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Written Story Spin-off Mature Mon The Dark We Carry: A Colosseum Storylocke

Thread Description
"We are known not by our light, but our darkness." Chapter 65 up [7/12]; *HIATUS until mid-Aug*

Plain Yogurt

Happy Dairy Product
Team Delta
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226
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66
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Pokédex Entry
An ordinary dairy product. Dislikes conflict, and does whatever he can to bring happiness to others.
Me, for the last like, year and a half: "Huh, I really want to get back into this run. I'll get to it eventually."

Me, reading the ganza results: "...How the heck did THAT happen?"



So here I am, FINALLY caught up after so long and Deeeeeeeee you did the SUFFERING thing again. That thing where you build up SO DANG MANY lovely and compelling characters and just...beat them into the crust of the earth so PAINFULLY. Colosseum was already a dark game from what little I remember but these folks you're writing are NASTY. Which makes sense, again, but dang its tough. There's so much to write about but at the end of the day the only coherent thing I can say is that I love Rui's constant war with herself and I love how you've adapted each plot element to make sure I'm on the very edge of my seat at like, all times.

I LOVE REED HE'S THE GOODEST LAD AND I'M GLAD HE'S STARTING TO THINK HE MIGHT BE. He definitely slipped under the radar at the start-as he'd want, I'm sure-but he's such a genuine guy and it's been painful, but satisfying to see him get pulled out of his darkness just in time to help Luna when she needed him. Who is also swell, and I am seriously crossing my fingers for them. SO MANY love interests are biting it this story and it's MEAN.

Speaking of Luna, her dynamic with Cap was pitch-perfect on how siblings can interact, imo. They bicker like crazy, but it's so clear that they love each other through it all and have that inseparable bond that...oh wait, ha HA never mind. I knew poor Cap's fate going in, of course, and when they had that raw, painful spat before the bomb incident I really thought you'd pull the "never got to say sorry" death and that would have ruined me more than it already did. He was a lovely beacon of optimism in this HARSH world and even with Kata's antics it really doesn't feel like the team will hit the levity they had in that double date extra ever again (that thing was so CUTE and GOOEY CHEESEY UGH. Only Cap could create such a saccharine moment in this world you've made). And Kata...well...it's best summed up this way: I started giggling out loud in his introductory battle. He's funny as all get out and I really do want the greatest for him.

I won't lie though; the fact that I knew Cap was going made Manny's death blindside me like a truck even harder. I was really digging where he was going with his EXTRA painful backstory, and then...he was gone. Hopefully he was able to reconcile with his little brother in the afterlife.

I am quite happy with Tama's arc! A nice, fitting little story with a happy resolution that (hopefully) sticks.

Denri's another favorite of mine, next to Reed. Going in he hit me as a "rough and tumble always wants a fight" type but he's so much more nuanced than that. I love that he can sit back and appreciate the world around him outside of the fighting (the scene post-purify where he truly feels the wind really resonated for me) and how even while he was a shadow he always seemed to be putting his fighting skill to use for more than just wanting to bash skulls.

I enjoy Striga's bearing on the plot and their tricky playfullness as well as their useful skills coming in clutch for Rui, but I have been a bit confused on how to read their age, admittedly, or perhaps maturity would be the better word? Their recollections of the past and their thoughtfulness strikes me as a wise older onlooker but then the language used with their interactions, activities, and finally confession to Topaz felt like a couple of middle-schoolers discovering their first crushes. No real issue with the character themself, mind you. Though perhaps I think too hard; they ARE a mysterious ghost-type.

Uggghhhh and then there's the whole dang ENTEI and deity dealio and all that THAT entails. And of course now that I'm caught up...I have to wait. And wait I will. Keep doing what you're doing. It's awesome.
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
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Team Alpha
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147
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Jun 26, 2019
Messages
617
Location
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Nature
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Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #182
So, last Sunday I missed an update due to completing an undocumented XD run (and let me just say that no, that won't be the sequel to TDWC, though I do plan for a part 3 in DD-verse!). And unfortunately, it looks like this Sunday I won't be able to post either, as irl has been kicking me right upside the teeth. Please be patient, and forgive me this small hiatus!

I loved the Eagun chapter! It's really interesting to see things from his perspective. Also interesting that he's starting to build a team again...

(I wish he'd let Topaz onto his shoulder, though! How can he say no to such a cute Pikachu?)


ME TOO

And of course, congrats on winning all three of your categories!
I'm glad you liked it! Eagun is a fun character to write for, and getting into his head was fun for a chapter. And yeah, Topaz is a cutie--but Eagun is old and creaky! Give him a break ;;w;;

and thank youuuuuuuuuuuuu


You know, I can't say that I'm upset that this jerk gets yeeted into insanity during Black 2/White 2. It was quite satisfying to watch Ghetsis crumble. I haven't finished reading Dear Diary, but I bet he gets his comeuppance there too. :)

As for the other villain we saw today.... I needuh monsta ta clobbah dat dair Es Cade! The monster being, uh... Friendship!

If you want to make a many-headed hydra, Es Cade, you're not the only one who can do that. ;) go grid go
While Eagun worries about national character, Beluh remains a true queen:

If only Rui had Beluh as a parental figure. Maybe things would have been different....

But Eagun! Think of how cool you'd look with a Pikachu on your shoulder!

See? Even this dork looks cool!

Oh no, Woodwind! T-T Well, at least someone is showing a healthier way to deal with grief...
I'm glad you like the extra! No DD spoilers here, hehe ;)

And Eagun doesn't need to look cool, he had his time to shine already. Topaz is gonna have to walk on his own two feet!


I don’t understand how you consistently blow me away with each chapter. Whenever you reveal some new twist, it always takes me by surprise. Ghetsis’ origin story, especially. Whenever there’s a battle, it’s always written in a creative fashion. You find something new for your team to do every time. And every character feels so well-developed! You're a very impressive writer.
That's very high praise! I'm so glad you like the story so far, and I hope to continue entertaining you.


Me, for the last like, year and a half: "Huh, I really want to get back into this run. I'll get to it eventually."

Me, reading the ganza results: "...How the heck did THAT happen?"



So here I am, FINALLY caught up after so long and Deeeeeeeee you did the SUFFERING thing again. That thing where you build up SO DANG MANY lovely and compelling characters and just...beat them into the crust of the earth so PAINFULLY. Colosseum was already a dark game from what little I remember but these folks you're writing are NASTY. Which makes sense, again, but dang its tough. There's so much to write about but at the end of the day the only coherent thing I can say is that I love Rui's constant war with herself and I love how you've adapted each plot element to make sure I'm on the very edge of my seat at like, all times.

I LOVE REED HE'S THE GOODEST LAD AND I'M GLAD HE'S STARTING TO THINK HE MIGHT BE. He definitely slipped under the radar at the start-as he'd want, I'm sure-but he's such a genuine guy and it's been painful, but satisfying to see him get pulled out of his darkness just in time to help Luna when she needed him. Who is also swell, and I am seriously crossing my fingers for them. SO MANY love interests are biting it this story and it's MEAN.

Speaking of Luna, her dynamic with Cap was pitch-perfect on how siblings can interact, imo. They bicker like crazy, but it's so clear that they love each other through it all and have that inseparable bond that...oh wait, ha HA never mind. I knew poor Cap's fate going in, of course, and when they had that raw, painful spat before the bomb incident I really thought you'd pull the "never got to say sorry" death and that would have ruined me more than it already did. He was a lovely beacon of optimism in this HARSH world and even with Kata's antics it really doesn't feel like the team will hit the levity they had in that double date extra ever again (that thing was so CUTE and GOOEY CHEESEY UGH. Only Cap could create such a saccharine moment in this world you've made). And Kata...well...it's best summed up this way: I started giggling out loud in his introductory battle. He's funny as all get out and I really do want the greatest for him.

I won't lie though; the fact that I knew Cap was going made Manny's death blindside me like a truck even harder. I was really digging where he was going with his EXTRA painful backstory, and then...he was gone. Hopefully he was able to reconcile with his little brother in the afterlife.

I am quite happy with Tama's arc! A nice, fitting little story with a happy resolution that (hopefully) sticks.

Denri's another favorite of mine, next to Reed. Going in he hit me as a "rough and tumble always wants a fight" type but he's so much more nuanced than that. I love that he can sit back and appreciate the world around him outside of the fighting (the scene post-purify where he truly feels the wind really resonated for me) and how even while he was a shadow he always seemed to be putting his fighting skill to use for more than just wanting to bash skulls.

I enjoy Striga's bearing on the plot and their tricky playfullness as well as their useful skills coming in clutch for Rui, but I have been a bit confused on how to read their age, admittedly, or perhaps maturity would be the better word? Their recollections of the past and their thoughtfulness strikes me as a wise older onlooker but then the language used with their interactions, activities, and finally confession to Topaz felt like a couple of middle-schoolers discovering their first crushes. No real issue with the character themself, mind you. Though perhaps I think too hard; they ARE a mysterious ghost-type.

Uggghhhh and then there's the whole dang ENTEI and deity dealio and all that THAT entails. And of course now that I'm caught up...I have to wait. And wait I will. Keep doing what you're doing. It's awesome.
WELCOME BACK!!

I'm so, so glad to have you back. Your reactions to the characters is especially fun; I'm glad you like characters like Reed and Denri who are (I feel) unsung, a bit, in comparison to the Eeveelutions and Kata. Oh, and as for Striga--that duality is deliberate! If you remember from DD, Ghost-types in this verse possess the memories and kind of the personality of the original human, but are still largely their own, separate entity. Naturally, such duality lends itself to different expression of emotions at different times!
 

Master Bryss

zd zd
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Pokédex No.
85
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Jun 16, 2019
Messages
298
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Scotland
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he/him
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Pokédex Entry
Their body is made of an intricate and interconnected weave of their own puns.
I binged this whole run from scratch on a recommendation. I don't regret it.

I'm not super-hot on romance (and that's purely a personal thing it's still well-written), but I'm a sucker for Orre and the way you've written Shadows just speaks to me. They're all so different, Lovrina's a darling, it feels like yet unlike the original plot in such a good way. Can't wait for more.

(If you've not played the hack XG yet and you're looking for an alternative XD experience, is highly recommend seeking it out by the way!)
 
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Spectacles

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139
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Jun 24, 2019
Messages
304
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Nature
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she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
I will absolutely forgive your hiatus because I thought I was so much more behind than I actually am! A very nice surprise! Ah Eagun had some great words of wisdom! I hope Rui takes his advice. I think she should talk to Luna. They can help each other through this. Also, I love Eagun’s inconsistent sternness with Pokémon on shoulders :)
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
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147
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Jun 26, 2019
Messages
617
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
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They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #185
Whew, what a ride it was catching up on this. I left off when purification process was happening and I felt like the group had already gone through hell at that point, but it just get’s worse from there (though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with this considering your last work). And we’re only a little more than halfway through? Rui better brace for impact lol

Your ganza nomination for a certain death was what sparked me to jump catching up on this on the priority list, though as a result every scene had me on pins and needles, like “Is X gonna die here? Or maybe here? No no no, it has to be here!”

Like I was 100% sure that moment with the bomb was where Cap was gonna bite it lol, like a textbook superhero moment. Needless to say I was surprised that he died a little later on in such an anticlimatic fashion instead, though I wasn’t disappointed.

Entei was a cool twist as well. Feel bad for her brothers, that’s cold-blooded as hell.

I love how you seem to seamlessly slide into so many different voices and though some are much more distinct than others there’s still more than enough to differentiate from each one.

Many thanks for crosspostung this to AO3 as well, made for a nice binge read while I was traveling this past weekend (Did you know that at the time I downloaded the fic it was 671 pages?! And then I realized I had over 300 pages to catch up on 😂). Congrats on the nominations and moving to the voting phase, and good luck with the rest of the run!
Aaaaaaaaaaa thank you! I'm so glad you caught up! Glad to have you back. And I'm sorry the death got spoiled for you, but I guess that it added a new tension all its own, hehe... Although if you think about it, Cap really did give his life to save everyone on that mountain. It just took a bit to catch up to him. Entei has a lot to answer for...

Thanks a lot for the praise on other aspects too!


I binged this whole run from scratch on a recommendation. I don't regret it.

I'm not super-hot on romance (and that's purely a personal thing it's still well-written), but I'm a sucker for Orre and the way you've written Shadows just speaks to me. They're all so different, Lovrina's a darling, it feels like yet unlike the original plot in such a good way. Can't wait for more.

(If you've not played the hack XG yet and you're looking for an alternative XD experience, is highly recommend seeking it out by the way!)
I'm so glad!

You're super valid on the romance, and everything else is great to hear as well. I'm really glad the shadows feel unique, not samey. And as for XG... I'll consider it for certain! I just finished an undocumented XD run, though, so maybe in a bit haha


I will absolutely forgive your hiatus because I thought I was so much more behind than I actually am! A very nice surprise! Ah Eagun had some great words of wisdom! I hope Rui takes his advice. I think she should talk to Luna. They can help each other through this. Also, I love Eagun’s inconsistent sternness with Pokémon on shoulders :)
Everyone's so salty about Eagun and Topaz hehe xD
But yes, Eagun had good advice! his own journey might have some insight to Rui's own...
 

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
617
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #186


The flash drive is encrypted, heavily so. It won’t be easy to crack.



Thankfully, you’ve got the best minds in Orre on the case. Give us a few days more. We’ll get this done, and see what treasures they have for us.



K


---



It was so late that it was early.



Yet despite that, Rui Matsuhara’s tiredness was not the sort which came from a lack of sleep. No, her tiredness was of a different kind. Deeper. Colder. More pervasive.



Sleep was pointless. What was she even doing? She didn’t know. She had no idea, and probably never would.



Finally recognizing that she wasn’t going to rest tonight, Rui rose from her bed with a weary sigh, throwing on some clothes and her duster before walking out into the night.



The moon was round and bright and heavy in the sky, pale radiance running down to bathe Agate in a silver glow. Rui shoved her hands in her pockets, trying not to think too much about how she was wearing a dead man’s jacket, and let her feet take her where they would.



Perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising that she wandered down the hill, following the river towards the narrow neck of woods with the Relic inside. She passed under the boughs of the trees and the moonlight vanished away, leaving her pathway enshrouded. But she had traced these steps often enough to know where she was heading. Before long, the clearing with the Relic stood before her.



The Relic didn’t look like much, all things considered. A tall, thin jumble of cylindrical blocks stacked haphazardly atop each other, it half-seemed as if it would fall over any minute. The one on Mt. Battle had looked much the same. To think, these things were so frightening that the cipher and Entei both had made moves to destroy them…



The wind whispered around her, suddenly picking up. It caressed her like a satin bedspread, and when it finally died down, there was a familiar presence behind her.



“I was wondering when I would see you,” Celebi said.



Rui turned. The goddess was not in her usual form; instead, she wore the shape which Rui had first met her in, that of the petite, strangely ageless woman with spring-green hair and a gown of a darker, foresty green. Her hands were laced together in front of her.



Before she knew it, Rui’s hands were balling into fists.



Celebi’s face was hard to read, but Rui thought she saw a drifting ghost of a frown there. “What have I done to offend you now?”



“Shut up,” Rui snarled. “You—you—”



Momentarily lost for words, she jabbed a finger back at the Relic. “That stupid rock on the mountain you wanted me to protect, Cap died for that! He should have been able to shoot that Noctowl out of the sky, but instead his gem was damaged from protecting your stupid artifact from Entei, and for what? You can’t even fucking USE THEM!



Her accusation hung sharp in the glade, seeming to linger long after the sound had faded. Celebi had not moved. She still stood, her hands laced in front of her. Her gown rippled around her ankles, though no wind stirred the meadow.



“You are correct,” she finally replied. “I cannot use the powers sealed within my Relics. But,” she added, and here her voice grew a touch sharp, “it is not for my benefit I wish them preserved.”



Rui crossed her arms, barking out a humorless laugh. “And I thought your stupid pact stopped you from giving me information.”



Celebi sighed then, the sigh of one facing stubborn intractability. “I cannot tell you something,” she said, “unless you already know it.”



The insinuation was clear. Celebi wasn’t being selfish by protecting the Relics—and Rui knew it deep down. Despite herself, she looked back over her shoulder at it again. There it was, towering over the grass and green, the key she had used to unlock so many shackled hearts.



“The pokemon,” she said softly. “I know. It’s for them. But—but why? This one was doing fine. I’ve used it to purify so many pokemon already. So why did Cap have to die for the one on Mt. Battle? Please, I just… want to know…”



Sympathy, this time, was what she saw on Celebi’s face. “I know you do not wish to hear this,” she said, “but I cannot say. But there is a reason.”



“I want to believe you,” Rui whispered. She turned again to the Relic. “I want to believe that I’m doing the right thing. That all my efforts mean something. But I—so many people and pokemon have gotten hurt. Killed. My friends and teammates… Lately, it just feels like I… like anything I do is going to backfire and hurt me and anyone else. I tried to help Ximena and ended up making the whole city think she’s friends with a murderer. I tried to help Duking and got two pokemon killed. Even Wes…” She looked down at the sleeve of her trusty old duster, the same dark navy she’d grown so comfortable in. “He was the one helping me,” she said, “and he got a knife in the back.”



All her losses, all her failures—they seemed to swim about her, pressing and closing in, smothering any spark or chance at happiness.



“What’s the point?” Rui whispered. “All my victories come with too steep a price tag. Miror B cost me Arglye. Entei cost me Cap, and I didn’t even do much more than inconvenience her. And I’m supposed to fight this Devourer?” The situation was so hopeless, so futile, that she actually started laughing, burying her face in her hands. “I feel so… defeated.



As the Relic continued looming above her, she heard the sound of Celebi’s bare feet gliding through the grass. “Rui,” she said, the sound soothing yet almost authoritative. “I’m going to ask you a question.”



A dark part of her chuckled at that. What was she going to ask? How long it was till she got Striga, or Luna, or Kata killed? “Shoot,” Rui spat.



Celebi stopped a few paces from her. “How long,” she asked, “has it been since you looked at your aura?”



Rui’s breath hitched. “What kind of question is that?” she asked, turning to look at Celebi. “Why would you ask that?”



Celebi didn’t respond, and Rui felt a spike of anger, of hatred, in her. “What game are you playing?” she snarled. “What—”



“Stop.”



The word was spoken without volume or force. It did not shake the meadow or the trees or the earth. But there was a weight to it when spoken by the goddess that pushed Rui into speechlessness.



They stood there in silence for a few minutes before Celebi spoke again. “How would you describe how you are feeling lately?” she asked.



As if it wasn’t obvious. “Shitty,” Rui replied. When Celebi raised an eyebrow in response, she sighed and pushed on: “Fine, fine! I’m sad, and unhappy, and I feel like a failure, alright?”



“Angry?”



“Yeah.”



“Does it feel like you’ll never be happy again?”



Rui glanced down. What was she doing? “Yeah,” she muttered. “Yeah, I… yeah.”



“Does it sometimes feel muffled? Smothered? Numb?”



Rui raised a gaze to her. What was Celebi driving at? And how did she know exactly what she was feeling?



Celebi locked gazes with her for a moment and then said once more, enunciating every word: “have you looked at your aura recently?”



It suddenly all hit. Depressed feelings. Sudden spikes of anger. A feeling of hopelessness and joylessness that smothered everything. And aura?



“No,” Rui whispered in horror. “No, no, no, you can’t possibly mean what I think you do.”



“I don’t mean anything,” Celebi said sharply. “I merely asked you questions. In providing the answers, you drew your own conclusions.”



Rui didn’t care about semantics. She stared down at her own hands, almost fearful of opening herself to Aura, terrified of what she would see there. “But I… I haven’t even been in the White Room.”



“Haven’t you?” Celebi asked.



Swallowing, Rui realized that the goddess was right. She had—in many of the dreams and visions of the pokemon, when she’d accompanied them on their voyages to be purified.



And hadn’t she felt the Devourer pecking at her during those times?



“If you wish to look, then look,” Celebi said. “Just give me a moment to shield my true form from you. It is not meant for mortal eyes.” She breathed in, closed her eyes, and then nodded.



Trembling with fear, almost sick with the thought of what she might find, Rui opened herself to Aura.



She remembered hers as being emerald green, but the vibrance of it had faded a bit lately, looking a little ashen, a little greyer. She studied close and almost screamed when she saw it—a tiny thread, little more than an early flicker, of red-black squirming its way through her aura.



Shadow.



The shock knocked her out of Aura and she collapsed, her chest heaving as she panted for breath at a hundred miles a minute.



“The Devourer prefers to nestle within pokemon,” said Celebi, striding closer. “But humans are not an impossibility, and psychics, thanks to their nature and origins, are easier still.” She knelt down into the grass, her presence close. Rui was still hyperventilating; wetness streaked down her cheeks as she realized she was crying from pure unadulterated fear.



“I can’t be,” Rui whispered. “I can’t be shadow. Lugia’s roars, it can’t be. I don’t want to be shadow!”



“You are not fully corrupted,” Celebi said, her voice soothing. “Not even close. This is simply the enemy’s first probing attempts.”



“Get it out of me,” Rui choked. “I want it gone.”



Celebi nodded, and then her gaze reached past Rui. Rui turned to follow it and—



Of course. The Relic.



“You know what you have to do,” Celebi said. “How it heals you.”



Yes, Rui knew. It showed you the hurt you bore. The wounds that ate at you. You had to confront those things, face them head-on, deny their power.



Catharsis.



Oh, but she was scared. What would she have to see? To face? What would the Relic force her to confront? To relive?



“I don’t want to,” Rui whispered, and then cursed her own fear.



On the one end, fear of facing the past. On the other, fear of becoming like Lovrina, another one of the Devourer’s creatures. So much fear.



Just give in.



The thought came from deep within her and she wasn’t sure if it was hers or not, and she hated it.



The leaves in the meadow began to stir. “You know the old stories?” Celebi said. “The myths? The tales your people tell of heroes and heroines, gods and monsters?”



Rui still stared at her hands, imagining her slowly-bleaching aura, imagining its noble emerald staining red and black and purple, raw and diseased like Lovrina’s.



“You will have heard the scholars say that they all follow the same roadmap. The same plan. They hit the same beats,” Celebi continued.



Rui’s fists tightened. No, she had to do this. Now, while she could.



“This is true. There is a universal journey that every hero from the story takes. She starts out normal and safe, until one day, she is thrust into an adventure.”



Rising, Rui looked at the Relic. It looked so solid, so stoic. It almost dared her to approach. To face down those wounds.



“The hero makes friends, meets allies. Slowly, she grows in power until she approaches the threshold.”



Fear hammered in her heart. The past hurt. She didn’t want to face it again!



“The threshold separates the known from the nameless. She crosses it and finds herself in another, a harsher world.”



But that wasn’t fair. The pokemon had all faced their hurts as well. Manny, Denri, poor Reed… if they could do it, so could she. Her nails bit into her palms as she steeled herself, repeating it as a mantra. So could she. So could she.



“In this new land, she undergoes a road of trials. They grow and shape her as a person, and she begins to gain confidence and victory.”



The Relic loomed, and with it, the promise of all her past regrets and haunts and hurts.



“But then the unthinkable happens. A great danger arises. She has failed in a tremendous way and finds herself in shadow. The belly of the beast.”



Dreading every step, wondering if it would be the end of her, yet still knowing that the seed of the Devourer was now nestled in her aura, Rui took a step towards the Relic—and then another. Was it her imagination, or did it thrum with power the closer that she got?



“And now,” Celebi said, her voice soft, “comes the hero’s greatest ordeal, for she realizes that for every peak there is a valley, for every dawn there is sunset. Her trials before this are as nothing. She faces the darkness of the abyss. The underworld lies before her.”



Rui’s hands were clammy from anticipation. She wished beyond wishing that she didn’t have to do this.



She could escape. She could run. She could leave this meadow forever.



…no. No, she couldn’t.



Rui reached out and touched the Relic and darkness within her screamed, and then—



And then she was dragged backwards across the gulf of time to face her own history.


---


I'm so, so excited to get to this 👀


This chapter (and the following one) was one of the first things I ever conceived for TDWC. In many ways, the rest of the narrative was built around this pair.


Are you excited as I am?~
 

Trollkitten

Kitten of Lore
Artist
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
208
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
1,008
Location
Gatto Region
Nature
Quirky
Pronouns
She/her, Aetherai Lorekeeper
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Clever
Pokédex Entry
Autistic writer who starts more things than she finishes. Hyper asexual Twitch Plays Pokemon lorewriter. Rather be a happy shill than an angry critic.
I love it.

Celebi being mysterious, the connections to the monomyth, Rui's discovery that she herself is beginning to fall into shadow... everything just fell into place absolutely perfectly.

I eagerly anticipate the next chapter!
 
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Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
304
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
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Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
Ahhhh I had a feeling human shadows would be addressed in this story! I had a somewhat similar idea for my Colosseum run that I'll probably never post. Even though I had a feeling this would happen, I never expected it would happen to Rui, and at this point in the story. But it makes so much sense! Hopefully this intervention from Celebi and the relic will put her on the path to recovery!
 
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Trollkitten

Kitten of Lore
Artist
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
208
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
1,008
Location
Gatto Region
Nature
Quirky
Pronouns
She/her, Aetherai Lorekeeper
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Clever
Pokédex Entry
Autistic writer who starts more things than she finishes. Hyper asexual Twitch Plays Pokemon lorewriter. Rather be a happy shill than an angry critic.
As a woman who's had to fight the shadow all her life: you can do this, Rui. We all believe in you.
 
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Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
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Jul 1, 2019
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1,083
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Rash
Pronouns
She/her
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Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
You know, for as supernatural as this run has gotten, I never even considered human shadows—and I especially didn't think Rui would become one!

Well, the rest of the team has gone through a healing journey. It makes sense for Rui to do that too.
 
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cyndakip

there goes my luck
🌱Featurer
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
23
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Jun 9, 2019
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337
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Lilycove City
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Hardy
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they/she
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Fire, Water
Pokédex Entry
Part Cyndaquil, part Mudkip, entirely tired.
Oh heck I didn’t see this coming, but it definitely makes sense! Rui’s been through a lot, but I know she can overcome it.
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
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Jun 26, 2019
Messages
617
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Zion National Park
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A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #192
I'm a bit worn out to do specific replies, but thanks to everyone who commented on the last chapter; I hope this upcoming one meets your expectations!



She didn’t know what to expect as she was yanked into her own past. After all, she’d done this at least a dozen times before while purifying various shadows. But that had always been as a passenger. This time, the feeling was enormously different. It almost felt as if her heart was pulsing to the Relic’s pull, a drumbeat being played in line with an old grey song, and as the past wove itself around her, she was left panting and breathless.



“No,” she whispered. “It can’t be.”



The watercolor world of memory transformed itself into a familiar fixture, an enormous hollow cavern with crystals glowing in the walls and a misty waterfall at the far end.



“No,” she protested, “I don’t want to see it!”



But the Relic didn’t care. Color bled into shapes bled into familiar forms, pokemon battling in the glow of the crystals and the mosses.



She wanted to turn her head away but couldn’t as Manny’s death played out in front of her. The spark of enemy Electric-types made the cavern flash momentarily, and then her brave and stalwart friend was gone, just gone—a lifetime mourning for his brother, the quiet strength that had stood resolute against the Feral Ones, both snuffed out like an instant like a candle in the wind.



“And all because I was too stupid to realize I was walking into a trap,” Rui muttered.



She knew what came next, and for a moment, she wanted to turn her head away. But that had been what had happened last time—her attention on Manny, only seeing the aftermath, her first knowledge of it being Luna’s desperate, agonized scream as she watched her brother die. That would almost be as bad, Rui thought, and so she turned her attention to the other side of the cave.



There, on the far end, was Kata doing battle alone against a tide of enemies, and Cap running support. And then she saw it unfold: how he drew the attention of the Flying-types, how he knocked most of them out of the sky, how his gem failed at the worst moment. Somehow she had thought that his death at the Noctowl’s talons would have been a momentous thing, incredible, earth-shattering. But the small whump as he was knocked to the floor was almost muted, and with the madness reigning around them, there was nothing world-ending about it at all. Just more chaos, in the end. More carnage. It wasn’t until Luna’s cry, and the attention it brought, that Cap’s death became anything more than a small note amidst a symphony of madness.



Rui watched her past self running to Cap, cradling him, holding and comforting him as his lover and his sister and his friends laid into their enemies with renewed, furious vigor. All the while, Cap slowly drifted away in his trainer’s arms.



She reached up almost mechanically, wrapping her arms against herself, though the cold of this cavern could not reach her through the veil of memory. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, as if Cap and Manny could still hear her. “I hope I brought you comfort as you died, Cap. And Manny… I… it was so fast…”



“It is a kind sentiment,” a voice replied from behind her.



Rui whirled. There, standing in the cavern, her arms clasped behind her back, was the woman in the green gown: Celebi.



“What are you doing here?” Rui’s voice was taut with emotion and surprise. “I thought you couldn’t use the power that was locked away.”



“I cannot,” Celebi replied easily, “but you yourself should know that a passenger is allowed on these temporal sojourns. I’m not using my power—it’s using me.



The difference seemed academic at best, though by now Rui knew better than to question Celebi. If Entei’s accusations were true, then Celebi was the architect of the pact. It made sense she knew all the loopholes to be exploited.



“I don’t want you here,” Rui said, and a dark part of her heart snarled in agreement. “This is private. Personal.”



The goddess turned a dispassionate gaze to her. “Rui Matsuhara,” she said, “do you honestly think there is a single part of your journey I do not already have knowledge of?”



Rui shivered. No, she didn’t.



“Tell me about this day,” Celebi stated.



“Why should I,” Rui muttered in response.



Celebi just stood in silence, her hands clasped behind her back, and Rui knew with exasperation what they were both thinking: hadn’t Rui herself listened to the shadow pokemon speak? Hadn’t she asked them to voice their pains and in doing so, unburden them?



“…fine,” she conceded. “But I don’t know what there is to say. You know everything already.”



“I do,” Celebi stated. “In fact, I know that these were not the first pokemon you lost—not even here in this very cavern.” Suddenly, as if prompted by her words, the cavern shifted itself. Now it was as it existed the day of Miror B’s death. The Rui of the past was caged in with the Feral Ones, surrounded by Manny and her friends, and Argyle, poor Argyle, faded just a stone’s throw away. It was a quiet death. He was asleep, and Rui was asleep, and when she woke and he didn’t, how the tears came.



The Rui of the present was crying, too. “Why are you showing me this?” she whispered. “It hurts. It hurts.”



“I know,” Celebi said, and there was compassion and kindness in that voice and Rui felt a twinge guilty for how regularly she had hurled vitriol at her. There was a pause, a short one that seemed longer than it was, before Celebi continued. “But though I can see the past, I am not blessed to see into minds. Tell me, child. Tell me how your heart feels.”



“My heart?” Rui said, almost in disbelief. “Cap, Manny, Argyle… those three pokemon all dead because of me. Do you know what it feels like to let down people who depend on you to protect them and lead them and keep them safe?”



“Yes,” Celebi replied, and there was a quiet, dignified weight to her voice. “More than you know, Rui Matsuhara.”



Rui looked away, unable to face her. “…alright,” she said. “I believe you.” She did—it seemed that Celebi knew what she was talking about. “But then, you should understand how much it hurts. The knowledge that I failed, and that they died because of it… it burns so bad. Every time I look at Luna or Kata and think how they lost Cap. When I see Striga staring wistfully at the skies they used to play in with Manny… when I think of Argyle’s energetic, forthright laughter and then reflect on how long it’s been since I heard it. All of that just hurts so bad.” Her voice broke, and she held herself tighter. How… how on earth was she supposed to live with that?



A sulking, dark part of her heart told her that the best way to deal with the hurt was just to shut it down. Dull it. Give it up. Let her emotions rest, dulling into nothing more complex than brute fury. Rage would be her anesthetic.



Rui didn’t know which was more troubling. The fact that she didn’t know where those urges were coming from… or the fact that she was considering them.



“The shadow in your heart,” Celebi was saying, “feeds on such suffering . The losses in the cave were the tipping point, the part where it finally managed to manifest—but there have been others, haven’t there.”



“You know there are,” Rui muttered.



The scene shifted and suddenly she was reliving one of her worst memories. Pompom, her dear Aipom, her gift, her playmate, her friend, was pinned on the ground of a dingy Orresian alley. It was nighttime and the distant sound of a city winding down echoed down the stones. None of that made any difference to Rui herself, though. She could only watch, open-eyed and desperate, as her pokemon was pinned down, squirming desperately and wailing under the pressure of a Persian leering over her.



That was before Rui had awoken to her powers, and Pompom’s cries had been unintelligible. But now, reliving it, she understood her.



She wished she didn’t.



“Rui!” Pompom was crying out. “Let her go!” She tried wriggling fruitlessly out from under the cat’s paw. “Tell your trainers to let her go! Creeps! You’re all creeps!



The Persian’s laugh was low and rich. “Or what?”



Pompom snarled at him, not that he seemed to care. “I’m gonna make you wish you never found us!”



The Persian leaned in, purring and mocking. “You’ll be wishing that yourself soon enough. You and your trainer both.”



Meanwhile, Trudly had yanked his captive’s arms behind her back and Folly was searching her for Pompom’s poke ball. He was taking his time about it, a smirk on his face. The whole time, Pompom was screaming at them to stop, to leave her alone.



Watching it all unfold once more left Rui crying. “It’s bad enough they took Pompom away,” she said, “but she was worried about me in the end…” It was almost too cruel. Her pokemon had to watch, powerless, as her trainer was pawed and leered at.



When Folly finally found her poke ball, Rui wanted to scream at her past self to do something, to not let it happen again. Didn’t she realize this would be the last time she saw Pompom?



Folly held up the ball to recall the Aipom and Rui lunged at the memory, screaming, passing through harmless. She had no way to stop the memory from playing out how it was, no way to change the past.



Pompom vanished into a trickle of red light and Rui would never see her again.



The memory vanished into darkness and Rui wept in frustration. Pompom had been her one, her truest friend, and then in just a moment’s stupid mistake, it had all been taken from her forever.



Celebi was saying nothing, and Rui was glad. She didn’t want her too. She stayed there, cursing her own uselessness in the darkness.



And around them the darkness grew closer, more confined. It—



Her breath caught. No. Not here. Not this.



The trunk.



Memories—nightmares—of hours upon hours of screaming helplessness endured in the dark confines heaped themselves on her. How fruitlessly she’d tried to escape; how pointlessly she’d wracked her brain trying to figure out a way to undo the gag, to worm her way out.



Pure helplessness.



The cage of the trunk’s walls were reflected in the claustrophobic confines of her heart. Flutterings of panic and desperation took wing only to suddenly be beaten down, muted by a smothering lyric within her heart. Don’t worry. Don’t stress. Forget about it and it will go away.



She wanted so, so desperately to listen to it. But the familiar presence of Celebi at her back reminded her why she was here.



To face this. Not to be hobbled by it.



Her captive, past self moaned awake and struggled fruitlessly. Rui turned away. “It’s stupid,” she muttered. “In the end, nothing I did mattered. When I was saved, it was only thanks to things outside of my control. It was all pointless.”



“Pointless?” Celebi reflected back. “Strange. Look—it seems you’re almost getting your ankles free.”



Her attention drawn, Rui studied her past self closely. Yes… that was right. She remembered this. It had taken her dedicated hours, but she’d managed to free both her ankles. “I was going to kick them,” she recollected. “I was going to fight.” Of course, Wes had come along and borne the brunt of her assault—but that hadn’t changed the fact that she had been willing to fight and to take a stand.



“But what does it matter,” she said, her voice dull. “What does it matter if I was going to fight. Pompom was still gone no matter what. And for helping me, all Wes got was a knife in the back.” One more friend whose death you can take credit for, she thought spitefully at herself. “It was pointless anyway! There were two of them and they had pokemon. I had no way to win. So what did taking a stand matter?”



“I think it matters a great deal,” Celebi replied, and Rui fell into silence.



In the memory, Rui continued struggling, finally breaking one ankle free of the tape. Once her foot was unbound, it was simplicity to start maneuvering herself to a position where her feet would align with the trunk’s opening.



Watching it all unfold, Rui reflected that she had almost forgotten how she had handled her captivity. She had been frightened, yes, almost desperate. She hadn’t expected to escape. All she had expected once she was taken out of the trunk was a few days of mistreatment and then death.



But she had still fought.



What happened to that spark? she wondered. Where did it go?



“I understand what you’re trying to show me,” she said to Celebi. “I mean it.”



A tittering laugh from behind her caught Rui’s attention. “Oh, child,” Celebi said, “do you not believe me when I throw words at you? I am not guiding this. I am not in control of the Relic. The captain of this ship is your own heart and the aches and scars it bears. So tell me, Rui,” she said, “are these all the wounds you have?”



She wanted to laugh, or maybe cry. Was this not enough? Killing three pokemon, losing a fourth, getting her friend killed, being kept captive in a dark and confined space, wouldn’t those all be enough for her? For anyone?



Pompom, Wes, Argyle, Manny, Cap. So much loss. So many she would never see again.



They are not the only ones you lost, her heart whispered back. Another friend is gone to you forever.



Light bled around her as the world reshaped itself.



She had expected to see the Quilava blazing at her from across the desert, or perhaps the high and smoky conflict atop Mt. Battle. But instead, she found herself at an unfamiliar place: a derelict culvert at the edge of Pyrite Town. The purplish light of dawn was just beginning to fall over the town.



Rui frowned. “I don’t know this place… I’ve never been here,” she said.



Celebi looked unsurprised. “The temporal power stored within this stone,” she replied, “has a way of doing funny things, sometimes. Just because you were not present for this does not mean it is not tied to your hurts.”



Before she could say any more, movement from within the culvert stole their attention. A low shape was wriggling its way out of the drain.



Still wearing her Quilava shape, Entei—Vulcana—crawled out onto the dirt. She was dirty and bloody, the bullet wound festering, almost rancid. She trembled as she stood, and though she was muttering under her breath as she spoke, Rui still heard her voice. “I curse you,” she spat. “I curse you, trainer.” She turned eyes of hatred towards the city. “Always. Always.”



“I thought you were dead!” Rui screamed at the phantom pokemon before her. “I didn’t know! I never would have abandoned you. And you—you—”



She fumbled, lost for words, as the Quilava slowly limped away. When she was out of sight of the city, Entei assumed her true form in a flash of fire and loped away for Mt. Battle at a slow, wincing gait. And behind her, Pyrite kept rolling in its own sin and vice.



“Tell me of Entei.”



“Tell you? Tell you?” Rui said, spinning on Celebi. “She was—despite everything, she was part of my team! She took a bullet for me, and even though she was sour and surly, and—and—and even though she fought with the others, I thought I was making progress.” The words were coming unbidden from her now, hot and fiery, flowing from her like magma from a vein. The more she spoke, the angrier she got. “I mourned her and then she was alive, and she was a goddess, and she lied to me, and she hurt so, so many pokemon over the years, and all for an insane plan to undo the pact and bring Ho-oh back. She was my friend!”



The use of the past tense struck her, stuck with her, made her even more furious. “She was. Was. Not… anymore, I guess. Not after the bomb. And Cap.”



“Do you feel responsible for what happened between the two of you?” Celebi asked.



Rui’s anger was like ice, so cold, she wanted to—



She forced herself to stop. Breathe. Breathe. The sulking frost in her heart crept down and she stepped away from it. That pointless anger wasn’t helping anything, just as shutting down in the days after Cap’s death hadn’t helped anything either.



“I… I shouldn’t,” she said.



“But you do?”



“…yeah,” Rui replied. She did blame herself. Entei had been vulnerable before the incident with Miror B. Quiet. Maybe even doubting. And she had only taken that bullet after stepping in to save Rui. If Rui had only looked harder for her…



“As one who sees the course of time,” Celebi said gently, her gown tickled by an invisible breeze, “I can tell you that it is too easy to get swallowed by might-have-beens.”



Rui glanced at her, then turned away. She knew that it was foolish to mourn what had happened. Even if she could have turned Entei away from her path, the fact of the matter is that she was too gone. Their encounter on the peak had proved that to her. Vulcana, her old friend, was gone. All that remained was Entei, nothing more.



It was a bereavement all its own. A quiet little death.



“I shouldn’t blame myself,” Rui said. “But it still stings so, so much.”



The ache gnawed at her like a saw. Failure, failure, failure. It piled on itself, one after the other.



“I wonder,” Rui said bitterly, “if Entei knows that I’m in danger of falling myself. A shadow human.”



“I cannot say what her plans are,” Celebi said, “or even predict what she might think. Her mind can be… volatile, at times. Violent and consuming and uncontrollable as a wildfire. But a shadow human… I wonder if she could have foreseen such a transformation. It is, however, still early for you. You are far from being fully corrupted.”



“Unlike Lovrina? She’s a shadow human, isn’t she?”



Celebi nodded. “Your supposition is correct. She is a shadow herself.” Her face grew wistful. “That one… I pity her. She gave herself to darkness, not knowing it would exact its own toll from her in return. Little of the original girl is left, now…”



Rui thought back to Lovrina and her diseased, twisted aura, shuddering at the memory. And then she paused.



That could be you soon enough.



It was that fear which had led her to touch the Relic. That dread which encouraged her to move onward despite it all.



Because deep down… there was more.



“My friends. All of them,” she said. “Cap and Wes and Manny and Argyle and Pompom and even Entei, they all hurt. But I was susceptible to the darkness even before I arrived here.” Celebi was quiet behind her, her face stoic, but Rui got the sense she was waiting for something that she already knew was coming.



“Mom,” Rui whispered, and then the Relic reacted. Suddenly, it was all gone, all these visions of Orre; drab deserts, dusty caverns, ramshackle cities. Instead, the tableau shifted to a far-off metropolis that Rui had known all her life, yet which now seemed an age ago.



Saffron City.



One of the largest, the greatest, the busiest cities in the world, the massive conurbation was everything Rui remembered: skyscrapers and shrines and parks and billboards and massive busy crosswalks. People, people everywhere, milling about, going this way and that, too numerous and too hectic for the mind to grasp.



Rui had always hated the crowds in Saffron. No matter where she went, she felt a thousand and one eyes targeting her hair, her freckles, all the things that showed off her foreign blood.



But it wasn’t Rui herself that the Relic zeroed in on. The cityscape shifted from a broad display to an intimate look at a woman of decidedly non-Kantonian heritage alone in a kitchen.



She was as her daughter had often remembered before her husband’s passing: humming to herself, busy in that domestic way, the TV blaring in the background as if that would help her pick up the language she still only understood in part (the family spoke Unovan at home.) But something her daughter had never observed was happening in the kitchen.



The spoons stirred by themselves; spice shakers upended themselves over mixing bowls. The kitchen was a whirlwind of activity as almost a dozen thingamajigs danced to the tempo set by Anna Matsuhara’s mind.



“Mom?” Rui whispered, watching it all unfold. She had never known of her mother’s psychic abilities, only learning them secondhand from Beluh. But seeing her now, it was clear that Anna had command over her powers and relished in them. It seemed as natural a part of herself as her hair or fingerprints.



Rui’s stomach twinged. If only her mother could understand Kantonian, then she’d pick up on what the television was saying. Sabrina had deposed the Karate King as the most visible Gym Leader in the region, and anti-psychic sentiment (high among Kantonians in the best of times) was on an upspike.



This was Rui’s mother as she remembered her: vivacious, active, smiling, happy. When Rui’s father had passed, Anna had withered on the vine, sucked dry by a society that shunned her and left her behind. Losing one parent had been hard enough, but two in the flower of her young adulthood? It was no wonder Rui had fled Kanto for a region that she had never seen to stay with grandparents she had never met.



Had she never left, she never would have seen Tama’s aura in that dingy arena. In a way, the loss of her parents loss had set this whole thing in motion.



As Rui studied her mother, she realized that what she had taken for humming was actually something else. Her mother was mumbling under her breath with the air of a recitation. She stepped closer to hear.



“…part of our bloodline… no, ‘bloodline’ is too weird. Heritage? Part of our heritage, Rui. Half a dozen women. My mother, and her mother too…” She flicked her fingers and was rewarded by the wooden spoon picking up the pace as it stirred. “Sorry it took me so long to say. I was worried you’d blab when you were little… then as you got older, I was worried you’d be ashamed.”



Anna’s voice caught on that word, cracking slightly, and she cleared her throat, a gesture Rui knew betrayed a mask covering intense worry. “I hope you’re not… ashamed of me. I know what people here think, but this isn’t something to be ashamed of.” With tense fingers, she gestured and a drawer opened itself. From within floated a slightly-yellowing piece of paper with a small girl’s drawing on it. It showed two figures, both with orange hair. One was small and staring up in wonder at the other, who leapt up high with a cape trailing behind. The phrase “SUPER MOMMY” was scrawled on it in blocky letters.



Rui remembered making that one day when she’d stayed home from school, sick. They’d watched superhero cartoons on TV, little Rui doing her best to translate for her mother, and afterwards they’d played pretend that Anna was a hero and Rui her sidekick.



Anna stared at the drawing momentarily, then folded it and tucked it carefully in the pocket of her apron. “They’re beautiful, Rui,” she said, continuing that air of recitation. Her wavering had ceased. “They’re not something to be ashamed of. They’re part of who I am. Maybe you too. But if not, I’ll still love you.”



Mom… Rui thought, mournful. Why didn’t you tell me? Why had her mother changed her mind and kept her powers secret to her grave?



She didn’t wonder long. The phone rang and Anna picked it up, immediately frowning and fumbling through Kantonian. From the halting phrases, Rui realized it was a call from school. Suddenly she realized. Trouble at school, shortly after Sabrina’s instatement…



“No,” she choked, horrified. “No. No, no!”



The scene shifted to later in the day. The kitchen had been tidied, though Anna still wore her apron. She wrung her hands, intermittently clearing her throat.



The lock scraped as it turned, and Rui entered, her bookbag slumped over one shoulder.



“Rui,” Anna said, her voice tremulous but still authoritative. “We need to talk.”



Rui’s past self had just started high school, and her hair was not yet pulled back into the pigtails she wore in imitation of Misty. It was cut short, little more than a pixie cut. She liked to keep it short because it gave other girls less to fixate on.



“Don’t,” Rui told the vision, “don’t listen to me, mom, I wasn’t… I didn’t know!”



Mother and daughter moved to the living room where Anna launched into her query. “Your school called me today. Apparently you and some other friends were picking on another girl after class…?”



Friends? Rui thought sardonically. I didn’t have any friends. I never did.



“It was just teasing,” her past self said, unable to meet her mother’s eyes.



It wasn’t, Rui thought, hating herself. We were cruel, and I… I knew it was wrong, I just wanted them to pick on someone that wasn’t me.



But she knew the question was coming. She braced herself.



“I heard,” Anna began, “you were making fun of her because she’s psychic.”



“It was just teasing!” Rui’s past self protested. “And besides, psychics are all weirdos anyway.”



How could I have been so blind? Rui despaired. Her past self missed it entirely, but now she saw the way her mother tightened and clenched her fists against themselves.



“Surely you don’t mean that,” she began.



“C’mon, mom, normal people can’t talk with pokemon or make things fly!” As a young teen in highly conformist Kanto, Rui had cared a lot about what was ‘normal.’



“If she can do it,” Anna said, almost more to herself, “then it’s normal for her. Isn’t it?”



“Whatever!” her daughter replied. “Sabrina stole the Gym. She doesn’t deserve it! The Karate King worked hard for what he has, while she just coasted by on her powers. Have you seen the way that her poke balls just float after her? And they say she can understand pokemon. That’s not normal! She’s weird, she’s dangerous! She’s barely a person! She’s a freak!



The silence in the room afterwards was palpable enough to cut. “Is that what you said to that poor girl at school?” Anna finally asked, her voice quiet. When her daughter petulantly crossed her arms and refused to meet her eyes, she dismissed her upstairs and promised to have her father talk with her later.



Rui shot self-loathing at the obnoxious, entitled, blind, arrogant brat who tromped her way to her room. How could she have done that to her mother? Her own mother? Rui hadn’t known Anna’s secret, but what excuse was there to spit vitriol?



“Mom,” she said, turning to the phantom image of her long-gone mother as if she could still hear her, “mom, I… I’m psychic too, and I… I can’t imagine life without it now. Life without the ability to talk to my team or to see Aura would be so empty… I understand, mom, please! It’s not too late! Please go up and tell me, I’m sorry! It’s not too late!



After her daughter’s departure, Anna sunk to her knees, pulling out the SUPER MOMMY drawing from her apron. She unfolded it and stared at it for a long moment before crumpling it with one hand against her, the other covering her face as she wracked with silent sobs.



Because it was too late. Anna never had that talk with her daughter, and even after she attempted to bridge the gap with her by getting her a pokemon, they would never have the same relationship again. And then her husband would die, and she would just… fade away, not long after.



She would never get to tell her daughter. She would never get to share her pride in her powers. She would never show her daughter her true self.



She would die, still holding onto those secrets and the hurt from this dark day.



And as she knelt there, weeping into her hand, her own daughter watched her from a future vantage point, invisible and intangible, weeping too, because dammit, dammit, this wasn’t fair!



“I love you, mom,” Rui wept, uncaring that her words couldn’t reach the despondent woman who looked so sad on her living room floor. “I loved you then, too… I would have loved you if you told me… I’m so, so sorry.”



And like tears swallowed by cold, grey rain, the image of the Saffron domicile also melted away, leaving only cold and greyness, shaping itself into a low and dusky path, one which bisected another.



Celebi stood behind her, motionless, saying nothing.



“What do I do?” Rui asked amidst the tears. Celebi stared pityingly down at her and said nothing. “Please!” she begged. “Please, tell me!”



“…I am sorry,” Celebi said after a moment. “You want there to be a simple answer. You want there to be a key to recovery, a foolproof path, a secret that will make it all go away.” She reached down and gently, so very gently cradled the side of Rui’s cheek. “But there is no answer, no key, no path, no secret. Here at these crossroads that decide your destiny, there is no easy way forward, no revelation, no ghosts, no demon… no goddess.” And suddenly her form began to fade away, leaving one last statement on the wind:



“There is only you.”



And Rui was left alone at the place the roads met.



All that she had seen and relived eddied about in her mind. The pokemon she had failed to save. Wes, whom she had gotten killed. Entei, her friendship lost forever. Pompom. Trudly, Folly.



Her mother.



The sheer weight of it all pressed on her, and she screamed aloud. Her voice echoed in the air over the crossroads, vanishing as quickly as it came.



It would be so easy to give up. To give in. Not to go any farther. Her whole life had been misstep after misstep. Friends hurt, or driven away, or worse. Loss after loss.



It was so tiring. Perhaps she should have just given up then, in the trunk.



…the trunk.



She thought back to what she had seen of herself, there, in captivity.



There had been no way out. She had exhausted every means of freeing herself, and there was nothing. She had been Trudly and Folly’s captive. They outnumbered her. They had pokemon. She had no escape.



But she’d fought. She’d squirmed her ankle free and positioned herself, because sometimes it didn’t matter if you could win or not. It mattered that you took a stand.



And against all odds, she had made it out.



The thought brought her comfort, and the sensation made her jolt.



Comfort. It was a warm ember glowing in her heart. It had seemed so long since it was there. And then she remembered what Celebi had said: in this world, this crossroads, there was nothing but her. No gods, but no demons either.



The Devourer couldn’t hurt her here.



She knelt and nurtured that small ember and basked in its glow. Because she did hurt. It hurt so bad. But for the first time in however long, she realized there was more to life than just that. She could feel victimized by Trudly and Folly, but that didn’t change the fact that they were in prison and she had put them there. She could ache for Pompom, but that meant that she could fight to stop other pokemon from being taken from their trainers.



Entei would never stand side-by-side with her again, and that hurt too, but that didn’t mean anything to the those that Entei’s plan would prey on. They needed saving too. And the teammates who had fallen… Wes… her mother. They weren’t coming back. That hurt so, so much. But she imagined them seeing her moping, paralyzed into inaction over them, and she realized that none of them would be happy for it.



She gazed up at the sky, seeing a tableau of navy speckled with stars that glowed pearl and rose and a soft azure blue. “If you’re up there,” she whispered, “I hope you’re looking down. I hope you’re proud. All of you. And I know—I know that whatever I face, so long as you all watch after me, I’ll never be alone.”



The ember in her heart had warmed into a coal, and she let it spread to her body, crying and then laughing amidst the tears. She thought she understood Entei, at least a little bit. She was divine. Unchanging. Pining for someone a millennia gone. For all her power, the goddess couldn’t change.



But mortals bloom and grow. They could change. Some for the worse.



But not all of them.



One of the pathways called to her and Rui started down it. “It doesn’t matter if it seems hopeless,” she told herself. “Entei, the Devourer, the cipher… let them all throw themselves at me. No one would expect me to win. It doesn’t matter.” She thought back to herself in the trunk, scared but defiant, vulnerable yet resolute. “I’ll still kick and kick. Because someone has to. Because it’s worth kicking.”



The grasses around her whispered as a lonely wind danced through them, and Rui thought that the pale greyness of this place was noble, in its own way.



It was all at how you looked at it.



Power pulsed around her and she felt the Relic dropping her back into the forest outside of Agate. Celebi was still nowhere to be seen.



But the shadow was back.



She felt it, a small and malicious thing, trying to wriggle its way inside, whispering tales of defeat and despair and fear and anger. Rui’s temper flared, and with it flared the power of Aura, as strong as she had ever felt.



“Get. Out,” she snarled.



She felt the tendril of shadow hesitate for a moment before it tried to work its way inside of her again.



Get out!” she repeated, more Aura pouring out of her, and the thing was beaten back. She sensed a tether of shock from it. But the shock morphed into fury, and it stopped being subtle. Suddenly she gasped, driven to a knee as a force beyond anything she knew fell upon her, a mighty and terrible presence laced with darkness and hunger, and it sang, it sang, a harmless song of ruin, just surrender, let it in, it won’t hurt anymore as everything goes away



But not this time. She would fight. That’s all she could do.



Rui summoned all her strength, her will, she turned her pain to power and she could almost feel the ghosts of Cap, of Wes, of Argyle and Manny and her mother rallying behind her, and she felt Aura gather around her, as ferocious a storm of Aura as she had ever felt, so much she felt she might burst and the sensation was pain, it was agonizing.



But she had been a bedfellow to pain, of late. She reined in the storm of Aura, tamed it, made it hers, and unleashed it against the shadow, and in the resulting clash the song of ruin was silenced, and there was a moment of tremendous, incredulous shock before the fragment of shadow was swallowed up forever.



And then she was alone in the glade, with nothing but herself and the might of Aura surrounding her and the taste of victory and rebirth.



It tasted sweet.



The trees rustled and Celebi glided from them, smiling. “Well done,” she said. “Well done, child.”



Rui rose and smiled back at her. “You knew I would overcome the shadows, didn’t you.”



“I had hoped.”



The storm of Aura slowly quieted, but Rui realized with a shock that its might still lay within her. She glanced down at her own hands in awe. The ambient power… if she focused, she could feel it in her, tingling.



“Your bloodline is strong,” Celebi observed, “and adversity always tempers us. Such a potency of Aura has not been seen in this world for generations.”



Rui slowly lowered her hands. The power in her was incredible. It would take time to master and wield with precision.



“Thank you,” she said to Celebi. “Really. I know I’ve been—um, a little cross from time to time—”



The goddess’s smile was knowing and a little impish. “The primary benefit of my powers,” she replied, “is patience.”



“Patience?” Rui said wryly. “Not the whole infinite knowledge through infinite timelines thing?”



Celebi tsked chidingly, but not too chidingly. “Go. You have much to do.”



---



Denri was woken by a furious tattoo of paws against his hide. He stretched with a yawn only to find Luna staring at him, her golden bands glowing in the early pre-dawn light. “Rui’s gone,” she said, her voice panicking and fast. “I don’t know where, she’s just gone!”



That got him up. He rose, sleepiness banished, concern for his trainer threading throughout him—but then, suddenly, Striga’s voice called from outside.



“You guys!” they said. “She’s here, she’s here!”



They rushed outside and there, striding up the hill with powerful strides, was their trainer. Her face was worn, weary, tired; yet it wore a confident, comfortable smile. The duster flapped behind her and there was purpose to the way she moved. The horizon was glowing orange as the sun began to peek over it.



They all ran to meet her, their voices tripping over each other, and she gathered them in a wide hug.



“Everyone,” she said, “sorry to keep you waiting.” Her eyes flashed with vigor. “I’m back.”


---

At just shy of 6.5k words, I think this is the longest TDWC chapter yet.

Spoilers for the chapter below. You've been warned.

From the very beginning, I wanted to have the moment where Rui looks into the past and sees her mother and realizes what she never knew. That was the very first image I ever conceived for TDWC; in many ways, it informed the rest of the narrative. (The idea of visiting past wounds was incorporated into the purification process as I developed the story, and that led to the overall central conceit of overcoming trauma by confronting the past and, yes, the title.)

Hopefully this marks a decided turning point in Rui's character. I sure hope it does. She's different from Opal, the protagonist of my other story. Both of them undergo a number of difficult trials, but each of them respond to it differently and have different personalities. Nevertheless, there is a certain rhyme in how the two of them face similar challenges and undergo similar trials.

The belly of the beast has been braved, but that doesn't mean that a far-too-literal underworld doesn't need to be overcome. Now that we're done grappling with Cap's death, it's time to plot again. Stay tuned.
 
Last edited:

Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
304
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
Wow. I couldn't think of a more perfect way for Rui to come out of her funk. I must say, Celebi is growing on me as a character (and I can tell Rui is having similar feelings about her). Great chapter, definitely one of my favorites!
 
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Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
1,083
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
Oh, Rui, don't you know? No one can face the shadows alone! Also, gods don't believe in personal space. ._.

I love that the ending is Rui's Pokemon searching for her! She has such a good team! <3
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
617
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #195
Wow. I couldn't think of a more perfect way for Rui to come out of her funk. I must say, Celebi is growing on me as a character (and I can tell Rui is having similar feelings about her). Great chapter, definitely one of my favorites!
I'm glad! Celebi is fun to write, I'm having fun with her :)


Oh, Rui, don't you know? No one can face the shadows alone! Also, gods don't believe in personal space. ._.

I love that the ending is Rui's Pokemon searching for her! She has such a good team! <3
Thank you! I think Rui learned a valuable lesson here too





Excited and intrigued, Rui’s five pokemon were crowding around her: Luna—Reed—Denri—Kata—Striga.



Five? Only five? Rui had to admit, it felt a little empty. She was still getting used to the aftermath of what happened down there in Pyrite.



But it was going to be okay. She was going to be okay.



“You alright?” Striga said, drifting closer to her.



Rui met their concern with a smile. “Yeah,” she said, and then brought them all up to speed.



When it was done, they were crowding her even more, all hoping to make sure she was okay. “You guys!” she teased. “Didn’t I just say I improved?”



“But you were hurting so bad!” Striga wailed, coming in close to nuzzle at their trainer’s shoulder. Rui smiled and reached up to pat them. Her hand passed through.



Ah, right. Ghost.



“I’m glad you overcame the shadow in you,” Denri said, crossing his arms. The bauble on his tail flickered crimson. “But mostly I’m just sorry I didn’t notice.”



“None of us noticed,” Kata interjected. “Rui, it is INTOLERABLE that we didn’t recognize our own trainer’s suffering!”



“You were going through stuff of your own,” she said good-naturedly. “I don’t want any of you guys beating yourselves up over this. Really.”



“But—”



No, Kata,” she chided. He crossed his arms in fake pout. “You all went through so, so much, not only in your pasts, but also lately. The things I’ve been grappling with were all things you had to deal with as well. And it looks like you managed to get through it with one another’s health, but… as your trainer, I really should have been there for you.”



“It’s okay, Rui.” A dark, sinuous shape padded up to her. Luna. “We understand. We’re just glad you’re back.”



Rui smiled down at her. Ah, Luna. She was not the sort of pokemon would ever think to be a team leader—probably the second worst of her crew in a straight fight, behind only Striga. Quiet and sometimes even sour. But the strength this Umbreon exuded… she had faced a rough childhood, had seen her first trainer die and had been betrayed by a former teammate and had watched her brother die, the sorts of things that would crumple lesser wills.



Yet here she was, stalwart; kindness glowed behind those ruby eyes. The golden chain that her brother had gifted her still jangled in her ear. Rui remembered taking her to get the piercing, back on Entei’s mountain. Such a seemingly small, assuming action would have been dismissed by some, but Rui knew Luna well enough to see it for what it was: a gesture of sibling love and loyalty. Luna had not removed it, not even after what happened in the cave beneath Pyrite, because while grief cut, it could never truly eat away the happy memories.



They’d both learned that, recently.



“Thanks Luna,” Rui said. “Really.”



“So these powers you have,” Reed said from the back, “how do they work?”



Rui glanced down at her own hands, flexed them lightly. The storm of Aura she’d conjured after the events in the forest was still turning inside of her. She didn’t think it would ever leave. This was part of her now. Already she was acclimatizing to it, but if she focused, she could feel it ambiently in her, buzzing like static from television screen.



“Well,” she said, “I don’t think I can do like a Lucario and start chucking Aura Spheres.”



Kata immediately protested “Oh come on” while Denri chimed in with “then what’s the point?” Rui held up her hand to quiet them.



“But,” she said, “the power is more… protective. Once I got hold of it, the shadow couldn’t impact me anymore. It’s better not to think of it as a weapon. It’s more of a shield, I think.”



The pokemon nodded in mutual understanding, and Kata spoke up: “Rui, do you know what you are?”



She laughed. “Are you gonna say a superhero?”



He shook his head slowly, folding his arms. He wore a knowing smile. “No. A paladin.



---



“Krane just finished it a few hours ago,” Eagun said. Rui frowned, crowding around the dining room table with him. “That drive was a tough nut to crack, but he’s not the region’s premier brain for nothing.” He glanced up at her. “You ever hear of the Under?”



Rui shook her head.



“Well,” Eagun said, leaning back, “way back, when the region declared independence from Unova over a hundred years ago, the main industry in the region was mining. The miners largely supported independence, and the Unovans cracked down on them. Hard. Their pokemon were ordered to attack them, and some were buried alive in collapsed mines. The oppressors wanted to break their will, but the miners only dug in their heels deeper. As the treatment worsened, word spread that there was a secret place: an abandoned, converted mine in a massive underground chamber. Here, the miners and their pokemon could live their lives beneath the earth, free from the hard hand of tyranny. The secret was whispered from town to town, and the companies dried up as their workers underwent an exodus to this fabled land under the earth.” He crossed his arms. “Whether it was true or not, nobody knew. The miners disappeared, and no one ever heard of them again.”



“Sounds like a tall tale,” Rui said.



“Oh, I’ve no doubt there’s a fair share of embellishment in there,” Eagun agreed. “Most people think that if the Under was real, it was nothing more than a dirty camp in a gorge that was wiped out by sandstorms or disease, and that the legend eclipsed reality in the telling as it often does. But this…”



He clicked the computer, bringing up an image on screen, and turned it to show his granddaughter. Her breath caught. The picture showed a massive catacomb lit by gaslamps and barrel fires and tubes of strange blue, all winding throughout an enormous ramchackle citadel of corrugated metal in a huge subterranean hollow.



“It’s real?” Rui said.



“Looks like it,” Eagun said. “Whether the Under limped on all this time and rejoined the cipher or they just appropriated the ruins, the file doesn’t say. But this is one of the major keystones of the organization. They hoard materiel and men there, and the whole thing is run by a financier from Galar who balances the company’s books and keeps their money hidden. What’s more, there’s reference to some sort of hidden weapon there, some kind of machine, though the file is vague on the details—it doesn’t look like Revy was trusted with everything.”



Rui leaned back, steepling her hands. Ever since the disastrous battle against Justy and Miracle’s move against Pyrite, their offense against the cipher had stalled big-time. While Duking and Sherles had rallied to push Miracle out of town, the cipher was still going strong.



“Es Cade’s still pushing for the championship, isn’t he?”



“Yes,” Eagun said, grimacing. “Even though the loss of his apprentice was a big blow to his plans, he’s still moving forward. Right now, the bulk of the cipher’s efforts seem directed into convincing the region to establish a Championship and name him to the position. He’s officially resigned from the mayoralty of Phenac and is campaigning for the role.”



“Does it look like he’s going to get it?”



Eagun rubbed between his brows. “Probably,” he admitted. “It’s not a certain thing, but the aftermath of Lovrina’s accusations against you have made a convenient weapon to silence critics like the campaña or Duking.”



A twinge of regret fluttered through Rui. Justy’s death wasn’t her fault; she knew that. Lovrina and the Devourer within her had acted on their own, and to be frank, he had been bad enough that she wasn’t sad to see him go. But she’d played right into the cipher’s hands, giving them a propaganda tool.



Eagun read the disconcertedness on his granddaughter’s face and he reached out to rest his hand comfortingly on hers. “Don’t stress too much. The cipher isn’t untouchable politically. Ximena’s doing great work. People are listening to what she has to say about how unlikely it was that Luna’s Toxic actually did Justy in, and even though Es Cade quickly found someone new to endorse for the mayoralty after his chosen successor bit it, he moved in too much haste.”



His voice was smug, and Rui raised an eyebrow.



“You didn’t think the Grid was staying inactive while you were recovering from your losses, did you?” he said. “We dug into this new guy’s background and found some dirty money. Es Cade was able to distance himself from the fallout, so he didn’t wind up with too much egg on his face, but his second chosen successor dropped out of the mayor race. And Ximena? She’s stepping up to the plate. She and the campaña have built support, and there’s a real shot they could win. It would go a long way to sabotaging Es Cade’s Championship ambitions.”



Rui slowly nodded. “So right now, the Grid stays low and plays politics?”



“Some of us do,” Eagun said. “Not you, Rui. We have something different in mind. The Under looks like it’s a big part of their plans. They rely on it to launder their dirty money, and whatever this secret machine of theirs is, it sounds bad. But it’s going to be dangerous. This is an entire town run by the enemy. It would take a really powerful trainer.” His eyes alit on her. “And to be frank, granddaughter, you’re one of the strongest in the region right now. Can you and your team handle it?”



Rui tried not to swallow. Moving into the jaws of the enemy? Their very own city? With a team that wasn’t even a full squad of six? It was intimidating.



But she flexed her fist. She hadn’t overcome her darkness just to cower in the face of doubts now. It would be dangerous—but so would letting the cipher move unchecked. “Yes,” she said. “I’ll do it.”



“Good,” Eagun said with relief. “We considered a large-scale assault, but that weapon is too much of an unknown variable. We think that a lone, talented trainer infiltrating it will have a better success rate. I’ll send the coordinates to you. You can leave whenever you’re ready.”



“Give me a day or two,” Rui said. “I need to run it past my team and get them prepared.” When her grandfather nodded, she bid farewell and wandered out into the Agate sunshine, her hands in her pockets.



Taking on the Under… it was a big proposition, one that left her nervous. But she wasn’t paralyzed by it. She knew what she had to do.



---



It was evening, and Denri was practicing his skills. Rui had gathered the group and told them about their new plan to take the fight to the enemy’s underground stronghold. They’d all agreed to go.



Now, he was facing a crude wooden dummy hewn from a log. Grunting, he swung his fist at it. The dummy, dangling from a rope, reared back before ,carried by its own momentum, it swept forward to strike at him. He nimbly sidestepped.



Many Ampharos relied only on their electrical prowess to carry them in battle. Denri was no slouch in that department, but thanks to Cap’s influence, he’d grown to supplement his fighting style with physicality as well. But the fight with Miracle’s forces had exposed a glowing weakness: agility.



He had rushed to save Manny, but hadn’t made it in time. He didn’t blame himself—he knew that wouldn’t help anything. And in the end, his species was no Ninjask or Electrode. He could only go so fast. But he had decided that if he was really going to improve, he had to try to make himself faster. For everyone’s sake.



He dodged the dummy’s initial swing towards him and the backswing as well, smashing it with his tail bauble as he passed. With a cry, he laced his foot with electricity and kicked it. The energy caused it to smoke as the sap within the freshly-cut tree was cooked, and part of it peeled off or splintered.



Denri grunted. It was a start.



As he plodded off to rest at the edge of their makeshift training ground, he saw a familiar figure coming up to him. It was Luna, her dark body almost invisible in the night were it not for her softly-glowing coils of light and the glint of the golden chain in her ear.



“Hey,” Denri said, raising his arm in greeting. She replied with a hello of her own as she approached.



“I just wanted to thank you,” Luna said after she settled down in the grass. “For everything you did after… after what happened down in Pyrite.”



Denri blinked. Everything? What was she talking about? When he voiced his concerns, she curled her tail around her paws.



“My brother,” she said, “his loss was… really hard. I broke, and Reed had to devote all his energies to me. I didn’t even see how Kata was spiraling, or how mournful Striga was. But you? You stepped up. You tried to keep the team together.”



“Fat lot of good it did,” Denri said, before wincing. He didn’t mean to imply that Luna and the others had been wrong to mourn.



But she didn’t seem to mind. “It helped more than I think you know. Having someone on the team step up to at least try to keep us all together was an important step. Really, thanks.”



He nodded, then, almost tentatively, asked: “Are you still… okay?”



The Umbreon sighed. “I’m trying to be. Cap was my brother, and now he’s gone. I dedicated my whole life to watching out for him. I know in my head that it wasn’t my fault—what we’ve gotten into is way bigger than any of us, and the fact that we’ve only lost three teammates so far is actually kind of insane. But it still hurts. Me and Kata talked about it, how we both miss him. I told him that I’ll always think of him as family, and he seemed to appreciate that. And Reed has been a big help as well.”



Denri nodded. He was coming to appreciate Reed more and more: his quiet strength, his reliability. Cap’s gift to him, a smooth river stone, was quite fitting. “You two are good for each other.”



“Yeah. I… I love him.” Luna sighed and glanced up at Denri. “I just really want things to go alright for us. I worry about losing him too.”



“You don’t have to go!” Denri said. “Tama bowed out without any issues. Rui is… she’ll let you stop if you’ve had enough. That’s okay!”



“I know. And I considered it. But considering how much they’ve made so many pokemon suffer, I can’t just give up. Not to say that Tama’s a coward or dodging responsibility or anything! But I just would always have that hanging over my head.”



“I feel you,” Denri said, leaning back, feeling energy sparking in his tail. “I’d stress about that too. I guess all you can do is try to be safe and look out for each other.”



“Yeah.” Luna stood, stretching. “Thanks, Denri,” she said, smiling at him. “You’re a good friend.”



A good friend? He thought wryly back to how he was when he’d first joined the team, an aggressive, almost pointlessly belligerent hellraiser. He hadn’t cared about friends.



But look at him now. “Thanks,” he replied. “I try.


---


A relatively short one after last week's titan, this is more a transitional chapter. Still, hope you enjoy it!
 

Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
304
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
Woohoo, I can't wait to see how the battles in the Under go! And aw it was so nice that Denri's efforts to hold the team together were acknowledged. Also, his and Kata's reactions to Rui's new power was hysterical. So typical of them!
 
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Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
1,083
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
See, Rui? Your team doesn't think less of you for having faced the shadows. Now Luna is the only one left out of the shadow club. :(

Kata:


I'm excited to visit The Under!


Denri:
 

cyndakip

there goes my luck
🌱Featurer
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
23
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
337
Location
Lilycove City
Nature
Hardy
Pronouns
they/she
Pokémon Type
Fire, Water
Pokédex Entry
Part Cyndaquil, part Mudkip, entirely tired.
I loved the purification chapter, as well as all the team moments in the most recent one. And I love Denri! He's a very good friend indeed.

Super excited for the Under! 👀
 
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Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
617
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #199
Woohoo, I can't wait to see how the battles in the Under go! And aw it was so nice that Denri's efforts to hold the team together were acknowledged. Also, his and Kata's reactions to Rui's new power was hysterical. So typical of them!
Thanks! Denri is a fun character, and it's been nice charting his course from angry guy who only wants to fight to loyal friend who... mostly wants to fight haha. He and Kata definitely share attributes in that regard!


See, Rui? Your team doesn't think less of you for having faced the shadows. Now Luna is the only one left out of the shadow club. :(

Kata:


I'm excited to visit The Under!


Denri:
THAT AMPHAROS GIF KILLS ME ALSDFMA;LKSDFMAD

Also it's true that Luna hasn't joined the shadow club... but do you really want her to? ;;n;;


I loved the purification chapter, as well as all the team moments in the most recent one. And I love Denri! He's a very good friend indeed.

Super excited for the Under! 👀
Thank you! I'm glad you like the purification chapter, it was a major moment and something I had to work hard on.



Glad to hear that our work on the drive was successful. We are more than happy to strike at the heart of the cipher.



A thought has occurred to me recently. E and X are taking the fight politically, and R is striking at the organization’s subterranean stronghold. But isn’t the real power of the cipher the shadow pokemon they wield?



Currently, rehabilitating shadows involves purification with the Relics of Agate or the Dakim. From R’s descriptions, a cumbersome and time-consuming process. But what if there was a way to purify shadows en masse with the power of modern technology?



Currently it is only a thought, but I have discussed the issue with my vice-director and her husband and both believe the idea has promise.



I will keep you informed.



K



---



The elevator that Revy’s info led them to looked like less nothing. It was little more than a decrepit platform shepherded by a half-rotted fence and old, rusty signs warning of a lack of structural integrity. One was punctured by a bullet hole. There were no guards, no stalking pokemon, no shadows. It was nothing but a weary, rotted hole in the ground.



At Rui’s shoulder, Striga eyed it with suspicion. “I don’t trust it,” they declared, “and I can float and I’m dead.



“How dead are Ghost-types, anyway?” Luna mused, her presence familiar against Rui’s leg. “I mean, you guys can ‘die’ again… right?”



“Any enemy specter that tries itself against us,” boomed Kata, “will found out the hard way from ME!



“Focus, everyone,” Rui snapped, and her pokemon all sunk into fearful quiet. She immediately cursed herself—their levity was just how they were attempting to deal with their worry. “Sorry,” she said, softening her voice. “Really. I know you’re scared.” Hell, she was scared. She’d faced down gunmen and crime bosses and vengeful gods, but that decaying old elevator gave her pause like almost nothing else. No wonder they don’t have any guards, she mused. The warning about a lethal mine shaft and that thing’s appearance are deterrent enough. “We’re heading into the jaws of the enemy,” she continued, “and we don’t know what to expect. Keep on your guard, everyone.” Her team nodded as one; steeling her breath, Rui made for the elevator.



It was broad and wide, the sort used to transport cargo in the old days. An entire vehicle could have fit on it, and Rui had no qualms of letting her team stay out of their balls. Reed found the control panel and bopped the button; with a groan of gears, their descent began.



The broad, dry expanse of desert was immediately replaced by claustrophobic walls of earth. Above, the light of day, once encompassing and oppressive, shrank back and back, becoming little more than a faraway dot the size of an apple—a coin—a pinpoint.



And still the elevator descended.



The heat of the desert gave way to the damp chill of the earth, and Rui wrapped her duster around herself, her jaw setting against itself. She was shivering from more than just the cold. There was a… a pulsing sense of something down below.



“This reminds me of a story that my people used to tell,” Striga whispered. Attention turned to them. The small, skirtlike ‘torso’ of their body was fluttering in a breeze that didn’t exist. “A story about the dangers of dark places. The tale goes that once, there was a child who was blessed with a pokemon partner—the kind your people call ‘Cacnea’ today. The child was piquant and a troublemaker, and after making trouble for the tribe, they ran out into the desert, accompanied by their pokemon, rather than face the anger of their people.



“A sandstorm swept across the desert, and the child was forced to hide in the shadow of rocks within a far-off canyon. Miserable under the desolate sun, they relied on their Cacnea to scavenge food.”



Striga’s voice was quiet and haunting, amplified by the sound of it reverbing off the walls of the shaft.



“The sandstorm lasted for days—one of those great desert storms that whips itself up and doesn’t abate. The child, fearful and resentful of the desert they had known all their life, ignored their pokemon’s pleas to wait out the storm and return home to their tribe. They pushed further into the canyon.



“In the dark recesses, free of the sun and sand, a singsong voice emanated from a dark crevasse at the back. The voice told the child that they were unappreciated by their people, and the desert was a wicked place full of needless hurt and caprice. When the child started to crawl down into the crevasse, the Cacnea begged them to stay above and head home. ‘The sandstorm is just going away!’ they claimed. ‘Let us go back to our people!’ The child snorted in response and ordered the Cacnea to head home alone.”



Their baubles glowed a soft maroon as they spoke. “And so they did. The Cacnea returned to the tribe as fast as they could go, and the people followed its guidance across the newly-quiet desert. Into the canyon they went, and then further back, until they found the crevasse. When they lowered themselves inside, they found a chamber, completely barren save for a dirty swatch of fur, the kind that witches used to hide their true shape… and a small pile of still-gleaming bones, picked clean, the grinning skull sitting at the top.”



As the story finished, Rui and all her pokemon sat in silence for a good half-minute, until Denri broke the silence.



“…Mew above, Striga, was that supposed to help?



Their baubles flickered sheepishly. “That story always scared me whenever I heard it,” they admitted. “The lesson to love what you have and not be seduced by things that seem nice was obvious. But as I got older, I realized something. The child in the story was no match for the witch… but the witch had to flee the crevasse before the tribe arrived. It was scared of them. And my tribe, the people who invented this tale, were just humans with sticks and rocks and sharp bones. They didn’t have a team of powerful pokemon backing them up.” They smiled at the others. “So, um… even though it’s scary, that doesn’t mean the monsters aren’t frightened of us, either. That’s what I think.”



The tension eased and the pokemon looked more confident—but Rui wasn’t certain. While it’s true the witch in the story had fled the tribespeople, she and her team were facing something far more powerful than a hungry shapeshifter.



So the question remained. They were heading into the lair; were they the warriors… or were they the child?



The elevator finally groaned to a stop. Rui glanced up. The proud sun above looked like nothing more than a particularly vivid star against a pure black ceiling.



The walls were set with electric lanterns that flickered in the dark. They were spaced so that each one’s glow faded as another began, creating an extended trail that yawned forward into the abyss.



“Rui,” Reed said, his voice focused, “if they know we’re here and turn off those lights, we’ll be sitting ducks.”



She nodded. He had a point. “Denri, take the lead and use your tail to light the way.”



“Got it, boss,” he said confidently, striding to the fore of their team. She ordered Kata to cover him, and he took his place next to Denri, tense and ready.



“Luna, hold up the rear and be ready to use your patterns if visibly sours. Reed, you’re with her.”



The Quagsire and Umbreon fell in a few paces behind her. She could almost feel their resolve.



“What about me?” Striga asked.



“Stay by me,” Rui said. “Use your baubles to supplement Denri’s light and keep an eye out.” They nodded and hovered close to her shoulder.



Denri quickly proved why his species was known as the ‘Light Pokemon’. His crimson tail sparked with power and then, with a low hum, a glow filled the chamber, growing and growing until it encompassed all of them.



Denri’s light showed every crag and contour of the stony walls in sharp relief. The passageway was visible as a skinny, winding path literally chiseled into the rock.



“Good job,” Rui said, and her pokemon stood a little taller at the praise. “Let’s go.”



As they stepped further into the winding road, Rui felt herself on edge. She kept expecting to see something—cipher guards, or perhaps a shadow pokemon setting on her team. The dank confines of the chasm reminded her uncomfortably of the cavern where she’d lost her past three teammates.



But there was nothing. No people, no pokemon. Just endless lanterns screwed in the walls, leading the way like breadcrumbs, and a path that seemed to stretch forever.



The first to speak was Luna. “Do you… feel that?” she complained. The others turned their attention to her. “It feels like… a presence. In my… my head.”



Rui knitted her brows. There had been a sort of pressure as they descended into the earth. At first, she had chalked it up to the bad air underground, or simply a physical manifestation of fear and worry. But hearing Luna’s voice—and seeing her pokemon shift as they realized that the others were concerned as well—made her realize that something was happening.



Her first fear was the Devourer. The shadow in the darkness. But immediately, she recognized this presence was different. It was softer, somehow, and pulsing like a heartbeat, and there was something… strange about it, something cool and cold and far away. The sensation seemed enormously at odds with the heat from which they had just descended.



And was it just her, or were the pokemon dealing with it less effectively than she was?



“Stay close, all of you,” she cautioned, and their little group knotted up together.



They pressed further down the pathway, the sound of their footsteps echoing and playing over each other until nothing was left but a constant feedback of tumbling sound.



Turning, they saw light seeping from further down the corridor. It was a rich, unnatural blue.



The presence in Rui’s temple was growing fiercer, more insistent. It was like a pulsing rhythm of seas and glaciers and boreal lights.



Her pokemon were growing more and more distraught.



With her encouragement, they stepped further down the passageway, finally reaching the overlook.



And what a sight it was.



A ramshackle metropolis squatting in a cave that was miles wide. The picture on her grandfather’s computer had done nothing to effectively showcase the vast reality of it all. Buildings made of plywood and scrap metal and other scraps, all jumbled together without rhyme or reason. Pulleys and old mining elevators snaked through the roof of the massive cavern overhead. The buildings were piled together, seeming as if only the weight of one another was keeping the whole thing from collapsing, all built around a makeshift metal spire in the center.



And amidst it all was the blue. Tubes of glass, jutting from the central tower, snaked their way through the Under, making the entire cavern glow as if lit by blue neon. The uniform color washed everything in frigid paleness, and the tubes spread like the tendrils of an octopus. There was nothing in the cavern that was free from their influence.



At that moment, as Rui gazed on it all in wonder, the blue seemed to pulse, and a terrible pressure asserted itself inside her temple. The pokemon collapsed around her.



The blue—the blue—it was omnipresent, it was demanding, it was intruding on their thoughts. This was not a subtle corruption, as her own fall into shadow had been. This was overt, forceful, a hammerblow to the concept of self.



Surrender. The blue. Give in. The blue. Just submit…



Even as Rui struggled with its force, she saw that the pokemon were worse off. Each of them was quivering against the cavern floor, shuddering in distress. Rui saw that they were fighting off the oppressive influence of the blue.



It didn’t seem as if they were succeeding.



This is why there were no guards, she realized. Forget the fear inspired by the elevator itself. Any invader to the Under would be laid low by this assault the moment they stepped too close.



Would she be laid low as well?



Grunting, she rose to one knee. The blue pulsed harder, but she had overcome the shadow of the Devourer—she could overcome this too.



It was Aura, she realized. The storm of Aura she had taken in upon her purification. It was shielding her. Protecting her. The blue couldn’t overcome it. But her team had no such defense…



Of course they do, she realized. Me.



“Everyone,” she grunted, still holding back the force. “You’ve all protected me on so many occasions. Now it’s my turn… to shield you!



Closing her eyes and focusing on the swell of Aura within, she unleashed its power. Immediately, the blue turned its focus on her. Rui gasped—within the storm of Aura, a vision unfolded. She saw the blue, spreading across the Under. She saw its source—a once-proud creature, four-legged and furred with a an enormous gem on its head and a mane of sweeping purple, crying out in pain.



And then, behind the creature, she saw something else. Strings of black shadow, as thin and fine as needles, fed into the strange pokemon. She followed the needles upwards.



The source was toxic, diseased; the same maliciousness as Lovrina’s corrupted Aura had been. This was the parasite that had united with her. But in the vision, she saw its physical form in full glory.



No longer a small, hungering thing, this entity was the size of a castle, an enormous monster of black and red. It was avian in shape, with wings and talons and a cruel pointed beak, but with other characteristics that were decidedly unbirklide—its wings ended in cruel claws, and its tail was clawed, too, reaching out and grasping like a hand. Forward-facing antlers adorned its head and its eyes glowed a piercing azure that stood out even more against the corrupted black and crimson of its body.



The monster roared and at its behest, the mournful being at the heart of the blue roared as well, and the blue surged forward against her.



But she had beaten it alone in her journey from the Relic. She could beat it again.



At Rui’s command, the Aura spread like a net, trickling down around Rui and around the pokemon. For her, the effect was instantaneous. The blue died as quickly as ice set on a warm hearth. And, slowly but surely, her teammates managed to rouse themselves as well.



“Rui…” Reed said, looking at her. “You stopped it.”



She glanced down at her hand. The pins-and-needles effect that had played last time she summoned the power had returned, though it was quickly dying away. “Yeah,” she said. “For now. The power I achieved back there in Agate… it can’t turn off the blue entirely, but it can shield our little group from it.”



Kata wandered up to her, looking thoughtful. “Do you think,” he said, “that using that power to shield us from that force was Celebi’s design?”



He had a point. “Probably,” Rui conceded, “though if you pressed her, she’d never admit it. Blah blah blah, free will, blah blah blah, I came to the conclusion myself…



Kata smiled. It was small, and weary, but he seemed appreciative nonetheless.



“What do we do now?” Luna asked, padding up to stand alongside them. She looked harried after the blue’s assault on her.



Rui studied the Under. From here, she could see small shapes moving in what passed for ‘streets’, looking like mites. Most seemed human, though there were one or two pokemon.



“I think they count on the blue to keep them secure,” she said. “So long as we don’t draw attention to ourselves, we should be safe to move about. Of course,” she sighed, “wandering around with a team of five would turn some heads… Probably only one of you should be out of your poke balls unless we’re battling or in a safe place.”



“Who’s it going to be?” asked Kata.



Rui thought it over for a moment. “Luna,” she decided. “Dim your patterns to keep as obfuscated as possible and watch my back. The rest of you—rest and be ready for anything.”



She recalled her team as Luna’s shining rings dimmed down to almost nothing, barely visible against her black fur. Meeting her gaze, Rui nodded, and with the Umbreon stalking at her side, she ventured down…



Down into the witch’s den.


---


A relatively short chapter once more! In this one, we get our first real look at the true face of the Devourer. Rui probably doesn't recognize what it is... but hopefully you do, dear readers (;

As always, thanks for reading!
 

Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
1,083
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
Currently, rehabilitating shadows involves purification with the Relics of Agate or the Dakim. From R’s descriptions, a cumbersome and time-consuming process. But what if there was a way to purify shadows en masse with the power of modern technology?
But Professor Krane..! Speaking as someone who has played Pokemon XD, the Purify Chamber is even more time-consuming! Not to mention not viable in nuzlockes.... >_>

Rui at The Under:



It was Aura, she realized. The storm of Aura she had taken in upon her purification. It was shielding her. Protecting her. The blue couldn’t overcome it. But her team had no such defense…



Of course they do, she realized. Me.



“Everyone,” she grunted, still holding back the force. “You’ve all protected me on so many occasions. Now it’s my turn… to shield you!
Same energy:

Speculation: Well, looking at this description, the blue is Suicune, but "the monster" seems to me like... Yveltal?
 
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