The sky was turning red when A-Ninetales stood in front of a temple, his nine tails, tipped with orange, swaying. It was a stone temple built within a cliffside, with cracked pillars that stood fifty feet high. At the center, above the door, was an A Unown carved out in stone, with a curve connecting the two lines extending from the center eye and a point at the very top. Around it was a carved cross-like wheel, with a gap at the upper and bottom part of the wheel and lines stretching out from four points.
A-Ninetales’ golden-white fur swayed in the breeze, his sea blue eyes shining. “This looks like a fun temple to explore! Maybe after this, I’ll get an explorer badge!” He rubbed his chest before standing up on all four. “Only one way to find out.”
He stepped forward, but the sky suddenly turned white, with a massive explosion and a cracking sound above. He blinked and turned upward, and his ears folded back in fear as his jaws dropped. An enormous hole in space appeared, with white lights shining down from it and cracks at the side. Indeed, it was so bright that a shadowy figure falling from it was almost unseeable.
A-Ninetales gasped before he sprinted forward, sharpening his eyes. The cracks became undone, with the space hole healing as the sky reddened. The figure became more visible, holding a scythe while screaming. Seconds later, the rift healed with the sky back to normal, with even a couple of stars peeking out. But A-Ninetales sprinted forward, jumping up high under this strange newcomer, who slammed against his back. They both landed with a thud, groaning.
But A-Ninetales got up first, rolling the strange newcomer off and setting him on the ground. He then blinked, poking this stranger’s wings, with the feathers black, much like his fur. Though his triangular ears wiggled, a tongue hung out from his beak, his three bushy fox-like tails tipped with purple twitching. Soon, this newcomer rolled forward, shaking his head while pressing his hand-talons, yellow much like his beak, over one of his eyes as they opened, the eyes being purple.
“Note to self,” this newcomer said while sighing, his ears drooping. “Next time a pantheon wants you to become a god, you say yes.” He turned to A-Ninetales, who grinned at him. “Eep! A Pokémon!” He pointed his scythe at the blinking A-Ninetales, ears upright. “Stay back!”
“I wasn’t going to do anything to you,” A-Ninetales said, his ears folded to the sides even as this newcomer gasped, yet kept his scythe up. “I’m just happy that you’re alright. You slammed hard against me.”
“You-you can talk?” This newcomer asked, and A-Ninetales nodded. “Where am I?”
“This is the foot of the Unown temple,” A-Ninetales answered, pointing at it even as the newcomer twisted around. “From what lore remained, Arceus gave a shard of his power to the twenty-eight Unown within. For what reasons, none of the surviving text says.”
“Unown? Arceus?” The newcomer shook his head, his ears flattened back. “There isn’t anything— Oh, no.” He rubbed his face again. “That portal’s destruction knocked me into another reality. And I feel so weak for some reason.”
“Try to relax,” A-Ninetales said, stepping forward and nosing his arm. “I won’t hurt you.” The newcomer flinched before relaxing, lowering his scythe. “I’m Daren, by the way. Though most folks call me A-Ninetales because of the A on my back.” The newcomer blinked, spotting a bit of the lime green A on his back. “I’m here to prove myself to be an explorer. What about you, though? What is your name? And how did you get here? Cause that doesn’t look like a multiverse travel portal at all. More like a crack in reality.”
“Because it wasn’t,” the newcomer answered, shaking his head. “That was meant for travel within Aether, not through other reality, but that deity—” he sighed. “I’m Tallyn.” He rubbed the three red points on his cheek, having another three points on the opposite cheek, and all six pointed forward at his beak. “I, well, I guess I’m a fallen from grace traveler. To explain, I managed to overcome a tyrant and took his place as ruler. I ruled for many years until I arranged for an heir, which is when the deities took note of me. They took me up, studied everything about me down to my name and past, and offered to ascend me to deityhood. And, well, I screwed that up good.”
“Huh?” A-Ninetales tilted his head. “How did you screw something like that up?”
“By declining. You can laugh. I know you will.” Tallyn pressed against his face harder. “I was satisfied with what I achieved: A kingdom, loyal citizens, and a legacy that anyone could be proud of. I-I didn’t think I needed to add more to that.” He flinched before patting A-Ninetales’ head. “Why aren’t you laughing? It’s ridiculous, right?”
“Not to me,” A-Ninetales replied, shaking his head. “I could’ve become a deity as well. I could’ve been the biggest one you’ll ever meet, but why bother? I’m more interested in being with folks like you instead of ruling over them. Even if I do enjoy towering over them.”
A-Ninetales snickered even as Tallyn flattened one of his ears. “Anyways, one of the deities took it personally. As in, she chased me across Aether personally. Maybe it’s because she is a fire deity?” He shrugged. “Regardless, I ran nonstop, yet even my adventurer’s skills were worthless against her. As a last desperate act, I used a portal that could travel through another part of the Aether, hoping I could lose her that way. I was partway through it when I turned back, watching that deity firing a massive fireball and—” He frowned, rubbing his head before groaning. “I don’t remember, exactly. Just feelings of being shattered, I think. And now I’m in another reality.”
A-Ninetales nodded. “At least you’re alive. That’s what’s important.”
“I guess,” Tallyn said before turning down with a sigh. “Still, I feel like a total screwup. Adventuring skills? Useless against someone like her. Kingdom? If they’re spiteful, it’s already a crater. Legacy? Worthless since anyone who crosses a deity is used as a cautionary tale. I bet they’re spreading stories of Tallyn, who perished because he was too humble.”
“If any deity became angry because of humbleness, then they’re not worth it.” A-Ninetales shook his head, his eyes narrowed. “So, forget about them.”
Tallyn rolled his eyes, but he got up, pushing himself up with his scythe. “If you say so.” He turned to the temple, a cool breeze coming from it as he tilted his head. “So, you say this temple has Unown, who possessed a shard of Arceus’s power?”
“Yup!” A-Ninetales nodded, his tails wagging. “I want to see for myself if it’s true or not. At the very least, it’ll be fun, and I’ll have some experience under me!”
Tallyn rubbed his beak, humming. “Alright if I come with you? No offense, but you don’t seem to be that experience, and while my skills may be nothing against a deity, they might be useful for you to learn from.”
“Sure!” A-Ninetales jumped up and down. “I’m always happy to have companions!”
Tallyn tilted his head, rolling his eyes, before nodding and stepping forward to the temple, the grinning A-Ninetales walking beside him. The shadows of the temple’s entranceway deepened as they went closer, with Tallyn’s ears folding back. Then, with a quick shift of his eyes, his stomach tightened as he stood in front of the entrance, with A-Ninetales stepping forward.
But Tallyn swung his scythe in front of him, blocking even as he blinked at his reflection. He turned to Tallyn, who picked up a rock as large as his head, and tilted his head, his tails still. Tallyn rolled the stone forward, and a click came from within. The walls slammed against each other, with A-Ninetales jumping back, and when they retracted, the rock was nothing more than dust.
“Thought so,” Tallyn said as A-Ninetales’s face paled. “Any temple that has items worth stealing always has traps. So best be on your guard.”
“H-how did you know?!” A-Ninetales asked, following Tallyn and making sure he stepped where Tallyn stepped. “I thought I was good at spotting traps.”
“I’ve been exploring for decades,” Tallyn replied with a shrug. “I know all the telltale signs. For example, the amount of dust on the wall compared to further in, not to mention a higher amount of dust at the center. Plus, the floor has some wear on the sides rather than at the center, the paving on the walls looking a bit too thin, and other minor stuff.”
“Oh, wow!” A-Ninetales’s tails wagged fast. “You must be an awesome explorer!”
“It’s simple stuff,” Tallyn said, shaking his head. “I bet you’re just as easily impressed by your girlfriend.”
“Hey! I don’t have a girlfriend!” A-Ninetales blushed, his ears folding back. “Never have. And I doubt I ever will.”
“You can always wear something around your neck,” Tallyn said, patting his purple scarf, which dangled down his back, while having a cheeky grin. “Girls love stuff like scarves, bandanas, and even an ascot.”
A-Ninetales’s face turned redder, and he turned away, waiting a few seconds. “Let’s focus on exploring this temple.”
The two continued their trek through the temple for the next hour, with Tallyn taking the lead. They went down floor after floor, bypassing traps laid for helpless explorers. Yet, each time, Tallyn observed them and waited until he figured out what it does and led A-Ninetales around them.
Of course, that doesn’t happen every single time.
A-Ninetales blinked as a wall slammed in front of him, separating him from Tallyn. He spun back, but another wall slammed down back there too. Then, something slid above, and sand trickled down, covering the floor. He jumped back, scratching the walls, but the stone was too strong. But then it felt cold to the touch, and he stepped back. Soon, the wall broke, with parts of it frozen and Tallyn’s hand-talon glowing icy blue.
“Woah! I didn’t know you could use magic!” A-Ninetales jumped out, rubbing against Tallyn’s leg. “Thank you.”
“That was nothing,” Tallyn said, shaking his head. “Used to be much more powerful too with more magic spells, but my memory of them is hazy, and my magic wasn’t as high as it used to. So I guess I’m still recovering.”
“At least you have some magic,” A-Ninetales said, smiling while wagging his tails. “Otherwise, that would’ve been the end of me.”
Tallyn nodded, sand pouring out from that hole before they proceeded. They stepped down the stairs, but it felt hotter for some reason. Tallyn sweated as they moved, soon spotting an end of a jet of flames, the walls made of glass. He blinked, summoning a few icy orbs around him.
“A trap must have busted,” Tallyn said, though more to himself. “And now it’s permanently on.” He turned back to A-Ninetales and gestured him onwards, but he stepped back, folding his ears. “Huh?”
“I-I shouldn’t step into those flames.” A-Ninetales’s eyes widened, half filled with greed, the other with fear.
Tallyn squinted at him. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little fire. You’re a Fire-type, not an Ice-/Fairy-type! You should be able to absorb those flames like they’re nothing.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” A-Ninetales said, taking another step back.
Tallyn rolled his eyes before walking forward; the icy balls emitting frost knocked back the flames. By the time his feet-paws stepped onto the glass, they were cooled by the ice as he fired them out more, walking slow. A-Ninetales walked behind him, abet with caution and avoiding a couple of little flames.
“OK. Tell it to me straight,” Tallyn said, taking several steps forward as he sweated some more. “Why ‘shouldn’t’ you step into the flames. You should be eager to jump into them, not back away.”
“Sorry.” A-Ninetales turned his gaze away. “I want to. In fact, I would jump into lava. But I shouldn’t. It’s a long story.”
“I shared with you my long story,” Tallyn said, sweating as he flung his arms forward, a wave of frost from them knocked the flames back several yards. “Why not yours?”
A-Ninetales blushed. “Back in your homeland, have you ever heard of a toy named Trask?”
“Trask?” Tallyn tilted his head before nodding. “That does sound familiar. Namely, this Trask is a deity toy with a pipe that blows bubbles and is currently in a gray fox form. Is that the Trask toy you’re talking about?”
A-Ninetales nodded. “The very one. I met with Trask occasionally, even mentioning my desire to grow in size.” Tallyn blinked, turning back while keeping his hand-talons forward. “But then one morning, Trask appeared to me and jabbed a massive needle against my chest. To be honest, I thought I was about to be a plushy victim, but instead, Trask edited my Flash Fire ability so that, when I absorb flames, I grow in size as well. And Trask demonstrated it by turning the ground into lava.”
“Huh. Sounds like a nifty ability,” Tallyn said, stepping forward as he approached the flame thrower machine.”
“It is good, I admit,” A-Ninetales said, rubbing the back of his head while following Tallyn. “But I have no idea how to shrink at will once I absorb any flames. Trask did offer to edit my tails so they can store my excess growth.” He turned to his tails, wagging them. “But considering how big I can get, and I can get huge, I doubt that having nine massive tails would be any better than just being massive altogether. Plus, as time went on, um,” he blushed deeper, “as time went on, I find that my Flash Fire being triggered has been more potent as of late, not less.”
“Let me guess this straight,” Tallyn said, tossing the icy balls at the machine, freezing it before he punched it, with it snapping into pieces. “You can grow in size from contacting flames and even lava.” He leaned against his scythe as A-Ninetales nodded. “You have no idea how to store your excess size when big. You have to let it drain with time.” A-Ninetales nodded again. “And you require fewer flames, not more, to achieve something like fifty feet.”
“Yes.” A-Ninetales turned away, sighing.
“That’s odd.” Tallyn rubbed his beak. “I heard of requiring more to achieve the same results, not less.”
“I know.” I’m hoping to find someone who can answer that,” A-Ninetales aid, though with serious doubt in his tone.
But Tallyn smiled and petted A-Ninetales, who murred in response. “I’m sure you will.”
The two delved deeper and deeper into the temple, going through floor after floor until they stopped in front of a dead-end, where a wall stood. Tallyn turned from left to right, examining the wall and tapping against it even as A-Ninetales turned up, his eyes shifting left to right. Upon the walls were Unown hieroglyphics, which seemed to form a sentence. He rubbed his chin with one of his tails as Tallyn went to his side.
“So far, I detect no trap, and from what I can tell, there’s nothing but solid earth behind that wall,” Tallyn said, shrugging before staring at the hieroglyphics. “Do you know what they say?”
“Hmm.” A-Ninetales rubbed his chin some more, tapping his paws. “I think so. ‘The path will open up when one achieves the right burden!’ That’s what it says. Though what does it mean by burden?”
“Huh.” Tallyn scratched one of his ears before tapping against the ground. He blinked, kneeling down, and pressed his ear against it, tapping some more. Finally, he grinned, getting up and patting A-Ninetales’s head before stepping behind him. “I believe I figured out what it’s talking about.”
“You do? Cause I sure don’t.” A-Ninetales tilted his head as a fiery red ball formed above Tallyn’s hand-talon. “I mean, it could be about having a great deal of experience.” The ball expanded in size. “But that would mean that secret requires someone with experience that stretched beyond the standards of this temple, right? But if you did fig—” The fireball contacted his back, with him blinking as he absorbed it. “Huh?!”
Tallyn grinned even as A-Ninetales swelled in size, growing from three foot seven to five, then six, then seven. The ground cracked underneath even as A-Ninetales spun around, with Tallyn chuckling while leaning against his scythe, growing to ten feet. Yet, he kept on growing, his head slamming against the ceiling before he crouched low, with a couple of large rocks falling from the impact. Soon, he got wedged in the hallway, at about twenty-five feet, and puffed his cheeks.
“This isn’t funny,” A-Ninetales said even as Tallyn leaned back in laughter. “Are you paying attention? I’m STUCK in here!”
“Just give it a moment,” Tallyn said, though he still snickered. “Must say, you look adorable when big.”
A-Ninetales blushed before shaking his head, glaring. “I swear, as soon—”
The ground crumbled, with cracks forming around the hallway, and he stopped, blinking. Tallyn grinned wider as the cracks expanded, with rocks falling beneath A-Ninetales until the floor buckled. A-Ninetales slid back, yelping as he gripped onto the floor, claws ripping through the stones. Soon, he hung by the edge, belly pressed against a solid wall, and pulled himself up.
“That won’t do,” Tallyn said, hopping onto one of A-Ninetales’s paws and jabbing it with the end of his scythe, with him yelping in pain. “We need to fall in.”
Tallyn jabbed again until A-Ninetales let go of the floor, with the two falling in. A-Ninetales yelled out, wiggling during his descent even as Tallyn zoomed down until he grabbed against A-Ninetales’s belly. A-Ninetales’s voice echoed throughout until he slammed against the ground, a crater formed underneath his back, lying within the darkness with the only light above.
“Ugh,” A-Ninetales said, laying back with his eyes spiraling around even as Tallyn hopped off, chuckling. “W-what?”
“To put it simply,” Tallyn explained, poking A-Ninetales’s nose. “When it says ‘burden,’ it actually meant weight. Something that I realized when I noticed that the floor sounds hollower than it should, as though there’s an opening beneath us. So, I made you big as a way for you to be in the proper weight.”
“Y-you could’ve warned me!” A-Ninetales shook his head before rolling up on all fours, the new room much roomier than the above hallway. “Cause I feel so sore now.”
“Yes, I could have,” Tallyn said before crossing his arms. “But you should’ve seen an unusual glow coming from behind you. The life of an explorer is all about noticing something off and expecting the unexpected. If you don’t hone your instincts to allow you to sense any dangers around you, then you shouldn’t be an adventurer in the first place.”
A-Ninetales sighed and was about to respond when torches lit up along the walls. Tallyn and A-Ninetales blinked, light filling up the room. Along the walls were twenty-eight Unown hieroglyphics, from A to Z and with an ! and a ? along with them. A-Ninetales’s ears folded back even as Tallyn raised his scythe.
Soon, the Unown hieroglyphics cracked, exposing black and white underneath brown, with each one blinking. They broke free from the walls, hovering above the two even as A-Ninetales gulped; an Unown on its own may be weak, but they were dangerous in a group.
“Do you think they might be the ones Arceus blessed?” Tallyn asked, glancing back, and A-Ninetales nodded. “Figures.”
Soon, many pressed against a blank wall, glowing purple before removing themselves from it, leaving a hieroglyphic of themselves behind. Some of them even went back, adding more of their own hieroglyphics, but once the Unown were done, they spun around in a circle. They hummed, though not through ears, but through minds, with Tallyn raising an eyebrow before stepping forward, scythe readied.
The Unown then zoomed down, slamming against Tallyn, and he yelped out. He swung his scythe, its blade glowing purple, knocking them back, but others hit against him. He grunted, turning his hand-talon out, which carried a fireball, and blasted several Unown down. But the previous group got up, hovering, and slammed against Tallyn again.
A-Ninetales gulped before opening his mouth, which glowed yellow. But he stopped himself, the Unown too close to Tallyn. So instead, he swatted several of them hovering behind Tallyn, each leaving a cracked impact against a wall. But they pulled themselves off, not even a scuff mark on them, before going back and slamming themselves against Tallyn.
A-Ninetales blinked, all twenty-eight Unown focusing on Tallyn, and he tilted his head. So, he turned to the wall where they left hieroglyphics and twitched a few of his tails. Tallyn grunted, swinging his scythe around while firing out a couple of freezing wind, but they kept charging without being frozen.
“I really appreciate the help right about now!” Tallyn said, breathing heavily while swatting a couple of Unown. “So, what are you waiting for?!”
But A-Ninetales stared at the wall and said in a low voice. “‘The original power will be given when you surrender!’ What does that—” His eyes flashed before turning to Tallyn. “Tallyn! Stop fighting!”
“Huh?” Tallyn slammed an Unown against the ground before turning out, glaring at A-Ninetales. “But they’re attacking us!” A couple of Unown hit against him, which he blasted off with a fireball. “If we don’t defend ourselves, we’ll get killed!”
“They’re not focusing on me, and they’re not attacking you,” A-Ninetales said, and Tallyn blinked. “They may be focused on you, b-but I don’t think they want to kill you.”
“How can you be so sure?!” Tallyn swung his scythe some more, panting.
“It’s that message,” A-Ninetales answered, and Tallyn turned to it. “They want to give you the power they received from Arceus. But, to do that, you have to let them.”
“And if you’re wrong?” Tallyn asked, the Unown levitating and spinning around him. “Because I don’t wish to die.”
“I’m not,” A-Ninetales replied, clutching his paw tight. “I may not be as experienced as you, but I want to be a true explorer. Of course, I need a place to keep the badge without losing it when growing.”
Tallyn sighed and lowered his scythe, the Unown spinning around faster. “Very well.” The Unown approached Tallyn, who smiled at A-Ninetales. “If you don’t mind, perhaps you should consider a scarf or a bandana like mine.” He tugged it. “I’m sure it’ll look good on you.”
Soon, all twenty-eight Unown pressed against Tallyn, all glowing white. A-Ninetales blinked, the light becoming brighter, and he turned away, closing his eyes. Above Tallyn was a kind of glowing shadow, quadruple in shape and having a cross-like wheel around its waist. But it faded along with the light, and when A-Ninetales turned to Tallyn, he gasped.
Standing where Tallyn stood was some kind of Zoroark that hunched forward with a massive purple hair-like mane instead of red, with purple claws and three tails ending with purple tips. The black ruff, mane’s tips, and the yellow bangle that hung on like a ponytail were tinted red as this being clutched against the purple scarf. Yet, the fur was a lighter shade of black than the one Tallyn had, and a couple of black feathers spun around before falling. This being turned up, opening its two purple eyes.
Along with a black eye right on the forehead, like an Unown eye.
“Eep!” A-Ninetales stumbled back even as the Zoroark blinked.
“Huh?” The Zoroark said in Tallyn’s voice. “What’s wrong?”
“T-Tallyn?” A-Ninetales asked as he lifted himself up, leaning forward while spotting the purple rimming around the eyes and mouth, though with six red pointing marks towards the nose, three on each side on the cheeks.
“Yup. Still me,” Tallyn answered with a shrug before waving at A-Ninetales, the palm having an Unown eye on it much like his forehead, which blinked. A-Ninetales yipped once more, sweating. “Is anything wrong? Cause I feel great!”
“Um, how to say it?” A-Ninetales rubbed his chin for a moment. “J-just look at your palms.”
“I don’t see what’s wrong with my— YIKES!” Tallyn dropped his scythe, falling back as the Unown eyes on both palms blinked at him. “W-what am I?”
As though n response to that question, the dust spun around Tallyn before hovering before him, fusing and hardening into a mirror. He blinked, standing up as he approached, rubbing underneath his forehead Unown eye. Another mirror formed behind him, and he lifted his hair-like main, with an Unown eye on his back underneath his shoulder blades.
A-Ninetales blinked before turning to the Unown hieroglyphics, which morphed into a new message. “‘Thank you for accepting this blessing! May you use your godly power with wisdom!’ That’s what it says.”
“Godly? So, I actually became a deity of some sort?” Tallyn asked as the mirrors dissipated into dust once more. “To think I bailed out on becoming a deity, only to become one anyways! My life is a joke!”
“To be fair, you did say that the next time you receive this offer, you say yes,” A-Ninetales said, and Tallyn rolled his eyes.
“Touché,” Tallyn said before shaking his head. “Still, having this power and knowing what to do with it are different things.”
“True, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experiment. For example,” A-Ninetales pointed at the top where they had fallen in, “we’re stuck here. Perhaps you can use your power to teleport us out.”
“That’s fair,” Tallyn said, shrugging before spreading his arms out, hovering in the air as the scythe hovered up, attaching itself into his hair-mane. A massive circle formed around him, which glowed purple even as A-Ninetales stepped on top of it. Soon, the ground dissolved within the ring, and A-Ninetales fell into the hole with a yip. Tallyn lowered himself, but the portal closed, standing on the stone floor. “Eep! It wasn’t meant to close this fast!” He pressed against the floor, a new portal forming underneath him, and he fell in. But he saw nothing but darkness. “A-Ninetales? Where did you go?!”
As if from that response, a scroll appeared before Tallyn, which he grabbed, unrolled, and read. “If the portal spell doesn’t hold a set destination (the clearest sign being the circle being blank with no other markings), it will send any travelers into a random destination.” Tallyn rolled his eyes before continuing. “Depending on the power used, it could send those traveling from a short distance to, in the case of deity-like powers, around the multiverse.”
Tallyn gulped. “I hope A-Ninetales has a safe landing.”
“Are you ready for a Pokémon battle, Aleph?” A red toony cat said, pulling out a Pokéball.
“Maf! Of course!” Aleph, the toony wolf, pulled out from his black hoodie a Pokéball, which he threw out, releasing Nero the Riolu. “How about you?”
“Why, of course I—” The red cat paused, a large shadow hovering around Aleph and Nero. Aleph and Nero blinked before looking up, and a second later, a twenty-five feet tall Ninetales with a lime green A on his back landed on the two, flattening them both. The Ninetales’ eyes spun in spirals, laying on his back with his tongue hanging out, a crater underneath him. The red cat blinked before putting away his Pokéball and walking away. “I’m not going to deal with this.”
The Ninetales groaned even as Aleph let out a weak, “Maaaaaaaf.”
Commissioned by Tallyn_Aetherpaw.
In the early days of A-Ninetales's exploration days, he set out to explore an Unown temple. However, before he set his paws in it, Tallyn fell from the sky, having been shattered across reality by an angry deity blowing up a temple. Now, the two teamed up to search within the temple, with Tallyn giving A-Ninetales some tips.
And thus began the crossing of fates.
This was another fun story. I struggled with which version of Daren (namely between A-Fox and A-Ninetales), but I feel I made the better choice. Plus, you get to see him before he became Faith's mentor with all his macro skills.
In any case, I hope you all enjoy it.