AGNPH Stories

The Dimensional Balance Saga by Arcane_Reno


Story Notes:

Starts off clean, but later chapters get naughty. :P And no, this is not a Harry Potter crossover!

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter 15: A Matter of Trust

Chapter 15

A Matter of Trust


Shawn's eyes narrowed as he focused his concentration, rapidly surveying the vista before him. Just one crack, that was all it would take. A single crack that he could use, and the whole wall would shatter.

His opponent's defences were improving with each round, the stony wall a mirror of his own, much more difficult to burst through now. His adversary had learned quickly. He could feel her touch on his own wall, ethereal fingers probing, prodding, the odd shivers of fingernails on chalkboard running down his spine at the sensation.

He zeroed in closer, the insubstantial wall somehow the most solid thing in the world, even without any physical substance. He examined its texture, batting away fluttering attempts to batter down his own barrier, holding his concentration in an iron grip.

There! A hairline fracture had appeared, a result of his opponent's ill-timed assault, just enough to work a pin-prick of his control into. With a triumphant grin breaking his façade, he shoved hard on the tiny fissure, his opponent's eyes widening in shock, as her entire careful construct crumbled into dust.

His tendril of consciousness surged through the collapsing wall like a flood, a collage of images and sensations flying by in a whirl of colour as he seized control, ignoring the frantic, stinging sensation as the occupant of the mind he was invading tried to push him out. He could feel her sense of defeat, the tiny bundle of active emotion and thought streaming into his mind, not his, but subject to his manipulation. She knew it was too late, this battle was already his, her extended tendril of consciousness rendered immobile by his delving.

"It seems I have more yet to learn Master," Jasmine's telepathic voice said, echoing louder than usual from inside its source.

He pulled back at the edge of her mind's centre, seeing no need to humiliate her by taking control of her body as well as her mind. His honed tendril had ploughed its way in with ease once the wall was down, the ghost type abandoning her attempts to push his attack away in exhaustion.

Through the wide-open link, he could examine her thoughts and emotions in detail if he wished, but chose to withdraw and respect her privacy, hearing her sigh in relief as her consciousness was released back into her own control. Her own tendril pulled back from the edges of his mind, his defensive wall still intact, although he now allowed it to dissipate.

"Yes, although you have come far. I think you could even give most Psychics a run for their money now," he sent back with a smile. As the bundle of her emotions ebbed away, he felt the tiniest surge of pride, hidden behind a thick wall of stoic reserve.

"You have expanded my knowledge greatly Master, I believe now I could even manage to manipulate objects."

"As in, with Psychic?"

The corners of her mouth turned upwards in a small smile, her eyes half closing as she hovered back slightly from his seated form. "Yes. I can attempt it at least."

He nodded in approval, elated that she had managed to extrapolate the technique for a new move from their training. Without direct access to the forms of energy she was able to use, he couldn't teach her new moves on his own. Instead, they had adopted this form of "telepathic wrestling" to strengthen her growing psychic abilities. Once she had established a link between them, the fight for control began, Shawn winning the first few handily, but having increasing difficulty as Jasmine quickly caught on to his bag of tricks.

It was a two-fold battle, one that required intense concentration to maintain. One could form a wall to keep the other out, seeking cracks in the other's defences, or attempt to engage their consciousness directly, a mental wrestling match. Once those defences were broken down, it was extremely difficult to exorcise the other from your mind. They had full control so long as their own concentration didn't slip, and wresting it back was a matter of stolid resistance to their hold. So far, she had been unsuccessful in this.

He winced inwardly as he recalled his own early attempts at the technique, his teacher proving to him that some things couldn't be stopped by a shield. Jasmine was proving a much quicker study than he had! Likely a result of having actual latent psychic ability, not just mental self-defence training.

He leaned back, uncrossing his stiff legs with a groan, massaging his temples. This mental kung fu was taxing, even without using any actual power to do it.

"So" who won?" Marek asked, sitting on the grass nearby. He had watched the exchanges with interest, although to an outside observer, Shawn and Jasmine had just been sitting staring at each other for the past hour or so.

Shawn shook his head. "It doesn't matter who won, what matters is that Jasmine is understanding the concepts she needs to."

"I still don't really get it, but if you say so. It's almost creepy watching you two stare at each other."

Jasmine let out a low, mischievous chuckle, floating closer to Marek as she zeroed in on him with her amber and crimson eyes. "You find my manner of training" disturbing?" Her haunting cry made him flinch, and Shawn could tell by the way his face screwed up that she had opened a link to his mind.

"Alright Jasmine, don't be too hard on him," Shawn said while suppressing a chuckle of his own, coming to the rescue of the beleaguered wizard. "He hasn't had the same kind of training that I have."

She spun around on the spot, her small smile warming her normally impassive gaze somewhat, her actions showing a somewhat bizarre sense of humour that she kept suppressed most of the time. "As you wish, Master. I'll leave your friend alone for now. But, perhaps this kind of training would do him good, no? That could be" interesting."

"I think I'll pass thanks," Marek said, looking thoroughly relieved to be released from her link, leaving him as the sole occupant of his mind. Shawn couldn't suppress his laugh this time, knowing all too well what it was like to have someone come barging into your head. It was nice to see Jasmine having some fun in any case, even if it was at the expense of his colleague.

He supposed she was feeling particularly happy about her new knowledge, even if she hadn't managed to best him yet. She seemed to value learning more than anything else, claiming that if Darkrai were allowed his way, all the good knowledge the world had to offer would fade into nothing.

She hadn't told him how long she had been wandering before they had met, but he had been able to infer that it had been some years, her decision to join him based partially on curiosity, partially on desire to preserve the status quo. She had been extremely tight-lipped about nearly all of his further questions relating to the nature of Ghost types though, merely affirming what he had already puzzled out on his own.

"It is not for one such as I to reveal the deeper secrets to those of the physical world," she had said, claiming that he would only get answers from one of the legendaries, should they so choose. He suspected she knew those answers, but for whatever reason was not permitted to tell him. Either by physical restrictions created by Arceus himself, or by strict traditions of her kind.

He thought it a bit odd for her to insist on her secrets, considering how the veil of death was less of a barrier to wizards than to other mortals, but he respected her wishes and did not pursue it any more.

Maybe it was just a somewhat petulant desire to keep certain knowledge for herself? It was of no great importance, so long as she didn't do so with anything of critical nature. He was only trying to satisfy his own curiosity after all, it had no bearing on his mission. From what he could tell of her so far though, she wouldn't keep back anything she thought he needed to know.

"At least she trusts me enough to let me pass on what I know of psychic training." She didn't know that he wouldn't be able to pluck knowledge from her mind quite like that, like a true psychic could. Even a memory altering spell would require him to find the place she had learned the knowledge herself. Static knowledge was different than active memories, and wizardry couldn't touch that.

He wouldn't look for it in any case, even if he could. That would be a breach of wizardly conduct, in a case where he wasn't protecting his identity. Not to mention it would be a violation of her trust.

Cheri broke him out of his reverie as she got to her feet, yawning and stretching, gently nudging the slumbering Hina away from her place against the Arcanine's belly. His mate had also been watching him and Jasmine, her eyes narrowing at their proximity, although she at least kept her feelings unvoiced.

She was resolute in not wanting to accept Jasmine, claiming the ghost STILL had yet to prove herself. "Honestly, she truly is as stubborn as Nina ever was. She holds to her first impressions." He didn't think it was a grudge so much as it was over-protectiveness.

"As fascinating as that was, I could go for some REAL exercise," Cheri said, sparing Jasmine no more than a passing glance, as the Mismagius settled on a spot a little ways from Marek, her eyes closing in meditation.

For her part, the Ghost type bore it in silence, not seeming to care that the Arcanine would barely speak to her. Although, Shawn would sometimes catch her looking at Cheri with a somewhat puzzled, and perhaps even disappointed frown. It quickly smoothed away however, fading back behind the stoic mask.

It was a shame, they would likely get along quite well if Cheri would just give her a chance. "Maybe my new training assignment will help, or at the very least, get Cheri to view Jasmine as an ally instead of a threat."

Cheri padded up to him, nuzzling against him affectionately. "Are we going to do some training too?" She gazed lovingly into his eyes, her look of adoration causing a surge of his own emotions, as he gave her a quick hug in response.

"As soon as Marty finishes with what he's doing my dear," he murmured in her ear, his free hand finding that magical place behind her ear, sending her tail into overdrive as he gave it a good scratch. It didn't seem to matter what the species was, if they walked on four legs, they appreciated this treatment, her rumble of pleasure affirming it as she licked his neck.

"Mmm, careful with that, or I might be up for a different form of exercise."

He grinned as he pulled away, giving her nose friendly little tap. "Not the time for that I'm afraid." He glanced at Marek briefly, who was looked at them curiously for a moment, but not suspiciously, before lying back on the grass. He hadn't told the other wizard about the relationship he and Cheri shared yet. He wasn't too sure what kind of reaction it get. He would probably find out eventually of course, but Shawn didn't see the need to make things awkward just yet.

"How do I even bring that up in conversation? "Oh, by the way Marek, in case you still thought you had a chance with me, I'm in love with another species, and we're sleeping together." Sure, that would go REALLY well." He…d have to figure out a way to break the news to him gently.

Cheri let out a rumbling chuckle, following his glance with a gleam in her eyes, picking up on the meaning behind his statement. "I suppose not, although maybe he…d enjoy the view."

"Enjoy what?" Marek asked, looking up from his position of relaxation, having apparently having overheard that last part.

"Nothing," Shawn replied, giving his mate's headfur another ruffle as he straightened, Marek simply shrugging in response, before flopping back to stare at the sky once more. He should probably tell him BEFORE he walked in on the two of them by accident, but it didn't feel like the right time to bring it up yet.

"So, you're going to train Marty at the same time?" Cheri asked, getting back to her original question, her flare of ardour cooling off a bit.

"I'm training all of you at the same time."

Cheri glanced over at the sleeping Eevee, then back at him, a question in her eyes. "Hina too? She's already pretty tired from earlier."

Shawn shook his head, smiling as Hina's back leg started kicking in some dream, possibly reliving the training Cheri and Kirin had given her. "No, she can sleep. It will just be the four of you, for a special exercise. Besides, the extra rest can't hurt, seeing as she's in her ball at night now."

"Yes, she seems to like it better now, even with the colours."

"I'm still not happy about that, but at least it worked like it was supposed to." He didn't know if Hina even knew what the colours on her new poké ball meant, but the "night light" part had been a hit, and she preferred it to sleeping outside in "the dark".

Cheri awarded him another loving nuzzle. "It was a great idea. Maybe it will help her get over her fear too."

"I certainly hope so. There's nothing for her to be afraid of." In spite of his hopes that she would become an Umbreon, she could do what she wanted. He wasn't going to force her to use the static power inside her.

"Not so long as she has you to protect her."

"Mmm, don't count yourself out my dear, and she's getting stronger too." He felt a surge of warmth run through him as he watched the sleeping poké mon. In some ways, Hina really had become like their adopted child, the pair of them, along with Kirin, helping her to grow.

Cheri's tail wagged happily at the statement, her pleased expression showing a maternal pride, leaning against him in approximation of a hug. "We all are. Cyrus doesn't stand a chance!"

"Not once we're ready he won't, and that's why we need to keep training. Can you go and get Kirin for me? Marty should be finished soon." The Jolteon was practicing on her own for now, and had wandered a little ways off from their group.

"Sure. I don't think she's gone too far." The Arcanine sauntered off, raising her tail and giving her rump a sassy wiggle for his benefit, causing him to shift uncomfortably with the stirring in his pants at the enticing sight. Fortunately, Marek didn't seem to notice, lost in the fascinating world of cloud watching.

He glanced once more at Hina, absently rolling her poké ball in his hand, admiring the workmanship, even with the irony of it. He had been rather" annoyed" at the blob-like craftsman when he had showed him his handiwork.

"What the hell? Is this some kind of sick joke? I ask you for a ball for a poké mon afraid of the dark, and you give me THIS?!" Shawn's hand tightened on the newly crafted device, thrusting it over the counter at Stamkos as if he intended to capture him with it.

The blob just shrugged as he leaned back in his chair, the action whipping up a storm in the sea of lard. "I just calls "em as I sees "em bub. I seen a lot of "vees come through "ere, an" I…d bet my left nut that that one'll be an Umbreon."

Hina looked up at him quizzically, staying close to his legs and on the floor this time. "Master Shawn? Is something wrong?"

Shawn shook his head in frustration, although the statement vented some of his irritation somewhat. "No Hina, it's fine, as long as it does what it's supposed to."

The voluminous mass of humanity nodded again, not seeming the least bit fazed by Shawn's outburst. "I do my job bub. Take it or leave it."

Shawn wordlessly added the poké ball to his belt, slapping the remainder of the cash down on the counter. "This had BETTER work. I'm paying enough for it." At least Marek had plenty of extra cash with him, if they needed it. Between this and the TMs and other essentials he had bought, he was starting to run a bit low.

He glanced down once more at the new additions on his belt as he turned to go. The glowing rings on the ball pulsed and shimmered realistically in their background of black sheen, the buttons emulating the crimson eyes of the species perfectly, almost appearing to draw you in. A bit eerie perhaps, but with a beauty to it as well. Every bit as fine as Kirin's, with its impressive illusion of a jagged, spiky surface, seeming to crackle with electricity. Or Jasmine's, looking less ball-like and more like the "hat" of the Mismagius, the imitation gemstones on the buttons looking just like the real thing.

All the owner's of the respective balls had been extremely happy with the results, even Jasmine's reserve breaking into a smile. Shawn supposed that in a way, Stamkos was right. It was almost like a "bedroom" for them, and having a unique one was' special. It was another way for the trainer to show they cared for the poké mon's well-being and comfort.

The real test had come that evening, as he and Marek started towards Celestic town. Shawn had heard that there were some interesting ruins there, that could possibly give him some clues about where to find a legendary. It had taken some cajoling to get Hina to try the ball, but once she had, she had been fine with it, and now retreated inside once the shadows of the evening grew long.

His attention was arrested by the sound of an electronic chime, turning to see a beam of light emitting from the little metal cube sitting by his backpack. "Seriously, they HAVE to come up with a better sound than that. It sounds like it's telling me my microwave pizza is done."

The light materialized into Marty, the relatively new form of the Swampert still seeming like a bit of a surprise every time he was summoned from his ball. It had only been a week since he…d evolved after all, but already he was adept with his new body, able to summon even greater volumes of water than before, and now capable of performing the most powerful moves. Once he learned them of course, but they were working on that.

"So? How did it go?"

Marty beamed at him, looking like he…d be skipping in circles if his new bulk would allow him to do so. "Great! I can do the move perfectly now, see?" He turned to the side, focussing on a nearby tree and letting loose with a narrow, gleaming beam. Shawn could see the form of it, how it started as water, but almost instantly froze as it left Marty's gaping maw, turning into a frigid stream of icy needles.

The tree was definitely not happy about suddenly being used for target practice, the lower portion of its trunk becoming encased in ice, around a significant gash in the sturdy wood from the force of the beam. "Winter already? Impossible!"

Shawn chuckled in amusement at the abused foliage, deciding against a word of consolation as he instead congratulated his poké mon. "That's great Marty! Ice Beam will be a nasty surprise for your opponents."

He picked up the discarded TM, the device now permanently drained. Unlike HMs, TM moves only contained the energy to hold a poké mon once, due to the nature of the moves they taught. It worked much in the way a poké ball did, temporarily bringing the poké mon into a pocket dimension, where a hologram of another poké mon taught them the move.

"Yeah! I can't wait to try it out!" He clapped his hands together in anticipation, his enthusiasm as bubbly as ever.

"Well, you might get your chance sooner than you think. I've got some group training planned. As soon as' Ah," Shawn finished in English, as Cheri and Kirin came trotting back together, the Jolteon looking pleased about something. "Good timing, Marty just finished. How did your practice go Kirin?"

"Oh, just fine Master," she said with a smile, her dark eyes sparkling. "I think I worked something new out."

"Really? Excellent, I can't wait to see it in action then. I have a bit of an" unusual exercise for all of you."

"Oh? What's that?" Kirin asked, her look of mild curiosity almost an echo of Hina's adorable expressiveness.

"I'll explain in a moment. Jasmine?" he called, breaking the Ghost type from her meditation.

"Yes Master?" the Mismagius replied, floating closer to where they stood near the edge of their little haven. They were almost completely surrounded by trees, except instead of a forest clearing, it was a small clear space at the edge of a large copse, right beside a wide open grassy meadow, where Kirin had been practicing among the long stalks. The grass shortened into a more manageable growth a short ways away, this more reed-like variety only seeming to occur near its larger arboreal cousins. In any case, the shoulder length grass made for a nice border to give their campsite some privacy.

"Come with me please, all four of you. We'll need some space. Marek, can you stay here and watch Hina for me please?" The other wizard waved at him absently, now engrossed with a little booklet Shawn had picked up, that talked about different pokémon types in detail. He really didn't have a lot to do most of the time, and was pretty much relegated to keeping himself entertained during these training sessions.

Shawn nodded, gesturing at his team to follow as he pushed his way through the grass, making for the open area, ignoring the puzzled looks of his poké mon for now. They would understand soon, and he hoped Cheri wouldn't be too annoyed with him.


Cheri flexed her claws, taking out her irritation on the clumps of grass beneath her by raking a long gash in the earth. How could he! Why would her mate do this? When he had said they would be practicing team battling, she hadn't expected THIS!

She glared at her "partner" from the corner of her eye, stifling the low growl in her throat. The ghost simply hovered there with that irritatingly calm expression, watching Marty and Kirin with half closed eyes, waiting for Shawn to give them the signal to start.

"Even if I want to later, we are NOT mating tonight!" She nodded approvingly of the notion. That should be enough to show him how displeased she was about this.

A small part of her whispered that she was being irrational, but she forced it down. That ghost had NOT proven her trustworthiness yet, even if her mate seemed to think so. And to let her into his mind like that? What was he thinking! Of course, he could protect himself, but she still didn't like it.

She glanced at her mate, feeling her love for him surge, even through her annoyance. She just wanted him to be safe, and that" thing" over there didn't seem like a trustworthy companion to her. It smelled wrong, it didn't smell like something" alive. It had ATTACKED her pup without any warning, even if its' intentions' had been something else. No, if Master Shawn expected her to trust that thing, she would have to do something VERY impressive to prove herself.

At least Master Shawn's human friend had apparently already proven his reliability, and had been doing so for years, according to her mate, even though he seemed weak to her. He didn't strike her as someone to be wary of, he was timid and awkward, and smelled like any other ordinary human did. He was no alpha, like her mate was.

In any case, she had NO intentions of losing this battle, even against her team-mate and adopted pup. Her mate had told them not to hold back, he would make sure none of them got hurt. She didn't need that thing's help! She would show her mate how strong she was!

"Remember, this is a TEAM effort," Shawn had said. "As soon as any one of your auras drops too low, I'm stopping the battle. I don't intend for any of you to get hurt, especially against each other. The point of this is to balance out your team-mate, because if your partner's aura drops, you lose too."

She would comply with his request of course, she wouldn't dream of disobeying him. But that didn't mean she had to like it. She knew he wasn't TRYING to spite her, but he KNEW how she felt about" Jasmine. She would win this even WITH that thing beside her!

She barked in confirmation of Shawn's call of, "Are you all ready?" hearing the affirmatives from the other three. She eyed the Swampert facing her down, stilling her inner grumbling and preparing herself. It wouldn't be easy, she was at a disadvantage against the powerful water type, but she was determined!

Kirin was also crouching down in expectation, electricity crackling and sparking across her fur. The Jolteon was growing stronger too, and she was interested to see what the new move she had learned was. She had been close-mouthed about it, wanting to keep it a surprise. …That girl is so smart!" Now SHE was one she was proud to call her friend and pack-mate. She was like her all-grown-up pup, ready to make her claim in the world.

"I hoped that she considers my offer, there's no better mate out there than master!" The Jolteon deserved the best male there was! Cheri wasn't selfish, she had no qualms about sharing her mate with Kirin. "A strong male like him can easily take care of both of us."

She was perfectly happy with it, so long as she still got to have him regularly! And if he changed his mind about pups, she got to have his first litter. Now that she KNEW he loved her, she didn't fear another female taking her place in his heart. He would always be her mate, nothing would come between that. Taking other females would just announce to the world how strong her mate was!

Kirin was an ideal second female for him to take as his own too, strong and smart. "And she cares for him almost as much as I do. She just won't admit it to herself yet."

The thought of Shawn and the Jolteon together brought a smile to her lips, making her resolve waver on her promise to herself. A little pleasurable shiver ran through her at the thought of her strong mate on top of her" sliding himself inside" filling her up with his potent seed" NO! Now was not the time for that!

"Go!" Shawn yelled suddenly, breaking her out of her thoughts. Immediately, she sprang forwards with a growl, her powerful haunches launching her into a leap, aiming to use her Take Down on Marty before he could make a move. Kirin had also taken off, her small form blurring as she used Quick Attack to close the gap between her and Jasmine.

Marty's eyes widened as she flew towards him, allowing Normal energy to surge into her aura. He threw his arms up as she crashed into him, the weight of the attack sending them tumbling back together, even his new bulk unable to stop her. It took a bit of energy from her defences to pull off that move, but it had stopped him from using his water, at least for now. She was SO close to making it an Extremespeed too!

She came up on top of him, paws on his shoulders, charging up a Fire Fang as he attempted to shove her off, the feel of his skin damp and cool under her pads. His mouth opened slightly as he fumbled for an attack of his own, his eyes narrowing in determination, getting into the battle.

The thrill of battle coursed through her veins, her heart thudding wildly, her nostrils flaring as air surged into her lungs, whipping the flames around her fangs into a frenzy as she fought his grip, trying to bring her jaws in position to strike. She could hear the gurgling of his attack charging up, and she fought against his straining arms to bring her head down and clamp her mighty, flaming jaws shut.

A cold blast of water nailed her squarely in the face, making her gasp for air as her attack was doused, her aura shuddering with the impact. The immediate peril averted and his attacker distracted, the Swampert finally gained the leverage he needed to throw her off, his feet and arms punching some of the air from her lungs as he kicked out.

Cheri rolled with the momentum as she hit the ground on her side, coming up on all fours and dashing around behind her opponent, who was clambering to his feet. "Need to keep out of his way!" Tiny ember sparks flicked from her orange pelt and trailed behind her as her internal temperature ramped up, joining the bits of loose grass from her tumble that flew off into her wake, creating a brief swirl of crisp green and glowing umber in the place she had been standing.

From her new position, she caught a brief glimpse of the other half of the battle, the scene registering in her mind even as she kept her focus on Marty. Kirin had managed to catch hold of the flitting ghost, her small jaws latching firmly onto the flowing "skirt" of the Mismagius as crackling voltage streamed from her fangs. "Thunder Fang! Of course!"

Jasmine was thrashing frantically, attempting to dislodge the Jolteon, appearing to have trouble focusing her power through the assault. For her part, Kirin was hanging on for all she was worth, drawing a cry from the ghost as she blasted her with electricity yet again, even as her paws pedaled futilely in mid-air. Cheri felt a surge of pride watching the Jolteon best her opponent, even though they were technically against each other as well.

"That's my girl!"

She didn't have time to watch further, her fur flowing with the speed of her movement, her muscles rippling as she dodged to stay behind Marty, the Swampert turning to track her.

Her Flamethrower didn't seem to faze him in the least as it scorched against his broad shoulders, the Water type shrugging it off and unleashing another arcing jet of liquid at her speeding form in the middle of his spin. She ducked away, feeling it sprinkle against her haunches and tail, using her superior agility to keep away from his powerful attacks. She would win this!


Shawn groaned inwardly at the poor strategy. Even though she was managing to keep herself from being hit, for now at least, Cheri was taking the wrong approach. Her partner was clearly in trouble, and yet she completely ignored her, instead focusing on the opponent she was at a disadvantage against. It was subtle, but his mate was allowing her dislike for the ghost to affect her battling.

"Come on Cheri, get Kirin off Jasmine!" The Jolteon was hanging on for dear life, her fangs straining to keep her grip as the Mismagius whirled, yet another Thunder Fang coursing through the beleaguered ghost. The one bright spot was that Kirin's new technique was working beautifully.

Even though the attacks obviously weren't quite as powerful as they could be, being released in succession and under stress as they were, Jasmine wasn't looking so good. Her last Psybeam had failed to disrupt Kirin's dogged grip, and her aura had dropped significantly already.

Marty was showing good coordination with his partner, not unleashing any sweeping Surf attacks at the sprinting Arcanine, obviously for fear of hitting Kirin as well. Cheri's second Flamethrower was endured stolidly by the Swampert, who kept himself between the Arcanine and the other two combatants, bearing the stream of fire and letting fly with another Water Gun.

Marty managed to hit her this time, his mate barking angrily as she was doused even on the run, the jet stream of frigid fluid plastering her fur against her body.

Meanwhile, Kirin finally seemed to run out of strength in her jaws, either that or Jasmine had worked up enough centrifugal force in her spin to loosen her grip, perhaps with a push from Psychic. Either way, the Jolteon flew backwards, her flailing form crashing hard into Marty, the Swampert staggering from the impact.

He managed to catch his partner, hunching over her to protect her from Cheri's forthcoming Fire Blast, shielding her with his more resilient aura. The Arcanine's eyes narrowed as she saw she was about to hit Kirin as well, even as flames streamed from her gaping maw to engulf them.

The massive torrent of flames obscured Marty from view briefly, until suddenly a gout of water shot up from the ground, the Swampert cleverly modifying his Surf attack to protect himself and his partner. Steam hissed into the air, clouding the battlefield as opposing elements clashed, Marty's summoned liquid flash-heated by the inferno.

Jasmine had regained her composure by this time, eyes narrowing, focusing on Kirin as the Jolteon dropped from Marty's arms, the small electric type stumbling as a psychic blast washed over her.

With a brief cry, Marty let loose with his newly learned ability, even as Cheri flew towards his unprotected back in another Take Down, sub-zero needles lancing out towards the hovering poké mon.

The violet skinned Ghost type shot backwards from the blast of ice, Kirin leaping out of the way of the two tumbling larger poké mon, as Cheri's aggressive tackle slammed Marty down hard.

Shawn winced at the sight, glancing at his poké dex to check the health feeds.

"Okay, time to step in." The auras were getting low, and if this went on much longer, someone WOULD get hurt, the way things were going. He would stab himself with his own blade before allowing that, ESPECIALLY in practice.

"Enough!" Reaching through his sword, he grabbed Cheri in a fist of Air, yanking the Arcanine off the Swampert. At the same time, he slammed a wall between Kirin and Jasmine, a Thundershock exploding against it from one side, a Shadow Ball from the other.

The sudden stillness was an impressive contrast, the sounds of poké mon combat fading from his ears. Cheri grumbled as he lowered her to the ground gently, allowing his wall of Air to dissipate as well. Marty picked himself up, breathing hard from the exertion, his Jolteon partner also panting as she relaxed her battle stance. As short as it had been, the battle had been intense, all four of them pushing their abilities to the maximum.

He allowed the silence to continue a moment longer, meeting the eyes of each of his companions in turn, question written on every face, trying to find the words to break his verdict delicately. Jasmine floated a bit closer to the group, looking exhausted from the pounding she had taken, although it would probably increase her stamina in the long run.

A fiery gleam entered Cheri's eyes at the approach of the ghost, baring her fangs and letting out a soft growl. Jasmine halted immediately, her eyes widening in shock, her mouth opening to speak.

Shawn didn't give her the chance, his mouth setting in a firm line. A switch had flipped inside him, the spark of emotion fuelling his words. Delicateness be damned. It was time to be done with this... obstinacy. Even though it was born from the purest of intentions, she had crossed the line, and was now simply being petulant. Calm reason had failed to change her mind before, maybe this would. "I said, ENOUGH! That, Cheri, is why Marty and Kirin won this."

His mate jerked her head up in surprise, looking like he had slapped her. It sent a stab of grief through him to have to be a bit harsh, but it had to be done. She MUST learn to work with Jasmine! Even if she didn't like her!


"No buts! A team battle means working TOGETHER! If you two can't get along in day to day life, that's one thing, but how many times do I have to say how important our mission is? You are on the SAME side, and that means you support each other in battle. Is that clear?!" The question was purely rhetorical, the sight of their trainer's obvious agitation should be enough to drive the point home. He had to be tough here, this lesson applied to all of them. After all, who was to say this wouldn't happen again?

Cheri looked like she didn't know whether to start crying or shouting back at him. Jasmine's eyes were half-closed, no emotion apparent on her face.

Kirin looked uncomfortable, shifting from paw to paw and not meeting his eyes. Even Marty's enthusiasm had dropped at the reprimand, his tired grin vanishing, even if the rebuke wasn't aimed at him.

Shawn let out a long sigh, feeling drained. He had hoped that Cheri would be able to put aside her dislike in a battle, but that had clearly not been the case. This wasn't a fun lesson, but it was one that needed to be learned. She took a step towards him, the former emotion winning out, emerald eyes glistening as she obviously realized that, for the first time, he was truly upset with her. Albeit not to the degree she likely thought he was. It pained him to have to do this, but the air needed to be cleared.

"I-I…" she stammered, her paw half raised as she halted her advance, clearly unsure of how to respond to this new emotion coming from her mate.

In three swift strides, he closed the distance, crouching slightly in front of her and pulling her into a fierce hug, feeling her tremble in his grip. "I still love you, but this is important," he murmured softly, pitched for her ear alone.

As quickly as he had initiated the contact, he straightened back up, his gorgeous Arcanine staring into his eyes with a thoroughly chastised, yet now slightly relieved look, his words and gesture soothing away whatever fear may have run through her mind, taking out some of the sting.

He addressed all of them once more, feeling a bit like a stern drill seargeant addressing unruly troops. "Listen, all of you. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but this is an important lesson. Don't think I'm singling Cheri out here. This battle was never about winning or losing, it was only about working together. We are in a fight for the fate of the entire world! We CANNOT lose! If I send two of you out side-by-side, I expect you to work with each other to tackle whatever may come your way, personal differences aside. Who knows? There may be more poké mon on our team when that time comes, and you may have to work with someone you may not like too much."

He took a deep breath, each poké mon locked on him, listening intently with mixed expressions of chagrin, whether they were culpable or not. "All I'm trying to say is this: look out for one another. Even if you want to tear your team-mate in half, they are STILL your team-mate. You're fighting against the same enemy, personal gripes take second place to that. Capice?"

Subdued nods met the statement, none of his companions seeming to have words in response to his outburst. That was it. Done. Lesson learned hopefully, albeit the hard way.

He sighed again, running a hand through his hair. "Alright then. Kirin, Marty, Jasmine, would you please head back to camp? I need to speak privately with Cheri." He didn't want to humiliate his mate by continuing this in front of everybody. He had been completely truthful about not singling her out, even if she was the culprit this time. They all needed to have this hammered home, in case a similar issue ever came up again.

"O-okay," Kirin said, staring at the ground in front of her, apparently speaking for all of them. The three, sans Cheri, filed past him silently, Marty's eyes still wide, Jasmine impossible to read. Kirin looked a little concerned about something, but didn't say anything more.


Shawn gave them a moment to make their way back, seeking total privacy with his mate. He gestured to her, the dejected Arcanine following as he stepped a few feet into the longer grass, cutting them a small clearing with his sword. The open area they had been battling in had only been about fifty feet from the road, and he didn't want anyone to surprise them if things got" intimate. Even if it was unlikely for travelers to be about at this evening hour, the sun starting its descent below the horizon, a splash of vivid orange colouring the sky.

This seemed to be a less popular route, most people taking the cycling road that he and Marek had been turned back at, requiring bikes to take the more direct route to Celestic town. The scenic route via Floaroma was much longer, and they had cut some of the distance with teleporting. Even still, they had a fair ways to travel yet.

Cheri seated herself on her haunches with a huff as he sheathed his blade, staring at her paws, the very image of demoralization. It pained him to see her like this, but his words had been necessary. Now it was time to bring her back around.


She wouldn't meet his eyes, still seeming halfway between anger and self-flagellation, taking a strong interest in the grass between her front paws, shuffling the cut stalks around a bit.

The distance between them seemed far longer than it was, yet he crossed it with a single stride, crouching slightly to try and meet her eyes. "Cheri, look at me."

She finally met his gaze, her hurt expression tearing at his heart, her heated exhalation warming the scant amount of air between their noses.

"You're" angry. Angry with me." It was almost a whimper, his ears straining to pick out and translate the words.

"No Cheri, I'm not. Not truly. I was' upset, but I could never be truly angry with you."

"Yes you are! You-"

Her eyes widened in shock as he stifled her words with a kiss, grabbing her cheek ruffs and locking their lips together. It took an endless moment for her to respond to the action, but finally she let out a little rumble, embracing his tongue with hers as he worked it into her mouth.

"When all else fails, a good kiss will end any argument." Nina had used that one on him a few times, stemming any final dissenting words he may have had during one of their disagreements with a bout of frenching. It may not resolve the issue, but he knew from experience that it often made the other more" open to considering other points of view.

He gazed warmly into her eyes as they pulled apart, his love for her pulsing through his entire being like the blood in his veins, catching his breath as he watched a wild range of emotions swirling in those vivid pools of molten jade. "Still think I'm angry?"

He drew her close with his arms around her neck, dropping to his knees and pulling her head down slightly to meet his. He rested his forehead gently against hers, locking her in place with his eyes, doing his best to will his emotions across to her. Warm fur swept his brow as she shifted slightly, leaning into the contact gratefully.

She seemed to be having some trouble finding words again, her voice unsteady. "I" I g-guess not. T-That was…" She trailed off, a sudden flare of her frustration coming through again, breaking into the smouldering inferno of love he could see rekindling in her eyes. "All I want is to PROTECT you!"

He massaged her shoulders soothingly, refusing to blink and break their eye-contact. "I know. And I love you for it, but I need you to trust me on this one. Jasmine isn't a threat, to any of us. I'm not asking you to like her, I'm asking you to at least show her enough trust to work with her."

She broke free from the spell of his steady gaze, turning her head aside, a soft whine escaping her. "How can you be sure? Arceus' The thought of you being hurt again…"

He gently turned her back towards him, getting her to look into his eyes and see the truth his words contained, as if speaking them in The Speech weren't enough. "If she intended to harm me, she wouldn't be letting me inside her head. I know you're still upset about how she hypnotized Hina, but I think it's time to let that go. She was doing what she thought was right at the time, and it DID work, even if it was' abrupt."

He could see the stubborn look in her eyes, not wanting to believe it, even though she surely knew he was right.

He chuckled, trying to lighten the mood a bit. "Besides, you really think she could beat me? Have I fallen so far?"

It brought a smile at least, his mate conceding this point, her expression softening. "Hurr, no, I don't suppose a ghost is going to beat MY mate in a fight!"

He returned her smile with a murmured, "Mmhmm," not really speaking for a moment as his wandering hands searched for hidden itches, sending her tail thumping involuntarily. "So, do you think you can do that then? Cut her a little slack? For me?"

She was caving, he could see it, the last of the firm stubbornness melting away like candle wax. "Ahhh, that feels' mmm. Maybe" maybe I have been a little harsh on her. I" I'm sorry Master."

"I'm not the one you have to apologize to, and in any case, I can't accept an apology for trying to protect me. That said, I think telling Jasmine that you're sorry might not be a bad idea. I won't force you to though, it has to be from you and you alone."

She rumbled in irritation. "That is' hardly going to be easy. But" I" You're right of course. We have to work together, we can't let Darkrai have his way."

That was as good as he could have hoped for, and he drew her into another deep kiss in response. She was a much more active participant this time, her long, simmering appendage working its way deep into his mouth, the stimulating flavour of her smooch a heavenly ambrosia to his taste buds, sending little bubbles of euphoria popping through his conscious thought.

She giggled into her gasp for air as she pulled away. "You're scary when you're angry, you know that?"

He chuckled softly. "I can be very" persuasive when I need to be."

Her half lidded eyes gazed amorously into his. "That you can. And although I appreciate the reminder of who my alpha is, I think I prefer it when you're" persuasive" in other ways."

"Mmm, I think I do too, but we should probably head back," he replied regretfully. They were still pretty close to the camp, and if they were gone for much longer, Marek might decide to come looking for them.

She leaned forward, licking him tenderly across the cheek, the argument, such as it had been, clearly over and done with. "Yes, but can't we just sit here like this for a few minutes? Just the two of us?"

He buried himself in an ocean of orange and black silk and cream fluff, feeling the mighty drum of her heart beating against his own through the embrace. "Of course we can my dear."

She let out a long, happy sigh, almost pushing him back over as she leaned into his affection, his grip around her shoulders keeping him locked against her in a passionate cuddle.

"I love you."


Shawn reclined contentedly against the glorious softness of his mate, her body like a fluffy furnace against his back, echoing the warmth of the fire in front of him. Kirin lay on her stomach beside him, his hand resting on her shoulders and slowly stroking, the Jolteon sighing softly as she relaxed against the treatment. The position was rather reminiscent of how they had huddled together after encountering Nash, although Hina was absent this time, and now they had Marek sitting across from them, looking a bit lonely with no furry companions by his side.

He stared into the fire, the popping of the wood the only sound at the moment, aside from a few background noises coming from the trees, as nocturnal pokémon stirred. It was' peaceful, a pleasant counterpoint to the day's rather hectic events. Cheri hadn't made her apology yet, but neither had she shown any of her previous attitude towards Jasmine. He would let her set her own time to make amends, she had already taken the first steps.

Marek broke the silence finally, cutting into his thoughts. "Shawn, can I ask you a question?"

He glanced up at the other wizard, who had a rather" speculative" look on his face.

"Uhh, sure." Knowing Marek, this could be anything from asking whether or not he liked onions on his cheeseburgers, to some impossibly long and complicated question about the nature of dimensional structure.

"Well…" he paused for a moment, before continuing in The Speech, his use of the wizard language signifying a topic he was unsure about discussing in front of the two pokémon. …Why are we doing all this? Why don't we just make things simple? If this Cyrus guy is out to destroy the universe, surely we can hunt him down and take him out beforehand?"

The question was a bit of a surprising one. Aside from the possible consequences, which Marek possibly didn't know about, the answer should have been obvious. He replied with a question of his own. "What is our purpose Marek?"

Now it was Marek's turn to look surprised. "You mean, as wizards? Or as members of the watch?"

"As wizards."

His expression was difficult to read in the flickering light. Cheri and Kirin remained silent, allowing them to have their discussion uninterrupted. "For life's name and for life's sake-"

"You don't need to quote me the oath. What is the SPIRIT of it?"

There was a long moment of silence, before Marek replied softly, "To prevent death, wherever we can. To preserve the force of life."

"Right. And that goes beyond the reasons of how it may affect this universe if we were to kill Cyrus. Even the bad people deserve a chance of redemption. Killing him could disturb the balance, because of the flux. Some things just work like that, and altering this dimension that much could do the job Cyrus is trying to do for him. But, even if that weren't the case, we would still aim to resolve this without causing death."

Another long silence ensued. "What about the dark wizards though? Wouldn't you say they deserve death?"

The question sent an emotional stab through him, like a malicious finger prodding his past, painful memories floating to the surface again. He let out a heavy sigh before responding, trying to keep his voice steady. "Even they deserve a chance. No one is beyond hope Marek. Those that are under the dominion of the Lone One have made... poor choices, but that doesn't mean they DESERVE death. That isn't our decision to make."

Marek nodded slowly, seeming... subdued. "I understand. You really care, don't you? About this world, about making it right. Enough to voluntarily be stuck here for as long as it takes to fix it. It's more than just duty to you."

"Absolutely! This... this is part of who I am. I would make the same choice, every time." He smiled slightly, breaking the heavy discussion a bit. "Of course, it helps that I really, really like it here."

"Will you go back? When... When this is over?"

Shawn felt extremely conscious of the pokemon at his side with the question, all the things they had already been through together running through his mind. "I will... do as I must. I have... responsibilities to fulfill. But, if I had my choice, to stay here and work in this dimension... I would."

Marek looked up at the sky for a moment, taking his time to respond. "I think I can understand that. It's... peaceful... here."

Shawn simply nodded, not wanting to get into what other reasons he had for wanting to stay. "Yes... it is. But... I will do... what I have to."

Marek met his eyes again, seeming a bit... sad? "Yeah... me too."

They lapsed into silence once more, the glow of the fire a cheery contrast to the tone of the discussion, sending dancing shadows jauntily into the surrounding foliage.

It was sobering, to think once more on the time he might have to leave. With all his heart, he did not want to test the question of whether he would be forced to abandon his mate and other companions. But... He was part of something bigger than his personal desires. No matter how painful it may be... he would do as he must.

Kirin's eyes half closed as she leaned into Shawn's questing fingers, the gentle scratching sending delightful tingles sparking through her, seeming to pull the tendrils of the day's weariness from her body. Her sister had already retreated safely into her poké ball for the night, along with Marty and Jasmine, leaving her, Cheri, Shawn and Marek to relax around the crackling fire.

She could feel the warmth of the Arcanine radiating against her back, the larger poké mon curling around behind both she and Shawn, allowing their trainer to use her as a backrest, nuzzling against him affectionately.

Kirin had been a bit concerned that they were going to get into a serious argument with one another, and wouldn't be speaking to each other when they returned. She had resisted the urge to sneak back and listen in, respecting their privacy in spite of her curiosity. Whatever it was they had talked about seemed to have worked though, the pair returning to the campsite before sundown in perfect harmony, cuddling as lovingly as ever.

"I wonder if they also…… Heat rushed to her ears at the thought of what else they might have been up to. They hadn't been gone very long, but still" She wasn't familiar enough with the scent of mating to say for sure. Cheri had indeed had a spring in her step though" She shook off the voyeuristic thoughts, trying to focus on the conversation again.

Master Shawn and Marek were still speaking in that strange language of theirs, the tone of their conversation a murmuring background to the normal sounds of the night, seeming to weave in and out of the crackling of the fire. The words were beautiful, flowing, like if you translated a river into speech. That was the only way she could describe it, unable to understand a word when they spoke to each other like this. She didn't know why that was, but she didn't mind. It left her to her own thoughts.

None of them had really known what to say as they made their way back to the camp, still in shock from what had happened during their training session.

"That was certainly" interesting," Jasmine had said, the first to break the uneasy silence.

Marty's wide eyed look was testament to the Swampert's own shock. "Yeah" I've never seen Trainer Shawn get mad before…"

Kirin had agreed silently. It had been" intimidating, to say the least. Shawn never raised his voice with them, ever. She understood completely why he had, his words making perfect sense, but still" That horrible feeling, like she had personally disappointed him" She never wanted to experience that again.

She couldn't imagine how Cheri must have felt, as the main focus and cause of his' well, for him at least, it had been a tirade. None of them would forget that particular lesson!

When she and Shawn had returned, the Arcanine had seemed several times on the brink of speaking to Jasmine, as if to make amends. Each time she had held her peace, apparently not knowing how to start. At least she wasn't baring her impressive fangs at the Mismagius anymore. Those moments had been" uncomfortable.

She was glad the Fire type seemed to be willing to at least give the ghost a chance now. "She's" odd, but I don't think she's bad." Whatever her reasons, Cheri had crossed some invisible line with Shawn, and" Well" It was over now, that was what mattered.

"At least he's training me normally again. You…d think I was going to break, the way he was acting!" He had seemed to pick up on the fact, which had been extremely embarrassing at first, just knowing that he knew.

He had acted oddly" skittish, around her. After a short while, the embarrassment had faded somewhat, to be replaced by a bubbling frustration, inwardly raging at her body for putting her through this. It was even more annoying that he had seemed to think her cycle turned her into some delicate little Rattata or something.

It hadn't been much, but it had been there. An odd expression when he glanced at her, that she just caught from the corner of her eye, before he looked away quickly. And then the lighter training regimen of course. Now THAT, had been pure, undiluted torture.

She knew he had been trying to give her an easier time by not working her as hard, but that had just made it worse. Without as much to distract her, whenever she was out of her ball, the burning between her hind legs demanded her attention, like a howling Mightyena nipping at her heels. Of course, saying anything at all about it, asking him to work her harder, would have been mortifying. She could just imagine how THAT conversation would have gone.

"Master, can you give me more training?"

"More training? What for?"

"Well, my body is screaming at me to mate with you, and I'm trying to distract myself."

She stifled a snort. Yes, that would have been pure verbal mastery on her part.

She had endured it, somehow. To say she was relieved it was over was a massive understatement. The few times she had been alone with him" It had taken everything within her not to simply pounce on him, begging and crying for him to rut her silly. It had been enough of a struggle not to do it when they HADN…T been alone. Cheri's offer would echo through her mind, her instincts pleading for her to take it.

She had barely made it without going insane, the moments of privacy she had managed to steal becoming frenzied sessions to relieve herself, bringing the tempest in her loins to a more manageable level, however briefly.

That had almost made it worse in some ways though. Every time, fantasies about her trainer would spin through her mind, picturing the two of them in myriad scenarios, now easily transposing the image of Cheri with one of herself.

Her emotions were still a tangled snarl. It was just so confusing! She…d never felt like" this' before. She didn't have a word for it, this' unidentified emotion she felt when she looked at him. Was she" attracted" to Master Shawn?

Even with her heat gone, her curiosity burned just as strongly. What would it be like? How would it feel? What would it mean, to give herself over to a male? The one poké mon mating she had seen had looked" rough. Did she really want that?

But" Master Shawn was gentle, caring. He wouldn't be like that, using her for his own self-pleasure, or to spread his cubs. He would" She stifled that line of thought fiercely. She just didn't know what she wanted. She wanted to know, she wanted to answer the questions that had been burning in her mind. Did she want a male at all? Did she want" Master? Cheri had said she could go to him if she wanted, but" How would HE react to it? If she asked him and he said no"

It was maddening, running these endless circles in her mind. All she knew for sure was that she hadn't wanted her heat to make her decision for her. If she was going to do it, it would be with a clear head. HER decision, not some little slit between her legs.

Shivers ran through her as his magical touch worked to melt her into a puddle of relaxation, her limbs stretching out as tension oozed from her muscles. The conversation had been silent for a few moments now, drowsiness creeping its way through her.

"Mmm, if you keep this up Master, I'm going to fall asleep right here."

He chuckled, smoothing down the fur he had successfully ruffled into disarry, giving her a final few strokes for good measure.

"I think we're all getting tired Kirin, Cheri's been snoring in my ear for the last few minutes."

A soft, playfully indignant rumble met the statement, Kirin unable to see the Arcanine's face from her position. "I have not!"

He leaned back, ruffling the mane of his mate. "Sure you haven't."

Across the fire pit, Marek stretched, yawning. "Yeah, I agree. I think I'm going to hit the sack."

"Definitely not a bad idea, tomorrow's going to be a travel day I think. We haven't even hit Floaroma yet, and I want to make fairly good time to Celestic," Shawn said.

"Are we going to teleport again?" Marek asked.

"I think so, that will cut some of the distance at least. You've recovered from the last jumps, right?"


"Good. That should get us to Eterna at least, and then we'll hike through there. These restrictions are a pain."

"Yeah, the tether is even shorter here than normal, I didn't know it was quite that bad. Anyways' In the morning then" and" thanks."

"Uhh, you're welcome. No real need to thank me though, it's just how things are in my book."

"Yeah, well" In any case" See you tomorrow."

Kirin only half listened to the words as the two bade each other good night, jaws cracking in a massive yawn as she got to her feet, arching her spine to stretch out in preparation of turning in. "Can you please return me to my ball Master?"

He looked a bit surprised. "You sure you don't want to sleep outside?"

She shook her head, grinning sleepily. The previous nights on the road, she had been grateful for the lack of her sister sleeping beside her, giving her the privacy she needed to attend to herself. Now though" "No, it feels like a "ball" night. Besides, it's a bit lonely without Hina now."

"You know you're welcome to come in with us," Cheri rumbled, giving her a nuzzle as Shawn nodded in agreement.

She smiled at the larger poké mon, grateful for the offer, but not wanting to intrude on their privacy. "No, it's alright, I think it would be a bit cozy with all three of us. Besides, I really like my new ball."

"Alright then, fair enough," Shawn said, pulling out the sphere that so perfectly imitated her colouring. It really was a big improvement. She didn't know why even, but it just felt more" comfortable. Like it belonged to her.

"Goodnight Master Shawn," she called, right as the return beam lanced out. His comforting smile was the last thing she saw, just before becoming wrapped in the ball's embrace. His words were lost as she was pulled inside, sleep instantly claiming her and putting her emotional tempest to rest. She would figure it out, eventually.


He paced nervously up and down the space between the two tents, dry washing his hands furiously, a trickle of sweat rolling down his spine. The darkness surrounding him suited his mood, his front teeth almost drawing blood as he bit down on his lower lip, trying to keep from whimpering at the task that lay before him.

He sucked in air frantically, feeling light-headed and woozy. It had to be done. It had to! Things were moving too fast to allow it to go on. He had no choice in this.

He shuddered, looking around fearfully, half expecting to once more feel that heavy hand on his shoulder, to hear that grating voice, speaking inexorable and terrible commands. For his master to have come personally to give him his marching orders' That meant a very important mission indeed.

Finally working up the courage, he laid his hand on the zipper of the tent, for the third time tonight. This time, he managed to keep the shaking appendage in place on the tiny piece of metal, not jerking back as if burned.

Ever so slowly, he pulled the tag downwards, wincing at the tiny sound of the fly opening, seeming as loud as thunder to his ears.

Holding his breath, he slipped inside with all the stealth he could muster, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the greater darkness, the moonlight barely kissing the entrance. He could just barely make out the sleeping forms, the human one arresting his attention.

His chest was bare, evidenced by the sharp lines of the silhouette, blankets tossed aside in favour of snugging against the other sleeping form. A stab of jealousy lanced through him, at the sight, envying the furry companion. "That could be me!"

But it was not to be. As much as he had hoped, he had always known.

He muttered a word under his breath, allowing the spell that revealed wizardry to drop around him. He barely stifled his groan of consternation as once again, a shield popped into view around the sleeping form. "He just doesn't take it off! Curse his paranoia!" It was perfectly valid of course, but still.

His heart leaped into his throat, as the head of the" Arcanine? Was that it? Yes, Arcanine. She jerked up, eyes gleaming even in the low light as they blinked open, fixing on him as he stumbled back in surprise.

"Whazzat? What's wrong? Marek?"

He gulped, retreating hastily, mind racing. "Uhhh, uhh, I thought I heard a strange noise, I was checking to see if everything was alright," he whispered, knowing her superior hearing would pick it up. He squirmed inwardly as Shawn shifted in his sleep, rolling towards him slightly.

It seemed to be enough for the sleepy Arcanine, although her eyes narrowed slightly. "Everything is fine. Go back to sleep."

He made his exit as quickly as he could, fleeing that piercing gaze, simply nodding in return to her, hoping she couldn't hear the rapid drumming of his heart.

Back out on in the night-time air, he resumed his pacing, agitation making his movements jerky, arguing with himself.

"Yes Master, I know I have to! But" He's shielded Master! He never takes it off! As soon as I try, he'll know! If he knows, he'll kill me Master! I can't beat him, I know it! He can't know, he can't! I…"

He trailed off from his whispered debate, a new idea suddenly occurring to him.

"But" Master" He needs the poké mon. If he doesn't have them, he won't be able to stop it. The flux will see to that. He needs them. To stop it properly."

That settled it. It was a bit less distasteful an option too. He would have to be careful though, VERY careful.

He summoned his manual to his hand, using a tiny spell to light the pages, searching rapidly for the wizardries he would need.

"Yes' Invisibility, and silence, and this one, so I don't have to open the door."

Each wizardry dropped into place at the command of his Speech, his skin crawling as they took hold, concealing him to the outside eye and ear.

He strode towards the tent once more, confident in his new plan. Yes, this would work.

The final spell in place, he stepped directly through the tent wall, not risking the Arcanine somehow noticing his entrance. It seemed he had no need for concern, she was asleep once more, her chest rising and falling, Shawn now sprawled across her.

He cursed silently. He couldn't risk HIM waking. If he tried to put the Arcanine back in her ball, he would know. He couldn't know!

Keeping a close eye on the pair, he stole to the place Shawn's bag rested, feeling around for what he knew from previous nights would be resting across it. Yes, there it was, the belt.

Snatching up the strip of leather, he beat another hasty retreat, eyes on the slumberers the entire time, almost tripping on his way out of the tent, his prize clutched to his chest.

Dispersing the stealth spells, he examined the belt in the moonlight's eerie glow, the five spheres clipped firmly in place. He reached for the one that contained that ghost thing, ready to start his grisly task. His hand froze in place before removing it though, as another thought struck him.

"No, no. Can't do it here Master. He'll hear it Master, he'll know, he'll know. He can't know Master. Can't do it here."

Rapidly, he spoke the words for a teleport spell, suddenly eager to be gone from this spot. He had to get away, finish this task. He had to get away. He didn't care what direction he went, he just had to get away.

With a muffled thunderclap, the lanky form vanished, the night's inky darkness rushing in to fill the void where he had stood. He too, would do as he must.

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