Special announcement: I've put up a poll about the story on my profile page. It's going to run until the end of the month. I'm really curious as to what you readers are thinking, so I'd appreciate it if you took part in it, even if you're a silent reader who hasn't commented on the story.

These next few chapters will be a bit more experimental. Namely because, compared to the rest of the fic, the cast is a lot smaller and there's a lot more introspection than you're used to. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

I want you to understand something, Tessa. Just because Mom took care of us and did fun activities with us doesn't mean that she loved us. She was doing it for Dad's sake. I'm sure of it. You only got a glimpse of it with your failed aura training, but when it came to work, Mom was a completely different Pokémon. She had laser focus, adopting a serious tone and never letting her emotions show through. The one exception was when she was with Dad. Then she'd make wry jokes and laugh like there wasn't anything wrong. The rest of the time though, being around her in the guild made me exceptionally nervous, like she was judging every little thing I did.

It was particularly bad for me at the start, because Braviary had Vaporeon handle my training. That first week in the guild was full of me discovering things about myself I had never even considered. I wound up having to go see Dad and talk through all my concerns. When I did, I brought up the fact that Mom made me uncomfortable. Dad waved it off, saying something about how Mom's just very strong-willed and she shows that through her work.

I guess that's why the months following Dad's death were so jarring. Because Mom went from being stoic and distant to all over the place emotionally. She gained a hair-trigger temper. Little things now set her off. Like I told you back in Sunrise Village, she'd repeatedly tell me how insufferable you were. I didn't even know how to react to something like that. My own Mom badmouthing my little sister? It was awful! But, despite that, I was too scared to do or say anything. So, I kept my head down and went about my business.

Then Mom went away on what she called an "important mission." When she got back, however, she flew into a rage. That's when I saw her stomping about her room, tearing the place up and muttering things angrily to herself. A couple of weeks later, she told me she's going away "on guild business." Then she just walked out. No saying good bye. No hug or "I love you." None of that.

At first, I didn't think much of it. Mom went away to do guild stuff all the time and none of us batted an eye about it. But the days wore on and Mom didn't return to the Observatory, so I got worried. I tried to talk to Braviary, but he didn't really have anything he could offer me. Then I asked to speak to Guildmaster Metagross. He said he didn't have the time and slammed his office door on me. At that point, I figured I had to take matters into my own paws.

With the way Mom had been behaving, I suspected that maybe she was actually looking into Dad's death. Braviary and Metagross had told us there was an accident, so my best guess was that Mom didn't believe them. Thus, I found myself setting out for Glyphic Falls, hoping to find some answers…

Chapter 67: Run Away, Wayward Soul

~Glyphic Falls~

Roaring rapids and the pounding of waterfalls rose to a crescendo as Gallian padded his way through the dense evening fog at the area's base. Ahead of him, several different pathways fanned out in a semicircle, each one snaking along a river with a sharp current. Some of them immediately shot up, disappearing into the fog, while others remained at ground level.

Gallian figured the only way he could get to the bottom of things was to reach higher ground, since his dad fell from a cliff. He swiveled his head around, biting his lip as he looked at each separate pathway. Gallian wished he had an idea which way Incineroar had gone when he was here, but nothing sprang to mind. Not helping things for him was the fact that nighttime served to reduce his visibility even further.

'Maybe I have an emera that could help with this?' Gallian thought. He opened up his satchel and stuck his snout into it. But what emera could light up the falls? Galian ruled out clairvoyance ones, since they're for picking up items. 'Think, Gallian, think! Remember Magearna's big spiel about emeras.' He shook his head. That would be possible. He had nodded off the moment Magearna launched into exposition mode.

Gallian's eyes widened. There was something he could use: a sun's blessing emera! He sighed in relief as the gem in question materialized in his mouth. Gallian pulled his head out from his bag and fastened the gemstone into the looplet around his left foreleg. It clicked into place and emitted a green aura.

A vibrant orange fireball materialized in front of Gallian. After a few seconds hovering in place, it rose up into the air, flooding the basin with warm light. Some of the heavy mist moved away, offering Gallian a clearer view of the different paths. He could even see that some of them continued branching off further ahead. Most of them climbed upward until they were out of range of the artificial sun his emera had created.

"Auuugh! That light… it's dreadful! Get it out! Get it out!"

Gallian jumped in fright, looking about desperately to identify the source of the loud, screechy voice that had echoed through the area. Before he could offer a response, a chorus of angry cawing rose up from all directions. Gallian shrank back toward the fog near the entrance, looking about ready to bolt from the scene.

"Light! Bad light!"

"Turn it off!"

"Make it go away!"

"W… who's out there?" Gallian cried, teeth chattering. "I'm… uh…" He gulped. "I'm an explorer in the Horizon Guild. I'm just passing through and I'm not looking for trouble!"

Under the fireball's light, Gallian spotted multiple shadows along the different paths. He squinted and made out the forms of a dozen Murkrows. They all took to the air in unison, fluttering up to his artificial sun with disgruntled looks on their faces.

"No trouble, huh?" a portly Murkrow harrumphed. "Then what're you doing setting off this doohickey?"

"Yeah! It hurts my eyes and makes it hard to fly straight," an extremely skinny Murkrow chimed in.

"That's because you can't fly straight even in nighttime, doofus," a Murkrow with red tail feathers taunted. She turned to Gallian. "In any case, you better put this thing out right now!"

Gallian winced. "I… um… I don't really know how," he squeaked. An angry round of cawing met him in response. Gallian held up his left foreleg. "It's my looplet! My looplet, see? I already activated the emera… and there's no way to get it out until its effects fade. I'm sorry, guys! Please… just let me pass through and the light will move with me."

"Not good enough!" Red-Tail said. "If you take the light with you, you'll disturb the rest of our flock. Either turn the light out or leave!"

"I already told you guys I can't do that," Gallian said. "I have to get further. Just let me go on ahead."

"No!" the Murkrows all cawed in unison. He saw movement to his left and jumped back, clumsily dodging a pair of Murkrows who dive-bombed him from his right.

"C'mon, guys. We really don't have to do this!" Gallian begged.

"That's enough… all of you!"

The Murkrows froze in the middle of their jeers and looked over their shoulders. A red-crested Honchkrow swooped in above Gallian's fireball, flapping his wings to hover in place above all the Murkrows. "Now, what's all this shouting about? For pity's sake, I can hear you lot all the way up north. You're disturbing the sleeping members of our flock."

"Sorry, sir," Red-Tail said. "But Absol brought this awful light into the falls. Look at how bright it is!"

"It's disturbingly bright," the skinny Murkrow said, rapidly flapping his wings to stay airborne.

"That's no reason to go causing such a ruckus," Honchkrow scolded.

"But we want Absol and his light to go away," Red-Tail said. "He's with the guild. Why would they be running missions in the dead of night, anyway? That's our time, not theirs!"

Honchkrow scowled at Red-Tail, prompting her to flutter back with a look of embarrassment on our face. "Clearly, I'll have to handle this," Honchkrow said, sighing. "You there!" He pointed his wing at Gallian. "Don't move a muscle. I'm coming down."

As Honchkrow glided to Gallian's spot, both of them heard a scratchy female voice calling out, "Dear? Did you figure out why our brethren were making so much noise?"

Honchkrow descended to the ground as fast as possible and stood at attention. Likewise, the Murkrows landed behind him and arranged themselves in a neat, single-file line. Gallian heard loud wingbeats overhead and looked up. A Toucannon flew into view. On her head sat a crown made of various feathers encompassing an array of different colors. Gallian spotted a rainbow crystal in the center of the crown and gulped.

'Oh gods, I've really gone and screwed this up,' he thought. 'They brought their Totem out and everything!'

Totem Toucannon landed beside Honchkrow. "I was actually attending to the noise issue, sweetie," Honchkrow said. "There really was no need for you to drag yourself out of the nest."

"I was already awake thanks to that lot's incessant cawing," Totem Toucannon said, fixing a disdainful look on the Murkrows. They all shuffled about nervously, poking the ground with their feet.

"It was her idea!" Portly Murkrow said, pointing to Red-Tail.

"Me? You're the lout who got whipped up into a frenzy by Absol's light ball!" Red-Tail said, flapping her wings.

Totem Toucannon's beak began glowing and radiating hot air. "I don't care which one of you started it. Only that you all prolonged it. Now, be quiet so the adults can talk."

Red-Tail and Portly Murkrow stepped back, looking down guiltily. "As I was saying," Honchkrow continued, clearing his throat, "it appears Absol here created some sort of artificial light. I recognize the badge and the band on his leg. He's with the guild."

"I see," Totem Toucannon said. She glanced at the fireball in the sky and then hopped around to face Gallian. He could only stare down the length of her large beak for a few seconds before shrinking back. "That was a bit brash of you, don't you think?" she said, pointing to the artificial sun. "Generally speaking, my flock tries to stay out of the way of you civilized 'mons. We have an understanding, after all. You let us go about our lives and we stay out of your business."

"But this is… rather intrusive of you," she continued. "It's hard keeping order in a flock where the Pokémon are active at different times of day. In the past, I tried to make it clear to you all to stay out of our domain at nighttime. You see, despite my mate's hard work, the night-fliers are much more easily startled. And I really don't want any misunderstandings spiraling out of control."

"Suh-Sorry, Totem… ma'am… m-miss… err… something like that," Gallian said, wincing. "I wasn't trying to rile anyone up. H-Honest!"

"Then tell us… what was so important that you had to come here at night?" Honchkrow asked, eyeing Gallian skeptically.

"That's… um…" Gallian bit his lower lip. "It's hard to explain."

Totem Toucannon sighed. "You there!" she called to Red-Tail, who immediately saluted her with a wing. "Take your friends and go the watering hole in the east." Red-Tail opened her beak to protest, which she immediately cut off with a, "Quickly, please."

Red-Tail nodded rapidly, shooing the other Murkrows off with flutters of her wings. She then flew off after them, disappearing into the mist. Totem Toucannon nodded. "There. Perhaps now you'll be a little less nervous." she said.

"I think you're the one who made him nervous, to be honest," Honchkrow said, chuckling.

Totem Toucannon was not amused by the joke. "Be serious here, dear. Civilized or not, I am deeply uncomfortable with an Absol being in our midst." She locked eyes with Gallian. "I'm sorry, but I have to look out for my flock's best interests. And that would involve getting you out of here quickly. So, either give me a reason why you're here or leave."

Gallian flinched. "It's my mom," he squeaked. "She's a Lucario with the guild. I… um… I think something bad happened to her here." He mustered up the courage to look Totem Toucannon in the eyes, only to wilt in the face of her unconvinced expression. "She came here a couple of weeks ago to poke around the place and hasn't come back to the guild since. I'm just trying to figure out what might've happened."

"So, you're here on nothing more than a hunch?" Honchkrow said, shaking his head disapprovingly. "That sounds like a prelude to bringing trouble upon us. You don't seem that aggressive, kid, but we know what Absols are capable of. Why you're not living in the mountains where you can't cause any trouble is beyond me."

"I have to press onward," Gallian said, squeezing his eyes shut. "My mom only came here because of my dad: Guildmaster Incineroar. Maybe you've, y'know, met him before?"

Both birds tensed up, exchanging nervous looks. "You're Incineroar's kid?" Honchkrow gasped. "That doesn't make a lick of sense if your mom's a Lucario."

"They found my egg left in the middle of a winter storm," Gallian explained. "But that's not the point. About six months ago, my dad came here to do… something. I'm not entirely sure what. But… but there was an accident and my dad died! I think my mom came here because she's not convinced there was any accident. That's why I need to investigate."

Honchkrow looked expectantly at Totem Touncannon. He fluttered over to her, holding up a wing to shield his head from Gallian's view. "Um, dear. Not to alarm you, but doesn't that sound an awful lot like what I told you about? When I got caught in that nasty storm?"

Totem Toucannon nodded. "It does."

"What should we do, then? If Absol's the guy's kid, we should tell him what happened, right?" Honchkrow said.

"Can you even still accurately remember what you saw?" Totem Toucannon asked.

"Well, I think Absol helped clear things up a bit. I wasn't honestly sure what to make of that night until now," Honchkrow said.

"Then go ahead," Totem Toucannon said. "Just be prepared for the possibility he might get upset."

Honchkrow nodded and lowered his wing. Behind him, Gallian shuffled about nervously. "Did… did I do something wrong?" he asked.

"No," Honchkrow said. "I just needed to consult with my mate for a moment. The truth is… I think I know what you're talking about with your dad."

Gallian stood up straight. "You do?"

"Several months ago, a nasty storm fell over the area. As it got worse, my mate noticed that members of the flock were missing," Honchkrow explained. "I volunteered to head out into the storm and locate the missing birds. Flying proved difficult, but I managed to find them as the storm was dying down. In the process of returning to our flock's home, however, I got turned around in all the fog and rain."

Honchkrow took a deep breath. "As I tried to find my way back, I stumbled upon a scene that… confused me. There was an Incineroar standing at the edge of a cliff. I couldn't really tell what was happening at first, but then I heard a loud clan. Metal legs shot out from the fog and struck Incineroar. He stumbled back and dropped off the cliff. I couldn't do anything to save him, because I was still carrying the younglings."

Gallian tightly clenched his jaws, breath coming in short, ragged gasps. "You saw… metal legs?" he said. That couldn't be right. There was no way Metagross could be the one responsible for his dad's death. He was at the guild all night with Braviary. That's what he was told. "Did you… um… see anything else?" Gallian asked.

"Well, there were a pair of glowing eyes," Honchkrow said. "They lit up a metal cross… so I guess there was another Pokémon there with Incineroar? I'm sorry, but that's about all I know."

Gallian inhaled sharply and descended into a raucous coughing fit. Totem Toucannon tensed, slightly unfurling her wings. "What's the problem here?" she said. "You look as if you're staring death in the face."

"We have a Pokémon like that in the guild," Gallian wheezed. "But that's… he's…" He shook his head. "Metagross was Dad's friend. He'd never… kill him. This has to be… some mistake. Another Metagross, maybe?"

Honchkrow shrugged. "I'm sorry, kid, but that's all I know… honest. A Pokémon with metal legs sent an Incineroar off one of the cliffs. I didn't bother hanging around to check out what else happened. I was too worried about the flock."

Gallian squeezed his eyes shut, scraping his claws against the rocky ground. This couldn't be right. Everyone loved his dad. Why would Metagross do something so drastic? Gallian took a cautious step back from the birds. "Thanks for the heads up… I guess," he said.

"Does this mean you'll be leaving?" Totem Toucannon asked.

"Yeah," Gallian whispered. "Sorry for disturbing you." He turned and walked into the fog around the entrance, a neutral expression on his face. As he made his way deeper into the mist, the green glow from his emera faded. Gallian emerged from the fog into a clearing. There were a couple of wood cabins on either side and a rocky incline leading down to a set of docks.

Gallian made it about halfway down the hill before doubling over in pain. His eyes went wide and darted around the clearing. Gallian's heart pounded faster and faster while his chest constricted. His breathing lapsed into an irregular wheezes.

What was happening? Why did his head hurt so much? Gallian cupped his shaking forepaws over his head, wincing as they brush the fur on his neck. It was all standing on end!

'Why do I feel so afraid? It's like I'm staring down an avalanche… and I'm just rooted to the spot!'

Gallian stiffened. He forced his eyes shut and a single thought flickered through his mind.


His eyes shot open. Disaster? But what was going wrong? He looked around clearing, panic spreading across his face. Was something about to happen to him? He had no clue, which only served to make him more nervous.

Gallian looked over his shoulder. Off in the distance, thunderhead clouds gave off clusters of white light. There was no doubt in Gallian's mind. He had to leave. It wasn't safe here. Gallian reached into his satchel and produced a flare for the Sharpedo Sailors. He fired it into the air, where it erupted in a bright blue flash.

As he waited for his lift, Gallian paced back and forth. What could he do? Where should he go? He paused. The Observatory was the obvious answer, but the thought made his chest tighten again. He hunched close to the ground, gasping for air. Gallian shook his head about and stumbled backward.

'No, I can't go there. It's… it's a bad idea,' he thought.

Gallian froze once again, blinking rapidly. What was he saying? A huge storm was coming straight for him! He couldn't just stand around and get caught in it. There was no choice. He had to back to the Observatory for his own safety.

This time, Gallian's scythe crackled with black energy. He dropped to his belly, brushing his forelegs against his head. That idea didn't sit right with him. The Observatory wasn't safe. Not with Metagross around. Because if Honchkrow had told the truth, then Gallian knew he couldn't take Metagross. Besides, what could he possibly say against Metagross?

"Ahoy there! You need a lift?"

Gallian sprang to his feet, a nervous look on his face. A Sharpedo bobbed in the water in front of Gallian, a gray cross on his forehead instead of a yellow one. "Y-Yessir!" Gallian said. "I've… I've got to go to… um…"

The sky rumbled overhead. "I suggest you think quickly, lad. That storm brewing in the distance looks mighty fierce. You're probably my last fare for the day," Sharpedo said.

"Coming," Gallian said, trotting up to the dock and hopping onto Sharpedo's back. He fastened himself into the specialized seat. "Can you… um… get me to Sunrise Village?" Gallian asked.

"Sure thing, lad. There's a small inlet I can follow from the Midnight Sea," Sharpedo explained. "Off we go!" Sharpedo swam into the night, cutting through the large waves. Their sharp angles led to numerous plumes of water spraying Gallian in the face, to his serious displeasure. "Sorry about that. That storm's really churning the sea up something fierce! You hanging on back there?" Sharpedo said.

Gallian pursed his lips and repeatedly made spat out saliva, trying to get rid of the salty taste in his mouth. "I'm fine," he lied, suppressing a shiver. Each wave that washed over Gallian made his heart skip a beat. His chest kept tightening no matter how much Gallian tried to take deep, calming breaths. He made the decision to stay away from the Observatory, so why did he still have a sinking sensation that something was going to happen?

He shut his eyes, trying to focus on the anxiety running rampant through his system instead of the frigid water dousing him every minute. Before he knew it, his teeth were chattering. Gallian tried to push that thought from his mind. What was the problem? Was Sunrise Village still too close to Metagross? And wasn't his dark-typing supposed to keep him safe from Metagross' mind-reading?

Gallian tensed up, expecting a fresh round of stabbing pains in his torso. But nothing happened. Which meant he wasn't on the right track. Gallian just had to think harder! Why was he going to Sunrise Village? To lay low at Sylveon's house. 'She'll surely be there,'Gallian thought. 'As will Eevee and Tes–'

Despite being soaked to the bone, Gallian's fur stood on end. It was like his ribs had grabbed hold of his lungs and squeezed. "Argh!" he cried.

Sharpedo slowed down. "Whoa! Everything alright back there?"

"I… I'm fine. Keep… going," Gallian wheezed. Sharpedo increased his speed again. Gallian took a few sharp breaths.

Tessa was the problem. It had to be. Gallian's chest was so tight, he thought it would explode!

He opened his mouth to speak, when Sharpedo struck a particularly sharp wave, bouncing into the air. Sharpedo kicked up sea spray that flew into Gallian's mouth. Gallian turned to his right, coughing and spitting into the choppy ocean. "Sorry again, lad. The storm must be getting close," Sharpedo said. "I don't even think I'll be able to make it back to my cave at this rate."

This was bad. Worse than bad, even. Gallian couldn't survive a night stuck with Tessa. Not in this much pain. He wouldn't survive until morning. All it would take is Tessa starting to talk and he envisioned such searing pain in his head that he would drop dead on the spot. In fact, his head was throbbing right this second! He shook it, wincing.

A second later, Sharpedo passed through another wave. Cold water splattered across Gallian's face. The salt water stung his eyes, but thankfully took his focus off his aching head. That shift in focus brought a sudden moment of clarity, with his scythe flickering bright-pink.

The problem wasn't just Tessa. It was Tessa and the guild. Gallian knew she wanted to join it. But after what he heard, he couldn't let Tessa get anywhere near Metagross. If he had killed Incineroar, he could have done the same to Prisma. So, what would stop him from going after Tessa? Or both of them?

'What can I do about that, though?' Gallian wondered. Could he really look his sister in the eyes and tell her the Guildmaster had killed Incineroar?

An involuntary tensing of his claws against his seat told him that no, he didn't have the guts to try something like that. And before he could give the situation any more thought, the rough waters died down around him. Sharpedo swam up to a small stream on the edge of Azure Cape and proceeded through it. The water jets he used to propel himself forward easily let him maneuver against the current.

"We're pretty much here," Sharpedo announced. A few seconds later, a grassy path came into view. Even with storm clouds covering up the moon, Gallian could spot the white and pink outlines of Sylveon's house sitting in the distance. Sharpedo pulled up to the stream's embankment. Gallian got off Sharpedo's back and produced several coins from his satchel.

"Stay safe out there, lad," Sharpedo said, before turning and swimming back down the river. Gallian watched him go, tensing from the lightning flashes going off in the distance.

He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. 'You can do this, Gallian. Just go up to her… and tell her that she can't try to join the guild because it's too dangerous.'

Gallian nodded and walked toward Sylveon's house, leaving a trail of water droplets behind him. But with every step he took, his heart rate steadily rose. By the time the front door was in full view, Gallian's heart was racing so quickly, he thought he might pass out. He froze and then took a cautious step backwards.

This was a bad idea, he was sure of it. If he went through with it, Tessa would ask questions. Questions he had no answers to.

His eyes darted about the grassy road. What could he do? What could he say to her to keep her away from the guild?

A raindrop fell into Gallian's eye. He shut it and shook his head violently, flinging water off his fur. Another rain drop struck his tail, then another hit the tip of his scythe. Within seconds, the heavens opened. Sheets of rain poured down on him. Soaked white fur draped over Gallian's eyes, blocking his vision. He stumbled forward, only for his left forepaw to strike a newly-made mud puddle. Gallian lost his balance and toppled over, taking a face full of mud.

It mostly washed off when he got back to his feet, as the torrential downpour showed no signs of stopping. Gallian's breathing quickened, growing heavier and heavier the longer he stood in the rain. He shakily approached the door to Sylveon's house, barely able to make out what was in front of him with the mud and water in his eyes.

Gallian walked right into the door, his scythe knocking against the damp wood. He stumbled back, heart hammering in his chest.

What had he done?

His chest was so tight, he couldn't breath.

'Run, you idiot! Run!'

The door creaked open, but between his blurry vision, the damp fur in his face, and the dark of night, Gallian couldn't make out who stood in the doorway until they started speaking.

"Gallian, is that you?"

It was Tessa.

Tessa was standing there.

And now Gallian had a choice to make.

'Get out of there!'

"Gods, you look awful! Come inside, quickly. You're gonna catch a cold if you stay out there," Tessa said. She reached out, flinching as she grabbed his looplet.

"Nuh… no… I can't," Gallian said, tugging his foreleg back.

'Run away!'

Tessa frowned. "Well, you can't stay outside. It's late enough already and this storm's showing no signs of letting up. C'mon, Gallian, I don't want to see you getting sick." She again reached out toward Gallian's looplet. "I'm sure Sylveon wouldn't mind you spending the night here. Anything's better than trying to trudge back to the guild in this weather. What if Mom comes home to find you sick, huh?"

'… sick? From staying out in a storm?'

Gallian snapped. Without warning, he headbutted Tessa. She staggered backward, rubbing her damp snout with her paws. "G… Gallian?" she squeaked, eyes tearing up. "Why did you hit me like that?"

'Get out! Run! This is your chance!'

Gallian stood there, hyperventilating. Pink energy flashed in his eyes and his scythe. He pointed the scythe right at Tessa. "You have to stay here!" he shouted. "Stay here… a-and don't follow me! Not to the guild! Not anywhere!"

'I have to do this.'

Tessa stared down the tip of Gallian's scythe, blinking in surprise. "I… I don't understand," she whispered.

'This is for her own good.'

"Listen to me, damn it!" Gallian snarled, stomping a forepaw on the ground and spraying mud onto Tessa's legs. She fell back on her rear, shivering in fright. "Don't you ever let me catch you setting foot in that guild. If you do, I won't hesitate to strike you down!"

Gallian turned and sprinted away, never looking back. He made it several yards before slipping and falling. Gallian slid across the ground, brown muck caking his wet fur and his scythe. He staggered to his feet, spitting out a mouthful of mud and then forcefully coughing as if he were choking on something.

The coughs grew louder and more violent. Gallian tasted copper in the back of his throat. He staggered forward a few more steps in the rain, before his legs shook so aggressively that he collapsed onto his side. Gallian curled up into a ball, trembling uncontrollably. All the while, rain drops pounded on his side, each one stinging like a Pin Needle. He lay in the mud, teeth gritted and breath coming in short, irregular gasps.

Black spots soon dotted his vision.

'I did… what I had… to do…'

All Gallian remembered before passing out was the sensation of the rain easing up on him.

Blades of muddy grass tickled Gallian's nose. He sneezed loudly, eyes shooting open. Shock appeared on his face when he realized he was lying on the side of the road to Sunrise Village. Gallian tried to get to his feet, only to slip and fall. His face landed right in a semi-solidified mud puddle. Gallian slowly sat up, blinking his eyes repeatedly.

How long was he out for?

After a few more seconds of blinking, Gallian's vision slightly cleared up. He used his shoulder to brush his muddy fur out of his eyes. Orange light spilled across the road. A cursory glance upward told Gallian the sun was making its way up higher into the sky.

Gallian stood up and shook himself out. Much to his dismay, his actions did little to lighten the extra weight dragging his fur down. Gallian spotted a puddle and walked up to it. He grimaced at the sight of his reflection. His fur was matted, with numerous knots present that would take more than a quick shower to deal with. The fur on his forehead had unfurled and dangled in front of his face, which was completely caked in a thick, grimy layer of brown mud.

His heart sank. He found himself drifting back years ago, to days when he and Tessa would dash out of Aeon Town following a storm and play around in mud puddles. Those times always ended with the two of them rolling about, laughing joyfully and sometimes getting an earful from their exasperated mother.

Instead, Gallian had put the fear of the gods in Tessa. He thought back to the last thing he said to her before turning tail and running off into the storm. It was all he could think of to make his unease– no, make his pain stop. He had no other options.

For a moment, Gallian considered turning back toward Sunrise Village and going to apologize to Tessa. But his neck fur prickled and pressure grew in his skull. Gallian lowered his head, eyes shut in resignation.

There was no turning back. He couldn't return to Tessa. Not now. Not ever.

'But then, what am I supposed to do?'

Gallian glanced at the puddle again. At the very least, he could go clean himself up. Azure Cape wasn't too far away and it would keep him away from Sunrise Village and the guild.

His mind made up, Gallian broke into a run.

'I'm sorry, Tessa. I hope you can forgive me someday.'

I decided to essentially treat Gallian's disaster sense like an aggressive panic attack. Hopefully that showed through. Onto the replies.

SuperOmegaGuest: thanks for pointing that out. I can never seem to put up a chapter without there being at least one typo.

Chaz: glad to hear you're enjoying things. And sorry for stressing you out during class. That definitely wasn't my intention, but it's nice to see folks get so invested in these characters. Hopefully you'll continue to enjoy what I have to offer!

Anon Omega: don't worry, it was a one-time joke with Tessa.

Veralix: well, Mega Lucarios are pretty much the PMD equivalent of a Super Saiyan, so as soon as you see one you can start shouting DBZ references, I suppose.

WonderBread: Seraph is a lesbian. She's only hit on women in this story. As to your question, well, Shane would never admit to the first option.

Another guest: stick around and you might just get a glimpse of Arceus in a few weeks!

Next time: Gallian attempts to go into hiding, but runs into more trouble than he bargained for.