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Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 19 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 19: The Sixth Floor Redux

Silver flashed, gleaming amidst the pale-viridian light of the Sixth Floor. It was the glint of swift steel. A slender blade with a single edge drew a vicious arch and painted the nearest wall with a streak of purple ichor.

The lifeblood erupted from an ebony humanoid that no longer drew breath. Its upraised claw with points as sharp as daggers descended limply to its sides. Its body followed the momentum and crumpled onto the floor, vital fluids seeping into the cracks of the ground from the mortal wound. The tip of the blade then plunged into its oval-shaped head to ensure the kill, as she had the corpses of its kin strewn along the floor that had already fallen to her blade.

Mikoto withdrew the sword as she panned her surroundings for any more the creeping War Shadows. The Sixth Floor had not been shy about greeting the three who’d treaded onto its grounds with monsters borne from its cavernous womb, and these in particular were ambushers that hugged the shadows while the unaware peered around or were distracted by other monsters. Then, once they found an opening, they would descend to claim their lives.

That was what made them so dangerous, she thought to herself before she crouched while sweeping the sharp end of her blade around. The cold steel found the ebony body of one of the War Shadows that had been looking to ambush her and tore through it, exiting from the opposite end. The upper half of its body slid down the slope before landing on the ground with a wet thump. She made sure to stab in the head to ensure the kill. But they aren’t the only threat.

Her attention turned back to Welf as the thick blade he swung tore through the body of a Frog Shooter after he had closed the distance. He was powerful, or at least in terms of raw strength, he could definitely go through the monsters on these floors. And he had enough awareness of his surroundings that he remained on the ball enough to avoid the follow-up attack as a Kobold attempted to ambush him from his rear and slay it.

Numbers were a luxury of the monsters as, even though he cut down another, others were making their way into existence to take its place. He wasn’t yet at the level where sheer numbers wouldn’t be sufficient. The walls were only so fruitful, and their bounty would dry up eventually, but if there were enough of them, they could swarm him—and with the Frog Shooters providing cover for them, they could get lucky even before then.

At least he wasn’t alone as blood sprayed in an arch, the iron-rich smell painting the walls as a shriek borne from an inhuman throat rang out. The death throes of a Kobold that had its heart carved out by steel fangs were glossed over as, pushing past the collapsing corpse, the black-clad youth with his weapon more befitting of a butcher rushed in. Not close enough to be right up on the back of the vanguard, his boots crunched the stone floor as he viciously unfurled the blade while swinging it into the pack of foes.

Coarse fur was sheared. Muscle was torn into. Arteries were ripped apart. In a single swing, strength unbefitting of his slender limbs allowed him to rip through more than one body as he drew a bloody swathe from right to left with one swing. Then, with a twist of the wrist, he swung the opposite way and cut down another pair as their blood filled the air and patterned on his long-sleeved coat.

But it was too shallow in the case of one of the Kobolds as it attempted to reach out with its remaining claws and gouge out his eyes with a feral swipe. The nails narrowly missed as he backstepped, sliding his hindleg back while bringing his weapon overhead. The cleaver broke open the skull and pink brain matter joined the blood as he ripped it out hard enough that the legs of the monster buckled forward and left the corpse to collapse on its own.

Then, with a snap of the wrist, the weapon folded in on itself before he whipped it and his head around upon hearing the slightest sound. The weapon’s jagged teeth found the tongue of a Frog Shooter, tearing into it and splitting it ragged before leaving it to flop on the ground. He raised his other arm holding his secondary weapon and—

BANG!

— pulled the trigger, resulting in a small plume of smoke leaving the barrel of his ‘gun’ as he had called it. The cyclopean eye of Frog Shooter that had lost its tongue burst open like an egg before its body went slack. Yet that was only a distraction for another Kobold that had opted to approach the boy with others coming from different angles as well.

He went to meet them while bearing his own fangs that were drenched in blood.

Aggressive. That was the mildest way she could put it as he threw himself towards his enemies with the ruthless weapon in his hand. Avoiding the claws that could tear his flesh that had yet to reach the point of being as tough as steel by the thinnest of margins, he sank his fangs deep into its body and then tore out its blood and flesh alike while seeking the next warm body he could bury them into.

It didn’t seem to suit the boy who on the surface seemed so placid. He seemed so aggressive that it was like he was a black wolf with iron fangs that sought to tear out the throat of anything that got close to him, leaving him covered in blood that caught the sheen of the light above. And yet, despite how it seemed to be unsuited for him, he was almost at home using such a reckless method of fighting…

But there was no time for the questions that danced on the edge of her mind. They were in battle. Everything that wasn’t necessary had to be shoved away to focus on what needed to be done and what she could do. That was why she took off running, her ponytail whipping in the wind as she crossed the distance with her blade in hand.

Silver streaked as she slashed through the dog-headed monsters along her path as she made for the more troublesome of the enemies on this floor. The Kobolds were easy enough for the two of them to deal with, but more troublesome enemies that could attack from a distance and ambush them were a different story—Frog Shooters and the War Shadows.

The former could provide a distraction or score a decisive blow that would change the tide, and the latter could score a kill with devastating ease. She had been prioritizing the latter until now, due to them being a bigger threat. But, now that there were no more that she could see, Mikoto would turn her attention to the remaining cluster of Frog Shooters bounding around.

Her approach didn’t go unnoticed by her targets. Their cyclopean gaze fixed onto her as one, and her hostile charge was met with lashing appendages. They fired their black tongues towards her like fleshy spears, each one capable of slamming into the frail human body hard enough to shatter bones. That much she could say from personal experience.

Back then they had been cautious. But she had been confident. Careless to underestimate them by appearance alone. And the price for that carelessness had been a broken arm from the bludgeoning lash striking her exposed limb. The pain she couldn’t remember after all this time—much less when she’d had worse since then.

But she could remember the faces. The looks of fear from her brothers and sisters in arms as it could have been worse given that losing her blade meant a War Shadow’s claws could find purchase much easier. The guilt gracing the handsome face of their god at sending them off into the dungeon, even though it was their choice. The sympathetic gaze of Miach as he provided healing without asking for compensation.

Those memories—as well as the memories that came before—compounded into experience. They shaped her and the others. And it showed as, even though she hadn’t reached Level 2 as of yet, she could weave between the lashing tongues while flicking her sword in passing to sever them. Leaving the useless fleshy lumps slopping onto the ground, she rushed in and—

“Haah!”

—silver once more parted the air as her blade drew an arch that neatly sliced through a pair of the Frog Shooters as they prepared to bound backwards to retreat. The third one managed to escape in a single bound that carried it far out of her blade’s range as the viscera of its counterparts painted the floor with a wet splat and purple ichor. However, no sooner than it landed, did the sharpened tip of three throwing needles pierce it and its body turned to dust.

I must’ve hit the core by mistake, Mikoto chastised herself softly. Though they were largely just small fragments no larger than a finger at this level, every one of them counted for a Familia like theirs. Her thoughts didn’t linger on it as the dying whelp of a Kobold brought her attention back to the others and found that there were no foes left standing.

The blacksmith was even going around and driving his sword into their heads. It was to make sure none were feigning death. Not many of the simpler monsters would intentionally do that. But a killing blow falling just short enough to leave them on the verge of death was enough to stab an unsuspecting Adventurer in the chest when they came to harvest their stones.

Though considering how much blood now pooled beneath the corpses she doubted any that had met with the jagged teeth of Hestia’s child were among the living. Unlike swords that were meant to cut through the flesh and sever the vital organs or parts of the body, his weapon of choice for these six floors had been that one. It wasn’t designed to go through cleanly, but rather bite into the flesh and break through the bone before tearing its way out with everything it could drag in the process.

Like she had thought earlier it didn’t seem to suit him at all—yet there were a few things about him that seemed out of place as she observed him, to grasp just how much experience he had. It was more than she expected for someone who had not ventured into the Dungeon for more than a month.

She could not claim to be an expert martial artist, but she could recognize things about the body that happened as one gained experience. Muscle memory built up as you familiarized yourself with a weapon. Such as how you brace for impact, posture yourself to react against an opponent, adjust after a swing for the next one—and so on.

Roughly a month of practice will allow one to use a weapon on a basic level. The more complex the weapon, the longer it would take. True mastery was the work of years, if not a lifetime, as different encounters and experiences tempered your capabilities. Adventurers with the Falna could make that experience manifest from what she heard via certain skills such as Spearman or Swordsman, as it represented their single-minded focus on attempting to achieve mastery and take it as a commitment to continue along that path.

That weapon was irregular compared to a knife or other simple weapons. It was made so he could adjust the length and thus change the amount of force one could put behind it, even shifting the engagement range or which vital parts it targeted. That would require a lot of experience to wield as effectively as he had so far.

Then there were the stories going around of his battle with the Silverback. The heavy hammer he wielded to crush its limbs and could also become a silver sword to stab through its heart. The more weapons one used with any level of proficiency meant the more time one had to spend practicing with them, which brought the question of when he obtained the training to fight on par with one of the higher-tier 1st level Monsters like it.

He didn’t have a martial background from what she knew. His goddess had said he had no experience prior to Orario. But his body and prowess spoke where words said otherwise as he had without a doubt proven he was capable of handling the first six floors of the Dungeon without any problems in terms of combat. He simply lacked experience with dealing with them, not the capability to fight against them.

Even so, she found it a bit concerning as she watched him stand there while staring down at the growing puddle of blood. That which painted the floor would eventually be swallowed by the cavernous maw as readily as it regenerated its walls—the Dungeon took life as readily as it gave birth to it.

There was a small, almost nostalgic smile on his face. It was similar to the expression Lord Takemikazuchi would have while ruminating on times in the past he found to be happy. Then the blacksmith came over and tapped him on the shoulder, causing him to jerk his head slightly and turn to face him. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” he said hastily. “Just… gathering my thoughts after all of that. There were a lot more monsters this time compared to the last time. But they were a bit easier to deal with.”

“That’s why parties are valued,” Welf told him before looking to her. “Leader, are there any more monsters here?”

Mikoto took a deep breath before she closed her eyes. Then she spread her awareness out in the form of black, illusionary feathers. They scattered unseen to all but her as they blanketed the area in search of her foes.

Yatanokurogarasu—the Eight-Span Black Crow whose feathers could span the eight cardinal directions. It was one of two skills that were born from her experiences in the Dungeon, divination techniques that tied her awareness to the world around her. It was akin to a third eye that manifested in her mind as black feathers that would reach out and brush the limits of her range, clinging to any monsters that she was made aware of so long as she had encountered them before.

Her senses picked up nothing. There were no foes hidden in wait for them to pass by and ambush. The Dungeon could possibly spawn more given it required an active trigger and effort on her part to activate, but for the moment they were in the clear.

“…There are none within my range,” Mikoto finally said. “We should be able to focus on gathering our spoils and heading back to the surface. There we can discuss how we are going to progress the next time.”

“We’re heading back already?” Bell asked. “There’s still time in the day.”

She shook her head and spoke firmly. “The time spent in the Dungeon differs in groups, but this expedition was only to gauge our capabilities. And while you have proven your competency with the Sixth Floor and above, the Seventh is where things change. To go there ill-prepared and before we can practice synergizing ourselves a little more could spell death even for someone who has ventured as far as the Tenth Floor.”

The blacksmith agreed. “She’s right. The variety of monsters change and so do how they start acting in tandem with one another. You noticed that part of why the Sixth Floor happens to be so deadly is because the War Shadows typically attempt ambushes when you least expect it, right?”

Hestia’s child nodded slowly. “In some cases, even the walls they spawn from tend to be far enough away that you don’t hear them breaking. One of them even managed to trick me into stabbing into a wall when I had thought I backed it into a corner with a dagger and nearly took my arm off before another two surrounded me from the walls.”

Welf’s eyebrows rose at that. “How’d you get out of that one?”

“I waited until one made the first move and then slammed into it with all my strength so that we tumbled over, breaking the circle and springing up at the same time so I could run away long enough to summon a new weapon.”

That was another thing they had learned on the way down. He apparently had some kind of Skill that allowed him to effectively store away certain belongings that were exclusive to him. It shouldn’t be unusual since Skills could appear at any time upon gaining a Falna, based on one’s experiences or heritage or any other factor. However, it only compounded the mystery of who he was…

No. I do not need to think further on it, she decided in the end as she flicked her sword with a practiced grace before using a cloth to rid it of most of the excess blood and fat from cutting through the bodies of the monsters. It would need to be properly cleaned later, but she didn’t know if they would need to make use of it for the rest of the day. My Lord trusts the word of his goddess and he has proven he is capable. His secrets and how he obtained them does not matter.

That decided she proceeded to help them with the extraction of the Magic Stones. None of the monsters on this level had particularity caustic or harmful bodily fluids, so extracting them wasn’t much of an issue. The lull in activity, however, did open up the opportunity for her to gather up her thoughts on the formation of their little group. “Crozzo. I believe you would be best suited for the role of the vanguard in our three-man cell.”

He looked over to her from the dissipating corpse of a Kobold. “Me?”

“Your strength is notable, and you are experienced with these Upper Floors,” she explained. “You can adjust to dealing with threats upfront based on your judgment. That would also allow for more flexibility for the rest of us in dealing with the lesser threats, so they do not overcrowd you.”

He nodded to her assessment. “I can do that.”

“Then what about me?” Bell asked.

“I would prefer you to be the skirmisher of the formation,” she said. “Your fighting style is quick and aggressive, best suited for bringing down enemies quickly. It would also provide you with a chance to gain experience with unfamiliar monsters by seeing how they are engaged by the Vanguard and then adapting to them.”

“Okay, that makes sense,” he said in compliance.  “So does that mean you’ll be the support then?”

“It would seem so,” she admitted. “My talents lean more towards dexterity and agility rather than raw strength and endurance. In addition, while I prefer the blade I have for engaging enemies, I can use most ranged weapons—which will be essential on the next floor considering what we will be encountering.”

Welf chimed in. “The Moths, you mean?”

“Yes,” she answered. “The Purple Moths are capable of spreading poisonous powder with their wings and are fond of using it while adventurers are engaged with the other threats. They are priority targets that need to be eliminated and I have some proficiency with the Shortbow. But fixing your eyes on them while the Needle Rabbits are present will end up getting you killed. Then there are the Killer Ants, which need to be ideally killed in a single blow, and the regular monsters like Goblins and Kobolds that will be stronger and smarter than before.”

Not only did the enemy variety increase but so did their numbers and tactics. That was why venturing any lower alone or without preparation was such a hazard. It was very easy to become cornered and killed if you were careless or simply unlucky.

“With your skill, you would be able to pick them off while remaining aware of your surroundings enough that you could keep us from running into trouble or being caught off-guard…” Welf looked down intently at the body of a War Shadow before asking, “If you guys don’t mind, can I take some of the drop items to make some weapons to help out?”

“We’ll have to set some kind of rule in place in the future about how we split those in the future, but I have no qualms if you intend to use them for our expeditions,” she said offhand. Drop Items had more value than the magic stone fragments at these levels. They could compensate for the potential losses from not going with their normal partners, so it might cause conflict in the future. “What about you, Cranel?”

He was the one who would benefit the most, being the only one who hadn’t gone further and the only one with a single member of his Familia. Yet he only shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure.”

“Thanks. Since our numbers are fewer, we’ll need to make up with better experience, abilities, and equipment. I can only provide a little of the former and both of your skills beat out mine, but the latter I can do something about. The War Shadow Finger Blades can be shaped into daggers and throwing knives that will cut deeper than their regular counterparts with less strength. And the Kobold Nails can be fitted onto arrows that have a little more penetrating power.”

“That would be beneficial, but would that not be taking advantage of your services?” Mikoto remembered that it was his role as a smith that had caused issues prior. She didn’t want this to be the cause of problems in his current group.

“This is simple and benefits all of us,” he reasoned. Then he tilted his head towards Cranel. “Plus, it’ll give me a chance to show off my talents to a potential Contract. I’d like to be able to study his weapons since they’re a rather unique concept, but before I go asking I need to pull my own weight. We will need Antidotes and Potions though—ideally at least two for each person.”

“I can get those,” Bell offered. “I had been meaning to visit the Blue Pharmacy anyway, so I can go after asking Miss Eina more about the Seventh Floor.  That way you two could focus on the other stuff.”

“If you two are offering to obtain the equipment and supplies, I would be willing to handle keeping the finances secured,” Mikoto said. “We can take the Magic Stone fragments and any of the drops we collect to the exchange and create a budget for what will be split and what will be left for the group’s supplies. We won’t need them right away, as I would like at least two more trips through the Dungeon to improve our teamwork before we set foot on the Seventh Floor, and we can save up until then.”

Neither found seemed to find issues with that.

“That’s fine by me,” Welf said before extending one fist out to them both. “I’m looking forward to working with you both.”

Mikoto looked to it for a moment before extending her own fist as Bell did the same, solidifying their partnership.

[R-M]

Bell was in a fairly good mood by the time he left the Guild. He was a little tired mentally, given it was late evening. Eina had decided she was going to grill him on the monsters inhabiting the Seventh Floor every day before he stepped foot there—starting today. But he had been in a good mood as he approached the usual side-street on West Main that would lead him back home.

Then the smell hit him.

It was the all-too-familiar scent of blood. It was faint, barely above the hint of the iron aroma that niggled the back of his throat. But its sudden introduction into the clean air of Orario still reached his nose with such sharpness that he couldn’t help but take notice before the pained cry reached his ears as he turned the corner…

And found himself on the streets of Yharnam once more.

The familiar old street was now darkened with gloom. Its architecture turned imposing and enclosed as caskets that were sealed shut with chains lined the walls. The shadows themselves seemed to move with an eerie foreboding as they seemed eager to lap at the blood dripping onto the ground from…

It was the Little Girl. The Daughter of Gascoigne. She was there, laying on the ground with her back against the wall and clutching her right arm as vibrant crimson seeped from her fingers. Her eyes were filled with fear, helpless as she stared down at the bloodied Saw Cleaver from which tantalizing ruby beads dripped down.

Then its wielder looked to him. The tall figure dressed Hunter’s clothing that was a dingy and washed out yellow. A man who was dead risen from the grave looked to him and his mouth moved, but what came out were guttural sounds and growls—animal noise that didn’t register with Bell as he stood there for a moment in frozen silence.

Not until Henryk looked back to his granddaughter and raised the weapon while she looked back to him with a pleading look in her eyes that said she didn’t want to die.

Then it was like the trigger had been pulled. “STOP!

He rocketed forth as fast as his legs could carry while reaching out to the Hunter’s Mark in the back of his mind to call out to the Little Ones. They answered his call, producing from the wall to the right along his path the handle of his Saw Cleaver. In a single motion and without a pause in his sprint he grabbed it and swung it forward as the Old Hunter turned to him and did the same—

CLANG!!

—and the scraping of steel-on-steel caused the world to revert. No longer was he on the streets of Yharnam but the familiar road leading him back home. The one facing him wasn’t the aged Hunter, but a man who looked a few years his senior and was wielding a longsword.

And by his side was not the Little Girl he knew, but a female pallum that had short, chestnut hair that was messy and untamed. The beige cloak she had on looked frayed and worn, the tear in the sleeve from which blood ran anew to adorn the stitched ones. She looked a mix of surprised and confused at the scenario in front of her.

“The hell you think yer doing, brat!?” the man demanded, drawing Bell’s attention back to him. “I thought I told you to stay outta this!”

“I’m not going to let you kill a little girl in front of me!” Bell shouted right back as he jerked his arm, leaving the teeth of his saw to scrape against the edge of the blade and leave sparks in their eyes before thrusting his foot forward to plant his boot into the man’s chest. The flat of his blade intercepted it but he let the momentum carry him so that they were disengaged.

It may not have been Gascoigne’s Daughter. He may not have been on those streets that had gloom seeped into the very stone. But that did not change the fact that he wasn’t just going to let someone get murdered right in front of him.

He took a protective stance in front of her, never letting his gaze leave the man with his weapon in one hand and the other reaching for a potion stashed in his pouch. He then tossed it back to her and said, “Use that and run!”

The nameless pallum grabbed it with her good hand before she promptly scurried to her feet and took off running. The sound of the bottle being uncorked and splashing over the wound reached his ears as her footsteps hastened. But he didn’t have time to focus on that anymore as the man’s face grew angrier than before.

“So you were workin’ with that scum all along!” If Bell had to express his visage in words it would be the picture of a hellhound on two legs, ready to breathe out a wave of fire. The intent to kill was palpable. “Fine, I’ll carve you to pieces and then drag ‘em to her!”

Then he went on the attack. His blade swung through the air, a streak lingering as the setting sun caught its descent angled towards Bell’s neck for what was meant to be a fatal blow as he raised the Saw Cleaver in a guard to defend himself—

ARRGGGHHH!!

—and then the sword clattered onto the ground, steel scraping the stonework mingling with the surprised and pained cry of the assailant as he huddled over with his right hand clutching his left hand. The fingers of the latter were bent out of shape, broken bits of bone jutting out and piercing the bruised skin.

And at the base of his feet was a small stone that was bloodied.

“Leave,” a soft but firm voice spoke. It was commanding and drew Bell’s attention to an entrance of the alleyway where he spotted Ryuu standing there with her arm outstretched and eyes narrowed. “Now.”

The Adventurer’s baleful gaze fixed onto her. Then onto the stone at his feet. And lastly, at Bell, his eyes lingering for what felt like a lifetime before he sucked in a sharp breath, grabbed his blade with his good hand, and exited without another word.

Despite his absence the tension in the alleyway seemingly lingered as Bell lowered his Saw Cleaver and looked down at the bloodied stone. It was an ordinary stone that you could find anywhere on the streets. That man had been an Adventurer who was at least more experienced than him. He could put the pieces together well enough.

Even so, he turned to thank his savior. “Thank you for that. I hadn’t seen you when I was at the Hostess of Fertility.”

She only shook her head. “I was running errands when I overheard what was happening. However, it would seem I only bought you a reprieve. He will most likely attempt to come after you again.”

That information took a second to process. Then Bell felt a weight in the pit of his stomach. “What do you mean?”

“Just now he was memorizing your features,” she pointed out as she slowly walked towards him. “Your exchange was brief, but it became clear the two of you would not have resolved that fight without one dead. You recognized that as well, did you not?”

…His grip on the Saw Cleaver tightened and his stomach twisted into a knot because Bell did know. Yharnam had not been kind to him, but because of it he recognized from both the intent and the motions that man fully intended to kill him. There was no doubt in his mind. “…I couldn’t let him kill that girl. But I didn’t want to kill him.”

“I am not criticizing you for your decision,” Ryuu told him. “Merely stating that you should be prepared to defend yourself adequately next time rather than simply intending to fend such a person off without harming them. Even passivity can have consequences, Mister Cranel.”

The message carried. “I’ll keep my guard up.”

“Then I wish you a good evening,” Ryuu said before making her way out of the alleyway. He wondered just how strong of an Adventurer she was to do that kind of damage. But it wasn’t his place to ask—not when she had done it to protect him.

Once she was gone, Bell looked back to the wall where that girl had been. The cut had been deep from the blood there despite her clutching the wound. The potion was one of Miach’s so it should work, but…

He could still see Gascoigne’s Daughter in that moment. “I didn’t really save you, did I?”

The alleyway remained silent as he made his way back home.

But an answer came to him the next day as he was outside of Babel once more, in Central Park. Hestia said to leave the details of scheduling more parties with the other two Familias to her since they all had different schedules to keep and obligations on their own ends. It was just him today, strapped up in his new armor and his weapons a mere thought away.

It was then he felt a tug on his sleeve from behind. He turned his head around to see that they belonged to a tiny set of hands gingerly holding him. Then he had to crane down to meet with the beige hood obstructing the bed of disheveled, chestnut hair. But it was only when his eyes trailed down until they met a set of eyes that matched her hair, nestled over a saccharine smile, that recognition dawned.

And, in a small voice that tickled his ear, she said five little words he hadn’t expected to hear:

“I’ve found you, Mister Hero!”


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Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 5 – Chapter 24

Chapter 24

Nemesis Q’s appearance didn’t startle me.

I simply exercised the natural precaution of getting out of the way the moment it appeared, in the event one of the others decided to attack the administrator of this death game. It was justified given how emotional some of them were prone to being. The fact that I just so happened to not take notice of the pebble-sized piece of rubble on the dust-laden floor and ended up falling back into Saegusa was just unfortunate.

It serves to break everyone else out of their shock.

Himuro places herself between it and Saegusa. Her crystals that make up her Burst are already forming. She probably knows attacking it would be fruitless, but a token show of defiance is better than standing there slack-jawed.

Makidera springs forward and closes the distance. With “token” being a word missing from her vocabulary, she simply goes in to kick the one who pulled them into this.

I can attest from a botched sparring session that the snap of her leg can topple a tree while under Rise, so she doesn’t lack the strength to defend herself if she runs across trouble in this trip.

But this is Nemesis Q.

And before it, all PSI is meaningless.

Her entire limb sinks through Nemesis Q without any sign of connecting. There is no sign of displacement via some form of spatial manipulation like with the Student President’s ability. No signs of it simply shrugging off the hit due to immense strength.

Her leg just passes through it and out the other side. She might have braced her leg expecting the impact, but the follow-through leaves her nearly tripping over herself if not for her reflexes kicking in. She manages to jump back in several feet and put up her guard in anticipation of a reprisal…

None comes.

Nemesis Q merely stands there as its head quirks slowly back and forth with no indication that it noticed she had attempted to break it in half. Left. Right. Up. Behind. The motions remind me of a clockwork bird observing its surroundings with…mechanical… precision…

I can practically hallucinate the sound of gears turning until it clicks in my mind. The only times I’ve seen Nemesis Q has been under three very specific circumstances: when I received my card the first time, when we receive our orders in the future, and when we attempt to break the terms of the contract.

Time and again it has shown itself to be too uncanny for it to be human. No fear of an attack from legs that can shatter centuries-old trees. No sadistic pleasure from forcing the role of soldiers in its war upon us. No consideration or compassion for those under its banner. No sympathy for those who yearn to be free.

But… when you consider that it might be a constructed entity then things make a lot more sense.

Nemesis Q is a tool meant to carry out a specific purpose. It exists to carry out that directive with the necessary resources and is optimized to do so. Its human-like form is simply to interact with other humans—an avatar to carry out its functions.

Then there’s the fact the others have mentioned that only those with cards can see Nemesis Q. The same as how we have a limited form of Clairvoyance to perceive PSI-based abilities. That means that it is most likely some kind of PSI construct as well—Burst or Trance or something in-between.

But if I take into account that a creator of a construct must have the knowledge or ability to bestow the same upon their creation, it brings to mind two questions:

Who could create something capable of shifting souls through time and modifying them to enable the use of psychic abilities?

And why go about things in such a roundabout way to do it if they have that much power?

“This thing is so creepy,” Makidera states after a few more seconds of the construct just standing there craning its head around in angles that were impossible for anything living. The apparent lack of consequences to her actions causes her to lower her guard and relax her stance.

Then she looks back at me and scowls. “Get off of her already!”

The reprimand makes me aware of Saegusa’s tiny body beneath me. The same realization dawns on her as I look down and see her face flushing red. I get back on my feet before things get awkward and give her a moment to rise as well before asking. “Why didn’t you say something?”

She fidgets in place sheepishly while avoiding my eyes “You had that look on your face you get when you start thinking about something deeply. I figured it might be important and I wasn’t hurt or anything, so I didn’t want to interrupt you…”

Makidera scolds her for that line of thinking. “You have to speak up or guys like that will take advantage of you. He can wrack his brain just fine standing up.”

“Enough,” I say before she goes further, in recognition of the known fact it might have been the influence of her powers again. I should probably snap back at the insinuation about my character, but this isn’t the time for that.

That can wait until we’re back where we belong. “Gotou, did you send word to Mitsuzuri?”

His silence to this point ends as he relays her message. “She said not to bother Nemesis Q if isn’t doing anything, and not to leave the building or broadcast with Telepathy. It seems like there’s a lot of Taboo scouting for something or someone, including one that can sense Trance waves, and she doesn’t want to do anything to give us away too soon.”

“Did she spot any other humans? Drifters?”

He takes a moment to relay that question and gives a shake of the head. “Nothing.”

If there’s no one screaming for their lives, then chances are it’s not a recruitment mission to bolster our numbers. Then that makes it a kill mission or some other objective. Considering those dolls and abominations running around searching for something, it might be we’re expected to run some kind of interference or beat them to whatever it is they’re after.

I only have a moment to ruminate on it before Nemesis Q suddenly becomes active. Its clockwork motions give way to defying gravity as it flies into the middle of the room. Then it snaps its fingers and my consciousness is ripped from my body once more.

There’s some disorientation as I suddenly find myself in a room somewhere on the first floor of a building that has a massive hole in the wall, courtesy of a rusted car that crashed through it maybe decades ago. Glancing around the room reveals nothing of importance, but it becomes clear that the location itself is meaningless a moment later. That’s when the stalwart silence becomes broken by soft panting that draws my attention back to the unintended entrance.

A slender figure presses against the gap between the hole and the car. White fabric tears as a figure slips into the dark confines of the room, the slight scrape of metal from the barrel of a gun that looks nearly unblemished pinging against the surface. Obscuring the faint rays of the already dim light that barely offer visibility, it takes a moment before I can get a clear view of who it is.

The first thought that crosses my mind when I see her face is that of a lone flower amidst the ruins of steel, battered by the harsh winds.

It’s probably because of the hair that I take an interest in her. The shade immediately reminds me of Sakura and so I can’t help but fixate on how familiar the sight of it is. The unkempt and ragged appearance, clinging to her sweat-slicked face that was flush from exertion as she struggled for breath…

The visage churns within me an unsightly feeling that’s akin to a coal tar mired in lust, steaming with a sinister hatred and desire. To pluck that lone flower that survived the end of the world and defile it. To leave it forever stained black as it wilts.

And it unsettles me.

The lust I can understand to an extent, even though I haven’t had much of a sex drive since the nightmares began. The hair color and the exhausted state naturally associate themselves with moments of joy and exhilaration that dominating a woman in a bedroom provides in my mind. That’s why I can probably rationalize it as being an acquired taste due to my time with Sakura and Rider.

The hatred is a different story.

I hate her in ways I’ve never hated someone before without any reason. Just seeing her wells up in me the desire to do horrific things to her and revel in it. It takes active effort to not picture stripping her of the white clothes that the Homunculi usually wear and violating her just because it’d be one of the cruelest things I can think of to do.

And I don’t know why that is since I’ve never seen her before.

Emotional attachments are a combination of experience and associations. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the association. The memories of victims and victimizers that haunt my nightmares, and the enjoyment derived from their pain and suffering, are something I can vaguely understand at this point due to how they associate themselves with some meaningful experience.

But she has nothing to rationalize why I hate her to this extent.

If she’s someone who escaped the enemy and has useful information, then she’s a valuable asset that needs to be secured. If she’s associated with the Homunculi and needs to be killed, then her death becomes a means to an end. Unless her name happens to be Einzbern due to the whole rigging the Grail War and demon thing…

But until I know why Nemesis Q brought me to her there should be nothing but cold indifference. So why do I feel such irrational hatred towards her? And why does it feel so right?

I just don’t know why…

At least not until she speaks.

“—ey’ll be here soon, Ries. Then it’ll be over.

The irrationality becomes clear the instant I hear her soft, broken voice.

It’s almost like a revelation that expels all doubts when I realize that there’s one specific time that irrationality is expected. And it’s the very same logic I imagine drives Emiya to be such a fool, pursuing the ambition that he does. That being… well…

You don’t need a reason to do what you believe is right.

I feel my lips stretching apart into something wicked as I see the one who violated my mind and body for the first time and drink in every detail of her appearance. Even if I didn’t know it consciously at a glance, I must’ve known it was her on some level. Therefore, the hatred I feel is completely natural because my intention is exactly what I promised to do.

I’m going to kill her.

Drifters—” Nemesis Q speaks as it hovers over her and looks towards me. “—behold she who holds the key to change the future. Receive the knowledge of the Day of Rebirth and ferry it to the past. Thus, breaking the chains binding the future in place.

I lock eyes with the construct if it has any beneath that mask it bears. I already guessed its intention when I realized it was Atlasia, so I can only assume the stare is meant to be a warning. Is it telling me that my vengeance will not come to pass?

Or perhaps it’s a silent warning to prioritize getting the knowledge before I kill her? It is not human and if we change the future nothing that happens here will matter because. So why should it care if I kill her so long as the mission is completed?

I don’t have an answer as we’re transported back to our simulacrum bodies and—

Time slows.

—I extend the seconds out for as long as possible to come up with a plan before the others start speaking. I have to get on top of this and come up with a method to accomplish everything at once. There are three objectives to start with:

Find Her. Receive Her Knowledge. Kill Her.

Finding her needs to be the priority for obvious reasons. That means I need to do so before both the Homunculi and the others. The rest of the group won’t just stand back and let me kill her, so it has to be me alone who finds her first if I want to get my revenge without them knowing.

The expedient thing to do will be to split up the group to search for her. But there is no way Ayako is going to let any of us wander around alone when we’ve got inexperienced people in the group, so I’ll have to suggest pairs. If I stress the urgency of the situation and make it seem reasonable enough, she shouldn’t have any logical complaints.

Not when Nemesis Q practically dangled the chance to end things once and for all like bait on a hook.

I take a moment to figure out how to divide the group up before moving onto the next issue.

Information retrieval.

I’ll assume based on her tampering with my head that she has enhanced mental capabilities on par with an eidetic memory. If the Day of Rebirth is truly the point of no return then she probably has every piece of information retained with absolute certainty and clarity. I can rip it out of her mind with the Mind Jack, but if she specializes in Mental Interference she’ll likely have some kind of safeguard.

I’ll have to think of some way around that.

Killing her will also be an issue. I’ll need to find a way to make it look like one of the abominations or homunculi did it, so that none of the others suspect me. I can justify it if necessary by revealing the fact that she had been the one who took over my body and claim self-defense, but considering how creative I intend to be with the right amount of time…

I really would prefer not to deal with the looks that Ayako and Saegusa would give me in the aftermath.

But at least finding her will probably be the simplest part.

I’ve already thought of how to do that.

I just need to put it into action—

Time normalizes.

—and quickly spool out a Mind Jack that flies straight into Gotou’s head. He winces as it goes in roughly, but I can feel the connection to the Mind Jack that Ayako made. I float my thoughts straight through it to her. ‘Mitsuzuri, we need to split up. Tell me everything you’ve seen so far so I can come up with a plan.

How did you—

Using Gotou’s mind as a router since you’re still too afraid to tether your mind to mine directly. Normally, I wouldn’t go through the effort of doing things this roundabout, but it’s the best compromise I can make given we’re pressed for time.

Shinji, it wasn’t like that.

‘Maybe not intentionally, but right now isn’t the time to get into that. Just send the information so I can focus on having things planned while you listen through him. That way we can move out by the time you get back, because if Nemesis Q spoke true this is the one chance we’ll have to finally be done with all of this.

I picture the first time I saw her in this terrible future as I gnaw at the hidden hope buried in her chest to be free of all of this. The hope that she’ll never have to see any other people she knows dying here. The guilt she has for looking into my head and getting a hint of just what lays there and how it put up a wall between us. I use it as a weapon to manipulate her emotions and put pressure on her to get my way.

It’s necessary. I’m doing this for her sake as well. I’ll succeed in getting the information and killing Atlasia, so we can change the future and be done with Nemesis Q’s game.

So that she can just go back to living her life and leave all of this behind, I’ll stomp on whatever buttons of hers I have to.

‘…Fine. There’s some chalk in my bag. Take it and use it to map things out on the floor. I’ll be back in five minutes.

Her mental voice carries a hint of weakness before the information comes rushing in. The working memory of what she’s seen to this point flows into my mind and reveals the number of the Taboo and Homunculi. I can make out it’s a net being closed in from the composition and formation of their search parties.

They’ve been working from the outside inwards, using Hounds to sniff her out and the Catchers to capture her or anyone else they find. They’re actively destroying the areas they’ve been through so she can’t double back and hide. Time isn’t on our side after all.

I take special note of the creatures in the air that I’ve never seen before. They float in the air via what I’m assuming to be Telekinesis with their bat-like wing membranes outstretched, the combination of which reminds me of a satellite dish hanging low to the surface of the earth. I can only assume these are the ones that can track Trance waves if not in a self-contained system like the Mind Jack.

Then I set to work with outlining the terrain and begin briefing the others once I have enough information. Since Ayako’s still connected to Gotou’s mind but doesn’t object, I take the silence from him as her consent with the plan. I just about finish up explaining things to the three girls right as she returns to our temporary hideout. “—which is why we’ll be moving in pairs of two, with one experienced member going with one inexperienced. The moment any of us find the target, we’ll converge and retrieve them to accomplish the mission.”

The three of them take a moment to process the information. For once, even Makidera’s expression carries the weight of seriousness as she seems to be taking into consideration just how high the stakes are. This is their ticket out of this after all.

Himuro adjusts her glasses before giving me a firm look. “What criteria will determine who we will be partnered with?”

“Capability. You will be going with Gotou to shore up his lack of aptitude in Trance. You have a ranged Burst as well, based on what you demonstrated early. I’m sure you can deal with things like the Hounds and anything he can’t from a distance, right?”

She closes her eyes and nods. “It’ll be done.”

Truthfully, I don’t think he’s gotten over his aversion to killing the Homunculi. He might have, but if he hasn’t we don’t have time to work him into it. That is why I’ll leave that to Himuro.

If she’s true to the words that she uttered that night at the School Gate, she’ll do what needs to be done. If not, he’ll kill them to protect her. And if he doesn’t and she isn’t capable, they’ll die.

It’d be a loss that we could do without. It’d hit both Ayako and Saegusa hard. But I’ve given them every advantage I can, so it’ll be their fault alone if it happens.

I turn to Makidera next. “You’re with me. Just kick what I tell you to and I’ll handle everything else. You can do that much without the others holding your hands, right?”

She scowls and looks like she’s going to say something. But Himuro taps her on the shoulder and shakes her head before she can get a word out. The message carries and she just huffs in silent anger.

“Saegusa, you’ll be with Mitsuzuri. She has no weaknesses and is the most experienced among us, capable of killing anything she can see at any range and protecting you if need be. That will free you up to where you can fulfill the role of being at the center of our wired network.”

I draw six circles on the floor in two pairs of three and tap on the bottom-center circle to indicate her. I run a line between the bottom-center circle to the bottom-left and bottom-right for her connection to the other Trance users. Then I run a line between the Trance-users to the Rise-users.

“You will be connected to myself, Himuro, and Mitsuzuri. Then Himuro and I will run our Mind Jacks to our partners. That way we can remain in communication with each other without risking being overheard and without them expending unnecessary energy trying to do something that doesn’t suit them.”

Saegusa brings her hand to her chin in thought before she asks an innocent question. “Wouldn’t it be better if I ran my own lines to the other two as well? That way we’d all be connected.”

I shake my head. “You’d need to be able to process multiple trains of thought with perfect clarity while remaining aware of your surroundings. Even I can’t handle that kind of parallel processing with so many people—it’s a limitation of the mind. But this formation should work out best for everyone.”

It shores up the weaknesses of our Rise-users by giving them support. It places the center of our network with our best line of defense. And it gets everyone else who could interfere out of my way.

We’ll all get what we want by the time this is over if everything goes well.

“If there are no more questions, let’s get started…”


(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 19

Chapter 19: Conquering The Bridge

“Hang in there, Shuckle!” Lillie called out. “Just a little more!”

“Shuuckkkklllleeee!” was the response to her words of encouragement as the Mold Pokémon clung to a log, his appendages coiled around the hefty hardwood as it spun in the air. It was shrouded in the cerulean hue of psychic energy as Bill’s Kadabra, Bard, moved his hand in a circle and the log followed the motions.

It was part of his training, having finally learned how to use Wrap by maintaining his grasp on the log. Not that Bard was turning it that fast to begin with, but the fact that it was moving meant that he needed a stronger grip to hold onto it than Constrict. Though in the event he was going to fall, they did have some soft materials laid out beneath him.

Since Lillie could only bring three pokémon into the battle against the former Gym Trainer to conquer Nugget Bridge in a few days, she had thought long and hard about who her choices would be. The fact that a Gyarados was their opponent basically meant all of her pokémon were pretty much at a disadvantage due to how small they were and how well-trained it most likely was, given who raised it.

But Shuckle was easily the most durable of all her pokémon. He had weathered a hit from Bewear and remained conscious, plus he knew Protect. With his help, they could come up with some way to win. Hence why he was her first choice.

“You’ll be able to rest after this,” Lillie promised. “I’ll give you as many sour pokéblocks as you want too, so just hold on for a little longer, okay?”

An elongated sound of affirmation escaped as he continued spinning while Lillie turned her attention to the next of her choices—Bellamy. Her Flower Pokémon was currently holding a small cup with his vines and drinking water from it, taking a break from his own training while watching Viri watering her lovely berry trees. He would also be a lynchpin in her plans.

“Bellamy, are you ready to keep going?” Lillie called out to her Flower Pokémon. The shy Bellsprout bobbed his bell before setting down the cup and rising onto his tiny roots. “Okay, let’s go with Sunny Day again!”

Sprouuttttt—” His beady eyes furrowed in concentration as he raised his leafy appendages towards the sky. He had been diligent in trying to learn how to use the technique from Viri, and as proof of his hard work pale white sparkles of light rose from his frame and gathered up into the air, clumping together into a bright and shining sphere like a small sun.

“Now, use Growth!” Lillie ordered. The miniature star shone down upon him, and sparkling beads of light swaddled his body until it was shining like morning dew. Lillie clapped before turning to Viri, who gave a nod to show she was ready. “Good job! Now show me your moves!”

Bellamy then proceeded to move while under the influence of Chlorophyll, showcasing how much faster he was as he bounced around when Viri sent small leaves woven of energy, Razor Leaf, flying towards him. His lithe and slender frame nimbly avoided them all, leaving him to wriggle in pride at the improvement.

“Don’t get too complacent, Bellamy,” Lillie warned as the leaf of the Viri’s tail began to shift between hues with an almost kaleidoscopic effect. “Heads up!”

On cue, the Verdant Pokémon released the shimmering, whirling projectiles like miniature saws toward the Flower Pokémon. He attempted to dodge them, only for them to curve around after passing him by before closing in. He then began to flail his leafy appendages around as he ran in a circle while they gave chase. “Sprout, sprout, sprout!”

“Magical Leaf won’t stop until it hits,” Lillie said. “Try hitting them instead with Acid Spray.”

Bellamy turned around, his tiny roots sliding around the dirt before he reared back and fired purple globs of acid at them. They managed to catch three of the four of them, leaving one heading towards him. He panicked and sent his vines lashing out at the ground, launching him into the air and thus leaving him aerial as the remaining whirling leaf curved towards him until he managed to get a final Acid glob out and hit it…

Right as the artificial sun winked out. The period of hyperactivity was replaced with lethargy, born from how unfamiliar it was to him. Thus, exhausted while in the middle of the air, he could only let out a cry as he was left plummeting to the ground. “Sprouuuuuuu—”

His cries were cut short when the cerulean veil of psychic power shrouded him. He levitated slowly to the ground where Shuckle had been set down, his elongated head slowly turning in spirals while still wrapped around the log sitting upright. It was safe to say he’d learned Wrap at this point as Lillie came over and checked on them both.

“…Good job, both of you,” she said after making sure neither were injured. A bit tired, scared, and dizzy, but unharmed. As they got their bearings again after being sent for a loop, she presented them with their treats.  “We’ll still need more work before we can say you’ve mastered your moves and abilities, but it’s safe to say we might have a shot of beating Gyarados if everything goes well.”

Bellamy’s expression turned doubtful as he carefully held a pokéblock between the tips of his leaves. His being frightful was natural given his disposition. But she saw he was probably the one who had the most potential to shine if everything went right because of how helpful he was.

She gently brushed him on his bell. “I have faith in you, Bellamy. Just do your best and I’ll be proud, no matter what.”

He nodded, beady eyes gaining some measure of bravery in the hopes of living up to her encouragement. “Sp-Sprout.”

She smiled at him and left the two of them to get some rest before heading to check on her third and final choice. Sliding down the hillside that housed the trees under Viri’s care, she came to a stop at the base of the incline and spotted Koko bouncing up and down on the surface of one side of the pond that had been frozen along with Glacian. “Koko, how’s practice going?”

The Alolan Vulpix whirled around and then darted over to her trainer. Her icy blue paws nestled against Lillie’s legs as she stared up with her crystalline eyes and barked excitedly while wagging her tail. “Pix! Pix!”

“Okay, I’ll come to look.” Lillie obliged her by picking her up and then heading over to see that the layer of ice was thicker than when she first managed to perform Icy Wind. That meant she had used it at least twice, back-to-back. It was praiseworthy progress and the bundle of white fur wriggled as Lillie brushed her affectionately in the process of doing so.  “Good job. I’m so proud of you!”

BOOM!

Their playing came to a standstill as the sound of a distant, semi-muffled explosion came from the side of the building and out of view. “Looks like he’s woken up from his nap and started practicing again, huh?”

“Pix.” Koko nodded before the pair ventured over towards the edge of the house and peered around the corner to spot the Fairy Pokémon already hard at work after his brief nap.

Snnnnubb…” Snubbull growled and his pink fur bristled as he stared down what was left of a log that was nearly as tall as her several meters away. It had been set up as a training post for him to practice Fire Fang on and he had been nothing if not diligent on that part. The main body was blackened, charred bark and splinters resting around it as smoke rose from places where there was a dull, orange glow.

Flames began to lick at the corners of his mouth as he snarled, embers drifting off the side before he took off into a sprint towards the log. Not a direct line, but rather zigzagging as though avoiding invisible attacks while the flames grew more intense to where his entire mouth seemed encased in flames. Then, once he was within lunging distance, the flames seemed to expand from his mouth and push out a mold of fangs that were slightly larger than his own as they crashed together against the bulk of the log’s body. “BULLL!!”

BOOM!

The explosion knocked loose charred splinters and gouged out pieces of it as the entire thing trembled from the force of it. Snubbull himself emerged from the resulting smoke with his fur covered in patches of soot from the burnt bits. Panting, he wobbled back towards his starting point and took deep breaths to ready himself to try it again.

He’s going to need a bath before bedtime, Lillie thought to herself as she watched him. Snubbull had been her third choice for the match, partly to synergize with her other two choices but also because of his own insistence. He was so prideful that even the thought of facing down Gyarados wasn’t enough to shake him.

Even so, there wasn’t enough time for him to learn Thunder Fang from Arks and he was insistent that he used Fire Fang. She had conferred with Professor Kukui on the subject of refining his favorite technique and he had suggested that instead of forming it solely around his own fangs, he should visualize the fangs that he wants them to become. That seemed to be having an effect given the results, but part of that could also be how much he’d been throwing himself into his training.

Lillie looked down to Koko and smiled. “I guess we should get back to our own training, huh?”

The Fox Pokémon yipped. They still had three days of training left. It would have to be enough for them to conquer the bridge.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Lillie and her pokémon trained. And trained. And trained some more.

Then the day of the match approached. The neophyte trainer returned to the Nugget Bridge and found herself standing at the end of the bridge where the former Gym Trainer stood with an expectant grin on his face. There was an audience as the other bridge trainers and spectators had gathered to watch from just beyond the bridgehead, the flower-strewn field nearby serving as the seat for the small crowd.

I didn’t think there’d be so many people… Lillie found it a little awkward having so many eyes on her even as she tried to keep her focus on her opponent. At least with Lt. Surge only her mother and Astra and her grandfather had been there to see her defeat. I hope I don’t embarrass myself.

“Don’t focus on the crowd,” Azuria said, placing a hand on Lillie’s shoulder as she came to a stop next to her. It seemed that she’d decided to come along for moral support. Lillie wouldn’t be surprised if she managed to pick up from her body posture just how nervous she was. “Instead, focus on the ones cheering for you to have a good match.”

Lillie followed her gaze back to where Lilligant and Koko were off to the side with Rotom, since they weren’t participating this time. The trio cheered her on in their own way and encouraged her. She felt her lips forming into a soft smile as she placed a hand on her chest and took a deep breath, settling her nerves as the Coordinator went to join them. “Right. We can do this.”

The brown-haired man with glasses who had given her the card at the start of the gauntlet took to the center of the field. It seemed he would be acting as the referee for the battle. His voice came in loud and clear as he declared the start of the match. “Then let the final battle of the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet begin!”

MATCH START!

“It’s your time to shine, Shuckle!” Lillie said as she tossed his ball out and the Mold Pokémon emerged on her side of the field.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a match, so let’s make it a good one!” Kado said in an enthusiastic tone as he enlarged his partner’s ball before tossing it up into the air. “Gyarados, let’s get started!”

The ball broke open, light spilling out and swelling to comparatively massive size as the details filled in once the conversion was done. The long, serpentine body of the Atrocious Pokémon landed on the Gym Trainer’s side of the field with its blue scales reflecting the sheen of the morning light off its back, while its yellow underbelly cast a shadow that stretched over Shuckle’s tiny frame. Then those piercing red eyes fixed onto his beady black ones and it let out a roar.

Gyarados used Intimidate!

Shuckle promptly (and understandably) withdrew into his shell.

“I-It’ll be okay, Shuckle!” Lillie tried to reassure him. “Just do like we practiced!”

“Sorry, but the match has started, we’re not going to hold back just because he’s holed up in his shell,” Kado said. “Gyarados, Water Gun!”

“Shuckle, it’s coming!” Lillie shouted as the cheeks of the Atrocious Pokémon swelled until they were bulging. “Protect yourself!”

If there was one thing that Shuckle didn’t really a prompt on, it was protecting himself. No sooner than what came from the Gyarados mouth was a lancing stream of water did it hit a solidified wall of air that cracked beneath the force of the impact. But it managed to hold against the attack long enough to leave the water scattered before the barrier itself shattered.

“Whew.” Lillie let out a breath of relief as Shuckle stuck his head out of one of the holes to reveal he was okay. “Now, Sticky Web!”

His tiny cheeks swelled as he spat out a glob of bug glue. It expanded into a web towards the massive Gyarados that promptly avoided it with contemptuous ease using its serpentine body. The webbing then smacked into the bridge behind it, where it remained.

“Sorry, but he isn’t so slow something like that could hit it,” he said. “And that weak Protect won’t stand up to an attack that has our full power behind it. Close the distance and use Bite, Gyarados!”

The Atrocious Pokémon’s fangs grew luminous and then multiplied. Rather than four fangs, there were instead glowing teeth running along the length of its upper and lower lips. Then it did as told by using the muscles beneath its scales to not slither but lunge at the tiny prey.

“Withdraw!” Lillie called out as Shuckle naturally tucked his head back into his shell out of fear. The shell then grew luminous right as the similarly hued fangs came crashing down upon him. Then Gyarados reared back, leaving Shuckle’s shell stuck between the fangs that were clenching like they were trying to bite into Rock Candy. “Now, Wrap!”

To the surprise of the Gyarados, Shuckle’s appendages burst from four of the holes and stretched so they could coil around its head in similar manner to a muzzle, leaving it unable to let go. The moment of confusion as it shook its head to try and get him to let go turned to anger when it was clear that Shuckle wouldn’t budge. It began to clamp down its grip tighter on the shell. “Grysshaa!!

“It’ll be okay,” Lillie called out to Shuckle as his concerned cries emerged from the confines of the shell even as he held firm. That shell was hard enough to take a hit from Bewear without using Withdraw back when they’d first met. Strengthening his naturally high defense meant that it wouldn’t crack under the pressure, and as long as he held on it couldn’t toss him away—locking down one of its strongest weapons.

Now it was time to lock down the other advantage it had. “Now, use Sticky Web below!”

Shuckle’s head emerged from the rear hole, lips tinged by the hue of his Berry Juice that he’d probably drank after getting bitten—he probably hadn’t taken nearly enough damage to warrant it, but such was his nature. His tiny cheeks swelled before spitting out another glob of natural adhesive, only this time it aimed straight at the base of the bridge where Gyarados was touching it. There was a squishy sound as the Atrocious Pokémon pressed into it further inadvertently, thus leaving it stuck as it tried wrestling itself free.

“So that’s your gimmick,’” Kado said as the realization dawned. It brought a smile to his face. “Clever, but we’re not out of the fight yet. Water Gun!”

Gyarados’ extra fangs dissipated as its cheeks began to swell again, leaving Shuckle to crane its head back in concern and meet with the red, narrow eyes of the Atrocious Pokémon. Then he promptly tucked his head back into his shell as the Gyarados let loose the attack. One second there were sharp streamlets of water going around the shell.

Then next Shuckle was launched like a cannonball and slammed into the surface of the bridge. His shell bounced off the hard surface once, four long limbs trailing after him before their natural adhesiveness tethered him, and he promptly snapped back down. His head emerged from the top-most orifice in the shell, swaying after being thrown for a loop. “Shuuuccckllllee….

“Don’t let up, Shuckle!” Lillie called out, leaving the Mold Pokémon to shake his head and regain his senses. “Stick with the plan and keep going!”

Shuckle proceeded to do just that as he took aim at the Atrocious Pokémon that was struggling to pull itself free of the gob of bug glue on the right side of its body, where its underbelly met the bridge. He then reinforced it by firing yet another glob on the opposite side, the left side it was leaning on to try and get free. It smushed into it and glued him there further.

GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched in fury before reeling around towards Shuckle in time for another Sticky Web to come flying towards it, this time expanding from the air resistance and covering a portion of its upper body. In retaliation, its cheeks swelled.

“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie ordered. The protective wall went up just in time to meet with the streaming blast of the Water Gun that smashed into hard enough this time to shatter it whole, leaving the blunted hit to reach Shuckle. But he weathered the assault and returned fire with yet another Sticky Web, coating the Atrocious Pokémon with another layer on the center and causing it to start struggling more violently. “Just a little more!”

“Gyarados, calm down!” Kado commanded. “If you get angry and start thrashing around, you’ll only send up stuck further until you can’t move. Temper your rage and then wait for your moment!”

It was as though the atmosphere shifted in a single moment. The Gyarados quelled its furious motions and went stock still as its eyes focused on Shuckle as the Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled once more. Then it clicked. “Shuckle, wait—”

Gyarados used Dragon Rage!

No sooner than the Sticky Web came flying outwards did its maw opened wide. Then, in a manner that was too akin to how Koko would charge a Moonblast, but much faster, what formed from its maw was a reddish-orange sphere. The sphere was launched from Gyarados and cut through the air towards Shuckle who hastily attempted to weave his Protect once more to act as a bulwark against the onrushing attack. The two met and the air howled as the half-formed shield shattered under the concentrated essence of a dragon’s rage—

BOOM!!

—and Shuckle was swallowed by the flash of red and orange as the force contained spilled out with a shockwave that knocked him loose and sent him flying. There was a loud conk as his shell hit the bridge’s surface, spinning in place upside down while his limbs and head were splayed out.

He was out cold.

“Shuckle is unable to battle!” declared the referee after observing his supine form. “Challenger, choose your next pokémon.”

We didn’t manage to get enough of the Sticky Web on it to stop it completely, but that should at least slow it down, Lillie reasoned as she recalled Shuckle back into his ball. Then she pulled out her second choice. “Your turn, Bellamy!”

The Flower Pokémon emerged onto the field and took stock of the situation, somewhat nervously fidgeting as the Gyarados glared at it, and then turned back to his trainer. “S-Sprout?”

“We have a little time while he’s still stuck!” she encouraged him. Then the referee announced they could begin, so she gave her order. “Use Sunny Day!”

Bellamy raised his leaves to the sky and began to gather energy into a sphere above him. Once it was a fairly modest size, he launched it further up transforming it into a miniature star. It shone down upon the battlefield and radiated strong sunlight.

Bellamy used Sunny Day! The sunlight turned harsh!

“Oh, that might be a problem,” Kado admitted. “Gyarados, use Dragon Rage!”

Obeying orders, the Atrocious Pokémon spat out another orb of concentrated rage at the Flower Pokémon. However, the moment it left its mouth, Bellamy was on the move. Shrouded in the viridian veil of Chlorophyll his tiny, root-like legs moved surprisingly fast and carried him out of the range of the blast as it hit the surface of the bridge and the shockwave made it tremble a little.

“Good job!” Lillie praised him. “Now, stay at a distance where you can dodge if it tries that again and start using Growth!”

“Sprout!” Bellamy bobbed his bell and then raised his leaves to the artificial sun, drinking up the light. Unlike when they fought the Bronzor and Geodude, they knew that it would be a lot faster when Sunny Day was in effect and it would be twice as effective if he had enough time. Strong enough to even take out a Gyarados.

Unfortunately, they would have the time to get that strong as Kado turned his attention to his Gyarados that was struggling to get free, and commanded, “Use Ice Fang on webbing holding you down and then close the distance to attack!”

Ice crackled as dense, glistening frost encroached over its lips and formed a jutting maw composed of two rows of razor-sharp icicles as it craned its head towards the base where it was stuck and then plowed them into the adhesive. The ice froze the globs of bug glue keeping it pinned down, leaving the Atrocious Pokémon to break free of its binding. It then lunged for Bellamy as sparkles danced off his frame from the Growth-in-progress.

“Bellamy, go up!” Lillie shouted as she saw the ice-laden maw closing in on him like a rushing train while he seemed stuck in place like a Stantler caught in headlights. Thankfully, he roused at her voice and shot his vines at the ground, using them to send him into the air as the maw of ice slammed shut where he’d been and sent shards spraying everywhere.

Bellamy winced as some of the shards slammed into him as he retracted and then launched his vines downwards again to land behind the Gyarados some distance away. It naturally reared upwards to turn and then attack him, but it began to strain as the webbing that had been layered on its underbelly caught the surface of the bridge. Bellamy took the chance to go on the offense, dredging up some of his natural gastric juices and suddenly spitting out a Growth-imbued Acid Spray towards the Gyarados. “Sprout!

A Critical Hit!

GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched as the moment it hit the scales covering its backside, the caustic fluids began to froth. It strained harder against the thin layer until the bond gave way under his muscles, right as another Acid Spray from the Flower Pokémon splashed against its massive body and left it in even more infuriating pain. It whirled around onto Bellamy as the Flower Pokémon began to ready another Acid Spray and fired a Dragon Rage in retaliation.

In the midst of launching another attack, Bellamy wasn’t prepared to move as the reddish-orange sphere of draconic rage closed the distance—

BOOM!

—and ruptured, consuming the Flower Pokémon as Bellamy’s short cry of pain was drowned out by the violent release of the condensed fury. Smoke billowed up from where the attack had landed, obscuring Lillie’s pokémon until a breeze thinned it out and revealed his prone form as tendrils of smoke wafted off of him.

“Bellsprout is unable to battle!” the referee declared after a moment. “Challenger, choose your final pokémon.”

Lillie returned Bellamy into his ball before pressing it against her forehead and whispering, “Thank you, Bellamy.

He had done a marvelous job considering that they hadn’t managed to completely pin down the Gyarados. Just from the way it was wheezing and tremors ran along its body she could tell he managed to do a lot of damage thanks to Shuckle’s webbing holding it down long enough for him to strengthen himself a little. And the sunlight was still harsh so Gyarados’ Water Gun would be hampered for a little while longer.

We still have a chance, Lillie believed with all her heart as she enlarged the ball of her final choice and tossed it out. “It’s all up to you now, Snubbull!”

The Fairy Pokémon emerged onto the field, landing on his hind legs. He met the fierce gaze of the Atrocious Pokémon without flinching or fear. Instead, he fell on all fours and barked in defiance.

Gyarados snarled in response.

Then the referee announced, “Let the final match begin!”

Snubbull took off running towards the comparatively massive pokémon that had taken down two of his peers without fear or even waiting for Lillie’s command.

His weapons were his fangs. He couldn’t use those without getting closer to his enemy. Even if it put him directly in threat range of the Gyarados, all he could do was approach the enemy and attempt to tear it apart regardless of what kind of pokémon it was.

Likewise, in the presence of an approaching enemy, Gyarados attempted to defeat it with the same method it had done the others. It let loose the reddish-orange sphere that was its rage made manifest and sent it flying towards Snubbull. The resulting explosion swept up his tiny body entirely…

Snubbull was unaffected!

Only for Snubbull to emerge from the smoke unperturbed while flames began to crawl from between his lips with a fiendish vigor until they completely shrouded his maw. Unhindered by the ineffectiveness of his attack, the Fairy Pokémon quickly closed the distance until Gyarados was within lunging range. Then he pounced with a roar. “SNUBBULLL!!

The temperature spiked as flames that had been caged were unleashed. They shot out and took the form of a pair of fangs that were almost twice as large as Snubbull. Then he snapped his maw together and the Fire Fang slammed down upon the surprised Gyarados.

BOOM!

I didn’t think it’d be that strong, Lillie thought as the sudden flare of intense heat enshrouded the pair with such intensity that she had to avert her eyes while the sound of the explosion was deafening. Snubbull had been practicing with his Fire Fang, specifically on concentrating the intensity of the flames. But the addition of Sunny Day had intensified them a lot more as the artificial sun slowly faded as the last of its energy was expended.

“GYAAAASSSSSSSHHHHAAA!!”

That was when the roar of the Atrocious Pokémon shook the air before a pink blur was launched from the dissipating smoke and landed on the surface of the bridge near Lillie, having been knocked away. Lillie saw the Fairy Pokémon was slow to get back onto his feet and asked, “Are you okay?”

He barked in confirmation and turned his attention back to the Gyarados, whose underbelly sported a large scorch mark that was spread out over a large section as it writhed in place from pain. It had done a lot of damage, no doubt due to Gyarados being caught by surprise and Sunny Day. Along with its other injuries, it didn’t look like it could take another hit and remain standing.

But with Sunny Day down now, Gyarados can use his Water Gun again, she realized. Snubbull could only attack any enemy that was in front of him. If Gyarados abused the fact that he had a ranged option, then it could simply wear him out. Then Shuckle and Bellamy’s sacrifices would be for nothing. There’s nothing else we can do but push ahead.

“Go for it, Snubbull!”  Lillie ordered. The Fairy Pokémon unhesitatingly charged towards the towering pokémon with the intention of toppling the titan. The Atrocious Pokémon rose straight in response, taking aim at the oncoming threat that had wounded it.

Gyarados used Water Gun!

Water spouted from Gyarados’ mouth towards the small target, spearing through the air to strike it down. But Snubbull bound side-to-side as he had during practice, the imaginary targets now replaced by bludgeoning gouts of water. Though it slowed him down, both were aware that the moment that Gyarados had to take a breath and gave pause to his attack it would be decided.

That was why Kado forewent stalling things out longer.  “Meet it head-on with Ice Fang, Gyarados!”

“Fire Fang, Snubbull!” Lillie responded in kind with the attack Snubbull was proficient with the most.

That sound of the crackling ice and sizzling flames filled the air as the two pokémon bared their fangs. Frost-laden mist roiled around the Gyarados’ head as its maw was filled with icicles that glinted in the sunlight. Tongues of flames rolled around Snubbull’s protruding maw that left the air quivering with heatwaves. Baring their respective elemental fangs, the two lunged for one another—

“BULLL!!”

“GYASHAA!!”

—and the resulting clash filled the air not with smoke but instead steam that left the air hissing as fire and ice attempted to dominate one another. The hissing overtook all sounds as the white veil spread to the edges of the bridge and was slow to thin, thus obscuring the two combatants as trainers and audience alike looked on with anticipation (and a little worry).

But then the steam thinned to where a large silhouette on the ground slowly filled in with color to reveal them. The prone form of the massive Atrocious Pokémon was strewn on the bridge surface, sporting scorch marks anew. As for Snubbull, his tiny body was also prone with his pink fur covered in thick patches of frost as his breath came out in cold puffs.

“Did they knock each other out?” Lillie wondered. Then Snubbull stirred. The Fairy Pokémon’s stubby arms slowly shifted themselves until they were underneath his tiny frame. The patches of ice began to flake as he trembled to push himself back onto his hindlegs. “Snubbull, are you okay?”

Snn…Snnn…” Straining, he managed to get back up only to nearly fall over once more. But before his legs could give out, he caught himself and stood up slouching. Then he took a deep breath, straightened his back, stuck out his arms, and shouted to the heavens. “BBBBBBUULLLLL!!!”

The referee then took a moment to look over him. And then the still downed Gyarados. Then he declared the match. “THE WINNER IS THE CHALLENGER’S SNUBBULL!

The nervous silence that had filled the air prior was replaced with clapping and cheers while Lillie approached Snubbull standing there while Kado recalled his partner into his ball. She crouched down as he turned to her with a little smile on his face and saw how badly he was trembling from just trying to stand upright. And then she extended her hands to catch him as he promptly fell over, conscious but without the strength to stand.

“You can be so stubborn sometimes,” she told him as she cradled him against her chest. Honestly, she wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d just stayed down considering how exhausted he was. Yet she gave him a grateful smile because that stubbornness was what let him stand back up again and made it so that Shuckle and Bellamy’s efforts were rewarded as well. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Now that was a match,” Kado said as he approached with the pair with the referee. “It’s been so long since we’ve had a challenge. I felt like I was back in the Gym.”

“Sorry we were hard on your Gyarados,” Lillie apologized. “There really was no way we could beat it without going so far.”

He brushed it off. “Anything less and you wouldn’t have won. It’s an insult for a trainer to not give their opponent their very best, and you managed to make the most out it. Let me see your card.”

She shifted her grip on Snubbull so that she could give him it, and he gave it the final stamp.

Lillie received the Blue Stamp!

After everything was said and done, Lillie made for the Pokémon Center immediately to get her team checked out. The news had apparently reached Nurse Joy as the caretaker asked to see her card after taking her pokémon into her care. Then she produced a small box and said, “Here are your rewards for completing the challenge. We hope that it spurs you into further greatness in the future.”

Lillie opted not to open it until the rest of her pokémon were healed. They were the ones who did the work. It was only fair that they got to see the prize together.

“Great job, everyone,” Lillie began once they were all patched up and gathered around the table for lunch. “We only managed to win because you all worked together. I’m proud of all of you.”

Shuckle took to the praise with his usual stoicism, befitting of his role as the wall that stood the longest and slowed Gyarados down. Bellamy found himself scratching his bell with the tip of his leaf somewhat abashed, still surprised that his contribution made that much of a difference. He was underselling himself considering how effective he’d been thanks to Sunny Day and Growth. As for Snubbull…

“Snub! Bull! Bull!” chuffed the Fairy Pokémon as he stood on the table, posing proudly that his fangs had brought low the mighty water serpent. “Snubbull-snub!”

“Yes, yes, you were wonderful too.” She pampered him with a head pat as Azuria, who had decided to join them, stifled a laugh. Lillie then set the box on the table so they could all see as she pulled the top off and revealed the contents. There was a TM inside of it, along with a badge that had a golden bridge on it.

Lillie received the TM for Hidden Power!

Lillie received the Nugget Bridge Badge!

“Oh, Hidden Power,” Azuria said with a rather amused note in her voice. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen that one.”

“You know what it does?” Lillie asked. Though she had worked under Professor Kukui for a bit, she didn’t know all of the moves that were out there.

The coordinator nodded. “It’s a technique that draws out the inner strength of a pokémon and converts it into a different nature. It, along with Secret Power and Nature Power, made for interesting combinations when coordinators would set the terrain and then make the most of it with their teams.”

“That sounds interesting,” Lillie mused before noticing Snubbull picking up the badge with his stubby little arms and holding it up to the light to get a better look at it. “Do you want to go show Miss Melanie when we’re done with lunch?”

He gave an enthusiastic bob of his head. “Bull!”

That decided, they finished their lunch before heading back over to the Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter where they rang the doorbell. Melanie answered in her same overalls and apron that effectively served as her own uniform. Snubbull immediately ran inside and held up the badge in his stubby paws to show it off and barked for attention.

“So that’s the badge you managed to earn, huh?” Melanie crouched down while sporting a soft, gentle smile as she patted him on the head. She then looked back up to Lillie. “I heard about how you won over the radio. You can imagine my surprise when I heard he fought a Gyarados and managed to walk away standing.”

Lillie could only nod her head. “It still feels a little unreal. But all of my pokémon did their best in their own way, and because of them supporting each other they managed to make it a reality. I think we might be able to win our next badge soon enough.”

“Don’t tell me you’re heading out to do the Gym Challenge tomorrow or something?” Azuria asked. “The Contest Hall’s grand opening is coming up and I’ve got seats for you, A.J., Miss Lusamine, Melanie, and Mister Bill.”

“I know,” Lillie said. “Mother said that there was some upcoming event on the night of the opening, so we were planning on visiting your show before heading to Mt. Moon for it.”

“That night on Mt. Moon?” She ruminated on the thought before something seemed to click and she smiled brightly. “Oh! I see. It’s around that time now, isn’t it?”

Lillie tilted her head in confusion. “Do you know what is it?”

Maybe~” Azuria teased. “But if your mother hasn’t told you then she probably wants it to be a surprise, so I’ll keep quiet. But I’m sure you’ll love it.”

Now Lillie’s curiosity was really peaked. She turned to Lilligant who seemed just as clueless, but then they heard the familiar sounds of cooing coming from the gap in the doorway and spotted Mime Jr. now trying to slip out of the door. There was a smile on his tiny face as he tried to reach out for Lilligant, only for Melanie to scoop him up.

“It’s your nap time, Mr. Mime,” she scolded him gently. The child squirmed lightly in her grasp as she brought him back into the main room where there had been a small bed set aside in the little play area where he usually was.  “You weren’t too fussy a few minutes ago, so be good and get some rest.”

Mime Jr. writhed in his bed until Lilligant came over and took a seat next to him, speaking in a soft tone. “Lili. Lili.

He yawned before he could start mumbling and she began to softly brush him with her leafy appendage to coax him into sleep. “Mimi…”

Melanie seemed content to let her do so before coming back over to them and Lillie apologized. “Sorry for the trouble. It seems he really likes her.”

“I don’t really mind. He’s a good boy and it’s clear she’s not inexperienced with nurturing younger pokémon,” Melanie said. And it was true enough that her mother’s Clefable, Mismagius, and Lilligant pretty much took after that side of her. “My only concern is that it’s going to make it harder when he has to say goodbye eventually.”

That was right. The pokémon here were under her care until they could be placed into more suitable locations back in the wild. Eventually, he would be forced to say goodbye once they found a colony that would accept him since baby pokémon needed someone to look after them in the wild. That bittersweet thought lingered as Lillie watched Lilligant rock the Mime Pokémon to sleep until the door opened anew.

“Excuse me,” a young woman that looked around Azuria’s age said as she entered the room. “This is the Pokémon Shelter, isn’t it?”

She was dressed in what Lillie presumed to be rather trendy clothes, a contrast to the young man who entered along with her. His attention immediately turned to the small pokémon in the enclosures as though he were searching for something in particular. Then his eyes lingered on Koko as she looked into the one that had the Paras in the middle of regrowing their mushrooms.

It unsettled Lillie for some reason.

“Yes, it is,” Melanie said, putting on a professional smile as she greeted the pair. “How can I help you?”

The girl clasped her hands together as she asked, “Pardon me if this sounds weird, but we were looking for a particular pokémon and heard that someone spotted it wandering around here.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be specific,” Melanie said. “If it was an owned pokémon then we would report them to the Pokémon Center so they can be returned to their trainers. But if they were abandoned or stray pokémon then they might have been in our care for a time.”

“It’s a Vulpix.”

No sooner than those words left her lips did an unseen tension thread the room. They all recalled the Vulpix that A.J. had brought to her before dawn and sent off, even though it was supposed to be registered to someone else. The fact that they knew about it when no one else had come looking since then meant…

Vullllllllll….”

Lillie snapped out of her thoughts when she felt the air grow chillier and heard the low growl slipping out of the Alolan Vulpix. “Koko, come here.”

Koko kept bristling at them, a sight that caused the young man to frown as he seemingly reached for a Great Ball on his belt. The young woman looked taken aback but it felt forced.

Now, Koko,” Lillie said in a tone that was far firmer than ever in her life to one of her pokémon. It almost seemed to shock the Fox Pokémon and even Snubbull, who only now seemed to realize something was amiss. She flinched and looked at Lillie with somewhat hurtful eyes before slowly coming over.

I’m so sorry, Lillie silently thought as she picked her up and held her close before she apologized to the pair while keeping her voice level. “I’m sorry. She isn’t normally like this and I don’t know what’s gotten into her.

“Please take her out back,” Melanie said before turning to Snubbull. “You go too, Snubbull.”

Snubbull was just as confused about what was going on but he seemed to register between how the girls were acting, and even how Lilligant had risen up from Mime Jr.’s side that something was amiss. “Bull?”

Please, be good,” Melanie pleaded with him. He let out a low grumble in confusion as he seemed to pick up that she was asking him something serious. He then let out an affirmative nod and made his way over to Lillie as they went to the back door.

“Now then,” Melanie said, grabbing their attention in an effort to de-escalate the situation. “If it’s a Vulpix then we haven’t taken one into our care as of late. However, this particular one does visit with her trainer often to play with the others, so there’s a chance someone saw that and misunderstood.”

Lillie listened to them until she slipped through the door and closed it shut. Then she went off to the side and crouched down, holding Koko to her chest and apologizing to her softly. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

“Pix?” Koko inquired. “Vulpix?”

Just give me a minute before doing anything,” Lillie whispered to them both as she set her partner down hastily and reached for her Pokégear. Something about the situation was off and if something happened then a lot of innocent pokémon could get hurt, so she had to clear out of the way to do what A.J. said when he gave her his number the last time. She had only finished dialing the number and heard it ringing on his end when—

CHHHHAAAAABOOOK!

—there was a loud sound from the inside followed by surprised pokémon noises that drew the attention of not only Lillie but the other pokémon out in the yard as she dropped the device. She immediately rose to her feet and went back to the door and opened it to see that an Arbok, not unlike the one that had attacked them in the Pokémon Center in the Sevii Island was glaring down at Melanie and Azuria while Lilligant stood between them and it.

And it clearly belonged to the young man who was sporting a deeper frown. “Enough of this.”

“What. Are You. Doing?” said the woman who looked irritated more than anything.

“We don’t have time for this,” he said in a pointed tone. “There’s no point in dragging this out and you could tell from their reaction compared to the other places they know about the Vulpix. Or do you want to pay the price for losing it?”

The girl rolled her eyes and let out a sigh before reaching into her purse and then pulling out another ball. It burst open and out came a very angry looking Primeape that looked around menacingly towards the surrounding pokémon within their enclosures. “Primeape tends to be a bit jumpy so he’s prone to attacking recklessly. It’d be better for everyone if you just tell us what we want to know.”

“I told you, that Vulpix hasn’t been in our care,” Melanie said in a tone that was both firm and cold despite having the eyes of both the Arbok and the Primeape on her. “Now leave.”

The young woman looked at her with an irritated expression. “Ugh, I hate your type. Whatever. I’ll say that it ended up in a ditch somewhere but that I got her a new one.”

The message carried the moment her eyes fell onto Koko.

BULLL!” Snubbull might have been slow on the uptake earlier but he recognized a threat. His response was just as reflexive and so he lunged with flames licking at his lips—

APEE!

—and was immediately hit hard enough that he was sent sailing into the door frame, his small body hitting it hard enough that the wood splintered and he collapsed onto the ground. The hit hadn’t been enough to knock him out cold, but his body trembled in pain and he couldn’t stand up anymore.

SNUBBULL, NO!” Lillie shouted as she picked him up while the Primeape bristled as though it was going to continue attacking, with all the pokémon recognizing that violence was occurring and started trying to get free of their enclosures to scamper off and hide.

WHOOSH!

That was when there was a rush of pink petals. So numerous that they obscured the Pig Monkey Pokémon and Cobra Pokémon entirely, the pair were swept up so abruptly that even their surprised and pained cries were drowned out by the sound of cracking wood as they were blown through the door and slammed into the tree there hard enough that it broke under the force of the attack. As the remaining petals slowly drifted down over their prone and unmoving bodies, silence filled the air once more as all eyes turned to the source.

And bore witness to Lilligant slowly striding forward with the air around her quavering from the hue of a Battle Aura.

The two trainers themselves seemed stunned at the reaction until she turned her gaze towards them and then immediately reached for more balls. But without missing a beat, Lilligant aimed her flower towards them and sent out a spume of yellowish powder—Stun Spore.

They hit the ground with their bodies twitching as their muscles went numb. Helpless as Lilligant hovered over the two and looked down at them without any expression while the aura around her seemed to swell…

MMMIIIIIMMMMIIIIAAAA!

…Then, as quickly as it came, it vanished as Lilligant turned towards the crying Mime Jr. He had crawled out of his bed and hidden behind it, scared at everything that had happened and thus followed his instinct to hide and go unnoticed. But now that the immediate threat had seemed to have been dealt with, he did what came naturally to scared baby pokémon.

The rest of the pokémon followed suit.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

A.J. braced himself as he strode upon the wind atop a canine that was covered in a pelt of orange with a wild mane that was taller than him. He’d gotten the call and answered but Lille had dropped her Pokégear so he was only able to hear what came through the other end and piece it together. Now he was rushing as he silently chastised himself.

Naïve. I was too naïve. I’d only thought about the main objective and kept their home under watch, but even if they didn’t spot me I should have known they would have started checking the shelters and left a guard!

He could only chew himself out silently as Arcanine came to a stop with a tug on his mane the moment he spotted the broken tree with its sign splayed on the ground, the countless petals, and heard the cries of wild pokémon in a panic from the inside. He dismounted and went bursting in through the broken door where he found them all.

“There, there. It’s okay, it’s okay now.”

“Easy there. No one is going to hurt you now.”

“Shhh. It’s all over now.”

“Lilli. Lilli.”

Melanie, Azuria, Lillie, and Lilligant were all hurrying around and trying to calm the pokémon within the shelter. Azuria’s pokémon were all out of their balls, either contributing to the process or standing in alarm as though they were awaiting reprisal. It was only the fact that they recognized him that some of the tension in their bodies left.

“What happened?” he demanded of Melanie as she paced around while trying to round up the pokémon and set them into their cages to keep them safe and take count.

She stopped with a Poliwag in her arms and scowled at him. “Some thugs who owned that Vulpix came in here. When I said we didn’t have it they tried to steal Lillie’s instead.”

He frowned. “Where are they?”

“Tied up, knocked out, and stripped of their pokémon and belongings,” Azuria said, nodding her head towards a closet near a dresser that had a bag and several poke balls of differing kinds on it. She had her Slowbro keeping an eye on them and the balls themselves were covered in a thick layer of ice. “The police are on their way.”

He went over and took the bag, dumping the contents on the table before rummaging through it for a moment. Then he pulled out what looked to a small, miniature ball that was black and found a badge that left him scowling. He held the ball up to the device on his wrist and watched as it lit up before immediately pocketing them and scooping the rest back into the bag.

Then he turned to the Azuria and Melanie who just watched him and said, “When the cops get here, you don’t know anything about the Vulpix or what I just took. I know it’s a lot to ask and I’ll explain later, but if our past means anything to you, don’t say a word to them—”

“If our past meant anything, you’d come clean.” Melanie demanded as she marched up to him with her arms crossed and then stood in front of him wearing one of the coldest expressions that he had seen. “My shelter was just attacked. The pokémon in my care were endangered. My friends were endangered. And while I don’t know why that is, it’s clear you do and you’ve been hiding it from us.”

As he looked into her eyes, he saw the frustration that she felt. She’d had always been caring for abandoned pokémon and valued them above all else. She knew he was asking a lot and knew something was off when he came to her that morning and begged her to keep an eye on the Vulpix. But he knew she’d still do it without reporting it as she should have because he asked.

Because they were friends.

And she’d paid for it. “I know something happened in the last year. I’ve tried to be patient and understanding, figuring you’d tell us. But if you can’t be honest with us about this… I’m going to have to ask you to put back what you took and then leave.”

“…I’m working with the International Police on an assignment,” he admitted before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather case. Then he flipped it open to reveal a badge. “And they’re the only lead I’ve got to finding the ones who stole my Nidoking and Tyranitar from me.”


Fanfic Recommendation 102

Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


The Beast of Beacon 29 – 30

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Blake had fled, making it clear she couldn’t trust him to change. She thought him inhuman, lost, a beast. He was going to prove her wrong. Getting into Beacon was hard enough, but fitting in would be harder still. All those… humans. Will a man fuelled by hate truly be able to let go and move on; or is suffering the only thing Adam Taurus can ever bring to those around him?


A Rabbit Among Wolves 36 – 37 

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!


Deluge 1 – 30 (Revised)

A Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Fanfiction

Summary: In the aftermath of Dracula’s death, Shanoa finds herself locked in a grief-stricken struggle between what she is and who she wants to become. She takes refuge in Wygol, and a blossoming friendship gives way to a journey that will change her life forever. But as they begin to confront the past one truth makes itself evident: some demons can’t be buried. [final version]

Content Warning for F/F.


Fate/Reach Out 46

A Fate x Persona 4 Fanfiction

Summary:  A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder up to Ch.21)



Fanfic Recommendation 101


My Fanfics


After The Vacation Ends: Jessie Maye

Summary: Jessie Maye was going through a rough time. Her career was over. Her mistakes were taking their tolls. And her daughter wanted nothing to do with her. She wasn’t sure she could find happiness, but one man felt she deserved it more than anyone else.


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated



The Beast of Beacon 27 – 28

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Blake had fled, making it clear she couldn’t trust him to change. She thought him inhuman, lost, a beast. He was going to prove her wrong. Getting into Beacon was hard enough, but fitting in would be harder still. All those… humans. Will a man fuelled by hate truly be able to let go and move on; or is suffering the only thing Adam Taurus can ever bring to those around him?


A Rabbit Among Wolves 34 – 35 

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!


Dauntless 102

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary:  Lelouch had been quite happy with his life. Sure they were living in obscurity, but he and Nunnally were safe. All of that changes however, when his identity is revealed and Lelouch is forced back into the fold of the Imperial family.



After The Vacation Ends: Jessie Maye [Huniepop One-Shot]

Summary: Jessie Maye was going through a rough time. Her career was over. Her mistakes were taking their tolls. And her daughter wanted nothing to do with her. She wasn’t sure she could find happiness, but one man felt she deserved it more than anyone else.


Jessie Maye stirred awake the moment she felt something trailing along her cheek. A soft, warm touch carrying a gentle pleasantry that spread throughout her head and nibbled at her mind. It coaxed a soft moan from her throat as she opened her heavy eyelids and peered up towards the source of her delight.

It was a young man, roughly a decade and a half younger than her if she had to guess. It wasn’t like she had asked his age, but she had always assumed he was about the same age as her daughter. He was a head taller than her, well-built, and just seemed to have a charm about him that she had missed.

Over the last two years, he had changed for the better. The first time she’d let him take her to bed, he had been charming in a cute way that gave the impression he hadn’t had much experience with women. Of course, learning he managed to bang her friends on their Friday Night bar crawl left some room to the imagination that he had more than that going on.

But now there was confidence just smoldering beneath the surface in everything he did.

“The plane’s landed. Time to disembark.”

“Is it now?” She pulled her head off his shoulder, a task she found far more herculean than she would ever admit before turning her gaze to the window where the slowly fading sun was casting its final rays over the airport. “I can’t believe I slept nearly the entire flight. Some company I turned out to be.”

A soft chuckle pulled her attention towards him once more. She saw his lips were curled into a slight grin even as he stared into her gaze with his stalwart, silver eyes. “To be fair, we did stay up pretty late the night before.”

“Well, you’re not wrong.” It was true that the two of them had a very late evening with Lola before the end of their vacation. But she also knew that wasn’t the only reason.

She had been sleeping later than usual or waking up tired at times. Some days she struggled just to get out of bed, unable to find the motivation. It was a far cry from when she felt ten years younger just two years ago.

Honestly, Lola wasn’t wrong when she said that she needed a vacation to get away from everything that was weighing her down before. She had felt more alive in the last few days than she had in a long time. She was sure that ninety-percent of that was due to him, and it might have been the reason why she’d taken him up on his offer when he invited her back to his place rather than heading back straight to Glenberry.

Seeing him again had been a blessing. But she was sure it was just a fleeting one, a brief break in the dark clouds that would be swallowed in a moment. All the same, if she clung to him then there was a chance he’d lose interest in her or see her as being too needy. She wasn’t fond of the idea of becoming that sort of woman either.

Jessie was pulled from thinking too deeply on the topic when she felt his hand settling on top of hers on the armrest between them. His touch was warm, accompanied by a slight tingle that seemed to sink beneath her skin. It was a pleasant enough feeling that it coaxed her lips into a smile and pushed back the dark thoughts as they disembarked the plane, retrieved their luggage, and caught a ride back to his place.

It was… a far cry from his old place in Glenberry. Sure, she hadn’t paid much attention given that night was a haze of sex and booze. But it was the kind of place you would expect for a young man living on his own.

Now he lived in a loft complex that was on the verge of luxury. It had a modern aesthetic to it with polished hardwood floors that ran from wall-to-wall, a kitchen island that was made of marble, adorned with stainless steel, and had an overhead rack for champagne, martini, and wine glasses.

“You’ve really moved up in the world, haven’t you?”

He smiled as he set his jacket on a rack by the door. “Yeah, the complex has just about everything. A Gym. An indoor pool. And then there’s the view from the balcony.”

“Not bad at all.” It sounded like a great place to live. She had to wonder what job he had to afford staying in a place like this, but she didn’t want to press the matter. “Mind if I have a smoke while I take in the view?”

“Go ahead.” He gestured over to the balcony door. It was a sliding glass one, right by the windows that faced the eastern side. “On the way over I ordered dinner from a decent restaurant, along with Mint Ice Cream and a Red Velvet Cake for dessert. It should be here in less than 10 minutes.”

Her favorite dessert. Jessie genuinely smiled as she walked past him, a sway in her hip. “You’re too good to me, baby. I’ll have to take especially good care of you tonight.”

Sashaying her way to the balcony door, she opened it up and felt the evening breeze on her skin. The sun was already behind the distant skyscrapers and the cloak of night was steadily draping the sky. Soon it would be an ebony blanket strewn with countless stars that glimmered like diamonds in the moonlight.

The flick of a lighter. A string of smoke wafting into the air. Then the familiar sensation of relief slowly spreading over her body as she took it into her lungs and let out a ring of smoke that slowly faded into the backdrop of the cityscape.

For a moment, Jessie just basked in the glow of things. She found comfort in the fact that she was here now, in a nice place with a decent guy. It was just like the island, an extension of the vacation only closer to home…

“Cough! Cough! Cough!”

But then reality reared its ugly head as she found herself coughing violently. Every breath clawed at her from the inside out, a scraping sensation running along the back of her lungs. It left her with one hand pressed against her chest while the other still held fast to the cigarette until it passed and left her panting for moments afterward.

“Damn it all…” She huffed before turning back to the window to look on the inside. She was relieved when she saw he wasn’t there. Maybe had gone to the bathroom or their food had arrived. “Why the hell did this have to happen now?”

Twenty-years.

Jessie had spent twenty years smoking without a problem. Through the good times and the bad times, a cigarette always brought her some measure of relief and comfort. Only when she was at her lowest did she learn the hard way that she emphysema after her coughing had gotten bad enough that her agent practically shoved her into a doctor’s office or else he wouldn’t get her another gig.

Now she didn’t have her work anymore. There had been too many shoots when they would have to stop so that she could catch her breath. The industry wasn’t so kind that they would accommodate her. Especially when she was steadily moving towards a demographic that was less profitable than before.

In the end, the agent had made it clear the only thing that she could do was quietly go sink into the background. Announce her retirement soon. That way she could leave her fans to remember her as she was, rather than let it get out her age and health were catching up to her.

The hell am I going to do now, she thought bitterly as she took another drag of her cigarette and stared out at the cityscape growing dotted with lights, a heavy weight pressing down on her heart. Getting another job wasn’t going to be easy since she had dropped out of High School. And spent the last twenty years in the industry.

Even if she went back to school that wouldn’t change much, since you had to disclose your background at nearly every possible place to get a job. She was damn sure that not a lot of people would be willing to hire someone who once banged a football team while dressed as a cheerleader. And she wasn’t sure she would find anything she really liked.

The doctor had been optimistic at least. He told her the case was mild enough that if she quit now then she could probably make it another twenty years. Maybe even longer if she ate well and exercised regularly. But Jessie had tried quitting before and it was a nightmare.

She shuddered, recalling the time she had tried to quit back when Tiffany had been in Middle School. That was probably when she first took an interest in medicine and tried to warn her off smoking and drinking. She wanted to make her daughter happy and if quitting was one way of doing it then she had been desperate to try—god knows she had tried.

It was Hell.

She faltered before she could make it a month, settling for trying to keep it a secret from Tiffany instead. But she was a smart girl and it was only a matter of time before she found out. Another nail in the coffin, even before the last one had been driven down and left her daughter wanting nothing to do with her.

Now what did she have left without her career or her daughter?

She still had her looks, but she imagined they wouldn’t last much longer. She had her home, but that was an empty nest. She had her memories, but she was afraid those would fade away as well with enough time.

If she had to walk into Hell again without anything waiting for her on the other side, was trying to go another twenty years like this worth it?

She blew out another string of smoke as the haunting thought lingered, leaving her wishing she had a drink until she heard the balcony door open and turned to see that he had returned from wherever he had been. And there were glasses in his hand, both of which had a lemon twist garnish on the edge. Her brow rose as he extended one towards her. “A Martini?”

“You wanted one, right?”

“It’s like you read my mind.” Her fingers delicately wrapped around the stem of the glass and brought the wide rim to her lips. Cold. Crisp. A hint of greenery gracing her tongue before sliding down her throat, like a stroll through a pine forest in the winter. “Mmhmm… that’s damn good. You made it yourself?”

He shrugged. “I took some correspondence courses on barkeeping in my free time. Figured might come in handy for dates.”

“Well, far be it from me to say otherwise.” She took another sip, basking in the taste before turning back to look towards the city. ”The view here really adds to the atmosphere of it.”

“Yeah, it does…” He took a step out onto the balcony and then rested against the rail, peering towards the same skyline. “But it really looks amazing during the winter, when the snow is coming down.”

Jessie took a moment to close her eyes, letting her mind paint a picture of just how lovely it would be. She could imagine just standing behind the chilled windows, nestled by the warmth of the heater as frost crept from the edges and coated the glass that was just clear enough to see as the silver and white flakes slowly drifted from the gray skies above. They would cover the steel and concrete, leaving it a blanket of white as far as the eyes could see.

It brought a smile to her face as she opened her eyes again. “It sounds beautiful. I’d love to see it for myself one of these days.”

“You could always spend the winter holidays here,” he offered.  “It’d give me a reason to deck the place out for Christmas.”

“Careful now. I might really take you up on the offer.” Her voice and tone were teasing, backed by a slight bump of her hip against his. “You wouldn’t want me to show up when you’ve got some adorable girl here, would you?”

His smile folded in a little at that, becoming just a little dourer. “You wouldn’t have to worry about that. Company tends to be scarce around that time of the year.”

I thought he was a little too young to be making that kind of face, Jessie thought to herself. She recognized that expression on his face. It was just a touch of loneliness, spending the one day of the year where everyone else was with their loved ones alone.

She was well-versed with that same feeling, especially these days. Her girlfriends all had other things going on around then, so the best they would do was drop by. It served as a balm for the loneliness, but that didn’t change the fact that her only constant companions throughout the holiday would be the two in her hands at the moment.

And, in his case, she supposed that casual relationships were just that—casual. Sticking around during the holidays would involve commitment, which would defeat the purpose. Not something most girls who weren’t serious would do if they had a social life.

That look doesn’t suit him at all. She knocked back the rest of her martini and set the glass on the railing before looking to him with an amorous glint in her eyes. “Well, I know Santa doesn’t deliver gifts to naughty boys, so I guess I’ll give you a present to unwrap on Christmas Eve.”

The message carried well enough. His dour smile turned to one more carnal, his mind clearly running through just what that would entail. “And just what kind of present would that be?”

“Maybe I’ll give you a sneak peek if you can convince me?” She ran a finger down his chest, adding to the playful tease. She had already decided to sleep with him on the way back unless he really did something to get under her skin. But you couldn’t blame a girl for trying to get going a little before the main event, could you? “What would you do with your present?”

Sure enough, he played into it by setting down his own drink and approaching her from behind. His chest was firm as she felt it against her back. His hands were careful as he cradled her while hovering just over the sweater dress she was adorned in. His breath was warm against her skin as he breathed close to her ear and whispered sweetly into it.

I’m thinking I would take it slow…” He trailed off into a kiss, planted firmly at the crook of her neck and shoulder as his finger glided up the knit sweater towards the swell of her shapely breasts. “Feeling beneath the wrapping to take in the shape of it as I made my way towards the ribbon.

The touch was soft over the fabric, but it sent electricity rushing throughout her body all the same. Temptation began to bubble up in her blood, a familiar and welcomed sensation to accompany the alcohol on her tongue and the smoke in her lungs. Then he reached the peaks and touched them in a way that left her back arching and a moan on the cusp of slipping out of her mouth…

ZZZZZT! ZZZZT!

…Then he stopped as his phone began to vibrate in his pants, muttering a swear under his breath as he pulled away. He pulled out the phone and then practically glared at the screen. A sigh followed as he gave her an apologetic look. “The food is here. I’ll have to run to the front desk to get it.”

Jessie felt the urge to tell him to forget the food and eat her there and now. But reason won out and she felt the familiar itch in her lungs. Better to send him off before she killed the mood even more. “We’ll pick up after dinner. Don’t keep me waiting too long, okay?”

He couldn’t have flown out the door faster.

Which is just as well, considering the coughing fit that followed. This time it felt like her lungs were trying to escape her throat, leaving her nearly to double over. The cigarette she had been holding onto slipped from her grasp and landed on the balcony ground. Jessie swore under her breath before bending down to reach for it…

Then she stood straight and settled for snuffing it out with her heels. She had enough for now to settle the craving. More would just make things worse and she’d be damned before she traded the real fun tonight for a few more puffs. She kicked the butt off the ledge, grabbed the glasses, and went back inside his loft.

Dinner was great. Dessert was even better. But the real treat came afterwards in the bedroom.

Ooooohh… baby, that was just…what I needed…

A satisfied tinge painted her words between heated breaths as Jessie just laid there, adrift in the postcoital bliss. Her body felt so light that she felt like she was floating. The smoldering embers from the fire he stoked inside of her still lingered beneath her skin, a pleasant warmth that ran from head-to-toe.

He laid there alongside her, taking deep and slow breaths that left his chest to rise and fall while staring up at the ceiling. “You’re amazing, Jessie.”

She giggled at that. “Honey, I was a professional. I’m more impressed that you managed to keep me going for so long compared to the island. I guess sharing you meant you couldn’t give me your full attention.”

Jessie wasn’t exaggerating either. Years ago, he had been a foal getting his legs underneath him. She had practically taken care of everything. Now he was a stallion and had shown how far he had come, which she was very grateful for it.

It had been a while since she went at it for that long without needing to catch her breath. He’d controlled the pace to match her perfectly, drawing it out while not pushing her too far too soon. She had a chance to take it slow and really savor it all. It felt almost like she was making love with someone rather than just banging them for the rush of it…

“I kind of had other things on my mind at the time,” he admitted, taking a deep breath before adjusting his posture on the bed. “…Have you thought about what you’ll do now that you’re not in porn anymore?”

The question put a damper on the elation she was feeling. “Sweetie, I really don’t want to think about that right now.”

“I’m just saying, you could be a coach or an agent or something.”

She sighed before sitting up, her good mood waning. “As interesting as that thought is, it’s typically not professional to fuck your clients even in the industry. I’m not sure I’d be able to stand watching younger girls getting to have all the fun on the set and then have to crank it out on my own.”

“Even if you had someone waiting back home more than willing to help there?”

She turned to him with a raised brow. “Are you offering?”

He leaned forward and looked her in the eyes. “Maybe I am.”

For a moment he sounded completely serious to her. She hadn’t clarified whether she was talking about a steadier relationship or even marriage. But it almost sounded like he would have settled for either and she was almost willing to believe it.

Almost.

But Jessie knew better than to believe him. It wasn’t the first time she had been proposed to after they’d gone a few rounds in the sack. But once the high faded and they were in their right minds, it was clear they never really meant it. She’d tease them about it and just brush it off, not willing to even entertain the thought longer than it took for her next drink.

Besides, she had been burned once before she had gotten into the industry. Promises of a wedding coaxing her to keep spreading her legs, right up until the baby bump began to show. At this point, Misty Katz had become synonymous with Jessie Maye and any man who wanted to marry her would probably want the former rather than the latter—if there was a difference between them to begin with.

But… for a moment… just a moment… she allowed herself to just fantasize about it.

She imagined working in the industry from the other side. Helping nervous girls come out of their shells and learning to embrace their sexuality like with Lailani. Teaching them not to make the same mistakes that she had. Maybe even have them plan an exit strategy, so they wouldn’t end up like her.

Then she’d come home to find him there. A welcoming kiss leading to a quick release to burn all the sexual frustration away. Then they would talk and laugh and cuddle in the bliss of the moment. Maybe she could even end up raising another daughter who would love her. Having a whole family for once.

…It was painful for Jessie to open her eyes again and return to reality after picturing all of that.

All of a sudden, she felt a craving for a cigarette. She reached over to the nightstand next to the bed almost reflexively only to realize that she had left the pack in her pants. A scoff slipped out of her mouth and she moved to slip out of the sheets when he grabbed her wrist.

“I really am serious,” he said before she could pull away. “I’m in love with you, Jessie.”

“… You aren’t thinking straight,” she said slowly as conflicting feelings built up in her chest. He still sounded so serious that it hurt listening to him say that because she knew things couldn’t be that way. “I’ll catch a ride home and we’ll just pretend this never happened.”

“I know it might sound hard to believe considering everything but seeing you again after all these years… made me happy. Wasn’t it the same for you?”

Rather than give him the answer he was looking for, she instead resorted to asking him a simple question for which there was no good answer. “…Were you ever going to tell me that you slept with my daughter a few years back?”

His body tensed next to her for a moment, going rigid entirely. Then he looked away from her, not daring to meet her eyes. “…How long have you known?”

“For a while now,” she admitted. She didn’t know whether or not to be happy that he didn’t try to deny it. “Aiko, Beli, Lola… we get together every Friday and talk about things over drinks, so it was only a matter of time before your name came up. There weren’t any hard feelings since none of us were going for anything other than a casual fling back then. But it’s different for younger girls, you know?”

His expression went from guilty to slowly dawning horror as the dots connected. Then he asked the question that she knew was coming. “Am I the reason you and Tiffany aren’t talking to one another anymore?”

She closed her eyes so that she didn’t have to see the look on his face as she drove the knife in. “It was the last straw.”

It was around Christmas then. She wanted to connect with her daughter, knowing that she was getting ready to graduate and move out into the world beyond the dorms. But Aiko had told her that Tiffany’s grades were slipping, she seemed constantly distracted, and about the time she overheard her getting into an argument with one of her friends over a relationship.

Jessie only wanted to help, and men were her field of expertise in contrast to her daughter. Tiffany had strived to be everything she wasn’t, so it was natural she would struggle to cope with the idea that it had just been something casual or that a guy would have multiple partners. But the moment his name came up…

Her eyes opened to get away from the memory of how heartbroken her daughter had been. “She had struggled so hard to avoid being like me, only to find out that we had been with the same man. To her, it was as though the moment she let her guard down she was destined to make the same mistakes. That was why she severed ties between us for good.”

“…I only thought about getting laid at the time,” he admitted, letting her go. No, he didn’t let her go. His fingers simply lost their strength as he fell backwards until his back ended up against the headboard. “And after I succeeded once, I just…”

“Couldn’t stop?” she finished for him. “The pleasure. The thrill. You became addicted to it and could only think about having more and more of it.”

She understood how it was because her first time had been an awakening of sorts as well. She honestly couldn’t get enough, and it was no wonder she ended up conceiving her daughter. But the fact that the guy in question wanted nothing to do with her afterwards had only reaffirmed that sex didn’t make for a deeper relationship, and she couldn’t trust any partner to stick around when things got too heavy for them.

She had entered porn to pay her bills after giving birth to Tiffany, but she honestly loved her work for what it offered her. Pleasure, attention, all of it. The thought of enrapturing the eyes of men and women alike, all of them within her grasp, was just such a rush that it kept her going until now.

He buried his face into his hands, as good as admitting he was the same. “If I had known this would have happened, I wouldn’t have… You must hate me for that and here I am asking you to….”

She didn’t, surprisingly enough. He couldn’t have known they were family at the time. Even if he had, it had been casual and she had distinctly kept her daughter’s name out of it when they had been together. But she needed an excuse so that she didn’t have to tell him that she had felt happier these last few days than she had in a long time.

The moment she saw him back then on the island she honestly wondered if she should get involved with him again. She had accepted her role in how things went with her daughter and wanted to find a way to escape the pain. He was familiar and had a way of taking her mind off of everything, so she took him up on his offers for going on double dates.

She never really considered falling in love and finding someone to just stay with her as anything more than a dream. But as the nights went on, she felt she could overlook her pain and began to think that he really could be her Prince Charming, here to sweep her off her feet. That was why she was so tempted to give his promise a chance.

At the same time, she was terrified about getting serious with anyone because it would mean being vulnerable. If he broke her heart after she opened up to him, then even that pleasant dream would become just another painful memory. Her heart had betrayed her once already.

Walk away. The little voice in her head whispered, telling her it was safer to cling to just fleeting moments of passion while her body allowed her to.  She should just get dressed and get a ride home, leaving the whole thing behind her so she could continue as she was. He would be nothing more than another man walking out of her life, as he had been years ago.

…Yet, her legs refused to move. Could she really leave things like this? Could she leave him like this, full of regret that he had been the one to push her away? That he had torn away the fragile tether she had with her daughter?

In the end, Jessie couldn’t leave him like this. So she climbed back onto the bed and sat next to him against the headboard, setting a hand on his heated, sweat-slicked shoulder. “…Sweetie, if I hated you then the last few nights would not have happened. But asking me to get serious with you all of a sudden was a bit much. What brought it on?”

He lowered his hands, turning towards her. Even with her bare breasts on display, his gaze remained firmly on her eyes. “I was afraid if I didn’t make it clear I was interested… if I let you away, then it’d just end up like before.”

“Meaning?”

“That we’d eventually just lose contact with one another,” he clarified. “It was two years since the last time we spoke to one another. You didn’t call me even once after that first night.”

Jessie pulled back and crossed her arms. “I could say the same about you, sweetie. Phones work both ways.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “It was because you didn’t seem to be the type to want to get into a serious relationship back then. If I had called you, I was afraid I’d come out as desperate and you’d simply have laughed it off or saw me as being too clingy, so I settled for just hoping you’d remember me.”

She probably would have. He wasn’t anything too special back then. She also had her work, so she wouldn’t have gone out of her way to make time for him. If he kept showing up at the bar to hit on her then it really would have come off as desperate.

“…You been with a lot of girls since then,” Jessie mentioned, shifting the topic. “Even on the island. What made me so much different than them that’d you’d try asking me for a serious relationship now?”

“I won’t pretend I haven’t had a lot of sex with a lot of women since the last time we met,” he began. “Yet I was never really able to get that same feeling that I had the first time. No matter how many times I slept around, even with some women like you couldn’t believe, nothing quite matched. There was just something there that only returned when I was with you.”

“That’s just probably because it was your first time,” she reasoned. The experience didn’t really stand out to her, but it was a pleasant memory for him. “It was a big step for you, so you’d naturally have good memories and feelings tied into it.”

“I thought the same at first,” he admitted. “The moment I saw you again back there, it rekindled that feeling. I thought it was just sex, so I was more than eager to go out with you and have threesomes left and right. And each time it was like the first.”

“If that’s all then there’s no reason to—”

He shook his head slowly and set a hand on his chest. “But it didn’t end there. Every date, I found myself just happy to listen to you talk to the point that sex wasn’t even on my mind. When you smiled, it was like butterflies fluttering through my chest and left me floating. When I saw your pain and sorrow, I felt miserable and wanting nothing more than to help. Then there was the night before the last when you…”

As he trailed off, Jessie tried to recall then. To be honest, it felt like her head had been in a haze. She couldn’t quite recall what she had been doing, but it almost felt like she had been sleepwalking.

“I was worried that we wouldn’t see each other again once I left the island,” he continued. “That terrified me because I thought you might disappear from my life again. And since you told me about how much your life had changed….”

“You figured it was the time to act,” she finished for him. Over the course of their last few dates, she had confessed how in the past she wanted someone to sweep her off of her feet. That was probably why he had gained the courage to act now.

He looked away from her. “I only thought that I wanted to be there for you, without any clue that the reason you and Tiffany broke apart was because of me.”

Jessie’s expression softened as her own guilt weighed on her heart. He was the last straw, but her daughter had completely severed ties with her because of how she had lived until now. There was no way to make the past disappear and she could only accept that as she went forward.

But when she was with him on the island, she felt so happy. And when she looked back at all those sarcastic comments he made, like traveling the world looking for her and spending every waking moment thinking about her smile, it seemed like he was trying to drop hints.  He had even admitted to having fallen in love with her, but she had simply thought he was playing around so she had never given it any serious consideration.

“I suppose I can’t blame you then,” she settled on, getting comfortable next to him and laying her head on his broad shoulders. “You even admitted you’d marry the right woman regardless of an age gap right in front of me, and I just said I hoped you’d find her. That must’ve hurt so much.”

“It was what made me decide to do all of this…” He let loose a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry for acting like that without knowing anything. I’ll make things right with your daughter. I promise.”

“Oh baby, that ship has sailed.” It hurt for her to admit that much, but it was true. “Anything we can do to connect to her would just make things worse. All I can do now is have hope that one day she’ll look back and reach out to me.”

“But she was part of your world,” he said softly, reaching up to touch her shoulder. It was a gentle touch, soft as it glided down her arm to her elbow. Comforting. “There has to be something I can do. Just tell me and I’ll do it.”

A slight hum bubbled up in her throat at that as the whisper in her head came back. She swallowed her own fear and reservations so that the words they kept chained down could float to the surface. “…Then could you promise to love me for who I am?

She was a woman who had been with more than a hundred men over her career of twenty years. Her body might have looked good on the outside, but she was already facing an uphill battle on the inside. Not to mention everything she had done was out there in the open, where anyone could find it. Her stint to the island had proven that with that girl having practically worshipped the ground she walked on, and she knew that it would never go away.

“There will always be people who know me as Misty Katz, even if they don’t say it out loud,” she said, giving voice to her fears. “I’ve been with more men than I can count, and I’m not as young as I used to be. Even then, could you really be happy with someone like me when you’ve got your whole future ahead of you?”

Just asking him that much was causing her heart to race. Not out of anticipation, but out of fear that by putting herself out there again she’d end up being betrayed. He may be in love with her now, but who was to say that he wouldn’t get bored with her until he left her behind as well. If that happened again, she would never recover…

“I know all of that, and I’ve never been more in love with you,” he confessed, staring into her eyes. “I love you for who you are, Jessie.”

…Forgive me, Tiffany. Jessie felt her heart quiver in her chest and tears escaped the corner of her eyes, as though everything that was being held back came rushing forward. I don’t know if I deserve anything good in my life for not being the best mother to you, and I don’t think anything will fill in the hole you’ve left behind. But…

“You’d better not break your word,” she warned him. “I swear I’ll never forgive you if you do.”

“I promise,” he murmured, placing his hand beneath her chin and raising it up so they were eye-level with one another. “I’ll love you until the day I die, Jessie Maye.”

She was drawn to his lips, pressing hers against them in a kiss. The fears, the sorrow, the sadness, all of it seemed to just be blown away at that moment. Her heart felt like it had wings and hope flickered within her chest anew. Her Prince Charming was with her here and now, a dream coming true.

But I’m going to try to find happiness with him. Jessie silently finished as she fell into one kiss after another. Whatever the future holds, I want to believe that I can with him in my life.

 

[-His Apartment Months Later-]

 

It really is a beautiful sight. Jessie couldn’t help but think as she watched snow fall from the skies and slowly painted the darkness outside with a veil of white. It wasn’t quite so cold that frost had built up on the edges of the glass, but it was still a breathtaking view that added to the spirit of the holidays.

It had been months since that night. Months since she had decided to entrust her heart to the man who’d stolen it, despite being more than a decade younger than her. And she hadn’t regretted it.

He’d been a bright spot in her life, a beacon of hope. He always seemed to know just what to say to pull her up when she felt down. And, because of that, she found the courage to start moving ahead.

Her career as a pornstar might have been over, but Misty Katz now lived on as a coach for girls just entering the industry. She had been working for twenty years, so she was fairly knowledgeable about the latest trends in the industry along with the needs of the girls. And she had a few connections to pull on if need be.

Of course, since she didn’t have sex practically every day, she needed to workout more to keep her weight down. Beli was helpful there. Her classes were easy enough, helped keep her flexible, and were good for exercise. And she was cutting back on smoking and drinking—stopping outright was still beyond her, but she was getting a better handle on it bit-by-bit.

I hope you’re doing well, Tiffany. Her thoughts turned to her daughter once more. She had sent a letter as a birthday gift to her a while ago thanks to Aiko getting her current address from the college’s record. In the letter, she had poured her heart into it and told her of the changes in her life, from her new career to her new love, and expressed that she wanted Tiffany to be a part of it.

But if she chose not to, Jessie would understand. All she could do was wish her well in her future as a nurse, telling her that she would always love her and reminding her that there was always a place in her heart—no matter how Tiffany felt, they were family.

“Now then, I suppose I should get ready to give him his present when he gets back,” Jessie mused as she turned her attention to a gift that she had gotten from Lola. Her business was taking off, so the two did not see each other as often they would have liked. But she had taken the time out of her busy schedule to make what was probably one of the most seductive outfits she had seen.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

However, before she could get started changing, there was a knock on the door. He did mention that he was having a gift for her delivered that was likely coming while he was out. So she sauntered over to the door and cracked it open…

Only for her world to sudden shake as she came face-to-face with her beloved treasure. “Tiffany…?”

Tiffany looked off to the side, trying not to meet her gaze. She was dressed in a beige coat and checkered scarf still that were still covered in melting snow. Her hair had been woven into two long braids while adorning her head were a pair of earmuffs.

…Hi, Mom.” Her voice was soft, just above a whisper as though she was uncertain about her words for a moment. But then she cleared her throat and held up a gloved hand to show the envelope that was addressed to her. “I got your letter.”

Happiness. Confusion. Elation. So many emotions swirled together in Jessie’s chest that she struggled to put words to what she was feeling at the moment. So she settled for just lunging forward and embracing her in a crushing hug, rocking back and forth while just taking in the fact that her daughter was here now. “Baby, you’re here! How? Why?”

“Mom, let go of me.” There was more than a hint of annoyance in her voice, but Jessie could see that her cheeks were rose-colored as she broke the hug. “Like I said, I got your letter. Since I still had his number, we… talked and he managed to convince me to stop by.”

“He did?” Jessie looked around the corners, but she didn’t spot him.

“He promised to wait outside until I came back,” Tiffany explained. “I’m still not ready to see you two together, you know?”

That’s… to be expected, she thought to herself before sighing. “Baby, I know how it probably looks with me being here. But everything I put in that letter was true.”

“Mom… I…. I tried so many times to get you to change, but nothing I said reached you. You always seemed to either be drinking, smoking, or getting it on with some random guy. It’s not easy to accept having someone like that as a mother.”

“I know, baby,” Jessie said. “I wanted to change, believe me. It was so hard before. It still is now.”

“Yet, he managed to do what I couldn’t,” Tiffany pointed out. “It bothered me until I really sat down to think about it for a few days and understood that I couldn’t accept the flaws you had. I always wanted you to be… the perfect mother, I guess. And, because of that, I didn’t give you as fair of a shake as I probably should have.”

“And now?” Jessie asked, hope in her tone that they could finally connect.

Tiffany only shook her head. “Not yet. To be honest, I’m still not really sure how to process all of this. Kyanna helped me understand how difficult it is for a single mother, but it’s not easy to just forget everything. And while I’ve gotten better about it, that guy is still a sore spot.”

“That’s fair,” Jessie said. “It’d be too much to ask that you let those things go right now. But someday, I’d like for us to really be together again.”

“Someday, maybe,” Tiffany agreed before she pulled a small envelope out of her other pocket. “It’s a card with my new number, address, and email. It’s not much, but—”

“It’s the best gift in the world,” Jessie told her, taking the envelope gingerly. It was light and probably just a gift card from a dollar store, but to her it was the most precious thing in the world. Because it represented the very thing she wanted the most in the world—a chance to connect with her daughter.

“Just don’t go back to how you used to be,” Tiffany said before she spun on her boots and made for the elevator. “Anyway, I better get going before your boyfriend ends up freezing to death out there. Merry Christmas, Mom.”

Jessie watched her go, fighting against the urge to reach out and pull her in. As much as she wanted to spend more time with her, she knew that forcing her to try to stay would only sever the new connection they had reestablished.  Even if it was fragile and possibly fleeting, it was still a chance she wasn’t eager to let go to waste.

That didn’t apply to her boyfriend. The moment he popped back up on the floor, she pounced on him with a kiss that stole his breath. Then she dragged him back inside to give him his Christmas present early.

Her future was finally looking bright.

 


Ending Notes:

This was longer than it had any right to be, but as a side-project it wasn’t bad. Huniepop has surprising depth with some of the characters when you think about it. Even little details like how Jessie’s token preferences changed align with her character development. I only regret that at the end we ultimately did nothing to help her.


Fanfic Recommendation 100


My Fanfics


Busi Goes Blue (or HTBABIE): Spell 5- Faze

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


The Beast of Beacon 23 – 24

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Blake had fled, making it clear she couldn’t trust him to change. She thought him inhuman, lost, a beast. He was going to prove her wrong. Getting into Beacon was hard enough, but fitting in would be harder still. All those… humans. Will a man fuelled by hate truly be able to let go and move on; or is suffering the only thing Adam Taurus can ever bring to those around him?


A Rabbit Among Wolves 31 – 32 

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!


With Friends Like These 9

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Sequel to My Own Worst Enemy. On all of Remnant, Atlas—the pinnacle of law and order, and the kingdom he committed an open act of war against—is the place Roman least wants to go. So of course, it’s where Ozpin decides they have to go.

Content Warning for M/M.


Dauntless 99 – 101

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary:  Lelouch had been quite happy with his life. Sure they were living in obscurity, but he and Nunnally were safe. All of that changes however, when his identity is revealed and Lelouch is forced back into the fold of the Imperial family.


A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


A Future Tied by Fates 48

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”



Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Spell 5: Faze [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Faze

 

 

Many practitioners of our cerulean arts are wont to favor the more destructive spells. However, one must remember that the Whalaqee discovered Blue Magic to survive first and foremost. Because of this, there is inherent compatibility in other techniques that were derived to do the same without wanton destruction left in its wake. One such example would be the technique developed by the Qiqirn: Faze.

The members of this small-statured Spoken race lack the inherent technological prowess of Goblins and the raw strength of others, thus leaving them at the mercies of many predators. To survive they developed a technique that condenses aether into their palms and creates a shockwave that sends it rushing through an area in front of them. The sudden rush of aether causes an imbalance with the aether flowing through the aetheric channels and causes leaves the body and mind stunned for a bit—buying just enough time for them to squirrel away to safety.

Now, while Qiqirn can be found around Eorzea, those who would have it impressed upon their aether are those who would more frequently utilize the technique. That leaves those that would settle into a merchant trade a poor, and possibly unlawful, source of learning. Though, there are roaming bands of lawless Qiqirn known to frequent Thanalan and have a taste for flesh…

 

<-><-><-><-><->

 

“It’s good to be back home!”

The nascent blue mage stretched beneath the bright sun casting its rays over the glory of the city-state as he passed through the Gate of Nald. He was surprised how much he missed the dusty, sun-kissed breeze. Limsa Lominsa might have been neighboring a beautiful sea, but the desert jewel that was Ul’dah was his home.

As he strode up the sett-paved roads and around the bustling streets, Cocobusi came to a stop beneath the lamppost on the left corner and just stared at the structure that laid before him. It was one of the finest, affordable establishments for Adventurers within Ul’dah: The Quicksand.

The towering structure had at its front a babbling fountain spouting crystalline water. Folks of all ilk and races moved about, chatting while clad in arms and armor both foreign and native. To accommodate them and make travel easier there was an Aethernet Shard just outside of the establishment, a Chocobokeep right across from it should they need to travel out of the city, and he knew the Aetheryte Plaza was further to the right.

The nascent blue mage crossed the street once a Chocobo passed him by, climbing up the flight of stairs. He made it to the massive set of double-doors and moved to push one in when it opened of its own accord. What greeted him was the glare of the sun, reflecting off a massive female Roe clad in plate armor as she stepped from the shade of the building and into the Ul’dahn sun.

It left him seeing spots, eyes stinging as the woman stepped around him. He stumbled inwards before the door could close, rubbing his eyes with one hand while he reached out for the wall with his other… only to bump into something relatively softer than stone.

“Watch where you’re walking.”

He quickly recoiled as he forced his eyes open, looking upwards towards the source of the voice. It was a Wildwood Elezan woman dressed in linen robes that felt different than usual. There was a brimmed hat perched atop her head, marked with an unfamiliar emblem, while her eyes peered down at him with her lips pulled back in a frown and her arms were crossed. Judging from the ring bands adorning her hands that were affixed with an Eye of Wind in each of them, and the well-used wand on her back, she was a seasoned Conjurer.

“I’m so sorry,” Cocobusi apologized hastily as he looked to the ground, where he could just make out her shoes that were weathered from travel and trade. “The sun caught my eyes, and I couldn’t see where I was going.”

“…Well, no harm done, I suppose.” She lowered her hands and turned her attention back to the board in front of her. “If you’re looking for Leves, the only ones left are slim pickings. You have to be here earlier to get any of the good ones.”

“Oh no. I’m not registered here yet, so I was going to introduce myself to the head of the Adventurer’s Guild.”

“If that’s the case, then go speak with Mistress Momodi.” She pointed a slender finger over towards the counter, where a red-haired, red-eyed woman in a woolen bilaud was amicably chatting with another person.

Cocobusi thanked her before he made his way over and politely waited for her to finish.

“Thanks for being patient dear,” she told him. “I saw you talkin’ to Elviane just now before she pointed you my way. Is there somethin’ I can help you with?”

“Yes. I’m a native to Ul’dah but, on a trip I just came back from, I registered to be an adventurer in Limsa Lominsa. I wanted to place myself on the registry here as well.”

“Then just sign your name here for me.” She pulled out a pen and a registration form for him to sign. When he did so she quirked her head. “Cocobusi Lolobusi … any relation to the boys who run the Thaumaturge guild?”

He nodded. “Those are my brothers. Oh, but don’t tell them. I don’t want them to know I’ve registered to become an Adventurer yet since I want to surprise them.”

“Well, you’re entitled to your privacy unless they come through certain channels, so I won’t say anythin’ unless they come to me that way. That being said…” Mistress Momodi cast her gaze over his sheet—specifically his Job Class. “I don’t think they’ll fancy you copyin’ that new performer by claiming to be a Blue Mage.”

He tilted his head in confusion. “Umm, I don’t quite understand.”

“Oh, right. You said you just returned from Limsa Lominsa, so you probably don’t know about the new guy that has been making waves over at the Celestium. Calls himself the Great Azuro and participates in somethin’ called the Masked Carnivale. See?”

She pointed to a poster that was set on the pillar next to them, separating the tavern counter from the inn-registry. Sure enough, the image on display was that of a man dressed in a regal blue outfit that was adorned magnificently with a cape that fluttered in the wind. In his hand was a different sort of cane that held a white wolf’s head. Opposite him was a depiction of several monsters that he was poised to face against with his cane in one hand and his other arm out in front of him.

Hmm… I think that might be the one who gave my Job Crystal,” Cocobusi said. He couldn’t be completely sure with the mask covering his face, but the goatee and mustache gave him the impression it was. Plus, who else would be better known as a master of Blue Magic than the one who brought it over. “You say this gentleman is at the Celestium?”

“He’s been puttin’ on shows a lot and they tend to be sold out fairly quickly, but I hear he’s seen around the Steps of Thal afterwards. That’ll probably be the best place to run into him.”

“I’ll head there next then. I owe him my thanks for what he’s done for me.”

“Don’t be in such a rush that you go forgettin’ to attune to the Aetheryte and the rest of the Aethernet Shards,” she reminded him. “That way even if you miss him, you’ll be able to just port over to the Miner’s Guild or Weaver’s Guild and head right out another day.”

It was sound advice. He gave her a courteous bow in gratitude. “Thank you for all your help, Ma’am.”

She returned the gesture with a wave and smile. “Anytime. Take care now.”

Then he made his way out of the Quicksand, stopping at the Aetheryte Plaza first in order to properly attune to it. The beating pulse of it felt different than the one that he felt from Limsa Lominsa. Enough that he could feel the difference deep down inside of him as his aether matched its rhythm until he felt the pull.

Once he finished attuning, he took the path towards the Steps of Thal and ventured out into the plaza leading to the Milvaneth Sacrarium. The temple was still undergoing repairs, so few visited the locale. Yet beneath its fountain there sat the two Mamool Ja talking to the very same figure that he saw on the poster with his shoulders hanging low and slouching.

“—I tell you the stuff’s not easy or cheap to come by,” the man finished whatever he was saying with a sigh before one of the beastmen took notice of the approaching figure and pointed in his direction. His head whipped around and, upon noticing Cocobusi approaching, he quickly straightened his back and turned to face him with a practiced smile. “Afternoon there.”

“Oh good, it is you,” Cocobusi said, elation in his voice. “I was hoping to run into you again, Mister Martyn.”

“Err… Have we met?”

“We met back in Limsa Lominsa a short while ago,” Cocobusi reminded him. “I was one of the people that who you sold a Soul Crystal to.”

“Look, if it’s a refund you’re wanting then I should point out that not being satisfied with your purchase—”

“Why wouldn’t I be satisfied?” interjected the neophyte Blue Mage as he pulled out his Soul Crystal. “Thanks to this I can use magic now when I couldn’t before. I wanted to thank you personally, but you disappeared before I could.”

“Uh… congratulations?” The man paused for a moment with a befuddled expression, as if taking a moment to process that. “So, you actually managed to get a few spells under your belt then?”

Cocobusi nodded. Then he looked back and forth between the beastmen, slightly craning his head. “Wait… weren’t these two the Mamool Ja that tried to attack us before?”

“Oh, uh… these two?” He fumbled over his words for a moment before he cleared his throat. “You see, after that display of my majestic cerulean arts, they decided to repent their ways and entered into my service. But never mind them—why don’t you let me see your Soul Crystal so I can see what it is that you managed to learn?”

He handed over the precious gem that had become a prized treasure to him. “I managed to learn Blood Drain from a Cave Bat in the Blind Iron Mines. After that, I learned Sticky Tongue from Cane Toads and Bomb Toss from some Goblins. And before I left La Noscea I felt the Soul Crystal resonant when a Killer Wespe died, but I haven’t tried using Final Sting yet.”

“Best you don’t go practicing with that last one,” Martyn advised as he did something to the crystal, leaving it alight with aether. “Even at the best of times, that one will put an experienced Whalaqee out of commission for weeks from the strain of it. Still, that’s not half-bad for such a short time.”

“Should Gaheel Ja give Totem to small one then?” asked one of the beastmen.

“A Totem?”

Martyn explained as he handed back the Soul Crystal. “Wooden effigies that have aether from creatures from the New World. They contain spells that you won’t be able to get here under normal circumstances, making them even more unique.”

“Oh, can I get one?”

Hmm…” He rubbed his chin. “We’ve only got a select few of them, but given you’re pretty dedicated I might be convinced you’re worthy enough. You’re an active Adventurer, aren’t you?”

“I only signed up to become one recently,” he admitted. “I’m an Alchemist by normal trade. Part of the Guild here, in fact.”

His brows rose at that. “An Alchemist as well, you say. Well then, I think we might be able to—”

“Nice to see you’re making time for your fans,” a third voice interjected. It drew their eyes towards the eastern entrance of the plaza where Hyuran woman was approaching. “But mind spending a few talking with your boss?”

“Ah, sure thing,” Martyn said, before looking over to the neophyte Blue Mage. “Tell you what, meet me at an eating establishment called The Coffer & Coffin tonight out in Central Thanalan. We’ll talk about getting you a totem there.”

Cocobusi nodded his head enthusiastically at the prospect. “Certainly, I’ll be there!”

That said, he left the master of the cerulean arts to speak with the woman and made his way back throughout the city. He had his evening planned out, but he still needed to attend to the matter of visiting his brothers. It had been so long since he had seen them and there was a lot that he wanted to tell them, like the fact that he could use magic now.

He made his way to the gates of the Arrzaneth Ossuary, the temple that extolled the worship of Thal. Those who traversed the hallowed halls often fell into two groups: those who came to pray that the weight of their wealth in the world beyond would be greater than in the world of the living. Or those who had amassed great amounts of wealth and wanted their funerary rites to be worthy of Thal to tip the scales in their favor.

It was also home to the Thaumaturge’s guild, as their art was born from funerary rites.

No sooner than the doors open did he hear, “Leave these grounds immediately!

The heated demand left him to jump as a Hyur hurriedly fled, nearly kicking the Lalafell if not for him getting out of the way at the last minute. He then turned his gaze inwards to see Yayke Yake, the guild’s receptionist. The woman had a furrowed expression as the man fled from the halls, only for her visage to visibly soften when she spotted Cocobusi approaching.

“Is everything alright, Miss Yake?” he asked in a concerned tone, taking note of how uncharacteristic it was of her. She was soft-spoken for the most part, often with a book in hand.

“I am sorry you had to see that shameful display,” she huffed softly. “Since that performer at the Celestium has been showing off, we’ve had all sorts of new applicants seeking to tutelage in the hopes of emulating him. I’ve had to turn away a number of them while dealing with our sacred and time-honored art being compared to that…gaudy showmanship.”

He figured she was talking about the Great Azuro’s performances. “Why would they come here?”

“Because there is no guild for that mockery of the arcane arts,” she said pointedly. “And if it were my choice, there never would be. Our art were born of tradition and teachings of our ancestors of Belah’dia, with the lessons instilled having been refined over centuries through the Order of Nald’thal. It is not for the sake of entertainment.”

He winced at that, knowing full-well how frustrating that must have been for her. She had been the receptionist here for over fifteen years now, having come into the position before even his brothers had ascended to the title of guildmasters. He could argue that there was no one who valued the practices of their art, the intricacies and dedication to mastery, more than her.

Not only that, but she had a record of turning away applicants that she deemed unworthy. She valued the requirements that had been loosened since the need for more thaumaturgist required trimming back the necessary reading materials. Plus, her brothers seemed to trust her judgment in spite of the previous guildmaster’s failings.

“Do my brothers feel the same way about it?”

“But of course.” She adjusted her monocle. “What self-respecting thaumaturgist would feel otherwise? I disapprove of even selling the Celestium the creatures we conjure up as part of our practice, knowing that they would have to be disposed of either way.”

He felt himself deflate hearing that. He wanted to tell his brothers that he had gained the ability to use magic, but if they perceived the method he used in the same manner that she did then it would probably be sacrilegious to them. There was a chance that they might not only deny him anyway, but confiscate his Soul Crystal and strip away his ability to use magic entirely.

Then again, maybe he could bribe them with enough high-quality Ethers…

The receptionist breathed out softly before continuing at a laxer tone. “I do wish there were more applicants with your dedication. If only fate were not so unfair, you would be amongst our numbers… at any rate, if you are here to try to convince your brothers to allow you to practice, now wouldn’t be the best time. There’s been a bit of a situation as of late aside from that annoyance.”

His lips pursed slightly. “What do you mean?”

“My apologies, but it is a guild matter, so I cannot give you the full details,” she said in an apologetic tone. “However, I will tell them you have returned from your journey and that you appear to be in good health once they are free.”

It was all he could ask, so he gave her a bow of gratitude before heading out. He still needed to pay his guild a visit, attune to the rest of the aethernet shards, and then get ready for his meeting with Martyn at the Coffin and Coffer over in Central Thanalan.

<-><-><-><-><->

“Finally made it,” Cocobusi breathed out a sigh of relief as he finished traversing the desert lands along a well-trodden dirt path that ran along from the Ul’dah to the Black Brush Station still some ways off, its distant Aertheryte luminous even with the fading sun lighting up the horizon in softer hues. “So this is the Coffin & Coffer…”

He had never been to the establishment. It was weathered in some spots from the harsh winds that occasionally blew, built in the shadow of a cliff-face that offered it shelter and shade. It was also far more rustic than what would normally be seen within the town, though he supposed it looked sturdy enough despite being a lot rougher than the usual establishments he stayed at when traveling for work.

He approached the entrance, muted chatter leaking from the walls when a man wearing the uniform of the Brass Blade that stood out front gave him a glance over from behind the visor of his turban. “Wipe yourself off a little, will ya? Don’t want any dirt getting into ale or food and sparking a fight.”

“Oh, my apologies!” he said, hastily wiping the dirt and dust that had gotten on his Hempen Cloak Set. He’d worn his garments with the hood up in order to hide his face while on the way out of town, having decided to keep his new occupation from his brothers for the moment. “Some of the local wildlife seemed to believe that I might be an easy meal, and so I had been forced to defend myself.”

“Better a little dirtier than dead,” the man said with a shrug. Then he quirked his head in the direction of the tavern, a gesture for him to continue inside.

He ventured through the doors, the hinges letting out a gritty groan as though sand had been wedged inside of them from the rough winds. The muted chatter turned into a somewhat louder cacophony of voices that mixed and mingled with a modest but rowdy number of individuals. Their garments and arms suggested they were adventurers, though the tan and accent were distinctly Ul’dahn as they seemed to regale the barkeep with some tale while another looked among the casks of ale that lined the wall further back.

Not far from there were a group of Brass Blades who were seemingly off-duty. Their blades and bucklers were set aside, turbans and visors set in the center of the table while a woman dressed in a brown canvas tunic and red cotton turban took down their orders. When they were done, she stowed it in a pouch attached to the belt and gave the Roegadyn a wink before making her way back towards what was assumed to be the kitchen.

He eventually spotted Martyn at a table by the windows. The man was no longer clad in the more extravagant outfit, but instead a popular doublet and halftrews that Cocobusi believed was from the oasis settlement at Southern Thanalan. The name of it escaped him, but he recalled that one of his co-workers intended to visit the springs there. “I’m sorry if I kept you waiting.”

“I arrived only a short while myself, though I have become something of a regular since coming to Ul’dah,” he said. “Here we have more freedom to speak, after a bit of food.”

As if on cue, the Alehouse Wench appeared at their table with a small tray. It had Flatbread that looked rather plain to go along with the gruel that smelled of spices and fruit, and some boiled eggs. She set the plate down in front of Martyn before turning to Cocobusi. “Haven’t seen you here before. What do you fancy here?”

He brought a hand to his chin in thought. “Hmm… I’ve been eating fish for the last few weeks, so I’ve gotten a bit of a taste for it. Would you have anything like that?”

“If it’s fish you’re after, we do have some Tiger Cod caught fresh from Vesper Bay. We salt it and dry it in the sun, giving it a native taste that goes well when washed down with a Mint Lassi.”

“That sounds nice. I’ll have that, along with some Raisins, if you don’t mind?”

She gave him a nod, turned on her crakows, and made for the kitchen. That was when Martyn opened the dialogue with questions about his experience with being a Blue Mage so far. More feedback than anything, like how he learned the spells, his experience with them, and any sort of complications that arose from it.

Cocobusi was fairly open in his answers as well, which sparked curiosity in the elder Blue Mage about his increased anima capacity. Of course, that became a secondary concern by the time the food arrived from the kitchen and he mentioned the overarching opinion on the cerulean arts from the perspective of the Thaumaturge’s Guild. Namely, the low opinion of them.

“I suppose puttin’ on a show with Blue Magic that might not be doin’ it all the honor it deserves,” Martyn conceded with a soft sigh before setting his spoon down in the empty bowl that had been filled with the Frumenty before. “But Blue Magic has grand cultural significance to the Whalaqee. The New World isn’t exactly easy to live in and their ancestors had to effectively learn to harvest the power of the monsters that hunted them to have a chance to survive. Since then that art had been passed down and refined through generations—no different than their own.”

“I think it’s because some members of the guild already weren’t happy that they had to lower the requirements so that adventurers could learn without fully undergoing the same teachings,” Cocobusi said, rocking his feet back and forth as he finished the last of his Salt Cod. “I know better because it’s helped me, but to them it’s different.”

“I’ve got my reasons for it, so that won’t be changin’ any time soon,” Martyn said, one hand on his chin in thought. “But I suppose I can make it a little clearer folks shouldn’t go botherin’ them at the very least.”

“I’d like to give my brothers a good impression of it as well if I could.” Cocobusi set the knife and fork he was using to eat on the plate. “So, for the time being, would you mind if I studied under you?”

“I’m glad you’re findin’ it useful. And I’m curious about the results when it comes to your anima capacity situation as well. But my performances leave me little time as is. Though, we might can reach an arrangement—”

Before he could finish his proposition, wood shuddered and the hinges screamed as the doors burst opened. The chatter of the crowd stilled as their eyes were drawn to the source, the Brass Blade who had been outside standing watch. He laid eyes on the table with the others and pointed at them, “Roundelph, you and the rest get off your arses! The rats are on the move and Babaroon Halfshell is with ‘em. They’re calling in all the local arms!”

“Thal’s balls, I’m supposed to be off!” the man said, dropping his fork that had a half-eaten Marmot Steak as he rose to his feet along with the other two at his table. They were reclaiming their helmets and weapons, the call to arms too great to ignore apparently.

“Tell that to the Rats!” He then turned towards the rest of the patrons of the bar. “As for the rest of you, the Brass Blade are offering coin to anyone willing to sell their sword and deal with ‘em.”

“I’ll throw in a free meal every day for a week,” Roger added. “Those sodding rats have harassed and plundered travelers, and it’s driving down my business. The sooner we’re rid of those bandits, the better.”

Martyn rubbed his chin in thought while muttering under his breath as the other Adventurers began to make their way out. Then he then rose to his feet. “Come on, lad. We’ll go with ‘em and I’ll show you a lesson first-hand of what Blue Magic can really do.”

Given the urgency, the Brass Blades and the adventurers sprinted in a hurry towards what was presumably the camp that the bandits had set up. By the time that they came to a stop, Cocobusi was struggling for breath and covered in sweat. He wasn’t in bad shape by any means but compared to men and women who had been at this sort of a thing for who knows how long he might as well have been.

The area near the train tracks had been made into a ramshackle camp for the Qiqirn bandits, haphazardly strewn together lodgings serving as their base of operations. Flames from the campfire had begun to spread as the wood gathered to serve as kindling was at some point ignited and scattered, creating patches of light where steel gleamed as it was swung. The battle was raging on in earnest now.

There were maybe twenty Brass Blades engaged in combat with the handful of adventurers from the tavern-inn, each one more skilled with a weapon than the bewhiskered beastmen. The Roegadyn alone took a broad sweep of his sword and managed to cut three of them down before using the shield on his other arm to slam another on his flank in the face. It went flying into a tent that collapsed as its body broke the support within it while he tried to push through their ranks.

But the sheer numbers of the bandits placed them at three-to-one odds, those that had been cut down easily replaced as reinforcements poured from the shadows of the camp. They used their numbers to their advantage, allowing two to distract one of the attackers so that a third could get into their blind-spot and performed a technique he’d read up on his way back to Ul’dah.

“That’s Faze!” Cocobusi said as one of the adventurers who had been punching another Qiqirn in the face was clapped from behind. The shockwave of aether drove an influx into the body, causing symptoms akin to aether sickness and leaving them witless. Given that they were in combat and the aetheric channels were overflowing, they would soon purge themselves of it. But those scant seconds would have been more than enough for the Qiqirn to finish off the pugilist if not for one of their compatriots rushing in to protect them.

“They’re going to be overrun before any reinforcements get here.” Cocobusi could tell that there were just too few of them and too many of the Qiqirn to last very long. “We have to help them.”

“If we run off guns blazin’ then we’ll only make things worse,” Martyn told him. “What we need to do is tip the scales so that the others will be able to bring down the biggest target. Without their leader, the rest will scatter.”

His gaze then spanned the battlefield for a pause before settling on a Qiqirn that was seemingly larger than all the others. Whereas most of the beastmen would be lucky to reach the height of a ten-year old Hyur, this one was notably taller. Even so, he was steadily backing away from the Roegadyn cutting a swathe to get through to him, flanked by the other two they’d seen in the tavern as the ranks of bandits closed in upon them.

“Right then, time to show you what a real Master of Blue Magic looks like,” Martyn said, rolling his shoulders before holding out his hand upright. Azure crystals danced around him, the aether in the surroundings stirring before viridian wove itself anew and took the shape of what looked to be a massive seed pod. He then threw it out towards the cluster of Qiqirn Shellsweepers.

It ruptured, the shell breaking apart with far more fragility than its exterior would have led you to believe. The closest thing he could relate it to was his own Bomb Toss spell, a shell housing the aetherial copy of the explosive compound. However, rather than flames and smoke and smoldering dirt, what emerged was a thick cloud of viridian spores that shrouded the horde to the extent that Cocobusi couldn’t see more than their silhouettes as they collapsed onto the ground.

Some kind of soporific akin to the Sleep spell, Cocobusi theorized as the trio of Brass Blades took stock of the fact that they were no longer barred from their target and promptly rushed the large Qiqirn.  Then he spotted movement in the corner of his eyes, turned his head to see that several of the Qiqirn Shellsweepers were approaching them, and drew his cane. “They’ve spotted us!”

Martyn spun on his heel to face the incoming swarm. Azure crystals danced around him once more, supping upon the aether around them as his eyes began to grow luminous while small, crackling streamers began to lash out from the corner of his eyes. He quickly brought his hands to his face and removed the spectacles he wore before leaning forward…

And then a blinding, deep-purple glare illuminated the night around them as a singular crackling beam surged forward like a levinbolt.

A dense concentration of lighting-aspected aether, the rational part of his mind deduced based on both the coloration and the fact that the air immediately around the beam as it cut forward was ionized to the point where purple electric arcs filled the space. Thus, it electrocuted even the Qiqirn who weren’t directly hit by it, leaving their small bodies spasming in place from the electricity worming its way into their muscles.

The neophyte blue mage followed up. His mind shifted to that of the Goblins and crystals danced as the spell took form in his hand, an explosive mimicry of goblin engineering. He chucked the bomb as hard as he could into the paralyzed group, helpless and unable to escape as their muscles seized up.

BOOM!

Cocobusi took a deep breath as scorched black earth rained down. His nose itched as acrid smoke rose into the air, mingling with the tangy scent of ozone. But in the pocket where he kept his Soul Crystal, he felt the telltale quiver of a new spell acquisition.

BABAROON HAS FALLEN!!” a voice shouted across the dark, drawing their gazes towards the Brass Blades.

The Roegadyn from before stood with his bloodstained sword raised, the Qiqirn bandit leader fallen in a pool of its own lifeblood. The remainder of the bandits scattered without any semblance of resistance or direction, now lacking a leader to hold the Rat’s Nest together. The rest of the Brass Blades let loose cheers as they allowed them to run off in whatever way they could to get away.

“And just like that, the matter’s resolved,” Marytn noted, replacing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. “There’s the real key to what makes Blue Magic so special. It’s versatile enough that the right spell can change the tide of a battle before the enemy knows what’s hit them.”

“I’d like to show that to my brothers as well someday,” Cocobusi said in agreement, before shifting back to their original topic. “You mentioned before you wanted to come to an arrangement of some sorts?”

Martyn nodded. “I’ve got my hands tied here in Ul’dah., so I need someone who can do favors for me here and there. You’re a solid fit for the bill and you’ll get a chance to get some new spells along the way. Not a bad deal, I’d say.”

“Mmm… it seems simple enough,” Cocobusi said. “Very well. We have a deal, Mister Martyn.”

The two shook hands.

 

 

 


Fanfic Recommendation 99


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A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Blake had fled, making it clear she couldn’t trust him to change. She thought him inhuman, lost, a beast. He was going to prove her wrong. Getting into Beacon was hard enough, but fitting in would be harder still. All those… humans. Will a man fuelled by hate truly be able to let go and move on; or is suffering the only thing Adam Taurus can ever bring to those around him?


A Rabbit Among Wolves 29 – 30 

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Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!


With Friends Like These 8

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Summary: Sequel to My Own Worst Enemy. On all of Remnant, Atlas—the pinnacle of law and order, and the kingdom he committed an open act of war against—is the place Roman least wants to go. So of course, it’s where Ozpin decides they have to go.

Content Warning for M/M.


Fanfic Recommendation 98


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Calling Card 23

Summary: Shinji Matou had been looking to redeem himself after the Holy Grail War, but wasn’t certain how to. Then he learned about a crimson calling card labeled Psyren. Saving the future would be a good starting point.


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The Beast of Beacon 21 – 22

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Blake had fled, making it clear she couldn’t trust him to change. She thought him inhuman, lost, a beast. He was going to prove her wrong. Getting into Beacon was hard enough, but fitting in would be harder still. All those… humans. Will a man fuelled by hate truly be able to let go and move on; or is suffering the only thing Adam Taurus can ever bring to those around him?


A Rabbit Among Wolves 27 – 28 

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!


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A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: Sequel to My Own Worst Enemy. On all of Remnant, Atlas—the pinnacle of law and order, and the kingdom he committed an open act of war against—is the place Roman least wants to go. So of course, it’s where Ozpin decides they have to go.

Content Warning for M/M.



Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 5 – Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Silence looms within the room at the Temple.

The call came in. The message clear. It’s time to play Nemesis Q’s game again.

Too soon. That thought lingers at the forefront of my mind. It feels too soon since the last time. There hasn’t been enough time to train. Then again, I suppose there’s never enough time when you’re being coerced into fighting for your life—no matter how much you prepare for it.

I look over to see Ayako leaning against a wall with her ridiculous polearm next to her. She seems like the perfect picture of calm just standing there with her arms crossed and eyes closed. But, even without reading her mind, I can tell she’s deep in thought about how to make the best out of this situation now that she has to look after another three people.

Meanwhile, Gotou is pacing back and forth while absentmindedly rolling those oversized knuckledusters in his hands. Ayako said that he can work out his issues with killing the homunculi on his own. But I have doubts he’s made any significant progress on that front.

If he hesitates at the wrong moment it might bite us in the ass…

“Maybe these?” Makidera muses as she plucks yet another weapon from the cabin—a pair of metal tonfa this time.

She wraps her hands around the handles and then moves them around to get a feel for them. The long ends were just past the length of her elbows. The short ends stick out past her knuckles by the length of her longest fingers. They should be simple enough to use that she won’t need to fry her neurons thinking when she has whatever is waiting for us in that ashen wasteland trying to rip out her throat.

In contrast to her, Himuro went with a more complex choice by choosing a sickle and chain. I can’t pretend that I knew what was going through her mind when she picked it out, but I don’t think she intends to make much use of it. Since that discussion a few days ago she’s been focusing on refining her Burst more than anything, isolating herself from both her friends in the process from what Saegusa mentioned to me in private.

Speaking of the mousy one, she finally appears when the Student President pops into the room using his Teleportation Marker. Unlike the others, she insisted that she had to go home first and changed out of her school uniform for something akin to winter wear. Casual but practical at a glance, with lots of pockets.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says apologetically. “I know it was asking a lot, but—”

Makidera quickly brushes off her apology before she can even finish. “It’s not a big deal. You had a lot to do, right?”

“I just had to check my brothers, make sure they knew what would be for dinner, tell them not act too naughty while I was out, and a few other things…” She finishes counting off on her fingers with a deep breath and nods. “But now I’m ready.”

…No one really buys it. Not when none of us are ready to go die in some distant future. Fighting for a cause none of us signed up for willingly. All of us can see she’s just putting on a brave face, but none of us can call her out on it when she still came knowing that there’s a very real chance she won’t be coming back.

That none of us will be coming back alive.

“Don’t worry about anything!” Makidera says boisterously while giving her a pat on the back, showing off the tonfa in her hand. “We’ll keep you safe.”

That was the wrong thing to say. It might have been meant to be reassuring, but she was more terrified of them dying for that very reason given their last trip. Not that the loud one has any way of knowing that as Saegusa puts on a nervous smile before staring down at the ground.

I float a thought her way before she dwells on it too much. ‘You didn’t tip your family off too much, right?

Her gaze turns to me. ‘I… um… just told them I might be a little late. And that my brothers should be good for our parents. And that…

And…?

She bites down on her lower lip and looks at me somewhat guiltily.  ‘And that if anything happened to me… I wanted them to know I love them.

Another mistake. The reason we pretend to have normal lives is to avoid anyone getting suspicious about these little excursions. So that they don’t end up getting sucked in like how I did with Ayako’s situation.

But she just can’t separate herself from her family. Not without at least letting them know how much she cared. Even if she can’t tell them why to avoid wrapping them up in this, it’s just not in her nature to not do that.

Oh well. Damage done. Another matter for another day. ‘You can pass it off as just wanting to reaffirm things after the hospital visit, so it isn’t a big deal. Just remember to apologize for worrying them later, okay?

She lets out a small breath in relief and gives a slight nod. Then she makes her way over to me, leaning against the wall next to me. ‘Umm… what did you tell your sister?

I didn’t tell her a thing,’ I confess unashamedly. ‘I don’t have any intention of dying, and if I came out of nowhere and said something like that Sakura would undoubtedly start worrying that something was up. No sense in winding her up about nothing.

And, even if by some chance something does happen to me… well, the paperwork for her to get everything has been in place well before now considering my condition. She’ll never have to work a day in her life, so Sakura will be just fine financially speaking. Emotionally…

I push the image out of my mind.

Meanwhile, Saegusa looks down to the ground. ‘Oh… I see… I wish I could be so sure like that. Even Maki-chan and Kane-chan are so calm, but I’m still so nervous that my stomach feels like it’s turning in knots.’

Again, not a surprise. But rather than trying to calm her down with empty platitudes, I decide to take a more practical approach. ‘Make a Mind Jack.

My sudden request catches her off-guard. But after a moment she closes her eyes and weaves a Mind Jack into existence. It flows from the base of her skull and connects our minds. ‘How’s this?

It’s well-made,’ I tell her truthfully. While the shell feels thinner than my constructs, so the amount of information that can flow through it might be bottlenecked, it feels smooth. And she constructed it rather quickly.

Despite my praise, she meekly brushes her fingers against her arms and keeps her eyes on the ground. ‘It’s nothing special. I know that Mitsuzuri-san and Kane-chan can make them as well—

I place my hands on her shoulders before she goes on. ‘Saegusa. Look at me.

Her head shoots up and her soft, brown eyes meet my own.

It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t even do basic Telepathy. The fact that you can do the same thing as someone as experienced as Mitsuzuri and as competent as Himuro means that you’re just as capable as I thought you were.

But… that’s only because you spent so much time helping me…

True, I might have spent more time grooming her to be a capable Trance-user so she doesn’t get herself killed. But she legitimately did put in the work to get this far despite having obligations to her family, and never once complained. Yeah, she needed the talent to get this far. But she worked to make something of that talent.

I let the sincerity of that paint my thoughts as I continue. ‘Even so, you’ve never disappointed me. That’s why, while I expect you to be terrified and make mistakes, I know you’ll do the best you can and make up for it. So, stop underselling yourself already.

Matou…kun…’ She only catches her slip up after the fact and it leaves a crimson blush that paints her cheeks.

I only give her a small smile before gesturing my head over to the weapons cabinet.  ‘Now let’s get you armed for the trip.

She nods meekly and mutely, following me to take stock of the arsenal. She isn’t suited towards strengthening her body for combat, so heavy weapons are out. She has no practice with anything that requires dexterity or skill, so a staff is out of the question as well. And I don’t trust her not to hit someone in close-range combat if we gave her a long-range weapon either, so we might as well go with the practical choice then. ‘Take this.

Her slender fingers curl around the Tanto within its sheath. It’s the same one I used before, so I know it can get the job done. Ideally, she won’t need to use it. But if she does need it then she’ll have it.

She looks it over for a moment. ‘Won’t you need it?

I’ve got my own packed away, plus I bought a couple of weighted chains and some metal stakes used for camping to serve as ranged weapons. The chains can be used to bind the mouths of any of those damn hounds to keep them from screaming at us. As for the stakes, I can program them to seek out and strike the cores or brains of the Taboo, so it’ll be more efficient to support everyone.’

She winces, probably imagining what the latter would look like. The casual way I mention impaling spikes into the brains of the homunculi probably doesn’t help either. The rest of the preparations are understandably done in solemn silence.

Then we jump back into the future.

[-Break-]

The steel-grey sky welcomes us for the third time with a lonely whisper in the breeze. The chill riding it digs past my flesh and muscle to caress the bones. It’s enough to stiffen my spine as the tang of metal on the wind lines my tongue on its way down my throat.

“Is… it always like this?” asks Saegusa as her small body shifts around uncomfortably in the wind. It’s not the sheer cold she’s talking about. It’s the thrumming going on inside of her from feeling her powers grow stronger.

“Even with forewarning, it’s still an unpleasant thing to experience,” Himuro notes while adjusting her glasses with one hand. To her credit, she hid whatever abnormality she felt with her neutral expression.

The same can’t be said for Makidera, currently rocking back and forth on the ball of her heels, I won’t be surprised if she starts sprinting laps around the half-eroded road that we’re on from how energetic it’s making her feel. Thankfully, common sense seems to be doing its job and keeping her feet still.

“You adapt quicker to it over time,” Ayako states with a shrug. “But it’s best that you wait for it to settle down before trying any PSI. We don’t know what’s out there or what mission we have, so the first thing we should do is find a place to hunker down in for the moment.”

We scan the roadside for shelter immediately. Standing out in the open like this is just begging to get us spotted before we can properly fight back. Not to mention how cold it is. We manage to spot a place among the bones of what were once massive buildings that’ll suffice and shuffle into it.

After slipping on the winter clothes and ensuring the supplies made the transition without any problem, Ayako heads for the entrance with her weapon in hand. “I’ll go scouting for a bit.”

“Alone?”

She nods. “Getting a better understanding of the situation will make things easier in the long run, and I’m used to doing this sort of thing whenever I arrive.”

“Then I’ll make a Mind Jack so we can at least—”

“I can handle that. You just focus on waiting out the adjustment period,” she states before spinning out a Mind Jack. The tip angles towards me for a moment before suddenly swerving and connecting to Gotou. “I’ll let you know if I find anything, but until then don’t broadcast or give away our position.”

I stamp down on the feeling gnawing in my chest as she closes the entrance. The rational part of me can recognize that she’s being considerate considering how little time we had to adjust the last time. We were only a trip ahead of these three and the sensation was still moderately distracting, so not wanting us to attempt even something as simple as creating a Mind Jack is understandable.

But looking at the construct, and whom she chose to link it to, the realistic part of me concedes she’s still wary about letting me in her head after that last time. She has no assurances it won’t happen again when the best I can tell her is that I’m handling it. Gotou is the safer choice at the end of the day.

Whatever. I shift my focus onto helping Saegusa. “Just close your eyes, calm your breathing, and focus on everything slowing down and closing in until you’re in the state of mind we normally practice in during our sessions.”

Her eyes close. Her shoulders relax. Her chest rises and falls in time with her breath, matching the rhythm that we practiced together. Good.

I look towards the others and catch them doing the same. Breathing exercises aren’t exactly foreign to members of the Track Club, so they can copy the physical motions easily enough. And Gotou will likely adapt quicker than them simply due to previous exposure, so there’s no need to worry about him.

So that just leaves me.

I put myself through the motions and mindset. The storm settles within me soon enough. Then I test out my limits by preparing one of the safeguards I have planned for when we inevitably run into Atlasia.

It’s based on the principles of a Mind Jack. Specifically, the exterior shell designed to keep the more sensitive Trance waves inside of it. I use the construction as a foundation and let it expand slowly so that it encroaches over my body inch-by-inch, until it forms a membrane wrapping around me from head-to-toe.

I breathe out and open my eyes once it was done to see Saegusa staring at me with her head quirked to the side. “Has your PSI settled down now?”

She nods. “I should be able to use it now without any problems.”

“Then spin out a Mind Jack and try to connect with me.”

Her brows furrow slightly in concentration for a moment. Then out comes the wired connector in roughly the same time that it took back in the present. Not a surprise since being able to program the process is above her skill level at present—foundation first, efficiency afterward.

It slithers towards me and curves smoothly around to the back of my skull, intending to sink into the base and connect us. Then the tip stops as it catches on the membrane. The familiar touch of her mind remains absent.

Her brows arch. “You… found a way to block me?”

“In light of what happened the last time we came here, I thought I should try out some anti-Trance techniques.”

Specifically, I wanted a method to avoid having my mind read wantonly or my thoughts influenced by an outside force. The simplest method of doing so is to shut them out before they can get to my brain. Ideally, it’ll work on even non-Trance methods of mental interference as well.

“Try to force it in until I say to stop.”

She seems mildly uncomfortable about using her PSI in such a manner, but she ultimately does attempt to force the Mind Jack past my defenses. The membrane manages to hold up, but it feels like it’s being grounded away as her own Trance construct pushes against it. Probably because the Mind Jack has more density to contain the regular telepathic transmissions.

A dense enough Trance construct could simply erase it. Then again, being composed of Trance energy means that it won’t offer any sort of protection from physical interference. But what about regular Trance waves?

“Try with regular Telepathy now,” I instruct her.

She does so. Or at least I think she does by how her expression shifts for a few moments before she gives up. “It looks like you couldn’t hear me.”

No signs of any notable degradation within the membrane. I can only presume that any thoughts she tried to float my way ended up breaking against it—like water splashing against an umbrella. However, if it shuts me out of all thoughts other than my own, it’ll effectively render me deaf and mute to telepathy.

It’ll be a gamble to keep it active at all times in that case. Telepathic transmission happens to be our primary means of long-distance communication. I can probably key it to allow for specific people to circumvent it if there’s a specific frequency or signature to an individual’s Trance waves…

No, I’m getting too far ahead of myself right now. I need to focus on what it can do for me in the short-term. It’s a safety net against having Atlasia and other trance-users getting into my head unwillingly. But if that does happen, I’ll have to resort to the other two methods I have on hand.

But I push that aside for the moment to address the others once I notice them listening in. “You three finished adjusting as well?”

Makidera opens her eyes and crosses her arms. “The shakes have settled down enough. I’m ready to go.”

In lieu of a verbal answer, Himuro holds out her hand with her palm facing upwards. Then something proceeds to take shape, similar to how Gotou created a simple ball to knock down the cards in a demonstration of how Burst could manifest. Only in her case what formed was an almost glass-like octahedron.

It floated above her palm for a moment before her gray eyes peered to the wall on the opposite side of the room we were in. Then it shot towards it as if it was thrown at the speed of maybe a fastball. It shattered upon hitting the wall, but not before leaving a rough indent that was a quarter-inch deep.

“I believe I’ve acclimated well enough,” she finally answers while adjusting her glasses. “It seems like my Burst has more physical substance than when I practiced back home. But it’s still too fragile to be of use against anything with a hard exterior.”

“A simple answer would have been fine, but whatever.” I turn to Gotou last. “What about you?”

He looks down at his hand from his perch against the wall at the prompt. Then he closes his eyes and forms it into a fist. “…There aren’t any problems from what I can tel—”

Gotou’s head snaps up and his words die as he looks towards me. Makidera takes a step back and bends her legs. Saegusa nearly falls off her makeshift seat in surprise. And Himuro grips her weapon tighter.

That’s when I turn around to see what set them on high alert.

And come face-to-face with Nemesis Q.


Fanfic Recommendation 97


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Summary: Jaune wanted nothing more than to become a hero – and in a way he got his wish. One man’s criminal is another’s hero and the faunus of Remnant need a champion. Who better to take the mantle of leader of the White Fang? Not a faunus? Not a terrorist? No aura, training or leadership skills to speak of? Minor details. All hail supreme leader Jaune Arc. Long live the resistance!


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Summary: In between being a hero and searching for a way to get to Saber, Shirou Emiya got a job as a technician at Chaldeas Security Organization. What is not to like? Very good pay, help save the world, and use his abilities as both a repairman and a magus. It has all the advantages he could want. Too bad his Spiritron Dive ability is too low to be a Master while others fight in Fuyuki.


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Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


A Future Tied by Fates 47

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”



Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 5 – Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Ughhh… why do we have to do this stuff?

As the autumn sun was slouching over the horizon, the soft whines of a somber panther fill the air.

The former captain of the Track Team was miserably carrying a set of steel poles along with Gai. They were meant to be used building the different stands for the sake of the upcoming cultural festival. The collective weight wasn’t light by any means, but since we were the only ones left on the campus there was no reason to hold back using Rise.

The Cultural Festival would be within the first week of November. That wasn’t too far off from now and there was still a lot of work to be done for certain clubs. Hence the reason we were still here at this hour.

I roll my eyes at her complaining before turning my attention back to my own assignment. Manual labor is beneath me in most cases, but I treat it more as rudimentary training to master the form of telekinesis that suits me. By brushing a finger across a nail and infusing it with my PSI, I can program them to drive themselves into place with no physical effort on my part.

It’s a simple program at the end of the day—requiring a set amount of energy to carry out a simple routine at a specific distance. Not the flashiest uses of PSI, but driving the sharp end of a weapon into the head or core of the target is a practical and efficient method of killing. It also requires no extra effort on my part once its set into motion aside from the implementation of a return function.

“It’s not fair that we have to suffer alone when we can’t even run or participate with the Track Club anymore,” the loud one continues to whine. But, like how a broken clock was right at least twice a day, she has a point. None of us would even be here under normal circumstances, since only current club members are required to construct their own stands and displays.

Then again, her mouth is the reason we’re here now.

Even I could tell the Student President was in a mood after his return from… wherever he and his brother ventured off to. But she lacked that ability apparently. So here we were, pitching in with helping the clubs that were dragging behind—Archery and Track Club included.

I have a barb on my tongue ready to go and remind her that she’s the reason we’re here. But then I see Himuro looking up from sketching out a design that’ll later be shaped and painted into a sign and hold my tongue. It’s more fun to watch sometimes.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this because you were the one who kept egging on Ryuudou about the training camp?”

Himuro’s opening salvo starts out with a factual reminder and a pointed stare. Caught unaware by the sudden assault Makidera recoils as if she’s been slapped. But Himuro doesn’t relent as she continues her verbal assault.

“And didn’t you also come up with this needlessly elaborate design and theme for the Track Club? Despite the fact that everyone else in the club pointed out it wouldn’t be practical?”

“Bu… But…”

“And, after you insisted that we still do it, rather than having everyone work on it bit-by-bit each session you said we’ll just leave it alone until a few days before the festival so we can concentrate on practice—and then let whoever had the worst time on the field hammer it out, which is the qualification that you now meet?”

I grin when the realization that she ultimately dug her own grave blossoms on her face. It’s like a work of art. If only I could capture the moment on camera…

“Matou-kun, you shouldn’t smile at Maki-chan being scolded.”

A gentle chastisement in a soft voice courtesy of Saegusa breaks the moment. She has a small, disproving frown on her face that a pre-school teacher wears while scolding a child for laughing at another hurting themselves by being stupid. Yes, they have it coming but you shouldn’t make fun of them because of it.

I’d probably take more offense to it if not for the fact that it came from… well, her.

The mousiness that comes naturally to her makes it hard to take her seriously. Really, the fact that she’s gotten comfortable enough in the last week to actually call me out on it is more of a surprise. But it also serves to further a theory I’ve had for some time now.

“Just now… you addressed me rather informally, didn’t you?”

A brief look of surprise crosses her face. It’s genuine too. The moment she realizes the implications she starts to get flustered like one would expect.

“Oh, I didn’t… I’m sorry if—”

I shake my head and quell her worry before she gets too worked up about it. “I don’t really mind. You can even just call me by my name like Mitsuzuri does occasionally if you want. I just noticed you never did the same for her or Gotou.”

Saegusa isn’t nearly as formal as Himuro, but the number of people she addresses casually can be counted on a hand. Even if I don’t consider it that big of a deal, for her it’s a huge leap that shouldn’t be happening so fast. It’s most likely because she’s unaware of how her powers are starting to influence her.

Mental Interference can easily be obstructed by Magic Resistance. That is why Physical Interference is the preferred method of dealing with an enemy magus. But there is also another risk—the risk of losing oneself in the process of working the mind of another.

To affect one’s mind as a magus and change their thought processes pulled their own along that same path depending on the means and methods. To get around that other means were utilized, such as psychology, artificial Mystic Eyes that work like projections, and so on.  But there is a difference between suppressing a memory to forget an event or hypnotism compared to linking minds together like we do.

It breaks down the separation of self and leaves us malleable to a greater degree—at least that’s what I believe.

Saegusa has no safeguard for her own thoughts and emotions inside her own head. She lacks the mindset to separate one identity from another with self-hypnosis that I do from my misspent years. How long until she changes because of that without realizing it?

Then again, even preparation and mindset aren’t perfect. Touching one’s mind can make you consider things. Make you reflect on yourself in ways you normally wouldn’t be able to.

Touching the emotions woven into the memories of both that woman from the future and Saegusa left a mark on me. I’ve been considering just what familial affection is because of them. How it relates to Sakura and myself.

Saegusa’s affection towards her younger siblings was something…warm. Light. It’s like a gentle breeze that caresses the heart, or so my sixth sense interprets.

Yet… I can’t relate to that when I think of Sakura.

I’m trying to make amends for everything I’ve done. But I just don’t have the same depth of emotions for Sakura that Saegusa has for her younger siblings. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d still be relatively sane after everything I did to her.

Not just to her body, but her mind.

I never shied away from reminding Sakura that her purpose was to be a plaything. I enjoyed bringing up that someone like Emiya would never want someone as dirty as her. That the only thing she’s good for was… things that I enjoyed at the time.

I could see it in her eyes that Sakura honestly took it to heart at some point too.

That’s why she never once made an attempt to be happy with Emiya after the war. Realistically, she’ll probably never seek out a lover. Even without looking into her mind I can tell she believes she’s been too dirtied to deserve such things it.

Did I even care that I ruined her in such a matter back then? Was I going to take care of her for the rest of her life as my toy, using her in the same way my own mother had been used to sire a heir? Or was I going to throw her away?

…Either way, the damage has been done.

I can’t take it back. I can’t even say that I’ll be alive or sane enough to take responsibility if things keep getting worse for me. Once I’m gone she’ll be alone with that burden.

Any chance of a normal sibling relationship is long gone. I’ve already crossed too many lines with her to even attempt that. There’s no going back.

But then I recall the warmth of Saegusa’s affection for her own siblings. The happiness she finds in being part of their lives. It feels… nice.

I can’t help but wonder if it that’s the way I’m supposed to feel about Sakura. I think at some point I even might have felt that way when we first met. But once I found out she was replacing me as heir all of that vanished.

Part of me wants more of it. To let down my guard and just feel the warm touch of Saegusa’s emotions as our mind’s meld. Just so I can reclaim a bit of what was lost.

Just as a little happiness to balance out everything I was dealing with. The Grail’s curse. The ruined future. All of it.

But I can’t take that risk with her.

Ayako still gets nervous when she feels my thoughts brush her mind. Everything in her body still rejects the brief glimpse of horrors in my head she witnessed. She’s a lot of things but frail isn’t one of them considering everything she’s gone through as a Drifter.

The same cannot be said for Saegusa. For a girl who lived an ordinary and happy life until now to be exposed to even a fraction of the mire in the back my mind… for someone whose thoughts and feelings are so easily exposed to experience those things …

The image of glasswork shattering comes to my mind.

Her psyche would break into too many pieces to really recover. Even if she did, she’d never be the same. The warmth she holds for her family. The guilt she bears from nearly getting her friends killed the last trip. All those things that make up the mousy, innocent girl in front of me would be no more.

I can’t be responsible for that. I can’t let those things be tainted and defiled because I let her into my head just to savor the feel of them. I can’t make the same mistake that I did with Sakura again…

‘Is everything alright?’

I realize I lost myself in thought the moment Saegusa’s warmth touches my mind like a cloud drifting on the wind. Her brows are folded in and her neck is tilted ever so slightly as she observes me. I pull my head back slightly and force a small smile as I lie.

Just coming up with a new training regimen. I think you need to practice with the others more often so you can use your powers more frequently. I’ll try to convince the sadist to lay off you until then.

The Student President wasn’t any softer on Saegusa than he was with me when he got back from his trip. Or any of them really. But the difference was that while the other two were no strangers to physical work, she was and often ended up the most exhausted. She just isn’t suited to using Rise in an offensive capacity like them.

You don’t have to,’ her mind whispered to mine. ‘I know it’s hard. But I need to be able to do everything I can to help everyone. That includes taking care of myself.

And despite it all Saegusa never once complains about the training. She doesn’t even harbor ill-will towards Ryuudou, even though every night so far she’s needed to be carried home from exhaustion. She just keeps forcing herself to get up and keep trying because she wants everyone to be safe.

‘…You’re pretty amazing, you know that?’

I’m pretty stingy when it comes to genuine praise, but it’s deserved. The fact that it coaxes a blossoming smile from her face shows she appreciates it as well. I have to say it suits her nicely.

“Hey, quit flirting in each other’s heads over there and get back to work!”

Unfortunately, Makidera ruins the moment with her thoughtless accusations. The warm expression turns to one of fluster. She avoids my gaze and tries to justify how happy she looked just moments ago. “I…it’s n-not like that…”

Makinoji…” Himuro’s voice came out a bit more frosty than normal. The light of the evening sun obscures her eyes behind her glasses. But I can imagine she’s glaring at the thoughtless monkey. “Please think carefully before you speak again tonight.”

She catches on she might have botched things from the expression on her face. But it’s too little and too late. We call it an evening a little later and put away everything before heading home.

Or at least the others do.

I stay behind just a little longer to make sure everything is in order. I didn’t want to have the sadist in my ear about a misplaced screwdriver or anything. Then I grab my bag and make my way out of the gates.

“May I have a word?”

That’s when Himuro calls out to me. She’s standing next to the wall on the outside of the gates, arms crossed.

“I thought you left with the others to escort Saegusa back to her home?”

“Since Maki was hungry and Saegusa wanted to get some snacks for her family, I told them I would catch up with them in Miyama. I didn’t want them to wait for me while I spoke with you in private.”

“Oh really?” I cross my arms and stand a little straighter. “Talk to me about what?”

She adjusts her glasses and meets my gaze. “I won’t defend what Maki did, but we’ve been friends for a long time now. She does tend to speak tactlessly, but in this case it’s because she picked up on how strangely Yukika acts around you. I’m sure you can understand that with everything going on, it’s somewhat worrying to us.”

“And she somehow interpreted that as us being lovers?” I nearly laugh. “A bit of a stretch, don’t you think?”

“I suppose it might seem that way to you, but…” She brings her hand to her chin and closes her eyes for a moment, as if in thought. “Before I say anything more, I would like your word that you’ll not utter a word of this to her. Agreed?”

I arch a brow. She approached me and now she wanted my word to keep silent about it. There should be a limit to how self-entitled you can be. But I humor her.  “Fine. Now spill.”

She opens her eyes and then takes on a firm expression. “The way she looks at you at times is really incomparable to how she was even a month ago. You were quite a notorious person during our Second Year and onwards. So much so that even she couldn’t help but hold some disdain towards the mention of your name.”

I clench my teeth for a moment at the thought of that happening. It’s a complete contradiction when she doesn’t even hold an inkling of hatred towards the one who worked her over during training. I barely even talked to her back then.

…But then I remember Blood Fort Andromeda and that they were among the victims. I can’t claim it’d be undeserved. Even if those memories were locked away or removed.

I let out my frustration with a sigh. “Your point being?”

“Even though there were rumors that you’d become upright or at least less abrasive, the impression from before remains so firmly entrenched that it’s hard to be shaken. Yet, there are moments when she looks at you and simply smiles like before. Since you saved her from that monstrous dog it’s like she has an… admiration for you, at the very least.”

I scratch my head and realize what she’s getting at. “…Listen, you don’t have all the facts so you’re piecing together a conclusion that isn’t right because of that. It isn’t love or admiration or whatever you think it is.”

“Then what is your perception of things?”

I payback her own entitlement with a demand of my own. “Do I have your word that this won’t reach any of the others?”

She nods without hesitation. “It would only be fair.”

I give a heavily abridged version of my thoughts on the matter. That I’ve had my own suspicions about how our powers might influence our personalities. That they are too far removed from what is normal to not have any drawbacks. That powers that aren’t purely physical might have a greater influence on the behavior.

I use the Student President as a reference. That he doesn’t pay consideration to pain because he believes he can heal anything short of death. He doesn’t empathize with it easily anymore or has at least seen and experienced wounds so egregious that anything short of that will be met with little concern.

She understands well enough. “In summation, you believe that she’s being nudged by her own powers because you two share a similar affinity with the same categorization of PSI. That it’s influencing her to an extent?”

I nod. “I’m lacking complete hard evidence, but the reason she was acting flustered earlier was because I made a note of her referring to me without honorifics. She hadn’t realized that she did so.  It’s not a big a deal for most people, but—”

Himuro picks up on the train of thought instantly. “She doesn’t refer to others so casually unless she’s well-acquainted with them. She’s a polite girl so it goes against her ingrained behavior. The fact that she did so unknowingly means that she regards you as being someone she can be comfortable with.”

Another nod. “I only brought it up so she’ll start thinking on any other things she might have done differently or open up a little more to the others. The only reason I haven’t shared this with anyone else is because we cannot have them being afraid of their own powers when it could mean the difference between life and death. More so when the circumstances can easily explain away these changes as well considering it is a rather perilous one.”

“I see…” She removes her glasses and looks down at the lenses in silence for a moment. “I can’t say I’d thought it out to the same depths as you, but I had considered that not everything was as clear as it might have been. There are so many uncertainties about everything else and now we can’t even be certain if any changes we make are of our own will.”

I remain silent to let her process everything. Someone who runs off pure emotion won’t handle it well. But Himuro is logical to a greater extent than the majority of people in the school. She’ll take that into consideration and put that before her emotions. Or so I hope.

“The best we can do is survive first and foremost. And to do that we must change, knowingly or unknowingly. Willingly or unwillingly. As long as it doesn’t completely take away from who we are, I believe we can at least claim that we are the sum of our own decisions.”

Settling on that conclusion she replaces her glasses. “So be it then.”

I sling my bag over my shoulder. “That should settle things then. I’ll leave it to you to explain to the loud one there isn’t anything romantic between Saegusa and myself. I don’t have any inclinations to seek out a lover with everything going, and even if I did, she doesn’t deserve to be stuck with a guy like me.”

That done, I start walking back home in silence. Himuro doesn’t say anything to acknowledge the discussion any further. Then again, nothing to be said now that she has reached her own resolve about how to approach things: To survive we’ll have to change, knowingly or unknowingly. Willingly or unwillingly.

In hindsight, I suppose we can only blame ourselves for what happened a few days later. That was when we returned to that future where the vampire awaited us. That was when we did something we’d regret for the rest of our lives beneath the ashen sky. It was…

The sum of our decisions.

 


Fanfic Recommendation 96

 


My Fanfics


 

A Lily Blossoms In Kanto 18

Summary: Lillie’s adventure in Kanto to become a Pokémon trainer begins with an attempted kidnapping. Not the best start, but she’s still determined to become a great trainer even as things left in Alola start following her into the wider world.

 

 


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Ashen Oak

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: As the 13-year old Granddaughter of Professor Oak, Gina wanted nothing more than to rush through all eight Gyms to reach the summit of the Indigo Plateau. But the moment she heard about all the trouble that her childhood friend Ash kept getting up to, she decided to tag along to make sure that he didn’t get over his head.


A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


The Hero Nobody Knows 9 – 10

A Fate Kaleid AU Fanfic

Summary: A Prisma Illya spin-off centered around Shirou Emiya receiving the Archer Class-card, only it syncs him up with the EMIYA Alter spirit.


(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 18

Chapter 18: Doubles and Triples

“Heh, you took some time coming back after your last match,” said a young boy as he stood on his end of Nugget Bridge. Youngster Cole was the current third-in-line of those who served in the challenge, meant to be the opponent that Lillie would face. “Been a while since we had any new blood, so I’ve been waiting for this.”

“Sorry about that,” she told him with an apologetic gesture. “I wanted to train everyone a little more before I came back.”

Indeed, it had been about three days now since Lillie had come to the bridge. She couldn’t say they’d made immense progress in learning their new moves, but they needed practice against actual opponents too. That, and the fact that Snubbull was getting antsy to prove himself while Koko wanted to see if her Icy Wind would work in an actual battle.

“It’s fine. Let’s just get going with a Doubles Battle!” The eager Youngster held up a pair of pokéballs before tossing them into the air. “Come out, Don and Bron!”

The balls burst open and light spilled forth, giving shape to two different pokémon. The first was a Kantonian Geodude. Unlike the Alolan variant, it didn’t have the metal-like skin or protrusions but looked more like a large rock with two arms. It gave an eager smile that could match its trainer as it slammed one fist into its other’s palm.

The second pokémon was one Lillie hadn’t seen before, flat and round and rimmed by six dark blue orbs on the perimeter of its metal body. Rotom floated over toward it and began to fluster the metal pokémon with a snap of its camera, leaving the yellow, round eyes to blink rapidly for a moment. Then it spun around in a quick motion and batted Rotom away before it floated off the surface of the bridge next to the Geodude.

Rotom,” Lillie said in a reproaching tone as the Living Pokédex bounced upon hitting the bridge and then righted itself in the air, holding one of its appendages to its frame. “I thought you learned your lesson already?”

Zzt… first time seeing a Bronzor, Rotom said, trying to justify its actions as it floated back over to her relatively unscratched. At this point, she could only be thankful those pokédex cases were built to last. It’zzz a Steel and Psychic type, for the record.

Well, at least knowing that makes it easier choosing who to send out then, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out her choices. “Bellamy, Snubbull, you’re up.”

“Sprout?” Bellamy inquired after emerging from the confines of his ball. The Flower Pokémon took a moment upon being released to take in the sight of the bridge and tried to grasp the situation, his bulbous head shifting back and forth.

Snubbull, meanwhile, stood proud as he immediately faced the pair opposite them and pointed his stubby little arm at them. “Snubbull! Snub!”

In response, the Geodude chuckled. Then it gestured towards itself with its arms before extending them out to its sides. “Dude. Geodude.”

“Remember, work with Bellamy, Snubbull,” Lillie gently reminded the puppy that had fallen onto all fours and was bristling. “It’s a Doubles Battle, not one-on-one.”

His answer was to look at his nervous, willowy partner and give him a gruff bark. “Snub!”

“All right, we got this Don and Bron,” Cole said, his rousing speech filled with passion and youthful energy before he pointed to Lillie. “Now, make your move challenger!”

Lillie obliged. “Okay, then. Bellamy, use Vine Whip on the Geodude while Snubbull goes for the other one!”

The Bellsprout released his sinuous vines from the buds between his stalk and leafy appendages, shooting them out across the gap towards the Rock Pokémon as it hovered there while Snubbull darted forward to sink his flaming fangs into solid steel. The Bronzor that had been floating next to Bellamy’s target was grabbed and used as a shield to intercept the blow, a gong-like sound ringing out as the tips of the vines slammed against the leaf-like marking upon its back. He retracted them as Snubbull lunged, fire popping into existence around his fangs as he prepared to bring them crashing down on the makeshift shield.

BOOM!!

Fire erupted and obscured Lillie’s vision for a moment before a breeze wafted and blew away the smoke to reveal that the Bronzor was being held behind the Geodude by one of its hands, while the other was between Snubbull’s jaws. It had pulled its partner pokémon out of the way and substituted its arm, wearing the same grin it had previously as Snubbull snarled while his teeth were still wrapped around the stone limb. Then the Rock Pokémon brought its partner down on his head.

THONG!

Lillie winced at the resounding metallic sound as he was knocked away. “Snubbull, are you okay?”

The puppy sat up on his rear, lightly rubbing the spot with his stumpy little arms. “Bulll…lll…

Can you even use another pokémon as a weapon, zzt? Rotom inquired.

“No rule against it!” the Youngster shouted back. “This is just how our teamwork is!”

Snubull managed to regain his senses, shaking his head vigorously and snarling at the pair. The Geodude grinned, spinning the Bronzor on a finger like a disk with one hand and gesturing for him to come again with the other. Riled up, the puppy got back onto all fours and rushed back in to confront the pair. “BULL!

It was predictably a trap as the Geodude flipped the Bronzor around so that it was facing Snubbull as its eyes shone with psychic power. Hypnotic waves rippled out and made the Fairy Pokémon go from a charge to a sluggish crawl before falling over, asleep. Then, tossing the Bronzor up into the air, the Geodude clasped its hands together before pulling them apart to reveal a sphere of light that transformed into a stone that began to grow until it was the size of Geodude itself.

“Bellamy, help Snubbull!” Lillie called as the Geodude then raised its hands and made a throwing motion that sent the stone flying towards Snubbull. The Flower Pokémon did so by sending his vines across the distance and snatching the sleeping puppy out of the path of the rock that shattered into fragments on impact with the bridge. “Good, now wake him up!”

Frantic in lieu of the pace of the battle, Bellamy then tried to wake his partner up by using his leafy limbs to shake Snubbull awake. But he couldn’t before the Bronzor released a Confusion attack, bundled as a ball of telekinetic energy, towards the pair. The blast knocked them apart, leaving Bellamy to land on his back while Snubbull rolled onto his feet and snarled as he woke up grumpy at taking the bulk of it.

“Snubbull, Bellamy, are you both okay?” Lillie asked. Bellamy made a slight waving motion while as he managed to get back on his tiny roots. Snubbull, meanwhile, bristled at the opposing pair and then ran in again to attack.

Sighing at his brashness, Lillie opted to try to work around Snubbull’s inability to sit still for the moment. “Bellamy, I want you to use Growth like we did in practice. I have an idea.”

The Flower Pokémon bobbed his head before looking up to the morning sun and drinking up the light.

“Rock Throw!” Her opponent bellowed, focused on the immediate threat of the Fairy Pokémon closing in with fire licking his teeth. Geodude clasped his hands again and conjured not one large stone, but three smaller ones. He then flung them towards the puppy with the intention of halting his charge.

But Snubbull proved deft on his feet this time. Even before being picked up by Lillie, he had been fighting for weeks against other pokémon and trainers before he ran out of luck—hitting and running. He dodged the rocks, bouncing from side-to-side as he closed the distance, eyes fixed on the Bronzor as flames licked his teeth. “Bull!”

“Hypnosis!” ordered the Youngster.

The Bronzor’s eyes grew luminous again as it prepared to release slumber-inducing hypnotic waves. The Geodude was already preparing to take advantage of that by clasping its hands together for another Rock Throw—

“Bellamy, now!”

—but a pair of sinuous vines shot forward from behind Snubbull like arrows, sparkling beads of light gleaming off them from Growth. The empowered vines slammed into the Bronzor hard enough to release a metallic thong and knock the floating Bronze Pokémon astray. That left Geodude staring down a vicious pair of teeth wreathed in flames right before the jaws snapped shut.

BUUULLLLL!!!

Then flames erupted and consumed them both in smoke.

The two pokémon were hidden from view until a meaty thump was followed by a pink bundle of fur emerging from the smoke. Snubbull was thrown out of the lingering veil, having taken a retaliatory punch that hit hard enough he bounced once more on the surface of the bridge. Yet there was a grin on his face as he came to a stop and brought his stubby little paw to his cheek.

The reason why was made clear when the smoke cleared away and revealed the Rock Pokémon shaking in place as flames seeped from its body.

Don was burned!

Gee…oooo…” Its voice came out strained as it writhed in pain. Fire-types weren’t common around these parts and, for the first time, its shell of stone had become an oven as the flames took root deeply, sinking into the muscles beneath its hard exterior as the Bronzor floated over to check on its partner.

Snubbull had never been one to pass up an advantage. While the Rock Pokémon was battling against the heat searing at its muscles, he eyed the floating Bronzor that turned its back onto him. Then he immediately fell onto all fours to lunge for it a second time with fire licking his fangs in a surprise attack.

But no sooner than he was within biting range did Geodude act in defense of its companion. It brushed aside the vulnerable Bronze Pokémon and crossed its arms to take the hit, a second explosion of heat and smoke coming about to engulf them. This time Snubbull immediately hopped out of the smokescreen and put distance between them.

Lillie took in the sight of the puppy as wisps of flames escaped his mouth. His breath was coming out heavier and it looked like a bruise was forming where he’d been hit. He needed a Potion at the very least, but he was still better off compared to his competition given scorch marks scoured Geodude’s stony exterior as it held one eye open and its arms drooped down.

It had taken a beating. And Bellamy was still in the process of using Growth while Snubbull insisted on throwing himself in front of them. If they acted now, they probably could end things. But Lillie still wanted to offer him a chance to back down before any excess damage was done.

“You’d better call back your Geodude,” she told her competition. “It can’t take another hit like that and remain conscious.”

Her offer was rejected. “Shake it off, Don! You’re not going to let a few flames snuff out your fighting spirit, are you?”

The words roused Geodude’s spirits as it eyed Snubbull and let out a sound. The Bronzor flew into one of its hands and it reeled that arm back, holding its other one out with the fingers spread as if measuring the distance while Snubbull snarled. Then it gestured for the puppy to come with a grin on its face that Lillie felt was meant to bait him in on purpose.

SNUBBULL!

Unfortunately, he bought it. He charged for them as a shroud of energy seemingly blanketed the Bronzor until it was as white as a discus and then flung it at Snubbull mid-lunge. The moment it connected there was a surprisingly bright explosion that engulfed the two of them.

Don used Fling!

A Critical Hit!

Lillie brought her arm up to keep her eyes shielded until she heard a thump hit the bridge and then peered past her sleek arm to see the puppy struggling to stand up once more. “Ah! Snubbull, are you okay?”

Sn…bu…” he groaned softly, little arms shaking as he slowly got back onto his hind legs. There he swayed, looking pretty beaten from the blow despite the fact that the heat gnawing at his foe’s muscles and the typing alone should have stemmed the worst of the throw. “Bull…”

Who turnzzz their pokémon into ammunition for Fling, zrt? Rotom inquired, limbs moving at odd angles.

“There’s no rule against it after all,” the boy insisted. “It’s like having your pokémon use a move on its partner pokémon that will help them out. Besides, Bron is tough enough to take it.”

“Even if you say that, your Geodude can’t fight anymore.” Lillie pointed to the Rock Pokémon that drooped down onto the bridge as the flames that’d continued to ravage him from the inside-out finally took their toll. It collapsed onto the bridge, unconscious.

Bu…ll!” Snubbull huffed, victorious. Then it raised a shaking arm towards the remaining pokémon, as if to say it was its turn next. “Sn…Snubull…

The Bronzor, having recovered from being used as live ammunition, narrowed its gaze towards Snubbull as azure light radiated from them. A ball of psychic energy built up in front of it, the Confusion directly aimed at the puppy that was barely on its feet. It released the blast with a metallic sound.

“Bellamy!” Lillie called out. Sinuous vines speared out across the distance, scooping the Fairy Pokémon up before the bundle of psychic energy hit the surface of the bridge and then came unbounded with enough force that it would have definitely knocked him out.

“Snub!” Snubbull barked towards the Flower Pokémon as it dangled him over his head, supported via his Growth-imbued vines. When Bellamy tilted his bell in confusion, the puppy made a slight circle with his arm and pointed towards the Bronze Pokémon. Bellamy made an inquiring sound, but another bark led to him abruptly spinning Snubbull around in circles with his vines before suddenly chucking him at the Bronzor while he used Fire Fang.  “BUULLLLL!!”

BOOOM!!

The resulting explosion lit up with space between them before the Bronze Pokémon hit the bridge with a loud noise, unconscious. As for Snubbull, he stumbled on his feet for a moment as the smoke cleared and let out a victorious half-bark… before suddenly falling over onto his face.

“Snubbull, you’re not supposed to copy them!” Lillie said as she ran over to check on him. He was coughing out tufts of smoke as he huffed, his flesh bruised from throwing himself headfirst into a pokémon made of solid metal. Yet, as she cradled him in her arms, he let out a proud chuff. “Ah, just rest for now, okay?”

She couldn’t help but sigh as she returned him to his ball. Then she looked over to her Flower Pokémon as he waddled over while looking like he expected a scolding for such recklessness. Instead, she gently patted him on his bell. “I can’t say I approve of that plan at the end, but you still helped him as best you could. Good job, Bellamy.”

He accepted the praise with a delighted sound. Then the Youngster came over and stamped her card. It was her third step in completing the bridge challenge.

Lillie received an Orange Stamp!

Since Bellamy was relatively unharmed and she had her other pokémon wanting the chance to go, Lillie decided to press on to the fourth section of the bridge. This time there was a young woman who looked to be about Lillie’s age, if only a year or two older. She was dressed in a camping scout uniform that seemed native to the region.

She gave Lillie a slight wave and smile. “Good job making it this far. Not many people get here in such a short time. I’m Misa, by the way.”

“Well, I can’t say it’s been easy,” Lillie said, lightly brushing her arm while Koko flicked her tail and chilled the air around them. “Uh, anyway, the battle format is three-on-three for you, right?”

The Picnicker nodded her head as she held up a pair of balls in one hand and a third in her other. “Yep. No substitutions, and we’ll go until one side is unable to battle or the trainer surrenders. Agreed?”

“Sure.” Lillie consented before releasing the Mold Pokémon between Koko and Bellamy. Then she crouched down and smiled.  “Win or lose, what matters is that you three remember to work together, okay?”

Koko yipped. Bellamy nodded. Shuckle bobbed his head. That agreed upon, they all turned to face their opposition when the sound of three Poké Balls bursting open reach their ears gave way to light taking shape.

Two of them were small, rodent-like pokémon that had blue and purple fur with darker spots in certain places, larger buckteeth, and spines running over their bodies. It gave the impression of them being different variants of the same species. The last was a yellow duck that stood upright, clutching its head between its paws and had a somewhat blank stare as it quirked its head.

Nidoran (Male) and Nidoran (Female), the Poison Pin Pokémon, Rotom began. The male has a larger horn than the female and is quite powerful, but the female has a more potent poison. Psyduck, the Duck Pokémon. Despite being a Water-Type, it possesses latent psychic powers. However, using them gives it a headache, so it normally passes time doing as little as possible.

Lillie took that information into account against her current team, but felt compelled to ask, “If it gets a headache when using its psychic powers, will your Psyduck be alright in a battle?”

“You’re sweet, but you don’t need to worry about him,” Misa said as she gently patted the Duck Pokémon on his head. “Psyduck trainers usually buy medicine that helps keep the worst of their headaches away until they evolve. So, you’d better treat him as a serious opponent, or you’ll regret it.”

That said, she took several steps back and pulled out a coin. “Now, to determine who’ll go first we’ll use the flip of a coin. You get heads, I get tails. Agreed?”

Lillie nodded. “Sure.”

“Here we go.” The Picnicker proceeded to flip the coin into the air before catching it and then slamming it against the back of her opposite hand. “Heads! Your move!”

MATCH START!

“Okay then, Bellamy use Vine Whip on Psyduck!” Lillie ordered, pointing towards it. The Psyduck would be a problem for both Bellamy and Shuckle if it had access to both Psychic and Water techniques. Taking him out first while Bellamy had the advantage would be more prudent.

“Bell-ell!” The Flower Pokémon reared his sinuous body backwards and then swung forward as the little buds near his arm released the lengthy vines. They flew across the distance like lunging serpents, slithering in the air as they made for the vacant-looking Water-Type—

““NIDO!””

—when both were snatched out of the air by the Nidoran pair. Moving in near-perfect sync, both lunged to catch the vines between their mouths as they crossed one another in front of Psyduck. That left the vines crisscrossed down the middle as the pair then held the vines in place, the lengths going taut as Bellamy struggled to pull them back.

“Good job, you two~” Misa praised with a cheery tone before addressing her third pokémon. “Now, use Disable on Bellsprout!”

The Psyduck focused its vacant gaze down the vines and towards Bellamy before they were made to glow with the hue of psychic power. “Psyyyyy…

Bellamy went rigid as that same color coated his body from root to bell. The vines that had been pulled taut then went slack, drooping down the center and eventually laying sprawled on the ground as the two Poison Pin Pokémon let go. He couldn’t retract them, which caused him to begin fidgeting with them using his leafy appendages. “Sp-sprout!?”

“Don’t panic, Bellamy,” Lillie told him. It was no different than what the Venonat had done before, meaning it would wear off. “Just give it a little time and you’ll be fine.”

She then looked to Koko as her body shone briefly, recognizing it as Snow Warning triggering to boost the power of her Ice-attacks… except the light faded out and the sky above remained clear, leaving Koko to let out a small whine of uncertainty. “Koko, what’s wrong?”

“That would be Psyduck’s Ability at work,” Misa chimed in, diverting their attention towards the Duck Pokémon as a similar shroud to Koko’s faded from his body. “It’s called Cloud Nine, and because of it the area around Psyduck is shielded from moves that change the weather. That means your cute little Vulpix’s Ability and Sunny Day, if your Bellsprout has it, won’t trigger.”

No sooner than the battle had begun Lillie was at a tremendous disadvantage as the sun and the snow that her pokémon would benefit from were denied to her. And the situation only got worse when her opponent began her counterattack with the Nidoran pair. “Use Double Kick on the Vulpix and Shuckle!”

““NIDORAN!”” The Poison Pin Pokémon broke into a sprint towards Lillie’s group of three with surprising speed. As one they both leaped forward to deliver a set of flying kicks towards their targets, an Ice-Type and Rock-Type respectively, with their legs aglow with power to deliver the Fighting-Type attacks.

Still flustered by having her Ability suppressed for the first time, Koko was ill-prepared to avoid the hit being sent her way by the female Nidoran. The hit would have caught her head-on, had Bellamy not put himself in front of the blow haphazardly. As a result, the glowing kick caught him straight in his bell-shaped head and promptly sent him sailing over Koko until he flopped on the ground.

Ironically, in contrast, Shuckle was the only one who hadn’t been slow on the uptake as he quickly wove a Protect to shield himself from the attack. The male Nidoran’s kick slammed against the fragile barrier and shattered it easily, as he hadn’t mastered the technique, but it dulled the strength and speed of the kick enough that he could Withdraw into his shell that shone in time for him to take the little damage that bled over relatively unharmed.

“Koko, push her back with Powder Snow! Shuckle, try using Constrict on the other one!” Lillie called out. The Alolan Vulpix hastily breathed out a plume of white and blue frost that forced her opponent backward towards her side of the field, while the Mold Pokémon’s own fell back to avoid the sinuous and sticky limbs that began to writhe and stretch. “Bellamy, are you okay?”

Koko gave him an inquiring poke as well. “Pix?”

Sp…sprout…” The Flower Pokémon waved a leafy appendage upright as if attempting to say he was fine. But it was clear that hit hadn’t been soft from how he swayed in the process of rising back up.

“Don’t strain yourself,” Lillie told him before addressing Koko. “Try to catch them all with an Icy Wind!”

Koko nodded and then turned back to her opponents, inhaling deeply enough that the fur on her chest seemingly puffed out. Then she exhaled and what came out was a surging wave of white and blue frost, air chilled so deeply that it would seep past the flesh and gnaw into the muscles. It rushed down the retreating pair of Nidorans and the vacant-looking Psyduck, intent on washing over them all—

“Bunker down with Light Screen!”

—when suddenly a wonderous wall of light appeared in front of the Duck Pokémon as his eyes shone once more with the psychic hue. “Psyyyyyduck!!

The Nidoran pair jumped over the wall and above his head before quickly hiding behind the Duck Pokémon. The bulwark forged of psychic energy strained like glass under pressure as it blunted the force of the attack, leaving only the fringes of the Icy Wind to lap at the fur of the two Poison Pin Pokémon until it petered out. The wall then shattered into motes of glowing light that hovered around them all, coating and clinging to their fur even as the Nidoran pair shook off the icy particles that did manage to catch them.

Zzzt, Light Screen will weaken any non-physical attackzzz used against them, Rotom warned. Koko’s attacks won’t be as effective until the light fades, zzrt.

Even Icy Wind won’t work now… Lillie’s lips pursed as her mind ran through the opening exchange. This is really bad. We’re at a complete disadvantage.

Those Poison-Type Pokémon were naturally strong against Fairy-Types like Snubbull, so they’d resist Koko’s strongest attack on top of most of Bellamy’s attacks. And they knew Fighting-Type moves too, which Koko and Shuckle were weak against. Add that with the fact that Psyduck’s Ability meant neither could take advantage of their own, and he knew Disable on top of Light Screen…

“The battles up until now were to teach newer trainers lessons on the different aspects of the battles,” Misa said, wearing a smile as if she’d read her mind. “Luka teaches the timing of attacks, Amaya teaches working under pressure, and Cole teaches teamwork. I bring all of those lessons together to see how well you manage when the odds are stacked against you.”

It wasn’t simply a Triple Battle between the Pokémon. It was a battle of strategy and coordination that relied on how well a trainer could adapt. Misa had the advantage of typing, experience, and even techniques. If Lillie was going to prevail, she needed a way to tip the scales back in their favor.

“Now, attack them again with Double Kick you two!” Misa ordered her pair of Nidoran. The Poison Pin Pokémon darted forward on the command, splitting apart in order to strike from the left and right of the two pokémon that happened to be weak to Fighting-Type techniques. They both lunged with their legs aglow—

“Sprout!”

—when the sinuous vines that had been lying limp on the ground abruptly flared out and caught the two midair, where they couldn’t avoid it. The Disable had worn out just in time for Bellamy’s Vine Whip to catch them both, smacking them to the side and throwing their attack off before they retracted back to Bellamy.

“Nice save, Bellamy!” Lillie cheered. “Shuckle, try to pin them down with Sticky Web!”

The Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled before it spat out globs of bug glue that stretched out into webbing as it met with the air friction. But both of the Poison Pin Pokémon were deft on their feet as they avoided the two bundles of webbing. They bounced around, holding the attention of the gathered until Misa gave the order to the Duck Pokémon to go on the offense.

“Water Pulse!” While she hadn’t said which one to attack, there was really only one viable target: Shuckle.

“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie shouted as Psyduck opened its bill and water began to pool in front of it into a sphere the size of its head. The Mold Pokémon immediately began to weave its defensive shell, the air seemingly crystalizing in front of it. He barely finished just before the cannonball of water slammed into it, shattering the defensive bulwark while leaving water splashing over him uncomfortably.

“Disable!” Misa commanded. “Nido, Leer! Nina, Double Kick!”

The oppressive psychic shroud veiled Shuckle, leaving him to frown as he felt his ability to use Protect being suppressed by Psyduck. Then came a baleful glare from the male Nidoran as its eyes took on a crimson hue that meshed with the cerulean of the Disable. He shook his head at the unpleasant feeling as the female Nidoran rushed in with her legs aglow before he could shake off having his defenses compromised—

“Koko! Bellamy! Help him!”

—that was when snow-white fur darted in-between them as Koko rushed in and braced herself to release a frost-laden gale with a deep exhale of Powder Snow. Caught in a sudden snowstorm, the Nidoran faltered as it began to drape her in a blanket of encroaching ice. Then came the sinuous vines as Bellamy lashed out to rebuke her, knocking her aside.

“Pin her down, Shuckle!” Lillie ordered and the Mold Pokémon obeyed. Whipping his head around, he spat out another glob of Sticky Web and it splashed over the female Nidoran, leaving her flailing in it but unable to move. With one tied up, the odds were a little more even. “Koko, Moonblast on Psyduck now!”

The Alolan Vulpix was wreathed in a pink aura that pooled in front of her mouth before being let loose as a pink orb towards the Duck Pokémon. Psyduck stared at the incoming attack with a slightly tilted look on its face, seemingly without any intention of dodging the hit. Instead, the male Nidoran threw itself into the attack before it could hit the intended target and the pink-hued explosion wrapped him in a veil of smoke…

Then he emerged through the smoke only lightly singed, taking her strongest attack and still able to stand due to a combination of typing and the lingering glint of the Light Screen. “Nido!”

“Good boy!” the Picnicker praised. “Now, Double Kick on her Vulpix!”

Without hesitation, he rushed for Koko with his legs aglow. Koko tried to let loose a Powder Snow and bury it in the cold winds. But it bound off to the side at an angle, getting off the line of the attack, and then whipped around on its forepaws to throw its hind legs forward before she could react.

It’s Super-Effective!

The impact was hard enough that Lillie could practically feel it when Koko was batted aside. She could only watch as her small frame hit the ground and bounced off the surface of the bridge, before tumbling to a stop next to Shuckle. Her legs curled as small tremors ran across her body and she whimpered. “Koko!”

“Sorry, but I can’t go easy!” Misa said. “Finish her with Double Kick!”

He moved to do so when the sinuous vines danced. Bellamy waddled over with his root-like legs, his vines flailing about in an effort to keep him from getting close enough to deliver the finishing blow. There was little rhyme or reason to it beyond the panicked efforts to keep her safe, but it served as a deterrent as the Nidoran focused on avoiding them.

Lillie let out a sigh of relief.

“Don’t breathe easy yet,” Misa warned. “Nina, Poison Sting and keep it coming!”

The female Nidoran trapped within the Sticky Web aimed her opened maw towards the downed Koko and let loose small needles that were a deep shade of purple. The spray was meant to be wide, weak in itself but more than enough to finish off Koko in her injured state. And Bellamy couldn’t keep the male distracted and cover her.

So Shuckle did it instead. The Mold Pokémon stretched its limbs out, wrapping Koko within his grasp and pulling her against his shell as he covered her. The rain of purple needles battered and broke where they met his tough shell, but several found the appendages and then sank in deep, coloring the points of the impacts the same shade of purple. “Kle!”

He’s been Poizzoned! Rotom exclaimed. He won’t last long, zrt!

Vul?” a muffled sound from Koko, sheltered from the attack and out of view as the female Nidoran continued her attack between breaths.

Shuuucklle,” he cried as more of his exposed appendages were being shaded purple while reddish wisps began to escape from his body. “Kllle!”

Shuckle is storing energy!

“Ohhh, it’s trying to use Bide before the poison can knock it out,” Misa said in recognition. “But in its current state, it can’t take a solid hit to something its weak to. Water Pulse!”

From its position, at Shuckle’s unprotected flank, Psyduck readied another sphere of compressed water and let it loose. Shuckle was sturdy enough that he could last a little longer against the spray of poisonous needles. But between the earlier attacks and his Protect being disabled, he couldn’t take a hit from that.

So Bellamy took a page out of the male Poison Pin Pokémon’s book and flung his willowy body bell-first into the attack, intercepting it. The sphere ruptured, sending Bellamy flying overhead only to plop down on the bridge, where his head struggled to rise up again.

But after a moment, it lost all strength. The collective damage had been too much. He passed out.

And with the only obstacle in his way removed, the male Nidoran moved to complete his original objective by bounding towards the turtled Shuckle with the intention of delivering its own finishing blow before the blood-tinged aura around it could be unleashed. He threw himself into a kick with both hindlegs present when a gap in-between Shuckle’s purple-stained limb appeared.

Koko used Powder Snow!

What emerged was a nearly point-blank burst of condensed frost, a wintry breath that slammed into the Poison Pin Pokémon full blast. The white veil swallowed the Nidoran’s small body as a crackling sound filled the air. And when it finally petered out, what was left was a frozen statue positioned in front of the snout of the Alolan Vulpix.

Nidoran was frozen solid!

“Pix!” Koko barked. It was a signal from what Lillie could tell, because Shuckle didn’t hesitate to act. He unleashed the built-up power he’d accumulated as he lashed out with the remainder of his strength.

Shuckle unleashed the energy!

His appendage wreathed in red shot forward, slamming into the frozen male Nidoran. The impact was so hard that the ice encasing him shattered and sent him flying. Then he crashed into his bound partner, causing the battery of Poison Stings to cease.

“Nido!, Nina!” Misa called out, but neither responded. Both had been knocked out.

Shuu…shu…” Panting, Shuckle coughed out some purple bubbles before Koko crawled out from beneath him. Then his head drooped to the ground. The poison finished its work, robbing him of his consciousness at last.

Bellamy… Shuckle…” They had both given their all to protect Koko when she was injured and, because of that, she was the last one standing. More than that, Lillie realized from around her mouth was what looked to be frozen berry mush that Shuckle must’ve let her eat to heal up a bit. “Come back, you two.”

She returned them to their balls as Misa did the same to her unconscious pair, leaving only Koko and Psyduck on the field.

“It’s been a while since I lost two pokémon in a Triples battle,” Misa said. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re any worse at one-on-one. Confusion!”

PSSYYYY—” Not deterred at the lack of support from her Nidoran pair, Psyduck’s eyes shone with a cerulean hue as it bundled up into a ball of telekinetic energy. Then launched it towards the Alolan Vulpix with a quack. “DUCK!

Koko avoided it by bounding to the side, her hackles raised as a pink aura began to build around her—

“Koko, don’t!”

—the aura faded as she looked back and let out an inquiring, “Vul?”

“Focus on just dodging for now while I think of something,” she said. Koko’s expression made it clear she didn’t understand why. But she obeyed as Psyduck released another telekinetic cannonball towards her.

We’re in a bad spot, Lillie couldn’t help but think as Koko avoided the next Confusion attack. Psyduck was a Water-Type, meaning it had an advantage against Koko’s Ice attacks. Outside of that she only had Moonblast to use, but it could always put up a Light Screen to blunt their collective attacks, and then Disable to stop her from using it again. But… that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still affect it.

Nodding to herself, she addressed her Starter. “Koko, keep using Powder Snow on Psyduck!”

The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline blue eyes narrowed as she inhaled until her tiny chest swelled. Then she let loose another stream of the frost-laden gale. The breath of winter ran forward and blanketed the Psyduck, who stood there and let it wash over him as a Light Screen appeared and caught the bulk of it before shattering to leave glimmering particles covering it.

“You’re faster than it, so just keep running circles around it and using Powder Snow!” Lillie pointed out. Speed was the one definite advantage that they had over Psyduck, allowing her to release the chilling breath as she closed the distance and left its glimmering yellow body covered with flakes of frost.

“That won’t do much of anything to Psyduck!” Misa said as her pokémon shook off the first flurry and its eyes shone with psychic power. Then it released another Confusion attack, sending yet another telekinetic bundle of energy sailing towards Koko.

The Alolan Vupix managed to hop to the side as it crashed into the bridge, retaliating with yet another blast of Powder Snow. As the frost-laden gale washed over the Duck Pokémon yet again, it was a little slower in shaking it off a second time.

“Once more!” Lillie said.

PIXXXXX!” breathed Koko as she strained her ice pouch to let out an even strong breath until the sound of crackling ice filled the air.

Psyduck was frozen solid!

Koko stirred. “Vul?”

“Resistance isn’t immunity,” Lillie explained. “Even with Light Screen, a constant series of ice attacks would eventually give it enough grounding to freeze so it can’t use Disable or refresh the Light Screen. That’s why Lynn used Sing to get around Bellamy’s immunity to Sleep Powder, and why Pieri used Safeguard with Lynn.”

It was fortunate they had that training match after all. It was only because she remembered how Lynn had outpaced Snubbull that she opted to even thought to keep going in circles until it stuck. “Now, ready your strongest Moonblast before it thaws!”

Snow-white fur was shrouded in a veil of pink as Koko amassed her most powerful attack, a swirling orb that building up in front of her. The orb swelled until its size surpassed that of the Alolan Vulpix herself, a dense concentration of energy that she fired forward like a cannonball.  “PIX!

A Critical Hit!

The moment the swollen orb connected, it ruptured violently and sent shards of ice flying in all directions. When the pink-hued smoke cleared, Psyduck was laying on the ground while still holding onto his head. He stared towards the sky unflinching as smoke wafted off his yellow coat without making a singe movement.

“…Ahhh, he’s out cold.” Misa said after a moment, pulling out his ball and returning him. Then she sighed. “Looks like we lost this one.”

Match End!

The tension holding up Lillie’s body fled her with the admission, leaving her to let out a heavy breath and slouch over as her mother’s Lilligant patted her on the back and Koko scurried back in her direction. “That was nerve-wracking…”

“If it wasn’t then I wouldn’t be doing my job,” Misa said humorously as she strolled up towards them.  “But look on the bright side: you just have to beat one more pokémon to pass the challenge.”

Lillie received a Green Stamp!

“You mean the final trainer only uses a single pokémon?” Lillie asked after Misa applied her stamp.

“Let me call him so you can see for yourself.” Misa went over the side of the bridge, looking down towards the under-bridge that ran beneath the large one they were on. “Kado! Come introduce yourself!”

Lillie tilted her head in curiosity as she picked up Koko, only for a young man who was maybe a few years older than her to suddenly rise into the air from over the edge of the bridge. He was wearing what looked like a Fisherman’s vest, but with no shirt beneath it, and a pair of swim trunks. There was a pair of goggles on his head as well.

Climbing over the side of the railing, he gave Lillie a bright smile as whatever hoisted him into the air sank back down to the water. “Finally, someone made it past Misa. I was getting bored.”

“You’re the final bridge trainer?” Lillie asked.

He nodded. “I used to be a Gym Trainer, back before Leader Misty got married and went off to join the Elite Four. Not too long ago the Mayor asked me to head the gauntlet and I agreed since I wanted to keep the spirit of it alive.”

If he was a Gym Trainer, then there was no doubt in Lillie’s mind he was talented. The man who gave her the stamp card mentioned earlier that the bridge would act more like an actual Gym by the end. That meant Kado was likely on par with a Gym Leader then—at least relative to her.

“Anyway, the final match will be 1-on-3 the next time you come by,” he continued. “The conditions of victory will be to the knockout or surrender. If you can beat my pokémon with even one of yours still conscious by the end, you get the final stamp and win the challenge.”

Zzzzimple enough, Rotom chimed in before floating in a circle around the former Gym Trainer. What pokémon will you be using, zrt?

To that, Kado only chuckled and then snapped his fingers. Then the water behind him exploded upwards in a spout as a long figure leaped from depths and over the railing of the bridge, streamlets cascading down its serpentine form as the blue scales along its back glistened in the light. A pair of furrowed eyes cast its gaze down upon them, reminding them all that they were very small as its shadow loomed over them and a rumble left its throat.

“Meet my Gyarados,” Kado said, resting a hand against its underbelly. “You’ll have to beat him to win.”

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

“Here you go,” Bill said as he set down a cup on a saucer atop the kitchen table for his guest.

In turn, Lusamine’s emerald eyes peered up from the tablet that was in front of her. “Thank you.”

The researcher nodded and then took a seat across from her. “Was the data different than that of the Aether Foundation’s?”

“Not quite,” she said. The screen had the data and reports about her current condition now that the man had finished examining her using the equipment within his home. “I was hoping that the diagnosis would be more positive, but it seems as though I really will have to go through the treatment you suggested.”

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the only way that we’ll be able to completely remove the remainder of the neurotoxins within your body.”

Her merger with the Ultra Beast when she’d tried to do the unspeakable had left her body in its current condition, but the toxins from that point and time had largely been removed. What was most problematic was the fact that she’d been infected from her previous contact with it, back around the time her husband disappeared. That was so long ago that her body had come to consider it something native and would require… drastic methods to remove it.

“With the teleporter and the DNA map that was provided from before you were infected with the neurotoxins, we can remove them safely. But if we were to do it all at once, your body might vehemently reject it to a potentially fatal degree.”

“Which will mean doing it systematically,” she assumed. “Treatment followed by periods of convalescence and observation. Depending on how my body reacts to the process, it might even take longer than originally predicted.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “I hope it won’t be a problem that you might have to stay here with us for a while longer. I know my facilities aren’t quite up to the standards of your own.”

A slight shake of her head was accompanied by a small smile. “On the contrary, I’ve been finding my stay here to be quite… soothing.”

The Aether Foundation had been a technological marvel, a citadel of chrome and sterilized white. The only landscapes within the artificial island were only those that had been crafted by the hands of artisans, to make the pokémon feel comfortable. It had been her home for such a long time that she considered it as much.

Yet, this inlet was gorgeous in its own way. Quiet and spacious with rich greenery surrounding them, a mountain to the north and a river to the south. A little walk to the east would bring them to a coast, and to the west was a forest.

“In addition, both yourself and your pokémon has proven to be quite welcoming,” she finished. “I could think of no better company or place for my convalescence.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, relief threading his voice. “Still, if there’s anything that you need to get through this, don’t hesitate to tell me. I want to make your stay here as comfortable as possible considering how stressful it’ll be once we do start.”

She stared into her reflection in the tea when she considered that and her smile dropped. To be honest, while Lusamine still had her good days, she still felt horrible and it was hard for her to wake up most of the time. Those neurotoxins in her body had been pepping her up more than she realized, and she wasn’t under the illusion that she could still present the strong image that she had when her daughter was around.

“Then…can we put off starting until once Lillie leaves for her journey?” Her voice held a slight tremor in it. “I don’t imagine it’ll be longer than two or so weeks at this point, and I don’t want her to see me in that sort of state before my gift to her has arrived.”

“Of course,” he answered. Then he took a moment to register the last portion of her request. “Ah, by gift, should I take it that you had luck in finding a Ponyta?”

“Somewhat…” She lightly blew at her tea. “Tell me, are you familiar with a region known as Galar?”

“Not very,” he admitted. “They have a storage system in place, but I didn’t personally oversee it and direct trading via the Global Trading System isn’t functional.”

“Well, there’s a regional variant there that caught my eye,” she told him. “I’d like to give it to her at an ideal time to make it a truly unforgettable memory, but I don’t think anything I can manage will be similar to when she received her first pokémon.”

Hmm… an unforgettable memory…” Bill murmured under his breath. “If that’s the case then, I might have a suggestion.”

Lusamine’s eyes perked up. “Oh?”

“Most people know there’s a colony of Clefairy and Clefable in Mt. Moon,” he began. “But what few people know is that there’s a small, hidden square where they have a sort of ritual dance every month under the full moon. They usually stay out of sight, but perhaps yourself, your daughter, and your Clefable could bear witness to it with Cecilia as a guide.”

“That sounds perfect!” A truly earnest smile blossomed across her face at that suggestion as she reached over and grabbed his hands still on the table. “Thank you for telling me.”

He only gave her a somewhat modest smile as he met her gaze in silence when the sound of Glacian barking and getting a yip back reached their ears through the pet entrance to the door. “Oh, it seems they’re back.”

Lusamine withdrew her touch as she rose from her seat and opened the door, where she spotted her daughter being ringed by the Fresh Snow and Fox Pokémon as they both ran around her. Her Flowering Pokémon was only a step away and waved upon noticing her, an act mirrored by Lillie.

Her heart quivered. It was what she wanted so much. Her family, her pokémon, all together with smiles. It was only possible because she was going through this treatment even knowing that it would be so much harder than what she was going through now.

Lusamine didn’t want to lose this a second time.

So she’d see it through.

 


Fanfic Recommendation 95

 


My Fanfics


 

Rabbit of the Moon 18

Summary: In a different world, Bell Cranel died at the hands of the Minotaur on the Fifth Floor. The Moon Presence, searching for a new Hunter to bring the long night to an end, just so happened to stumble across his soul on the way to Heaven. Thus a contract was established.

 

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


A Fate Grand Order x FSN Fanfic

Summary: In between being a hero and searching for a way to get to Saber, Shirou Emiya got a job as a technician at Chaldeas Security Organization. What is not to like? Very good pay, help save the world, and use his abilities as both a repairman and a magus. It has all the advantages he could want. Too bad his Spiritron Dive ability is too low to be a Master while others fight in Fuyuki.


A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


 


Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 18 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 18: The Blacksmith and the Swordswoman

 

The sun was setting over the horizon of a grassy field.

The green carpet was only split by a dirt path, carved out by countless feet tracking over the same path until it became a road. The evening breeze was cool and refreshing as it gently caressed the cheeks of a young boy with hair as white as the moon in full and eyes as crimson as blood.

Bell Cranel was just a boy. He was short, adorned by a plain shirt and baggy pants that hung off his frame. His tiny fingers that weren’t even large enough to grip a hoe instead clung to the pants of the tall figure next to him, his only family in the world.

“I hope today wasn’t too hard on you, Bell,” said his Grandfather, tone wrapped in a gentle voice. “I know you aren’t used to working on the land just yet.”

The tiny boy shook his head. “It was fun helping you, Grandpa.”

The aged face bore a smile before the thick fingers came down and rustled his hair affectionately. “That’s good. How about I tell you another story tonight?”

The smile that came across his face was like the blooming of a flower under the sun. “Can you tell me about the Argonaut again?”

“You really like that one, don’t you?” When Bell nodded his head like an excited puppy, his grandfather only chuckled a bit more before hoisting him onto his shoulders. “Let’s hurry home then.”

As Bell clung to his grandfather’s head, he looked back towards the setting sun. The light suddenly grew brighter. It swelled with radiance until it became so bright that it devoured the world…

And then the light dulled to become the glow of a magic stone lamp. Bell Cranel woke from his dream to find himself once more in the confines of the space beneath the Church. The place the Hestia Familia called home.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Grandpa lately, Bell realized as he sat up, causing the sheets clinging to him to slide down and pool around his waist as he looked down at his hands. The imagery of blood painting them flickered in his mind for a moment before the pale hue reasserted itself.

It had been a few days since he’d returned from Yharnam and fought the Silverback. Since then he’d been laying low, so to speak. He’d been so focused on the fight that he’d been ignorant of his surroundings and a large crowd had borne witness to his battle when he really didn’t want the attention right now.

Eina had visited to apologize for the incident after the first day and offered compensation on behalf of the Ganesha Familia for destroying the monster before it could cause more collateral damage and kill civilians. They were apparently taking responsibility for the incident and were working on reparations and repairs to the damage caused by the monsters, including Daedalus Street. They weren’t sure how all the monsters got loose, or why that one in specific had managed to slip away unnoticed until it attacked him, or even the identity of the thief who’d led him to that place. But they were still grateful he went above and beyond what was expected for an adventurer of his Level.

The goddess residing there called Penia also asked that her thanks be extended to the ‘Hero of the Street’ as they were apparently calling him. Bell wasn’t aware of that goddess, but Hestia seemed to know her from the reaction she gave. The moniker made his stomach turn and it took all the effort he could not frown when the two of them were watching him at the time.

After all, how could anyone at all call someone like me a Hero?

He hadn’t been thinking of the people around him when he fought the Silverback the second time. He was only thinking about how it stood between him and returning to his Hestia’s side. Not to mention how he’d left that Little Girl in Yharnam with no one else in the world to call family after plundering the echoes of her grandfather just so he could return to his family.

Maybe the dreams were meant to be a punishment for that. To have the memories of simple times when he had been at his happiest with his Grandpa, only to wake with the knowledge that those times were now gone forever. To never forget the pain his absence brought and be reminded of what he could never regain.

It’s probably what I deserve. He brought a hand to his head and let out a soft sigh as he gathered his thoughts. Then he looked at the clock, pulled aside the sheets, and stood up to stretch his body.

Even with the sins on his back weighing him down, Bell couldn’t keep hiding away in the Church. Even with the generous consideration of the Ganesha Familia, their finances were still tight. He had work to do and today was going to be a busy day given everything that he needed to do.

He had to go thank Syr for helping him get away that time. Then there was a meeting with the members of the Hephaestus and Takemikazuchi Familia that Hestia arranged to see if they had good enough compatibility. The news about the Silverback had likely given both a little more consideration of his talents, which would probably be the only good thing that came out of it.

Once he was limbered up and dressed, Bell left the confined comforts of the Church behind with his broken armor in his bag. The sun’s rays touched down and heated the stone streets while its radiance lit up the sky. The air was crisp as it whistled through the buildings that made up the cul-de-sac. Not a bad morning all things considered.

Yet, as he walked the path there was a slight sense of wariness in his stride. He found himself feeling more alert than before. The streets of Orario should be safe, yet that had been proven not to be the case.

The sense of unease he felt made him realize just how much he’d taken for granted the sense of safety he felt during the days prior to the Monster Feria. He wondered if this was how the people of Yharnam felt every day and night. Never knowing when a beast or giant rodent would pop out of the shadows to end their lives even before the night of the Hunt.

Calm down. He took a deep breath to try and rid himself of the tension he felt. That incident with the Silverback was probably just due to some unusual circumstances at the time. Even if it wasn’t, Bell wasn’t unarmed even if he didn’t carry his weapons with him at the moment.

The Messengers could retrieve his Hunter’s Pistol, Saw Cleaver, Saw Spear, Kirkhammer, or Gascoigne’s Axe from the Dream with a thought—no matter where he was. It was undeniably a convenience that he couldn’t exactly ignore.

But it did little to comfort him as he finally reached the Hostess of Fertility and walked through the doors, whereupon the ladies greeted him on sight.

“Bell, it’s been a few days,” Syr said, wearing her uniform that was a pale-green skirt and white blouse. There was an empty tray in her hand from delivering a plate of what looked to be sausages to a dwarf. “I was starting to worry I scared you off.”

“I was just laying low for a bit until things settled down,” he said. “I wanted to thank you for helping me get back home.”

Syr shook her head. “It was the least I could do since you only got caught up in it doing me a favor.”

Mya, but who would have thought little white-hair could make a mess like that,” Arnya spoke up, leaning over his shoulder with a cheshire smile on her face as she gently poked his cheek. “You know they’re still talking about how brutal you were even now, meow~?”

Bell flinched slightly at that. “I… didn’t really have a choice at the time.”

“No one is questioning your actions, Mister Cranel,” Ryuu assured him as she walked past, having finished busing a table. “How you won doesn’t change the fact that you adapted to an unforeseen circumstance and prevailed against an opponent that was stronger than you, all while keeping those around you safe. It was admirable considering your short time as an Adventurer.”

Mama Mia nodded in agreement. “You fought. You won. Hold your head up with pride.”

“…Thank you,” he said, feeling a weight somewhat lifting off his shoulders.

“So, Bell, what are you up to today?” Syr asked. “Are you heading back to the Dungeon?”

“I plan to after handling some other things like getting my armor repaired,” he said. “I’ve been gone from it for a while now, so I don’t think I’ll go that deep inside. But I’ll probably be there until nightfall.”

“In that case, how about I give you a lunch to eat later on?” she offered. “Just give me a moment and I’ll get it from the back.”

Before he could say anything, she was already gone and came back with a basket that she held out for him with a soft smile on her face. He couldn’t find it in him to exactly refuse, while either willfully or blissfully ignorant of the pitying look that briefly crossed some of the girls’ faces as he accepted it. “Thanks. I’ll bring it back later tonight.”

That done, they bid him farewell and he set back out towards Babel from West Main.

Eventually, Bell made it to Central Park just outside of the white tower that rose to the sky. The cultivated greenery of the park, along with the numerous fountains that were constantly spouting crystalline water, made for a refreshing spot to take moment to relax. The westernmost fountain would serve as the meeting place.

Hestia had told him that Hephaestus mentioned one of her children would meet Bell here, but it’d be up to whoever it was if they wanted to form a party. Same with Takemikazuchi. It hadn’t been long since he’d arrived in Orario and, despite all of the horrible things that happened after the Minotaur, he was grateful for the chance to meet so many new people and interested in seeing just what it’d be like to fight alongside others.

Still, Bell honestly had some reservations about working with others due to the secrets he and his goddess shared about his status. He could pass off being able to retrieve his weapons and items from the Dream as a form of magic. It was rare for those who only recently obtained a Falna to have access to magic, but not unheard of.

But he’d need to avoid letting them know about the fact that blood was something that could mend his wounds or revitalize him if he could help it. No matter how he thought about it, there was just nothing good about how it looked. Besides, he shouldn’t take on any wounds if he could help it.

I’ll probably have to be careful with the Quicksilver and Blood Bullets too, he thought to himself with a sigh. The Hunter’s Pistol allowed him some range when it came to dealing with more annoying monsters that hovered out of his range. But… what if he shot a monster and didn’t kill it?

In the end, his blood was the same as that of the Hunters. There was a Beast dwelling deep inside of him as well, just like Gascoigne and Henryk. If he was careless and let someone else consume or come into contact with it, was there a chance that it’d turn whatever it flowed through into a Beast as well?

A shudder ran through his body when he thought back to the Minotaur that had killed him once before.  If it had ran back into the depths after he’d shot out its eye, would it have become an even more terrifying blood-slathering monster? An Abnormal?

Deep in thought, Bell only realized that someone was closing in on him when their shadow offered shade from the sun. He looked up to see what looked to be a young man, at least a few years older than himself, with hair that was red like flames while being dressed in black. There was also a small box under one of his arms.

“You wouldn’t happen to be from the Hestia Familia, would you?” he asked. “I mean, Hephaestus mentioned I’d recognize you from your hair and eyes. But…”

“Y-Yes—” Bell stood up and nodded. “I’m Bell Cranel, part of the Hestia Familia. Are you, um, here to form a party with me?”

“Well, I’m hoping that’ll be the case,” he said. “When my goddess mentioned someone with white hair and red eyes killed that Silverback, I kind of pictured someone a little older. But it’s not like age matters much to Adventurers, right?”

He had a point. The Falna was the great equalizer. Even a child with one could, in theory, kill monsters five times their height with ease if their stats were high enough.  Then he extended his unoccupied arm and held out his hand. “I’m Welf Crozzo.”

“Welf… Crozzo?” Bell froze for a moment. Then his voice picked up a notch. “Welf Crozzo, the blacksmith?”

Welf let out a sigh. “…Yeah. That one.”

[R-M]

“I can’t believe my luck!” the white-haired boy said with a smile as he slung off his bag. “I’ve wanted to meet you if I could!”

Hearing how ecstatic Bell sounded, Welf couldn’t help but feel a sense of apprehensiveness building up in his chest that was tinged by expectation. He had some hope that, with Bell supposedly being new to the city, he wouldn’t have heard of the Crozzo name. That cursed name that had more than once drew ire and expectation towards him that he hoped wouldn’t rear its ugly head once more.

Yet, it seemed that he wasn’t so lucky. The next thing he would do would be to ask for a magic sword no doubt. Better to get it over with now than drag it out. “Look, I’ll tell you right now I’m not making any Mag—”

The blacksmith’s words were cut short when Bell set the bag down on the edge of the fountain. The sound of rattling betrayed the contents that glimmered with dull-toned steel and battered metal. He recognized it, because what blacksmith couldn’t recognize their own work, and a lump formed in his throat as he swallowed the rest of his previous words and hesitantly asked, “Is that…my armor?”

White hair shifted as the younger boy nodded. “I wanted to see if I could get it repaired or replaced by more of your work later today, because of how beat-up it got during the fight against the Silverback. It helped me out a lot before that too.”

Welf set down the box he was holding on the edge of the fountain before slowly reaching into the bag next to it. He pulled out the chest-piece of the armor set and found that it had been put through no small amount of damage. It had only been a few days since the armor had been sold but it had seen more use in that time than some armors had seen in years.

“…This was literally the second armor that I sold,” Welf began, running his thumbs over the ragged and battered chest-piece. “I made it out of Metal Rabbit Hair, so it would be both durable and light. It was as high-quality as I could make it, but the price was set so that a beginner could afford it while covering the costs of manufacturing it. To see it like this is…”

Since the armor was sold through the storefront no names were exchanged, so he wasn’t privy to any information about the customer. He couldn’t ask them what they thought about it, or if any adjustments could have been made to make it more comfortable, or any special considerations.

The fact that it hadn’t been immediately returned had given him something of a sense of elation, but also sparked his curiosity as he’d wondered who it was that bought his armor and why they’d done it. Was it by chance or after some serious consideration? Was it because the quality was just right for the price range or the aesthetic of it?

It had to be Fate that the one who bought it was standing here in front of him to answer those questions. “Sorry I ruined it so soon. I…”

Bell trailed off when he noticed Welf slowly shaking his head.

“You used it in the battles you fought and came back alive,” he said. There was always a single question every blacksmith dreaded thinking about as they worked the forge: would this fulfill its purpose and keep the one who bought it alive? “That’s all that matters.”

Welf couldn’t guess that the chest-piece had saved Bell’s heart from being gouged out by a spear backed by inhuman strength. Or the fact that it caught some of the explosive fragments of fast-flying quicksilver that scoured the pristine surface. Or how it’d stopped him from being opened up from shoulder-to-hip by the fangs of a Saw Cleaver.

Likewise, Welf couldn’t even fathom how the forearm-guards had warded away claws that had shredded away half of the young adventurer’s innocent-looking face prior. Or how they kept him from losing his head to the axe of a Beast clad in the flesh of a man. Or even the fact that they’d held out against the steel teeth of a maddened Old Hunter.

The only thing he could tell was that the armor he’d crafted had saved the life of this adventurer more than once. It had held up as best it could until he was in a position to get back with his life intact. And it still hadn’t crumbled to dust despite all of that—a fact that brought a soft smile to his face.

The boy looked as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders before asking, “So, you think it’s possible to get it fixed?”

“Honestly, with it being in this condition, it’d be easier to just replace it,” Welf said after assessing the cumulative damage. Then he set the chest-piece down and reached over towards the box he’d brought with him. “I guess you really are in luck considering I was just going to put my latest version in the armor series on sale after the meetup was done.”

He removed the lid to show off his latest work. Since the armor Bell had bought was the first one that wasn’t returned right away, he’d decided to make a similar model one to it. The Pyonkichi Mk III was a little more durable than the first due to the composition of its materials making it thicker, with a few embellishments  on it to make it somewhat more aesthetically pleasing.

Bell picked up the armor pieces and turned them in his arms. He seemed drawn to the pieces, pulled into the silvery glint of the morning sun being reflected off the polished surface of it. The blood-hued rubies on the wrist guards matched his eyes upon looking into them, almost like staring into a mirror.

“How much?” he asked, looking up to Welf with eager eyes.

The blacksmith struck a deal. “You can have them for free, if you’re willing to make a Direct Contract with me.”

Upon seeing the boy’s head tilt quizzically, he remembered that Bell had only been doing this for such a short time he likely wouldn’t know. So Welf explained the notion to him that in a direct contract the drops and loot from the Dungeon would be brought back to Welf, who would then use them to make things for Bell at a reduced cost. For adventurers at a low-level, the reduced price made armor and weapons more affordable so they could go deeper into the Dungeon, where they had a better chance to Level Up.

“Oh, that’s convenient,” Bell said. “But would it really be okay to make a contract with me? I haven’t gone that deep into the Dungeon, so the items I can bring back aren’t really that good.”

“And I’ve only gone down to the Tenth Floor and haven’t even unlocked my Blacksmith Developmental Ability yet,” Welf told him. “You’ve been down to the Fifth Floor at the very least, despite having been here only a little while, so from my perspective you’re moving pretty fast even though we’re both low-level Adventurers. Even so, we still have room grow and I think that’s part of why our Goddesses agreed to let us meet like that.”

Part of that was due to the fact that he wasn’t a dedicated adventurer. He was first and foremost a blacksmith, so his time was mostly spent in the forge rather than the depths of the Dungeon. But he had trouble joining parties because of his name and had reached the limits of what he could do alone, which was why when his goddess told him about the offer instead of the others in her Familia he’d jumped on the chance.

And he was rewarded by meeting the very person who bought his armor and used it to its fullest. More than anything Welf wanted this battle party to work out. “By the way, do you know who the third person we’ll be partying with will be?”

Bell looked up from the armor pieces that he was fitting onto himself. “It’s a member of the Takemikazuchi Familia. Their god is on good terms with Goddess, even though they both work for different potato puff stands. I think they’ll be here soon too.”

Welf hadn’t heard of the Familia before, so it was likely a small one. More so if their god worked in such a place. Even so, the prospect of being able to form a three-man cell was something he was looking forward to, so he tried to spot their potential ally when he saw a pair of eyes staring back at them.

It was a young woman approaching them. She had raven-black hair tied into a ponytail that contrasted her milk-white skin, the front of which draped and parted over eyes that were a shade of blue and purple. Her choice of clothing and weaponry reminded Welf of a little of Tsubaki’s, only with it being somewhat more modest and painted a shade lavender with a red shoulder-guard that had the emblem of a sword planted in the ground.

Her eyes settled onto Bell’s hair and she hesitated for a single step before walking towards them. Then she came to a stop in front of them and asked, “Are you Bell Cranel of the Hestia Familia and the member of the Hephaestus Familia?”

“That’s us,” Welf said. “And you must be our last party member?”

She nodded and gave a slight bow. “My name is Yamato Mikoto. I am of Lord Takemikazuchi’s Familia.”

[R-M]

Mikoto came at the agreed upon meeting place at the appointed time with her back straight as she took in the appearance of the two adventurers in front of her. It was at the behest of her Lord that she agreed to at least see if the formation of this party would be to the benefit of them all.

“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Mikoto,” said Hestia’s child as he looked up to her with a smile. The formality of his speech, the curvature of his face, and the brightness in his eyes gave her the impression of him being far less…imposing than the recent stories floating around would tell.

“I’m Welf Crozzo,” said the other adventurer. He flashed her a grin as he extended his hand. “Pleasure to meet you too.”

As she shook it, she felt how calloused and rough they were. Not surprising given he was part of a Crafting Familia. It was a clear sign of his dedication to his craft at the very least, but she didn’t believe it was a perfect reflection one’s capabilities as an adventurer.

Even without forming a party, relationships between adventurers were fickle things at the best of times. But there was a reason mixed parties were complex things to form even in the short-term after all. You had to factor in the relationship between the gods and goddesses. Then there was the imbalance in experience. Last was the dispositions of their Familia members.

In the case of their deities, Lord Takemikazuchi held a friendship with the Goddess Hestia despite the fact that their potato snack stands were rivals. He did not seem particularly close to the Goddess Hephaestus, but there was no animosity. Hestia was seemingly close to her if the story about her staying with the former for a time after her arrival was true, and all three ultimately consented—so there wasn’t a problem there at present.

Next was the question of experience and disposition that Mikoto herself had to address as she broached the topic. “Forgive me for asking this abruptly but, since we are not familiar with one another very well, may we discuss matters like how long we have been exploring the Dungeon, the deepest floor we’ve explored, and our previous experience with parties?”

It was somewhat blunt outright asking them. But she felt it would be the best way to judge them. Since she’d arrived in Orario she had seen many kinds of adventurers. Those that boast of their strength and accomplishments, those that embellished their abilities, and so on. Letting them speak before she made judgement was paramount.

Hestia’s child spoke up first. “Ah, well… I’ve been an Adventurer for less a month now since I arrived in Orario. Since then I’ve only made it as far as the Sixth Floor. And this will be my first party.”

“You’re really selling yourself short,” Welf said. “Most people don’t make it that far down in months, let alone weeks.”

Bell only shook his head at the compliment and his tone of voice shift slightly to a somber one. “I think I was mostly just lucky. Both my advisor and Goddess warned me, but I didn’t really understand until a little while ago how reckless and dangerous it was doing that alone.”

…Neither were wrong. Most adventurers, or at least the ones who tended to live longer, paced themselves. Exploring the Dungeon was a gradual thing and so it was best to acclimate yourself towards becoming familiar to its habits while gaining experience during the earlier period, when the growth was accelerated.

That being said, going that deep after a few days was indeed reckless. More so when you were alone. Especially if he had no combat experience prior to arriving in Orario, as his goddess mentioned. Luck might have played a part in that, but the fact that he was still alive and whole after going that deep said something of skill and dedication as well.

The blacksmith scratched the back of his head. “Well, in my case, I’ve been here for seven years but I’ve only made it as far as the Tenth Floor. I’d like say that’s because I spent most of my time working in the forge since my Goddess only allows for us to put the best of our things on sale, but part of that’s due to an issue with forming a party.”

“Why’s that?” Bell asked. “From what I heard, most of the larger Familias form a party with other members, right?”

“That might be the case in Exploration-Type Familias, but with us it’s different…” He went silent as he closed his eyes and grabbed his chin in thought. “You probably don’t know, but we lower-level blacksmiths tend to have our work cut out for us in getting customers. It’s no lie when I say that sometimes we have to steal and undercut each other because there are so many of us and so few customers. Because of that forming a party between members of our Familia can be difficult at times, so we have to group up with people outside of it…”

After a moment, he opened them and looked to Bell. “I’ve been with a lot of different parties, but none of them has ended well. They would ask me to do something that I wasn’t comfortable doing. And when I refused, they’d try to leverage my status as a member of their party to get it. Because of that we would break apart on bad terms, but I honestly want this to work out for us.”

In other words, he was a serial party-jumper. It wasn’t strange for one person to move between them occasionally, to see if there was good compatibility. But doing so consistently and leaving on bad terms often meant that there was some kind of problem with the individual.

“Will whatever it is that caused the animosity between yourself and the others interfere with us while venturing into the Dungeon?” Mikoto asked.

He shook his head as he faced her. “It was centered around my role as a smith, not an Adventurer. I can pull my weight in the Dungeon.”

Were they perchance trying to get him to make them free equipment? Mikoto silently wondered. Equipment cost was a heavy expense for a smaller Familia and larger ones would have their own dedicated smiths to maintain their gear.

Regardless, he looked frank and firm in his gaze. The implication of what he told them was clear enough and he had to know how it sounded. Yet, the fact that he was openly admitting it when he didn’t have to meant he deserved the benefit of the doubt.

“I cannot judge your relationship with other groups in the past,” she said, crossing her arms. “I have no right to comment or pry into what happened with them either. Instead, I will look to contributions in the Dungeon.”

Bell agreed. “You don’t seem like a bad person and I doubt our goddesses would let us meet up like this if that was the case.”

“Thank you,” he said with a look of relief on his face. “Both of you. I won’t let you down.”

Next, it was Mikoto’s turn. “As for myself, I have been exploring the Dungeon since my Familia relocated to Orario two years ago. We are small with only six members, so we often partied with one another. But one of our members has achieved Level 2 and so we were able to go as deep as the Thirteenth Floor consistently.”

“That’s incredible,” Welf said earnestly while staring at her. “I’ve known Familias that never make it that deep despite being more than twice the size. Honestly, you can live relatively comfortably at that point without going much deeper as a smaller group.”

Mikoto only shook her head. Perhaps they could, if they simply kept the valis they earned for themselves. But it wasn’t just themselves they were supporting. “Leaving aside our financial circumstances, we have our own reasons for going as deeply as we do. ”

Perhaps out of respect for them not pressing him for further details, the blacksmith didn’t press further either. He merely nodded. “Either way, you’re probably the most experienced of us from the sounds of it. Are you going to be the party’s leader then?”

“So it would seem,” she settled on. If it was based purely on experience, Welf had the greatest in terms of years. However, he admitted that he was more dedicated to his craft and he often left parties because of incompatibility. Plus, he didn’t seem to want to call the shots so much as he simply wanted to be part of a party.

Likewise, Bell had less than a month’s worth of experience diving into the Dungeon and had only gone as far as the Sixth Floor. Plus, he had no experience with fighting in a group. That lack of experience was something that couldn’t be overlooked.

“Bell Cranel, I have heard that you managed to slay a Silverback,” she said. “But if we are to commit to this battle party we need to know the measure of your abilities personally, as well as demonstrate our own. Are you aware of what a three-man cell formation is?”

Bell shook his head.

“It’s a standard formation where one acts as the vanguard, the other covers them, and the last one provides rear support,” Welf explained. “The Vanguard would deal the initial offense, drawing the enemy aggression while their support prevents counterattacks and look for the opportunity to end the enemy as quickly as possible. The rear support usually brings up the rear using long-range weapons, preventing surprise attacks and holding onto healing items, but they need to be able to defend themselves and contribute.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” Bell said. “So which role are we all going to be?”

“We will determine that by the end of the day,” Mikoto declared while looking over to Babel. “For now, prepare yourselves. Before we take a risk that would dishonor my Lord, we’ll go down to the last floor that you ventured to so that we may see what you are capable of—the Sixth Floor.”

 


Fanfic Recommendation 94

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


A Fate Grand Order x FSN Fanfic

Summary: Naofumi Iwatani was summoned to Melromarc as the Shield Hero. Everything looked great… until he overheard Itsuki and Motoyasu talking about parties sharing experience from kills. He then finds out some stuff from his help guide that Malty hadn’t told him about. In going to Malty to ask his questions, he eavesdrops on her conversation with a nun from the Church of the Three Heroes and learns more than what he wanted to hear. Not wanting to stay and wait to be arrested and tried unfairly, he runs away from the Capital. Now a criminal on the run, Naofumi has to do his best to avoid the Church and the King outside the waves. And find someone who, slave crest or not, will help him to overcome his own trials and pains past and present, and restore that which he thought he lost long ago. Hope.


Intrepid: 21-08 Sophia –  21A Foil
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.


Symbiotic 28 – 32

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.


A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


A Future Tied by Fates 46

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”


 


Fanfic Recommendation 93

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Post Song of Life Kiriyu is summoned through a ritual with the Vassal Weapon to become the Gauntlet Hero. With nothing left for him after faking his death at the end, how will the dragon rise to the defense of the Shield Hero.


A Rising of the Shield Hero Fanfic

Summary: Naofumi Iwatani was summoned to Melromarc as the Shield Hero. Everything looked great… until he overheard Itsuki and Motoyasu talking about parties sharing experience from kills. He then finds out some stuff from his help guide that Malty hadn’t told him about. In going to Malty to ask his questions, he eavesdrops on her conversation with a nun from the Church of the Three Heroes and learns more than what he wanted to hear. Not wanting to stay and wait to be arrested and tried unfairly, he runs away from the Capital. Now a criminal on the run, Naofumi has to do his best to avoid the Church and the King outside the waves. And find someone who, slave crest or not, will help him to overcome his own trials and pains past and present, and restore that which he thought he lost long ago. Hope.


Intrepid: 21-06 Madison –  21-07 Emma
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.

 


Fate Reach Out 43

A Fate Kaleid AU Fanfic

Summary: A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder up to Ch.21)


The Hero Nobody Knows 9

A Fate Kaleid AU Fanfic

Summary: A Prisma Illya spin-off centered around Shirou Emiya receiving the Archer Class-card, only it syncs him up with the EMIYA Alter spirit.


Symbiotic 23 – 27

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.


A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


 


Fanfic Recommendation 92

 


My Fanfics


 

Busi goes Blue (or How To Be a Blue Mage In Eorzea) – Role Action: Addle

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?

 

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Post Song of Life Kiriyu is summoned through a ritual with the Vassal Weapon to become the Gauntlet Hero. With nothing left for him after faking his death at the end, how will the dragon rise to the defense of the Shield Hero.


A Rising of the Shield Hero Fanfic

Summary: Naofumi Iwatani was summoned to Melromarc as the Shield Hero. Everything looked great… until he overheard Itsuki and Motoyasu talking about parties sharing experience from kills. He then finds out some stuff from his help guide that Malty hadn’t told him about. In going to Malty to ask his questions, he eavesdrops on her conversation with a nun from the Church of the Three Heroes and learns more than what he wanted to hear. Not wanting to stay and wait to be arrested and tried unfairly, he runs away from the Capital. Now a criminal on the run, Naofumi has to do his best to avoid the Church and the King outside the waves. And find someone who, slave crest or not, will help him to overcome his own trials and pains past and present, and restore that which he thought he lost long ago. Hope.


Intrepid: 21-04 Taylor –  21-05 Sophia 
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Symbiotic 23 – 27

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.


A Future Tied by Fates 45

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”


In Time’s Flow 13

A Fire Emblem Three Houses Fanfiction
Summary: Sothis made a mistake, for mortal hands could not wield the powers of a Goddess. Byleth stands alone, stagnant against the inexorable march of time, doomed to fail again and again.


 


Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Role Action 1: Addle [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Addle

<-><-><-><-><->

Cocobusi had been mildly concerned about potentially learning the next spell

The day after dealing with the King Wespes, Cocobusi returned to the Drowning Wench. Not for the ale or food, but because there was an Independent Arms Mender. His outfit had gotten quite torn from the constant battles, and his cane battered up from his use of it as a blunt instrument.

“I’m honestly surprised the fabric ‘eld out this long,” said a Hyur woman named Leofrun as she inspected them. “I’ll repair it for ye at a low cost since the materials are little better than those used to make a ‘empen ‘alfrobe set. But, considering the nature o’ your business, you’d be well off purchasing more durable armor for yer adventures.”

“I suppose you might be right,” the neophyte Blue Mage conceded. The soul crystal did the majority of the work when it came to casting his spells, but the cane itself was useful in its own way. It didn’t need to be replaced at all, in theory.

But the clothing was a different story, given that through the use of crystals and other techniques it was entirely possible for them to be more durable than steel, provided they were properly attuned to the wielder. What he had now wasn’t good enough for future endeavors. “What would you recommend then?”

“A visit to ‘awker’s alley,” she said. “Old Iron Thunder will set you up with a proper attire, if it suits yer fancy.”

Heeding her advice, he left the Drowning Wench through the nearby lift, dropping him down into the Bulwark Hall that led to the Octant. The area around the massive aetheryte in the center of the plaza happened to be crowded with adventurers of all shapes and sizes, chattering and such. For some reason the number of adventurers in Limsa seemed so much larger than the number in Ul’dah. He could only presume it was because the sea afforded access to lands beyond the horizon as he ventured past them through the lower level of the city-state towards—Hawker’s Alley.

There he found the merchant that the mender had mentioned, who just so happened to have reasonable articles of clothing in stock that would be more suited to him. He ended up purchasing a Hempen Cloak, along with a set of Leather Ringbands, a Hempen Sash with matching Gaskins and Leather Boots. He even ended up being roped into talking to a nearby Jeweler and purchasing a Copper Wristlet and Bone Necklace to go with them, claiming they would be an improvement over what he had before.

And they weren’t wrong.

Cocobusi didn’t understand a lot of how Weavercraft and Goldsmithing worked, his trade was Alchemy after all, but he could feel the difference. He felt just a bit more protected. A little bit more clear of mind. It probably wasn’t too much better than what he had before but, considering how dangerous his search for spells had been so far, he should at least take the time to improve his chances of survival.

I may as well get the color dyed while I’m at it, he couldn’t help but think as he took all his newly purchased equipment with him towards the West Alley. There was apparently an individual known as Unsynrael the Dyemonger, who kept blue dye in stock. Though it wasn’t strictly necessary, Cocobusi felt that somehow his identity was tied to the color of the school of magic he found an affinity with, so he at least wanted the clothing he wore to carry that on as he upgraded his equipment.

It was when he passed through the small plaza that separated the East and West Alleys that he spotted the familiar bed of pink hair. The Plainsfolk Lalafell who he’d been partnered with more often than not was standing on a small stool in front of one of the stands, allowing her to reach the countertop as she had what was seemingly a heated conversation with a very large Sea Wolf Roegadyn.

Between the hustle and bustle of the foot traffic, he couldn’t make out what they were saying from a distance. But once he got closer it seemed like she was trying to negotiate a deal with him. Though, once he got close enough, they noticed him and the conversation stalled.

“What are you doing here?” the Arcanist asked. “Eavesdropping now?”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just happened to hear your voice on my way to the dyemonger and wanted to ask what was going on.”

“My grimoire needs to be replaced,” she explained somewhat curtly. “Yesterday’s events burned though all my pages, and the wear and tear on it have gotten to the point where simply binding new pages to it won’t suffice. But the merchant here won’t give me a suitable deal and I won’ t be able to afford new garments if I do buy it.”

“If I gave you a discount when I haven’t others, it would be a disservice to the other adventurers who come to me,” he said in a somewhat exasperated tone. “More so if word gets around. I can’t risk my business because you want to scrimp by.”

“Well, it would be unfair if he simply gave you a discount and word got around,” Cocobusi admitted, causing the Roe to nod in approval while the Lalafell scowled. To assuage her temper, he quickly added, “But I can make you one if you’d like—as a thank-you for your help until now. That way you can focus on getting more durable clothing.”

She didn’t keep the skepticism out of her voice. “You? Make one?”

“I’m an Alchemist by trade,” he explained. “In fact, the entire reason I originally came here was to deliver a new grimoire I made for the acting guild mistress. Blue magic was something I happened to stumble upon, but it seems like the one who was selling the soul crystals is gone now.”

“Considering your so-called method of acquiring spells, I imagine he was either run out of town or thrown in a cell by the Yellowjackets. Still, if you say that you can do so, I shan’t refuse your offer to make me a Maple Picatrix then—the best you possibly can, in fact.”

He mulled it over, recalling what would be needed to make one. “I believe I have the necessary crystals in my room at the Mizzenmast Inn to work with, and I spotted a merchant in the East Alley with the lumber and log and yarn I need as well to make it. The biggest issue will be procuring the Enchanted Copper Ink. It requires Copper Sand to properly make, along with Beastkin Blood. If we were in Ul’dah, I could procure it from the Guild Supplier, but I don’t believe I’ve seen it sold here.”

“You’re scant out of luck there,” Faezghim said. “Such products are so narrow in use that most merchants won’t keep it in stock. Suppliers would rather sell to guilds for something like that.”

“I suspected as much…” He brought his hand to his chin in thought until something came to mind. “Oh! But I could extract it from the Weathered Grimoire you had through desynthesis, if you’d be willing to part with it.”

She tilted her head at that. “De…synthesis?”

“Ah, I suppose it isn’t common knowledge unless you’re a Disciple of the Hand. Basically, it’s a technique created by a well-renown Goblin with his own workshop in Thanalan. It allows us to break down things into the parts that make them up and sometimes the crystalized spiritbond energies of the crafter if they were really talented will manifest. Those are pretty rare though.”

The Arcanist just stared at him in silence as he finished, at a loss for words.

Faezghim sighed. “In short, he takes your old grimoire and breaks it down to get you the ink needed to make your new grimoire.”

“I-I understood that,” she claimed. “Still, is this ink really that important?”

Cocobusi nodded. “Yes, the ink acts as a really good conduit for aether. Not the best, but it does make it easier for those who are getting a feel for the flow of their magicks. Because of that, it’s actually integrated into the construction of the entire grimoire through when we use crystals to work the materials. So if I desynthesize your old grimoire, I can obtain enough ink to make your new one.”

She seemed almost hesitant, contemplating the offer silently for a moment. But she ultimately consented with a nod. “You aren’t the type to lie from what I’ve seen so far. And you have been somewhat helpful since we have worked together, so I am willing to entrust that you know what you are doing so long as I may watch.”

“That’s fine, though it won’t be very interesting,” he said. “Just let me take my clothes to the Dyemonger and then I will go purchase necessary materials. After that I’ll take the lift back up to the Drowning Wench.”

“It’d be faster to take the Aethernet Shard network given the amount of people,” the Arcanist pointed out. The foot traffic made it fairly easy for the smaller folk to have trouble getting around in the middle of the day.

“I haven’t attuned to any of them,” he said.

This time she sighed. “Even if you weren’t planning to stay long, its common practice for Adventurers to attune to every single one they can find. Next you’ll tell me you haven’t even attuned to the main Aetheryte.”

He looked away at that.

“Oh, for Twelve’s sake. You really are new at this, aren’t you?” She huffed before grabbing him by the wrist and pulling him along towards the Octant. “Going out into the field without attuning to the local Aetheryte is practically suicide.”

“It’s not that I don’t know that. It’s just that I don’t have the anima capacity to attune to them!”

“If you lacked the ability to attune then you wouldn’t have been able to cast those spells of yours,” the Arcanist replied, pulling the neophyte Blue Mage as close to the hovering crystal as possible before sticking his hand out. “Now, focus on the crystal. Feel the energy coming off it and then feel yourself becoming one with it.”

He was hesitant to do so. But the entire reason for him testing Blue Magic was to see if it could improve his anima capacity to an extent. The surest way to see if it was working would be if he was finally able to attune to one of the Aetherytes.

Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and focused on the crystal in front of him. There was a sensation in the air that seemed to pulse surrounding the crystal. Like a heartbeat. He reached out to it, matching his breath to the beat until he felt his body begin to thrum to it. The sensation grew faster and deeper until it felt almost like he was a part of it, hovering above a fast-moving current that surged just beneath the surface.

If he wanted to, he could just fall into it and… vanish

His eyes snapped open before he followed that train of thought. Looking down at his outstretched hand, he said, “I think I felt a pull just now.”

“Then it was a success,” the Arcanist noted. “Aetherytes act as a beacon for traversing the Lifestream—”

“I did it!” He jumped up for joy and then embraced her. “I can finally attune to Aethertyes!”

Flustered, the Arcanist stumbled across her words until she finally demanded, “L-Let go of me already!”

Belatedly realizing he was invading her personal space, Cocobusi did so in a hurry. “Oh, I-I’m sorry. I was just so excited.”

She huffed. “As I was saying, consider this a sort of a lighthouse on the aetherial current of the Lifestream since your body’s aether now resonates with its frequency. If you have the fortitude to withstand such travel in the future, you’ll be able to focus on the frequency of it and your body will naturally be drawn to it from the great flow. In other words, Teleportation will become available to you.”

“That’ll be amazing,” he said, picturing himself blinking from one city-state to another in only a few moments. “I could travel all over Eorzea like that, couldn’t I?”

“Before getting any funny ideals in your head, I’d suggest getting a feel for how taxing it is before you try to go too far and end up taking a permanent swim in the Lifestream,” she warned him. “Regardless, let us hurry and get the materials you need. I expect that grimoire to be the absolute best I have laid my eyes on as compensation for having to explain all of this.”

“Sure thing,” he told her with a blooming smile on his face. “I’ll make you the best Maple Picatrix possible.”

True to his words, once he left his new garments to the Dyemonger to be painted a proper shade of blue and bought the materials, he took her back to his room where he had his tools. Even while traveling a Disciple of the Hand would carry the tools they needed, no different than an Adventurer would carry their weapons or foci. While minimal, the ability to manipulate aether allowed the usage of what would be considered techniques that could be used in the process of crafting.

“I can see you really did put in a lot of practice with this,” he said while turning her Weathered Grimoire in his grasp., before nodding to himself and then proceeding to hold it with both hands as he began threading his own aether through it. “The spiritbond you have with it is perfect.”

“What do you mean?” she asked from her perch in the chair that was in his room.

“Basically, you’ve used it so much that part of your own spirit has flowed into it,” he explained as he began to tug on that bond. Aether was the source of many mysteries, including the crystallization of experience. By gathering up that residual bond and forcing his own aether to compact it, it began to take on a solid shape until there was a bright flash. “Done!”

It was a blue sphere that was a bit rough around the edges, somewhat unrefined but it still had a radiance within it. He turned it over in his palms before brushing it against his sleeve and then handing it to her. “Here you go.”

“This is… a Materia, isn’t it?” she asked. “Some of the more accomplished Arcanist have them in their grimoire.”

He nodded. “Most people don’t know it, but Materia are essentially the crystalized essence of certain attributes found in the bond between oneself and their equipment. In other words, it’s proof that you’ve been trying hard with perfecting your craft and were attached to that grimoire. Since I have to destroy it to make you a new one, I figured I should at least crystalize that bond so that you’ll have something to remember it by.”

The Arcanist slowly reached out for it before taking it into her grasp. Her dark eyes softened as she looked down to it and she found herself perplexed before looking back up to the Alchemist as he prepared an empty bottle to gather the ink before he began the desynthesis process. Taking a deep breath, she asked a single question:

“Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Hm?” He looked up at that and tilted his head. “What do you mean?”

“I am aware of how I come across to other people and how demanding I can be,” she explained. “And I know I have trouble controlling my Carbuncle, and that has endangered us both. Yet, you have done nothing but assist me since we’ve been acquainted. Why is it?”

“Oh… that’s because I understand you’re trying your hardest,” he said. “I get that it can be frustrating when you start with something and seem to hit a wall. It was the same for me when I started out as an Alchemist. During times like that you need someone to offer you a helping hand, so I did.”

It was the same when he started out. His brothers supported him even though he couldn’t join them in thaumaturgy because of his deficiency. Even though his reasoning was to find a way to increase his aptitude through the alchemy, he still wouldn’t have made it that far without help.

“And besides, it’s not like you didn’t help me,” he continued. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to learn as much as I had if not for you helping me. So just consider this all my gratitude for everything before I return to Ul’dah and proof that I believe eventually you’ll be able to master your Carbuncle.”

That said, he proceeded to continue with the process. She watched as the Weathered Grimoire that she had been given starting out as an Arcanist disappeared, broken down while leaving behind only the ink. Then she lost track of time as he took the materials and shaped them using the crystals, fusing them together through synthesis until the new Maple Picatrix was done. “Finished!”

Her pink hair shifted as she handled it with stunned silence upon brushing her fingers against the surface. Sending her aether through it was smooth and fluid, leaving her to acknowledge it was probably one of the highest quality grimoire she’d handled in her life. “I… can’t accept this without giving you something else in return.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because it wouldn’t be right,” she insisted, tapping her head in thought as she tried to decide on what she could do for him. “Uh… oh, you don’t have a formal mentor when it comes to your magical studies, correct?”

“I suppose not,” Cocobusi said. “The spellbook gives me the basic understanding and method of acquiring the spells, and the soul crystal does most of the work.”

“Then, at the very least, I can share with you a standardized technique passed along to students of offensive magic,” she said. “It isn’t something that would require arcanima learning, but a relatively simple technique to use aether to hamper one’s ability to focus their spells and weaken their concentration—to Addle them, effectively.”

“I think I’ve heard my brothers mention something like that,” Cocobusi said. “I didn’t think that it’d be one of the standardized techniques, but if you’re willing to teach me I’d be happy to learn it.”

“Then let’s begin since you don’t have much time before you depart.” She hopped out of her chair and offered him her hand. “Also, I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced to one another in spite of working together so often. I am Litata Lita.”

“That’s a nice name,” he said, extending his own hand. “I’m Cocobusi. Cocobusi Lolobusi.”

The two shook hands before her lecture began…

 


Fanfic Recommendation 91


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated



A Rising of the Shield Hero Fanfic

Summary: Naofumi Iwatani was summoned to Melromarc as the Shield Hero. Everything looked great… until he overheard Itsuki and Motoyasu talking about parties sharing experience from kills. He then finds out some stuff from his help guide that Malty hadn’t told him about. In going to Malty to ask his questions, he eavesdrops on her conversation with a nun from the Church of the Three Heroes and learns more than what he wanted to hear. Not wanting to stay and wait to be arrested and tried unfairly, he runs away from the Capital. Now a criminal on the run, Naofumi has to do his best to avoid the Church and the King outside the waves. And find someone who, slave crest or not, will help him to overcome his own trials and pains past and present, and restore that which he thought he lost long ago. Hope.


Intrepid: 21-01 Sophia –  21-03 Emma
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Symbiotic 20 – 22 

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.


A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


A Future Tied by Fates 45

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”


In Time’s Flow 12

A Fire Emblem Three Houses Fanfiction
Summary: Sothis made a mistake, for mortal hands could not wield the powers of a Goddess. Byleth stands alone, stagnant against the inexorable march of time, doomed to fail again and again.


Shattered Reflection 26

A Fire Emblem Awakening Fanfiction
Summary: In one world, Robin died abandoned by those she thought friends, with the sword of her lover driven into her chest. In another world, a young man with no memories of his past was trusted to guide Ylisse in war. Given a new chance, the broken queen will make sure this young tactician survived, no matter the cost.


 


Fanfic Recommendation 90

 


My Fanfics


 

Busi goes Blue (or How To Be a Blue Mage In Eorzea) – Spell 4: Final Sting

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?

 

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


A Rising of the Shield Hero Fanfic

Summary: Naofumi Iwatani was summoned to Melromarc as the Shield Hero. Everything looked great… until he overheard Itsuki and Motoyasu talking about parties sharing experience from kills. He then finds out some stuff from his help guide that Malty hadn’t told him about. In going to Malty to ask his questions, he eavesdrops on her conversation with a nun from the Church of the Three Heroes and learns more than what he wanted to hear. Not wanting to stay and wait to be arrested and tried unfairly, he runs away from the Capital. Now a criminal on the run, Naofumi has to do his best to avoid the Church and the King outside the waves. And find someone who, slave crest or not, will help him to overcome his own trials and pains past and present, and restore that which he thought he lost long ago. Hope.


A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s Fanfic (One-Shot)

Summary: A retelling of the Sacred Duel and its Aftermath. However, instead of dueling with weapons, Naofumi and Motoyasu duel each other using something else. Monsters, spells, and trap cards. Who will prevail? The Deck of the Spear, or the Deck of the Shield? May the best deck win! Let’s Duel! RaphxFumi. Along with classic moments of Bitch being a Bitch


Intrepid: Interlude 20A – Access –   Interlude 20B – The Vasils
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


The Hero Nobody Knows 8

A Fate Kaleid AU Fanfic

Summary: A Prisma Illya spin-off centered around Shirou Emiya receiving the Archer Class-card, only it syncs him up with the EMIYA Alter spirit.


Symbiotic 15 – 19

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.