Wes, Rui and Eagun stood around Hariyama, examining it carefully. The fighting type had taken a seat on the ground to rest after the battle.
"Hmm..." Eagun stroked his beard in thought. "There can be no doubt. Whichever way I look at it, this is just a regular Pokémon." He concluded.
Rui squinted at Hariyama from multiple angles and distances. "There's no trace of that aura at all! And it's not acting the least bit hostile!"
Hariyama shuffled awkwardly under their combined scrutiny. "Yama?"
"Huh? Oh, I'm sorry! This must be so confusing!" Rui patted Hariyama's head (which she could only reach because it was sitting down) in a supportive gesture. "You did great today!"
"Hari!" Hariyama blushed at the praise.
"Please stop coddling my Pokémon." Wes finally spoke. "Again." Rui just
'd at him and stepped back. "Hariyama, do you remember anything about being a Shadow Pokémon? Or something that could have triggered a change?" Wes asked. Hariyama tilted its head in thought before shrugging. "Guess not. So how do we know what caused the change?"
"Is that not obvious?" Eagun tapped the rock pillar they'd been protecting with his staff. "It must have been that light from the Relic Stone!"
Wes and Rui walked over to the stone. "Why is this thing so important again?" Rui asked as she brushed some moss off of the top.
"No one knows the exact story." Eagun explained. "Supposedly though this stone was a gift from the legendary Pokémon Celibi to the people of Orre. Agate Village was built around it. I'm not sure who started the tradition, but it became a retirement home so that it would always be populated by veteran trainers. That way the Relic Stone would always be protected."
"That's... actually kind of clever." Wes admitted. "But how does that "cure" Shadow Pokémon? The Centers can't even detect anything about them." Eagun stroked his beard in thought, obviously having no answer.
"Hey, why don't you try it with another Shadow Pokémon?" Rui suggested. "We can test if it was a fluke and maybe figure out how it works!" She brushed the moss clear off the round indent on the pillar. "And if it works all the better, right?"
Wes contemplated for a moment. If this stone really could heal Shadow Pokémon, or purify them or whatever, then they'd lose their Shadow Rush and inability to feel pain. That had been rather useful lately, especially against other Shadow Pokémon. And they certainly were strong in battle. They fought hard and obeyed without hesitation.
He then realized that those were probably the exact same justifications that Cipher was using to create Shadow Pokémon in the first place. And the last thing he'd ever want would to be compared to those goons. Wes pulled out the Pokeball containing the Hitmontop he just snagged and placed it in the Relic Stone.
And nothing happened. "Umm... We might have an issue." Wes tried picking the ball up and putting it back in again. Still nothing. "Are we sure this is the right one?"
"Positive!" Eagun strode forward to reexamine the stone. "Are you sure this isn't an empty Pokeball?"
In response, Wes released the Hitmontop into the center of the glade. Though still wounded, the fighting type stoic and grim faced. "Pretty sure."
"Strange, I'm certain the Relic Stone was the cause of blah blah blah…"
Rui knelt down to look closely at Hitmontop. Its Hyper Mode had ended, but the dark aura only she could still blazed all over its body. Her mind drifted back to when she first saw Hyper Mode, when Makuhita's aura ran wild.
How its aura had seemed to fade after a day with Wes.
"Ah! Wes, try an older Pokémon!" Rui suggested as she stood back up.
"Yeah. Like one of the ones you snagged in Phenac!"
Perplexed, Wes pulled out another ball, this one belonging to Remoraid. He placed the ball into the opening...
Light once again suddenly engulfed the area, centered around the Pokeball, before fading just as fast. Wes tentatively picked up the ball. "Come out Remoraid." He tossed the ball in the direction of a pond on the edge of the glade.
Remoraid disappeared under the water before they could get a good look at it. As they waited for it to surface, another light started glowing under the surface. As the light faded (again) a round red head poked out.
The three humans rushed over to the pond so fast, Octillery actually ducked back in shock.
"There's no aura again!" Rui said.
"It must have been ready to evolve for a while." Eagun noted. "However, since that woman indicated that Shadow Pokémon cannot evolve it never did. While it is always possible she was lying, it is more likely-blahblahblah..."
Wes poked the water type's head curiously. It was harder than it looked. "Huh. Never seen an Octilerlly before. Not enough water in Orre."
Octilerlly reached up with its tentacles and wrapped around Wes's arm. Wes jumped up in surprise, holding his arm out.
Octilerlly dangled off the bottom of Wes's arm like an oversized accessory, eyes closed in content. "Looks like it enjoys being upside down!" Rui noted.
"Good for you." Wes grunted as he tried to pry the tentacles off. "But try it on something else; you're heavier than you look." Octillerly huffed in annoyance and plopped to the ground, crawling over to a tree and climbing that instead.
"This seems to prove that the Relic Stone cures Shadow Pokémon!" Eagun huffed. "Little wonder they sought to destroy it. It's the one thing that has a real chance at thwarting their schemes, whatever they are."
"Right..." Wes pointed at the two fighting types standing by each other. "But what's the difference between Hitmontop and these two?"
"When I look at Hitmontop, I still see that dark aura around it, and it's really strong." Rui explained. "Remoraid's and Makuhita's auras have been getting weaker and smaller. I bet that had something to do with it!"
The others didn't really have much of a choice but to take her word for it. "And what makes these auras get smaller?" Wes asked.
Rui thought about it more a moment. "Umm... The power of friendship?" Wes snorted loudly at that. "Don't give me that! You don't have any better ideas yourself!"
"Yeah, but "friendship"?" What is this, a cartoon?" Wes chuckled.
Before an argument broke out Eagun tapped his staff against the ground. "Don't be so quick to dismiss Rui’s theory. In my years of training I've seen firsthand the obstacles a strong enough bond can overcome." He turned away from the two teens to face the purified Pokémon. (Rui stuck her tongue out at Wes gloatingly) "It might very well be that your innate respect for these Pokémon sparked a reaction that would not occur with those that see them only as weapons. (Wes pinched her tongue between two fingers, not hard enough to hurt, but firm enough to keep from pulling it back.) After all, people can affect others simply by being near them, so claiming that emotions alone would have no affect on Pokémon, especially ones under such extraordinary conditions is a bit presumptuous. (Rui swatted at Wes's hand while he smirked at her reaction.) Of course, all of this is conjecture on my part, so I suppose you can take it with a grain of salt." He turned back to his young companions. "...Is something wrong?"
Wes, hands innocuously in his pockets just shrugged. "Right, right. Power of friendship and all that jazz. One of life's great mysteries." He said while Rui glared daggers at him.
"Humph." Eagun sighed. "Well whatever the case may be, I suggest trying to purify the rest of your Shadow Pokémon, just in case."
Several attempts later, four former Shadow Pokémon stood in the center of the glade. Tropius was resting on a sunny patch of ground. Quilava had the scent of something and was digging at the roots of a tree to find it. Octillerly had found another tree branch that it seemed comfy dangling from, and Hariyama was starting to doze off in their seat.
"Lo and behold, the dreaded Shadow Pokémon in all their might." Wes noted. "Remind me why this was a good idea again?" He asked sarcastically, as Quilava got its head stuck between two roots.
Rui just giggled as she hurried over and helped the fire type. "So, just these four were purified?" She asked. "You didn't miss anything right? Check all your pockets?" Wes nodded. "And these are the ones you've been using the most in battle too." Rui noted as she pulled Quilava free.
"Hmm... But if battling alone was enough to cause such changes in the Shadow Pokémon, then the ones you snagged from Cipher would likely be purification ready as well." Eagun deduced. "There must be something more to all this."
Rui set Quilava down. "Say, can we finish this discussion back in town?" She asked. "I'm still a little worried about the rest of the villagers."
"That sounds like a good plan." Eagun agreed. "Come; let us return to my house." He turned and headed down the tunnel.
Rui picked up Plusle, who had been trying to climb Tropius's neck to get one of the fruit, and was about to follow her grandfather before she stopped. "Will... will you be coming with us, Wes?" She asked.
Wes was quiet for a moment before letting out a deep, almost exasperated sigh. "Yeah, just give me a few minutes to collect these guys." Rui nodded and hurried after Eagun.
Wes looked around at the Pokémon that surrounded him. When he had first snagged them as Shadow Pokémon, their status on his team had been... questionable. At best. Now that they were regular Pokémon again, there was only one thing left to do.
A young Wes picked up the bowl of paint.
"Your name is Shin now! This is a mark of our bond!"
Wes brushed his thumb across Shin's upper face, just under their eyes. "There now we match!" He and the Pokémon giggled together.
Wes released Shade and Lumir from their Pokeballs. They needed a say in this too. "Hey guys, can you gather around for a minute?" He addressed the Pokémon in the glade. After a few seconds the group stood before Wes. "Listen, the way we all met couldn't be further from normal, so I gotta start by asking. Any of you have any issues with me being your trainer?"
The former Shadow Pokémon looked at each other, silently debating among themselves. Hariyama looked to Shade and Lumir. The Eeveelutions both nodded eagerly, Shade breaking into an encouraging smile.
Hariyama clapped its hands together and bowed to Wes. "Yama!" In a blur of motion, Quilava rushed up to Hariyama's shoulder and mimicked the bow. "Quil!" Tropius reached its neck out and let Wes place a hand atop its head. Octillerly huffed again before climbing up Tropius's neck and putting a tentacle over Wes' hand.
"Guess I'll take that as a collective yes." Wes smirked. "In that case, there's one thing I have to do first." Taking his coat and gloves off, he gathered some water and dirt into a large leaf, mixing it into mud. "Where I come from we normally use paint for this, but we'll have to make due." He explained. "It's a part of becoming... family."
Wes stepped up to Tropius, dabbed his thumb into the mud, and gently but firmly ran it across the bridge of her nose. "Your name is Fleafa." She nodded in understanding.
Next Wes painted Octillerly's face, swiping the area between his eyes and spout. "You are Clim." Clim tried to roll his eyes and huff again, but couldn't seem to bring himself to.
Wes moved on to Quilava. "You are Frahme." Frahme smiled at his new name before sneezing at the mud that was a tad too close to his nose.
Finally Wes wiped a streak under Hariyama's eyes. "And you are Katch." Katch beamed at his new name.
Wes stood back to look at his Pokémon. His new team. Then he looked at Shade and Lumir. Smiling in spite of himself, he knelt down and made the same marks on their faces too.
"Shade, because you protect me." The pale haired child rubbed the mark across the Eevee's face. "Lumir, because you guide me." He gave Shade's sister the same mark.
"And you never stopped..." Wes sighed. “One heck of a group we’ve become since then...” A rolling stone can still gather moss.
But only if it picks up a few nicks and scratches along the way.