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Old June 26th, 2017 (12:58 AM). Edited June 27th, 2017 by ShivaDF.
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ShivaDF ShivaDF is offline
The Scooter-riding Artist
     
    Join Date: Aug 2009
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    Summary: Set after Platinum. Cyrus breaks Charon out of jail and forces him to assist him with a new plan. Things become more complicated than either of them predicted. GlobalShipping.

    Author's Note: It's hard to say how I ended up writing this long fic for such an unpopular pairing. However, I feel like Cyrus and Charon are uniquely suited to snapping each other out of their flawed worldviews. I hope everyone enjoys this deep look into Charon's character!

    Possibilities

    Waxing Moon Penitentiary was a name that Charon always thought was a misnomer, considering the entire facility was designed to drain all the light from the inmates until they were left with no spirit and no hope. The maximum-security prison stood on an island west of the Sinnoh region—not that any of the prisoners could actually see the ocean, of course. The entire facility was an enclosed space, with the only open area being dusty and surrounded by the prison on all sides, with a watchtower and screeching Skarmory looming over it constantly. Charon rarely bothered to enter it because the harsh ringing of the Metal Sound and the remains of Spikes that had been laid down and not cleared away characterized this courtyard.

    After a year of being imprisoned, Charon had grown complacent and accustomed to his daily routine and rarely reminisced about anything. As a scientist, he had been lucky enough to have been assigned a job that involved less hard labor and more technical expertise—he was made to assemble and test Poké Balls. However, this job had its own downsides. Charon had to work carefully to avoid developing carpal tunnel syndrome, and he was not entirely successful. He also craved some kind of mental stimulation to the point that he found himself continuously demanding that there be a pink and white “Dawn Ball” to match the Dusk Ball, and he was ignored and insulted by his supervisor and coworkers as he had always been throughout his life, which comforted him.

    Charon’s ability to hide in the shadows and to attract little attention were both a blessing and a curse for him. Nobody in Waxing Moon knew the function of the Red Chain or what Team Galactic had nearly succeeded in doing to the universe. Instead, Charon was simply viewed as a shady, greedy former cult member. However, Charon thrived on others commenting on his genius, and he could not stand the fact that nobody even bothered to criticize him. And he knew better than to try and prove his intelligence by shorting out the electricity in his cell to melt his toothbrush into a weapon—he had seen exactly how the guards’ pokémon dealt with anyone who had creative ideas of that sort.

    And so he ended up struggling to keep his mind active and occupied by methodically reading as many books from the prison’s paltry library as possible. It was in the middle of a slow afternoon that he was struggling to flip through the pages of The Excavation of the Ruins of Alph with his cramping fingers that he heard someone approach his cell and call out to him.

    “Hey... Charon, get over here! You’ve got a letter!”

    Charon’s reading was interrupted and he turned his head to look. Outside of his cell was another inmate holding an overflowing mailbag. being followed by a Luxray, who had its teeth bared. The pokémon did not belong to the prisoner—it was trained to keep an eye on her. Charon knew that the mail delivery job was assigned to a prisoner with good behavior so that the higher-ups did not have to pay anyone to do it.

    “Eh? A letter? That is quite unexpected,” said Charon. As far as he knew, his location was not common knowledge, and no one had sent him anything before.

    “It’s from a Scientist or—” The Luxray growled hungrily and the prisoner cringed. “Just take it already!”

    “A Scientist? Excellent!” Charon got up despite his aching back and quickly swiped the letter. “Clearly, this must be an adoring young fan who stumbled upon my research. Finally, my great genius is receiving the recognition it deserves,” he said to himself—the other inmate had already left. Charon did not even register being ignored because he was so excited. He hoped that the Scientist had somehow discovered his Rotom research and wished to praise his insight. Though he knew it was unlikely, Charon also hoped that Rotom had been found along with his research and that it was living a happy life without him.

    Charon noticed that the letter was from a “Scientist Solnechno.” To Charon’s dismay, Rotom was not even mentioned. Instead, the author claimed that he had been mentored by Charon some time before he joined Team Galactic. The Scientist wrote that he needed Charon’s advice on a new project:



    Currently, I'm trying to create a digital-only pokémon.

    I started experimenting on Porygon some time after you left. Unfortunately, even after all this time I still haven't created my own digital pokémon. Can it even be done? I need to break the encryption of the Up-Grade, and you could help me out.


    Charon’s disappointment turned to confusion. He had never heard of a man named Solnechno, let alone taught him. Charon was old, but he was not senile, and he rarely forgot an important fact. As he analyzed the name and decided that the prefix that “Solnechno” meant something like “sunny” or, “of the sun,” he grew more and more suspicious. He reread the letter and tried to see if anything stood out to him. The reference to Porygon brought to mind his work on the Dubious Disk, and that was when he noticed something—if he took the first five digits of the Dubious Disk’s encryption key, he had eight, six, seven, six, and three. If he considered these digits to be the numbers of filler words between each actual word of the paragraph, he ended up with the message “I left. I can break you out.”

    Concluding that the letter was far too strange to not contain some kind of cipher, Charon wrote a detailed response that included information he figured would be necessary for someone breaking another out of prison to know—the cell block he was in, his cell number, his daily routine, and a description of the wall that surrounded the entire facility, including the pokémon who guarded it. After finishing his reply, Charon could only wait and hope.

    ----------

    Several days passed. It was late morning—Charon rarely bothered to see the exact time of day anymore—and he working at the assembly line. Charon had always known that corporate powerhouses like Silph depended on the slaving of prisoners like himself, and he felt it was thematically appropriate that he had gone from an unpaid intern at their offices to an unpaid prisoner working for the same company.

    The Poké Ball testing and assembly chambers were vast, grey spaces full of conveyors and equipment that spat out halves of Poké Balls and other devices for the mass of workers to put together. The whirring and grinding of the machinery combined with the loud conversations between his coworkers left Charon ears ringing, and for a long time, he felt that it would not have mattered if he developed hearing damage because people so rarely spoke to him. When he was given orders, he always knew ahead of time what they would be since every day was the same from him.

    Charon was checking the healing device specially-designed for his favorite kind of Poké Ball, the Heal Ball, when he heard a deep rumbling sound that grew louder and louder. The machinery trembled as if a herd of Tauros was rampaging outside. Suddenly, everything started to shake violently, and Poké Balls were jolted into the air and scattered across the floor. The other workers were panicking and being thrown every which way, and Charon lay down on the floor away from the machinery, afraid of being hit by flying shrapnel.

    After a long few seconds, the earthquake ended. Charon slowly tried to get off the floor but immediately fell back down when a loud boom resonated through the prison and everything shook once again. A cloud of dark smoke flooded the Poké Ball assembly area and Charon heard pokémon cries in the distance. Charon turned and saw his supervisor and guards shouting at the inmates and telling them to leave, and Charon knew that this was his only chance. He ran into the smoke toward the source of the cries before anyone could catch him.

    He was not surprised when a Crobat rushed at him and rapidly beat its four wings to clear some of the smoke. The pokémon made a sharp turn in the air and led Charon to a wall, which had clearly been blasted open by some kind of explosive. Huge, cracked pieces of rubble littered the detonation site. Crobat flew through a gaping hole and Charon followed it as fast as he could.

    As soon as he stepped out into the outside world, Charon saw a Houndoom and Honchkrow using Flamethrower and Heat Wave respectively to keep a flock of enraged Skarmory at bay. He struck by how beautiful the flames looked against the peach-and-pink tinged sky. His reverie was soon interrupted by a familiar voice.

    “We must leave immediately. Climb on top of Gyarados and hold onto it tightly,” Cyrus spoke in a deep monotone. He stood in front of the stone wall that circled the entire island while staring at Charon with an unreadable expression. Charon ran up to him and noticed that part of the wall had collapsed, and that Cyrus’s Gyarados was curled up beyond it and was looking down the cliff and eyeing the churning sea below.

    Charon quickly looked from Cyrus to Gyarados. “How would we be able to survive the fall from the island to the oce—”

    “Gyarados is part flying-type. Don’t argue with me, Charon,” Cyrus cut him off and looked to his pokémon. “Houndoom, return... Honchkrow, follow us.” He withdrew Houndoom and walked over to Gyarados, who lay down and allowed its trainer to sit behind its head.

    Charon tentatively approached Gyarados, who seemed relaxed. Honchkrow flew at Charon and crowed until it convinced him to climb onto Gyarados and grab one of its spiky dorsal fins.

    Cyrus wasted no time. “Gyarados, use Dive.” His pokémon reared up, let out a roar, and launched itself through the air before landing with a a crash into the whitewater and slipping below the waves.

    ----------

    Gyarados jumped up a series of rocky cliffs and lowered its head and tail to the ground. Charon soon tumbled off its back and fell into a patch of small red flowers. He gripped the grass and coughed up seawater for a while before he shakily stood up and tried to wring water out of his hair. It was a miracle that he had not lost his glasses during the ride—Gyarados had been tearing through the sea at top speed and had continually leaped into the air before diving back down.

    The small island they had finally landed on was uninhabited. A small grove of both pine and deciduous trees stood at its heart. Based on the island’s small size, the rocky cliffs, the vibrant grass and flowers, and the fact that the center of the island was closer to sea level than the outskirts, Charon guessed that it was sitting on top of an inactive underwater volcano. As Charon took in the the vibrant orange-colored sky, the smell of the salt, and the leaves and pine needles that rustled in the light sea breeze, it dawned on him that he had not seen any of these things for over a year—and that at some point he could not remember, he must have simply accepted that he would never experience such things again.

    While Charon was in a daze, Cyrus dismounted. His spiky hair was soaking wet and had fallen over his face. “You lack endurance... we were not supposed to stop here.” Cyrus gestured to his Honchkrow, who had just landed beside him, and motioned for it to keep watch. It flew off. “At least I can inform you of my plans,” said Cyrus.

    Charon looked up at him for a moment before breaking out into loud laughter. “Fuhyahyahya! That’s certainly one way to greet an old employee after everything that you did. Why, you seem like you haven’t changed a bit. But I can’t say I’m not hopeful that you’ve finally come to your senses and are ready to work on making money and looking after your team... with the help of my genius, of course.”

    Cyrus brushed the hair out of his face and glared down at Charon like a Vespiquen would stare at a failure of a Combee. “I have changed. No being is still and constant—of course, I know that isn’t what you were referring to. You would hope for material gain... you are truly one of the useless consumers, as I remember.” Cyrus looked up at his Honchkrow, who was now circling the island. “...Follow me deeper into the woods. We will discuss my plan there.” Cyrus started walking away without waiting for a response.

    Charon followed him and sighed. “You say that, but you clearly haven’t changed. I suppose that’s fine.”

    After walked down a path that led through the trees, they came upon a shallow pool of water shaped like a crescent moon. The pool reflected the bright orange of the sunset, and Charon could see that in the center of it was a large, pale green feather that curved in on itself. He ran over and picked it up, excited to own a new personal possession other than his glasses. The feather shimmered blue and pink in the fading sunlight.

    “Ah, you have found a Lunar Wing,” said Cyrus. He watched with a blank expression as Charon played with the Lunar Wing. “They are dropped by the legendary pokémon Cresselia. It is said that Lunar Wings can dispel nightmares, even those caused by Cresselia’s counterpart, Darkrai.”

    Charon grinned. “Dropped by a legendary pokémon, you say? This could make us rich beyond imagination! Surely even you can appreciate that?”

    Cyrus’s eyes narrowed and his stare turned cold. “Do you really think that any shop would accept this? It could easily be faked. Not many know of its importance to begin with. Even if it could be easily sold, your obsession with money is pointless. I thought that you were intelligent... do you even care about a new world?”

    Charon rolled his eyes and pocketed the Lunar Wing regardless. “First of all, you haven’t even told me any details of this new plan of yours. Secondly, of course I am not pleased to be working for a madman like yourself once again. But ultimately, that doesn’t matter, does it? Something tells me you’re going to have me arrested again if I don’t comply.”

    Cyrus nodded slightly. “I see... then perhaps you do understand. It doesn’t matter if you are displeased—useless eaters like yourself are never pleased. I will also make sure you are blamed for the bombings if you don’t comply.”

    By now, the sky was becoming dark. Charon heard the waves hitting the cliffs and Honchkrow cawing in the distance. “What is it that you want from me, Cyrus? It’s about time that you got to the point.” Charon suddenly felt very weary, and leaned back against a tree trunk.

    “That is quite hypocritical for you to say, considering how many useless words you speak...” Cyrus muttered. “I need you to create a device that can control dozens of pokémon at once without the use of Poké Balls.”

    “That will be interesting enough. Can you supply me with any materials?” asked Charon.

    “Yes...” Cyrus paused. “You aren’t even going to ask me what I want with such a device?”

    “Most likely you want to create a new world again. If you think that’s somehow going to work, I can’t stop you. You’ve made it clear that I have little say in the matter.” Charon closed his eyes. “Not to mention that I don’t have much to look forward to in this world.”

    “How curious that you give in so easily.” Cyrus took a few steps toward Charon, walking through the pool of water in the process and leaving it rippling. “Yes, I can give you anything you need to construct it... this may be more simple than I expected.”

    ----------

    Fortunately for Charon, the second ride on Gyarados was far shorter than the first. They landed in the woods northeast of Canalave City’s harbor, and then continued east on foot. Charon begged Cyrus to just use Fly, but Cyrus was adamant about walking on difficult terrain and on as few existing trails as possible, while hiding under the shadows cast by the leaves of the trees above. They did have to cut through Mt. Coronet by walking through a man-made path, but Cyrus made sure to have his Crobat accompany them to stealthily spot any nearby trainers with its ability to fly without making a sound.

    After hours of traveling as night fell, they reached Cyrus’s destination—Sendoff Spring. Charon slowly walked down the pier, sat down to rest his aching legs, and looked down into the placid lake, which reflected the night sky. He could feel a strange pressure bearing down on him, as if he was walking outside right before a thunderstorm was about to hit. The only sound was the soft ringing of Chingling from the grass.

    Cyrus went to stand beside him. “The simplest way to reach that cave is by using a pokémon to carry you down the cliffs. That is Turnback Cave—it is where I emerged when I left the other world.”

    “...And this is where you’ll be creating your new world, is it? Why did you leave the other one?” asked Charon.

    “No, my plan will not be executed here,” said Cyrus. “However, this lake is not on any map, and reality is unstable inside of Turnback Cave. It is an ideal place to hide until the device is complete.”

    Charon noticed but did not comment on the fact that Cyrus did not explain why he left the Distortion World. The two of them left the pier, walked around the lake, and used Gyarados to slide down the cliff face and reach the cave below. Cyrus led Charon inside, and Charon was immediately struck by how thick the fog inside was. He could only see a few feet in front of him, and the strange pressure was becoming even heavier with every step he took inside.

    Cyrus sent out his Crobat once again and commanded it to use Defog. Crobat cut through the grey veil and created a whirlwind that cleared the first room of Turnback Cave. The retreating fog revealed a stone pyramidal structure in the center of the room with an inscription carved into it—an inscription in Unown letters. Charon could discern part of the text, which read, “...Past three pillars...to the sleeping... ...before 30 is surpassed...”

    Cyrus withdrew Crobat and approached the pyramid. He placed one hand on the stone and stared at the Unown letters. “The architecture of this place is always changing... the boundary between our world and the Distortion World is weak here. The inscription gives directions on how to find a room that holds the portal I used to return to this reality. The rules of the Distortion World are in many ways antithetical to those of our world, but it still didn’t give me the world without spirit that I seek... that I seek to this day.” He turned back around, and noticed that Charon was not looking around the room, but was instead just frowning giving Cyrus an expectant look. “You do not seem to be impressed, awed, or frightened...” said Cyrus, his tone of voice varying slightly beyond his usual monotone, “...normally, a human would have a strong reaction upon visiting Turnback Cave. Why are you not exhibiting normative human behavior?”

    “In what way is any of this relevant to my interests? You’re going to erase me, if this plan is anything like your old one. Apologies if I can’t care about the philosophical implications of another world...” Charon said sarcastically. “I can see that you missed your calling as a Professor, since you love to lecture. But, that doesn’t matter. I’m tired and wet, and you’re going to have to tell me the specifics of your plot eventually—what species of pokémon do you want to control? Where is this device going to be used? Perhaps you should get to it.”

    Cyrus put his arms behind his back. “I can appreciate your pragmatism in this singular situation. Very well... this is the pokémon I wish to control.”

    “Unown, then? How many of them?”

    “It is unclear. Potentially a thousand.”

    Charon started. “A thousand at once, you say?”

    “Yes...” Cyrus gestured to the letters once again. “When large numbers of Unown gather together—“

    “They can alter reality,” said Charon, his posture becoming slumped again.

    “You already knew that information?” Cyrus looked down at him.

    “...It’s very strange—I had a lot of time to read in the past year. I wonder why that is, Cyrus?”

    “Why, I wonder if it could have anything to do with your being ignorant enough to end up captured,” Cyrus imitated Charon’s patronizing tone.

    “Maybe if an immature buffoon hadn’t thrown all of his team’s efforts away, that never would have had to happen to me,” said Charon. “Humph, none of this matters now. You need to capture several Unown so that I can test different methods. I already have some ideas.” He walked away from the pyramid and deeper into the cave, heading for the dark doorway in the far wall.

    “Then we must travel to the Solaceon Ruins. Where are you going? We have no reason to hide until you begin work on the device,” said Cyrus.

    “I need to find a place to sleep...” Charon mumbled. “I’m in no rush to disappear.”

    “And I must stand here until morning, suffering while the world remains ugly and incomplete? Must I continue withstand your ignorance, selfishness, and cowardice?” Cyrus called out, but Charon did not answer him.

    Charon’s neck and back ached from his having slept against a craggy rock the night before. His pain was especially accentuated by having to walk up and down the sets of stairs in the Solaceon Ruins. However, one thing went smoothly—the Ruin Maniacs in the ruins recognized neither Charon nor Cyrus. The two of them claimed they were merely researchers fascinated by Unown, and no one doubted their story.

    As Charon looked around, he noticed that the style of architecture was identical to the one used in Turnback Cave. Even the bricks were hewed from the same stone. The main difference was that these ruins were far smaller in scale. “Cyrus, were the Solaceon Ruins built concurrently with Turnback Cave?” he asked.

    “It is possible, and the artifacts that have been unearthed here led anthropologists to believe that it was,” Cyrus said without looking at him. “We know that the same ancient culture is responsible for each.” He descended into the final room, where there was an inscription carved into a large stone block, similar to those found in Turnback Cave.

    Cyrus approached it, then pointed to the inscription. “Here you can see how this group of people who worshiped Arceus cleverly indicate the power of Unown when they congregate.” The letters read, “Friendship All lives touch other lives to create something anew and alive.”

    Charon squinted at the petroglyphs. “Eh? Are you certain that this refers to Unown and not to pokémon and humans in general?”

    “That is the merely the surface meaning, Charon...” Cyrus trailed off when he noticed an Unown shaped like an exclamation point appear from the far wall. He took out a Poké Ball and sent out his Weavile. It was a very simple capture, and Cyrus only had to command his Weavile to use Fake Out, and he was able to catch it in a single attempt.

    “Because it’s been theorized that different Unown have different functions, it’s worth catching one of another kind... even though that theory hasn’t been proven,” said Charon. “If the physiology of each letter is different, it stands to reason.”

    “I agree... I will capture an Unown question mark, the other morph that is found in this chamber.” Cyrus pocketed the Poké Ball, breaking the law that required all trainers to carry no more than six pokémon at once. Charon noticed that Cyrus’s Weavile heard its trainer’s words and immediately began to watch the walls carefully, trying to spot more Unown. Weavile did not groom itself, make any sound, or do anything else that Cyrus had not ordered it to do.

    It did not take very long for another Unown to appear, and Cyrus captured it with precisely the same method before he returned Weavile to its Poké Ball. Afterward, he turned to Charon. “It is said that Arceus shaped the universe with its one-thousand arms. However, in representation, it never has a thousand arms. I believe it’s because its ‘arms’ are in fact Unown. This would fit your idea that each type of Unown has a different function—as different letters form different words, different Unown could have been responsible for shaping different aspects of this reality.”

    “That would make sense considering what I know about Unown,” said Charon. “I was planning on harnessing radio signals to control them. I read that in the Ruins of Alph in Johto, radios pick up a strange broadcast of an unclear origin that bears similarities to a song associated with salutations to Arceus.”

    “It must be the song that is played with an Azure Flute, an ancient instrument that is said to produce sounds that are not of this world. Anthropologists know it was used in rituals, but no one has found one intact...” Cyrus and Charon continued to discuss Arceus, the mysterious power of Unown, and the ancient history of Sinnoh and Johto. Eventually, the subject of their conversation turned back to the meaning of the inscription. “How can it be that you understand all of the complexities of these pokémon and the humans who studied and worshiped them, but you believe these words refer only to friendship?” asked Cyrus.

    “I never said that,” answered Charon. He cleaned his glasses by using his shirt—the lenses had become dusty. “But it’s reckless to ignore that meaning. What if friendship was key to their religious dogma? And the text isn’t wrong. Having multiple beings interact does give rise to emergent qualities... that’s the overly-academic way you’d say it.”

    “That is true... wait...” Cyrus’s mouth thinned and his cheekbones seemed to be accentuated. “We have the pokémon necessary to begin the construction. We could have left around an hour ago.” He paused. “Pardon me, it must be that I’m accustomed to the Distortion World, where time does not flow.” Cyrus started walking up the steps.

    Charon tried to stop himself from laughing at him with limited success. “Why, of course.”
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      #2    
    Old June 26th, 2017 (1:00 AM).
    ShivaDF's Avatar
    ShivaDF ShivaDF is offline
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      Join Date: Aug 2009
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      Chapter II

      They began work on the pokémon-control device in a room of Turnback Cave that was far from the entrance. Cyrus had cannibalized PC components to build the rig, which he pushed against the chamber’s large, central pillar. Charon had the idea to use a Dawn Stone as a crystal oscillator, as he guessed the stone had some kind of mysterious energy based on how it transformed the pokémon who were able to evolve by using it.

      “Send out the two Unown and we’ll test the transmitter,” said Charon. Cyrus agreed and he let the Unown exclamation mark and question mark out of their Poké Balls. The two pokémon floated calmly as their half-lidded eyes regarded Cyrus and Charon. They behaved as if they were seeing something that made them feel at peace—something that the humans could not see.

      “How will we know they are following your orders because of this device when we find the right frequency, and not because of the Poké Balls? And what will our power source be?” asked Charon.

      “The Unown will be very simple to recapture, and so I will release them before we run the tests. This is only a prototype, so I will have my Houndoom use Thunder Fang to power it,” answered Cyrus. He stood up from his position on the floor beside Charon. His lips were pressed firmly together, as if he wanted to speak, but no words were coming out. He stared at Charon’s rosy glasses for so long, the Unown seemed to become sleepy. Eventually, Cyrus spoke once more: “How... do you think it will perform?”

      Charon’s head snapped up. “Uh, what? Why, excellently! You designed it with my guidance! Why did you even ask?”

      “I—” Cyrus’s reply was cut off by the sound of loud, rapidly approaching footfalls. Cyrus whirled around and Charon got up as quickly as possible in order to find a hiding place, but he was too late. Charon cringed and backed up against the pillar as he watched the International Police Officer, Looker, race into the room.

      “Halt, criminals! I, the great Looker, knew that you two would be here and that Charon couldn’t have escaped prison on his own!” Looker jabbed his finger in their direction.

      As Looker was shouting, Dawn walked up to him. “Just to set the record straight, I’m actually the one who came up with those ideas! But, um, that doesn’t matter.” She took a deep breath. “Charon, you don’t have to listen to Cyrus! I know you don’t really want to do this. If you work with us, we’ll make sure to—”

      “Send you back to Waxing Moon, where you belong and can contribute to society from a safe distance.” Looker crossed his arms.

      “Looker, no! Don’t say that!” Dawn shouted. She turned to Cyrus. “And Cyrus, you don’t have to do this, either... I know what happened to you, and I’m sorry.” She looked down at her boots, struggling to think of what to say. “But you’re able to make people around you respect you, so you could definitely make friends and make a difference in this world instead of ending everything and being selfish. I talked to your Grandpa—”

      Cyrus’s normally-neutral expression twisted into a chilling, toothy grin. Cyrus’s entire body shook like as he let out a snicker that sounded like the broken laugh of a vengeful Banette. He gave Dawn a look that made her tremble and freeze in place. “You’ve finally let your true self be known. After failing to convince me of the transient illusions of happiness and friendship, you’ve resorted to emotional torture! I will make you regret coming into this world!” Cyrus yelled. He threw a Poké Ball and in a flash of light, his Gyarados appeared and roared at Dawn and Looker, blowing their hair back.

      Charon was the only one to not flinch at Cyrus’s transformation, but he felt very confused. He had never seen Cyrus express such anger or yell so loudly, even when he was attempting to rile up the Galactic Grunts. Without any pokémon, Charon could only observe the battle that ensued.

      “Gyarados, ram them with Waterfall!” Cyrus commanded. His Gyarados leaped into the air and quickly spun its body, as it let itself be enveloped by water that appeared from its gaping mouth. Dawn knew that she did not have time to send out a pokémon before the attack hit, so she took out a Poké Ball and threw it as high as she could, so that it would avoid being struck by Gyarados. At the same instant, Gyarados charged at her and Looker and sent them flying and tumbling through the crashing wave. They slammed against the far wall and coughed up water.

      “It appears that this case is a washout,” said Looker, wringing out his hair.

      By this point the Poké Ball Dawn had thrown into the air was open, and it sent out a beam of light that struck the floor, and a chittering Pachirisu materialized there. Tiny hearts and stars popped in the air—apparently Dawn had decorated the Poké Ball with many seals. Pachirisu hid its face behind its tail, regarding Cyrus’s Gyarados with what was either coyness or fear. Charon noticed that Dawn’s Pachirisu was bright pink in areas the pokémon was normally pale blue.

      “Riri, use Discharge!” Dawn pointed at Gyarados.

      Cyrus was shaking with rage. He looked ready to run across the room and strangle Dawn, forgoing a pokémon battle entirely. “Gyarados, use Earthquake and incapacitate all of them simultaneously!”

      Gyarados slammed the floor with its whole body, causing a tremor. It felt as if the entire cave was shaking. Dawn and Looker ended up falling down once more. Blocks of stone came loose from the ceiling, and Charon had to leap out of the way to avoid being hit by them.

      Pachirisu was prepared for the destruction—it had pulled a red balloon from behind its back and was floating into the air. When it rose higher than Gyarados’s body, it swung from the balloon’s ribbon, leaped through the air, and latched onto one of Gyarados’s fin. Pachirisu’s cheeks glowed brightly and let out a shower of sparks, and then a giant flare of electricity blossomed from its body. Gyarados thrashed around, trying to shake the Pachirisu off, and only caused more destruction to Turnback Cave. Eventually, Gyarados crashed to the floor in front of the pillar. Cyrus and Charon both tried to run away, but they were too late. Gyarados fell on top of them and crushed the device that lay between them. Pachirisu kept using Discharge, which made Gyarados convulse in agony. The electricity fried the device and ran through Gyarados’s body, shocking Cyrus into unconsciousness.

      Dawn stood up and withdrew Pachirisu. “Great job, Riri! Come back! Okay Looker, now it’s time to do your thing.”

      Looker rifled through his deep pockets. “Excellent work as usual, my young friend. You should be congratulated by the Chief herself!”

      As Looker and Dawn were talking, Charon carefully crawled out from under Gyarados and approached Cyrus, making sure that he was hidden by the unconscious pokémon the entire time. Charon’s body was resistant to electric shocks, and so he had not passed out. He took Gyarados’s Poké Ball, which was still in Cyrus’s hand, and two others from Cyrus’s belt. He sent out the two pokémon and withdrew Gyarados, hoping for the best outcome. Cyrus’s Honchkrow and Houndoom appeared and Gyarados disappeared, much to Dawn’s and Looker’s surprise. The pokémon turned to Charon and glared up at him, confused and angry that it was not their trainer who had sent them into battle.

      Charon eyed Houndoom nervously, remembering that a burn from that pokémon is said to cause eternal pain. “Cyrus is in danger! Those two knocked him unconscious!” he yelled, gesticulating wildly. The pokémon understood—Houndoom ran toward Looker and Dawn before opening its mouth and using Dark Pulse. The eerie black aura washed over them and made them quake with fear. Pachirisu flinched and could not move. Honchkrow grabbed Cyrus’s back with its claws and lifted him up. Charon and Honchkrow raced to the doorway while Houndoom kept the others at bay with Flamethrower.

      Cyrus had mentioned that every door that did not lead farther into the cave was a way back to the entrance, so Charon was not surprised when he appeared there. He withdrew Houdoom and ran after Honchkrow until they finally escaped Turnback Cave and emerged from the cave into the low fog of Sendoff Spring. Charon could hear Dawn and Looker running after him, and because Gyarados was unconscious, he could not flee by having it scale the cliffside. He took another Poké Ball from Cyrus’s belt and sent out Crobat.

      “Take us far away from here by using Fly!” said Charon. Crobat and Honchkrow looked at Charon expectantly. “No, I don’t know where exactly—somewhere safe, without other people.” The pokémon complied, and Cyrus and Charon were soon gone in a flurry of dark feathers.

      ----------

      Crobat and Honchkrow flew them west, over Sinnoh’s mountain range. Charon was in awe at the soft, glowing color of the trees and mountainsides in the light of golden hour and the cold wind in his hair. He realized that pokémon trainers must experience this every time they used Fly—how they grew used to the experience and did not talk about it incessantly surprised him. As the pokémon flew farther west, past Canalave City and toward the Johto region, Charon noticed what appeared to be a thick, grey fog. He struggled to hold on to Crobat as it dove down soundlessly, until Charon could see it was not fog or a storm, but a cloud of sparkling ice crystals—it was diamond dust, a phenomenon he had not seen for many years. Below the diamond dust, Charon could make out a small cabin with ruins nearby, both surrounded by deep snow.

      Crobat and Honchkrow carefully lowered Charon and Cyrus in front of the cabin, before Crobat unceremoniously dropped Charon and he landed on his back. Honchkrow handled Cyrus much more gingerly, and gently placed him beside Charon. Charon immediately jolted to a sitting position, surprised by the feeling of the densely-packed snow underneath him. When he looked at Cyrus, he noticed that his body was completely still and his limbs were unnaturally straight, like those of a corpse. Charon stood up and let out a groan due to his newly-aching back and returned the two pokémon to their Poké Balls.

      He lifted Cyrus partway off the ground and dragged him toward the cabin, trying to figure out what story he could spin to convince anyone who was inside that they were merely lost researchers and certainly not wanted criminals. Even as he considered his concerns, he noticed that their surroundings were breathtaking—the sparkling diamond dust, the snow that shone a pearly pink as it reflected the soft sunset, and the lights on inside the cabin which illuminated the snow further. Charon reached the door and opened it with one hand while he held Cyrus’s head up with the other. The interior was modest—a little, low table with a few chairs around it, a kitchenette, and a PC. Charon noticed that the PC was the model used in Johto.

      A white-haired man was standing in the corner. His mouth opened in surprise, and Charon’s first thought was that he had recognized Cyrus. However, this was proven untrue as soon as the man spoke. “To think I was only expecting one guest today! It’s too bad we’ve got no bed for your poor friend there... lay him down on the rug for now. Tell me, what happened? You seem so disoriented, as if you have no idea where you are!”

      Charon set Cyrus down. He cleared his throat before speaking. “Ahem, we’re here to research ancient civilizations, but then he was put to sleep by a wild pokémon...” Charon was not a particularly skilled liar, and he gave no explanation for how they reached the secluded location in the first place. He felt fortunate that there was apparently no way the man could report the two of them if he saw through his charade.

      “I’m sure that you’ll find the answers you seek here at the Sinjoh ruins,” the man said, with a gleam in his eyes. “It’s certainly an enlightening place.”

      Charon just nodded and sat down, waiting for Cyrus to awaken. Charon turned and looked out the window, watching the diamond dust slowly drifting around outside. It reminded him of flower petals that flipped and spun as they fell. After a few minutes, he started to drift off.

      Cyrus’s eyes suddenly opened wide and he rose to a sitting position stiffly, as if he had been possessed and reanimated. He took in the unfamiliar surroundings. “Tell me where we’ve been taken,” he demanded.

      Charon blinked a few times and woke up. “Uh, you’re awake! We’ve finally made it to the Sinjoh Ruins, of course! It’s all thanks to your pokémon and especially to my quick thinking.” Charon gave him a lopsided smile, hoping that Cyrus would understand the situation.

      Cyrus stared at the old man, who smiled at him knowingly. “I see...” said Cyrus. “Excuse us for intruding.” He slowly stood up, then turned to Charon. “We will visit the ruins, discuss the events that have taken place, and figure out a way to proceed.”

      Charon grumbled about needing his beauty sleep it being cold outside, but he followed Cyrus out into the snow regardless. The sky was darker now, and was a deep lavender with blue bands instead of pink, and the snow reflected a pale blue color that seemed to give off a strange light of its own. Cyrus and Charon approached the Sinjoh Ruins, which was encrusted with ice. Four crumbling columns, each blanketed with snow, marked the entryway. Even in their broken state, they were clearly from a quarry of the highest quality.

      As Cyrus walked toward the ruins, his footprints revealed the stone pathway that led to the entrance. He put his hand on one of the broken columns. “I’ve known of the Sinjoh Ruins for many years. I studied their architectural plans and the mythology that inspired them. However, I was never able to visit this place. It’s fitting that my pokémon brought us here on instinct.

      “Inside the Sinjoh Ruins lies the Mystri Stage, created to honor the Original One, Dialga, Palkia... and Giratina. The Sinnohan people who migrated here created a tradition of hosting elaborate festivals in the name of Arceus,” Cyrus explained.

      Charon was unimpressed. He shivered in the cold. “They actually named this the ‘Mystri Stage?’ So uninspired!”

      “I will not argue with that interpretation...” Cyrus looked at him. “However, you found an undiscovered pokémon and named it the word ‘motor’ backwards, then paused and decided that was incredibly clever. It is rather hypocritical of you to criticize this name.”

      “I was young!” said Charon, without any actual anger. “At least even as a child, I never would have named an unknown pokémon simply that with the silent K and an N removed.”

      Cyrus’s mouth twitched and Charon regarded him with a grin. For a long few seconds, neither one of them spoke. It eventually fell to Cyrus to break the silence. “...So... you must follow me to the Mystri Stage... for purposes of research for my plan,” he hastily added.

      Charon’s grin was replaced by his usual frown. “Of course. It’s all for your

      painstakingly-crafted plan,” he said under his breath. “You had better get to it. I’m freezing.”

      Cyrus stared at Charon in confusion before walking through the entryway.

      Charon followed, his posture hunched. Inside the Sinjoh Ruins, six colonettes sculpted to resemble pokémon marked the direction to take when heading to the stage. The Mystri Stage itself was a deep green, like the center of a Leaf Stone. It was the shape of an equilateral triangle, and had a completely smooth surface. Even though the ceiling of the ruins was crumbling and snow had blown inside, the stage itself had no imperfections. Charon felt the pressure from Turnback Cave return—this time, it was far more powerful. It felt like some presence was trying to push him and Cyrus away.

      Cyrus seemed unfazed by the ominous character of the place. He walked up the stairs and stood in the center of the Mystri Stage. Charon had long known to be wary of bothering strange things, but when nothing terrible befell Cyrus, he walked onto the stage after him. It was decorated by patterns enclosed in four circles—one large central circle surrounded by three others close to the points of the stage. Charon thought they resembled alchemical symbols, but he did not know their meaning.

      “These two symbols represent Dialga and Palkia, and this one near the back of the stage, Giratina.” Cyrus walked from one circle to another as he spoke, before moving to stand in the center of the stage. “This represents the power of Arceus. Now that I have explained this to you, I deserve an explanation from you, Charon. How were able to avoid electrocution?”

      “Ah, I was shocked many times during my childhood. Experimenting with electronics without supervision made me acclimated to the experience...” Charon trailed off, thinking back to Rotom. The disappointment he felt at never learning what became of it came flooding back. “And Rotom never was skilled at controlling its output. It was hyperactive.”

      Cyrus looked at Charon the way a lecturer would examine a blackboard covered in diagrams. He looked ghostly in the fading, bluish-green light.“Yes, Rotom—one of your deepest weaknesses. I never understood why you did not come to share my view of emotions after it abandoned you.”

      “What are you going on about?!” Charon was taken aback. “It’s bad enough that you’re ordering me around. That’s not enough for you? Why drag my past mistake into this and impress your idiotic ideals onto me? Why would my—admittedly very poor—choice of fame over my friend cause me to believe in your unrealistic vision?”

      Cyrus put his arms behind his back and stood up straight. “When you wasted your time befriending that pokémon, that was evidence of your incomplete spirit. The only reason you desire ‘friendship’ is so that others will gather around you, praise you, and make you feel that you’re not worthless—that is why you constantly feel the urge to boast about your scientific genius. You want to believe your existence has value. Now you are bitter and suffering because of your actions. How could you not agree with my ideals? Your every action proves the incompleteness of spirit.”

      Charon stopped to take a few deep breaths, struggling to return to his usual, detached tone of voice. “Maybe if you at least attempted to respect somebody else you would understand the reason that not everyone in the entire world agrees with you. Perhaps you'd actually learn something and realize that other beings aren’t as simple as you think. Assuming that you know everything only makes you immature.”

      “I see... would I learn that I was a possessive, greedy fool who would neglect and subsequently drive away my only friend for something as fleeting and ultimately pointless as fame?” Cyrus asked sarcastically.

      Charon gave up on attempting to keep his voice level. “Maybe. Or you might learn that it's worth your time to work with what you have rather then throwing a tantrum and breaking all the toys in the sandbox whenever somebody else wants to play with them!”

      Cyrus’s facial expression stayed impassive, but his body shook slightly, as if he was flinching away from a strike. “...Arguing is pointless,” he said in monotone. He turned to stare at the unreadable writing on the walls.

      A third, firm voice rang out in the ruins. “Only those chosen by Arceus itself are allowed on the stage, Cyrus! I can’t believe you don’t respect anything from this world!” Cyrus and Charon looked to the entrance, where Cynthia was standing tall, her silhouette dark against the fading sunlight and deep teal of the sky. “I thought you might be here after what the Champion told me, but I didn’t want it to be the case.”

      Cyrus gave her a look as dark as staring into the back of a Shedinja. “Interesting. For once, former Champion, you’ve decided to interfere yourself as opposed to forcing that young trainer to slave away for you.”

      “Don’t joke with me, Cyrus. I had true faith in her, and you only see people as your tools. How you’re treating your Commander shows that.” She took a few steps closer, to the edge of the stairs. “Oh, but you don’t have to close yourself off anymore. I know how your parents treated you—Dawn told me everything. Most people are nothing like them! This is a world where you can make connections and overcome great challenges! The only reason I reached the place I am today is the people and pokémon who came into my life. Together, we can help you live the childhood you never had.” She held out her hand, as if to save someone from drowning. “Please, for the good of all life... this is true justice.”

      Charon was unsurprised and unafraid as he watched Cyrus undergo a transformation. Cyrus bared his teeth and and his eyes narrowed as he gave into blind rage. “You claim that you and others are above them , yet you are as close-minded as they are!” His words echoed throughout the ruins. “Live the childhood that I never had?! Do you think I cannot see the way you’re infantilizing me?!” His voice abruptly returned to monotone. “I am now an adult, an adult who will remake the incomplete world that Arceus created. Why would I want to return to a naive state and remain blissfully ignorant? I am not a coward.”

      Cynthia took a few steps back after seeing the state Cyrus was in, her heels clicking against the stone. “No...! I’m not infantilizing you! I am doing the opposite and giving you a choice!” Cynthia protested. “If you’re so certain that you are in the right, why did you remain in the Distortion World for such a long time?”

      “You don’t deserve an answer to that question,” Cyrus said, with no affect in his voice. He mechanically took out a Poké Ball, pressed the button, and sent out his Crobat. “Use Cross Poison.”

      “It didn’t have to come to this. Go, Glaceon!” Cynthia threw her Poké Ball, which ricocheted off the steps. Glaceon appeared in a flash of light and howled.

      Crobat darted around Cyrus and Charon before cutting through the air toward Glaceon as its four wings glowed a magenta color that hurt to look at directly. Glaceon lifted its tail and ears in a defensive posture before trying to jump back and avoid the move, but it was too late. Crobat sliced its neck and injected it with venom. However, Glaceon’s high Defense let it recover from the hit despite the poison putting it in excruciating pain.

      “Use Ice Beam!” Cynthia commanded, and her pokémon opened its mouth wide and summoned a ball of sparkling ice crystals which hung in the air for a split second before being sent through the air in a glowing stream. The attack hit Crobat, who immediately plummeted to the floor, unconscious. Cyrus recalled his pokémon and sent out his Honchkrow to replace it.

      “Use Heat Wave on both Glaceon and its trainer,” said Cyrus.

      Honchkrow flew up into the air and opened its beak, but Glaceon was wearing a Choice Scarf, which allowed it to move as quickly as Honchkrow. It used Ice Beam at the same instant Honchkrow breathed a fiery wind toward it. Because Cynthia’s pokémon were so powerful, Honchkrow also fell in a single move. The heat made Glaceon feel like it was melting, but it withstood the attack—only to succumb to the poison and fall into the arms of unconsciousness as well.

      “You have forced me to send out my most powerful pokémon...” Cyrus took out another Poké Ball and sent his Weavile out. It hissed at Cynthia and clung to the edge of the stage.

      “I am a more powerful trainer. You have to recognize that,” said Cynthia. She took out a Poké Ball and looked down at it and paused before sending out her pokémon. “You’ve left me no choice but to handle this directly!” she yelled as her Togekiss appeared. It floated serenely in front of her. “Togekiss, use Thunder Wave.”

      Togekiss spun around, performing a kind of mid-air pirouette. It beat its wings and sent an electric pulse in Weavile’s direction. However, it sailed over the pokémon and instead hit Cyrus and Charon instead, stunning them. Cyrus struggled to to resist the jolt, but could not move. Weavile turned to his expectantly, waiting for an order, but none came.

      “Excellent work, Togekiss. Use Aura Sphere to knock out Weavile.” Cynthia pointed to Weavile and Togekiss floated upward and Weavile turned back around, coming face-to-face with its opponent. A bright ball of energy started growing in front of Togekiss’s multicolored crest, and Weavile cringed away from the light it radiated. It took another look back at Cyrus before diving to its left to avoid the charging attack.

      “Fire!” Cynthia yelled, a second too late. She did not predict that Charon would shake off the paralysis and attempt to creep off the stage in order to avoid capture. Togekiss lost sight of Weavile and accidentally fired the blazing blue aura directly at him. Right before the attack could hit Charon in the chest, Cyrus broke free of paralysis, leaped toward Charon, and shoved him out of the way, hard. The Aura Sphere shot past the two of them and slammed into the far wall, where its energy exploded and destroyed an entire tablet covered in petroglyphs. Bits of stone of little blue sparks flew out from the impact site.

      Cynthia stood stock still and could only stare—not at the damage she had inadvertently caused, but at Cyrus. While she was still frozen in place, Cyrus took Charon by the hand and ran off the Mystri Stage with him, toward the exit. “Weavile, use Ice Punch to keep Togekiss at bay.”

      Cyrus’s Weavile was eager to obey its trainer, and it pounced on Togekiss, who was watching Cynthia with concern in its eyes. While Weavile hit it with a super-effective ice-type move, Cyrus and Charon escaped into the snow. Charon wanted to demand an explanation from Cyrus, but knew it was not the time. The two of them raced to the cabin, and Cyrus pulled door open and burst in.

      “Use your Abra to Teleport us back to Sinnoh!” Cyrus ordered.

      The old man in the corner had a knowing look on his face. “Is that what you really want?”

      “Do not play games with me.” Cyrus dragged Charon inside and slammed the door shut behind the two of them. A dazzling magenta light engulfed them, and everything went white.
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      Old June 26th, 2017 (1:03 AM).
      ShivaDF's Avatar
      ShivaDF ShivaDF is offline
      The Scooter-riding Artist
         
        Join Date: Aug 2009
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        Chapter III

        Charon found himself standing next to Cyrus, Cyrus still holding his hand. They stood on slightly slippery earth that seemed to be mostly clay. A pool of water that formed a peculiar shape that seemed to be a visual representation of something lay before them. They were in a damp cave, and Charon noticed that the cave opened into a body of water, and beyond the bank was a grassy field and a patch of woods.

        “Interesting. Abra’s Teleport has taken us to Lake Verity,” said Cyrus, disinterestedly.

        Charon quickly pulled his hand away from him. It ached from having been held so tightly. “Yes, that is very interesting,” he said sarcastically. “But don’t just stand here gaping. You were so eager to put your plan into action.”

        “...We cannot leave this lake now. My Gyarados, Honchkrow, and Crobat remain unconscious—they will likely not recover before morning.” Charon started to say to say something, but Cyrus interrupted him. “My Houndoom’s body radiates heat, and will keep us warm overnight.” He sent out Houndoom, who obediently lay down between Charon and its trainer.

        “I have many more questions and complaints besides that,” Charon grumbled. He sat down next to the pokémon regardless—every part of his body felt like it wanted to collapse.

        Cyrus sat down across from him. “...If you were confused by my actions on the Mystri Stage—because the former Champion attempted to convince me of the importance of bonds of friendship, I knew that if I performed an action that appeared selfless, it would shock her, giving us an opportunity to flee.” Cyrus was sitting in a seiza pose with his back utterly straight.

        “Very logical. You’re almost as intelligent as I am...” Charon said, his tone bitter and enervated. “It really did look like you were putting yourself in danger for my sake. Of course, I knew nobody, not even you, would be foolish enough to do that. Not—not for me.”

        Cyrus stared at Charon’s face like it was a complex equation that he could not solve. “...Your recent behavior has been uncharacteristic. What is the cause?”

        Charon sighed. “It doesn’t ultimately matter.”

        Cyrus made an affirmative sound. Charon held his hands out over Houndoom, who had rolled over and was now asleep, its body slowly rising and falling with its breath. Cyrus just kept staring. Silence fell over them—the only sounds were the waves on the lake surface hitting the side of cave and a distant Starly murmuration.

        “I noticed that you never asked me about my grandfather, or about my parents,” said Cyrus. “Because what they did deserves to be known by all, I will tell you if you wish.”

        “I won’t stop you...” said Charon.

        “Very well. My parents abused be in many ways—they controlled me financially, insulted me constantly when no one else was present, and destroyed some of my most prized possessions. They also put me through therapy when I expressed my desire to live a non-normative life—‘therapy’ that involved placing red-hot objects on my skin, feeding me misinformation as a scare tactic, and threats. I was forced to lie about my wishes to escape. I went to my grandfather for help, and he always told me to endure it or to let my parents shape me to their will. He was obsessed with misplaced familial loyalty,” Cyrus recounted in a dull tone. “I remember one event from my childhood most clearly. I was studying for exams... I was receiving only the highest of grades, yet that did not satisfy my parents. They found me reading a book on mythology, which I loved. They interpreted this as a frivolous distraction and set the book aflame and forced me to watch. It was at that moment I realized that had I no spirit, I would have been unaffected by all the ways in which they tormented me... free of all suffering. This is how I learned that reality is incomplete. Had I only adopted this ideology more quickly...” he trailed off.

        Charon looked up at Cyrus. “So that is what the Champions were going on about. I’m sorry that you had to bear such hardship. It certainly speaks to deep systemic issues in our society.”

        Cyrus scrutinized Charon’s expression. “Are you... pitying me?” Cyrus raised his voice broke past his usual monotone. “Pity is a contemptible product of the ugly human heart!”

        “I would expect someone with a fixation on logic to be less prone to jumping to conclusions. I’m not pitying you. Empathizing, perhaps.”

        “Empathy is also a worthless product of the heart...” Cyrus paused. “Empathy requires a deep understanding and sharing of another’s feelings. But no one has experienced my suffering! No one can understand—otherwise, others would have come to share my ideals!” Cyrus brought his hand down into the pool of water, hard. Ripples spread across the water’s surface. “Do not lie to me, Charon!”

        “Maybe I should be pitying you if you’re getting all worked up over nothing,” said Charon. “Of course I didn’t experience precisely the same things that you did. When I was growing up, my parents couldn’t have cared less about exam scores or what I wanted out of life. They kept me out of the Chateau for as long as possible each day and let me wander off because they thought I would just bother the homeowners. If I came back covered in scrapes and bruises, or if I’d been electrocuted and had fallen unconscious on the lawn, what did it matter? If they had done anything, they would’ve had to pay hospital bills. They couldn’t have that! They were... detached, not controlling. Though I always suspected something more sinister was running through their minds, especially after the murders...”

        “The murders? I thought that the inhabitants died due to ingesting ill-prepared food,” said Cyrus.

        “Of course that’s how the official story goes. But my relatives were most likely embroiled in shady deals to begin with, even if I never could prove it. And considering the way they always treated me like an object, I wouldn’t discount my theory. Their neglect was never accidental.” Charon gazed through the cave’s opening and into the distance, remembering something. He clearly did not expect Cyrus to truly listen to his story. “...If it hadn’t been for Rotom and my budding genius, I would have been another fatality...”

        Cyrus, however, was listening intently to every word. “If this is true... how can you still attribute value to a concept such as friendship? Why do you not view it as transient, as a cause of suffering, as inherently empty?” he asked. “You have clearly experienced pain. Why do you not share my ideals?”

        “How should I know? For one thing, I wouldn’t be the genius I am today had I not endured my childhood and befriended Rotom. My less-than-ideal life story makes my intelligence even more impressive! Of course, don’t think that I have not seen friendship lead to suffering... but that doesn’t mean I have to share your nihilism. I would not trade my memories with Rotom for anything.” Charon kept watching the waves and the sky above it—the trees swaying in the wind and the Starly fighting against it, flying to an unknown place. He swallowed hard. “Even though—even though... I’m afraid. I’m afraid that some trainer caught Rotom against its will and left it to rot in a PC somewhere, or abuses it and ignores its wishes, or puts it through dangerous experiments. Every single day when I think I’m safe and I feel as if I’ve shaken them off, these concerns come back to haunt me. It’s hypocritical, really, since I am the one who neglected it and drove it away because I wanted to be the only one to publish research on it. Now I will never learn whether it’s happy or sad without me... I don’t deserve to know.”

        By now, the sky was a deep blue, and the first handful of stars were becoming visible. Cyrus spoke, slightly more softly than usual. “...My decision to leave the Distortion World and return to this place was partly motivated by a thought that came to me... a thought that my upbringing caused me to develop bias. Even as you are describing the benefits of interpersonal relationships, you're suffering. I can see that you understand that positive emotions are fleeting... why do you not see them as ultimately pointless as I do? I want you to completely explain your position. I want to understand.”

        Charon turned back to Cyrus and glared at him. “If you want someone to argue that relationships have merit, talk to the Champion or the former Champion. Obviously you should not be talking to me!”

        “...But... I want it to be you, Charon. I don't want to discuss this with anybody else.”

        “Why?!” Charon snapped. “I am not going to be a tool for you to use in order to understand everything before you end it all!”

        Cyrus put one of his arms out awkwardly and reached over Houndoom partway, as if he was attempting to touch Charon on the shoulder, but he only ended up twitching like a malfunctioning robot for a few seconds before ultimately putting his arm back down. Charon began to smirk as he witnessed this behavior, but then the heavy feeling of dread seeped into his heart and he ended up scowling instead. He pushed himself off the ground and carefully removed his glasses. “Humph. Make yourself useful and ensure that I don’t crush these while I’m sleeping.” When he handed his glasses over, Cyrus’s fingers lightly brushed his. Charon heavily suspected that this had been intentional, but he stayed silent as he walked away and night fell.

        ---------
        It took place in the Solaceon Ruins. When the pokémon-control device was complete, it was a much larger version of the prototype, with two crystal oscillators—one made from a Dawn Stone, and the other made from a Dusk Stone. Cyrus had his pokémon labor to transport the pieces, which he and Charon finally put together in the lowest of the chambers. It was only noon, but the dark, damp, and musty room made it feel like the middle of a humid summer night. The ground felt moist as Charon walked on it. He had expected to feel fear or at least trepidation, but he only felt weighed down by more exhaustion.

        Cyrus, on the other hand, was pacing in circles—more energized than Charon had ever seen him. He seemed to sense a power in the air that Charon could not. “For many years, I have longed for this moment...” Cyrus still spoke in monotone, but there was an undercurrent to his voice. “Finally, nothing unexpected can interfere. When I harness the same power as Arceus itself, not even the Creation Trio can stop me.” He quickly turned around to look Charon in the eyes. “The new world cannot be complete unless it is created for only me and no one else. However, don’t feel downtrodden. You’ve been instrumental in setting the stage for the end of this universe. Because of this, you should be honored by the role you’ve played—you don’t have to feel unwanted anymore, Charon.” He took slow, deliberate stride toward the machine. “I will allow you to see the beginning of my new reality as a reward.”

        Charon collapsed against the wall and slid down until he was sitting on the wet floor. He brought his knees up and rested his arms on top of them. “I am supposed to feel happy about being a passing interest and nothing more? That is the definition of cold comfort,” he said, his voice muffled.

        Cyrus hesitated for a moment when he heard Charon speak, but did not reply. He took out two Poké Balls and sent the two Unown that he had caught, having them levitate in on either side of the device as if they were guarding a precious treasure. “Finally...” he said quietly, as he turned on it on.

        Now Charon felt a buzzing energy in the atmosphere. His body felt it as an intense tingling sensation, but he knew that it was actually a powerful radio signal that was resonating throughout the ruins. The Dawn and Dusk stones slowly began to light up in cyan and purple respectively, and a faint hum emanated from their crystalline structures. The tones that were imperceptible to humans were immediately heard by the Unown. Cyrus’s two Unown opened their eyes completely, which Charon did not even know was possible for those varieties. The text carved into the wall started to glow a deep indigo, and with each letter that lit up, louder tones began to reverberated throughout the chamber, until it was like an entire bass symphony. Eyes opened in the glowing spaces, and Unown drifted into the open, appearing from another dimension. Dozens of them also started to float from the other chambers, congregating around Cyrus. They all started crying in time with the signal transmitted by the device, and Charon had to cover his ears.

        “Everything is ready!” Cyrus called out as the Unown swirled around him. Charon could barely hear his voice over the din of the pokémon. “Unown, you are my enforcers. The ones who will be my arms as I craft a complete reality. Begin by erasing the Solaceon Ruins... this will be the center of my new world!” He put his arm straight out. The Unown formed clusters and begin to glow with a far more powerful version of Hidden Power. Cyrus was swallowed by a bright light that exploded outward as the pokémon flew in different directions.

        Charon was finally afraid. He curled up against the wall and shut his eyes and he braced himself, waiting for the light to erase him. He felt something like a strong, cold wind pass over him, and he nearly fell backward—the pressure of the wall against him was gone. He slowly opened his eyes, which soon went wide went wide with shock. Charon shakily stood up and took in his new surroundings. Though the device still sat beside him, the ground was missing, replaced with a bright white void, a purer white than Charon thought any material could be. His body was upright, but felt no pressure against his feet. He was simply floating. The ceiling was also gone—he looked up into a dark blue sky with wisps of bright colors that occasionally danced through it like an aurora. A few tiny stars were pinpricks in the sky, but Charon noticed that they were slowly being extinguished. He turned to where the wall used to stand, and saw a horizon in the distance. A blazing sunset met the edge of the white void, so colorful that Charon thought it looked like the sun going down after a volcanic eruption had left clouds of ash in the atmosphere. Somehow, he intuited that this was the old world coming to an end, fighting a losing battle as it was being replaced by Cyrus’s new reality. He was content with just watching this sunset while reminiscing about Rotom. Charon guessed that there would no longer be a spirit world, but he hoped that after being erased, they would be able to reunite in some other way.

        A familiar voice screamed out and a small black portal opened up next to Charon, who jumped back. A twitching Porygon-Z pulled a terrified-looking Dawn through the hole before it disappeared. The pokémon and its trainer fell onto the void, and Dawn shrieked again when she she looked down. She scrambled to a standing position and looked relieved when she laid eyes on Charon. “I-It’s so empty here... even the Distortion World wasn’t anything like this. I’m so happy to see you, Charon—so he hasn’t destroyed the entire ruins yet! I can still put a stop to this!” She crossed her arms and no longer looked afraid. “Hee hee, I’m so proud that I used Porygon-Z’s dimension-hopping powers to get in here. Now, where’s Cyrus...?”

        “I am impressed that my work on Porygon-Z was successful, but you’re far too late to make a difference. Not that a world where only the rich and attractive could flourish is particularly worth saving.” Charon turned around and pointed straight ahead as his hair whipped around in the cold, hard wind. Cyrus was still standing in relatively the same position, but now he stood atop a shining structure made out ice that resembled a flower in full bloom. A whirlwind of Unown was spiraling around him and up into the sky, creating a giant double helix. They were all shielded by the telltale sparkles of Hidden Power.

        “Watch me.” Dawn picked up her pokémon, who was panicking and glitching up. “Use Tri Attack and clear away those Unown!” Porygon-Z floated a bit higher before straightening out its form. Three glowing spheres spun around it—one red, one yellow, and one blue—before they shot toward the spiraling mass.

        Cyrus, still silent, merely held out his hand and the spheres halted. All of the Unown slowed down and focused their pupils on the attack. Their eyes turned blue, and in a flash the sphere were encased in opaque ice. The block of ice fell to the white surface and shattered with a loud, ringing note. The shards melted away into nothingness before Dawn’s and Charon’s eyes.

        Dawn covered her mouth in horror. “It just went dark and now it’s gone...” she said, under her breath. Her Porygon-Z was shaking again.

        “You didn’t see it freeze over?” asked Charon.

        Cyrus spoke with the booming voice of a deity. “Your difference in perceptions demonstrates the illusory nature of reality! Unown, eliminate them!”

        Dawn tried to flee, but there was nowhere to run to. A bright blue light spread beneath her feet, like an inverted shadow. In an instant, she and Porygon-Z were frozen in a giant, twisted pillar of ice that reached infinitely for the final remaining stars. The ice nearly reached Charon, but ended just as it touched his shoulder. He reeled back in horror as he noticed that while the ice was almost completely opaque, he could just barely discern Dawn’s terrified face caught in a silent scream. He felt fear, like a heavy knot in his gut, as he turned back to Cyrus. Charon was not afraid of pain, injury, heartbreak, or death, but even he never wanted to suffer eternal torment.

        The Unown’s pupils were set on Charon, and their magical glow caused Cyrus’s face to be veiled in shadow. His hand was still out in front of him, but he was silent and still, like a statue of a deity and not the deity itself. His chest was rising and falling quickly, which Charon realized meant Cyrus was breathing very heavily.

        “Unown, erase...” Cyrus began, and the Unown’s pupils glowed in anticipation. “...Erase the device from existence!” The device that stood next to Charon shone with a blue light, before freezing over. As it began to crackle and break into pieces, the Unown’s eyes widened. They looked every which way and spun in the air, and the double helix fell apart as the pokémon scattered in different directions. Suddenly, they glared down at Cyrus and surrounded him once more.

        “What is this? I command you to stop!” Cyrus tried to struggle, but the pokémon effortlessly overpowered him. Their eyes flickered blue and pink as they cried out over and over. Cyrus was jerked into the air by the Unown’s amplified psychic power. The pokémon had panicked when they saw the destruction they had wrought while their minds were controlled and had become blind with rage. Their telekinetic power pulled Cyrus’s limbs in opposite directions, hard. His head fell back and he screamed toward the heavens.

        Charon was so shocked at being spared, that he did not initially react to the situation. When he heard Cyrus scream out, he shook his head and tried to do something. “No! Stop that!” he called out. The pokémon did not even glance at him. However, an idea was brewing in Charon’s mind. Against his better judgment, he ran closer to the swarm of Unown. “No harm has been done!” he yelled. He pulled out his Lunar Wing and held it up, as it glittered a pale lavender in the light of the sunset. “This is all illusory—it’s merely a bad dream! Look, wake up!”

        The color of the Lunar Wing caught the Unown’s attention, and they lowered Cyrus slightly. “Yes, it is only a nightmare,” Charon said more softly. “It will be all right if you simply choose to wake up now.” Before Charon could even register what was happening, the sunset, stars, ice—everything in Cyrus’s new world—was drawn close to each other. The flickering colors of every object ran together and everything blurred into one mass, like spilled watercolor paints. Everything shone brightly as it was pulled into a singularity, but Charon felt no fear. His body became weightless, as if he was beginning to dream as he was drifting off to a rare peaceful sleep.

        ----------


        When he came to, he was lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling, which had returned to being stone. Everything was calm and quiet, and no Unown were levitating in the air. Even the two that had been caught were nowhere to be seen, and the writing on the wall was simple writing once again. Cyrus had apparently fallen on top of Charon when the Unown dropped him—his head was tucked next to Charon’s, their bodies pressed flush together. Charon could feel Cyrus’s spiky hair brushing against his cheek.

        Cyrus stirred and raised his head to look Charon in the eyes. “I deeply appreciate your actions, Charon. Using the Lunar Wing was... very practical,” he said. He noticed that Charon’s glasses had slid partway down over his face, and so Cyrus gently moved them back up to where they belonged.

        “Why, thank you,” said Charon, breathlessly. He suddenly wondered how it would feel to touch Cyrus’s sharp cheekbones. As Cyrus regarded him with a surprisingly soft look in his large, icy-blue eyes, Charon realized that if Cyrus were to do something sentimental and reckless at that moment, he would not have had the heart to stop him. Charon’s lips trembled with anxiety and anticipation as Cyrus began lowering his head and leaned in closer.

        They were interrupted by a soft groan. Dawn was curled up on the floor, her Porygon-Z resting on top of her. The two of them were shaking, about to wake up. Cyrus and Charon shared a look and simultaneously decided to flee.

        ----------

        They let Honchkrow and Crobat take them to a place neither of them were familiar with—a small island east of the Battle Zone and far from any route in the Sinnoh region. Fresh, dewy grass and many lush flowers—yellow, blue, pink, and lavender, completely blanketed the island, and everything appeared to be gilded in the warm glow of golden hour. The light sea breeze sent some flower petals drifting through the air as the fragrant sweet smell wafted over the island. The clouds puffy clouds above moved lazily across the sky.

        Charon sat down as soon as he was able. “At last. Now, Cyrus, I have pressing questions for you. First, where is this place? Why is not on any map? What are we going to do from now on—live life on the run?” He gently played with a lavender flower as if he was going to play a game of “He love me... he loves me not” with it. “But most importantly... why did you let me live? Obviously I have my suspicions... but I deserve a clear explanation from you directly.”

        Cyrus awkwardly sat down beside him and took a deep, long breath. “...I do not know where we are. I never encountered this island in my many studies—however, I believe that it has some connection to the legendary Gratitude Pokémon, Shaymin. A field of similar flowers near Floraroma Town has been associated with Shaymin’s power, and thus the same pokémon may have created or inhabited this area. I would guess that only those who are experiencing a strong feeling of gratitude can perceive this place...” Cyrus paused, as if he wanted to elaborate, but he changed the subject. “I cannot answer for you. As for myself, I do not know precisely what actions I will choose to take from now on... this ties into your final question.” He robotically reached out and clamped down on Charon’s shoulder, which caused Charon to whirl around so that he and Cyrus were gazing into each other’s eyes. “I understand now that to truly become unbiased, I must experience a viewpoint that differs from my own. While I still believe your view to be overly materialistic and potentially pessimistic, you have been a grounding influence on me. You have convinced me to attempt to learn from you, as I respect your ability to present logical arguments. I also deeply respect... wait...” he trailed off. “Charon, are you... crying?”

        Charon’s eyes were indeed incredibly misty, and his mouth was quivering with emotion. Cyrus was stricken by confusion, but before he could fully pull his hand away, Charon leaned over and gave Cyrus a tight hug. Cyrus fell back into the flowers and took Charon with him, which sent petals flying when they landed on the grass. While Cyrus shook like a malfunctioning robot and Charon laughed softly, a faint, pastel rainbow was appearing above the Flower Paradise.


        THE END
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