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April 2018 Grim Tales Update 2

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April 2018 Grim Tales Update 1

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 4 – Chapter 18

Chapter 18

“Are you really okay, Nii-san?”

The question coming from Sakura grates on my mind. Part of it stems from not wanting to repeat myself for the third time today. But the other part stems from the fact that walking such a short distance shouldn’t be so difficult.

Ayako brought Sakura to pick me up yesterday after school. She had been told we were hashing out the final details of the Training Camp for the Archery Club when I’d taken a bad fall on the mountain and they were keeping me to see if there was any serious damage done, since I insisted that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The shoddy lie meant that I couldn’t stay any longer without drawing suspicion, so we went home.

Now it was the day afterwards and, while I can move better than before, walking fast just isn’t happening.

Sakura’s slowing herself down to keep pace with me. Another form of pity that I’m not fond of and she knows it. But it’s like she just can’t help it, so here we were.

“The lingering pain will pass in a few days and I’ll be able to move fine again, so stop worrying,” I tell her.

“But you shouldn’t be putting this kind of stress on yourself just to attend a half-day.”

She’s right. Or she would be under normal circumstances where I wouldn’t have made the effort. But, because the rest of the active Drifters in Fuyuki are attending school today, it makes for the most convenient meeting place for us. And, once school ended, I could head right back home to focus on finding a means of dealing with the more important issues—like finding the Einzberns.

I don’t know what why they played a part in the end of the world, but those were their homunculi. Since they’ve been involved with the Holy Grail War from the beginning, there’s no way the Old Worm didn’t have ample information on them. Once I pinned down a location, I’d send the Veterans to go deal with them.

And once we killed them in this time period, they’d cease to be a problem in the future.  If we were lucky, it would be just the thing to save the world—breaking our contracts and setting us free.

The thought of being done with all of this was enough to make me smile until I noticed Sakura still staring at me.

“Sakura, you should be more worried about yourself. Arranging this Training Camp is the last thing Mitsuzuri and I will do as the leaders of the Archery Club. The rest is on your shoulders like it should have been, so you’ll have to assert yourself. You can do that much by now, right?”

Her expression falters at having the discussion become about her instead of me. But she schools her features and nods resolutely. “Yes. I’ll do my best, so please don’t worry about me.”

The talking tapers off there until we make it to the school minutes later. Out of all of the students walking about, Ayako stands out. She’s waiting against the wall next to the entrance with her eyes closed and her head leaning back. Did she fall asleep on her feet?

You shouldn’t sleep in front of the school.

Her eyes snap open at the wake-up call and she addresses us. “Morning, Sakura. Shinji. Are you both doing well?”

“Nii-san is still having a little trouble moving his body, but other than that we’re both well,” Sakura says, giving her a slight bow in greeting. “Thank you for watching after him until now, Mitsuzuri-senpai.”

“If I’d been a little more careful it wouldn’t have come to that, so it was the least I could do for him.” Her eyes shift to me and a telepathic message follows. ‘I was speaking with Issei about something important. Head to the rooftop and I’ll explain it later with the others.

Got it.’ I turn to Sakura briefly as I walk past them. “I’m not doing anything physical today, so you two’ll have to handle opening up the club.”

“Have a good day, Nii-san.”

Shinji… about Gai…

I stop and look over my shoulder in Ayako’s direction. ‘What about him?

He’s been a lot more reserved after what happened. To save you, he ended up having to kill one of the Soldier Taboo and he took it pretty badly.

From what I heard, he developed a Burst that caused a layer of crystalline material to jut up from the bones in his arms and form a shell around them as he crushed the Homunculus’ skull. It was desperation act. He wanted to accomplish something, and his PSI just filled in the blanks.

He does realize they would have killed us if he didn’t, right?

…It’s easy to say that, but….’ There’s an undercurrent of melancholy as she trails off. ‘Look, I’m just letting you know so that you don’t set him off by accident. We talked to him about it when we got back from the future, and he said he just needs to have some time to come to terms with it.

Fine. I won’t say anything to him.’ I wouldn’t really be able to relate to him on the problem anyways since I had no issue with killing anything that tried to kill me. Better to leave it to the people who can do that. ‘Anything else?

The Trio will be coming back after missing school yesterday, so—

Right. Right. Be nice to them too.’ I start to walk again into the building and climb the stairs until I get to the rooftop entrance. Past the door I find six chairs and desks facing one another, arranged for us to take a seat and converse. Energy bars and canned drinks on top of each of them makes for a poor substitute for breakfast, but it’s better than nothing to start the day.

I take a seat on the left side and lean against the backrest while staring up at the sky, trying to get my thoughts together. We have a reprieve for now, during which we needed to train the Track Trio. But I also need some way of dealing with that body-snatcher before we get called to the future again.

Last time she managed to connect directly to my central nervous system, taking over my body and tampering with my memories without me knowing. I can’t presume that I’d be able to detect her the next time. And I can’t just rely on my PSI to reject the connection like before.

It was pure luck I made it back in time to be healed when the damage was linked to my brain. The brain acts as the anchor-point of the soul. I don’t know how our souls get shunted into the future, but if the brain gets severely damaged then it’s over.

Likewise, I didn’t understand enough about the method she used to develop a countermeasure. If it was a Trance or Mental Interference ability, I could probably find some way to shield myself from it. But only if I could detect it coming.

I raise my hand to the sky and just look at it. I can still feel some of that energy permeating me like in the future. Thrumming beneath my skin mildly compared to when in the future. If this is what they meant by PSI getting stronger over multiple trips, then it’ll be less strenuous to come up with something to help me out for the next time.

No one will make a puppet out of me. Never again.

THUMP!!

The door to the rooftop opens with a loud sound. It causes me to fall out of my seat in surprise, leaving me to hit the rooftop with a painful crash. I suck in a sharp breath before glaring daggers at the one responsible.

Makidera’s face cringes for a moment before she looks away, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly. “Ah, sorry about that.”

Remembering Ayako’s request, I force myself to breath out slowly and vent my agitation harmlessly as I get back to my feet. “Just take a seat.”

She hurries over to the other side, wisely putting distance between us while Saegusa comes out next. Her soft, brown eyes pass on a silent apology as she follows the first one to the other side of the table. Himuro is the last, giving me a slight nod in greeting as she takes her place between the two.

I return to my seat opposite Saegusa and grab the can of coffee on the desk. I need the caffeine to deal with the loud-mouth this early in the morning. Unfortunately, the milky taste ruins the coffee entirely and leaves me even more agitated as the uptight one starts a conversation.

“First, let me offer my gratitude for aiding us in that situation,” she states. “Had you and the others not been there, it’s very likely none of us would have woken up in the hospital. There is likely nothing we can do to repay that debt, but we shall make an effort if it is reasonably possible.”

“I’ll just ask you take this matter seriously so that you can keep surviving from here on. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been any different than if we left you to die there. Aside from that, I trust there weren’t any complications when you woke in the hospital, were there?”

“There were minor tests to try and grasp what happened to us after we all denied having done anything other than attend our club before we fell unconscious. Ultimately, the doctors labeled exhaustion as the likely cause since there were no more physical changes and made rather generic recommendations to prevent it in the future.”

“Those hacks even suggested that we quit,” Makidera loudly complains amid tearing open an energy bar. “Like that’s going to solve anything when it isn’t even the problem.”

“You know you’ll still probably be asked to sit on the sidelines. If not retire, right?”

I thought it was obvious, but it seems she didn’t expect it from the look of surprise that blossomed on her face. “Wait, what?”

“You passed out after a practice in the locker room on the same day that more than a few hundred died from similar cases around the whole of Japan, and people who have recovered from said passing out in the past have either committed suicide or died at a later date, despite not having any sort of commonality between them. The fact that the cause is still unknown has left people scrambling for answers, and since we can’t give them the truth without dying they’re not going to get them.”

“So the school will have to attempt to avoid accountability by minimizing the risk of it happening again.” Himuro nods in agreement. “Yes, I suspect before the day is done our club sponsor will be having words with us. Even if they didn’t, the matter of our survival means that we’d have to cut down or retire from the club in order to properly train our abilities.”

Indignant at having to give up something she’s worked hard for over the last few years, Makidera leaps up and points to me. “But that’s not fair! He and Mitsuzuri get to remain in their club, so why should we get benched when they don’t?”

“Our circumstances are different enough that it doesn’t even apply.” I’d been suffering from sleep deprivation and was manhandled by Ayako’s brother, while she wasn’t even on the school grounds when it happened. “If it’s any consolation, Mitsuzuri and I have basically retired from leading the Archery Club as of today under the excuse that my deteriorating health and her studies have been piling up. So, we’re in the same situation.”

She visibly looks somewhat relieved until Himuro gives her a subtle tap with her elbow that passes along the message that it’s not a good thing. She then clears her throat and tries to play it off. “Y-Yeah, it sucks for all of us.”

I tamper down on my urge call her out on being petulant. Partly because Ayako ask that I play nice today and partly because I had the feeling this was her way of trying to cope. After all, she was the closest of these three to dying and one of her ties to normalcy was taken away from her. Misery loves company.

So I move the conversation away from her and turn my attention to the last of the three. “Were you able to put your family’s worries at ease, Saegusa?”

“Oh… umm… I think so.” She fidgets a bit while gathering her thoughts. “I was actually surprised when I woke up to find my brothers all around me crying. Kouta said he was more upset about dinner and now I owed him a double day on both that and breakfast, but his eyes were the reddest.”

“Well, a child wouldn’t be honest with their feelings. But why were you surprised to find that they’d be worried? You basically take care of them when your parents can’t, so isn’t it natural that they would be happy to see you’re doing well now?”

“I was always worried about them, so I didn’t really take the time to think about how they’d feel if something happened to me. Just that I wouldn’t be able to take care of them if I was gone.” She looks to the desk while wearing a somewhat soft frown. “But… there’s still a chance that’ll happen the next time, isn’t there?”

I don’t sugarcoat my answer. “Until we change the future, or we reduce our count to zero, we’ll have to go when we’re called. The best we can do is make it so that you have the best chance possible of returning so that they don’t have to experience that sort of worry or pain anytime soon. It’s unfair, but there’s nothing we can do about it right now.”

There’s a lull of silence at that. What happened before can happen again, and if they’re not up to the challenge then they’ll die. I won’t try to soften that fact because it’s the reality of the situation.

In an effort to raise the mood that I’d intentionally crushed down, Makidera puffs out her chest and says, “Don’t worry so much, Yukicchi. Just leave all the fighting to me and we’ll clear it in no time. I mean, if even Matou can become so tough after only one trip, then imagine just how much stronger we’ll be too?”

I’m pretty sure those words were just meant to be for Saegusa’s sake rather than insulting me, but that’s three strikes in less than five minutes. If I don’t get back at her somehow now it’d rankle me for the rest of the day. “Then you can take my place fighting the next time we get there.”

A short-lived look of pure shock dawns on her face. “Huh?”

“I’m not suited for the frontlines to begin with, so if someone more qualified steps up then I can focus more on a supporting role and handle the logistics to make sure everything goes smoothly. Mitsuzuri will probably be a bit harsh in her training to get you up to par in short order, but anything short of death can be healed away by the Student President easily enough.”

The way her body stiffens despite her effort to hide her nervousness gives away her façade, but her pride won’t let her back out so easily. “S-sure, leave it to me!”

“Excellent.” The way I see it, either she’ll fulfill the role suitable enough or die trying.

Himuro politely clears her throat before I can savor the moment though and pulls out her calling card out. “Can you show us how many points were deducted now?”

I pull out my own from my pocket and press it to my forehead. “Do like this and that’ll be enough.”

The other two pull their cards out to copy Himuro as she does so. Her eyes slightly broaden before she pulls it away from her head, no doubt experiencing the same sensation I did my first time. Then her brows compress as she bears witness to the corner of the card eroding into black and the number appears.

“Mine’s Forty-nine,” Makidera states with a frown while looking over to the other two. No doubt they had the same count. Then she looks over to me with an expectant glance, wordlessly pressing me for an answer.

“Forty-two. I lost five in this trip and three in my first trip.”

If I had to guess, losing five points was probably because of the nature of the mission. It started out as a Recruitment Mission, or at least it appeared to before it turned into an Extermination Mission. Not to mention we learned of Atlasia, who likely has the key to unraveling what brought that future about.

If anything, I think that we should have lost more points given everything that happened. But, for now, I’ll take what I can get.

Unfortunately, Makidera’s petulant side rears its ugly head again in the wake of the information. “Why did you lose more than us for your first trip?”

“Because Gotou and I had been given the task of escorting Mitsuzuri to the checkpoint after she ended up too exhausted to fight our first trip, whereas you three only barely managed to survive until we found you. It couldn’t be helped given how you and the other survivors didn’t know anything and weren’t capable of fighting back, but that difference between our circumstances still applies.”

She doesn’t look all that pleased at the explanation, but it’s the reality of the situation in the end.

Gai’s here now, so we’re coming up.’

The telepathic message from Ayako rings in my head. Theirs too judging from the reactions it caused. They’re not exactly used to having a voice other than their own in their heads, despite the explanation that I gave them in the future, so they’re a lot less calm about it and it takes them a minute to settle down.

That’s when the door opens and Gai steps out of the entrance first. He takes in the sight of all of us until his eyes meet mine. It makes him pause in place for a moment. Then he takes a breath and steps over towards my side of the table.

Ayako follows behind him, sparing him a sympathetic look before her expression shifts to one more amicable as she meets the gazes of the Track Trio and shuts the door. “Sorry for taking up your morning like this, but it’s important that we meet up when we can now. More so considering the circumstances aren’t better to start your training this afternoon.”

I… don’t like the sound of that. “Did something come up?”

“Issei and his brother will be heading up further north once school ends to discuss things with the Veteran I mentioned having worked Tatsumi’s group in the past. That means we won’t be able to use the temple or have someone who can heal us until they get back, while Neko’s place is on the other side of the city.”

Oh, come on. I could understand the Monk leaving, but the other had more use to us here since he provided us with a place to train, a method of getting there discreetly, and the ability to heal if any of us got injured. “Do both need to go right now?”

“If the circumstances were a bit different, no. But some of the people we saved got in contact with us, and we can’t have a situation like with Tatsumi and the others dying without any of us being aware. So Issei is going to use his power to set up a network and try to keep the peace between his brother and Ryougi-san, since the talk yesterday over the phone didn’t go so well.”

I can only see a handful of the people we saved following up with the training, so I don’t have much hope for a new wave of Drifters to help us out. But, if there’s an issue between the Veterans then that’ll be problematic. They’re the most experienced ones and the most important assets we have to deal with external threats.

“Do you suspect it’ll turn violent?” Himuro asks, inserting herself into the conversation in an effort to mine for more information.

Ayako crosses her arms and closes her eyes in thought for a moment. “Mmm… I don’t think it’ll get that far with Issei there. Supposedly the two have an easier time understanding one another and he has a level head. But if she’s the one there instead, it’ll be troublesome.”

“There are two of them?”

“No, I mean his other half,” she clarifies. “I never witnessed the change myself but from how Neko put it, Kaname Ryougi is two people in a single body and their specialty with PSI changes depending on which personality is in charge. The male personality specializes in Rise and Burst but is incapable of using Trance. The female personality specializes in Trance and Burst but is incapable of using Rise.”

“A split-personality?” Himuro brings her hand to her chin in thought. “From what you’ve told the three of us in the future about PSI, the power uses the brain in order to process and manifest the abilities. If there’s a preexisting mental disorder, I suppose it shouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that such things could also affect how their power is expressed.”

I don’t discount the possibility either. Some magi do develop dual personalities to help them blend into society better or use magecraft in different ways. But that’s usually a form of self-hypnosis, not an actual disorder.

Ayako continues on regardless. “Whether he had it before he got there or suffered a breakdown afterwards isn’t something I know, but the male personality is the one they interact with the most and he doesn’t really help past teaching basics.”

It sounds to me like he’s apathetic to the situation of others because they’re not his problem, which is understandable under normal circumstances. But, since we need the survivors to pad out our numbers or these trips to the future will keep happening more frequently for our group, that’s going to have to be dealt with. “And what about the other one?”

“Terrifying enough that they feel the need to send two Veterans instead of just one,” she states. “Through a combination of Trance and Burst, she basically makes whatever illusions she projects into the target happen in real life. So, in theory, she can pretty much kill anyone she wants to with a thought.”

I don’t buy it. You can’t just wish someone dead and make it happen. There’s a system to these things, even if we can’t see it. Most likely this Ryougi person lied about her PSI’s true nature in order to conceal its weakness.

Even so, Himuro seems intrigued by the prospect. “Could it be some form of psychosomatic hallucination?”

Makidera holds up her hand to stall her from going further. “Hold on. A psycho-what now?”

“It’s when the brain believes something is happening to the body and that gets reflected. I’ve heard about an experiment where something similar happened with people who were allergic to poison ivy being blindfolded. One arm was rubbed with an ordinary leaf and told it was the poison ivy, while the other arm was rubbed with the actual plant and told it was harmless. Most of them ended up breaking out in rashes on the arm that was rubbed with the harmless leaf instead.”

“Maybe,” Ayako states. “Maybe, but the mechanics of her PSI is secondary to how she uses it. According to the others, when the male personality does the fighting he uses Rise to raise his physical abilities while wielding a sword and then Burst to fire it off as an extension of his swing, hitting their cores for a clean kill. But when they faced the Soldier Taboo, she’d come out and use that her PSI to torture them slowly with a smile on her face, rather than destroying them off right off the bat.”

The information unsettles the others to an extent, but I can think of a pragmatic reason for the torture while they stew on it. Most likely it’s conditional on using Trance to project the hallucination and using the brain’s response to have the Burst make it a reality. That limits it to the Homunculus, since they’re capable of actual thought and human understanding, and the act of building up is a means of strengthening the effect of her PSI until she can kill with a thought.

Or she could just like relishing the act of killing something that looks humans. Or both. They’re not mutually-exclusive.

Either way, Himuro doesn’t accept the information without scrutiny and makes it known. “Are you certain that information isn’t being exaggerated by biases?”

“Well, there might be some, since its clear Neko and the others don’t exactly like how hands-off he is,” Ayako concedes. “But I don’t think they’d lie given the seriousness of the situation, so I’m taking the warning seriously and passing it along.”

“Umm… c-can we change the subject?” Saegusa asks, a slight tremor in her voice. This is clearly not how she saw this morning’s discussion going and now she’s uncomfortable.

“I guess we did get a little off-topic in how it directly affects us,” Ayako admits. “Anyway, since they’re gone we need to address the issue of where we’re going to be teaching you until they get back on Monday evening, so…”

Her eyes turn to me as she trails off. Then she smiles in a way that tells me I won’t like what’s coming next.

“Shinji, you don’t mind if we use your place this afternoon, do you?”

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March 2018 Grim Tales Update 2

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 11 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 11: Banquet of the Gods

Bell Cranel was on the move the next afternoon, on his way down the Main Street to the tower of Babel at a somewhat sluggish pace.  Last night he’d had some trouble sleeping after taking a shower. And he had spent an hour beforehand settling potential issues over what happened in the Hostess of Fertility before heading to the Guild.

Keeping with his promise, he first went to apologize to Syr over the mishap that happened last night. He made it clear that his departure was because he had been uncomfortable with the Loki Familia due to an embarrassing event in the Dungeon. She didn’t really press him on the finer details, which was something that he was grateful for given that he didn’t want to lie to her, though she did manage to worm him into having brunch there.

The menu changed during the day, though the food remained very good. It was also more accommodating to his wallet, probably because it was catered to a more casual customer base then. Adventurers were the primary source of income in Orario, so they had the highest earning margins next to the ones who ran larger Familias and exported magic stones. He would have to take Hestia there some time.

After that was the matter of visiting Miss Eina at the Guild to ask about any places where he could buy armor today. When he brought up what his budget was like now that he had paid off his Guild-loaned equipment yesterday, Eina told him of a reasonably priced shop that was on the upper floors of Babel. She’d even given him written instructions to make sure he didn’t get lost by accident.

Going straight down West Main soon brought him into the Central Park, where Adventurers were coming and going. It was a nice day that was the same as usual for Orario as far as he could tell in the time he had been there, such a tight yet bustling feeling. The sensation of life and open movement all around him was a strong contrast to the coffin and blood-encrusted streets of Yharnam at night, where only the beasts that stalked the shadows lurked.

The memory of the Hunt stilled his feet as it briefly floated to the surface of his mind. But he shook his head vigorously, slapping his cheeks and letting the sting bury the memories once more. He wasn’t going back there.

I’m going to continue on my life as an Adventurer, not a Hunter. Resolve in mind, he was about to take another step forward—

“Move it you lousy Supporter! We’re running late!”

—when he heard someone commanding someone else to move just barely above the rabble of the Adventurers around him. He turned to the source of the sound to see a male adventurer, one in a party of four, complaining about being late to enter the Dungeon to a small figure that was dressed in a plain robe that looked ragged at the edges.

He couldn’t make out the person’s face to determine their race or gender, but they looked so tiny that they could’ve been a child. Yet, the backpack they were carrying looked to be the size of a person, thrice their height. It must’ve weighed a lot for them, even if it was empty. But their party was telling them to move faster as they forced their way past the other Adventurers into Babel.

Since their destination was the same, Bell could only follow in their footsteps into Babel until they mixed into the crowd that was heading down to the basement floor. That would take them to the spiraling staircase leading into the gaping maw of the abyss below. Into the Dungeon.

He went the other way, towards the wide lobby that was past one of the many arches that surrounded it. The blue-and-white, expansive floor never failed to impress him as he entered it, and it was there he found what he was looking for as a rough looking man stepped onto a circular pedestal and pressed a button on what looked to be a console. Glass rose up to wall him off from the rest of the lobby and he ascended on the elevator that Eina had mentioned in her instructions.

Bell approached one of the pedestals himself, intrigued as he tried to work out how it could function. He wasn’t all that accustomed to the conveniences of Orario compared to his village, but given it was the source of a good deal of the magic stones in the world he could reason out they had more chances to develop devices like this. Bell pushed the button to activate it and felt gravity being defied beneath his feet as he ascended the heights of Babel for the first time.

This is pretty cool, he mused silently as he pushed open the glass of the elevator when he found himself on the Eight Floor. It had a good number of Adventurers roaming around, weaving in and out of the various stores that had displays of weaponry and armor for those who would brave the Dungeon. Bell was naturally drawn to the various shops but had to stop himself from wandering off and went into the one on Eina’s instructions.

The inside of the shop that was that of stone and wood, lined with steel in the form of weapons and armor that had been forged in fire and tempered by the hands of the blacksmiths working under the name of the Hephaestus Familia. On the walls were weapons and shields, alternating as they decorated the solid stone, price tags placed in view at prices that weren’t drastically above what he had on him at the moment. Short shelves that the walls were used to support the smaller arms or unique pieces that drew in more than a few curious eyes.

Maybe it was just because he was still relatively new to Orario, but it still amazed Bell as he looked at all of it. Even with the fact that Hestia had told him before of how she and the Goddess of the Forge were old friends, and that her Familia was one of the best when it came to blacksmiths. It really highlighted the differences in their Familia that Bell couldn’t even properly grasp the perspective or the amount of valis it would take to rent out all these floors for their blacksmiths.

Bell figured that he could spend hours just window shopping if he didn’t already know what he’d come in for. It was lightweight armor to replace the breastplate he’d lost setting foot into Yharnam. Something stronger than the one he’d gotten from the Guild, given that a sickly beast in Iosefka’s clinic had torn into it, while the claws of the Cleric Beast ripped it apart completely and took a pound of flesh with it.

Lacking any armor when he’d gone into the Dungeon and met the War Shadows could have been a death sentence. It would have been if not for the fact that blood still healed him since he’d gone in without any potions either. He couldn’t skimp on the armor from here on out.

So, Bell ventured towards the back of the store where the armor was placed on mannequins. From the look of it, the more expensive and extravagant items were closer to the front of the store, where more people would be inclined to buy them. That meant the more practical pieces would be further back.

The backside of the store had larger shelves that rose up above his head, sorting into aisles that had different items. More of the customers were looking through them, paying little mind of Bell as they inspected the different pieces. There were also barrels at the ends of some of them, containing larger weapons like spears.

Bell went past them, moving further back to where the lightweight equipment was. Most of them didn’t have mannequins but were instead housed in boxes of equipment pieces. Each one had a different style of handwriting on the tags, so if he had to guess the ones who made the armor were the ones who stocked it.

He went past the different pieces until he found one that drew him in. The polished metal that was pure white like the moon glinted in his ruby-toned eyes with an almost enthralling allure. Bell pulled out the main piece and just stared down at the breastplate meant to shield the vitals of the chest, including his heart.

It felt light. Even lighter than the one that he’d gotten from the Guild when he joined. Yet, he got the feeling that it was harder despite that. It was probably made from a different kind of metal than the standard one used for Guild-issued armor. But would they bother putting something like that in a box not even worth displaying?

They probably might in a shop run by this Familia, he figured before looking at the rest of it. There were guards for the joints, knees, and forearms along with plates for the lower back, shoulders, and hips. Additional bits and pieces that didn’t have the same grade of protection that full armor would give, but more than necessary for simple lightweight armor. And all of that at only 9,900 valis.

Flipping it over, he spotted the signature beneath a stamp that had a rabbit silhouette. The name “Welf Crozzo” didn’t ring a bell to him, but he hadn’t been there for very long. And if he was famous then there’s no way they would have put it back here. He must’ve been a novice blacksmith then.

Well, if this works out then I’ll keep that name in mind. Decision made, he took the box with him to the counter and paid for his new armor before heading back to show it off to his Goddess.

[R-M]

Once night fell, it was Hestia’s turn to venture out from the small but homely comfort that was her room beneath the Church.

Her destination was the home base of the Ganesha Familia, which had been established within a massive statue surrounded by a stone wall, with the entrance being the statue’s crotch. The various Gods and Goddesses had gathered for the celebration being hosted, a cacophony of communion between the different deities that made their home here in Orario. That made it the best place to gather information on Achelois’ whereabouts.

Hestia started her search at the buffet table, where she spotted Hermes and Takemikazuchi. The latter was being egged on by the former on in trying to finish a large plate of meat, dressed in his formal montsuki kimono adorned with his Familia’s emblem. The Goddess of the Hearth looked down to her own ordinary clothes and fought down the slight feeling of inferiority that she felt upon seeing how well he’d dressed when she didn’t even have celebratory clothes.

But Hestia shook her head to drive away those thoughts before touching the ribbon that had been elegantly tied into a bow around her neck. She wasn’t here for her own reasons, but for Bell’s sake. That thought allowed her to approach them both with a somewhat cheerful, “Take! Hermes!”

Takemikazuchi forcefully swallowed his meal upon noticing her and then cleared his throat so he could speak. “Hestia, I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Hestia’s response was a good-natured retort. “The same could be said with you. Don’t you have a bunch of children waiting for you at home?”

“My children actually insisted that I come, citing that I should mingle with the others instead of working tirelessly for them.”

“What considerate children you have.” She then turned to Hermes. “And Hermes, I was looking for you too. I don’t think that we’ve seen each other in a long time.”

“Well, my Familia does travel a lot so I’m usually out running message and errands.” He snapped his finger as if something came to mind.  “Though, I’ve heard you have a child in your Familia now. Mind if I ask who?”

“His name is Bell and he’s a very sweet boy. He’s only been at it for a short time, but he’s hard-working and even managed to get down to the Sixth Floor on his own.” She puffed out her chest in pride as she boasted of how special her child was, even though she was frustrated that he’d gone deeper than that on his own. It was a complicated feeling, to be honest.

That was partly why she had come. She didn’t have much to her name and she had few friends. But if she could at least have them help her keep him safe, then that would be something she could do as his Goddess.

Hermes only smiled in a mischievous manner. “He sounds like an adventurous one. You’ll have to introduce me some time.”

Then I’d be worried you would rub off on him, Hestia thought to herself before moving onto her first question now that the pleasantries had been done. “Anyway, I was wondering if either of you had seen Achelois? I’ve been looking for her, but I can’t seem to find any trace of her.”

“Achelois?” Takemichizuki put his hand on his chin and looked up in thought. “Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen her at all since I arrived in Orario two years ago.”

“Miach said the same thing, so I thought that she might be outside of Orario. So, if anyone of us would know, it’d be Hermes.”

Hermes held his hands out and shrugged. “Well, I’m flattered you think so highly of me, but I’m afraid that I don’t know where she is either. The last time I heard from her she was still searching for someone to join her Familia with little luck. As I’m sure you know, it’s fairly difficult to start a successful Familia these days if you don’t have much to offer.”

Yes, Hestia knew that very well. The more established Familia within Orario were the ones everyone wanted to join. And if you didn’t have much to your name to start with then few would take the gamble to help. “That’s true, but I can’t imagine that she went back above. So, she has to be somewhere.”

“Well, I could try sending some feelers out when I leave again. But why exactly are you looking for her?” he asked.

Ah… that’s… a bit private, actually…” It wasn’t like she could just say what was going on with Bell to them. Especially not in such a crowded event. “Let’s just say we need to have a Goddess-to-Goddess talk.”

“Aww, yer worried she’s gonna poach yer child?” Hestia tensed, a shiver running up from the base of her spine to the top of her head. That voice was the last one she’d wanted to hear tonight.

Loki.” The Goddess of the Hearth practically hissed that name as she turned to find said Goddess right behind her, grinning in her sleek, black dress. “What do you want?”

“Just saw the crowd and came to say hello,” she claimed. “Well, that and I heard ya talkin’ about your child. That’s the one that ran into a minotaur a while back, wasn’t it?”

“And I think we both know who’s responsible for that,” Hestia said. “Bell could have died!”

“That’s the risk of goin’ in the Dungeon.” Loki’s small shoulders rose and fell before she took a sip of the drink she held in her left hand. “Besides, kid made it out fine under his own power, despite being a Level 1. Makes a lotta sense that ya’d hafta worry about him falling into the arms of another Goddess when a shrimp like ya can’t even afford a decent dress.”

Hestia’s temper flared. She rose on the tips of her toes to get right in Loki’s face and struck her weakness. “This coming from one who can’t even grow a decent pair to fit in a dress!”

Then Loki’s temper flared. She scowled, baring her teeth. “Them’s fightin’ words!”

“Bring it on!” she answered in response, but before either of them could act on the animosity, the guys stepped in. It wouldn’t do to have the two come to blows after all. Takemichizuki put his hands onto Hestia’s shoulders and gently pulled her away as Hermes did the same for Loki, albeit with a lot more effort.

“Easy, Hestia,” he told her. “Your child would be disappointed if he learned about you getting into a needless fight.”

Hmph.” Hestia folded her arms and looked away. “She’s the one who started it.”

“Sparks still fly like fireworks whenever you two meet each other, huh?” a third voice spoke, their tone lacking in surprise while drawing their attention. There stood the Goddess of the Forge, Hephaestus. “Goodness, the others were starting to take bets.”

Hestia’s frown was replaced with a brighter smile. “Hephaestus! I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for a while now.”

“If it’s for a loan, I’ll tell you right now that I’m not giving you one,” she said, setting one hand on her hip.

“No, not that,” Hestia insisted. “Since you and Take are both here, I just wanted to talk to you about a few things, like if you have any children who might want to join in a party with mine?”

[R-M]

What’s so great about just having two lumps of meat hanging off your chest,” Loki muttered indignantly as she grabbed another drink from a passing member of Ganesha Familia and leaned against a wall, watching bitterly as Hestia tried to arrange a playdate for her child.

Then the sound of high-heels clicking against the floor drew her eyes up to the approaching beauty. With skin as white as ivory and smooth as silk, her dress hugged her body sinfully tight and showed off her mature shape. It was the Goddess of Beauty in the flesh.

“Having a bad night, Loki?” Freya said with a soft, naturally-seductive smile.

“Whaddya want?” Loki demanded, pointedly looking away from the cleavage on display in front of her.

“I overheard your discussion with Hestia and something you said caught my interest. Mind telling me more about it over a drink of Soma?”

[R-M]

In stark contrast to the clamor of the Gods and Goddesses in Orario, there was only a single conversation that permeated the absolute, serene silence of the Hunter’s Dream.

The Plain Doll, her pale and porcelain body dressed in clothing that were finely-crafted and exuding a benign warmth that had been woven into the stitch, sat among the luminous flowers that rested on a hill by the phantasmal headstone. Her head was bowed before it as her soft voice rang out ephemerally in prayer.

Oh, Good Hunter. I pray your suffering spirit has found comfort in your fleeting respite. I pray your tender heart has been soothed. But the Dream beckons thee to bring the long night an end. And the Hunt awaits your presence once more…

March 2018 PPGD Update 1

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

March 2018 Grim Tales Update 1

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 14

Chapter 14: Back in Alola 3

Guzma tried to tamper down on the annoyance that simmered in his chest as he stared down at the white ball set on the sand.

It was early in the morning. The sun had barely come up from over the horizon at this point, and Guzma would like nothing more than to be back in bed. But Pyukumuku were creatures of habit and tossing them back into the water before the hotel-guests came down to the beach was how he made a living for now. Since Kahili happened to be up and saw him, she told him to follow along as she got her morning practice in before the course opened up for everyone else and then told him to give it a try.

He never understood the appeal of golf. Why folks would pay so much to try and send a ball flying into a tiny hole in the distance was something beyond him. Yet, he found himself trying to line up a shot with a golf club that reminded him a little too much of his father’s back home—only more expensive than the knock-offs that the old man boasted about as being the actual thing.

“Looks like he’s feeding you pretty well,” a soft voice came from behind him. It was followed by a playful purr.

The former leader of Team Skull cast a glance behind him to see that Kahili was crouched down to the ground, her finger gently running over the Purrloin’s stomach as it laid on its back. The Devious Pokémon writhed joyously at the attention being laved on it. Then the feline met Guzma’s eyes briefly and a glint could be seen, as if it was gloating on having that effect with women.

Deceptive furball, he couldn’t help but think as his lips pulled back into a frown. Acting all cute to deceive other people sat poorly with him for obvious reasons. He was at least honest about it.

Guzma then turned to the ball in the sand trap and took a swing at it, only for a spray of sand to follow as he put his back into it. The ball was still there. He snarled and then swung at it again. And again. And again to no avail.

Kahili stopped playing with the feline Pokémon as he took a few angrier swings only to spray more sand out of the lip and sighed. “You can’t just swing at random.”

“I don’t even see why I’m doing this,” he said in turn. “I thought you were supposed to be helping me train—how is this even related to Pokémon!?”

“It’s supposed to teach you both patience and control.” She came over and extended her hand for him to give her the club. Once he did and stepped back to where she had been, she then lined up for a shot and then took a swing that hit the ball with barely any of the sand moving.

Guzma starred as the ball hit the green in the distance and then rolled closer to the hotel end. Then his gaze turned down towards the Purrloin as he snickered, spotting that same smug look as always.

Shaddup, you damn cat,” he murmured under his breath as she then came back over to him.

“You are a strong trainer,” Kahili said as she set down another ball from a pouch on her back. It was lined up with the one she’d just hit. “But strength needs control and patience in order to be utilized to its fullest potential. And while I can teach you how it’s done in battling, doing it this way helps to broaden yourself perspective so that you’ll be able to grasp that in matters outside of battling as well.”

She then handed him the golf club. “Now, face the ball like you’re getting ready to take a swing at it.”

He did so, going along with it despite not really getting the point. “Now what?”

“Stand with your feet at shoulders’ length apart.” She waited for him to do so. “Hold the club so that its straight with your left arm. Keep your left thumb straight, so that it goes down the center of the shaft and then place your right hand so that it overlaps the left.”

Guzma went along with it before she reached out to move his hands properly into place.

“That’s good. You’ve got it now.” She backed off as the Purrloin followed her. “Keep your eyes on the ball as you swing for it and keep the ball in the center of the swing. If you look up, it’ll change the angle of the swing. But if you keep your head as it is then the ball will go where your left shoulder is.”

He moved his arm like a pendulum going backwards and felt it to be a lot more rigid than he liked. But when he swung it there was a soft sound before the ball went sailing in the air cleanly towards the green, passing her ball…

And the smile that was forming as his eyes trailed after the ball melted the moment he spotted it.

Dawnlight rolled off the polished glass-like bell that was adorned with six-pointed stars. The blue rim undulated as though atop the surface of invisible waves, tentacles of varying sizes gently wavering as it pushed itself forward. An alien, wet sound rang out ever so slightly as it neared.

The golf club slipped from his grasp, forgotten along with everything else in the world he backed away and shook his head slowly as it came towards him. “No… not again…”

Noticing the sudden change in Guzma’s demeanor, Kahili obviously had questions. Whether or not he would answer them was secondary, however, to removing that fascinating Pokémon from the grounds. For both its own safety and that of those who intended to play the fairway later on.

To that end, she let out her Toucannon. He was a fine specimen that stood nearly four feet tall with his wings folded, peering with glaring eyes towards the alien Pokémon that continued to drift closer. Kahili then crouched low next to the Cannon Pokémon. “Pana, can you see if you can get it to leave the grounds peacefully?”

A bob of his head was followed by his wings spreading out and a push off the ground, taking flight towards it. However, midway there, the air changed. It was distorted, pressure seemingly filling the space as an aura flared to life around it.

A totem aura?” she muttered in surprise as the shroud of energy shaded its clear body with a reddish tint that made it seem more ominous. “It looks small for a Totem Pokémon, but—”

Her musings were silenced as the creature conjured up four stones of light, condensed energy made solid. Power Gems, she recognized. “Look out!”

Her warning came out short as the stones pointed to Pana and began to fracture. Trumpets of devastation sounded out as the radiant hammers of light speared out to knock him out of the air. The glare of the bright rays drowned out the light of the sun and obscured the Toucannon’s figure as he pulled a sharp turn, narrowly dodging as spouts of turf and dirt shot into the air with a loud sound that reverberated throughout the course, leaving it to quake.

Kahili, who’d fallen backwards onto the ground, looked at the devastation and felt a weight fall into her stomach, beads of sweat falling down her brow. She then looked up to see that it was getting ready to fire again, more bundles of energy compressed to the point of crystallization hovering around it like in orbit. If even one of them was fired in the opposite direction and hit the Hotel, then their guests would be in danger.

“Pana, stay on this side of the course!” she ordered, rising to her feet once more. “Destroy those Power Gems with Bullet Seed before it can fire them off and then use Beak Blast!”

“Touuu!” Flapping his wings to stay stationary, the Cannon Pokémon opened his beak and let loose a focus fire of pinpoint accurate Bullet Seeds that cut across the air and impacted the Power Gems, breaking through them and dispersing the gems into harmless shards before they could be forced to rupture correctly. Then his fruit-eating beak glowed burning-red, tongues of fire licking the edges before it opened wide and let loose the fireball towards the glass-looking Pokémon—

Pana’s attack missed!

—then something strange happened. Right before it could hit, the creature flickered. Its entire body blinked out of view, the attack continuing on to slam into the fairway. Fire began to spread on impact as the creature then solidified once more and let out a wet, undulating sound before forming another series of Power Gems.

As her Toucannon proceeded to break the stones once more with another Bullet Seed barrage, Kahili then turned to Guzma to see that he’d fallen into the sand and was staring up at the creature with trembling eyes. As if he was reliving a waking nightmare. She crouched down on the ground and shook him by the shoulders. “Snap out of it! I need to know what I’m dealing with!”

There was no sensible response, only muttering and whimpers. Then a cry of pain as the Purrloin bit into his arm, causing him to jolt out of it. He reflexively lashed his arm out, causing the Devious Pokémon to detach itself or be swatted, and then clutch the spot where blood began to leak. “Damn cat!”

Another trumpet resounded and the ground meters away from them erupted as a vibrant ray of energy hammered it. Kahili fell forward, barely catching herself on his shoulders before she could hit the ground. She then looked him in the eyes to demand again, “Guzma, what is that Pokémon? What’s its typing?”

“It’s…” His eyes flickered over her shoulder towards it and he swallowed. “It’s an Ultra Beast. Nihilego, she called it. It’s a Rock-type with Poison as a secondary, I think. Not sure how to get around the flickering thing it does, but don’t let it touch you.”

Enough of an answer for now, Kahili pushed herself off his shoulders to stand up again and turned back to her soaring Pokémon. “Pana, close the distance and use Brick Break!”

The Toucannon went from firing a sold mass of stone from its mouth to circling around the next Power Gem ray that displaced the air. He dived down with his beak wreathed in a powerful glow as the last of them was fired, twisting to dodge as the feathers covering his body were ruffled from how close it had been to smashing him out of the air. Closing the distance, he brought the Brick Break down onto the glass bell top—

Pana’s attack missed!

—only to pass through empty space as the Nihilego flickered once more, leaving the divebomb to pass through it harmless. The Cannon Pokémon pulled open his wings and flapped before he could hit the ground, the glow of the attack leaving his beak as he turned around. Then his eyes widened slightly as he found himself facing a bloom of Nihilego that crowded the air.

“It’s using Double Team! Use Bullet Seed in a spray pattern to find the real one!” Kahili called out, watching as Pana opened his beak wide to let loose a scattering of the golden seeds to punch through the illusions to find the real one. The numbers were reduced to a mere four before the Ultra Beast attacked.

Nihilego used Psywave!

Like rippling waves ringing out from the surface of the water, the air was filled with rings of Psychic energy that closed in on the Cannon Pokémon and hit with a surprising amount of force that knocked Pana for a loop. He spiraled downwards, wings flaring out and flapping to regain balance before he could hit the ground. He’d managed to arrest his fall in time for four Power Gems to come down on him and hammer him straight into the ground with a thunderous crash that resounded throughout the course.

“Pana!” Kahili called as she shielded her eyes as the blinding flare, brought her to her knees as the ground quaked beneath her feet again. When the billowing wind ceased, and she could open her eyes, her heart sank like a stone upon seeing Pana motionless in a crater in the ground while the Nihilego contracted its bell to propel it towards them at a faster pace.

Kahili attempted to recall her downed Toucannon, only for the Nihilego to once more release the rippling waves of psychic energy directly towards her. The only reason that he didn’t connect was because Purrloin threw himself in front of the attack. The psychic energy broke apart upon connecting with his body, the Dark-typing dispersing it as he then yowled.

Purrloin used Pursuit!

Bristling as darkness draped his body, he became a black dart crossing the distance towards the Nihilego, only to pass through as it flickered in and out of reality once more. The attack failed, but it served as a distraction while Kahili finished recalling her Pokémon. The Nihilego turned its attention to the feline and its translucent tentacles lengthening to Constrict it.

Loaa!?” he shrieked as they wrapped around his lithe and began to squeeze relentless.

“Don’t act tough if you aren’t going to follow up!” Guzma said as he pulled out an Ultra Ball. Fear had turned to anger and the means by which he would take it out on the Ultra Beast speared forth as the ball burst open. Out came his oldest Pokémon, a male Golisopod that chittered menacingly upon spotting the enemy. “Get the damn cat and show that thing how you say hello!”

GOSO!!” The short-legged arthropod bore his claws and was shrouded within the viridian hue of Bug-typing as he then used that gathered energy to burst forth and launch a counter-attack in the blink of an eye. Bringing lengthened claws to bat, the Hard Scale Pokémon used them to land the first strike against the aura-shrouded Parasite Pokémon.

Golisopod used First Impression!

It’s not very effective!

The floating Ultra Beast was knocked back, the tiny feline falling free into the waiting set of underarms as his Golisopod landed with a loud thump.  The cat scurried out of the taller Pokémon’s grasp and ran back towards them as the Nihilego prepared to retaliate, barely scratched by the attack as a quartet of Power Gems formed around it—

Golisopod used Sucker Punch!

—and was promptly smacked in its bulb by a dark, claw-shaped projectile fired from a swift thrust of his frontal arms. The impact threw its body into disarray, leaving its aim wanting as the Hard Scale Pokémon guarded with the gauntlet-like forearms and Iron Defense as the light burst out from the shells.

One ray shot past the golf course, a piercing spear that crossed the air and crashed into the mountain behind it. Another was fired into the sky, reaching the heavens above like a beacon. The third speared into the fairway itself and carved out a long strip from the sheer force. The last, however, hit Golisopod and he was forced to take the brunt of the beam with the metallic-clad scales.

It’s Super-Effective!

Even at only one-fourth of the attack, Golisopod was nearly overwhelmed. His legs dug a trench as the attack forced him back, his desperate attempts to brace against it lasting only until the attack petered out. His legs then failed him as his Ability triggered and his body returned to its energy state.

Guzma held his Pokémon’s ball out as it retreated inside and then flung out another in his right hand. From that Ultra Ball burst a male Scizor, its metallic exoskeleton reflecting the morning sun as it clicked its pincers. “Take it out with a Bullet Punch!”

Steel wings to burst from his back and fluttered as he sped forward while his right pincer shone with a metallic light. The Nihilego that had been wavering in the air, shaking off the surprise hit, flickered before it could connect. The speeding Pincer Pokémon passed right through it and was forced to spin around so that he was facing the Parasite Pokémon that prepared another bombardment of Power Gems that forced him to skirt along the ground as the rays smashed into what was left of the fairway and caused spouts of dirt and turf to shoot up.

Guzma gritted his teeth as his Scizor evaded the sequence firing of Power Gems with deft motions. He’d gotten for it specifically so that it could be used against one of these things, its Steel-typing rendering it immune to poison and allowing it to smash through stone, though he’d hoped to never see one again in his life. “It worked before, so why can’t we hit it now?”

“The only attacks that have worked so far have been those that it couldn’t see coming or those that struck just before or after it fired off an attack,” Kahili said, crouching to check on the Purrloin that ran back over to her. “You’ll have to get the timing down perfectly and close the distance hastily. Have you taught it Agility?”

“Nah, didn’t have time to.” Guzma was regretting that now as he looked towards Scizor getting hit by a Psywave as he tried to close the distance once more and was rebutted. It didn’t look like it did a lot of damage, but the fact that a psychic attack did any notable damage spoke a lot of how strong it was.

“Then what about you?” she asked, looking down to the Devious Pokémon. “Can you stop it from attacking once at least?”

The feline bobbed his head and made a gesture where it clapped its paws together. “Purroa.

“Fake Out,” she said in recognition. “That’ll do. When I give the signal, stop it from attacking and we’ll take care of the rest.”

“You can’t seriously expect me to rely on that furball,” Guzma said, almost insulted at the notion as the Purrloin ran after back towards the NIhilego’s backside. The cat had been nothing but trouble, and while Scizor could take a Rock-type hit better than Golisopod, he would still be knocked out if he took all of them at once.

“Trust me,” she said.

“Tch.” The former leader of Team Skull pursed his lips and drew in a deep breath. Then he shouted, “SCIZOR, IT’S ALL OR NOTHING!!

The Pincer Pokémon’s dark-yellow eyes shot to Guzma, attention grabbed even as another onslaught of Power Gems began to form.

THAT EXOSKELETON AIN’T MADE OF PAPER, IS IT?” Guzma shouted at the top of his lungs to get over the thunderous crashing of the rays of light trying to crush the Steel-clad Bug-Type. “GET PUMPED AND READY TO SMASH ITS FACE IN, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO TAKE A HIT!

Scizor came to a stop a fair distance from in front of the Nihilego as the barrage ceased, dust still lingering in the air as he acknowledged the order with a nod. He tensed up, crossing his pincers as his crimson body began to glow with a molten color. Then, with a cry that rang out like a Kiai, his metallic body radiated a blood-red aura. “ZOOOORRRR!!

Scizor used Focus Energy!

Scizor’s getting pumped up!

Perhaps sensing the rise in Scizor’s energy similar to its own battle aura, the Nihilego let out a sharp undulating cry at the overt hostility and responded with the formation of more than a dozen stones of crystalized light—

“Now!” Kahili called out.

Purrloin used Fake Out!

—when the Purrloin leapt and slammed his aglow paws into one another. A rippling shock wave of air followed, slamming into the Parasite Pokémon and rending its concentration to make the Power Gems disperse before they could be discharged correctly.

The wild Nihilego flinched!

“Bullet Punch, now!” Guzma ordered, extending his fist. “Drive it down into the ground!

In the blink of an eye, the Scizor was above the flinching Nihilego with a pincer raised. The aura shrouding his body gathered into it for a singular strike. Backed by its Technician Ability, the blow that followed could be heard throughout the course as it came down like a hammer!

A Critical Hit!

It’s Super-Effective!

The Parasite Pokémon hit the ground hard enough to bounce off it. The hit had only been enough to leave it on the verge of fainting despite all the advantages stacked against it in that blow. But its aura was thinned, wavering around its clear body that struggled to get aloft on the gases that composed the air once more.

“Now, while it’s weakened!” Kahili called out as she flung an Ultra Ball towards it, seeking to capture it before it could get hurt further or lash out again. The ball connected and then opened, pulling it into the ball and snapping shut.

“That won’t work!” Guzma said as the ball hit the ground. “Only a Beast Ball can capture it!”

The warning was too little too late as the Nihilego broke free, exploding the ball from inside out while releasing a pitiful sound that was almost like a child crying. Before combat could go any further, its bell swelled to a larger size as a white gas roiled within it. Then, all at once, the bell contracted.

The wild Nihilego used Clear Smog!

Releasing a billowing cloud of white smog to obscure it from sight while propelling it away from them, the Clear Smog that came rushing out in a thick cloud would have caught both of the trainers inside of it had Scizor not came rushing in, with the Purrloin clinging to his horns. He scooped them both up before flying back towards the mountains to put distance between them and it. Long enough for Kahili to release her Mandibuzz and have it use Defog.

By the time it was dispersed to the extent of being harmless, the Nihilego was gone.

 [-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Guzma left as soon as the Ultra Beast was gone, leaving Kahili to explain the situation to her father. Those attacks had done quite a number on the course. Even with her father rushing to have the field remade, it would still take time. More than a lot of guests were willing to deal with patiently, meaning concessions were necessary.

Worse was the fact that because Guzma was spotted fleeing the scene shortly afterwards, he’d likely be associated with the attack. While a trainer couldn’t be held accountable for a random Pokémon attack, his reputation meant that they would assume him involved. And the fact that they were too far from the hotel for everything to be witnessed clearly meant that it was easy for the misconception to spread.

I can make an official statement, but I doubt father will let him anywhere near the resort or beach again if the guest really considers him “destruction in human form.” She could only sigh softly at that fact as the reigning Champion of Alola came running up to her, short on breath.

“Kahili, is everything alright?” he asked, coming to a stop.

“For the most part,” she said. “Did you hear about the attack by chance?”

He nodded. “I heard about something happening with Team Skull while I was handling something else. Word that they lured in a wild Pokémon to attack the hotel, only for it be fended off by one of the Elite Four.”

“I suppose it was wishful thinking that it was stay quiet until a statement was made.” She shook her head somberly. “I’ll have the television station report things properly before they get out of hand. That and have a warning issued about these Ultra Beasts.”

Elio winced. “Actually, can you keep the fact that the Ultra Beasts were involved in this a secret when you do?”

She tilted her head at that. “If I don’t say anything, people will only keep assuming the worst about him. That’s something I’m really not comfortable with. Much less since I’ve agreed to take him under my wing. So unless you can give me a suitable reason…”

“I’m not saying to cover it up entirely, just that it was an Ultra Beast,” Elio clarified. “The one that attacked, was it like a glass Tentacool? A Nihilego?”

She nodded. “Yes, he mentioned it by name. Seeing it nearly gave him a panic attack, so I assume he had a negative personal experience with it?”

“It’s a long story, and it’s not my place to tell you,” Elio said. “Anyway, the Ultra Beasts came from a place called Ultra Space and a few of them ended up in our world by mistake a little while ago. They’re just looking for people who have been there because they think they can get them back there.”

“And Guzma is one of them?”

He nodded. “If word got around that Pokémon like them were here, trainers would go after them. They’re powerful and we just had a league set up here, so a lot of younger or confident trainers will try to capture them to challenge the league. And if they get scared or hostile, they can do a lot of damage quickly.”

“So I’ve seen,” she said in agreement. “Had this course been opened, a great deal of people would have been caught up in the attacks and harmed. Even so, the people do need to be warned that there are dangerous Pokémon wandering around.”

“The Aether Foundation are working on setting up a hotline for people to inform them of any sightings of unusual Pokémon,” he said. “Meanwhile, I’ll start tracking them down to send them home after I explain to Guzma the situation. He really shouldn’t have been blindsided like this.”

“You should have the Kahuna speak on the matter as well,” Kahili added. “If they tell people not to approach them and to inform the hotline, the locals will listen.”

“Good point,” he said. “I’ll visit Olivia next to talk to about the situation. Let me know if it shows up again and I’ll have Nebby bring me right over, okay?”

Once she gave her word, he departed. Kahili followed shortly afterwards to talk to her father about arranging that statement. As much as she loathed concealing some things, she had to admit that the truth would be more devastating in the long run.

Not once did she notice the stealth observation drone hovering just overhead with its visual camouflage up. Not from the moment it had been deployed when the Power Gem pierced the sky above. Or even as it trailed her back to the hotel, where it flew up through a balcony door.

Into the waiting hands of Ann as she turned to her two subordinates and smiled.

“Well then. This assignment just got interesting.”

 

 

Fanfic Recommendation 66

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