This is the sequel to Roleplay: The Final Iteration.



Asterisks mark names that are not truly the name of the character.

  • Antithesis and its allies
    • Antithesis
      • Viera's Forces
        • Viera
        • Elektra(Anett)
        • Impale
        • Ring
        • [REDACTED]
        • [REDACTED]
  • Others
    • The Returners

Commander Lightning

  • Team StormBlitz
    • Pikachu XXV (Pikaichichu)
    • Lieutenant General Magneton Jr (Zaffre)
    • Burasuiakeru (Clinger)
    • Kakegakoto (Latchgrip)
    • Kolsohte
    • Teishoshko
    • Munwibada
    • Trivdrenen
    • Coubrûaielle
  • The ProtoVordartrian Empire
    • Sovereign Commander Vykhtor Lighsttrom
  • Allied Mercenaries
    • Hro'tav Rh'iizh
    • Rh'iizh's Officer

Otoriszu's and Webuhimo's Gang

    • Xorack Otoriszu
    • Aroido Webuhimo
    • Uopanosguhi
    • Sagujo
    • Sokona
    • Zurkabō
  • Aevaroen Security Police
    • Kolonel Brihlzend
    • Major Copper
    • Major Tin
    • Capitaine Clacq

Chapter One: The New Movement

It has been six months since Cerin and Lace left Celrest. They had since acquired themselves a nice home in Silveria City. The six months in Paradiso passed without much incident, of surprise to Cerin. Cerin had done a couple of small tasks for some residents of the city, but other than that, there had been no adventure. Tonight, Cerin had a strong feeling that that was going to change. Strange incidents had been reported around the city, and Cerin thought that perhaps he would be roped into it sooner or later.

In Celrest, IACPF and Team StormBlitz Branch B forces were patrolling the city. Not intrusive with the residents, but nevertheless strict in public matters or if there was any trouble that legitimately needed attention. There was a more concentrated force of them near the Core Building, troops marching through and around the city center with armoured vehicles moving through and aircraft flying above. As was stated before, they were there to maintain order, and maintain order they did.

Elsewhere, Elles, Emmes, and Kiha had set up camp around the outskirts of Silveria, and sat in front of a computer screen. Onscreen, an old Meowstic speaks.

Older Meowstic "Girls, you know the drill."

Emmes "C'mon! We've been out here for five months doing this? When will we attack the shades?"

Elles "I'm honestly with her. This has gone on too long. I don't even see a point to what we're doing."

Older Meowstic She snorts. "If you wish to take them on without due preparation, go right ahead. Get yourselves killed."

Elles "Mom, you're too harsh sometimes."

Emmes She shakes her head. "I'm going to do it."

Elles "Imouto, no!"

Emmes "I won't be held back from this. If I die, I'll've learned my lesson. If I come back, I'm ready."

Elles "Dammit, at least lemme come with you!"

Emmes "Yeah, whatever."

Emmes and Elles leave the camp, leaving Kiha with the Meowstic on screen.

In Outer Celrest, Pikaichichu, Zaffre, Clinger, and Latchgrip are currently off duty. Having nothing else to do, they are talking with a few other Pokémon that live in Celrest.

A few members of a party known as the Returners, they are a small group working with StormBlitz to unravel secrets left behind by Vahashii, and Orion before her. The leader of the group is a Charmeleon named Pystone. He is discussing with the members about a secret he recently discovered.

Pystone "You must understand; we do not by any means have any clue what this is. It looks like an ancient calendar or something. But the point is, it's one of the few things Vahashii left intact. I would like you to fund some research into this."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Since it once belonged to Vahashii, whom we battled, it's no doubt important, as you imply."

Pikaichichu "We will look into this as soon as possible, and I mean "as soon as possible"."

Latchgrip "Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Pystone."

Clinger nods.

Pystone "No problem. But there is another thing, perhaps of even greater importance."

Clinger "Hmm?"

Latchgrip "Please tell us."

Pystone "Several readable fragments from what may have been Vahashii's diary."

Lt Gen Zaffre "May have been"? Where exactly did you find those fragments?"

Pystone "Lying around the rubble, of course."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Right. Well, what you found of it could prove to have very important information."

Pystone "Well, that's what we thought. All we can see though, it's bordering-on-senile ramblings on a 'Shadow'."

The four remember what Slice said to Vahashii minutes before their last fight.

Latchgrip "Since you mention it, during the fight, we heard about her chasing it, and about her ending up cursed."

Pystone "I wouldn't presume to know a thing about it. But do read what we have. I would like to show you to the HQ..."

Zaffre reads one of the fragments, then passes it to Clinger, who passes it to Latchgrip after reading it. Latchgrip, after he is finished reading it, holds the fragment up to Pikaichichu, who then reads it himself. Zaffre takes another one and repeats this.

The fragments are indeed jumbled, and barely legible, "bordering-on-senile" was an accurate description. Nothing particularly revealing was in the fragments, just comments on the Shadow, mixed in with completely mundane everyday happenings. However, there was one passage that stands out. It read: "I fear that Viera has found a way to predict the Shadow's movements. It almost feels bad to hope that the Nonpareil Alliance takes him out, as I am still on the same side as the Antithesis..." Then Vahashii seems to go on a tangent about a murder she once committed.

They are showing concern as they read this, and find some of the details unsettling.

Pystone "There is literally nothing we can understand about this. However, one of our number recognises some names in those fragments. You may know him, he's one of the candidates for the mayor. I believe he was friends with at least one of the members of The Central Strike. Or the Celrest Strike, as everyone is calling it now."

Clinger nods.

Latchgrip "Actually, yes. We received news about that. And we worked with the Central - or Celrest Strike, to defeat Vahashii and her entire gang."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Now you said you wanted to show us to the HQ?"

Pystone nods, and they all travel to a small building right next to the Core Building.

Pystone "This is the temporary HQ for The Returners. It's not exactly built for this purpose, but it works."

Latchgrip "If it works, then it works out."

Two voices respond directly to them. They belong to none other than Xorack and Aroido.

Xorack "Hah! I'll say. Setting up in the center of this city, and right next to that building, too."

Aroido "And they do not allow many in this area."

Pystone "Hello? Are you two here to complain about the placement? Because calm down."

A third character emerges. A Honedge.

Stab "Xorack, Aroido. You may wanna see what these guys have. We did wanna go after Viera soon, after all, and these guys have been sifting through the rubble for info."

Aroido "And best that we find out as much as we can, Stab."

Xorack "Complain? We don't have to come here to do that, we can do that anywhere."

Pikaichichu "Otoriszu, would you please calm down?"

Aroido steps forward.

Aroido "If I may, we're here for a very similar reason that you are."

Stab "To gather information, I hope..." he mutters to himself.

Pystone "And what might that reason be?"

Aroido "We're here to find more information."

Stab breathes a sigh of relief.

Pystone He looks a bit put off by this. "I don't even think I can tell you anything. I was only ever licensed to share information with the members of StormBlitz..."

Xorack looks annoyed.

Xorack "Look. We're allowed here, too! And we're also allowed to seek any information about Viera."

Pystone He is unconcerned. "And by whose word?"

Xorack "The one who leads that same team." He grins.

Aroido "We received special permission after a discussion with him."

Pystone "O-oh. Very well then. You two come inside as well."

Xorack "You heard him, guys. Let's go."

Xorack leads Aroido and Stab to the HQ, following Zaffre, Clinger, and Latchgrip in. Aroido stops for a moment to thank Pystone before going in.

Aroido "Arigatō."

Pystone "No problem, I guess."

Inside the HQ, Pokémon are running around with papers and things, and the whole place is in a general disarray. In the midst of this, a male Meowstic is standing. "Hello, are you the ones who were supposed to see the thing we found?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "That is correct."

The Meowstic extended his hand to no one in particular. "I'm Emmet. Nice to meet you."

Clinger extends a tentacle out and shakes Emmet's hand.

Lt Gen Zaffre "I am Lieutenant General Zaffre. The Octillery shaking your hand, everyone calls him Clinger."

Latchgrip "And they call me Latchgrip."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We're Team StormBlitz, Branch A. Pikaichichu, who is right outside, is in charge of this branch."

Emmet "Nice to meet you, then. I'm sort of the second-in-command of the Returners. Not official, but I tell people what to do anyway, so..." He laughs. "Anyway, you few are the ones who want info, no? We have it." His face turns troubled. "My younger sisters have gone missing, and they were always talking about looking for one of the names mentioned in that diary you read. That Viera fellow who terrorised us right before the Celrest Strike? He's all tied up in this too. I personally don't have any interest in the Antithesis, or in the Nonparallel Alliance, or whatever it's called, but I want my sisters back." He then sighs. "They're always talking about stuff like this, being all secretive and stuff.... ..I just never thought they'd actually do anything. They think they're going after our missing parents, and... I'm sorry, I've really gone off on a tangent, haven't I? I apologise."

They are pleased to hear that they have the information, but this changes when they hear that Emmet's sisters are possibly getting into danger. Outside, a look of concern comes across Pikaichichu's face. Xorack mouths words, annoyed.

Emmet "It may be too much to ask, but... could any one of you help?"

Before any of them can answer, Xorack interrupts.

Xorack "You don't expect any of us to just go out there without having any ideas about where they might be now, do ya?"

Latchgrip mutters under his breath, slightly annoyed at Xorack.

Latchgrip "We were going to ask about that..."

Emmet He takes a deep breath, and in an uncanny impersonation of a female voice, says, "Argent-Verdantia, you baka, not heaven or hell!" He sighs, then says in his normal voice, "They've run off to Paradiso, I'm sure of it. And that's where Vahashii predicted the Shadow to fall next, according to information from her old servants."

Xorack starts getting angry. Aroido carefully moves him aside.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Quaint that they would happen to go to Paradiso, and Argent-Verdantia for that matter. Six months ago, I sent two former members of the Celrest Strike there on their request."

Emmet "Is that so? In any case, I will not rest until my sisters are safe. Perhaps you could contact those two? Tell them of the situation? Could they help?"

Latchgrip "We could try that."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We need to decide who will be going to find your sisters, and who will be staying here to look at the information."

Latchgrip looks at Clinger, who nods.

Latchgrip "Clinger and I are going."

Pikaichichu answers through the communicator.

Pikaichichu "So am I."

Xorack "I'd really like to stay here and learn everything I can about what Viera is up to, and maybe get some info on that "Shadow"." He rubs his claws together.

Emmet "Feel free to look through whatever we have."

Xorack goes over and looks through the information found so far.

Lt Gen Zaffre "The two of you prepare for your mission, then go outside. Pikaichichu will be waiting for you."

Clinger salutes.

Latchgrip "Yes sir!"

Stab is also looking through the data, and he has found something interesting.

Stab "How did no one see this... Um, guys... This is something interesting... C'mere."

Aroido "You found something?"

Xorack "What is it?"

Xorack and Aroido go to see what Stab found, and Zaffre splits into three and sends a part of himself over to see this.

Suddenly, someone snatches the fragment of paper out of Stab's grasp. A tan pikachu, not Tails, nor Marc, nor Liam or Sylla, was holding the fragment.

Pikachu He wags his finger in sarcastic disapproval. "You aren't supposed to have this, you know! Hehehehe. You few think you can unravel the Shadow? Well I am here to tell you NO!" He says in a singsong manner, stressing "Shadow" so as it rhymes better with "know".

Zaffre sneaks up behind the Pikachu and grabs him.

Lt Gen Zaffre "That is not your decision, and this is a restricted area." Another part of him sneaks looks at the fragment while he has the intruder restrained in his grip.

Xorack "You think you can just come in here and take that fragment from us?!"

Pikachu His singsong attitude is gone. "You do know that I'm trying to help you. The Shadow is not to be dealt with. Hell, you aren't even supposed to be alive. The fact that you still are - and Slice is not - proves that you shouldn't screw up the timelines any further. Do you really want to get wrapped up with the age-old battle between the Nonpareil and the Antithesis? If you really want to ruin your lives, I can give you information that would help you more than this. But I don't think you do."

Emmet "Who the hell- how did he get in here?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Listen to me. We need to know exactly what we're dealing with."

Latchgrip "If it's going to fall where Vahashii predicted it to, then many will be in danger!"

Pikachu "Please. Vahashii has no clue where the Shadow is going to fall." He then mutters something unheard to himself. "The fact that she knew it was going to fall on C- you know what, never mind. Maybe she is right. But I do hope you don't think you can thwart the Antithesis. At least not without knowing what they're even doing. I'm Sam, by the way."

Lt Gen Zaffre "One of the critical steps to defeating our enemies is to find out what they're up to."

Aroido "And we plan to do just that, Sam."

Pikachu He hesitates. "2076 Quaint Street North." Then he disappears.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Are you two ready?"

Clinger nods.

Latchgrip "Yes."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Then go outside."

Clinger and Latchgrip go outside, where Pikaichichu is waiting for them.

Xorack "Is that where he wants us to go?"

Aroido "2076 Quaint Street North?"

Stab "Sounds like it. The whole thing seemed suspicious. I don't trust it, but it is our best lead."

Lt Gen Zaffre "It sounds too convenient, even if it is "our best lead". If we're going there, then we will likely need backup."

Stab "To be honest, all we got was an address, not any guarantee that anything will be there. Is it even a lead?"

Xorack "Let's see...he just shows up in here, tries to snatch the fragment from us, tries to dissuade us from what we're doing, then gives us an address, and disappears. Doesn't sound like a lead to me, let alone a good one."

Stab "Didn't you guys tell me about tan pikachu?"

Aroido "Hai."

Xorack "We met a few of them in this city. We scared the first one we saw - Marc. He turned out to be an enemy."

Aroido "Tails appeared that same morning, and he stopped Marc from trying to kill Cerin. Later, we met his niece, Sylla."

Xorack "Uopanosguhi asked something about someone named Liam, who may be related to them. But what do I know? I never met the guy, and neither did Aroido."

Aroido "As we can tell you from our encounter with Marc, not all of them can be trusted."

Stab He nods. "However, it is the most direct objective we've gotten, and even if it's a huge trap, I'll feel like hell if we don't check it out. Then again, we don't even know if 2076 Quaint Street North is in Celrest or what. I think I know a Quaint Street in one of the less-frequented octants of Central, but I could be wrong..."

Xorack "I guess we could go see what's there, since there's no other leads so far."

Stab "Alright, let's go."

They walk off towards Quaint Street.

Pikaichichu, Clinger, and Latchgrip make their way out of the city. Uopanosguhi and Kolsohte cross paths with them. After explaining the situation, Uopanosguhi asks to come along. They take this into consideration and contact the base. After getting permission, they decide to let her go with them, on the condition that she is accompanied at all times - in this case, by Kolsohte, to which she happily accepts. They resume their course and leave Celrest.

At the destination, there is a dark old warehouse.

Stab "Do you think there could be some clue in the warehouse?"

Xorack "Heh. If we're lucky."

Aroido "All I can say is it is possible."

Stab " do we get in?"

Xorack "Let's start looking around for a way to get in."

Stab He stands in thought for a moment, the replies "No need." He then rushes at the warehouse's garage door, and bursts a small hole in it. "Voila, or however you say it."

Xorack pokes his head through the hole and looks around.

Inside the warehouse, there are lots of wooden boxes piled everywhere, as one might expect. However, there were two strange things: A small wooden table in the center of the warehouse, with chairs surrounding it, and a large world map on the wall.

Xorack pulls his head out.

Xorack "Hey, Aroido, take a look at what's inside."

Aroido looks through the hole.

Aroido "Looks plain, except for the table and that map."

Stab "Map? Hey, lemme see."

Aroido "Look through the hole, Stab, and see it for yourself." He moves out of the way.

Stab "There is a map. Lemme just..." Stab slices open the hole to a size that could accommodate a small pokemon, then widens it to a larger size.

Xorack "That'll do it."

Aroido "Both of you wait here. I'll let you know if it is clear." Aroido goes into the warehouse, then crawls along the walls and the ceiling, looking around and listening carefully.

No-one living is inside the warehouse, unless perhaps they were nailed inside the boxes, which was doubtful.

Aroido's voice is heard on Xorack's communicator.

Aroido "All clear."

Xorack "You heard him. Let's go." He walks into the warehouse.

Stab also enters. He rushes right towards the map. Several pins were in certain locations on the map, in the colors red, blue, yellow, and green. Three blue pins were on the map, one stabbed into Celrest, one on a small, not labeled island to the east of Khalein, and one near the equator. There was only one red pin, around Silveria, and there was a large multitude of yellow pins. The only green pin lied in the exact centre of the map, away from land. A black line was drawn from the green pin to the red pin. As Stab took this in, he also noticed a sheet of paper tacked to the wall, with more pins on it, these ones arranged like a bulleted list, with writing following, and there were no green pins present on the paper. Excluding the green colored pin, the other pin's numbers were the same on the paper as they were on the map; there was only one red pin, and three blue. The writing following the pins was legible, but seemingly meaningless, it appeared to be a coordinate, followed by a past date, except in the case of the red pin, which had a date only three days in the future. Stab was very confused by this, so he called Xorack and Aroido to give their input.

One of their followers, who came into the warehouse with them, complains about the paper. "Why isn't there anything on here other than numbers?"

Xorack "Shut up. There's something to this, I know it."

Aroido "Whoever did this might have gone off looking for something. This must be where they first went to." He continues explaining as he goes along, pointing at pins all the while. Once he gets to the red pin, he says "This looks like the latest one."

Stab "But- Why would the latest one have a date in the future?"

Again the underling adds to it. "Maybe they haven't gone there yet, but plan to?"

Stab "What about the green pin and the black line? There's absolutely nothing where that green pin is, and the black line creeps me out."

Aroido "There are others that would say the same thing, but looking at this, I'm not so sure if nothing is there."

Stab "There's certainly nothing on the..." Realisation dawns on him. "C-could it be underwater?"

Xorack "We've seen stuff like that before, so, yeah, it could be."

Stab "And what about the black line?"

A voice rings out from behind them. "We don't know. But the Honedge is right, where that green pin is, there's nothing on the surface." The voice belongs to a tan Pikachu, that at first glance looks like Sam, but was not. "I'm Liam. I sent Sam to bring you into this investigation here. Sorry for any trouble he might've caused, he's a bit against bringing mortals into this investigation."

Aroido "Liam?" He and Xorack turn around.

Xorack "We heard about you six months ago. And yes, Sam did stir a few things up while we were looking through what was found so far."

Aroido "His behaviour was enough to convince us that he may have been luring us into a trap. I would like to thank you for clearing that up."

Liam "Sam tends to do that. I shouldn't have sent him. Anyway, we've been able to view every point on that map. The yellow pins are basically useless, several of them are no longer- I'm sorry. What you are viewing is a map left by Antithesis goons for whatever purpose. I, and Sam, and Tails if you know him, are all part of the Nonpareil Alliance, bent on stopping the Antithesis. Anyway, as I was saying, the yellow pins are either outdated, or marking something other than activity or bases or anything. The blue pins are, well, we don't know. But there were very heavy Antithesis activities occurring there, all around the dates present on the paper. The red pin has some Antithesis activity that hasn't been there before. The red pin is where we're focusing our investigation. As for the green... we have no clue. There's simply nothing there, and there never really was."

Aroido "Yes, we met Tails. Six months ago, and just shortly before we set out on our raid. And about where the red pin is, that could be bad."

Xorack "Hold it. If there's nothing, then why is there a line between it and the red one?"

Liam "Beats me. Nothing of importance really lies across it. But what we do know is that Antithesis activities at the site of the red pin have ramped up by a lot. Tails and two other agents are already there, checking things out. We think that the Antithesis' goal lies outside of Silveria, the coordinates on the paper are actually outside the city. What they're aiming for I have no idea. But we have to stop Viera and his three new deputies, and find out wherever the hell the other heads of the Antithesis have disappeared to."

Aroido "If Viera is there, too, that makes the situation more dangerous."

"Knowing that he blew up the plaza..."

Xorack "What they're looking for, we can't let them have it! And we won't!!" He clenches his claws and tail.

Liam "So you will help? Thank God. Immortals can only go so far."

Aroido "Of course we are helping. We can't ignore something this serious. Plus, we owe it to a friend of ours who gave his life for us and to defeat Vahashii."

Liam "I see. Well, what is your course of action? I would suggest that you try to snoop around Viera's place, because we can't. And his deputies are hidden within the population of Silveria. We're trying to capture one of them for information, but it's proving difficult. And we only know the identity of one of his deputies, Anett. We're pretty sure that's just an external code name, though. In any case, that goddamn Rotom has caused hell for us. You could always try to determine the identities of the other two deputies. Sorry, his at least other two deputies. There could always be more."

Stab He is still studying the map. "I don't pretend to understand this Antithesis vs. Nonpareil Alliance, nor why you are immortal, but I will certainly help. This green pin and black line unnerves me though..."

Liam "I don't even know why I'm immortal. Are you implying that you know why you aren't?"

Xorack "You know, that sounds like a good suggestion, but if we're gonna sneak around his place, first we need to know where it is."

Liam "That's the problem. There are five locations in and around Silveria that none of the Nonpareil can enter, by means of some magic. But which of the five locations are the true base of operations there is anyone's guess."

Aroido "Then we can check each of them until we find it."

Liam "My thoughts exactly. The spots are: two warehouses not unlike this one, an abandoned skyscraper amidst the city, not unlike the former glory of the Core Building, a disused military base right outside the city, and a decrepit apartment complex. Also, I can arrange transportation to Silveria for you almost immediately, if you so desire."

Xorack "We can start as soon as possible. How about it, guys?"

Aroido "The sooner the better."

Stab He is still studying the map. "Mhm. But... What if.... What are the chances that that black line indicates a.... errr..... line of fire?"

Aroido "In that case, Stab, we would really need to keep our eyes open for such danger."

Liam "I can get you a plane, it'll take at minimum eight hours to get to your destination. Of course, I'd prefer to take you myself, but that goes against so many protocols."

Xorack "Let me guess. That second option would risk exposing you, and us, breaking protocol as well as possibly making our attempt to infiltrate pointless?"

Liam "Yeah. Is there anyone else you would like to bring along?'

Xorack and Aroido quickly discuss this. Xorack answers Liam.

Xorack "Yes. For now, we want to bring three more along."

Liam "Very well. Fetch them and return here when you are ready."

Stab "Who is it that you wanna take?"

Aroido "Though we don't want to attract attention, we also know that danger can show up anytime." He looks at one of Zaffre's officers, who is sending information to Zaffre so that he and the others with him know what is going on. He nods and looks back to Stab. "So we would need more than just the three of us, and we would have help nearby, instead of waiting for hours."

Xorack "I know just who to take." He turns on his communicator and begins calling.

"Yes, boss? What do you need? ...... Okay, I'll send them over as soon as possible. Anything else? ... Right. Okay. They'll be ready."

Xorack "And there we go."

Stab He shakes in disapproval. "Doesn't answer my question."

Xorack "One who is tough and prickly, and two that are good at sneaking around."

Stab "'re being vague on purpose."

Xorack "Fine! I'll just say it! They-" Before he can, he sees them from the corner of his left eye. A Cacturne and two Sneasel. "...those guys."

Stab "Hello?"

The Cacturne greets Stab. "Hey." Then he speaks to Xorack. "You called for us, boss?"

Xorack "Yes. You three are coming with us to Silveria City."

Stab "Who're you guys?"

The Cacturne answers.

Sagujo "My name's Sagujo. I was called here along with these two to hear what the boss wanted us to do."

Stab "Nice ta meetcha, my name is Stab."

Xorack "Aroido, do you have the map ready?"

Aroido "Just a few more adjustments... ...and ready."

Liam "Ready?"

Xorack "He's ready, so am I."

Liam "Then the plane is on its way."

Before long, the plane arrives, a private jet.

Two IACPF fighter aircraft fly over, having identified, cleared, and escorted the jet on its way in.

Xorack "There's our flight."

Aroido "Thank you for providing us transportation, Liam."

Liam "No problem. I'll see you there. If you have questions, ask the pilot." He then disappears.

Xorack "Well? You heard him. Come on!" He goes and boards the jet, Aroido following.

The pilot is a very small tan Pikachu, the smallest anyone has seen. He is also a bit fat. He grins good-naturedly at the passengers. "'sup. I'm Kappa."

Aroido "Nice to meet you, Kappa." He bows his head. "I am Aroido."

Xorack "I'm Xorack."

Sagujo and the two Sneasel show up behind them.

Sagujo "I'm Sagujo. The boss called for us to help them."

Kappa "I'm the least useful member of the Nonpareil. So they made me a pilot. Anyway, everyone's in?"

Sagujo "Yeah, we're in and ready."

Aroido "Stab, are you ready?"

Stab He is in very deep in thought. "Yeah."

Kappa "'Aight then." He seemingly haphazardly throws his hands over the assortment of buttons at the cockpit, which looks very different from a conventional cockpit. The jet takes off, and speeds into the distance, leaving Celrest far behind.

SouvKom "We have received the information that was gathered. Good work."

Zaffre speaks to Sovereign Commander Lighsttrom, who has him on screen.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Thank you, sir, but there's something else important that I must do. I must go with the others to Argent-Verdantia."

SouvKom "Then be careful out there."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Yes, Commander."

They close communications.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Emmet, I have to go. Viera and the Antithesis are in Argent-Verdantia, and some of them are operating within Silveria City."

Emmet "Aye. Bring back my sisters, and do whatever it is you have to do..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We will bring them back. Now, these two will stay here so that any other information you find can be relayed as soon as possible." He turns to the two officers, who salute. Then he turns to Pystone. "The information so far has proven to be highly important, and I thank all of you for finding it." He leaves the building, then leaves Celrest to catch up with the rest of Branch A and those with them.

Chapter Two: The Nonpareil

The jet comes within sight of the beautiful white beaches and clear water of Paradiso. Argent-Verdantia was in fact this lush, beautiful coastal region. While, technically, the beaches here were not within Silveria, the hotels and resorts there were indeed property of the city's residents. The city itself wasn't far from the coast, just several miles inward.

Aroido looks out and sees what is ahead. He looks at the map, then goes to wake Xorack up.

Aroido "Xorack, wake up."

Xorack "What? What is it?" He looks around, then looks out and sees Argent-Verdantia ahead, before turning to Aroido.

Aroido "It's Argent-Verdantia."

Xorack "Ah, so we're almost there." He looks out again, taking note of the scenery. He chuckles a bit. "...I can see why he wanted Zaffre to bring them there so badly."

Aroido "Hai."

Stab "Beautiful, but uberpopular. So many people come here, you know. It's more famous than Lumiose in some parts of the world."

Kappa He calls out from the cockpit. "I'm gonna land you in a private airport right outside the city. There's a Nonpareil base there, and I can only assume that you'll move into the city from there." Then he laments, "No one tells me anything..."

Xorack "That's right."

Aroido "Anything about what? What we're going there for? The fight against the Antithesis?"

Kappa "Anything about anything, really."

Xorack "I don't know if this helps any, but maybe you could ask them to tell you these things?"

Kappa "Nah, I know my place. Anyway, we're about to land."

Xorack "Whatever you say." He turns to the others. "Get ready!"

The jet lands on a small runway, and Kappa cuts the engines.

Kappa "Well, there you are... We've landed."

Stab "I guess so."

Xorack "Okay." He gets up, making his way through. "Come on. Come on."

Sagujo "We're coming, boss."

Aroido "Kappa, thank you for flying us here. It spared Liam and us the trouble."

Kappa "Aye. No problem."

Outside the plane, three Pokémon walk to greet the plane's passengers. Liam, Sam, and a Jolteon.

Xorack leads Sagujo and the other two with them off the plane. Aroido waits right outside for Stab.

Xorack "Look who's here to see us, just as you said you'd be, Liam." He turns to Sam. "We see each other again, Sam. What a coincidence."

Sagujo "Oh." He whispers to Xorack. "That's the one who gave you trouble earlier?"

Xorack nudges him away.

Xorack "Not now." He turns and looks at the Jolteon. "And...who's this? We never met this one before."

Jolteon He speaks with a strange accent, something that sounds tropical and Germanic at the same time. "The name's Tevin. I'm an ambassador from the Paradiso government, and I've become an agent of the Nonpareil. I assume you are Aroido and Xorack? You'll be joining the field agents soon enough. Have you met Sylla and Tails? Charming individuals. Biggest contributors in the field we have."

Liam "Unfortunately, even those two can't find Viera nor his deputies. They're up to something..."

Sam "That's where these two come in, right?"

Liam "Yeah. And the one Tails seems to pin importance to. What is his name? Siren? Saren? Cerin. Yes, Cerin."

Tevin "I know of no preparations to invite another individual..."

Liam "Tails said that it's not necessary. And I mean, after the Elders declined everything, he's sort of become the new leader of our rebooted Nonpareil, so I might as well listen to him."

Tevin He grins. Plus, he's just about the coolest guy there is. You know his fight at Spider-"

Liam "Oh, you're one of his overadoring fans, good God."

Tevin laughs sheepishly.

​Sam "But if he's not invited..."

Liam ​"I don't understand it myself, but Tails knows what he is talking about."

Xorack "You assumed right, though I wouldn't say it's just us two."

Aroido "And yes, we met Tails and Sylla, six months ago in Celrest."

Xorack "Before we get started, I want to hear some suggestions of where in this city to start if you have any."

Liam "The military base is where I'd suggest. You can go to any of the spots I mentioned back in Celrest. You are your own head of this investigation, to an extent."

Xorack "Okay, got that."

Aroido "It's likely that we would need clearance first."

Tevin He frowns.  ​"Clearance for what?  I've already dealt with most everything I figure you could mean, that's why I'm here.  I hope you aren't assuming the base is active."

Sagujo "You mean it's abandoned?"

Liam "By those whom it was originally intended for, yes."

Xorack "I see, Liam. Now, Sam, where's that fragment you took from us?"

Sam sighs.  Liam raises his eyebrows at Sam.  Sam grins innocently at Liam.

Liam ​"If I know Sam, it's gone, but it wasn't anything important anyway.  He likes being an antagonistic troll." 

Xorack "There goes that last bit of information." A look of frustration comes across his face. He sees Sam grinning. "Cheeky little twerp!"

Aroido "Deemed important or not, it could have helped. Anyway, is there anything else that you need to tell us before we go on with this investigation?"

Liam ​"Only to watch out.  Watch.  Out.  What we've seen of the Rotom is hell, and we don't know what the other deputies are capable of.  You are just a scout.  Don't get yourselves entangled in fighting if you can avoid it."

Aroido "Wakatta."

Xorack "Fine. Whatever you say. But that doesn't mean we won't defend ourselves if they try to attack us."

Liam "I wouldn't ask you to flee at the first sign of danger. But please try to not be killed by the deputy before you can report back."

Xorack "Right." He turns to those behind him. "Come on, guys. We have work to do."

Stab ​"It looks like it.  Where's the base, anyway?"

Tevin ​"Not far, which is what scares us.  'sonly a quick speeder-ride away."

Aroido looks at the map.

Aroido "And from what I'm looking at, we would have to go in this direction. Right?"

Tevin "Aye. There's somewhat of a path. It's not a difficult path, either, you should be able to follow it regardless of your skill on a speeder."

While the others were talking, Kappa sidled up behind them.

Kappa "So..... What do I do?"

Liam looked at Kappa blankly.

Liam "What do you mean, what do you do? You were the pilot. Your mission is over."

Kappa sighed sadly and walked away.

Liam "Now, remember to watch for snipers. If this truly is one of their bases, they'll be everywhere. If they start shooting, that doesn't mean we know it's their base, however."

Tevin "The tricky part is that we're asking you to get in there and find out if the deputy has a station set up. Again, don't engage with him. Stealth is of the essence. Get in, get out, tell us what the hell is in there."

Aroido "We'll do everything we can."

Xorack "Everyone, we have a job to do, so come on!"

Sagujo "Sokona, Zurkabō, let's go."

Stab "I'm not well-suited for this..."

Xorack "Those months before today weren't for nothing. Well-suited or not, you're still coming. You can stay hidden if you want to, but don't think we're letting you stay behind, especially not with Viera and his cronies about."

Stab "My fighting skills have much improved thanks to you guys, yeah, but my stealth is as bad as ever... Oh, nevermind it, it could be worse. Where are the speeders?"

Tevin "In that warehouse over there." He gestures.

Xorack turns to Sagujo.

Xorack "You heard him. Go get them."

Sagujo leads Sokona and Zurkabō to the warehouse to get the speeders.

Stab "How many speeders do we need, anyway?"

Xorack "We'll figure that out, but they gotta find them first."

When inside the warehouse, Sagujo and his cohorts look around.

Inside, there are quite a large number of vehicles. A score of small, light speeders, a dozen or so larger, armored speeders, two large armored trucks behind piles of equipment, something resembling a stereotypical UFO, and three small tanks that look as if they are thirty years old.

Sagujo opens up a communicator and talks to Xorack.

Sagujo "Boss, you should see this."

Xorack "The speeders, Sagujo..."

Sagujo "Some small ones, and some large ones."

Xorack "Give me a big one, just in case the small ones are too small."

Sagujo "Whatever you say."

Sagujo, Sokona, and Zurkabō take some speeders and start bringing them outside. A Durant watches them leave. They come back outside with the speeders. Sokona and Zurkabō are already on theirs - two of the small, lighter speeders.

Sagujo "Here they are. And boss, I got you yours."

Xorack "Great, Sagujo." He rubs his claws together.

Stab "These look a lot like the speeders I accidentally blew up one time. The small ones do, I mean."

Aroido "Well, after that experience, you'll know to be more careful this time."

Xorack "Speaking of blowing things up..." He turns to Tevin. "...are these speeders armed? I didn't get a good look at them yet."

Tevin "The small ones possess nothing but weak laser coils, but they're fast. The big one has missiles, but the laser coils are burnt out."

Xorack "Missiles, but no functioning laser coils."

Sagujo "Sorry."

Xorack "Not your fault, Sagujo." He boards his speeder, as Sokona, and Zurkabō get on theirs. "It just means you'll have to stay close in case I need that kind of weapon." He begins muttering to himself. "At least until we can find a way to replace that useless, burnt out junk it has..."

Sagujo gets on his speeder.

Sagujo "Okay, boss."

Stab "I have permission to use one of these, right?"

Xorack "As long as you can handle one, Stab."

Liam "Oh, and one last thing. Once you do find any one of the deputies, move on to the other places mentioned and check for the others. Then we'll work on some kind of way to get them outside of whatever dark protection prevents my breed from entering the areas, and Tails and Sylla will assist us in the defeat of the deputies once that's done. You can help as well, if you wish."

Aroido "Right, we'll do that."

Liam "Good luck."

As Aroido goes over to Xorack's speeder, he turns to the three.

Aroido "I noticed that Kappa has been feeling left out. Maybe you could tell him some more about what's going on...and let him help out a little more?"

Liam looks at Kappa in the distance, sitting atop the wing of his plane with some lunch, too far away to hear.

Liam "Kappa is.... Well, long story short, he's not right in the head. Kappa's really young, only about fifty years old, he's just a kid, really. When he was an infant, we rescued him from an Antithesis base, but.... ....since then, he hasn't quite developed correctly. There's not a single power he can use, ones usually restricted to my breed, and electric powers of all Pikachu alike. We think the Antithesis screwed with his brain. Hell, were it up to Grant, Kappa'd be dead. It was only because of me and Tails that he got a part in the Nonpareil at all, so he's lucky. I know he feels left out..... .....and he doesn't remember being rescued of course, and no one has the heart to tell him that he's not normal..... .....but he's got all he can get."

Aroido mumbles.

Aroido "It must have been hard for him since he was kidnapped."

Stab He shifts uncomfortably.  ​"He seems just fine.  And how is he fifty?  How old are you, anyway?"

Liam ​"I'm three hundred years old.  Tails is one and a half centuries older than me.  And we're so young compared to the Elders, the youngest of them are more than ten millenia older than Tails.  Most of our generation before that are dead, that's when the Antithesis arose from within the ranks of our breed and massacred them.  Of course, everyone older than a millennium aren't with the Nonpareil, they don't care.  Of course, excepting Grant.  Who knows how many of the younger ones are in the Antithesis.....   And the Vex Circle are our worst enemy...   After the battle of River, Tails doesn't have the power he once had....      I don't think if it comes to a showdown between the highest of the Antithesis and Nonpareil, that we'll even have a chance.  Our only hope is that the Vex start fighting amongst each other again, like they are doing now, of course.  Viera isn't the supreme leader of the Antithesis, but he's acting as one, and we have no clue why.  Of course, Saturnia and Vahashii and Vemdys are all dead.....   Damn, if only the overthrow hadn't happened as it did......     I'm sorry, I'm rambling.  Ignore me."

Xorack "Alright, then. Well, we're going off to the base now."

Aroido "But with that in mind, you should ask some others to help out with what you called on us for." He climbs in.

Xorack "Speaking of which, these guys we know left Celrest and went off for Argent-Verdantia before we did. Maybe you could ask them?"

Liam "Do you speak of the Pikachu that Tails said was important, and his companion?"

Xorack "Tails already spoke to you about this?"

Sagujo "The boss told me that they met several Pikachu in Celrest, including some tan ones, like you. He and Aroido told me they each had an important role in some way. Was this Tails being specific about which one he was talking about?"

Liam "All I know is that there is a certain Pikachu in Silveria currently, one Tails said was important. I can only assume it was the Cerin fellow. According to Tails, he'll be pulled in eventually anyway, so if that's who you speak of, I don't see why I can't talk to him."

Xorack "You could talk to him. The only problem is we don't know where Cerin is in Silveria. But we do know someone who probably does. We didn't see him when we were getting on the plane, but knowing him, he probably went along with a few other guys we know."

Aroido "They went off for Argent-Verdantia while we stayed in Celrest to look at the information. They may already be here."

Liam "Well, do you know where they are? If you don't, it doesn't help."

Aroido "Unfortunately, no, but considering the Antithesis activity in Silveria, they most likely started somewhere far from there."

Liam "For now, go on with the first part of the mission. I could likely find Cerin, and the others you spoke of. But I don't think the recon needs to be held up."

Tevin "I concur."

Xorack "And it won't be held up." He starts up the speeder. "We'll see you later." He turns to the others. "Let's go."

Sokona and Zurkabō head off on their speeders. Xorack and Aroido follow, with Sagujo going along closely.

Stab had some trouble figuring out his speeder, but eventually got going.

Distant from the Nonpareil base, an acid-green Beldum has his claws planted in the ground. He is contacted by the Durant inside the warehouse.

SF8 "This is SF8. Report."

The agent gives SF8 the details.

SF8 "Understood. Thanks for your report. This is very important to know."


Elles "Dammit, this is your fault!"

Emmes "How is it my fault? You decided to go around!"

Elles "You're the one who took us on this damn expedition!"

Emmes and Elles were at the bottom of a pit, with no way to escape.

Elles pulls out a communicator with a sigh.

Elles "We can just call Mom."

Emmes jumps for her older sister's communicator, and snatches it away.

Emmes "No! If she finds out, then I'll never get to make decisions! This pit is a bigger enemy then that little shrine anyway. There'd've been, like, three shades, tops."

Elles "You're hopeless."

On board Slarnik's starship, Lieutenant Colonel Haksal shows up on the bridge, where Colonel Slarnik is waiting.

Lt Col Haksal "What do you want?"

Colonel Slarnik "General Dhiifoye is getting really impatient with us. He said it himself. Haksal, send two of your squadrons. We need to get rid of some...unneeded potential problems before we can begin the attack."

Haksal complies with malicious fervor.

Lt Col Haksal "I'll give the orders right away, and have them dealt with."

After this, Haksal sends his orders. Two squadrons launch from Slarnik's starship. Three corvette-sized missile ships fly along as escort.

On the planetoid base in the asteroid belt, a squadron of fighters is launching, headed on a course to intercept the coming Cavriluon attack on Sol IIIO. Hro'tav Rh'iizh is having his R-22 prepared for launch. Standing near his fighter is his personal mission officer.

"All checks complete."

Rh'iizh's Officer "Good luck, Rh'iizh. I know you'll do great out there like always." He walks back, away from Rh'iizh's fighter.

Rh'iizh takes off, along with his two Z-95 escorts, following the squadron to their combat destination.

Eventually, Aroido, Xorack, Stab, and the rest of the assembled team make it to an area close to the military base. An unanimous, unspoken agreement passes through the group, and they all stop there.

Stab "So what's the best way to do this?" He asks in a quiet voice, though they are far enough away from the base that voices couldn't possibly carry to it.

Xorack answers Stab in a whisper.

Xorack "How about we stay low and out of sight while we do this, away from the open."

Aroido also whispers.

Aroido "And remember what Liam said. Watch out. If this is one of their bases, it could be well guarded, and there's the possibility of snipers."

Stab ​"Okay. But how do we approach the base?  From which direction?"

Aroido looks around carefully, then answers.

Aroido "I recommend we go in from that direction."

Stab "Then we'll look through the fan-window-thing? Or try our luck getting in through the garage-door-thing?"

Xorack "We'll see. If there are guards anywhere near the door or any that can hear it being opened, then no. If not, then we can. For now let's just focus on getting there without being spotted."

Stab "Yelessdothis," Stab says, contracting his sentence for some odd reason.

Xorack and Aroido lead them toward the base, staying low and using any cover they can find.

Stab "You know, I'll be terrible if we get into a fight and have to attack from far away."

Aroido turns his head toward Stab and nods understandingly, but stays silent as they continue toward the base.

When they round a corner, they see a group of Pokémon milling around just out of sight behind one of the buildings.

Stab He whispers, "Could we get a closer look at them, see if they're sporting Antithesis colors?"

Xorack "Yeah, but quietly." He turns to Aroido, and nods.

Aroido "Stab, follow me."

Stab follows Aroido, and they go around to more easily see the Pokémon, and they come upon a strange sight. A large group of Pokémon, predominantly Pawniard, though there are a few Honedge and Ghastly, crowd around what looks like a suspicious fire. Pure black, thick smoke rises from it, though the fire itself is obscured. The Pawniard did indeed sport the Antithesis insignia upon their backs, a red chevron upon a black background, its intersection pointed towards the sky, with a white arc at the tip, also pointing upwards.

​The Honedge sported a different insignia, a purple asterisk, Vahashii's logo, though they seemed rather burnt.

Aroido quietly talks to Xorack through his communicator. Xorack does the same.

Aroido "The Antithesis is here."

Xorack "Just as they suspected."

Aroido "And some from Vahashii's gang are here, too."

Xorack "They're here, too? They must be trying to cause more trouble, no doubt."

Aroido "Better list the base as having Antithesis activity, plus with remnants of Vahashii's gang."

Xorack "Already on it. You two just be ready to go inside with us."

Aroido "Right." He nods to Stab after this.

Stab nods and tries to choke out a response, then evidently changes his mind and nervously looks around.

After a minute, Aroido taps Stab, then motions for him that they both go along with Xorack and the others.

Stab nods and follows.

As soon as they go back to where Xorack and the others are, Xorack resumes leading them from where they stopped, and toward the base.

Just as they are about to head towards their goal, a loud revving can be heard, and a small RV-type truck drives very quickly parallel to the base, followed more slowly by what appears to be a repurposed Antithesis supertank. It possesses the same distinct tread and enormous size, but not the gun mounted atop it, instead it had a small driving area, and what appeared to be an extensive storage area, extending way past the normal height of the tank. In the driving area there is a Pawniard and a strange, completely black-bladed Honedge. Several smaller tanks follow behind the supertank.

Honedge "Soldiers, you were off schedule to pack up the shades! Let us make double-time towards the new location! Elektra is waiting!"

The Pawniard beside the Honedge speaks up.

Pawniard "Hang on, Commander, why do you take orders from Elektra? I'm telling you to only listen to Viera."

Honedge He looks amused. "Surely you don't think Elektra would possess the audacity to tell us to move the shades without Viera's permission and direction?"

Pawniard "No, all I'm saying is that yo- errr, the great Commander Impale is much stronger than a puny Rotom and shouldn't have to obey her orders."

Commander Impale "I can never follow your thought patterns, Befyl. I'm sure that I know what Elektra has in mind. And the shades were due to move." He speaks up. "Men, onward!" The tank begins to move more quickly.

Staying low and in cover, Xorack, Aroido, and the others watch as the tanks and other vehicles move by. Seeing them in possession of that military hardware is enough for them to know that, as they thought, in no way would this be easy.

Stab "Are we going to follow them or see what's in the base?" he whispers.

Aroido "Unfortunately, if we follow them, that would risk exposing us and leading to a fight, and we're not here to do that."

Xorack "And as much as I'd like to start a scrap with them..." He sighs, annoyed. "...he said not to. We're doing what we came here to do. Besides, you two already found out that the Antithesis and Vahashii's gang are here."

Stab "I think most of them are gone, so this should be easier. I've really had enough of sitting around, lessdothis." He says this somewhat confidently, though he looks a bit nervous.

Xorack "Yeah, let's do this." He and Aroido resume leading them to the base.

The Imperial fighter squadron, Rh'iizh, and his escorts reach their combat destination, the squadron already split into separate sections, just as the two Cavriluon squadrons appear. Two sections flank the approaching Cavriluon craft. The planetoid base commander gives the order.

"All fighters engage."

Both sides open fire and engage. A mix of pursuit, head-on engagements, and flanking attacks. In a matter of minutes, the number of craft in the Cavriluon squadrons is reduced to half. However, three larger Cavriluon ships arrive. They launch one missile after another at the closest Imperial fighters. Two of them are destroyed by the first missile, another is destroyed by the second, with a Cavriluon interceptor caught in the explosion. The missile volley reduces the numbers in the Imperial fighter squadron, allowing the Cavriluon craft to continue their mission. Once Rh'iizh and the remaining fighters destroy one of the missile ships, they turn to pursue the Cavriluon squadrons, who already have gained considerable distance.

Xorack, Aroido, Stab, and the others reach the closest outer wall of the base, and Stab listens closely.

Stab "I don't hear anything from inside."

Xorack "Nothing, huh?" He turns to Aroido, who is right next to another part of the outer wall, also listening in. "What about you?"

From inside the base, indeed, nothing can be heard, nothing more than a sort of empty echo, and a underlying clicking noise that might have been an AC system.

Aroido "It could be nothing, but it could also be something."

Sagujo whispers to Sokona and Zurkabō.

Sagujo "You two, go in through there. Make sure it's clear."

The two nod and make their way into the duct. When they see a vent, they look down through it.

The room is mostly empty, except for what seems like tons of random junk thrown against the walls, including but not limited to computer towers, monitors, bins of papers, and fans. A clicking noise rings throughout the room, but it's clearer now, and seems to emanate from one of the junk piles.

Zurkabō carefully removes the grille. Sokona hands him one end of a rope, then lowers him down to the floor quietly. She gets ready to drop down herself, putting the grille back on. She drops down, and Zurkabō catches her and sets her down. Then they turn and look at the junk pile where the clicking noise is coming from.

An obviously broken hologram, only some of it working, emerges from a projector amidst the junk. The hologram resembles a partial sphere, rotating, but resetting with a loud click before it completes much more than half of its rotation.

As Zurkabō looks at the hologram, Sokona goes and taps on the door.

Sagujo "That's them."

Xorack, Aroido, and Sagujo open the door, but only high enough for them to go through.

Stab follows them through, and immediately notices the hologram.

Stab "The heck's that? That's obviously the clicking thing."

Zurkabō "It's a hologram."

Sokona "And yes, it is making that clicking noise."

Sagujo walks over to Zurkabō, and examines the hologram for himself.

Sagujo "It looks broken...and it keeps resetting."

Aroido "Which would explain that repetitive noise."

Stab accidentally touches something on a precarious tower of junk, and it falls, bumping around the hologram unit quite severely, the effect of which is that the sphere changes to a glitchy facsimile of a Pawniard, which immediately utters the word "Yes," and nothing else.

Stab "What?" He says, surprised. The hologram looks at him almost expectantly, silent.

Behind the hologram, Sagujo and Zurkabō do not move or make a sound. The others are nowhere near the hologram, but worry that they and the mission could be exposed, and when they barely got started, too. Aroido, thinking quickly, gestures to Stab to convince the one on the hologram that nothing suspicious is going on.

Stab "Oh, uh, I didn't mean to contact anyone, I'm moving around some stuff. At this base. Just orders."

Pawniard Throughout Stab's utterances, the Pawniard's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but at the last sentence this stops, and he looks relieved. "Left you behind to clean up, did they? Glad I'm not the only one. Well, good luck finishing up, and be sure to hurry to Location 3 afterwards. Oh, by the way, what's your assigned number?"

Stab "...W3485A."

Pawniard He glances at an out-of-sight terminal, then replies, "So you're a Vahashii veteran, it checks out, though you seem to be bad about filing work times. Really bad. Like I said, proceed to Location 3 afterwards, and be more careful with the damn hologram emitters." The hologram shuts off, replaced by the sphere.

Sokona and Zurkabō sigh in relief.

Aroido "You handled that okay...but I think we need to work a little more on your composure in case of situations like that."

Stab "I'm just glad they never changed the Vahashii-assigned numbers."

Sagujo "Me, too. There'd be trouble if they did, and knowing what we just saw-"

Xorack impatiently interrupts.

Xorack "Now let's stop wasting time and get back to what we were doing."

Stab "Good idea. What were we doing?"

Aroido "We were investigating the base, finding out as much as we can here."

Xorack "You heard him."

Stab "Right. Is there a way we can access the computers without broadcasting the fact that we're accessing them?"

Xorack, Aroido, and the other three take a look at the computers, then Xorack answers.

Xorack "No."

Stab "Well, there goes my idea. Second one: look in the corners?"

Xorack "Yeah. In fact, look everywhere. That's what we were sent here to do."

Stab He begins to look around, and a while later says, "I wonder what Location 3 is, though."

The others are looking around, checking whatever they can find.

Sagujo "Could be a small camp, or an important base for the Antithesis. Beats me as to what it is exactly."

Stab "You don't think it's another one of the spots we were told about?"

Sagujo "It could be, for all we know right now."

Stab "You know, I don't think we're gonna find anything here. Could I play the dumb minion - well that's what I am anyway, but you know what I mean - and call the Pawniard back and ask for directions?"

Aroido rolls his eyes at Stab calling himself dumb. Xorack stops rummaging through a small pile of junk to answer Stab.

Xorack "If it'll help us for later." He turns to Stab. "Just don't say anything that'll make him suspicious." He turns to the others. "Everyone hold on for a minute, and quiet."

The others comply. Not a further sound is heard from them.

Stab fidgets with the hologram projector again, and eventually just knocks it in the side, which seems to suffice to activate it. Again, the glitchy Pawniard stands atop the projector in place of the sphere.

Pawniard "Ah, it's you again. What is it this time?"

Stab "I, uh... ...dunno how to get to Location 3. I've cleaned up, but I've forgotten what I'm supposed to do."

Pawniard He sighs deeply. "I have half a heart to tell you to suck it up and face the punishment, but I'm not soulless." He sighs again, and rattles off some instructions to a building in Silveria. "Please don't tell them you forgot, for both of our sakes."

Stab "Got it. Wouldn't dream of it."

The hologram shuts off, and is again replaced by the sphere.

Xorack "So, it's in Silveria."

Aroido "That could complicate things."

Stab "Hmmm.... how?"

Aroido "We're aware that the Antithesis is in Silveria, but if Location 3 is a major base of operations, having it in Silveria would just give any of Viera's deputies more places to hide, thereby complicating things."

Sagujo "And those tanks could cause problems for us - not to mention the people living in Silveria - if that was where they were going."

Stab ​"I think we're missing something.  I find it hard to imagine tanks driving through Silveria uncontested.  In fact, these tanks driving anywhere near the city at all wouldn't work.  I thought there was a dedicated military?  Wouldn't they be shot down - errrr shot up?"

Sagujo "I've never been to Silveria, so I wouldn't really know for sure."

Aroido "Still, if they managed to set up operations in Silveria despite that..."

Stab "Didn't that Honedge commander guy mention shades? Do they have anything to do with it? In any case, I'm sure we'd know if tanks drove through Silveria regularly. I guess it doesn't matter, we should just head to Location 3."

Xorack "Yeah. When we get done with everything we need to do here, we'll go back and tell him what's going on and what we found, then go to Location 3." He turns to the others. "Everyone back to work."

Sagujo "Yes, boss."

Stab "I'll go check this last area over here."

Xorack "You go ahead and do that." He resumes rummaging through the junk pile.

Stab moves over to the final corner and moves things around.

Xorack speaks to Aroido, though not turning his head.

Xorack "And you look around and see what you can find here. Maybe you could even find some replacement laser coils."

Aroido "Hai." He goes off searching around.

A small set of laser coils is all that could be found, probably in working order, but almost certainly too small to use on the speeder without modifications...

Aroido is disappointed with this, but takes the coils anyway, and brings them over to Xorack. Xorack turns to look, and once he sees them, he looks annoyed.

Xorack "What gives?"

Aroido "Sorry. These were all I could find."

Xorack "That's it? That's all they had?" He picks up the laser coils, then continues while keeping his voice down. "These couldn't even partially replace the speeder's laser weapon! Where did you find them?"

Aroido "Over there."

Xorack and Aroido go over to where Aroido found them.

Xorack "So there really are none..." He groans, then turns to Aroido. "Just go and find out everything you can and then we can get going."

Aroido goes looking around again. Xorack goes back to what he was doing.

Stab "There isn't anything over here, are you guys done?"

Sagujo "Nothing over there?" He turns to Sokona and Zurkabō. "You guys find anything?"

The only thing of note found in the area where Sokona and Zurkabō were searching was a small map. It showed some islands out in the middle of the ocean, far away from Silveria. There were no markings on the map to denote cities, the islands seemed to be too small. The only black dot on the map was unmarked, and did not sit upon an island at all. But the map was attached to a travel brochure, so it was very likely to be unimportant.

Zurkabō "Just this." He hands the map to Sagujo.

Sagujo "Just a map attached to a brochure?" He looks it over, then shakes his head as he goes back to looking in the area he was at.

​Stab, having finished searching his area, looks over the brochure.

Stab "The heck?  They're already in Silveria, what more of a vacation spot do you need?  Besides, why would the Antithesis hideout people be looking at travel spots?"

Sagujo "I don't even know what a travel brochure is doing in the middle of an abandoned base, but knowing the Antithesis, they may be looking for more places to cause problems."

Stab "I wonder if this place was on that map back in Celrest..."

Sagujo "You would know more about that than me. What did you see on it?"

Stab "Well, I mean, there were all these pins all over the place in spots, a green, a red, some blue and a lot of yellow - but the Celrest map was huge, like, covering the whole world. These islands are too small to even appear on that map, and it's not really near any pins except... wait, this is in about the area of that green pin!" Stab calls Aroido and Xorack over excitedly.

Xorack "What?! What is it?" He quickly goes over to Stab. Then he sees what Sagujo is holding, just as Aroido shows up back from searching around. "What's this? You found some travel brochure?"

Sagujo "Stab says he found something on this map."

Xorack "Okay, let me see." He looks at the map, and so does Aroido. "There's nothing marked. Just a black dot on here, and it's in the middle of the ocean, not even touching the islands."

Aroido "It's just like that one green pin that was on the map back in Celrest." The two take a closer look. "Come to think of it, it looks like it' the same area."

Xorack "Hey, I think we're on to something here, Stab. Looking at both maps, something's probably going on around there."

Stab "Yess, a lead! I have a feeling that we'll have to solve the Silveria pin before we solve the green one though - if we survive this at all. I'm willing to bet that that map is the first key to a whole series of locked doors of secrets to solve the Antithesis' twisted plan -- that was pretty poetic, for me."

Aroido "Neatly put, Stab."

Xorack "Yeah. Aroido, what did you find?"

Aroido "Just more computers."

Xorack "Nothing else?"

Aroido shakes his head.

Aroido "Nai."

Xorack grumbles.

Xorack "Then I guess we're done here."

Stab "Let's hurry back to the Nonpareil base, then."

Xorack and Aroido go and partially open the door, looking around. Then Xorack turns to the others and whispers.

Xorack "Come on."

Sagujo leads Sokona and Zurkabō outside.

Stab exits as well, and they all return to the base on the speeders.

Chapter Three: The Interveners

Cerin stares at the two beaten-up-looking visitors at his door, aghast.

Cerin "You want me to do what now!?"

The two Cavriluon squadrons, now clear of the asteroid belt, continue on their course, pursued by Rh'iizh and the others who are closing in.

The gang returns to the base. Night is falling. A Nonpareil underling directed the group to a main building, where there is a large meeting table set up. The table has 16 assigned places, and there are already a number of Pokémon in the room, not yet sitting down, Liam, Tevin, and Sam of that number.

Sagujo "They're already waiting for us."

Xorack turns his head toward Sagujo.

Xorack "Then let's not keep them waiting."

Stab He counts, then looks confused. "There aren't 16 people here."

Xorack "Let's just find our seats, Stab." He goes to his seat.

Aroido "Sekkachi..."

Stab Stab shifts a bit, uncomfortable. "That means hasty, or impatient, or something like that, right?"

Aroido "Hai." He nods.

Stab goes to his assigned seat, and two others have sat in seats, both unfamiliar tan Pikachu.

Sagujo goes to sit down. Aroido, Sokona, and Zurkabō join them. Sagujo speaks in a hushed voice.

Sagujo "Why do I get the feeling that we'll be seeing more of them later on?"

Aroido "You would be surprised..."

Xorack taps on the table impatiently.

Liam notices, and breaks off a conversation with another unfamiliar Pikachu, this one old and battle-scarred. He walks to Aroido, Xorack, and Stab, who are seated together across from Sokona, Zurkabō, and Sagujo. The table wasn't wide, so the whole group could converse with ease.

Liam "Grant decided to hold a meeting, and I'm not too happy about it, considering he invited some government higher-ups. Just hang tight for a bit."

Xorack huffs.

Aroido "Okay, Liam, but we should start as soon as everyone's ready."

Liam "That's the thing. They aren't here."

Sagujo "He means when they're here and when everyone's ready."

Liam "I'll take this time to give a little info on who is here. The sixteen are you six, the two of my breed you already met - me and Sam, that is - as well as four of my breed you have not yet met - I'll tell you about them in a minute - Tevin, and three government higher-ups. Tevin is more or less some sort of supreme representative, he doesn't hold any power in anything aside from this situation. The other three that are coming are very different. One is more or less the mayor of Silveria, as well as a governor of sorts for all of Argent-Verdantia, another is the leader of Paradiso itself. The final governmental member is a secretary of sorts. Grant figured he'd invite them over for a series of briefings - it has nothing to do with your missions, but for some ungodly reason he figured he'd tie the two together. I don't know for the life of me why these guys need to be here in any case.

Anyway, Grant's the leader of the Nonpareil. Sort of. He's the leader in everything but combat, the combat leader is Tails. Grant's the grizzled one, by the way. As for me and Sam, well, I'm supposed to be a rank under Tails, but then I got pinned down with other stuff after some things happened. Sam doesn't really have any non-combat official positions, he's just on probation or something for being an inane troll, and we give him things to do."

Xorack, hearing about Sam being on probation, laughs aside to Aroido, who chuckles in turn, then notes something about the Nonpareil.

Aroido "The Nonpareil actually has two leaders instead of just one as we first thought."

Xorack "Just like us."

Liam "Now, the other three of my breed are two of Grant's advisors, Clyssa and Jones, and, well, I don't even know what Jacques does, but he's fairly important, just under me. Even though I'm supposed to just be combat. You're probably thinking that we're really disorganised, and you'd be exactly right. Which is another reason why we're worried about the Antithesis."

Xorack "Actually, that is what I'm thinking. He invited the mayor, the governor, the leader of Paradiso, and some secretary, and it has nothing to do with this? Meanwhile, we're sitting here, waiting, with some important information, and the people that need to be here aren't here yet?" He mutters under his breath. "Someone needs to get these guys organised..."

Aroido "Anyway, when everyone's here, we would like to tell you about that information once we have the chance."

Liam He snorts. "I can only assume Grant wants that information too."

Stab "I'm confused. Does this Grant want us to make our report to the Paradiso government?"

Liam "I hope not. Oh, look, they're here. Let me get to my seat."

Liam and the rest sit in their assigned seats, and three Pokémon, a dignified-looking Meowth and two Eevee, one rather large and one rather small, walk in with Tevin, who must have left the room at some point. They all go to their assigned seats.

Grant stands up and clears his throat.

Grant "I'm sure you all know what this meeting is for, no?"

Liam frowns and shakes his head, but catches himself at a glance from Grant. The Meowth crosses his arms. Grant grimaces.

Meowth He speaks in the same accent that Tevin has, except quite heavier. "You've brought us here to complain, haven't you?"

Grant "Errr.... no, I've not."

Meowth "Pfffah. I don't buy your immortality story. Why don't I shoot you and see if you bleed? You're here for gold or the like."

The tan Pikachu all look uncomfortable, except Sam, who seems to be trying not to laugh.

Grant "....there's a difference between immortality and invincibility...."

The female tan Pikachu - Clyssa - shakes her head at Grant sharply.

Grant "I, uh, wouldn't advise that. Look, here, the point of this is to for once and for all explain what we need from you."

Meowth "Pfffah. This is a waste of time, I have paperwork to do. Tevin is here, he can report to me."

Tevin "President, with all due respect, no, I cannot. You aren't answering any calls. I don't even do anything here anymore."

Meowth "Then come to the capitol building."

Tevin " you understand nothing? .....with all due respect...." Tevin shuts up.

Meowth "I'm leaving this stupid meeting, and you're coming with me."

Grant splutters and runs out after the leaving four Pokémon, with the two advisors in tow.

Sam busts out laughing, and Liam looks like he wants to die.

Stab "The hell just happened?"

Xorack "Yeah! What was the point of Grant bringing them here if they weren't gonna listen?!" He hears Sam laughing about this. Irritated, he turns and throws a relatively large clump of sand at his face.

Sam is hit in the face by a large quantity of sand. He stops laughing, and stands up angrily, then just shrugs and starts laughing again.

Liam "We're done for. The Nonpareil are done for. Am I the only one who wants anything done....?"

Aroido "Not quite. So do we. And remember when you and Tevin briefed us on our previous assignment?"

Liam walks over.

Liam "Oh, about that assignment, what'd you find? I figure you should just go ahead and tell me..."

Aroido "Well I was going to say that before we left, you asked us if we knew where Cerin is, then Xorack said that we knew someone who probably knows."

Xorack "But since you want to hear it now, we'll gladly tell you. It'll be much better than just waiting. When we reached the outside of the base, we saw the Antithesis gathered there, just as you thought. Some from Vahashii's gang were with them, too."

Aroido "They take their orders from this Honedge, known as Commander Impale. His blade is completely black. One of his subordinates is a Pawniard named Befyl."

Xorack "And Impale takes his orders from Elektra. She's one of the deputies, the Rotom that caused you hell."

Sagujo "And what they have with them, this is where it gets bad. They're in possession of some heavy military equipment. In addition to a truck, they have a number of tanks, and this huge vehicle that was probably carrying a lot of stuff, but it looked like it was originally supposed to be some supertank!" He spreads his arms out to emphasise.

Xorack "And this is just Impale's group we're talking about!"

Liam He sits in thought for a moment, then speaks up. "A black-bladed Honedge sounds familiar. Anyway, the so-called supertank worries me. Carrying stuff, eh? I'm sure that stuff can't be good. And about Cerin, well, we know where he is now, or, Tails does at least. Well, he was extremely vague about it, and apparently Cerin and Tails have been in contact, which contradicts other things he's said to me, but the point is that Cerin is already involved in the mission, in a roundabout way. He's investigating some group called the Interveners that made contact with him."

Sokona "The Interveners?"

Zurkabō "Whoever they are, they wanted to see Cerin, too?"

Liam "It wasn't clear why, but apparently they know a bit more than they should - about the Antithesis, that is. They've found evidence of something they call the Shadow, and Cerin is playing double agent."

Xorack "Hmm, so they've heard about this "Shadow" thing, too, did they?" He turns to Aroido, rubbing his claws together. "And they found evidence." He turns back to Liam.

Aroido "What evidence they found could be of help to us."

Liam "A book was what was mentioned to me, but I don't know the contents of the book, and I'm unsure if Tails does either."

Aroido "That book could have some good leads to the Shadow."

Sagujo "And even if not, at least it's a start."

Liam "We need to determine where the Antithesis deputies are hiding out first, though."

Xorack "Then listen to this. Once we got inside the base, we searched around everywhere to find anything that could give us clues. It was all useless junk, nothing of any value, except for two things."

Sagujo "A hologram, and some brochure with a map. Had no idea why the hologram was on or what the heck a brochure was doing there."

Aroido "Until we learned through the hologram, in no small part thanks to Stab, that the Antithesis have operations in that building in Location 3, in Silveria."

Xorack "And as for the brochure and the map, you remember when we were in that warehouse in Celrest yesterday?"

Liam connects the pieces together quickly.

Liam "The map on the brochure corresponded with a pin on the Celrest map?"

Xorack/Sagujo "Yes!"

Aroido "Hai!"

Xorack "Sagujo, show him."

Sagujo puts the brochure on the table, and shows the map.

Xorack "See the black dot there, Liam? It's just like that particular pin on the map in the warehouse!"

Aroido "It's in the same area!"

Liam "That can't be right... ...there weren't any islands around there when we used the satellite map..." Liam pulls out a tablet and looks up something, and then it displays a map. He zooms into the ocean. "The hell.... they are there!"

Xorack and Aroido look at the tablet themselves.

Xorack "Aha!"

Aroido "I had a feeling something had to be there."

Xorack "That pin and black dot weren't there for nothing, and this shows it."

Liam "There still isn't anything in the exact spot where the pin and dot are though, it's just ocean."

Xorack "And yet there they are."

Aroido "If nothing is on the surface, then that means they have to be underwater."

Liam "That'll have to wait until the more immediate mission is complete. Where do you plan to check next? That Location 3 place?"

Xorack "Oh, you bet we're going there."

Aroido "As soon as possible."

Xorack "But first we need to get the laser weapons on my speeder fixed. We couldn't find any replacements, and I can't just rely on missiles alone."

Aroido "In the meantime, you remember us telling you that there were others that came to Argent-Verdantia, and started far from here?"

Liam "I'll get Kappa to work on the lasers. Anyway, yes, I remember. What of it?"

Aroido "From our experiences, they could be of a lot of help."

Xorack "They came to find Emmet's sisters or something, though I think they're getting just as involved in this as we are."

Liam "We need all the help we can get."

Xorack "That's what we mean."

Sagujo "We called in more of our guys, but knowing how long the flight was, it'll probably take them hours to get here."

Xorack "The people Grant invited were of no help. At all. So he failed to get anything done there. And until the speeder's lasers are fixed..."

Liam "In some roundabout way, Grant had a purpose to inviting those people here.... ...and I'll call Kappa immediately about the lasers."

Xorack "Yeah, you go ahead and do that."

Liam walks away and grabs a nearby communication device, but Grant rushes in the door and grabs Liam's arm. They exchange words, and Grant walks away, leaving Liam to continue.

Stab "The Nonpareil is weird."

Xorack "I know, Stab. I know."

Stab " you think they'll lose?"

Aroido "Liam did say that they need as much help as possible..."

Stab "I just have a feeling that the Antithesis is better organised...."

Xorack "Only for now..."

Stab "Do you think we can spend the night here?"

Sagujo "If they let us. Hey, Liam? Could we stay here for the night?"

Liam "Sure. The tallest building in the complex has rooms and beds."

Aroido "Thank you, Liam."

Liam nods.

The public streets of Celrest are nearly empty now, due to a curfew set by the military government, beginning at the start of sunset, and in full effect by civil dusk. A small jet has taken off, with two IACPF fighter aircraft escorting it out of Celrest. However, with the warning sent about two Cavriluon attack squadrons approaching the planet, the jet is forced to take a different flight path.


Starfighters fly off toward the designated location to prepare to intercept the Cavriluon squadrons.

Elsewhere in Argent-Verdantia, Pikaichichu, Zaffre, Clinger, Latchgrip, Uopanosguhi, and Kolsohte are searching for Emmes and Elles. With Zaffre having told them about Viera and the Antithesis in Argent-Verdantia, they are trying to find them as soon as possible. Having started since their arrival, and with others from the team recently joining the search, they are much closer to finding them. They meet up at one area, where several of them are waiting to report.

"Those two went through here earlier."

Pikaichichu nods to Zaffre.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Let's keep going. Through there."

"Yes, sir."

They split up again and continue searching, looking around thoroughly so as not to miss anything.

"They were here recently." One of them says quietly.

Latchgrip "We're getting closer."

Soon, some of them come across a pit. They are careful to avoid falling in as they look.

The pit is empty, but footprints are all over the bottom of the pit, and marks on the walls likely made by someone climbing up a rope to reach the top.

After looking around the pit, they go off and continue the search as another group arrives nearby. They go on, quietly following the trail after less than a minute of searching.

After a while of following the trail, they view a small camp.

Elsewhere, a teammate reports to Branch A.

"One of our search groups reports that they have found a small camp."

Clinger mumbles unintelligibly.

Latchgrip "Do you think it could be them?"

"They have yet to find that out."

Pikaichichu "I really hope that they found them. It's very dangerous for them with the Antithesis in Argent-Verdantia."

Lt Gen Zaffre "And, as we were warned, with the Cavriluon Army sighted coming to attack again, that makes matters worse."

"The trail they followed was the same trail from that pit, so it could be them."

Inside the camp, a Meowstic walks outside a tent for a breath of fresh air. An Eevee joins her.

Meowstic "There was a light over there." She points out into the woods.

Eevee "Just your imagination, Bell."

The search party leader - a Staravia, wary, gestures three of them to keep a lookout behind them, left, and right. The others, a Sentret among them in one of the trees, continue observation.

Bell "No, no, I'm sure of it. And it sure as hell ain't civilians."

Eevee "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. Are your daughters okay, by the way?"

Bell She snarls quite surprisingly. "They're fine, but they won't be after what I'll do to them!"

The Eevee sighs.

The search party sends another report.

"It's not them."

Clinger groans.

"They did find a Meowstic, however, and she seems angry. An Eevee is with her."

"Think this has something to do with whom we're searching for?"


Latchgrip "Well, we need to hurry."

Clinger nods quickly.

Bell "Tch."

Eevee "May I speak to Emmes and Elles?"

Bell "What could you possibly want to talk to them about?"

Eevee "Did you even ask what happened to them?"

Bell "Nothing happened to them. They fell in a pit. Tch. Useless idiots."

"We were just told that a Cavriluon squadron is coming! The squadrons split up to distract their pursuers. Here's their trajectory."

Pikaichichu "Their course is taking them toward the camp!"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Have everyone at that camp take cover, quickly! Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Pikaichichu "We're going, too."

The search party hears the distant droning of Cavriluon ships. Knowing that an attack is imminent, two of them rush to warn the others at the camp. Bell and the Eevee are the first two that they talk to.

"Listen, you two. No time to talk. You need to take cover right now."

The two take a defensive stance, then turn to confusion once they get a good look at the search party.

Bell "You aren't Antithesis or one of ours? Who are you? Take cover from what?"

"Look. Over there, low in the sky." One of them points to the fast approaching Cavriluon squadron.

Bell and the Eevee exchange glances, then nod and warn the rest of the camp.

Lt Col Haksal "Destroy that little camp, and kill everything there."

The Cavriluon squadron turns directly toward the camp. Not far behind, Rh'iizh and his escorts, along with several more fighters, pursue them. Rh'iizh opens fire, destroying a light bomber and a fighter. Four fighters turn to engage them, launching missiles to slow them down as the rest continue on their way to the camp.

Bell's eyes widen and she curses at this turn of events, and ushers her allies out of the camp, including Emmes and Elles.

Two Cavriluon fighters fly down. The search party takes cover as one of the fighters launches a missile at the two sent to warn the camp. They barely avoid the explosion, but the force of the blast sends them across the ground. Mobile defense emplacements from Branch B move into position, and open fire, damaging the two fighters, then destroying one of them.

An Eevee was caught in the explosion, and one of his brethren curses. "We aren't prepared for an air attack!"

The other fighter is destroyed by an explosive homing magnetic barrage.

Lt Gen Zaffre "That should save them a moment of trouble."

​Bell growls loudly.

Bell "I'm about to get mad."

​A male Meowstic next to her grins.  ​"Uh oh, it's gonna get real.  Bell ain't the leader of the Interveners for nothing."

Lt Col Haksal "Shokdengemus and that blue junk pile, and the rest of them came to fight us as expected. They even brought that mud-dweller and that green thing along."

Clinger and Latchgrip rush toward the camp to defend it. Clinger utters frantic noises to them.

Latchgrip "Watch out, there are bombers!"

A Cavriluon light bomber flies over and releases two bombs, one of the bombs destroying one of the emplacements that was firing at it, with a soldier caught in the explosion.

Bell dramatically opens her mouth wide, and a huge quantity of white light - some sort of strange energy - is released from it. The laser is aimed directly at one of the fighters high above her.

The fighter that Rh'iizh forced into an inverted turn has its cockpit blown up by Bell's attack. It gets ripped apart by the defenses, and what remains of it falls harmlessly to the ground.

Lt Col Haksal "All bombers, the real targets have shown themselves. Dispose of them."

The rest of the Cavriluon bombers fly over the camp, ignoring it completely, though getting damaged by the defenses, focusing on Branch A and the others with them, leaving the few fighters they have left to deal with the camp, and the Imperial fighters that have them outmatched.

A worried Eevee approaches Bell. "Don't exhaust yourself."

Bell "Are you kidding? That was a single attack, and I'm still holding back. I'm not wasting the years of energy I've built up on some insignificant side enemy. No, my target is still the leader of the Antithesis, and no one else!"

"Miss, these others are helping us, and we have guns. Please try to refrain from using any more energy!"

Grudgingly, Bell takes a huge gun, some kind of carbine that is almost larger than she is, and fires small splinters of light at the fighters in strategic locations.

A Cavriluon fighter, with its shields having already been weakened by a Z-95's lasers, is hit by Bell's gun. The fighter turns to strafe her, firing its cannons. The bombers begin their attack against the members of Branch A, using their bombs and cannons. Pikaichichu swings his tail swiftly and smashes one of the bombers into pieces. Clinger and Latchgrip take their positions and shoot at another one. They dodge a strafing attack before resuming theirs.

Bell continues to attack the fighters with the weapon, not focusing on any single target.

The same fighter continues its strafing run, but gets shot up by Bell's weapon and the emplacements. The fuselage crashes to the ground in flames. Any Cavriluon fighters left are overwhelmed by Rh'iizh and the defending fighters, and are destroyed.

Latchgrip "That's it for their fighters."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Now to get rid of those bombers."

One of the Cavriluon light bombers fires at Uopanosguhi, she leaps out of the way. Zaffre and Kolsohte launch their attacks, damaging one of its engines and destroying one of its cannons as it comes around.

Bell She tosses aside the huge gun. "Someone get me a rocket launcher!" Several Eevee shake their heads at her, lacking that weapon. Bell curses.

A missile launcher emplacement has a clear target, and fires. The missiles home in on the bomber, and destroy it.

Several of the other Pokémon in the camp are firing their own weapons and powers at the other bombers.

A Cavriluon light bomber turning for another run is heavily damaged by the combined attacks from below, and crashes to the ground in a fireball. Rh'iizh's escorts fire at another from two sides, and destroy it. Pikaichichu and Zaffre make quick work of another one that gets close enough.

Latchgrip "One left."

Rh'iizh agilely flies in behind the last bomber and fires at it, blowing it up.

Bell She is on guard. "Is that the last of them?"

Rh'iizh does another sweep. After this, he and the defending fighters fly off.

"That was the last one."

Bell scans the sky, then turns to the nearest intruder.

Bell "Now, why are you here?"

Zaffre speaks before they can say anything.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We can answer that."

Pikaichichu, Zaffre, Uopanosguhi, and Kolsohte join Clinger and Latchgrip within The Interveners' camp.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We were sent here to find two people that left Celrest and went missing."

Bell "Could be anyone. A lot of people left Celrest after they could."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Two female Meowstic, to be more clear."

Bell "Sounds a hell of a lot to me like you're after my daughters."

Uopanosguhi "Your daughters?"

Emmes and Elles are met by four Branch B soldiers. "You two have to come with us."

Every close member of the Interveners point their weapons at the soldiers. Emmes and Elles just look confused.

A Metang - LF32, speaks sternly, as some of his soldiers hold their weapons on them.

LF32 "You should think twice about that."

Uopanosguhi watches the situation nervously.

Uopanosguhi "Watashi wa kore o konomanai."

Pikaichichu "Wait!" He turns and speaks to Bell. "Call them off. Please."

Bell "Explain yourselves, or, well, no."

Elles is on high guard, while Emmes looks curiously at Uopanosguhi.

Latchgrip "It was on his request."

Clinger nods.

Bell She frowns. "Whose?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "They're your daughters, right? Well, this was on your son's request."

Bell "This is wrong. He should want to come here. Sorting out for their return? It's wrong. He decided to ignore the call here."

Lt Gen Zaffre "According to him, you went missing, too."

Bell "From his perspective, I guess I did."

Pikaichichu "He's worried that they may be in danger, and what happened here confirmed it."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Risking running into the Antithesis, and getting attacked at this camp by the Cavriluon Army."

Kolsohte "Täällä ei ole turvallista niille."

Bell "They answered my heed willingly. Tch."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Willingly or not, it's a bad idea for them to be here at the moment."

Bell "Do you assume they are helpless?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "No. I did not say they are helpless, but I don't think they were prepared for that attack."

Bell "Mattaku... They trained under a renowned fighter when they were young, and another in Celrest. Just because they don't possess long-ranged attacks... it means nothing."

Zaffre pauses, then responds with a question.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Is "accidentally getting themselves stuck in a pit" part of that training?"

Emmes glances away, embarrassed.

Bell "That was idiocy on Emmes' part."

Elles "I assure you that our fighting ability is formidable, if my younger sister's intellect is not."

Emmes still looks embarrassed, hiding her face. She mutters to herself.

Clinger shakes his head. Zaffre turns to them.

Lt Gen Zaffre "That makes it clear that we can't let you two stay. Now we have to send you back."

Bell "'Back?' They are back. And in any case, you have no right."

Lt Gen Zaffre ""No right"? Considering who requested this, I say differently."

Pikaichichu "Hold on." He speaks to Bell again. "It'll only be temporary, and it won't be a long time."

Bell "I advise you not to continue. If not, we will attack you."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Why don't you contact him yourself instead of threatening us? We don't need to fight - in fact, we do not want that. And if you do not have the means to contact him, we do and can provide just that."

Bell "You are missing facts. My son refuses to believe that I never died, he would not answer any call that I make to him."

Zaffre and the others pause.

Lt Gen Zaffre "If he won't answer you, then I'll contact him." He orders one of his subordinate officers. "Get a visual transmission ready."

"Yes sir."

Bell She shrugs. "Ii yo."

At the Returners HQ in Celrest, a subordinate answering to Zaffre is contacted. "Yes?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Get Emmet, I must speak with him."

"Right away, sir." The officer calls Emmet. "Emmet!"

Emmet He turns from the desk he is working at. "Yes?"

The officer answers. "You are needed. Come here."

Emmet "Sure thing." He walks over to the officer. "What is it?"

The officer turns a screen in front of Emmet on. It is blank, then they hear Zaffre.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Emmet, this is Zaffre." Shortly after speaking, he appears on the screen. "Our search was successful. We found your sisters."

Emmet "Excellent. Are they in good health?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "They are well. However, we did find someone else here - and be ready. This may surprise you."

Emmet He tilts his head. "Who?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "I'll show you." The screen view turns to where Bell is. "Here she is."

Emmet chokes on his breath.

Emmet "M-mother? What... What is this?"

Bell scoffs.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We were told accordingly that she tried to call you, but believing her to be dead, you never answered even once."

Emmet "I-I... I.... Mother?"

Emmes pushes herself into view, and shows a rather rude gesture to Emmet.

Latchgrip "Emmes..."

Clinger pulls Emmes aside.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Now, you wanted us to bring them back to Celrest. There is a problem." He takes a quick glance toward the Interveners, then back to Emmet. "The trouble is that it would provoke unneeded hostilities from those at this camp."

Emmet "If she's really there... Then I guess it's unnecessary. I- May I speak to her? My mother?"

Bell "You most certainly may not."

Emmet "Mother..."

Bell "Tch. I gave you your chance."

Emmet His eyes are in shadow. He is probably teary. Then, in a raised voice: "Then I have nothing more to say. Nor to Emmes and Elles." He shuts off the transmission, and flees into his own back room. He pulls a communicator from a drawer, and after fidgeting for a bit, speaks into it. His voice is very angry, and it trembles. "I have been lied to, sir."

An unknown voice replies.

Emmet "Too late? Then you did have an ulterior motive for allowing my wish!"

A threatening reply.

Emmet His face falls even more than it already has. His voice is very dark now. "You... wouldn't."

A harsh reply, this time.

Emmet "No! I'll do it. I'm on the next plane to Eris Dock, I swear." Then he mashes the button to disconnect, and his tears fall.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Looks like your daughters are staying." Still facing the same direction as when he was talking to Emmet, he continues. "Not to mention you cut our communications short..."

Bell She sighs deeply. "If only he had answered the first call."

Zaffre turns to Bell.

Lt Gen Zaffre "...when we still had more to tell him about. The arrival of four highly accomplished officers sent by Brigadier Iron to assist us." He briefly turns to his subordinates. "They should be arriving in Celrest soon." He turns back to Bell. "There is also the attack on your camp and the perpetrators of it."

Bell "Yes, I do want to know about that. Who were those fighters sent by?"

Zaffre turns and looks up at Pikaichichu, who nods. He looks back at Bell.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We were told that they were sent by Haksal."

Pikaichichu "Those ships that were attacking are used by the Cavriluon Army."

Bell "Cabrulion? I'm not familiar-"

Elles "Cavriluon. They attacked Celrest on at least one occasion, prior to the Strike. Beyond that I don't know."

Bell "But Celrest is quite the distance from Argent-Verdantia. What cause unites these attacks?"

Clinger shakes his head.

Latchgrip "The distance between here and Celrest doesn't matter." He briefly looks up at the sky.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Haksal led those same attacks, under the command of Slarnik."

Bell "But who was their target?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Before this, they targeted members of the Celrest Strike. Slarnik was attempting to cause Celrest's destruction. This time, they targeted you and everyone at this camp."

Pikaichichu "They will target anyone, especially those that thwart their ambitions - including anyone that fights other malicious forces whose actions benefit them in some way..."

Elles and Emmes glance at each other.

Bell "Then... They can't be allied with the Antithesis...." she says to herself.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Like it or not, you are now among their targets. As soon as they are ready to attack again, they will do everything they can to get rid of you."

Uopanosguhi "Just as they tried to get rid of us in Celrest."

Bell She grimaces. "I'm used to it though. Being wanted dead, that is."

A member of the search party remarks. "By the Antithesis, no doubt."

Bell "Un, and others. Has your group been at odds with the Antithesis as well?"

Latchgrip "To an extent. We had to prevent Viera from destroying Celrest while battling Vahashii and her gang."

Bell "Viera... He's a mystery to me... And he seems to be the effective leader of the Antithesis now... I figure you are unaware of many elements of how the Antithesis works."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We were investigating and searching for more information on what we're up against, but we would like to hear what you have to say."

Bell "Viera isn't the leader. At least, he shouldn't be. The Antithesis is ruled by a council, the majority of which have names beginning with 'V'. Thing is, after Vahashii and Vellum betrayed the council, none of the others besides Viera have been seen. I believe the Nonpareil is looking into why. Of course," here she glances at her daughters, "The Nonpareil can't be counted upon. Trusted, maybe. But counted upon, no. That's the reason we're here, really."

Lt Gen Zaffre "From analysis of Viera's and Vahashii's actions in Celrest, this cannot be left to the Nonpareil to handle alone."

Pikaichichu "They'll need assistance if they are to win against the Antithesis."

Bell "Viera is a formidable enemy. And Imas... well Imas and Natira... well, nevermind. In any case, if you want to remain unopposed as a fighting force here, you'd better talk with the Paradiso government. Unless your change of plans requires a return to Celrest, I guess."

Clinger speaks unintelligibly. Latchgrip translates.

Latchgrip "We were not given orders. We came here to this camp on Emmet's request. Traveling here was our own decision."

Pikaichichu "Plans have already changed, and we have decided to help out."

Eevee An Eevee at Bell's side speaks up for the first time. "In what way?"

Pikaichichu "In any way we can."

Bell and the Eevee share a glance.

Bell "Then you have two choices. Join us, become part of the Interveners, or take the time to tell the government that you're here as your own group. Trust me, if you want to operate on your own, you need to be registered. They appreciate help taking out the various riff-raff around these parts, but if you aren't registered, you become the riff-raff."

Eevee "We know because we spent several months without registering. We had several groups after us. And as long as you haven't blown up a lot of things, the government is sure to accept your group."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Further operations here require registration?"

Pikaichichu "If that's what we need to do, then we will do that."

Bell "Yes. Head to the biggest building in downtown Silveria."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I'll have two representatives speak to them. We would risk compromising this operation if we were to go there ourselves at the moment."

Bell "That works. We do need to get more allies if we wish to get to the bottom of this mystery. I suppose you don't know about it, though?"

Zaffre contacts two members of Team StormBlitz that are not present at the camp.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Largest building in downtown Silveria City. Go there. Avoid detection by Antithesis. Speak to Paradiso government about registration. Once registered, proceed to point designated on map away from city."

Latchgrip "I'm not so sure if anyone here knows entirely about it."

Bell "The Antithesis isn't deploying as many of their lackeys as you might think. They're employing these things called shades. We don't know where they come from, nor how to deal with them."

Uopanosguhi "I have never heard about them using..."shades"."

Bell "They are difficult enemies. Most weaponry doesn't work against them. Kinetic force only does anything when spread out across their entire being. That's not easy to pull off, considering they're made out of what looks like smoke, and can spread out seemingly indefinitely. And they don't have a stereotypical 'core' that is their weakness. Their only thing resembling a weakness is the fact that they become pretty much harmless at low density.

Eevee "But at that density they can also pretty much not be harmed, themselves, so it's barely a weakness."

Uopanosguhi "That is difficult."

Pikaichichu "Difficult, yes." He ponders this. "But, given what you said with some of the details... ...not impossible."

Bell "These shades have been deployed in abundance throughout the wilderness, clustered around sites we call shrines."

Eevee "And the shades are breeding. Or regenerating... or splitting, well in any case, they've multiplied. We don't know if they're living creatures in their own right, either."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Then we must deal with the situation as soon as possible. This could spell serious trouble if it's part of their plan."

Bell "Currently, we are in the process of determining what exactly the shrines are. We're taking our time, but those two took it on their own to investigate directly. We were preparing to do that anyway, just more seriously. This camp is in fact step one of that plan. We moved here early. I had to send someone to liberate those fools, and I thought we might as well initiate our plan. If you could help we would be much obliged."

Pikaichichu "Of course we are going to help."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Though it would help if those two stick to the plan from here onward." He lowers his volume. "Especially Emmes."

Elles "I did tell you, Emmes."

Bell "I expect to move out within the week."

Latchgrip "Hopefully soon."

Clinger nods.

In Celrest, a helicopter approaches. Due to the curfew, no aircraft (except airborne military aircraft) are outside.

"Security checks complete. Proceed to helipad."

"Will do."

The helicopter lands at the helipad. An officer meets with the passengers, four Magnemite.

"Brigadier Iron sent you to assist in the investigation. This way."

Chapter Four: The Antithesis

It is morning in Paradiso, and Aroido, Xorack, Stab, and the rest are awakened by Liam's heed.

Liam "Tails is here for once. He wishes to speak with you about something or other.

Aroido "Tails is here?"

Xorack "Then let's go and hear him."

Sagujo "Got it, boss."

Liam ​"He is at the conference room you were at previously."

Stab ​"What's he have to say, anyway?  Why's he only come here now?"

Liam ​"I don't know.  And he's been preoccupied fighting skirmishes at the fringes of Argent-Verdantia, and remnants of previous uprisings elsewhere, stirred up by the Antithesis many years ago, long abandoned by them."

Zurkabō "So that could have been why he wasn't present sooner."

Sokona "At least he is here now."

Xorack "Yeah, yeah. Come on." He goes off toward the conference room, the others following.

Tails stood at the far side of the room. Liam had walked with the group for most of the way, and they had assumed he would come to the room as well, but he had turned down another corridor at the last second.

Tails "Ah. There you are. You are acquaintances of Cerin, are you not?"

Aroido "Hai." He extends a foreleg, offering a handshake.

Xorack "We met him just after giving Marc to you."

Tails shakes hands with Aroido.

Tails "Well, Cerin is missing. Along with his companion."

Xorack "What?!"

Aroido "Missing? What happened?"

Tails "We thought he was with the Interveners, and he was for a short time, but then he stopped reporting to me. He seems to no longer be with them, and I'm pretty sure he's been captured by the Antithesis. Don't abandon your original mission, but look for clues of his whereabouts."

Xorack "Of course we're not going to stop what we were originally doing, but we're not ignoring this."

Aroido "We will search for clues of Cerin's whereabouts as we go along."

Stab "So, where were we going again?"

Xorack "Location 3. That's where we're going next."

Stab "Oh yeah, that."

Sagujo "Tails, have you or Liam heard anything from the Interveners themselves recently?"

Tails "No. We seem to have the same end goal, the destruction of the Antithesis, but the Interveners are doing something completely different, and we haven't even inquired as to what. We know they're in the midst of the forests around here, but the forests around here aren't our concern."

Aroido "I think there's good reason for concern. On our way to see you, we heard that there was an attack last night, over the forests."

Tails "Yes, we know. It still doesn't involve us. We can assume that the Interveners were the targets themselves. Had they asked for help we would have gladly given it, but there's no need to.... intervene."

Xorack "Whatever. Speaking of which, Tails, if you run into Grant, I wouldn't count on him to do any favours for us, for any of us."

Tails "Oh?"

Xorack "He called in some high-ups from the government here, including the president, to hear the story."

Aroido "They didn't listen to a single word, and they left, taking Tevin - the ambassador, with them."

Xorack "And we go nothing out of it!"

Tails "Are you sure it wasn't a calculated action on Grant's part? I feel like I would have been complained to, otherwise."

Xorack "We saw him trying to stop them from leaving, unable to get his words out clearly, only embarrassing us more in front of the president of the Paradiso government, and the other two with him."

Zurkabō "Felt sorry for Liam after that."

Xorack "They probably won't listen to any of us now."

Tails "Paradiso's government isn't very trustful of us, to be honest. Grant is trying to work with them; there's a lot we can't do without their approval. But they don't seem to put much faith in us. They're putting more funds into tiny squads who aren't even getting results."

Xorack, Aroido, and the others are annoyed by that last detail.

Sagujo "And what is that supposed to get done?"

Xorack "Other than waste their money and our time?!"

Tails "Well, we can still go up against the Antithesis without their help, it's just more difficult."

Xorack "I wouldn't call it more difficult when they didn't help much in the first place."

Tails "More difficult than if they did help, to say."

Sagujo "Yeah, if."

Aroido "For now, we have to consider alternatives. The government is not helping, but there may be others out there willing to fight the Antithesis."

Tails "Aside from us and the Interveners, there are no significant groups who are against the Antithesis as far as I know. At the least, there are no groups actively against the Antithesis."

Aroido "Still better than nothing, even if they're insignificant."

Xorack "All the government did was send Tevin, who just happens to be one of your fans."

Aroido "And I wouldn't say that it is just us and the Interveners. Would not hurt to check again."

Tails "Do you know of another?"

Aroido "There are the Returners. And then there's Team StormBlitz."

Tails "You're right about Team StormBlitz I suppose, but the Returners are based within Celrest exclusively, they are of no help here, excepting of course any relevant information they dig up."

Stab "But what if... nevermind."

Xorack "I think what they last found was relevant enough. We were looking at these fragments that were found in the rubble in the middle of Celrest."

Aroido "Vahashii was going on about a "Shadow" in her diary. Stab then came across what was likely important information on the last fragment."

Xorack "But before we could see what it was, Sam stole it, and then lost it!"

Tails "The Shadow is tied with the Antithesis. And as for Sam, things like that are why he's on probation."

Stab "But, you're missing... nevermind."

Xorack "Stab, what is it?"

Stab "The old members of Vahashii's gang. At least the ones on my level. They were pretty oppressed under her rule. They might harbor a grudge against the Antithesis. It's a potential ally."

Sagujo "You mean like some of the guys we saw near the abandoned base? It could be risky to just get to them, especially with them being watched by their new superiors, like Impale."

​Stab ​"No, no, those guys must be real jerks, or they have motivation.  I'm talking about the ones still in prison, or in Celrest.  I'm certain that most of them pretty much hate the Antithesis.  I should have mentioned this before.  In fact, I've tried to."

Tails "That would make some sense, but it seems a bit risky.  In any case, I must leave."

Aroido "Well, thank you for coming here to hear us out. It was nice seeing you again."

Sagujo "Oh, them. Well, from what we were told, I don't think it's so simple in that case, either."

Tails He replies affirmatively, absentmindedly. Then he disappears.

Stab "What do you mean?"

Aroido "The thing is, we wouldn't be able to even go in there without permission."

Stab "Yeah, yeah, true."

Xorack "But we'll worry about that later. Celrest is a long way from here. Right now, we're getting ready to go to Location 3."

Stab "I don't have anything to get ready. Where is it again?"

Xorack "In Silveria."

Aroido "And we have it on the map."

Stab "Yeah, ok, cool, yeah."

Xorack "Sagujo, Sokona, Zurkabō, to your speeders, and be ready to go when we come out!"

Sagujo and the other two leave.

Xorack "Speaking of the Returners, I wonder if they found anything else out since we landed here."

Aroido "Providing information is probably all they can do right now, as Tails implied. With that attack last night, I don't think they will be given any choice but to stay in Celrest."

Stab "True." Figuring he could add nothing more to the conversation, he goes to find his speeder.

Xorack and Aroido follow Stab out. Once outside, Sagujo addresses them.

Sagujo "Boss, we're ready."

Xorack "That's what I wanted to hear." He goes over to his speeder with Aroido following him and checks it closely.

​Kappa runs over.

Kappa ​"It has working lasers.  And I put in new missiles, just in case."

Xorack "That's great!"

Aroido "Thank you, Kappa."

Kappa "Not a problem." He bows exaggeratedly, and then runs off.

Sagujo "Quite the technician, huh?"

Xorack "Yeah, he is. Get moving."

Sagujo leads Sokona and Zurkabō off. Xorack and Aroido follow them, along with Stab.

At the HQ, an officer informs Pystone and Emmet. "There are some arrivals here now."

Emmet is on the phone, and is speaking frantically about something about aircraft. However, Pystone turns around calmly and answers the officer.

Pystone He frowns. "Arrivals?"

"Four of them. They are waiting for you outside at the front of this building."

Pystone "I see." He exits the building to meet said arrivals. Emmet is still on the phone.

"They are waiting, Emmet. And speaking of aircraft, do not expect to find any available. We heard they were all locked away."

Emmet grimaces at the officer, and runs off in the opposite direction, still on the phone, yelling "Nemike."

Pystone is met by four different coloured Magnemite, all with their own helmets. The anti-flash white coloured Magnemite along with the one behind them, greet him.

"Guten Morgen."


Pystone "Oh, welcome."

The copper Magnemite addresses him. "Pystone, I presume? I hope this isn't inconvenient for you."

Pystone "Oh, no, of course not."

"Glad to hear that."

Next to the copper one, the metallic grey Magnemite asks "So, may we come in?"

Pystone replies affirmatively, and turns to lead them in, but Emmet runs out at what seems like maximum speed. Pystone shakes his head at this, and leads the Megnemite inside.

The officer yells out. "Wait! Emmet!"

The metallic grey Magnemite responds. "Emmet? I thought we were meeting with him, too!"

Pystone He sighs. "I don't know what's with him. He's been on edge since last night."

The anti-flash white Magnemite adds in. "Er beschloß, gerade abzureisen, als wir ankame... ...Brigadier Iron told us that this investigation was very important, and sent us here. Ich bin Kolonel Brihlzend."

"Major Copper. Good to begin working with you, Pystone."

"I'm Major Tin."

"Et je suis Capitaine Clacq."

​Pystone ​"Yes...   Welcome, all.  Excuse the mess in here, we're reordering documents."

Major Tin "You've been keeping busy."

Major Copper "Do you need any help with that?"

Pystone ​"No, we're quite fine, really."

Kolonel Brihlzend "If that is the case, then we will begin working on the investigation with you."

Major Copper "Okay, chaps, let's get started."

Pystone "What part of the investigation are you meaning to help with?"

Capitaine Clacq "Well, before we left, we were told about these fragments that Vahashii had left behind, and the information they had."

Major Tin "Lieutenant General Zaffre was working with you on that when he was here, right?"

Pystone ​"Yes...   Most of the files we have are not from Vahashii herself, most are from underlings.  We're collecting information from Vahashii's predecessor, actually.  He never served the Antithesis, but it's still worth looking into."

Capitaine Clacq "May we see what you have so far?"

Pystone "Be my guest."

Clacq begins looking through and reading the files, sharing them with Copper and Tin, with Brihlzend overseeing this.

The files are transcripts of original data, and contain what could be interesting intel - but many are written in strong vernacular, or with an abundance of code words, or some combination thereof.

Pystone "I was in the process of sorting them by source."

Capitaine Clacq "There are a lot of code words in them."

Major Tin "They must have known the files would eventually be found by someone."

Pystone He nods astutely. "With enough context, we can discover what each one means. We have a lot of documents here, remember, the majority of the main tower's documents survived, they were just buried under rubble. We think we have over 90% of all of Vahashii's group's documents."

Major Copper "Very good. I hope you were able to find the necessary information."

Kolonel Brihlzend "That will determine if that percentage is enough..."

Pystone ​"We don't know much, yet."

Hearing this, Brihlzend gives Pystone a short glance.

Pystone "...what?"

Except for air patrols flying around, there are no aircraft for Emmet to see.

Emmet resigns himself, and gets in a ground vehicle that he had called beforehand, and they head to the edge of Celrest City.

Near the city's edge, they find their path blocked by soldiers at a checkpoint, and beyond it - two armoured vehicles. "Stop there!"

The vehicle's driver rolls down the window. "I think you'll find that we're qualified to pass through here."

An officer approaches the vehicle, with a soldier alongside. "That must be verified." They check Emmet's clearance. "You are cleared to pass. Proceed with caution."

"Noted." The vehicle leaves the boundaries of the city, and drives into the arid area outside, heading into the distance.

Eventually the entire group reaches an area to safely observe Location 3, which appeared to be a small building, seemingly too small to hold many.

Sagujo "Does that look a bit weird to you?"

Stab "Is this the right place? I imagined something larger. I suppose it would make sense if it had a large basement or something."

Aroido "Well...if you think about it, it would also make sense if they were trying to lay low."

Stab "I was thinking that."

Xorack "The only way to be sure is to go in there and find out."

Aroido "But, without getting caught."

Stab "I imagine that would be difficult."

Xorack "Which is why, Stab, we need to think about how we'll do that first."

Zurkabō "And where to enter that building."

Stab "I vote roof."

Sagujo "We'd have to avoid making any noise or being seen. Still, it's possibly one of the better ways in."

Stab "I don't see any guards..."

Aroido "That wouldn't necessarily mean that they are not there. It would be better to make sure."

Stab "Ok."

Sagujo "Sokona, Zurkabō, check and see if anyone's there."

Sokona and Zurkabō go toward the building, staying low to avoid being seen. Then they go around and head toward the roof. No one appears to be there, it seems unguarded.

Warily, they signal to Xorack, Aroido, and the others, while looking around.

Xorack "Okay. Let's get up there."

Aroido "And stay low until we are next to the walls."

Stab complies.

The four sneak through, getting to the walls of the building, then toward the roof.  No one stops them, the roof seems deserted.  There is indeed nothing but various implements usually seen upon roofs, and a door leading inside.

Xorack looks back at them, and whispers.

Xorack "Who wants to go in first?"

Sokona and Zurkabō begin to step forward.

Stab "I can cut through the door, if it's locked."

Sagujo "Hold on, Stab. Let me see if it is." He goes to the door to attempt to open it.  The door does not open.

Stab ​"It'd be a severe oversight if it wasn't locked."

Xorack "Okay, Stab. Do it, but quietly."

Stab cuts through the door as quietly as possible - not silent, but more quiet than one might expect - and makes a hole large enough to walk through.

Stab "Ah, crap. I could've just cut the locking mechanism."

Xorack "This still works - less noise. Now, who wanted to go in first?" He turns his head toward Sokona and Zurkabō. They nod and warily enter.

Down the stairs, there isn't a large gathering, just three Honedge and two Pawniard talking. The Pawniard sport the Antithesis colors, but only one of the Honedge have Vahashii's standard. The other two are unmarked. The entire back half of the room is unlit.

Sokona and Zurkabō turn suspicious about the unlit part of the room.

Xorack "Alright, who's going next?"

Stab nods, and goes in the door. He keeps quiet as he notices the small group below.

Zurkabō sees Stab, and points to the back of the room, to tell him that there may be more to it.

Stab nods.

Sokona tries to listen in on what the Honedge and Pawniard are talking about.

The Honedge with Vahashii's standard talks in Celrest vernacular, as expected, but the other two Honedge have a different, and harder to understand accent.

Unmarked Honedge A "I'm tellin ya'll, there ain't no way no one's gonna up an' come over to this here little shack."

Marked Honedge "Mhm. I don like agreeing with him, but Nick's got it right. Why'd the top dogs assign-"

Pawniard A "It's not your place to question your orders, Sever."

Sever "But-"

Unmarked Honedge B "Ya heard what the man said!"

Pawniard A "Sorry, but I don't need your help, Lop ."

Pawniard B "Can't you guys be quiet? You too, Pion."

Sokona whispers to Zurkabō, who quietly walks outside to speak to Xorack, Aroido, and Sagujo.

Zurkabō "There seem to be just a few of them."

Xorack "What?"

Zurkabō "But only a part of the room is lit, so it just seems that way. And some of them don't sound like that they are in much agreement."

Xorack "Arguing, huh? Hmmmmm..." He grins.

Zurkabō goes back inside with Stab and Sokona.

Stab "You have an idea?"

Zurkabō "Not a definite one, but we can tell that they do argue a lot. The boss said we could take advantage of that."

Stab starts to respond, but then one of the Pokémon below complains loudly.

Lop "Are they done yet or what!?"

Pion "Can you shut up? No, they're not done."

Nick "I sure's hell don' see why we got teh do all this. There ain't NO WAY. Not no one's gonna come here! And why in tarnation can' we go take part in the meetin'?"

Pawniard B "Why must you guys be like this....? We're guards. And there's always the chance someone will come interrupt, jeez."

Pion "Come on, Peð, the brass aren't watching us, you can stop trying to be some exemplar."

Sever "Oi. We need to be more like him, but you're partially right. We're all friends here, show less ang- animosity."

Peð "If you guys haven't forgotten, we lost Bonde, Sotilas, and Pedes to this same attitude."

Sever "We also lost Truncate..."

Pion "Hey, they're still here in spirit."


Lop "Whoa, Sever, are ya ok?"

Sever "No! I'm not. I haven' ever since that bastard shattered Trunks. He was like my brother, guys, you don' understand. He never did anything wrong. He didn' wanna hurt anyone, he never did. He wasn' even fighting, and that Pikachu killed him. I hate the Nonpareil, guys. I'm goin' to kill them, if it's the last thing I do. All they do is breed lies and unfairness."

Pion "You can't possibly believe that we - the Antithesis is better."

Sever "At least the ones above us don' lie to us. The higher-ups are very open about their goals. We can' say the same about the Nonpareil."

After hearing Sever's rant, Zurkabō turns to Stab and Sokona.

Zurkabō "I think...we should get moving...quickly..."

Stab "In or out? Also, if it helps, I've met Sever."

Zurkabō "You have?"

Sokona "Do you know Sever well?"

Stab "I've only spoken directly to him a couple of times, though I was around him a lot, so I know him. He used to be one of the guys in my old group. We were the slacker group, we liked to sit around and play poker, and we got in trouble for it. We were far from pacifists, but we didn't exactly like taking orders to kill. It was me, Sever, Truncate, ...Slice and two others. There was another few who were there for a while, but got transferred. I think I told you before, but that fight with you was my last real fight for Vahashii. We liked to pretend that we were actually important fighters. I think it was my turn to play leader in that battle."

Zurkabō "We never knew it was like that with your group. All we heard about was the situation in Celrest then and what Vahashii was doing. It wasn't until later that we heard about the Antithesis and her connection to it."

Sokona "Now you were saying it helps that you met Sever. What do you have in mind right now?"

Stab "I don't know. I just thought it might be helpful."

Sokona "You did sound like you had an idea."

Zurkabō "Wait a minute. Didn't that one Pawniard say that they would be expecting you at this place?"

Stab "What Pawniard? The one who told us the coordinates here?"

Zurkabō "Hai. That one."

Stab "I don't know if he said that or not, but it would make sense for him to expect me."

Zurkabō "I have an idea. It may be risky, though, but if you want to hear it, I will tell you."

Stab "I'm open to anything."

Zurkabō "Okay. Here is what I am thinking. Since you know Sever and since they're expecting you, you should be able to go in there and speak with them without much problem. That could give us a chance to find out more about what they're up to. You would have to do that in a way that doesn't make them suspicious of you, though."

Stab "Alright, I've got a cover story for my disappearance." He walks out and down, into the open where he is seen by the other group.

Peð "Who's there!"

Sever "Stab!? What in the world- didya join the Antithesis too?"

Stab "I've been in prison for a long while."

Pion, Lop, and Nick "Who's this?"

Sever "An acquaintance of mine. Another Vahashii veteran."

Peð "Did you recently leave Celrest?"

Stab "I joined up while there, and only came to Silveria very recently."

Sever "'sthat so? Is that really how they're doing it now?"

Stab "Uh, well, yes."

Sever "Huh. Anyways, I suppose you'll be going into the meeting room. You're considerably late, but from experience I'd say it's still barely started. The entrance is in that corner over there. Don't mind the shades, if this is your first time seeing them."

Stab looks like he is about to back out, wanting to get more information, but not wanting to seem suspicious, he continues forward into the shadowed corner of the room, and enters a trapdoor from which he descends vertically.

Sokona goes outside.

Sokona "There are more than just a few of them. Somebody named Sever directed Stab to their meeting room beyond the unlit corner."

Xorack "I had a feeling about that."

Sokona "Sever also told him that there are shades here at Location 3."

Sagujo "Shades? Like the ones Impale mentioned?"

Sokona nods.

Aroido "It must be important if there are shades present at the meeting."

Xorack "That means the three of you have to find out as much as you can in there."

Sokona "Hai, bosu."

Aroido "And watch out for the shades."

Sokona nods and goes back inside.

Stab descends a long way, past the ground floor of the building, and exited to a rather vast, rather dungeon-like basement. Inside the space is a large number of Pokémon, as well as some shadowy beings patrolling the walls. On a raised stage, three more Pokémon at a table are arguing. Impale is one of them, and a Rotom who must've been Elektra is another. The third is a Metagross.

Stab He quietly mutters, "Damn, is that all the deputies in one spot? Lucky. Wait, no, they won't stay here long enough to report back and make a plan. Crap."

Impale "Alright, I put forth apologies to those gathered here. Sorry that this gathering is taking too long. We are here to inform you of the scheduled continuation of our plans."

Elektra mutters something. Impale angrily pushes the microphone away from in front of him and starts arguing again, and it somehow devolves into a discussion on the peculiar placement of trees outside of some base. Most of the members of the room seem to be trying to hide exasperation.

Sokona "Kare wa dekirudake ōku mitsukeru tame ni watashitachi o nozondeimasu."

Zurkabō nods and they quietly go off searching elsewhere.

Many minutes later, the meeting resumes. This time, the Metagross speaks up.

Metagross "As you all should know, our plans are advancing under schedule. Your roles are still the same as ever; whether it be to procure the shades, command the shades, or protect the shades."

Elektra "Our goals have not changed, but there is a very large cause for worry. The Nonpareil have not yet made a significant move against our true goal. Be very wary of their subordinates."

Here, some of the crowd stirs, and one Pokémon somewhere speaks out. "What about the tan Pikachu themselves?"

Impale "We've made sure that they cannot directly involve themselves with the Te- with our mission."

Stab He mutters to himself. "Te?"

Metagross "Anyway, you all must not hesitate to be devoted to Viera, and Vingulf and the others."

Stab "Wait..."

Metagross "Vingulf himself, or another of the Sharan, will step in before long. I don't expect any of you to know what that means, but the Sharan are a more important authority than even Viera."

Elektra "Now, also, you must not be alarmed by the sight of that one ally of ours."

Impale "Ah yes, him. Yes, if you see a tan Pikachu walking around in working areas, I assure you it's probably the one we're allied with, Viera's right hand man. Don't be scared of him, we've already had several panic attacks." Here, he laughs.

Over the next hour, the three deputies argue and tell the ones who were gathered below of plans, though nothing more important was said, besides mention of the location of small posts in the forest that probably wouldn't be worth investigating. Afterwards, those gathered were told to return to their previously assigned locations, and since Stab lacked one of those, he simply returned to the outside of the building. Much less than the amount of Pokémon that were in the building left this way, there must have been another way out. Stab wondered vaguely where the tanks went. He returned to the roof to find the others, without passing the area where Sever was.

Sokona finds a room below her and Zurkabō. She looks around carefully.

Some movement flickers in the corner.

The movement catches her eye, and she gestures to Zurkabō to stay quiet. She pays close attention to the corner of the room, while he continues looking around.

The movement does not reoccur.

With nothing to see in the room, they move on.

A darkness seems to follow them out of the room.

As they leave the room, they stay close to the walls. The movement just moments ago has Sokona suspicious.

Dark smoke rises from the floor, and gathers itself into a form. Red orbs start to glow within it - eyes. It does not attack, just stands there intimidatingly.

Sokona and Zurkabō slowly turn their heads. What they see confirms Sokona's suspicions. Zurkabō whispers.

Zurkabō "Ano wa shade ka?"

The shade makes a deep breathing sort of noise, then charges at Zurkabō.

Zurkabō runs out of the way to the right, barely avoiding it. Sokona, seeing this hostility toward him, swipes a claw at it.

The claw passes through the smoke as if it were any smoke, it disperses it a bit, but doesn't seem to harm anything. Then, a part of the smoke coalesces into an almost solid-looking form of an armlike shape, and moves to batter the arm into Sokona.

Sokona is surprised that her attack had no effect. Caught off-guard, she gets knocked to the floor. Zurkabō tries slashing it twice with his claws, then throwing a kick.

The claws connect with the arm, and leave deep gashes, but these gashes just leak smoke that returns to the main form of the body. The kick was deflected by the arm. Then, the shade spreads out, becoming thinner but much larger, and at some point the eyes disappear, though the shade is obviously still there.

Sokona stands back up. She and Zurkabō see that their attacks had little effect, and run from it.

The shade does not follow.

Zurkabō "Wareware wa sore o kizutsukeru koto wa dekimasen."

Sokona "Wareware wa, kono basho de ta no shade o tatakau koto o sakeru hitsuyō ga arimasu."

After running from the shade, they continue onward.

The shade returns to its original location, and then its eyes turn to a blue color.

Eventually, after looking elsewhere, the two go back outside where the rest are waiting.

Xorack "There you are. Did you find anything in there?"

Sokona "The place was nearly empty, but I think we ran into a shade in there. It attacked us without provocation!"

Zurkabō "When we fought back, we couldn't even hurt it."

Sagujo "Not even a scratch?"

Zurkabō shakes his head.

Aroido "Sounds like a potentially high threat." He turns to Stab. "What information did they share while you were meeting with them?"

Stab "A lot of interesting things, but now that I'm thinking about it, none of it helps us with our immediate mission. What I learned is that the shades are incredibly centerpoint to their plans, but I don't know how. It seems that everyone down there except for the deputies - oh yeah, all the deputies were there - had a sole purpose, and that revolved around the shades. I think the shades have to be found or something, they were talking about procuring them. It also seems like Viera has a tan Pikachu on his side, perhaps a former Nonpareil member. Oh, and Viera is a subordinate himself it seems, to something called the Sharan."

Aroido "Well, you did a good job with your infiltration. Even if that information does not help now, it will be of help later."

Xorack "Especially with the details of Viera in mind. Now, let's see if we can find anything out that can help with the mission right now."

Stab "I think finding the location of another base is still a priority."

Xorack "I know, and we will. I'm sure we can find one by hearing from the guys that just left."

Sagujo "But who do we go after first?"

Aroido "I would consider among these choices right now. We can capture at least one of the deputies, that tan Pikachu that is with the Antithesis, or some of those lower ranking."

Sagujo "By "lower ranking", you mean like Sever and that one Pawniard who revealed to us Location 3?"

Aroido nods.

Xorack "I'm liking those options that you recommended." He grins.

Stab "Going after a deputy is in line with our main mission."

Zurkabō "But who do we go after first?"

Xorack "I'm thinking Impale should be our first target. After that, we can go and capture Elektra."

Stab "How do you think we should go after Impale? I didn't notice which way he left."

Sagujo "If not Impale, then who did you notice leaving and in what direction?"

Stab "I didn't notice any of the deputies leaving, but a lot of underlings - still not nearly as much as were inside - left through the same exit I did. Most of them took different routes, but they all seemed to head northwest."

Xorack "Then for now we go northwest. We might still find another base by hearing from them."

Stab "Understood."

Xorack "Now let's get moving. I'm not gonna have anyone wasting time." He jumps down to the ground. Aroido follows.

Stab heads downward as well.

Sagujo, Sokona, and Zurkabō follow, carefully getting down to the ground. After that, Xorack promptly leads them off northwest.

Chapter Five: The Sheath

The group comes to a quite dangerous, shady-looking part of town. All of the buildings are falling apart, and cloaked individuals mill around, and the occasional Antithesis logo can be seen.

Aroido looks around. He whispers.

Aroido "Stay low and don't draw any attention. There could be Antithesis hannin lurking anywhere around here."

Stab "Do you think that old building thing is around here?"

Xorack "If it is, then it probably has the same problem as every building around here - ruined and falling apart."

Stab "Yeah, didn't Liam say something about a decrepit apartment or something?"

Xorack "Yeah, he did, so let's start looking for it."

Stab "There's more than one building that fits that description."

Xorack "Then we'll look until we find the right one..." He sneers. "...since we can't really expect anybody around here to tell us."

Aroido "Or trust them, for that matter."

Stab He agrees, and goes ahead to a building that fits the description.

Sagujo "So we start here."

Xorack "Yes, and we start now."

Sagujo "You two check first. Make sure it's clear."

Sokona and Zurkabō sneak into the building and look around.

Two Furrets converse in the corner. They hear a small noise and flee from the building.

The two Sneasel notice them run out. Sagujo sees them, too.

Sagujo "What's their deal?"

Stab witnesses the Furrets fleeing from a window.

Stab "They must have been up to something."

Aroido "Stay here. I will see what they are up to." He goes into the shadows and follows them.

The Furrets run into another, nearby dark area, and proceed to get into an argument climaxing with one of them slashing the other across the face and body and running off.

Xorack is contacted by Aroido.

Xorack "What is it? ... What? Just ran off and disappeared after that?" He growls in frustration. "Whatever. Then just get the other one."

Aroido nods, then quietly approaches the slashed Furret.

The Furret writhes around in pain, bleeding heavily.

Furret "Help me...!"

Aroido holds the Furret in place.

Aroido "Shh. Stay still." He acts fast and starts covering the wounds with his webs.

The Furret obeys, allowing Aroido to help, though there is fear in his eyes.

Aroido continues, soon completely covering the wounds on the Furret's body. Once he gets to the facial wounds, he works carefully and does his best not to scare him.

Furret "Why... I didn't expect..."

Aroido "With the Antithesis in this part of town, you cannot expect good things to happen most of the time." After responding, he resumes covering the wounds.

Furret "You'll learn soon enough that... they're not the only evil around here."

Aroido "I had a feeling that would be the case, since they weren't the only evil we had to worry about recently. In fact, just last night..." He finishes covering the wounds.

Furret "What happened to you, then?"

Aroido "First, let's get away from this spot, and I will tell you what happened."

The Furret looks at Aroido suspiciously before looking at his covered wounds, then nods and stands up while wincing.

Aroido "This way." He leads the way closely.

The Furret follows warily.

Once the two get to a safer location, Aroido tells him.

Aroido "Last night, there was an attack over one of the forests here in Argent-Verdantia."

Furret "Then even the forests aren't safe!?  Of course..."

Aroido "As you said, the Antithesis is not the only evil around here. We were told immediately that it was the Cavriluon Army that attacked last night. It's always a dangerous situation when they show up."

Furret "I wouldn't know about them.  But here, what you have to watch out for are the gangs."

Aroido "It's obvious that in this part of town, we're likely to face other gangs. Like we did months ago." He sighs, then contacts Xorack again.

Xorack "What?"

Aroido "We'll be there soon. He was injured, so it may take a little bit longer."

Xorack "Whatever. Just tell me when you get here."

Aroido "Ryōkai." "So tell me about the gangs around here."

Furret "There are a bunch, but most of them go under a collective name.  It makes it easier to assert dominance over the minor gangs and the poor citizens.  They call themselves the Bloodred Spines, a name that sounds cooler than they are.  The Antithesis that you mentioned likes to boss them around, but other than that they have free reign in this part of town.  The Antithesis stops those half-assed groups sanctioned by the government, so they're okay with being commanded.  And it makes it hard for the rest of us.  It's nearly impossible to live around here without becoming involved with one of the gangs - Bloodred or otherwise - and their crimes, I guarantee you anyone here over 15 has at least an "aiding and abetting" charge that could be put on them, and that certainly includes me."

Aroido "None of us have heard of the Bloodred Spines before, but all of this is important to know." He helps the Furret move along faster. "Okay. We are almost there. Just a little further."

Furret "Okay... thank you."

Sagujo "Hey, boss, they're coming."

Xorack "Go see them."

Aroido enters with the Furret alongside.

Sagujo "There you are. We're waiting for ya."

Aroido "Have you found anything yet?"

Sagujo "We're working on it."

Aroido "We'll be right there."

Sagujo reports back to Xorack.

Furret "Who... is that?"

Aroido "An underling."

Aroido leads the Furret through further. Xorack and Sagujo are waiting for them.

Sagujo "There they are now."

Stab "What happened?"

Aroido "He was injured. The other one gave him a number of slashes before running off."

Stab "Why?"

Furret "Encounters with the less-forgiving citizens of this area often end with such a scene. What are your purposes for being here, anyway?"

Xorack "Wouldn't you like to know? We're here to bring down the crooks that turned this place into such a slum."

Furret "Though...  you couldn't have been sent by the government, right?"

Xorack "Not really, but someone did hire us, and we plan on getting the job done."

Furret "I will wish you the best of luck, and give you any needed information as thanks... but I will not otherwise involve myself."

Xorack "Okay, let's start with your name, it'll make it easier."

Furret "Torik."

Sagujo "Torik, huh?"

Xorack "I'm Xorack. Anyways, Torik, I'm not telling you to risk your neck out there, but some kind of help would be nice in return since Aroido saved you back there. I think information will do just fine."

Torik "What are you looking for?"

Aroido "We heard that the Antithesis probably has a base in an old apartment complex around here, like this one. What we need to know is exactly which building and where."

Torik "Oh, that's easy.  It'd be Barëce's old place."

Zurkabō "Barëce?"

Sagujo "Ya know where we can find that?"

Torik "The place isn't far from here."

Xorack "Okay, it's not far, but do you expect us to already know the direction? It's our first time being here."

Torik "No.  Calm down, I'll take you there."

Xorack "Whatever. Aroido?"

Aroido "Ōrai." He turns to Torik. "We are ready when you are."

Torik "Follow me then." He leads the group to a decrepit complex that looks like any other. "Here you are. This was Barëce's gang's hangout before the Antithesis showed up."

Aroido "Spooked them off, I guess. Well, thank you for showing us the way."

Xorack "We'll, uh, let you know if we need anything else."

Torik nods his head, then gives a look of sincere thanks to Aroido, then disappears.

Stab "This is really the place, then? Which deputy is in here, do you think?"

Xorack "I think it could be Impale."

Aroido "But if it's Elektra, then I would advise caution."

Stab "It doesn't look like much, honestly. Do you think it's got the same sorta thing as the last building going on? With the basement, and all?"

Xorack "Can't really rule that out. Now let's get to sneaking in there. The two of you go first."

Sokona and Zurkabō nod and look around for a way for them to sneak inside.

The second floor is missing a window.

The two of them climb up and sneak in through the opening.

The room they find inside is dark, and stinking of mold. It is completely empty.

Sagujo sees Zurkabō appear near the opening.

Sagujo "I think they found a place, boss."

Xorack "Right then. Go in there." He watches Sagujo carefully climb in using the ledges, then turns to Stab. "You're next."

Stab agrees, and obliges.

Finally, Xorack and Aroido climb the walls and enter the room. After briefly looking around, Xorack speaks.

Xorack "Never mind how bad this place looks. Let's just get to sneaking around."

Stab "Yeah. Let's go."

Aroido opens the door. Sokona and Zurkabō look left and right.

A stairway leads down. Stab takes it.

Sokona and Zurkabō go down the stairway with Stab, and Aroido follows them.

Nothing of interest lies below, but there is a stairway leading down behind a wall of boxes, so they continue. They go down for a long time until a crudely constructed artificial cave is found. Around 20 Pokémon with Antithesis colors mill around, and Impale stands near a span of pits. Luckily, there is a wall of various cargo that Stab, Xorack, Aroido, and the rest hide behind.

Xorack Just as I thought. Impale is here.

Aroido That cave doesn't look like it was there before.

Xorack "Alright." He whispers. "We need to find out what the heck they're doing here. I don't know what's in these boxes, but I don't like it."

Impale surveys the field of pits. Each of them begin to emit black smoke, and a bubbling noise is heard. Lines on the floor glow red, and then the bubbling is drowned out by whirring.

Impale "Now, it is time." He walks to a box and picks up something that was on it. It switches on, and the figure of Elektra/Anett appears. "It is time," he says to the hologram.

Elektra "Is it now? A bit slow on your part, but nonetheless we're on schedule. I take it that you've already contacted Viera? Anyways, I'll be there within minutes."

Impale "Then I'll be going ahead and taking my leave." Impale shuts off the communicator and heads off to the far end of the cave, presumably to an exit.

Stab Stab looks towards the others. "What's going on here? What was Impale preparing, and why is Elektra coming? I'm confused."

Aroido "Xorack, it looks like we were both right. Not only is Impale here, but Elektra will be coming shortly." He takes note of the glowing lines on the floor.

Sagujo "These boxes, Impale calling Elektra, the setup around here, this sounds big. Whatever it is, we gotta stop 'em."

The Antithesis lackeys in the cave begin to take mechanical bits and pieces from inside the boxes closer to the field of pits. The further boxes, including the ones that are being hid behind, are not touched, however. The pieces are used to create something, and before long, a strange implement starts to form from the construction, laying in the midst of the pits.

Zurkabō "Do you see that?"

Xorack "Yeah, looks bad...not sure exactly what it is, but I'll most likely end up hating it."

Elektra enters from the same place Impale exits, and approaches the device being constructed.

Sagujo "It's her."

Elektra "It is not completed yet? And that scum, that 'fantastic blade' of Viera's wit, told me it was time. Haste, you fools, haste! How long until you'll be done?"

Xorack "The other boxes, don't let 'em take them. We can't let 'em finish it."

Sokona and Zurkabō snatch several boxes before hiding again.

A Pawniard timidly addresses Elektra.

Pawniard "It'll take another hour, I'm afraid."

Elektra "Won't this do? I'm sure it will achieve the same result, and Viera does not have to know. Add the next few pieces, and then I'm starting. That fool Impale should not have called me here this soon."

The Pawniard acknowledges, and continues.

Xorack snatches four more boxes with his claws.

Aroido "She wants to start faster."

Xorack "Then we won't let her. Here, take these." He gives the boxes to Aroido and Sagujo, and they hide them.

Stab "I'm sorry to say it, but I don't think that's going to stop her. Look how many boxes they haven't gone through. And she said 'the next few pieces.'"

A Honedge puts a piece into place, and Elektra shouts.

Elektra "GOOD ENOUGH!"

A Pawniard who is about to put another piece into place is startled, and drops the piece.

Elektra "This is good enough."

Another Honedge comes up to Elektra.

Honedge "What is it that you're doing?"

Elektra "What uninformed scum you are. I'm preparing the sheath for Viera, you don't need to know any more." She brandishes a very plain sheath of a dull metal, curvaceous in shape and resembling a shirasaya. She places the sheath into a slot in the device, and then inhabits the device.

Xorack "Sagujo, find something that can stop it from functioning." He growls, Sagujo complies and searches the boxes they had taken.

Stab "That thing looks put together crappily. If you force a wedge into a crease hard enough, it might fall apart."

Xorack "Hmmm...wait, that's it." He takes a piece of metal that he found on the ground, then pulls it apart and roughly shapes it into a wedge. He gives it Aroido and gestures upward, then at the device.

Aroido "Right." He shoots a web and ascends to the ceiling, crawling into position. He takes aim carefully, then throws it at a crease in the device.

A lightning bolt is emitted from the machine and sends the wedge flying. The device starts to glow blue with electricity, and at the same time, two or three Pokémon call out, having noticed Aroido via the trajectory of the wedge.

Honedge "Intruders!!!"

Elektra Her voice is emitted from the device. "Kill them then, useless scum!"

Aroido starts spraying the Honedge with his webs. From behind the boxes, Xorack gets ready to attack and so do Sagujo and the others.

The Honedge gets caught in the webs, but is helped out by one of his brethren, and then they run off to check for other intruders. Another Honedge somehow manages to launch itself to the ceiling at Aroido.

Stab gets an idea, and slips off.

The device emits red arcs of light that enter the pits and cause them to glow and arc with more red light, as the device itself glows blue.

Aroido shifts around, braces himself, then brandishes his kunai and blocks the strike. He proceeds to throw a sucker punch at the Honedge.

The Honedge gets knocked back into the ground and then lies motionless.

Xorack, having moved to another position, hurls a large rock at the device.

The rock thrown by Xorack is buffered by a strange, very strong wind forming around the device, and it lands in one of the pits with an odd splash. More and more red lightning arcs from the pits, and the device starts to glow yellow rather than blue. Bits of metal, rock, and dust are blown in circles around the object, and now there is a humming sound increasing in volume.

A Pawniard rushes toward Xorack, while two Honedge find Sagujo.

Stab finds his goal, and enters into a control booth. He looks over the surprisingly large amount of levers and buttons in confusion. None of them are labelled, so he debates for a while, making an important decision.

Xorack waits for the Pawniard to get close enough, then sweeps an arm low.

The Pawniard is tripped up, but is quick, and hops back onto his feet, then jumps back cautiously.

Xorack takes a step toward the Pawniard, then swipes a claw at him.

The Pawniard parries with his own slash, and then jumps towards Xorack, aiming for his head.

Xorack backs up and throws a punch at him.

The Pawniard jumps into Xorack's punch head-blade-first.

With the claw hitting the Pawniard's head-blade, Xorack throws another one.

The Pawniard is severely injured, and is thrown backwards, where he kills one of his brethren with an unlikely trajectory. He does not get back up.

Sagujo stares right at the two Honedge, and protracts four sharp spines from his arms.

The left Honedge charges at Sagujo.

Sagujo runs at the Honedge, and swings his left arm.

The Honedge blocks, while the other charges in from the right side.

Sagujo cautiously blocks with his right arm.

Sagujo "Two on one, huh?" He pushes them back slightly, then attacks them.

The right Honedge blocks Sagujo's attack, while the left one dodges so that he is behind Sagujo and the makes to attack him from behind.

After Sagujo gets slashed, he smacks the one Honedge away from him, and resumes attacking the other.

The ground begins to shake slightly while the Honedge fights with Sagujo. The device in the cave is glowing brightly, and, panicking, Stab just randomly flips some levers and presses some buttons. The device then makes a grinding sound and violently explodes with a yellow burst, sending some debris, and the sheath, flying. All except two of the Antithesis underlings are killed or incapacitated by the explosion, and these are the two that were fighting Sagujo. Elektra is next to the ruined device, and she appears uninjured. She retrieves the sheath, and examines it, while the rest of the cave is at a standstill. The sheath has gained an iridescent sheen, and there are bands around it. Elektra begins to laugh.

Elektra "Someone got lucky at the control panel, I see. But to no avail, the process worked nonetheless." Elektra sends an attack of lightning at the control booth, but Stab breaks out and lands on the ground.

Sagujo "We'll see about that!"

From above, Aroido launches a Shadow Ball at Elektra.

Elektra is taken by surprise and takes the full of the attack. She then turns and charges vertically towards Aroido.

Aroido tries to dodge, but is slammed off the ceiling. Seeing Elektra try to take out Stab and then attack Aroido, Xorack snarls with rage. He jumps at Elektra and delivers a Night Slash.

Elektra knocks Xorack aside with the sheath, then beckons one of the final Honedge to her. She gives the sheath to the Honedge, and the Honedge quickly departs. Elektra then sends an electric attack at Xorack.

Xorack "No!" He growls as the Honedge leaves with the sheath. He is struck by Elektra's electric attack, but then he attacks her with a Dark Pulse.

Elektra retaliates with another electric attack. Stab rushes in to try to land an attack against her as well, but is knocked back.

Despite being hit with more electricity, Xorack presses his attack.

Elektra backs up against the attack as Stab charges in for another attack. He hits her, and then Elektra knocks him across the room with a static pop, and he smashes into the far wall.

Growling, Xorack charges at Elektra to throw another Night Slash at her.

Elektra turns to try to counter Xorack's next attack, but is met by a faceful of Night Slash. She recoils and sends a bolt of lightning at him, then breaks open a box with another burst. Inside is some manner of device which Elektra possesses.

Xorack is struck by the bolt and knocked back. He winces in pain from the attack, before slowly getting back up. Aroido gets up and nods to Xorack before attacking Elektra with a beam of Night Shade. Xorack runs toward the box to grab it.

Before Xorack can reach the box, it explodes outward with gunfire, obviously the device is some sort of turret being controlled by Elektra.

Xorack is hit by the first rounds of the turret's gunfire. He counters by hurling a large piece of debris from the device at it. Aroido, after seeing this, pushes stronger attacks against Elektra.

Sokona and Zurkabō, injured, but having avoided the worst of the explosion, jump out and ambush one of the Honedge with a flurry of attacks.

The Honedge, seeing that he is the only one left besides Elektra, panics a bit after being injured by Sokona and Zurkabō's attacks, and then does a reckless charge against Sokona.

Sokona gets knocked down to the ground. Sagujo and Zurkabō in turn rush him with more attacks.

The Honedge is failing to protect himself, and a crack appears in his blade. He tries to run away.

Sokona gets up, then she and Zurkabō jump on him, trying to bring him down.

The Honedge yells out and swings around in an attempt to hurt his assailants.

With the two distracting the Honedge, Sagujo throws a carefully-timed punch at him.

The top bit of the Honedge is broken off, and he yells in pain.

Sagujo grabs the Honedge, and forcibly brings him down to the ground.

The Honedge's thrashing leads to him knocking himself out.

Sagujo "Get him ready for the questions we'll have for him later."

Sokona "Right away."

They begin restraining the unconscious Honedge, then they hear the gunfire.

Sagujo "What the...?! You two continue what you're doing." He nears the fray to see where the sound of the gunfire is coming from.

Sagujo comes up just in time to witness Xorack's projectile smashing the turret, but Elektra is already on the move. She blocks Aroido's attacks with some static bursts, and then inhabits some sort of mobile bladed device. At this time, Stab comes up, and tries to attack the device, but Elektra parries.

Sagujo "Another one?"

Aroido tries to slow it down with his webs, while Xorack moves in, ready to strike. Sagujo takes his position.

A very quickly spinning bladed appendage prevents Aroido's webs from doing much of anything, and Elektra moves the device towards Xorack quickly.

Xorack snarls aggressively at Elektra, then he forcefully strikes the device with one of his claws.

The device is knocked aside, but returns to its course, and attempts to stab Xorack with a bladed appendage.

Xorack dodges and steps back. Sagujo jumps up and shoots missile-like needles at the device.

The needles impact the device, leaving some dents, but failing to damage any blades nor the machinery itself. The device rushes towards Xorack again, at a redoubled speed.

Xorack grabs the blade and the appendage with his claws. His right shoulder is cut by the strike, but he has the bladed appendage restrained, and he starts pulling it.

Another appendage unfolds from the device, and moves to stab Xorack's body.

Xorack growls and shoves it away with his tail stinger. He continues pulling the appendage, intending to rip it out.

The appendage groans from the stress and snaps, and the device jumps backwards. The device poses the same amount of danger, however two appendages are still active. It appears that a total of three appendages remain folded against the device. Another strange implement protracts from the device, and an odd projectile of some sort is fired from it at a curiously low velocity towards Xorack. The projectile erupts into a strange metal net.

Xorack "Now this?" He jumps forward, but the net catches on one of his legs, tripping him, and he falls to the ground again. He angrily pulls it off of his leg with his tail. He lunges forward at the device, using the bladed appendage as a makeshift sword and swinging at it.

The device flattens to the ground to avoid the blade attack and then springs up into the air, over Xorack. It fires another net directly below it.

The net falls on him and traps him, with the edges in contact with the ground fastening themselves there with a strange adhesive.

Aroido "Uun!" He rushes to Xorack, while Sagujo runs in and attacks the device.

Growling, Xorack slashes at it with the blade as well as trying to break it with his free claw and tail. Aroido holds up part of the net, giving him more room.

Xorack manages to get himself half free; he is pressed for time with the device still aiming for him.

Stab, who had been watching for an opportunity, charges into the device while it prepares to attack Xorack again. The device sustains a large amount of damage, rolling along the ground, and Elektra leaves the device. She sends a long-ranged electric attack at Stab, and at the same moment the metal net securing Xorack comes to life with electricity.

Xorack pulls his claws and tail away from the net. Aroido jumps back from the shock.

Xorack "What the...?!"

Aroido "Hold on!" Knowing he would be shocked again if he made contact with the net, he looks in the boxes for a ranged weapon.

Sagujo approaches Elektra and swings a spiny arm at her.

Elektra is hit and recoils. Stab rushes in and slices her while she is recoiling. She retaliates by hovering upwards and sending a small burst of electricity in all directions. Stab flees from the area of effect.

Sagujo braces himself and takes the attack. After this, he jumps at Elektra to return damage.

Taking the blunt of the attack again, Elektra angrily sends a stronger lightning blast at Sagujo.

Sagujo is struck full force. He is sent reeling across the ground, and groans in pain.

Xorack "See anything that can get me out of this net?" He watches Aroido rummaging through the boxes.

Aroido "Just a moment. I'm looking."

There is a tube of anti-adhesive within one of the boxes.

Sagujo gets up, glaring at Elektra, and shoots a barrage of needles at her.

Elektra deftly dodges the needles, and moves to swoop down upon Sagujo with some sort of new attack, but Stab again comes from behind and damages Elektra. Finally realizing she can't leave him alone, Elektra hovers high into the air, approaching the cave's ceiling, and starts preparing a much more powerful electric attack.

Aroido "Maybe this will have to do." He takes the anti-adhesive, goes over to the net, and starts using it. Seeing Elektra charging up, he works quickly.

Sagujo talks to Stab, and points to an area of cover.

Sagujo "Quick! Behind there!"

Stab dives into cover, and Elektra's attack does not penetrate the boxes. She sweeps down and attacks Stab directly. They exchange attacks for a while, Elektra being damaged multiple times, until a strong burst of electricity incapacitates Stab. Elektra turns her attention towards Xorack and Aroido, as Xorack is almost freed from the net.

Xorack "Hurry, Aroido."

Aroido "I know! I'm almost done."

Sagujo, seeing Stab knocked out and Elektra now focused on Xorack and Aroido, rushes at her, spines protracted, and attacks.

Elektra collides heavily with Sagujo unexpectedly, and Elektra slides across the ground in pain.

Aroido manages to break Xorack free from the net.

Xorack "At last. Now I'm gonna give her what for." He joins Sagujo, while Aroido notices Stab unconscious and goes over to him.

Stab is unresponsive, but he doesn't seem to be in immediate danger.

Aroido carries Stab away from the fight, then tends to him.

Sagujo "Boss, there you are."

Xorack "Okay. Listen here..." He sneers at Elektra, and clenches his claws into fists. "You give up now, and we won't have to wail on you."

Elektra She gets up with a wince. "Is that so? Spare me this talk." She scoffs and prepares an attack.

Xorack "Fine." He proceeds to attack her with a Dark Pulse, while Sagujo shoots more needles at her.

Elektra blasts Xorack with another electrical attack, then does a mid-air roll and attacks Sagujo in the same manner. Elektra makes for one of the boxes scattered around, presumably for another device.

Sagujo "I don't think so!" He throws an Energy Ball at her, while Xorack goes for the same boxes.

Elektra blasts Xorack, but is hit from behind by the Energy Ball and crashes again.

Xorack growls. After he gets up, he and Sagujo approach Elektra again, now standing over her.

Sagujo "He's not kidding."

Xorack "So do yourself a favour and stop now."

Elektra "Hmph. As if I'd dishonor myself by allowing myself to be taken by some radical - who are you, anyway?"

Xorack "Radical?!" He scoffs, seeing it as hypocrisy. "Even if we were radicals, you and the rest of the Antithesis would be no better." He pauses for a moment, then continues. "I'll tell you who I am - I'm someone you shouldn't mess with, and I'm in a bad mood."

Sagujo "You really shouldn't make him mad. Not a good idea."

Xorack "So, the sooner you cooperate, the better. We don't have all day."

Elektra pretends to weigh her options, then electrifies herself and jumps into Xorack.

Xorack reels from the sudden attack. This angers him more. He and Sagujo retaliate with a strong punch.

Elektra's new strategy is to get all up into Xorack's face, attacking him again and again with electricity.

With her attention on the increasingly angry Xorack, Sagujo slams down one of his arms on her.

Reeling, Elektra slams backwards into Sagujo.

This knocks him down, but he grabs her as she does. Xorack growls at Elektra, who is held by Sagujo. Sagujo slowly stands up.

Xorack "I warned you." He glares at Elektra and starts punching her repeatedly.

Elektra glows with electricity, more intense than before, and it arcs across both Sagujo and Xorack as they restrain and attack her, respectively.

It is too much for them. Sagujo loses his grip and is pushed back by the electricity, as is Xorack. Sagujo throws sand at her. Frustrated, Xorack opens his claws and charges at Elektra, intent on slashing her.

Elektra jumps forward from Sagujo to attack Xorack right at this moment.

Xorack "Stop resisting, will ya?!" As he is attacked, he slashes at her.

Xorack's slash damages Elektra more than normal from the momentum. Her eye seems to be malfunctioning now. Elektra does not relent due to her injuries, however, and continues attacking.

Despite being zapped many times, Xorack does not relent, either. He continues punching and slashing at her with increasing frustration.

Letting out a strange scream of frustration, Elektra again attempts an increase in her electrical attacks.

Xorack growls at Elektra, holding his ground. Sagujo sneaks up on her during her fight with Xorack, and attacks her with a spiny punch.

Taken by surprise, Elektra is thrown forward. In an attempt to turn the fight to her advantage, she tries to impale Xorack with the spike atop her.

Xorack grabs her by the spike, just as it scrapes the surface, and slams her to the ground, breathing heavily.

Xorack "So persistent, that you really irritate me. Stop now, or keep it up." He snarls at the deputy. "But then I'll knock your lights out. Got it?!"

The Rotom gives no response, just shakes herself free and tries to fly into Sagujo's face this time.

Sagujo, not wanting to go through Xorack's frustration or prolong the fight, slugs Elektra in the face, then quickly swings an arm down at her.

Elektra smashes into the floor, severely injuring her. Her body is noticeably damaged, even mangled. Still, she gets up, and with still redoubled power, she attempts to stab into someone with her spike - Sagujo, this time.

Sagujo attempts to block it, but the spike ends up going through his left arm. Grunting in pain, he sees that Elektra is stuck, and grins slightly. He takes the opportunity to hit her as hard as he can, repeatedly punching and swinging his arm at her.

Eventually, Elektra's spike breaks off, and she smashes to the floor for a final time. She tries to rise again, but something short circuits and part of her body explodes outwards. She mutters something, 'of course he-,' and then all the light leaves her body and she is silent.

Xorack and Sagujo turn and look at each other.

Sagujo "What was that?"

Xorack "I think she's dead."

They look back down at Elektra.

Sagujo "She put up a real tough fight, didn't she, boss?"

Xorack "Yeah. Makes you wonder what the other guys are like."

Sagujo looks around.

Sagujo "I don't think we should leave her lying here."

Xorack "Now that I think about it, you may be right. Better to leave Impale unaware until we catch him later. I wish we could've gotten something out of her, but knowing her, she probably wouldn't have told us anything."

Sokona "I don't mean to interrupt, but we still have a prisoner. We can get some information out of this one."

Xorack "Good. Then let's get outta here, we got hit hard. Come on, Sagujo." He staggers off, with Sagujo following him carrying Elektra's body with him and wincing in pain.

Sagujo ""Hit hard" is right."

Sokona and Zurkabō follow them out, bringing along the Honedge that they captured. They meet with Aroido, who is with Stab.

Sagujo "Is he still out?"

Aroido "It seems. What happened?"

Xorack "We'll talk about that when he wakes up. Saves us the trouble of having to explain twice."

Sagujo slumps against a wall, breathing heavily.

Sagujo "For now we should try to get at least a bit of our strength back."

Aroido "I agree."

After a short while, Stab stirs and gets up unsteadily, seemingly suffering from some sort of equivalent to a headache.

Stab "Ah. Guys - what?" Stab attempts to figure out what had happened, but he only remembers the start of the battle.

Xorack "The fight is over."

Aroido "Anyways, what happened? Did you capture her?"

Sagujo "Not really. We tried to knock her out, but she died. Part of her exploded after putting up a lot of resistance. Quite a fighter."

Aroido "Now I see it." He sighs. "She probably wouldn't have cooperated if we tried to question her, would she?"

Sagujo "No. We did capture someone who was with her, though."

Stab "So we do have a prisoner."

Sokona "Hai."

Zurkabō "This one may be out for a bit, but after that, we will be ready to do the questioning."

Indeed, the Honedge is out for quite a while. In fact, the sun is already going down by the time he awakens.

Sagujo "Hey, boss!"

Xorack "What? What?" He sees the Honedge awake. "Oh. Oh, now you're awake. Heh. Ya sleep well?"

The Honedge turns, confused, with a painful groan. Then he realises what's happening and curses.

Xorack "I hope you did, because we have questions for you to answer." He beckons Aroido.

Aroido "Now, what were you, Impale, and Elektra doing down there?"

For a second the Honedge hesitates, but then he sees that he won't get anything from staying silent.

Honedge He narrows his eye. "Y'saw wis y'own eyes. Elektra was preparin somtin fuh th' boss. Me an th' othahs an th' Commandah, we was... keepin house."

Sagujo "We saw it, alright. We also saw those contraptions she was using to fight us, made by using what was in those boxes."

Aroido "Do you know where they were going after that?"

Honedge "Th' Commandah?" He shifts his eye. "Dunno, do I. I'd ris a bet that he had hisself a puhpose from th' boss though. Jus' like Ring'll."

Aroido "Viera, right?"

Sagujo turns to the stack of boxes taken from the cave by Sokona and Zurkabō.

Sagujo "What's in these boxes must've had some importance to what Viera's up to." He turns to the Honedge. "Did they?"

Honedge "We was buildin' things there. Th' one y'saw was th' las."

Xorack "The last?"

Sokona "That must mean that they were really close to finishing their task."

Sagujo "Good thing we got there when we did."

Xorack "I hear ya."

Aroido "Did they tell you what they were planning to build?"

Honedge "Is pieces. Pieces fuh Ring's puhpose. Whatevah that is. Viera'll wanna have Ring doin his job, y'know."

Xorack "And they're keepin' all you in the dark about this?"

Honedge "What I told ya I only gathah'd by myself."

Aroido speaks to Xorack.

Aroido "Like any grunt, he was never really told many details."

Xorack grumbles indistinctly.

Honedge The Honedge mutters. "Dunno what y'spected uh me."

Sagujo "What do we do now?"

Aroido "Just a minute." He paces around, turning to Sagujo, then Sokona. "We learned that these were the last of the boxes of equipment that they intended to deliver." He turns to Zurkabō, then Stab, then Xorack. "We also found out that someone named Ring is working in Viera's schemes along with Impale, and has a definitive plan in mind, too."

Sagujo "Sounds like we got another important target, eh, boss?"

Xorack "Yeah. I think we do."

Stab "I bet Ring is the third deputy."

Xorack "And our next target. That is, after we grab Impale."

Stab "Problem is, we don't know where either of them are. Also, shouldn't we update Liam and the others?"

Xorack "Now that you mention it, maybe now it's time they heard from us, whatever they're doing. Get them on the line."

Sokona "Right."

Xorack "You get ready to talk to them."

Sagujo "Ya got it."

Once everything goes through, Liam answers immediately.

Liam "How goes it?"

Sagujo "Rough, but to an extent, managed. There was a meeting taking place between the higher-ups of the Antithesis. This part of town is under their control, but we've managed to set up here."

Zurkabō "We had an encounter with one of the shades, so now we know what they look like."

Sagujo "Also in this cave, we found boxes being stacked up ready to be delivered to Viera and someone called Ring. Commander Impale was there, and so was Elektra. Unfortunately, Impale left, but Elektra took over for him. We took a beating when we fought her, but we've subdued her and stopped the equipment from being sent off."

Xorack interrupts.

Xorack "That means you won't have to worry about her giving you a hard time anymore, and we may have delayed Viera as far as that plan goes."

Liam "Elektra's down, huh. This is good news, but I wouldn't put stock in thinking that Viera's plans have been stalled. You should move to one of the protected warehouses - we saw movement there not long ago. One of his deputies is surely there. You should take this chance while you can."

Xorack "I said that we may have delayed Viera, and thanks for the tip." He looks over his shoulder briefly. "We'll be going there soon. By the way, when we meet up again, we expect more in return." He looks at Sagujo's left arm, which had healed partially over time with help from Aroido. "We had to get through a tough fight to take Elektra down."

Liam "I can imagine."

Sagujo "In the meantime, the boss wants to be sure that you keep trying to get more support. We're risking everything out here."

Liam "And we appreciate it. What we're doing isn't going to be possible without you. Good luck."

Sagujo "Thanks. You too." He turns it off.

Aroido "I recommend that we get as much rest as possible, especially considering the beating we had taken."

Xorack "You heard him."

The others nod.

Stab "What about this guy?" Stab looks at the Honedge prisoner. The prisoner looks back.

Xorack "We haven't forgotten about this one." He turns his head to Aroido. "He made a call to our guys that arrived here in Argent-Verdantia. In an hour or so, two of them will be here to stand guard."

Aroido "So for now, I will stay here."

Stab "Oh, okay."

Xorack "The rest of you heard what he said before. Come on."

Stab agrees, and follows.

Chapter Six: The Hilt

It is early morning in Silveria, and the Intervener camp is preparing for a mission. Bell and the high-ranking Eevee are in a meeting with some of the Team StormBlitz members, briefing them about the plan.

Bell She is pacing. "Alright, so, as you know, we're planning to move out as soon as possible here."

Eevee "You are not aware of the plan, correct?"

A team member says to the Eevee and Bell "Please explain."

Bell She lays out a map of the immediate forest area and points out a certain area. "Here is the location of the shrine we're targeting."

Eevee "No one's been able to get close before now, but we're developing weapons that work against the shades. We have one that works to a certain extent, but it isn't very powerful. There are several others that work on similar principals that are yet to have been field tested."

Bell "This plan does not depend on the efficiency of the weapons, but if they work it would make this whole thing a hell of a lot easier."

Eevee "The weapon that we know will work is small, simple, and easy to use, but it's not very powerful, and we're not even sure if it can outright kill the shades. It's a type of energy gun."

Bell "The others are extensions of the same principals the gun uses - a grenade, a constant beam cannon, and a shield generator. The whole thing's basically effortless if the shield generator works perfectly, but that's pretty doubtful. These three stretch the principals pretty far."

Eevee "Whatever the case, we'll be heading to the very center of the area."

Bell "There are two possibilities. One: the shrine is some sort of object that actively generates the shades in the center of the area. In that case, we'll have three teams. One to determine what needs to be done to destroy the object, and two to protect the team from the already generated and newly generating shades."

Eevee "Two: the shrine is a breeding ground, or any other kind of generator where the level of generation is spread out. In this case, we'll have five teams in different parts of the area to determine what makes the shrine special."

Bell "Any questions?"

A Porygon immediately asks Bell a question. "Taking the known information into account, in addition to the shades, we have considered the possibility that a number of Antithesis guards are at the shrine. Have you prepared yourselves for that scenario?"

Bell "Aa, that we have. Though, if you think about it carefully, that event requires no reconstruction. The important distinction is the layout of the shrine."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Speaking of the layout of the shrine, will any of you be conducting reconnaissance first?"

Bell and the Eevee exchange glances, and Bell turns back with a humorless laugh.

Bell "This is our reconnaissance mission.  And our main mission."

Eevee "There's a large time constraint here - we're sure the Antithesis is moving forward in their plans.  If we can stop the shrines, it will delay them considerably, but of course not after their plans come to fruition.  We've spent too much time developing these weapons, and moving now is essential."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Going right into a possibly heavily guarded location without prior reconnaissance would spell trouble, but I understand your reasons."

Pikaichichu "If there's anything else you need to say, we will hear you out. Otherwise, we are ready to go."

Bell "I for one highly doubt that it's heavily guarded. I feel certain that there are living guards there, but not of a number that causes any more trouble than the shades."

Eevee "In any case, we'd like to go ahead and demonstrate these weapons, are there any objections?"

None of them say anything.

Lt Gen Zaffre "No. Proceed with your demonstration."

Bell brings out a small pistol.

Bell "This is a really simple weapon to use, even as guns go. There's no safety - this thing can't even really hurt us." To demonstrate, Bell points to herself and pulls the trigger, allowing a bright blue beam to come out and make contact with her body. She does the same while pointing it at the Eevee. "To solid objects, this weapon is about as effective as a laser pointer. There are few - if any - Pokémon that would even be affected by it at all. Might do something to a Gastly, but I doubt it. Anyway, on slightly more non-solid objects, specifically solid particulates suspended in a gas - stuff like smoke and the shades, there's more of an effect."

The Eevee pulls out some sort of smoke machine, and turns it on. A stream of smoke billows out.

Bell "Alright, look here." She waves an arm through the smoke. "The shades operate on similar principals to this smoke, with some important differences. It's difficult, but possible to separate the stream of smoke with my arm here. However, the shades have a particulate intelligence, and their synapses are nearly impossible to split with any type of conventional weapon. That's where this thing comes in." Bell waves the gun around, then points and fires it through the stream of smoke. A very noticeable gap appears in the smoke stream. "This thing, aside from dividing the synapses, makes them unable to reconnect and form new connections. It's a PARTiculate sYnapse Connection Retardant And Sine anniHilation EmitteR. That's an unwieldy name, so we call it the PARTYCRASHER." Bell grins.

"Interesting. So this "PARTYCRASHER"...are you expecting those other weapons in development to function with the same principles and effects?"

Eevee "The beam cannon should certainly work at least."

Bell "The grenade and shield emitter, though - like I said, it's a stretch.  They work basically in the same way - have the same effects, but the devices themselves are much more energy-intensive and unwieldy."

Lt Gen Zaffre "They need further development, I understand. that it?"

Bell "No.  We're going to assign teams for either outcome beforehand, and I need to know if you have any input."

Pikaichichu "Have you thought over carefully about who will be part of each team?"

Bell "I have for the others of the camp.  You and yours - not so much."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Well, we have already decided on ours, so that will save you some trouble."

Bell "Indeed.  So, what does the division look like for you?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "First scenario, We would have two groups to support yours - one heads in while the other sets the perimeter. Second scenario, we would have three, and the perimeter would be wider."

Bell She considers.  "That works well.  Will you be ready to move within three hours?"

Pikaichichu "Hai."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Yes."

Clinger and Latchgrip nod.

One near Uopanosguhi answers "Yes. Three hours will do."

Bell "Then this meeting is concluded, unless there is anything else that needs to be addressed."

Pikaichichu shakes his head.

Lt Gen Zaffre "No, that is all."

Latchgrip "We understand the plan."

Clinger nods.

Bell walks off with the Eevee.

Uopanosguhi "Watashi wa kinchō."

"Hmm?" The one next to her hears her.

Uopanosguhi "I have not encountered a shade before, nor have I seen what they are capable of doing."

"That's why we plan on taking them down as soon as possible. Just be careful when we go there."

Uopanosguhi nods.

Two and a half hours later, the Interveners are finishing up preparations to move out. Bell tasks a member to hand out PARTYCRASHERs to the members of Team Stormblitz. The rather runty Eevee explains to the team about the pistol, rifle, and carbine varieties, their quantities, and what numbers are needed.

The team members each take the weapons given out to them. Clinger, holding a few, looks at them very closely, at each side, above and below, "ooh"ing at points. Latchgrip watches his cousin eye them up and down, chuckling. Zaffre, despite being three-in-one, only takes the number of weapons the others received.

Lt Gen Zaffre "I don't suppose you would consider it acceptable for me to have triple the amount, would you?"

Eevee "Oh.. uh... yeah that seems like it might be a trouble...  considering the limited production and all..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Understood. I will use the number of weapons I was given anyway."

Pikaichichu "Then, given the limited amount..." He chuckles a little. "...I guess it wouldn't do any better to ask for a larger one of those weapons...?"

Eevee He jumps.  "Oh!  Uh, we modified a carbine so you could use it easily...   It's still not proportionate, but you should not have a problem firing it...  The modifications are entirely external, it's still the same weapon..."  He looks around and realises he does not have the weapon with him.  "Oh!  Uh, I'm sorry!  I'll go retrieve it now!"  He runs off.

As Pikaichichu waits, Zaffre further examines the weapons."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Okay, good here."

Latchgrip "Same with us."

Clinger grunts affirmatively.

A few minutes later, not more than five, the Eevee returns with four other members of the Interveners, carrying an odd, massive weapon.  It had a large metal crescent, with the actual gun part(easily twenty times larger than the original carbine, and shaped somewhat differently) partially affixed to the top, and a strap on the bottom.  After looking at it for a bit, one could ascertain that Pikaichichu was meant to strap the contraption to his wrist.

Eevee "I-if we had more time, we could have upscaled it better, but this should work for you..."  He explains how the weapon is fired to Pikaichichu.

After listening to him carefully, he picks up the weapon and readies it for use.

Pikaichichu "Thank you. I think it should work fine."

Eevee He nods nervously.  "Th-then...  is everything correct and all?"

Pikaichichu "I'll check... ...yes, it is."

Eevee "Y-you should go tell B-Bell once everything of yours is r-ready."  He and the others leave.

Latchgrip "He sounded really insistent about having these work to their best, and I can understand why he's nervous about that."

Kolsohte "As can I. If the shades are as dangerous as feared, then there is no room for error."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Correct."

They go and speak to Bell.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Bell, we are ready to begin."

Bell She turns to Zaffre, and nods.  "We shall move out in ten minutes."  She waves over a group of Eevee and two Electivire, and gives them some instructions.  They scatter in different directions, some taking down tents, some moving them.  Bell runs back.  "We're going to leave behind a skeleton crew.  After this mission, we're moving to a new location as well.  It's a just-in-case thing.  Don't leave anything here - it's bound to get lost."

Lt Gen Zaffre "None of that will be a problem. We shall be ready then."

True to Bell's word, ten minutes later, the Interveners are leaving the camp, with Team StormBlitz.  About fifteen of the Interveners - all Eevee - are left behind, while seventy of the Interveners are leaving.  Of the Interveners, there are three Meowstic - Emmes, Elles, and Bell - fourty-three Eevee and Eeveelutions, six Electivire, four Furret, two Gardevoirs and a Gallade, a Beeheeyem, two Glalie, three Vigoroth, a Mawile, a Loudred and an Exploud, and a Plusle and a Minun.

Two members of Branch C fly overhead to search ahead of them for the shrine.

Latchgrip "Remember to keep your eyes open out there."

As the rest head towards the shrine from below, the ones above come across the clearing.  There is some sort of outpost in the clearing, but a large quantity of peculiar black fog obscured anything else.

The two fly down.

Latchgrip "Find anything?"

"There is some sort fog. We can't see past it."

The Interveners march closer to the clearing, holding their PARTYCRASHERs at the ready.  Two groups are carting large devices that look like spotlights.

Four from Branch C follow very closely. Ten take flanking positions on both sides. Zaffre signals his officers to ready their weapons.

The frontal group reaches the outside of the clearing.  They signal for those behind them to stop.  They sit in silence, simply watching.  There isn't much to be seen, all is obscured by a black fog.  A Furret speaks out.  "I don't see anything."

Instantly, a shade flies out of the clearing and into the Furret, tearing apart his body.  An Eevee yells, and some of the frontal group fires at the shade until it is incapacitated.  The frontal group rushes into the clearing, at which point the fog partially clears.  Shades surround the Pokémon on all sides, and then the PARTYCRASHERs are fired.  A second group rushes into the clearing, at which point an Electivire is instantly decapitated by the kamikaze behaviour of a shade.  The first group heads to the center of the shrine, and finds the building, but is unable to find an entrance.  Bell and Elles, who were in the frontal group, as well as some Eevee and a Vigoroth get to work while the rest of the first team and the second team protect them.  The third and final Interveners team rushes in.  The Mawile jumps out with a carbine and fires at several shades indiscriminately, then rips them to shreds in their weakened state.  The Gallade and an Eevee note this: "You can tear them apart after damaging them enough with the PARTYCRASHERs."  "Good intuition, Hana!" yells someone, with pride.

Latchgrip "Did you see that? If they're weakened, we can tear those shades apart."

"Take the surrounding area, and set an inner perimeter!" An officer orders as the accompanying Branch C members continue firing on the shades. Some of them proceed to attack and tear the weakened ones apart.

The shades seem to adapt at this point, and now more effectively dodge the energy from the PARTYCRASHERs.  Some compress themselves to be as small of a target as possible.

From different positions, Kolsohte and an Excadrill take careful aim at a shade. They shoot from different angles to increase their chances of hitting it.

The shade advances on Kolsohte, but is taken by surprise by the Excadrill's attack.  Three other shades converge on the Excadrill, while the first shade is joined by another in attacking Kolsohte.

Both continue shooting at the shades while keeping distance. Two flanking team members cover them with continuous fire.

One shade jumps upon the Excadrill and increases his density, intending to suffocate or crush him.  One of the shades that was facing Kolsohte becomes incapacitated by the gunfire from the PARTYCRASHERs.

Uopanosguhi jumps on the incapacitated shade, using her feet and tail to break it apart, while Kolsohte shoots the other one. Clinger fires repeatedly at the shade attacking the Excadrill, who struggles to shove it off him.

The shade atop the Excadrill continues to stay there, though he can no longer easily move from the onslaught from Clinger.  One of the other shades slashes at Clinger. 

Kolsohte's shade dodges his shots.

The Excadrill aims the weapon right on the shade and shoots it. Clinger jumps back in reaction from the slash, and Latchgrip retaliates by blasting his attacker at close range.

The shades press their attacks, though the shade atop the Excadrill is by this point mostly unresponsive.  He stays in his position.

The Excadrill shoves the shade off him, and drills right through, tearing it apart. After this, he rejoins Kolsohte, where they take aim at the shade and fire.

The shade is hit by only one or two shots, and is therefore mostly unaffected.  It slashes at the Excadrill and then jumps at Kolsohte.

The slash is blocked by the Excadrill's bladed arms. He shoots at the shade again as Kolsohte barely dodges it.

The shade attacks Kolsohte in a strange manner - he projects a billowing butt of dark smoke from his chest at him.

Kolsohte quickly jumps away from the dark smoke to avoid any possible malignant effects from it, and continues firing.

Kolsohte manages to stop the shade's attack. Near him, a shade uses the same attack that the other did, but an Eevee is caught in the smoke. He takes down the shade, but then he starts coughing up blood and bleeding from his eyes. A Gardevoir moves to tend to him, but he coughs twice more and collapses, and two shades approach the Gardevoir, preventing the determination of the health of the Eevee.

This catches their attention. Both Kolsohte and the Excadrill shoot at the shades about to attack the Gardevoir.

The Gardevoir fires at one, but is slashed by the one behind.  The other shade jumps for the Excadrill, trailing the poisonous smoke behind it.

Seeing what that smoke did to the Eevee, he backs away, keeping his distance, firing as quickly as he can.

The shade slows and drifts, stopped by the Excadrill.  The other shade tosses the Gardevoir across the clearing.  While many shades have been taken down, more keep coming, if at a somewhat slow rate.  The central group's work is not going very quickly.

Clinger and Latchgrip assist them by shooting at the other shade.

"Have they made any progress yet?!" The Excadrill yells across to an Intervener, losing patience from the shade's attempted attack on him. "There's more of them coming!"

"We'll be okay!" The Intervener yells back with confidence. "We've taken down a lot of them, and these PARTYCRASHERs will last a long while.  Bell'll pull through soon - she always does!"

The Mawile - Hana - seems to be the one doing the most damage.  She and the Gallade fight with confidence and power, preventing the shades from reaching overwhelming numbers.  The Beeheeyem and an Umbreon, as well, are fighting with strength to rival them.  Though there are some injured and dead, the situation is not a desperate one.

The team member nods slightly and continues fighting.

Latchgrip "We need to keep their numbers low long enough, then."

One of the shades keeps drifting along the ground near the Excadrill.  More shades approach that area.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Over there. Fire."

His officers take aim, and shoot at the shades approaching the Excadrill.

One of the shades dodges more effectively than the others.  It is much larger as well.   One of its smaller brethren travels quickly towards the Excadrill.

Some team members nearby keep their distance between themselves and the larger shade. Frustrated, the Excadrill shoots aggressively at his attacker.

The shade slaps at the Excadrill heavily.

This knocks him back and he trips onto the ground. Defiantly, the Excadrill raises his weapon and keeps shooting. Another team member assists him, warily keeping distance from the larger shade so to have a clear shot at the smaller one attacking him.

Eventually the shade is taken down, and it drifts near the same spot where the other idle shade lies.

Angrily, he drills through the two incapacitated shades, ripping them to shreds. The two flanking lines shoot at the larger shade.

The larger shade is not very affected by the shots.  It marches forward, and crushes a Vigoroth under its foot mercilessly.

Seeing that their weapons do not have much effect, the team members nearby fall back. As they do, the shade is hit by another shot, this time from Pikaichichu's carbine.

The shade recoils, and takes a step backwards in a very fluid motion. As it does, a Flareon who was trying to attack it is trampled.

"Get back!" A Branch C member urges any other Interveners near it.

Pikaichichu, taking a step forward, continues shooting at the shade.

The shade lithely dodges most of the attacks, and jumps in close to Pikaichichu and slashes at him.

Just as Branch C's weapons did not have much effect against the shade, its attack does very little to hurt him. His response is extremely fast. As soon as the shade attacks him, he quickly blasts it with his weapon.

The shade's 'head' is separated from its body by the blasts, but it still jumps up onto Pikaichichu's body. The shade fashions its hands into sharp implements and stabs into Pikaichichu's shoulder with them.

He tries to get the shade off him. Zaffre flies up and shoots at it.

The shade jumps off Pikaichichu towards Zaffre.

Zaffre has his officers surround the shade. Together with Pikaichichu, they attack, shooting at it repeatedly.

Swamped with gunfire, the shade becomes stuck in place from the attacks. It keels over, stunned, but then erupts completely into the less dense, caustic smoke.

Having witnessed what the smoke does, they spread out and keep firing from a distance, assisted by those at the perimeter.

The PARTYCRASHERs have the same effect on the smoke as they would normal smoke. This smoke doesn't seem to possess synapses - it's not alive.

Pikaichichu and Zaffre signal them to hold their fire. Back near the center of the shrine, the Excadrill walks about, impatient again after the large shade's attack.

Emmes is digging through a pile of tools at the center area. She quips to the Excadrill.

Emmes "Calm down and hang in there. We'll break through this thing yet -" She notices a shade approaching and points it out. "Watch out!"

He turns and shoots at it, saying in an annoyed tone "These things seem to be, quite focused, on attacking me!"

The shade dodges and sweeps towards the Excadrill.

He leaps over the shade and shoots at it again.

The shade turns quickly, but is caught by the attack, and drifts unconscious.

He walks up to it, growling, and drills it to pieces.

Latchgrip "Maintain the inner perimeter until they are finished."

"Right, sir!"

A large group of more shades approaches from who knows where. One of them kills a Flareon, and the rest swoop quickly towards the center of the shrine.

Pikaichichu signals to Zaffre.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Fire!"

Every team member in the group opens fire on the shades.

Some of the shades are quickly taken down, while others dodge more effectively and reach the perimeter.

Clinger yells unintelligibly.

Latchgrip "Don't let them get through!"

The team members spread their firing arc.

Several shades swat heavily at their attackers.

'A few get knocked down, but they back up and resume their firing. The others dodge and keep shooting them.

Two shades gang up on a single target and both move to slash the target.

One of them is able to deliver a slash, but not before the other gets shot up by him. The team member backs up, taking aim again, and fires.

The remaining shade dodges and charges at high speed past the gunfire towards the attacker.

This knocks him across the ground, but the shade is now in Clinger's sights. The Octillery immediately shoots it.

The shade dodges, but gets hit anyway. It is taken down, but is quickly replaced by another two. One bears down on the team member that the previous shade knocked to the ground, while the other quickly slides in to attack Clinger with a barrage of slashes.

Zaffre shoots the shade attacking Clinger, while directing his officers to fire on both. The team member that was knocked down backs up and shoots at the shade while keeping distance between it and himself.

Another shade comes upon him from behind, as the first shade who attacked dodges.

The rest of the shades are becoming far more consistent in their dodging. Few of the shots are connecting, now.

He backs toward the center of the shrine and keeps shooting. Clinger and Latchgrip concentrate on the nearby shades.

Uopanosguhi "They are not relenting! How much longer?"

Bell "Try to hold out for a little bit longer! We figured out a way in, we just have to pull it off!"

The shade is finally hit, though out of more luck than anything.

The shades are grouping in small numbers, and from the center of the shrine one cannot see what is happening at the edges, so there is no way of knowing how many shades - or Interveners - are present. Hana approaches the center, and heads towards a group of shades to attack them. Most of the shade groups near the center decide to attempt bypassing the perimeter, and head in towards the core.

Kolsohte manages to hit another shade, allowing for Uopanosguhi to break that one apart.

The Excadrill yells "We can't let them pass!" And fires off again.

Latchgrip "Just a bit longer. Come on!"

Clinger growls and starts firing wildly at the shades.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Flank them, and keep up the pressure!"

The team members keep firing, now in a widespread arc to increase their chances of hitting them.

Only a few of the many shades are falling, and they're getting closer to the core. The Interveners trying to obtain access to the central object/building are applying a coat of something or another to a large area of it. Bell and some of the others are visually very worried and pressured.

Bell "They're adapting faster than I anticipated... This is why the shades have to be out of the picture..."

Emmes She hears her mother and looks up from the explosive she is helping piece together. "If we fail, before long basically nothing's going to affect them." Bell just yells at her to continue working.

"Sir, the weapons are having less of an effect on them, because they are avoiding most of our shots!"

Lt Gen Zaffre "We need to hold them off! Bell and the others need more time! Concentrate your fire on the shades nearest to you!"

A Krokorok comes to the aid of the cornered team member, an Aron. Together, they shoot at the attacking shade. Clinger jumps around and over, attacking the shades, jabbering crazily and spraying gunfire all around.

The shade attacking the Aron is finally taken down, but more groups of shades are approaching the area. Two or three shades try to force themselves past the perimeter.

"They're trying to get through!" The Excadrill yells, trying to hold the line.

Clinger turns and shoots aggressively at the shades that are attempting to break through the perimeter. Latchgrip covers him.

A shade approaches and punches at Clinger.

The Mawile is making the most work of the shades. Her technique to take them down seems to be somewhat different, but she is too far away in the partial fog for her technique to be seen.

Clinger dodges the punch, and blasts the shade up close, too close to dodge. After shooting it up, he proceeds to tear it apart before moving on to the other shades at the perimeter.

Two shades attack Clinger from two different angles. One slashes at him, while the other throws a punch.

He dodges the slash then gets hit by the punch, but in his current state, it raises his aggression. He turns and shoots the shade that hit him, and without looking, fires at the one behind him.

While the first shade is hit and quite weakened, a fine mist, different from the poison smoke, emits from the body of the second shade. The shot's effect is diluted by this field, but it seems that the shade is now noticeably thinner. That shade slashes at Clinger while the first jumps at him.

As Clinger struggles against them, Latchgrip comes to his aid.

Latchgrip "Get away from him!" He angrily shoots at the shades attacking Clinger. Despite the field of strange mist, the two press their attack as hard as they can.

The shade, who was depending on the mist, is taken down quickly. The other, weakened shade again attacks Clinger.

With one of them down, Clinger and Latchgrip turn to the weakened shade and fire on it together.

The shade falls after a while.

Some of the other shades are now starting to employ the mist shield. Two break through the perimeter, mostly unaffected by the shots fired at them, but they are taken down by several well-placed and timed shots seemingly out of nowhere, from beyond the fog.

"Our weapons are having even less effect than before."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I know. They need to hurry..."

"Sir, the two enemies that broke through the perimeter? They just fell. We have not identified who took them down, however."

Zaffre continues shooting. Hearing this puts him in some thought, but he does not let it distract him. In response to the mist shields that they shades are using, the team members switch from widespread arcs to highly concentrated gunfire.

As more of the unshielded shades fall, the percentage of shades near the center using mist shields increases.

Those working to break into the building have finished applying whatever coating they were applying. Others are preparing the explosives.

Another large group of shielded shades rushes to break through the perimeter.

The team members are forced to move their perimeter inward. As this happens, Pikaichichu fires his carbine at the shades attacking the perimeter.

The shades are empowered by their shields, so they last much longer. They are falling in small numbers, and more are coming. The shades are attacking those forming the perimeter in overwhelming numbers. Hardly any shades lay in the area before the edges of the shrine, though there is still a fight going on beyond it, as evidenced by the sounds of the PARTYCRASHERs firing. Eventually, one of the Interveners realises the predicament near the center, and many of them come to help dwindle the shades' numbers. However, more shades come with them.

The numbers of shades coming in are cornering them. Unable to move any further, they try desperately to hold them off. Pikaichichu, Zaffre, and the ten flanking the perimeter do everything they can to assist them.

The central Interveners are working frantically to complete their task. "Just a few more minutes!"

The shades are slashing and hacking at Interveners and StormBlitz members alike, without letting up.

"We might not have a few more minutes!" The Excadrill yells out angrily, seeing some members of Branch C wounded from the continuous rush of shades attacking them.

Pikaichichu, Zaffre, and his officers move in closer to save them from further attack, sending heavy fire at the shades.

Several well placed shots continue to be fired from beyond the mist occasionally to prevent shades from breaking through the perimeter, and the Interveners' heavy-hitters continue to take down shades, but despite this, the shades numbers continue to be overwhelming. Elles takes a PARTYCRASHER carbine and joins the fight, along with a handful of Eevee, leaving the rest to finish the preparation of the explosives. It seems that her team had finished assembling the first explosive.

If the numbers of shades weren't overwhelming enough, and their shields not infuriating enough, several shades have stopped relying on their shields, dodging any shots they can - making them even harder to take down.

However, while the fighters at the perimeter are taking heavy damage, not a single shade has antagonized the central Interveners, thanks to hard work and the phantom sniper.

"We are getting overwhelmed! Tell them to hur-" One of Branch C yells out, before getting knocked unconscious from a shade. Another yells as she manages to take down one, but is still being forced back. "If this continues, they're going to break through!"

The central group is working as fast as they can, redoubling an already redoubled speed. The second group finishes their explosive, and they help the third group. It appears that the preparations are almost complete.

All of Branch A fights hard to defend the line, to protect their team and the Interveners. Pikaichichu repeatedly fires at the shades concentrated in groups, using his weapon's larger area of effect to his advantage. Zaffre takes precision shots at the shades closest to breaking the perimeter. Clinger, still going crazy, continues shooting wildly, with Latchgrip assisting him in fighting against them.

The shades have taken to grouping at areas of the perimeter that seem weak, sometimes even with four shades attacking a single Pokémon.

Acting quickly, the four of them move in to reinforce the weakened positions, trying to take the pressure off of their team, as well as the Interveners.

Every now and again, another single shot will fire and take down a single shade, without fail.

Though the team is aware that someone is picking off shades from a distance, they are too occupied with fighting to look. However, this does make them press on even harder than moments before.

The final group finishes their explosive, and the explosives are affixed to the central building.

With cover from flanking positions, the wounded are removed from the fight. The rest tighten the perimeter to hold back the shades and prevent them from advancing any further.

A loud explosion rings out, and the building is torn open. Thousands of bones and bits of rusted, twisted iron pour out, all smoldering with a black fire. The shades do not stop their onslaught. Bell bids the rest of the central group, except herself and Emmes and Elles, to head to the battle.

Bell "You have more room to work with now! Bring the perimeter inward!"

Bell gathers Emmes and Elles, and they start preparation to destroy the source of the shades, heading inside the building.

Zaffre turns in Bell's direction for a second, then looks back to the team. Pikaichichu nods at him to give the order.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Move the line!"

Branch C moves their perimeter further inward, Branch A and the flanking positions continuing to cover them.

The shades fight with even more vigor than before, trying harder to break through. The shades are again beginning to use their deadly poison mist attack.

Two team members are hit. Though they were not entirely shrouded, they have been severely injured, unable to fight any longer. Another is indirectly hit after, and seeing the damage on the affected area of his left arm, he drags the two wounded away from the fight. The rest cautiously avoid the attack as much as possible and continue firing at the shades.

Several of the Interveners - the most powerful ones including Hana - are fighting the shades from behind, picking them off as they try to breach the perimeter. One of them, the Gallade, is fighting with a wounded leg.

At the outer perimeter, receiving new orders, Branch C team members provide extra cover fire, shooting at the shades from long range.

A loud, high pitched noise emits from the central building, and part of it is blasted outward. The three who were inside run out. It seems like the job is done. Some, but not all or even many of the shades, collapse and dissipate. Bell finds the Eevee who is second-in-command, and relays to him what had happened.

Bell "They'll die on their own before long. We should pull out." She calls out an order to the Interveners, and informs Pikaichichu and Zaffre. However, the shades back up, and each one partially disintegrates and coalesces with the other shades to form a shell around the entire group.

Pikaichichu "They won't let us leave that easily, though."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We will have to break out."

Surrounded, the team concentrates on shooting at one point of the shell formed around them.

The shell thickens at whatever point is shot at. Part of the shell at the top starts to emit the poison smoke. Bell looks up with a grim expression.

Bell "We're going to have to break out with force! These things may be able to reform infinitely without the PARTYCRASHERs, but if we hit hard enough we can make temporary openings! Hurry!"

Pikaichichu "Attack as hard as you can! We have to get out of here!"

The entire team starts attacking the shell with full force.

The shell keeps distending under the force, but the shades push back. The Interveners join the effort, and the shell is pushed almost to breaking point, but the shades continue to resist. The mist forms near some of the edges, and just as all seems lost, there is a small flash of blue light from the outside, and a large hole opens up in the shell.

Latchgrip "Through there! Now!"

The members of Branch C escape through the hole, some of them carrying any wounded that are still present. Uopanosguhi rushes through, with Kolsohte and two more following. After that, Pikaichichu, Zaffre, Clinger, and Latchgrip make their escape with the rest and rush through the hole.

The Interveners escape as well, and they keep running out of the shrine area, putting distance between themselves and the shade-mass.

Once they are away from the shrine, a team member looks back. As she looks on, she remarks "That was an intense fight."

An Eevee near her agrees.

Just as the group is nearing the camp again, one of the Gardevoirs, this one with blue on its body instead of green, walks and joins the group, wearing some kind of visor over the left eye, and carrying a sniper rifle.

"Is she the one that took down some of those shades?" A scout whispers to Latchgrip. He whispers back to answer.

Latchgrip "It's likely."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Maybe you can talk to her about it when we get there... ...among other things that happened in that battle." He glides ahead of them toward the camp, his officers following him.

Everyone is at the camp before long. Emmes and Elles and most of the Interveners run off to make preparations to leave, but Bell and the high-ranking Eevee are busy discussing what had occurred.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We need to talk." He and two officers approach Bell. The tone in his voice sounds rigid.

Bell She nods. "What is it?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "You really need to rethink your plans and tactics. That mission should not have happened the way it did. You had us march right into the middle of a shrine that turned out to be heavily guarded as I thought it would, and without any reconnaissance beforehand. In addition to a number of Interveners getting killed, some of our own suffered serious injuries to hold the shades off. They won't be able to continue on for a while because of this."

Bell "What would have been the better course of action, may I ask?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "First off, you need reconnaissance. Second, we could have went in there quietly and set the charges and detonated them first, before alerting and shooting every shade in sight. Third, if you're going to send a group in, don't have everyone just walk right into it in a single formation! If you're going to fight them, you need to make sure that you're not putting everyone in unnecessary danger, which you did - us included! From now on, avoid using brute force tactics as your first option, because all that did was turn what should have been simple demolition into a drawn out, costly battle. We offered to help you against the Antithesis and the shades they intend to use. What we need you to do is to think any future plans through more and make better placed deployments when we go on our next missions. Is that understood?"

Bell "Listen here, mister Lieutenant General. It -" There is a scoff here "- pains me to have to explain myself to you, but we're making the best of our situation. We were this close to outright failing - if we hadn't've gone when we did, it would've been a certainty. The PARTYCRASHERs only ever finished a week before it was almost too late. We'd been trying to do reconnaissance for -" Bell stops and grimaces before continuing. "Tch. We haven't had enough people since - Aa, nevermind. In any case, this was our last chance to put a stop to the shades before those plans -" Bell curses indistinctly, and the Eevee next to her calms her down. "I suppose most of what you mentioned could have been solved with a recon mission, but you'd have to go a hell of a lot further back than a couple weeks to a point when that could have been made possible. I feel like there wouldn't ever be a circumstance where this would be "simple demolition," either."

The Eevee tries to say something here, but Bell continues in a yell.

Bell "That at the end there, too! Mind saying that again!? Uzai! Think future plans through more?! At this point, for the Interveners as a group, operating is like turning on a dime. It's insanity, what with the prop-" The Eevee shushes her here, and she seems to move her outburst to another track. "And not to mention, we had to move our plans prematurely ahead just to keep that... that..." Bell appears to search for a fitting impolite word, and improvises with a bilingual string of them "...from getting a hold on Cerin. Ridiculousness. This battle, too!"

Zaffre is about to snap back, but then he hears her mention Cerin.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Wait a minute. Cerin?"

Uopanosguhi "Cerin?" She hops to them. "What's going on?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Answer this: Is the Antithesis...going after Cerin?"

Bell "No, the Antithesis isn't going after him. He's spying on them for us. Kh. The one who wants him is that godforsaken tan Pikachu. Tails. Knowing the Nonpareil, he wouldn't be put to good use. And Cerin is smart, but more than that he has a curious knack of stumbling into things people don't want him to. And after he ran into us, he was more than willing to help. But once again, the Nonpareil's movements messed up our plans. Why? Do you know Cerin?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Of course we know him."

Uopanosguhi "He helped me when Vahashii's gang attacked me."

Lt Gen Zaffre "He worked with us to defeat Vahashii."

Pikaichichu "He's a brave one, he fought alongside us against the Cavriluon Army when Haksal attacked Celrest." He ponders in thought.

Bell "So he was the same Cerin that I heard was connected to the Central Strike. I should have known this."

Lt Gen Zaffre "And know that you should, because Tails was in the city as well at that time, so it is more than just a coincidence..."

Bell "Yeah, it makes sense, and that's what I had thought. For some reason I couldn't believe it to be true. Anyway, we had to move the plan with Cerin up because of Tails."

"If that's the case, then when do you plan on meeting with him?" A member of Branch C asks.

Bell "He should come through soon. He already knows where we're moving to."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Okay, then tell us when you are ready..." Now feeling regret, he turns and floats off with his officers to get back to the rest of the team.

Pikaichichu "I'm really sorry that Zaffre went off on you." He sighs.

Bell She scoffs and lets out a "Tch," but then her face softens. "I understand though. It's never pleasant to have those on your team become injured. He felt like the casualties on either team could have been prevented with another approach, but the fact of the matter is that we chose the best approach available to us, and took it before it was too late."

Pikaichichu "And I know that soon he will understand that. Right now, he probably needs time to recover from all of that."

Bell She nods. "Well, anyways, we'll be moving to the new location within minutes."

Xorack and Aroido's group has moved out to the location suggested to them by Liam, and is preparing to enter the warehouse.

Xorack clasps his claws together.

Xorack "Alright, so this is the place he was talking about."

Sagujo turns to Sokona and Zurkabō.

Sagujo "Make sure the entrance is clear so we can go in."

Sokona and Zurkabō start sneaking around the sides of the building, looking for anywhere to peer inside.

Most of the windows are covered, but there is a small opening from which the inside of the building can be seen in one.

Sokona leads Zurkabō to the opening. Both of them look inside.

The Metagross is inside the warehouse, and he is missing part of the X on his face. It seems to have been recently sawed off.

Ring "This is ridiculous. I shouldn't have to contribute my own body to Viera's weapon, regardless of my upbringing."

A Bisharp at his side replies.

Bisharp "Well, I don't think it's best to question Viera."

Ring "Oh shut it... Which one are you again? Bishoppu? Alfil? Läufer?"

Gaja "...Gaja."

Ring "Shut it, Gaja."

As they listen in, Zurkabō looks toward the entrance.

There is a large garage door that appears unsecured. A couple of Pawniard idle around there.

The two return to the front of the building.

Sokona "There is no doubt that we're at the right place. Unfortunately, our way in looks guarded."

Sagujo "Wouldn't surprise me."

Aroido "Especially with a deputy there."

Stab "How many were in there?"

Zurkabō "We only saw two near the door, but there may be more around there, since we couldn't look through the windows and find out for sure."

Stab "Should we just... bust in?"

Xorack "Since there's no other way in, we'll have to open it then quickly knock out the guards."

Aroido "Without making too much noise, of course."

Stab "Okay."

Xorack "I need to know if you're ready, 'cause once we start opening that door, we attack."

Stab "I'm ready as I'll ever be."

Xorack "Good. Here we go." He, Aroido, and Sagujo prepare to open the door.

Stab Stab prepares to attack once the door is open.

As soon as they force the door open, Sokona and Zurkabō jump the two Pawniard inside the entrance.

The Pawniard are taken by surprise.

Stab quickly heads into the building, ready if he is needed to fight the Pawniard.

As Sokona and Zurkabō subdue them, Sagujo enters, then Xorack and Aroido. They keep quiet as they look around.

The warehouse does not appear to contain any important objects, but there is a large amount of junk. Ring and Gaja are arguing near the center of the warehouse.

Xorack "Look at that..." He says aside to Aroido, almost under his breath, grinning. "Let's get it right and capture one this time." He and Aroido move in, joined by Sagujo, using the junk to hide behind until they can get close enough.

Ring, breaking off his conversation, suddenly stomps the ground loudly. Gaja looks on in confusion.

Ring "It appears," Ring brings his voice to a louder volume "that there are intruders."

Xorack "And they're closer than you think..." He mutters.

Aroido takes his position. He launches his webs and snatches Gaja.

Gaja flails wildly as Ring calmly tucks in his legs and rises into the air. The warehouse begins to shake, and the objects in it are pushed up to the walls unceremoniously, removing all cover.

This prompts Xorack and Sagujo to rush at Ring from different directions and attack him.

Ring falls back down to the ground suddenly, and dashes at Xorack.

Xorack charges at Ring, growling, and claws-first bashes into him.

With Xorack's claws scraping mostly fruitlessly over Ring's metallic skin, Ring pushes himself at Xorack with the intent of throwing him across the room.

He is sent across the room, landing in a junk pile. Sagujo jumps above Ring to land a downward kick on him.

The bottom of Ring's body, where his mouth is located, is pushed nearly to the ground, but then he springs up very quickly with his legs and jumps.

Stab unpins himself from the debris he was stuck behind, and looks around.

Sagujo is thrown off balance, but grabs onto one of Ring's legs. Xorack climbs out of the junk and debris and gets back to his feet. He picks up a large chunk of debris, and throws it at Ring.

Ring is hit by the piece of debris, and shakes his leg at Xorack, trying to throw Sagujo into him.

Sagujo loses his grip and is flung off, sent sliding across the floor. Xorack jumps over him to avoid getting knocked down and rushes Ring again, this time swinging his closed claws at him.

Xorack's attack doesn't seem particularly effective.

Stab rushes in and slashes at Ring from behind, but aside from a shower of sparks, there is not much of an effect.

Ring "If you think you can defeat me with swords and claws, you are sorely mistaken." He is not gloating or prideful, his tone of voice is as if he were reciting an interesting fact.

Xorack "Is that so?" His claws become imbued in darkness, and he throws an enhanced punch at Ring.

The punch connects with Ring, and Ring again jumps at Xorack, this time trying to get over him.

Just as he does, Xorack grabs one of Ring's legs, preparing to throw him into a wall like he did to him.

In an effort to prevent this, Ring stops the hovering he was doing to jump higher, and his weight increases exponentially.

This forces Xorack to increase his effort. Sokona and Zurkabō lift a chunk of debris, and throw it at Ring.

Ring takes the opposite approach and blasts himself into the air.

Xorack "Why don't...gah!" He gets flung onto Ring's head, while Aroido shoots his webs at Ring.

Ring quickly throws himself down to the ground, this time, both avoiding the webs and trying to shake Xorack off.

Sagujo returns to the fray after being thrown across the floor.

Sagujo "This guy seems even tougher than the last one." He says aside to Sokona and Zurkabō.

Xorack "You..won'!" At each word, he punches at Ring whilst being thrown around.

Ring "Is that so?" Ring redoubles his jumping speed, and launches himself into Sagujo this time.

Sokona and Zurkabō run out of the way, and Sagujo drops down to avoid Ring's attack.

Ring turns and jumps even higher and faster this time, brushing the ceiling.

Xorack tries to get another hit in, then his other claw slips and he falls off. As he lands to the floor, he starts lobbing more junk and debris at Ring.

The debris doesn't seem to have a great effect on Ring in that it isn't damaging him much, but he's visibly quite annoyed.

Xorack sees this and forms a small grin. He turns to Sagujo, who immediately joins in lobbing debris at Ring.

Ring sweeps aside some of the debris with psychic force, but most of it still hits him, and it is making him angry.

Xorack "Come get me!" He taunts Ring as he continues pelting him. "I thought you wanted to fight!"

Ring jumps forward furiously, halfing the distance between himself and Xorack. He makes a weird metallic snarl, and uses his mind to pick up a piece of debris of his own and throw it at Xorack, with a very high velocity.

Xorack catches it, but this knocks him on his back. He gets back up and breaks it in half. He closes the rest of the distance between him and Ring, then he takes out his bludgeon (which sports several noticeable differences since six months ago) and swings it down strongly against Ring.

The bludgeon connects with a loud thud, but then is pushed from Ring's body with a high amount of force. Xorack himself is not being pushed away, but only his bludgeon.

Xorack "What?!" He swings at Ring twice, then grapples and tries to lift him, attempting again to throw him. Sagujo runs in and assists Xorack in this.

Instead of being lifted, there is a sudden glow, and the concrete under Ring's feet shatters. Some dislodged bits of concrete are thrown away from Ring's legs in random directions.

Ring "You'll never be able to lift me, you know. My abilities prevent that fairly well." More of the concrete below Ring becomes cracked, and he is not being lifted even slightly now. "Between my two abilities - refined armor and enhanced telekinesis , of course - I feel quite confident that you will not be able to do much damage to me."

Xorack "So that's it! That's why you're so heavy..." He stops trying to lift Ring, his physical strength unable to overcome the magnetism and telekinesis that Ring weighs himself down with. "Fine, don't budge, but I know more than what I've shown you." With little distance between them, he performs his next attack, Night Slash, in rapid succession.

Ring recoils noticeably more than he had in previous attacks, and for a moment his eyes register pain, but his metallic skin itself remains completely unblemished. He dislodges himself from the ground, jumps back quickly, and stares at a spot on the ground several meters from Xorack. There is a flash of light there, and the debris around the area flies in all directions, some of it towards Xorack.

Sokona and Zurkabō duck to avoid the debris. Aroido uses his webs to dodge and ascend to the ceiling. Sagujo is prepared this time, and drops down immediately. Xorack gets hit with the debris, but smacks some pieces of it away. He rushes at Ring again, bent on continuing his attack.

Ring avoids his attack by hovering away in an upward and diagonal direction.

Xorack looks frustrated that Ring dodged his attack, but also half grinning that his attack is having some effect. Aroido uses this opportunity to sneak up on Ring and attack.

Ring gets hit by this attack, and retaliates by kicking Aroido.

Aroido is knocked back from the kick, but hanging from the web, he swings back around and throws a sucker punch at Ring, using the momentum to increase his attack's damage.

The attack connects, but doesn't seem to affect Ring. Ring raises himself to the ceiling at a high speed, and breaks through.

Xorack "Stop him!"

Aroido swings up through the opening in the ceiling to give chase. Sokona and Zurkabō jump across the debris, and find a way to get up there as well.

Ring's plan having worked, he smashes through the ceiling from the other side, bringing the whole ceiling down and endangering those who were up there. Stab is thrown aside, caught in his attempt to reach the roof. He is buried in debris, again.

Xorack looks up in exasperation. He takes cover along with Sagujo as the ceiling crashes down. Aroido hits Ring with two webs and pulls at him as he falls, and catches Sokona and Zurkabō before they fall down.

Ring slams himself into Aroido as he does this.

The impact is too much for Aroido. He falls to the floor, injured from the attack. Sokona and Zurkabō tumble backward, the brush themselves off. Xorack sees Aroido injured, and is enraged. He charges at Ring and jumps on him. He uses the same attack as before, but then forcefully bites onto him in anger.

This bite does not do the slightest bit of damage to Ring.

Sagujo "How the heck are we gonna beat this guy?!" He frustratedly tosses a piece of debris off him, before grasping his arm.

Aroido looks up, then, slowly getting to his feet in a pained effort, he does what he can to concentrate. Suddenly his eyes glow. He uses his own Psychic power, trying to interfere with Ring's telekinesis.

Ring immediately begins to fight back, after momentarily hovering unsteadily.

Sagujo looks at Ring, then Aroido. He notices what Aroido is doing, and he helps him out. He starts by throwing two pieces of debris at Ring. Sokona and Zurkabō go and dig through the debris to free Stab.

Ring continues to focus on trumping Aroido. He is trying to stop him as well as keeping himself in the air.

Stab pops out of the pile after a large beam is moved.

Stab "Sorry."

Zurkabō "Not your fault."

Sokona "Right now, we need to break Ring's focus. If we can distract him enough and make him lose most of his focus, Aroido can take him down. Zurkabō?"

Zurkabō joins Sagujo and throws a piece of debris at Ring.

Stab expresses his agreement and throws small boulders at Ring as well.

Noticeably peeved, Ring continues to fight against Aroido.

Aroido holds his ground. Sokona forms a shard of ice and throws it at Ring.

Sufficiently distracted, Ring falls to the ground.

Xorack grins and jumps off, then looks for something that can restrain Ring and hold him in place.

Ring "Hmph. You may be able to prevent me from using my telekinesis, but you can't keep me in place."

Xorack "Blah, blah, blah. We heard you." He responds as he looks around. 'There must be something around here, something to hold him.'

There are no obvious tools for that purpose around, there is only a very large quantity of debris. Even the boxes have been smashed to pieces.

Xorack 'Useless! Why did he have to wreck everything?!' He angrily knocks some debris aside. He walks back to them.

Sagujo "Nothing?"

Xorack "Forget it. He destroyed everything. We'll just have to do it without anything that was lying around. Get ready, when I tell you to, you do it." He runs at Ring, and jumps at him again.

Ring shies away from Xorack's trajectory, and moves to strike him.

Xorack is hit, but he smacks Ring with his tail in turn. He hisses before going in for another darkness-imbued slash.

Ring He parries the attack and punches. "You'll do whatever it takes to attempt taking me down, huh?"

Xorack ducks.

Xorack "That's right, Ring..." He grapples with him. "...whatever it takes." He tries to throw him again.

Ring struggles against Xorack's attempts to lift him, but eventually he gives up and gets thrown across what remains of the warehouse. He lands on a slab of concrete with a loud thud.

Ring He lands on his back, but uses a trick of his own design to hop back up, completely unblemished, though rather dazed. "Again, even a good smash to the ground doesn't dent me."

Xorack "Even so, it was a bit satisfying." As he responds to Ring, Sagujo moves in from the right. "You threw me across the place. Now that I was finally able to do the same to you, I did." He sees Ring's dazed look. "And even if I didn't dent you, I still did something."

After getting close enough, Sagujo attacks Ring.

Ring is hit, and retaliates quickly with a kick.

Stab attacks at this point as well, though he decides to take another approach when his attack ends up damaging himself more than Ring.

Sagujo, despite being hit by the strength of that kick, goes back in to continue his attack. Xorack, instead of rushing in, blasts Ring with a Dark Pulse.

Ring advances, pushing Sagujo back towards a large concentration of rubble, while failing to avoid Xorack's attack.

Sagujo tries hard not to give way. Sokona and Zurkabō heave a large chunk of debris. It is heavy for them, but they manage to throw it at Ring as hard as they can.

The piece of debris lands solidly on the back of Ring's body. It pushes the back of him down to the ground. He nearly becomes stuck, but he manages to slip out.

Xorack rushes in and grabs Ring by the legs. Sagujo looks behind him, and gets an idea. He jumps over Ring, then taps Xorack on the shoulder and points at the rubble. Xorack shifts into that direction, and he and Sagujo start pushing against Ring toward the rubble.

Ring fights back against this, refusing to be backed into a corner.

Sagujo "Still...he doesn't...stop?"

Xorack "Shut up...and keep trying."

The two push harder against him.

Ring tries harder to keep his ground, in return.

Stab gets an idea, but he looks around, unsure.

Sokona and Zurkabō also look around for something to help them out as they see that Xorack and Sagujo are making little progress, with neither them or Ring gaining much ground.

Stab goes over to them.

Stab "I've got an idea, but it seems kind of dangerous and I'm unsure."

Zurkabō "Any idea or plan would be dangerous when fighting Ring."

Sokona "Let's hear it."

Stab "I've got a hunch that Ring's got a pretty big weak spot, even assuming his armor's completely impenetrable. I'm thinking the inside of his mouth isn't protected. Of course, if we started focusing on it, he'd just close it, so we gotta jam something in there on our first move. Something that is either gonna do the damage on its own, or something that's just not gonna break at all."

Zurkabō "Now that you mention it, that does sound dangerous on its own."

Sokona "We would need to carefully time it, and once he sees us, he will attack, and when he does, he will hit hard." She ponders this. "Then again, trapping him under debris didn't work, so we have almost no options left." She looks to Stab. "If you are ready to...then let's try it."

Stab "But what will we use?"

Zurkabō looks around, then sees a chunk of debris.

Zurkabō "We could try lodging that between his jaws, then attack while we can."

Stab expresses agreement, and watches for an opening while Ring continues to grapple with Sagujo and Xorack.

Sokona and Zurkabō run to the debris and lift it, then they wait for their chance.

Ring opens his mouth, likely, to accost those who he is grappling with.

As he does, they throw the piece of debris right at his mouth, angled to lodge between.

The bit of debris lodges in Ring's mouth perfectly.

Ring "Mmmkhf! Ut? Ut uh fgheh ih ih? Ammhih, ih fghuhrh." He tries to dislodge the object from his mouth, but to no avail. The debris had been lodged so perfectly in his mouth that he can't even bite down on it.

Sokona turns to Stab.

Sokona "Now!"

Sokona and Zurkabō waste no time and attack Ring, using and throwing whatever they can at him to cause damage.

Stab jumps up and attacks the corner of Ring's mouth quickly.

Ring's eyes widen and he spouts more unintelligibly muffled speech.

Xorack sees what they are doing, and grins as he watches Ring's expression. He opens his left claw and forms a dark ball of energy, then throws it at Ring's mouth.

Eyes watering from the sudden pain and seemingly quite damaged, Ring jumps away from his attackers, with the debris still lodged in his maw.

Xorack "So, ya had about enough?" He takes a step toward him.

Sagujo makes a gesture at Ring, as if one were cracking their knuckles.

Ring "I huhoh I ghaeh ee hihnhlee ohh fhuh eehehnhh." He narrows his eyes and moves forward, punching at Xorack.

Xorack snarls at Ring.

Xorack "Guess not." He throws another one at him.

Ring attacks Xorack by rearing up and trying to push down on him.

Xorack "What the-" He backs up, but Ring's attack gets him anyway. He finds himself pushing back with his claws to keep Ring from forcing his weight on him.

Sagujo "Hey!!" He grabs and pulls one of Ring's legs.

Ring just keeps his position, leering down at Xorack furiously.

Sagujo "You let go right now!"

Xorack growls at Ring, trying to budge him. Then, he launches a dark sphere of energy from his tail at him.

Bearing down after the attack hits, Ring tries to smash his jaw into Xorack's head.

Sagujo tries to stop Ring's attack to no avail. Before Ring's jaw can hit Xorack hard on the head, though, the Drapion blasts him with a Dark Pulse.

The attack does not actually land in Ring's weak spot, but it pushes him back by a good amount, to the point where he is no longer leering over Xorack.

Sagujo lets go and retreats from Ring to give himself distance. He looks to Xorack.

Xorack "Let him have it!!"

Sagujo, Sokona, and Zurkabō promptly do so with a concentrated attack. Xorack, now having more room, barrages Ring with the attacks he used previously.

Ring tries to dodge in such a way that the attacks would start to weather away at the debris in his mouth. The strategy was fidgety enough that a large amount of damage was done to him in the process, but it works to some extent.

Xorack and Sagujo, seeing their window for doing heavy damage almost closed, launch a dual ranged attack against Ring, hoping to land a strong blow on him.

Ring, becoming increasingly desperate, throws himself into the attack in a way he hopes will shatter the debris. It ends up working, and Ring's mouth becomes free again. He initially feels relief that he is invulnerable again, but just as his mouth closes, Stab, who had sort of expected this from the beginning, rockets into a position to stop him. Ring's jaw hits Stab's blade hard, and he winces for a moment, but then he speaks threateningly.

Stab "You won't be able to bite down fast enough to stop me shooting down your throat. Don't move, or that's what I'm gonna do."

Ring does not move. For a moment he wonders if it is a bluff on Stab's part, because he knows that Stab would probably severely endanger his own life if he rocketed down his throat, but it would certainly not be good for him, either.

Sagujo, Sokona, and Zurkabō did not expect Stab to pull such a dangerous move. However, to Xorack (and Aroido), it is a bit familiar. He maintains his aggressive stance to keep pressure on Ring. Sagujo does the same.

Xorack "When I tell you to..." He whispers to Sagujo, who nods. Then he addresses Ring. "So what's it gonna be, Ring? Does he have to do that, or are you gonna do as we say?"

Ring looks down at Stab's narrowed eye, then back to the others. He sighs and nervously answers, his speech still a little weird in an effort to not injure himself from Stab being half-inside his mouth.

Ring "Wha'evehr you wan', I'll do i'. Yus' on' le' zis crazy Hohne'ye go owhn my zroa'." He sighs again. This is turning out to be a very terrible day for him.

Sagujo "Oh, he won't, as long as ya do as we say, you're fine."

Xorack "Now, this way. We don't have all morning."

Ring follows obediently, though angrily, Stab still in his same threatening position.

Sokona and Zurkabō move the two Pawniard that they subdued along. Xorack goes over to Aroido, who tries to move, legs staggering. He drops to the floor, cringing in pain. Xorack picks him up and puts him on his back, then grabs Gaja and leads the way.

Xorack "This is gonna be quite a day." He sneers as they leave the rubble of what was the warehouse.

Chapter Seven: The Blade

Soon after the Interveners have settled in the new location, Cerin arrives to speak with Bell, and walks around the camp for a few minutes.

Zaffre speaks to a medical officer on the team.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Have the wounded tended to so that they can make a proper recovery. They suffered serious injuries from that battle, so it could take even a week for them to recover if nothing is done."

"As soon as possible, sir."

Uopanosguhi "Cerin. Oi!" She leaps up and runs up to Cerin, smiling.

Cerin looks quite surprised for a moment, then he smiles as well.

Cerin "Uopanosguhi?  This is quite unexpected, but it's nice to see you."

Uopanosguhi "I missed you, Cerin. So, how has it been in Silveria?"

Cerin "For a while, me and Lace had almost nothing but leisurely days, but now I'm back in danger, and all that."  He laughs.  "I couldn't help but return to fighting against the Antithesis, I guess.  What about you, how have you been?  And on that same note, what brings you here?"

Uopanosguhi "It was the same for us. It was quiet for about six months, then trouble surfaced again."

"To call it "trouble" is putting it lightly." A Branch C member nearby scoffs. "The Antithesis is using "shades" to further what they're planning. Those things are very dangerous to say in the least. They almost overwhelmed us in the last fight, they did." Kolsohte nods in agreement.

Cerin "Oh, about the shades, and the Antithesis' plans - I've learned some important things."

"You have? Please tell us."

Cerin "Yeah, I will.  But Bell needs to hear this.  She's here, right?"

"Of course she is." An Escavalier appears from behind a tree. "We accompanied her and the Interveners to this location, then they set up camp here. She wants to talk to you."

Cerin nods, and just as she is mentioned, Bell shows up with the Eevee who she is constantly consulting with.

Bell "Ah, Cerin.  You're here?  You've got news?"

Cerin "Of course.  Big news, this time.  I know, at least in part, what the Antithesis is doing.  There's some sort of temple that they're trying to break into, though the reasoning for that escapes me.  There's a force field around it that prevents most things from entering, but shades are fine.  It seems like Viera is working on a sort of tool to get through the forcefield, and Viera's got two tan Pikachu helping him.  I don't know if they're defectors from the Nonpareil, or spies, but both options seem unlikely.  Oh, and I almost got to see one of Viera's higher-ups, but missed my chance.  I can go into the details if there's anyone else who wants to know the full story."

Clinger replies unintelligibly.

Latchgrip "Hai. We would like to hear the details, Cerin, especially during these times."

Cerin "Shade production has slowed drastically already, by the way, Bell.  But I don't think it'll slight the Antithesis' plans too much, it seems like Viera's tool is almost complete.  Though having less shades is surely good for us in any outcome."

Bell "We'll work to take out the other shrines, too."

Cerin "Mhm.  Anyway, I witnessed two tan Pikachu approaching the area I was observing, to the area where Viera was at the time.  I couldn't catch what they were saying, but they were clearly talking amongst themselves.  They entered the building, and didn't leave for a while - in fact, I didn't see them leave at all.  They may have left while I slept, or they may have teleported out, or they may simply have not left at all.  But indeed, like I said, a bunch of the shades disappeared, and the ones being brought in were in smaller numbers.  Most of my knowledge of the Antithesis' plans comes from eavesdropping on the deputies when they show up, but opportunities for that are few and far between.  And about Vingulf - that higher-up - he was meeting with Viera, but the location was changed at the last minute, it seems."

The Escavalier warns them. "Production slowed, but those shades are becoming harder to kill, so keep your guard up."

"We fought them in close quarters earlier this morning, and witnessed the damage they caused. Some people got killed by them." The Excadrill adds. "These things adapt, quickly. In minutes, and I mean "minutes", they developed defenses to resist the weapons we were given. Sometimes it took three of us just to take down one, so you're right. Their increased resistance and how quickly they adapt will likely make this slowed production mean very little to the Antithesis. Don't believe me? Ask anyone at this camp. They'll tell you all about it."

Latchgrip "And those two tan Pikachu that are with Viera - there may be a problem regarding those two. Vingulf suddenly changing the location of their meeting makes it feel like less of a coincidence. Unlikely or not, those possibilities alone could potentially make our tasks much more difficult, especially since we want to stop Viera, and Vingulf, too."

Cerin "I'd already known how adaptable the shades were, but if they respond that fast, it becomes that much closer to an insurmountable problem."

Bell "I'd be inclined to agree, but I doubt the shades will become invincible or anything.  Surely not."

Cerin "That might be the final goal, actually, but then again it may not be.  The things I've seen and heard lead me to believe that the shades are just another stepping stone in Viera's plans - whatever his final goal with that temple is.  And what are we going to do about those guys, anyway?  Viera is massively powerful. 'Inordinately,' i'd say. Think about how much powerful Vingulf's got to be. Do we even know if he's the top leader?"

Bell "We know that he isn't, actually.  Also, we've got Viera down.  If we manage to delay his plans enough to stand in front of him, I can take him down.  I didn't work for all those years towards any other goal."

The Eevee next to her nods emphatically.

Cerin "You keep telling me that and no other details, but even if it is true, what are you going to do about Vingulf?"

Bell is silent, and so the Eevee answers.

Eevee "We'll face that problem when we come to it, but considering what has happened in the past, it will be a while before the Antithesis starts being obtrusive again.  They come, make trouble, and either succeed and leave behind various issues for the inhabitants of whatever area they bothered, or fail and leave behind a mess for someone like the local government to clean up.  After that, it's usually several years before they surface again, and always somewhere completely different."

Cerin "It was five months this time, and they'd been working before that."

Eevee "The exception, rather than the rule."

Cerin "And what if it becomes the rule?  What if Vingulf's more evil and ridiculous than Viera?"

Bell She speaks up now.  "Actually, that's what we're trying to stop.  Viera's the ridiculous one.  I don't know about evil, the Antithesis as a whole is evil, but Viera's ridiculous."

Eevee "Honestly, our short term goal might be to get rid of Viera, but our long term goal isn't 'get rid of the Antithesis,' it's more like 'make the Nonpareil stop being incompetent and get rid of the Antithesis like you've been trying to do all along, so us mortals don't have to.'"

Cerin thought there was something odd about that plan, but they were right, surely a mortal group couldn't manage to stop the entirety of the Antithesis.

Escavalier "Nice thoughts and all, but if the Nonpareil are in the shabby state Bell says they are, that would be a long chalk."

Excadrill "And if we can't snap them out of it, then what?"

Latchgrip "Speaking of evil, it gets worse. It's not just the Antithesis and the shades that we are fighting. Last night, the Cavriluon Army attacked the camp the Interveners previously set up. Haksal was commanding the attack, and he had more ships at his command than before. Knowing from the battles like the ones on Diurek and in Celrest, we can easily say that we have not seen the last of them."

Cerin "Oh, no.  Those guys too?  Of course the Antithesis isn't all there is to deal with, it wouldn't be that easy."

Eevee He frowns. "Easy?"

Cerin "Whatever.  Anyway, Bell, what do you want me to do now?  There's not much I can do directly, and, frankly, if I keep watching the area I'll be found out soon.  I can take a new approach of course, but I can't think what."

Bell sits in thought for a moment, and while she does so the Eevee by her side turns to the Escavalier and the Excadrill.

Eevee "About what you said, the key to getting the Nonpareil into shape is to get them out of the inconsequential battles in other planes.  They're perfectly capable, but they've spread themselves thin by fighting the wrong battles.  It's not like they're bad strategizers, more like they're trying to defend their ideals over important things like people and settlements."

Bell She breaks out of her thought to disagree here.  "No, they are bad strategizers, I think.  They're ridiculously powerful, but it's like half of them can't think.  Tails - I hate him, but he's competent.  He and Liam at least try to do things right, but Grant is stuck with his old ideals and spends all of his time disagreeing with the government, so they just kind of go along with his orders.  The problem with those two is that they don't trust me - trust us.  Tch."

Cerin "Say, how do you know all this, anyway.  And you make it sound like you could just make them all point their fingers at the Antithesis and it'd go boom."

Bell "I have my sources.  And you probably could, but getting those sparkling fools to point their fingers at the right places - well people - is about as hard as blowing the Antithesis up yourself.  It's not like they're powerful enough to just outright kill all of the Antithesis and their goons, but if they threaten the right people, and get rid of the right things, they could render the Antithesis into cowering fools."  Then she considers.  "Tabun."

Cerin He gives a small snort of laughter.  "Sparkling fools?"

Eevee "I think it was a poor attempt at a joke."

Uopanosguhi looks a little amused, too.

The Excadrill looks at the Eevee.

Excadrill "Anyone with sight could notice that about them even from a distance."

Kolsohte assesses the details of the Nonpareil's situation, and comes to a conclusion on the matter.

Kolsohte "We have to accept the reality of the situation." He shakes his head. "If they are spread that thin, and if Grant is slowing down anyone in the Nonpareil that is able to help, we may as well consider ourselves on our own. Powerful as they are, with him giving the orders, there is little to no chance of assistance from them."

Bell "Well, as it is, it's hard to plan for the future of fighting against the Antithesis.  After Viera's gone, we don't know what whoever's going to replace him will do, so it's pointless to discuss.  We can prepare for the worst, but that is of course more in the way of defense than offense."

Escavalier "See here, Bell. We came here to stop them and prevent the worst." He ponders for a few seconds. "If more help is what you're looking for, have you tried finding capable allies elsewhere?"

Clinger grunts.

Latchgrip "We do have to consider alternatives."

Bell "Well, we don't plan on going out of business anytime soon, but we've been working towards taking out Viera more than anything else for most of our existence.  What would you propose?"  She turns to the Eevee, then the others in turn.

Eevee "It is really hard to guess what Vingulf will do, and I suppose our best hope is to take him out with Viera.  Except, that doesn't work for obvious reasons, and we can't plan on coincidence.  What if we enlisted individual members of the Nonpareil?"

Bell She nods.  "I like that idea, but it has some issues."

Cerin "Who to go after and how to get them, right?  Well, even for just personal reasons Tails is out.  Not like you could get him anyway.  Do you know anyone low-ranking, powerful, and smart enough to realise he's not being utilised to the best of his abilities?"

Eevee "Seems a bit too..."

Bell "...convenient," she finishes.  "Well, anyway, anyone else have ideas?"

Latchgrip "Too convenient is right. We could be taking a risk to try and get even one of them into the Interveners, because they may not allow it. What he was asking was: Do you know where to find anyone outside the Nonpareil that can help against the Antithesis?"

Bell "There are some rogue immortals...  but most are only after their own interests.  With any luck, we don't need them, my daughters - well, no, probably not.  Can't count on that.  Nevermind.  Unless one of you can see the future, I think we'll plan to stay away for several months to a year while we watch the Antithesis' moves after Viera falls, formulate a plan from there.  And he will fall, I'll make sure of that."

Eevee "I'd be inclined to say that we do indeed need more power on our side.  We managed to pick up Hana, Layton, and Pointa, as well as Three and Seirroh.  Those are our most powerful, excluding Bell, whose power we can't use yet."

Cerin "I've not met any of those first five."

Excadrill "We have. Hana, that Mawile. We saw her hold her own against the shades earlier. She's quite a fighter."

Escavalier "It wouldn't be smart to wait that long. Unless someone is out there striking at them and steadily weakening them during that time, waiting those months out would be a risky strategy."

Excadrill "We can't be too sure whether they'll start declining or recover to full strength in the time you wait it out. Unless you are so sure of the future, that is. I want to make sure that the Antithesis never gets enough time to recover."

Bell "That may be so for you, but it isn't our goal, for now.  We are trying to kill Viera.  The Antithesis will be pushed into relative silence.  Viera is the issue.  We will need time to recuperate after getting rid of Viera- well, anyway, that's too long term for this conversation, that's not the main point.  The original issue is immediate.  Cerin, we may not have slighted Viera's plans by that far, but if Viera's tool hasn't been completed, then we've slighted them by enough.  We're going to get rid of the rest of the shrines, but only if this next mission ends in failure."

Cerin "Next mission?  And hang on a moment, here, why do you make it sound like you already knew what I told you?"

Bell "To be honest, I did.  Sort of.  I suppose I should come clean about one of the driving factors of our plan."

The Eevee looks at her briefly.

Bell "Or maybe not.  The gist of it is that there was an important prophecy.  I sent you out mainly to find out how it's progressing for the Antithesis on their end.  I don't really have an idea of what the Antithesis is doing, but I know what to do at what stage.  Incidentally, it's not an absolute prophecy.  It's less of 'this will happen,' and more of 'if this happens, then it will have this result.'"

Eevee "Maybe prophecy is a bad way to refer to it.  It's a 'story,' laid out millennia ago.  On the surface level, it seems like an oddly written fictional tale, but each chapter is a different possibility.  Change up some names, and some chapters line up with exactly what happened in certain historical events.  It's been known about for a long time, but when it predicted a certain event, we knew it was a useful sort of prophecy, and we used it to solve a certain problem.  We didn't actually figure out that the previous story was about Celrest until after the Strike, though.  Now, the book's f- the book's next tale lines up perfectly with the circumstances here."

Excadrill "Okay, I'll just ignore that, because from my experiences, those can't really explain or determine everything."

Escavalier "Anyway, if it doesn't involve attacking another shrine, what will the next mission be, Bell?"

Bell "Attacking one of the deputies.  That strange Honedge.  It is quite important that we succeed.  We may need to kill him, or simply remove him from the area, but in any case, he cannot be made available to Viera."

Escavalier "Now there's a good idea. The sooner we subdue him, the better."

Latchgrip "Of course, in addition to location and surroundings, we need to take into consideration that he will likely be guarded, like the other deputies in the Antithesis. So, we will need to plan this carefully."

Bell "Indeed."

Cerin "Incidentally, Bell, do you want me to take part in this mission?"

Bell "Do you want to take part?  You'd be a helpful asset."

Cerin "Well, I suppose."

Eevee "I think I'll go find Hana, Layton, and the rest.  You all should get to know them."  He walks off.

Escavalier "We would very much like to get to know them. It helps."

Clinger nods.

The Eevee returns after a bit with Hana, a Gallade, a Beheeyem, an Umbreon, and the strange Gardevoir from before, still wearing a visor, though not holding a rifle.

Hana "Hello, all."

The Gallade gives a little hand gesture, and the Gardevoir nods.

Beheeyem "Good day."

Umbreon "Hey hej niceta meetcha I'm Seirroh"

Cerin is the first to introduce himself to the ones who had just shown up.

Cerin "I'm Cerin, I'll likely be fighting with the Interveners on the next mission."

The Gallade walks to Cerin with a limp, and introduces himself.

Gallade "My name is Layton, nice to meet you."

Seirroh "Ahh you're th'one who's doing th'stuff for Bell right right?"

Beheeyem "One may address me by the sobriquet of 'Three.'"

Hana She grins with her smaller mouth and yawns with her bigger one.  "Hana.  Nice to meet you, Cerin."

The last Pokémon, the Gardevoir, who must've been Pointa, is quiet, and hides in the back of the group.

Escavalier "Pleased to be acquainted. I am Munwibada."

Excadrill "My name's Trivdrenen."

Latchgrip "Most know us as Clinger and Latchgrip. This is Clinger, and I'm Latchgrip."

Clinger waves.

Uopanosguhi "I...I am Uopanosguhi." She shuffles one of her feet. "N-nice to meet you."

Kolsohte "Kolsohte is my name, if you wanted to know."

Trivdrenen "I've heard some things about you. And you, Hana, I remember seeing you in the battle at that shrine. Thanks for your help back there."

Hana nods, and the others respond to the introductions in an amicable way, but Pointa remains in the background, saying nothing and trying to appear as small as possible. 

Layton "Oh, I'm sorry.  Pointa doesn't like being in sight too much.  Suits a sniper."

Munwibada "I see. Still, we have to thank Pointa for keeping those shades off us."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I agree."

Hearing Zaffre speak, Munwibada and Trivdrenen come to attention.

Munwibada "Sir!"

Pikaichichu and Zaffre join them.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Both Hana and Pointa showed remarkable diligence and effort in that battle. I commend them for it."

Pointa tries to shrink even further into the background, and Hana waves off the compliment.

Bell "Well, anyway, we'll need to come up with a plan for getting rid of that Honedge.  Who should come?  We're going to take what is a small group compared to last mission.  I'm thinking no more than nine to twelve, depending on our strategy - more than that would be unnecessary."

Pikaichichu, Zaffre, Clinger, Latchgrip, Kolsohte, Munwibada, and Trivdrenen discuss this amongst themselves. Each of them nod at different points. When they are finished, Zaffre contacts his officers.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Bell wants a group of nine to twelve. First, send for a scout."

"Yes sir."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Bell, we have decided on the first one. There may be a number of enemy patrols, so we have agreed that a scout should go along with the group, so they can be warned of any patrols in advance."

A Sentret arrives as Zaffre finishes his sentence.

Bell "Good.  I suppose I'll take three out of the Team, and adding that to me and Cerin it makes five.  You can choose the remaining three to six from your group."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Affirmative, Bell. Next."

The Krokorok from the previous battle walks up to them.

Lt Gen Zaffre "He escaped the shrine with only minor injuries, so we had little trouble healing his wounds."

Latchgrip "There is our second, then. So who is next?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "The next one..."

Munwibada "General." He moves forward. "I volunteer for this mission, too."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Munwibada, if you want to, then you may accompany them."

Latchgrip "When the battle begins, Munwibada will be of a lot of help."

Pikaichichu "Speaking of battle, There should be two to cover you from the air. Zaffre?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Good idea, Pikaichichu. Bring in two that can provide aerial support."

Two more appear. One of them is a Staravia, who stands next to the Sentret. The other is a Fletchinder. "Remember us?" The Staravia asks, gesturing a wing in the Sentret's direction.

Bell "Alright.  Hana, Layton, Seirroh, you three - no, not you, Three - are coming.  That's the group, then?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "For now, yes. We will have two more stand by if in any case additional support is needed."

Bell "Now, that deputy should be in that disused skyscraper near the edge of the city.  We can fight him inside, but that puts us at a massive disadvantage for obvious reasons, so we need to force him out."

Fletchinder "In order to force him out, first we have to find him. The trouble is he could be on any floor. Nous devons fouiller l'endroit! He could be on the ground floor, the top floor, in the middle, or even on the roof."

Munwibada "And that's after getting past any henchmen he has. In a skyscraper, they have many vantage points to look out from, so we need to take that into consideration."

Bell "If he was on the roof it would be a different story.  Anyway, is there a way to threaten the structural integrity of the skyscraper?"

Cerin "Well, you have to get there, so they'll know we're coming."

Bell "We take care of anyone who gets sent out, then force the deputy out by making it look like we're going to blow the thing up."

Seirroh grins and nods like Bell had made a reference to a TV show he had seen.

Zaffre groans and turns to Pikaichichu.

Lt Gen Zaffre "I calculate a high likeliness that she came up with that idea from the words we exchanged during our earlier confrontation, when I mentioned "demolition" to her."

Pikaichichu chuckles.

Munwibada "Right. Are any of you going to be carrying anything that'll convince them that, or is that what we're doing? Or both? Or neither?"

Bell "I'll deal with that."  She addresses Munwibada, then turns and narrows her eyes at Zaffre for a moment, but then turns away.

Staravia "So, with all of that said, when do you want to start?"

Bell "We need to go soon, that's for sure.  Today, certainly.  It'll take us an hour or so to sort out some things, what about the rest of you?  Aa, kh.  I need another gun."

Cerin "I don't really have anything to get ready, so I can go whenever."

Staravia "We made sure to bring what we need before joining up for this."

Fletchinder "Oui."

Munwibada "Sounds like they're ready to go."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Wait. There is one thing I would like to sort out." He turns to Bell. "Bell, I apologise for my harsh rant earlier. I was concerned about the well-being of our team - and the Interveners. When we fought the shades, I saw what they were like and what they did. Seeing Interveners get killed and almost losing some of our own. I wanted to talk to you and discuss how to improve on it for next time. The problem is I went out of line. I selected the wrong words, went about it the wrong way, and insulted you, your competence, and tactical capability. That was where I went wrong, and I understand that now."

Bell "Un. I know. I appreciate the apology. Tch - the problem is time, isn't it? Well, anyway - I'll go put things in order." Bell leaves, along with the Eevee and all of the six-Pokémon Team.

Cerin He had watched the exchange bemusedly, and he mutters,"Now what was that all about?"

Zaffre immediately turns to the Branch C members going on the mission.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Be ready to move out when they return."

Munwibada "Yes, sir."

Pikaichichu " we are, Cerin, back in the fray." He chuckles slightly, then sighs.

Cerin "Indeed. Though... I enjoyed my leisure enough. I don't have to be in this battle, you know. I do it because I want to." Then he frowns."It's not like I like fighting. What I like is having good prevail over evil." Cerin scoffs at his own statements."I sound like such a conceited paragon."

Pikaichichu "You know, Cerin, that is something we have in common. I never liked fighting for the sake of fighting. I fight for the same reason that you do." A small smile forms on his face. "To want to do good is not being conceited." He starts mumbling. "...I know that everyone in my family would agree."

Cerin "Your family?"

Realising that Cerin heard him, Pikaichichu starts blushing.

Pikaichichu "Did I say that out loud?"

Cerin "Yeah, you did. I'm sorry, I won't pry."

Pikaichichu "Anyway, with doing good, it's because I like doing good for others. It drives me to do that."

Cerin "I'm not going to say that I've never fought to protect, but I fought in the Strike to do good for the citizens of Celrest, so yeah."

Pikaichichu nods.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We fought hard to defeat those criminals and restore order."

Pikaichichu "It felt good knowing that they could safely go about their lives in Celrest once more. If only that at least lasted longer than just six months."

Cerin "Wait, what? Celrest still should be okay, right?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Yes, Cerin, but they're concerned about Antithesis activity here in Argent-Verdantia and what they plan to do, and the Cavriluon attack last night. The Commander and the city leader placed in charge of Celrest are not the types that would cover this up. They do have a right to know what is happening, especially since it is of very significant concern."

Cerin He nods. "Hey, by the way, do you have a communicator or something I can borrow for a second?"

Zaffre motions one of his officers over to them.

Lt Gen Zaffre "He needs your communicator."


Lt Gen Zaffre "Is there someone you want to speak to?"

Cerin "Yeah. Lace."

Uopanosguhi "Lace?" She smiles.

Cerin is given the communicator.

Lt Gen Zaffre "There you go."

Cerin presses a few buttons and then speaks into the communicator.

Cerin "Hey, Lace."

Lace "Hey. I take it that you're safe - I'm glad. Were you right? About Bell, I mean."

Cerin "Completely right. And yeah, we should talk about moving that array. It's going to be an issue if it's stationary."

Lace "There shouldn't be a problem, don't you worry, Cerin."

Cerin "You're a great help, you know that?"

Lace "I would hope so!" She laughs.

Cerin "Oh, yeah, Lace, you'll never guess who's fighting too."

Lace "Want to bet? It's our friends we fought alongside during the Strike, surely. Any of them."

Cerin "Impressive. Yeah, in fact, Uopanosguhi and Pikaichichu and Zaffre are standing not far away."

Lace "It's been a while, hasn't it? I'll have to come say hi once this thing isn't needed anymore." There is a banging noise, as Lace knocks on some metal object.

Cerin "Yeah, but you'll be needed for the next mission. Here, I'll tell you..." Cerin walks off a bit, and does not return for about twenty minutes, then he walks back. "Yeah. Of course. I love you. Bye."

Clinger mumbles unintelligibly.

Latchgrip "So will Lace have anything planned when she arrives?"

Cerin "Oh, she's helping from elsewhere. There's an array that's been set up..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Interesting."

"And that array is being used to assist us." Zaffre's subordinate officer adds. "Is she sending important information from that array?"

Cerin "More like... assists me." Cerin's speech becomes quite animated. "It's a mostly original concept we came up with. Neural collection network, or something. So far, the output's kinda funky. We'd like to be able to use it to communicate directly, but at this point a minimally filtered version of the input is the output. It's supposed to be able to give me information equivalent to having almost every viewpoint on a battlefield, but sometimes it gets garbled by factors like my adrenaline, my focus, and... for some reason the albedo of the planet's surface. Very work-in-progress sort of thing." Cerin stops and frowns. "That explains nothing. Okay, so, this thing uses Lace's abilities to collect information on a battlefield, analyses and breaks it down to be of most use (well actually that part is hard so we haven't figured it out yet) and then sends it to the receiver (of which there's only one for the moment, and it's in my left ear), using a complicated system of electronics and stuff to attempt to convey the information directly to my brain. It would be cool if me and Lace could actually communicate directly with it, and therefore prevent me having to ask for a communicator, but because of the nature of the input and output, it's basically mutually exclusive with the other stuff. That's fixable of course - we could give it two channels and make one work on more conventional frequencies, or we could come up with a separate input collector for direct communication. However, the more ambitious idea that we're going with is to make Lace herself the direct controller of the array, with the input and output converging on and diverging from her mind, instead of having her mind just be like a more involved motor. It's a lot of complicated stuff on complicated principles, but it works this well this far.

Though, of course, the idea we're going with, the final vision for the device, has a lot of problems. As you know, there's a limit as to what you can change with psychic powers, and to what distance you can change things with them. There isn't an issue with mechanising psychic impulses for information collecting, and it's a concept that's surely been done before, but it's horribly unrefined. Finding the right transistors and transformers and translators for more direct collection is a monumental task. The output presents even worse problems."

Lt Gen Zaffre "So this device connects to your brain to provide you every view of the battle possible. Sounds clever, but a concept that needs much further work, if you hope to have a properly working prototype. Given the complexity of your project, finalising its design and achieving full functionality may take a while."

Pikaichichu "Also, I would recommend that you both double-check parts of the array when working on it."

Cerin "Yeah, like I said, it's in an extremely unfinished state. Though hopefully this can be a really useful tool in future endeavors against the Antithesis."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Until then, that will have to wait, since the mission is currently of higher priority. What you do have is your wits, and since there will be others with you, you can still coordinate and plan."

Munwibada "To know the lay of the battlefield beforehand is one of the reasons why we have scouts and perform reconnaissance."

Cerin "But to have awareness of every point on the battlefield as it changes goes far beyond reconnaissance. It's a formidable tool, but the problems involved make it obvious why no one's really tried such an extensive array before."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We are well aware that the situation can change at any time."

Pikaichichu "That is why we must stay prepared and be ready to adapt when it does. We cannot always rely on information collecting, because sometimes, it's not enough, or it may not be available. We also have to use our own wits and intuition to readily adapt to a changing situation."

Latchgrip "That's part of survival in battle."

Clinger grunts affirmatively.

After a few more minutes, Hana walks to the group.

Hana "Yo. Bell'll be done in a few. What's up?"

Krokorok "Just a few last minute things we were getting ready for this, since we had some time."

Munwibada "And how about you, Hana? Have you everything you need?"

Hana "I like to be ready all the time, so yeah."

Munwibada "So now, we just wait for the rest of the lot."

Then Seirroh appears from somewhere.

Seirroh "Hej hey Bell's coming out soon I guess you know? Oh Hana hi I saw you slip off somewhere here you are what're you doing?"

Hana "Being bored."

Seirroh "Is that right so uh anyway hey other guys it's a pleasure to be fighting alongside you uh Bell's almost done I guess I think" He stops and looks left and right, then blinks. "I said that but uh Bell's almost done just wait a bit and also Hana uh wait no I forgot"

Cerin "I... see?"

The Fletchinder speaks aside to Cerin. She indicates Seirroh.

Fletchinder "I think that one should use the minutes left before we go to work on concentrating on the matter at hand. Wouldn't you think so?"

Seirroh "Huh huh? Uh sorry it's just kind of exciting these battles that we get to fight in so soon from each other hah also I guess I'm a bit of a thrill-seeker that's somewhat my motivation and all that stuff for fighting and whatever yeah"

The team members mumble to one another.

Fletchinder "O...ka."

Staravia "Point is, will you be able to keep your focus for this? This is important."

Seirroh "Focus? Focus? What's this about focus I don't get it what does focus have to do with it also wait no nevermind"

Cerin "You don't sound even remotely focused, though. Are you okay, by the way?"

Seirroh "I'm okay okay I dunno what you're asking for I'm perfectly focused like on that thing behind you uh-oh duck haha just kidding also uh can I go somewhere else to wait this is weird bye" He leaves suddenly.

Cerin "...what?"

Hana gives a snort of laughter at this exchange.

Hana "He's always kinda... spastic. I think Three called him 'mercurial,' but that's not right at all. Don't know about focus - he fights well, but, eh."

Trivdrenen "Ah, I think "spastic" describes him good enough. Even if he fights well, he still needs to learn to pay attention to what's going on. Otherwise, he could be caught off guard."

Krokorok "I say that at least one of us should have him work on that as we go along."

Hana "I'm sorry about him, honestly. Note that well. Not sorry for him, about him."

Trivdrenen "We understand what you meant, doesn't mean we can't help with that."

Staravia "We can certainly give it a try, Trivdrenen."

Trying to stray from the topic about Seirroh, Uopanosguhi looks at Three, who was just mentioned in said discussion.

Uopanosguhi "On another note, it's a coincidence that he is known as Three, considering this is the third Beheeyem I saw recently."

Hana She looks alarmed. "Ah, it's best you don't-"

But then Three moves at figurative light speed to enter the conversation.

Three "Is that so? And you are unerring in saying 'known as,' for 'Three' is not a name but an appellation. It was commended to me by a foregone adept of a lost art."

Cerin "What? Er, do you get those words from a thesaurus? Half of them are subtly wrong."

Three "I have perused only the most unwonted of tomes, and scrutinized only the most illustrious and affluential of texts. I am sure that this proletarian thesaurus is a contrivance for mere commoners."

Cerin excuses himself from the conversation because he suddenly finds himself in a fit of laughter.

Munwibada takes note of Cerin's laughing.

Munwibada "See here, what's so funny now?"

Trivdrenen walks up to Munwibada and gets his attention.

Trivdrenen "Well, maybe it's because..." He whispers to Munwibada. "...affluential..." He continues. "...thesaurus... ...commoners."

Munwibada "Oh. Well, I wasn't what you would call a commoner myself, Trivdrenen."

Uopanosguhi looks around nervously. Between Three's reasons for this appellation, and Cerin breaking into laughter, she starts trembling; half out of embarrassment, and half out of restraint from breaking into giggling herself.

Uopanosguhi "Ara." She tries to hold it back, then turns to Hana, then Three, lips wobbling. "S-s-sor-s-sorry." Having no hands or paws of her own to cover her face, she hides it by dropping to the ground, laughing herself silly.

Pikaichichu scratches the back of his head with a small chuckle, seeing Cerin and Uopanosguhi laughing about this.

Pikaichichu "Please excuse these two. I don't think they could help it."

Three He looks rather confused. "Ahem. Well, nonetheless, I surmise that there is an occupation for me elsewhere." He then departs from the group in a drifting manner, looking increasingly confused.

Hana "Impressive, I think you made him feel uncomfortable. I'd thought his only emotions were indifference and a sort of joy in being pretentious. Well, I say that somewhat coldly, but he's a friend. I just try not to get into any deep conversations with him." Hana grins at Cerin, and then Uopanosguhi. "This got interesting fast."

Cerin is still laughing, but it abates into a snicker, then he straightens his face.

Cerin "I didn't mean to offend him, but I think he's just trying to sound impressive because he read through the thesaurus or something. He really departed with 'nonetheless,' what was with that? What an odd individual." Cerin breaks out into a grin again. "...proletarian thesaurus..."

Uopanosguhi stands up, still giggling a little bit.

Uopanosguhi "I'm sorry, Hana. I couldn't help it if I found that funny. And as soon as I heard him laugh, I lost the willpower to hold it in."

Trivdrenen "Know if they're ready yet? Before we have anyone else wander off for some reason or another?"

Bell finally walks up with Layton and Seirroh.

Bell "Hhh. We're done. Three's staying behind, in any case. Like I said, me, Cerin, Hana, Layton, Seirroh. And the others that were chosen. I believe Pointa at least will want to survey the battle, but anyone doing that aside, it's a small team."

Cerin "Still don't really think we can just walk up to that building."

Bell "I don't think I indicated that I thought otherwise. Though..." Bell glances at Seirroh for a moment. "Well, no. We'll surely be accosted on the way, but if we push forward fast enough and threaten the building, they'll back off a bit and wait for orders."

Seirroh "Wait what why would that work can't the bladed guy just come out if you threaten the building and plus those explosives aren't actually powerful enough to take it down this plan has some flaws seriously why am I the one to point that out"

Hana "You idiot. We want him to just come out. Even if he flees, we bypass any security in the tower."

Seirroh "Oh right"

Krokorok "But as soon as he flees the building, we have to stop him from trying to escape."

Munwibada "Now with that said, we are ready to go, when you are."

Bell "Nn. We're heading out now. Remember to keep relatively quiet and to prioritize getting to the building over any skirmishes that might arise."

Krokorok "Okay, we will. Now let's go."

The group heads out. They leave the camp and forest, and go into the city. The building stands decrepit, but still with height and glory. It resembles the Core Building, in a way. Once the group is within several hundred meters from the tower, a Bisharp runs out from an alley, and about a dozen Pawniard emerge form other side streets. The Bisharp stands in the middle of the otherwise empty street. Bell gives a "Tch," and runs right past him.

Bisharp He turns around. "Huh??" Layton advances and knocks him aside with his arm, making him go flying into a second-story window.

The Pawniard move to attack anyone else in the group, while another goes after Bell and Layton, who have already run ahead.

Munwibada tussles with two Pawniard, using his lances to parry their strikes. He jabs and knocks one of them down, before tossing the other one overhead where the Fletchinder strikes with a flaming charge. Both the Staravia and Sentret follow Bell and Layton ahead, so they can survey the building.

Cerin and Seirroh make their way through the ineffective Pawniard blockade as well, knocking a couple aside. Hana walks calmly towards the remaining Pawniard. Two run at her, but she snarls menacingly and they back down quickly.

With the way relatively clear at the moment, the Sentret begins reconnaissance of the building.

Many of the windows are broken, but only empty rooms can be seen. All unbroken windows are heavily tinted. However, a group of Honedge stand guard at the entrance to the building.

Sentret "As we thought, the entrance is guarded. However, I cannot find anything through those windows."

The group advances, making sure to leave the Pawniard behind. However, they soon come within sight of the building's entrance.

Bell "So, they've got guards there? We need to take down a few before we can get close."

Munwibada "We'll sneak in and hit them from the left. Then you can move in and take advantage of the confusion, and assist in taking them down."

Bell "Aa, go ahead." Bell nods to Hana and Layton, and they lie in wait.

Munwibada moves in, accompanied by the Fletchinder and Krokorok. Once in position, the three of them attack the guards.

Honedge "Wha!? Oh no! I TOLD ya, ahhhhh!"

The Honedge grapple with their attackers, slicing in a surprised frenzy.

Munwibada parries their attacks with his lances, then shoves two of them back, allowing his cohorts to continue attacking them.

The Honedge become absorbed in fighting, and Bell takes this moment to send Hana and Layton in. Seirroh has disappeared somewhere at Bell's orders, and Cerin has moved to the same hiding spot as Bell. Hana and Layton take the Honedge by surprise, and, overwhelmed, the Honedge flee in the opposite direction of the building.

Satisfied, Bell and Cerin exit their hiding spot, when a Doublade suddenly approaches from another street, blocking them. The Bisharp from before comes up from behind. The Honedge continue to run away, seeming quite defeated and uneager to help.

Hana "Guess that was the cowardly bunch, what shoddy guards," she remarks to herself as she and Layton approach Bell and Cerin to assist them.

The Bisharp is quickly blasted backwards by an electric attack of Cerin's, but the Doublade quickly approaches and attacks the seemingly helpless Bell. Layton's arm-blade stops him.

Munwibada "Trying to catch us off guard? I don't think so!" He joins Layton and attacks the Doublade, swinging and striking at every chance he gets.

Cerin turns around to assist, but almost gets brutally headbutted by the Bisharp. Hana skirts the area, looking for an opportunity to assist. She notes the absence of Seirroh.

To help Cerin, the Fletchinder charges at the Bisharp, enveloped in flames. The Krokorok also notices that Seirroh has disappeared.

Krokorok "Okay, where did he go off to?"

The Bisharp retaliates against the Fletchinder, though he is in a lot of pain from the burns he received.

Bell glances over to the entrance of the building. Seirroh appears there, ahead of anyone. He has some sort of sack with him.

Seirroh "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hey hej you Bisharp and Doublade guys I'm going to blow up this whole building haha if you don't move or I mean if you do I mean DOOOOON'T MOOOOOOOVE!!!!" He looks around for a few seconds and then gets out an explosive device before finishing quietly, "or I'll blow up the building"

Krokorok "You heard him. Get away from there, unless you want him to bring the whole place down."

The Bisharp and Doublade back away, dropping any attacks, and also back away from the building itself. The Bisharp gives a flustered look up to the top of the tower.

Munwibada, the Fletchinder, and the Krokorok use this chance to knock them out while they are distracted.

Krokorok "That takes care of those two. Thanks, crazy, we got them."

Fletchinder "Oui, now we can proceed."

Bell "That guy doesn't seem to be coming down. Let's set charges around the building and make preparations to detonate. Hopefully someone will come out and stop us, and if the deputy doesn't show then we'll actually detonate them. No idiot would stay in a building whose structural integrity is challenged like that."

Staravia "This could be risky, but we do not have many options."

Krokorok "Give me some of those so we can get started."

The explosives are passed to the Krokorok, and Seirroh and Bell also get to work in placing them. Layton is directed to an alley by Bell for some reason, waving a communicator, and Cerin approaches Hana.

Cerin "Hana. Why'd you forget me, by the way?"

Hana "You're talking about that introduction? I didn't forget you. I thought it'd be better to not alert Bell to the fact that I knew you, though."

Cerin "I see. I wouldn't have thought that was necessary. Anyway, do you know anything about this deputy? Bell seems to."

Hana She shakes her head. "She does, but I don't know the specifics."

Cerin "Really? You neither?"

Hana "It doesn't have anything to do with some kind of security clearance system, if you wondered. Bell doesn't really have any concept of that. She does lead strongly, even domineeringly at times, but she's not a military person. She never speaks politely, in either of her languages."

Cerin "What's with that, by the way?"

Hana "I'd thought for the longest time that she was trying to throw off someone, but it seems to genuinely be her native language. As far as I can tell, her and her children's names are fake. Doesn't really fit with her story, I guess, but-"

Layton returns after only being gone for a couple of minutes. He frowns when he notices Hana and Cerin's conversation.

Layton "What's going on?"

Hana "Nothing, I guess."

Cerin shrugs in turn.

Layton thinks nothing of it, and reports back to Bell from whatever he was doing.

The Krokorok places his explosives around his side, while the Staravia flies around, carefully setting the explosives around.

Munwibada "Okay, steady." He observes the others doing their work as he finishes on his end. "Good work, some more over there, and that should make their chops pop open. Keep going."

The final charges are placed, and the members of the team converge.

Bell "We'll clear out, but stick around. Doesn't seem like anyone's intent on stopping us."

Then, there are some thuds and a muffled crash from somewhere inside the building.

The Sentret hears the racket and the noises coming from inside.

Sentret "Did anybody else hear that?"

Bell looks up at the building with a frown. She urges for quiet with a hand movement.

Then, a large metal piece of furniture comes crashing out of a third story window, and the black-bladed Honedge deputy and two Doublades follow. They move as far from the building as possible, then stare down the opposing group.

Doublade "Who are you?"

Other Doublade "Demolitionists, they think they are!"

Doublade "Go die, demolitionists!"

Impale "Now, now. They will be dealt with accordingly. Demolitionists... This is an offense that will not be ignored..."

Hana She looks slightly taken aback. "What does he think we're doing, anyway?"

Munwibada "Well, well, now what do we have here? Just who we wanted to see."

As he says this, those with him drop down around them.

Munwibada "Right on schedule, as we hoped." He brandishes his lances. "How about this? We make this easy. You give up while you have the chance, and you won't have to end up like those poor blokes."

Krokorok "What's it gonna be? Huh?"

Doublade "The demolitionists think they've got us cornered!"

Other Doublade "Totally hilarious!"

Impale "Shhh. Don't waste my time. Doesn't matter, but I thought we got rid of the likes of these demolitionists. I suppose it's time to continue that extermination."

Krokorok "You Antithesis types, always looking for a fight."

Munwibada "So be it."

Krokorok "Who wants to go first?"

Impale "Hmph. I have a place to be soon." Then he does a strange thing, spinning himself through the air at a blistering speed towards the Krokorok.

The Krokorok jumps out of the way the avoid getting cut up by Impale. He kicks up mud and sand at him.

Impale "Stay still, and die quickly." He does a similar move again.

Layton, not content with watching this, blocks Impale's attack. The Doublade also join the fight, one attacking Munwibada and the other attacking Bell.

Munwibada parries the Doublade's strikes, not giving any ground, then fights back. The Krokorok continues harassing Impale with mud and sand. The Fletchinder pelts the other Doublade with small flames.

Impale attacks Layton ruthlessly, not allowing himself to be distracted. Half of his attacks are done with his eye closed; it seems that Impale does not depend on his eyesight.

Cerin and Hana both protect Bell from the Doublade. Cerin has picked up a reinforced iron bar from somewhere, while Hana is using two strange ornate black blades. Bell fires a pistol and it narrowly misses the Doublade's left eye. He shudders and drives the fight away from Bell.

The Doublade confronting Munwibada is attempting to drive him into a corner, but lets up when he finds himself unable to advance, opting for different maneuvers.

Munwibada presses forward and continues engaging his opponent.

The Krokorok notices his tactic is not working, and goes in closer, snapping his jaws at Impale's pommel, trying to bite him.

The Fletchinder continues her attack on the Doublade backing off from Bell.

The Doublade both fight ruthlessly against their opponents.

As the Krokorok's jaws snap near Impale's pommel, he recoils and slaps the Krokorok with the flat of his bladed body. It was more a reflex than an attack, and he landed lightly, but it opens up an opportunity for Layton. Layton grabs Impale by the hilt and by the blade, and some sort of power runs through his body, preventing Impale from moving. The Doublade don't let their guard down, but stop attacking and watch this warily.

Layton "Not as much of a challenge as I expected."

Impale "...well. I'm surprised you could do that, but evidently you aren't aware of the reason I was chosen by Viera himself as a deputy."

Layton "Good luck moving and playing whatever trump card you believe you have."

Impale "Voided Slash."

Layton "Excuse me?"

Impale "That's what it's called. Voided Slash." Impale starts to vibrate slightly, and more of the strange power enters Layton's hands.

Layton "You aren't going to be able to mo- !!!" Suddenly realizing the danger, Layton thrusts Impale away from him as his blade begins to pulse with a purple light.

Impale "That's right. Voided Slash..." He swings himself at Layton and Layton jumps aside. The area where Impale hit left what at first appeared to be a shadow, but then it grows from the ground and fractures into wildly radiating beams of darkness and malformed polygons, taking up about three cubic meters.

Layton "Don't go near that!" He yells as it fades away.

Impale laughs to himself.

The Krokorok jumps back, keeping his distance. He watches the display of Impale's power, and growls at him. The Sentret and Staravia back away as well.

Fletchinder "Get back!" She flies up, then tries attacking Impale with her flames.

Impale dodges easily, and rushes in to attack the Krokorok, his blade still pulsing. The Doublade resume their attack.

The Krokorok drops to the ground to avoid Impale. Munwibada catches the next slash, and continues his fight with the Doublade.

Impale turns and swings at the Krokorok again, while both Doublade continue to fight their opponents.

The Krokorok rolls out of the way, not wanting to get even grazed by that blade. The Fletchinder attacks Impale again with her flames.

Impale dodges the flames again, but two gunshots ring out from Bell's gun. One shot collides with Impale's blade. There's a flash of black energy, but otherwise he seems unharmed. Nonetheless, he seems a bit shaken over this.

Impale "Y-you two! Get her gun!" The Doublade break off their fights and reluctantly head towards Bell. Impale continues by attacking the Krokorok again, keeping an eye on the Fletchinder.

The Krokorok digs underground to evade Impale's attacks. Munwibada rushes at the two Doublade, lances forward.

Cerin aids Munwibada in attacking the Doublade, while Hana rushes Impale with her odd blades. Impale attacks, but nothing seems to happen when the blades connect, disappointing Impale. He pushes harder, but Hana uses her other blade to attempt stabbing Impale in a more vulnerable spot. He rolls away from Hana.

The Fletchinder continues her attack against Impale. With Cerin backing him up, Munwibada presses forward on the offensive, repeatedly striking the Doublade with his lances.

Layton surveys the fight centering on Impale, but concludes that he can't do anything and rushes to Bell's aid.

Layton "Where'd Seirroh go?"

Bell "He slunk off looking for an opening to help out, I'd assume." She fires off two shots at the Doublade, but both miss. "Kuso." She aims again and fires, this time with the bullet hitting a blade with a loud clang, startling Cerin.

Impale seems to have become fed up with the Fletchinder, and propels himself up towards them.

The Fletchinder continues pelting Impale with flames, but flies back from him. The Krokorok, having lost Impale, digs out of the ground, and joins Cerin and Munwibada in attacking the Doublade.

Munwibada "Never mind that noise, Cerin. Press on!"

The Doublade redouble their attack after facing more opponents. One seems to be getting tired.

Without enough momentum to reach the Fletchinder, Impale tries again, flying through the air with imposing vigor.

The Fletchinder's attack becomes a forceful stream of fire as Impale closes in.

Munwibada focuses on the Doublade that is still fighting strong, while the Krokorok faces off with the tiring Doublade. From the opposite direction, the Sentret sneaks up on the same Doublade, then jumps and delivers two surprise punches on the pommels.

The Doublade snaps back to deal with the Sentret, leaving himself completely open.

Impale, while he could have fallen back, does not, and flies through the flaming attack despite any damage it may cause, and continues to head straight towards the Fletchinder.

The Krokorok takes his chance to attack the Doublade while he is distracted.

Fletchinder "Têtu, sont vous pas?" She nearly flies out of the way, but the blade cuts her on her left wing. The contact from Impale's blade is too painful for her, and she drops from the air. The Staravia flies upward to catch her, then safely brings her back down.

Impale reaches a pinnacle, and curves downward, heading somewhere in the vicinity of Bell.

As Munwibada strikes at his opponent, he warns Bell of Impale nearby.

Munwibada "I say, watch out!"

Bell is slow to react, but Layton is quick. He tackles Bell out of the way of Impale, and on top of that, attacks him as he hits the ground. Expecting to use his superior sharp edge to plunge into the asphalt, he is surprised to be quickly dislodged and knocked into the adjacent building.

As the Sentret continues to distract the Doublade, the Krokorok jumps on the pommels to knock him to the ground. Munwibada locks his lances with his opponent's blades, then looks to Cerin.

Munwibada "Okay, now's your chance!"

With the first Doublade on the ground, Cerin attacks the second. He opts to quickly smack him twice, once above each eye, and it promptly knocks out the Doublade.

Munwibada "Good work, old boy. Quick and simple."

Sentret "Now there is one more."

Munwibada "Yes. That deputy..." He turns to the other two. The Staravia is in contact with the rest of the team back at camp.

Staravia "Kanojo wa fushō shimashita. Kanojo wa idō dekimasen."

Munwibada turns back to them.

Munwibada "...and be careful. Avoid his blade."

Hana, Cerin, and Layton all turn to attack Impale simultaneously. Hana strikes at him with her blades, Cerin does a quick swing at him from behind, and Layton slices at his eye with his arms.

The Sentret jumps up at Impale and throws a punch, then Munwibada moves to whack him from both sides.

Impale manages to avoid the first few attacks, is hit by one, and runs away from the others. It doesn't last long though, because then his blade glows again.

Munwibada and the Sentret stay their distance.

Sentret "Kare wa futatabi kōgeki suru tsumoridesu!"

Hana overhears the Sentret's exclamation, and as Impale charges towards the tightest group, Hana rushes back with her blades.

Hana She adopts a mischievous grin and yells an accented reply. "Watashi wa... sore o tomerareru!" Hana's blades clash against Impale's blade, emitting odd black sparks.

Cerin had yelled something at the same time as Hana, and so no one caught it.

Sentret "She says that-"

Munwibada "Teishoshko, stay back." He moves in from the left and attacks Impale, taking care not to hit the blade.

Impale disengages himself from Hana's blades and dodges Munwibada's attack, then counters as he dodges a new attack from Layton.

Munwibada dodges backward to avoid the blade.

Munwibada "Swing thy blade at me at thy own peril!" He lunges one of his lances at Impale.

Impale "Peril, huh?!" He swings at Munwibada's lance, his blade still glowing.

Before the blade makes contact, Munwibada lunges the other one at him.

The lance glances off of Impale's pommel, and he hesitates, then finishes his strike.

Munwibada blocks Impale's strike, before quickly smacking him away from him. He recoils in pain, but since the strike only hit his lance, he recovers. He rushes at him again lances forward, swerving left and right as he does.

Impale maneuvers quickly and slides with blistering speed under Munwibada, but is stopped by an attack from Layton and then Hana.

Cerin, wary of helping at the moment, glances over towards Bell, who is arguing urgently with a reappeared Seirroh. Cerin looks back and forth nervously, then shoots a rather weak long-ranged electric attack at Impale. The attack bends itself around Impale, and Cerin sighs and then runs into the fray with his iron bar.

Teishoshko "Seirroh, where were you at?"

Munwibada calls to Cerin.

Munwibada "Be careful there, he is slippery." He readies himself, then goes to attack Impale again, this time from above.

Seirroh He turns to glance at Teishoshko, but says nothing. He turns back to Bell. "So so yeah nothing it is nothing but do you think that maybe perhaps I should actually risk it or maybe not because it won't change anything"

Bell "Mn. Do it, then."

Impale, seemingly quite agitated, makes his blade glow brighter and then throws himself into the ground, creating another strange darkly bright void.

Munwibada "Not again!" He stops short of the void.

Teishoshko "Wareware wa kare no chikaku ni doko demo eru koto ga dekinai!"

Bell "Toroi da, temeera wa." Bell rudely mutters this with no explanation, then gives another agitated "Kh."

Cerin "This is ridiculous! We've gotta tire him out." He dodges a wide slash from Impale.

Layton and Hana increase their speed of attacks.

Hana "There's no way that you can do that indefinitely."

Impale "Hmph."

Munwibada "That's the plan now? Alright, then." He moves left and right around Impale, even flying over him, taking swings at him whenever he can.

Impale reacts to the onslaught with the occasional blast of void, though most of his actions are dodges. His agitation, though, does not seem to be subsiding.

Munwibada tries to keep on Impale, swinging his lances at him repeatedly.

Krokorok "Are you sure this is a good idea? It doesn't look like he's slowing down."

Bell "Everyone's got energy to expend."

Krokorok "And how long before we can expect him to tire out?"

Staravia "Not likely soon. He took a direct hit from Coubrûaielle's Kaen Hōsha, took her down with one strike from his blade, and is still fighting strong! That does not sound like he would be easily exhausted."

Bell She looks at Seirroh. "Risk it. Use the damned thing then."

Krokorok "I hope you two know what you're doing."

Seirroh "Ha ha I hope that no one else does"

Teishoshko watches Munwibada continue his attempts to strike Impale, then turns to Seirroh.

Teishoshko "We do not." She shakes her head.

Seirroh is not there, he seems to have disappeared again.

Impale does not seem to be tiring, but Layton does. He is breathing heavily and misses more attacks.

After about a minute, Seirroh appears again, this time directly in front of Impale. He does not exactly materialize but rather somehow arrives in the spot at the exact moment when no one is looking at it.

Impale strikes after a moment's hesitation, and Seirroh doesn't do much of anything. Impale's blade passes through him.

Seirroh "Aaaaa owwww it hurts ha ha no it doesn't just kidding this is what I wanted you to do"

Munwibada, having been in close quarters fighting Impale, backs up slightly as Seirroh does this.

Impale, very confused, is trying to dislodge himself, to no avail.

Hana She looks quite amazed. "Wow, I didn't think he was going to risk it. He got lucky. I guess Bell was right originally, but even she was really hesitant.. I thought we could pull it off anyway..."

Before anyone can do anything, Impale frees himself. He moves a great distance from Seirroh.

Impale "You can't trap me! ...what was that? What did you do?"

Seirroh "Darkness Measures someone called it I think but that doesn't sound cool enough anyway I did a bunch of complicated things and you'll definitely feel the effects once you start fighting again so how's that"

Impale "What kind of ridiculous bluff is that? I don't expect-"

??? "Depleting power, are we?"

A strange figure stands behind Impale.

Bell "V-Viera! He- he's here!?"

Krokorok "Hey, look who decided to show."

Munwibada "Viera..." He brandishes his lances.

The Staravia and Teishoshko turn their eyes toward Viera.

Bell "There's absolutely nothing that- NO! VIERA, I WILL KILL YOU HERE!!!"

Viera "No need for anything like that. I suppose you are the few that have been stirring up little things here and there, but that's all beneath me. Seems like you were almost a good match for this idiot here, but as he has a purpose, I can't allow that to happen."


Viera "I'm off!" He disappears, taking Impale along with him.


Krokorok "Looks like Seirroh pulled that stunt for nothing, and now our target's gone."

Munwibada "So much for completing the mission." He turns and looks at the incapacitated guards and other Antithesis members. "Well, if Viera wants to leave us without that deputy, then we'll take the guards and the rest here that followed them in return."

Staravia "Hai. What we did here today should not be completely in vain, especially with what Coubrûaielle and Seirroh just risked."

Bell sits on the ground in the middle of the road after she finishes her cursing.

Bell "Aa. Take the guards, they seemed close. And... Viera has the blade, then. We're heading back. We're going to split up into task forces. We're going to do what we can to suppress the shades. And then... I'm marching off to that temple. This is it, this is the big one. We couldn't stop him from getting the blade, and now time is of the essence, more than ever. Kh. I wanted to strand him and give myself more time, but this is it. Aaa!" Bell stands up. "The temple! I'll stop him there. It's good enough."

Munwibada turns to see a small group from Branch C behind them.

Munwibada "Just in time. We need you to take them away."

"That is why we are here." They walk over to the incapacitated Antithesis members and begin carrying them off.

Staravia "I am bringing Coubrûaielle back to camp in the meantime."

Krokorok "Who's going with you, Bell?"

Bell "Layton. Hana. Three. Pointa. Not Seirroh. I need him to head to the remaining shrines."

Seirroh stiffens.

Seirroh "B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-but we took care of the other shrine without using Darkness Measures you told me I wasn't going have to do it again and now you're telling me I have to hold off the shades with it it failed the first time remember"

Bell "We don't need long."

Krokorok "Good thing, because we don't have long, since Viera escaped with the deputy."

The Staravia goes off in the direction toward the camp, carrying Coubrûaielle. Teishoshko follows.

Bell directs Seirroh towards the shrine, forcefully, then gathers Hana and Layton, and walks back.

Cerin glances up at the abandoned skyscraper.

Cerin "It really is like the Core Building," he mutters. Then he calls after Bell. "Bell! I'll... be coming too. I'm going to want to see this to its end, after all."

Munwibada "I admire your valour, but it could be dangerous if you're unprepared."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We need our medical officers ready. Coubrûaielle took a direct hit in the battle."

Uopanosguhi "Cerin wa sono tatakai ni atta." She speaks to the some of the Interveners and team members near her. "Watashi wa Cerin to hanashi o suru hitsuyō ga arimasu!"

Latchgrip "Nani ga mondaidesu ka?"

Uopanosguhi "kare ga fushō sareteiru bāi ga arimasu."

Pikaichichu "Kono tsu o shiyō dekimasu."

Krokorok "So do you have a clear plan laid out or-"

Uopanosguhi "Hello? Cerin? Are you there?"

Cerin "Oh. Yeah. Is that Uopanosguhi? What's going on?"

Uopanosguhi "I heard about the fight, and that there were injuries. I wanted to know if you made it through okay."

Cerin "I'm fine, don't worry. There was an injury to Coubrûaielle and, well actually, not Seirroh. He did something weird, though. Should've asked Hana about that. But I'm fine, aside from feeling rather anxious and dejected."

Uopanosguhi "Coubrûaielle must have been hit hard. Well, I'm glad you are okay."

Munwibada "Unfortunately, her attacker - our target, escaped, due to the unexpected arrival of Viera."

Krokorok "Right before we had him. Which made our efforts to subdue him pointless."

Uopanosguhi "Totemo chikaku... So are any of you coming back here to come up with another plan?"

Cerin "Bell's marching back there now, but it seems like she's already got something in mind. I'll be close behind her, but depending on what she's planning, I might not be a part of it. I'll go anyway, though. I'll do what I can."

Uopanosguhi "Whatever we're going to do next, I'll be willing to hear once you get back."

Pikaichichu "Until then, we will be waiting for you back at camp."

Cerin "Got it. I'll be right there."

Lt Gen Zaffre "They will be returning here soon. Be ready to formulate the next plan with them when they do."

Clinger and Latchgrip nod. So does Uopanosguhi.

Chapter Eight: The Sword

In another building within the shady part of town, Xorack, Aroido, Stab, Sagujo, Sokona, and Zurkabō have Ring, Gaja, and the two Pawniard held captive. Ring is heavily restrained in place. Also present are some of their other henchmen, watching them.

"¿Él te dio muchos problemas, no?"

Sagujo "Si. Trató de aplastarnos con el techo. Ahora el edificio es solamente escombros."

Xorack rubs his claws together.

Xorack "I'm sure some of you have been thinking about it. So, yes, we're going to be asking you questions. What you'll be doing in turn, is giving us answers. Do you understand that?" Not waiting to hear their responses, he immediately says "Good. So..." He turns to Aroido, Stab, and the other three. "...who wants to go first?"

Stab  "You guys know what to grill them about more than I do."  Stab shifts his eye aside.  He looks rather agitated; his method of subduing Ring must not have been comfortable for him.

Sagujo "Then I guess I'll start. Ring, we know you were waiting for some parts to be delivered to that warehouse. What were they for?"

Ring does not say anything for once.  He just glares at Sagujo.

Sagujo "I know you heard me." He narrows his eyes at him. "What were those parts for?"

Ring keeps glaring.

Sagujo "The one time you shut up, and it's during the time you're supposed to answer our questions." He sighs in exasperation, then turns to Gaja. "Maybe you can answer this. There were some parts that were supposed to be delivered to the warehouse that Ring just turned into rubble. What were they for?"

Gaja "They were... for Viera's machine, as far as I know.  I don't really...  think they were the important one- I don't think they were that important.  I don't know."  Gaja looks around nervously.

Sagujo turns to Xorack and Aroido.

Sagujo "He doesn't know much about it."

Xorack steps in, rudely pushing Sagujo aside.

Xorack "Alright, Ring. Enough of the silent treatment! Spill the details of that machine to me!"

Ring "There's no reason I should have to tell you."  He keeps his defiant attitude.

Xorack "No reason? I say there are reasons, one of the most obvious reasons being that we've beaten you, and you're our prisoner."

Ring "If you want answers, I'll give them to you.  It's not like I'm part of Viera's plan anymore anyway.  I had a hunch that I would have been at least demoted to lackey after my part was played.  But I won't speak of that ungodly process.  At least I got away with my life - I probably can't say the same for the next one.  Maybe I had it the easiest."

Aroido "But hearing what you said, you almost didn't."

Sagujo "Consider yourself fortunate that we came when we did, or the next time around, Viera could have done away with you."

Ring  "Maybe.  Probably.  I would have liked to try my plan.  But I'm not going to speak of that.  It probably claimed Elektra, too.  I did not hear anything about her after her part of Viera's plan was enacted."  Then he pauses and stares at those questioning him.  "You are set on opposing Viera?  I do not know who you are, but I do not intend to encourage you to oppose that one.  His power trumps everything that I have seen.  I am no ally of his, though.  He abused my lineage and threatened my family's integrity.  I was content on enjoying a position of power, I suppose.  I am not stupid enough to oppose the goals of the Shadowsearch."  Ring glares at Stab with something like disgust.

Stab "What are you looking at?"

Ring He doesn't answer, but says something else. "And another thing.  Don't expect to find those of my kind within the ranks of the Antithesis, and especially not in the deputies.  If they're still alive, which they are likely not, don't expect sympathy.  Impale is a complete devotee, while Elektra prides herself in brutally controlling her inferiors, which Viera loves to allow her to do.  A lackey or two, perhaps, but none of the deputies, or those ones."  Here, he gestures at Gaja, who has been watching Ring speak, nervously.

Sagujo "You were right about Elektra. It did claim her. She won't be able to do what she took pride in anymore, I can tell ya that. Viera killing everyone, even his own followers, is all the more reason we're set on stopping him."

Xorack "And Impale? That Antithesis commander is always getting kissed up to by his soldiers. I also get the feeling he's an important pawn in Viera's plan. Why, earlier, we saw them bringing in some military hardware, including a truck and some tanks."

Sagujo "Don't forget that supertank."

Xorack "I know. So there's that."

Sokona "I'll say that being part of that whole Antithesis racket is just lose-lose, what with getting killed after finishing your part of the plan and all."

Ring "The supertank..." Ring makes a derisive sort of noise.

Sagujo "Well, actually, now that I remember, it looked like it was converted into a cargo vehicle for mass transport."

Ring "Impale's ridiculous 'ingenuity'."

Xorack "Not what I'd call 'ingenuity'. That makes it more vulnerable. Of course, considering who's using it, that's a good thing."

Ring "Impale pushed for an organized retaliation against the Paradiso government, hence all the tanks.  It seems that it was either Imas or Natira who supported it, not Viera..."

Zurkabō "Imas? Natira?"

Sagujo "Are they those other Antithesis higher-ups that we're up against here?"

Ring "Yes, ones lower than Viera. Though I would have expected that you've heard of them. I'd assumed they were trying to spread discord into the Nonpareil."

Xorack talks aside to Aroido.

Xorack "I think that could explain another part of why they're in such a mess, other than that pointless nonsense Grant is doing."

Zurkabō "Do you happen to have any idea of where either Imas or Natira were last at?"

Ring "Yeah, the temple.  Despite having some reluctance to help you, I could give you directions, simply because going there would be suicide anyway."  Ring scoffs. "The plan's probably at that stage now, too."

Aroido "I don't see why there is much reluctance, considering what they almost did to you. But, yes, there is danger as a reason, and we have never been to the temple before."

Xorack "Yeah, so where do we go to get there?"

Ring "My reluctance has nothing to do with my involvement in the faction.  Well, anyway, it's several kilometers from the city, to the north, deep in the forest.  There is a protective field over it so it can't be seen from the air, but if you head straight north on the ground from....  about Daunt Rd., you'll run right into it.  You're actually going there, aren't you?  I assume you're working under the Nonpareil?  They won't be of any help.  Those other two have meddled too much for that."

Xorack "Daunt Rd. Take that down."

Sagujo "Yeah, they hired us to undermine and sabotage Viera's schemes. We kinda figured out the whole lack of help thing after seeing that we were doing most of the work for them."

Xorack "They gave us tools and some vehicles, but other than that, it's us doing the hard work."

Aroido "That is why we have to look elsewhere for any assistance."

Xorack "And yes, we're going to the temple. We're done waiting to hear from the Nonpareil, so as soon as we're ready, we're going."

Ring "Suit yourself. Then, what are you going to do with me, hmm?"

Xorack "You don't have to worry about that, though you should still apologise to him." He indicates Aroido.

Ring "Apologies to you, then."  Ring bows his head briefly towards Aroido, then looks towards the other captives. He gives a dry laugh. "What about them, heh. They aren't going to be even slightly useful to you, I'm sure."

Sagujo "Hold on. Have any of them been to the temple themselves?"

Ring "Doubt it."

Gaja shakes his head, and the Pawniard follow suit.

Aroido "It would have helped to know what to expect when we travel there."

Xorack "Guess we're on our own with that."

Stab breaks his silence.

Stab "Not really surprising, though."  

Xorack "You think? Wouldn't be surprised if Viera kept almost everyone working for him in the dark about it and his plans."

Stab "He made it sound like Impale would know a lot."

Xorack "Why do you think I said "almost"?"

Sagujo "Impale's a different case from the rest."

Stab "He seems really important."

Sokona "Viera may hold him as an important part of his plan, and that may be why he hasn't been demoted or killed."

Stab "Well, we know where to go now."

Xorack "Yeah, so get ready."

Stab "I've got nothing to ready." Then he continues, "Never do, yaknow how it is."

Xorack "I suppose so. You are what you need." "Go with Sokona and Zurkabō outside. We'll be with you shortly."

Stab obliges and leaves the room.

Xorack "Ring, if this goes smoothly and we don't run into too much trouble along the way, we could put in a better word for you when this is over."

Ring "With who? Well, actually, I don't suppose that matters. Might lead me into something to do, at least. Perhaps you would wish for me to put good use to the secrets of the Shadowsearch? That might put a price on my head, heh, with Viera's insistence on his secrets staying secrets, but it's not as if I have much reason to live long anyway."

Sagujo "Viera kills people even when he's not hunting them, Ring. It's not like marking your cabeza would make any difference."

Ring "I suppose so."

Xorack "So what is this about the Shadowsearch?"

Ring "The branch of the Antithesis that Viera is acting as commander of. It's not really his, per se, and the branch is much older than his command is, but about 99% of the troops, maintenance staff, and even intermediate commanders - including myself and the other deputies - were all commissioned by him, so I wouldn't really say it's wrong to describe it as 'his army.'"

Aroido "Safe to say that. If he has as many under his command as you imply, that makes time highly valuable."

Sagujo "And Shadowsearch, that name no doubt has to do with the shades he is so interested in."

Ring "Less than you think, maybe. While I hardly know anything about the shades, it seems that they are merely another tool to further the goals of the Shadowsearch..."

Sagujo "Then it has nothing to do with them, I guess."

Aroido "Either way, it must be a clue as to why they are so interested in the temple."

Ring "I don't pretend to understand the Shadowsearch drivel. Most of the branch doesn't even know what their superiors are working towards. Maybe Imas or Natira spread some lies about peace or something to new recruits; that would fit what I know of the underlings' motivations. But I bet Impale would know near as much as those two. He does seem to be involved that deeply."

Xorack "If we're gonna get anymore information on what they're about, then those two are next." He turns to Sagujo. "Go, we're leaving."

Sagujo immediately runs outside.

Stab "Hey. Those guys are coming out soon, right?"

Sagujo "Yeah, the boss said so himself. Hey, look. Here they come."

Xorack "I hope you're ready, because we're going to the temple, now."

Stab "Course. I'm kinda worried though, we've got to challenge the one who sounds like Viera's right hand man? Scary."

Aroido "Scary as it is, it's the only choice we have. If we wait for the Nonpareil to do anything, it will be too late."

Xorack "Ya heard him, so let's go!" He takes the lead and moves forward.

Stab "Can't argue with that." He follows.

Just then, the communicator receives a call.

Sagujo answers.

Sagujo "Si?"

Liam responds, but static is everywhere.

Liam "This *(#%&(*#*ally urgent! We've #&*rd from Tails, with a #*(%#&)#)( lead on #*%&@#)(^$^*(*$&#%@*(%#^()@^#)*%(*$&^)(^$&(*&$^(&*olving the Interveners and Ce#%(*%&##(*&^ourse. There's been a dra%*&$($^$ge in the battles #(*%&(#@*&( the #(%*#%#front. Something's happ#*)(%)# Tails is com(&#&#%)#(%&(@#*)temp^&$^()#&)((((((((((((((("

The call cuts short.

Sagujo "It was Liam."

Xorack "Now they have more to tell us? If they want us to come back to them, they better be ready to give big compensation after we risked our necks out there."

Sagujo "But we lost the call. How do we talk to them if we can't reach them?"

Xorack groans irritatedly, losing patience.

Stab "I think we should still head to the temple. Think about it."

Xorack "I know, so we'll send someone back there to see Liam instead of wasting time by going back ourselves. We, however, are going to the temple."

Stab "Oh. Well, I have a feeling that we should hurry."

Xorack "I couldn't agree more."

They hurry off.

At the Intervener camp, Bell has gathered everyone she can together.

Bell "THIS IS IT! We're going to head off to the temple! And I'm going to stop Viera in his tracks, finally!!!!"

The high-ranking Eevee is trying to calm Bell down.

Eevee "Come on, now, you need to be composed for this!"

Bell "To hell with that, really! Alright, everyone, listen up! We're going to need the vehicles for this one! We need an Anti-shade group, and we need another fighting group! We need to stop Viera from getting into that damned temple! We'll be marching out within the next... TEN MINUTES! No, FIVE!"

Some of the Eevee and lower-ranking Interveners look to each other, then scramble to get ready. Someone yells out.

"Bell, we can't get those vehicles ready in five minutes!"


Krokorok "She's really fired up after Viera showed his ugly face."

Trivdrenen "I know. Now she's calling for their vehicles to be mobilised."

Zaffre and a medical officer look Coubrûaielle over. She is still groaning in pain.

Officer "Her wing has taken extensive damage from that attack. It may be a day before she can even move again."

Coubrûaielle "Je déteste Viera, et que ma sorcière bien aimée épée." She gives a pained glare. "Ils le regretterez..." She turns her head to face Zaffre. "Dis-lui. Clacq. Dites-lui ce qui est arrivé. S'il vous plaît."

As they continue scanning the files, Clacq is contacted.

Capitaine Clacq "Allo? Lieutenant-Général Zaffre? ... Vraiment? ... Oh, non... ... Viera regretteront jeter cette lame sur elle..."

Kolsohte "So much for concocting a plan together."

Uopanosguhi "She already has her mind set, doesn't she?"

Latchgrip "We should get moving, too."

Clinger nods.

Of course, not everyone was ready after five minutes had passed, or even ten. But after fifteen minutes had passed, a small group of small, light, but still durable military vehicles - perhaps an odd type of tank - were readied and activated. This seemed to raise morale a bit, and then Bell and her strongest choice fighters lead the Interveners towards the temple.

As they head for the temple, Bell consults with her group - Hana, Layton, Three, and Pointa.

Bell "You all are my chosen force. You know what I want you to do. Protect me, and get me to Viera. And then - I'm going to kill him!"

No one responds, but they all agree with Bell, determined and ready.

Trivdrenen "It's a good thing they have those, because I heard that the Antithesis has some military hardware themselves."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Which has been confirmed, so watch out."

Trivdrenen "Yes, sir."

Uopanosguhi "Three? I'm sorry I laughed at you earlier..."

Three turns to Uopanosguhi.

Three "Oh. That, erm, is tolerable. I could not quite fathom what it was that was so droll to you, but so be it."

Uopanosguhi gives a small smile.

Officer "If the reports are correct, there may not be enough of those to take on the Antithesis's armour."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I received word that reinforcements will be sent soon."

Officer "Speaking of which, one of ours has detected a small group moving toward the temple. On decommissioned speeders. Look at this."

Lt Gen Zaffre "...So, it was only a matter of time before they decided to join this effort directly."

Latchgrip "Like they did six months back." Clinger nods.

Cerin runs over from somewhere to join Bell's group. He speaks quickly with Hana, making quite animated gestures.

Trivdrenen "Seems Cerin has a lot to say."

Krokorok "When he wants to talk, he does."

A team member nearby asks "What seems to be the situation?"

Cerin turns to them.

Cerin "I've done my best to help us get an advantage. I was explaining to Hana what exactly I'm going to be able to learn." Then he grimaces. "This isn't really going to be in our favor, even if we can take down Viera."

Uopanosguhi "I was worried that you would say that." She runs to catch up to Cerin. "They must be determined to make it go their way, then. Just thinking about what they have planned, it..." She starts trembling with a worried look on her face.

Cerin "Yeah. We need a damn good measure of luck, too. Seriously... I hope Bell can hold up on her end..." Cerin shakes his head in exasperation.

Hana "I can vouch for Bell's ability, but it won't do anything if we can't hold up on our end."

Kolsohte, with the usual pessimism in his tone, only adds to it.

Kolsohte "Not to mention that power of hers takes time to build up, going by what that Eevee said, in addition to it possibly making her succumb to exhaustion. I would not expect a single-handed attempt from her to even the field to succeed. Knowing the damage that that Honedge caused with one strike, we can expect worse from Viera."

Cerin "The one who makes the first move is the winner, in this case. At least, I think so."

Munwibada "Then let's make sure that we make the first move, shall we?"

Cerin "We can't have it any other way."

Clinger speaks in a tone that sounds like caution, though it is difficult to understand. Latchgrip translates.

Latchgrip "In addition to encountering Viera and the deputy, learning from our previous battle with the shades, we should watch out for any dangers that may be present within the temple itself."

Bell "If we get lucky, we won't even have to go in there. Hopefully we aren't too late for that."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Then we must get there quickly, Bell, without delay."

Bell "I'm well aware, I'm well aware."

They redouble their speed, and before long...

A huge clearing comes up, suddenly, and an ancient marble structure, still quite large, but very small compared to the clearing, sits in the middle of it. Surrounding the temple are hordes of Antithesis soldiers. Interestingly, none of them are within 10 meters of the temple, and most are on the opposite side, where the entrance appears to be. There are several tents and temporary buildings scattered throughout the clearing.

Munwibada "They beat us here!"

Trivdrenen "Viera and that Honedge are probably inside by now."

Kolsohte "With them having already set up camp around the temple, that is highly likely."

Officer "General, the Interveners definitely do not have enough tanks."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Right now, the odds are against us."

Bell glances back at those following her, then back towards the temple.

Bell "No. Look closely. They aren't inside yet. He must be taking his time to break the barrier. We need to go around to the other side, and quickly."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Without being noticed, I should advise, and that means keeping low and not causing too much noise." He turns to his officers. "This way." They begin floating around toward the other side discreetly, keeping low toward the ground as they do.

Bell's immediate group, followed by the rest of the Interveners, go around as well. Once they have come to the other side, they can now see the entrance, Viera, Impale, two tan Pikachu and some soldiers are all quite close to the temple's entrance. There is some sort of machine, a low and flat container of sorts, the inside glowing with heat, positioned in front of Impale.

Bell turns her head in alarm. Viera says something, though it could not be heard clearly, and Viera takes out the blade of Vahashii, devoid of hilt or sheath, and tosses it into the machine, where it immediately melts. Then Viera pushes his palm towards Impale's eye, and with a loud crack and a blast of wind, most of Impale's blade cracks off and tumbles into the machine. Impale's hilt falls to the ground, and he is quite obviously dead.

Bell "It's happening," she mutters. "We must attack him before that is completed."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Beginning attack now." Light builds up, then after gathering power, he unleashes it against Viera.

Viera turns, and the attack hits him full force in the chest. His only reaction is to blink. Then he sneers.

Viera "Ah, they came. The meddlers do not disappoint."

Bell gives a signal, and the Interveners storm into the clearing to clash with the Antithesis soldiers. Her group storms in behind them. Their goal is to head for Viera, but several huge tanks surround the area with him and the machine.

Trivdrenen "There are the enemy tanks! They're huge!!"

Munwibada "And undoubtedly heavily armoured. Watch out for their cannons!"

One of the tanks is hit by two missiles - one to the turret and and one to the chassis.

Officer "Sir, they are arriving now."

The sounds of speeders approaches.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Their timing could not be more appropriate."

Xorack "Hey, you're starting the fight without us?"

Aroido "Show a little courtesy."

The tank's turret takes some damage, but the other missile doesn't affect much. None of the tanks fire, but more and more Antithesis soldiers pour in. Bell's group and the rest of the Interveners, as well as Cerin, keep Bell safe.

Sagujo "He's throwing everyone into battle!"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Hold them off! Do not let them get too close!"

Latchgrip utilises his OctaCannon move. He fires twice, the first shot landing immediately in front of them, the second right in the middle. Clinger assists with several Octazooka shots.

A Honedge jumps at Xorack, and a Bisharp at Aroido. A group of Furret, standing out from their Honedge and Pawniard brethren, attack the two Octillery. Gunfire occasionally heads towards the Interveners or StormBlitz members, but the source is often hard to discern.

The tanks stay resolutely in place, while Bell yells a lot about them.

Xorack "All of this speeder's seats are taken! Get off!" He grabs and flings the Honedge right at the Antithesis soldiers. "Hang on." He makes a sharp turn, throwing the Bisharp off the speeder.

Clinger and Latchgrip hold their ground, grappling with the Furret with their tentacles. Munwibada hears gunfire ricochet off his armour, while taking cover.

Munwibada "Right, whoever got that shot off on me is asking for it!" He looks in the direction of where he was hit from. Then he takes aim, and shoots off a ray of light.

Before Munwibada can tell if his attack connected or not, a Honedge engages him.

One of the Furret in the group pulls a blade and tries to slash at Clinger.

Cerin, deciding to back up quite a bit to look at the tank problem from a new angle, has the Bisharp thrown off of the speeder land right next to him. He deals with it quickly, but he notices Xorack and Aroido.

Cerin "Oi! When'd you guys get tied up in this!?"

Xorack "Since that little twerp Sam stole one of the fragments we were looking at back in Celrest, then lost it."

Clinger wraps a tentacle around the Furret's arm and pushes it back, then shoots a barrage of high-velocity seeds right at the face.

Aroido "Liam had us brought here to Argent-Verdantia to investigate the Antithesis activity occurring here."

Sagujo "Unfortunately, the Nonpareil weren't being grateful for our services - they had us pretty much working for free. That burócrata Grant was of no help at all, either."

Xorack "So the six of us went on ahead without them. There will be more of us coming here momentarily."

Cerin "Sounds about right..." He uses an electric attack on a Honedge that comes near him, then returns to the tank problem.

Stab, on the other hand, is further away. He's fighting on the ground, and the Antithesis soldiers keep mistaking him for their own, so he has the advantage for now.

Sokona "That tank's turret took some damage from one of the missiles that we launched at it."

Sagujo "We could try blowing their cabezas off to start."

Fortunately for those who are fighting the Antithesis, there are very few shades to deal with.

Xorack "Funny, I thought we'd be seeing a lot more shades around here than this."

Zurkabō "Maybe someone already took care of it, boss?"

Xorack "Never mind that, let's just get to work."

Aroido "We will need to clear a path to get to Viera."

Clinger throws the Furret off of him, then assists Latchgrip in getting them off him.

The Furret keep trying to hinder the Octillery.

Latchgrip struggles with and throws one of the Furret off of him, then the two shoot at the rest of them with high pressure streams of water.

One is knocked out, or otherwise critically injured, and some of the others seem unable to attack. However, one still stands, and he throws his knife at Latchgrip.

Latchgrip is hit by the knife, having struck one of his tentacles. In retaliation, the two Octillery riddle the attacker with their Bullet Seed attack.

Overwhelmed, the last Furret falls to the ground.

Now freed from their struggling, Clinger tends to Latchgrip. Once the wound is covered, they resume their ranged support for the Interveners and Team StormBlitz.

After several minutes of fighting, a distinctive group breaks through. An Aegislash, bearing Antithesis graffiti on its shield, breaks through the ranks with five Doublade surrounding it. They clearly mean to provide elite opposition to anyone opposing the Antithesis.

Lt Gen Zaffre "It looks like they sent some of their elite! Be careful!"

"Armour support should be arriving momentarily. In the meantime, watch out."

Sagujo "They want to cause trouble? Then let's give them some trouble!" He, Sokona, and Zurkabō speed around the Aegislash and Doublade, firing their speeders' laser coils, trying to strafe them.

Two of the Doublade break away in their dodges, but the other three actually skillfully reflect the laser blasts. This other half possesses much shinier - unnaturally shiny - blades than the rest.

Sokona and Zurkabō blink in surprise.

Sagujo "This could be harder than we thought..."

Xorack "Is it just me, or do they look..."

Aroido "No, it's not just you. They have an unusually shiny surface, even for them. Whatever material it is, it reflected those lasers without any complications."

Xorack "Well, they can't reflect this!" Pressing the trigger, he launches a missile at them.

The missile scatters the Doublade and the Aegislash, and some of the Doublade begin to attack the speeders from different directions, slashing at them as they go by. The Aegislash appears to be commanding them to do so.

One Doublade flies through the air at Sagujo's speeder at blistering speed when he makes a turn.

Sokona swerves through, barely avoiding the attack. Zurkabō's speeder is hit and is sent into a spin. He struggles to regain control of his vehicle before finally leveling off.

Sagujo "It's no good! Get away from there!"

Sokona and Zurkabō pull away from the attacking Doublade. Sagujo tries to maneuver away from the Doublade, but ends up suffering a deep cut in his arm. He pulls back to safety, then grasps the wound in pain.

Aroido "What happened?"

Sagujo "It felt like they almost went right through..." He pressed a button on his radio to talk to his two subordinates. "Watch yourselves out there." He gasps in pain. "Avoid them."

Sokona "Hai."

The Doublade continue this method of attack, showing excellent skills in speed and maneuverability. The Aegislash has not yet attacked.

Sokona and Zurkabō desperately try to evade them, swerving left and right and boosting when they have the chance.

The Doublade are not pursuing the speeders, instead preserving their energy by propelling themselves at them when they make opportune turns. Thankfully for Sokona and Zurkabo, the speeders are not weak on maneuverability themselves.

Sokona "We have a problem, they are still on us!"

Sagujo "They're too persi-" He is interrupted by the sounds of rapid gunfire. He watches as streams of high-speed particles zoom right at the Doublade.

One of the Doublade is hit straight on, and hits the ground, sliding a while before becoming driven into the dirt. The others roll out of the way and are diverted for a bit.

Sokona and Zurkabō look behind them, and see that the Doublade have stopped attacking them, using this time to slip away from them and fight elsewhere on the field. Sagujo turns his head and sees a number of armoured vehicles approaching. Aroido, still webbing Sagujo's wound, glances in the same direction as a tankette fires on another Doublade.

Trivdrenen "Hey, they're here now!"

"General, armour support has arrived."

Lt Gen Zaffre "As soon as there is an opening, we move in closer. We have to reach Viera!"

As the vehicles become more of a threat to the Antithesis, the large barricade of tanks begins firing upon them. Most of the infantry tries to steer clear of the tanks.

Munwibada "They are not fooling around." He watches an armoured car and a tank getting blown up. "Viera is determined to keep the odds in his total favour."

Trivdrenen "We need to do something about them before they do too much damage!"

As Munwibada and Trivdrenen move in, a tank destroyer fires at the turret of one of the Antithesis tanks.

The tank is damaged by this, but the other tanks continue their attack on any vehicles around the clearing, with multiple tanks firing upon any tank destroyers. More fast-moving vehicles like the speeders have mostly escaped from the tank attacks.

As the armoured vehicles and tanks temporarily pull back, Trivdrenen jumps onto one of the Antithesis's tanks and positions himself below its turret.

Munwibada "Quickly! Take out that gun!"

Trivdrenen jumps up, rapidly spinning his entire body like a drill, and dives toward the turret.

The turret, not merely broken by Trivdrenen's attack, explodes violently.

Trivdrenen is blown forward by the explosion, but keeps spinning to burrow slightly into the ground, before recovering.

Trivdrenen "Scratch that one."

Munwibada "Let's move on to the next tank."

Munwibada and Trivdrenen go move to deal with another tank, Zaffre watching with a set of trinoculars.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Keep going, they neutralised one."

Smaller guns on the tank open up and fire ruthlessly upon Munwibada and Trivdrenen.

Trivdrenen protects himself with his drills, and screens Munwibada.

Trivdrenen "Over there! Hurry!"

Munwibada takes cover in the burrow. Trivdrenen quickly follows him in, but as he does, he is shot in the right leg.

Trivdrenen "If we try to move in on the next one, we could end up getting killed!"

Munwibada "It sure looks like it." He speaks into his communicator. "We can't proceed any further. Those tanks have us pinned down!"

Kolsohte tackles Uopanosguhi to the ground as gunfire ricochets next to them.

"Something tells me they had those tanks for more than just an organised retaliation."

Xorack responds sarcastically, faking disbelief.

Xorack "Why do I agree with that?"

Suddenly, Stab shoots by frantically, closely followed by an Aggron, standing out quite a lot on the battlefield after having appeared from somewhere or another.


Bell and her group are holding their own pretty well, but the group is not well-suited to solve the tank issue. Bell keeps cursing.

Hana "No matter how I look at that, those tanks are too big..."

Krokorok "And too well armed."

Xorack "I found him. Go and get him out of danger. Those tanks are looking for more to shoot."

Sokona and Zurkabō turn sharply and speed toward them.

The Aggron, which is way too fast for its weight, nearly catches up to Stab, who turns and dashes past in the opposite direction.

Zurkabō quickly turns and follows Stab. Sokona freezes the ground in front of the Aggron with cold air, circling around and leaving a thin coating of ice as she does before pulling away.

Unable to turn around, the Aggron sprints and slides ahead on the ice.

Sokona is amused by this and laughs to herself. Zurkabō pulls up alongside Stab.

Zurkabō' "This way! The boss wants us to regroup."

Stab "Okay!" He follows alongside Zurkabō.

Xorack waits for them impatiently.

Xorack "Oh, good. There you are. I called ya back here because those tanks are shooting anything that moves."

Aroido "Until something is done about those tanks, we have no chance of even doing a dent's worth of damage."

Stab "Those tanks have always looked like trouble. But what should we try and do about it?"

Sagujo "Nothing we can do about them." He looks at the tanks. "At this point, it looks nobody can hit them without getting hurt or even killed. This-"

He is interrupted by a sudden nearby short tremor, then watches as one of the tanks has its guns destroyed by a ring of electricity. He turns to see where that attack came from, as do Xorack and Aroido, Sokona and Zurkabō.

Stab swivels around as well, and a large number of the participants on the battlefield turn their attention to the source of this sudden attack.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We are about to get our much needed help."

Who they see is Pikaichichu, his cheeks sparking and crackling with electricity as he faces the tanks.

Hana "No matter how I look at it, this guy is too big, too."

Pikaichichu shifts his eyes toward Hana, with a hint of indignation.

Krokorok "I don't think he liked that." He shakes his head.

Hana "Perhaps not..."

Pikaichichu sighs lightly and turns his eyes back to the tanks. Munwibada and Trivdrenen use the time to escape the burrow and regroup.

Officer "Munwibada and Trivdrenen are out of the line of fire."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Good. Keep your distance for now."

Uopanosguhi looks on, turning to Pikaichichu, the combatants, then the tanks.

"Think they've changed their minds, boss?"

Xorack "Doubt it, those goons don't even have a clue about what's good for 'em."

The tanks, having been in some sort of uncertain silence, now unanimously fire upon Pikaichichu.

Pikaichichu recoils momentarily from the sudden heavy fire from the tanks, then throws another ring of electricity, disarming another tank.

Sagujo "And you were right, boss."

Zaffre observes the exchange.

Lt Gen Zaffre "As well defended as they are, those tanks cannot stop such a Thunder Wave."

As the tanks continue to shoot at him, Pikaichichu launches a huge bolt of lightning, the explosion knocking a tank on its side and flipping another one over. He advances a few steps toward them through the cannon fire. Meanwhile, some tank destroyers with a clear line of fire take potshots at the large armour blocking the way, aiming for their turrets.

Under this level of attack, the large tanks are quickly being destroyed or disabled, and a path finally clears out. The dust settles, and Viera turns to face the opposing fighters. He is already brandishing an immense black sword, glistening with a certain purple iridescence. He puts the sword into its equally impressive sheath and raises his arms at his enemies.

Viera "Come, fools, and die as you witness my triumph," he shouts derisively, with a voice that echoes throughout the entire clearing.

Suddenly, a long electrical tearing sound rings out from the south, accompanied by strange tendrils of light. A sort of opening, a portal, gradually appears, and Tails steps out.

Tails "You won't triumph on my watch, Viera."

Viera He turns with a small amount of surprise. "Alone, are we now? Standing against me alone? With the sword completed? How futile."

Tails "Alone? What if I said the whole Nonpareil stood together for the first time in way too long? Your little diversion was sorted out already."

More than a dozen tan Pikachu exit the portal, including Grant, Liam, Sylla, and Sam.

Uopanosguhi is taken by surprise from the sudden appearance of those tan Pikachu.

Viera "Hmmmm. Well, no matter. Perhaps I should try for elimination of even more of that breed... Or, perhaps not." With one fluid motion, Viera retrieves the sword again and turns to the temple.

Pikaichichu growls at Viera's words. Having known about the massacre in Celrest, this only angers him further. Uopanosguhi, having witnessed it up close, has her anger rising, too.

Tails dashes towards him, but before he reaches Viera, a shot rings out, and Viera is hit in the head by a sniper shot. He doesn't seem harmed, but he drops his sword, which is retrieved by one of the tan Pikachu on Viera's side.

Bell and her group run for Viera, but they are confronted by the other tan Pikachu.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Stand aside. Viera will answer for his crimes."

Sagujo "Mirada a todos aquellos Pikachu."

Xorack "It's about time they showed up! Come on!" He leads the way, the speeders racing across the battlefield.

With most of the large tanks neutralised or destroyed, the armoured reinforcements return to the battlefield. Clinger and Latchgrip, no longer needed in the wider battle, regroup with Zaffre.

Tan Pikachu "I am Imas. Fight and die."

Bell "Ptt. Stand down, kono fushigi-iro Pikachu yarou!"

Imas "Hmph."

Chapter Nine: The Paragon

Zaffre takes his position alongside of Bell as they are confronted by Imas. Kolsohte, Munwibada, and Trivdrenen are prepared to move in on Viera, supported by Uopanosguhi, and flanked by Clinger and Latchgrip. Soon, Xorack and Aroido, along with their gang, arrive.

Trivdrenen "Get out of our way, Imas! You're wasting your time."

Sagujo "So that's Imas."

Xorack "And that must be Viera." He snarls at the sight of Viera.

Munwibada "Oh, I say, adequate timing."

Xorack "Yeah, yeah, save it. So the Nonpareil finally decided to join the fight."

Officer "Stand down, Imas."

Imas "Stand down yourself.  You wanna oppose Viera, huh?  Oh, save the effort.  You'll end up wholly dead or failed."

Cerin approaches Imas.

Cerin "I can't stand to see Viera succeed, what with his constant disregard for the lives of others.  I don't pretend to understand what he's doing, but I know it can't be good."

Imas "Don't condemn what you can't understand, yellow one.  The Shadowsearch shall not be hindered by the likes of you, in any case.  Perhaps soon it shall be my turn to shine, ahahaha..."

Bell "Shut it, ratface.  Do I need to expend my power on you or not?"

Next to her, Elles grimaces.  She whispers something into her mother's ear, to which she nods grimly.

Imas "I'm telling you not to.  Just give it up, perhaps you could even walk out of here alive.  It's not as if I care...  But I have a duty to stand against anyone who opposes the Shadowsearch."  Then he mutters "...if maybe not him in particular..."

Uopanosguhi confronts Imas alongside Cerin.

Uopanosguhi "Why would a maniakku like him?!"

Xorack and Sagujo rudely yell from the speeders.

Xorack "And what do ya think you're gonna get outta doing this? Discount ticket's to Nimbasa's amusement park?"

Sagujo "You won't be rewarded in the slightest, that's for sure! Not a single moneda."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Enough, you two." He turns to Imas. "I have run an analysis on a number of scenarios concerning Viera's plan, and none of them have a favourable outcome, not even for you."

Imas He glances over at the other Antithesis tan Pikachu, presumably Natira. "Is that so, huh? Analysis, eh?" He snickers. "Maybe so. Maybe... so, hahaha. Listen here, whoever you are. I dunno who you're with, but this "talking it out" sorta thing is tiring. If you're gonna try fighting me then go ahead already. Otherwise, leave. Hurry and decide, I wanna try my own against one of the Nonpareil."

Officer "So the analysis on the compiled information and the map could not convince him."

Lt Gen Zaffre "They do not listen to reason." He turns to Imas as two Magnemite confront him and the other tan Pikachu. "Request to fight the Nonpareil - denied."

The two officers emit high frequency sound waves, directed at them.

Natira "I've been roped into fighting the smaller ones, huh?"

Imas "So be it, heh."

Natira places the sword into a holder on her back and cracks her neck, preparing to attack the ones who stand before her.

Liam and Sylla approach.

Liam "Leave 'The smaller ones' alone." He flourishes, and two meter-long blades of electricity form in his hands.

Imas "Aa, hah. I get a chance then!"

Lt Gen Zaffre "A chance?" He rises into the air. "I would not say that."

Clinger and Latchgrip spray smoke above them, while the two officers break off and join Zaffre.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Attack." He and his cohorts target Viera, and launch a cluster of magnetic steel bombs.

Munwibada moves to the right, while Trivdrenen moves to the left. Uopanosguhi and Kolsohte stand ready.

Imas dives towards Liam, and they engage each other. Viera deflects Zaffre's steel bombs with some sort of psychokinetic power - they are sent flying right back up into the air. Viera does not even lose focus as he fights Tails and Grant simultaneously.

Tails "You've become stronger, Viera. Just what have you been doing..."

Viera "Can it. I can take you fools on, but you won't distract me from my goals. Natira! My sword... oh, forget it." He sends a blast of energy at both Tails and Grant that seems to rend the air itself.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Then we shall ensure that you never reach those destructive goals." He launches three orbs of reflective light at Viera.

Uopanosguhi soaks a patch of dirt with water, then kicks clumps of mud at both Imas and Natira. Munwibada then charges at Natira from the right, lances forward, while Trivdrenen digs through from the left.

Viera waves his hand to deflect Zaffre's attack as he lunges to engage Tails in close combat.

A huge wave of energy resembling a forcefield gets blasted at Munwibada from Natira.

Munwibada "Oh, blimey!" He is blasted by the wave of energy, and is sent reeling across the ground.

Trivdrenen appears out of the ground to rush Natira, rotating like a drill. Zaffre and his officers continue to attack Viera, sending multiple sonic shock waves at him.

Sidestepping Trivdrenen with blistering speed, Natira extends her arm and gives Trivdrenen a strong push from behind as he goes past her.

Tails and Viera are exchanging blows at speeds almost impossible to follow, and blasts of energy keep radiating outward. Grant is playing a more supportive role, switching with Tails for short periods to allow him to recuperate, and in the meanwhile attacking Viera with ranged attacks. Neither seems to have the upper hand. It seems like more of the Nonpareil could easily overpower Viera, but Viera's evasion tactics make it hard for more than one individual to get any hits on him.

Trivdrenen is sent into a tumble, then turns around facing Natira.

Munwibada "Watch her movements carefully."

Trivdrenen "It may be hard to do that, she's quick."

Uopanosguhi lobs a hard ball of mud at Imas. Kolsohte fires at Natira with a wide arc of high velocity seeds. Zaffre's officers are having trouble lining up their next attacks against Viera, and result to releasing homing electrical shock waves. Zaffre tracks Viera and waits for his chance.

Natira isn't doing much damage, but much damage isn't being done to her either, and she and Imas are preventing Bell's group from moving forward. Imas is good at giving Liam the slip, and as a result hasn't been damaged as well. Tired of the two jumping around everywhere and being generally difficult to target, and seeing Imas occupied trying to evade Liam's attacks, Hana, Layton, and Three all gang up on Natira.

Hana attacks with wild slashes and bites, flailing frantically and shadowing Natira better than the others. Layton is only able to get in a few strikes, but these seem to be quite strong. Three is using nearly ineffective ranged attacks, and of course Pointa is firing from beyond the battlefield, and keeping an eye on Viera's battle as well.

Cerin, on the other hand, is fighting against Imas alongside Liam.

Becoming irritated by Hana's onslaught, Natira slashes her hands, letting loose a great white arc of light. Hana dodges on a dime, dashes forward, and lands probably the most effective blow on Natira in the entire battle so far. Instead of merely using the momentum to her advantage and catapult herself into some advantageous position, Natira is sent flying, and hits the ground hard. Bell takes this as her chance and rushes forward.

An armoured car near Natira's site of impact fires three stun particles at her. A transport with a containment module in tow escorted by an IFV follows the car distantly.

Xorack "Now for Imas. Sokona, Zurkabō, distract him!"

Sokona and Zurkabō speed around Imas, zipping past him in different directions and sometimes going circles around him. They shoot a few lasers at him as they do. Zaffre's officers continue their attempts to hit Viera, as Zaffre looks for an opening.

Natira "Enough of that!" She rights herself and evades, then runs to Bell, and swipes at her. This time, Bell is sent flying, but Layton catches her and sets her down. Imas had glanced over at Natira worriedly during that period.

Hana comes after Natira again, letting out some intimidating growling noise.

Sokona and Zurkabō each swipe at Imas when they get close enough.

Munwibada "She doesn't know when to quit, that one." He shoots a ray of light at Natira, while Trivdrenen runs in from another direction to attempt to bash her with one of his drills.

Natira crouches low and dashes towards Munwibada.

As she gets closer, Munwibada swings his lances at her.

Having anticipated this, Natira increases her speed and dives into a flying kick at the last second, pushing into the side of Munwibada's lance with great force and momentum.

While Munwibada himself is not hurt directly by this as his lance takes the brunt of the kick, he is shoved back a short distance. As this happens, Trivdrenen, sneering, stomps firmly on the ground. Temporary cracks travel toward Natira, before erupting with power.

Unsure of the nature of this attack, Natira tries to jump clear of the area.

Trivdrenen shows visible frustration, and presses down on the ground more. The cracks spread, more blasts erupting from them. At the same time, the armoured car fires at Natira again while she tries to avoid Trivdrenen's attack.

Natira "How unfortunately determined they are." She falls back down to the ground, trying to land on Trivdrenen with a powerful kick.

Trivdrenen does not move. He risks taking the force of the kick, and in doing so, catches her as they both roll several feet across the ground.

Trivdrenen "Try that kick on me, will you?" He stands up, tightly holding Natira.

Surprised by this risky move by Trivdrenen, Natira doesn't even say anything or try to counterattack, just tries to squirm free.

Trivdrenen "It's no use, Natira."

Munwibada "Nicely done. You caught her." He turns to a teammate next to him. "Arrest her."

The team member proceeds to cuff Natira, then they both escort Trivdrenen to the containment unit.

Natira "U-useless. Th-these flimsy-"

Sam "Oi, morons. Don't try to arrest her, that doesn't do any good. She'll just escape anyway, probably killing everyone around." Sam runs up to Natira and grabs her with one hand, lifting her up. "Don't like being touched, do you? Well, you aren't as intimidating as you think you are. Dammit. Natira, dammit. I should have guessed it was going to be you. I did, actually, but I didn't want to believe it. But I knew it once I saw Mister Improper over there." Sam indicates Imas with a derisive sneer.

Natira "A-aa, unhand me."

Sam "Sure, but first..." He punches Natira in the face. "Fight me again. This time you will die." Sam tosses Natira and then slams her with some kind of energy attack.

Trivdrenen "Morons?!"

Xorack "You haven't seen half of it."

Munwibada "How impudent, that one. On the other had, he seems enough of a fighter."

Clinger and Latchgrip target Imas and launch a volley of explosive seeds at him.

Imas evades and tosses a huge chunk of debris at Clinger and Latchgrip.

Clinger and Latchgrip jump out of the way. Sokona and Zurkabō attempt to strafe him again.

Imas, trying to reduce the amount of sides he is being attacked on, spins rapidly, and a spiral of energy radiates outward from him.

Zurkabō "I think we have come across another problem."

Xorack "We'll see about that!" He lines up on Imas, and presses the trigger, firing the speeder's lasers.

Imas "I'll have none of that."  He makes a big show of deflecting the lasers, then gets hit by one. "Aa-" He shakes his head and then jumps towards Xorack's speeder.

Aroido moves the speeder in reverse. While continuing to fire on Imas, Xorack draws his pistol and shoots at him with that. Sagujo manages to endure the pain enough to fire several shots.

Imas dashes at high speeds, glaring angrily at the speeder and dodging the gunfire (though this seems to slow him down).

Trying to stop his charge toward them, Aroido sprays a flurry of poison needles at him.

Imas doesn't dodge, but does a charging dive right through the flurry, and grabs onto the back of the speeder. A bunch of the needles stick out of his arms.

Xorack crawls toward the back of the speeder and glares down at Imas before immediately spewing a special venomous liquid at him.

Not liking the look of it, Imas uses one hand to block it with a small forcefield, then climbs forward on the speeder.

Xorack "A pest on board. This won't do at all!" He swings one of his claws at Imas, looking to smack him with much force.

Imas grabs Xorack's claw with impressive resistance, with one hand, and swings himself up to stand on the back of the speeder.

Xorack "How did you do that?" He opens his claws and starts swiping at him.

Imas "It's called decades of practicing getting out of tough situations, heh." Imas blocks most of Xorack's slashes with a loose metal plate. "Start hanging off the edge of things enough, and eventually you'll know the best ways to get back up."

Xorack "Oh, believe me, we've been there. We've had plenty of time to learn lessons like that." He grins as Aroido, at the controls, spins the speeder, alternating directions left and right. "So we did."

Imas manages to hang on for just a few seconds, and lets go on a strong spin which tosses him up into the air.

Imas "Nice try," he says as he comes down with great force, smashing the back end of the speeder into the ground.

The impact knocks Aroido on his side, and Xorack is bounced, but regains his footing as he lands.

Aroido "The engines are down."

For this, Xorack repeatedly shoots at Imas with his pistol, while raising his tail.

Xorack "You're gonna pay for that! That speeder was lent to us!"

Imas "Not my problem." Closing in on Xorack, Imas again utilizes his absurd evasion skills, but the range works against him and he gets hit in the shoulder, near the inside. He winces for a second and jumps to the side, but seems to determine that his injury isn't worth worrying over. He takes this opportunity to look over at Natira, and witnesses her taking quite the beating from Sam. Her pace is slowing, and she is battered and exhausted.

Munwibada, Trivdrenen, and two of their cohorts have Natira surrounded, with the armoured car's turret trained on her. This when Xorack uses his chance to strike at Imas. Stingers forward, he viciously snaps his tail at one of his legs.

Imas quickly jumps aside, and looks around, quite conflicted. He is considering coming to Natira's aid.

In his growing frustration of being unable to score a direct hit, Xorack stomps on the ground several times, then rushes at Imas to trample him.

Imas looks between Xorack, coming head on, and Natira, still in visible trouble. He prepares to jump clear over Xorack's attack.

Xorack watches Imas's movements, and makes a low but long horizontal jump, ready to slam both his strength and weight against him. Aroido, watching both Xorack and Imas, sprays webs high above in a wide circle.

Imas scrutinizes this strategy, but seems to come to a different decision. He changes his stance, and does not appear to be preparing for a jump still. He waits for Xorack to barrel forward, and then allows himself to be hit. In fact, he kicks off of Xorack and lands far off, where he springs into action against Sam. He takes the sword from Natira, but does not use it.

Under attack by a different foe, Sam seems to have been defeated fairly quickly after taking a slash from some temporary energy attack. He doesn't even say anything, just falls to the ground suddenly, and it seems very wrong somehow.

Imas heads to the sidelines to tend to Natira's wounds, and the already sparse number of less powerful enemies thin out, forming a good time to regroup. Of course, the battle between Viera and most of the Nonpareil is preceeding pointlessly, with no attacks landing on anyone, even if the battle should have been fairly one-sided. Sylla backs away from the battle for a moment and runs to Sam, lifting him.

Sylla "I saw that. I don't think anyone was fooled by that. What are you up to?"

Sam "Shut up, dunce. Pretend I'm dead and hurry off. It'll be useful later."

Sylla obediently tosses Sam to the ground roughly.

Zaffre, having made no progress, orders his officers to break off for now. Clinger, Latchgrip, Kolsohte, Munwibada, and Trivdrenen regroup with the others, though Uopanosguhi hears Sam dropped to the ground. Looking for a break in the fighting, she goes over to look at him more closely. Pikaichichu, previously occupied, sees this, too. While he recognises that Sam is not dead, he cannot bring himself to dismiss the possibility of any injury. He glares angrily at Viera.

Xorack growls, frustrated that Imas once again escaped the full force of his attack, and no less by using him. He kicks and stomps the ground in front of him. Aroido looks around, and taps Xorack on the shoulder.

Xorack "What? ...Oh."

Sagujo "What is it, boss?" He looks in the same direction. "Oh, so first they wreck the speeder's engines, now this? They keep proving themselves more and more dangerous."

Xorack "Don't worry. I'll deal with them. Imas has been a real pest in this whole fight, so I have a few complaints for them..."

"Subdue the rest of them." Soldiers on the battlefield and beyond the clearing proceed to carry out this order, hunting down their targets.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Viera has been parrying our attacks without any misstep. We have been unable to land a single direct hit on him. He may be becoming stronger already, so we must take him down as soon as possible."

Aroido walks over to Sam and Uopanosguhi. Xorack casts a glare at Imas and the wounded Natira. He begins to move in to attack them, but notices something. The armoured car is joined by the IFV and a medium tank, both of them turn their cannons and guns at them. Through communications, the order is given. They immediately fire on them.

Being burdened with his comrade, Imas doesn't make it out without a burn on his legs. Possessed by a new rage, Imas snarls at the armored vehicles. Natira is now able to stand shakily, but does not look to be in condition to fight anything. Nonetheless, she and Imas approach Bell and her group, who adopt fighting stances.

Imas "Who would have known that I would have started to rely on that fool's empty promise..."

Just then, Elles notices a figure behind Imas.

Elles "A-aniki? Why would you show up..." Emmet is standing there, and Elles runs to him, her eyes both angry and curious. For some reason, her brother is wielding a rather lame-looking pistol.

Imas laughs.

Imas "Aaahhh, hahaha, look! They're all together, despite certain lies and happenings! Fool doesn't know that we all know of his incompetence."

Bell "What do you know...? No, Imas, you aren't worthy of my attention. Emmet - why are you here? You lost your chance to stand at my side."

Emmet "Maybe I was extending consideration to you by not standing at your side."

Bell "What is that supposed to mean?" She sighs. "This family probably shouldn't have come together like this, under the circumstances."

Emmet "Screw this family. I'm acting under my own interests." He is addressing Imas, for some reason. Then he shoots Elles in the head with the pistol.

Uopanosguhi, watching this, gasps and turns away. Zaffre is frozen in place seeing Emmet turn on them.

Bell and Emmes' eyes go wide, and Bell falls to her knees, not even saying anything. Imas is taken by surprise, staring at Emmet. He turns to stare at Bell, who seems to be in shock. Then he laughs uproariously.

Imas "You're serious? You're completely serious??? This was your trump card??? I can't even comprehend it... you, you little fool, you hilarious fool! Your concern was merely a mask to disguise your overwhelming attachment to your own life, I assume? You come here just to make that ridiculous move, attempting to avoid being killed by the likes of me? You stupid, naive, ridiculous little fool, I never would have gone anywhere near you ever again! And now you've basically accomplished the same goal you promised!?" Imas laughs very loudly again. Emmet cowers, and Imas retrieves the sword from Natira. He slams Emmet with the back of it. "Go die, you very useful fool."

Xorack taunts Emmet in a Sinnoh accent.

Xorack "Who is the baka now, you hakuchi?"

Emmet is blasted high and far away with a sickening crack. Imas keeps laughing, not able to control himself, and Natira looks at the scene in awe.

Sam takes that moment to pick himself up, for where he was lying down was quite close to Bell's group, and he propells himself straight into Natira's back with an extended hand. His hand goes straight through her body, and Natira can't take this decisive blow. She crumples to the ground.

Imas "No! You!" Imas makes to attack Sam, but a large wave of energy blooms outward behind him, and Viera shouts for Imas.

Viera "These Nonpareil have trained for this! We're moving ahead! Bring the sword!"

Imas snarls and grabs Natira, who is either dead or in very critical condition. He flees towards Viera.

Viera "It is time. Hand me the sword, Imas."

Imas doesn't loosen his grip on the sword.

Viera "Hm." He snorts derisively. "Want to do it yourself, huh? Want to rob your superior of that feeling of accomplishment? That's funny, I'd almost think you were-"

Viera has to stop what he is saying because Imas has sliced the long sword through his superior's chest.

Imas "Yeah. I am, and I do. It's time to continue on, my way." Viera doesn't say much more than a weak grunt, and his body separates and falls to the ground. Imas directs another slash in front of him, as he faces the temple.

A great ripping noise echoes through the clearing, and a flash of light illuminates everything, temporarily blinding most everyone. A shattering effect shimmers across the doorway of the temple, and, the way apparently now open, Imas dashes inside, still carrying Natira.

Immediately following him is Stab, who accidentally lost control of his speeder and was circling around helplessly on the battlefield for a while. His speeder hits the doorway and sends Stab flying inside. Stab is followed by all of the Nonpareil, who at once stir themselves from the shock and dash inside after Imas.

Xorack, Aroido, and the other three run in after them to join the pursuit.

Xorack "Hey, wait for us!"

Sagujo "Yeah! We got a spine to sharpen with those two!"

Munwibada "After them we go!"

Munwibada and Trivdrenen follow them in quickly, along with four others of the team.

Branch B Officer "Imas and Natira survived the attack, but Natira's current condition now is in question. The self-proclaimed second-in-command of the Returners was a traitor, and was suspected to be a spy for the Antithesis. Imas has assassinated Viera and has entered the temple with Natira."

The officer is promptly responded to on the communications link.

"The Antithesis must not be allowed to succeed in their ambitions. The danger they pose is obvious. Your orders are to eliminate Imas before he reaches his objective. If Natira is still alive, finish her off."

Branch B Officer "At once."

Uopanosguhi lies on the ground, traumatised by Emmet's betrayal and cold shooting of Elles. Kolsohte tries to comfort her, with Pikaichichu looking from overhead in concern.

Uopanosguhi "Naze kare wa kore o okonau nodesu ka? Naze kare wa kore o okonau nodesu ka?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Clinger, Latchgrip, go on." He does not take his eyes off Elles, even as Clinger and Latchgrip reluctantly proceed and run inside the temple. "She would still be alive if he did not know where any of us were. He asks us to bring them home safely, only for him to do this. I should never have contacted him when we found you..."

Most of Bell's group are grimly whispering to one another, all showing a large range of emotions, none of them good. Emmes is crying, trying to get her mother to do anything more than mutter indistinctly, and trying to stop herself from breaking down as well. Cerin ponders solemnly, glaring at the temple entrance. Pointa has run over, and is silently but frantically panicking. Layton approaches Zaffre.

Layton "We are clearly not privy to all the details of the motives behind... that, and so it would not be the best course of option to blame oneself..." Layton's voice cracks, and he turns away. "That... event had clearly twisted reasoning, frankly twisted... I'm disgusted..."

Cerin He curses and rubs his head. "Argh, I'm, gah! I can barely comprehend anything that just happened. Emmet, he... and Imas was...?" Cerin kneels next to Uopanosguhi. "Are you all right?" He also glances at Bell and Emmes in concern.

Hana "That guy only had concern for his own life, in the end, huh? That's why, huh?"

Three "I'd rather we not deliberate over it."

Layton "Bell isn't in any condition to play her part, as regrettable and understandable as that is, but the mission is still not over. Imas may have taken care of Viera, but naturally he's just the next target."

Bell's Eevee second-in-command examines Viera's body.

Eevee "Well, he's certainly dead... Unclear motives and shocking twists all-around... What kind of thing was Viera, anyways?" The Eevee looks as if he is about to kick Viera's corpse out of spite, but decides against it and puts his foot down.

Uopanosguhi "I am not all right. I just saw him murder his own sister, without any hesitation!" She shuts her eyes tight, trembling. "Was that what he wanted us for?"

Kolsohte looks at Cerin and shakes his head.

Krokorok "Looks like it's not just Bell, but I think Uopanosguhi is out of action, too."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I must perform more precise and careful calculations in the future."

Pikaichichu "It was a bad idea to let her come along. She is a good fighter, but she was not prepared for that, and now she is overwhelmed by the trauma." He apologises to her. "Taihen sumimasen..."

Cerin "I don't think anyone would have expected that..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Not unless you knew him. What I do know is that this will reflect poorly on not only Team StormBlitz, but the Security Police as well."

Pikaichichu "I wish we could have stopped him from doing this." He sadly shifts his gaze from Uopanosguhi to Cerin, then to Bell and Emmes.

Cerin "That's not going to happen..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "How will it not, Cerin? They expect a lot from someone in my position, and what Emmet just committed does not do any of us any favours."

Cerin "I was talking to Pikaichichu, but as for what you said... Well, I can't doubt it, but that doesn't make it fair..."

Pikaichichu "It is not fair for Bell and Emmes, either." His eyes begin to well up. "We were all cruelly betrayed... ...Poor Elles..."

Cerin He clenches his fists. "Damn right... Imas spearheaded this, huh? Makes me want to do something about it..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "If this was Imas's idea all along, then he may be more dangerous than we thought." He speaks to one of his officers. "You stay here with them. I am going after Imas. I owe Bell and Emmes for this."

Officer "Yes sir."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Anybody wanting to go with me into the temple, please come forward."

Layton immediately heads up, along with Cerin and Three.

Lt Gen Zaffre "So with me will be Layton, Cerin, and Three. Be ready, because we will be going in as soon as possible."

Cerin "I'm ready of course."

Three "As am I."

Layton "Likewise."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Right then. Follow me!" He hovers toward the temple entrance. "And watch out for any surprises along the way..."

All three nod in agreement, and they all head inside the temple.

Chapter Ten: The Temple

Inside the temple, Stab gets stuck into the wall as the Nonpareil run after Imas. They continue down the dusty hallways until they're out of sight.

Sagujo "Hey, boss!"

Xorack "I know, Sagujo."

Aroido "Sagujo, take Sokona and Zurkabō and meet us further ahead."

Sagujo "Got it."

Xorack carefully pulls Stab out of the wall.

Xorack "Come on, Stab, no time to stick around these halls. We got a nutcase to take down."

Munwibada and Trivdrenen pass right by them.

Xorack "Going without us?"

Trivdrenen "We don't have much time, Xorack, so let's get moving."

Xorack "Can't wait up a bit?"

Trivdrenen "You're saying this to me? Look who's talking! The one with a heated temper and not the slightest of patience?"

Xorack "Bah. Let's just go."

Munwibada "Onward, I say! Onward!"

Stab "Thanks. Yeah, let's go."

As they hurry to catch up to the Nonpareil, from behind, Zaffre and his group arrive at the same spot.

Lt Gen Zaffre "They were just here. Quickly, this way!" He leads on at a quicker pace.

They arrive at an open room.  Imas is yelling something at his fellow Pikachu pursuers.

Imas "Why must you follow me when I have this sword!? The sword that cut could down Viera can cut down each and every one of you!!!!"

Munwibada "Thou art giving us much imperative to hunt thee down." He points his lances at Imas, with Trivdrenen alongside doing the same with his drills.

Trivdrenen "And don't think you're gonna do a lot of cutting."

Xorack "You may have saved us some work by getting rid of that backstabbing imbecile and killing Viera, but it doesn't change the fact that you've frustrated me past my limit, and-"

Aroido "And it certainly does not mean that we will allow you to carry out the plan of the Antithesis."

Lt Gen Zaffre "You necessitate our current action with the threat you present. On the field, you had every chance to drop this scheme, but you did not. So what you and Natira suffered in the battle was entirely your faults. The victims that suffered from yours and Viera's crimes - they will have their justice."

Tails "You'd be better off not underestimating the fact that most of us are standing together again."

Liam "And Viera is irrelevant at this point. Sword or not, your fighting skills are par with one of the Nonpareil at best. You're quite outnumbered here."

Imas "I will have my victory! Viera died by MY HAND!"

Stab "Not the sword this time, huh!?"

Grant "You should drop that sword, in fact. You can even surrender. We're quite interested in your origins... Maybe get medical attention for your friend there, whose life is slipping away quickly...?"

Imas Imas goes wide-eyed with anger. "I'll never stoop that low. I'd rather die than allow myself to live in the custody of your group."

Sam "Hah! Die then!"

Liam "For once, I agree strongly with Sam."

Sylla "I feel that there isn't any worth to leaving this guy alive. It's not all that strange, in the end."

Clyssa "He could be worth quite a lot."

Jones "Quite a lot. Not all that strange, huh? You've always been disinterested in this sort of thing."

Tails frowns deeply.

Tails "No, my niece is right. What do you three know...? Well, no matter I suppose. I'm not about to let this guy leave here alive, captive or otherwise."

Liam "Me neither. Being so closely associated with Viera makes it a certainty that his crimes are grievous as well."

Tails "Even if that wasn't the case, Imas seems to have taken Viera's role as his own, and that role's sins have gone mostly unpunished for quite a while."

Imas He is shaking with anger. "Don't talk to me as if I'm not here. DON'T IGNORE ME, BE INTIMIDATED!" He swings the sword around.

Cerin "He seems to be cracking," he says, aside to Layton and Three and anyone else listening.

Layton "This is an interesting situation. Unless Imas has something up his sleeve, if he's the first to move, he'll probably die."

Clinger twirls a tentacle around the side of his head.

Xorack and Aroido watch Imas with an almost indifferent expression. Sokona and Zurkabō chuckle to themselves. Sagujo yawns and turns to Xorack, talking quietly.

Sagujo "Who is he trying to scare with that?"

Xorack "I know scary. I've been called "scary", more than a few times."

Sagujo "Si. This display, however...desprolijo."

Grant "Come on. Drop the sword."

Liam and Tails both glance at Grant, who returns that with a stare.

Imas walks in a circle, then jumps at Grant with the sword while he isn't looking. Grant dodges, but the sword scrapes his leg a bit. He doesn't say anything, but glares at Liam and Tails as they begin to counterattack. Imas retreats down another hallway at high speed. Almost all of the Nonpareil, plus Cerin and Layton, head off after him almost immediately, but Grant and his advisors stay behind.

Grant hadn't let out any pained noises when he was cut, but the way he looked at his wound made it clear that he didn't expect its effect.

Three only stays behind long enough to give a thoughtful look at Grant and his advisors, then heads off.

Zaffre sees the wound inflicted on Grant, then becomes motionless for two seconds before resuming any motion.

Lt Gen Zaffre "A medical crew will arrive shortly. That will be the last injury he inflicts with that sword." He flies off after Imas.

Xorack "Wait up! I wanna pound him!" He runs down the hallway without delay, Sagujo following him while gesturing for Sokona and Zurkabō to follow as well.

Stab follows Xorack as well.

Munwibada, Trivdrenen, and their group rush down the hallway after the rest of them. Clinger, Latchgrip, and Aroido go over to Grant. The three nod to each other, then Aroido turns to Grant.

Aroido "Please stay still. This requires precision and care."

Grant "Ah, yeah. Thanks."

Aroido opens his mandibles and covers the wound with his webs.

Grant watches the process curiously.

Clinger and Latchgrip watch intently. Just as Aroido finishes covering the wound, a small medical team arrives.

The advisors glare a bit.

The medical officer ignores the advisors and addresses the others. "We will take care of him. You go ahead."

Aroido "I have done what I could anyway." He turns to Grant before scurrying off. "O-daiji-ni."

Latchgrip "Don't worry, they will know what to do. Take care." He pats him on the head before following Aroido down the hallway with Clinger.

As the groups head quickly down the hallways, it quickly becomes evident that Imas, along with the Nonpareil, plus Cerin and Layton, have managed to take a turn too fast and disappear in the mazelike tunnels and stairways - some heading undreground - in the temple. None of the others have any idea which direction to turn.

Xorack "Why did I get the feeling we would eventually run into this sort of situation?" He looks left and right. "How are we gonna find them now?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "We will not find them with our sight. Everyone stay quiet." He splits into three and listens in multiple directions.

The sound of running is somewhat close, below, and to the west, but within the maze of hallways, that's not really that much of a help. The sound of water dripping can also be heard from several rooms.

Lt Gen Zaffre "They went west, underground. They are not far."

Xorack "Great, but which path do we take, genius?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "We may have to split up. I will take these three corridors."

Latdchgrip "We will go down this rōka."

Clinger nods.

Trivdrenen "We've decided to take the hallway here."

Xorack "Sagujo, take them that way. Aroido, you and Stab are with me."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Then proceed." He starts off down three of the hallways, leaving the rest to go along their planned routes.

Stab "What is this place supposed to be, anyways? This place isn't very friendly for walking around in or anything. No normal things like that."

Aroido "During the Time Crisis, we explored mystery dungeons while robbing outlaws. This seems similar in some ways. When mystery dungeons still existed, you could end up lost unless you knew what to do. Zaffre has given us ideas of where to go."

Xorack "And the rest are taken, so we're going this way." He impatiently runs down one of the hallways.

Aroido sighs.

Aroido "We would best get moving. We don't want to fall behind any further." He follows after Xorack.

Stab blinks.

Stab "Time Crisis and mystery dungeons, huh? So it's that kind of thing. Not that I know." He hurries on as well.

Eventually, Xorack's group hears a noise from close enough to trace its location, but when they arrive, it's a dead-end room with water pouring in from the ceiling. There is nowhere for the water to go, and so it has gathered up on the floor all the way up to the hallway.

Stab "Hey, what the heck? This leak must be really recent, huh?" Stab examines the water curiously. It is cascading onto a metal statue of an unidentifiable figure holding a long sword and a small, round, complex object.

Xorack "You don't suppose someone else was here today, do ya?"

Aroido "And not too long ago?"

Stab "It's pouring out real fast.  Maybe it's starting to leak faster, or else it started when that... rippy thing happened somehow."  He swishes his body to mimic the swinging of Viera's sword that opened up the temple.

Aroido "When Imas directed slashed at the temple door after killing Viera, he may have caused more to happen in here..."

Xorack "Yeah, like flooding this room by breaking part of the ceiling." He aimlessly kicks water at nothing in particular, while Aroido examines the statue closely. "But I don't think we're getting anywhere. There's nothing in here except that statue, and water at our legs."

Stab "Yeah, that's true. We should hurry some other way." While he talks, Stab looks at the object in the statue's left hand. He grabs it with his sash, and it comes off. "Oh, oops. What is this, anyways?"

Xorack "Ahh, knowing places like this, it could relate to somethin' important we might see on the way." He exhales and scurries back down the hallway, Aroido following.

Stab follows as usual, taking a short glance at the sword before he heads out, still holding the small object.

Sagujo's voice is heard over the radio.

Sagujo "Did ya find them, boss?"

Xorack "No, but we saw this statue at the end of the hallway, not to mention we got our legs wet because of some leak in the ceiling. We're going back around."

Aroido "What about you?"

Sagujo "Nnnnooo...not yet. that's why I asked."

Stab "It makes me angry that this place is built like this. It's a "temple," but surely no one ever had to walk around inside it regularly?"

Sagujo "¡Ay! There's another thing for me to ponder, and we haven't reached the end of this pasillo yet!"

Stab "Who built it!? Was it someone on the side of the Antithesis? Where'd the barrier come from?"

Sagujo "You're asking the wrong one here, ése. This is the first time I've ever been on these grounds, less inside this temple - What, Sokona? What is it? ... Stab, hold on. I think we're coming up on something."

The group comes upon a large chamber. Waterfalls pour down the sides, falling into channels that lead into pipes that direct the water to who-knows-where, and there are opposing frescoes of the sun and the moon on the opposite walls. In the middle of the room there is a large circular door, sealed off completely. Natira is leaned up against the wall next to the door, and Imas is directly in front. He is brandishing his sword. Tails, Liam, Sam, Sylla all surround him in a near-half-circle. Cerin, Layton, and a handful of the Nonpareil Pikachu are nowhere to seen.

Sagujo whispers into the radio.

Sagujo "...We found Imas, and Natira..."

Zurkabō "But it's only Tails, Liam, Sam, and Sylla that are there to face him. Nobody else is there."

Xorack "We're on our way. Get ready."

Sagujo "We'll see you soon, boss."

Xorack turns to Aroido, then Stab.

Xorack "They found them. Come on." He runs down the hallway that Sagujo took in a hurry.

Aroido "That seemed to really motiva-" He collides with Latchgrip, knocking each other over.

Latchgrip "Gomennasai."

Aroido "Gomennasai."

Stab hurries over.

Stab "Hey, what happe- Oh, hey there."

Latchgrip "Oi, Stab."

Clinger waves while helping Latchgrip up, who in turn rolls Aroido back upright.

Latchgrip "Sorry about running into Aroido. We came back here to regroup after finding nothing on our end."

Aroido "Kensaku ga owarudesu. Karera wa Imas o hakken shimashita."

Clinger "O?"

Latchgrip "Doko?"

Aroido points to the hallway that Xorack rushed through.

Aroido "Karera wa sono rōka o okonatta." He turns to Stab. "Come, we have to catch up to Xorack." He starts down the hallway.

Stab follows with some enthusiasm, anxious to see what lies ahead.

Latchgrip speaks into his communicator.

Latchgrip "Regroup and follow us down this way. They have been found."

Munwibada "We're on our way."

Clinger and Latchgrip follow after Aroido and Stab, keeping pace with them.

Once they reach the room, the situation hasn't changed. No one else has arrived, and Imas is still in the same position as before.

Lt Gen Zaffre "I may be partially delayed, I have to find Cerin and Layton. One of me, however, will be there shortly."

Latchgrip "Understood, Chūjō."

Sokona "There is Imas now, with Natira propped up on the wall."

Zurkabō "And four of the Nonpareil."

Xorack "I say it's about time to give this pest a thrashing..." He takes two steps forward in an aggressive stance.

Sylla She turns her head briefly to glance at the newcomers. "Ah, it se-"

Imas turns on a dime and slashes his sword at the door. The door doesn't budge, the sword just slides off of it harmlessly.

Imas "Why won't it work!?"

Tails jumps forward and restrains Imas from behind. He wasn't fast enough, though, and Imas has enough range with his hands to threaten to slice him with the sword, so he jumps back again. Tails sighs and fires a really powerful looking beam of light from his hands. It heads straight for Imas, then hits the door behind him and is completely reflected into the ground next to Sam, who curses loudly.

Imas is completely clear of it by several feet, despite it being insanely fast and perfectly on track to hit him. Sylla curses this time.

Sylla "How is he that fast?! He's sped up somehow?!"

Xorack "He did that in the last battle, but I won't let him pull it this time!" He launches an orb from his mouth into the air. It bursts overhead as many small spikes land on the floor around Imas. He turns to Aroido and Sagujo. "Let's get him."

The three of them approach the floor and attack with a combined flurry of poison needles and darts at Imas. Clinger and Latchgrip move into position to ready their own attack, just as Munwibada and Trivdrenen arrive. Not a second later, part of Zaffre enters the room.

Imas moves to the other side of the room in just a blink of the eye.

Sylla "Um, no. He's DEFINITELY faster than before. Faster than Viera was, too. What's going on?"

Liam "What in the world?" He examines the spikes on the ground to see tiny traces of blood. "Well, he isn't teleporting..." He launches himself at Imas, carefully monitoring his attack speed, and is able to dodge.

Sylla "Thankfully he can't seem to swing that sword quite as fast as he can run." Her fists are surrounded with energy and she moves to attack Imas.

Sam "Abandoned Natira to dodge, huh?" He walks to Imas' comrade, but is suddenly confronted with Imas right in his face. He jumps far back with only a fairly weak counterattack."

Tails "How is he doing that...?" He aims for Imas with a high kick. Coincidentally, Liam is also aiming for Imas with a low kick. Both miss.

Clinger shakes his head. Sagujo looks and waits for a chance to attack.

Xorack "I knew Imas is reckless, and this shows it. He fell for mytrap." He grins maliciously.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Commence battle."

Munwibada "The fight is afoot!"

Munwibada and Trivdrenen join the fight. From the right, Trivdrenen stands ready, then cross-swipes at Imas with his claws.

Imas easily blocks it with the sword, then turns around and, within an instant, is front of Munwibada. Imas slashes at him.

Munwibada blocks the sword and shoves it back. He charges forward, lunging his left lance at Imas and simultaneously swinging his right lance at him from the side.

Imas backs up within the span of a blink, and swings the sword at Munwibada again.

The Escavalier parries the sword, but instead of shoving it away, he uses this chance to fire another disorienting ray of light.

Shielding his eyes, Imas forces Munwibada forward, Imas then has to dodge an attack from Tails, and is swept back into battle with the Nonpareil.

Munwibada "Quick little knave."

Xorack "He won't be going quick for long."

Sagujo releases a cluster of cotton-like spores at Imas, and Sokona throws a shard of ice at him. Clinger and Latchgrip watch his movements, waiting for an opening and a chance to launch their attacks.

Imas manages to hold off attacks on every front, but as a result, can't get any hits on on anyone. Tails and Liam increase their pressure.

Aroido straddles around the floor, then shoots a fully-spun web at Imas once he has a clear shot.

Lt Gen Zaffre "On my signal..."

Imas makes several movements faster than the eyes can see to escape the path of the web, but a well-placed attack from Liam pushes him back, and Imas' arms as well as sword are stuck.

Zaffre gives the signal, and Clinger and Latchgrip make their move, attacking Imas with beams of ice and explosive seeds.

Imas manages to turn his arms, flipping upward to escape the attack, and subsequently frees himself.

Aroido "Nantekotta!" He shakes a foreleg.

Trivdrenen "Almost had him..."

Imas "It's been a while since so many have attacked me at once..." His voice is bitter.

Lt Gen Zaffre "After what you, Viera, and that treacherous Emmet did..."

Munwibada, Trivdrenen, Sokona and Zurkabō move to surround him, while Zaffre locks his eye on him.

Lt Gen Zaffre "...we have every reason to."

Imas seems to stumble for a second, then rushes forward. He seems to be about to slice at one of those surrounding him - but jumps backwards, highly and quickly, at the last second, clearing the circle. He brings his sword down to attack Stab, who was near.

Stab moves at maximum speed to evade the strike, but gets brushed on the bottom of the hilt somehow or another.

Stab "Oh, damn! owowowowowowowow C'mon, that's so unfair! You barely even touched me! What the heck is that sword anyways?"

Imas doesn't answer, just prepares another strike. He hasn't slowed down, but his sword seems to be dragging him down just a bit.

Xorack utters a low growl at Imas after Stab is harmed by the sword. He and the other two have no intent on giving Imas an opening to continue his strikes.

Xorack "Oh, you asked for it..."

Sagujo "Ready when you are, boss."

Xorack "Let's do it."

Xorack, Aroido, and Sagujo launch a combined flurry of needles at Imas. Zaffre takes his position, along with Clinger and Latchgrip.

Imas' dodges are composed strangely. He seems to move separately from his sword, which mostly stays in place. Besides his handling of the sword, his quick movements haven't changed.

Stab "Haha, he looks like a pole dancer."

Sokona "What a fool."

Munwibada "What in...?"

Sam finds Stab's rather ill-suited quip pretty funny, but Tails and Liam both glare.

Liam "This is nonsense. He's too fast to lay any attack on him, and even if he seems to be weighed down by his sword for some reason, he's not much slower at dodging."

Tails "I can't hit him, and we don't have the fortune of having anyone renowned for speed. This is the stupidest standstill I've ever seen. At least he doesn't have the advantage, what with his slow attacks, but..."

Liam "...we don't either, of course."

Sylla "What's even going on..."

Clinger and Latchgrip watch Imas, confused.

Clinger "Unnn..."

Trivdrenen "If this is not the most ridiculous thing I've seen him do..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "This has been going on long enough. He can keep on performing even the oddest, or most unorthodox stunts, but he will not avoid this attack..."

Zaffre, locked on Imas, immediately attacks with a barrage of homing star-shaped rays.

Imas attempts to dodge these as well, but the small space he has to work with makes it clearly impossible, so he picks up his sword again and runs, but quickly realizes that too is hopeless, and he tries to block with his sword. Of course, he's too slow, and is hit by many of them.

Imas "Ech..."

Xorack, after watching Imas dodge each of their attacks, grins seeing him struck by Zaffre's swift flurry of rays.

Xorack "Heh, not so cocky now..."

Munwibada and Trivdrenen move forward slightly, drills and lances ready. Zaffre, this time, does not pause to verbally confront or dissuade him, and gives Clinger and Latchgrip the signal. The two Octillery immediately launch their attack, beams of light and ice.

Imas moves his sword precisely, with what is either a smirk or a grimace, and outstretches his hand as well. The sword absorbs the entirety of the beam of light, and the ice collides with his hand, giving him a large glove of ice, which he swings into the sword, causing it to explode outward forcefully, causing a makeshift smokescreen.

Stab "Hey! Where'd he go!?"

Sylla "Oh, that can't be good for his hand."

From nowhere, Imas appears behind Liam, who barely avoids a sword swing.

Clinger and Latchgrip look on, they cannot believe that their attack failed completely.

Latchgrip "Sore wa mattaku dōsa shimasendeshita..."

Sagujo "How didn't that work?"

Munwibada "It should have knocked him for a loop. It must be-eth that sword!"

Xorack growls impatiently, frustrated, then jumps in, landing near Imas. He tries to stomp him, while swinging his bludgeon.

Imas "Sloppy..." He jumps back, sword outstretched to block the bludgeon swings. A great flash of blackness erupts from the sword, and all of the Nonpareil look at it in surprise, but so does Imas. Xorack is blasted backwards. The sword immediately twists itself towards the ground in Imas' hands. "Argh... So... heavy..."

Xorack is knocked on his back, his legs thrashing. He growls shrilly, then pushes himself back upright with his claws and tail, only to notice what everyone else is seeing. Zaffre, increasingly wary of what is happening with the sword, quietly gives an order to Munwibada and Trivdrenen.

Lt Gen Zaffre "...Force him out of this chamber now..."

Munwibada and Trivdrenen charge at Imas, lances and drills out and facing sideways to rush him. Xorack joins the charge, holding his bludgeon out ready to do the same.

Imas lifts the sword and leans against it, using it as a shield.

Instead of stopping, the three of them continue their charge and slam against the sword, using as much force as they can.

Imas slides several feet along the floor with the sword until he manages to stop himself. After this, he swings the sword at the three as quickly as he can - a mightily heavy blow.

Xorack and Trivdrenen brace themselves just as the sword strikes against their bludgeon and drills, sending them both tumbling across the floor. Munwibada, however, ducks under the blade, and rushes to headbutt him.

Imas doesn't expect this and can't guard himself fast enough, but instead of doubling over from the headbutt to the stomach he kicks Munwibada away and tries to slash again.

The Escavalier pulls back, avoiding the blade.

Munwibada "Thou cannot not strike me so easily, thy sword be-eth weighing thee down!" He lunges at Imas again, swinging his lances at him.

Summoning all his strength, Imas jumps backwards with his sword, but he tumbles to the ground at the end of his arc.

Munwibada "That is enough of this knavery!" Floating over Imas, he holds one of his lances on him, the other at the ready.

Imas prepares to attack, but suddenly he is kicked from behind and is sent flying across the room. Sam stands there, and he retrieves the sword as well as sheath.

Imas "No! You...."

Sam He snickers. "It's not heavy at all." He rushes at Imas, but sheathes the sword.

Trivdrenen rejoins Munwibada, Xorack watching distantly alongside Aroido and Sagujo. Zaffre observes this as well, with Clinger and Latchgrip.

Trivdrenen "You handled yourself quite well, Munwibada."

Munwibada "Thou don't clumsily cross swords with someone who actually knowest how to sword fight, nor dost thou underestimate allies."

Sagujo "That was a fast uno-dos puñetazo, no?"

Zurkabō "Hai."

Imas jumps clear, and Sam changes his target to Natira. He positions himself threateningly, not allowing Imas to come closer.

Sam "Get out of here, you fool. She's still alive, somehow. If you don't want me to change that, bring Vingulf here."

Imas growls, then sighs deeply.

Sam "Let me kill him."

Liam "Let's not do that, how about?"

Xorack "Hold it! He's not going anywhere, after what we went through on the way and in here!"

Zaffre positions himself at the entrance.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Neither of them are leaving our sight."

Sagujo "One thing this bribón can do, however, is tell us where Vingulf is." He crosses his arms.

Sam "He won't have a location. He has to be brought here," he snaps.

Imas He snarls. "No one can enter or leave the temple except physically. And, I'm surprised at you. Holding a hostage rather than fighting me outright? Pitiful. Face me like a real warrior."

Sam "Liar. You and I know very well that dirty tricks are the best!" He fake-jumps towards Natira and Imas flinches.

Imas "S-stop this! I know you'd help me under different circumstances! If you weren't tied to the Nonpareil-"

Sam "Alright, man, you're operating on some mistaken premises." He makes an abrupt gesture towards Liam and Tails. "I don't even care slightly about the Nonpareil. Tied to them? I just work with them because it's good for me." He sighs and then straightens himself. "But I hate the Antithesis- actually, you know what, it's not even about that at this point. The fine points of my affiliation don't even matter, the fact is that I came to hate you long ago."

Liam "Sam, taking the destruction of Vingulf into your own hands is-"

Sam "Oh, can it. I don't care. The damn sword is in my possession and I have half a mind to slash half of you with it." He frowns. "I won't actually do that of course, because, well, yeah, but seeing as the only way you're taking this sword is out of my dead hands, I think you need to tone down your voice of authority."

Tails "Keep the sword, but keep your calm, too. Imas can't be allowed to escape. And anyways, he's right, none of us can teleport out."

Sylla She speaks a bit reluctantly. "If Vingulf arrived here, there are a lot of potential problems. I think that only the Meowstic has the potential to get rid of Vingulf so easily..."

Imas almost says something but doesn't.

Sam "That's where you're wrong. You're not aware of the dynamics of anything, really, and you've not got half the details." Sam unsheathes the sword and flourishes with it. "This sword's pretty cool, you know." He replaces it and turns his eyes towards Imas.

Liam sidles up to Tails.

Liam "What does she mean, exactly?"

Tails "It's not something I knew about, but... I did sense something of the sort having the potential to be true. After all this is over, we need to have a long talk with a few people..."

Xorack "Yeah, maybe give them a few pointers about taking the Antithesis more seriously..." He mutters under his breath. "...and not like some small-time gang of goons we mugged."

Lt Gen Zaffre "This is not a hostage situation, Imas. We are not terrorists like your Antithesis. You and Natira are criminals."

Munwibada "Sam, thou wouldst do well to hear us out. Even with that sword, Vingulf wouldst be dangerous to taketh on alone."

Sam "You'd do much better to say 'plus that sword,' not 'even with that sword.' And who's taking Vingulf on alone? I'm just spearheading his execution." He shrugs. Imas looks very uneasy, and keeps shying away from Sam's glare that keeps returning.

Sam He turns to face Imas fully. "Yeah, yeah, consider your options all you want, but your little game is coming to an end soon." He smirks smugly. "And Vingulf or not, well..."

Imas tenses up even more.

Sam "No go, huh? Ah well, it was a bluff anyways." He decapitates Natira with an unseen movement. "She was dead already. Good thing I said farewell long ago. And this sword... you'll never be able to wield it. And, I'll find Vingulf, too, but I guess you'll die first."

Imas "Why does it have to be you..."

Sam "Hehe, what was that?"

Imas "You didn't even have the decency to kill her with the sword you stole from us..."

Sam "No, I told you, she was, ah, whatever. This sword is even less hers than it is yours."

Clinger and Latchgrip, having turned their heads away just before the deed was done, turn to see Xorack approaching Imas fast. Zaffre turns his eye toward him.

Sokona "Watashitachi no jōshi wa kare no nintai o subete ushinatta to omō." Zurkabō nods shakingly.

Xorack "All right, enough avoiding our questions, you obstinate little punk! Where's Vingulf?!"

Imas "............I'll be damned if I don't have a sword to wave in front of that one after all this....."

Sam overhears the muttering and moves quickly towards Imas. The other Nonpareil corner him. Stab stays around in the corner warily.

Sam "Yeah, it's my sword now. Not that you ever really had it."

Imas "Why can you wield it!? Why can you kill her!? You're supposed to be- you were the only forsaken one, so why?"

Sam "Or maybe that's just why? Kinda suspicious how those little ones got more power than you, isn't it... huh? Well, anyways, I'll be sure to kill you quickly if you do me the favor of telling me how to get to Vingulf, but I don't suppose that'd happen."

Liam "Can we... just, stop giving him time to talk? Kill him, Vingulf can come later-"

Sam "Shut it! You're really just putting it off. Imas isn't even important. Killing him actually brings me more pleasure than it helps the Nonpareil. Killing him AND Vingulf on the other hand... mmm, now that's something that will really get things going."

Imas "What, do you want to kill the Sharan one by one? The Shadow never stops casting its light on new lands... And that group gets stronger day by day. You disgust me."

Sam "Okay, bud, but you lost your boons so we know your time's coming to an end. Make that throat start vocalizing something that'll help me or I'll slit it right now." He pauses and winces. "...that sounded a lot better in my head."

Sagujo "Forget it, boss. He won't tell us."

Frustrated, Xorack stamps the floor repeatedly, walking over to Aroido and Sagujo, glaring threateningly at Imas. Trivdrenen talks aside to Munwibada.

Trivdrenen "Those two sound really crazy."

Munwibada nods, watching them.

Xorack "Do with him what you will." He hisses.

Sam "Oh, one more thing, though. I will kill you with the sword." He draws it.

Imas He snarls at Sam and backs away. "I won't lay down my life at least."

Clinger and Latchgrip slowly turn their heads away, knowing what is about to happen. Zaffre shifts his attention back and forth between Sam and Imas.

Sam' "Fortunately, I don't need you to." He swings the sword at Imas almost lazily, gauging his reaction. Imas, much faster now, but somewhat unsteady on his feet, jumps backwards, taking in Sam's movements as well. "You really didn't know how it was with me, huh? Didn't know what I was able to do? I have no problem wielding this... amalgam of a blade." Liam walks forward, but Sam shoos him back. Liam and Tails exchange looks.

Tails "He can kill him just fine. Leave it. Watch him though, that sword is..."

Liam "...Well, understood. Sylla, head back out. Try to find the others. Report to Grant, but don't tell him what actually needs to be done."

Sylla "...Obviously."

Liam "Obviously."

Sylla leaves the room. Imas has time to give her a side glare, but Sam jumps for him then. He conjures up a blade of yellow light to parry the Amalgam Blade's strike, but it shatters instantly and Imas has to roll backwards.

Imas "Such ease..."

Sam "Damn right."

In his attempt to escape Sam's flurry of swings, Imas uses Xorack's head as a springboard to jump high above Sam's reach. Smirking, Sam jumps upwards, somehow not even having to bend his legs, sword outstretched. In mid-air, Imas actually reaches out his hand closer to the sword, and a flash of energy discharges between his fingertips and the blade tip, cascading downwards to the hilt.

Sam "Argh, what the...?!" His grasp on the sword slips, so Sam pushes Imas away with a blast of pure force. Readjusting his grip with his now blistered hand, he looks up to see Imas kicking off the ceiling, and with a burst of speed rivaling his earlier antics, heading out of the room's doorway.

Zaffre quickly reacts and pursues Imas out of the doorway, with Munwibada following him.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Stop that war criminal! Do not let him get away!"

Trivdrenen quickly moves along and follows after them. Xorack yells upward, shaking his claws in the air angrily over Imas using his head to evade Sam.'

Xorack "I get no respect around here! THAT'S IT!!!" He stampedes out of the room after him in rage.

Sagujo "Wait! What about us?"

Tails and Liam instantly bluster out of the room in pursuit as well.

Stab "Hey, wait .... ! Um."

Sam "...." He doesn't leave immediately in pursuit, for some reason, and runs after a few seconds, then trips, the sword clattering to the ground, but not outside of his grip. Imas, somehow, appears from back inside the room, and reaches to retrieve the sword with all his speed.

Sam "Yeah, I'm not that damn stupid." With a subtle flick, the sword is made to swing upwards. Imas' arm is instantly cleaved from the rest of his body.

Imas "AAAAAAAHHHH!!!!! YOU!!!"

Sam "Ah, shame, I was a bit off."

He repositions the sword again and makes to swing for Imas. Liam and Tails peek their heads back in the room.

Tails "You missed," he observes.

Liam "Wait, you knew that was going to happen?"

Tails just stares.

Liam "...."

Sokona "There is Imas again."

Sagujo "Of course, the Antithesis are always pulling tricks."

Soon enough, Zaffre reappears, watching them carefully.

Lt Gen Zaffre "He can send Xorack on an aimless chase, but he is not going to shake me off that easily."

Sokona and Zurkabō move in on Imas, while Clinger and Latchgrip, on the other side of the room, wait to make their move.

Sam is faster, and jumps after Imas, throwing thrust after thrust, swing after swing. Imas dodges, ducks, and evades, getting closer and closer to failing each time, until three slashes, deeper in succession, are carved into his torso, and he is backed up against the wall. Sam plunges the blade towards Imas, a stab this time, but Imas ducks once more.

Imas "Aaaaargh!" Imas' ear is pierced by the blade, and he is pinned. The sword sinks deep into the circular door behind the pair.

Imas "Haaa..." He breathes heavily, and a trickle of blood escapes the corner of his mouth. "You really were able to do that, huh? Well, I may be more of a failure than I'd like, but the Shadowsearch will never fail to prevail."

Sam "Hrmm." He attempts to pull the Amalgam Blade free and deal a final strike to Imas in one fluid move, but the sword is jammed. He looks over Imas. "You're still so tensed up. Not only have you not given up, you're holding back... something. A final trump card, probably, but I'm not letting down my guard."

Imas subtly looks to his right. Sam catches it, but smirks and keeps his glare on Imas.

Sam "Such an old trick is bound to fail. You're stuck in front of me, why would I direct attention elsewhere..."

Imas "I see." With an audible ripping sound, Imas' left ear is rent from his head, and with one of the most extreme displays of speed yet, dipping into the last reserves of energy, Imas escapes Sam, his exact path made invisible by the absurd velocity.

Sam "!" Instantly, Liam flies from the room, back out the doorway again, thinking he has a read on the situation this time.

Tails "You idiot!" he yells, diving for the right of the room's large water pipes as Sam frees the sword forcefully and follows.

Clinger cringes at the sight of Imas willingly severing his own ear to escape and turns his head. Latchgrip looks at the doorway where Liam just rushed out, then in the direction Tails and Sam are going.

Sagujo "Okey, this is the second time he nos hace adivinar."

Zaffre turns to Clinger and Latchgrip.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Stay here until I say otherwise."

He moves on to decide which way to go, quickly. Not one to repeat his last mistake of rushing out the doorway, he follows Tails and Sam in.

Stab "Hey! Natira is gone! And so is Imas' arm!" Just then, Imas' arm falls out of the pipe.

Liam rushes back into the room.

Liam "Oh, hell, they all think too fast for me."

Xorack appears behind Liam, clearly frustrated about being given the slip. Also reappearing are Munwibada and Trivdrenen.

Xorack "Where is he?! When I get my claws on him, I'll be sure- oh..." He catches sight of Imas's arm.

Aroido "Liam, they went in that direction, if you want to go after them."

Liam "I'll bet those passageways are as winding as the dry ones. Imas is as good as dead alone, and those two are chasing after as well. I'll just go find the other Nonpareils, and Cerin and that other one..."

Trivdrenen "Speaking of which, they should already be on their way. Make sure you don't get lost back there."

Liam "...I'll trail the left wall."

Munwibada "We shall finish things here whilst you meet up with them."

Liam nods and leaves the room.

Sagujo looks around, and sighs almost tiredly.

Sagujo "You know, boss, he might be right. There might not be much else we can do."

Xorack "What?!"

Sagujo "Those guys are right on him, anyway. You saw what happened over there."

Aroido "I think you should both take this time to catch your breath. It was a long fight."

Xorack huffs angrily, but relents.

Xorack "Fine..."

Stab "We all rushed in here, should we call this done and see what went down aboveground?" Behind him, a chunk of the door falls off, widening the hole Sam left.

Trivdrenen "Wonder what that was about."

Xorack "If that's what ya want to do, whatever. Sagujo, take these three back up. We'll join you soon."

Sagujo "Si. Come on." He walks toward the doorway, looking back at Stab, Sokona, and Zurkabō before walking out.

Stab has already lost focus and is peering into the large hole.

Sokona and Zurkabō are similarly distracted. Sagujo peeks back in.

Sagujo "Eh, are you- what happened there?"

Stab "This is the room Imas was trying to enter, huh?"

Aroido "It was what he risked ear and arm for."

Xorack "And quite stupidly at that."

Stab "It's really dark but... I don't even see anything in there."

Sokona "You're right about it being dark." She squints briefly. "Even I can't see anything in there."

Stab "Hey, I can probably fit in here. Anyone have a light?"

Munwibada "I carry a torch with me."

Sagujo "No need, Munwibada. I already have one." He takes out a light, which shines right in the direction of the hole.

Stab He looks into the hole again, and then turns himself in a way that allows him to fit through. "I still don't see anything in here. Bring it closer."

Sagujo "Coming, Stab." He walks in closer with the light.

The room behind the doors is quite small, more like a vault than anything else. It seems entirely empty. Stab scrutinizes the walls, the ceiling, and then the floor.

Stab "Hey, there's a tiny little hole in the center of these carvings here."

Xorack "What carvings? Hey, Sagujo, keep that light up. I wanna see what he's talking about." He crawls toward the hole, and peeks an eye into it, looking across the room.

Decorative carvings of whorls and spirals form long thick lines crossing concentric circles, in a symmetrical pattern whose center is the small hole Stab mentioned.

Xorack "Oh, right there." He then studies the patterns carved in the floor. "I think Imas was definitely crazy to want to open this."

Sagujo "That's what we'd expect from such a fanatic." He twirls his left forearm around the side of his head, which Clinger mimics. "Always loco."

Stab "You sure about that? This room like... feels like ancient power."

Aroido "It was all the more reason to keep him away from the room. Like they said, he was crazy to want to open the door to it."

Stab "Hmmmm....."

Xorack "Other than that interior decoration job, and that weird feeling just from standing near there, I don't see anything else."

Trivdrenen "I don't mean to interrupt, but you need to hurry up and get away from there."

Sagujo "Give us a minute."

Latchgrip "We have to close that off as soon as possible!"

Xorack "All right! All right!" He growls exasperatedly. "Sorry, Stab, I guess we gotta get moving."

Stab "I get the feeling that leaving this uninvestigated would be a bad idea..."

Xorack "Well, how am I supposed to get in there?"

Sokona and Zurkabō step forward.

Sokona "You don't have to. We'll do this." She and Zurkabō walk up to the hole, where Xorack steps out of the way, and crawl carefully through the hole to join Stab in the room.

Stab He looks the small opening in the floor over. "I just feel like it's important..."

Sokona "Hai, which is why they weren't letting those lousy cronies come near this place."

Stab "What do you think Imas and Viera wanted to get in here for?"

Zurkabō "Maybe some surreal object they thought would give them an advantage over the Nonpareil, but they must have been fools if they thought they could handle what they were seeking."

Sokona "If you ask me, it would probably have backfired on them even if it did what they intended to use it for." She snickers with Zurkabō.

Stab He looks confused. "Some kinda Lovecraft thing?"

Sokona "I have no idea what that word means, but if you mean bizarre, then, something like that."

Stab "So it's not the kind of thing we could use?"

Zurkabō "Not unless it involves getting ourselves needlessly killed, and there is no point in that."

Stab "Well, what's that hole anyways?"

Sokona "If there's nothing in here, it may have been where they were trying to go."

Stab "No, look at it, it's tiny and shallow. And shaped weird." He peers in it. "Looks like something went here, maybe a stand for something? Wait, no, there's some kind of metal mechanism in there... Hey, is this a keyhole!?"

Sokona "Then it wasn't an opening floor. If either Viera or Imas had the key for it, then we just cut it close."

Stab "The design kind of looks like the hilt of that sword, but the hilt didn't really fit with the design. I bet it wasn't the original."

Sagujo "Good thing they got that sword out of his hands. As inept as he is, we wouldn't want him getting to that hocus-pocus."

Stab "I feel like we want it, though."

Sokona "What?" She and Zurkabō blink.

Xorack "Pfft. What we want is to get paid, and the sooner we get done, the better."

Stab He acts nonchalant, but it's obviously bugging him. "If you say so..." He thinks of something though. "Well, are you sure you want Sam to have it? There's nothing stopping him from getting at it now. Sure, he might not know about or want it, but we don't know everything, and... Kinda scary, with how he seems."

Xorack "I've actually been quite suspicious of him, too, the instant he started using that sword."

Sagujo "Something tells me the little delinquent was on probation for more than just being annoying..."

Xorack "Usually I smack a wrist or two for that."

Aroido "...Or throw dirt or sand..."

Clinger smacks a balled up tentacle into an open one, as Munwibada replies to Xorack and Sagujo.

Munwibada "But Lieutenant General Zaffre is with them, and he doth consider the accursed blade that was once Impale too dangerous to be-eth of use."

Stab "So, what do you all think we should do?"

Latchgrip "We are going to have to investigate this further once Imas and the sword are taken care of."

Stab "Alright, I guess we should leave for now then."

Trivdrenen "We'll stand guard."

Sokona "I will go first." She crawls out and waits for them.

Stab heads out of the room as well.

Zurkabō follows Stab out.

Munwibada "And now for the hard part. Waiting."

Stab "Are we not going to see what's going on outside?"

Trivdrenen "We didn't say you had to wait."

Stab "Oh, what are you waiting on?"

Munwibada "We will be making sure that all is taken care of."

Stab "Oh, I see." He doesn't. "Well, I'd like to see what's going on outside."

Xorack "I feel like gettin' out of here, too. This is boring." He goes toward the door. "Come on."

Stab follows.

Aroido, Sagujo, Sokona, Zurkabō follow them from behind and leave the room down the corridors.

Chapter Eleven: The Shadow

In a removed corner of the winding Temple, Cerin, Layton, and Three stand witness to what was in ancient times, a sight of immeasurable glory. However, in the present, it merely looks like a mighty cavern of seemingly impossible size - a giant tear in the bowels of the earth visible from the deepest underground room of the temple. Some stone structures that resemble crumbling buildings rise from the cavern floor, but said floor is made up of hundreds of massive boulders with rivers of water flowing between them. It appears to be an ancient city struck by a cave-in. Water still pours in through cracks in the ceiling in several places, and must be draining off somewhere.

Cerin “That’s… immense.”

Layton “I’m extremely curious to know what that’s doing here.”

Three “Such a sunken abode fillips transient solicitudations of sonder.”

Cerin He doesn’t even laugh this time, just purses his lips and shakes his head. “No, it doesn’t. Honestly I don’t know what you’re even trying to say.”

Layton “I don’t even know what sonder is.”

Cerin “It’s…”

Layton “Hey! That part of the ceiling there is another area of the temple. Look, the narrowest stream of water.”

Three “The deluge is endogenous.”

Cerin sighs.

Layton “That one was pretty close – well, anyways. It seems that getting lost led us to an incredible sight. I do worry about what’s happening with Imas, though.”

Cerin “Well, there were still a ton of Nonpareil, right? Surely Imas couldn’t have made it out alive.”

Three “One would prophetize such a conclusion.”

Cerin “Do you mean hypothesize?”

Three “Nay.”

Cerin “You can’t even say ‘no’ like a normal person?”

Three “Negative. I am dissentious. One such as myself portentously abjures such ubiquitous formulations.”

Cerin “Oh, my word. Okay. Anyways, we should either find the others or get back to the surface. I have a feeling there’s nothing we can do at this point, whether it turned out good or bad for us. I have a few words to have with the Nonpareil either way.”

Layton looks at Cerin curiously.

Layton “We don’t want to investigate this? Also, what would you have to say to the Nonpareil?”

Cerin “Well, what would we even find here? It doesn’t look like this was what the Antithesis was looking for, and the Temple will still be here. I feel like hanging around is a mistake.”

Layton “Failed to play a part in the very end, huh?”

Cerin “Oh, come on.”

Layton He smiles, but it’s solemn. “Well, I was joking, but it feels out of place considering the dire straits we’re all in, and who we’ve lost. Anyways –“ Something falls from the stream of water. It’s Imas, followed very closely by Sam. Imas lands half-nimbly, half-stumbling on the rocks below, and narrowly avoids a fatal stab. He takes off, still leaving a trail of blood from his wounds, Sam slowed down by having to pull out the sword from the stones.

Layton and Cerin “IT’S THEM!”

Layton “Well, it’s only Sam fighting Imas.”


Cerin “Whaddaya know….”

Sam and Imas both run out of sight.

Back on the ground, outside of the temple, the Antithesis forces have fled. After Viera was struck down by Imas, most of them retreated immediately, but with many of their reinforcements gone, the rest were forced to retreat as well. The remains of the large tanks emitted noxious black smoke that claimed several Interveners. Shortly after, a series of ominous purple mushroom clouds exploded out in the distance all over the forest, lingering for a minute or two before disappearing. After the departure of the Antithesis, no one joins or leaves this scene except for a single Emolga. This lone small one joins a solemn group of Interveners with the same energy. They consult with Emmes, who nods even more solemnly.

Emmes "All of the anti-shade team are gone. Literally all of them were killed just now in those explosions, I -" Her voice breaks down.

The second-in-command Eevee chimes in darkly.

Eevee "Almost half of our forces are wiped out now. All told, we have... 47 members left? Oh, that's.... and that's counting the rest of the Team, too.."

Emmes “…”

Eevee “Well – we couldn’t have gotten here if it weren’t for the sacrifices of the shade team. We could only even get into the temple because of that.”

A Glalie speaks up angrily.

Glalie “As if that mattered. They’d be back out by now if the remaining members of the Team and the Nonpareil were enough to kill Imas. This was all for nothing. The Interveners have fallen.”

Eevee “That’s impossible-“

Hana “Hmmmmmm? That prophecy’s suggestions for countering weren’t even fulfilled, though. Bell only came here because she believed in her own power.”

Eevee He curses. “You’re right. But Bell didn’t believe the Nonpareil would show up.”

Hana “Well, they probably won’t let the Antithesis succeed, true, but there’s no reason to believe they’ll be able to make a step towards ending it all. Pretty sure Bell thought only she could do that, for whatever reason.”

Emmes “…………..She thought we could, too.”

Eevee and Hana “’We’?”

Emmes “Her children. Well, not Emmet, because he had a different- oh, shit…” Emmes is overpowered by some sort of emotion and has to sit down.

Eevee “I-in any case. Even if that’s right and we failed to even take a real step forward, that doesn’t mean the Interveners have fallen.”

Hana “Wait, I wanna hear about what she jus-“

Glalie “Okay, sure, maybe we’re still able to live along, to fight. But there were so many upsets that we’ve probably reset the whole situation to something we’ll never be able to fight against. And many still died for no reason.”

Xorack, Aroido, Stab, Sokona, and Zurkabō exit the main door to the temple.

Eevee “…I-I just…”

Hana “Hey, someone came out. Not all of them though, and not even one of ours OR the Nonpareil.” She approaches the group. “So? Imas is dead, right? Where’s the Nonpareil? Where’s the rest of the Team? Where’s Cerin?”

Xorack "They're still down in the caverns, taking care of what's left."

Sokona "What"

They slowly look around at the sight of the aftermath. They see the wreckage of the tanks, as well as soldiers carrying the bodies away from the field. Uopanosguhi is still on the ground, hyperventilating in shock.

Kolsohte "This was too much for her..."

Krokorok "The shades were destroyed, but about half the Interveners are dead, and Viera's forces managed to escape."

Aroido is silent momentarily. Only once he has finished surveying all that has happened on the battlefield does he bring himself to ask a potentially important question.

Aroido "Did any of you see which direction they fled in?"

Hana "They went mostly east, but... Well, if you're thinking of following them I won't stop you, but I don't think anyone's binding them to service anymore. Viera was their general, and it seems like they were his forces; the whatevers, whoever his higherups were, won't care about them. Their coordinators are probably panicking, and you know they'll just find some new life once they realize they no longer make up a branch of the Antithesis."

Xorack "We only ask because we got someone else to pick a bone with: Vingulf. Guess this won't be too helpful."

Pikaichichu stares down at the ground, nothing particular, sighing pensively.

Hana "Oh yeah, that's the guy I heard about. If Bell was - well, we don't have anyone really available to speculate on what that guy might do. I wonder if the Nonpareil would know. Wonder if that naggy Eevee will get onto me if I go to them."

Eevee "Heard that. Bold of you to assume I have the capacity to know the best route to take as far as that goes. I just suggest to look again for commonalities between the areas targeted by the Antithesis. We have a sample size of four now." He sounds snappy, but returns to a pensive state.

Aroido "I am usually patient, but after this, it is now in our interests to find out his location quickly. Grant was wounded in there."

Officer "Do not forget Coubrûaielle earlier."

Xorack "Bell's not here, so that's an option blown. Those bureaucrats running the government aren't gonna listen, so we can't count on them, either. We're going as soon as everyone's back out here."

Krokorok "Better cool your jets, Xorack. This won't be like fighting Viera."

Stab "Do we even know what he's capable of?"

Officer "Unknown, but risking anyone left in a full on frontal attack would be one of the worst ways to find out."

Pikaichichu "We need to be more careful from now on, we don't want losses like this again..."

Hana "Best case scenario has Bell recover and ready to take down Vingulf in a single fail swoop. Though... Imas is dead, right?"

Xorack "After all of this, I hope he is." He grumbles menacingly.

One of the officers contacts Zaffre.

Officer "They are asking for an update. What is the status on Imas?"

Possessing half his ears, half his arms, and much less than half of his stamina, Imas runs yet.

Sam “I never thought you could be this stubborn. You always give into the will of others, but now you’re rebelling and running, all in the same day. Heh.”

Imas doesn’t reply, just glares, a certain glint in his eye. The huge cavern expands all around the pair, but Sam and Imas only have the focus to stare at each other.

Sam “You weren’t the type to side with Father, though, either. It’d be pretty embarrassing if it turns out you got involved in this because of him.”

Imas “Father isn’t even sympathetic to the Antithesis, you idiot. Also, he’s insane, and thinks we’re all dead. Well, he never knew about Natira to begin with, of course.”

Sam is taken aback for a second by something in Imas’ words, but he recovers quickly and holds his sword directly in front of Imas’ chest.

Sam “Well, anyways. Ready to stop running?”

Imas “Oh, definitely.” He takes one step backwards, looking into Sam’s rueful eyes with a grin, and vanishes entirely.

Sam is stunned, and only now does he look upward. The pair had gone so far back into the cavern that they’d reached an area directly under a small crack letting in air and light from the above world.

Sam lowers his sword.

Sam “Are you…. Are you FUCKING SERIOUS?” He puts his palm to his forehead, and then starts laughing. “Oh, damn. Idiot was right.” Sam initiates communications with Tails.

Sam “He’s gone.”

Tails “Took you long enough. That taken care of, we have an opportunity. Come here immediately.”

Sam “No, he’s gone.”

Tails “Oh, you idiot. Got the sword, still, I assume, considering you still have breath.”

Sam He clenches it tightly. “Yeah.”

Tails “Good. If you can contact me you can just come here. Show up. Now. Bring the sword. We need it.”

Sam “Wait… are you for real? Oh… oh HELL YES. Is it finally time?”

Tails “It’s finally time.”

Lt Gen Zaffre "...I will speak with you later, but prepare to mobilise immediately."

Officer "Understood, sir."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Why is it so difficult to nab him?" He begins to tremble from his frustration, his magnets shaking wildly.

Hana "Huh, what'd he say?"

Officer "...Stand by..."

Hana "Hmmmmmm......."

Cerin, Layton, and Three run out of the main entrance.

Following them out is Zaffre - part of him - with a scowl across his face. As soon as he sees the ruinous aftermath on the field, this angers him further.


Hana "Oh, look who it is. Might you know whether Imas was taken care of or not?" She directs this mostly at Zaffre, somewhat hopefully.

Lt Gen Zaffre "If he was...I would not be this angry!! We almost had him, and he escaped, vanished!!!" He repulses a rock into the air as far into the distance as he can.

Hana watches it go.

Hana "Are the Nonpareil good for anything? So, let me get this straight. The only thing that's changed for us is that half of us are dead, and we have a new enemy." She puts on a sarcastic tone, but her voice is tinged with pain.

Cerin "We'd have a new enemy anyways, though. And we do seem to have succeeded in batting the Antithesis away from their goal. Anyways, Hana, I'd really like to talk about a few things... ...Oh, the Nonpareil don't seem to be answering my calls. Well, that's just great."

Layton "One would assume they're busy with something. Where's Grant, actually?"

Cerin leaves for a moment, saying he needs to talk to someone. Layton starts to protest but changes his mind.

Aroido "He should be out just about now. I wrapped his wounds so it would be easier for the medics to handle the rest."

Lt Gen Zaffre "All of this...this will not go unpunished. Next encounter, I will not leave it to them."

Hana "Wonder how that will end up."

Eevee "...well. No reason to stay here. Bell still hasn't moved, but we can move her. We need to recoup and make steps to reinforce our numbers and equipment before the Shadow falls somewhere else. We may or may not have made a step towards the end of the Antithesis, but we have delayed their goals."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Why enlist more of them? We would just be getting more killed. You saw what happened! You were cut down to half in the battle!"

Pikaichichu "And to my knowledge, some wouldn't want my shadow over them." He adds, looking in Hana's direction, still sore about her earlier remark.

Eevee "We only lost a couple here. It was the shades that decimated our team. That's our main goal - learn a better way to counteract them. We'll reinvigorate ourselves with a greater science team before we bolster our forces with soldier numbers." He counters Zaffre with extreme calm.

Hana "Oh, yikes."

Lt Gen Zaffre "'Only lost a couple'?" He shakes his head. "We shouldn't have lost any at all. I wouldn't be looked upon so favourably by the team if I thought like that, or anyone for that matter. We will definitely need that new research if we want to avoid this disaster. And if you're thinking soldiers, we will also need to take a different tactical approach to this."

Pikaichichu "I-I didn't mean to give off any threatening impression just now, Hana. What I was trying to say was: what you said earlier... ...did you mean that?"

Hana "It's just a quip."

Eevee "Of course a loss is always a loss, but that doesn't mean one should look for something that isn't there. In any case, we're heading back."

Sokona "Just one problem. What about the rest of them?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Yes, Clinger and Latchgrip are still down there, Munwibada and Trivdrenen are still down there. I'm still down there - and yes, in my case, those words make sense."

Xorack "And Capo Sagujo's still there..."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Tails, Grant, Liam, Sam, Sylla, Clyssa, Jones, we need them accounted for, too."

Eevee "I don't know about Sam, but the rest of the Nonpareil left. I didn't see Tails come out of the entrance, though, he just appeared from nowhere to ask about Grant. Anyways, yes, let's get everyone else out for now. We should return to glean any information from the structure, but we need rest for now. You may consider leaving a few to set up camp inside or outside the Temple, though, but not the Interveners."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I am not leaving at the moment, I go together."

Officer "We will take post here, too."

The Eevee frowns.

Eevee "All of you?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "By 'we', they meant my cadre."

Eevee "Ah, alright."

Aroido "Sleep is optional for me, so I will wait here to pick up Sagujo while these four go back with you."

Eevee "Alright then, let's head on back."

Everyone prepares to move, and get on their way.

Xorack "Yeah, guys, let's get outta here."

Xorack and the rest of the gang - bar Aroido - leave in haste. Kolsohte takes Uopanosguhi with him, away from the desolate field. Many from Team StormBlitz also pull out, though Zaffre and his officers remain behind, as do a number of soldiers.

Pikaichichu "Anata wa kore ni ataishimasendeshita, Elles..."

The last of the Interveners leaves the clearing, and arrive at camp.

Eevee "Everyone rest. We'll start moving on to our next goal tomorrow." He mutters to himself. "I'll also talk to StormBlitz about setting up some kind of investigative camp at that Temple."

Xorack "All right. I'm gonna hit the hay. You do whatever you need to do." He grumbles and goes to sleep.

Sokona "Rough day."

Sam grips the Amalgam Blade with all his strength, nervous at what he's just done, but feeling very accomplished.

Blood drips from the blade, and Grant's body lies in two halves. It's not unlike the scene the prior day in front of the Temple.

Sam looks around him. Clyssa and Jones are dead as well, similarly stabbed through by Sylla and a new face, respectively. Liam has cornered Jacques.

Liam "Well? Do you lie with the late, stalling, Grant and the inane Elders, or with us?"

Jacques "I have never allowed those fools to sway me. Worry not, I side with your cause all the way."

Liam spreads his arms.

Liam "With this, we can finally free ourselves from the wars in the outer areas, and our numbers can utilize our full powers. Hmph. Finally indeed." He turns to Tails, who has just appeared. Tails nods.

Tails "Yeah. The Sharan aren't going to be idle anymore. We have to face them. Wherever the Shadow falls."

Zaffre and Aroido continue to wait outside, before long, Sagujo walks out of the entrance.

Sagujo "Oy, Señor Webuhimo. Estoy aqui ahora. I'm here now."

Aroido "Good, I was waiting on you. Where's Stab?"

Sagujo "Here he comes right now."

Aroido "What made them take unusually long?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "I can answer that. There was an unceremonious change of the guard."

Stab "Yo. Change of the guard? What's that?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Grant is dead, as are Clyssa and Jones."

Stab' "Wait, isn't that, like, bad?"

Lt Gen Zaffre "Keyword being 'unceremonious'."

Aroido "So I took that time to patch Grant up for nothing?"

The head Eevee of the Interveners approaches.

Eevee "On the contrary, this turn of events seems good for all of us."

Stab "So allies are still dying, but it's good now? Okay..."

Eevee "Well, I don't know the extent of the problems Grant caused, but usurping the seat of leader of the Nonpareil from him allows them to use their full forces where it actually matters, apparently. Mutiny isn't necessarily bad."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Only if an organisation or unit is corrupt or under a terrible leader or officer. In other cases, however, it is."

Aroido sighs and shakes his head, frustrated.

Sagujo "If that's the case, when do ya think they'll send them? I heard we got pounded out here."

Liam shows up.

Liam "Tails is working on moving our forces from the outer reaches as we speak, but that will take a while. The Shadowsearch has almost entirely dissipated, anyways. Either the Sharan will be busy gathering up a new army somewhere, or they'll march down to the Shadow themselves. The latter will require immediate action, and the former is hard to counter. We might as well take advantage of the lull to build ourselves up."

Lt Gen Zaffre "We also have the small window to consider. One moment." He recombines himself with the other two that return. "Okay. As I was saying, when we are ready, we will have to move as soon as possible, because we cannot let anymore get involved in their scheme."

Liam "We plan on moving as soon as we know where the Shadow has fallen."

Teishoshko "In the meantime, we will be investigating around the Temple as Branch A agreed on."

Eevee "Where are the others, they said they'd be here..."

Cerin, Hana, Lace, Layton, and Pointa approach, most talking intensely about something.

Cerin "No, no, Lace, you didn't see it with your own eyes so you don't know, but it was totally decimated. The energy readings don't matter when you can clearly see no one can survive that."

Hana "Yeah, I don't know how optimism is a useful defense against whatever happened there."

Lace She purses her lips. "No, you don't understand. You can't build a defense while expecting the worst..."

Layton "Perseverance does require hope."

Pointa "A-as a sniper..."

Hana "Oh, there's those ancient ruins. Damn, I can see it out there. What a sight."

Lt Gen Zaffre "It also requires initiative. I can confirm this with the existing data." He watches Teishoshko and a few more scout the area around the Temple. "It has served us greatly in the past, so I can calculate that it will be very useful here."

Cerin "Has anyone found anything interesting, by the way?"

Sagujo "The last chamber inside was empty, I doubt we'll find anything out here, either, ése, other than debris or scrap."

Two of them find a tank tread and a wheel that was blown in half by a particle shot.

Scout "Nothing here yet."

Officer "Search over there. There has to be more than that."

The ruins seem barren of anything interesting. Some are retrieving fragments of rubble for analysis, but all in all, the magnificent ancient structure is awfully plain.

The Eevee glances at them cursorily.

Eevee "Grab anything that looks like it may have had engravings on them in the past, or something inset into it. Unfortunately, it looks like a river flowed through here and eroded everything. That may have been the cause of collapse, actually. We're working on dating fragments to see how long after the Temple was built."

Aroido nods to Sagujo and Stab, before crawling toward the ruins with Sagujo following. Meanwhile, Zaffre scans the engravings of one of the larger fragments.

Almost everything larger than an apple is completely eroded.

Kappa runs over from somewhere, reporting his findings to no one in particular.

Kappa "Wow, this is kinda hopeless. There's nothing here whatsoever except for these tiny bits, and no one could manage to collect all of those, much less make sense of them."

Eevee "Ech." He expresses frustration, sounding like Bell for a moment, then mutters to himself. "I don't want to have to resign myself to saying it's not here, but.... Would that sort of thing have been in the Temple, then....?"

A smaller Eevee approaches the higher-up.

"Sir, we've finished the dating methods. The main Temple was definitely built at least a thousand years after this city crumbled."

Eevee "Damn. Wait, that could still be plenty of time." He goes to gather everyone who had been through the Temple pursuing Imas.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Well, this is junk." He flings the fragment away, then notices Kappa. "Sorry you had to see that." He gestures to one of his officers.

Officer "Time to regroup."

Teishoshko and the other scouts gather back outside the entrance.

After everyone is grouped up, the Eevee asks something purposefully.

Eevee "So, what were the most important looking engravings anyone saw in the main Temple? Hmmm, did anyone see any astrological engravings; maybe solar eclipse imagery.... constellations... lunar studies...."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I had been scanning the walls and ceilings, and yes, I had seen some engravings, among them being imagery of said solar eclipse, as well as constellations."

Eevee "Yeah! What about an abstracted circular design that resembles the planet seen from above?" Stab perks up at that but keeps his mouth shut. Figuratively.

Lt Gen Zaffre "Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to scan that. I was in the middle of pursuing Imas."

Eevee "Anyone else?"

Scout "While we were unable to find that, we did get a look at some lunar engravings."

Eevee "That should lead to it, I think... But it would have been an aside room... If there were no artifacts, then the room itself would seem like its only purpose is to hold the engravings.... Or it seems like it might be like that..." He mutters on and on. "Well, I don't have any guarantee it exists to begin with."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Did any of you consider that maybe what they were looking for was not in the temple to begin with? They were, after all, only engravings."

Eevee "The nature of what they wanted here might not even be the same as what I'd like to find. 'The Shadow,' huh. It may very well be connected. But no, we don't have any idea whether it even exists. That's that, then, I guess, if you're sure."

Lt Gen Zaffre "I suspect that if they needed to access the underground city, it would not have been to take a nonexistent artifact deep within, but to find something to lead them to their objective."

Eevee "Ah, no, no, it would have been in the Temple itself."

Officer "Then why would Imas just leave after that?"

Eevee "Well, rationally, he would've needed the sword."

Sagujo "Which he's not getting back." He pounds his arms together. "And if he tries again, he won't be hearing us coming after him too well, after...that."

Eevee "Well, anyways, I guess we're not going to find what I'm after."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Even if we searched for hours, unfortunately, we would not."

Eevee "Indeed..." He waves everyone away to go back to their tasks, and leaves.

Stab He nudges Aroido. "Yo, that room I went in totally matches that description."

Aroido "It is quite a coincidence that his guess was so exact..." He turns his face to Stab. "...and unusual

Stab "I was right to say nothing, right?"

Aroido "Hai."

Stab "I knew that place was important."

Aroido "And Imas escaping has made things even worse." Zaffre, having kept suspicious eyes on the Eevee until he left, turns to his patrols and two officers.

Lt Gen Zaffre "He is too ambitious about it. Guard the temple. Nobody enters."

Officer "As you order, sir."

Lt Gen Zaffre "The rest of you stand by. When we receive updates on Imas's and Vingulf's whereabouts, we must be ready to plan the next course of action..."

Liam "I can help with that one, actually. Unfortunately, I'm not sure you can do whatever you're planning."

Zaffre turns to Liam.

Lt Gen Zaffre "We almost did, with Imas, of course. We were this close to eliminating him."

Liam "Sam's failure is all the more motivation to not fail next time, but mortals can't really stand against, well, our type. Though, that isn't what I meant exactly. None of us are even physically capable of going to where he is."

Lt Gen Zaffre "Then we have no choice. We cannot get to them, so we must pinpoint where they will appear next, then intercept them. And next time, if Sam breaks into another rant, we will have to eliminate Imas ourselves as soon as possible, as well as take down Vingulf."

Liam He spreads his arms. "Well, I'm not capable of helping with that, so I wish you luck. And I need to pay those who I hired, even if it went weirdly. Or even though that's not really necessarily true." He looks at Aroido.

Aroido "We appreciate you holding your end of the deal."

Sagujo "Si, thanks for remembering our pay. We'll tell the boss when he wakes up. He'll need at least a little good news for a change."

Liam He scrolls through a tablet from somewhere. "Hmm, we never signed anything, huh? Alright, I'll just ask. How much are you wanting?"

Aroido "If you will excuse for me for being blunt, he wants the equivalent of 23000 Po-Ké."

Liam "Of course. That's not a problem, but it'll be a lot of extra hassle if that's wanted in cash. Is there an account I can simply wire it to?" He idly taps the tablet.

Aroido "There is, but he is careful about it. I can make the transfer."

Liam lets Aroido give him instructions.

Aroido and Sagujo help Liam through and work on the transfer, while Teishoshko and a few scouts report back to Zaffre.

Sagujo "There, we go."

Liam "Done, then. Thank you for your assistance in this operation."

Aroido nods.

Sagujo "Sure thing, and thanks for our pay in return."

Zaffre contacts the team.

Lt Gen Zaffre "This is Lieutenant General Zaffre. ... We have a problem. There is no way that we will be able to reach Imas or Vingulf. They are in a dimension that none of us can enter. ... All we can do is plan for their next attack, and find out where they will strike. Then we must intercept them as soon as possible..."

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