjoyed, especially in combat. He chomped his way through the earth in a pattern that made the experienced Tyrunt's head swivel, as his apex predator's hearing and rock typing helped him follow the noises Kalagon was making beneath the earth. When the baby ground shark leapt for his attack, the Tyrunt was waiting, and his powerful leg slashed Kalagon critically across his chest.

    Alex caught him, as he went sailing back, and sighed. Sometimes, critical hits decided the match, especially at low levels. "You did well, little one. Eat. Sleep. Get stronger. We'll do better next time." Kalagon nodded, and let unconsciousness take him. Alex recalled him, and poked the top of his ball, activating the touch screen Armeniaca was apparently testing, until it delivered a healing spray to the sleeping Gible from his stash. He nodded, satisfied. That was faster than fishing through his bag for a potion. It also showed him Kalagon's wound, and how it had healed, along with other indicators about his health.

    Across from him, the Tyrunt was getting victory scritches under his chin, and his tail spasmed as his Trainer hit the right spot. "So." Alex said, approaching the pair and stopping a suitable distance away. "I didn't expect to find anyone here…well, except Ymir."

    The man chuckled. "I thought you were joking. Do you really not know the legend?" Alex shrugged, and the bearded man continued. His Tyrunt began sniffing around, as the humans chatted. "Ymir was a figure from thousands of years ago, who made a deal with the Source of All Living Matter, and became one with this Well, and its knowledge. The price was his life. After that, the Jhötunns appeared from the water's depths, and moved to inhabit Ütgarde. They were renowned as unmatched armor and weapon smiths for centuries thanks to the power of their Thu'um." The man's tone shifted, then. "They are all gone, now. The Everstorm seems to have buried everything from the old stories." He gestured to the snow covered stone ruins around them. "This is all that remains."

    Alex looked around, and frowned. "Then where is this Well? I don't even see a depression here that could've once been one."

    The man smirked under his helmet. "That is what I have come to find. The legends also spoke of three guardian sages just above the well, that should still be intact. It seems our goals are aligned, foreigner. Let us search together."

    Alex nodded, and held out his hand. "You can call me Alex."

    The man grasped his arm, and shook it, smiling as he said, "Get searching, Alex." He pushed past him then, moving his larger frame aside with no trouble as he looked around the courtyard for a switch or a lever. It was usually a lever, but sometimes the ancient Nords liked hiding less obvious circular switches.

    Alex watched the man for a moment, then got to work. He noticed the Tyrantrum digging at a wall that made up part of the central stone pillar around which the ancient roof had been built. Despite its advanced age, most of the roof was still intact. "Find something?" The smaller dino dragon nodded, and Alex glanced at the wall, then shoved the hidden door that was part of it into the earth with his bending. The bar of wood that had been sealing it shut was all that was left on the ground, and a tunnel led deeper inside.

    "Not bad." The man said, patting a dragonbone pauldron from which his cape was hanging as he passed by Alex, crouched, and with a bow and arrow that Alex hadn't seen earlier knocked and ready, began scooting through the tunnel in his crouching position. "Stay behind me, Norstad ruins can be…a lot."

    Eventually, they came to a series of five pointed stone pillars carved from the rock of the cavern they'd entered. Three passable recreations of human faces adorned three of said pillars, while the others were blank, and seemingly decorative. The topmost face had a Y symbol on its forehead, in the same style of rune as the glyph he'd recovered. To Alex's left of the main head was a head with a M, and to Alex's right, the head had a rune that resembled a C.

    In between all three heads was a square block with the dragon tongue's equivalent of an A, and at the bottom of said block was a faded golden emblem, the same emblem on his Guild Seal. As the pair approached, the runes on each head and on the A between them pulsed with golden Light. They became animated with a facsimile of life soon after, as Head Y spoke. "The Prophecy is fulfilled. The Light Wielder has come."

    Head M spoke next. Their eyes now burned gold, and were far from lifeless stone, but they did not have pupils and didn't seem to focus anywhere in particular. "You follow the footsteps of Galar's first High King."

    Head C spoke after his contemporary. "The Successor has awakened. You were right to come here. He has used the bones of the World Eater to spark conflict between your nation and your rivals, while he searches for his lost Pokémon."

    Head Y spoke again, and it seemed they spoke in a set order, but shared the same thoughts. "You must use the Move we teach you, in the name of Life and Justice. With it, you will bring low the Shadow, and end this threat."

    Alex bowed to them, and spoke in the dragon tongue, as they'd been speaking Common. "You have my word, I will use this Move for good. Or try to, anyway."

    As one, the three heads seemed to sigh as they said, "Good enough…" The area went white then, and not unlike how Percy had done when he'd implanted the entirety of the dragon's language into his memory, Alex felt three consciousnesses brush his mind, and share their knowledge in a waterfall of information in the form of lived experience. Most of it was a blur. Multiple Legendary Pokémon doing battle with eleven figures cloaked in Shadow. The vision of whoever had witnessed this legendary moment focused on the main figure, the leader of the other eleven. His skin was healthy and alive, his hair was greasy, long, pure black and unwashed, but he had the same black flowing robes in the past that he'd created again in the present.

    He launched an orb of condensed Shadow at the main hero of this scene, Alex guessed, as he was literally burning with Light like Connor did when he got serious. A massive shield shaped wolf Pokémon leapt in front of the attack, smashing through it with a combination of fighting and Light energy. Alex recognized it as Zamazenta. Zacian appeared next, out of nowhere, and moving faster than regular human eyes could follow. The sword wolf cut into the Successor. Then, the vision slowed, things became far clearer, and Alex took in the figure who was, apparently, the first of Galar's High Kings, the one who, if he recalled his Galarian history, united their islands again for the first time since humanity's fall.

    He was classically handsome, with an impressive jaw, a full, black/brown beard, and a head of naturally wavy, soft similarly colored hair that hung to his shoulders. He had no crown, but his armor was full heavy plate, and colored gold and yellow. Only his head was unarmored, and it seemed his helmet had come off earlier in the fighting.

    "It's over, Cassius!" The man shouted in a commanding baritone. Alex felt the power in his voice from the perspective of this onlooker. It shook not just the air, but his very mind, and he wondered if that was what his own voice did, when he got irritated enough. "I have the Alpha behind me. Give up."

    The Successor, Cassius, apparently, spat in the air. "You underestimate my power…"

    The physically large man who would become king raised his right arm vertically, and crossed it with his horizontally placed left arm. "Don't try it…"

    Cassius began charging his power as he simultaneously yelled. Shadow swirled around his feet, and then flared up into a cowl of energy not at all unlike the one the future Galarian King had around him. He held up the staff that would one day become Morgana's. Beams of humming, concentrated dark matter extended from either side, but were focused in such a way that if they contacted regular matter, the results would cut the regular matter with the explosive force of matter and antimatter mixing together. It made his strikes seem wild, barely controlled when they hit something due to the sheer explosive force that occurred when matter and anti matter colided. The fact that it did not simply tear his arms off with that kind of force was a testament to his strength.

    For his part, the Hero of Albion was also charging, albeit quieter, focusing his mind as his forearms built with Light energy. Alex used his own eyes then, and found his psychic sight still worked. He watched the hero's bodily energy network, and nodded to himself as he saw what the man was doing, and how.

    Then, suddenly, the Successor launched forward, and the king rocked in place as a beam of burning, focused Light energy moved around the Successor's body in a quick circle. His head, arms, and legs separated instantly from his torso, though tendrils of Shadow kept them from falling away, it was clear being completely dismembered had at least slowed him.

    The Hero of Albion raised a hand then, and behind the Successor, the landscape exploded in a devastating circle as well, slightly delayed thanks to how far in the air they were. Alex made a note that the beam also eradicated what was behind the target. With his power, the Hero King held the Successor in place, and the tendrils of Shadow still binding him faded in his Light.

    "You were the one who was Chosen, Cassius…you were supposed to bring the Alpha's Light to this world…not drown it in Shadow."

    The head sneered at him as the other limbs fell limp. "I am…what all of you…made me! Does that…infuriate you, Uncle!?"

    The bearded Hero sighed. "No, son of my sister…it just makes me disappointed." He shook his head as the Successor's eyes went blank, and that expression of disappointment was the last thing his living mind saw. Then, just as suddenly as it started, Alex was back at the well, beside the man who had yet to give his name.

    "Are you well, Alex?" The man asked. "Your eyes went as if dead for a moment there."

    Alex nodded. "Yea…I just…Yea. I'm…I have what I came for."

    Head M spoke as his sentence finished. "Then go. Face your destiny in the Mediterra Mountains. What the Betrayer seeks is below them."

    Head C spoke next. "If he finds his whole team, he will be as hard to stop as he was in the past. May fortune smile on you, Light Wielder."

    "I still have questions, and you need to be gone before I ask them." The armored local stated plainly.

    "Then fare well until we next meet…stranger." The man's eyes widened as he finally realized he hadn't given his name, but Alex was already outside the chamber and on Shruikan, then the pair shot into the sky. They'd taken enough time. As they headed for the boundary of Kalos and Germania, Shruikan mega evolved. His form was still similar to other Mega Salamence, but his sharp wings now had hardened scales on their edges that formed dangerous looking spikes, and his facial spikes were more pronounced. His skull had ridges on it now not at all unlike a Bagon's and he also seemed quite a bit faster.

    One by one, Alex mega evolved his team in their balls before letting them float behind him in the air, as he was fully expecting to fly into a war zone. Atop a Mega Salamence, the trip took mere minutes, and what he found was a fully manned border, and an entire legion of Astartes below in Germania, standing at attention in their purple power armor. Even from this height, he saw how their leader stood out. Among the ant sized figures of his men, he was a much larger speck, meaning up close he would be a giant.

    As Shruikan arced up over the cloudless battlefield, Alex gestured, and sent his balls across the Scale's lines. They'd know what to do. If the Astartes hadn't noticed Shruikan before, they did now, and as Terra, Hydrus, and his other partners who could manipulate the ground and rock landed, bunkers of stone rose around the readied Scales, and a cheer went up from them, as they took a defensive stance in the sturdy bunkers.

    Alex let Shruikan hover ominously over the lines, in their center. Then, a Latios shot up into the air to meet them. "Alex! I'm glad you were able to get here. We'll need you, and Arthur. The thing that attacked us was almost pure Shadow."

    "That was Alduin. I'm sorry you lost one of your apprentices. Oh, and...Arthur isn't here." He said, flatly, staring down the far-off titan leading, arguably, the most elite fighting force on the planet. "They have made no aggressive moves?"

    "Not…yet…" He frowned, and then tensed as he saw the Astartes shifting ranks. Like a perfect machine, their ranks parted to allow the two Predator class tanks to move up in firing range. They aimed their barrels at the newly raised stone defenses, but no shots rang out.

    "Relax." Alex said, watching their leader closely. "They're just responding to our own reinforcement. Get everyone ready. Quietly raise your Pokémon's Stat Stages as many times as you can. Oh, and remember, their bullets explode. Make sure everyone is aware of that."

    Alex held up a hand then, as a blue-limned folded white cloth zipped into his hand from within their bunker. Lux became a pole, and once it was attached, Shruikan began flying through the air, as they signaled for a parley, as the Imperium called it. Eventually, after several minutes, Shruikan flapped in place, and Alex just let the flag hang. Five minutes later, two similarly blank white flags rose from the tops of the Predator tanks.

    Alex rolled his up, Lux returned to being a sword, and Shruikan brought him down into Germania. As they descended, their vision went black, and a large pair of golden eyes appeared before them, as Tao shared some timely wisdom. "You recall the weapon you defeated Pravus with. A Burst Heart. I once hid twenty such artifacts deep in Koria's northern mountains. In their time occupying that region, the Imperium of Man found that cache, and the Imperator has given one to each of his sons. All but Horus, who was too psychically powerful to use one without breaking it. Stay on your guard around them."

    Alex thanked Tao as his eyes vanished and reality returned to normal, found a ledge Shruikan could perch on above the massive mountain's slope, and then leapt off his back, floating down to the ground as the Mega Salamence landed. Shruikan snarled at the weapons trained on him, and his toothy maw sparked with electricity. Both tanks had him in their sights, while the majority of the Astartes' weapons were trained on Alex.

    The ground shuddered, as the Prime Archon of these giant purple super soldiers descended from his orating platform, to tower over the leader of the primitive masses to the west face to face. Alex had known they were large, but seeing a 'human' literally twice as tall as him was still unsettling. Especially when he and his 'sons' were so heavily armed. "So this is the newest Dragon Emperor. You're far more powerful than the last one, but he was just a King as I recall."

    "The Empire fractured pretty significantly near its end." Alex said. "Mistakes were made, but they will not be made twice. You are Fulgrim, yes? One of the Imperator's own sons?"

    "I am." The man puffed out his chest then, and spread his arms slightly so Alex could see every aspect of his masterfully forged armor. "Am I the first of my brothers to meet you, Dragon Emperor?"

    "You are." Alex said, and Fulgrim's brows pushed together slightly. He wasn't lying, which meant he had not yet met Horus, despite Horus's apparent capture by primitives hiding on Luna. Apparently, they were not all as unified under the Dragon as their spies had reported. "So, neighbor," Alex said, as the silent pause grew awkward, "Is there a particular reason you have an armored Legion of Thunder Warriors pointed at my border?"

    "Why yes, there is." Fulgrim said, leaning down as he tried to loom over Alex. "We were informed of an imminent attack, led by you personally, in an attempt to free Germania. Like you freed Koria. You will find the people of this fine Region far more loyal than the elemental savages in Eous."

    Alex raised one eyebrow, while the other one furrowed. "I have no idea what you're talking about with regard to Koria. I just happened to be in the Region when the locals rose up against the tyranny the Fire Nation subjected them to. I have no intention of attacking Germania. By all accounts, its people are loyal, and far better treated than the people of Koria were. It's almost like when you beat, lobotomize, and oppress people, they fight back."

    Fulgrim waved a hand, looking every bit the pompous aristocrat he was, but Alex kept his calm. "A likely story. Exactly what one would expect to hear from someone wishing to downplay their involvement." Fulgrim countered.

    "You can check for yourself, Phoenician. I'm sure your spies had cameras all over Koria. I can even give you the date I arrived there. I have nothing to hide. I've been preparing for Festivus, as have my Scales. There are many that are none too happy about being called here in a time of celebration for our recent and hard-won peace. Why would I start another war now? What could I possibly gain?" While Fulgrim could tell the mortal's voice was filled with power, it did not sway him as it did the weak minded. Despite that lack of influence, he could tell that this Dragon Emperor spoke truly, and his communicator buzzed in his ear, as his servitors confirmed that video records of his recent actions as a world leader aligned with his words. None of their cameras in Koria had caught him helping the rebels, and his actions upon returning home aligned with his alibi.

    "You…are not lying." Fulgrim finally said. "It seems I have been misinformed…" His perfectly proportioned face shifted into a frown. He would not abide being someone else's pawn.

    At that moment, several things happened nearly simultaneously. Alduin, who had dropped Proditor and Morgana at their destination, finally arrived back on the border, to find it covered with more of his bones made into armor. He sensed his horns in particular, coming not from the Scale's lines, but the ongoing parley in Imperium territory. He let out a screeching roar that echoed through the massive mountains, one Shruikan visibly responded to with a sudden turn of his head and tensing of his muscles. The World Eater very much recognized the pair that had led him to his death.

    A Dragon Pulse shot out from Shruikan into the sky, and met a Shadow Pulse from Alduin as his almost incorporeal ashy form flew over the Astartes and through the explosive collision of moves. Fulgrim glared at Alex. "Is this trickery yours?"

    "No. That's the World Eater. Alduin, or rather, what's left of him. He's been reanimated by a Shadow user. He will be after me, and my Salamence."

    Fulgrim nodded. Once more, the Dragon Emperor spoke truth to him, and after Proditor's actions, trying to use the underlying tension between nations to his benefit, he had no qualms about taking out the betrayer's pet. "Recall your partner, and we shall immolate this foul shade!"

    Alex held up a finger, and spoke to Hikoki through his telepathy. "You're going to see a light show. Do not attack the Imperium unless you start getting hit with Bolter rounds." Verbally, he said, "Try not to hit us. We'll lead him over your complex, in the air, east of here so your Bolter rounds don't accidentally hit my people. I don't know how well exploding shells are going to do against a creature made of ash, though."

    Fulgrim just smirked, slightly. "Then we will not use bullets." He gestured to the Predator tanks, which now had some sort of additional hardware loaded onto the main barrel, and the two barrels on either side of the tanks. "Are you sure you wish to fly in our field of fire? I would hate to start a war by accidentally taking out your people's strongest Trainer."

    "You're more than ready for a war, or at least a skirmish." Alex said, smirking back at him. "Don't worry. Your weapons won't hit us. Shruikan!" The black scaled dragon flew over, and Alex leapt into the air, landing on his neck, where he usually rode now that he was reasonably sized again.

    The two shot into the air just in time for Alduin's second pass over the Imperator's Children. Alex guided him upwards as once more the massive dragon's ashy jaws snapped after them. Shruikan smirked as he sensed what Alex was going to do. His Trainer spun around where he sat, still hooked onto his shoulders, and in the tongue of the land of ice and snow shouted at the revived World Eater. "You know, after losing all that girth, we thought you'd be faster, this time!"

    The inky black sockets that were where the dragon's eyes should've been began burning with purple fire. "Duziir wox…" Suddenly, his jaws stretched unnaturally forward, a thing they could do now that he was not limited by flesh. "Die…" came the hissed word. Shruikan struggled to outpace the jaws looming above and below him as they coalesced from the ash cloud of a dragon, but he had them, this time. Suddenly, a loud hum sounded in their ears, and as he'd turned back around in his seat so Shruikan could keep his pace, Alex turned his head, and saw a twin pair of bright blue lines of what he wrongly assumed was plasma burn straight through the reforming shape of Alduin. Two more single lascannon beams followed seconds later, and the massive dragon shrieked with rage as the intensely focused light beams burned away pieces of the bones he had thus far reclaimed.

    The ash cloud swirled as Alduin turned to take care of the Predator tanks below, but Alex and Shruikan did the same. "Plasma Bomb!" Alex shouted, once they got enough speed, and Shruikan arced downwards, gaining enough speed to put him over Alduin's back before he used his newest move. The condensed blue plasma ball fell from his sparking jaws, and then expanded as it exploded. When the ash Salamence reformed, he was significantly smaller.

    Six more consecutive lascannon shots pierced the World Eater, and his form became less of a Salamence, and more like an incoherent swirling cloud. As Shruikan readied another Plasma Bomb, the cloud shifted direction, not for them or the Astartes, but for the Scales lining the border. Shruikan followed after the ash cloud, but now found it faster than him. It dodged his attack easily, as it flowed out of its path, and Alex panicked slightly as he realized he couldn't hit it with anyone on his team, and his new move would likely be easily dodged. He needed a way to pin the cloud of ash dragon down in one place.

    Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a pair of String Shots somehow brimming with Light energy surrounded the cloud of ash. "Now, Cat!"

    "Night Cloaked…Avidya Slash!"

    Alex and Shruikan blinked, as a blur of black and green shot past them. Then, a fusion of what seemed like a teenage girl and a Ledian floated up beside them. Alex recognized Kalos's newest superheroes, as the fusion of Liepard and teenage boy unleashed a series of attacks on the String Shot cocoon, faster than normal eyes could follow. Alex noted his strike pattern, and, the type of blade he was using.

    "Hiii there, uh, Dragon Emperor…sir." Ledi started, awkwardly, before starting to talk rather quickly. "We just beat Hawk Mo- I mean Monarch, and then sensed what was going on over here so we thought we would, y'know, come lend a hand and-" The stream of babble paused, as Alex held up a hand.

    "Someone followed you." He said, staring at the sliced up cocoon. The slashed String Shots fell away, and Night Cat formed a small circle of apparently tangible darkness in mid air, using it to leap away from the now swirling mass that was Alduin. He landed on another conjured flat darkness circle by Ledi Girl and Alex with masterful grace.

    Below Alduin was a new figure, and as they were now out of the effective range of the Predator tank's lascannons, effectively in the uninhabited no-man's land of mountainside between Kalos and Germania, the newest arrival to the scene chose now to appear, and enact his orders from his mother. From what Alex could see, he had pure white hair completely devoid of pigment, was wearing all black clothing, and around his neck and shoulders, he had a rather ragged looking crimson cape.

    A grin that Alex could only describe as sadistic crossed the younger looking man's face as he looked up at the trio of heroes. He had to be either a teenager, or in his early twenties, but despite his youth his eyes had severe bags under them, and his lips were dry, cracked, and scarred. His skin was also quite pale, suggesting a lack of regular sunlight. Then, Alex saw his right arm, and realized why he was so pale. His right hand and lower forearm had a long, dark black and purple scar that was pulsing with Shadow energy in time with the still-rotating ash cloud above him that had now taken on an appearance like a spiral, though it seemed to be shrinking.

    Then, Alex noticed a hole in the man's palm, and that Alduin's essence was being sucked into it, ash and all. Before Alex or the two heroes could react, yet another figure arrived on the scene, one who'd patiently been waiting for his quarry to appear, and thanks to his mastery over earthbending, had been able to rapidly move towards said quarry once he finally slithered out of hiding.

    As the hole in the pale man's palm sucked up the last of Alduin, he held his hand to his chest, then doubled over, groaning in pain. A green blur shot past the floating trio of Trainers as they just watched. The teens were in awe, but Alex had his brows furrowed, unsure if this new arrival was friend or foe. He had just seemingly stopped Alduin, after all. Then, the green blur stopped in front of the man, and a voice rang out as he shouted his move for some reason. "Land's…SMAAAASH!"

    The pale man seemed to still be in pain, but grinned, as the sudden metal-clad boot impacted his face with an aura-fueled roundhouse kick.

    The pale man went soaring towards the slope of the nearest mountain, and Alex urged Shruikan towards the now floating green figure. His face was covered in a visible green aura that had taken on the shape of what he recognized as the head of Zygarde's fifty percent form. Underneath the aura he was wearing a green hood that covered the top part of his face, and had two small vertical points where his eyebrows likely were. Five 'tails' also composed of emerald aura flared out behind him from his shoulders, as he stared at the crater he'd roundhouse smashed his opponent into. Upon getting closer, Alex noted various Zygarde cells across his outfit, seemingly strategically placed for effective coverage on knees, elbows, joints, and other points of energy that lined up with the pools of energy in his body. A red, green, and blue Zygarde core, fused together in this state, covered his back and connected to the cells with faint bright green lines of energy across his green jumpsuit covered body. Whoever this was, he knew what he was doing, it seemed.

    "Hello there…" Alex said, as Shruikan hovered before the green man. Ledi Girl and Night Cat had followed after him, and the stranger looked at each of them, before answering Alex.

    "Hi…I uh…sorry I interrupted your Battle, but I've been after that criminal for a while. I knew he was in league with Dark Moth, so I followed Ledi Girl and Night Cat. I love your work by the way, guys. Big fan." He smiled at them through his cowl, and Night Cat gave him a thumbs up, while Ledi Girl smiled shyly.

    Alex's brow furrowed further. "Are you…with the Ranger Force? Or the Scales?"

    It was then that Alex saw his mouth form an O shape, as the man under the aura mask recognized who he was speaking to. "Oh…wow! You're the newest Dragon Emperor, aren't you? The one who reunited the Original Dragon! I saw the videos!"

    Alex had time to nod, but before they could continue speaking, or exchange names, the hole the pale man had been kicked into exploded in a torrent of Shadow that reached up to the sky. A deep baritone thundered through the peaks around them, echoing as it did. "Sahlag Humun…the likes of you...cannot hope to control Me! Zu'u los Dinok!"

    The pale man's body reappeared then, but Alex could tell just from a glance which mind was controlling it, now. It seemed the kid had bitten off more than he could handle. Then, his right arm began to swell, and expand, turning black and scaly as the nature of his powers was used and abused by the World Eater, who saw the opportunity for a new body and took it. The rest of the man's body began shifting as well then, stretching, growing in a macabre display as Alduin reworked the flesh, bone, and muscles to suit his preferences.

    Shadow burned around his shifting frame as he grew bigger, even moreso than he had been when he'd had his own body. Alduin pushed the mutated human's limits, and found them nonexistent, much to his delight. The human face became a draconic one, the flesh of the man became obsidian and scaly, and wings sprouted from his back, expanding upwards and outwards as they grew and grew. Something pinkish and gray was vomited from the World Eater's mouth as he expanded his new body further. The men grimaced in disgust as they realized it was brain matter, and Ledi Girl gagged, overwhelmed by the sight momentarily as she tried not to hurl.

    The as yet unnamed man in green looked both sad, and furious. "Shigaraki…you fool…" He knew the man's story, and who his mother was, and this display only confirmed his fears; that she would use him to empower one of her pawns for one of her schemes, and he would end up dying in the process. Now, he was gone forever, and beyond saving. He'd hoped his kick would forcibly expel the ancient dragon, but all it had seemed to do was distract Shigaraki and let Alduin take control. His aura began burning with an audible hum as the rage at both Shigaraki's uncaring parent and his murderer surged. His cloth cowl flared off his face, and he seemed to be rage-smiling as he stared at Alduin, who by that point, was as large as one of the Mediterra range's mountains, and had a wingspan the length of two of them.

    The air shook, as the massive and now fully revivified dragon roared at the quartet. "Alright people…" Alex said, as he internally mulled over who to use for this. "Looks like it's a Raid Battle. You know how those work?" The three nodded. Alex nodded as well. "Alright then…take him down!" He blinked, as he felt Astrum psychically shove his ball into his hand, and seeing his logic, and the support Astrum had from his brothers, Alex brought him out.

    In the space of less than a second, the Togekiss assuaged his fears about taking him out in a potential war zone. "I can do this!" Astrum said, zipping forward as he began shining with fairy energy.

    "Yes, yes you can." Alex said, just proud of him, at that moment. Shruikan backed up as Ledi Girl manifested Tikki, who in this form was a shiny Ledian with gold and black coloring rather than red, and Night Cat summoned his regular colored Liepard, who moved through the air on tiny dark energy discs effortlessly. Alex blinked, as he felt his very rarely used Pixie Plate respond to his Togekiss. It shot out of his bag, levitated by Astrum's Psychic, where he affixed it to his chest, and shone with fairy energy.

    Having never mega evolved a fairy type since awakening his dragon blood, Alex didn't know what to expect next, but he let his emotions reach out to his partner regardless as the battle kicked off. The Dazzling Gleam Astrum led off with, empowered by the Plate, made the reconstituted dragon shriek with pain, as the flying and fairy type had zipped towards his eyes before letting it off. Tikki hammered his jaw with Light infused Comet Punches, while Plagg had landed on his neck, and sprinted down his back towards his wings. In his opinion, they needed a few holes. The man in green stayed in place, seemingly charging up his own attack, or perhaps waiting for the right moment to use it.

    Alduin began to counter, as he tried to shake off Plagg, brushed the Ledian away like one might swat at a mosquito, and then tried to Crunch down on Astrum. Thankfully, the young fairy type had just recently finished his stat training, which like most of his brothers had focused on enhancing his speed and special attack power. Astrum skillfully dodged and kept pace with the foul Shadow entity, as the lines of energy from his Trainer connected with the energy radiating from his newly claimed Pixie Plate.

    The area grew even brighter, as Astrum ascended, and while Alex felt a slight discomfort, it was more from the energy Astrum was shining with, than the energy they'd used to propel him to his Mega Form. The egg-like shape of his body morphed, becoming more akin to a Lugia's or one of the Eon Duo in appearance. His tiny tail feathers became another pair of wings, and yet another pair of wings sprouted from under his main two, giving him a total of six.

    His right head spike extended, curling into a blue tip, while the other did the same, albeit with a red curled tip. The main head spike also became larger, and more noticeably feathery. The tips of each wing had also gained red and blue coloring, in alternating patterns on each wing. His right side had two blue tipped wings and one red, while the left side had the reverse. His golden feathers were also much more obvious.

    The darkness of the oncoming night was beaten back, as Astrum finished shifting forms, and the Infinity Energy symbol flashed over his forehead. With a sharp cry that oddly only evoked emotions of calm and peace from Alex, and every human watching the brilliant pink and gold aerial display, a facsimile of a full moon appeared above the Mega Togekiss.

    Alduin, who had been turning his head to unload Shadowflame on the three enemies punching holes in his massive wings, turned back towards Astrum, as the flying egg fairy readied arguably the most dangerous move to dragonkind. He tried to flap backwards, only to find his size too cumbersome. His mace-like tail swiped at the much smaller enemies he was facing, but they dodged easily, and kept going for his wings. Together, the Liepard and the Ledian were unstoppable balls of damage that kept punching through the thick membrane. Shadow energy filled the holes, and made Alduin rise above Astrum, who adjusted his aim with the dragon's rising form.

    Then, having launched himself higher into the air than all of them, the figure cowled in green aura came back down, and landed directly in the center of the now massive joint that was responsible for the black Salamence's wing function. His wings went stiff, and immediately, gravity caused him to plummet.

    Tikki, Plagg, and their green ally flew back towards Alex and their Trainers as Alduin landed on all fours, and shook the earth for miles around. He was still a calamity sized threat, and while on the Germanian side of the mountains, Alex still didn't want him rampaging and causing damage. "Now, Astrum!" He shouted up to the Mega Togekiss, whose Moonblast was charged and ready by that point.

    In Pokéspeech, Astrum called out to his 'victim' in the Pokémon equivalent of a calming baritone. "Rest now, ancient one! Your long suffering ends here." The Moonblast fired with a loud hum, sending a bright pink beam of energy straight for him, hitting Alduin directly in his chest.

    His furious Words echoed across the area as he roared in pain. "Zu'u fen ni…vognun! I will not disappear!" The Shadow energy binding his essence to the mortal plane surged, and Astrum frowned, as he felt nauseous, but continued with the Moonblast, finding he had the power, in this form, to keep it going indefinitely.

    Tikki floated up besides Astrum then, and with four tiny fists on his feathery back, infused his ongoing Moonblast, which was burning through all the power he had for the move, with Light. Alduin tried moving out of the way of the massive fairy beam, but couldn't. His massive maw opened to fire a Shadow Beam in response, but the Light was too overpowering, to the point that he couldn't form his attack in the presence of so much imbued fairy energy. So, started forming a ball of anti-matter instead despite the damage he was taking, and that was when Astrum poured in all the power he had for his Moonblasts into his current one at once.

    "We will remember you, World Eater…" Astrum spoke to him quietly, calmly, as the Moonblast began to tear through his scales and flesh. "Now return to your rest!" The moon above Astrum exploded in a blinding white ball of fairy energy and the beam pushed through his reconstituted chest, cutting into his body almost perfectly down his center. Alduin's roar echoed a final time across the Mediterra Mountains as his corpse fell into two separate halves and then began fading away into Shadow particles. The World Eater was finally, permanently, destroyed.

    Thoroughly spent, but satisfied, Astrum let the Infinity Energy fade, and his form reverted to normal. His flight pattern wobbled, as the expenditure of so much energy at once left him unbalanced. Alex recalled him into his Luxury Ball before he started falling. "You did great, Astrum. Really. Take a good rest."

    The two superheroes gave each other a fist bump as Alex recalled his partner, but the man in green did not return to him. He was burying something on the ground, near where Alduin was decaying. "Night Cat, Ledi Girl, it was a pleasure working with you two. If you ever need help Connor can't provide, feel free to call on the Scales."

    The two shared a look, and then Night Cat spoke, somewhat eagerly. He'd had a traumatic day, but that didn't keep him from asking after what he wanted. "Would we…be able to join them?"

    Alex blinked. "Do…do you want to?"

    Ledi Girl nodded, as she spoke as well. "They seem to know how to use Light energy and…that would help me and Tikki become stronger. Like now for example, Hawk Moth's creations caused a lot of damage…I don't know if I'll have enough power to repair it all."

    Having seen her downright miraculous repair powers in action, and always eager to avoid another bill, Alex smirked. "I could…give you a boost, if you like. Just this once, so we make sure all the Regions affected return to normal." Ledi Girl smiled, and nodded, and Alex chuckled. "Go ahead, do your thing."

    Her tongue poked out from her mouth then, as she concentrated, and an orb of Light and fairy energy began swirling between her palms as she summoned Xerneas's power. Again he felt discomfort, but didn't let that stop him. He held a hand over the forming, uncondensed sphere, and added his power to it. "Holy…" He heard her say, as the sphere expanded, rapidly, and she had to lift it above her head.

    "Just tell me when." Alex said, eyes still closed, palm still raised as he channeled the energy of the universe into her ability.

    Once she had enough, she wrapped the massive sphere in her String Shot, swung it around and then up into the air, where it exploded in a pulse of Light that miraculously began repairing the various property damage caused by Monarch's efforts. More than that though, injuries were healed, several recently dead humans returned to life, completely fine, and from Kalos to Italia, the people just watched in awe as their cities returned to the way they were before everyone had turned massive and gained superpowers.

    Ledi Girl slumped, as the move faded, and Night Cat caught her. Alex didn't need his psychic powers to see the way they looked at each other. "I'll let you two be, I uh…think this is the part where you change back, no? Come by the Scale's outpost in Kalos sometime, and we can hammer out the specifics of ahh…legitimizing you, as official protectors of the Region."

    As the pair made their way back to Lumiose, Alex hopped on Shruikan, and floated down next to the man in green, who was mumbling at the makeshift grave. "...and I'm sorry. I wasn't…good enough to save you." He rose from his knees as Alex and his own black Salamence landed. The two locked eyes, and now that his aura was gone and his hood was down, Alex realized he was just a kid, not all that much older than Night Cat, but still younger than himself, probably.

    "Friend of yours?" Alex said, gesturing at the grave.

    The man shook his head. "No…not really. Just someone I wanted to save from this fate…but couldn't."

    Alex nodded solemnly. "We can't save everyone. But taking that down," He said as he gestured to Alduin's disappearing corpse, "just saved a whole lot of people. So who exactly do I have to thank for helping us?"

    "Isamu Midorinoki." He said, offering a hand, which Alex shook. "The Mind Sage mentioned that he met you. I'm one of his disciples."

    Alex nodded, recalling the Alakazam to the east of Koria. "Well Isamu, I'll make you the same offer I made Ledi Girl and Night Cat. If you ever want to join the Scales of Balance, just let me know. I know Red wouldn't mind having more help over in Japan."

    Isamu's eyes went wide. "Are…you serious? Really? Me?" Alex nodded. "I mean…yea, I'd love to join a group of that many Champion Trainers." He chuckled awkwardly. "Are you sure I'm good enough?"

    Alex nodded. "I look forward to seeing what you can do once you find five Zygarde Cores. But right now, yes, you're good enough, and we could do with having more Earthbenders." He gestured at the grave marker Isamu had raised over the remains of the pale man.

    "In that case, I'll apply once I get back home. Before that though, I have some questions for you, if you don't mind?" He gave Alex a hopeful smile.

    Alex smirked. "Sure, I always have time for a fan. I do have to go ensure a war won't break out though, so let's go with one or two for now."

    "In that case…" Isamu said, pondering. "Did you know recreating a Fusion reaction would reunite the Dragons of Unova? And if so…how?"

    Alex scratched the back of his neck as he pondered an answer. Awkward as he seemed, he did like it when his fans got technical. "Well, that was, as I recall, more Kyurem's doing, than mine. Once it Mega Evolved, it had the power to force the opposing natures of Reshiram and Zekrom back together. All I really did was activate the Plate crystal. But who knows. Maybe there was a different way to reunite them that I never thought of. Maybe, had the DNA Splicers remained intact and been upgraded, we would have a much different form of the Original Dragon."

    Isamu blinked. "So…what we see may not even be his original shape?"

    Alex shrugged. "Tao said it was, and he does greatly resemble the statues of him in Opelucid City's Gym, but then, Tao sometimes omits the truth for the benefit of his plans. What matters, is that he is back, and the world is better for it."

    "Can't argue with that." Isamu said as he pulled out a seemingly random pocket journal, and started scribbling rapidly. "Don't let me take up more of your time, Dragon Emperor. Go make sure your people stay out of another war.

    Alex bid Isamu farewell and guided Shruikan back towards the Astarte's lines. The super soldiers had begun departing into their barracks, alongside their hardware and their generic human counterparts. Alex and Shruikan landed smoothly, and Fulgrim nodded at him. "That was quite a show, Dragon Emperor…but no one who wields such pure, inspiring Light can be the man I've heard such terrible rumors about. It seems, on that too, I was misinformed."

    Alex looked down for a moment, and then answered the Prime Archon. "As a ruler, I walk the line between the Light and the Dark, Fulgrim. But personally…I prefer to live in the Light. You have my word as a Trainer, and as a wielder of such power; I will not attack your Imperium, unless we are attacked first. I'll also refrain from sparking any wars even if there is an incident, in honor of your much appreciated aid against Alduin."

    Fulgrim nodded, affirming his words. "If such a thing happens, find me, Dragon Emperor. We shall cut to the truth of the matter. Together."

    That, brought a smile to Alex's impassive visage. "I'll hold you to that. Until next we meet, Prime Archon. Fare well."

    Fulgrim nodded once again, then turned, somehow graceful as a feline despite his massive set of power armor, and headed inside his barracks with the rest of his Legion. Alex sighed in relief once they were in the air over the neutral area of inhospitable mountains, Shruikan dropped his own Mega Form with a similar sigh of relief. War was off the table, for now at least, and Festivus was back on.

    Before long, he and Shruikan were once more above their lines, facing them. "Scales of Balance!" He shouted, and his Voice reached them. The men and women below snapped to attention. "War has been avoided this day! Return to your families in the knowledge that, at least for now, the Imperium is not our enemy. Enjoy your well earned rest, and your Festivus! I thank you all for responding so quickly."

    One by one, the Scales either found someone to bamf them home, or departed on their flying Pokémon, while heading for Kalos. Hikoki approached him, his Latios by his side, as those who were not originally stationed on the border departed. Psychically, he recalled his partners from their stone bunkers, though he left the structures standing, most were now unoccupied. Shruikan rumbled a greeting to the Latios, who he seemed to recognize, and the Eon Pokémon gave him a slow nod. He was smiling, and from what Alex could tell, seemed as impressed as Fulgrim had been. Then, Hikoki helped him realize why.

    "That Light, Alex…that was…we've never felt something like that. Serene. Peaceful. Calming, it…it was amazing. All four of you were."

    Alex nodded. "That was Astrum, my Togekiss. A newer addition to my team, but one who I think I'll rely on more, after this. And the other three may be joining our ranks as Scales, if we're lucky. Keep an eye out for Ledi Girl and Night Cat. Let me know if they visit asking to join."

    Hikoki blinked, and nodded. "But that…didn't look like any Togekiss I've ever seen…it seemed more like…an angel. From the old stories."

    Alex shook his head. "I can see how you thought that, but I promise, it was my Togekiss. He Mega Evolved after volunteering to face down the World Eater, since Arthur isn't here. He finally put that dragon to rest…and I think his essence might finally know peace, now."

    Hikoki just stared. "A Mega Togekiss? Alex…nobodys ever managed to Mega Evolve a Togekiss…even those among our ranks who have such a partner claimed the energy required was just too much."

    Alex patted the man's shoulder. "Well, rest assured that I, apparently, do have the power for such a creature to aid us, though I think Mega Evolving him caused the rest of my team, except Shruikan here, to drop their Mega Forms. Perhaps it was simply the right time and the right place for such an obviously Light attuned being to appear, to counteract Alduin's darkness." Hikoki nodded, smiling, seemingly as impressed with Astrum as his Trainer was. Alex could feel the flying fairy's pride from within his ball, where he was listening to every word, while resting comfortably. "If you'll excuse me, Hikoki…Arthur needs me. I left him in Albion to reclaim his home, and I should really get back there to help Jess and the others."

    Hikoki nodded then, his more serious demeanor once more taking over. "Of course, Dragon Emperor. Don't let us keep you. The border will remain safe while you all rest."

    Alex paused for a moment, as he hopped back on Shruikan. "I managed to create a blossoming friendship with Fulgrim, the leader of the Astartes below. We gave our respective words that we would not attack each other, on this border at least. So enjoy your Festivus Hikoki, don't let the others work too hard, alright?"

    Hikoki nodded. "We'll find a balance between vigilance and rest. Safe travels, Dragon Emperor."

    And with that, Shruikan began the long flight back to Albion, though from what they sensed from Arthur, things were apparently not dire, and actually going quite well.

    The Dark Cells - Deep Beneath the Mediterra Mountains

    Please note that for this section of the chapter, events are happening concurrently with those above ground.

    The only sound in the absurdly long ceracrete corridor was that of their footsteps. So far, Proditor and Morgana hadn't encountered anyone after Teleporting a few feet straight down into this tunnel, but he could tell that the guardians of this space knew they were coming. Finally, after a solid amount of time spent walking, the corridor flared out into an open room that seemed empty.

    Proditor smirked, and gestured at the floor. Shadow energy sloughed off him, sank into the hidden stairway in the floor, and forced it down. Without a word, he descended, and Morgana followed. The deeper they went, the more ancient the air smelled, as if very rarely did living beings come down to this part of the Imperium's vast underground complexes. He could sense Shahir though, moreover, he sensed his friend was in massive pain. Proditor had mistaken his unconsciousness for sleep. And that, that irritated him.

    As they reached the bottom of the spiraling stairway, the air was stale and acrid, the smell of decay and rusting metal filled his nostrils, but there was something else. The faint hint of incense. Something that seemed like armor polish, and beneath that, faintly, the stench of an unwashed Homo Sapien.

    "We are not alone." Proditor finally said, as they stepped into a long hallway, lined on each side by solid black metal doors with no slits or grates or windows in them to peer inside at their occupants. At the end of this first stretch of cells, was a massive figure. His armor blended into the gloom of the Dark Cells, and as Morgana conjured a purple sphere that gave off light, they saw the rest of the Shadowkeeper's attire. Hair of some description, dyed crimson, fell back from the tip of his intimidating Aegis pattern helmet in a fiery mane. An eagle made up most of the faceplate, with its golden wings flaring out over the Custodes' crimson photolenses protecting his eyes.

    A far cry from the pattern of mass-produced armor the Thunder Warriors used, the Aegis pattern was personally crafted by the Imperator himself. Ten thousand custom tailored suits made specifically for the guards of his most important complexes, and of course, the Imperator's own throne room. Like the suits, each of the Imperator's ten thousand guards, the Legiones Custodes, was a marvel of genetic engineering that even Thunder Warriors couldn't compete with, though their roles were quite different.

    The Aegis armor was a part of this, as Custodes rarely had cause to remove their armor, it was designed specifically to enhance their speed and strength to a level no Thunder Warrior could hope to match by integrating with their bodies in a far more invasive manner than regular power armor. Many acolytes did not survive the process to become a Custodes, and the number of lives the Imperator had sacrificed was almost five times the number of the fully functional Custodes he'd ended up with. To the Imperator, even hundreds of thousands of lives was a comparatively small price to pay when compared to what had already been sacrificed in His name.

    Autosenses, targeting reticules in their vision, and even armor-integrated weapons were all a part of a single Custodes, making each one a force unmatched in combat. Proditor, naturally, knew none of this, and thus fired a condensed bolt of Shadow energy from his palm, testing the warrior's defenses.

    The Custodes didn't even bother blocking, as the dark natured plasma simply burned away against his armor's void shields. Then, it was his turn to strike. With a movement too fast for either of the intruder's to follow, the Shadowkeeper Custodes leveled his Guardian Spear at them, and simply opened fire on the intruders without so much as a word.

    Proditor raised a shield of Shadow energy, and blinked in shock as he found it blasted apart by the Light-infused munitions of the Custodes, which like regular Bolters, also exploded on impact. Before he could process his shield was gone, the rest of the automatically fired explosive bullets tore into his revivified body, blowing it apart.

    Morgana fared only slightly better, as the power of her stolen Eous Stone was actually enough to cause most of the bullets to ricochet off the shield of energy she conjured. Seeing this, in under a second, the Shadowkeeper focused his fire on her, and the repeated strikes to her Barrier caused it to fracture. With each deflected shot, the rounds flew into the surrounding walls, and doors to the Black Cells. The Shadowkeeper also began approaching, not especially in a hurry as he deemed these two less of a threat than they actually were, due to their seeming lack of weapons or armor.

    Finally, one of the bullets found her leg, exploding on contact, and almost taking it off her person. Morgana fell to her knees under the onslaught, hissing in pain as the Light infused bullet damaged her in addition to her gaping, bloody hole in her calf.

    "Mordred!" She shouted, as the Shadowkeeper closed the distance, and swung his Guardian Spear's adamantium tipped blade, limned with focused plasma around its edges, at Morgana's shield. The Custodes paused, as for the first time in his life, he found his spear stopped by something. The Shadow covered arm of a species of Pokémon he identified as a Gallade, and a severely Shadow-corrupted one, at that.

    Unfortunately for Mordred, Shadow Pokémon had been a known and understood threat when the Imperator crafted his Custodes and their gear. His masterwork armor hummed to life in the darkness, with various points on it glowing bright red as he built up the armor's energy through physical effort with his body. The Imperium was also well aware of the various energy pools within humans, and these too had been genetically modified and enhanced by the Imperator in this, his (arguably) most lethal creation.

    The Shadowkeeper faced the Gallade, and charged forward with a lunging stab. The graceful Shadow Pokémon dodged it, spinning around it as he closed for a strike of his own. The Shadowkeeper twisted his spear in that moment, as his autosenses and reflexes allowed him to make the Gallade pay for closing on him with a deep slash to his thin shoulder.

    Mordred didn't even flinch as the plasma edged spear cut into him, he simply shifted his body again, and brought a crimson fist directly into the breastplate of the warrior, which was decorated in its center with six intersecting lightning bolts. A crystal device of some sort, once light blue and now humming with red energy, sat in the middle of said lightning bolts. Similar crystals were affixed on his brow, above the stylized golden eagle, and on his waistplate.

    Mordred blinked as his fist connected with the armor, but did absolutely nothing to the masterfully reinforced ceramite alloy composite that made up the majority of the power armor's defenses, being incredibly durable in nature. Mordred simply grimaced. He needed to strike harder.

    He disengaged from the Shadowkeeper, flipping back towards Proditor, as he readied a Shadow Sword on each arm. While their first clash occurred, Proditor had been busy repairing his blown apart corpse. Blobs of Shadow filled in the holes the bolter shells had left within him, as he psychically Recovered from the typically fatal series of blows.

    "Shahir!" He mentally shouted, as he reached out towards the nearby massive presence of his ancient friend. What he had mistaken for sleep earlier had, in reality, been unconsciousness from the immense pain these people were keeping him in. "Shahir! Wake. UP!"

    Weakly, a voice came to him in response. A single word, but on with the kind of hope in it that plucked at heartstrings Proditor had thought he no longer had. "Master…?"

    "Shahir! I'm here, my friend! Wake up!"

    Mordred charged the Shadowkeeper once more, but this time, the Custodes let the Gallade close on him. With all his might, Mordred struck at the breastplate with his Shadow Swords, leaving slight scars in the Ceramite across the breastplate's top, but it continued to stubbornly refuse to yield to his strength. Moreover, his guard was wide open following his attack, and the Custodes made brutal use of that error.

    The single, perfect strike that should have bisected his thin body in two at his thinner torso missed, instead carving off a piece of his 'helmet' and its pure black pointed tip. Shadow-infused blood leaked from the wound, but Mordred didn't care.

    Morgana, who'd conjured a hand made of Shadow energy to snatch her Gallade back from certain death, glared at him. "Kill him already!"

    "Armor…too tough." Mordred answered through the pain. He used that pain though, as Pravus had taught him, making it enhance his inner rage.

    The Shadow around his arms shifted from purple-black in color, to crimson-black, and Proditor looked impressed, as he realized what the Gallade had done. His arms now flared with Shadow, not at all unlike how Arthur's had burned with Light in his Mega Form during their last clash. Again he dashed forward, but the Shadowkeeper was done indulging in this welcome distraction after centuries of pure, unadulterated boredom. Since the end of the Dark Times, this part of the Black Cells had seen little usage, and this intrusion was a welcome change of pace.

    It ended now, however. Hitting a button on his spear, a lever popped up vertically from the haft, and he pulled it towards him. With an audible hum, the tip of his Guardian Spear became toothed akin to a plasma chainsaw, combining the cutting power of focused plasma, with the repetitive whirring speed of the aforementioned tool. The 'blade' of pure energy also became larger, giving him more reach, and a deeper cut.

    Moving faster than any creature that large and heavily armored should've been able to, this time, the Shadowkeeper closed on Mordred. For his part, Mordred had taken the brief pause to focus his energy, and that included his eyes as well. He noted what he identified as not necessarily 'weak' points in the impressive panoply of the Custodes, but points that might be weaker in nature than the material that made up his armor.

    They met in the center of the hallway, and the Shadowkeeper swung, sure of his ability to hit the Gallade. He paused, as the flexible fighting type ducked by leaning backwards, sliding on his legs across the ancient stone floor made smooth by centuries of pacing. His strike slashed through one of the Black Cell's doors effortlessly as he missed. This time, his guard was open, and Mordred struck. One sword arm slashed the face plate, and the crimson crystal there, while the other went for the one on his breastplate.

    The forehead gem, smaller as it was, shattered. The largest one that occupied the breastplate cracked, but did not break. The Shadowkeeper's night vision faded, briefly, as the power supply for his helmet broke. Naturally, there were backups in place to restore functionality, but they needed time to turn on.

    He brought his spear back in a reverse slash, but the irritating Gallade backflipped over the strike, and followed that dodge with another pair of attacks. Just as quickly, the Shadowkeeper began blocking the strikes with his weapon's haft, which was exactly what Mordred had wanted to pressure him into doing.

    Two strikes became four, six, eight, over and over a rapid flurry of Shadow Punches hammered the metal alloy haft. Mordred kept going, feeling his fury rise as he did so. He incorporated kicks, and began driving the Shadowkeeper back from the onslaught of blows. Then, subtly, Mordred changed the energy of his strikes, swapping Shadow for fighting type energy. The speed of his attacks increased again, but the Custodes kept up with him, as he slowly stepped backwards down the hallway, letting the creature tire itself on his impregnable defenses, and simultaneously getting him out of range of the witch that had saved him earlier.

    Once they reached the end of the corridor, the Shadowkeeper immediately and brutally shifted to offense, hammering Mordred in his stomach with a fist, while his other hand continued masterfully parrying his blows, spinning the spear's haft to catch his blows with a single hand. Mordred didn't stop though, if anything, his pace increased, but another punch from the Custodes caught him in the eye. Each one felt like getting hammered by a Copperajah in the midst of mating season, but the pain only made his rage burn hotter. An aura of Shadow appeared around his frame, and it too became black and crimson as it limned his body, and condensed around him, offering him much needed protection from the timely counterpunches of the Custodes.

    Finally, he landed a hit past the one handed guard of the Custodes, and shattered the central gem on his breastplate. The warrior slowed considerably as he did so, and before his marvelous armor could compensate, Mordred went for the kill. A spinning mid-air kick knocked the spear away from him, though the warrior kept his grip on it. Another follow-up kick sent him crashing back into the black stone wall of the prison.

    Landing from the mid-air attacks, Mordred backflipped, bicycle kicking the Custodes' jaw as he did so, and his energy surged as he felt the helmet give, and then fly off the man. Seeing his neck, his burning arms crossed, and slashed at it. He felt the strikes connect, as he slashed through the enhanced muscles and bones keeping the human together.

    His features were hard to make out in the gloom, but Mordred saw several pieces of metal, circular studs of some sort, driven into his skull's forehead area. Short black hair, tired eyes, and a face that, while it looked young, like a human in their twenties, had age lines upon it that could only have come from centuries of existence. He grimaced at the Gallade, not uttering a single word, as he drove the tip of the plasma spear into his torso.

    His head fell from his shoulders and his titanic body slumped to the floor as the armor lost power, but even beheaded, the Custodes' arm held firm, and drove his spear in deeper. Irritated and in massive pain, Mordred slashed through the arm, or tried to, but only succeeded in driving the spear tip downwards in his torso, causing even more damage. With a pained grunt, he backed off the humming weapon as it too lost power, and fell to his knees as his blood mingled with that of the Shadowkeeper.

    "Well…fought…" He projected at the corpse, which could probably still hear him, if not respond, as his vision flickered. He knew he needed to Recover, but his mind was going blank. What passed for vital organs for his species had been sawed apart by the plasma spear's tip, and the combination of pain and blood loss had him on the edge of death. His eyes glazed over as he stared at the black stone wall before him. Shadow energy covered his eyes, and he found himself gazing into an abyss.

    "Death…is not your destiny today, young Gallade…" A strange, female voice said, echoing all around him. Then, suddenly, a mind not his own jolted his back to awareness, and he found himself able to focus enough to use Recover. It took five uses, but he eventually healed his organs with his psychic power, and closed the wound.

    When he'd finished, he found Proditor and Morgana beside him. The Shadow covering Proditor's wounds was gone, and the holes that had been blasted in his body were healed and once more covered by his Shadowy garment. "That…was impressive." Proditor said, genuinely. He nodded at the corpse. "That man was a Custodes. The most advanced soldier the Imperator ever created. The pinnacle of his genetic engineering experiments. They were a pain in my era, as well…though they typically ignored me and my people. I will not be caught so unawares next time." In truth, this Custodes had seemed different, which was why Proditor had hesitated to use his usual tactics on the super soldiers. That hesitation had allowed him to unload almost a whole clip of rounds into their party.

    Morgana's leg had also been healed psychically, and as the trio stood up, the thump of heavy boots from either side of the T intersection they now stood in the middle of filled their ears. "Muk." Proditor swore, but this time, he was ready. "Shellraiser! Take the left one…" The Shadow Blastoise appeared at the intonation of his name, and as two more Shadowkeepers, each garbed identically to their fallen brother, appeared at the ends of the hallway. Shellraiser launched into a Rapid Spin. Bolter fire bounced off his rapidly spinning shell that, even if it had been hit, could take quite a bit of punishment even from the explosive rounds before cracking.

    For his part, furious as he was the longer he felt Shahir's pain, Proditor reached out with a single hand as his own opponent appeared, and psychically grasped him by the neck. Despite choking, the Custodes leveled his Guardian Spear, only for Proditor to raise another hand. The Shadowkeeper pulled the trigger, setting off the automatic fire, but instead of coming out of the spear's barrel, the bullets were psychically stopped in place, and naturally, exploded as they contacted each other. The spear blew apart in his hand, leaving a stump of an arm behind.

    Proditor didn't drag it out, and simply used his rage to crush the enhanced windpipe of the Custodes. Turning, he saw that Shellraiser's Mega Punch had indeed been enough to crack his enemy's breastplate. He had his jaws around the Custodes' spear hand, with his own claw hand locked in a contested grip of strength with the Custodes' free hand. Keeping him in place, Shellraiser raised his left cannon barrel from his shell, which thanks to their positioning, aligned perfectly with the Shadowkeeper's head. The Shadow Cannon went off, boring a deep hole into the stone, as it left absolutely nothing of its target's head behind.

    With the three Custodes assigned to guard this relatively empty part of the Black Cells now defeated, as three of them combined had been thought to be more than enough, Proditor and Morgana advanced down the right hallway, only to find that both led into a new, larger chamber at the center of which was the central prisoner of this part of the prison. One who had been kept in his current state for eons.

    "Oh…Shahir…even you ended up bound, in the end…" Proditor whispered as he saw the state of his Hoopa. All eight of his interspace-rings, including the two on his legs, were active, and through each one, one of his limbs was locked in place, as if reaching for something. Proditor could tell his hands were bound on the other side of the portals too. He was likely exhausted from keeping them open for so many years, but as Proditor had also discovered, while Hoopa's limbs were within its portals, said portals would simply not close, for as long as they were occupied by their owner's body. They did take energy from their owner to stay that way though, and the result had been a lethargic state that hadn't allowed him to break free, despite his awesome strength.

    The two rings on his legs had been used to entrap both of his legs and his head, but his head at least, was not bound on the other side. A thick, largely unnecessary chain around his neck kept him from retracting his head, though. With his hand, Proditor crushed the chain, tearing it apart with his psychic rage, further incensed by the sight of his old friend. Slowly, Shahir lowered his head through the portal, and the ring maintaining it shrunk, floating back to its default place on his right leg. "Master…I thought…you died…"

    "I did." Proditor said, as he focused his power on one of the arms, and used the connected spaces to his advantage. "It didn't last." Limb by limb, he freed his friend. Alarms began sounding, but he no longer cared. He welcomed the chance to crush more Custodes throats after what they'd done to Shahir. Once he was completely free, Shahir fell to the ground, utterly drained of energy.

    Proditor recalled him into his crystalline ball, and then grabbed Morgana's shoulder. With that, they Teleported away, only a short distance, as the Imperator had wards against psychic types. That didn't stop Proditor though. Three more Custodes suffered death at his psychic hands before they broke free of the compound, and made good on their escape.

    News of the breakout traveled quickly, as did the word about six dead Shadowkeepers, most of whom had had their throats crushed, with two who had been missing their heads entirely. As the Imperator received this news, the air in the throne room became heavy as He experienced His own psychic rage. Given the dark nature of the Black Cells, little had been seen of the intruders, but His people did confirm that the Psyker responsible was the owner of a Gallade powerful enough to take on a Shadowkeeper Custodes, and live. Only a few possible names came to His mind, and from His spies, as He mentally went over the list of psykers powerful enough to crush a Custodes' throat, who owned an equally powerful Gallade. One name stood out above all the others, though.

    #61 Aug 3, 2023
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2023

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