Chapter 113 – Nostalgia
Owen stood under the shower with a resolute look in his eyes, staring at Zena and the others despite being many times smaller than them. He'd been given a lot of time to think and ponder about everything that he'd recalled, being inert for so long. That didn't even include the portions still missing, that final gap to fill. The parts that he still needed time to think through. To make sense of it all.
And despite everything, he believed that the first person he could ask was the very one who'd sent him to the Voidlands. His only obstacle was convincing everyone else of the same thing.
"I'm sorry," Zena said, "I don't think I heard you properly over all the water."
"Dark Matter," Owen repeated himself. "I know where he is. He told me. I think we should talk to him."
"Are you…" Zena blinked.
She towered over him and Owen tried not to get intimidated by that. As she spoke, Owen focused on getting the juice out from under his leafy feathers. He missed scales.
"Owen, I mean this with… the most respect possible—are you—have you been deprived of air in that fruit?"
"No. I had a lot of time to think. And I remembered a lot about my past and how I got here."
"What's that mean?" Demitri asked, coming in with an armful of towels, all heavy with the fruit juices left behind. He left with a batch of fresh ones for more cleaning, but listened with Mispy.
"Kanto," Owen said. "None of you know what it is, but it's a region in the human world."
"Human world… So it's real?"
"It's real. And I was born there… And so was my trainer, Eon. You know all about that, right?"
"I do," Zena said darkly. "But… the past is the past, isn't it? Eon isn't—"
"I know." The tiny Charmander held up his hands disarmingly. "I… I know. I'm—I don't want to think about that right now. I want to think about everything else."
That seemed to be enough for Zena, who didn't reply.
Owen started on his explanation, stopping several times to go more in-depth about his time as Tim's partner. Near the middle of his explanation, he'd attracted the attention of Dialga and Palkia—mostly Palkia—and later still, Enet, Eon, and Jerry had all been gathered up to talk.
Apparently, during his absence, Mhynt had left town after some Cipher City guards came to escort her back. There was a chance she would return. Owen didn't pay it any mind; they had to tackle one thing at a time.
The explanation continued, from Kanto to Almia to Orre, and finally—and this got everyone's attention—the results of their mission, and then the aftermath, if it could be called that. From rescuing Star, to her massive power and the strange corruption that drove her mad, to the lights in the sky, and finally to waking up to Tim as a Mew.
"And you simply didn't remember?" Zena asked. "How could that be?"
"That's where I woke up." Owen ignored their disappointed looks. He felt the same. "That's where I think I still need to remember. I think… there is still a block there. Made by Dark Matter, maybe. Or by…"
"Wait, but how can we trust Dark Matter for this?" Demitri pointed out. "He's… literally called Dark Matter. He's just evil, right? Are we seriously going to take his word for anything he says?"
"I'm not going to," Owen replied. "But… He's doing this for a reason. If he wanted to take me, he would have by now, but he didn't."
Zena bit her lip. "Owen, this is starting to sound familiar," she said. "Didn't you do the same thing with Rim, back when you didn't have all of your memories then, too? That was a huge risk. I know that you knew, deep in your heart, that Rim wouldn't have hurt you… and you were right… but this is different. This is Dark Matter. The one who… who caused all of this, Owen."
She had a point. And it gave Owen pause. Could she be right? Maybe he'd been getting ahead of himself. Dark Matter had made an offer, but he could have also just as easily been waiting for the right moment to take him away, or claim him, or whatever else Dark Matter was capable of.
"We'll guard you," Mispy said, nodding. "It'll be different."
"Dark Matter doesn't care about you guys," Owen quickly interjected. "That means he might…"
Mispy looked skeptically at him. "He won't go… against you?" she questioned, stumbling over the sentence a few times.
"What, like, you mean if he doesn't wanna mess with Owen, he won't mess with us?"
"I think he messed with us enough already," Zena murmured.
"No, Zena's right." Owen rubbed under his arms, thoughtful, but satisfied now that it didn't feel heavy and thick. "Dark Matter could try to force me to get on his side by holding any of you hostage. He can do it with just one touch."
"But you can free them just as easily," Eon said, standing near the back as an equally tiny Grassmander.
"Right. I have that. And that's probably also why he can't touch me. Even if he killed me, I'd just wind up somewhere else. And now that I'm so… this"—He gestured to himself—"I don't think I would care if I died. I don't have any power left to lose."
Zena and the others looked suddenly uncomfortable.
"Don't treat your life like it doesn't matter," Zena said gently.
"What? No, I meant—"
"I think it's just how you phrased it," Demitri said, just as gently, and Owen felt patronized.
Sighing, he tried to move on. "What—whatever. Look, I can't go and be touching all of you at once." Zena was blushing. "There needs to be some other way to protect against Dark Matter if you guys want to guard me. Maybe we should take some time to think about that. Anam's… Anam talks to Dark Matter a lot, right? Is he still here?"
"He's around." Gahi shrugged.
"Tell him that I want to talk in a few days. We can think of some precautions then."
"Will Dark Matter even want to wait?" Zena hummed.
"If he doesn't, then we didn't have much to bargain with anyway," Owen added, arms crossed as he stared at his belly. "So maybe we can use this to figure out just how badly he wants to talk to me. If he's willing to wait."
"That's… calculated," Zena commented, looking at the others. "Should we do that?"
"Hmm…" Mispy slid toward Owen and looking him over. She was huge—Owen could use her vines like a house at this size. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I am." Owen nodded firmly.
"Okay." Mispy brought a vine forward. "What's your plan?"
"Uh—Now?" Owen tried to look tough, puffing out his chest. Mispy went lower and poked his gut and all the air left him.
"By the way… why are we all gathered in the shower with Owen?" Eon asked nervously from the back. "Isn't that kind of… weird?"
"…What's weird about it?" Zena asked.
Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi also gave Eon an odd look. Enet, meanwhile, crawled forward and joined Owen to investigate the warm water.
"Ah… um… never mind. Forget I said anything."
Owen assumed it was a lingering human thing. But that bought him some time to think and respond to Mispy.
"If I can find a way to spread some of my power to you guys, that might give some protection against Dark Matter's corruption."
"So that's what you're going to experiment with?" Demitri asked. "And what if it doesn't work?"
"Then we'll find a place where we can talk to Dark Matter and fend him off if things go badly. Have Anam there, too." Owen turned so the water went down his back, the last of the grime. Zena leaned forward and offered to help, and Owen nodded gratefully. "Do you think that'll work?"
"I hope so," Zena said. "How long can we get Dark Matter to wait?"
"We'll have to see," Owen said. "Someone find Anam and ask him to do that. I'm going to finish washing up and then… figure out if I can get bigger, or something."
"Was gonna say." Gahi squatted down to get closer to his height. "Yer adorable."
"You're smaller than I am," Trina commented. The Snivy was balanced atop Gahi's head. "And if you want my opinion, I think you should prepare for Dark Matter to refuse outright. I don't see the point in trying to work with him after all he's done. Do you really think what he has to say is worth listening to?"
"I do," Owen said. "Even if he twists the truth, he still knows what the truth is. If only I could evolve…"
"Perceive?" Mispy asked.
"Assuming Dark Matter follows the same biology," Zena pointed out. "He might not react the same way as a normal Pokémon would."
"Doesn't matter anyway," Gahi said, making a gesture like he was about to pick Owen up, but Owen growled back and spat a single volley of Bullet Seeds at his chest. They bounced off harmlessly. "Feisty li'l guy." Gahi smirked.
Owen had the vague sense that this was revenge for something.
"Well! I suppose if that's everything in order," commented Palkia from outside the hall, "I wish you the best. Where will you be staying now?"
"Oh, actually, while you were away," Demitri said, "we were looking around for homes. We found a spot nearby, but it's, uh… well, it's new housing. It's kind of awkward because Hakk and Xypher are also there…"
"Their home got destroyed," Trina explained.
"How? When was this? Weren't we just there?"
Gahi was avoiding everyone's stares.
Owen deadpanned, "He blew it up somehow, didn't he?"
"Ain't my fault! It was that stupid Treecko who sliced it in half!"
"We have a lot to catch up on," Trina said, "but I think we should keep you protected for now. Hakk tried to take you to her, possibly under orders ever since he… grew in size."
Owen's interest doubled. "Grew?" He ignored Gahi's amused look. "I—whatever. Explain on the way."
At least, for once, it felt like they had a moment to breathe. Soon, Owen was finished washing up and bid farewell to Palkia and Dialga—who themselves were still recovering—and followed the rest of his team out of the evaluation buildings and down the road. Behind him, the strange tree and the morning sky lit up Null Village. His eyes lingered on the tree, smiling a little, and then he faced forward.
"Some real handiwork y'did there," Gahi commented to Owen, following his gaze.
"Yeah." Owen rubbed his wrists, still unaccustomed to the green feathers. "Just a little trick I came up with. Maybe it'll be useful later."
He already had a small backup plan in case all else failed.
Owen hadn't expected the home to be a communal one.
At the edge of town, where the trees were visible a little further away on the northern side of Null Village, there was a large, purple-brown building. The entrance was wide and doorless, leading into a hallway that split off into several separated rooms. Demitri rummaged through his bag and pulled out a little, glowing card with a blue portion at the end that shimmered. He led them down the hall and to one of the rooms.
The door slid open after he flashed it against some device next to it, revealing a bare rectangle of a room with a gray interior and only the most basic of furniture. Body-universal beanbags were piled up in the corner with a few set out in the middle of the room with an adjustable-height table in the center. On the table was a basket of odd fruit and empty plates. To the right was a fridge, and further back looked to be a Null Village kitchen. There was another doorway to the left that was still open that led to a washroom, as well as another room in the corner that seemed to be for storage.
"That's all, huh?" Owen wasn't sure what he expected. "Guess it's not that different from the other facility I was kept in before."
"If we want a proper house," Demitri said, "we're going to need to save up some money to buy one, and that might take a while. We might not even need one, if we're going to be leaving soon… We're leaving soon, right? With what Nevren's trying to do?"
"Maybe…" Mispy looked down. "Mm…"
"Save up," Owen repeated. "What jobs have you taken up?"
"Mispy's a guard on the eastern perimeter," Demitri explained. "Most of her work is making sure Void Shadows don't get too close. She might get transferred to the northern perimeter so it's closer to home, though. She also wants to apply for healing and the medical field. She's already healed a few people who got eye damage from staring at the sun—they forgot they weren't supposed to do that. Can't blame them, if they've been sunless for so long…"
"Sounds like a real walk to get there every day. But you definitely should try for healing," Owen agreed, then glanced at Zena. "How about you?"
"I, er, work at a bathhouse," Zena said awkwardly. "I suppose it's not very surprising. Though, I could do without the remarks…"
"Remarks?" Owen asked, feathers puffing slightly. He wasn't sure why.
"Mm. I suppose a radiant-looking Milotic draws some… attention."
"You can't just fight them to keep them from staring?" Owen asked, which earned a surprised look from Zena.
"Well, no. I don't think I should settle things by fighting."
That concept was still foreign to Owen.
"She's not a battleheart like us, Owen," Demitri chided. "Most aren't."
Battleheart. Right. Owen was still trying to sort out his memories. Back when he was Tim's Charizard, settling things with a little fight seemed like the natural thing to do. Was he the same after Tim became a—
"Hey, by the way," Owen said, "where does Eon live?"
Owen nodded. Something to do later. "Right, okay. And your job, Demitri?"
"I help with construction," Demitri said. "They saw my strength and decided I'd be the best fit there."
"That means Gahi probably goes with scouting teams," Owen concluded.
"Hey, how'd yeh know?"
"You're fast and can teleport."
"Huh, yeah. Makes sense." Gahi nodded. "And you, eh… well. Yer kinda small. Maybe you c'n take on an administrative job…"
A beat of silence. Then, Mispy thought about something, then giggled.
Owen's feathers puffed out. "What's funny?"
"Tiny desk," Mispy replied.
More silence. Then, Demitri tried to look away, shuddering to suppress his giggles. Owen's feathers were even puffier.
"You know, getting jobs and all that… Are they just in demand?" Owen tried to change the subject.
Thankfully, Demitri was quick to follow. "Yeah. Though, you've been asleep for a few days, I think. So, we had some time to try to, you know, settle in. Anam's been around and we know that Dark Matter is in the outskirts, so we've been avoiding him, and everything is… really tense because of it. He obviously wants you. But he can't get close thanks to that tree."
"Right." But why would Dark Matter want him? Not something any of them would know, though. "A few days… Anything from Mi—I mean, Nevren?"
"No, nothing." Demitri sighed. "I think maybe he ran out of energy, or he's finding a way to build up more. The last time he tried to contact us, the portal was a lot smaller, and he mentioned something about mobilizing for Hot Spot. But we're trying to coordinate that, and, well…"
"Fighting from both sides?" Owen figured it would be similar to when they had tried to fight Star when she'd possessed him. But if that was the case, they would need to find the Core, wouldn't they? Or was Dark Matter himself its Core?
"What was the holdup?" Owen asked.
"No contact from Kilo, and us having no idea what we can do against him from here."
Gahi, as they were talking, wandered around the house, opening and closing empty cupboards. Nobody paid it any mind.
"A standstill… More stagnation. Everyone waiting for the other one to make a move…" Owen trailed off, autumn tail flicking behind him.
"Owen?" Zena asked. "That sounded… more thoughtful. Is something on your mind?"
"…I don't want to sound self-centered," Owen began, "but it sounds like any time I'm being reset or paused or incapacitated… the whole world just stops with me. Everyone's… waiting again. Waiting for someone else to make the next move. Dark Matter wants to see me, so he's waiting until that can happen. Maybe he's impatient and maybe he'll do something else, but there he is again, waiting. And before, the whole Hunter thing with Tim…"
"Um. Tim? I don't recall a Tim." Zena tilted her head. "Owen, are you okay? You've been acting… different lately."
"D-different?" Owen puffed up his back feathers in alarm. "I'm not that different."
"…You… are Owen, right?" Demitri asked nervously.
"Of course he's Owen," Mispy growled back, gesturing to her own eyes.
"Oh, right. But you said he looked a little different…"
"Still Owen. Just… less of Owen… I think…"
"I'm right here, you know," Owen huffed. "Look, I've had a lot on my mind! And I'm, like, a foot tall! Of course there's less of me! Give me a break!"
A squeaking rumble followed; Owen's gut felt like it had tightened and loosened. He tried to look even smaller.
"Someone's hungry," Demitri commented.
"Mm. Me," Mispy agreed, sliding to the cupboard in search of something and directing Gahi to fiddle around somewhere else.
"I suppose lunch would be good…" Zena nodded at Owen. "Oh, and I think we can find a space for you to rest here, too, Owen. The rooms are all occupied, but I think nobody would mind sharing."
"Who's all roomed together?"
"Jerry's with Eon," Zena explained.
Not yet. Owen wasn't ready for Eon yet.
"Gahi and Trina are sharing a room, too."
That was possible…
"Demitri and Mispy, too, of course."
Yeah, he wasn't going to get in the way of that.
"And myself and Enet."
Everyone was paired up nicely. "Will I be sharing a bed with anyone?" Owen asked.
"We might be able to find one. Considering you're so small, it won't be that hard."
Right, small again. Still annoyed him. "…How about with you, then? We could sleep together."
A beat of silence first, and then Zena sputtered, "I'm—I'm sorry?"
"You probably have the biggest room, and I probably take the least space aside from Trina, so we can probably sleep together."
Zena was breathing a little faster. "Y-yes, I heard—I thought. Owen, are you sure?"
"Yeah." Owen grinned, trying to get some of his pep back.
"…Wow," Mispy said, sounding impressed.
"B-but did you not want to just be friends? Or, well, starting off, or starting over, that, as you said…"
"What do you mean?" Owen asked, cocking his head. "We don't have beds yet, so I can sleep with you. It's not like it's the first time we slept together. You remember the position, right?"
Gahi tripped over his feet. Demitri stared in slack-jawed awe.
Owen led the way and asked, "So, which one's your room? That's fine, right?"
"I… y-yes! I'm sorry, I was—Perhaps it's some culture shock." She glanced at Mispy and Demitri, who got back to their senses next.
"Position?" Demitri asked Zena.
"I think he means how I can leave some room in the middle if I coil properly," she explained. "It's an alcove, in a way. A bed within a bed? Th-that's what you mean, yes, Owen?"
Only mostly, but Owen was glad it helped everyone relax. Everything was so tense that he could afford feigning some obliviousness again to help them forget about Dark Matter. "Mhm. In that way I'm not taking up any extra bedspace at all. It's not uncomfortable, right?"
"Not at all!" Zena said a little too quickly.
Owen grinned. So, she was still interested. "Yeah," he said. "And… I wouldn't mind the company anyway. I've…" Owen trailed off, then shook his head. "We can talk more at night."
Enet was already pawing at the door and barking at Owen to come along. She understood. As much as Owen tried to give them some pep, he was still exhausted. Everything still felt hazy. Maybe tomorrow, Owen thought, he'd feel a little more put-together.
Something wet knocked on their door.
"That must be Anam," Demitri said. "He might have talked with Dark Matter."
"It might also be Dark Matter himself," Owen cautioned.
"No," Mispy said after opening her eyes.
A Goodra stood on the opposite side of the door with green eyes and a tired smile. "Hey," he said. "Oh! Owen! You're, um… a Charmander again! Kind of."
"Yeah, kind of," Owen replied politely. He noticed that Anam didn't go for his usual hugging attempts. "Did you talk to Dark Matter?"
"Um… I did, but, um, well, he said… one day. You have one day. On the sunset after this one."
Demitri fidgeted nervously. Gahi, meanwhile, growled. "Well, so much for valuing you," he said. "What's gonna happen if we don't show?"
"He'll go forward with his plan," Anam said.
"Which is…?" Owen tried to get a read on Anam's expression, but all he could see was evasive nervousness.
"Probably something bad. He's been gathering strong spirits lately. You know, ones that died in Kilo. And the mutants…"
"Then we'll need to use that day to prepare. Tomorrow, I'll try to come up with something. I have a few ideas, but… er, I'm… also tired. Really tired."
"Sleep!" Enet commanded, and then growled at the door again.
"Enet, you need to use that password-card," Zena called. "It's in your… Where did you put it?"
The Zoroark stared at Zena dumbly.
"The rectangle. This one?" Zena produced her own from her bag, with the glowing portion on one end of the card.
"Oh." Enet dug through her mane and pulled it out. She pressed it on the door again, eventually figuring out how to activate it. She slipped in and the door closed behind her.
After a short tour of the building in case Owen needed something from any nearby facilities, he finally felt tired enough to return to their room. He ultimately decided to go with Enet and Zena after all, and went in with the latter once everyone else was informed. Eon, in particular, looked bothered, but Owen didn't acknowledge it. Still not ready.
Enet's bed was in the far corner, a simple circular mattress-like beanbag. On the other end was a long, thin mat that seemed to have the subtle, circular indent of Zena having coiled in it for a few nights. Owen smiled a little; it was good that they had a place to sleep in the Voidlands. A place to feel safe.
Just as Owen stepped inside, though, he saw something in the corner nearest to the entrance—a large, glass tank with a Void Shadow inside. Owen stopped immediately. Everything else went dark in Owen's attention.
"Oh! I'm sorry, I nearly forgot. We also, er, have… Amia… here. She was the least hostile toward me, and quieted down when I was around, so… well…"
The Void Shadow seemed to be staring at Owen.
"How come she's here?" Owen asked in a whisper. "I thought they were working on a way to help her in the evaluation building."
"Er… Well. They tried, but there wasn't…" Zena trailed off.
Then… that was it. Amia was just like that now. Owen stared at the Void Shadow more, walking toward it. It inched closer to the glass separating them.
That was Amia. The one who cared for him for hundreds of years. Who dedicated so much of her time to someone she once never knew. In some small way, Owen thought he would have seen her in his memories of the distant past… yet she wasn't there. Probably never even born yet.
It smashed into the wall and snarled at Owen; the tiny Charmander flinched, unable to suppress a gasp. When Owen stepped away, it stopped attacking, but still stared at him, docile again.
"It… still gets violent up close," Zena said. "I mean—she. But compared to everyone else, that's the closest people have been able to get…"
"…She's just… mad that she can only stay in there," Owen rationalized. "She wasn't like that before, when it was only for a little while." Owen smiled desperately. "I'd be pretty mad, too, if I was stuck in there…"
"I-it's fine. I'm fine. I'll figure something out for that, too. Marshadow mentioned something about Gone Pebbles that can help recover memories. Maybe I can do something about this later. A-after Dark Matter, I can fix Mom, too." The words poured from him thoughtlessly.
And then, silence. The Void Shadow slid around its cage. Zena and Enet went into their respective beds awkwardly. And, finally, Owen followed them, climbing onto Zena and then somewhere in her middle.
"Are you sure you don't want another room?" Zena asked gently. "If… Amia is too much, I—"
"When I fix her," Owen said, "I want her to remember that I stayed."
"Ah…" Zena's eyes glistened, and then she nodded. "Of course, Owen. That's… very strong of you."
Enet stared at both of them, unblinking. The way her ears were positioned, she was listening in.
Owen deflated, feeling that he had a moment to himself. Despite how tired he was, he felt so restless. There was so much to do and so much to prepare for and he was still lying in bed, waiting for sleep to take him. And he ran from that, too. He couldn't relax. Every so often, he stole a glance at Amia, who was presumably staring at him.
There had to be some other way to rest. Thinking about Amia was getting to him. "…Zena?" Owen finally called. Enet's ears twitched.
"Sorry. Are you still awake?"
Zena's breathing meant she was.
"I've been having trouble sleeping."
Enet made a growl to agree.
Owen sighed. Talking to them was nice. And he hoped the rest of his team was doing alright, too.
"…Hey, Zena," Owen began, "what about your parents, anyway?"
"Oh, mine?" Zena trailed off. "Well… they visit me in my Core every so often. I believe Hecto had ferried them. But the visits became less and less frequent. I suppose as time goes on, so do they… We weren't particularly close. After all, I'd 'left the nest,' and, well… people move on. I did care for them, though."
"That's odd," Owen said. "I mean, yeah, a lot of time passed, but they're still your parents, right?"
Zena chuckled. "That's true. But… like I said, we weren't close. It was… formal, in a way. Cultures can be different in the ocean. Oh, I truly didn't care for it. It's very strange there, you know, compared to Kilo. Feral Pokémon are much more common, but integrated into society, to the point where you may see them doing civilian jobs."
"Civilians, in the ocean?" Owen asked.
"Far below," Zena confirmed. "I don't know if it's still around, really. Scattered villages floating in the ocean, usually offshore, or far in the depths. I was… well, it would be the equivalent to you of a richer family. I was expected to be graceful and proper. A Milotic. That's simply how it is for us. Apparently, straying from that culture makes it so you cannot evolve… I do wonder why Star designed such a pretentious species."
Owen winced. "That does sound cruel. You have to be graceful and proper to evolve? You can't just get stronger?"
"Apparently not." Zena sighed. "But once I evolved… I was so tired of it. I… regrettably, I left. I was strong enough to fend for myself. I knew how to survive on the surface, too. But I'd gotten turned around and lost my way. Perhaps by luck, I'd met Emily. We talked, and she tried to assure me that things were okay, but I don't think she understands mortal life."
"So that's how you met, huh?" compared to everything else that Owen had seen, Zena's life sounded… normal. By the stars, he would love something normal again. He wanted to hear more. "How did that go?"
"For a while, I lived with Emily," Zena said. "She liked the company, and I needed a place to stay. Occasionally, I visited Kilo, and then returned to tell her about it. It was… peaceful. A routine. Apparently, most were quite fearful of Emily and generally fled from her…"
"How come you didn't?" Owen asked.
Zena hummed, considering this. "I'm not sure. Maybe she was simply so isolated, she never had the opportunity to befriend someone until then. Until I happened upon her. She's lived for so long… surely someone would eventually stay. Like Tanneth. Oh, Tanneth and I spoke quite a bit. They're a lovely couple."
Owen paused. "…Wait, Tanneth and Emily are a couple? That Vaporeon?"
"Mm. They've been together for longer than they can remember. Which led to the next problem… I was mortal, then. And I wasn't really sure how I would be able to be with her for very long. I think I was… actually getting along in my age at some point. Swimming far distances from the island to Kilo were more and more difficult. In the end, I feared that my time with Emily was short… and Emily did not like that. She wanted to find a way for me to stay."
"The… Water Orb," Owen said slowly. "How did you get it?"
"Emily gave it to me. She said she was guarding it."
"Guarding?" Owen asked.
"I think so…" Zena seemed unsure. "It's… foggy. Perhaps you would have remembered it more clearly, if it's behind a Decree. Emily had given me that Orb because she wanted me to survive."
"I thought giving up an Orb killed you."
"She didn't have it 'in' her. Er, well, no. She did. But she didn't… claim it. I'm not really sure how, but she had it within her without it fusing to her aura. Though, she'd always been a little strange…"
Maybe Owen could have a talk with Emily later about that. It was too strange to ignore. "Do you know why she had it?"
"Safekeeping, apparently. Part of how all the Orbs were scattered." With another sigh, Zena settled back down. "That's all I know about her. Eventually I had to flee when the Hunters tried to get me. Emily fended them off, but even with her durability, it was still unsafe. And when I found that Dungeon, Star helped me stay hidden. And… nothing changed until you met me. I don't even know how long it had been. Centuries, surely…"
"Why didn't Emily go find you?" Owen asked.
"It's strange. It's as if she's bound to the ocean." Zena adjusted her coils and Owen adjusted with her. "She never wanted to set foot on Kilo. I didn't really press the issue."
So that's how it happened. He'd never thought to ask until now, so absorbed in his own worries and thoughts. Sure, between the whole new Guardianship, old mutant, and scattered memories, he had good reason to be occupied, but he felt a little bad that it had taken all this time just to… ask.
"Owen?" Zena asked. "Are you okay?"
"Oh, uh, yeah. Sorry. Just occurred to me that I never bothered asking until now…"
"Well, I never shared, either."
Enet growled curiously and pawed her way toward the pair.
"And how about you, Enet?" Owen asked. "Star helped you get the Electric Orb, but d'you have anything interesting on how that happened?"
She just stared blankly, then curled up again.
"Guess not." Owen giggled, already feeling lighter.
"And what about you?" Zena asked. "Before… all this. Is there anything you wanted to talk about?"
"I don't even know where to start," Owen admitted. "And some of it I don't remember yet."
Zena nodded. "Well, that's okay," she said. "I liked talking a little about the past anyway. It was so long ago. And… Oh, never mind."
"No, go on."
Owen waited patiently.
She sighed. "I enjoyed talking to you again. It's been too long."
"How come that was hard to admit?" Owen asked.
"I'm… not sure."
Owen grinned, leaning against her again. "Well, so did I. I'm feeling a lot better. Maybe some normalcy is all I needed."
"Mm, normalcy…" The Milotic rested her head against the top of her coils, glancing down at Owen further down. "Do you have any memories of… normalcy, like I do?"
"Mhm. That's back when I was in Kanto. But the normal there is nothing like the normal here. It has humans, and Pokémon worked with them in weird ways compared to how things are in Kilo. Some humans can't understand Pokémon, either. I mean, the Pokémon there."
"Oh? Were humans feral?"
"Other way around." Owen couldn't imagine a feral human. "All Pokémon where I came from were what we'd call feral. I'm feral, actually—just like Enet. That's why I can understand her, too; feral Pokémon speak a totally different language. It's simpler, but it conveys ideas quickly. I don't really know how it works… but sometimes, we can convey those same thoughts and ideas to humans that we share a strong bond with."
"That's so interesting—humans aren't Pokémon, yet they can form bonds with them?"
"Pokémon and humans become stronger if they grow together. A lot stronger. My species, in Kanto, we usually don't get strong enough to grow wings unless we bond with a human. It's part of our culture to choose a human or… well, sometimes a human chooses us."
Zena looked like she wanted to ask something, but had refrained. Her voice had caught in her breath and she nodded.
Owen frowned. "And my human was… Eon, yeah. Back then, his name was Tim."
"R-right." Zena nodded nervously. So, that really was what she was thinking.
"A lot can change. People change. I don't think… the Tim I know is alive anymore. Eon is someone completely different, even if they have the same spirit. I… don't know how I can confront him about that. I don't know how to tell him that."
"Because he still wants to be your partner," Zena summarized. "He's done so many horrible things just to be with you again. Rhys, Amia, Anam, they all kept you away from him because of what he had turned you into. You and the rest of Team Alloy."
All the while, he nodded along. Owen still didn't know what led Eon down this path—that gap in his memory was still there—but the simple fact was, Eon was not the same selfless ranger, that same young trainer, that he'd dedicated his life to.
Why did that hurt so much, now?
"It's okay," Zena said. "We don't need to talk about that anymore."
"H-huh?" Owen looked up. "What do you mean?"
"You looked uncomfortable. I'm sorry."
"Oh, I…" Even without his flame, was he that easy to read? He needed to work on that. His enemies toyed with emotions; if he was so readily open about how he felt…'
But this was Zena. He could afford to be open around her.
"Y-yeah. I don't want to talk about it right now, but thanks."
"Is there anything else about Kanto you could tell me about instead?" Zena asked. "What about before… Tim?"
Owen considered that. The only thing before Tim was… "My parents."
A fond smile followed from Owen. "It's alright. I think I want to talk about them a little anyway."
"Are you sure?" Zena asked, but Owen nodded anyway and pressed a little more against her.
"Yeah. My mother was a Charizard, and my father was a Marowak. Mom was with a trainer and she cared about her very much, but she died early—the trainer died, I mean."
Zena listened quietly. There was a softness in her eyes that made Owen melt.
"She loved humans because of how wonderful her trainer was. Dad was more, y'know, skeptical, but he loved Mom, so he stayed with us. It was a tradition for… for us, for my species, to pair off with a human trainer so we could get our wings. After that, it was up to us what we'd do, but… That also meant it was my time to go, one day. When I was old enough, I'd pick a human, and… and leave them behind."
Owen didn't understand why that hurt to say. No, he did. He did. Because he once thought he'd return when he got his wings. That his time with the human would be brief, as most trainer journeys were, until…
But that didn't happen. Now he was a world and ages away…
"Huh?" Owen perked up. "S-something wrong?" He only realized just then how hard it was to talk and how much his eyes burned.
Suddenly, a bundle of fur enveloped him and Enet growled soothingly.
Owen groaned, smiling. "Not again…"
"We're here for you, Owen. You'll remember that?"
"I better," Owen replied, exhaustion pressing over him in waves. "I've forgotten too much to start all over again."
His eyes flitted closed in Enet's warmth and Zena's pressure. Enet growled again and said, "You're small…"
Of course she'd focus on that.
Owen opened an eye. "Huh…?"
Enet didn't reply.
"So, that's what happened? It was… Shadows?"
Owen stood atop Destiny Tower, bruised, battered, and covered with countless wounds. His left arm was broken in two places and his wings were unusable. His blood sullied the white tile. And despite this, he had made it, and floating nearby was Tim, the Mew. He had a few injuries, but had made it through just fine.
"Yes," replied Arceus, across the palace's central chambers. Next to him was another Mew, one who had a certain glow to her that Tim did not. This was the divine Mew, the original Mew, the progenitor, the start of common life. That meant Tim was a direct descendant of her, didn't it? Perhaps that was why he had ascended Destiny Tower so easily.
But next to them both was a dragon of light and gold prisms. He had no pupils and his eyes were of flickering crystal, so it was impossible to tell where he was looking at any given time. The radiance of that one was overwhelming.
"Shadows were what brought our world to ruin?" Owen asked.
"I am afraid so," the dragon of light said. "It was a horrible blight that had to be expelled… but in the process, so much was destroyed and lost. That included memories of the event. It is a truth that… the world does not need to know."
"Why not?" Owen asked.
"It would only cause more panic," the dragon said. "Mortals don't need to worry about divine matters just as we shouldn't have to worry about theirs."
The divine Mew looked away, clearly uncomfortable.
"What can defeat these… Shadows if they come up again?
"Many things," the dragon of light replied. "The will of the spirit alone is sometimes enough. The bonds one makes with others can help you climb out of even the deepest darkness… This is a very symbolic way of thinking, something abstract and metaphysical. But these Shadows are, by their very nature, beyond the material plane. They infest the spirit and the very foundations that make up this world."
"I'm… not good at… symbolism," the Charizard said. "I see things and those are real. I'm not good at figuring out the rest."
The dragon of light smiled. "Day to day, that is not a difficult philosophy to follow. Yet… you're curious, aren't you? How to combat Shadows… in a way that you can see, and feel?"
"Um." Tim held up a paw. "If we're talking conceptually… if we want to get rid of a Shadow, or get rid of this darkness… don't we just add light?"
The dragon looked down. His tail curled in a small circle. "You are correct. If a spirit cannot combat their shadows, or cannot overcome this dark aberration's power…"
He held two of his four wings forward. Light coalesced between them, forming into a crystal with the symbol of a flame inside, which he handed to Owen. It was warm and smooth to the touch, and he briefly thought he heard voices coming from it.
"You must use light."
"And that is what he said? Light? As if it is that simple…"
"…Well… isn't it?" Owen tilted his head, adjusting his wings while standing in the great void. After all, you're afraid of the light. I had that talk with him… a long, long time ago, but that kind of thing is hard to forget. Light gets rid of the dark."
"That is a vast oversimplification of his true nature and you know it."
Owen smiled wryly. "But it makes it pretty easy to remember."
"Aw, c'mon, I'm just trying to make a joke!"
"I do not joke."
"Well, it… was worth a try." Owen sighed. "But that's what he told me back when I first woke up. That's all I really know about what it means to dispel Shadows. I don't think he even knows you exist…"
"None of them do. They never have. I am a mistake of this reality. If they find out about me, they will try to… fix it."
Owen's wings drooped and his flame dimmed. "I know. It's going to be alright."
"It won't. Your world is ending, after all."
"…Is there a way to stop it?"
Aside from the low whistle of the void that seemed to echo through Owen's very soul, all had gone quiet then, like the red core in front of Owen had fallen completely silent.
"There is one way."
"You are Necrozma's disciple, correct?"
"Well, kind of… Not really. My mate, Mhynt—I mean, Lunala, she…"
The core of darkness said something, but the memory suddenly halted in its tracks, all sound abruptly ending. A stifling cold washed through Owen, and a bright light, inescapable, shined in front of him. The light of Necrozma—but he wasn't supposed to be here.
"Not yet, Owen. You can't see this memory. He was only trying to mislead you."
A dragon of light appeared, obscuring Owen's vision. The memory paused and then rewound. It all faded away.