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Thread Description
A HeartGold nuzlocke twisted into a fantasy setting. Updates sporadically.

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
82
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #121
cyndakip - Thanks! Yeah I like how Gabrialla turned out considering that she basically started out as me going 'oh wait I need to explain what Clair's Gyarados is doing there meh they can be married.' Somehow I have a habit of going off on tangents lol!

@Thirteenth - Yep, Lyra's learning from the best...ish. And yeah the Wardens have a gimmick of being annoyingly cryptic (can you tell I didn't really like the Kimono Girls in-game?) and they're sticking to it lol. (Also I have no idea how tagging people works so let's see if this does the thing!)


Gabrialla carefully lays Clair down on some of the cushions, taking off her own cloak and draping it over her like a blanket before busing herself pouring little bowls of tea for each of us while we sit down - and while Magni tries, with limited success, to steer Deanne vaguely in the direction of a clump of cushions. I don't know if it's because I'm used to resisting the power of Chaos or because Deanne is actually an Imperial Blessed, but the Shrine is affecting her a lot more than it is me. Choro ignores her antics with an ease that suggests he's used to this happening to his visitors. In his own way, he seems every bit as snobbish as Clair.

Choro wipes his mouth with a small napkin before fixing his gaze on Carlei. "I presume, Princess, that you came here and had your compatriots duel Clair because you want the aid of House Blackthorn in bringing down your father, the King."

"She didn't have us do anything," Lyra interrupts. "We chose to duel Clair. For everyone's sakes."

"Hmm." Choro takes another sip of his tea. "Good. But that was nonetheless your ambition."

Carlei sighs. "I...yes. For a long time I wanted to believe that this was merely a moment of anger, of panic. Then I told anyone who would listen it was the manipulations of the Exile King's servants, that Ariana was manipulating him into fulfilling her old master's aims just as she'd manipulated him into accepting her into his life. And then I tried to convince myself that his actions were driven by the power of Chaos that the charologists had chained to his soul."

Choro's reading her aura, the same as I can. He knows I'm watching him too, but his own aura is wreathed in a carefully-constructed ward that's more message than actual defence - a warning not to interfere.

"I still hope that he can be turned away from the path he's walking," Carlei adds, more quietly. "I...I have to. But...even if Father has named me exile, I still have a moral duty, if not a technical one, to this kingdom and its people. I cannot just stand by and allow this...evil...to continue. None of us can. But seven people alone cannot bring down the king of Tojo and all his allies. We need help. The kingdom needs help."

Choro pauses for a moment to take another sip of his tea - he had at least listened patiently while Carlei was talking. I have to hope that's a good sign. "I'm sure you've been rehearsing that many times in the week leading up to your duel," he says, amiably. "And you, Etharn?" he asks abruptly, looking over to me.

"Uh...me?" I can't imagine my blank stare is winning us any favours, but I have no idea what the fuck he wants me to say.

"Yes, you. From Prince Silver's accounts, it rather sounds as though this entire affair was precipitated by your unexpected intrusion onto the palace grounds. And then there is the strange matter of your reaction to the Shrine here - to say nothing, of course, of the honour of a Warden of the Faith visiting my humble abode and speaking of you, not Carlei." He reminds me a lot of Oak, but while he's not exactly saying anything surprising to me, Sayo's mouth twitches into a small frown for a moment. "It reminds me a great deal of the Common King of Kanto. While I don't believe he had much interaction with the Faith, I do recall hearing the strange way his Blessing interacted with the Grand Temple of Yamabuki, behaving much as though he were a Pure Aspect, not the Chosen of Zapdos that he truly was. He precipitated a revolt in Kanto against an unjust ruler - now you stand before me asking me to assist you to do the same." Choro sits back in his chair, cupping his boiling-hot saucer in his hand without seeming to care about the heat. "How does the comparison ring to you?"

Judging from the way Julian is glaring at Choro before he turns to look at me, it sounds like this is one of those big important secrets Kuni almost revealed to me. It's not like it's the first time someone's made the comparison, but...

"I don't care." Julian blinks at me from behind his mask, surprised. "Maybe I'm supposed to be some resurrected version of the nascent lord, or the Common King, or whatever the fuck else I'm supposed to call him. Or maybe I'm not. But even if I do have some grand destiny that no-one will ever tell me about...I'm doing this because I want to." Maybe I should've said 'because it's the right thing to do.' That would probably have sounded better. "Not because it's what I'm 'supposed' to do."

"And yet, time and again chance and circumstance conspire to bring you into a position to turn aside the worst of the Imperial atrocities," Choro chuckles. "But you mean every word you say, and I must thank you for your honesty. However..." He sits his tea down on its saucer with a little chink of ceramic that sounds deafeningly loud in the silence of the Shrine. "While I would warrant House Blackthorn could withstand an Imperial siege near indefinitely, alone we cannot take the offensive and defeat the Imperial Army."

"You wouldn't have to be alone!" Carlei protests. "If House Blackthorn publicly stood against the Crown, others would follow."

"Which is precisely the problem," Choro snaps, the sudden harshness in his tone surprising us all. He sighs, lifts his saucer of tea up again, but then puts it back down without drinking. "Personal comparisons to the Common King notwithstanding, don't make the mistake of thinking that this is the same as what happened in Kanto. The Exile King hid his madness and cruelty from the kingdom, and the nascent lord had won the hearts and loyalty of every noble in the kingdom, excepting Blaine, and most of the populace as well, before it ever became known that the corruption in the kingdom reached all the way to the king at its core. Aside from young Lord Ampharal, who is - meaning no offence - merely a vassal of Lady Jasmine, you do not have the same luxury. More importantly, however...yes, the people of the land are angry at the King, and rightly so for his blasphemy. But almost everyone in Kanto knew someone who had been hurt by the Exile King's experiments, and the Exile King only retained command of his armies through intimidation and fear. None had any real loyalty to him. Anger at a distant crime, no matter how righteous, will never garner you the same strength as those that followed the nascent lord to battle against the Exile King."

"I have no doubt that with my support, you would - as you stated - win the public assent of at least a majority of the other lords and ladies of Joto. But each and every one of them would be asking themselves 'are we doing the right thing?' just as you yourselves have no doubt done before seeking my aid. Perhaps some of the nobility would stand by Lance overtly. Some of them might simply seek to remove themselves and their people as far as they can from either side. And some might join you, but even that does not guarantee that their soldiers would have the same opinion."

"The simple fact is that as it stands, a rebellion against Lance would result in a calamitous war. And our kingdom has been wounded too deeply by the Exile King's war against the islands of Nanashima for me to condone - much less support - such a war."

It's basically the same logic as Jasmine. I'd hoped - we'd all hoped - that the public outpouring of hatred towards Lance might have changed things. But at the same time, I can see his point. The nobles are keeping quiet and very carefully being neutral about everything while letting people believe they're plotting some big move, and that's probably the only reason the whole damn kingdom isn't rioting.

"So you won't help us." Carlei's voice is usually so full of life and fire. Hearing her downbeat like this hurts. Especially since I can't help but wonder if Choro would have had a different answer if I'd said something different to him.

"Yet," Choro corrects her, and Carlei's aura sparks back into whirling light like a firework display, and maybe it's the heady power of the Shrine but it's impossible not to smile.

"That's why we're here," Sayo adds, with the same airiness I've grown used to from the Wardens, doing a passable job of hiding whatever irritation she might have felt at Choro poking at all the mysteries surrounding me. "Hello!"

Julian rolls his eyes behind his mask. "As you're no doubt aware, the ancient contract forbids us from taking sides in the affairs of the nobility. But we can speak the truth, and make judgements on events that affect us directly - thus how our sister was able to relate the tale of the Imperials' attack on the Grand Shrine. Those two freedoms give us quite some leeway - should you agree to our plan, that is."

"What plan?" Carlei asks, so quickly he's barely even finished talking.

Choro reaches under the table and produces a very ancient-looking scroll, which he unrolls in front of us. It's written in one of the ancient tongues, so I can only read fragments, but I can figure out enough to know it's talking about the judgement of the Divines, and something to do with the Wardens and Paladins. "You all know the legend that in a duel between Blessed over a matter of honour, or property, or justice, the one who is righteous in the eyes of the Divines is victorious," he begins. "And I'm sure that you've all experienced enough to doubt that legend." His tone is quiet, sympathetic. I can't help but wonder how much he knows just from reading our auras. "Some say that the Divines only turn their attention to battles of true importance, or those where the petitioners properly plead for their judgement. Or that the Divines could manipulate the destinies of every battle in the world, but elect not to to allow us our freedom. No matter what you believe, however, there is an ancient method that is rumoured to be guaranteed to draw the Divines' gaze, one that was once used as a way of passing literal judgement upon Blessed tried for certain crimes."

"Part of becoming a Paladin means forswearing our own ambitions and goals," Julian explains, "and obeying no master but the Divines. As such, we cannot challenge another for a duel over anything related to the material world upon which we all reside, for our soul can hold no stake in such a matter. Instead, to challenge a Paladin is to invite judgement not merely upon the righteousness in a single conflict, but upon the challenger's soul - their life, motivation and righteousness as a whole. As Lord Choro says, the ritual of challenging a Paladin was once used to determine the guilt or innocence of Blessed members of the nobility, for it was believed that a member of the nobility could not simultaneously be a righteous Chosen Warrior of the Divines and break human law."

"It still is used in Hoen," Lyra mutters.

Julian glares at her for a moment. "The Fire Lord's mockery of our rites is no true judgement under the gaze of the Divines," he retorts, but his voice is gentler than I'd expected.

"So..." Carlei leans forwards. "How does this work? I challenge you in a duel, and then...what?"

"It's not quite as simple as that," Sayo answers, merrily. "Paladins are Blessed Warriors chosen by a single patron, just like you. If you were to challenge Julian, you would, perhaps, receive a judgement in the eyes of Lord Raikou. And that would certainly be a meaningful point in your favour, but it would not carry the same weight as what we intend."

"A ritual battle," Choro simplifies. "Much akin to the duel you just held out there. Five Paladins, representing the four corners of the world and the great sky above. While the Faith cannot state outright that the Divines support rebellion against the King, should you prove victorious in this duel, they can state that you have undergone the accurate petition for the Divines' judgement known to the Faith and been found worthy."

"And that would sway support far more in our favour," Carlei nods. "Then where is this trial to be held? When?"

"That's simple!" Sayo beams. "Obviously, it has to be a sacred space, but the Shrine of Kikyo is - by design - in constant use by petitioners, so our plea would be lost among hundreds of others. The Shrine of Yadon and the former Grand Shrine of Kogane have, of course, been polluted by the heresy of the Imperials - to say nothing of the Grand Shrine of Tanba - so they are not an option either, and the Shrine before us here was a gift centuries ago from the Divines to the Imperial bloodline of the king, so there might be a certain...bias...here. So that leaves merely one option - an option which, quite conveniently, lies in the most pious region in Joto."

She gives a grand - and rather pointless - gesture with an air that suggests she's been looking forwards to this for a while. "Your ritual duel shall be held in Enju, atop the Shrine sacred to Lord Ho-oh."

Ethan - Togetic, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
218
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
It did do the thing! Thanks, I tend to use notifs from replies to remind myself of what I need to catch up on.

Onto the chapter though! Idk why I didn't expect a Jasmine-esque response from Choro, but I'm glad that he does support them. Makes sense to go about it more politically. Hopefully this duel convinces people...

Speaking of, I've been wondering how Ho-oh was going to be incorporated (and then I hit submit by accident 😭), and now that we're here, I'm excited. 👀 I'm thinking here is where we'll officially learn Ethan's deal? Maybe?? I could see a deity still playing cryptic but, who knows.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
82
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #123
@Thirteenth - Yeah, Choro might be a bit reluctant but broadly speaking he's on their side. As for learning Ethan's secrets...well, we've still got Kanto to get through too - got to keep some secrets left over! 😛 (But there will probably be a hint or two...)


We set out the next day.

The plan is to sail back to Enju using Choro's own flagship, the Oryu, and use Sayo's presence as leverage to convince the Enju guards to let us in regardless of whatever orders Lord Morty might have given them.

And then...beat the Paladins.

It still feels weird. There's been a part of me that's wanted to punch them in their stupid masks and tell them to stop being so damn cryptic ever since I first met them, and now I'm actually getting the chance...it's like I'm stepping over some sort of invisible line.

What makes it worse is that I'm sure it's not just going to be a duel like we had with Clair or Silver, whatever Choro and Sayo might have said. Last time we went through a trial for Divine aid, it turned out to be a bullshit trap designed to teach Carlei a lesson about humility or something (which, in fairness, she did kind of deserve back then, but still). And that was just to get an audience with one of the lords of Joto. There's no way convincing the Faith to instigate a rebellion against Lance is going to be simple. Nothing about the Faith ever is.

So I spend the trek down to the Blackthorn docks, and most of the few-day journey back to Enju constantly expecting something to go wrong. Silver to pop out of the woodwork again, or my random teleportation to whisk us off somewhere totally different, or even just more Wardens to show up and give us more cryptic bullshit.

Though I'm probably going to have to deal with that anyway. It turns out that the shrine we're going to is basically the headquarters of the Faith in Joto. That's why we're going there - Sayo explains, in the airy, meandering way that seems to be her default state of being, that the constant prayers and rituals carried out make it one of the best-tended-to places, spiritually speaking, in the kingdom. The only reason it isn't outright the best is because of the Arufu Monastery, but since that's basically a jail for 'heretical power,' whatever the fuck that's supposed to be, it's not really a good place for rituals wanting the Divines' favour. (Although I can't help but wish I could see Ariana and co locked up by those spooky masked monks.) But it being basically the Jotan Vatican means it's also where Wardens and Paladins train and spend their time when they aren't popping up in random places to deliver fortune-cookie clues at us.

The Oryu is a much larger vessel than the Ryusei - Choro and Deanne claim that the Drake's design was copied from the Oryu and then upscaled in a show of dominance by the then King of Tojo, but the Oryu can't be much smaller than the Drake. There are enough private cabins for everyone - it helps, of course, that the seven of us can divide ourselves quite happily among four cabins, and Sayo and her Paladin share the same cabin too, but there are a good half-dozen cabins spare. (Though somehow I doubt the sailors involved in running the ship get cabins of their own on the floor below us.) It's luxurious. I'd thought being able to sleep in a real bed at long last in Fusube had been comfortable, but this is like a medieval five-star hotel, with servants waiting on our call day and night. Honestly I can't help but find it...somewhat uncomfortable. I get that this is how the Blessed nobility live, and this must be a pretty good life in comparison to alternatives - especially how some of the other nobles treated their servants - but that doesn't make it look particularly enticing looking in on it from outside.

And yet, if this goes the way we hope it to, Carlei will be the Queen of Tojo, which I guess would make me King. For all that Carlei and I joked about how I'd be a terrible King because I don't know any of the etiquette, I think I'd find it far harder to get used to having everything delivered to me on a - literal - silver platter.

Or, maybe, I'm worried I'd get too used to it.

Despite all my concerns about the trip, though, everything...works.

I'd forgotten just how intimidated most people are by the Wardens, but the Enju port guards see Sayo sending at the front of the ship, scarf fluttering, and they don't even ask why the reclusive Lord of House Blackthorn has emerged from the depths of the Fusube mountains.

At Sayo's insistence, the seven of us are all dressed in our heraldry - even Gaius, for the first time since I met him, who's wearing a strange suit of mithril armour that looks like it's made of giant scales the size of dinner plates, and oddly-delicate vambraces and greaves that extend like claws over his hands and feet. He can't exactly demonstrate it on the ship, but he explains that they let him channel his Blessing more easily, forming his gauntlets out of reinforced stone instead of the dirt-and-pebble mixture that his powers normally create. He has a dragon helmet too, just like Silver, though his isn't as intricately detailed; a sign of his (former) position in the Imperial Knights, given to him by the Faith upon his appointment, which - he tells us with some smugness - the Imperials couldn't order stripped from his heraldry.

Almost before we've left the dock at Enju, Lord Morty arrives to meet us. Just like the last time I saw him, he doesn't have any guards with him, just casually strolling down the road. I'd never realised how much he dressed like a Warden himself until I see him and Sayo at the same time.

"So, it's happening," he says. It doesn't sound much like a question. "Everything is prepared, Lady Sayo."

I've never heard anyone except the Paladins refer to a Warden with a noble honorific before. But then, Morty was the one who told us about Champions, and he's the lord of the holiest city in Joto. Maybe he's some sort of unofficial priest.

"Very well," Sayo nods, in a sudden, jarring switch to a far more formal tone. "I shall await your arrival at the Shrine, Lord Morty, if you would be so kind as to escort our guests."

I don't get why we couldn't have all gone up there as one group. But instead, Morty leads us in a casual amble back down the streets of Enju - in contrast to literally every other city I've seen the local noble lord or lady walk through, we don't attract much of a crowd, and I'm pretty sure if not for Choro being there the people of Enju wouldn't pay us any attention at all.

I can't help but glance to the ruined Shrine, where Silver's Champion powers had awoken. But there's no magical lure there this time, no shard of the Divines brushing against the world. Morty sees me looking and gives an amused chuckle. "A direct manifestation as you saw is rare enough that the last to even hear of it, much less witness it, was my grandfather's grandfather. Although some rumour that Lord Moltres allowed a shard of his power to grace Kanto with its presence before the destruction of Guren," he adds, after a moment's thought, as casually as if destroying an entire city (okay, the people had all already fled thanks to the warning of the Temple bells, but still) was barely worth mention.

So the Divines popped in during all the stuff going on in Kanto, just like they did here. More and more it feels like I'm just treading back over the same path the Common King already walked. But so little is known about him that knowing that doesn't even help me.

When we arrive at the Shrine, we're greeted by the Wardens. All of them - all five, every single Warden in Joto, with their Paladins lurking a step behind them. For once they have the decency to not just stare at me, though I notice Emrys' eyes flicker in my direction briefly.

The Wardens being arrayed like this have drawn a crowd where Morty's presence hadn't, and there are a lot of people here. But there's almost no whispering or muttering like there would've been anywhere else, just a soft, respectful quiet. A fair few of the people in the crowd are kneeling or bowed to the Wardens.

"Welcome, petitioners." Zuki, in the centre of the group, speaks with her voice magically magnified. "We, the Wardens of the Faith, greet Champion Lyra descended of Aogiri, Princess Carlei of Joto, Ethan of Unmei, Lord Ampharal of Asagi, regent of Kirameki, Lady Deanne of Fusube, Gaius of Kurayami and Magni of Suribachi." Hearing them call out Carlei so publicly still makes me nervous, even if it was pretty obvious they were planning on doing it when Sayo insisted Carlei wash out the charcoal dye from her hair before we arrived. The weird way they refer to Lyra catches me off-guard, though - and her too, by the way she tenses up. Ampharal shifts slightly so he brushes the back of her hand with his, a subtle gesture that most people probably don't even notice.

"The Faith challenges you to prove the righteousness of your hearts upon the highest point of our sacred Shrine." Simultaneously, the five Paladins draw swords - real, ornate swords, not manifested weapons of mithril - and level them at us briefly, then raise them up in the same salute Clair had used to focus on her magic. Even if I know they aren't going to attack us with them, mostly because I know Emrys's weapon is that deck of cards (and honestly we're strong enough that an ordinary steel sword would probably give way before our skin did) I still tense up slightly. "Do you accept the challenge?"

Zuki might have named Lyra first - presumably her Champion nature makes her more important in the eyes of the Faith - but she's looking at Carlei. And maybe Carlei's thinking about what happened in the trial in Kikyo too, because she looks at each of us in turn to get our assent before turning back. Not spitefully, as if to show off to the priests, the way she might once have done back when I first met her, but genuinely - even though she knows full well none of us are going anywhere.

"We do."

Ethan - Togetic, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
218
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
Oooooh I'm hype!! As frustrating as the Wardens can be with how cryptic they are, there is something fascinating about them. Really excited to see how this duel goes.

And yet, if this goes the way we hope it to, Carlei will be the Queen of Tojo, which I guess would make me King. For all that Carlei and I joked about how I'd be a terrible King because I don't know any of the etiquette, I think I'd find it far harder to get used to having everything delivered to me on a - literal - silver platter.

Or, maybe, I'm worried I'd get too used to it.
Oh, you'd get used to it Ethan.

Also, I can't believe I forgot about Kanto lmao. Eager to see where that goes and what answers we might get there 👀
 

DistortionLocke

Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Writer
Pokédex No.
623
Caught
Aug 3, 2019
Messages
79
Location
U.S.
Nature
Adamant
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Dark, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Anxious, sweet-toothed writer who hides amongst the papers. Only attacks when provoked.
Holy shit, Lyra is Archie’s daughter?! It explains so much, and now I am even in more desperate need of an ORAS or RSE sequel should our crew turn out alright. In the meantime, I am super pumped about this fight! I was wondering how you were going to handle the Kimono Girls fights, and you did not disappoint.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
82
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #126
@Thirteenth - Lol don't worry I forgot about Kanto too and I was the one playing the game! And yeah Ethan would almost certainly get used to being waited on hand and foot lol.

DistortionLocke - Just to be confusing, Aogiri (and Matsubusa) are the original heads of the two noble houses in Hoen from centuries before the story, separate to Archie and Maxie. But yeah Lyra is one of the last surviving members of that bloodline. As for a sequel, I have strongly thought about doing an Omega Ruby sequel to Call of the Divines, but it would probably end up being a very loose sequel since for an assortment of reasons only Magni and Deanne would really be able to swan off to Hoen after the end of the story, and you can't even catch the Dratini line in OR. And also I actually have another Nuzlocke planned already which is in a totally different setting to CotD and I'm not sure I'd be able to deal with working on two runs at once lol.


The Shrine isn't anything like the Temples I've been in, or even the Shrine in Kikyo. The Temples are intentionally easy to navigate, and even the Kikyo Shrine atop its Temple - as Sayo had pointed out - is intended and designed for people to go there for guidance, so it wouldn't have been hard for us to find our way there on our own even if we hadn't had the priests to guide us. This is different. All the secret passageways and corridors I'm used to seeing on the periphery of Temples are the only way of getting through this place, and there are so many twists and turns that I get totally disoriented within a couple of minutes. And it doesn't help that in places it seems like the damn place is about to fall apart, and we have to take very specific paths across the floor or make sure we only pass a creaking wooden pillar on a certain side, or the floor might give way under us.

The whole time we're in the Shrine, the five Paladins form into a ring around us, with each of the Wardens a couple of feet out from them, as they lead us through the network of corridors. The circle contracts and expands as we pass through narrower spaces, but despite all the changes in direction, it never breaks, and it almost looks like they've walking without even paying attention to where their feet are going. It's creepy how well-practiced they are, considering that this rite hasn't happened in centuries. Like they've been training all this time for...us.

The five Wardens and Paladins aren't the only ones in the Temple. Everyone else stays out of our way, but we pass by various other priests - no other Wardens, but some of them are wearing outfits that look halfway between the standard white robes of the priests and the masked heraldries of the Paladins, so I'm guessing they must be Paladins-in-training or something.

Eventually, we emerge at the roof of the Shrine. Or at least, where the roof is now - according to legend, in the duel between Hamar and Larence, a sword-blow of such immense power was struck (no-one can agree on which of them it was) that it sheared clean through the top section of the Shrine and sent the detached part flying into the other Shrine, precipitating the destruction of the Shrine that would later be completed by the fire.

The first time I heard that legend I'd assumed it was just typical exaggeration. Most Blessed do. An ordinary building couldn't withstand the power of Blessed, sure, but a sanctified place is another matter. We're strong enough we can knock holes in internal walls, but slicing through an entire fucking building with one hit is still leagues beyond us, or even the most powerful of the Blessed we met in Fusube. It should be impossible. And yet...I've seen that kind of power first-hand, now. Lance obliterated the entirety of Mahogany Manor, and the noble houses are reinforced with geomantic magic just the same as holy sites are.

And that's who...or what...we're trying to bring down.

The ring of Paladins and Wardens expands until the Wardens are virtually at the edge of the building. Without saying anything, we form into a tight-knit group at the centre of the circle.

"This duel will conclude when the Chosen Warriors of the Faith or the Chosen Warriors of Princess Carlei -" Zuki switches back to prioritising Carlei now "- are defeated. Are you ready?"

"Wait - what about you?" The others look at me, confused for a moment. "I mean, if we're attacking out of the circle, won't you be in danger?"

Kuni chuckles. "Thank you for your concern, Ethan, but you need not worry about us. This is a duel before the gaze of the Divines. Those outside will never be harmed." I think she guesses I'm sceptical, because she makes a sweeping gesture. "You can feel it, if you try."

And I can - the ever-present Divine energy of the Temples is shifting, changing, becoming a wall that separates us and the Paladins from the Wardens. I wouldn't have even known it was there if Kuni hadn't drawn my attention to it.

The Wardens bend down and pick up instruments that had obviously been left on the ground for this purpose. "Great Ones, hear our call." The Paladins all speak simultaneously as the Wardens begin to play - a simple melody, echoing and haunting and somehow reminding me of what I'd felt looking into the light of the Divines in the burned Shrine. The Paladins summon their weapons, and we follow suit instinctively, but then the Paladins start to step, rotating around us in perfect time with the music. They haven't even opened their eyes. "We give of ourselves to your power, such that the petitioners before us may be tested and judged in your eternal wisdom.

"Let the trial begin."

It sounds like a lot more than just the five Paladins speaking.

They all have totally different weapons, and yet their movements all flow and follow each other with a grace and perfection we can't even come close to matching. I send a flurry of lights towards Vosekh but instead they hit Urien's shield and splash off harmlessly and then he's next to Magni, Corruption energy flowing along his sword and onto her even though she dodges the blade itself, and then somehow her attempt to strike back instead gets snagged in the long, trailing length of silk Julian's wielding, and lightning crackles along it, immobilising her just like Ampharal's done to our opponents before, while Ampharal himself gets struck squarely with a blast of dual-natured Water magic, water knocking him off-balance and ice threatening to freeze him in place. Lyra turns and waves her hand and the water and ice alike dissolve into glimmering specks of blue light, and then a roaring blast of fire hits her in the back and sends her sprawling before either she or Ampharal can recover.

It's like they're focusing on all of us at once, instead of each of them picking specific targets the way we're used to fighting. And their steps are following the haunting, ethereal melody the Wardens are playing, audible somehow over the crackling of energy and battlecries.

They want to see what we can do. Maybe they think I should be commanding everyone, as their destined hero or whatever I'm supposed to be. But I'm not a good enough tactician to keep track of a battle this chaotic, even if I wasn't in the centre of it. And more importantly, I don't need or want to be. We're past one or another of us being the leader. Like Lyra had told Choro, we all chose to fight, and all we can do is trust each other.

Ampharal sees the pattern in the dance too, and suddenly jumps out of position. Not to help Lyra, but instead he leaves her and steps over Magni, bringing up his book and slamming it shut on Julian's whip-like silk before it can slash down at her while she's still immobilised. Lightning crackles over him, but he can handle the Air magic a lot better than she can, and with his free hand he throws something at her - a healing totem, and a small spark leaps from his fingers and shatters it into a thousand crackling sparks like glitter that fall on her, and she suddenly surges into movement, breaking free from the paralysis and lunging towards Julian, and a cage of stone erupts around him, penning him in and leaving him no way out.

Carlei sweeps her sword through the air, sending a wave of flame out to block Finbarr's next fireball before it can strike Lyra while she rolls back to her feet. It detonates in midair instead in a roaring wave of fire, but Lyra raises a wall of ice around them that captures the flames before they can strike the rest of us, and then turns it into water and sends it crashing over their heads and back on Finbarr, giving Carlei the perfect opportunity to get in close and attack with her sword.

I dodge aside from one of Emrys's cards almost without seeing it - it's just like my motes of light, pure Imperial magic. Deanne's been holding him off as best she can, but despite her skill at defensive magic he's more powerful and his magic is a lot quicker, forcing her to cast her counterspells again and again almost faster than she can keep up. But before he can withdraw his card back to him, I snatch it in a net of light of my own, and focus. I've been on the receiving end of Corruption magic enough by now to know what it looks like when my lights lose their energy to it, and when I shift my net of lights so they feel the same as the energy drain, I can feel his magic beginning to leech away, dissipated into the air around us. He doesn't realise what I'm doing until it's too late, and just throws more power at me, thinking I'm just trying to get him off-balance. By the time he does realise, I've weakened him enough that my next net of light sweeps his entire floating deck of cards away and traps them - and his magic - harmlessly, and he nods in acknowledgement and kneels down.

The other two Paladins don't stop fighting, even after losing half their number. But Lyra's eyes blaze blue and the water Vosekh was manipulating stops obeying him - it reminds me scarily of what I'd done to the bandit in the islands off Tanba - leaving Ampharal free to blast him with another beam of golden Air magic, and Gaius and Magni tag-team Urien, attacking hard and fast enough that he can't block every hit with his shield, and after a couple of blows get through he gets knocked off-balance enough, and Magni spins and kicks him in the chest, sending him flying straight towards Miki -

And the air changes, suddenly becoming so much hotter, so much denser. Urien comes to a halt in midair, curled up like he's cradled in some invisible grasp, and is gently set down as Miki starts floating, serenely lifting up into the sky, the pipe she was playing clattering to the ground as the music stops abruptly.

As one, the Paladins and Wardens drop to the ground and bow deeply enough that their heads are pressing against the ground.

"What's going on?" My voice sounds like it's coming from a long way away, and I barely even realise I've said it.

None of them answer until they lean back up, kneeling normally and spreading their arms wide. "We truly are blessed this day!" Zuki cries out, almost reverently. "Lord Ho-oh himself deigns to turn his focus to our lowly pleas!"

Great, flaming wings burst from Miki's back, and her eyes blaze with rainbow light.

"Praise be to Lord Ho-oh, Master of the Skies!" the Paladins and Wardens chant, in perfect, awestruck unison.

Miki - or the shard of Ho-oh controlling her...looks down at us. "Come, challenger, child of destiny."

"Let the trial begin."

I honestly can't remember when exactly I settled on implementing the legendaries as gods and the Pokemon as demigods - Ethan pulling out a Judgement via Metronome that one time was probably the original inspiration - but discovering that Ho-oh's signature move is called Sacred Fire pretty much sealed it for me.

Also, fun fact, the whole time I'd been running into the Kimono Girls in the game I'd been expecting this eventual fight to be against them in the story (as per my normal rule of a Trainer's ace standing in for the NPC). And then I got here and discovered that actually their Eeveelutions are all male. Though that did give me an idea for something to do that will show up in the story in a few chapters.
Ethan - Togetic, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
218
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
Ooooh the chaos of this fight, there's so much going on. Love how the team was able to find a rhythm with each other and fight the Paladins the way the Paladins were fighting them. Probably my favorite part was when Ampharal threw the healing totem at Lyra. Something about him stepping away to give her the space to get back on her feet and fight is 👌

Great, flaming wings burst from Miki's back, and her eyes blaze with rainbow light.

"Praise be to Lord Ho-oh, Master of the Skies!" the Paladins and Wardens chant, in perfect, awestruck unison.

Miki - or the shard of Ho-oh controlling her...looks down at us. "Come, challenger, child of destiny."

"Let the trial begin."
Was not expecting it to end like this though. Miki channeling Ho-oh, Ho-oh speaking to Ethan (presumably) directly, and also somehow I forgot that you actually fight Ho-oh lmao. Eager to see how difficult it's gonna be for the team to take on one god. 🍿
 

DistortionLocke

Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Writer
Pokédex No.
623
Caught
Aug 3, 2019
Messages
79
Location
U.S.
Nature
Adamant
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Dark, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Anxious, sweet-toothed writer who hides amongst the papers. Only attacks when provoked.
Tfw you’re playing the flute and a god takes over your body to initiate Trial by Combat
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
82
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #129
@Thirteenth - That was actually supposed to be Amphy throwing the totem at Magni, whoops! (In-game I literally just left him out there soaking Thunderbolts while I healed her.) But yeah Ethan gets to talk to a Divine at last!

DistortionLocke - 😆 Pfft yeah it has got to be one of the weirder occupational hazards out there!


Miki stretches her...their...flaming wings out to their full span, and the shockwave of superheated air almost blasts the others off the roof of the Shrine entirely, like they're nothing more than flies in the grip of a hurricane, leaving only me and Carlei untouched. Even the Wardens and Paladins get pushed back, though they somehow manage to stay kneeling reverently. Flames drip from the wings and flow around us in a circle, like the circle of geomantic power that had been protecting the Wardens from the fight.

"Don't cross the circle!" Zuki warns us, as if any of us would be stupid enough to try. "No mortal can survive the touch of those flames!"

Which isn't exactly encouraging.

Carlei doesn't waste time standing there gobsmacked, and does what I don't entirely have the guts to, launching a white-hot blast of flame straight up at Ho-oh. It just sort of...dissipates when it gets close, turning into red-and-gold sparkles like Lyra's water magic.

"Your power is impressive," Ho-oh concedes. "But your might alone will not defeat the abomination your father has become." They flick one hand and a wave of golden flame smashes down on us.

I know Ho-oh's not attacking us seriously.

Even as powerful as we are, the power Erewan unleashed back in the forests of Kikyo would still be more than enough to crush us, and Ho-oh's possession of Miki has brought far more of his power from whatever realm the Divines live on down onto ours than Kyogre had responded to Erewan's prayer. If Ho-oh wanted us dead, there's nothing we or anyone else could do to stop him right now.

The golden flames hurl us back as effortlessly as the shockwave had blasted the others away, agonisingly painful for a couple of seconds before they snuff themselves out and vanish. The flames hurt Carlei just as much as they do me, like she isn't even Fire Aspect at all, and for a moment we just lie there, panting.

One effortless...it can hardly even be called an attack...and we're almost beaten already. No matter how much I consciously tell myself that Ho-oh is holding back, that doesn't stop it being utterly terrifying.

"Get up," Ho-oh says, calmly. I don't bother, and just send a hail of lights back up at him, with as much force as I can manage. He reacts to them more than he did Carlei's fire, making a casual sweeping motion, and they scatter in all directions, exploding harmlessly against the wall of fire. "Do you intend on relying on your beloved to win through, as you did when first you arrived on this world?"

"What the fuck are you talking about?" I stagger back to my feet, since Ho-oh's apparently more interested in talking all of a sudden, and Carlei and I manage to stumble closer together so she can heal us.

"The Princess attacked me with all her might. Were it merely her destiny at stake, I would be content." And then Ho-oh flicks another blast of flame at us - but this one doesn't touch Carlei, tears us apart and almost pushes me straight into the wall of fire surrounding us. "But you do not do the same. Restraining yourself will be the death of you and your beloved."

Ho-oh lets me get back up without blasting me again. "Would you stop being cryptic for one fucking second and just tell me what you want me to do?!" I snap.

"Show us your true power!" Ho-oh retorts. "You hide it, resist it, deny it, but it is yours. Now use it!"

"I'm not going to give in to Chaos." Not with Carlei this close. I can't risk that. Not again.

"It is Chaos only because you believe it should be!" But Ho-oh floats down, the fire around us diminishing slightly - though, just as had happened in Kikyo, I can't see any of the others on the other side of the wall of fire. "True Chaos is pure heresy. It rebels against our touch, not submits. And yet it is easier for you to control in holy places than elsewhere." I've never told anyone that, not even Carlei. Have they been watching me the whole time? Reading my mind, somehow? "The first time you tapped into that power was in the Shrine of Yadon. Had you truly called upon the power of Chaos in that place, you would have been destroyed. You should listen to your beloved - she has a keen instinct for our power for one not sworn to our Faith."

"If it isn't Chaos, then...what is it?"

Ho-oh doesn't answer, just floats back up into the air, wings outstretched. "Now, Ethan, show us your power." He stretches out one hand, and a blazing ball of golden fire pops into existence, the waves of heat buffeting us even from here, and it started growing as Ho-oh raises it up, rotating enough that the waves of heat become a whirlwind that threatens to drag me in.

Carlei had stayed still while Ho-oh had been talking, but now she runs back over to me, wrapping her arms around me and taking advantage of Ho-oh excluding her from the flames to brace herself, keeping me safe from the vortex's pull. Ho-oh glares at her, wordlessly, and the wall of fire around us leaps higher, glowing brighter.

And then she looks up, for all her deep respect and reverent worship of the Divines, and meets Ho-oh's blazing eyes without flinching. "We are together. For better or worse."

I still can't believe someone so amazing fell in love with me.

The vortex grows stronger as Ho-oh looks down on us, strong enough that she has to struggle to keep her footing even without being directly affected, and Ho-oh raises the raging globe of golden fire up higher.

And then I swear I hear whispering, just faintly on the edge of my hearing, and Ho-oh relents slightly, and the pull of the whirlwind subsides. "Then you and Ethan shall challenge us as one."

So now it all comes down to me being able to control the power of my Chaos...or whatever not-Chaos it actually is. I've - deliberately - not even tried to call on it since Mahogany Manor, since seeing what it can become. What I might become.

Even though she doesn't need to any more, Carlei doesn't let me go - if anything, her grip tightens on me slightly, at least with one arm, and she rests her other hand against my cheek, shifting position so we're standing side by side. "Have faith," she whispers, ever so softly. "Not in the Divines, but in yourself."

I close my eyes.

I've never tried to deliberately tap into this power. I've never wanted to. In all honesty, I'm still scared of it, whatever Ho-oh might have said, whatever Carlei might have said. Even if it isn't Chaos, it's every bit as dangerous, and it's nothing like the power of any other Blessed I've seen.

But I don't have a choice now. Ho-oh might have decided Carlei had passed his test, but in standing with me she's put herself in my hands. If he decides I'm not good enough, it's not just me who'll be in danger.

This isn't like learning to control my motes of light, and my powers through them. With them I could see something to focus on. But this well of power isn't anything like that.

It feels like the Imperial Shrine at Fusube, all on its own, but different somehow. The Imperial Shrine was pure power, reluctant to be leashed to anyone. This power is different, quicker to react - more aggressive, almost. Fiery, like Carlei - I remember what Jisan said about our powers having merged, somehow. And once I start tapping into it, it's hard to stop, even with the calming influence of the Temple around me.

The power naturally flows into the crackling spears of light that I'm so used to thinking of as the weapon of Chaos, and I have to keep telling myself it's not. And as I pour more and more power into it, they start to change further, their hue changing from white to red and their forms stabilising, becoming more uniform.

This power is so much more than I've ever used before. More even than the Imperial Shrine. It's the same as Eusine, the way he could've drawn almost limitless power. And yet, something feels...missing, like something's blocking me from pushing the red spears to their full potential, and suddenly it's like the power overflows and the spears erupt into blazing fire.

I don't even understand how I'm controlling this. I'm not entirely sure I am. But I raise up one hand, and Carlei rests hers on top of mine and it feels so right that despite the situation I can't help but spare a moment to look at her and smile.

We bring our arms down, and the red spears arc off in all directions before angling back and hurtling straight at Ho-oh. He furls his wings of golden fire and the spears crash into them like they're solid, the impact creating a shockwave that snuffs out the wall of fire around us and feels like it rocks the entire fucking Shrine, but somehow Carlei and I stay standing.

The clash of power between me...us?..and Ho-oh only lasts a second or two, but it feels like a hundred times longer. Then Ho-oh flicks his wings out again and the blazing red spears swoop up into the sky and explode first into a wave of fire and then into soft, glittering motes of red light that rain down on us like snow.

"The trial is over," Ho-oh declares, rotating eerily in mid-air to face Zuki. "Hear this, our Faithful. The abomination that Lance, once king of Tojo, has become, must fall. Princess Carlei is the rightful Queen of this land, and she shall bear a token of our favour." Without looking at us, Ho-oh gestures in our direction, and the still-falling motes of red light coalesce into a delicate, mithril tiara, with a red gem set in the centre, that settles on her head. "Let all who see her know its purpose, and aid the Queen and the Champions of my brethren in striking down the abomination. This is the will of the Divines."

And then, as abruptly as Ho-oh had appeared, he vanishes in a plume of golden flames, leaving the unconscious Miki to slowly drift back down to the roof of the Shrine.

For all that I've been planning this battle since, like, pretty much before I actually began writing the story, I'm still not entirely happy with how it turned out. Trying to get the balance right between Ho-oh being leagues beyond them and not making it feel like their efforts were totally meaningless was pretty difficult. :(
Ethan - Togetic, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
 

DistortionLocke

Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Writer
Pokédex No.
623
Caught
Aug 3, 2019
Messages
79
Location
U.S.
Nature
Adamant
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Dark, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Anxious, sweet-toothed writer who hides amongst the papers. Only attacks when provoked.
For all that I've been planning this battle since, like, pretty much before I actually began writing the story, I'm still not entirely happy with how it turned out. Trying to get the balance right between Ho-oh being leagues beyond them and not making it feel like their efforts were totally meaningless was pretty difficult. :(
TBH, you did say this was a trial/test, and it certainly felt like one. And honestly, I don’t think anyone would walk into this chapter believing that Ethan and co. were going to defeat and dethrone Ho-oh.
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
218
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
The vortex grows stronger as Ho-oh looks down on us, strong enough that she has to struggle to keep her footing even without being directly affected, and Ho-oh raises the raging globe of golden fire up higher.
We bring our arms down, and the red spears arc off in all directions before angling back and hurtling straight at Ho-oh. He furls his wings of golden fire and the spears crash into them like they're solid, the impact creating a shockwave that snuffs out the wall of fire around us and feels like it rocks the entire fucking Shrine, but somehow Carlei and I stay standing.

The clash of power between me...us?..and Ho-oh only lasts a second or two, but it feels like a hundred times longer. Then Ho-oh flicks his wings out again and the blazing red spears swoop up into the sky and explode first into a wave of fire and then into soft, glittering motes of red light that rain down on us like snow.
These might've been my favorite snippets as far as description goes. They were so easy to visualize.

But yes, Queen Carlei 👏👏👏 I'm excited to see how the tides (hopefully) turn now that she has the Divines' favor.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
82
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #132
DistortionLocke - Thanks; I guess mostly coming from a background of playing tabletop RPGs, I'm always a little cautious about blatantly overpowered people 'testing' the heroes lol.

@Thirteenth - Thanks! And yep Carlei is now officially (ish) Queen! 👑


Things move quickly after that.

Miki gets hurried away by the other Wardens to recover from...being possessed by a god, I guess?

It seems so strange. Ever since I arrived in Joto everyone's been telling me that the Divines never act overtly. The destruction of the island of Guren by Moltres, three years ago, was unprecedented, but even then Moltres never actually appeared. The Divines never have.

And now I've not just seen one, like I had in the burned Shrine, but spoken to one.

What's changed? Why are the Divines so interested in what's going on? In me?

Of course, the only people who could even possibly tell me that are the Wardens and the Paladins, and God knows there's no way they're going to. I can see where they get the 'being obnoxiously cryptic' thing from now, though.

Whatever the case, almost before we've left the roof, we hear the echoing of the priest of the Enju Temple speaking in that magically-magnified voice they can do. He's too far away and too echo-y for me to make out what exactly he's saying, but it's not hard to guess.

As we start navigating our way back down the complicated route of the Shrine, though, I start to hear raised voices more locally, off down one of the side passages. The priest leading us back to ground level is far more interested in Carlei than me, telling her again and again how lucky she is to have been personally blessed by the Divines and given a token wrought of mithril by their pure will, so no-one notices when I slip away.

I know it's petty - which is why I'm not telling Carlei. I know she'd disapprove. But after all the secrecy and subtle nods to each other the priests - and the Wardens and Paladins especially - have been screwing me over with, if there's some priestly argument going on, I want to have even a little edge over them for once.

It doesn't take me long to find the source of the voices; it's Emrys, and one of the Paladins-in-training we passed on the way up. "It is the will of the Divines," Emrys is saying, calmly, as I approach as quietly as I can.

"The Divines don't make mistakes," the other Paladin retorts. "The judgement of the Divines isn't clouded by favouritism. But never mind the fact that I'm stronger than you - the Wardens just send you to help the Queen in battle, not me."

"Perhaps your power is needed elsewhere, Evard."

Evard scoffs. "You mean to be a sacrificial lamb to the heresy of Lance - again?"

"That isn't why you were -"

"Don't lie to me!" Evard sighs. "I'm not stupid, Emrys. Giovanni's charologists are renowned for their silver tongues. The Wardens were scared whoever they sent to help Shijima would fall to heresy. So they teach an expendable nobody geomancy - something that's never happened in all our records - and send me off without a care in the world."

"Then prove them wrong!" Admittedly I've not interacted with Emrys all that much, but I've never seen him angry before. "If you truly think that the Wardens chose you because they believed you would be lost, then prove them wrong," he repeats.

Evard chuckles. "As though it would make a difference," he says, quietly. "Look, Emrys...I appreciate you supporting me. I know you speak in my favour with the Wardens. But...don't bother. You're the star pupil, the one given power by the Divines themselves, the Imperial Paladin of the Faith. They'll never care about me."

He storms out, through the door I'm lurking behind, and he stops and looks over at me. I don't need my powers to know he's glaring at me behind his mask. "Why do you have to be the one who can't lose?" he asks, bitterly.

"So, uh..." I cast around for something to say, sheepishly poking my head around the door. Emrys has manifested his deck of cards again, and they're swirling around him just like my motes of light do around me. "Did he say you're coming with us?"

Emrys, to his credit, doesn't make any reference to the fact that I was so blatantly eavesdropping on them. "Yes. It was decided that should you pass the trial, the personal word of a Paladin vouching for you might reach people who would not otherwise know of your success. We were...not anticipating Lord Moltres personally testing you and marking Her Majesty as favoured of the Divines," he added, with a slender smile, "but it is my hope that my presence will still be of use to you."

"What does that mean? Carlei being favoured, or whatever?" I doubt Emrys is going to tell me anything about me, but hopefully I can at least get some information that might help us. "Is she a Champion now or something?"

"I'm afraid not," Emrys replies. "The mark of the Divines' favour is merely a symbol - though, as I'm sure you've learned by now, it is a symbol that means a great deal. Julian said you chose to take this trial to gain the allegiance of the people of Joto; there are very few who will stand against you when the will of the Divines is demonstrated so overtly."

Emrys is right.

At Choro's insistence (it is his boat, after all), the Oryu stops at the docks of each region we sail around. For all that we've been backtracking around Joto for a while now, it's so weird to travel back to places we've been ages ago - and painful to remember when we were here with people we've lost, but in turn we travel to (and have the priests of the local Temple sing our praises in) Kirameki, Asagi, Tanba, Kogane, Hiwada and finally Yoshino, which is going to be our staging ground for moving on Sekiei. Emrys insists we don't need any military forces, that the Imperial Army will not stand against Carlei when she has the backing of the Divines, but while he's probably right for the majority of the Imperial Army, we've had enough experience with them to know that not all of them will surrender just because the Divines say so.

In the end, though, Carlei's the one who decides that we'll lead an army into Sekiei, even if it is mostly unnecessary. Partly it's out of the sheer practicality of the fact that enough soldiers from the various regions have had enough of Lance that we've got an army whether we actually want one or not, but mostly it's simply that marching on Lance with an army to cast him down is a much stronger symbol than just sneaking in and evicting him. It's something no-one can ignore.

And honestly, I think Joto needs it.

Yoshino was the first real city we arrived at after fleeing the palace, but all the beautiful plants are unkempt now, and I can sense the fear suffusing the entire place long before we even dock, never mind make it into the city itself. At the sight of a warship pulling into the docks at sunset, most of the people go home and stay there.

But when word starts to spread, whispered in the streets by the few people still outside, that the rightful Queen has arrived in the city, I can feel the fear start to abate, hope bubbling up to the surface. That sense of hope gets stronger as the priests of the Temple start to make their normal speech about Carlei being the rightful Queen with the favour of the Divines.

They desperately need the hope.

Carlei never goes to the speeches; she just stays on the Oryu at least until after the priests have finished. Usually she stays on board the whole time we're docked.

I slip into our cabin while everyone's busy listening to the priests speak, watching the crowd begin to build. Carlei greets me with a hot, tight hug, and I lean into her for a few moments, just enjoying the warmth and solitude alone with her. The magnified voices of the priests are a little muffled here, but not muffled enough that it isn't still obvious.

"You should go out there," I say. Carlei pulls back from me enough that we can look into each others' eyes, tilting her head on one side slightly. "They need you. Not the priests reciting that long speech."

"If...if I go out there," she says, quietly. "Then..."

"I know." Then there's no turning back. Then she's finally abandoning the father she still loves.

"I have to, don't I?"

I wriggle one arm free of her grip and brush her forehead with my thumb, nudging a few strands of hair that immediately fall back to where they were, and she sighs and rests her head against my hand.

"Stay?" she asks, simply. She knows what answer I'm going to give, but she still releases me enough that I could pull away if I wanted to. I take advantage of her grip slackening to wrap my arms around her and hold her every bit as tight as she was holding me.

"Always."

Ethan - Togetic, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Emrys - Espeon, Synchronise, Brave, Loves to Eat
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
218
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
They're so sweet 😭 I hope Carlei can let go of her father sooner rather than later...

I'm in agreement about the army. I don't really expect anyone at the castle to back down just because Carlei's been chosen. They need that show of power, and I'm glad that Carlei was able to recognize that.
 

SilverDoe

Conqueror of the Cinnabar Gym
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
37
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
97
Location
Verdanturf Town
Nature
Timid
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Water, Ghost
I fell behind (again) but catching back up has, as always, been thrilling. Especially that trial with Ho-oh! I think the last time I commented was back when they fought Ariana/Archer at the temple, so just to summarize some thoughts/feelings I've had: I've loved how everything in the aftermath from that moment has truly felt like build-up for something huge. There's this feeling of the climax being near that just creates feelings of suspense and excitement. I enjoyed Choro's speech about how their situation is different than the revolution that happened in Kanto. It makes sense -- and it follows that they'd need a bigger symbol to really unite the kingdom against Lance.

For some reason, I wasn't expecting Ho-oh to actually show up during the challenge, but as soon as it happened it seemed like I definitely should have. I'm really curious to see how Ethan uses this not-chaos power in the future.

Also, him and Carlei are lovely together. And I love how her arc has shaped out... and I'm dying to see what happens when she finally sees her father again.

Overall I really am just so excited to see how this all plays out.
 

DistortionLocke

Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Writer
Pokédex No.
623
Caught
Aug 3, 2019
Messages
79
Location
U.S.
Nature
Adamant
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Dark, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Anxious, sweet-toothed writer who hides amongst the papers. Only attacks when provoked.
I enjoyed the tension of this chapter, especially with that last bit of reluctance Carlei has about fighting her father.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
82
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #136
@Thirteenth - Hehe, yep, I enjoy writing the little tender moments between them. And yeah Emrys hasn't been exposed to the Imperials first-hand, so he's not quite as cynical about them as Carlei and co.

SilverDoe - Yeah that moment is pretty much what precipitated the current events. I hope you enjoy the climax when we get there!

DistortionLocke - Thanks! And yeah Carlei's still not exactly happy about the idea of having to overthrow her father.


We stay hand in hand as we walk through the streets of Yoshino. People recognise Carlei almost as soon as we step off the Oryu, and before we've even left the docks proper I can see a crowd building around us, eyes watching us from windows and around street corners.

It's so strange. There were rumours swirling around about Carlei - even the beginnings of a reputation - long before the priests got involved. And the entire time we've been travelling, we've been doing almost everything we can to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. (Admittedly we didn't always succeed, but still.) Being so open about who we are - who Carlei is - feels so unfamiliar.

And yet at the same time, it feels...right. Just seeing Carlei is doing so much more for the peoples' hope than any amount of reassurances from the priests, and long before we actually reach the Temple people are beginning to overcome their fear of Imperial retaliation and step out to walk with us.

A small stage has been erected at the back of the Temple courtyard. I don't know if the priests set it up just for Carlei or if they were using it themselves, but there's no-one standing on it by the time we get up there, the crowd parting neatly to let us through with barely a word.

Carlei borrows my power to lift us both up onto the stage, and then lets go of my hand. I flick a mote of light into her palm instead, a gentle telekinetic pressure that no-one else can see, and she glances back at me and smiles - but then nudges the mote away gently and steps forwards. I get it. This is something she has to face up to on her own.

"Please forgive my lack of a prepared speech," she begins. Her voice is magnified, just like the priests'. I'm not sure she notices. "I've...never been much of a stateswoman.

"Blessed and human alike, we're all taught at our parents' knees that loyalty to our parents - to family - is absolute. No matter what, blood should stand by blood. That is why my brother is still serving Lance, and in truth I cannot fault him for it. For a long time I envied what I saw as Silver's ability to put his own beliefs aside and do what was good for the kingdom. But...there comes a time when that loyalty must give way to what is right. I cannot just...close my eyes to the suffering, know I'm doing the wrong thing and call it loyalty to assuage my own fears.

"So many people have been hurt - or killed - because of Lance. I...cannot pretend I do not in some way still sympathise with the situation that led him to this moment. But that does not change the fact that he...my father...is..." She hesitates, just for a moment. "...is evil.

"The ancient contract between Crown and Faith has been torn asunder a dozen times over, and the nobles that once supported him have been cast aside. He has abandoned everything that made him a strong king, a just king." She sighs. "In truth I cannot say that this is something that has only happened in recent months, even if recent events have precipitated this moment. I just...did not have the courage to face the reality of his cruelty." She glances back to me with a small, sad smile.

"I truly believe that if my father as he was when he was crowned King of Joto, the man - the human - I heard tales of as a child, who was still granted the right to rule by the Divines for his good heart and just nature, the man my mother fell in love with...if he could see this moment, he would stand by me. But the man he is now has long since cast aside all that made him good in the name of stolen power for nothing more than his own tyranny. Too many people have been hurt to continue standing by and doing nothing, or hiding in the name of protecting people close to me without ever asking them what they would do.

"In the name of our kingdom, as its rightful Queen, I swear to you before the gaze of the Divines, in this holy place - Lance will fall."

The ruby set into her tiara glimmers slightly - and with a loud thunderclap, a rainbow appears in the sky, looking like it's falling down directly onto her, suffusing her in prismatic light.

"Hail, Carlei!" the priests declare, in eerie synchronicity. "Twice-chosen of the Divines, Queen of Tojo!"

And I swear every single person in the Temple and outside it repeats the call.

Carlei blinks, stunned for a moment by the roar of assent, and then bows her head slightly, taking a couple of steps back towards me as the rainbow fades, her hand finding mine without her looking.

So now...I guess we go to war.

Kinda a smaller chapter today, but it didn't really make sense to start going off into the Elite Four halfway through a chapter lol.
Ethan - Togetic, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Emrys - Espeon, Synchronise, Brave, Loves to Eat
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
 

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