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Written Story Johto Mature Gijinka Path to the Stars

Thread Description
The second half of a HeartGold Nuzlocke twisted into a fantasy setting; updates at weekends, probably

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
112
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
So, almost three years ago, back when we were still on Zetaboards, I started posting a story based off a Nuzlocke run of HeartGold I did, veeeeery heavily twisted into a kind typical high fantasy setting. That run, Call of the Divines, I drew to a close about a week ago with the end of the Elite Four and Champion (or at least their in-story equivalents.) But, Gen 2 and its remakes being what they are, you go to Kanto too after the League - and I did, in the original gameplay. So I figured I'd take the opportunity to kinda reboot the story to some extent, so - hopefully! - new people can hop in and read along without having to read through the 235k-odd words of CotD beforehand.

(Also yeah the whole 'not sure when I'm going to post this' thing kinda went out the window. I enjoyed writing Ethan and Carlei too much! 😆)

Obviously, there will be spoilers for CotD here.

1) Catch only the first thing on each route. (This only applies once I actually gain access to Pokeballs).
1a) Dupes, including the entire evolutionary line, don't count. I have 5 chances to catch a non-dupe.
1b) Gift Pokemon don't count as an encounter. Pokemon from the Game Corners don't count as gifts.
1c) Each area of the Safari Zone counts as its own encounter.
1d) I can make in-game trades if I wish. This doesn't count as an encounter at all, though I can't go back and catch something from the route I got the requested Pokemon from, and it still counts as being encountered for the purpose of dupes' clause.
1e) In the unlikely event of running into a Shiny Pokemon (not including the plot Shiny Gyarados), everything goes out the window and I can catch and use it freely.
2) Fainted Pokemon are dead and must be released.
3) Nickname everything. For the sake of making it at least slightly easier to tell what Pokemon everyone is, most Pokemon are named after the first letter of their species when they are first met in-story. There are some exceptions.
4) The run is considered failed if Ethan dies.


"So...hey, I guess.

"This feels really weird to be doing, just throwing my powers out across Tojo and beyond and hoping you can hear me. But I know you're there. I know I heard you that day. My big brother, always looking out for me.

"Maybe you already know everything that's happened to me. But...I don't know, maybe the longer I keep this up the more likely you'll hear me, and I don't have a hell of a lot else to talk about.

"It's a year today since I arrived here. For once I know how long it's been - the old Commander of the palace guard, Bruno, kept a journal about everything that happened that was relevant to the safety of the royals. Surprise, surprise, a random teenager being dragged from another world and dumped in a bush qualified.

"I guess maybe that's why I'm trying this now. Like there's some...astrological significance or some shit that will make it easier for me to find you.

"It still sounds pretty ridiculous, even now, like it isn't real. There are only a couple of people that I've even bothered telling that I come from another world, and only one who I'm sure believes me.

"I've changed a lot since then, though. I'm Blessed now - or maybe I was Blessed from the minute I was brought here.

"Blessed. It still seems so strange, even after everything. Divine beings exist, and they reach out and turn random people into demigods with the strength of a hundred ordinary people. What makes it seem so much stranger is that they chose...me.

"You I wouldn't have been surprised by. But me? I was an asshole when I was brought here. I'd like to think I've grown up since then, but...I don't know. I think it's more that I envied Carlei so much when I first arrived I started imitating her. I guess to some extent I still do. Maybe the Divines knew she'd be a good influence on me, and that's why they gave me these powers. I have to hope that's true. I don't want to think I could've been able to do all this without someone to rein me in.

"Carlei...I could spend hours telling you how amazing she is, but I think you'd get bored. She's a Fire Aspect Blessed, and people are saying she's the strongest Fire Aspect in Joto - and they aren't just saying that because she's the Queen now. She really is. And she's so kind and good. And I still can't believe that she fell in love with me - proposed to me.

"Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night and I can't stop smiling.

"Officially we aren't married, yet. Joto does weddings backwards - the marriage ceremony is held privately, and then there's a more public ceremony to formally confirm the wedding. And, of course, because Carlei's the Queen, the public ceremony has to be stupidly extravagant for it to be ratified by the court. But as far as the two of us and anyone who matters are concerned, we were married today, by the High Priest of the Faith. I have no idea what the High Priest was actually doing here, but neither of us were about to complain since he's the only one allowed to conduct a marriage ceremony for royalty, and priests showing up randomly for no good reason is pretty standard.

"It's kind of odd, feeling like being married to Carlei is such a big deal. We were a couple for ages, and I never really cared about Catholicism no matter how much Mom and Dad tried to push it on me, same as you. But I guess I took in enough that being able to say that I'm her husband feels like the best thing in the world to say.

"Uh, sorry. I should probably tell you about more than just my relationship, I guess.

"Unless you've been living under a rock somewhere you'll know that Lance, the former King of Joto, was overthrown. Silver killed him, when he was about to kill Carlei, and I don't think he's forgiven us for forcing him to kill his father. I can't blame him. He was loyal to Lance for so long, whether or not he tried to convince himself that he was trying to capture Carlei and the rest of us for her sake, to stop the other people hunting us from killing her. If not for Goban I think he'd have abandoned his royal name entirely and just left.

"Everyone thinks it was just Carlei and Silver that were responsible, but there were so many more people involved than that. Not just me, either. Gaius, an Imperial Guard who was cast aside for trying to expose corruption in the military, Goban, Silver's second-in-command - and boyfriend - who stayed in the Imperial Guard to try to improve it from within after Gaius was thrown out, Magni, a former gladiator, Deanne and Ampharal, nobles from two of the Great Houses of Joto, Emrys, a Paladin of the Faith, Merle, a pilgrim, Zane, who's one of Silver's advisors, and Silas and Shukie - Silver's squires, technically.

"And...and Lyra.

"It's still hard not to cry when I think about her. She was Carlei's childhood friend, and the first person to treat me like a person after I arrived here. She was forced to flee the palace after Carlei saved me from being executed, to avoid being used as a hostage, and eventually she found us again. It turned out she was a Champion of the Divines, with all the incredible power that came with that gift, and I taught her to fight and use her power. She was the most powerful Blessed in Joto, by far. Maybe the most powerful in the world.

"And she died, saving us from Lance. And no-one cares.

"I don't mind that people don't know I had a part in bringing Lance down. But for her to just be relegated to a footnote hurts. It's not fair.

"And...and it isn't just her we've lost. Bradon, Shayne, Haneka...all friends of ours who were killed fighting alongside us. And even people we don't know. There was a girl, probably no more than sixteen, who tried to save Haneka even though she'd never met her before, and the bastard that killed Haneka cut her down without even blinking. We never even knew her name.

"Sometimes I wish that all this wasn't real.

"But it is. I'm here. And I know you're here too, somewhere. So...if you can hear me, I guess, come to the palace in Sekiei. It'd be nice to catch up after...after everything.

"See you around, Jake."

Carlei waits until I'm finished talking to slip her arms around me and rest her head on my shoulder. "Sorry if I woke you," I murmur.

She kisses me on the cheek. She doesn't pretend I didn't, but she doesn't pretend she's upset either. "Is it really a year since you arrived?"

"Feels longer, doesn't it?"

"I wish it had been."

This is the first night we've been 'officially' allowed to sleep together. The stern, disapproving looks of the courtiers who know exactly what we're up to have in no way stopped us sneaking over to each others' rooms every night anyway for the past month, but it's nice to be able to just relax and be together without fear of it resulting in snooty looks. Not that I give a shit what they think of me, but they're helping Carlei establish herself as Queen, so we want to keep them on our side.

"You know something silly?" I ask her. "I kind of miss the Temple rooms." Carlei's wardrobe alone is probably twice the size of the rooms we were given at the Temples of Joto - hardly unsurprising given that the Temples offer room and board to any petitioner who asks for it, but it did mean that the rooms were poky, to say the least. But they felt familiar, safe. Carlei has the finest room in the palace, and all the ornate decorations and magical trinkets just feel...strange.

Carlei giggles, moving to stand next to me, her arm around my waist. I let my wings manifest and furl one around her - not that she needs me to keep her warm, even if she is just wearing a thin nightgown. "Do you miss the Temples or just travelling Joto?"

"Both," I admit. "Everything felt so much...easier."

She nods. "At least it's over now. No matter how infuriating the courtiers might be," she added, with a small chuckle, "at least we're safe here."

Safe. Barely a day goes past I don't find myself thinking about that. Before all this I'd have never given it a second thought, even after Jake's disappearance three - well, four, now - years ago. And we're called Blessed Warriors for a reason - our Blessings make us stronger and faster, with an instinct and urge for combat. From the minute my Blessing activated I could've probably taken on any pro fighter from my world in a fist-fight and had a decent shot at winning - and I've had a year of growth and training, to say nothing of my actual powers. And on top of all that, Blessed are incredibly resistant to pain, so even if we do get hurt it doesn't do much more than give us a jolt of adrenaline - for most of us, at least. Lyra never had that protection and I'm still in awe of how brave she must have been to fight alongside us despite it.

But for all the incredible power, I still have to worry about whether we're safe.

I turn to Carlei properly, slipping my arms around her waist too. "You want to fly?"

She knows full well it's me that wants to fly. It's supposed to be arrogant for Blessed to use their physical Manifestations unnecessarily, but she's never stopped me, and in any case, most Blessed have to work to keep their Manifestations active, but my wings are effortless to maintain. A quirk of my mysterious powers as a Chosen of Arceus, I guess. "Go on, then," she whispers, leaning against me and putting her arms around me too.

I smile and flick us into the air, high above the clouds where no-one can see us, her aura of fire keeping us warm.

So before I hit on the idea of Carlei proposing to Ethan at the end of CotD (which was itself a play on the fact that Togetic evolves when you give it a Shiny Stone, only then I realised as I was writing it that probably Carlei wouldn't give him some ridiculously ornate ring), that whole speech Ethan was trying to send to Jake was the stopping point I was kinda intending on. I ended up repurposing it for the start of this, and it will probably be the only super exposition-y bit in the story, because I figured trying to tease all the lore information out naturally over the course of multiple chapters would leave new people kinda confused for a while. Hopefully it serves as a good enough starting point!
Ethan - Togekiss, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
Emrys - Espeon, Synchronise, Brave, Loves to Eat
 

Hydrochlorinate

Bard of Mind
Hacker
Screenshotter
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
1427
Caught
Feb 2, 2020
Messages
55
Location
A place called Candy Island
Nature
Quirky
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Bug, Dark
Pokédex Entry
Preferring to operate in the dark, this pokemon is quick to obtain and discard many behaviors.
Kanto content 👀

Glad to see workplace incompetence has given us the sequel quicker :v:
 

csidvuL

Johto League Champion
Writer
Pokédex No.
31
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
767
I still dont like seeing Lyra in the graveyard 😭

In any case! I liked this quiet opener as an opportunity to recentre us on this world. I have been hungering for more content on Jake and about Ethan's life before he came to Joto. This fed me. Somewhat! It's also nice to see our heroes safe and at least sort of contented for the time being.

As ever, I'm looking forward to more. It's really exciting to see a gen 2 story reach and begin to tackle Kanto content! I don't know if I've ever said this before -- but I have immense adiration for both your storytelling and your work ethic. You're a star, mate.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
112
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #4
Hydrochlorinate - Lol, yep, long may it continue. (Well, kinda. I do want to actually be able to do some work one of these days!)

csidvuL - I know... 😭 And thanks so much! ☺ I've really enjoyed writing this story. (As for more snippets of Ethan's and Jake's life, I may have to disappoint you a bit, though, because there aren't going to be that many...)


It's been nearly two months since we beat Lance. Carlei's been officially crowned Queen now, in the throne room of the palace - it would have been a far more impressive ceremony if the throne room wasn't still badly damaged from our battle with Lance. Fortunately, the ceremony here is only part of the coronation. The actual coronation, the one that will have her respected as Queen of Tojo, has to be held in Kanto, atop the sacred Mount Otsukimi, and then she gets to come back and be formally announced as queen to the people of Joto in another big ceremony. Because apparently nothing can ever be simple when you start looking at noble customs.

The journey to Kanto for the coronation is expected to take almost three months by boat. I always thought it was closer, especially after I accidentally used my Air Aspect to fling myself there in the space of just a few minutes, just after Haneka had died, but even three months is quick by nautical standards - a perk of being able to use the royal flagship Drake, which was supposedly blessed by Suicune centuries ago, and can sail through the harshest storms and wildest waves.

But, unfortunately, before we can leave for Kanto, there's even more pomp and ceremony.

Our wedding, specifically.

After seeing how trimmed-down the coronation was because of the damage Lance had caused, I'd been quietly hoping that the same would be true of the wedding. No such luck - wedding ceremonies are held in the palace grounds, so people can come and watch and cheer.

It turns out Joto doesn't quite go in for the 'bad luck to see the bride before the wedding' thing. Just the opposite, in fact - at least, once the marriage ceremony has been performed privately. After that, far from being kept apart, we have to prepare together - in fact, we have to prepare each other, without any servants or anyone else to help (though fortunately they are allowed to give us all the shit we need like clothes that actually fit and are in fashion this year, although we have to make the final choices.)

To some extent I'm lucky - Carlei has to do me first, because the reverse might mean her outfit gets spots of water on it or crumpled or something and my outfit is apparently much more expendable, so I don't have to try to cope with the awkwardness of washing and dressing someone my own age like she's a child without knowing that she's already gone through exactly the same awkwardness doing it for me.

On the flip side, not having to worry about the integrity of her outfit means she can deal with the awkwardness of the entire affair by putting other things on both our minds as soon as we've locked the doors, taking full advantage of the opportunity to playfully trap me in the bathtub - my Blessing might have made me strong, but Carlei's much, much stronger - while she's 'bathing' me. She knows full well how much I love her showing off like this, and I'm very glad that no-one else is allowed into the wing of the palace we're using. (We get a literal wing of the palace just for two people getting dressed. I have no idea what the hell they expect us to use all the rooms for.)

I have to wear proper, noble clothes for this, which means about twelve different layers because apparently Jotans can never just make ordinary clothes. First I have my actual underwear and socks, then what Carlei calls 'undergarments,' which are a thin pair of trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, then a pair of actual trousers that are all but harnessed to me, because apparently a belt isn't secure enough. Then I get a thicker, frilly shirt that only comes down half my torso but which mostly hides the leather harness, a weird sash around my waist which seems to be the only splash of colour in the whole ridiculous outfit, a sharp suit jacket, white gloves, and some knee-length black boots that are shiny enough I can see our faces in them.

"I must look fucking ridiculous," I complain.

"Well, I think I prefer your heraldry," Carlei muses, "but..."

She pulls me over to a ten-foot-tall mirror for me to examine myself. And...I look older. I could probably pass for being twenty-nine, not nineteen. I can't help but wonder how much of that is the outfit and how much is everything that's happened to me.

"I could get used to seeing you like this," she purrs, giving me one of those wicked smirks of hers, secure in the knowledge that I'm restricted in what I can do to get back at her while I'm not allowed to get my outfit messed up.

I end up abandoning the gloves and jacket and rolling up my undershirt to try to minimise how much of my new outfit gets wet. I hadn't paid too much attention to what Carlei had been doing when she'd been combing my hair and trimming my nails - all my attention had been on her - but now it's my turn to do the same to her I realise that almost everything here, all the combs and nail-clippers and scissors and sponges, are either forged from mithril or from some material reinforced with magic.

I get it, of course - ordinary combs would snap before pulling a single hair from the root of Blessed as strong as we are. But it's honestly not something I have to think about that often. It's a rather jarring reminder just how far removed we are from the people we pass every day around the palace.

The outfit I pick for Carlei has marginally fewer layers than mine, though it's also a lot tighter in many cases and the layers all look similar. I'm very glad of Magni dropping off her 'research' on formal dresses a couple of weeks earlier so I have at least a vague idea what order the damn things go in (she hasn't quite got around to proposing to Deanne yet but is spending a great deal of time figuring everything out with uncharacteristic studiousness, and I suspect that for all her bombast and courage when it comes to a fight it'll be Deanne who proposes to her in the end if they get married - but she can still ask about noble fashion for women without totally giving the game away.)

There are a lot of Jotan customs I think are stupid, but - for all that I don't like my outfit - this wedding preparation one makes sense to me. It's intimate, in a way that isn't just sex. I once met someone who told me that love was giving everything you were to someone else. And this almost clinical, total cleansing is just that.

Of course, it's totally unfair. I look like I'm going to some military celebration in someone else's clothes, but Carlei manages to look absolutely stunning in her deep blue dress. She obviously notices me staring and gives me a little twirl. "So..? I don't look too silly, do I?"

"You look beautiful." I pause. "You told them to only put out dresses, didn't you?" I think this might be the first time I've seen her in a dress - even before we spent most of our time in our respective heraldries, she always wore a shirt and trousers.

She gives me a little smile. "I know it's your choice ultimately, but I thought...if Lyra was here, this was the sort of thing she'd have selected for you to choose from."

I thought so.

She wasn't the only one who'd asked for something specific, though. I was honestly pretty amazed when the head of the palace servants managed to procure these, even on three weeks' notice - though I can't help but wonder if he literally just had them made. "I, uh..." I open the palm-sized box to reveal a pair of matching 'flowers' carved out of ruby, with silver leaves with delicate gold veins.

Carlei smiles, gently, and lets me thread one of them through her hair. We'd worn a pair of real red flowers like this for a while, in memory of Bradon, the first of our group to be killed. I wish we'd done something to memorialise Shayne and Haneka too, at the time, but we hadn't. Maybe we'd grown too callous, too used to losing people. So to some extent the jewelled flowers feel like a memorial to all of them. Like in some small way it means they're all still here, watching us from the Halls of the Dead.

Carlei leans in and kisses me on the lips while she adjusts the flower in my hair, and we lean against each other slightly, gently, for a few moments, sharing the reassurance of each others' warmth, and I could just gaze into her eyes all day.

"I love you," she whispers, when we part.

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

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
1,719
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
I'm never gonna be over Lyra and somehow chapter 2 cemented that more than chapter 1 where Ethan's trying to reconnect with a brother he thought he'd lost ages ago

just
She gives me a little smile. "I know it's your choice ultimately, but I thought...if Lyra was here, this was the sort of thing she'd have selected for you to choose from."

I thought so.

She wasn't the only one who'd asked for something specific, though. I was honestly pretty amazed when the head of the palace servants managed to procure these, even on three weeks' notice - though I can't help but wonder if he literally just had them made. "I, uh..." I open the palm-sized box to reveal a pair of matching 'flowers' carved out of ruby, with silver leaves with delicate gold veins.

Carlei smiles, gently, and lets me thread one of them through her hair. We'd worn a pair of real red flowers like this for a while, in memory of Bradon, the first of our group to be killed. I wish we'd done something to memorialise Shayne and Haneka too, at the time, but we hadn't. Maybe we'd grown too callous, too used to losing people. So to some extent the jewelled flowers feel like a memorial to all of them. Like in some small way it means they're all still here, watching us from the Halls of the Dead.
You should not be allowed to make what should be a happy moment so sad 😭

My pain aside, I'm so excited to see what happens in the Kanto half of this, how Jake factors into things, if Ethan's quick visit to Kanto before will somehow play a significant part here, and just whatever you have in store for us!
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
112
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6
@Thirteenth - Yeah these few chapters have a lot of...kinda finally coming to terms with everything that happened while they were travelling. At one point I wanted to include this in the end of CotD but I preferred the ending I eventually went with, so it all ended up here lol.


I've never really been good with crowds. On the other world I was never the one standing up in front of the crowd getting celebrated. At best I was the one in the crowd. And then Jake disappeared, and suddenly we were all the centre of attention whether we wanted to be or not - and not all of that attention was friendly.

It's kind of strange to realise I don't think of that world as my home any more.

Of course, it doesn't help that we were on the run for the best part of a year. It wasn't until the very end of our journey that we stopped hiding, started standing up publicly - and it wasn't like even that was entirely our choice.

Carlei's more used to crowds than me, of course - she was the Princess and the heir to the throne for twenty years. But we're both glad of each others' presence when we stand in the palace gardens.

Only the nobility are allowed in the gardens proper, but there's still probably fifty people here - and I can sense the crowds outside with my powers. It's still so odd to realise that this is such a big deal to...well, everyone.

If anything, though, it's even odder to realise that probably half the people in the gardens are people none of us know. Courtiers from minor noble families who have a place in the Imperial Court, assorted siblings and cousins of the nobles we do know...and I can't help but wonder how many of them actually give a shit about us, and how many of them are here because they see a political benefit to being here.

Carlei slips her hand into mine, without saying a word, and I squeeze her hand gently.

The one good thing about being the most important people in the room is that we don't have to wait for anyone else to arrive. Everyone's already assembled in seemingly-random spots around the gardens that were weeks in the selecting, and as soon as we've arrived, the court herald begins announcing that we're all here to witness our marriage. <Because clearly some people might have been here for a car boot sale,> I send to Carlei, telepathically, and it's a testament to her experience as a stateswoman that she doesn't so much as crack a smile outwardly, though I can feel her aura fizzing and sparking with amusement, and then she flicks a telepathic pulse back at me that makes me feel like she's tickling me again and now I'm the one having to work to keep a straight face.

I've learned to borrow Carlei's fire enough that I can create a pretty passable blast of flame, but she's gotten unfairly good at using my own powers against me.

The High Priest of the Faith is the one that conducts the ceremony, just as he was the one who formally married us. He looks a lot different to the first time I met him, when he was dressed in an old robe with a bowl of tea in one hand. Now he looks almost regal himself, and somehow I don't find myself wanting to distract us from his speech the way I had the herald.

"Love is a force of incredible power," he pronounces, softly. "The Lovers were crystallised from the purest love of all, the love between the Great Father and the Great Mother, and since that day have brought that gift unto us. Some underestimate its strength. And far too many mistake lust for love. But I can say with total confidence that the couple that stand before us today are blessed by the Lovers in truth. Let none declare that their love is mistaken, or that their marriage invalid, for it is sealed before the gaze of the Lovers, and it is my honour to name Victor Ethan Hall of Jiritsu the husband of Her Imperial Majesty, Queen Carlei of Tojo, and grant unto him the title of King."

And that's it. Those few words, less than a minute, and we are as completely, totally together as we can be, a pure simplicity that even the convoluted Jotan ceremonies can't confuse.

It's a Jotan tradition for newly-married spouses to give gifts to our guests. Not that I personally have anything to give - well, I suppose I technically now have access to the royal treasury and all its riches, but wedding gifts are supposed to be more personal than just gold and jewels - but we've been discussing it ever since Carlei explained the ceremony to me and we've ironed out some good ideas. And thankfully, we get to choose who we give gifts to - and better yet, the gift-giving is allowed to be a lot more private.

There's an 'outdoor conservatory' in one part of the gardens, a white, wooden building tucked out of the way, surrounded by flowering bushes and still mostly exposed to the elements. The dozen-or-so Imperial Guards in full armour surrounding it rather ruin the aesthetic, but I know it's just one of those things I'm going to have to get used to. At least I'm not afraid of them the way I was when I first arrived. Knowing that I could knock them out with little more than a thought will do that.

Gaius is the first one we ask in. Carlei does most of the talking, still far better at the flowery noble speeches than I am. "Your Majesties," he greets us, bowing low. I was half expecting him to still call me 'kid.'

"Please, rise." Carlei and I are seated on plush, comfortable chairs, and she has a hand lightly resting on my leg to remind me I don't need to get up. "I made an agreement with you a long time ago - that I would examine the corruption and decay within the Imperial Guards, should I regain my position in the royal family. While this...situation...is not an outcome either of us considered when we made that pact, I still intend to honour it. First, I rescind the charges and verdict brought against you. You are to be treated as any other Imperial Guard who retired from their position for personal reasons, should you wish to reclaim your role. However..." She pauses. "I know you and Goban have been working to expose the corruption among the Guards who did not leave alongside Bruno - passing the information to Koga, I presume. For that you have my thanks. But would you like to do more?"

I get the feeling Gaius knows what she's about to suggest - but, maybe, doesn't entirely want to believe it. "Your Majesty?"

"The Imperial Guards are leaderless. I need them to be commanded by someone I can trust - and per the laws of their foundation, their Commander must be a serving Imperial Guard, or one honourably discharged, with no relation to the royal family. You and Goban are the only Imperial Guards I could trust, and since Goban's promotion to Lieutenant by Silver was a field promotion, you technically outrank him - and in any case, his tenure would be brief in the extreme given the second requirement for the post. So...if you would accept it, I wish to name you the Commander of my Imperial Guard."

Gaius is silent for a long few moments. "I...I accept, Your Majesty. And...thank you. For not giving up, for having faith. Not many people would've."

<He's right, you know,> I murmur to Carlei, as we wait for the next recipient to be fished out of the political mingling. <Most people would've given up. You're incredible.>

<I had you.>


The next visitor - or rather, visitors - cause a bit of a quarrel with the guards surrounding our little building. Not that it surprises either of us. "Let her through," Carlei commands, and the Imperial Guards move aside smoothly to allow Magni to catch up to Deanne.

<Looks like you were wrong,> Carlei purrs. <She didn't just bowl over the guards that tried to stop her.>

<You didn't give her the chance to!>
I complain.

Carlei's laughter reverberates over our bond. <But it's another win for me. I'll make sure to claim my reward later.>

I really wish I hadn't started getting her to make bets on how people are going to behave to let us pass the time in boring political meetings. She's way better at it than I am and very inventive when it comes to the cost for me losing.

Somehow I suspect Magni and Deanne know we were talking telepathically, because Magni is as bad at hiding her emotions as I am and I can see her smirking at me.

"I'm afraid this gift is technically for Deanne, Magni," Carlei adds, aloud, even though all four of us know it makes no difference which of them receives it since they're as inseparable as me and Carlei are. And for the first time since the wedding ceremony, her expression gets a little sadder. "Deanne...my father wronged you, grievously. To use you as a pawn in a political game, and have you arrested and imprisoned despite your innocence is...despicable. And there is little I can do to apologise for his actions. And yet, despite that cruelty, you stood by his daughter. And there is still little I can do to reward you for that kindness. But..." She reaches over, using my powers to float a scroll from the table beside us onto her lap. "Lord Choro was kind enough to provide me with this, a lasting reward for your grace and benevolence. In my name, he has bequeathed you a plot of land in the city of Fusube, for you and your descendants to hold and live in for as long as they will."

It had taken a lot of explanation from Carlei to drill into me just how big a deal this is. The buildings of Fusube are ancient, most of them in the same family for generations - sometimes centuries - and in the rare event that a landowner dies without leaving an heir, there are dozens of noble families clamouring for the head of House Blackthorn to bestow it to them. To give it to the second cousin of the lord's granddaughter is unheard of.

This might explain why Deanne just gapes at us for a few moments, totally stunned. Magni obviously knows enough about Fusube to understand how massive this is too, but she recovers quicker. "You're supposed to accept, you know," she points out to Deanne, teasingly.

Deanne blushes, stumbling over her words. "I...thank you for your kindness, Your Majesty, but...there is little I have done for you beyond providing you a vessel to sail. I never fought for you in truth."

"But you would have, were there need." Carlei makes the scroll drift out to them. "Take it."

In the end, Magni takes it, interlacing her fingers with Deanne's and moving their arms so the scroll settles on Deanne's palm, and then leans in and kisses her briefly. "C'mon." She glances back to us. "Thank you, Your Majesties."

As subdued and stunned as Deanne is, I can feel her aura beginning to bubble with hope and elation and love as they leave, and somehow I suspect Magni's overly-thought out proposal plans are going to end up going to waste.

There's only one more person we wanted to give a gift to.

I haven't seen Ampharal since Lyra's funeral. He's still wearing all black, even though it's more than a month since then. As far as I know, the funeral and this wedding are the only two times he's left the lighthouse that serves as the home of the lord of Kirameki.

He kneels down in front of us, not meeting Carlei's eyes. "Your Majesty."

"Amphy..." Carlei gets up, kneeling down in front of him so they're at the same level. "I...I'm so sorry." We haven't had the chance to talk to him since it happened. As soon as he realised what had happened, he left the palace, taking a horse from the rebellion's army and riding back to Kirameki. I know not being able to apologise has been hurting Carlei, no matter how much she might have tried to hide it and bury it under our wedding. "If we hadn't involved her - if I hadn't involved her, she would have -"

"Stop." He still doesn't look at her. "You aren't responsible, Carlei. And nor are you, Ethan. The ones responsible are Lance and the charologists, and he's dead and they're in chains in the Monastery."

And that's why it's so hard to come to terms with. There's no easy outlet, no-one we can punish, nothing we can do to try to make things better.

"I'm sorry," he says, more quietly. "Please, just...let us get through the politics."

Carlei sits back down next to me, squeezing my hand tightly when I take it and rub the back of her hand with my thumb. "In honour of...in honour of Lyra, I wanted to give you a new role. You knew her better than any of us."

"I doubt that," Ampharal replies, curtly. "I only ever cared about keeping her safe, not what she wanted."

"Maybe at first, yes. But you let her become the person she wanted to be. She wouldn't have fallen in love with you if you hadn't. She would've married you, if you'd asked her."

"I was going to," he murmurs, quietly.

Carlei is quiet for a few moments. "Through Lyra, you knew of Hoen better than any of the rest of us. And more importantly, you know what she would've wanted better than us. So, in her name, I want you to become my councillor with respect to Hoen. How this kingdom treats Hoen will be up to you."

"But..." Ampharal looks up to her for the first time. "I want to punish them. The Fire Lord for his cruelty and his campaign against the Water Blessed, the original ruling family of Hoen for letting him take over...all of them. One man's quest for vengeance cannot dictate the policy of a kingdom. If it did, we would be no better than them."

"And I trust that you won't let that corrupt you." Carlei picks up a small, sealed envelope from where we'd hidden it inside a mass of meaningless reports. "When, um...when Lyra's room was being cleaned, before the wedding...the servants found this among her possessions. We think she wrote it before Silver helped her escape the palace after Ethan and I fled. It's addressed to you, and marked with...this symbol."

Ampharal all but snatches it from her hand, holding it close with both hands as if it's Lyra herself for a few moments before he catches up with the rest of what Carlei had been saying.

"We had to have Koga look it up," Carlei admits, "but as far as we understand, it's -"

"The Hoen sigil representing their version of the Corruption Aspect. Sealing a letter like this, it indicates it is only to be opened when the writer has passed into the Halls of the Dead." Amphy doesn't look up to us, just looking down at the envelope in his hands. "But I...I can't."

"You don't have to open it now. Or make a decision about Hoen now. But...when you're ready, it will be your choice to make, for her."

Amphy doesn't say anything for a long few moments. "Thank you, Carlei," he says, eventually.

<Do you think he'll be all right?> I ask her.

<Yes. In time.>

We manage to avoid most of the politics - I don't think either of us could really face it - but the next task is for us to ride through the streets of the capital in a carriage to let the people who aren't important enough to attend the wedding celebrate our marriage. When the rebellion against Lance became a real thing, people started calling Carlei 'crowned of the Rainbow Dawn' in honour of Ho-oh's sign of favour, and now that's stuck with her, so there are a rainbow- and dawn-themed displays of flowers, cloth, and whatever else people have to hand pretty much whenever we look out of the windows of the carriage.

By the time we get back to the palace, the wedding ceremony has turned into more of a party - still somewhat formal and political, but at least we can let our hair down a bit. We have to lead the first dance, which would be much more difficult if I couldn't just step in close to Carlei and let her twirl me around in time with the music, and people start challenging Carlei to duels (apparently a celebration like this is the one time you're allowed to test the strength of the ruling monarch in battle) so I get to sit back and watch Carlei trounce them, even with the hindrance of her dress, before she pulls me back to the dance floor again.

It's late in the night by the time the ball draws to a close, though neither of us are even remotely tired. The moon is high in the sky, and we don't need anything more than its light to lead us back out away from the courtiers and into the quiet privacy of the shrouded conservatory.

I'd told Carlei once I wished we could just leave everything behind, and just let it be the two of us forever, without any noble titles or incredible powers.

But cuddling close to each other, secluded from the rest of the gardens by the bushes, with the floral scent in the air, it could just be the two of us, and we forget everything else.

This chapter may or may not have been partly inspired by me nailing down the broad strokes of the plot for the Hoen pseudo-sequel because brain gremlins wouldn't let me stop thinking about it.
Ethan - Togekiss, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
Emrys - Espeon, Synchronise, Brave, Loves to Eat
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
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May 20, 2019
Messages
1,719
Nature
Quiet
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She/Her
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Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
Will Lyra ever stop hurting??? No, never ;;;;;

"When, um...when Lyra's room was being cleaned, before the wedding...the servants found this among her possessions. We think she wrote it before Silver helped her escape the palace after Ethan and I fled. It's addressed to you, and marked with...this symbol."

Ampharal all but snatches it from her hand, holding it close with both hands as if it's Lyra herself for a few moments before he catches up with the rest of what Carlei had been saying.

"We had to have Koga look it up," Carlei admits, "but as far as we understand, it's -"

"The Hoen sigil representing their version of the Corruption Aspect. Sealing a letter like this, it indicates it is only to be opened when the writer has passed into the Halls of the Dead." Amphy doesn't look up to us, just looking down at the envelope in his hands. "But I...I can't."
god just stab me why don't you

My pain aside, the wedding was really sweet, and the gift-giving ceremony was such a clever way to (re)familiarize people with the main cast. The formality/politics of it makes the rehashing (or maybe more specifically, the way said rehashing is worded) make sense and work here. Really nice to see Gaius and Deanne especially get what they deserved all along. ;;
 

SilverDoe

Kanto League Champion
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
37
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
161
Location
Verdanturf Town
Nature
Timid
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Water, Ghost
Ethan and Carlei are so sweet and cute together. I loved seeing their wedding and how things are continuing a couple months down the road. It's also impressive to see and appreciate how far Ethan has come and how much has changed since CotD started. The line in chapter 3 about how he no longer thinks of "that world" as home is really meaningful. He might still not understand everything about Joto and not love some of its customs and feel out of place in the politics of it all at times, but he also has a home there now. In no small part thanks to Carlei. It's just really nice to see him acknowledge that he might have come here from another world, but he considers *this* one his home now.

I also appreciate the reminders and worldbuilding spread through these early chapters. It's been a long time since the early days of CotD, but all the references back to them refreshed those memories well. Also, the gift-giving ceremony was really great, it's good to see the others and how they're doing and the gifts were all sweet and meaningful.
 

csidvuL

Johto League Champion
Writer
Pokédex No.
31
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
767
PLEASE let magni live her life, you madman, my girl deserves her chance!! i adore her useless wlw energy hahahaha

This is to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing these characters at peace. The wedding customs were fun, even as you callously stabbed us with the callback to Bradon's death. Lyra's demise continuing to reverberate here is of course, devastating. With Amphy receiving that final letter, his potential position, and at least Ethan and Carlei off to Kanto soon, I'm excited to see what conflicts will emerge from this and power Path to the Stars!
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
112
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10
@Thirteenth - Thanks! And yeah it was kinda nice to resolve their stories to some extent.

SilverDoe - Haha yeah it has certainly been a long time! And yeah Carlei is a massive part of the reason Ethan feels like this is his home now.

csidvuL - Oh Magni's still got a fair bit of story left, don't worry. (And she is still a lot of fun to write lol.) Amphy and that letter may or may not be me plotting for a potential sequel though...


The blimps arrive just a couple of days after our wedding, sailing serenely out of the clouds and outpacing all the messenger birds sent to warn of their arrival, swooping in and landing outside the walls of the fortress of Sekiei.

The Imperial Guards, such as they are, still rebuilding after half their number were thrown into prison for corruption or left in exile with Bruno, surround the blimps as the front segments unfold out. Or try to, at least - the forces that emerge from within outnumber them three to one, all but ignoring the readied weapons of the Guards. By the time any of the rest of us arrive, the newcomers have spread out, forcing the Guards to back away through sheer force of numbers, trusting that none of them will strike first without an order.

"What is the -" Carlei starts to demand, but as soon as they see her the soldiers kneel down. "Stand aside," she adds to the nearest Guards, and they seem more than happy to obey, letting her get between them and the kneeling soldiers. She narrows her eyes. "Who are you?"

"Please forgive our rudeness, Your Majesty." The voice echoes from inside the cavernous hold of the blimp, and a young woman emerges, dressed in dark robes with deep purple hair.

"Janine?" Carlei relaxes slightly, but she doesn't signal the Guards to stand down. "What are...your?..soldiers wearing?"

Janine kneels down too, deeply enough that her head almost touches the dirt for a few moments. "After the Common King freed Kanto from the Exile King's tyranny, it was decided by the Lords and Ladies of Kanto that the garb of the Exile King's former soldiers had become permanently marred by his malevolence. No-one in Kanto would've felt safe defended by warriors wearing the old style of armour as is retained in Joto. Thus, it was agreed that the Imperial Guard of Kanto would wear simpler garb, out of respect for the Common King. We...had assumed you would have been informed, Majesty. Just as we assumed you would have been informed of our approach. Again, my humblest apologies for the insult."

"Hmm." Carlei obviously doesn't believe in Janine's faux-apologetic tone any more than I do. I've been in enough political meetings now that I'm getting pretty good at recognising the subtexts and hidden meanings within hidden meanings, but I don't need that experience to pick up that every other sentence is chosen to make her sound superior as politely as possible.

And my powers only reinforce that impression. There's an anger bubbling in Janine, raw and harsh and only just being quelled by the satisfaction her constant digs at us are giving her.

"And who is 'we,' exactly?" Carlei asks.

"Why, the Lords and Ladies of Kanto, Majesty."

Carlei invites Janine back into the palace to receive her 'officially', a stiff, awkward greeting that's far more formal and far more full of soldiers in the room standing at attention like statues than the more peaceful meetings between us and the Lords and Ladies of Joto (all of whom we know and who fought alongside us in the rebellion against Lance.) Janine comments on how 'unfortunate' it is that the throne room is still in a state of disarray after the battle with Lance.

"So, what decision has the Council of Kanto reached that is so momentous it required the head of House Fuschia to travel to Joto personally, departing her lands for such a long duration?"

"The journey is of no concern, Majesty. The vessel upon which I arrived is enchanted with potent Air magic, and while those that followed are not quite so powerful, the journey here took us but two weeks."

We can all hear surprised whispers flurry through the court. Janine bows her head deferentially to hide her smirk, her features returned to a polite mask of respect when she looks back up at us.

"Allow me to reassure you, Majesty," Janine continues, "that while these skyships were the creation of the Exile King, the Guardians of Heresy have assured us that they need not be destroyed. For the Chosen to use their Blessings to forge mighty artifacts has long been tradition. As for our purpose...Kanto and Joto have been disparate for far too long. Even before the Exile King's tyranny, and the counterpart cruelty you have suffered here. It is the belief of the Council of Kanto that Your Majesty's coronation should proceed as soon as possible. Thus, the Royal Flagship of Kanto was dispatched, under my unworthy direction, to offer you a means of swift conveyance. And we wished to perform another small ceremony, in honour of Your Majesty's new role as our Queen."

Carlei raises an eyebrow. "What honour?"

"The Exile King gave the Royal Flagship a name of his own. As with his own name, we shall never speak it aloud, but it deserves a name befitting its state as Royal Flagship. In honour of the family of Your Majesty, Queen of Kanto, we wish to rename the vessel Niamh."

Even for all Carlei's decorum, she can't suppress a quiet gasp. "After my mother?"

For once, Janine's anger is a little more muted, and her tone more genuine and gentle. "Her Highness Queen Niamh was a fine ruler and friend of Kanto." And then for a moment she almost sounds unsure, and it feels like she's consciously trying to make herself angrier again, drawing herself back to that thin veil of politeness like it gives her the confidence to act like this. "We would beg that you allow our humble request."

Janine 'humbly' assures Carlei that she and her soldiers will be perfectly fine sleeping in the airships rather than taking up the palace's resources, but we can't quite contrive a way to deny her permission to come in and out of the palace grounds.

"Was she always such a bitch?" I ask Carlei, once she's safely out of the palace.

"In truth, I have not much interacted with her," Carlei admits. "It was only after the rebellion in Kanto that she became the Lady of Sekichiku, and...well, the next meeting after that point was the Sanguine Council."

I'm glad she can talk about it calmly now - that she's managed to come to terms with what happened when the Council erupted into violence - but I know how closely she came to death then still upsets her, maybe even more than any of the danger we were in after fleeing the palace. "Did the Kantans just...stop coming to the council meetings after that?"

"More or less," she nods. "When the lord and heir of House Cerulean were slain, it was a punishing blow to both the House and the region of Hanada. And Father let it go unanswered. If the discovery that he had never been Blessed had not destroyed his reputation, his lack of an immediate retribution upon the killers did."

"Did they ever find out who did it?"

Carlei shakes her head. "No. Father had no interest in investigating. So...yes, it could have been Janine." Evidently we both had the same idea. I know two of the Lords of Joto believe that Lady Sabrina had something to do with the violence, but having met Janine I'm sure she'd be willing to stoop to the level of assassinating a rival.

"You should not trust her, Majesty."

"Fucking -!" We whirl around to glare at Koga. "Do you have to do that?" I complain. Where the fuck had he even come from?

"As her father, I would have thought you would support her more than most," Carlei points out, once we've calmed down a bit from Koga's sudden appearance.

I don't know why I hadn't realised the family similarity between Koga and Janine as soon as I'd seen her, but now Carlei mentions it it's blatantly obvious. I'd known Koga had been forced out of his position of Lord of a region in Kanto by Lance, but I'd never known which exactly.

"It is because I am her father that I know precisely what depths she will stoop to," Koga counters. "The decision to rescind my lordship was not Lance's alone - and the suspicion he had that I had aided the Exile King did not manifest from thin air." He sighs slightly. "We were so close, once. But now..."

"Regardless of whether we trust her," Carlei points out, "Janine was perfectly correct when she said Tojo has been in two halves for far too long. And if the airship truly can travel between the two lands in two weeks, it would...it would be an incredible boon to Tojo. To rule the two kingdoms as one would be infeasible if it took quarter of a year to travel between the two. But if it takes just a fraction of that...it may truly be possible for the two kingdoms to become one. For us to put all the cruelty, all the terror, that Lance and Giovanni caused -" she forgets to censor Giovanni's name "- behind us at long last.

"It isn't an opportunity that we can pass up."

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

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
1,719
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
Squinting hard at Janine... What is all this anger at your core, Janine? Do you not actually want to accept Carlei as queen? What's going on?? What do you have to feel all smug about? Highly suspish.

But it seems we may have all the setup for whatever will ensue in Kanto? 👀 Even if not, I'm still looking forward to how things unfold.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
Messages
112
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12
@Thirteenth - This is indeed the setup for the beginning of the Kanto stuff. As for Janine's motivations...that might take a little longer to reveal.


We agree to Janine's request the next day. She smiles and thanks Carlei for her generosity and praises her intelligence, and I can feel that anger in her coiling like a snake ready to strike.

The coronation ceremony in Otsukimi to officially crown Carlei Queen of Tojo requires all the nobles of both kingdoms to be present, but since all the nobles of Joto were already at the palace for our wedding, at least we don't have to worry about sending them messages to request their presence.

The ceremonial launching of the newly-named Niamh is the one relaxed moment we have over the next couple of days. None of us trust Janine and the soldiers she's brought with her, and we have to choose between bringing others with us for more of a fighting force if we need it and not wanting to put them in danger.

In the end, only Magni, Gaius and Deanne come with us on the Niamh with Janine, the others following behind on the other airships - who we outpace by the end of the first night of sailing through the sky.

When we'd sailed back from Fusube to Sekiei, we'd travelled about Lord Choro's ship, the Oryu, and at the time I'd thought the accommodations were luxurious. That was before I'd spent two months living in the palace as the second-most important person in the kingdom, but the Niamh rivals the palace for over-the-top luxury and style. There's a bath the size of a swimming pool on one of the lower decks.

Not that we take in much of the luxury. Janine isn't the only one with that cold malevolence swirling deep in her. A lot of the soldiers, and a fair few of the crew, have those same flashes of anger whenever they see Carlei - and though they don't react to the rest of us to quite the same extent, we're obviously tarred with the same brush. None of us can relax, and we're all looking forwards to being able to dock at Otsukimi, where at least no matter how angry anyone is with us no-one would dare pick a fight.

Which is probably why we don't get to Otsukimi.

We don't eat any of the food they offer us - ordinary poisons wouldn't work on Blessed, and Carlei and Deanne can both use healing magic to cure most magical poisons, but after our experience with Amphy being poisoned by a specially-designed toxin imbued with Corruption energy, none of us want to take the risk.

But we pretend, and we obviously pretend well enough that they expect us to be out cold when someone breaks into our room with a pair of knives manifested.

He goes for Carlei first, and if he hadn't been trying to kill us I'd almost feel bad for him given how massively out of his league he turns out to be. A very brief moment later, and the would-be assassin is lying on the ground with her sword resting at his throat.

"Why are you doing this?" Carlei hisses to him.

He pauses for a moment, obviously thinking about whether he should answer, seemingly unconcerned by the sword. "We were freed from Imperial tyranny once. We will not submit to it again."

"And what makes you think I would be a tyrant?"

The assassin actually scoffs at that. "Lance replaced the exile rather than allow Kanto be ruled by Kantans. Now you overthrow him violently and replace him, and still refuse to allow our fate to be in the hands of any that care about us. What difference is there between you and him?"

He conjures one of his knives again and tries to lunge up at her. It would've worked a lot better if I hadn't pinned him to the ground with my powers after Carlei had thrown him down, and he struggles for a moment, an expression of surprise plain on his face, before he realises what's happening.

"So you have no respect for the command of Lord Ho-oh," Carlei remarks, coolly.

"We have nothing but the utmost respect for the Divines. But your false sign of approval is nothing but another of your many crimes. You might have fooled the people of Joto, but we know all too well how easy it is for your family to pass vile heresy off as holiness."

I know how cruel an insult that would be to any Blessed, but a few flames that run down Carlei's sword and evaporate before touching her attacker are the only overt reaction she gives. "I am neither my father nor my uncle," she retorts.

I realise with a jolt that I can't sense Janine's aura anywhere. I'd thought I'd been keeping an eye on her - so to speak - but she must have masked her aura and slipped away.

"And yet you grew up at their feet and would inevitably perpetuate the same cruelty if we allowed it. But you will not."

I feel it a moment before it happens - the strange, alien feeling of Divine power coursing down from whatever elsewhere realm they reside, suffusing the body of a person who knows that it will burn them to ash and gives themselves to it all the same.

An explosion tears through the ship with enough force to knock it onto a forty-five degree angle for a few moments. Before it rights itself, another explosion erupts, much closer, close enough that the ornate windows of our room shatter, and I hear people on the Niamh start to scream as fear permeates the air and the skyship starts to fall.

We stumble out onto the main part of the vessel, a large conference room the size of the palace's throne room, with the deck slanted forwards and the entire damn thing jolting and shuddering, making it difficult to keep our balance.

But if it's hard for us, it's a hundred times harder for the Kantans that were on the vessel too, and most of them can do little more than crawl and try to cling onto something when another layer of the magic keeping the ship aloft fails and we abruptly drop a few feet. One of the beams of wood making up the hull comes loose and starts to fall, and almost before I've realised it's happening Carlei's there, slicing through the wood with her sword and bodily shielding a duo of soldiers from the remnants of the beam - I feel a stab of pain from her, but the impact would've crushed the two Kantans in an instant.

I'd wondered why there were so few Blessed among the Kantans when we'd first boarded. And now I know. Janine evidently wanted to eliminate the risk that multiple Blessed working together could save the ship somehow.

I can feel Deanne, Magni and Gaius through the haze of frightened auras. They escaped the assassination attempt as easily as we did, and somehow I find myself almost more worried about the Kantan soldiers and crew than I do them.

Maybe it's because I know the five of us could survive this. Janine underestimated us. With my powers I could easily carry the five of us down to ground level, and even without that the Niamh is falling slowly enough that the inevitable crash wouldn't do any lasting damage, not to us.

That would be the smart thing to do. There must be more than a hundred people on board, and I can't just grab everyone and drag them out the nearest window - at least, not carefully enough that I wouldn't do just as much damage as the crash. And my powers have grown stronger since my Ascension, but I sure as fuck can't lift the whole skyship for long enough to lower us safely to the ground.

But I can't just leave them. I don't need to look - I barely even need to use my powers - to know they're watching us. We're their only hope. Maybe I'm their only hope.

I stretch my powers out, the shimmering, prismatic motes of light that are my way of interpreting my abilities flowing out from me like a snowstorm and settling into the structure of the Niamh. I give a light, tentative pull, not putting too much of my power into it, and I don't think I even slow us down. If anything, I think we're speeding up, our angle and the pushing force of the magic that should've kept us aloft accelerating us forwards instead.

The Kantans are starting to fall quiet now, holding onto whatever they can find to anchor themselves through the jolting and bumping as the deck becomes ever more tilted.

So now I have a telekinetic grip that isn't even close to strong enough to do anything useful. "Now would be a real good time for you to lend me your power again, Jake." I'm not even sure why I say it. I've never heard anything from him since the palace - if it was even him I heard it from at all in the first place and I wasn't just imagining things.

And then I hear a faint whisper, so distant that I'm not even sure I'm really hearing it.

"You don't need my power. You have theirs."

And somehow...I feel, if not understand. I can feel the fear of the crew and soldiers around us, but more than that...I can feel their hope, too. They know just as much as I do that we're the only chance they have at surviving this, and somehow there's still a genuine hope there that we will, that anger at us I'd felt from them long buried.

I remember another faint flicker of hope, all but masked by despair and cut off before that hope could be rewarded.

We can't fail again.

I can't fail again.

I close my eyes, let that well of power I've worked so hard to keep controlled rise up, just a little. The boards of the Niamh creak as my telekinetic grip strengthens and I can feel a ripple of surprise run through the people around me as the floor under us jolts in a very different way.

Maybe I could hold the Niamh up, if I gave in to that power completely. But no matter how much people might tell me that it isn't evil, that it isn't Chaos, it's still dangerous. Even just tapping into it this tiny amount immediately makes it surge to the forefront of my powers, wild and unstoppable - and it crashes into the hope and even surprise of the Kantans, and even Carlei and the others, and that soft, gentle happiness keeps it constrained in a way no amount of outside force and no amount of my own concentration ever could, and my motes of light blaze brightly and growing until the entire Niamh is coated in a sheathe of light, and I find myself less holding my breath and more with neither need nor ability to breathe as my powers crackle and vibrate with energy.

I've never been good at teleportation magic. I've grown better at it over the past couple of months - good enough that I can use it consciously now, at least - but I've only once been able to teleport with anyone but myself and Carlei, and that was more the Divines' magic than mine.

But I exhale, and there's a faint sense of movement and we're elsewhere, and that strange, alien power recoils and retreats deep back into that pit in my soul and I slam down the metaphorical lid that keeps it contained and slump back into Carlei's arms as the Niamh lands in mud and water with one final jolt.

In Irish mythology, Niamh was the daughter of the god of the sea. I really wish I could say that naming this universe's version of the S.S. Aqua Niamh was a deliberate nod to that!

(Also in-game Amphy was still in the team at this point, I just chopped him out of the story because I couldn't find a neat way to include him given everything he's trying to come to terms with. He'll be back a bit later.)
Ethan - Togekiss, Serene Grace, Relaxed, Scatters Things Often
Carlei - Typhlosion, Blaze, Relaxed, Likes to Thrash About
Gaius - Golem, Sturdy, Bold, Alert to Sounds
Magni aka Muscle - Machamp, Guts, Lonely, Proud of its Power
Deanne - Dragonair, Shed Skin, Careful, Impetuous and Silly
Bradon - Bellsprout, Chlorophyll, Timid, Somewhat Vain
Shayne - Sandshrew, Sand Veil, Gentle, Likes to Fight
Haneka - Skiploom, Chlorophyll, Mild, Thoroughly Cunning
Micha - Magnemite, Magnet Pull, Hasty, Good Endurance
Lyra - Azumarill, Thick Fat, Quiet, Somewhat Stubborn
Erewan - Unown (E), Levitate, Brave, Likes to Fight
Nichol - Nidoking, Rivalry, Brave, Somewhat Vain
Emrys - Espeon, Synchronise, Brave, Loves to Eat
Amphy - Ampharos, Static, Timid, Often Dozes Off
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
1,719
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
Ethan!!! Look at him working his magic even though it's kinda dangerous and all ;;; I'm a little nervous about where exactly they ended up, but at least they didn't crash.

Alright, Janine. This. Hm. I wasn't expecting such a bold assassination attempt but I should have. I'm really left wondering now like... What does this mean for Carlei? Will she hold on to her title...? Would she be unwilling to let Kanto be independent because of Ho-oh? "You might have fooled the people of Joto, but we know all too well how easy it is for your family to pass vile heresy off as holiness." The line definitely has me furrowing my brow. I mean, I'd imagine he's just referring to her father and uncle, but I'm wondering if there's more to it than that, specifically because of the heresy thing. Unless I'm forgetting something ^^' But yeah 🤔 Is he implying that Joto is completely misinterpreting the divines somehow, due to the royal family?
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
112
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
Dark, Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
@Thirteenth - Yeah it's intended to all be a bit confusing at the moment. Hopefully things will start to clear up shortly!


I wake up cradled in Carlei's lap, which is nice. It would've been a lot nicer if I didn't also wake up with every fibre of my being aching like I'd run a marathon or three and then maybe fallen off a cliff to round things off, but I'll take being cuddled up against my wife (and it still feels so incredible that I can think of us as husband and wife!) and it takes me a few moments to remember -

"What happened!?" I jolt up and immediately regret it, and don't protest when Carlei wraps one arm around me and pulls me back down to lean against her again.

"Easy." Her voice is half soothing, half scolding. "We're okay. Everyone's okay," she corrects herself, after a moment. "You..." She casts around for the right word to describe what I just did. "You moved us - the entire Niamh - down to ground level. Some of the soldiers and crew are injured, but...they're all alive."

I look up at her. Her emotions are a complicated tangle, anger and sadness and bewilderment and relief.

She gives a dry chuckle. "Just when I thought I'd understood your powers, you do something as monumental as whisking a flagship across the oceans in the blink of an eye." Then she sighs, helping me to sit up so we can lean against each other.

I look around to realise that we're perched on what must, at one point, have been one of the massive wooden boards that made up the hull of the Niamh. We're in some kind of marsh, and this is probably the biggest bit of dry land around, and we're the only ones on it.

I can see a lot of the soldiers and crew of the Niamh around, but once I'm settled next to her, Carlei promptly wraps me in a fiercely tight hug and I can't see much more than her hair. "Don't do that again," she whispers quietly. "You...I couldn't heal you. I could feel you breathing but..." She trails off, and I hug her back, furling my wings around her.

"I'm not going anywhere," I promise her. No matter what happens, that's one thing I'm certain of.

"I know," she murmurs back, but we don't let go for a long few minutes.

"So where..." I pull away from her slightly to look around as our situation comes back to me. "Where are we?"

"Ah." Carlei perks up a bit. "Fortunately, we have a few new allies who know more about Kanto than we do."

I hadn't really realised how many of the Kantans were around us until I properly start paying attention. A lot of them are hurt, one or two laid out on other broken bits of wood and lying still - but they're all alive, just as Carlei had said. When I realise that most of them, even the wounded, are waist-deep in the swamp, I can't help but feel bad that we're nice and comfortable up on the broken board, but I'm not in much of a state to go anywhere on my own. Carlei helps me up - tempted as I am to pretend I'm fine, I know she'd see through me - and I stay leaning against her as I look around.

That feeling of anger and spite I'd sensed from the soldiers and crew is...maybe not gone, but at least a lot more muted. The overwhelming emotion emanating from them now is more confusion than anything else.

"You...certainly made an impression," Carlei adds to me in an undertone, as the Kantans bow their heads deferentially when they see us looking at them. She nods to one of the closer Kantans. "Captain Palmarr has offered to help coordinate...everyone."

"M'lord," Palmarr nods, bowing as best he can without getting a faceful of swamp. I can feel anger roiling in him - but not directed at us. "I believe we are to the south of Kanto, in the region of Sekichiku."

So we're in the right kingdom, at least - albeit pretty much on the wrong side of the kingdom. "Janine's land," Carlei observes, coolly.

"I swear to you, milady, none of us knew Lady Janine was planning on destroying the Niamh," Palmarr promises, hastily. And I believe him - that anger is perfectly clear in his voice.

"But you did know she was planning something," Carlei counters, and Palmarr doesn't deny it. She frowns, bites back whatever retort she was planning on following up with. "How long will it take us to reach the city?"

Palmarr sighs. "For a small party, a few days. Considering our state, the better part of a month."

It goes unsaid that the five of us could easily make the journey. "Can we get any supplies off the Niamh?" I ask. "Or...lifeboats, or something?" I add, looking around at the sodden terrain.

"The Niamh carries little cargo," Palmarr admits. "At the speeds she flies...or, at least, flew...there was rarely any need of extensive reserves. But..." He hesitates. "Many of the enchantments woven into the hull of the vessel are likely still intact. We could build rudimentary rafts from them with far greater ease than we could using wood from what trees there are here."

Carlei sighs. "We will likely need rafts to transport the wounded without subjecting them to the swamp water. Do as you will."

"Are you okay?" I ask her quietly, once Palmarr's departed.

"I...she made me name it after my mother," she murmurs, quietly. "Knowing that she planned to destroy it in an attempt to kill me. "

I lean in and kiss her, and she rests her head on my shoulder, eyes closed.

"I don't understand how they can hate me so much," she whispers.

We spend most of the day preparing to set out, salvaging what we can from the Niamh. There are enough ropes from the sails and balloons that it isn't too hard to lash together some of the broken boards to form a half-dozen rafts.

I hate just sitting around watching everyone else work, and I'm very glad that my Blessed resilience starts to reassert itself within what I guess is a couple of hours. By the time the sun's going down I'm more or less back to full fitness.

"So..." I hesitate, checking Cpt Palmarr isn't too close before looking back to the two crew members I'm working with - I don't know why, but this just feels like something that they're more likely to tell me if they don't have their superior officer breathing down their necks. "Why did you hate Carlei so much when we first boarded?" They look at each other for a moment, surprised...maybe embarrassed. "You all did."

I'm not convinced they're going to tell me at first - maybe Magni would have better luck, since I'm Carlei's husband and so probably tarred with the same brush - but then one of them sighs. "Everything we had heard of C...of the Queen," he makes an effort to correct himself, "had made her sound every bit as cruel as the Exile or her father."

"First the Exile drew upon heretical power," the other one adds, "and offered it as a way of growing closer to the Divines, a supposed gift he had been granted by the Divines themselves, and used that power to force Kanto to kneel. Then Lance drew upon that same power to proclaim himself Blessed by the Divines, and demanded Kanto kneel. And now we hear that Lance has been violently overthrown by his daughter, who proclaims herself crowned by Lord Ho-Oh, and comes to demand we kneel. It sounds...sounded...no different."

I'm glad of all the stupid political meetings I'd had to go to. They're the only reason I can keep a level expression. "The High Priest of the Faith was the one that presided over our marriage," I point out. "Would he have done that if Carlei was as bad as Lance or the Exile King?"

"Please don't call him King," the first crewman interrupts, unexpectedly harshly. "He is Exile, nothing more." Then he sighs. "The High Priest supported the Common King from the beginning, but overtly he stood by the Exile until it was safe for his Faith to turn against the crown. Even had we known he supported the Queen, it would have meant little. But..." He trails off, turning to instead focus on tying the rope off while I hold the raft in place for them.

"Neither the Exile nor Lance would've lifted a finger to protect people they didn't know," the second crewman explains, bluntly. "But we all saw Her Majesty shield the others, and get hurt doing so. Even if it was barely more than a blow from a fist to her where it would've taken the lives of any mortal it struck...no-one as cruel as we had heard would've done that."

To Carlei, protecting those people was little more than instinct, almost as natural as breathing. But while she might be something of an extreme exception, I can't help but wonder - if something as simple as protecting innocent people could change their opinions of her so drastically...

Just how hurt had the people of Kanto been by Lance and Giovanni?

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

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
1,719
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
I wake up cradled in Carlei's lap, which is nice. It would've been a lot nicer if I didn't also wake up with every fibre of my being aching like I'd run a marathon or three and then maybe fallen off a cliff to round things off, but I'll take being cuddled up against my wife (and it still feels so incredible that I can think of us as husband and wife!) and it takes me a few moments to remember -
;alskdfas I'm crying, he loves her so much... What an opening to a chapter that follows him teleporting a whole ass airship with a bunch of people on it to god knows where.

"Don't do that again," she whispers quietly. "You...I couldn't heal you. I could feel you breathing but..." She trails off, and I hug her back, furling my wings around her.
😭

"First the Exile drew upon heretical power," the other one adds, "and offered it as a way of growing closer to the Divines, a supposed gift he had been granted by the Divines themselves, and used that power to force Kanto to kneel. Then Lance drew upon that same power to proclaim himself Blessed by the Divines, and demanded Kanto kneel. And now we hear that Lance has been violently overthrown by his daughter, who proclaims herself crowned by Lord Ho-Oh, and comes to demand we kneel. It sounds...sounded...no different."
Oh, well, you know, when they put it like that... I can understand...


Aaa I wanna learn so much more about what things have been like in Kanto 👀👀👀 This is kinda good news for Carlei, though! But I still have that question in the back of my mind about whether or not her continuing to rule would be the best thing...
 

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