Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Stratosphere (INCOMPLETE)

Chapter 9: The Legend of the Lake

"Okay, what was that for?!" Naomi asked after Rosa stopped a bit ways away from the statue.

"Trying to keep us safe," Rosa said. "We're trying to work on exploring here, so let's get to the lake."

"So, how do we get there?" Shin'ichi said, looking up. "Not to burst anyone's bubble, but none of us are technically Flying-types."

"Or have any rock-climbing gear..." Naomi said, sitting down on a rock.

"Hey, we're an exploration team! If we can't find a entrance..." Rosa said, walking up to the rock face, tapping on it. She found a hollow cavity in the wall, smirking. She backed up, before charging up a green orb in her roses before firing it at the cavity. The cavity cracked and crumbled, revealing a cave entrance. "...we make one."

"Are you sure that's safe?" Naomi said, peering into the cave. "I mean, what if it's unstable? The ceiling could come crashing down on us at any moment!"

"You really think so?" Shin'ichi asked. "It looks sturdy enough. We should be fine if we go through."

"Ooh, I dunno..." Naomi said. "This could be bad..."

"Hey, lighten up." Rosa said perkily. "Come on, we can head through here to get to the lake."

Shin'ichi shrugged. "I guess, we don't really have any options at this point."

Naomi sighed. "I guess..."

"Come on, let's go." Rosa said. "The sooner we get moving, the sooner we find the lake."

Heavy breathing came from the three as they reached a midpoint cavity through the cave. The trio stopped and rested at this cavity.

"Oh man," Naomi breathed. "How... how high up are we?"

"We've gotta be a least a good couple hundred feet up in here." Rosa said, getting up. "The lake's gotta be up ahead.."

"Let's rest a bit Rosa." Shin'ichi said. "We still have time, so let's just rest here a bit."

"Fine," Rosa said, walking over and sitting next to Shin'ichi. "So, how about our progress today?"

"It's been decent." Shin'ichi said. "We've still got a ways to go. Hopefully we should be reaching the lake soon."

"Yeah, we should be there soon." Rosa said. "It should be just through here."

"Hopefully..." Naomi said. "I'm exhausted..."

"We'll-" was all that Rosa started to stay before a loud roar started to reverberate throughout the cavern.

"Wh-what was that?!" Naomi stuttered. "I-is that normal for caves?!"

"No, but I do know what that means," Rosa said, standing up. "We're coming up against a dungeon boss."

"A dungeon boss?" Shin'ichi asked. "What's that?"

"A dungeon boss is the guardian of the dungeon. Usually that means that the end of the dungeon is close. But..." She paused. "That also means that this is gonna be a tough fight."

"Wh-what?!" Naomi cried.

"Listen, we'll need to be prepared." Rosa said. "Hope you're rested up..."

"Hey hey, over here!" Corphish yelled as the rest of the guild came rushing into view. "This is the statue, hey."

"So this is the statue that Team Valor had found?" Chatot asked. Corphish nodded. "And it's the one that removed the fog, hey."

"Well, I must say that is rather extrordinary for the young three, but...where are they now?" Chatot asked, cocking his head slightly. "And where is the Guildmaster?"

"The Guildmaster? Hey hey, he rushed past me to her a little while back." Corphish said. "He was chasing after a Perfect Apple, hey."

"Figures as much." Chatot said. "So, where are the three now?"

"They must have headed off that way, hey." Corphish said, pointing a giant craw at the large plateau. "They said they thought the lake was there, hey..."

"Then there's no time to waste," Chatot said. "Guild, to the lake!" He said before the entire guild took off.

A soft moan caught Diglett's ears and he stopped. "Hey, dad." He said to his father, Dugtrio. "Did you just hear something?"

"No, I didn't hear anything." Dugtrio said. "You must be imagining it. Now come, before Chatot gets riled up."

"Okay..." Diglett replied burrowing back underground. As the guild moved away, the limping figure of a Skuntank emerged from the bushes.

"That fellow... will pay..."

The waiting tunnel was surprisingly short, quickly opening up into a vast and desolate cavern. A number of well worn boulders and craggy stalagmites dotted the sandy floor, but one particular detail in the cavern stood out like no other: an inexplicable, sweltering heat that permeated the chamber.

"Oh, sweet baby Lugia!" Naomi breathed. "How did we go from a nice grotto to a sauna in a single tunnel?!"

"I have no clue," Rosa said, not faring any better. "But this is ridiculous, isn't it?"

"Well, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly worrying nearby," Shin'ichi pointed out, sweeping about the area with his Aura vision. Even with the muggy conditions beating down on him, he couldn't allow a little heat to get in the way of the team's mission. "We should be nearing the Lake though, and what a change th-"

Shin'ichi's sentence was cut off by a loud roar, almost louder than when they were at the grotto. Naomi froze in place and Rosa was looking extremely concerned. Deeper within the caves, a resounding thud brought fresh tremors to the earth, followed shortly by another, then another. Each was louder and more tumultuous than the last, but the booming impacts were quickly eclipsed by another observation: a vast shadow steadily advanced from the far entrance into the desert cavern.

"So, nothing worrying, huh?" Rosa shot at Shin'ichi with a peeved look. "How big do they have to be before you start getting worried?"

"So, this the cave entrance?" Chatot said, looking at the hole in the wall.

"Hey hey hey, it's gotta be!" Corphish replied. "This is the only way those three could have went!"

"So, you're sure they came here?" Chimecho asked. "It looks a bit unstable..."

"It's our only shot," Croagunk reasoned. "Unless you don't want the rookies to come back,"

"Eek! What?!" Sunflora cried. "What do you mean?!"

"Well, I'm no mythos expert," Croagunk said. "But I remember a legend about the spiritual trio of legendary Pokémon within our world. One of these Pokémon is Uxie."

"So?" Loudred questioned. "What threat is that?"

"Well, if Uxie is to lock eyes with a Pokémon and open them, it is said that it can erase memories."

"WHAT?!" Loudred blurted. "You're telling us that those three could be up there right now and ARE ABOUT TO BE BRAINWASHED?!"

At that moment a loud roar was heard from inside the cavern. All the guild's members turned to the cavern as the roar died down.

"W-was that Uxie?! Oh my gosh!" Sunflora stammered.

"If it was, I'm impressed that it can make Loudred sound like a mute, yup," Bidoof said before being smacked in the head by Loudred's fist. "Can it, beaver!" He growled.

"That was not Uxie.." Chatot breathed. "That is something more dangerous than what those kids can handle..."

"Well, what is it, hey?" Corphish asked.

"No time to explain, just move!" Chatot said, taking off into the cavern.

"Hey hey, Chatot!" Corphish called before the rest of the guild filed into the cavern...

"Who DARES?" came a voice like thunder, once again sending the entire chamber trembling. "Who DARES desecrate this sacred grove?"

"...in hindsight, this maybe wasn't the best idea..." Naomi shivered, backing up a fair bit as the immense shadow loomed closer. With a final thundering crash, the monstrous form stepped fully into view.

The Pokemon that had entered the room stood at a colossal stature, easily towering over the five Explorers even in its somewhat hunched stance. The titan's body appeared to be covered in crimson plates of interlocking armor, with the exception of its oddly drab underbelly. Spikes periodically dotted its hide, matching up with its wicked claws and dozer blade like tail. But its eyes seemed the most off-putting, blazing like coals as it considered the visitors to its domain.

"It...looks just like the statue from earlier," Rosa stuttered, visibly trembling under the Pokemon's terrible gaze.

"I say again!" roared the massive creature. "Who are you to defile this place of sanctity?"

"Okay, okay, look, let's just take it easy, okay?" Shin'ichi interjected, though even he looked somewhat cowed by the goliath's presence. "We're just looking to get to Fogbound Lake, that's all. Think we could just slip on past you?"

If anything, this question seemed to enrage the monstrous denizen of Steam Cave even further as it turned on Shin'ichi with a baleful stare. "FOGBOUND LAKE?! I will never allow this; so says I, Groudon, god of the earth!"

"Did you honestly think that would work?" Rosa said.

"No, but it was worth a shot." Shin'ichi said flatly.

Such details hardly seemed relevant in the teams' predicament, particularly when Groudon stooped forward and stabbed its claws into the ground. "The world itself buckles before my fury! You gnats shall be no different!" the behemoth bellowed, a series of runic glyphs igniting all across its armored hide. With a large heave, Groudon's claws were wrenched from the earth with a series of sharp cracks. More worrying was the veritable shower of earth that erupted along with them, a mighty Rock Slide in the works.

"Move it!" Shin'ichi said, seizing his companions by the arms and dashing to the side, out of the way of the vertical shower of earth.

When the dust settled though, it seemed as though the Rock Slide had been summoned with a different intent: the teams' path back to their original entrance was partially blocked by the scattered pile-up of boulders. The only other clear path out of the blistering cavern was through Groudon, who was looking none too pleased about the continued existence of the Explorers.

"Welp, looks like we've got no other choice," Shin'ichi noted as he dusted himself off. With his two teammates secured, the Riolu quickly darted in towards the living legend with a Quick Attack. But even with Shin'ichi's startling speed behind the move, Groudon was still able to pull back an arm with claws aglow, readying a powerful Slash.

As its massive paw swept downward, a peculiar aura seemed to shroud Groudon's arm, slowing the speed of its blow drastically, if only for a few moments. The moment that Shin'ichi was clear of the attack, the aura flickered and failed, leaving the Slash to finish its descent and pulverize the ground where the Riolu had been. A sharp gasp of strain could be heard at the same time; at the back line of the group, Naomi stumbled slightly while the same peculiar glow dispersed from around her helmet.

With Groudon exposed after the sluggish attack, Shin'ichi quickly bolted upward to strike at its unarmored chest, only to be met with a dull smack against its deceptively durable underbelly. As the much smaller Pokemon rebounded to land just in front of the legendary, Groudon's claw was wrenched free of the ground with a low, guttural rumble.

"What's the deal?!" Rosa yelled. "What beef do you have with us?"

"Your very presence is enough reason to drive you out!" Groudon roared in response, still holding its face in apparent agitation. 'You will NEVER intrude upon the Lake, you MUST never!"

"Yeah, but why stand guard over some lake?" Shin'ichi retorted, on guard for an expected counterattack from his towering opponent. "I'd think you'd have bigger and better things to do."

"SILENCE!" Groudon abruptly bellowed, simultaneously lunging forward and removing its claw from its face. As its large paw fell away, every one of the Explorers was abruptly transfixed; the already ferocious features of Ground became sharply accented and emphasized as it gave a terrible roar. The affect of the mighty beast's Scary Face was felt almost immediately, harshly eroding the band's courage and further dampening their prospects of survival.

"Now, feel my WRATH!" thundered the enraged legendary as it pulled back both claws, the scrawling runes across its hide shimmering with power. As both arms and tail slammed down to the ground at once, an immense tremor shook the chamber before the very ground ruptured and convulsed before Groudon's pure might. Already practically immobilized by the earlier Scary Face, the team was blown sprawling by the titanic Earthquake.

Even as the group began to shakily recover from the assault, the rumbling roar of Groudon truly drove the point home: this was going to be a fight like none of them had experienced before...

"Hey hey, Chatot!" Corphish said, trying to keep up. "What's this Pokémon you're so worried about?"

"Something that could potentially kill that young team." Chatot said, not breaking his flitting. "Unless we get to those three fast enough, they're as good as dead."

"What is it, hey?"

"That roar was belonging to a Groudon, the god of the earth." Chatot said. "It shaped the landmass with it's bare claws!"

"Hey hey, really?" Corphish said. "What if you were to fight it?"

"Fighting it is suicide!" Chatot said. "It's way too powerful!"

"Then what about the rookies?" Corphish said.

"I can only hope for their survival..."

"Wh-what do we do?!" Naomi panicked. "He's... It's too strong!"

"We gotta do something!" Shin'ichi said. "Otherwise we won't make it!"

"I've got an idea!" Rosa said. "Get behind me!"

"What are you..." Shin'ichi said, before Naomi grabbed him and pulled him down. Rosa's thorns started glowing a bright light as two white orbs formed in her roses.

"Hey, dirt-for-brains!" Rosa yelled at the Groudon. Groudon reared it's head back and let out a beam of fire straight at Rosa. Rosa eyes flashed white before aiming both her roses straight at Groudon, letting loose a massive SolarBeam. Both beams met in the center, neither one proving to be more powerful...

"Now's your chance guys!" Rosa yelled. "Get him now!"

"Wh-what?!" Naomi cried.

"Hurry!" Rosa yelled again, noticeably sliding backwards along the ground. "I can't keep this thing up much longer!"

"Naomi, give me a launch." Shin'ichi said, his paws glowing blue.

"Say what?!" Naomi said. "Are you crazy?!"

"We have no other option at this point!" Shin'ichi said. "Launch me!"

Naomi gulped before hesitantly nodding, picking up and blasting Shin'ichi at Groudon with a full-fledged Psychic. Once high enough above Groudon, a large blue orb charged up inbetween his paws before it fired off, smashing into the side of Groudon's head. Groudon roared out in pain as it lost control of its fire beam, causing Rosa's SolarBeam to break through, crashing into Groudon, knocking it backwards. Unable to withstand the full force of multiple teams' focused assault, Groudon at last crumpled to the ground with a terrifying crash, sending one final tremor through the cavern before everything became still again. As the dust gradually settled, the combatants maintained battle-ready stances, however exhausted the skirmish may have left them, but it was quickly becoming apparent that Groudon wasn't moving. A slow sigh emanated from its hulking form, furthered when the runic glyphs across its body slowly dimmed, then extinguished. Shin'ichi landed on his feet after the attack.

"...i-is it over?" Naomi tentatively asked from the back lines of the group. Even with their opponent face-down on the ground, the Ralts was still transfixed by it.

"Oh YEAH!" Shin'ichi said. "That was awesome!"

"So we really did it then, didn't we?" the young Roselia excitedly said. "This has got to be the coolest thing! We're totally heroes now!"

"Sure seems that way," Naomi noted, looking over the felled behemoth with more trepidation than excitement. "But don't you think that was a little too...easy?"

"Easy?" Shin'ichi asked with a slight edge to his tone. "I'm not sure we'd still be here if we hadn't dropped him when we did. What makes you say that it was easy?"

"I...don't really know," Naomi said, hanging her head a bit . "I just can't shake the feel that fighting something like Groudon, the kind of thing you only read about in books, would've been more..."

The Ralts' theory was abruptly cut off when a dim humming began to emanate from the collapsed Groudon, steadily increasing in pitch. With a vibrant pulse coursing through its body, Groudon began to shift once again, then simply dissolved into a nova of light and vanished altogether. Before the mystery of the disappearing legendary could even begin, the group was swiftly greeted by another enigma.

"So," a strange, baffling voice began, seeming to emanate from everywhere and nowhere at once. "You have my defeated Groudon. Somewhat impressive."

"Who's there?" Shin'ichi called out, quickly pivoting around on the spot in attempt to identify where this newest contender was lurking. "Show yourself!"

"There is no need for such crassness," the voice carried on, maintaining an emotionless tone. "As I have said before, I am the guardian of Fogbound Lake."

"Wait, wait," Naomi interrupted, glancing around the chamber as well. "If you're the guardian, then what does that make your Groudon?"

"It is naught but an illusion of my design," the voice deftly replied. "A means by which I may deter trespassers such as yourselves. I will not allow you to reach Fogbound Lake, under any circumstances. Prepare yourselves."

"W-wait, hold up a minute!" Rosa interjected quickly. "W-we're not here to cause trouble, honest!"

"...oh?" the voice asked, a hint of bemusement in its tone. "I see no reason to believe otherwise. What reason could you have for coming to this place?"

"Well, Exploration Teams, for one thing," Shin'ichi explained, quirking his brow with what felt like an obvious answer. "It's kinda what we do, exploring new places. It didn't seem like anyone had ever been here, so we figured 'why not?'."

"...hmm." the voice replied simply. A strange presence seemed to enter the chamber following the voice's pause, felt but unseen as it perused the cavern's occupants. The same bizarre, alien presence brushed against the very minds of the Explorers, almost as though it were sampling them. At last it spoke again: "Very well."

"You're...just letting us go?" Naomi uncertainly asked, still searching for the unseen presence.

"I shall place my faith in you, for now," answered the voice, becoming more tremulous with every passing instant. Just before the cavern entrance from which the illusory Groudon had emerged, shimmering lights began to materialize from thin air and converge on a single point. A small, demure form quickly manifested from the shimmering array before settling into a more recognizable entity.

It was rather small, certainly, around the general heights of much of the group, but it commanded a distinct presence, an aura of power. It seemed a strange mirage of colors over its pixie like body, while its eyes were kept lightly closed as if in perpetual thought. Three thin, tapered tails of sorts seemed to hang freely behind it and drift aimlessly in some nonexistent breeze.

"Come," the lake guardian commanded, gesturing down the tunnel behind it almost curtly. "There is something that I must show you, if I am to entrust you with the knowledge of the lake's existence."

"If you're gonna trust us like this," Shin'ichi began, eyes never wavering from the newly appeared Pokemon. "Can we at least have something to call you?"

"I have gone by several names in the past," the guardian noted, offering a slight half-smile in return. "But at present, you may address me as 'Uxie'."

The group followed Uxie down the passageway in relative silence, maintaining a slight distance between them and the fabled guardian.

"You need not fear me, at least not yet," Uxie informed, though its tone was hardly reassuring. "My precautions are entirely justified. Come, gaze into the Lake."

Moments later, the party had stepped out into the open once more, securely atop the top of the plateau that they had rarely seen from anywhere but in the distance and from its base. Stretching out to the very edges of their vision was an immense, awing lake, as clear as crystal and already populated quite densely with a number of indigenous Pokemon.

"Oh, man, did we really take that long?" Naomi said, looking at the time of the day. "It's almost night!"

"Wow..." Rosa muttered, taking in the majestic sights. "You've got yourself quite the set-up, huh?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes," Uxie replied coolly, quirking a brow. "But it is in the depths of the lake that its secret lies. Observe." With a soft hum, Uxie's 'tails' illuminated with a gentle light; moments later, a similar glow shone from near the bottom of the basin. In the clarity of the waters, it appeared to be some sort of platinum gear-shaped object, glinting back in the light.

"Oh, wow!" Rosa said, her eyes lighting up. "I don't know what that is, but...it's beautiful!"

"Why is my pulse racing at the sight of it?" Shin'ichi said. "I... I can't control this feeling..."

"Uxie... What is that?" Naomi asked.

"What you three are looking upon now is a treasure far too valuable to take. That object you see within this lake... is a Time Gear." Uxie said.

"Wh-what?!" Naomi said. "That's a Time Gear?!"

"Yes," Uxie said. "It is the sole reason I am here."

"I don't suppose that's what's attracted people to try to come before, huh?" Naomi asked, regarding the distant gear with curiosity.

"In the majority of instances, yes, the Time Gear has been their intent" Uxie stated matter-of-factly, slowly dimming the light before turning back to the group. "While many in the past have been deterred by my illusions, there have been rare instances where the illusions have been defeated, much as you have done. Like so.."

A quick flash occurred, and soon a transparent figure of Groudon appeared next to the lake. Naomi gasped and leaped away, hiding behind Shin'ichi.

"Do not be afraid, it is merely an illusion," Uxie said. "It will not attack you."

"Okay..." Naomi said, hesitantly coming out from behind from Shin'ichi.

"Drastic, yet subtle, measures were necessary," Uxie explained, gaze never wavering. "I would not bring harm upon those who came here, but they would not be allowed to return easily. I saw it as necessary to modify their memories; at the very least, Fogbound Lake would cease to exist in their minds. For others, more extensive removals were in order."

"Wait," Shin'ichi said. "Uxie, I need to ask you something."

"Very well," Uxie said. "What is it?"

"You see, I can't remember a thing about my past, and before, I was human." Shin'ichi explained. "By any chance, has a human ever visited here and have you taken their memories?"

"In short..." Uxie said. "No. No human has ever visited Fogbound Lake. Furthermore, I can only erase memories of Fogbound Lake, not entire memories of a person's existance. Nor do I have any doing in your friend's transformation into a Pokémon. The cause lies elsewhere."

"Oh... Ok." Shin'ichi said.

"Oh, there you three are!" A voice rang. The trio of Team Valor turned to see Wigglytuff at the entrance to the cave. "Good job finding the lake!"

"...and this is..?" Uxie asked.

"Oh, that's our Guildmaster." Rosa said. "He doesn't mean any harm."

"Oh, hello friend!" Wigglytuff said to the Groudon illusion.

"He's...a bit odd." Shin'ichi said.

"Guildmaster!" Another voice rang, revealing that the rest of the guild had rushed up to find them. "What in the name of- aaaAAAHH! Groudon!"

"Relax, all of you." Uxie had said. "It is merely an illusion of mine."

"What?" Chatot said.

"Besides, you all need to see this!" Naomi said. The rest of the guild turned to see a large fountain, bursting up from the lake. The reflection of light from the Time Gear and the flitting Volbeat and Illumise created a beautiful sight.

"Wow..." Rosa breathed. "This is so beautiful..."

"I think this is more beautiful than any treasure..." Naomi said. "This is the true treasure of Fogbound Lake!"

"Very sorry to intrude on you Uxie." Wigglytuff apologized.

"I have no intention of cleansing your minds, not after I have willingly allowed you into this sanctuary," the guardian explained. "I tell you all of this that you might understand the gravity of the situation. The Time Gear is but one of many, but all are crucial to the stability of our world. Further, there are those that would see to using it for their own selfish ends. This must not come to pass. Are we in understanding?"

"Yes...yes, I think so," Naomi answered, still staring off into the depths of the lake. "That you'd trust us with this is, well..."

"It is hardly an easy feat," the guardian mused. "But too long have I remained here, considering the world with distrust and paranoia. It is time for a change." Silence fell over the area, save for the soft sounds of the lake.

"Go, then, and think on what I have shown you."

"Very well," Chatot said, turning to the rest of the guild. "Guild, I hereby officially call this expedition to a close!"

"So, this 'Spinda Food Court'..." Loudred asked. "Is this place any good?"

"Hopefully, hey," Corphish said. "I've heard good rumors about their berry sodas, hey hey."

"Well, there's the entrance right there," Sunflora said.

"Hey, at least this'll save a night for Chimecho's cooking." Loudred said. "She should be grateful."

As the guild shuffled into the food court, loud jovial music was playing. The trio on stage were performing a grand show as the entire guild sat down at a large table. The guild feasted on the berry pizza's brought out for a successful expedition.

Once it was all said and done, the guild turned in for the night, ready for what tomorrow would hold...

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