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About Literature / Hobbyist Andrew 'Justice' WilliamsonMale/United Kingdom Group :iconpokemonfreaks: pokemonfreaks
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Pokemon: Incarnation - Chapter 21 :iconpocket-fulla-shells:Pocket-fulla-shells 0 0
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Pokemon: Incarnation

Chapter 21: The Dividing Line


“Was Duke always like this?” I asked after Duke walked off to speak to Charlie and Audrey, still looking as restless as ever.

“No, he had a very calm persona whenever I saw the occasional interview with him. I’d have never guessed he was the same guy unless he told me. Think it’s down to his new body?” Melinda asked as I kept watching the vigoroth.

“I’d say so. He sure is acting as energetic as your typical vigoroth.” I said, starting to wonder whether our new bodies were also affecting our minds.

“Well, good thing I have no children, else this new form could drive me mad.” She said, looking away from me slightly, rubbing her fingers uncomfortably. “Say, Basil, have I been…acting differently? Please just be honest.”

“Maybe a little more, well, you’ve been a bit pushier recently, but that’s probably chalked up to that alien wanting us dead.” Melinda replied as I looked out of the window. Seems like this small town nestled comfortably in this valley hasn’t been affected by all this crazy shit as far as I could tell.

“You’ve been rather finicky since we reunited here, but it’s clear that it’s still you Basil.” Melinda told me, standing by the window with me.

“Maybe I’d be a fear ridden wreck if I wasn’t turned into a rather emotionally dead species. Imagine if I got turned into a goldeen or something like that. Needless to say, I probably wouldn’t have survived long enough to meet Nisbeth, let alone flop my way all the way to Newer Orleans.” I replied. It was a funny thought initially, though it seemed likely that at least one of the trainers that got yanked into this world got stuck with a body ill suited to travel on land.

“You two!” I heard someone say in a deep, thick German accent. Must have been that Rhyperior, as his large voice was forceful enough to make my small body vibrate, as if I was standing next to a huge speaker. “Come over with us, we need to discuss everything we know to see if we can learn anything about how to deal with The Devourer.” We both walked on over to see everyone sitting down aside from Duke, who was still pacing back and forth across the room.

“…So from what I can tell, either those who have been…tampered with…either kill themselves or The Devourer does it remotely. That mienshao was beaten to an absolute pulp and couldn’t fight back. I’m assuming he died so he couldn’t give us any answers.” I said after some discussion, thinking back to the bizarre and grizzly death that pokemon suffered through.

“It’s hard to say exactly why but it does help give more credence to a theory I have. These ‘pokemon’…I believe they are proxies for The Devourer.” Heinrich said as he shifted uncomfortable in his large chair. “Shortly before I met Duke, there was a friend of mine who went looking for someone after he went missing. He said he’d be back at about midnight if he couldn’t find him. I was asleep by this point, and as expected, he just let himself in. And…he then tried to kill me in my sleep.” He said, looking rather pained.

“He wasn’t very quiet, so he ended up waking me, and I was able to kill him before he could do the same to me. I had known this blastoise for over fifteen years, and I’m confident he wouldn’t just suddenly try to murder someone like that on a whim, let alone a close friend.” He said, slouching sadly on his huge chair. It creaked slightly, somehow supporting Heinrich’s massive weight.

“And yet, he did.” I said, being rather straightforward about all this.

“I was just getting to that. Anyway, I’m fully convinced that The Devourer was involved somehow. I don’t know how it happened, but that alien must have forced Fabian to do this.” Heinrich said, still looking uncomfortable talking about it.

“I can only assume it was controlled somehow. Perhaps by a malamar in league with The Devourer?” Audrey suggested, though Melinda shook her head at this.

“Unless their hypnotic abilities vastly exceed the ones back in my world, that’d be impossible. I’ve worked with the strongest one in England, and there’s no way it could drive someone to murder unless the victim was seriously considering it in the first place. They can’t make you do things you’d never ever do; they’re simply not powerful enough to do that.” She said, as I recalled the malamar she had that got injured so badly in a tragic training accident at the start of the year that she couldn’t fight anymore.

“Well, marowaks are, according to you, very different back home, so it’s possible.” Audrey said, and while I could see where she was coming from, there was a more obvious answer to all this.

“I can only assume The Devourer does this to people directly, so don’t ever get caught out alone, or else you’ll wish you had just died right on the spot. Even worse, if it has assimilated a network of followers, maybe it could use them as a small army proxies to act on its behalf.” I suggested, which made everyone around me feel uneasy, and understandably so.

“Think that Guardian weirdo picked up some humans because they were immune to his effects?” Duke suggested.

“We can be turned into black statues. Neerav could tell you all about that if he could still speak.” I responded as Duke grumbled.

“Makes me wondered why he even bothered summoning us then!” He said angrily, though I assumed that it was partially because of his heightened emotions in his new body.

“I can only assume it was a bit of a hail-Mary, but we should still help these people. Besides, good luck getting home without Serge.” My sister responded.

“Right…speaking of Serge, that’s the summoner’s name, right?” He asked as we confirmed it. “So, did Serge tell you about The Fountain of Salmacis?”

“Fantastic song, one of my favourites. Guess my kidnapper might not be completely vile after all!” I replied with a smirk on my face. Unfortunately, Duke looked rather puzzled at this.

“…It’s a literal fountain.” Duke responded.

“Shame…” Melinda said as we smiled at each other from the corner of our eyes.

“Anyway, he was telling me about it as something that could be used against The Devourer, but he got cut off, and five seconds later, wham! New body, new world!” I looked at Melinda who just shrugged. Seemed like this was news to her as well.

“Shit…all I heard was that someone build that place a very long time ago. It helped…somehow against The Devourer back in the day, but, like I said, cut off before I could get some proper info on it. Might be worth looking for.” Duke said, bouncing slightly on the spot.

“If it’s from ancient times, then I’m sure the fountain is long gone. That continent is far beneath the waves now, and it’s been thoroughly searched. Even if it’s still there, the special water or whatever it is would have just mixed with the ocean. This is just a dead end, since there’s been no trace of any activity from the ancient civilization on the other continents.” Audrey said, clearly still thinking about it. “Wonder if it was mentioned in some of the text I had yet to translate?” She continued, taking out her notebook and looking at it in detail. From here, I could recognize that she copied down some of the ancient Greek text.

“I’m really missing the internet right now. Could translate a lot of this stuff or find out what or who Salmacis is.” I said as Melinda chimed in.

“Genesis clearly knew about who or what it is, so I think we can assume it’s related to ancient Greece and the first people to arrive on this world.” My sister said, and while this was a good train of logic, it just led us to a dead end since neither of us were well versed in Greek history.

“I really should have never made fun of Tony for taking an ancient Greek course…” I muttered to myself, realising that Audrey was our only hope for the ancient Greek clues. “How long will translating that take you?”

“No idea, possibly weeks.” Audrey said as I rolled my eyes.

“We might not have ‘weeks’ with The Devourer getting bolder, and the three of us have no intentions of dying on this planet.” I said firmly gesturing to Melinda and Duke behind me.

“Well, if none of you understand this, then you should just leave me to it and try to help in some other area.” Audrey replied, and I found that I couldn’t disagree.

“Heinrich, surely you know of something else that could help us?” I asked as the rhyperior thought about it.

“We could try and find Entei and Raikou again, and this time be a little bolder when speaking to them. We could really use some more muscle. However, if we choose our words wrong, well, they have been known to kill those who offend them. They’re supremely arrogant and see others as beneath them.” Heinrich said, and needless to say, I didn’t like this plan.

“Imagine how bad it’ll be if The Devourer recruits them?” Audrey said as my blood ran cold just thinking about it.

“If I were an alien wanting to conquer this planet, I’d be recruiting the most powerful people on this world. Those two sound like candidates.” I said somewhat quietly.

“Exactly, which is why we need to try and find them and make sure they’re working with us, and not against us. From what I heard, we wouldn’t stand a chance if they tried to murder us.” Audrey said, and while I sort of agreed with her, I’d rather not see those two at all.

“I hate this, but knowing you, you’ll just go try to find them on your own if we all vote against it, right?” I said as Melinda smirked at me.

“Basil, you know that’s impossible, because I know all too well you wouldn’t let me go alone.” She replied.

“Fuck’s sake…” I muttered under my breath. “Well, maybe I can use the weapon to bail us out of trouble if it comes to that.”

“I wouldn’t count on that working.” Heinrich said, and true to his word, I wasn’t. I knew it was just a tool that had a chance of getting us out of a dire situation. “Still, if you’re insistent on this, then I’ll come with you. There’s been rather frequent sightings of Raikou in the plains just a couple of miles west from here. We have just enough time to do so before it gets dark. Duke, you should come with us too.”

“How about all of us go?” I suggested. “If we do encounter this thing, I’d rather we’d be able to win a fight through sheer numbers if it came to blows. Almost everyone respects an adequate show of force.”

“I doubt he’ll entertain a talk with us if he recognizes us as being stronger. Raikou and his two brothers are notoriously vain and arrogant.” Heinrich said, as I began thinking for a moment.

“Think he’ll recognize and respect a human, or perhaps Serge?” I asked as the rhyperior shrugged.

“It’s why I suggested it. Then again, it’s hard to prove we’re human, but regardless, if we can at least warn him, it’ll hopefully be enough to make sure we don’t have to deal with him some time down the line.” Melinda said before looking around and counting us all.

“Well, if Melinda’s determined to do this, I’ll be coming too. I’d say taking the three of us and Charlie will be for the best.” I suggested, wanting to keep Nisbeth, Murphy and Duke out of trouble.

“I don’t want you facing that beast, Basil. Not without me.” Nisbeth said as Charlie waved at us.

“I’ll, uh, try to help Audrey then…” He said, collapsing on a chair.

“Right, so that’s four of us then. Potentially pushing it, but I think Raikou may be willing to speak to us.” Heinrich said as he showed the three of us the door.

“Make sure Murphy and Duke are doing ok you two.” I called over to Audrey and Charlie as we left them behind at Heinrich’s place. Looking back at the town behind it, it was far prettier than anywhere on Broussard, though given the natives here don’t speak English on the whole, it might have been for the best that we didn’t land here upon arrival. The path through the valley was surprisingly short as the sun started to slowly approach the horizon behind us. My feet were likely getting used to all this walking by now, as they seemed to be slowly toughening up from constantly being pressed on the ground beneath me. If anything, this ‘holiday’ has been great for my fitness so far, though I somehow doubted that would transfer back to my human body.

“Ah, does that road there lead to New Zürich?” Melinda asked, pointing down the path.

“Naw, it goes to Syrinx!” I said cheekily, pointing to the sign that she must have saw.

“Good luck getting in there though. Not that you’d want to with the prices they charge for even the most basic of necessities.” Heinrich said as I chuckled slightly.

“I guess some things really haven’t changed.” I said, and shortly afterwards I noticed another sign on the side of the path.

“So, does this Raikou live here?” I asked, pointing to said sign. “’These plains are mine. Trespassers will be forcefully evicted and, upon resistance, will be killed.’ Look, as much as I don’t want this guy hounding us later on, I especially don’t want him wanting us dead now.”

“This wasn’t here a few days ago…” Heinrich said, staring at the sign which was crudely written. “Also, Raikou doesn’t have arms, so he couldn’t have written it.”

“Well, that settles it then. We’re going back, no need to risk our lives like this. He clearly knows about The Devourer and has become paranoid, and I can’t even blame him.” Nisbeth said, already looking at the path behind him.

“Seems like such a waste since we came all the way out here, and besides, if we can convince him to join us, we can get a very powerful ally.” Melinda said, as I inhaled through my teeth. This was becoming borderline reckless of her, something that Omar took full advantage of in the finals. “Besides, he said ‘forcefully evict’ as long as we don’t resist. Maybe we can explain our case as we’re being chased out.”

“You could get us all killed you selfish cow!” Nisbeth suddenly said loudly as I glared at him.

“Don’t speak to my sister like that again.” I said firmly, glaring at him through narrowed eyes. Nisbeth looked like he was about to say something in response, but he managed to catch himself before he said a thing. It told me what I needed to know, however, and for the sake of group cohesion, it was best that we stay silent.

“…We could just walk on a while and pretend we never saw the sign. What do you think Heinrich?” She asked as I hoped that he’d help the three of us talk some sense into her.

“I’m trying to figure out why he’d try to fence off these grasslands…” He replied as I thought about it too.

“Seems like a daft choice really. All he’s effectively done is put a spotlight on himself saying ‘Look at me! I’m all alone! No one can help me if I’m outmatched!’ So either he doesn’t know, or he’s just stupid.” I said, though as I looked at Melinda as I mentioned these words, I would come to regret them.

“So we need to go there and inform or talk sense into him!” Melinda said as I shook my head vigorously.

“I’d much rather live thank you very much!” I said firmly. “Nisbeth’s right, we should just leave.”

“Look, if The Devourer can forcibly recruit people to his side, would you want to wait and deal with him when he can turn us all into black statues? He’s clearly left himself vulnerable.” She said as Nisbeth walked up to her.

“I’m not setting a foot in that field. I don’t care what you do, I’m not going to risk myself for this. I want to make this absolutely clear.” He said, speaking very slowly, annunciating every word he spoke.

“This really is just a lot of speculation Mel’. We might be off this continent before The Devourer even notices him. Besides, we don’t know if The Devourer can force Raikou to go on a rampage anyway.” I said, as she finally seemed hesitant about all of this.

“…That being said, Raikou could also contact his brothers, maybe get them on side too. We stand to gain a lot here. Besides, even if things take a turn for the worst, Basil can teleport us out.” She said as I looked at the weapon. It didn’t have the biggest range, and if Raikou was quick, then all the trickery I could pull off with this thing might not save us.

“I guess fleeing isn’t an option?” I asked as Heinrich gave a nervous smile.

“He is said to be one of the fastest pokemon alive.” He responded as I shrugged.

“Well, we’ve looked into all avenues, and it’s impossible.” I said, though Melinda had one final idea.

“Ok, fine, maybe you’re right. However, we can walk down this path and see if we can spot him in the distance. We won’t be in his field, so he has no reason to get angry at us.” She said as I glanced over at the sign again.

“That depends on how you interpret his message, but…say, Heinrich, is the guy at all reasonable?” I asked as he nodded.

“Well, I walked in here a few days ago with Duke and he just told us to leave. I can’t imagine he’d try to kill us on walking beside his field.” He said. I still wasn’t in favour of this, but I couldn’t think of a way to talk Melinda out of this. Guess we were going along with her less dangerous plan.

“Ok then, if it’s all settled then, Heinrich, care to lead the way?” I asked, knowing that he knew these lands better than I did. I suppose I’d be protesting alongside Nisbeth, but If Raikou got in touch with The Devourer, there’s a good chance that he already knew Duke was human, which could lead him right to Melinda and I. Once that happened, there’d be no talking him out of trying to murder us.

“Now, I swear, if Raikou becomes hostile…well, I just hope we’ll still be alive for me to give you a piece of my mind…” Nisbeth grumbled to Melinda as a nice cool breeze brushed against the side of my face. My sister mostly ignored him, as we kept peering around for any signs of this strange beast in the approaching twilight. The faint outline of the moon could be seen, and not too far away from it, a second one could barely be seen. I wondered where we were in relation to planet Earth.

“So…what does he look like?” I asked Heinrich as I had to duck from almost getting whacked by his tail by accident.

“Taller than me, mostly yellow, walks on all fours. You’ll know it if you see him.” He said as we kept looking. Night would soon be here, and after about twenty minutes or so of walking on this path, I began to get a little disillusioned.

“I’m with Nisbeth here, I think we should just turn back.” I said, as I began to find it hard to see above the grass, which was growing incredibly tall by this point.

“I agree. As big as he is, we might not see him in the darkness anyway.” Heinrich said as Nisbeth, who was starting to look really tense by this point, sighed quite loudly.

“Finally, some common sense and self-preservation.” He said and immediately did an about turn and started walking down the dirty path, back to where we came from.

“Well, I won’t do this alone…” Melinda said, sounding disappointed. “Still, if there’s nothing happening tomorrow, we can try again, can’t we?”

“I’d rather not!” Nisbeth said back to her, looking over his shoulder as he continued striding away from us, prompting us three to catch up.

“That toxicroak really doesn’t care at all, does he…” Melinda muttered quietly as we caught up. Thankfully, it seemed like a clear and starry night, so while we’d be walking home in the dark, we’d still have a bit of visibility. Hopefully, this meant we wouldn’t stub our feet on a rock, or get ambushed by some interloper.

“If you want to check this place out tomorrow, fine by me, but you’re doing it without Basil and I.” He said about ten minutes later as I looked up at him, narrowing one of my eyes. I agreed with him, but I didn’t want him making these sort of decisions for me.

“…I don’t think we will either.” Melinda said as she pointed to her left across the field with her bone. Looking over to where she gestured, it was unmistakable. From here, it looked not too unlike a humungous pyroar, though further details were hard to make out from this distance, aside from what seemed to be a mane streaming behind its head in the wind. Quite majestic, yet it was clearly not someone I wanted to get on the wrong side of.

We just seemed to stare at each other for what must have been an entire minute, neither of us making a move. My breathing became a little erratic as I reached for the weapon. Looking down the path, I wondered how long we had to go until we were out of this blasted field. Would Raikou follow us out? I barely knew what this creature was, let alone what it wanted. Gazing quickly from side to side, I looked at my friends. Melinda looked like she was trying to figure out what to say, and Nisbeth looked ready to make a break for it.

“…I told you not to return!” Raikou suddenly roared at us, in a gravelly, yet forceful voice. The sudden shout made me jump slightly as I clutched the weapon tightly. At least that beast didn’t know what this wooden stick could do, but given his voice was powerful enough for me to actually feel it from this distance, I doubted it’d be effective at all. Heinrich stalled slightly and poked Melinda on the shoulder. She looked up at him briefly, then back to Raikou, who was slowly approaching us.

“Sorry, Mr Raikou, but we’ve come to warn you about The Devourer.” She said, getting straight to the point.

“…The Devourer?” He replied in a slightly quieter voice, tilting his head slightly with curiosity.

“The one behind the plague of black statues.” Melinda told him. Raikou still seemed oblivious to all this, but if that was the case, why would the sign…

“I don’t like this…” I muttered very quietly to her, barely moving my head so Raikou couldn’t see that I was communicating. “We should be ready to leg it.”

“This creature may be operating through other pokemon.” Heinrich said as to not stall out the conversation too much. Nice save; I swear that large beast was starting to look a little twitchy.  Holding the weapon behind my back, I hoped there’d be a way to teleport all four of us at once a good distance away with it. Maybe if everyone held onto me, it would work. Maybe…

“We aren’t sure how it does so, but we recommend coming with us. We’re trying to destroy this thing, and we need all the help we can get. Surely, someone as mighty as you would be a pivotal asset in this fight.” I said loudly, trying to keep my suspicions hidden.

“Lower myself to helping such short lived pokemon?!” Raikou scoffed. Melinda looked rather angry at this, but wisely kept her thoughts to herself. “I will heed your warning however. You can aid me by making some signs to warn of would-be trespassers to my field. I will also request that you close off the path as well.”

“Someone already did that for you.” Melinda said as Raikou stalled slightly. The wind was slowly picking up, brushing against the fur on my body as I began to get increasingly restless.

“Well, if that’s the case, then there will be no need of your service. Please, return from whence you came.” Raikou said in an oddly polite manner. I had no plans of ever letting my eyes off this thing until we were reunited with the others. Raikou too seemed to be keeping an eye on us, keeping pace with our slow steps.

“You three…keep a hand on me, and keep walking.” I said quietly so the beast wouldn’t overhear us. Holding the weapon in front of me, I scanned for spots I could teleport us all to. That large boulder looked out of range, so I guess I had no choice but to try and aim the weapon so that there wouldn’t be a painful drop after my shot reached its maximum range. I slowly started speeding up in both my pace and my breathing as I grabbed Melinda’s arm, trusting her to make sure I didn’t wander into the tall grasses by myself. Raikou kept pace, his eyes glued to all four of us.

“Escorting us out or something?” I asked as Raikou nodded.

“Just making sure you’re actually leaving.” He replied in a low voice as his eyes narrowed. I gulped as he stared right at me, wondering how all this fit together.

“Of course we are, there’s nothing else here except for yourself, and we already effectively ended our conversation.” I said back to him, still keeping in pace with the others.

“Did you take South or East entrance to get here?” He said as I stalled for a moment. Seems odd for him to ask something like that. Surely simply telling us where the quickest way out would be more rational, but before I could conjure a response, Heinrich spoke up.

“The East, so we’ll be leaving by that path.” He replied as Raikou lowered his head ever so slightly.

“I see…” He said, his voice sounding oddly quiet now for such an imposing creature. I doubted he asked just out of simple curiosity, and I started begging internally that Heinrich gave him an answer that would pacify Raikou. However, I began to strongly doubt this when I swore that little jolts of electricity started to spark off his body. I knew all too well what he was about to try and do now, as the saliva seemed to evaporate on the spot inside my mouth.

“Hold on and run with me.” I said, my voice croaking slightly as I activated the weapon immediately afterwards. In less than half a second, I already found my feet about a meter above the ground and a good distance away from Raikou. Not bad, and the landing didn’t hurt much. However, any pain I received now could surely become very brief as I heard Raikou roar in fury from behind us. A quick glance over my shoulder saw the terrible beast wreathed in lightning that dispelled the encroaching twilight around us.

“Why’d you draw us into this?!” I heard Nisbeth screech angrily as I warped us once more, but Raikou was so fast that we were barely gaining any ground on this guy. It suddenly dawned on me that, unless our pursuer had almost no stamina, he’d catch up real soon. I don’t now how many more times I could teleport us with the weapon, but it couldn’t have been too many.

“Heinrich, throw me to the side, and throw me far!” I yelled. Maybe I could disorientate Raikou by swapping places with him. It worked before with assailants, so it could work now? I had my doubts, but it had to be worth a shot. The rhyperior, who was already starting to lag behind, put his trust in me and picked me in one of his hands. I must have weighed almost nothing to such a huge pokemon as he suddenly threw me over to the left with great force. The world spun slightly as I was flung into the air as I tried to get my bearings. As soon as I landed, I needed to be ready.

I yelped slightly as I landed hard on my back, thankful that the grass and soft earth somewhat cushioned my fall. I pushed myself up to my feet immediately and quickly spotted the four of them. I heard Nisbeth still yelling about something, even amongst the roaring of the fast approaching Raikou. I needed to make this count. Aiming the weapon steadily, I fired it right at Raikou, just as he looked ready to tear Heinrich to pieces.

My body suddenly lurched when I found myself right behind the rhyperior. I got him! Now, we had to escape! Maybe if I can teleport us all once more, would we be out of the field? Would that murderous animal just give up once we were out of its territory?

“Once more!” I said, pointing the weapon ahead of us once everyone put their hand on me.

Nothing. I was completely dry of warp powder.

“Oh no…just run!” I screamed as we all continued to flee. Sadly, Raikou figured out where we were rather quickly and continued to hound us. I couldn’t think of a thing now, I was out of options! Could we fight this thing? I could maybe still try to blast its head, but with all that electricity surrounding it, it would likely just cause the weapon to explode in my hands! I was essentially useless here!

“So, The Guardian of Forever specifically needs humans…run on ahead, I’ll slow him down.” Heinrich said, slowing to a standstill and turning around. “I guess there’s always a small chance I’ll survive…”

“Not a chance! I’ve been brought here to save you all, and that includes you!” Melinda declared also turning to face Raikou, but Nisbeth was having none of it.

“We heard what he said, let’s just get out of here!” He said, grabbing her by the arm. She looked ready to protest but Raikou was almost upon Heinrich by now, barely even being phased by the barrage of small boulders being hurled at him. This wasn’t a fight we could win, even if all four of us attacked at once. A shame it had to end like this, but the three of us had to live.

“Despicable!” Melinda yelled, though whether at Raikou, Nisbeth or herself, I couldn’t quite tell. The three of us could move much faster as a group, and while we were able to gain some ground and leave the field, we couldn’t escape the sound of screaming, thunder, and, later, what sounded like the crunching and cracking of rock. I didn’t even want to look at what Raikou did to that rhyperior. I only wanted to avoid a similar fate.

“Maybe we can lose him amongst those trees ahead.” Nisbeth said as my comparatively smaller legs started to tighten up with pain in their efforts to keep up with my swifter friends. The toxicroak in front of me noticed this as he quickly picked me up and held me over his shoulder. “I’ll get you out of here, I promise.” He said as I stared behind him at Raikou, who looked like he just finished his savage murder of Heinrich. I didn’t think this would work, but I pointed the weapon at him anyway. Maybe its protection I applied could stop it from blowing up in my face, and maybe one good point blank blast to his face could dissuade him. A fool’s hope maybe, but it was all I had.

As we left the field, it became clear that he wasn’t just zealously just defending his territory, and would catch up in seconds. I guess Serge really would have be getting us killed indirectly after all. That bastard. Guess this would be a funny tale to tell of how I died should there be an afterlife waiting for me I guess.

“Raikou! I’ll see you with Serge in whatever afterlife we end up in! Come forth and die!” I screamed at him, getting ready to fire once he was in range.

“That won’t be happening tonight Basil!” I heard Melinda said. I couldn’t see what she was planning on doing since I was far too focused on a desperate blast on the beast, though I did notice a swelling of that eerie pale green fire to my left. I felt the searing heat from it too, and as Nisbeth pulled away from her a bit, I could see her surrounded by those flames. Even at this distance, I would have gotten heatstroke in mere seconds, yet she seemed absolutely fine. How could she even tolerate such temperatures, let alone even generate them?!

I could see her speaking to herself, though the sound of the flames mixed in with the furious roaring of Raikou made it impossible to tell what it was. She suddenly leapt high in the air, and I was shocked by this display of athleticism. Ten feet, twenty feet…before she suddenly landed down right in front of Raikou, planting her bone right in the ground. As soon as she crashed onto the earth beneath her, flames erupted from the ground, rising even higher than her mighty leap. They extended to the left and extended to the right, forming a mighty, literal firewall as far as my eyes could see. The sudden blast of heat was so intense almost knocked Nisbeth off his feet, and had to use a nearby boulder to support us. Being used to wetter environments, it made him feel rather weak and ill upon a quick glance. Better that than dead at least!

Melinda turned around and ran towards us down the path, pointing down it on the way back to town without saying a word. She did however look extremely shocked, both mentally and physically, from that unbelievable stunt she just pulled off. Looking back, I couldn’t even see Raikou behind the raging flames. Seems like he wasn’t willing to leap through them, and unless he could jump over them, then he’d have a long, long way to get around them.

“How…the fuck?! Mel’ that was incredible!” I said after a short while as I was placed on the ground. Our pace slowed slightly to a jog as we began to catch our breath once again.

“This thing here…” She said, showing me that strange red crystal that Duke handed her. “It almost tore my body apart, but the dividing line I made right there…if only I thought about it before…poor Heinrich.”

“You feeling ok?” I said, seeing her stagger a bit.

“I hope so…I can see why these things are illegal. Basil, remind me to be quicker when using this again. I could have saved Heinrich if only I thought of it sooner!” She replied, sounding rather angry and upset with herself. “He’d be alive if I wasn’t so god damn slow!”

“Melinda; all four of us would have been torn to pieces if it weren’t for you. Please don’t beat yourself up too much, you’re doing an excellent job.” I said, trying to comfort her, though it seemed like Nisbeth wasn’t too impressed.

“You know, Heinrich didn’t have to die. I told you. I told all of you! I told you all that this was a terrible idea! Seeking out a temperamental beast like that for help! What did you think was going to happen?! If we just stayed where we were then he’d still be alive!” Nisbeth said, half snarling at my sister.

“I already explained why Nisbeth! What would you be doing all this time?! Just sitting indoors and hoping this whole thing blows over?!” She said, turning to look at him.

“It was incredibly lucky that all four of us didn’t die horribly back there! To think what would have happened if you didn’t get that strange stone from Duke!” Nisbeth said, moving in front of her and walked backwards, staring hard at my sister.

“I took a risk, and, yes, perhaps it backfired, but we’re not going to defeat The Devourer by doing nothing! If we did what you’d do, we’d probably all be dead in weeks!” She yelled back, getting angrier by the second.

“You know, ever since I met Basil, he’s spoken extremely highly for you. He pretty much dedicated everything he had to try and find you. To think your recklessness almost got him killed! Does that even phase you?!” He said, their conversation getting more and more heated.

“Of course it does!” She said simply as Nisbeth slowly turned to look at me.

“I wouldn’t be too sure whether to trust her or not. As much as you adore her, it’s clear that Melinda does not have your best interest in mind at all.” Nisbeth said and stormed off ahead of us.

“…And it’s clear to me that he doesn’t have his planet’s interest in mind.” She muttered as we followed the irritated toxicroak. Regardless, what Nisbeth said bothered me ever so slightly. It’s clear that she’s very determined to stop The Devourer, but how far would she go? Would she even use me as a bargaining chip if it was needed? No, she wouldn’t. She’d be at my side throughout this whole affair.

“Just let him cool down a bit. This has been horribly stressful for all of us.” I said as she looked down at me.

“Suppose it’s a good thing you two found each other. He seems to really care about you.” She said and sighed. “Just wish he cared more about our efforts to make sure he can live safely in the long term. Short sighted idiot…”

“I guess…” I muttered to myself.

“Say, Basil, I may have to unleash The Dividing Line again at some point. If my body can’t take it and it tears me apart, or if I die in some other manner, promise me you’ll continue fighting The Devourer for me, won’t you?” She said as I nodded.

“Anything for you Mel’.” I replied as she looked up at the darkening sky.

“The world’s much bigger than you or I, but when one person dies, I guess a small part of the world dies with it. I don’t want The Devourer to kill anyone more. Not you, not I, not anyone.” She said, which didn’t make me feel too good.

“You know that’s probably not going to be possible right? There are vile bastards all over this world, and you can’t be everywhere at once.” I said back to her as she sighed.

“Well, it’s no excuse to not, at the very least, try our best. I still could have done so much better back there…” She said, trailing off a bit before perking herself up again. “Don’t worry about what that toxicroak says: I’m not going to make you into bargaining chips or whatever he said. I’ll get us both home after all this is done.”

“…Only after this is all blown over?” I asked as she nodded firmly at me. Would it really be in my place to drag her home to Earth when she wanted to kill The Devourer here? I couldn’t be sure. Maybe she wasn’t in the right mind after all her time here. I was starting to lose track of how many brushes with death I’ve had by now, and I was all too aware that I’d probably have another one in the not-too distant future.

I wasn’t going to stand around and be useless for my two friends here, or Murphy. They’ve done so much for me, and I hope I’ve done great things for them too. I couldn’t stand the idea of letting any of them die! Leaving them on this danger infested world would be effectively signing their death warrant. I’d be a horrible person if I did that! I couldn’t live without them! They’re coming home, and if Melinda never forgives me, then I’ll take solace in the fact that she’d still be alive, even if she would never want to see me again! Raikou came that close to ending it all for us three! It can’t happen again.

“I think I’m gonna need some of Charlie’s booze when we get back…” I muttered to myself as we caught up with Nisbeth. It seemed like Raikou had completely given up on us, but we were still very cautious given there were many people out there who’d happily see our heads on pikes.

“So…why do you think Raikou wanted us dead?” Nisbeth asked, looking like he cooled of over the whole thing.

“Either he’s indecisively territorial or he’s in league with The Devourer. If it’s the latter, then I wonder just how far that alien’s tendrils go. Also, it would seem like he’s already got some powerful allies.” Melinda said when I thought of something.

“He didn’t seem to try to turn us into one of those black statues though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for that, but it doesn’t quite add up.” I said when I remembered something that Heinrich said. “That being said, poor ol’ Heinrich did say that one of his friends tried to kill him in his sleep. Now we’ve seen several cases of this. It’s possible that not everyone working for this creepy bastard doesn’t have that statue power.”

“I did hear from Jirachi before you two arrived in Newer Orleans that Raikou and his two brothers are hundreds of years old. Maybe age just made them really, well, you get the idea.” My sister said, but one thing was clear: We weren’t going to interview Raikou to find out why.

“Hope nothing happened in Thalnacht when we were gone.” I said as Melinda suddenly looked at me.

“Don’t say things like that!” She said, sounding worried.

“You made the choice to drag us out here you know.” Nisbeth said, causing me to stand between them since it looked like Melinda was about to have another go at him.

“If you two don’t stop getting at each other’s throats…” I said, not able to think of a good way to finish the sentence. “Oh, look at that, we’re almost there!” I pointed to the lights of the town ahead. Seemed like nothing obvious was amiss from here, and when we entered, it seemed like business as usual. Still, I wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news to Charlie. Unlike the last time I had to break the news of someone’s passing, the recipient of this information was about three times my size, perpetually drunk and had vast electrical power. Not good.

“So…who’s gonna break the news to Charlie?” I said as Nisbeth pointed at my sister.

“She’s known him longer than us. I reckon she could find a way to not make things messy.” He said as Melinda narrowed her eyes at him.

“Or it’s because that if anyone has to bear the brunt of a grief-stricken ampharos, it should be me, simply because you don’t like me. I’m not stupid, but I suppose I’ll do it anyway.” She said through slightly gritted teeth.

“Well, we might not have to right away; the lights are out in Heinrich’s place.” I said, pointing at the empty looking building on the path ahead of us. Strangely enough, the door was unlocked, so we let ourselves in. A note was lying on the table in front of us so, naturally, we decided to have a read.

“Just checking out a rumour of some event that happened north of here. If we’re not back by the time you do, we shouldn’t be far behind. Sorry for leaving your place unlocked, I’ll make it up by getting us a drink of six.

Charlie.”

“Well, seems like they’re also helping us.” Melinda said, though I started becoming concerned for Murphy’s safety.

“What if they don’t come back within the next few hours or something. They could be in trouble, or worse, for all we know.” I suggested as Nisbeth threw himself on Heinrich’s old comfy chair.

“They said they’d be coming back. No point on going on a wild goose chase right now. Just sit tight until the morning, that’s what I think.” He said, looking like he was ready to fall asleep. “Charlie and Audrey seem tougher than us anyway, I’m sure Murphy and that human will be fine.”

“I guess you’re right…” I said, taking out some water from my bag. I didn’t feel too comfortable however, as I couldn’t help but wonder how Murphy was doing. We didn’t have to wait too long for some news to arrive as the three of us jumped in our skin at the surprise of the door being suddenly flung open.

“Duke?!” I said loudly as I lowered the weapon, realising it was safe.

“I…I’m here too!” Murphy said behind him as I ran over to give my friend a hug.

“Glad to see you’re fine! What’s the news anyway?” I asked the two scared looking pokemon.

“We were separated from Charlie and Audrey.” Duke said, looking over his shoulder.

“Well I guessed that much. What actually happened?” Nisbeth said as Murphy looked very pale.

“I think we found it…or it found us.” Shortly after he said this, I saw a brief flash of light pierce the darkness like lightning, except it seemed to come from behind the mountains as opposed from the sky. It vanished as soon as it arrived, and seeing the look on Murphy’s and Duke’s face, I began to fear the worst.

“It’s The Devourer.”
Pokemon: Incarnation - Chapter 21
Probably the biggest gap between chapters to date. Over 5 months! This could end up a bit hodgepodgey due to how long it's taken me, but here it is nontheless.

Basil, Melinda, Nisbeth and Heinrich set out to find a legendary creature in hopes that it could lend them aid, however, there are many dividing lines starting to form.

Chapter 22: Hiding Out (Coming soon!)
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Pokemon: Incarnation

Chapter 20: No One Knows


Murphy suddenly landed on me, hugging me tightly, looking like he was about to cry from sheer terror. I felt his body tremble against mine as I looked into his wide, fearful eyes. I knew the poor guy had been through a lot, but I had never seen him in a state like this. His breathing was rapid as he held me tightly, but as the shock of him pouncing me like that, I noticed something he forgot to do.

“Murphy, get off me you fool and close the door!” I suddenly yelled as he suddenly snapped out of fearful stupor as he leapt off me to run to the door. I saw no one outside, thankfully, and as such, we were able to lock up the place without any interference. Well, crisis averted, I guess.

“Right...from the start...what the fuck happened Murphy?!” I said loudly. I could hear rapid footsteps coming from the hallways, which I hardly minded. It'll save me from having to re-explain things over and over again.

“That would be a very good question!” Charlie said, glaring at the two of us. “We agreed to seal ourselves in Basil, so why did you risk opening the doors? It could have been anyone on the other side!”

“It was clearly Murphy, so relax, and no: I'm not prepared to leave him out to die. Besides, from what I seen, whatever scared him, it didn't look like it was prepared to rush this building.” I said, trying to calm everyone down once they arrived. They all stared at us, but from what I could tell, only Audrey seemed happy to see him again. The rest were either ambivalent or flat out frowning at the heliolisk, including Melinda.

“Coming back here to save yourself then? I see how it is.” Melinda said, scowling slightly.

“I'm sorry guys. Please, I know I made a mistake by leaving you, but I won't ever make it again, I promise, so please, just let me back in! I can't be thrown out there again! Not with that thing out there!” Murphy said, dropping to his knees as he flat out grovelled in front of us.

“Charlie, if he really means to stay with us this time, then why turn him down? We need all the people we can get if we want to stop The Devourer.” She said, and while I was still more concerned about securing the safety of my friends, I found myself in agreement with her.

“I'm not sure...Murphy, tell us exactly what happened. I think we need to hear his story from start to finish before we pass any judgements.” Melinda said, still staring at Murphy.

“Well, I was staying in the hostel, but just as I was falling asleep, I heard this strange droning sound. I had no idea what it was so I took a look. Seems like someone else heard it too, since one of the housekeepers was also in the corridor. Then...then that's when it happened. I heard this horrible, horrible scream, like a voice tearing its own vocal chords, complimented by a chorus of screeches of every pitch imaginable. I saw them being turned into statues: the housekeeper and one of the guests. I leapt out the open window as I heard others fall to...whatever it was. I didn't see it chasing me when I ran here, so I don't think it followed me.” Murphy said, looking highly uncomfortable talking about it.

“And you never saw this attacker?” Nisbeth asked, looking a little more understanding than some of the others.

“I wasn't going to hang around and get a look: I could have died!” Murphy said as everyone thought about this briefly.

“I reckon the attacks could still be happening right now.” Nisbeth said, gesturing to the windows nearby. “I suggest boarding each and every one of these up and attack any stranger who gets inside.”

“And do absolutely nothing about them?” Melinda said, turning to look at him.

“Charlie's the boss now, so we follow his lead, and he said to stay here. We had this discussion before. Besides, no point in risking us getting killed more than we need to.” The toxicroak replied, sounding like he had no real desire to help any of the townsfolk. “Besides, you can't get back up after being turned into one of those statues. Just takes one wrong move to fall prey to something like that.”

“We stick with our plan. If humans are as important as The Guardian of Forever says they are when it comes to stopping The Devourer, then we can't afford to risk their safety more than we have to.” Charlie said as Melinda slowly walked up to him.

“And we're completely useless to that plan if we just stay here and hope we find an answer. If all you're going to do is bury your head in the sand and just stay cooped up here, then Basil and I might as well just leave and try to find a way to stop him without you. Besides, at this rate, there might not even be much of a planet to save if you keep up your current plans. What's the point in saving the world if all its inhabitants are dead? You're all counting so hard on Serge finding us here, but we don't even know if he's still alive or not, and from what Bibarel told us, he's just being pursued by The Devourer himself, so he'll probably just end up leading that monster right to us.” Melinda said, queuing in groans of disapproval from the others.

“We've been over this Melinda...we're all staying here, and that includes you.” Charlie said, looking like he was itching for another drink, his eyes occasionally darting towards the storage cupboard.

“Being kept here against my will then? I see how it is...might as well get some more sleep then.” She said and slowly walked off to her room. The others soon followed suit, though I stayed behind to make sure Murphy was ok. He was visibly still rattled by the experience, his arms and head drooping slightly as he shivered.

“I...I can't sleep. I need to stay awake. I don't think I lead it here but...but I can't be sure.” He said, his voice still trembling somewhat.

“I'll stay awake with you then.” I said, putting a comforting arm around his back. “If you did lead it here, I can't expect you to fight it alone.”

“Thanks Basil, though I'm wondering...how come you're being so, well, nice to me?” He asked me. I smiled as I dragged a stool over to sit on.

“It's what friends are for, right? We been through a lot together in such a short time. We'll get through this shit one way or another.” I said as Murphy got a stool for himself.

“You know, we could have just walked over to the stools instead of dragging them here.” He said, smiling slightly. I chuckled slightly at this, though Murphy's mild grin faded as soon as it arrived.

“Your sister though...she hates me, doesn't she.” Murphy asked me, and I wasn't sure how to respond. I knew that she wasn't on good terms with him, but I somehow doubted that.

“Listen, the reason why she might be annoyed with you, be it justified or not, is, well, think about it from her perspective. This isn't her world, yet she's still fighting to save it. You, however, just want to try and live your life as you originally wanted to, even though the enemy is at the gates. Trust me, I get it. I'd honestly love to have just lived with Melinda and work towards winning the, uh, tournament, for next year. This is terrifying for me too, but we'll ultimately have to face all this together. Whether we find a way to return and live in my world or we find a way to stop The Devourer...well, we'll have to do one of these things. From what I can tell, that alien has become a lot more threatening now, so we can't just hide and ignore it on this planet.” I said, sighing sadly. Why couldn't this have happened to people that aren't my sister and I?

“Think I'll ever be able to be an actor?” He asked me, still looking at the door.

“Well, might be very difficult with The Devourer in this world. Still, we can make a start by boarding everything up. Regardless what we end up doing, I'd rather not be killed in my sleep.” I said, looking into storage to see if there was anything. They had plenty of nails, but had a shortage of planks. Still, might as well do what we can with them.

The hammer was huge for my small body, so I had to use both my arms to haul that heavy chunk of metal over to the nearest window. After Murphy helped me drag everything else over, I strained my mind to hold one of the nails in place to Murphy could swing at it with the hammer. By now, I had achieved a small level of competence with my psychic abilities, so I was able to make this work. Still, every time Murphy struck the head of the nail, it send small shocks throughout my body, leaving me in a slightly wobbly state after we put the first two planks in place.

“Heh, sorry Basil.” Murphy said after taking an surprisingly big swing at a nail, causing me to visibly shudder upon impact.

“It's fine, it's fine...” I said, feeling a little woozy and in need of rest. “I'm gonna need an oran berry or two in order to get through the next day...”

“Think boarding the place up would be use against The Devourer?” Murphy asked me as I shrugged.

“Might delay it long enough for the others to get down here. Besides, I've not heard anything, so I don't think whatever tried to kill you chased you here after all.” I said, peeking between the tiny gap between the large, heavy double doors of the building. Couldn't see anyone on the path leading to this place. Maybe whatever it was that attacked the hostel was going after easier targets. I couldn't see into the main part of town from here, nor could I hear any commotion, though we were a fair distance from the town centre, so who could tell. Hope there'd be others who saw what happened and lived to tell the tale so we could get some answers should we ever leave this place.

“I still don't feel safe Basil, I'm going to stay awake.” He said, as I instinctively looked round for a clock. Seems like they hadn't invented them yet, as all I found so far was the occasional crooked sundial, though from what I heard about New Australia, maybe those guys had advanced enough to invent a similar device.

“Who knows how long we'll be sitting here for though.” I said, sitting beside him and staring at the door. It was still bolted shut real good, but I knew that even some regular pokemon could probably blast it down, so I had no doubt that it'd only slow The Devourer down for maybe a few seconds at most. Still, maybe that's all we'd need to alert everyone and get out of here. Maybe.

A couple of hours later, Murphy took a couple of apples for each of us from the kitchen alongside filling up our flasks with water. Hardly a meal, but it'd do for now. They really should have had night watch rotations going on here, since I felt my body cry out for rest. The flaming torch above us hanging from the ceiling was starting to dim, and neither of us were tall enough to replace it short of some serious stool stacking.

“So, how's your night vision?” Murphy asked as I shrugged.

“Better than what it was when I was a human I guess, but I don't feel like being in the dark.” I said, seeing if the store cupboard had a ladder. There was one, but it wouldn't do either of us very good. Only useful for resting it against walls and couldn't stand on its own, and upon closer inspection, it seemed to have a nasty case of woodworm.

“Sorry Murphy, we're out of luck unless you want to risk either leaping up and throwing more wood in there. Personally, I don't think I want to risk burning this place to the ground. Clearly, this is a job for Charlie or Jirachi.” I said as the light slowly faded around us.

“Still not sleeping.” Murphy said as I sat down again on my stool.

“When I get home again to a proper bed, I'm going to flat out hibernate...” I said as the flame above me faded to embers. We didn't talk as much, as we both sleepily sat there, gazing at the door and listening out for anything odd. A short while later, we thought we heard something growl, but it just turned out to be Charlie snoring away to himself. Thankfully, it didn't last long, though the dead silence we were left with felt tense to say the least.

The growing darkness crept up on us slowly, the torch barely producing the faintest of glows as it became hard to see from one side of the large entrance hall to the other. I had no idea what time of night it was by now. Could have been anywhere between two and five in the morning for all knew, and the lack of a proper clock and no sun to reference made this night feel rather disorienting. Obviously, it didn't help that some ruckus and death took place in town during the evening, and sadly, I could never forget about that sort of danger.

“...It's here...” I suddenly heard Murphy whisper to me, causing my body to freeze. I couldn't here or sense a thing, however, and I couldn't even decide how to react to that. Was Murphy just hearing things? Was this some kind of a cruel prank? Unlikely. I slowly turned to Murphy and shrugged slowly, trying to indicate that I didn't hear anything without making even the quietest of noises. I wanted to believe that whatever it was couldn't see us in the dark, but I knew of plenty of species of pokemon with impeccable night-vision, not to mention the many other species that could find us even without sight.

My body tensed so hard I thought all the muscles in my body were about to lock up tight. Maybe this was all useless, maybe we should hide, and yet for as long as way stayed utterly motionless for, neither of us heard anything else. Seconds became minutes, and it sure felt like those minutes were becoming hours, yet we never heard or saw anything that was out of place. Was it all over? Or was whatever it was that Murphy heard still out there, waiting for us to wander somewhere where we really don't want to be.

“...What was it?” I whispered back after what felt like an agonizing eternity.

“I heard that strange droning groan back at the hostel.” He said quietly next to my ear. “I thought it was looking for me, but...maybe it's just leaving town.” I half expected to hear the sound of glass shattering and wood snapping and splintering all over the floor at this moment, imaging some infernal creature bursting into the room, yet it never happened. Just silence after more silence.

“...Think it's The Devourer?” Murphy said to me after even more silent minutes. No clue why he expected me to have any idea, though I could deduce two things from this: Either it wasn't that alien menace, or it was no longer pursuing Serge. I gave Murphy another soundless shrug and turned to look at the door again. Hopefully we could look at the town from Jirachi's room to try and assess what happened.

My thoughts on this suddenly ceased when I heard footsteps from upstairs. Murphy noticed them too, as he slowly pushed himself off his stool. Now, odds are that alien terrors wouldn't make such average footsteps, so I believed it might have just been one of the club members. I wasn't going to bet my life on it though, so I didn't move. Murphy seemed too terrified to stay still and listen as he tiptoed towards the stairs, peeking round the corner. The faint glow of a distant flame burning round the corner slowly started to illuminate the hallways, and as unlikely as this was, the fact it was a regular, orang glow and not that ominous, pale sickly green glow that Melinda could conjure.

“...It's just Audrey, Basil.” Murphy said, making more sound than he did for what seemed like the last few hours.

“Can't sleep you two?” She said, carrying a small flaming torch as she walked towards us.

“Someone's got to keep watch for any unwelcome visitors, though I thought Charlie should have assigned someone for that. We even boarded up a couple of windows for you.” I said politely as she seemed pleased to hear this.

“Thank you. I'm just off getting something to eat. Hard to sleep knowing that something's out there.” She said as Murphy quietly spoke up.

“I thought I heard that same thing that attacked me in the hostel a short while ago. Maybe it was nothing, but...” He said, trailing off.

“Well, we should stick together and make sure nothing ambushes us. I didn't see any sign that anything managed to get inside, but it helps to not take any unneeded chances.” She said as we accompanied her to the kitchen. “Also, level with me: Do you think Melinda's going to just run off? She doesn't seem to be too happy around us anymore.”

“She'll do whatever she thinks is right.” I said plainly as I got myself a cup of water.

“If she leaves us, will you go with her?” She asked as I nodded slowly.

“Wherever she goes in this world, so too will I. If push comes to shove, if you want to keep ahold of the two humans, then you may end up having no choice but to follow us. Still, I'll encourage her to stay in line the best I can.” I said as Audrey's smile faded slightly.

“Look, we need at least one human, surely. I don't know the details of The Guardian's plan, but maybe we don't need both of you.” She said as I raised one of my eyebrows.

“What do you mean by this?” I asked as she didn't seem to know how to phrase her next words.

“If she does run off, would you at least consider staying-” She said before I firmly cut her off.

“No.” I replied decisively.

“We could all die without you though!” She said, sounding rather shocked.

“You're sounding like Serge. Trust me: from what I know, none of the humans asked to be recruited. Now my sister; she's more on board with trying to fight The Devourer than I am. You seem intelligent enough: can you figure out what you have to do to keep us both with you guys?” I said as she looked taken aback, though she seemed to understand.

“...I get it now.” She said, nodding respectfully at me before leaving the kitchen and walking upstairs.

“Might seem a little cold, but I respect their efforts.” I told Murphy after she left. “Besides, if we want to make real progress with this, then the least I can do is guide the higher-ups in the right direction...don't give me that look Murphy, you wanted to hide from all this, remember?”

“I guess I was…Basil, promise you won’t leave me to die.” He said, making me feel rather uncomfortable.

“Now I can’t promise anything. I’m hardly a tough person, and you can fight way better than I can, but like I said before, just stay with me and…and hopefully this will all work out in the end.” I said, smiling nervously. “Sorry, I really have no idea what I’m doing here, and from the sounds of things, none of us really do.”

Eventually light started seeping into the building as the sun slowly started to rise above the horizon. I’d normally respect Jirachi’s privacy, but I needed a good look through that telescope to assess the damage. I couldn’t stand not knowing, as impulse drove me up the stairs with the tired looking Murphy following right behind me. Jirachi didn’t stir whatsoever as Murphy helped me carry the smaller of the two telescopes to the window overlooking Newer Orleans.

“See anything strange?” Murphy asked me quietly as I shook my head.

“Gimme a chance to align this hefty thing properly.” I said, standing on top of a few thick books to look through the telescope once I had it pointing towards the town. Searching for the hostel was rather tricky, but after a couple of minutes of awkwardly moving the telescope, I eventually found it. One lonely looking black statue of a pokemon stood there just outside the entrance. Seemed like this victim was caught fleeing that creature, as it was clearly in mid-stride. Hardly the sort of thing that would attract customers. Scanning all around town, I could barely see anyone on the streets, though it wasn’t totally deserted. Big, hefty pokemon were walking around in pairs, and I recognized a couple of them as part of the local law enforcement. All things considered, there wasn’t too much of a rampage, though after my long search was done, I did spot two other victims, both of them not too far away from the hostel.

“…It could have been worse. I, ahem, ‘only’ spotted three victims. It wasn’t the massacre it could have been. Still, there could be far more behind and inside the buildings.” I said as Murphy still looked sad to hear that.

“If I was born as a slower pokemon...” He said as I got down off the books.

“But you weren’t, and as a result, you’re alive. That’s what’s important here.” I replied, trying to comfort him. “Maybe it won’t be too dangerous to leave this building if we absolutely had to. Still, I’m not exactly in the mood to.”

“The others will be awake soon. Let’s wait for them in the hall.” Murphy said as I followed him down and waited for the others to arrive. Half an hour later, all seven of us were here, wondering what was going to happen.

“Before we start and make any decisions, I’d like to say that we’ll need more supplies if we’re going to board this place up properly, and that while there were at least three victims in last night’s attack, there didn’t seem to be a complete massacre either.” I said to Charlie, looking like he actually wasn’t hungover for once.

“Just…let me have a chance to go through the mail first.” He said groggily as he briefly flicked through the letters.

“Is there anyone other than Serge or Bibarel that could help us? Anyone else found any humans?” Melinda asked. Charlie kept his eyes firmly glued to the letters as his eyes quickly scanned them.

“…Yes, actually, though he was really reckless putting this information in a letter. Could have been intercepted by the Pale Communion. Anyway, one of my friends in Fremdesland found a strange vigoroth who claims to be human, going by the name of Duke Hackett. Are two names a thing for humans?” Charlie suddenly asked, though I was taking more interest that the American champion had been found.

“He was always a weird guy. Very creative trainer though…er, yeah, we almost always have at least two names. My complete full name’s actually Basil Harold Squire for example. Never got around officially removing my middle name after what my father done…” I said, briefly getting distracted by past events.

“Duke’s safe, right? We should go see him. We should get on a ship today and go to Fremdesland.” Melinda said firmly.

“No, we’re staying here. We already decided this together.” Charlie said, and I could tell Melinda was about to lose patience as she started breathing deeply through her nose.

“What if he knows something we don’t? Can I see the letter?” She said, holding out her hand. Charlie grumbled and gave it to her as she snatched it out of his hand quickly. “Hrm, I think I’ll read this out loud, so everyone can hear. I trust you’re ok with this.” Melinda continued, not giving Charlie much of a choice.

“Guten Tag! Hello! Charlie, I heard the Pale Communion was dealt a serious blow back in Broussard, so I deemed this letter safe to send.

Things have been getting worse here. New Zürich is still untouched, but the surrounding towns and villages all over the continent have been seeing frequent attacks. -blank- is a ghost town now since everyone fled. The mayor of New Zürich has become totally paranoid: No one is allowed to leave or exit that place, though I’m not sure I really blame him for that policy.

There’s also been talks of decriminalizing Z attacks here. The council has seized all of the crystals needed to pull one off for the past fifty years, and since they’re pretty much never found outside of Fremdesland, not many people know much about all this. Thing is, these ‘things’, since I’m not even convinced that they’re even pokemon like you and I, are already a huge threat with their ability to turn us into black statues within split-seconds. I don’t think them getting a hold of some Z crystals will make them much more dangerous, but they could provide us with a weapon to help fight these monsters. Still, they seem to operate covertly, hence why some people think that it’s a waste of time. Wouldn’t hurt to try by this stage though, since I can’t many answers.

Still, one help we could have is in the form of a human. While the Pale Communion were never that big here, they did make locals who want to masquerade as these otherworldly beings suddenly turn silent, so I believe he’s being genuine. Although he doesn’t speak in my native tongue, he speaks your language. Another reason why I’m glad my parents forced me to learn it!

As for Mr Duke Hackett, it doesn’t seem like he asked to be here, nor in his current vigoroth body, so I’m assuming that strange typhlosion brought them here against their will. He also said that during their brief conversation he had with The Guardian is that he was told that humans could be resistant to The Devourer’s many ways and methods of bringing us ruin, and that since a human helped drive The Devourer off a very long time ago, multiple humans should make it even more likely we can drive it off this planet again. Might want to ask Audrey about all that stuff since she was researching that sunken continent.

It’ll be risky making the trip across to me now, but we should meet up. Maybe we can have a shot at trying to find a solution to all this, with or without The Guardian of Forever. If not, update me on what’s been happening with you. Found any humans?

Sincerely, your good friend, Heinrich Rhyperior.”

Given how long the letter was and the pokemon’s large handwriting, Melinda had to go through several sheets of paper, each being rather crumpled. My sister looked up at the others as we gauged their reaction. Obviously, I could tell what Melinda wanted, and nothing short of physical restraint would hold her back now. As for the others, they didn’t seem as enthusiastic. Nisbeth looked like he wanted to stay right where he was, and Murphy looked borderline devastated at the idea of being forced to go on another escapade.

“Duty calls, Charlie. We know what we have to do.” Melinda said, handing back the letter. “Unless, of course, you want to let everyone around you down.”

“But we all agreed…” Charlie said, looking uncomfortable. I appreciate that he gave it a shot, but it just seemed like leadership just wasn’t his thing during tough times. I could see him glancing at the kitchen, clearly wanting to dive into his booze stash.

“That was before we know about your friend and Duke. Now, we have some actual leads. Duke, and these Z crystal things, whatever they are. Surely they can help us.” Melinda replied. Of all people, Jirachi seemed most on board with this, seeming to be more awake than his usual self.

“Serge could show up here any moment though.” Charlie said as Melinda rolled her eyes.

“So we have one person stay here to keep watch. If we stay around Heinrich’s place, then the person that stays behind will know where to send him. I’m going to be very straight forward with you here: I’m going to Fremdesland with or without you. Your choice isn’t really whether you come or stay, but more like whether you want to risk having your two humans go unprotected to foreign lands.” She said, folding her arms, and frowning slightly at the others.

Guess she was taking after me a bit, strong-arming them into compliance. They didn’t seem too determined to try and keep her here either, so it seems like Melinda won this argument. I thought this was a risky move to be sure, but given we couldn’t even be sure whether Serge was alive or not, maybe we didn’t have much choice.

“I wouldn’t put too much faith in those Z crystals. I’ve heard they end up killing its user about one in ten times, hence why they were banned.” Audrey said, which seemed a bit hypocritical, given I seen her use a mega stone before. Regardless how dangerous they were, we could sure use a hail-Mary if we end up in dire straits.

“We can find out more once we’re there. Regardless, I’ll be getting packed and ready to go.” She said, picking up a leaflet by the entrance. “According to this, next ship will be leaving in an hour. Hopefully, they’ll still be running. Oh, and before you ask whether it’s even safe to leave the building, if it’s too dangerous to even step outside by now, then, realistically, The Devourer’s already won, so we don’t have as much to lose as you might expect.” She said as she walked down to her room.

“Basil, what’s gotten into her? She’s been acting strange recently.” Audrey asked. “She wasn’t like this when we first found her.”

“She’s many things, but patient isn’t one of them. I don’t think you can talk her out of this, so in many respects, she may as well end up leading this whole affair now, and, as a result, that kind of makes me the unofficial number two.” I said, hopefully not coming off as smug. I really didn’t feel that way at all, and I was happy under Charlie’s experience in this world, but I guess that ampharos didn’t know that he’d be signing up for something as crazy as this.

“Please Basil, if she ends up insisting on doing something stupid, do everything you can in talking her out of it.” Charlie asked, half-begging with me.

“Sure, but as you can see, this is a bit of a lost cause. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to just hunker down here, but she does have some fair points.” I said, looking at any fliers that could give me some information about Fremdesland.

“I swore I’d look after you Basil, but I reckon your sister’s making that mighty hard. Just so you know, if you’re going to Mistet Orkenen, you’re going without me. Some things in life are even worse than The Devourer.” Nisbeth said, looking a little pale when he said the name of that continent.

“Nisbeth…that name sounds a little native to that desert continent.” Audrey said as he shook his head.

“Parents thought they were being clever by naming me something foreign. Still, it wasn’t the maelstrom of death it’s known to be back in those days. Got too used to this name to end up ever changing it.” Nisbeth replied, looking very uncomfortable.

“Well, I guess we need to pick someone to stay behind.” Charlie said, looking at us. “I guess Basil will be going with his sister, so that leaves five of us.”

“Wait, Audrey was studying archaeological finds, wasn’t she? And didn’t it say in the letter that Duke found out that The Devourer had been to this planet before? It’s obvious! Audrey stays, continues studying stuff from the museum, and keeps an eye out for Serge!” I said, though Audrey herself didn’t seem to want to.

“There was no mention of anything of the sort on any of the museum pieces. Maybe it was from a different time. Besides, we probably want the strongest to stay behind in case something undesirable gets too curious about what happens within these walls, and that’s certainly not me. That’d be a toss-up between Jirachi and Charlie.” I eyed Audrey curiously after she said this.

“I saw you crushing those Pale Communion cultists though. Seriously, you’re really fucking tough, and trust me, I know all about those things.” I said as Audrey reached into her bag and brought out the translucent mega stone.

“I’m only particularly good in combat with this, and it takes about seven seconds for it to complete my transformation. By that point, I’ll already be dead if my assailant has that black statue power.” She said, as Charlie seemed to agree.

“While you’re tougher than you think you are, I’d say you’re the weakest fighter between the three of us.” Charlie said, gesturing to himself, Audrey and Jirachi. “Heinrich wants to see me in particular, so I guess that makes Jirachi the one to stay.” I can’t say I really liked this decision too much, but it could have been worse.

“Don’t worry, I’ll know if someone breaks in even if I’m sleeping. I know that Basil and Murphy went to use my telescope, but I decided not to bother them.” He said, grinning at me slightly.

“Well, if that’s sorted, then we should all get ready. If Melinda’s dead set on this, then I don’t suppose we have much choice.” Charlie said, predictably grabbing several bottles of alcohol for the journey. Murphy didn’t seem to mind too much either way, since we’d soon be away from that strange creature that passed the Excursion Club headquarters.

“I seriously hope you know what you’re doing Mel’.” I said, stuffing what little possessions I owned into my backpack.

“I hope so too Basil. Not going to lie, I wish we had a more decisive group. They’ll never get rid of The Devourer like this.” She said, as she put the last book inside her large bag. “I’m guessing the natives don’t really like me anymore by now.”

“Not particularly.” I responded simply.

“Well, they’ll learn to like me once we get to the bottom of this.” She said, and sighed somewhat sadly. “You wanted to stay here, didn’t you.”

“Kind of…”

“Sorry for dragging you along with me, but, really, almost no where’s safe now. The Devourer or one of its soldiers would probably find us before Serge did if we just camped here.” She said, looking a little frustrated. “I guess it’s just that I’m used to a little more…professionalism among my colleagues and staff.”

“Pretty hard to be professional about finding a way to kill a foe this deadly. All this time here, and we’re still not really sure what we’re up against.” I said, lifting my bag, and putting it on my back.

“I’m sure you can figure it out.” Melinda said as I turned to look at her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, between the seven of us, you’re the most likely. I’ll be honest, I don’t think the five natives are going to do it, and you always figured out the ways for me to win my battles.” She said as I gave a hollow laugh

“Pokemon, alien monstrosities, what’s the difference?” I said as she followed me upstairs as we met up with the others in the entrance hall. Charlie arrived shortly afterwards, looked at Melinda and gestured towards the door.

“Care to lead us to the docks?” He said with a slight bitterness in his voice.

“Of course!” My sister replied as we made our way through the rather empty streets. There were a few pokemon walking around, though they seemed to be on edge, and not a single one was walking alone.

“Think we should check out the hostel?” I asked the others.

“We’re taking a big enough risk leaving the building. I’d rather not poke my nose into them more than we have to.” Nisbeth replied, sounding a little grumpy. “Besides, we’d probably just see a bunch of statues.”

“Say, isn’t that one of the local policemen?” Melinda asked as Charlie nodded.

“Excuse me sir, notice anything odd about the attacks last night?” She asked as the large tyrantiar half sighed and half growled, likely being fed up with the constant questioning.

“We counted seven victims in total. One of the attackers was killed, thankfully, by yours truly. There was at least one more of them, a raichu to be exact. There may have been more, but we can’t be sure, though one of my colleagues did mention about hearing…something.” He said as Melinda nodded politely. She thanked us and after another couple of minutes, we arrived at the docks. Unlike the town, they looked a little busier than normal. Likely people wanting to flee the town after the seven were unfortunately killed.

“I don’t suppose there was any way to reduce the number of victims, was there.” Melinda said quietly to Charlie.

“Not likely. By the time we would have arrived, they’d probably have either ran off or gotten killed by the law enforcers.” Charlie said, somewhat sadly.

“We’d likely just end up adding ourselves to the pile of corpses, er, statues.” Nisbeth chimed in as we got in line for the next ship to Fremdesland. The que seemed kind of long, which made us wonder whether there was enough space for us Seems like one ship sailed each day from here, one going to Fremdesland, the other to Conviction according to the information bulletin, so if it was all full, then we’d be spending another day here. Thankfully, that ended up not being the case as we were allowed on the rather crowded ship. I was a little worried about whether it would sail well or not, but after a good couple of hours out at sea, my concerns were soon eased.

Low, quiet murmurs were rather constant on the ship, obviously about last night’s events and how people wanted to get away from them or return to their families in their homeland. They didn’t seem very bright, given it sounded like Fremdesland was getting hit just as hard, and since New Zürich had completely isolated itself from the outside world, family reunions would be rather difficult for some.

Looking around, I wondered if one of these travellers could be in league with The Devourer. It was certainly possible, as I noticed no distinct physical features on that mienshao back in Conviction that made it seem particularly odd. It’s technically possible that even some of those who I was working with could be one of its soldiers, though it seemed incredibly unlikely. I believe I had been alone with each and every one of them, so there’d have been opportunities for them to kill me if they really weren’t who they said they were. From what I could tell, it didn’t seem likely that they could turn more than one person into a black statue at once, and it took a few seconds of concentration to pull off that awful skill, so all things considered, an attack aboard this ship seemed very unlikely.

“Aren’t you a magnet for disaster.” Nisbeth said to me from behind with a cheeky grin.

“Hardly my fault though, isn’t it.” I replied, playing along with him.

“Well, you dragged me away from my home. In hindsight, probably a good thing since I’m less isolated, but given what happened last night, that might not matter too much anymore.” He said, sounding worried.

“I’d say ‘don’t worry’, but forgoing fear entire never worked out well for some of the people I knew back home. So, uh, be afraid, but don’t let yourself get too miserable over this. Like I said, I’ll make sure we’ll end up safe and sound.” I said as he smiled slightly.

“I already promised you that. Just don’t make it harder than it needs to be, and never go to Mistet Orkenen. The Pale Communion practically run that place from the last I heard of that shithole.” He said. Really hope Melinda would have no intentions of ever going there, but the way things are shaping up in this world, I couldn’t be sure. Nisbeth’s protective nature over me still felt a little strange though. I only assumed it was out of some sense of duty, but it was mutually beneficial, so I wasn’t going to complain.

The journey there was thankfully uneventful, but that creeping unease never left anyone in this ship. For all we knew, The Devourer could be on Fremdesland, and coming here with Melinda could be the decision that ends all seven of us. Mountains started creeping out of this patch of fog we entered and stood there like great pillars, reaching up to the sky. I was rather glad to leave this cramped boat as we walked onto dry land. The gravelly ground jabbed my feet slightly, but it seemed like the skin on my soles were getting quite tough, as it didn’t feel painful to walk on the pointy stones. The air around us felt a tad chilly as a cool breeze ruffled the fur on my back. Nice, perfect weather for me. Reminds me of back home in York.

“Now this is quite pretty…This is Südreiches, right?” Melinda said, looking up at the rest of the small port town.

“Indeed. Anyway, we shouldn’t waste too much time. Heinrich lives on the edge of Thaln…eh, I’m not good with Fremdeslandian names.” Charlie said as Melinda looked at a map of the continent on a board to her left.

“Thalnacht?” She asked.

“Yeah, that’s the place. Not a long walk, just about five hours.” Charlie responded, and after a quick bite to eat in a small café, we set out.

“Food’s better here, not going to lie.” I said quietly, thinking of the nice cake I had. I probably should have eaten something healthier, but it looked so delicious with the jam and chocolate coverings. Just thinking about how it looked made me swallow my excess saliva. Didn’t taste quite as good as it looked, but it was definitely good enough for me. Hoped we could try more of their desserts later during any down time.

“Look at this scenery Basil!” Melinda said, looking all around her as we soon found ourselves by pretty, steep little hills. “This so reminds me of Switzerland when we had that three-day hike through the valleys and hills.”

“Wonder why they made the capital ‘New Zürich’ then.” I said, laughing playfully at her. Regardless, walking along the lakeside path while being sheltered from the wind by the surrounding mountains really made it feel I was back in that adventurous and fun hike. Absolutely nothing went wrong during those few days, and while it was foolish to believe so, I guess there was always a chance that nothing wrong will happen here either.

The water beside us seemed even clearer than Lake Lucerne, its clarity only matched by the sky above us. Good thing the fog cleared up, else we wouldn’t be able to enjoy such a view. Nisbeth and Murphy looked utterly stunned, as if they had walked into a fairy tale. Of course, I can tell them how it really feels to be inside one of those! The trees, while having strangely shaped ferns that seemed rather disorderly, lined themselves almost perfectly together as they raced up the mountain, giving way to shrubs, grasses, rock, and, on the highest mountains, snow.

“It’s just like that painting in school…” Murphy said, slowing his pace to gaze around the picturesque valley.

“Starting to really remember why I dreamt of being an explorer in the first place.” Nisbeth said, grinning widely. “Thanks for paying for the trip over here! I’d never have been able to afford it myself.”

“Just remember why we’re here.” Charlie said, taking out his bottle and taking a fairly large drink. Not sure whether it was booze or just water, but knowing him, it was probably the former. “Though I see what you mean.”

“Wish we went mountaineering here more often.” Audrey said as we eventually took a short break to eat some snacks.

“I overheard you two comparing this place to some other location called Switzerland.” Audrey said as she ate a small sandwich. It looked really strange seeing her eat with that gigantic mouth on her head, and put me off my food quite a bit as I watched it slaver all over the place.

“See how the capital’s New Zürich? Well, regular Zürich is in a similar looking place back on Earth called Switzerland. From what I seen of the map of this planet though, New Australia is nothing like Australia. Yours is a big tundra, ours is a bit of a desert. I’d be happy to help you fill in some of the historical gaps of this place and give a few ideas what went on when these previous humans found this place. Still, makes me wonder if the human was Swiss or a German who thought this place looked like Switzerland.” I said, rambling on slightly while looking away from Audrey. It wasn’t disrespectful, but the sight of the sky-scraping mountains was a lot prettier than a mawile demolishing the rest of the sandwich.

“If we have any down time, I’d love to go over this with you!” She said, and shortly afterwards, we were soon on our way again. The mountains started thinning slightly as we left the lake behind us, and after spending a couple of hours on a mountain pass, we were greeted with the sight of a town nestled comfortably between three hills.

“See that large, pointed house just at the left edge of Thalnacht? That’s where we’re going. I just hope Heinrich and Duke can help us though, since we’re kind of exposed out here.” Charlie said, glancing at Melinda.

“I doubt this will be a total waste of time, so just relax a bit, would you?” Melinda said as Charlie took another swig.

“What do you think I’m doing right now?” Charlie said, gesturing to his bottle. “I’ll share some with you if you need it.”

“I’m quite all right thanks.” She said, and before long, we were knocking on the door of the rhyperior’s house. About three seconds later, said rhyperior opened the door with a surprised but friendly look on his face.

“Ah, it’s been to long Charlie!” He said as the large pokemon gave the ampharos a tight hug. “Please, come in! Place is messy since you didn’t warn me you were coming, so please no complaining about that.” The place didn’t seem to be the most well looked after, but given there were a fair number of us, I’m glad it was spacious.

“Right, good to see you too, but I’m more worried about The Devourer.” Charlie said, sitting down on a large sofa.

“Of course, Charlie, of course. Hey, Duke, friends of mine are here! Don’t worry, they won’t kill you!” The rhyperior called out and laughed as a vigoroth walked in quickly.

“Ah, you must be the human that was mentioned in the letter!” Audrey said as she gestured to Melinda and I. “Well, you’ll probably be glad to be reunited with some of your own kind.”

“Melinda and Basil Squire.” My sister said as she went over to shake his hand, being careful not to cut herself on Duke’s claws.

“Oh, shit! I heard the news about you vanishing just after I ‘won’ the finals back in the states! My opponent didn’t show up since he didn’t want to risk suffering the safe fate, but when I heard that it was you and not Omar that was taken here, I realised it might not have mattered!” Duke said, twitching slightly as he shook my hand. “Uh, you have no idea what it’s like to never be able to sleep. It’s…well, I can’t describe it to someone who’s not a vigoroth.”

“We’ve all had a lot to learn. Still, seems like we all got lucky to run into good people here.” I said as felt my face sag with sadness slightly. “…Not all of us were, though.”

“Heinrich’s a bit odd, but he’s friendly enough.” Duke said, constantly pacing. “Oh, before you tell me your story and shit, I’ll tell you something Heinrich and I found. I’d say it’d blow your mind, but I don’t think that’s possible anymore given what happened to us, haha!”

“Well, I don’t think we’re in a hurry.” Melinda said as we sat next to each other, though from the way Duke was acting, I don’t think he knew what seats were even used for.

“Heinrich was trying to figure out how to get into New Zürich, but neither of us are exactly stealthy, and they sealed the border real good. You, Basil…you might be small enough. Anyway, Entei…” He said, looking like he was having trouble collecting his thoughts.

“Kind of a non-sequitur there.” I said as Duke put up his hand.

“You try thinking straight with a heart that always pumps this fast! …About Entei, the two of us saw him with Raikou, though they didn’t see us. That rhyperior didn’t wanna tussle with them. Not that it mattered since Raikou saw us anyway and told us to buzz off. Crazy, isn’t it? You see two mythological creatures and you just kind of don’t care too much. I mean, this out of body experience will forever ruin all other surprises. That big dog seemed to hate me though, and if I was alone, I might have finally been able to get some sleep. He seemed to think I was one of them. I’ve not seen any of them yet though.” He said, his rapid speech getting more and more erratic as he went on.

“If it’s ‘them’, then we’ve actually killed one before.” I said as he leapt up in the air in surprise.

“Woah! Did you just smash it on the head or something?” He asked as I showed him the weapon.

“Just did what humans do best: make stuff.” I said as he looked at it closely.

“Well, remember when I said we wanted to sneak into New Zürich? Well, if you think that’s a weapon, wait until you see one of these!” He said, bringing out an odd red, ruby-like crystal from his bag. “Never seen one of these babies in action before, but from the tales I heard, these things can unleash powers so big that they’d assuredly be banned in professional tournaments…I can’t get it to work, and neither can Heinrich. That being said, of everyone here…” He continued and gave the strange crystal to Melinda.

“You’re just giving me this? Feels really warm actually.” She said, looking at it really closely.

“Just a hunch, but maybe you can cause one serious forest fire with this. Just promise everyone that you’ll be careful with it!” Duke said, his voice becoming rather shrill as his constant pacing quickened.

“Why would I never not be careful here? This is a long way from our previously cushy lives!” Melinda said as the three of us laughed briefly.

I just hoped being careful would be enough.
Pokemon: Incarnation - Chapter 20
This university term was a lot harder, hence why Incarnation was frozen for a while. Still, here's another chapter, and with any luck, I'll get another one out before the workload gets piled on once more.

With Basil and crew merely hiding from the danger, Melinda has had enough, and is determined to pursue more active solutions to this problem

Chapter 21: The Dividing Line pocket-fulla-shells.deviantart…
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Pokemon: Incarnation

Chapter 19: Close to The Edge


“So, I take it you haven't had a word about all this with Murphy yet.” Melinda said, walking up to me as I looked sleepily at her. The hammock I was in was very comfortable – far more comfortable than it would have been if I was still a human – as it rocked me slightly as the ship passed over the gentle waves of the ocean. Sadly, Melinda seemed intent of ruining this blissful relaxation.

“Nah, and I'm not going to. Look, if you're dead set on getting him to stay with us, then go ahead – pressure him into being miserable and scared then.” I replied, sounding sour.

“You know why I'm doing this, let's not get petty.” She said as I scoffed.

“Trying to get him to stay or abandon this dangerous lifestyle is hardly petty Mel'.” I said, rolling over to look at her. “I get it, the world's under threat and stuff, which is why I'll just stay out of this. I get both sides here, hence why I'm staying out of this. Just don't be mean to the guy, ok?”

“I was hoping you'd back me up with this...” She said, shaking her head with disapproval.

“Look, do you think he'll be all that useful to the mission if he's being forced into it? You of all people should know that people or pokemon who's hearts aren't into something won't be very useful when trying to do said thing. How many pokemon have you cycled through on your team as a result...seven, I think.” I said, counting them in my head.

“Well, it'll be my job to motivate him.” She replied.

“Good luck Mel'.” I said, not sure how sincere I was being as she walked off. Couldn't say I felt relaxed any more, as I wondered how the conversation would go. Given we were supposed to keep the whole thing rather quiet to avoid mass panic spreading across the world, I didn't think she'd try to talk to Murphy while on the ship. Hopefully I could at least eavesdrop on them when it happens, but I doubt it'd happen now. I saw her chatting to Audrey about something, though they were too far away for me to hear what they were saying as I drifted off back into an uneasy snooze.

A sudden shout from somewhere on the ship suddenly sounded as I heard something splash into the water. I quickly rolled out of the hammock to see what caused it, wondering if something or someone fell off the side. I hardly expected any of my friends to be involved and as I joined the others in looking over, I saw a samurott wrestling with a lapras. The samurott, who I recognized as one of the sailors on the ship, seemed to be winning and quickly subdued it.

“Everything's all right, there's no damage to the ship!” He called out as another pokemon dived into join them and started dragging the lapras alongside the ship.

“Ah, one of those terrorists...” I heard Nisbeth say. “Not the first time a lapras has tried to sink a ship. The advent of these vessels totally sank their sea-fearing business, no pun intended, so it's their way of trying to reclaim it.”

“So, yet another brush with death then. How delightful.” I grumbled, feeling more annoyed than scared by now. I gave a hollow laugh to myself, noticing that I was slowly but surely starting to take all of this in my stride rather than letting fear run rampant throughout my entire body and mind. Still, can't ever afford to get too relaxed here, as I knew that even without The Devourer and the Pale Communion, this world could still eat me alive. Why, it almost literally did in the form of that swampert!

“Might seem like a strange thing to say, but I wish your introduction to this world could have been better. Really, Broussard's a real nice place, I swear. Well, better than Mistet Ørkenen at least. Trust me, you don't ever want to go there. Lots of bad...hey, Basil, I'll look out for you, I promise.” He said, looking a little shifty for some reason. He smiled down at me, though there were lines of uncomfortableness within that large mouth of his. Nisbeth suddenly seemed to be distracted by something and quickly wandered off before I could ask him about it. I was certainly curious, but I didn't think anything good would come from pressuring him about it.

The rest of the journey would prove to be rather uneventful, the weather never shifting from a mostly cloudy sky. On the bright side, Murphy looked happy to see the buildings of Newer Orleans creeping over the horizon in the distance as he leaned over the bow of the ship slightly with a huge grin on his face. Seems like he was just happy to see familiar lands, and I couldn't help but agree, as I too wanted to return to a slightly less alien environment. Maybe some of that shitty, yet perfectly functional beer could help relax me a little too. Besides, I earned it after stopping that mienshao.

There was no time to be wasted as soon as we arrived upon the shore as we made our way immediately to the Excursion Club headquarters. I never felt at complete ease moving through a bustling street, given my small body, though Nisbeth seemed to make sure that no one would end up kicking me by accident as he stayed close to my side. Seeing the rather flamboyant building ahead of us, we entered and saw that the others were also here, so, naturally there was a lot to discuss. Seems like they had started without us however, as their loud and rather frantic voices echoed throughout the entire building, culminating in Charlie silencing everyone with a bellow so loud I flinched and covered my ears, at least, more than they were already covered.

“...I think the others have returned.” Charlie said after everyone remained quiet for a few seconds. Audrey decided to take the initiative as we followed her into the dining room, where it seemed like they were just finishing off a meal. Was talking with your mouth full commonplace here? Regardless, it didn't seem like a party; Charlie didn't even have any visible drinks with him.

“So...who goes first?” Audrey said after an awkward pause. “...Ok, I'll start.” She went on to explain our findings in Conviction, including the details about Bibarel's contact with Serge, what the statues were, what happened with Neerav and the enigmatic statue creators and their possible link to The Devourer. Over time, the atmosphere around us seemed to become frozen with fear as the ones at the table slowly stopped chewing their food. Charlie let some of the mash potato he was digging into fall out of his mouth and even Jirachi looked afraid. What did they find out that lead to their reactions? Charlie slowly stood up, his mouth still open in shock, trembling slightly.

“So...these statues...they're people...and they're effectively dead...and this has something to do with The Devourer...well, it seems like The Devourer has, uh, made some moves then. We decided to have a word with Landorus. Being several hundred years old, maybe he knew of something.” He said and gulped. He kept pausing, his voice being far quieter and more subdued than normal. “Normally, he doesn't, well, take too kindly to visitors, but now I see that he didn't mind us at all...he's, well, uh, dead now.”

“Turned into a black statue?” Audrey asked, looking rather sorrowful.

“Yeah...would explain why all of them look surprised or afraid now.” He replied, looking like he was itching for a drink to calm his nerves.

“Seems like there's more than one of these pokemon going around turning victims into black statues.” Audrey said, keeping oddly cool about the whole thing.

“Maybe it's The Devourer itself. If Landorus is as ancient and as powerful as I've heard, then maybe it won't go down to one of those pokemon in league with this monstrosity.” Nisbeth speculated, though I wasn't entirely convinced.

“I've seen how the process works, and I don't think being big and powerful slows that down at all.” I said, though I had no idea. “Still, if it's going after powerful entities, then it must be getting bolder now.” As I said those words, I inhaled through my teeth. Sure, it was only isolated people getting attacked here for the most part, but that could be changing as of this very moment. Looking around, it seemed like everyone else was thinking the same thing. We may have made progress, but time wasn't on our side at this rate. It came for Landorus, it came for a human, and, sooner or later, it would surely come for us. Nobody was talking, clearly still taking in all of this uneasiness as I saw Murphy drumming his fingers against his leg uncomfortably, clearly wishing to be elsewhere.

“Well, Bibarel said he'd direct Serge here if he sees him. So, uh, think we should just hucker down here and hope he shows up?” I suggested. After all this nonsense I went through, I'm not sure how I would react to seeing him. I still hated him to the point I'd be glad to see him die, but I needed him to eventually send my sister and I home, and he needed me to stop The Devourer.

“It's the best we can do.” Melinda said, sounding a little less shaken about all this, looking more focused on finding a solution to this.

“But what if The Devourer or any of its associates come here?” Murphy said, his voice being a little higher than usual.

“If you have a better idea, Murphy, let's hear it, and no, running away home doesn't count.” She said sternly as Murphy lowered his head slightly in sadness. “You can run, hide and do nothing, but we both know that The Devourer will catch up to you one way or another.”

“Melinda, quit scaring him!” I said, raising my voice.

“I'm only telling him the truth Basil.” She said, looking at me with narrowed eyes. “You clearly want to be friendly towards him, but I don't think it's kind telling him that he can just hide from all this.”

“Now's not the time Mel'!” I said angrily at her. As much as I loved her, I didn't want her walking all over my friends like this. “...That being said, Murphy, The Devourer could also find us if we start wandering around like nomads. Even if it's becoming more confident, there's been no attacks in a town yet, so we should be fine for now I'd imagine.”

“I'd say Basil's right.” Charlie said, stuffing the last of the food in his mouth. “Like Audrey said, if The Guardian of Forever ever loses The Devourer for a while, he'll likely go see Bibarel and quickly make his way here. Then we can see where things go from there.”

“I remember Bibarel guessing he might be in Fremdesland though.” Audrey said, though I saw Charlie shake his head at this.

“He'll probably be gone when we arrive there. Besides, he said it was just a guess. Maybe he's here in State Broussard, we don't know that.” Charlie replied as he started gathering up the plates.

“Murphy could also be right though. Why should we be sitting ducks? What if The Devourer can tell who's human? I'm assuming it must know that humans are being summoned here, and we don't know what it's capable of, so could it possibly know about Melinda and Basil?” She said as I shuddered at the thought of it.

Slowly, but surely, we descended into bickering about what to do, but it seemed like a consensus couldn't be reached. Some wanted to stay put, some wanted to go to Fremdesland, others wanted to go back to Conviction to see Bibarel. Jirachi had the ballsy idea of sealing us inside the building, blocking off any and all visitors and advertising Melinda's existence as well as my own across the lands, hopefully getting Serge's attention. Nisbeth seemed to really hate that idea, though Melinda seemed to quite like it, claiming it'd be the best way to reach out to Serge while making sure that no one unwelcome gets in. I tried this sort of thing before, and it failed horribly, so I was siding with Nisbeth here.

This was going absolutely nowhere. We'd really stand no chance of trying to find Serge or do a thing about our otherworldly foe if we were all split like this. How could I help get everyone on board with the same idea? To be honest, I wasn't completely sure about how to take things from here. Was staying put here really the best option? Regardless, probably best if everyone just goes with one plan and sticks with it. We had some talented people here with us, so they could improvise something if it all goes to shit I guess. There was also Murphy, however. Guess he'd want to return home or at least stay away from all this one way or another. Best have a word with him soon, preferably without Melinda. Although, there was someone else who I wanted a word with first.

“Hey, Charlie, mind if I have a word with you quickly? Preferably alone.” I said quietly to him as people started leaving. No one seemed to overhear me thankfully as he quietly nodded and lead me into his shambles of an office. Books lies about all over the place in a disorderly fashion, yet it looked like they had been barely read. He reached for something behind his desk which, of course, turned out to be a bottle of booze.

“Want some?” He asked as I accepted. He poured me a small glass and took a swig from the bottle. “Sorry, this has been helping me recently, especially with Layla's death. Crazy, isn't it? Audrey and I had no idea when we were kids that this planet and everything beyond almost died. Then comes along The Guardian of Forever and tells us all what happened, and well, that was that. Heard stories that pieces of Temporal Tower, y'know, where Dialga lives, were hidden in parts of Conviction and that The Sound of Perseverance helped sort that mess out, To think something else has come along and is wanting us all dead, or something like that...” He took a very large swig, taking several gulps of the stuff. Smelling it, I wasn't sure what sort of alcoholic drink this even was. I think it might have had an American-style whisky base, but it was mixed with some fruit that could have been native only to this planet, since I couldn't recognize it at all.

“It's whiskey and chesto berry juice. Lovely stuff, can't live without it. Eases me real good, yet it keeps me awake, and as I'm sure you can imagine, I've needed both of that ever since that typhlosion told me about The Devourer.” He said as I took a sip. Damn, did it taste sharp! Those chesto berries really packed a punch, tasting rather like blueberries with the zingy sourness of a lemon. Seemed to not go well with the whisky at all, but I wanted him to be warm to me, so I kept drinking, accepting his hospitality with a forced smile.

“I mean, to think the two of them might have only bought this planet thirty-five more years...” Charlie said, taking a large swig before clearing his throat. “Oh, sorry, you were wanting to say something to me?”

“Yes, it's to do with how we're going to take things from here in regards to Serge and The Devourer. As you can see, we've had no real consensus on what to do now, with barely anyone agreeing with one another.” I said, taking another drink. Maybe my tongue was being numbed, but it didn't taste quite as bad anymore. “Well, you're the owner of this place, the boss, the leader. I'd say it's time you really acted like one.”

“...What do you mean?” He said, slowly resting the bottle on the desk and looked down at me.

“I'm saying that you should put your foot down Charlie. You've all heard our opinions, but the final decision rests with you. It'd be nice for this to be democratic, but it's simply not working right now! Look, where I come from, some conflicts can grow to huge scales, where entire nations throw their collective might against one another in a battle for survival. When a country's existence is on the line, it sometimes becomes necessary to make sure everyone is in line and working towards preserving the nation, personal feelings and opinions be damned. It's ugly, sure, but sadly, it can occasionally be a necessity.” I explained, thinking back towards the wars that ripped Europe to pieces.

“Your world sounds strange.” Charlie said as I decided to not dwell on it for much longer.

“Your world would probably know this too if there was ever a continent that had more than one nation in it. Besides, what I'm saying is that if you truly believed that everyone on this planet could fall victim to The Devourer, then you should really like this iron fist method. Again, forced unity isn't pretty, but I see no other choice here. Unless, of course, you think we can succeed by running around like headless chickens, praying that everything turns out for the best.” I replied, looking firmly into his eyes. I wasn't sure whether Charlie would be an effective leader, but, ultimately, he was probably the most qualified out of all of us. I'd likely have said the same thing to Melinda, but as well-adapted to this world as she was, she still didn't know this world nearly as well as the natives.

“Ah, well, I've never done anything like that. I've always been lax with the way I own this place. I hire some really good people who know what they were doing, so there was never any need for me to bark orders.” Charlie said, looking uncomfortable as he slowly sipped his strange brew, clearly thinking about this. “What if they don't listen to me?”

“Planet's on the line, and we don't want another Layla to happen, now do we?” I said back to him, going straight for blatant emotional manipulation. “We need a strong firm leader, whether we like one or not, and just so you know, if you don't step up, I'll convince Melinda to do so instead. She probably has the best mindset for being a leader out of all of us, but I don't think having someone who doesn't know this world well would be a good idea. You've got a lot of connections in this planet as well, so you're in a great position to really lead us. All you need to do is to grow a pair, stand up and take command. Don't worry, I'll back you up on everything you do.”

“I'll run it by Audrey and Jirachi.” He said, his voice sounding a little mopey. He clearly didn't want to do this, but if he wanted to defeat The Devourer, it's a step he'd have to take.

“You should still take our opinions into consideration however, and if those two don't like it, then just order them to step in line. If they've worked with you since I was born, roughly, then they'll understand.” I said before finishing off my rather sickly drink. Man, this stuff was strong! Not enough to significantly affect me however, though seeing Charlie tank multiple bottles of the stuff a day lead me to believe he had a liver of iron. Hopefully he'd remember our little talk by the morning. Right, now time to make sure Murphy is doing ok. I just hope that Melinda and Audrey are staying away from him.

“Murphy, I really don't think you're thinking this through.” I heard Audrey say. Shit, maybe I should have tried to sort Murphy's issues out first. “If you try to go home, you'll be completely alone. Don't you remember? The Devourer and its agents, if they are, that is, tend to go after solitary targets. Are you sure it's worth that risk?”

“I can stay in Newer Orleans and take more acting roles. I'll save up enough money to be flown home and see how things go from there.” Murphy said firmly, breathing somewhat deeply.

“Now, this is just speculation, but what if The Devourer can see through the pokemon that are working for it? I'd be likely the mienshao saw you at some point.” She said, but I wasn't sure if that was entirely true. That being said, I'd be a hypocrite if I criticized her for that. “It may know or at least suspect you were part of a movement to try and kill it. If it does, then you'll obviously be safer with us.”

“Unlikely.” I said as I walked round the corner as Audrey looked at me, seeming frustrated for a second before casually smiling again.

“Ah, Basil, I had no idea you were there! I suppose you overheard our discussion.” She said as I nodded. Figured there was no reason to lie about this.

“Give it a rest Audrey: Murphy simply does not want to be here. What's the point in dragging him along? If he's being forced into all this, then I can hardly call him an effective member of the team. When was the last time you did something you really didn't want to do? I hardly expected you gave it your all. Besides, if Murphy's going to be moping about this, then he'll just bring our spirits down.” I said quickly, wanting to get everything out there on the open before anyone had a chance to speak. I didn't want to insult Murphy like that, but if it convinced Audrey to stop pressuring him to stay, then it'd be worth it.

“Ok, then I'll put it another way: Murphy can't stay here if he leaves our movement.” Audrey said firmly as I glared at her.

“Hold on, remember that deal you made with Murphy? That Murphy could stay here if he did the odd job for you guys? Whatever happened to that? He travelled all the way to Conviction and back for you! You know, why should I have any confidence in you if you break agreements like that? Wait a minute, you made that deal before either of us even knew about The Devourer or what you people were even planning!” I said sharply before walking towards Audrey, stopping right in front of her. She was only slightly taller than me, but I figured she could still beat me shitless in seconds if it came to blows. But I didn't care, I had to take a stand for Murphy. “You planned to con Murphy into this from the very beginning, didn't you!?” Audrey looked very uncomfortable and didn't come close to making eye contact with me for an awkward ten seconds. She drummed her fingers against her legs and tapped her left foot on the ground a few times before sighing.

“...Ok, ok, fine, I admit it. I was just taking a stressful break from my work in trying to find a way to stop The Devourer, so I went to the theatre for the evening...I suppose I should really tell you this directly Murphy.” She said and slowly turned to face him. “I was taking an evening off work since I had been working round the clock all week trying to investigate The Devourer. I saw you perform on stage and figured you were extremely talented, so I thought that the Excursion Club might have had a use for you, so I convinced you to join us. I'm very, very sorry about this Murphy. Please, try to understand, we need people like you to help stop The Devourer!”

“...I should have known it was too good to be true. I'm out of here. Good luck with your quest.” He said very simply, looking like he was about to cry before running off. I saw that he dashed into his room, and a few seconds later, coupled with some confusion from Nisbeth, he ran out again and sprinted past me without saying a word. Can't blame him for this really. He's been used and exploited by many people now, including myself. Regardless, I'd better try and catch up somehow, just to make sure he's ok.

Using the weapon, I teleported across the flat rooftops, keeping a close eye on where Murphy was running off to, attracting some strange looks as I did so. When I warped for the third time, I started feeling disoriented, almost losing my footing. I couldn't do this for much longer, so as soon as I saw the crowds in the street start to thin out, I teleported to the ground below and loudly called out Murphy's name.

“Hey, wait up!” I said, coughing and stumbling as he turned around and waited for me. My vision blurred as I started feeling a bit queasy as I saw Murphy run over to me and helped me stay on my feet. “Thanks...oh, just wanting to make sure that you had somewhere to stay and stuff.”

“You're not planning on exploiting me for something else, are you? Did Audrey put you up to this?” Murphy said, frowning at me slightly as I started to become more stable on my feet.

“Fuck no, I could never do that to you now!” I said, trying to ease his suspicions.

“Sorry, it's just that everyone's been using me like some kind of tool or asset. I reckon you've figured out why I need to go home for the time being.” Murphy said, looking sick of it all.

“Say, Murphy, I have an odd question for you.” I said, not looking at him. “See all this Devourer stuff...do you even believe it's a planet-wide threat?” Of course, I believed it, but I was wondering to what extent Murphy was buying this. I'd never admit it, but Melinda may have a point regarding the heliolisk: He did seem like he was in a state of disbelief about all this, even if he saw for himself someone getting turned into a black statue.

“...Uh...” He said as he seemed to sweat slightly, though it was probably just me subconsciously  anthropomorphizing him. After all, reptiles don't sweat. “...I really don't know Basil. I think I just want to talk to Mom and Pop. I really miss them you know. Maybe I wasn't ready to be an adult after all...”

“Well, you'd need to wait one more year until you're regarded as one where I come from. It's been royally hectic for all of us you know. So, just to refresh my memory, you're going to work for a short while to raise funds and go home?” I asked as he nodded. “Right...staying in one of the hostels?”

“Yeah, Mardi Hostel.” Murphy said, pointing to it at the end of the road.

“Right, just making sure you had a place to stay. I, uh, really hope you'll be ok.” I said, though I couldn't hide my uncertainty. How could I be sure that Murphy would remain safe with The Devourer and its associates on the prowl? Would he be safer here, where he'd not be standing in its way, or with us? Sure, we might even have to take The Devourer head on at some point, but at least we'd have safety in numbers, relatively speaking at least.

“Yeah, you too...” He said, sounding a little sad. “I, eh, in a way, I was hoping we could stick together. It'd be nice if you could get away from The Devourer, but I see why you're staying with them.”

“Yeah, gotta find The Guardian of Forever. Say, Murphy, if I find him and if I can talk him into sending all the humans back, would you want to come with us? That's if I can get him to send you to the human world. You might not like it too much, but better that than dead, right?”

“I dunno Basil...I just want to think about this.” He said, still looking rather down.

“Hey, if that acting club really liked having you around before, then I'm sure they'll take you back. You seemed to really enjoy that, so maybe that'll help you take your mind off things.” I said, trying to cheer him up a bit. It seemed to work, as I saw his glum frown slowly start to fade.

“Hey, Basil, promise you'll see me some time soon, won't you?” He said, taking a couple of steps closer to me. I gulped slightly upon hearing this. I never considered that I might never see the guy again once we go our separate ways. I knew I'd never forget Murphy. How could I when he saved my life?

“Uh...I'm not going to make a promise I might not be able to keep buddy. I said I'd be honest with you, Murphy, even if it's an ugly truth. See, I'm not sure what's happening with the rest of us, though I have pushed Charlie to use his position as the boss to make quick and firm decisions, but he doesn't seem that into it.” I said as his body slumped in sadness again. It tore me apart seeing him like this most of the time. When I first met him, his cheeriness and optimism was so prominent that it became flat out contagious. Maybe I could at least hear Serge out with this Devourer business if I can't find a way to talk him into getting him off this planet. I'd feel terrible if I just left him here, where he could be at The Devourer's mercy, which I assumed was in very short supply.

“B-but that doesn't mean I won't try to see you again!” I said, trying desperately to perk him up a bit. “I can't promise I'll be able to, but I can promise I'll do everything I can to try and make sure you're doing well. It's the best I can do.”

“I understand Basil.” He said before looking away from me. “I'll be honest with you too: There's a part of me that really hates how you got me wrapped up with coming to Newer Orleans and learning about The Devourer. I'd have been happier if I just stayed at home, but...well, it's been an unforgettable experience, and I'm glad to have met you.”

“Hugs?” Murphy said, opening his arms to me.

“How could I possibly turn down?” I said as we embraced each other gently. The larger pokemon gave me a quick squeeze and a pat on the back before letting me go. “Well, take care of yourself Murphy: That's an order!”

“Yes sir!” He said, grinning slightly as I saw him slowly walk into the hostel. All I can really do no is just hope that things turn out well for the best for him. However, on the way back, I was plagued by thoughts of what he and Melinda said about his choice to retreat to a more ordinary life. Melinda would surely chastise me for pacifying him and indirectly encouraging him to bury his head in the sand, and she could be right. Looking back over my shoulder at the street I just walked along, I knew I just didn't have the heart to try and convince him to stay with us. He should be fine for a few weeks as long as he keeps his head down I guess, but...

It was impossible to gauge the level of threat. Sure, The Devourer was supposedly threatening the entire planet, but how long would it take? It seemed to be taking its time, but I hardly wanted to dilly dally when trying to find Serge so he can tell us clearly exactly what's happening, or even what The Devourer is. Regardless, if Murphy's heart wasn't in it, then there'd be no point in trying to force him back to the Excursion Club.

“So, is that Murphy gone now?” Nisbeth asked me not long after I arrived 'home.' I sadly nodded and sat down next to him, slouching on the rather uncomfortable stool.

“Starting to think Melinda could be right about him. I mean, when I asked him if he really believed the world was under real threat and that there soon might not be anywhere to hide, he gave a really wishy-washy answer.” I said, still wondering if I really made the right choice.

“Well, I find it a little hard to believe either. The whole tale of The Sound of Perseverance seems a little silly to me as well, but whether I'm right or wrong, the threat of isolated pokemon getting picked off by these statue creators is very real. Where's he staying at anyway? I'm concerned about the poor guy as well.” He asked as I told him. “It's near the town centre, so he'll be fine I'm sure.”

“But for how long though...eh, nothing we can really do about that now I guess.” I said, wondering if there would be a good way into talking Murphy back to joining us, though I could think of nothing.

“Oh, almost forgot; you missed an announcement from Charlie. He's taking command now, though Audrey and Jirachi don't seem too keen on it since it was supposedly all democratic before now. I actually think Charlie took is as a challenge when they objected.” Nisbeth told me as I smiled. At least that part ended well for me, and possibly everyone else involved.

“It'll be for the best, since we don't know how much longer we have. Better going all in on a bad decision than half-heartedly following a good one.” I said, deciding to keep my involvement in this to myself. It was dark outside by now when I looked out of the window, the primitive street lighting making the town feel darker than the towns I was used to back in England. Given the rather shitty sleep I've been having the past few days, I decided to climb back into the basement lie face first on the bed, barely even noticing Melinda was reading a book on the other bed, using a primitive lantern to read it. I guess lighting up the bone was a fire hazard.

“Hey Basil. I assume that's Murphy gone now.” She said, sounding a little disappointed, but thankfully didn't seem in the mood to lecture me.

“Yeah, probably a bad choice and stuff...” I said sleepily as I rolled onto my side to look at her.

“Anyway, there's something else I thought of a while ago, and it's not good. Anything but good.” She said, putting the lantern and book down. “Decided to keep this between us, and before we know what's going on, I'd rather just keep this between the two of us.”

“Spill the beans Mel'.” I said as I sat up, paying full attention to her,

“Well, I'm only telling you since you're the only one who I know for sure isn't in league with The Devourer. You're my brother, I've known you since you were born, and from spending just over twenty-three years of my life with you, I'm preeeeeety confident you wouldn't side with it.” She said in a lowered voice while constantly glancing at the door at the top of the stairs.

“What the fuck are you on about? Mind speaking English?” I replied, having no idea what to make of this.

“That mienshao didn't look any different from a typical one. So, Basil, how can you tell who's in league with The Devourer?” She asked me as I scratched my head, being too tired to concentrate well.

“Uh...when they're trying to turn others into black statues?” I guessed, shrugging slightly.

“Well, yes, but the point I'm saying is this: If its servants look like your average pokemon, then can we really know who we can trust here?” She asked as I felt a familiar discomfort, though a discomfort I had previously conquered.

“Ah, it's the Pale Communion all over again. I dealt with those fools before, and besides, that mienshao sure didn't act like a normal person. Didn't even say a word until the moment where he died...say, think that was because The Devourer didn't want him leaking any information?” I said, wanting to divert the subject away from raw paranoia, but Melinda seemed to want to stay on track with this train of thought she was having.

“How can we be sure that none of the people we're working in are in league with that alien?” She said, her voice becoming a whisper, yet somehow managed to retain most of its volume.

“Mel', please, calm down and think rationally. If The Devourer thinks that humans are a threat and that one of its soldiers were amongst us, they'd have probably killed us by now. You were with these guys for about two weeks before I arrived in this town, so they'd have plenty of chances, so I highly doubt there's a mole among us.” I said, trying to quell any paranoia she was having.

“You're right Basil. Sorry, I was getting a little carried away.” She said and slumped down on her bed. “Have I been grouchy lately? I'm not really feeling myself over the past few days.”

“Eh? I was expecting you to say since you arrived in this world since you're in a completely different body.” I said, laughing to myself a bit, though Melinda didn't seem in the mood to be cheered up as she sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “Ok, I know what you actually mean...probably due to the looming dread we all feel really. It's, like, you know its out there, but you just don't know what to do about it. A puzzle where you can't even begin to try and solve. Really, it could drive a man to madness. Trust me Mel', you're doing just fine.”

“Really missing home lately as well. Nothing much we can do about that though...” She said, rolling on her side to look at me. “I know this might be a bit irresponsible, but if we visit another foreign town, I think we should just have fun for a day.”

“Something gotten into you Mel'?” I asked, smiling slightly.

“This little posse clearly won't last much longer at this rate, especially with Murphy calling it quits. I mean, you saw me get suspicious over them for a minute or so. We really need to take a break before we all get driven to madness; something you should have learned during your brief career as a trainer.” She said to me as I reluctantly agreed. Must she always remind me of my failures?

“Lesson learned Mel'...still, I can agree to that. We do hold the cards, and if we both stand by this, there's not much else the others can do.” She said as she carefully turned off the lantern. “Well, best get some sleep. Goodnight Basil.”

“Yeah, you too.” I replied, feeling a little happier there'd be something to look forward to. I really needed a happy little distraction to keep me going given the ever present threat out there, not to mention Murphy bailing on us.

With a long night's sleep, the two of us were more than ready to receive Charlie's announcement. Notably, we were the first two awake and ready, though it didn't take long for the others to show up thankfully. It was impossible to tell when Jirachi was going to show up given his alien sleeping patterns, but this time, he came just after us.

“Morning you two. Want to hear my findings?” He said in a friendly voice as he floated towards us. It's funny, really. I should still be in awe at his existence, but seeing a jirachi felt almost mundane given everything else that's happened recently.

“Sure.” Melinda said as Jirachi sighed.

“Literally nothing. Still, it proves that The Devourer hasn't done anything to the stars or anything like that, so it's something.” He said as I saw Audrey enter the hall with Nisbeth, the two of them chatting away to each other. “Oh, by the way, did either of you two have anything to do with Charlie's sudden desire to take command with an iron fist?” Jirachi continued as I smiled slightly.

“Just doing my part to save the world.” I said as Melinda slapped her hand against her forehead. “Hey, action had to be taken, and as you'll see, it will be worth it!”

“Good morning everybody!” Charlie said, his voice booming rather loudly as he took large strides into the hall to meet us. “As many of you have probably already found out, I am officially taking command, and before you say anything, I have decided what we're doing! Remember how some of you suggested that we just lock ourselves up here until The Guardian of Forever hopefully shows up? Well, that's what we're doing! You have until three o'clock to go outside, buy whatever you like or do whatever you want until we lock the doors. Right, meeting over!” Charlie finished, walking off as soon as he said 'over', not missing a single beat.

“Well, that was something...I'm off to check in with the museum to study and bring back some artifacts from the old civilization. Jirachi, mind sorting out a huge order of food.” Melinda said, looking like she was still trying to figure out what was happening.

“It's fine, I'm onto that!” Charlie shouted from around the corner, clearly overhearing her.

“Well, you'll know where to find me.” Jirachi said as he floated back up to the tower.

“We could be here for quite a while...” Melinda said, looking rather cross at Charlie's decision. “I swear just going out there and trying to find him while constantly being on the move is the best choice we could have done.”

“Better this than no decision though.” I said as Melinda sighed quietly.

“Maybe we didn't find the best people to lead us to Serge...regardless, we should probably try to find some entertainment to bring back to the headquarters, and in this world, that translates to some really awful literature. Seriously, I could write better than the book I tried to read last night!” She said, laughing to herself with a bitter streak in her chuckle. “I suppose it's better than nothing. Want to help me find something that might reach the lofty heights of mediocre?”

“With pleasure!” I said, smiling as I followed her into town, leaving Nisbeth to himself. What a scorcher of a day! My mouth felt rather dry from the oppressive heat, and my blue and white fur wasn't doing me any favours either. The bottle of water I bought wasn't even cool, and given air conditioning was way ahead of these guys, the heat was inescapable. Melinda seemed to be enjoying the weather just fine however, so it wasn't all bad I guess.

The sun couldn't attack us in the library however, so it was a mild improvement. Given their fictional writings tended to be sub-par at best, we made our way swiftly to the non-fiction section. Perhaps we could learn more about the strange world here, though if we weren't allowed to borrow them, then we wouldn't have much of a chance.

“This one looks like it might be decent.” Melinda said quietly, gesturing to the book in her hand after reading the first few pages.

“'A history of New Australia?' Seems very to-the-point.” I muttered back to her. “Go ask about borrowing policy, I'll keep looking here.” Scanning the books, a lot of them seemed to be in rather poor condition, though they were still functional. The shelves towered high above me, so reaching the ones on the top half was impossible for a little pokemon like me. As soon as I thought that, I saw a cheeky aipom to my left climbing the shelves to get the book he wanted. Wish I could be as agile as him.

“No borrowing here.” Melinda said to me as I grumbled in disappointment.

“Listen, Mel'...up for just taking these?” I whispered quietly. “These four books will fit in my bag easily.”

“Stealing?!” She whispered very quietly as I looked up and down the isle. No one here, no one there.

“Want to be bored to tears for weeks?” I said in a hushed voice to her as she slowly smiled deviously at me.

“Can't argue with that.” She said and slipped all four books in with one fluid movement and closed my bag, using her larger body to block the view of anyone who could be behind us. With a nod and a wink to each other we made our way out of the library, though a gruff voice suddenly called out to us.

“Hey, you two!” I heard him say and saw an incineroar staring at us from about five meters away. Did he see us through the bookshelves or something?! I did my best to look relaxed and content as I looked back at him, refusing to let my fur stand on end in worry. “You have a great day!” Phew, false alarm.

“You held your poker face, right?” Melinda asked shortly after we left.

“Oh, obviously.” I said, grinning at her. I guess crime paid after all! The crowds surrounding the newspaper stands seemed to be bigger than normal. The large, loud newspaper sellers had to yell at the top of their voices to be heard and keep a semblance of order. Behind the intimidating garchomp was a scared looking lilligant, and while it was only a guess, I imagined the garchomp taking over since the excited crowd might crush her. A cinccino was dipping and diving between the restless feet of the larger pokemon, and I was wondering how many pokemon in this town have been trampled to death.

“I think we owe it to ourselves to get one of these papers.” Melinda said as we moved to the back of the 'line', though it soon proved to be unnecessary as I felt myself being tapped on the shoulder by a familiar friend.

“I've got a copy, you can read mine.” I heard Nisbeth say as he handed me a copy of the newspaper with a smile. “Although...you probably won't like it.” After merely seeing the headline, I could see exactly what he meant.

“'Black statue of Ho-oh found in Fremdesland'...” Melinda said as we continued to read the paper. It was hard to tell what she was thinking with her marowak face, but I could still tell that she was trying to hide how horrified she actually was, and as I continued to read it, I could see exactly why.

“In more local news, seven more victims were discovered yesterday in State Broussard, though incidents have still been contained to isolated and rural areas. The rate of these mysterious attacks have been steadily increasing, and if you have yet to hear of the police announcements, all citizens are strongly recommend to not leave their towns and villages unless it is for essential travel and you have at least three other people with you. Report any suspicious individuals and activities to your local authorities. An incident from Conviction has told us that the source of these attacks come from certain individuals who have the power to turn anyone into a dark statue. Considering that Ho-oh has fallen to one of these individuals, we urge you to not engage anyone you suspect may be one of these criminals.”

“I, uh, I should really show this to Murphy.” I said, wondering if he heard about the warnings.

“It'll be closing time soon Basil, you should come with me and return to the headquarters.” Nisbeth said, sounding a little stern.

“They won't shut us out, it'll be fine if we end up a little late.” I said, wondering whether he'd be at the hostel or that cheap looking theatre.

“Fine, I'll come with you.” Nisbeth replied, grumbling as I dragged the two of them around Newer Orleans towards the places where he might be. Given it probably wouldn't be a good idea to annoy Charlie, I moved at a quick pace, dipping and dodging around the taller pokemon on the street. Thankfully, it wasn't quite as hot as it used to be, and I had gotten used to the town by now, so I easily found my way to the Mardi Hostel.

“Murphy...the heliolisk, right? Well, he handed in his key this morning, but its policy to not allow keys to be brought outside the hostel.”  The hypno behind the counter said, who looked rather bored of his job and made little attempt to hide it.

“Give this to him when he returns, ok?” I asked the receptionist as he grumbled slightly.

“Fine...is that everything? Great, have a good day y'all.” He said as we left and quickly made our way to the theatre district.

“Ah, I remember you.” The gardevoir said upon seeing me enter the building as I made my way around a cleaner, who seemed oddly content to try and win the battle against dirt and grime in this grubby room. “If you're looking for Murphy, he's not here right now. None of the actors are now, they're on break until the evening performance. I'll tell them you were here though.”

“...Read my god damn mind.” I replied, smiling. “Thank you.”

On the way back, I started noticing things that I didn't previously. The population here seemed less talkative than usual, as the sound of loud chatter was mostly replaced by busy footsteps, treading up and down the stone streets. Their eyes seemed to gaze shiftily from one pokemon to another, as if scouting out for things these strangers had to hide. When Melinda spoke to me along the way home, she in particular attracted suspicious looks, her English accent making her seem more out of place. They seemed rather welcoming beforehand, but now, they seemed to be wary of even the more local strangers.

“Would you look at that Basil...I'm guessing this is why Charlie wanted us to keep quiet about The Devourer.” Melinda said quietly as I nodded back at her. Still, we wouldn't be hanging around here for some time if we were going to be locked inside the headquarters until Serge finds us, so it wasn't much of an issue.

“The cat was going to come out of the bag sooner or later though, nothing we could have done about it.” I said, though perhaps I spoke a little too loudly as a quilava that walked by me seemed intent on turning me into a pariah.

“The what now?! Don't say that you're one of those freaks turning us into black statues!” He said, sounding extremely grouchy as he got in my face. Nisbeth looked flat out ready to beat him into a bloody pulp if the quilava did anything funny, so I tried to defuse the situation.

“Sir, you're being ridiculous! Look, if I wanted to turn you into a black statue, I'd be doing so. Right. Now. But, of course, I can't do that, since I'm not one of those superpowered thugs, so how about you piss of and bother someone else. I'd strongly advise you follow my suggestion, since these two people here will not take kindly if you decide to hurt me.” I said, staring into his eyes. I didn't blink once, and a few seconds later, he decided to back down and walked on without another word.

“This will only help The Devourer...” Melinda said as I scoffed slightly, though, given Nisbeth was nearby, I decided to keep it to myself. Couldn't deny she was being a bit of a hypocrite here, given our conversation last night.

“You're late you three, get in, now!” Audrey ordered from the doorway. I didn't particularly care that she was frustrated as I saw her lock up behind us. Five locks for the door was laughably overkill, especially considering I doubted The Devourer would be stopped by a mere locked door, but whatever made them sleep at night I guess.

“Well, I'm actually as happy as can be right now: none of them paranoid townsfolk are gonna be hunting us in here. We'll be as safe as houses as long as The Devourer doesn't show its ugly face.” Nisbeth said, sounding oddly chipper as Melinda and I both gave him funny looks. “Ah, forgive me, I've never been much of a people person.”

“You've been wonderful to me Nisbeth, I'm not getting mad at you any time soon.” I said, smiling slightly.

“Now don't do anything reckless.” He said as I grunted at him.

“If I can survive being hunted by the Pale Communion, I can surely survive in this building.” I said, telling him to relax.

“Since we're not doing much else, you should really practice using your psionic abilities.” Melinda said to me after Nisbeth wandered off to his room.

“Talking down to me too, huh? Nah, you're right though.” I said as I took the weapon out of my bag. “Then again, the weapon has provided me with all my protection needs so far, so shouldn't I develop-” Melinda then suddenly knocked it out of my hand as I saw it land on the floor.

“Then, I start burning you alive before smashing your head in with my bone.” Melinda said, smirking at me.

“Point taken Mel'.” I said as I picked it up and put it safely in my bag. “Mind helping me? Kitchen will be empty for a couple of hours at least.”

“Of course.” She said as we walked inside. Sadly, the whole session proved to be rather fruitless, as I just couldn't quite get a good grip on the basics. Melinda was slowly looking annoyed at me as she kept trying to get me to repeat a technique I simply had no idea how to do.

“Sorry Basil, this is really hard for me. I'm just used to training pokemon that are actually good at fighting and using any abilities they might have.” She said as I frowned and smirked at her.

“And I'm not used to being a meowstic, so go figure.” I said, trying my best to levitate a dirty spoon that someone didn't clear up from breakfast time. “Care to tell me how you got so used to being a marowak? Is it just raw instinct or something I'm guessing Floyd got a hang of being a snivy really quickly too when he was here.”

“That's kind of like asking how to walk...uh...” Melinda said, sitting down on one of the stools. “I can't use the excuse that I one time trained a marowak myself since the ones here are very different...maybe you just need to practice more with your ears up.”

“I'd rather not fling myself across the room with my own power thank you very much.” I replied as Melinda got up.

“I can maybe help with that.” She said and walked over to me. Standing behind me, she picked me up and held me firmly. If this were anyone else doing this to me, I might just explode on purpose, but I trusted she knew what she was doing. She took a few steps back and braced herself against the wall. “Ok, Basil, give it a try now.”

“I may hurt you Melinda, but if you're completely sure about this...” I said and opened them up. My whole body shuddered and heaved as I felt the psionic energy course through my body. My vision was forced into the psionic plane as I tried my best to make sense of everything I saw.

“Right, levitate the spoon, but focus on trying to keep your ears open without exploding on me.” She said as I did I was told. My body continued to spasm slightly, though given I was more focused on stabilizing the energy that seemed to wrap around every vein and artery as opposed to do anything else, I could keep it mostly under control.

“Levitating the spoon, now.” I said as my mind reached out to try and lift it. Surprisingly, it didn't take too much effort as I was able to keep it there, though a headache was slowly starting to creep its way into my brain.

“Ok, I'll try something fun. I might be getting the hang of it.” I said, noticing that my voice had this strange tone to it with my ears, almost as if each syllable had a tiny bit of sustain and reverb going through it. Reaching out, I carefully lifted four more spoons. It felt rather painful lifting up so many, but I wanted to do this, since I had a funny idea that would surely amuse my sister. I slowly drew the five of them towards us until they were just above my head.

“Look at me Mel', I'm a mega alakazam!” I said, though I felt the spoons start to slip from my grasp as I laughed slightly.

“Ah, you've got to separate them first and put them in formation!” She said as I saw her with a huge grin out of the corner of my eye.

“I dunno if I can do that...” I said, though my answer came very quickly, since as soon as I tried to separate them, I dropped three of them as they landed on the floor, clanging loudly. “Shit...” I muttered as I closed my ears to stop the headache and my body from getting overloaded.

“Well, that's a welcome improvement! See, I knew you wouldn't explode there! You'd never want to hurt me, so...” She said, grinning even wider.

“Oh, so that's why you did that! You cheeky sod!” I replied as we both laughed and made our way back to our rooms.

“What was going on in there by the way?” Audrey asked us, carrying some archaeological sample of something.

“Practising how to defend myself. Don't worry, we didn't break anything.” I said, barely looking at her as Melinda and I returned to our room. The place was always dark without the lantern since it was a basement, and by now, it felt a little dusty. The books we stole came in handy to pass the time until dinner was served, as we learned that Fremdesland was founded by some Swiss guy about a hundred and forty years ago. Makes sense, since the capital's called 'New Zurich.'

Nobody spoke much throughout dinner, though it seemed that no one was trying to object to Charlie's authority. Charlie himself was clearly trying to act bigger and tougher to try and get the others to stand in line, though he wasn't doing a great job of it. I had to hold myself back from laughing a couple of times when he slammed his tankard down on the table, splashing a bit of beer on himself. Well, I guess this would be life now for the foreseeable future. Gotta keep all strangers out, since you never know who could be one of The Devourer's agents.

Melinda didn't say much as we soon climbed into bed. I have to confess, I really missed good old English entertainment. Some films, some music, and so on. Seemed like none of that existed here, and what I wouldn't do to listen to a good Genesis album right now. Yeah, Wind and Wuthering: That would be lovely.

I soon fell asleep, and I must have been out for a good few hours when I swore I heard some kind of low droning from somewhere. I couldn't tell whether it was from within the room, the building, outside or even in my own head, though as soon as I woke up properly, it was gone. Thank goodness for that, since it seemed to etch itself on my mind while it was there. I couldn't make out much of it, but it sounded like it simply did not belong here. Regardless, it shook me awake, and I was thirsty.

I quietly walked upstairs and out of the basement, being careful not to disturb Melinda. I had no idea what time it was, but it was clearly still completely dark outside, so it couldn't be close to morning yet. I grabbed a bottle of water from the storage and started swiftly drinking it. Given the bottle was designed for larger pokemon, some of it leaked round my mouth and onto my fur, which was a little annoying. Shaking some of the wet patches off, I started walking back towards my room, but I suddenly heard some frantic banging on the main entrance door door. Boom, boom, bang it sounded as I suddenly froze.

“...Who goes there?” I muttered quietly, knowing full well that no one would. The knocks didn't seem that loud, so it couldn't have been by someone big. I stared at the door for a moment as the knocks and bangs started becoming more frantic. I started breathing deeply, looking at the locks on the door. They'd hold whoever was trying to get in, right? Instinctively, I reached round where my bag would be to grab hold of the weapon, but, of course, it was still in my room. Panic started to fill my mind and body as my jaw trembled, as each knock started to sound louder and louder. Should I scream and wake up the others? Yes: If Charlie's in charge, then he needs to take responsibility! He'd save me from whatever...that is. Was it the source of that unearthly droning? Quite likely. Maybe I should wake everyone up, just to be safe.

“Please, someone, anyone, let me in!” A voice suddenly cried out from behind the door, and it was a voice that was all too familiar to me.

“Murphy?!” I said, slowly approaching the door, my body still tense with fear, getting ready to leap to safety at the slightest provocation

“B-Basil, is that you? You've gotta let me in, please, I'm begging you!” I heard him say as he contained wailing on the thick wooden doors.

“...And you're sure you're Murphy?” I asked slowly.

“Of course I'm Murphy! I need inside before it finds me! I don't know if it followed me here or not, but I really don't want to find out!” He said as I threw fear to the wind and looked between the crack in the door. It was Murphy all right, practically bouncing with stress. I couldn't abandon him like this, regardless of what the others thought. I quickly dragged a stool over to the door so I could reach up for the higher locks. Four locks to go, three, two...

“What is it that's after you Murphy?” I asked as I pushed the stool aside to deal with the last two locks.

“I heard someone walk around the hostel, and I saw that some of the guests had been turned into black statues! There was someone...something there! Maybe it's one of The Devourer's henchmen, or maybe...oh, no, nonono! Let me in, LET ME IN!” He screamed as I swore I heard him crying out of sheer terror.

“Can you see anything?!” I said, finally removing the second lock that got jammed.

“...No, not yet.” He said after calming down a bit, though it didn't seem to comfort him any more. The last, rusty lock. It was almost like it was staring back at me, taunting me. It looked almost broken, and I remember Audrey struggling with it earlier today, and she's a lot stronger than I am.

“I...I think they might be becoming bolder now, if they're attacking within towns.” Murphy said, his voice still trembling. I pushed and pulled at the latch, but to no avail. Only one thing for it: I opened up my ears and combining psychic and physical strength, I flat out punched the bolt on the lock. My hand got cut rather badly for it as I felt blood slowly leak onto my fur, but I didn't care right now. Only one thing for it now: Open this door. I leapt up to the handle and held on tightly to it and pushed off the other half of the door as I felt this half start to swing open. Dropping down I looked at the fearful Murphy as he suddenly leapt at me without a moments hesitation.

“Basil!”

Mature Content

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Pokemon: Incarnation

Chapter 18: One Little Victory


I swiftly followed the others out of the guild headquarters with Melinda in tow, holding the weapon tightly. When I thought about it, this was roughly a fifty versus one scenario, and I couldn't be more glad to be on the more populated side this time round. The sun had disappeared completely behind the small hills on the horizon by now as a smooth darkness started covering the lands around us. Of course, this could make the mienshao harder to find, but with so many of us, I think we' be just fine. Of course, there was a strange power the mienshao had, but I assume it couldn't be that powerful, else he wouldn't be hiding so much. All I'd have to do is get my friends to stand back a bit, just in case they'd get a taste of that terrible power, and I'd be happy.

“I've been thinking, Basil.” I heard Nisbeth say to me quietly. “Maybe going back to my old life would be a bad idea.”

“What do you mean? Thought you didn't have any interest in this rescue and law enforcement service stuff.” I asked as we stayed somewhat towards the back, though I still made sure there were allies behind us that would be first in line in case the mienshao attacked from behind.

“Well, I did regret following you to Newer Orleans. Really, this was obviously a midlife crisis I was going through in hindsight, and it was pretty dumb for me to impulsively go for this. Then again, I always thought I'd have been fine just resting in the shack in the swamp for the rest of my days. Sure it wasn't eventful, but it was a lot better than back in Mistet Ørkenen, and I wasn't weighed down with all this responsibility like I am now. However...” Nisbeth said, looking around carefully. “If these weirdos are going around turning isolated pokemon into these strange black statues...I'd be painting a target on me if I went back.”

“You're right...” I said, feeling sorry for the guy.

“Well, following you and my old dreams could have saved my life. Pretty strange, given this is a more dangerous lifestyle.” He said, smiling slightly. “I'll thank you for that.”

“Oh, just as planned!” I said, smiling widely as we all started to fan out a bit, covering more ground. We were a diverse bunch with all sorts of different abilities, so I felt confident that we all covered each other's vulnerable spots. Regardless, I made sure to make sure that my friends and I always had cover, so it'd be very hard for someone to make some kind of a sneak attack.

“I think I saw something over there.” I heard Audrey say quietly to Melinda, pointing ahead of her. “Maybe we should get Nisbeth and carefully check it out. Should be strong enough with the three of us.”

“Not without me.” I said in a hoarse whisper as I grabbed my weapon tightly.

“If there's too many of us, then we can't sneak up on him.” Audrey said as I shook my head.

“Not leaving Melinda. There's no argument with me: I'm going. Besides, sneaking around with Nisbeth will be easier said than done since he’s easily the largest among us anyway, so I’m hardly making things any harder.” I said firmly while still keeping my voice nice and quiet. She looked down at me, scanning as she shook her head.

“You're small, so I suppose it'll be ok. Murphy, go quickly join Bibarel before he gets too far away.” She said as Murphy complied and swiftly ran over to the guild master, remaining very light on his feet.

“Regardless, I think I saw something rustle over there. Could just be some savage, but you never know. Be very quiet and careful, and keep your eyes and ears open.” Audrey said as we continued on slowly and carefully. I'd have liked more of the natives with us at the time, but I found it difficult to argue as to why bringing more along for the ride would be a good idea. I stayed at the back of the group, constantly looking behind me, getting ready to fire the weapon at a moment’s notice. My mouth slowly dried as I twitched at every single sound that sounded remotely out of place. How fast could this thing act? Did it have to charge up its energy to turn one of us into a statue, or could it do it in the blink of an eye? Regardless, I could fire and teleport with the weapon real fast. I could win this quick draw content as long as I don't slip up.

Melinda looked uncomfortable, given that lighting the ends of her bone would give our location away. I assumed it was part of the source of her fighting capabilities and as a result, she was essentially crippled right now. Regardless, she could still probably give the mienshao a good whack. I saw her bite her bottom lip slowly as she tried not to show much fear and kept focusing on the task at hand. Nisbeth seemed to be preoccupied of where he was stepping as to not make too much noise as he awkwardly crouched as he walked beside us, trying to keep his head down. If he got a real solid punch on the mienshao, then it should be over, but getting close to him would be the hard part. Perhaps I could assist with the weapon…

I suddenly turned to the left as soon as I heard something and pointed the weapon in the direction of the sound. I gasped slightly as I did so, as I tried to figure out what that noise was. Just a rustle of leaves? A pokemon groaning? It was so sudden and quick I couldn’t tell.

“Any of you hear that?” I whispered as I saw Audrey and Melinda shake their heads. I gestured towards the source of the noise, but it had all gone quiet. I couldn’t see anything either through the thick layer of bushes and trees, though the night seemed to obstruct my vision less as a meowstic than it did as a human. I guess I could be grateful for that.

“So…want to check it out Audrey?” I said quietly, gesturing for her to go first. She looked hesitant as she frowned, thinking about it, but seemed to agree after about five seconds of stalling. Still pointing the weapon at the source of the sound, I saw her creep forward slowly, and after only two steps, something small and rapid dashed up one of the trees with great haste.

“Just a pachirisu…” I heard Audrey mutter, drawling slightly. “I’ve been thinking, if I were the mienshao, I wouldn’t be hiding, I’d be running away from here really fast, and he could easily outrun all four of us. Maybe this is the wrong approach.”

“And just running headlong into the darkness is your idea of a solution?” Nisbeth said, shaking his head.

“I’m the leader here, so you’ll listen to me.” She said sternly before looking somewhat shyly at the ground. “Wish I knew exactly what we were dealing with here. It’d make things so much easier…”

“I feel ya, but what if-” I said but I suddenly stopped and jumped slightly as I heard someone yell in the distance as I saw shadows and shapes shift and move between the crowded trees in the distance, just at the edge of my vision.

“Must have found him!” Melinda said as she charged forward, lighting both ends of her bone as she effortlessly charged between the shrubs and trees that lined the forest.

“Mel’, wait up!” I called after her, running as quickly as I could, though the thick layer of bushes proved to be a far bigger obstacle now that I was less than half my human size. I scratched myself slightly as I pushed past a thorny bugger, and while it was tempting to use the weapon to teleport ahead, I really wanted to save the charges for when I needed them. I silently begged for Melinda to not do anything overly rash as I saw her get further away. I suddenly felt Nisbeth pick me up from behind, only using one arm as he leapt over a large and thorny bush.

“Thanks…gives me time to figure out how we can take out the mienshao.” I said, looking at a couple of scratches on my body as I held onto his left arm. I barely seemed to slow the guy down as Audrey ran just ahead of us.

“Oh no…” I heard Audrey say faintly as she pointed to something just ahead of us. As my vision pierced the darkness, I could see that it was that blastoise priest, or at least what was left of him. Yet another denizen had been turned into one of those black statues, which I assumed was as good as being dead. I saw Audrey inspect the statue alongside a couple of distraught looking pokemon, looking as terrified as they did dejected. Right, time for action. I could not allow this to happen to Melinda! With the forest being a little less dense than before, I could use the weapon to teleport forward without simply faceplanting into a tree.

“Basil, please don’t rush in like your sister did!” Audrey said, and while I appreciated her looking out for me, there was no time to get held back by caution. I could see the flames that Melinda was producing, so I knew exactly where I needed to be. Aiming the weapon, I teleported forward on top of a small shrub, making up almost half the distance in an instant. My landing wasn’t the best as I fell forward before picking myself up instantly, but a mere second later, I heard the most horrible, unearthly scream. It sounded from somewhere in front of me, yet it also seemed to sound inside my brain. It was incredibly loud, and yet, it sounded as hollow as the empty depths of space, almost like it was a whisper of unspeakable volumes. The awful noise was enough to force me to my knees as I forced my ears shut so tightly with my hands that it started to hurt in a whole different way, yet it subsided as soon as it came.

What did not subside was what I saw next. I saw what could be described as some kind of black light emitted from what I assumed was created by the mienshao, given it came from a slender, shadowy figure that seemed to block out all light in its path. I heard a scream of horror from someone I didn’t recognize, so I knew Melinda was fine, much to my relief. Looking closely, I could see Melinda hiding from it behind a very thick tree, so I took the opportunity to teleport next to her.

“I’m here Mel’.” I whispered as she looked down at me.

“It was aiming for me. I only just got out of the way in time.” She said quietly backwards.

“No matter. I’ve been thinking; what was that attack you wounded the marowak with? It clearly works, so maybe you could use it.” I said, peeking my head round briefly, seeing the mienshao looking around, but it looked like it was trying to decide on where to flee rather than trying to hunt us down. Clearly, numbers were still not on his side, and it already looked like had taken quite a beating from earlier.

“It was inspired by a magmortar. Think of it as using my bone like a bazooka and launching a huge and explosive fireball, though it’s too hard to hit such an agile target with.” She said, as I thought about it briefly.

“I’ve got it. Melinda, when I give the signal, use that giant fireball right at me.” I said as I saw the mienshao start to run away. “I’ll swap placed with him, he’ll have no time to react! Get ready Mel’!” I ran after it as fast as I could for a few seconds, hoping I could get a clear shot at it. I saw the mienshao make the mistake of running straight down the path instead of diving into the bushes, giving me a clear line of sight. It was hard to aim properly with something that didn’t have some kind of iron sight like a rifle would have, yet by accessing the psionic plane, I could feel where the shot would go almost exactly for the first few meters or so. With a slight adjust of my aim, I fired as a tiny speck of light shot out of the weapon as I raised my right arm right afterwards. Just before I saw it land, I heard Melinda let the explosive fireball loose, but I knew I’d be safe. A split second later, that tiny speck of light landed as I suddenly found myself about seventy meters away from the explosion that sounded behind me just afterwards. Looking back, it was clear the mienshao had no chance to react as it was sent flying in the air like a ragdoll before landing on the ground with an audible thud.

“Got ya!” I said, before running up to him and blasting one of his arms, then one of his legs while he was barely conscience at point blank range, just to make sure he couldn’t escape.

“Excellent job Basil! Never thought you could pull off something like that given you were having trouble adapting to this place!” She said, looking proud as she ran over to me.

“I even impressed myself this time.” I said, smiling smugly as I looked down at the barely conscience mienshao. Huh, maybe this is why The Guardian of Forever was trying to get his hands on a bunch of humans, given that it was Melinda and I that got him in the end. I heard the others approaching from behind as I showed them our fallen foe, while still pointing the weapon at him in case he tried anything funny.

“Serge made a good choice with you two.” Bibarel said, respectfully keeping his voice down to avoid making us seem suspicious. I frowned ever so slightly as he inspected the horribly burnt and battered mienshao.

“Right, tell us everything you know about The Guardian of Forever and The Devourer, or I’ll start finishing off your limbs!” I snarled at him. I cared not for any form of mercy towards anyone who threatened my sister’s life as I rested the tip of the weapon against the arm I mangled previously. One final blast ought to completely sever it from his body.

“That’s enough Basil.” Bibarel said as I rolled my eyes.

“He can still speak even after I blow off his arms and his legs as long as Melinda stops the bleeding.” I said, as the two of them looked at me as if I was doing something bad. “Anyway, where were we…I’m giving you ten seconds to speak. Ten, nine, eight…” I started counting down as I stared into his eyes, which were lazily glancing back at me. However, on the word two, I was suddenly picked up from behind and moved out of the way by Bibarel. I guessed he’d intervene with my more direct approach, and it seems like I was right.

“I’ve decided to give you a chance, but next time, I won’t stand in the meowstic’s way.” Bibarel said, still going along what I was doing to an extent. Looking at the mienshao, it started shifting and writhing on the ground slightly as I pointed the weapon at it, getting ready to blast it if it did anything remotely more threatening.

“Dev…Devou…” It said as it started gurgling on its own blood that it was starting to cough up. The three of us just stood and stared as we heard more people join us from behind. It started thrashing wildly on the ground as if it was trying to escape from several people holding him down, but it was soon clear that there was no saving this pokemon when its eyes looked so far up into its sockets that only the white sclera was visible, alongside the blood oozing out from all corners of his eyes. With a final gurgle, he suddenly stopped struggling and lay motionless, and presumable dead. Melinda cautiously checked his pulse and confirmed that there were no signs of life within him.

“Well…we stopped him from turning anyone else into a statue…” Melinda said, looking behind her at a petrified zangoose who I vaguely recognized from the church. That must have been the one who screamed near Melinda and the mienshao.

“I think we also now know that he knows of The Devourer, given his final attempts at words. This could explain why he could do…that.” I said, pointing at the zangoose statue.

“The statue’s also just as unmovable as the others…” Nisbeth said, trying to push it.

“Shame what happened to the priest and the zangoose, but at least we can be fairly confident that these statues having something to do with The Devourer, so I’d say that’s one little victory.” I said, which seemed to annoy some of the church goers.

“Oh, our priest dying is merely ‘a shame’?” One of them said loudly at me as I held up my hands in protest.

“Might have been a tad insensitive, but crying over it isn’t going to bring him back.” I said as I noticed that Melinda of all people was trying not to laugh, though I had no idea why. “Who knows, maybe we’ll find a way to undo this and turn him to normal.”

“Well you should get started now then!” Another one said, sounding very bossy.

“I doubt it’ll be as simple as asking The Devourer…” I muttered as I turned to face the others.

“Well, considering what we found, I think we’ll be returning back to State Broussard tomorrow.” Audrey said, making sure the four of us were all here. Murphy looked rather shaken up from the whole affair, and I can’t really say that I blame him.

“I…I saw it with my own eyes. That blastoise tried to protect the others when the mienshao was cut off, but…oh, I’ve seen way too people die. First Danil, now him. It was that final scream of anguish, Basil. I can still hear it.” Murphy said, his yellow scales looking a pinch paler than usual, or perhaps I was just imagining it. Does a heliolisk face have its colour drained during a state of fear like humans do? Regardless, I was sincerely hoping he was just being metaphorical about still hearing that scream. Given what we were up against, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he was being literal.

“Look, while I’m not getting my hopes up for this, maybe that mienshao was The Devourer, and we’ve already won. Doubt it, but you never know. At least we’ve probably given it a setback.” I said, trying to cheer him up slightly. In many ways, he was in the same situation as I was. I wanted nothing to do with all this, yet here I was. Murphy was essentially tricked into joining us, and while he seemed into at first, it was all too clear by now that he felt way out of his depth now that he was faced with the reality of the situation. If he was getting cold feet earlier, then I could only imagine that he’d run to familiar territory as soon as we arrived back in Broussard. Of course, I’d fully support him in his decision.

“It was…a good job that you and Melinda stopped him. Sorry I couldn’t help, I was too far away.” Murphy said as I gently patted him on the back.

“Ah, don’t beat yourself up about it. We stopped him, and the four of us are ok. That’s what really matters, isn’t it?” I said, looking at Nisbeth and Melinda speaking to one another. “Anyway, looks like we’re about to head back to the Bibarel guild. I’d say we all earned a good night’s sleep at least, even if we’re no closer to finding Serge.”

“I guess…” Murphy said, smiling slightly, though he and Melinda still looked rather mournful when we passed the two victims. They looked like they were permanently locked in a state of indescribable fear, as if they just realised that what awaited them was even worse than death. Not that there was anything worse, however, and I’d not let the end come to me without exhausting every resource possible.

“You know, probably even more would have been murdered if you didn’t egg them on.” Melinda said, looking back at the priest. “I thought it was rather callous of you at first but…well, you were right all along. There must have been a way to stop those two from being turned into black statues though…”

“You can’t save everyone Mel’. Besides, I’d say we’ve had a good impact on this world so far.” I said quietly. Thought the cheerful outlook on this might make her see the good side of all this, even if I personally didn’t care too much.

“Remember how I said I was once good at feeling out battles on the fly? Well, there was always that delay when I gave my team the commands back home. Now that the middle man has been cut out, or moved, at least, I can do all this stuff instantly! Wonder if I’ll end up becoming good enough to be on my own team?” Melinda said, chuckling to herself at the bizarre scenario.

“Well, you’re certainly smarter than your team members.” I said, though I was still really questioning Melinda rushing headlong into that. If she had a stroke of bad luck when that happened…

“Wonder how they’re doing anyway? If anything happened to me, I already said I’d get you to look after them, but with you gone too…” She said, suddenly looking worried again. Under any other circumstance, I’d say she was a terrible mood swinger, but the recent days have been more up and down than the Himalayas.

“They’re probably with your manager, they’ll be fine with her.” I said, reassuring her. “Besides, when we find Serge at get him to send up back, we can see them again!”

“Well, with how we dealt with the mienshao, we’ll be seen as way too useful to let go.” Melinda said, which brought a little sting to our victory. The way back was mostly uneventful, but after some time, something caught Nisbeth’s eye.

“Uh, guys, remember that scraggy statue?” He said, pointing at something. We jogged to meet him and wondering where he was pointing at. The nearby tree, perhaps? Since there was no statue.

“What about it?” Audrey asked, looking at exactly where he was pointing to.

“Exactly that: It’s gone! I reckon it was right beside this crooked tree, and look! You can see the two footprints where he was standing!” Nisbeth said, gesturing to the things he mentioned rather dramatically.

“He’s right Bibarel.” Exploud said loudly as per usual.

“There seems to be no footprints here, and this path is fairly muddy. None of us could even budged this, so it must have been something incredibly strong that can also fly.” Bibarel said, looking fairly bewildered. “The only one who I know of that fits the criteria is Rayquaza, or The Watcher of The Skies if you’re into your fancy titles, but Serge said he fled the planet when he heard that…”

“The Devourer: It’s here!” Murphy said, suddenly looking terrified. This sense of fear proved to be quite infectious, spreading to the majority of us, including me.

“We need to hide! Bibarel, let’s just go back to your house or whatever, now!” I said, stuttering on a few of my words. Bibarel, however, looked mostly composed.

“We don’t know for sure if it’s The Devourer or not, and even if it is, it’s probably gone by now. Whatever it is, it seems like it doesn’t want to make public appearances. Let’s just stick together, investigate this for a few minutes, then return back to the headquarters.” He said, trying to calm everyone down, to mixed degree of successes. It was hard to argue with his logic, but it didn’t stop me from getting the occasion fearful shudder every minute or so. We could find no trace of the statue in the surrounding area, so with nothing else to discover, we walked back to Treasure Town fairly swiftly, not wanting to waste any time just in case we were wrong about The Devourer.

“Excellent job, both of you!” Audrey said shortly after we arrived. “The rest of the Excursion Club will be thrilled to find out about this!”

“Well, it’s the least we could do while we’re here.” Melinda replied politely.

“Actually, I can think of a lot less we could do.” I said, grinning at my sister.

“You two have been a blessing to us! The Guardian of Forever made great choices with the two of you.” Audrey said as I rolled my eyes.

“I’d rather he’d have chosen to leave the two of us alone, but you already know my position on that. It’s so much better at home given we did not have a daily life-or-death struggle.” I grumbled slightly.

“Look, I’m sure he’ll send you two and the other humans back home once all this is over.” Audrey replied, but I still felt uncomfortable.

“That turn-into-black-statue attack thing barely missed Melinda. What if we’re not as lucky next time? We probably can’t rely on the church to form a mob again any time soon either. Besides, we’re not any closer to finding Serge.” I said, as Audrey rolled her eyes.

“If he’s constantly on the run from The Devourer, then I don’t think we’ll be running into him any time soon. Just being honest with you here. Anyway, we should get some rest and get the first ship back to Newer Orleans tomorrow.” She said, which I was totally fine with. If The Devourer was on this continent. Just because it seemed too shy to make public appearances for now doesn’t mean it could all change later. If it was more dangerous than my kidnapper, then I’d say that nothing short of an entire army could bring that thing down.

Knowing that there would always be someone to keep watch made sleeping a little easier, yet I kept one eye open and gripped my pillow tightly throughout most of the night. What would it look like? What sounds would it make? Did it smell of anything? Thankfully, nothing too out of the ordinary happened for the rest of the night, though I did hear the occasional sound of the night watch changing shifts. At some point, where I could see the faint glow of the sun behind the ragged curtains as it peeked over the horizon, I heard the portcullis being opened. Shortly after a thud on the ground floor, I heard Bibarel mutter to himself, though I couldn’t quite make out his words.

“You’re up early.” He said as I entered the hall out of curiosity.

“Tough to sleep with that thing out there somewhere.” I said, still feeling sleepy.

“It might not be as close as we think it is…” He replied, holding up a letter. “I was going to announce this in an hour, but I might as well tell you while you’re here. I went alone to collect it, since we can’t have The Devourer knowing where I pick up Serge’s letters from. Risky, I know, but the alternative’s worse.”

“You’ll be caught one of those days…” I said, not having as much confidence in sneaking out alone like this.

“Anyway, Serge said he’s currently in Fremdesland, but he’s leaving very soon, so you probably won’t catch him there.” Bibarel said, which prompted the obvious question.

“So where’s he going?” I asked. If I knew, then being on the same island would be a good start.

“Wherever he can throw The Devourer off the most. He said that he’s been hunted down there for the past five days, so I guess you know what this means.” He said as it clicked pretty quickly in my head.

“The Devourer didn’t move that scraggy statue. So…what could have done so?” I asked as Bibarel shrugged.

“No idea. Seems like a dead end for now.” He replied as he looked at the map on the wall. “Serge has some otherworldly power as you’ve probably already figured out. He’s no ordinary typhlosion. Regardless, I’m trying to figure out where he might go to next. If given enough time, he can open a portal to travel between the continents, but there’s a limit to its range. I doubt he can travel to Mistet Ørkenen from there, which means he’ll likely travel to New Australia, State Broussard or Conviction next.”

“Ok, so should we just stay here and see if he turns up?” I asked, but Bibarel looked a bit unsure.

“Might be a good idea, though there’s always the risk that he could lead The Devourer right to us.” He speculated, but I could see no other option.

“So what else can we do? Besides, if The Devourer isn’t showing up in public places, then perhaps there’s nothing to lose by just hunkering down here until he eventually gets enough time to check in here. You said he was a friend of yours, so he’ll probably come by here eventually. If he knows you’re trying to find humans, then he’ll probably just pick them up right here. He’ll likely do everything in his power to keep us safe from The Devourer if he values us highly, so it probably won’t be that dangerous.” I said, as he thought about it.

“I’ll discuss it with the others when they wake up. Seems like a good idea actually, since it’ll avoid us all running around like headless chickens.” Bibarel said as I sat down on a nearby chair, almost falling asleep again. About an hour later, everyone else was up as Bibarel put forward my idea.

“Was hoping I could go home…” Murphy said, as I kicked myself. I didn’t think about him! How thoughtless of me! I guess he still has his ticket for the return journey.

“Surely The Devourer will come here eventually. There’s already a chance it could already know we have two humans here, and if they’re vital to stopping The Devourer, then it’ll surely try to get them killed here. It’d be safer for them if we stayed on the move.” She said, which seemed to cheer up Murphy. “You people and we of the Excursion Club should cooperate to try and guide Serge towards the humans if he shows up at either institute.”

“Why would The Devourer know we’re humans though? We’ve not bee flaunting our origins, and it’s never seen us before, surely. Even if you take into account that mienshao, who never knew in the first place, he can’t exactly tell anyone now that he’s dead.” Melinda said, though Audrey seemed to disagree.

“We don’t know that. Maybe it can detect humans in some way we can’t understand. Besides, we said we’d be meeting back at the Excursion Club headquarters.” Audrey replied, but Melinda was having none of it.

“Just send a letter then! They’ll understand, surely.” Melinda retorted, as Audrey stood face to face with her.

“Need I remind you that you’re under my wing, not the other way round.” She said as Melinda coughed slightly while still staring back at her.

“Or we can just stay here and you can go back and explain it to Charlie. This plan is sound, since you’d have us go on a wild goose chase, praying on the tiniest chance we’ll bump into Serge. Besides, there’s always a chance we could bump into The Devourer instead going by that logic.” Melinda said, standing firm, neither of them saying anything after that.

“…I just want to be away from that thing.” Nisbeth said, breaking the awkward silence.

“Which means…?” I asked, wondering if he was wanting to leave or stay.

“Er…I reckon we should just go back to Newer Orleans for now. Less chance of that thing finding us.” He replied. While he seemed on board with staying with the Excursion Club, it was clear to me that it was mostly for his own safety. Couldn’t exactly blame him for that though.

“Well, taking it down to a vote, that’s three versus one, so even if your brother agrees with you, you’re still out-voted.” Audrey said, but I knew that Melinda wouldn’t take this lying down.

“Group cohesion is important, but I have to come out and say this: You’re being supported by Nisbeth, who doesn’t seem to really be on board with the mission, and Murphy who openly just wants to go home and wants nothing to do with this. Besides, even if it was a hundred to one, well, what are you going to do? Drag me onto the ship against my will?” Melinda said, her voice slowly becoming louder.

“Look, I can just direct Serge to where you and Basil are, it’s really not that big a deal.” Bibarel said, as Melinda grunted.

“A house divided cannot stand…fine, I’ll come.” She grumbled, and walked off to gather her stuff.

“My sister was mostly right you know, but I suppose I can see where you’re coming from. If Charlie and the others have discovered other things, we might be able to figure out a bit more about what we’re dealing with.” I said, though truthfully, I was completely torn on this. On the one hand, staying on the move would make it harder for The Devourer or any of those statue makers to find us, not to mention it’d allow poor Murphy to sort his affairs out. However, this would make us less likely to bump into Serge, which was ultimately my goal. Not only that, but while I was hoping Murphy would be able to live happily just being an actor without all this constant danger going on, The Devourer likely had other plans. If Serge said it was threatening the entire world, then he couldn’t bury his head in the sand about it forever. Regardless, even if Murphy splits off from us, I’d find a way to get Serge to take him away from this doomed planet if worst came to the worst.

It wasn’t too long until we said our goodbyes to Bibarel as we made our way down to the shoddy excuse for a harbour. The ship hadn’t arrived yet, so we took the time to investigate the more natural statue on the beach that thankfully didn’t fill me with an awkward dread like the others did. The small beach was pretty quiet, which I liked, as it gave Melina and I the chance to stroll down it and admire the picturesque views without being interrupted by strangers.

“Can I be honest with you about something?” She told me as I gulped. I hated hearing those words from her, since I never, ever liked what she would say after those words.

“…Go on…” I said in a low murmur, as my eyes scanned across the cliffside we stood under.

“I totally get why you’re just wanting to get us away from all this. Under most circumstances, I would as well, but the world needs a hero right now. Lots of heroes, in fact.” She said as I tried not to roll my eyes in response.

“Not our fight.” I said bluntly, but surprisingly enough, she took my flat answer pretty well.

“Like I said, I get why you’re just wanting to go home. You’re right, it isn’t our fight…but it is Murphy’s. It’s Nisbeth’s. If the planet’s on the line, then it’s every denizen’s responsibility to do what they can to get rid of this alien.” She said, as I turned to look at her, seeing her frown slightly.

“What are you getting at?” I asked as she continued.

“What I’m saying, Basil, is that given Murphy’s position, him backing out like this is, to be blunt, pretty damn selfish and cowardly.” She said and I stopped.

“He’s just a kid, and I accidentally roped him into this. He’s not a bad person Mel’.” I said slowly and steadily, making sure every single word was heard clearly.

“…He’s seventeen, he’s not that young, and besides, he’s very good at fighting. At least Nisbeth is staying with us, even if he’s probably just trying to stay alive. He’ll probably run once things go south.” She said as I moved to stand in front of her.

“What’s gotten into you Mel’? You seem to really have it in for our allies here.” I said, trying to understand where she was coming and going with all this.

“Look, I just don’t have all that much confidence with Audrey leading us. Still think they’re making a terrible decision, but at least she’s taking the threat seriously. It’s just extremely aggravating when I do everything I can to help these people and they don’t put in the effort themselves. Ok, so most of them don’t know about The Devourer. Fine, probably hard to convince them that everyone on this planet could die, but Murphy knows all about this and still chooses to run with his tail between his legs! Couldn’t handle it when the going got a little tough.” She rambled as I started to get annoyed.

“Melinda…without him, I’d be dead! He’s not a coward! He’s still helped us while we’ve been here, never fleeing from danger.” I said loudly back. Thankfully, nobody was here to overhear.

“Ok, maybe I was being a little harsh there, but it comes down to this: Either you find a way to convince him to stay with us, or I will. Choice is yours.” She said firmly and ended that conversation right there. We noticed the statue of Floyd alongside a statue of a cyndaquil right behind him, which I didn’t notice earlier. They were somehow in great condition in spite of presumably being battered by the sea spray ever since it was built. Must have been looked after very well.

“This place commemorates the place where The Sound of Perseverance entered our world and met The Guardian of Forever. May we be eternally grateful for his sacrifice. May his example live on within all of us.” I sighed and chuckled slightly at this strange worship, given we met the guy in a silly looking scizor costume back in our world.

“The man we saw may not be the most…well, heroic guy, but I think Murphy could learn something from Floyd, or at least the idea of Floyd.” She said as we saw the ship on the horizon slowly sailing towards us on top of sparkling ocean. If we weren’t leaving so soon, I could have happily just sat down here and soaked up the view. Wonder if it looked this pretty when Floyd met Serge here? Guess Floyd would have got a kinder welcome to this world than I did.

Boarding the ship, we started sailing back to State Broussard as I started to worry about Melinda. This wasn’t too unlike her, however. As kind as she was to her team, she did not tolerate a lack of effort from them, and had benched several team members in her career as a trainer. Still, the fear of getting side-lined clearly worked in tandem with her encouragement. Regardless, could this be the start of the circumstances wearing down on her? Seems like she was serious about wanting to keep us all united, which I understood. Regardless, as I looked over at her, then at Murphy, I started to become more concerned about their futures. Who knew what life would throw at them next? Well, whatever it is, I’d do everything in my power to help make sure that the next event would be a good one.
Pokemon: Incarnation - Chapter 18
Note: I'll be away until the 16th of July, so I can't respond until then.

Basil and the others eventually score a victory for the Excursion Club, but can't seem to agree on what to do next.
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  • Listening to: Queens Of The Stone Age
  • Reading: The screen
  • Watching: Wimbledon
  • Playing: Super Mario Maker
  • Eating: Saliva
  • Drinking: Saliva
This is a copy-paste from the Afterword on The Unknown Continuum/Scenes From A Memory, so if you've already read that, then there's nothing new for you here. Just thought I'd separate the part that would likely interest people the most and put it in journal form.




I am indeed planning to make a follow up to The Unknown Continuum. It'll be called Pokemon: Incarnation and it'll involve Super Mystery Dungeon this time round, although it'll be a considerably looser with the source material than TUC, and TUC was already kind of fast and loose with the games anyway.



But PocketFullaShells, a little bird told me that you said that Gates to Infinity was by far the best story of the PMD games, and that you didn't even like Super's story very much! So why are you not basing a follow up on Gates instead?”



The little bird is right. I do think that Gates had the best PMD story by a pretty significant margin (though episodes 2 and 5 from Sky were better,) but the problem with Gates in lifting stuff from it to make a story of my own is that Gates doesn't give me too much to work with. The oddity with Gates's story is that it uses a lot of tropes I typically don't like, yet because they executed them well, it ended up being quite good. A lot of the story dealt with negativity, but I already had Darkrai as a bit of a negativity entity and have Floyd criticise the very idea of 'negative emotions.' (if I were writing TUC now, I'd have put a bigger spotlight on this. Still, Floyd became the hero the world needed in spite of being full of fear and fury, so maybe it was implied. As a result, a lot of the core concepts for a potential Gates-themed story kind of get sunk. Also, I'd struggle to try my hand at writing the whole paradise thing without it getting political. I don't see how I could do it without heading down a road I don't want to go on. Even though Gates's story has its problems, there's not really much I think I could add to it. Its characters were much more well developed in general compared to the other games, so in a way, I'm not writing a Gates-esqe story because I like it.



Super's story is the exact opposite. I really liked a lot of the different directions it was heading down and the concepts used, but I thought they just fucked it all up quite badly in a lot of places. The pacing is so disgustingly terrible that it makes the other PMDs have great pacing by comparison, and it had some of the most lopsided use of its characters, such as making the likeable school kids completely irrelevant, and making the partner pretty much the sole main character was its death sentence. That being said, some of the concepts such as being treated as a child when it was implied that you were older, the partner not achieving his goal almost right away, multiple continents, possession, trust issues, poke-hell and aliens were some really great ideas. This really gives me a lot to work with and can lead to many different roads and possibilities for stories, characters, concepts, comedy and drama. I'm not planning to 'fix' Super's story by any means, since it'll be considerably more different from Super than TUC was to Explorers.



So, what can you expect from Pokemon: Incarnation? What am I aiming for here? First, I want to actually pace it well, given, like PMD stories in general, the pacing was off in TUC and SFAM. Too much arseing around in the beginning. I want to give the earlier chapters more substance and make every scene relevant to the story and helping you get to know the characters and develop them. I want to make the chapters a bit shorter too, aiming for about six to nine thousand words per chapter. Some of the TUC and SFAM chapters got pretty bloated, TUC25 getting over fifteen thousand words long. I'll aim for more distinct characters this time, and I'll probably spend a bit of time drumming the traits in outside the story so I can learn better to write them inside the story, to avoid getting another vanilla main character such as Serge. I'll also have a larger main cast this time, something I'll lift from Gates, to help lift some of the weight from the two main characters, something that really helped Gates out. In short, I want it to be better than The Unknown Continuum.



As for other details you can expect from it, I'll give you a little preview for some of the main cast.



Basil Squire: A twenty-three year old from York in northern England. A failed pokemon trainer who was constantly unable to get much from his team in spite of being a strategic mastermind, he ended up living in his sister's shadow. A fairly relaxed person, he cares about those within his circle, but doesn't really give a shit for anyone outside his friends and family, which often became a source for conflict. Very shrewd, he often plots his life events and plans out in meticulous detail, but often falters when unpredictable elements are thrown in. Still has a desire for adventure, like when he did during his trainer years. Absolutely terrified of goodras.



Melinda Squire: Basil's older sister, aged twenty-seven and professional trainer. Being great with pokemon, she was unfortunately not very good at strategies during battle, so she often gets Basil to do it for her. Extroverted, she often tries to help people with their problems as well as getting to know all sorts, almost to the extent of having a bit of a messiah complex at times, which often clashes with Basil's more insular, introverted nature. Always tries to take the good out of any new experience, whether the experience itself is good or bad. Unfortunately, her hunger for responsibility can often backfire, leading to much senseless stress.



Murphy: A local pokemon. Just graduated from school at the age of seventeen and is dying to see the rest of the world to fulfil his dreams of being an actor. Very energetic and often rather juvenile for his age, he often inadvertently causes a lot of himself and others around him, only tempered further by his distaste of any rule of regulation. In spite of this, he usually tries to do the right thing, albeit often doesn't think of others and the consequences too much. Is very fascinated about the history, legends and myths of humankind. Not sure what species he'll be yet.



Nisbeth: A laid back Toxicroak who lives in a shack at the edge of town in a swamp, aged twenty-nine. A complete slob, doing the bare minimum to get by in life. He's seen as a bit of a weirdo by the locals, but is ultimately pretty harmless providing you don't go out of your way to antagonize him. He's moral enough to not allow his laziness to harm others however, and still seeks out some company from time to time. In spite of all that, he might be keeping his eyes out for an opportunity of some kind.




However, one thing that is very important to the making of Pokemon: Incarnation, and it's not good news regarding the story. Come the end of July, I'll be on holiday for a month, and then it's off to university for me. As you can imagine, this will eat up a lot of time. Might not eat up much more time than work, at least for the first two years, but a lot of free time will end up going towards my studies, and after all that, I might feel too mentally worn out to write some of Incarnation. Now, this will depend on many factors. How will I feel when I live on campus? Will it make me feel more or less productive? How much time will university actually take? What will living next to the city do for other aspects of my life? As for now, I can't tell. I predict that I'll never stop writing Incarnation until it's over, but droughts of writing could be likely, so expect slow progress. Then again, my progress was all over the place in TUC anyway. Regardless, as long as I start it, I'll likely never abandon it, since I hate seeing a job half done. In short, I'll be very preoccupied, but I'm fairly certain there'll always at least be some time to write it.



Regardless of what happens, hearing your words and feedback always encourages me. Still, in a couple of day's time, I'll be going away for a week to walk the West Highland Way. Floyd has finished his adventure, so I think it's time for one of my own. Here's to the future, and for making Pokemon: Incarnation better than The Unknown Continuum.

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Pocket-fulla-shells
Andrew 'Justice' Williamson
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United Kingdom
Current Residence: Scotland
Favourite genre of music: Metal/Prog/Game soundtracks
Operating System: Windows 7
Skin of choice: My own skin, I'm not in favour of transplant
Personal Quote: "Gimme a moment until I can put that thought into words..."
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:iconyarrix:
Yarrix Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
Happy Early Birthday!
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:iconmysticduskdragon:
MysticDuskDragon Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Hey, how are you doing?
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:iconexplorercyndaquil:
ExplorerCyndaquil Featured By Owner May 7, 2014
So Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were announced today, you hyped for that? Personally, gen 3 was a huge nostalgia point for me, so I'm extremely pumped.
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:iconpocket-fulla-shells:
Pocket-fulla-shells Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
To put it bluntly, if I owned a Gameboy Advance and already played one of the Hoenn games, I would not even buy it. As much as I like Pokemon franchise (the games, at least), it's formulaic to a huge fault. Still 3 starters, grass water fire, still 8 gyms, no more no less, evil team to beat up and elite 4 and champ at the end to name a few traditions that should have been twisted about or flat out ditched long before now.

Remakes only made the issue even more in your face, and I sorely regretted taking many of my friend's advice on getting Heart Gold - they didn't even try to solve some of the issues that the original gen 2 games had such as level scaling and pokemon variety. Made me wonder why I just didn't play Crystal again.

Like I said, only reason I'm getting it is because I never played a Hoenn game, but as much as I dislike the idea of remaking games in a very formulatic series of games as it is, it's entirely possible it could cement itself as my favourite pokemon game, but that mainly boils down to how good the gen 3 games originally were unless they make fairy big changes (hopefully changes that improve them) to the games.
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:iconexplorercyndaquil:
ExplorerCyndaquil Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
Really, I don't see how the formula could change for the better. A curveball in the tradition would be very interesting to see, but as for these remakes, I am looking forward to the revisit to gen 3. The remastering of the tracks, the graphics, and possible the addition of recent gameplay mechanics could take these games and make them into something really special. Gen 3 was the generation that jumped out of the old formula as much as possible. There were new teams, a new set of Pokemon, a completely separated region, and a huge change in mechanics. Instead of a series of terrorist attacks that Rocket was notorious for, Aqua and Magma essentially tried to change the world to suit their own needs. Their actions seemed much more grandiose compared to Rocket.

Aside from that, there are a few annoyances I hope they rectify this time around such as the obscene amounts of WATER and the overwhelming number of trumpets in the OST. The OST in itself was great, but the mp3 capabilities of the 3DS could really do it justice.
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:iconkurtisthesnivy:
KurtisTheSnivy Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the watch~!  :D
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:icon42dannybob:
42Dannybob Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday :)
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:iconexplorercyndaquil:
ExplorerCyndaquil Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2013
Yo, can we get an update on continuum? I've been checking back every once in awhile but nothing has happened. Just want to know the state of affairs.
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:iconpocket-fulla-shells:
Pocket-fulla-shells Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I'm in the process of editing the spin-off to fix continuity, grammar and just to generally tighten things up. After I'm done with that, I'll add a new chapter and then get on part 21. I promise I'll get 21 done before the end of the year!
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:iconexplorercyndaquil:
ExplorerCyndaquil Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2013
Ok sweet. It will be interesting to see how those two are drawn together as well. Can't wait!
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