Kerian's thoughts and dialogue are best read in the voice of Monty Oum, based on his performance as Ren in RWBY's first two volumes. If, understandably, you'd rather not imagine that, then Neath Oum's Ren voice works too.

Not a Mystery Dungeon universe. Not that there's any issue with that, I just wanted more freedom with the setting and characters in this story.

One late morning, a young reptile stood in a room lit only by the flame on his tail. A large blue flame emitting enough light to reveal most of the lizard's features. Covered mostly in abnormal cyan scales, he wore a black belt with two small scabbards attached to either side, sheathing a pair of kunai, plus a small pouch on the back. From his chest to the tip of his tail, ordinarily cream-colored scales were silver. Above the chest, a green scarf wrapped around the reptile's neck, secure, comfortable, and cool as the excess length waved slowly. The emblem of a sword was embedded in the scarf's end.

The lizard's tail flicked, flame shrinking and cooling from blue to red. With a quick head turn, green eyes observed the flame, briefly revealing the reptile's head, which featured a long snout with a slight hook on the end, and a small horn-like protrusion on the back. He also wore a headset featuring a green visor, an earpiece, and a microphone. In spite of the odd coloration and accessories, this was unmistakably a Charmeleon.

Said Charmeleon turned his eyes up into the darkness as his flame dimmed further, swinging his tail back behind him as he nodded to something unseen. Then, a voice began to speak through his earpiece.

"We're taking that as the OK, Kerian. Stealth test begins now."

The sound of doors opening alerted the Charmeleon, Kerian, who tossed a grappling hook directly upwards, hooking a gargoyle and zipping up to it. The fire lizard flipped as he reached the gargoyle, silently landing atop while crouching. Atop the vantage point, most enemies couldn't see him, especially with his tail flame dimmed. Already adjusted to the dark, Kerian ignored the visor on his headset as he observed the room.

Large, wide open. There were two levels, the upper level featuring a simple walkway with a railing, creating a hollow square. One ladder on Kerian's right, another on his left, and above the walkway was four gargoyles, including the one he stood upon. The lower level was harder to make out, but Kerian could tell there were some floor grates he could probably hide in.

The room itself scouted, Kerian looked towards the guards. Their species were difficult to discern in the dark, but Kerian recognized the glowing yellow rings of a quadruped. An Umbreon. Kerian could also make out two other quadrupeds, a Pikachu, and four bipedal Pokémon. Two of those bipeds caught his eye, both standing near a door. Evidently, they were the last to enter.

One had a tail flame like his own, illuminating a red-scaled tail. The figure was short, too, perhaps just a bit taller than Kerian. An ordinary Charmeleon, or at least one colored more normally than he. If it weren't for his abnormal color scheme, Kerian might've been able to take advantage of the other Charmeleon's presence. Alas, no such luck.

The other interesting guard was far more concerning, however. A Lucario. Their aura vision rendered most types of stealth moot. Kerian could never figure out how to disrupt it besides, obviously, knocking out the jackal. That made it the highest priority target. Thankfully, most Lucario were too honorable to work with villains… but there were always exceptions.

Fortunately, the other Charmeleon and the Lucario were under a vantage point. Being directly across from Kerian's perch, however, made grappling directly to it a bit risky. The normally colored fire lizard separated from the jackal, walking to Kerian's left while the Lucario went right. Kerian swung around to the side the other reptile was headed for, gripping the tip of his tail to hide his flame from sight. The red lizard didn't seem to notice the blue one, even as the latter grappled over to the next gargoyle.

Kerian's target walked under the gargoyle that had been to his right when he'd noticed the jackal, but Kerian quietly climbed down to the walkway as the Lucario turned its gaze upward at the vantage point. Kerian crouched, slowly walking up behind the blue-furred biped, then leapt upon his target's back, gripping the canine's nose and covering its mouth as it tried to yell, while also force-feeding it a Spore-laden pill. The Lucario fell on its rear from the Charmeleon's weight and futilely, silently struggled for a few seconds, before falling still. Kerian gently set the unconscious canine down as it began to snore softly. It was then that the fire lizard noticed something about the sleeping jackal—its ears were plugged, and it wore a strange pair of goggles. Removing them from the Lucario, Kerian took a closer look.

Handicaps, as he suspected. The goggles limited the wearer's field of vision to a narrow line-of-sight, and the ear plugs were…well, ear plugs. The cyan Charmeleon frowned, glaring at the items, then grappled up to the gargoyle above with the handicaps in his claws as the other Charmeleon stopped under the first vantage point Kerian had used and looked up at it. The red reptile turned its head back down and looked around itself for a moment, before turning around and walking back the other way. Kerian grappled over to the gargoyle his next target was walking away from, then quietly dropped down behind the other fire lizard.

Drawing a kunai, Kerian walked up behind the other reptile with less caution than he'd used for the Lucario. The red one's flame gave away that it wore similar goggles and a modified pair of earmuffs. With incredible precision, Kerian cut the strap for the goggles and quickly slipped off the earmuffs, then grappled back up to his first perch. On the walkway, the normal Charmeleon stopped, narrowing its eyes in confusion, then shook its head and continued walking.

With only the other Charmeleon on the walkways, Kerian had to get to the floor. He waited for the other Charmeleon to pass under another gargoyle, then grappled over to the vantage point and dropped down silently several feet away from the red reptile, then flipped over the railing and clung to the underside of the walkway. Once there, Kerian's tail curled so that his flame was inches from his chest, hiding it from sight. From this position, the blue reptile could better observe the rest of his opponents. Six foes, aside from the other Charmeleon and the unconscious Lucario.

Umbreon and Pikachu, he knew from earlier. The remaining four were a Braixen, a Riolu, a Linoone, and Flareon. All wearing the goggles the first two had, and Kerian could see specialized sound-reducing objects for each one too. The Riolu, Linoone, and Braixen had special earmuffs, and the rest had what the reptile could only call 'ear-sleeves'. The oddly colored lizard's eye-ridge twitched in irritation. Resisting the urge to growl, Kerian turned his attention to mapping out the rest of the lower level, certain he wouldn't be spotted in his current position.

Five grates on the floor around the main room. One in the center, four near the corners of the room. Said corners had two doorways each. A set of inter-connected hallways, Kerian guessed, and presumably the grates would allow him to follow his foes unseen more easily. As if that was a problem with those handicaps.

Seeing the Pikachu pass below him, Kerian dropped down silently behind it. Mere inches from its tail, Kerian could easily make out the distinct lightning bolt shape, a sharp, flat edge that revealed the mouse was male. Said mouse was oblivious as the cyan Charmeleon took a casual stance with his claws gripping his twin kunai in a manner reminiscent of a hands-in-pockets posture and followed him around. The two passed into a hallway, confirming Kerian's guess. It was a bit wider than it likely needed to be, even for a relatively large Pokémon like a Snorlax, and as he followed the Pikachu through it, he stepped over a grate. When the two exited the hallway, Kerian found they were on the opposite side of the room that they'd entered the hallway from.

Kerian followed the Pikachu through another doorway, leading to an identical hallway. As they walked over the floor grate in that hall, Kerian's expression turned deadpan as he realized the electric mouse was still completely oblivious to his presence, despite barely attempting to be stealthy. He was walking quietly, sure, but his steps and breathing were out of sync with the Pikachu. Were those ear-sleeve objects truly so effective?

After exiting the hallway, Kerian privately wondered how long he could've followed the Pikachu without alerting him while making minimal attempt at stealth, he didn't have a time limit after all, but everyone there had a literal million better things to do with their day. As the mouse wandered into the next hallway, Kerian sliced off the goggles and ear-sleeves with precision, then pounced to the underside of the walkway, crawling along it and occasionally peeking over the edge.

The situation had changed while he was following the Pikachu. The Braixen and Riolu had climbed up to the walkways and were quietly speaking with the other Charmeleon. The Umbreon, Linoone, and Flareon were still on ground level with him and the Pikachu, though, and didn't seem to have noticed where their bipedal companions had gone. Since the bipeds were more likely to spot him before he could finish his self-assigned task, Kerian decided to focus on the quadrupeds. Luckily for him, the Flareon appeared under him just then, exiting the hallway Kerian had just come from. The fire-lizard quickly dropped beside the Eeveelution and sliced off the handicaps, managing to avoid alerting the Flareon even as he was forced to walk around it to get the other ear-sleeve off.

Kerian went back to proper stealth technique as he moved behind the Flareon and followed it into another hallway. When they reached the floor grate, Kerian carefully ducked into it and waited. If they were following the routes he expected from what he'd seen, the Umbreon or Linoone would be there soon.

The stealthy reptile's patience paid off, as he found the Linoone walking over his grate. Kerian took a moment to check the way the badger had come from as best as he could from under the floor, then peeked his head out from the grate slowly. Fortunately, there was nothing behind the Linoone, so Kerian turned back to it and climbed out of the grate. Even more fortunately, the Linoone didn't bother looking behind itself, so Kerian was quite free to catch up and remove its handicaps. He followed the Linoone out, and looked back to see the Umbreon enter the hallway they'd just been in.

Kerian pressed his back to the wall between the main room and said hallway, gripping his tail flame again and observing the room as he waited for the moon-fox. The bipeds, aside the from the Pikachu, were still on the walkways. He knew the Linoone had entered the next hallway, and he spotted the Flareon exit a hallway on the opposite corner of the room as the Pikachu entered it.

A yellow glow in his peripheral alerted Kerian to the Umbreon's presence. The goggles it wore were likely the only thing that prevented the moon-fox from sighting the fire-lizard, which was a slight relief, but rather frustrating. Shaking it off, Kerian followed the black-furred fox and silently removed the goggles and one of the ear-sleeves. Unlike the others, the Umbreon's ear flicked once its handicaps were removed, and it looked back as soon as it felt the sleeve vanish. Seeing nothing, the moon-fox turned for a better look around itself.

"Why didn't you just knock me out…?" the Umbreon muttered. The moon-fox continued to look around for a moment, then flicked its naked ear and walked on, looking around much more cautiously.

Kerian, clinging to the ceiling, exhaled slowly. He'd pounced up silently the moment the Umbreon stopped, but it was a close call. The moon-fox was much more alert than the others. The blue Charmeleon didn't like it, but he wound up leaving the other ear-sleeve on.

'No more carelessness.'

That decided, there were still two Pokémon to un-handicap, and seven to KO.

Kerian carefully crawled along the ceiling behind the Umbreon. The reptile watched the lunar mammal's tail vanish into the next hallway before he dropped down, carefully exited the hall himself, and pounced to the walkway. He peeked over the edge, and when he found the bipeds weren't able to spot him, he climbed up and grappled to a gargoyle.

From his perch, Kerian found the other Charmeleon, the Braixen, and the Riolu gathered around the sleeping Lucario, the red reptile and bipedal fire-fox holding their tail or stick out as torches. From the way the quadrupeds on the ground level were going about and the fact that they were under a gargoyle, they had only just discovered the bigger jackal. Gathered so close together, it was the perfect time for a certain move. Kerian swung over to the vantage point above them and quickly exhaled a large cloud of smoke upon them.

The immediate effect was the three stumbling about in surprised, coughing as they tried to wave the smoke away and find each other in it.

"S-Smokescreen!" The Braixen exclaimed.

"I can't—" The Riolu was cut off by a coughing fit. "—see anything!"

"He's ab—" The Charmeleon began to say, looking upward, only to find a pill lodged in its throat.

While the normal-looking Charmeleon choked, Kerian had touched down in the cloud and swiftly removed the Braixen's handicap. A quick swing of his kunai sliced through the Riolu's goggles a moment later, causing it to shriek and stumbled backwards. It then stumbled the other way as Kerian slashed the earmuffs from the other side a moment later, then grappled back to the gargoyle above and swung to another before anyone could spot him.

"Cyn? Aurora?! Either of you?" The Braixen called out between coughs.

"I-I'm fine!" The Riolu replied. "He just…destroyed the gear."

The Braixen sighed, then realized its Charmeleon ally hadn't responded. "Cyn? Cyn, are you okay? Say something! Cynder!"

Then the Smokescreen dissipated, allowing the red reptile's tail flame to reveal it lying on its back while the Braixen and Riolu looked around in concern. When the two noticed their friend wasn't moving, the Braixen's stick-torch revealed that it was asleep.

"He got Cynder…" the Braixen whispered.

"Well, there goes the only other girl here," the Riolu stated irritably. "Why didn't he just knock us out, too?"

"Aurora!" A voice called from the lower level, getting the Riolu's attention. The Umbreon hopped onto the railing, stepped off, and approached the jackal with a concerned expression. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Rae," the Riolu, Aurora, replied as the rest of the conscious Pokémon climbed up the ladder.

"You all okay?" The Braixen asked, shifting its stick to see the others.

"Looks like all he's done so far is destroy the goggles and sound-reducers," the Flareon replied. "I didn't think he'd knocked out anyone yet. Why would he make things harder on himself like this?"

"My best guess is that he likes the challenge, or found it insulting that they felt the need to tip things in his favor." The Umbreon said. "Of course, there's a number of possibilities. It's hard to say for sure."

"So, what do we do from here?" The Linoone asked. "Do we keep going, or what?"

"Pretty sure we wouldn't be having this discussion if we were supposed to stop now," The Pikachu deadpanned. "Anyway, looks like the only handicap left is on one of Raven's ears."

The Umbreon's covered ear flicked. "Should I go ahead and take it off?"

"I mean, if you don't, he's probably gonna," Aurora stated.

The Umbreon, Raven, nodded. With a brief blue glow, the ear-sleeve slipped off.

"We should get moving. Split into groups of two and watch each other's backs. Our target's not likely to dawdle much longer, and this'll either go on forever or end in about five seconds if we all stick together," Raven said.

"Well, in that case, I'm with you, little bro," the Flareon announced, wrapping a foreleg around the Umbreon.

"Thank you, Cardinal." Raven replied.

"Guess I'll go with Corrin then, since his boyfriend's not here." Aurora said, instantly flustering the Braixen.

"Th-that's…we're not like that!" The bipedal fire-fox replied, sweatdropping.

"So that leaves me to pair up with Miles." The Pikachu concluded.

"Alright. With that settled, let's get moving." Raven said.

With that, the group separated, oblivious to the blue Charmeleon who lay in waiting above. Once again, his patience had paid off. Aurora and the Braixen, Corrin, hopped over the railing to the ground floor, followed shortly by Raven and Cardinal. The Pikachu who was yet unnamed and the Linoone, Miles, remained on the upper level, scouting the walkways. The mouse and badger, plus the jackal and bipedal fire-fox, were back-to-back, though the Eeveelution brothers walked side by side as they scoured the floor.

Kerian smirked.

The abnormal fire-lizard swung to a vantage point across from the mouse and badger duo, then grappled down to the walkway and flipped over the railing, catching the ledge. Kerian adjusted himself to cling to the underside of the walkway like earlier, then looked around for Aurora and Corrin or the Eevees. He spotted the quadrupeds walking into a hallway and carefully crawled after them, holding his tail flame close to his chest. He peeked into the hall, and quickly pulled back, narrowly avoiding a beam of light from Raven's forehead ring.

The cyan Charmeleon glanced around, then silently sighed. That Umbreon had nearly spotted him twice already. Causing genuine tension meant that moon-fox was his highest priority, even if it was rather nice to see one so perceptive. After a moment, Kerian crawled back up to the doorway and peeked in again. Fortunately, Raven was facing the other way, though the brothers were now back-to-back. Slowly, the blue reptile crawled along the ceiling, creeping towards the mammals with utmost caution. As he approached, he picked up on them whispering to each other, apparently finding time for a conversation despite the situation.

"Sorry if I kept you from pairing up with your girlfriend," Cardinal apologized, causing the Umbreon to sigh.

"…There's no issue, Card." Raven replied. "Honestly, this is better. Robin and Kris can't kill anyone for not protecting their precious baby brothers if said brothers get knocked out together. And Aurora's safe since she's a girl."

"Oh, they're not that bad."

"Rob, sure. Kris, on the other paw…" Raven said, shuddering. "Honestly, that Braixen…"

Wordlessly, Cardinal stopped, looking back at Raven with confusion. Kerian took advantage of the Flareon's distraction, dropping down and force-feeding him a sleep pill as he opened his mouth to speak. The cyan Charmeleon easily flipped the fire-fox onto his back, restraining his forelegs and covering his mouth.

"You know, she went crazy on me out of absolutely nowhere one time?" Raven rambled, oblivious to his brother's muffled attempts to scream. "I mean, I get that she doesn't trust guys, but if it weren't for Canary…" The Umbreon stopped, rubbing his face with a paw… and then realized he couldn't hear his brother's footsteps. "…Card?"

Kerian gently lay the limp Flareon down, then pounced to the ceiling just in time to avoid the moon-fox's gaze. Raven walked over to his brother, examining the sleeping fire-fox with somewhat needless concern. Cardinal wasn't hurt, but to Kerian, the Umbreon seemed to be panicking all of a sudden. The Charmeleon's gaze fell for the briefest of moments, but then he shook his head and dropped down behind Raven. Kerian quickly flipped the moon-fox, neutralizing him with a sleep pill. For some reason, after a moment's struggle, the Umbreon simply surrendered before passing out. Kerian couldn't begin to figure it out, but he had more immediate things to focus on.

Four down, four to go.

Kerian ducked into the floor grate in the hallway, following it out in the main room. He'd been about to pass under another grate and look around when a voice caused him to pause.

"…why can't you sense him all the time?"

"Because I'm not a natural talent with aura like my brother. My senses are just a little stronger than the average Riolu's. This feeling was specific because I'm close with Raven and some strong emotions were going on a few seconds ago."

"'Close with'? You can just call him your boyfriend."

Kerian heard the Riolu sigh.

"I don't think so. Ten years together, but he's…"


"No. Rae's too smart to be oblivious. He's… scared, I think. At least, that's what I sense whenever that kinda thing comes up."

Kerian watched two pairs of black paws walk over the grate, facing the same direction. After taking a moment to breathe and re-focus, the cyan Charmeleon crept out of his grate and, after spotting the Pikachu and Linoone on the walkway thanks to the former's Flash lighting up his cheeks, silently followed the bipedal canines as their tails vanished into the hallway he'd just been in.

"…anyway, w-we're getting—" Aurora gasped. "Raven!"

Kerian froze as he heard the Riolu's thundering footsteps, followed by the softer sounds of the Braixen's paws. The Charmeleon peeked around the doorway to see Corrin illuminating the unconscious quadrupeds as Aurora crouched beside them.

"I'm going to get murdered by a rampaging Espeon…"

"Robin's not that bad. These two aren't even hurt!"

"It's the principle of the thing, Corrin! We failed to protect his baby brothers!"

"You're seriously overreacting…"

"You've never seen what happens to his enemies!"

Kerian cracked a small grin at the conversation, even as he retrieved a small pellet from his belt slightly bigger than his sleep-inducing pills. The blue fire-lizard tossed it around the corner with surprising precision, causing the pellet to land softly and roll directly between the Riolu and Braixen. It caught both their attention, but before either could make a move, it detonated, spreading Sleep Powder all over them. Several seconds later, Kerian heard the two fall to the ground and start snoring.

With Aurora and Corrin dealt with, Kerian pounced silently up to the underside of the walkway again, setting his sight on the last two Pokémon to deal with. The blue Charmeleon looked around, spotting the bright glow of the Pikachu's Flash over the side of the walkway. If the mouse and badger hadn't split up, they were both coming right to him. The fire-lizard silently crawled along under them, then climbed over the railing as they turned a corner, narrowly avoiding the light of Flash.

Said light fortunately revealed that Miles was still paired with the Pikachu. Unfortunately, the two were likely the most intelligent pair in their group. The Pikachu's Flash allowed him to peek at the ground floor mostly unhindered, and whenever the mouse would glance over the railing, the Linoone would rise on his hind paws and look around cautiously. They weren't distracted by idle chitchat either, meaning they'd likely realized their companions had all fainted.

Too little, too late.

Kerian grappled to the gargoyle above, then swung over to another as the mouse and badger walked under it and stopped to look around. Kerian took the opportunity and used Smokescreen from above, preventing Flash's desired effect from working.

"This… again…?!" The Linoone's voice questioned in-between coughs.

"Up there! Thunderbolt!"

The Pikachu's voice alerted Kerian, who narrowly leaned out of the way of the lightning attack. Looking back down, Kerian noticed some oddities in the smoke cloud. One disturbance was likely from the mouse's attack, but the other was much bigger. Before he could ponder it, however, he found his attention drawn by the other voice.

"Gotcha! Slash!" The Linoone announced...

From directly to Kerian's left.

The cyan Charmeleon narrowly jumped away as the badger's glowing claw destroyed his vantage point, wide-eyed even as he tried to grapple to another gargoyle.

"I see you! Electro Ball!"

The hook connected, but so did the orb. Kerian lost his grip as the electricity coursed through his body, hitting a wall and landing on his chest as he slammed into the walkway.

"Let's go! Double Iron Tail!" The Pikachu and Linoone yelled together.

Kerian recovered quickly and glanced back as he got to his hands and knees, seeing them both somersaulting towards him in mid-air with glowing tails. He responded by blocking their attacks with his own tail, now glowing teal, and forced them back, causing them to fall over the railing. The blue reptile shook his head as he stood up, then glanced over the railing.

"Flash!" The mouse announced, lighting up his surroundings and forcing the fire-lizard to cover his eyes for a moment.

Growling at himself, Kerian then hopped over the railing, tossing one of his kunai at the mouse and badger as he landed and following up with another Smokescreen.


Kerian sidestepped the lightning, dashing towards the two with no attempt at subtlety, only to suddenly leap into the air and drop another Sleep Powder pellet directly between the two as the Linoone knocked away his kunai. Fortunately for Kerian, the detonation yielded exactly the result he'd hoped for, and as he somersaulted into a three-point landing, he heard the final two Pokémon fall over and start snoring.

Victorious, the cyan Charmeleon took a deep breath and stood up… only to gracelessly fall on his rump, removing his unused headset and scratching his head as he mentally berated himself.

Then the lights flipped on as the fire-lizard heard the door to the room open. Kerian heard the crackle of electricity as two beings zipped about the room like bolts of lightning. A blue aura surrounded the reptile as he was lifted off the ground, turned around, and set down on his feet by a Gardevoir's Psychic.

"The test is over," Gardevoir said, levitating the reptile's kunai back to its scabbard. "I must say, despite certain…oddities, you've performed better than any other student. Quite impressive for anyone, let alone a Charmeleon of your age."

Kerian bowed to Gardevoir, then took notice of something behind her in his peripheral vision. He froze, wide-eyed with a sweatdrop as he looked closer, noticing an Espeon shooting a terrifying glare in his general direction. The Gardevoir followed the Charmeleon's gaze behind her, then shook her head as a Jolteon tapped the Espeon's shoulder. With a better look, Kerian could see that the Espeon was carrying Raven on its back, and the Jolteon was doing the same for Cardinal.

"Don't mind them," the Gardevoir said, turning back to Kerian and drawing his gaze. "Those two are simply a bit… protective of their siblings. Regardless, they have no part in the rest of your tests. Come with me, please."

Resting his claws on the handles of his kunai, Kerian followed the Gardevoir out of the room and stopping in the hallway.

"Please tell me, are there any Pokémon in your life you've developed a strong bond with that are still around?" Gardevoir asked. "I recall your papers mentioned an older brother?"

Kerian closed his eyes, placing a claw on his scarf. After a moment, he shook his head.

"Nobody at all?"

Another silent no.

"…I see. In that case, there is only one test left for you."

Kerian calmly walked into a new room, claws resting on his kunai. The room was rectangular, featuring reinforced walls, floor, and ceiling. Upon the floor was a Poké Ball symbol, revealing the center of a battlefield with a line across the symbol both completing it and dividing the room in half. An ancient designation for a battlefield, but it never fell out of use.

"What's this, then?" A male voice asked, revealing a distinct Galarian accent.

Kerian looked around in surprise, spotting another Pokémon as they dropped from the ceiling. Said Pokémon turned out to be a Weavile, who landed in a crouch, then flashed a smirk as he stood up and folded his arms. He wore a red belt that matched his feathers, but more interesting to Kerian was the Darkinium Z on the front of the belt.

"You the new guy?" The Weavile asked. At Kerian's nod, he grinned competitively. "I'm Yukiharu, Galar's best battler!"

"…Yukiharu?" Kerian repeated, breaking his silence as he tilted his head. "That is not a Galarian name…"

"If you want to learn more, you'll have to beat me first," Yukiharu replied, taking a battle stance. "Come and have a go, if you think you're hard enough!"

"Very well. My name is Kerian," the cyan Charmeleon introduced, bowing formally. Yukiharu took a slightly different sort of bow in return, before the two backflipped away from each other, ready for battle.

Kerian began by rushing forward with Dragon Claw. The Weavile flickered as the Charmeleon's glowing claws passed through him, then vanished.

"Shadow Claw!" Yukiharu called from behind.

Kerian easily countered the Weavile with Dragon Tail, knocking the Galarian away and following up with Flamethrower, dealing great damage. When the attack subsided, Yukiharu stood up and shook his head, but otherwise seemed fine.

"You're pretty good!" The Weavile praised.

"I would appreciate that compliment more if you weren't holding back." Kerian said, narrowing his eyes.

"Perceptive!" Yukiharu said. "But this is just a test. If I go knocking you on your bum too easily, you won't get to stick around!"

"If I cannot defeat an opponent I have the advantage over at his full strength, I'm not worthy of this academy."

"Sounds a bit melodramatic to me," the Weavile replied, scratching the side of his head. "But I suppose, if you give me a good reason to, I can show you a champion's power."

Kerian smirked, his right hand beginning to glow white, then rushed at Yukiharu. Recognizing Brick Break, the Weavile sidestepped the Charmeleon's karate chop, then responded with Shadow Claw, knocking the blue reptile back. Kerian caught himself with his claws and sprung to his feet, then used Flamethrower.

"Double Team!" Yukiharu called.

Suddenly, Kerian was trapped in a circle of identical, slightly blurred Weavile, with his original target harmlessly vanishing when hit by the stream of fire. Then, the Weavile copies each formed a Shadow Ball in unison, throwing them at Kerian in perfect sync. Unable to determine which was real, the oddly colored Charmeleon drew his kunai and flipped them into a standard grip as the blades began to glow teal, then spun in place with the knives held out, successfully deflecting the attack and facing the real Yukiharu when his spin ended.

"Shadow Claw!"

Silently, the fire-lizard sheathed his kunai, then countered the Weavile's announced attack with Flame Charge, tackling Yukiharu as he approached and causing an explosion that knocked him away. Yukiharu landed hard on his back several feet away, but recovered quickly and sprung back to his feet as an orange aura flashed up Kerian's body.

"Know Brick Break, and you can channel your moves into weaponry," Yukiharu observed. "I underestimated you, new guy. Alright, let's do this!"

The Weavile sharpened his claws where he stood, glowing white. The glow then faded as an orange aura flashed up his own body. With a small, competitive smile, Kerian drew his kunai, twirled them…and became a blur as he zipped about. Yukiharu looked around slowly, with greater focus than before. He could catch glimpses of blue scales and he heard the Charmeleon's footsteps, but none of it was enough to determine the angle of attack. At the last second, the Weavile blocked Kerian's Brick Break with Protect.

"My turn. Payback!" Yukiharu yelled, surrounding himself in a dark aura before punching Kerian away with incredible force. The blue reptile was blown back, rolling as he hit the ground before stopping himself with his claws, then hopped aside to dodge Yukiharu's follow-up Metal Claw and responded with Flame Charge. Though the Weavile tried to defend with Shadow Claw, Kerian's attack landed, causing another explosion.

Once more, an orange aura flashed as Kerian's speed rose. The moment his foe was back on his feet, the Charmeleon suddenly appeared directly in front of him and slammed him with Brick Break, eliciting a shout of pain as Yukiharu was knocked away again. The Sharp Claw Pokémon rolled upon landing, coming to a stop on his chest. Despite the visible damage and having taken an extremely powerful hit, the Weavile nonetheless slowly pushed himself to his feet, breathing heavily.

"Okay… you asked for it. No holding back? Means it's time for the big one." Yukiharu said, grinning excitedly.

He then crossed his arms, causing the crystal on his belt to glow. Eyes widening, Kerian drew his kunai and vanished from sight, only to get knocked back by the Z-Power aura that flared to life around the Weavile. Unharmed, Kerian slid to a stop, unable to act.

"Brilliant battle!" The Sharp Claw Pokémon complimented, waving his arms in a circular motion before holding them out in front with his left arm over his right. "But I'm afraid you've already lost!" he continued, seemingly slouching, before rearing back and abruptly posing with his claws raised and fangs bared. "There ain't no escaping… Black Hole ECLIPSE!"

Yukiharu screamed as he turned his claws upward, a small sphere of black and purple energy with a red outer aura forming between said claws. The sphere expanded to incredible proportions above the Weavile's head before he threw it at Kerian, where it expanded further and collapsed into a black hole. The Charmeleon stood his ground to the best of his ability, but he couldn't escape the gravitational pull and found himself sucked in. A green sphere surrounded the fire-lizard just before he vanished into the event horizon. The singularity then shrank, and detonated with such force that Yukiharu had to brace himself to avoid falling down.

After several seconds of incredible pressure exerting across the room, the storm subsided. Yukiharu fell to one knee, utterly spent.

"Cheers. That was one heck of a battle. Hope I didn't overdo it…"

"…You were a worthy opponent."

The Weavile froze, wide-eyed as he heard Kerian's voice… soon followed by the oddly loud sound of the cyan Charmeleon's kunai clicking into its sheathe.

"Hope to…battle again…" Yukiharu said, chuckling weakly as he fainted.

Kerian, standing behind the now-unconscious mammal, stumbled in place, then fell to his knees, barely conscious. Panting heavily, the oddly colored Charmeleon's right hand found its way to his scarf as he tried to keep himself going. Luckily, it wasn't long before Gardevoir entered the room, levitating a Sitrus Berry into Kerian's mouth just before he could fall over.

"The final test is finished. Others will tend to your opponent. For now, come with me so we may disclose your results."

Kerian stood upon a comfortable velvet carpet in a small room. Before him was a simple wooden desk, separating him from a seated Lucario. The Gardevoir who'd been guiding him was also seated, directly beside the Aura Pokémon.

"Kerian, was it?" the Lucario asked. At the Charmeleon's nod, he continued. "You are certainly unique. I don't think I've ever seen a student specifically remove their foe's handicaps in the stealth tests, nor glean that their opponent is holding back after only two moves."

"You seemed to consider it insulting," Gardevoir stated. "Why?"

"I hope it's not some childish pride," Lucario added, crossing his arms. Kerian simply shook his head.

"…Accepting a handicap is taking the easy way out. It weakens me… and dishonors my brother."

"Family honor?" Gardevoir questioned, to which Kerian nodded. "A common ideal even today, but your take seems… old-fashioned, if you don't mind me saying."

"Perhaps. But that is the truth," the Charmeleon replied.

"I suppose that's acceptable," Lucario said. "With that in mind, your performance in the stealth test is even more impressive."

"Yes, you did far better than any other student in recent memory, at least in terms of not being seen," Gardevoir added, smiling. "If you had simply dropped your Sleep Powder pellet instead of trying Smokescreen against Skyium and Miles, you might even have completely avoided being spotted. Given your species' inherent stealth flaw, that's almost unthinkable."

"And you were hardly lacking in battle either," Lucario said. "Yukiharu is an honest young Pokémon. He wasn't lying when he said he was a champion, or when he stopped holding back."

"Though, admittedly, his area of expertise was a field he couldn't make use of in that battle," Gardevoir said. "But overcoming flaws is part of the goal, here."

"Speaking of goals…" Lucario said, adopting a serious expression and unfolding his arms, resting them on his desk. "What is your goal? Why do you desire to become an Ultra Guardian?"

"I swore on this gift to become a paragon," Kerian replied instantly, grasping his scarf as he spoke with a steady, determined tone. "It has been my goal for as long as I can remember. I have never been able to ignore those in need, and in the time I recall with him, my brother was the same. He trained to be a powerful warrior and terrifying predator, and taught me to be such as well."

"So, you want to be an Ultra Guardian to honor your brother?" Lucario asked.

"As I said, it has always been my goal. But that, too, motivates me now."

"…I see," Lucario said.

"Well, I think that's enough to make a decision," Gardevoir said, looking at Lucario expectantly. The Aura Pokémon glanced at her, then pulled open a drawer in his desk and retrieved a small object Kerian couldn't see.

"Yes, more than enough," Lucario agreed. "Catch."

With that, the jackal then tossed the object in his hand to Kerian, who easily caught it in one clawed hand and observed it. It was a small, shimmering crystal. Teal, with the symbol of Dragon-Types emblazoned upon it. Dragonium Z.

"I'm proud to welcome you to the place the Ultra Guardians were formed; Alola's Sunsteel Academy!" Lucario dramatically declared.

Kerian glanced between his new Z-Crystal and the aura jackal before him as a smile crept upon his face, then bowed.

"Now, then," Gardevoir said, getting Kerian's attention. "There will be a proper ceremony tomorrow, for you and several other new students. I would say to think of it as your first true step toward becoming an Ultra Guardian, but that's a bit of a lie, in my opinion."

Kerian stared at her in confusion, causing the Embrace Pokémon to laugh. The Lucario simply rolled his eyes at his colleague.

"Simply put…" Gardevoir said, calming herself. "Today was not the first day you interacted with a Pokémon from our academy. I'm sure you remember meeting a gloomy young Umbreon at a viewpoint several nights ago, don't you?"

Wide-eyed, Kerian slowly nodded.

"That was one of our students, Raven, who you may also recognize as the Umbreon from your stealth test," Gardevoir explained, causing Kerian to sweatdrop and avert his eyes as he felt a sudden rush of guilt. "He wasn't sent out specifically to find new candidates, but he's the reason we found you. Ultra Guardians aren't chosen at random. We look for those who show promise, in strength, kindness, and willpower."

"For most of our students, taking their first step into heroism is what leads to enrollment here," Lucario added. "The exams you faced are mostly a formality to see where a Pokémon's strengths lie. We care more about heart than anything else."

"…I see," Kerian said.

"That's about it, for now," Gardevoir said, abruptly standing up. "Allow me to show you to your room. You'll want to be rested for tomorrow."

The next morning, Gardevoir led Kerian to a stage, where six other Pokémon stood side by side, facing the stands as the crowd cheered. A Piplup, a Torchic, a Riolu, an Eevee, a Snivy, and a Pichu were the students Kerian would be welcomed alongside. As directed by Gardevoir, Kerian took his place at the end of the line, next to the Pichu, who Kerian only then noticed wore a pair of blue goggles, which were pushed up on its forehead, and a blue scarf, though a different style to his own. There was no time to observe the rest, so Kerian turned his focus to the Pokémon heading the ceremony; the Lucario from yesterday.

"Welcome! Welcome, all!" The Aura Pokémon greeted through a handheld microphone. "Thank you for joining us today, as we accept seven new trainees into our ranks! These young Pokémon show incredible potential! Potential to be heroes, paragons of our world! With direction, instruction, friends, and family who stand by them, they can become… Ultra Guardians!"

As the crowd grew louder, Lucario turned to the seven on stage and crossed his arms as a large screen behind the crowd turned on. Lucario waved his arms in a circular motion as the image behind the crowd split into seven separate sections, each showing a Lucario with a different Z-Crystal adorning their belt doing what the real one in front of them did. As Lucario held his arms out in front with his left over his right, Kerian noticed that the Z-Crystals on each screen, aside from his own Dragonium, matched the Type of each of the Pokémon he was lined up with, and mirrored their order as well.

Then, Lucario tapped his fists together, making a metal clanging sound, before holding his arms out. Kerian risked a brief glance at the others, and seeing them all cross their arms like Lucario and Yukiharu had earlier, or at least make similar motions with their rather different body types, caused the Charmeleon to quickly imitate them. At that moment, the Lucario on the screens de-synced, each making different motions. Kerian focused on the one with the Dragonium, pulling back from the left arm over right arm pose and thrusting his arms out with his right hand over his left, palms in, before spreading them like an open maw.

After a moment, color-coded smoke plumes erupted behind Kerian and the others, matching each Pokémon's main color. Fireworks launched from the same area soon afterwards, detonating in a wide array of colors and patterns. The seven hadn't posed in perfect sync, with the Snivy and Torchic being a bit slow, and Kerian and the Eevee being a bit fast, but crowd cheered all the same.

As the seven Pokémon held their poses, Kerian closed his eyes, smiling.

'This is where it all truly starts. I must never stop moving forward.'

For a first chapter of a more original story, I'm sure I could've done better. But honestly, this was mostly an introduction to one of the main characters and a taste of the action to come, sorta like the initial RWBY trailers.

Inspired by the works of PokeMaster64 and the webshow RWBY, with elements from both the Pokémon anime and games (though mostly the anime), this story's focus is on four C's: Characters, cuteness, coolness, and comedy. In that order, from most to least important.

Most of these early chapters will be character introductions like this one, but as characters are the most important part of this story, you can certainly expect a good amount of variety in how everyone's introduced in their focus chapters. Unlike my first attempts at non-novelization fics, I've actually planned a number of things out for this one, so I'm looking forward to writing and revealing particular chapters.

With this, my New Year's Resolution is fulfilled. But while I no longer have an explicit deadline to complete chapters, my motivation will not vanish easily. I hope this first chapter was enough to interest some of you. If not, let me know what I can improve!