[The base of Mt. Pyre, 7:00 a.m., the Day of Summoning]
Within Mt. Pyre’s rocky interior, five figures in robes were waiting with their Pokémon, and air of impatience hanging over them, making the still air feel thin and stale. At the sound of movement, the five turned their attention to a petite girl heading toward them through the shadows, pulling a black robe down over her head to drape over her thin, wet body.
"It’s about time, Jasmine!" Quincy barked as he adjusted his visor to fit better over his eyes in order to hide the relief that crossed his face for the briefest of moments. "We were prepared to move on without you!"
"Sorry for the wait." Jasmine apologized as she stretched her arms out over her head with a small moan. "I got held up. Those Schola grunts won’t be showing up, I’m afraid."
"And why is that?" Fonrose frowned in discontent as he eyed Jasmine suspiciously. "You didn’t leave them behind, did you?"
"Yep. That Elite Four member managed to find a way to release their hypnosis. Don’t blame me; your Grumpig’s technique was weaker than his Spinda’s, Fonrose."
Fonrose glared at Jasmine angrily and opened his mouth to speak, but Kinsley spoke before him, a grim expression crossing his face.
"That’s impossible." He said firmly. "Sir Xansa had killed him off a long time ago, right milord?"
Xansa had his back to the others, staring at the dark tunnels ahead without a word, showing no interest in answering Kinsley’s question. His eyes were shadowed as if he were in deep thought, though he didn’t share his concerns with the others if that was so. His companions eyed his back for a long moment quietly before anyone spoke.
"Well, no matter how he survived, it is of no matter." The red haired Ophelia said firmly as she grinned slyly. "All five of them are approaching, as I had predicted. If we do exactly as instructed, they won’t serve much of a problem. The Day of Summoning is finally here—we won’t allow anyone to stop us."
"Then let’s greet our guests, shall we?" Fonrose said serenely as he fingered his flute impatiently. "I’m sure we all have debts to repay to those five."
"This is not about revenge, Fonrose." Xansa muttered harshly, surprising the other five. He began to stride toward one of the tunnels that sloped upwards, his hands clenched at his sides. No one could ever seem so composed and yet so stressed at the same time. "Perform your duty without sin within your heart, or you will fail. Have faith in each other—there is no turning back at this point. Pour your every effort into making sure our effort comes out with success."
"Yes sir." The four advisors bowed their heads as Ophelia continued to grin before they turned to head down their respective tunnels, either walking quickly with anticipation or slowly with anxiety. Their mission as Schola was coming to its climax—they could not afford to hesitate any longer.
[Solana: West exterior of Mt. Pyre, 7:25]
Tropius whined worriedly as I hiked up the mountain side with my bare hands, wincing as the rocks chafed my skin. I wished I had worn pants instead of these shorts. It was much colder here than I had thought possible in such a tropical region. But I could deal with the cold, even the freezing updrafts. Tropius whined nonetheless, probably preferring that I simply ride on his back to the peak. But I couldn’t do that—the winds were strong. Even like this, Tropius was struggling to keep aloft at the same speed that I climbed, which was rather slowly. If I were on his back, I’d be plunging to the sea and starting from square one all over again.
Francois had been flying with me on his Charizard’s back all the way from Mt. Pyre. I was worried about his wounds, since they were so severe that they wouldn’t heal for another day, even with my powers. But he didn’t show any signs of pain or the slightest of soreness the entire flight, which was pretty strange to me. The moment the ground beneath us had turned to sea water, Francois had ordered his Charizard to fly ahead, shooting right through the hanging fog and disappearing completely. Charizard was, no doubt, a much stronger flier than my Tropius, so I guess they didn’t have the same problems as me. The howling winds made it sound like the mountain itself was wailing at me, and I winced as another updraft blew up and made my fingers even more numb as I gripped a rock for leverage. This mountain gave off a strange sensation, as if it were somehow suffering. I wanted to press my hands to it and heal it, but, of course, it wasn’t a sentient creature.
I blinked in surprise as the sound floated along the wind, sending a shiver up my back. Had it been the wind?
"Did you hear that?" I asked Tropius, who looked at me blankly. Had I just imagined it? I must have been getting sick from the weather.
That time I was sure I heard it. Even Tropius looked startled. I quickly looked around until my eyes zeroed in on a figure lying sprawled out on the ground, fidgeting slightly. Was that…a Chimecho?
I gritted my teeth as I began to scale the wall to the right carefully, making my way closer, placing myself above the isolated ledge that the Pokémon was lying on. I took a deep breath and, ignoring the wail of Tropius all the while, I jumped.
"Oof!" I gasped as I rolled several times in order to break my fall as I landed. It shook me up a bit, but sadly, I’d jumped further distances before. I barely took the time to look at my own scrapes that I’d sustained from the fall before hurrying over to the injured Chimecho, aware of Tropius descending and landing on the ledge behind me.
"Chime…" The Chimecho murmured as I picked it up into my hands and looked it over swiftly. There were no physical injuries, but I was able to recognize the afflicting illness quite easily. It was the same as the Spoink from Mt. Chimney, only to a much lesser extent. I began to feed my energy into the Chimecho and instantly felt a surge of gratitude and relief greet me in the form of empathic emotion. I was surprised as my own scrapes began to close as well. The Chimecho smiled at me tiredly as I stared at it in wonder. It had begun using heal pulse on me as soon as I did the same to it, even though I was in far better shape than the Pokémon.
"Oh, dearie…" I murmured as I pulled the Chimecho up to my face and cuddled it softly. "You’re so kind-hearted! Tropius, if you would?"
Tropius leaned its head down and I picked one of the fruits hanging from its neck and held it up gently to Chimecho’s mouth. The Pokémon bit into it slowly at first and its pace began to quicken as its energy was suddenly revitalized. Soon, the Pokémon was floating in the air once more, still a little fatigued, but in much better shape.
"Chime, Chime, Chime-echo!" The Chimecho rang with joy and I giggled. I knew she (after connecting with her mind, I could tell her gender with ease) was thanking me for helping her.
"You’re the one who healed my scrapes even though you didn’t need to." I said softly as I petted the Pokémon’s head. "Thank you, sweetie. But what on earth could have done this to you? Has Mt. Pyre’s climate changed as well?"
"No. This is on a much deeper level, I’m afraid."
I yelped in surprise as several Gravelers and Geodudes suddenly rolled down the hill onto the ledge or climbed up from below, surrounding us completely. I grabbed Chimecho in my arms instinctively as I backed toward the center of the ledge along with Tropius, who lowered his head low and grimaced, tensed protectively around us.
"Xansa!" I gasped as I spotted the man standing on a small ledge just a few yards higher than us to the right, standing with his arms folded behind his back as he stared at the sea melancholically. He turned his attention to me as I called his name and I saw the same fathomless eyes I’d seen back at Mt. Chimney. Why did this man hurt so much? It made me want to hug him. I would have, too; if only these smirking boulders and rocks weren’t in the way.
"You should have remained at Mt. Chimney, girl."
[Francois: Mt. Chimney, just below the summit 7:30]
"Agh." I gritted my teeth as I shielded my eyes against the winds. Ever since reaching a certain point, Charizard had been able to advance any further by air. No matter how we tried, we didn’t seem to be able to break the barrier of wind that was surrounding the summit. We’d been forced to descend and land on a path leading up to the summit and I returned Charizard to his Pokéball, since the winds were too strong for his wings. It was creepy, but I could have sworn that the grass a certain distance from me wasn’t thrashing nearly as much as the grass near me. It was as if the winds were after every living thing here, trying to throw them off. I’d seen several wild Pokémon clinging for their lives before spiraling off the side of the mountain, too far away for me to be of much help, which was definitely irritating. It was difficult to forcibly walk up to the shrine waiting at the summit, but I was determined to do so. I had begun there on whim at first, but once these winds tried to keep me away, I knew it was where I had to go. Something was going on at the summit, I knew it.
My suspicions were only further confirmed as I spotted the small figure in a black cloak standing right in my path. I released my Arcanine immediately as the girl raised Pokéball up and a Porygon appeared. My Arcanine fired a blast of flames that collided with an orb of electricity and I covered my eyes as the winds sent the flames and electricity flying everywhere, nearly making me lose my balance. Another goal appeared before me: one I was set to accomplish. If I wanted answers, the best way was to defeat one of these Schola and ask them myself.
"Arcanine! Flare blitz!"
"Zap cannon, Porygon!"
[Zane: Tunneling underneath Mt. Pyre 7:18]
You could really gain a new appreciation for things when they either convenience or inconvenienced you. As I rode my back down the rocky tunnel at a mid-slow pace, I was pretty appreciative of how tall Aggron was. I barely had to duck my head down in order to keep my hair from scraping against the top of the tunnel he was digging, and that was while I was on my foldable bike. It was as if he had grown to the perfect size just in time for this.
Mt. Pyre was practically the graveyard of Hoenn. All throughout the mountain, whether above or below its surface, there were graves for dead Pokémon. I’d seen them enough times to last me for a while, so I didn’t even bother using the conventional exit like Suzy on her Absol. I’d ordered Aggron to drill right into the side of Mt. Pyre as we approached and start heading downwards. At the peak, there was a shrine to Hoenn’s creatures of legends on the outside among several stone pillars. Just below there, the highest point within the mountain held a chamber filled with the graves of Pokémon who belonged to once legendary and powerful trainers of Hoenn who probably have passed away by now as well. It was arguable whether the highest point outside the mountain with the shrines or inside the mountain with the graves, since there was a noticeable amount of ghost types below the ground whereas the shrine was connected to legendary Pokémon. So logically speaking, the Schola would probably be in one of those two places. I was sure that the other four Suzy spoke of should be heading there as well, including Suzy herself.
Aggron roared victorious as he smashed through the wall, completing his tunnel. We were well below sea level by now, enough that I struggled to breathe a little. It was dark in the cavern we’d found below Mt. Pyre—and cold—but for some reason, there was still enough light to see. For somewhere so far away from the graveyard above, it was far more desolate and empty. Only wet rock was around us in this naturally made area. I had to wonder how many people had ever set foot here before.
I noticed something shoot toward us out of the corner of my eye and I immediately recognized the footwork and angle.
"Aggron!" I said immediately. Aggron stepped in front of me with its arms raised up in a defensive posture as a powerful "dynamic punch" flew from the attacking Breloom’s hand, slamming into Aggron’s thick forearms. A cold sweat rolled down Aggron’s metal neck as the Breloom’s momentum caught up with it and the force it exerted increased. Cracks appeared before Aggron’s feet before he sunk an inch or two through the soft rock, anchoring him in place. A dent appeared in Aggron’s right forearm thanks to Breloom’s unrelenting force. The moment Breloom’s midair stance slackened and the force he was exerting lessened, I made my move.
"Aggron, metal burst!"
The attack came quickly as Breloom landed on the ground and attempted to back away. Its arms flew out quicker than a boxer’s, barely scraping Aggron’s chest as it continued to back away. Aggron glowed with silver light that engulfed Breloom and tossed the mushroom Pokémon back, but the damage was minuscule. Had Aggron reflected the damage from "dynamic punch", the attack would have finished Breloom instantly. However, thanks to "mach punch", he reflected the damage from the fast, but significantly weaker, attack.
I already knew who the tactical genius behind the attack was. Quincy stepped out into view with his arms folded tightly over his chest as he eyed me critically. Breloom raised its arms up to attack as Aggron maintained a battle stance, ready to intercept the next attack. He was breathing heavily and probably was going to have trouble using that right arm.
"Once more; dynamic punch!" Quincy ordered.
"Aggron." I said through gritted teeth. "Iron defense."
Aggron raised its arms up again, this time with its left over its right, and took the punch without moving, partly thanks to the footholds around his feet. Breloom didn’t rush forward from as far away, so had less momentum and power than last time. Even so, the damaging attack power was too much to handle. If Aggron even hesitated for a moment and allowed the shock to get to his head, the confusion would render him helpless in an instant.
"Now Aggron, heavy slam!"
Aggron grabbed Breloom’s small body with its injured right arm and pulled it close so he could grab its body with both arms at once, pinning it completely. With a roar, Aggron hopped out of its footholds and positioned Breloom right below the full force of its weight before smashing flat onto the rock, burying them both, rendering them both incapable to battle at once.
"Guh…" I breathed in relief as my heart rate began to settle. I had taken a serious gamble with that last move. It was good to know I had been right. Breloom had healed its physical wounds, but the fatigue from fighting Roxanne a while ago still linger. There was a rarely a trainer who fought with a serious Roxanne who got away without any lasting wounds. The bottom half of Quincy’s face that I could see showed his impatience and frustration. His lips were contorted in a ‘tch’ position and his gloved fingers were digging into his own arms with a tight grip.
"Not bad." Quincy said after his face relaxed ever so slightly. "Extremely reckless, but not bad. Your survival instinct is unusually sharp."
"Thanks for the praise." I muttered bitterly. Quincy snorted in derision.
"There’s no need for that attitude, boy. It was more of an observation than a compliment anyways."
I was about to reply when a sudden wave of numbing cold passed over me. It wasn’t like the temperature had dropped—no, this was far different. It was more like that moment when you’re completely relaxed, then a devastating fear washes over you, taking away the warmth of relief and replacing it with despair. My eyes focused on the flickering shadows far behind Quincy, dancing against the walls as if a fire were crackling nearby. These shadows were just as ominous and creepy, towering over a redheaded woman her held her arms spread wide.
"Wonderful!" Ophelia’s triumphant voice echoed through the entire cavern. "Magnificent! Be sure to get rid of that idiot, Quincy! I don’t want anyone interfering!"
Quincy simply clicked his tongue impatiently, as if he didn’t like to be given orders by Ophelia. I was too busy gazing at the figure of shadows in awe. I had just realized that technically speaking, there was no real light source. So nothing could have been casting a shadow by blocking the light, as normal. Which meant that these shadows were far from natural. They were alive.
I was caught off guard as a long blade came out of nowhere and pierce my left shoulder. Pain shot through me as I staggered back immediately, and a warm sensation blossomed as the blade was drawn from my flesh. I gripped my injured shoulder and gritted my teeth as a red liquid drooled down my arms to my fingertips before dripping slowly onto the ground.
"You took that rather well." Quincy said indifferently as the Pawniard standing before him held both of its long bladed arms up in my direction. "You didn’t even make a sound."
I slid my hand down from my shoulder and quickly grabbed a Pokéball from my wristband. Scyther appeared just in time to intercept the attacking Pawniard with its own scythes and the two of them immediately began to slash fiercely, their weapons almost a blur. Though I knew that Scyther was inherently fast, I was unsurprised that the untrained Pokémon wasn’t able to out speed a domesticated Pokémon. Scyther’s attacks weren’t really made to counter a steel type either, which gave us the disadvantage when it came to defense. But what I noticed right away was that this Pawniard’s forte was offense.
My newly acquired Scyther was strange due to its smaller abdomen that gave it more movement and freedom. Similarly, this Pawniard was not ‘normal’. Unlike the others I’ve seen, this one had blades that extended out in front of its further than I’ve ever seen. They surpassed the general length of a Pawniard’s arm blades by several inches, I would guess, and they were much, much sharper. I could say that from experience.
"That’s an interesting Scyther you have there." Quincy said calmly as he unfolded his arms and continued to eye me carefully. "Extremely fast and versatile. It acts quite well on its own and its swordsmanship is superb. Were it properly trained, it might actually be a match for my Pawniard. However, aside from being a veteran fighter, my Pawniard comes from a world where his species fight constantly to be superior, or die. In order to survive, they must become strong, be better than the others, and prove their use. This Pawniard surpassed its physical limits throughout a few generations and developed superior swordsmanship, able to defeat any Scyther, Gallade, Farfetch’d or Skarmory. Allow me to show you just how devastating a monster you face. Pawniard…guillotine."
Pawniard raised both of its long piercing blades up as it folded its arms over its chest, as if hugging itself. The blades began to shine with a silver color as the extended nearly half a foot in length, giving an unrealistic reach. Without even giving us a chance to stare in shock, Pawniard shot forward and slashed both of its blades out at Scyther, aiming to pincer its neck. Scyther bent its back completely to evade the merciless strike, narrowly avoiding an instant knock out. Pawniard stepped in immediately and slashed its blades once more in a wide arc. Scyther’s wings fluttered as it hopped back and Pawniard’s blades cleaved through an afterimage of Scyther. Thanks to the wide movement, Scyther saw its chance to strike and charged in immediately.
"No!" I cried immediately, wanting to stop the hotheaded Pokémon. During that last attack, Pawniard’s long reached had let the tips of its blades touch the ground. Instead of sliding against them and creating sparks, the blades went through the wet rock like butter. No matter how fast he was, Scyther couldn’t handle even being within Pawniard’s range without a sure knock out attack of its own.
Sure enough, Scyther’s scythes glanced off of Pawniard’s metal hide as the Pokémon swing its blades in a circle around it, practically splitting the air. The attack connected with Scyther’s abdomen, and it was over immediately.
"Damn it." I bit my own tongue by accident in frustration as Scyther collapsed. I fell to my knees as I gripped my bloody shoulder even tighter, though it wasn’t due to the pain. I was losing blood ever second—I needed to do something about it soon. But my attention wasn’t on the wound. Standing right before me, Pawniard held one blade out, the tip nearly touching my Adam’s apple. Quincy stood beside his Pokémon, close enough that I could see his eyes through the visor. There was no pity or mercy, nor was there any mocking triumph either.
"Quincy, I’m heading to the inner-summit!" Ophelia’s voice rang through the now silence cavern. I could see shadows flowing into the cavern ceiling like water being drained before it vanished from sight. "Follow me once you’re done!"
Quincy didn’t reply as the sound of her footsteps faded as she headed up through the same tunnel they had probably used to come down. I focused my eyes on Quincy’s face once more, staring at his colorless eyes right through the visor. My breathing was ragged, but I wasn’t going to let myself pass out.
"That…" I struggled to keep my voice steady. "That was Giratina, wasn’t it?"
"Indeed it was." Quincy said without any hesitation. "In order to stop the distortions, we need to capture and force the regulator over the other world to erase the irregularities. If we are successful, then killing you people will not be necessary."
"Why Giratina…? Why not…Palkia?"
"Both the guardian of time and regulator of space have been banished to the depths of separate dimensions. We do not have the means to summon them without the red chains, and it would take far too long to mimic Cyrus’ ambitions, especially in another region. But I have a question for you. In this mountain, everyone knows of the graves within it and the shrine atop it. The summit both above and below the ground are the most spiritual places here. With Susana with you, I’m sure you knew that we were going to summon a legendary Pokémon. However, you came straight down here to a place most people don’t even know about. Of any place in Mt. Pyre, this is the most depressing and least likely spot due to its lack of connection to the spiritual world. My question to you is this: why? Why did you come here?"
I trembled as I took a deep breath in order to answer.
"From what Susana told me, it didn’t really sound like you were summoning Giratina. It seemed more like he was already here, attracted by the distortions. But…if he was…why would he be at the summit? He now embodies all the bitterness of the first world that was destroyed. I would imagine that being near spiritual places would pain him. I guessed that Giratina would come to a place where no Pokémon would be, where no people normally ventured to pray to the dead. The opposite of a summit would be the bottom most floor—if not below that."
Quincy sighed in exasperation. "Both the empathic ghost type master and the hyper deductive normal type master failed to realize such a possibility, and yet noticed. I suppose I should praise you. Of the five, you are the most aware of Pokémon natures and idiosyncrasies. It even allows you to guess their movements and attacks before them do them to act accordingly. I hadn’t anticipated it to be on such a large scale, though. As I thought…you people are dangerous."
Without any further wait, Pawniard drew back its blade and raked both of its arms across my chest in an instantaneous movement, and searing pain scorched my body as I collapsed.