Actually, that's Selene who told her that. Caitlin had nothing to do with it.
Me too, they're two of the coolest characters in all the pokémon games and quite fun to write.
Thanks for reading so far, then. Here you go with the next chapter. (By the way, to everyone reading it on this site, sorry for the crappy formatting; I just can seem to get it working well for this site)
Chapter Sixty-Nine: The King's Castle
Octa had clarity for the first time in weeks. He had lain awake until past two in the night, but now he was sure his judgement was correct. Like most nights lately, he hadn't slept, thinking about Toxica and his family. All of the things that had been said to him - by Toxica, by Boreas, by Gaius - spooked through his mind. But now at long last he had come to a decision. It was quite a terrifying decision, so he knew the only way he would ever execute it was to do it right now, while his resolve was strong. He left his chamber and slithered quietly down the corridor, going outside.
Gaius had made it quite clear his house would not accept his relationship with Toxica; what was more, Octa knew the piece of his ancestors in himself didn't accept it. For his entire life, he had considered himself a member of the house of Equinox in the first place. It made life easy, as many questions and choices were made for him by that identity. In any difficult situation, the answer to “What shall I do?” was simple: “Do what an Equinox does.” Every hard choice he ever had to make was simply a matter of either following the house's rules and traditions, or doing what and Equinox would do. Even risking his life was made easy by it: risking one's life for honour or to help others was what an Equinox did.
Boreas and Toxica were not like that at all. They had no such simple answer to the question of who they were, and had to completely define who they were themselves. They had no solid rules for making hard choices; a strange, scary idea to Octa, yet Boreas had praised it. But in truth, Octa had made plenty of choices that weren't the Equinox choices when it came to them. Saving Boreas' life and taking care of him was what an Equinox should do. But his Equinox heritage certainly didn't tell him to become such good friends with a common, non well-bred Eevee like him. It very much dissuaded him from falling in love with Toxica, yet he had done so and rejected his chosen bride for her.
But now he had made the most difficult choice of his life: keeping to his family's ways and rejecting Toxica was by far the easiest choice here, the one his heritage told him to make. And he had almost made it. The alternative was far scarier than all the life-threatening horrors he had encountered together.
Lost in thought, Octa had walked through the nightly League, and now stood at Gaius' door. He took a deep breath, knowing this had to be done, though his loss was terrible. He knocked at the door. He knocked harder after a while.
“Who disturbs me at this hour?” said his brother's sleepy voice.
“'Tis me, brother, Octa. I need to speak to you immediately.”
The door opened. “Very well then, enter... I do hope this is something important...” Gaius guided him into the room.
“Yes, brother, it is. I have come to tell you I am stepping out of the house of Equinox; rescinding my nobility.”
Gaius' jaw dropped and he stared at Octa silently.
“I wish for you to return to our ancestral home, announce this to my family, and request my name be stricken from our family tree.”
“I am no longer Octavianus VII of the house of Equinox; I shall simply be Octa.”
“'Tis not the first time in your house's history this has happened; though most of the other cases were involuntary. I make this choice voluntarily, for I choose Toxica. I choose my friends.”
“I make this choice, because my relationship with Toxica and my friendships are incompatible with house Equinox's philosophy. While I could reunite with Toxica, yet attempt to remain a member of our house as I have done so far, I have come to see these things are impossible to unite. Too many of you are opposed to my relationship, and eventually this choice would be forced upon me anyway. 'Tis very possible my resolve to make the right choice, not the easy one, will not be as strong as it is tonight when that time comes. Therefore, I am making this choice right now.”
“Well?” said Octa impatiently. “Have you nothing to say?”
Gaius frowned and spoke slowly. “This is the greatest error of your life, brother. You cannot throw away your heritage; least of all for this.”
“No, not an error” said Octa resolutely, “'tis the hardest choice in my life, yes. The one that will give me the most difficulty, certainly. The one that required most bravery to make, easily. Despite all that, 'tis not an error, but the best choice I have ever made.”
“...Fine, do as you wish, Octa the Houseless,” spat Gaius. “I shall return home right now to ensure your will be done. But I must warn you: if this is a ploy to gain sympathy for you, it shan't work. I will see to that.”
“It isn't. I have told you my reasons.”
“Fine. Our house shall be better off without your foppery threatening its very foundations. And with you gone, none other shall remotely stand a chance as father's successor against me. How ironic; your decision to betray your house shall benefit it so greatly by ending your negative influence over it once and for all and ensuring its future leader shall be a wise one indeed.”
“Wisdom is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Now if you will excuse me, I have others to reveal my decision to.”
“Do as you wish, Octa Vagabond, I care not. I shall depart shortly to ensure this joyous news reaches my family.”
“They still are my family as well, brother,” hissed Octa. “I stepped out of our house, but this does not mean you are no longer my brother, lord Publius Cornelius still my father-”
“You betray us!” snapped Gaius. “You have been seduced by this common witch to betray our house and everything it stands for and still you claim relation! You are no brother of mine, Octa the fallen; you have failed and lost your grandeur. 'Tis no more than right that you should leave our house; in fact I likely would have forced you to leave once I became our family's leader!”
“I thought you had regained your wisdom, but it is clear to me now you never had it in the first place. The obviously higher concentration of Equinox's blood that flows through my veins must have come at the expense of your own. Leave my room now, I have nothing more to say to you!” snapped Gaius.
Octa looked in shock at his brother's face, contorted with hate. “So be it,” he said, leaving. “But 'tis not I who has fallen, Gaius; it is you. The day you lead the house of Equinox shall be a dark one indeed.”
The door slammed shut behind him, and he soon found himself trembling with anger at his brother's insults. Yet in Gaius' face and words, both twisted by fury, he had at last seen what was truly wrong with their house, even with him: their pride had turned to arrogance. They all considered themselves naturally superior to others. Octa had realised the true reason for Gaius' anger was his leaving meant he considered houseless life an improvement. By giving up his nobility, he had implied an Equinox was an equal to commoners, far more so than just by choosing Toxica. He knew now the rest of his family would see it the same way as Gaius, that he himself would've seen it in the same way had it been someone else making this decision. For he knew he was no stranger to this arrogance himself.
Lost in thought, he had walked across the nightly League again and reached the complex where their own rooms were. Now, he knew, he would have to beg Toxica's forgiveness. The thought of it didn't appeal to him, yet he knew it had to be done. The voice that told him an Equinox couldn't do something like that was hard to ignore, even now that he was no longer a member of the house. He would have to do it now, while he could overcome his pride.
He knocked on Toxica's door with his tail.
He knocked again when there was no answer.
“...Hwhah...?” sounded a sleepy voice from inside.
“Toxica, my darling, may I please enter?”
“Don't you 'darling' me,” said the voice, suddenly very awake. “Piss off, Octa.”
Octa was going to parley more to try and gain permission to enter, but realised they'd wake up everyone. Instead, he simply entered. “HEY!” shouted Toxica from the bed. “I told you to piss off!”
Octa closed the door behind him but didn't approach any more. “My apologies for the intrusion at this late hour against your wishes, but I need to speak to you right now.”
“You can go jump off a mountain, Octa, I don't want to talk to you.”
“Please hear me out... What I have to say is incredibly important, and I fear if I don't say it now, I never shall. You do not need to say anything in return, I just want you to hear it.”
“Well, I don't want to hear it, sod off.”
Octa didn't obey, but talked. “I was wrong. I have been terribly wrong all along to consider you beneath me. I am an arrogant Serperior, from an arrogant house. But no longer; for I have just informed my brother I am leaving the house of Equinox. I have rescinded my nobility, for it prevents me from being with you and gave me illusions of grandeur. If I have learned anything from the two years I have spent with you and other pokémon not of noble descent, it is that a descendant of Equinox is no better than you. That I am no better than you.
My arrogance blinded me. It made me blame you for my weakness on Victory Road, for I could not believe I could possess the same failings an ordinary person would.” Octa was a little shocked he had said all that, yet he knew it was nothing but the truth. He prostrated himself humbly before Toxica. “My dear, dear Toxica. I have not given you the respect you deserved. Leaving you for my own shortcomings was an arrogant, awful decision. I am sorry. I beg your forgiveness for my shortcomings and my treatment of you. I have left the house of Equinox for this, and now am truly nothing more than Octavianus. If you can find it within you to forgive me and give me a second chance, I will treat you as you deserve in the future.”
It was silent. While Octa could see Toxica, it was too dark to see the expression on her face under her flower. “You... Gave up your nobility for me?”
Octa nodded. “I realised I could not have both you and it. I have made my choice.”
“Look,” said Toxica hesitantly, “why don't you go back to your brother and tell him you've changed your mind? That it was all a joke or something?”
Octa felt his hope sink. He knew why she was saying this. “No, I shan't. Even if you reject me, I shall consider myself to be of the house of Equinox nevermore. For my brother's reaction educated me. He accused me of treason, among other things. I know now of our greatest flaw: our arrogance. My arrogance. I see myself as better than others, and it has to stop. Whether you forgive me or not, I do not wish to be a part of the house of Equinox again.”
“Well...” Toxica said hesitantly. “It was really brave of you to leave your house... But you've really gone too far this time. I don't feel I can trust you any more, so it's really over between us.”
Octa sighed in resignation. “As... You wish. 'Tis my own fault for breaking up with you like that, I suppose. If I hadn't been so foolish, so arrogant...”
Octa felt furious at himself, and realised he couldn't control his emotions any more. He rushed out of the room, not listening to something Toxica said, and rushed to his own room.
25 January of that year was a date well remembered by the history books as the day the Plasma War's outcome was decided. A dark, violent, bloody day; a day of great sorrow when hope died along with its heroes. A day of death.
Yet for Boreas the day began as peaceful as it could be. He softly hugged Aqua, watching her sleep next to him. It sounded like a storm was brewing outside, but Boreas just listened to Aqua occasionally mumbling or giggling cutely in her sleep. Eventually she slowly opened her eyes and smiled as she saw him. “Happy birthday, good-looking.”
“Birthday? Oh yeah, it is my birthday... I hadn't even remembered with all that's going on.”
“I know,” chuckled Aqua, kissing him, “that's why I remembered it for you.”
When they left Boreas' room an hour later to have breakfast, they found the mood had changed from the days before. Toxica no longer stared at Octa furiously, instead they mostly evaded each other's gazes and said little to each other. At least it didn't make the atmosphere as pressing as the days before, and they chatted about the storm raging outside a bit.
At last it was time to go, as Bianca and Cheren came to pick Black up. As soon as they walked outside, Boreas was almost blown off his feet by the tempest. The valley of the League was very dark, though dawn - which came very late here - was likely near. The occasional flash of lightning illuminated the entire valley, though, showing scary purple-black clouds gyring above. A constant downpour of cold rain soaked Boreas' fur in an instant.
Aqua struggled against the storm as they walked. “Can't you stop this storm?”
Boreas chuckled, though he too was struggling. “Not really, no. I can make it stronger, if you like.”
“But your powers allow you to create wind, don't they? Just make wind in the opposite direction or something.”
“It doesn't work like that. I don't really control the air when I do that, it's more like I remove the air's inhibitions and unleash the chaos in it. I basically let it do what it wants, but it's already doing that. So I can make wind, but I'm not very good at calming it down, because that requires controlling the air instead, and that's far harder to do. Besides, if I made wind in the opposite direction of already blowing wind, they wouldn't cancel out but circle around each other, forming a cyclone.”
An ear-splitting thunderbolt drowned out Aqua's reply. Boreas was going to ask her to repeat it, but Octa began talking to him. “My dear fellow, I have taken your advice.”
“Huh?” asked Boreas. “Well, good job! What advice?”
“That which you said about choices. I have taken it to heart and informed my brother I am leaving my house.”
“Sorry, I think I misheard you over the wind's howling.”
“No, you haven't. I have come to realise the arrogance of it all, the danger of the belief one is inherently superior to others. My brother's reaction confirmed it. He shall probably have arrived home by now, so my family likely knows of this now, so alea iacta est.”
“Woah... Octa, couldn't you have just tried to make up with Toxica instead? I'm glad you came to your senses, but isn't this a bit too extreme?”
Octa braced himself against a particularly strong gust. “No, my dear fellow, for I have come to realise the nature of the greater problem. Besides, 'tis likely I would eventually succumb to weakness once more if I stayed with my house. And this way I also show Toxica I am serious about my desire to make up with her.”
“So how'd she respond?”
Octa looked away sadly. “She rejected me.”
“Then I'll talk to her later,” said Boreas. “I know how much your family and your ancestors mean to you.”
“Thank you, my dear fellow, but it is unnecessary... I just wish all this wasn't necessary... I had hoped despite leaving my house I wouldn't lose my family, that they could accept my choice, but Gaius' reaction told me all. I have essentially lost my whole family.”
“Not your whole family. You're my brother, Octa.”
Octa smiled warmly. “Thank you, my dear fellow.”
By then, they had gone as far as Bianca and Cheren were allowed to go. “Good luck, Black,” said Cheren. “I wish I could go in to fight with you, but you'll have to do this alone.”
“I can't believe you have to go into Plasma's castle alone...” said Bianca. “Be careful, okay?”
“Thanks, guys. But I won't be alone: I've got my pokémon.”
They walked into the building. This time, however, something had changed: a circle on the floor around the statue in the plaza's centre was glowing green. Black cautiously stepped into the circle and motioned for his pokémon to follow. Once they were on it too, the entire circle, including the statue, rose like an elevator. A hatch in the roof opened and the elevator made them go through, statue and all. They emerged into a wide area on top of the building. The four towers of the Elite Four were all around them, while the fifth tower was ahead, a huge flight of stairs ascending to it. But behind that tower, dark shadows of the Plasma castle stuck out against the dark clouds. They ascended the stairs in silence. The entrance to the Champion's tower was beautiful, ancient columns supporting it.
The Champion's room inside had obviously been very beautiful once. More stairs led up to a platform in the middle of a golden room which was supposed to be lit by torches. But the wall had been breached by three dark bridges. Rubble from the intrusion was all over the room, and a powerful stormwind blew through the tower and had extinguished the torches. Puddles of water had formed from the rain. Through the holes created by the bridges the many dark towers of the castle were visible.
“Not quite,” whispered Octa to Boreas, “the chamber I imagined when I first told you about our quest, my dear fellow.”
“Well,” said Black, taking the Light Stone from his pocket, “this is it. If you have any plans to come out of that thing, now would be a good time.” The stone was as immobile as ever. Black turned to his pokémon. “It's up to us. But that's alright: we can do this.”
He stepped onto the bridge and walked through the hole. On the wet path over abyssal depths the storm's unpredictable winds became quite scary and made Boreas wish he was able to calm it down. Fortunately they managed to cross the bridge without any of them falling off, and they entered the castle's dark gate. It led into a large open-air courtyard on the top of a tower. Black and his pokémon instantly braced themselves for a tough fight, but the courtyard was deserted. In the darkness of the storm, the courtyard was dominated by the tallest tower of the castle, which had huge Plasma banners hanging from it. It seemed likely that was where N's throne room was.
Crossing the courtyard, they entered the castle's inner parts. Large hallways and rooms decorated with Plasma banners and large ceremonial shields with the Plasma logo on it were all along their path, yet they didn't meet anyone. “It's gotta be a trick...” mumbled Lucius.
Boreas looked behind him every now and then so he could recall the way back if needed. They occasionally left the inner parts of the castle, walking through courtyards or over walls outside in the storm.
When they were getting close to the tallest tower, they passed a very unusual room. It was larger than any other they had passed, but looked like a child's bedroom. There were many toys, including model trains and a little Ferris wheel. Pictures of pokémon hung on the walls. There were dolls laying around, all of them were of pokémon: not a single human.
“What the hell?” mumbled Black as they wandered inside in confusion. Boreas chuckled when he saw one of the model trains had been thrown through a basket ball hoop and got stuck there, still hanging. There was a full bookcase too: all books about pokémon. With the exception of one shelf, which seemed mainly to contain history books. Reading their spines, Boreas realised most of them were about various atrocities humans had committed.
“Do you suppose this is where N grew up?” Boreas wondered.
“If that's so,” said Octa, “this castle must be far older than we thought. It must have existed underground for at least fifteen years, probably twenty.”
“Look,” said Toxica, with a piece of paper in her hand. “I picked this up from the ground.” It was a childish drawing of a stickfigure and a Zorua, captioned with 'me' and 'deigo' in a child's handwriting. Boreas picked up some other papers. Many of them had similar childish drawings. One of them had the stickfigure wearing a crown and was captioned 'n the king of all pogeymans'. This one featured another human (as well as many pokémon): a bigger stickman captioned 'ghestschitch'.
“Yeah,” said Aqua, “this must have been where he grew up... He always said he grew up with pokémon, even believed he was one in human form himself. I guess the Sages must've kept him here. He's not a bad person, really, they've just brainwashed him. I hope I can talk some sense into him... After all, I'm his friend, or was anyway.”
“I hope you can,” said Black. “But in any case, we've lingered here long enough. Let's go and do what we came here to.”
They left the room, walked out of the corridor, and onto a section of the wall ascending to meet the highest tower. They entered the doors and saw N waiting on his throne.