Chapter 42: Descent

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Chapter 42: Team Up

By the time the boys were done, the whole control room was bits and pieces. Silvally and Swampert were surrounded by an innumerable amount of severed parts which would make it look like a bloody massacre if not for the fact that their victims were remote controlled suits. Still, the sight of them made all of the employees shrink back into the corner of the room in fear.
"Well done, gentlemen. It seems we finally have a moment to breathe." (Y/N) joked.
"So, you came here to rescue us?" Jamil asked, a bit out of breath.
Epel looked at him indignantly. "Of course! Like we were gonna leave ya'll here!"
"It was our sworn duty to save our dear comrades." Rook added, getting a side eye from the girl.
"Like you didn't try to leave us out of it. Anyways, have any of you guys seen Grim?"
Riddle raised a brow. "Grim? Was he brought to this island as well?"
"Yes." Epel confirmed. "They took him right after they got Vil-senpai. We thought that he would be with you."
Azul shook his head. "I'm afraid we haven't seen him since we arrived. We didn't see him in any of the testing rooms either."
"Wait." Leona rubbed his chin, remembering earlier when they had passed a cell that had been busted open. He had thought the scent was familiar. "It's possible that the little furball managed to break out earlier than we did."
"Impossible!" Riddle exclaimed. "Grim's magical ability is far less refined than even Ace and Deuce's. He couldn't have broken through a reinforced door that easily."
"Well, we can't say that for sure." (Y/N) admitted. "Something has been happening to him."
Vil turned to the cowering employees, Silvally now sitting in front of them in case they tried to make a break for it.
"Please tell us who was staying in the furthest room in isolation."
At first, they seemed like they were going to refuse to talk, but a weak growl from the Synthetic Pokémon got at least one of them talking.
"Subject F, a magical beast brought in from Night Raven College."
Leona growled. "I knew it was that fluffball."
"However, all his test results showed below average magical output. Just as Subject A mentioned, he does not have the power to break through the reinforced door.
A different employee perked up. "Please wait, Chief. There's a note attached to Subject F's records." He slowly reached out towards a nearby desk, as if expecting Silvally to bite him, and handed off papers. "Here it is. Despite many tests, we weren't able to accurately chart Subject F's Blot accumulation."
Epel tilted his head. "What does that mean?"
"We've combed through all of S.T.Y.X's available data, but we couldn't find a similar case. We couldn't determine the exact reason either. The analysis team mentioned it could be a case of ancient magic layered on top of each other. Though we couldn't pinpoint anything exact, the current theory is that he possesses a curse or a blessing that is only activated under a conditioned circumstance. We were planning to do some follow-up tests once he was more stable, but..."
"A curse!?" (Y/N) cut him off, sounding panicked.
Vil placed a calming hand on her shoulder. "People have divided them based on effect, but curses and blessings are essentially the same thing. For example, my unique magic can prove helpful depending on the situation. Magic is reinforced by emotion, and as such, it can be used for both good and evil. I cannot say for sure how or why it is associated with Grim-,"
An alarm started sounding yet again as an operator looked at the main computer.
"Our motion sensors have detected Subject F venturing into Tartarus!"
"What!?" (Y/N) yelled, running to stand next to the operator.
"How...? I see! Entry and exit into Tartarus is possible because Cerberus is down. According to the records, he headed straight for Tartarus as soon as the alarms blared. What does he hope to accomplish there?"
Epel's eyes widened. "Ortho-kun said that Tartarus was dangerous, but how dangerous is it?"
"Simply put, Tartarus acts as an asylum for over 10, 000 Phantoms. The freezing system is inactive right now. It's only a matter of time before the Phantoms start moving."
"So Grim is down there when all the Reverse World is about to break loose?" (Y/N) said.
"(Y/N), calm yourself." Vil insisted. "At least, now you know where Grim is. He must be feeling sprightly if he headed straight for Tartarus. We'll pick him up on our way to the Underworld."
The operators looked at him like he was crazy.
"That's too dangerous!"
The actor was undeterred. "Idia and Ortho are in there, aren't they? If they're trying to change the world, then we'll have to face danger sooner or later."
Azul sighed. "...It seems like we have no other choice at the moment."
Jamil shook his head. "You say that like it's just one thing on your agenda today."
"Hold on." The head operator interjected. "You are still unlicensed mages! This isn't something we can leave in the hands of amateurs. We need to call for the Magical Force. Let's wait for a response!"
"How long do we have until all the Phantoms break free?" Leona asked.
"A– A little over six hours."
"How long until communication systems are fixed and reinforcements arrive?" All of them looked away from the prince. "Half of the people trapped here are civilians and researchers. The powered armors and the magical devices are all under Ortho's control. So, what? We're all supposed to cower in fear and pray for a miracle? You've gotta be kidding."
Riddle thought for a moment. "True, we are still students with no real authority. However, we have all undergone disaster preparedness training back in the academy."
"Moreover, we have all experienced Overblot once." Jamil pointed out with the support of Azul.
"Correct me if I am wrong, but... Overblot is a phenomenon only experienced by mages with exceptional talent for magic, isn't it? Our presence here should be proof enough of our talents, no? Wouldn't you agree, S.T.Y.X?"
"W-well, I'll be...!"
Rook stepped forward. "I've come this far to say that I did everything in my power. We haven't exactly run out of options yet. There are still things we can try."
"I'm ready to fight, too!" Epel declared.
Their dorm leader nodded in approval. "We must hurry, then. Get ready to dive into Tartarus!"
"Wait!" Jamil interjected. "Before anything, (Y/N), I hope you have something for this."
He walked over to a concealed corner, pulling out Rotom who he had forced to hide during the fight to not aggravate his injuries further.
The trainer's eyes widened. "Rotom! Arceus, what happened to him!?"
She ran over with Swampert at her heels. From her bag, she pulled out a green container and began to spray the ghost type in what seemed like antibiotics, since the Plasma Pokémon seemed to perk up almost immediately.
"Ortho happened." Azul explained. "Rotom attempted to stop him from overriding the system, but he was chased off."
"Ortho did this to him!?" Epel said, almost not believing him.
(Y/N) put on a face. "That doesn't make any sense..."
Leona rubbed his temples. "Trust us, Herbivore, the kid has gone off the deep end."
"Not that, Kitty. There's no way Ortho should have been able to beat Rotom."
"What do you mean?" Jamil asked.
"Rotoms are known for their ability to possess electronics. They're basically sentient computer viruses. Ortho's a robot. Regardless of how complex or sophisticated he is, Rotom should have been able to possess him or at least override his system. Ortho himself said S.T.Y.X. had no countermeasures for something like Rotom. Their systems couldn't even detect him. So how did Ortho manage to avoid him?"
"Okay, I see your point." Azul admitted, now equally as curious.
"Something else is happening here. This is way beyond just some sort of malfunction in Ortho's programming." (Y/N) thought for a moment, trying to come up with an answer. Rotom's could possess machines easily, but unlike other ghost types, possession of living beings was much more difficult. Could it be that Ortho-?
Vil cut her thoughts off. "Whatever the case, we still need to confront this problem."
"P-please wait!" The head operator said.
"Yes, what is it?"
"Please take these with you." He handed out several items to Vil.
"ID cards, maps, transceivers, and... three keyholders?"
"The communication devices within the building are not working. But, we will be able to communicate with the transceivers as long as there aren't any major signal disruptions. The keyholders will help you operate the Anti-Phantom Arms.
"Anti-Phantom Arms?" (Y/N) repeated.
"Tartarus is divided into three towers that run deep underground. The deepest levels contain very dangerous Phantoms. Most dangerous of them all are the Titans being restrained in the 12th level. They were born during the age of gods and goddesses, so we call them Phantoms of Antiquity."
It was the students' turn to gawk. Though (Y/N) was not as experienced with the history of Twisted Wonderland as everyone else, she could tell just by the wording this was a very big deal.
The operator continued. "Each tower has its own hangar on the 6th level. In there, you'll find the Lightning Spear that Jupiter's founding father used to seal the Titans. Use those keys to activate them. The first tower houses a Phantom of solid rock. We call it Phantom Titans – Earth. In the second tower resides a Phantom as cold as ice, Phantom Titans – Crystal. The third tower contains Phantom Titans – Magma, a Phantom of raging fire. You may be exceptional mages, but it will be impossible for you to face them without the proper gear. The Navigation System will help you operate the Spears. I hope you can forgive us for leaving you children with such a heavy burden."
Vil nodded to him. "There is no need for you to shoulder the responsibility for our choices. As it stands, it seems like I was the one who gave Ortho the inspiration. We will graciously accept your Lightning Spears."
"The Lightning Spear can release a powerful thunderbolt with the help of magic, but it will take a bit of time for it to recharge. Although most of the systems are down right now, you should be able to charge it in Tartarus. Please don't forget to charge it after every use. We will provide back-up wherever we can. We'll pray for your success."
The group all ran into the hallway as Vil began plotting their course.
"According to them, we have three towers to get through. We don't have enough time, and I want to avoid major casualties, so I suggest we split up."
Epel nodded, looking towards (Y/N). "We'll need to check every tower if we want to find Grim-kun, too."
"Oh, yes. Let's decide on the teams. Since we're both third years, Leona and I will each lead our own team. I will handle the first tower, and Leona is in charge of the second tower. As for the third..."
"I'll take care of the third tower." Riddle volunteered. "I have the most experience as Prefect after Leona-senpai."
"Very well. Is that okay with you, Azul?"
The mermaid nodded. "Of course. Riddle-san is a far better student than I am."
Rook at the two first years. "Epel-kun, (Y/N), and I will go with Vil. Fighting is all about combination, and we have been by each other's side the longest."
Vil straightened up. "What are your plans, Azul and Jamil?"
"I managed to get a better understanding of our abilities, so I suggest that we go with a leader that will complement our skills well." Azul suggested.
Leona huffed. "Hmph, I'm sure you'll both use others as a shield if given the chance. I don't care. Hurry up and choose."
"I will go to the third tower with Riddle-san." Azul volunteered. "Truth be told, Leona-san's "drought" does not sit well with a mermaid like me."
Jamil nodded. "I'll go with Leona-senpai. I look forward to working with you."
"All right, let's get going." The prince ordered. "The team that reaches the Underworld first will get the privilege to knock some sense into that tall piece of radish. Doesn't that add to the excitement? 'You get to go home tomorrow,' my ass. How dare he drag me into this mess?"
Vil, for once agreeing with Leona, put on a scowl. "Getting to punch Idia sounds like good motivation to me."
Riddle kept calm. "From this point on, we will come face to face with real danger. Please exercise the utmost caution."
"Wait." (Y/N) interjected before pulling out three Pokeballs. "You guys are gonna need all the help you can get."
Leona smirked. "You trust us enough with your beasts?"
"I trust my Pokémon with you. Kitty, you're up against the Ice Titan, so take Silvally and Tyrannitar. Riddle, Dragapult and Gyarados."
"Gyarados!?" Azul yelled.
"Don't worry. He'll go after the bigger target. Trust me." She then turned to Silvally, pulling a disk from her bag. "Showtime, big guy."
The quadruped bowed his head to allow her to tap him with the disk. At once, his eyes, feathers, and the inner part of his tail blazed red. She smiled back at Leona and Jamil.
"Now you have a fire type."
"Thank you, (Y/N)." Jamil said genuinely.
"Just bring them back safely. All right, boys, let's move out!"
"Yes, ma'am!"
(Timeskip-Team Vil)
With the group now split up among the three towers, they all began their descent into Tartarus. Given the endless moaning and screaming that echoed throughout the tower and every hair on her body was standing up, (Y/N) ordered the boys onto Metagross and Swampert, with Rotom trailing them since his trainer wasn't completely sure he was fully recovered.
Vil frowned at the seemingly bottomless pit from his perch on Metagross. "This is the phantom asylum, Tartarus. The size and the depth of it makes me feel overwhelmed."
Epel nodded, unconsciously pushing closer to (Y/N). "I can feel that the cold air is rising. It happens in Harveston during winter, but it's somehow different than that."
"Yes, it sends chills down my spine." Rook agreed. "I can't stop my body from shivering."
"It's a supernatural wind." (Y/N) explained. "Trainers feel it all the time when they get close to groups of ghost types. Still, this is a lot more malevolent than that."
Her starter grunted in agreement as Vil motioned the group to move.
"Regardless, this is definitely not a place the living should remain for long."
"Why would Grim come down here?" (Y/N) growled. "Was he not even...thinking...?"
"(Y/N)?" Epel said, seeing her freeze.
The trainer pondered it. Not even Grim had the bluster/confidence to charge into the depth of such a dangerous place. He didn't even have the courage to stand up to most of the Pokémon. The only time Grim had acted with reckless fearlessness truly was the night after the VDC, when he had gone feral. And what was the cause?
She snapped to attention, urging Swampert to pick up the pace. "We need to get moving, now."
"What's wrong?" Vil asked.
"I think I know why Grim ran down here. And if I'm right, we have another problem besides the Phantoms."
The Pokémon towards the elevator, trying to get to the lower levels as quickly as possible. Vil went to open the door with the key, but it wouldn't budge.
"It won't open." He grimaced.
Epel shrugged. "It's because all the mechanics inside the building are under Ortho's control. If they didn't want others to disrupt their plans, of course they wouldn't let us use the elevator, I guess."
Suddenly, the doors swung open, causing the Pokémon to jump back with growls.
Rook looked at them suspiciously. "This is-,"
"Most definitely a trap." (Y/N) finished.
"Agreed." Vil stated. "But, we have no other choice. Let's pray that it won't plummet."
"Metagross, be prepared to catch us." (Y/N) ordered as they all stepped inside.
The doors closed as they were plunged into darkness, before a hologram of Ortho illuminated the space.
"Hello! Everyone, welcome to the first tower of the cursed asylum, Tartarus!"
"Here he is." Vil taunted as Rotom sparked angrily. "The mischievous doll."
Ortho ignored him. "I never thought I would get to see Night Raven Quest in real life. There are even new characters and jobs that we didn't expect!"
"Night Raven Quest?" Epel repeated. "What's that?"
"This is the first mission for everyone who's going to start a new adventure in the Underworld. If you want to challenge us, then you should be able to clear this easily."
Ortho vanished as a screen came to life, the title screen for what appeared to be a classic style shooter flashing on it.
Vil crossed his arms. "Is this the game that we played when we were in the lounge?"
Ortho reappeared with a nod. "If you're able to beat this game, I'll let you in. Now, aim for the glory beyond! Run like a meteor shooting through the sky!"
Vil stepped up to play given he had a bit of experience. However, seconds into the level, it became apparent the difficult settings were beyond anything that a human could beat. It didn't take long for Vil to get wiped out.
"No!" Rook said. "We lost!"
"Hey!" Vil protested. "This is way more difficult than the one we played!"
Ortho laughed, a cocky look on his face. "You can't even beat this level? What a loser! Unfortunately, I can't let a weak player who can't clear this easy level inside Tartarus."
"Young man!" (Y/N) snapped, actually making the robot double take. "If that's your attitude, then you need a lesson. Vil, move. It's my turn."
The dorm leader stepped back as the girl took the controls. By then, Ortho had recovered.
"Oh, you think you can do better than the rest of your party?"
She smirked. "You're not the only one with power over technology. Rotom, give me a hand."
The ghost type beeped in glee as he shot into the monitor as the game started. At first, it seemed like nothing had changed, but as the first wave of enemies hit, the screen glitched and their speed dropped to a more manageable level. It was still difficult, but the Pokémon trainer managed to finish off the level's boss.
"Boom!" She declared as the victory screen flashed and Rotom popped out. "I win!"
"You cheater!" Ortho declared. "You had help!"
She rolled her eyes. "It's called Co-Op. Besides, it's not my fault you didn't account for a summon who can debuff you and make the battle winnable. Though I will say, your tactics are pretty cheap if a player doesn't have the right skill set for this."
The Pomefiore boys looked at her, a bit put off by the gamer lingo, but it seemed to reach Ortho, who looked like he genuinely took the criticism to heart.
"Oh, I guess you're right. No one likes fighting a cheap boss, especially as the first one. All right, I'll let you in. If Vil Schoenheit is the tank and (Y/N) is the mage/summoner, I wonder what kind of roles would be suitable for Rook Hunt and Epel Felmier. I'm excited to see how this party will act when challenging the next level."
"Starting now, there will be waves of high level monsters. It's a difficulty spike. All right then, I'll be waiting for you at the next stage! Fufufu!"
Ortho vanished as the doors opened on the next floor. Vil took the opportunity to give (Y/N) a look.
"You speak their language?"
She rubbed her head. "I have hobbies outside of battling."
Vil just huffed. "They really are just a pair of playful brothers. Just you wait, you could only be the final boss."
Epel glanced around. "So this is the inside of Tartarus. The elevator won't move anymore, so we'll have to take the stairs."
"According to the staff in the control room, all the phantoms in the higher levels of the asylum have been released, so they're probably moving now." Vil stated. "We could encounter them at any time. We should remain vigilant."
(Y/N) got back on Swampert. "And that's why I suggest we remount and get moving. If we're quick enough, we might be able to get to the lower levels before the phantoms there thaw."
"Oui." Rook said. "We should move as quickly as possible."
Getting back on the Pokémon, Swampert and Metagross began to quickly cover ground, trying to avoid any possible danger. Vil glanced at the others.
"We didn't have the time to talk before. While there still is time, I have something to say to you."
"What is it, Roi Du Poison?"
"First of all, Rook." He gave the vice dorm leader a harsh look. "You abandoned Pomefiore, even though you're the vice dorm leader. I know you are a man who would do most of the things a vice dorm leader should do, but during this critical moment when the whole school was in chaos after being attacked, you still took the irresponsible action. As dorm leader, I can't overlook this."
Rook didn't say anything in his defense, leaving Epel to speak up on his behalf.
"W-wait, Vil-san! Rook-san was aware of the danger, but he still-,"
"Be quiet! The matter of me being kidnapped and Rook abandoning his responsibilities are two completely different issues. The other vice dorm leaders who didn't come here must be organizing their dorms on behalf of their dorm leaders. I feel embarrassed for choosing an irresponsible man who abandoned the dorm and chose to act on his feelings."
Epel glared at him. "Hey! You don't have to say that!"
"It's fine, Epel-kun." Rook insisted. "Vil should be angry. I was ready to be dismissed as vice dorm leader the moment I left the school."
"N-no way!"
Vil then turned to the first years. "And next, Epel and (Y/N), do you understand how dangerous your actions were? You won't be able to help anyone by playing hero when you have no power."
"Excuse me, whose Pokémon are you riding?!" (Y/N) shot back. "I analyzed the risk and I decided I had to come because my only other dormmate was taken after we were attacked. I wasn't going to trust the useless crow and a bunch of shady individuals to release you guys, especially when I was told no one leaves this place. So no, I will neither be ashamed nor apologize for coming, especially since we had to come save your butts because your own actions led to your Overblot. So, quite kindly, stuff it with the lecture!"
Rook and Epel looked quite surprised at her outburst. Clearly, Grim's situation weighed far heavier on the trainer than she initially let on. Vil also backed down, partial because he could now clearly see how stressed (Y/N) was, and partially because she was completely right.
"Well then, I've said everything that I've had to say as dorm leader of Pomefiore. From now on, I will be speaking as Vil Schoenheit."
"Eh?" Rook said.
Vil smiled. "Honestly, when Rotom told us help was coming, I was so happy. I've been holding back ever since I saw your faces a while ago. May I hug and kiss you?"
"E-eh!?" They all squeaked, (Y/N)'s annoyance immediately melting under redden cheeks.
Vil didn't wait for an answer as he gave each a kiss on the cheek, Metagross having to get closer so Vil could reach the first years. Rotom seemed genuinely entertained as his trainer blushed heavily, while Swampert looked ready to commit murder.
"Excuse me, I give hugs and kisses of gratitude when I'm happy. My hunter, my poison apple, and my beast tamer, thank you for coming here. I'll lead you back to the school."
Rook smiled back. "We should be the one's saying that, our Queen."
Epel chuckled. "I won't lose this time! Also, let me tell you something, Vil-san! I discovered my Unique Magic while we were fighting!"
"That's right!" Rook cheered. "You must have seen it earlier, the beautiful glass coffin that trapped the Ferryman inside!"
"Is that...Epel's Unique Magic?"
"Yes!" Epel said proudly. "Sleep Kiss allows me to trap opponents inside a barrier and freeze their movements. I still haven't mastered it yet though, so the probability of success is around 30 to 40%."
"Fortunately, the Ferrymen suits are fairly susceptible to it." (Y/N) said, still flustered from the kiss. "I suspect it's because they're just empty suits with no natural resistance to magic. He saved me and Swampert from them."
"Indeed. When we were attacked by the Ferrymen and lost all hope, Epel-kun awakened his Unique Magic!" Rook explained. "It's a shame that I didn't have any recording device so you could see his heroic moment too, Vil!"
"Tell you what, when this is over, I can have Rotom check the security cameras and see if they were working at the time." (Y/N) offered.
Vil looked like a delighted mother. "Indeed, it's too bad that I wasn't there at the time, but I feel as though I'll be able to see his heroic moment right now."
Epel looked at him confused, but (Y/N), Rook, and the Pokémon all tensed up.
"We've got company." The trainer warned. "I think it's coming from below!"
Shadow beings suddenly began climbing up from the lower floors. Metagross immediately used Bullet Punch on the closer one as it pulled itself up. The creature lost its grip and plummeted into the abyss as the other one climbed up. The first years jumped off Swampert, who grappled the creature. He rose to his hind legs and tried to force it over the edge, but the hideous thing was larger than the water type. Fortunately, that just made it a bigger target for the magicians and Rotom to pelt it with magic and electricity. Weakened, the Phantom was shoved towards the edge by Swampert as Metagross swung a Meteor Mash at it, letting it follow its friend into oblivion.
"Well done, gentlemen." (Y/N) complimented as she gave pats to all her Pokémon. "That could've been messy."
She frowned as she saw remnants of ink staining the floor.
Epel also noticed. "They left black ink."
"That black liquid is the blot itself, full of negative energy." Vil warned. "Don't touch it or you will become infected."
Rook's eyes widened as the stained floor began to crack. "Les Misérables! The floor is turning white and starting to crack!"
"Are Idia-san and the others really trying to release these things?" Epel asked as (Y/N) got back on Swampert.
"If that happens, the world would definitely fall into chaos." Vil said. "We must stop it, even if it means destroying the hopes and dreams of the brothers."
Rook nodded. "Agreed. Though they were small, it seems as though all the frozen Phantoms are waking up one after another. We need to get down there as fast as possible."
The group all began to pick up the pace, but they quickly found their path blocked by a massive door.
(Y/N) blew hair from her face. "Well, that looks inviting."
"According to the map, it's the door to inner asylum." Vil explained.
"So, it's likely teeming with Phantoms. What are the odds they're still frozen?"
"D-don't worry!" Epel tried to assure the girl. "No matter what kind of enemy it is, I'll catch them with my Unique Magic!"
Vil smirked. "Oh my, how reliable you are. Well then, let's go."

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