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Masquerade ~ Part 5 (Final)

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I put my hands on my hips as Rory whipped past me and across the storage room. “Oh, guys, c’mon. Let’s not tear each other up like we’ve all gone Fog-Fer.”

Coco ignored me. She launched herself straight into the air and came crashing down on top of a startled Rory. Her cloak billowed like a living flame. Sowlee was even faster. Ignoring Aiden, who remained on guard beside the door, the Litleo darted between Rory and Coco to deliver a swipe to the Chimchar’s shoulder. A shower of scarlet sparks. Two of the thousand papers on the floor caught fire and, with a yelp, Aiden dove forward to stamp out the blaze. Rory wriggled far enough between Coco’s tangled legs to sink her fangs into the Monferno’s tail, and a gust of heat enveloped the room as each girl’s flame flared like a bursting star.

Riley arrowed straight for me, red scarf streaming behind him, his tail so bushed it rivaled Adrian’s. He screeched something in a voice several octaves too high, but I never found out what it was.

I sprang onto the nearest fallen bookcase and, from there, up to the high back shelves that lined the walls. My right fingers slipped, but I threw my elbow forward and scratched my claws against torn patches of wallpaper and heaved myself over. Three Spinarak scuttled, squealing, away along the wall. There were still documents up here that ol’ torchbutt had never touched. One splash of purple caught my eye. I skimmed over the paper in search of Nikki’s name, but the species scrawled across the top of the page was ‘Muk’, not Nidoking.

Tail lashing, I twisted around so I could intercept Riley. The Chespin scurried up the toppled bookcase, a little clumsier than I had, but his face twisted with determination. At the top of the ramp he hesitated, balancing on all four paws. The bookcase shifted just a bit, threatening to dump. Its corner scraped along the wall. Riley shook his head and leaped for me anyway.

“Brave punk,” I muttered, folding back my ears.

He had far better control over his body than I did Adrian’s, and was obviously well-practiced in that respect. His jump was straight, but slightly curved at the top in a - for lack of a better phrase, though I am loathe to admit it - graceful arc. The crest on his head blazed electric green. A pair of vines shot out from behind his back, swiping towards me with the fury of freshly-evolved Gyarados.

Pretty as his leap was, it didn’t change the fact that there wasn’t enough room on the shelf for two big Chespin. I curled in my arms, snapping them out again as he fell. We hit. I shoved. Thrown off balance, Riley tumbled down to the parchment-strewn floor, his vines tangled in the folds of his long red scarf.

“Tch. Kids are all so cocky these days.”

I craned my neck, scanning the rows of bookcases for the others. A Drilbur had joined Aiden at the door, nibbling a skylength a minute at the tips of his long claws. The Shinx himself had sparks shooting from his pelt. His back was arched towards the ceiling. He’d flashed out his talons, and a circle of shredded paper lay scattered around him like a shrine. I followed his gaze towards the rustle of parchment and muffled thumps between the next pair of shelves. A scrap of ginger fur, fists ablaze with sunset red, tumbled into the open as I watched. Quick as a snap, Coco leapt over her head, whirled, and sliced twin sets of shadow-stretched claws across Rory’s face. Driving her back between the bookcases. The Chimchar’s shoulder bumped against a shelf, sliding it out of place. It hit the ground with a clatter. A whirl of scattered papers.

“Rory!” I flipped my eye back, forth, back, forth between her and Riley, pressing my side against the wall. My fingers curled into the shelf. “What’s Adrian’s moveset?”

“Adrian?” snarled Riley. He was halfway up the teetering bookcase again, his lips pulled away from bright white teeth.

Rory ducked behind her arm, spitting sparks as Coco’s Fury Swipes slashed at her again. To her credit, she stayed strong. Though I could see her knees shaking even from my perch, she used her strength to bear the brunt of Coco’s attacks. She slowly pushed the Monferno back. Coco faltered as her rear bumped against a crate, and Rory didn’t miss the opportunity to plow her fist into her rival’s cheek (“Coco!” I heard the Drilbur wail).

“I dunno,” was Rory’s shouted reply. Dropping to all fours, she dodged Coco’s punch by a hair. She swept her leg around. Coco’s feet flew out from under her, and Rory grabbed hold of her shoulders. “He does this thing where he like, throws seeds!”

“Oh, nice play, Shakespearow! You’re a load of help! Bother it all. If I-”

A stinging pain fired up my tail. I jolted upright, just managing to yelp, “Uh?” before Riley’s weight yanked me straight off my shelf. My spine smacked against the sharp edges of the slanted bookcase.

“That’s for spreadin’ rumors.” Riley shoved one wrist across his face and slammed both paws between my ribs. I gasped, spitting, in his face. I’d like to say I did it on purpose. It didn’t seem to bother Riley, though. He leaned forward, eyes slitted. His twitching whiskers brushed my cheeks. Behind him, I heard Rory give a screech.

“Aiden,” called Sowlee from somewhere I couldn’t see, “go fetch Hazel!”

The Shinx took a step towards her voice. Hesitated, one paw raised. Then, sparks snapping orange against his blue fur, he turned and pelted through the door - and the green barrier. He vanished far, far away down the hall. Once Hazel and/or Robin and/or Kara arrived, I would be food for the Deinos. Again.

“No,” I grunted, fumbling for Riley’s paws.

“I don’t know you,” Riley said, drawing out the second word. His thin fingers splayed against my fur. “Never seen ya once before, chump. So what’s the skizzle that brought this on?”

“Take it easy, dude,” I breathed, rasping my tongue around my lips. “Give me a sec. And you could let- could you let me up, please?”

I spotted Sowlee’s dark form half an instant before she sprang. The Litleo rocketed from the shadows, eyes gleaming stark violet, and vanished behind a shelf. Before I could blink she exploded from the other side, claws extended towards Rory’s shoulder. Aiden was gone, the Drilbur had joined the fray, my only ally was caught between two slashing fronts, I was pinned down by a real ‘pin in the gut, and the papers I’d come to see were all mixed together or aflame on the ground.

Plan B. I needed Plan B. Why didn’t I have Plan B?

“Hey,” Riley said, wrenching my chin back around. “Hey bro, I asked you a question there. What’s up with your goin’ around tryna steal my identity? . . . Won’t talk, eh?”

Rory stumbled beneath Sowlee’s tackle, and I think Coco tripped her then. Riley’s face, a fifty-fifty twist of sheer annoyance and genuine curiosity, blocked the rest of the fight from my view.

“Brother,” he said, giving his head a shake of false sympathy, “you’re in a whole lot of trouble. Just wait ‘til Robin gets a look at you.”

He said it like I planned on sticking around.

Now, I don’t mean to come off calling Riley an idiot or anything. I actually respect him a great deal, all things taken into account. We’d even had a polite, if brief, discussion about potted ferns the week before the ambassador arrived. So though it may sound like I’m trying to write him off as a slow and bumbling oaf here, I’m not trying to write him off as a slow and bumbling oaf because I happen to know that despite the winter weight he’d recently put on he is, in fact, quite the opposite of a slow and bumbling oaf, and that at one time or another we all simply have our off days. That was my point.

But this must have been one of those aforementioned off days for Riley, because the poor guy was acting like no one had ever told him you can’t pin a Ghost to the ground!

The heartbeat I caught my breath again, I dropped Adrian’s body and burst into the air. Riley lurched back with a yelp, his quills on end.

“What the- you’re the Duskull!”

“Sorry,” I said, floating out of his reach. “About your rep, I mean. I hope we didn’t screw up your life too bad.”

Riley blinked and shook his head. He fumbled for an old application with an Espeon scrawled across it, crumpled it into a ball, and hurled it my way. I turned insubstantial and the ball bounced off the fallen bookcase. “You,” he sputtered, starting to stand, but a groan by his feet dragged his attention away. Some sort of instinct kicked in. He chose to check his fellow Chespin for emotional injuries rather than chase after me. Maybe Adrian’s altruism research had a fleck of truth to it after all. As Riley bent over him, he started counting.

I was still stuck. There were no windows in the little storeroom. And for obvious reasons, after all the trouble the Hunters had gone through to Ghost-proof the door. Robin and Hazel would arrive in a matter of minutes. I’d blown my cover with Adrian. I needed a new hiding place. Roland would have had a Plan B.

The first place I tried to hide was the drawer in the crumpled desk that lay on the ground with its legs pulled off. It was locked, and it had a tiny keyhole that I could slip my particles through, easy. It would’ve been great. Except that just as I was dissolving my tail, Coco’s Mach Punch rendered the thing to splinters. She must not have seen me un-possess Adrian, because after she gave me half a glance she launched herself, snarling, back into the fray. Rory called for me and then Adrian. He sprang about five yards in the air with a piercing whine.

I went for the tops of the bookcases next. They nearly brushed the ceiling, and I could easily float away if someone tried to climb up after me.

But I could still be seen from any place in the room, and it didn’t solve my actual problem of how to get through the green doorway without having to face a scowling Robin. Oh my flip, stupid Underside ectoplasm. I hate the color green.

The battle of the Fire-Types was still going on in full rainbow splendor below me. When I poked my head over the edge of my shelf, I saw Rory’s shoulders slam against the ground as Sowlee tackled her once again. The Chimchar’s feet took on a scarlet glow. She kicked her up and backwards, over her head and into the bookcase. Sowlee swept straight through the open shelf, scattering loose papers, and grabbed the edge with her clawtips before she fell off. Rory flopped over onto her knees, about to run around and meet her on the other side, when Coco and the Drilbur dogpiled on top of her.

“Kit,” she huffed, clawing at the singed documents on the floor, “h-help me out here, will ya? Or ya - unf (Hey, leggo!) - just gonna sit up there like a- like a gargle?”

On the other side of the shelf, Adrian flicked up his ears as Sowlee darted past him. “Achoo! Woman?”

“Plum?”

I kept my eyes fixed on Coco as she planted her hands on Rory’s shoulders, but then slid my gaze to her Drilbur friend. No, she was undoubtedly too strong for me to hold onto for more than a handful of seconds - not without her permission, at least - but he might be a different story. Sure, he was still a halfy, but those who beg can’t beg to choose. No one would notice if the little guy went back and hovered by the door for one minute more. So long as the others remained distracted long enough for me to seep into his body, it would be a cinch to-

That was when I saw her. She drifted down from the ceiling on a silver string, her two sisters following on her many heels. They twirled one around another. She - the biggest one - pulled up short in front of me, still clinging to her glittering thread, and sized me up with tiny violet eyes.

For a few seconds I was frozen. Those tiny eyes peered up at me, unafraid. Lost in another world, I reached out one finger to touch the little creature. She scurried along her thread, startled, but came back down within a handful of breaths.

It was tiny and inconspicuous and it stuck to the walls. Possession perfection.

“Li’l help, boys?” Rory gasped, “Maybe?”

Leaves like needles stabbed into my back end. Thk thk thk thk thk! “Hey Kit,” Adrian spat as I whipped around. He was already readying another volley of Pin Missiles, all while rubbing his injured right eye with the crook of his elbow. Riley backed him up with a broken desk leg in each hand. “Coward! Weavile! Kachoo! Son of a Ditto! I would sacrifice my honor as a Thatmonson in my challenge to you, gosh darnit!”

I’m not kidding - that’s literally what he said. He even tossed in the old Chazejan words for honor and challenge halfway through, like he was trying to make some ancient pact that he expected to bind with blood. Below on my right, Rory and Coco clashed again in a flare of sparks. Riley bared his fangs and launched his first table leg.

“Bite me, scuzz bucket,” I said, and swept my particles away into the little Spinarak’s mouth.

It was . . . strange, being small. I’d only possessed a Bug-Type one other time in my life, and that had been a Butterfree, over a hundred years ago. My limbs were constricted. I tasted mold. I felt like I’d been dragged from my little bedroom and tossed into the dining hall in the breath it took to say my name.

The world stretched above and around me - an infinite canvas, empty space. I dangled, helpless, on my thread. I’d expected compound eyes, but there weren’t any. The world was hazy bright. I squinted. Ultraviolet was a thing again, and everything had a tinge of emerald about the edges.

What are you? asked the Spinarak, a quail in her voice. Her sisters retreated, squealing, back to the ceiling beams along their silver threads. Why can’t I see anymore?

Don’t be frightened, I replied.

I could hear Adrian’s furious babbling, but it was more noise than words with shape and form. A chunk of wood sailed over my head and clattered into the bookcases beyond. I lifted each of my six legs in turn, bending them slowly. There was a tiny scythe near one elbow. This I twisted around so I could slash the webbing that bound me to the ceiling. I fell with a soft bounce on my squishy face.

What are you? the Spinarak asked again.

I sat up and shook my head. Coco yelled for “Grounder”, who must have been her Drilbur friend. I slunk, leg by leg, along the top of the bookcase towards the wall. More than twice I tripped over too many legs.

I’m no one, I said at last. Just a friend.

. . . Oh.

“Born a coward, died a coward, immortalized a coward!” chanted Adrian, traces of an old Iravian accent creeping into his voice. And then he said, “Who are y- Stay back!”

“Riley, what are you doing? I thought you had him!”

“Yeah, yeah, I do! I do, Cokes! Just a sec!”

“Plum, you’ve gotta get over here an’ fight her! She’s the fast one. Unf. Fists up, like I taught you!”

Am I dead? the Spinarak wondered as I reached the end of the bookcase. The gap between us and the wall seemed to stretch impossibly wide.

No. You’re safe. Merely a friendly lift, and then I’ll leave. You like being a friend, don’t you?

I guess . . .

Now, how do I squirt the sticky thread? I pointed my rear at the wall. Do I flex it like this?

Um, said she, no. You don’t.

“Coco, not so rough. We just need to hold her until one of the Guild leaders shows up, not knock her senseless.”

“I’m trying, but she won’t stop struggling!”

Well, how do I squirt it? I glanced down at the door. It glimmered mockingly with green. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a little pressed for time.

You don’t squirt anything, murmured the Spinarak. The shelves trembled below my feet. Not like that, anyway.

I chose to ignore her. I clenched the muscles in my rear, thinking, pointing, straining. Thoughts of silk raced through my head. I thought back to all the times I’d stumbled into Ariados webs back in the forest. I remembered helping Roland dust cobwebs from the mouths of gargoyles in the entrance hall. I pretended I had been hatched a Spinarak, had always been a Spinarak, and would die just the same. The instincts were encoded in me, deep in there. Somewhere. I curled in the tips of my legs. My fangs tightened against my lip. I tried with everything I had to form silk. I tried to be silk.

Not so much as a drop of liquid webbing. The shelves jolted as either Rory or Coco slammed into them.

She said, Hey. I can see you now. Is this . . . my mind?

“Riley, get down from there!”

“Just a sec, just a sec!”

Amid rustling, sparking paper, “Adrian, please!”

“I only fight one on one. Gosh darnit, Woman - you know that. Gods, my head.”

“Riley, why did you let him- Oh, never mind! I’ll take care of it myself. Chespin? I’m sorry, but we really need your cooperation . . .”

I breathed softly, still wiggling my rear about in the air like I’d gotten a tiny flag stuck on the end.

Here. The Spinarak tapped on the edge of my consciousness with a gossamer finger of imagination. Let me do it.

I hesitated.

Is there a problem? she asked.

A soft brown hand appeared over the edge of the bookcase. I scrambled back in alarm, nearly tumbling from the shelves altogether, as Riley’s nose appeared over the edge. His gaze darted left and right. It skimmed above my tiny head, unseeing. I crouched, still as a Seviper, one eye fixed on him and the other on the gap between me and the wall by the door, until he gave a grunt and dropped away.

Well?

With a soft rustle of paws on carpet, Aiden materialized in the doorway below. His ears quirked forward. He cried “Hey!” and bolted into the room. I saw him drag Sowlee free from Rory’s sparking fingers. Hazel stepped inside after him, her movements quick and sharp and elegant as a whole flock of Swanna. Her feathered crown swirled like a plume of scarlet fire. She lay her claws against the doorframe.

Fine. Mentally, I pulled myself away and gave control over my body to the Spinarak girl.

Here goes.

She wove her web with her forelegs, not with her back end. Silk poured gently from her mouth. This she picked at with one tiny claw, streaming and intertwining the strands together. There was some squirting, across the gap. I tried to pay attention, because I might need to do the weaving again. But she had a knack for it that I did not. There are some things even a possessor cannot make a body do.

“I would like all of you to stand in a line against that wall,” Hazel said, and added, “Please,” like they actually had a choice. “And, (“please”), turn out the flames.”

A chill like a Ghost passed over the room.

There. The Spinarak drew away with a satisfied glow about her spirit. Happy now?

“What?” came Rory’s voice. “It’s you! The other Rory!”

The thread was white, and glinted silver when the light hit its side just right. It spanned the gap between shelf and wall like a great bridge, even though it stretched thinner than a trail of ink. I edged to the tip of the bookcase.

“Who is this?”

“We found ‘em in here, Hazel. Vera said they snuck in under the raspberry bush.”

“Brambles,” Aiden corrected.

“Well, whatever.”

I’ve never been afraid of heights. You’re not, when you can levitate. But as I hesitated there like a Rufflet on the lip of a cliff, a cold fear trickled across my exoskeleton.

Which was, again, really stupid. It’s not like it was that high.

Want me to walk? asked the girl, watching me somehow from deep inside her own mind.

I can do it.

Leg over leg, I started across the thread. It sagged beneath my weight.

“There was this Ghost,” said Riley. His shadow danced across the wall below me as he waved his arms around. “Red one.”

Coco said, “She was with them? I should’ve widened that crack in her mask.”

Very good, said she as I reached the wall. I nodded in response and pressed my feet to the plaster. They stuck. One of her sisters on the ceiling called down to me in a high-pitched voice, speaking in her natural language. I did not reply, only started my trek for the door.

“He possessed me, Mrs. . . . Hazel? Honestly, he did.”

I reached the doorframe, edged with its evil green. My forelegs began to flicker with red. When I glanced up, I was facing a row of anxious faces. Hazel had her back to me. Adrian’s ears were down. The amber in his one good eye had shrunk to a slit. Riley slouched beside him, his gaze on Hazel’s and his toes curled into the floor. Coco and Sowlee had Rory pinned between them. The Chimchar, frozen and mute, brandished a table leg like a Braixen’s wand. No one had gone unscathed in the fight. An old application lay, still burning, at Grounder’s feet.

What are you doing? asked the Spinarak.

“I was at the Researchers’,” Adrian continued, interlacing his fingers. He was still wearing my bracelets (like a jerk). “Just getting ready for my presentation. And- and he was there too. And then Robin showed up. And that’s all I remember. Achoo!”

Rory lowered her table leg. “You don’t remember bein’ possessed?”

This is making me really uncomfortable, the Spinarak said. Why are my legs turning red? And what are you going to do?

Almost out, was my reply. My legs prickled in time with the shifting colors.

“Ah,” Hazel said, pulling her claws away from her cheek. “You’re Adrian. Chelle told us about you. Or told Robin, anyway. I trust that he and Rowanhardt arrived at your Guild with ample time to spare?”

“Y-yes.”

“Yes ma’am,” said Rory. Hazel swiveled on her heels to peer at the girl.

“And I presume you are his partner, then?”

Rory looked confused, so Coco answered for her with a confident, “They are. I think they are.”

Um. My legs.

Shh. I kept my gaze fixed on Rory. Looking back on it, I’m almost certain we locked eyes for half a heartbeat.

“She’s not a Hunter, at least.” Riley squared his shoulders. “She was going ‘round pretending to be Coriander.”

Grounder nodded hard enough to knock his goggles down his snout. “We saw her on the stairs.”

Hazel’s crown of feathers twitched back. Her voice took on a dry undertone. “And none of you stopped her?”

Flustered, Sowlee covered her face with one paw. Aiden gave her ear a reassuring lick. Adrian sneezed again.

“Hmm,” Hazel said.

The Spinarak gave me a mental nudge. My legs turned normal again. Should we move?

What? Oh. I blinked myself back into reality. My spectral body had adjusted at last, and after a quick breath I scuttled through the green circle with ease. Tiny feet pattered along the wall. The hallway lay before me, open and welcome. It was all downhill from here.

“I’m afraid that I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. You all know that Fire-Types are forbidden to enter this room.”

“But they-”

“Hush, Coco. Many old files were lost today, though I suppose I must carry some fault for that. Cleaning this room should have been much higher on my priority list. Now, what are we going to do here?”

“Thank you,” I told the Spinarak, lifting out of her body. She replied, but not in Common. I patted her head and turned away down the hall.

“There was a Ghost,” Adrian began again. “His name is Kit.”

“Doesn’t ring any particular bells . . .”

“Keepin’ a low profile, then,” Rory seethed.

Hazel asked for the name of their team. The last thing I heard from them was stifled laughter as the Puddings ‘fessed up to their most honorable title.

I’d expected to move about freely once I’d slipped away from Hazel and the others. I was wrong. No sooner had I left the storage hall then a bright blue Sylveon turned the corner and stopped short. “Oi, you!”

I froze.

An Espurr stepped out from behind the Sylveon, her gentle paws raised. “Hey, hey, Miss Ghost. My name’s Minnie. And this is my best friend in the whole world, Sparkle. Nice to meetcha!”

The Sylveon slid one paw forward, his back arching up hair by hair. He had a scarf, all plaid and red and green. I felt for the pocket in my own scarf where I always kept a handful of berries. The scarf that wasn’t there. Grimacing, I put my other fingers behind my back so they wouldn’t see my Disable coming.

“Everything’s going to be just fine,” Minnie assured me, gliding closer. Her violet eyes glittered with anticipation. “No one’s going to hurt you. Can we just have you come with us, please?”

“And do what, exactly?”

Her ears twitched. She glanced - helplessly, I thought - back over her shoulder. “Well, we can hang out in the garden. I can weave you a flower necklace. We could . . . have a . . . tea party? Yeah! We’ve got a rosy tea set back at our place, and Sparkle makes the world’s best biscuits. That’d be so fun!”

To be fair, it did sound really fun.

“Get’own, lass.” Sparkle launched himself over Minnie’s head, claws extended. His eyes and the ends of his ears lit up purple. A pink wave shot through the air, splattering against my chest and the hallway beyond. I slammed against the wall with a grunt and snapped my fingers in Sparkle’s general direction. There was a flash of black like a slate wiped clean. Bright pink saliva dribbled between his fangs to the floor. His paws smacked the ground hard after his second bound and he pushed off for me again, this time his jaws sharp and glinting like polished stone. I whipped around and took off down the next hall.

Hey!”

The shriek shattered the world. Bright white circles shot over my head, hit the wall, and rebounded straight into my face. I fired another Disable at Minnie, and she flung out one arm. A single splash of Dark Pulse was all it took to send me flying into the wall.

“Ow,” I muttered. One finger traced down the crack in my mask. “Don’t be a jerk.”

Sparkle crouched over me, fur bristling - silent. Minnie took hold of my hand.

“Hey,” she said, “you’re Chris, right? Robin was asking for you.”

“Was he?”

“Aye,” Sparkle said, seating himself beside Minnie. “And he isn’t very chipper either.”

“You must’ve done something really bad.” Minnie patted my cheek and gave a fresh smile. “Let’s go talk to him, okay?”

Sparkle tipped his head. “You will come along, won’t you? I’m sorry ‘bout roughing you up there.”

Now, the thing about Psychic-Types is that they aren’t easy to possess. Their brains are all messed up with strong neural connections and blah blah, and overpowered emotional receptors too, sometimes.

I glanced at Sparkle. “Hey, help me up, bro.”

His plaid scarf covered his fleshy ribbons like mittens. With a polite dip of his head, he wrapped the end around my arm and helped lift me into the air. “Ah,” I grunted, clinging to his ear to steady myself.

“You’re all right,” he said.

“Robin said for everyone to meet back in the Commons in twenty something minutes, yeah?” Minnie started down the hall. “He’s probably there by now. That’s this way, I think? Or was it . . . am I backwards?” She paused, her tail drooping. “No,” she decided, starting to turn back around, “it’s faster to go-”

I bowled her over, ramming my head straight into her stomach. Minnie tumbled backwards head over heels, making squeaking sounds like a rubber Psyduck each time her soft rear hit the floor. She jerked her head up, eyes ablaze. A pulse of pink flared around me - I think it was a Psychic attack, because a splitting pain shot across my head like my brain was caving in. I’ll have to double-check that with her someday to be sure. She really is a nice girl.

Minnie hesitated, clutching her partner’s fallen plaid hat with one hand.

“. . . Sparkle?”

What the bloody-?!? he began, but never finished.

Show of hands, did anyone not see that coming? I mean, it’s fine, we’re cool, because it’s not like it was super obvious or anything, seriously.

(Fun fact: When Rudy found out I was taking Scribe’s psychic-recall program to tell this dumb story, he wanted me to say that I told Minnie something about how it was a shame no one out there loved her. I didn’t, so I don’t know where the flip that came from, but after everything that just happened with him I’ve gotta respect the poor guy’s wishes and at least include a mention here for posterity’s sake.)

Wait, please . . . Don’t touch her . . .

I left Minnie awake and huddling on the floor - I always did like Espurrs - and whisked away down the hall. Sparkle’s scarf flapped around my mouth. Minnie yelled then, and I heard thumping feet. “What?” erupted Aiden, and he shouted for Hazel and Sowlee too. Footsteps came running. Summoned by Aiden’s yowl, a Pikachu and a Plusle materialized at the end of the hall. Chocolate eyes wide. Dripping sparks from the tips of their tails. A blue Snivy stood between them, a pair of Vine Whips already clutched in her fists.

“Ah, piss,” I muttered, wishing again that I had Roland soaring above my head just like old times. “Better make this fun.”

This will nae be fun, corrected Sparkle, and his voice suggested he was already bracing himself for the pain.

I shot the Plusle down with a blast of Psyshock. She rolled backwards and fired a ball of yellow from her ears. The Snivy launched a vine towards me. It smacked against my shoulder.

Ow, Sparkle said, flinching at each snap. Ow, ow, ow.

Dude, you can’t even feel that.

“Think fast!” shouted the Pikachu (Kiiro - that’s important), flinging himself at my back. His weight brought me crashing to the ground, my mouth full of scarf. He sprang off again as the Plusle summoned a wave of thorny vines. Tight grasses erupted through the carpet, knotting around my feet. The Snivy crouched in front of me. Her snout pressed up against my own.

“Looks like we caught ourselves a cutie,” she said, and winked.

Aw heck no! shouted Sparkle, and threw all his concentration into our left side. I let him take control of it and shot another Psyshock into the Snivy’s face. She jerked back with a squeal.

“Hey.” Kiiro waggled a threatening finger in front of my nose.

“Minnie!” I cried, but it wasn’t me. Sparkle was wrenching back control fleck by fleck. “Minnie, where are ye?”

I tried to shoot the Snivy again, but she was shielding her face behind a blue sheen of Zangoose-like claws. The Plusle gave us a curious stare, her hands still wrapped with grass. “Is this the guy they were screaming for?”

“Hey,” came Coco’s voice, “did’ya get her? Did’ya get her?”

“Sparkle!” Minnie wailed, her voice all but drowning out the patter of her tiny feet.

I abandoned Sparkle’s body (pity, that) and darted between the Snivy’s legs. “There he goes!” roared the Sylveon, struggling against the vines. “After ‘im! It’s a fine Vulpix chase, me boys!”

Kiiro whipped around. “What the-?”

“I’ll catch him!” (It was the Plusle). She took off after me in a blur of red and gold. When I glanced back at her, all I could see of her face were her eyes . . . Those enormous, dark, muddy eyes.

The hall bent into a corner. I flung myself against the opposite wall and kicked back with a flick of my tail. Serpent below, it would’ve been nice to have, you know, an actual attack or something to hit her with when she flew after me. The Plusle mimicked my bounce at Quick Attack speed, rebounded twice off each wall left, right, left, right, and she would have plowed me into the ground if I hadn’t turned insubstantial. “Gah!” she cried and, losing momentum fast, crashed into the wall face first. She slid down to the ground, shaking her head and shivering.

It was Coco who whisked around the corner next. Her feet slid across the carpet so hard and fast that I could hear the sound. Her flare blazed like mad. But I was half invisible and I guess in her anger she didn’t quite see me. She took off down the hall, raising the whole Guild with her racket. Riley, Sparkle, and Sowlee chased her like an echo. Kiiro skidded to a halt beside his fallen companion.

“Orenjii? Orenjii, come on. Are you hurt? . . . How many ears do you see?”

“. . . Five?”

“You’ll do,” I said, tapping Kiiro on one shoulder. His yelp broke off. Orenjii rubbed her eyes. By the time she looked up, I think, I was halfway down the hall in Kiiro’s lithe body.

You get the picture. I tore across the second floor of the Guild, Volt Tackling anyone who strayed too close for comfort. Sundance himself dropped down from a row of gargoyles one time with a host of fellow Weaviles. Scared the crap out of me. I dodged down another hall and I think he got tangled up in the Electrowebs and vine traps that a couple of newbies had set up. When Tyr, this Nidoran that’s always butting heads with Roland, finally brought my rampage to a halt with a well-timed Dig attack (And you nearly knocked me out with it, dude - what the flip?), I ditched Kiiro and took control of him instead.

But Tyr was agonizingly slow, and the only reason I didn’t get caught during that two-minute window is because no one dared step close enough to touch those toxic spikes of mine. When I let him go, I was dripping with both his poison and Kiiro’s Static.

Robin must have sent teams to puppy-guard the windows the instant he learned that I was on the loose. Every time I reached the end of a hall, groups of two or three anxious ‘mon would throw themselves at my head. I’d have been done for if someone had been clever enough to steal my Levitate. Though, there were two ‘mon who were bright enough to use Attract. We’re not talking about that story.

It was odd to be on the flipside of things. I’d stood in their place before, twice with Roland and a good five or six times with Nikki, chasing down miscreants and laughing like pure maniacs. Fun times.

Rather than hold out hope that maybe, maybe the next window would be clear of guards, what I should’ve done is simply bury my face in the solid wall. Oh, it can be done all right, but not easily. Or at least not for me. I was always so interested in playing with my possession abilities and tending plants and, um, getting into trouble that I couldn’t be bothered to sit still, struggle to grasp something new. Until that day, I’d never truly needed to slip through brick and stone. No one had ever taught me how to phase through anything less clear than glass.

I’ve long since lost track of the others I possessed that day. As it is I can’t believe I could stay focused long enough to keep moving. If I’d had a stomach I would have stopped to throw up several times. There were faces. Probably names. My piercing headache blurred them all together. Some of them were smart and managed to throw me out on their own. I actually took control of Riley once, I think. Or maybe it was Tup. I stuck to Dark-Types as often as I could, so the Psychics couldn’t freeze me mid-leap. No Fire-Types, though. I do remember that. And I can still tell you the story of the grand finale.

Heh. Although these days, every third ‘mon knows the story of the grand finale.

They pinned me in the bridge-like hall where there were no walls, only dark railings that barely separated me from empty space, like an entire building held together only by feathers and tape. The open dining hall lay far below to my left. The front lobby to my right.

I was in control of some Sneasel named Waltz. He made the ideal host: an enormous, rumpled, clever fellow of about eighteen winters, though he kept trying to seize my feet so I would trip and stop running. Those scratches on his back from slashing claws were his own fault.

It was in this body that I halted in the middle of the bridge, panting and all but out of tricks, as half a dozen excited Hunters funneled towards me from either side. I could name every one of them. In fact, I’d seen those big babies slip, one by one, into the ranks of the Guild. Thomas. Princeton. Alonzo. Flare.

They hesitated a few steps away, as if they hadn’t expected to get this far and were now waiting to have their orders reconfirmed. A Servine named Cleomentine hurled herself towards me. A blizzard of spiny leaves whipped around her head. I hopped onto the railing, my claws tight against the wood, and aimed a kick at her snout (Missed!). Brave as she was, even she faltered in the face of a Sneasel who dwarfed her by half a meter, easy. The fact that my claws glittered with ice didn’t tip the scales in her favor either.

Oh gosh. Waltz sounded like he was biting his figurative lips. I rasped my tongue around my own.

“There are only twelve of you?”

No one answered, at least not to me. Avelina slit her eyes, muscles bunched. I’d seen the Meowth in action once before. She kept that Attract card tucked up her sleeve. I glanced down into the open lobby behind me and leaned a little farther back.

No! No! Waltz drew mental claws across my mental arm. I have starcoins! I can pay you!

“One of you should probably leave. Thirteen’s an unlucky number, you know. In fact,” I continued, shooting a glance around my audience, “all you dudes should probably leave.”

Someone whispered Hazel’s name. I pressed down my ears.

Turn yourself in! Let me go! I’ll protect you!

Thomas watched me with that steady gaze of his, his long tail twitching on the floor. He turned to Tessie, the Poochyena that crouched on his right, and muttered something in her ear. She shook her head. Her fangs ground together with a sound like granite smashing bone. But Thomas nodded an encouraging nod, and she turned to pass his message along to Shadow.

“I’ll jump,” I threatened, swinging one leg over to the other side of the banister. Wrapping my claws around the rails, I leaned as far over the edge as I dared. The lobby blurred into browns and grays. Jacob made a strangled noise and Princeton stretched out one hand.

“Uh, no, you don’t have to- have to . . . please don’t.”

Something green darted across the lobby floor. I squinted, trying to keep one eye on it and one on my dozen admirers as they edged closer.

“Well, we’ve got all your friends down in the REC room,” Mable said, giving her head an elegant toss. The sleek fur of her mane fluttered around her ears. “You can’t break them out, so you may as well turn yourself over.”

I slipped my other leg over the rail. Hackles shot up. Ears went flat. Waltz screamed.Now, Ardor!” shouted Thomas, “Do it now!”

I lunged forward. Long fingers grazed my wrists. A clash of voices. Tessie’s barking drowned out the rest. For one terrifying instant, I couldn’t let go of Waltz’s body.

You don’t have to hold your breath. Clearly I did, just as heavy talons sunk into Waltz’s shoulders. “Going up,” Ardor called from the Staraptor’s back.

I plowed nose-first into the ground, crushing what remained of my mask to chunks the size of starcoins. When I glanced up again, Avelina was perched on the railing. Her tail whisked back and forth like she’d made it a sanctuary for a few dozen Beedrills. “Crud,” I muttered, and shoved myself back into the air. Violet bubbles and yellow sparks flashed in the corner of my eyes. As the Meowth pounced for the old green sofa, I took off.

Is there a word for ‘limping’ that works for people who levitate? If there is, I did that. Avelina’s paws thrummed against the carpet. A snarl like a thud of bricks. Could I smell cinnamon? I clapped one hand over my nose and made the mistake of glancing back. Her eyes gleamed with liquid murder, flashing like her forehead coin.

Ardor was back, swooping in on his Staraptor friend. The Quilava opened his maw and shot out an eruption of flame. I turned insubstantial, but not soon enough. Someone screeched as the fire licked along my spine. Probably me.

Then I hit something soft and squishy. Everything turned pink for an instant and a half. My torso stretched, there was a shower of cold sparks, and I had phased through. The world snapped back into its proper place. “The flip?” I muttered, glancing back. Nile the Kirlia stood half a yard away, dripping with wet and cold. Something black like a shadow crouched at his feet. It stared after me with eyes bright like lavender.

“Uh, sorry bro! Don’t tell Sass!”

Get out of the way!” Avelina shrieked. It was the last I heard from her. Then I was through the glass double doors, and she slammed into Nile, and Ardor and the Staraptor slammed into her, and I at least had a head start in the open air. Several Hunters gathered outside the building looked up in surprise as I burst out over their heads.

Free! Free! Free!

My first stop was for berries so I could lose the poison and sparks that Kiiro and Tyr had so generously left me with. I hid in the shadow of a bare-branched elm sapling until the Hunters stopped pouring out the door. Tessie sniffed me out, so she had to be possessed. We argued all the way to the market. Between my exhaustion and her quick learning she eventually managed to block me out entirely, so I sat on the snowy top of a vendor’s blue and white stall covering while she yapped at me from below and clawed at the posts like a Fog-Feral. Finally a Watchog with an enormous red bowtie escorted her away.

The berries were stolen. They had to be. Team Satin’s meager savings had disappeared with Roland, and I hadn’t the faintest idea what Sen and Thames had done with my plants after I lost my privileges to room 249. Handed them over to Kara to smash, most likely.

I figured it was no big deal. I’d planted dozens of berries around the city over the last three years. I deserved a little something in return.

I borrowed a wooden mask from a Shiftry’s stock and set off for Shiver Pass. I was only halfway there when Brace and Razor appeared at the top of the hill. They had Mr. Magoo - fellow red Duskull, you know - and that Phantump friend of his clutched between them. Both started when they saw me.

“Hey!”

“Oh, you can’t be serious right now.”

I whisked around, fighting for every inch of height, the wooden mask clutched against my chest. Thomas and Cleomentine appeared at the end of the street as if summoned by my panicked sounds. I wanted to yell at them. But I didn’t, and spun a tight circle instead.

The Researchers Guild lay on the other side of the market, its glass dome sparkling in the afternoon sunlight. And just that day, Ridlay had given me permission to phase back into Scribe. It would be as good a place to hide as any.

. . . Wailords are better, though.

I hovered above the Researchers’ headquarters for a moment, gazing out towards the lake. Marissa lay sleeping with her head against the warm sand. Rudy perched on an outcropping of stone, a sandwich in each hand. The Hunters could search the city inside out, but they’d never find me there. In the opposite direction, a brown smudge like a coffee stain circled over everyone’s favorite Regigigas, Atlas. Ardor and the Staraptor, I guessed, still tailing me out of insult to their pride.

I slid down the dome and launched myself back into the air. I never found out which Hunters saw me darting for the lake, but if I were braver I’d go rough them up, and exactly how would they like that, I ask you?

Rudy saw me coming, though. He must have. Red stands out against the sky. But the slimy Gothita was gone before my shadow passed across the sand. Marissa lay still, feigning sleep. Water slapped and sucked against her sides.

“Marissa! ‘Ris, it’s Kit, ‘Ris - your best friend, Kit! Open up! Open up!”

She did not reply. Not the faintest flutter of her eyelid. I pounded on her jaw, shooting intermediate glances back over my shoulder. Hunter after Hunter streamed over the hills around the lake. Jacob. Razor. Adeline. Like, Robin wouldn’t have sent them all across the city after me. The only reason he was a fleck interested in what I’d done to Adrian and the storage room was because it had all happened within the Guild headquarters. They’d come that far purely on their own, like spoiled brats who couldn’t sleep at night if they didn’t get their way.

Thomas groaned and started to run faster. “Not the Wailord again!”

“‘Rissa, what the flip? I know you’re awake. Rudy, are you in there? Rudy!”

He was silent too, but I saw Marissa flinch.

“I know you can hear me, Rudy! They’re going to kill me! Again!” I grabbed hold of Marissa’s lip and yanked it - hard. “Let me in, you ungrateful brat!”

Something hot and white - I think it was a Hyper Beam - seared into the ground only half a foot from my tail.

“You serious?” Tyr spat, bounding over a clump of boulders. “If ya can’t hit a Wailord at this distance, you got bigger problems’n a runaway ghost.”

I clenched my fists so tight that my vision turned fuzzy. “I thought you were my friend! Just you wait, McLean! Maybe next time I’ll let that overgrown tuna tear you to shreds!”

Marissa’s eyes flew open. Jacob, Princeton, and Tyr skidded to a halt one after the other and started scrambling back up the yellow hill. Thomas, Razor, Adeline, Brace, and Cleomentine paused uncertainly on a nearby knoll. I pressed myself against the sand, my fingers and tail disintegrating in smoky chunks, as the Wailord drew her head up. Reeds and murky water cascaded from her chin.

“She didn’t mean you!” shouted Princeton, cupping his hands around his pointed nose. “She meant, um . . . Someone else!”

“The Sealeo, ‘Ris! I was talking about the Sealeo!”

Adeline hesitated, flashing her claws in and out of their sheathes. Then, spine arched, she started to back away. Marissa’s eye, tracking movement, swiveled to land on her. The Meowth let out a soft growl. I stared up at that eye, tipping my head all the way to my right shoulder. Then I turned around.

Thomas’s gaze locked with mine. His tail bushed like a flustered umbrella. A dark cloud fizzled into existence between his feet. The Stunky whirled, shooing his friends back up the hill with overdramatic waves of his arms.

“RUN!”

Brace frowned. “But we just-”

Cleomentine’s shriek drowned out the Machop’s words: “OH MY GODS!”

Moving was a marathon. Lifting a single fin took every fiber of concentration. It took me three tries to get it out of the water and let it thud down on the beach, and when I was done I had to sit for a second, panting softly. There were weird tastes on my tongue - wood, mostly. Something scratched at the inside of my maw. My chest ached from lying down. My skin was scalding in the heat. But worst of all, I . . .couldn’t . . . see.

. . . Kit? Marissa’s voice was thin without the echo.

I narrowed my eyes, staring down at the gray hill, with its gray sand and grayer boulders. And I couldn’t see directly in front of my face either, so that was a delight. I lurched to one side, then the other, blinking heavy eyelids. “Where’d all you guys go? Come on, don’t be shy!”

Like a magnet dragged along a table towards its mate, Rudy made his appearance as soon as he sensed something interesting was afoot. I didn’t feel him climb out of my blowhole, but all of a sudden he was halfway along my back, yelling, “Marissa, you’re a bad angel! You’re a bad angel!”

Rudy? I heard Rudy. Kit, answer him. Tell him I - tell him you - that I am not me right now.

Movement below!

I twisted as quickly as I could, which isn’t easy when your face is the size of a modest apartment complex. Drawing in a breath, I parted my lips and spat a wave of saliva all along the hill. Adeline shrieked and bolted, fur puffed. Jacob followed hard on her heels with Tyr just behind. “Aha,” I burbled, dragging myself from the water. “Rudy, fire at will.”

Princeton shot a barrage of leaves at my forehead. I’m not sure if they connected with me, but I’d bet berries that one of them hit Rudy. He gave a grunt and I felt him smack against my peeling skin. “Hey ‘Ris, whatcha wanna go get pinned for?”

Kit? All of a sudden Marissa sounded wide awake. Kit, knock it off! Keep this up and the little people will get hurt. Are you trying to hurt the little people? I most certainly hope not! Kit? Answer me, Kit!

“Your thoughts are eating straight through my blanket! Stop thinking! Or . . . or . . . Think of a wonderful thought!”

Walking on one’s fins is not an easy task. They couldn’t support my weight for longer than a few seconds between them, and I was left to resort to wriggling my way up the beach. My tail splashed up and down, sending small tidal waves tearing across the lake. The ground shuddered. I thought it was my big body at the time. Later it hit me that the giant footsteps couldn’t have been my own.

Rudy knocked a tiny fist against my blubber. “Do you stop working just because you drank a sip of salt water? What’s the matter, ‘Rissa, what’s wrong? Who’s Kit?”

“You all just stay still for one minute-” I wheezed. Then, “Found you!”

Cleomentine and Thomas shot out from behind a nest of rocks, yelling to Princeton and Razor to follow them. I caught them in a rush of swirling water. All four of them shot up the hill. They slapped against solid dirt and tough patches of weeds. For a heartbeat they spun around, claws flailing against the waves. Then gravity dragged them back down towards the lake. I put out my tail to stop them from going too far.

“Dark-Types . . . am I right?” Rudy noted with disgust.

Do something before he gets hungry, Rudy!

Errgh. You want me to intervene? Okay, I’m intervening!”

I turned, almost overbalancing, with one fin in the air. Razor howled as my back crushed his tail. “No, wait!”

My chin hit sharp stone as the world blurred out to black.

. . . I don’t think it was very long before I awoke. The sun seemed a little lower, glinting with the golden light of late afternoon. For a long time I gazed at it, not really understanding. The ground was cold and white beneath my cheek. Finally I sat up.

“Oh.”

About half a dozen ‘mon had planted themselves in the sand far below. Thomas and Princeton were there, sharing a red quilt between them. Oh - and Rudy too, although he’d moved as far away from the Dark-types as possible. He sat crosslegged on a snowy rock, both palms in the air. Two Kirlias, one blue and one green (Richter and Nile), imitated his posture. And so did an Abra. And so did a Mismagius. And so did a Purrloin, but I doubted it was because she knew any Psychic-Type moves. All of them gazed up at me as I sat in Atlas’s enormous palm. Marissa bobbed in the lake a stone’s hurl away, judging me with quiet eyes.

“Kit is awake,” Atlas declared, his voice empty. Enormous colored lights flashed all down his face - red, blue, yellow.

“Hmm,” said Princeton, tucking the quilt closer to his shoulders. He sneezed over Thomas’s head. “Rowanhardt and Sundance aren’t here yet.”

I wrapped my tail around Atlas’s finger and peered down at the tall Nuzleaf. “Not Robin?”

He shrugged.

I turned to look at Atlas, and a scuttle of yelps echoed up from the crowd below. The Kirlias and the Abra held their hands higher. “Relax dudes,” I muttered, although I don’t think they could hear me. “Have any of you seen my mask? I lost it when I . . . yeah.”

“Was it made of wood?”

“That’s it. Throw it here, Richter. Um, would you?”

The blue Kirlia tossed the mask into the sky, then caught it with his Telekinesis so I could reach out and pluck it from the air. It was a pretty thing - based off a Luxio, I think. Once I had a few nice bones I’d have to carve out something better.

“I have a question,” Thomas said. Whiskers twitching, he pointed his snout in the air. I tried to ignore him, but no one else did. Encouraged by their gazes, he went on. “Riley said you and your Chimchar friend were in the directory room. Can I ask why?” He read my hesitation and added, “It would make a good story.”

“It would make a sucky story.” At first I didn’t reply to his question, because it wasn’t any of his business. But then it hit me that he might like to help if he knew, and get his friends to help out too, so I told him, “I was looking for my old friend Nicholas, the Nidoking. Three black spots under each eye. Right here.”

Rudy laughed - a sharp bark of a laugh. “He always seemed so, you know, normal. And nice? And quiet? And isn’t Nicholas just such a reliable guy, let’s put him in a giant dog costume!”

I didn’t even look at him. Atlas had shifted suddenly beneath me, and I clung to his enormous thumb as the Regigigas let out a piercing string of beeps. This went on for a solid minute, until finally the noise cut off as sharply as a slicing claw. Quiet.

“Searching database: SPS: NIDOKING. NME: NICHOLAS. Calibrating. Code 9700H denied. Recalibrating. Possible matches identified. Directive CLN activated. Eliminating duplicates. Checking for possible error. Recalibrating. Identity pattern suspected. Identity pattern confirmed. ENCODED FUNCTION NME: NICHOLAS. Guild affiliation: declared NULL. TNME: NOT APPLICABLE OR NOT KNOWN. Approximate location: NOT APPLICABLE OR NOT KNOWN. Met at: ALST RSRH GDHQ nineteen days, eleven hours, and six minutes ago. Affirmative match. Search complete.”

For several long seconds, I sat. Dumbfounded.

“Atlas. Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“You did not inquire such information of me prior to two minutes and fourteen seconds ago. I am able to contact him if you would wish it. My database is not equipped for communication from this distance, but I would deem it likely that I could locate SPS: NIDOKING, NME: NICHOLAS within a period of approximately three hours and forty-nine minutes.”

“No! No!” I shook my head so hard that I almost tumbled from Atlas’s palm. “No, man, no. That’s not necessary. Thanks. But no thanks. I don’t want him to know anything about . . . this.”

“As you wish, Kit. My sensors indicate that you appear to have become distressed.”

I propped my tail against my folded arms. “I’m fine.”

Silence again. At last, I turned to Princeton and Thomas. “Did Robin or Hazel mention what they were going to do to me when I got caught?”

Princeton shrugged again, flattening the Stunky against his side with the heavy quilt like a wing. “Robin wants to ask you why you brought the Chimchar girl. And why you possessed the Chespin instead of just walking into your own Guild. And where you’ve been these last few days. He thought you’d run into the Fog.”

“It’s not my Guild anymore. Robin threw me out.”

Richter and Nile exchanged a puzzled glance. Suddenly Thomas started and slapped a paw to his forehead.

“Sen and Thames! I saw them the other day with your plants. Did you think when Robin said-?” He stopped himself short, blinked, tipped back his head. Then nodded. “Okay.”

“They’re afraid of Ghosts,” Nile blurted. “Those friends you snuck in. Robin went to see them and they freaked.”

Thomas tilted his head. “Why did you bring them, Kit?”

“I told you, Robin kicked me out. I had to get creative.” I put my chin on Atlas’s middle finger, my gaze on the cloudy sky. Snow fell softly on the far side of the city. “And Rory wanted to come. She’s my something-great-grand niece.”

Richter’s mouth dropped open. “And you just left her there.”

“Yeah, well, she was too slow to get away.”

The Abra stared around the little group of telekinetics - and Dark-Type friends, twitching her tail. “But- but that isn’t right. You have to go back and save her.”

Richter shook his head. The horns on his head flicked down, then up, then down again. “You should’ve tried at least.”

I stared at him. “Why? It was her own choice to come along. I warned her this kind of thing could happen.”

“He has a point,” Rudy said, pulling his knees up to his chest. “Lose two, save one. It’s better than Tic-Tac-Toe, three in a row. She probably got stuck in a drainpipe.”

Thomas glanced his way. Princeton sighed through his long nose. The Abra tugged the Mismagius aside so they could mutter in low voices. Richter bristled for a moment longer, then folded himself back on the rocks in a huff. Fury flared within my chest.

“Don’t try to turn this against me! I’m the victim here! My partner abandoned me. I got thrown to the curb! I was alone and completely broke. If you dare-”

“You’d go back for me, wouldn’t you? Thomas?” Richter stared at the Stunky. “If we’d gone in together, I mean.”

Thomas dropped his gaze. “Well, yes.”

“Princeton?”

The Nuzleaf frowned across the lake.

“Nile?”

“What?” He dragged his gaze away from the Purrloin girl as she rolled around in the grass by his feet. “What are we talking about?”

Richter turned to ask Rudy’s opinion, then remembered who he’d be talking to and shut up.

“That’s not fair! You can’t expect me to be some perfect saint who always puts others before myself. Of course things were going to go wrong. Of course we’d get caught. If she isn’t smart enough to watch her back and slip away, that isn’t my fault! I . . . I . . .”

I couldn’t speak against so many eyes. Silent, I turned my wooden mask around and pressed its muzzle to my face.

“. . . I’m so tired, Atlas.”

First ~ Previous


The guy who it sucks to be right now

Assorted box of losers


* The events of this story took place between the ambassador's party and the basalt hall Dungeon. Kit "wrote" this story approx. three years later. Did you catch the foreshadowing bits? *

- And now back to the present -


So my outline for this chapter reads, in full: "Fight / Kit un-possesses Adrian + abandons Rory during escape from Hunters Guild, hides in Researchers Guild - sneaks in through Scribe b/c Ridlay gave permission in Part 2".  Hm.

Didn't indent this part by hand 'cuz dA's character counter couldn't handle the stress. La la la la


"Masquerade" - COMPLETE! Total word count: ~ 42,884 (That's ~ 7,116 words short of being officially considered a novel wtf)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CAMEOS - HUGE thanks to everyone who submitted names Or that I borrowed without asking. This story wouldn't be the way it is without you!

Riley of Team Willpower ~ P1XlE

Coco and Grounder of Team FireDrill ~ wackomako

Sowlee and Aiden of Team Letalis Corpus ~ Rao1994 and AlaBo

Sparkle and Minnie of Team Glesga ~ SOSArtStuff

Orenjii and Kiiro of Team Electruth ~ galaxypuppyelectric

Mia of Team Royal Temptations ~ Ken-the-Eagle (The Mismagius at the end could be Cassandra too)

Tyr of Team Toxishade ~ mythica-dani

Waltz of Cloud Nine ~ pumpkabae

Thomas of Team NAME ~ writercoda

Princeton of Team Dandy ~ Allrose

Jacob and Alonzo of Team Summer Storm ~ XfangheartX

Flare and Shadow of Team Dark Fire Stars ~ NoXVMaxs

Cleomentine of Team Charming ~ Princess-Eevee9

Avelina of Team Glittering Coins ~ neo-noctilucent

Mable of Team Platinum Dance ~ ChappyChikai

Tessie of Team Stormfly ~ Deerspirit123

Nile of Team 1AM ~ InYourFridge (Sydney’s there too)

Ardor of Scorch Recon ~ Quarteon01 (A little irritated that I didn’t ever slip Derek next to Coco and Rory)

Brace and Razor of Team Pierce ~ Videogamer80

Mr. Magoo and Twigs of Team Ghost Story ~ TeamGhostStory

Rudy and Marissa of Team Zeppelin ~ oORiddleOo

Richter of Death Valley ~ WackyTwillight (Hope I portrayed him well enough!)

Also Hazel, Hunters Guild leader, Sundance’s mother, and NPC!

Atlas the Regigigas is an NPC too! Whoa!


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Roland is a Togetic, and Kit's teammate - He's currently missing in action.

Nikki was a friend of Kit’s about twenty years ago.

Sen and Thames escorted Kit to the lobby of the Hunters Guild (In "Playin’ Sight" And finishing that comic is my next priority)

Robin, Sundance, Kara, Rowanhardt are all heads of the Hunters Guild that were mentioned too.


Rudy's Yard of Refs

Studio C x1 (2:34)

"The Telephone Hour", Bye Bye Birdie (2:12)

"Peter Pan" x1

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke x1

"The Incredibles" x1

Kit's Black 2 Nuzlocke (Haha, Kit)

Timothy and the Dragons' Gate by Adrienne Kress x1 (Chap. 18, I think?)

Tic Tac Toe (Obviously)

(12) Finally by Wendy Mass (Had to edit this one in because I was furious that I forgot)



I know it was a long haul, but I hope you guys had at least half the fun I did! See you over the next few weeks as I pick up "Playin' Sight"!

Published:
© 2015 - 2020 oORiddleOo
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TeamGhostStory's avatar
Very late thanks for the Cameo! Havn't been logged in on this side account for ages. o///o
oORiddleOo's avatar
It was just a small one, but I kinda needed it, heh heh! You're welcome!
demiveemon's avatar
demiveemonHobbyist General Artist
Thanks again for the Cameo (this time from my main account, albeight Magoo is my partner's character. I did spot Twigs though.) Just finished reading all the parts. Really loved the part with the Spinarak. So nice and cooperative ( and I love the idea of bugsized spiderpokémon) I wonder how things would have turned out, if he would just have stayed inside that Spinarak and kept a low profile for a while...?
oORiddleOo's avatar
Things would have turned out better for Kit, that's for sure xD

It's probably what he should have done. But the Spinarak didn't move very fast and Kit's goal was to get away from the situation, so he automatically assumed the Spinarak was useless and didn't look at it from another angle.

Either that or his author didn't think about it.

It was just a tiny cameo, but I needed to mention Magoo 'cuz the shiny Duskull thing. Gotta track down the lookalikes when there's an escapee on the run! And then Twigs came along with him. They're cute and I like them a lot.

Thanks for saying nice things <3
Ken-the-Eagle's avatar
Ken-the-EagleHobbyist Digital Artist
A little late for the party but that's what happens when you take the time to read all parts (wouldn't do to only read the last part. Otherwise I'd be confused). It was a very good read, you really know how to capture the readers attention and peak their curiosity. Something I still have trouble doing myself unfortunately, but I digress.

I managed to find my character's cameo (she's the only shiny Snivy around as far as I'm aware) and I gotta hand it to you, despite only having one line you managed to capture her well. Seriously, I couldn't help but be amused since that's something she'd very much do. A small cameo but still, she was very much in character given what little I've revealed about her.
oORiddleOo's avatar
Yes! Nailed her!

Thank you very much for your nice comment. Sorry that I didn't get to reveal Mia's name, but I'm glad you liked her one line ~ And thanks again for reading all the parts! Wow! That's impressive.
Allrose's avatar
So, I took the time of the whole day today to read this story, all five parts I mean, and I gotta say you did a solid job on keeping me curious, albeit some instances of describing environmental scenes I cant quite comprehend at moments myself, but still.

The varieties of different characters in the scene really helped propel the excitement of being hunted, and even at the end, when they might have wanted to help the guy out, but then discover hes...selfish, to put in lighter terms, is a pretty good story-book ending, since the guild members arent inherently evil.

honhonhonhonhon

And I, personally, oozed over the number amount of times you gave Princeton a voice in the script, and thats awesome. Final words? I enjoyed the story, and I cant wait to see if Kit would ever change his ways in stories in the future.
oORiddleOo's avatar
Ah, I'm so happy to hear you say that! I know it's a really LONG read, and it means SO MUCH to hear you say that you stuck through it. Especially reading every part in one go man even I haven't done that totes respect.

Scenery is definitely the hardest thing for me to describe. Thanks for your critique and I'll try to work harder in the future. I was indeed trying to make that chase scene seem, well, like a chase scene, so it's awesome to hear that it worked out.

Mm, selfish Kit.

Princeton is such a fun guy, and I'm glad I got to slip him in! Keep writing more stories for him, because he's so lovable ~

Thank you again for all your nice comments <3
Coolx32x's avatar
Coolx32xHobbyist Digital Artist
Ah, finally got around to reading the entire story.  I must say, you really know how to engross the reader.  I absolutely loved reading through this.  It was a hella entertaining read~

I really need to find the time to read your other stuff...
oORiddleOo's avatar
Ah, thank you tons, Cool! It means a lot to me to hear you say that. I'm glad I kept you entertained ~
spideyhatedoctordoom's avatar
spideyhatedoctordoomHobbyist General Artist
wow this is really great
oORiddleOo's avatar
Thank you very much!
spideyhatedoctordoom's avatar
spideyhatedoctordoomHobbyist General Artist
np
keep up your wonderful work!!
galaxypuppyelectric's avatar
galaxypuppyelectricHobbyist General Artist
I love this story <33 thanks for use the naive Orenjii and the greedy Kiiro, it was so awesome when she possesed him!! ^^
Cant wait to your next stories ^^
oORiddleOo's avatar
Thank you very much! I'm glad that I portrayed them correctly.
galaxypuppyelectric's avatar
galaxypuppyelectricHobbyist General Artist
No problem ^^ seriously is so awesome!
Videogamer80's avatar
Videogamer80Hobbyist Writer
Question, what did my characters do exactly?
oORiddleOo's avatar
They're in the second half. They chased Kit and stuff.
pumpkabae's avatar
pumpkabaeHobbyist General Artist
thank you very much for the cameo! sorry i was unable to respond to the message, i've been incredibly busy and stressed these past few days.
oORiddleOo's avatar
That's okay! Sorry I threw you on the spot. :)
pumpkabae's avatar
pumpkabaeHobbyist General Artist
it's fine c:
i look forward to reading the whole story when i get a chance.
writercoda's avatar
Okay, let me just mention real quick that this is really freaking good. Consistently compelling throughout (I love to use that expression, I know), and
you fit in a ridiculous amount of cameos while still keeping it understandable and entertaining. I've got to read over the rest of this now, dangit ^^;
Whoretaker's beyond done with people using possession (personal experience) and you got him down perfectly, along with the characters I recognized (and presumably the other cameos as well). In any case, you've inadvertently reminded me that this is what I want to be writing. Fantastic job, and thank you! :)
oORiddleOo's avatar
Ah, thank you so much for the kind comment, Coda! I really should read "Possession" someday - I'm sure it's brilliant. Thank you for offering Thomas's services. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with him so I made some guesses, and they look like they paid off. Keep writing, bro!
SOSArtStuff's avatar
SOSArtStuffProfessional Filmographer
ahaha Sparkle got possessed! :'D 

Thanks for the cameo, that was a fun read
anonymous's avatar
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