"Aaaahhh... This is nice..." Chris cooed while standing within a river he'd found along his travels, cleansing himself in its cool flow with the light of the full moon above. "No kiddin', back in the big house taking a bath was for the birds." he suddenly added, albeit in a voice unlike his own as a cocky smirk appeared on his face. "Try washin' yourself in there, you better hope you don't drop nothin'." he added in the unfamiliar voice once more. "Agh... I didn't need to hear that... I was hoping it was just a saying..." he went on, suddenly in his usual voice with a nervous smile showing before his hand placed itself on his hip. "Honestly, don't talk like that. There ARE children among us..." he lectured in a shockingly feminine tone, his finger pointing as though someone was before him. "N-Now now, no fussing." Chris coaxed with his hands up, having returned to himself. "Bah, kids need a dose of reality, does em' good, keeps em' straight. Don't wanna end up where some of us were." he argued, his voice returning to that of the man from before. "We're inside of a STONE, there's nowhere FOR them to end up!" he affirmed, once again in a feminine voice. "Agh... That hurts you know..." he groaned, once more returning to his own self as he slumped. "O-Oh! Sorry! I didn't mean it like that!" he panicked, waving his hands with the same feminine voice. Giving the souls within him a chance to spread their legs via his own body, Chris's mind was switching control over to the beings within him, letting many enjoy the feeling of having a physical form again, albeit with pro's and con's as they swap at will while conversing with one another, placing him in the middle of their conversations among themselves and playing the peacekeeper of sorts.
"It's still so weird... It feels just like a monkey Pokemon!" he suddenly point out in a childish voice, looking himself over before suddenly hooting like one and walking about in a gorilla manner while scratching his head. "Oh! You're right! It does feel like a monkey!" another child's voice agreed, this time girlish in nature as he jumped about and made more animal noises. "C-Come on now! What if someone heard or saw this?!" Chris panicked, returning to himself and ceasing his actions. "A monkey...? I'm not THAT lanky, am I?" he asked, laughing nervously with a self conscious hint to it. "You are pretty scrawny, wouldn't last where I came from." the man from before affirmed with a snarky grin. "Hey, just as a reminder I DID go to prison, broke myself in AND got out, so there's that." Chris argued, his body continuing to act based on who's in control and his voice swapping repeatedly as he went back and forth with his conversation. "I wanna be a monkey now!!" another childish voice suddenly interrupted, yanking control of Chris away from him and suddenly jumping about excitedly and making him hoot as the others had. "C-Come on everyone! We made an agreement!" Chris panicked as he tried stopping himself, suddenly hearing collective laughter coming from the countless souls within his stone. Despite his objections to the way some made him behave, on many a night Chris forms a bridge between his body and the stone embedded within his chest, allowing those housed within to, essentially, possess him for a taste of having a physical form again, another method in which he grants them freedom in turn for their symbiotic existence during moments of peace and rest.
"I guess this isn't bad but..." Chris paused in a different feminine voice, suddenly rubbing his hands up his body before cupping his chest. "It's not quite the same... Not much to work with..." he added, letting out a sigh of disappointment. "W-Well I'm sorry! And don't do that!" he suddenly flushed brightly, taking control of himself back as he quickly put his hands down. "Ahh... To be trapped in a buxom lady's bountiful bosom... If only..." he added in a sudden elderly man's voice, showing a nostalgic smile. "I remember..." he sighed contently. "Wh-Wadaya people makin' me say?!" Chris snapped in a flustered state, wrestling back control of himself again. "I ain't no perv! No more of that!" he insisted before hearing more laughter echo from his stone. "Awful sensitive for a guy... Maybe we ARE in a girl old man!" another guy's voice taunted with a hearty laughter, rearing his head back mocking Chris before he claimed control once more, slumping himself in agitation. "You know what...? You people just..." he grumbled, only to find his leg suddenly yanked up sending his top half sinking into the river, his body taken over while his mind was left in control as the souls within physically teased him. "H-Hey!!" he sputtered, rising from the surface. "Better be careful how you talk to us kid, we're full of tricks. We can still move you even if one of us isn't controlling your head." the man who'd spoken first warned, forming a smug looking smirk. "Oh yeah? I've resisted bigger than you, try that again." Chris grinned in an equally smug manner, standing firm. With his stone letting off sparks of energy, bolts ran along his arms and legs, causing them to tremble as he maintained his smirk. "See? Can't move a thing!" he scoffed.
Remaining in his proud stance, after a moment his limbs began trembling as slight sweat appeared on his face. "N-Nope! Can't move at all!" he repeat, glancing down at himself as his body trembled further. "C-Can't..." he murmured, suddenly gritting his teeth before his hand began slowly raising. "N-Nope... Not..." he added, fighting to resist until he suddenly grabbed his own ear and yanked it downward. "A-Agh!! Cheating!!" he affirmed as he found his own body pulling him about by the ear before his other arm and one of his legs were positioned behind him, leaving his body hopping about clumsily as he pulled his ear about. "Q-Quit it!! Come on!! Let go!!" he panicked until finally falling into the water with a splash, the souls finally releasing him allowing Chris to shoot up and take in air. "...Playing dirty doesn't count." he growled as laughter echoed from the stone, its blue hue glowing brightly from their joyful amusement. "You gave us the bridge, we're bound to take advantage and have some fun." another man's voice point out. "You are pretty easy to pick on." a woman's voice affirmed. "There's so many of you! That ain't fair!" Chris argued, looking down at the stone. "The kid can't even beat a bunch'a ghosts, you hear that folks?" another man point out while making his body shrug and shaking his head. For some time, he continued conversing with the souls housed in his stone, his body moving accordingly depending on who was in control at the time as he moved about, his voice along with the splashing of the water eventually causing enough commotion to wake the girls nearby, all of which had fallen asleep together by the campfire he'd set up along the shore. Raising with collective yawns, they rubbed their eyes and looked around curiously.
"I'll show you!!" they suddenly heard him snap, drawing their attention to the river as they watched him chasing the tiny souls escaping his stone as they gathered around him, swirling and racing about as he attempted to snatch them from the air, only for them to dodge and weave as they continued laughing at his helplessness. "Over here!" one soul shout with the voice of a child. "Yo kid! That all?" another called with the voice of a man from behind him. "A man never quits! Try harder!" a woman's voice teased from another soul, quickly dodging his hand as he grew all the more fatigued. "Y-You guys.... You suck..." Chris pant, standing with a slumped posture as the orbs of light circled him. "Uh oh..." the voice of a girl muttered, making all the souls freeze as they took notice of the nearby group and suddenly returned to the stone in Chris's chest, making him blink with an "eh?" before turning and noticing the girls himself, having gathered close to the waters edge. "A-Ah... We woke you, didn't we?" he laughed nervously as they blinked at him curiously. "What ARE you doing?" Zorua asked, tilting her head with a raised eyebrow. "Er... Bonding?" Chris laughed, slight sweat showing from being caught communicating with those within him. "Now and then, I let the folks stuck in here come out and stretch a bit." he added, tapping his stone. "A-Anyway! Sorry for waking you." he apologized while approaching. Reaching for a towel hanging from a nearby branch, he stepped out before them in a pair of swim trunks, the sight of his scarred physique making the girls blush save Zorua who merely looked away with a "meh" and Sliggoo who tilt her head with an oblivious smile, still unable to see in her current form.
"It does a body good to dip into natures tub now and then. Water's pretty nice tonight... A little crisp, but not bad." he chuckled while drying his hair, the water dripping down his torso making Valora gulp while Sera smiled from ear to ear, her tail thrashing to and fro excitedly. "Pwuah..." he exclaimed while pulling the towel off his head and shaking his hair. "Sorry again for waking you. Things got a little more rowdy than I intended." he apologized while patting off his body. Walking past the group, the girls watched and paid attention to the sprawling scars on his back, the sight making Zorua raise an eyebrow once more while Valora bit her lip and Sera let out a quiet "Oohh..." sound of sorts. "C-Could you not stare too much?" he asked, looking back with a self conscious smile causing Valora to jolt and quickly wave her hands with apologetic sounds, Sera looking away innocently only to glance back with a slight grin, her tail continuing to wag while Zorua shrugged. "I'm surprised a guy like you can look that way and still be around." she point out. "Is that a compliment or...?" Chris asked. "A little of both I guess." Zorua answered. "Falling off cliffs and getting into a bunch of fights do that to you... Getting blown up didn't help." Chris explained, looking himself over."Still, at least I have all my limbs, so I still turned out alright for a guy who had to take on the world." he laughed. "When a man has a family, he does whatever it takes to keep that family together, to keep em' safe, happy... The bigger the family you have, the more you gotta watch out for folks who would do em' harm..." he added, thinking back on events that had happened to Serenity and the others years prior during his last adventure.
"These scars are like medals in their own ways... Each one a story of their own that earned me everything I have today. I admit, it makes me a little nervous being looked at, but I'm still proud of them. These marks came from fighting to keep the people I care about alive and well." he grinned as Valora and Sera thought back on the way he'd already fought for them as well as the other Pokemon several days prior. "Don't you feel the same way?" Chris asked, looking at Zorua making her turn her attention to her stub. "Unlike you I actually lost a limb, so it's hard to say one way or the other." she shrugged. "Well, guess I did lose an eye... It's not a limb, but..." Chris chuckled, rubbing his left eye with a sigh. "The good that came of it was worth the sacrifice." he nodded. "Looking at you closer, you've got plenty of scratches too... What's that about?" Zorua asked, causing him to blink with an "eh?" as she looked his back over. "S-Scratches you say...? I wonder..." Chris added, scratching his cheek shyly while thinking back on the way Serenity and the others habitually claw and bite at him when they're in bed, making his face redden slightly. "Those are... Different medals... Never mind them." he affirmed, making the girls tilt their heads. "Anyway, enough about that." he waved, tossing his towel around his neck while approaching the fire and sitting on a fallen tree close to it. "Ahh... Dry out here a bit..." he muttered, looking toward the girls. "I'd change behind a tree, but... Too many eyes..." he thought to himself. "Come on back by the fire, there's still a whole night ahead of us, you need your rest." he instructed.
Nodding, the girls approached, with Sera sitting on one side of him and Valora taking a seat opposite of him, the recently evolved Pokemon looking down and fidgeting with a smile. Across the fire, Zorua lay comfortably by herself, letting out a yawn. "Where's...?" he muttered before jolting and tensed up as Sliggoo crawled her way up his back, her suction-like underside sticking its way along his spine making his eye twitch and a shudder run through him. "Oohhh that feels so weird..." he through to himself as she made her way on top of his head, looking around before bending her head down so her face was hanging in front of his, her blank eyes staring into his own as her feelers twitched in his direction making him sweat slightly. "H-Hey there." he smiled nervously. "You're uh... Looking cute?" he praised, uncertain of what she was wanting as she blushed and smiled in response. "It's pretty great the way you've gotten used to this form of yours. Getting used to finding your way about with those things, huh?" he asked, giving her feelers a poke as she nodded with an "mm!" noise in response before pulling her head back up and resting atop his head, looking as though melting slightly as she sighed. "I'm glad you're cozy." Chris chuckled. Looking around, flower petals from a nearby bush waft by in the breeze, making Chris think back to the Cherubi and Cherrim they'd left behind. After the battle, he'd taken it upon himself to bury the Cherrim that had died protecting their offspring before tending to all the Pokemon that had been injured, something the girls helped with while the remaining flock that attacked them flew off, abandoning their efforts to feast and resuming their migration with their remaining numbers back to Alola.
However, this didn't happen without fair caution on Chris's part, having given their leader a warning of his presence and his own intention of going to Alola himself, assuring them there would be payment made if he caught them harming Pokemon anywhere else leaving the birds wary of any future hunting. Suddenly hearing a small noise, he pulled himself out of his thoughts and looked at Valora who was continuing to fidget by his side, glancing at him and letting out another noise. "Er... Sup'?" he asked as she looked down and murmured again in a shy manner. Raising her head, Zorua looked at the Pokemon as well, watching her behavior before rolling her eyes. "She wants to know if she can sit closer to you." Zorua explained. "Eh? That's it?" Chris asked, looking between her and Valora before showing a smirk. "Hey, if this one here can laze about on my head, I don't mind if you sit by me." he grinned, reaching out and pulling Valora against his side making her face flush brightly. "There, that okay?" he asked, rubbing her head while Sera scowled on his opposite side before suddenly leaping onto his lap and sitting greedily with a chipper bark. "O-Oy, getting kinda crowded." Chris point out, causing Sera to look at him with disappointment as her ears sulked. "D-Don't do that..." he groaned, looking at the pouty fox before giving in and assuring she could stay, making her bark and wag her tail. "I couldn't stand being clung to like that. It's annoying." Zorua chimed in. "It's not so bad. It's nice havin' folks that wanna be around you. It beats having to travel all by your lonesome." Chris point out. "That's debatable." Zorua quipped. "Well, you're sticking around, aren't you?" he smirked slyly. "Don't push it..." she scowled.
"I like being around others because you get to see each other grow too... It was amazing seeing the people I love grow and evolve into who they are today, and it's because of that I was able to do a little of the same myself. It's the same with all of you, getting to see how you change along the way, it's great." Chris grinned. "Valora here is starting to really come out of her shell, stepping up the way she did. That was awesome." he praised, giving her a soft nudge making her wave in a "naw" manner and giggle. "Then our pal Sliggoo up here, she's in way better health now! I couldn't be more happy for her!" Chris added, reaching up and rubbing her head getting a coo in response. "And little Sera here, after what she went through, taking action like that and blasting those buzzards away... That's my girl." he affirmed, ruffling her head making the small fox beam all the more as her tail thrashed about. "Though you better not put herself at that kind of risk as a habit..." he warned, pushing her head down slightly making her laugh warily and sweat slightly. "That aside... You girls are swell!" he exclaimed, making Valora and Sliggoo beam just the same. "Right..." Zorua replied. Continuing to sit together for some time, Sera and Sliggoo were the first to fall asleep, with the fox curled on his lap and the slug-like creature atop its head having gone limp with her head dangling off the side of his, her face by his ear as she quietly snored. "Two down..." Chris chuckled. "You're just gonna let them lounge on you?" Zorua asked. "Why not? Isn't hurting no...!!" he tried to reply, cut off when Sliggoo suddenly let out a loud snort in his ear, startling him before he dug in his ear with his pinky. "N-Not hurting anyone." he smiled nervously.
Relaxing by his side, Valora rest her head against him as she too began to nod, her eyes heavy as she looked toward the moon above. "So... Being serious here, that stub still doing okay?" Chris asked, focusing on Zorua as she moved it around with a "Meh" in response. "Nerves twinge now and then. Shoots on occasion." she added. "It sounds like... I think they call it phantom pain or something?" Chris point out, his hand on his chin as he thought it over. "Phantom what?" Zorua replied, raising an eyebrow. "It's when you feel a limb that isn't present. It kinda seems like it should be, but it's not, even if you think you feel it. When that happens, your brain kind of short circuits trying to make a connection to what's missing. It can probably make your nerves shoot like that because your body is trying to control what's not there anymore. Like wires cut from a machine, you see sparks shooting from the end of em' because electricity is still trying to flow, but there's nowhere for it to flow to." he compared with a smirk. "Wires huh...?" Zorua muttered, thinking it over. "I've seen humans working on those hanging things before, really lit up once, sent the human flying..." she revealed, making Chris blink in surprise. "W-Was he okay?" he asked. "Not sure... Kinda funny though." she chuckled with a grin, causing him to sweat slightly. "That's a morbid sense of humor... Electricity like that can kill a guy easy." he point out. "Fools shouldn't be in deadly conditions then." she affirmed. "...I was starting to forget how harsh you are." Chris scowled. "Not harsh, just realistic." she shrugged. Continuing to talk, the two distracted one another while Valora continued to nod off, however, just as she was about to close her eyes, something caught her attention.
Under the light of the moon, high above them by the side of the waterfall nearby, a small figure appeared, looming over the edge of the cliff which the water fell. Opening her eyes fully, Valora rubbed them and blinked curiously, wondering if it was her drowsiness as she raised up and squinted, trying to figure out what it was only for the figure to back away. Tilting her head, she let out a quiet "eh?" of sorts before seeing the figure loom back over the edge a second time, remaining still. Rubbing her eyes again, Valora squint at the figure once more before giving Chris several pokes. Pausing his conversation with Zorua, having just offered ointment to calm the nerves in her stub, he looked at the wary Pokemon by his side as she point toward the waterfall. "Wuzzat?" he asked, hovering his gaze along the cliff before spotting the figure as well. "Huh... Doesn't look like a person, way too small..." he muttered as Zorua sat up and looked as well. "Some kind of Pokemon probably, we are in the wild." she point out. "Kinda weird the way it's on the edge like that... Think it's watching us?" Chris asked. "Who knows? Could just be surveying." she suggested. "If history taught me anything, where there's one, there's more... If it's watching us, you can bet others are too." he cautioned, beginning to look around. Twitching her ears in various directions, Zorua scanned their surroundings as well, looking at Sera to see if she was reacting only for the fox to remain in a deep slumber. "I'm not picking anything up... Don't smell anything... That one has better hearing than me and she's not reacting either." she point out, making Chris look at Sera as well as her body and ears remained still. "True... She'd have picked something up way before now..." he muttered.
"It could be a lone wolf..." Zorua suggested. "Lone wolf huh?" Chris muttered, thinking back on the Houndoom attack he'd faced years prior. "I have experience with that, know a few Pokemon that'd probably love another go with me." he revealed. Carefully working Sera and Sliggoo off his body, he rest the two on the ground before both he and Valora stood, looking at the figure together while Zorua calmly lay back on the ground. "You two can go play if you want. It's late." she yawned. "You're not gonna stand with us?" Chris asked. "My senses tell me it's alone. Isn't it a compliment that I trust you enough to deal with it on your own?" she point out, this time making him raise an eyebrow. Suddenly jolting, Valora tapped Chris's leg and point at the waterfall as the figure disappeared again, having backed away leaving the two staring at an empty cliff. Remaining still for a moment, Chris let out a "huh..." and started relaxing. "Must've seen us noticing it and changed its mind." he muttered. With the figure having seemingly run off, Valora showed a confident smirk and pat her chest proudly, letting out a "that's right!" type of noise and behaving as if she'd won a battle. Noticing this, Chris grinned with a "Look at you, chasing off baddies!" remark, making her hold her head high with her hands on her hips. "Neither of you did anything..." Zorua reminded, making Valora jolt and scowl. Looking back toward the waterfall however, the Pokemon found herself shocked when the figure appeared a third time, now appearing to run toward the edge. Pulling on Chris's trunks, he jolt and looked at her before looking at the figure himself, watching it race along. "What's it...?" he muttered, only for his eyes to widen when it flung itself over the edge.
"What... The...?!" he added, looking between it and the surface below, noticing it was heading for the ground rather than the river itself. "It just...!!" he point out, causing Zorua to turn her head curiously while Valora's eyes widened. Seeing it plummet faster and faster, the figure positioned itself head first and merely let itself fall, doing to in a still and determined manner. Seeing this, Chris muttered "...You serious...?" before gritting his teeth and suddenly running off, following the riverside as he attempted to race between the creature and the ground. Looking up as it grew closer and closer to a splattering demise, he made a leap over a fallen tree and launched himself over a boulder, dodging several branches jutting out in his path as the falling figure grew ever closer. "...Think he'll make it?" Zorua asked, sitting next to Valora as she watched intensely, suddenly grunting with a nod as she clenched the stubs that made up her hands. Letting out a yawn, Sera began stirring behind them, raising up in a half-conscious manner before looking around and murmuring, wondering where Chris was before noticing the two in front of her and approaching. Letting out a noise to ask where he'd gone, Zorua glanced back with an "over there" remark, looking ahead causing Sera to turn her attention to the waterfall, spotting the falling figure herself making her eyes shoot open before spotting Chris racing along below. "Whatever it is doesn't seem too willing to stay alive." Zorua point out, explaining how it'd made a leap from the edge above. Growing ever closer, Chris struggled to close the distance as the Pokemon neared the ground, and just as both were mere feet from one another, he called out "help me here!!" in a desperate tone.
Suddenly letting off a brilliant blue flash, his stone shot its current through his legs, allowing him to make a massive leap of faith as though he'd been shot from a gun, his arms extended. With only inches to spare, Chris managed to catch the Pokemon just before its head made impact with the pebbles lining the surface, and in its place, his body skid across the rocky coverage, covering him in rashes from his skin sliding along forcing him to clench his teeth while holding the Pokemon close. Finally stopping just before hitting the wall of the cliff, Chris lay curled in a fetal position as he hissed from the marks that covered his length, waiting for the pain to subside before finally raising up, sitting with what turned out to be a Popplio in his arms. "Th-The hell...?" he winced before looking his arms and legs over, reddened with some scrapes showing drops of blood. "Ugh... Gonna smart for a while..." he muttered as the Pokemon remained still with its eyes tightly shut. "Hey..." he called, giving it a slight shake. "Hey!!" he repeat in a somewhat snappy tone, making it jolt as its eyes shot open. "What's wrong with you?!" he asked in agitation, causing the Pokemon to slowly look up at him. "You got some kinda death wish?! That ain't how you go diving!" he affirmed, looking it in the eyes as it remained still, its own widened from the sight of him. "Another second... Not even that and you would've been all over the place. If you don't know what you're doing, don't pull crap like that!" he lectured, still worked up after barely catching the creature in his arms. Continuing to look at him for a moment, the Popplio suddenly began trembling, clenching its teeth making Chris show a sudden puzzled look from the fury it showed.
"Wh-What's that look f....!!!" he began to ask, only to be cut off when the Pokemon unleashed an excruciating close range Hyper Voice, causing Chris's eyes to shoot open as his face was forced back from the intensity. Letting out an agonized shout of his own, he reactively dropped Popplio in a slight tossing manner, quickly standing and stumbling back as he covered his ears. Inching toward the wall of the cliff behind him, he shout for the Pokemon to cease its wailing as it focused its voice purely on him, retaliating in a merciless manner as it screeched without pause. Because of the attack being based on powerful sound waves, it had the same painful affect on the souls within his stone, the noise reverberating through it like a relentless echo chamber making all within scream from the onslaught, the stone itself vibrating in reaction to the sound as its color swirled between blue and red. With his suffering further intensified as a result, Chris found himself brought down on a knee in a helpless manner, continuing to shout as the noise took its toll on him and his source of energy, unable to uncover his ears and the souls within his stone unable to come together and focus any sort of retaliation. As a result of their confusion, his body endured bursts of electricity as they shot from his stone, ones that shocked and injured him unwillingly as those within his stone suffered, unable to cohesively control themselves as he heard them wailing for the noise to stop in his mind. "P-Please!! No more!!" Chris suddenly begged, now dropping on both knees and hunching over. Witnessing and hearing the attack for themselves, the girls began racing toward the scene, with Sliggoo having caught a ride on Valora.
Making its way closer, Popplio finally stopped its wailing, and just as Chris tried to collect himself, already shaking from the attack, the Pokemon took a breath making him jolt and shoot up before another Hyper Voice was unleashed, bringing him back down as it grew louder than the last. Pleading once more for the wailing to stop, more and more sparks began escaping his stone, relentlessly shooting through his body within as the noise hammered him externally, putting him through an onslaught that took the brunt of his willpower to bear. "St-Stop..." he groaned, suddenly looking at his stone as it turned blood red. "St-Stop...!!" he pleaded again, his eyes shooting open as he felt a terrifying pulse from the object. Sensing something coming he couldn't control, he gave a final plead for the Pokemon to stop, letting out an agonized and drawn out "Sto---op!!" before his body was forced to arch back, his chest thrust outward as the souls within him mercilessly ripped themselves free of his stone, all of them sharing a collective bloody color as their will finally became that of a cohesive and retaliatory rage. Spiraling skyward like that of an ominous vortex, all could hear their wailing as they flung and thrust themselves in every direction, Chris's eyes full of horror as he felt a sensation akin to everything within him rapidly pouring out. Gasping and trying to speak in a futile manner, his pupils trembled as the sight startled Popplio into ceasing its cries, the Pokemon looking at the vortex as though looking at something from a Hellish realm. Slowly backing away, it began dodging and weaving as various souls shot toward it, retaliating in the same merciless manner as the way the Pokemon had attacked them.
With their own will far surpassing Chris's, their sheer number far beyond his control, he was forced into a crippled and paralyzed state with his arms now limp at his sides, his chest remaining out as his body arched on his knees. Losing his color as he struggled to breathe, he silently mouthed "Stop" as he watched his allies lose focus on him as they desired only to end the noise and attack its source. Arriving at the scene, the girls looked up in terror and awe alike as the power normally contained within Chris escaped of its own accord, the wind kicking up around them. Sensing the event unraveling before them, even Sliggoo showed concern as she warily backed off Valora and sulked, sounds of uncertainty escaping her as Zora looked up, showing a surprising wide eyed expression in awe of her own. "...All of that...?" she muttered, looking down at Chris's figure. "...In him?!" she added quietly before drawn back to the wailing twister above. Looking at the souls herself for a moment, Valora turned her attention to the Popplio and grit her teeth, clenching her hands into fists before racing up behind the distracted Pokemon and using Rapid Spin to deliver a punishing kick, landing a blow that sent it flying into a nearby tree and knocking it unconscious with the impact. With the attacker now out of the way, the group turned their attention to Chris, now trapped as the source of the vortex above as his stone left off its furious glow. With a look of concern on her face, Sera raced along beneath the swarm above, sprinting past Valora causing her to reach out with a startled "W-Wait!!" type of noise before finding herself forced to doge several infuriated souls herself, noticing each had an ominous face with darkness for eyes, a sight that made her lose color and sit frozen.
Managing to reach Chris despite the souls charging her as well, Sera stood on her hind legs and tried pushing against him, noticing the horror in his expression. "D-Die..." he wheezed, causing her eyes to widen. "D-Dying... Dy...ing... St...op..." he managed to force out. Hearing this, Sera looked at his stone as souls continued rapidly spiraling out from within, having opened a gate he was incapable of closing. Even with the wailing of Popplio having ceased, now it was their own cries infuriating them as they blindly swarmed without a true target, only knowing they wanted the noise to stop even though it was their own. With her focus now on the object, the way the spiraling beings appeared began reminding Sera of when she saw water going down a drain. Recalling what happened when drains are covered, she was forced to jump away when Chris fell on his back, lying helplessly as she suddenly showed a determined expression. Rushing up to him, she grit her teeth as the stone radiated before her, wincing from the power brushing her face before letting out a shout and pouncing on the stone with her front paws. Letting out cries of her own for what was happening to stop, she kept herself firmly in place as the others watched, looking at one another. "What? You really think that'll help?" Zorua asked skeptically as Valora spoke to her. "Look at it! What good will that do?!" she affirmed, only for Valora to hurry up to Chris and join Sera, pressing her hands down over her paws to try and stop the souls. Twitching an eye, Zorua grumbled "Idiots..." in agitation. Noticing Sliggoo crawling by, following the sounds of the two screaming, she made her way atop Chris as well, offering to help as they told her what to do.
With all three futilely trying to "plug" the stone, Zorua remained where she stood, looking at the trio before focusing on Chris, taking notice of his expression herself. Looking between his face and the girls, she lowered her head, clenching her teeth in agitation. "Fool..." she growled while glancing at her stub, the word suddenly making her flash back as she looked at her wound. "I'm used to Pokemon who hate humans" his voice echoed in her mind, making her eyes widen. "Being tough is one thing, but don't let it turn you into a fool" he echoed again, causing her to look at him. "Tch... Look who's talking." she muttered, hovering her gaze up to the vortex. "I don't care how you feel about me. I learned a long time ago there's no point in trying to make everyone like you." he echoed once more, causing her to twitch an eye. "You damn sure try hard enough..." she muttered, looking back at Chris as she reflected on all their back and forth with one another. "I don't have a chance to get all that close to most. You're different. What kind of man puts his destination before his friends?" he chimed in her mind, making her think back on his battles. "What man gives everything for strangers?" she argued. Thinking back on when she told him she didn't understand him and point out how corny he was, she thought of how she'd warned him of the way he travels biting him in the end, remembering the way he touted taking care of himself and being able to stand up to anything. With the word arrogant coming to mind, she suddenly considered her own character as well, looking back at her stub in silence. "You really are thankless, aren't you...?" he suddenly asked in her mind. "I'm not saying you gotta be friends. If you wanna be a stone cold loner, fine." he added, his voice reverberating in her mind.
"Annoying..." she growled, taking a ready stance with her face lowered. "So damned annoying..." she repeat, looking at him and the girls as they struggled to keep their places before focusing on the wailing vortex above. Recollecting all of her insults and her neglect toward him, she muttered about what a "pest" he was for doing too much for everyone and pushing everyone to be close despite his words, only to think of the way she remained despite his affirmation she could leave at any time. Finding herself frustrated for the way he'd put himself in his current position for a random Pokemon, and with herself for the way she'd fallen into his group, Zorua gradually began releasing an aura of her own, one dark in nature as her eyes began to glow. "After this..." she snarled, further bracing herself as her aura swelled, looking back at Chris once more. "Don't you ever talk high and mighty again..." she warned, looking up as she unleashed a powerful wave skyward. Letting out a roar of her own, the sudden blast caught the girls off guard, with Sera and Valora looking at Zorua and finding themselves flung back by his stone, followed by Sliggoo leaving them sitting around Chris, watching as the loner created a vortex of her own to match that of the maddened souls above. "Damn you and your self-sacrificing ignorance!" Zorua snapped as her darkness spiraled higher and faster, keeping her teeth bared as she endured the intensity of releasing so much at once. Allowing her energy to gather and swell, compacting it deeper and deeper within its own spiral, after a moment she suddenly faced up, letting out a blinding flash from her eyes. In response, everything she'd gathered above warped into a titanic Scary Face, unleashing a torrent of Dark Pulse toward the souls.
"Pay attention!! Look what you're doing!!" she roared, enlarging the already overwhelming face above that appeared as though the Devil himself was bursting from her darkness, relentless Pulse's hammering the souls without pause. With one vortex fighting the other above, the souls found themselves split and confused, their chaotic state leaving them easily startled and manipulated. "How can you protect someone if you're willing to kill them so easily?!" Zorua snapped, causing the souls to wail, albeit with a different tone as she tried to get them to cohesively settle. "Look beneath you!! Look what you've done!!" she demanded, hammering them with another round of Dark Pulse and forcing the Scary Face closer to overwhelm them. Shaken and directionless, as the Pokemon forced herself into what consciousness the entities had, little by little their wild movement stopped until finally the vortex ceased, leaving orbs of red, far outnumbering any could count hovering above. Pulling herself back, Zorua ceased her own attack and allowed her darkness to vanish, keeping her focus on those above. "Look there!! Can't you see you're killing him?!" she warned, looking toward Chris as they now heard him gasping and wheezing, unable to move as if someone ripped carelessly off life support. Hearing the souls begin to speak in a whispered echo of sorts, as they communicated between one another their colors began shifting back to blue as their fear and rage subsided, collectively growing aware of the situation as they waft downward. After a moment, the souls could be heard echoing "Killing... Killing... Save... Save..." over and over as their awareness became one, and with their individuality returning, words of panic could be heard among them.
With many beginning to shoot about like bullets, the souls began spiraling once more, this time creating a vortex of purity as they directed themselves toward the stone below, and without a moment to spare, the formerly ominous spirits began rapidly returning to Chris's stone, causing his body to arch up sharply as they entered him by the thousands, and once the final soul had returned the stone let off a brilliant flash, causing him to take in a loud gasp of air before collapsing, desperately trying to catch his breath as the color life returned to his skin. Looking between him and Zorua, the girls were left without words as she suddenly sat with an exhausted plop. "What are you looking at?" she scowled, slight sweat showing as the girls turned their attention toward one another before giving the loner a nod in thanks. "Whatever..." she grumbled. Suddenly hearing Chris let out a groan, he started coughing before groggily raising and rubbing his head. Seeing this, the girls quickly surrounded him, letting out worried calls as his vision cleared up. "H-Hey..." he nodded, weakly rubbing Sera on the head before wincing and placing his hand over his stone, an uncomfortable throbbing remaining. "Th-That was a... First..." he groaned, still recovering from what had occurred. Suddenly hearing a plop nearby, he found Zorua having passed out where she'd been sitting, letting out a weary groan of her own from overexerting herself. Trying his best to stand, all Chris could do was wobble in the futile attempt, remaining stuck where he sat as his energy gradually returned. Looking at the others, he smiled reassuringly with an "I'm fine remark, pulling Valora in for a hug before rubbing Sera once more.
With Sliggoo crawling atop his lap, she let out a noise of concern, causing him to chuckle and rub her head as well. "Don't worry..." he coaxed, causing her to smile and sigh as he pet her. "...Thanks, all of you." he added, looking at the trio before focusing on Zorua once more. "...Pretty amazing." he muttered, adding "But where's...?" as he scanned their surrounding. Hearing another groan from nearby, he spotted the Popplio lying by the tree Valora had smashed it against, causing her to grunt and pat her chest proudly. "You did that?" he asked, blinking at her as she scratched under her nose and smirked. Giving her his thanks, Chris was eventually able to stand on his feet, shaking off what remained of his wooziness as he made his way up to Zorua, lifting her in his arms. "...I appreciate it..." he nodded. Turning toward the Popplio, he warily approached it, giving the Pokemon a nudge with his foot before scowling. "You however..." he muttered before lifting it as well by the nape of its neck. "We've got some talking to do..." he added, turning toward their camp and making his way along. With the girls following, they returned to what remained of the fire, with Chris putting the Pokemon he carried close by before adding more wood to light their surroundings. Hearing those within him apologizing and moaning guiltily, he responded with a "Forget about it" remark, the sudden statement making the girls pause curiously. "Talking to them." he point out, tapping his stone and getting a nod. Reaching into his rucksack, Chris pulled out a rope and began tying Popplio in a snug snare, preventing it from moving for the most part before finding a nearby chunk of wood and trying it within the Pokemon's mouth, making sure it couldn't cause the same trouble twice with its attack.
"Psycho loudmouth..." he grumbled as the girls gathered. "Under normal conditions I'd of just left this one behind, but it not only jumped from a cliff, it tried to kill me... It has problems and I'm gonna find out why." Chris scowled. "I've met plenty of crazies, this one's up there on the list." he added. "Tryin' to off itself and people who try to help it... I don't think so." he grunt before returning to his bag and taking out supplies to tend to his rash and scratch ridden form. "Did this to myself just to get screeched at... Crazy banshee!" he complained, taking none to well with being abused after trying to save a life. Finally beginning to stir after all the commotion, Midna rose its head groggily from the bowl it'd been in, having bathed in yet another meal while filling itself before passing out in the empty container. Seeing him battered, the imp suddenly shot up as he hissed while dabbing alcohol on himself with cotton. "Little late to the party." he point out, having noticed it as it quickly approached, looking up at him warily. "Don't worry about it... I'm fine." he assured as the imp looked at the others, with the girls pointing out the nearby bound Popplio he'd brought to the camp. "You leave it alone Midna, it's taken care of." he insisted, causing it to look at him before snarling at the unconscious Pokemon. "Ch-Ch-Chi..." Chris winced as he dabbed an open scratch. Gathering around him, the girls gave him looks of concern as they quietly called out. "I'm fine, really." he repeat with a smile. "A little worse for the wear, but fine." he sighed. "You girls keep away from that Popplio, got it?" he ordered, getting nods in response. "Can't believe all the commotion didn't wake you before now... Need to stop eating yourself into coma's." Chris lectured, causing Midna to sulk with a guilty noise.
For some time through the night, Chris tended to his body, disinfecting places that needed it and bandaging others while having Valora help rub cream on the rashes on his back, the Pokemon flushing while doing so as she felt him up in the process. Handing his supplies to Sera, she helpfully placed his belongings in his rucksack for him and enjoyed the petting she got in turn. Once they were done, he finally changed despite the girls presence, doing so behind the cover of trees and shrubs before returning and carefully sitting, letting out a hiss. "It's nowhere near as bad as the feeling I had before, but if these marks don't smart..." he muttered. With the girls joining him once more, they kept an eye on him while Midna perched itself atop his head, sitting in a cat-like manner while scanning their surroundings. "You don't need to be that way... Everything's fine now." he assured, only for the imp to grumble from having already failed its duty. Letting out a sigh, he gave an "alright" response as he gave his body time to recover. "One good thing came out of this... I learned what triggers you." he thought to himself, looking toward his chest before focusing on Popplio, remaining where he'd left it bound. Letting the night continue to pass, eventually the group was greeted by a new day, one that revealed the girls having fallen asleep all over Chris while Midna dangled itself from atop his head, snoring in its place as he watched the light grow brighter around them. "Nothing like the morning air..." Chris thought, looking at the group around him before slowly working them away, keeping from disturbing their rest given they'd already been woken the previous night. Quietly standing with a stretch, he muttered "still sore..." while rubbing his back.
Noticing both Zorua and Popplio still out of it as well, he decided to work on breakfast while everyone rest, arranging supplies and utensils as quietly as he could while building a new fire from the remaining cinders left by the last. Once everything was ready, he began boiling ingredients for a morning stew, stirring the contents for some time until the pot was ready for more. Turning away, he brought out a chopping board and supplies needing diced while the scent of the stew began gathering and wafting around the area, causing everyone to stir before rising in response to the alluring aroma. With even Zorua finally stirring, she too rose, albeit with a groan as she shook her head and looked around. "Ah... Woke everyone after all... Was hoping to surprise you." Chris smiled in an apologetic manner. "Sorry about last night... I was hoping you'd sleep in a little more." he added as everyone stretched and yawned. "Guess you slept well enough though." he chuckled, turning back to his supplies. "I'm uh... Sorry about what you had to see last night... That's never happened before so... I was in a real bind." he point out, showing a guilty look. "Sorry for scaring you... I know it wasn't pleasant." he added. In response, Valora merely pat his back while Sera and Sliggoo brushed against his sides, the trio giving him reassuring smiles. "Thanks to you especially. I really appreciate what you did for me." he affirmed, nodding at Zorua as she glanced at him. "From now on, I don't want a word out of you about handling things." she replied sternly. "Y-Yeah... I guess I can't say that anymore..." Chris laughed in surrender. "High and mighty, and a little noise of all things takes you down... Pathetic." she lectured, causing him to slump slightly.
"Yeah... You got me." he agreed. "I warned you the way you are would bite you." she went on. "Yep... Bit me hard." he nodded, maintaining a smile nonetheless. "Glad you're there to help though." he thanked, causing Zorua to twitch an eye. "I've had to do it twice now, you're not competent at all, are you?" she asked. "Nope... I guess I'm the dependent type after all." he agreed. "I've got all of you though, so I'm good!" he reminded, smiling at the girls before looking at Zorua again, causing her to face away. "You're annoying." she grumbled. "And you're a life saver. So thanks." he grinned, only for her to scowl. "You realize now you owe me?" she point out. "Yeah... I'll have a big portion for you for breakfast." Chris assured, nodding as she glanced at him. "Don't be a fool anymore." she ordered. "Can't help it, just how I am." he shrugged, making the Pokemon sigh and roll her eyes. "Disappointed I won't argue with you?" he asked with a sly smirk, only to be ignored. "Hard to do that with someone who just exhausted herself for my sake... I knew we weren't so different." he chuckled. "You're pushing your luck." she warned before noticing Popplio beginning to stir, smelling the food itself causing its nose to twitch before its heavy eyes opened. Letting out its own groan of discomfort, albeit muffled from the stick in its mouth, it slightly raised its head as Zorua sneered. "Troublemaker..." she muttered. "Wuzzat?" Chris asked, looking her way. "Your... Guest...? Assassin...? Whatever you want to call it is waking up." she point out, causing the group to turn their attention to the groggy Pokemon while Chris showed a scowl. "Good morning..." he greeted, albeit in a begrudging tone as the girls drew closer to him.
Letting out an "eh?" of sorts, the Popplio before them shook its head, further coming to while attempting to move, only to find itself stuck. "Yeah, good luck with that." Chris waved as it looked at him. Suddenly snapping out of its daze, Popplio's eyes shot open before it began letting out muffled screams, thrashing its body and kicking about with its tail. Trying to use the same attack as the night before, with the wood in its mouth it found itself silenced, causing the Pokemon to glare at him with fury, almost something akin to blood lust in its eyes. "That's a great way to get yourself untied." Chris cautioned. "You're just gonna have to deal with staying that way until you simmer down. I dunno what your problem is but trying to kill yourself, then trying to take down someone who helps you is a great way to come off just a little insane." he lectured turning back to his chopping board as he scattered ingredients on. "You're a threat to yourself AND us, especially me.... I'm not taking any chances with you." he affirmed. "I don't mind Pokemon with bad attitudes but you're outright hostile. Freely attacking someone like that after trying to end your own life, folks like you really pi...!!" he paused, catching himself from cursing any more than he already had in front of Sera as he cleared his throat. "Really annoy me, I mean." he clarified before the Pokemon started thrashing and screaming again, flailing and kicking its tail about. "So... How exactly are you going to deal with this?" Zorua asked. "Well, for now the plan is to keep it from causing anymore trouble, for us and for itself." Chris explained. "I've fought too many times to stay alive myself, and to keep folks I care about alive. I'm not about to let some lunatic with a death wish die so easy." he affirmed.
"You sound as though you have a right to decide that." Zorua replied, raising an eyebrow. "Hey, maybe it's not my place, but I'm still not gonna let it literally throw itself away like that." he argued. "I once met a kid who wanted to try that same shi... Stuff, that is... I didn't let him do it, I ain't gonna let that one do it, like it or not." he insisted before he began chopping their food. "You don't even know it. For all we know it could be diseased, that could cause insanity." Zorua reminded. "Think that's not something I've considered? That's another reason to muffle it. I'll find out what its problem is at the next center." he assured. However, hearing him speak the Popplio's eyes suddenly widened out of fear rather than fury, and in a hysteric manner it screamed all the more, thrashing and kicking itself about making the group watch in a puzzled state. "...Sounds like it's saying no, or something." Zorua translated. "Can't make much out with that hunk of tree in its mouth, but that's the gist. Keeps shouting it." she revealed. "No...? No about what? A center?" he asked, causing Popplio to flail all the madder, its screaming louder than before causing Chris's eyes to widen. "Geez..." he muttered as the girls sweat nervously, unsure of how to cope with the sight of one of their kin so rattled. Quickly exhausting itself from the exertion, it didn't take long for Popplio to grow still as it wheezed where it lay, its pupils still trembling in a horror type of fear. "...This thing takes it to extreme, more than..." Chris paused, thinking about Serenity and her objections toward centers as well, causing him to sigh and shake his head. "Hey!!" he shout, causing the Pokemon to jolt and flail again. "I won't take you to one so quit it!!" he snapped, only for Popplio to flail itself into exhaustion once more.
"Looks like you've got a case on your hands... Hope it's worth it." Zorua sighed. "Hey, got through to you didn't I? Ms. Hero?" he asked, causing her eyes to widen. "I said you're pushing it!!" she snapped, bearing her teeth at him. "Okay, okay." he waved. "...It knows what we're saying, so it's not completely psycho..." he added, looking back at Popplio as it lay catching its breath, attempting to bite through the wood in its mouth. "I think you're a little mad yourself if you're willing to keep a threat to you like that around." Zorua quipped. "You should've seen another person I know. She almost did the same thing to me a long time ago. It wasn't on purpose, but it was a thing that happened." Chris shrugged. "For the time being, despite what it did, I'd like to give it SOME benefit of the doubt here and assume there's a reason good enough for it to do such a thing... Not trying to kill itself, but attacking me I mean." he clarified. "I don't think there's any excuse good enough for just throwing yourself away." he affirmed. Finally resuming his cutting, the sound of the blade hitting his board made Popplio freeze before focusing on the blade in his hand, its eyes widening once more with a hint of desperation in them. "Agh... This one's tough..." he muttered, struggling to press his knife through one of his vegetables. Managing to finally slice through it, the knife lodged itself in his board by accident, causing Chris to growl in frustration. "Can't even cut right today..." he muttered. Working the blade out of his board, with a sudden yank he freed it, only for the knife to fly from his hand by accident. Almost as if time was slowing, he and the girls turned and watched it rise, Popplio's focus on it far more intense as it watched the direction it was heading.
As it began to drop, the Pokemon used all the strength it could muster in its tail to thrust itself under the knife, its dagger-like point aiming right for its body. In a panic, Chris lunged himself in Popplio's direction, and with his hand outstretched, suddenly grabbed the blade tightly in his clutch, stopping the tip just inches from Popplio's torso. Remaining still with its eyes tightly shut, the Pokemon finally opened its eyes to see the group showing horrified expressions, with Valora covering her mouth while Zorua let out a "yeesh..." and looked away. "You idiot..." she muttered just before Popplio felt something warm beginning to drip repeatedly on its body. Jolting in surprise, it focused on the source of the drip, finding Chris's hand bleeding from thoughtlessly snatching the knife by its metal length. With more of his blood dripping down, the Pokemon slowly looked at him as he showed a twisted expression, his eyes wide with tears filling them while his cheeks bulged. Trying to remain strong, after a moment he couldn't resist letting out an agonized scream, clutching his wrist as he shot up still clinging to the blade, shouting "Knife in my hand!!!" before swinging his arm about and beginning to race about. Repeating this same line time and again, he ran to and fro until Zorua finally shout "Drop it you idiot!!!" in agitation, causing him to suddenly pause with an "Oh yeah..." remark before releasing it, letting the blade hit the ground while looking at the damage he'd inflicted to his hand. "A-Are you serious...?" Zorua asked, showing legitimate shock as her eye twitched. Looking at one another with the same surprise in their expressions, it was hard to grasp that Chris had forgotten he could literally let go of the knife instead of keeping his squeeze on it.
Looking back at him, Sera drooped her ears with a disappointed "Oh Papa..." type of noise, Valora smacking her forehead with a groan of her own. "...I just saved a literal moron..." Zorua slumped, a slight cloud of sorts over her head as he turned to them with a pouty look on his face. "It hurts guys..." he whined. "Don't show it off!! Deal with it!!" Zorua snapped, a pulse of anger rising on her forehead. Looking at the group before turning its attention toward Chris, Popplio remained motionless and silent, still feeling his blood on its body until showing a frustrated and annoyed look from having been denied a second time. Beginning to thrash about again, it let out furious shouts before spotting the knife he'd dropped. Growling in determination, it attempted to crawl toward it, only for Valora to notice and snatch the blade, snapping at the Pokemon before taking it to Chris as he sat and asked Sera to bring out his supplies again, the fox showing a nervous smile before leaping into his rucksack and digging about. With the unconscious Midna snoring on the fallen tree by his side, Chris scowled at the dark creature as it scratched its stomach, oblivious yet again to his suffering as it slept off the remainder of its meal from the night before, making room for the breakfast to come. Looking at the group, Popplio suddenly started screaming at them, Zorua twitching her ears with agitation in her expression. "She keeps rambling on about being let go." she translated. "Definitely not happening now." Chris immediately affirmed. "You're crazy, you hear! You stay that way!" he snapped, causing Popplio to thrash and scream for release all the more. "...Ugh, it'll get tired again soon enough." Chris muttered as Sera handed him disinfectant and bandages, having already learned what's what when he needs it.
"Are you REALLY sure you want to deal with that?" Zorua asked, glancing at Popplio as it gradually calmed once more. "Right now it can deal with itself, get its mind and emotions right before anything... Jumping off a cliff, screaming like a maniac, jumping under a knife... I've dealt with plenty of types, that one takes the cake." he replied, opening a bottle of peroxide and pouring it on his hand with a pained hiss. "Again with this..." he growled. "See what you did?!" he snapped, showing his hand only for Popplio to snarl in response. "You expected an apology?" Zorua asked. "No... Just forget it..." he muttered, pouring more on his hand with a hiss before working bandages around it. "Lugging a maniac around... What fun..." he added in agitation, biting the bandage and handing the roll back to Sera to put away.
"I've gone from one kind of crazy to another." he sighed, leaning his back against the fallen tree behind him as he thought about Serenity once more, closing his eyes for a moment before looking at Popplio as it kicked and sent glares his way in the process...