Author's Note: It's Alexander versus Owen, so… this chapter has more violence, blood, etc. than usual, and has a temporary rating of M.

Chapter 126 – Outskirt Showdown

Dark Matter was nothing but a pile of sludge in front of Owen. The Charmeleon's own light had been depleted to the point where he could barely draw enough energy for another attack. He was too far away from the Radiant Tree of Life to get more, even as he heard the panicked shouts of the spirits watching through his eyes. Hopeless as the events unfolded in front of them.

Owen did not know how to fight Alexander. It was only the two of them. He'd hoped that everyone else would be able to fend him off, and then he would work with Dark Matter, somehow, to take Alexander down next.

But in a single blow, Alexander dashed that option.

"H-how… did…"

"How?" Alexander repeated. "I saw what you did…" His smile didn't fade. The dissolved head wasn't regenerating, but it was stable enough that perhaps it would in time. "A mighty blast of light to weaken Dark Matter. How lucky that I was not struck by that same power, or perhaps I would have had a few bruises…"

Owen eyed the missing head again.

Alexander must have noticed, because he frowned, furrowing his scaly brows. "Dark Matter was a nuisance. Keeping me from rightfully claiming the Voidlands that I had tended to and created a safe place out of for centuries. I already stole away some of his power once. Now, it's time for me to take the rest."

Alexander was upon them, looming over the sludge like a predator over its kill. Owen was only a few feet away, instincts telling him to run, everything else telling him to stay. He stood his ground. On Alexander, there was still that mad grin, too, as he opened wide and sank his fangs into the remains.

"What—what are you doing?!" Owen shouted over the crunching. Some instinctual part of him knew this was bad. That was Dark Matter. Alexander was—was taking some part of it. No, he couldn't let that happen.

"STOP!"

Owen lunged forward. He expected an initial parry, so he weaved to the left. His judgement was accurate—he narrowly dodged a quick blast from his remaining head, and then deflected one with a quick barrier. He hissed at the recoil; Alexander's attacks were strong. Those Shadow beams felt like they would kill him in one swoop if they were at full power…

Balling his fist, he was unable to create light, and instead encased it in flames as he pounded Alexander's nose. It was like punching stone. Still, even as Alexander chomped and crunched on the shattered core, Owen punched and punched, grabbing at a few of the red shards that had once been Dark Matter's core and scattering them about.

That got to Alexander. He stopped eating and went for Owen instead, and Owen was too slow. The major head clamped down on Owen's arm and unceremoniously twisted it backwards. Owen wailed and Alexander tossed him into the tree.

The arm was broken in three places. He couldn't clench his fist anymore. It wasn't responding. He didn't want to look. Fleetingly, Owen wondered if attempting his backup plan would give him better luck, but he quashed the thought. Not yet.

With his good arm, he staggered back to his feet, distracted.

When he looked forward again, two empty eyes stared back—the remaining, minor head. It opened wide and clamped over his throat.

"A-ahh… ugg…!" Owen couldn't breathe.

Alexander's face was dripping with dark sludge. "Do you really think you can stop me?" he said. "Make me flinch? After how small, tired, pathetic you've become? You did my job for me. You put Dark Matter at his weakest. And now…" Alexander leaned closer, his breath in Owen's nose. It smelled like cold death. Every syllable was like a crunch of a leaf in wintertime, grinding against his head and threatening his inner fire.

He still couldn't breathe.

"Just what should I do to you… before I drag you to the dungeons, I wonder?" Alexander pondered, squeezing tighter. "Rip your arms off… and one leg… leaving you to hop back home? And then I take you anyway… You wouldn't bother to run, would you? Would you prefer that?"

He didn't understand why Alexander was doing this. Why? Why was he taunting him? He already couldn't fight back! What was the point?

He's drunk with the power of Shadows, Owen heard. His eyes bugged out; where had he heard that voice? He couldn't tell where it came from…

"You're responsible for me being here, you know. Do you remember that?" Alexander pressed more, only giving enough room for a single breath so Owen didn't pass out. "Do you remember? That wonderful little war…"

He didn't. He really didn't. Perhaps Alex would have known the full story there. But this wasn't adding up. Was Alexander alive during the era of Legends? No, that was impossible. Alexander was Alex's father, and surely, they were not alive when he was the Wishkeeper.

Was this the other war?

There had been two…

It was all a blur. Owen didn't know what was what. His arm being broken and his body in general bleeding all over wasn't doing him any favors, either. Or perhaps it would… Tentatively, Owen tested something silently. He felt a dull, painful throb in his broken arm. That pocket of energy he'd stored there in case of emergency was still there. Alexander hadn't ruptured it.

"Answer me," Alexander snarled, clamping harder on his throat.

He tried to speak—didn't know what—but no words came. No air to exhale.

And then he let go and Owen could breathe again. He gasped a deep, loud breath, and then seconds later a deep pressure snapped his other arm—he'd gone for that one next. Owen didn't scream this time and that seemed to perplex Alexander.

"Cry," he snarled, pressing harder.

He is addicted to misery.

"CRY!" Alexander blasted Owen in the chest, blowing half of his scales off in one strike.

It won't satisfy him for long.

For a fleeting moment, Owen's vision was clear. Far from him, he saw ice and water. Fliers in the air. But they weren't going to reach him; their path was askew.

Maybe crying was a good idea.

"I said cry," Alexander snarled, pressing into his shoulder.

"S-STOOOP!" Owen screamed, letting out a bloody, agonized roar, hiding his disgust as Alexander's face twisted into an ecstatic grin. He pressed again and Owen cried in unison.

This was humiliating. His body was already in some kind of shock because he couldn't feel any of it. He fell to the ground. Alexander pressed his good head against his back, drilling a spear of darkness into his spine. The cold spike felt like it was carefully avoiding vitals.

Owen screamed again and Alexander hissed with delight. The mangled Charmeleon's eyes scanned the ground, then at where he'd seen the fliers and ice. Their path had changed, and suddenly. Quickly. With purpose.

Did you just utilize your own pain to call them?

Where are you? Owen called. Are you… Dark Matter?

…I don't know where I am.

"You… stopped crying. Wake up." Alexander pulled Owen back to his feet, biting into his shoulder with the smaller head to do so.

Owen couldn't move his arms and standing was difficult and unbalanced. Still, he stared at Alexander, savoring his breaths. How was he still alive? Something was keeping him alive far longer than it should have. But he couldn't afford to die yet… So, that worked out.

"Can you even hear me anymore?" Alexander said. "Wake up. Feel this. You—"

"You really can't control that power… can you?" Owen wheezed, looking up. He couldn't really tell, but he suspected his throat was going to hurt later from all that wailing. "It's controlling you, isn't it?"

Alexander furrowed his brow, like he didn't understand. There was something frenzied about him that felt… uncharacteristic. All he'd heard about this tyrant was that he was cold and calculated; when he tried to torment someone, it wasn't with this kind of primal disregard. But Owen couldn't afford to spend time puzzling over that now, staring at him, helpless. He had to distract him. There was just one part left of his plan to execute. He'd saved it, never needing that desperate gambit for Dark Matter after gaining that upper hand.

"Don't think you know what I'm capable of and what I'm not."

This was getting tiresome. But Owen wondered, in the back of his mind, if that was what Alexander wanted. Owen wasn't afraid of Alexander. He was furious. But he didn't have the power to strike back… And now, Alexander was a hair's width away from losing himself to the darkness he'd just acquired. Was that better, or worse? Maybe he could take advantage of that…

His thoughts were cut off by another crushing blow to his sternum. Several deep cracks echoed and he wheezed out a bubble of blood, falling again.

"I'll show you how weak you truly are," he finally said. The Hydreigon's main head sank its fangs into the back of Owen's already broken shoulder. Something cold ran through his blood like ice, like it was trying to grasp at something inside him, pull it away, corrode it, encapsulate it… Defiantly, Owen fought back. His muscles couldn't move, his mind felt muddled from the pain, but something else fought back in full and unrestrained force.

And, like some reflex, Alexander sputtered into his shoulder and reeled backwards. His mouth was coated in blood, but the blackened color… That wasn't Owen's blood. His jaws were agape with confusion as sludge dripped from his melted teeth and blistered tongue.

Yes… Light. He couldn't break past Owen's light.

Never lose… that smile, little flower…

"Something wrong?" Owen asked, his voice a pathetic rasp. "Too… spicy?"

Alexander brought his good minor head to his face to wipe some of the sludge away, wincing. "You…"

"So long as you don't break my spirit, there is going to be no way you'll ever claim it." Owen coughed out a laugh. "Dark Matter might have been defeated, but I won't be. Not by you… No matter what you try."

Alexander was trembling with frustration, but not fear. It was a standoff. Owen wondered if he could turn off his light at all, should the torment be too much, but it was only a fleeting thought. Alexander was thinking. If he could wait it out a little longer…

Yes, Alexander was thinking of ways to break Owen's spirit, now. Owen had inadvertently give that hint, though he wasn't really sure if it was true. This light was innate. Even at his lowest, it had always been there. Xypher had said as much, during those last dying breaths. He couldn't lose his light, even if he wanted to.

How could he use that, how could he use that? Owen puzzled over this while Alexander stared him in the face. Owen wondered if he'd try tearing it off. He wouldn't put it past the savage thing.

Would he need to make use of that gambit after all? Maybe if Alexander needed time to think, he'd carry him away and not hurt anyone else. That, now, was his goal. He had to force Alexander to flee, even if it meant taking him away. Before anyone else got hurt. He needed to apply some pressure.

He had just a little bit of light remaining that wasn't innate to himself. He'd implanted that energy into parts of his body, just in case, like traps. Traps that had burned Alexander by surprise, of course… but they were also traps he could detonate himself, no different than one he would have put in the soil.

Time was hard to keep track of, but Owen's patience was finally answered with an Ice Beam to the back of Alexander's head. He stumbled forward from where he floated, but it, despite everything, did not harm him. But it was enough to get his attention.

Leading the charge was Zena, shimmering from her own glow, her powers enhanced by the residual Radiant energy of the Tree's blast. Just behind her were Demitri and Mispy, both looking a little slow. Owen spotted hints of melting ice on their body from their traveling method. In the sky was Gahi, panting heavily, as well as Jerry and another Jerry behind him. Lingering further, but with a fierce look in his eyes, was Alex, the other Hydreigon, riddled with hastily sealed wounds and one eye half-closed.

"Looks like you're out of time," Owen said. "Your underlings… What do you think happened to them?"

The glare that followed almost made Owen flinch, but it wasn't enough.

"Owen!" Zena looked between Alexander and Owen. The Hydreigon turned toward her, and instantly she blasted him with ice. It was weak—which made sense. While related, it was not her true element, Orb or otherwise.

"Let him go," Mispy demanded, struggling to get each word out, and yet her snarling tone forced her onward.

Rather than reply with words, Alexander opened his mouth and spat a glob of darkness toward Mispy. Demitri stepped in and hurled a tusk at it, splitting it in half; it instantly exploded, but nothing got onto the team. A psychic aura enveloped the tusk and withdrew it back to Demitri's hands.

"Yer outnumbered," Gahi spat. "Attack!"

Owen winced. They should have opened with a taunt and nothing more—a bluff. Because…

A flurry of attacks rained down. Ice, Solar Beams, indigo flames, Psychic blasts… Eon contributed with gusts of wind that seemed to drill through the air, and Jerry, watching cautiously, crept toward the team to get into some other position. Owen wasn't sure why; there was some sort of recognition in the Aerodactyl's eyes. But he wasn't attacking.

Alexander countered all of it with a single pulse of Shadows. Zena yelped and tried to slither back. Mispy braced and primed another Solar Beam while Demitri brought his arms back to toss both of his tusks. Alex seemed fiercer than ever, not even flinching at the initial shockwave. A second volley of dragon fire slammed into Alexander's face, the sheer force bringing his head down. Alexander snarled louder at that, followed by one of Demitri's tusks lodging itself in his chest.

That earned a deep, bellowing growl, and Owen was suddenly filled with horrible dread. "GET AWAY!"

Too late. Cutting crescents of darkness radiated out from Alexander in all directions, more powerful and concentrated than they had been before. Alexander's guard was down when he'd done so, but that didn't matter if his foes couldn't take the hits. All of the trees behind Owen's friends were sliced to bits, while their bodies, barely able to resist it, were left with deep gashes all over.

Demitri screamed and held one of his arms where Owen saw bone; Mispy had lacerations all over her front and couldn't slither forward with most of her vines severed; Alex lost the opposite diminutive head that Alexander had; Zena dodged most of it, but lost one of her ribbons, which bled at the severed end; Jerry was a little bruised, but Owen was certain a few had gone his way. Had he dodged them when Owen wasn't looking? And Eon was clutching at a missing wing that oozed pink slime.

All from just one retaliatory attack. They wouldn't stand a chance. Please, go away! Owen begged, but they, of course, didn't hear him. You don't want to—

Zena glanced behind her for a split-second too long. The world moved slowly just then as Alexander's missing head regenerated, but not as something of scales and flesh, but of darkness and red, glowing eyes. Its razor-sharp fangs extended, wraith-like mouth agape, as it wrapped around Zena's midsection as she tried to reel back.

And then he crunched, splitting her in two.

Owen could only watch, unable to find his voice, croaking out half of her name. Zena's upper body collapsed to the ground while her lower half flopped lifelessly in the opposite direction. Mispy collapsed, unconscious from residual effects that her healing couldn't outpace. Demitri was trying to shake her awake.

"Who to kill next," Alexander hummed to himself, eyes scanning the fallen crowd. He aimed again, but missed completely and looked perplexed. In the corner of Owen's eyes, there was a distortion of light. His Perceive weakly informed him that it was Enet, hiding in the darkness. Could Alexander sense her? If she wasn't careful…

"St-stop," Owen said. "I'll…"

"You think you can stop me?" Alexander said. "I'll kill all of them… and then take you back. You are powerless."

"Powerless…" That was it, then. It all clicked into place.

Alexander was toying with him, extending his suffering, not only because he was addicted to it, but because he thought he could get away with it. Torturing his friends because he could. Prolonging all of this pointless torment because it fed him more. Gluttony and tyranny.

It looked like that final backup plan was good after all.

Owen took a few breaths. Quick ones. He tried to make them deep, but it wasn't enough. Not for what he knew had to be done. Then, screwing his eyes shut, gritting his teeth, he concentrated on the power in his arm. Something pulsed there like a heart, and then there was a flash even in the corners of his closed eyes, and a blast sent Owen flying a foot to the left. He'd gone into some kind of shock because he couldn't feel anything but cold. The first trap exploded, the one planted right in his arm.

Alexander stared back with surprise, moments away from attacking someone else. "What—"

"I'll do it again," Owen stuttered. "I st… still have… one arm left. My legs. My heart. My head. I'll… I can destroy any of them." Owen curled his body, inching his way back until he could sit upright. In at least five different ways he should have been dead, but some combination of light and dark kept him breathing.

But he still needed a head, surely. That, he believed, and that firm tone and doubtless mind would be enough to convince Alexander of the same.

"You'll die? You wouldn't dare." He smirked. "You're afraid."

Owen squeezed his eyes shut again. There was a throb in his other arm, now—

"STOP."

You can't control me.

A second explosion knocked him over, but this time he saw it coming and he braced against the tree, giving Alexander a sick smile. This reminded him of an ancient, macabre game back home, each wrong letter affecting another limb…

Gods, it hurt. His mind stopped processing the true extent of the injuries. In a strange way it felt good. Perhaps the mutant blood in him. Or perhaps he'd finally cracked. Probably both.

"You need me," Owen said hoarsely. He didn't know why. Not completely. Not without all his memories. But that was what everything pointed to. Necrozma, Alexander, Dark Matter, all of them valued something about him, and that was where his true power lay dormant.

"…I'll do my head next. Then… you'll have to find me. While everyone hunts you down… You won't win. You'll lose… your one chance."

Alexander looked trapped—finally, a sign of hesitance. Perhaps he was even lucid, that tiny, calculating part of his mind pushing through the Shadow-stupor he'd plunged himself into.

It was time to go for the kill.

"Leave my friends alone," Owen said slowly, "and you can have me."

Alexander blinked, trying to weigh the options. He was calculating his odds again. He was coming back from that brief, overwhelming drunkenness. That would be bad for Owen. He could find an opening, see through the gambit…

"Otherwise…" Owen closed his eyes. A dull, rapidly intensifying headache throbbed—

"No—you… have some sense."

He let the dull pain ebb away, fighting back nausea.

"…Hmph. You're lucky, then. But don't think you can—"

A beam of ice struck Alexander on the side. He stared, somewhere between offended and surprised, at Zena's upper half. She glared at him, blood and water dribbling from her mouth, as she steadied herself with her one good ribbon for another shot. Her eyes were wide with pain and madness.

Alexander didn't even dignify her with a word. Raising his wraith-head, he fired. Owen's heart dropped and suddenly everything was twice as cold.

Gray wings swooped in, absorbing the hit, and then knocking the rest of the blast into a nearby tree, where a small imprint had been left behind, but nothing more.

Jerry?

The Aerodactyl shook his wings, like they were numb, and glared up at Alexander. "You got your prize," he snarled. "Leave us alone, beast."

Jerry was speaking with an odd familiarity. Owen knew—well, it was obvious—that Jerry and Alexander knew nothing about one another. Yet that tone… Was Jerry speaking to someone else, in his mind?

"You have my blood," Alexander whispered. Then, with a dismissive grunt, he drifted to Owen and picked him up by the neck. "If this is a ruse… If you destroy yourself on the way… I shall do far worse than kill them."

It had been a possibility… but Owen looked away anyway, saying nothing. If Alexander could think he'd outsmarted Owen, then the lives of his friends would be spared after all.

Wasting little extra time, Alexander grabbed Owen with his diminutive heads and flew away with haste. The one made of Shadow seemed colder, while the normal one had streaks of indigo fire digging into his chest where it wrapped.

He had time to think, finally time to think without worry about what was going to happen within the next few seconds. Even as a scuffed-looking Arceus drifted after Alexander from a distance, a Mewtwo and Treecko on her back, Owen focused inward. He could finally hear their voices again.

Owen! What are you doing?! Was THIS your plan?! Amelia shouted, somewhere between aghast and frustrated.

It was one of them, Owen replied quietly. A fallback. He's too strong. I'm going to buy you some time… and hold out with him. He won't get to me.

But… if he has you, what does that mean? Why is he after YOU specifically?

Owen had his guesses. He doesn't have me, he replied coolly. I'm here by choice. If something goes wrong, I'll… go back. But then he'll be mad, and… he won't be so merciful. I have him scared right now, but it was a bluff.

But where are . . .

They were fading out. He was too far away. Owen smiled a little, eyes closed. He'd… left them all behind. Let Alexander take him. There was a crushing sense of defeat at that thought, but it was better than utter destruction. He'd saved what he could.

He gritted his teeth again, thinking of Xypher. He couldn't save everyone. He… just couldn't lose another. Not like that. Not to him.

Owen's arms sprouted fleshy vines that twisted around themselves, forming makeshift arms. His body was repairing itself. Maybe their situation, too, could improve.

Zena's final gaze never left his mind's eye. Please, stay strong, Owen thought. I will, too. No matter what.

But the fatigue was finally setting in. He was tired. And after making sure that sleepiness wasn't from blood loss—and, indeed, he'd stopped bleeding—and once he was sure he wouldn't die in Alexander's arms, he let his guard down and drifted into darkness.

The captured Charmeleon dangled, asleep, in the grasp of the Void King as they flew north. His final, waking thought was that he would soon be far and away from the closest thing in the Voidlands he could've called home.


Owen was floating in a void again. Lucid, he realized that perhaps this was probably what would now always happen when he fell asleep. At least it was restful. He could float there, not thinking, and enjoy that brief peace.

He could have stayed there forever, but lingering thoughts always reminded him of his duties. His friends. He hoped they would know this was part of… one of his plans, at least, even if it wasn't the best one.

Dark Matter, though… He'd failed him.

What was he supposed to do there?

Eventually, stewing in his own thoughts, that peace fading to anxious stirring, a light flashed in the void. A cold pit grew in Owen's nonexistent stomach.

He was coming again.

Preparing as much as he could, Owen steeled his nerves, stood up straight, and got ready for the third god he'd managed to defy. Maybe this time he'd actually finish him for good… No. No, he couldn't do that yet. He still had work to do.

Necrozma appeared and Owen did not avert his eyes, though he still had to squint, pupils narrowing to slits.

"Owen," Necrozma greeted. His voice was a little clearer this time, deep but sharp, with a constant warmth to it, or maybe that was just his presence. He hated how comforting it was.

"I hope you're happy," Owen said. "Dark Matter's dead… even though I defied you."

The dragon of light paused, puzzled, and Owen thought he saw in those multicolored eyes and crystal jaw the hints of a smirk. The god confirmed it with a chuckle. "Goodness, Owen," he said, "you aren't usually the sort to be wrong twice in a row."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Owen snapped, fists clenched.

"You didn't defy me," Necrozma said, "and Dark Matter isn't dead. In fact… it was as I predicted. In the end, you did exactly as I had hoped. You made the right decision in the end."

"Wh…" This threw Owen so far off that his stance faltered. His tail slumped, his shoulders fell, and before he could regain his composure, Necrozma continued.

"I'm sorry for confusing you so much, Owen. I really am. But I know you perhaps too well. If I told you to do something directly, well, after all you've been through, you would have certainly done the opposite."

Flinching, Owen took a step back and searched around, expecting someone from nowhere to mock him. Necrozma was completely right. There was an instant there where Owen had thought Necrozma wanted him to kill Dark Matter… after the war that he'd spent aligning with him. And Owen had chosen not to, just to defy Necrozma, to defy some plan he refused to tell him all about.

And in the end, he'd played into it instead.

"I wanted you to make a decision for yourself," Necrozma said. "It was perhaps the only thing I could have requested of you… that you would have followed to the very end."

"Why?" Owen whispered. "Why… any of this? Why, after I… betrayed you… after you entrusted me with your power, and after I defied you to save Dark Matter? I don't… I don't get it! Why can't you gods just make sense for once?!"

His voice echoed back to him despite there being no walls to bounce. Every breath came to him a split-second later, making him self-conscious of all the noise. Even the hum of his flame was audible.

"Gods," Necrozma said, "seem to have a bad habit… of assuming the mortals to whom they speak would accept what they say without question. That they do not need to explain their full rationale, their whole plans, to the souls below. Or perhaps, they try, but the perspective is from something so far removed that it does not make sense."

As Necrozma spoke, Owen calmed down. He shifted on his feet, awkward, and Necrozma made a small, downward gesture that Owen understood meant he could sit. He decided to partake in that. The ground was featureless. It was hard to find a good position, but he eventually did. He found his legs crossing and tail wrapping around, too. An old habit.

"The world you were reborn within was meant to be temporary. Created by the whim of a god with regrets… and to be eventually destroyed when those lives cut short ran their course. It was never meant to last, to sustain. It was… a bandage over a wound that time had to heal."

"Star getting taken by the humans… and those strange experiments done to her. And then Arceus…"

"Destroying the island… and then wiping that mistake from history. Not even the world knows what happened, you know."

Owen flinched. "It's still there? The world?"

"It remains, and it prospers… And it had gone through and survived its own set of troubles, just as this world has. Though, time moves a lot slower there. That was by design, so those who lived here would not be too far removed from the world proper. Even if things… have gotten out of hand, the world itself isn't far too old. I would say that perhaps only a handful of years have passed, from their perspective."

Strange, conflicted feelings washed over him. Eon was right. He'd said the truth. And they were all alive.

"H-ha… they… they really are…"

He didn't know why, but images of an old, wizened Charizard appeared in his thoughts, and then that stern, glaring Marowak next to her.

Owen's eyes felt hot.

"Take your time," Necrozma said gently. "…Dark Matter lives. He is still there, and fragments of his power remain throughout the world, both Kilo and the Voidlands. The battle is not over… but you have gained at least one thing from that clash, after all your sacrifice.

"Dark Matter… a fragment of him was left behind. Perhaps you did not notice it, but I was watching through your eyes, fleetingly. He persists in the piece that you had given light. It's just stable enough… And also…" He trailed off. "I think I sense some of his essence within you, too. Faintly… Perhaps that is not even him anymore. A shard must have touched your heart. Admittedly… I don't know what that will do."

Owen frowned, confused again. But at least he was feeling calmer. His home, his true home… Was it his true home? He'd spent so little time there compared to…

"Do you miss Kanto?" Necrozma asked.

"I do," Owen replied automatically. "I… I do. For a lot of reasons." Some that he did not know how to express. There was so much from before all this that he wanted back. He missed saving Pokémon with his trainer. He missed traveling the roads and helping him with homework. He missed when his greatest trouble was scheming how to defeat the neighboring Squirtle.

"Do you want to go back?"

Owen laughed weakly. He did, there was no way he could deny that. He wanted to. But— "I can't."

Necrozma tilted his head, as if waiting for him to elaborate.

"Even if you had the power to, even if you're trying to offer that, I… can't. Kilo needs me to settle all this. If I disappeared, everyone here would suffer because of it, wouldn't they? It'd return to this stagnation… or worse, it would fall into these Voidlands. And because of how everything fell… because of where the power of your light and his darkness wound up… I don't know if I can… leave it behind without trying, with everything I've been entrusted."

Some of that, he believed. Some of that, he still didn't fully understand. It had only been what was told to him, or how others treated him. By coincidences and luck and perhaps a little drive, he'd been given the powers of a demon and two deities. First from Mew, who wanted to cause some trouble; then from Necrozma, who wanted a new pupil with some experience already behind them; and then from Dark Matter, who only wanted help, with Owen being the first to offer it.

Barky had asked a similar question to him what felt like ages ago. He'd presented an option to give up, to submit and leave his power behind. And some things didn't change; Owen had given the same answer to Necrozma. Would he give the same reply back? He was… far too tired to fight. And Star wouldn't be there to rescue him this time, either.

"Then, perhaps when this is over, you can at least visit," Necrozma concluded. "I won't take no for an answer, hm?"

"Ha!"

It escaped Owen before he had a chance to hide it. He should have been used to being surprised by Necrozma by now, but it still got him. Necrozma hadn't been after that at all. He had been trying to cheer him up. Gods, he was an idiot.

"Maybe after all this, sure." He sniffled, cringing to keep the tears at bay. "Sure…"

They enjoyed the silence together. Necrozma was looking focused; it was probably taking a lot of energy to project himself in this way, but he was lasting a lot longer this time. Right, Alexander was heading north; if he got closer to Necrozma—the source of that northern feeling—would that mean it would be easier to contact him?

He sighed. He wouldn't want to keep him. There were still a few things he had to do, and Necrozma needed to be at full strength for it.

There was one pressing question Necrozma could probably answer, though. "Can I ask something?" Owen asked after calming down.

"Of course."

"Why me?"

Necrozma tilted his head.

"Not as in… why do bad things always happen to me. I'm used to that. I meant, why did Alexander… go to such lengths to get me? Why Barky? And Star, and Dark Matter, and—you, too. I'm just some Charmander from Kanto who got caught up in something I shouldn't have. I don't have anything special that you couldn't have given to anyone else… Maybe someone more obedient, too."

"Ahh…" Necrozma nodded. "It must have been eating at you. Yes, I know the answer. It is perhaps more complete than the impulses that drive the other gods and their fragmented memories."

"What is it?" Owen urged.

"You said it yourself," Necrozma said. "A mere Charmander and his human partner, working together to get involved in something far larger than them. From what Star had told me, you had taken on the responsibility of rescuing your friends from an evil organization. By chance, she saw you, and decided to help. She had a habit of doing that to many people back then—it's what had gotten her in trouble in the first place. Kanto, Orre, those aren't her proper domains. She's weaker there, and she got caught in the humans' traps."

"Then, because I rescued her… I caught her attention? That's… it?"

"The gods can play favorites, too, Owen. Especially ones as impulsive as Star."

Well, he couldn't deny that…

"And the attention of one god begets the attention of another. And another, and another. Exactly that amount, actually! If you count Arceus trying to covet your allegiance, at least."

Was… was that a joke? Owen couldn't remember if Necrozma's humor was this dry.

"Erm. In any case," he went on, "over time, you also drew my attention. You scaled Destiny Tower and impressed Arceus, who normally only allowed strong hearts, strong bodies, and strong minds to ascend the tower fully. And considering what you had already proven of yourself, Arceus did favor you. He cares deeply for Star, you know… despite everything."

"That's a big despite…"

"And in the end, you denied the usual offer to become a Legend. It wasn't exactly a glamorous role since it was for a temporary world… Only meant to keep things steady until it was time to end it. There wasn't a very strong need to be stringent about who ascended. But your denial… and just, well, what I've seen…"

"I got your attention next, and that's how I became Wishkeeper."

"Precisely. And then came finding Dark Matter, which was… unexpected. You had the power of both Shadow and Radiance within you. One of a kind, Owen. But even greater… And this is a curious habit of yours, Owen… You swore loyalty to your human trainer, and nobody else. And when you lost that bond, you swore it to no other.

"You were under nobody's domain. You were your own. And, Owen, to a god… domain is everything."

"Domain is everything…" Owen nodded. So in the end, he was someone that had gained several blessings, independently, and then never aligned with any particular god. Then he up and got enhanced with Nevren's experiments, too, becoming a possible threat to them all… Yeah. That explained it. And Alexander was going to try to force him to align… Just like Mhynt.

Mhynt! He wanted to ask—

But then, Necrozma seemed to dim, and he knew what that meant. But this time—and, finally, without any doubts—Owen felt that he could trust him just a little bit more. And after all that happened, that was a milestone in itself.

"Have to go soon?" Owen asked.

"I'm afraid I do."

"I'm going to reach out to you again soon, if you can spare the energy. It might be a long one."

Necrozma hummed, but nodded. "I will try."

"Thank you." Owen sighed, standing up. He felt ready. "You said Dark Matter is still alive… that the piece of him that has light is still with the others?"

"I'm certain of it."

Owen nodded. "I'm… going to try a few things. Not like I have anything better to do right now."

"Then, good luck," Necrozma said, grinning. "In fact, I believe I can say the same thing."

"Then, good luck."

They shared a smile, and the vision faded.