So...I got sucked in by Tears of the Kingdom. Sorry about that guys.
I own nothing.
Chapter 47: Dreams Require Sacrifice
Gyarados seemed to be doing everything in his power to ignore the two boys as he graciously hauled away the Thunder Spear.
"It seems to be lighter in energy saving mode." Riddle noted.
Azul adjusted his glasses. "Considering Gyarados is our most powerful teammate in terms of brute strength, perhaps I should hold the spear and let him conserve his strength. It is the job of an underling to carry a heavy weapon. And you are the leader, Riddle, so you need to stand in the front and protect us."
"Gyarados seems completely capable of carrying the spear." Riddle then narrowed his eyes. "And it seems you're still misunderstanding something. I'm not protecting any of you. It's the rules."
"You're an octopus merman, but you drank a transformation potion to change to your current appearance, correct?"
"Well, yes, but what does that have to do with the rules?"
"When taking a transformation potion, you need administrational approval and to be supervised by a specialist. Only a medical technician is able to provide the prescription for it, and only someone with a professional license for potionology is allowed to prepare it. I'm sure you know this. Due to its effects, great care must be taken to treat a person under its effects. It's against the law for someone without a professional license to provide medical care for them. In other words, if you're injured, I might have to violate the law to treat you. AND I HAVE TO AVOID THAT AT ALL COST! Which is why you cannot get injured. That is all."
"..." Azul and Dragapult suddenly burst out in unrestrained laughter.
"Why are you two laughing? I don't think there's anything funny about what I said."
"I can't believe it!" Azul said between wheezes. "Were you thinking about that this whole time? Hahahaha! You're really strange!"
"S-strange!? Isn't it the duty of a citizen to follow the law!?"
"Then you should've said that from the beginning! I genuinely thought you were treating me as a burden!"
"Huh? I already told you I am aware you can fight! Why can't you understand that?"
Azul shrugged. "With that attitude of yours, you can't blame me for thinking that you're provoking me. No one can ever predict the strange rules you create for yourself."
"It's not my rule! It's the law!"
Gyarados and Dragapult suddenly snarled as an inky hazy crept up from the corridor.
"Grr...! So fun...how great..."
"Great!" Riddle yelled. "Thanks to your laughter, the enemy almost snuck up on us!"
Azul rolled his eyes. "As if they could sneak up on the Pokémon. Still, my apologies. I'll be mindful to not get injured...fufu!"
The redhead restrained himself enough to not strangle Azul, redirecting his aggression at the approaching Phantom. Needless to say, neither Pokémon needed to step in as the creature was reduced to a puddle in seconds.
Azul shook his head. "You really should consider animal therapy with (Y/N), it might help with your aggression. Still, despite your through victory, the Phantoms are getting stronger."
"Yes. We were right to rest while charging the spear. Feeling tired will make us lose focus. For wizards like us, a lack of concentration can cause an accident. Speaking of, there's something I want to know. Will the transformation potion suddenly lose effect?"
Azul shook his head. "If you take it as prescribed, it won't happen. In the past, the potion's effect only lasted three days, but with time, the potion now lasts from a week to 10 days. It isn't very pleasant either, so I'm grateful I don't have to drink it as frequently. Still, sometimes when Floyd forgets to drink it: 'my ears have turned back to fins' or 'my tail has come back'. That's what he says."
Riddle frowned. "I've never taken it before, but having to live with a transformation potion sounds very inconvenient."
"I was prepared to face some difficulty when I went onshore, so it was not much of a problem. We also received generous support from organizations that encourage mermaids studying on shore. They provide training to all mermaids moving on land so they can live comfortably. They're very inclusive to every breed of mermaid. It's not just training. If you apply, they also provide a rare and expensive transformation potion. All that, for free! Of course, it was only complimentary for promising young people, still, it's special treatment. When I first learned about the existence of these groups, I thought 'it's too good to be true! There has to be a catch!'. But no matter how much I researched it, nothing suspicious came up. Apparently, there are organizations made with good intentions. There are so many mermaids that want to move onshore, so even if the cost per person is high, they won't go bankrupt. Right after I was accepted into Night Raven College, I applied for it."
"So you did careful research about it." Riddle said with a side eye. "You're really sneaky, aren't you?"
"Thank you for the compliment. The organization was very happy too. They seem to want more mermaids to use the potion to realize the founder's vision. Kindness will be rewarded in the end. They said this is the pride of the 'Sunshine Lands'. That's why they're very enthusiastic. Hahaha! It's an interesting story, isn't it?"
Riddle tilted his head. "Hmm? Was the organization located in the Sunshine Lands? Since you said it's for mermaids, I thought it was an organization located in your country."
"No, this organization was created by a princess who went to the Sunshine Lands a long time ago."
"Oh, I see. I've read about that in history books before. During the time when the sea and land had no relation, the prince of the Sunshine Lands welcomed the princess of the Coral Sea as his bride."
Dragapult tilted his head, certain he had heard a story like that before.
Riddle continued. "Ever since then, the Sunshine Lands have had good relations with mermaids."
Azul nodded. "Yes. Thanks to the mermaid princess, the people of the Sunshine Lands are very kind to mermaids, at least the volunteers are. As someone who has used their facilities, I'm very grateful for it. It's a very warm and comfortable place. Someday, you should-,"
Gyarados cut him off with a huff, not really aggressive, but bordering annoyance. The Atrocious Pokémon stood before a familiar set of doors, causing Azul to adjust his glasses.
"Oops, it seems we've reached the next asylum."
"Ortho must have set up something again." Riddle sighed. "Let's be cautious."
Dragapult and Gyarados led the way into the dark room, prepared to blast the first thing that dared move.
"Ortho, I know you're here!" Riddle called out. "No matter where you are, just bring it on!"
They waited for a moment, only for the room to remain unnervingly silent.
"No response." Azul huffed.
Riddle gritted his teeth. "You ignore me now!? How long are you going to mess with us!?" A loud bang echoed through the room in response. "Who is hiding in the shadows!? If you don't come out, it's off with your head!"
A scrawny man suddenly stumbled out, looking panicked. Gyarados growled at him, only for Dragapult to move in front of him to calm him down.
"Eeek! Please! I'm part of the staff. I don't have any bad intentions. Please don't attack me!"
"Our apologies." Azul said. "Were you kidnapped and brought to this place by Ortho?"
"Yeah. I tried to escape by myself, but a small beast-like Phantom took my ID card away."
Riddle crossed his arms. "Small beast? Was it perhaps a creature with gray fur and blue flames coming out of his ears?"
"It was very nimble, I couldn't see it clearly." The man admitted. "But one thing I'm certain about is that the creature had really sharp teeth. Look at the hems of my clothes! It tried to pull me down by biting on my coat and tore it apart!"
Sure enough, the coat was completely unsalvageable, and for a brief moment, Azul wondered if (Y/N) had ever had issues with her own wardrobe like this, given her line of work.
"That's horrible!" Azul feigned sympathy. "It looks like you were attacked by a great white shark. I'm glad your clothes are the only thing that were torn apart."
Riddle glared at his partner as the poor man looked ready to have a heart attack and had to be comforted by Dragapult.
"Azul, stop scaring him. Still, a small beast with sharp teeth. It might be Grim."
"Maybe. Sir, where is that Phantom now?"
The man shook his head. "I don't know, but it probably ran into one of the cages to hide."
"We can't proceed without the ID card." Azul sighed. "Looks like we'll have to search the cages one by one."
"If it was Grim, we have to take him back with us. (Y/N)'s been worried enough." Riddle said firmly. "Let's go."
With Riddle taking the lead, the team combed through the room, checking the cages carefully. Dragapult, being the diligent scout, landed on top of a cage, alerting the others. Azul leaned in, hearing faint scratching from within.
"Cat scratches." He told Riddle. "It might be Grim. Let's open it. Is Grim a scratcher though?"
Riddle nodded. "Yeah, I still remember when he scratched up the sofa in the Heartslabyul lounge."
"And yet, he insists he's not a cat."
"It doesn't matter if he's a cat or not! Him scratching the sofa is a serious matter! Ha, I guess it's not important right now. I'll open it! Ha!"
Riddle blasted the door as a familiar miasma spilled out.
"HEHEHEHE! MY LITTLE KITTEN! ITS TIME FOR A WALK!"
Two Phantoms surged forward, neither the Ramshackle resident. The two students acted quickly, blasting them with magic. Their stunned state made it all the easier for Gyarados to line up an Aqua Tail and sent them flying into a wall with a resounding splat.
"I thought I could go out..." The creature moaned as it and its pet dissolved.
Dragapult quickly collected the ID card, bringing it back to the boys.
Riddle patted the Pokémon's head and nodded to Gyarados. "Well done, you two. It seems that it was the Phantom that attacked the staff member. So it wasn't Grim."
"That human sized Phantom..." Azul noted. "It was commanding the smaller one. Maybe it was trying to escape by using it to steal the ID card."
"Is it even possible for Phantoms to help each other?"
"Have you forgotten, Riddle? Phantoms used to be talented wizards like us."
"I see...regardless, we have obtained the ID card. After sending the staff member back, we should leave as well."
Azul nodded as they made their way back, collecting the staff member, and making their exit. Going their separate ways, the group continued their descent, on guard every step of the way. Eventually Azul was huffing for breath, to the shock of his fellow dorm leader.
"Are you okay, Azul? You seem to be running out of breath."
"D-don't worry about me...! Haa, these stairs...how long do they continue!?"
Dragapult nudged him, offering to carry him, only for the Octomere to shove the dragon away. Riddle rolled his eyes.
"Stop acting tough. You refused to take a nap when we were charging the Thunder Spear, of course you're tired. You need to rest."
"You're one to talk." Azul shot back. "You must be tired too after fighting all those Phantoms."
"I told you before, I've spent most of my life improving my academic and magical capabilities. Of course I am capable of doing something like this."
Azul rolled his eyes. "Such an athlete. When did you start practicing magic?"
"By the time I was three years old, I had already started receiving a professional magic education."
"T-three years old!? That's...you're really talented."
Riddle glanced away, a far off look in his eyes. "...I don't know about that. Even while she was pregnant with me, my mother did everything she could to assure I would be a great wizard. I'm not sure if my abilities have anything to do with my own talent."
"Wait, if you've always been so capable, why didn't you skip a grade?"
"In the Rose Kingdom, it's uncommon for students to skip grades. I have been attending private schools even before attending Night Raven College. There were no systems for skipping grades. Besides, the minimum age to obtain a medical license is 24, so my parents thought there was no need to rush."
"Oh, right." Azul suddenly realized. "If I remember correctly, your parents are medical technicians. Will you also take the same path after you graduate?"
"...that was originally my plan."
"Oh? Are you hesitant about it now?"
"Am I hesitating? I don't really know. After becoming the Heartslabyul dorm leader, I became interested in occupations related to law."
"If so, you should get qualifications in all of the fields you are interested in."
"A-all of them!?"
"There are plenty of options for someone as talented as you. It's such a waste to pick only one of them! Doctor, judge, lawyer, I feel like you would be suitable as an executive officer or magical force too."
Riddle laughed. "That's exactly what someone greedy would say."
"We only live once. It's a waste if you don't ask for more! Personally, I'm planning on challenging different kinds of business in the future! That's why, if I have friends that I can rely on if something happens, it would be convenient...I mean, reassuring! Fufu."
"We're friends?" Riddle said, not buying it.
"Don't you think we're friends after coming this far? We fight with each other and talk about our futures, that's what friends are for."
Riddle shrugged. "I don't know much about the rules of friends, but aren't friends supposed to be-,"
Dragapult suddenly fired off a Dragon Darts as something plummeted from the level above, blasting it away into the abyss. More Phantoms began to swarm from the upper levels.
"Move!" Azul yelled, kicking Riddle forward.
Gyarados roared, blasting the falling Phantoms with a Hydro Pump as the others scrambled down the corridor. The Phantoms, even being battered by the sea serpent, chased after humans, screeching curses. Cornered, the boys turned and fought, Dragapult standing between them and the Phantoms. Waves upon waves came crashing down on them in an unrelenting storm. Fortunately, just as they were backed against the wall, Gyarados came surging in with an Aqua Tail to finish off the stragglers.
Azul looked ready to throw up. "T-that was scary. Sticking to the ceiling waiting to attack us! It's like a horror film."
Riddle then glared at him. "Haa, more than the Phantoms, I was more surprised that you kicked me! I nearly fell down the stairs!"
"Sorry." Azul said, bashful. "Force of habit. I accidentally used my legs instead of my hands."
"That has to be a lie...Ah, there's even a footprint on my cloak! Despite your appearance, that wasn't graceful in the slightest."
"Better than having your head knocked off by a Phantom, right? I don't care about elegance in a crucial moment."
Riddle raised a brow at him. "You seem used to it. When you lived in the sea, was there always danger?"
"Well, we do have some predators that are bigger than the ones on land, as well as some poisonous creatures. But they aren't as scary once you know how to deal with them, especially if you know how to use magic."
"Magic, huh. When did you start using magic?"
"If it's simple magic you're talking about, I was eight years old. My mom and grandmother are wizards, so they taught me easy stuff, but I didn't have the desire to learn back then, and my family are a bunch of easy going people that tell me not to worry about it as long as I remember to do my homework. I started learning serious magic when I was in middle school."
"Oh, I see."
"Please don't finish that statement! I know I'm spoiled!"
"Huh?!" Riddle squeaked. "I didn't say anything!"
"I really regret it now! I didn't study and I just sat around eating my favorite foods, wasting all my time and accumulating calories! I was stuck in that routine for years!"
"I-I do agree changing your lifestyle was for the best-,"
"After that, I made up my mind. I started studying as many things as I could at once! But seeing the difference from someone who has always worked hard, I still feel regretful. If only I started earlier."
"Oh?" The red head smirked. "It sounds like you're admiring me. But, if you had only studied before like me, I'm certain you wouldn't have the ambition and vitality that you have right now."
"...are you complimenting me?"
"I'm not criticizing you, but I'm not praising you either."
"Ambition, huh?" Azul chuckled. "I suppose you're right. I'm letting you take the lead now, but I won't keep staying behind you. If you're careless for even a second, I might be the one giving the valedictorian speech at graduation."
"Hmph! Unfortunately for you, careless doesn't exist in my dictionary. While in school, even after graduation, I'll keep leading the pack. I will never lose to you."
"Fufu, let's see how long you can stay confident like that."
Both Pokémon groaned, rolling their eyes at this blatant display of pride. Still, it was better than hearing them argue like children. This calm lasted until they reach the next door.
Riddle fixed his expression. "According to the map, this asylum will be our last checkpoint."
"Which means, the most dangerous Phantoms are being kept inside." Azul finished. "Let's be cautious. Dragapult, if you would?"
The dragon phased his head through the door before pulling out and nodding. With the all clear, the group wearily walked in. It was incredibly dark, even more so than the others.
"Even the emergency lights are out." Riddle noted. "I'll make a light with my magic."
"Wait." Azul stopped him. "If someone turned off the lights on purpose, then we'd be giving away our location if we produced our own light. The enemy has become stronger, so we should avoid doing something that would put us at a disadvantage. For now, let's rely on Gyarados and Dragapult's vision."
"Okay, agreed." Riddle said as the two Pokémon encircled them to keep a lookout. "According to the manual, the emergency escape key is being kept inside a security box in the asylum. Let's find it."
The group shuffled slowly, trying to stay quiet and undetected (despite...Gyarados). However, something squished beneath Riddle's shoe, causing him to yelp.
"Shh!" Azul insisted. "Lower your voice-! Oh? There's liquid splattered around here."
"It's so slippery." Riddle complained. "I nearly fell! What is this? Hmm, Gyarados, cover us so I can make a light source."
With a grunt, the Pokémon curled in, letting Riddle reveal a thick, black substance coating the floor.
"What is this tar-like substance!?" Riddle yelled. "Is this Phantom blot!?"
"Riddle, under your foot!" Azul pointed out. "It's a belt with an ID card holder from a staff member!"
Riddle reluctantly picked up the article. "Ew...it's so sticky...and the card...is gone. Where's the owner of this belt?"
The two looked at each other nervously, before Azul adjusted his glasses.
"In this situation, I think it's best to assume a Phantom stole the ID card."
"Maybe they turned off the light and waited for us to turn them back on to attack us?"
"They're more clever than we thought. They seem to be approaching the Pokémon's intelligence." Gyarados and Dragapult growled at Azul, who held up his hands. "I said approaching. We all know you're far smarter than these monsters."
"Regardless, we can't search for the ID card in the dark." Riddle admitted. "We should turn on the lights."
"No, let's just look for the enemy."
"We should sneak up on them by hiding in the dark. They've already escape the cages, and the splatters of their blot still remain. I've lived under the deep sea, so I'm used to darkness. My eyes have already adjusted. Please leave navigation to me and the Pokémon."
"...okay." Riddle nodded. "I'll trust the three of you then."
Forming up, the three sentries kept watch for the slightest movements.
"Riddle, 10 o'clock." Azul finally said. "It ran inside the cage."
"Dragapult and I will handle it then. Signal me when it comes out."
"Take this!" Riddle yelled as he and Dragapult bathed the creature in fire.
It shrieked, thrashing about as it became an illuminated target. Riddle and Dragapult continued to follow up their attacks, trying to finish this as soon as possible. Eventually, the beast staggered, moaning pitifully.
"Don't go...stay with me..."
It dissolved as Azul retrieved the ID card, frowning with unease.
"Don't go were its last words..."
"Was it trying to keep us here forever?" Riddle asked. "That gives me the chills."
The Pokémon glanced at each other, knowing that the creature's final plea was less malicious and more mournful. Before they could do anything, a long bang caught the whole group's attention.
"What was that!?" Riddle yelled.
Azul sweatdropped. "Something's trying to break open the door to the asylum!"
"JUPITER!!!" A familiar voice shrieked. "I WON'T FORGIVE YOU!!!"
"That voice..." Riddle said with a gulp. "Don't tell me, is that the Magma Titan!?"
"It's still alive!?" Azul joined in.
The door was going not to hold out, bending as the titan continued to pound against it. Gyarados roared, firing off a Hydro Pump which turned into steam the second it touched the door.
Riddle readied himself. "We have no other choice but to confront it here! Get ready! Dragapult and I will ready the spear. Azul, you and Gyarados created an ice barricade and buy some time for us!"
The group ran out the back and shut the door behind them as the door inside gave out. As the Atrocious Pokemon began to firing off high concentrations of water, Azul froze it over, creating a barrier which became thicker by the second. While they shored up their defenses, Riddle took the spear and propped it up with Dragapult's help.
"Thunder Spear, activate!"
The spear sprung to life, nearly falling over its newly recovered weight as it began to charge up. Riddle flinched as he felt the power surge forth. Dragapult wasn't doing much better as it sent the Dreepy away to hide.
"Ugh, hang in there Dragapult. We just need one well aimed hit!"
The doors began to cave as the titan banged against them, steam immediately filling the air as the ice barrier began to shrink.
"The ice is melting so fast!" Azul yelled. "Such power!"
Taking that as a challenge, Gyarados put more effort into the Hydro Pump, coating the door in water just as quickly as it was evaporating. Still, strain could be seen on the Pokémon's face. He wasn't going to hold out much longer.
"Sorry to keep you waiting!" Riddle finally called. "The spear's ready!"
Hearing that, Gyarados ceased his Hydro Pump and pulled Azul behind Riddle and Dragapult as the Magma Titan crashed through the door.
"JUPITER!!! I WON'T FORGIVE YOU!!!"
"This time, I'll take your head!" Riddle screamed. "TAKE THIS!"
The Thunder Spear once more blasted the Titan. The creature seemed determined to stay standing though.
"Hang in there, Riddle!" Azul yelled.
Seeing they needed more power, Dragapult left off a Thunderbolt, pushing the spear just enough that Titan was blown back. With a deafening scream, it was sent plummeting into the pit. Everyone was left trying to catch their breath as the spear deactivated.
"D-did we defeat it this time?" Azul asked, unsure.
"I don't know." Riddle admitted. "But I hope so...ugh!"
Dragapult moved to prop a stumbling Riddle up, only to flinch himself.
"Riddle! Dragapult! You were injured, weren't you!?"
"I'm fine..." Riddle said weakly. "But I've used up all my magic and stamina, not to mention accumulated quite a bit of blot."
"There's a hangar downstairs. We should rest there."
With the help of Gyarados, Azul managed to drag Riddle, Dragapult, and the spear into the hangar. As Gyarados managed to get the spear into the port to charge, Riddle was already trying to stand up and make a plan.
"We don't have time to wait for the spear to fully charge. Let's leave in about an hour."
"I've created an ice barrier just in case." Azul said. "You and Dragapult should try to recover as much as you can."
Despite him emphasizing those two, everyone, even Gyarados, flopped over in exhaustion, moaning in pain.
"I don't want to move anymore..." Azul moaned.
"Me either..." Riddle agreed.
"I doubt anyone on campus would believe us to be in a situation like this."
"Even if we told them." Riddle added. "They'll probably just laugh and say we had a nightmare."
"Seriously..." Azul huffed. "The senior of my club is a member of the Jupiter Conglomerate, and the Keeper of the Isle of Woe. And now he's trying to reset the world. It doesn't sound realistic in the slightest. But, that is the reality."
"For Idia, this whole situation seems like a waking nightmare while his school life was an unrealistic dream. Maybe that's what he thought."
"Yes. So in order to take back our school lives, we have to crush their dreams."
Riddle looked away. "Do you feel sad thinking we'll have to fight them?"
"Not at all." Azul said firmly. "If you want to cross a bridge, you have to pay the toll. Making a dream come true comes with sacrifices. Whether it's a beautiful voice, money, time, or even the dreams of others, it all depends on the circumstances. I have many dreams that I want to achieve, so I can't give up on any one of them. Top student, a second Monstro Lounge, delivery business, selling tableware, hotel management...leisure business...and then..."
Azul drifted off, suddenly pushing against Riddle.
"Hey, Azul. Why are you leaning...on...me...Ah..."
Seeing the merman was fast asleep and seeing the Pokémon were also down for naps, Riddle sighed, somewhat happy they all trusted each other enough to fall asleep.
Okay, now that I've gotten past the split paths, these chapters should be much quicker to write. We're coming up on the end folks! I'm split between Wish Upon a Star or Glorious Masquerade for the event this time around, both events Idia plays a roll in.
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