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Old January 15th, 2013, 06:33 AM
apenpaap
Togepi
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Gender: Male
Part Eleven: The Point of no Return
Chapter Seventy-One: The Seven Sages
Diego suppressed a wince as the Sages entered the throneroom. He really had hoped it wouldn't come to this. After what N had just said, he knew he would have to do his duty to protect Team Plasma from its most powerful tool. His first task had always been to shape N into the person Team Plasma needed. So Diego had taught N how horrible humans were and how good pokémon. He had spun tales of N's 'heroic destiny' and even told the boy the ludicrous story that he was a pokémon born in human form. He had taught N all the 'heroic' values that had made him into the naïve idiot he was.
And now that naivete had turned him against Team Plasma. Diego knew his duty. He was with N in the first place to make sure he succeeded and to keep him on the right path. But if he would turn from that path after all, as he just had, Diego had to kill him immediately. The boy was far too dangerous to be left alive with Zekrom at his command. If N announced publicly he'd changed his mind, that would be a serious threat. It would probably split Team Plasma in two, and would encourage a lot of others to fight Plasma as well. Diego should've eliminated N the moment he made his change of heart clear.
But he hadn't. He had come to care a lot for N, and had told himself he would somehow fix it, that he would be able to talk N back into the plan. But now, that was clearly impossible.
“Ghetsis,” said N happily, “I've got some great news: the war is over! Black has defeated Zekrom and taught me we were both right in a way. I was just about to come tell you.”
Diego felt like laughing at the idiotic naivete of his pupil, but was almost frozen with worry for him. Black showed himself far smarter as his pokémon formed a defensive half circle around him and they slowly stepped back between the lakes. “N!” said Aqua. “Come here, they'll kill you!”
N laughed. “Don't be silly, Aqua, they're not-”
“Shut up, you good-for-nothing boy!” snapped Ghetsis. N looked as if he'd been slapped in the face. “That decision isn't yours to make. The war continues until Team Plasma rules all!”
“But...” stammered N. “B-but I'm your king!”
The Sages laughed, even Ghetsis. “King?” he grinned. “I'm sorry, your majesty, but a vote held among the Seven Sages elected me Emperor several years ago. And last time I checked, emperors outrank kings.”
Diego tried to remind himself of Ghetsis' long friendship. Ghetsis had entrusted this task to him, and him alone. Following Ghetsis would lead to more power than he could imagine. N, meanwhile, was no more than a tool he had crafted himself. A defective tool that had to be thrown away.
N seemed unable to process the fact that he was no more than a figurehead. Yet he asked: “W-where did those pokémon come from?” he asked, pointing at the powerful pokémon the Sages now owned.
“From this very castle,” explained Giallo, looking a bit like a talking orange between his fatness and his yellow robes. “You have-a lived here for most-a your life, but you've seen little of eet. Since we no longer needed the pokémon who've built this castle, they made-a excellent training fodder so we could obtain the most-a powerful pokémon on the planet. I've always wanted to own a Metagross.”
N was clearly stupefied by the revelations. Diego felt a sudden spark of hate for his friend, using pokémon like that. He focussed to try and quench it, what concern of his were those pokémon after all? But it was hard to ignore. Ever since he had pretended to be Boreas' bloody brother, something of Zeph's had stuck inside Diego's mind. It had weakened him and made him think treacherous thoughts. “Typical Plasma hypocrisy,” said Black. “So this is where those pokémon you 'liberated' went? Slave labour?! I didn't expect something that evil even from you!”
“Evil,” spoke the creepily-thin Ryoku, “is just a word people use to plotect themselves from the strong. Those with power barely get to use it, because it would be 'evil' to do so. We live in a world where the mighty are allowed little in order to spare the weak. Yet the weak could have been mighty if only they'd had the ambition to grab power.”
“Indeed,” Ghetsis nodded. “This is why we came together and began Team Plasma in secret all those years ago. To allow all to unleash their full potential. Powerful pokémon and humans should be allowed to exercise that power, not live for the weak!”
“But...” stammered N. “But...” Ghetsis' talk about their ideals should've restored Diego's confidence... But it didn't. It only made him wonder if they weren't really just simply evil. There was something to be said for a world where all were equal. What if he said he agreed with N? He knew Ghetsis might actually listen to him, but would he abandon his plans? It seemed unlikely, especially as the other Sages wouldn't listen. Shocked at these treasonous thoughts, he tried to stamp them out.
“And this,” continued Ghetsis, “is where you come in. Even with the seven of us, there was little we could do to change the world to be as we wished. We tried to capture Reshiram and Zekrom, but they responded to none of us. We were simply too unlike the ancient heroes who had created them out of Kyurem for them to consider us their masters. We needed a hero. We considered looking for one, but then realised we could make one. I conceived a son, and we had him grow up inside our secret hideout, under fully controlled conditions, getting taught to be exactly as we needed him to be. That would be you.”
“B-but...” stammered N. “But you found me! My parents were pokémon, I am a pokémon in human form!”
“No,” spoke Ghetsis. “I am your father.”
“No!” cried N. “That's not true! That's impossible!”
“Of course it's true. A pokémon in human form, did you actually believe that? Diego did his job well. Until now, you've done the task I created you for admirably, and the nineteen years it took for you to grow up have been spent well anyway. We built this castle, the pokémon we have now, and we made a powerful Team Plasma with people everywhere to quickly grab power once you had Zekrom.”
“So what's that frozen chicken supposed to be?” sneered Black.
“It's Kyurem,” explained Ghetsis. “Or rather, what's left of it after the ancient heroes took Reshiram and Zekrom from it, leaving only traits neither of them desired. While you two were on Victory Road, I led an expedition to the Giant Chasm to capture it. The terrain was our main obstacle, really; Kyurem's remnants are weak, its strength all in Zekrom and Reshiram. It accepted me as its master quite easily.”
“So why did you want it, then, if it was so weak?”
Ghetsis grinned chillingly. “You will see soon...”
Diego wondered what would happen if he refused to kill N, fought for his life, even. Black and his pokémon would likely join them. The four wild hangers-on N had picked up on Victory Road wouldn't do much, and would probably just flee, but Zekrom would definitely be able to take on several enemies. Diego saw it was slowly recovering, no longer unconscious and getting up as everyone had their attention on each other. But even Zekrom would never bring them victory. The Seven Sages were unbeatable together.
And it was a good thing they were, Diego reminded himself forcefully. He would join them in destroying their enemies after he had killed N. Zeph was turning him insane, shifting his loyalties.
“Diego...” said N at last. “He-he's not my father, is he? I'm a pokémon, right?”
Diego felt almost in pain with pity. “I'm sorry, N. He is.”
“But you told me I am a pokémon... Just to make me hate humans?!”
Diego had never felt so horrible in his life. “I told you what I had to to make you into a hero who would want to liberate pokémon. And I succeeded in it. You have become a great and noble hero, my friend.”
“Friend?!” snapped N. “You've lied to me all my life! You taught me only humans lie, but it's obvious you're the greatest liar of them all!”
“Listen to me, N, it was for a good cause!”
“What cause? Clearly not pokémon liberation!”
Diego decided he at least owed N the truth after all these years. Ghetsis had told him most of it anyway. “Pokémon liberation is part of it, but not in the way you thought. Pokémon will be truly equal to humans in our new world. But not all pokémon will be equal to each other, and not all humans will either. The world is a dangerous place, N. All the things I taught you about the cruelty of humans were true. Every living being is basically selfish, that's just how we evolved. You can call that evil, but it's simply how the world works. To deny that is dangerous, as it's denying reality. And it's not such a bad thing either: if everyone takes care of themselves, they all have someone who will always look out for them. But only if you let them. You can't force people to take care of others, that way you inhibit them, restrict their freedom. Everyone should have the freedom to use their power as they wish. This is Team Plasma's true goal, and it's even better than just pokémon liberation. Because everyone can be powerful, but most just don't take their chance, because they have no ambition.
In the past few months, as Team Plasma has taken over, a better order has begun to be put in place to replace the old chaos. You said before that trainers who really want their pokémon should still be allowed to keep them, and they can do so in our new world: by joining Team Plasma.” Diego was beginning to get a dry mouth from talking so much, and in his mind Zeph protested against the principles he'd just laid out. “N, you are a powerful man. You are a good king of Team Plasma, so why don't you remain our king? Now you know what we truly fight for, and as a powerful person our new order will benefit you greatly.”
N was silent, and Diego addressed Black and his pokémon. “I make you the same offer. We won't allow you to stand in our way, but you would be valuable allies.”
“Never,” said Black, and most of his pokémon agreed soon. Even the Houndoom said:
“As long as that bastard in the green bathrobe is still alive, I'll never stop fighting y'all.”
“You can't really believe that...” said N, his eyes filled with betrayal. “You told me we would liberate all pokémon...”
“You explained Team Plasma very well, my friend,” said Ghetsis. “But I'm afraid you wasted your breath. N is a freak without a human heart, and these have been our enemies for too long. It's time to deal with them, right now.”
The Sages, and their entire teams turned towards Black, who was still between the small lakes, but Zekrom and N were suddenly in their way. “Leave him alone!” said N. “Enough people have died because of you. One more step, and Zekrom will fight you!”
Diego winced, knowing what Ghetsis' order would be. Please, N, no...
Ghetsis laughed. “You are nothing more than a tool, and now it's time to get rid of you. Diego, you know your orders.”
Diego was in agonising doubt. N was his friend, but so was Ghetsis. He couldn't kill N, and he couldn't betray Ghetsis. He truly believed in the ideals he had just laid out, yet Zeph protested against him. He took a few steps so he stood behind N, though he didn't know what he would do there yet. He had to kill the human, but Zeph wanted him to stand with him instead.
Diego fought to keep the unwelcome sympathy and pity away, to kill N, but they were very strong. He remembered the happy time when he had been Zeph, day in day out, seeing the world through very different eyes as he pretended to be Boreas' brother. The reason he had been so good as a mole was that he had truly become Zeph in his mind. Only now, Zeph had stuck around for far longer than he had been needed. And now, Diego had decided. He couldn't kill N, no matter what. If that meant betraying Team Plasma, then so be it.
But then another memory came to him: he was back on Victory Road, as troubled by Zeph as he was now...

Past
As Diego looked at the huge icy precipice ahead, he saw a familiar-looking blue fox at its top. The Glaceon only reminded him more of his failure to kill Boreas and Aqua in Opelucid Gym. Some days it seemed as if Zeph was taking him over, which was preposterous because he'd been dead for two years. But the personality Diego had taken on while spying on Black had been all too real, and he might as well continue to call it Zeph.
He clenched his fists in annoyance at himself. He wished he had Boreas here so he could right his wrongs immediately. If only that Glaceon still looking at them from the top of the precipice was Boreas...
A grin suddenly spread over Diego's face. He could set his priorities straight here once and for all; test what he was really made of and whether Zeph was stronger than him. He waited a few minutes until they were at the base of the precipice, then said: “Hold on, I think there may be a path up there.”
N stopped. “What, up on the precipice? Shouldn't we stick to the main pass?”
“Well, the path up there looked as if it was going straight in the League's direction. It could save us a lot of time. But I'll go check it to be sure; I wouldn't want to have us all climb up there only to have to climb back down again.”
“Shouldn't I just send Zekrom to fly up instead?”
“No, you know how it spooks the wild pokémon; I wouldn't want to terrify them. Besides, I'm feeling like a bit of a climb. I'll be back soon.”
With that, he began climbing the icy precipice. The stone and ice it was made of was freezing cold and hurt his paws, but he kept climbing. Zeph tried to stop him from what he was about to do, made him feel horrible for even considering it, but he climbed on. At last, he reached the top of the precipice and pulled himself up. The Glaceon was no longer here, but Diego could see its tracks in the snow. He quietly followed them, and soon caught up to it. It didn't hear his approach, and screamed when he suddenly pounced and grabbed it.
Zeph protested and the Glaceon struggled, so Diego punched the Glaceon in the face. It was as if he had punched out Zeph at the same time in his mind as well, as he was finally quiet. Diego grinned and roughed up the semi-conscious Glaceon's hair to make him look more like Boreas.
“P-please... Let me go...” it mumbled through bleeding lips.
Diego instead kicked him in the stomach. “So, Boreas, we meet again. And this time, I'm going to do what I should've done!”
The Glaceon moaned in pain. “I-I'm not this Boreas! Please, let me-”
Diego grabbed Boreas' right front paw with both paws and broke it, making the Glaceon scream in pain.

Diego grinned in satisfaction as he stood on top of the precipice again. Zeph was quiet at last, and better yet, Diego had finally proved to himself what he was truly made of by killing the Glaceon in cold blood. When the Glaceon had begged him for death after its lengthy torment and he had finally ended it by disembowelling it crudely with a sharp stone, he had truly forgotten it wasn't really Boreas. He carefully went over the precipice's edge and began climbing down.
Diego climbed back down with a mind that was finally clear of concern. Climbing over the freezing cold precipice was almost as tough to do downwards as upwards, but at least this time it was just physically heavy; he could handle that. After weeks of being troubled by his error in the Opelucid Gym, he could now finally relax. He knew it wouldn't be repeated. While he couldn't deny he felt rudimentary feelings of friendship towards N, and even Boreas, they wouldn't interfere with his service to his true friend, Ghetsis. He was sure of that now.
Friendship was a beautiful thing, Diego reflected. In fact, it was the very concrete Team Plasma was built with, but it was a massive weakness when felt towards an enemy. But now that he was finally sure he wouldn't submit to that weakness again, he could rest easily.
His muscles ached by the time he neared the ground; it was a relief to land on it safely. "Diego!" N called happily. "I was getting worried about you, what took you so long?"
Diego smiled. "I saw a path up there, just as I suspected. But I had to make sure it wasn't a dead end, and walked it for a bit, and a good thing I did, because if I hadn't done that, we'd be climbing up this precipice right now to walk the path... Only to find out after an hour it suddenly ends into a steep depth."
"Oh," N looked disappointed, "I guess we can't cut time off our journey that way, then?"
"No, I'm afraid not, we'll have to follow the normal pass. But I did see some... Inspiring views up there, and they gave me the strength to carry on."
N laughed. "Glad to hear it."
No, thought Diego as he smiled along friendlily, you wouldn't be if you had any idea of the truth.

Present
Diego felt strengthened by the memory as Zeph shrunk away in horror. He knew who he truly was and what he had to do. He grabbed N's head with both front paws, and in his mind he did the same to Zeph. He had one final spark of pity, then twisted the head with all his strength. A muted crack ended the lives of N and Zeph, and he never saw either of them again.

“Diego!” roared Aqua. “Murderer! Traito-”
Zekrom roared too as electricity arced over its body and darkness seemed to ooze out of it. Boreas jumped in shock as a huge lightning bolt shot towards him, but it bent off its path and hit Kyurem instead. More lightning bolts followed, but they all bent off their trajectory and hit Kyurem. Meanwhile Zekrom curled up into a large, floating ball of blackness covered in constant trails of electricity.
Then it exploded in a blindingly bright blast that rocked the castle on its foundations and should have destroyed the tower and killed everyone in it. But like the lightning bolts, the explosive release of energy entirely bent off and all of it hit Kyurem instead, wrapping it in a nova of light. When the light settled, a new pokémon had formed. Or perhaps it wasn't a new pokémon, but some kind of fusion of Kyurem and Zekrom: it shared many of the traits of either. Its rear legs and head looked like Kyurem's, but it was standing upright like Zekrom and dark-furred for a large part. Its tail turbine was thinner than Zekrom's and partially covered in grey scales. Its wings and front paws were muscular and covered in black scales on one side, and icy parts on the other side.
Black and his pokémon realised this bizarre turn of events provided the distraction they needed to run for their lives and bolted out the throneroom into the ferocious tempest outside, running down over the wall there as fast as they could. Boreas' mind burnt with questions about what had just happened, while his heart burnt with anger and betrayal. He had honestly thought Diego wasn't as bad as he'd thought, that the Zoroark might have compassion or the capability of friendship inside him. He had shaken his paw, more or less forgiving him even. Yet Diego had proved his heart to be blacker than Boreas had ever thought it could be by murdering N.
“I'll kill you for this, Diego,” he muttered between clenched teeth as they ran past N's childhood room. “I swear I will.”
“You'll have to get in line,” said Aqua. Boreas noticed there were tears on her face. “N was my friend, dammit! And he was a good man, despite everything! Diego will pay...”
Boreas wanted to comfort Aqua, but a beam of intense energy shot right between them; a kind of beam Boreas remembered all too well, as it had cost him his kindest friend and the tip of his tail last time he saw it. He sprinted faster as he heard their enemies in hot pursuit behind them. He jumped around the corner, over a beam of some kind and down a staircase. They all ran down as fast as they could without falling from the stairs: Lucius even jumped and held on to Selene as she flew down.
Bronius' rock-types launched an avalanche of deadly boulders while Boreas and his friends were only halfway down the long stairs, so they risked running even faster.
Boreas' feet missed a step and landed awkwardly on the next, making him tumble and land on his back on the stairs. He scrambled on to escape the crushing wave of rock, but heard its roaring sound had almost reached him, and for a moment he was sure he would be caught in it. But the sound stopped as plants had grown from the stairs, curled around the boulders in mid-fall, and held them tightly now. Octa and Toxica were both standing still at the bottom of the stairs, faces clenched in focus.
Boreas got up and jumped the remaining steps, thanking Octa and Toxica as they joined him in running away from their enemies, who had come closer in the seconds that had passed. Boreas randomly threw an Ice Beam or two behind them as he heard their enemies round the corner. He heard a yelp of pain, but found he could run faster if he focussed solely on sprinting.
There was a lot of cover in this part of the Castle, allowing them to dodge the attacks made by their pursuers. They emerged outside again, sprinting down a descending wall and a courtyard through the storm, which allowed Boreas to use the winds to their advantage and their enemies' disadvantage, giving them some extra metres between them; though it wasn't much since Boreas' friends weren't nearly as proficient as him in making their way through the stormy winds.
Running through a long corridor, Boreas heard a terrifying sound: flame coming towards them. He instantly turned and extended each front paw for as mighty a pulse of cold as he could, but the blazing inferno still washed over him, only singing him and starting a fire on his shoulder instead of simply incinerating him. Yet he ran: he had no time to extinguish his shoulder right now and had to bite through the pain until Aqua extinguished it in passing.
They rushed through halls and corridors and sometimes the outside parts of the Castle back to the exit. They could only hope the Sages wouldn't pursue them in the League.
At last they entered the open-air courtyard where they'd first entered the Castle, emerging from the northern exit. The entrance to the bridge to the Champion's tower was just ahead in the south, but pokémon were there. They skidded to a halt, prepared for a fight, and breathed a sigh of relief when they saw they were the Elite Four's teams.
“Caitlin!” panted Black happily. “Marshal, Shauntal, Grimsley, am I glad to see you! With the five of us, we stand a chance against the Sages!”
The Elite Four didn't move to join Black, and Boreas closed his eyes in annoyance, hoping he was wrong in his suspicion. “Guys?” said Black.
“I'm sorry, Black,” said Caitlin. “But we're not here to offer you aid, but them.”
“What?!” snapped Black.
“Is that so hard to believe?” asked Ghetsis, behind them. The Seven Sages stood in the north entrance to the courtyard, which was wide enough to accommodate them all. There were two more entrances to the east and west, but with enemies before and behind them running for either of those would just get them caught. “Team Plasma's true goal is a noble one, whether you think so or not.”
“They respect power,” thundered Marshal, “and are more powerful even than you. You are a worthy opponent, and I wish this battle would be more even.”
“How can you do this?!” snapped Black. “You were all about doing your duty to protect the Champion earlier, and now that I'm the Champion you'll just betray all trainers?!”
“I've been a psychic all my life,” explained Caitlin, “so of course I've always been made to suppress my powers. Don't enter the minds of mundanes without their permission, don't even pick up any thought at all; always suppress your talent. But the Sages understand that because I have my power, I should get to use it. Suppressing my powers to protect others is wasting them.”
“Besides,” laughed Grimsley, “it's much more fun this way. Why stick with the losers?”
“And now,” said Ghetsis, “it's time to end your rule, Champion, and let everyone know how you killed poor N in cold blood. Yet another tragic victim of selfish trainers.”
They were surrounded by enemies. There was no way out, and no way to defeat them all. Black looked at his pokémon. “So this is how you want to do this?” he asked angrily. “Two of you for each of my pokémon?” Boreas and his friends formed a circle around Black, ready to fight. “Bring it on.”
Ghetsis laughed malevolently. “Kill them.”
“Can ya manage that?”
All were surprised by the heavily accented voice, and the Elite Four turned around to see a human who looked like an ageing cowboy and six powerful ground-types emerge from the castle's gate behind them. Ryoku was the first to regain his composure. “Gym Leader Clay,” he said with a mocking bow that made his beard hang in a puddle of rain, “how nice of you to join us. Are you here to finarry join the winning side, or merely to die in a vain gesture of heroics?”
Clay pretended to think about it. “Well, Ah suppose it's the second. Except...”
At that moment, dozens of attacks hit the sages and their pokémon from the sides as a flood of pokémon of all types charged through the eastern and western gates of the courtyard, while more teams joined Clay too at the southern gate. “It ain't just me, Ah brought the entire resistance along for ye!”
All the Gym Leaders they had fought on their journey had joined the battle, but there were others too: Alder, Cheren, Bianca, and a number of trainers Boreas didn't know. He focussed on his enemies and began to shoot Ice Beams at Ryoku's Cradily, planning to at least get vengeance for Capella.
The chaos that erupted in the courtyard was far worse than the storm itself, but there was a clear tactical element to it. The Elite Four were the first to realise they were in a very poor position, stuck between two enemies, and therefore tried to make their way around and through Black's team so Boreas was forced to fight them instead. He dodged a Conkeldurr's thrown pillar, attacked a Bisharp, and was briefly locked into an icy mirror match against Froslass again.
The Sages were in trouble as well, outflanked in the middle of the courtyard. So it wasn't long until Ghetsis shouted: “RETREAT! Get out of the courtyard, regroup, and summon the grunts! We'll exterminate these pests right now!”
The Sages extended the same orders to their pokémon and slowly the enemy retreated, despite the resistance's attempts to keep them engaged. Soon all eleven teams fought in the northern entrance to the courtyard, a blinding crossfire of attacks flying to and fro. Many of these attacks hit the arching structure itself until after a moment it began to collapse right on top of the enemy. Between the darkness, the storm, and the dust created by the collapse, Boreas couldn't see if any enemies were crushed, but it sounded like a lot of them managed to retreat back into the corridors of the castle.
For now, there was no more enemy to fight, however. “Good work!” shouted Alder over the storm. “Now let's get out of here; it won't be long until they get back here through another way, and this time we won't be able to surprise them! We'll have to leave the League entirely; they won't rest until they get us now.” He then turned to Black. “Are you alright? We were expecting something like this.”
Boreas began to protest they couldn't run away, but Black quickly told Alder the rough details of all that had happened as they began evacuating everyone over the bridges. Finally, he asked: “D'you have any idea what Kyurem turned into?”
“I think I do,” interrupted Iris, who had listened to the story. “Zekrom was once a part of Kyurem, and was only pulled away from it by the ancient hero. It's still only a part of a creature and can't exist without a hero to bond with; that's why all its energy was released in that explosion when N died. But because it was once a part of Kyurem, Kyurem somehow absorbed the energy of the explosion and added Zekrom to itself once again. It's still not complete without Reshiram, but closer to what it once was than it's been in a long time.”
“What would happen to Kyurem,” Boreas asked, an idea forming in his mind, “if Ghetsis were to die?”
With a little help from Black, Iris understood the question. “Well, basically what you just saw Zekrom do. Unless Kyurem, Reshiram, and Zekrom were united in a single being, they can never be a stable pokémon without their hero. Kyurem is closest to it, but in its normal state it's very weak, all its strength in Reshiram and Kyurem; so weak it's almost like a ghost. Ghetsis' dark mind must have appealed to it for him to control it. If he died, Kyurem couldn't hold Zekrom as a part of it without Reshiram, and it would become weak and ghost-like again, while Zekrom would turn into the Dark Stone. All in a huge release of energy that would obliterate anything nearby.”
They were in the Champion's tower by now. “Then we have to go back! Stop!” shouted Boreas.
“What is it?” asked Black.
“We can't run away now, we can really hurt Plasma here. I think we can even capture their castle.”
Alder had stopped too by now. “How, little Glaceon?”
“Well, by killing N, Diego did something we could never have done, but now Zekrom is controlled by Ghetsis, and I don't think anyone would have a serious problem killing him. We retrieve Reshiram as quickly as possible to combat Zekrom-Kyurem's mental influence, and then we fight Team Plasma in its own castle. Obviously we can't win by force of arms, but we could fight to distract them while some of us try to kill Ghetsis. It would not only leave them leaderless, but without the constant morale boost from Kyurekrom, while we would still have Reshiram. It might be enough to get them to surrender the castle, and even if they don't, a legendary being on our side, not theirs, would finally inspire people to fight against them.”

Aqua tried to suppress her guilt as she sneaked down the stairs. It felt like she was betraying everyone, Boreas in particular, even though she knew leaving them was for their own good. Boreas was laying out his plan, and it was a good plan, or at least the best they had. But if she stayed and let herself be made part of it, she would only lower their chances of success. She had once again demonstrated in battle against N how unreliable she was. If she let Boreas count on her in this battle she would betray his trust and possibly make it all fail. She was helping him, really, by getting away. She was helping all the people hurt by Plasma by not getting involved in this. She should be very proud of all the people her decision had probably saved.
Of course, she knew that was complete bollocks. She was making excuses for her cowardice. But if she repeated them often enough to herself, she might start believing them.
“Going somewhere?” asked a voice.
Aqua turned around in shock. “Toxica! I-I was just...”
“Sneakin' off,” Toxica finished her sentence. “Why?”
“Well, you saw what I did when I was up against Zekrom.”
“Yeah, it turned you against us, but Boreas stopped you, and then you resisted it, fought it, and hurt it pretty bad. So why are you running away?”
“You've got it wrong: I turned against you. It wasn't as if it suddenly had me under mind control or something, it just strengthened something that was already there. And I should've resisted it, like you did, but I didn't. I've never been good at the whole loyalty thing, and I don't like humans. I don't like risking my life either.”
“But-”
“If you summarise that, you can say I'm a disloyal coward who sympathises with the enemy. Do you think it's wise to count on someone like that in this battle?”
“Well, if it's you-”
“If I didn't leave, Boreas would count on me, you would count on me. And when I betray that trust, I might cause your deaths. That's why I have to leave.”
“Listen up, Aqua,” said Toxica firmly now that she had finally stopped talking, “I think that's just an excuse. Because like Boreas said, you're a better person than you think.”
Aqua grimaced. “Boreas is many things, but not wise. To be honest, I think love has blinded him to my flaws.”
“Well, I say it too! You would never consciously betray someone you love as much as Boreas, or friends like me or Selene. What is this really about, Aqua?”
Aqua sighed in resignation. “I'm terrified. This battle is going to be very serious. Have you seen what was running after us? That's forty-nine powerful pokémon, six of which are ludicrously strong and incredibly rare monstrosities. Then there's this Zekrom-Kyurem hybrid, which is likely to be even stronger than Zekrom was. There's twenty-four more powerful pokémon commanded by the Elite Four, and probably thousands commanded by grunts. We've got a hundred at best with the resistance at our side, and most of them are considerably less powerful than our enemies.” Aqua shivered. “In a few hours, there will be a lot of dead pokémon in that castle, no matter who wins. And not just enemies, in fact I have a strong feeling we won't all come back if we join this. I don't want to be among all those dead.”
Toxica squeezed her shoulder. “I don't want you to be among them either. I don't want to be among them myself; it scares me too. But that's why I'm trying to get you to reconsider. Imagine if I died, or Selene, or especially Boreas, while you weren't there. Wouldn't you blame yourself to the end of your days, thinking you could've prevented it?”
While Aqua thought, Alder ordered: “Let's get back into the Castle, we've got a plan! We'll keep them as busy as we can, while our new Champion goes after Ghetsis! Spread out over the eastern and western wings and try to outflank them, but make sure you don't get isolated!”
Toxica smiled and looked at her. “What's it going to be, Aqua? If I have to say goodbye, I wish you all the best, but I hope you reconsidered...”
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